Question again proposed,
That a sum, not exceeding £10,187,005, be granted to His Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1924, for the Salaries and Expenses of the Minister of Labour and Subordinate Departments, including the Contributions to the Unemployment Fund, and to Special Schemes and Payments to Associations for administration under the Unemployment Insurance Acts; Expenditure in connection with the Training of Demobilised Officers, Non-Commissioned Officers and Men, and Nurses; Grants for Resettlement in Civil Life; and the Expenses of the Industrial Court; also Expenses in connection with the International Labour Organisation (League of Nations), including a Grant-in-Aid.
I wish to turn to one feature of the temporary side of the Minister's work, namely, the training of disabled ex-service men. In regard to ex-service men generally, we have not done all we could have wished, because we have been very seriously handicapped by heavy financial embarrassments, and by bad trade, more persistent and more grave than anything in our industrial history; but I rejoice, frankly, with my right hon. Friend that we have been able to do so much in the circumstances. I doubt very much whether there is any other country that has done as much, or could have done as much, as we have done. Apart from the annual pensions charge, which is now £73,500,000 in the Estimates this year, we have put up in one way or another about £100,000,000 in our endeavour to requite the obligation we owe to the ex-service men.
I want to say a few words about the disabled ex-service men. We undertook to train the man who was so badly disabled that he could not go back to his own craft, in a new craft, where his disability would be as little of a handicap as possible. We have heard to-day that between the Pensions Ministry and the Ministry of Labour 80,000 of these men have been trained, and there are 14,500 men now in training and 6,000 on the waiting list.
I confess that the 6,000 disabled men on the waiting list rather surprised me. I thought the number was very much larger than 6,000. I thought it would be nearer 16,000. Many of the 16,000 are still in hospital under treatment, and not ready for training yet. Many of the courses are not completed until the man has been to a private employer as an improver, but since bad trade set in during the last two and a half years we have had the greatest trouble to provide these improverships. We have heard of the appointment of canvassers and that a number of improverships have been secured, but there still remain 3,600 of these disabled men, whom we have trained in instructional factories, who cannot get improverships. That is a pity, because they are forgetting what they began to learn. It has not been fixed in their mind. I do not need to be told that the officers of the Department and the Minister himself, will do everything they can directly things pick up, to get these 6,300 men into improverships. In regard to finding employment for these disabled men, whether we have trained them or not, the King's Roll is our great agency. It is not universally known what that means. It is remarkable, I will not say how ignorant, but how lacking in knowledge people are. It means this, that we say to an employer, "If you will reserve 5 per cent. of your places for disabled ex-service men, you will do yourself the honour—I call it nothing less—to write your name on the King's Roll, and you will be able to use the Seal of the Roll." Here, again, bad trade has been a tremendous handicap. Apart from bad trade, we have really not had the success we ought to have had with the local authorities.
Then you will go for both. The local authorities have a very special responsibility in the matter, because they could set such an example in their own locality. The Select Committee which sat last year under the Presidency of the hon. and gallant Member for Fareham (Major-General Sir J. Davidson) recommended that a fresh effort should be made and a new impulse given to the King's Roll. The hon. and gallant Member and his colleagues of the Committee thought that in each locality there should be set up a King's Roll Committee, charged with the duty of considering the means of the severely disabled men. That is a very important and urgent matter. Many of these men are not economic units, they are trying to hold on to a job against the competition of the street corner and they are not fit to do it. I hope the King's Roll Committees will make it one of their first duties to examine the case of the badly disabled man who is trying to struggle along, badly handicapped as he is, and that they will push the King's Roll, find improverships for the trained men, and organise "after care" for disabled men, suitable to local conditions. The activities of these local Committees were to be co-ordinated by a National Council to which my right hon. Friend has referred, the National King's Roll Council. I am glad that Lord Cave was so good as to become the President. They have had two meetings, and I understand that they will hold their third meeting on the 3rd May. As regards the progress of the local King's Roll Committees, I understand that 299 invitations were sent out to the local areas and that 159 King's Roll Committees have been started or are in course of being set up.
I understand that 299 invitations were sent out and that 159 King's Roll Committees have been set up or are in progress of being set up, and that in 44 other areas the local employment committees are carrying on the work with the complete identification of the local authority. There are 96 areas where negotiations are still proceeding. I appeal to Lord Mayors, Mayors, Lord Provosts, and Provosts, to take this thing up vigorously. The Committee cannot fail to remember Lord Haig's famous message to the men in April, 1918, when the enemy made his last desperate fight to get to the coast:
Every position must be held to the last man.
These men did bold their positions, but now not only can they not hold their positions, but they cannot get them.
It is one of the best testimonials I have ever received. Let it go at that. There are between 70,000 and 80,000 ex-service men unemployed. The Committee over which my hon. and gallant Friend presided made this comment, to which it is really worth while calling attention. They said:
It is obvious that the sentiment in favour of preferential treatment and generally, sympathy towards the disabled ex-service man is on the decline. The reduction in the number of firms on the King's Roll is evidence of this. Witnesses have corroborated the fact and it is a
natural result of memory fading by the lapse of four years since the conclusion of the Armistice.
With great respect, I do not agree with that. I do not think that people are forgetting. I know this, that British business men have had an atrociously had time, and quite a number of the firms could not renew their obligation to go on the King's Roll because they had actually gone out of business as a result of bad trading. There is no good in being unreasonable. We have to face the facts. When things take up, and they are taking up, as the figures show, this is the time to press the case of these men. There are at least 20,000 firms in this country, each with 25 employés or more, who are not on the King's Roll. I dare-say that many of them are employing their quota, though their names are not on the King's Roll. I wish that they would go on it. It would encourage the others.
Now with regard to local authorities. The larger public authorities in England and Wales have not been doing badly, but there is room for improvement. The Minister gave the figures generally, but I would like to give them in more detail. In London the London County Council, the City Corporation, the Metropolitan Asylums Board, the Metropolitan Water Board, and all the Metropolitan councils are on. That is fine.
You are, and I am sure that, you will be glad to hear it. Poplar would do its duty in that respect. Of the 28 boards of guardians in the London area, seven are not on. If the answer is that they employ a lot of women labour, nurses, and so on, the Ministry of Labour will meet that by ex-chiding those employés from any calculation representing the 5 per cent. of employés who will be necessary to place them on the roll. Taking England and Wales, 39 of the county councils are on and 23 are not. All the county boroughs on, which, again, is fine. One hundred and seventy-seven of the town councils are on, and 76 are not. Four hundred and forty-two of the urban district councils are on, and 339 are not. One hundred and seventy-six rural district councils are on, and 472 are not. One hundred and sixty-five boards of guardians are on and 440 are not. I know that some of these bodies are very small bodies, and we do not want to be unreasonable about this, but that does not apply to the 76 town councils in this country who are not on the Roll. Taking the case of Scotland, I am rather surprised at the figures when we recall the Scottish pride which marks one of the most dauntless races in the world. Of the 33 county councils, only nine are on. Of the 99 county district committees, 23 only are on. I would suggest to hon. Friends in all parts of the House that they can do a good stroke of work if each will inquire in his own locality as to how the local authorities stand in this matter.
Many times. I am sure that the facts have only to be mentioned to get cordial support from all hon. Friends in bringing about a better state of affairs. Long ago we laid down that, except in very special circumstances, a firm which was not on the Roll could not get a Government contract. That has been very valuable indeed, and I observe with great pleasure that 206 local authorities also now restrict the giving of contracts to firms which are on the Roll, while 166 more give preference to such firms. I should like to see this policy much more generally adopted. I make no apology for mentioning these facts in detail. There is no Member of this Committee who does not want to do the right thing by these men, and who would not be glad to lend a hand to get these disabled men into employment, and help to recognise the profound obligation to them under which we all rest for the sacrifices which they have made on our behalf.
