MOST GRACIOUS SOVEREIGN,
We, Your Majesty's most dutiful and loyal subjects, the Commons of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, in Parliament assembled, beg leave to offer our humble thanks to Your Majesty for the Gracious Speech which your Majesty has addressed to both Houses of Parliament."—[Major Edmondson.]
I hope the House will extend the courtesy which it never fails to show to one who addresses it for the first time. I should like to ask one or two questions about the proceedings of yesterday. We have been discussing during the last two hours the rights of private Members, and it is particularly in reference to the rights of private Members that I want to question the new precedent which was laid down yesterday by the Prime Minister in the Debate on the Address. The Prime Minister's new practice is this. He said: "If an Amendment is to be moved later, I am exonerated from giving any answer to any question that may be raised now." That is a very serious departure from our practice. The Prime Minister did not even limit it to the question of the Anglo-French papers. He said in perfectly general terms: "If an Amendment is to be moved later, there is no need for me to make any reply." It is obvious that, if the right hon. Gentleman cannot reply, no one can reply. But for the timely intervention of my right hon. Friend the Member for Colne Valley (Mr. Snowden) the whole Debate on the Address would have come to an end yesterday, and, indeed, I observe that you, Sir, rose in your place actually to put the Question, which was the natural result of the new precedent created by the Prime Minister. It is the usual thing to say the rights of private Members are of great importance, but here we are most directly affected, because the Address in reply to the Gracious Speech is one of the richest fields for private Members, and if, therefore, we are to accept the Prime Minister's dictum the rights of private Members are still further impaired, which throws an interesting light on his profession to-day about desiring that the back benches shall take more part than they do in the Debates.
Let us go one step further. The Prime Minister said be would not answer the questions of my right hon. Friend because an Amendment was going to he moved. How did he know? There was no Amendment on the Paper. There was no opportunity to put one down, and, though we all have a right to go to the Table and ask to see copies of Motions handed in, no one in fact knew what that Amendment was or what the terms of it were in a general way. Unless indeed we are to be invited to offer manuscript Amendments to the Address, the Prime Minister's new precedent really cuts out all debate on the general question. Let me take it one step further. The right hon. Gentleman said that he cannot answer questions if Amendments are subsequently to be moved on those points. The hon. Member for North Battersea (Mr. Saklatvala) has effectively put a stopper on all further discussion on this question because he has offered an Amendment that deals with every quarter of the globe. From China to India, to America, to mines and factories and unemployment there is not a single topic of political discussion which does not appear in a pugnacious form in the characteristic Amendment that he has placed on the Paper. The Prime Minister, I think, mistook the old practice of the House. It is true that on the first day of the discussion on the Address the proceedings very often terminate early, but the reason used to be that there was so much matter in the King's Speech that people did not feel qualified to speak on it until they had had an opportunity of digesting it. Moreover, my recollection of the custom is that the Leader of the Opposition made his attack, then an extensive and authoritative reply was made by the Prime Minister, and then Members went home to browse over the complex and dazzling programme that the Government offered. In this docu- ment which was thrown into our hands yesterday there is no food for thought, whatever else there may be, and, therefore, from the Parliamentary point of view the precedent of the Prime Minister should be scotched at the outset; otherwise, the rights of all of us are in danger.
There is a far more important reason than that. We should have thought the Prime Minister would have taken the first opportunity to deal with some current misunderstandings, not in this country indeed but abroad, about the Government's policy, and this is, from our own national point of view, independent of party, an extremly important matter. Lord Grey made a speech on Monday in which he referred to two particular things. He said, first of all, that the impression was current on the Continent—he did not support it—that we had entered into something which would lead to a naval and military alliance with the French. It is quite immaterial to say the impression is ill-founded. We hope it is, but there it is, and surely it is in the national interest that the Prime Minister should take the very first opportunity to kill any impression of that kind by a plain statement in the House of Commons. Lord Grey went on to say that we had strained our good relations with the United States and the result of the Government policy had been to stimulate the supporters of the naval programme in America. Surely it would have been desirable, quite apart from the rights of private Members, that the Prime Minister should have dealt at once with the situation in order to ease the strained relations, instead of which he made a speech which would have done infinite credit to a junior Whip. He spoke about the distribution of business and the difficulties and so on, but he never dealt as Prime Minister, or indeed as a Minister of authority, not merely with the Amendment on the Anglo-French papers, but with any one of the issues raised by my right hon. Friend. It is a startling departure from the custom and practice of the House. Naturally one casts one's mind about to see what can possibly be the reason for this change. I 'dismiss at once the idea that the Prime Minister had in his mind some supposed rules of our practice about Amendments. I think the real reason was that there are questions at issue here on which the Cabinet have not made up their mind and that, therefore, they are quite unable to answer the penetrating interrogatories administered to them from this side.
I want to speak particularly about the Anglo-French papers. We are going to deal with four points, the question of the trained reserves, the question of the Washington ratio, the question of the supposed new entente with France, and the relations between ourselves and the United States. As to the reserves question, of course if you have a system of conscription you are bound to have a growing number of trained men, and perhaps the phrase "limitation of trained reserves" is a bad way of putting the objective. The objective is to limit the land strength of a country, and it may be done better perhaps, not by limiting the number of trained reserves, but by limiting the percentage of each class called up year by year or limiting the period for which they are trained, the attempt being to get rid of the war machine and to substitute a militia. That is perhaps the most favourable avenue of approach to this difficult problem. The White Paper attempts to put the responsibility on Lord Cecil, and I do not think it does credit to the generosity which ought to characterise the Government towards one of its members who resigned from it for honourable reasons. The second point that has emerged is that this proposal to abandon our resistance to the military or army side is a bargain. It has always been presented as a bargain. The idea that we could not hold the position but had to abandon it for another is not supported by the White Paper. It was first suggested in France between the Foreign Secretary and M. Briand as a bargain. It was presented as a bargain. It is, "If you do this, then we will do that." [Interruption.] This is the effect of it: "If you do this, then we shall be in a position to do that." The Chancellor of the Exchequer cannot have read the papers.
The Foreign Secretary goes to M. Briand and says, "If you will concede to us the right to build our ships, we will concede to you the right to have your men." That bargain, that phase of bargaining is not only apparent in the first communication between our Foreign Office and the French Foreign Office, but in the letter to Sir Horace Rumbold which came in reply to the agitated inquiry which he made about the feeling created in Germany. I am very far from wishing to impute lack of candour, especially with regard to the Foreign Secretary, because if there is one quality which is more admirable than another in him it is his candour. But this is a thing which excites a tremendous amount of attention abroad. It does not matter to us, because we have a small professional army, but it excites an enormous amount of attention abroad and is of immense interest. First of all, a despatch is sent out to Rome, Washington and Tokio about this Naval Agreement, but there is not a word, not a hint about reserves. Furthermore, the Foreign Secretary makes a speech in this House on 30th July on the eve of Parliament rising. He says, "I made an agreement with France." My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Central Hull (Lieut. - Commander Kenworthy) puts a specific question: "Is this an exclusively Naval Agreement?" and, to my amazement—I accepted it when I read it at the time—the Foreign Secretary said, "Yes." And all the time there were papers in existence showing on his own initiative that this was not an exclusively Naval Agreement; it was a bargain. He traded for our right to have the ships, their right to have the men.
There is a much more shocking example —I say it is a shocking example—in the interview given by Lord Cushendun at Geneva a month later. He explains the naval position and goes out of his way to use wards which I do not say that a lawyer could not defend as being truthful. I do not say that. I say that no one could understand that at the back of all this Naval Agreement was an understanding, a. concession on our part to give way on this question of the number of land forces. What is the present position? That is the question. Do we stand in the position in which we stood, putting ourselves in opposition to this proposal to have an unlimited number of trained men, or have we abandoned that? That is a perfectly plain and specific question, on which, I think, it would be not unreasonable for me or anyone else now to ask for an answer from the Government. When the Preparatory Commission meets, what is the position of the British representative? Is he to go forward and say, "We have gone back on our position with regard to trained reserves, and we stand where we did in the bargain as represented by the papers"; or is he going to say, "We are receding to our old position, and we are opposed to this unlimited quantity of trained men abroad"? It is well to remember—while I would not wish to say anything to exacerbate feeling between England and France—that we are not talking about white soldiers; we are talking about black men. We are talking about niggers from Northern Africa. These are the people who are to be trained in unlimited numbers. [Interruption.] Certainly. There is conscription in French North African colonies, as everyone knows, and anybody who was in Germany just after the War knows that one of the bitterest complaints of the Germans was that black troops were contained in the army of occupation. That is the first question.
The second question is this. At the Washington Conference, in 1921, there was a ratio fixed of 5,5,3. In the correspondence Admiral Violette asks if equality is to be permitted in the submarines and cruisers between the great naval Powers. The Foreign Office replies admitted equality of tonnage as regards submarines and cruisers of the great naval Powers. That is to say, the extension of the Washington Naval Agreement is not to be an extension of the old ratio, but of the same tonnage to all naval Powers. I would like an answer from the First Lord of the Admiralty on that question. Is it a fact that that the Government have abandoned the Washington ratio of 5,5,3 and are now going to permit equality of tonnage for all naval Powers? If they have, it seems to me we shall be in a very queer position when we meet again in 1931 when, we hope, we shall continue the Naval Agreement between the five Powers. There is a further point. As to submarines under 600 tons and cruisers with 6-inch guns, no limit is set. Is that in accord with Article 8 of the Covenant of the League of Nations? There is nothing in the Covenant of the League of Nations about being able to have unlimited numbers. The Government must reduce their forces to the lowest point consistent with national safety. We shall have an unlimited quantity of these submarines and cruisers. I do not know what effect that will ultimately have on German action. You cannot, expect Germany to go on for ever with a small professional army under the Treaty of Versailles while you are making agreements with her neighbour to have large armies. It may be for a year or two, but not for ever. The permanent disarmament of Germany can only come by the general disarmament of Europe.
There is a third question I would like to ask the Government on this question of co-operation. Certainly the evidence in the White Paper is one-sided. There seems to be nothing in the published documents—I do not know whether they have all been published or not—but the suggestion that we should work with a common policy with the French comes exclusively from M. Briand in one of his despatches. Lord Cushendun makes a speech shortly afterwards in which he says there is no new entente because the old entente persists. "Hear, hear!" says an hon. Member. How is that going to appear in Germany I We talk about Locarno! To be perfectly candid, I must add that rather a cryptic footnote appeared in a subsequent copy of the "Times" that there had been reference to Germany in his speech. I say that because it is only fair. There were these unfortunate sentences, M. Briand saying we must co-operate in our policy, and Lord Cushendun saying, "There is no new entente with France, because the old entente persists"—the old entente which led to the War. [Interruption.] What I say is it was a prelude to the War—a necessary prelude to the War. That is in the minds of all Germans who read a speech of that kind. Here, again, on this question of co-operation, I do not know how far it is bilateral. It was suggested by M. Briand, and we want an answer as to whether it was bilateral. There was no mention of this in the document sent either to Rome, Tokio or Washington. Furthermore, Lord Cushendun, in the famous interview to which I have referred, made no mention of it. I think I am entitled to ask with Lord Grey of Falloden, whose opinion is entitled to great respect, when he said that there is the impression in Europe that we are marching again on the old line of a partial alliance—I think we are entitled to ask the Government here and now—not next Wednesday week, when some Member may or may not move an Amendment on the subject—whether it is a fact that we reciprocate the sentiments of M. Briand in that part of his speech.
On the question of the relations between ourselves and the United States, here, again, there is a most unfortunate quibble on the part of Lord Cushendun, an attempt to put blame on the United States of America. He said, "You originally suggested categories, and we are trying to meet you." He knows full well that there was a sharp division of opinion shown at the Kellogg Conference, and now the Government put forward the very point of view that was expressly rejected by the American Government. It is all very well for the First Lord of the Admiralty to shake his head, but that is what the United States Note contains.
No; but is it quite wise, diplomatic or helpful to us or to the United States to propose in more objectionable form the very thing which they themselves have rejected? You put yourselves in the ridiculous position of making an agreement with France, as Lord Grey of Falloden says, in order to try to get the better of the United States. What has been the result? It has been to give an enormous stimulus to the big navy party in the United States of America—an enormous stimulus. I do not know whether it will jeopardise the Kellogg Pact. I do not know whether the Kellogg Pact, with its Imperialist reservations, matters very much. It has given an enormous stimulus to the big navy party. Senator Borah says that there is nothing for it but to build the full programme.
We are entitled, I think, to put one or two questions to the First Lord of the Admiralty on this subject. These are the questions I would like to ask him. When he meets his Board, and they frame their programmes not only for this year but prospective programmes, do they take into account any forces which the United States have or may have in contemplation? It is a fair question. Does their programme take into consideration the naval forces of the United States? Because there seems to be a difference of opinion about it. I do not know what the First Lord will say, if he says anything at all, but I know that there is a sharp division of opinion. We have declared for equality and no more. This is supposed to be the policy of the Government. The Chancellor of the Exchequer does not mean that at all. He goes to Floors Castle immediately after the Coolidge Conference and this is what he says: "We cannot accept any form of parity that does not take into consideration the special needs of these overcrowded islands." What does that mean? That is no parity at all. That means parity with superiority. Therefore, I am entitled to ask the Government to answer four questions: (1) Where shall our representative stand as regards the trained reserves? (2) Is there something or nothing in the nature of continued and exclusive co-operation of a special kind with France? (3) Where do we stand as regards the Washington ratio? (4) Do we take into account in any way the forces of the United States in calculating our own naval strength? If we can get an answer to these four questions, I think that, apart from party, which is of comparative unimportance in this matter, the national interests will be served.
May I congratulate the hon. and gallant Member for North Aberdeen (Mr. W. Benn) on having come back to this House? We have listened to him with the due courtesy which his maiden speech to-day deserves and we do not forget that in past times on various points of Order, some good and some bad, he has kept us very late on many occasions. I venture in many ways to disagree with him in what he has said. In the first place, with regard to the misunderstandings abroad, I think that the Leader of his party, and especially the articles written by the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) in the foreign Press, have done more than anything else to cause trouble abroad in regard to the Naval Pact. They and they alone are responsible. The other day I was reading an African newspaper which dealt with this matter. In Africa, which is supposed to be a somewhat uneducated and ignorant country, they put the blame upon the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs for all this trouble. They see truly what is the reason for it. They state that the effort to cause trouble was caused by anti-Government efforts in England, by the anti-Government Press and by the writings of the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs. These anti-Government efforts and writings are responsible for creating misunderstandings and for undermining the prestige of our country abroad. They are responsible, and not the Pact.
In regard to the question of disarmament and reserves, the lines upon which Europe is progressing to-day is in reducing the number of the years of training. I think that next year in France the training period of regulars is to be reduced from three years to one year. In Belgium, there is already a considerable reduction. I think they have only eight or nine months annual regular training, which is turning their force into almost a militia. It is upon these lines that we can far easier come to an agreement than by trying to estimate or reduce the number of reserves. I listened with great interest to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition yesterday, but there were certain omissions from that speech. He did not tell us the reasons why the Anglo-French Pact came into force and why it was initiated. There were various discussions at Geneva and there were disagreements between the different countries. The President of the Session, on March 15th, said at the opening Session of the Preparatory Commission:
I am faced with this difficulty, that I do not know whether the Governments—which I fervently appealed to more than once at our previous meetings to seek to reconcile their different standpoints in regard to certain questions of primary importance to our draft Convention—have been engaged in conversations or what may have been the result of such conversations.
The American representative, a few days later, said:
At the conclusion of the first reading, there were so many points of disagreement that we felt that nothing further could be accomplished in public meetings until after an effort had been made by direct negotia-
tion between the various Governments and between groups of Governments to find a way, through mutual concession, to eliminate existing divergences. It was felt that only after eliminating a considerable part, of the opposing views could we profitably embark upon the second reading with some prospect of drawing up a document so harmonious and so representative of accepted views as to offer a basis for calling a final conference.
That was the origin of the Pact. That was the reason why we and France, with greatly divergent views, came together in order to try to come to some agreement which we could put before the other countries, so that when the Second Reading came we might have definite agreement proposals for naval disarmament to put forward, with some chance of acceptance. The only fault I have to find is that our Foreign Secretary took this House into his confidence too early. He was too kind. If he had waited until he had received the replies from all the foreign countries nothing would have been known about it; there would have been no agitation and none of this trouble. I fully support the Government in their efforts, in spite of the abuse which has been heaped upon them. They have done their best in the cause of peace. Formerly, foreign policy used to be outside party politics. It used to be considered that internal affairs were proper matters for party politics but that outside, in foreign affairs, we faced the world as one. I am sorry that this occasion has been seized upon by poth parties of the Opposition to belabour the Government and to reduce our prestige, our credibility and our reliability in foreign countries. Much of our Press has shown itself thoroughly anti-French. Look at the case of the American journalist, Horan, who was arrested. The French were immediately abused for dealing with this American journalist, who had abused the hospitality of France. When it was proved that he had done so by thoroughly underhand actions, did those who had attacked France for their action apologise to the French? There was not a word of apology.
The rock of our foreign policy and what has kept the peace in Europe since the War has been the Anglo-French Entente. Around that Entente other countries have been enabled to rebuild their houses. It used to be said that so long as the Entente remained in Europe, peace was assured. Any attempt to upset it, as Tchitcherin did not very long ago, has been the cause of upsetting Europe again. Therefore, I look with great disfavour upon any attempt to upset the Anglo-French Entente. The Anglo-French Entente made Locarno possible. I foresee the time, and it is bound to come sooner or later, when an Entente is likely to absorb other European countries. We are getting Germany into the Entente, but with regard to Italy the matter may be much' more difficult. An Entente which can absorb three or four of the great countries of Europe will make war impossible in Europe. It is on these lines that we should work. That will help the work of the League of Nations and make it far more easier. The League of Nations is world-wide, it embraces the whole world and it has to delegate its authority to different branches. On the lines which I suggest, there will be a. powerful branch of the League for peace.
The Entente is not a Treaty; it is a geographical fact. As a country, we might call ourselves a kind of Janus. We have to face both ways. We are European because the Channel to-day is nothing of an obstacle. Fifteen minutes in an aeroplane takes us across. We have to look on the one side towards the Continental nations and on the other side we have to look towards our Empire. We have to frame our policy with due regard to our Empire and our neighbours, and it surely should not pass the wit of our politicians to be able to bring these two essential things together, to establish our Entente more firmly in Europe, and at the same time to keep our Dominions working with us and helping to ensure the peace of the world. What we want is more co-operative spirit in Europe and the Entente is helping in that direction. It will do more to destroy frontiers than anything else.
I was abroad at the time that the Kellogg Pact was signed and I discussed it with many people of different nationalities, with the Swiss, the French, and the Germans. They all said that they were delighted to sign the Pact, that it was an excellent idea and that it was an ideal. They said: "We belong to old countries. We are realists as well as idealists, and we have to look upon the spirit with which this Pact has been promoted. We all want to outlaw and get rid of war, but what are the Americans doing? They come to us and tell us to disarm. What are they doing themselves? Are they not increasing their Navy to an enormous extent? Are they not spending double what they did in pre-War days? We are willing to sign the Pact." But in saying that, these representatives of different countries spoke rather cynically about the matter. They said: "Mr. Kellogg has come to us with brotherly love. Did he come to visit your country? Did he not come in an American cruiser and visit the Irish Free State and, diplomatically, say that there was no time to visit England?" That is what they said to me abroad. They said: "We want to face facts and realities. If there is the spirit behind the Pact, we are with them absolutely. Even if the spirit is not there, we will sign the Pact, but at the same time we know what it means. It is an ideal that we have had put before us, and we have to face facts."
The lines upon which we should work to obtain peace in Europe is to strengthen the Entente by bringing within its orbit the other countries, Germany especially. Germany is willing to co-operate. economically and financially in the work of Europe. Are there not big agreements in regard to steel and iron, etc.? They have already started. I believe that in the course of time it may be possible to found a European United States which will be ready to take their place in the world, which will be able to keep the peace and to prevent wars in Europe and to do more to prevent wars than any so-called Pacts. Such a United States of Europe will be able to help the League of Nations in its work and will be more conducive to peace than anything that has yet been done. I welcome the Government's sincere attempt in regard to the Anglo-French Agreement which, unfortunately, has failed, thanks to the machinations of the Opposition and the articles written in the foreign Press which have stirred up all this trouble in other countries. It was a sincere attempt on the part of the Government, and it is wrong to blame the Government for what they have done in making their attempt.
I want to draw the attention of the House to that part of the King's Speech which deals with industrial
questions. We have had a very interesting Debate on foreign questions but we remember that we have 2,000,000 men out of employment in this country. I hope the Debate will not be devoted entirely to foreign questions and that we shall keep in mind the condition of the working classes of this country. For the first time, the King's Speech refers to the mining industry and the distressed mining areas. The King's Speech is a confession of failure on the part of the Government to deal with the mining industry. It is altogether a different speech from the one we discussed in this House when the present Government first took office. In 1924 the King's Speech of that year contained these words:
I am glad to note the signs of improvement in the state of trade and industry.
