Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a Supplementary sum, not exceeding £600,000, be granted to His Majesty, to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1929, for Grants-in-Aid of the Lord Mayor's Fund and towards the cost of Administration of the Fund and Co-ordination of other Funds for Relief in Distressed Mining Areas.
I think it will be for the convenience of the Committee if I make a statement on the operations of the Lord Mayor's Fund in England and Wales, leaving my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland to make a statement, or to answer any questions on the subject of the administration of the corresponding Scottish fund. This Supplementary Estimate is presented in pursuance of the arrangement and undertaking of the Government, approved by the House of Commons, to subscribe a large grant to the Lord Mayor's Fund on a pound for pound basis. This Estimate is for the fulfilment of that undertaking. Up to the time when the Supplementary Estimate was prepared, the total of the voluntary subscriptions to the fund had reached a figure of £735,000, and, up to last Saturday, the total of voluntary subscriptions was £752,000. I shall, I am sure, have the general agreement of the Committee in offering our thanks to all those volunteers who have made the working of this fund possible, both at the centre in London and in every coalfield in the country, from the Lord Mayor of London himself, with his Joint Executive Committee, down to the local committees in the various coalfields and the divisional committees. It would have been absolutely impossible to organise work of this kind on any basis but a basis of volunteer administration. It is of the essence of the administration of a scheme of this kind that it must depend on personal touch, personal judgment, and personal sympathy on the spot; and it is for that reason that the Government have not sought to interfere in any way with the administration of the fund. They would, of course, have to express their opinion if they considered that the administration of the fund was not attaining the main objects for which this money was voted by the House of Commons, but there has been no sign of that up to date.
It is due to this volume of voluntary work that it has been possible to remedy the defects and to fill up the gaps in relief administration, of which we were all conscious last December. It is due to that voluntary work that it has been possible to co-ordinate all the various voluntary efforts, to secure a general pooling of voluntary funds, and to set the organisation in South Wales, Durham and Northumberland, where organisations already existed before, and in all the other coalfields on a really efficient basis, which, I think, is generally recognised as efficient by local opinion in those areas. The only part the Government have had in that achievement has been that we have placed at the disposal of the Lord Mayor of London and of the divisional committees a number of civil servants, and I think I should be voicing the feeling of all the voluntary committees if I paid a tribute to the work which those civil servants have done during the last two or three months.
I have dealt already in general terms with the organisation of the fund, and I do not think I need go further into that point, because I think the facts are generally familiar to the Members of the Committee, but as to the actual work of the fund in the different areas, I have had placed in the Vote Office copies of a Circular which was issued by the Coalfields Distress Funds organisation on 12th February last. The Circular describes the various activities undertaken by the fund in South Wales, Durham and Northumberland, and I may perhaps, for the information of the Committee, run through the general headings. They are:
(a) Provision, of boots and clothing for women and children.
(b) Assistance by special grants:
(c) Assistance in school feeding.
(d) Provision of extra nourishment to families.
(e) Assistance towards the transfer of young persons from the area.
(f) Assistance in certain matters in connection with emigration and transfer work.
(g) Assistance in the cultivation of allotments.
These are, generally speaking, the activities of local committees in those areas, and they describe also the activities of the local and divisional committees in all the other coalfields, with this exception, that except in South Wales, Durham and Northumberland no arrangements for the supply of food are in force in other coalfields. On that, there is one point which I know has interested one or two hon. Members and on which I may perhaps say a word, namely, the position of certain areas in Durham, notably Jarrow, Gateshead, and South Shields, where no local committees have been established. The position in those areas is that they are being treated on exactly the same footing as other areas in Durham and Northumberland in the matter of school feeding, in the matter of the supply of boots to school children, and in the matter of assistance given through the public health authorities, principally to expectant and nursing mothers and children under the age of five. As a matter of fact, those activities of extra nourishment to mothers and children and school feeding have not been placed in any area in Northumberland and Durham under the control of the local committees. In all areas of Northumberland and Durham that work is being carried out through the education authorities and the public health authorities, so that in substance those areas, Jarrow, Gateshead, and South Shields, are not in fact at a disadvantage as compared with other areas in those counties.
While I am on this point about the work of the fund, I may perhaps refer to one other point which I know has interested one or two of the hon. Members for constituencies in South Wales, namely, the supply of clothing to men. It has been generally stated that clothing is not supplied to adult men but only to children and women. That is not, in fact, the case in South Wales. It is true that women and children have naturally had the first call on the fund; it is true that, generally speaking, the aim has been to supply secondhand clothing rather than new boots and new clothing to men, but, in fact, in South Wales a very large number of new boots has recently been supplied to adult men; and I find, for instance—and I think it was the hon. Member for West Rhondda (Mr. John) who asked me about this the other day—that in the Rhondda the local committee has received over 5,500 pairs of men's boots from Cardiff.
As to the expenditure of the fund on this work, up to the 12th March the joint committee in London had issued a total of £493,456 to the divisional committees. I cannot give any full particulars of the expenditure of the divisional committees and the local committees themselves. The Committee will, I think, appreciate that, with an organisation like this, which has only been fully started within the last six weeks and which is based entirely on volunteer work, the joint committee in London has naturally hesitated to burden the local committees at this stage with requests for progress reports and detailed accounts of the rate of expenditure, but a circular has recently been issued—on 4th March—to the divisional committees asking that in future monthly progress reports shall be furnished. I need hardly say that arrangements for keeping a proper account of expenditure in the different areas are very complete and satisfactory, that a full account has been kept, and it is only that we have not wished to trouble the committees up to now with requirements for making monthly returns. I can, however, say this about the rate of expenditure in the past, that all the divisional and local committees know that there is ample money in the central fund to meet all their demands, and the central fund can meet any rate of expenditure which the divisional and the local committees consider expedient from their knowledge of local circumstances.
That being the general sketch of the work of the fund up-to-date, the Committee may ask what has been the actual achievement of this really unprecedented experiment. I think I can sum up the achievement up-to-date like this: In the first place, we can now say that in all these areas there is no reason why any child in the schools should be inadequately shod or clothed, or should be suffering from inadequate nourishment. Arrangements are in force throughout South Wales, Durham and Northumberland for the supply of boots and clothing to the schools, and for assisting the local authorities in financing school feeding. In the other areas, the same arrangements exist in regard to hoots and clothing, but in those areas it is not necessary to furnish any assistance—it would not be justifiable—to the local education authorities for school feeding, because the local education authorities in those other areas are financially in a position to bear the cost of school feeding with the assistance of the usual percentage giants from the Board.
As, I think, some Members of the Committee know, this question of the nutrition of school children in these distressed areas has been one which I have been watching very carefully, not for the last two months, but for the last 18 months or two years, and continuous and repeated surveys of the state of the children have been carried out. I confess that at the end of last year the position did give me some cause for anxiety in certain districts in Durham and South Wales. I think that the operations of this fund have relieved us, or should relieve us, from all anxiety on that score, and in the other distressed areas outside South Wales, Durham and Northumberland, the local education authorities have in many cases undertaken fairly comprehensive arrangements for school feeding, notably in the West Riding of Yorkshire. Secondly, I think we can say the same about the nourishment and the clothing of expectant and nursing mothers and children under five. There, again, there was some cause for anxiety, and that anxiety, I think, has been removed by the operation of the fund.
Thirdly, the fund has placed at the disposal of local committees, in close touch with the people in their areas, and fully conversant with the conditions, resources which can be used for special assistance to families who are in special distress, in cases of emergency, in cases of sickness or where, for any reason, the family requires assistance in order, for example, that the breadwinner may get new employment, or for any reason of that kind. The local committees have ample funds for use in family relief or special emergency relief to individuals at their discretion, and that is an enormous gain when we are dealing with conditions such as exist in some parts of South Wales, Durham and Northumberland. Fourthly—and, perhaps in a way, most important—the fund has made a beginning with that effort to relieve mental depression, to give to the people in these distressed areas an incentive to activity and to renewed interest in life. That kind of effort is, perhaps, what these areas most need, and the fund has made, at any rate, a beginning in that direction by being placed at the disposal of the local committees for assistance in the creation and in the working of allotments. There, again, that assistance is to a considerable extent justified by the fact that local authorities in some of these areas have not the funds to assist in the provision of allotment according to the normal scheme for providing those facilities, and the fund has in that way opened the prospect of real moral assistance as well as material assistance to the people in these areas.
That leads me to the last remarks with which I shall trouble the Committee, namely, as to the future of the fund and as to the use of the very large sum of money which we are now asking the Committee to vote. I do not think that I should be in order in engaging in any general discussion of the justification for a contribution towards a great voluntary fund of this kind. That question, I suppose, may, to a certain extent, be regarded as having been disposed of by our Debate last December, but I think, perhaps, I ought to say a word, if not for the benefit of hon. Members opposite who come from, these areas, at any rate for the benefit of public opinion generally in the country in justification of the vote of so large a sum of money to these areas at this moment. It may be thought, and I believe it is being said, that at this moment trade in the most depressed of these areas is improving remarkably, that the shipping and even the steel position on Tyneside has greatly improved, that the mines in Northumberland, in parts of Durham and over a large part of South Wales are now working better than they have worked for some time past, and that, accordingly, large votes of Government money to general relief in these areas might seem out of place.
It is quite true that this is an unprecedented Vote; it is quite true that it can only be justified as dealing with an unprecedented situation; and it is quite true, too, that the unprecedented character of the situation does not lie in an unprecedented depression of trade at the present moment. As I say, economic conditions, the actual state of trade and production in these areas have greatly improved. If hon. Members opposite will not misunderstand me, nor does the unprecedented character of the situation really lie in any unprecedented intensity of distress. The phenomena of distress arising from the closing of old pits and old works are only too familiar to anyone who knows the history of great mining and industrial areas. Instances have arisen in comparatively recent or in earlier years of distress far deeper in intensity arising from such causes in these very same areas. The distress is, indeed, in these areas more widespread, and that brings one to the real respect in which this condition is unprecedented.
I do not want to interrupt the Noble Lord unduly, having gone so far, but he has already told the Committee that he realises that he cannot discuss the actual policy. That was decided on the original Vote. This Supplementary Vote is a large one, and he would be justified in going into the circumstances of the case so far as to show reasons for the very large increase, but I think I must ask him, in the interest of the later Debate, to avoid discussing the general principle of this Vote.
I do not intend to transgress, and I was really coming to the point of my remarks. The unprecedented nature of the situation lies in the fact that whatever happens to trade and production in some of these areas, especially in certain parts of these areas such as Bishop Auckland, however prosperous industry may become, you have there a large volume of labour, a large part of the population who can never hope to secure employment in those areas again, and who must look for employment elsewhere. Where you get a situation of that kind still continuing, even in spite of the improvement of trade, you will get a tendency to hopelessness, a tendency to mental and moral depression which must be dealt with by a special measure. This sum for which we ask to-day is a very small part of the expenditure which is being incurred by the Exchequer to deal with this unprecedented situation, and a special expenditure of this kind is justified by the fact that when you are dealing with this sort of situation, this kind of depression, and incipient hopelessness among a large mass of the population, you must furnish assistance and encouragement in ways more intimate and personal than can ever be done directly by a Government agency.
There is one respect in which the Lord Mayor's Fund has been able to do very little up to now—indeed it has been able to do nothing—and that is in regard to the problem of the young single man, the most depressing problem and the most delicate and difficult to deal with. Any relief system may easily, as we all know, do more harm, than good, but especially is it true that unconsidered measures of relief for young able-bodied men have to be very carefully adjusted and directed to their need if they are to do real good. That is the problem which the Lord Mayor's Fund is now considering, and I hope that the fund, with the assistance of this money, will be able to make a substantial contribution towards the work of reconditioning—if I may use that word—these young men, and fitting them for hard work by recreational facilities, by food, and by a certain measure of employment. I hope that the fund, with the assistance of this money, will be able really to tackle that most difficult and important problem. I hope that I have not too far transgressed the limits which you considered proper in this Debate, and I recommend this Vote to the Committee.
I cannot follow the right hon. Gentleman into a discussion of the details of the administration of this fund, because I have neither the knowledge nor the personal experience that is necessary, but my hon. Friends who come from mining areas, and have knowledge of the state of affairs which exist there, will be able to tell us something of the need which still exists in spite of the statement of the right hon. Gentleman, which in some respects, I think, and so far as the future prospects of the fund are concerned, has been unduly favourable. Your ruling, Mr. Deputy-Chairman, has narrowed the scope of this discussion very much. I take it that we are precluded from considering the policy which is involved in the supplementary grant, and that our discussion is limited to the need that there may be for carrying out the original purposes for which this grant was made by the House of Commons. I would like to express my surprise, and I think it is a surprise which will be shared by the country generally, when the figure given by the Minister on this occasion is published in the newspapers to-morrow, as to the amount which has already been disbursed by the Lord Mayor's Fund.
It is 12 months since this fund was originally launched I believe that at the time the decision of the House of Commons was taken to make a pound for pound grant out of the National Exchequer to the fund, the fund stood at something like £300,000 A stimulus was given to contributions about Christmas time, mainly as the outcome of a remarkable appeal that was made by the Prince of Wales on behalf of the fund, and it comes as a disappointment to me, a disappointment which I think will be very generally shared, not merely by Members of this Committee, but by the country as a whole, that after all these months, notwithstanding the terrible distress which undoubtedly exists, and which has been the reason that the public have responded to the appeal to the extent that they have done, less than £500,000 has been spent in relief. There is, therefore, something like £250,000 in the Lord Mayor's Fund out of the voluntary contributions, in addition to the sum of £150,000 which I suppose has already been contributed by the Government; that is, a sum something like £400,000 is now in the fund. That means that only about half of the funds available for relief have, after all these months, actually reached the people for whom these subscriptions have been given. There may be difficulties; I admit that it takes time to get an efficient local administration working for the distribution of a large voluntary fund like this. I am not attaching blame to anyone, but it does seem strange that the administration of this fund has not been perfected to a greater degree daring all the months that the fund has actually been in existence.
I rather regret that the Minister of Education spoke in several sentences about the ample funds that are at the disposal of this voluntary organisation. That is bound to have the effect of preventing—I will not say of preventing, but, at any rate, of limiting—further contributions to the fund. People will say, "The Minister of Education says there is no need for money and that they have a great deal more money than they are able to spend." I should be sorry to think that that was really what the Minister of Education thinks.
I only made it clear that the rate of expenditure by the local committees has not been limited by the fact that they did not have funds at their disposal or by the fact that the central committee was not prepared to send them funds at any moment.
The right hon. Gentleman said something more than that. He said over and over again that there were ample funds in the hands of the Lord Mayor's Fund for doing any work that may be needed and to meet any of the needs of the fund. The stories that we have heard about the distress, and such reports as that made by the inspectors of the Ministry of Health, which is one of the most tragic documents ever published by a Department, do not lend support at all to the optimism expressed by the right hon. Gentleman in his speech. That Report states that there is a situation in the mining districts of South Wales without parallel in modern industry, and we all hear from the distressed areas the most pitiable stories of the extent of the poverty and the sacrifices that parents are making to give their children clothing, going without clothing and food themselves in order to do it. It is very regrettable that with this state of things existing there should, when this contribution which we are about to vote has been handed over to the Lord Mayor's Fund, be something like £1,250,000 of funds lying idle. There are one or two forms in which this fund has been so far administered, about which I would like to say a word or two. I gather from the paper to which the right hon. Gentleman has drawn our attention that assistance has been given to school feeding, but, apart from that, no part of the fund is being devoted for the purpose of providing food to the people.
