3. "That a sum, not exceeding £155,000, he granted to His Majesty, to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1929, for Grants-in-Aid of the Lord Mayor's Fund and towards the cost of Administration of the Fund and Co-ordination of other Funds for Relief in Distressed Mining Areas."
No less than three Parliaments have elapsed since I had the honour of presenting an Estimate to this House, and I therefore crave the usual indul- gence which is afforded to people who are speaking for the first time. This is an Estimate which includes Estimates concerning no less than four Departments, and I do not' propose to speak at this stage in detail on it, though there are one or two points which I think it would be of interest to the House to bring out. All my colleagues concerned will be ready to take part in the Debate as desired. The Secretary of State for Scotland will make a statement during the Debate, the Minister of Labour will speak in ease any particular information is required with regard to transference, and the Minister of Education, who is primarily responsible for the liaison between the Government and the Lord Mayor's Fund, will answer such points as may be put in the course of the Debate.
I should like, briefly, to give the House such information as is in, my power which bears on the first Vote, because, while a great. deal of this Estimate deals with matters that, grave as they are, we all hope may be temporary, the first part deals with that policy of transference which, if successful, ultimately is the only means of bringing permanent relief to those in what are called the distressed areas. I should like to tell the House the figures showing the position subsequent to a certain letter which I wrote in August. I do not give them by any means to claim any credit, but I take that date because the writing of that letter perhaps was able to bring before the country, in a way in which it has not been brought before, the gravity of the situation so far as the unemployed men in the mining industry are concerned. There are to-day so far as we can calculate—and the figures are a conservative estimate—something like 1,250 men, including a small number of juveniles, who are getting into other work every week. About 750 of those are moving directly under the auspices of the Employment Exchanges, and at a very conservative estimate about 500 a week are moving on their own account. In the last four months, there have moved into other occupations—and we have evidence that a great number of these are successful—about 15,000 men, and that during a time when the employment market has been—only temporarily I hope—falling.
Unemployment, of course, exists in this country in some degree or another, as it always has existed, fairly generally, very small in some districts until we come to the so-called depressed areas, where employment is either dormant or dead. Except in those districts where employment is either dormant or dead, in spite of that chronic unemployment that always exists to some extent, you may say that industry is not dormant but alive, that it is not dead but growing; and the proof of that, which we are very apt to overlook, our attention being confined to the areas of the greatest distress, is that in the last four years, which included 1926, there have been no less than 550,000 persons additionally absorbed into the living industry of the country. That is at the rate of 140,000 a year.
Now there have been many complaints, many of them made perfectly bonâ fide, that the absorption of labour from these depressed areas will seriously interfere with employment in other areas. I think that that idea is based essentially on a fallacy. We have to remember that there are more than 120,000 labour engagements made in this country every week, and it is true to say that each man taken is an addition to a flowing stream, rather than to say that by getting a job he is forcing somebody else out of an area of a permanently fixed dimension. People are apt to lose sight of industry as a whole over the country, being as it is a living organism, and, as far as I can see, there is no risk of any particular locality being flooded by transfer. Transfer of one kind and another goes on every day from one end of the Kingdom to the other. I have been at some pains to look into one particular case, because a little time ago there was a considerable outcry in the Birmingham district that they would be grievously affected by transfers, and I find that during a period in which 156 labour engagements were made into that district out of the distressed areas, there were 15,000 labour engagements made altogether out of an industrially insured population of just under 350,000. Remember that labour is coming in from outside all the time, but the amount of labour that came in from the distressed areas over that period was just 1 per cent. of the labour engagements that were made.
That is with regard to transfer, and there are also three or four other steps, which have been indicated to the House, which are being taken at the present time to help directly these areas as far as transfer and work are concerned. The Government have, as the House knows, offered a generous financial contribution to the local authorities in the more prosperous areas for undertaking the kind of work which is associated with the St. Davids Committee, on condition that in the execution of that work they will take a certain proportion of men from the distressed areas. I am glad to say that a considerable number of applications have already been received. They are being examined, and I hope that some works will be undertaken in certain areas quite early in the new year. Similarly, further assistance has been sanctioned to the drainage authorities for undertaking land drainage, on the same condition that special facilities should be offered to men from these areas. As is stated in the Estimate which I am presenting to the House, certain works are being undertaken in the London parks; to be carried out mainly with labour from those areas.
Then, in training centres, we have recently sanctioned further extensions for training men for employment at home, and provision is being made for new training centres in Glasgow and in London. These centres now can accommodate 2,000 men, and that gives them an annual output of about 5,000. The first item in the Estimate which we are asked to vote this afternoon is for helping in the removal of families where the man gets work. That has been one of the practical difficulties. It has been much easier hitherto to remove single men than married men, and yet it is of equal, if not of greater importance that such facilities as can be obtained in getting work should be obtained by the placing of a whole family in an area where there is hope, rather than a single member of it, and we are examining various schemes now that may help to give employment to the men in these districts, the benefits of which are so obvious that I think it is not necessary for me to say anything on that point now. With regard to migration overseas, we have made great extensions to the training centres intended to fit men for working on the land, men who desire to go, whose training hitherto has been industrial. The programme for the coming year will provide for sending at least 6,000 trained or tested men to Canada, and we hope that the recent reduction which has been announced in the fares may be a real stimulus to the normal emigration.
These points I have just touched upon, but I would say here that neither this nor any Government can do everything without the help of the community. The whole community more than ever is required to help in this matter, and the most effective way in which the community can help is for employers to take in someone, if only one man, who comes from these areas where, as far as we can see, he will never get employment, and get him into a district where he can hope to have it. Because, after all, let us not forget that, with the exception of these black spots, the country as a whole is prosperous, and on that I would say, further without feat- of contradiction, that over the main part of this country the standard of living is higher to-day than it is in any other country in Europe.
At this point, before I say a further word about the distressed areas, I want to make one or two observations about the general trade of the country, and the difficulty of doing that always is, that unless one says the whole country is going down, all of us together, to the bottomless pit, one is branded as an optimist. I have made many speeches on this subject, and I have never gone further than to say that the outlook is not unhopeful. For that I have been called all sorts of names. It is quite true that, owing to one cause or another, sometimes obscure, sometimes patent, the dawn of revival that we have often seen has not matured, and this year, almost until the present moment, has been a disappointment to the country. But we have to remember that whenever any serious cause, whatever it may be, affects industry, there is very often a considerable lag between the cause and the effect, and it was some years after the War before this country felt the full effect of it. Thus there was the loss of purchasing power sustained by the people in this country through the loss of wages in 1926—[An HON MEMBER: "1921 as well!"]—and for some time in 1927 many of the things that people purchased were coming from stock, and the producers did not feel that effect of the loss of purchasing power until the Spring of this year. There is no doubt that that is one of the reasons why a good deal of the trade kept stationary, or went back, when we might have hoped that it would have improved. And I would remind the House that this year has been a year singularly free from industrial trouble. Therefore, in all the areas of the country, except the distressed areas, the purchasing power has been maintained, and by the continuity of wages has probably increased, so that early next year we ought to be in a position to see the purchasing power of the ordinary commodities which people desire, come back again to that normality from which it has fallen, and I think we may reasonably look, without being called unduly optimistic, to a general expansion of trade in the country.
What I am saying, of course, is to a certain extent theoretical. It may prove to be wrong. I think it is right. There is one thing, however, which is not theory but fact, and from which I do take hope, because it bears on the fringe of the distressed areas. There has been lately a stiffening of freight rates on the sea. That has put more confidence into ship-owners that has led to the placing of a very considerably increased number of tramp steamers, a considerable proportion of which have gone in the last few weeks to the North-East Coast. Those are definite orders on a much better scale than has been the case for a long time. The reflection of that is bound to be seen early in the year when the orders begin to be placed for the hulls and machinery. Now I speak of industries connected with shipbuilding as being on the fringe of the distressed areas. We must always remember that there are not only the miners, but there are steel workers, and there are shipyard workers. It so happens that a very considerable proportion of the steel trade lies within or on the borders of the mining areas. They are very closely linked together. The one great difference is this, that as far as we can see—and I think we are all agreed in the House—there is little enough hope of a large number of those who have hitherto worked in the mines, obtaining work in mines again. Never mind the reason; there is a sur- plus. But in the steel trade and in the shipbuilding trade that is not necessarily true; they have been through a terrible time, they are passing through a bad time, but there is every hope that when things do mend—and this cannot be said of the miners—a very large proportion of the men will be able to work again at their own trade. That does not, of course, take away from the suffering they are going through now, and it is perfectly obvious, when you come to consider the grant-in-aid towards the Lord Mayor's Fund, that now that the Government have made as contribution towards that Fund it is quite impossible any more to draw any distinction between any classes of workers inside a distressed mining area so far as relief is concerned. The fact of the area being a distressed mining area, the fact that relief schemes are and will be at work, makes it perfectly clear that, money being contributed by the taxpayer, help must be given to the necessitous people in that area whether they be miners or whether they be not.
I hope very much that this Debate, the last one before we separate for Christmas, may be a fruitful debate. It is perfectly obvious that many hon. Members will feel it to be their duty to say that the Government are either doing nothing or are not doing enough, or that they ought to do something else. We expect that; but there will be time also for such hon. Members as are either able or willing to offer useful and constructive suggestions with regard to a work which ought to lie very near the hearts of all of us. I hope such suggestions will be made. They will be received most sympathetically, and we shall try, so far as we can to-day, for of course this work is yet in an early stage, to answer such questions as may be put in the course of the debate. There is only one further observation I wish to make before I sit down. I have heard in the course of the last few days from some hon. Members opposite observations which would lead me to think that they dislike very much the idea of what is called private charity being used in a matter of this kind. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear!"] Well, I confess my standpoint is a little different. I believe that the sympathy being engendered in the country to-day and the bringing of those areas which in the past have been so isolated more into the common stream of the life and sympathy of this county makes wholly for good. To hon. Members who dislike the use of the word "charity," I would make one observation: Charity is the word that is used in the Authorised Version; the Revised Version uses the word "love." I would commend that to them.
I think there will be general agreement that the Prime Minister's statement is profoundly disappointing. I am not going to be led on this occasion, when the day is not only the last day of this part of the Session, but when time is very short, into a general survey of the prospects and the conditions of trade. The Prime Minister, in the course of his remarks, made once again a reference to 1926. I really do not know what the Government would have done without 1926. The world seemed to begin in 1926, so far as the Government are concerned. If one examined his statement, one would have to start, so far as wages and the industrial conditions of the country are concerned, not in 1926, not in 1924, but in 1922. Economically and industrially, 1926, with all its unfortunate incidents, was a reaction against the tendencies of 1921 and 1922. The year 1926 also had a political aspect, and if we trace out the origin of the political significance of 1926 we come back to 1924. The Government's successes in 1924 cannot be dissociated from the unfortunate conditions that arose in 1926. However, I am not going to follow that up. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear!"] I am very sorry to find that hon. Members opposite cheer me for refusing to follow their own leader by taking notice of the line of argument which he pursued. [An HON. MEMBER: "Red herrings!"] The hon. Member is good enough to talk about red herrings. If I am using red herrings it is only in the sense of returning the red herring which was thrown across at us a few minutes ago.
We are here to-day to consider certain proposals made by the Government by way of financial grants. I wish to ask the Government when they became aware that it was necessary to give financial grants at all? It was not last week when the distressed 'areas got into a condition of distress. If the Government had done their duty, they would not have waited until the last day of the Session to produce this Vote. This position has been steadily growing and marching upon them. The black cloud of exceptional distress did not break in 1928. Month after month, week after week, we have had evidence of its approach. Everybody who was watching the evolution of British industry and industrial conditions saw it coming, saw it coming for years and years. Our weekly returns of unemployment were a warning. The condition of trade, the state of orders, were warnings. The reports of the boards of guardians were warnings. The reports of the Employment Exchanges were warnings. The outcry year after year by the public authorities in the distressed areas was a warning. The Government were absolutely indifferent to the whole lot until, on this last day of this part of the Session, they produce these Supplementary Estimates. We have been going into a wilderness, and the Government have been our guides in that dread pilgrimage.
The position of the Government has always been a perfectly definite one. It has not been merely neglect. The Government have been proceeding upon the assumption that since 1924 trade was going to improve. Basing themselves upon that. assumption, they have been developing a policy, and that policy has been seen in the reduction of benefits from unemployment insurance and the limitation of the Lord St. Davids Committee's activities; it has expressed itself in raids on the Road Fund, it has shown itself in orders issued again and again to boards of guardians, until to-day, when at last they are moving, the Government find they have not got a scrap of machinery left to carry out and to administer the grants which they are asking the House of Commons to give. They have not a single committee in existence which can give them beneficial advice as to how to meet their obligations when this money has been voted. I doubt if the Government have a single project in their pigeon holes which has any freshness about it and which they can pull out as soon as they get this money and put into operation. That is the position in which the-Government find themselves.
What are they doing to-day? They are trying to set up the St. Davids activities again. Why did they drop them? They strive to find new work for the unemployed. Why did they stop? They may be perfectly sound—and I am going to give them the benefit of any doubt I may have—when they say that one of the problems we have to face is this: Distress work in derelict areas is in the end unprofitable; what we want to do and what we must devise a means of doing is to provide relief work other than in areas that have to be drained of their population. Supposing that is sound. Was it only yesterday they discovered the soundness of that policy, or was it only a month or two ago? What have they been doing since 1925, when it was perfectly evident that 250,000 miners were to be redundant? What have they been doing in order to drain off the 250,000 men from those areas?
They are asking us to vote money for the transfers. The Prime Minister has told us again that all transfers are not a substitution. We know that perfectly well. What have they done to avoid transfers being substitutions? As a matter of fact, we know that a very large part of the transfers which have taken place have been substitutions, and that what has happened is this. You get mining areas where the percentage of unemployment is 30, 40 or 50, and you get certain other areas in the country, where modern, fresh industries have grown up, where the percentage of unemployment is 4, 5, or 6 per cent. The Government, seeing these two contrasts, have devised a scheme by which, if the 4 or 5 or 6 per cent. unemployment in the busy areas is made 4½, 5½ or 6½ per cent., they say it is curing unemployment, because it reduces the percentage of unemployment in the 50 per cent. areas. That is not curing unemployment. This is a very insignificant case, I know, but it is a good example—an inquiry I made into the case of one of those porters we have heard about who have been transferred from South Wales to a London hotel. I made it my business to find out exactly what happened. I found that another man's place was taken by that man. I can quite understand that the poor South Wales miner is very happy to get a job, and very grateful to those who gave him that job, but what about the man, with his wife arid children, who was deprived of the job? That is not settling the unemployment problem or reducing the number of unemployed.
Then as regards training. We had an example given to us the other day by the Minister of Labour, who told us of a new process of electric welding in which there was a shortage of workpeople in Birmingham, and he proposed to make that good by training men who had not been engaged in welding before. That is the very thing to do if the information is right. The Government come to us at the end of 1928 and make a virtue of asking for more money to speed up that process. If that is sound, why have they waited until now? Why have they waited until now to ask us for money to make it more effective? The Minister of Labour has again and again said that we are training up to our maximum; trying to face the problem of mass unemployment by training, and we are doing everything we can. If the right hon. Gentleman was short of money, then why did he not ask us to vote more money months ago when the matter could have been dealt with in a more scientific and considered way.
It is not enough to train people in an odd kind of way, training a few for this job and a few for that, and, unless we devise a scheme of training which will be constructive in relation to our national needs, we are wasting our money. The Government talk about training for migration. Why did they not do that before? Why did they close the Catterick Camp? Why was every suggestion made from these benches in regard to the question of training turned down? Perhaps we shall be told why the Government closed Catterick Camp. We are told to-day that the Ministry have no intention of introducing legislation to enable them to get possession of the land upon which to place these trained men here. Why not? It would far more become Ministers if, instead of asking us to vote £200,000 for training and transference, they produced a Bill to give them power to take the land that is necessary in order to put trained men on the land. The fact of the matter is that so far as migration is concerned up-to-date opinion is that it is very doubtful whether we are not wasting a good deal of money in training men in British habits, British agriculture, and British machinery to go to the Dominions in order to have their minds and training completely revolutionised by the conditions under which they will have to live there. The Prime Minister may say, of course, that his conscience is perfectly clear, but he knows that he is to blame, he knows that he is blameworthy, and he has no escape from the blame which he deserves to bear at the hands of the country.
There is the question of immediate relief for the special distress. This relief is of two kinds, relief by work and relief by charity, and the sooner he speeds it up the better. But I do hope that he is not going to do it in that hard dogmatic sort of way that is being shown in South Wales—in Glamorgan County where it was decided that there must be hard pressure brought to bear upon -unemployed men in Glamorgan t o leave altogether, and go to other parts of the country. There was a scheme which is known as the Inter-Valley Road Scheme in Glamorgan. About half of that scheme has been carried out, but it has been stopped. Everybody there knows that that scheme was not merely good as relief work, but it was essential to develop the resources of the county, and, simply because somebody came along with old-fashioned ideas of economics and industry and said "We must bring the pressure of starvation and distress upon those people to change their habits and make them go away," that essentially national work was stopped, and I say that that was a very short-sighted policy.
That is not helping the unemployed or the development of our national resources which we must develop more intelligently, and with a more business determination than we have applied to them hitherto. Therefore, I hope it is not going to be distributed in this stinted fashion, but, wherever national development may be required, I hope it may be undertaken. Glamorgan used to occupy a magnificent position as a coal producing county. I have footed over most of it myself, and we should not regard Glamorgan, even without a single pit working in it, as a derelict county. Why is it difficult to develop Glamorgan? For various reasons, but one undoubtedly is the inadequacy of local transport. You have valleys and mountains and crossing and recrossings, and until quite recently over-mountain communication has been non-existent. In order to get from one village to another which, as the crow flies, is about four miles distant, the traffic at the present time has to go right away down the valley and up the valley again. The scheme and plans are there, because I have seen them myself. We put a large part of the scheme into operation in 1924, and the road was opened, I think, early last year, and I was present at the opening. In the part of the road that has been opened, the valleys are now in direct communication with each other, and the completion of that scheme ought to be put into operation at once, irrespective of the needs of the coal industries in the county.
The Prime Minister finished by giving a Biblical definition of the word "charity." May I give the House the Persian definition of "charity"? "Charity is a virtue that is required to overtake neglect and indolence," and that is a definition that is quite appropriate to the present situation. Look at the position. The Government have no machinery of their own, and they are in the position of a person who is suddenly made a-ware of the fact that there is really very acute distress in the country, and that he must put his hand into his pocket and see how much he must take out in order that other people may use the money that he can spare, in a practical and beneficial way. That is a very sad and melancholy position for the Government to be in after all that has been said in this House and after all that has happened in the country. I want to make it perfectly clear that it is a repulsive thing for the great mass of our poor people to receive charity. Charity which is given with personal affection I think may be regarded in a great majority of cases as pleasing both him who gives and him who receives, but charity given in the mass from the Lord Mayor's Fund—I will not say a word against it in view of present necessities because I am dealing with the general method of treatment—either fortunately or unfortunately is not the sort of charity that our mothers would have received with whole-hearted gratitude as they would the charity of a personal friend. The charity which they never would receive without feeling that something precious had gone out of their lives is the charity from a distance—embursements from an impersonal source. That feeling is still sound and strong and flaming in the hearts of the great mass of the people who have to be helped to-day.
The help that comes from the community as charity is totally different. Community help, the help which makes the individual who has been overtaken by distress and misfortune feel that he is not abandoned by the community is the sort of thing that will awaken his gratitude to the community in which he lives, and bind him by a resolution that as soon as he is able he will pay it hack again by service. That is a recognition that we are members one of another, and not people who can spare money giving it to those who require it. That is not being members one of another as parts of a great comprehending organic whole inter-related to each other. Community help is no degradation because it spurs people up to individual effort and does not destroy the spring from which individual effort comes. The Government have done nothing of that sort. They say: "We will give pound for pound." It is not a question of the need of the community at all. The measure of the Government support is not what does the community need. It is not the result of an inquiry whether South Wales requires £20 or £20,000 or whether Durham or Northumberland require x money or y money. That is not the position. All that the Government say is: "If charity provides £20, we will give £20; if it provides £1,000, we will give £1,000; if it provides £500,000, we will give £500,000; if it. provides nothing we will give nothing." That is a vicious principle upon which to vote Government money.
The pro rata grant, the percentage grant depending upon local government activity, is a totally different thing. There you have obligations placed upon public representative bodies, and you say to them: "The obligation is yours, and, if you fulfil your obligation, we will play up to it and give you pound for pound." That is a good and sound principle in the administration of local government and in the disposal of central funds of Treasury money. That is not the case now. If I subscribe £1 to one of these funds, the Government will give another £1; if I subscribe £5 the Government will give £5. Why should they? The whole principle is thoroughly absurd and absolutely unsound. Then what are the Government going to do? In the mining areas, of miners alone, it is estimated that something like 900,000 people are suffering from unemployment. I do not mean unemployed miners; I mean their wives and children and dependants generally. I did my best to get an accurate figure, and it was given to me as something like 900,000. [An HON. MEMBER: "It is more than that!"] If we divide this Vote that we are giving to-day among those 900,000 miners and miners' dependants, it is not worthy of us. That is not the sort of scale of Government charity that the House of Commons should pass. Iron and steel workers are distressed; shipbuilders are distressed; and there is distress in the cotton and textile industries—I am not going through the whole list. And these people are not only in mining areas; a good many of them are living in areas absolutely dissociated and divorced from mining areas, however widely that term may be applied. Are they going to he left out?
I saw a deputation yesterday from English steel workers, and they informed me that the percentage of unemployment in trades covered by, if my memory serves me, some 20 Labour organisations—the percentage of unemployment among them just now is equal to the average percentage of unemployment in the mining areas. But we cannot go and vote money for any particular section of the community. If we are going to vote money, we vote it for distress, and it matters not to us whether the distressed person is a miner, a cotton operative, a textile worker, a worker in the wool industry, or anything else. That is a, point in regard to which I press the Government to amend their scheme. In what directions is assistance needed? Very roughly and briefly, I think it is needed in three directions. The first is food. How is food going to be supplied? I say that the Government ought to supply this food through their own local authorities, where there is some responsi- bility, and the local authorities ought to be supplied with the wherewithal necessary for this food supply by grants from the Goschen Committee that will not be in the nature of loans—because I hope we are not going to try to relieve this special distress by leaving a burden of capital charges upon the shoulders of local authorities, whether district councils, boards of guardians, or whatever they are.
That is the first point. The second is clothing. The question of clothing is a little more difficult and a little more delicate problem to face, and, if private-charity comes in, if private goodness, comes in, I think that it might come in and help there. I think that it is a sort of thing in which a great many of us who have gone past the time when we had to solve problems of clothing would like to help, not only as taxpayers or as ratepayers, but I think it would be very good for us to have the great pleasure and the great satisfaction of helping from our own personal and private incomes to clothe those people. It is a thing which, properly administered in that way, would be good. [Interruption.] There is no rule in life that is absolutely acceptable—none whatever. I do not want to lay down hard-and-last dogmas here; this is neither the place nor the time for that; hut, if charity is going to be resorted to it might be in connection with clothing. Then we come to the question of boots, and here I think that quite clearly the education authorities ought to be brought in. I regret profoundly the answer given by the Chancellor of the Exchequer on behalf of the Government the other day regarding this matter. In Scotland it is done by the education authorities Juicier a Clause which was put into the Scottish Education Act. Why is it that Scotland is more benefited in that respect than England? I hope that English Members will take this into their hands and insist that a privilege which-is now exercised, and exercised with admirable success, according to all reports, by the Scottish education authorities shall be enjoyed by English education authorities. Boots ought to be an educational charge; they ought to be supplied through the educational machinery, because only in that way is it going to be adequately done.
The next point is the question of pound for pound Pound for what pound? Since the outline of this programme has been announced, I have made it my business to ask a considerable number of friends of mine, who have been subscribing to various funds, what proportion, roughly, of their subscriptions would be recognised by the Government. I find that not more than 20 per cent. of the subscriptions that have been given by these friends of mine will be recognised in the sense of pound for pound, if the Government do not modify the scheme which they have now put forward. Some of them subscribed to the Lord Mayor's Fund. Some have subscribed for local charities, and I believe that Members of Parliament, my colleagues here in all quarters of the House, will support me in this, that, when we have appeals from representative bodies in our constituencies—relief committees specially got together by churches, chapels, and so on—we have done what we could by way of subscriptions to enable them to do their work. That money will be taken no notice of by the Government under their present formula, and, consequently, we hone that that formula will be changed.
I have also found that work of this kind is done by societies like the Society of Friends. The Society of Friends—the Quakers—up to the 14th December, had received £13,860, and I want to say that, if ever I had any money to spend in this direction, there is no body on the face of the earth to which I would go more quickly than the Society of Friends in order to dispense it. It has a machinery of large experience and great efficiency, and it seems to have solved the eternal problem of how to serve God and at the same time develop those businesslike qualities which will endow yourselves with a substantial and satisfactory stake in the country to which you belong. It is a combination of these qualities that we want in the administration of this money. But the £13,860 that the Society of Friends have been administering, or had in their possession to administer, will not be recognised by the Government. The Co-operative Society has given £2,500 to the Lord Mayor s Fund. That will be recognised, and will bring from the Government another sum of £2,500. But the co-operative societies, so far as can be ascertained—I am told that the estimate is inside and not outside the mark—the co-operative societies, in addition to that, have subscribed £21,000 to local aid, and not a halfpenny of that will be recognised by the Government when they are making their distribution. Then there is the "Spectator." Up to last week the "Spectator" bad £3,859 subscribed, and not a penny of that, unless it is transferred in a lump sum without any responsibility for administration, will be recognised by the Government according to their present method. There have been various other funds of the same kind.
I beg the Government to devise some scheme by which those funds can be recognised for the purpose of the pound for pound grant. The Government ought to devise some means by which societies like those, administering money, will be approved—I use that word without any prejudice or any definite commitment—will be approved in some way or other by the authorities that administer the fund, that is, approved by the Government themselves. A system of approval and co-operation is absolutely essential if this money is to be well administered. As to the practical working of the scheme, one, of course, regrets very much that we have not had time to get at this matter in a more leisurely way, when all sorts of schemes could be carefully criticised and examined and weeded out—I believe that the departmental word, which at any rate was used in my time, was "vetted"—when all sorts of schemes could be properly "vetted," and only those that were businesslike and practical brought into operation. May I read a statement that I have had from the Society of Friends about their work, because I think it is one of the most suggestive statements that I have come across? It is as follows:
I am informed that they have now 28 local committees in the Rhondda, and those are constantly being added to; and there are eight committees in Durham and seven in Northumberland. Relief is given in the form of food, and sometimes a little money to maternity cases and sick folk; and also grocery tickets and clothing.