That cannot be said in the King's Speech to-day. As a matter of fact, the Speech lays stress on the fact that industry is just about as bad as it can be and the present Government must he held responsible for it. We have had four years of failure on the part of the Government to deal with the condition of industry, and especially with the condition of the mining industry. Some of us are anxious to take part in this Debate because we have spent the Recess in our distressed mining areas; we have seen our people and realised their condition. What has impressed me most in the County of Durham is that it is difficult to tell whether there is more distress amongst the unemployed miners than amongst the miners who are employed. The men who are employed are receiving such low wages that they are in almost as pitiable a condition as the men who are unemployed. Last Friday evening I attended a social in my constituency and one of my best supporters, an extremely good worker, said to me, "Joe, I have taken home to-clay 29s. 6d. as my week's pay, and out of that 29s. 6d. I have 2s.7d. union money to pay." Several women who were present related occasions this year when they had received far less than 29s. 6d. per week and, therefore, I am justified in laying emphasis on the great distress amongst the mining population; not only amongst those who are unemployed but amongst those who are working.
When I look at the King's Speech in order to ascertain what hope there may be for these people I find that it contains three expectations. The first is industrial transference, the next migration, and the third, rate relief on coal. These are the remedies that the Government are proposing for the mining industry. As a matter of fact, they are simply a continuation of the quack remedies which the Government have been applying to the industry for the last four years, and especially during the last year. Let me remind hon. Members opposite of the experience we have had of the Government's policy this year in dealing with the mining industry. At the beginning of the year they set up an Industrial Transference Board, and the President of the Board of Trade said its duty would be to find work for men in the distressed mining areas. As weeks and months went by we found that the Industrial Transference Board was doing nothing at all for the mining areas. It went from one mining area to another, did nothing, and in the end we had to demand a report of its work—which we should never have seen but for that demand—in order to ascertain what it was proposing to do for the distressed mining areas, and when we obtained the report we found that it was a complete wash out and meant nothing at all for the miners. It simply left them exactly where they were.
When the Government found that the Industrial Transference Board was doing nothing to help the miners the President of the Board of Education gave us to understand that he was going into these distressed areas in order to consider the conditions of the miners and their wives and children. After he had visited the areas he came back to this House and all he could suggest was that he was prepared to give milk to children on the production of a doctor's certificate. That was simply adding insult to injury. We also had the Minister of Health during one of our Debates last year saying what he considered ought to be done. He said that there ought to be a national relief fund, a national appeal, on behalf of the depressed mining areas and immediately we had the Lord Mayor of London issuing a national appeal. Everybody knew that it was impossible by such an appeal to get sufficient money to help the large number of miners who were out of work. I thought then, and I think now, that it was the wrong way to deal with the problem. The mining areas are in their present condition because of the policy of the Government during the last four years; the Government is responsible for the mining population being right down in the gutter at the moment, and instead of issuing a national appeal the Government ought to have found the money to help the mining areas. That national appeal, however, was issued and £90,000 was obtained in order to help 300,000 miners, their wives and bairns. It simply proved a farce. It is proposed to go on with it. It would be much better to leave it alone. We want a different remedy altogether.
After the House rose the Prime Minister issued a letter to employers saying that they ought to employ some of the unemployed miners. I should like the Prime Minister to tell us if one unemployed miner has been employed. It may be that a few men have been employed as the result of that appeal to employers of labour, but in my opinion it was not worth the cost of the pen, ink and paper. In Durham it is well known that no men have been employed. The Prime Minister's bosom friends, members of the Conservative party, and coalowners, have not employed a single man as the result of that appeal. And after an experience such as that during the last year the Government to-day are simply proposing a continuation of their quack remedies for the mining industry. In the King's Speech they say:
The situation in the mining areas continues to engage the earnest attention of my Ministers, who are taking energetic steps to promote the success of the scheme of industrial transference and migration.
I wonder why they use the word "energetic"? They lead us to believe that they are proposing three things as a remedy for the present condition of the mining: industry—industrial transference, migration and rate relief on coal. None of these things will ever touch the mining industry, and 12 months hence, or two years hence, unless another Government takes the place of the present administration, we shall find that the position will be worse and not better than it is to-day. We have had a little experience of industrial transference. I have here a case where two young men were sent from Durham to London. They answered advertisements through the
Juvenile Unemployment Bureau. They were interviewed at the County Hall, Newcastle, on 15th October, and were sent to London for work at an hotel in Norfolk Street on Friday, 19th October. One was to be given a post as a page boy and the other as a hall porter; but they found that it was simply a delusion. The hall porter was to get 20s. a week but the hotel people started bargaining with him and wanted to pay him 18s. per week. When they saw the other lad who was to be a page boy they said "Oh you are far too big." That is after they had been sent from Durham to these posts in London. They were told that they would be met at King's Cross by someone who would take them to the hotel, but they were left to find their way there as best they could.
They were also told that if they went to London and found that the jobs were not what they had to been led to expect they would receive their train fare back. These lads were left to drift about London for three or four days, and their experience of some of the places they stopped at is really harrowing. I have a letter here from one of them, and it is of the most heart-rending kind. They were left to drift about London until their relatives in Durham were able to send someone down to find them and take them back home. And that is what the Government calls industrial transference! Those are two cases—I could increase the number. There is no hope of assisting the mining population by the policy of industrial transference. I agree that here and there you may be able to take a young man and find him another job, but it is impossible to take the thousands of men who are really down and out and anxious to work from the mining villages and find them work miles and miles away. Here is another case. In an Employment Exchange a notice was put up that there were positions in the Leeds Police Force for which men could apply. One man did apply and got this reply:
I am directed by the Chief Constable to inform you, in reply to your application of the 10th instant, that he regrets he is unable to give you an appointment in the Leeds City Police Force.
We could quote numbers of other cases. They justify us in saying that the policy of the Government, as proposed in the King's Speech, the policy of industrial
transference, will not help us. It will not even touch the fringe of the question. The same remark applies to migration. The Government say, "We will help you by industrial transference and migration." We have still in our minds the Canadian harvesters. I remember that before the Recess the Colonial Secretary said: "These men will be able to obtain between £5 and £8 a week." I have in mind the case of a man whom I have known well for a long time. I have known him as a good worker. He went to Canada and succeeded in getting only 3½ days' work. Then, when he wanted to come back to England, he had to pay his own fare from Winnipeg. In my own Division there are other cases of young men who came back, and when they reached Liverpool had to go to the Employment Exchange to get the money for their train fare home and agree to repay it at the rate of 2s. per week. It is impossible for the Government to help the mining population by migration. Our people have grown up in the mining villages. They have married there and their families are there. It is impossible to take them in thousands, with their wives and bairns, to pull them up by the roots and transfer them to some other country or another part of this country. An altogether different remedy has to be found.
Let me deal for a moment with the rate relief for coal, the Government's de-rating scheme. The Government say, "We will cure the mining industry's troubles by giving rate relief." They are going to make matters worse in Durham. I am going to read a letter from the Seaton Burn Coal Company, of Northumberland. It emphasises all that we could say in regard to the Government's rate relief on coal carried over public railways. In Durham and Northumberland one-third of the coal is carried over private railways. There were collieries there before the railways came into existence, and they put down their own railway lines. They are now to be penalised for having done so; they are to be forced to close their pits because they cannot compete with pits that get the rate relief. Not only is one-third of the coal carried over private railways, but those collieries employ no fewer than 69,000 men. As a result of the Government blunder, we have therefore to face the
possibility of 69,000 more men being unemployed in the counties of Durham and Northumberland. This is the letter of the Seaton Burn Coal Company:
On behalf of the 150 shareholders of this company, I herewith enclose copy of a memorandum which has been forwarded to every Member of Parliament to enlist their sympathy and secure their support against a measure of Parliamentary action which, if passed, will result in a serious miscarriage of administration so far as this and many other struggling collieries in Northumberland and Durham are concerned.
As a colliery company which owns private mineral railways, one of eight miles in length and another of an additional four miles, I am communicating direct with you in view of there being so little time for each individual shareholder to do so, as was the private railway owners' first intention.
You are aware that the Northumberland and Durham coalfields are at present fighting against bankruptcy and consequential closing down, which would result in a tragedy to the mining community, and the struggle they are going through is unparalleled in their history.
It is felt by all those colliery owners owning private mineral railways, that it is only necessary for the Members of the Government to realise that it is unwittingly inflicting a terrible further handicap on the collieries running their mineral over their own private railways, as same will be the 'last straw' which will prevent them from continuing to compete against those collieries using the public railways, and instead of doing good to the public, it will result in what is nothing short of a catastrophe to a huge number of the mining class, whilst doing good to probably no greater number than the number of those who will be harmed by the oversight and omission.
I would like to point out to you one or two salient factors which I feel will enable you Wore fully to appreciate that no advantage at this stage call be given to those collieries who use the public railways at the present time without closing down permanently those collieries which, through having their own private mineral railways, will be hopelessly placed in a position which will prevent them from fairly competing against the collieries in Northumberland and Durham not owning private mineral railways.
Practically all collieries are now, and have been for two or three years, working at a heavy loss.
One of the foremost Northumberland collieries, owning three pits and with a capital of £257,500, has gone into liquidation, and it is known that many other companies are near the end of their borrowing resources, and if there is no improvement in the present demand and a reduction in the cost. of working coal, they will be compelled to follow suit.
The great majority of the companies are in the hands of their bankers, and it is a
well known fact that the prospect of increased bankers' overdrafts is nil.
Collieries owning private mineral railways have still to pay local rates for such railways, maintain their permanent ways; have to employ their own railwaymen and pay their wages, whether the private mineral railway is being extensively used or little used, and the latter has been the position for the last two or three years.
By bringing to your notice an inequitable piece of legislation which is threatening to place an unequalled burden on this company in particular, at a time when it is a practical impossibility for us to keep our heads above water, I am sure that you will not hesitate to take up a stand on behalf of this and other collieries owning private miner al railways.
That is signed by the General Manager and Secretary of the company. It is no use the Government saying, as they do in the King's Speech, that provision is to be made whereby railway companies can make low charges for the carriage of coal. If the Government pursue that policy, they are simply going to make things worse than they are now in the North of England. Everything that the Government have clone during the past four years has made the mining industry worse. Yet there is a remedy, and the Government will not adopt it. Science and research have proved that it is possible to do something for the industry. Research has proved that we need not depend solely on coal production. Coal production alone may be all very well for some coal owners who have good coal mines, but it is possible to use our coal industry to further advantage. If the Government were prepared to stand by the coal industry and assist it in the way I. shall indicate, a much brighter day for the industry would be in store. Research has proved that out of 1,000 tons of coal we can extract, by low temperature carbonisation, 700 tone of hard smokeless fuel, 17,000 gallons of crude oil, 4,520 gallons of motor spirit, 5,000,000 cubic feet of gas and 13,400 1bs. of sulphate of ammonia. It may be too much to ask coal companies, in their straitened circumstances, to find the capital for starting these by-products schemes so as to make the industry prosperous. If coal owners cannot or are not willing to do it, that is no reason why the coal industry should remain in the condition in which it is, or why thousands of our people should be left in a state of starvation.
It is the duty of the Government to act. One thing the Labour Government did in 1924. When the new sugar beet industry was just coming to the front, the Labour Government stood behind it, and although some folk may condemn subsidies and may not like them, none the less subsidies help a new industry to expand. Here is a new industry which would employ every miner who is now unemployed and pay him decent wages. It is the duty of the Government to stand behind this new industry and to find the money for these by-product works. Instead of doing that they are simply giving us doses of Baldwin's Balsam and making things worse and worse. I want the Government to adopt an effective remedy for the mining industry. Even in the districts in Durham that are now derelict, with all the pits closed, I believe it would be possible to restore prosperity. All that is wanted is a Government willing to help.
I do not claim the slightest right to say anything in this House upon the subject of foreign policy. I have never done it. But as I have the privilege of rising now, I cannot resist saying that I cannot congratulate the hon. and gallant Member for North Aberdeen (Mr. W. Benn) on his contribution to the cause of peace this afternoon. Both the party to which he now belongs and the party to which he lately belonged claim in a special degree the privileges of fostering the League of Nations and taking it under their political wing. It is on that account the more regrettable that both those parties have made it their principal line of attack on the Government that the Government have mishandled the delicate negotiations with France. The hon. and gallant Member for North Aberdeen went further, and as a contribution to peace told us that it was the entente between France and England that led to the Great War. I do not think that that statement would be accepted in any part of the country, however it may have been received by his own supporters in this House. He also told us, referring to the Gracious Speech, that it was a ridiculous document and did not give any food for thought. If that be so, surely it is unnecessary for the Opposition to require four or five days to debate a document so simple. I do not know what the hon. and gallant Member expects. I think it has been over looked in the Debate so far that the Government in preparing the King's Speech is dealing only with the legislation which it is about to pass in the course of a normal Session. It would be ridiculous to overload that programme with a heap of promises of possible legislation which the Government and all the Members of this House know is quite impossible to carry out in the time available.
The hon. Member for Spennymoor (Mr. Batey) said that the King's Speech, in relation to unemployment contained only quack remedies. How does he know that? The main item in the Speech, and the principal matter with which we shall be dealing in the coming Session, is the completion of the Government's great scheme of industrial rating relief. How does the hon. Member know that that is going to be a quack remedy for unemployment in the mining industry, as well as in the iron and steel industry and other heavy trades? The hon. Member told us further that the Government policy of the past four years was responsible for the condition of the mining areas. That was his statement hut he entirely failed to prove it. I do not want to say exactly what is the cause of distress in the mining areas, but everyone who has studied the question knows that one of the contributory causes was the late disastrous stoppage in the coal trade and the consequent handing over to our competitors of foreign markets which we have not yet recovered. Apart from that, there is no doubt whatever that the distress and lack of business in the coal trade cannot be regarded as a problem alone. It is linked up with the disastrous inactivity of our formerly great steel and iron trade. The hon. Member for Broxtowe (Mr. Spencer) who I regret is not now sitting with the party to which he formerly belonged and to which he contributed so much common sense, knows much better than the hon. Member for Spennymoor that one of the real remedies for the trouble in the coal trade is to get the steel and iron trade on its feet again. If that were done a very large part of the unemployment in the coal trade would disappear.
When the hon. Member for Spennymoor says that he disagrees with the policy of the Lord Mayor of London in making an appeal for the distressed miners, I do not know that I altogether differ from him. It is a generous gesture but it is obviously inadequate to cure the evil. But what is the alternative of the hon. Member for Spennymoor? I thought until he came to the very end of his speech that he had no other remedy to propose except an enormous scheme of direct State assistance for those who are out of work in the mining industry. I do not believe that to be a policy which the working classes of this country want. What they want is to have the country's industries restored to a position of prosperity which will give them a chance of earning their own living. At the end of his speech, however, the hon. Member told us that he had another remedy. He said the Government ought to find money to promote industrial research particularly in reference to the low temperature carbonisation process. Supposing the. Government did so, and supposing the low temperature carbonisation process proved to be a commercial and industrial success, does the hon. Member imagine that it would be confined exclusively to the coal industry of this country? We shall be exactly where we are until we tackle the whole industrial position of the country and secure fair play for our own industries such as the industries of every other country get from their Governments.
I do not in the least concur in the criticisms which have come so far from the Opposition as to the nature of the King's Speech. The principal item of the legislative programme is, as I have said, the completion of the Government's great rating reform scheme. The House knew that six months ago and they knew that was all that could be carried through in the time remaining during thy present Parliament. That reform and one or two minor matters of urgency are all, apart from finance, that we have to deal with and I think the King's Speech is an honest, straightforward announcement of the Government's programme. They have not overloaded it and they have by the Motion which the Prime Minister moved to-day probably —I hope certainly—secured adequate time for the full discussion of that vast Measure when we come to deal with it. If that be added to what the Government have already done in the last five years I think their record will bear comparison with any other five years of legislation in this country. The rating reform scheme has one immense merit in relation to unemployment. It does not claim to "cure" unemployment as the hon. Member for Spennymoor puts it. It is not a complete cure for the disease but, as far as it goes, it is directed to those industries which are most distressed. They are to get the major part of the relief and, undoubtedly, the cumulative effect of the relief from rates and the lowering of railway rates will put a great many men into employment in distressed areas and industries. I do not say I regard this Measure as the whole of what is necessary to re-establish our industry. My views on the question of Safeguarding of Industries are well known. I wish, indeed, that the Government had time to carry out a great extension of the experiment that has been so successful in the little industries to which it has been applied, in finding work for the unemployed, so that we might tackle, from every point and not from one point alone, this great and urgent problem.
My real object in rising is to call attention, while expressing my general app-oval of the Gracious Speech and the Government's programme, to one small omission which I greatly regret. I am very sorry that the Government have been unable to find time for a small Bill to amend part of the Rent and Mortgage Interest (Restrictions) Acts. Since I have taken a special interest in this subject I get, from every part of the country, letters from people of one class. They are small people, comparatively poor people, each of whom owns just one house and in almost every case that house has been purchased by the owner for his or her own occupation. There are cases of people in this position who, for seven or eight years, have been unable to get possession of their own houses. It seems to me very unfortunate that a Conservative Government which should have a special interest in safeguarding property—particuarly the property of poor people—in encouraging thrift, and in spreading wealth wider throughout the people of this country, could not find time during these five years, with the great majority that we have had, to remedy this grievance and hardship. Many of the people to whom I refer have bought these houses with the savings of a lifetime put together slowly with a view to providing for their old age.
We are rightly proud of the Government's housing record. We have built more houses and cheaper houses than have been built since the housing problem was tackled, and I cannot help thinking that, in many districts, we must have sufficiently overtaken the housing shortage, to enable us to do a simple act of justice to these small house owners. It is not a question of making fewer houses available but only a question of who are to occupy particular houses. In these cases there is somebody occupying the house of the owner while the owner is occupying accommodation, possibly inferior, belonging to somebody else. Therefore it does not affect the total number of houses available or the shortage of houses, whether you give these people the right to use their own houses or continue to withhold it from them. I could give dozens of cases, and I have had at least 100 communications from all parts of the country on the subject. I will ask the indulgence of the House to state four cases of this kind. They are not particularly had cases compared with the others, but they will give hon. Members an idea of what is going on all over the country.
The first ease is that of a woman aged 58 who bought a little house in Bath, 18 months ago. Her only means of living is letting lodgings and she bought the house for that purpose. The tenant of the house pays 8s. 6d. a week, whereas similar houses in the same road are let at 11s. a week. The tenant lets two rooms furnished at 8s. per week, so that his net rent for the remainder of the house is 6d. a week, and the owner of the house has to store her furniture. She cannot carry on her business, and she has to pay 15s. a week for her own accommodation and the storage of her furniture. Is that justice? The second case is that of a railway employé. I wish the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby (Mr. J. H. Thomas) were in his place, because this case would anneal to him. This man has been an employé of the London and North Eastern Railway since he was 16, and he is now close on 60 years of age. He bought a small house in Sheffield in November, 1920, with money that he has struggled to save. He has tried to get possession of this house without success. Thousands of houses have been built in Sheffield but the tenant has made no attempt to get any of them and apparently does not mean to do so. This man is at present living in a railway house, but when he reaches the age of 60, which will be in a few months time, he will have to turn out of it because he will then have reached the age of retirement. He has been careful and thrifty all his life with this contingency in view, but now he will be homeless when he ceases to be employed by the railway company. The third case is one in which the property has been inherited. It is a small old-fashioned house of eight rooms. The present occupier has no children but the owner of the house has three young children and is living in a small cottage, the only one obtainable other than houses at a guinea a week or council houses at 16s. 4d. The rent paid to the owner of this house of eight rooms, is 7s. 6d. a week while the owner himself has to pay a rental of a guinea a week in order to get accommodation for his family. The fourth and last case is that of a woman whose husband is a reservist. He was among the first to go to France on the outbreak of war and he has done 21 years' service. Six months before the husband was due to leave the Army they bought a house with £400—money saved by taking in lodgers and going without holidays for years. The tenant is paying 6s. 6d. a week for a six-roomed house, while the owners have to live in two rooms paying 12s. 6d. a week, their two children sleeping out. In the face of cases of this kind all over the country, I am very sorry the Government have not found time to bring in a one-Clause Bill in relation to the matter.
I could easily show that in all these cases the owners have used the legal remedy and tried to get possession, but in nearly every case, while they get sympathetic statements from the justice who tries the case, he always says he cannot help them because the owner has not shown that he has got exactly similar alternative accommodation to offer to the tenant. My point is that in every one of these cases there are two families or two people, living in two houses, and that if it does not affect the shortage of houses at all, it is high time that a person who has put by and saved all his life in order to acquire his own house should have the right to live in it and that the other people, who have not done that, should have to find the alternative accommodation. That, at any rate, is what I think would be justice and would accord with the principles of the party to which I have the honour to belong; but that is a very small criticism of what I regard as a satisfactory programme for the Parliamentary Session that remains. I am glad the Government have not tried to overload the programme, and I hope that we shall find that the great scheme of rating relief will do at any rate a very great deal—it is admitted that it cannot do everything—to restore occupation to those who are now needing it.
Anyone who knows British trade and industry will have to regret that such a deplorable state of affairs exists, not only in the coal trade, which is exceedingly bad, but in almost the whole of the basic industries of the country. There may be particular causes of which I know nothing at all, but, in my opinion, there are two main causes which have contributed more than any other to the sorry position in which we find ourselves to-day. It would probably be difficult to say which is the main cause of the two, but whether or not I am able to do that, I think I shall be justified in putting them forward as very substantial contributory causes of the distress that exists. The first is that we have been rigidly pursuing a policy which is seeking to make gold the standard of our currency. Mr. McKenna, as far back as 1918–21, outlined a scheme for reducing prices. He has not seen eye to eye all along with the rest of the bankers with regard to gold being the basis of our currency. He would have extended it to certain bills of exchange, but the rest of the bankers want to make gold the basis of our currency and have been pursuing a policy to that end, with what effect?