I am glad to hear that. That comes under paragraph (d) in regard to the provision of extra nourishment. Certain things are being done out of the Lord Mayor's Fund which really ought to be the obligation of the Government outside the grant which they are making to the fund. In that connection, I would call attention to the assistance which is being given towards the transfer of young persons from these areas. Grants amounting to something like £15,000 have already been made from the fund for that purpose, but that is a special charge which ought to fall upon the Government and, together with the policy suggested in the concluding observations of the right hon. Gentleman about single young men, ought to come within the province of the Ministry of Labour. Funds ought to be provided in the same way as provision is made for bearing the cost of the transfer of men from the mining areas to other parts of the country.
One form of assistance which has been given I heartily support, and I should have been very glad to learn that a good deal more had been done in that respect than I have been able to gather from what the right hon. Gentleman has said, and that is in regard to assistance in the provision of allotments. A certain organisation has been doing most admirable work, with very limited resources, particularly in South Wales, and I believe it is now extending its operations into other mining areas. I think everybody will agree that it is not enough to keep these unemployed men alive from day to day, because while we are doing that, not merely is their physical condition deteriorating, but their morale is deteriorating too. There is nothing so depressing as a long period of enforced idleness, and we should be doing a great service in finding these men something to occupy their thoughts as well as their physical activities, something to take their minds away from brooding over their awful condition. That is work which is quite as important as, if not more important than, simply keeping them alive from day to day.
It is rather late in the season now to do much more in this matter of allotments. It ought to have been taken up energetically some six weeks or two months ago. It is not altogether too late, however, because this is a very late season, and it is an ill wind that blows nobody good; there is still an opportunity for something to be done. In South Wales something like 10,000 allotments have gone out of cultivation, I believe. I quite agree with the right hon. Gentleman that the local authorities themselves have not the financial means to exercise their powers under the Allotments Acts, but something should be done out of this fund, and it would be one of the very best forms of assistance which could be offered. I am quite sure that I have no need to appeal to the right hon. Gentleman for his sympathy in this matter, but may I ask him if he will bring to the attention of the Lord Mayor's Fund Committee the importance of doing something and doing it now, because there is little time to be lost? The right hon. Gentleman referred to the assistance which is given by the provision of extra nourishment for families. I wonder whether special attention is being given to the needs of nursing mothers.
I am glad to hear that that is being done, because it is most important, not only in the interests of the mothers themselves but also of the young children. If in its earliest infancy a child is to be deprived of a sufficiency of milk it may grow up with a permanently debilitated constitution. I do not know that there is more that I can say on this matter, beyond adding this observation, that I am sure that the fact that there is so much money in hand while so much need exists will have to be carefully considered by the committee of administration with a view to seeing whether they cannot accelerate the distribution of the money. I am not charging the committee with dilatory tactics or methods. As I have said, I realise the difficulty of getting a big organisation like this working rapidly, but I am sure there will be great public dissatisfaction, especially among those who have subscribed to the fund, when it becomes known that the Government have subscribed £750,000 and the public have subscribed £750,000, making £1,500,000, and that less than £500,000 has so far been distributed in relief.
I should be out of order, probably, if I were to say much beyond this sentence on this further aspect of the matter. Charity is never going to settle a problem like this; it is never going to do more than touch the fringe of it. The right hon. Gentleman said that there are from 200,000 to 250,000 men in the mining areas who can never hope to find employment in those districts, or perhaps in that industry, in future. I do not know that I altogether share that pessimistic view, because when the shipbuilding industry revives and the iron and steel trades revive, and if there be such a development in the scientific utilisation of coal as some of us are expecting, then I think it is possible that the coal trade of this country may employ a larger number of persons than it has ever employed in the past. I see that our great mining expert in this House, the hon. Member for Mossley (Mr. Hopkinson), shakes his head, and of course I should never venture in his presence to express a dogmatic view of my own upon a subject upon which he is an undisputed authority.
Suppose we accept that oft-repeated statement that there are 200,000 or 250,000 men in the mining industry who can never again get employment in the areas where they now reside or in the industry itself. Are we going to continue to support them by these methods? That is a question we shall have to face. The Lord Mayor's Fund is dragging. We cannot expect that the public will continue, month after month, and year after year to make contributions to that fund. They get tired. The feelings of pity which are aroused by some very powerful appeal pass, and with their passing the contributions stop. Therefore, this money which we are going to vote this afternoon can be no more than a mere panacea. It does not touch the problem in the least, and I can only support the grant of it as part of a much wider policy for dealing with the wider and graver problem. I should be out of order this afternoon in discussing that, but, while we are supporting this comparatively small measure of charity, I hope the House will not forget that the best it can do is very small indeed, that it is a mere drop in the ocean of work which will have to be accomplished before this great mining problem ceases to be the national reproach which it has been in the last few years.
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Colne Valley (Mr. Snowden) informed us that he himself was greatly disappointed by the statement of the President of the Board of Education, and he ventured to say, also, that practically every Member of this House would share that feeling of disappointment. It seems to me, however, that his disappointment is very unreasonable. On the contrary, in my case the statement made from the Treasury Bench gave rise to exactly opposite feelings. We know that a very large fund of money is immediately available, and we know that it is being administered by people who have no reason whatever to be sparing in the distribution of it; yet, as a matter of actual fact, we find that over a period of some months that fund has not been distributed as rapidly as we thought it would be. I ask the Committee: Does that furnish any reason for us to feel disappointed? Is it not really a reason for feeling gratified that circumstances are not so bad as we thought they were? [HON. MEMBERS: "NO!"] It is perfectly obvious that those who are distributing this fund are doing so in no spirit of meanness or of holding back money which is available for the relief of real distress, and, as a matter of fact, all of us have discovered during the last month or two that the necessity was not quite so bad as we feared it to be. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"] I can quite understand hon. Members opposite being disappointed. When we have a party in the State whose sole possibility of attaining to place and power and patronage depends upon the misery of the people of this country, undoubtedly they will be disappointed.
There is another thing the right hon. Gentleman said which shows his utter ignorance of the mining problem of this country. He said "Let us have a more scientific utilisation of coal, and then we can absorb, at any rate, a considerable proportion of these 200,000 men." At the present time, the output of coal in this country is equal to the full normal output week by week, and that output is being obtained by considerably less than our estimated number of men, by 950,000 men. It stands to reason that if we are to raise the standard of living of our milling population we can only do it in one way, and that is by increasing output without proportionately increasing the number of men engaged. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"] There is absolutely no other way of doing it, no way whatsoever. Coal is a product which is raised in a very large number of countries all over the world, and therefore is a highly competitive commodity, and yon cannot—I repeat it, and the sooner hon. Members opposite understand it the better—raise the standard of living of people employed in a competitive industry if you increase the numbers employed in proportion to the output of the industry.
The whole policy of those who are responsible for the livelihood of these unfortunate men in this country has been to see if they cannot increase production, increase the proceeds of the industry, without at the same time proportionately increasing the number of men employed. As a matter of fact, that policy has succeeded. It has become perfectly obvious from the last few weeks' figures that that policy has come to fruition at last. We hoped, at the time of the strike, that the period of depression might come to an end within 12 or 15 months. That hope was entirely disappointed; but after two years of appalling depression we have now, at any rate so far as anyone can judge who has any knowledge of the industry, got through that depression, and the standard of living of miners in Great Britain will inevitably be raised within a very short space of time.
I bow to your Ruling Mr. Deputy-Chairman, and the utter ignorance of hon. Members opposite on this question must be my excuse for transgressing the Rules of Order The real trouble is that hon. Members opposite are so entirely separated from the practical affairs of life that they never realise that their theories cannot be applied until they try to put them into operation. I think there is very good reason for hope in the statement that has been made by the Government, and to me it was a very great surprise that such a statement could be made. I hope that the necessity for increased expenditure in connection with this fund will diminish as time goes on.
I must begin by asking the indulgence of the House, this being the first occasion on which I have had the honour of addressing it. I should like to say a few words on this subject which vitally interests my constituency, where over 45 per cent. of the miners are out of work, where many of the pits are not merely closed but dismantled, and where the despair and distress are appalling. I have listened with amazement to the speech which was made by the President of the Board of Education, who told us that all anxiety had been removed from his mind with regard to the provision of boots and clothing for the school children. He also told us that all anxiety had been removed in regard to the cases of expectant and nursing mothers, and children under five years of age. Finally, the President of the Board of Education told us that a great effort had been made to relieve mental depression by giving the men a few seeds to grow potatoes this Summer.
When I turn to the regulations which are applied to this fund, I find that the picture is somewhat different. In the first place, the right hon. Gentleman has already answered the criticism that no boots and clothing are being provided for the men. He has told us that a large number of new hoots for men had been sent to South Wales and that a certain amount of second-hand clothing-for men had been forwarded to that district. The President of the Board of Education did not tell us that any boots or clothing for men had been sent to Durham or Northumberland, and consequently I conclude that the regulation under which no boots or clothing are to-be given to men in those districts still holds good. Now I come to another point
in the regulations. They state that sufficient funds are available for the
Full provision of adequate boots and clothing for women and children in all cases of genuine need.
Every Member of this House, who represents a distressed area, could quote numerous cases of genuine need which have never received boots or clothing at all. Moreover, I observe from what has appeared in the Press that the sums of money allowed for the purchase of new boots and shoes for the women and children are so small that these boots certainly cannot be called "adequate," because they will wear out in a very short space of time. The way in which boots and clothing are distributed is another matter which sometimes gives rise to criticism. The difficulty is that those mothers who are clever at dressmaking, patching, and mending clothes, and who manage by a miraculous effort to send their children tidy to school do not get any help at all. I would like to suggest that in order to deal with this problem satisfactorily somebody ought to go round to the houses of the people to see exactly what are their needs instead of waiting for them to come to the offices of the fund. It is the proud and sensitive people who will struggle on, short of many necessities, rather than appeal for charity.
Next comes the question of assistance in school feeding. This is a duty which could have been undertaken very easily by the President of the Board of Education, because he has under his control a magnificent machine in the education authorities which is admirably suited for undertaking the feeding of school children. Instead of simply granting assistance in certain cases out of this fund, why does the President of the Board of Education not provide that all the local authorities in distressed areas should be empowered to feed the school children and lay down at the same time that the Government will give 100 per cent. grant for that purpose.
I should like to make a reference to the way in which these poor children are chosen. They are always chosen on grounds of malnutrition. I think in cases of this kind the question of the income of the family should also be carefully considered. In many cases it is the most devoted mothers who are penalised, the mothers who go short of food themselves in order to save their children. There are thousands of half-starved women with white and haggard faces in my constituency, and I know that many mothers live on bread and margarine in order to give their children a reasonable amount of food. That is why we should look at the total income coming into the family before deciding whether the feeding of the children is necessary. With regard to the provision of extra nourishment for mothers and children under five years of age, that sounds very nice as described by the Minister, but when one considers the amount that is spent for this purpose it is very small indeed. The provision is that not more than 2s. 6d. per week per family may be given for extra nourishment.
I hope they are not regarding this 2s. 6d. as the standard. The report on the investigation in the coalfield of South Wales and Monmouth, which has already been described by my right hon. Friend the Member for Colne Valley (Mr. Snowden) as "a most tragic document," says:
The situation is, we belie re, without parallel in the modern history of this country. The nearest parallel is to be found in the cotton famine of 1852–4, but it is not a close one.
The Report goes on to say that the present position is worse, and I would like to ask what the Government have done to face this situation? The Government have lacked the courage and imagination to deal with the situation on a big scale. We have seen on the hoardings posters announcing that "Sympathy is not enough." We agree that sympathy is not enough, but we also say that charity is not enough. The miners want work, but they do not want to compete for existing jobs which the unemployed in other areas require. What they want is work on big national schemes of productive development which will make our country richer. The working men and women in the distressed
areas do not want sympathy; they do not want charity; they demand work and independence.
I should like to pay my tribute to the excellent speech we have just heard from the hon. Member for Bishop Auckland (Mrs. Dalton), and we shall look forward with interest to any future occasion on which she addresses the House. I agree with every word that the hon. Lady has said. In what I am going to say I do not want to appear to be criticising the committee and the various authorities who have been actually engaged in distributing this fund, but I should like to ask what is the position of the President of the Board of Education in this matter. I have had some correspondence with the right hon. Gentleman, in which I put the case of certain districts, and the answer which I received was to the effect that the President of the Board of Education was only a kind of liaison officer between the Government and another body. That appears to me to be an extraordinary position for the right hon. Gentleman to occupy in regard to a matter in which the distribution of public money is in question. I realise that in regard to the distribution to this fund the House has tied itself to a certain extent, and, instead of relieving distress wherever it can be found, the committee is limited to relieving distress in the mining areas. There are some distressed areas which will not come within the scheme at all. I take it that the line of distribution is that a certain voluntary fund has accumulated which is intended for distressed mining areas, and therefore this House, which has voted a pound to pound contribution, cannot go beyond the limits of those words.
It is a great pity that we should tie ourselves to the words "Distressed mining areas," as if they were words in the last will and testament of some person. That is very unfortunate. If we are to be tied to that formula, I certainly plead for a more generous interpretation of the words. There are a great many distressed areas which are not mining areas and do not come within the formula and have consequently been left out. The town of Middlesbrough is not a mining area, but it is essentially the centre of the iron mining, and that district cannot participate in the benefits of this fund. The argument would be much stronger in the case of the Cleveland district, and that is outside this scheme of distribution of relief. If Cleveland was brought in, there is no doubt that Middlesbrough, as the head and centre of that district, would come in as well. There are in those districts a number of distressed persons, and, if they were living in a mining area, they would certainly receive some benefit from this fund. I have had reported to me cases of genuine miners who are suffering distress, but because they are outside the technical limits of this fund they are getting no relief at all. Take, for example, the South Shields area. The hon. and learned Member for South Shields (Mr. Harney) is not able to be present through illness; otherwise, he would have been here to deal with this question. In the South Shields area there are something like 2,000 unemployed miners, and they are not receiving any benefit from this fund, and yet they live in a distressed area. By every logical test that can be applied, this relief ought to be available for them. Therefore, while paying my full tribute to the painstaking way in which the authorities are endeavouring to distribute the unfortunately limited sums which are at their disposal, I do urge that, within the limits of the rules that have been laid down, a more generous view should be taken, and that the President of the Board of Education himself should cease to be a mere liaison officer and should take his proper position, namely, that of a Minister of the Crown appointed to supervise the distribution of what is largely public money voted by the House of Commons, and should see that, as far as that money is concerned, it goes, without distinction and without narrow lines of demarcation, to those who really need it.