That is very important. The central funds must not be used to ruin local trade. As far as boots, clothing and food
are concerned, the purchase, in every case where it possibly can be, must be a local purchase, and not a great central, wholesale transaction. To ruin the shopkeeper, to ruin the local co-operative society by the process of helping the destitute, is one of the most terrible misadventures that could happen as the result of the creation of this fund. Then to proceed with the Society of Friends' work:
Shops have been established in many districts where the unemployed men mend the children's shoes, the teachers being responsible for the selection of the same, and often paying for the tools, whilst the Friends are responsible for the leather, which sometimes amounts to £50 or £60 in two valleys alone. Thousands of pairs of boots have thus been preserved for the children's wear.
Here is another quotation:
Many allotments went out of use during these years, and the Friends are surveying the districts, both as to restoring the derelict ones and as to arranging for fresh ones where possible. Men are employed for wages and, in the spring, seeds and potatoes will be supplied for very reduced prices. This work will require a very large sum if it is to extend as it should.
That is the situation. I will make my last comment. If my memory serves me aright, I heard the Prime Minister say in a previous Debate on unemployment, that the miner was not a good farmer.
It really did not sound like the right hon. Gentleman, but at any rate, if he did not say it, it has been said over and over again. [HON. MIMBERS: "Not on this side!"] I think so. The fact of the matter is that if we had to translate from one condition to another any considerable bulk of any one of the industrial classes, one of the simplest things would be to translate a bulk of the miners into a bulk of people engaged on the culture of the land. When one has seen the gardens where some of the old miners' villages exist, before that abomination of hardness and unimaginativeness the more modern miners' village, built on strict untilitarian principles, one sees the miner equally at home in cultivating the soil as in exploiting the coal face. Here again how profound is one's regret—it is a matter not merely of accusation against the Government, but it is a most sincere regret—that during all these years when this thing must have been foreseen, when it was foreseen, we have made no real, determined preparations in the transference of these people from the bowels of the earth to the surface of the earth in order to produce wealth and develop our own national resources. I do not look forward with any expectation of what is going to happen. The Government will get their money with the most hearty good-will, but they will still have to begin to face the problem of general unemployment and of special unemployment, the kind of unemployment in the mining districts which they had in their minds when they moved this Vote.
I should have been glad if the Prime Minister had carried us over a very much wider field and had made something of a survey of the state of industry. There is no getting away from the fact that the White Paper is in the main a provision of money in order to acid to the funds that are provided by private charity. The Prime Minister gave us his definition of charity, and the Leader of the Opposition gave us his. I should like to trouble the House with my view of this question of charitable subscriptions. I regard this White Paper as the provision of money which is the conscience money of bankrupt Free Trade. I believe we have to go very much deeper into the question of the industrial conditions of the country before we can see any possible way of really arriving at a solution. Of course, the policy of the White Paper is not pretended by the Government to be in any way a policy that can deal with the problem and find a solution of it. The picture of industry, as I see it at present, is of a structure, the very corner stones of which are crumbling and decaying. They have reached a position in which the whole of the superstructure is bound to collapse unless we can do something radical to-deal with the situation. There is no question in this matter of the Government policy as against the policy of the party opposite, or the policy that has been pursued by any Government, in this country. It is a question that is dealt with by a policy which has been common to all Governments for the last 75 years, namely, that of denying to British labour their primary right of employment in British industries, producing goods for their fellow people in this country.
There is undoubtedly a good deal of truth in the criticisms which have been levelled at this policy of transference. The transference of labour cannot possibly find employment. It can only distribute unemployment. That, I think, would be agreed as much on the Government benches as by the right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Colonel Wedgwood). When you have said that, it is true to say that, with a problem such as these depressed areas, apart from the fundamental cure, with which I will deal in a moment, you have to attack it by every means in your power, and it is quite possible that some of these people who are transferred may be capable of doing work that is required to be done and which will not deprive anyone else of a job. The Leader of the Opposition gave the example of a porter. It is inconceivable that there is any area in the country, certainly there is no area in my constituency where, if there was a demand for a porter, there would not be plenty of applicants who are at present unemployed within the area. But I think the Government are right in pursuing that policy as far as they can. There is the Government policy of emigration. As a policy to deal with unemployment, emigration seems to me to be a singular admission of the complete failure of our industrial system. We are, in fact, exporting British labour to the Dominions, or foreign countries, instead of exporting the products of British labour to these same markets, and the very last thing any prosperous country, with its industry based upon sound principles, would wish to do is to send away the labour that is necessary for industry instead of sending away the products of industry.
We are told it is absolutely necessary to import great masses of manufactured goods, because imports pay for exports, and we could not export the manufactured goods we produce if we did not import others. May I trouble the House with a consideration or two based upon the figures of the last completed year. I will ask the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme to give attention to these figures, because he has recently been writing, and he draws a very different conclusion. I find that the total imports into this country of all sorts in 1927 were £1,200,000,000. Out of that, food, tobacco, and drink for men, and feeding stuffs for animals, and raw materials, amount to £890,000,000. There is a remainder therefore, of nearly £380,000,000. I find the total exports and re-exports of all kinds from this country are £832,000,000, and, therefore, under our present system we are not able to export, of all kinds of things, even as much as that part of the imports which we actually require—raw material, food and the rest. There is, further, the import of £322,000,000 of manufactured goods, and that is altogether over and above the total of the imports of raw materials and food which is required. The adverse balance of trade in 1927 was £387,000,000, so that our exports did not balance the imports that we require by £65,000,000. We have to use the products of our shipping, our banking, our investments abroad, and all the rest of it to the extent of £65,000,000 and to pay for the manufactured goods that we import from other countries. That being so, it is clear that, while we agree with Free Traders that we must do everything we can to encourage exports, there is ample scope for all the exports that we are likely to be able to make to pay for the goods that we really require from abroad.
No, I specifically mentioned them, but we are using the products of British investments abroad, our shipping and the like, to pay for manufactured goods produced by the foreigner which we could perfectly well produce here. Let us see what those £322,000,000 of manufactured goods mean. At the rate of £250 per man per year, that is finding employment for 1,300,000 men somewhere. If only half of that were produced in this country, our unemployment problem would be practically solved, because we should have additional employment for 650,000 people. The position is, therefore, that, far from having obtained the manufactured goods in order to balance our exports, our existing exports are not great enough to pay even for the fond and raw materials that we require. Our experience of the last three years proves exactly the opposite of the contention of those who believe that our present system is all right. They say we can only encourage exports by sticking to our Free Trade policy. We are entitled to point out that, in the very few things that are safeguarded at present, there is an increase in exports, from 1925 to 1927, of £3,750,000, or over 10 per cent., whereas in the unsafeguarded industries for the same years there has been a decrease in exports of 561 millions or just upon 10 per cent.
I have given these figures to the House, because I want to draw these conclusions from them. It is perfectly clear to me that, if you are going to deal with this problem of unemployment at all, you have to deal with the industrial position of the country. You have to deal with it, not by the methods of the White Paper, which does not pretend to deal with this question at all, but by finding employment for our people in the basic industries of the country.
May I allude for a moment to another branch of what the Government are doing on this unemployment problem. The de-rating of industry is undoubtedly going to he a very great contribution to enable our industries at home to find more employment by increasing their output, which will be brought about by the reduction in the cost of production. But the basis of the finances of de-rating, the fundamental basis is the Petrol Duty. We were told by the Chancellor of the Exchequer that among other advantages of the Petrol Duty there was this advantage, that it would increase the cost of coal's great rival, petrol. Therefore, I say that it is a protective tax, and it is a protective tax of a kind which I do not altogether like, because it aims at increasing the cost while the protective taxes which we ought to have with the object of increasing production at home would diminish instead of increasing the cost of the industrial articles produced. There we have the very opposite of the policy of laissez faire. We have distinctly a protective Measure. The right policy for dealing with the coal situation in these depressed areas is to reduce the cost of coal to British industries, not to increase the price of coal's competitors. We can reduce the cost of coal to two British industries by increasing the demand for it. We ought to increase the demand for coal from coal's best customers, which are British industries.
We are asked—and the point has been made in the speech delivered by the Leader of the Opposition—as to why this relief which is to be granted under the White Paper is to be confined to these depressed coal areas. The Prime Minister made it clear that all persons who through unemployment are in a similar position within those areas are to be treated alike. But there are a great many people, it has been pointed out, outside those areas who are not at present provided for under this White Paper. There is no question that the unemployment in the steel industry, as the Leader of the Opposition has said, is as bad, on the average, as the unemployment in the coal industry. The two industries obviously go together, because, of our great basic industries, steel is the biggest customer of coal. When we are dealing with the steel situation, we must bear in mind that steel workers are not in the limelight to the same extent as the coal workers. They have for years and years had the sliding scale wage agreement which has prevented them from having any industrial troubles, although they have had their own troubles in the matter of employment and in low wages. But steel, pottery and glass are the great customers of coal, and it is through the safeguarding of these industries that I see the solution of this problem. If steel production goes under—and it looks as if there is a very grave risk of our practically ceasing to be a steel-producing country, if we do not deal with this problem and deal with it promptly—there is no question that the industries which are subsidiary to steel, shipbuilding, to which the Prime Minister referred, rerolling, engineering and the rest, will naturally go to the countries where the steel is produced. It is the greatest delusion to suppose that these industries can be maintained in this country based upon imported raw material.
I do not know whether it is any good asking, but I would appeal to those hon. Members who are in the House now, at any rate, to regard this subject not from the point of view which was put forward so much in the speech of the Leader of the Opposition, namely, that the Government have been blind to the situation, not from the point of view of one party or another, but as a great impending national disaster to our industries. That is how I look at it, and in such circumstances we ought not to consider times and seasons and petty party controversies. We ought to try and look at the question from the national point of view. I regret to have heard those allusions to 1926 and 1924. They were made, however, and when the Leader of the Opposition, replying to the Prime Minister on the question of the general strike in 1926, says, "Why did not the Government realise the position in 1925 when we were informed that 250,000 men in the coal industry were redundant, and tackle this question then?" I would say to him, "What contribution did your party make to the solution in 1926?" They did not assist the Government to deal with the matter. On the contrary, they backed up the general strike, which is one of the principal reasons of the lag in the return to prosperity of industry in this con fry. In my view, the industrial position demands the safeguarding of labour's right to employment in the basic industries or the country, and until we get this we shall not find any solution of the unemployment problem, believe that the safeguarding of steel, pottery, glass, woollens, and a number of other of our basic industries is so urgent a matter that it is positively disastrous that we should be considered to be unable to deal with it now because we are approaching the end of a Parliament. In face of such a serious industrial position, I do not mind what, the time is. Whatever Government is in power and whatever Opposition is in opposition, the two should get together and agree that, the question of the employment of British labour in British industries should cease to be a party question.
I was very interested in the speech of the Prime Minister [HON. MEMBERS: "Speak up!"] There are so many here that really one is inclined to whisper. The right hon. Gentleman treated us to one of those customary doses of hope. Well, "Hope Without Action" would be a very suitable slogan for the attitude of the Government. It recalled to my mind a few
appropriate lines from Campbell's "Pleasures of Hope":
When wrapt in fire, the realms of ether glow,
And Heaven's last, thunder shakes the Earth below,
Thou undismayed shall o'er the ruin smile,
And light thy torch at Nature's funeral pile.
Whatever happens, everything is going well. An appeal was made to us both by the Prime Minister arid by the hon. Member for Barnstaple (Sir B. Peto) to drop all recriminations, all references to the past, and concentrate upon seeing what effective remedy can be found. I do not altogether agree with that. Such of us as have the responsibility of a representative position are bound, in a great crisis like this, honestly to put our views before the country, both as to how the position was brought about and as to the conduct of those who ought themselves long ago to have found a remedy. For four years past, the Liberals and also the Members on the Labour Benches have been painting this picture of the distressed areas. They were met by what we see now—a fitting illustration of the Government's conduct—empty benches. There are not even yawning Ministers. It is a sad commentary on the unreality of the House of Commons that when we had a thing appealing to the erudition, to the historical knowledge, to the ecclesiastical tone of the Prayer Book, the benches opposite were crowded, hut, when we deal with a question which has something to do with giving one of our hungry fellow countrymen a meal, our interest is shown by what we see in the House to-day.
I am entitled to speak with special authority upon these distressed areas, because, I represent one of the most distressed areas on the Tyne. If hon. Members had only their senses rendered alert by what has been presented to mine, they would show a greater solicitude in regard to the lot of these men. I am almost in dread of going up there. Thousands of young fellows with pale, pinched faces, revolutionary eyes, sallow aspects, getting up in the morning, standing around the street corners, with nothing to look forward to but a chance of the dole for some of them, and a chance of their dependants living upon those who are charitable. The Prime Minister used the word "charity" but very properly immediately apologised for it. He said, "Oh, you know that charity in the old version is love in the new." Well, I would tell the Prime Minister that there is a version which is neither the new nor the old. It is the manly version, and in that version it is not charity, it, is not love, but justice that these men want. How do they look at the problem? Are they poor fellows who, by reason of weakened muscles, or because of their slinking into the "pub" to get a glass of beer, cannot get work? No. They are men as fit as the best of us in this House, sturdy fellows, balanced, well-informed. I have spoken to scores of them, and they have made me feel small, with all my supposed chances of education and a gentleman's bringing up, by their knowledge, by their fortitude, by their sturdy outlook amid all the hardships and privations to which they are open.
These are the men who are to go cap in hand to ask for charity. What has happened to them? What has thrown the miners out of work? It was because the Government of this country, for national purposes, chose to give the Silesia mines to Poland. That may be good policy or bad policy, but it has had a disastrous effect. What has thrown the platers and riveters out of work on the Tyne? Because the Government of this country has, rightly or wrongly, chosen to cut down naval armaments. What has congregated so many thousands of men in the necessitous areas, men who, so we are now told, are surplus? Because it was the Government's policy in the time of war to invite them to go there to do emergency work. After having been invited to go there and work having been withdrawn from them, a kindly Government say: "We will provide money to pay your expenses to go somewhere else." These men are conscious that they have been put into that position by a national policy over which they had no control, and they claim that, as a right, they must be looked after by the country which got the benefit of their work when there was work for them to do.
Why has the action of the Government been deferred until now? The Lord Mayor's Fund has been going on for some months. The generous emotions of hundreds of citizens have for years been opening purses for the giving of private donations. It would be too kind to say that the Government have been shamed into coming in now. They have been-worse than shamed. It is not a shamed Government, but a shivering Government that comes in. I saw a statement the other day in a newspaper that three miners from Wales, footsore, arrived in London, having walked all the way. They were arrested because they took the milk out of a can before a door. Those who know history had better pay attention to these warnings. Little incidents like that have been the mustard seeds of great upheavals in times past. It is well that the Government should wake up to the realities of the situation.
References have been made to the events of 1926. If hon. Members opposite are going to recall the ugly past, let them recall it truthfully. The Government in 1926 did what they are doing now. They left it to the last minute of the last hour, and then gave a subsidy, which the Prime Minister said would give them time to think. In order to give them time to think, he said: "We will set up as our thinking machine the Samuel Commission." That Commission was their own selection, and their own thinking machine told them of three or four things that they must do, and one thing that they must not do. The Commission said: "Do not lengthen the hours, because there is a glut in the coal mines." The Government replied: "We will lengthen the hours. We will do those things which you tell us not to do, and we will not do those things which you tell us to do." That was the reason for the strike or lock-out.
The hon. and learned Member tells us that we must deal with these matters truthfully. Surely, the Act to permit employment for eight hours in the coal mines was passed long after the general strike of 1926.
I do not want to dwell upon this point, because I know I am speaking accurately, but they had an opportunity before there was any strike of saying: "Here is the Report of our Royal Commission. It is not a question of who will accept it or who will reject it. We will put it into force." Had the Government done that, the men would
not have been placed in the position in which they were placed, and the trouble would not have arisen. The Government indicated that as the Report was contrary to the wishes of the mineowners, they would follow the mineowners and not the Report. The men, being Britishers, said: "It is not the eight hours we mind; it is not even smaller wages that we mind, but we see that the dice is loaded against us and we will not submit to an injustice." [Laughter.] Laughter is very cheap, and except that it might reflect too much glory upon myself, I would say, with a great man:
There is nothing that so disconcerts a wise luau as laughter from a fool.
Let me deal with the remedies of the Government. The one which is now offered is on a par with the way they have been tinkering with the subject all through. We see this great Government fallen to the pitiable point of the Prime Minister circularising the employers throughout the country, and saying: "Mr. Employer! I am helpless. We do not know what to do. For God's sake, employ one of the men!" A more futile and more contemptible circular was never issued, or one that showed greater ignorance of the very fundamentals of economy. Does the House think that there exists a single employer who is outside Bedlam, who is going to employ a man who will not make an economic return? If the employment would result in an economic return, they do not need the Prime Minister's circular. The next suggestion put forward is on these lines: "In the necessitous and distressed areas there is not much use in giving grants for relief works, because when the works have been completed the men will still be there. We will create a bait to draw the men from the necessitous areas, and we will plant them in the prosperous treas." What is the bait to be? A perrientage grant for relief work in the prosberous areas. I have not seen how it works, but I make this prophecy, that there is no public authority in England which has no unemployment in its area which is going to say: "We will part with £1,000, which we do not want to spend, because there is no need for us to spend it, in order that we may get another £1,000 to bring some strangers to nor town to work where we have no un-
employment." The proposition in such a scheme shows the fallacy underlying it. In this present time, with 1,300,000 people out of work, of whom 300,000 are miners, the Government have actually thought of a drainage scheme. Moreover, they have actually thought of doing some wonderful good by having work done in the London parks.
We are to have training centres. Training centres for what? To fit men to go abroad. Has the right hon. Gentleman who looks after the Dominions ever made inquiries from people who have been abroad. People are not refused in Australia or Canada because they do not know land work. That is not the reason why they are refused. They are refused because Canada and Australia have already too many men standing round their own street corners. The difficulty in these countries overseas is that the young fellows there dislike the land as much as they do here. They will stop in the towns. I have been in Australia, and in my observations, any man from behind a shop counter or from a mining centre is just as fit for the new conditions operating there as is one trained to the farming conditions of this country. In regard to emigration, we make arrangements with the Dominions which are worth nothing to this country in the way of spreading out our population. The only advantage which the Dominions offer so far as emigration is concerned is that they speak the English language. It is always difficult for any young fellows going to South America or any foreign country where they speak another language, but show me any parts of the world where the English language is spoken and I say that there lies good emigration ground for our people whether the parts fly our flag or not. The real way if you want to get the surplus unemployed from this country or to make an impression upon the mass of them by getting some of them away, is to adopt methods different from those now in operation. What is the use of saying: "Here is your passage reduced from £18 to £10." Ten pounds is as far away from these people as £18. We ought to say: "Here is the money for your passage, and here is a £10 note for you when you get to the other side. Go out and take anything that arises. Start in the town or start in the country. Start in a boot shop or wherever you see an opportunity of making your way." The notion of training men for the land, with all sorts of arrangements with the Dominions, is a waste of time and money.
There is the question of transference. What does transference mean? It means transferring the unemployed. Where? It means spreading unemployment over the country. If unemployment is a bad thing, the work of the Transference Board makes it broader than it is at the present time by spreading it. The hon. Member for Barnstaple has spoken about de-rating, and what good it will do. It will not start to work for 18 months, and when it does start to work I should like to have some proof that it is going to give employment to a solitary man. Take the distressed areas. Take my own area—mines, shipping—the amount of money that will go into the shipyards and collieries there will not bridge the gap which stands between what they can now sell at and what persons abroad are prepared to buy at. It is simply so much money put as a present into the pockets of the owners; and it will not absorb a single man. It is all very well to pass these criticisms, but what would we do?
I will tell the hon. and learned Member. We have been saying for many years what we would do; and we have been right. I noticed some words in the Prime Minister's speech to-day which I thought were strangely reminiscent of something I had read before, and I said to my hon. Friends "Have I not heard that before?" They were taken direct out of the Yellow Book. What we have been saying is this. You must wait for a good while before the world has ceased to lick its war wounds, before its purchasing power is what it was before the War. In the meanwhile, you have this immense unemployed army doing nothing, and we say that we can show you what work they can do. The transport of this country is rapidly leaving the rail for the road. Make your roads; reafforestation, slum clearance; the list is very large. But you cannot set this vast army of unemployed upon work like that without getting round a table, without thinking, without organising, and without having the courage to risk your initial capital. Recognise, we say, that this problem has gone beyond tinkering; that you must use the national resources in the way of capital, in the same way you did during the War; that you must turn this great unused, volume of human energy into adding to our national equipment. Do that, and do not mind how many scores of millions it costs you, it will be but a small loss compared with what you are losing now; and you will then have all these men engaged, a nation getting better fitted to take its part in the struggle with other nations when the day of prosperity does return, and, better than all, you will not have the bodies and souls of these men withering in enforced idleness. That is our policy.
When you speak in terms of the Transference Board and migration, the putting down of seats in London parks, and drains and sewers, if your mind rises no higher than that, and you ask us to guide and help you on that plane we say that we cannot; but if your mind rises to the higher plane and you realise that we are at a dangerous pass, that the finest of our men are deteriorating, that the spirit of revolution is fanned, and that the only way to cope with it is by a big bold effort, then we say we can support you. You have £30,000,000 coming into your Road Fund. Cannot you raise a loan of £100,000,000 upon that and use it to set about all these works that should be done? Get the unemployed drawn as it were into camps in the same way as the Army was during the War; get the whole of this peace army working in battalions under proper management and discipline, as you did your military army in time of war; that is the only way to tackle the problem. Until we have a Government big enough to face it in this way we shall have nothing to do but to patiently cry out against the tragedy and danger that in the twentieth century a country having over a million men unemployed, ready and willing to work, and many works to be done, had not a Government with the brains and grit to bring the two together. That is what prosperity will laugh at.
The hon. and learned Member for South Shields (Mr. Harney) has given us a very interesting account of the Liberal solution to some of our difficulties, but he knows that State work such as he has outlined is always expensive and never very successful in its results, because it means taking men away from work to which they have been accustomed and putting them on temporary work. Our policy is to encourage men in the work to which they have been accustomed. The hon. and learned Member gave us a very interesting criticism of our emigration policy. As far as I can make out, he does not approve of our present training scheme and he advocates paying the passage of men to the Dominions, giving them a £10 note in their pocket, and then not bothering about them any more. I should like to remind him that when he went out to Australia he was a trained man, and his rapid rise in the Senate in Australia was probably owing to the intensive training he had in this country before he set sail.
I desire to ask the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Education a question with regard to the Lord Mayor's Fund and its application to certain districts. I agree with the Prime Minister as to the difference between the iron and steel trades and the mining industry. The Prime Minister says that we shall never again absorb the same number of miners as before the War. May I ask what happens in a case such as that which arises in the Division I represent. We are not a distressed area. There are several mines there, and in the last few weeks some of the pits have closed down. The miners who are out of work will be suffering as much as the miners in other parts of the country; and I should like to know whether they are going to benefit by the Lord Mayors Fund. I agree with what the Leader of the Opposition said with regard to allotments. The House is aware that the Industrial Transference Board reported against a scheme of agricultural small holdings for miners owing to the cost, which they said would be about £1,500 or £2,000 in the case of each small holding.
In drawing up their report, they must have taken into consideration the cost of building the house, and I would suggest that in an area like my own, where you have mines on the edge of an agricultural district, that the miners could still live in their houses and cultivate an allotment, and if we could give them some help towards acquiring an allotment it would be a great help. It would help especially those miners who desired to run small poultry farms. It requires a considerable amount of capital, and also some technical knowledge, but the miners as a class have always shown great aptitude in regard to the rearing of animals. They are great experts in pigeon flying, which is a very technical as well as an interesting sport; they are great breeders of dogs, and every one knows that they have always been one of the best customers of the poultry breeder and also successful breeders themselves, and I suggest to the Parliamentary Secretary that she might ask the Industrial Transference Board to reconsider their report as to whether in certain areas a sum of money could be given to miners to acquire agricultural holdings which they would be able to cultivate while still living in their own houses. In their report the Industrial Transference Board refer to the problem of the older men who, naturally, do not want to be transferred. It is hard for them to seek work elsewhere. If they could be given agricultural holdings close to the district in which they are living it would be a great help to many of them; and it would give some work to the younger men who are growing up and who have not been able to find a job. At any rate they would have a chance of keeping in good physical condition, while it would enable the older men to grow food for their families, and perhaps for sale as well.
I do not often intervene in discussions in this House, and when I do it is usually on mining questions. I leave the discussions on general topics to those people who know more about them than I do; I only feel justified in speaking on a subject about which I know something. In view of the statement made by the Leader of the Opposition in reply to the Prime Minister it will not be necessary for my colleagues and I to go at any great length into these questions to-day. I have been connected with the mining industry for 56 years, first, as a miner and then as an adviser of the miners for a considerable number of years; I know something about practically every mine in Great Britain. To-day we are hearing an appeal not on behalf of the general mass of miners but chiefly on behalf of those who live in what are called distressed areas. There is poverty in practically every mining district of the country. Some are worse than others; and, as a number of my colleague will be speaking and will probably deal largely with their own districts, I will confine my remarks to one of the smaller districts in Northumberland. In that district, there is a very considerable number of unemployed at the present time. Prior to the depression in the industry there were 56,000 mine workers employed in that county. Now, according to the official figures, there are 43,000 employed. A compare son would lead one to believe that to-day there are 13,000 unemployed. But those are official figures and are far from being correct. Those who have left school and normally would have gone into the pits are not included in the official figures because they are not insured persons, nor are elderly men who are beyond a certain age. I believe that the official figures are given quite honestly but they are a long way below the actual number of those who are really unemployed.
During the course of his speech, the Prime Minister referred to charity and gave a definition. I believe I can say on behalf of the whole mining community that we resent the taking of charity for our people. I look upon the miners, whom I know very well, and their womenfolk and children, as being the equal of any class in the community. I look upon them as one of the most useful classes in producing a commodity which is absolutely necessary to the life and industrial success of the country. Consequently I feel that it is almost a crime to say that when these men have been thrown out of work and brought to the verge of starvation through no fault of their own, they are to be dealt with by what is called charity. I feel that it is the nation's duty to give them the necessary assistance.
I would like to deal with another religious point of view in addition to the definition of charity. Let me refer to the Lord's Prayer. When we say "Our Father" and" Give us our daily bread," we do not mean to speak as individuals; we speak on behalf of the whole mass. I have said before that in my opinion all children are our children—are national children. If they grow up they will be the citizens of the future, and they are entitled to the best possible opportunity of growing up strong and pure men and women. We can hardly mention the mining difficulty in this House without someone speaking of the calamity of 1926, and putting all the blame, or a large part of the blame, for our present difficulty upon what took place in 1926. "The strike of 1926" is always the expression used. It was not "the strike of 1926." The mine workers had no desire for a strike or a stoppage of work. They were working quite contentedly when the mine owners posted notices at all the collieries that there would be a very serious reduction in wages. The miners felt that the wages which they were receiving were not more than sufficient to keep them in bodily health and they refused to accept the reduction proposed by the employers. They were then locked out.