The whole of the manufacturing community, the whole of the producers of this country in the basic industries, have been manufacturing at one price, and owing to the restriction of credit following upon the bankers' policy, they have found that they have not been able to sell at a price which would pay them. This restriction of credit has not merely contributed to the losses which are being sustained to-day in the basic trades, but undoubtedly it has affected the purchasing power of the people of the country and has limited the volume of trade which has been taking place. That, in my opinion, is one of the main causes of our distress. Instead of gold being the basis of our currency, wealth product should be the basis, and then there would be no inflation. I confess that I am not an economist, but I am a man of common sense, and I know that the gold of the world has not been coming in in sufficient quantities to maintain the prices at a standard which is sufficient to meet the requirements of trade at the present time, and it must naturally follow that, if you are going to make gold the standard or basis of your currency, unless gold is produced in ever-increasing quantities to meet the increasing volume of trade, there must be a reduction in prices for trade to meet the convenience of gold — [Interruption]. Obviously, there must be a decrease in prices. If you have a piece of gold as big as one hand and a piece of trade as big as the other, you get an equation, and if yon double your trade you must double your gold to keep your prices stable. If you do not do it, your prices must inevitably fall.
Instead of gold being, as it is to-day, the master of trade, it should be the servant of trade, and I condemn the producers of this country in that they have not taken a greater interest in the currency of the country, but have left it to the bankers, and instead of the bankers arranging currency to support the trade and credit of the country, they have taken out of British industry, out of your pockets, by the appreciation of gilt-edged stocks since 1921, no less than £600,000,000. You have found it, productive industry has found it, and instead of us, on this side, and you, on that side, fighting against each other for that which does not exist, we should have come together to have protected our interests. As the late Lord Milner said some time ago,
The dividing line of politics in the future will be producer versus non-producer,
and that time has arrived now. Cotton, agriculture, coal, iron and steel, every basic trade, is losing money. I know one Member of this House who has lost £100 a week in cotton for over a year. It seems incredible, and whether it is cotton, agriculture, coal or iron and steel, I ask to what extent these things can go on.
There is a limit to such losses, and instead of labour and capital pointing the finger at each other and saying "You are the cause of the trouble," in my opinion it would be far better if labour and capital got together, as far as this currency question is concerned, and demanded, not that any drastic action should be taken, but that there should be a searching inquiry into the whole currency system of the country. If it is found that currency is not feeding industry to the extent that it ought to do, if it is found that currency is dictating what prices shall he, if it is found that lack of credits is throttling industry, then it should be made clear that currency should be, not the master, but the servant of industry, stimulating the free flow of goods, putting an end to the state of things we have to-day, when we see the furnace yard full, the pit yard full, the warehouse full, the shop full, factories stocked with goods, and all of us wanting to exchange them, yet the very medium of exchange so reduced that, instead of facilitating the rapid flow of goods, it is checking that flow. The sooner we turn our attention to this question the better it will be for the whole of productive industry, both masters and men. The greatest fraud that has ever been perpetrated upon the working classes of this country has been gold as the basis of currency.
I am coming now to discuss the Free Trade policy, which has been dictated and supported by the Liberal party. I should like to begin this part of my speech by quoting from a Liberal political economist, Professor Sidgwick. This is what he said as far back as 1883:
I have now to call attention to an oversight in the ordinary exposition of the benefits of Free Trade which is of some importance when the division of the world into separate nations is taken into account and the interests of a single nation are considered. It is often assumed, expressly or tacitly"—
I especially draw the attention of my hen. Friends above the Gangway to this part of the ease—
that when a class in a given nation can obtain any kind of commodities cheaper through foreign trade, the nation as a whole must be benefited by their so obtaining it. What is overlooked is the possibility that a portion of a nation from which employment is withdrawn by the change cannot be employed within their own country without a loss of utility greater, on the whole, than the gain from the cheap foreign supply of the commodities they were producing before the change. I do not think this result is at all a probable one in a country as large and as industrially developed as England.
He thought it was not possible for that to take place in England. Let us look round at the moment, and we shall see that not only has it taken place, but anyone who will take the trouble to read this month's "Trade and Navigation Return" will find that it happened some time ago also; and there is an ever increasing volume of trade flowing into this country made by labour in other countries which is less well paid than ours and which does not, therefore, admit of fair competition. The Labour party and the Trade Union party must inevitably, if they follow the logic of their own position, be Protectionists: they can be nothing else.
What does it matter to any one of us whether the man making goods lives in Belgium or Bermondsey if his labour is cheaper than ours, and it does not admit of fair competition? It is throwing out of work the man who is getting the higher standard of wages and giving the work to the man who is taking a lower wage and working longer hours. Some time ago, when we were discussing this aspect of the question—and it is the whole Liberal answer to the question of safeguarding and protection—the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Collie Valley (Mr. Snowden) said, "I like people to put into my back-garden pianos and things like that." What is the inference of a statement of that kind? My friends the Liberals say that, imports are paid for by exports. What is the fallacy underlying it all? It is that if these imports do not come in exports will not go out but it means more: it means that the goods will not be manufactured at all. Therein lies the fallacy. I maintain that if these goods, which are coming in increasing quantities into this country, were manufactured by us instead of being manufactured by foreign labour, whether they be hosiery goods, iron and steel, cotton, worsted goods or various other things which I could mention, which are coming in in ever increasing quantities, and if it be true that all trade is barter, it must inevitably follow that they would be paid for by other goods manufactured in this country. A recent writer gives an illustration of a man making shoes in this country, and a man making hats in France. It is a very powerful illustration, and hits the nail on the head. The Englishman sends his boots to France, and the Frenchman sends his hats here, and there the exchange probably ends with more or less satisfaction to both parties. But, he says, suppose, when the Englishman wants his next bats, instead of turning to the Frenchman he turns to the Englishman, and says, "If you take my shoes, I will take your hats." My Liberal friends may laugh, but I am not an economist I am a man of common sense, and I tell them that if I can keep in my country the hats and shoes, my country is that much richer than it was before.
Professor Sidgwick. What has been the main argument and the whole basis of Free Trade, starting with Adam Smith and built up a. little bit by John Stuart Mill? It has been this, that you have at the extremes of our country great barriers over which capital cannot go and cannot leave the country, and this capital, they say, will be employed in the country and, as it is employed in the country, it will go from one trade to another. The volume of trade depends upon the quantity of capital that you have got. That is a good Free Trade doctrine. If you have only a limited quantity of capital you will have a limited quantity of trade; and Free Traders have built their whole thesis upon this fact, that Free Trade means that inside a country we should retain all the capital and give the maximum amount of employment to our people. If we did any trade with another country, it would not be because our capital had gone out to foster other industries, but it would be because it was to our advantage, owing to the fact that there are certain products which we ourselves cannot produce from nature. That has been their theory and their argument, and it has entirely broken down to-day. Capital is going out, and the Labour party and all other parties should remember for what it is going out. They tell us that it is going out in the form of goods. I grant that, but where is the capital going? It is going to a foreign country to employ foreign men to send goods into this country against the Britisher, and the whole Free Trade doctrine is the doctrine of sending as much capital out of the country as possible to foster industries in another country to send over cheap goods to this country.
Is it not better for that capital to remain in England to employ the Britisher rather than that it should be sent to a foreign country to employ somebody else? Why is it not left in this country? I am not complaining about the investor—far from it. I am dealing with the principle, not with the individual. The investor will go to the best market. What I am complaining about is that investments are not made more attractive and more secure in this country by the protection of those industries in which we can make the goods ourselves. If we had that protection, instead of capital flowing out to where it can get the greatest possible interest, it would stop in this country. If John Stuart Mill and the rest of them are sound in their economics, it means that the more capital that remains in Great Britain the more labour we shall be able to employ with that capital. We can make our choice. We can either send it into another country, or we can let it stop in this country, and if we send it into another country it must inevitably follow that we shall employ other labour, and not British labour.
When we come to calculate exports and imports, it has always been said that exports pay for the imports, but in order to try to make things balance, what have the Liberal party and the Free Trade party to bring in? They have to bring in an element of finance which, in my opinion, should never be brought in, and they cannot justify it being brought in. Last year, £348,000,000 invisible exports came into this country, of was supposed to have come in, as interest upon investment; abroad. Let me ask my trade union friends to look at this for a moment. I can understand shipping as an invisible export, because there is a constant element of labour in shipping and services of that character. But if a man invested £100 in foreign Government bonds 20 years ago, and his interest comes flowing into this country year after year, can it be said that there is a constant element of labour in that service.? There is nothing of the kind, and it never ought to be brought into the balance sheet when we are weighing up imports and exports. There is not a balance of trade in our favour as real trade goes. It means all along that we are not providing work for the people iii this country. There is the greatest possible opportunity—not for the Conservative party; they will never do it—but for the Labour party to rise up and say, as they ought to say, "We will test the sincerity of the Conservative party." They should bring in a Private Member's Bill, if it be possible, to protect all those industries in this country in which there is the maximum of unemployment, and where there is the competition of low wages and longer hours on the Continent which they cannot meet. If they did that, there would be in this country a greater volume of trade than there would be by any other method at the present time. My friends taunt me about protectionist countries. We have had a surfeit of Free Trade in this country, and it has given us what we have got. Can my friends say that in France or in any other country to-day there is more unemployment than we have in this country? They have longer hours and lower wages in France, but that is the reason why the workers of this country, who are trade unionists and who believe in protecting the highest possible standard of existence consistent with the economics of the country, should be protectionists against that class of labour. If instead of railing at each other as we are, instead of pointing our finger at the capitalist, and instead of the capitalist being suspicious of us, we really came together and discussed these two great questions from a business point of view, unemployment, in my opinion, would be minimised, and we should do a greater volume of trade and bring back a greater measure of happiness and prosperity to the people. You cannot kill Bolshevism by mere doctrines; you cannot kill any form of extremism by mere theories; but if yon introduced a sound, broad policy which would give work and wages and bring contentment, it would destroy foolish nostrums and place the country on a basis of economic and political safety.
In the Gracious Speech from the Throne there is a sentence, the purport of which is that we are to have a Supplementary Estimate in order that the railway companies may grant relief to certain industries in December of this year, instead of October next year, as originally intended. I want to refer briefly to the question of the coal trade mentioned by the hon. Member for Spennymoor (Mr. Batey). If the private railways are not to be included in this relief, it will be a very serious matter indeed. Last year 14,250,000 tons of coal were carried over the private railways, representing 29 per cent. of the total production of Durham and Northumberland. This is a very serious matter for the constituency which I have the honour to represent, because no less than a quarter of that quantity, namely, 3,500,000 tons, is carried over private railways. Therefore, I make bold to ask that this matter should receive the serious attention of the President of the Board of Trade, who, I am glad to see, is present. If nothing is done, certain collieries which are served by private lines will suffer very seriously, indeed, certain areas will suffer very seriously, and in these days we cannot afford to allow any area to suffer if we can prevent it by a simple change.
I hope the Supplementary Estimate will include the amount which the private railways would receive in the way of relief, namely, their 75 per cent. That will be something to the good. But I am going further. I say that I hope the President of the Board of Trade, or whichever Department has the matter in hand, will see that this private railway relief is put into the pool, and that all coal passing, over railways, whether they be public or private, will share on the same basis. Otherwise, as I have said, the position with regard to these private railways will be very serious indeed. It is impossible at the moment to calculate exactly what will be the measure of relief, but, according to some figures got out by actuaries in Durham and Northumberland, the net average relief to be given to collieries whose traffic passes over the public railways will be just over 5d., and deducting the 84d. which is the average relief which the private railways will receive in their75 per cent., it comes out at 4.8d. If this relief to the railways had been given to every class of traffic there might have been some point in the argument which has been put forward that the private railways, as they have not paid into the pool, have no right to the relief, but seeing that we are picking out—and quite rightly, because they are very depressed—agriculture, coal, and the iron and steel trades, and also seeing that this is in the form of a subsidy, I say that all in the coal trade, whether their coal passes over private railways or over the public railways, ought to have equal benefit.
It may be interesting to know the figures which have been taken out for the River Wear, in which I am particularly interested, because it is in my constituency. I got them on Monday morning, before leaving home. The coal carried by private railways which was shipped in the 10 months ending 31st October amounted to 2,700,000 tons, against 1,845,000 tons carried over the public railways. It will be evident, therefore, how serious is the position as far as my constituency is concerned. I am not looking at this as a party political question, I regard it as a matter of bread-and-butter for the people of Durham and Northumberland. It may interest the House to know that coal is sold in the North of England in groups. I will not mention any names, but there are four different kinds of coal in Durham which come under one classification. Only one of these kinds of coal travels over private railways; the other three pass over the public railways. If the relief is not given to the private railway companies in the same manner as to the public railway companies, a lot of the trade will be lost to Sunderland because the foreigner will buy in the cheapest market—and I do not blame him for it—and he will take the other coals which are more or less of the same quality. That is another reason why this relief should he granted to all.
There is one further reason which I would put forward, and again I speak for the town which I represent. I happen to be a member of the River Wear Commission, which has charge of the Port of Sunderland. If this relief be not granted in the way I have suggested, the River Wear Commission will probably—more than probably—suffer through loss of trade diverted to collieries which are served by the public railways. I think I have said sufficient about this. The letter which the hon. Member for Spennymoor read a few minutes ago from the Seaton Burn Collieries admirably sets forth the situation, and I hope the Government will give the matter earnest consideration. If there is any technical difficulty in the way of granting what we are asking, I feel sure the House will readily pass a Measure to get over that difficulty, because Members on all sides of the House must feel seriously concerned about the trade of the country, and would not, I know, do anything which would drive trade away from any particular port, because it would not necessarily follow that it would go to another part of the country. I appeal to the President of the Board of Trade, and those who are acting with him in this matter, to see, before it is too late, whether this request which we are putting forward cannot he granted. To start with, cannot the. Supplementary Estimate be framed so as to allow these private railways, to have the relief as from 1st December; and, secondly, cannot they allow them to pay the amount they do receive into the pool and receive their fair share from the pool?
The hon. Member for Broxtowe (Mr. Spencer), after having thrown out a challenge to us on these benches and to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Colne Valley (Mr. Snowden), has departed, but, all the same, I would like to say a few words in answer to him, in no sense desiring to rail against him, but only to appeal to that common sense of which he spoke. He has complained of the tremendous flood into this country of goods produced under bad labour conditions. He desires to meet that position by having this country imitate the fiscal system under which those bad labour conditions have come into being. One would have thought his common sense would have revolted against so startling a proposition. Nearly all the rest of his speech on the subject of Free Trade was really an appeal to the country to increase its wealth and its prosperity by narrowing its markets, by dealing with as few people as possible, instead of with as many people as possible. If his arguments were sound, it is, obviously, a very unfortunate thing that we ever had any foreign trade at all. He ought to have been there when we first started trading with nations abroad. It would be, I suppose, when the Phœnicians came with their dyestuffs to buy Cornish tin. The hon. Member ought to have been on the beach to tell them that their dye-stuffs were going to interfere with the valuable British woad trade, and if he had succeeded in persuading them to retire we should never have had any foreign trade at all. I think it may be conceded, also, that if we had never explored avenues of foreign trade we should never have had any Empire at all. But I do not desire to pursue further an abstract argument with a Member who has left the chamber. I only desired to take up the challenge and to answer it shortly, and I do not think I need deal further with it at the present time.
My object in rising was to deal with the specific words in which the Gracious Speech from the Throne referring to the efforts made to deal with the unemployment question. I think the results are extraordinarily disappointing. The problem of unemployment envisages itself in my mind, first and foremost, as 200,000 men in the coal trade and about 100,000 in the iron and steel trade who have been found by the best authorities, as the result of research, to be definitely surplus, probably, to their industry, in the sense that they have no immediate prospect of finding employment there. That, to my mind, is a tragedy far outweighing even the importance of the startling total number of the unemployed at the present time. It is when unemployment becomes chronic, when the same men are unemployed year after year, that we have to treat it as a national emergency equal to the emergency of war, and to deal with it by the most drastic steps. I fail to find that the most Gracious Speech from the Throne has foreshadowed any measure which will be at all adequate to an emergency of this kind. Take the rating relief proposal. I am not going to develop any attack on that proposal. That attack has been made on other occasions from both above and below the Gangway, and will be made again, but it is obvious that the rating relief proposal will not affect those 200,000 men in the coal trade and the 100,000 men in the iron and steel trade to which I have referred, because the Industrial Transference Board, in making their estimate of the men who have no present prospect of being reabsorbed into trade, have taken into consideration not only the fact that the Government are proposing measures for rating relief, but also that further improvement might take place in management and in the methods of rationalisation; and in spite of all that they came to the conclusion that there was this great surplus of labour to be dealt with in some way or the other.
Without desiring to say dogmatically that rating relief is going to do no good to unemployment in general—for in the spending of all that money some of it is bound to spill over to the right people, and here and there some good will be done—I must say that it is not going to tackle the heart of this great question as it is presented to us in the terrible figures prepared by the Industrial Transference Board. For that remedy we have to look elsewhere. What is suggested is a migration of the people. It is suggested sometimes that this migration should he to the Dominions, and sometimes that it should take place within our own boundaries. With regard to migration abroad, I need only refer to the very weighty words which were uttered last Session, by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Hill-head (Sir R. Horne). He pointed out that the number of our people which the Dominions could absorb at the present time was limited, and must be so for a considerable time, that they had their own unemployment problems, and that there was only one kind of labour which they were ready to absorb at present, which was agricultural. As to sending out people for a harvest, I do not want to attack any scheme which has given wages to any British citizens, even for a short time, but that is obviously only a temporary measure, and no permanent solution. The men go out and come back with various reports, but the total of unemployment in this country is not thereby lessened. What of migration within the country? I am not going as far as the hon. Member for Spennymoor (Mr. Batey) went in the course of his earnest and eloquent speech. I think a fair amount of profitable transference can be accomplished. If you find, perhaps, 30 places for men from a town like Middlesbrough in the course of a month, that effort cannot be ignored if the men really find permanent situations; but, obviously, compared with the unemployment in Middlesbrough, it can only be regarded as a drop in the ocean.
I applaud, as everybody in the House will applaud, the action of the Prime Minister in making an appeal to employers to try to select men from those industries which are most badly hit; it is a good thing that it should be done; but when it is put forward as one of the main planks in a policy for curing unemployment it becomes farcical. It is obvious that it is not a curing of unemployment but a distributing of unemployment. A certain number of men from the distressed areas are brought down to the south-west and the Midlands where they find employment instead of somebody else in those districts. In almost every instance it is merely a displacement of employment, and the employment of one man instead of another. I know some men in the north-east district have been found employment in other districts. By adopting this policy you are not curing the problem of unemployment; you are simply altering its distribution. Industrial transference is not, to my mind, a hopeless policy, but it is a hopeless policy as it is being carried out by the Government without any destination being indicated when the transference takes place. Transference implies a starting place in the distressed areas, but it also implies a destination and a place where work is needed. An appeal of the kind which has been made by the Prime Minister does not create a demand for work where there was no demand before; it merely assists a certain number of men to be selected. In the training centres we are told that the aim is general employability, but I do not know what can be taught in order to promote it. If the intention is to give more specialist training you must have some idea as to what it is for, and where the labour is going to be placed.
The whole of this policy of transference and training is made useless by the fact that the Government have no general scheme for creating work. The Government seem to have snatched the purely negative conclusions arrived at by the Transference Board, and they have concluded that no responsibility rests upon the Government. I ask the Prime Minister, or anyone who undertakes to deal with this problem, to imagine what they would do if the problem before the country was an actual shortage of food or a famine. What would the Government do under those circumstances? I am sure they would try and sweep the world in order to find food to meet a famine. When it happens to be a famine in relation to work, why cannot the Government sweep the country for all the possibilities of work, because such possibilities exist and they can be found if the Government will only address themselves to the subject in a serious manner.
Until all the needs of this nation are satisfied; until the housing problem has been solved and all our slums have been removed; until our roads have been made perfect and all our agricultural land has been brought into cultivation—until all these things have been done it cannot be said that there is no work to he found for the people of this country. It is the duty of those at the head of the State to realise that national investment for peace is as necessary and as laudable as national investment for war. If we had a Government of that kind, we should not find these poor pitiable proposals put forward which the Government have suggested to meet the terrible problem which confronts them in their last year of office. I am afraid that we shall not find any real remedy put forward by the present Government and nothing will be done until those at the head of the State have a clearer vision, a greater imagination, and a more profound faith.
The hon. Member for Spennymoor (Mr. Batey) has dealt with the position of the men at work in the coal industry, and I want to draw attention to the position of some of those people. In the course of the last Session I asked the Home Secretary if he could see his way to amend the Workmen's Compensation Act, and my reason for asking that question was the very low wages which were being paid to the miners. I mentioned that certain cases had come to my notice where the minimum of £200 had not been paid and nothing more could be claimed by the men. In reply, the Home Secretary said that he would make inquiries, and, if he found that my statement was correct, he would pay attention to the matter.
