Orders of the Day — Unemployment Insurance.

– in the House of Commons on 9th March 1925.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Mr Arthur Hayday Mr Arthur Hayday , Nottingham West

I beg to move to leave out "£111,083,000," and to insert instead thereof "£111,082,900."

I wish to call attention to, and to criticise, the administration of the Labour Ministry. I hope, however, that my criticism will be directed in a proper spirit, and in the hope that the discussion on this matter will ultimately lead to the withdrawal of a. recent circular issued by the Labour Ministry, and which deals with certain aspects of that administration. Perhaps the right note to touch in a Debate of this sort would be just to quote a few lines from the speech of the Prime Minister delivered here on Friday. The right hon. Gentleman said: I always want to see, at the head of these organisations on both sides, men who have been right through the mill, and who themselves know exactly the points where the shoe pinches…"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 6th March, 1925: col. 837, Vol. 181.] What is required of a great Department like our Labour Ministry, dealing as it does with the great human industrial element that goes towards the general make-up of our nation, is a knowledge as to where the shoe pinches, a knowledge of the elements with which they are brought into touch. What is further needed is both head and heart and no prejudiced minds, nor too much severe application of that quality, in times of stress, such as, unfortunately, it has been the part of many in our industries with their depend- ants to face during the past 4½ years. I would further preface my remarks by calling the attention of this House to the magnitude of the responsibilities of the Labour Ministry. There are coming directly under the jurisdiction of the Ministry approximately 11½ millions of insured persons. Taking the dependants of that huge number, we find that the Labour Ministry is responsible for, and have under their charge, from two thirds to three-quarters of the entire population of Great. Britain. That is a huge responsibility, calling for all the ability, all the human sympathy and all the knowledge that are requisite for being completely equipped to administer the machine with an element of goodwill and understanding during times of industrial depression. Out of that 11,500,000 there are, at the moment, somewhere about 1,250,000 signing-on the registers; and, to my mind, there are somewhere about another 150,000 or more who are not counted or returnable as unemployed persons, because they have no longer registered because for some reason or another there is no purpose in their registering at the Employment Exchanges. Of that 1,250,000, about 250,000 are women, and as the women's side of this question is a very serious one, I wish to emphasise that point.

Perhaps the Minister or the Parliamentary Secretary, which ever may first reply, will be able to tell us the sum total of those directly affected as the result of unemployment—I mean the number of dependants, together with the direct signees. I have tried to estimate the number, and I believe there to be somewhere between 4,000,000 and 4,500,000 men, women and children who to-day are suffering the direct effects of unemployment. In the main the serious part falls to the lot of those who were unemployed in 1920. When the Act of 1920 was raced through and placed on the Statute Book, in view of indications of the commencement of a period of severe depression, one of the fundamentals was that those who had not been able to qualify for benefit by reason of lacking the necessary stamps on their cards were required to prove only that they had been employed for a certain number of weeks in a trade that had then become insurable. I am going to submit to the House that those who at that period were unemployed, and those who subsequently fell out of employment without being able to establish a stamped right benefit, are those who have suffered the longest, are those upon whose homes the more permanent impress of poverty has made itself felt; and that far from tightening up the administration so as to exclude those people from the rights of benefit, there ought to be increased human administration, in order to retain the right to benefit to a much larger extent now than in 1920.

Much trouble has been caused by one of the last circulars issued from the Ministry of Labour. I refer to Circular 82/13. This Circular, issued to Exchanges and to the local employment committees, says the Minister will not now use his right of waiver in certain classes of claims; that is, where there are no stamps to the credit of an applicant, there can be no question of entertaining his or her application unless there are— eight contributions since the beginning of the two insurance years preceding the benefit year, namely, 3rd July, 1922, or 30 contributions at any time. The circular precludes for the first time sympathetic consideration, it prevents rota committees entertaining claims or investigating them, and I am going to suggest that as the result of the circular being applied—that part of it—somewhere within the region of 25,000 to 30,000 persons, otherwise insured or in receipt of benefit, have been disqualified. Perhaps the figures of the Department might be submitted to us later; but in my estimate as the result of this circular, since 19th February in the present year, from 25,000 to 30,000 people have now ceased to be eligible for any unemployment benefit, by the Minister refusing now to waive the claims that would become permanent, I admit, on the 1st October of the present year; but in the interim the Minister had many powers in this particular direction.

I base the estimates I have made upon the figures of a typical Exchange. I take Nottingham as a typical Exchange, and, according to Press reports, the action of the circular there meant that 205 persons were refused benefit. If you make calculations for the country as a whole on the basis of that 205 in relation to the number signing on the registers at Notting- 4.0 P.M. ham, you will find that I have given an under-estimate when I mentioned 25,000 to 30,000, because the figure works out more in the region of 32,000. That, really, is a very serious state of affairs. The first alternative to it is application to he hoard of guardians, and the result of resorting to that alternative is that you again introduce a very pernicious system, because the measure of relief given is in accordance with the sympathies of the various boards of guardians, and where the distress is greatest the Poor Law authorities are poorest, already having a huge debt standing against them. Now you put further pressure upon those poor localities which are in such a state of mind and such a condition of things that, though it may be all right in an atmosphere away from all the deadliness of all this suffering, yet in these cases, to use a harsh word—a harsh word for me amounts to persecution. It puts me in mind of the dear old lady who was out one very cold and frosty day and had much sympathy for an old couple who had scarcely the fulness of the provisions of life to keep them bodily warm. She said to John, the coachman, "Remind me when we get home, I must send some blankets and food for those dear old people." But when the same old lady got in her drawing room in front of a splendid fire and had the most cherished dainties presented to her there was a change in her outlook. [Interruption.] I must not allow the hon. Member for Plymouth (Viscountess Astor) to divert me. Evidently she is very raw, very touchy, and very prejudiced, if I may say so, and perhaps understands a little more the atmospherics than I do. But the atmosphere had changed, and because it had changed to her the dear old lady thought that it had changed for everybody else. I think that is the position of the Minister of Labour.

There is one other point in this circular to which I would draw attention. A deputation of ex-service men waited upon me on Saturday last, and I am going to quote one or two cases. In paragraph 3 of your circular you put before the employment committees whether they ought not inquire to what extent a man receiving a pension—there is no limitation—for a disability is prevented by his disability from following certain classes of employment. If the disability for which he receives a pension handicaps him, the committee can exclude him from benefit. The case of an ex-service man in my own constituency was taken before the committee. His pension was 6d. per day. I do not know whether that man has been excluded from benefit, but paragraph 3 of the circular introduces a very dangerous precedent for Exchange committees to follow. Let me give one or two cases of disqualification that have recently taken place. This particularly applies to women, and I think we ought to have our minds a little refreshed as to the position of women in these insured trades. The Minister of Labour, in replying to a question, on Wednesday, 25th February, said that on 9th February, the number of girls under 18 years of age on the Employment Exchange registers and local education bureaux in Great Britain was 34,480, of whom those having current claims for benefit numbered 11,565.

I want to draw attention to the methods that are being adopted in order to exclude many of these young girls from the right. to benefit. One great shout that is going up from all quarters is, "Offer them domestic service, and, if they do not take it, strike them off." I will give a case. It is the case of a young woman employed in one works for 12 years. She signed on last October, and a month ago was suspended by the manageress for not taking domestic service for which she is entirely unfitted. She was asked to go to domestic service, and she said, "I am unfitted." "Never mind, you are suspended from benefit for refusal." The young woman went to see her panel doctor, and he certified that her health made her unsuited for domestic service. This young person had her benefit suspended for three weeks. I want those keen moralists and those who praise—and rightly so—the virtue of the womanhood of our country to realise what this means to a single young woman. Three weeks without a penny of income. She may be at home with her parents, but with a, womanly independence she does not want to sponge on her parents and take food from her younger brothers and sisters. If she be upon her own, there is no landlady who will excuse her three weeks' rent on the ground that she has nothing coming in. What is to become of these young women in those districts where there is a considerable amount of female labour such as Nottingham and Leicester What is to be the result of it all? If through your regulations you are harsh in your dealings with them, the country will pay a far greater penalty in the future from a lower standard of morality and citizenship than it can ever pay in some unemployment or out-of-work donation.

There is another thing. There are far too many employers who, if they were in direct league with the Ministry of Labour, could not work more effectively than apparently they do. Evidently, the Ministry of Labour is looked upon as a supplier of cheap labour. I will give the case of another young person. You can have the names if you like; both cases came from my own constituency, and have been the subject of investigation by himself. They are only typical of thousands of others in the country. This is the case of a young girl who had worked at two particular works for a long time. Her last employment was that of a needle-maker. She was sent by the manageress to a hosiery works. She said she did not think she would be suitable, because the work was altogether different from her own. After three days she stood off because she could not adapt herself. The wages standing to her credit for those three days amounted to 6d. She was suspended from benefit by the manageress of the Exchange on the ground that she had discharged herself, and had left of her own free will. I should not have much hope for a girl who had not pluck enough to refuse to become the slave of an employer at 6d. per day, and I say that, far from suspension, this young woman ought to have been continued in her unemployment benefit. I do not say that the Ministry of Labour or the Exchange are not misled by some of those applications, but they should not be too ready to lend themselves to Press stunts and to incitements to scrap the machinery and deprive all these people of the right to benefit when they are unemployed unless they happen to have a certain number of stamps standing to their credit.

There is one point that I must mention. I know that the Minister will say of the rota committees that splendid voluntary service is being given by men and women of all classes throughout the country. I know that he will say praiseworthy things of them. But if they are all that he says they are, why does he not withdraw this circular and give a right of waiver and sympathetic consideration to the local employment committees and not a right of veto even of rota committees' decisions to a manager or manageress of an Exchange or to a divisional inspector? Why not in cases of doubt requiring investigation go before a committee of those who are giving this voluntary service? Do not give them lip service from the Floor of the House of Commons, and, on the other hand, say, "We do not trust you, unless you follow strictly our circulars," or "We do not trust you, and therefore we are going to take away from you the right to consider certain of these cases." It does appear to me that much improvement should take place in that direction.

I would urge the withdrawal of the circular. I would also urge that we have no right to be so cruelly unjust. The amount of the deficit of the fund will have to be wiped off by the very people to whom now you refuse unemployment benefit. The very first two or three hours' employment they get in an insurable trade they will have compulsorily deducted their quota of contribution towards wiping off the deficit and rehabilitating the fund on a stable basis. Have you any right to be so unjust and to punish them? Have you any right to cause so much suspicion, the very moment when your own Prime Minister is calling for greater consideration in order that there shall be more give and take and less imposition from either one section or the other of the iron will that goes with power? You will admit up to eight stamps in two years and up to 30 stamps for four years and five or six months, but if a person has only six or four stamps, then the more unlucky that person is the more he or she must suffer. I would like the Minister to inquire how many of these men and women willing to go to work have been sent by the Exchanges into uninsured occupations and must, when they Dome back from those uninsured occupations, still be refused benefit, although they have shown their willingness to accept any kind of employment offered to them. I would like an inquiry made into the cause of this, because it is a class of case that ought to be considered. Those who have lived in the midst of bodies of these men and in constant touch with them cannot help feeling the effects rebounding on themselves. I know many really good men of high principle and character who have been disqualified on the ground that they have not been genuinely seeking employment. They are men who have worked at the blast furnace industry and mining, and I know such men cannot fit in with other classes of employment, and, even if they did, they would only be working to the exclusion of others.

Why do they sign on at the Employment Exchanges if it is not evidence of their willingness to find work? Why do you ask employers to go to those Employment Exchanges when they want to employ men? The physique of our race is being very much affected by this long period of distress. I have seen men almost afraid to go home and face their womenfolk and their children because, after their long heavy trudge, they have had to return quite worn out without bringing anything home for the family. When you start to fight the adult population through their children you are starting on a very dangerous policy, because men and women will fight for their off-springs more bitterly than they will fight for anything else. If you want men to continue to nurse a grievance and become morose, then you are doing it when you refuse a willing worker any source of income except. going to the guardians of the poor at a time when he sees his own children suffering, and in that condition he feels that society is waging war against him through his children, and that is the most cowardly thing of which a nation can be guilty.

Those are some of the reasons why I am urging upon the Minister of Labour the desirability of withdrawing this circular. I have many other cases in my possession. I have a list. of 42 such cases from the Dartford area who have been disqualified under various powers denoted in the circular. Some 37,687 have already been disqualified under certain other heads and refused benefit between 9th December, 1924 and 12th January, 1925, under a tightening up of the administration. That was under the old order of things, but if you add to that the effect of this circular hon. Members will see how important this question is growing. I am not going to suggest that the Ministry of Labour are trying to wipe as many off the live register as they can in order to make people believe that there is less unemployment than is actually the case. I do not suggest that they want to hide the facts, but I do know that the facts are not revealed in the figures as registered at the Employment Exchanges.

There are so many aspects of this question to be dealt with by other hon. Members that I will not trouble the House with other cases with which I had intended to deal. There is a strange atmosphere as to whether the circular of the 12th February is the only one which has been under consideration or actually sent out. We may hear during the discussion of another circular in which it is laid down that when a person is once disqualified he or she has no right to reclaim or have the case reheard for a period of six months. That is a question with which my hon. Friends will deal. We believe that this circular is the forerunner of something greater.

No doubt we shall be told that the Shaw Act makes provision to deal with these things, but I would like to point out that what is now termed the Shaw Act only retains the special features of the Shaw Bill, and there was no date for the termination of the Act in the original Bill. When the Measure was before Parliament two Amendments were moved, one from the Liberal side and the other from the Conservative Benches in order to limit the Act to October, 1925, and this was afterwards altered to 30th June, 1926, when all these special provisions will be wiped out entirely. Therefore, it should not be called the Shaw Act in that respect, because during the Committee stage the present President of the Board of Trade stated that one of the Amendments moved was to limit the duration of the Act. Another Amendment was moved by the hon. Member for Moseley (Mr. Hannon) to limit the provisions of Clause 1, Subsection (3), to uncovenanted benefit alone. Those two Amendments did not stand on all fours, and Mr. Masterman moved another Amendment to insert the words, "until the first day of October, 1925." That was a Liberal Amendment to kill the Bill altogether.

Photo of Mr John Jones Mr John Jones , West Ham Silvertown

They have been killed since.

Photo of Mr Arthur Hayday Mr Arthur Hayday , Nottingham West

The Amendment in the name of Mr. Masterman was varied to the 30th June. When people talk about the Shaw Act it should be remembered what was the intention of those who were in the majority in this House at the time, because in their view uncovenanted benefit should cease altogether on the 1st of October, 1925. If the abnormal period continues you will have to deal with the matter again in. October. Why are the Government now preparing the way for a sudden cutting off of benefit in October. Powerful though the Conservative party is in this House, it dare not at the commencement of the winter say, "We are going to limit the operation of the Act and make no special conditions for the coming winter if the condition of industry shows no improvement." The Government will be forced by public opinion to do something in this matter, and why create such an atmosphere of bitterness by commencing the pruning which is suggested in the circular.

I am afraid I have somewhat tried the patience of the House on this particular matter, but to my mind the magnitude of the operations of the Ministry of Labour, with all the difficulties arising from previous Ministries, is one of the great failings of our Parliamentary system. A Labour Minister occupies his position for a year, next year perhaps somebody else comes in, and the year after someone else, and so on. Consequently there is no continuity of policy, and for that reason I would never attach the slightest bit of blame to any permanent official because I know the different points of view and the different policies with which they have to cope. If it were possible to have a set policy and an understood continuity of certain well-defined principles it would be much better for us, and certainly much better for those whose interests the Department have set out to serve. I make a final appeal for the withdrawal of this circular, and I hope my appeal will not be made in vain.

Photo of Mr George Barker Mr George Barker , Abertillery

I beg to second the Amendment.

I am taking part in this Debate at the invitation of the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Labour. Last Tuesday I had a question down on the Paper with reference to the effects of this circular, and I want to say without any feeling or passion that I believe that this circular is one of the most inhuman documents that has ever been issued by any Government. It treats unemployment not as a misfortune but as being something like a criminal offence, and the longer the man or woman has been unemployed the more cruel is the effect of this circular. The date of the circular is the 12th February, and for some reason or other it is marked confidential. Why a circular of this character and of this importance should be issued and marked "confidential" is, in my opinion, suspicious to the very highest degree.

What is the effect of the Circular? It is that. anyone who has not made eight contributions within two years shall forfeit unemployment benefit and it will be stopped. It is common knowledge in this House that since 1921 there has been over 1,000,000 working men and women unemployed in this country. In the area in which I am particularly interested, seven collieries have been closed down, and nearly 4,000 men have been thrown out of employment. About 3,000 of those men have left the neighbourhood or found work in adjacent valleys, but there is a residue of about 500 that have not been able to find any employment whatever. This residue cannot compete in an open market, and cannot possibly compete in a market where there are 1,000,000 unemployed, because in many cases these men are from 50 to 60 years of age and upwards. Consequently, they are not able to find employment, and. therefore, they have not made these eight contributions. Now they have been unemployed for from three to four years, and this Circular sweeps down upon them and leaves them absolutely destitute. In the neighbourhood of which I am speaking, the board of guardians, for unemployment alone, have had to borrow £419,000. In Blaina and in Nantyglo there is over £70,000 of arrears of rates owing. What is the effect of this Circular upon that neighbourhood? It is to ruin the neighbourhood utterly. It will bankrupt the co-operative societies, it will destroy the small shopkeepers, and it will involve the entire neighbourhood in ruin.

The only alternative for these poor people, now that they find their employment benefit stopped, is to go to the guardians. I have received this morning a resolution from the Bedwellty Board of Guardians, and I understand that this resolution has been sent also to the Minister of Labour and to the Prime Minister. It points out the terrible position in which the guardians are at this moment, with this loan of £419,000 hanging upon their necks like a millstone. Last week the outdoor relief paid out amounted to nearly £4,000, showing an increase of £520 over the previous week as a result of this terrible Circular that has been issued by the Ministry. I want to say that in the interests of our common humanity this Circular should never have been issued, and it cannot be cancelled too soon. How is the board of guardians to deal with these cases? It is utterly impossible. I dread to think of the alternative that is put upon these men, women and children in these necessitous areas—the areas that are least able to cope with the distress that has been brought upon them. If this is to be the solution of the unemployment question by a Government that has a majority of 215, then we must despair utterly of ever dealing with it on humane and sensible lines.

I am not, however, going into the great question of finding a remedy for unemployment, but am going, in the few words that I have to say, to deal entirely with the effect of this Circular. This Circular was issued suddenly, without any warning. No inquiry was made as to whether those who were affected by the Circular had made any effort to obtain or not; nothing was done to ascertain whether they were genuine bona fide cases; but the Circular was issued, and it had a sweeping generalisation and applied to everyone who had been unfortunate enough to be unemployed for the period of two years. I say that the Circular has been very ill-conceived, and it has been issued at a time when distress in the country is at the very greatest point. There is no other area in the country that has had such a volume of unemployment as there: has has been in the Nantyglo, Blaina and Bedwellty area. I do hope, and I plead with the Minister with all the power that I have that, in the interests of these men, women and children, this Memorandum may be cancelled. If that cannot be done by Vadministrative Order, then the Ministry should come to this House and clothe themselves with legislative power so that they can do it. One thing is certain, and that is that, if this Circular is not modified or withdrawn, no one can foresee the consequences that will result to these men and women who are suffering from the effects of unemployment. I do not want to dwell upon the agony side of this subject; it is too awful to dwell upon. We have had plenty of evidence in the Press during the last three or' four years that there have been many cases of suicide brought about 'by the terrible sufferings that men and women have had to go through as a result of unemployment, and I ask the Ministry to stay their hands as far as this Circular is concerned—to cancel it, or come to the House of Commons and ask to be clothed with legislative power to deal with this matter, not in the way in which they are dealing with it, but in a way which will either relieve unemployment or ensure adequate maintenance to the victims of unemployment.

Photo of Sir Henry Betterton Sir Henry Betterton , Rushcliffe

It may be convenient if I intervene at an early stage in this discussion—which is bound to be a discussion of great interest and importance—because it is quite clear and inevitable, and desirable, that many questions should be asked and, perhaps, criticisms made. and to all those questions and criticisms my right hon. Friend will make a full reply later in the evening. The hon. Member for West Nottingham (Mr. Hayday) has initiated this discussion with all the force and with all the moderation which we have always associated with him in this House. He and I, I think, came into the House together, and I would say this, that there is no one in the House who knows more about the working of Unemployment Insurance than he does; and when he says that any Minister in charge of the Ministry of Labour needs the qualities which he described—the qualities of knowledge, sympathy, and the like—he is uttering what everyone will agree are sentiments of which we all approve. It has been obvious for some time, not merely from questions asked in the House and from supplementary questions asked afterwards, but from the many conversations which both my right hon. Friend and I have had, that there is a good deal of misapprehension as to what are the powers and what is the duty of the Minister of Labour. I hope and believe that this Debate will go some way towards clearing up those doubts.

The task a any Minister of Labour—and I am sure the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Preston (Mr. T. Shaw) will be with me in this—the task of any Minister of Labour at the present time is necessarily and always a difficult one. It is often a thankless one. But I can say this, that, at the many interviews which I have had, and which I welcome, I have found no reluctance in any part of the House to appreciate our difficulties, and no desire to minimise the task which lies before us. What is the position of the Minister of Labour in connection with Unemployment Insurance? The Minister of Labour is not, and cannot be, merely an autocratic dispenser of compassionate grants. That is not his position, and it never was and never can be. The Minister is the trustee for the administration of a scheme of contributory compulsory insurance, and, as such, he has all the obligations and all the responsibilities of a trustee. To whom is he responsible? He is responsible, first of all, to those who have contributed to the fund—and those who have contributed as to no less a sum than £18,000,000 a year are the insured persons themselves. They have a right to look to him, and they do look to him, to see that the money which they have contributed to the Insurance Fund is expended for the purpose for which it was contributed, namely, insurance.

Photo of Mr Arthur Hayday Mr Arthur Hayday , Nottingham West

I hope the hon. Gentleman will forgive me. for interrupting, and I promise him that I will not interrupt again, but was it not the fact that in 1921 the whole of the ex-service men, instead of being paid direct by the Government, were put on to the Unemployment Fund without contribution?

Photo of Sir Henry Betterton Sir Henry Betterton , Rushcliffe

Yes, I think that is so, but I do not think that alters, if I may say so, the relevance of the point I was making. May I, by way of parenthesis, and in answer to a point which the hon. Member for West Nottingham made, say at this stage, with regard to the state of the Fund itself, that the state of the Fund itself now is that it is in a deficiency of some £6,000,000 The deficiency was as low as just under £5,000,000, but it is now about £6,000,000. The deficiency is increasing by something like £100,000 a week, and the money that we Shall have ultimately, and, indeed, soon, to find, to meet the refunds to which the contributors are entitled under the last Act, will come to something like £3,000,000. I only mention these facts in order that the House at this early stage may see clearly what is the financial position.

Photo of Mr Joseph Batey Mr Joseph Batey , Spennymoor

Will the hon. Gentleman tell us what it was two years ago?

Photo of Sir Henry Betterton Sir Henry Betterton , Rushcliffe

It was much more two years ago. Speaking from memory, I think its highest point was something like £17,000,000 or £18,000,000. It may have been more; I am speaking entirely from memory. Let me ask the House to consider what is the further responsibility of my right hon. Friend. My right hon. Friend is responsible to this House; he is responsible to Parliament, for seeing—and this is very relevant—that the rules which Parliament itself has made, and which are embodied in the Act of 1924, and are, therefore, part of the law of the land, are observed. That Act, and the rules embodied in it, are just as binding on my right hon. Friend as they are upon any claimant upon the Fund, and I am sure that, as in much else, I shall have the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Preston with me when I say that they are not only binding upon him, but that it was the intention of those who framed and brought in the Act of last year that they should be. Over and over again the right hon.' Gentleman, on one occasion and another, said that he desired that the discretion of the Minister should be limited so far as possible, and that he should be bound by the Regulations which the Act itself contained. For instance, he said in the Debate in Committee: It seems to me that benefits should not depend in individual cases on the discretion of the Minister…. I prefer very much that the least possible discretion should be left to the Minister in the administration of insurance benefit, and that the greatest possible statutory right should be put down so that decisions may be given in a thoroughly judicial way. So the right hon Gentleman, both in the House and in Committee, made it clear that in his view those rules and Regulations which were to bind Ministers should be put in the Act itself.

If that be a correct statement, as I think it is, of the position of the Minister and his responsibility to Parliament, and if that is an accurate definition of his powers, I will apply myself to the point which was the main burden of the speech of the hon. Member for West Nottingham. It has been said with regard to this circular of 12th February that the Minister acted in a callous and arbitrary way, that he was unsympathetic to the troubles of the unemployed, and that his action deserves the reprobation of the House. May I examine exactly what the present position is and exactly what my right hon. Friend has done? Under the Act of 1924 it is one of the statutory conditions precedent to the grant of any benefit, either standard or extended, that the claimant shall prove that not fewer than 30 contributions have been paid since the beginning of the first of the two insurance years next before the beginning of the benefit year in which the application is made. There is a proviso that During the period between the commencement of this Act and the first day of October, 1925, a person shall be entitled to receive benefit if the Minister thinks fit so to direct in his case notwithstanding that the first statutory condition may not have been fulfilled in his case.'' That means that after 1st October next there is no power at all to waive that condition. [Interruption.] Does the right. hon. Gentleman make a request that we should alter the Act that he himself passed?

Photo of Sir Henry Betterton Sir Henry Betterton , Rushcliffe

I am reminded of what the right hon. Gentleman said during the discussion of last year. If it is really desired to have a revision of this Bill when it becomes an Act, I am prepared to accept the idea that at the end of three years the whole thing shall come under review, but to begin to do this next year, when the circumstances might not have changed, or to begin even the year after, might be too soon. As the Act stands, this provision becomes automatic, and the condition is peremptory after 1st October. The hon. Member for West Nottingham said this date of let October, beyond which there is no power of waiving the decision, was not in the original Bill as presented to Parliament, but was introduced by two amendments in Committee. In this he is mistaken. This date of 1st October was in the original Bill as presented, was unaltered during Committee and was part of the scheme on which the Act rested. The Amendment to which he referred, and with which I am very familiar, related to the limitation of the whole Act to June, 1926, and has no relevance to the point now under discussion.

