Vote of Censure Motion.

Unemployment. – in the House of Commons on 16th April 1931.

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Photo of Mr Stanley Baldwin Mr Stanley Baldwin , Bewdley

I beg to move, That His Majesty's Government, having failed to carry out their election pledges with regard to unemployment, and having ceased even to attempt any remedial measures, do not deserve the confidence of this House. That is a very simple and straightforward Resolution and should afford no difficulty to any hon. Member during the course of the Debate in making up his mind in which Lobby he will stand to-night. Fortunately for our memories, it is not necessary to go back more than two years to get what evidence we require as to the first part of the Resolution, that is, whether or not as a matter of fact His Majesty's Government have carried out the pledges which they gave at the General Election with regard to unemployment. I would begin by saying that if, indeed, unemployment is to come down into the arena of party politics from time to time the fault is not ours, because the Prime Minister stated quite clearly in his own election address at the time of the General Election that Labour was the first to make unemployment a political issue. [HON MEMBERS: "Hear, hear!"] We make hon. Members opposite a present of that, and we are glad that they welcome it.

For the purpose of my evidence I am not going to election leaflets or any trifling publications of that kind, nor am I going to the enthusiasm of the new Members; but I shall confine my evidence to men of years and discretion of light and of leading, and from them I can get all the evidence that I require: The Labour Government is the only Government which will deal with the problem of unemployment with courageous determination. Every party except Labour has had its chance. There is no appeal to the heart of the great British public that strikes home more quickly, more surely and more deeply than the appeal to give the other fellow a chance, and it is little wonder that that chord was harped upon during the election. Give Labour a fair chance, said the Leader of the Labour party. The country gave them a fair chance, and what we have to examine to-day is the use that they have made of it. Another leader from whom I would quote an observation—I am only going to quote the views of the leaders of the party opposite—is the Chancellor of the Exchequer, whom we all hope to see back in his place before long. There was one paragraph that he used, upon which he has harped during the last two years, to which I shall recur in the later portion of my speech, and I shall ask if it is possible for the Government to give us some explanation before the Division takes place. This is the paragraph that I have in mind, and it was spoken just before the election: The problem of the present abnormal unemployment was to restore the great staple industries of cotton, wool, iron and steel and shipbuilding. Then he goes on to speak of the importance of these trades to the country. I mention that in passing to show that at least he realised the importance in the body economic and politic of those great industries, and he refers to them with great anxiety during the two years which followed his speech. Now a word or two from the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs, upon whom I shall have something to say as I proceed. He started with the enthusiasm proper to a General Election, and he said The Labour party appeals to the electors with a policy that will not only set the workless to work, but also by removing the root causes of unemployment, effectively prevent its recurrence. That was going one better than the Prime Minister. The right hon. Gentleman at Oldham said that: Labour was going to solve it "— (unemployment), and I call the special attention of the House to these words— by spending money and by giving bigger pensions to old people, inducing them to retire and finding jobs for younger people That point was taken up by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. It is a curious thing that when men dream dreams and have visions none are so good at it as those of the old gang. I am a member of the old gang myself, and the Foreign Secretary will not take offence if I say that he is a member of the old gang. No one at the time of the election had such a vision as he when he really let himself go. He said: Labour rejoiced that unemployment was the outstanding issue in the election. I must trouble the House with a few sentences from a speech which the right hon. Gentleman delivered at Burnley in his own constituency to show the kind of thing that in those halcyon days was in his mind, and to compare it with what is in his mind to-day, if there is anything in his mind, on this subject, and to ask the Government what they propose to do to implement what he said. The right hon. Gentleman said: They would take steps to restore the normal state of trade by reorganising the machinery of finance and industry. Then follow other proposals. It is too long to give the whole extract, but I think these points will give a good idea of it: To put in hand big schemes for clearing slums, and for building houses, at rents that the workers could afford, speed up the development of electricity supply, make new roads and improve those already in existence, thus providing much employment for the younger men displaced from the mining areas; drain, reclaim and re-afforest the land of Great Britain, which would mean more healthy employment in the rural areas, increased production from the land and a permanent revival of agriculture; reorganise the coal industry from top to bottom—[Interruption]—under public ownership and control; set up a Royal Commission with powers to work out a comprehensive scheme for reorganising the cotton industry. This would necessitate wiping off the inflated capital charges. The right hon. Gentleman made some more observations, very sensible observations, about the cotton trade, and he ended up in this way: bring the Bank of England under the direct control of the community, guide new capital into enterprises most likely to lead to increased employment and prosperity, and to set up a National Board of Employment and Development. When the Foreign Secretary looks back upon that youthful ebullition of his, the words of the poet must come to his mind: What is youth? A dancing billow; a following wind; but rocks before. The wind was a following wind then, but it is blowing hard on the rocks to-day, and it will take all the skill of the Foreign Secretary, and all the skill of his colleagues, to extricate the battered craft from the reefs on which they are now driving. We all know what happened at the General Election. We know how we lost our majority, and how the party opposite obtained theirs. We know well that in those first early moments with a vision of power to come before them, when the glamour had not worn off, how they were telling the country what they would do. The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for the Dominions said that he was going to apply himself to the work with a single-minded desire to see if it was possible to grapple with this terrible state of things. His desire has now been gratified; he knows. The country was assured that all the promises the Labour party had given during the General Election, especially those with regard to unemployment, were very soon to be brought to pass. Work has already been done said the Prime Minister— I went to Downing Street to set moving the organisation of the work connected with the first real handling of the unemployment problem. It is worth remembering that the number of unemployed in this country was then just over 1,100,000, and that the figures had fallen during the last few months the late Conservative Government were in office by some hundreds of thousands between the New Year and June when these observations were made.

Does the House remember the first great move in the fight against unemployment? It was to set up a partnership of the present Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs, the First Commissioner of Works and the hon. Member for Smethwick (Sir O. Mosley). A stranger trio never set out on the same journey since that immortal party set out for Widdicombe Fair. You had the enthusiasm of age tempered by the cynicism of youth, cemented together by the hard common sense which underlies the idealism of the right hon. Gentleman who controls Dominion affairs in this House. If I may pay respect to hon. Members opposite and draw a simile from Russia, the harnessing of these three hon. Members reminds me of the passengers I have seen in a droshky drawn by three horses, one in the middle and one cantering on either side. On the near side there is the First Commissioner of Works, trotting along with one eye looking out on the parks and proposing at the first available moment to kick off his chains and play among the daisies. On the off- side, always on the offside, is the hon. Member for Smethwick. It is hard to know what he is thinking about, but he is probably wondering how long he is going to be kept in this triple harness and when he may make his way from the leading reins on to the box with the whip in his hands. What must have come to the right hon. Gentleman's mind in the middle as he went on with these strange stable companions. It must have been the thought, "Who is going to do the pulling of this vehicle? Where is he going to pull it, and what is going to be the end of his journey?"

We must follow him for a short time on the journey. The right hon. Gentleman, being a realist and always having his feet firmly on the ground, and sometimes, acrobatic as it may sound, his ear too, it was not long before in his speeches he began to impress on people both here and in the country the gravity of the problem—and quite rightly too. He appealed to the House to help him, and the House did help him, and helped him by giving him the legislation for which he asked, speedily, almost without criticism and discussion. There was the Development (Loan Guarantees and Grants) Act and there was the Colonial Development Act. Later on, we shall see what has been produced by that legislation. But it could not have been said in those early days that the whole House was not willing to support the Government with its full power and sympathy in any measures that the Government at that time thought would be of service in helping them to combat this terrible ill. The House rose as soon as those Bills became Acts of Parliament, and the Lord Privy Seal, as he was then, went off for a brief excursion to Canada. On that I do not propose to say anything, but I should like to remind the House of a quotation which I propose to give. By no means do I associate the right hon. Gentleman who is to follow me with the quotation, but it is a quotation probably well known to the House from a very well known newspaper in Scotland, which did for a long time breathe its inspiration from him. The criticism of "Forward" on the visit of the right hon. Gentleman was short and to the point. I do not say that I agree with it: Could there have been anything more fiddling or footling than Mr. Thomas's expedition to Canada? I do not for a moment associate the right hon. Gentleman who is to follow me with those sentiments, but I am sure the pithy form of expression, the happy alliteration, the style, breathe the inspiration of the man who had sharpened the pen and provided the ink. As a matter of fact, much to the disappointment of the right hon. Gentleman, there was not much to show. For a time there hovered before our suspicious eyes, seven phantom ships. "The Spanish Fleet we cannot see, because it's not in sight." Those ships never have been in sight and never will be in sight. But we all hope that the right hon. Gentleman had an interesting time in Canada. The House resumed sitting in the autumn, by which time unemployment was steadily rising, in spite of the efforts that were being made. On 1st October the Lord Privy Seal of the time said that he could not make any definite promises as to unemployment figures— But I am confident that, when February comes, the figures of the Government will be far different and better than the figures of their predecessors in office. If you leave out the words "and better," that statement is literally true. Then I must pause a moment to see how the one man who, after all, was close up against this problem and was bearing the burden of it more or less single-handed, regarded it. Enlightenment was coming to him; he realised what he was up against. He said: The assumption that the mere spending of money would solve unemployment was a delusion and a snare. I quite agree; I have always held that view. Then I want to call the attention of the House to an observation made the next week by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. The right hon. Gentleman said: We have a gigantic problem of unemployment, a problem that so far has baffled the wisdom of our statesmen…I think we all see that there is only one effective way of dealing with that problem, and that is to improve our trade, These next words are very pertinent: to re-condition, re-equip and re-organise our factories and workshops—and that needs capital. This was following up the idea which he had already put forward, and that is why I want the House to bear those words in mind. I have one extract, dated November, which I ought to give. This again is a further milestone in the life of the Lord Privy Seal. He said in London in November: I discard those people who assume that there is a short cut to success, and brush away those who tell me that the only way to the solution of the problem of unemployment is by the mere spending of money. Anybody can spend money. Anybody can solve the unemployment problem if he merely assumed that there was a bottomless pit from which the money came. At that moment the increase in unemployment since the Government came into office was 175,000, and the figure was beginning to move up. In December the House gave the Lord Privy Seal another Bill. We passed through Parliament a Bill to facilitate the passage of private Bills in cases where those Bills offered anything which could be construed into relief of unemployment. Just about the same time the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who I think felt that it was time an encouraging note was struck, was rash enough to say, in answering my right hon. Friend the Member for Tamworth (Sir A. Steel-Maitland): The right hon. Gentleman opposite quoted something which I am reported to have said, that in 12 months' time we would make an impression upon unemployment. I stand by that statement, and I add this further—that we are not going to be judged by our unemployment policy at the end of 12 months.…I shall be gravely disappointed if the average of unemployment during the next 12 months is not below 1,200,000. I call attention to the date on which that statement was made. It was 16th December, 1929. The idea of the "economic blizzard" had not then reached the right hon. Gentleman's mind. At the end of the year unemployment was 203,000 worse than it had been when the Government took office, and we adjourned for Christmas. In January, the Economic Advisory Council—a body shrouded in mystery, of whom observations are sometimes made public, only to be contradicted later—took form. In January, or rather on one of the first days of February, the Lord Privy Seal began, very naturally, to take alarm, and he made the statement which we all remember: When the figures which will be announced either to-morrow or on Wednesday are published, it will be found that they are the worst of all the figures.…I have no hesitation in saying that, before the end of this month, there will probably be another 100,000 added to those figures." —[OFFICIAL REPORT, 3rd February, 1930; col. 1567, Vol. 234.] 4.0 p.m.