Suppose that the notice had said that there was to be a reduction of 50 per cent. in the miners' wages on and after a certain date; in other words that the collieries would be shut down if the miners refused to accept that reduction. That would have been called, in the same sense, a strike. But suppose that the employers had posted notices that on and after a certain date the mine workers would have to work for nothing, and the men refused to work for nothing. That, too, would have been called a strike, and all the resulting difficulties would have been attributed to the miners. The truth is that the miners were not earning more than they were entitled to in 1926. It would have been wrong for them quietly and passively to have accepted such a cut in their wages as was proposed. Hon. Gentlemen opposite ought to fix the blame on the people who really caused the trouble, and not on the miners.
As my colleagues will be dealing with their own particular districts later I will refer only to the position in Northumberland. Even according to the official figures there are 13,000 miners idle there. The number is far larger than that, according to my information. In that district there is one of the best classes
of workers in this country in the world, a steady and highly-skilled class of workmen. All the little savings that they had and nearly all their few household goods have gone, and they have been brought almost face to face with starvation. Some time ago an appeal was made in this HOUSE, for something to be done and for a fund to be made available to provide boots for the children in such necessitous areas. The Government evidently has not been able to find time to pass the finance that is necessary for such a provision. At the present time in Northumberland, in common with many other districts, in common with the village in which I have spent 56 years of my life, there are children who, in the depths of this fairly severe winter, are walking about in some cases barefooted and in other cases insufficiently clad and shod. I have here a statement which has been forwarded, without any request from me, by a person who ought to know what the circumstances are. He is one who cannot be accused of having the prejudices of which I and my colleagues might be accused. He is the correspondent for the Blyth and District Association of the National Union of Teachers, and ought to be a fairly respectable person whose name can be depended on. This is the last paragraph of his letter:
As a teacher in a district very much affected by the mining depression I see some very sad sights among the children. Some are going to school barefoot, others are wearing sand shoes, while many have a respectable upper to their boot but on examining the sole one finds there is really none. In spite of this one finds a cheerful optimism amongst the children, and they still try to do their work well.
The House need not take that statement on my authority or on the authority of "mining agitators," as we are called. It comes from this correspondent, who is local secretary of the -National Union of Teachers. If the statement requires any confirmation I have it beside me. I have here two little pairs of boots belonging to children in the Northumberland mining district. They were forwarded by the school attendance officer at one of the schools. This pair, which I am now holding, belonged to a child called Sidney Arnold, of 12, Queen Street. The boots were received by the child on 2nd November, and they have already been
repaired. They were supplied from the Lord Mayor's Fund. Hon. Members can see in what the children have been going to school. But I have another pair here of a similar nature, in holes all round the side as well as on the sole. They also were supplied from the Lord Mayor's Fund. They were received by the child on 1st October and have been repaired. I do not think that any Member of the House would like to see his children going to school barefooted or even with boots such as these. Surely the Government could have found time to do something, so that these poor and unfortunate children could have hoots in which to go to school?
As I have said, we are appealing here not for charity, but for the right of these children to have humane treatment. Their difficulty is not the fault of their parents. There is no more kindly mother on God's earth than the mother of our mining children. Those mothers would freely give the clothing off their own hacks and the boots off their own feet to protect the children in this cold weather, but they are not in a position to do so. We are anxious that something should be done. I am not going to try to fix blame unnecessarily, but I would again add my statement to that already made, that the proposal of the Government is rather a peculiar one. I refer to the proposal that the Government are willing to give pound for round raised by the Lord Mayor's Fund. That would mean that if nothing further were raised by the Lord Mayor nothing further would be voted by the Government. Surely that is rather a riduculous position "We will give if charity gives so much, but we will not give unless charity gives a certain amount." But the need is there all the same and the people are hungry.
I hope that these people will be required again some time to produce coal for our country. It is a remarkable thing that when the mines were shut down the men came out, on one day's notice in some cases and in other cases with the usual fortnight's notice, the mineowners had no further responsibility for the miners and their families. The mineowner did not need to care how they lived or indeed whether they lived at all or not; he was finished with them. But, under the law, he would not be allowed to turn out the pit ponies to starve. The owners are still responsible for the feeding of the pit ponies, but they are not responsible for the mineworkers and the families of the mine-workers.
We sometimes talk of "our" country but it is not our country; it belongs to a limited number of people. Those people own the country—they own the great storehouse provided by Providence for the life of man. They do not own merely the surface of the country but they own all the mineral wealth underneath the surface, right down to the centre, I suppose, and the same sort of people on the other side of the earth own it up to the centre, so that the two lots between them own the earth. When the mines were shut down, these rent charges did not stop. It is true that where the royalty rent depended on the output, that allowance stopped, but the fixed rent did not stop and is still going on while the mines are idle. When the mines resume, it will be necessary to pro- duce the money to pay up all that rent. In these circumstances, we feel that the Government might do considerably more financially than they propose to do. Personally I feel that we are not entitled to blame the miners, and the lockout of 1926 for all our troubles. But we are entitled to blame the Government for not having carried out the recommendations of previous Royal Commissions.
I remember many crises in the mining industry—probably 20 or 25 in the last 55 years—and I remember long periods of depression during which our people came through intense poverty, but the present position is worse than anything I have ever seen during all that time. Distress is more widespread than it has been at any other time and I am inclined to think that you will have those periods as long as the coal mines of the country are privately owned and run in the interests of making profits rather than in the interests of the nation as a, whole. We are told that a number of people are being transferred from the mining districts to other districts. Those of us who represent mining districts get many reminders of that fact, in the shape of little green cards sent in from the Lobby from time to time asking us to go out to speak to some of our mining folk who have been transferred to London. Many of these men find that there is no room for them here, as far as employment is concerned. Many of them are desirous of going back to their own district. I believe there is room for transference. Supposing we take it for granted that never again win all our mines be in full operation? Supposing we assume that there may be 100,000 or 150,000 miners left idle? I believe there is room for them in the country if they had an opportunity of developing the land.
I remember 1872 and 1873, when, after the Franco-German War, thousands of men came from the agricultural districts into the coal mines. They had no experience of mining and it ought to be far more difficult for a person without experience of mining to go down a mine, with all its dangers, than for an inexperienced person to go on to the land. But mining folk in general are not inexperienced as regards agricultural work In the village in which I live there is scarcely a house without its little garden. The miners there are in the midst of an agricultural district and during the harvest they go out, very often, voluntarily and without payment, to help in the gathering in of the crops In that mining district we have on all sides of us thousands and tens of thousands of acres that could be made productive and should be made productive so as to give food to our people as well as employment to those who are willing to work. Miners are willing to work at anything, however dangerous or laborious it may be, rather than subsist on charity. They ought to have an opportunity in their own country of employment.
I have been pleading with the authorities of this House for nearly six months in an endeavour to get something done which would give employment to a number of people in the mining industry. In one of the Northumberland districts some little time ago, a mine-owning firm opened a new colliery called the Kirkheaton Colliery Company, Limited, with offices in Newcastle-on-Tyne. Because there was no main line near they went to the expense of building nearly ten miles of railway. They laid down the most up-to-date plant, providing the cheapest and best method of producing coal. They had the coalfield bored and approved. They have had a splendid report from one of the most highly skilled mining engineers in the North of England. It is considered that there are great possibilities in the colliery and they have spent £100,000 in its development. Now they are being held up, and for what reason? They are being held up for want of men—for want of miners. They are a considerable distance from any other mining district. They are anxious that provision should be made for the housing of miners and their families in this district. They are in a position to start, within a month or two, from 100 to 200 miners. They have cut the coal but, instead of getting it all away from the coal face in one shift, it takes two or three shifts owing to the lack of miners, and they cannot get the miners for want of the housing accommodation.
For six months I have been pleading, and they have been pleading with the local authority—it is a rural county district—to provide housing accommodation. The firm is willing to guarantee to start, right away, 150 or 200 men. At present they are bringing men a distance of ten or twelve miles by omnibus in this fearfully cold weather but they say that if they can get even a loan from the Government, they are willing to erect the houses and that they would he able to employ within a year or so, probably one thousand additional miners. Yet we are transferring miners from Northumberland to London to take work which ought to be available for other people here. The Minister of Health is not responsible; the Minister of Labour is not responsible, but, surely, we ought to be able to fix responsibility, either on the Government or on some other body, in a matter of this kind.
The rural council have refused to erect the houses. I understand it is largely composed of farmers and land agents and one of the reasons why they do not want collieries there is because of the unsightly nature of the great "tips" of stone and stuff that are built up round the pits. They fear that these are going to spoil the appearance of the country. Perhaps a more important reason is that this is a fox-hunting country. Indeed, that is the reason actually given by a member of the council—that it would spoil fox-hunting in the district. I have been to the Minister of Health and the Minister of Labour about this matter and they have tried to prevail on the local council to erect houses in that district. Unless something is done soon, that colliery is going to be shut down and if it is shut down it will never be re-opened. Surely here is one way of providing employment for a number of men. I appeal to the Government to take action in this case. I appeal to them also to consider whether the time has not come when the coal mines of Great Britain should be taken over and run, not on behalf of private ownership, but on behalf of the Government.
Every Member of the House is deeply impressed with the great distress existing in parts of this country more especially in the mining areas. I would ask, however, are we considering exactly how far we can carry the process of temporary relief in which we are now engaged? I am certain that, even if we do adopt exceptional measures hon. Members are anxious to do anything which can, for a moment, relieve the distress. But it may be found that in two months', or six months' or a year's time, we shall have the same pressure upon us and our hearts may once more be moved in this House to say "This is a special ease and we have to adopt special measures." Therefore I ask the Government to consider whether we cannot do something to provide permanent employment of a productive nature. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear!"] I am glad to recognise that the spirit is moving hon. Members opposite in the same direction. 'However great the boon which may be conferred at the moment by the proposals we have been discussing, we must ask ourselves whether in the long run such things as the transference of labour really help in this matter. There is no doubt that, for social reasons, it is wise to try to distribute the burden; but no-one will contend that we are going to provide foreign markets in that way. For that reason, although we may support the Government in these measures to tide over a serious position for the moment, we have to look further ahead in order to see how we can face the changed con- ditions of industry in our country and absorb our displaced workers into new employments.
Here we find an appalling position in the mining areas. It is generally recognised that there may be 200,000 miners, or possibly more, with very little hope of ever being absorbed in the mining industry. I do not know if that figure is an exaggeration. [An HON. MEMBER: It is an under-statement."] In that case it seems clear that in the interests of economy and in the interests of the people concerned, we should make a special effort to find new avenues of employment for these men instead of bringing them from Wales and other mining areas to places like Hertfordshire and Hampshire where they will be displacing other classes of workers. We have to consider the possibility of establishing new industries or of giving these men the opportunity of being trained to take part in existing industries in which there is scope for extension. One instance occurs to me. We have been engaged in a tremendous programme of housing construction. The State and the municipalities have put up vast sums in trying to overtake the demands of the housing hunger which exists in the country. At the same time, with this money we have been purchasing from foreign countries enormous masses of material which the miners of this country could be trained to manufacture.
I will give only one short instance, that of road materials. I should have thought that quarrying for stone was an industry eminently suit able for men who have been engaged in mining, and that we could by some scheme have transferred that work to our own people by merely insisting that State and municipal money must assist only quarrying done by our own people. Exactly the same can be said in regard to the manufacture of bricks. That is an industry which you could teach your men from the mining areas if you could transfer them and see that that work was given to them. More highly-skilled work, such as carpentering, might be almost impossible, but even there the young men in mining areas might be trained, so that when we were building houses we were not bringing in these enormous amounts of manufactured material for doors, window frames, etc. The production of tiles and slates is also eminently suitable for the work of those displaced in the mining industry at the present time.
The counties of Northumberland and Durham have been mentioned, although I rather doubt that anyone in this country would want to prevent the development of a mine because of fox-hunting, and I think that was a bit of poetical licence on the part of the hon. Member for Morpeth (Mr. Smillie), with whose speech otherwise I largely agreed. The House should realise that we still have great agricultural areas, but that the agricultural industry itself is so depressed that the landowner and farmer in many cases are unable to afford the draining which is really necessary for the success of agricultural pursuits. I suggest that that is work which men need not be trained to do, and that rather than some of the palliatives in which we are indulging, it would be better to transfer miners to these agricultural areas and to say to the farmers, "If you will provide the material, we will provide you with the labour, in order that your land may be drained and that you may the more successfully cultivate your crops." Those are one or two instances which, I think, are of a more constructive character.
We have in this country at the present moment this appalling figure of over a million and a quarter unemployed workers, and no party in this House at present has been able to adopt a scheme which is going to absorb any large proportion of them. Hon. Members opposite may have their hopes, but one thing is absolutely certain, and that is that this mining question is a problem which we have got to face. It is no good merely relying on the political doctrines or theories of the past. We have to see how we can possibly absorb so great a number of unemployed in the mining areas, but I would ask hon. Members opposite to remember the Report of the Coal Commission, which said that you cannot increase the domestic consumption of coal in this country unless you can restore the prosperity of the heavy industries. That being the fact, I ask hon. Members opposite, and right hon. Gentlemen on the Front Bench of the Government which I support: Ought we to go pottering along, if it is a fact, as experts declare, that if we could give security to the iron and steel industry in this country, and if it is a fact that it is possible to absorb 40,000 more miners as a result of the recovery of the iron and steel industry, as was pointed out by an hon. Member? If this is possible, ought we not to try it?
I am asking the House, even at this late hour before the Recess, while we have time to think these matters over, would not 40,000 miners, re-engaged as a result of the recovery of the iron and steel industry, do more for our fellow-countrymen than all these expedients and temporary measures which we have been putting before the country for the last few months? This ought not to be a party question; it is an industrial question, concerning the life and happiness of vast sections of the people of our country. I am not concerned with the prosperity of those who are engaged in the iron and steel industry or in the coalmining industry—I have no shares in any of them—but as a British citizen I beg of this House to go away for the Recess determined to concentrate their thoughts on this question, and to come back here and meet this great evil in the same way as all parties met the great dangers of the War. It is no good merely tinkering with the question. A sum of £100,000 here or £100,000 there is spendid, and it is right, and all our hearts are moved towards this, but it is no solution, and what we have to do is to put one idea before our minds, and that is, How can we restore the industries of this country?
I submit that, so long as we are importing into this country manufactured goods alone which have given employment to more than a million and a quarter foreigners, while we have a million and a quarter of our own men on the streets, we can never solve this problem. I ask hon. Members opposite to bring a new mind to this question. Jet them have the credit for it if necessary, only let somebody have the credit, and let us get ahead with this question, and see once more that British industry has a chance to survive against sweated imports. Hon. Members opposite themselves realise the conditions of sweating, according to British trade union principles, that exist abroad, and we should see to it that this sweating shall not be permitted to deprive the British workman longer of his birthright..
The Prime Minister this morning asked that suggestions should be made, and he said they would have very careful consideration on the part of the Government. It is refreshing to find his own supporters at least prepared to make suggestions along constructive lines, even although some of them may not be the sort with which we are in absolute agreement. We are to-day placed in rather a singular position. The Government come down to the House and present a Supplenmentary Estimate in order to secure taxpayers' money to hand over to a private charitable fund to be disbursed to relieve distress in this country, a matter which is a national concern and no private concern at all, and with which the Government themselves ought to deal directly rather than through any particular private agency. There has been the usual stress laid on the fact that 10'26 is really the cause of our present difficulties, and references from this side have shown that 1926 was not really the cause of the difficulties. For the benefit of hon. Members opposite, may I briefly sketch the history of the mining situation which has brought us to the present position?
During the War the Government undertook to give financial guarantees to the coalowners of this country Some people called it coal control, because of the fact that there was a. Coal Controller appointed, but there was no kind of Government control at all, except that they gave certain financial guarantees if certain things were done. As time went on, export prices went up to a tremendous height, and the miners of this country, feeling that they were not getting their fair share, made a demand that they should have some increase in their wages, as a result of the tremendous amount of money that was coming into the industry from these very high export prices, and because, of course, at the same time they were having to meet the additional cost. of living. The Government would not meet the demands of the miners. All that they did was to say, "If you will agree to the appointment of a Royal Commission, we, on our part, will say to you definitely that we will accept the Report and recommendations of that Commission in the letter and in the spirit." As a matter of fact, the Government did appoint a Commission, presided over by Mr. Justice Sankey, and the evidence given before that Commission showed that the whole industry then, in 1919, was in a most chaotic condition and that the employers of that day were not making any attempt to meet the real difficulty in this industry and were not prepared to bring it up to modern conditions.
The first interim Report was to the effect that the miners were entitled, on the evidence before that Commission, to some slight increase in their wages and to a reduction of hours, but the trouble began when the second Report was issued, that Report showing that the time had arrived when the industry ought to be taken hold of by the nation, and that the general public of this country ought to give direction through the Government as to how things should be run in that industry. Then all the vested interests in this country signed memorials to the Government of the day, demanding that they should not put that Report into operation in the letter and in the spirit—in other words, that they should ignore it—and, of course, the Government did ignore it. But the Government did something else. They came along and said to the Miners' Federation, "In order to meet the increased wages and the reduced hours, we think the time has come when there should be an increase in the price of coal." They asked us whether we would agree to a policy of increasing the price of coal by 0s. a ton, and for a period to refuse to have any strikes or disputes, and also to put our backs into it in order to increase production. The Miners Federation refused to accept such a suggestion, and they passed a unanimous resolution telling the Government of this country that if they wanted the mining industry to be put on a right basis they, the miners, were prepared to give them all their assistance and all their support in order to carry out the second Report of the Sankey Commission.
The increased price came into operation, and the only benefits that accrued to the miners of this country from the Sankey Commission were the Seven Hours Act and the welfare scheme. Otherwise, the Government allowed matters to proceed along the old lines. Then there was a further crisis, in 1920, when we had a, three weeks' strike, because the Government refused to give the miners what they considered to be their just rights, owing to the income into the industry; and we were again told that if we would accept a scheme called the datum line scheme everything would be happy, and there would be no further trouble. We adopted the datum line, but the result was that it proved to be a cure that made the disease worse, because we found ourselves in the position that, by having increased production, it was impossible to get rid of it; and we found ourselves again simply side-tracked, both by the owners and by the Government. The Government, finding themselves in a difficulty, came along, and, without giving any warning or notice, broke the agreement to carry on these financial guarantees until August, 1921. They discontinued those guarantees at the end of March, 1921, with the result that all the war wages that the miners had been granted to meet the extra cost of living went at one fell swoop, and the miners were placed in art impossible position.
As a result of that dispute, there evolved the ascertainment which is now in operation. The ascertainment, we were told at that time, would give us some wonderful benefits, and give us all for which we had been asking. The ascertainment to-day is practically a farce, because, apart from one or two items in bulk, we are never in a position as workers to know what is exactly the position in the mining industry. Nobody will tell see that when we in Durham owe X11,000,000 to the owners, that reflects the correct state of the mining industry. Since those days there have been other inquiries. There was the Buckmaster Inquiry, which came to the same conclusion as the Sankey Commission, that the industry was being directed on wrong lines. Then we had the Macmillan Inquiry, before which the Miners' Federation did not appear. It was a one-sided inquiry, but it came to exactly the same con elusion.
There you see the trend of things all along, and it was bound to result in what happened in 1926. In 1925 the Government gave a subsidy in order to tide over the difficulties, but in the interim they did nothing. The Samuel Commission was appointed, and they made certain recom- mendations, but again the Government refused to centre on the real disease in the mining industry. Therefore, we have the situation as it is to-day. The Government say that they are not prepared to enter into it, but that they are going to allow the owners and workmen to fight out their own battles and to seek their own salvation. We say that this is a national matter, and that the mining industry is important, because it is a basic industry, and that, if the mining industry is diseased, all the other industries naturally become sick. We say, therefore, that, if the Government have any care or desire to do the right thing on behalf of the nation, it is their duty to get down to this problem, and to cure the disease in the industry in order to relieve the situation all round.
The most degrading thing that happened in the House of Commons was the passing of the Eight Hours Act in 1926. I have a brother, an under-manager, who has been in the pit all his life, and he tells me that to-day some of the best workers he has ever had under him—men who are accustomed to work short hours and to work hard—are now, owing to the increase of hours, finding themselves in the position of being absolutely exhausted at the end of the day. The other day, I met a man whom I have known all my life. He told me that he had recently been re-employed. He had been idle for a period of a fortnight short of four years, and he had been reemployed. He had been idle for a period of a fortnight short of four years, and he had been re-employed six weeks and his hands were getting into a reasonable condition. He showed me the pay bill of himself and another man for last week, and it showed that they had been responsible for producing 651 tons of coal that week. The amount of the bill, after deductions, came to £4 4s. 5d. or £2 2s. 20. for each of the two men. It is one of the greatest scandals in the history of this country, that men should have to go down the pit for wages of that kind.
The distress to-day is not only among the unemployed, but among the employed men. That is an indictment that the Government are bound to accept, for it is their responsibility and that of nobody else. There is another indictment against the Government. An Order was issued by the Minister of Health, called the Relief Regulation Order, 1911, which was designed to provide a measure of elasticity to meet emergencies. It was originally laid down that guardians are only empowered to provide relief without work to the lame, the impotent, the old, the blind, and such other persons as are poor and not able to work. This Order gave some elasticity to the guardians, and, as a result, we find these figures published by the Minister of Health. In 1920, 305,414 persons received out-door relief; in 1922, there were 1,559,556. The Ministry took another course, and issued further instructions that guardians were not to be permitted to have this little freedom, and that they must get back to the original position as rapidly as possible. In our own area in the North of England, the Minister prevented guardians giving relief to people in distress, particularly to young unmarried men, and they sent numbers of these men to certain centres to be medically examined, in order to find whether they were in need of a meal. That was the kind of thing that was happening under the Minister of Health, and the Ministry has gone on in that spirit until we have reached the present state of things.
The President of the Board of Education went to Durham County and left with the idea that the county was still not so poor but that it could raise a good deal of money to meet much of the difficulty with which we were surrounded. I am at a loss to understand how he could have got that impression. When you examine the figures, you find that the assessable value in 1905 was £3,745,000; to-day it is £4,066,000. In 1905 the services of health, education, police and roads cost the ratepayers in our county £218,654, and for poor relief £134,000. Last year the former services cost the ratepayers £1,109,143 and for Poor Law relief alone £1,520,000. The total cost of all these services to the ratepayers in 1905 came out at £352,654 whereas last year the total was £2,629,143. It is impossible to ask the ratepayers in Durham for any additional rate. Since June, 1920, the Durham Miners' Association have paid out in relief to their members over £3,000,000, so that from every point of view, we think that we have done extraordinarily well.
Now the Government say that, rather than use the existing machinery through the boards of guardians and deal effectively with the problem of under-feeding and under-clothing, they will ask the House to give £150,000 of the taxpayers' money in order to hand it over to a charitable fund, which will mean the creation of a new organisation. I make bold to say that, had the Labour party the opportunity of the present Government, we would at once give instructions to all the local authorities to deal with this under-feeding and under-clothing and to see that there is no starvation in the country. Then we would get down to the, problem of dealing with the disease in industry, which is the canker of the whole situation, and which is having such a terrible effect among our people.
The Prime Minister asked us for suggestions. We have made suggestions from this side of the House ever since I came here in 1922. May I direct his attention and that of his colleagues again to the value of reorganisation, and the better utilisation of coal, for the purpose of finding some room for absorbing the 200,000 men who are supposed to be surplus in the mining industry. May I also refer to what has been said by his own supporters. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Hillhead (Sir R. Horne) at the Fuel and Power Conference said that he had come to the conclusion that it was no use going along the lines on which we were going, and that it was our duty as a nation to get down and find the remedy for the disease in the coal industry in order to help all the other industries in the country, and thereby find a solution for the terrible unemployment situation. The President of the Board of Trade, speaking to some business men during the Recess, pointed out that the present action of employers in adopting suicidal, cut-throat competition was not a means of bringing industry back to an economic position. When there is talk of peace in industry, we say to the Government that they must first get peace among the employers and prevent that undercutting and competition which goes on to the disadvantage of the workers; then there might be an opportunity of getting on to the road that will lead to something like peace in industry.
Again, I have to ask whether the Government have done anything with regard to the conference of coalowners who met to deal with the question of co-operative selling. Has anything developed from that? We have talked about co-operative selling for years, and apparently the owners have taken the matter in hand. Can we have any information as to whether there is any possibility along that line in the early future. Then may I direct the attention of the Government to an article written by Sir Richard Redmayne, a man who was connected with the Mines Department for many years, in a journal called "Britannia." In that article the Government will get much food for thought with regard to the present situation. We are anxious that the present state of distress in this country shall be overcome as rapidly as possible, but the workers are not asking for charity. The Prime Minister may be right in saying that the correct interpretation of charity is love, but what the workers want is not the kind of charity that is being suggested to-day; they are anxious to have security. It is security which is so material in the homes of the working class, and it is the duty of the Government to use every effort in their power to deal with the menace in which we are involved to-day, just as they would deal with the menace of the war, and use every opportunity in order to bring that necessary security into the lives of the people.
There are just two points which I wish to make in reference to the grant in aid of the Government. I want to support the suggestion made by the right hon. Member for Aberavon (Mr. Mac-Donald) when he put forward the suggestion that other organisations should be considered. My point is that the British Legion, whose treasurer I happen to be, gave £1,000 to the Lord Mayor's Fund. Now the Government will give a pound for every pound of that £1,000, but the British Legion in the last two and a half months have spent £7,000 in South Wales in the relief of distress among miners and £5,000 in Northumberland and Durham, making £12,000 in 12 weeks. I take it that they will not get pound for pound for that. When I say that they will not, I do not suggest for a moment that the money should be refunded, but I mean that the British Legion will, in all probability, go on spending £1,000 a week in these districts, and perhaps more. It would be better perhaps if they gave that £1,000 to the Lord Mayor's Fund and thereby got it doubled instead of spending it themselves. That would mean that the Lord Mayor's Fund which has no organisation—at any rate as yet—would be kept. extremely busy, while the British Legion, with a very good organisation and committees all over the country, would have nothing to give these committees. I suggest that the Government should consider that, for every pound the Legion and other organisations spend in the relief of distress in the districts, the Government should give a pound to the Lord Mayor's Fund. I do not mean that it should be given to the organisation which is spending it, because that would mean that they would be spending nothing, and I do not want the miners to -be done out of it.
My other point, is this: The British Legion has more than 2,000 committees, all manned by voluntary workers, who know exactly the people with whom they have to deal and who work all through the year in the relief of distress. Last year, they gave out over £300,000. That shows they are good fellows and that they know how to give the money out. I make this offer to the Government, and I hope they will avail themselves of it. The Legion would like to place at their disposal the whole of their organisation. They would like to co-operate in every way. They feel they are in touch with the people who need help, and they want the Government to use them.
I intervene at this stage to implement the undertaking given by the Prime Minister that I should say a word upon the Scottish position. Anyone who has listened to the speech of the hon. and gallant Gentleman who has just spoken will welcome the spirit in which the offer was made. The House will realise that the Lord Mayor's Fund does not extend to Scotland. Therefore the Government, as they clearly indicate in the Supplementary Estimates which are presently to come before the House, are providing a sum of money calculated on the basis of the usual eleven-eightieths of whatever the amount may be which the Government give towards this relief scheme in England and Wales. I need hardly say that I think that that arrangement is to the advantage of Scotland and will provide and has already provided, a very considerable sum to be placed at once at the disposal of the Government in Scotland for taking immediate steps to deal with this difficult problem. The House will observe, too, that this grant will be administered by the Secretary of State for Scotland. On that point, I should only like to say that, while this sum appears upon the Scottish Office vote, it will be administered in Edinburgh through the Departments in the capital of Scotland.