May I now refer a little more precisely to the Order which has been the subject of so much criticism? The Order says: The Minister has now given further consideration to the question of waiver and has decided that a further variation in the conditions relating thereto is desirable. On and after Thursday, 19th February, 1925, therefore, the requirement that at least. 30 contributions should have been paid since the beginning of the two preceding Insurance Years will, for the time being, and except in the case of disabled ex-service men … be waived only in the case of applicants in respect of whom either (1) eight contributions have been paid since the beginning of the two Insurance Years preceding the Benefit Year … or (2) 30 contributions have been paid at any time. The alternative of 30 contributions at any time is very different from the proviso contained in the Act, that 30 contributions shall have been paid within the two previous years, and the alternative of 30 contributions was deliberately inserted by my right hon. Friend in order that it might to some extent meet the case of those men who had a good industrial record but who came perhaps into insurance many years ago, and owing to the recent depression have not been able to meet the requirement with regard to recent contributions. Now it is said that this is a Harsh action on the part of the Minister because it was made without warning. Supposing my right. hon. Friend had given no warning. Supposing ibis very stringent Section of the Act of 1924 had come with out warning into full operation on 1st October next, at the beginning of the winter, when Parliament was not sitting, and had affected a very large number of people. Would it not have been said at once, "Why did you not call our attention to it?" and it would have been said, of course, that my right hon. Friend was sheltering himself behind the ample form of his predecessor and had not brought his intention to their notice because he was afraid. My right hon. Friend has done what I think was not only a fair but also a courageous thing to do in bringing to the notice of the House now what the effect of this Section is, and what will be the result when it comes into operation.

But that is not the only consideration which I think has moved my right hon.

Friend. One of the considerations which moved him was that the time really now has arrived when we must ascertain, as a matter of arithmetic, to what extent persons who have done little or no work during the last two or three years, and have done not very much during a much longer period, are obtaining an advantage from the relatively easy conditions under which benefit is now obtained, because all persons are agreed that it is necessary to get a little nearer to the true basis of insurance that was contemplated by the Act of 1924—I mean, of course, the principle of relating benefit to contribution—and no one has put this point more clearly and with more emphasis than the late Minister. In the Debate last year he made this pronouncement, with which I entirely agree. No one who know s him would suggest for a moment that he is likely to repudiate in opposition statements which he made when he was bearing the full responsibility of office. This is what he said: The greatest harm that could possibly be done in regard to this fund is that it should be used for improper purposes and that men should make themselves pensioners on the Insurance Fund. If that occurs, then the workers themselves will smash up the scheme. I am sure the right hon. Gentleman will agree that if you attempt to solve the problem of those whom he called pensioners by placing them permanently on a contributory insurance fund, it will not be very long before you find that the whole system of contributory insurance becomes impossible.

Photo of Mr Edwin Scrymgeour Mr Edwin Scrymgeour , Dundee

Does this mean that the Department is suspicious that people are not seeking work, and, if so, is the Department offering them work, so that they can test whether it is true?

Photo of Sir Henry Betterton Sir Henry Betterton , Rushcliffe

No. The point I am raising is that this is a separate problem, and that you will not solve it by putting men, who have been described as pensioners, upon a contributory basis. It is clear that my right hon. Friend will necessarily have to consider very carefully what action must be taken between now and the beginning of October, when the full requirement comes into operation. But the conditions laid down arc very different from the full requirement which is contained in the Act itself.

A question was asked as to the number of those who come under the Order itself.

We have complete figures, so far as we can get them, up to the end of the first week after it came into operation. Figures later than that date, which bring us up to 26th February, are not yet available. So far as we can find, the net total which will be affected by this Order is something like 11,000 persons, which is less than 1 per cent. of those now on the register. When the hon. Member raises the point that it affects older men more harshly than young men, I may tell him that of the total number of persons who do not satisfy the new eight or 30 contributions rule, those of 60 and over number something like 2.230, while the largest class, those between 18 and 29, number 3,539.

5.0 P.M.

Photo of Mr John Jones Mr John Jones , West Ham Silvertown

Can the hon. Member tell us the number of the younger people who are married men with families? We have a thousand in West Ham who have come on relief since this circular was issued.

Photo of Sir Henry Betterton Sir Henry Betterton , Rushcliffe

I can give the first figures. With regard to the total of those who come under the Order, the married men are estimated at just under 8,000, and the single men 6,400. That brings the total up to 14,000 odd.

Photo of Miss Ellen Wilkinson Miss Ellen Wilkinson , Middlesbrough East

That does not add up to the 11,000 mentioned by the hon. Member.

Photo of Sir Henry Betterton Sir Henry Betterton , Rushcliffe

No. It adds up to about 14,000. But it is estimated that of this 14,000 odd, the balance will be disabled ex-service men who will not come under the Order.

Photo of Mr John Jones Mr John Jones , West Ham Silvertown

They will go to the guardians to make up the difference.

Photo of Sir Henry Betterton Sir Henry Betterton , Rushcliffe

With regard to the older men, nobody appreciates the seriousness and the difficulty of their position more than my right hon. Friend. It is said, and said with truth, that these older men present a different, and in some ways a more difficult problem. Hon. Members are entitled to ask, and we are all entitled to ask, whether men who have had long service in industrial life are, at the age of 60 or 65, to be told that they do not come under the Unemployment Insurance Act. Hon. Members are entitled to ask what we are going to do in regard to them. Our view is, that the question of these older men cannot indefinitely rest where it is at the present time. We have to deal with them by some new method, and a method perhaps of insurance, if not insurance under this Act. I think it is clear from what has been said in this House already, and it is also clear from the King's Speech at the beginning of this Parliament, that that aspect of the problem is now under the most serious consideration of the Government.

Photo of Mr Richard Wallhead Mr Richard Wallhead , Merthyr Tydfil Merthyr

When are you going to introduce a Bill?

Photo of Sir Henry Betterton Sir Henry Betterton , Rushcliffe

It is sometimes said that in a Debate of this kind too much time is taken up by speakers from the two Front Benches. This is, pre-eminently, a Debate where as much time as possible should be at the service of Members on the Back Benches on both sides, and for that reason I am reluctant to take up more time, particularly as my right hon. Friend will answer in full at the end of the Debate. I am certain that this discussion will disclose the fact that while my right hon. Friend is not unmindful of the responsibilities which Parliament has placed upon him, he is also very sensible of the difficulties and, in some respects, the tragedy of the difficulties which confront him. I will not take up any further time. I do not think there is any specific question put to me by hon. Members to which I have not replied. I have the figures for which the hon. Member for Nottingham West (Mr. Hayday) asks, but I do not know whether he wishes them to be given in Debate. Perhaps he would prefer that. I should give them to him personally.

Photo of Mr George Barker Mr George Barker , Abertillery

Why is the circular confidential?

Photo of Sir Henry Betterton Sir Henry Betterton , Rushcliffe

I have not the slightest intention of treating the circular as confidential. There is nothing confidential about it. The circular is in the Library of the House and it is available to any hon. Member who cares to ask for it. Circulars were addressed to committees, and for some reason they were marked as confidential. But there is no object in their being regarded as confidential.

Photo of Mr George Lansbury Mr George Lansbury , Poplar Bow and Bromley

Everyone will acquit both the Ministers of being any more hardhearted than the rest of us. I do not think that consideration affects the question. The point is, that we are face to face with another crisis in the administration of this Act, and no amount of compliments between ourselves will get over that fact. We may call one another decent or indecent, but that does not get rid of the cold, brutal fact that under the administration of the Unemployment Insurance Act at this moment thousands of men arc being unjustly penalised. It is to that fact that we have to direct attention.

I join issue with the Parliamentary Secretary as to the basis of this Act. I do not mind even if he brings the whole of the Front Opposition Bench in evidence against me; I deny altogether that this Act can be looked upon in the same light as a capitalist insurance society organisation, which is run purely for insurance against material damage and so on. This Act was brought in in order to deal with a special problem. When that problem became very acute, immediately after the War, it was dealt with as no insurance company could have dealt with it—not so much to preserve the lives of the men and their families, but, as Lord Derby told us a week or two ago, in order to prevent revolution.

The noble lord, in speaking in the country urging that the thing that is now being done should be done, and that the processes should be tightened up, said that the danger of revolution had now passed and that, therefore, this was a most opportune time for cutting down what he was pleased to call the dole. That. statement quite truthfully put the position. The Minister has had to acknowledge that in 1920 they took in the whole of the ex-service men, and they did it because, had they not done it—the payments were heavier then than now—they were not quite sure that the ex-service men might not have turned their guns in a direction which they did not want them to do. [Interruption.] It is admitted.

Viscountess ASTOR indicated dissent.

Photo of Mr George Lansbury Mr George Lansbury , Poplar Bow and Bromley

The hon. Member for the Sutton Division of Plymouth shakes her head very vigorously, but I would remind her that the Noble Lord who is known by the name of Stanley, the Earl of Derby, has told us this, and he has been a member of the Government, and be ought to know very much better than she does. It is no use attempting to get away from it.

Viscountess ASTOR:

Did the Noble Lord say that the ex-service men would turn their guns?

Photo of Mr George Lansbury Mr George Lansbury , Poplar Bow and Bromley

He said there might have been a revolution. When there is a revolution, the men generally turn their guns in a direction you do not want them to do. That is the statement I make, and I adhere to that statement.

Viscountess ASTOR:

The noble Lord did not say that.

Photo of Mr George Lansbury Mr George Lansbury , Poplar Bow and Bromley

I adhere to the statement that the Government made an alteration in the Unemployment Insurance Act in 1920, not so much because they cared for the material well-being of the men and their dependants, but in order to stave off the danger of revolution. I am fortified in that view by the statement of ex-Prime Ministers, and by the statement of the Earl of Derby. Supposing I give the Government in 1920 credit for all the good intention that anybody in the House might wish them to get, I say that the position that a couple of million men and their dependants are in to-day is just as important a matter as it was in 1920. You have no right, because of the crisis just at the close of the War, to do a certain thing, and then refuse to do it when you think that a certain danger is passed.

The men and their dependants who are now being thrown off, not to the number that the Minister has just. stated but to the number of 100,000 since last August, have been turned off for various reasons. I had the figures given to me the other day. These men are being thrown off, in my opinion, and in the opinion of my friends, solely because you are determined now to get rid of the national responsibility to these men, and to force them back upon the guardians. You are coming to the time when you are talking of the deserving and the underserving unemployed. That is a most pernicious definition of unemployment. I have had some experience of unemployment. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"] Certainly I have. I have had experience of involuntary unemployment; others are unemployed all their lives.

Photo of Mr John Jones Mr John Jones , West Ham Silvertown

Some of them sit on the benches opposite.

Photo of Mr George Lansbury Mr George Lansbury , Poplar Bow and Bromley

Whether we have personal experience or not, it is true that in the last 30 years we have been trying to deal with the problem of unemployment. Previous to the War, the words "deserving and undeserving, won't-works and work-shys" were quite common expressions, but you dared not use those words immediately after the War. Those words are coming into vogue now. Because men, and sometimes women, have been out of work for two or three years, they are looked upon as people who do not try to get work. There are multitudes of men who are in that position through no fault of their own. Even if some people are work-shy they do not belong entirely to the poorer classes of the community. You find the well-to-do loafer and the well-to-do tramp. The well-to-do tramp careers from one end of the world to the other, shooting big game here, yachting there, and generally having a very good time, and often ending up in one of the Law Courts. The ordinary casual who goes tramping from one casual ward to another has generally been created by social conditions exactly in the same way as the well-to-do tramps are created by social conditions.

The men who to-day are being dubbed as persons who are undeserving and work-shy, even if they are undeserving and work-shy, they are, many of them, the result of the years of neglect through which we have been passing since the close of the War. Many of the people who have been knocked off the benefit list, under the terms of this circular, ought not to have been knocked off. We admit that the Regulations are in the Act. You need not try to escape by saying that they are in the Act. We know they are in the Act, and we want to get them out. Large numbers of the young men who are affected have never had any chance. "The provision as to 30 stamps gives the ordinary workman a chance, but there wire crowds of young men, whom you took into the Army at the age of 18 and turned out when the War was over, who have never had a chance to get a start at all. "Many of them were apprentices when you took them in. The result is that you now have these men on your hands and you do not, and none of us do at the moment do know what to do with them, but keep them alive.

Then there is the case of the man who has passed middle life and is not likely to get employment in an insurable industry. I do not know how those Clauses ever got through the Committee upstairs. I think that more barbarous Clauses never were invented, because as soon as a man reaches 45 or 50 years of age, when a large number of young men are out of work, any impartial committee must decide that he will not have much chance of getting a job. Therefore, you are penalising the young man and the middle-aged man by these Regulations. The right hon. Gentleman says that he must administer the law. Of course he must, but when you have a bad law the thing is to repeal that law, and put something better in its place. It may be, as he says, only a year old, but if experience proves that it is a tremendous hardship his business is to alter it. That is what has been done every year for the last four years. You have amended the Act year after year, and that is no argument against our amending it this year again.

With regard to the manner in which a man is decided not to be genuinely seeking work, you have the system of trying to send a man from one end of the country to another. I do not believe that there is a case in which a man is even called upon to go, say, from Poplar to Birmingham, or Newcastle, for a job, in which it has not been found possible to get on the spot a, similar man for the job, and all that is done is, that you put up to a man the proposition, "There is a job for you at the end of the earth, and if you do not go you will be knocked off the list." That is an abomination which ought not to be done.

Photo of Mr Arthur Steel-Maitland Mr Arthur Steel-Maitland , Birmingham Erdington

As the hon. Member knows the rule is that a man should be offered work as near as possible to his home.

Photo of Mr George Lansbury Mr George Lansbury , Poplar Bow and Bromley

That does not alter the. fact, and the right hon. Gentleman cannot contradict it, that men are sent after work 100 and 150 miles from their homes, and offered such wages that a man cannot possibly keep two homes going on them. Very few hon. Members could keep two homes going on the salary which they get here, and, certainly, on the wages offered to the ordinary workman they could not keep up even one home. Yet that is given as evidence that a man is not genuinely seeking work. Another thing happens. A man goes round and round the works seeking for employment, and evidence is actually given from the employers in the district that he has been going round, and then he is turned down by the committee. That cannot be denied by the right hon. Gentleman. There is a general tightening up for the purpose of getting this fund on to an insurance basis. I object altogether to this being looked upon as an ordinary insurance concern, for the very reason that you have not done so until now. You have used it to meet the different crises that have arisen. One has arisen now, and you ought to take the same kind of step that you did when the War started. Instead of trying to make the public believe that you are getting the money part of the insurance scheme solvent in an ordinary way by penalising the men, you ought frankly to acknowledge that for the present period of abnormal unemployment the State must find more money, and for this reason, that if you do not find it then the localities must find it.

In England, Wales and Scotland people are not allowed to starve. One of the reasons you never will have a violent revolution in this country is because by hook or crook people are fed. But now the burden has become too great for the localities to bear. There is not a single locality from John o' Groats to Land's End where unemployment is acute that is not bankrupt, and can possibly pay its way, and instead of trying to tighten up the scheme you ought to do what you have been doing each year since the War. You ought to find more money from the State. Unemployment is not a local problem. We in Poplar are not responsible for the unemployment in our district. The people in West Ham are not responsible for theirs. It is a national concern, and the nation ought to deal with it. If you say that it is only a year since these regulations were made statutory, and that they ought to be given a trial, may I point out that from August to 31st December considerably over 150,000 men have been knocked off. Since you issued your circular in two or three weeks somewhere between 11,000 and 14,000 people have been knocked off, and every week more and more are being knocked off. You may get up and throw figures about, but every one of us knows that in his district the poor relief is increasing, and the reason is that the people are being knocked off at the Employment Exchanges. The right hon. Gentleman has admitted that on 1st October next considerable numbers will come off. We say that instead of waiting for those increased numbers to be thrown on the guardians the Government ought to bring in a short one-Clause Measure enabling the fund, with the assistance of State money, to carry on.

Now one or two words on another question. All of us want work rather than money for nothing. None, of us want to proceed on the assumption that money for nothing is better than money for work, and I cannot understand why this House will not try to do something at least, for the young men rather than go on paying them money for nothing. I think that it would be easy if we had the will to do it, and I believe that we should not spend much more money on it than we are spending now, and I think that we should save the moral of these young men if we determined to take them into the country on settlements and at least try to teach them how to live there in an ordinary way. I cannot understand how any man or woman here can face the wholesale demoralisation that is going on day by day among the young men of from 18 to 25 years of age. To me it is the most heart-breaking experience of the whole of this unemployment problem, and I appeal to the right hon. Gentleman to see whether it is not possible in his Department, with the assistance of the Ministry of Health and the Department of Agriculture, to try to discover some way of taking these men away from the present position.

Probably I shall he very much abused for saying what. I am about to say, but for my part I would stop giving any young man between the ages which I have mentioned a farthing for doing nothing, right away, and, unless he cared to come and earn under decent conditions some money, either in the countryside or somewhere else, he could starve. Personally, I think that you are ruining the whole character of tens of thousands of our young people. I think that under any state of society—socialist, capitalist, or anything else—to lead people, to whatever class they belong, to believe that they should live without doing work is a great crime against the individual and against society. At present you are spending this money and just enabling these people to keep alive. Miles of the land of England are going out of cultivation, and at the same time abundance of young men have their lives ruined with no chance of earning for themselves. That is the position which this House ought long ago to have tackled. [Interruption.] They are afraid that I am saying that they should go and earn money for the capitalists. The whole point is this, that if a capitalist offers work at this moment and a man refuses to go and do it, we are all agreed that, if the wages are fair, he should not have unemployment pay. I shall go on saying it, and I have said it to the unemployed themselves, that I want the young men especially taken out of the wretched, miserable system of living on the dole, and I want them given honest, decent work, which I believe could be obtained for them on the land, in decent conditions and at decent wages. I hope that that is clear. It is a difficult problem to deal with, and it is easy to theorise about it, but anyone can see, in any industrial centre, the wholesale demoralisation that is going on, and, whatever the future of England may be, and whatever system is in operation, it is a bad thing to have young people growing up under that system of dole.

We talked a great lot last year about children between the ages of 14 and 16. Is it impossible with all the goodwill which exists on the opposite benches just now to bring in a short Bill to raise the school age and to give maintenance for these children? Do not let there be any misunderstanding about this. You cannot raise the school age unless you give the mothers the means of maintaining the children. But even that would be cheap if you prevented children being chucked into the factories and so displacing older children, and when they themselves get a little older being obliged to go into the streets again. I cannot understand how it is that right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite will not join with us now that their party is so powerful—join with us who want to get this thing done and help us to do it. You rob the children once of their childhood, of the chances of childhood, and that never comes back again. Any hon. Members who come from industrial centres know that it is true. From the ages of 14 to 16 multitudes of them can get work; from 16 years onward they are chucked out.

Let hon. Members make a start and say, "We will take these out of the labour market altogether and deal with them by allowing them to continue at school, and we will see that their parents have sufficient money to maintain them." You cannot expect the mother whose income is quite tiny not to want to get her child to work at the earliest possible moment. Most of the women, if not all of them, would be only too glad if their children were kept at school and sufficient was allowed for their maintenance. Much more might be said on this subject. I hope we shall not b told that 1st October must come and that what this House did last year must be continued. I hope that the Minister will bring in a short Bill to remedy the evils of which I have spoken, and that he will be willing to join with the Minister of Education in taking these little children out of the labour market and giving them a fair and square chance.

Photo of Major Hon. Sir Edward Cadogan Major Hon. Sir Edward Cadogan , Finchley

I, for one, would have been very disappointed if the hon. Member for Bow and Bromley (Mr. Lansbury) had omitted to make his usual appeal on behalf of the youth of the country. We have come to regard him as the champion of the youth of the country. I think it was in the course of the Debate on the Address that he delivered himself of a speech which created a very favourable impression on this side of the House. If he will allow me to say so, that speech was made in rather a better spirit than was his speech to-day. The hon. Member always interests us on this side of the House, though he does not always convince us. On the subject of juvenile unemployment he has preached often enough to at least one on this side who has long since been converted, although I am not prepared to go the length that he is prepared to go for the time being. In discussing this subject of juvenile employment, which is one of the most important subjects that can be discussed, I am faced with a dilemma. If I address my case to the Minister of Labour I have to leave some of it unstated, for half of it obviously concerns the responsibilities of the Minister of Education. If I postpone the remarks which I wish to make to an occasion when the subject, of education is before the House, I might not be so successful in catching Mr. Speaker's eye. In fact, the present composition of the House of Commons leads me to infer that there are so many new Members still straining at the leash of maidenhood, if I may so put it, that it is very unlikely that older Members would be given a second opportunity of joining in the chase on the same subject.

So, Mr. Speaker, I will trade upon your indulgence until it reaches the breaking point on this occasion. I would like to impress on the House that the amount of work is not such an urgent question as the quality of the work available for the youth of the country. It is easier nowadays than it was a year or two ago to provide work of some description for young men and women, but the difficulty is that it is of a valueless description. I do not want to exaggerate. The difficulty is to estimate the extent of this evil. School attendance ends at the age of 14, and the unemployment records do not include any youths under the age of 16, so that between the two ages we have not sufficient data to enable us to construct an argument. But there is one fact which stands out in bold relief, and that is that a large proportion of the situations that these young people obtain are temporary, they are of an unskilled character and valueless in themselves. Those who get these blind-alley situations, although employed to-day, are the unemployed of to-morrow. And they are the worst type of unemployed, for this reason—that they pass through the critical period of their life, between the ages of 14 and 18 years, without getting the instruction which would adequately equip them for life's struggle. The whole problem, of course is inextricably interwoven with the needs of education, and particularly with the needs of vocational instruction. That period between 14 and 18 years of age is the period in the boy's or girl's life which is most appropriate to that kind of instruction.

I have always thought that it is a preposterous anomaiy that youths who have been convicted of serious offences should have a better education under our institutional system, should be more sheltered in the most vulnuerable period of their existence, should have better vocational instruction and be given much greater assistance when they leave these institutions, than those youths who keep within the paths of strict virtue. The cure of this anomaly is, of course, not for the State to give less help to the delinquent, but to evince a rather more generous solicitude for those youths who have fought a clean fight in the battle of life. In existing conditions it seems that the youth who leaves school at the age of 14 is neither the concern of the State nor of the employer of labour. Reluctantly I set aside the raising of the school-leaving age. I understand that, the majority of the local education authorities are ranged against this as a solution for the present. But I do put in a most earnest plea for a far better organisation of the labour market in this respect. There should be a far more adequate co-ordination between parents, teachers and employers. There should be better vocational instruction. I know all the arguments against specialisation. I Lave studied Sir William Beveridge's scheme, which he refers to as "adaptability"—making the youth adaptable; if he fails in one line of work he should be equally fitted to another. I know all these arguments and I am weary of them. I am heretic enough to believe that there is a certain amount of vocational instruction which is quite as capable of reinforcing character as a knowledge of the Classics.

In any case I feel that this vocational instruction would give you some. idea of the aptitude or bent of the youth before he leaves school, and, conducted in conformity with vocational guidance, should be of some value. What I mean by vocational guidance is having recourse to some such expedient. as the school-leaving class, instructing youth in the conditions and prospects of the labour market. Then, having found out his aptitude and having given him advice connected therewith, he would be more capable of choosing work which would be appropriate to himself when he leaves school. That is where his difficulty begins. I would like to make a return to the old mediaeval system of apprenticeship, which was quite dissimilar to the present system, but had much to commend it. Owing to the exigencies of the present industrial and social system it is really waste of time for the House to discuss that. I suggest that when a youth leaves school there should be a registration of school-leavers, and, as a necessary corollary, that all engagements and discharges by employers of labour should also be notified. This would be of not much value unless it was worked in connection with very much more careful supervision of youth up to the age of 18 than we have now.

I need not press on the Minister of Labour the necessity for this supervision. It should ensure that a youth on leaving school would not only get work, but the right kind of work, and the responsibility should rest jointly on the Minister of Labour and the Minister of Education. If such joint responsibility were to act detrimentally, I would suggest that it should rest entirely on the Minister of Education. But there should be a complete system of supervision of youths in work between the age of 14 and 18. I think that the large army of welfare workers might well he mobilised for this purpose. Then, of course, there should be the most careful supervision of all those who are out of employment. With respect to the youth who leaves school and cannot at once get employment there should be a much more elastic system of school-leaving dates which, in existing circumstances, do not always fit in with seasonal trade cycles. This might solve the problem of some youths leaving school. hut with the great body of unemployed youths the problem is a larger one than that, and is not so easy to solve. T understand that there are two alternatives before the Minister now. One the day continuation school and the other the development of unemployment centres. I understand that the latter alternative has been chosen, because it is considered less dislocating for industry. You take your youth from the Employment Exchange and put. him in the an-employment centre, and when a situation falls vacant it is at once given to him, whereas at the continuation schools he would have to go through a definite period of instruction. I agree, therefore, with the Government that the better alternative is the unemployment centre until the whole educational system is reviewed.

But I do not regard that as a final solution of the difficulty. It certainly does not solve the problem of blind-alley occupations. On that subject I venture to express an opinion which I know is not shared by one or two competent authorities who believe that the great majority of those adopting blind-alley vocations are absorbed into the industries of which the blind alleys are excrescences. I think that view is not expressed in the Majority Report. of the Poor Law Commission and, from my study of the problem in the East End of London, I should say that exactly the reverse is the case. I think the first necessity in dealing with this question is a better organisation of the labour market and an adjustment of supply and demand. The question is largely one of mal-adjustment. I do not wish to labour the point, but I have no desire to leave out of account the question of making a knowledge of emigration within the Empire available in all places where it may be useful. I should like to tell hon. Members opposite that I am under no illusions on that subject. I know it is not a solution of the unemployment problem for one good reason, namely, that the youth who has the prevision and the enterprise to go overseas and the grit to make good when he gets there is the youth who finds no difficulty in getting work here. He is the sort of youth whom any employer would be only too glad to employ. I am in touch with these matters and I know the type of youth concerned perfectly well, and, in the great majority of cases, the type who is unemployed to-day would probably not he qualified to emigrate. That is the difficulty of emigration.

I have not time to elaborate the few suggestions I have made, but I should like, for a brief space, to address myself to one or two cogent objections which may be advanced from these benches to the schemes I have adumbrated. The first objection—and it is one that we cannot minimise or ignore—is that in all schemes of reform on this particular subject there is a tendency for the State to usurp the functions of the parent. My answer to that objection is that under existing conditions of bad trade. bad housing and indifferent education it is inevitable that the State should supplement parental control. How can we possibly expect parents who find it difficult to keep the home together to resist the temptation of allowing children to adopt blind-alley vocations. There are noble exceptions; there are parents who withstand the temptation. I know one case of a youth, aged about 17, in the East End of London, whose parents are almost indigent, and yet they scrape together by hook or crook £1 per term to keep this youth at a technical institute. That is heroism. Those parents have the prudence and the foresight to sacrifice their present needs to the boy's future, but such cases are exceptional, and even where they occur the State should be prepared to supply the deficiency. We can only hope that in the next generation the parents will be better educated than their forbears, and that trade will be better and that these two circumstances in conjunction will result in parents making better moral and physical provision for their children and putting them into occupations more permanent and more suitable.

