I propose at this stage to say only a few words. There are two aspects of this Estimate, one a policy aspect and the other a financial aspect. The policy aspect, I have no doubt, will be debated in the course of our proceedings, but, as I had the duty of making a full speech only last week on the policy involved, I do not think that the Committee will desire me to make anything in the nature of a full speech again on the subject. I hope, therefore, that I shall not be accused of any discourtesy if I do not raise the broad issues of policy involved in the Vote. If in the course of our discussions questions of policy are raised and questions are asked me I will endeavour in a further speech to make such answer as I can to such points as are raised. With regard to the financial aspect of the Vote, I shall deal with the matter very shortly. The Committee will see a statement on Page 3 of the White Paper. I want the Committee to understand that this sum of £1,070,000 is only a very small portion of the provision that is being made. There is a footnote on Page 3 which indicates that fact. There is in the £1,070,000 no portion of the £50,000,000 for trade facilities, no portion of the £26,000,000 for export credits, and no portion applicable to the large sums involved in the programme of Lord St. David's Committee—£30,000,000–already authorised under the scheme for assisting by means of interest in the case of revenue producing proposals and by means of interest and sinking fund non- revenue producing proposals put forward by local authorities. It may interest the House to know that as a matter of fact up to date of such interest charges the Vote of the Ministry of Health has borne £450,000, and that amount of course will be larger next year. Then there is the 60 per cent, for wages which I referred to in my speech last Thursday and which induced an amount of work estimated at about £10,000,000. With regard to that item, we are proposing, as I indicated last week, a further sum of £750,000, which will, we hope, induce some £2,000,000 further work. Lastly, the Vote does not include the repair and maintenance work accelerated by the Office of Works. The sum of £375,000 which I mentioned will be provided out of Departmental Votes in the ordinary way.
No, not all this year. Then there is the work accelerated by the Post Office—cables and so on-amounting to just short of £1,000,000. That also is mentioned in the footnote on Page 3. Provision for that will be made in the normal way adopted by the Post Office in connection with capital work. The point is that the work is accelerated though the funds will be found under the normal procedure. Then there is the arterial road between Manchester and Liverpool, £1,500,000. Presumably no Exchequer contribution will be necessary in connection with this, and certainly none before 1st April next. I have indicated certain things, part of the Government programme, which are not dealt with in the Vote, so that there may be no misunderstanding. I am not sure whether the form of the figures in the White Paper is quite clear, and I think it would be convenient if at this stage I gave the figures in a little more detail. The total figure is £1,070,000. Under the proposals of the late Government for land drainage, including Scotland, the figure set aside was £341,000. There were certain items of that proposal, with regard to light railways and so on, which at the moment were not utilised, amounting to £141,000. That leaves a figure of £200,000. That figure is indicated on the top of Page 5 in respect of the programme of land drainage up to 31st March. Out of a further programme of £170,000 sanctioned by this Government £70,000 will be also expended this year.
Then take forestry which is mentioned on Page 5, because it is a grant in aid— £50,000. That gives £200,000, £70,000 and £50,000, a total of £320,000. Those items go for those specific purposes. Take £320,000 from £1,070,000, which is the total amount asked for, and you have a balance of £750,000. That £750,000, together with a large amount already voted for the same purpose, is available for assistance to necessitous areas by way of loan to boards of guardians and other local authorities. This is a very definite provision for battling with the unemployment problem in the poor and necessitous areas. The assistance is by way of loan only. It is available for those areas, usually poor and densely populated, where the problem of unemployment is grave and harassing. The loans are to be granted when the local authorities—such as the boards of guardians and local sanitary authorities—experience difficulty in raising the money themselves through the usual channels. On the question of duration I would just say that first there is no hard and fast rule, but the circumstances and needs of the localities and of the authorities applying for the loan are carefully considered in each ease. The legal limit under the Local Authorities (Financial Provisions) Act, 1921, is 10 years, but in point of fact five years has practically in all cases been the maximum period. The rate of interest is the current market rate, and in some of the most recent cases that has been 5 per cent.
I think I have explained the position of the Vote so far as its financial side is concerned, and I have done so in order that Members may see exactly what is the apportionment of these various sums and how that apportionment fits in with the programme I announced last week. This Supplementary Estimate is for expenditure to be incurred up to the end of March next, and with this explanation I leave the matter in the hands of the Committee.
I beg to move to reduce the Vote by £100.
There is on the Order Paper an Amendment standing in my name which the forms of the House require to be moved, but of course there is no desire on the part of those for whom I speak to reduce even by £100 the sum involved in this Supplementary Estimate. No one would suspect my right hon. Friend of any discourtesy whatever towards the Committee either on this or on any other occasion, but I do suggest that it is due to the size and degree of his imaginative powers that he has alluded to the action of the Government on this question of unemployment as a policy. Indeed, what has been put before the Committee, either to-day or on former occasions, cannot be described as a policy at all in regard to the unemployment situation. It is true that policies have been promised more than once not only in this House but perhaps more frequently in the country, but I doubt whether ever there has been a case in relation to any problem where more has been said in this House in the past few days on the question and yet so little has been done. We were called together practically to deal with another subject—that of Ireland—which has been disposed of; but members of this House have been required to give the greater part of their attention, not by desire or inclination but out of sheer necessity, to the problem of unemployment. While I cannot say that we expected a policy from the present Government, certainly we had reason to believe that outside pressure, reinforced by the rigours of the winter which is approaching, would have induced the Government to have submitted some adequate measures of relief for the unemployed masses of our people during the next few months.
When my right hon. Friend spoke a few days ago on this question, in the beginning of his statement he suggested that those who stated that nothing had been done on this matter were guilty of cruelty, not so much to the Government as to the men and women outside these walls who are suffering from unemployment. If it is saying too much to declare that nothing has been done, I think it will be admitted that too little has been attempted in relation to the degree of unemployment from which the people are suffering. The greater part of the relief which has been attempted would have been undertaken even without the influence of the Government itself. Much of the work which has been referred to is work which for along time has been held in abeyance because of the high prices and other commercial and financial difficulties, but a great deal of it could no longer have been kept in check and all that has been done by the Government has been to increase the £volume or to accelerate the task of beginning the work. Without any intention to be cruel to the Government and without any other desire than that of being fair to those affected by the lack of policy on the part of the Government, I say very little has been attempted and most of that little would have been undertaken without any State aid whatever in the ordinary circumstances of the case. The right hon. Gentleman this morning gave us another set of figures which I cannot square with the figures given in relation to any kind of rural or agricultural forms of employment affected by the Estimate now before the Committee. The figures submitted to us a few days ago were these, that altogether in respect of agricultural forms of employment covering both England and Scotland there was to be a total expenditure of £107,000. That was the figure given in the original statement of my right hon. Friend, and in addition to that figure £100,000 was to be allotted for afforestry. I see this morning that the Minister of Agriculture, in a public statement last night, gave the total figure as £450,000, and there is such a dissimilarity between the two amounts that I think we ought to have some absolutely dependent, complete and accurate statement from whatever is the authoritative source which can supply these figures.
I do not want to interrupt the right hon. Gentleman, but, of course, it all depends exactly on the way in which one presents the figures. There was a programme launched by the late Government which we have adopted, and under it a good deal of money is to be expended. The money I am asking for is for expenditure prior to the end of March next.
I am referring to the figure used, not in the statement of my right hon. Friend of to-day, but in the statement which I took to be a complete survey of the proposals of the Government when my right hon. Friend spoke in the House only a few days ago; and I say that the total, which actually was a figure of £270,000, is now stated by the Minister of Agriculture to be a total of £450,000. We have had in the House during the week, in relation to another Motion, some general discussion on the question of the position of agriculture. Into that Debate I am not going to enter, further than to allude to the fact that the late Prime Minister took part in it: but I do not think he even had in mind the degree of his own guilt with respect to the existing position of agriculture. It is strange that, after promising a policy in the Election of 1918, and beginning to apply a policy, as was the case in the first Session or two of the last Parliament, that policy should be so suddenly reversed with his authority. It is that way of handling the problem of agriculture which has produced the degree of disaster from which agriculture is now suffering. If, indeed, the policy had to be reversed, once having been begun, and involving, undoubtedly, great commitments on the part of the farming class—and involving, further, the setting up by legal machinery of a minimum wage for agricultural workers —I say that if, when that policy had been deliberately settled, as it was, by the Government, a stage was then reached where it had to be reversed, the reversal should have been slow. It should not have been carried through as it was by the Government of the day, responding, really, not to new conceptions of policy, but to clamour in respect of questions of national finance— responding to Press agitation in regard to national expenditure, responding to demands for economy no matter at what cost and no matter what suffering was involved. In short, if agriculture had to be let down as well as any other enterprise or industry in the country, the process should have been more gentle. There is all the difference in the world between dropping an interest or an industry in the manner in which agriculture was dropped, and letting it down at such a pace and so softly as to enable it to adjust itself to the new condition which the reversal of policy involves.
I have not any set phrases or quotations before me, but the Committee will be familiar with the glowing promises that were made in relation to agriculture, especially during the Election of 1918. Rural industries were to be nursed, cultivated, established and assisted. Rates of wages were to be maintained at a level which would always keep agricultural workers at a point of efficiency. Great housing schemes in rural England were to be undertaken. The industry never again, said the late Prime Minister, would be allowed to slip back to that condition of disgrace in which it so long existed prior to the beginning of the War. Now, after all this, we have a statement, which I thought completely fitted the situation, made by the Noble Lord the Member for Hitchin (Lord R. Cecil), who reminded us that just one hundred years ago the situation was exactly as it is now—low wages, bad trade, impoverishment, absence of hope of profit or prospect. Just one hundred years ago the situation was as it is now, and that was said to console us. I cannot think of any more complete and destructive criticism. If in a hundred years we cannot make an inch of progress, surely it is clear that there is something wrong with our system of private ownership of land, with our system of land cultivation. Had, in that period, a Labour Government, for instance, been in power for any length of time, I can imagine how furious would have been the censure of hon. Gentlemen opposite at the lack of policy, of capacity to govern, on the part of hon. Gentlemen on this side, and yet hero we have, not as Labour criticism but as an ordinary admission cheered with approval—used, indeed, as an argument against us—this most damaging admission that in a hundred years not an atom of advance has been made in regard to the economic or social life of rural Britain.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Paisley (Mr. Asquith) had something to say with respect to Labour policy on this question, and it has been alleged against us elsewhere—where, no doubt, it brought a larger cheer than it would receive within these walls—that our policy resembled a pantechnicon, so choke-full of proposals that no one of them could be said to be ready for use. I do not take that as a criticism with any point. It does, at least, show that we have submitted, here and elsewhere, a considerable number of suggestions, and, I hope, constructive proposals, formulated as a policy which in our judgment is capable of application. I do not want to quote my own words, but, speaking from this place only a few days ago, I mentioned, I am certain, as the OFFICIAL REPORT will show, not less than twenty separate lines of effort which could be followed as acts of policy in relation to the general problem of unemployment. What can we do? We have not the power; we have only the right or privilege to propose, to suggest. The right hon. gentleman the Member for Paisley, in the course of a long Parliamentary career, had numerous opportunities for dealing with this matter, and I would say to him that I think it is better to have even a vanload of proposals than to have a van altogether empty of suggestions. The Government should, I think, choose, in relation to this unemployment problem, not the fruitless and utterly inadequate middle course which it has chosen. It should select either of two lines of policy—it should either bring forward proposals which in themselves would be big enough sufficiently to deal with this problem, or should leave it entirely alone to the mercies of that state of private enterprise upon which we are told so frequently to rely. Something big enough or nothing at all is, to my mind, the choice that the Government of to-day should make when faced with a problem of the degree now produced by the state of unemployment. Not a single word has been said, for instance, by my right hon. Friend or by the Prime Minister since the House assembled on the only line of policy which was put before the country through the medium of election speeches on behalf of the Government. It is true my right hon. Friend has given some figures as to what has been done in the matter of relief by insurance. Let me deal with this matter.
In the two years during which relief has been given in the form of unemployment benefit, it was shown in the figures supplied to us that there has been a total payment of £109,000,000, but nearly £80,000,000ofthesumpaidwassubscribed by the industry itself in the form of contributions either by employers or employed, and the workman, having paid his own contribution out of his wages and by his work, enabled the employed to pay his contribution out of the profits. So that BO far as the burden can be placed upon industry in that sense it is really placed upon the producer, and £80,000,000 of the £109,000,000 paid in the two years has been really paid out of the profits resulting from the work of the workman, so that benefits of this kind cannot be regarded as doles or as in any sense a charity. The Prime Minister led the country to believe that steps would be taken to amend these forms of relief and to expand the Unemployment Insurance Act in the direction of placing this burden of unemployment upon the shoulders of trade and industry. Those are the words used by the Prime Minister in his election speeches. We reject the idea of seeking to place this burden separately upon the shoulders of particular industries to the exclusion of any national obligation and to the exclusion of responsibility and obligation on the part of those well able to pay their share. But in the circumstances I think we might fairly consider, as a measure of substantial relief, any plans which would more amply sustain and maintain in a state of health and efficiency the enormous number of people, men and women alike, who are now suffering from insufficient benefit. May I recall what the figures are? The benefit of 20s. as paid some 18 months or two years ago was reduced to 15s. Provision was made to the extent of 5s. a week for an unemployed wife and 1s. a week for the maintenance of a child below the age of 16.
I was about to draw my remarks to a close, and I felt justified in referring to this line of Government policy, because when the right hon. Gentleman began his speech he explained that he was going to address himself to two lines of the subject, one the line of policy and the other that of finance. In the absence of adequate measures or schemes for absorbing the unemployed, the great human consideration in relation to this problem is that of providing some- thing like adequate relief and an adequate level of maintenance for those who are compulsorily idle, and therefore we might even give a little of our time before the House rises, as it will in a few days, for the discussion of this question. I am, therefore, dealing with the public and repeated assurances of the Prime Minister in relation to this question, those assurances being that we were to have the burden of unemployment placed upon the shoulders of trade and industry. Busy as we are, I am certain that if the Prime Minister brought forward, as a Measure for even temporary but improved assistance to the masses of the unemployed, a Measure which would travel on the lines of increasing the means by which higher benefits can be paid, this House would willingly give another day, or a day or two of its time if need be, for the discussion and settlement of that question. In a week or two we shall be turning our faces towards the period of Christmas. We shall have left this House feeling more or less that our duty has been done, but I hope the unemployed will not let us neglect their just claims. Here we are assembled, as every hon. Member feels, primarily for the purpose of dealing in some manner or other in some effective way with this problem and if the House rises without having done a single thing in relation to the express promise given to the country by the Prime Minister it will have gravely neglected its duties. Conditions of actual famine face hundreds of thousands of people. The private resources which they had two years ago are gone. The pawnshops are full of the household goods of people who are reduced to a state, not only of poverty, but of distress, and we cannot afford to turn our backs on this problem without attempting some measure of even temporary relief for the period of the winter. If we do we shall gravely neglect our duty.
There is not a single atom of support of any kind whatever provided for in any one of the items mentioned by the right hon. Gentleman which will in the slightest degree touch the question of the unemployment of nearly a quarter of a million women in this country. I mention it only to remind the Committee, not to discuss it. However, hon. Members no doubt will undertake that aspect of the question. There is a serious social and moral question raised by that fact. To have unemployed such a large number of women of varying ages and to undertake nothing whatever, no plan or scheme which would give work to a single one of them, is an act of such gross neglect on the part of the Government that we cannot pass it by without notice. I therefore say that neither in schemes of relief nor in plans of finding work can we accept these proposals of the Government as in any sense meeting the problem. A greater problem there is not. Its international aspects? we do not touch. They have been discussed and they will be discussed again. Within the ambit of our own resources there are means and ways that are being neglected, until we are driven almost to the point of despair in bringing these matters before the House. Scarcely a week in the past two and a half years, or perhaps the last three years, has passed without some reference to this problem. We cannot get away from it. It is the business of the Government to face it as something likely to remain with us for years, and to begin now such measures of reconstruction and profitable service as will pay the country better than dispensing each week immense sums of money without any return of any kind whatever.
On the note on which my right hon. Friend has just closed we shall all agree that this is the most urgent problem. It is the Aaron's rod of home affairs, and my right hon. Friend may be assured that in no part of the House is this question likely to be regarded lightly. We must watch it with care, as we have done up to the present time. It has been the first topic discussed at every meeting of Parliament during the period of depression, and it will be the last subject discussed before the Prorogation. There is no part of the House where there is a monopoly of anxiety and sincere purpose with regard to this question. My right hon. Friend complained that the late Government and the present Government have not done enough in carrying out schemes. He has always made that complaint with great sincerity and great eloquence, but when he said this morning: "I would rather you had done nothing at all than you had done what you have done," I think he does not quite mean what he says. He put this point: "What you have done would have been done by the local authorities, even if you had never lifted your hand." I can assure him that he is wrong. We are very grateful to the local authorities for the patriotic way in which they have come to our assistance, particularly having regard to the heavy nature of their own commitments, but it has been necessary to make appeals to them, and I do not think that if these appeals had not been made such help as has been given would have been given in some cases. He did not put the point this morning that he has put on previous occasions, when it has been my duty to say that we have done all we could. His answer, and I expect it would have been the same this morning if he had made the point, is: "Why do you not pledge the national credit, so that you might have more money available for much wider schemes of relief?" That, I think, is his case. I would point out once more that to pledge the national credit is a very costly and disastrous business. I borrowed £15,000,000 to run the Insurance Act, and it cost £16,000,000. £1,000,000 went into thin air. That was no good to the unemployed. The more we borrow the more we increase the cost of living, and the wider we make the gap between real and nominal value of wages. Before the War, a working man could say: "How much money have I in my hand," but to-day he has not only to ask himself that question, but he has to say: "What can I get for it?" Therefore, any policy for widening the gap between nominal and real value is not in the interests of the working classes, and on that account we have not gone further than was absolutely necessary in the policy of borrowing. We have got the cost of living down from 176 per cent, in November, 1920, to 78 per cent. That is all to the good. We should not have got it down to that extent if we had gone in for a wide policy of pledging the national credit. [HON. MEMBERS: "YOU have brought wages down."]