The figures were reported on the same day on which the right hon. Gentleman made that speech, and the increase in the month of February was 408,000 over and above what the figures had been when the Government took office the preceding June. Then, of course, things went rapidly from bad to worse. The increase was over 500,000 in April of last year, and at the end of April the Lord Privy Seal made this rather remarkable statement at Glasgow: I have definitely come to the conclusion that no matter how many millions of pounds may be spent, if it is merely to find temporary work and create dead capital, instead of helping or solving the real unemployment problem, you are merely aggravating the problem and storing up difficulties for the future. There is very little wonder, after a statement of that kind showing the hopelessness of the whole situation, that the original triumvirate broke up. The hon. Baronet the Member for Smethwick resigned in May, in circumstances that will be fresh in the memory of the House. We all remember very vividly the powerful speech he made from the benches below the Gangway, and the triumvirate became a duumvirate. At the beginning of June the Lord Privy Seal resigned. I would like to make this observation, because I am aware of some of his, difficulties. The fact is that the Lord Privy Seal had an absolutely impossible task from the beginning to the end, an impossible task in the nature of it and from the general policy—he will not agree with me in this—of the Government, which we always maintain, and have said on many occasions, both in the House and in the country, has been the very policy to sap that confidence in the country which is so essential.

Last summer a change was made, and the lamented Mr. Vernon Hartshorn, whose loss we still feel, took on this most unenviable post. He, or the Minister of Health, had discussions with the local authorities to try to get more work carried out, and the House again gave the Government a Bill to help the local authorities with statutory undertakings to facilitate their procedure that might help to provide work for the unemployed. But the figures were mounting all the time. In July, we had got far above 750,000 more unemployed than when we left office, and many of us went away in August for our holidays—all except the Government, and at that time those representatives of the Liberal party who came in to help the Government to deal with these matters. Immediately after the House met last autumn, we had a Debate on the subject of unemployment, and Mr. Hartshorn made an important contribution. He had then had some time to study the question, and he told us that he had decided to give up, as I understood it, what he called the "short-term policy" and was concentrating on what he called the "long-term policy" for dealing with unemployment. A White Paper was issued in December telling the House that the Government had sanctioned expenditure of £136,000,000, and had sanctioned work for more than 500,000 man years. And the unemployed at the end of the year had increased by 1,500,000 over the figures when we went out.

Then I come to the Debate which took place in February. That Debate is still vivid in our mind. It was the last Debate in which the names of our friends Sir Laming Worthington-Evans and Mr. Hartshorn appeared in the Division lists. It was an interesting Debate, and good speeches were made. We were told then that schemes had been approved up to £152,000,000, and that £92,000,000 of schemes had been started, and employment had been found, directly and indirectly, for about 200,000 men. But by far the most remarkable incident of that Debate was the speech of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. I want to turn to that speech for a moment. I want the House to consider it, and I should like to hear something on the subject from one of the Government speakers who may rise later. The greater part of the speech of the Chancellor of the Exchequer was, like many of his speeches, a very clever and rather bitter political speech, the kind of speech one has often heard in this House during Debates, only it does not seem to get one very much further. The latter part of the speech was of quite a different character—very interesting, but very alarming. I am sure that the im- pression made by that speech has not been forgotten by Members of this House. I do not propose to read more than a few words, but this paragraph gives the cue: I say with all the seriousness I can command that the national position is so grave that drastic and disagreeable measures will have to be taken if Budget equilibrium is to be maintained and if industrial progress is to be made."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 11th February, 1931; col. 447, Vol. 248.] Now we have never been told exactly what was in the Chancellor's mind when he made that speech. Chancellors do not make speeches without the knowledge of the Government. They do not speak on their own. That must be the view of the Government, and it may be, and probably is—I believe it is—the perfectly correct view, but I think the House ought to be told more as to what was meant by that, how serious the situation is. It was very shortly after that that the Prime Minister made these observations which I read rather in connection with the latter part of the words I have just quoted. He said at Northampton on 13th March: Expedients adopted for relieving unemployment to-day may mean that there may be more unemployment next week and that is not the policy any intelligent Labour party would support. This is the point: The Labour Government is faced with the proposition of how to transform old habits and mechanism so that they may come into effective use. That kind of changing an organic body cannot be settled in 24 hours or months. It requires to be worked at steadily and scientifically, and that is what the Labour Government is engaged in. I entirely agree with him, but we have never been told of anything that has been done, or is being done, which would come within any description given by those words. I hope that something will be said about this, as on it so much depends the future course of unemployment. Whether you have tariffs in this country, or whether you do not, the extracts which I have read about reorganisation of certain industries in this country remain absolutely true whatever fiscal system there is in this country, and if the Government are taking any steps to attack that most difficult problem, let them tell this House what they are doing, because I have a suspicion that they are doing nothing. Temporary relief which might come to this country in the direction of bettering the unemployment figures through an improvement in world trade, can only be local and temporary, unless we go on trying to equip some of these basic industries of ours; equip them, as they must be equipped, to face the competition of the world. That is hardly, perhaps, a question on which to go into detail in this Debate, but it is one to which the House ought, and at no distant time, to devote its attention, and debate seriously and earnestly. It will be seen, I think, from what I have said, that whatever the Government may have done or may not have done, at all events they have not fulfilled the pledges, the promises, which they held out to the electors two short years ago.

Over and above that, there is one intangible, imponderable thing that is absent from the industrial world to-day, and that is confidence. I know quite well that the Government recognise that, because the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs a year ago, or rather more, went to Manchester on purpose to try to instil into men's minds a confidence which he felt was lacking. We on this side of the House have our own views as to why that confidence is lacking. Confidence is lacking for one reason because the country as a whole has lost all faith in the ability of the Government to deal with the unemployment situation. It has lost confidence in seeing fresh expenditure being incurred when business and trade are in such a condition that no fresh commitments of any kind ought to be taken until trade is better. It sees, as a consequence of that, increased taxation at a time when industry needs relieving to the utmost extent possible from the direct burdens laid upon it. People are made nervous by speeches such as I have quoted by the Chancellor of the Exchequer when he speaks of a situation of unparalleled gravity, without saying more as to what is the cause and what are the symptoms of that gravity.

More important than all in the matter of confidence, I believe that the Government have lost confidence in themselves, and when a Government lose confidence in themselves, and lose the confidence of a section of their own supporters, even though they may vote for them, then it becomes far more difficult for that Government to act. Their actions are paralysed, but what paralyses them more than anything is because I believe the country does not know whether the present Government are a Socialist Government or a Radical Government. That is purely fundamental. I ask the House to remember the quotations I gave from the speech of the Foreign Secretary at Burnley two short years ago. I ask the House to look at the Amendment on the Order Paper by certain hon. Members below the Gangway. Does that represent the policy of His Majesty's Government, or does it not? After all, it does not matter to us whether it does or does not, but it is really putting hon. Friends of mine on these benches in a perfectly impossible position. They do not know whether the Government are a Socialist Government or a Radical Government. [Interruption.] It does not matter to us; we will fight you equally, whichever you are. That is the dilemma in which the Government have been for a long time brought face to face. Against the hard realities of the situation, they have found it perfectly impossible to implement in any degree the promises which they put forward in such quantity at the last General Election. Largely owing to that, they are losing the enthusiasm of their own supporters throughout the country. The steam is running down in the boiler, and I do not see what can stoke it up at this stage.

I cannot tell what the result of the Division may be to-night. I only know this, that so far as my own position and that of my friends is concerned, our course is clear. We believe the Government to be absolutely incapable of handling this problem, and we believe that the only expedient for them now is to ask the country whether they may have a mandate to put the full policy which they wanted to put two years ago before the country, or whether the country will give the verdict—a verdict from which there is no appeal—to the party which they turned down two years ago.

Photo of Mr Campbell Stephen Mr Campbell Stephen , Glasgow Camlachie

On a point of Order. I wish to ask you, Mr. Speaker, if an opportunity will be given to move the Amendment—in line 1, to leave out from the word "Government ' to the end of the Question, and to add instead thereof the words: in order to deal with unemployment, should take immediate steps to fulfil its declared programme and hasten the transition to Socialism, by (a) increasing the demand for labour in the production of the essentials of life by extending and increasing old age pensions, unemployment allowances, and widows' pensions; (b) increasing mass-purchasing power by establishing a living wage; (c) meeting the increased productivity of rationalised industry through a shorter working week and raising the school-leaving age; (d) re-organising finance, industry, transport, and agriculture under national ownership and control; (e) establishing import and export boards to facilitate such re-organisation and to protect working-class standards;(f) proceeding with a national housing scheme; and (g) extending credits to Russia, particularly in the case of shipbuilding and engineering."— which stands in the name of some of my hon. friends and myself in connection with this Debate, or what the procedure is to be?

Photo of Lieut-General Edward Fitzroy Lieut-General Edward Fitzroy , Daventry

I do not propose to take the Amendment which stands in the name of hon. Members below the Gangway, but they can express their views in the course of the Debate.

Photo of Mr Thomas Johnston Mr Thomas Johnston , Stirlingshire and Clackmannanshire Western

The House will perhaps forgive me if I do not seek to follow the right hon. Gentleman in the humorous commentary which he made upon certain selected oratorical efforts at the time of the last General Election. Fortunately, we are in possession of the printed programme upon which the Labour party appealed to the electors two years ago. Into every house in every Division where a Labour candidate stood there was placed a copy of this document—" Labour's Appeal to the Nation "—and under the heading of "Unemployment" we stated what it was we hoped and promised to do, if we secured a majority and we said in so many words that we wanted a majority.

The programme which we set out as our programme for dealing with unemployment was divided into 11 specific points. Of those 11 specific points or pledges, eight have now been attempted in this House. One of them failed because it was assassinated in another place. One of them failed because the Dominions were utterly unable in the present state of trade and industry to take further migrants to their shores. That accounts for 10 out of the 11 pledges. [HON. MEMBERS "Two!"]

I propose to go over them now, and I propose to ask some succeeding speaker, in the light of facts which are proveable at this Table, to justify the terms of the Motion which the Opposition have moved. "National development and trade prosperity" is first, and there we said we should deal with housing and slum clearance. Well, we did. We stopped the cut in the subsidy.

Viscountess ASTOR:

What about the houses?

Photo of Mr Thomas Johnston Mr Thomas Johnston , Stirlingshire and Clackmannanshire Western

We passed Housing and Slum Clearance Acts to enable local authorities to deal in a new way with the slum problem and to provide houses for the poorest of the poor at rents which they were able to pay. Secondly, we promised to deal with land drainage and reclamation. Have we not done it? We passed Land Drainage Acts and made financial provision for their operation. Schemes ranging from £10,000 to £150,000 are drawn up, and some of them will, it is hoped, be started this year. Field drainage grants were doubled, reclamation was speeded up and. in the Agricultural Land (Utilisation) Bill still further provision is made for the reclamation of waste land. Apart from the Land Utilisation Bill, we have provided grants-in-aid of reclamation and drainage schemes to the extent of over £4,000,000. The third promise was electrification, and here we have provided, apart from the ordinary operations of the Electricity Board, grants to stimulate fresh schemes to the amount of £14,000,000.