We have heard during this Debate a very brutal speech from the hon. Member for Mossley (Mr. Hopkinson), a speech of the type to which we are accustomed. We all understand, I think, that he would place every unemployed man, and every dependant of that unemployed man, in a lethal chamber—[Interruption]. That is all that ha would do for them if they were not following any employment. I do not desire to criticise, or condemn, or even to deal with the hon. Member's speech. I admit its brutality of expression, but I realise that the Tory party vote exactly the same on all occasions, and I cannot excuse the party for backing up in action what the hon. Member has said in his speech to-day. The Vote which we are considering is one that is unusual in the House of Commons. The President of the Board of Education described it as an unprecedented experiment. We are only dealing with the wives, the mothers, and the children of miners, and to-day we are going to vote that the Government shall give £1 for every £1 that is raised by charity. That is not the way in which the House deals with the rich. We did not hesitate to promise and give £25,000,000 to the coalowners in the subsidy of 1925: we have decided to give £24,000,000 to industrialists by de-rating; and in at least one Budget we have handed out millions to Super-tax payers. That is how we deal with the rich. There was no qualification in those cases, but here there are many qualifications.
This fund, however administered, will not cure the ills of the coal trade as we know them, and the Government are doing nothing in that direction. It is said that boots and clothing can be provided for women and children, and that is as far as it has gone in the West Riding of Yorkshire, but miners would rather be in employment and provide their children and their wives with boots as a result of that employment. We are told by the Minister of Labour that there are 300,000 miners unemployed, and in this Vote there is a provision that some of this money may be used for the transference of labour. I wish to associate myself with my right hon. Friend the Member for Colne Valley (Mr. Snowden) in saying that that ought to have been done by the Ministry of Labour, that it was a Government responsibility, and that this money should not be used for that purpose. But how long is it going to take to cure the unemployment in the mining industry by transference to other areas? I was told by the Minister of Labour the other day that 4,700 had been transferred during this year. That means that it would take more than 10 years to transfer them, were there jobs to which to transfer them—
This is in the Vote, Sir Dennis. I submit that I am entitled to allude to what has been done in the way of transference during this year, and I am not going very far back in quoting an answer given to me the other day by the Minister of Labour on this particular point. Before to-day, we had understood that the giving of relief from the Lord Mayor's Fund was prohibited in the case of fathers of families, single men and women, and married men and their wives who had no children. There are in the mining areas very many hard cases of men and their wives who have no children. I come from a mining area, and one that is very hard hit in this matter of distress where many collieries have been closed and not one has been opened yet, despite all that has been said by the President of the Board of Education in regard to improvement in trade. The benefits from this fund are momentary; they are very much like the provision of a meal and continued starvation afterwards. That is about all that can be done, however much is done by the fund or by charity of any description.
The administration of the fund is too much like the Poor Law, and I believe that, if there were more women on the committee in London and on the divisional and local committees, more would be done than is being done today. If there could be three or four, or more, carefully selected miners' wives on the central committee in London, I am sure that they would "ginger up" the committee to relieve distress as it needs to be relieved. To have granted less than £500,000 out of £1,500,000 is really a disgrace when we know what the conditions are at the present time. There is a danger that this money will not be given out, that the need for it may have passed—I wish is had passed to-day, but it has not—and then the fund will be left, as many of these voluntary funds are left, to provide well-paid soft jobs for officials.
I would ask the President of the Board of Education to watch closely the administration and the cost of administration. In this Vote, £20,000 is asked for towards the cost of administration. I do not know where £20,000 can have gone in so short a time. It has not gone, I am sure, to the people who are doing the drudgery work in the localities, who are visiting the homes, who are making the inquiries. I appreciate very much the humane work that is being done and the sacrifice that is being made quite voluntarily by those people in the various localities. In the official document which has been referred to this afternoon, the Committee who are administering the Lord Mayor's Fund in London say this:
It is clear that sufficient funds are available for the time being for the full provision of adequate boots and clothing for women and children in all cases of genuine need, and that, at any rate so far as the remainder of the present winter is concerned, the activities in this respect of the Local Committee need not be hampered in any way through lack of funds. It is the immediate and direct responsibility of Local Committees to see that the supplies, which are available, are placed with the least possible delay at the disposal of those who need them.
There is £1,500,000 in this fund, and I agree that there ought to be no children or women in the mining areas who are without boots or shoes, when we realise, or have realised, what have been the limitations of the administration of the Lord Mayor's Fund up till to-day. I welcome very much what the President of the Board of Education has said as to the possibilities of extending the scope and usefulness of this fund, especially in the area from which I come—the West Riding of Yorkshire—in which it has been very narrowly administered up to the present. I agree that Durham and South Wales are the blackest areas, but there are more than 20,000 unemployed miners in Yorkshire, and up to a week or two ago there were many thousands on short time.
Good work was done, before anything came from the Lord Mayor's Fund—my right hon. Friend the Member for Colne Valley said that it had been in existence for 12 months—by the Sir James Hinch-liffe Fund, which was being administered just before Christmas, when the weather was at its worst, and before any relief came to the West Riding from the fund in London. It is only during the past few weeks that a divisional committee has been set up for the West Riding of Yorkshire. I have been in touch with that committee a good deal, and I appreciate their difficulties and the work they are doing, but I do want to criticise one measure with regard to the West Riding which I think they ought never to have adopted. The President of the Board of Education told me on the 28th February that no income standard had been laid down by the central committee, and he has repeated that more than once, but in the West Riding an income standard has been laid down. It provides that, if a man and his wife and one child have been receiving 21s. plus rent for the previous four weeks, their case cannot be considered. That is worse than Poor Law relief and Poor Law administration in the area from which I come, and, in my opinion, it is a very hard scale. I understand that it has not been adopted elsewhere. They may have been told that there was only a limited amount of money that they could have, and I understood that that was so, although the President of the Board of Education told me yesterday that there was no limitation, so far as the funds would go, as to the amount that should be sent to the West Riding of Yorkshire. I am very pleased to note that, each time since January that I have put a question down asking what amount has been sent to the West Riding, I have found that, between the time when I put down the question and the time when it was answered, another sum has been sent. Only yesterday I was told that the amount was £32,500, and it was nothing like that up to Friday last.
I have said that the scale was hard, and I am going to show that that is the opinion of people in the area. I have had very many letters on this subject. One is from a guardian of the poor, who says:
The Lord Mayor's Distress Fund scale is worse than our Poor Law relief scale, and, whilst I have been investigating these cases, I have had to go to the relieving officer with two cases who were past waiting whilst this business could be dealt with. In one case the woman has died since the investigation.
Another letter, from a member of the local council in another area, says:
We have a good few men in this area who receive 26s. unemployment pay "—
that is for the man, the wife and the child—
They pay 5s. rent, and then they are not entitled to anything from this fund.
That is the position where the regulation which has been issued from the divisional committee is being carefully carried out, but in some other districts they are not quite so particular. A woman in another district writes to me as follows:
If we had to work to the scale, many very deserving cases could not he relieved, but we are using our own common sense, and, if the income is a little over the scale fixed and we think they need help, we grant it.
A woman from another district says:
I cannot say that any genuine case has been refused here, but we have not worked to any hard-and-fast rule.
I hope that they will not work to any hard-and-fast rule and a scale like that which has been drawn up for the West Riding of Yorkshire, where cases of genuine need cannot be met under such a scale. I am pleased to know that common sense is being used, and I hope that it will be continued in the same direction and more generally than it is at present. But my purpose is to ask the Minister that the claims of the West Riding of Yorkshire shall not be neglected. I had to complain by question of the method of securing knowledge as to who were needy in certain districts. I find that it differs very much in various areas. A few simple questions are necessary in order to meet distress in most districts, but in one particular area I found that there had to be no fewer than 30 questions filled up by the applicant and the investigator before the committee would consider any particular application.
That is the fact. It was not from the divisional committee, but it was applying to a particular area with which I am concerned, and it is the one in which I have lived all my life. But I am hoping that will be broken down. My appeal is for the West Riding in particular, that the divisional committee shall be supported and supplied with money in order to meet the needs of the position. At the same time, I realise that this is not going to do very much to help in curing the distress. It is not going to provide employment, and in the mining area there are thousands of homes of men who are willing and anxious to work and who are in dire poverty. Something more has to be done than we are doing in this Vote for strong men who are anxious to work, and we are anxiously awaiting the result of the General Election, when we shall see another Government elected which will do differently from what has been done for the mining industry by this Government. This Government has never done, and will never do, anything to cure the ills of the mining industry which we want to see cured. We are satisfied that there is a future for that industry, and we are determined to provide it after the next Election, when we believe a Labour Government will be elected to Parliament.
On a point of Procedure. The Vote before the Committee is the proportion of the grant for England and Wales. There is later a proposal for the Scottish share of that grant. Of course, the matters to be discussed are the same in both cases, and it might be rather unfair to Scotland if she were crowded out and there was no opportunity of discussing her special case. Therefore, might I suggest that you, Sir, might permit the discussion on this Vote to range over both the grant which is now directly before the Committee and the Scottish grant as well. If you were to permit that, which is not at all at variance with recent precedent, it might facilitate discussion.
I think the right hon. Gentleman's suggestion is a very proper one, but I am entirely in the hands of the Committee If it meets with general approval and no one objects to it, I will allow the discussion to extend over the Scottish Vote as well as the English Vote, but it will, of course, be understood that when the discussion comes to an end, and the English Vote is put to the Committee, the Scottish Vote will have to be put also.
The hon. Member who has just spoken may have done considerable harm, unwittingly, to the Coalfields Distress Fund. I thought he went out of his way to assert that its administrative charges were very high and should be investigated, and to suggest that all such charitable funds are necessarily high in their administrative charges, and have unnecessary staffs. The fact is that the administration of funds of this kind, which are undertaken by volunteers, is very low in cost and very efficient. Probably it compares most favourably with the administration of similar sums of money under such exceptional circumstances by other State or municipal officials, and I feel that it might be worth while to seek to correct any wrong impression the hon. Member may have given that such funds as this must necessarily waste money upon administration. I share the view expressed by the President of the Board of Education when he claimed a feeling of satisfaction at the results of the fund up to the present time. I cannot agree that it is disappointing to see a fund, which, with the Government contribution, will be something like £1,500,000, out of which, perhaps, £500,000 has been spent. There are two ways of looking at that. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Colne Valley (Mr. Snowden) says more should have been spent. Surely it is a matter for satisfaction that the overwhelming public sympathy and the immediate response by the Government should have led to a surplus being available. Surely it is a matter for satisfaction that they can go on relieving distress even when the voluntary effort begins to tail off, as the right hon. Gentleman so truly said it must. He was right when he said charitable funds rose very quickly in response to emotion and then began to fall away when the feeling which prompted them dies off. The time will come when there will not be further contributions to the fund, and if his desire had been met, and all the money was now spent, there would be no fund to fill in the gaps, meet the anomalies and do what this charitable fund has so extraordinarily well done. Surely it-is a matter of satisfaction that there is a balance there.
Even if the sanguine expectations of the last speaker come to fruition and a Labour Government occupies power here, neither he nor the right hon. Gentleman could claim that their vast schemes, if found practicable, could begin to operate so speedily that all this quarter of a million men would be employed. They have not claimed even to do it in a year, as has the Leader of the Liberal party. The most sanguine expectations cannot lead us to hope that this exceptional problem in the coal field can be dealt with quickly, and it is better to have a surplus than a deficit. It seems to be a cause for congratulation to our people throughout the land that their abounding sympathy should have led to this vast sum being collected, and a matter of congratulation to the Government that they should so promptly have offered their pound for pound without limitation and without hesitation. If it was possible to say that selected committees of a party kind, or having some particular motive, were holding up this fund there might be something in the case that has been made from the Labour benches, but these committees are not selected with any particular bias. They are selected because they are supposed to be local people knowing the circumstances of the victims. It is unreasonable to suppose that they will withhold money. Everyone's instinct must be to give money when the distress is before one's very eyes. It is unreasonable to be disappointed with the result. It should be a matter of congratulation to the people of the country generally and, I think, a matter in which we should thank the Government for having acted so swiftly and without limit.
I hope hon. Members above the Gangway will not continue to take the view that the expenditure of this fund is disappointing. It seems to me an untenable view. After all, we know there is poverty, and we know this fund will not cure the ills from which the men in whom they are so interested suffer. No one claimed that it would. Men who have been thrown out of their usual run of life by circumstances over which they have no control are not relieved by charitable payments or doles. They can be relieved only by being trained, if necessary, and found useful work. No one claimed that this fund would do that. No one even claimed that it would remove poverty from our land, or a part of it. Its object, as is the object of all charitable funds spontaneously raised, is to fill in the gaps, to go to the places where the pressure is worst, not to take over the burden of the Poor Law but to supplement it and augment it just where the shoe pinches. It has been shown that that has been done, and that must be a cause for congratulation and for thankfulness. I hope very much that the Committee may take the view the country is entitled to take, that this fund in all its aspects is a cause for congratulation and not for disappointment.
Everyone must desire to help this Estimate through, but the work has not gone along quite fast enough. We must realise that we are getting well through the winter. We have had one of the most severe spells of weather it has been our misfortune, or fortune, to experience for quite a number of years. During this period of very cold weather a large number of people in the mining areas have been suffering severely for want of proper clothing. We have the aftermath of poverty, but we have not got clear of the poverty. I do not think anyone supposes the amount of money, though it is large, which has been contributed, even with the addition of the Government grant, is going to eradicate poverty. What we have to do is to do the best we can to relieve the hardships of the people during a period of acute depression. The aftermath of poverty is probably the most serious part of the trouble. You see a large number of pale-faced women walking the streets very poorly clad and poorly nourished. I should like to put it to the Noble Lord whether it is not possible for some of the money now to be allocated in food vouchers as well as for clothing and shoes.
The people have been helped by means of parcels of clothing, and in this connection I must pay tribute to the work of the Society of Friends. In my area of Wigan the Society have done inestimable service by supplying large bundles of clothing for the people in need of help. I am sure that the thanks of the borough of Wigan are due to the Society of Friends for the work which they have done, because we realise that they really saved the situation before we were accepted as a depressed area. We had some difficulty for some time in getting the Lord Mayor's Committee to look upon Lancashire as a depressed area. I have no hesitation in saying that Lancashire is one of the most acutely depressed areas in Great Britain. It may be that Lancashire people do not squeal very much, nevertheless Lancashire people have suffered from continued depression and hardship for the last two or three years. In my area the large industries—iron, steel and coal—have been depressed for a long time, causing a great deal of suffering to all classes of people. There is no hope of employment for thousands in the mining community, and something will have to be done in order to relieve the depression amongst these people. It is not a question of trying to get them all absorbed into the employment of mining, but I think that the Lord Mayor's Committee and the Government might do something towards making it possible to open a larger number of training centres in order that the youth of the mining areas who are unemployed, and have been so for several years, may receive training to fit them for other vocations.
It has been said that less than £500,000 has been distributed from the Lord Mayor's Fund, or something like one-third of the money at the disposal of the Lord Mayor's Committee. Even if the Lord Mayor's Committee have not got the Government grant, that money may be regarded as good as paid. The undertaking given by the Government will be honoured. Although the hardships of winter are passing away, we want to see to it that the bulk of this money is not allowed to remain inactive in the hands of the committee, as may possibly be the case. I have had experience of other funds of a similar character, and I do not want the Lord Mayor's Fund to keep in hand too big a balance. I think that the distribution of the money might be expedited much more than is the case at the moment. The distribution of the money is being carried out too slowly. I do not know whether it is the intention to keep a reserve fund or not, but I think that the Lord Mayor's Committee ought to clear their minds of any such idea.
