Civil Estimates.

Orders of the Day — Supply. – in the House of Commons at on 27 February 1929.

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Class V.
9Ministry of Labour4,600,000
Class I.
1House of Lords Offices26,500
2House of Commons120,000
3Expenses under the Representation of the People Act90,000
4Treasury and Subordinate Departments125,000
5Privy Council Office3,000
6Privy Seal Office1,000
7Charity Commission13,800
8Civil Service Commission13,000
9Exchequer and Audit Department53,000
10Friendly Societies' Deficiency
11Government Actuary13,000
12Government Chemist22,500
13Government Hospitality8,000
14Mint, including Coinage15,000
15National Debt Office6,000
16National Savings Committee26,500
17Public Record Office13,000
18Public Works Loan Commission5
19Repayments to the Local Loans Fund20,000
20Royal Commissions, &c.16,280
21Miscellaneous Expenses25,000
22Secret Service80,000
23Scottish Office150,000
Class II.
1Foreign Office80,000
2Diplomatic and Consular Services520,000
3League of Nations40,000
4Dominions Office13,500
5Dominion Services81,000
6Empire Marketing100,000
7Oversea Settlement525,000
8Colonial Office49,500
9Colonial and Middle Eastern Services353,000
10India Office36,500
11Imperial War Graves Commission125,000
Class III.
1Home Office145,000
2Broadmoor Criminal Lunatic Asylum23,500
3Police, England and Wales3,023,000
4Prisons, England and Wales500,000
6Reformatory and Industrial Schools, England and Wales111,000
6Supreme Court of Judicature, &c.10
7County Courts5
8Land Registry5
9Public Trustee5
10Law Charges45,000
11Miscellaneous Legal Expenses30,000
13Prisons Department62,000
14Reformatory and Industrial Schools20,000
15Scottish Land Court3,250
16law Charges and Courts of Law22,300
17Register House, Edinburgh5
18Northern Ireland Services4,500
19Supreme Court of Judicature, Northern Ireland16,400
20Land Purchase Commission, Northern Ireland1,250,000
Class IV.
1Board of Education15,000,000
2British Museum120,000
3Imperial War Museum4,400
4London Museum1,660
5National Gallery18,000
6National Portrait Gallery2,500
7Wallace Collection3,500
8Scientific Investigation, &c.95,000
9Universities and Colleges, Great Britain, and Intermediate Education, Wales700,000
10Public Education2,750,000
11National Galleries5,000
12National Library250
Class V.
1Ministry of Health7,000,000
2Board of Control408,000
3Registrar-General's Office30,000
4National Insurance Audit Department.56,000
5Grants in respect of Unemployment Schemes500,000
6Friendly Societies Registry15,000
7Old Age Pensions15,000,000
8Widows', Orphans' and Old Age Contributory Pensions1,000,000
10Department of Health930,000
11General Board of Control36,850
12Registrar-General's Office5,600
Class VI.
1Board of Trade100,000
2Bankruptcy Department of the Board of Trade5
3Mercantile Marine Services165,000
4Department of Overseas Trade120,000
5Export Credits24,000
6Mines Department of the Board of Trade57,000
7Office of the Commissioners of Crown Lands10,000
8Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries1,750,000
9Beet Sugar Subsidy, Great Britain100,000
10Surveys of Great Britain63,000
11Forestry Commission200,000
12Ministry of Transport50,000
13Development Fund120,000
14Department of Scientific and Industrial Research160,000
15State Management Districts10
16Department of Agriculture110,000
17Fishery Board22,000
Class VII.
1Art and Science Buildings, Great Britain90,000
2Houses of Parliament Buildings32,000
3Housing Estates11,300
4Labour and Health Buildings, Great Britain180,450
5Miscellaneous Legal Buildings, Great Britain35,500
7Office of Works and Public Buildings209,300
8Public Buildings, Great Britain427,450
9Public Buildings Overseas92,350
10Royal Palaces27,600
11Revenue Buildings364,300
12Royal Parks and Pleasure Gardens69,550
13Rates on Government Property950,000
14Stationery and Printing825,000
15Peterhead Harbour11,000
16Works and Buildings in Ireland32,850
Class VIII.
1Merchant Seamen's War Pensions160,000
2Ministry of Pensions21,000,000
3Royal Irish Constabulary Pensions, &c.525,000
4Superannuation and Retired Allowances650,000
Class IX.
1Clearing Office (Enemy Debts), Shipping Liquidation, &c100
2Australian Zinc Concentrates350,000
3Railway (War) Agreements Liquidation10
Class X.
3Railway Freight Rebates1,700,000
4Private Mineral Railways Local Rates Grants20,000
Total for Civil Estimates£88,112,000
1Customs and Excise1,750,000
2Inland Revenue2,700,000
3Post Office25,000,000
Total for Revenue Departments£29,450,000
Total for Civil Estimates and Estimates for Revenue Departments£117,562,000

Photo of Miss Margaret Bondfield Miss Margaret Bondfield , Wallsend

I beg to move: That Item Class V, Vote 9 (Ministry of Labour), be reduced by £100. I have a feeling of compassion whenever the Ministry of Labour Vote comes before this House, because I feel that it is one of those Departments which are expected to make bricks without straw, and it is very often like the kitchen maid of the administration. It has a sort of responsibility without power which is very often placed on the shoulders of the Ministry with one or two exceptions, to which I shall refer later. But there is hope, if I may carry the analogy a little further. In modern up-to-date houses you will often find that the hostess has the greatest possible pride in taking you to the kitchen where modern and up-to-date equipment is installed, and where the real necessary work of the house is mostly done; and I feel that in the modern State the Ministry of Labour ought to aim at becoming one of the most necessary Departments, because it deals, after all, with one of the most fundamental factors in the life of the nation. The administration of employment exchanges under the Conservative Administration, however, has not—and I think that no one will deny it—shown a great deal of vision and has been cramped by obsolete prejudice. The power of equipping and building exchanges and that of staffing the Department remain with the Minister, and yet I wonder whether some of the advances in equipment and building which are necessary to carry on the work are not held up by the prepossession of the Office of Works in antiquarian interests. We find a great deal of foolish economy in connection with the building of adequate accommodation for administrative work. The number of officials is being reduced, and the exchanges fail to meet the increased industrial activities of a district. When the numbers on an exchange register soar up very considerably, when the very nature of the industry itself indicates a change in the district, there seems very little adaptability and readiness to set the machinery of the exchange to meet the needs of the times.

The Exchange staffs have a very difficult and harassing work, and I submit to the Minister that a serious difficulty is caused by understaffing. All departments are afflicted by the recurrent periods of illness, and the staffs of the Exchanges have not been exempted. In addition to that, unexpected peaks of unemployment suddenly appear in different districts, and I suggest to the Minister that it is more than time that something like a flying squad were organised by the Department in order that additional relief may be sent to any point where the understaffing of the Exchanges seriously interferes with the administrative work. It shows itself in two particular directions; first, in the tremendous pressure upon the individual staff officer, who very often by circumstances of pressure may he tempted to scamp the work and give less time than is necessary to the investigation of individual claims; and, second, there is a congestion of business which holds up cases of benefit, and particularly cases being referred to courts of referees, and in the paying out of benefit.

There is in this particular work of the Ministry—and I do not raise this as a matter of criticism—probably more than almost in any other section of administration, the necessity for the greatest possible care in selecting the type of officer who is to handle the Employment Exchange work. Much of the harassing, grumbling and disappointment may be traced, not to an inefficient officer, but to an officer who is not the right type to handle the particular job which he has to do. I stress that point, because we know the difference between the Exchange where we hardly ever get any sort of complaint and the Exchange where we never get anything but complaints with regard to the way eases are dealt with. In this work, the human element must never be lost sight of. People who can forget that the unfortunate people on the other side of the counter are human beings and treat them merely as statistical records are the wrong type of officers to have anything to do with Employment Exchanges.

I was much impressed by a reply given on 23th January to a question by the hon. Member for Camlachie (Mr. Stephen), in which the Minister stated, if I understand the reply aright, that during the four weeks ending 10th December insurance officers disallowed 60,361 claims, of which only 5,150 were disallowed by referees. There is a disproportion between the number of claims allowed by the referees and the number of claims held up by the officers, and it should be remembered that every one of them meant weeks of anxiety and trouble on the part of the individual claimant who subsequently got his money. He had to go through all that trouble when a little more common sense on the part of the insurance officers would have avoided it. There is a fog of imperfect statistical data, and a sort of guesswork has been going on as though, if I may use an Irishism, we were permanently living in a period of expediency. We go on from hand to mouth, and it is time that we got down to a definite system of collating statistics, so that we can get a complete picture, not merely of the number of insured persons who are receiving benefit, but of the number of persons who are unemployed, from whatever cause; in that way we should get a much more sound classification of the nature of the unemployment, and have some guide as to the volume of casual employment, the volume of the permanently dispossessed, and the numbers who are "ins and outs" because of the nature of their employment, that is, they are sure of a job at some time, but merely have to stand off owing to temporary circumstances. At present, all that sort of thing is to a large extent guesswork and patchy, and it all adds to the confusion in dealing with the whole problem of unemployment insurance and its administration.

I want to turn for a moment to the question of the primary business of the Employment Exchanges. When they were first set up, their primary job was to organise the finding of work and to fit people to the vacancies. That has been overlaid by the immense mass of detail which has been thrown upon the Exchanges by the administration of the unemployment benefit during the years of distressed trade and the crisis in the export industries. We are repeatedly faced with criticism, sometimes founded on misapprehension, and sometimes due to this confusion and the absence of clearness of purpose of the Exchanges, that the Exchanges offer jobs that do not exist. I do not mean to say that that is the policy of the Exchanges; I am sure that it is not, but there is something defective in the organisation, or in the instructions given to the officers, or in the question of timing. I have here, for instance, a reference to what is known as the Chislett case, with which the Minister is familiar. It is a case of vacancies being broadcast through the "Clearing House Gazette" for 30 bricklayers who were required at Chislett. This was sent out from the "Clearing House Gazette," with the result that many more men than were required came from different parts of the country, and many had to be sent back on distress warrants. In addition, men were disqualified in different parts of the country for refusing work, and this was intensified by the fact that the "Clearing House Gazette" continued to insert the requirement for men long after the vacancies had been filled.

I am aware that the Minister agreed that that should not have been done, but the point is that the unions are now left with these cases on their hands which they must take to the Umpire, cases that have been refused unjustifiably as the result of jobs that did not exist being offered. Yet these cases have to go to the Umpire, and the men have to have their benefits held up until the Umpire settles them. Surely that is a question of somebody blundering and of something loose about the administration which might easily be tightened up. It should be a matter of honour to the Exchanges not to offer a man a job unless they are sure that the job is available to the man to whom it is offered. That surely ought to be the first principle, and, if we proceed on those lines, the accidents that happen might be eliminated.

In spite of the tremendous pressure to which the Exchanges have been subjected I am amazed to see that the personnel has been reduced at the Ministry from 17,208 to 16,282. The Ministry themselves have thrown another thousand people, apparently, upon the unemployment benefit, and that does not seem to be a very helpful thing to do at a time when Exchange officers are decidedly overworked. With regard to the transition period, the Minister again gave his categorical reply of ambiguity to the Trade Union Congress delegation. He does not appear to realise the feeling in the country about the uncertainty as to whether the transition period is to be continued after the end of March or whether that part of the 1927 Act is to be suspended.