My right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour has given us an explanation of figures which were rather difficult to follow. The form of the Estimate reflects the Departmental method of dealing with the problem. It is in the hands of a great many Departments. I always felt, and I hope that my right hon. Friend will press it, that some one Minister should be responsible to the Cabinet and the House for all these schemes. It is very difficult when people come from the localities to put their schemes that they have to be sent from one Department to another. That is our system, and I think it is a pity. If my right hon. Friend were made directly responsible for all these schemes to the Cabinet and the House it would be much better, much more simple, and it would relieve us of the rather complicated Estimate that we have before us to-day. In regard to the £1,000,070, I take it that the £600,000 mentioned on the first page of the Estimate is to go to meet moneys already spent on schemes already sanctioned and in operation. How far has that money already been spent?
The £600,000 to be voted represents sums which have already been spent to a large extent on schemes already in operation. The £470,000 for this financial year is out of an ultimate total of £1,620,000 for the continuance and extension of schemes already sanctioned and being operated. Then there are certain sums to be spent by the Office of Works in respect of actual works in hand, £375,000, but not, I assume, all in this financial year.
The same thing is obviously true with regard to the £946,000 for expediting Post Office capital works, only a portion of which is for this financial year. The same is true of the £1,500,000 Road Fund. It will not all be spent in this financial year. Leaving out the valuable assistance of the Exports Credit scheme and the valuable assistance of the Trade Facilities scheme, leaving out the loans to Local Authorities and Boards of Guardians, and leaving out the expenditure from the Road Fund, one gets this position, that provision will be made for about £5,000,000 worth of Exchequer grants for the continuance of relief work and so on, and that of that, £1,000,000 is now asked to be voted for the rest of this financial year. That, I think, is the ultimate analysis of all this. We are asked to vote £1,000,000 in respect of £5,000,000 which face the Exchequer grants for the relief of unemployment in this and the succeeding financial year. I hope that my right hon. Friend will watch the progress of these schemes. No one knows better than he that they need to be stimulated and watched from day to day to see that due progress is made. I hope that he will press upon his colleagues if necessary, and I think that it will be, to come next February for a Supplementary Estimate in regard to these schemes. I think that with due activity and expedition more will be done than will be covered by this £1,000,000. For that is all that has now been provided for the Test of this financial year.
In regard to light railways, we approved of two schemes, most useful work tending ultimately to the permanent prosperity of the locality in which they are provided. My right hon. Friend did not mention that, but I am sure that he will in his reply. I think that he will have to come for a Supplementary Estimate before the close of the financial year in regard to assistance in the agricultural area. Agricultural depression is very grave. I will not follow my right hon. Friend in his references to it. I do not wish to make anything in the nature of a partisan speech to-day, but the depression is very grave, more so than last winter or the winter before. The provision for afforestation is not very great. It must not be forgotten that agricultural labourers are not under the Insurance Act, and therefore when depression comes it is very hard on them, and I am confident that more will be wanted in the agricultural areas. I am sorry that some provision is not made for one item which I must press upon my right hon. Friend. I do not mind admitting that one of our difficulties has been the difficulty of improvising from day to day as we go along, and therefore it is necessary to take time by the forelock in regard to all this.
I trust that it is not an offensive remark to say that I think that we should take time by the forelock. The War broke very badly into the system of apprenticeship. It is true that we completed 46.000 apprenticeships of men who left their indentures to join the Colours, but there must have been tens of thousands of young men who by now would have been craftsmen and apprentices if it had not been for the War. We have therefore to-day a great proportion of unskilled men.
That disproportion has been accentuated by this fact, that the two years slump has made it difficult for boys and girls leaving school to fiad indentured places. There are to day over 40,000 boys registered as unemployed between 16 and 18. There must be at least as many again under 16 not registered who have left school and are wandering about with no chance of indenture for them, because, of the gravity of the industrial depression. Added to the extent to which the War has broken in on craft training, it leaves us with a great disproportion of unskilled men and we ought to consider some provision for training. Otherwise when good times come our way again we shall not be able to fib in these men. I cannot imagine a better subject for the Joint Industrial Councils, composed as to half of representatives of the workers and as to the other half of representatives of the employers, to discuss than this question of whether we ought not to contemplate seriously some assistance to make good the ravages of war and the failure of opportunity for indenture since the War, which is leaving us with a disproportion of unskilled men whom it will be difficult when good times come again to fit into our industrial system.
My right hon. Friend reminded us that we are approaching the period of Christmas. Last year and the year before I found more than in all my life organised effort by well intended good people in the localities to give these men a hand during the extreme depression at Christmas time. This is the third winter in areas where depression has been severe, and in which the pinch must be very severe this year. The personal resources of these men have long since been exhausted. The trade union out-of-work benefit has gone long ago. I am sure that those who have done so much last winter and the winter before, lord mayors, mayors and others in the different localities, will get benevolent minded people together to do what they can in this matter and that they will not be weary in well doing. Let us appeal to them all to come together in a way in which they have never done before, so that they may do everything possible for their fellow countrymen who are down and out, in the vast majority of cases, through no fault of their own.
I have sat now for the last three weeks on these benches without attempting to rise to deliver a speech. I have listened to the utterances of many eminent statesmen and I have observed the conclusions which have been come to and the one great conclusion that I have come to as a result is that here, at the outset of a Parliamentary career, I am quite satisfied that I will never become one of the great statesmen. Yes, I thank God most heartily. For three weeks we have discussed unemployment, and to-day we are met, I understand, to give the necessary financial sanction to what we are prepared to do, and that I find is to raise a sum of £1,070,000. If we take the working class population of this country at 30,000,000 and assume that the whole of this £1,070,000 will filter down to the working classes— which is very far from being true because a large proportion will be stopped on the way—there would be a sum of 8d. per head for the working class population. If that isstatesmanship——
I recognise that, but in the unstable state of society to-day they may all want it at any moment. It seems to me that it is a waste of statesmen's time to spend three weeks discussing the spending of 8d. The working classes, by purchasing 1 lb. of tea and one ounce of tobacco, will have paid that 8d. by the end of next week. We were asked by a speaker on this side of the House whether we found it offensive for him to express sympathy with unemployed men. I want to say that I do. I was a member of a local governing body in the City of Glasgow. I am now a member of that body. I was a member four months ago when the late Minister of Labour (Dr. Macnamara) held responsible Cabinet office. At the end of June of this year we were feeding in the city of Glasgow 10,000 necessitous children of unemployed men. They were only a fraction of the necessitous children, and the Prime Minister knows that as well as I do. Every one of those cases, before public feeding could be allowed, had been carefully investigated by paid investigators of the Glasgow Education Authority. They had to go through the eye of a needle before they got the three meals a day which they required to maintain them in mere physical fitness to be educated. They were being fed on the last day of June, and by an administrative act of the last Government, of which the late Minister of Labour was a Member, on the 1st July every one of those 10,000 children was reduced to starvation. That has continued almost up to the present day. Out of the 10,000 only about 1,000 have been put back on to the scale for feeding, and as to the rest the parents are told to go to the parish council. They were told that-only after three months' delay, and the children have starved in the meantime.
We who come from the Glasgow district to this House have had many lectures on etiquette, on how to conduct themselves, from right hon. and hon. Gentlemen on the other side of the House and on this side. There is Dr. Macnamara. [HON. MEMBERS: "Order, order!"] I mean the right hon. Member for North-East Camberwell, but it does not matter one damn.
I apologise, and withdraw the word. I will know in time what is the proper vocabulary for use in this House. We have had many lectures on etiquette, manners and conduct from right hon. Gentlemen in all parts of the House, and from the Press of this city, addressed particularly to those of us who come from the West of Scotland. We admit frankly that perhaps on the nicer points of good form we have different ideas from hon. Members on the other side of the House. Our dialect is somewhat different also, and perhaps our mode of dressing is slightly different. But we think it is the very worst form, the very worst taste, that it shows very bad breeding, to kick a man who is in the gutter, or to withdraw a crust from a starving child. That is the Glasgow idea of conduct and breeding. Is it the idea of right hon. Gentlemen and hon. Gentlemen on the other side? If they believe that in private life it is a cowardly thing to bully a child or to kick a dog, the good form of private life should be carried into the public duties of this Chamber. I say further that the unemployment relief money paid through the Employment Exchanges is known by right hon. and hon. Gentlemen here to be quite inadequate for the support of a home. Think of it! Fifteen shillings a week for a man, 5s. for his wife, and 1s. for each child. Not one hon. Member on the other side would attempt to live for one day in London on such a sum. [HON. MEMBERS: "On your side too."] Yes. We have been trying, and have found it is not possible in London to maintain decent efficiency for less than £l a day.
We want to have decent opportunities for physical efficiency for ourselves. Why not? Wanting it for ourselves, we want to sec it- granted also to the fellow who has to go to the bureau. Is not that fair play and gentlemanliness and decent conduct—that what you ask for yourself you are prepared to grant to others? But it does not stop there. The late Government and the present Government recognise that the unemployment benefit is an insufficient amount, and they say "Go to the parish council for something extra; this is business." We employ a capable and efficient staff at our local Employment Exchanges. We employ another staff at our parish councils in Scotland. We take on an additional staff of investigators. We send them to the education authorities about children's feeding and clothing, and on every occasion when the unemployed man faces the problem of feeding and clothing himself and his wife and family great big forms have to be filled up, objectional interviews have to be held with subordinate officials, and investigators are sent out to pry into all the most sacred and secret affairs of a man's life. It used to be a great argument against our political theories that Socialism would destroy the sanctity of the home. You people on the other side are sending officials into the homes. It is not one investigation; it is not one form that has to be filled up, but six forms from this Department and six forms from that.
It is sometimes said that the receiving of public money by an unemployed man has a deteriorating effect on the character of that man. I do not believe it any more than I believe that the receiving of unearned income by hon. Members opposite has any deriorating effect on their character. They are what they are for an entirely different reason. But I do believe that if a man has to draw public money and to submit to this indignity and the next indignity, his character is seriously deteriorated. Besides being bad business that we should have the same job done three or four times over, it is having a bad effect on the moral character of the people of the country. Remember this: Whatever hon. Members on the other side may believe, we believe in the West of Scotland that our working classes are as good, as capable, and as hard working and energetic men and women as are to be found anywhere in this wide world. Our engineering products are to be found in every part of the Empire, our ships are sailing on every sea. The men who made those great engineering products, the men who built those ships and made the locomotives, have to-day to submit to the indignity of their homes being turned upside down and of having to go and beg and crawl here and there in order that they may be allowed to live. We object to it, and resent it most keenly.
Not only that, but after they have been employed for a year, their unemployment insurance becomes exhausted, according to the arrangement made by the right hon. Gentleman. These men know every place where work is to be obtained, and when they have exhausted every possible source of employment, they ask at the Employment Exchange for an extension of their insurance benefit for a week or two, and they are turned down on the ground that they are not genuinely seeking employment. Only a fool in the East End of the City of Glasgow, would go round the work gates every day seeking employment. There is a sort of wireless telegraphy among working men in the East End of Glasgow, and if they hear of one job away in the extreme West, there are thousands waiting for it the first thing in the morning. I am told that in one district 60 per cent, of all the people who applied for the special period of unemployment benefit, were turned down on the ground that they were not genuinely seeking employment. No hon. Member of this House knowing the employment conditions in this country at present would think of wasting his time in going out looking for employment, but would wait until he gathered from the Press or in some other way that there were opportunities for employment.
I am going back to my constituency, to 37,000 people, men, women and children, mostly on the verge of starvation, and I have to tell them that the new Government of this country is going to do for them exactly the same as the last Government did'—nothing of any account. They are going to rely, in the main, on private enterprise. It is touching to see the faith of hon. Members opposite in private enterprise. Time may change their views. In Mr. Bevan, Mr. Bottomley and Mr. Hooley I see flaws in the purity of private enterprise. I also see those who were strong opponents of public enterprise, but have had to accept it in the long run. I must go back and tell these people that they have to wait patiently until private enterprise has righted the industry and commerce of this country. Yet the right hon. Gentleman, the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George), tells us he does not believe that private enterprise is going to make it right. He differs from the right hon. Gentleman, the Member for North-West Camberwell, who says he looks for better times. The right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs tells us that unemployment is going to be a permanent feature of our society. So far as private enterprise is going to try to right itself, it is going to do so, as the right hon. Gentleman the ex-Premier of this country told us quite frankly, by attempting to produce in this country cheaper than in any other country in the world. That is to say, our people are going to be enabled to get the means of life by going down, to the starvation level of wages.
That is a poor look out for the people of this country for the next three years, and I will not go back to my constituents in the West of Scotland—I have not consulted them, but I think I fan speak for all the Members for the West of Scotland in this matter—we will not go back to our people, and tell them that they are to starve in peace and quietness. We will not do so. It would not be right. I am as great a constitutionalist as any Member on that Front Bench or this Front Bench, but there is a point where constitutionalists have to give way before human necessity. I tell the working-class people of the West of Scotland that this House has nothing to give them. They will have to depend upon themselves and win through to security and comfort by their own efforts. I am quite certain that the working class of the West of Scotland will devise ways and means of making themselves felt in that direction. I support the Amendment to reduce the Estimate by £100 in order to call attention to these very great weaknesses in the provisions outlined by the Government.
The speech to which we have just listened, in the intense sympathy which it expressed, appealed to everyone. But the hon. Member's methods of applying that sympathy in a practical way, judging from the silence in which his final remarks were received, appealed to hardly anyone in the House. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Platting (Mr. Clynes) said that the Government had done little or nothing towards a solution of this problem. Surely he has not read the statement which accompanies the Supplementary Estimate as to the amount of money which has been spent, directly or indirectly, by the Government in endeavouring to cope with this appalling problem. If he looks at it, he will see that something like £115,000,000 has been spent in this way, and that can hardly be described as little or nothing. No one is satisfied with the Government proposals. I do not suppose for one moment the Minister of Labour is satisfied with his own proposal, as a complete or even a satisfactory attempt to deal with the problem. It is merely an experiment, and I, for one, hope, if it be necessary, that further Supplementary Estimates may be brought before the House in order to alleviate present conditions. I represent a great industrial constituency in the City of Leeds, and I have watched one thousand unemployed men per hour passing through the gate of the Employment Exchange. Anyone who has done that must have had it burnt in upon his conscience that he should exercise every power he has got to make the lot of these men better, not only for their own good but for the good of the country. A sight such as that is a sad one in the mass, but it is far more pathetic when viewed in detail, when we follow each of those thousand men to his home and see the conditions in which he is expected to live. Considering the matter in this way, I think, at any rate, we in this House know no party in endeavouring to bring greater happiness and greater contentment to these men.
We are not satisfied, and we hope more may be done. No one can be satisfied with the 15s. per week for a man, 5s. for a wife, and 1s. for a child. But we have got to be careful that in the remedies we propose we do not make the disease worse than it is already. The proposals of some hon. Gentlemen opposite—the capital levy, the abolition of private enterprise and all the other nostrums— would only increase unemployment. If these were adopted, they might, instead of 15s., distribute £l or £2 a week for a few weeks, but it would come to an end, and the men would be worse off than ever they were before. The same thing has been tried in Russia, with the result that there are more unemployed than ever in that country No, if only the intense and wonderful patience displayed by these men and women who are unemployed to-day were displayed in a similar degree by some of the Members of this House, we should progress more satisfactorily. Nobody can but admire the patience of these men and women. We have to be very careful that the remedy does not make the disease more difficult, but, on the other hand, I would say that last night we listened to criticism—I think I may say an attack—on the proposal of the Government to deal in a small way with unemployment by guaranteeing a loan in connection with works in the Sudan. That was attacked by several hon. Members opposite because it was possible that some small amount of that money might find its way into private hands.
I earnestly plead with this House— with the Socialists in the House not to examine too microscopically whether a few pence in the pound may possibly find their way into private hands, so long as the great bulk of it provides employment for those who need it; with the individualists in the House not to examine too closely the proposals of the Government from their own particular point of view, Let us be satisfied on both sides, whether individualists or Socialists, that in the main the money does do £what it is required to do and does provide employment for those who need it. I trust that we shall remember that what we are doing at present is to endeavour to solve an immediate peril. We are not dealing now with the permanent issue; we are not trying to find a solution of the problem of finding enough work for the men and women of this country. That will come afterwards, but a great deal of time is wasted in discussing to-day what is to be done in the way of a permanent settlement of this problem. For my own part, I look forward, without discussing it at all, to some general scheme of insurance, which will not only insure against unemployment, but against accident, against ill-health, and to provide additional old age pensions. If we could get an all-embracing scheme of insurance, with one, card and one contribution—
Major B IRC HALL:
I apologise. I was merely illustrating the impossibility of dealing with the permanent policy at the present time, in face of the immediate problems that are before us. In conclusion, I want to ask the Minister one question. I want to know whether the money, the £600,000 which is intended for additional expenditure on existing schemes, does or does not include any continuation of the scheme for the training of women for domestic service. To my mind, the work that has been done under the auspices of the Ministry of Labour in connection with training women for domestic service is one of the most hopeful departments of the work. I have watched an experiment in Leeds, in which some 60 women and girls are trained for a short period of three or four months, and then sent out to domestic service, and I under- stand that the result of the experiment is extremely satisfactory. Of course, Leeds is not the only place, and there are other places where it is being tried. I understand that in Leeds a census has been taken, and after, I think it was, three months from the time they had left their training, a very small percentage indeed, not more than two or three per cent., have been found to have left their employment or to have thrown up their work. It seems to me that if we can, by extending this scheme of training for domestic service, place definitely in what may be a permanent occupation women and girls who are now drawing unemployment benefit, we shall go a long way to deal with that particular problem, because, unlike almost every other industry in the country, there is an almost unlimited demand for domestic servants in this country to-day. It is indeed ridiculous to continue to pay women and girls unemployment benefit when it seems to me there is work waiting for all, or nearly all, of them, if they are willing to undergo a short course of training which may be provided for them by the Ministry of Labour.