I will stand for only a few minutes between my hon. Friends above the Gangway, who have much more authority to speak on the question of unemployment than I have. I am one of those who took an active part in the spread of this idea of the King's Roll, and perhaps the Committee will allow me to say a few words on the general question. I do protest against the idea that is implied in the popular use, and the newspaper use, of the word "dole." I do not know any grosser misconception of what has really taken place in regard to the relief of unemployment than the use of this word "dole." The greater part of the so called "dole" is money contributed by the workers and their employers, and the least part of it is given by the State, and to talk of men getting a dole when they are given back the money which they contributed in the shape of insurance is, I think, not only misleading, but very insulting.
My people in Liverpool, among whom there is a great deal of unemployment, have a strong feeling that the amount given is insufficient to enable them to support their wives and families in anything like a decent condition. There is no use in giving a man money if the amount is not sufficient to enable him to bring up his children in such a way that they are likely to become good citizens. With regard to the King's Roll, I had the honour some years ago of forming in this House a Rothband Committee, and I intend, if I get the support which I may confidently expect from all parts of this House, to re-establish that Committee to watch the operations of the King's Roll and, where we can, to bring the defects and collapses, which undoubtedly do occur, to the attention of the Minister. My right hon. Friend will understand that I am doing nothing bet giving a friendly push on this question, and perhaps he will welcome any attempt on my part to strengthen his hands.
It seems to me that the principle of the King's Roll is to bring public opinion to bear upon employers of labour throughout the country, and, by the force of public opinion, to induce them to find employment to the extent of five per cent. of their employés for disabled ex-service men. The results have been considerable but far below what they should be, and my right hon. Friend the Member for North-West Camberwell (Dr. Macnamara) quoted a sentence from the Report of the Committee, over which the hon. and gallant Member for Fareham (Sir J. Davidson) presided, which said that memories of the Great War were dying. To a certain extent that is tree but I should be ashamed of my countrymen if that statement were true to the extent that the men who were mutilated for us in the struggle were forgotten. I hope that it is not true. But what we want to do is to organise the pressure of public opinion. Public opinion is on our side in this question. I will not go into the question of Scotland. I will limit myself to this observation. As I understand the figures given by my right hon. Friend 1,200 local authorities have come on and 1,500 have not. That is, the figure is on the wrong side. Whatever the excuse, and I do not think that there can be any valid excuse, for a private firm, there can be no excuse for a public authority not having five per cent. of disabled men among its employés.
This work really wants what has now become the custom of great British firms, a publicity agent, by which I mean that the Government and the National Council ought to bring the merits of this scheme before the attention of everybody in the country. I am afraid that, they are not sufficiently known. I am sure that this National Council, especially under the leadership of such a great soldier as Lord Haig, will enormously help in the work. Personally, I should not be satisfied until there was generated everywhere such a force of public opinion as would compel even the meanest local authority in the country to fall in with the scheme. Before sitting down, I wish to pay my tribute to Mr. Rothband for his indefatigable exertion, and the spending of his time, in furthering this principle for the invention and advance of which sufficient recognition has not yet been given him.
I beg to move that the Vote be reduced by £100.
I do not mean that my right hon. Friend-should lose £100, but this is the only way of getting at him in connection with the observations which he has been making this afternoon. I agree cordially with the last speaker's remarks about the King's Roll—that it is our business to look after the disabled men and to provide them with the useful work that they can do. At times there are technical difficulties in the way of providing work for the 5 per cent. The percentage, however, is 2½ per cent. where there is a proportion of women employed. In the textile trade we were discussing this question at our last Industrial Council meeting. We have the case of an employer who employs 100 women and only two men. To make room for the 5 per cent. of disabled men is a difficult proposition. This firm is not on the Roll because it cannot provide work for a disabled man, apart from the two physically fit men that are necessary. But the willingness is there, and we shall find a way out of the difficulty. I have strong faith in Industrial Councils, but not on the lines advocated by the previous Minister of Labour (Dr. Macnamara), who said it was a question of uniting the interests of the employers and the employed. Industrial Councils are for the purpose of composing differences respecting wages and hours of labour. You cannot get unity of feeling between the buyer and the seller of labour under our present system.
Unemployment is, of course, one of the evils arising from our industrial system. I have been an employé for about 50 years. I was never employed for love or brotherhood or friendship; I was employed as a wage-earner, and when there was no profit to be made from my labour I became one of the unemployed. There is a fundamental difference between that experience and what the late Minister of Labour said in reference to the position of the toilers. The Act of Parliament with which we are dealing has within it the spirit of common humanity, but the administration of the Act sometimes lacks the human touch which is desirable. Everybody is to be suspected; every person who signs the roll of unemployed is to be suspected of trying to twist and dodge the regulations of the Ministry. The 5 per cent. of people in this world who are wrong get well looked after, but the 95 per cent. who are right—thank God most people in the world are right—are dealt with as if they were amongst the wrong ones. The policy of the Ministry ought to be reversed. The Minister of Labour has told us that the Committees are very fine Committees. There are very good and very indifferent Committees. I know that they are composed as to half of employers and as to half of employed, with an alleged neutral Chairman, but they work upon instructions from London to a large degree, and the instructions are so cast-iron or so soulless that during the past year many of the Committees have been disheartened and some have struck against the regulations issued by the Ministry.
One of the evils still existing is the continuation of the "gap." A person has to live 52 weeks in a year, and it is wrong to attempt to put the "gap" into operation. The "gap" moans that for so many weeks the unemployed person must remain with no wage, no compensation, and nothing with which to obtain food. One of two things must then happen. He must go to the board of guardians, which already has enough burdens on its shoulders, or he must tighten his belt and swear. It is all right for a man to tighten his belt, but you ought not to tighten a child's stomach for a fortnight. The principle of paying unemployment pay for 46 weeks in the year ought not to be followed so strictly. Payment ought to be made during the whole of the 52 weeks. The money paid for old age pensions, ex-service men's pensions and unemployment benefit is money that is spent in this country. It is far more usefully spent than much of the money paid to people who have a superabundance. It enables the shopkeeper to know that there is ready money available, and it enables the recipients to know that there is something coming in to supply some of the bare necessaries of life. The "gap" should be abolished; it is already a very difficult scheme for the committees to carry out.
The next point relates to uncovenanted benefit. Here, again, there ought to be no limitation, for an unemployed man wants to live 52 weeks a year. One of the evils of uncovenanted benefit applies to young folks. I know that the Minister will say that it starts now at 25. You are going to have a new age for uncovenanted benefit, one section above 25 and one under 25. When a man has a growing family between the ages of 16 and 21 years he requires all the assistance possible, and the uncovenanted benefit restrictions should go by the board. Then there is the training of women. A paragraph in the estimate says: "Training trainees. Women officer's salary, £250." There were, in February, 240,000 women unemployed. It is said that we are reducing our numbers of unemployed week by week at the rate of 21,000 per week, or thereabouts. At Brighouse there were 500 women unemployed cotton and silk workers last week, and in the Batley, Morley and Ossett area the reduction in numbers has been very slight indeed. What is to be done to meet the cases of these 240,000 unemployed women. Some will say, "Let them go into domestic service." Domestic service is not suitable for all women, nor for all men. You can make some men grooms, though they would make better parsons, and you can make some women enter domestic service, but you ought not to drive them away from their homes. There are scores of these women who have to look after widowed mothers, ailing sisters or aged people in their homes.
The Archbishop of Canterbury was talking yesterday about the training of women. It was said that there were 50,000 women who ought to be trained. In what? In domestic work, home work, and dressmaking. Yet to-day the Minister proposes, not to increase the amount of training, but to decrease the chances for these people. These women are to be the mothers of future citizens of the Empire, and there ought to be generosity shown to them. Another startling reduction in the Estimates relates to the International Labour Office of the League of Nations. The British Government has been responsible to a large extent for proposing that reduction. Of all the offices of the League of Nations the International Labour Office is the best. It has been the most useful of all, and to reduce the expenditure is to do the wrong thing. The Minister of Labour told us that the staffs under the Ministry were first class—at Headquarters, in the Divisional Offices and at the Employment Exchanges. There are far too many round pegs in square holes at the Exchanges. I would suggest to members of the staff that people on the outside of the counter are in difficulties and are deserving of help, and that many times those who are on the inside of the counter could show more sympathy and human feeling.