The next pledge dealt with the reorganisation of the railways and transport, and, here again, the pledge has been kept in the letter and the spirit. Approved schemes on the railways, in value £22,500,000, have been assisted plus a proportion of schemes on docks and harbours to the amount of £15,500,000, or a total of £38,000,060 worth of schemes to assist in the reorganisation of the railway services of this country. In transport a great comprehensive Measure passed this House and another Measure dealing particularly with London transport, has been introduced by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Transport. The next pledge concerned new roads and road and bridge improvements, and here, including unclassified roads, we have sanctioned grants to stimulate £64,500,000 worth of work.

Afforestation was the next pledge. We found that our predecessors had allotted £5,500,000 for a 10-year programme. We promptly increased that to £9,000,000, and would have increased it further if the chairman of the Forestry Commission and his associates had been able to say that they could usefully spend more money. Then come Export Credits and Trade Facilities Guarantees. Trade Facilities Guarantees were stopped by our predecessors on 31st March, 1927. As regards Export Credits, we promptly extended the operation of the scheme to Russia, and under that extension orders have been given to the extent of £6,000,000, and presently over 6,000 men are engaged on work provided in that way. The next pledge was in the following words: Pending the absorption of the unemployed in regular occupations it (the Labour party) will take steps to relieve present distress. That pledge has been kept. The "not-genuinely-seeking work" Clause has been abolished. [Interruption.] Family benefits have been increased and grants have been given to relieve distress in the necessitous areas of our country. This is the one industrial land in the world where we are meeting our distresses without resort to the bread line or the soup kitchen. The next clause in our programme was to raise the school age with maintenance grants and retirement pensions. As I have already said it is within the recollection of this House that our Bill to fulfil the pledge about the school-leaving age was assassinated in another place.

Viscountess ASTOR:


Photo of Mr Thomas Johnston Mr Thomas Johnston , Stirlingshire and Clackmannanshire Western

The next point was training and assistance, by agreement with the Dominions, for those who wished to try their fortunes in new lands. As I am sure hon. Members in all parts of the House will agree, it is impossible to fulfil that pledge now. But may I draw the attention of the right hon. Gentleman and his friends to this fact, that it is partly owing to the drying up of the migration which we had in pre-War times that our difficulties are so great now. In 1913 the net figure—[Interruption.]

Photo of Lieut-General Edward Fitzroy Lieut-General Edward Fitzroy , Daventry

If the Noble Lady the Member for the Sutton Division of Plymouth (Viscountess Astor) persists in interrupting, I shall have to ask her to leave the House.

Viscountess ASTOR:

On a point of Order. I have heard hon. Members on the opposite side make far more interruptions.

Photo of Lieut-General Edward Fitzroy Lieut-General Edward Fitzroy , Daventry

There is no point of Order. I must be the judge.

Photo of Mr Thomas Johnston Mr Thomas Johnston , Stirlingshire and Clackmannanshire Western

I am sure that the House will be interested in this figure. In 1913, the last pre-War year, the net outward migration, after deducting immigrants to this country was 241,997 persons going from these shores, whereas in 1930 it was down to 25,955. But what is the record of those who now challenge us? If I may be allowed I will give the contrast as fairly and as reasonably as I can, between the work of the late Government and the work of this Government, at comparable periods. Under the heading of "trade facilities," hon. Gentlemen opposite did nothing whatever in the last year and three-quarters of their life. They did not provide a penny in relieving unemployment throughout that period, whereas in the first year and three-quarters of the lifetime of this Government, we have sanctioned grants through the Lewis Committee to aid in economic development of the resources of this country to facilitate schemes to the value of over £34,000,000. In addition, we have undertaken to assist by way of grants schemes to the value of over £9,000,000 under the Colonial Development Act. All the latter money cannot be spent in this country. Take next the Unemployment Grants Committee. The total value of schemes approved in the 4½ years of the last Government was £24,300,000, and in the last year and three-quarters of their life it was £6,000,000. Of this £6,000,000, 4,500,000 was allocated on the eve of the General Election. Against their £6,000,000, we have sanctioned schemes amounting to £69,000,000–11 times what they did in the way of assisting local authorities in the interests of the country to absorb our unemployed fellow citizens.

I take next the reconstruction and improvement of classified roads in Britain.

The late Government approved certain special schemes, such as the East Lancashire Road, the Mersey Tunnel and London cross-river traffic schemes amounting to £19,500,000 in the 4½years of their life. They also had an annual programme in the last year amounting to £6,000,000, and some smaller programmes in previous years. Against their £19,500,000 in their 4½ years, the present Government have sanctioned grants for schemes amounting to £44,000,000, and we have done it in 1¾years. In addition, there are special London schemes to the value of several millions, and under our annual programmes we have approved an additional £12,000,000.

If I do not weary the House too much with figures, I should like to indicate the kind of thing that we are assisting. The right hon. Gentleman said that he agreed that we should do what we could to develop the economic resources of our country. The total value of the schemes for classified roads and bridges which we have sanctioned for assistance is £56,000,000; unclassified roads, 28,500,000; railways, excluding docks, £22,500,000; docks and harbours, including railway-owned docks and harbours and fishery harbours, £15,500,000; water supply, over £8,000,000; electricity supply, apart from the ordinary operations of the Central Electricity Board and electricity undertakers, £14,000,000; gas supply, £2,500,000; sewers and sewage disposal, £20,300,000; land drainage and reclamation, over £4,000,000; canals, £500,000; sea defence, £1,500,000; parks, recreation grounds, etc., £2,500,000; civic buildings, £2,500,000; and further sums for baths, wash-houses and other small items. The total amounts to £173,000,000. This does not of course include some large schemes which are presently under consideration. It does not include such schemes as the scheme for the electrification of the Great Northern section of the London and North Eastern Railway, 55 miles of it at an estimated cost of £4,250,000.

This figure of £173,000,000 compares with a figure of £153,000,000 given by the late Lord Privy Seal on the 12th February last. In other words, £20,000,000 worth of work has been sanctioned since the last Debate. There is a difference between schemes approved and schemes in operation. There are already in operation schemes of a value of £101,000,000; schemes completed amount to £12,000,000, a total of £113,000,000. We are taking steps to diminish the lag between works approved and works started in every possible way, and of the £60,000,000 difference, £19,000,000 under the Unemployment Grants Committee will be started largely before the 1st June, and all of it will be started before the 1st October. Schemes on roads worth £13,000,000 have been approved for starting at an early date.

What has this meant in employment? Road works assisted by the Ministry of Transport were giving direct employment at the 27th February, 1931 to 33,000 men. The Unemployment Grants Committee schemes were giving direct employment to 56,000 men, a total of 89,000 men. It has been estimated—my predecessor went elaborately into the calculations—that all these schemes employ a similar number of men indirectly, so that if 89,000 men were employed directly there were employed, directly and indirectly, 178,000 men. Additional to that, 6,500 men were employed on land and field drainage and certain other works at 27th February; 35,000 men were known to be in employment on works assisted through the Lewis Committee, and 7,000 men were in work through the Colonial Development Act schemes. The total of men who can be ascertained as being directly and indirectly in employment is therefore 226,500. This was at the end of February. This does not touch the figures for housing or for afforestation; nor does it touch the figures for certain other small employments where it is difficult to get ascertainable figures for a specific date.

I should like to say a word about the housing problem, not, for the moment, about the rural housing problem, but about the urban housing problem. This figure of 226,500 men compares with 200,000 men in employment at the date of the last Debate. We have, therefore, employed 26,500 more men since that date. In housing there is an opportunity for a vastly increased employment for our unemployed fellow citizens. In England and Wales last year 51,000 houses were built; in Scotland there were 8,000, a total of 59,000. This year it is the intention of the Minister of Health and the Secretary of State for Scotland to take whatever steps lie in their power to ensure that these figures will be driven up to at least 118,000 houses.

Photo of Mr Winston Churchill Mr Winston Churchill , Epping

How does that compare with preceding years?

Photo of Mr Thomas Johnston Mr Thomas Johnston , Stirlingshire and Clackmannanshire Western

If that 59,000 can be doubled, it will mean employment for another 118,000 men. The local authorities are compelled under the Housing Acts to provide us with a survey to give us an indication of their needs and what they propose to do. The figures were given in the Debate the other day to show that over England and Wales it is estimated that already there was something like an 80 per cent. increase over last year's figures and in Scotland 100 per cent. increase. If we can—and I am sure we can all help—show local authorities, particularly in the urban areas, that it is now possible under the Act of 1930 to build houses in the urban areas and let them at rents, apart from rates, of £12 per annum, surely we ought all, to assist in inducing them to take a wider view than unfortunately many of them have hitherto taken.

Before I indicate the further steps the Government propose to take, it is important that the House and the country should appreciate not only the magnitude but the character of the problem with which we have to deal. Only half-a-century ago Professor Stanley Jevons was teaching a political economy at Manchester which solemnly declared that unemployment was due to sun spots, and I remember that the common explanation given by the comfortably-circumstanced portion of our people was that unemployment was due to the moral delinquency of the unemployed man, his laziness, his shiftlessness, and his drunkenness. Nowadays, nobody looks to sun spots or Sunday schools for explanations of the great economic problem of unemployment. There are still some, and possibly we shall hear from them to-night, who believe that a sort of Chinese wall of protection from foreign trade dumping would reduce or abolish unemployment. In that event we have yet to hear an explanation of why Germany, at the 28th February, admitted having 5,000,000 registered unemployed, and why, in the current issue of the "Economist," it is admitted that there are 8,000,000 unemployed in the United States of America. The "Daily Telegraph," an organ which will be beyond suspicion in the minds of hon. Members opposite, heads an alarmist article "Millions hungry in America. More want and misery than in any European country. United States' worst plight in living memory." As to France, which has hitherto been held up to us as the land free from unemployment, the "Times" of the 14th April reports that investigations show 500,000 unemployed there, and 1,000,000 persons on short time.

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

There is one more now. Alfonso has gone there.

Photo of Mr Thomas Johnston Mr Thomas Johnston , Stirlingshire and Clackmannanshire Western

That is rather a matter for the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs. We are witnessing in every industrial and in every agricultural land in the world a great increase of productive capacity. It is in vain that the United States keeps 250,000,000 bushels of wheat, or contract wheat, off the market in an endeavour, by a limitation of supplies, to peg or to stabilise prices. Only the other day wheat was sold in Liverpool at a lower price than it has been sold since the days of Charles II, tower than it had been for two and a-half centuries. The report by Mr. Butler, the Deputy Director of the International Labour Office, is pregnant with meaning for those who seek to understand the great developments that are taking place in what is called the rationalisation of our industries. In 10 years the coal output in America has gone up by 40 per cent. per head, and the number of workers is down 7 per cent. Rationalisation we cannot stop; we do not seek to go back to Ludditeism. We must have efficiency, we must develop our economic resources. As a Socialist, I do not desire to inherit derelict factories or obsolete machinery. I do not want to fall heir to a graveyard.