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

May I intervene so as to avoid a possible misunderstanding later? I stated that of course any inquiry of this kind involves very difficult calculations and going into statistics right through the country. I am having it done, and I hope to let the Committee have the information before Easter. It is difficult work that cannot be hurried and yet be tolerably accurate.

Photo of Miss Margaret Bondfield Miss Margaret Bondfield , Wallsend

Then we may take it that the transition period will not be brought to an end before the end of April, if we are not going to get the figures before Easter. We must read between the lines and take what comfort we may from that statement. It would surely have been easier for the Minister to have said, "Yes, the period will be extended, but the exact lines on which it will be extended will he a matter for inquiry."

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

The hon. Lady must not draw that conclusion.

Photo of Miss Margaret Bondfield Miss Margaret Bondfield , Wallsend

If we cannot draw that conclusion, the answer is most unsatisfactory. It was laid down perfectly clearly in the actuary's report submitted to the Blanesburgh Committee that it was not even contemplated that that scheme should be considered until unemployment had come down to 6 per cent.; and at a time when the figures are still soaring, and we cannot be sure that the weather will not continue to make them soar, it is impossible to accept that decision as satisfactory. I said just now that the preoccupation of the Exchanges with insurance stultifies the value of the machine to carry out its original purpose, and I want to consider the problem in the light of a really constructive, live department. Here is the actual fact of 1,458,000 unemployed persons, presumably under the control of the Minister of Labour. I believe that there is a return which shows that 89,000 or 90,000 able-bodied persons are under the Poor Law. Is it not time that we faced up to the necessity for bringing all the able-bodied people under the Ministry of Labour without further delay? When we have 1,458,000 already dealt with by that Department, why should not these other 89,000 persons be brought in as well 9 I do not know to what extent that could be dealt with by the administrative provision that would have to be made for those who cannot possibly qualify for unemployment insurance.

As one who cares a great deal about the success of the insurance policy of the country, I want to issue a word of warning regarding the policy of the Ministry in trying to place upon that insurance scheme a burden which it was never contemplated that it would have to bear. It is threatening the very existence of insurance as such in this country. We must face up to the problem of recognising that the unemployment of able-bodied persons is a disaster of the first magnitude, and is a matter of such national importance as to require exceptional remedies, and we ought to empty the pool of the idle unemplayed by enormously extending the opportunities for occupation and training or by relief schemes. I earnestly ask the Committee to bend their minds to this problem. Under a contributory system we cannot deal with men who are incapable of contributing to the Fund. It is not fair to that contributory system, and is not fair to the individual, who is constantly told that he is no longer qualified for benefit and is not genuinely seeking work. We can only deal with this problem by a definite policy which, though it will cost money, will still cost less than we have to find under the existing method.

There are three methods by which they could be kept occupied. The first is by the provision of relief works, though no one wants to see any greater extension of such works than is necessary. Then there is the effort that could be made to stimulate employment in normal occupations; I refer to occupations that would show some definite return to the country. Thirdly, there is a category of persons to be considered for whom no work of any kind, either relief work or any other, can be found. Those people should have some occupation. They should have the opportunity of going through some form of training, either mental or physical. It is from that standpoint that we discern a tremendous lack of initiative and of planning in connection with the Ministry of Labour.

May I give a few figures by way of comment on that statement? They are figures up to 28th January, taken from the February issue of the "Ministry of Labour Gazette." We have 44,409 boys and 41,080 girls returned as unemployed on 28th January. On page 42 of the same journal we find a statement about what has been done for juveniles. I assume that these figures of boys and girls mean young persons under 18 years of age. That is true, is it not?

Sir A. STEEL-MAITLAND indicated assent.

Photo of Miss Margaret Bondfield Miss Margaret Bondfield , Wallsend

On page 42, it states that there has been set up a network of juvenile centres in the distressed areas. This is the network. South Wales has absorbed 1,481—I think those are only boys—the North East 1,117, and Motherwell and Dunfermline 494, making a total of 3,092. So this network, which it has taken us from February, 1928, to build up, has dealt with only 3,092 juveniles, while the figures show that 44,409 boys alone are on the registers. That network is utterly inadequate to meet the conditions of the boys who are unemployed, and it is simply playing with the fringe of the question not to recognise that juvenile training centres must be available at every point where boys are unemployed. Even though they be unemployed for a few months only they ought to have the opportunity during those months of idleness of making the greatest possible use of their leisure, in order that afterwards they may be finer and more competent boys, and better equipped than they were at the beginning of their spell of unemployment.

Now let us turn to the women. In saying all this I am not under-estimating the administrative difficulties, but I do say that policy is responsible for two-thirds of what is happening; it is a question of the attitude of mind of the Department towards this problem. The number of women who are unemployed is returned at 235,782, and the number of women in training at the training centres is 1,274, grouped in 35 centres round about the country. As a member of the Central Committee on Women's Training and Unemployment I have had a great deal to do with that training, and I know that all the women who pass through those training centres leave them better equipped to face life. During 1924, when we had the opportunity for a short time of dealing with this question, we did away with the provision that only those persons who were prepared to take up domestic work should go into the training centres. We did that not because we did not recognise that domestic work is honourable work, or that it provides an avenue for the absorption of a certain number of unemployed women; but, we maintain, we got more women transferred to domestic service through not making it a condition of their entering the classes than was the case when that condition was enforced. We have to recognise that that domestic training is not lost if they do not go into domestic service. Home life in the country is enriched as a result of the training given in more scientific and up-to-date methods of household management, cooking, and so on.

To my mind, it is deplorable that we have not been able to spend a great deal more money on this important work of training unemployed women, because undoubtedly a large percentage not only acquire a better capacity for household work but are willing to go into that work under decent conditions rather than return to a factory. I have had that statement confirmed by letters from girls who were members of my own union, who worked in factories for years, but who are now in domestic service and tell me they would not go back to a factory on any account whatsoever. That is the result of training. It is the result of giving them—if you like to put it that way—a professional status, and an interest in their work, an interest which enables them to maintain a decent outlook and secure the conditions they have a right to expect.

With regard to men, we have got an excellent precedent, which I believe every side of the House approves, the precedent of training at Chiselden, at Claydon, and at Brandon. I specially mention Chiselden, because it has received the greatest prominence, and in my opinion has produced the greatest results. Here we find that in spite of the gigantic figures of unemployment, showing nearly 1,250,000 men unemployed on the 28th January, we have sent overseas only 3,312—Canada 1,465, and Australia 1,081. In this work of training for overseas the Ministry of Labour has only a share of the work, it is only one of several Departments, but I do beg the Ministry of Labour to recognise that in the work of training the times of departure are important so far as success on this side is concerned. The time for effective work on this side has gone by practically at the end of March in any year. Unless the men trained can set sail for Canada at the end of March, they arrive at the wrong season of the year, they are too late to be able to settle in and get their share of the work that is going for harvest, and they have not much time to earn money enough to carry them through the winter months before they get settled in something else.

The period for training should be made to synchronise with these conditions, and we must face up to the question of keeping the men longer at training centres and having them ready to go out at the first available opportunity, not leaving them to loaf about for a long time after the training is finished. I am pleading for greater generosity in regard to the time spent in these training centres, because I am convinced that at these residential farm centres the men are learning something effective, something that will stand them in good stead whether they go overseas or stay in this country. We on this side feel most strongly that side by side with any policy of sending these men overseas we must be equally keen on developing the land of our own country and equally generous in helping men to settle into permanent work on the land here.

I am not quite sure whether I am trespassing outside the Vote, but the development of small holdings in connection with afforestation should surely provide much greater opportunities not merely for men but for their families than have been secured in the last few years. I am very much distressed to see that the negotiations which have been going on for years between the Ministry of Labour and the other authorities concerned with regard to the Hollesley Bay Colony have now broken down, and that nothing effective is going to be done this year towards securing that great area as another centre for training on the land under the direction of the Ministry of Labour. I would like the Minister to tell us whether the proposal that, under the new legislation, Hollesley Bay is to come automatically under the London County Council will mean that it is completely shut out from consideration as a national training centre, and whether it will he reserved wholly for the training of men in the area of the London County Council?

With regard to the question of labour transference, I do not propose to au into detail on that, because I know that many of my hon. Friends on these benches are anxious to speak on it, but I would like to refer to the tragic report we have received from the commissioners in South Wales. I draw attention to this paragraph on page 9: It is not too much to say that every thoughtful person to whom we have talked has expressed greater concern at the destructive effect of idleness on the character and morale of the unemployed than at the hardships involved in the scanty supply of the necessaries of life. It is a common observation that work is needed rather than food or clothing. We feel that there is much justification for this view. From the first we were struck more by the aspect of depression among the unemployed and their listlessness than by any other signs of poverty. What does that mean? It means that we are destroying the very foundation upon which the greatness of this country has been built up. By taking away from our people by such treatment their energy and their hope, and driving them to despair, you are creating for yourselves a problem that will take a generation to solve. I hope the Committee will realise that in pleading for an extension of these centres for occupation I am also pleading that some should be residential wherever suitable, and that the family group should be considered in relation to land training. In the case of Employment Exchanges, more particularly where any new Exchange is being considered, the primary purpose of finding occupation should be a part of the policy of the Exchange. Rooms should be provided and staffed as libraries and sewing rooms and made accessible. In that way, these unemployed men and women might be directed during their leisure into the finest possible channels, so that Employment Exchanges would be looked at, not merely as places for registering the unemployed, but as places where unemployed men and women could be helped to get a grip of life again, and assisted to develop that manliness and independence which the British people are capable of displaying.

I want to refer to the question of the skill which has been lost to this country by compulsory idleness at an age when in the old days, during a normal state of trade, the class of people we are now dealing with were the most fruitful from the standpoint of craftsmanship. I have here some figures that show that the number of workers in the metal and engineering trades emigrating from Great Britain and Northern Ireland to other countries between 1922 and 1927 amounted to the gigantic total of 66,744 men, most of whom must have served five or seven years' apprenticeship. The estimated capitalised value of a skilled engineer has been put down at £10,000. Under the present system, we are going to lose all that skill, and when trade revives there will be no one to take the places of these men. Here we have a great economic waste. I do not suggest that you can train skilled engineers outside the normal channels of the engineering trade, but in the case of these unemployed men you can help them considerably by providing them with some sensible occupation, so that, when a favourable opportunity occurs, their skill will not be lacking.

My next point raises the perennial question of the hours of labour. I think the failure of the Government to ratify the Washington Convention is recognised as a blunder on the part of the Administration. The effect of this failure at Geneva is one of dismay and deep concern. The last statement of the Government representative at Geneva was to the effect that the Government were pressing forward revision. What does the Government mean by revision? Is it a downward or an upward revision? On this question, I can speak for all my colleagues in the Labour party, and I have no hesitation in saying that we shall not quarrel if it is an upward revision. Does it mean a five-day week or a 44-hour week? If that is the revision, then we shall welcome it with both hands. In view of the enormous increase in the power of production, the shortening of the hours of labour will be one of the contributory factors in the future in helping us to solve the unemployment problem.