The next subject I would mention is the work of the Trade Boards. The Ministry has been far from helpful in connection with the extension of Trade Boards and the carrying into effect of the purpose of Trade Boards. There have been decisions arrived at by Trade Boards, signed and agreed to by both sides, and when they have been sent to the Ministry they have been turned back because it was said that the rates of wages agreed to were too high. It is no part of the business of the Ministry to interfere with Trade boards in fixing the rate of wages. The members of the Boards know what a trade can afford to pay. In the waste trade, when we arrived at an agreement as to wages, the Ministry of Labour sent it back with a suggestion that there should be a reduction. There has been a Scottish test case in Edinburgh. For a long time someone in Edinburgh has been reported to the Ministry for not paying the proper rate of wages. The inspector reported on the matter. The union concerned had to bring a civil action and the Sheriff indicated that the people were entitled to the money. They, therefore, won their case. I know that the Minister will tell me that a case was tried in Glasgow and that the Sheriff decided the other way. It shows how the law can be interpreted differently by different folk. In the Glasgow case they forgot Clause 5 or Regulation 5, dealing with hours of labour, and when the case comes before the Court of Appeal I think the Sheriff will find he has overlooked this particular Clause in the Glasgow case.
If the Ministry of Labour knew that this firm was not paying the proper rate of wages, it was their business to take action according to the Trade Board law, and not to wait for the union to summon the firm in the civil courts. What has occurred during the past 12 months, in this respect, is a tribute to the organised attack which is being made upon the Trade Boards. The Ministry has been afraid of the attack upon the Trade Boards. They have trembled because the Federation of British Industries has been turning its attention to the Trade Boards, and because there have been attacks by drapers' associations and grocers' associations, and so forth, on the Trade Boards. The Ministry has bent to the storm. I appeal to them to carry out the law and to extend the Trade Boards. There is more sweated labour to-day than there was five, 10 or 15 years ago, and the Trade Boards were established to abolish sweating. The Ministry should extend the Trade Boards, and increase the inspectorate. It should also have a more dominating and a more law-abiding person at the head of the Ministry than the right hon. Gentleman the late Minister of Labour.
Major-General Sir JOHN DAVIDSON:
I wish to refer, in particular, to the subject of the Kings Boll, and I speak as Chairman of the Select Committee which sat last year, and as Vice-Chairman of the National Council which came into operation the month before last. I hope at a later period of the Session there will be another opportunity of raising this matter when I can make a more accurate and detailed statement as regards the progress of the new scheme. The Select Committee to which I referred reported last August that the old King's Roll scheme was, in our opinion, going down the hill. We ascribed that very largely to ignorance of the existence of the scheme in many parts of the country, and to the fact that the local authorities did not realise the necessity for furnishing employment to disabled men, and did not understand that it was on their shoulders, more than on any other shoulders, to deal with the problem in their own localities. We have recommended very strongly that the whole responsibility of dealing with the problem should devolve on the local authorities and on the King's Boll committees set up locally. We think by that means, and with the assistance of the National Council, a central body which will administer the scheme generally, we can give the King's Roll publicity and give it a fresh impetus.
I hoped last year that the new scheme would come into operation towards the end of the year, but, owing to the General Election, it had to be postponed and did not come into operation until this year. It was on 20th February that the first meeting of the National Council took place. We have had very satisfactory results from the first two months' work, but we have been up against very great difficulties. We did not know at the commencement the task we were undertaking, and the localities at the commencement did not know the task they were undertaking. There had been no registration of unemployed disabled men, and the first thing we had to do was to find out how many men were to be dealt with and the various categories into which they were divided, from those who were lightly disabled and who could go into industry and those who had such a high physical or occupational disability that they could not be absorbed into industry at all. We are beginning to get returns from the local authorities, and at any rate we are getting to know what are the dimensions of the task.
The hon. Member for the Scotland Division of Liverpool (Mr. O'Connor) remarked just now on the necessity for publicity. We on the National Council are trying to tackle the Press, also the cinemas and the theatres throughout the country, with the object of achieving publicity, but as a matter of fact it is the localities themselves that can best deal with the matter. I wish the hon. Member for the Scotland Division had been present at a meeting convened by the Lord Mayor of Liverpool which I addressed on last Friday week. He would there have seen demonstrated the ideal way of tackling the problem. Liverpool has said that it means to solve its own problem, and it is rapidly solving it already. The Lord Mayor is very keen on the project, while the Chairman of the local King's Roll Committee is also extremely able, and his brain has been very fertile in devising ways and means of doing this work. A second Committee has been set up to see that the King's Boll Committee is doing its work. They have employers going round the various firms and business concerns who are not on the Roll, and asking them the reason, and there is no excuse for anybody in that locality not being on the Roll. Liverpool means to deal with the difficulty: the people there have put their backs into it, and I think is already on a fair way to being done.
I do not say that Liverpool is the only locality in which efforts are being made. We on the National Council decided that, it would be too big a task to take up all the local authorities, and to try to help them all together. So we decided to concentrate first on certain big municipalities, and to give them all the assistance we could. We have done so, and we are carefully watching the results. I do not want to say much, because we are only at the start, but I believe myself, if we carry on on the lines which we are adopting at present, we shall in time get over the difficulties, if not in all, at any rat, in the majority of cases. I appeal to Members of Parliament for their assistance. I took the opportunity of sending out circulars first to 70 Members during the month before last, and last month to 50 Members, inviting them to a meeting to tell them what is being done, and to ask for their assistance; to explain the whole sceme and get them to put their backs into it with their own King's Roll Committees.
In every one of the constituencies whose Members received these circulars, a King's Roll Committee has been established and is functioning well. I did not, however, get much response. Of the 70 Members, only 12, and of the 50 Members only four, turned up to hear what is being done. I appeal to hon. Members of all parties to support this scheme, because, after all, it is no party matter. We want to see the disabled men are employed, and I invite to our next meeting hon. Members on all sides of the House, not only to listen to what is being said, but to take part themselves in the proceedings, because we want ideas from them; we want to be cross-examined and to get every help possible. I conclude by mentioning that we have had the greatest possible assistance from the Minister of Labour ever since the National Council was established, and if the same relationship continues to exist between the National Council and the right hon. Gentleman, I believe it will go far to help a complete solution of the problem.
Without going into the general question raised on this Vote, I take the opportunity of drawing attention to some serious disabilities under which unemployed miners, especially in the West of Scotland, are suffering. Trade may be very good in the East of Scotland, but it is very bad in the West. Unemployed miners in the West of Scotland are told that they can find employment in the East of Scotland. That means, in some instances, men going 50 or 60 miles away, and their benefit is immediately stopped. These men cannot remove their homes that distance, and it is almost impossible for them to find lodgings. Even if they do find lodgings, they must work several weeks—in the case of coal hewers especially—before they can earn full wages, and it takes a man all that time to secure sufficient money to pay for his lodgings, wherever he is employed. There is another point in connection with these men. In the minds of those who are unacquainted with coal milling, if there is a vacancy of any kind in a coal mine, an unemployed man is treated as though he could fill that vacancy irrespective of what particular kind of occupation he happen:, to be in. Those who have some knowledge of mining are aware that there is a great difference between the various occupations. There are occupations such as that of a haulier, and a man may be a very good and willing miner and yet be unable to fit into that particular work. There are over 30 distinct occupations in coal mining.
I ask the Minister to consider these hardships. First, there is the fact of unemployed miners having to go a long distance to find employment, and having their benefit stopped. Even if they do find employment, and with the best, will in the world, are only able to earn half wages, it takes it all to pay for their board and lodging—yet their benefit ceases. The other point which I have indicated is the treatment of every man who goes underground, as if he were able to fill every occupation in the mine from handling an engine to driving a pony. These are matters which I think only require to be investigated in order to be put right, and I hope these serious grievances will be removed. I may be told that individuals in that position have the opportunity of an appeal, but that does not meet the case, because the very same objection arises, that while they are appealing and the appeal is going through, the women and children are starving. I hope that this point of view which I have put forward, with regard not to a few men, but to a very large number of men, will be taken into consideration, because great hardship, a great deal of unrest, and a great deal of bad feeling in connection with the working of the Mining Department in the West of Scotland are created.