I have taken steps to call together tomorrow in Edinburgh a conference to endeavour to set up a central clearing station to deal with this problem. To my mind, it is essential, if this subject is to be adequately and economically dealt with, that there should be a central coordinating body. Therefore, I have issued invitations—at rather short notice, I am afraid, but I hope with some measure of success—to the Lord Provosts of Edinburgh and Glasgow, and to the Lords Lieutenant of those counties which are mainly concerned with this problem, namely, Lanark, Fife, Ayr, Midlothian, East Lothian, Westlothian, Clackmannan, and Stirling. I have also invited the co-operation and assistance of those who represent the Outram (Glasgow Herald) National Miners' Fund, and the representatives in Scotland of the Mining Association of Great Britain and representatives of the National Union of Scottish Mine Workers. I hope that as the result of that conference tomorrow we may arrive at the outline of, and general agreement on, a scheme fol. carrying out the necessary work. This meeting will discuss the whole position, and especially the problem of setting up coordinating organisations both central and local. I hope that, as regards not only those sums which are contributed towards the central Outram Fund but to any other fund, agreement may be arrived at that all these resources be pooled. The central advisory committee which would advise in the distribution of the Government grant and also on the best means of supplementing voluntary contributions would, I think, regard it as essential that any distribution which is made through these funds should come through the central advisory committee.
It is very necessary, if those who are working in these schemes will agree to it, that the applications for relief should come through the ordinary existing channels, which are well known to the public in the district, such as the education authorities, the Poor Law authorities, and the chill welfare and maternity authorities. If that is done, there is some reason to hope that we shall avoid overlapping. The Leader of the Opposition said that in Scotland we provide boots and shoes through the education authorities in a manner which is not done in England. I think it is clear that we have been able in Scotland to meet a considerable amount of the need which has fallen upon that part of the population. I would only emphasise this, because I hope that nothing which is done in dealing with this problem of the co-ordination, either of the voluntary contributions or of the amount which the Government are contributing, will in any way be regarded as relieving those authorities of their statutory duties. This is supplementary and in addition to what those bodies will still be required under they law to carry out. As I view the problem, I think that one of the most clamant needs is to deal with the women and the children of under-school age, and that more particularly the efforts of this central advisory committee should be directed to the supply of boots and clothing in the first instance. It may be that in the case of school children the addition of a milk diet would he of material benefit in many cases, since, following upon the experiments which the Government Departments have carried out, it, is clear that the addition of a milk diet is of material advantage to those of early years. There remain, of course, problems such as that of dealing with the older men, and particularly that of assisting the younger men to get into a fitter state to be absorbed into industry through transference.
I would add that my office has from time to time received reports from all parts of the country as to the general condition not only of the adults but of the school population. Those reports are not as alarmist as some people would have us believe, but the problem to which we have to turn our minds is to look ahead and to use preventive measures which would obviate a decline in the physical condition of these people in this stricken industry. We have to take in time those steps which will preclude any chance of a greater deterioration in their physical condition which obviously would leave them open to the ravages of any epidemic which might arise. If that is done, if the first efforts of this coordinating body of which I have spoken are directed towards setting up a local organisation, which ought to be as elastic as possible, which ought to co-ordinate not only the efforts of all the recognised authorities working under a Government Department, but which would also, I hope, call in to the assistance of this local committee not only the education authority but perhaps representatives of the school management committees and of the miners' representatives in those districts, then one would hope to get thereby a scheme which would bring to the notice of those who are distributing this support and assistance the cases which most urgently need and ought to get this relief.
If we can proceed upon those lines, with co-operation and good will, I think it can be done. I hope that in the handling of this and other problems of which the Prime Minister spoke in Scotland, as in England, we shall have such advantages as we may be able to get from transference, from training, and from works of public utility. All these things, if they are combined, will mitigate these hardships. But I would say to hon. Gentlemen in all parts of the House that, even if this conference to-morrow is but a preliminary conference, I trust there will grow from it a unanimity of purpose and a co-ordination of effort which will assist us in making the best use of the funds which are placed at our disposal.
The Secretary of State used the words "stricken industry." Does he mean by that that only those people who are engaged in the mining industry—they, and their wives and children—are to get this relief, or will it be given to all in the necessitous areas who require it? With regard to his statement about the local authorities and their responsibilities, does he or his Department intend to issue a Circular Letter calling upon them to administer the fund in such a way as will ensure all women or children who are in need being properly provided for?
This scheme is dealing with distressed mining areas both in England and Wales and in Scotland, and is limited to those areas. Within those areas there may be steel workers and iron workers who will be dealt with, as I have explained to another hon. Member. With regard to the other question, it will be for myself to decide, after our conference to-morrow. I desire to have the opportunity of the discussion tomorrow to see what steps it is necessary to take before I issue to the various Departments such advice or directions as may be suitable. With regard to the education authority, obviously one of the things I should do would be to say that I hoped they would place at our disposal all their plant and other arrangements for feeding.
The statement of the right hon. Gentleman, coupled with that of the Prime Minister, clearly indicates that there is distress and poverty in Scotland as well as in England and Wales, and that the Government, in this case also, are refusing to shoulder their responsibilities. I take it that one of the functions of Government is to look after the interests of the community. When there is a displacement of workpeople consequent upon a dislocation of trade, then there is a responsibility upon the Government to provide either work or maintenance for those people. That is one of the ordinary functions of a Government and in this case there is an even greater measure of responsibility, because the conditions in the mining industry can be largely laid at the door of the present Government. Notwithstanding the advice they received from this part of the House, the Government in 1926 forced the eight hours system upon the miners. What the result of that has been was shown in an answer which the Secretary for Mines gave in the House the day before yesterday. The figures he quoted then showed that month by month from January 1927, there had been a gradual decrease in the number of miners employed in this country, until now the number is lower than at any period in the last 30 years.
After bringing the industry to that condition—or at least being largely responsible for it—the Government left it to flounder in the morass which had been created, and only now, at the eleventh hour, do they come forward to assist. It in response to the appeals which have been made. During the last three or four months the attention of the Government has on every possible occasion been called to the distress and suffering in the mining districts. Deputation after deputation has met the Minister of Education, the Minister of Labour and the Minister of Health. In spite of that, no attempt has been made to deal with the conditions prevailing in those areas. Indeed, the Ministry of Labour have been doing all they can to increase the distress prevailing. Though we have been told that there is a surplus of labour in the mining industry and that it is impossible for thousands of miners to find work, a large number of miners have been thrown off the books of the unemployment exchanges and deprived of their benefit. That action in itself has increased the distress in these areas. When we have met the Minister of Health, no assistance has been forthcoming, and the Ministry of Health have been increasing restrictions upon boards of guardians, refusing to pay anything towards the support of able-bodied workmen. That, again, has added to the distress in the mining areas.
When it comes to the Minister of Education, only last week he gave us to understand there was no real suffering in the mining areas of South Wales so far as boots and food are concerned, and that the public funds were sufficient to meet the needs with the exception of clothing. He said he was prepared to agree that the local authorities should feed the children if medical certificates were issued that this was necessary. That is a very cruel method, because it means that the child's constitution has to be gradually undermined, it has to suffer from malnutrition—and another name for malnutrition would be semistarvation—before the medical officer of health will decide that the child is in need of nourishment. While receiving that nourishment the child will reach a certain state of convalescence, and then the same cruel process of slow starvation will be gone through again, until the child has again to be certified as being in want of nourishment. This policy adopted by the Board of Education is the most inhuman form of punishment for innocent children.
The problem of poverty in the mining industry has been far-reaching. It has agitated the mind of the public and arrested the attention of everyone who has any regard for the welfare of the community. Such an atmosphere has been created that the Government now realise that it has become absolutely necessary, even imperative, for them to take some steps; but the Government are not giving a lead; all that the Government are going to do is to follow the lead which has been given by certain charitable organisations and the movement initiated by people who are in sympathy with the miners. They will give £1 for every £1 collected. That is a very peculiar condition to lay down. At the present time, undoubtedly, there is a wave of sympathy for the miners, there is a Christmassy feeling about which appeals to the generosity of the public; but that feeling will not continue for ever; as we know from past experience, people will get tired of contributing. Assuming that these things are not going to accumulate in the future to the extent which they have done in the past, what will be the position of the Government? Will the Government reduce its quota in proportion to the reduction in the amount of funds corning from the general public? If the genera' public only subscribed £1,000 a week, does that mean that the contribution, of the Government will not be more that. £1,000 a week? A condition of that sort is absurd: If there is suffering in the mining industry, the Government should realise that that is a national responsibility, and they should assume the responsibility for alleviating distress in those areas utterly regardless of what the general public is going to do.
The Government are going to give £150,000, presumably on the ground that that will be in proportion to the amount the general public have already sub scribed. We have in South Wales and Glamorganishire thousands of unemployed, and many of these have been unemployed for three, four, and even five years. The result is that all their resources have gone, including their household utensils and clothing. Tin children require clothes, and their homes need replenishing, and to meet this situation the Government offer £150,000. For how long are they going to provide £150,000? The Lord Mayor's Fund has been in existence for about five months, and the amount of public subscription i.e; about £150,000. The Government are giving another £150,000. How long will that sum last? The sum of £300,000 will maintain the unemployed miners for about 20 weeks, and the contribution of the Government amounts to about (3d per week for each individual unemployed.
We shall be told that a large number of the miners are in receipt of unemployment benefit, and therefore will not be, entitled to receive a contribution from the; amount contributed by the general public and the Government. When it is examined, it will be found that the total amount contributed by the Government is on the basis of £7,500 a week to relieve the distress that prevails in Scotland England and Wales. That is not sufficient to meet the needs and requirement, of the unemployed in South Wales alum. In the Rhondda Valley there are 13,000, men unemployed, and there are 13,000 children in the schools of the Rhondd[...] area. The President of the Board of Education referred to the Rhondda Valley, and he told us that a large number of pairs of boots had been sent from the Lord Mayor's Fund to that district. The total number of pairs of boots was 6,000, notwithstanding the fact that the President of the Board of Education has definitely stated that 21,000 children require boots at the present time. Therefore, the small sum contributed by the Government is not sufficient to meet the needs and requirements even of the children in South Wales.
With regard to the best method of dealing with this matter, why should the Government not utilise the services of the local authorities Why should this money, or at least a portion of it, not be paid over to the local authorities and leave them to feed the children? I know I shall be told that this duty is already carried out by the education authorities, but many of those authorities in the distressed areas have not the money to feed the children even on the basis of the percentage grant. Why not arrange for the co-operation of the education authorities with regard to the feeding of the school children? Why not utilise the administrative machinery of the Ministry of Health to provide for the children who are under school age, and also provide for the able-bodied, and the women? Are we to understand that the Lord Mayor's Fund is going to be used to open soup kitchens in the different areas? Would it not be better to utilise the administrative organisation of the Ministry of Health, so that the money could be sent to the homes of these people? If it is to be a question of opening soup kitchens, I do not think that will be to the best interests of the people for whom this money has been subscribed. After all, we are dealing with respectable and intelligent men and women, and they deserve something more from the Government than charity. This is not a question of charity, but a question of the rights of the people as citizens who have done their duty to the Government and the country, and they ought to receive something far higher and nobler than charity from the hands of the Government.
The question naturally arises as to whether it is not possible for the Govern- ment to co-ordinate this distribution in such a manner that the Education Department and the Ministry of Health could utilise their administrative organisation. I should like to know whether this particular fund is going to be used to meet the possibility of the Minister of Labour refusing to extend the transitional period next April under the National Health Insurance Act. There is a great deal of anxiety in the minds of miners at the present time as to what is really going to happen next April. I hope the Government, merely because they believe that they are now subscribing towards the alleviation of distress, are not going to take advantage of that fact and say that the 30-contributions rule will apply in April.
Is it possible for the Government to consider ways and means with respect to the provision of work for these people? The Prime Minister mentioned the fact that generous terms were given to certain local authorities under the Lord St. Davids Committee scheme, and that they could get money in order to carry out land drainage and other work. May I point out that that applies only to the authorities in non-necessitous areas? There is no justification for that condition. Take, for example, the Glamorgan-shire County Council. Glamorgan is a necessitous area, but that does not mean that the whole of Glamorganshire is going to he a devastated area, because no money is going to be given to it to carry on absolutely necessary work. The Leader of the Opposition mentioned the Inter-Valley road scheme which was agreed to in 1924, and three-quarters of the scheme has already been carried out. If the Minister of Transport were to give sufficient money to the Glamorgan County Council to complete that work, it would find employment for 1,500 men for six months. In that district, at the bottom of the mountains to be dealt with under that scheme, there are two villages in which there is not a single man working, and, if work was continued on this scheme, they would be close to that area. The various Government Departments, like the Ministry of Transport, the Ministry of Health, and the Ministry of Labour should co-ordinate their administration, ascertain what work is necessary to be done in the various areas up and down the country, and find out the best way of providing ways and means.[...] that particular way, in Glamorganshire alone, work could be found for 7,000 men without bringing into operation the recommendations of the Industrial Transference Board. The Government should not be satisfied with what is being done at the present time, but organisations should be undertaken on lines which would bring work into those areas and relieve distress by the provision of works rather than by charitable methods.
There is only one proposition that I want to put forward. I am sure that hon. Members from Scotland will have listened with very great satisfaction to the statement which has just been made by the Secretary of State for Scotland. There is one thing upon which I think we ought to congratulate ourselves in Scotland, and it is that during the last four or five years, notwithstanding the great spread of distress, in no single case has our local government system broken down or failed to function. That system has managed to keep its head above water, and every local authority in Scotland has managed to do that during the last five years, and during 1926. Therefore, we ought to welcome the clear statement made by the Secretary of State for Scotland that the local authorities in Scotland will be expected to carry on in the future as they have done in the past, and carry out to the full all their present statutory duties, irrespective of any additional assistance that may come to the distressed areas in the form of charitable relief and so forth.
Perhaps the most important thing is to see that the young children under school age do not suffer from the prevailing depression. I am sure that all hon. Members, irrespective of party, will agree with the Secretary of State for Scotland when he said that the first objective of any relief should be directed to seeing that the very young children in distressed areas do not suffer. The hon. Baronet the Member for Barnstaple (Sir B. Peto) said that, so far as transference was concerned, it seemed to be not so much a question of transferring the unemployed as transferring unemployment. No one suggests that transference alone will remedy the great problem with which the whole nation is confronted at the present time. We must always remember, in considering these special measures which have to be taken in a time of emergency like the present, that the only thing that will permanently and radically relieve the problem with which we are confronted is an increase in the general trade of the nation, and particularly among the heavy industries. That fact must never be lost sight of. We must always realise that questions such as we are discussing particularly to-day must be temporary questions, and more or less superficial in relation to the main fundamental problem.
The Prime Minister, in his speech this morning, said very truly that improvements which may be taking place at the present moment will not bear fruit for a few months. He instanced the case of the purchasing power of the working classes. In 1926 that was seriously depleted, and we had to bear the whole burden of it in 1927. To-day the purchasing power is very much better and steadier, and we shall benefit from that next year. But there is another thing which I think is even more important. Up to last year it seemed that our industrialists were not going to learn the lesson of the times, and were not really going to put their house in order and adapt their industries to modern conditions. This year an amazing change has taken place, and now every day in the newspapers we read of startling developments in the sphere of industry, and particularly among the heavy industries.
Great developments in organisation and reconstruction are taking place in the coal trade. This morning we read of amalgamations in the iron and steel industry, and yesterday also we read of amalgamations. The process of rationalisation of industry and reconstruction of industry is being carried out to a very great extent. That means at the moment a considerable amount of disorganisation, and a considerable amount of displacement of labour, hut I am perfectly certain that in the long run the benefit will come back to industry and trade in this country with redoubled force. We have to go through a difficult time while these changes are being carried out, but I do not believe that any hon. Member will deny that this process of reconstruction, re- organisation and amalgamation which is going on in the heavy industries of this country at the moment, while it involves us in great difficulties, will benefit this country to an immense extent in the years to come.
No, Sir; I am just coming to that particular problem. I think the Prime Minister was quite right when he said that the iron and steel industry, given a revival of European trade and world trade such as there is every reason to expect, will undoubtedly be able to employ all the people who are at present unemployed in that industry. I do not agree with the hon. Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Shinwell) that we shall be able in the near future to employ the whole of those who are now unemployed in the coal trade. I do not think that the coal industry can expect in the next few months to absorb anything like the number of miners that were working, say, in the year 1920. That is why I am very glad to see this special relief concentrated upon the distressed mining districts, because that is where the emergency problem has arisen. The real question which ought to cause us some anxiety, and which I want to put to the Government this afternoon, is this.
If you accept the fact that in some of these mining districts there will never be anything like general employment again, the question is whether we can afford to stand by and see two or three districts, of which, obviously, Durham and South Wales are the worst, remaining like stagnant pools in this country, constantly and steadily draining the statutory insurance funds like the Unemployment Insurance Fund and the Health Insurance Fund, and removing them from an actuarially sound position. I believe that, but for two or three mining districts, at the outside, in this country, it would not be difficult to get the remainder of the country, under these schemes, into a sound actuarial position, and to put the Unemployment Insurance Fund and the Health Insurance Fund on to the sound actuarial position which they were always intended to occupy.
When you have districts like South Wales and Durham, with tremendous unemployment and distress, as is the case at the moment, and with no immediate prospect of improvement, they act as a kind of sink into which these funds are constantly poured. They drain the funds year after year, and make it very unlikely that they will ever get back again on to a proper actuarially sound basis, upon which all purely insurance funds ought to be. The point that I want to put to the Government is whether, if the present conditions seem likely to continue for a more or less indefinite period, it would not be advisable to deal with this problem, not merely functionally, as we are doing at the moment, but also, so far as these particular areas are concerned, geographically; and whether it would not be better, in the interests of national economy and in the interests of the industrial community, to isolate for a period, say, two of these districts, Durham and South Wales, and to administer them under special conditions, quite independently of the Unemployment Insurance Fund and of the Health Insurance Fund, with financial responsibility devolving upon the State—simply for a period, while these particular districts are going through quite exceptional depression, as they are at the present moment. I am very much afraid that, if we allow them to drag on for an indefinite period, we may seriously and irreparably damage the actuarial surpluses of the Unemployment and National Health Insurance Funds.
There is only one other point that I want to make. I hope that hon. Members opposite will not think that I am trying to make a purely constituency point, or that I am treating this question in a light spirit, but I heard the Leader of the Opposition say that the question of food and the distribution of food in these really distressed areas was, perhaps, the most important of all. I quite agree with him, because, while it is untrue to say that. starvation exists over any large territory in this country, it is true to say that under-nourishment exists; people in some of the most distressed areas are tightening their belts. I speak from personal experience, and I should like to tell the House in a word or two what happened last autumn.
We had on the East Coast of this country an absolutely exceptional herring shoal, and our fleet, within 20 miles of the coast, was catching them by hundreds of trans every night. Owing to the absence of a European market, however, that fishing was shut down in the middle of what would have been the most productive season since the year 1903. I made this point about two years ago, and hon. Members opposite jeered at me and said that herrings were no use as food; but everyone knows, or ought to know, that there is no more nutritious and no more succulent article of food than the herring. We could have had an immense supply of cured herrings for distribution in these distressed areas, and at very low prices because it is about the cheapest article of food that can be obtained. It seems to me to be nothing short of a tragedy that that has not taken place, simply because the herring, although naturally so cheap an article, has never been popularised by any one on either side of this House, in trade, or anywhere else in this country. It is thought to be good enough for Russians, Poles, Jews, and Germans, hut not for people in this country. We have around our coasts, at a distance of not more than 20 miles one of the best and cheapest forms of foodstuff, while at the same time people, are really suffering in our distressed areas, and no one has thought it worth while to go down to those distressed areas and advocate herrings as an article of food.
If the hon. Member will join me, during the Recess, I will go all over the mining districts of Scotland and endeavour, with his co-operation, to popularise the herring as an article of food.
I would beg hon. Members to remember, when we are discussing the distribution of food and these special relief measures, including the Lord Mayor's Fund, that they are temporary measures to deal with what we hope will be a temporary emergency, and that the fundamental problem is to get a real, permanent revival of trade in the heavy industries of this country. The Prime Minister has frequently stated that we are going through an industrial revolution, and, when you are in that phase, quack remedies of any kind are of no permanent use at all. What we have to do is to see that that revolution reaches its logical and correct conclusion with the least possible delay.
I do not intend to follow any of the herrings alluded to by the hon. Member for East Aberdeen (Mr. Boothby); and, although it would have been fascinating to draw the hon. Member for Barnstaple, (Sir B. Peto) and the hon. and gallant Member for Bournemouth (Sir H. Croft) into the tariff by-path, quite obviously what we are dealing with to-day is the crisis in the heavy industries. The problem of the coal industry, clearly, cannot be dealt with by safeguarding, and, as for the iron and steel industry, those hon. Members who believe in tariffs must realise that a- period of inquiry would be necessary, at least with regard to that industry, in order to investigate what would be the effect on other industries. No one imagines that the taxation of a great raw material of this kind can be brought about suddenly without any kind of inquiry or investigation. Therefore, it cannot be said that as regards the position of emergency and crisis that we have to face to-day, that is a relevant element in the discussion.
I think the point that has emerged most strongly in this Debate is with regard to transference, and it is a most disquieting one. The Prime Minister has told us the rate at which transference is going on. He has told us that it is at the rate of 15,000 in four months, that is to say, 45,000 a year. No one, however, believes that 45,000 a year, even if it were a net gain, is going to relieve the unemployment in this country; it is a mere matter of arithmetic to show how ridiculous that suggestion would be. Moreover, it is not a net gain. These 45,000 people are taken from one district and put into another district where there are already unemployed working people. It is, as was admitted by the hon. Member for East Aberdeen and the hon. Member for Barnstaple, a transference of unemployment, and not of employ-
ment. I am glad that they recognise that, because the Prime Minister did not recognise it, but sought refuge in a metaphor, which I find he took word for word from the Report of the Industrial Transference Board, where it is stated that:
Each man taken on is adding to a flowing stream, and not driving another out of a space of fixed dimensions.
I wish that the right hon. Gentleman, instead of repeating virtually word for word a metaphor from this admirable Report, had condescended to explain what it meant, because I am quite unable to see what difference it makes to the employment that is displaced in the other areas to call it a flowing stream. It seems to assume that the employers in these other areas are in such a state of complete imbecility that, unless people are brought from, say, Middlesbrough or the Rhondda Valley and put in front of their noses, the idea of employing them simply never enters their heads at all. Quite obviously, however, if they had work, they would give it to someone. If there were no transference, they would give it to someone in their own area; if there is transference, they may give it to someone who does not belong to their own area, but that is all the difference that it makes. In any event, we have to remember that this rate of 15,000 in four months is the rate during the period immediately following the Prime Minister's appeal. No one makes appeals of this kind better than the Prime Minister; he has a gift in that direction which everybody realises; and, therefore, it is only reasonable to suppose that the period immediately following his appeal is the greatest period of transference that there is likely to be, because it was fresh in the mind of everyone at that time. At any rate, taking his own figures, and taking them as something likely to be maintained, 45,000 a year only touches the fringe of this great problem.
The other point which I desire to put arises in connection with the grant-in-aid of the Lord Mayor's Fund, which is described as a grant-in-aid for relief in distressed mining areas. We have had a definition of that this afternoon, which, to many hon. Members here, must have been the most disquieting thing that they have heard for a long time. It
appears that, as long as you are in a geographical area, no matter what you are working at, you may get some of this money; but apparently, if you are outside the area, no matter what industry you may belong to, and no matter how distressed you may be, there is no chance of your getting any of this money. Ds is curious that although the Government, in the course of the Debates on de-rating, stoutly denied that it was possible to make a geographical division, and said that it was quite impossible to define what the distressed areas were for the purposes of rating, yet now, when they come to the distribution of charity, they draw the line and base their whole distribution upon it. It shows how rapidly Ministers may change their minds. It is in the hope of making them change their minds again that I am speaking, because the iron and steel industry is reproducing the distress of the coal areas, not perhaps quite as much in volume, but the conditions are just the same, and if the Prime Minister or his able lieutenant pretends that there is a distinction, and that all the unemployment in iron and steel is going to be re-absorbed with the revival of trade, whereas in coal it is the other way, I can only say they are going flatly against the findings of the Industrial Transference Board. After discussing the number of permanently unemployed in the coal industry and putting it at 200,000, they go on:
To this figure there must be added a probable permanent surplus in shipbuilding, iron and steel and heavy engineering. In these industries at the end of May there were over 100,000 men wholly unemployed, and while some of these may expect to be re-absorbed, the contraction in personnel seems likely to add to the problem on which we are engaged. It seems probable also that, ultimately, certain sections of the textile industry must be prepared to face a permanent contraction of their personnel.
If one looks to other features, the feature of concentration in given areas, the report puts iron and steel in the same category as coal in that respect, too. Concentration is also a feature of the unemployment in the iron and steel and shipbuilding industries just as much as in the coal-mining industry. If these features are the same, what logic can there be in the scheme of relief which applies to one industry and not to the other? It is an ungracious task to look a gift horse in the mouth even when that
horse has been given to someone else. I am not grudging for a minute one penny of that relief going to the coal-mining industry, I only wish it was more, but the figures which have been supplied by the Iron and Steel Federation show that their unemployment year by year has been actually greater than in the coal-mining industry from 1922 until this year, when it is a little greater than the iron and steel.
Let us consider a few more points in a comparison between the industries which might commend themselves to some Members on those benches. They have tried at various times to trace everything back to 1926. I think they are wrong. I think the responsibility for 1926 lies there, and not amongst the coal miners. At any rate, there was no 1926 trouble as regards the iron and steel industry. They have never given trouble of that kind. If you look back to the history of the industry, you will find that they have been peaceful, almost placid, year by year.
The hon. Member is quite entitled to put that point if he believes it. I have read the paragraph in the Industrial Transference Board Report which says that concentration of unemployment was a feature of the one industry as it was of the other. The House can judge between the hon. Member and the Report of the Industrial Transference Board. I am going upon the facts supported by those who investigated them. I was calling attention to the fact that this industry itself cannot be accused of having made trouble. All its troubles have been made for it. The industry might have said their motto was that quietness and confidence should he their strength. The confidence has gone now and I am asking hon. Members how long they expect quietness if they are ignored and their just grievances are not met. They are not going to have their problems solved by transference on the scale on which the Prime Minister has been suggesting it. When I think of Middlesbrough and what their prospects are going to be if they are to get none of this relief, there for the first winter in all these troublous times we have no' public works being provided by the local authorities. They have already spent over £1,000,000 in providing works of this kind. Their resources are at an end, and the Government are not helping them. This new extension of works is deliberately to be in the prosperous areas, and not in the bad areas, in order to buttress up the Government's scheme of transference and produce more attractive figures than there would otherwise be.