On the question of allotments for the unemployed, I was pleased to hear the announcement which was made by the Lord Mayor of Manchester at a meeting which I attended. I am quite sure that if this announcement could have been made one or two months earlier there would have been a greater demand for allotments throughout the country, because at the present time we are right on the top of seed time and no preparation has been made. Nevertheless, a large number of allotments are accessible and these will, to a certain extent, relieve the monotony of the life of many men who are unemployed. I was pleased to see that a generous contribution was to be made by the Lord Mayor's Committee for the purpose of providing seeds, carrying out fencing and providing fertilisers and other things necessary for work on allotments.
The matter which I think ought perhaps to receive more attention than any other is that relating to expectant and nursing mothers, and children. I have done some work in connection with the Lord Mayor's Fund and I have been in close touch with committees working in Wigan and other parts of Lancashire. Only on Sunday last a member of the committee told me that on the previous day she paid a visit of investigation to a home and found that the mother was expecting her baby in the course of a few days, and had not a single article of clothing in readiness for the child, and was herself in need of necessary clothing. I think that work of this kind is obviously work which might be assisted by the Lord Mayor's Committee. My hon. Friend the Member for Rothwell (Mr. Lunn) said that we ought to have more women on the committees. I wish to pay the highest possible tribute to the women who have served on committees with which I have been connected. They have done yeoman service, and many of them are now giving practically the whole of their time in investigating cases so that mothers and children should not suffer more than is absolutely necessary.
It has been said that the feeding of schoolchildren is one of the ways in which we can help. In the Borough of Wigan we have undertaken this work from the beginning. We were a long time in getting recognition from the Lord Mayor's Committee and something had to be done. The education authority undertook to begin the feeding of the schoolchildren and this has been a great help in the borough. Another point which was raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Rothwell related to the scale of allowances. Every area has the right to lay down its own scale, and I hope that they will make it as generous as possible in order that as little suffering as possible shall be experienced by those in need. The hon. Member for Mossley (Mr. Hopkinson) was rather brutal and callous in his speech when he said that the necessity was not as bad as it had been stated. The hon. Gentleman must know nothing at all about the subject of which he has been speaking, because he is certainly not in touch with the needs of his people. I look upon a statement of that kind as one simply born of ignorance of the subject and of a lack of appreciation of the hardships which the people have passed through and are passing through. I will leave it at that.
In the Wigan Poor Law area we have a committee of the Lord Mayor of Manchester's Fund. In that area there are 300,000 people, and my complaint is that we did not secure recognition soon enough. It was not until February that Lancashire was recognised as a necessitous area. We have made a thorough survey of the whole area and we have found that there are something like 7,000 mothers and children in dire need of clothing and boots. We have estimated, at the request of the Lord Mayor's Committee, that the amount of money required up to the end of April in order to relieve these cases will be £21,000. I think I should be right in saying that in Wigan we have not received more than £5,000, a sum which is certainly very inadequate. The Lord Mayor of Manchester honoured us by coming to Wigan to investigate some of the cases for himself. He was taken into various parts of the borough, and shown some of the homes in which the people have to live and sleep. I think that he went away very well satisfied that the work that was being done was work which ought to be done, and that the need for it was very great indeed. One of our visitors told me on Sunday last that she went to a place in order to investigate a case and found there a bed in the kitchen and two children suffering from whooping cough. The only covering on the bed consisted of two old overcoats which had been given to the family. I think it will be agreed that conditions like these demand immediate attention.
I consider that the fund in London should be placed at the disposal of the various areas so that cases may be relieved whenever necessary. The time has come when we really ought to place more confidence in the committees which have been elected. The committee in Wigan consists of very good men and women whose interests centre in this kind of relief, and who are willing to do anything in order to give satisfaction and give pleasure to people who have been depressed for so long. I make no apology for saying that in the area from which I come we have some of the best people in the world as far as the working class are concerned—people who will willingly accept any kind of work rather than charity. At the same time, our industries are so depressed that it is impossible to find work. I can back up the statement of my hon. Friend the Member for Rothwell and say that I do not know of a single colliery in the whole of Lancashire which has been reopened. So to-day we are a depressed area with a heavy rate of unemployment. Quite recently the greatest suffering has been experienced by the people who have been working short time. That has been our greatest trouble. We have people working in connection with the mines in Lancashire who are only provided with employment for two or three days a week. How can these people avoid poverty and depression in circumstances such as these? I want to appeal to the Lord Mayor's Committee, if they are responsible for keeping back supplies, to take a broader outlook and be more generous to the needs of the people by placing at the disposal of the areas which have been accepted as necessitous areas, a greater sum of money in order that the requirements of the people may be met.
I have listened with interest to this Debate. I remember that no sooner had the great strike begun than a great cry went up that the children in Wades were starving. A friend and myself could not bear to think that the children were starving, so we went down to South Wales to see for ourselves, and, much to our relief, we found that this was not true. It was an exaggeration. The children were not starving, but we found that if the strike went on they were bound to be under-nourished. [HON. MEMBERS: "What strike?"] The lock-out! [Interruption]. It meant a lot to the people who came out. We went down and found that there was a tremendous exaggeration, which did not do any good to the situation. When we came back we started a children's fund, and during the whole of that lock-out—a disaster I should call it—the children did not suffer. When there is exaggeration on one side, one gets exaggeration on the other side. I do appeal to hon. Members opposite not to exaggerate. The facts are bad enough. It was the exaggeration to which I have referred which made it difficult for those of us who were interested in the welfare of the women and the children to deal with the case on its merits. On that occasion, facilities were given so that the children did not suffer. After the trouble was over, people became indifferent. They become indifferent to the mining areas. They said that they were fed up with both sides, with the miners and the mineowners. The country was tired of it all. I think that was entirely owing to the disastrous policy of the miners in refusing the Samuel Report. The hon. Member for Rothwell (Mr. Lunn) talked about what the Government had done. The Government gave the miners a chance, and if they had accepted it the whole position of these pitiable women and children in the mining areas would have been different to-day. I am amazed at hon. Members on the opposite side accusing the Government of not having done anything to relieve the situation. They ought to turn to the leaders of the miners who advised them to refuse the Samuel Report. They ought to say to those leaders: "It is your fault, not the fault of the Government."
The hon. Member for Rothwell referred to the Government subsidy to the mine owners, and I thought that I was perfectly entitled to make reference to it, because I have been interrupted.
I do not mind interruptions. I am dealing with facts which hon. Members opposite are inclined to forget. The hon. Member for Rothwell spoke of the brutal speech made by the hon. Member for Mossley (Mr. Hopkinson). I do not often agree with the hon. Member for Mossley, but I do not think that his speech was brutal, unless economic facts are brutal. I am afraid that economic facts do seem brutal very often, but they are facts which we have to face if we are to better the condition of the men, women and children in the mining areas. The hon. Member for West Middlesbrough (Mr. Griffith) said that the President of the Board of Education was only a liaison officer for this fund. We ought to be deeply grateful to the President of the Board of Education.
I misunderstood the hon. Member. We owe a deep debt of gratitude to the Noble Lord for the care and the interest that he has taken in the state of the women and children in the mining areas, and if hon. Members opposite would speak out from their hearts, and would not be frightened at what some of their constituents might say, they would also express their gratitude. The Noble Lord has shown a profound human interest in the women and children. I am glad that he has been in a position to awaken the whole country as to the conditions of the mining areas and of the women and children there. Some hon. Members complain that the money is not being spent fast enough. That shows that the money is not being wasted and that there is something to go on with. The local committees have the facts before them, and if they are not spending the money all at once it is because they are spending it wisely. I do not think that hon. Members who represent mining areas quite realise the feelings of distressed people in other areas. That feeling has been one of our real difficulties. It is not only in the mining areas that distress exists. There is almost a bitterness in some areas, and people say: "Why should the miners have all the money? We and our wives and children are in distress." I could give cases from my own constituency. Therefore, far from hurting the fund, I believe that it will help the fund if people realise that it is not being wasted. I am sorry that the right hon. Member for Colne Valley (Mr. Snowden) put such an interpretation upon the matter that he declared it discouraged people. I do not think so. I think it will encourage them.
The hon. Member for Bishop Auckland (Mrs. Dalton), who made so charming a maiden speech, with so much tenderness and solicitude, spoke of the difficult case of the mother who is a good manager and who sacrifices herself to do her best for her children but keeps quiet, whether they were in distress or not. That sort of case happens all over the country. It is one of the most tragic things in the world that those whom you want most to help are the ones whom you cannot help, because of their wonderful self-respect and pride. There are thousands of mothers like that in the mining areas and in other areas. I would ask hon. Members from mining areas to remember that the contributions towards the mining distress fund are coming from all over the country, and that they are stopping subscriptions to funds in our constituencies, not that we mind; we are glad to know that help is going to the miners, but there are distressed people in other areas. We are relieved that the fund is on so broad a basis and that it is working so well locally. I feel strongly that it would work even better if we had a woman on the executive committee in London. When one puts a question on that subject to the Prime Minister, he says that it is not his job, and if one asks the Lord Mayor, he says that it is not his job. Whose job is it? The House of Commons has no control over the Lord Mayor, but if the House protested and said that it would be better if one woman sat on the executive committee, surely something would be done. There are many things that women can see which men, with the best intention in the world, cannot see. There is the question of allotment gardens. A woman could help in regard to that matter. I do hope that the House will press for the appointment of a woman on the committee. The President of the Board of Education said that the Government were trying to do away with mental and moral depression. I do not see what the Government can do about mental and moral depression. I know that they will do what they can, and I know what a wonderful work is being done by the Quaker Committees in Wales.
What seems so cruel is that so often we have to listen every day to class-conscious propaganda. That seems to me one of the most distressing things in the world. Anyone might think that all the gifts were given to one section of the community and were denied to the other. I am sorry that the gift of business ability seems to be all on this side of the House and none of it on the other side. I only wish that hon. Members opposite had the same ability for running businesses and making money as they have in making speeches about the iniquities of how money is made. The sooner we get away from that appalling class propaganda, from that Socialistic theory, which has never worked in any country, which has been tried in but one country, where it is now being given up because the people are starving—the sooner we get away from that propaganda, the sooner shall we be able to deal with distress in the mining areas. Take the question of emigration. I think I shall be in order in dealing with that matter. Soon after the War, we realised that the only thing for some of these distressed areas was emigration. What happened?
I do ask hon. Members opposite to give up propaganda and to face facts. Do not let them talk continually about the misery in the mining areas, much of which has been brought about by the bad leadership of the miners' leaders. No matter what Government is in power, we have to face economic facts, and while hon. Members opposite are talking so much about the failure of the Government, the women and the children and some of the men are living under appalling conditions in the mining areas. I appeal to hon. Members opposite to give it up, to be honest, to stop their preaching of class propaganda, and then we shall be able to help more. It is heartbreaking to come down and listen to men who, nine times out of ten, deal with theory and not with facts.
We have just listened to a speech from a beautiful political Lady Godiva, who seems to go riding along nude of political ideas. She regrets that we have not the business capacity that is shown on the other side. What about the distress in the coalfields? The business there has not been managed by the people on this side but by the people on the Noble Lady's side. She does not agree with what we have said about the hon. Member for Mossley (Mr. Hopkinson). I say that it was a brutal speech, and a direct contradiction of the Prince of Wales' statement. One is surprised that hon. Members opposite are prepared to deny the truth of our statements. But the Prince of Wales investigated the matter for himself, impartially, and the statements which he made do not coincide with the statements of the hon. Member for Mossley. I deny that the hon. Member for Mossley is an expert on mining matters. He is a greater expert in conceit; he is wonderful at that. A man who simply sells machines to the mining industry, is not a mining expert. As far as we are concerned, we have abundant evidence of the distress in the coalfield. The Noble Lady talks about exaggeration. She says that we exaggerate. Has she read the statement made by the inspectors of the Ministry of Health in regard to the conditions in South Wales? Is that exaggeration?
This is not a constituency. This is the House of Commons. We say that the money has been expended too slowly for the needs of the moment. The Noble Lord made a very decent speech. I appreciate the fact that he has said that in Durham the children ought to be looked after by feeding, but the mothers are the people about whom he has been most concerned. I agree with him. I must contradict the charge made by the Noble Lady. We have never refused to extend our sympathy to those other than miners who are suffering because of the state of unemployment. We feel that distress is distress wherever it occurs, whether it is in a mining area or in any other area. Thousands of our miners who are not in what are called distressed areas are suffering. Take my own place. We have a large mining population in Sunderland, and they are not covered by the fund. They are miners all the same, and they are suffering distress. Let me tell the Noble Lady that we do not altogether preach class hatred. At Christmas time I went round my own town and found miners and their families affected with tubercular complaints, due entirely to malnutrition, and when we are charged with not being sympathetic—
I never said that they were not sympathetic. That is really quite unfair. I was only pointing out that in dealing with the Miners' Distress Fund I do not think we quite realise the distress of people in other areas, who feel a little hurt that miners only are receiving benefit from the fund.
I withdraw my criticism, although I thought that was the inference of the Noble Lady's remarks. It is not always a question of food. Many miners are suffering from a lack of utensils. What is the use of sending food if they have nothing with which to cook it? Their bed clothes and cooking utensils are getting very meagre. I admit that the people who suffer most are those who never come near the place at all, but that does not imply that we ought not to speed up this fund and that inquiries should be made in order to compel people, who are too shy to ask for assistance, to come forward. Then there is the question of allotments. Last week I forwarded a complaint from the secretary of the allotments' association to the Ministry of Labour that the unemployment benefit of many allotment holders who were unemployed had been stopped because they had been working on their allotments. What is the use of giving facilities of this kind if you punish the men for making use of them? I hope that this discussion will relieve them of the fear of having their unemployment benefit stopped because they have worked in the garden. If we had been keener about small holdings and allotments there would have been less distress than there is to-day.
There is another phase of distress which is not considered in this House. It has to do with the underpaid man. I went the other day into the house of a man who has nine children. He was working and also had to work on Sundays, and his eldest boy, the sweetest singer you ever heard, was waiting for his coat and waistcoat in order that he might go and sing at the Catholic Church. The distress is not altogether in the case of the people out of work. There are many men who are working who are underfed, and, in spite of what the hon. Member for Mossley has said, it will take not only what there is already in the fund but much more to tide us over the difficulties which are before us. I should like the Noble Lady's co-operation in this. She must be on the spot before she can know the needs of the people as we know them. We are not speaking from a purely political standpoint. Many of us have suffered these same conditions, and I make no apology for saying that I have had to pawn my things in order to get something to eat. This makes me the more keen—not politically keen, but humanely keen—to see that others do not go through the same process if it is possible to avoid it.