As is the custom with new Members, I would ask the indulgence of older Members and of those new Members who have already taken the plunge and addressed the House. I feel like my hon. Friend the Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton) that there is no need for a Member on these benches to apologise for intervening in the Debate on this enormous question, and I rise to say, what has been said on many occasions before, that we are utterly disappointed at the proposals made by the Government. The Estimate before UB now is sufficient proof that the new Government will do as little for unemployment as the last Government. I am not impressed by the large sums of money which are said to have been devoted to this question; I am not impressed by the fact that £50,000,000 is to be granted for trade facilities, when we realise that it is merely a limited guarantee which the Government may never be expected to have to honour. We are dealing to-day with hard facts of real money to be provided by Parliament, and we are down now to the realities of the situation. The proposals of the Government are proposals of a kind initiated by the late Government, part of a despicable and cowardly policy of throwing the burden of unemployment on the backs of the local authorities and on the backs of the poor.
Local authorities in this country are more desperately driven to-day than ever they have been. They cannot so easily shed their responsibilities for the unemployed in their midst. They must do something, and, because of the necessity for local authorities dealing with this problem, the Government has exploited them and thrown upon them a burden they ought never to have been asked to bear. The Minister, in introducing the Estimate, spoke of the way in which the Government were grappling with the problem of necessitous areas. They have never tried to grapple with the problem of necessitous areas. We are in a position to-day where inevitably the incidence of unemployment varies from place to place, where certain towns, through no fault of their own and no defect on their part, are having to carry a much higher burden for the maintenance of unemployed workers and their dependants than other towns. We have a situation in which there is no real comparison between the needs of a town and its capacity to meet those needs, and in consequence, owing to the fact that Parliament has left the local authorities—has indeed encouraged them—to spend money which ought to have come from the Exchequer, we are in a position to-day in some areas where local authorities and their administration are falling into a condition of hopeless chaos. Local authorities have actually been encouraged to borrow money to meet current expenditure. If a Labour Government had ever proposed to do that, it would have been regarded as wild-cat finance. It is wildcat finance. It is only another method of throwing upon the poorer section of the community the major part of the responsibility for to-day's evil. Borrowing really means that the ratepayers in coming years are to be compelled to continue bearing a burden which ought to be borne to-day out of the nation's resources, and not out of local resources.
This evil has to be paid for. The right hon. Gentleman the former Minister of Labour said that all had been done that could be done. We on these benches do not believe it. Unemployment is always paid for. If it is not paid for in money, it is paid for in life and energy. If it is not paid for either by the State or by the local authorities, it is paid for by the nation through enfeebled vitality, through loss of skill, deterioration and demoralisation, and, what is worse than anything else, it is paid for in the stunted development of the rising generation. We are doing to-day what we have always done in periods of unemployment, that is, making the people pay, and pay in the worst possible kind of way—not in money, but with their energy and their happiness. I would not like to say that hon. Members opposite and below the Gangway do not care about unemployment, or are not touched at the spectacle of unemployed men and women. What I do say is that they have given no indication up to the present that they understand the elements of the problem. They have not shown that they care sufficiently. It is useless for hon. Members to say we should not be too critical, and that the remedies proposed may be worse than the disease. Hon. Members opposite would never allow us to judge of that, because they would never put our remedies into operation. They are more academic than the Members on these benches.
Our charge against Members of other parties is that they do not care sufficiently. A few weeks ago, when there was a great danger of a crisis in the Near East, the Cabinet was sitting night and day. It even met on Sunday, and quite rightly. I have yet to hear of any Government taking so serious an interest in the problem of unemployment. I remember the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George), with that flair for the spectacular which we have always associated with him, once called a meeting on Christmas Day to discuss unemployment, but there never has been that kind of determination thrown into the problem of unemployment and the provision of means for dealing with unemployment as has been thrown, shall we say, into the question of war. The problem of unemployment with us is as a problem of war, and we would urge the Government to show the same amount of determination, the same desire to leave no stone unturned, in facing this problem as they would do next week if we came within an ace of war with another State. Having done something to provide for unemployment, the Government have admitted the whole of our case. If the Government make provision for work for one man, they have admitted the whole of our case, and put themselves in the wrong. By accepting the principle, it is their bounden duty to put that principle into full operation as far as possible. The Government to-day dare not leave men to starve altogether. They dare not say they will provide no work. They provide a certain amount of work. Whatever unemployment may mean to the well-to-do classes—and I do not imagine the trade depression has meant a cigar a day difference to hon. Members opposite— we ought to devote the whole of our capacities to facing this problem. It is immoral for any person in this community to be able to live in luxury while there are men, women and children in almost every constituency starving before our eyes.
For anybody in this House to say that the late Government or the present Government have done everything possible to deal with the question of unemployment is a monstrous untruth. They have not given one tithe of the consideration to it which its real importance merits. They have not given to it one tithe of the expenditure which its importance merits. It is an extraordinary custom, to which I shall become used in time, that, in order to put forward our view that the Minister of Labour should have asked for a great deal more money, we should have to move to reduce it by £100. It could be reduced by £100,000, and the effect would be almost negligible. Small remedies are no remedies at all for dealing with the problem of unemployment. They really make the matter worse. They create dissatisfaction. They hold out to people hopes which cannot possibly be fulfilled. They are unjust, because, although a little work may be provided, it is quite accidental upon whom the work falls. We have no indication to-day that the few men who may be brought into employment by these provisions will be the men who most need it. It will be purely accidental. It is, in a sense, almost worse to provide a few men with work than to leave them alone altogether. So far as members on this side of the House are concerned, we never shall be able to forget this problem while it is in Our midst. It is difficult, it seems to me, to rouse Members on the other benches. They will profess sympathy for the unemployed. They will express their sorrow that things are as bad as they are, but they have never, as far as I know, in any speech brought forward any proposals commensurate with the magnitude of the problem with which we are faced to-day.
Like many of the speeches we have heard during the last three weeks, the House is now going to hear another maiden speech, and, as one who has never taken any interest in politics before this election, I hope hon. Members will bear with me. No doubt many of those on the opposite side who have in the last few days made their maiden speech in this House, have had opportunities of speaking on platforms and in public life before they entered Parliament. That is not the case with me, because I always declined to take any part in political matters before I was asked, or compelled rather, to take this part in politics. I should just like to say at the outset that I regret to hear the offensive observations directed from the opposite side by hon. Members against hon. Members on this side-Judging from hon. Members like the one who spoke last, one would imagine that no hon. Member on this side of the House has ever felt the necessity of giving up a single cigar by virtue of the existing unemployment. I may tell hon. Members that I have never been able to afford cigars. Occasionally I have had them presented to me. I want hon. Members of the Labour party to know that I claim to be one of themselves. I started work, not as a half-timer, but at the age of eight. I had to go to the mill at six o'clock in the morning, and come back to breakfast, go to school, and after the school had closed at four o'clock in the afternoon I had to go to the mill until six. [HON. MEMBERS: "Shame!"] But it was necessary in our case. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"] We were a family of 10 children, and only one wage-earner at that time.
My mother was one of fourteen. I was one of fourteen, so that there were three large generations. Myself, three of my boys, and several daughters served in the War. I have three sons at home now suffering from wounds, so that I think hon. Members will understand that I have difficulties to face equal, or probably superior, to any hon. Member on the opposite Benches. But what I want to speak about is this: Many hon. Members of the Labour party do not appreciate to the full the extent of the anxieties of hon. Members on this side to do their duty in just as kind and humane a way as Members opposite. I may explain to right hon. Members that during the War I was placed in charge of the prisoners of war in Egypt, and while out at Maadi, near Cairo, I came in touch with a lot of experts in cotton growing in Egypt, and being in the cotton trade I took advantage of the opportunities I had there to study the whole question. I do not know, Mr. Hope, whether you will consider that what I am saying has any bearing on the matter before us, but what I want to do is to argue that the action hon. Members opposite took against granting the bounty, or whatever it might be called, of £3,500,000 for the purpose of encouraging the growing of cotton in the Sudan, I think this has something to do with the unemployment question.
I am afraid the remarks of the hon. Member are hardly relevant. They will be to the Third Beading of the Bill that follows, or the Bill that was discussed yesterday, the Trade Facilities Bill. They are scarcely relevant to the present Vote.
Thank you, Sir. I am only asking that I may keep right, as I do not at present know the rules of the House; but I can assure hon. Members that I am anxious to do my share just as they are. I do want them to give a little sympathetic attention to what I have said. I note that in the papers this morning that it is stated that one-third of the cotton looms in Lancashire have closed down. When you consider the fact that there are 800,000 looms alone in Lancashire, and that they aggregate in their make 25,000 miles of cloth every day, sufficient in one working day to go round the globe, you can imagine that it is a very very serious matter indeed if there is going to be a shortage of cotton. The prospect is not a happy one. Look at what the United States have done in the last 25 years. Time was when they required a quarter, then half, then three-quarters of the crop. Probably in the near future they will require still more, and they will probably find that it is to their benefit to grow less and less in order to get higher prices. Thus hon. Members will realise that unless we take some course of action to find other places in other lands for growing cotton that the tall chimneys in Lancashire will soon become the monuments of a past industry. That is what we want to avoid. From what I have seen in Egypt in cotton growing I can assure hon. Members that we shall have to grow cotton there and in several other places or close down altogether, and the Lancashire cotton trade will go. Raw cotton has varied in price from 3d. to 2s., and it is important that other sources of supply should be found which will tend to minimise these fluctuations. I have been in the New York cotton market—
Then I hope I may have the opportunity of speaking on this subject again. This will relieve unemployment. That is my line of argument. My objection to the action of the Labour party is that they will not give us credit for trying to do for the working-people what they are anxious to do—and we recognise their anxiety. I do not ask, as a man who has spent so much of his life in the cotton trade, in every branch of it—weaving, spinning, bleaching and the manufacture of explosive cotton—I do ask that hon. Members opposite should give us credit equal with themselves for having sympathy with the unemployed.
Mr. T. THOMSON:
The Minister of Labour in his observations referred to the White Paper dealing with the assistance that was to be given by the Government to necessitous areas. I wish to ask him to reconsider what the Government proposes to do in this matter, and to inquire really whether the proposals outlined are all they have to offer to this particular side of the problem. The hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. A. Greenwood), who, if I may say so, spoke so ably and forcibly a few moments ago, referred to the difficulties with which he is acquainted as a member of his local authority. I should like to remind the Minister and the Committee that this question is one which is by no moans new. In June last a deputation representing all sections of this House— because this is not a party question in any sense—and I am satisfied that all Members feel anxiously and sincerely on this particular phase of the matter—a deputation of the Members of this House, representative of the local authorities, introduced by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Ecclesall Division of Sheffield (Sir S. Roberts), and supported by the present Postmaster-General, saw the Prime Minister. With the weight of that authority behind us, we had hoped, and I think we hope even yet, that something more substantial may be done than what has been foreshadowed in this White Paper.
What did the Minister say? He said: "We are going to grant £750,000 by way of loans." Does the Minister really think that when the rates are 20s. or 30s. in the £ that to offer a loan is in any way to give assistance, or is even sound from an economic point of view? It was suggested in an earlier Debate this Session that unemployment was on the wane, that there were signs of improvement. That is true to a certain extent. According to the Returns of the Ministry of Labour, unemployment throughout the country to-day averages 12 per cent, compared with 12'8 a year ago. The very fact that it is decreasing on the average is an additional reason why in those areas where it is still increasing, and which are not sharing in the prosperity which has manifested itself elsewhere, should receive additional assistance. May I give one or two figures to illustrate this point? I find that in the north coast shipbuilding area the amount of unemployment is 42*5 per cent., while in the engineering trades of the North East coast it is 267 per cent. There you have a most appalling percentage, which quite puts the 12 per cent, which has been referred to in the shade. Not only is it greater in those areas than in the rest of the country, but it is actually greater than it was 12 months ago. According to the Board of Trade Returns for the northern counties in the shipbuilding trade, unemployment 12 months ago was 33 per cent., but even that has now increased by 10 per cent. Therefore you have not merely a larger percentage than the rest of the country, but larger than it was 12 months ago.
I submit that the position is going steadily from bad to worse in certain districts, although it may have improved in some other districts. According to statistics taken out by the Minister of Health up to June last, in Sheffield the number who were receiving relief was 203 per thousand, whilst in certain other industrial towns the number was only from five to ten per thousand. Similarly in all the other industrial areas affected by the iron and steel trade, you have a percentage of unemployment and distress much greater than in other parts of the country. It is not merely a question of an odd figure, because it is pretty general in those districts. Let me take the test of the rates. I will take South Wales as an instance. In Merthyr Tydvil last year the rates were 30s. 5d. in the £1, whereas at Oxford they were only 9B. 7d. In Norwich the rates were 27s. 6d. in the £, whereas in Blackpool they were only 9s. Those figures show a gross inequality in the burdens placed on those different areas.
The Minister of Health last year, when introducing the Local Authorities (Financial Provisions) Bill, said that he thought there should be assistance given out of the Common Poor Fund to the Metropolitan boroughs account of the great disparity in rating which then existed within the Metropolitan area. May I point out that that disparity is even greater in the provinces than in the Metropolitan area? The figures given by the Minister of Health on 28th October showed that, whereas in the City of London they had a rate of 10s. 6d. in the £, the rate in Poplar was 22s. 10d. Instead of having the rates double, they are nearly treble in the provinces. I submit to the Government that every argument which was produced in October last, on account of which a Measure was introduced to equalise the burden of the poor rate in the Metropolitan boroughs, holds equally good for giving assistance to the provincial districts where the disparity is even greater.
The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour, in reply to a question yesterday, suggested that the remedy for dealing with these necessitous areas could not be on the same lines as those which have been adopted in the Metropolitan area of London. I agree that you may not be able to get a common Poor Rate for the provinces, but I would point out that the organised Poor Law associations and municipal authorities drew up a formula which would work out and give relief on the same lines as the Government has given relief with regard to the necessitous school areas, where you have an abnormal child population and a small rateable value. In such cases an extra grant is made to those areas in order to equalise the burden thrown upon them. That is a sound principle which is in operation to-day to relieve the necessities of education, and I think that principle should be applied on similar lines to relieve the disparity and inequality of rating in certain areas in the provinces.
It has not been suggested that the present state of things can be met by the ordinary burden of the Poor Rate. These are abnormal times, and unemployment is due to national and not to local causes. I cannot imagine anyone would suggest that unemployment which exists now so extensively is either the fault of the employers on the North-East Coast or in South Wales, or of the workmen. It is not their fault that the burden of unemployment and the Poor Rate is so heavy, because it is entirely due to the War and the aftermath of the War, and it is a charge which should be borne nationally. If that is admitted in the main, and it has been admitted in the case of necessitous school areas, why should not a similar plan be adopted for dealing with those areas where the burden of poor relief has been greatly swollen purely on account of unemployment? It has been suggested as a formula for these necessitous areas that you might take 1s. in the £ as the amount of the Poor Rate to be rightly borne by those localities, and that over and above that a percentage of say 75 per cent, or 50 per cent, of the increase above 1s. should be made up nationally in the same way as the difficulty of the school problem has been dealt with in necessitous areas.
I was astonished to hear the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade yesterday suggest that the Minister of Health was in ignorance of the proposals that had been put forward by the various authorities dealing with this question. It has been suggested that there are about 42 necessitous areas which are badly hit in regard to unemployment and they embrace a population of something like 9,000,000. If the formula which I have referred to could be accepted, that anything above Is. Poor Rate 75 per cent. of it should be a national charge and 25 per cent, a local charge, that would involve an expenditure of about £1,000,000 for the whole year, and it would give considerable relief to those districts.
What is going to be the result of leaving things as they are? Hon. Members say that we must depend upon private enterprise, but what chance has private enterprise to recover when the rates are mounting up on industry and crippling manufacturers in their competition with the world? The figures have been given with regard to the trade of Sheffield and other parts of the country. In my own district a large steel works took out the figures not long ago, and they show that in 1014 the burden of local rates on their cost of manufacture was 8d. per ton on the finished steel, but now- the local rates amounted to 5s. 4d. per ton on their output of steel. What chance is there of industries being developed when they have to bear such heavy additional charges? We have heard a good deal about the 33⅓ per cent, preference in order to protect certain trades against the foreigner, but what chance has industry got when it has to bear a 400 per cent, increase in the local rates? Surely greater provision should be made to reduce these local charges by the State as a whole bearing some share of them. I do appeal to the Minister that the same principles which have been applied to the Metropolitan boroughs should be applied to large industrial areas like Glasgow, Sheffield, Birmingham, and Leeds; in order that they may not be strangled in their attempts to recover trade. What are the Ministry offering? This miserable loan which is entirely inadequate. What is £750,000 compared with the loans which these local authorities have already negotiated, amounting to over £3,500,000? Three and a half million pounds since unemployment became severe! Compared with that, £750,000 is a mere bagatelle.
I submit to the right hon. Gentleman one or two practical suggestions. The assistance given to local authorities in instituting public work should be on a more substantial scale. At the present time 60 per cent, of the charges for a maximum period of 15 years on work that is supposed to be unremunerative is given. That works out at something like one-third of the cost over the period of the loan. With rates at 20s. and 30s. in the £, local authorities in the greatest need cannot afford to add further to their burdens by engaging in these necessary and useful enterprises, and I do submit that in connection with these schemes a more liberal grant should be given. Take the question of roads as an illustration. The Road Board is spending a certain amount of money, and yet they are going to give only the same percentage of grant as they gave when the Board was established, and when times were good. If 50 per cent, was a sound business grant to make in those days, I submit that it is totally inadequate to-day when unemployment is so great and rates are so heavy. I submit that of this Estimate a substantial part should be given to supplement thy grants made by the Road Board in order to finance and promote those big public works which will be an invaluable asset to the country in the future, but which the local authorities cannot afford to accept as a burden at the present time.