I want to deal with several points connected with Trade Boards. There has been a reduction in the size and in the number of members of the boards. We very strongly criticised the suggestion that the Minister should interfere with the nominations that are made to the Trade Boards. I believe it is a fact that in a very large number of cases the employers agree that there should be no interference. The nominations should come from the trade organisations, both on the side of the employers and the workmen. We shall have a far more efficient system if trade union nominations are not interfered with unless for a good and special reason. The practice prevailing since 1918 has been that there is a definite arrangement by which the number of learners is limited in proportion to the adults. The Minister desires to substitute for that practice an undertaking that the Ministry will see "that effective instruction is given to young persons." With regard to inspection in connection with the Trade Boards, I understand that it takes 10 years to get a second visit from the inspector on the average of the present number of inspectors. With the present inspectorate, how can you ensure any effective inspection of young persons who may be in training? Thanks to the efforts made by the Labour Government in increasing the number of inspectors, the inspection has now increased to 10 per cent. of the employing firms, but that is still far too low. What is now being done really means that the proposed change is regarded with apprehension and we press for an increase in the number of inspectors who have to handle this question.

Finally, with regard to the transference assistance scheme. I have brought this question to the notice of the Minister before. The prescribed boundaries present a perfectly illogical system of transfers. In my own area, we have an illustration of the illogical boundaries. There is what is known as the Forest Hall case. Men at West Allotment, signing at Shire Moor, are within the transference area, but men at Burradon, Seaton Burn, Wideopen, Hazelrigg, Dinnington Colliery, Forrest Hall, Dudley, Annitsford and Coxlodge are excluded. I want to bring home what seems to me to be a pettifogging distinction. It looks as if someone sat down with a map, and drew a line upon it, afterwards laying down that those inside that line will get help and no one outside the line will get any help at all. Surely the number of transfers is so small that it would not be difficult to provide all of them with the help that they require. Here is a letter which I would like to read to the House: I write again hoping that I am not putting you to any trouble, but I would very much like to know whether Forest Hall has been included in the Transference assistance scheme, and if not, is there any possible chance of me getting a loan if I write to the Ministry of Labour stating my case. I am going from bad to worse, although I have obtained work for I have to pay board and lodging 25s. a week, and the rest of my wages go to keep my wife and three children at Forest Hill and my wages are £2 8s. 2d. clear. At the present time I have not got a pair of boots to go to work in and I have had to apply to the British Legion for a pair of boots but do not know whether I shall get them or not. If only I could manage to get my wife and family down here I would be all right. So you see if I could get a grant out of the transference scheme to move my family and furniture it would be a God-send to me. Obviously, here is a man settled in Birkenhead, and the Minister has all the details of this case. He writes begging that he may be saved from the horrible disaster of having to chuck that job up because he cannot snake both ends meet, although he could get along all right if he could get his wife and children transferred. Why should there be any difficulty about settling a case of that kind? I thank the House for allowing me to draw attention to these matters.

5.0 p.m.

Photo of Captain Alec Cunningham-Reid Captain Alec Cunningham-Reid , Warrington

I do not intend to follow the very interesting remarks of the hon. Member for Wallsend (Miss Bondfield), because I want to touch on a completely different aspect of the unemployment question. Let me say at once that I am of the opinion that, as in this country we have been prevented from adequately protecting the work of the workers, there is now only one real and lasting solution of unemployment that remains, and that solution is only to be found within the Empire. I am inclined to believe that the powers that be would to some extent agree with me, but on the other hand I am quite sure that they would be disinclined to embark on a bold programme of Empire development to the extent that would be necessary, for the simple reason that such a programme would need a very great deal of cash, and cash is scarce. Anyhow, for the moment, I am not concerned with the assistance that a Government could give in this direction, because I am going deliberately to suggest that the real cure of unemployment now rests with the people of this country and is not in the hands of the Government, that is to say, so long as our fiscal system is restricted to the extent that it is now. Consequently, I was interested in the remark of the hon. Lady the Member for Wallsend, at the beginning of her speech, that it was quite impossible to make bricks without straw. I agree with that, and I say, further, that the Government can on these occasions judiciously assist the country to work out its own salvation by means of various palliatives of which we are all aware. But beyond that, in view of the restriction I have mentioned, I, for one, consider that in this respect they are powerless. I should not be surprised to find many hon. Members, not only on this side of the Committee but also on the other side who in their heart of hearts agree with what I have just said. Far too much is expected of the Government. I think that hon. Gentlemen opposite will agree with that, because they will remember very well the nine months during which they were the Government of this country. Far too much is expected of any Government at the present time. Governments are supposed to be an everlasting gold mine and a commercial traveller all rolled into one. In the old days, industrialists did not rely to the same extent on their Governments as in these days. In those days, the representatives of industries were continually going out into the world and discovering fresh markets, and the net result was that this country went further than any other country at that time in industrial supremacy.

I am introducing these remarks because only recently I returned from a somewhat comprehensive tour of our Empire. On such occasions, travellers always say that there is something that strikes them more than anything else, and I am no exception to that rule. On this tour, what struck me more than anything else was the deplorable lack of initiative and enterprise that is shown by industrialists from this country, as compared with industrialists front other countries, in competition in the markets of our Empire. At times this comparison became actually heart-rending, and I, for one, was very glad to see the remarks that fell from a very distinguish gentleman of this land in reference to that question only a few days ago. I remember that, the last time I had the opportunity of addressing the House, I instanced the glaring example of the motor trade in Australia, and I then pointed out that the Americans in a very short time were going to have a complete monopoly of the motor trade in Australia. I have since seen by reports that my prophecy is quickly coming true. If time permitted, I could give innumerable other examples of industries in other parts of the Empire, but I will content myself on this occasion with asking the following question.

I would like to know if it would not be possible for the representatives of leading English industries to get together and to combine in visiting the various potential markets of our Empire. I think that if they did that they would be surprised to discover the enormous possibilities that there are; and not only that, but, speaking from experience, I could tell them that they would also be agreeably surprised to find that they would receive, not only considerable support, but also a very warm welcome on all hands. It must be apparent to anyone who has visited the Empire that a Britisher, wherever you find him, would a hundred times rather deal with a Britisher than with anyone else, but up to the present, unfortunately, they have only been able to regret the lack of opportunity. Such enterprise as I have suggested, instigated, not by the Government of the day, but by prominent industrialists themselves, would, to my mind, do a great deal to pave the way towards a permanent representative committee on Empire trade and Empire development. Amongst other functions, such a committee would have the distribution of first-hand information regarding our farthest outposts—information somewhat on the lines of those excellent reports that were brought back to us by my right hon. Friend the Under-Secretary for the Colonies. I have in mind at the moment one particular report which appealed to me, and which was not only interesting but full of facts and information. That was his report on West Africa.


I am sorry to interrupt the hon. and gallant Member, but this discussion has been narrowed by the Amendment which has been moved, and I must ask him to relate his observations to matters for which the Minister of Labour is responsible.

Photo of Captain Alec Cunningham-Reid Captain Alec Cunningham-Reid , Warrington

I will abide by your ruling, Sir Archibald, and will confine myself as much as I can to that aspect. I will leave the question of the lack of enterprise shown in Empire markets, and will now turn to the lack of capital that—

Photo of Mr David Lloyd George Mr David Lloyd George , Caernarvon District of Boroughs

On a point of Order. The ruling which you, Sir Archibald, have just given, would have a very important influence upon the scope of the Debate, and I should like to ask to what extent it will be possible for us to discuss schemes for providing work for unemployed people which would not necessarily be under the control of the Minister of Labour. For instance, the hon. Lady the Member for Wallsend (Miss Bondfield) said something about small holdings. Would it be possible for us, not to discuss that subject in detail, but to refer generally to it? Otherwise, it would be quite impossible to discuss what is far and away the most important part of this question, namely, the provision of work for the unemployed.


I think the right hon. Gentleman will have noticed that I did not interrupt the hon. and gallant Member when he was dealing with such questions as that of a conference between industrialists, with migration, and so forth; but he seemed to me to be going on further without relating his remarks at all to any matter for which the Minister of Labour is responsible, and for that reason I asked him to bring his observations round to the particular Vote which we are now discussing.

Photo of Captain Alec Cunningham-Reid Captain Alec Cunningham-Reid , Warrington

I must apologise to the Committee; I agree that I was getting somewhat wide of the mark. I would like to refer for a moment to the lack of the capital that is necessary for really extensive Imperial development. We are often told in this House that every penny that we can lay our hands on is urgently required by the Government for unemployment insurance and for other post-War schemes, and, in order to carry out those schemes, taxation in varying forms becomes heavier and heavier, although, the cleverer the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the more cunningly is that taxation disguised. I would like to ask, what exactly have we to show for all this expenditure? It will be more than difficult to get rid of unemployment as long as we have nothing to show for the bulk of our expenditure. I have taken the trouble to make careful inquiries, and I find that unproductive expenditure during the last nine years has amounted to more than £500,000,000. That is an enormous amount, and I should be very interested to know what would have been the result if a considerable proportion of that sum had been used in productive expenditure. I somehow have a feeling that the unemployment question would now be in a very different state. In view of the fiscal restriction to which I have already referred, the cure for unemployment now lies, as I have said, entirely with the people of this country, and I consider that it is up to the public of this country to instigate a really courageous and long-sighted Imperial policy. I would suggest, in the first place, that they should subscribe generously to an Empire loan of considerable magnitude—one that would be raised very much in the same way in which the War Loans were raised, that is to say, by direct appeal to the country. Secondly, it is essential that our industrialists in this country should attempt to find far wider fields within the Empire, and, by such enterprise, provide additional work in their factories and workshops; and last, but not least, I think that, if we want the Empire to help us in many directions, such as by taking some of our surplus population, buying our goods, and so forth, it is essential that, in as many ways as possible, we should reciprocate. As to an Empire loan, I think hon. Members will agree that every pound that we invest in the Empire is returned to us in some form or other, many times over, The most usual form it takes is work for our unemployed. This is more than can be said of past British investments in foreign countries. The only return that I can see in cases such as that is the return that we get from the dividends. Further, the greatest incentive to emigration to any country is the development of that particular country, arid, consequently, development will always he the forerunner of any extensive migration. If the contentions which I have, in all deference, placed before the Committee, have any substance and receive any support, should not an endeavour be made in a completely new direction, especially by some such policy as I have suggested? We should at any rate have something to show for our outlay of capital, even if it were nothing more than the permanent sealing of the bonds of Empire.

Photo of Mr David Lloyd George Mr David Lloyd George , Caernarvon District of Boroughs

I do not propose to take up very much of the time of the Committee, but I should like to ask the Minister one or two questions. I was very disappointed that he did not open the Debate, so as to survey from the official standpoint the whole position of employment and trade in this country. I think that not merely the House of Commons, but the country also, would be very interested to hear what is the view of the Government as to the prospect, because, wherever I go, I find that people are very seriously concerned about the present position of things. I was also hoping that the right hon. Gentleman, on behalf of the Government, would announce some policy for dealing with the problem—for increasing the number of those who are at work, and, consequently, diminishing the number of those who are living in enforced idleness and maintained by the State. I assume, from the fact that he is postponing his speech till the end of the Debate, that he has no announcement of that kind to make.

I am not going to dwell upon the present very alarming unemployment, figures. The explanation which has been given in the announcements in the Press is probably the correct one, that the increase is very largely due to atmospheric causes, through a large number of people, owing to the frost and snow, being unable to pursue their ordinary avocations. I am not going to assume that, even after making a deduction for that cause, the still very large figure remaining is going to continue, because at this time of the year the number of unemployed is always higher than later in the year. I will assume that there will be a steady diminution up to the summer, but I cannot see any prospect of a realisation of the hopes we have had that at last there is some rapid restoration of prosperity which will liquidate these terrible figures and bring us down to the normal. I have heard very often, both in the House and out of it, optimistic speeches as to improvements in trade here and there, but, somehow or other, up to the present they have been falsified, and it is very much to be regretted that the Government during their five years of office seem to have built, their policy upon estimates with, regard to trade prosperity which have been falsified in every case.