Our troubles are specially in our export trades. According to the latest figures, 22 per cent. of those in the coal industry are unemployed, in shipbuilding and repairing 49 per cent., and in cotton 41 per cent. In some of these trades and industries we can look only to international action for aid, only international action can stop the sag in the price levels. Only an improvement in world trade can benefit us in some directions. If I may say so, apart from questions which might arouse disputation, it is surely common ground that the pacification and friendship of India and China would do more to provide economic and useful employment for Lancashire and other districts than anything else that we can well devise. The President of the Board of Trade will shortly make a statement on this part of our subject, and I do not propose to go further into it. I want, however, to read a note which was received in response to a cablegram which I got the Overseas Trade Department to send to the Argentine asking what results, if any, had already been secured as the outcome of the great Exhibition there. Here is what is said: The general manager of the Exhibition at Buenos Aires says that British exhibitors are unanimously satisfied. One firm of manufacturers of agricultural machinery will now be engaged for a whole year following up inquiries received at the exhibition. Considerable trade has been done in the sale of heavy machinery. British motor-car manufacturers have made a large number of sales. The actual business transacted at the exhibition in the motor industry alone approximates to twice as much as was anticipated. In one single order 300 bathroom equipments were disposed of. No section of exhibitors dissatisfied. It would be unfortunate if a great industry like the cotton industry were not sufficiently well organised to take advantage of the great opportunity which is offered in America to share in that great fillip to British trade and industry which the Prince of Wales and, all others who have been associated with this great enterprise have suceeded in stimulating.

What, it may reasonably be asked, are the further steps which the Government propose to take? With the approval of the House, I propose to stick more closely to my notes on this part of my subject. I will deal, first of all, with rural housing. In many of our rural areas there is an exceptionally difficult housing position. Local assessments frequently raise insufficient money with which to meet local contributions to the cost of housebuilding. The agricultural labourer's wage is so scandalously low that he cannot pay the rent even of a subsidised house, yet his need is as great as the need of his brother in the towns, and he and his wife and family are as much entitled to a decent, healthy, sani- tary habitation at a rent within his competence to pay. If there are rural local authorities which either cannot or will not, for any reason whatever, fulfil their statutory obligations, then, on health and sanitary grounds alone, it will clearly be the duty of the Government to consider remedial measures. Meantime, steps are being taken to expedite the return of surveys from the rural authorities detailing their necessities and their intentions under the Acts of 1930; and I am authorised by the Minister of Health and by the Secretary of State for Scotland to say that they will take any and every step in their power to enforce the requirements of these Acts, and already some steps are being taken. The Government are presently considering the detailed supplementary proposals which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Penryn and Falmouth (Sir T. Walters) has submitted to us for dealing with the problem. I would like to express our grateful obligation to him for the trouble he has taken in placing the fruits of his great experience at our disposal. Whatever be the method or the combination of methods through which this problem is to be tackled, the Government are determined that rural as well as urban slums and over-crowding shall be dealt with. There lies one useful way of finding work for unemployed men.

On one other and important subject I would like to say a few carefully chosen words. For some time past the Government have been examining in close detail the possibilities and potentialities of British coal as a source of production of motor fuel and other oils. The economic conversion of coal into motor spirit and other products offers, in the opinion of the Government, great hope of prosperity in our coal-bearing areas. While it is not possible at the moment to make any precise, specific pronouncement on the subject, the Government have every expectation that they will be able, at an early date, to submit definite proposals to the House of Commons.

A question which sometimes raises mirth, but which those who examine it carefully regard as one fraught with great possibilities of economic prosperity to our country, is that of tourist traffic. I would draw attention to the fact that 5.0 p.m. already in connection with this industry there are 350,000 persons engaged, that it is a larger industry than even iron and steel and a larger industry than wool or hosiery. Of this great industry it can be said that Great Britain is the only country which has hitherto not actively taken steps to facilitate its development. From Russia to Portugal, Governments have sought to develop their tourist industry.

Photo of Sir Joseph Lamb Sir Joseph Lamb , Stone

Foreign or Russian tourists?

Photo of Mr Thomas Johnston Mr Thomas Johnston , Stirlingshire and Clackmannanshire Western

Foreign visitors in France spend annually between £100,000,000 and £120,000,000 within the shores of France. [Interruption.] Surely there might be at least common agreement among us that the activities of Lord Derby and the British Travel Association might receive a little more sympathy from the Opposition. The Government in the past year and a half have sought to develop tourist industry associations in Scotland and in England. We have provided money to assist them. I had a very friendly interview the other day with Lord Derby and the representatives of the Travel Association in this country, and I can say that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Home Affairs is presently engaged on seeing how far it is possible for the Government to meet some of the requests put forward by them—[Interruption.] The fact that the right hon. Member for Chorley (Mr. Hacking) is entitled to a very large measure of whatever credit may be going for developing this industry, surely is no justification for hon. Members opposite receiving with mirth suggestions of assisting in the development of the Travel Association.

I come to the question of Russian credits. There has always been discussion as to the length of credit which ought to be given. Generally speaking, the Advisory Committee have given up to a year, but recently for goods in the heavy industries the Advisory Committee have been prepared to go to 18 months, not including the period of manufacture for shipment; in other words, about two years. It is hoped that additional exports will be facilitated under this plan The Government are again examining in detail the whole question of export credit guarantees for goods to be sent to Russia. One of the outstanding points hitherto has been the difficulty of securing firm orders as the basis of applications which could be considered by the Advisory Committee. We have in the last few days been in touch with Mr. Bron, the head of the Russian trade delegation in this country, and as a result we hope that this particular difficulty at any rate will be removed.

Now I come to a question which may interest my Scottish colleagues rather more, and that is the question of transport facilities on the East Coast of Scotland. We have devoted considerable attention to the difficult question of the passage of vehicular and pedestrian traffic across the Forth near Edinburgh and across the Tay near Dundee. Up to the present, the local authorities con cerned have been pressing for the provision of road bridges. With reference to the proposed Forth bridge, a grant was made from the Road Fund to enable the problem to be thoroughly investigated by consulting engineers, according to whose report the cost of the scheme which they recommended would exceed £6,000,000. Certain other alternative schemes have also come under consideration, and the Government are taking immediate steps for a further conference with the local authorities concerned with both the Forth and Tay projects, as to how it may be practicable to secure better traffic facilities.

I come to the report, which has been already referred to in this House, on the electrification of the railway systems of this country. The report is signed by all three members of the Committee—Lord Weir, the Chairman, Sir William McLintock, and Sir Ralph Wedgwood. As my right hon. Friend the Minister of Transport informed the House yesterday, the Government are publishing the report of this Committee forthwith. It is not possible in a few words to give an adequate summary of the findings of that Committee, but the Committee emphasise the vital importance to the nation of a progressive railway system and the need of reducing costs in the face of road transport competition and economic depression. The availability at a low price of electrical energy from the national grid is an important new factor. The increased load which electrification of the railways would contribute, together with the high load factor, is also regarded by the Committee as bound to react favourably on the cost of electrical energy produced for all purposes, while the additional transmission network would do much to accelerate rural electrification.

Apart from the possible special expenditure of some £45,000,000 on intensified suburban services, the Committee estimate that a comprehensive programme, covering the whole railway system, and carried out over a period of from 15 to 20 years, would involve new capital expenditure of some £260,000,000 on the railways and a further expenditure of some £80,000,000 on the part of the Central Electricity Board and other electrical undertakings. So far as the £260,000,000 to be expended upon the railways is concerned, the Committee estimate, in the light of certain technical investigations, that a return of 7 per cent. would be obtained in the shape of savings in expenditure as a result of the change-over to electrical working. Their calculations are based on present traffic, and they make no attempt to place a money value on such advantages as speed, comfort, amenities, or improved services. On the expenditure which would be incurred by the Central Electricity Board and other electrical undertakings, the Committee assume that these bodies would earn a return in the shape of charges for current supplied.

A point of particular interest to the House will be that the Committee estimates the volume of employment, direct and indirect, to be afforded at average of 60,000 men per annum for a period of 20 years. My right hon. Friend the Minister of Transport has already sent copies of the report to the railway companies for examination. As Lord Weir and his colleagues point out, any decision involves many important national, financial, and other considerations, and the magnitude of the scheme would be "unique in the history of world enterprise," but they add that they have no hesitation in concluding that the magnitude of the scheme involved in the complete electrification of our railways is no deterrent in itself to the most careful and earnest consideration of such a programme on its economic and social merits. The House may be assured that in this spirit the Government are proceeding to examine the conclusions of the Committee.

I am sorry to have detained the House so long, but I have only one or two more points to make. In regard to telephones, telephone development plans have been made and work put in hand by the Postmaster-General for an extended development of the system of demand trunk calls, whereby it will be possible in towns 200 or 300 miles apart to get into communication practically as quickly as if they were making a local call. In order that exiting facilities may be more widely known and utilised, steps are being taken to inaugurate a publicity campaign to gain new subscribers and increased usage. The present canvassing staff of 600 or 700 will be substantially increased. The already extensive publicity activities of the telephone service are being augmented by poster campaigns and the adoption of other advertising methods.

May I just say one word about the development of afforestation? I met Sir John Stirling-Maxwell yesterday, and while it is true that the Forestry Commissioners have speeded up, so far as they have been able, employment both so far as forest holdings are concerned and in the development of pure forestry, I am glad to be able to say that the Chairman of the Forestry Commission and his expert advisers are now convinced, as a result of extensive experiments, that it is possible economically and profitably to grow Sitka spruce upon peat land and heath land. Our moorland, our heath land, and our peat land are profitable assets to the nation. This will do as much for the better development of the land of our country as has been done by anyone since the time of Professor Gilchrist when he introduced the use of wild white clover in arable farming, and multiplied by 25 or 50 per cent. the yield of our agriculture. On the Scottish hills, on the Welsh hills, and, I may add, on the Yorkshire moors, it is the intention of the Forestry Commission to proceed as rapidly as they possibly can to grow timber. Our policy is to find all the useful and economic employment which we can.


I am not sure whether the right hon. Gentleman is now about to close his statement, but I would like to ask him, with regard to regional town planning, what method of setting up satellite towns he proposes to adopt as a means of relieving the congestion of our great cities? Does the right hon. Gentleman propose that the examination which has been initiated shall be prosecuted and practical steps taken to bring it to a definite conclusion?

Photo of Mr Thomas Johnston Mr Thomas Johnston , Stirlingshire and Clackmannanshire Western

My right hon. Friend the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) is aware, I think, that the matter to which he refers is being actively examined by the experts of the Ministry of Health. The sole reason why I did not refer to that matter this afternoon was because the negotiations and arrangements for examining it have not yet reached such a state as would permit me to say anything definite. I understand that a public invitation was extended to both parties to examine all these problems, and the Liberal party accepted the invitation, but the Conservative party—


Has the right hon. Gentleman any name to suggest of an expert on town planning with experience in these matters, and may I ask whether the Government would welcome such assistance?

Photo of Sir Kingsley Wood Sir Kingsley Wood , Woolwich West

May I put one question to the right hon. Gentleman? The Lord Privy Seal has enumerated a number of new proposals which he has made, but will he tell the House whether the Government have made any estimate as to how many men will obtain employment during the next six months as a result of these schemes?