The second objection is one which will be raised to every scheme of reform in this House and it is the financial objection. Even if there were a financial loss I hold that the youth of the country is just as much an essential service as the Navy or the Army. I do not anticipate any loss, hut even if there were a loss I regard money spent in subsidising youth—if I may put it in that way—as an investment which will be rich in interest. To put the argument on its lowest level, surely youth in good employment is a better investment for the State than the prison, the workhouse, or the dole. I do not, however, wish to leave it on the lowest plane. I should prefer to put it higher, and I think we should not object to the Government spending money in this way if it is for the benefit of the rising generation. We have splendid material on which to work. It has often perplexed me how those who are brought up under the most appalling conditions badly housed, badly nourished, and indifferently educated should be able to render such an extraordinarily good account of themselves. I do not know whether adversity doth hest discover virtue, or whether it is that self-reliance—and God knows those born in such circumstances need self-reliance— strengthens the moral fibre, but I can say without hesitation that often enough they set an example which those born in better circumstances might well follow. I have dealt at some length with this subject because I think it is of grave importance and because I have personal experience in these matters. I concede at once to hon. Members opposite that my knowledge is only empirical whereas I know that in many cases hon. Members on that side have knowledge which is the fruit of bitter personal experience. My knowledge, however, is sufficient to cause me to make an appeal to the Government to fulfil their pledge that the youth of this country should not be neglected. Our history in this connection is not a particularly good one. A great historian, John Richard Green, expressed the view that the social history of this country was of far greater moment than that which deals with war and conquest and, for that reason, he devoted much more attention to the woes and miseries which inspired the verse of William Longland than to the glories of Cressy and Agincourt. I humbly say that I should be disposed to accept that view and, if we all accept that view, when we scan the pages of English history, great and glorious as they may be in achievement, we shall turn with horror and loathing from the chapters which deal with the ill-treatment of youth in the Satanic mills of the early Victorian period. That sombre chapter of history has closed, but there are many pages which have yet to be filled in before we can sit down and feel satisfied that we have treated the youth of this country as it should be treated. We desire to see the State and the employer combining in their solicitude for the welfare of youth. We had an example in recent history of how youth of this country responded to the call of duty in a manner which is not paralleled. If you enlist our youth to fight the battles of peace in the same way as you ask them to fight the battles in wartime, you would elicit that same ambition to fulfil ideals which was found in the day of the nation's peril. I fear I have detained the House too long, but this is a subject which is near my heart and which is of extreme importance and I make no apology for bringing it forward—except to apologise for the inadequacy of my treatment of it. If in this House T can be of any service to my younger fellow-countrymen I shall feel that my constituents have not sent me here in vain.

Photo of Mr Thomas Fenby Mr Thomas Fenby , Bradford East

I crave the indulgence of the House on rising to address it for the first time on a question which I think the majority of hon. Members regard as the most acute we have in this country to-day. I think all Members of this House and the whole country were delighted with the speech and the spirit of the speech delivered by the Prime Minister on Friday. The essence of the right hon. Gentleman's appeal was that we should have co-operation in industry in order to prevent chaos. We have to-day received from the hon. Gentleman who represents the Ministry of Labour a most important statement on the policy which the Government intend to follow with regard to aged workers in industry. I think it was in the King's Speech or in the Prime Minister's manifesto that reference was made to the payment of old age pensions at an earlier age and to a substantially larger amount. I am informed that there are as many men over 65 years of age in industry to-day as there are people under 30 years of age unemployed, and, if that be so, I suggest that if the Government can by some contributory scheme institute pensions payable at the age of 65 of an adequate amount, whereby the worker of 65 or over can feel he has not merely a scanty pittance but something to keep him and his in comfort, we might then expect such men to retire from active participation in industry and make way for younger men who are now on the unemployed register.

I fear we have come to regard the unemployment question as one which we are to take as a matter of course. We have not heard or read in the Press so much about unemployment as we did some six months ago, but I think if we look into the figures we must realise that the position instead of getting better is getting worse. The figures for the last week in February show a larger number on the unemployed register than the corresponding figures in 1924. Another significant circumstance which does not give one much hope even when people say the position is improving is that the figures at the end of last June compared with the figures at the end of February show—so I am informed—that there are something like 225,000 more on the unemployed register at the end of February, 1925, than there were at the end of June, 1924. It may be that these figures are subject to argument, but even if there is no such increase and if the figures only remain the same, we have here a condition of things that we should not in any circumstances regard as natural or habitual in the industrial life of the country. We have a right to recognise that this country has done something to provide employment.

6.0 P.M.

When we come to consider the burdens that have to be borne, and that have been carried, and that prior to the War, if my information is correct, we had something like 15,000,000 operatives in this country, whereas to-day we have something like 16,250,000, it will be seen that we have been enabled to find work for the normal number of operatives that we had before the War, but there is this surplus now to be dealt with. It has always seemed to me a very peculiar thing that, while we had a Government Department charged with the specific duty, if work was found, of providing the people to do it, we have never had a Government Department charged with the specific duty of providing work for the workless. That has always seemed to me to be an anomaly, and if it were possible, I should like something done in that direction, because, if we consider the position of our country, so far as its development is concerned, we find that we are by no means up to the standard of efficiency that we might be.

I would like to address myself to the rural side of the question. In the rural areas, with the agricultural worker, we have, unfortunately, no scheme of unemployment insurance, and we certainly ought to have. It may be necessary to have, it on other lines, and on different contributions, from those in urban areas, but if the rural worker is unemployed, he has now two alternatives—either the Poor Law or the town—and, of course, he generally takes the town in preference to the Poor Law. He is therefore bringing increased pressure in regard to housing and employment on the urban worker, and this we ought to prevent, if possible. I was very much struck by an answer given by the Minister of Agriculture, in replying to a question last week, in which the right hon. Gentleman stated that the total number of unsatisfied applicants for small holdings was about 17,000. On looking up another Government publication, I found that the area of arable land had declined during the last year something over 200,000 acres, and that the acreage of land under arable cultivation in this country to-day is less than it has ever been before. Yet here we had, on the Floor of this House last week, evidence from a Government Department of the tremendous amount of land hunger there is in this country. That ought to be met.

People turn round and say that small holdings are not economic, but I think the facts do not bear that out. If you get the figures from the West Riding of Yorkshire County Council, you will find that they have an annual rent roll from their small holdings of something like £27,000, and that the amount of outstanding rents is not more than 2 per cent.; and you can go to other sections of rural England and find similar conditions, and it may be that you have the same thing in Scotland. I would like to plead that we do something to make the rural worker, who is deprived of unemployment insurance benefit, contented, and give him some opportunity of following his occupation on the land for himself. The Minister of Agriculture, speaking the other day, said he hoped in a short time to introduce something in regard to the provision of small holdings. May I make the appeal that the restriction to 50 acres in extent or £50 rental shall be removed, and that we shall provide small holdings suitable, first, to the capacity of the family that desires to go on them, and, secondly, with regard to the nature of the soil in the particular locality where we may be setting up the holdings.

As chairman of a small holdings committee in the North of England, I may say that my committee could let 1,000 acres of land to-day to first-class men, but the hindrance is with regard to buildings, roads, and other necessary equipment. It is not the price of the land in every case that is prohibitive, but the question of equipment, and while we have our Trade Facilities Acts, what I want to plead for is that the Government should take steps to see that the local authorities are provided with cheap money whereby they can do something to settle and resettle the people in this country of ours.

I think the system of unemployment insurance and benefit is a very proper thing, and that we should have done very badly without it, but we have to remember that when it was introduced in 1920, or when the slump began in the fall of 1920, we did not expect that unemployment was to be so permanent a condition as it is. We have had to improve the scheme, and this has gone on, and I hope, in view of the criticism that has been levelled from above the Gangway on this side to-day, that there will be something done with regard to the circular that has been issued. It is all very well keeping a man fed, but we have another duty, and that is to do something to keep him fit.

It is a lamentable fact that in this country there are young men who served in the Army who have not had a regular job since they were demobilised, not because of their own fault, and we have to remember that it is not merely a question of money. I know that taxation comes in, and I believe we have a very clever Chancellor of the Exchequer, who may be able to reduce taxation, but the great fact behind the unemployment problem is that it is not a question of politics or of party wrangling, but of human need, and I plead for the provision of work. We should not only feed men, but we should keep them fit so that when work comes along they have not to make up all the leeway. If I may be permitted to say so, I think we have a very able and sympathetic Minister of Labour, and I wish to thank him for the very great interest he took in the city of Bradford, a division of which I have the honour to represent, not only by interesting himself in the subject of unemployment and unemployment insurance, but by personally coming down to the city and making himself acquainted with the actual condition of things, and interviewing the workers and those connected with it. I hope the Government, and particularly the right hon. Gentleman, will rise to the height of the situation.

When the late Government was in office we were told they had a remedy for unemployment. [An HON. MEMBER: "So we have!"] I am not making a party point, if the hon. Member who interrupted will bear with me a moment. I am trying to lift the question above party altogether. The previous Government suggested that they had a remedy for unemployment, but because of the absence of a, working majority they were not able to put that policy into operation. Now, however, you have a Government with a very great majority, a Government that have, I hope, got the confidence of the country, and the country expects that they will bring in some real social reform, and be prudent. I think the Government can only keep the faith and confidence of their supporters and the country as they deal successfully, in the years that are ahead, with this very important human problem. As they succeed, they will keep that confidence; as they fail, they will lose it just to the same extent. I hope the Government will not be satisfied with a mere unemployment insurance scheme, good as it may be, and better as it may be made, but—and I am sure the House as a whole will do everything possible to support them—that they will embark upon a constructive policy of remaking this country and bringing it up to date, so far as electrical and other developments are concerned.

Take land drainage. Look at the vast tracts of country that are under water to-day. True, it is a wet season, but we ought to have a great improvement made in the agricultural areas of this country with regard to land drainage. On all these points, I am looking forward to the Government doing something in order to provide work, that the people may be kept fit. While I am not looking for any colossal schemes of national undertaking that are wild and reckless, I suggest that, by co-operation with the public authorities, and a little more generous treatment than 65 per cent. of the total loan charges for the first half of the loan, the public authorities may be encouraged to co-operate with the Government, and together, locally and imperially, we may do something to provide work and relieve the pressing burden of unemployment in this country to-day.


I rise with some diffidence to-night to address the House for the first time, if only because I am a very junior Member, and, secondly, because I recognise very fully that this great question of unemployment is probably the most serious question which His Majesty's Government have to face. I am sure the House, with its customary indulgence and generosity, will bear with me for a very few minutes to-night, and will pardon any faults of inexperience in the remarks which I am going to contribute to this Debate. I am sure it will be admitted, on all sides of the House, that the question of unemployment is by far the most serious national problem which this country has ever had to solve. I think we must all admit that, at any rate, a section of our people must from time to time be faced with unemployment, but it seems to me that the most grievous aspect of this great question before the country to-day is the case of the worker who, as the result of years of arduous and patient labour, has built up for himself a little home, and who suddenly realises some day that, through no fault of his, the wolf of unemployment is at his door, and he and his dear ones are face to face with the only possible alternative, namely, the pitiable allowance which is provided by the State in such circumstances to-day. If that man's customary employment he in the engineering or shipbuilding industry, the outlook for him is black indeed.

I think it was the hon. Member for Bow and Bromley (Mr. Lansbury) who made the remark this afternoon, with which I am entirely in sympathy, that to be happy a man must be fully occupied, and that, I think, is absolutely true in every class of society. Idleness and indolence can only bring moral and mental decay, to whatever class a man or woman may belong, and when idleness and indolence are forced on men and women who desire work, and cannot find it, then the position of those people becomes an intolerable one, and constitutes as well, in my opinion, a national menace. The unfortunate position in this great question of unemployment to-day is that the number of unemployed cannot be said to be a stationary one. I believe I am right in saying that there are something like 200,000 young people each year who pass from what may be termed the school age to the working age, and, if nothing can be done to meet this grave menace, then it seems to me the position is going to be more serious as the months pass by. To offer helpful and constructive criticism in a great question like this, one has got to face the facts, and T confess I had a very great deal of sympathy with the late Minister of Labour last year in the position in which he found himself. As the result of, perhaps, some thoughtless electioneering promises on the part of some of his supporters, he was called upon to produce an immediate and an adequate remedy for this great scourge of unemployment. It is, as I say, much better to face the facts, and to admit at once that there is no sovereign remedy for unemployment. There is, in fact, one cure, and one cure only, for unemployment, and that is employment.

My object in intervening in this Debate is not merely to deplore the existing state of affairs in this country, or to point out again the difficulties and dangers, but I have deliberately intervened this evening because I desire, if I may with all humility, to offer a suggestion to His Majesty's Government, and I am emboldened in making that suggestion by the Prime Minister's wonderful speech in this House on Friday last. In that speech the Prime Minister pleaded for peace in industry, and for a better understanding between employer and employed. My suggestion to His Majesty's Government is this: Let them endeavour to set up at once an Unemployment Advisory Committee, to be composed of representatives both of employers and employed, and particularly those engaged in the great industries of this country which are suffering most from the scourge of unemployment. That Committee, I suggest, should be presided over by a neutral chairman, to be approved by both sides. I go further, and suggest that that Committee should hr a permanent Committee, sitting at regular intervals, so long as unemployment continues to be a grave national menace in this country. I am quite aware that cynics may answer, that political prejudices on the part of members of such a Committee would prevent it functioning properly, and some people might say that the trade union representatives on such a Committee would, possibly, be thinking more of political ends than to find a solution of the questions with which they would be confronted. I say deliberately I do not myself believe that any such thing would happen. I believe that if those two great bodies, the employers and the employed, could get together, charged with an honest endeavour to arrive, if possible, at some solution of the difficulties confronting their industries, nothing but good would result. If the only result, of such a committee was to break down, in some degree, this horrible barrier of distrust and suspicion in the industries of this country to-day, then, I contend, that that committee would, indeed, have performed a useful function.

I would ask the Government to give this suggestion their most careful consideration, and I would add this: How are you going to break down this distrust and suspicion between employers and employed, unless you provide some such machinery as I have indicated, under which both sides can meet? And if both sides do meet, then I am convinced that, as time goes on, they will, probably, be able to begin to appreciate each other's difficulties, and the difficulties before the industries as a whole. Members of this House have read in the newspapers just recently of a shipping contract by a great British firm which has gone to Germany, by reason of the fact that no British firm was able to tender within, I think, £100,000 of the German tender. Is it too much to assume that if some such committee as I have indicated had been sitting, and this shipping firm had placed the facts in regard to this contract before that committee, some satisfactory solution might have been reached in regard to that contract, which would have kept those British ships to be made by British workers?

I, for one, am perfectly certain that the Benches opposite could provide some members of such a committee as I have suggested, who would give most valuable help and information to His Majesty's Government. If I may, without ransgressing the rules of the House, I, personally, would suggest two names out of many I know that might be available—the right hon. Member for Derby (Mr. J. H. Thomas) and the right hon. Member for Ince (Mr. S. Walsh). I am perfectly certain that if two gentlemen like those formed the representatives of their unions on such a committee, it would create great confidence and hope in the minds of people in this country who are looking forward so patiently for some solution of our present difficulties. May I commend with great earnestness this suggestion to the attention of his Majesty's Government? If it were found, as, of course, it might be found, that such a committee did not seem to make very much progress, but it was responsible, as I have said, for breaking down, at least, some of the suspicion and distrust existing in industry to-day, then, in my opinion, the men forming that committee would be entitled to the lasting gratitude of the people of this country, if only because they would have helped, in some practical way, to solve one of the greatest difficulties with which this country has ever been faced, and, in solving it, if even partially, would have brought happiness and prosperity to many thousands of people in this country.

Photo of Mr George Buchanan Mr George Buchanan , Glasgow Gorbals

I do not want, in the first place, to follow the two previous speakers in their point of view in regard to the subject we are now discussing. Both of them in their maiden speeches dealt with the general principle of finding work for the unemployed, and I am sure that both of them will be listened to by the House on many future occasions with a relish and a keenness. I want to bring the House back to the point raised by the Mover of the Amendment (Mr. Hayday). This day, I understood, was specially selected for the Labour party to raise the question of the administration of the Unemployment Fund. I do not want to say the least word against either of the two last speakers, because they suggested schemes of work. It is a very important and a very plain necessity of the moment, but this day was given in order to discuss the administration of the Unemployment Insurance Act by the present Minister of Labour. I want to say candidly that, so far as I am concerned, the Minister of Labour and the Parliamentary Secretary have been to me personally both civil and courteous, but there is no use my thinking one thing and saying another. I think they have both been more than cruel in the present circumstances. They are committing a felony—worse even than a felony, in that their action is going to do certain things which are cruel in the extreme.

I was present last Tuesday when a colleague of mine on the Front Bench (Mr. Wheatley) made a speech about violence, and the Noble Earl (Earl Winterton) deplored the shooting of some people in India, and, in fact, his blood boiled at some incidents that happened; but I wonder if those who speak like that know the working-people. You are far more cruel to them. I would infinitely prefer if the Prime Minister and his colleagues came along and said: "We cannot find money for this. The cost of the Insurance Fund is too great. Economies must be effected here and economies there." If they came honestly to this House and carried out their policy, and, having done that, marched out their victims into an open field and destroyed them one by one, it would be a much easier and kinder thing to do than what the Minister of Labour proposes. His proposal is cruel, prolonged torture.

I want to challenge the Parliamentary Secretary on his figure of 11,000. When the hon. Gentleman said there were only 11,000 affected, I wondered what would happen if 11,000 of the well-to-do people were affected in the same way. But I wish to challenge the number. I cannot compliment the Minister of Labour, as did the hon. Member for East Bradford (Mr. Fenby). He visited Glasgow, and opened a new Exchange, and paid some visits to other places, but, even with the great. capacity he possesses, he could not, in the length of time, get anything like a complete knowledge of the problem of the City of Glasgow. It has taken a great many years for me to get a partial knowledge. I do not accept his figure of 11,000. What has happened in Glasgow? And Glasgow is no better or worse than other parts of the country. No less than 4,000 men and women are affected there. Take the town of Cambuslang, some 12 miles out of Glasgow. It has a population of only 8,000, and the parish council there have found that more than 12 have been affected by the Circular of the Minister of Labour. If you take the comparative figures they run into thousands so far as the City of Glasgow is concerned.

Take Govan Parish Council. They have found out that since this circular was issued their figures have increased by practically almost 1,000. T want here to say that it is said that this must be done because we have to save money. We are told about work-slays, about men who are going to do this or that with the Insurance Fund. Then the predecessor of the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Labour argued that some action had to be taken to safeguard against action by this or that man who was wishful to play "ducks-and-drakes" with the Fund. The unemployed workers, I think, in morality, in decency, in sobriety and honesty can compare favourably with hon. Members of this House. I go further and I say that you do not go along next week and suggest that the pensions of other people ought for morality's sake to be stopped because they have been mixed up in immoral divorce eases! I venture to say that the people, in their moral and family life, taking them in their numbers, are much more moral—I am referring specially here to the unemployed—than are the people who are associated with the divorce court and mixed up with the wealthier classes.

It would not be fair for me to go out and say that all military generals are bad because something or other happened the other day; it would be unfair for me to argue that. It is, consequently, quite unfair for the Press of this country, and the Government of this country, to assert that because one, or a dozen, or 100 men are found behaving as they should not behave the rest should suffer. I want to speak of the effect of the Circular itself on the genuine seeker after work. I understand that in this country during the past year well over 50,000 applicants were refused benefit on the plea that they were not genuinely seeking work. I want to ask, what is the test that is applied? A man goes to the committee and is prepared to lay every card on the table. He is prepared to prove that he has been here, there, and everywhere to get work, but could not find it. I want to ask the Minister of Labour, why does he differentiate between the man who is 14 weeks idle and, say, has 20 weeks' benefit to receive which is not extended benefit but is the standard benefit—why does he differentiate between the man with the standard benefit and the man who has the extended benefit'? The latter is as good a citizen and is as capable as the former. The man is as moral as the man with the standard benefit. You can say to him, "We are going to stop your benefit if you do not get a job," but you can only stop the man with the standard benefit when you have proved through the officials of the Exchange that they have offered him a job at the current rate of wages—that is, the standard rate. Why should you differentiate between the man with the extended benefit and the man with the standard benefit? Both of them are citizens of the country. Both of them are contributing to the insurance fund. Both of them are necessary for the welfare of the industry.

Take the other point of view. I would not mind if the money was saved. But I read in the "Daily Mail" to-day—that journal so well-beloved of the Government and of hon. Members opposite—about certain contracts which have been lost to this country, of ships going abroad to be built. It is set down that one of the first things we must do is to find a method of keeping those ships here. What is the Minister of Labour doing? The Minister of Labour is helping—if the reason can be given—to have these contracts placed abroad. I will tell him why. These circulars have recently thrown 1,000 extra men on to the Govan Parish Council. The Govan Parish Council controls the largest shipbuilding area in the whole of the country. What is the effect? Each man is estimated to cost £1 per week; really it is a little more; but I will under-estimate it rather than otherwise. A thousand expert men have been thrown out by the Minister of Labour, and that 1,000 extra is costing the Govan Parish Council £1 per week each, or £1,000 per week, or £52,000 for the 12 months. This money will have to be found by the ordinary workmen in the shipbuilding yards, by the shipbuilding firms concerned, by the increasing of the local rates. These are added to the cost of the charges of the firms competing with those abroad, and this is the effect of the recent circular. I wish the Parliamentary Secretary would learn to tell us the facts. It is not fair for the hon. Gentleman to rise, stand there at that Box, and tell us only about the circulars that we have managed to find out ! Why does he not tell us the whole truth?

I have got a circular issued on 23rd February. Why do you not rise and tell us about that? Why do you refuse hon. Members sitting here the information On 23rd February the Minister of Labour issued this circular. What is under the new circular? We are told about the new Tory democracy, headed by the Prime Minister, and we are told we are to have a new progressive policy. But this is even more cowardly in some of these respects than never. It comes along to us and says: "All men who ask and receive extended benefit, and who are turned down by the committees, are not genuinely seeking work. Under the arrangement instituted by the right hon. Member for Preston (Mr. T. Shaw), a man could come along, or his trade union on behalf of him, or any legal person acting on his behalf, and point out to the local committee that they had made a mistake, that he had evidence which, if looked at in the proper light, would alter the committee's decision. What is now going to happen?

A new circular, dated 23rd February, was sent out by this humane Government, this progressive Government! What is it going to do? It is going to treat the men worse than criminals. A criminal even in England—and we hope shortly in Scotland—has the right of appeal. If you have been mistaken in your evidence, and we can come with new evidence, it ought to be, so; but under the new circular you have instructed the management of the Exchanges that the man is only to be given a new hearing if the case is an exceptional one. If the manager of the Exchange does not think that, the man must continue for six months unemployed before he can get a new hearing. Just imagine! He has got to go for six months searching through engineering yards, shipbuilding yards, and so on, and until that six months is over he is not to be accepted as a genuine seeker after work. Talk about violence! I have no hesitation in saying that the people who issued that circular are only deserving of the most cruel treatment in return. I want to say I have no friendship and no regard for people who are treating the poor folk in this fashion. I want to say this, that, so far as I am concerned. whatever step T can take outside this House to get the unemployed working man to rebel, by constitutional means if I can, against this treatment, I am going to take. I want again to deal with the figure of 11,000 that has been given, and to suggest that the Parliamentary Secretary has not been truthful by placing his cards upon the table. With reference to the last circular, even accepting the figure of 11,000, you can add to it at least two or three times that number. It is a cruel circular. It is not worthy of the traditions of even the party opposite. It is a mean circular in addition.

Might I just say this before I conclude? I am in agreement with all that has been said in regard to providing work. Some steps ought to be taken. The right hon. Member for Preston says that nobody has got the last word. But during his term of office he issued a circular which was a cowardly circular as well. It dealt with the old folk. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"] Yes, I think that at least Ministers must take their share of responsibility. That circular was issued in July last year. That circular had its effect in that these old men were being refused benefit. The circular by which these men had been refused benefit was not issued by the Conservative Government, but it happened to be our own Labour Government in July of last year. I think we ought to be frank, straightforward, and honest. I want to say here that, whether he was right or hon. Members opposite are wrong, is no concern of mine. All that I know is that it is wrong now, and I am here, as a Member of Parliament, to get it put right at the earliest possible moment. I am not here to say that because something was done wrong under the Labour Government it must remain that way for ever. Hon. Gentlemen opposite are at the Ministry of Labour now. They are the occupants of that place, and it is their job to put the wrongs of the previous Government right. Insurance money has been granted because the Department was afraid. If I can make it my job I will to make it more afraid. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"] Yes, I can make it if I can get the working people outside; and, if the only means of getting money is to make right hon. or hon. Gentlemen afraid, then I will support and organise the workers to make them afraid.

There is going to be no peace. There cannot be any peace so long as decent working folk are being treated in this miserable and niggardly fashion. If we are asked to give evidence we can give it. What are these people asking for? All that they are asking for is 23s. for a man and his wife. I and some of my colleagues in this city of London live together, and we live almost in niggardly fashion in order to make ends meet. Three of us live without much comfort or very little comfort at all, even cutting down our expenses to the lowest possible limit, and taking our turn to carry out our own domestic arrangements. We cannot live in London with bed and breakfast, but without food or clothing, for less than 28s. per week. All that these folk are asking is to get 23s. per week to provide, or try and provide, food and clothing, house rent and some little measure of comfort. Even that payment is being refused by the present Minister of Labour. After all, this circular affects more men in the Army than in other sections of the community. I was not in the Army at all. I got an easy chance. My 30 contributions were paid, but other men of much the same age were taken whose occupation was an insurable one. They left to join the Army. They served in the Army. After they have served in the Army you are coaling along and are penalising the ex-soldier as against the civilian. Take the ease of the man who never went near the Army. He had no difficulty in getting his 30 stamps. Take the case of a relative of mine who had a job and joined the Autry in 1911 He never had a chance to put on his stamps before he joined the Army. and his occupation was not an insurable one. He comes back to civil life and he goes idle, or is thrown out of work. He is penalised as against me. I have my 30 stamps put on. Is that fellow, being away, and losing his contract in civil life, to be penalised by the present Minister of Labour? Even taking the circular regarding disabled men, what is going to happen there? A new member of the King's Roll committee is to be added to the local employment committee, and I think that in doing that you intend, if you possibly can, and I am not blaming you, to see that all future vacancies go to disabled ex-service men. Therefore, your concession will mean that you will transfer the ex-service man from unemployment to work. The effect of the new Regulation will be, it is true, to employ more disabled ex-service men, but only at the expense of the more fully able men.

This question that we have raised is more than a humane question; it is one which all Governments must face and must deal with at the earliest possible moment. I want to say, in conclusion, that one cannot be a Member for a constituency like mine without feeling the terrible grievances and consequences that may arise on the female side in view of what is being done. I was in the town of Leeds the other week, and saw there decent women and good women with capable hands arid with clean moral characters who had been for months on end at the Employment Exchange. When I hear Members of this House, reading from the newspapers, sneering at the folk who get the dole, the only thing I wonder is that they remain so clean after all the experiences they have gone through within the few years. It is a tribute to the moral character of the working folk of this country; and when I go to Leeds and see these women signing on at the Exchange, when I think how this new circular must affect many of those women, and when I think of the moral dangers that may arise, I begin to wonder if all the men who took part in the War were really taking part in a war to make this country anything like a recent country at all. It has not been worth while the sacrifice of most of them.