One would like to hear from the Government what their view is after consulting their experts in the Labour Department and the Board of Trade as to the trade prospects. What do they think is going to happen to this figure of the unemployed? If it is going to remain at abnormal dimensions, as I am afraid it will, what scheme have they for the purpose of putting these hundreds of thousands of people to some useful task? The hon. Member who has just sat down gave us a very interesting speech with regard to the possibilities of development in the British Empire, and I am entirely in accordance with him. I think there are vast possibilities in the development of the Empire. I do not agree with him that it would be an unwise investment—I am not sure that he put it as high as that—for the Government to expend even a considerable sum of money in developing certain parts of the Empire as long as it is development of the kind that really increases the resources of the Empire, because I agree with him that it has paid us fourfold up to the present.

I should like to know from the right hon. Gentleman what he proposes to do with the development of the part of the Empire with which we are most intimately concerned—our own country. The hon. Lady, who made a very important speech, has indicated one or two directions in which something could be done. What has the Minister to say about that? At any rate he will be in charge for a few months if not longer. [Interruption.] That is a matter to which we shall soon he able to give an authentic answer. The first thing one would like to know is whether the Government are going to reverse their policy of the last five years. They certainly have pursued a very reactionary policy in the matter of unemployment as compared with both their predecessors. Take such a question as small holdings. What have they done there? We were increasing small holdings by thousands before the Conservative Government came into power. They are doing it barely by hundreds now, and there are parts of the country where the register of applications is overcrowded, but you can get no small holdings, because there is no real support from the Government, and no drive, It is no use asking our traders to press their wares upon the British Empire and abroad. You must have a Government showing the example of drive, and they have not done it. With regard to small holdings there is barely a trickle. That is a fruitful way of dealing with the problem as far as the country districts are concerned.

Take the question of drainage. A sum of money was set aside by the Government of which I was the head, and by the Labour Government afterwards. In Scotland, in the last Return I have seen, only £970 was spent in the course of a single year, although they have been warned by agriculturists, and even by their own Departments, that the number of waterlogged areas has increased. The sums of money which were set aside both by the Government of which I was the head and afterwards by the Labour Government have not been spent. There was nominally £1,000,000 to be spent in five years. Nothing is being spent at present. Take main roads. In 1920 there was an Act of Parliament passed to raise a very considerable sum of money with a view to reconditioning the roads of the country to meet the new traffic. That sum has now grown to such dimensions that in the last year for which there was a Return it was £25,000,000. I believe in the course of the present year it will be nearer £30,000,000. That was to he allocated for the purpose of reconditioning the roads of the country and adapting them to the rapidly growing demands of the new motor traffic. Everyone knows what happened. I remember the Act of Parliament carried in 1909. Part of the purpose of setting up the Fund was in order to make grants to meet exceptional unemployment. You have had exceptional unemployment and what have they done? They have taken away considerable sums of money. They have even confiscated sums of money which have been accumulated to meet the programme that was started by the Government of which I was the head, and the Labour programme as well. The Ministry of Transport had accumulated something like £19,000,000 to meet programmes which had been started. The whole of that £19,000,000 has been confiscated, and many further millions a year taken away. By the end of this year something like £30,000,000, which ought to have been applied to the purpose of developing the road system of the country, will have been confiscated.

It is computed that for every £1,000,000 you spend on the roads you can employ 5,000 men for a year. The figure given by the Treasury Report on Mines is an absurd one, because it only applies to those who are directly employed on the roads. Those who are providing various materials, such as cement and iron, are rules out. I have gone into the matter with the greatest care. I have consulted the highest authorities, and I am authorised to say that for every £1,000,000 you spend upon the roads you can find employment for 5,000 workmen, directly and indirectly, for a year. You have confiscated £30,000,000 of money that was raised for this purpose, and during that period we have been spending somewhere between £50,000,000 and £100,000,000 upon maintaining in enforced idleness 1,250,000 men and women. It is inconceivable folly that we should be going on like this. Here we have great unemployment and the Minister of Labour is compelled to sit back. It is not his fault. After all, these are questions of policy which ought to be decided by the Prime Minister and the Chancellor of the Exchequer and all those who are concerned in the matter. They ought now, in the fifth year of the life of the Government and the sixth year of Conservative administration since the War, to be in a position to say that the policy which had been initiated by their predecessors, and which they have cancelled, should be restored when unemployment is going up to such an extent that we are two or three hundred thousand to-day higher than we were when they took office five years ago. I ask the Minister whether he is authorised to make any statement as to some new plans to be inaugurated by the Government to provide work for the hundreds of thousands of the young unemployed. That is a new feature of unemployment, not merely that there are people who have lost work but people who have never been able to get work at all. I have heard of people of 19 and 20 who are lounging about and have never been able to get a job. I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he is in a position to give us some statement as to the intentions of the Government with regard to providing work.

Photo of Mr George Shield Mr George Shield , Wansbeck

A new Member when be comes to the House has at some time to make a maiden speech. If that was the reason for my rising to-day it would be a very natural one; but my reason is very much deeper than that. It is because the question before the Committee is one about which I feel very deeply indeed. I come from a district in Northumberland which at one time was a hive of industry. To-day it has 206,000 male insured persons on the unemployed register, which equals 21.2 per cent. of the male insured persons in the county. In two district in the Division I represent the rate of unemployment is 28.9 per cent. and 26.4 per cent. of the male insured persons. That is a very serious state of affairs. Probably everyone will come to the House with certain preconceived ideas as to its constitution and its methods. I was genuinely impressed last week. The first Debate to which I listened was that on the question of a grant to the Irish loyalists. I was greatly impressed and somewhat disillusioned to find hon. Gentlemen opposite so very anxious to honour all the pledges given to the Irish loyalists. It was a pleasing experience to note the determination of hon. Gentlemen opposite—a determination horn of a sense of honour. But I find, as I continue to sit in this House, that I become further disillusioned inasmuch as I do not find the same desire shown to help the workers in this country as on that occasion was shown to help the Irish loyalists.

I come from a district, as I have said, where unemployment is very deep and very keen and desperate indeed. Just before coming to this House it was my unfortunate experience to have to give out to our people in those distressed areas bundles of second-hand clothes to be worn by men, women and children of the working classes. I cannot think that any self-respecting man or any self-respecting country can be satisfied with a position of that kind. It is not charity that our people want. The Noble Lord the Member for Oxford University (Lord H. Cecil) said in the discussion on the Irish loyalists that you cannot value an obligation of honour on a principle of percentages. Neither do you fulfil an obligation of honour by an appeal to charity. It is not charity that our people want; they would much prefer to experience the blessedness that comes from giving rather than the humiliation which comes from receiving in that way. I know that certain suggestions have been made and certain things put into operation by the Government as means to limit or minimise unemployment. Our people have been asked to emigrate—to go to Canada or somewhere else in order to lessen unemployment in this country. Many of our people have a deep and a very laudable desire to remain in the country of their birth. Some may call it sentiment. This sentiment in past epochs of this country's history served the country in very good stead. Why should our people, born in the country and who love their country, be asked to go to another country to till the land of another country when thousands of acres of land in this country are awaiting the hand of labour to yield their increase and give, forth their harvest?

The transference of labour which is taking place is not a cure for unemployment. As a matter of fact, the number of unemployed to-day is very much larger than it was at this time last year. By transferring men or women from one district to another you may, to some extent, lessen the percentage of unemployment in a particular district, but you do not necessarily make the total any less. If I have neuralgia on one side of my face and the doctor is clever enough to move it to the other side, he does not cure it. I understand that some of those men who came from London under the transference scheme were handed over to contractors, and that, owing to the frost and the severe conditions of the last week or two, they have been unable to work, and, consequently, have had to revert to unemployment pay. Naturally, they want to go home, but they have been told that if they attempt to go home they will lose their unemployment pay. The result is that these men, stranded in London, are asked to pay board and lodgings out of their very inadequate allowance, while their wives have to go in humiliation to boards of guardians to be kept from starvation at home.

In existing circumstances the present system has broken up the most sacred thing in the life of an Englishman, namely, his home. Our people, owing to the tremendous unemployment which at present prevails, are losing all touch with home life. To-day the homes of our people are overshadowed by fear and uncertainty. There is no sense of security and no hope for the future. It is deep, black despair, and in many cases it is ending in tragedy. The whole position that exists to-day is morally bad both for those who are affected and for national life. I wish I could impress upon the Committee the position as it really exists. When I see the despair, the hopelessness and the tragedy in the homes of the unemployed in this country I am inclined to say: "How long, O Lord! How long!" There must be a limit to this sort of thing. It cannot last. If I have read anything of history at all I have read that it has been in positions like this that great upheavals have arisen. I am anxious that the Government should rise to their responsibility. I am anxious that the Government should seek to meet their obligations to the unemployed. It is an anxiety born of love for my country, born of a love for constitutional government, and, greater still, born of a love for my fellow-men.

Photo of Lord Henry Cavendish-Bentinck Lord Henry Cavendish-Bentinck , Nottingham South

I wish to pay a, compliment to the hon. Member for Wansbeck (Mr. Shield) for his maiden speech. I am sure that all Members on this side of the Committee, whether they agree with that speech or not, were struck by the obvious sincerity of it, a sincerity which rendered it effective. The speeches so far seem to me to have been extremely reasonable and, I hope, of a helpful character. I trust that I shall be equally reasonable in the short time which I shall address the Committee. This problem of unemployment has been of such long duration and so deep-seated that nobody with any reason can expect the present Labour Minister to perform a very miraculous cure, nor could hon. Members opposite expect their own Labour Minister to effect a cure. I agree very heartily with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) in expressing the hope that when the Labour Minister rises, he will be able to announce that the Government have decided upon some more effective policy for the relief of this problem. It is admitted on all hands, I think, that our usual methods to deal with unemployment have hopelessly broken down. We have put an undue strain upon our unemployment insurance scheme, and the guardians have really no money in hand, in these distressed areas, at all events, to carry out their proper duties. The Chief Inspector of the Ministry of Health, when he went down to Wales the other day, said that the Unemployment Insurance Fund does not provide the necessaries of life and adequate clothing for those who are in receipt of it. If the Unemployment Insurance Fund and the boards of guardians have proved inadequate to meet this terrible depression, can we really claim that the supplementary measures taken by the Government are likely to prove any more effective?

It is perfectly correct for the Government to appeal to charity. I have done my best to support it in the county in which f live. The emigration policy is admirable from every point of view, and so is the policy of transference. Here, again, I have tried to do my best to support it and recommend it as strongly as I possibly could in my own constituency where I live. But we cannot hide from ourselves what the Chief Inspector of the Ministry of Health has said. I t is perfectly true that it will he nothing short of a miracle if the transference scheme really does anything to diminish the pool of unemployment in our distressed areas to a very considerable extent. Strongly as I appeal for a more effective policy to meet the distress in our worst areas, the areas of South Wales and Durham, I appeal equally strongly for all the other areas of unemployment in the rest of our industrial centres. In every industrial centre in this country there are, I am sorry to say, thousands of unemployed people who have been unemployed for a very long time.