It is not as though there was not work to be done. We want a bridge over the Tees. That would give work to iron and steel, and would greatly improve the productivity of the district. It is something we really need. It has been suggested that a channel tunnel would give work to miners and to iron and steel workers. If we are not going to have work provided on a large scale, and if the Government are also going to take away from the iron and steel trade what they might regard as their natural right, the outlook is black indeed. I have not risen with any purpose of putting blame upon the Prime Minister or anyone else, but rather in all humility to make an appeal on behalf of those I represent, who have to face a black Christmas, that something may yet be done to give them some measure of hope and some ray of comfort beyond the harsh prospect which has been opened up by the Prime Minister's speech.
The hon. Member said the definition of Grant-in-aid-in supplementary Estimates fills many Members with apprehension. It equally fills very many Members with satisfaction, because one of the drawbacks of our modern civilisation is the fact that we are so under the influence of advertisement, and it exercises such influence in this case in the shape of a canalisation of the stream of charity, that merely because the coal miners have received a maximum of advertisement lately, the country is perhaps tending to forget that there are very many classes of persons who are as distressed as the coal miners and who, in the particular, case of the blast furnacemen and the iron and steel workers, cannot be accused of having by any action of their own contributed towards that distress. Therefore, I should like, on my own behalf and oil that of my constituency, to thank the Prime Minister and the Government for having extended the definition and enabled others to benefit as well as the miners. Perhaps there is something to he said for including Middlesbrough, but the hon. Member's argument equally applies against the Liberal proposals for a solution of the difficulty. He was treading on very dangerous ground.
There are two constructive proposals I should like to submit. Transference of the unemployed from the distressed areas is in operation. I should like to suggest that something might be done under this supplementary estimate to transfer industry back to those areas. Up to now, owing to the very heavy rating in these distressed areas, new industries have naturally been reluctant to establish themselves in these places, and manufacturers have been attracted to the South of England, where the rates are low, and they are helped by the railways, by the municipalities and by other organisations. There are no similar organisations to attract industry back to the distressed areas where, under the provisions of the new Rating Bill, they will be free from the main drawback which has hitherto encouraged people to leave those areas and go to the South of England. It might be worth while to see whether some survey might not be made of the possibilities of the distressed areas with a view to bringing them before the eyes of those who are intending to erect new factories and to see whether, instead of going to the expense of transferring a population to other areas and building 'rouses, it would not be cheaper to transfer them back to the distressed areas under the new regulations freeing them from the burden of the rates. The other point I should like to suggest is that sight should not be lost, when considering the relief of distress, of the necessity for doing something to occupy the men's minds. One of the saddest aspects of this question is the fact that the men for weeks and months, and sometimes for years on end, have nothing to occupy their minds and have nothing to do but lounge at street corners and read week-old or month-old newspapers. Some of the money that is being subscribed and voted might well be ear-marked towards providing some mental and moral sustenance for men who are at present suffering so sadly in that way.
Anyone who has listened to the statement of the Prime Minister or has read the White Paper, or who has been taking anything like a passing interest in the subject, must see the inflexible determination of the Government not to recognise the problem as being in any way of a national character or as carrying in any sense a national responsibility upon the Government of the day. Both in the amount of the grant they are making and in the method of its administration they show how warped and limited their minds really are. Of course, it is part and parcel of their long established policy. Away back in 1926 we constantly pressed upon them that the mining industry could only be properly carried on on broad national lines, but they refused to listen to any of our arguments and insisted upon those district settlements which are partly responsible for the present situation. The Prime Minister, in his statement, made certain references to the lack of purchasing power at the end of 1926 as being one of the secondary causes of the present lack of prosperity. He ought really to have taken the date very much earlier. He was a member of the Government which decontrolled the mines in 1921, which was six months before the first date contained in their own Act of Parliament and 14 months earlier than the date to which they could have taken control. They might have continued control until 31st March, 1922. under their own Act of Parliament.
We told the Government then what would happen. It is not a pleasure to anybody to say: "I told you so." What happened was this. The miners' wages throughout the whole of the country were within nine months reduced by 50 per cent. That was the lack of purchasing power. In my county the wages of the men—those who did the heavy work in the mines—were reduced from 14s. 1d. per day to 6s. 11d.—more than 50 per cent. And the Prime Minister twaddles about the lack of purchasing power! He was in the Government and he knew all about it. On the Floor of this House we appealed repeatedly to the Government not to go on with their dastardly proposals. They went on in spite of all our entreaties, and as a result the condition of the miners in 1921 was exactly the same as it is now. The Lancashire miners, the Scottish miners, and all the rest of them were brought down to the infamous condition that a man could not really live with his wife and family on the wages he was able to earn at the rate that was then being paid. We had, within a few months, to get what was called subsistence allowance. The miner, the actual coal hewer, the poor man who risked his life every moment of the day, who did all the hard work of the mines, received a shilling a day to enable him to subsist. Not to exist, but to subsist. In order to fix the subsistence allowance, application had to be made to the poor houses to find out what was the amount necessary to enable a pauper to live in the poor house, and upon such a comparison the rate of subsistence was fixed. Lack of purchasing power! When the Prime Minister speaks of the lack of purchasing power after the lock-out as being one of the secondary causes of our present condition, he knows perfectly well that he is not speaking the truth.
I rose to ask what is the real meaning of this White Paper? In the White Paper we are told that a grant of £150,000 is to be made to the Lord Mayor's Fund. The Lord Mayor's Fund until now has carried a very limited implication. There have been only three counties which have received benefits from that fund, South Wales and Monmouthshire—I call them one—Durham and Northumberland. I am not at all sure, but I do not think that any other mining county in the Kingdom has received a copper from this fund. I tried to obtain information from the Prime Minister by certain communications last week as to whether there would be an extension of the operations of that fund, and the right hon. Gentleman gave me and my friends to understand that if we would postpone the question for a day or two his answer given in this House would be found to be satisfactory. I do not find from a very close perusal of this White Paper that his answer is satisfactory at all. There is a grant in aid of the Lord Mayor's Fund of £150,000 and a grant of £5,000 towards the cost of administration of the Lord Mayor's Fund and the co-ordination of other funds for relief in distressed mining areas. That is to say, the two things are distinct. The Lord Mayor's Fund up to the moment. of my speaking had not carried
with it any idea that it would be, applied to other than the three mining areas which I have named. I desire to be told definitely whether, not merely Lancashire —although my primary interest is that of Lancashire—but Staffordshire, Yorkshire, Derbyshire, the Forest of Dean and other mining areas, because there is distress everywhere, are to come in directly as recipients of the Lord Mayor's Fund? My hon. Friend the Member for Wigan (Mr. Parkinson) has this afternoon received a telegram sent on behalf of the Mayor of Wigan. It is as follows:
Mayor's Relief Fund. Our mayor is pressing Prime Minister through Curtis-Bennett, organisation secretary, Lord Mayor's Fund, that Wigan should participate in Parliamentary grant on ground that distress in Wigan coalfield is almost as acute as in South Wales and North East England.
As a matter of fact my own constituency, the Ince Division, contains the largest single mining area in Lancashire. In that division there are at least 40 per cent. of the people totally or partially unemployed. There are very few areas with a sadder record than that. The mining County of Lancashire has at this very moment 38 per cent. of the persons whose names are on the employers' books totally or partially unemployed.
Yes, miners. Last June there were, in round figures, 81,000 persons on the employers' books, of whom something like 31,000 were either totally or partially unemployed. That is roughly 38 per cent. This does not include all the people put out of employment at the age of 65 and over, nor does it include the thousands who were put out of employment between 1921 and 1926 and who have not got back again into employment. I say that this is a condition which reveals a degree of distress not excelled by any other mining area in the Kingdom. The Society of Friends have their headquarters in Manchester, or, at any rate, they have a very large establishment in Manchester. I should be the very last person in the world to belittle the admirable work of that body of people, but the need for assistance is just as great in the County of Lancashire as it is in the three counties on which they have been bestowing their attention. I do not belittle or begrudge their action in those counties. This is wonderful work beautifully done; the spirit is even better than the work itself. At the same time, there is a tremendous amount of distress in my own county.
So far I have failed to elicit from the Prime Minister—and I listened very attentively to his speech to-day and I read his speech which was published in the newspapers the other day—whether this Fund is really to be available for the other areas which are outside the definition which is now being given to the Lord Mayor's Fund. That is the particular point upon which I desire enlightenment. If this is to be so, I want to know by what process the Fund will be administered; how the Fund is to reach the recipients? There is no organisation of any kind. Here is the head of a very fine municipal organisation in the County Borough of Wigan. If a portion of the Fund were to be allocated, say, to the urban district council areas or to the county borough council areas, an easy and expeditious way of using the fund for the benefit of those for whom it was intended would be to transmit portions of the fund to the chairmen of the urban district councils or to the mayors of the county boroughs. I would like to draw the attention of the House to a further reading of the telegram to which I have already referred. It is urging the Lord Mayor to allocate a grant to Wigan this week:
Could you see to-day Curtis-Bennett, Sanctuary Buildings, 8, Great Smith Street, Westminster, and, if possible, the Prime Minister, urging Wigan's claims? Mayor is taking risk of distributing large sum in food next week in anticipation.
No part of the Lord Mayor's Fund has as yet been allotted to Lancashire. The Lord Mayor's Fund has been in operation, I understand, since last spring. It is, therefore, not from lack of knowledge. The Government must have known—they do know, week after week, what is the condition of things in the mining areas. They do know and have known what has been the condition in Lancashire. Is there going to be any wider definition given to the Lord Mayor's Fund, and is the distribution of the Fund in the mining areas to flow freely to all those mining
areas where distress actually exists? That is the point upon which I desire information.
I should like the Government to take into consideration those areas which do not come entirely within the ambit of this fund. There are many such areas scattered about the country where there are small pockets of unemployment which has been suffered for a long time. I have, unfortunately, one such place in my constituency where, through direct Government action, unemployment has been created. Unfortunately, there is no alternative employment within very many miles of that area. The nearest industrial centre is 60 miles away. It is impossible for the men to get employment there, and it is also very difficult to get funds within the county to help them. It has been laid down that this fund is for the distressed mining areas. I hope that the Government will not stop there, but will create some fund so as to enable something to be done to assist other areas in distress.
The distress with which we are dealing becomes a two-fold problem. We have, first of all, what the Prime Minister describes as the problem of dormant industry, and also the problem of dead industry. I think it is a matter of common agreement among all those who are acquainted with the organisation of collieries and the working of coalfields, that in the coal industry there are certain areas which are dead as regards future employment. There are other areas which may gradually come back with the increased market for coal, and their problem is a temporary one. The Leader of the Opposition suggested that in the County of Glamorgan the Valley Road scheme should be proceeded with. I think that is a scheme in regard to which the Government might have investigations made immediately, to see whether something could not be done to finish that road, which was two-thirds completed in the early summer. It is a road linking the valleys in Glamorganshire. I do not agree with the Leader of the Opposition that that can be regarded really as a big development scheme for Glamorganshire. It is a scheme which will be helpful as a temporary measure and as a permanent convenience to those who live in the valleys, but it is not a development scheme in the widest sense of the term. The right hon. Gentleman said that even if all the coal mines of Glamorgan-shire were shut up, Glamorganshire would not be derelict. I hope that statement will not be taken as meaning that, in such circumstances, Glamorgan could still carry the great population which she has to-day. If the collieries were shut in Glamorganshire, her population would diminish from 30 to 70 per cent., especially in the mining valleys, because the occupation would be gone. It has been said that industries might be introduced into these valleys. I do not think that is a practical suggestion from anyone who knows those valleys and the configuration of the valleys. To say that new industries are likely to go up these valleys and start there, is to pursue a will-o'-the-wisp.
We had a further point raised by the Leader of the Opposition, namely, that by some action of ours or by some action of the landowners, the men have been deprived of the allotments to which they were entitled. Later on, he denied that, because he said that the Society of Friends had been around Glamorgan-shire, trying to raise the derelict allotments. Why have those allotments become derelict? Because the men have given them up.
I am quite prepared to stand by what I have said, that the derelict allotments are there, and that the amount of the rents payable for them was negligible. Of course, the more you can get the men to take up allotments the better, and there is nothing to prevent them from doing that now. By all means, extend the allotments scheme and promote societies to help the men to get the best produce out of the allotments, but to say that that is a cure for unemployment is nonsense. It is an alleviation for the men while they are out of work and it should be encouraged in every way. There is the idea that if only men can be settled on the land, they can make a good living. Those who suggest that kind of thing have never gone into the scheme in a practical way. First of all, the holding has to be equipped. If it is a 40-acre holding, it would take from £1,200 to £1,600, as the minimum, for equipment. To say that a man on that holding, even if the capital was found for him, could make a good living, only shows that those who make that statement are utterly ignorant of the facts. [Laughter.] Hon. Members stay laugh—
I am not talking about 40 acres in the Rhondda Valley. I am not treating the Rhondda Valley as a district for agriculture. To suggest that you can put a man on the land in the Rhondda Valley, and that he can earn a living would be even more absurd than the idea that the putting of hundreds of thousands of men on small holdings on this country is a solution of unemployment. At the present time the ordinary farmer who has had a lifelong experience in agriculture is barely able to keep his head above water. Until we change the fiscal system, that will continue. If hon. Members want to solve the problem of unemployment, they have to consider the carrying on of industry in all its bearings, and how to deal with the normal increase of population owing to the damming back of emigration. For seven years before the War and for seven years since the War the amount of emigration from this country has decreased by 570,000. For the whole time emigration has been dammed back. How are you going to release the lock-gates and allow it to flow back again?
How will you encourage overseas settlement? You can only do it by training men here, so that they can take their part in settlement overseas as partly trained men. That can be done by Government encouragement, provided that they get the help of the trade unions in a sound, sensible progressive scheme of emigration to assist the men. I do not mean a small scheme. This question must be treated as a very big problem that has to be solved by very big measures, and by the co-operation of all parties. If we approach the problem in that way and we have that idea permeating this House, we shall get along very much better than by mere criticism which leads us to nowhere. I would ask hon. Members opposite to give us some practical suggestions, but we have not heard any up to now. Certain schemes could be established in connection with existing Government Departments. For instance, in my own constituency we have a dockyard which has big housing accommodation and big workshops, surrounded by a big agricultural district. There, opportunities could be provided at the least possible cost for the training of men in order that we may have the right type of settlers to go out to our overseas Dominions. Such a scheme would be helpful and would not be too costly. That is one way of trying to get work for our population. We have to expand, and we can only expand in order to meet the needs of our increasing population provided we have more area in which to expand. We have that area in the British Empire, and I hope that that will be the keynote of the future policy of the Government in regard to this great problem of unemployment.
I think I have heard the Prime Minister translate charity as love. The reason for the change from the authorised to the revised version is that charity and love are not precisely similar. Love blesseth him that giveth and him that receiveth, but charity does not always (10 so. I am afraid that we can see in this charitable gift that all are not going to be blessed. We know that when charity is given often the people most deserving of charity are the people who make too little fuss, and who suffer in silence. When you have charity of this sort, however good the organisation, it is possible that the cases of extreme hardship which are not met by charity will be very numerous. Unfortunately, people will be thinking that somebody else is getting more than they are and you get heartburning and a sense of injustice by this method of dealing with the problem. I am thinking of the difference between individual and individual in their needs and their taking of help. We can see how that affects district and district.
As the right hon. Member for Ince (Mr. Walsh) has pointed out, there is, apparently, the prospect that the Lancashire mining area, perhaps through not having said so much about its sufferings, is likely to lose any assistance under this grant. The same applies to North Staffordshire. My constituency has suffered more than the constituency of any Member of this House. Two-thirds of the pits have been closed down in that area. Is North Staffordshire to have nothing? When you have this form of charitable distribution, done through the Lord Mayor's Fund, or some scheme organised in London, you are likely to have the grossest form of injustice in the country. It is worse than that, because charity is not a permanent solution of anything. In this scheme we are just tiding over Christmas. Thank God, some people will have a decent Christmas dinner who otherwise would not have had one; but every Member of this House knows that in three months' time from now what we are doing to-day will be of no service whatever, and that the same position will be before us again. For four years the Government have seen this coming and they have never thought out any scheme for meeting it, except charity and transference.
Charity and transference suffer from another elementary vice. If £100 is spent in charity in providing relief for people in the mining areas, we know perfectly well that that £100 will not be spent elsewhere in other ways, by the people who are giving that money, in employing other people. Every fresh charity which comes forward means less money for other purposes. Inevitably, it means that some people who would have been employed by the expenditure of that money are not employed. Therefore, you will not get any addition to the sum total of employment. The same argument applies in regard to emergency works that are carried out in order to help the unemployed. If in the case of a derelict mining village, for instance, you decide that so much money shall be spent, you do not necessarily reduce the unemployment, but you direct employment into a, non-productive channel instead of into a productive channel, which would have been the case if that money had been kept in the normal industry of the country.
You are not solving any problem merely by giving money away or by employing people in useless work. The only hope of a solution to this problem is to increase useful productive work. If your transference scheme is not increasing the total sum of useful productive work, it is utterly useless. It may be that 5,000 or 10,000 are sent out per month, but unless they are doing useful productive work it only means that 5,000 people elsewhere are going to lose their jobs. It is not possible to look at the question as a matter of transference. It is solely a question of increasing the opportunities for useful productive work in this country. I do not want to blame the Government because they have not done anything for four years. This problem is so serious that party profit cannot be made out of it, and it is the duty of every hon. Member to try to discover something which will increase useful productive work. If we realise our responsibilities to the unemployed we can see ways of increasing employment if you increase useful productive work.
I ask the House to consider what the right hon. Member for Aberavon (Mr. R. MacDonald) has said. His speech to-day contained the best prospect of increasing useful productive work that I have heard in all the hundred Debates in the House of Commons. He pointed out that the miner, as we know him, is the best raw material for the agricultural industry. There is probably no other trade in the country which can so rapidly change over from one to another as mining to agriculture. Agricultural people become miners and miners become agricultural workers. Nearly all the miners that I know have their plot of land; they know more about growing potatoes than I do, and they are accustomed to using the pick and shovel. In this case of exceptional mining unemployment everyone who is anxious to solve the problem should try to see how they can be transferred quickest into producers of the soil and not into motor mechanics in Birmingham or Manchester. It is the simplest form of transference. The hon. and gallant Member for Pembroke (Major Price) said the best thing to do is to transfer them into tillers of the soil within the Empire. That is all very well, and I am with him, but he must look at the cost of transferring the miner into another trade in another country.
The cost of a would-be settler in Australia and Canada is, I believe, about £1,400. That is a serious matter, and if we have to find that money it means that the taxpayers here will not have that money to spend and, consequently, people here will be out of work through the necessity of having to find money to settle miners in Canada or Australia. It costs money to transfer a miner into a smallholder here, and the figure which the hon. and gallant Member for Pembroke gave, £1,200, is not at all excessive; less than the cost of putting these smallholders in one of the Dominions, but still a considerable sum. And we have to look at the figures in this matter more than anything else. You have 300,000 superfluous miners, and no amount of rationalisation or reorganisation is likely to put many of them in the industry again. They will have to be trained in new productive work. There is a simple way of tackling this problem, and I want to put it before the House; it is about time that we had practical schemes put forward. Nearly all the villages that I know in the Midlands—I am not talking about South Wales—are in the middle of agricultural land, generally normal farming land and let at a small rental of about £1 per acre.
Would it not be possible to offer to these unemployed miners a piece of this land? The objection cannot be on account of the cost, because it would not be great. It may be said that a great many of the men would not accept the offer because they have lost heart. They feel that their unemployment is the fault of the Government and the Government must keep them until they find work for them. Many of them would not take up an allotment even if you gave it, but there are those who can be saved even yet, and if you offer these men a free quarter of an acre, tell them that if they cultivate it they will at the end of a year or two be given the title deeds to that piece of property, they would realise then that they have a stake in the country which would arouse their energy and encourage them to start putting up a shack and go in for pigeon-breeding, the keeping of fowls, and other forms of minor cultivation. I think that you would find a lot of the younger men willing to take this quarter-acre lot. What would be the cost? It would not be necessary to fence the land because, as a rule, the fences are of a ramshackle nature. The principle cost would be the breaking up of the land and equipping the men with a few tools and seeds. I do not think it would be more than £7 per lot.
The cost of the land would be extra, and it is not possible under the present Allotments Act to acquire that land at a price which would be reasonable; it is leasehold not freehold land. There is no machinery to enable you to acquire it, especially land which is purely agricultural in these villages but which has a high selling value owing to the motor revolution which has taken place. But the mere equipment of that land, if we could get it for nothing, would be not more than £7 per lot, and if you were to offer people a stake in the country, something which they can improve for themselves, I will undertake to say that 50 per cent. of the unemployed miners would take up their quarter-acre lot. I do not say that all of them would make good use of it, but they would have some form of occupation instead of wasting their lives at the street corners. In one of the mining villages in my constituency the men were actually refused the dole because they had been working on their allotments. Thank goodness that has been put right and men may now work on their allotments without losing the dole. Small holdings are not an alternative to the dole. I would continue the dole but at the end of two or three years men who took up, this land should undertake no longer to draw their unaugmented benefit.
I give this as an illustration; it is not original. I had it originally from South Africa. Thirty years ago President Kruger was faced with an unemployment problem, the growth of "mean whites," burghers who had lost their land and were sinking to the level of the blacks. That must never he allowed. Kruger tackled the problem, and you will find around every small town a number of plots of land called burgher plots of about 1½ acres each which were distributed by Kruger to every burgher who did not hold land. There were no arrangements regarding the sale of this land, and we should have to make some arrangement. Many of them sold their land and drank the proceeds. But the magic of ownership, the prospect of having a bit of land of your own, will turn men who are unemployed into useful citizens. I do not say that you will cure an enormous amount of unemployment by this method, but it is a method by which you would get a number of people producing work without injuring anybody else. It would be a step in the right direction. If the primary trades, the agricultural trade, the miner, the quarryman could get at their raw material and start work all the other trades in the country, which depend on the primary trades, would be affected.
Every man in the building trade who starts work, every man in the mining industry who starts work, starts and fosters a process of manufacture and distribution in all the other trades in the community, but if your primary trades are prevented from starting, then not only will there be unemployment in all the other trades in the community, but you will find that they have no work to do. When you find employment for one extra man on a small holding, or in a brick field, or in a quarry, you are merely starting a train which will involve other people and drag them into their natural places to do the job for which they are best suited. That is why I ask the House to consider this problem of exceptional unemployment in the way it has been considered in other countries. Kruger did it in South Africa. In Czechoslovakia, where the right hon. Member for Aberavon has been recently, you can see ex-service men's holdings brightening the whole landscape. You can see the same thing in Palestine, where the Jews have tackled the problem; and in Russia, where even Soviet Russia has shown some common sense in dealing with unemployment. You will find it also in Greece and Bulgaria. In Greece, with the aid of British capital and by appealing to a Scotsman to take on the job, 1,400,000 helpless unemployed refugees, who were rotting in the streets and corners of Athens and the Piraeus, have been turned into useful productive workers, and they are paying not only the interest on the loan which they borrowed but also part of the actual capital. All I ask is that we should make a small start by giving the people in our mining villages a chance to own a bit of God's earth and turn that piece of derelict land into something which is producing wealth. What do we need? We need, in the first place, a Minister of Agriculture and a Minister of Labour who will feel a sense of responsibility towards this problem, who will feel that it is really their duty to think out some scheme. It is no good their simply using their offices to spend an easy life and to avoid difficulties and change. They have to use their brains in thinking out sound schemes for finding useful and productive work. The Minister of Agriculture, when we questioned him to-day, made it quite clear that he had not the machinery at present for acquiring this land around the pitheads at a reasonable price for allotments. He had the power during the War under the Defence of the Realm Act.
May I explain to the right hon. Gentleman? The powers which have expired were mainly of value in the case of building land, to enable local authorities to go in without notice on any unoccupied land. Those are not the powers that are required in the case that the right hon. Gentleman has in mind. He wants to make agricultural land available for allotments. For the acquisition of agricultural land there are effective powers under the Allotments Act of 1922, and I do not know that any Amendment in that respect is necessary.
The right hon. Gentleman really makes me despair. Has he ever gone into this question at all? All this land has a building price, particularly around the mining villages. Every piece of land that is now being let at £1 an acre, if you tried to buy it you would have to pay £50, £60 and even £100 an acre for. It is just that land that I want to get at.
I should like to see where the machinery is working. Local authorities dare not buy land; there is not an urban district in this country that dare buy land. They can lease it sometimes, but, if they do lease it, we find that in two or three years' time, just as the allotment holder has made his garden and developed the place, and perhaps put up a shed, along comes the building trade, and the allotment holder is turned out and has no new allotment to which to go. It has happened everywhere. All that we ask is that the Minister should really apply his mind to the problem. If the land is paying Income Tax or rates on the one of £1 an acre we should have a right to acquire it at 20 years' purchase of that price. You would be hurting no one; you would merely be not allowing the owner to put into his pocket the enormously enhanced price which is due to the fact that the miners are concerned with the right to work. You cannot have it both ways. Either you must allow the miners the right to work on the land, or you must expect them to remain unemployed.
I would point out that there is a time limit to this Debate, fixed by the House. The time limit is nine o'clock. I understand that some opportunity is wanted for discussion on the Motion for the Adjournment. Although I have given a very wide latitude to the discussion, I hope that right hon. and hon. Members will not wander too far; otherwise we shall not be able to hear many who are anxious to take part in the Debate.
Mr. WILLIAM ADAMSON:
One is surprised at the patient endurance with which the sufferings and privations of the last two years have been borne by the mining population. That patient endurance of suffering and destitution, borne by a large section of the people, has at last touched the hearts of the nation with the human side of this great problem. Idleness and increasing destitution have left their mark on the mining population to such an extent that their fellow-citizens have been touched to an extent that has compelled the Government to take notice of the great problem. Hence, the House has the opportunity to-day of discussing this Estimate. We who represent the miners are pleased that at last the public conscience has been awakened, and we trust that the Estimate which we are discussing is only the beginning of a serious effort to deal with a problem which not only affects the mining population, but is vital to every man, woman and child in the nation. The amount of money in this Estimate will touch only the fringe of the problem, and, if the Government are to deal with it in an adequate way, they will require to approach the matter with far wider vision and with greater courage.
The mining industry and mining population are still vital to the commercial prosperity of the country. The right hon. Member for Hillhead (Sir R. Horne) said recently that
the modern prosperity of Britain was built up on coal, and by coal would she be saved.