I wish to bring to the notice of the Minister of Labour, to whose statement in introducing the Estimates I listened with very great interest, one or two points in connection with a matter which has already been touched upon, namely, the question of the ex-service men, and then I want to make one or two suggestions which I hope my right hon. Friend will not think me impertinent in making. In the first place, I wish to ask whether certain information that I have had with reference to men who have been trained under the Ministry of Labour scheme is correct. I accept, of course, the figure that the right hon. Gentleman gave of the number of men who have been trained who are actually in receipt of unemployment relief at the moment, but I gather that there is a very high percentage of the men who have been trained who, although they are in employment, are not at work in the particular industry for which they were trained. I hope the figure which has been given me, that it is as high as between 60 and 70 per cent., is grossly exaggerated, and I would like an assurance from the right hon. Gentleman to that effect, because it will remove a very grave source of anxiety if he will make it clear that those figures are exaggerated.
The whole question of the training of the ex-service men has been complicated very largely, I understand, by difficulties that arose a year or two ago in connection with a definite promise that was made by the Minister of Labour in those days to train, not merely disabled ex-service men, but I understand that there were roughly about 50,000 young, unskilled, fit men who had served, and who, it had been suggested, should be trained for the building industry. I think it is within the knowledge of everybody in this House that the reason why that promise was not carried out was because of obstacles placed in the way of the training of these men by the various representatives of the trade unions concerned. [An HON. MEMBER: "That is not true."] I am not making any accusation at all in this matter. All I know is that it was a definite promise that these men should be trained, that obstacles were eventually placed in the way, and that they were not trained. Whether the trade unions concerned had good reasons for the obstacles they put in the way is not for me to argue now. At the present time we have got those 50,000 men, unskilled, fit men, and there is great danger, when work becomes more normal again, as we hope it will—and the sooner the better—that those men will flood the unskilled market. On the other hand, we have just passed in this House the Second Reading of a Measure which most of us hope is going to expedite the building of houses in this country, and there are one or two reasons given why that Measure is not going to have the effect that some of us desire as early as we desire, and one is a potential shortage of skilled labour in the building trade. May I suggest to the right hon. Gentleman that the negotiations with the trade unions that broke down a year or two ago when this subject was first mooted might be reopened, in view of the passage of the Second Reading of that Housing Bill? I think possibly they might be reopened with rather greater success than attended the negotiations that took place before.
There is one other question which I wish to address to the right hon. Gentleman in connection with the ex-service men, and that is that, as is well known, in regard to every scheme of work that is indulged in under the Unemployment Grants Committee or under the Ministry of Transport, there is a Clause that 75 per cent. of the men employed shall be ex-service men. There is another kind of work which it is hoped that Measures passed in this House will stimulate, and that is work and contracts under the Trade Facilities Act, and I understand there is an objection on the part of the Ministry to including that Clause that a certain proportion of ex-service men shall be engaged, the reason given being that it would be interfering with private contracts to suggest the insertion of that Clause. I am not going to suggest for one moment that 75 per cent. of ex-service men in these particular contracts is a right figure, but I ask that at any rate a condition should be laid down, when the Government are guaranteeing capital and interest for work under the Trade Facilities Act, that at least a certain proportion of men employed should be ex-service men, and I should like to suggest that we should get the 75 per cent. where unskilled labour is concerned. I think the argument that the Government cannot lay down this condition because it would be interfering with private contracts is rather, if I may say so, a weak one, because the very fact that you are guaranteeing capital and interest for these schemes suggests some kind of interference with private contracts. Surely this money is not guaranteed by His Majesty's Government without laying down any conditions at all, and therefore, when you are laying down conditions, I suggest that further consideration might be given to the appeal, that has frequently been made to the right hon. Gentleman, that a proportion of the men employed should be ex-service men.
I was very glad to hear the tribute that was paid by the right hon. Gentleman to the officers and staffs in his Ministry, and I would like to touch upon that point very briefly. I am not sure whether the right hon. Gentleman is aware of a happening—whether it is regular or not, I am not sure; I am merely putting out the suggestion, because I think it is worth inquiring into—that takes place with reference to the pay of a large number of temporary or casual clerks employed in the Ministry of Labour, the great majority of whom are ex-service men. I have it on excellent authority—whether the Minister is aware of it or not, I do not know, but I can hardly feel that he can be, because otherwise he would not tolerate it for one moment—that the procedure is that these men are engaged and paid, not upon the Treasury scale, but upon what is known as the Departmental scale, and they are paid a salary, roughly, of about £3 a week. In their agreement it is stated that they will receive augmentations of that salary at the rate of 2s. 6d. a week for three years, but I understand that before the time arrives when their half-crown weekly increase shall come into effect, they get a new agreement signed, which varies that, and which, instead of increasing their salary, lowers it, and they are told that if they do not sign that new agreement and take a lower salary instead of the higher salary to which they are entitled under their original agreement, then the Clause in the original agreement, which enables the Ministry to get rid of them at a week's notice, will be brought into effect. I am quite sure that if the right hon. Gentleman will investigate that matter, it is one that he will only have the very greatest pleasure in putting right, because I am sure that when it is brought to his knowledge, as it has been by me this afternoon, it is something which is so nearly verging on a scandal that he will be only too glad to get it remedied.
There is one other matter upon which I wish to touch, and which, I think, is sufficiently important for the right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues to continue the investigations they have already started. I want to deal very briefly with the question of the future policy of the Ministry, and I am prompted to that by the news that we have had lately, which makes us rather wonder whether the seat of arbitration in industrial disputes has been removed from Montagu House to Eccleston Square.
Probably the hon. Gentleman says what he hopes will one day come true, but others have other opinions, and it, is rather foolish to prophesy, so I will not follow the hon. Member into that field at all. We, of course, realise that those two instances were exceptions and not the rule. We hope the excellent work which is being carried on by the industrial court of the right hon. Gentleman's Ministry will be increased, and that they will keep rather a tighter hold on it.
That is true, and therefore, if my gentle tilt hits the Minister of Agriculture as well, I hope the lesson will be a double one. I want to emphasise what my right hon. Friend the Member for North-West Camberwell (Dr. Macnamara) put forward with reference to schemes to allow for a continuity of employment in future, that possibly now is the time when the right hon. Gentleman can get busy, and the other is on that question of the permanent policy of insurance. There is no doubt in the mind of anybody that the one great spectre that sits on the shoulders of the workers of the country is that awful and ever constant fear of unemployment. It is the thing that leads to more troubles, discontent, and anxiety than anything else—the feeling in the mind of the worker, even when he is in good employment, that he never knows from one day to the next when he is going to get his ticket, and the still worse feeling of the wife left at home who never knows from one day to the next when he is coming home to say that he has lost his job. We have given a lead in unemployment insurance. I think, considering the time when the Unemployment Insurance Act was brought into being and the almost immediate slump after the additional 9,000,000 or 10,000,000 were put on, that is something of which the country may well be proud, and I was glad to hear the right hon. Gentleman pay a tribute to his predecessor for the way in which he laid the foundation of the building we now see. I do not press for a reply now, but I think the time is coming when we shall have to place this question of unemployment insurance on a much wider basis than that on which it is at the present time. I suggest that we have arrived at a time in our industrial development when we ought to be able to say to industry, "You have no right to use a man merely when you want him for the purpose of making a profit and then when his profit-making capacity is weakened, or you can no longer employ him, simply throw him on the scrap-heap for the State to do the best they can for him." I think the right hon. Gentleman will agree that anybody who is in public life comes into it with one main idea. It may not be their only idea, but it is their main idea to try to make things a little better, and I think probably the great difference between hon. Gentlemen above the Gangway and others of us is one rather of method than of ultimate object. I suggest that industry under the capitalist system can be responsible for its own unemployed and those who have given good service and who later are unfit or too old to work any longer.