Later on I received a reply that there was no evidence of the character which I had indicated. During the Recess I have spent some time trying to find out the amount of wages actually earned by the miners, and I have obtained some figures from the men who are getting compensation. I have examined 100 cases of men in Lancashire, and not one of them is getting 25s. per week compensation. This proves that the average weekly wage is something less than £2. That is a fact which cannot be disputed, and it bears out what the hon. Member for Spennymoor has said, that the wages paid to those employed in the coal mining industry are very poor indeed. I ask the Home Secretary to pay close attention to these facts, because he has now sufficient evidence to proceed on the lines which I have indicated. I hope the Government will realise the amount of distress which prevails in the mining areas. I am sure the country generally is aware of that distress judging by the meetings which have been held to relieve the distress in the mining areas. One case has been brought to my notice in a letter written by Mr. Galsworthy, headed "The Plight of the Miners," in which he says:
Now certain thoughts have crystallised within me: coal, whether owned by the nation or by private individuals, is a national resource, and it should not be possible for any private individual or company finally to abandon any pit by a stroke of the pen without referring the decision to the Ministry of Mines, or some other duly constituted authority representing the nation. A man may fail in an ordinary business a ml no national harm done, but where his failure means the final abandonment of a national source of wealth he should not he allowed to fail in the present arbitrary manner, which at a stroke destroys the livelihood of hundreds, perhaps thousands, of his fellow-creatures. The decision for such abandonment should be nationally adopted or at least ratified.
We blame the Government for having allowed private enterprise to bring the coal industry to its present state. We say that the Mining Industry Act of 1926 has done nothing to further the national interest. It may be argued by the President of the Board of Trade that the White Paper issued by the Mines Department will help the coal industry. One passage in the Report issued by the Board of Trade on this subject says:
Particulars of amalgamations in this category which are known to have been
effected since the passing of the Act are given below. They cover 172 pits, normally employing about 126,000 workpeople, and comprise 17 separate schemes, subsequently reduced to 14 by the further amalgamation of the South Wales anthracite groups.
I contend that those amalgamations do not meet the situation. A scheme of that kind sets district against district, and, unless the problem can be dealt with nationally, no satisfactory solution of the problem presented by the coal industry can be found. There is a further passage in the White Paper which refers to a scheme now being put into operation in Lancashire and Cheshire, Cannock Chase, Leicestershire, North Staffordshire, and Warwickshire, as well as in the Yorkshire, Notts and Derby coalfields. It is a striking example of the fallacy of private enterprise. I understand that one of the principles of private enterprise is not to restrict output, but the document to which I have referred says:
This scheme provides for
(a) a levy not exceeding 3d. per ton on all coal raised.
It is also provided that each colliery shall have a quota or percentage applied each month to the basic tonnage, and there is a further provision as follows:
If a member exceeds his quota in any month by more than 1 per cent., he is liable to a fine of 3s. a ton in respect of the excess tonnage; and in the case of systematic excesses heavier penalties may be applied.
This is a clear case of private enterprise restricting output. If that is so, then hon. Members are bound to realise that private enterprise applied to the coal industry has failed in regard to one of its fundamental principles. Consequently, the only real solution is for the nation to take over the coal mines and make them a national concern. When hon. Members admit that in the coal industry private enterprise has failed, I contend that it is only dealing with the problem piecemeal in the way which is now proposed, and the Government are not doing their duty. I appeal to the Government to recognise what is happening in the coal industry. The present state of things cannot continue much longer. The nation is going downward step by step, and we ask that things should not be allowed to get any worse.
I will endeavour to show how this problem can be dealt with. I think the nation ought to recognise that those who are allowed to work in mines should be restricted to a certain age. I do not think any man over 65 years of age ought to be allowed to go down a. mine. The nation should see that men engaged in the mining industry, upon reaching the age of 65, should have sufficient to keep themselves. We have heard a good deal of talk about raising the school age, but why not attempt to deal with this question in reference to the coal industry. In December, 1927, there were 41,400 boys under the age of 16 employed in and about the coal mines. My contention is that no boy under 16 years of age ought to be allowed to work on a night shift at the pit-head. At a time when we have an excess of labour in the mining industry, it is only reasonable to ask the Government to extend the Mining Industry Act in order to prevent boys working on night duty below ground. There is an excellent chance now, while we have so much surplus labour, and I would appeal to the Government to pay attention to that point.
As to the general question of the mining industry, for a long time past if has been apparent that something ought to be done, and it is perhaps not too late to make one more appeal. Already tonight mining Members from these benches have shown the state of things that is obtaining in every coal pit, even in Yorkshire and Nottinghamshire, which in times gone by used to be called rich coalfields, but are now themselves experiencing great difficulties. It is not one part only of the British coalfields that is in distress. When we make this appeal, it is with the hope and thought that in the future the Government will realise the folly of leaving to private enterprise, as they have done in the past, our greatest basic industry.
Everyone, of course, must sympathise with the coal-mining industry in the terrible times through which it is going. It is, indeed, heartrending to see what are called "economic forces" working themselves out in the actual flesh and blood of so many of our fellow-citizens. If I turn from that aspect of the King's Speech, it is because I deem it a privilege to be the first to-day to touch on the agricultural question. Members who represent agricultural constituencies welcome very much the words in the Gracious Speech, because, for one thing, they do not foreshadow any great amount of legislation with regard to that industry. It is a well known fact that, if there is one thing which the agricultural industry abhors above all others, it is over-much legislation. We have, however, in the lifetime of this Parliament, passed many Acts that will have beneficial results for our industry if they can be properly administered, and, therefore, what we hope to see most particularly during the coming months is that the Minister of Agriculture should be able to proceed upon his way rejoicing, because he has, for example, in the Act dealing with grading and marking, which has been so happily inaugurated in certain parts of our industry, a weapon which may do a great deal more than many people suspect in bringing back prosperity, so far as prosperity can be brought back on the marketing side.
He has, again, placed on the Statute Book an Act dealing with credits for the agricultural industry, and I hope he will be able to bring that fully into force at the earliest possible moment by setting up the corporation foreshadowed in that Measure. He has it in his hands to press forward with schemes for afforestation, and he certainly is in a position to bring his great influence to bear on his colleague, the Minister of Health, to press of much more strenuously than has yet been possible with the improvement of housing in rural areas. All of that can be done by virtue of recent legislation which we in this Parliament have passed, and it is by administration as much as by legislation that our acts here will be judged. I hope, therefore, that the fact that the Gracious Speech does not foreshadow much in the way of agricultural legislation will not mean any relaxation in his or our efforts to try to bring back prosperity to what, after all, is the oldest and the greatest industry of this country. But there is legislation foreshadowed, and legislation of a very practical and very desirable kind. We have, first of all, a reference to Estimates which will shortly be placed before the House, and, in passing, one welcomes the note once again the need for economy in public expenditure, because, if there is one thing Which is above all desirable to-day, not only in the field of national finance but also in that of local government, it is economy on every side.
In that paragraph we have a reference to relief in freight rates on certain articles connected with our industry. We understand, from speeches made by the Minister of Agriculture, that these comprise manures, livestock, feeding stuffs, milk and potatoes. That is a very varied list, but it is a list of great value, because, in drawing it up, my right hon. Friend and his advisers have obviously had to bear in mind the fact that, in order to give the greatest possible assistance to the British producer, they should try to think out a list of freights on articles which were going to help him mast so far as they were lines of his industry where there was the least foreign competition. Owing, quite naturally, to the organisation of this country in regard to the way in which the railways are run, and the treaties that we have with foreign Powers, we are precluded from giving preferential rates for British as opposed to foreign goods, and, therefore, the best means of assisting our own home producer is to choose traffics in which he is more particularly concerned. We welcome that because we know that the, extra £750,000 which is going to be saved to the agricultural industry as a result of these reduced rates is going to be of great benefit to it on its production and marketing side.
One would not, however, have suspected, in the course of this Debate, that the Gracious Speech foreshadows one of the most important revolutions in the whole of our agricultural economy. It foreshadows that relief, of which much has already been said, which is represented by the total abolition of agricultural rates on land and on buildings. That is a proposal which is going to be placed before this House, and it is certainly revolutionary in the extreme. It is something to which the agricultural industry has aspired for many years, but, if anyone had said 12 months ago that there was a prospect of its being brought about in the lifetime of this present Parliament, they would have been laughed out of court. We welcome, therefore, those words relating to relief from the burden of rates, which, as the Gracious Speech says, may benefit agriculture. After all, it is only the con- summation of many years of Conservative policy. We started by making it one of the principles of agricultural rating that there was a case for preference in the case of agricultural land. That was afterwards extended in its amount, and, within the lifetime of this present Parliament, was extended again to cover agricultural buildings; and this year, according to the programme which the Government are going to place before this House, we are apparently to put the corner stone on that policy, which we have so long hoped might come to fruition.
There is no question that it will benefit every branch of agriculture, and it is the only possible way of doing it. When you have barred out, and it is obvious to every thinking person that you must bar out, on the one hand any system of universal subsidising of the agricultural industry, and on the other hand a system of Protection—because we still stand by the words of the Prime Minister that none of our policy is to be any taxation on articles of food—it is only by a system of rate relief that you can possibly benefit all agriculturists, whether great or small, in proportion to their interests in the land. I know it is a platitude, but, if one considers for a moment all the diversities of the industry, one sees that there is nothing really in common between the man to whom agriculture means the production of milk, the man to whom it means the marketing of livestock, the man to whom it-means arable farming, the man who is a market gardener, or, again, the man whose livelihood conies from potatoes. There is really very little in common between all of these except one thing, and that is the burden of the rates; and it is by their realisation of the importance of relief in that direction that this Government are really making history in the agricultural world.
We, therefore, most particularly welcome these words in the Gracious Speech. We welcome, as I have said before, the fact that not much legislation is foreshadowed for our industry, hut we hope that, among the minor Measures which are referred to in the last paragraph, the Minister of Agriculture may draft and introduce into this House a Bill dealing with drainage. This subject has been considered by a Royal Commission, and it is a question which certainly affects a great many districts in my own constituency. I hope that it may be considered as one of the more or less non-controversial Measures which the Government may find it possible to slip through in the course of the coming months. On the main question, we do welcome very much in the country districts the foreshadowed relief from rates and we are also particularly pleased that we are not going to be burdened with a great deal of new legislation.
In looking through the Gracious Speech, I notice a reference to the continuance of the policy of migration as a means of alleviating the difficulties which exist in our mining areas, but I am very sorry to find that the Government have omitted any reference whatever to the possibility of relieving the situation in the mining areas by a system of land settlement, not in Canada or Australia, but here in our own country, where so many acres of arable land are going out of cultivation. The hon. and gallant Member for Gainsborough (Captain Crookshank), who has just spoken, has referred to the hopes which he has of agricultural prosperity being restored, or at any rate helped, by the de-rating of agricultural land, but he has, I think, overlooked the fact that this concession to agriculture will in all probability, if the experiences of the past are any guide, be completely swallowed up in the maw of the landlords by increased rent, for the Conservative Government have already given a lead to the private landowners by raising the rents of the allotments at Sutton Bridge in Lincolnshire, which are under their Department, on the very ground that, because they are to be de-rated, the tenants will be able to pay a higher rent. The whole cry of agricultural landlords is that they are unable to keep up either the drainage or the repair of their properties or the provision of capital for agricultural holdings, because the rents are too low to permit them to fulfil the functions which they used to fulfil; and certainly I think that the value of this concession to agriculture will prove to have been enormously over-estimated, and that the main benefactors will not be the farmers, but the landowners. However that may be—
My object in rising was to draw attention to the treatment that has been meted out to a considerable number of British citizens who were induced by false pretences on the part of the Government to go out to Canada in connection with the special scheme for miner harvesters. On 1st August last the Colonial Secretary made a statement in the House, in the course of which he said, answering a question by the hon. Member for Rothwell (Mr. Lunn):
Arrangements have been made, in consultation with the Canadian Government, under which 10,000 men are to be assisted in going to Canada from this country for work in connection with the Canadian harvest.
He said they were going under special terms and proceeded to state:
The average rate of wages for harvest work in Canada is about £3 to £5 a week with keep."—[OFFICIAL, REPORT, 1st August, 1928; cols. 2185–6, Vol. 220.]
A little later on, in reply to a Supplementary Question, he stated that, during the eight weeks a man might be expected to work, he might be able to earn over and above his keep a sum of from £24 to £40. Previously he said in the House, on 26th July, that he had received a telegram from the Canadian Government but was not at that date in a position to make a state rent. I would like the contents of that telegram from the Canadian Government to be disclosed in the House tonight. I do so because it must have been within the Colonial Secretary's knowledge, at the time he made the statement in the House on 1st August, that the responsible authorities in Canada, the representatives of the provincial Governments of Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba, together with the representatives of the two Federal railway systems, had met in Winnipeg in the month of July for the purpose of discussing what were the requirements of the Western harvest fields as far as labour was concerned. It was distinctly stated at that
meeting that no wages should be advertised in appeals for harvesters. For a Minister to make the statement he did, in view of the fact that a conference of the responsible Canadian authorities had been held, means that he must have been misleading the men recruited under that scheme.
Most of the dissatisfaction which has arisen among the men who went out to Canada is due to the fact that no guarantee was given by the Canadian farmer either to employ the labour or to pay a particular rate of wages. They did not contract to pay to an unskilled British miner harvester the rates of pay that were represented to the men in the employment exchanges in Great Britain before they went to Canada. One cannot altogether blame the farmers because, where they were able to get skilled men used to Canadian conditions to do the work, it was not likely that they were going to pay someone who was quite inexperienced the rate of pay for which they could hire a skilled man. Therefore, when the men were sent out to the farmers—not to individual farmers, because no list of individual farmers had been compiled—when they were sent out from Winnipeg for hundreds of miles in batches to agents at the railway stations, without any preparations made for them, without anybody to meet them, without any employment to which to go, with very little in the way of resources, it is not surprising that, when they succeeded in getting a job, they had to take whatever wage was offered to them. They naturally expected that the Canadian farmer would be willing to pay the rate of wages represented to them in Great Britain even though they were not fully skilled men, arid not able to earn the rate payable to fully skilled men. That is the first charge I want to make against the Government, that they misled those men who were sent to Canada and that they had knowledge of the actual conditions before the statement was made by the Colonial Secretary in the House on 1st August.
It so happens that I was in Vancouver during the month of August, and was taken ill there. During the time I was in Vancouver, the City Council and the authorities in that City expressed very great alarm as to this importation of labour from Great Britain, and a number of statements in the Canadian newspapers
led me to believe that all was not well in relation to this Canadian harvester scheme. I would like to draw the attention of the House to this statement which appeared in the Canadian newspapers on 21st August:
The Canadian National and Canadian Pacific Railways announce that no more harvesters' excursions will be run to Western Canada this year. The second series arranged for the present season have been cancelled. Instructions have been issued to agents throughout Eastern Canada, including Ontario, Quebec and the Maritimes, to stop the sale of tickets. The action followed a conference in Winnipeg which was attended by representatives of Railways and officials of the Government Employment Service. It is stated that the total number of harvesters carried from Eastern Canada and Great Britain already arrived at the harvest fields or on their way there has reached 40,000, while British Columbia to date has sent 1,000 more than originally anticipated.
There is a clear indication that the second series of excursions, arranged by the conference of responsible authorities in Winnipeg for the purpose of supplying the Western harvest fields with labour by conveying the Eastern Canadian worker, who normally moves West for harvest work, had to be cancelled because of the result of the influx from this country of men who were taken into Winnipeg with-out any proper provision being made for their employment. It seems to me a perfect scandal to take men at great cost 3,000 miles or more over the sea for a very short period when the home market supply is not fully utilised.
A second item in the Canadian Press to which I want to draw the attention of the House is a statement, a despicable statement, in any opinion, made by the British Under-Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs. This statement was made on 27th August in Winnipeg in an interview to the representatives of the Press, and was to this effect:
Lord Lovat hoped that the newspapers of Canada and Great Britain would not pay too much attention to stories brought them by miner harvesters of injustices done to them. There are bound to be injustices on both sides, but there will also he as many and probably more instances where the men have been treated fairly and have kept their part of the bargain.
The ordinary British citizen, the ordinary man in the street, is, in my opinion, just as likely to be as truthful in relation to these matters as any Conservative lord,
and I consider it was a very reprehensible thing for the Under-Secretary to make such a statement appealing to the British and Canadian Press not to pay too much attention to British harvesters' stories. No good can be done either to Canada or to Great Britain, or to good relations between those two branches of the family, by the suppression of stories of injustice. If the statements are true, they require proper investigation. It is not only that from my own personal experience I know that many of these men did not get a fair deal—
I am refreshing my memory from an article written by myself in the columns of the "Lincolnshire Forward." If the hon. Member will allow me, I can tell him the papers from which I took the quotations that I made. Does the hon. Member suggest that these quotations were not published in the Canadian Press?
The third statement is a statement published in the papers of the Canadian Press and made by Dr. J. T. M. Anderson, who is the Conservative leader in the Saskatchewan Provincial House. He declared at Saskatoon on 30th August that the treatment of British miner harvesters at Saskatoon was a disgrace to Canadian civilisation. There is, apparently, some justification for the point of view I have expressed in the minds of responsible Canadian leaders in Western Canada. My complaint is that no proper arrangements existed for the distribution of these men from Winnipeg, and that many of them suffered very great hardships. I have in my possession statements concerning a case of about 100 of these men whom I met in Winnipeg. I do not propose to read it because I do not want to take up the time of the House unnecessarily, but it shows that, in the case of hundreds of men at least, no proper work was available for them and that many of them suffered very great hardships. They had to "jump" trains and beg their way. They were unable to get work, and when they got back they were in a very difficult position. Matters cer- tainly did improve after the Empire Parliamentary Delegation arrived in Winnipeg, and at the time I left the men who were reaching Winnipeg on their way home to this country were certainly getting three good meals a day, and conditions had improved in many ways.
I want to make one very strong complaint about the way these men were treated in relation to their return to this country. It is that before they could get their tickets to return to this country they were compelled, owing to the exigencies of their position, to sign a document to the effect that they had refused work in Canada. When I went into the immigration hall attached to the Canadian Pacific Railway and into the Government Immigration Hall, I discovered that these men were being asked to sign a statement to the effect that they had refused work in Canada at wages from four to five dollars a day. That was a condition of receiving their ticket to return to this country. Later on I discovered that after the arrival of the official representative of the Ministry of Labour in Winnipeg, the form used by the Department for dealing with men who were returning had printed upon it these words:
I have refused to work at wages from four to five and six dollars a day.
Most of those men have had very unfortunate experiences. They had had great difficulty in getting back to Winnipeg, and many of them had suffered very real hardship, and, when they were asked whether they would go out again for a job at four or five dollars a day, they very naturally said: "What guarantee is there that the job is there and that the wages will be paid when we get there?" I met men in Winnipeg who had been out twice, and had had the same kind of experience, and naturally they declined to go out again under those conditions unless there was some absolutely definite undertaking by somebody that their first experience would not be repeated.
Mr. ROY WILSON:
Does the hon. Member want to convey to the House that in the cases he investigated those men who had gone out hail not received employment at five dollars a day, and when they were asked to go out again they had good reason for believing, before they signed the certificate, that they were not going to get the employment offered?
I say it was very unfair to place those men, after the experience they had gone through, in the position that they bad to sign a document saying that they had refused work at from four to five dollars a day as a condition of receiving their tickets to return to this country. I am speaking now, not of men who were medically unfit and had a doctor's certificate, but of men who had gone out. In some cases there was no work for them, and in the majority of cases they were provided with a few odd days on a farm at about half the rate of wages that was offered them in this country.
I say that there was a moral guarantee on the part of the British Government with regard to the wages that these men were to receive. Had it not been for the posters exhibited in the Employment Exchanges, and for the statement of the Colonial Secretary in this House, had they known the conditions they were going to they would certainly not have gone to Canada. They were told by the Colonial Secretary that they could save, in addition to their keep, from £20 to £40 by eight weeks work. I am not concerned with that so much as I am with this question of compulsion in relation to the signing of forms, because, apart from the Labour Members, there is a considerable number of Members in other parties who would not desire to do an injustice to their fellow countrymen. It seemed to me justifiable for the men to sign the forms if it was their only way of getting home. Some of them were married men who were anxious about their families, to whom they had not been able to send anything. They were without resources in what was to most of them a strange country, and in view of the experiences most of them had when they were sent out to Winnipeg, I for one do not blame them for refusing to take a second promise. I would blame any man who had a definite job to go to, who was physically able to do it, and refused to take it. I have no sympathy whatever with that kind of man, but with individuals placed in the position that a very large number of these men were placed in, I have very real sympathy.
I should not like anything I have said to-night to damage the prospects of promoting that kind of migration which, I believe, can take place with real benefit both to Canada and Great Britain. I am quite satisfied that with proper care and organisation a contribution to the wellbeing both of Canada and of Great Britain can be made by migration schemes. In all probability a considerable number of the men who have gone out have had much better experiences than those which I have been describing. The Canadian farmer, on the whole, is a good fellow and is probably just as anxious to do the best that he can for one of the old stock arriving from Great Britain as anyone else, especially if he is an old country man. But to dump men into Winnipeg in the way that these men were dumped, without any proper organisation for their employment, is not going to help either Canada or Great Britain, and I sincerely hope that we may have a full statement on this matter which will deal with the charges that have been made to-night.
It has been my privilege to listen to a good many Gracious Speeches from the Throne delivered in another place, and debated in this, but I have no recollection at any time of having read a more miserable and unworthy production. It has nothing to commend it to me in the least. It is less like a Speech from the Throne than the address of a municipal candidate. Threading through the whole of the Speech appears the sentence "Economy and efficiency and the health of the people shall have the first attention." The record of this Government for the last four years gives the direct lie to both those statements. Economy of a kind, yes, but efficiency, no. In no department of the Government is there any justification for the claim that there has been efficiency. Economy at the expense of the health of the people, economy at the expense of the comfort of the men who ought to be, instead of a national liability, producers of wealth and a national asset, restriction of legitimate benefit, the denial of even the common necessaries of life to sustain life and prosperity do not count in the record of the Government for righteousness.