With that view of this great problem, I am in agreement. The Prime Minister, in the course of his speech this afternoon, pointed out that a large number of the unemployed miners were surplus to the requirements of the coal trade. He may be right in so far as a considerable proportion of the men who are idle are concerned, but I do not agree that the idle portion of the mining population is surplus to the requirements of the industry, if the industry is handled in the way in which many of us think it should be handled. I therefore hope that the Prime Minister and the Government, now that they have put their hands to the plough, will go forward with courage and vision, and will deal with the industry in such a way as will enable our people to get the fullest possible advantage out of this great national asset. If this is to be done, the proper treatment of the coal that remains at our disposal is vital to British industry and to the British people. Like my colleagues, I have no hesitation in saying that the responsibility for taking the necessary steps rests
with the Prime Minister and the Government. Meantime, we are pleased that the men and women who are victims pi a great evolutionary change in the mining industry are to get a little attention paid to their physical needs, both by the nation and the Government.
In addition to the points which have already been raised in criticism of the Government's proposals, I have another criticism as to the amount of money that is being provided by the Government. The sum of £150,000 will touch only the fringe of the distress that exists. There are at least 300,000 idle miners at the moment, and over 50,000 of them are in that part of the country from which I come and represent, namely, Scotland, and they with their dependants will reach a total of something like 1,000,000 persons. One hundred and fifty thousand pounds, divided amongst such a large number, will touch only the edge of the problem. I feel that the Prime Minister and the Government are missing a great opportunity of doing a big thing which would have touched the imagination of the nation. I have no hesitation in saying that if the Estimate had been for a much larger sum, say £5,000,000, the nation would have been behind the Government. The Prime Minister, towards the close of a speech in 1926, spoke of setting aside a sum of £3,000,000 to assist the mining population out of their then difficulties. If he had come to the House this afternoon with a proposal even to spend the £3,000,000 that he spoke of in 1926, it would have gone some way to deal adequately with the distress. The difficulties of the mining population to-day are far greater than in 1926. Never was the need greater than now.
To-day, for the first time, Scotland is coming into the relief scheme. The Lord Mayor's Fund did not touch our problem in Scotland; we did not participate in any of the moneys that have been raised hitherto under this fund. While I am quite glad that the sum which is being set aside for Scotland is fixed on the basis of the eleven-eightieths which is the financial arrangement that exists between the two countries, I would like to say to the Secretary of State for Scotland that the £20,625 which has been provided for in this Estimate for Scotland does not give Scotland the justice to which she is entitled. As has been stated, we have not participated so far in the benefit of the Lord Mayor's Fund. Therefore, when we have got our eleven-eightieths of the sum provided by the Government, we do not start on an equality with the mining populations of England and Wales. I suggest that that is an aspect of the question to which we ought to give some attention.
The Secretary of State also told us that the part of the fund available for Scotland is to be administered by a central committee in Edinburgh. I am in agreement with that proposal. Whatever is available, in money or in kind, to meet destitution in the mining districts will be better handled through a central committee such as the right hon. Gentleman has mentioned. I was glad to hear him saying that he had called a meeting of the Lord Provosts of Edinburgh and Glasgow, the Lords Lieutenant of the mining counties in Scotland as well as representatives of the National Union of Scottish Miners and of the Outram Fund. I hope that meeting will be able to make the necessary arrangements for the proper distribution of the available funds and that it may be the means of making a larger appeal than has yet been made in Scotland for contributions to the funds.
The right hon. Gentleman said that the local machinery under the central committee would be our education committees, our Poor Law authorities and our child welfare committees. I have only one criticism to make regarding that proposal. I hope the distribution will not be tinged with the usual Poor Law methods of administration. I hope the fund will be distributed in a more generous fashion, than the fashion in which our people are generally treated under the Poor Law. The Secretary of State mentioned that he had received reports from various mining districts showing that the position was not quite so bad as certain alarmists would make it out to be. I assure him that those who are in constant touch with destitution and distress in the mining areas of Scotland, know the position to be quite as bad as it has been painted, and I ask the right hon. Gentleman not to place too much reliance on reports of the kind he has indicated because the destitution and poverty in our mining districts is undoubtedly very great. Those of us who are dealing with it day by day know the position better than it can possibly be known by any official who is only coming into touch with the problem now and again. We on this side of the House hope that the sum set aside by the Government in this Estimate only marks the beginning of an effort by the Government to discharge its responsibilities to the mining population more fully than it has hitherto tried to do. The responsibility rests with the Government. We hope they will stand by that responsibility and endeavour to discharge it better than they have done up to the present.
Yesterday I put a Question to the Prime Minister which was answered by my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Education. The Question was:
whether the relief fund for miners includes the Cleveland ironstone miners, who have been out of work since 12th February, 1920?
The answer which I received was:
As hon. Members are aware, neither the Lord Mayor's appeal, nor the Prime Minister's announcement, contemplated the extension of the scope of the fund beyond the distressed coalfields. Within these areas, on the other hand, there is no intention of confining the benefits of the fund to the families of the miners, and any distress in the coalfields which may be due to depression in industries other than the coal industry will, therefore, fall within the scope of the fund."—(OFFICIAL EPORT, 19th December, 1028; cols. 3036–3037, Vol. 223.]
That answer, to my mind, is a little illusory and somewhat ambiguous, but I take it they will include the ironstone miners and I think that is fully justified, when we consider the present position and look back to the past history of the ironstone miners. I confine myself to what I know of the Cleveland ironstone miners. They have been classed for many years with coal miners; they have been in the Miners Federation and questions of the inspection and safety of their mines have been dealt with by the same inspectors. I maintain, as I have maintained often before in this House, that we in Cleveland are in a very exceptional position—if I may say so, in a unique position. We have there 19 ironstone mines, of which only four are working. Those Tour are only working one, two or
three days a week and one or two shifts a day. The ironstone mines in our districts are inseparably interlocked with the iron and steel industry. While we have these 19 ironstone mines, of which only four are working—partially working—to-clay, we have also the largest iron and steel industries in the world. We have the firms of Messrs. Dorman, Long and Company, Cargo Fleet, Bolckow Vaughan and Company, Pease Partners and Bell and Company.
The iron ore of Cleveland and the iron and steel of Cleveland are famous throughout the world. I am sure I have the support in what I say of my hon. Friend the Member for the King's Norton Division of Birmingham (Mr. Dennison), who is an expert on one side of this subject. In this district, we have had unemployment since 12th February, 1921. We had at one time over 22,000 out of work and there has never been one word of grumbling of any sort or kind. The men have taken the position philosophically—with dignity, with patience and with pluck. The ironstone miners have never once been out on strike on their own account, and have accepted all deductions asked for without any demur. They are only too ready and willing to help those who want to help them. The shipbuilding and engineering industries have accepted deductions of 6s. a week in two cuts, and also the withdrawal of the 12½, per cent. and the 7½ per cent, bonuses which makes a total of 16s. a week. Looking to the distress in my district I find that in one union alone we are relieving distress at the rate of £3,000 a week, and, in other places in that area, on a scale which represents 3s. 9d. per capita for unemployment on the rates. What our workers want is not so much relief but the provision of employment.
I think whatever Minister is going to take the responsibility for this matter is bound to agree that we in Cleveland are, as I have said, in a unique position and that we deserve special consideration. I know of no area in Great Britain where the people have been so hard hit through no fault of their own. I hope I have not put my case too high. I have spoken on this subject in the House and outside it for the last six or seven years and I now appeal to the Minister on the grounds which I have stated and on those grounds alone, to exercise his power, his influence and his discretion in this matter. I ask him not to break the backs of those who cannot any longer bear this most intolerable burden.
I am much indebted to the hon. Member for Cleveland (Sir P. Goff) for introducing the question of the conditions affecting certain classes of workpeople in connection with the iron and steel industry. I have not had a definite reply to the question, which I also submitted yesterday, as to whether these men would be cut out of any participation in any grant which the Government may give or from this particular fund. I am sorry that owing to the large number of questions on the Order Paper, my question could not be answered orally by the President of the Board of Education, because I think it is very important to find out from the Government what they would define as a mining area. The question which I put to the Noble Lord asked if the steel and iron works at Jarrow-on-Tyne, and a number of other places were in the distressed areas for the purposes of the proposed grants. The reply was on the same lines as that given to the hon. Member for Cleveland:
As hon. Members are aware, neither the Lord Mayor's appeal, nor the Prime Minister's announcement, contemplated the extension of the scope of the fund beyond the distressed coalfields. Within these areas, on the other hand, there is no intention of confining the benefits of the fund to the families of the miners, and any distress in the coalfields which may be due to depression in industries other than the coal industry will, therefore, fall within the scope of the fund."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 19th December, 1928; cols. 3036–37, Vol. 223.]
I am not urging the Government to take anything away from what they think ought to he given to the miners or to any other distressed section of the community. I feel, indeed, that the Government ought to give considerably more than is here proposed, but the point is that there is an extraordinary position in regard to this particular body of workers. The hon. Member who has just spoken represents an area where there are more iron and steel workers and iron ore miners than in any other area in the country. We have seen tears dropping from the eyes of hon. Members opposite owing to their concern about the iron and steel industry. This is not a mining
area, according to the reply given yesterday, but with all due respect to the miners, it has experienced more distress, over a longer period, than the miners themselves. The gratitude and thanks of the Government are expressed in this way: "You faithful people, who have suffered more in the industrial field than anybody else, are to be debarred from getting anything from this fund." The hon. Member who has just spoken represents a considerable proportion of the iron ore miners in the Cleveland Division, and the hon. Member for the White-haven Division of Cumberland (Mr. R. Hudson) represents a large number of iron ore miners, but the iron ore miners in Cumberland, which is a coal-mining area, will be able to get relief, whereas hose in Cleveland will get no relief, and the distress from unemployment in Cleveland is at least as serious as it has been the Cumberland area.
How can you get contentment, how can the Government say they are going to treat this matter equitably, if such a circumstance as that is to be allowed to prevail? We want the Government to tell us honestly what their intentions are. I appreciate their difficulties and the rather short time they have had in which to go into the matter, and I shall be glad if they have not made up their minds, because this question wants thoroughly exploring. But assuming that the money is only going to be distributed in the coal mining areas, this wonderful situation arises, and I am surprised that among the many mining leaders who have spoken today there has not been one of them who has made a protest. You may have a miner working in a coal mining area, but living over the border of the geographical line which determines whether or not it is a coal mining area, and because he lives over that border then he may not be going to get relief. That would be a ridiculous situation, and what a great amount of unnecessary trouble the Government will be giving to Members of this House in trying to explain such a Gilbertian scheme.
Now that the Government are going to make what they call a substantial contribution to a national fund, though I do not call it substantial, and it can only come from the taxpayers, then it is the duty of any Government, in power, to see that that money is distributed equit- ably aver all the field and not over a restricted area. Is it going to be a question of whether you are a distressed miner or a distressed shipyard worker, or a distressed cotton worker, or distressed steel worker and if you are a distressed miner, you will get relief, but if you happen to be a cotton worker or steel worker, perhaps more distressed, due to longer unemployment, there is nothing for you? I am going to suggest to the Noble Lord the Minister of Education, who is, I understand, largely responsible for dealing with this matter, that the question which the Government have to face is the relief of distress, and that distress is not, unfortunately, confined to the coalfields. It has been more extensive in the iron and steel trade than it has been in the coal mining industry, though, of course, I do not want to make any invidious distinctions. During the last six years and nine months ending September unemployment, and the distress consequent upon it, in the iron and steel trade has been more than double the industry which this contribution is supposed to relieve. Is it to be said that because you are so long used to it, and have had so much of it, you can go on suffering continually? Is that the proposition?
The right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister made mention of the fact that when the Government were considering the question of making a contribution to the Lord Mayor's Fund to relieve distress, they reasoned on these lines, that coal being a dead industry in many parts of the country, relief should be earmarked particularly for coal mining, except, of course, what was stated in the four corners of the Noble Lord's reply to my question yesterday, and that the other industries, not in the mining areas for the purposes of this grant, would revive. Surely the Prime Minister, who is not unconnected with the industry, knows that there are thousands of steel workers stranded and out of work, just as there are thousands of coal miners stranded in the derelict coalfields of South Wales and elsewhere. Shall I remind the Noble Lord, with his knowledge of the north, that in Jarrow, on the Tyne, the huge iron and steel works of Palmers, noted all over the world, have not turned a wheel, if my memory serves me aright, during the last seven years, and that at Newburn-on-Tyne, where they make some of the most famous ships' plates, they have closed down altogether, while there are several places in Scotland where they have a similar set of circumstances?
We have had the Secretary of State for Scotland telling us that he is calling a conference with reference to distress in the coalfields, without regard to the distress in the iron and steel industry. Only this morning I received a letter, which I will give to the right hon. Gentleman, dated 18th December, in which I am advised that a mass meeting of iron and steel workers was held at Mossend, just outside of Glasgow, on Monday evening, at which they called upon those associated with this important industry, including myself, who happen to be one of their representatives in this House, to bring to the notice of the Government the serious position of the iron and steel workers in that part of the country. Here are the figures up to date as to the amount of work that these people have had at the important steel works of Messrs. William Beardmore and Company, Limited, Mossend. From 1925 to 1928 those works have only functioned for something like 269 shifts. There are three shifts in the day, so that if you divide 269 shifts by three, I think it works out at about a week's work for a man employed there once every three months. I do not want to minimise the distress in the coal minas —they need relief, in all conscience—but in giving that relief, let not the Government overlook the importance of their responsibility to other sections of 'the community who have suffered at least as much. I put it no higher than that although I could. I trust the Government will take into serious consideration the actual position of these people and give them some measure of encouragement, and I hope they will let us know what they propose to do.
The questions are, as to whether what the Government are doing is sufficient, whether it is on right lines, and whether it will achieve what is the ostensible object in view. I listened to the speech of the Prime Minister, and I am afraid that I always, in my mind, compare him with a Biblical character. He seemed to-day to be very much like Job, for his speech was more of a lamentation than anything else, and he left me certainly quite unconvinced, either that this method was a right one or that the Government had any intention of adopting any method of dealing with the root causes or of doing anything at all except to put a very inadequate plaster over a very great open wound. The Prime Minister talked about the number of workers being a great increase on those of five or six years ago. Everybody knows that the population of this country increases. It increased in 1924 when wages went up, just as it increased in 1928 when wages went down; it increased in the years in which unemployment was declining as well as in the years when unemployment was growing, and when the Prime Minister or any other Minister gives the figures of the live register of the Employment Exchanges as the unemployment figures of this country, it had better be said quite bluntly that they do not represent the unemployment in this country, that no one knows how much the unemployment in this country is, that no steps have ever been taken to find what the actual unemployment is, and that the certainty is, without any question whatever, that the real unemployment is very much higher than the figures on the live register.
Take the difference in the figures of to-day as compared with December of last year. Persons of the age of 65 and over now do not appear on the unemployment insurance list. The Minister of Labour yesterday gave what, to some of us, was a perfectly staggering answer when he said that the proportion of workers of over 65 years of age before the Act came into operation was no less than 3.2; that is, one out of every 30, roughly, was actually over 65 years of age. You take all that category out of your figures, and then you have to assume what the figures would be if they were based on the same method as they were in December last year. Everybody knows that the noose has been tightened and that administration has become stricter, and nobody can say exactly how many people have been deprived of benefit, how many have taken their books out on being deprived of benefit and no longer appear on the live register, and how many workers have never troubled to take in their books because they were afraid that their claims would be of no use. Nothing except an actual census can tell us the number of unemployed in this country. It is certain that the number is much in excess of the figures in the live register. That is the condition of affairs in this country.
What are the Government doing? We have before us one part of their activities. It is a proposition that in certain cases a charitable grant will be made by the Government for helping certain people, but there is nothing in the proposition which deals with the special position of the cotton trade. I will deal with that trade for a few minutes as a trade which has experienced tremendous difficulties. I make no comparisons, for they are odious, but for the last eight years this has been one of the most depressed trades in the country. Again, unemployment figures are no guide to the suffering in Lancashire, because hundreds of thousands of people are not on the unemployed list, and never draw a full week's wages from one year's end to the other. Workers who formerly had four looms are working on three, and two, and even sometimes on one, with three-quarters of the wage, or half the wage, and sometimes a quarter of the wage. These people are not returned at all, and vet they are in the condition of a continual struggle against poverty, which is breaking the hearts of some of the finest people Britain can claim to possess.
We ask the Government what they are going to do with regard to this trade? The fact is that the Government are bound hand and foot by the philosophy of private enterprise, and it prevents them moving. There is a theory that the best thing to do with private enterprise is to let it alone. We have left it alone, and the consequence is that scores of millions of capital are idle, and some of the best workpeople in the world are idle, and private enterprise cannot bring the capital and the workers together.
I am not going to enter into discussion across the Floor of the House. It is not my business for the moment to remedy matters. I am pointing out that boasted private enterprise has failed, for there are millions of unemployed capital, on the one hand, and millions of workers, the most capable in the world, on the other, and private enterprise cannot bring the two together.
Is it admitted that the statement I have made is true? If it be not true, will anybody explain how it is that some of the finest cotton-spinning mills and weaving sheds in the world, with admittedly the best workers in the world, are either totally or partly idle? I say that it is because private enterprise has failed to function and to bring the worker and the capital together. I ask the Government to forget for a moment that they are hide-bound by the theory that private enterprise is the best, and to ask themselves if it is not the duty of the nation, because industries are suffering in this way, to attempt to find a solution. We have asked over and over again that the Government should initiate an investigation into the whole of the conditions of the cotton trade, in order to find what are the causes of the present situation, and then to be bold enough, having found the causes, to apply a remedy.
I will give one or two facts to show why I think that we have a right to have an investigation. When the War was over, we had what was called a Dyestuffs Act. It was passed on the ground that it was necessary to impose certain duties in order to keep the dye-making in this country, first, because it was a key industry, and, second, because it was essential to the safety of the country. The Government paid £1,800,000 of national capital into the industry. When the Labour Government was in office, in 1921, they found that it had been proposed to hand back the Government's share in this industry at a low price to an organisation which was going to enter into agreement with the German firms to save us, against whom we paid this money. The Government share was to be sold out at a reduced rate in order that this combination of German and British interests could join and delimit the spheres of influence; and all the talk about it being a key industry and the national safety went by the board. It has gone by the board now. I ask the Government if it be not true that they have sold out their share, and that the result has been that between the German dye-stuff concerns and the concerns in England, there is now a combination to de-limit spheres of operations, and to see that profits are made whatever happens to the cotton trade?
The right hon. Gentleman said that we threw security to the winds. That surely is wrong, because even the agreement which he professes was about to be made, kept up a big dye industry in this country in order to provide for the safety of the country.
The agreement provided that this country should supply a certain quantity of dyes to a certain area of the world, and the rest of the world was left to Germany. We want to know what has taken place, and what effect this has on the cotton industry. A gentleman named Armitage, who is interested in the trade, wrote letters to the "Manchester Guardian," in which he claimed that the price for dyeing and finishing paid in England was exactly twice the cost in America; and I have said in this House, and I repeat it, that the difference in price of the mere dyeing and finishing is greater than the total cost in wages for the complete weaving and spinning of the cloth. If you approach the dyers, they complain about the high cost of dyes, and anybody knows what the effect of dealing with dye-stuffs means to the cotton trade of Lancashire. We are asking for a full and free inquiry into the whole of the conditions in the cotton trade in order that people may know exactly what is going on. The Government offer us nothing, either in this Estimate or in any speech of the Prime Minister. Everybody who knows the least thing about the cotton trade knows that it is the biggest exporting trade in the country, and that neither iron and steel, nor coal, nor any other exporting industry is as large, either in volume or in value. We would like to know whether the Prime Minister has any method of helping to develop the trade with India, China and Russia.
We want another thing inquired into. After the boom of 1920, there was literally a fury of speculation in Lanca shire. Mills were sold at enhanced prices; in one specific case at 30 times the paid-up capital, and frequently at 15 times the paid-up capital. We want to know what the effect of that wild fury of speculation has been, and how best to get rid of its evil effects. This is another example showing that private enterprise always manages things well. It is an example of the business-like acumen and capacity of hon. Members opposite. I am sure that they are proud when they see the result of their own work. I am not proud of it when I go to my native town and see the people suffering. I do not believe in the theory that private enterprise is divine, still less do I believe that the members of the Government are divinely appointed to put right the things that are wrong. [An HON. MEMBER: "What about the Red letter?"] Red letters are provided for you. You can buy them in Paris or Berlin. I can buy them by the dozen and get them sent by a gentleman with the good English name of Im Thurn. I have raised this question of the cotton trade and the necessity of an inquiry before. We were told on a previous occasion by a Minister that the trade was against an inquiry. I wonder what the Minister meant by the trade? Did he mean the thousands of people who work in it or merely the people who have capital in it? I think he meant only the people who have capital in it. But there are some 500,000 people who are engaged in this trade in Lancashire and round the borders of Lancashire. Those people in their organisations have discussed the matter over and over again, and for years have consistently asked for an investigation into the whole of the circumstances of this trade, an investigation such as has been made into the mining trade in order that they, who put their lives into the industry, might know what was being done. I make the same request here again, that in this industry we should have an absolutely searching inquiry into what dye- stuffs, prices of finishing, and the speculative boom have meant, and how best we can work to bring back to this industry the prosperity that once was its.
The Prime Minister told us that charity in the new version was love. I seem to remember an appeal being made to America on behalf of the miners who were then starving. What was the Prime Minister's love then? Did he or did he not send a cable to America that there was no distress? Is that charity or is it love? I would like to know, because the Prime Minister is such a saint that it is very difficult indeed to bring his words and his action into consonance. On the broad, general question, I ask if charity of a private character is the method to be adopted in a country like ours with widespread distress of this kind, in the twentieth century and in a Christian nation? Is it dignified on the part of the country to adopt the method of saying: "If Mr. A. or Mr. B. will give £1 towards these poor people we will give £1, too"? Surely it is not a dignified thing for a Government to do. Here is a condition of affairs where any normal, ordinary, decent man or woman would come to the rescue at once without making a thing conditional on anybody else.
Is it or is it not the responsibility of the Government to see that in this country no child goes short of food, of boots, of clothing? Have we sunk so low that we cannot say, in view of this widespread and intolerable distress, that we are big enough as a nation to say that no child shall go unfed, unshod, unclothed? If we are not big enough, God help us! We object to this method of private charity as being below the dignity of a great nation. We are a great nation and we ought to be too great to adopt methods of this kind. It is not often that I appeal but I earnestly appeal to the Government and to the party opposite to join with us whatever political opinions we may hold in saying that no child shall go short and that we will assure a child of a decent chance in life in a national way without asking any private charity from any person.
The Prime Minister may remind the right hon. Member of Job, but I would remind him that in the long run Job was more justified than his counsellors. Having listened to this Debate I cannot help thinking that that is the result which will be produced in this case. Let me say at the outset that the Prime Minister said, among other things, that the present depression was partly due to a reduction of purchasing power resulting from the events of 1926. He did not attempt to assign the blame, and, although other speakers have attempted to do so, I am not going to follow them. I am quite ready to take the definition of the right hon. Member for Aberavon (Mr. MacDonald), who said that charity is the penalty which we pay for our neglect and our imperfections. Whose the neglect and whose the imperfection? "God bless us all is quite another thing," and let us leave it at that. Our duty in this House to-day has been to try to give as clear a picture as we can of the actual problem with which we are dealing, especially in those areas which are commonly called in this House the most distressed areas in the country. The right hon. Member for Aberavon did attempt to present a picture. If I may I shall follow that picture through, making comments upon it, and I shall try to present my own. I begin where he began, and I entirely agree with him. He said that the crux of this problem was that there were about 250,000 miners who will not be employed in the coal mines again. He said that had been obvious as long ago as 1925. If I may say so, I wish he would look back on his own speeches and those of his own supporters in 1925 and consider whether it was so obvious to them then. I wish he had sat here to-day and heard a number of his supporters attributing the depression in the coal industry nut to that hard economic fact but to reparation coal, to the fact that the Government had not nationalised the mines, and to a number of other more or less political reasons, including the eight-hours day. At any rate, we must face the fact that there is that amount, approximately, of unabsorbable mining labour, and that is what we have got to deal with.
If that is true may I ask hon. Members what is the good of attacking the transference policy and ridiculing it and saying that it is not doing any good? You may criticise and discuss details, but transference there has got to be. Let us recognise that.
I have the very greatest sympathy with suggestions such as those made by two hon. Members in regard to providing allotments, or quite small holdings. But if you do put a miner of 30 or 40 years of age, an able-bodied and vigorous miner, on a quarter of an acre of land, you will not enable him to complete his life in decent and independent conditions. Such proposals are expedients which may have a value in reconditioning men; and the suggestion made by my hon. Friend the Member for Whitehaven in regard to providing facilities for adult education for these men may have their value; but they do not meet the fact that these men are not going to be employed again in this industry, even if they can ever be employed in the same areas again. That is the problem we have to face.
The right hon. Member for Aberavon (Mr. MacDonald) made one or two amazing misstatements about transference which I think I must challenge. I think I got his words right. He said that a large number of transfers have been in substitution for people in work. I must challenge him to produce any evidence of that.
I am quite willing to listen to any answers to my challenge, but I would prefer that they should not be made by way of interruption. Let me give the facts as regards London—the facts for Greater London. During the five years 1923 to 1928 the insured population of Greater London increased by 200,000, or 10 per cent.—an enormous influx, obviously, from outside. During the same five years its unemployment figure went steadily down from 9.5 per cent. to 5.5 per cent.
I will get that information for the hon. Member. So much for transference. I will not go into the matter in detail, but, at any rate, the figures I have quoted show that, where you have that sort of situation, the statement that transfers from depressed areas are likely to be in substitution for other labour must be absurd. Then the right hon. Member for Aberavon went on to say that the Government had ignored this problem, which was an obvious one in 1925, and had allowed all the machinery to be scrapped, so that at the present moment there is in existence none of the old machinery formerly used for dealing with abnormal periods of unemployment. What machinery have we scrapped? I know of none. The right hon. Gentleman spoke about training centres, and asked why had we reduced them rather than increased them? We have not reduced them. In 1924, under his own Government, there were no training centres at all. Now there are nine training centres, dealing with 2,818 persons at a time. What does the right hon. Gentleman mean by his criticism in regard to training centres? As a final test of the accuracy of his indictment, I would point out that he asked why we had given up Catterick. The answer is that we did not give up Catterick, but we transferred operations to Chiseldon, where we have got about double the accommodation and can deal with a much larger number of men more effectively. Our machinery for dealing with unemployment is just as effective as it ever was before, indeed far more effective. Take the whole network of our juvenile unemployment centres in South Wales. Durham and Northumberland. They have not been created only just lately; they have been running for a year. So much for the statement that we have suddenly wakened up to the problem. That statement ignores the whole of what the Prime Minister pointed out to the House in his original announcement, the enormous volume of the expenditure we are already incurring directed to this particular problem of the depressed areas; what we are doing now is simply another step in a problem with which we have been actively occupied for a long time past.