I think the right hon. Gentleman might follow up on the lines of the Departmental Report issued by his Department, a few days ago and explore fully the possibility of industry being responsible for its own unemployed. I personally think it is a responsibility that industry should take, and I am sure it would be a field of exploration which would be quite worth going into on a very large scale. There are difficulties which have been thrown up by hon. Members above the Gangway, the National Council of the Labour Party Conference and the Trade Union Congress, mainly obstacles on questions of detail and not at all on questions of principle, obstacles such as the difficulty in the question of demarcation. I suggest the question is one which affects everybody in the country to such an extent that it is up to the Government to do all it call to explore the possibilities of that, and I would like to press on the right hon. Gentleman with all the force I have, that relieving the dread of unemployment from the lives of the workers of the country is a task to which he could set himself with all the ability he possesses.
I would like to follow the hon. Gentleman who has just spoken on one point and to press the Government to reconsider whether they cannot make it a condition of their guarantee to private firms that a certain number of ex-service men be employed. I know he has given that very considerable attention and that he can put forward good arguments against it. He may say there are not enough ex-service men in the vicinity or that they are not sufficiently skilled. That may be so in certain cases, but I do not think it is so in the majority of cases. If the work is at all large and the firm is going to employ any number of men, it seems to me extremely unlikely that there will not be sufficient ex-service men where that work is to be performed. If we are going to guarantee we ought to have some say in the matter. I should like to go back to the King's Roll. I feel rather like the grandfather of the King's Roll National Committee, because it was Owing to an Amendment of mine to a Motion in this House that the Select Committee was set up, and it was due to the findings of that Committee that the King's Roll National Council was formed. When I pressed for the Committee I thought the voluntary system had failed, and, indeed, to my mind, it had failed then. I had no doubt that the only way in which we could absorb the large number of men unemployed was to adopt some system of compulsion. We had the Committee and published a full report. We went abroad to many countries in Europe, where we found they had more or less some form of compulsion, or that future legislation was expected. It was also brought home to the Committee that these systems had not been tested in any particular way owing to so little unemployment in many countries. We examined witnesses here, and, I think, came to the conclusion that, while compulsion would be possible, it was undesirable and against the whole ideas of this country. We are not accustomed to compulsion and do not like it. The alternative was to revive the King's Roll under different conditions. Personally, I really feel satisfied that we have made some considerable progress with the voluntary system since this was revived. We have got it taken up by county committees and towns, and I think we have revived a certain spirit of competition. We have made Liverpool take it up if only with the idea of heating Manchester, and Manchester will retaliate with the same idea. The problem should be solved voluntarily. The number of men outstanding, who are unemployed, in the various cities is comparatively small, and if the different firms in the different cities will only undertake it zealously, as I think they are doing, I think we shall achieve something very great.
There is one thing of which I am doubtful, and that is what security of tenure is given to these men. We must not be satisfied with getting all these men absorbed and then let the different committees rest on their oars. I am certain that some of these men would lose their jobs within two or three weeks, probably through no fault of their own. The problem is more than an immediate one. It is going on for all time, and I do urge on the public to realise that this must be the last attempt at doing it voluntarily. The War has been over for a number of years now, but these men are still unemployed. If it can be done voluntarily it must be done, but I do not think we want to forget that in time of war a man was compelled to serve the country, and in time of peace the country must be compelled to look after the man.
The breezy optimism of the right hon. Gentleman (Sir M. Barlow) reminds me very much of Mr. John Burns when he stood there representing the Local Government Board, as it then was. When I sit in this House and listen to discussions on unemployment and things connected with it I feel like an Alice in Wonderland, quite bewildered, and do not understand, because to listen both to the right hon. Gentleman and the right hon. Member for Camberwell (Dr. Macnamara) one would imagine that things were going on very well, thank you, and that there was not anything to worry about. There are 1,200,000 persons registered, I understand, but the Minister knows quite well that those figures are perfectly fallacious, and do not bear relation to actual fact. A vast number of people get tired of registering, and when the gap comes do not register at all. There are also a large number of women who do not come on the roll. As to the men, all those young men you lump back on to their parents do not register, and I believe it would be true to say that some hundreds of thousands more are unemployed than those put down in the official figures.
I want incidentally to say one or two words on the King's Roll question. There is nobody in the country who does not want to do the right thing by the man who served in the War, but I want everybody to understand that there are a large number of men who were not able to serve in the last War for a variety of reasons. I come from a district where men were positively refused permission to join the Army. They were told they were serving the country as well in repairing ships and carrying on transport as if engaged in actual fighting. Lord Haig and Lord Jellicoe, Sir Douglas Haig and Admiral Jellicoe as they were then, sent home letters telling the men that those who were serving at home were assisting the work of carrying the War to a successful conclusion. We have a multitude of these men on our hands now, and although the Minister of Labour, the Minister of Transport, and the people who govern the grants, give us permission to have 50 and 50 instead of 75 and 25, I want to point out that there are similar men everywhere who have a clear indefeasible right to share in whatever work is going on at such a period as this.
With regard to disabled men, I agree that while the Government does not make provision for them all of us ought to do our best to try to get them such work as is suitable, but I deny absolutely that that is the right method of dealing with the problem. I think it is a disgrace to this House that any disabled man should be in want of anything. I think we ought to give them full adequate maintenance for wives and children until such time as every able-bodied man is absorbed. I think the able-bodied ex-service men and the able-bodied population generally should cheerfully bear the burden of keeping the disabled men out of the labour market until there is room for them to be absorbed. I put that view to my constituents, and that was my answer to the British Legion when they put the question to me. That is my position and it should be the position of every man who is a friend of the ex-service man in this country. I think it is a disgrace to go running around to put the one-armed, one-legged, and diseased man into work when you have a multitude of able-bodied men out of work. Let the able-bodied people keep those who are less able-bodied. Do not make any mistake. I am not asking that they should be maintained if they desire otherwise, or that they shall do nothing. Go on training them, spend money on that, keep them in health and in good condition, and develop their capacities to earn their own living when there is room for them in the labour market.
I want to say that, and I want to say this further about the King's Roll. I know one local authority—and in this I give way to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Camberwell, though it seems to be in my recollection that we, the Poplar Council, sent a reply that we were really employing more of this class of men than we were required to do, but that we objected to go on the Roll because we did not want to play up to the snobbery which was involved in the matter. We did not want to advertise as a virtue what we thought was only our duty. We have got to do what we are doing until the nation does its duty by these men, and if the House really means what we all say we mean in regard to sympathy and gratitude to these men, and to the men disabled in the War, we should cheerfully maintain them and not want to push them out to work in the way we are doing now. That is what I wanted to say on that point.
There are two or three other things I should like to say as briefly as consistent with clearness. I want first to congratulate the Minister on telling us what fine people the civil servants of this country are. We agree, and we suggest that that is a complete answer to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Swansea and others who say that when men work for the State they will not do their duty. The British civil servant is a standing denial of the truth of that statement of the right hon. Gentleman. I have had experience of civil servants in several branches, and although we very often disagree, because they are not Socialists and I am, yet I venture to say that wherever there is a piece of work to be done that these men are the men to help to do it, and to help to do it in a perfectly public spirited manner.
I come next to the question of women labour. I understand that we cannot discuss anything that needs legislation, but I am going to point out to my right hon. Friend the way I think his Department has failed in regard to this aspect of the unemployed, especially with regard to women. There are a quarter of a million women out of work with practically no provision being made for them; what provision is made is of so paltry a character that it really does not affect the problem at all. I believe that in every district of London, and outside London, that it would have been better if the right hon. Gentleman had allowed us to re-establish the Central London Unemployed Body's local unemployed committee, especially to deal with the women. We could have provided good training centres, and the local authorities would have been quite willing to assist in carrying on these centres, and this instead of allowing the women just to take the dole—I cannot help calling it a dole, though it is a cant sort of word—to accept the small allowance for doing nothing. It is just as bad for young women to get money for nothing as it is for young men. It is just as demoralising, but because of the prejudice put up against the Unemployed Workmen's Act, that Act, which is permissive, has never been put into operation, and you will not get the women's question dealt with effectively at all until you put that Act into operation, and in the big towns establish these centres by which women may be taught not only domestic service, but to do other work as well.