I hope the result of this Debate will be that the Government will take steps to reverse the Circular they have issued. I do not come here to plead with them to do it; I demand that they should do it. I ask them to do more; I ask them even to increase the benefits. The benefits at present are too niggardly; I want them to do more, and I demand it for my people. The Minister of Labour is a comparatively well-off man, as riches go—I do not say he is rich—and this circular, issued by a well-to-do man, sounds to me like a rich man trying to rob the poor. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"] You may qualify it as you wish, but those are my thoughts, and, as long as I am a Member of this House, I will state them. I want to say, "It sounds like that." It is not worthy of him. It is not worthy of any man to attack poor people who are defenceless.

It is said that these people have been four years out of work, and that men four years out of work must have this or that wrong with them. I worked at my trade very steadily, and my experience was, that if a man was 12 months out of work the difficulties of getting a job were at least 100 per cent. greater than after his first week out of work. The other men who work beside him begin to think, after he has been 12 months out of work, that he has lost touch with the trade; they are the men who help a man to get a job as much as anybody, and they refuse to tell him about a job. After two years out he begins to be sneered at, not only by the other workmen, but even by his own relations and friends, as being a useless person. It is not good enough, and you have either to provide those folk with benefit or those folk will take steps themselves, good steps or bad steps, but steps they will take; and I demand of the Minister of Labour to come to this House and secure justice for them.

There are 11,000 men, some of them with wives and some of them with children, and those children are much to me. Last Friday night 11,000 men were refused benefit. It was the same night, Mr. Speaker, as you held your Levee of goodwill and fellowship between members of the Labour party and members of the Tory party. They cracked jokes at the Levée, men came to it with distinguished dresses, and all was goodwill; and on that same night of goodwill 11,000 good folk, as good as ever attended the Levée, were told at Employment Exchanges that there was nothing for them. What goodwill can you have? You can have nothing but nothing but enmity, and the people who suffer would be foolish if they tolerated it five minutes longer. I hope, if this Debate does not mend it, that they will take the earliest possible opportunity to see that the next step is taken, not only to secure justice for themselves, but—what to me is greater even than that—that every man will secure at least something for his child.

Lieut.-Colonel HENDERSON:

The hon. Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan), like a good many of those, or certainly some of those sitting beside him, is in a very fortunate position, because ever since he and they entered this House they have maintained what I might describe as an attitude of irresponsible criticism. I mean nothing disrespectful by that remark. They are delighted to criticise either their own party, if it happens to be in office, or some other party. I often wonder whether they realise that while that attitude may be helpful to themselves, it certainly is not likely to help in the government of this country, because until you are prepared, at some time or other, to accept political responsibility, you are never likely to see more than one side of a question. I congratulate him, anyhow, on maintaining his attitude with regard to the question of the employment of disabled ex-servicemen. Evidently he still believes that those men who have served their country and been disabled should not receive any preference in the labour market.

Photo of Mr James Maxton Mr James Maxton , Glasgow Bridgeton

That is scarcely a fair deduction.

Lieut.-Colonel HENDERSON:

I think the hon. Member will agree with me that he has always maintained that attitude in regard to disabled men, and maintained it quite openly, as he is quite entitled to maintain it if he wishes. I would like to point out to him that the appointment of a member of the local King's Roll committee to the rota committee, which is referred to in the Circular which the Minister has issued, has nothing to do with the question of employment at all. That provision is inserted in the Circular because disabled ex-service men are expressly excluded from the question of the eight contributions, and the waiver is maintained in their case. I think I am right in making that statement. The member of the local King's Roll committee is appointed to assist the rota committee with regard to any disabled ex-service men who come in front of them. Therefore, the disabled ex-service men are receiving that special privilege which they have always received in respect of unemployment insurance since the War ended.

One attitude which some Members opposite take up on this question of unemployment I can never quite understand. The hon. Member for Gorbals, in the course of his argument, seemed to say that a man who was drawing extended benefit and a man who was drawing statutory benefit ought to be treated in exactly the same way. He said they were both citizens, and, therefore, they ought to be treated in exactly the same way. Should they or should they not? It entirely depends on whether this unemployment insurance scheme is to be regarded as an insurance scheme or as a Poor Law scheme. Hon. Members opposite talk about it as an insurance scheme, but think about it as a Poor Law scheme, though it is nothing of the kind. If it is an insurance scheme, you must have Regulations for it. If it is not to be an insurance scheme, if the Minister of Labour is to become a sort of glorified Minister for Poor Law, then by all means let us say so, and let us put him into that position. So long as it is an insurance scheme, however, there must be Regula- tions, and people who do not comply with them do not fall within the benefits of the scheme; otherwise, it ceases to be an insurance scheme. It would be quite in order to argue whether it is desirable that it should or should not be an insurance scheme, but provided it is an insurance scheme it is entirely unfair to argue about it as an insurance scheme while all the time trying to make it into a Poor Law scheme, and it is not only unfair, but it is grossly misleading to the people in the country.

Lieut.-Colonel HENDERSON:

It has never been treated as a charity scheme either by the late Government, or the Coalition Government, or this Government, though the hon. and gallant Member for Central Hull (Lieut.-Commander Kenworthy) possibly does treat it so.

Photo of Commander Hon. Joseph Kenworthy Commander Hon. Joseph Kenworthy , Kingston upon Hull Central

May I interrupt the hon. and gallant Gentleman for one moment? Hon. Members on that side of the House talk about "doles" in a most contemptuous way; they talk about the whole thing as a charity. We on this side say it is insurance.

Lieut.-Colonel HENDERSON:

I never mentioned the word "dole," and I have not heard it mentioned, and, with all due respect to the hon. and gallant Member, I do not think he has been sitting in the House for more than a few minutes. The hon. Member for East Bradford (Mr. Fenby) referred in his speech to the question of statistics, and pointed out that the unemployment figures now, in February, were much higher than the figures last June. That is quite obvious, because unemployment figures are seasonal, and they are nearly always higher at this time of the year than in June. I would like to ask the Minister to reconsider the whole question of unemployment statistics as published by the Ministry. I would like to ask him whether men employed in the building trade who may come off a job one day, register at the Exchange, and go off to another job the next day are at any time shown as unemployed? I am under the impression that they frequently are. I would like to ask him whether men engaged

7.0 P.M. on casual labour, say at the docks, who are working for three days and drawing unemployment benefit for three days, are shown as unemployed or not? I would like to ask him whether it is not possible in the information which is given to the Press to separate the unemployment figures in some way. In the "Labour Gazette" the figures are given in detail, by localities and by trades, but the information which the ordinary public see in the Press once a week gives only a total figure, with certain sub-divisions for men, women, boys and girls, and the people of this country are getting it into their heads that there is a sort of fixed figure of unemployment, varying from about 1,000,000 to 1,200,000, which we shall never be able to get rid of, which probably exists through all industry and is equally spread over all parts of the country; and that is absolutely untrue. Unemployment is confined to some four or five industries—severe unemployment—and it is confined to certain distinct localities, and in many respects the men who are on the unemployment register are not mere who have been there for six, nine or he months without any work at all. I think the Minister will probably agree with me when I say that the average number of contributions paid by people who are insured under the Unemployment Insurance scheme is very much higher than probably the general public believes. I would like to ask him whether he could not in some way consider the statistics published in the Press, and whether, when he has clone so, he could not put the general public more in possession of the real facts of the case than they are at the present time. My reason for asking that is, if you are going to cure unemployment at all, the first thing you have to do is to create a feeling of confidence in the country. You have to make people believe that this condition is not permanent, that it is not necessarily spread all over the country, but that it is a particular disease confined to certain places, and that it is possibly not so bad as some think, so that we may look at it from that particular aspect and say, "Can we do anything to help in those particular localities or trades?" I do not mean that Members of this House do not appreciate that fact. I think most of us do, but I do not think the general public does. If the general public does not appreciate it we can never cure it, because they will say, "Industry in this country is not in a condition that it is worth our while to put money into it. We will put our money elsewhere." And people who have sons to put into business or apprenticeships will say, "It is not worth while our doing anything. We will send them to America or to the Dominions." That does not help to cure the unemployment question, and for that reason I feel that we have not given enough attention to this particular aspect of the case.

I quite agree, for once in a while, with what the hon. Member for Bow and Bromley (Mr. Lansbury) said with regard to child unemployment, and what was further developed by the hon. Member for Finchley (Mr. Cadogan). There are two things we must remember. I am sorry the hon. Member for Finchley, when he was referring to the black days of the early nineteenth century, did not remind the House of the fact that the party which sits on this side of the House was the party which fought most strenuously and hardly to try to improve the conditions in the factories in those days. I think we must remember, with regard to this question of child unemployment, that it is much more complicated than we think. The Noble Lord the Minister of Education (Lord E. Percy), in a Debate which some Members may remember in this House two or three weeks ago on a private Member's Motion, made a most illuminating speech on that question, and I very largely agree with what he said. I felt it was not a subject which could be easily solved, or of which we could say, "Go straight ahead," without any difficulty. I feel that if you are going to do all these things—with regard to the improvement of unemployment amongst juveniles, with regard to the suggestion of the hon. Member for Bow and Bromley of putting younger men on the land for drainage schemes, and other schemes—you want to be absolutely certain beforehand that you are really going to spend money and get advantage out of it. I do not mean by that that it is not worth spending money on Anything that could help the younger generation is worth spending money on.

We have to look on this question from the other point of view, and that is the more you spend the more are you making it difficult for industry in this country to-day to compete with their competitors on the Continent. People always forget that. It is very easy to get up in this House and advocate spending money on behalf of this particular person or that particular section of the community, and in nearly every case it could be spent with advantage, but before it is spent it is only fair that we who are responsible for the Government of the country in general should be sure that that money is being spent and will be spent with a definite, good object; otherwise you are only saddling industry with a greater burden which will react on the unemployment question. I do not think there are any other points I want to raise. I would he grateful to the Minister if he could consider very carefully that question of unemployment statistics, because I myself believe that that particular aspect of the question is one which receives very little consideration and which, if it did receive more consideration, might possibly be helpful in a solution of the question.

Photo of Miss Ellen Wilkinson Miss Ellen Wilkinson , Middlesbrough East

I want, if I may, to return to the speech that was made by the Parliamentary Secretary (Mr. Betterton). He stated, very definitely, that in his opinion the Minister of Labour was to be regarded merely as a trustee for the Insurance Fund. I want to ask him if he does not think that the broad conception of the Ministry of Labour is something much more than that and if it is not part of the duty of the office he holds to do something towards preventing unemployment as well as merely paying out insurance. We have heard a great deal about the attempt to cut down the unemployment benefit. I want to ask the Under-Secretary what is the alternative which his Department has to offer to those people who are being turned off. If you consider the area, for example, that I represent in this House—the Middlesbrough and Teeside area—we have 25 per cent. more unemployed than last year. The position is getting worse. It is a one-industry town. There is practically no alternative work. The fact that these men have been out of work for three years is not that they do not want work, but that there is literally no work to be had. Therefore, if the Minister would enlighten us as to where those men are going to get their stamps from, those who represent areas like this would be grateful. We have heard a great deal about the man who is not genuinely seeking work. Is this entirely a one-sided affair? Should we not have some idea from the Minister as to what he is proposing to do to employers who are not genuinely trying to provide work? We have had in the "Times" leader within the last fortnight a statement that many employers would find it more profitable to sell a smaller product at higher prices than to increase production.

I want to speak about a side of the question which has not been dealt with, and that is the question of women signing on at the Employment Exchanges. I want to ask whether the Minister has ever faced the problem of the unemployed women, or whether he has ever analysed the women who are signing on at the Employment Exchanges. We have still a number of women who during the War passed straight into the munition factories. Those women have passed into the ranks of the semi-skilled worker. What attempt has any Minister made to deal with them? You have voted millions for relief work for men. I believe it is true to say that the total voted for the unemployed women for training or work has been £50,000 to the Central Committee on Women's Unemployment. Even those training schemes now have been dropped, and all that exists are a few very desultory schemes for the training of women in domestic service. There seems to be an assumption that any woman, whatever her training, can pass into domestic service. I want to ask the Minister of Labour, is it fair to penalise a skilled mill operator or a skilled tailoress, a woman who has put in years to acquire that skill, a. woman who has paid for a considerable time into the Unemployment Fund, to drive her into domestic service, for which she has no aptitude whatever, and then for her to find after she has been in domestic service for a time that she is deprived completely of participation in the Insurance Fund, because domestic servants are not included under the Act. This is proving a very real grievance and an obstacle to many girls even attempting to make the experiment of undertaking domestic service. They would be more willing to make that experiment if they had the assurance that they could stay under the Insurance Scheme.

I want, finally, to ask the Minister whether any work is being done in the Ministry of Labour to consider new avenues of employment for those women. I have myself led deputations, bringing suggestions before the Minister of Labour for work for those women. We are invariably told that the Minister has no power to make grants. If the Minister has power to make grants for relief work for men, is it not possible for him to get the House to put some scheme into operation, or, alternatively, to consider training schemes which could not be merely schemes for domestic service which takes women out of the Act or schemes where you have, as you have so frequently now, girls taken into purely repetition work between 14 and 18 and then thrown out of employment knowing only that small branch of the industry. I have been told by the manageress of one of the large Employment Exchanges that she had tailoresses who had learned to do merely one small part of making a coat, and, if they had been experienced coat hands, she could have placed every one. Could we not have schemes of training which would take, not new girls into an industry, but take those employed in a particular section of an industry and train them to be all-round hands? I want to appeal to the Minister not to take the view expressed by the Parliamentary Secretary that he is merely there. as a trustee for the Insurance Fund, but that he is also there as a research worker. His Department should be a research department to find out new avenues for those who cannot find work.


Reference has been made to the speech delivered by the Prime Minister on Friday last, and I only hope that the spirit of good-will contained in that speech will be brought to bear by the Government on this particular problem, and I hope that it will be fruitful. The problem of unemployment requires to be taken out of the cock-pit of party politics, and we should get the best brains and the hearts and heads of men to work together in order to find a solution of this great problem. The figures which have been placed before us show that employment is less in certain services than was the case last year. That seems extraordinary, because although the statistics show that unemployment is increasing in certain parts of the country, yet we have been spending during the last five years huge sums of money to relieve unemployment, and I want to ask, are we satisfied that the outpouring of this vast sum is the right policy instead of attempting to provide employment?

I notice that up to the 31st January, £253,000,000 have been spent on unemployment and out-of-work donations, and to that must be added the expenditure in out-relief to the able-bodied unemployed, and I put that figure at another £50,000,000. That means that we have spent since the Armistice some £300,000,000 to maintain able-bodied men and women for no service whatever. I do riot say that this was not inevitable, but there surely would have been more wisdom in a policy of getting some services rendered in return for such a huge sum of money. Are we prepared to go on in this way spending another £300,000,000 in the next five years without any tangible results. I submit it would be infinitely more sensible if we had been able to devote that vast sum of money to works of a productive character, so that at the end of the period of five years, we should have been in possession of tangible assets to show for that expenditure, and the moral of our people would have been much better than it is likely to be after years and years of useless idleness.

The work of the Unemployed Grants Committee has shown that there are plenty of works of a character which could utilise a much larger number of the unemployed than are being provided with employment at the present time. Look what we could have done with that £300,000,000. We might have improved our roads and our method of transport, and we might have reconditioned our inland waterways and canals. The present Minister of Health was Chairman of a Committee some time ago which dealt with inland waterways, and that Committee issued a very valuable Report. I think the Minister of Labour ought to utilise some of his energy in initiating work on some of the schemes foreshadowed in that report.

Then there are questions affecting the docks and harbours. Everyone connected with our seaport towns knows that them is room for a great improvement in this respect. Only the other day in my own constituency the London and North Eastern Railway turned down a project for extending the dock service of the river, which is very much needed for extended trade, because they could not face the financial liability. That scheme involved an expenditure of £2,500,000, and if this scheme had been undertaken by a Government Department, it would have been much better than spending huge sums of money on unemployment benefits. Then there is the question of land afforestation, and the reclamation of the foreshore, and a good deal more might be done in this direction than has been done up to the present. There is an old saying that Where there is no vision the people perisheth. That is true in regard to what. has been happening in recent years. If we had had these works of a useful character put in hand many of our people would have been in a much better position to-day. Although the Government in regard to these schemes have not been able to take the initiative, the local authorities have done much useful work; in fact, they have borne the heat and burden of the day, but unfortunately they have now got up to their limit. Notwithstanding all these facts, these Estimates show not an increase but a reduction in the amount provided by the Government to assist local authorities. In the Vote for Unemployment Grants, there is a reduction of £295,000. In the amount set aside for the relief of unemployment there is a reduction of 1639,000, and there is a reduction in the Ministry of Labour Vote of £623,000 in the Estimates for the relief of unemployment. These items show a reduction altogether of £1,550,000. Why this reduction? Is it because there is less unemployment? It has already been shown that unemployment in some districts is worse than it was before. At the end of January, 1925, the figures were 11.5 per cent., unemployed as compared with 10.9 per cent. in December, 1924. If you take the trade union returns, you will find they show an increase in unemployment as compared with a year ago, and although the general rate may not be appreciably worse than it was before, in certain trades the conditions are very considerably worse.

Take the iron and steel trades. The percentage of unemployment is 23.7 compared with 23.2 a year ago. In the shipbuilding industry, the percentage of unemployment is 43 and in marine engineering 24.3. Although you have this tremendous increase in unemployment, the Government are proposing reductions in the Votes which go towards the relief of unemployment. Is it because we cannot afford it? Looking through these Votes, I find there is a reduction of £1,5000.000 for the Ministry of Labour, £1,230,000 for educational services, and there is a reduction of £3,000,000 in the case of pensions, making a reduction of £6,000,004. On referring to the item for the Air Service, I find there an increase comparable with the decrease you are asked to make on social services. It is hardly a fair view of the relative value of services when you have to economise in unemployment, education and pensions in order to get an increased expenditure for armament services.

The Government should realise the necessities of the unemployment problem, and they are not justified in sheltering themselves behind this kind of economy at a time when unemployment is so rife. What does this economy mean? It means an additional burden to be transferred to the local authorities. It all has to come out of the public purse, and it is only a question of providing the Chancellor of the Exchequer with a larger surplus at the expense of local ratepayers who will be mulct in an actual increased burden. In my own district, which is typical of many other industrial districts, as compared with a year ago, there are 2,000 more unemployed men and women in Middlesbrough than there were in January and March last year, showing an increase of 30 per cent. in the number of unemployed in that one particular district at a time when we are told by the Minister of Labour that there is less money to he found by the State to relieve unemployment and, to help necessitous areas.

In Middlesbrough we have spent £1,000,000 trying to do our share in regard to providing unemployed relief works. At the present time our rates are 19s. 8d. In the £ The guardians of the poor are heavily in debt in our district, and are much overdrawn in order to pay outdoor relief, much of which ought to have come out of the Insurance Fund. Half our rate payers are in default with their rates, and every other person you meet is behind with his rates, and in face of such a condition of things, we are now told that the Minister of Labour is not going to give more but less for these services than he did last year. Although we have 8,000 men unemployed, all of our schemes only enable us to find work for some 500 men out of 8,000, which means that each man has three weeks' work during the whole year, and during the other 49 remaining weeks of the year he has to remain idle, and draw unemployment benefit or Poor Law relief I think the Minister ought to consider whether the Government cannot help these local authorities more who have struggled so manfully in the past with these problems. I submit that they are really carrying a national burden, because this question of unemployment is rot due to any particular wickedness on the part of the employers, and it is not clue to any slackness on the part of the men, but it is really due to international causes which have followed upon a great war.

In many of these districts the population has increased in the period since the War. During the War many of these people came into the towns to make munitions and to do other war work, and they have remained there, and this is one of the reasons why there is such a large amount of unemployment there at the present time. Therefore, it is really a national burden. I know that last year the Minister increased the grant to local unemployment relief works up to 75 per cent., but that was only during half the period of the loan. With regard to the works we have already in hand, the total contribution of the Government is 31 per cent. less than a year ago. In districts where the local rates are between 19s. and 20s. in the £, it is impossible to go on adding to local burdens. With regard to many of our loans, half the period has now expired, and we are at present. bearing the full burden of such loans on the local rates. The Minister of Labour comes to this question with A fresh mind, and I hope he will realise that this is a national responsibility, and a burden which is very unequally distributed at the present time.

I have the returns up to date, and I find from a series of tables which are published every year with regard to local burdens, that a comparison is drawn between the rates of certain towns. In East Ham the rates are 23s. 3d. in the 1, whilst in Eastbourne they are only 9s. in the E. Lower down in the list comes South Shields with rates at 15s. 11d, in the £, whilst at Southport the amount is 8s. 4d. in the E. At Birmingham the rates are 16s. in the £, whilst at Bournemouth they are only 8s. ld. I might go on making comparisons in this way showing that the wealthy districts are only bearing a very small burden, whereas the poor districts, where the burden of unemployment is greatest, have to carry a much larger burden on the rates. There is absolutely no equality of sacrifice in regard to these problems. England also has its devastated areas, and I think they are deserving of more sympathy and assistance than they are now getting from the Government.

There is one other point I want to touch upon more especially in view of what has been published in the Press with regard to orders for the building of ships going abroad. The excessive rates are not merely a burden to the locality, but they are preventing and crippling a revival of trade which is absolutely essential if we are to keep our industries going. We hear of certain orders for ships going abroad. Although I do not think that heavy rates is the sole or main reason, it is certainly a contributory reason, because our local rates have increased to such an extent that they constitute a charge on production much greater than it has been in former years. I see that the Chairman of the Shipbuilding Employers' Federation the other day said that, whereas the cost per workman in rates was equivalent to 12s. 6d. per annum, in 1924 it had increased nearly four-fold, namely, to 48s.; and, from inquiries which I have made at a local works in my own district, I find that the rates for social services in 1913 were equivalent to 3s. 3d. per ton of steel produced, whereas in 1924 they were 10s. 3d. We have, therefore, this tremendous increase in charges; which is a handicap to industry and a hindrance to the revival of trade. I may be told that, if it were transferred to the Income Tax or the Treasury, it would still be a public charge, but I submit that there is this difference, that the rates are an actual burden on the cost of production, and hit it much more heavily than taxation or Income Tax, which is a tax on the profits made. Therefore, from an industrial point of view, it would be far sounder economics to relieve the burden falling on the cost of production, and transfer it to the profits when they have been made.

I have stressed this question of the inequality of the burden because I want to appeal to the Minister particularly with regard to these Circulars which he has sent out, because they aggravate the problem very considerably. The case of the insured, person has been ably put, but I want to put particularly the case of the district upon which the charge will fall owing to this Circular. Fortunately, the men will not starve, but the burden will come on the local ratepayer. This Circular simply transfers the burden from the Treasury and the taxpayer on to the local ratepayer. The Minister gave 11,000 as his estimated figure for the total number that would be thrown off the insurance fund as a result of the Circular, and that very figure illustrates the inequality of the burden, because it works out at one-tenth per cent. of the total number of insured persons, whereas in my own district, and in other districts that have been quoted this afternoon, the number that will be taken off the insurance fund and transferred to the rates will amount to one-half per cent., or five times the percentage indicated by the Minister.

I do hope that the Minister will consider the question of recalling this circular. Undoubtedly, whatever the intention may be, it has hit these districts very hard, and is adding a burden on their shoulders. What will happen in October if the Minister carries out the letters of the Act I tremble to contemplate, because I know that, in the heavy iron and steel districts, and in others where unemployment has been abnormal for some years, it will mean a tremendous transfer from the Unemployment Insurance Fund on to the local rates. Therefore, I. hope the Minister will follow the example of his predecessors, all of whom in turn have brought in amending Acts to the existing Act, and that we shall have this year an amending Act long before October, in order to prevent the mischief which will undoubtedly follow if the Act takes its present course. We have had something like 14 Insurance Acts since the War, so that an extra one will only be following the precedent set by the right hon. Gentleman's predecessors, and, however much he may dislike undoing the work of his predecessors, I am sure it is a duty which be will find thrust upon him. This House and the Government always respond to claims which are put forward, and, without indulging in any threats, a practice which I am sure we all deplore, I feel certain that the Minister and the Government will see to it that these untoward circumstances which are otherwise hound to befall shall not come about, but that an amending Act will be brought in to deal with them.

The hon. and gallant Gentleman (Lieut.-Colonel Henderson) who spoke last from the other side of the House said that we cannot go on carrying this tremendous burden, and the hon. Member for West Nottingham (Mr. Hayday) twitted some of my friends in the last Parliament for moving an Amendment to make the present Act expire in June, 1926. That was done intentionally, not in order to prevent benefit from being paid, hut in order that the present system should not go on indefinitely without being thoroughly examined in the light of new facts and of circumstances as they might arise. Surely, after five or six years of unemployment, it must be obvious that we cannot carry on an insurance scheme when in certain trades there is an average unemployment of between 20 and 30 per cent. It is impossible for those industries to go on carrying that burden. What the solution may be one does not know, but at any rate it is time the whole question was explored to see what remedy can be found for a state of things which will break any insurance system and which cripples trade. It is not as though in certain trades production had fallen much below the War years. In the iron and steel trade, where there is 23.7 per cent. of unemployment, the production of steel in 1924 was considerably greater than in 1914. It is not, therefore, the fault of the employers, and our share of the world's export trade is greater now than it was in 1914. Therefore, we have come to a time when we cannot allow things to drift on, but must examine the whole problem and see what is the solution of the present difficulties. It is obviously impossible for a trade to carry on its shoulders the burden of anything like 23 per cent. of unemployment. The whole question bristles with difficulties, and I hope that the Minister, in the spirit of that good will which the Prime Minister foreshadowed in his speech on Friday, will reconsider the Circulars which have been so much criticised, and which will affect so disastrously certain localities in 4 way that probably the Minister never intended, and that he will examine the facts and consult the local unemployment committees and see if he cannot, as the result of this Debate, issue a modifying Order.