It is perfectly true, as the hon. Member for Wallsend (Miss Bondfield) has said, that not only in the distressed areas, but up and down the country there are thousands and thousands of young people suffering from physical and moral deterioration arising from prolonged idleness. I believe it to be a fact that there are thousands of young people who have never done any work since they left school. Are we justified as a nation in tolerating this state of things? Is it not a social injustice of the very worst kind, to subject thousands of our fellow-countrymen to these destructive influences? Is it not possible for the Minister of Labour, to-day, to announce that he and his Government are prepared to start training schemes which will stop this terrible social injustice, and give the young people a chance of making their way in the world? We are laying up for ourselves a most terrible problem, a problem which, I believe, will be almost insoluble, because we shall have thousands of young people who are practically destroyed body and soul through the constant idleness to which we have subjected them. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Warrington (Captain Reid) advocated a national loan for Imperial purposes. I agree with the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs in appealing to the Government not to forget our home necessities.

I feel very strongly that nothing can really solve this problem except a national loan for internal development. We are told that a loan for internal development is an unsound proposition, because it would deflect so much money from industrial development. Would it not be better from the national point of view and from the economic point of view, to deflect money from investment in all the bogus and trashy companies that we see launched every day in the Press? Would it not be better to develop our own resources? Would it not be better to invest our money in the land than to invest it abroad, as I am told they are doing to a dangerous extent at the present moment? Voltaires Candide, after travelling all over the world, settled down to cultivate his own garden. We have travelled all over the world and painted the map of the world red, and, in the same way that Candide did, could we not settle own and cultivate our own cabbage patch?

Is it not a fact that there are 2,000,000 acres at the present time waterlogged and useless for want of drainage? Are there not schemes held up because there is not enough money to carry them out? Are there not thousands of acres of derelict land which are capable of plantation, but which have been derelict ever since the War? Are there not thousands of acres of land which are too poor to cultivate properly, which would form admirable subjects for plantation? If the development of roads would be an economic advantage to the country, and if quick transport is essential, could we not see that our roads are adequate? Is it not true that every town in this country needs a by-pass road round it, and is it not deplorable that the land of this country is deteriorating to the extent that it is at the present time?

Perhaps I should not be in order in dealing with the necessity for an agricultural policy, but can we not envisage the land of this country as a means of absorbing more labour, instead of resigning ourselves, as we do, to letting it go out of cultivation, thereby adding to the numbers of our unemployed? I ask the Government to face up to this problem in a much more courageous way than they have done in the past. There is profound dissatisfaction in the country at the policy of the Government in regard to unemployment. I speak with some knowledge, because I represent an industrial constituency which is suffering very largely from unemployment. Unless the Minister of Labour, this afternoon, can say that something more statesmanlike, something more far-reaching is contemplated, very serious consequences will result.

Photo of Mr Morgan Jones Mr Morgan Jones , Caerphilly

I rise to reinforce the plea that has been advanced from this side of the Committee, and especially by the Noble Lord, the Member for South Nottingham (Lord H. Cavendish-Bentinck) that we should hear from the Minister this afternoon and, if possible, early in the Debate, something concerning the policy of the Government in regard to this great problem of unemployment. It ought not to be necessary to recall to the Minister that the present Government have been in office 53 months, and that in the whole of that period there has been no sort of comprehensive scheme whereby work could be provided as a result of the initiative of the Government. It would not do to allow the Debate to pass to its close before we hear from the Minister a statement of the Government's attitude on this problem. I ask for the statement to be made early in the Debate, because it is fair that hon. Members on both sides should have an opportunity of discussing the statement. Many suggestions have been made from both sides of the Committee in regard to the ways and means of dealing with this terrible problem. Fundamentally, I think, the criticism is sound that we should not feel satisfied with a palliative for unemployment, or with any charitable effort, whatever form it may take. What is needed is the creation, if possible, of some work for the people.

I should like to refer specifically to the question of juvenile unemployment. I am deeply interested in this matter from one particular point of view. It is well known to hon. Members that there are large numbers of juveniles—by juveniles we generally mean people below the age of 18, although there are people beyond that age, up to the age of 19 and 20, who are concerned—who, ever since they left school, have not had an opportunity of doing one day's work. It is unnecessary to emphasise the fact that the inroads that are made upon the mentality and morale of these young people, are very serious. There have been—and I acknowledge it with great pleasure—efforts made in various parts of the country to deal with the matter in juvenile unemployment centres, but I do not think that the number of juvenile unemployment centres is sufficient to cope with the tremendous problem with which we are confronted. These centres ought to be multiplied to a very considerable extent. Is any attempt being made to arrive at some sort of co-relation of the work that is done in the juvenile unemployment centres on the Ministry of Labour side with the work of the Education Department? That is very important, because it has a very distinct bearing upon the chances which these young people have of obtaining employment other than employment in the neighbourhood where they happen to be attending centres. Take an ordinary mining district. The mining districts, certainly in my part of the country, are one-industry areas. Therefore, if we are to encourage these young people to go away from their homes to work, we must give them equipment for some other trade than that of mining. Is an attempt being made, with the assistance of the education experts at the disposal of the Board of Education, to give these children a technical equipment, so that they may be able to take jobs in other departments of industry than the one which they would normally enter?

Photo of Sir Henry Betterton Sir Henry Betterton , Rushcliffe

The hon. Member is speaking now of juvenile unemployment centres?

Photo of Sir Henry Betterton Sir Henry Betterton , Rushcliffe

I wanted to be quite certain, in order that I may deal with the question.

Photo of Mr Morgan Jones Mr Morgan Jones , Caerphilly

I ask the question because it has been my privilege and pleasure to go into several juvenile unemployment centres. While I admit that the work that is done is very valuable in its way, and I am aware of the limitations imposed upon the centres by reason of the fact that the juveniles are not there for very long periods, and that that is a handicap which it is difficult to overcome, nevertheless, in spite of all that I can say in favour of the centres, and although the work is exceedingly well done, it seems to me that the equipment of the centres is not ample for the purpose they have in mind. The work seems to me to be rather —I hope the Minister will forgive the expression—a little wooden in character. It is rather mechanical and there is not a sufficient diversity. Moreover, the actual tools, if I may so express it, at the disposal of the teachers, are not ample enough to enable them to turn out the very best product from the centres.


May I turn from the juvenile males to the juvenile females? I suppose that very few of my colleagues in coming up from South Wales in recent months can have failed to have been impressed by the very large number of young domestic servants coming into domestic service in London. There must be hundreds corning up in the course of a week or a fortnight, and many of them are of a very tender age indeed. Considerable disquietude has been felt on this matter in South Wales, largely because of the reflections of a certain magistrate in the City, and there is a general desire to know whether any machinery is available, and is being used by the Ministry, to keep in touch with these young people who take up positions through the assistance of the Ministry. Does the Ministry make any sort of inquiry as to whether the place to which a young domestic servant is sent is suitable or not? That is a most important question, and one upon which we should like to have a specific answer. I happen to know that real anxiety is felt concerning the type of places to which some of these young girls have gone, and I should like to know whether any officer of the Department keeps in touch with these young girls after they have been placed in domestic service? We hear a great deal from hon. Members opposite about the danger of allowing s, flood of aliens to come into this country, but when I turn to the annual Report of the Ministry of Labour for the year 1927, I am astonished to find on page 28 that the permits which have been granted by the Home Office on the certificate of the Ministry of Labour to aliens to come into this country for domestic service, and as nurses, number 2,429. I thought hon. Members opposite and the Ministry were very keen that no young people should come in and take jobs for which there is a sufficient number of applicants in this country. Where is the justification for allowing all these domestic servants to come in? I am not at all anti-alien in my attitude, but if there is any merit at all in an anti-alien policy, why is it that these people are allowed to come in? Are there not enough young girls in this country already unemployed, who could surely take these jobs if the machinery of the Ministry was adequate for the purpose? I come back to the point of the juvenile unemployment centres in respect of females. Are sufficient facilities provided for the actual training of these young girls of the age of 15 or 16 before they enter domestic service?

Then there is the question of the relation of the Ministry to local authorities where unemployment is really serious. I am prepared to make this confession; I admit that for areas like my own, distressed mining areas, we must reconcile ourselves to the fact that there must be a certain amount of transference in the coming years. It is obviously agreed amongst experts that the mining industry cannot absorb all the people who have lost their employment; but the rate of transference is not an exceptionally rapid one. It can take place only in accordance with the availability of places, and I want the Minister of Labour to realise that, because the rate of transference must necessarily be slow, it is incumbent upon the Department to see that local authorities who are saddled with this great burden are not handicapped in their means for providing employment in their own areas. I am fortified in that observation by the recently issued report of the gentlemen who went down to South Wales on behalf of the Ministry of Health. On page 9 they say: We have met nobody who doubts that the policy adopted on the recommendation of the Industrial Transference Board is the right one, but it is pointed out that without something like a miracle it will he several years before many thousands who must leave the area can be transferred to work elsewhere, and that in the meantime a large number of men, even if a steadily diminishing one, must remain exposed to the demoralising effect of idleness. My complaint is that, seeing that these local authorities have this heavy burden and tremendous load of unemployment upon them, the Minister has not facilitated their task in providing work in these very areas. When the Ministry on 9th November, 1928, issued conditions for the provision of work for the relief of unemployment, they specifically excluded from the benefits of that scheme these very areas which are now suffering most from depression. That is rather unjust. What the Ministry apparently fear is that if they encourage the provision of work in these areas they may, in that way, arrest the flow of transferees from these areas to other places, but I do not see why it should he beyond the wit of the Ministry to devise ways and means whereby certain categories of people could be guaranteed work under these schemes, leaving the younger persons to become subject to the policy of transference. I feel sure that something must be done, and that speedily, in order to help these areas to meet these most pressing problems. There are a large number of roads in these areas which are still far to narrow to meet the new methods of transport. I can think of innumerable roads in my own native area where money could be advantageously spent, not wastefully but economically, in putting them into a fit condition to meet the new problems which modern transport involves. I plead with the Minister that rather than be content with this sort of calculated silence about the provision of work for the unemployed, he should examine afresh the problem as to whether something tangible cannot be done immediately to relieve the distress in those areas which cry most for our attention.

Photo of Lieut-Colonel Anthony Gadie Lieut-Colonel Anthony Gadie , Bradford Central

I think it will he agreed that this is a problem which interests hon. Members on this side as well as hon. Members on the other side of the House. Some time ago the hon. Member for Dundee (Mr. Johnston) asked the House to consider whether it would not be wiser to take this particular problem outside party politics altogether and appoint some committee to consider it. That suggestion was accepted by the Minister of Labour, and that is the last heard of it in this House. I am very sorry, but I am satisfied that if some joint committee of that kind, unofficial, could be set up we should get a better solution of this difficult problem than we are likely to get this afternoon. The subject has been treated to-day with much less venom than ever before. Everybody seems to be desirous of finding a solution. My intervention at the moment is purely to try to throw a new light on the matter. I may be altogether wrong, but I am satisfied that the centralisation of this question of employment is altogether the wrong way to go about it. If we could, by some means, pass it back to the district and local councils, to the county councils and town councils, who have certainly more direct interest in the people, and if the Ministry of Labour would help with the money, I think we should get something done.