I suggest also that the Treasury, under the powers that it has to make Regulations, should waive the objection which it has urged up to the present to making any grant to local authorities who are engaged in the building of houses. Surely that is the height of folly to-day when there are 118,000 men unemployed in the building trade. We are paying these men £260,000 per month, which represents over £3,000,00 per year, to walk the streets and do nothing when those very districts where they are walking are clamouring for houses in order to house and properly care for the inhabitants. I submit to the Minister that he should bring pressure to bear on the powers that be to include in the grants made under this Supplementary Estimate, some provision whereby local authorities can be encouraged to meet the growing needs of their own district and take off the streets those at present unemployed. I know it will be suggested that the whole of these 118,000 men cannot be employed at once, and that only a portion of them are skilled men. The whole of them were employed two years ago when the then Minister of Health told us that it was impossible to get on with housing because there was not a man in the building trade who was unemployed. If that was possible two years ago, I submit that it is possible to-day, but, if even the whole of these 118,000 men cannot be employed at any rate a portion of them might be, and surely every man taken off the streets and engaged in useful work is an advantage from the economic and social point of view. Therefore I do appeal to the Minister in dealing with this question with his broad sympathies, to realise that so far as the necessitous areas are concerned, his proposals are quite inadequate, and to ask him whether, in the interest of helping industry to revive, reducing the local rates, and stimulating trade, he cannot see his way to make more provision for dealing with the problem, which during the next three months will become more acute in these areas than it as ever been before.
In rising to address the House for the first time, I must, as is usual, ask the indulgence of hon. Members. A good deal has been said during the lsat two or three weeks in regard to unemployment, and I want to call attention to various phases of the problem both from the point of view of local authorities who are supplementing unemployment relief, and of localities where the rateable value is very low. I do not think that any Member would say that 15s. for an unemployed man with 5s. for his wife and 1s. for each child is sufficient to maintain a decent standard of life. While many unemployed men have been thankful for that amount, yet, speaking generally, the great mass of the unemployed cannot maintain their dependants as they ought to be maintained, and, as a consequence, local authorities, and especially boards of guardians, have been compelled to initiate schemes of relief in order that these men might have something on which to maintain their dependants. I believe that a good many hon. Members opposite are sympathetic towards the unemployed, but we on these benches, who have had many years' experience of local authorities, never forget that some of our biggest opponents on the numerous occasions that we have striven to get schemes of work put into operation have been the supporters of the Conservative party. When hon. Members therefore talk about sympathy, we have a right to ask how much their sympathy is worth.
Sheffield has been mentioned, and I assure the House that the position in Sheffield is a very serious one. I have for a number of years been on the Sheffield board of guardians, and I have had as much to do with the unemployed as any man in this House. I know, from the point of view of the guardians and of the ratepayers, that the situation there is very critical. I believe that we owe, roughly, more than £700,000 at the present time, and the rates are about 23s. in the £. I do not want to supersede the activities of the Sheffield Members, but, as one who lives in the city and has had 10 years on the Poor Law authority. I want to urge the Government to make a grant and to relieve the problem of the rates there.
Christmas has been mentioned. It has been my happy lot for a year or two to have my Christmas dinner inside the workhouse, not because I like it, but because I have always felt that it was my duty at least once a year to try and cheer the inmates of that institution. I have been inside the workhouse on Christmas day, and I have seen tears falling down the faces of old men and women, and heard people say that they were tears of joy. I have never interpreted them as tears of joy, but as tears of remembrance for the days when they had happy homes of their own, and when they were trying to do their best to keep up the traditions and characteristics of Christmas. I mention that because, whereas the Government expect an unemployed man, his wife and three children to exist on 23s. per week, the actual cost in some of our most up-to-date workhouses to keep an inmate a week is more than 23s. If you divide 23s. by five it works out, roughly, at 4s. 1d. per individual for food alone, whereas the actual cost in some up-to-date workhouses is actually more than that for food, in addition to the outlay necessary for the upkeep of the institution.
While the Government have done something, they have not done sufficient for the unemployed of this country, and when hon. Members talk about extremists in the unemployed movement, I want them to believe that one of the reasons why there are so many extreme men and women inside the Labour movement of this country is that these people have been forced by economic circumstances to the conclusion that they can only get something done when they kick up a row. I could give the Committee instances of men who were in the Liberal party or in the Tory party before the War now being men of extreme views. I have sat on Relief Committees, I have seen men come in for food or relief who went to school with me—good living men, men who tried to maintain a decent standard of life for themselves and their dependants. The piano has gone, the watch has gone, and they have come for relief. What is worse, they have lost a good deal of their self-respect, and they have been forced to join the unemployed in order to insist that the authorities should do something for them. When you see a man coming into the Relief Committee room with his ribands and medals in order to get relief, and when you hear him ask a member of the committee how he is fixed up for an old coat or an old pair of boots, it makes one feel that the iron has entered into his soul. One of the reasons why so many men have been converted to extreme views is their bad economic condition. I want to say this in the presence of the right hon. Member for North-West Camberwell (Dr. Macnamara), that while the local authorities have been trying to do their best, they have at times been hindered by the late Government.
What was the position at Sheffield? We in the Labour party were in a minority. The unemployed were demanding work or maintenance. We set up a scheme of relief which was working satisfactorily and without complaint from any quarter. But the Government inspector came along and said, "You must cut down that scale of relief to the Ministry of Health's scale, otherwise we will not give you permission to borrow any further money." That was done, and the very first day the Ministry's scale was put into operation what happened? Thousands and thousands of men demonstrated in Sheffield. There were hundreds of foot police and dozens of mounted police. The demonstration lasted from 3 p.m. till 9 p.m., and as a result of it two members of the Sheffield City Council went to London to see the Minister of Health, then, I believe, the right hon. Member for West Swansea (Sir A. Mond), who, in the end, gave permission to the Sheffield guardians to rescind the resolution which had been passed in accordance with the wishes of the Ministry of Health. Had the inspector of the Department kept away, Sheffield would have been spared that huge demonstration which looked like causing a riot of a kind hitherto unknown in that city. Therefore I say that the only thing the Government have done, so far as the board of guardians are concerned, has been to give them permission to get into debt. The position in Sheffield is critical, as it is in many other parts, for instance, as West Ham.
The Department tell us that they sympathise with us, and do not envy us our job, but all they do is to give us permission to borrow £600,000: in other words, they give us permission to get into debt. I say that the Government ought to make an adequate grant to the local authorities in order to lighten the burdens of the ratepayers. I want to turn for a moment to the position in districts where there is a low rateable value. In my constituency, which extends from Pontefract down to Goole, there are many unemployed men. There is much poverty and many ex-service men are in a state of semi-starvation. In that constituency there is any amount of work which needs doing. Transport is bad. Housing conditions are bad. In these rural areas there is plenty of room for improvement. I would urge the Minister that when local authorities ask for sanction for schemes of work to be put into operation there shall be no such thing as red tape to hinder the progress of those schemes. I am one of those who believe that what this House ought to do is to concentrate, as far as possible, on the restoration of industry, but until such time as you can do that you have to realise that men and women need something to live upon. When hon. Members here talk about political economy in regard to national expenditure, I say you cannot talk political economy to starving men and women. They want something to live upon. During my campaign I met individuals whom I have felt almost ashamed to face. I was strong and well and felt fit. They were not fit. They had not had the food which they ought to have had. If there is one grand thing in this world it is to feel fit, and any fit man who looks at an unfit man without feeling remorse, does not quite realise what may be the feeling of that unfit man when he is looking at a man who happens to be fit. In Conclusion, I thank hon. Members for the patience and courtesy with which they have listened to my maiden effort. I hope it will not be my last speech in this House. I can assure hon. Members that we on this side, and especially the younger men, have taken a keen interest in politics for a number of years, we have taken our share in the sweets and sours of public life in our own localities, and we intend inside this House to put our views as courteously and as strongly as we can, because we feel that the condition of this country, so far as it affects the working classes, is a national disgrace unworthy of a great country like Britain. I do hope the Government will realise that schemes ought to be put into operation which will find work for the unemployed and make life a little better worth living for them in the future than it is to-day.
I, too, must commence by asking the indulgence of the Committee for a maiden effort, and I should like to say, in that regard, that, if my maiden effort reaches the level of many to which I have had the privilege of listening since this Parliament met, I shall, personally, be not at all sorry. I wish, if I may, to call the attention of the Committee to a matter about which I have had some correspondence with the Minister of Labour, who has treated me with a great deal of courtesy, and helped me to meet the officials concerned in the matter. Those officials have been extremely courteous, and always willing to see me, but I regret that they have not been very helpful, and that is my reason and apology for taking up the time of the Committee now. We have heard a good deal from benches on the other side of the Gangway about unemployment, and the difficulties of the great city of Glasgow. I have the honour to represent what is to a very large extent a suburb of that great city, because, during the War, a good many thousands of skilled engineers were brought down to Erith and Crayford, in the Dartford Division of Kent, for the purpose- of making necessary munitions of war. Those men are still there, and, unfortunately, they are not making munitions of war at the moment, nor anything else. They are out of work. Therefore, the problem which the local authorities in the division have to face is not only a serious one, but it has been made much more serious by the fact that, in addition to having to look after their own people, they have to attempt to look after people who were brought into the division during the War, and who, as I have said, still remain there.
The particular point I wish to make is that a certain amount of red tape, which is strangling the efforts of the local authorities in that division, should be cut, and I suggest to the Committee that by the Local Authorities (Financial Provisions) Act, 1921, the House was put in possession of an excellent pair of scissors with which to cut that tape. I shall come to that a little later. May I, in leading up to the point, give the exact position, because, although the problem to which I am referring does concern my own division, I have it on most excellent authority, namely, from the Assistant Secretary to the Unemployment Grants Committee, that it is not confined to my division alone, but that many other urban and rural district councils have been confronted with an exactly similar problem. It is therefore a national and not merely a local problem. To illustrate the point, I should like to put before the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour, who is now on the Government Bench, the exact problem as it concerns the authoriies in my own division. I might suggest that such a district as Erith has probably quite as great a problem in regard to unemployment as any other district in the country, and incidentally, as the question of rates has been referred to, I may mention that the rates in that particular area are 31s. 7d. in the £ There- fore, the whole problem is emphasised from that point of view.
They attempted, in what I consider to be an exceedingly statesmanlike way, to grapple with the problem. The Dartford Union covers the whole constituency. It covers four urban districts and one rural district council, and a conference was called of representatives from each of those councils to consider how best they could inaugurate schemes to cover the whole of the Dartford Union area. Each council then considered schemes, and put them forward to the Unemployment Grants Committee and to the Ministry of Transport where it affected them. In some cases the schemes have been already sanctioned, and others are projected and being dealt with. The whole problem has been rather complicated by the fact that when, under the national scheme of relief, a road which is well known as Watling Street, and which runs through the Dartford Division for many miles, was widened, the Ministry of Transport asked if there would be any objection to bringing unemployed men from the London area down into the Dartford Division to carry on this work. I am sure it will be readily realised what were the feelings of the unemployed in that locality when they saw, day after day, hundreds of men being brought down by train from London, employed upon works in their own district, and then returning by train in the evening; and I should like to suggest that the behaviour of the men of the Dartford district in those circumstances has been exemplary. They have rather wondered that men from other districts have been given work and they have been left to stand idle: but, besides wondering, they have never taken any definite action or pressed any particular complaint, because they realised that it was part of a national scheme.
There has been—and this is the particular point—an arrangement made between the Dartford Board of Guardians, which, as I have said, covers the whole division, and the various local authorities concerned. It is realised that every man who is provided with work will be taken off the number of men who at the moment are being relieved inadequately by the local guardians, and the arrangement that has been arrived at is that, for every man so employed, a certain percentage of the amount that would have been given to him had he remained on relief shall be put towards the cost of the particular scheme upon which the man is employed, by the guardians. That was agreed to. Deputations came up from the guardians, saw officials at the Ministry of Health and the Unemployment Grants Committee, the arrangement was agreed to, and those people went back to their own districts and got on with their schemes under the impression that it would be adhered to. Those schemes are not merely schemes of relief for the unemployed, but are, every one of them, schemes of work essentially necessary in the public interest, and some are schemes which are long overdue. For instance, there are many dangerous roads. The Noble Lord the Member for South Battersea (Viscount Curzon) will agree with me that for motoring purposes most of the roads out there are extremely dangerous, especially to one who does not like travelling at too slow a pace. Those roads are really dangerous; and other necessary public improvements are going to be made.
As far as Dart-ford, Erith and the Dartford rural district are concerned, they have got their scheme sanctioned, but we are told now that if the arrangement which has been made with the guardians be carried through the amount so expended will not be reckoned in the loan upon which they can claim a grant from the Unemployment Grants Committee. In the interview I had at 23, Buckingham Gate, the other day, although every sympathy was expressed with the suggestion, I was told that the Treasury stood in the way, that they were governed by Regulations and Acts of Parliament, and although they had every sympathy with it and thought it a very sound scheme they were afraid they could not sanction a loan up to the full 65 per cent. if that were done. There are people in the country when referring to the unemployment question who say, "We know there are a good many men out of work through no fault of their own. There are in enormous number of them who want work, but there are an enormous number of what are known as won't-works." There might be something in that. There might be a very small percentage of men who would rather accept a little for nothing than reasonable pay for a reasonable day's work. There are not many. But you could avoid any attempt of people who are work-shy in getting relief from the guardians when there is a job going if this scheme were adopted, because the guardians would be able to say to every applicant, "There is work under this or that scheme. Go and apply to the Employment Exchange." If the man comes back to the guardians and says, "I have applied at the Employment Exchange and they have refused me work," the guardians know they have a good case for relief. If, on the other hand, the man has refused to apply for the work they know how to deal with him in that instance also.
If the Government persist in the attitude they have taken up, they are not saving a penny of money, because all that has to happen—I have this on the authority of the Secretary of the Unemployed Grants Committee—is for these local authorities to re-cast their scheme, because I understand if the whole of the loan is raised by the council, and not part of it by the guardians, the full 65 per cent. of the grant will be given. I plead for some elasticity in carrying that out for this reason. One or two hon. Members to-day have referred to the near approach of Christmas. Here we have work that is all ready to put into operation. If for some reason, either a pin-pricking policy or red-tape on the part of the Government authorities concerned, these local authorities have to go back and re-cast the whole of their scheme and send up a fresh suggestion to the Government, it is going, at the very best, to throw it back for four or five weeks. In the meantime Government and local funds are being used to relieve these men for doing nothing, where they can be used in the same way for doing reasonable work. Under the Local Authorities Act the Government have authority for varying any suggestion which is made. Section 5 of that Act says:
Where any local authority owing to circumstances arising out of the War"—
and the circumstances in this particular instance arise directly out of the War—
have been unable to make the required provisions by means of a sinking fund or otherwise for the due discharge of the loan the authority may apply to the Ministry of Health for a scheme varying any statutory provision.
They tell me the reason they are turning down the suggestion that the
guardians can contribute out of the loan is because they are only empowered to raise a short term loan. We know what short term loans being raised by boards of guardians are worth now, from the point of view of being paid back within the stipulated time. But that can be varied, and I ask that those schemes shall not be stranged by any policy of red tape, and I make an urgent plea that the whole thing shall be reconsidered with a view to encouraging local authorities who are making really wise and far-seeing efforts to put schemes of work into operation which, according to the Estimates we have had before us, are going to employ 75 per cent, of the men who are out of work directly upon these schemes of relief.
I feel that to-day it is not necessary to apologise for a first speech, because of the many excellent examples we have had, but I shall require the indulgence of the House, and particularly of hon. Members opposite, more than most people because I feel confident that the point of view I want to put forward is one with which they will not be entirely in agreement. I came to this House certainly with very definite views of my own regarding the question of unemployment, but also most earnestly anxious to hear the views of all Members on whatever side they sit, on what I consider probably the most terrible problem this country has ever had to face. I have listened, during this Debate and others in which the question has been touched, with the greatest interest to a large number of these speeches. I will not use the word sympathy because it has been abused, but I have listened, not only with natural interest but with a great realisation of the knowledge of the speakers and of their earnestness in the case they have put forward as to the conditions that exist, and I think it has done good, not only that it should have been put forward eloquently, but that it should have been put forward with great earnestness. All that has been done, but I am a little disappointed at the net result of it all. Naturally I have heard most of those on my own side. I was, perhaps, particularly interested to hear the views of Labour Members. I am disappointed that we have not had something a little more constructive. Of all the speeches I have listened to there was only one from the other side that I particularly remarked as putting forward a definite change of policy, when an hon. and learned Gentleman said the policy of the Labour party, the putting forward of a capital levy, was the only constructive policy and was the obvious remedy. I ask hon. Members opposite to believe that we are just as much in earnest as they are in believing that not only is that not a constructive policy but a purely destructive one, but also that it does not appear to us to be the obvious remedy. I am repeating what you know, but I want to put it clearly. We believe not only in private enterprise, but that any form of State interference or control of enterprise will be dangerous for the country and for the future prosperity of the people. We may be wrong, but we are entitled to hold our views, and I want to put them against those we have heard on the other side. I want you to look at it in this way. Holding those views you will naturally realise that we look upon the position of the country at present with a great deal of anxiety.
Private enterprise can only succeed if it enables every man to do the best he possibly can for himself. We believe and know that the attempts of men to work for others, call them Socialists if you like, have been failures, and always will be. We therefore realise that it is necessary, if the country is to succeed, that taxation should not be beyond a certain figure. Otherwise, the man who has capital will not engage in enterprise, and it is enterprise we want him to engage in. The more capital there is, the better for the country, and not the worse. It is that that will provide employment. Believing that, we realise that private enterprise as it is, with the position as it is to-day, is handicapped. It is something like the position of a man who engages in enterprise and who has the Chancellor of the Exchequer as a partner, the Chancellor of the Exchequer taking 25 to 50 per cent. of his profits and paying no share of his losses. To put it another way, it is as if that man works for the- State for three months or six months, giving all his profits to the State, while the State bears no share of his risks or his losses. That is not a good condition for private enterprise.
Therefore, when we are dealing with the problem of unemployment, the position is very simple. It is simply a question of what the State can do, and up to what amount of money can be spent without destroying the basis on which future employment can be and will be provided. That is a very simple problem on paper, but a very difficult problem to deal with. I do not join with some hon. Members on the other side, and with some hon. Members on this side, who look forward to the future with great fear and in a very pessimistic spirit. I do not agree with them. I know from my own knowledge that things in this country are considerably better than they were six months ago, and I believe—it is only a personal opinion—that they are steadily improving. That does not getaway from the fact that we have to deal with this problem as it stands to-day, but it does make this one point, that if things are already improving, it is the business of this House and of the Government to take a long view and to think what it is that is going to give us better conditions in the future. We who believe in private enterprise believe that that will be brought about by encouraging private enterprise in every possible way, but we have to face the fact that taxation must not be beyond a certain figure. If that is so, we are in this position, that we have to decide how much the Government can do, and to what extent they can afford to pledge the country's credit to-day and, far more important, to what extent they can afford to pledge the country's credit for the future.