It reminds me very vividly of an opponent I once had at a municipal election who in his address, posted all over the Ward, made a somewhat peculiar statement. He was a self-made man; a successful business man, and, having made a success of his own business, he was more capable of attending to my business than I was myself. One strong point he made was that the health of the people should have his first and last attention. It turned out on inquiry that he was an undertaker, and got his living by burying his neighbours, and not by keeping them alive. That is on a par with the claim of the Government on the ground of economy and efficiency. I have read the Speech over and over again, and I have endeavoured to find something that would give me some justification for at least giving credit to the Government for having done something in this direction, and if we go back on experience and read the Speech in connection with their actions, I have very faint hope that if they get an opportunity to carry out even its very vague statements it will be of any advantage whatever to the electorate. Let me quote one or two sentences.
The situation in the mining areas continues to engage the earnest attention of My Ministers, who are taking energetic steps to promote the success of the scheme of industrial transference and migration.
What justification is there for that statement? The whole record of the dealing of the Government with the mining problem stinks in the nostrils of reasonable men. I represent a mining area. I see the misery and the poverty and the refusal even of temporary aid. I see all around me a terrible tragedy and a basic industry of the country drifting down every day. We had a speech from the hon. Member for Broxstowe (Mr. Spencer). Here is an industry to which he belongs. It is absolutely free from foreign competition, and yet out of his own mouth he stands condemned. This trade, owing to the action of the Government, who profess that the question is having their earnest attention, is of such a character, as has been described by an hon. Member on these benches to-day, that the average wage of those engaged in it is
under £2 per week. The question of migration has been mentioned. I leave that where it is, except to ask the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister, whose language is contained in the King's Speech, where they are to go? In Canada and our Colonies there are unemployed. All that the right hon. Gentleman—the first gentleman in England, so to speak, apart from the King —can do, in perfect good heartedness I admit—the intention is all right—in the midst of this poverty and degradation, is to write a letter to the employers asking them to find employment. In the words of a subconscious poetical friend of mine, he wrote to the employers
To see them right through
And find them all jobs
Where there was nothing to do.
When are we going to be rid of all this fooling on this question, a question that is bleeding the country dry to-day? We have had the humiliating confession of the absolute failure of the Government to deal with this question. We have had it from the Front Bench during the last three Sessions of Parliament. We have had it in the Ministry of Labour for two or three Sessions also. The Unemployment Insurance Act was so amended that the figures on the live register were reduced but the figures outside the live register were shut out so that men were left starving and women and children standing behind like ghosts. I am sure that in his official capacity this haunts the right hon. Gentleman every time that he gets up in this house and makes a statement that unemployment is increasing. In spite of all this safeguarding of industries that hon. Members opposite have boasted about and are boasting about to-day, in spite of all the attempts to solve the unemployment problem, the humiliating confession is made that the expenditure on unemployment requires an increase of borrowing powers in order to meet further liabilities. The Gracious Speech says that
a Bill dealing with this question will be laid before you.
I hope that there are some reasonably-minded men on the opposite side of the House, although there appear to be few there now, for I can count them on the fingers of one hand. That is the misfortune of the whole business. When
these serious questions are being discussed, we find that the men who might be convinced by the statements which are made from this side—we have not a monopoly of wisdom; I think there are some Members on the opposite side of the House who might be influenced by the truth—are usually absent.
There is another paint with which I want to deal. In His Majesty's Gracious Speech we have another development foreshadowed in the rating and valuation suggestions for the relief of distressed industries. We are told that these suggestions are not to be confined to distressed industries. We have not the Bill before us at the present time, but in this connection I am fortunate, because I hold in my hand cuttings containing extracts from a speech delivered by a very prominent and responsible member of His Majesty's Government, the Solicitor-General. The Solicitor-General has been in my constituency, and he has been talking to my constituents. I have no doubt that the position of Solicitor-General carries with it great influence, and I believe that whatever words the hon. and learned Gentleman uses are listened to and quoted over and over again. It is far that reason that I take the liberty of quoting from the authoritative speech which he made on that occasion. Although the Bill is not yet before the House, if the hon. and learned Gentleman has stated the truth—and I think he has—he indicated the very essence of the Bill that is going to be presented in a few days' or a few weeks' time. Speaking on the general principles of the rating and valuation proposals the Solicitor-General said:
With regard to the extra money available for distribution as a bonus to the needy areas, this would be allotted to each area at so many pence per head of the population. The population, however, would not be the real number of inhabitants, but an invented or 'doctored' number designed to give extra weight to those elements of the population which most needed help, and to the ability of the area to raise the money to meet the cost of social services.
The hon. and learned Gentleman followed that up by a very peculiar and remarkable statement:
This number was arrived at by taking the real population and increasing it—
I am not going to inquire into the method that is to be adopted for increasing it: I will leave that to the Solicitor-General to explain—
by the percentage by which at the latest census the number of children under five years of age per 1,000 of population exceeded 50. Next the figure thus obtained was 'doctored' to give effect to the cost of relieving unemployment. For this purpose it was ascertained what percentage the number of unemployed men bore to the total estimated population. If this percentage (average over three years) exceeded one and a half per cent., which figure has been selected as being well below the average for the country, so that full effect might be given to the necessity for payment of relief caused by unemployment, the percentage by which it exceeded one and a half per cent. of the population was multiplied 10 times, and the 'doctored' figure of population was increased by that amount.
There you are. It is just about as clear as mud. There is no doubt about the doctoring. It is said, of course, that figures cannot lie, but in the words of the present Chancellor of the Exchequer, if I may be pardoned for using them,
terminological inexactitudes sometimes can figure, and do.
The hon. and learned Gentleman goes to the source of the whole business and tells us who is going to find the money.
said the Solicitor-General,
is being found mainly by the tax of 4d. in the gallon on imported oils, generally known as the Petrol Tax. It is always unpleasant to pay for any scheme, however good, but it is a sound principle of taxation to find a source of revenue which is bound to expand and which will expand without the consumer feeling that he is seriously affected by the tax.
Surely, on calm consideration the hon. and learned Gentleman cannot seriously mean that the consumer is not affected by the duty on petrol. As a matter of fact, I am getting letters of protest from my own constituency and from other constituencies, and I 'have no doubt the hon. and learned Gentleman is receiving protests from municipalities and constituencies all over the country against this iniquitous tax on the raw material of industry. This is what will happen. The relief given in the rates will go only to a section of the community and not to the whole of the community. The Solicitor-General may say that it does. But the whole of the relief to the manufacturers, who although they may be a very important section of the community,
are only a very small section of the community, is not sufficient, even if they were so inclined, to enable it to be passed on for the benefit of the wages and conditions and the hours of labour of those whom they employ. I am told by the brewers that what they are gaining by this gift is not sufficient to enable them to take a farthing a pint off beer. The man who uses petrol on the roads and on the canals has to pay 4d. per gallon and gets no relief whatever from the Bill. He has to pay his local rates in full although he may be engaged in carrying raw material to the manufacturers. This is what the Solicitor-General, in a very eloquent sub-peroration, says about it:
In any case, we are dealing with a great national scheme, and I believe the person who uses any form of motor transport even if there is an addition to the expense of over one penny in six miles will rejoice to think that for every throb of his engine and every turn of the wheel of his car he is contributing to the restoration of prosperity.
I cannot visualise that person's satisfaction at the throb of the engine, but I can certainly visualise the indignant throbbing of his heart and of his pocket at having to be compelled to find money when he himself is living from hand to mouth doing a small distributive business, and he is compelled to pay the whole of his rates and then to find 4d. in the pound towards paying the rates of a man who is doing a roaring business next door to him. That is the position.
What is the use of telling us that this thing is going to lift the burdens of industry. If I had time and the House had patience with me I could make suggestions, which I think every thinking man would accept as reasonable, for lifting at least 50 per cent. of the burdens of industry by making those pay a far bigger burden who do nothing to create the wealth which they enjoy. That, however, is too big a question to be dealt with to-night. When we are asked, as we are asked, religiously and kindly in this Address to pray that the blessings of Almighty God shall rest on our deliberations, it almost seems to me to be taking God's name in vain. There are scriptural quotations which would fit the situation, particularly one from the Book of Kings, as applied to the last Election, when Saul went out to seek his father's asses and found them. There is another quota-
tion equally as effective from the Book of Nahum, third chapter, first verse:
Woe to the bloody city! It is all full of lies and robbery;…
The noise of a whip, and the noise of the rattling of the wheels, and of the prancing horses, and of the jumping chariots.
The horseman lifteth up both the bright sword and the glittering spear: and there is a multitude of slain, and a great number of carcases; they stumble upon their corpses.
Various phases of the Gracious Speech have been dealt with to-day. I do not propose to deal with the question of foreign affairs, which was so ably dealt with by the hon. and gallant Member for North Aberdeen (Captain W. Benn) whom every hon. Member is pleased to see back with us again. I wish to deal with the phase relating to the mining industry and particularly that portion where it is proposed to grant benefits for the export of coal. We are informed that on the 1st December the de-rating proposals as far as railways are concerned are to come into operation, and that the export of coal and the industries of steel and iron will thereby benefit to some extent. May I ask the President of the Board of Education, who is now in his place on the Government Front Bench, whether any arrangement or any agreement has been arrived at between the Government and the coal owners so that once these de-rating proposals come into operation instead of the benefits being handed over to the foreigners, as the benefits which have been given to the mining industry in the past have been, the mining industry itself will benefit?
If we consider the history of the Government's dealing with the mining industry during the last four years we must admit that it is not a very pleasant or very happy one. The name of the Prime Minister and his Government one might almost say stinks in the nostrils of anyone connected with the mining industry. For four years the Government have been endeavouring to do something but on every possible occasion any advantage that has been given to the mining industry has been handed to other people instead of benefiting the people who are directly affected in that industry. We all know what happened when the £23,000,000 of subsidy was granted. In 1926 the Coal Mines Act was passed. From 1926 down to the present time wages have been reduced and reduced, and yet we find the mining industry is in a more precarious condition to-day than before the Government began meddling with it. Seeing that it is anticipated that something like an advantage of 7d. or 8d. per ton is going to be given to export coal from this country I would like to ask the Government whether they have entered into any agreement or negotiation with the coalowners that that. advantage is not again going to follow the reduced prices which have taken place during the last three or four years. I feel sure that I am expressing the opinion of all my colleagues when I say that everything the Government have done has failed and that unless some such arrangement as I suggest can be adopted the benefits accruing as a result of the de-rating proposals will also fail. Not that any of us think for a moment that the de-rating proposals are going to cure the difficulties of the mining industry; if they are anything at all they are purely palliatives. I will not go further into the matter because I and my colleagues have pointed out on previous occasions what we consider to be the difficulties and the only way in which those difficulties can be fully dealt with. I would ask the President of the Board of Education to pass on my suggestion to the Ministers responsible.
There is another paragraph in the Gracious Speech dealing with the situation in the mining areas which states that it
continues to engage the earnest attention of my Ministers.
I do not propose to take up the time of the House in, dealing with that matter further than to say that at no time in the history of the mining industry, I was almost going to say at no time in the history of this country, have the conditions been as tragic in the mining districts as they are at the present time. It is admitted on all hands that we have had something like 250,000 or 300,000 persons unemployed for the last three or four years and in some instances for the last six or seven years. The House and the country can well imagine how conditions are in those districts which are very largely one-industry districts. Take South Wales. Here is an area 60 miles
long by 25 miles wide where you have a population of just 1,000,000 persons. In a one-industry district, when the colliery closes down 90 per cent. of the persons in that district are robbed of their means of existence. Unemployment benefit has been bad but as time has gone on the mere subsistence that unemployment benefit gives has been stopped and these unfortunate persons have had to seek the assistance of the poor law authorities.
I would like the Minister of Health to be present when one is dealing with the tragic situation in the mining industry. I blame the Minister of Health and his Department for a good deal of the suffering which is existing at the present time. Unemployment benefit is bad enough. When a husband, wife and two children have to live on something like 25s. or 26s. a week one can well imagine how long they can provide the bare necessities of life upon such a weekly income. Once unemployment benefit stops and these persons have to seek poor law relief the attitude of the Minister of Health is such that they are really deprived of relief in the ordinary sense. An unemployed man if he happens to be able-bodied is refused poor law relief. I could give case after case in my own area where men through no fault of their own have been deprived of unemployment benefit and have had to seek poor law relief and we find husband, wife and two, three, four or five children have to live upon an income of something less than £1 a week.
I have here a statement which was recently drawn up. Take the position in almost every area in South Wales. In Bedwellty, where you have the Commissioner Guardians, the average amount of Poor Law relief paid to recipients is 3s. 7d. per week, taking the average of adults as well as children. In Bridgend the amount is 4s. 6d. per week, in Crickhowell 4s. 1d., in Merthyr 4s. 10d. and in Pontypridd 3s. 5d. per week per individual. A week ago last Friday a man came to my house, a good workman, who had been employed in the mining industry for something like 20 years. He has been out of work because of depression in trade. This man, for some reason or other, was deprived of his unemployment benefit. He has a sick wife and five children depending on him, and because he is able-bodied he cannot get any relief. His wife was given a sum of 10s. a week, with 2s. a week for each child, making the income going into that home since the 13th August of this year until a week last Friday £1 per week to maintain the husband, the wife and five children. If the Prime Minister would take up these cases in the mining areas and would inquire into them I feel sure that, difficult as they are, he would devote his attention to consideration of the very great suffering which is unfortunately prevailing in these mining areas at the present time. I do not wish to go further into this matter, which has been dealt with so often, but the Government must be aware that whatever scheme they are going to put into operation, transference either to places in this country or to places in any other country, it must take some time before they can touch the fringe of the difficulty with which the mining industry is confronted.
Seeing that the question of transference is mentioned in the Gracious Speech from the Throne. I wish briefly to deal with the difficulty which arose with regard to the harvesters who were sent to Canada. I, fortunately, was one of the Empire Parliamentary delegation. We were in Canada at the time when the difficulty arose, and I should like briefly to deal with the position as I saw it. You have the Provinces of Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and Alberta, the three great prairie Provinces where a great deal of wheat is grown, and we are delighted to know that there was a record harvest last year which made it necessary to import a large number of men in order to reap it. Negotiations were entered into between the Colonial Office and the Federal Government for sending out some 10,000 men from this country. One must admit that there was very little time for the arrangement of the scheme and, indeed, only 10 or 15 or 20 days elapsed from the time the agreement was notified until the first lot of men were taken on board ship. I want to draw the attention of the Prime Minister to this point, that if men are to be sent out harvesting, as these men were, a good deal of attention should be given to the actual agreement and conditions under which they are sent out. It was intended that these 10,000 men should be unemployed men and that preference should be given to single men; a policy with which I entirely agree, but you are dealing with unemployed men and the Government said that if a man was unable to pay his passage out—and a reduced fare was agreed upon—the Government would advance the sum of £10 to enable him to do so. At least an arrangement was made, I believe, that he should be taken out on condition that £10 of his passage money was repaid.
What I complain about is this, that if he was a married man he had to give an undertaking that his wife and family would be maintained during his absence. How in the name of goodness can a wife whose husband has gone to Canada be maintained out of anything the harvester would earn? It is impossible for him to get any money back for at least six weeks after he has left this country. I have a letter here sent out by the Pontypridd Board of Guardians in regard to these cases. It states that each applicant had to fill up before he went to Canada a form asking who would be responsible for the maintenance of his wife and family, if any, during his absence, and that no applicant could be accepted if his dependants became chargeable to the guardians for relief. Apparently, says the letter, no steps were taken by the Employment Exchange officials to verify the replies given to these questions and, consequently, a number of applicants were accepted for migration where it would have been seen had investigation been made that the guardians would have to grant relief immediately the man left. The following case is an example of what I mean. A married man with a wife and three children was accepted under this scheme. He stated in his application that his father would be responsible for the maintenance of his wife and three children. His father is a man of 60 years of age, and works very irregularly at the colliery. Since the husband went to Canada the guardians got into touch with the man's father who said that he knew nothing at all of any guarantee that he was responsible for the wife and three children.
There are numbers of cases of that kind. because 18 per cent. of the men sent to Canada were married men. We had case after case where the wife and children became chargeable to the board of guardians and they had considerable difficulty in getting poor law relief because the husband had stated that he would be responsible for their maintenance. A condition of that kind is almost impossible. After these men had left this country no effort at all was made by the Government to instruct them in Canadian conditions. As the Prime Minister knows the conditions of employment in Canada are entirely different to the conditions in this country. It must also be remembered that you axe dealing with men who had been unemployed for periods of six months up to two years, and they had to go out to Canada to undertake very hard work indeed. Harvesting is very hard, and I saw a number of men in Canada who were anxious to make good but who had not worked for 12 months before and their hands were badly blistered, their wrists were swollen, and it was impossible for them to follow and keep up with the experienced men with whom they had to compete for work. Another difficulty was this, that the Government in their forms mentioned the fact that a minimum 30 days' work would be guaranteed and that £3 to £5 per week was the usual amount paid, but no effort whatever was made by the persons responsible to enter into any agreement with the farmers as to the payment of wages and guaranteeing work. It was left entirely to the men to negotiate their own terms and conditions direct with the farmers in Canada, and, like all other farmers, the Canadian farmers will give the experienced men the preference every time, and if they can get the inexperienced men to accept lower wages, as they did in the case of a number of these men they will force them to accept lower wages.
A great deal of the difficulty arises from the fact that no proper supervision or instruction was given to these men, no effort was made to see that they were properly placed, and what promised, to be rather a successful scheme, although it did not actually fail, was not so successful as it might have been if proper care and precaution bad been taken. Then I must say that the selection of men on this side was very bad. I saw men from my own district in Canada who were unable to get work at the collieries in South Wales because they were not physically fit. I saw one man who suffered from neurasthenia and was told that they had had considerable difficulty with him. I found him suffering from loss of memory, and if we had not intervened on his behalf he might have been in serious trouble. I saw another man from Northumberland who was discharged four years ago because he was epileptic. He had fits until a fortnight before he was sent to Canada, and he had fits in Canada. He was physically unfit. If greater care had been given to the selection of the men, and if they had been instructed in the difference between Canadian and British conditions, the scheme would have been much more successful than it appears to have been. The largest proportion of these men, however, made good. As far as my own district is concerned, Mr. Osmond, who has been dealing with the matter, assured me that not 5 per cent. of the miners sent from South 'Wales gave them any trouble or difficulty. It is wrong to describe the scheme as a miner's harvesting scheme. The majority of the men amongst the disgruntled ones were drawn from the dock areas. They were not miners. The smallest proportion of those who were disgruntled came from the mining areas, and I am convinced that the scheme could have been much more successful if proper precautions had been taken.
Then comes the question of the transference of men in different parts of this country. I would like the Government to take this matter up more earnestly. They are banking largely on the transference of these men for dealing with the mining difficulty; and they are transferring at the rate of 400 persons per week. It is confined largely, as is necessary, to the single men, but the Prime Minister must know that there is no district in this country which has not got its quota of unemployed. There are unemployed in London, in Manchester, in Birmingham, in every city and in every town and in every industrial area, and these young men when they are transferred are being transferred to districts where there are already persons who are unemployed. I have the case of a young man, 20 years of age, who had never left home previously being sent to London to look for work. He gets his unemployment benefit of 14 shillings per week. How can a young man live on 14 shillings a week in London? If he stays at an ordinary "doss house" it will cost him one shill- ing per night, and he has seven shillings per week to maintain himself in food and look for work.
It is impossible for this transference scheme to be successful unless something more is going to be done by the Employment Exchanges for placing these men in suitable districts and an allowance given to tide them over until such time as they can get work. I want the Government to seriously consider the question of transference. As far as the miners' leaders are concerned, they are not opposed to transference provided there is a reasonable opportunity of the men getting work; and it is better, if any men are to be transferred, that it should be the young and single men in preference to the married and older men. The Transference Board has dealt with that point, and they state that of the 130,000 cases which they examined 65 per cent. of the men were under 35 years of age. They have grouped them in different categories; but you can go on dealing with the transference of men at the rate of 400 per week, and at the end of five years you will find your unemployment problem as great as it is now. It is not going to touch the fringe of the difficulty. I would that the Government would get right down to the real cause of unemployment not only in the mining industries but in nearly every industry in the country. The Prime Minister must know that owing to economic changes and the application of machinery to industry it is inevitable that a number of men will he thrown out of work, and I ask him to reconsider the question and endeavour to deal with the older men in the industries of the country.
Economists tell us that we are going to have 800,000 or 1,000,000 unemployed persons in this country for some time to come. The Minister of Labour in the Bill he has introduced has indicated that the estimate of the Government last year is wrong. If we are to have this problem, ought we not to decide who are to be unemployed? Is there any reason why, we should have in industry in this country over 1,000,000 men who are over 60 years of age, and have out of industry and unemployed 1,000,000 under 60 years of age? Why not consider a scheme for taking out of industry the million men over 60 years of age and placing in industry the million men under 60 years of age? I know that there is the difficulty of finance and that the Transference Board dealt with it. They said that to give the 1,000,000 men over 60 a pound a week, and their wives 10s. a week, would cost £60,000,000 a year. What is unemployment costing the country at the present time? Unemployment benefit and Poor Law relief, not only what are they costing in money, but what are they costing in sorrow in the homes of almost all the working-class people of the country to-day?