The Transference Board is, I think, working in the right direction, but it is dealing only with a small portion of the problem. One hon. Member has found fault with the desire for emigration. We must accept the fact that we shall never cure unemployment by emigration, but, surely, it is a move in the right direction? It would be well to cultivate that desire for the wide open spaces which the people of this country used to have; it would be well to cultivate such a desire in the young people of the country instead of drawing the dole from 18 to 25 years of age, then getting married and drawing a bigger dole still. That is all wrong. The spirit of adventure has not gone altogether from the young people of this country, and to speak of emigration as breaking up the home is unfair and uncharitable and does not help the question of unemployment. With regard to the number of domestic servants and nurses coming into this country to which the hon. Member for Caerphilly (Mr. Morgan Jones) referred, it may be that some of our people go to these other countries and we get some of theirs in return. As far as I am concerned, I would keep out every foreigner, every man and woman, until the people of this country were fully employed. It would protect the labour of cur own people; and we have no right to provide labour for the foreigner until we see our own people employed.

The figures of emigration for the year 1926–27 give much food for reflection; 2,500 fewer people emigrated in 1927 than in 1926, and that, again, makes the question of employment in this country more difficult. Taking the figures for Canada, in 1927, 8,382 more people emigrated to Canada than in 1926, but in the case of Australia there were 3,546 fewer, and in the case of New Zealand 7,349 fewer. What does that mean? That Canada, by arrangement either with our own Ministry or some other body here, has accepted a larger number of migrants during the years mentioned. I would like to see that arrangement further advanced. I would also like to see our people getting the same facilities for going to New Zealand and Australia. But when we come to study the pounds, shillings and pence of the matter, we are rather startled to see what is the cost of the present system. I take it that the object of every Member of the House should be to give helpful suggestions. In 1926 unemployment benefits reached a total of £50,187,000, and Poor Law relief of able-bodied persons and their dependants a total of;£7,313,000. For the six years ended in 1926 we get a total of nearly £280,000,000 of money, and of nearly £42,000,000 for Poor Law relief of able-bodied persons. Those are tremendous sums of money. The cost of the Exchanges, for the unemployment service in the six years, was nearly £31,000,000. In the year ended on 31st March, 1927, the cost of out-relief in money and kind by boards of guardians in England and Wales to persons ordinarily engaged in some regular occupation, and their dependants, was £15,100,000.

So one could go on. And we are to-day discussing whether we should quietly sit down and accept the proposition that to have 1,000,000 unemployed is normal. It is a most deplorable state of things. I believe that if you decentralise and get the three bodies that are now dealing with unemployment to take the problem in hand, some improvement would be possible. We are dealing with the problem here through the Minister of Labour; the hoards of guardians are dealing with able-bodied people; and at the same time corporations and councils are endeavouring to find work for the unemployed. I suggest that the Government should say to a city council: "Have you any work to be done? It does not matter what your scheme may be; we leave that to you." It would be their duty to see that the money was spent wisely. We should find 50 per cent. of the actual cost of labour. I believe that such a scheme could be carried out without spending a farthing more than we are spending now. If it were a case of helping the farmer, if the farmer would provide new labour we could afford to give him 50 per cent. of the cost. There is no end of facilities for employing people, particularly labourers on new waterways. Most of the cost is for labour. Someone may say that the money we spend on roads goes largely to foreigners for the supply of materials. I would stop that as long as there are 4,500 quarrymen out of work. The money that we spend to assist the unemployed should certainly be spent in this country and nowhere else. Whether the material used be brick or marble or granite, it is a raw material which does not cost very much in itself, and the cost of schemes is mostly in labour. The present system that we have tolerated for so long is producing big figures in the central department and does not help one bit. I asked the Committee to consider my suggestion, which is to decentralise this particular kind of work and to let local authorities take more real interest in it. I am satisfied that if the suggestion were adopted it would find work for more men.

Photo of Mr Austin Hopkinson Mr Austin Hopkinson , Mossley

It seems to me that possibly one of the reasons why we are still faced with this critical question, as we have been faced with it since the War, is that practically all the measures taken by successive Governments have been based on the supposition that what we are dealing with is what nearly every speaker in the Debate has termed an abnormal state of unemployment. When the figures of unemployment have been for many years over 1,000,000, it is a misuse of terms any longer to call that condition abnormal. It has endured for a number of years, and to my mind the protraction of the period of intense unemployment has been largely due to the fact that every Government which has held office since the War has dealt with the problem as if it were a temporary problem, and as if we had just to tide things over for a time and the situation world right itself.

I would call attention to the fact that the unemployment problem is not felt only in countries like our own, where certain of the big industries are undoubtedly very depressed, but is also felt in the United States during a period of commercial and industrial prosperity such as has never been known in any nation on earth before. It is with the United States quite a serious problem already—the problem of unemployment during a trade boom. I shall not pursue thatmatter further, because at the moment it is really rather too theoretical and academical for discussion upon a Vote of the Ministry of Labour. But I recommend to Members of the Committee for their study and consideration, to see whether it is a necessary condition of affairs, as a result of improved methods of production of the necessities of life. As to those very unfortunate figures that we see week by week in the returns of the Ministry of Labour, we must always bear in mind that at least 150,000 to 200,000 of the weekly total are those who are registered as being connected with the coal mining industry.

I am not blaming the Government, because I do not see what they could have done. But it is a fact that I and others warned them so far back as 1925 that there were at least 200,000 men redundant in the mining industry of Great Britain. When I say "redundant," I mean this—that on any possible return, on the proceeds of the industry, it was impossible to give the number of men that we had then employed a really satisfactory standard of living, and that we could not anticipate being able to provide for more than 950,000 men. I do not blame the Government because, honestly and candidly, it is very difficult to know what the Government could have done to meet that particular situation.

Several speakers, including the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) have put forward the idea of raising a great development loan, which apparently is to be devoted to such purposes as road making and the drainage of agricultural land. With regard to the latter, surely it would be a very grave mistake, in a country where hundreds of thousands of acres are going out of cultivation year by year, to invest our capital in producing more and more land, which presumably would lie uncultivated, since we have already more land than we can cultivate? So far as road schemes are concerned, surely that is an example of dealing with the problem as if it were a temporary and abnormal problem Leading economists have calculated that the capital resources of this country after the War were distinctly greater than the total capital resources of the country in 1914. But what they failed to point out to the public, with all the power that they had at their command, was that those capital resources are not in the same form as they were before the War. The proportion of the capital resources of Great Britain now, which are in a fixed form rather than a liquid form, has gone up very greatly indeed since the period before the War.

If I may use a metaphor, I would say that we have got more water wheels than we have ever had in our history before, but we have precious little water to make those wheels turn round. That is to say, the frozen or solid capital resources of the country are very great, but our liquid capital resources have been distinctly limited by continuing the policy of what is called social reform, which undoubtedly, no matter what its benefits —we need not argue that now—does reduce the liquid capital resources of the industry of the country. It is impossible to deny that. Therefore, the policy, immediately after a European war of immense magnitude, of continuing the process of freezing capital, is truly a most detrimental policy to the people of the country. It is bound to produce a state of, not abnormal or temporary unemployment, but a condition of continuous unemployment, because it automatically prevents the natural forces from correcting the evil under which we are suffering.

What I said about freezing capital and making our assets into fixed capital is exemplified, for instance, in the policy of housing immediately after the War. To go in for gigantic housing schemes immediately after our resources and liquid capital have been depleted, seems to me a policy which is simply suicidal. Again, in the matter of road construction, it is perfectly ridiculous to say that the road resources of this country are not really ample for an impoverished nation. Miles and miles of gigantic roadways are lying idle for nine-tenths of their time. In many cases arterial roads are being made which would be better used for hard tennis courts, because the traffic on them would not really interfere with the, progress of the tennis. To go on with that expenditure and to deplete and again deplete the liquid capital resources of the country, and to consolidate them into roads and buildings and other things which may be very beneficial to the country but cannot give a real return for many years to come—that policy is really one of the chief reasons why the unemployment problem, which should have been abnormal, is rapidly becoming normal.

As far as I know, no one, either in a newspaper press or in this House, has ever considered or asked the Ministry of Labour to consider the effect of our system of Unemployment Insurance upon the numbers of our unemployed. I ask the Minister and the Government to consider whether one of the first necessities in dealing with this problem is not this—to ascertain within reasonably satisfactory limits bow many of the 1,250,000 unemployed that we see reported week after week and year after year, are there because of the existence of the Unemployment Insurance system introduced by the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs. That system does to a certain extent deplete the capital resources of the country which otherwise could be diverted into useful work. Its effects must be profound upon men who, at the best of times, and in full work, can only draw a miserably poor wage. It must submerge many men just below the limit where they would be workers if it were not for the Unemployment Insurance system set up by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs.

Hon. Members Opposite have pointed out with great justification the moral degradation which must come from continuous unemployment, especially in the case of young people. But even that moral degradation of our nation is as nothing compared with the moral degradation which has come upon our people ever since the days when the slogan of the time was "Ninepence for fourpence" and ever since our people were told that the first duty of a citizen was to take 9d. out of the common purse for every 4d. that he put in. I say that the degradation of this people dates back to long before the War, and that now, in these unemployment figures, we are to a very large extent reaping the fruits of that degradation. I am sorry that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs is not in his place, or I might have been tempted to make some almost controversial remarks about his policy in the past, but the point which I wish to impress upon the Government is this. Surely the time has come for a really serious inquiry into the effect upon the numbers of unemployed of the system of unemployment insurance at present in force, and I ask the Government to consider whether a modification of that system might not have the effect of actually reducing the number of unemployed for whom we have to provide.

Photo of Mr Joshua Ritson Mr Joshua Ritson , City of Durham

We have had a very interesting speech from the hon. Member for Mossley (Mr. Hopkinson) who does not, I understand, speak for any political party, but as an independent. When we hear a responsible Member of Parliament talk about converting our arterial roads into hard tennis courts, I think that is enough, and I would like to turn from the hon. Member's speech to that of the hon. and gallant Member for Central Bradford (Lieut.-Colonel Gadie) on the subject of emigration. He complained rather bitterly that we did not encourage our people more to go abroad. Coming from Durham and speaking with some knowledge of Durham, I assure him that we are going to give no encouragement to people to go abroad, unless better facilities are afforded for settling our people when they go abroad. I have a letter in my pocket now and many more in my locker, from which it can be seen that there are miners out in Australia now who are working only two or three days per week and who are anxious to be home again. If we are to have an emigration scheme, let us have one which is in keeping with the conditions of our people. The Government will have to make better provision not merely as regards transit abroad but for the establishment of our people abroad either on the land or at their ordinary work.

I think we have reason to complain of hon. Gentlemen opposite that they seem to consider that it is always the other fellow who ought to go abroad. We are told that capital is wanted abroad. Well, the capital seems to be on the other side. Why should not those who have the capital go over there and use it, instead of merely seeking to drag our people across into deserts such as there are to-day? I agree with the hon. and gallant Member for Central Bradford that, in so far as our people are willing and anxious to go, we should give them all the encouragement we can. In the County of Durham, however, while we have agent after agent preaching emigration to Australia, we are finding it, day by day, harder to get people to go out because of the terrible conditions of some of our people who are already there. To be frank, they are not wanted in Australia at the present time. Why not admit it? Canada, I agree, is a rather better proposition as far as the welcome is concerned, but if one reads the letters which are sent home from our own people, as to the Australians and our trade unionists who have gone over there, one will see that they are not wanted. Frankly, I am against asking any of our people to go out in these circumstances. I am not willing to be a recruiting sergeant to ask our people to go where they are not welcome.