Photo of Mr Thomas Johnston Mr Thomas Johnston , Stirlingshire and Clackmannanshire Western

If the right hon. Gentleman will produce his experts, as we have invited him to do, we shall be glad to give him more or less accurate and detailed estimates. [Interruption.] If the right hon. Gentleman desires me to answer his question, I will do so, but only if he will do me the honour of paying attention. In regard to such matters as the long-term development schemes, which I enumerated this afternoon, the production of oil from coal, the electrification of railways, and so on, it is impossible for me to give any figures as to the amount of employment that will be found upon such works within the next six weeks or six months. What the Government have set themselves to do is to stimulate Unemployment Grants Committee schemes to pursue a long-term policy on the lines I have indicated, in order to improve the economic resources of our country and place them in a better position. While we continue our policy of finding economic employment in the development of our resources and making our industries more efficient, and in providing maintenance for those who are unable to find a market for their labour, let us at the same time take what steps we can, both national and international, through the League of Nations, to see that the application of labour-saving devices, new inventions and discoveries, greater rationalisation and the mechanisation of our industrial processes are carried on simultaneously with increases in the buying powers of the producer and in the reduction of the hours of labour. Only so can involuntary unemployment be abolished, only so can the mechanised output of the fruits of genius, education, and toil become a blessing and not terror to the children of men.

Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER (Sir Robert Young):

Captain Crookehank.

Photo of Mr Edwin Scrymgeour Mr Edwin Scrymgeour , Dundee

May I put a question to the right hon. Gentleman. [Interruption.] Other hon. Members have been allowed to put questions, and why should I not be allowed to ask one? On a point of Order—


I have already called upon the hon. and gallant Member for Gainsborough (Captain Crookshank).

Photo of Mr John McShane Mr John McShane , Walsall

The Lord Privy Seal, after resuming his seat, was allowed to reply to a question put by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George), and I should like to ask if it is not within the rights of a private Member to put a question? Surely a private Member should be allowed the ordinary privilege of asking for an explanation of some point in a statement?


It is quite true that I allowed the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Llyod George) to ask a question in the course of the Lord Privy Seal's speech, but when the Lord Privy Seal sat down, I immediately called upon the hon. and gallant Member below the Gangway.

Photo of Mr John McShane Mr John McShane , Walsall

I um raising this point in regard to the rights of private Members. I ask if it is not the common procedure of this House that frequently when a speaker has resumed his seat, after omitting to deal with a particular point, a question is allowed to be put to him? Surely that is an ordinary privilege of a private Member?


If there were a rule of that kind, a great many hon. Members, one after another, might rise and ask questions.

Photo of Captain Harry Crookshank Captain Harry Crookshank , Gainsborough

I suppose all these interruptions and points of Order are to be taken as the measure of the disappointment felt by hon. Members behind the Minister at the speech he has made. I do not imagine that there has ever been delivered from the Front Bench such a futile, fatuous and ridiculous speech as that to which we have just listened. [Interruption.] I remember the right hon. Member himself referring to that famous document "Labour and the Nation" as a "dog's breakfast," and I think that would be a very apt description of the speech which has just been delivered by the Lord Privy Seal. I wish to make a. few remarks in regard to that speech. I will commence by dealing with the latter part of the right hon. Gentleman's speech, in which he ran through all the things which are being done or are about to be done in order to deal with the problem of unemployment. I would like hon. Members to consider for a moment how little there was to show that anything was actually being done in regard to the unemployment problem. Almost in every sentence the right hon. Gentleman told us that something was being considered, or that he had had a chat with somebody on a particular question.

In regard to rural housing, the Lord Privy Seal told us that the Government were considering "remedial measures." We were also told that "detailed proposals" were being considered in regard to schemes put forward by an eminent member of the Liberal party, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Penryn and Falmouth (Sir T. Walters), and that at an early date the Government hoped that there might be definite proposals put forward with regard to the production of oil from coal. Then there was tourist traffic. The right hon. Gentleman has informed us that he has had chats with Lord Derby to "consider" how far some of the requests put forward by the association with which his Lordship is connected might be met. In regard to Russian credits, the Government, we are told, are "examining all the details," and the right hon. Gentleman says that he has had chats with Mr. Bron during the last few days. On the question of traffic over the Forth and Tay, the right hon. Gentleman rays that immediate steps have been taken for a further "conference": in fact, chats with the local authorities. In reference to the electrification of the railway system, we have been told that a report will be published forthwith; and that in the meantime there have been chats with the railway companies who have been placed in possession of an advance copy of the report.

There is absolutely no sign of any employment being found in all the plans which are being made by the Postmaster-General beyond the fact that somebody is going to be employed in an advertising campaign putting up new posters. On the questions of afforestation, the right hon. Gentleman states that chats have taken place with Sir John Stirling Maxwell in relation to the production of spruce on peat land and heath land and about growing timber. That is the job of the Forestry Commission anyhow. In answer to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs, the Lord Privy Seal said that the question of satellite towns was being "examined," and that negotiations were taking place. Of course the Government would welcome any suggestions in order to get themselves out of a hole. The Lord Privy Seal ended his speech with a peroration about the League of Nations, which was a most inept thing to bring into this discussion, because one of the things to help unemployment that the Government were going to do was the ratification of the Washington Convention. As they have done nothing about it, the League will probably have something to say to the Government. That was the end of his speech. The early part was even more interesting. The Lord Privy Seal, just a year ago, on the 23rd May, was telling us—he was not then in his present office —that he always thought that agricul- ture was too big an issue to be made the sport and plaything of party politics, and he went on: I would go further and say that I think great issues like unemployment are too big and too serious for any one party to administer or control. It is certainly too big for the Labour party. The earlier portion of his speech dealt with the usual catalogue. He mentioned the increase by £20,000,000 since last February of expenditure here, there and everywhere for schemes which may or may not employ 226,000 men. Except for an expert, it is almost impossible to thread one's way through that part of his speech, because he referred to grants by this and that party for this and that purpose, including gas— [Interruption]—and it is very difficult to know exactly what to compare with what. As we are not favoured with a White Paper on this occasion, it is very difficult to compare like with like. The right hon. Gentleman said that the Labour Government had given £34,000,000 more on the one hand, and we, their predecessors, had given nothing. I forget which grant-issuing authority he was referring to, but, anyhow, "£34,000,000 was given on the one hand, while we had given nothing." All I can say about that is that apparently the right hon. Gentlemen is going right back upon the policy which the Lord Privy Seal last but one decided was the correct policy, after he had been some time in office, because, while the Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs did start off at the time of the Election, as my right hon. Friend has already quoted, by saying how Labour was going to solve unemployment by a vast expenditure of money, yet by October, 1929, he was saying at Derby that "the assumption that the mere spending of money would solve unemployment was a delusion and a snare." Apparently, his wealth of experience is going to be thrown away. The right hon. Gentleman mentioned an expenditure of £173,000,000, and I would like to know what some of the friends of economy—Sir Ernest Benn and other authorities—have to say about that. This expenditure of £173,000,000 is not even carrying out what the Prime Minister, in the time of the previous administration, had said was the Labour party's policy, and, so far as we know, and judging from the speeches of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, still is the Labour party's policy. The Prime Minister said in this House on the 12th February, 1924: I wish to make it perfectly clear that the Government have no intention of drawing off from the normal channels of trade large sums for extemporised measures which can only be palliatives."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 12th February, 1924; col. 760, Vol. 169.] That is the classic quotation on this subject from the Leader of the Labour party and it is rather extraordinary, that being the case, to find the right hon. Gentleman not only throwing over all that was learned by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby (Mr. J. H. Thomas), but also throwing over the considered opinion of his own Leader. That is strange. One does not find this throwing over of the Government very often in the Cabinet, though one finds it on the back benches all the time.

The right hon. Gentleman then went on to say with great enthusiasm that it was their hope and intention, if possible, to double the number of houses this year as compared with what were built last year. I am not an expert on housing, and I hope that some hon. Gentleman on this side will deal with that point, but I do know that, if we were now building at the same rate as in 1927, we should be employing something like 150,000 more men than we are to-day, and that is going back to what was done in 1927, not to what the Labour Government was going to do, and we should take into account the fact that three times more people in the building trade are out of work to-day than there were when the Government took office. Really, to hear the Lord Privy Seal, one would never for a moment dream that there were over 2,500,000 people out of work. They were never mentioned. No figure was quoted, so that of course, in 30 or 40 years' time when people read the OFFICIAL REPORT of our Debates, they will have no indication of the magnitude of the problem with which this House today is faced, and on which one hopes the country will be in a position to decide within the next three or four weeks.

The right hon. Gentleman quoted from the Labour party's manifesto 11 items, of which I think he said eight or nine had been carried out. Fortunately, I brought a copy of it myself to-day, and I find that, as is so often the case with quotations, the right hon. Gentleman gave us the section beginning: Labour will undertake, but he did not give us the next sentence. The next sentence is most interesting, because, after giving that catalogue which has been spoken of, it goes on to say: The most important attack upon unemployment is to restore prosperity to the depressed industries and to develop our country. What has been done about that? The right hon. Gentleman nods in a kindly way, but what has he done about the depressed industries?

Photo of Mr Thomas Johnston Mr Thomas Johnston , Stirlingshire and Clackmannanshire Western

Would the hon. and gallant Member like me to answer now?

Photo of Captain Harry Crookshank Captain Harry Crookshank , Gainsborough

I will finish my speech. I understand that the Prime Minister and another Minister are going to speak later, and I think they can answer for the Government—as best they can. The Member of this House who really got nearest to the mark on this question—I see him in his place at the moment—is the hon. Member for Shettleston (Mr. McGovern), who, as reported in the "Daily Herald" of the 7th of this month, said: I have never yet seen any proposal put forward by the Labour Government for the relief of unemployment. He is right. I do not say he always is, but he certainly was right there in saying that he had never yet seen any proposal put forward by the Labour Government for the relief of unemployment. My right hon. Friend the Leader of the party to which I belong, by the quotations he has already given, has dealt largely with the first part of the Motion which we are moving, and it is, therefore, not necessary to go back to it, because it is practically and definitely proved to the satisfaction of anyone who cares to look up the records that at any rate all the election prophecies and promises of the Labour party have entirely gone by the board. There was, however, an indication in the speech of the Lord Privy Seal of a line of defence which is frequently adopted. It is this: "We did not get our majority, and, therefore, practically all that we said must go by the board. The situation is changed, and our promises are not"—which is the fact—" worth the paper on which they are written."