Photo of Mr Cyril Lloyd Mr Cyril Lloyd , Dudley

I should feel that the last speaker was rather more sincere in his regard for steelworkers if he did not belong to a party which readily sees steel coming in from the Continent which has made no contribution whatever to Unemployment Insurance, although he tells us that in his district the contribution which steel makes towards the social services is something like 10s. a ton. There is an obvious discrepancy between the charges on the two sorts of steel, which I think the hon. Member might set to work to make good. The Debate, so far, has served, I think, to focus the attention of the House upon two striking differences of view in regard to Unemployment Insurance. We have the view that was put so thoroughly by the hon. Member for Bow and Bromley (Mr. Lansbury) which denies us the right to distinguish at all between the deserving and the undeserving unemployed and we have the other view which was put by the Parliamentary Secretary with equal clarity, that he is in effect the trustee of a real Insurance Fund, and that he must act as a trustee,. and not as one who is simply charged with the duty of handing out compassionate allowances. I hope the Minister will stick to that view of the case, and in that connection I should like to put in a word for the real contributors to this Unemployment Fund. It is true that the Government contribute something, but the real bulk of the money comes, in one way or another, not from the unemployed man, but from the employed man. I think we all tend—at any rate this House has rather tended—to forget the source from which those funds are drawn and our obligation to the people who supply them. If we are to regard this simply as a relief fund, then we are in a very awkward and invidious position towards the contributors, and I believe, myself, that some of the earlier contributors to the fund have really some cause for complaint, in the sense that they have made very large contributions. The bricklayers, I think, would be one particular trade which has been very hardly treated, because the contributions they have made over a long series of years have been applied to the general Fund, which has now been made hopelessly insolvent, very largely by the action of this House.

Photo of Mr Cyril Lloyd Mr Cyril Lloyd , Dudley

I will withdraw the word "hopelessly" if the hon. Member will help us on this side to make it solvent once more. Certainly, I feel that the men who have contributed, and are contributing, to this fund, are deserving of more consideration than they get. Hon. Members on the other side talk very glibly of treating one class or another of unemployed generously, of being fair to some particular class of applicant, quite without regard to the actuarial side of the question, and without any regard to the claim which the contributors have on the funds which have been paid in. I would beg the Government to increase, if possible, the emphasis which they will put on the actuarial aspect of this matter. There is, I believe, a gentleman known as the Government Actuary. I do not know what his duties are; I do not know if he has survived the period of the last Government; but, so far as I can make out, during the rule of the last Government his sole duty was to tell us, in relation to this Fund, how far it was becoming insolvent. I should like to see the actuarial position of the Fund made plain to the public as a whole, and if that is done I believe we shall be feeling our way towards a much wider acceptance of the imposition of Regulations such as the one which has been under discussion to-night.

The fact is that in the crisis after the War the principles of insurance in relation to this matter were to a very large extent side-tracked and lost sight of, but I hope that now we can go back to real principles in this matter, and get the principles of this insurance fairly laid down. In that relation, I should like to put in a plea for greater differentiation between cases rather than the absolute equality of which the hon. Member for Bow and Bromley spoke. To my mind it is quite as unreasonable and as unjust to give a man who has contributed steadily to the fund for years and has only unexpectedly become unemployed, a man who has perhaps been employed at a high rate of pay, only the comparatively small rate of 18s. as it is to give that 18s. at all to some of the other claimants.

Another question is that of partial employment. A great deal of the unemployment of to-day is really underemployment, and the habit is rapidly growing of working three days a week and drawing unemployment pay for three days so as to get something out of the fund. That is a perfectly proper arrangement, but it seems to me that, where a man is still effectively in employment and is not discharged but is only working part time, it would be a very great improvement if he could draw his unemployment pay at his usual pay office instead of having to go to the Employment Exchange for it. I find myself that there is the utmost dislike among the men to go into the Employment Exchange at all, and I am sure there must be a very large proportion of partially employed in respect of whom arrangements could quite properly he made that they should draw their unemployment pay, not at the Employment Exchange, but at their normal pay office. I should like to develop that a little further, because to my mind there is quite an opportunity of making this unemployment fund to some extent a means of encouraging employment. I do not think it at all impossible that you might do something of this kind. If you want to encourage someone to employ a man, it seems to me that it would be perfectly possible that that man might be handed over, so to speak, to a possible employer with a certain number of contributions paid up, thereby encouraging the employer to employ him, because he would he freed to that extent from paying the unemployment contribution. On the other hand, it seems to me equally possible, if the employer creates unemployment by discharging a man, to make it a necessity that on discharging him he should pay up, not one contribution, but a substantial number so as to fine him, so to speak, to a moderate extent for discharging the man. That would be a definite way of encouraging employment and discouraging unemployment, and it would also serve to define when a man was partially employed, because then the employer would not desire that the man should be rated as discharged, but only that he should be rated as being partially employed.

Finally, I hope the Government will insist on their status as trustees of this Insurance Fund and will continue to work it as a true insurance fund and endeavour to restore it to a solvent state. There seems to be a call for some intermediate fund between this insurance and the Poor Law if the whole evolution of unemployment insurance is to be carried out properly. I think the true evolution is that there should first of all be a true insurance fund on actuarial lines. If nothing else made that necessary, it would be the fact that there are many cases where men of honour among the unemployed have been so much under the weight of feeling that this was not a true insurance fund that they have refused, even though they were entitled to do so, to draw any benefit from it. I have heard Again and again of cases of men who have refused absolutely to draw anything from the unemployment fund. It shows that these men, with their keen sense of honour, realise that this is not a true insurance fund but is partially, at any rate, a relief fund. I regard it, therefore, as absolutely necessary that the first plank, so to speak, in the unemployment insurance scheme should be a truly economic and solvent insurance scheme.

But I hope, beyond that, there may be something developed to deal with the cases where people are not qualified, or have fallen behind in their qualification. Those of us who live in districts which are suffering particularly from the present depression are all conscious, I think, of how serious is the deterioration in every way of the men who are continually unemployed. It is a most profound misfortune and one which the Government ought immediately to take in hand, because it is no use burking the fact that a great many of these men never will be fit for employment again unless something is done for them. I have had dozens of men brought to me in the hope that I can give them a job, but they are not physically fit for it, and it would be absolute torture to put them to the hard physical work to which they were once accustomed. Unless there is some intermediate scheme evolved, I feel that those men have only one ultimate end, and that is the Poor Law, and my own hope is that that can be avoided and that some scheme can be evolved which will aid in the regeneration of a lot of those men and their restoration to a true working condition. I hope in any future scheme the development may be in the direction of a series of scales of unemployment benefit. It seems to me unreasonable to pay the same rate of benefit to everyone. If you have a series of scales of benefits by which a man can climb, by industry or by higher contributions, which many employers would be ready to pay, and down which he will slide if he is a bad man in the sense of not endeavouring to work, you will find that you will create a bottom class which will be a fit object for the attention of the State in the sense that you will find in that class all those men who either physically or morally are incapable of real work, are not up to the normal standard and who are, therefore, fit objects for special consideration under any special scheme. I hope very much that development may be on those lines.

I should like to add a word on the wider question of the wiping out of unemployment. I agree very much with what was said by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Bootle (Lieut.-Colonel Henderson), that this unemployment is not now a universal crisis throughout the country. There are many trades now where employment is perfectly normal and reasonable. It is only in certain staple trades that it is to-day excessive and abnormal, and, that being so, it is entirely within the power of the Government specially to consider those abnormal eases and to deal with them by special means. I have not the least faith in the various schemes which are so often mooted for relief works. No man wants relief works. It generally means taking a man away from his home and putting him to work to which he is not accustomed, and in a great many cases the relief works I have had under my notice are not really of the slightest value to the unemployed of the district, but, are largely carried out by men who would normally he engaged in the same occupation.

Nor do I set much store by the appeals which are constantly made for a better understanding between employers and employed. Broadly speaking, in most industries which are the worst hit at present there is the very closest understanding between employers and employed, and the longer those relations are kept out of the purview of the House the better both sides will agree. It is not a matter of the relations between employers and employed at all. It is an absolutely abnormal state which is very readily accounted for by the enonomists. and which calls for abnormal treatment. I hope, therefore, that the Government will regard those abnormal cases as not being part of the general scheme at all. It sometimes seems to people outside the House that the Government Departments are so much occupied with the routine of looking after unemployment that they have no energy left to discover the real meaning of assisting the restoration of trade. I should like to see some definite effort made in that direction—some entirely separate body whose job it was to study the removal of this incubus from those particular trades. I hope some action of that kind may be undertaken. If we have that, and if we have a constant evolution of this Unemployment Insurance scheme, which of course at present is not perfect, but to which most of the contributions from the opposite benches have offered very little help, I believe it will be only a comparatively short time before we can wipe out the present unemployment.

8.0 P.M.

Photo of Mr Robert Dennison Mr Robert Dennison , Birmingham King's Norton

Like many who have listened to this Debate, I have been interested to learn that the Government propose to introduce a Bill to deal with some of the anomalies which are only too apparent in this great question. It would be helpful if the Minister could advise us when this Bill is likely to be introduced. It would have been much better had he withheld the Circular until such time as the Bill was introduced. The position of the unemployed, with particular reference to the tremendous burdens on our industrial centres, is going to be a very serious matter, and as the Minister of Labour represents one of the important cities in this country, the city of Birmingham, it is well that he should know what the Birmingham City Council thinks on the question. The rates in Birmingham amount to 16s. in the £, and of that 16s. some 3s. 3d. is in respect of unemployment schemes. The city council have declared that, with all the good intentions it may have, it is impossible for it to proceed any further. It has not even met its liabilities. It is rationing on a three years' basis. It may be interesting to the right hon. Gentleman, if he is not already aware of it, to know what was reported at the Birmingham City Council last Tuesday by the Finance CommitteeThe heavy charges for the cost of unemployment schemes undertaken by the Council are now being keenly felt. Approximately, £149,000 has to be met out of the 16s. rate for next year for loan charges alone, and this figure will be increased year after year as the Government grants drop out, until 1940 when the total annual charge of £180,000 will fall upon the rates. The Finance Committee feel it incumbent upon them to indicate to the Council that the commitments in respect of unemployment schemes undertaken by the Council have reached a limit beyond which the Finance Committee feel it would be unsafe for the Council to pass. Particularly on the present basis of Government grants which still leaves the local authority to bear the major portion of the cost of abnormal unemployment which is essentially a national and not a local charge. What will be the effect of the circular issued by the Ministry of Labour? It will increase the liability of the local authority and the board of guardians, particularly in view of the fact that the larger number of those who will be affected will be men and women between the ages of 55 and 70. The City of Birmingham, with over 1,000 trades within its borders, will be more seriously affected than perhaps any other centre in Great Britain. It would be interesting if the Minister of Labour would go to Birmingham and try to justify the circular, in the light of the city council's minutes at its last meeting.

Criticism has been made to the effect that too much attention is being paid to unemployed workmen. It is said that if they got less attention they might be disposed to take employment. I do not think that anyone would suggest that 15s. a week is sufficient to enable a man to keep body and soul together. I find from the report of the veterinary department of the city of Birmingham that it takes something like 30s. 3d. a week to maintain a horse in the city. A large number of unemployed workpeople in Birmingham would have been far better off had they been born as horses rather than workmen. Another point is that we are going through abnormal times and that this insurance benefit is not to be regarded as a relief fund. What can it be regarded as if not as a relief fund, bearing in mind the general tendency of trade at the present time? I am associated with the iron and steel trade, and those of us who know anything about the iron and steel trade do not regard the present position of the trade as a temporary position. It is more or less a permanent position. This is not due to the laziness of the workpeople. Nearly every workman engaged in the iron and steel industry is paid by results. He has been urged to increase his production, and he was told that if he increased it, he could expect to be duly rewarded.

What is the reward that he has reaped' In saying this I am not discouraging increased (production, but what I am anxious about is that the production shall be more equitably distributed. In 1913, the output of steel and castings amounted to 7,663,870 tons, and the unemployment figures for that period were 2¾ per cent. The output of that year was the peak year in the iron and steel trade, pre-War. In 1924, the output had increased by almost 1,000,000 tons, and yet the unemployment in the trade, taking the average, was 17½ per cent. It may be said that this was due to the importation of steel from abroad. What kind of steel? Is it heavy steel? There has been less heavy steel imported into this country during the last 18 months than during any period in the history of the trade, and yet there has been more serious unemployment in the heavy steel trade than at any other period. We are not being fair if we encourage the men to increase production and then reward them with unemployment. The aspect is far more serious than the mere quotation of figures would show, because the great bulk of the work-people who will be affected by the Circular in the iron and steel trade will be the elderly men, the men who are less able to compete for jobs if the jobs are going to become vacant.

I would urge the Minister very seriously to reconsider the position, and to withdraw the Circular, which will have a very serious effect upon the position in industrial centres, which districts are already bearing a very heavy burden of local taxation. It will also have a, serious psychological effect on the workpeople who have been doing their best to respond to the call for increased output. It is very difficult to expect us as Labour leaders on the one hand to urge our members to do their utmost, if we find afterwards that they become unemployed, that they get benefit for a short time, and that then they are told that they are not looking for work, because they have been idle so long, that it is impossible for them to get work elsewhere, and that therefore they must go to the board of guardians. This is not only unjust but absolutely cruel.

I should like the Minister to pay attention to some of the anomalies that exist in the administration of unemployment benefit. Take the position of an insured workman who becomes unemployed. During his employment he may have had a subsidiary occupation. At that occupation he may earn anything up to £1 a week. When he becomes unemployed in his normal occupation he can draw benefit, and still continue to earn his subsidiary earnings up to 3s. 4d. a day, or £1 a week. On the other hand, another workman who is in employment may think that one job is sufficient for a man, and he does not follow any subsidiary occupation. Therefore, he continues in one occupation only, and he becomes unemployed. If that man endeavours to augment his unemployment benefit by a few shillings a week, he loses his benefit.

Let me take the case of a man who took up the temporary occupation of a pedlar, earning not more than 1s. a day, or 6s. a week. That man was regarded as being engaged in a remunerative occupation, and he lost 18s. benefit in trying to earn 6s. In another case, a workman whose case I took up had been employed for two days helping a local farmer. His unemployment benefit was stopped because he was regarded as being engaged in a remunerative occupation, although it was proved that his remuneration only amounted to two cart-loads of manure a week; notwithstanding, he was deprived of his unemployment benefit. I hope that when the Minister introduces his Bill he will have regard to some of the cases that have been put before him from practical experience. I hope that the circular will be withdrawn.

Photo of Mr Joseph Batey Mr Joseph Batey , Spennymoor

I listened with very close attention to the statement made by the Parliamentary Secretary, and he will not be surprised when I say that he left us still unconvinced, and that we are entitled to go on complaining as to the administration of the Unemployment Insurance Fund. The mining industry has been going through a long, black, dark, winter of unemployment. In the county from which I come, we estimate that we have no fewer than 40,000 miners out of employment. Many of them were thrown out of employment last year, and a good number have been out of employment since the lock-out in 1921. We find in our district that we are affected in four ways as far as unemployment benefit is concerned. In the first place, there is the new Order, which has affected our men; secondly, there is the reason given that a man is not genuinely seeking work; thirdly, an order is given every now and then that miners must go to Yorkshire to find work, and, fourthly, there is the question of the trades disputes, which we thought we had settled last year.

In regard to a new Order, the Parliamentary Secretary emphasised the point that, whilst a man had to have eight stamps on his card he could he covered by 40 payments. The 40 payments means nothing to many men in the mining districts. The mining industry Came into the Insurance Act in November, 1920. At the beginning of March, 1921, the owners locked out the whole of the mining industry, with the result that thousands of men never got work since and have been unable to find work, and, therefore, it has been impossible for them to have those 40 stamps on their card to meet the requirements of the Under-Secretary.

There are two complaints which I wish to bring to the notice of the Minister. They came from two different collieries last week. In one colliery 15 men were of the class just mentioned, men who have never been able to find work since 1921. Those men, therefore, have been put off.

In another class of case altogether I have had a complaint from another colliery. At this colliery there were two men suffering from nystagmus. Our nystagmus men, when not able to find light work, have been able to claim unemployment benefit, and they have been getting unemployment benefit until this new Order came into effect. A man who gets nystagmus may appear to be, and may be, physically strong and able to do work involving physical effort, but because of the nystagmus in the eyes he may be unable to go down a pit.

When that man has been reported by the medical referee as suffering from nystagmus, in nine cases out of ten in a very short time the medical referee reports that man as being able to do light work, with the result that in the great bulk of cases the manager is not able to find light work for that man or will not do so—I am willing to say that in the great bulk of cases he cannot do it—and the man is unable to get light work anywhere else, and therefore he does not claim full compensation and has got to accept the light work rate of compensation. Recently he has been on the unemployed fund in order to put him right. That was the intention when this House discussed the Compensation Act two years ago. I have got here a copy of the OFFICIAL REPORT for lath November, 1923, and I will call the attention of the Minister to what the Home Secretary said then, when we were dealing with the Compensation Act, and we were urging that these men who were unable to get light work should he paid full compensation. The Home Secretary said: If it is the view that his failure is due to shortage of employment then that is a matter to he dealt with by unemployment legislation. And on another occasion during the same discussion he said on the question of light employment: The idea in my mind is that if it does mean a large number of people unemployed owing to trade depression then the relief of such people should snore properly fall upon the Unemployed provision than upon the Insurance provision."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 13th November, 1923: cols. 70 and 83. Vol. 168.] We have had those men receiving unemployment pay until this new order was issued. I have got one of these orders here. It is marked on the side "not an ex-service man," which meant that an ex-service man was not to be prevented from having unemployment benefit because he had not got his stamps. Why should not that apply to a man injured in industry just as to the ex-service man who is handicapped in seeking employment? A man who is injured in industry is just as much handicapped in seeking employment. I hope that the Minister will be able to meet this case of the nystagmus men, so that they will cease to be affected adversely in this way.

I want also to complain of the tightening of the policy which affects us in the other three ways. I have mentioned the case of the man who is said not to be genuinely seeking work. I submit that men living in colliery districts are altogether different in their conditions from men living in towns. When a man is living in a town, it is possible for him to go to some other establishment to seek work, but it is useless for a man living in a colliery district to go to another colliery to apply for work. In addition to that, we have found, when many of our men have gone to other collieries to seek work, and have even asked for notes and got them, that the Unemployed Committee have ignored the notes, refusing to recognise them, and have made the excuse that those men were not genuinely seeking work. The plea that a man is not genuinely seeking work is merely a clever excuse to take off thousands of men. The great bulk of the miners of the North of England could all be put off by that clever excuse. I would like the Minister to give us a definition, if it be possible, as to what is really meant by a man "not genuinely seeking work."

There is another point. An old grievance of ours is that our men are constantly being ordered to Yorkshire and other places for the purpose of finding work. The hon. Member for Gateshead (Mr. J. Beckett) gave me, this afternoon, a case of 40 miners some of whom, last week, have had unemployment pay stopped because they were ordered to go to Doncaster. Inquiries were made and it was found that there were no houses for them to go to, and because these men refused to go there unemployment pay was stopped. One miner has a wife and three children, another has a wife and six children, and another man is living with his sick mother. In that case the furni- ture has been sold already. These cases are typical of a lot of cases in County Durham. Men are ordered to go to Doncaster and are told that there is work for them there, and houses there, but from inquiries we have made we have found that there are no houses, and that this is only another excuse to stop the men's benefit. Even if there were houses a man who has been unemployed for several months is not in a position to pay for moving his furniture so far. Even if he could get a house he would have to pay for the moving of his furniture to Doncaster and he is not in a position to pay for such removal.

Here is the complaint of a man who was not ordered to go to Doncaster, but was ordered to go to another Durham colliery. He was ordered to go from Brandon Colliery to Shoreham Hill Colliery some seven or eight miles, but it was impossible for that man to go from one colliery to another. The miners' secretary wrote inquiring how that man would be affected. If the man had gone to the other colliery his net income would have been £2 5s. a week. He would have paid £1 10s. for lodgings, and there would have been left a balance of 15s. with which to keep a wife and four children. Last year we complained bitterly of these men being ordered from one place to another. T complain just as bitterly to-day. The Minister should not take advantage of arguments like those which have been used in order to deprive men of their unemployment benefit. When the Unemployment (No. 2) Bill was going through this House last year, we thought that we had settled the question of men receiving the benefit where there was a dispute and the men were not concerned in it.

There is a case in Durham of a colliery with between 800 and 1,000 men and lads affected. Those men have been idle for several months and have been refused benefit because the Umpire decided that there had been a trade dispute. The facts can be stated briefly. The management asked in one case that a class of work should be abolished, and that men doing another class should do that work. Secondly, it was asked that there should be a reduction in wages of from 20 to 25 per cent. The men refused both claims, and because of that they have been refused unemployment benefit. I heard the Minister say the other day that there was something in favour of the Umpire. My mind is made up that the sooner we get a new Umpire the better. After all is said and done, the Umpire's decision is final and binding, and when an Umpire gets to the position that this Umpire is in, the time has come to have a new Umpire.

Photo of Mr Herbert Williams Mr Herbert Williams , Reading

Was there a dispute?

Photo of Mr Joseph Batey Mr Joseph Batey , Spennymoor

We say not, but the Umpire says there was. This is what he states: The employers no doubt are seeking to vary existant piece price agreements, but those agreements are not national agreements, nor are they agreements existing between a group of employers, but ordinary agreements applying in the trade. Yet he says that because they are not national agreements, the men are not entitled to unemployment benefit. The Minister would do well to look into this matter and see whether something cannot be done. I know the difficulty, once an umpire has given a decision. We are opposed to this tightening-up policy of the Ministry of Labour, because we believe that it is unnecessary. The Parliamentary Secretary told us rather smartly the other day that during the last few weeks or months the debt of the Unemployment Fund had been increasing. One needs only to remind him that two years ago the Unemployment Fund owed £17,000,000. That debt in two years has been reduced to £6,000,000. I submit that when a fund is able to pay off £11,000,000 of debt in two years, it is doing well. That entitles me to say that the Ministry is not justified in this tightening-up policy. It may be that during the last few weeks or months the fund has not been paying off debts in the way that it has done during the previous two years, but I would like to know how much of the debt that is at present being contracted is being contracted because men are being repaid their contribution on reaching 60 years of age?

Photo of Sir Henry Betterton Sir Henry Betterton , Rushcliffe

My recollection is that the deficiency of £6,000,000 is outside and in addition to the amount of refund to be paid ultimately under the Act of 1924. We cannot say precisely at present what that refund may amount to, but we are advised that it will come to something like £3,000,000. I give those figures from recollection, and the hon. Member must not take me as pledging myself precisely to them.

Photo of Mr Joseph Batey Mr Joseph Batey , Spennymoor

The Parliamentary Secretary agrees that two years ago the debt was £17,000,000 and now it is £6,000,000. I think the fund has done extremely well. I wish to emphasise the fact that in the North of England it may be possible to put hundreds of these men off the benefit fund, but that will mean that they will be thrown on to the guardians. It is not the fault of the men that they are unemployed. They do not want unemployment or the dole; they ask for work. We believe that they are entitled to work, and they would have work if the mine owners were not left such a free hand to close the pits. I plead with the Minister to reconsider the question, especially the Order I have mentioned, not to force the Order in the way that it is being forced, but to consider the claims of these men and to meet their cage as far as possible.

Photo of Mr Walter Womersley Mr Walter Womersley , Grimsby

This is the first time that I have addressed the House, and my excuse for doing so is the fact that I have for many years taken a great interest in the question of unemployment and unemployment insurance. Although the hon. Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan) complained that speakers on the Conservative side were dealing only with the question of providing work, and not with complaints against the administration of the Unemployment Insurance Act, yet I am going to be bold enough not to offer criticism of the Minister's action, but to suggest to the House some method whereby work could be found for the men. No man, unless he has had actual experience of what unemployment means, knows anything about it. You cannot get a knowledge of it from books. As a boy I had the unfortunate experience of having the breadwinner, my father, out of employment for many months. There was no insurance in those days, and I know exactly what that unemployment meant to us children. That is why I have always taken a sympathetic interest in this question of unemployment, and why I welcomed the Unemployment Insurance Act. I have shown my sympathy in a practical way. Before the War I served as chairman of the local distress committee in my district. We had then no Insurance Act, and we had to try to find work for the men. I know something of their difficulties.

My experience on local committees goes to show that there should be no great complaint on the part of the unemployed as to the treatment they receive from those committees. My experience may be different from that of other hon. Members, but it has indicated that those who represent Labour on the committees are most severe in dealing with so-called shirkers. I believe myself that 90 per cent. of these men are genuinely desirous of getting work. I have no sympathy with the lazy man whether he be rich or poor, and I have no sympathy with that type of man whom we in our district call the "fret-worker," who works on Monday and frets about it all the rest of the week. A matter which greatly affects casual labour, such as labour at the docks in the town which I have the honour to represent, is the system under which a man does three days' work and then gets three days' benefit, but if he does four days' work he does not get any benefit. Can we blame a man in these circumstances for saying that he is going to work for the three days and then draw the three days' benefit? I hope the Minister will take a note of that matter and deal with it n due course.

1 offer no further criticism of the manner in which the Act is being administered, but I wish to suggest something which may be a help towards finding work. The real thing is to get more employment in the country, an d then we need not have all this worry about a few men not receiving unemployment benefit. Did either the last Government or the Government which preceded it tackle this question as it should have been tackled? I submit this was one of the biggest problems before the country at the last Election and that the greatest asset of the party to which I belong was the hon. Member for Preston (Mr. T. Shaw), not for what he did, but for what he failed to do in relation to the problem of unemployment. Somebody has referred to him as the rabbit merchant. We all realise that the only cure for unemployment is improved trade. That is acknowledged on all sides, and we can only get improved trade by a better understanding between employers and employés. We want an assurance of peace abroad for the next 50 years and an industrial truce for the next 20 years. Speaking as one who has sat on Whitley Councils and who believes in Whitleyism, I submit that if we could penalise the employer who locks his workmen out unjustly and penalise the trade union leader who brings men out on strike unjustly we should do something to solve the problem. What we want in commercial circles is the confidence that if we undertake certain work we can carry it out because we know that the men are going to stick to the job and finish it.

Relief works have been mentioned by one hon. Member in a manner which indicated that he did not believe in them, but they have been of some value to the country and have to some extent served their purpose. At the same time. these relief works have not been on the right lines. I served on a town council for many years and have some knowledge of the matter from that point of view. What were the local authorities allowed to do? Various Governments have been of the same opinion, apparently, in allowing local authorities to conduct works of importance, but it was laid down that these must not he of a revenue-earning character. That meant that they could undertake sewer works, road works, parks and recreation grounds and all that sort of thing. In other words, they could dig holes and fill them up again, and men were employed on schemes of that kind who should have been employed at their own work. We put skilled men into road work and grumbled because they did not do as much as trained navvies. We spoiled these men for their own work, we broke their hearts by taking them from the skilled work to which they were accustomed and setting them to road-making. After some pressure the last Conservative Government did bring in scheme under which they made an extension to work of a. productive and revenue-earning character, including trams, harbours, electricity and gas undertakings, and so on. Many schemes were brought up to that Government and to the late Government which would have involved work for skilled men. I know of one scheme in connection with which £500,000 would have been spent on engineering work and many thousands on other forms of skilled work, but because it appeared that the small portion of the money grant would be to the benefit of what was called "private enterprise," these schemes were turned down. It is time we put away red tape and got down to the real hard facts. We shall have to find relief work for some time to come. Why not let it be relief work which will be of real value to the nation when completed and will create employment afterwards? When such schemes are submitted I ask the Minister to give them earnest consideration, and I think something will be done in that way to relieve this great burden of unemployment.