It has, I know, been said that it will cost a lot of money to start people to work. It does, and the things that were sometimes produced could not be got rid of economically. Even so, even at the risk of a big expenditure of public money, it would be worth while for the Minister to consider whether we should not put into operation the Unemployed Workmen's Act specifically to deal with the women. I want also to say a word about the young men. I repeat what I said one morning last session about 5.30 in the morning to the Minister, that to me it is a most terrible thing to see during these last few years frightful demoralisation of young people, especially of young men. This is going on to an alarming extent, and nothing is being done that I can see to arrest it. If the Minister would think about it he would possibly provide centres from where these young men could be put on the land, where they could at least have their physique and morale kept in being instead of being allowed to waste as it is at present. The right hon. Gentleman knows very well what I mean in this respect, and I would beg him in consultation with the Minister of Health even now to consider whether it would not be worth while to try to get large numbers of these young men out of the towns to training centres. I am opposed to emigration, thoroughly opposed to it, but if the majority of this House are going to emigrate men I am certain that we could not do better than take these young men and give them a training in the country.
The other thing I want to speak of is the question of the boys and girls. The Minister very carefully did not tell us what had been done for the East End of London. I think we have got one trumpery centre set up, and it is doing very little. There are great masses of boys and girls—you have no figures about them—none of us can tell how many there are, whether 100,000 or a million—but we do know there is a tremendous number. I wonder whether this House realises what is being done in this matter with these boys and girls just leaving school? They are glad to get out of the wretched homes they live in, and to get into the streets, where they learn all kinds of evil. Every magistrate in London can tell us that the result of these boys and girls not being able to get into an occupation is leading to an increase in what is called juvenile crime—it is not crime at all, because no one at these ages can, in my judgment, be guilty of crime. I want to put it to the Minister of Labour that if, and when, you do establish centres the reason you do not get the children tumbling into these centres and the parents forcing them in is because we have done what we so often do—we expect more from the working-class father and mother than we expect from ourselves. We expect the working-class mother, with boys of 14½ and 15—the boy who is pushing his arms through his coat and his long legs through his trousers, and wants more to eat than ever he did before—I say we expect that this mother, on the same wages as she has so far received, will be able to maintain that boy and to keep him at a kind of continuation school. The mother cannot do anything of the kind. She is glad for the boy to go out and earn 6d. here and 1s. here, picking up any odd job, maybe, rather than going to the centre. It would pay the State, I think, to spend a few millions a year maintaining these boys and girls in school and giving them full maintenance while there in order to preserve their morale.
I live, as many other Members around me do, and probably some on the opposite side, right in the centre of an industrial district in East London. I have lived there practically all my life, except for a few brief periods, and what I see going on now makes me almost despair of the future. My friends think that I am an incurable optimist, but when I face these boys and girls, it takes the heart out of me to see them day by day; and I want, therefore, to appeal to the Minister whether he will not badger and bully the Treasury till they do let him have some money. Let us do something or the other to get money to arrest the deterioration of these children and also to arrest the deterioration that is going on with the young men and young women. A lot more could be said about this Vote, but I want to say in conclusion that I am against insurance by industry, and against insurance as a remedy for unemployment altogether. I think that to pay a man 12s., 15s., or £1 a week, or whatever sum you can insure him for, is not sufficient. When I was out of work for 12 weeks in Australia I wanted as much to keep myself, my wife and children; the landlord wanted as much rent as before. You go on the assumption that when a man is out of work his wife and children can be maintained on less. The only way to cure unemployment is by work. When you have got work for everybody, then, and not till then, ought you to send the disabled men out into the labour market.
I am glad to join with previous speakers in congratulating my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour on his speech, but particularly because of the fact that he did not devote any time to justify the existence of his Department. I remember when the Ministry was first formed, and when my right hon. Friend the Member for Gorton was Minister, he met with a good deal of criticism. This was followed up by a demand for the abolition of the Ministry. When I succeeded him I think I had to devote a good deal of my time in a defence of the Ministry from the standpoint of proving its usefulness to the community. I am still of the opinion I expressed then, that the Ministry of Labour is an absolutely necessary Department of the State. Whatever political or economic system may be evolved, you will still have a need for a Ministry comparable to that of the Ministry of Labour. After all, when we talk about getting rid of unemployment it may fairly be said that everyone wants to eliminate unemployment if it is possible to do it. There is no monopoly in any quarter of the House or any class of the community of sympathy for the unemployed—[HON. MEMBERS: "Agreed!"]—or of a desire and intention to explore every possible avenue to solve the problem. But I am certain of this, that it is not within the competence of human beings to establish a society in which there will never be unemployment. [HON. MEMBERS: "Question!"] Well, I am entitled to my opinion, and, after all, the House of Commons is a deliberating body, and if we allow one another to express our views we will ultimately reach, let us hope, something like agreement. But I do not think it can be controverted that it is not possible or competent for ordinary human beings to so evolve a society that it will definitely ensure that there never will be some unemployment.
One should be able to state one's opinion in the House of Commons without interruption. My point is this. In a country like ours we can do a good deal to regularise employment. This House may devise the best measures for the regularisation of industry, resulting in more continuous employment of numbers of our people, but we depend so much on overseas trade that it is utterly impossible for any Government, or any party, to so organise things in other countries as to ensure that there never will be fluctuations of trade involving unemployment in this country. Therefore, in my opinion some scheme of insurance will remain as a partial solution of the unemployment problem. I was glad to observe the gradual development of the insurance scheme which was started in a tentative fashion based largely on the experience of trade unions and able to improve on the benefits that can be conferred by trade unions. Nevertheless we were able to support them with greater certainty for the future by drawing on the experience of these great organisations. That scheme has now been developed to embrace between 10,000,000 and 13,000,000 workers. We all admit that in itself is not adequate to deal with the problem of unemployment, and it was never designed to provide a full living wage for workers when they were unemployed. It was simply meant to be a contribution towards helping them. After all we still rely on the trade unions and other voluntary organisations.
We have gone steadily forward and we have secured such an experience that it has made the way clear for further development. I know there is a great difference of opinion as to the desirablity and practicability of unemployment insurance by industries. When I was at the Ministry of Labour we prosecuted some inquiries on this subject. Naturally we found difficulties in our way, but difficulties exist to be surmounted, and a people who rose superior to the problems of the War can assuredly cope with the difficulties of this problem. I agree with my right hon. Friend the Member for North-West Camberwell (Dr. Macnamara) that there are difficulties which we shall not be able to overcome. There are questions of demarkation as to which industry a worker is really employed in, and therefore any scheme of insurance by industry only gives us the working class encompassed within such scheme. I think we shall have to go back to the expansion and development of the national scheme, leaving the industries to devise measures whereby they can supplement the benefits under the State scheme, and bring us nearer what we all desire, namely, a maintenance wage or a maintenance income when a person is unemployed. In this matter we have to show a little tolerance because no individual has a monopoly of good desire or wisdom. We are all trying to find a solution to this problem.
I want my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour to take more advantage of the Joint Industrial Councils that are in existence. I know some of them have already applied themselves to this problem. The one associated with the trade in which I used to earn an honest living, and the interests of which I still follow very closely, have given a good deal of consideration to this problem, and I believe that they will, ere long, be able to draft a scheme appropriate to that industry which will have a condition whereby the men will remain attached to the national scheme, and out of the industry they will be able to draw supplemental benefit when they are out of work, ensuring them sufficient income to maintain themselves in a state of decency and comfort. The Industrial Councils were established in a period of great difficulty, and it was expected that employers and trade unions were going to work in closer harmony than has been the case. Some of us are disappointed, but I beg hon. Gentlemen opposite, who declare that that is no identity of interest between employers and employed, to bear with me just a moment. At any rate you have these two classes in existence, and you are not going to get rid of them this year or next year.