When we mention these things, we are charged with putting over the sob-stuff, but you must get down to the horrors of the condition of the poor; you must get down to this poverty and distress. I am thankful to the people who have given generously to this Fund. There are many big-hearted people in this country, and, in spite of all the misrepresentations and all the criticisms about strikes and stoppages and class conscience, we are thankful that there are still generous people in this country. We believe that they gave this money at a time of the year when it should have been spent—at Christmas, when many of these miners had no fires to sit by. In spite of all these things, I feel that the Minister will agree with me that, as far as Durham is concerned, we are not out to gather charity but to get work, but we think that a speeding-up of this Fund is more than necessary in some of our distressed areas, where we can prove, not only by the Prince of Wales himself and the inspectors of the Ministry of Health, But by people who are not of our political views, that there is a great necessity for urgent and immediate assistance. I hope this Debate, in spite of all its intricacies and personalities, will mean a quickening up of the administration.
Following the suggestion of the right hon. Member for Colne Valley (Mr. Snowden), and with the general approval of the Committee, I should like to lay before hon. Members the circumstances of the administration of this relief fund in Scotland. As the Committee will observe, we are asking for a Supplementary sum amounting to £82,438, which, with the original Estimate the House has already sanctioned of £20,625, will make the total Government contribution £103,063. The circumstances in Scotland differ in detail from those in England. In place of the Lord Mayor's Fund we have in Scotland two principal funds, namely the Outram Fund and the Lord Provost of Edinburgh's Fund. These are supplemented by several other smaller funds and by some direct contributions. In the early stages of this problem the Government decided—and I was fortunate in obtaining the concurrence of all those who had any control over voluntary funds—to centralise them under the supervision and control of a central advisory committee. I am happy to think that a central advisory committee has been set up representative of all the interests concerned, presided over by Lord Home. It includes the Lord Provost of Edinburgh, the Lord Provost of Glasgow, representatives of the mineowners and miners, and also representatives of the steel workers, the British Red Cross Society and the Outram Fund. We can at least say that this central body is very fully representative. I should also mention that the Earl Haig Fund is represented on this central advisory committee.
This central body has endeavoured to establish local committees in all areas where that is necessary or essential, and to work through the local health authorities. It is important to note that we are using the machinery of the local health authorities, and that the central committee has the full advantage and assistance of the Department of Health, the Scottish Education Department and the Ministry of Labour The first principles which have guided the central committee were an endeavour to distribute as rapidly as possible, through the agency of the Red Cross Society, contributions of material and clothing which had been sent from various sources. All the clothing, I understand, has now been distributed. No doubt from time to time further contributions of that character will be made and will continue to be dispatched through the agency of the Red Cross Society. In addition to the actual clothing, a number of blankets were purchased which are being distributed under careful supervision to those who need them most. The central advisory committee, as I have indicated, have set up these local committees, which will investigate local circumstances and make their requests for assistance through the local authorities who will transmit them to the central body.
A certain scale has been laid down for the guidance of these local committees, a scale which was discussed and agreed upon, and recommended by the advisory committee. While this scale is laid down for the guidance of these local committees, they are given a very wide discretion to exceed it in any case where there is actual illness or exceptional need. In addition, there has been a distribution of food vouchers to a considerable extent. There was an initial distribution of £50,038, and yesterday an additional sum of over £3,600 was distributed. In addition, a contribution of £650 was made to the training centres of the Ministry of Labour, which with other small payments amount altogether to £54,929. There are other methods of assistance, such as paying the travelling expenses, when necessary, of persons from the mining areas who have found work elsewhere, when those cases are not covered already by the Ministry of Labour scheme, which applies only to certain areas scheduled as depressed areas. I should explain that the Ministry of Labour schedule certain areas in the country, and that in Scotland the County of Lanark is a depressed area.
The central committee at an early stage came to the conclusion that it was desirable to consider the whole position of Scotland, and they proceeded to schedule, as in the list which has been broadcast through Scotland, by parishes those areas which could properly be termed mining areas in which there was appreciable distress. So that there are in fact two categories of distressed areas, one of the Ministry of Labour and the other of the central committee. Within those areas, of course, relief can be and is being given not only to those in the mining industry, but to those in other industries. Outside those particular scheduled areas only miners receive relief, but miners generally, wherever they are, are receiving relief. Within those scheduled areas relief is being given, of course, to such as the steel workers and those in allied trades. Assistance is also given for the removal expenses of a man and his family, and where a man goes in advance of his family assistance is given in maintaining the family until they join him.
It would be a case for the local committee to put up to the Central Committee. Assistance can also be given to suitable men for emigration purposes, and payments are made to enable boys who are offered apprenticeships or other employment at low wages away from home to maintain themselves in suitable lodgings. The Central Committee have agreed also to place at the disposal of the Minister of Labour a sum of £350 to be used for the supply of clothing, where necessary, to men attending the training centre at Carstairs. There have been cases where some of the men attending the centre have been without the adequate change of clothing which is essential. The money is also provided for the incidental expenses of men travelling to interview employers when there is a possibility of a vacancy. The Central Committee have also authorised the grant of £300 to the Committee on Women's Training and Employment towards the expense of establishing a women's hostel for the training of girls from the mining areas, and to fit them for domestic employment in any of the Dominions.
The local committees have been invited to co-operate to the fullest extent with the education authority in an area in making arrangements for the feeding of school children. I should repeat what I have said on a previous occasion, that the education authority, of course, is not in any way divested of its statutory duty to carry out the necessary feeding of school children, and that anything which is done by the Central Committee is supplementary to that, and perhaps more fitly deals with the children under school age, when it is more economical to utilise the machinery at the disposal of the education authority. Perhaps I should give the actual figures of the fund as it stood at 9th March last. At that time the Outram Distress Fund amounted to £80,400, the Lord Provost of Edinburgh's Fund was £31,321, and there were other small funds amounting to £1,856. There falls to be added the Government liability based on 11–80ths of whatever was contributed to the Lord Mayor's Fund—the sum which we are now asking the Committee to vote is £82,000, roughly—amounting in all to £102,812. That makes a total of £217,389. Of that, as I have said, £54,000 odd has been distributed.
I can give some figures, but the statistical information available applies only to applications received up to 9th February last. There were 24,652 applicants; the number of households assisted was 14,446, and the number of dependants assisted was 49,361. There is no doubt that since those figures were collected progress has been made in the organisation, and certain alterations have been made in the scales laid down, and no doubt there have been increased applications. In addition to the various methods of assistance enumerated, and the classes of cases which have been assisted under the fund, it may be of interest to the Committee if I say that among the cases that have been dealt with are the expense of sending the child of an unemployed man to hospital, the provision of boots for persons who may be commencing work, special diet for women who are seriously ill with cancer and for men awaiting operations, extra assistance to a man with a paralytic wife, and the provision of a nurse for a family all of whose members were suffering from influenza.
I believe that the machinery in Scotland is working satisfactorily. It may be that the local committees have taken a little time to get into the saddle, but that was almost inevitable. The Central Committee in meeting that problem and realising that it was bound to take a little time for the machinery to work, wisely made an immediate distribution of all the clothing and boots that they had and made an interim payment of a sum of money. They lost no time in making their first distribution. In the Circular of 4th January last it was decided to make an immediate distribution of £20,000, and the payment was actually made on 7th January. That shows that those who were responsible have been alive to the necessity for immediate action. In asking for this further sum I think we can feel confident that it will be administered properly.
The right hon. Gentleman may rest assured that he will get his Vote, for, whatever we may think about the statement that he has made, there is general agreement on these benches that the present position in Scotland calls for immediate consideration by the Government, and that every penny that has been collected should be distributed as early as possible. There will be no difference of opinion on that head. But I think I reflect the opinion of my Scottish colleagues when I say that the right hon. Gentleman's statement is a very melancholy one, and that it reveals an appalling condition of things in the distressed areas of Scotland. If the Noble Lady the Member for the Sutton Division of Plymouth (Viscountess Astor) were present I would tell her that as far as Scotland is concerned the Labour party require no other propaganda than the statement that the right hon. Gentleman has just made. It reveals remarkable distress, and indicates that the Government have been thoroughly negligent, and that they have not expended more than a tithe of the amounts that were at their disposal. We join issue with the right hon. Gentleman because some of the expenditure that is borne by this fund ought rightly to have been incurred by the Minister of Labour. We have been told that the Central Advisory Committee in Scotland proposed to spend £350 on clothing to enable men to proceed to the training centres. In passing I would say to the right hon. Gentleman that the very fact that that money is required proves how serious the position is in Scotland.
I do not want to interrupt unnecessarily, but the hon. Gentleman is not correct in his statement. The money was merely voted for extra clothing, and, in addition, there was money supplied for those who had to interview an employer.
I cannot see that there is any difference between us. The right hon. Gentleman said in his speech practically what he has just stated. At all events a sum of money has been voted for this purpose, and it reveals that many men in Scotland have been unable to proceed to training centres because of the lack of clothing, or the lack of sufficient clothing for the purpose. Money has also been voted to enable men to obtain clothing so that they can interview employers—for travelling expenses and additional clothing. That is what the right hon. Gentleman has said. All this proves that the condition of things in Scotland is very serious indeed. My submission is that the expenditure incurred in this connection ought not to be borne upon this Vote at all. If the Ministry of Labour, in pursuance of its functions, requires to send men to interview employers or requires them to proceed to training centres, then the travelling expenses and the clothing required for those purposes should be regarded as part of the normal requirements of the men concerned, and the cost should be borne entirely by the Ministry of Labour. This argument applies equally to the expenditure incurred in connection with transference of labour. The right hon. Gentleman did not state the actual amount expended on the transference of labour—I am not speaking of the Ministry of Labour expenditure, but of the expenditure which has been mentioned in connection with this fund. It is clear that the Government are, in part, at least using some of the money provided by charitably disposed persons, and also by the taxpayers as part of the pound-for-pound policy, for the purpose of meeting normal obligations which ought to fall on the Ministry of Labour. That is a fatal defect in the policy of the Government.
I come now to what I regard as the main feature as far as Scotland is concerned. There will be, I am sure, general agreement in Scotland that we are not receiving an adequate amount having regard to the appalling extent of the distress in that country. The right hon. Gentleman, in reply to a question the other day, said that the number of persons in receipt of pauper relief, in one form or another, in Scotland was something like 200,000. I think the figures show that one out of every 18 persons in Scotland is in receipt of pauper relief. That is not an exaggeration, but rather an under-estimate of the number receiving institutional and outdoor relief. Contrast that position with the position in England. I am seeking to make no reflections whatever in regard to the amount that is being voted for England and Wales in connection with this fund, but I would point out that, in England, the corresponding figures show one out of every 42 to be in receipt of pauper relief. There is a remarkable disparity in this respect between the two countries, and it shows that in Scotland, despite the efforts of the right hon. Gentleman and the Government, despite all that has been said about the capacity of private enterprise in the mining and other industries, we have an abnormal amount of distress—far more, indeed, than is to be found elsewhere in the British Isles. In these circumstances we are entitled to ask that a larger amount should be devoted to the distressed people of Scotland than is provided for in this Vote.
It is not suggested, however, that something should be taken away from England and Wales and devoted to Scotland. Even if it were possible to do so, I would not advise such a course, because we all know that there is considerable distress in the mining areas of England and Wales and in certain areas there is even more distress than is to be found in Scotland. England and Wales require all the money that can be provided but, in the circumstances, which I have just indicated, a much higher amount is required for Scotland than is being provided. Whether or not the right hon. Gentleman proposes to take that consideration into account I cannot say, but it affects the issue very seriously. The people of Scotland are watching with some disquietude the rising figures of pauperism and are at a loss to understand why they should not be treated in a manner proportionate to the existing distress. The right hon. Gentleman has told us that the total amount available, if this Vote goes through—as I am sure it will—will be £217,389. He said that about £80,000 had been raised by the Outram Fund and £31,000 from other sources, and that taking into account the eleven-eightieths which is Scotland's proportion, the total would be the figure which I have just mentioned.
While that sum, itself, is by no means Loo high, we discover that all that has been spent through the medium of the machinery set up by the right hon. Gentleman is £54,928. About one-quarter of the money has been spent—and yet the scheme has been operating since before Christmas. I think the right hon. Gentleman rather endorsed the view that some of the money had been spent early in December, but in any case we have been operating for well-nigh three months, and as I say, one quarter of the total amount has been spent. I regard that as grossly inadequate, and in so describing it I think I am using a mild expression. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will accept this view from me when it is couched in such mild language. The situation calls for something very much stronger but I content myself with that description. This amount does not meet the needs of the situation.
Let us come to the administration of the fund. Whatever the views of my colleagues may be, I am bound to say that, having made inquiries in my own constituency, which is scheduled as a distressed area, I do not find that the administration is inefficient. There have been no complaints on that head, but I find that the amounts expended on the individual recipients are unsatisfactory. The right hon. Gentleman told us that up to 9th February the number of applications had been 24,652 and, a further analysis of the figures showed that 14,446 households and 49,361 dependents had been assisted. I cannot say what was the total amount expended up to 9th February, but it is clear that the recipients must have got much less than £1 per head and that relief covered a period of something like 12 weeks. On further analysis it can be shown that in Scotland, in spite of this extraordinary and phenomenal distress—which is admitted by the right hon. Gentleman and the Government and is only too well-known—less than two shillings per week has been provided for the recipients of assistance under this scheme in Scotland. I really do not know what to say about it. It strikes me as a remarkable position. How the right hon. Gentleman can face his Scottish colleagues, both on these benches and on his own side of the Committee, and view such a situation with anything other than disquietude and melancholy I cannot understand.
When I was in Scotland during the week-end I made some detailed inquiries and learned that certain unemployed men, who for one reason or another were disqualified from receiving unemployment benefit, were receiving sums from this fund. One man told me that although he had been out of work for some time and had a family, none of whom were able to work, he had only received 15s. in that week. That was a first payment, and the sum of 15s. was, presumably, intended to cover all the requirements of that man's household. True he was awaiting an appeal before the court of referees in which, possibly, he might succeed, but there he was, a full-grown man, able to work and ready to render service, a fully-qualified miner, and he was receiving a first payment of 15s., on which inadequate sum he was expected to maintain himself, his wife and his family. What is the use of fiddling with the question in this fashion? It is an artifice of a kind that cannot deceive anybody. It is not relief; it is not even charity. If we are to have charity let it be of a kind that will meet the emergency and overcome the difficulties which, at the moment, confront us.
Let me give another example from another part of my constituency. I have not the faintest doubt that this state of things exists generally throughout the distressed areas in Scotland as, no doubt, some of my colleagues will be able to tell the right hon. Gentleman in language stronger than I can summon to my aid. I discovered that the amount, expended for households—not for individual dependants but for households—ranged from 2s. 6d. to 7s. 6d. weekly. It is true that in these cases the persons were either in receipt of parochial relief or unemployment benefit. They receive this very small addition to the pittance which they are getting either from the Government or the local authority. How they were expected, in these circumstances, to recover from the distress which has surrounded them for many months I am unable to say. That is the position generally. Naturally we are all anxious to use the fund for the benefit of those for whom it was originally intended, namely, distressed miners. But I am sorry to say that wherever one goes in Scotland one finds just as much distress in other industrial areas as that which exists in the mining districts. In Glasgow there is an abundance of distress. The right hon. Gentleman knows that as well as I do and, no doubt, deplores the fact as much as I do, but there it is. In shipbuilding centres like Govan, in Partick, in Whiteinch and all along the Clydeside there is a remarkable amount of unemployment. Worst of all, it affects the unskilled labourer—the man who has been earning very low wages when at work and who now finds himself in an awful position.