Photo of Sir William Brass Sir William Brass , Clitheroe

Will the hon. Gentleman say in what part of Australia they are not wanted?

Photo of Mr Joshua Ritson Mr Joshua Ritson , City of Durham

It is the general complaint that I get. I have not been on a deputation to Australia—perhaps I am not respectable enough yet—but this is what I gather from the people who have gone out there. I agree with the hon. and gallant Member for Central Bradford that we have to go back to the local authorities again to get our men employed. Why not trust the local authorities? They can employ thousands of men and they know the men and the needs of the districts. It is rather strange that the hon. and gallant Member should have mentioned this particular point because a very distinguished personage in this country went into the North of England some time ago and in every street which he visited he laid emphasis on the words "squalor" and "horror." We have thousands of men out. of work, and yet there is hardly a village in those areas where the streets and roads have been properly made up. I had a deputation last week which was seeking borrowing powers for road construction and, surely, some of these men who are about at the present time, only too anxious to work, might be given the opportunity of laying out roads and doing other work of that kind in colliery villages where it is very much needed. There is always an opportunity in that respect. I was rather struck with the suggestion made by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George). He always gives us the same speech on these occasions. We get that speech from him on this Vote every time. If he had put as much action into his work when he was in power as he puts into his speeches now, we would be better off for it.

Photo of Mr Ernest Brown Mr Ernest Brown , Leith

He did more than your people ever did.

Photo of Mr Joshua Ritson Mr Joshua Ritson , City of Durham

If the right hon. Gentleman had taken on the work of an artist he could have beaten anybody at painting sunshine and moonshine over the Welsh hills, but it would have been better if he had done something more practical.

Photo of Mr Ernest Brown Mr Ernest Brown , Leith

He did not breed rabbits.

Photo of Mr Joshua Ritson Mr Joshua Ritson , City of Durham

No, but he seems to be surrounded by them.

Photo of Mr Ernest Brown Mr Ernest Brown , Leith

The rabbits did not come out of the hat.

Photo of Mr Joshua Ritson Mr Joshua Ritson , City of Durham

No rabbits came out of the hat, but we get that speech from the right hon. Gentleman every time we have this Vote.

Photo of Mr Ernest Brown Mr Ernest Brown , Leith

And a very good speech, too.

Photo of Mr Joshua Ritson Mr Joshua Ritson , City of Durham

I would only say, as far as the right hon. Gentleman is concerned, that we owe more of our distress to his anxiety for political popularity, probably, than we owe to any other man. When he was the leader of the people he led them over the hills and wastes of Wales and other parts of the world, and finally left them in the Scotch mist in which we have been ever since he was in power. When I was interrupted by the hon. Member—the Englishman who has to go to Scotland for a seat—I was about to refer again, in connection with the remarks of the hon. and gallant Member for Central Bradford, to the visit of a very powerful personage in this country to the North of England. We were very pleased to see him, and we are very happy to know that he has pointed out certain things which we have attempted to point out again and again. Over and over again, we have brought before the House of Commons the condition of our people and the remedy therefor, but we have never been believed. Now that someone in authority has spoken there is a greater interest in our county and its affairs, and I feel sure that at last we have aroused some enthusiasm, and I hope it will not die down.

As regards Empire settlement I am perfectly frank about it. I do not intend, and I do not think any of my colleagues intend, to send our people out unless they have a better assurance as to the conditions than they have at present. In Durham to-day we are told the only hope we have is the Transference Board—[Interruption]. Well, however rough or vulgar I may be, I do not think a yawn like that is justified. It is enough to upset anyone, and surely it was not merely a political yawn. This is a rather serious matter. If the Transference Board is doing anything at all I suggest that what it is doing is setting a task such as we give to people in the workhouse. I was asked to visit some of my men who are working in London. They are doing 12 hours a day from getting up in the morning to getting back at night. They have to send home 25s. a week for their wives and children and they have to pay 25s. a week for their board. The hon. Member for Wansbeck (Mr. Shield) has already pointed out a case of this kind where men who have been out of work for some time felt that they could not pay their lodgings and the other demands made upon them and decided that it would be cheaper to go home to Durham and try to pick up a job there. Then they were threatened that if they did their money would be stopped. Our people have the desire to pay their way and I hope they will always have that feeling. I know how uneasy they are if they feel that they cannot pay their way and think the Minister ought to take that fact into consideration. Then, as regards domestic servants, there is a point which I wish to put to the Minister. I am not one of those advertising Members of Parliament who, if they cannot get in a speech, will find a dead dog or have one sent to them or do something of that sort.

Photo of Mr Joshua Ritson Mr Joshua Ritson , City of Durham

The hon. Member knows more about goats than I do. Every Monday morning when I come down to London from the North with any colleagues there are, on the average, about 36 girls travelling to London to undertake domestic service. Is the Minister aware that many of these girls are not met at the railway station? I hope this is not going to be put into the Press but I have considered it my duty as a man who knew a little about London—as also have two or three of my colleagues—to look after these girls and see that they were put on their way in safety. I have no dignity as a Member of Parliament, but I have some as a father of a large family, and when we are sending these girls, who are good girls, well trained in domestic life, for God's sake save us as far as you can from the anxiety of what may happen to them.

I have had some experience of small holdings, and I would like to see the Ministry develop them as far as possible. It may seem strange to hon. Members, but I do not agree with some of my hon. Friends on this subject. I feel that the more we can develop small holdings and encourage and train our own people to go on the land, the better it will be. I know the troubles of the farmers. I was brought up in three or four mining villages in the North of England, where each miner had a fowl or two, and perhaps had a pig, or a cow, and when a, man and his wife became interested in an animal, it was the best fed cow or calf in the world. We had the whole system working, and there was no fear of rickety children in that area, because they had at least fresh new milk from the cow, and fresh eggs from the hen, and home-fed bacon. That was at a rent of about £6 a year, and the people were delighted in their work on the land. I have always felt this, and I want people to take an interest in nature. If they do, I have no fear of them going wrong at all. I do not want to swallow your tinned milk. I will help the farmers in any direction that will lead to our having improved dairy produce in this country, and I think it could be done.

My last word is this: I am anxious for the morals of our people, and one of the things that touches me to the quick is that men and women of religious, devotional types are going down and down. I am not saying that it is due to what the hon. Member who spoke of 9d. for 4d. said. If you buy humanity at 9d. or 4d., you buy it cheap, but I am referring to the type of men and women whom you have kept alive with this Insurance Act. Although another party gave it, I give them credit for that. Believe me, these types and characters that have given us the men and women we have to-day have been well worth all that money; but we feel that to-day these men and women are getting down-hearted and below par, and we cannot raise them up. Do not tell me they will not work. I am a great football enthusiast, and a fortnight ago this week-end, when Sunderland was playing Manchester City, there was a great storm, and at two o'clock in the morning before the game there were hundreds of men and women sheltering behind the hoardings of the football ground. How they could live in such a storm, I know not, but what were they there for? Not to see the football, hut that they should be there at nine in the morning, when the manager of the team came, so that they might earn a few shillings for cleaning the ground. The anxiety of those men and women to get a chance of earning those few shillings proved that, although we may have some wasters among us, they are the exception rather than the rule, and that sort are spread over the whole population. Do not, for God's sake, let us lose faith and admit that these men are not seeking work. They are anxious for work, and we should spend our money on men and women of that kind rather than let them rot and rust as they are to-day. If we do help them, our returns, I am sure, will be greater than we anticipate.

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

If the appearance of the hon. Member for Durham City (Mr. Ritson) is rare in this House, I hope he will cultivate us a little more and give us a little more of his company in future for I am quite sure that whether or not we all agreed with him we all enjoyed his speech. Earlier this afternoon I was also impressed—even though with a large part of it I could not agree—by the sincerity of the maiden speech delivered by the hon. Member for Wansbeck (Mr. Shield).

There was one point earlier in the Debate which was separate from the others raised by the hon. Member for Wallsend (Miss Bondfield), and that was her reference to the Washington Convention, with which I will deal at once. I have always been, and am now, a supporter of the principle of the Washington Convention. I have always considered—but it has been considered, not only by people in this country, but by people of all countries—that there are some points in it too vaguely expressed and which ought to be made more precise. Similarly, there are some other points, practices in industry which are admittedly within the spirit of the Convention, but which, because of the drafting of it and the canons of interpretation of English law would fall without the letter of it as interpreted here. Those, briefly, are the reasons why, as a Government, we want to revise the Convention. Obviously, it is not to whittle it down. We explicitly accept the principle of the Convention, and we want to get that principle applied operatively and uniformly to the different countries that are signatories. For that reason the question of the revision of the Convention is coming up again before the governing body which starts its sittings on the 11th March next. I propose that I should myself, being a signatory of the London agreement, attend the Governing Body, in order to explain precisely the reasons why we want the revision and to see if, after listening to those reasons, the Governing Body will not agree to send the Convention forward to the different nations to have it considered for that purpose.

The hon. Member for Wallsend, in the rest of her interesting speech, raised a large number of points, all of them important, but some of a rather more detailed character and some more general. I will leave most of those of a detailed character for my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary, if he will, to deal with at a later stage. The hon. Member asked me what kind of policy should be adopted with regard to the mitigation of unemployment. Should we proceed with relief works, or should we pursue a second alternative, that of trying to stimulate the trades whereby men could work in their normal occupations, or should we follow yet a third path, that of training?

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

At any rate, those are three different methods of attack, not necessarily mutually destructive, and which could be pursued at the same time. The right hon Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) again raised the general question in the short speech that he made, and, with the permission of the Committee, as I have been invited to do so, I would like this evening to take the opportunity of really endeavouring to analyse rather more closely than I think has hitherto been done in public, the question of our unemployment, the causes of it, the character of it, and the lines on which alone treatment can proceed.

With regard to the causes of unemployment in this country, there are some factors, I believe, which have met so Far with very little general recognition. I have studied the calculations that relate to the volume of our export trade before the War as compared with the volume of our export trade now. I came myself, somewhat roughly of course, to the conclusion that, if the country's export trade at the present moment had been comparable in volume to what it was before the War, it would have given employment to some 600,000 more insured persons at this time. In order to try and correct my own conclusions, I wrote to one of the best known and best respected economists and statisticians in this country, Professor Bowley, who has published a paper recently. He estimates the additional employment at 700,000 to 800,000. I invite this Committee to consider the fundamental importance of this fact. Everyone knows that the value has increased of our export trade as of our import trade but that increase of value has marched with a very considerable decrease in volume. It is of fundamental importance to realise that the falling off in the volume of our export trade is responsible for the unemployment of between 600,000 and 800,000 persons who would otherwise have been employed.

The next fact that is somewhat more recognised, but still, I think, has not met with the full recognition that it deserves is the falling off in emigration. There are no figures of emigration as such before the War, and we have to fall hack on what is called the outward balance of passenger traffic, but if I take the balance of the outward passenger traffic as contrasted with the inward passenger traffic, I get some very remarkable results. I did not want to take the year or two immediately before the War. It might have been said that those were special years of emigration. I took, therefore, the net outward balance of passengers, as being the nearest approach to emigration that I could find, for the whole of the last eight years and for the corresponding eight years up to 1913. I find that during the past eight years the decrease compared with the corresponding period ending 1913 was no less a figure than 940,000 persons. That total, of course, includes not only heads of families and single men but in the case of families, wives and children, if any; but, broadly speaking, I think it might be said—no one can give the figures accurately, as they are not available—that that would correspond to at least 300,000 to 400,000, and probably nearer 400,000 than 300,000, additional persons in this country in the insured trades.