I am not playing any game. I am elected by my constituents, and I have as much right to speak on this question as the hon. Member who has interrupted me. I suggest that there is an identity of interest. I agree there is no possibility of absolutely reconciling the interests of these two sections of the people; but the prosperity of an industry is of vital concern to both. If an industry is not prosperous there cannot be any certainty of employment, and there cannot be good wages going into working class homes. Why cannot we work together for the purpose of rehabilitating the employment of our country and making employment more secure? I think we ought to do our best to put an end to this class war, which has brought so much misery and hardship into the lives of our people during the last four or five years.
In times of dispute when the two parties are brought together they very soon realise that there is an identity of interest, and they join together repeatedly in making demands on Government Departments, thereby showing that they both recognise this principle. If I cared to occupy the time of the House I could quote extracts from speeches on this point made by members of the Labour party.
Then you are divided on that point, but even if you are divided amongst yourselves you should at least be willing to listen to what I have to say on this point. I want to adduce one reason more why the scheme of joint industrial councils deserves the support of my hon. Friends opposite. As they have made clear to-day, it is their desire to supersede the capitalist system. If you are going to create a system to take the place of the capitalist, who admittedly to-day knows his own business—
If he does not know his business then he ought to be a very easy prey for the hon. Members opposite. The workers need to be trained if they are to be able to conduct business on the capitalist system, moreover, you cannot act with full knowledge unless you are acquainted with the facts and affairs of industry. We have never contemplated joint industrial councils merely as a medium for adjusting wages and hours. They were designed to make the workers acquainted with the facts and circumstances of industry so that they would be better able to appraise the actions of their employers, and when they might be called upon to control and administer those large industries they would be better equipped for it because of the experience they had just derived. I want to ask my right hon. Friend what is being done with respect to Trade Boards. I share the view that there has been a tendency to discourage rather than encourage the extension of Trade Boards. I am of opinion that there is still a great necessity for them because there is much underpaid labour in the country. There is still a great deal of disorganisation, and just as I am in favour of joint industrial councils for well organised industries, I desire to see Trade Boards in operation wherever the state of organisation is not sufficiently strong to give the worker an effective means of standing on equal terms in negotiations with his employer. To discuss that at length would bring one up against the recommendations of the Cave Committee which would involve legislation, and, therefore, I ask my right hon. Friend in his reply to state what is the policy of the Ministry of Labour in respect to Trade Boards, and to tell us whether they recognise these Boards as an integral part of industrial reorganisation.
I want to ask a question with regard to the expenditure under the International Labour Organisation. The sums which appear on the Estimates are not subject to Treasury audit, and therefore I presume that hon. Members will find it difficult, if not impossible, to effectively analyse the various items of expenditure. I am certainly not hostile to international organisation, but owing to the secrecy which surrounds this body there is abroad an opinion that extravagant salaries are being paid, and that money is being expended in a way which does not conduce to the elevation of labour conditions in the countries represented. I think the Minister of Labour might very well consider whether there is any method whereby he could take the House into his confidence and inform us what is being done. For instance, questions like these are addressed to me, and I presume are also addressed to my right hon. Friend: How many delegates go from different organisations? How many trade union representatives go? At I whose expense? How much do they receive? After all, if the House of Commons provides the money, it is entitled to some information as to how the money is expended. I again congratulate my right hon. Friend upon the success and ability with which he is conducting the affairs of his Ministry, and I wish him a long tenure of office.
Mr. GRAHAM WHITE:
For the short time I desire to speak I do not want to follow any of the arguments which have been developed by the right hon. Member for Norwich (Mr. G. Roberts) in his very interesting speech. Rather I want to revert to the line of thought which was suggested by the hon. Member for Bow and Bromley (Mr. Lansbury) in the con eluding remarks which he made. I wish to refer for a moment or two to the juvenile educational and recreational centres which were started in the early part of this year. I was concerned to hear the Minister of Labour say yesterday, in reply to the Noble Lord the Member for the South Nottingham Division (Lord Cavendish-Bentinck) that these centres were to be finally discontinued on the 21st of July. The establishment of these centres was, in my judgment, a very enlightened piece of administration, and I would like to say, of two centres established in the part of the country from which I come, that they have done very admirable work. I agree with the hon. Member for Bow and Bromley that it is very difficult to say whose lot is most tragic with regard to the question of unemployment. There is the question of the older craftmen, who are faced with the possibility that they may never be employed in their craft again, but I agree with my hon. Friend that the most tragic case of all is that of those who are just leaving school and have no prospect of getting work.
I would like to address the Committee on behalf of those who, in a limited way, are availing themselves of the facilities of these recreational and educational centres. I am one of those who would have urged and believed that it would have been a matter of great national importance to have established and maintained, wherever there is unemployment, a far more comprehensive scheme of education than the comparatively small matter which I am discussing at the moment. There are in these recreation centres at the present time boys and girls from 14 to 18 years of age. Their lot is particularly serious and doubly hard, for this reason. These are the children who were in the primary schools during the war years. They suffered then owing to the disorganisation which occurred in most districts in our system of primary education. In many cases they were practically half-timers. They were sent from one school to another. They had that initial disadvantage, and now they have the awful fate of leaving school with nothing to go to but the street corner.
I speak with the greatest sympathy, and with some knowledge, of what these young persons are going through, because it so happened that I spent, for 10 years of my life, all the time which was not devoted to earning my living, amongst youths and girls of that age and of that order of occupation. I want to appeal to the Minister to keep in touch closely with these recreational centres. As I say, I know in my own district, from my own observation, that they are doing good work. I would appeal to him not to close them down, but rather to extend them, and widen the scope of their operations. It is true that the number of these young fellows and girls who are unemployed is less now than when these centres were instituted, but I do not think it is possible to believe that the need for these centres will have vanished by the 21st of July. The Minister said yesterday that these centres were established as a means of checking demoralisation during the winter months, but, from my knowledge of this problem, I should hesitate to say that unemployment is more demoralising in the winter than it is in the summer. My view is rather the opposite. We have the long hours of daylight in the summer, and the more time there is for idleness in the open the more demoralisation there is. It seems to me the problem is more serious in the summer than it is in the winter.
If these centres were abandoned, it would be very difficult indeed to reorganise them again. The local authorities have had very great difficulty in organising them, as it is. It has been very difficult to find suitable buildings for them, and it has been more difficult still to find people with the necessary qualifications to act as instructors. It is true there are teachers, but it is not every teacher who is capable of carrying on centres of this kind, and that is an additional argument for maintaining them. If they are abandoned at the date suggested, we will be adding these teacher's and instructors to the ranks of the unemployed. In conclusion, I would express the hope that the Minister will reconsider the reply which he gave yesterday, keep personally in touch with these centres, consult with the Board of Education to ascertain their views on this matter, and see that these centres are not only continued, but carried on on a broader basis.
I would have liked, first of all, to have uttered a word of congratulation from this side of the House, not to the present Minister of Labour, but to an ex-Minister of Labour. I would have liked to have congratulated the right hon. Member for Norwich (Mr. G. Roberts) on the way in which he has acquired the point of view, if not the accent, of Members on the other side of the House. I would have liked to have said a little to him about how much we on this side of the House appreciate the manner in which he is now fulfilling his new role in life. But I will turn aside from this dissertation to congratulate the present Minister on the way in which he has supplied us with an argument for the point of view which we have been expressing from time to time by his statement that the civil servant is so capable an individual, as capable as any of the individuals who are engaged in private enterprise. I only wish that hon. Members opposite, when they cheer the Minister in a condescending way when he congratulates civil servants, would remember how valuable those civil servants are when Members of this House are pointing out how superior private enterprise individuals are to those people in the service of the State. Yet, personally, I am disposed to think that among civil servants there are, just as there is in any other class of the community, good, bad, and indifferent individuals. Personally, I have had a good deal of trouble with the individual who is in control of the Exchange which has to do with the district I represent. I want to put before the Minister a question in this connection. I would like to know what exactly are the powers of a manager of an Exchange. If a rota committee comes to a certain decision in a case, has the manager the right to take that decision to another rota committee—not to the general local employment committee, but simply to another rota committee—and so on, until he gets a decision which he thinks ought to have been given by the rota committee?