Photo of Mr Neil Maclean Mr Neil Maclean , Glasgow Govan

In taking up the criticism of the Ministry of Labour on this subject one seems to be reiterating criticisms of the same Department, both for its inactivity and for what the hon. Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan) described as its heartlessness. The Prime Minister on Friday expressed a desire—echoed by the hon. Member who has just sat down, in a maiden speech which was interesting in the suggestions it contained—that we should have peace, and I think the right hon. Gentleman concluded his speech with the words Give peace in our time, O Lord. The last expression is frequently used after claimants have heard the decisions of the rota committees in the. Employment Exchanges, and I may further say that there is no peace nor is there likely to be any peace so long as the Ministry of Labour and the various Departments and committees concerned treat the unemployed as they are doing. When the Minister of Labour first faced this House in that capacity, to reply to criticisms he made a significant statement: Similarly, I do realise perfectly well the kind of hard cases there are at this moment. One of the Members opposite alluded to the fact one might have a workman thoroughly competent in his trade and yet out of work five years or more. It is perfectly true. … There are some cases where you do get quite a big degree of hardship on account of the trade that is carried on in the town. While unemployment is had in many trades—it is bad in the heavy iron and steel trades …—the trade of all trades that has suffered from unemployment in these last years has been the shipbuilding trade…. Glasgow is one of the greatest, if not the greatest … that you get a degree of unemployment and a degree of hardship greater than in almost any other places in the United Kingdom. While you have many hard cases in other places, you get a greater proportion in cities like Glasgow. "—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 11th December, 1924; col. 467. Vol. 179.] When the Minister of Labour made that statement, we accepted it. Those of us who come from Clydeside, and who have received that euphonious term "Clydesiders," from the Press, believed that the Minister of Labour appreciated the circumstances that prevailed when he admitted that in Glasgow we had conditions that were greater, so far as hardship went, and the rigorous treatment more severe, than in any other place in the United Kingdom, and we anticipated from that statement that the Minister, with the full recognition he seemed to have, would go into the question in such a way that Glasgow, at any rate, would not be treated in a degree that seemed to be harder or more severe than in other parts of the country. We thought, in addition, that where any latitude could be allowed in the. regulations, in virtue of his own recognition that Glasgow was in a peculiar situation because of its trade, that latitude would be permitted to those who were unemployed in that city, yet what are the facts? The hon. Member for Gorbals described the situation in which the parish of Govan is being placed, that by the end of April this year the parish of Govan will have a debt of £700,000 hanging over it, and that it will have a rate of 6s. in the £, as compared with a matter of only 5½d. or 6d. in the adjoining parish of Cathcart, the residential parish.

In addition to that, we are having at the present time these Regulations, which other hon. Members have protested against, coming out week after week, and men and women thrown out of benefit on the most paltry excuses by the Ministry of Labour. One of the excuses is that based upon the very old circular that a man must show that he is genuinely seeking employment, the circular which also states that a man can produce documentary evidence to show that he is. We here have raised this point time and time again, that when a man has produced half-a-dozen—may, mare than a dozen—certificates from different foremen to prove that he has been there looking for employment, your rota committee, your insurance officers, your investigation officers refuse absolutely to accept that documentary evidence, and the man is refused benefit. I want to ask the Prime Minister, who is in his place, and who has the outlining of the policy, if he will advise the Minister of Labour, if he cannot allow the acceptance of that as documentary evidence—certificates signed by foremen of works, men who are busy enough, in ail conscience, arranging work for those who are employed in their place, and yet who, out of good-heartedness, when a man who has made application for work asks for a certificate of proof that he has been there, atop their awn immediate work and write out the certificate for the man, so that he may produce it at the Exchange, and it may perhaps be a means of obtaining unemployment benefit for that man. If the Ministry are not going to accept those certificates as documentary evidence, then, in Heaven's name, wipe that phrase out of the Regulation, withdraw it, and produce another that will be accepted and put properly into force by those to whom the Regulations are issued.

I may tell the Prime Minister—and the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour cannot deny it—that I have sent cases to the Minister of Labour with at least half-a-dozen certificates from employers attached, given to men who were genuinely seeking employment, and the reply has been the stereotyped one: "The rota committee have had this before them, and decided, with the evidence in front of them, that the man was not genuinely seeking employment." The whole thing is absurd. The Premier asked for peace, he made that plea, and I give him all credit for honesty and sincerity in making it. I honestly believe that what the right hon. Gentleman desires in industry he expressed on Friday last, but I want to tell him frankly that he will never reach those conditions in industry so long as Departments under his Prime Ministership are treating the workless in the way in which they are being treated. There is a new Regulation issued, and I want to challenge the Government to produce any Act of Parliament which gives them power to do many of the things they are doing under these Regulations.

Here is a Regulation which states that a man, after he has been refused benefit, will not have his ease reconsidered for six months. We were told last year that the Act introduced by the Labour Government had abolished the gap. The gaps previously were only for a period of five or six weeks. The Tory Government has reintroduced the gap, but for six months. [An HON. MEMBER "No!"] Do not say "No." If the hon. Member were an unemployed man at the Exchange, he would know the difference between getting unemployment benefit and not getting it. He would know, if he were on the gap and his wife would let him know also, when he went home with nothing. This Regulation is dated 23rd February, 1925, and it means a gap of six months. What is the Government going to do about it, this Government, which came in with all its great outcry about re-establishing industry, which came into office on the big cry of the Prime Minister's statement at the elections of what they were going to do? Will they administer this Act as an Act that is to give benefit to people who deserve it, who require it, who have paid for it?

Referring to the point made by the hon. Member for Spennymoor (Mr. Batey) about the Government's admission that in two years they have reduced the debt lying on the Insurance Fund from £17,000,000 to £6,000,000, if every Government Department could do the same they would have a flourishing Government, but is the Parliamentary Secretary aware that the Ministry of Labour have power to borrow from the Treasury up to £30,000,000, and that that power has not yet been exercised to the full? They have been so busy refusing old men over 60 years of age their 18s. a week, in order to reduce the debt to the Treasury, that they imagine they are carrying on the affairs of the Department in a wonderfully efficient manner. I would suggest to the Prime Minister—I would have suggested it to the Chancellor of the Exchequer—that in this particular Department more ought to be taken from the Treasury and given to those people. Out of the 11,000 who have been turned down, Glasgow has 4,000—more than one-third of the total number for the United Kingdom. And that is the town that the Minister of Labour says is specially hit, because of its particular industry, and, therefore, ought to receive special attention! The special attention that Glasgow is getting is that more people have been deprived of benefit there than in any other part of the country. I put this question the other day regarding the old men over 60 years of age: To ask the Minister of Labour whether he is aware that an instruction was issued by the Ministry to the local employment exchanges for the summoning of unemployed men over 60 years of age before rota committees, which instruction contained a suggestion for the stopping of benefit to those men; whether he can state who authorised the issue of the instruction; and whether he will place a copy in the Library or circulate copies to the members of this House. The reply I received was: No such instruction has been issued."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 18th February, 1925; col. 1074, Vol. 180.] I have here the instruction, which I will read to the House: The Committee should be informed that their resolution has been noted. It should be explained to the Committee that uneo'venanted benefit should only be recommended in the case of elderly applicants where the applicants are, in the opinion of the Committee, likely to obtain regular insurable employment under ordinary industrial conditions. Uncovenanted benefit should not be recommended in cases where the Committee arrive at the conclusion that the applicants by reason of age or physical infirmity are not likely to obtain employment again, or will only be able to get work intermittently. 9.0 P.M.

The Exchanges, and the Minister of Labour says that no such instruction has been issued. [An HON. MEMBER: "What is the date?"] July, 1924. And yet the Minister, only last week, said that no such instruction was issued! He has got something to put upon his permanent officials, who are the ones responsible for issuing those instructions. The Department is not being managed by the Minister of Labour but by the permanent Officials. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] We know it is. Here is a case in point. An instruction was issued eight months ago, and the Minister gives this answer. [interruption.] Never mind which party it is. The people are being injured, and we object, whether the party be Labour or Tory. We arc not concerned with who is hurting them. If they are being hurt, we are going to help them. The point I want to make is that a Minister in a Tory Government knows nothing about it. When a direct question is put to him, the answer given by the same permanent officials is, that no such instruction has been issued. It is putting a Minister of the Crown in a very false position in this House before men who know the instruct- tion has been issued, and have copies of it. An hon. Member opposite accuses me of speaking to the gallery.

Photo of Major Hon. Sir Edward Cadogan Major Hon. Sir Edward Cadogan , Finchley

I did not say anything of the sort.

Photo of Mr Neil Maclean Mr Neil Maclean , Glasgow Govan

I thought someone said I was playing to the gallery. We are not playing to any gallery. We are taking advantage of this Vote to exercise our rights as Members to draw attention to the faulty administration of the Ministry of Labour, and we have every right to bring forward grievances submitted by our constituents. We are sent here for that purpose, and hon. Members opposite have the opportunity to defend the Government they are supporting if they think we are wrong. I want to make this appeal. I want the Prime Minister to see to it that all Regulations and instructions that are issued to the rota committees and to the Employment Exchanges are submitted also to Members of this House. We are asking that. We have asked it before, and we ask it again. It is a perfectly reasonable request, that those who are in this House, and who are responsible for passing those Acts of Parliament, should also be supplied with the Regulations that are going to put those Acts into operation. It is a legitimate request. We have asked for it time and again, but hitherto we have been refused the request.

I want also to point out that the Regulations issued have an equally harsh effect upon the young people, particularly young women. We have had cases brought up in this House before. Exchanges have asked young women of 19 years of age to leave their homes in Glasgow or the surrounding districts and come to Derby to take domestic service. Here were girls never accustomed to doing any domestic service, who had been employed in factories in Govan and surrounding districts, but because they told the Exchange official they were not accustomed to domestic service, that their work was in factories, and when their own parents were asked and refused permission for them to go, these people were refused benefit. I have put this question already, and I put it again. Is there a Member on the other side of this House, with a daughter 18, 19, or 20 years of age, who would allow that daughter to go out of her home, with its parental care, and go 200 or 300 miles into a stranger's home, of which they knew nothing? They know they would not, and that it would be perfectly absurd to ask them. Why, then, should they come to our class, to the mothers of our people, to ask them to allow their daughters to go away so far from the care of the home and all that it means?

I want to say that the detestation of domestic service is growing, and you can only blame your own class for it—I do not say all of you—and the revelations that have appeared in the Press as to the homes of your class. There is too much to be seen, too much to be read, too much fear of contamination by going into domestic service. Consequently, the parents of those girls are not going to allow their children to go where there is a fear of contamination. I appeal to the Prime Minister and also to the Minister of Labour, and would point out that the time has gone past for all these nice sentiments to be expressed. We can all ask for "Peace in our time, O Lord." But the best way to have peace in our time is to show that we arc prepared to carry into effect those injunctions that have been handed down to us, to look after the widow and the orphan, to succour the fatherless, and even to look after those who are old and not now able to work for themselves.

Photo of Sir Charles Murchison Sir Charles Murchison , Huntingdonshire

I should, for a few minutes, just like to intervene, because it struck me during that part of this Debate that T have been able to hear that this question of unemployment has been regarded far too much as a party question. After all, it is a national question. If one looks back to what the last Government did one may say that it did not seem find a very satisfactory solution of the problem. Again, as to what the hen. Gentleman opposite who has just sat down said about the issue of these Regulations, and his request to the Minister to see that every Member had a copy of the Regulations issued by direction of the Minister; I do not think it is impertinent to ask whether during the administration of the last Government copies of such Labour Ministry Regulations were issued? After all, this question of unemployment is very largely a question, as has been pointed out several times, of trade depression, and if the workers and employers would only do more to settle these questions themselves, and not rely too much upon the Government and upon what Government Departments can do for them, it would be a very good thing. It is a question of the cost of production. Whether it is a matter of the improvement of conditions of work or the reduction of profits, or wages, I think it would be a great help to the Ministry if some of the great industries would help themselves more. After all, "Heaven helps those who help themselves." I think it is a great pity that this country still seems to be inflicted by the War-time habit of relying very much upon Ministries.

If trade depression could be reduced it would halve the difficulties of the Ministry of Pensions with which I am closely associated, and also those of the Ministry of Labour. Unemployment fluctuates very considerably. Whilst on this point, let me thank the Minister of Labour very much for the promptness with which he has acceded to the request, or rather suggestion, I made the other day that he should set out by a chart in the tea-room the variation of unemployment during recent years.

So far as this question of unemployment is concerned, I was greatly interested to hear the Parliamentary Secretary say this afternoon that the Government are seriously exploring some means whereby the older men are to be in receipt of pensions which would come from some appropriate source, because it is obvious that no industry can stand up against the full burden of insurance benefit, which provides both for the older men as well as the younger men. In regard to the younger men I think that a great many of them might show a little more keenness in trying to get work, and a, little more perseverance in sticking to it when they do get work, even though it may not be very congenial to them. Apart from that, emigration has been touched upon this afternoon. There is also the Army, which I believe has not been referred to to-day, but I believe I am right in saying that not many weeks ago the Army Council complained in a report of the bad effect of the advantageous conditions of unemployment benefit upon recruiting. That is one aspect of the question which we must not lose sight of. I hope that the Minister will continue in his work, will consider these various points, and not allow the interest of the genuine workers to be prejudiced in any way by a mistaken leniency towards the others.

Photo of Mr John Simon Mr John Simon , Spen Valley

There is one feature of this Debate which has often been observed in debates on this subject in previous Parliaments. There is a tendency, an inevitable tendency, to treat this subject as though it were a Departmental issue. The Parliamentary Secretary, who intervened earlier in the Debate, made the way smooth for his chief by urging—and if I may say so, very properly—that the Minister of Labour, after all, must obey the Statute, and that the Statute is a Statute which, after 1st October next, makes it unlawful—and impossible as things now are—to pay extended benefit to an applicant who is found not to have made 30 weekly payments in the last two insurance years. That is all very well. I venture, however, to think that it does not get any way near what is fundamental in a discussion of this sort.

The truth is that unemployment, as it exists in Britain to-day, cannot possibly be regarded as a Departmental subject at all. It is perfectly natural and right for the Ministry of Labour, assisted by its very skilful permanent staff, to deal with it in that way, but I am sure my right hon. Friend the Minister himself would wish to take a wider view. I am very glad to see that the Prime Minister has thought it worth while to attend the Debate. In previous Debates on this subject the Prime Ministers have actually taken part. I remember the late Prime Minister did. I should like to put a question to the right hon. Gentleman who is going to reply at the end of the evening. The 1st of October, 1925, is coming: as the law stands we quite appreciate that it will not be lawful, or permissible, to pay extended benefit unless the applicant has made 30 payments in the last two insurance years. But does the right hon. Gentleman really contemplate, is his Department really making preparations as though it contemplated that that situation will really exist when next winter comes? Is it too early to ask him how many people, according to the advice of his Department, will by that Regulation, be actually thrown out of benefit? I hope he will not say it is too early to know, because, after all, the present Government has been in office for a longer time than the Government to Which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Preston (Mr. T. Shaw) belonged, and it was the Conservative party in the last Parliament who were burning to turn them out of office because of the right hon. Gentleman's incompetence and indecision. The Liberal party, on that occasion more numerous than now, declined to join in that premature effort. Whether it would have been more or less fortunate for them I do not know; but the fact remains that the present Government have now been longer on the Treasury Bench than the Labour Government had been when they exposed themselves to very hot and persistent criticism on this subject. Therefore, I hope it may be possible for us to be told what is the view of my right hon. Friend and the Ministry as to the situation that will arise if the present law is unaltered by 1st October. Let me say in this connection that a gross injustice is done to Mr. Masterman if it is suggested that when he moved, in connection with the late Bill, that it should be limited in its operation to a date in 1926, he was thereby endeavouring to curtail the provision which ought to be made for the unemployed. On the contrary, the whole point was, and I think he had a very large measure of sympathy from all parts of the House, that it is useless to go on living from hand-to-mouth, never having plans which can be regarded as scientific and worked out, when it appears, whatever be the explanation, and wherever the fault may lie, that we are in for a period of very extended and very exceptional unemployment. It was thought desirable that whatever Government was in power should be made to face the realities of the situation without too much delay, instead of going on extending from period to period provisions which in themselves can provide no solution.

In the same way I should like to ask my right hon. Friend if he would answer this question, What is the main object which he had in view in introducing this Regulation last month, by which extended benefit is only to be granted between now and 1st October if certain definite conditions are realised? The matter is too technical and the whole subject too diffi- cult for anybody with a sense of responsibility to pronounce dogmatically about it without very full information. Is the object merely to satisfy a demand from the Treasury that somehow or other less money should be spent on uncovenanted benefits? I can quite believe that the Treasury has its communications with the Ministry of Labour, but it is not much satisfaction to the country if the only reason why such a Regulation is introduced is to satisfy pressure from the Treasury. Or is the object this—that by degrees during the summer we may be brought to realise that when we come to the 1st October a still more serious situation will develop? The right hon. Gentleman will be able to tell us whether it is with that object in view that he has made this Regulation. Or is the view that unless a Regulation of that sort is made there is an actual encouragement to people who ought to exert themselves to find work riot to do so? I am not criticising the right hon. Gentleman in advance, because I do not know what his answer may be but it does seem to me, if I may say so, with great respect to my hon. Friends above the Gangway, that instead of merely denouncing a Regulation which has been put forward it is very material to ask the Minister to tell us what is the main purpose to be served by it.

Photo of Mr Neil Maclean Mr Neil Maclean , Glasgow Govan

We have done that by questions.

Photo of Mr John Simon Mr John Simon , Spen Valley

All the more reason for continuing the questions until we get an answer. I take a close interest in this subject, because in 1911 I was one of the Ministers who had a personal responsibility for the original unemployment insurance scheme, and there is a feature about the development of this scheme which is deeply disturbing to all those who believe in unemployment insurance. Unemployment insurance ceases to have any proper application and meaning if the unemployment insurance fund is treated indiscriminately as a source from which relief may be granted to men who, strictly speaking, are not contributors to the fund. You have got an unemployment insurance fund, carefully built up on actuarial calculations, to which the contributors are primarily entitled to look, and every draft upon it for outside purposes is a reduction of their fund; and on the other hand you have a natural hesitation in going too far in relieving those out of that fund, so that very possibly their relief is also inadequate.

I cannot help thinking that the time has come for a Government—and this Government has got a great majority, and the Prime Minister's speech last Friday shows some of the spirit that is behind it—to face the situation, and for it to he realised that unemployment insurance based on an actuarial calculation is one thing, and provision, such as is justified and necessary, for men who through no fault of their own are out of work, but who really are not members of the fund. is quite another thing. If we do not do that, we shall end by making unemployment insurance itself unsound, and we shall all the time have never faced the real problem.

I would make this observation in conclusion. Side by side with this problem we have Employment Exchanges which under the original scheme were intended to test whether a man was genuinely seeking employment, and which in many parts of the country are, I venture to think, more and more becoming the registration agencies for the purpose of ticking-off an unhappy string of men who turn up week by week to register and, it may be, to get their benefit. The scheme itself, which was full of so much hope and promise, is a scheme which is liable to be jeopardised unless, in view of this continued and quite exceptional unemployment, we do not realise that new and separate Measures are necessary.

When I look at the unemployment figures. week by week or month by month, I cannot help being profoundly struck by this reflection. You find for weeks, for months, for years past, that the figures on the live register are over 1,000,000. For my part, I care very little whether in one month they are 1,200,000, and another month 1,100,000, and in a serious Debate of this sort I do not think it is worth while making comparisons of that sort. It is easy to make the point that last February the figure was as great as or even greater than in the February before, but, be it a little more or a little less, what does it matter? The broad fact is that month after month the figures are of those proportions. Would any student of British institutions 15 or 20 years ago have believed it possible for a country to have continued quiescent, and to a large extent indifferent, in the presence of a continuous rate of registered unemployment as great as that? It really is one of the most astonishing facts of contemporary life that it should be so, and not in every respect a very satisfactory one. It has been possible only because unemployment insurance was started in a time of good trade, on a small scale it is true to begin with, with the result that a very substantial fund was built up before the pinch came. It has also been possible because we have gradually got into the way of thinking it, I will not say natural. but almost normal, that so terrible a figure should exist.

That is one reason why a new Government, entering into this problem with the great power which is behind the right hon. Gentleman and his Friends, should avow frankly that they do not expect to he able to go on by makeshifts, simply pushing the problem forward month by month and reaching 1st October next, when it seems to me we are going to be faced with an almost impossible situation. Sooner or later—sooner rather than later—they will have to recognise that there is, as things are, side by side with the scheme of Unemployment Insurance another question which must be adequately tackled unless we are going to land ourselves in irretrievable disaster. I shall not forget my undertaking to my right hon. Friend and to you, Mr. Speaker, that I would not keep the House more than a few minutes, and I would urge the Minister and his colleagues to consider whether this must not now be dealt with by some method which: s by no means Departmental. There is a great force in what was said by my hon. Friend behind me that cutting down uncovenanted benefit will throw such a burden on certain local authorities that will actually break their back. o The question is bigger than whether a particular local authority will have to make an appeal for assistance outside. It is bigger than the question of the convenience of the plans of the Treasury. It is one of the things which are now so near the heart of our national situation that only treatment on the broadest lines and in the most national spirit can possibly satisfy.

Photo of Mr Thomas Shaw Mr Thomas Shaw , Preston

The most important question in the present condition is the fact that unemployment, so far as the live register is concerned, is greater now than it was this time last year. In spite of the Government with its enormous majority, with its safe policy, with the confidence of the nation in it, it has succeeded in increasing the numbers, whilst we, after six weeks, were attacked because we did not reduce unemployment to a nothingness and a vision. I do not want to make an attack on the Minister of Labour, because I know he is the whipping boy of the Government. So far as he is concerned, he cannot even paint his own offices without the permission of other people, so I am not going to make a personal attack. But I am going to ask what has this Government of all the talents and a big majority done to reduce the volume of unemployment 'o Where is all this splendid confidence that is reflected in the mercantile capacity of our country, that has safeguarded our institutions against those beastly Socialists, that has put us on a better basis, that has made us happier and is going to give us success? Where are all those things? Certainly not shown in the figures of unemployment. I want to know from the Minister what is being done with regard to the provision of useful work, particularly so far as the schemes that were matured when the last Government went out of office are concerned. Whatever personal views we may hold, and whatever party advantage may demand, one thing I think we all ought to have at heart, and that is that whatever party can reduce unemployment, that party deserves the thanks of the nation. In that spirit I am asking what is being done with the great road schemes? Has anything been done with afforestation? What has come of the late Government's idea of standardising the frequency of electrical stations, of running networks of cables, and of making possible even in the rural districts a cheap supply of current for power and lighting, giving the possibility of making the country more enjoyable, helping small industries, and probably by intensifying the desire for country life when the new amenities are put there, giving us a chance of developing local industries that might in turn help to solve some part of the unemployment problem? These things I would like to know, because the House is entitled to know what the Government are doing, what their record is, and what their intentions are. Obviously, with an unemployed live register of 1,236,000 on the last figures, the Government have a responsibility they cannot escape, and they must make some statement of some kind.

Having dealt with that. subject, may I turn to the administration of the Unemployment insurance Acts? It will be within the recollection of the House that the intention of the 1924 Act was to make certain basic changes in the method of insurance. The first was that benefits should be given as a right and not as a charity. There were certain benefits under the previous Acts known as uncovenanted benefits that were really a charity. A book written by a way prominent and able Member of the staff of the Ministry described those benefits in certain aspects as being in the nature. of charity. The 1924 Act was intended to give all benefits, whether covenanted or extended, as a, statutory right to every person who complied with certain well-defined conditions. The intention of the Act was to see that no genuine worker who was unemployed should be left without unemployment benefit. That was deliberately the intention of the Act. Those were new principles that we laid down, principles that so far as I know had never been incorporated in any previous scheme, and there was somewhat of an outcry against this outrage on what were described as being sound insurance principles. Well, there are no sacrosanct sound insurance principles. It. is sound business in a nation to see that an unemployed worker is not allowed either to go to the guardians or to sink into starvation, and there is no sound principle, either insurance or other, in starving a man simply because he happens to be out of work. There is less justification for a more serious thing than that—breaking the mans self-respect because he happens to be out of employment. I suppose every Member of the House knows something of working conditions. Those of us who know best from actual experience the working man's life know that the one thing the working man detests more than any other is to go and accept poor relief. He shrinks from it; he hates it. A nation that will allow its genuine working men and women to go to the guardians is not a nation that has a right to pride itself on its civilisation.

I shall deal with that phase of question in a later part of my speech.

What was the condition of things before this Act came into operation We had a state of things in which those workers who had been hit the hardest by unemployment were suddenly thrown without any benefit at all. They were already half-starved, and all they were left to do was that they could starve for three or six weeks at a time, or do the next hest thing. That was the condition of affairs when this Act now in operation was a Bill, and was being presented to this House. What was known as uncovenanted benefit was only being given at the Minister's volition. He had the right to withdraw those benefits at any time, and if the Minister had cared to apply the law, as the present Minister said he has, instead of 100,000, probably 750,000 would have been deprived of benefits. Since 1920 it has been impossible to forecast the position we should have been in without frequent alterations of the law.

When it is said that I made speeches when the Bill was going through the House in favour of taking away the discretion of the Minister it is perfectly true, but will anybody say that if the Labour Government had remained in office it would have allowed this Clause. to come into operation, thus throwing these people out of benefits when by a one-Clause Bill, which would have readily received the assent of the House, the Minister could have taken another 12 months to deal with the position It is the easiest thing for the Minister of Labour, if he desires to keep these people in benefits, to bring in a one-Clause Bill and extend his powers for 12 months, and then these people will retain their benefits.

If he does not do that he is going to take away from thousands of people who have been hit worst of all by unemployment the chance of living in decency and comfort, and he is inevitably going to put them to choose between three alternatives: (1) either they can starve, and nobody wants that; (2) they can go to the guardians, which they detest., and I hope the. House will recognise the disinclination of people to go to the guardians; or (3) they can begin in the labour market to undersell their fellows in the labour market, and, by getting work, put other people out of employment, and thus reduce the standard of wages, and at the same time not make any difference in the number of people unemployed, but simply put other people out of a, job, and you get just the same number on the live register and you have not solved any problem at all. I see no other course outside those three for these men to follow.

Under the Act of 1924, the new scheme was based on the probabilities of the situation. The advice of experts on the subject was sought, and it was known that everybody in the House thought that there was going to be a diminution in unemployment. We all thought the situation was going to be easier, and that it might be possible to apply certain general rules, but it has not become easier. As a matter of fact the figure is higher now than it was last February. Taking the figure, as one can take it after trying to ascertain its true value, there can be no doubt that unemployment is as bad now as it was in February last. Consequently the ideas we then had as to the problems of the situation have proved to be wrong, and the Government is faced with a problem which any other Government would have been faced with, and it will have to face it as every other Government has had to face it since 1920 by determining what it is going to do to meet the circumstances that exist to-day.