I will therefore give one more quotation. An interview was given by the Chancellor of the Exchequer on 3rd June, 1929. That was after the Election, and when the size of the parties was known. I am not sure that it was not the actual day on which the Conservative Government resigned. I do not bear that in mind, but, anyhow, it was when they knew they where going to be in office, and the present Chancellor of the Exchequer knew that he would be the holder of the important office of which he is, some say, an ornament. In this interview, as reported in the "Daily Herald," he said: In the first session we shall deal with unemployment "— that was not an election promise; that was a statement of a programme when they knew they were going to be the Government, and a minority Government at that— and bring relief and hope to the workers of this land. We shall not disappoint those who have shown belief in us. That was the programme for the first Session, when the Labour party knew that they were going to be a Government. What is the comment on that? The first Session lasted an enormous time, and I have sometimes wondered whether the reason why it lasted that enormous time was in order to see if that prophecy could be made good by the end of the Session. The Session started soon after the Election, and carried on practically until August Bank Holiday, 1930. On the day on which this declaration was made: In the first Session we shall deal with unemployment and bring relief and hope to the workers, on that very day the unemployment figures were published, and we found that there were 1,100,125 people unemployed. The relief and hope which was promised ended up with the figure on the 28th July, 1930, when this same Session was coming to an end, of 2,011,467. "Relief and hope" meant an increase of 900,000 in the unemployment figures during that Session. Neither of the two right hon. Gentlemen who are going to speak later can possibly ride that off, because it was a statement made after the composition of this present House was well known. Since the end of the Session which was going to bring this relief and hope, the figures have gone up by another 500,000; and all this Chit-chat stuff which has been introduced by the Lord Privy Seal for our delectation to-day is obviously not going to put anyone into work at all. If he has really 226,000 people at work with his £173,000,000, he has done pretty well, but what is that out of 2,500,000? It is only about one-sixth of the increase, even taking it that every single one of these persons is at work at the present moment, which of course, is not the case, because the programme is spread over years, and complicated calculations about man-years and so on come in. If they were all at work at this moment, it would only mean one-sixth of the number of extra people who have fallen out of work since the Government took office. Really, there cannot be any cause for satisfaction on the part of the Lord Privy Seal or of any member of the Labour party at such a terrible result of their mismanagement of this country's affairs. The real thing that the Lord Privy Seal ought to do would be this: If the unemployment problem is insolvable owing to a world crisis in world capitalism—the world crisis has not been produced here to-day as an excuse. All I would say about the world crisis is that, in "Labour and the Nation," it was perfectly definitely laid down that in the twentieth century the Labour party declines to accept the placid assumption that the recurrence of involuntary idleness is still to be regarded, like tempests and earthquakes, as an act of God. But, in the world, conditions are not much changed. Before the election, no placid assumptions about acts of God: new world conditions is the excuse. However, I submit to the Lord Privy Seal that he might do this: Let me read this quotation: If the unemployment problem is insolvable owing to a world crisis in world capitalism, and nothing very much can he done about it, then we had no right to talk about unemployment as we did at the last election …We believed that if a Labour Government came into office "— it does not say into power— big and drastic schemes for dealing with unemployment would be in operation within 12 months. If we now find that we had not thought out the problem of unemployment in all its ramifications, we ought to be honest enough to say so. That appeared in the same newspaper which the right hon. Gentleman himself used to run, the "Forward," of 31st May last year. His own late Friends and supporters thought that it would be the decent thing to admit that they had not thought out the problem, and to hand it on to someone who had at any rate constructive ideas, like the party to which I belong. That would be a great thing to do, perhaps, in all the circumstances, but it would be an honest course to take, and it would not have led to this perfectly catastrophic figure of 2,500,000 persons out of work which we find to-day.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Bewdley (Mr. S. Baldwin) dealt with the pledges and promises of the Labour party, and the remedial measures proposed by the Lord Privy Seal himself will be further riddled by every subsequent speaker from this side of the House; and I should think the Labour party would agree with us that the time has come to give the Government a kind farewell, because, when all is said and done, Ministers have shown an utter failure to grasp the magnitude of the problem. They have been haphazard, self-complacent, children of the mist, and all those adjectives applied to them by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) before this pitiable exhibition. I suppose he has gone off to think of better ones. I think that even his skill in the English language will be taxed very hard to find anything to deal at all adequately with the Lord Privy Seal's deplorable exhibition. The Government, as a matter of fact, seem to have adopted the position which used to be thought that of an opposition. Mr. Gladstone in 1885 wrote to Lord Rosebery. Some discussion was going on about what ought to be done about Ireland. Mr. Gladstone was in opposition. He said: It was not the province of the person leading a party in opposition to frame and to produce before the public detailed schemes of such a class. That is a lesson that is well worth remembering when parties in opposition are asked to produce detailed schemes about everything. But it is the function of the Government of the day to lead the House and to try to govern the country or to get out, and obviously, by the Lord Privy Seal's own speech, they have no proposals at all that are commensurate—the kind of thing that would be good enough if you had unemployment of 300,000 or 400,000, bit not for 2,500,000. You have to deal with the problem on far wider lines than anything the hon. Gentleman is likely ever to attempt. Therefore, I am satisfied that, when the time comes for Mr. Speaker to put the Question at the end of the Debate, if he could put it, not to the representatives of the people elected to this House but over our heads to the people themselves, the verdict would be that the Government do not only not deserve the confidence of the House, but never have deserved it, and the sooner they are got rid of the better the chance of employment for the teeming millions who, by the very existence of a Socialist Administration, are deprived of any opportunity of getting any work at all.


I am tempted to rise to make my initial observations by the efforts of the supporters of the late Government to cover up their sins of omission. Everyone will realise that the unemployment problem is due to the world depression, but the terrible depression in the coal mining industry is not unconnected with it. In 1926 the coalowners, in an endeavour to rehabilitate capitalism, which had been proved by two commissions to have failed, came to their friends, the Conservative Government, and asked them to do one thing and said that they would do the rest. They asked the Government to restore the eight-hour day, and they could solve the problem. Co-operating with their friends, they came to the con elusion, from their observation of birds, that the hen scratched hardest when worms were scarce, and they said "If we reduce the miners wages to a point and increase their hours to a further point, we can make them scratch harder for their living." By the reintroduction of the eight-hour day one-eighth of the miners were thrown out of work and enormous reductions in wages followed. There is no need to remind hon. Members that the reduction in wages, together with the fact that 250,000 were thrown out of employment, had its reflex in the factories of Lancashire, Yorkshire and other areas. The miners are now scratching so hard that they cannot get sufficient economic worms to give them subsistence. The way to improve conditions is to improve the wages of the miners and give them spending power, which will enable them to set to work again the factories in Lancashire and Yorkshire.

It is exceedingly difficult for a member of the mining fraternity to give expression to his sentiments on the first occasion. During the contest that we had at Pontypridd, the miners demons trated their loyalty to the Government, who have attempted in the difficult situation in which they found themselves to give them some amelioration. I refer particularly to the removal of the objectionable genuinely seeking work Clause, which found such an ironical response from the Opposition. That Clause has given our people security, not because they shirk work, but because they are honestly looking for work. They had to prove that they had been genuinely seeking work, and it was a difficult job to prove it. Now people have shown their appreciation of the action of the Government by returning the representative for Pontypridd by a huge majority. If the Government in 1926 had taken the opportunity that was afforded them by their splendid majority, they would have reorganised the mining industry in such a way that it would now be prosperous. Their sins of omission are now being charged to the present Government. I hope, however, the present Government will endeavour to do something for the miners, who are struggling under conditions that are barbarous. The Mines Inspector, in attempting to explain to his chief inspector in London last year the cause of the increase of mining accidents, said that owing to lack of nutriment the miners in the South Wales area were unable to maintain the alertness necessary to escape injury. If you want to solve the unemployment problem, give the miners more wages, and that will stimulate industry in other parts of the country.

Photo of Sir Austin Hudson Sir Austin Hudson , Hackney North

To me falls the very pleasant duty of congratulating the last speaker on his maiden speech. All who have gone through that ordeal have listened with sympathy and will want, with me, to congratulate the hon. Member on overcoming it in so satisfactory a fashion. As regards the actual substance of the speech, he will not be surprised when I tell him that I do not entirely agree with him. I wondered, while listening to the Lord Privy Seal, what would be the effect on a stranger to the House of hearing the catalogue of the amount of money that has been spent, and his argument in comparing the money spent by ourselves when in office with that spent by the Socialist administration. Having heard that account of the wonderful work done in the last two years, he would surely have turned to his neighbour and said, "With the Government taking all this trouble and spending all this money, surely the unemployment figure must be very low," and his neighbour would have to say, "I am afraid that is not so. The figure is something like 2,500,000." Then this mythical stranger would reply, "Surely in the time of the last Government, which is proved by the speaker to have done absolutely nothing, to have spent no money and to have gone in for no schemes of employment, the unemployment figure must have been terrific," to which his friend would have to reply that he was very sorry again that that was not correct because, when the last Government left office, unemployment was only some 1,100,000 and it had increased rapidly during the succeeding months.

6.0 p.m.

It has occurred to people outside the House, and it must have occurred to nearly every Member of the House, that with the enormous rise in unemployment and the steps that the Government are taking to deal with it, something must be wrong. If I were running a business and, however much money we spent in trying to get more business, it went down and down, I should begin to wonder whether the steps I was taking were right or wrong, and I think the vast majority of the shareholders would come to the conclusion that, if in two years the business had come to a state of complete crisis, the steps I was taking were wrong. I want to try to prove that the whole line that the Government are going on is a wrong one, and that to continue to pour out money and to claim month after month, as they do, that they have spent so much more money is a wrong method, and is merely aggravating the problem. The Lord Privy Seal seemed to be surprised that we accuse the Government of breaking their pledges, and he read out a certain list of minor pledges, 11 of them, of which he said some nine had been carried out, the tenth was being carried out and the eleventh seemed to have got lost in obscurity. At the last General Election the Socialist party in every constituency said that we Conservatives were taking no steps whatever to deal with unemployment, that they had definite plans for dealing with it and they would bring them into immediate effect, and they more or less in words guaranteed the result. They pledged themselves, not in the words of the Liberal party to conquer unemployment, but to deal drastically with it, in a number of flowery sentences which anyone can read in "Labour and the Nation." Therefore, the reason why we on this side bring forward this Vote of Censure is because they promised to deal with unemployment when it was 1,100,000, and now, nearly two years afterwards, when it is 2,500,000, they still have not fulfilled their promise. The people of this country want results. They do not want a long catalogue of the way to spend money. Most of us, if we have money, know how to spend it. The people want to see results, and the Labour Government have failed to bring those results. Therefore, we are censuring them for it.

I expect that other Conservative candidates at the last election had the same difficulty which I had. It is always very attractive to get upon a platform and to give, as the Liberal party gave, and as the Socialist party gave, though not to such an extent, a long catalogue of things upon which money, they said, could be spent, and then give the numbers of unemployed who, through the spending of that money, would be brought into work. I said then, as other Members said, that the mere spending of money would not put people into work, but would cause unemployment. I have said it again and again since then, and I maintain that the fact that the total is now 2,500,000 proves that we on this side are right. Therefore, it makes not the slightest impression upon me when the Lord Privy Seal glories in the fact that the amount of money sanctioned for unemployment schemes is £173,000,000. I say that that £173,000,000 is the reason, to a very great extent, for the present figures of unemployment. I think that he very nearly proved it himself when he tried very briefly to analyse the num- ber of people whom that enormous sum of money has put into work. Allowing for two men, one directly employed and another indirectly employed, the total is 226,500 men. As the hon. and gallant Member for Gainsborough (Captain Crookshank) said, it is an insignificant fraction of the whole if you work out how much more money we should have to spend to get a fraction of the 1,000,000 extra men back into work if they continue, as they seem to want to do, on the same lines. Spending money will not have the slightest effect in solving the problem, but will continue to put people out of work.