Let me come to the remedy suggested by the right hon. Member for Aberavon —his proposal for dealing with the distressed areas. He prefaced his remarks with a very curious statement. He said that personal charity, coupled with personal interest and affection, was a thing for which everyone must be grateful, but that the impersonal charity of a thing like the Lord Mayor's Fund was degrading or hurtful to the pride of the people who received it. Then he said that of course people do not feel like that, or at least they ought not to feel like that, about help from the community, help out of public funds, and that it was not degrading to receive that. I do not know whether they ought or ought not to feel that way about help from public funds, but I should like to tell the House an experience of my own in South Wales earlier this year. I visited a school in a very distressed township, and talked to the schoolmaster. He said "The local authority tried to start school feeding here a short time ago. They sent me down forms. I did my best. I got the children together and told them to tell their parents that any parent could have a form, and that school feeding was to be started. I have not had an application from, a parent yet." That is a feeling with which we have got to deal. Among the people in South Wales, in Durham, and in Northumberland there is an intense dislike of receiving benefits—I am not talking about poor relief—from public funds, an intense desire to maintain their independence.
—and I say we ought to honour that spirit.. What is the remedy of the right hon. Member for Aberavon? He gave it under four heads. Food was to be supplied by the guardians, presumably, to adults and by the education committee, presumably, to children, out of Goschen Committee gifts —not loans, but gifts. Clothing might be supplied by private charity, boots were to be supplied by the local education authority. There was to be the building of local roads and the undertaking of public works, financed, presumably, out of the Road Fund or other central funds, at the rate of 100 per cent. In other words—and this point was emphasised later by another hon. Member—the proposal was to use local machinery to distribute Exchequer money without any local money being found at all. They were to be 100 per cent. grants. I should like hon. Members to consider seriously what problems would arise if we started to give particular areas 100 per cent. grants. Hon. Members have challenged me about the number of instances in which they insist that the Government's policy is illogical, but how could they justify 100 per cent. grants to guardians, to local authorities, and to public health authorities in certain areas, and in those areas alone? Where would that policy lead? I cannot think that hon. Members opposite have really thought out that policy, and I recommend them to consider it a little more carefully.
My picture is slightly different, and I would ask hon. Members to consider this. We are dealing with certain regions in this country where depression is so widespread, and has affected the resources of local authorities to such a degree, that the local machinery, while adequate to perform its existing function, is wholly unable to take on any extra emergency functions. Durham asserts itself utterly unable, to put into force a partial feeding of school children such as has been accepted at Rhondda and Abertillery. Clearly, it is impossible to ask authorities in that position to contemplate further duties in regard to the supplying of hoots, unless it is purely in the form of the distribution of gifts from the central Exchequer. That is the problem with which we have to deal, and that is what makes the position in the areas I have mentioned such a peculiar one.
I will deal with the distribution of the money and the areas to which the money will go. What I have stated makes these areas peculiar and puts them in a wholly special position. Where you have that situation, what is your remedy? To my mind, it is perfectly logical and in line with -the recognised social reform legislation of this country that you should meet such an abnormal situation, not by the giving of 100 per cent. grants, which will land you into all sorts of complications and difficulties, but by having what after all the Education Act contemplates, that is co-operation between the local education authority and an independent school canteen committee, on which the local education authority is merely represented for the feeding of the children. That is the kind of organisation which is primarily contemplated for the feeding of the children under the Education Act.
The feeding of children direct by the local education committee is not contemplated in the Education Act except as a purely exceptional measure. I affirm that it is a perfectly sound policy in an emergency of this kind, to deal with it by stimulating the kind of voluntary effort represented by the canteen committee, and stimulating it so that it may co-operate with the local authority which without that co-operation has not the resources to perform its duties. That is our policy, and I think it is a clear and simple one. In view of what I have said, I simply cannot understand what the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Preston (Mr. T. Shaw) means when he says that it is not a dignified policy. If it is an undignified policy, then the whole system of the provision of meals for school children is equally undignified.
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Preston ranged over so wide a field that I am afraid I cannot touch upon many of his arguments. I would like to point out, with regard to what he said about unemployment statistics, that at the present moment those statistics are much more complete than they have ever been before, and they present a much truer reflection of the position. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Preston made play with the argument about men over 65 and their withdrawal from the statistics given. Let me tell the right hon. Gentleman that, according to the best estimate which the Minister of Labour can obtain (and they are pretty accurate), the taking out of the figures of those over 65 means a reduction in the figures of 25,000, while other alterations and stiffening up and the completion of the measures which go to the making up of the live register are estimated to have added to the live register about 65,000 with the result of a net increase of 40,000.
I come now to the detailed questions which have been put to me as to the operation and organisation of the Mansion House Fund. In what I am going to say, let me make it clear, first of all, what is the primary purpose of the Government grant. Its primary purpose is to assist the accumulation of a large central fund for the general relief of certain areas where the dislocation of the mining industry has involved the working population as a whole in a state of general distress, and has more or less exhausted the financial resources of the local authority. Let me say that, in discussing the organisation and distribution of the Lord Mayor's Fund, we must remember that it is the Lord Mayor's, and that the public has subscribed their money in response to his appeal. The fact that we are asking the House to make this grant shows that we have confidence in the way that Fund will be conducted, and we are assured that the distribution of the Fund, to which the Government are so largely subscribing, will be carried out in the closest consultation and cooperation with the Government. But at the present time, there are necessarily a good many administrative points which the Lord Mayor has not had time fully to discuss with us, and nothing I am going to say must be taken as absolutely committing the Lord Mayor upon particular points of that hind.
I am going to deal with that point fully. One word as to what has already been done. In the first place, I am glad to say that Sir William McLintock has offered his services as accountant to the Fund, and those services will be of very great value. With regard to further particulars, I may say that two full-time secretaries, both civil servants, have been appointed as secretaries of the Lord Mayor's committee and organisation at Cardiff and Newcastle. This deals with a point which has been raised by one or two hon. Members opposite, including, I think, the hon. Member for Morpeth (Mr. Smillie). The Lord Mayor's Fund has notified the Lord Mayors of Newcastle and Cardiff that sums of £35,000 and £45,000 respectively are being held at their disposal for the completion of the first distribution of boots to children in the schools, and the undertaking of a second distribution before the end of the winter. These large sums of money will, I believe, meet most needs in that particular direction. Finally, on that point, may I say this with regard to the steps that have already been taken? At any rate, the Government's policy has been effective in getting local machinery working where it seemed impossible to get it working before, and I hold in my hand a telegram saying that Durham has agreed to put the Provision of Meals Act into force in its schools.
Let me deal with three or four points seriatim. In the first place, what are the areas which are to benefit? It follows, from what I have said as to the primary purpose of the Fund, that the areas which are to benefit should be primarily the South Wales and the North-Eastern coalfields, which are in an exceptional position as areas where industrial prosperity and the financial resources of the local authorities are so closely bound up with the coal industry that depression in the coal industry means a general dislocation of social life and public activity. That is not true in the same degree of most of the other coalfields of the country, but, now that the mayors and lords-lieutenant of cities and counties which are closely associated with other coalfields are co-operating with the Lord Mayor's Fund, and are raising their own funds in co-operation with it, there is no doubt that we must consider those other coalfields as included in the scope of the Fund. I would only say on that point, and I think the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ince (Mr. Walsh) swill agree with me, that it is reasonable to expect that in the case of these other coalfields—Lancashire, for instance—the funds raised in the counties in which they are situated and in the neighbouring municipalities ought in many instances to suffice, or even more than suffice for their relief.
I am coming to that point too; I really will not disappoint the right hon. and gallant Gentleman on any of his points. The way in which these local funds should work in with the central Fund will vary according to the needs of the particular coalfield and according to the circumstances of the particular case; but, while no general rule can be laid down, I anticipate very little difficulty in coming to arrangements on a fair basis. I understand that the Mayors' Committee which is advising the Lord Mayor is to meet on the 11th January, and that point as to the method of working in the central and local funds will, no doubt, be discussed at that meeting.
The Noble Lord will appreciate our intense anxiety to know what is really meant. The White Paper speaks of distressed mining areas, but there is no definition, and, up to the present, there has not been a single clear statement as to whether distressed mining areas do really mean mining areas where distress exists. I have already proved that 40 per cent. of unemployment has existed for years in Lancashire, and distress is necessarily there, but we have never yet heard whether Lancashire, along with all the other areas where-similar distress exists, is to be included within this definition Surely, we have a right to something clear on that point.
I was not going away-from it. Let me say positively and clearly to the right hon. Gentleman that all distressed coalfields are included in the scope of the Lord Mayor's Fund, and I think it is reasonable to expect that, in the case of coalfields which are not isolated in the same way as South Wales and Durham, for example, the amount of relief and the kind of assistance from the Lord Mayor's Fund which other coalfields receive should, to a certain extent, be dependent on the money raised in those counties and in neighbouring municipalities.
Let me pass from that point. The second point is as to the distribution within the mining area. The distribution in the areas primarily concerned, namely, South Wales, Durham and Northumberland, will not be confined to the families of miners themselves; it will be extended to the distressed population as a whole. This is not a Miners' Relief Fund; it is a fund for the relief of depressed regions, and, of course, as the hon. Member for Wallsend (Miss Bondfield) knows, her constituency, which is not a mining constituency, has a very much larger percentage of unemployment than the immediately neighbouring mining district in Northumberland. It is true that in the past the distribution of the Lord Mayor's Fund in Durham and Northumberland, if not in South Wales, as to which I am not sure, has, in fact, been confined to miners, but that was justified on the ground that the resources of the local committees would not go further than that. Now that the Government grant has been made to the fund, it must be clear that the fund should be distributed without discrimination as between occupations in this area.
Of course, in the case of coalfields which are not so isolated, but are contained in areas of mixed industry—I give the West Riding of Yorkshire as an instance—the problem is not so easy. I do not think that the Lord Mayor's Fund could possibly undertake the relief of distress in industries which are not closely associated with and closely dependent upon the coal-mining industry—[Interruption.] I was not at the moment thinking of steel; I was thinking of the problem of mixed textile and coal development. We shall have to consider, and it will be a very difficult problem, what methods of distribution should be adopted if we come to deal with a coalfield like the West Riding of Yorkshire. I do not want to lay down hard-and-fast rules, but, when you are dealing with an area like the West Riding, it is fair to assume that that area, where the local authorities, generally speaking, are not in the position of financial exhaustion in which the local authorities in Durham and Glamorgan are, will be able to deal with the depression existing in other in- dustries, broadly speaking. As I have said, I do not think that this is the moment to lay down a hard-and-fast rule.
As regards feeding through the Lord Mayor's Fund, I have been speaking mainly of those activities to which the Lord Mayor's Fund has hitherto been mainly devoted, in connection with boots, clothing, and so on. Special considerations arise in regard to the new duty which the fund will assume in regard to the provision of meals for adults and children. Arrangements for the provision of meals will be confined to areas approved by the Government, who in considering this question will be guided by all information available to them, both from official sources and also front voluntary agencies, including the local committees of the Lord Mayor's Fund. To begin with, it is proposed to confine these arrangements to South Wales, Northumberland, and Durham. In view of what I have already said. I need hardly say that meals provided in these areas for adults or children will be provided for the families of workers in all industries without distinction or discrimination.
I come to the point of co-ordination of effort and the pound for pound grant. We are engaged, in the Coalfields Distress Fund Organisation, in discussion with the Lord Mayor and the voluntary agencies about the best method of establishing a joint organisation and real co-ordination of method. We have been carefully considering the resolution passed at. the conference of voluntary agencies which was published in the Press this morning. I am meeting the voluntary agencies to-morrow, and I hope to be able to put forward a scheme which will meet the main objects which they and the Lord Mayor equally have in mind.
I am trying to be serious. The second problem of coordination is the Mayors' or Lord-Lieutenants' Funds, partly or wholly raised for the relief of particular coalfields other than South Wales, Northumberland, and Durham. The extent to which those funds should be passed through the Lord Mayor's Fund will probably depend on the circumstances of the particular area. Generally speak- ing, it is desirable to aim at as large as possible a measure of co-ordination and pooling of funds, but it is obviously undesirable that the Lord Mayor's Fund should become a mere post office for earmarked subscriptions. I hope the authorities responsible for these local funds who wish to inquire about the best method of handling the money raised by them will communicate with the Coalfields Distress Fund organisation. This point, again, I presume will be discussed at the meeting of the Mayor's Committee on 11th January.
Thirdly, we come to co-ordination in regard to adoption schemes. This is a very difficult and most important matter. There are various kinds of adoption schemes. They range from real adoption, involving a real personal interest and the assumption of a measure of real permanent responsibility for the adopted town, to mere temporary linking arrangements whereby the adopting town puts up a certain limited amount of money which may only last for a short time. Real adoption may be of the very greatest value. It may, for instance, lead to a real transfer and resettlement. It may be one of the most valuable agencies in the whole work, but the mere linking of one town with a certain village for the purpose of momentarily stimulating public interest in the adopted town may, of course, only result in duplication and inefficiency. For instance, I have been very much struck by the fact that all adoption schemes I have heard of, with one possible exception, relate to South Wales. No one has dreamt, as far as I know, of adopting Bishop Auckland, or Brandon, or any place in the North. The first thing, therefore, with regard to these adoption schemes is to have a register of them. I hope all who are responsible for these schemes will communicate particulars to the Coalfields Distress Fund Organisation, and I hope all who are thinking of adopting a scheme of this kind will consult with the organisation before coming to a final decision. The Coalfields Distress Fund Organisation does not want to delay schemes or to stifle what ought to be spontaneous effort by over-organisation, but we really must, if we can, prevent duplication, prevent a useless expenditure of effort, and prevent, for instance, the kind of danger one fears, that we shall wake up one fine morning and find that all the money the adopting town has to spend on that particular area has gone and that the adopted village is left without resources at all. Therefore, I hope all those who are considering adoption schemes will communicate with us in that way.
I come to what the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Colonel Wedgwood) is anxiously waiting for, and that is the pound for pound grant. We have to direct our attention primarily to what is the best form of organisation and relation between the central and the local funds for the purpose of getting the work done. It would be deplorable indeed if the pound for pound grant induced other voluntary agencies, or induced the mayors who are raising local funds in any part of the country, to adopt an inefficient scheme for the purpose of passing their money through the Lord Mayor's Fund, and getting the pound for pound grant merely for that purpose. Therefore, let us concentrate our attention on what is the most efficient form of organisation. It is obvious that the Government grant must be given to a central fund generally availabe for the general relief of distress in these areas. We could not undertake clearly to give pound for pound of Government money to a variety of funds over which the central fund has no control and about which it may have very little knowledge. It is true that many of these voluntary agencies have a better organisation and greater knowledge of what is needed on the spot in the particular areas where they have been working than the Lord Mayor's Fund. They have had more organisaition than the Lord Mayor's Fund has had up to now. I warmly accept the offer of the machinery of the British Legion.
I want to get the greatest possible pooling of money. Any money pooled with the Lord Mayor's Fund will certainly attract the pound for pound grant, and, so long as the Lord Mayor's Fund does not become a mere Post Office for earmarked subscriptions, which would make any real allocation impossible, I see no reason why we should not succeed in making, arrangements for pooling in that way. Hon. Members will appreciate that in this, as in the matter of the limitation of areas, it is really better not to lay down hard and fast lines or to commit oneself to a definite proposition at an early stage of organisation. I hope what I have said will show at least that our minds are open to any arrangement which will secure efficiency and the greatest amount of money being available for the areas that need it most.
It may be asked why the operation of this Fund should not be extended to other areas where there is serious distress due to depression in other industries. No one pretends that it is possible to draw a logical line of distinction between the mining areas and certain other distressed areas. Let me repeat again that this is a Fund for relief of the distressed areas. It is the regional character of the problem which justifies the relief, and we are not dealing with the question of relief of particular depressed industries. That is the really logical and perfectly tenable distinction which we must make where an industry which is suffering from depression is one member of a mixed family of industries in a region.
That depends precisely upon where the steel works are situated. I am not arguing with the hon. Member, but, merely pointing out that we have to direct our attention to the region, and not to the particular industry or the degree of unemployment in the particular industry. Having said that, one must recognise that very difficult questions may arise in the case of certain areas which are, as it were, on the fringe of the coalfield, but which have not yet been regarded as falling within it. You get an easier form of that problem in the case of Wallsend. You get a very difficult phase of that problem in other areas which are further from the fringe of a coalfield than is Wallsend. In dealing with a difficult situation of that kind, we must be guided by commonsense, but we must take a general view of what is the state of the area, what is the financial position of the local authority, and a number of other factors. We must remember that the private money subscribed in response to the Lord Mayor's appeal has been subscribed by the public to the mining areas. I do not know that the Lord Mayor, whatever may be the opinion of the Government by the terms of his appeal, could go outside what may logically and fairly be called a mining area. But we must, on all border line cases, be guided by common-sense, and on all border line cases I have no doubt that we shall be able to come to a common-sense decision as cases arise. Broadly, we must maintain the position which, I think, is justified by the facts. The position of industry in the mining areas, and particularly in South Wales and Durham and Northumberland, is an exceptional one, presenting features so peculiar as to justify special emergency measures. After all this is the problem on which our attention has been fixed for months and for years past. We are dealing primarily with that problem, and, as I say, whatever difficult questions may arise as to the precise extent of the area which we are to include must be solved as we go along. I hope that hon. Members will not press me to commit myself on any of these points this evening.
I think that the House may feel assured that this piece of organisation is well in hand, and that we shall be able to take measures which will effectively deal with some of the difficulties which have caused us and hon. Members opposite and, indeed, the whole of the Members of this House, the utmost anxiety in these distressed areas. I believe that we shall he able to deal with this problem, and I think that the telegram to which I have referred indicates that the palliative which we are attempting to apply to carry these areas over the winter months will really be effective.
The Noble Lord has been very lucid and understandable, but there are two points which he has left obscure. One of these points was raised by my hon. Friend the Member for King's Norton (Mr. Dennison), and it is very desirable that we should have an answer. The question is: What is and what is not a depressed area? The Noble Lord has left this point obscure. He has mentioned Newcastle as being a centre of one of the depressed areas. Is Newcastle really a depressed area? If it is, let me remind him that, according to the Minis- ter of Labour who is sitting by his side, Newcastle is not scheduled as such. Under the circular issued by the Ministry of Labour, Newcastle is not a depressed area, and it does not come under the provisions of the circular dealing with the transference of men. I shall be interested to know whether the City of Newcastle really comes within the provisions of the grant which we are now asked to vote. If it does not, I want to know why it does not. Newcastle is the centre of the north-east coast coalfield. There are six collieries within the boundaries of the city and a large number contiguous to it, yet I am afraid, even after hearing the Noble Lord's very lucid explanation, the City of Newcastle, with the Lord Mayor as administrator of the fund, will itself be left out. I really would like the Noble Lord or the Minister of Labour to answer the question as to whether 10 per cent. of the total population is to be taken as the criterion, as that percentage is made to apply under the schedule issued by the Ministry of Labour in deciding what is a necessitous area. Are we to understand that that percentage or some other percentage is to be taken in deciding what is and what is not a depressed area in connection with the application of the fund?
The second point I want to put to the Noble Lord is that which was raised by the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Fairfield (Major Cohen) and also by the Leader of the Opposition with regard to the pound for pound proportion. The Noble Lord has said that these things will have to be taken into consideration, and he also stated that he would be glad to avail himself of the offer made by the hon. and gallant Member. Does that mean that the £12,000 spoken of as having been contributed by the British Legion, and the amount of money contributed by the Society of Friends, is to be met by a grant of pound for pound? If the public willingness to contribute to distressed areas is to be the basis of the grant then, surely, the amount of money contributed before the Lord Mayor's Fund was inaugurated ought to be taken into consideration. I do not attach a great deal of importance to the raising of this fund. I do not want to minimise the good that will be done but, compared with the distress that prevails and the greater question of the dif- ficulties of the mining industry, the matter which we have been discussing to-day is very small. If public generosity is to be taken as the basis surely the money which was given before the fund was inaugurated ought to be considered. I hope that what the Leader of the Opposition said, and what was said by the hon. and gallant, Member for Fairfield, will have this effect upon the Government's proposal that pound per pound will be given from the beginning.
I would like to comment upon the remarks made by the Prime Minister to-day. He said that, apart from the black spots, the whole of the country was prosperous. That may be true, and if that. was a comment from one man in the street to another man, no comment would be necessary, but the Prime Minister is the head of the Government, and to hear him making a remark of that kind is enough to cause a cold shiver to run through the heart of any man who has anything to do with or has any interest in the districts which have been spoken about to-day. He seems to be in the position of the man who is speaking about his bodily health, and who says: "It is perfectly true that my heart is very weak, and my lungs are congested, but otherwise I am all right. My complexion is fairly good, and my hair is growing well, and is nice and curly. Therefore, I am all right." The Prime Minister was speaking as the head of the Government, and it is regrettable that he should speak in that light-hearted fashion of the basic industries of the country. Britain has been built up upon coal, iron, engineering and textiles, and yet the right hon. Gentleman speaks about the rest of the country as being prosperous. Has he any sense of values? He spoke about charity and love. We are concerned about values, and the values which the right hon. Gentleman puts upon the depressed industries and the districts in which those depressed industries are situated have not been very high this afternoon.
I should like to refer to the remarks of the hon. and gallant Member for Bournemouth (Sir H. Croft), to whose remarks we always listen with great interest, and sometimes with amusement. He is always consistent in his advocacy of protection, or safeguarding as he calls it. A point in regard to coal which he and many of his colleagues forget, is that in coal and through coal we are subsidising the very competitors that he has complained about over and over again in this House. The eight hours' day has supplied our competitors on the Continent who manufacture steel and iron and dump it, as he complains, in this country, with coal at anything from 1s. to 3s. a ton cheaper than the coal is supplied to our own manufacturers. I have followed the coal prices abroad for many years. Long before the War, and long before our present troubles were upon us, one could see from the quotations, morning after morning, that Tyne shipped coal was supplied on the Continent at 3s. a ton less than it was supplied to the British manufacturers on the Tyne. One of the root causes of the trouble in the coal industry to-day is the sending of coal to the Continent to our competitors in the iron and steel trade, whose competition reacts upon our coal trade.
The hon. and gallant Member for Bournemouth developed quite a miniature Protectionist Debate. One further thing which he forgets in his protectionist theories for the heavy industries, and which is never suggested from the other side, is that if a safeguarding policy is to be pursued, and the monopoly of the whole market is guaranteed to the home manufacturers, they will be willing to give a quid pro quo in the same way that it has been given in the Australian Commonwealth, where, in return for safeguarding, there was a guarantee that the prices would be brought to the foreign level within a specified period, without a reduction of the status or conditions of the men. It never seems to enter into the minds of hon. Members opposite who advocate safeguarding that, such a guarantee against exploitation is absolutely necessary if their proposals for safeguarding are to be placed upon the Statute Book.
The Prime Minister spoke about new orders for ships. In listening to him, one would have thought that we should require to have new yards in order to build all the ships that are being ordered. It is true that during the last 10 or 11 weeks a fair amount of tonnage has been placed. Orders for over 500,000 tons of cargo vessels have been placed, but even with that, the unemployment figures in the shipbuilding and ship repairing industry are very high. For the heavy industries of iron and steel we hear of 22 per cent. of unemployment, but none of these trades has averaged during the last six years the percentage in the shipbuilding and ship repairing trades, where the percentage has been 31.1 of the total insured workers in shipbuilding and engineering. During the last six years the percentage of unemployment in the shipbuilding and engineering trade has never fallen below 17 per cent. The statement made by the Prime Minister about the orders for new ships which have been placed, and the references made by the Secretary of State for War—who recently produced a newspaper in this House, which is not supposed to be allowed—may have led to the impression that so far as the shipbuilding and engineering industry are concerned, we are now round the corner and well on the way towards prosperity.
The most sanguine hope of the shipbuilders, according to an interview which I had with one during the last week, is that by June of next year we shall be able to bring down the unemployment figures to what they were in September last year, when we had 42,000 unemployed out of 202,000 insured workers. The present figures are 67,000, and we are hopeful that 25,000 of these will he employed before the middle of next year. That will only bring the figures down to 22 per cent., which is higher than that of the miners or the steel workers to-day. I desire to emphasis this because there is an impression abroad that as far as shipbuilding is concerned our troubles are all over. It is very necessary to correct that impression, and I have been asked by the shipbuilders themselves to correct it in this House.
The hon. Member for East Aberdeen (Mr. Boothby) spoke about rationalisation as something which would bring us prosperity, not perhaps in the immediate future but later on if we had patience. Rationalisation, I take it, means the elimination of waste, greater production with fewer men. The hon. Member did not deny the displacement, nor did he announce any provision for displacement. I have been watching rationalisation in industry for the last 40 years and I have taken part in it. I know as much about it as perhaps anyone; and let me tell the House that a, job which used to take 16 days and night to complete, when I was a boy, can be done now in one shift, and a job in my own department which formerly cost £8 on piece-work can now be done for 2s. 6d. Has it improved Industry; has it brought prosperity to the men? Will rationalisation bring more men into the industry? No. The President of the Board of Education spoke about the "primary consideration." What is the primary consideration in industry? Is it the employment of the men? When a company is being floated does the director, the chairman, get up and say, "I have a scheme which will employ 1,000 men, and therefore I commend it to you.' Does a second director say, "I know a better scheme by which I can employ 1,400 men." Does a third director say, "I have another scheme under which I can employ 2,000 men." Does the second director say, "Oh, but your scheme will only give intermittent employment to 2,000 men; my scheme is the better, because I can give continuous employment to 1,400 men." Is that what goes on at a directors' board meeting? It never enters their heads. If they think about it at all it is how few men can be employed in the industry.
One would imagine that in this 20th century, in the heart of the British Empire, where we are supposed to be organised and civilised, when it comes to a question of the primary consideration that at least it would be the welfare of the people who give their lives to the industry. That is the position as I see it. The Prime Minister said that he would welcome ally suggestions which are helpful. I have been thinking all the afternoon what advice I can give to a Tory Government, with all its trammels and predelictions, because it is our duty to try and be helpful. The whole system is wrong, and unemployment is inherent in it. What can the Treasury Bench of a Tory Government do to bring about a better state of things in their time? I have referred to the way in which we are subsidising foreign manufacturers by cheap coal. We are doing that to-day; and a Bill is going through the House now which is going to further cheapen that coal and increase the competitive power of people on the Continent. We are actually going to send cheaper coal still to the Continent under the Local Government Bill to compete with our own heavy industries, and I suggest that the facilities which are being given to foreign shipbuilders and to foreign iron and steel manufacturers might at least be given to our own people for a change.
The Debate has ranged over a very wide field and although I thought that you would call me to order when I touched the subject of de-rating, I did want to point out a grievance of the shipbuilders and engineers. They see cheaper coal going abroad; it is to be cheaper still, and the same advantage is denied them. Further, under the Act of last year, that is the Rating and Valuation Act, which is being implemented by the Bill now passing through the House, another disability is placed on shipbuilding and engineering; and that is the definition as to what is a- factory and a workshop.
I do not see what this has to do with the particular Resolution, or the Debate which has taken place this afternoon. We are not dealing with the general question of unemployment. We are dealing with the grant of Government money for certain purposes.
We are discussing, and have been discussing unemployment; we are discussing, and have been discussing how to help employment, and I am suggesting that certain powers under the present Act might be extended.