I hope the right hon. Gentleman will use his influence in order to induce the Government to widen the scope of this scheme. If people are to be the recipients of charity, let us do it on a wider scale. Let us not stint to give it willingly, rather than in a half-hearted fashion, to all those who require it. We have heard from the opposite benches this afternoon a statement to the effect that if we, on these benches, had the ability that has been displayed by the Government and their friends, these things would not have occurred. But these things have occurred precisely because of such ability as has been displayed by the Government. It is because of that ability on the part of the Government that we have had the trouble in the mining industry, and the very fact that the Government are compelled to come along, after 4½ years in office, with a scheme of this kind, a miserable, pettifogging, puny, inadequate scheme of this kind, is proof, if proof were needed, that the Government are responsible in large measure for what is happening.
I submit that, on the grounds of the inadequacy of the amounts provided, because of the disparity as between England and Scotland, because of the large amount of distress in our country, and because of the administration, not on its technical side, not because of its organisation, but because of the amounts distributed, which we regard as insufficient—on all these grounds the Government, while entitled to their Vote, are deserving of no commendation from us on these benches or from the people of Scotland who are in distress. The Government will be remembered for a long time because of their policy in connection with this distress. This is the best that they can do, and while we are compelled to accept it, we shall continue to protest, and we hope the people of Scotland will be wise when the political opportunity arises and will sweep from office a Government that can only dispense so-called charity, much of which they have not provided themselves, but which has been forced upon them by benevolently disposed persons in the country. We hope the people of Scotland will recall these facts and, having done so, will put into office a Government that will not use machinery of this kind, but will adopt a carefully thought out policy, based not upon charity, but upon social justice.
I do not want to enter into a discussion of the question of emigration, but I would like to call attention to paragraph (f) of the Circular that has been issued regarding the operation of this Fund. This paragraph is headed:
Assistance in Certain Matters in Connection with Emigration Work.
and it states:
Relatively small sums have also been spent by the Divisional Committees at Cardiff and Newcastle to meet certain expenses in connection with the emigration and transfer of miners and their families which cannot be met from any other source.
I would like to suggest to the President of the Board of Education that it is rather unfortunate that only relatively small sums have been spent in this direction. I think there is an opportunity for using the Fund so that emigration can be assisted. There are many cases—I have come across several of them myself quite recently—where a small sum of money stands between a family and emigration. I have come across cases where as small a sum as £7 or as high a sum as £100 would have enabled an out-of-work miner and his family to go to Canada or to some other part of the British Empire, and there take up work of a productive character. I feel that the money in this fund would be much better spent in this way rather than merely in the application of palliatives, because, after all, necessary as is expenditure on the provision of food and assistance, by grants in cases of illness or accident, or special types of feeding, in the end they are only palliatives. If the fund at the disposal of the Committee could be used in eases where it could mean a definite transference of a man who is at present unable to maintain himself and his family to some part of the British Empire where he would be in a position to do so, it would be work of a really practical and permanent nature. I would like to ask the President of the Board of Education if he will call the attention of the Committee to this aspect of the question and suggest to them that they should make inquiries as to the number of would-be migrants in the distressed areas who are unable to proceed overseas through lack of funds, and assist them wherever it can be done.
I think that, on the whole, without going into the merits or demerits of the principle involved, the work of administering this Fund has been carried out in a very satisfactory manner by the Secretary of State for Scotland, and another point on which I want to congratulate the right hon. Gentleman is that in Scotland he has ex-tended this scheme in a much broader way than has been done on this side of the border. I could not, for the life of me, see why a miner should be singled out for relief and a man in another occupation, working near by, should be refused relief. We were able to persuade the Secretary of State for Scotland to include other classes of workers, and on the whole we have done fairly well. The other point that we can claim credit for as Scottish Members is that, although we have got the name of being a very hard people if the figures supplied to-day are correct, it will be seen that we have contributed to this fund £113,000, and we are asking the State for only £103,000, so that we are not getting the pound for a pound that is the case under the Lord Mayor's Fund.
Having said that, I want to get to the working of the scheme and to say that I think the central committee has been far too slow. This matter was brought up before Christmas. There was a great amount of good will in the country, and at that time of the year everybody wanted to do something, but this fund only began to operate well on in January, not in December, and in some areas it had scarcely begun even in January. In looking over the figures spent in some of the English districts I see that that expenditure has been five or six weeks at least ahead of any Scottish case. We have been far too slow. I think the central committee were too late in making their first allocations, but even after that they have shown a slowness peculiar to the people whom they represent, and they have been far too slow in getting money out to the people in need of relief. The discussion here has taken place on the assumption that everybody was getting so much. In Scotland the scale was 23s. for a man and a wife, but that was raised to 26s., with 3s. for a child and 8s. in certain cases. The central committee has advised that from 15s. to £1 can be paid to a single man. We object to the 26s. as much as we objected to the 23s. We think it is too low, and we appeal to the Secretary of State for Scotland to use his good offices in this connection, because we have to remember the high cost of living and the fact that these people have to pay rent and so on. Indeed, their life is a torment already, and we feel that the central committee should recommend a higher scale.
To turn to another point, if the income in a house is 20s. and there is a man and a wife, they got only 3s., but now on the revised scale they will get 6s., and if they get money from any other source, it is all deducted, while something in regard to pensions is deducted. The advisory committee mean very well, but I think they should grant a higher scale. I have here a letter from the secretary of one of these committees, to whom I made a complaint on behalf of a single man, who has been idle since 1926, through no fault of his own. He is 41 years of age, a capable miner, and he is willing to take work of any kind and to go anywhere for the work. He has no unemployment pay, and he is getting nothing from the parish. He has no income whatever, and no offer of work. This man has had a single payment of 10s. since the inception of the fund, and I wrote again to the secretary last week, reminding him of the case. He replied:
Immediately after you wrote me the last time I gave him a grant of 10s. and submitted his case to the sub-committee for the area. In respect that he was residing with a single brother, who is in regular employment, the committee refused to make a grant in this case. Two brothers living together are treated the same as a man and a wife, and if the income is over 26s. weekly, the application is refused.
That is a new doctrine. My information is that he is living with a married brother, and even if it were a single brother, the law does not say that a man is to keep his brother who is 41 years of age. Supposing he was chargeable to the parish, there would be no claim on the brother, yet hire is a committee, a fairly good committee, and they have made him only one payment of 10s. since the inception of the fund. Let hon. Members picture to themselves the state of an able man, idle since 1926, with no source of income, He is getting it into his mind that everybody is against him, and he is therefore beginning to be against everybody. Nobody holds out a helping hand to him. I have tried the Minister of Labour and the local Employment Exchange, because this man wants work, but they can do nothing for him. I hear talk about the Government's transference scheme. I want work for one or two men, and I want to prove that they can get it. I have offered this man's services, to go anywhere and to do any kind of work. He is a capable miner, experienced in handling horses; he has no income, and he gets only one sum of 10s. in relief. I suggest that this is a typical case of the relief given. This is one of the cases where people expected they would get relief when this fund was formed. I suggest that the right hon. Gentleman might stir up some of the committees. The Government voted the money, and expected to send that money to the places for which it was subscribed, such places as I have mentioned. I do not want to pour cold water on the people who contributed to the fund. I do not think it is likely to help solve the question, but at any rate the people gave to it with a good heart. I would ask my colleagues on the other side of the House who represent Scotland whether they are satisfied to sit there and administer a certain amount of money and think that they have done their duty. The Irish and Welsh Members have said something about smallholdings. I have worked many years in the County of Lanark to get small holdings, and, after 20 years' work, I have got only one. It is harder to get land in a mining area in Scotland than it would be to get gold in some other places. I have never met any healthy man who cared to be idling for a long time, and, if we can help them, it would be the best form of assistance that we could give. The question of small holdings is worth while considering, and it is possible that something might be done. Even at the worst, it is a form of training, if these men make up their minds to follow it. We ought to turn our minds to that question.
There is a tendency in some parts of the House to look at hon. Members on this side as enemies of migration. I am a Socialist. I believe in the common-wealth of nations, and I believe it is one of the finest things to-day, but I do not believe all the speeches that I have heard. I do not want to force people to go abroad, but, when they have a desire to go, we want to help them in every possible way. It is true that there are some schemes of migration, and that something has been done about Canada, but there are more Dominions than Canada, and places where there is more heat than Canada, and these places should be considered. The only thing I want is to try to make this country as good as we can. We have a number of unemployed who will never get work, and it would have been much better had they been told that 10 years ago. If these people were advised in the right way and got the proper help, there is no reason why we should continue spending money here, if by giving a lump sum we could send them to another country. I do not think that any of my colleagues will disagree with me. We do not want them dumped in another country, friendless and without help. We want to train them so that they will be able to do their work. We have the finest stock on the face of the earth to-day. The men and women about whom I am talking are not afraid of work.
I want to pay a tribute to one of the English districts. I went on a tour in Durham some time ago and was impressed by the Durham miners. I do not think that I have ever seen anything to equal the type of man I saw in Durham. I went to one of the districts near Consett. There was more poverty there than I have seen even at home, and that condition is becoming common in many localities. There are deserving people who are willing and able to work if you do not allow them to be idle too long. I suggest to the right hon. Gentleman that, in addition to giving help, he should consider some of the suggestions which have been made.
I want to return for a moment to the right hon. Gentleman's claims. His claims for the expedition with which the Government took on the work of setting up the central advisory committee, I think, is justified. It was a very difficult thing for the central committee to get the district committees set up because of the different interests. While it is true that there has been a communication sent out by the central advisory committee to each of the district committees, it has not always been carried through in that way. The right hon. Gentleman knows very well that recommendation from the central advisory committee that a particular standard should be observed for the relief of distress is not always carried out. That is the fault certainly of the district committees, and I do not challenge him on that particular point.
He quoted certain figures which the hon. Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Shin-well) referred to, namely, that £54,000 had been expended up to a particular day and that there had been a total paid into the fund of about £217,389. The hon. Member for Linlithgow pointed out in his analysis that over a particular period of three months there was something less than one-fourth paid. While, roughly, one-fourth of what has been collected has been administered in Scotland, we find from the figures submitted by the Minister for Education that in England something like £500,000 had been spent out of a total collected of £1,500,000. The right hon. Gentleman will agree that Scotland has not spent and is not spending to the same degree as her sister country is spending. One-third of the total gathered has been spent in England whereas only something less than one-fourth has been spent in Scotland. I think he might stimulate the local committees to get on with the spending, because the spending of money will help, to some extent, to relieve the unemployment problem. The more you can spend in the relief of distress the more you will increase the spending power of those in receipt of it. I suggest that is one of the points to which he might direct the attention of the district committees.
I would like to refer to a personal experience as trying to bring home what I think is the real damage that is being done. I remember an experience I had when working in a pit. For some reason, I happened to be out of work and was prevented from getting it through no fault as a workmen, but through other causes, and, after a period of six months, when I was down on my beam ends and without a single penny, I had to go hunting for work all over the countryside. I went home one night in December to find my wife sitting before a grate without any fire and without any food in the house. She was of an independent type and refused to go and advertise her needs, preferring to suffer rather than blaze forth that she was in poverty. I went out and got some food and fuel, and there was no law, ethical or otherwise, which would have prevented me getting it. Two years elapsed before I had recovered sufficiently to go and tell the man that I had taken it, and pay him for it. If I had met the individual who was responsible for my condition, I would not have been here now to tell you this. That is what is going on in the distressed areas now. You are not relieving the distress sufficiently, and the destruction of the moral and spiritual life of the people is infinitely greater than the material destruction. Many men see their wives and families in the condition I have described, and they would be less than men if they were to allow any law to stand in the way of them getting what they wanted. When you destroy that, you destroy the finest asset this country possesses. A far more generous application of relief is needed, whether you call it charity or anything else, to prevent that sort of thing, not only to prevent the physical destruction but the moral and spiritual destruction that is going on. I suggest that the Government ought to face the fact that Great Britain is losing more in that direction than she is spending in money to relieve distress.
I must intervene on this occasion, when there is an opportunity of emphasising the point that has been so ably put forward by some of the previous speakers. In the mining areas, there is a very substantial proportion of deep-seated distress, but other constituencies, like my own, are also suffering. To-day, figures have been given me of the numbers registered at the Employment- Exchange and of able bodied men and dependants who are receiving relief from the Dundee Parish Council. We have between 8,000 and 9,000 people immediately involved. The situation so graphically described by the hon. Member for Coatbridge (Mr. Welsh) from his harrowing persona experience makes one feel the great seriousness of the crisis which we are facing. I rather think that we have become so familiarised with the position that it is being faced by the Government in a lackadaisical attitude which is becoming a settled position, and we cannot get too soon before the great public jury to determine whether the situation is to remain as it is. There is a call for the strongest protest against the necessity of having a fund in our wealthy country dealing out something in the form of charity. There are people who are becoming so strained by their exasperating experiences that they frankly speak of the situation in the way that the hon. Member for Coatbridge has described, and it falls upon those of us who have the responsibility of representation here or elsewhere to emphasise most strongly the deplorable state of affairs.
Dundee have contributed their fair share to the fund, not so much in proportion to other cities, but they have been a contributing factor to the fund, and there ought to be a recognition of those conditions of distress which cannot be met either by the Employment Exchange or by the parish council. Those of us who are being approached with numerous cases of distress and are at a loss to know what to say or do in the matter, even after making representations to these particular bodies, are left in an exasperating condition of mind because nothing can be done. I was glad that a proposal was made by the Corporation of Dundee to proceed with a road-making undertaking amounting to about £5,000, practically the whole of which will be spent in wages, and that the Unemployment Grants Committee are likely to concede the application for a subsidy. That, of course, is a very small affair, and, as a constituency like ours is blocked and unable to make any headway in meeting the appalling conditions which exist, I felt it my duty to intervene to emphasise the situation.
I desire to offer a few criticisms of the administration of this fund. At the same time, I wish to pay a tribute to the generous response of the public which has subscribed so magnificently. Those of us who have had an opportunity of making appeals to big audiences to give a generous response to the appeal that has been made for subscriptions feel that it is the general desire of the people at large that adequate assistance should be given to the cases that are in such dire distress. I come from a district where we have not nearly so large a proportion of distress as there is in other districts of the country. So serious and acute is the distress in some cases, however, that our local paper, a very important paper, sent out special investigators who came back with reports, which simply appalled the readers, as to the enormous amount and extent of the distress that they discovered. So serious did they feel it to be, and so clamant did they consider the necessity, that they opened a fund and called upon all to come in and render every possible assistance because of the conditions that existed in the midst of plenty, and in proximity to one of the most wealthy streets in the country, Princes Street. In spite of that fact, there was misery, poverty, moral and physical degradation right beneath their eyes. Many of the people did not care to make known their poverty and their trouble; otherwise, they might have been advertised to greater advantage to themselves.