A speech which was made by the right hon. Member for West Swansea (Sir A. Mond) struck me very much- It is the crux of the whole question. He urged the Government to pledge the credit of this country ahead. I am sorry that he did not develop that much more. It seems to me that the whole possibilities of the future rest on that point. We have to develop our trade in every possible way. That means that it may be necessary for the Government to go further than they are going to-day, further than they have ever gone in the past, and further than they would go in normal times, as normal business men. They may even have to take risks which ordinarily we should hold them responsible for, and say that it was not reasonable for them to take. What can be done in the meantime is simply a question of to what extent we can pledge our present credit to relieve what, I believe, to be a passing but a most dreadful and unexceptional state of affairs. If the country believes with us that private enterprise is the best thing for it, then it is quite clear that you have to look at the matter from the two points of view as to what extent we can pledge the credit of the country to-day to relieve the present pressing position, and to what extent we can pledge our credit in the future to provide real enterprise and employment in the country.
As this is my first speech, I must ask for the usual degree of indulgence, and perhaps I shall require that to be particularly generous, as I am of a nervous temperament. I do not want to speak from the merely local West Ham point of view, but I should go back with very cold comfort if I had to tell my constituents exactly what the Minister of Labour has put forward. The proposals of the Government amount to about the sum of money that would pay the current needs of our borough. The hon. Member for Plaistow (Mr. W. Thorne) put a question to the Minister, pointing out that in the borough of West Ham we have paid in unemployment benefits £1,400,000, and we have raised all that money, excepting £300,000, from the rates levied upon the people of the borough. West Ham, being so near London, is a- dormitory. Our citizens very largely toil, when they are employed, outside West Ham. They come home to sleep in the borough, and their families reside there. We have 62,000 school children who become such a charge upon the locality that the education rate of West Ham is 5s. 10fd. in the £. As a borough we have for many years found ourselves in this position.
If my memory serves me correctly, it was last year that the clerk of the West Ham Board of Guardians headed a large deputation to the Prime Minister. The deputation was received in the garden at 10, Downing Street, and a special appeal was made in regard to necessitious areas, but the position was very plainly put by the Prime Minister that although the case was very vital and pressing the deputa- tion represented ratepayers and he represented the taxpayers, and he could not accept any additional burdens for the taxpayers. Viewing the matter from the standpoint of West Ham when hon. Members opposite put the view that there is a certain limit to the point of taxation in the country, there is also a certain limit to the point where you can continue to impose additional burdens upon our local people. In West Ham our rates are 26s. 1d. in the £. I have been a member of the local council for many years, and I can say that a very large proportion of the charges upon our borough result from the refusal of the past Government to meet our deputations or, when they did meet them, the position that they assumed of saying, "We can do nothing." Our expenditure last year was £1,723,590. As a borough we are responsible for only 40 per cent, of that expenditure. Sixty per cent, of that has been incurred owing to circumstances over which the local authority have neither control nor supervision. The guardians' expenses for this year are given in the precept as £540,700. This means a rate of 8s. 1¼d.
Imagine the county borough of West Ham, with its population of 300,000, mainly poor people, an industrial area with a rateable value so low. It is low in proportion to the degree of poverty existing in that area. I would not be so foolish as to try to teach abstract economic theories to hon. Members, but they should realise that where in an industrial area like West Ham the assessable value is so low that it indicates conditions of poverty. The assessable value is low because of the poverty of the area. My hon. Friends the Members for Silver-town (Mr. J. Jones), Plaistow (Mr. W. Thorne), and Upton (Mr. Margesson), who, with myself, represent the four industrial constituencies of West Ham, can see in our streets that the homes of our people are being devastated through the blasting influence of the poverty which is the direct result of conditions of society that are not new to the country to-day, because unemployment is not a new feature. Ever since I have been able to read I have read of speeches delivered in this House on the question of unemployment. It is not the principle of unemployment that is new; it is the volume of it.
We in West Ham are tortured and our lives are a real nightmare with regard to this particular question, because every time we, who are endeavouring to conduct the business of our locality, meet, we have to deal with actual cases in our borough of homes broken up, of men compelled to pledge their household goods to keep the wolf from the door. According to the degree in which the conditions of life are broken down through this cause. West Ham is less able to meet the financial demands upon it in order to put this matter right. The police rate of our borough is 1s. 2¾d., which means an expenditure of £88,652. Last year we were called upon to pay £42,600 to the Metropolitan Water Board to meet their deficiency, and through the main drainage award we were compelled to pay £14,915. Altogether we had 60 per cent, of our expenditure imposed by conditions for which we were in no way responsible. The amount which the Minister of Health is prepared to advance for the relief of unemployment is in no way commensurate with the needs of great industrial areas such as I represent.
The hon. Member who spoke a few moments ago has to watch queues of 1,000 men passing daily through the doors of the Labour Exchange. What will he have to say to those men when they ask him what is this new Parliament to do for the people of Britain, and he has to tell them that it can do nothing to feed the hungry people of this country? I would ask the Minister of Health to realise that you are not doing your duty to the people of this land. If you really want constitutional government, peace and tranquillity in England then you must set your minds to work to solve these problems. Some have said "What are your proposals?" It is not our position to make a proposition. When we are in the position of proposing a solution we shall sit on those benches. If you go into a shop and purchase an article after you have seen all the window dressing of the shopkeeper, and discover that the article supplied does not come up to the standard of your requirements, and complain to the shopkeeper, he will say with a twinkle in his eye, "Can you show me how to make a better article?" We would say to that shopkeeper "Come out and we shall set up shop for ourselves." That is the position which the Government is presenting to us. I am not unduly criticising their sincerity. I believe that they are as sincere as we, but they set out with different economic views and different principles, while the constructive policy of the party to which I am proud to belong is one by which we will take every great industrial area like West Ham, analyse the situation and realise the position.
Each month our medical officer reports to our Council the state of our industrial area. I have here the report for the month ending the 28th November this year, with pages of closely printed details, of thousands of houses in our borough which, if hon. Members opposite would examine, would be seen to be a real condemnation of the system of private enterprise in this country. The fact that in the eighth industrial borough of the Kingdom the largest proportion of the houses in which the people have to live are condemned by the sanitary authorities and the fact that we have no power other than legal power to alter all this is a condemnation of private enterprise. The Report mentions that during the three weeks ending the 11th November, 1922, 1,040 notices have been issued. The names and other particulars are set out in the private committee books of the Council. Personally I think that it would be far better if every local administrative Council pilloried by name and address those who own the houses in which the people of our country are compelled to live. But the fact remains that we do not take that course. Month after month our local authorities sued in the local court people who owned the houses, and we did our best to compel them to put the places into a fit state of repair.
I do not suggest work for the sake of work. Economically that is a fallacy. Work should be a means to an end, and the end we ought to have in view is the employment of disengaged, skilled men. From my own home I can see from the windows thousands of houses with roofs broken, and without chimney pots, and I know that the interiors of those houses have not been decorated or painted for quarter of a century. Often there are no handles to the doors. During the General Election I went round my constituency and saw a huge block of barrack-like buildings occupied very largely by ex-soldiers who spent four years fighting for their country. It was a five-storyed building. There are no windows, and the occupants stuck up sacks in place of glass, and pinned to the sacks the legend, "Is this what Britain fought for?" I repeat, Is it what these men fought for? I ask the Minister of Health whether he would not wish to reconsider the decision of his predecessor in office in refusing to meet a deputation from West Ham, and whether he would not like to use the position of West Ham as exemplifying the need for dealing with necessitous areas. In that borough there are thousands of bricklayers and skilled men out of work. They could do house work and repairs. Why cannot they be engaged in putting the dilapidated houses into a habitable state? Why cannot they be employed, if necessary, with the assistance of the Government, to meet the owners of this private property? And if such a scheme calls for the payment of public money so that these men can be kept usefully at work, instead of receiving the dole through the relieving officer, why cannot that be arranged?
I wish the Minister of Labour could see the poor, broken men and women who wait for hours in the cold outside the doors of the relieving offices. I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman's heart would be touched, and that he would come back and call Ministers together in order to frame some scheme whereby we could touch the hearts and the pockets of the owners of those houses. We have moved to reduce the Estimate by £100, although we would like to increase it by £1,000,000. That course has been taken merely in order to call attention to the dire need of the industrial areas. In West Ham we are dying for your help, and we must have it. If the help is forthcoming this Government will live in history as the first Government which has made an honest attempt to settle the domestic problems of the people.
For almost three days I have listened to Debates on unemployment. With the exception of a very short period, I have been in attendance during the whole of that time, and have tried to take part in the discussion. I am glad that at last I have my chance. As a brother London Member, I hope that the last speaker will allow me to congratulate him on his very excellent speech, and to say that I hope he will make many more such speeches in future. I find myself in great measure in agreement with much of the criticism I have heard from the benches opposite. A great deal of that criticism is well-founded and we must try to meet it. There are two sorts of criticism. There is purely destructive criticism and there is constructive criticism. We know that the conditions under which the unemployed exist or try to exist to-day are deplorable. Their position is an awful one, and it is the duty of this House to address itself to the problem, which is the first problem confronting the country to-day. Yet when I hear constant criticism of the Government for their misdeeds, or what they have not done, I cannot help feeling that hon. Members should be a little careful.
Do let us remember the difficulties under which trade and industry have been carried on since the Armistice. As a country we have had the most difficult situation to face. We have had industry struggling along. Pre-War wages many firms have been unable to pay. Wages have had to be reduced, and what has happened in many cases? Naturally the reductions have been resisted. What wage earner would not resist a reduction of wages if he could? There have been strikes, lock-outs, and disputes, and in all too many cases they have resulted in an enormous increase in unemployment Take the case of the miners' dispute. Before the first dispute in the mining industry there was 1.9 per cent, of unemployment. After the first dispute in the mining industry, the figures rose to 6.3 per cent. After the second dispute in the mining industry, it rose to 23 per cent. That was not entirely due to the dispute. There were other causes which contributed to it, but disputes in industry, no matter whose fault they may be, nearly always have the result of causing suffering and misery to those who are told they will benefit by them. Anyone who doubts me has only got to look at what has happened in South Wales in the Ebbw Vale. There, machinery was provided for settling disputes, yet an hon. Member of this House went down there and counselled the people of that area—so I read in the newspapers—not to take advantage of that machinery but to come out on strike. [Interruption.] If hon. Members opposite really want to do something for the unemployed, they should think of this problem in the same way as I do. The result of the action I have mentioned, has been untold misery and suffering to the people of that area. It has not benefited them, and all the time they might have used the machinery to avoid a strike. I do not want to touch further on that subject. It is, perhaps, too controversial.
We want to get a settlement; we want to get something done for the unemployed, and there are two or three points in that connection which I wish to raise with the Government. Within the last few days I have put several questions to the Admiralty with reference to the construction of two capital ships which have been authorised by Parliament and approved of by the country. It was laid down by the late Government, and approved by the late Parliament, that we must have a one-Power standard of naval strength in capital ships. In order to maintain that one-Power standard the naval staff recommended that two capital ships should be laid down under the terms of the Washington Agreement, which was designed to secure to this country a one-Power standard at sea What has happened? Without Parliament being consulted or given a chance to express its wishes, the construction of those ships has been postponed. Do hon. Members realise what the construction of those two ships would mean? In order to try to show what it would mean. I put a question to the First Lord of the Admiralty on last Wednesday to find out what industries would directly benefit. They were shipyards, engineering establishments, munition factories, steel works mines, railways and shipping.
I hope I may be allowed to put my point. During the first three months of construction 4,000 or 5,000 men would be employed on these ships. The Labour party demand work or maintenance. There is work.
During the first six months of construction, an average of 13,000 men would he employed on the ships; during the second six months 29,000 men would be engaged in the work, and subsequent to that no fewer than 40,000 men altogether. What does that mean in wages? Over a period of three years, no less than £10,000,000 would be spent in wages. Is not that something? It represents good work and good wages and nobody can say that it is in order to secure bloated armaments. This work is to be done under the Washington Treaty, which definitely limits armaments, and it is a work which insures the security of the country. No fewer than 500 firms would be engaged in the building of these two ships and the areas affected were stated in an answer given to a question which I put. I heard an hon. Member from the Labour Benches this morning describe the awful condition of unemployment which prevailed in Sheffield. If the orders for these two ships are given out, the work will go to Sheffield, Manchester, Barrow, Glasgow and Tyneside. That should arouse a certain amount of sympathy from some of the hon. Members who so ably represent the interests of Glasgow. I ask them to look on it in this way that the provision of the work is not a reason alone why the ships should be built. The ships are required in order to ensure the safety of the country, and I do not understand the attitude of the Government in postponing their construction. Will the Minister of Labour go back to the Cabinet and ask, from his own point of view, from the standpoint of providing employment, that urgent consideration be given to the question of the construction of these two ships and that the orders go out forthwith or else let us be told what is the cause of the delay.
I desire to bring forward another suggestion. In 1920 I started to ask questions in this House on a subject which I know has the sympathy of hon. Members opposite—that of the Channel Tunnel. I wish for a clear and definite answer from the Minister as to what is the matter with the Government about the Channel
Tunnel. In May, 1920, I put a question which was replied to by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Central Glasgow (Mr. Bonar Law) in these words:
The Cabinet have not yet been able to consider the question, but hope to do so shortly."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 10th May, 1920; col. 22, Vol. 129.]
I was putting questions all the time, and in February, 1921, I asked the Prime Minister whether, in view of the prevailing wave of unemployment, any decision had yet been reached with regard to the Channel Tunnel. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Central Glasgow said:
I can add nothing to the answer which was given by the Prime Minister to a similar question put by my Noble Friend on the 23rd December last."—[OFFICIAL RKFORT, 21st February, 1921; col. 539, Vol. 138.]
All this time I was asking questions, but never getting a proper answer. In October, 1921, the answer I got from the Prime Minister was:
No, Sir, I am not yet in a position to say when a decision will be taken."— [OFFICIAL REPORT, 24th October, 1921: col. 423, Vol. 147.]
In May, 1922, I put a similar question, and the same answer was given by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham (Mr. A. Chamberlain), who was then Leader of the House. What stands in the way? The construction of the Channel Tunnel means that four tunnels have to be driven under the Channel, two for traffic and two for drainage. Not only that, but the railway lines between London and the mouth of the tunnel will, perhaps, be quadrupled. It is a mistake to think that the money-is coming from the Government. It is not. The expense is going to be shared by two railway companies—the South Eastern Company, or the South Eastern group, or whatever it is to-day, and by the Northern Railway of Prance. I am not aware that any appeal has ever been made to the Government in the matter. I put a question last Monday to the Prime Minister, reminded him that the question had been under urgent consideration for at least three years, and asked him if he could say when something was going to be done. The right hon. Gentleman replied:
I know that it has been under consideration for a very long time, but I do not think the present financial condition of
the country warrants it." — [OFFICIAL REPORT, 4th December, 1922; col. 1201. Vol. 159.]
Why not? It has nothing to do with the Government at all on its financial side. The money is going to be put up by two private companies. There is work: there are good wages to be had out of it, and I want to know what stands in the way? I have reason to believe that it is not military opinion. I know it is not naval opinion, and I am under the impression that the Air Force say that were there any danger to the security of the country, they could blow the mouth of either end of the tunnel to bits in no time at all, besides the ordinary methods which would be employed in the interest of national safety for instantly flooding the tunnel if required. There is good work, and there are good wages, for large numbers of men, and it is up to the Government to give a good and sufficient reason why approval is not given to this scheme.
There is one other question to which I should like to allude, and that is with regard to the roads. We have heard a great deal from the Government about what they are doing in the construction of arterial roads, and I have put questions to the Government on the subject from time to time to try and find out how the road scheme is getting on. Well, it is not getting on. It is all very well to say that it is, but those of us who have an opportunity of seeing what is being done in regard to the improvement of the roads know that the road scheme is going forward unduly slowly. The Minister of Labour knows, of course, when the Western road out of London was first started. Will he say how many miles of that road are now in use? I am sure hon. Members want to get work and good wages for the unemployed. Here is a road that is badly wanted. The existing roads are hope lessly congested, and it would be of immense advantage to trade in and around London if the construction of that road could be prosecuted with energy, and not only of that road but all other road schemes. [An HON. MEMBEE: "Racing roads!"] I like to have my leg pulled, but may I be allowed to get on with my speech I There is another point in regard to the construction of roads which I know has not been dealt with. The Minister will know that there are an enormous number of level crossings across roads all over the country. I have never yet seen any statement from the Government or any suggestion that something should be done about it, but there are level crossings that cross some of our greatest roads in this country. There is the Bath Road at Colnbrook, across which an enormous amount of traffic flows, which has got a level crossing; the Southampton and Plymouth Road at Sunningdale has got a level crossing, the Brighton Road has two or three level crossings over it, and so you could go on right the way round London, and across nearly all the main roads around London you will find level crossings. They are a source of danger. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear!"] If I may be allowed to speak about something I know of, I know this, that the public authorities and the police authorities will agree that those crossings are a source of danger and that they should be done away with. I do ask that when we come to consider the question of the improvement of our roads, the right hon. Gentleman should give consideration to the question of doing away with these danger points from the point of view of the traffic on the roads and the railways.
There is only one other point upon which I wish to touch, and that is with regard to the ex-service men. I hope I am in order in raising it on this Vote, but I would like to ask the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Labour what is being done in regard to the employment of the trainees. How many trainees have we got who have been through the training establishments of the Ministry of Labour and who are now out of a job? Will the right hon. Gentleman tell us exactly how many, and will he give us some indication as to why it is that these men who have been trained, admittedly well trained—I have seen them being trained by trade unionists, and so on, and I have been through the training establishments and watched the work going on, and the work they turn out cannot be surpassed—cannot get employment? I hope the right hon. Gentleman will be able to give us some good answer as to when those men who have been trained may expect to get some sort of a job, whether he is receiving the wholehearted co-operation of employers and trade unionists generally, and how many men he has got on his waiting list still waiting for jobs. I hope hon. Members opposite will co-operate, as I am sure they mean to and as I am sure they will. T hope they will do their bit to try and see that every chance is given to these men, many of them disabled, to try and earn a good, decent, honest wage and living.