The Lord Privy Seal said very little this time, although the question has been dealt with in this House on many occasions, regarding what they call the long-range plan of dealing with unemployment, that of the reorganisation of industry. They stated in their election addresses that they intended to reorganise coal, cotton, iron and steel and a number of other things. The Government have made an attempt to reorganise the coal industry. It is some months now since the Coal Bill was passed. I wish to ask the Government spokesman whether they are satisfied that their method of dealing with the coal industry is a satisfactory one, and whether the figures which they are now getting with regard to employment in the coal industry are proving that the reorganisation which they are carrying out in that industry is on right lines? After all, we can go by examples only. We on this side, as hon. Members know, wish to deal later on with tariffs, and we started in a small way to get some examples and to discover how a tariff system would work. We were satisfied with the experiments which we carried out, and we wish in the future to make experiments on a wider scale. The Government have done very much the same thing with regard to the coal industry. They have passed their Coal Act. It is a Measure which probably interferes more with industry than any previous Measure has ever done, but they in their wisdom have done all this. Now that the Measure has been on the Statute Book for some months, it will be very interesting to know whether it really has brought employment to the industry, because unless it has, it will be utterly futile, as any hon. Member of this House must realise, to carry through this House legislation of the same kind dealing with the cotton and textile industry, and the enormous industry of iron and steel.

The Lord Privy Seal mentioned emigration. That was very interesting to me, because when we were on the opposite side of the House as a Government and said that we were doing our best to stimulate emigration, and believed that it was a good thing for the country, Members who are now on the Government benches said that it was a disgrace to send our people out of the country. If we mentioned the matter, they always said, "Why do you not go yourself?" I am very glad to see that we have some converts to emigration. I realise the difficulties of the Government in that respect; because owing to the world-wide depression it has not been possible for people who would wish to emigrate to do so. To that extent, the unemployment market is increased. Emigration, of itself, can be only a palliative as regards the unemployment figure, and cannot by any means be a solution of the problem.

As to what we have heard from the Lord Privy Seal concerning the future, I cannot believe that a Member of this House can have been satisfied as to the steps that are to be taken by the Government. The first statement was with regard to tourists. As far as I can gather, the only thing they have done was to talk with the Home Secretary, and I rather wonder what he talked to him about. The only thing that I can think of is that it was perhaps in order to try to frame legislation to keep our restaurants and public houses open a little later, unless we are to start casinos in this country. Although that is a most interesting line of inquiry, and may cover the employment of a large number of people, that, in itself, will do nothing to deal with the question of unemployment. He talked of Russian credit. I will not touch upon that subject at any length, but we are still wondering why it is necessary to increase Russian credit at the present moment when there is such an enormous balance in this country still unexpended. Our hearts sank when we heard that statement, as we know to what purpose is put the money which they manage to extract from the unfortunate taxpayers of this country. The extension of Russian credit which was prophesied by the Lord Privy Seal can only have the very slightest effect upon the question of unemployment. Electrification was mentioned, but only in a casual way.

Finally, the only proposition which the Lord Privy Seal made which might actually put people into employment was that some additional canvassing staff were to be employed by the Post Office in order to get more people to use telephones. The impression which was made upon my mind, and, I believe, upon the mind of hon. Members on all sides of the House, was that the Lord Privy Seal was talking for the sake of talking, and that really the Government intended to do nothing as regards unemployment in the future. The truth of the matter is that the country has realised that the Government have failed in their efforts to deal with unemployment. Whatever the Government may do, the fact remains that unemployment, which was 1,100,000 two years ago, is now 2,500,000, and people all over the country are asking what the Government intend to do about it. It is no good the Lord Privy Seal coming here and saying, "Well, I agree that the unemployment figures have gone up, but look what a nice comfortable dole we have given to all of them." I agree that if people are out of work the Government may have done a certain amount of good to them individually through the Unemployment Insurance Act being altered in a certain way, but people want to know when those people are going back to work. The Government promised at the Election, and after the Election, to deal with the problem. They have failed to deal with the problem, and we are therefore censuring them, and hope that we shall have a majority in this House to turn out the Government who have failed to keep their promise, and put in a Government who will keep their promise.

Photo of Mr Fenner Brockway Mr Fenner Brockway , Leyton East

There is on the Order Paper, in the names of a number of Members of this House an Amendment which embodies the arguments which I want to put before the House this afternoon. It represents the point of view of the Independent Labour party. I ought to make it clear at once that those of us who sit on this bench are as profoundly disappointed with the policy of the Government in relation to unemployment as can be any Members who sit upon the benches opposite, and if we vote against the Vote of Censure to-night, it will be because we have no faith that those who are putting forward the Vote of Censure would deal any more adequately with the problem of unemployment. Indeed, our conviction is, that of all three parties In this House, the party which have put down this Motion are more the political enemies of the unemployed than any other section.

During the period of our own Labour Government, the party opposite have only made two proposals for dealing with unemployment. One proposal has been a demand that the already wretched conditions of the unemployed should still further be worsened. When on the back benches a fight was put up in this House to abolish the not-genuinely-seeking work provision, it was opposed strenuously from the benches opposite. It is the common custom for Members opposite to sneer at the dole which the unemployed are receiving. It has been suggested by Members opposite that if the unemployed are not prepared to join the Army, unemployment allowances should be denied them, and they have more recently been urging a revision of the whole system of unemployment insurance so as to divide the unemployed of more than one year from the rest of the unemployed workers, and drive them into a condition of despair where any possibility of returning work and returning moral is practically impossible. Because that has been the attitude of the Conservative party who have put down this Motion, we are not going to fall into their trap and support them in the Motion which they have brought before the House.

The further proposal which the Conservative party have put before the House for dealing with unemployment has been Safeguarding, which has not been prominent in the Conservative speeches this afternoon. Perhaps that policy, after the decision of the Liberal party is more generally known, may be referred to more in later speeches. Not only is Free Trade utterly inadequate to deal with our present situation of international trade, but the whole method of tariffs and Safeguarding are equally inadequate. They cannot deal with dumping. They cannot deal with the variety of prices in the world market. If it is suggested that the methods of tariffs and Safeguarding of production are going to remedy the position of our unemployed, I suggest that they will have to deal with the problem of imports in a much more scientific way. Meanwhile, with regard to Safeguarding and Protection, I would say that instead of dealing with the problem in our country and reorganising our industry, it merely seeks to insulate that industry, and, instead of reorganisation, it places a premium upon incompetence. The ultimate effect of Safeguarding and Protection must be the worsening of the conditions of the working classes, because it means dearer prices, which have the same effect as lower wages. The position in America and Germany is a sufficient indication that the policy of hon. Members opposite is not going to be a hopeful policy for dealing with unemployment.

When I have said these things in the most definite terms, I want to repeat the disappointment which, unfortunately, has been expressed from these benches frequently when a Minister has spoken on the subject of unemployment. The Lord Privy Seal stated to-day that the aggravated situation of unemployment to-day is due to the greater productivity in industry resulting from rationalisation. That point of view is almost the accepted point of view of the various parties in the House. I remember the right hon. Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) stating that the real problem was one of relating production to consumption, and I remember the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) saying that the markets were glutted with almost all the necessary goods. If the problem is one of glutted markets and such great production, why cannot we begin to deal with that problem by concentrating upon increasing the purchasing power of the masses of our people? The Lord Privy Seal suggested that if our party only had a majority they would be able to proceed more vigorously with our own social policy. I wish I could accept that explanation. When the Chancellor of the Exchequer spoke the other day, he said that social improvements must be postponed until there is a trade recovery.

That statement would apply if we had a majority in this House just as it applies when there is only a minority. The difficulty is not one of a minority or a majority on these benches, but it is one of the attitude of mind of the Front Bench.

If it be true that we cannot have further social improvements until the trade recovery occurs, and that that is the conviction of the Government, it means that there can be no raising of the standard of the life of the workers. It means there can he no increase in the purchasing power of the masses of the people, and that there can be no real contribution towards the solution of this problem of greater productivity resulting from rationalised industry. Because of that, we have come to lose faith, and as long as the attitude of mind of our Front Bench remains as it is, there will be no hope of Socialist solutions being introduced so far as the problem of unemployment is concerned. There is one particular point to which I would like to draw attention, and that is the Commission now sitting regarding the treatment of the unemployed under the Unemployment Insurance Act. We regarded the appointment of that Commission as dangerous, and we regarded the terms of reference of that Commission as still more dangerous, and I beg the Government, whatever the recommendations of that Commission may be, to close their ears to any suggestion, as the result of those recommendations, that the condition of the unemployed should be made worse, or that there should be any division of the unemployed workers into two categories.

Having made these statements of criticism both of Conservative policy and of Government policy, I want to turn to another aspect of the question, because I believe it to be the serious duty of all of us to make suggestions which we believe would be some contribution towards dealing with the unemployment situation. During the winter months a number of us have been going from one part of the country to another, and we have been alarmed by the conditions of the masses of the working classes, and by the conditions of industry. We go to the north-east coast and we see that works after works in the steel industry are closed down. We go to the shipbuild- ing yards of Glasgow and we see grave unemployment there. We go to the textile towns of Lancashire and in some of the towns we see 60 to 70 per cent. of the workers unemployed. We go to the mines of South Wales and in some of the valleys we see nearly half the miners unemployed. We return here on the Monday and we feel that the Debates in this House, the little proposals and the little minds which are being revealed in this House for dealing with the problem of unemployment, have no relation at all to the gravity of the situation in the country.

The Government's policy so far has been in two directions. One direction has been the recovery of our export trade. That policy has demonstrably failed. Our exports in January, 1929, were over £66,000,000, and in January of this year they were only £37,000,000. We believe that any attempt to recover export markets means a policy of cut-throat competition, with the capitalist philosophy, which has nothing in keeping with our Socialist conception. We believe that it is bound to lead to a policy of wage reduction and a policy of a reduction of social services in the competition of one nation with another. The second line of Government policy has been public works. Giving a generous estimate, after all the expenditure there has been on public works, there are not more than 200,000 men directly and indirectly employed as a result of that policy, whereas the number of the unemployed is over 2,500,000. When we listened to the speech from the Front Bench to-day we found that the only additions to those two policies which I have described are little reforms such as considering rural housing, examining the conversion of coal, hoping for an arrangement on Russian trade, considering the Forth-Tay Road, examining a report on railway electrification, putting up posters to advertise telephones, and seeking to extend the facilities for tourists. When we hear a speech of that kind we are in utter despair at the capacity of the Government to deal with the problem before them. When the gravity of the situation is realised, that kind of proposal, which may be adequate in normal times, is completely and utterly inadequate in the present situation.

The tragedy of this House is that in this grave industrial situation of unem- ployment neither the present Government nor any party in the House is showing that it has the capacity to grip the economic situation. It is going from worse to worse. We are the slaves of the economic situation, and not its masters. The Government are only able to say: "We will fold our arms and wait for trade recovery, and we will do this pitiable little thing or that pitiable little thing." In a situation like that, we want a Government who are prepared to be big and bold, to grasp the economic situation, to be the master of the economic situation; a Government which is going to plan, to build and construct. Until we have a Government with that state of mind, whether it be of our party or of any other party, the present unemployment situation is bound to go from worse to worse. Hon. Members and right hon. Members opposite sneer at Russia but, sooner or later, we shall have to face the fact that the five-year plan which Russia is now putting through, a quite deliberate plan to raise the standard of her people by 100 per cent., a quite deliberate plan to reorganise and modernise her industry on the basis of Socialist principles, will become a competitive factor in the world, the importance of which is already beginning to be understood.