I hope the Minister of Labour has net closed his mind, and above all I hope the Treasury has not closed its mind, against reason in the light of the circumstances. If anybody suggests that it will be an easy thing to do quietly to let these people run out of benefit, it is I think a great mistake. Apparently it is quite easy by letting these people run out of benefit to show a reduction in unemployment, because they will not appear on the live register and the country may get the idea that unemployment is decreasing. Nevertheless the country will be mistaken, and if the Government says that unemployment is decreasing the country will he misled. I suggest that it is to the advantage of the Government to introduced, one-Clause Bill and not push these people out of benefit, because their condition will be infinitely worse than it is now if that is done.

I am one of those who believe that this system of unemployment insurance is a national duty. The unemployment with which we are faced is a direct and immediate result of the War, and the country was promised over and over again by politicians of every party that the nation would face its responsibility to its soldiers and its workers. As a matter of fact the only people to whom the country has kept its word are the people who lent money to the State. They are the only people who have received 20s. in the £ in fact they have received more, and they are the only people in regard to whom the promises of the Government have been kept.

I ask the Government not to carry on the policy they have begun of preparing for putting people off benefit, which will inevitably throw those people on to Poor Law relief. It seems to me a particularly mean and shabby policy for the Treasury to adopt, to try to shift the responsibility for this unemployment on to the local authorities—mean and shabby because a national responsibility is being thrown on people who ought not to bear it. And the worst of it is, that the responsibility is thrown on the people worse able to bear it. It has been pointed out, over and over again in the Debate, what will take place. The hon. Member for West Middlesbrough (Mr. T. Thomson), in a speech full of facts, pointed out that just those localities where the suffering had been keenest, where the people were poorest, would be the localities that would have this burden thrown upon them; while the localities that are richest, those with purely residential populations, would have to bear none of it. You put a far heavier burden on the already overburdened people, and leave those with a comparatively light burden free from any addition to it.

Then, with regard to the method of administration, it is perfectly easy for the Minister, by a word here and there, by a hint here and there from his staff, to tighten up the administration. I am going to appeal to him to do exactly the opposite. The sufferings of these people have been a tremendous burden for them, and if, instead of issuing the ordinary cold Circular, he would say to all his officers and committees that every unemployed person must have the fullest courtesy, the fullest sympathy, and the benefit of the doubt, then I think his administration would become humane, and people would be better treated than they now are. I want to suggest to him that it is infinitely better even to pay a doubtful case here and there wrongly than to make regulations to avoid paying these cases that cripple and hinder really genuine people. It is far better to pay one or two "wrong 'uns," to use a colloquial term, than, by regulation, to refuse to pay hundreds of debent people what they are really entitled to.

Then I want to suggest to him that it is a futility to try to push men into trades to which they do pot belong, particularly when men in those trades to which they are being sent are already unemployed. It would he an extraordinarily bad thing if an impression got abroad that people were merely being played with when they were asked to take situations. I had a case myself, when I was Minister, that opened my eyes. It was the case of a girl who was asked to leave home and go a considerable distance to work. I found, to my astonishment, that people in the same trade were unemployed in the same town to which the girl was asked to go, and it struck me that that was just a method, not of finding work for the girl at all, but of getting the girl off the list by pretences that were not too clean. I hope the Minister will pay careful attention to that, part of the administration of his Department.

The Parliamentary Secretary, with his usual clearness and kindness, pointed out that the Ministry of Labour was not a dispenser of charity. I agree. My claim is, and it always has been, that this is not a charity; it is a right. The benefits are a right, and not a charity, and the Treasury has got out of its responsibility, has shifted it on to other shoulders, and is trying to get rid of even the little that it has to bear. I think the Minister of Labour will be perfectly justified in bringing the greatest possible pressure he can to bear on the Treasury to see, not that they reduce what they are paying for unemployment, but that they increase it, and that the promises made to the workers when the War was over shall be honoured as well as the promises that were made to the people who lent their money. I know there is still a deficiency on the Fund, but I would sooner increase the deficiency by a million, or two millions, or three millions, and give people something to eat, than I would starve people in order to pay off to the Treasury money that is owing to it The Treasury has driven a pretty hard bargain with the money it has lent. It has given nothing in the money it has lent, as it has always charged a rate of interest quite high enough to recoup it for anything it has done. The idea of the ordinary Member of the House is that the Treasury, in these loans, has been giving something away. Not at all. As a matter of fact, I believe it is true to say that the Treasury has actually made a profit on the loans it has made to this Fund.

I do not want to labour at all the matter of how it is possible to deal with the abnormal circumstances that now exist. The Minister is as well aware as I am how easy it is for him to avoid any difficulty in October. He can do it in a few minutes if he has his party behind him. There is no one else in the House who will take any exception to his getting the right to increase his powers for another year, in order to see whether circumstances at that time will be better than they are now. The Parliamentary Secretary said that the benefits are now paid under relatively easy conditions. I do not know, I am sure, where he got that idea from. Certainly, when I was Minister, the complaints were very many, and occasionally very lurid, as to the difficulty of the conditions, and, if the present Minister has had such a happy time that he can say the conditions are easy, then his time has been a far more enviable one than mine. I think, however, I have heard in the House that very many complaints have been received by the present Minister as to the hardness and harshness of the conditions under which benefit is paid. So I am inclined to think that I must take my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary's statements, as to the ease with which people can now get benefit, with just a little grain of salt. I quite agree that an unemployment scheme should not be a, pension scheme; but are you going to take these men off the benefit roll on a promise that at some time you will bring in another scheme to deal with them, or are you going to let them remain where they are until your scheme is completed? You can starve them to death while you are making your scheme, after you have taken them off the benefit roll; but it will be infinitely better to carry them on the benefit roll till the scheme is ready, and then automatically they can move from the one to the other. I ask the Minister to consider carefully whether it is not better for everyone in the nation that these men should not suffer more than they are suffering now, and that the scheme should be prepared and carried through before you take them off the benefit roll. Do not starve them first and give them a scheme afterwards. Then may I venture on one reference to the statement of Lord Derby, because it is one of those statements that create an impression in the country that was strong enough before—the statement that these things were originated because of the danger of revolution and that now we can tighten up because the danger no longer exists. That is a very dangerous statement to make. It leads hundreds of thousands of working people to believe that the original statements were the merest humbug and were only used to betray the people when there was a danger, and that as soon as the danger was relieved there was no intention of carrying out what was promised when the danger was believed to exist. It seems to me that what is required in national insurance is a greater national effort, and not a less one, that the Government is proceeding the wrong way and that another development was necessary and not in any way a cutting down. I know the Treasury will endeavour to cut down. It appears to be traditional with them. The Treasury seems to be composed of a number of God-like beings who sit in heavenly regions and dictate to mortal beings what shall be done. At the same time I do not think even the Treasury ought to be allowed to starve decent working people, and that is what these things mean. That is what taking these thousands of men from benefit means. You say 11,000. It is only 1 per cent. But if 11,000 men are short of food I do not care if it is only one. I had sooner one man got his stomach full than that the Treasury should be content. The hon. Member for Dudley (Mr. Lloyd) talked of the trouble, the worry and the anxiety that the Labour Government have given to the Government Actuary. I do not think half a dozen Labour Governments would do very much harm to the Government Actuary. I believe he is a most estimable gentleman, but I would worry even him rather than let any genuine working man go short of food. In fact when one considers what these payments are one wonders how on earth people get along with them.

10.0 P.M.

May I make a rough calculation A man with a wife and three little children is entitled to 29s. a week. He is exceptionally lucky if he can get a house at less than 10s. a week. He cannot possibly keep his wife and children and himself in clothes and boots under 6s. a week. Take away anything you like for insurance, trade union contributions, and the rest, and you have the magnificent sum of less than 14s. a week to keep five people for seven days—2s. a day—and apparently that was too much for some of our friends. The wonder to me is how these people have stood it so long. That is the only wonder I have, how people will go on year after year living in this fashion without a protest. If they protested more, if they had realised Lord Derby's idea, they would have been better looked after. That is the biggest fault I have to find with our present system. There is no generosity, there is no fair play, except that a man shows that in case of necessity he is prepared to resort to force. It is a painful thing for me to have to say. Reason ought always to determine what our conditions should be, and when reason is exercised, reason will be returned, but if you begin your carving and cutting in order to save a few hundred thousand pounds, do not expect reason in return because you cannot get it. I appeal to you with all the force I can command not to carry on this policy. If you let this Clause come into operation, you are hound to create feeling whether you like it or not. "Eleven thousand" you say. I cannot tell the number you will throw off your list. I do not mind what you do with the men who do not deserve benefits. I do not mind what you do with the so-called "wrong 'tins," but I implore you not to let any man go off the list who is a genuine worker, whatever his age, unless you have some method of dealing with him and keeping him.

I am one of those who would not hesitate at any complete investigation of the present industrial conditions, one of those who believe that our nation, whether it likes it or not, has got to face in the future a certain amount of change, one of those who believe that a much greater thing than either unemployment insurance or Tariff Reform or Free Trade is the efficiency of our country, and I would welcome the fullest possible investigation into the whole circumstances connected with our industrial life in order to see what can be done to improve the lamentable state of things that now exists. May I ask the Minister to represent to the Government that there are facts even stronger than the actuarial facts. It may be that the Actuary says, "You now owe £6,000,000, and if you go on you will owe £7,000,000 at, the end of next year." That is merely a grain of chaff in comparison with the suffering that might be entailed if you think too much of the figures and too little of the men, women and children who, willy nilly, come under your lash the instant you begin to cut up your scheme. You can buy the solvency of the fund far too dearly. If you make it solvent at the expense of the insured people you have indeed bought your solvency very dearly. There are two things we ought to avoid. The first is that as far as possible we should do what we can to stop the deterioration that undoubtedly goes on when a man or women is idle. One class is like another. Idleness is a corroding force whether the man be a lord or a navvy. We ought to do what we can to stop this deterioration, and we ought to remember that the most expensive luxury a nation can have is a people that is not physically fit. Speeches were made after the War by our best statesmen—I am speaking of all parties—deploring the physical condition of our people when war broke out. In my own county of Lancashire, from the textile industry one man in every six was pronounced to be really physically fit. Are we going to let that state of things go on? We can if we try to think too much of figures and too little of human beings. My last words to the Minister are these: I should like to ask him to take his courage in both hands, even to face the Treasury and say, "with a million and a quarter of men unemployed we cannot, and we will not, cut down the present conditions of unemployment insurance."

Photo of Mr Arthur Steel-Maitland Mr Arthur Steel-Maitland , Birmingham Erdington

This has been from some points of view almost a surprisingly paradoxical Debate. Some hon. Members opposite have, I think, taken the line that though I was naturally perhaps a humane man I have been misled into courses with which they do not agree. It is only a few on the other hand, to whom apparently I am an inhuman brute, and I am glad that there are comparatively so few, like the hon. Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan) for instance, who think that what. I have been doing is cruel, and more than cruel—committing a felony.

It is also suggested that I am a rich man trying to rob the poor, and phrases of that kind. So again with the right hon. Gentleman who has just spoken, when he said that if the law before his Bill had been administered in the spirit in which I was proposing to administer it, it would have put 750,000 persons off benefit.

At least, there has been one unexpected result of the Debate. It seems to have reunited all the hon. Members opposite, in a way they have not been united recently, in condemning the Measure which has been proposed. If I remember, as a good Scotsman, the sort of phrase that would come handy in this case, it would be that the young lion now seems to be lying down with the fatting. The hon. Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan) takes council with the right hon. Member for Preston (Mr. T. Shaw), and the latter is not in danger of being devoured. The Leader of the Opposition is in the position now of a weaned child who can put his hand into a cockatrice's den, and go up to Glasgow without any apprehension of the intentions of his more turbulent supporters. That, perhaps, is a great achievement.

It seems to me to have been imagined that, with the help of my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary, I have twisted the Unemployment Insurance Act into some new engine of oppression. I claim no merit for uniting the party opposite. Let me be frank. The merit belongs, as has been anticipated, to my right hon. Friend who has just spoken. My right hon. Friend has said that there is nothing easier than to bring in a one-clause Bill to undo the effect of the Act of last August. There was one thing that was a great deal easier and that was not to put in the stipulation limiting his own power of waiver. If he had not done that, there would have been no reason for a one-clause Bill. If I may correct a misapprehension of hon. Members opposite, that was not a stipulation put in by any Amendment of my hon. Friends on this side or by any Liberals. Our Amendments, like that of Mr. Master-man, had nothing to do with this point. This particular limitation of the waiver, so that he would need a new Act not to bring the, whole of the 30 contributions' qualification into effect, was in the original draft of the Bill as brought in by the right hon. Gentleman himself.

My right hon. Friend said that at least they did not anticipate a continuance of the present high rate of unemployment. Is that so? All his calculations were based on one million persons being unemployed in this year, and a minimum of 800,000 for years to cone. That was the anticipation on which he intended to carry out his policy, to which now he himself is objecting and wants to alter. That being his anticipation, he asked for his Act to be comparatively permanent in its effect, so that it should not, at. any rate, be altered for three or four years. He has been in a mood of happy forgetfulness in making his speech to-night as to the real, solemn facts of his own past.

Let me say a few words in answer to the right. hon. Member for Spen Valley (Sir John Simon) and the hon. Member for Bow and Bromley (Mr. Lansbury) as to whether a new Act will be necessary. Whether a new Act will be necessary or not really depends on the course of industry and employment this year. No one at this moment, with all the different contingencies that are possible, can say what the course of employment and industry will be. To be perfectly frank, it will depend upon that, as to whether a new suspending Act will be necessary. These are the plain facts of the situation. No one at the present time can foresee what is going to happen during the next six months.

Photo of Mr George Lansbury Mr George Lansbury , Poplar Bow and Bromley

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the chief officer at the Ministry told the unemployment deputation that so heavy will be the drop on 1st October, you have started now to meet that drop by bringing in the Regulation of which we are complaining?

Photo of Mr Arthur Steel-Maitland Mr Arthur Steel-Maitland , Birmingham Erdington

I know the hon. Member did not want to interrupt. The fact is that, whether a suspending Act will be needed or not, the policy, of which this is only a small step, which would have been taken ipso facto on 1st October of this year is the same as the policy of my right hon. Friend. How fast one can go in the realization of this policy, and haw fast it may be fair to go with proper consideration for all the needs of the different people affected, will naturally depend on the way in which the fortunes of trade and industry go during the next few months.

There have been two different lines of criticism, and I will deal with them in order. The first is, that we have been occupied in tightening the existing Regulations and the administration of the Act, and the second is this new Order, the substance of which was given in answer to a question on 12th February. I have stated again and again, and I say it directly now. to the right hon. Gentleman the late Minister of Labour in particular—with the new Order I will deal later—that, apart from the new Order, it is absolutely untrue to say that I have varied in any respect his own administration. whether by making Regulations or by, in his own words. "giving a word here or a hint there."

Photo of Mr George Buchanan Mr George Buchanan , Glasgow Gorbals

What about the Order of 23r.1 February?

Photo of Mr Arthur Steel-Maitland Mr Arthur Steel-Maitland , Birmingham Erdington

I will deal with that in a moment, and I think the hon. Member will be satisfied when I have dealt with it.

Photo of Mr Arthur Steel-Maitland Mr Arthur Steel-Maitland , Birmingham Erdington

The right hon. Gentleman has been talking about pushing people into trades for which they are not fitted, crippling people or crippling their chances. I could not take down his exact phrase. In so far as that has occurred since I have been in charge of the administration. it has occurred to precisely the same degree, and no more, as when he had charge of the administration. I am perfectly candid about the matter, and I have absolutely no reserve, in saying that in these respects in the existing administration and regulations I have made no change of any sort whatsoever. In the light of that, let me consider one or two of the criticisms that have been made. The hon. Member who moved the Amendment thought that a change had been made, and I think that suggestion was reiterated by the hon. Member for Bow and Bromley, and it has been freely stated in the Press which supports hon. Members opposite. [HON. MEMBERS: "What paper?"] I noticed it in "Reynolds' Newspaper," and it was stated again to-day, that if the period was taken from 9th December to 12th January this year about 37,000 people have been deprived of benefit, and that was adduced as a proof of my extra strictness in dealing with this administration. I compare with that the only comparable period, after last year's Act was passed, of the administration of my right hon. Friend. During the period 9th December to 12th January of this year the number of applicants whose claims were rejected amounted to 12.8 per cent. of the total claimed. During the most applicable period of the right hon. Gentleman's administration, from 9th September to 13th October last year, the figure was 14.8. or rather a larger percentage. [HON. MEMBERS: "Not the same period"]

Photo of Mr Neil Maclean Mr Neil Maclean , Glasgow Govan

Would you give the actual figures and not percentages? The actual figures were quoted on this side.

Photo of Mr Arthur Steel-Maitland Mr Arthur Steel-Maitland , Birmingham Erdington

The actual figures are: In the five weeks ending on the 12th January last, 37,687 were rejected, and in the five weeks ending on the 13th October, 37,612 were rejected out of a smaller number of applicants. The hon. Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan), dealing with individual points of my administration, asked me about the circular of 23rd February. I will put this circular in the Library so that any hon. Member may read it, hut I will ask the House to remember his criticism of the circular. With regard to this circular, the hon. Member charged my hon. Friend, who spoke earlier, with not having put all the cards on the table. I hope that after my explanation he will retract that, because we have both put our cards on the table. The charge which he made was that formerly an applicant, or friends on his behalf, could bring new facts before a Committee, whereas now, as a result of the circular, he could not do so.

Photo of Mr George Buchanan Mr George Buchanan , Glasgow Gorbals

I qualified that. I said that a man could bring new facts, but under the new circular, unless the manager thought that there was some exceptional circumstance, no new claim would be granted. Formerly, without the manager thinking that there were any exceptional circumstances, a new claim could be granted.

Photo of Mr Arthur Steel-Maitland Mr Arthur Steel-Maitland , Birmingham Erdington

If the hon. Member will read the circular he will find that there is no difference. It says: Re-hearing should only be granted in the case of an applicant whose claim as been refused on the ground of not making reasonable efforts to obtain employment if the applicant produces evidence to show that the full facts of his case were not before the Committee at the first hearing. Applicants cannot be given a general right of appearing again before a Committee because at some date subsequent to the decision to disallow they contend that they have been seeking employment and possibly produce documentary evidence. There was absolutely no change in that circular of anything that existed before.

Photo of Mr Arthur Steel-Maitland Mr Arthur Steel-Maitland , Birmingham Erdington

It was exactly the same as was issued before, and the good sense of it is perfectly obvious. A local committee, judging as well as it can, may be of opinion that a man has not been making reasonable efforts to obtain employment. If that man goes away and comes back again in three or four days' or a week's time and says: "In the intervening time I have been making efforts," when he did not make any effort at all before, it is perfectly obvious—I appeal to the good sense of any reasonable man opposite or on this side of the House—that that sort of fault cannot be purged by a sudden effort made in a week. The man has to show that effort was made over a longer period of time. Any new facts can be brought forward just as much now as ever, and that requirement has held true right through my predecessor's administration and before.

I have repeatedly explained to the House the question of evidence. A claimant is sometimes asked to produce written evidence it may be a "chit" or document from a foreman. That may in itself he a presumption of reasonably try- ing to obtain work, but neither the presenting of it can be a definite proof that a man has done so, nor can the absence of documentary evidence be a proof that he has not been reasonably seeking work. In cases that I have known a man could get a "chit" quite easily from a foreman. It may not be proof that would appeal to a committee. On the other hand, the man may not be able to produce documentary evidence, and yet the committee may be quite clear in their own minds that he has been making reasonable efforts.

Photo of Mr James Maxton Mr James Maxton , Glasgow Bridgeton

Can the right hon. Gentleman explain why it is that his local officials place the same interpretation on the circular as a new circular as was put on it by my right hon. Friend the Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan) They believe that they are absolutely barred from reconsidering a man's case inside the six months' period.

Photo of Mr Arthur Steel-Maitland Mr Arthur Steel-Maitland , Birmingham Erdington

If my hon. Friend, to whom I would make acknowledgement of the way he gets cases carefully dealt with before he sends any to me, will show me where a mistake has been made in the construction placed upon any circular, I will gladly go into the matter. Where a mistake is made by officials I will go into it. But I have given him the whole facts and nothing but the facts.

Photo of Mr George Buchanan Mr George Buchanan , Glasgow Gorbals

But the man has to wait six months.

Photo of Mr Arthur Steel-Maitland Mr Arthur Steel-Maitland , Birmingham Erdington

I will now take the case of the old men. I am quite aware that the hon. Member for Gorbals this afternoon said that he criticised the right hon. Member for Preston (Mr. Shaw) as much as others for the circular that he issued about the old men. I hope he will forgive me for saying that I do not place quite so much confidence in his knowledge of circulars as I would otherwise have done, because he accused me of having issued a Circular, in pursuance of which local committees were turning old men off the register, and then in the course of conversation he found out that the Circular was not mine, but my predecessor's. This local Circular was one which was issued in Scotland only, I have ascertained. The other Circular which the hon. Member said he could not find out, the one about the old men, is in the Library of the House of Commons, and had he read it he could have ascertained what he wished. I give these two actual instances with regard to particulars of the administration under the old Regulations and, once again I repeat, that as regards general administration I have not altered it by one jot or tittle either by suggestion or by Circular from what it was previously. It is different as regards the new Circular. One thing is important, and I feel that hon. Members opposite will realise it as much as anyone on this side. It is necessary to look at this matter without exaggeration, and the exaggerations in this respect have been colossal. The hon. Member for Silvertown (Mr. J. Jones) the other day in a supplementary question asked me whether I realised that since this Regulation came into force 1,000 cases had come under the board of guardians in his district as a result of the Circular. I think the hon. Member used the same numbers to-day. When I said, in reply to his question, that I was not aware of the fact, he then said I was not fit for my job. If he will look up the OFFICIAL REPORT he will see that I have not misrepresented him. Like a good Scotsman I like to get at the facts. I got hold of the figures of the Canning Town Exchange, which covers the hon. Member's constituency, and I find that, instead of 1,000 cases being turned off as a result of that Circular, the number was 13.

Photo of Mr John Jones Mr John Jones , West Ham Silvertown

On a point of Order. Has the right hon. Gentleman made inquiries from the relief committees in West Ham as to the number of applicants for relief? That is what I was dealing with. West Ham I said, not Canning Town, and West Ham includes eight towns.

Photo of Mr John Jones Mr John Jones , West Ham Silvertown

Will the right hon. Gentleman reply to my point as he challenged me?

Photo of Mr Arthur Steel-Maitland Mr Arthur Steel-Maitland , Birmingham Erdington

The hon. Member says he was referring to West Ham. I am sorry, but I only understood his remark to apply to his own constituency. It is not in the OFFICIAL REPORT as he now states it, nor in my remembrance of his question. [HON. MEMBERS: "Withdraw!"] If I understand that his statement is with regard to people who were turned off by this Circular in West Ham, then I say it is inaccurate.

Photo of Mr John Jones Mr John Jones , West Ham Silvertown

I did not say anything of the kind. I referred to the number of people who have applied to the guardians since this Circular was issued in the Poor Law area of West Ham, which is the largest in Great Britain, with a population of 1,250,000. That is what I was talking about, and I know what I am talking about when I am talking about my own place.

Photo of Mr Arthur Steel-Maitland Mr Arthur Steel-Maitland , Birmingham Erdington

I will get the hon. Member the figures.

Photo of Mr John Jones Mr John Jones , West Ham Silvertown

Figures can lie, I know, but you cannot.



Photo of Mr John Jones Mr John Jones , West Ham Silvertown

I did not cast any reflection on the right hon. Gentleman. I told him he could not lie. I was paying him a compliment.

Photo of Mr Arthur Steel-Maitland Mr Arthur Steel-Maitland , Birmingham Erdington

I do not want to labour one case particularly. Take Glasgow, mentioned by the hon. Member for Gorbals, where it is said that 4,000 is the number, if I remember aright.

Photo of Mr George Buchanan Mr George Buchanan , Glasgow Gorbals

The hon. Member for Govan (Mr. N. Maclean) said it.

Photo of Mr Arthur Steel-Maitland Mr Arthur Steel-Maitland , Birmingham Erdington

I took it down while the hon. Member was speaking, but it was also said certainly by the hon. Member for Govan. The total number for the whole of Scotland is under 2,500. How, therefore, the figure can be 4,000 for Glasgow, I cannot see.

Photo of Mr George Buchanan Mr George Buchanan , Glasgow Gorbals

The right hon. Gentleman aught to be careful. I said that I challenged the basis of your figures. I say that I have been in Glasgow on one clay of last week, and I am prepared to go with the right hon. Gentleman to Glasgow, and take his own officials, and see that the percentage affected by the circular works out at, roughly speaking, between 5 and 6 per cent. of the total unemployed, which works out at 4,000.

Photo of Mr Arthur Steel-Maitland Mr Arthur Steel-Maitland , Birmingham Erdington

Then my hon. Friend has made his calculations wrong, because the figure for the whole of Scotland—when I get the final figures I shall be glad to let him have them fully—works out at 2,500, and not more.

Photo of Mr Arthur Hayday Mr Arthur Hayday , Nottingham West

It may be that there are different periods being taken. The hon. Member may be talking about the 19th up to last week, and the right hon. Gentleman's period may be a week later.

Photo of Mr Arthur Hayday Mr Arthur Hayday , Nottingham West

rose. [HON. MEMBERS: "Order!"]

Photo of Mr John Whitley Mr John Whitley , Halifax

I think I have allowed a great deal of latitude.