After all, it is no precedent to give 10s. at 60 years of age. An hon. Friend asked the Financial Secretary to the Treasury on one occasion what was the average age at which police officers retired, and the reply was that the age was about 47½ years, and that the police received pensions for an average period of 23 years. In the Civil Service, in the Army and Navy one could point to precedents which show that the pensionable age could be reduced to 60. When it comes to a question of money, surely a great country which is finding £850,000,000 for national purposes ought not to quibble at £60,000,000 or £70,000,000 or £80,000,000 or even £100,000,000 to deal with what everyone must recognise as almost a national emergency. I do want the Prime Minister and the Government to get down to the facts and to deal with the serious problem which is arising out of unemployment. If the Government could only devote their time between now and the General Election to dealing with this question, the best election cry they could have would be the promise that my hon. Friend the Member for North Battersea (Mr. Saklatvala) asked the Prime Minister to give to-day. My hon. Friend said that if the Prime-Minister could only give the promise that the unemployment registers in this country would be reduced by 50 per cent., there was no Member of the House who would place any obstacle in the way of the Government passing the necessary legislation.
Transference to other districts or to Canada and the Dominions is not going to touch the fringe of the difficulty in mining or other industrial areas. I beg the Prime Minister to do something. One-million-three-hundred-thousand of the best men and women in the country are suffering to-day, and we have to realise that dependent on them there are others. Taking together the registered unemployed and those persons who are in receipt of Poor Law relief, there are something like 3½ to four million persons who are deprived of the means of livelihood. If the Prime Minister wants to do something to help us he will devote his time to consideration of this very serious problem which is eating into the lives of the working people of the country like a cancer. If any Member of the House went into any working-class area of the country and asked man or woman as to what was the matter with which they were more concerned than with anything else, he would get the reply, "Insecurity. If in work there is insecurity, and if out of work, where can I get a job?" Unemployment will have to be dealt with by the people of this country, in this country. Bad as the Government is, and lacking in statesmanship as it is, in my opinion, if it would only attempt to get to grips with the situation, instead of giving us palliatives for our troubles, as in the King's Speech, they would give us something of far more benefit to the working people of the country.
I want to take advantage of the presence of the hon. Member for West Middlesbrough (Mr. K. Griffith) to touch upon a question that he raised in his speech. The hon. Member was speaking of industrial transference, and he made the very remarkable statement, with regard to the condition of West Middlesbrough, that, assuming that industrial transference is a remedy for unemployment, only about 30 per month could be found jobs in the area of Middlesbrough. He said that, therefore, there was no solution of the problem in industrial transference. Such a statement is a very remarkable one, coming from an hon. Member for an industrial district of that character.
Then I misunderstood the hon. Member. I thought he said that the 30 positions could be found for unemployed miners from other areas. That is putting it the other way round, and I am not sure now whether the hon. Member would undertake to say that in any area in this country it would be possible to find 30 jobs for miners or any others unless it meant putting 30 other people out of work. The hon. Member agrees with me, and therefore I have no quarrel with him. My quarrel is with the Government. If a man from South Wales or Durham is found a job in London, he is either turning another man out of a job or he is filling a position which some other unemployed man already in the area can just as adequately fill. It must be remembered that without training in new industries the kind of work that miners could do, other than mining, would be work of a quality that the ordinary unemployed man could undertake. When that argument was put forward before the Recess, the Minister of Health stated that, although the possibility of finding employment for these transferred men could not be disputed, yet even if it were true that employment in other areas would mean unemployment for those who would otherwise have had the jobs, it was a very desirable thing that the exceptional distress in the mining and other areas should be more evenly distributed throughout the country. That is a point that I want to put before the Parliamentary Secretary of the Ministry of Health, who is present.
If there be anything in that point, it means that you are not seeking to distribute employment. What you are seeking to do is to distribute the burden of Poor Law relief. I gather that the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Health agrees with me. It is a question of taking the distress in certain areas as abnormal and spreading it a little more evenly over the country so as to relieve those particular areas. It is not a question of spreading employment, because it does not make any difference at all to employment. It is a question of spreading the burden of Poor Law relief. If that point be accepted, I put this further point to the Government: If you think it desirable and necessary that the burden should be more evenly distributed about the coon-try, then you should distribute it where the burden can best be borne. I do not know whether the Parliamentary Secretary grasps what I am dealing with now. But if you want to distribute the burden or Poor Law relief, surely it is better that transferred miners or unemployed men from any district should go to areas which can bear the burden of Poor Law relief better than the poorer industrial districts.
If you must put other people out of jobs, in order to put unemployed miners into jobs, why not do it in Westminster rather than in West Ham? Why not do it in the comparatively wealthy borough of Wandsworth as against the comparatively poorer borough of Islington? But that is precisely what you are not doing. You are sending these people to be burdens on the Poor Law in those areas where the Poor Law burden is great and the unemployment is great. I suggest that it is not a wise policy. I do not disagree in the abstract with the idea—I think as a Socialist I ought to agree with it—that from a national point of view a distribution of the burden would be satisfactory. I do not disagree with distributing it throughout the nation, but let us have the burden where it can best be borne and do not send unemployed men into poor districts to take the bread out of the mouths of those who either are already employed there or are quite willing to fill any of the jobs that a miner can fill.
I was pleased to notice that the last speaker and some other speakers on this side pointed to the fact that the Government must not ride off on the assumption that unemployment is solely a question of abnormal conditions in the mining areas. It is true that conditions in the mining areas are abnormal, but many Members opposite seem to think that, but for the condition in the mining areas, things would be all right and that we should not be able justly to grumble at the state of the unemployment schedule. That is not the case. It is not a question solely of abnormality in the mining areas; neither is it a question of the results of the general strike. We have been told by several speakers that we must bear in mind the effects of the industrial upheaval of 1926. We on this side have our own point of view regarding that upheaval and the responsibility for it. The mining trouble was not a strike and had nothing to do directly with the question of the general strike. It was a lock-out for which the employers were, at least, immediately responsible. The point is that unemployment does not depend on abnormal conditions in the mining areas. It does not depend on the existence or otherwise of a general strike at any period and insofar as the general strike may have affected the trade of the country, even if we concede all that is claimed by the other side on that point, that factor is a diminishing factor while unemployment generally to-day is not a diminishing, but an increasing quantity. There is, in fact, a slight diminution of unemployment in the mining areas due to certain circumstances, and it is not good enough for Members on the other side to seek to ride off with this talk about abnormal mining conditions and the effects of the general strike.
The unemployment figures are creeping up week by week and that unemployment is due to something more fundamental than strikes—more fundamental even than abnormal conditions in the mining areas. It is due to the fact that the income of this country is not properly distributed. I listened to the speech of the hon. Member for Broxstowe (Mr. Spencer) who submitted a very abstract economic argument. With some parts of his speech I agreed, but in regard to others I thought he showed contradictions of his own statements on questions of currency and so forth. He said that we wanted a greater flow of capital and that, if we only had more capital, we would have more trade. That is the fundamental fallacy. We are not suffering from lack of capital but from stagnation of capital which is an entirely different thing. We are suffering from the fact that the people are unable to buy the goods that capital, properly invested, could help to produce. Until the people are able to buy the goods, all the capital in the world may be available hut it will not be invested. Capital is only invested when there is a prospect of profit, and there cannot be a prospect of profit when there is no prospect of purchase, of trade, of the power of the people to consume.
I do not want to become as abstract as the hon. Member for Broxtowe was, but the great trouble with the capitalist system is that if you save for the purpose of investment, you withdraw expenditure in order to finance new production, when you have not got rid of the old production. If I were to save £1, instead of buying a pair of boots which I needed—I find it hard to get them very often—and if I were to invest that £1 so that it went into the boot-producing industry, I would not have bought a pair of boots that was available for sale and that pair of boots would remain on the shelves. I would have invested my £1 in the boot industry and financed the production, probably of two pairs of boots at cost price, and so there would be three pairs of boots to get rid of instead of one. So long as you have a tremendously unfair system of distributing the national income, you have that position, and until there is some scientific way of controlling your capital expenditure, so that it shall be proportionate to your consumption, you will never solve the unemployment problem—which is equal to saying that you will never solve that problem until you have a system of society entirely different from the capitalist system.
The hon. Member for Barnstaple (Sir B. Peto) had something to say on the question of rent control, and he drew some pictures, supported by facts from his own experience, of the unfair way in which tenants are profiteering by, taking advantage of the Rents Restriction Act. I am quite prepared to admit that that kind of thing happens, and the reason is that you have sub-tenants to consider and that you have not adequate alternative accommodation for them; otherwise it would not happen. The only alternative in the mind of the hon. Member and of most hon. Members opposite is gradually or otherwise to abolish rent restriction. I am quite sure—I know from experience in my own area—that there are hundreds of thousands of people who are in fear and trembling lest there should be any interference with the Rents Restriction Act. The effect of either gradually or immediately touching rent restriction under present day conditions would he that although sub-tenants might be profiteering to-day in some cases, profiteering would then be the rule, and people would be bled white by the landlords uncontrolled by the Rents Restriction Act. The way out is, not to abolish rent restriction until you have a certain condition, but to build more houses. The only way of solving the housing problem is to provide an adequate number of houses for the people to live in.
The Government profess to be satisfied with the progress of housing. I am not satisfied with it, because I remember that a Government Committee in 1919 said that we had in that year a capital shortage of houses in this country to the number of 1,000,000 and that we required, as an absolute minimum, at least 100,000 a year from that time onwards in order to make up the deficiency due to increased population and the decay of existing property. If you reckon the number of years that have gone by since that authoritative statement was made, you will find that, in addition to the 1,000,000 houses required then, we require at least another 1,000,000, so that 2,000,000 houses ought to have been built according to that very moderate and conservative estimate, which was largely exceeded by other authorities, such as the Town Planning Association and bodies of that character. If you take that estimate, you should have had built, since 1919, 2,000,000 houses. The Government boasted a few months ago that since 1919, not 2,000,000, but 1,000,000 houses had been built, so we are 1,000,000 houses short in this country.
It is nonsense to say that we have come anywhere near solving the problem, and it is ridiculous for the Government to profess itself as satisfied with the progress of housing. Hope is beyond me so far as this Government are concerned, for this Session at any rate, but I hope there will be soon a possibility of a move in the direction of a much larger and more virile housing scheme in this country. After all, if you are talking about unemployment and about restoring the trade and efficiency of the country, I imagine that the housing problem is indeed fundamental. Not only are there the houses that are required, but those figures deal only with the normal supply of houses and do not touch the slum problem. That is a problem by itself, and it is an expensive problem for any Government and for any country, as any medical officer of health will tell you. I am thinking of the medical officer of my own district of Islington, where one person in every three dies in a public institution. In that area you have a large number of slums, and those slums are expensive. They are hideous in character and their moral effect is bad, but they are expensive to the community, because the people who are compelled to grow up in them are not the efficient men that we want for the building up of this nation. Until you make some serious attempt to handle this housing question in a thoroughgoing way, you will not be able to talk about competing successfully and about commercial development in this country. The question of housing is indeed a very fundamental one.
There is one item in the King's Speech to which the Prime Minister did not refer and to which, as far as I know, no other Member in this Debate has referred. I regard it as very important, and seeing that we have the benefit of the Prime Minister's presence, I will draw his attention to it. This is the statement:
Proposals for extending the Export Credits Guarantee Scheme for a further period will be laid before you.
I might say that the Prime Minister himself is responsible for this scheme, which I personally regard as successful as far as it went, but I regret to say that it has been restricted in a manner that has not worked out to the benefit of the country. I see here that an extension of the period is contemplated by the Government, but there is no mention whatever of the extension of the scope of this scheme. May I remind the Prime Minister of how the scheme was set in operation? He himself issued a questionnaire to the manufacturers of this country, including engineering and shipbuilding firms, asking them what their chief difficulty was. If he remembers, the questionnaire contained six questions, and the principal question was: "What is hampering you from getting business; what is the principal obstacle, and what suggestions do you make for getting over that obstacle?"
An exemplary answer to that question I regard as that given by Messrs. Ruston and Hornsby, who are engaged upon agricultural machinery and manufactures of that kind. Their answer to Question No. 5, I think it was, was to the effect—I speak from memory—that there was no lack of orders the world over, but that their chief difficulty was in giving long term credits. Arising out of the answers to that questionnaire, the right hon. Gentleman in the beginning of 1926 put into operation the Export Credits Guarantee Scheme through his Overseas Trade Department. As he knows, I have at times asked questions upon this scheme, and I have two or three times pressed for the extension of the time. I was very gratified to see that it was intended by the Government at the end of September next year, when the scheme would terminate, further to extend the time, and I suppose that this refers to that extension of time. I am very pleased at that, but I want to draw the right hon. Gentleman's attention to the restrictions of the scheme.
If Lincoln, Peterborough, and other parts of the country can benefit through a scheme of this kind, that has been so successful as far as it has gone, why cannot my constituency, for instance, have a share in the benefit of it '? Why are countries like Rumania, India, China, Russia and others excluded from the operation of this scheme When the scheme was first put into operation, I brought into this House three times the Blue Book of the Russian Mercantile Marine, showing that there are, as regards the Black Sea arid the Caspian Sea, hundreds of ships short of the complement required—1,803 ships short, says the Russian Blue Book. Why are Rumania and Russia excluded? Why is our own dependency of India excluded? I asked a question in regard to India and was told that business there has for time immemorial been conducted upon a basis of a 90 days' credit, and we are asked why we want to introduce into our business relations with India a five years' credit scheme. I cannot help thinking that vested interests have something to do with that answer. If this scheme has been successful up to now in the operations with the countries to which we have been extending it, what are the reasons that it cannot be extended to include not only the Near Eastern but the Far Eastern markets? I press the Prime Minister for an extension of the scope of the scheme to include the countries which up to the present have been excluded.
I wish to emphasise another point in the King's Speech which has been touched upon during this Debate. It is the question of the differentiation between private railways and public railways in the de-rating scheme. It surely cannot he the intention of the Government that scheme calculated to benefit the heavy industries should throw out, as I am assured it will throw out, a group of collieries in Burradon, Seghill and Cramlington in Northumberland. Before the general manager of the group wrote the letter which has been read to-night, he said to me that there are three of their collieries which must close down on account of this preferential 7d. The figures are 1⅓d. against 8½d. That is approximately a difference of 7d. between the rebate that is to be given to the public railways and the rebate to be given to the private railways. That 7d. means the difference between carrying on and closing down for Burradon, Seghill and Cramlington. The Northumberland and Durham coalfields, above all others, together with the Welsh coalfields, need the full benefit of this rebate. Instead of that, a third of the export coal from Northumberland is actually going to be placed under a disability. The position is this. The public railways will not get any direct benefit. They do not claim to get any direct benefit. They are going to pass the benefit of the rebate under the scheme on to their customers. It means that the coal-owners who own the private railways are to be placed under this disability, that they will remain as they are as against the 7d. rebate to he given to the public companies. The public companies are to get an increase of trade and most of that increase will come from the private railway owner. That is briefly the private companies' position.
The Government's position can also be briefly stated. Their difficulty is that the provisions for re-rating are already in an Act of Parliament, and we cannot go outside that. That is not, however, an insurmountable difficulty, because the relief to the public companies is to be ante-dated. That was superimposed upon the Act of Parliament since the House rose. If that can be done, it is not beyond the power of the Government to bring in a short Bill to include the private companies in the provision which has been made for the public companies. I see no difficulty in it from the Government's point of view. To-day we have had Member after Member speaking in terms similar to those used from these benches, indicating that there is a measure of Government agreement in the House in regard to this grave injustice. It is not over-stating the case to say that the collieries and groups of collieries who use their own railways are to be placed in a position of grave injustice if these provisions go through unaltered. The difficulty of the Government is not insurmountable. Nothing is insurmount- able when there is a measure of agreement in the House, and I suggest to the Prime Minister that this is a matter to which he ought to give his attention, and I hope that he will meet our views on the matter.
There is another matter in His Majesty's Speech upon which I want to touch.
My relations with foreign Powers continue to be friendly.
I do not often touch upon foreign relations, but a White Paper has been issued during the Recess which is very interesting, because I can see in it great possibilities for the next Government, which will not be a Tory Government. I refer to the International Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property. I have read this Convention through two or three times, and I think it is a very good thing that it has been signed by 26 Powers, including ourselves, we being the last as usual to sign; we ratified it on the 1st May. It is an international agreement with regard to the protection of industry, but it protects everything in industry except the worker. That is what I mean when I say that I see great possibilities in it for a Labour Government, because all that is required to make it fully comprehensive and successful is the inclusion of the man who works. You have everything here dealing with the protection of industrial property, trade marks, names, indications of source of origin, and repression of unfair competition among employers, and on page 25 you have:
The contracting countries are bound to assure to persons entitled to the benefits of the Union an effective protection against unfair competition.
Then it goes on:
Every act of competition contrary to honest practices in industrial or commercial matters constitutes an act of unfair competition.
Then it goes on to say what these acts are. Right through, property is protected, dishonest means of competition are put under penalty, but not a word as far as the workers are concerned. There is provision for the seizure of goods that are manufactured under what is called unfair competition, and unfair means of competition are described, but there is nothing at all about sweated goods. Goods that are wrongly described and goods that are manufactured under a
false description can be seized, but the worker is of no account. I see great possibilities here, and probably this White Paper, which seems to have escaped the notice of most of us, will engage the attention of the first Labour Government.
I want to express my appreciation and regard for the Seconder of the Motion, for I am glad that he had the courage to get rid of the trappings which we have seen worn by Members when they are moving and seconding the Address. It probably required some courage on his part, and I trust that we have seen the last of these trappings which have to be worn by people in order to move and second the Address. I noticed when he was speaking that he seemed very much concerned about those who are responsible for the King's Speech and for the language of it, and he was careful to say he did not suggest that, we should see any great easement of our position in the matter of unemployment. I was not surprised to hear that. I have known him for 30 years as a worker in my own trade, and I quite appreciate that he could not say to this House that the proposals of the Government as embodied in the King's Speech will be of advantage to any industry. A great deal has been said about the rating relief proposals lifting a weight from industry, but I can hardly believe the Government are sincere in that claim, because in the same King's Speech we find the Government imposing a further burden upon all the industries of the country. While telling industries that something of the burden which they already bear will be removed, the Government are proposing to borrow more money from the Treasury in order that unemployment benefit may be continued.
This position has been pointed out to me by employers, particularly when in the conference room. Many of them are supporters of the Government. Very few employers have yet had the courage to face up to the position and join forces with us on these benches, but they will have to do so one of these days; they cannot help themselves; the force of circumstances will drive them to take that course. But what they are saying to-day is, "Here are the Government who already impose upon industry the charge of unemployment insurance, and the charges for the interest upon the amount which has already been borrowed from the Treasury, now proposing to borrow more money and thus impose a greater charge upon industry." In face of that we are expected to give thanks for this Speech. I can see nothing in it which calls for any expression of thankfulness. As one who is very much concerned with industry I can find nothing in it which is going to help industry.
I wish to ask the Government one or two questions about the work of industrial transference. They are making a great deal of it; they speak of energetic steps being taken to promote the success of industrial transference and migration. Will they tell me how many people have been moved from place to place under this scheme, and what provision has been made for them? How many boys have been brought to London under this scheme, and how many London boys have been deprived of situations owing to these boys having been brought in from other districts? Those of us who have been interested in this work have for many years been asking the Government to find for the boys of London situations which they could take and in which they would have some feeling of security when they grow up. The Ministry of Labour have not yet been able to find all the places that we desire for our London boys, but yet they can discover situations in London for boys from distressed areas. That is only playing with the question. It is not fair to the country, it is not fair to the people, to suggest that there has been some improvement in the placing of people in industry when, as a matter of fact, they are only being moved from spot to spot.
With regard to the proposals of the Government for securing a greater measure of employment, I would ask the Prime Minister, whom I am glad to see in the House, what are the industries in which he expects there will be more employment as a result of the de-rating proposals and the other schemes of the Ministry of Health. I suggest to him that those proposals will not mean the employment of one additional engineer in the engineering trade, or of one additional shipbuilder in the shipbuilding industry, nor will they mean more employment in the cotton industry. I hope we may have some explanation of this promise of greater employment in the basic industries. Seeing that the President of the Board of Trade is present, I wish to ask him why, now that the Export Credits Scheme is to be extended, why it is not to be applied to China and to Russia? I ask that because many firms in my own constituency engaged in the manufacture of machinery and in the production of other materials are trading with those two great countries, and, so far as I can learn, they have not experienced any greater difficulties, in fact, they have had fewer difficulties, than in the case of contracts with people in other countries. Why the Government should continue this restriction and say that the Export Credits Scheme is not to be applied to those two countries is something which I cannot understand.
Reference has been made in the discussion to unemployment and the conditions existing in this country. I ask the representative of the Government to tell us under what authority they have been dealing with unemployment in such harsh manner during the last few years. The Employment Exchanges were set up to prevent men and women travelling from gate to gate and shop to shop wasting their own time and the time of foremen and managers pleading that they might be found employment. The Exchanges were set up in order that the workless man or woman might be brought into touch with any available work.
Now the Government have laid down that you must register yourself at the Employment Exchange by means almost humiliating to people out of work. You have to prove your ease not only by attendance at the Exchange but you have to crawl about from shop to shop and gate to gate in order to show that you are "genuinely seeking work." Not only that, but the Government are asking every unemployed man and woman to purchase a diary and enter in it not only the date on which they made an application for a job, but the time when they called at any particular establishment. After that they have to appear before a Court of Referees in order to prove that they have been "genuinely seeking work" I am amazed at men and women tolerating some of the methods adopted by the Court of Referees and the Ministry of Labour.