Then I want to say a word in connection with those who have made claims for uncovenanted benefit, and who have been turned down as not genuinely seeking whole-time employment. While my experience is that there has been some improvement in the matter, I still desire to press upon the Minister the necessity for treating this in a very generous manner rather than the reverse. I am afraid that very often the point of view taken is that the individual has to be wiped off unless he can make it very definite that he has been genuinely seeking employment. I think this great Ministry of Labour is in a very large measure responsible for finding employment for the people who are unemployed, and I do not think that too great stress should be put upon the need of an individual supplying, say, documentary evidence. I have a case here in which an individual supplied to the committee more than half-a-dozen references from employers of his endeavour to secure employment, and yet he was turned down as not genuinely seeking whole-time employment. While Members of this House may congratulate the Minister of this great Department of State; while they may point out there are practically none to challenge the necessity for such a great Department of the State; while there have been those who have pointed to the way in which it has been administered so successfully, I want to look at the matter as far as possible from the point of view of the individual who goes to the Exchange—the individual who has been unemployed for a long time, who is disheartened and broken-spirited, and I want it to be realised that such an individual, when he comes before the committee, is not in a position to make out a strong case for himself.
I want the Minister of Labour to make it plain, in every Exchange throughout the country, that the officials and the Committee shall deal in a most generous way with these people. After all, these Acts of Parliament which are being administered are very complicated. I should not like to give very much for the percentage of marks that any ordinary hon. Member of this Committee would obtain in an examination in regard to them. The Minister ought to make a point of going over the percentages of the people who are having their claims rejected, so that he may be assured that there is a generous administration.
The case I have put before him to-day bears testimony to the fact that there is still a great deal wanting in this respect. I want to deal with another matter in connection with benefit. I have been asked to put this before the Committee to-day. In connection with certain work in Dairy, in Ayrshire, a cable company had engaged several men. The cable did not arrive in time, and the foreman sent the men home. Later in the day, the manager of the company arrived; the cable came; and he was very angry at the work being stopped. In his rage, he went to the Employment Exchange, and said that the men had left their work. Afterwards, he gave up that statement, but these men had to go from Dairy to Kilmarnock, a distance involving a railway fare of about half-a-crown, to attend the Court of Referees. They did not get their railway fare; there was no allowance for it. In the notice sent to the men, it was pointed out that
No expenses can be allowed in respect either of your own attendance at the Court, or of that of your representative.
The notice goes on:
Should it not be possible for any cause to commence the consideration of your case at that sitting, or to complete the consideration thereof if commenced, the case will be referred to a subsequent sitting, of which due notice will be given to you.
This case has been put before me by a man who, by the time he had to appear before the Court of Referees, had found employment. The result was that that man was not only put to the expense of the railway fare, but also to the loss of a day's wages, owing to his having to go from Dairy to Kilmarnock. I think the Minister should look into this matter; that there should be an allowance; and that those people, who can so ill-afford to lose anything, should have their expenses provided, or the loss made good, especially when their appeal is successful, as it was in this case. There is another
point in regard to it. This employer of labour, in a rage, went to the Employment Exchange, and was responsible for the benefit to these unemployed workmen being stopped. After five weeks' time, in spite of the fact that the Court of Referees decided in favour of the individuals, the benefit had not been paid to them. There is here a real weakness in the working and administration of these Acts. I put it to the right hon. Gentleman that no employer of labour should have such a hold over his employés as is evidently given to him at the present time as to be able to stop their benefit.
I think the hon. Member sent me the particular case in writing. At any rate, I asked him to do so. If he has, I will look into it. Of course, the general issue which he is now raising cannot be dealt with in that way—on his special case.
I intend to send it to the Minister, and I will raise the general issue. I think the individual concerned has no doubt that he will get his money ultimately; that is all right. He feels, however, that the position in which he has been placed is one in which many other individuals are placed, and that the general question should be dealt with. It is the general question into which I should like the Minister specially to look.
I want to refer to what has been said to-day about the provision that is being made for women who are unemployed. I do not think the Minister of Labour himself is contented with what is being done at present to make provision for the needs of unemployed women. I urge upon him the necessity for the provision of schemes which will give to those women some hope, and some assurance that the House of Commons is interested in their welfare, and is going to do something to make provision for their needs. In conclusion, I wish to say something with regard to the future policy of the Ministry of Labour, about which we have heard so much to-day, especially in connection with the subject of insurance by industry. I do not think the real solution of the unemployment problem in the future is to be found in any such way. After all, the solution is so to administer the affairs of the country that there will not be unemployment, and so to organise the community that unemployment will be impossible. I do not believe we shall get anything very good out of this suggestion of insurance by industry.
I do not think we shall arrive at any really great, human way of dealing with the problem along those lines. So long, however, as we have to have these schemes, and to have our State Department administering schemes on behalf of vast multitudes who are unemployed, we ought to be assured that in every home there is security and a certain measure of comfort. While there is insecurity; while there is not a real standard of comfort in those homes, it is useless to condemn talking about class war or class struggles, or to lay emphasis upon it. So long as there are these great disparities in the condition of the people, so long will there be this feeling of ill-will and resentment among the various members of the community. It is not individuals on this side who are responsible for preaching class war, or for the practice of class war. It is those who sit on the opposite benches who have got the power, and who have control of the land and the industries of the country. They are responsible for the practice of the class war and the class struggle, and for the preaching of it.
That is the natural outcome of the organisation of society for which they stand. When you think that a House of Commons can pass a measure that only allows 1s. a week for the child of an unemployed workman, it is absolutely non sense to say that we preach a class struggle, and to lecture us on the matter. It came ill from the right hon. Member for Norwich (Mr. G. Roberts), who tried to talk to us in such sugar-coated honeyed words—it comes ill from any hon Member, who is living in a measure of comfort himself, to talk about people on this side of the House being responsible for the doctrine of the class struggle. It is this "bob a week" business for the children of the unemployed that is responsible for these things. I say to the Minister of Labour that the matter which he ought to take into his most serious consideration at this time is not this business of insurance by industry, but whether he cannot make a more generous provision for the unemployed people and for their dependants, in order that there shall be comfort in the homes of the people.
There has been so much congratulation in the Committee in regard to this Ministry; there have been so many things said about our country giving a world lead in the matter of insurance against unemployment, that I want to put it to the Committee that perhaps there is not so much to boast about in connection with the lead we have given in this matter. I do not believe there is a country in the world to-day where the people are suffering greater privations and hardships than our country. In the constituency I represent there are things that make one's blood boil when one thinks of people having to endure such hardships. I appeal to the right hon. Gentleman to look into this problem of affording a more generous scale, and to wipe out this rotten "bob a week" idea for the children of the workers, believing that the children of the workers are of just as great value to the State as the children of the well-to-do. There is no man in the Committee who would, for a minute, think that anything very much could be done for the children on 1s. a week.
There is no difficulty in regard to the provision of the money. The Attorney-General told us last night that finance was not a difficulty. We have to get decent conditions for our people; a decent standard. I urge the right hon. Gentleman to regard this question from the point of view of the man who is out of work, rather than that of the business man, who says we ought to be very proud; or from that of the right hon. Gentleman for North-West Camberwell (Dr. Macnamara), who is so proud of his handiwork in this connection. I have tried to say a word for these children of the unemployed, and I hope the Minister of Labour is going to make a decent provision for them in the future.
I do not want to follow the hon. Member who has just spoken, except just to say that I think sometimes that hon. Members who sit opposite, and who, when they talk on unemployment, seem to put themselves forward as the only champions—