I hope hon. Members opposite will not think that Members on these benches do not sympathise and are not in earnest on this question of the unemployed. We are in earnest, and we mean to try to do all we can to get something done, only we have a different idea from that of the hon. Members opposite. We do not see that it is possible really to benefit the unemployed by making it quite impossible for trade and industry to carry on. We want to see trade and industry carried on. Often I have listened, during the course of this Debate, to hon. Members opposite taking some particular instance, of a man making a large profit or something of that sort, and saying, "Away with the capitalist system." I know the argument well. I have heard it outside this House. I have met it, and I say that if you want work or maintenance the country has got to find it, but it cannot provide maintenance if it does not make an income. It is the same as with the private individual, and if the individuals who compose the State can make a good income, let us tax them, and thereby enable the country to be able to pay the maintenance. I want to see more power to their elbow, and I want to see trade and industry go ahead, because that is in the interests both of the unemployed and of the country as a whole.
When I first came to this House, I realised that we on this side of the House did not understand or realise everything about unemployment that was to be understood. I remember that in my early teens I believed I knew all there was to know about the economic position of the workers of this country, but after a few years abroad I came to the conclusion that I had yet a lot to learn. After a few years of married life I realised still more that there was still more to learn, and as the result of listening to the Debates in this House I realise this fact also, that the hon. Members opposite have also a terrific amount to know and to realise about the unemployment question. We have been told that the hon. Members opposite have just as much sympathy with and knowledge of what it means to be unemployed as those on this side of the House, but I entirely disagree with that remark. They may know of the conditions of the unemployed, but they cannot realise what it means to be amongst those who are out of work. I want, if the Committee will permit me, to describe for a few moments what it does mean to be out of work.
The period through which we are passing now is entirely different from the periods of unemployment during the years prior to the Great War. We have now had for nearly two years nearly 2,000,000 people unemployed. During the first year or so after the War, as a result of the big wages, which, I admit, the workers did receive, they were in a position to carry on, although they were not working, but after two years we find that those men who have been out of work have exhausted the money that they saved as a result of the War. They have seen one thing after another disappear from their houses, and I want to ask hon. Members on the other side if they can really realise what it is to prowl about the house like a thief in the night, wondering what is the next article you can take to the pawnshop. I want to ask hon. Members if they can realise what it means to ask the wife to withdraw the ring from her finger, in order that you may take it to the pawnshop. I want to ask hon. Members if they can realise what it means to see the children sick, and then have to weigh carefully whether you can afford to call in the doctor, or whether you must, by reason of the scarcity of money, attempt to doctor the children as best you can. These are my personal experiences. They are the experiences of hundreds of thousands of men and women in this country, and, although you may have sympathy on that side of the House, I want to ask you in the name of goodness why on earth you have not done something more to remove these conditions?
The hon. and gallant Member who spoke last stated that it was because of various lock-outs that the unemployment was probably more prevalent to-day than would have been the case had those lock-outs not occurred. The responsibility for those lock-outs rests entirely upon the shoulders of the employers of this country. The representatives of the organised workers, in my opinion, went too far in order to prevent those lock-outs taking place. I believe that disputes and lockouts should be avoided, if possible, but, in my opinion, the representatives of the organised workers went down begging on their hands and knees to urge the employers not to do anything that would throw the workers on the streets, but, in spite of those appeals, the miners had to endure their lock-out. They had to see their standard of life reduced to such an extent that it was not possible for them to live on bread and cheese. The engineers also have had to endure a number of months on the streets, and to see their standard of life also reduced. They had no say in the matter.
I want to touch on one point this afternoon that has not been touched on before in this House during the Debates on unemployment. Unemployment does not only affect those who are unemployed. It has also an effect on those men who are in employment. We are told that the workers raised their standard of life during the War and that they learnt many lessons. It may be true; but the employers also learnt their lesson. They realise that, as the result of the War, the workers found a spirit of independence that they had never found before. I remember one of the largest representatives of the organised employers of this country telling me that, although they had to submit to the demands of the workers during the War, their time was coming, and that they would reap far more in the years after the War than the workers had secured during the period of hostilities. I think we shall all agree that the employers have secured from the workers since 1920 infinitely more than the workers secured from the employers during 1914 to 1918. The man who is employed has always the carking fear of unemployment every minute of the day he is in the workshop or the factory. He knows that there are thousands to take his job. It is destroying the morale of those men who are working. It is also destroying their efficiency, because a man who always realises that his place may be on the streets the next day is not going to have that contented frame of mind which is essential for doing a good day's work. Therefore, we on this side wish to impress the fact that the unemployment problem does not only affect those who are out of work, but it also affects every man and woman belonging to the working classes.
I listened with great interest to the remarks of the Prime Minister during the unemployment Debate. He stated that America had not paid any out-of-work pay. I would like to emphasise the point that the conditions in America are entirely different from the conditions in this country. The workers in America receive for their labour in the form of wages more than is really required to provide the bare necessities of life, and they are able to provide for the day when they will be unemployed. The periods of unemployment in America, although they are very acute while they last, do not last as long as they do in this country. During the War, the workers in America were earning far more in wages than was necessary to keep them during that time, and, therefore, they are in a far better position to be able to endure the slump in trade, which has caused so much unemployment in America at the present time, than are the workers in this country. Again, we have been told by hon. Members opposite that the workers of this country have not been prepared to accept the reduction in wages that would probably have resulted in an improvement in trade. I want to point out that, in spite of the huge reduction in wages, in spite of the fact that the wages of the working classes of this country have been reduced by, approximately, £10,000,000 a week, it has not resulted in any more employment. As a matter of fact, we find that it has caused even more unemployment, because it has destroyed the purchasing power of the people. We have got to realise that if we are going to destroy the home markets, it means even more unemployment. I heard one of the hon. Members opposite say that any man who had a heart big enough to go abroad he wished good luck. I want to ask the Government what they are prepared to do to assist those people with hearts big enough to go abroad? Personally I believe there are many thousands of people in this country who would be prepared to go abroad, but they are not prepared to sell up their homes and to land in America, Canada or Australia with only a few pounds in their pockets. After all, only those who know realise what it means to be in a foreign country, and my experience—
I am glad the hon. and gallant Member has referred to that. I want to give my personal experience. I felt more at home in the United States than I have felt in some of the Colonies. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!" and "Is that the view of the Labour party?"] Whether it is the Labour party point of view or not, I am speaking from personal experience. I want to assure the House on this point, and anybody who has travelled, particularly in Canada, will realise what I am saying is perfectly true. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] That is if you travel through Canada seeking a job. I do not for a moment suggest that those fortunate Members who have had the opportunity of paying business visits to Canada will appreciate that point of view. But everybody who hears or may read what I am saying will realise that it is perfectly true. What I want to point out is that the Government should be prepared to give adequate support to those people who are prepared to go abroad. Take the case of a young married man who has struggled to secure a home. One of the things that has impressed me, after all, is the fact that in no country in the world is there a better thing than the trait of the English people—their love of home. The home-life of this country is something of which to be proud. We want to realise that fact when we have big hearts enough to go abroad. People have struggled to secure homes. It means something for them to sell their home, with that money to pay their passage, to the Colonies, and land in the Colony with only a few pounds in their pocket. This means they are unable then to provide another home. I want the Government to be prepared to state to those people who have hearts big enough and are prepared to go out that they shall not land in the Colonies with only a few pounds, but that they shall land in the Colonies in just as strong a financial position as they were prior to selling their homes up in this country. Then I am convinced there will be many thou- sands of people here who will be prepared to find a home in other parts of the world.
But I will not be a party to urging a married man or a single man to land in a foreign country with only a few pounds to spare. In my early teens I had to land in America with a paltry sum of £4 5s. I realise to-day what it would mean had I been a married man with children landing in America under similar circumstances. It was bad enough for the single man. It would have been infinitely worse for a man who had others dependent upon him. Although I do support the idea of emigration, although I believe it will be necessary for many thousands in this country to emigrate, I do hope the Government will see its way clear to make it possible for those who do emigrate to do so without being subject to undue hardship. I remember vast tracts of land in other countries, and it is a wonder to me that this country ever has been able to maintain a population of 40,000,000. I am going to confess that T doubt very much whether we shall ever be able to maintain that population again. That is a question I do not propose to go into this afternoon, though it is certainly an interesting question.
There is one other matter in conclusion that I want to touch upon. That is the great length of the unemployment periods to-day. We want to realise, as I have already said, that we are up against something abnormal. This is not an ordinary period of unemployment through which we are passing. I am convinced of this, that if the Government do not do something more than they propose to do, they are in for a very rude awakening. We have heard from the opposite benches of certain Members who are Constitutionalists. I am a Constitutionalist, only because I believe that is the best way to work out the emancipation—if I may use that phrase—of the people who desire it. I must, however, confess also that during my period of unemployment, and even during the time that I have had to work for 58s. a week, I have wondered whether, after all, it was not only a parrot cry, this cry of Constitutionalism. What I am absolutely convinced of is that there will be thousands and thousands of men who will refuse to accept the dictates of people on the opposite side who claim to be Constitutionalists, if that means that nothing is going to be done. The hon. Member for Colne Valley (Mr. Snowden) stated the other day that hungry men were dangerous men. I want to emphasise that fact now. The time is coming when thousands who are out of work are not going to accept the dictates of people opposite who claim that they have all the sympathy, but always fail to do anything for the unemployed.
I believe that the time is coming in the very near future when they will want to adopt means and methods which will cause bloodshed and violence in this country. I should deplore that, but I tell hon. Members frankly that, in my opinion, the time is coming when the unemployed will not be prepared to accept the position which they are accepting to-day. I want to emphasise this point in order that you can realise that, although the unemployed have been content during the last two years, it means that they are not in a position to be content to-day. All that they possess of value that could be received in the pawnshops has been taken there, and they cannot pawn anything more. As a matter of fact they are absolutely dependent upon outdoor relief, and on that they find that they cannot even buy any clothes, and can only provide the bare necessaries of life.
Do you believe that men are going to remain tranquil under such conditions? I do not believe they will, and therefore I urge the Government to seriously consider the advisability of introducing Measures which will be instrumental in providing useful work for the unemployed. We have to remember that today 16 per cent, of those belonging to the building trades are out of work, and we must also remember that many of the working class in this country are living in houses that are not fit for human beings to live in. When we realise all this, we must conclude that there is something wrong with a condition of affairs which allows those who belong to the building trades to walk the streets receiving a dole for nothing, when little children have to live in houses which are destroying all their vitality and energy. I want to ask hon. Members if they realise what it means for little children to have to play around in the backyards and the streets where you have the old privy middens. You must realise that under those conditions the children will never be able to grow into strong and healthy human beings. Those who appreciate the facts will realise what all this means when we have men who could relieve these things walking the streets receiving the dole for doing nothing. We believe that by paying them just a little more we should be paying them a wage for doing some useful service to the community.
My Noble Friend the Member for South Battersea (Viscount Curzon) has appealed to the Government on behalf of the ex-service trainees, and I would like to know if something more cannot be done to find them employment. I am aware that the Government have appointed canvassers to find these improvers places, but I doubt whether enough is being done in this direction. I would like to know if those canvassers are as active as they might be, or whether they are as numerous as they should be. We have incurred great responsibilities with regard to the young men who went to the War. We took them from their work and broke into their lives, and had it not been for the War these young people would have settled down into skilled workmen. I feel that we cannot afford now to allow them to waste away on unemployment doles.
I wish to refer to the necessity for doing more for the young persons, male and female, and for the women who are now unemployed. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Platting (Mr. Clynes) said that this was a very grave social and moral problem, and I appeal to the Government to cultivate a greater sense of responsibility with regard to the welfare of the thousands of women and young persons who are now out of employment. I believe there are now 176,000 women on the live register and 30,000 young persons under the age of IS. I believe it is a fact that, with the exception of the grant of £50,000 for the training of young people and women in domestic economy, nothing is being done. That sum of money will only provide instruction for about 5,000 women for three months, and that is not enough. There is a great demand for domestic servants, and there is every reason to believe that there is no unwillingness on the part of unemployed women to go to these domestic economy classes. The classes in this connection which were held last year were an unqualified success, and I am told that in my own constituency over 70 per cent, of those who went to these classes are now in domestic employment, and, what is more, only about 2 per cent, have relinquished their employment. My right hon. Friend, in reply to a question, said that he believed that the sum of £50,000 was quite sufficient to meet the needs in this direction, but I deny that that is enough. Surely out of the £100,000,000 which we are pouring out for the relief of unemployment, we might allocate a little more money to the urgent necessity of mitigating the demoralisation which accompanies the giving of doles with no obligation to perform any useful work. I know there is a prejudice in some quarters of the House against this training for domestic service, but nobody can say that to train young girls for a domestic life does not make them better mothers. I ask that the Government should start more classes for the training of young girls in domestic economy because this is bound to do a great deal of good.
An enormous number of young juveniles leave school every year for whom nothing is being done, and I think we ought to have a more acute conscience with regard to these young people. Surely it is unwise to allow so many of these young people to leave school with very little prospect of employment and no chance at all of continuing their education. It is not national economy to consign these people to a life of idleness, and there is nothing so wasteful as to allow them to grow up in many cases physically defective as we are doing at the present moment. The more we neglect this, problem the worse it will become. The more you neglect the young people in this way the greater will be the tendency to fill up our Poor Law institutions, and I urge the Government to do what they did during the period of mobilisation, when the conscience of this House and the country was much more acute than it is at the present moment, with regard to these social obligations towards the young people of this country. Classes were started for those in receipt of the dole. Those classes were a great success. They did keep the young people out of the streets; they kept them from idleness and mischief. I do therefore urge the Government again to do something effective in this matter. It will not cost much. There is no need for expensive equipment. There is no need for building. Empty buildings can be used. They were used during the period of demobilisation, and I do assert that the Government will be most scandalously neglecting their duty if they allow this demoralisation of the young people to go on unchecked.
I indicated to the Committee, in the very brief statement which I made at the commencement of this Debate, that, while I was saying only a very few words then with regard to the figures, I hoped to have an opportunity to say something more in the course of the Debate on the subject of policy. I will endeavour, in as short a speech as I can, to deal with the chief points of policy which have been raised in the course of what I am sure we all agree has been an interesting Debate. May I first of all congratulate the very large number of new Members who have made contributions to the Debate to-day? I have just been working out the list, and some six or seven new Members have put their views before the Committee with great effect. If I may use a confused cricketing metaphor, we have had a good many maiden overs, but, in spite of that, fact and the rules of cricket, a good many runs have been scored at the same time. The Noble Lord the Member for South Nottingham (Lord H. Cavendish-Bentinck) appealed to me on two grounds. He appealed for grants for women's training; and he appealed for grants for juvenile training. On both these grounds he appeals to one who is most anxious to give every help, but neither matter is easy to deal with. He rather unduly minimised the effort that has been made with regard to women's training. He mentioned one grant of £50,000. There have, in fact, been two grants amounting to £100,000, and the effect of those grants is, that by an arrangement with the Central Women's Committee, every £l which the Government puts up is supplemented by another £l from that source. The effect is that a very considerably larger sum than that represented by the £100,000 has been made available for the purpose. I was very glad to hear from the Noble Lord and from the Member for North-East Leeds (Mr. Birchall) testimony to the satisfactory results of those training centres for women. I would just mention that I replied to a question put to me a few days ago to the effect that the Government grant and the money available from the Women's Central Committee is sufficient to carry us through the courses and classes arranged for this subject during the present winter. I cannot say what will happen in the future, but my answer did cover that point.
Again, I quite realise the force of the Noble Lord's appeal on the question of juvenile training, and, as has already been stated in answer to questions on more than one occasion both by myself and the Prime Minister—I do not want any unnecessary laughter because I am perfectly serious in this—the matter is at the moment being very seriously considered by the President of the Board of Education and myself. We are in close contact on the matter, and I hope that out of our consideration something effective may result. But at the moment I cannot usefully carry the matter any further. The Noble Lord the Member for South Battersea (Viscount Curzon) raised the question of the trainees. The Committee and the hon. Member, and most of all the right hon. Member for North-West Camberwell (Dr. Macnamara), know that this is a subject which we have had before us for some little time, and it really is one of difficulty. We have made great efforts by means of canvassers, of whom we have a large number operating, and, though I have not the exact figures in my mind, at least several thousand trainees have been found improvership vacancies.
I know there are several thousand for whom, as a direct result of the efforts of the canvassers, we have been able to secure improvership vacancies. I can assure the Noble Lord that one of the first steps which I took on taking up the responsibility of this office was to inquire into this matter and to give express instructions that every effort possible should be pressed forward in that direction. The Noble Lord raised several interesting points. I am glad to receive assistance by way of suggestion from any quarter, and I shall be glad to go into the suggestions which he made. I do not think he can expect me now to give assurances on such very wide and varied subjects as capital ships, the Channel Tunnel, level crossings, and one or two other things. The question of capital ships, of course, is one for the Admiralty and the Government as a whole. The matter has already been raised in this House by question and answer, but it is not one on which I can give an answer to-day. The methods of dealing with questions of policy are known to the Noble Lord, and I hope that a decision will be arrived at before long. He made a moving appeal for the Channel Tunnel from the point of view of the employment which might thus be found, and he suggested that the finance was all arranged. I am not very clear about that matter. I doubt whether it would be possible for the finance of so big a scheme to be satisfactorily adjusted without a good deal of assistance from the State. But, in any case, the matter has already been raised by means of question and answer, and I cannot carry it any further than where the Prime Minister left it a day or two ago.