I would like to refer to the method adopted by the Umpire. I am bringing forward these facts because of the suggestion in the King's Speech that there is a desire to deal more humanely with those who are unemployed. I find that when these people who are unemployed have proved their entitlement to employment benefit very often the insurance officers will turn down the decision of the Court of Referees and force the people to appeal to the Umpire. I would like to call the attention of the Government to the many thousands of people who, during the last four years, have been thrown out of benefit without any chance of having their cases heard by the Umpire and without any opportunity of proving their entitlement to the benefit that was set down in the Act of Parliament for those who are unemployed. I will take the decisions of the Umpire. I have recently appeared before him in connection with cases of members of my own union, and this is the method of treatment. In one case, the insurance officer said that a man was not entitled to the dependants' benefit because he happened to have someone lodging with him.
The case I am alluding to is that of an unemployed man, and his wife does the best she can under the circumstances. I often wish that every Member of the Tory party had been obliged at some time or other to live for a month under the circumstances surrounding this case. This man had a lodger who agreed to pay 22s. per week for board and lodging, or just a little more than 3s. per day. In this case, it was decided that the wife of this man was following an occupation of profit, and I have here the decision. It states that this woman was engaged in an occupation ordinarily carried on for profit, and that was considered to be a justification for saying that the man was not entitled to the benefit. In this particular case the lodger had been out of work for months and had not paid a penny for his board and lodgings and there was no likelihood of the woman ever receiving the 22s. per week which the lodger had offered to pay. Notwithstanding these facts, the Minister of Labour, backed up by his harsh regulations, forced that case to the Court of Referees, and it was only after appearing before that court that we were able to secure the benefit for the woman. That is the method adopted by the Government, although in the King's Speech an endeavour is made to give the appearance that they have some heart and feeling towards the unemployed.
I will now deal with an omission from the King's Speech. [An HON. MEMBER:" There are a good many."] I know there are a good many omissions, but it would not be fair to the House if I attempted to deal with all of them. Let me take, as an example, the Factories Bill. Hon. Members will recollect the reply given by the Prime Minister on this question yesterday to the Leader of the Opposition, and we were told that it was wrong for us to consider that the action of the Government on this matter was unjust. I am sorry the Prime Minister has left the House, because I desired to challenge his statement. I would like to ask if the Prime Minister and the Home Secretary are prepared to say that, in the decision they have come to with regard to the Factories Bill, they have not been influenced by the National Federation of Employers who have given them no peace in regard to this particular Measure. I would like to ask the Government if they have not been influenced by the factory owners of Lancashire and Yorkshire. I know those people have given the Government no peace, and because of their influence the Government have decided not to come forward with a Factories Bill at this particular moment. I have heard employers of labour in factories talking about the conferences they have had on this question, and when the Prime Minister tells us that the Government have not been influenced in their decision on this question by these people, I do not think he is treating the House fairly, and he is not playing the game.
We hear about the prosperous industries in the South. Someone told us that it is in the North where the greatest hardship is, and that many of these industries are coming South in order to get away from the trade union agitator. I have heard from some supporters of the Government how well things are going. I want to refer to the artificial silk industry, that sweated industry with which so many Members and ex-Members of this House are concerned in the financial sense. I would like to tell the House something of that industry, all mention of which has been omitted by the Government from the King's Speech. I would like the Treasury to tell us how many men they have wasting their time dawdling about the various artificial silk factories of this country. I have been through one or two of them, and have been amazed to see Treasury officers hanging about the place the whole time. I think it is a poor way of using labour power, if labour power at all is expended by these people in these places.
As to the wages paid, I need go no further than Peterborough, only 75 miles from this House. There we have a firm whose capital is largely foreign, with managers brought from another country. I suppose there is no difficulty in getting the certificates for those people to enter this country. We find them there paying girls 12s. 6d. to 18s. 6d. a week, with a bonus of 1s. or 2s. a week added, and the Government are not enforcing any regulations upon them with regard to health conditions. Although the conditions in these factories are so injurious to health, nothing is being done by the various Departments, and there is not a word in the King's Speech about bringing that industry under the Workmen's Compensation Act so far as industrial diseases are concerned. In fact, the Home Secretary says that he would have to go to the very point of particularising a process, or the single action of an individual, before he would place it under the industrial diseases section of the Workmen's Compensation Act.
For the women folk of this country, 12s. 6d. to 18s. 6d. a week is considered to be an adequate wage in that prosperous industry, about which we have heard so much in this House during the last year or two. As to welfare conditions, this firm thinks so little—and it is not this firm alone; I am only taking it as illustrative—they think so little of the women folk of this country that they do not even trouble to have a woman supervisor to attend to the injuries that the women workpeople may happen to meet with; they have a workman, some man or other, to attend the women folk under those conditions. I would suggest to the Government that, if they are really thinking in terms of helping industry, they might not trouble about this derating. It will be of little advantage, and I have heard no employers yet say much in its favour. I know that, so far as my own town of Rochdale is concerned, we are not thinking very highly of the Government in regard to it, because we realise that in the years to come we shall have to pay heavily in that district, and that it is not a. question of sharing the burden over the whole country.
There is nothing in the King's Speech that gives hope of help for industry. There is nothing about remedying any of the evils which are bearing heavily upon the people. There is nothing that is going to deal with the housing problem, despite what was said by the hon. Member for Barnstaple (Sir B. Peto). The only thing that he and the hon. Member who spoke last night asked for was the opportunity for landlords to begin profiteering in the matter of rents. All that they asked was that the building of houses might be stopped, so that landlords might be able to bleed the tenants much more heavily than they had been able to do at any time in the past. If they want to help in that direction, it is more houses that are required, and not the attitude adopted by the Ministry of Health, of which we have had to complain. I certainly cannot join in expressing thanks for this King's Speech, which, in this year 1928, is a discreditable production for any Government to come forward with.
I join in this Debate because this is an opportunity that is given to us in the House of Commons to bring the Government to book for their mismanagement of my native land. I see that in the King's Speech they have condescended to mention my native land, Scotland. It says:
Measures will be presented to you"—
that is the House of Commons—
for giving effect in this country and in Scotland to the comprehensive scheme which has been prepared by My Ministers for the reform of the rating system.
This Government, who are in control of Britain at the moment, have been in control for over four years, and, in every Measure that they have brought forth to try to palliate the terrible conditions of the working class, they have miserably
failed. Every Act which has been put on the Statute Book of this country, and which the Government have said was going to ease the lot of working men and women, has operated in an opposite direction. This Government have robbed the widow and orphan. Hon. Members may smile, but he that laughs last laughs longest. They have robbed the widow and orphan; they have robbed the unemployed men and women; they have increased the working hours of the miners, and nobody knows that better than the President of the Board of Trade, who has financially benefited by that Act.
I should not ordinarily interrupt, but, with the leave of the House, I should like to say that it is well within the knowledge of hon. Members opposite that any financial interest that I may have had indirectly in that industry has been fully disclosed to this House, and I do not think the hon. Member's remark is called for.
What I said I stand by. The President of the Board of Trade has not given up any of the shares or position he had connected with the collieries, and I state here that the colliery owners benefited lo the detriment of the miners. I hold that until he is able to disprove it, either here or elsewhere. If I am saying what is not true, I shall be the first one to stand here and withdraw, but not till it is proven that I have made a mistake.
Then we come to the rating system. We are Socialists, and we believe that the only rating system that is going to be of any use to the working classes of this country is one by which the people shall be taxed according to their ability to pay. That is the system upon which we base all our ideas. As I go through this King's Speech I do not find anything which is going to ameliorate the terrible conditions which prevail not only in the mining areas but in every big industrial area in the country. Men, women and children are starving. Our race is deteriorating. Mothers do not know what to do to get their boys a decent job and all over Britain to-day they are asking what they are to do with their boys. There is no place for their sons and the Government are making no provision, paying no attention and turning a deaf ear to all the appeals which have been made from this side of the House, not with a view to pulling down our country but of bolstering it up and making it a country such as they boast it really is. What have they done in order to assist our doctors? There are some of them here who have had experience of going into the slum areas where they see a little child emaciated and in a terrible condition which requires the doctor not to administer medicine but to give a line for food. The children are dying of starvation and this condition is the result of mal-nutrition. Food and not medicine is what they require. The doctor should be in a position to give a line for butter and milk and the things which are absolutely necessary in order to maintain the little one, but absolutely nothing is done. That is a side of it which has never appealed to them.
We are out in the country honestly denouncing them because we believe that they have no right to be in control and are not fit to govern, and in the midst of our crying and appealing to them the Minister for the Overseas Trade Department—and I am sorry that he is not here—springs on the country an idea in order to relieve unemployment and so that the Government may have some stunt with which to go to the country. His fertile brain, or that of some of his friends, evolved the idea that they would dispose of 10,000 unemployed away across the wild Atlantic and send them to Canada. There is no place for them at home, so get rid of them. I was one of the British Delegation that was sent to Canada along with some of my colleagues. I know the ship we went out in, the "Empress of France" on which there were between 300 and 400 of these individuals. They called them harvesters. On the Delegation there were men from every side of the House. There were Tories, the Liberal party was represented, and the Socialist party too. Every individual in that Delegation vied with one another, including Tories, in going down among those harvesters. We were proud to recognise them as our fellow countrymen. They were not the rag-tag and bob-tail of city life; they were the very type of men whom if there was a war on would be asked to go and fight for their country. Many of them there had fought for their country and they carried their wounds on them—some of them were so wounded that they had no right to be there, for they were not able to work.
These men went out to Canada with us. We left them at Quebec. Again we met the harvesters at Winnipeg, the capital of Manitoba. How did we meet them? We did not get out of the station before we were met and told that there were harvesters down below and something was wrong. Along with my colleagues I went to see what was wrong, and the first thing which presented itself to us was an iron gate—one of those collapsible bar gates. On either side of it stood a soldier with a revolver and a policeman with a revolver. They have no time for batons in Canada. We asked to be allowed to go in to see these harvesters, but we were refused admittance. The hon. Member for Dundee (Mr. Johnston) and your humble servant were refused admission. I said to them; "Now look here, you had better let us in. I do not want to quarrel with you, but we are going in and you had better go and see who is responsible for refusing to let us in, because we are two Members of Parliament. We do not want to fall foul of you or get you in any trouble." Eventually after some trouble and argument we got in, and there again we saw our own kith and kin—Scotsmen, Englishmen, and Welshmen—being treated not as free men but as criminals. We had not been there very long when we were joined by the right hon. Member for Preston (Mr. T. Shaw). What impressed us most was the spirit that was abroad; the spirit that these men were not free. That was what we objected to. We raised cain about it at the time, and that night instead of being the guests of the nobility of Winnipeg we went and made further inquiries, in fact into the small hours of the morning. We went to one of those places where they put men who have nowhere to go and there we saw men being asked to lie down on mattressess which were filthy; no blankets, no sheets. We asked the superintendent in charge what it all meant, and he said: "Well, you know if we gave them blankets they would steal them." We asked why the beds were dirty, and he said: "Oh, the men are dirty." I told him that I had been in gaol in my own country and that even the criminals get a bath to wash themselves, could they not have that? It is perfectly true, when we raised the matter, that other people complained and said: "We are going to break the delft with a hammer." They never broke any delft, they were not there. They did not see what I am now telling the House; but we did.
We travelled hundreds of miles into the prairies to see the harvesters at work and in order to see the farmers as well. How did it strike me? We asked those who were in control in Winnipeg to tell us where we could see the men at work. We asked: "Where are the men you have sent out into the prairie? We will go wherever you say in order to see them." We went 83 miles out in order to see one of the agents who, they said, had the disposal of the men in that area. We arrived at the place and saw him and asked him how many men he had disposed of. He said 130. "Where are they?" "I do not know." He knew, nothing about them. There was no record of them. Then he said he had sent 10 men to such and such a place and seven to such and such a place. We went to those farms. At the place where he said he had sent seven men was an Aberdonian farmer, named Judson. We asked him, "Where are the men? Can we see them?" He said, "What men?" "The harvesters" "Oh" he said, "we have only two" "What about the rest?" He did not know anything about the rest. They had cleared out. They were of no use to him, and nobody had any record of them; nobody knew anything about them. That is what happened Take the farmer. We interviewed several farmers. The Canadian farmer has only three weeks at most in which to get in his harvest. His all is at stake, and invariably he is a sturdy and hardy built individual who works during harvest time all the hours God sends and expects every other man about the place to do the same. He says: "Look at this. I have the whole thing planned out and if I happen to get men who are not suitable the whole of my organisation goes to bits. I am better without them. These men have come over here from mining villages and the big towns and they have, rightly or wrongly, engrafted into them the idea that eight hours a day is long enough to work, and when they are asked to work more they revolt. During harvest time we know nothing about hours. We want to work as long as we possibly can in order to get the harvest in, and therefore we come up against these men."
Most of these men have no knowledge of the work and because they have been unemployed for months, some of them for years, they are underfed. How can you expect men who have not worked for months and who have been underfed through no fault of their own to go away to the prairies and work against men who are vigorous and well-fed, and whose all is at stake. It is an utter impossibility. My contention is that this is another crime which the Government have committed, a brutal and callous crime. Canada did not want Dukes and Lords. Canada wanted men of my class, and it was my class which was treated in the fashion that I have described. What makes it worse is this. The Canadians, and I know what I am saying, did not want those men. There was no arrangement for those men to go out. The Secretary for the Overseas Trade Department was in the midst of negotiations with the Canadian Government. The question was not settled. He had not got them to agree to the business when he announced to the world—and I have a copy of it—that we were going to send out 10,000 men. It says at the beginning of this statement:
The Dominion Government has expressed a strong preference for men from the mining areas.
That is not true, and again I know what I am saying. Here is a proof of it. This document was handed to me by the secretary and treasurer of the Farmers' Union; not the farm labourers but the farmers, representing almost 200,000 Canadian farmers—the united farmers of Canada. This was given to me by the secretary and treasurer.
W. M. Thrasher is his name. This is what I made him put down in writing. Listen to it:
The annual conference in connection with harvest labour was held in Winnipeg on the 19th July, 1928. At this conference there were representatives of the transport companies, representatives from the employment services of Canada, from the three prairie provinces, representatives from the United Farmers of Canada, and from the Canadian Council of Agriculture. The purpose of this conference"—
it is a conference that the farmers have every year—
was as follows: First, to arrive at the number of men required for harvest and threshing operations in each of the provinces, Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta; secondly, to decide when these men should be brought to the various provinces, and, thirdly, to canvass the supply. After a thorough discussion by the conference, it was decided that an ample supply of harvest labour could be secured from Eastern Canada and British Columbia.
There was no mention whatever at that time, that is on the 19th July, when all the farmers were in conference, of a supply of harvest labour from Great Britain. Fancy, a "carry on" like that. Here are the Government in charge of affairs, and yet they make a bloomer like that. This official goes on to say:
It is my opinion that any problem which may have been created in regard to the miner harvesters is due to the fact that this supply of harvest labour was sprung as a surprise on Western Canada without giving those in charge of the distribution of harvest labour sufficient time to provide for them being taken up.
On the 14th of August a conference was held at Saskatoon on the subject of immigration. This conference was called at the instigation of the United Farmers of Canada, there being present official representatives from the United Farmers of Canada, the Canadian Legion, Organised Labour, the Women's Labour League, the Rural and Urban Municipalities, the Women's British Immigration League, and several visitors unofficially representing other bodies. This is the resolution that that body passed:
The attitude of our organisation towards the immigration problem is shown in the following resolution passed at our convention:
Resolved: That the United Farmers of Canada in Convention assembled do not approve of a vigorous immigration policy on the part of the Government until our own unemployed are cared for and those brought out in former years are assimilated and
established; and that we put it on record as being opposed to the granting of any special privileges to those coining into the country which are not granted to our own citizens. This indicates clearly that we believe the immigration problem to be neither a religious question, nor a question for corporations, nor a question for any individual party. It is entirely an economic question, and we believe that the policy should be worked out jointly by the provincial governments and the Dominion Government and the responsibility for carrying out that policy definitely placed on the Department of Immigration, and, further, that no one political party or religious body or corporation should be allowed to solicit or dump immigrants indiscriminately within the Dominion of Canada, and that all immigration activities should cease until the whole question has been thoroughly examined upon a scientific and economic basis.
That is what the Canadians say about the situation. I have in my hand a document which was given to me by the Secretary of the Trades and Labour Council of Winnipeg, F. Mackintosh. What I hold in my hand is the sworn evidence of over 300 harvesters and the evidence of every harvester is a. sad tale of what these people are up against. They come from all over Britain. Men are sent away up the country and when they arrive at their destination, perhaps on a wet day, the farmer does not want them, and they have no place to which to go. No provision is made for them in many cases and they had to wander about the towns and fall in with some Scotsmen or Englishmen, yes, and Irishmen too, who are kind enough to take them in and see that they obtain a bit of food. That was their fate, and here is the evidence. If it is challenged, it is here to be produced. I hope that the country will pay attention to the idea which the present Government are trying to formulate, and that they will watch keenly what is going on. The Government are trying to get our eyes away to Canada, the land of the future. I believe that Canada can be made a great land, but only under a Socialist Government, both here and there. What did we find at our conferences in Canada? As we went from one province to another and we listened to one Parliament after another in conference, they told us about the wonderful land that Canada is, and as I believe it to be, of its great agricultural resources and its great mineral wealth. They told us that one of the most valuable minerals of the present
day, nickel, is to be found there and that Canada is the great nickel centre of the world. You cannot carry on your armaments without nickel. Hon. Members know who has the nickel. He is the individual who advocated in this House, when I caused a scene four years ago, the adoption of emigration as a cure for unemployment. I refer to Lord Melchett, better known as Sir Alfred Mond.
They told us that Canada possesses all this great mineral wealth, boundless wealth, stored up there. Wherever we went, the Ministers appealed to the delegation. They thought that we were all rich men. Some members of the delegation were rich men. Even if they were not rich men, they represented the rich side of Britain, while I and my colleagues represented the working classes. Those members of the delegation were representing finance. The Canadians appealed to them for British capital. American capital was going into the country, and they did not want American capital; they wanted British capital. My point, when I said that Canada can be made a great land under Socialism, was that Canada does not require any capital from anybody. They had, as I told them, an object lesson from Great Britain at the outbreak of the War. The financial system of Great Britain broke down and we declared a moratorium. Lord Melchett suggested at that time that we should start a printing machine, to be worked night and day, in order to run off Bradburys, and they did it. I suggested to the Canadians that Canada should not beg, and that they should be ashamed to do so. I said that men who represented the great wealth of Canada, that wonderful country, should not be begging from Britain. I asked why they did not take a leaf out of Britain's book and start a printing press and run off notes, call them what they liked. I suggested that instead of calling them Bradbury's, they might call them Snowden's. On what did Britain run off the Bradbury's? On the strength of the British Empire. On the great economic resources of Britain. Canada could do the same, but that would spell the end of capitalism and that would mean Socialism.
My object to-night is to draw the attention of the country to this stunt of this poor, decrepit, trembling-to-its-ruin Government. I am sorry the Prime Minister is not here. Yesterday, I heard the Prime Minister speak, and I looked at him quite sympathetically. Anyone who saw the right non. Gentleman yesterday must have known perfectly well that there was a man who was on the bridge of a ship that was sinking. Why is Birkenhead running away? Because he knows perfectly well that the ship is sinking. He is one of the very mighty men. He claims to be the mightiest of the mightiest. He is one of the first-class brains: I wonder where he carries them. I want to appeal to the House, in all sincerity, and to every section of my fellow-countrymen in Britain to realise that the part which the Government has played at this moment in regard to this matter has done this country a tremendous amount of harm. Those of us who are anxious about the welfare of our country have been anxious to do what we could to get into friendly relations with Canada. Some of us have gone out of our way in order to strengthen the bond of friendship with our kith and kin across the seas, because, as I have said again and again, if we cannot make friends with our own kith and kin across the seas we can make friends with nobody. We believe that the British Empire, properly organised—I am not for ending the British Empire—could be made the most powerful instrument for peace in the world.
Yes, but you are doing your very utmost, consciously or unconsciously, to make that an utter impossibility. In Winnipeg, we saw three or four hundred men who were coming back to this country. They will be agents to cry down Canada. Those men will go into every town and village throughout the length and breadth of this land telling everybody that Canada is a rotten place and that Canadians are this, that and the other. All our efforts ought to have been strained to see that every one of these men who came back from Canada would have been praising Canada. I maintain that, under proper conditions, Canada is well worth praising. If the Tory Members of this House understood the position they would not tolerate the attitude of the Government.
We came back on the "Empress of Australia." Travelling with us again were harvesters, and they were the men who were coming back classified as unfit. These men, 42 of them, had their tickets to Southampton, and there they were to be disbanded. Fortunately for them, we were on the boat and Lord Peel, the Chairman of our Delegation, a very fine man, introduced to us a civil servant who happened to be on board. I will not give his name, but through him we were able to get these men tickets to take them on to Glasgow. Not only that, but they provided them with sandwiches, so that they would not starve on the road. On Monday night it was my privilege to address in Glasgow four huge open-air meetings, in order to chase the Tories out of Glasgow if I could, and when I had finished speaking for my colleague, who has been sent back to the Town Council by a majority of 10,000, a harvester came up to me and said: "Before I went to Canada I was drawing 32s.from the Employment. Exchange, Now I have come back I am getting nothing." That is not an isolated case. That is going on all over.