Photo of Mr Arthur Steel-Maitland Mr Arthur Steel-Maitland , Birmingham Erdington

I hope' hon. Members will not think I am wishing to be controversial I am merely answering the statements that have been made. I will now take the case of old men under the new circular. Again, I have heard complaints that old men have been particularly hardly dealt with under the new circular. I will take the gross total number of cases on each side, because I have not got the net figure for old men, after allowing for ex-service men. The proportion of old men over 60 to the total number receiving benefit is, as nearly as possible, one-seventh, and the total proportion of old men who failed in getting benefit under the new regulation is again, as nearly as possible, one-seventh. There is, therefore, no extra incidence on the old men. I have taken these individual cases because it shows, just as in the case of Barrow or Jarrow published in the papers, the gross exaggeration that exists, and I have said that it is not the figure that hon. Members very naturally may have thought. But let me take the general question raised by hon. Members opposite. Again and again and again in this House I have told them what my policy, I hoped, would be, and that is, to discriminate as carefully as I possibly could between the men who thoroughly deserved and earned their insurance benefit and the men who had not. Again and again hon. Members opposite all indicated their agreement with the general principle. I have never heard a single dissent till now, and yet it is perfectly clear that if you do introduce a principle like that, while you continue your benefit to the men who are deserving, there may be some, if you dis- criminate closely, who are found not to deserve it, and who, therefore, may lose it. It comes to this, that hon. Members opposite are again and again agreed to the principle in general, and the moment that it comes to be applied in effect, with one consent they all begin to make excuses and to attack it. I remember some lines which were written by an American about the time of the Civil War: I'm willin' a man should go tollable strong Agin wrong in the abstract, for that kind of wrongIs ollers unpop'lar an' never gits pitied, Because it's a sin no-one never committed; But he mustn't be hard on partickler sins, 'Cos then he'll be kickin' the people's own shins. That is what is happening in this case. Everyone is agreed as to this principle in the abstract It is only when you come down to the actual effect in applying it that you get all these objections. I ask hon. Members to realise how far we have really endeavoured to go. I can give no case which, I think, proves it more than the very case which I gave in Glasgow to the Local Committee when I met them over two months ago. I was asked in that committee whether I thought that a man ought to be refused benefit just because he could not show six or eight weeks' contribution during the last two years, and I said he ought not necessarily to be refused benefit at all, just because he could not show six or eight weeks' contribution. When I saw my auditor noting this down I said: "There's a chiel amang us takin' notes. Just wait a moment before you take a note. Think of the difference there is." And I put this to my questioner. I said, "Supposing you have a man in the shipbuilding trade, which has been extraordinarily hard hit during the last few years. He may have had a first-class industrial history behind him, but just because the trade was hard hit, he might not have had a job during the last two or three years, and because he was an elderly man, he could not turn his hand to any other trade I say that his obviously good industrial history, as shown by his stamps, ought to be a presumption in his favour, and he ought to have extended benefit."

There is, on the other hand, the case, say, of a general labourer. When we talk about the one and a quarter million out of work, it does not mean it is the same one and a quarter million all the time. There are between three million and four million who, at one time or another in the course of a year, come on to benefit, and are in and out, but there is a far greater amount of casual labour in and out, and, therefore, if a casual labourer, who is fit physically, cannot show six or eight weeks during the three years, that is a presumption against him. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why?"] Because if he had made some push for work, it was quite clear he would have had a much greater likelihood of getting it.

Photo of Mr Benjamin Smith Mr Benjamin Smith , Bermondsey Rotherhithe

The right hon. Gentleman must know that casual labour, so far as dockers in this country are concerned, is of a permanent type, and yet people showing themselves twice a day are to be lifted off the list.

Photo of Mr George Lansbury Mr George Lansbury , Poplar Bow and Bromley

The old men are being squashed out.

Photo of Mr Arthur Steel-Maitland Mr Arthur Steel-Maitland , Birmingham Erdington

As a rule the dockers are a class of labour apart. I am talking of general labouring, and my questioners, if not of the same opinion as myself in general, perfectly agreed that that was true, and, consequently, there was reason to discriminate in that way. That is the reason for the alternative qualifications we propose. On the whole, the man who was a general labourer, and who could not show eight contributions, might, in that case, lose his benefit, because the imputation was against him; but, on the other hand, in most of the trades where people had been insured under the older Ats, and could show a good industrial history, they would be saved by that history, because they would have the 30 contributions before the slump came.

Photo of Mr Richard Wallhead Mr Richard Wallhead , Merthyr Tydfil Merthyr

What about the mining industry?

Photo of Mr Arthur Steel-Maitland Mr Arthur Steel-Maitland , Birmingham Erdington

I am trying to deal with the whole case, and perhaps hon. Members will allow me to go on. I have listened to every speech without interruption. That extra qualification meets the case of the old men with a good history in all the main trades most depressed, shipbuilding, heavy iron and steel and engineering, and, therefore, on the whole, the regulations met both cases. There are one or two cases, which the hon. Member for Abertillery (Mr. Barker) mentioned, of hardship which did not happen to be met by that rule. I have been into the case of Blaina a good deal, and I can assure hon. Members opposite that a case like that of Blaina gives me much more heart-searching than all the other criticisms of hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite put together. A case like that has to be dealt with on its own merits. The case is not so simple as it has been put to me, and I say, therefore, to hon. Gentlemen opposite frankly that the faults are not all on the side even of my own insurance Regulations. I have been going again into the case of this area to see whether we can take action in regard to one or two points. That T am doing at this moment. I assure hon. Members opposite that if this type of case has got to be dealt with in other ways as my hon. Friend has in a sense said, that is no reason for destroying the general bases of the Insurance Acts. When the Insurance Acts were actually extended to cover extended benefit it did not mean that the insurance principle was given up, or that it was made into a general benefit fund. My right hon. Friend the Member for Preston (Mr. Shaw) has denied that already.

Photo of Mr Arthur Steel-Maitland Mr Arthur Steel-Maitland , Birmingham Erdington

It is still based on an insurance basis and as such has continued to exist. I believe we should be doing a great harm to the workmen who are contributing to it by turning it into a general pensions or relief scheme.

I have dealt with the various questions put to me, I think, and I want to deal very briefly with one or two other matters. I will deal with the question of relief, which has been mentioned to-day. The Trade Facilities scheme is being continued, and we are going on with Export Credits. The Road Fund is being used, and roads are being made. In regard to the Unemployment Grants Committee, the Government have sanctioned grants to the same extent as last year. Let me, however, put it to hon. Gentlemen opposite that you do not touch the real question of unemployment either by insurance benefits or by unemployment grants.

I have been asked if I could produce a cure. I myself made no promise of any sort on the matter at the last election, nor, I believe, did my hon. Friends behind me. I believe, that relief works are a palliative—a necessary palliative—of the situation, and may be a stimulant to get over the crisis, but it is only a. stimulant which is administered at the risk of decreasing the vitality of the patient afterwards. It is, in fact, no cure whatever.

The real problem is how to bring activity and prosperity back to British trade. I was asked by an hon. Gentleman behind me as to the size of the problem. It is a problem which is falling, but it is not falling rapidly. As I say, we have got in front of us to-day a problem of very nearly the same extent—we do not wish to quarrel about figures—as at this time last year. I have spent all the spare time I have had during the last three or four months—and it has not been much—trying to analyse what are the real factors of unemployment in this country—what really are the causes of depression in trade. It is not growth in population, as some people would say. It is quite clearly not that. if we had had no war—I take the figures from 1911 to 1921—the population of this country would have been bigger and not smaller than it was after the War, taking into account the number of those killed counterbalanced by the check of emigration. Normally speaking, the growth of a population is offset by a natural expansion in trade from year to year. Therefore the depression is not due to that cause, except in so far as the fact that all the men suddenly coming back from the front into industry at one time, instead of gradually, as they grew up year by year, meant that the engine, so to speak, took up a great load all at one moment instead of gradually. That tended to cause dislocation.

Next there is the question of housing. Housing is a real, subsidiary cause of unemployment, not merely because there are fewer people in the building trades than there were before the War—that is quite true—hut because of the difficulty there is at the present moment in people transferring themselves from one part of the country to another; that is in itself a definite hindrance to trade recovery. It. is a hindrance to miners—that is my answer to my hon. Friend on the fourth bench opposite—and it is a hindrance to other industries, too. You get an industry busy in a town. There are people in that town who do not want to remain there, but who cannot get rid of their houses—do not like to, under the Rent Restriction Act—and there are other people who want to go to that town and cannot get houses. People remain in Barrow because they are congealed there, so to speak, because they cannot get away. For that reason, the housing problem is one of the difficulties to trade revival.

Then there is the question of foreign trade. This question is sometimes over-exaggerated, but, broadly speaking, foreign trade before the War formed about from 25 to 30 per cent. of our total trade—our total trade including our internal trade. Last year our foreign trade has been three-quarters in volume what it was in the year before the War. The fall of one-quarter in the volume of our foreign trade means that we have got between 500,000 and 700,000 men not at this present moment employed in trade for overseas markets who were so employed before the War. To that extent this is a very real cause of part of the unemployment; because that figure is the equivalent of the excess of the present unemployment over the average before the War. Let me say once again, however, that that is not the whole story, even as regards our foreign trade. The fall in our foreign trade could have been taken up—and more—by expansion internally. I am not talking tariffs. Free Trade or anything of that kind. If industry had been sufficiently efficient in this country for really economic production, our natural consumption could probably have taken up the losses caused by the lack of foreign trade.

Wherever I analyse industry, either foreign trade or home trade, I come back, with all deference to my Friend on the benches behind me, to one thing and one thing only. If we could get a good understanding between the parties to industry now we could, without question, take up the unemployment question and settle it. I am asked why we cannot have a parliament of industry to-day. It is a perfectly natural question. But come down to the facts. We have tried an Industrial Council; we had a Conference in 1919: but whenever you get a general parliament of industry to start they all agree when they talk platitudes, and, when they come down to the actual facts, they separate into a phalanx of employers and a phalanx of employed. What it means is that each trade has really got to get down to the facts by itself first of all, and clear them up.

I am not talking as a theoriser. I know the difficulties. For the last. five years I have been a. rather over-worked master in industry, employing men partly in this country but still more outside it, and the numbers run not into hundreds but thousands. I know the difficulties from that point of view. Before that I spent more than five years in trying to go into industrial questions from the same point of view as Members opposite. I do not profess for a moment to know the conditions half as well as anybody who has been working at the lathe or the bench, but so far as anybody could do from outside I did my best to understand. I have slept in a common lodging house and I know the inside of a casual ward. I realise the difficulties that there are in the case. I can realise the difficulties from the men's point of view. If I were a workman I should ask, "supposing I made industry more effective, how could I be sure that when it was earning much greater profits I should get my fair share of them and should not be exploited?" It is a perfectly natural question. And if I were looking at it from the workman's point of view I should say this. "I am asked to change working conditions as to demarcation and the rest of it. My unions and I and my friends have struggled for years until we regard that as part of the sheet-anchor of our position, and we cannot be asked to cut the cable of the sheet-anchor until we are given some other safeguard which is as strong." Yet when I look at the difficulties from the masters' point, you get the question of output, the question of demarcation again, and orders have gone abroad because of the difficulty of dealing with them. Again, I know a case—I am passing it over quite briefly—of people who hesitated to set up a factory in this country when they had the choice because they were afraid of a sympathetic strike with which neither their own management nor their workmen might have anything to do at all.

Those are the difficulties, and yet the handwriting is perfectly clear on the wall. The case that is published about shipbuilding in the papers to-day is only one among many such cases that are actually occurring. If you take the shipyards at the beginning of this year, you get an increase of some 12,000 tons in the Dutch yards, 30,000 in the German, 50,000 in the Italian, 80,000 in the French, as compared with last year's decrease of just on 100,000 tons in the United Kingdom. We have to ask ourselves whether that is to go on, because truly the handwriting is on the wall. I believe in individual management, but I am perfectly willing to leave the future to take care of itself so that the most economic kind of management in the end can win its way. You do not prejudice that by making industry, now, as efficient as it can possibly be. Again I am not prejudicing the worker's interest; I am really thinking of the worker's point of view, if any, more than of any other. f t has been said that if you were to take all wealth above £5 a week and distribute it you might get a certain amount per family, but it is quite clear that if you could make industry efficient you could make an addition to real wages five or 10 times as great. I am not an unduly sentimental person, I trust, but I carry my mind back to the fourth year of the War, as this is the fourth year of the slump. Then we were told that we had our hacks to the wall in that famous order to the Army, and yet we had to do our best. Upon my soul, we have our backs to the wall now, and it is up to us to do our best. I am not a pessimist. I believe that this country has an expansion in it as great as in the "spacious days of great Elizabeth" and an increase of prosperity and happiness as well; but I am convinced that the only way you can get a real cure is to get the masters and men to meet together on each side with all the. cards on the table, facing the facts of the situation, and dealing with it with real unity and good will on both sides.

Photo of Mr John Jones Mr John Jones , West Ham Silvertown

I have listened to this Debate for the best part of the day, and I am just about as wise now as I was at the beginning. What has been said in relation to industry is "all my eye and Betty Martin." It is nonsense to talk about the lion lying down with the lamb, because, if they do, the lamb will be inside. Nobody in this country will carry on work without profit, and profit is the be-all and end-all of it. There is enough wealth in this country to satisfy everybody at the present time. When the right hon. Gentleman opposite juggles with his figures it is a wonder he does not tell us the number of people who will be out of employment on 1st October and who will be thrown on the scrap heap. We have had no estimate given of the effect of this Order, and when some of us tried to get some figures we were told we were wrong and that the Order had not yet had sufficient opportunity to operate.

I think the Labour Department ought to be able to tell us the probable effect of the Order, yet we have been given no figures whatsoever. When some of us make inquiries in our constituency from local officials we are told certain figures are true. Same people know as much about Canning Town as a Connemara pig does about astronomy. We have people living down at the docks who will never qualify for unemployment benefit at all. Hon. Members should see the thousands who line up and count the number who are turned away week after week because a little grey hair is appearing on their heads. Talk about sitting round a table with the boss to discuss what you are going to do with the old ones. You will probably be told to put them in a lethal chamber. When these old men are not wanted, they are thrown upon the scrap heap, and they have to go to the guardians for relief. In West Ham we pay out £37,000 a week in outdoor relief. We have already borrowed £2,000,000 since the slump in trade. We are bankrupt, and now you are going to put more people on our funds, but we will bankrupt the place before we let the people starve—

It being Eleven of the Clock, Mr. SPEAKER proceeded, pursuant to Standing Order No. 15, to put the Questions necessary to dispose of the Report of the Vote.

Question put, "That £111,083,000' stand part of the Resolution."

The House divided: Ayes, 245; Noes. 133.

Division No. 33.]AYES.[11.0 p.m.
Acland-Troyte, Lieut.-ColonelGlyn, Major R. G. C.Neville, R. J.
Agg-Gardner, Rt. Hon. Sir James T.Gower, Sir RobertNewman, Sir R. H. S. D. L. (Exeter)
Ainsworth, Major CharlesGrace, JohnNewton, Sir D. G. C. (Cambridge)
Albery, Irving JamesGreene, W. P. CrawfordNuttall, Ellis
Alexander, Sir Wm. (Glasgow, Cent'l)Grenfell, Edward C. (City of London)Oakley, T.
Allen, J. Sandeman (L'pool, W. Derby)Grotrian, H. BrentPease, William Edwin
Ashley, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Wilfrid W.Guest, Capt. Rt. Hon. F. E. (Bristol, N.)Pennefather, Sir John
Astor, Maj. Hon. John J. (Kent, Dover)Guinness, Rt. Hon. Walter E.Perkins, Colonel E. K.
Astor, ViscountessGunston, Captain D. W.Perring, William George
Atholl, Duchess ofHall, Capt. W. D. A. (Brecon & Rad.)Peto, Basil E. (Devon, Barnstaple)
Baldwin, Rt. Hon. StanleyHammersley, S. S.Peto, G. (Somerset, Frome)
Balfour, George (Hampstead)Harland, A.Philipson, Mabel
Balniel, LordHarrison, G. J. C.Plelou, D. P.
Banks, Reginald MitchellHartington, Marquess ofPownall, Lieut.-Colonel Assheton
Barclay-Harvey, C. M.Harvey, G. (Lambeth, Kennington)Raine, W.
Beamish, Captain T. P. H.Harvey, Major S. E. (Devon, Totnes)Ramsden, E.
Bellairs, Commander Canlyon W.Hawke, John AnthonyRawson, Alfred Cooper
Benn, Sir A. S. (Plymouth, Drake)Headlam, Lieut.-Colonel C. M.Reid, D. D. (County Down)
Betterton, Henry B.Henderson, Capt. R. R. (Oxf'd,. Henley)Remer, J. R.
Birchall, Major J. DearmanHenderson, Lieut.-Col. V. L. (Bootle)Rentoul, G. S.
Bird, E. R. (Yorks, W. R., Skipton)Henn, Sir Sydney H.Rhys, Hon. C. A. U.
Bourne, Captain Robert CroftHennessy, Major J. R. G.Richardson, Sir P. W. (Sur'y, Ch'ts'y)
Bowater, Sir T. VansittartHenniker-Hughan, Vice-Adm. Sir ARoberts, E. H. G. (Flint)
Bowyer, Captain G. E. W.Herbert, Dennis (Hertford, Watford)Roberts, Samuel (Hereford, Hereford)
Boyd-Carpenter, Major A.Herbert, S. (York, N. R. Scar. & Wh'by)Ruggles-Brise, Major E. A.
Brass, Captain W.Hilton, CecilRussell, Alexander West (Tynemouth)
Bridgeman, Rt. Hon. William CliveHoare, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir S. J. G.Rye, F. G.
Briggs, J. HaroldHogg, Rt. Hon. Sir D. (St. Marylebone)Salmon, Major I.
Briscoe, Richard GeorgeHohler, Sir Gerald FitzroySamuel, A. M. (Surrey, Farnham)
Brittain, Sir HarryHolbrook, Sir Arthur RichardSandeman, A. Stewart
Brooke, Brigadier-General C. R. I.Holland, Sir ArthurSanders, Sir Robert A.
Brown, Maj. D. C. (N'th'l'd., Hexham)Homan, C. W. J.Sanderson, Sir Frank
Brown, Brig.-Gen, H. C.(Berks, Newby)Hope, Capt. A. O. J. (Warw'k, Nun.)Sandon, Lord
Bull, Rt. Hon. Sir William JamesHope, Sir Harry (Forfar)Sassoon, Sir Philip Albert Gustave D.
Bullock, Captain M.Horlick, Lieut.-Colonel J. N.Savery, S. S.
Burgoyne. Lieut.-Colonel Sir AlanHoward, Captain Hon. DonaldShaw, R. G. (Yorks, W.R., Sowerby)
Burman, J. B.Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hackney, N.)Shepperson, E. W.
Butler, Sir GeoffreyHume, Sir G. H.Simms, Dr. John M. (Co. Down)
Cadogan, Major Hon. EdwardHuntingfield, LordSkelton, A. N.
Caine, Gordon HallHurd, Percy A.Slaney, Major P. Kenyon
Campbell, E. T.Hurst, Gerald B.Smith, R. W. (Aberd'n & Kinc'dine, C.)
Cazalet, Captain Victor A.Hutchison, G.A. Clark (Midl'n & P'bl's)Smithers, Waldron
Chadwick, Sir Robert BurtonIliffe, Sir Edward M.Somerville, A. A. (Windsor)
Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. N. (Ladywood)Inskip, Sir Thomas Walker H.Spender Clay, Colonel H.
Charteris, Brigadier-General J.Jackson, Sir H. (Wandsworth, Cen'l)Sprot, Sir Alexander
Christie, J. A.Jephcott, A. R.Stanley, Lord (Fylde)
Churchill. Rt. Hon. Winston SpencerKennedy, A. R. (Preston).Stanley, Hon. O. F. G.(Westm'eland)
Churchman, Sir Arthur C.Kindersley, Major Guy M.Steel, Major Samuel Strang
Clarry, Reginald GeorgeKing, Captain Henry DouglasStott, Lieut.-Colonel W. H.
Clayton, G. C.Lamb, J. Q.Stuart, Crichton, Lord C.
Cobb, Sir CyrilLane-Fox, Lieut.-Col. George R.Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)
Cooper, A. DuffLister, Cunliffe-, Rt. Hon. Sir PhilipSugden, Sir Wilfrid
Cope. Major WilliamLittle. Dr. E. GrahamSykes, Major-Gen. Sir Frederick H.
Couper, J. B.Lloyd, Cyril E. (Dudley)Templeton, W. P.
Courtauld, Major J. SLoder, J. de V.Thompson, Luke (Sunderland)
Cowan, Sir Wm. Henry (Islington, N.)Lord, Walter GreavesThomson, Sir W. Mitchell-(Croydon, S.)
Cralk, Rt. Hon. Sir HenryLucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh VereWaddington, R.
Crook, C. W.Luce, Major-Gen. Sir Richard HarmanWard, Lt.-Col. A. L.(Kingston-on-Hull)
Crookshank, Col. C. de W. (Berwick)Lumley, L. AWarrender, Sir Victor
Crookshank, Cpt. H.(Lindsey, Gainsbro)MacAndrew, Charles GlenWaterhouse, Captain Charles
Cunliffe, Joseph HerbertMacdonald, Capt. P. D. (I. of W.)Watson, Rt. Hon. W. (Carlisle)
Curzon, Captain ViscountMacdonald, R. (Glasgow, Cathcart)Wells, S. R.
Davidson,J.(Hertf'd, Hemel Hempst'd)McDonnell, Colonel Hon. AngusWheler, Major Granville C. H.
Davidson. Major-General Sir J. H.Maclntyre, IanWilliams, Com. C. (Devon, Torquay)
Davies, A. V. (Lancaster. Royton)McLean, Major A.Williams, Herbert G. (Reading)
Davies, Maj. Geo. F. (Somerset, Yeovil)Macmillan. Captain H.Wilson, R. R. (Stafford, Lichfield)
Dawson. Sir PhilipMacnaghten, Hon. Sir MalcolmWinby, Colonel L. P.
Eden, Captain AnthonyMacquisten, F. A.Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel George
Elliot, Captain Walter E.Maitland, Sir Arthur D. SteelWinterton, Rt. Hon. Earl
Ellis, R. G.Makins, Brigadier-General E.Wise, Sir Fredric
Everard, W. LindsayManningham-Buller, Sir MervynWomersley, W. J.
Fairfax, Captain J. G.Margesson, Captain D.Wood, B. C. (Somerset, Bridgwater)
Fanshawe, Commander G. D.Marriott, Sir J. A. R.Wood, Rt. Hon. E. (York, W.A., Ripon)
Fermoy, LordMeyer, Sir FrankWood, E. (Chest'r, Stalyb'dge & Hyde)
Fielden, E. B.Mitchell, S. (Lanark, Lanark)Wood, Sir Kingsley (Woolwich, W.)
Finburgh, S.Mitchell, Sir W. Lane (Streatham)Woodcock, Colonel H. C.
Fleming, D. P.Moore, Sir Newton J.Worthington-Evans, Rt. Hon. Sir L.
Forestier-Walker, L.Moore-Brabazon, Lieut.-Col. J. T. C.Wragg, Herbert
Fraser, Captain IanMoreing, Captain A. H.Yerburgh, Major Robert D. T.
Fremantle, Lieut.-Colonel Francis E.Morrison, H. (Wilts, Salisbury)
Ganzoni, Sir JohnMurchison, C. K.TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—
Gates, PercyNall, Lieut.-Colonel Sir JosephColonel Gibbs and Captain Douglas
Gilmour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir JohnNelson, Sir FrankHacking.
Adamson, W. M. (Staff., Cannock)Hamilton, Sir R. (Orkney & Shetland)Saklatvala, Shapurji
Alexander, A. V. (Sheffield, Hillsbro')Hardie, George D.Scrymgeour, E.
Ammon. Charles GeorgeHarris, Percy A.Scurr, John
Baker, J. (Wolverhampton, Bilston)Hartshorn, Rt. Hon. VernonSexton, James
Barker, G. (Monmouth, Abertillery)Hastings, Sir PatrickShaw, Rt. Hon. Thomas (Preston)
Barnes, A.Hayday, ArthurShiels, Dr. Drummond
Barr, J.Hayes, John HenryShort, Alfred (Wednesbury)
Batey, JosephHenderson, Rt. Hon. A. (Burnley)Simon, Rt. Hon. Sir John
Beckett, John (Gateshead)Henderson, T. (Glasgow)Sitch, Charles H.
Benn, Captain Wedgwood (Leith)Hirst, G. H.Slesser, Sir Henry H.
Bowerman, Rt. Hon. Charles W.Hirst, W. (Bradford, South)Smillie, Robert
Broad, F. A.Hore-Belisha, LeslieSmith, Ben (Bermondsey, Rotherhithe)
Bromley, J.Hutchison, Sir Robert (Montrose)Smith, H. B. Lees (Keighley)
Brown, James (Ayr and Bute)Jenkins, W. (Glamorgan, Neath)Smith, Rennie (Penistone)
Buchanan. G.John, William (Rhondda, West)Snell, Harry
Buxton, Rt. Hon. NoelJohnston, Thomas (Dundee)Snowden, Rt. Hon. Philip
Charleton, H. C.Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth)Spencer, George A. (Broxtowe)
Clowes, S.Jones, J. J. (West Ham, Silvertown)Stamford, T. W.
Cluse, W. S.Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)Stephen, Campbell
Collins, Sir Godfrey (Greenock)Jones, T. I. Mardy (Pontypridd)Sutton, J. E.
Compton, JosephKelly W. T.Taylor, R. A.
Connolly, M.Kenworthy, Lt.-Com. Hon. Joseph M.Thomas, Rt. Hon. James H. (Derby)
Cowan, D. M. (Scottish Universities)Lansbury, GeorgeThorne, G. R. (Wolverhampton, E.)
Crawfurd, H. E.Lee, F.Thorne, W. (West Ham, Plaistow)
Dalton, HughLowth, T.Tinker, John Joseph
Davies, Evan (Ebbw Vale)Lunn, WilliamTrevelyan, Rt. Hon. C. P.
Davies. Rhys John (Westhoughton)Mackinder, W.Viant, S. P.
Day, Colonel HarryMacLaren, AndrewWallhead, Richard C.
Dennison, R.Maclean, Neil (Glasgow, Govan)Warne, G. H.
Duncan, C.March, S.Webb, Rt. Hon. Sidney
Donnico, H.Maxton, JamesWelsh, J. C.
Edwards, C. (Monmouth. Bedwellty)Mitchell, E. Rosslyn (Paisley)Westwood, J.
Evans, Capt. Ernest (Welsh Univer.)Montague, FrederickWheatley, Rt. Hon. J.
Fenby, T. D.Naylor, T. E.Whiteley, W.
Forrest, W.Palin, John HenryWignall, James
Garro-Jones, Captain G. M.Paling, W.Wilkinson, Ellen C.
Gillett, George M.Pethick-Lawrence. F. W.Wilson, C. H. (Sheffield, Attercliffe)
Graham, Rt. Hon. Wm. (Edln., Cent.)Ponsonby. ArthurWilson, R. J. (Jarrow)
Greenall, T.Potts, John S.Windsor, Walter
Greenwood, A (Nelson and Colne)Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring)Wright, W.
Griffiths, T. (Monmouth, Pontypool)Riley, BenYoung, Robert (Lancaster, Newton)
Groves. T.Ritson, J.
Grundy, T. W.Roberts, Rt. Hon. F. O. (W.Bromwich)TELLERS FOR THE NOES—
Hall, F. (York, W. R., NormantonRobinson, W. C. (Yorks, W. R., Elland)Mr. Allen Parkinson and Mr. T.
Hall, G. H. (Merthyr Tydvil)Rose, Frank H.Kennedy.

Question, "That this House doth agree with the Committee in the said Resolution," put, and agreed to.

The remaining Orders were read, and postponed.