Hull is very fortunate indeed in having a very active advocate in its Member, and I have no doubt, if he has the opportunity, that he will raise that issue again. With regard to roads and level crossings, I can assure the Noble Lord that both topics are under consideration, though I cannot give any more definite assurance. I am sure that he and the Committee will realise that, though it is very easy to put these schemes forward, they require an immense amount of examination and care to see that the money available, which is by no means unlimited, will be made the best use of if applied to them. I should like to say a word or two about the chief points which were raised somewhat earlier in the Debate. The right hon. Member for Platting (Mr. Clynes) made certain accusations against the Government which I do not suppose he expects me to accept. One of them has already been referred to by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for North-West Camberwell. The right hon. Member for Platting said it was true that as a result of the efforts of the late Government, and of the present Government, a good deal of work had been initiated by the local authorities, but he went on to claim—and I rather admire his hardihood in so doing—that every one of these schemes would have been initiated even if the Government had given no assistance. [An HON. MEMBER: "A large proportion,' not 'every one.'"] I understood the right hon. Gentleman to say that every one would have been initiated, but I do not wish to put an unfair construction on what he did state, and I will therefore accept the suggestion that he said a large proportion would have been initiated without the assistance of the Government. I am in entire disagreement with him on that point. Anybody who has lived with this question before him as I have done for the last three years would, I am sure, profoundly disagree with the right hon. Gentleman. The fact is that the local authorities have given the most loyal and patriotic cooperation, and they will be the first to admit that, without the stimulus and assistance afforded by the Government, most of the schemes they have initiated would never have been undertaken.
I have been challenged about some figures, and suggestions have been made from the other side that I was doing a little juggling—something like the thimble trick. I want to repudiate that suggestion at once. Whatever else I may do, I attach the greatest importance to keeping faith with the Committee. Let me explain how the apparent discrepancy has arisen. It was suggested that I used the figure £70,000 as regards drainage to-day, whereas in my former speech I mentioned £170,000. It was further suggested that the Minister of Agriculture had mentioned £450,000, and that, therefore, there was some real discrepancy, if not jugglery, with the figures. The total programme for drainage is to cost £170,000. I explained that when I first rose, but I also said that we were only asking for £70,000 now, because that is all that will be expended before the end of March. As to the figures given by the Minister of Agriculture, he was only speaking for England, for which he has direct responsibility. I mentioned just now the figure £170,000. That is the total figure, but of that, £20,000 is for Scotland, and, therefore, £150,000 is the English figure. I mentioned in my earlier speech £300,000 as the cost of the programme which the Government had laid down and which had been practically absorbed. £150,000 is now proposed for the schemes to be initiated, and I am asking £70,000 of that to-day. That £150,000, added to the £300,000, makes the total of £450,0000 which the Minister of Agriculture mentioned last night. I hope, therefore, my hon. Friends will relieve me of any accusation of setting up in the business of thimble-rigging.
I was very glad of the assurance of the right hon. Member for Miles Platting that he was hopeful on the subject of insurance by industry. I gathered he said that, from the point of those he represented and from the point of view of his friends, though there might be reasons against it, he would give an assurance, as I understood, that he would encourage the idea of co-operative action between employers and employed, with, I assume, the benevolent assistance of the Government, to see whether along lines of self-help we could not do something to extend, improve, and develop the existing insurance schemes. I welcome that suggestion on his part. The right hon. Member for North-West Camberwell raised a definite point as to the £600,000. Of course, that money is not spent. I answered the right hon. Gentleman on the spot and I hope I shall not be accused of discourtesy to the House for so doing I only replied at once to the right hon. Gentleman because he asked me, and I am always glad when asked to give the best answer I can. I gave him at the moment the best assurance I could and it was to the effect that I thought that probably of the £600,000 a certain amount had been pledged; in fact about £200,000 had already been pledged, and schemes are coming along for the available £400,000. The question of grants to women has been raised by several speakers, but I do not propose to say anything more on that topic. I should, however, like to say a word or two on the question of light railways. There are two schemes in operation already, but further schemes have been proposed and I am not quite certain whether I can speak in a very hopeful tone about them. The programme of the development of light railways in this country does not progress quite so rapidly as one could wish. I cannot go into the reasons to-day, but I can say this, that there are schemes before the Ministry of Transport which involve Government assistance, and as far as we are concerned we shall give them all the assistance in our power in order to see that the schemes are made practicable. The right hon. Gentleman also raised the question of some provision for juveniles. I tender him the same answer as I gave to the Noble Lord the Member for South Nottingham (Lord H. Cavendish-Bentinck). A point was raised by the hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton), who was one of the team who delivered forcible maiden speeches to-day. The hon. Member, speaking of the Unemployment Insurance Act, said, "Well, perhaps it is not a bad scheme, but the amount of your benefit is a wretched amount." I would make this appeal to my hon. Friends opposite. The whole of what I consider to be one of our greatest pieces of social machinery on self-help lines, namely, the Unemployment Insurance Acts, was built up on the foundation of trade union experience. We considered what the trade unions had done—they were the pioneers for us; they blazed the trail; and all honour to them. They were the first to consider what could be done by way of benefit to their members when they were unemployed. The hon. Member says that the amount of benefit we are paying is a miserable amount. That is an argument, which is often heard from those benches, but I would ask hon. Members, is there a single trade union which, having paid unemployment benefit over many years, ever contemplated anything within a thousand miles of what we are doing under the Unemployment Insurance Acts?
I agree, but within the limits of their resources they never contemplated anything of the kind. We are paying, on the uncovenanted side of this great scheme, benefit for weeks and weeks and weeks ahead of contributions.
That may be, but it is infinitely ahead of anything that any trade union ever contemplated. [HON. MEMBERS: "Of course it is!"] My hon. Friends seem to forget, however, that, while it is true that the resources of a national scheme are greater than those of any individual' trade union, the beneficiaries under the' national scheme are infinitely more numerous.
Yes, but I do not doubt arguments have been urged in favour of the view that frequently the trade union payments are compulsory too. [HON. MEMBERS: "NO, no. It is a separate branch!"] However, I do not want to press that. Hon. Members say that the benefits are miserable, paltry, and so on, but do let them bear in mind that the benefit which is being paid is being paid on a scale and for periods for which there is no comparison in any other scheme in existence.
May I say that for many years the Durham miners, out of a subscription of 1d. a week, paid all their unemployment benefit to the extent of 10s. a week for years?
I do not know the scheme to which my hon. Friend refers. I shall be very glad to go into it if he will show me the facts. I have, however, examined a great many schemes, and I do not know of any which gives anything like the benefit that the national scheme now affords. The hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. A. Greenwood)—another of this team of maiden bowlers, so to speak—made a very effective speech, dealing particularly with necessitous areas. The word "sympathy" is almost barred at the moment, but, if I may say so, I had a great deal of that forbidden quality in my mind when I listened to his speech. The hon. Member says that the incidence of rates is not fair and that it is burdening industry; and the same point was put with force by other speakers, including the hon. Member for West Middlesbrough (Mr. T. Thomson). But what does it come to? I speak as an employer myself, and, if I have to carry a burden of taxation, it really does not matter to me very much whether I have to carry a burden in the form of rates or a burden in the form, of taxes. It is equally a burden. The point really is that in this discussion, when rates were being dealt with, it has been assumed so often that the national Exchequer is like a bottomless bag of gold, and that you can go on drawing from it to an unlimited extent without anyone feeling any the worse. We are urged to spend large sums. I do not think that any speech was made from the benches opposite without urging a large expenditure. But where is the money to come from? The Chancellor of the Exchequer, during the Election, indicated, if my memory serves me, that it was not going to be a very easy problem to balance the coming Budget. That means that if 50, 100, 200, or any number of millions are to be expended, the money will have to be raised in one of two or three ways. It could be done, for a time at any rate, by wholesale confiscation of some sort or other; but I do not think that anybody really contemplates that. Assuming that we confine ourselves to the regular recognised channels which a Government usually adopts for raising money, we have, roughly, to do one of three things. We might raise large loans. I need not elaborate that, but everyone knows that it means inflation, which produces a great and growing difference between money wages and real wages—a very unsatisfactory result. We might impose heavy taxation, and in regard to this I return to the point which I mentioned just now, that, from the point of view of the burden on industry, it really does not very much matter whether it is called rates or whether it is called taxes; it is equally a burden.
If we confine ourselves to the narrow joint of adjustment of rates as between one area and another that applies: but that was not the point that was raised. I agree that there is a separate argument for that, but I am dealing with the appeal that has been made generally with regard to rates all over the country; and really, if you must either have loans or increased taxation, or else inflation of the currency—I mean by the use of the printing press, which works as a very inequitable tax on everyone—the problem has to be faced, and it is no use hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite, who differ from me, refusing to face that issue. It is no use their always saying, "The Government have the money: why do they not pour it out?" The Government can only get the money by recourse to the pockets of the taxpayers of this country, and when that elementary fact is once really borne in mind, I think hon. Gentlemen opposite will begin to realise the measure of our difficulty of dealing with this situation.
A good deal has been said about housing, and also about unemployment amongst the building operatives. I have discussed that question with my hon. Friend the Member for West Middlesbrough on more than one occasion, and it is perfectly well known that it is no good lumping all the operatives in the building trades together. That produces a big figure, but the figures must be examined. As I indicated yesterday or the day before, in answer to my hon. Friend, while there is considerable unemployment amongst the unskilled—and I agree that the number is large—when you come to the more skilled branches of the building trade, like bricklayers, and more especially plasterers and tilers, the numbers are very small. It is true that in certain places, owing to difficulties of change of residence, the proportion is larger, but anyone who is responsible for operations in the building trade will tell you that the facts are as I have stated. So far as certain skilled portions of the building trade are concerned, there is, I will not say an absolute shortage, but certainly not a very considerable surplus. Therefore, when we are pressed on that matter and we are told that if there was a huge building programme initiated you would do something to absorb all these men, you have to remember that you have no very great surplus in certain skilled and necessary portions of the building trade. Supposing a great building programme were initiated, you would have the difficulty which was in fact experienced when the Government programme was in full operation, namely that you could not get the houses completed because certain portions of the operations were, as it were, in bottle necks and you could not get these portions completed because there was a shortage of plasterers or tilers. The right hon. Gentleman must bear in mind, when he is always pressing for this big building programme, that, as far as we can see, with the experience we had two years or so ago, a big building programme launched now would again have that effect. You might start a large number of houses, but, as far as we can gather, certain portions of the transaction would get held up for want of the necessary skilled men. [An HON. MEMBER: "What portion?"] I have mentioned plasterers and tilers.
I was out of the Chamber when the hon. Member for Dartford spoke, but I had to be out and I hope he will not accuse me of want of courtesy. He addressed an appeal on the subject of certain schemes which he urged should be pressed forward. I am not cognisant of those schemes, although I think I have in mind one, at any rate, of them, but I will inquire into them forthwith, though some, at any rate, of the responsibility, if not ail of it, properly comes under the jurisdiction of the Minister of Health. I will undertake to have the matter inquired into forthwith and see what assistance can be given, if it is possible to give assistance along the line of helping those schemes. The hon. Member for Stratford (Mr. Groves) addressed another appeal. Here again my feelings flowed very much in his direction. He described to us a state of things which anyone who has been familiar with the conditions in the East End of London will understand— the condition of houses, locks off, windows broken and so on and dilapidation generally. Here again the matter is one on which the conscience of the Government is very much alive. Hon. Members may smile if I say a Committee has been appointed to deal with it. I seem to have heard even in trade union circles that committees have to be appointed to consider difficult matters.
If it does not function I shall be very much surprised. In this Debate the question of the housing programme is not entirely germane. I do not wish to be called to order, and I do not propose to carry it any further except to give the assurance that it is a subject on which the conscience of the Government is very much alive.
I was sorry to hear repeated to-day, because I made an appeal with regard to it last Thursday, by one or two speakers, and especially by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Platting, the statement that very little, if anything, has been done. I really would urge on those who bear the responsibility of leadership in the way the right hon. Gentleman does, a man universally respected in all quarters of the House, that statements of that sort do not help. They are not really in accordance with the facts. I quoted a passage from an article in the "Manchester Guardian" last week to the effect that no Government at any time had made such an effort to deal with this evil in a time of depression as the last Government had done. I claim no party merit for that. I said at the time this is a national effort which has to be judged by national standards, and I made an appeal for national assistance from all quarters. That is the only way in which we can deal with the problem and, believe me, it is no help—very much the reverse—to belittle the efforts which have been made. Let us press on by all means, let us extend and amplify the effort. But do not let us say next to nothing has been done, because that really is not true, and it does very little except to engender discontent. The suggestion has been made that the wells of private charity should spring up this Christmas. That is an appeal with which I cordially sympathise. I remember reading recently the life of John Bright. A story is told of his father, a Quaker of a very practical sort. He was walking up a hill one day and saw an accident. A cart had been overturned, and the burden of the cart, which was apples, had been scattered all over the road. He came up and helped the man. A large crowd gathered round and someone expressed sympathy. He turned round and said, "My friend, I sympathise £5; how much dost thou sympathise?" I believe it is in that spirit that efforts are being made, quite apart from the Government altogether, by private individuals, and, indeed, by everyone, to give what assistance they can. I do not believe there is a single man or woman in the country who would not give, and is not giving, within limits every effort he can to help to alleviate, if he cannot cure, this terrible tragedy of unemployment and the distress resulting from it. Let us develop those efforts by all means. We have had an interesting, and, I think, a fruitful discussion. I have heard several suggestions which I hope to develop further, and I would make an appeal to hon. Members opposite. The time is getting late and there are certain items which still have to be discharged on the Order Paper, and if they could let us, at any rate, soon, if not at once, proceed to the Vote, it would, I believe, be meeting the wishes of the Committee.
I hope the Committee will be a little more than indulgent to me, because of the difficult position in which I am placed, following, in a maiden speech, one of His Majesty's Ministers. I have come to this House from a peculiar constituency. I have no doubt that many hon. Members are surprised to see me. The late Member for Huntingdon, as I heard him described once, referred to my city and a certain event that happened there as a "crowning mercy." I hope that my presence here may be regarded by the Government and its supporters as a crowning mercy, which may be a warning to them of what will happen to them in the country if they do not remember their responsibilities, having regard to the history of the past four years. It is because the people of Worcester were dissatisfied with the performances of the Government that they have made a change in their representation, after 37 years. I claim no merit for myself. What I have noticed in this House is that the greater part of the time is spent by traders and manufacturers in Free Trade Debates speaking of their business, and hon. Members on the Labour Benches talking about the worker and the producer. I shall not do that. I come to this House as a common or garden consumer.
I am coming to that. I only wanted to impress the party opposite with my presence. I come from the City of Worcester, where we pride ourselves upon unity of effort. Whether Labour, Liberal or Conservative, we have been united during the past few years in trying to solve the problem of unemployment. We could solve the problem to a very large extent in our district if we had the assistance of the Government. We have not had the assistance of the Government during the past two years. We have met with all kinds of opposition and delay. One hon. Member referred to the roads. We have two main roads in our city, and we have tried to deal with them and have had proposals before the Ministry of Transport for 12 months, but we can get no action. We have had important proposals before the Ministry of Health, and we have actually been stopped in a number of our unemployment schemes by the Ministry of Health, who tell us that until we do something else in regard to sewage works, they will not allow us to go on with our unemployment schemes. If the Ministry and their officials would get off the backs of the local authorities they would be able to work out their own salvation, providing that the Government —we do not expect them to provide the machinery, because we have the machinery for dealing with unemployment—help us to distribute the cost equitably. Near the City of Worcester is the district of Malvern, and we want the people of Malvern, who have no unemployment, to bear some share of the burden of unemployment which operates in Worcester. That condition, no doubt, applies to other parts of the country.
When the War broke out, a distress scheme was put before the local authority of Worcester, of which I am a member, with regard to the development of canals. That scheme was pigeon-holed, and I suggest that in that scheme there is a practical remedy for unemployment that will be productive of great results for the community if the Government will take it up. I will make a practical suggestion. The City of Birmingham are concerned in the development of the Worcester and Birmingham Canal which brings the Severn, with its 60 miles of sea water-way, in direct connection with Birmingham. I appeal to the Government to see whether they cannot help Birmingham to deal with that question at once, in order that people in that district can have an opportunity of employment.
I complain that the right hon. Member for North-West Camberwell (Dr. Macnamara), when he was head of the Ministry of Labour, contemptuously treated a proposal put before his Ministry by the Town Clerk of Worcester, dealing with the dole and its relation to local authorities. The letter that was received from the right hon. Gentleman was not the sort of letter that should be sent by a Government Department to a progressive municipality. The plea of the Minister of Labour has been that there is a limit to the purse of the taxpayer when he is asked for assistance. We know that, but why did not the right hon. Gentleman and his Friends think of it during the last four years when they were wasting money in all parts of the world? We cannot allow the right hon. Gentleman, in his very courtly address to us, to forget the responsibility of himself and his colleagues for helping to bring about the present situation. They were responsible, and the right hon. Gentleman in his reply has thoroughly exemplified the policy of negation which his Government appears determined to follow.
Any scheme which holds out the prospect of employing thousands of men now out of work will always have my most sympathetic support, but the responsibility for a scheme of that sort does not rest with me. Various considerations arise, but, as I indicated in my speech, I believe the matter is to be dealt with. Beyond that I cannot go.
There are several points to which I wish to draw attention. [HON. MEMBERS: "Divide!"] There is no agreement that this Debate should close at any particular moment, and there is no reason why the Minister of Labour should have risen at the precise moment he did, after hearing only a part of the case, and not the part which I wish to put before him. The Noble Lord the Member for South Battersea (Viscount Curzon) put forward several practical schemes. One hon. Member on the other side finished his maiden speech by saying that we on this side have put forward no practical suggestion commensurate with the terrible evil of unemployment. I want to refer to the speech of the right hon. Member for Platting which opened this Debate. I sympathise entirely with the view put forward by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Platting who appealed to the Government to do something big enough or to do nothing at all. Used as a figure of speech, that does not mean that he objects to the small efforts made by the last Government, which are being continued apparently by the present Government, but he did mean that there is an absolute want of a sense of proportion between the extent of the evil and any of the schemes that are put forward.