The hon. Member for Camlachie (Mr. Stephen) has the case of a harvester whose wife has been left destitute in Glasgow, and they have refused to give her any relief. They went the length of making those men get their wives to sign that while they were away harvesting they would not get anything from the parish council or the board of guardians. Did you ever know anything so inhumane? Here is proof of it. My colleague had this case brought to him in his own constituency. He went to the parish council and stated the case on their behalf. It was turned down. He went and interviewed evidently a more humane man than the Secretary of State for Scotland. He interviewed the Under-Secretary, who sent on a letter to my hon. Friend that those women and children are being attended to by the parish council.
On Sunday night I was addressing a huge working-class audience at a theatre, again on behalf of my colleagues for the municipal election. The better the day the better the deed. There Councillor Hector McNeill told me that he had been called to the Employment Exchange. Harvesters who had come from all over Scotland had been landed at Broomielaw and there they were disbanded. They had no money and nothing to take them anywhere. They went to the Employment Exchange, where a brother of the great Sir Andrew Duncan, whom I know, is in charge, and Mr. Duncan said he could do nothing for them. Councillor Hector McNeill got in touch with the parish council to see if they could do anything. After a good deal of wrangling the men were able to get to their homes. Many of them came from Dundee. There is a state of affairs! Fancy a Government sending our men away across the sea. Many of them should never have been sent. My hon. Friend the Member for Dundee (Mr. Johnston) and myself interviewed several men who have open wounds as the result of the War. One man had a great open wound in his leg and his left arm was destroyed. This proves conclusively that this had been a hurried, messed up job. If Labour had committed such a crime, if it had made such a mess, hon. Members 'opposite would have been crying down our credit from Land's End to John o' Groats. I hold that it is the bounden duty of any man Who loves his native land to do all that he possibly can to see that this Government is driven out, because, if they are not, they are spelling the end of Britain.
With regard to the Gracious Speech, I can only recall the policy of the Tory Government before a previous General Election when they tried to hypnotise the country on the slogan of tranquillity, and I believe the present Speech is also an attempt to restore tranquillity, as if nothing important is happening in the country or in the world. However, I find that while the Speech permits of a little verbal wrangling between Members of different parties here, it provids to all parties that common platform of Parliamentary hypocrisy which keeps from the ordinary man in the street the truth about the realities of life. I unhesitatingly say that it devolves upon me, not only as a member of the Communist party, but as representing the voice of all those who are not here charged with hypocritical Parliamentary democracy, to point out where the reality stands. The hon. and gallant Member for North Aberdeen (Mr. W. Benn), who by the way has wiped out his past and swallowed a new monkey gland and become rejuvenated to deliver his maiden speech, was hinting at the very numerous subjects I had to mention in an Amendment of mine. I am not now referring to the Amendment in particular. But I would point out that the party to which the hon. and gallant Member has now the good fortune to belong, being a little more numerous than my party in this House, has got 14 hon. Members to divide the subjects and to put down Amendments on many topics under different groups, and has set up a division of labour on the different topics. I, being less numerous than any other party, just ask the House to realise that I am not trespassing on their indulgence in any way, but that I find myself called upon to instruct the only member of my party to take up all the topics and to speak of them.
There is the reference to the Kellogg Pact. I am very sorry that I cannot share the bubbling enthusiasm about the Kellogg Pact as an instrument of peace. It is a definite and deceitful American type of instrument of conspiracy against peace. Where is the peace about the Pact? Where is the renunciation of war? When Kellogg landed in France, American soldiers were shooting Nicaraguans and interfering with their affairs. I shall not go into all the details. The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition objected to the British attitude. It is not that I want to defend that attitude. I submit that every big Power that signed the Kellogg Pact signed it with a militarist reservation. Some may have been honest enough to express that, but others were cunning enough not to do so. Did America sign the Treaty without any reservation about the Monroe Doctrine? Did she sign it without reserving to herself enough murderers, in the shape of an army, to bully the people of Nicaragua and the Philippines? She signed it with the distinct reservation that her disarmament was to leave an armament sufficient to bully the less powerful nations around her but she entered into a conspiracy with other powerful nations that they were not to hurt one another.
France signed the Treaty while in the Rhine area French troops were occupying German territory. Did France sign without reservation? She signed with the reservation that her disarmament would mean a sufficiency of murderers to terrorise the Moroccans, the people of Indo-China and of all the Colonies belonging to France. Did Japan sign the Treaty without reservation? That was another hypocritical deceitful State which put its signature to the Renunciation of War while at the same time Japanese soldiers were actually and murdering Manchurians day after day and terrorising the Koreans in order to make wealth out of the exploitation of Korea. The Japanese signature is subject to reservation, and the Japanese renunciation of war only means that the big brothers will no longer quarrel among themselves but will keep sufficient military power to bully and terrorise helpless peoples under the false and hypocritical pretence of safeguarding their Imperial interests.
The Kellogg Pact is nothing but an attempt to deceive the public that it means a renunciation of war. Does this House believe that this country has renounced war? Our honourable colleague who moved this Address to the King for his Gracious Speech is, himself, as one could judge from his clothes, still a military officer and in this House we have colonels, majors, captains, brigadier-generals, admirals and rear-admirals, scattered about in all parties. Yet Members of this House would tell us that this country has renounced war and that certain parties were never in favour of war. But not one single party has taken the attitude that if that renunciation is to be a reality no one of their members ought to hold a commission in the Army and that the Army is not wanted. They have all renounced war but they all want officerships in the Army.
So far I am not. There was an enthusiastic colleague of mine who did become one and who felt very proud of it, but he has found it more convenient since then to retire to the Labour party.
Mr. Newbold. We are emphatically of the opinion that this Kellogg Pact is nothing but a secret conspiracy of the powerful armed nations to keep in abeyance their own quarrels, in order that they may be strong enough to suppress those countries which each one of these bullying, murderous nations is exploiting. There is not the slightest doubt that when all these people were signing this Treaty they were equally preparing for war on Russia, for au attack on China if China turned Bolshevik, for an attack on India if the Indians tried to evict the British intruder and turn him out of their country. They were all making their own preparations and, at the same time, pretending that this was some great act of peace.
All these disarmament theories neglect one important point. All the nations armed in the modern and efficient way represent only about 450,000,000 human beings, out of the population of the world, but there are another 900,000,000 human beings who are not armed at all, or who are very imperfectly armed. These 900,000,000 people have no consolation whatever if they are shot down by means of a fewer number of machine guns instead of a larger number. What is the consolation to the Egyptians if the British bully destroys Alexandria and bombards their coastal towns with six cruisers instead of sixteen? What is the consolation to the Arab of Iraq if you bomb his villages—as members of all parties in this House have done—and destroy innocent women with babies in their arms by means of bombs thrown from the air, if you say that the aeroplanes employed in killing those people numbered 12 and not 20. If you keep that in mind, that 900,000,000 of the people of this world are living in an unarmed condition and an unprotected state, for a few nations to arm themselves with small cruisers or big cruisers, or with few or many bombs, is immaterial; the fact remains that you are carrying on your murderous game against humanity and against some section of human beings, and that is only to be put an end to when you begin to consider more honestly the Russian proposal of complete disarmament, instead of playing about with deceitful games.
Then comes the satisfaction about the Japanese Emperor being enthroned and so on.
The historic friendship which for so many years has united Japan and My country has always been a potent factor in the maintenance of peace in the Far East.
What does that mean? After the Anglo-Japanese Alliance, Japan was definitely made able to carry on war on Russia and on China. The Anglo-Japanese Alliance has not led to peace in the East, but it, has led to wars, to murders, to destruction, to fire, to arson, to crime, and to inhumanity. After the Anglo-Japanese Alliance, what did Japan do She crushed the Koreans; she sapped their life-blood. She put forward false, deceitful claims on the innocent people of China, and it was the British militarists who taught the first nation of Asia, took her in partnership, and taught her the same murderous game that Britain has always been famed for in this world. Yet you claim that the Alliance produced peace. It produced terrorism, murder, war; it destroyed the-peace that did continually exist when Japan was not encouraged by her British ally to cut other peoples' throats and take ether peoples' lives.
There is now again the same flattery of Japan going on, not because the British merchants love the Japanese merchants, but because they find that perhaps it is possible to use Japan to bully and terrorise the Chinese. This House is asked to congratulate itself over the new atmosphere of peace and settled government in China, and you have all denounced war; you are no longer going to carry on war, but why has nothing been done to completely withdraw all the foreign forces from China? There have been disturbances in China. Would there have been no disturbances in Great Britain if German troops were occupying the British Isles? There are disturbances in China because of the presence of foreign troops and of foreigners demanding in their country unjust and unequal rights and treaties. I submit that there are more Chinamen in Lime house, Liverpool, Glasgow, and Newcastle than there are British citizens in Shanghai. Will you permit the Chinese people to keep a few Chinese battalions and Chinese battleships for the protection of their citizens in Great Britain as you presume to keep yours for the protection of yours? It is a game of cowardice arid not of statesmanship, and you know it in your heart of hearts. There are more British subjects living in France and America than in China, far more. Would you dare to keep British soldiers and British battleships in American and French soil and waters? You dare not. You are keeping them in the pretence of protection simply against weaker nations whom you can rob and plunder, and you put on the hypocritical garb of protecting them and keeping the peace in those countries.
The Speech refers to the extension of export credits. I have not yet heard a word, as formerly we used to hear from the Opposition, as to whether even now the Government will give up their policy of cutting their noses to spite their faces, and extend these credit facilities to traders with Russia. You will not do it. Why? Because the Workers' Soviet Republic was founded through bloodshed. There was a civil war, a revolution, and human beings were killed, so you will have nothing to do with them. Was the British Empire founded without bloodshed? There was a hundred times more human blood shed in the founding of the British Empire than ever was spilled in Russia during the years of the Revolution. Look at all the wars from 1805 to the last German war. This country has shed a hundred times snore blood of people of all nations in the world. You have slaughtered Frenchmen, Spaniards, Dutch and Russians, you have slaughtered Turks, Persians and Afghans when they had not the least chance to fight you. You killed in their own homes the Punjabis, Bengalis and the Mahrattas, and the Ceylonese, the Burmans, the Malayans and the Chinese. You murdered poor, primitive races, people who did not know geographically where your country was situated, as the Sudanese, the Zulus, the Bantus and the Swazis, and you had not the remotest excuse that they were going to attack von and kill you. You have butchered them and murdered them in a wholesale manner. You have killed them in their own country. There is no nation in the world, no institution in the world which has devoured more human lives and created more murders than the British nation and the British Parliament. Yet the Government of this Empire, which was founded on murder, armed bloodshed, armed loot, armed destruction and confiscation of other people's property and other people's land, has the insolence to say that we do not trade with Russia because they founded their state on blood- shed. You can tell that tale somewhere else, but the world is growing wiser, and the Government would be wiser not to carry on this sort of falsehood any further.
We come to the one great omission, India. India makes the Empire. It is India that even gives the legal technical title of Empire to the British Empire. The Colonies do not constitute the Empire. If India were dropped to-morrow, the British Empire would not be known as the Empire. There is again a complete omission of any mention of India at a time when the outrage is being committed by this nation of thrusting upon the people of India representatives of this Parliament to go and terrorise over the people of India, and of keeping soldiers there to extort a good opinion of this Commission from the people of India. There is no mention of it at all. It is all very well for you to get into a frenzy about enslaving and robbing other nations, but you are forgetting your own destiny. In the constitutional development of this nation—in the days of King John—in the days of King Charles—in the days of Queen Victoria —what has been the method followed? The people wanting their liberties and their freedom formulated their demands. We did not see the powers representing the Crown telling the people what liberties and what freedom they should demand. In the development of a nation it is the people who have the right to formulate their constitution and to make their demands upon the Crown and the agents of the Crown. It is a ridiculous farce that the Crown and the Crown's agent should keep soldiers bullying the people and say to the people, "You will demand as your measure of liberty and freedom what we tell you to demand."
I am sorry to say that the Opposition has neglected its sacred duty towards India, and made common cause with the Government in running that slavery abroad. I am sorry to say that in your frenzy you are surrendering great principles of British life. Save by the express vote of Parliament, no Government officers, no agent of the Crown—not even the King of England himself—has the right to deprive British citizens of those liberties which their ancestors won for them, once as I have said under John and once under Charles and his suc- cessors. When creating new legislative machinery in South Africa, in Canada, in Australia, in the Irish Free State, and also in India, we expressly laid it down that local legislatures there should have no right to deprive British-born citizens of the liberties which have been won from the Crown, that is, without an express and clear decision of the British House of Commons; but now agents of the Crown by the exercise of arbitrary and autocratic powers such as would lose the Crown the Throne if they were tried in this country, are seeking to deprive British-born British citizens in India of their one liberty, of their right to a fair trial before being punished. Under the law as it is they could be punished if they had done wrong, but the Crown is to-day seeking powers against British citizens in India such as Abdul Hamid lost his throne for, such as the Tsar of Russia lost his life for, and which the Kaiser of Germany lost his throne for, and such as are no longer tolerated in any country, great or small. The British Crown, through its agents, is seeking to destroy the liberty not only of the enslaved people of India but of British-born subjects, under the false and hypocritical pretence of what they call the Public Safety Bill.
The Public Safety Bill is to deal with those Britishers who go to India and say to the people of India that their fellow countrymen have no right to rule India. They are to be deported without trial, they are to be imprisoned without trial, their liberties are to be cut away. If the Crown attempted to do anything of that sort in this country the Conservative party would immediately organise a revolt against the Crown. This nation has already organised a revolt. The hon. and gallant Member for North Aberdeen referred in the Debate to the black soldiers of France, and pointed out the danger to Europe of employing those black soldiers. What about your brave Gurkas, Mahrattas and the negroes employed in the Army in British Africa? Are they not black soldiers? Is France the only country which has employed black soldiers? We have heard some hair-splitting arguments from the hon. and gallant Member for North Aberdeen and from the Leader of the Opposition. I have not forgotten the hypocritical and diabolical utterances of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) on this question. What did the right hon. Gentleman say when he was discussing the subject of peace. He represented this country as consisting of peace-making angels, and he told us that the cause of the great loss of human life was the system of conscription.
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs described the people of this country as angels without wings and as a peace-loving nation because we have not a system of conscription. That is what the right hon. Gentleman said in the Debate about peace, but surely he is aware what a mockery the British system has been in the past. It is true that you had no conscription in peace time, but in war time the Government adopted full-blooded conscription in a few weeks' time. Under these circumstances how can you expect the world to believe that England is a peace-loving nation? What is the lesson of the last Great War? What is the meaning of having hon. Members of this House who are officers, and who are now out of military practice? Those hon. Members are now in civil life. They sit in this House and some of them write articles in the newspapers. During peace time they appear as innocent as doves, but when war comes—[Interruption.] The last War was a great lesson to us, especially as administered by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs, who condemns conscription in foreign countries but who is clever enough in war-time to adopt conscription in this country in 24 hours. It is all humbug and moonshine for anyone to write the sort of King's Speech we are considering, and for the Labour party to offer a namby-pamby opposition to it. France has got black troops on the Rhine and Britain has black troops in the Himalayas; therefore the French are decried while the British are angels. The times are past when the workers, in this country or abroad, are going to swallow this sort of political logic. It might work very well in a general election or a by-election, where people are half thinking instead of fully thinking, but, in the cold, calm study of their daily life, people are not going to accept this sort of hypocritical arrangement of statesmen and Parliamentarians as touching the realities of life.
I was a little disappointed when our Scottish champions stood up to speak of Scotland. May I ask the Prime Minister why he has not allowed this House to know what His Gracious Majesty's agents are doing in Greenock, where a chief constable, or magistrates, are issuing orders with regard to public meetings? If anyone does anything wrong in a public meeting, there is a Court of Law; but here, although the Parliament of the people has fought for centuries for liberty, one twopenny-halfpenny chief constable or magistrate comes down and says that meetings shall not be held. To such a scandal has it extended that even in the case of borough council elections, when meetings were organised, the men who organised them have been arrested and put into prison. The liberties of the people are not observed in this fashion, and I am really surprised at the calm, cool way in which Scotland takes, lying low, this rapacious enslavement by officers of the British Crown. It is really amazing how people are getting accustomed to Fascism under the soothing name of Parliamentary democracy. I ask the Prime Minister whether he is prepared to say on his oath that borough council elections carried on in Greenock under these conditions are at all legal and valid.
I would have asked the Lord Advocate, but I know that he is a Parliamentarian, and does not know what the subordinate officers are doing. If he knew, perhaps his own sense of decency would revolt, but the very fact that there is a Lord Advocate, and the very fact that this is going on, shows that the Parliamentary Cabinet Ministers are puppets, and the country can be run by Fascist battalions outside.
I will put down a question to him on Tuesday, when I suppose we shall see what sort of responsibility he has. Having wandered, as the hon. and gallant Member for North Aberdeen said, over a vast area, let me come down to the very grave situation with regard to unemployment. Here again there are on the carpet so many pairs of boxing gloves, so that men of different parties may have a sham fight among themselves, but that does not bring us to the realities of life. With regard to migration, this country, with its vast empty Colonies like Australia, New Zealand and Canada, ought to have had continuously a migration policy completely disassociated from the problem of unemployment. I think it is an immense shame that a country which has genuine, healthy room for a scheme of continuous, independent migration to its Colonies, should have confused the issue and subordinated that problem to party tactics by associating it with the problem of unemployment. I appeal to the Ministers of those Dominions to compel the Prime Minister of this country not to associate the problem of migration to the Colonies with unemployment at all. Even if this country were fully employed, the need of regular, systematised, healthy, open, clean migration would still exist, and to have dragged in the unemployment issue, and made the misery and suffering of the people a handle for a party politics display, was not only a piece of meanness towards the unemployed of this country, but a great injustice to the colonial and migration requirements of the Dominions.
You have so completely mixed up the issue that only the unemployable and the unfit of this country are going to be encouraged to go to the Colonies. You Have done the greatest possible harm to a problem which has quite a clean and independent position of its own. I urge the Ministers vet to take immediate measures completely to dissociate the problem of migration from that of unemployment. If you do not do so you are doing the greatest possible harm to the people in the Colonies arid adding injury to insult to the unemployed in this country and at the same time you are producing no result of any value whatsoever. You must pull yourselves back out of the mirage of using the unemployment problem for migration. Leave the unemployment question as a local question to be settled by yourselves in this country, and leave the migration question as an independent question for the Colonies, remembering that here you have a country restricted in its area, and growing in its population, and there you have vast lands available in the Colonies.
That is my first remark, and now I come to my second remark. The Employment Exchanges and the Government authorities are ready to pack up the Reds and send them about to different places so that they may not organise a campaign against the Government before the General Election comes. That is not being done for the benefit of the workers, but is trickery to preserve the Conservative vote and the position of the Government.
They are like the Conservatives and the Liberals. The whole machinery is created for the purpose of removing the Reds when they are organising themselves among the unemployed workers locally. I ask the Prime Minister one serious question. What guarantee does he give to these men and women that they will be put back in their own constituencies at the expense of the Government when it comes to be their right to exercise their vote at the next General Election? Are thousands upon thousands of voters up to be fraudulently and dishonestly transferred from their legitimate areas in order to make it convenient for Tory candidates by removing their votes? I want to know because during the last municipal elections hundreds of cases of realisation of this great deceit upon the working classes has come upon these men and women. They have been transferred to areas where they have no vote. The last municipal elections have disclosed that circumstance, and I ask the Minister to say how they are treating this particular subject of the liberties of the people before the General Election comes, without making it a matter for joking. With regard to unemployment, if all these schemes are going on and these debates are going on, as they are, and if the results are concealed from the people we must out of our own loyalty to His Majesty warn His Majesty's Ministers of the consequences which may befall them and their position and authority. How long are the people going to keep away from expressing their anger? Not very long, for the cup is getting full.
There was a lot of talk by the hon. Member for Broxstowe (Mr. Spencer). He delivered a speech like a bull in a china shop. The position is this, A quarter of a million miners have lost their jobs. That means that 60,000,000 tons of coal taken out of Britain are not wanted. You do not tell the world that British capitalists are settled in Africa, India and Southern China and are taking out 65,000,000 tons of coal every year and are paying labour 7d. for a day of 10 hours underground. You are concealing the fact. You do not tell the jute workers of Dundee that unemployment has become permanent in Dundee, that about 30 per cent. of the looms and spindles will never work again, and at the same time you have 75 jute mills in Bengal, where you are paying 3s. 8d. a week of 60 hours to the girls in the spinning department. By the process India is devouring more than 60 per cent. of the total jute product of India, and there is not sufficient raw jute left now for all the spindles and looms in Dundee. You are not telling the textile workers the truth as to how your Imperial policy in China and India, with labour exploitation, the enforced illiteracy of the people, enforced slavery and the denial of political life to the workers is creating a mass of unemployed workers in this country.
These are the causes of unemployment. Now with all the criticisms I would still disagree. Unemployment cannot be cured by a new scheme of transference of men. It cannot be cured by building houses and this, that and the other. Unemployment can only be cured by the Government passing an Act and, without any compensation, taking possession of all mines, factories, dockyards and places of industry. That is the only way of creating normal employment where capitalism is creating unemployment. Make friends with Russia, give up your game of murder in India, treat them as you treat France and America and withdraw your troops from China, and there will be more than enough demand for all that you will produce by seizing those factories, and carrying on your work without any compensation to the owners.