Many of the men who are unemployed will never find employment in the coal mines again. The Secretary of State for Scotland gave the assurance that the regulations did not stipulate that committees were to act in conformity to the scale. I presume that he meant that if the circumstances warranted it, they could go outside the scale. The reports I have seen from time to time are to the contrary, and point to the fact that it is almost a positive injunction that they should adhere to the scale, and that only under the most extraordinary or exceptional circumstances should any deviation or increase be made on the scale which has been issued. It is a totally inadequate scale to meet the circumstances that prevail everywhere. My complaint is that we have failed to respond to the feeling of the public which has been expressed in the generous way in which they have subscribed. The scale is totally inadequate, and far greater latitude should be allowed. Those who are in close touch with the realities of the coalfield should be allowed more and more to exercise their judgment as to the necessities in particular cases. Prior to this fund being brought into operation, I was actively associated in the distribution of the goods and clothing that were sent to our district. We had a very fine voluntary system, and I claim that our volunteer workers came directly into touch with the people who were suffering and who really required immediate help; they knew the circumstances, the struggles and the poverty that existed, and they were able to give help when it was needed.
I suggest that it is in such close personal touch that the administration of this fund has failed. It has developed into a sort of stereotyped form of application. The applicant must answer satisfactorily from 25 to 30 questions; he must have a record that will bear the most expert investigation, and presumably, if he is able to give answers to the questions, he is told that his application will get favourable consideration. I would ask that, in the light of the experience gained in the administration of the fund, the scale should be extended in order that more adequate assistance should be given to those who really need it. I want to remind the Secretary of State for Scotland that, during the whole three months that this fund has been in operation, there has been distributed only one-half of what the public have subscribed, apart from any assistance from the Government. I hope that, taking these things into consideration, and in the light of the facts that have been brought to the right hon. Gentleman's notice to-day, he will speed matters up and give assistance more readily than it has hitherto been given, and that he will impress upon local committees the need for examining and considering the necessities of each particular case, and not necessarily be confined to the scale that is unfortunately too often rigidly adhered to by many of the committees which administer this fund. We want to feel that the fund, after all, is only meant to meet a temporary passing phase, and, in considering the amount of necessity that prevails, we do not want to keep in mind how long the fund will last, but see how readily we can meet the distress that exists everywhere.
I feel that the concluding words of the last speaker, that only temporary relief is required, will not pan out in experience. Members of the Government have told us that it is the considered opinion of the Government that the outlook in the coalfields is so unpromising that at least 200,000 miners will never find work again in the mines. If that be so, this fund, good as is its intention, and good as has been the response of the public, is but a drop in the ocean. I wish to ask one or two questions as to what the Government really propose to do in the administration of this fund to help the unemployed and the people who are in distress because of it, whether they are miners or otherwise. Do the Government believe it is possible that this money can be used to assist men to settle in any of the Dominions? We are entitled to get a specific answer to that question. It is true that the total funds are very small indeed, but does that mean that if the local committees are satisfied that there are individual men who cannot possibly get a chance of restarting work in this country, and who are anxious to settle in any of the Dominions, it is outside the scope of the fund to help them? If the local committees make such recommendations in appropriate cases, will such assistance be forthcoming? As far as my recollection goes, boards of guardians have power under the Unemployed Workmen Act, 1905, to pay the passage money for out-of-work people in their own areas to go to the Dominions, and therefore I think it would be possible through partial assistance from the boards of guardians and partial assistance from the Lord Mayor's Fund to help these men to settle overseas.
But even if the men are anxious to go to the Dominions and can be assisted by the authorities here, have we any evidence that the Dominions are prepared to accept them? Personally I doubt it very much, but I should welcome an assurance to the contrary if the Government can give it. As I understand the position, while there is plenty of elbow room in the Dominions, and the Dominions wish to see their vast territories developed, the type of labour they desire is agricultural. They want men accustomed to work on the land face to face with Nature in all her moods. We have very few such men unemployed in this country, and very few of them want to go to the Dominions. The unemployed in this country are drawn almost entirely from the artisan class—miners, engineers, textile workers and the like. Often they are highly skilled in their particular trades, they and their families for several generations having followed a particular occupation. Now that we are told that 200,000 coal miners are not likely to be employed in the mines of this country again, surely it is up to the Government to bring that hard fact to the attention of the Dominions Governments and ask them why they will not accept out-of-work miners and other artisans as settlers. The two principal Dominions which could absorb large bodies of our men and their families are Canada and Australia, and, possibly, New Zealand. They will not accept them as out-of-work artisans, but if the stigma of being down and out could be removed, and the Dominions could be assured by our Government that they are men who are fit to work and are only out of work through no fault of their own, surely the Dominions would reconsider their policy. Being a Celt myself I would appeal to the Secretary of State for Scotland to know whether he can, on behalf of the Government, say definitely whether the Dominions Governments are prepared to take our out-of-works into their Dominions.
Another thing I wish to ascertain is whether the local relief committees under the Lord Mayor's Fund are permitted to give relief in kind or in money to miners or other out-of-work men who are in real need. It is common knowledge that there is an ever-increasing number of men who have been out of work for three, four or five years and have exhausted all statutory rights to benefit under the Unemployment Insurance Acts. Not only are they out of work, but they have been without unemployment benefit for some months, and in some cases for some years. They are without resources, and unable even to leave the district in which they live, because they have not the means to go any great distance in search of work. When they apply to the guardians they are refused outdoor relief and are put to the test by being required to go into the workhouse. Usually these men, however destitute they may be, refuse to go into the workhouse, of which they have an innate hatred. Boards of guardians are pressed by the Ministry of Health to impose this test, although it is known that if the men took them at their word and went in in their hundreds and thousands the workhouses would have no room for them. I want to know whether the local committees under the Lord Mayor's Fund are empowered to relieve single men, widowers or others who have become destitute and have no source of income? It is a regrettable fact that there are thousands of able-bodied single men who cannot get assistance from any source, and I think many of the public have contributed to this fund on the assumption that anyone who is genuinely destitute will be relieved.
There is another matter which I wish to bring to the attention of the President of the Board of Education. I have been told by schoolmasters in the mining villages—and if necessary I can give their names, in some cases—that while they are getting quite a good stock of boots and shoes to distribute at their discretion among school children who must need them, they are restricted to giving them to the children of the actually unemployed. They are not permitted to give boots to school children whose fathers may be at work. Some of these schoolmasters have told me that they constantly come across cases where children whose fathers are actually working are in greater need of the boots than the children of those who are unemployed. There is no question of parental neglect on the part of the father who is working; the explanation lies in the fact that in the colliery districts, particularly, employment is often of a very intermittent character. A man is technically in full employment, but, owing to the fluctuations in the demand for certain classes of coal, a colliery which has been working four, five or six days a week over a period of some weeks or months may be reduced to working only one, two or three days a week. The result is that although the miners there are not unemployed their income each week is far less than that of the actual unemployed, and the schoolmasters desire the opportunity of giving the children of these men this assistance in kind. They are prohibited from doing so now owing to the regulations of the fund, and although I know that there must be regulations, I do submit that this particular one should be withdrawn. I hope the Government will use their influence to secure such a modification of the regulations that, while they prevent abuse, there shall be reasonable discretion to give boots in the hard cases which I have indicated.
There is another point with regard to single men to which I wish to draw attention. An impression is being created by newspapers of a certain type that these miners who have been out of work so long have become habituated to an idle life and do not want to work any more. We have had incidents in this House which showed that that impression is pretty general. It is an impression which ought to be removed, because it has a bad effect even on the Lord Mayor's Fund. Naturally the public will not contribute to the fund if they believe in the allegation that large bodies of miners will not take work when they get the chance. I think it is within the ambit of this discussion to show the circumstances in which such men have refused work. I will not deal with the Nine Mile Point Colliery case, because that has already been settled by the publication of the umpire's decision in the "Ministry of Labour Gazette" for last month; but I want to refer to the following instance. The other day an unemployed miner came to see me at this House and reported that he had come as a deputation from 50 Pontypridd miners who had been sent by the Pontypridd Employment Exchange to take up work at a new factory at Horley, Surrey, about 35 miles from this spot. Single men only were asked for, and they were sent, being given vouchers by the Employment Exchange. They were not told anything about the rate of wages they were to receive.
I was only quoting this as an illustration, and I will be as brief as I can, to show that these single men who are being refused relief are making superhuman efforts to get work. The point I wish to make is this, that these men, when they got to Horley, were offered a wage of 6d. per hour. How could they be expected to take 6d. an hour? The fact that they went there at all proved that they were very anxious for work. We are going to deal with their case through the Employment Exchange and I will not pursue it now.
I notice that in Command Paper 3272, which is the report of an investigation in the coal mining areas of South Wales and Monmouth, appears this statement:
It seems to us that this practice cannot be regarded as regular unless the man does enter the workhouse"—
That is a reference to single men—
and if any able-bodied man whose family is being relieved is, in fact, at home, the guardians should set him to work and not exclude him in calculating the amount of relief required.
They go on to say that
The practice is not to give relief to single men unless they accept this test of
going into the workhouse but some of them have given unconditional out relief if the single men are over 30 years of age.
I know that the President of the Board of Education takes a keen interest in the administration of this fund, and the right hon. Gentleman has gone out of his way to get in touch with the actual situation. I hope he will do his best to put matters right on the point which I have just raised. In the case of single men everybody seems inclined not to care a tinker's curse what happens to him simply because he is single. Of course if a man has no family encumbrances there is a feeling that he should look after himself. It should be remembered that it is very difficult for a miner to get work in any other trade and he can only do rough general labour.
It is quite true that a certain number of miners may get other employment but the great majority of them, being down and out financially, ought to come within this scheme on the ground that they are liable to drift and become wrecks, not only industrially but mentally and morally. We ought to give these young men some hope and some assistance to enable them to carry on, and unless we take them into account we shall create in this country a new army of tramps who will became as much a menace to the State as those men who in the old days were the cause of the establishment of the Poor Law system. The great increase in the number of casual tramps is caused mainly by an influx of unemployed miners, and unless some financial assistance is given to them their numbers will rapidly increase, and in this way the young manhood of this country will be very seriously deteriorated.
We have had a Debate on a subject upon which there is an absolutely unbridgeable gulf between the Opposition and the Government. We take a totally different outlook, and we have a totally different method of dealing with the problem. I am not going to be any exception to the serious tone of the discussion. Every speech which has been made in this Debate, with one exception, has dealt seriously with a very grave problem. This is not a problem upon which we ought to speak for any political advantage. It is a question upon which we ought to speak quite freely without any intention of making any party points and always with the idea of helping those in distress.
The President of the Board of Education began his speech by an assumption that we were not prepared to recognise; that it was impossible to deal with this problem except on voluntary lines. On this side of the House we do not agree with that statement. On the contrary, we believe that this question of unemployment involves a national responsibility, and ought to be dealt with on national lines. The policy which has been adopted is to segregate one section of the community and leave other people who have been hit quite as badly as the miners entirely outside, and apparently without any remedy from the Government's point of view unless another cadging system is got up, and there is another run round with the hat in order to obtain charity for them. That is the difference between us. I think the President of the Board of Education is wrong.
The only part which the Government have taken in attempting to solve this problem has been to loan a certain number of very distinguished and hardworking civil servants for the administration of the fund. I am glad the Government have done that. I must also say that among the civil servants there are some of the most conscientious and capable workers that this country or even the world has ever seen, and it is something to have capable civil servants giving the benefit of their experience and knowledge to the administration of a fund of this kind. We have been told that various developments have taken place in the administration of this fund. Take the development in Durham, where evidently it had been arranged that only second-hand clothing should be given out. The right hon. Gentleman has told us that a certain number of new boots and shoes have been placed at the disposal of the local committee in Durham. I should like to point out that in the winter time the worst of all possible things one can do is to give people footwear that is not sound and solid. You may have defective footwear which may prove to be almost a death-trap. I hope economy will not be carried to the point of stinginess and that articles will not he given out which may prove injurious to health.
The President of the Board of Education has told the local committee that there is money enough in the central fund to meet all demands. On this point, I agree with what is said by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Colne Valley (Mr. Snowden) that a statement of that kind will have a tendency to dry up the supplies, and, if this fund is to be our only method of relier, I hope these poor people will be helped to the fullest extent. I intend to deal with the question as to whether the distress is being adequately relieved and whether the fund is sufficiently extensive to cope with the undoubted distress which exists at the present moment. We were told that there is no reason why children should be inadequately shod, clothed, or fed. That is a most encouraging statement, if it can be justified by the facts. I hope that the information on which the Minister has based that statement is sound and reliable, and that in the future we may be free from the spectre of children who are inadequately shod, clothed, and fed. I sincerely hope that that is a true picture, although I am rather pessimistic as to whether the fact will justify that statement.
We have been told that the local committees are sufficient to meet all needs. I have seen one or two of the instructions given by some of the committees, and there seems to be a strong difference of opinion as to what adequacy means. I will give a few figures which show a total inadequacy and a total lack of understanding as to what is really necessary to keep a family in an ordinary state of health. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Colne Valley pointed out one little detail which I suggest to the Minister is rather paltry, and ought to be altered at once. The point referred to is the taking of money from the fund for the transfer of men from one part of the country to another. That is a little bit paltry, and, although the sum involved is not a large one, I think such expenses ought to be paid by the Ministry of Labour and that that Department ought to meet the cost of such transfers under the transfer scheme. It appears to me rather low down to take money from the Lord Mayor's Fund to transfer people from one part of the country to the other.
I would like to mention the extraordinary fact that during all this time of distress some 10,000 allotments have gone out of cultivation. I wish to press that fact on the Government, and I ask whether it is not possible, through this fund, to help to get these allotments back into cultivation. I am in agreement with nearly everything that has been said to-day about enforced idleness being one of the greatest curses in the world. Charity can only touch the fringe of this problem, and it can never deal with it effectively. Although we shall not vote against this proposal, we think it is very inadequate and that the method which has been adopted is wrong.
There has been only one speech made in this Debate to which I take exception and that is the speech made by the hon. Member for Mossley (Mr. Hopkinson). The hon. Member for Mossley has a great dramatic gift. He knows how to draw a contrast, and he seems to me to have robbed the advertising world of probably the greatest genius in this country. The hon. Member for Mossley has the most sublime confidence in himself and the most sublime contempt for his opponents, and, although he is always ready to claim credit for himself for being animated with good intentions, he never gives anybody else credit for having good intentions. What a pity it is that Thackeray died before he knew the hon. Member for Mossley, because the "Book of Snobs" might have been considerably enriched if these two men had been brought together.
We have had a most impressive maiden speech to-night from the hon. Member for Bishop Auckland (Mrs. Dalton), who spoke as one in the closest touch with the class of people dealt with under this scheme. The hon. Member for Bishop Auckland pointed out that her experience did not coincide with the statement made by the President of the Board of Education, and I am afraid that our information does not corroborate the statements which have been made by the right hon. Gentleman. The information in our possession seems to point to a state of things infinitely worse than that described by the President of the Board of Education. May I call attention to the fact that in this matter our honour is involved. We had a Debate not long ago into which the question of honour entered very largely. Honour was indeed a great thing when it came to finding money for your own political friends. What about these people? What were they promised by every party in the State at the end of the War? Were not working people promised by every party in the State that they should have, not as a matter of charity, but as a right, treatment worthy of human beings? Is there no honour except the honour of finding money for your own personal friends, or does honour stretch wide enough to include all Britons under its wings? We claim that the Government are bound in honour to give these people a better existence than they have had, and that it is quite within the competence of the Government so to do.