The Minister of Labour dealt meticulously with the details of the allotment of money for land drainage and explained with absolute accuracy the various figures £80,000, £170,000 and £450,000. I could not help feeling when I heard them the want of proportion between these figures and the amount of unemployment. [HON. MEMBERS: "Come over here!"] We are making provision now until the end of the financial year, and when the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Camberwell (Dr. Macnamara) had stripped these figures of the amount already pledged, and the amount which will not be expended during the remainder of the financial year, we arrive at a figure of roughly £1,000,000. An hon. Member divided that amount among the total number of the working class population in the country and arrived at the amount of 8d. per head. I think that he would have done better if he had divided the amount by the number of unemployed, and he would have got a figure of about 15B. per head for all these unemployed people, which is to last them from now until the end of the financial year. Does this indicate any sense of proportion on the part of the Government?
We must remember that this Government, although many of its Members were in the late Government, have been in office for only about four or five weeks. That Government, have a collective responsibility to the nation in this matter of unemployment and as the right hon. Gentleman (Sir M. Barlow) has acted as understudy of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Camberwell (Dr. Macnamara) naturally he takes very much the view that he did during his tenure of office then. But the Committee cannot accept it, and the country cannot accept it. I, like other hon. Members opposite, feel responsibility in this matter. I left this House in 1918, voluntarily, and I have been in retirement in the country for the past four years. I have been looking on, and I have been doing a little thinking, and it seems to me that among the many failures of the late Government the two outstanding instances—I put this before my electors at the recent Election —were unemployment and agriculture. Though I am an agricultural Member and an agriculturist, I do consider that unemployment at the present moment is the more vital question. Therefore I say, making all allowances for the fact that the Government have only been in power for a few weeks, I would have liked to hear to-day that they were going to undertake the construction of some great national asset which would employ a large proportion, and not a mere fraction, of the unemployed and which indirectly would cause employment in practically every trade of the country.
The right hon. Gentleman has among his colleagues in the Government the Postmaster-General who knows more about inland waterways, I will undertake to say, than any hon. Member in this House. The first time I ever had the honour of seeing him was when, about 10 years ago, he addressed a largely attended voluntary Committee of Members of this House upstairs on the ques- tion of what is known as the Birmingham Cross, a great system of inland waterways which has been the subject of a Royal Commission, and which has been debated hotly for 15 or 20 years past, and about which nothing has been done. We have heard of these road schemes. I agree-with hon. Members opposite that it is better to find some kind of employment than none at all. But to put skilled artisans at no better job than shovelling mud and moving it for a few yards in a barrow is an insult to the working classes of the country. The right hon. Member for Platting said the other day that he put forward 20 different ways in which the problem could be attacked. I would undertake to say that one that was hardly mentioned was present in his mind. That is finding employment for every man in his own trade.
I agree that that is an ideal, but suppose you start some national asset of this kind it would have great advantages. There has been a Committee appointed by Sir Eric Geddes, of which the Postmaster-General was Chairman, so that they know all about it on the Front Bench, and it was estimated that this scheme would cost £40,000,000. Now it would cost much less on account of the fall in labour and the prices of materials. Suppose you had something like this, creating a national asset which will help-employment for generations, possibly for centuries, in this country. Suppose that those who oppose this scheme are right,, and that for every £100 you spend you only get a national asset of about £80, is not that better than getting nothing I But suppose the supporters of this scheme are right, and that when all the magnificent site values created ail along the canal to which you have got a right, when the State finds the guarantee, develop, then you have created an asset of £150 for every £100 spent, is not that better than what the right hon. Gentleman referred to just now when he said that if we borrowed money we created a further disparity between the money value and what it will buy? I agree with that, but he was referring to borrowing for unemployment insurance, and paying the money for which you get nothing. But if you use the national credit to create a great national asset, there is no reason why we should diminish our national credit. One of the finest investments ever made for our nation was made by Disraeli when he bought the Suez Canal shares.
I put forward this proposition more as an example than anything else, because I believe in its financial potential value in the future. The Prime Minister called these measures which were put forward palliatives. I call them merely tinkering with the matter. I said so to the constituents who elected me, and from now on I will insist on saying so in the House of Commons. Just before the War there was an acute controversy about another waterway, not the tunnel under the Humber, to which the hon. and gallant Member for Central Hull (Lieut.-Commander Kenworthy) referred, or the tunnel under the Channel. I do not know much about tunnels under water. All that I am dealing with is water over land. The hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Max-ton) in a most eloquent speech, which I thoroughly appreciated, put forward this, which is one of the things with which I agree most. He said that the men in Glasgow and on the West Coast of Scotland were the best engineers in the world, and that their locomotives and steamships went to every part of the world.
Of course, I want to see that nothing is done which will prevent these magnifi-
cent products from finding a market all over the world. The proposition which was hotly debated just before the War was the Clyde and Forth Canal. During the War many of us wished to goodness that the advocates of that canal had had their way, and that we had had a back door for the Fleet, instead of our ships having to go round by Scapa Flow. The scheme was not carried out. There it is lying at the doors of Glasgow. Look at the congestion in Glasgow, both industrially and in relation to housing. That waterway would stretch Glasgow right across to the Forth and you would create site values all the way, such as no other inland waterway could possibly create. Whether right or wrong, it is the duty of the Government to look into these questions now—big questions, not little questions of road-widening here and there. For goodness sake let us have something under this new Government which shows the possession of the most valuable sense that statesmen can have, that is, some sense of proportion.
|Division No. 36.]||AYES.||[4.17 p.m.|
|Alexander, A. V. (Sheffield, Hillsbro')||Groves, T.||Maxton, James|
|Amnion, Charles George||Grundy, T. W.||Middleton, G.|
|Asquith, Rt. Hon. Herbert Henry||Hall, F. (York, W. R., Normanton)||Morrison, R. C (Tottenham, N.)|
|Attlee, C. R.||Hamilton, Sir R. (Orkney & Shetland)||Muir, John W.|
|Barker, G. (Monmouth, Abertillery)||Hancock, John George||Murnin, H|
|Barnes, A.||Harris, Percy A.||Murray, R (Renfrew, Western)|
|Batey, Joseph||Hastings, Patrick||Newbold, J. T. W.|
|Benn, Captain Wedgwood (Leith)||Hay, Captain J. p. (Cathcart)||Nichol, Robert|
|Berkeley, Captain Reginald||Hayday, Arthur||Oliver, George Harold|
|Bonwick, A.||Henderson, T. (Glasgow)||Paling, W.|
|Broad, F. A.||Herriotts, J.||Phillipps, Vivian|
|Brotherton, J.||Hillary, A. E.||Ponsonby, Arthur|
|Buchanan, G.||Hirst, G. H.||Potts, John S|
|Buckle, J.||Hodge, Rt. Hon. John||Pringle, W. M. R.|
|Burgess, S.||Hodge, Lieut-Col. J. p. (Preston)||Richards, R.|
|Burnle, Major J. (Bootle)||Hogge. James Myles||Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring)|
|Buxton, Charles (Accrington)||Jenkins, W. (Glamorgan, Neath)||Riley, Ben|
|Buxton, Noel (Norfolk, North)||John, William (Rhondda, West)||Ritson, J.|
|Cape, Thomas||Johnston, Thomas (Stirling)||Roberts, Frederick O. (W. Bromwich)|
|Chapple, W. A.||Jones, J. J. (West Ham, Silvertown)||Rose, Frank H|
|Charleton, H. C.||Jones, T. I. Mardy (Pontypridd)||Saklatvala, S.|
|Clarke, Sir E. C.||Jowett, F. W. (Bradford, East)||Salter, Dr. A.|
|Collins, Sir Godfrey (Greenock)||Kenworthy, Lieut.-Commander J. M.||Scrymgeour. E.|
|Collins, Pat (Walsall)||Kirkwood, D.||Shinwell, Emanuel|
|Darbishire, C. W.||Lansbury, George||Short, Alfred (Wednesbury)|
|Duncan, C.||Lawson, John James||Simon, Rt. Hon. Sir John|
|Edmonds, G.||Leach, W.||Simpson, J. Hope|
|Edwards. C. (Monmouth, Bedwellty)||Lee, F.||Smith, H. B. Lees (Keighley)|
|Emlyn-Jones, J. E. (Dorset, N.)||Linfield, F. C.|
|Entwistle, Major C. F.||Lowth, T.||Smith, T. (Pontefract)|
|Fairbairn, R. R.||MacDonald. J. R. (Aberavon)||Snell, Harry|
|Falconer, J.||M'Entee, V. L.||Snowden, Philip|
|Gray, Frank (Oxford)||McLaren, Andrew||Spencer, George A. (Broxtowe)|
|Greenall, T.||March, S.||Stephen, Campbell|
|Greenwood, A. (Nelson and Colne)||Martin, F. (Aberd'n & Kinc'dine, E.)||Sullivan, J.|
|Grenfell, D. R. (Glamorgan)||Mathew, C. J.||Thomson, T. (Middlesbrough, West)|
|Thorne, W. (West Ham, Plaistow)||Westwood, J.||Wilson, R. J. (Jarrow)|
|Thornton, M.||Wheatley, J.||Wintringham, Margaret|
|Walsh, Stephen (Lancaster, Ince)||Whiteley, W.||Wood, Major M. M. (Aberdeen, C.)|
|Warne, G. H.||wig[...]all, James||Young, Robert (Lancaster, Newton)|
|Watson, W. M. (Dunfermline)||Williams, David (Swansea, E.)|
|Webb, Sidney||Williams, Dr. J. H. (Llanelly)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Wedgwood, Colonel Josiah C.||Williams, T. (York, Don Valley)||Mr. Lunn and Mr. Nell Maclean|
|Agg-Gardner, Sir James Tynte||Forestier-Walker, L.||Moore, Major-General Sir Newton J.|
|Ainsworth, Captain Charles||Foxcroft, Captain Charles Talbot||Morden, Col. W. Grant|
|Alexander, E. E. (Leyton, East)||Frece, Sir Walter de||Moreing, Captain Algernon H.|
|Alexander, Col. M. (Southwark)||Furness, G. J.||Murchison, C. K.|
|Allen, Lieut.-Cot. Sir William James||Ganzoni, Sir John||Newman, Colonel J. R. P. (Finchley)|
|Amery, Rt. Hon. Leopold C. M. S.||Gates, Percy||Newton, Sir D. G. C. (Cambridge)|
|Archer-Shee, Lieut.-Colonel Martin||George, Major G. L. (Pembroke)||Nicholson, Brio.-Gen. J. (Westminster)|
|Astor, J. J. (Kent, Dover)||Gilmour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir John||Nicholson, William G. (Petersfield)|
|Baird, Rt. Hon. Sir John Lawrence||Goff, Sir R. Park||Norton-Griffiths. Lieut-Col. Sir John|
|Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley||Gould, James C.||Ormsby-Gore, Hon. William|
|Balfour, George (Hampstead)||Gray, Harold (Cambridge)||Paget, T. G.|
|Banks, Mitchell||Greaves-Lord, Walter||Parker, Owen (Kettering)|
|Barlow, Rt. Hon. Sir Montague||Grenfell, Edward C. (City of London)||Parry, Lieut.-Colonel Thomas Henry|
|Barnett, Major Richard W.||Grigg, Sir Edward||Pease, Rt. Hon. Herbert Pike|
|Becker, Harry||Guest, Hon. C. H. (Bristol, N.)||Pennefather, De Fonblanque|
|Benn, Sir A. S. (Plymouth, Drake)||Guthrie, Thomas Maule||Percy, Lord Eustace (Hastings)|
|Berry, Sir George||Hacking, Captain Douglas H.||Perkins, Colonel E. K.|
|Betterton, Henry B.||Hall, Rr-Adml Sir W. (Liv'p'I,W.D'by)||Perring, William George|
|Birchall, Major J. Dearman||Halstead, Major D.||Peto, Basil E.|
|Bird. Sir R. B. (Wolverhampton, W.)||Hamilton, Sir George C. (Altrincham)||Philipson, H. H.|
|Blades. Sir George Rowland||Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry||Pownall, Lieut.-Colonel Assheton|
|Bowyer, Capt. G. E. W.||Harrison, F. C.||Raeburn, Sir William H.|
|Boyd-Carpenter, Major A.||Harvey, Major S. E.||Reid, Capt. A. S. C. (Warrington)|
|Brass, Captain W.||Hawke, John Anthony||Remnant, Sir James|
|Brassey, Sir Leonard||Kay, Major T. W. (Norfolk, South)||R[...]ntoul, G. S.|
|Bridgeman, Rt. Hon. William Clive||Henderson, Sir T. (Roxburgh)||Rhodes, Lieut.-Col. J. P.|
|Brittain, Sir Harry||Hennessy, Major J. R. G.||Richardson, Sir Alex. (Gravesend)|
|Bruton, Sir James||Herbert, Col. Hon. A. (Yeovil)||Richardson, Lt.-Col. Sir P. (Chertsey)|
|Buckingham, Sir H.||Herbert, S. (Scarborough)||Robertson, J. D. (Islington. W.)|
|Buckley, Lieut.-Colonel A.||Hewett, Sir J. P.||Rothschild, Lionel de|
|Bull, Rt. Hon. Sir William James||Hiley, Sir Ernest||Roundell, Colonel R. F.|
|Burn, Col. C. R. (Devon, Torquay)||Hinds, John||Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth)|
|Butler, H. M. (Leeds, North)||Hoare, Lieut.-Colonel Sir S. J. G.||Russell, William (Bolton)|
|Button, H. S.||Hogg, Rt. Hon.Sir D.(St. Marylebone)||Samuel, A. M. (Surrey, Farnham)|
|Cadogan, Major Edward||Hood, Sir Joseph||Sanders, Rt. Hon. Sir Robert A.|
|Cassels, J. D.||Hopkins, John W. W.||Sanderson, Sir Frank B.|
|Cayzer, Sir C. (Chester, City)||Houston, Sir Robert Patterson||Sandon, Lord|
|Cecil, Rt. Hon. Lord R. (Hitchin)||Howard, Capt. D. (Cumberland, N.)||Sinclair, Sir A.|
|Chadwick, Sir Robert Burton||Hudson, Capt. A.||Singleton, J. E.|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. N. (Ladywood)||Hume, G. H.||Skelton, A. N.|
|Clay, Lieut.-Colonel H. H. Spender||Hunter-Weston, Lt.-Gen. Sir Aylmer||Stanley, Lord|
|Clayton, G. C.||Hurd, Percy A.||Steel, Major S. Strang|
|Coates, Lt.-Col. Norman||Hurst, Lt.-Col. Gerald Berkeley||Stewart, Gershom (Wirral)|
|Cobb, Sir Cyril||Hutchison, W. (Kelvingrove)||Strauss, Edward Anthony|
|Cockerill, Brigadier-General G. K.||Jackson, Lieut.-Colonel Hon. F. S.||Stuart, Lord C. Crichton|
|Colfox, Major Wm. Phillips||James, Lieut.-Colonel Hon. Cuthbert||Su[...]t[...]r, Rear-Admiral Murray Fraser|
|Colvin, Brig.-General Richard Seale||Jarrett, G. W. S.||Sugden, Sir Wilfrid H.|
|Conwa[...], Sir W. Martin||Jenkins, W. A. (Brecon and Radnor)||Sutherland, Rt. Hon. Sir William|
|Cope, Major William||Kelley, Major Fred (Rotherham)||Sykes, Major-Gen. Sir Frederick H.|
|Cotrs, Sir William Dingwall Mitchell||Kennedy, Captain M. S. Nigel||Terrell, Captain R. (Oxford, Henley)|
|Croft, Lieut.-Colonel Henry Page||King, Captain Henry Douglas||Thomas, Brio.-Gen. Sir O. (Anglesey)|
|Crook, C. W. (East Ham, North)||Kinloch-Cooke, Sir Clement||Thomson, F. C. (Aberdeen, South)|
|Crooke, J. S. (Deritend)||Lamb, J. Q.||Tryon, Rt. Hon. George Clement|
|Curzon, Captain Viscount||Law, Rt. Hon. A. B. (Glasgow, C.)||Turton, Edmund Russborough|
|Dalziel, Sir D. (Lambeth, Brixton)||Lloyd-Greame, Rt. Hon. Sir Philip||Vaughan-Morgan, Cot. K. P.|
|Davidson, J. C, C. (Hemel Hempstead)||Lorden, John William||Waring, Major Walter|
|Davies, Alfred Thomas (Lincoln)||Lort-Williams. J.||Watson, Capt. J. (Stockton-on-Tees)|
|Davison, Sir W. H. (Kensington, S.)||Lougher, L.||Wells, S. R.|
|Edge, Captain Sir William||Loyd, Arthur Thomas (Abingdon)||Wheler, Col. Granville C. H.|
|Edmondson, Major A, J.||Lumley, L. R.||Whitla, Sir William|
|Ednam, Viscount||Macdonald, Sir Murdoch (Inverness)||Windsor, Viscount|
|Elliot, Capt. Walter E. (Lanark)||Macnamara, Rt. Hon. Or. T. J.||Winfrey, Sir Richard|
|Ellis. R. G.||McNeill, Ronald (Kent, Canterbury)||Winterton, Earl|
|Erskine, Lord (Weston-super-Mare)||Macpherson, Rt. Hon. James I.||Wise, Frederick|
|Erskine-Bolst, Captain C.||Makins, Brigadier-General E.||Wolmer, Viscount|
|Evans, Capt. H. Arthur (Leicester, E.)||Malone, Major P. B. (Tottenham, S.)||Wood, Rt. Hn. Edward F. L. (Ripon)|
|Evans, Ernest (Cardigan)||Margesson, H. D. R.||Wood, Major Sir S. Hill (High Peak)|
|Eyres-Monsell, Com. Bolton M.||Marks, Sir George Croydon||Yerburgh, R. D. T.|
|Falcon, Captain Michael||Mason, Lieut.-Col. C. K.||Young, Rt. Hon. E. H. (Norwich)|
|Falle. Major Sir Bertram Godfray||Milne, J. S. Wardlaw|
|Fawkes, Major F. H.||Mitchell, W. F. (Saffron Walden)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Fisher, Rt. Hon. Herbert A. L.||Molson, Major John Elsdale||Col. Gibbs and Major Barnston.|
Original Question put, and agreed to.