I only wanted to say in what ways, practical ways, industry might be helped, but apparently, the Rules of the House, if I may be permitted to say so, prevent one doing so in a, way which would be helpful.
I shall not detain the House for many moments, and what I have to say will be short, and I hope to the point. It is a, surprise indeed to learn that Greater London has been quoted as though it was not a necessitous area. Thirteen years ago we took the
flattering unction to our souls that we were the first people to raise the question of necessitous areas. I remember the late Mr. Keir Hardie raising the question of unemployment and necessitous areas in this House as far back as 1893. Ever since that time we have been looked upon as the Cinderella of industrial districts. I am pleased and astonished now to know that we are apparently millionaires in comparison with some of the more industrial parts of the country. What is the basis of computation? How can the Government decide what is and what is not a necessitous area? Every district has the right to raise its voice, but why this line of demarcation should be fixed between one district and another because of the name of a trade, I do not know. We all realise that the mining industry is in a bad state, but everyone knows that when a basic industry is hit every other trade is hit more or less as a consequence. The mining industry is the life-blood of industrial England. We are told by this Government that this is only a gesture.
Peace in our time, O Lord,
begging letters to employers, charity, charity, charity! It almost makes one believe the gibe of the old French satirist:
Charity is the conscience money which the rich man pays for the robbery of the poor.
The Government say: "We will enter into a contract; if you will give a pound, we will give a pound." Who will give it, and who will get it? It. is the old game over again, the Charity Organisation Society again, the Nosey-Parkers and the Miserable-miserables, the Pleasant-Sunday - Afternoon - miserable - Monday - morning Brigade. They will all be called up to relieve the miseries of better people than themselves, and will put them through the moral microscope to see whether they are worthy of a dinner or a pair of boots. The thing is beyond contempt. I am not going to pass bouquets to Baldwin or anyone else. [HON. MEMBERS: "Order, Order!"] I beg pardon, I should have said the Prime Minister. I am sorry that. I did not call him by his proper title. In my own district, we have had for ten years the problem of unemployment very intense. Almost as soon as the War was over,
people were thrown out of work all over the place. Now, because we have only 10 per cent. of unemployment, we are to have more put on us. The miners are to be sent to us from South Wales. It is absolutely insulting our intelligence to send unemployed miners into Silvertown, when we have thousands of unemployed in that district already at the docks or in the sugar factories. I will take the Minister down to-morrow morning and will show him thousands of men waiting at' the factories and the docks with no hope.
I am prepared to do what I can to help the miners, but we cannot help them by this method. This is a sticking plaster on a wooden leg. Three months from now we shall have the same kind of speeches delivered by Ministers again. We shall hear the same thing again at Easter. It is nothing but dope—no hope, only dope. The Government have had 4½ years of power, with the biggest majority that any Government has had for the last 20 years. All this power at their disposal and this is what they give us—a miserable abortion which merely accentuates the situation. Six months from now there will be as many people out of work as there are to-day. I say that though I am neither a prophet nor the son of a prophet, nor the relation of a profiteer like a large number of Members of this House. We are responsible for the people that we represent. I say to the Government "Do what you like in the way of charity, but charity is no substitute for justice. You can never organise society on the lines of giving out doles. You can do it only by re-organising our industrial affairs and using the public wealth for the public good."
Like others, I have listened to the many speeches on this subject, and like the last speaker I do not want to joint in any thanksgiving for the amount of money now being granted by the Government to relieve mining distress. The amount roughly is £170,000, including the £20,000 or more to be given to Scotland. There are 1,250,000 men idle, all more or less in distressed circumstances. Included in that total you save at least 250,000 unemployed miners. Therefore, you have the spectacle of £170,000 being granted as if it would touch even the fringe of the problem of unemployment in the mining industry alone. I listened to part of the speech of the Secretary of State for Scotland. He said that he was going to call a conference in Glasgow of Lords-Lieutenant and various important people, to decide how the Fund is to be administered. Glasgow is not a distressed area within the meaning of this Vote. Yet in Glasgow there is the most appalling poverty; there are conditions of poverty which in many respects are unequalled in any part of the country. We shall have the spectacle of the Lord Provost of Glasgow calling a meeting for the purpose of relieving distress in other parts of the country while for his own city no meeting is called to relieve distress.
If the Government had done its duty in regard to unemployment there would have been no need for the voting of this sum. A few weeks ago I spoke in this House on a small Bill introduced by the Government to enable £10,000,000 to be borrowed for the Unemployment Insurance Fund. I and almost every speaker on this side said that the sum was quite insufficient for the purpose and that we ought to have an Unemployment Insurance Bill which gave greater powers for borrowing money. This £170,000 is being voted because, in other spheres, the Government have refused to do their duty to the unemployed. The unemployed people have a right to feel that this sum is an insult to them. Most of the men who are to receive this charity have been insured persons for long periods. Most of them have contributed to the Unemployment Insurance Fund, under which certain sums of money were to be provided in order to keep them while they were unemployed. Because the Government have broken their insurance bond with the unemployed they seek to salve their consciences by making a mean and contemptible grant of £170,000.
I was amazed when I heard some of the speeches from hon. Members opposite. I heard, for instance, an hon. Member raising the case of Cleveland. It was almost a contempt of the proceedings of this House for one Member after another to rise, trying to see how much they could pinch out of this miserable, petty sum. We had Conservative Members, instead of asking that this sum should be made as many millions as it is thousands, taking part in the scramble to see if some of this £170,000 could not be made to apply to their particular districts. The hon. Member for White-haven (Mr. R. Hudson) thanked the Government, because, he said, this sum was going to apply to Whitehaven like other districts. He knew as well as I know that the sum is already insufficient for the other districts, but, instead of asking for more money in order that the needs of his own district might be met decently, he thanked the Government because his district is allowed the privilege of joining in the scramble. What a contemptible proceeding? What a terrible thing it is that we should find in this House admittedly decent men arguing for the inclusion of this class and that class, of dockers, and shipyard workers, and others in circumstances like these.
Then I ask myself why it is that their case has never been answered? Steel workers, for instance, are as deserving as any other workers. Why are they not included? I can see only one reason. The rich people have their fads and hobbies. The people with a, surplus pound or two like to do the thing which is, for the time being, fashionable—the thing which creates the most interest and gets the best Press. At the moment, relieving the miners happens to be the right thing for the noble families, for the elite to do, Sometimes it is "slum-mining." Sometimes going down to the East End and trying to pick the poor people out of the slums is the fashion of the moment. Sometimes it is the reclamation of unfortunate women in the West End. The reason why this fund is being confined to the miners is that it is the fashion to do so. What a change from 1926! In 1926, the miners were the villains, the destroyers of our trade, and the people who were weakening our national finances. They were the worst people in the country in 1926, but fashion changes.
We have found out that there is a distress problem. The Press has worked it up, and the reason why we are granting this sum to miners, in preference to other workers, is not that other workers are any less or any more deserving, but because the fancy of the rich people has changed. It is the popular thing, the nice thing, to take part in this move- ment. Lords - Lieutenant may get O.B.E.'s and other honours, if this work be carried on, and therefore a subscription must be raised for the miners. That is the only reason. No person in this House would seek to deny that in the East End of London, as in the East End of Glasgow, in the steel areas, in the cotton areas, in all the other industrial areas of the country, there are to be found workers in as great distress as those in the mining districts. One of the reasons why the fund is limited is that fashionable people want to get the name of being generous while it costs them as little as possible. They want to get the name of being kindly without paying the price. Imagine £150,000! What a contemptible sum! Why, a dozen men in London, if they were really desirous of facing the problem, ought to be able to raise that sum themselves.
I remember soon after I came to this House a loan was being raised by the German Government—by the hated Hun, the despised and rejected. People stood in queues waiting until the brokers' offices opened in order to get there first, and, within less than 24 hours, £10,000,000 had been raised, and 10 times that sum could have been raised. That was raised for the Germans, not by the whole country but by a limited few in London alone. But when the decent mining population, men who themselves fought in the War and made sacrifices, or whose fathers made sacrifices, the men who provided the coal which gave us heat and warmth, light and comfort—when they ask that the State should render its obligations, we are told that all the country can afford is £170,000. Not so long ago in this House we heard it announced in hushed tones that a serious situation was arising at Shanghai. In less than three months, for a population not one-tenth of the size of that with which we are now called upon to deal, we spent in warlike preparations 10 times the sum which we are now prepared to vote to these honest, decent, and deserving people.
Some of us on these benches are criticised at times because we are alleged to be two extremes. But could any man defend the social indecency, the social outrage of the shocking conditions that are now prevailing? Just imagine the stupidity of it and the moral outrage of it. Within a mile from my constituency there are idle miners, men who have never worked for a year. Inside my constituency there are other men who have not worked for years on end. Here is the situation. Miners idle because nobody wants the coal that they could get, and inside my Division people, last Sunday night, with a bitter, cold Glasgow frost sitting in their homes with hardly a fire burning, because they had not the money with which to buy coal. Could you imagine insanity with a mixture of criminality worse than that? Idle miners, coalless hearths, because the Government refuse to give decent people the purchasing power to buy the coal that they need and that might give the colliers work. I would have preferred to take the risk to-day of voting against this sum, liable as I know it would be to misinterpretation, because I think the great mass of the people would have welcomed a Division against the contemptible proceedings that we now see going on.
You know full well, Mr. Speaker, that if to-morrow it was even breathed that this country was in danger from a foreign invader, only one Minister would need to come down to that Box and say, "Your country is in danger," and within 24 hours this House would vote countless millions for the purpose of defence. Why cannot we do the same for peace as we do for war? Why cannot we do it to-night? Is this country poor? Have we not more money to spend or to afford than this miserable, contemptible sum? Could we not give to lithe miners tomorrow a much larger sum? Would anybody to-morrow be a bit the poorer if we came along and said to the Super-taxpayer, "Give us 2s. 6d. in the £ more than you are now giving us in Super-tax"? Would it injure any person seriously if we doubled the Death Duties? Would it deprive any member of the community of much if we added another 1s. in the £ to the Income Tax? Would such an increase of either Super-tax, Death Duties, or ordinary Income Tax deprive a single man, woman, or child of food, of clothing, or of shelter? No.
We know in our heart of hearts that to-morrow, if we had the will and the desire to do it, we could raise, by In- come Tax, Super-tax, and Death Duties, at least the sum of £50,000,000—nay, double that. Would it bring in its train any hardship? Not one moment's hardship. On the other hand, if we raised it, think of how the money could be used—not this miserable sum, but a sum to be devoted to seeing that every man and woman, and every dependant of that man and woman, not merely in the mining areas, but in areas in every part of the country, during this period through which we are passing, was properly fed and clad. I cannot understand the mentality of the Ministers who have produced this Motion. I have heard the Prime Minister spoken of as a kindly, honest Prime Minister. So far as I am concerned, I hope that nobody can ever say, after to-day's experience, that he is at least kindly. No kind man could introduce an Estimate of this character. It is not kindness, it is brutality. I am never surprised at the Minister of Education or at the Under-Secretary of Health, both of whom seem to me in these debates to lack the elements that make for social decency and social usage. Be that as it. may, I say to this House that this Motion is an outrage on the needs of the people, and if this House had the courage and the determination it would take the Estimate and destroy it and treat it with contempt, and it would see that the Ministers who brought it in were chased, were scorned, from public life!
While agreeing largely with my hon. Friend the Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan), who has just spoken, I do not agree with him that we should reject the offer made by the Government. Whatever grant is offered, however small, I would willingly accept it owing to the conditions of the miners. The point put by my hon. Friend is that it ought to be more and I readily agree, but we are faced with this situation, of having to take just what the Government offer. I think the House of Commons, as guardians of the public purse, in granting money ought to examine the cause that has brought about this condition of things, because the mere fact of granting money does not help us out of the difficulty, and we ought to see if we can do something to prevent a recurrence of it. If the Government in the past had dealt with the situation as they ought to have done, there would have been no need for this debate today. Commission after Commission has sat to point out the needs of the coal industry and what ought to be done, yet the Government, either through blind prejudice or through having no interest in the situation, have allowed it to drift. May I refer to one important aspect of the question? The last Commission stated, quite definitely, that along the line of increasing the working day of the miners no solution could be found. The coal-owners were quite definite that they wanted an increase in the working day, and—
On a point of Order. May I draw attention to the fact that we are now discussing this matter without any representative of the Government here at all, let alone any representative of the Treasury?
On that point of Order. Is it possible in any way, when we are discussing a Vote of money on Report, on which by agreement there has been no Committee stage, for us in any way to get the Ministers here, so that we may put questions to them? These matters affect our constituents.
I was referring to the Commission's findings in reference to the working day. The Samuel Report stated definitely:
Reference has already been made to the proposal of the Mining Association that costs of production should be reduced mainly by an extension of working hours. For reasons set out at length in an earlier chapter, we cannot recommend acceptance of their proposal. It would make the working day of the British miner longer than that in any important mining area on the Continent of Europe, except Upper Silesia. It would lead to an extension in other countries. It involves a lowering of the standard of life and leisure which would tend to become permanent.
In spite of that, this Government, that is granting money now for distress, acceded to the request of the Mining Association and granted a longer working day, and I remember vividly that when
the proposal was brought forward from the other side, it was stated that the longer working day must be accepted for the purpose of improving the mining conditions and giving to the miners better working time. The whole thing has proved futile, as we pointed out that it would, and now we have this miserable exhibition of the Government having to grant some relief to the mining areas. Since that time, we have met the Secretary for Mines to try and get him to realise the situation. We put certain proposals before him in order to get him to see that something would have to be done to improve the position. We pointed out that some international regulation of output of coal would have to take place, and this is the report of the reply of the Secretary for Mines:
Commodore King said that as regards national co-operation he was convinced that developments in this direction were satisfactory, and that there was no occasion for the Government to intervene. He doubted whether the time was propitious for international agreement, so long as we had hopes of regaining our foreign markets to a greater extent than at present.
I want to point out to the Government that it is foolish ever trying to get the same conditions that we had in 1913. At that time, our export trade was equal to about 80,000,000 tons. In 1925, we dropped to 48,000,000 tons, and in 1927 it was again 48,000,000 tons, and I urge upon the Government that, in place of trying to beat the foreign competitor by lowering the standard of living in this country, it is better to get some regulation internationally of what our quota ought to be in the foreign markets. The greatest point which we put before the Minister was that we want scientific treatment and utilisation of coal to be taken in hand by the Government. This is the reply of the Government on that matter:
As regards the scientific treatment and utilisation of coal, the Government were satisfied with the progress that was being made by private firms. The Government was already spending about £100,000 a year on one aspect or another of the scientific research on coal. Government intervention would only retard development, as each process would suspend expenditure in the hope of being selected for Government support.
Here again we argue that the Government must take a part in the scientific utilisation of coal. Private enterprise is too slow, and, unless the Government are
prepared to move, a further grant will have to be given before long. I want to read a, report which appeared in the "Manchester Guardian" on 13th December, 1928. It sums up the whole situation, and on an occasion like this it is well worth quoting to the House:
The Bishop of Birmingham at the Diocesan Conference in Birmingham to-night, called attention to the plight of many miners and their families. Two and a-half years ago in July, 1926, he said the coal dispute had been dragging on for more than two months. Some of us Bishops and Free Church leaders, profoundly disturbed by so grave an industrial conflict, endeavoured to negotiate a peaceful end to the dispute. We knew something of the conditions of the coal-mining industry. They had been revealed by the exhaustive inquiries of the Sankey and Samuel Commissions. We were convinced that there was urgent need of a reasonable reorganisation of the industry. We learned that if the owners were willing, the men's leaders would co-operate. We approached the Government, and asked them for a subsidy for the industry while a national settlement was being reached, and also for an assurance that they would implement the legislation necessary to make reorganisation effective. We were refused. Mr. Baldwin, then Prime Minister, thought fit to comment that though ho would not despair, he would not he optimistic if he saw that the Federation of British Industries was trying to bring, about the reunion of particular Baptists with Anglo-Catholics.… To-day after two and a-half years of dispute, had trade and inefficient organisation, there is the most horrible poverty and grave distress alike in South Wales and in Durham. I will make no comment on what the Government has done or left undone. The nation will pass judgment next summer. But the march of events has signally vindicated the action taken by Bishops and Free Church leaders in 1926.'
There the whole situation is summed up as being due to the ineptitude of the Government in 1926. Had they had the courage to carry out the Samuel recommendations and make them effective, there would have been no need for this grant. However, it has to be made, and I am only urging that the Government should pay close and earnest attention to the real cause of what is happening in the coal industry. Unless they do that, I can see no hope of anything taking place that will improve it. It will mean continual grants being made, and it is not right that the class of men such as we have in the mining world ought to be subject to charity. Charity is not what they want; they want the chance to earn their living, and, if the Govern-
ment will face the position, the industry can once more go forward and keep the people who are engaged in it.
I gave notice to the President of the Board of Education, who, I understand, is in charge of this organisation, that I wished to raise certain points of detail vitally affecting the city which I represent, and I have been astonished that the Noble Lord has thought fit to absent himself for the greater part of the time that has elapsed since he made his speech. By arrangement we have no Committee stage on this Vote, and this is the only opportunity that hon. Members have of raising points connected with an entirely new organisation which has been set up, and to which our constituencies have to contribute the money; and not one Minister representing the English side of the business has the courtesy or decency to be here. This is the way the House of Commons is treated, and I make no apology in rising. In order that Members should not have to sit here on Friday, we have this extraordinary and unusual arrangement, and by a, careful arrangement of the business the House will not come back again until 22nd January. Therefore, I make no apology for raising these matters. I am glad that the Noble Lord has now deigned to come into the House. His speech showed—and I do not blame him; he is the youngest Member of the Cabinet, both physically and politically—that the scheme has been rushed in a panic without proper thought. I was encouraged by the remark that he made that no hard-and-fast rules are laid down.
I want to ask him who is responsible for calling the meeting of lord mayors and mayors on 11th January. Who will decide which mayors and lord mayors will be called to London? This is very important. The City of Hull, for which I am speaking in this matter, has a population of 300,000 people, the inhabitants have been very generous already, and we have raised a good deal of money locally to meet the distress in the mining areas. It shows that the poor help the poor, because we have tremendous unemployment. We have heard to-day of the Rhondda unemployment. In the city of Hull alone, there are 14,000 unemployed, and one of the reasons why we have so many is because of distress in the mining areas, and because we are the exporting port for the South Yorkshire, the Nottingham and Staffordshire coalfields. We have this extraordinary situation. The Newcastle area is a so-called distressed area. The Newcastle area is in a so-called distressed area. Newcastle is a coal exporting port and the dockers who are out of work there because of the depression in the coal industry will be able to get help. The harbour workers, the steel workers and others in the distressed areas will be able to get help. Other ports too will get help. Newport, in South Wales, will probably come within the distressed area. All the Scottish coalfields are getting help, but only certain English coalfields are getting help if they prove distress. There will be then certain ports engaged in shipping coal from distressed coalfields which will get help because they are suffering. I am glad they are getting help, because charity is better than nothing at all.
My own constituency has a great deal of unemployment from exactly the same cause; but, because we bring our coal by barge and railway truck some miles away from the coalfields near Doncaster and Barnsley, we will apparently get no help at all. That is very unfair, and I hope that the Lord Mayor's invitation will go to the Lord Mayor of Hull and the mayors of Grimsby and Goole, who are all very much concerned with the Humber export trade in coal. Not only are they suffering by the general depression in the coal trade, but they are doubly suffering through the workings of what is known as the Five Counties marketing scheme. Under that scheme, there is an artificial restriction of coal, and a good deal of the coal which we could sell from the Humber ports, both bunker and export coal, we are prevented from selling by this agreement. An attempt has been made to raise the price by restricting the supply. We are doubly hit in this way. I am therefore hopeful that, when these rules, which at present are not hard and fast, are revised, the coal exporting ports will be looked upon as part of the coalfields for the purposes of the grant. The importance of the matter is that, if you bring a place like Hull into the scheme, we have a magnificent organisation for raising funds locally, which will raise a great deal for our own distress. You can take advantage of that. The town will benefit, too, as we can then hope for some small part of the Government grant which we are now voting. That is a very reasonable question indeed, and I press it upon the Noble Lord. The first step for which I ask is that the present Lord Mayor of Hull, a patriotic, spirited, public man, should be invited to the conference summoned by the Lord Mayor of London on 11th January.
This is becoming a refuge problem—adoption of villages, canteens, soup kitchens. I ask the Noble Lord to think of the perils of creating the refugee mentality. That is the real danger. We have had the danger of men demoralised by long periods of idleness—I mean losing their aptitude and physical strength; they may now, under this new scheme, lose their mental strength, their spiritual strength. Therefore I dislike it, of course as much as the hon. Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan) who, I am sorry to see, is falling into the habit of making a speech and leaving the House, a very bad habit. I agree that it is appalling, but, nevertheless, things are so bad that we have to risk it. I would ask the Noble Lord to direct his attention to a letter which appeared to the "Times" this morning from the honorary secretary of the Cambridge University Appeal, in which a very remarkable statement is made. This gentleman says that when he was in South Wales he came across
several instances where political opinions had debarred needy persons from relief, and many of the relief funds are associated in the mind of the miner with one political party or another.
I am not making an accusation against, any particular party, because, obviously, the writer of this letter does not do it, but that is a very serious statement to make, and the "Times" have thought fit to publish it. It comes from a gentleman who has already, through this University, raised a great deal of money. That statement requires investigation. If that kind of thing is allowed to happen, if this man is refused relief because is is a Liberal, another man because he is a Conservative, a third man because he is a Bolshevist or a Communist, we shall
create a terrible amount of discontent, and very justifiable discontent. I hope the Noble Lord will specially direct his attention to this matter. I think I have said enough to show in the case of my own constituency the extraordinary anomalies which have already been disclosed, and I look to the Noble Lord, who is going to devote his sole time over the holidays to the working out of the details of this scheme, and the removal of difficulties, to give particularly sympathetic attention to the coal-exporting ports, which are suffering just as the mining areas have done, and which cannot be blamed for the events of 1926. They have not so far made much public outcry, but they are no less deserving.
I wish to put a question to the Secretary of State for Scotland in relation to the fact that in the City of Glasgow there are a number of miners—as is the case with some other cities—and that these men will not, so far as I can see, he included in the scheme. Is there to be a standard of relief? Is the standard of relief in the areas where the fund is operating to be higher than it may be where all that the men have to look to is poor relief? In Glasgow miners have been compelled to go to the poor house to live. Will a miner in one of the areas which is to get this relief be better off than the miner who, in Glasgow, is being sent to the poor house? If the stringency now exercised by the Employment Exchanges were mitigated, much of the demand on this fund could be saved. So many miners live in Glasgow that something will have to be done to meet the situation there if we are to get an equal method of dealing with deserving miners who are in the city and others who are in other areas.
I should not have intervened in this Debate but for the speech which has been made by the President of the Board of Education. I think that speech clearly reveals the mentality of the Government in dealing with this question. We listened to a long dissertation upon the meticulous details of this scheme, but there was no appreciation shown in that speech of the gigantic problem with which the Government are faced. There was an entire lack of imagination and of any great constructive policy which would deal with this problem as it really ought to be dealt with by any self-respecting Government. This afternoon the President of the Board of Education reminded me of the fact that he himself has rationed the feeding of school children since his term of office, and he has put a brake and a bar on the local authorities in regard to the feeding of the school children in those very distressed areas. The right hon. Gentleman in one of his letters stated quite recently that there had been no physical deterioration of the children in the distressed areas. I entirely repudiate that statement, because I know that for the past four or five years there has been a steady deterioration of the physique of the children in those areas. I know the Noble Lord has been down in those areas. He imagines that he knows what these children are going through, and he thinks that he has got into touch with realities. I wish to tell him that, in my opinion, he has no appreciation whatever of the steady decline in the physical and mental capacity of those children owing to the malnutrition that is taking place.
The Noble Lord does not seem to have appreciated what has been stated by medical officers of health. I find that one of these officers, speaking about Monmouth, stated that an examination into the nutrition of the children made in June, revealed a most serious state of affairs. Let me give the figures: In Nantyglo, there were 259 children below the normal in physique and nutrition; in the Eastern Valleys, 572; in Abercarn and Risca, 271; and in the Rhymney Valley, 206. In those relatively small areas the medical officers of health agree that there are 1,500 children suffering from malnutrition. I could go through the figures for a large number of schools up and down the country where the teachers have reported to me the terrible dire necessity of these children as far as food, clothes, and boots are concerned.
On the larger question, I think it is an amazing experience that this House at the close of 1928 should have degraded its Members into whining mendicants. The whole of this afternoon we have been considering how much each particular area can scramble out of the miserable £150,000 which has been given by the Government. That sum does not meet the situation at all. Co-ordination has been mentioned to-day—the great and dire need for co-ordinating all these efforts. Of course, it must be a terrible thing for these children to have two pairs of boots instead of one, and we must make absolutely certain, by Government coordination, that there are not two pairs of boots in a house for these children. One they must have, and the organisation of this Tory Government is going to be directed to seeing that there are not two pairs of boots and two overcoats in one house for one particular child. What a standard we have reached!
The Government come along now with £150,000, after what they have done in driving men off unemployment benefit and on to Poor Law relief, and reducing the coal industry to the chaos in which it now finds itself. They come along and try to salve their conscience by a mean, miserable, despicable gift of £1 for £1. Is that meeting the situation? The Noble Lord may smile. Let him come down to the Avon Valley and see the misery and degradation and poverty that exists there. The fact of the matter is that what we have been discussing all day is the bankruptcy and cruelty and in-humanity of capitalism, the end of the efficiency of private enterprise. The quicker the people outside realise that this Government will do nothing and can do nothing, because they are tied to private enterprise, the quicker we shall get rid of the problems that now face us, and the quicker will our people have a higher standard of life and our children be properly fed and clothed.
I am sorry that the hon. and gallant Member for Central Hull (Lieut.-Commander Kenworthy) thought that I was unjustifiably absent. I had to be away at a very important conference, but I have been told of his remarks.
On a point of Order. Might I ask whether, if you cannot allow the Noble Lord to speak now, you will allow him to speak on the next Vote, which deals with much the same point? I have waited for some time to get the Noble Lord's reply, and I hope he will be able to give it.
I do not want to detain the House for more than half a minute, but I want to protest against the Noble Lord's not replying to my questions. He could have spoken by the leave of the House. No one objected, and it would only have taken him a minute or two to deal with one or two specific points. I do not think that that is the way to treat the House when money is being voted.
I understand that the hon. Gentleman's question was as to what is to happen in the case of the city of Glasgow. That, of course, is not a distressed mining area, and so would not come within the scheme.
Will the miners living in that area be brought down to the standard of what is being distributed out of the Fund, if that happens to be less than what is being paid by the Glasgow Parish Council; or, if it is more, will the miners be brought up to that level?
With regard to the question put by the hon. and gallant Member for Central Hull (Lieut - Commander Kenworthy) the Mayors' Committee was formed by the Lord Mayor by calling on the Mayors of certain provincial cities, and it was then decided to start the present campaign. The Lord Mayor has invited 15 Lord Mayors to constitute a committee. This is his responsibility entirely.