Let the Committee then realise what the position has been. I have been asked to give an analysis of unemployment. At the end of the War, this country, which is more dependent on its export trade than perhaps any country in the world, except possibly Belgium, had suffered a greater dislocation of the whole of its national industrial existence than any other of the great nations, even of those which participated in the War. It had to readjust itself like every other nation to the new conditions after the War and get into working order again. At the same time, it was faced with a great addition to the working population it had to digest. An additional load is put on the engine, which was just getting into working order again, of anything from 1,000,000 to 1,200,000 insured persons. That is one of the reasons why the problem has been so intractable. It has been difficult to get this surplus population digested. Every Government, one after another, has tried to deal with the problem, and, if any fault was to be found it was when an undue inducement was held out to the electorate that a problem like this could be easily dealt with.

Photo of Mr George Oliver Mr George Oliver , Ilkeston

Has the Minister taken a survey of the unemployment in other European countries?

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

I have, but comparable figures are not available. When we come to 1926, we were beginning to absorb fairly quickly. Hon. Members opposite must not believe that I wish to deal with the subject in any controversial sense, I am dealing with it purely from the point of view of analysis. The trouble about the general strike and the coal stoppage was this: As a result the figures of unemployment increased so that over eight months in that year we had something like 2,600,000 insured persons or more out of work. Now what does that mean? It means that you have one in five of the whole of the insured working population in this country out of work for eight months. If they are out of work, obviously they are not getting wages and their purchasing power comes down. For the time being, they are living partly on credit which affects the purchasing power again if and when they pay off debts. If the purchasing power diminishes, as it must in cases like that, articles cannot be obtained on which otherwise they would spend their money. If articles cannot be obtained, then when stocks are used up, new articles are not made and the makers of them are unemployed. That is exactly what has happened in this country.

The effect of it was camouflaged for a time. In the succeeding year, 1927, there were a lot of postponed orders for machinery, postponed orders for ships and other orders which could not be fulfilled during the last part of 1926. These came to be worked off in the early months of 1927 in addition to such current work as there was. Towards the end of that year also apprehension about the housing subsidy created a special stimulus. The result was that the situation in 1927 was artificial; there was a temporary stimulus which for a moment caused employment to be better than it otherwise would have been. It was when that stimulus came to an end at the end of the year that the poverty, the want of purchasing power and the lack of renewal of capital had its effect, causing the lack of improvement last year. The chain of cause and effect is perfectly clear, and it cannot be gainsaid.

The question now is how we can get the purchasing power back and how the load on the engine can be taken up. When I consider the whole of the difficulty, it makes me, not pessimistic, but surprised at the extent of vitality in this old country of ours. When all is said and done, there were over 600,000 more insured persons in work at the end of last January than there were five years previously. I am stating this only to put the picture in its proper perspective with the light colour as well as the dark. In the matter of real wages, we are some 7 per cent. better to-day than we were five years ago.

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

I am talking of the general level of real wages throughout the country as a whole. As I say, taking into account all the facts, the general result of what may he called the index figures of prosperity shows that there has been a distinct improvement.

Turning to the position of unemployment as it exists, if we wish to find out how it should be dealt with, it should he split up. It is no good talking of the register as a whole. To start with, the register is probably the most accurate instrument known for registering total unemployment, and sometimes that is why misleading comparisons are drawn with foreign countries. The only figure of unemployment which at all approaches us in accuracy, f believe, is that of Germany. Germany at the end of December had about 2,500,000 unemployed. A good deal of that was due to seasonal weather, but in November it was still about 1,750,000. Year by year as time goes on the total of unemployment given by the live register is a more and more accurate picture of unemployment in this country. If, for instance, anyone goes for poor relief he is required to register before it is given. If a person is out of employment, he can get his health insurance card stamped provided he has registered, and anybody who looks ahead with regard to health insurance takes the precaution of registering.

To get at the true character of unemployment we must not regard it as a whole. To start with, there is the special problem of coal, and to a less extent of other particular trades, which bulk largest in the unemployment figures. London last year and the year before had the most prosperous time it ever had for the past 100 years. Unemployment outside the coal trade and the other depressed trades consists mostly of people who are in and out of employment. They are not a standing army, but a large body of people who are either working short time or out of work for a certain number of weeks and coming back on the register for comparatively short periods. They are, again, quite a different kind of problem from the residue at the bottom who are out for a considerable period. To deal with the problem adequately one has got to take all the different pacts. There is no conceivable way of solving the problem of unemployment in the coal trade except by the policy of transfer. That has been recognised. [HON. MEMBERS: "NO"] I have given my opinion. I am not asking hon. Members to agree, but I am stating my opinion with absolute confidence. The same opinion has been reached by the Trade Union Congress, by the official Labour party, and by the official Liberal party. [Interruption.] That is the only way, I am absolutely convinced, of dealing with the problem, and the Industrial Transference Board which has no politics, has come to the same conclusion. One might get an improvement in the coal trade from new methods of treating coal. One might get an improvement possibly, by the use of pulverised coal with high-pressure steam for ships, but I am sure the bon. Member for Swansea will bear me out that, failing some revolution in the coal-mining industry, there is no possibility of the re-employment of all the miners again.

Turning to the problem of training, about which the hon. Member for Wallsend asked, training is good for boys and for the residue of the men unemployed. For boys, training is essentially good where it is needed. Both the hon. Member and I sympathise with training, but we differ in this. She would like to have it everywhere wherever there are boys out of work. I do not think that that is needed, and the attempt to provide it would cost money which could be more usefully spent in other directions. The amount of unemployment among boys has fallen immensely, and in the course of the next two years it will be at vanishing point. I have already sent out from my Department a questionnaire to find out in what districts there is likely to be a shortage of young persons in industry, and it is clear there will be in a large number.

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

They sack men and put boys in their place.

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

No, the reason is the fall in the birth rate. In regard to the districts where there is a large number of boys unemployed, the hon. Member for Wallsend is at fault. I do not think that she got hold of the right statistics. It is true that in South Wales there are 1,680 boys in the Centres, and the proportion is 62 per cent. of all the boys registered there as unemployed. In these depressed areas where training is necessary for boys up to 18, they are getting it, or they can get it, because there is accommodation for them to get it adequately. As regards the men, the area over which training can do good is a comparatively small one, but we have increased the home training until the output is now over 6,000 a year. To deal with other men from the coal areas, or men who have been out of work for a long time, the training centres for overseas have a potential output of 9,000 a year, but we are limited by the number of people who volunteer for overseas training and the number of men whom the Dominions can take. Allowing for that, we can, I think, supply all that is wanted.

Now I come to the main question of the rest of the men. The problem is partly due to under-employment and partly to a certain lack of employment, and what is wanted is the stimulation of trades so that it can take up the transferees from the coal areas. It is true that there is no essential incompatibility between the provision of public works and the endeavour to stimulate ordinary trade. No Government, however, can at once set to work all the men who want employment. It is not humanly possible for any Government to do it. All that can be done by any Government is by wise measures—and we may always differ as to the wisdom—so to help the situation as to enable the natural powers of recupera- tion, which were already at work in 1926, to get to work so that all the. Additional population which the country has to digest can be digested. A large amount of public work, as a matter of fact, has been undertaken, though not so much as under the Government of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George). That is where, I think, he and the present Government would differ. We think that the field for it is limited by the usefulness of the works, and also by the power that they possess of absorbing the transferees from the coalfields. The right hon. Gentleman was a little more restrained this afternoon than he was previously, but that is perhaps because he feels the responsibility of the coming General Election. At any rate, he only asked me questions and did not suggest a £200,000,000 loan which he did on a late occasion. I think that the field for public works is, from the point of view of employment, largely restricted. Perhaps I would not go so far as the words which I am going to read: There have been large public works done at the public expense which really have brought very little return, and in some cases no permanent return whatever. We have passed from the stage when that is likely to be or can he a solution of these very difficult problems. That was the statement of the right hon. Member for West Swansea (Mr. Runciman) and I think it would apply to the impossibility of a loan of £200,000,000 for development work. Even if 5,000 men would be set to work by £1,000,000, it stands to reason that the number of million pounds that would be needed to set 250,000 men at work would be an impossibly large sum, especially when it is realised that that work is provided for only one year, and that the loan would be used up at the end of the year. What the Government have in mind is to take steps, as far as we can, to train people and to increase training, so that they will be able to take advantage of Vacancies in so far as they occur.

This problem, as the hon. Member for Wallsend has said, has to be attacked from quite a number of sides, for there is no one specific cure for it. There are productive works; there is training. But nearly all economists would say that work done at a man's own trade is better than any amount of work that can be provided by public relief work. We have encouraged training, and we have provided a limited amount of what might be called relief works, but which are really public works, the usefulness of which is apparent. We have not spent as much on roads as the right hon. Gentleman wished, nor did he himself by his own standard; otherwise, he would not have accumulated a surplus of £19,000,000 during the time when construction could have gone forward. At the same time, the amount of development that is indicated by the electricity programme means that money will be spent, to the extent of £3,000,000 up-to-date, and a good deal more before the year is out. That is without question the kind of work that could be justified on any economic grounds. From the same point of view, although I am precluded from discussing it, that is why we think that the de-rating proposals are likely to mitigate unemployment because they help industries and those very export trades, the contraction in the volume of which has been a great part of our trouble. Frankly, I say that safeguarding, too, will help. I have always freely admitted the limits that should be put to safeguarding. I am against extremes of any kind, but a moderate policy of safeguarding is likely, not, to increase the cost of living, nor the cost of production, but to be more powerful in giving work to people at their own trades than any other remedies I have yet heard put forward.

Photo of Mr Alfred Short Mr Alfred Short , Wednesbury

I am voicing the feeling of the majority on this side of the Committee when I say that we have heard a very disappointing speech from the Minister of Labour, a speech which will be read with dismay by the million and half unemployed who look to this House for some redress of their wrongs and amelioration of their sufferings. I cannot help thinking that the earlier part of the Minister's speech, lasting some 30 minutes, might well have been delivered by some lecturer to the school of economics. He told us all about the proposed causes of unemployment, he mentioned the repercussions; he suggested that you could not do things from this point of view or from the other; and we listened in vain for any scheme which would put one single unemployed worker into work. He told us that no Govern- ment could cope with or cure this great problem. How does he reconcile that statement with the positive remedy that the Tory party had in 1924? How does he reconcile it with the expression of opinion of the Prime Minister when he said that the Unionist party would fail in their primary obligation if they did not find a solution for the great unemployment problem? How does he reconcile it with the pledge of constant work at high wages for those who seek it? We have received little or no comfort from the Minister's speech. He told us about the growing shortage of boy labour. It seems that under our industrial system only boys can get jobs. When they leave school at the age of 14 they have no difficulty in finding employment, but as soon as they reach the insurable age of 16 they are dismissed. Then some of them are employed from 16 to 21, and as soon as they become entitled to adult wages, they are dismissed again and thrown on the Unemployment Fund.

It being half-post Seven of the Clock and there being Private Business set down by direction of the Chairman of Ways and Means under Standing Order No. 8, further Proceeding was postponed, without Question put.