In a question like this, why should we depend on private charity? Why should the Government say, "If the public are prepared to subscribe, so are we"? Why should the fate of men of this type be dependent on whether people are willing to put money into the collection box? Why should we send the begging bowl round? Why should we cry "Back-sheesh"? It is beneath the dignity of the State to deal in that way with a question of this magnitude, and I hope that the Government, even at this late hour, will not adopt the method of making the misery or happiness of these people depend on whether the public are charitable or not, but will deal with the matter in a national way, and make it absolutely certain that a reasonable existence will be afforded to these people until the time comes when they can get work.
I want to call attention to one or two facts which I think prove that the picture is not quite so rosy a one as the President of the Board of Education painted. I have here a copy of a circular that was issued by one local committee stating certain limits as to the amount of money that can be given from the fund. For instance, a family of two may only receive vouchers that will bring the net income up to 14s. per week. Is 14s. per week sufficient to keep two people in food? I say nothing of clothing; I say nothing of the hundred and one things that people want in addition to clothing;
but can anybody say conscientiously that a payment of 14s. per week to two people, a man and his wife, in distress, is enough to keep them even in the most elementary decency? In the case of a family of three, the maximum payment is 18s., while a family of five would get 26s. How on earth can a family of five live in anything like human conditions on an income of 26s. a week for food, clothing and everything else? It is absolutely impossible, and, so long as payments of this kind are being made, it really is not possible for the Minister to come to the House and say that God is in his Heaven and all is right with the world. All is not right with the world. These payments will not keep people in comfort. I have here another circular issued by a local committee, which says that—
Provision for adults cannot normally be regarded as necessary except where the man or woman concerned has been unemployed for a continuous period of at least six months at the time of taking up the fresh employment.
That is as regards the issue of clothing for people going to find employment, but what does it matter whether a man has been unemployed for six months or for any other period? If he is unemployed, and if he has not clothes in which to go to get a job, why should the fact that he has not those clothes prevent him from going to the job that is offered to him? This, again, shows that everything is not well, and that there is real need. I can trust to the Minister's generosity, once he knows the facts, to exercise what influence he can to make these things better. What is the use of pretending that these things are right? I will not quote other cases, because I do not want to make the discussion too long, but I have passage after passage that I could quote from actual documents issued by local committees, showing most conclusively that this fund in many cases is being administered in a spirit which shows such a lack of knowledge of what is really necessary in order that people may live that I cannot imagine that anyone would try to defend it.
I am not trying in any way to depreciate the good intentions or the good feelings of those who have subscribed to the fund. No matter what may be people's political faith, if they are good and generous at heart they ought to have the respect that is due to them. I believe that this fund has been largely supplied by people of good will, good intentions, and kindly disposition, and I want it to be administered with the same good will, the same good intentions, and the same kindliness that have animated the people who have subscribed to it. I am rather afraid, however, that it is being administered in the way that so many funds are administered in this country, that is to say, in a cheeseparing way that will perhaps, at the end, leave a fund for which there is no use, while the people for whom it should have been used have gone short. A great many funds that have been raised in this country have had that fate, and I am afraid that this is another of them.
To sum up, we differ fundamentally in ideas from the Government. We shall give them this Vote for which they ask, because we are not prepared to make the suffering worse, but we hold that the method is a wrong one, that charity is the last thing that ought to be adopted, that the Government have means at their disposal for dealing with this matter in a national way. We hold that this method of coming and asking for funds for one trade is segregating that trade from all others, although others are quite as badly off as the mining industry. We believe, finally, that there is a debt of honour owing by this country far graver than the debt of honour to the Irish loyalists—a debt to the working people of this country to see that they have made good to them the promises made to them at the end of the War. We ask that that debt of honour shall be met quite as freely and frankly as the Government met the debt of honour that was supposed to be owing to the Irish loyalists.
I want to give the President of the Board of Education a little information with regard to the statement that he made that trade was improving in the steel industry and in the mining industry. I have noticed, when walking along the streets, Press placards about the great revival in the steel industry, and I must confess that, so far as South Wales is concerned, in some of the steel works owned by Messrs. Bald-wins and others, some extra furnaces have been lit up during the last week or fortnight; but I want to point out to the Minister that that does not signify for a moment that unemployment is being diminished.
I understood the Noble Lord to say that trade was improving on the Tyne and also in South Wales, and that unemployment has been reduced as a result of the improvement in trade. With regard to the steel trade and the tinplate trade, I should like to give him an illustration. Suppose that in, say, the Landore works, where a furnace was started last week, there are five furnaces working where only three were working previously. In that case, the five sets of work were previously run by the three furnaces, and, therefore, the starting of an extra furnace does not mean that more men are going to be employed; it merely means that people who were working on short time are going to get an extra day or two's work a week. It is exactly the same in the case of the mines. There is no mine or steel works which has been closed down and is now re-started; it is simply that these people, instead of getting two or three days' work a week, will now, as the result of extra furnaces being lit up, or extra mills being put on, get a day or two more than they have been getting in the past. There are no extra men employed; it is simply a question of these men getting a little more employment with the extra furnace than they did when the furnace was closed down.
There is another point of view with which I should like to deal. I was in my constituency over the week-end, and, as has been pointed out by my right hon. Friend the Member for Preston (Mr. Shaw), this relief from the Lord Mayor's Fund does not really touch the fringe of the subject. Just to show that these cases which we are citing have not been concocted, I have here two letters which I received this morning. One is from an old age pensioner of 65. He points out that, previous to receiving the old age pension, these people were receiving unemployment benefit; some of them have not worked since 1921; but, when the old age pension came into operation, instead of drawing 23s. a week—18s. for the man and 5s. for his wife—the amount he
received was only 10s. a week; and, because he is receiving this 10s. a week as an old age pensioner, he has been denied any benefit from this fund. That is a point the Minister ought to take into consideration. I have another case here. This shows how poor these people are. They have not enough money to buy note-paper to send a decent letter. This is the kind of letter they send. This man says:
My unemployment benefit has been stopped and I have to wait six weeks before the payment is renewed. Simply because I am considered an unemployed man, receiving unemployment benefit, I am denied anything from the Lord Mayor's Fund.
Then you have others who are denied any relief whatever simply because they are receiving parish relief. These are some of the cases I want to bring to the Minister's attention, especially my first point as to the extra furnaces and mills which have been started in the steelworks.
The Noble Lady the Member for Sutton (Viscountess Astor) made the very remarkable statement that we are exaggerating all the cases we cite. The Noble Lady knows nothing at all about the suffering that is going on in these distressed areas. In Monmouthshire alone you have 26,000 men who have been unemployed since 1921. They have to live. Their rents are going up. Some of them owe £60, £70, £80 and £100 in rent alone. They can never pay rent out of the small amount they have been receiving from unemployment benefit or parish relief. The two gentlemen appointed by the Minister of Health reported that you have increased infantile mortality, more deaths from tuberculosis than you have ever had before, children developing rickets, mothers becoming anaemic, men growing weaker, listless and demoralised, with not enough to eat, and not paid enough to live on when they work. That is in South Wales, and they tell me that in some parts it is even worse than in my own district. We do not think charity of this kind is going to settle so important and serious a question. The Government ought to make it a national question and see that these people shall not live in future on charity and on sympathy, but that they get the justice that they deserve.
I note the characteristic efforts of the right hon. Member for Preston (Mr. Shaw), with which we are becoming familiar. We have had a very quiet and a very serious Debate. I do not think anyone in the Galleries would have known that we were discussing anything that divided us very seriously, but it is necessary for the right hon. Gentleman to create an unbridgeable gulf if he possibly can, and he tried to do it.
I think the right hon. Gentleman was trying very hard. He reminded me of one of those machines that we sometimes meet in the streets, the object of which is to break up asphalte with a maximum of noise and percussion. If you try to strain a little all the statements that have been made by those who have spoken before in the Debate, you can easily create an impression of dividing the sheep from the goats. The right hon. Gentleman, although he repeated a lot of statements which have been made before by me and others, and strained them a little so as to make them contradictory, did not really add anything to the statements that had been made, and, as I do not want, for the sake apparently of amusement, but for the sake really of party politics, to give the impression of conducting a violent sham fight across a sham unbridgeable gulf, I propose to go back behind the right hon. Gentleman and deal with the serious contributions which we have had.
The main criticism that has been made from the benches opposite has been, "Speed up the fund. It is too slow. It is too red tapey. It has too many regulations. Some of the regulations are wrong, and some of them are too niggardly. Speed up the work of the fund." I do not know that I do not agree. I think there is very probably a great deal of truth in it. But not a single one of the regulations that have been referred to, if my memory serves me aright, is one coming from the central committee of the fund. They are all local regulations. I must return to the statement that the rate of expenditure depends fundamentally upon the administration of the local committees. There has never been a single instance since the institution of the fund when a request for money from a divisional committee has been turned down by the central fund, or in which the central fund has paid less to the divisional committee than the divisional committee asked for. On the contrary, I know of more than one instance—not in connection with the question of the hon. Member for Rothwell (Mr. Lunn)—where sums have been sent out by the central fund to a divisional committee which have not been applied for. Therefore, it comes back to the local committees and the divisional committees. Let me remind the Committee what those local committees are. Hon. Members opposite will not be surprised to know that I receive frantic protests at the fact that these local committees in some of the areas contain practically no members holding Conservative or Tory opinions.
These local committees are under no suspicion of being associated with the political party to which I belong. They are very close to the people among whom they are working. I should like to refer to the very interesting and remarkable speech of the hon. Member for Bishop Auckland (Mrs. Dalton), on which I should like to congratulate her, but I think she would be wise if she looked a little more closely into the working of the local committee in Bishop Auckland and the county committee in Durham. I can hardly believe that, as she appeared to suppose, the local committee in Bishop Auckland conducts no visits to the homes to find out where distress really is. I can hardly believe, as she supposed, that boots are distributed for school children only if the parents of the school children apply for the boots. I should think, as is, I am sure, the case in South Wales, that in Durham a very large discretion is given to the teacher to recommend children for boots, even in the absence of the application from the parents, or, at any rate, to get the parents to make an application, and to hand out the boots. The hon. Lady said that that was so necessary because decent, respectable, hard-working women very often did not like to apply for favours. I quite agree with her; that is perfectly true. I hope that the local committees and the school authorities are taking the obvious method to deal with that very well-known fact.
But that is not very compatible with the suggestion that she made that school feeding should be done on an income basis rather than on a medical basis. I think that if she will look, as I have been looking, into the experience of certain areas which do feed predominantly on an income basis, that that experience is precisely—and I rather want to say this because it is important, and I think that the areas concerned should realise it—that the respectable parent, the good manager, the independent, says: "I am not going to ask for a school meal on the grounds of my income. I am not going to have my income inquired into. If you tell me on the basis of medical opinion that my child wants more food, I will accept the proposal like I accept any other medical prescription and will have my child fed in school." I make these criticisms of the hon. Lady's speech in her absence, because I want hon. Members and the public to realise that all these questions of relief and assistance have to be very carefully dealt with according to the inclinations and the character of the people with whom you are dealing. I think the hon. Lady, if I may be so impertinent as to say so, did not quite know, perhaps, what is going on under the local committee system in Bishop Auckland and what would suit the people of Bishop Auckland best.
The point with which I most want to deal with is that which was raised by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Colne Valley (Mr. Snowden) about the payments out of the fund for the transfer of juveniles. He said, and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Preston also said, that this was an expenditure which should be borne by the Ministry of Labour. I wish that hon. Members who say that would consider a little more carefully what is involved. These payments are not payments for the equipment, clothing and so on, of boys who are transferred; they are not a payment of transportation expenses. They are payments made in consultation and concert with the employer to make up the difference between the normal juvenile wage for that employment and the amount of money which is necessary to a boy if he is living away from home. Will hon. Members consider what would happen supposing the Government announced a policy of making up the difference between the juvenile wage and the amount which was necessary to keep a juvenile when living away from home? It would in effect be, or might be regarded as, a subsidy to wages out of the taxpayer's pocket. Whereas at the present moment this difference is not filled up wholly out of money from the Lord Mayor's Fund, it is filled up partly by money from the Lord Mayor's Fund and partly by money from the employers. Whereas under the present system you get flexibility of arrangement with the employer, if you had a system of Government grants you might very easily get into that most dangerous position of a special subsidy to juvenile wages providing the juvenile came from some other part of the country.
If hon. Members will consider that problem they will see that from their own point of view—if they will get the idea of the unbridgeable gulf out of their heads for the moment—they ought not to want money like that to be paid directly by a Government Department under Regulations out of the pockets of the taxpayers. Not the same consideration but the same order of consideration applies to that point of which I spoke in my opening remarks concerning single men. The hon. Member for Pontypridd (Mr. Mardy Jones) raised that question again. He is not here now, but I think perhaps he could not have heard my opening remarks. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Colne Valley said that anything that was done in the way of reconditioning younger men, young single men, the men whom we are all agreed are the most difficult problem and the people whom we ought to concentrate on most, should be paid for out of Government money now. Just think of the different kinds of ways in which you want to put heart and spirit into that kind of man. Think of the club spirit, the team spirit, besides the food and a certain amount of wages for a certain amount of employment, of the ways in which by personal touch and personal encouragment you need to put heart into those young men. Do you really think that that is a thing which is best done by a civil servant under a Government Department under Regulations? Anybody who knows that problem will realise the immense value of having it dealt with, or having some part of it dealt with, because I would remind the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Preston it is, as I said before and as we all know, a very small part of the very large expenditure that is being met out of the Exchequer on these problems. It is a problem which should and must be helped by that kind of voluntary work and personal touch. My hon. Friend the Member for Bradford North (Mr. Ramsden) and also the hon. Member for Pontypridd mentioned the question of emigration, I cannot go into the whole question of emigration at this hour and on this occasion. This question raises rather large issues, and I think they will be better dealt with on another occasion.
I should like to reply to the hon. Member for Middlesbrough West (Mr. K. Griffith), although he is not present. I can say very little more than I have already said, except that the application of Middlesbrough was considered by the Joint Committee and they took the view that they could not extend their activities to Middlesbrough. The hon. Member asked why the President of the Board of Education was only a liaison officer, and why he could not exercise real control over the spending of this money. In certain circumstances, the Government would have to exercise real control, if the fund was not properly carrying out the object for which the Government gave their part of the money, but I do not think the exclusion of Middlesbrough is an issue which would give the Government a locus standi for intervention.
Might I, in conclusion, remind the right hon. Member for Preston and the hon. Member for Rothwell both of whom. I think, touched on the subject, that in the areas with which we are dealing there is no discrimination whatever between miners and workers in other industries. This is not a relief fund for miners. It is a relief fund for certain areas which, as a result of depression in the mining industry, have been placed in a peculiar and unprecedented condition. In those areas there has been, and I hope there will be, no discrimination between miners, steel-workers, ship-builders or workers in any other industry.