If we are going to deal with our unemployment situation, with our industrial collapse, we must begin to plan in an equally big way, and I suggest that there are three main directions in which that should take place. In the first place, we should deliberately aim at increasing the purchasing power of our own people who consume the goods by determining to abolish the disgrace of destitution and poverty in our country. I do not say that as a platform phrase, but as a practical possibility. If this House of Commons had the will, it could remove the disgrace of destitution from our country within a year. It could deal honourably with the aged, the widow, the unemployed, the sick and the disabled, those who lose their breadwinners, and enable them to keep their heads above the poverty line. This House, if it had the will and the real determination, could raise the standards of those who are in employment to a living wage basis.

We are told that in our country industry cannot afford a living wage for the workers. What greater condemnation could there be of the present system of industry? If it is said that it cannot afford a, living wage for the workers, what right has it to afford luxury incomes for those who are not workers? A deliberate effort, planned and schemed to lift the destitute out of destitution, the poverty-stricken out of poverty and establish a minimum national standard of life, would in two or three years increase the purchasing power of the masses of the people and enable them to purchase those things to which the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs referred in a previous Debate. If we are to deal with this situation adequately, we must have a planned national reorganisation of finance and industry. I cannot discuss that in any detail, but, whether it be the relation of the banks to the industrial situation, or the importance of the problem of coal and the possibilities of oil production, linking it up with electrical generation, whether it be great national enterprises organised on scientific lines, transport, the use of the land, cotton and steel; how can they all be dealt with unless that kind of approach is taken? The second part of any scheme dealing with unemployment must be a definite reorganisation under national control with an extension of national ownership to those key sources of economic power within our faded capitalist system to-day.

The third proposal is a realisation that if that reorganisation is to take place the old policy of Free Trade is absolutely inadequate. If you are to protect the standards of our working-classes you must control imports and exports, and the real method of doing that is not by unscientific tariffs, which have no relation to dumping and prices, but by import and export boards which are proposed in the Socialist official programme. Our Government are in a minority, but we put this position to them. If they continue the present policy, if they hope for some trade recovery, if they do these little things, then at the end of their period of office—they will get a majority tonight—nothing but defeat will face them. This is not merely a period of difficulty it is a period of a great opportunity for those who believe in Socialism. Capitalism has failed to provide the needs of the working-classes, and, instead of quailing before that situation, it is an occasion for courage and boldness and for showing that you have the will to do things. It is an occasion to build and construct. If that were the policy of the Government they could not merely snap their fingers at the Conservative party, but they could snap their fingers at the Liberal party as well.

Photo of Mr Ernest Brown Mr Ernest Brown , Leith

And at the Independent Labour party.

Photo of Mr Fenner Brockway Mr Fenner Brockway , Leyton East

If the Government would adopt that kind of policy they would find no more enthusiastic section in this House than the Independent Labour party. If they would pursue that kind of policy, risk defeat and opposition, and go to the country, one could anticipate the response from our movement and our workers.

Photo of Mr John Mills Mr John Mills , Dartford

We have had four and a half years of that.

Photo of Mr Fenner Brockway Mr Fenner Brockway , Leyton East

I want to put a series of deliberate questions to the Government, of which I have given the Lord Privy Seal notice. These questions summarise the policy which we put forward. Are the Government prepared to lessen unemployment by increasing the demand for labour in the production of the essentials of life by extending and increasing old age pensions, unemployment allowances, and widows' pensions? Are the Government prepared to lessen unemployment through increasing the mass purchasing power by establishing a minimum living wage for the working-classes? Are the Government prepared to do this immediately in the most hardly hit industries, such as mining? Are they prepared, in view of the increased productivity of rationalised industry, to establish a shorter working week and withdraw boys and girls from the labour market by raising the school leaving age? Are they prepared to take a grip of the economic situation by a planned reorganisation of finance, industry, transport and agriculture, under national ownership and control? Are they prepared to assume national control of imports and exports by the establishment of import and export hoards so as to facilitate this reorganisation and to protect working class conditions? Are they prepared to proceed with a national housing scheme planned by a national housing commission? Is the proposed extension of credits to Russia to be on the same basis that Germany and Italy provide such credits, particularly in the case of shipbuilding and engineering? To-night we shall vote against the Vote of Censure on the Government for the reasons which I have explained, but, if the Government are to secure our support, their unemployment policy must be based upon our own Socialist principles and our own Socialist policy. If that policy is pursued, I can promise the Government that they will have the enthusiastic support of all sections of the back benchers?


The hon. Member for East Leyton (Mr. Brockway) has delivered a very forcible speech, as he always does. I came in when he was denouncing the Lord Privy Seal for his programme, and I awaited with a good deal of interest the remedy of the hon. Member. As far as I can understand it, his remedy is that we should convert this country into something like Russia, and he promises that, if the Government do this boldly and courageously, they will have the support of himself and his friends. I am afraid that that is not going to be of much use to-night, because the Prime Minister has no intention of doing that. He also says that the Government should adopt the heroic line. There is some vital weakness in recommending Russian methods in this country. We are a people who have been trained in liberty, and, while I look with extreme interest on the experiment in Russia, there is no other country where you could do it. All experiments in Russia have been extremely rough, not only those by the Bolsheviks but by Peter the Great, and all the Russian reformers. You cannot do these things in this country. You have to persuade the majority, that is unless you scrap Parliamentary methods and govern the country, as in Russia, by a small minority. [An HON. MEMBER: "What about war time?"] If you attempted to apply war methods in peace times, the working population of this country would not stand it. They stood it then for reasons which they considered adequate. I agree that the experiment in Russia, which could only be tried in Russia, is going to have a tremendous effect upon the social and economic structure of the world. Whether it fails or succeeds it is going to make a big impression on this generation, certainly on the next.

Photo of Mr Fenner Brockway Mr Fenner Brockway , Leyton East

I am perfectly sure that the right hon. Gentleman will allow me to make this clear, that in nothing that I have said have I urged that Russian methods should be adopted in this country. All I urged was that we must plan industrial reorganisation in this country in a similar way, in the spirit and temper that Russia is doing.


It is the spirit and temper that I do not like. I have only risen to explain the position of hon. Members who are acting with me. [An HON. MEMBER: "Very few!"] Never mind, they will be quite enough; and that is all that matters to right hon. Gentlemen above the Gangway. The position of a small group like that which I represent on a Motion of want of confidence in a Government is naturally different to that of the Government or of the party which has a reasonable expectation of being the alternative Government. The Government of the day have to defend their record, they have to fight for their existence, and quite right. Hon. and right hon. Members above the Gangway seem to think that it is a most monstrous thing. It is one of the instincts of human nature. On the other hand, the right, bon. Member for Bewdley (Mr. S. Baldwin) and his friends are fighting to transfer their activities to the front Government Bench. We on these benches are not interested in the least in. that conflict. We are in the position which I saw in this Rouse when I came here first in the 1886 Parliament, when a minority Government was in power; a very able Government. It was kept in office by a group which was not very much larger than ours in this House, and a group which, as far as the proportion of votes in the country was concerned, did not represent as much. That did not matter. What did matter was that the life of the Government depended upon it. It was led by a great Parliamentarian, Mr. Joseph Chamberlain. It was a really independent group, so independent that in order to show how independent it was it divided itself into three on most Divisions. But it kept the Government in for six years all the same. There were numbers who supported the Government in the Lobby. One saw them walking into the "Aye" Lobby led by Mr. Joseph Chamberlain. There were others who voted with us. I had the pleasure of meeting them in the other Lobby. There were a few more who abstained. The year that I came in one of the Whips of the party organised a campaign against the Government of the day on its Budget, and the first public meeting that I addressed in England was a meeting addressed by one of the most powerful Whips of the Liberal Unionist party, Mr. W. S. Caine, and myself, in the Free Trade Hall in Manchester.

There is nothing new under the sun. There were then the same taunts about "divisions in the miserable little group," and taunting of the Government that they were "being dragged behind the chariot of Mr. Joseph Chamberlain." I did it myself. If one wanted to attack Mr. Chamberlain, one said, "Ah, this Radical is in the Conservative cart." The same old taunts; and there is nothing less appetising than a stale gibe. Right hon. and hon. Gentlemen on the Opposition benches to-day are simply using the old taunts that we heard hurled against the distinguished father of the right hon. Member for Edgbaston (Mr. Chamberlain) and his followers 40 years ago; and 40 years hence men will be saying exactly the same thing with the air of saying something most original. That was the position. Why was it done? I have never seen it done with anything like the skill shown by Mr. Joseph Chamberlain. I wish I had one-fiftieth part of his Parliamentary skill. [An HON. MEMBER: "You are pretty good!"] When he got up to criticise the Government from this corner he had always to weigh the difficulties of the Government against the dangers of the alternative. Only a year before he had been denouncing them with a wealth of invective that I wish I could emulate. And they had been denouncing him as "robber," "thief" and "Jack Cade." But he said," If I turn them out there is Home Rule, and Home Rule I would regard as a catastrophe." He had to bear that in mind.

All that I want to do in this preliminary is to point out that the present is not a new situation; it is a situation in which every group in a minority Parliament is bound to find itself, and it has to weigh and balance. It happened then. On the whole, that was not a bad Parliament. The Government car- ried a great many useful Measures—free education, the setting up of county councils, the reform of local government. They began the smallholdings policy. On the whole, it was a great Parliament. Let me say one word with reference to the Prime Minister. The reason why that Government was a success was that it was a very strong Ministry. It included Lord Salisbury, Mr. Balfour, Sir Michael Hicks-Beach, Lord Lansdowne, the Duke of Devonshire, and Mr. Goschen. They were very able men, and they saw the wisdom of a give-and-take policy. There were strong enough men on both sides not to care for the taunts of opponents who simply wanted to break up the co-operation in order to get into office themselves. That is why it worked well. It was a successful Parliament on the whole. That is a preliminary which has its relevance to the present situation.

Now I come to the Motion which has been moved by the Leader of the Opposition to-day. I was helped very much in coming to a conclusion upon it by a leading article in the "Times" to-day: It is clear from the wording of the Motion that its ostensible purpose is tactical. I wonder what the right hon. Member for Spen Valley (Sir J. Simon) will say about it. His denunciation of me was because I actually condescended to tactics. Here is his new leader. Here is another sentence: In choosing the Government's unemployment policy as the ground of this perfectly legitimate manoeuvre… It is a manoeuvre. The article also says that all those who vote against it among the Liberals are men devoid of courage and vision. And those who vote for it are honourable. My test of a vote of this kind, and I think it is a fair Parliamentary test, is this: Whether I would be justified in taking the responsibility, upon the facts as they are, of moving that Motion myself. If not, I have no right to support the Leader of the Opposition. If I were convinced that I would be justified in that responsibility, I should vote for the Motion without regard to the fact that it was moved by the Leader of the Opposition. I say at once that I do not feel that I would be justified, under present conditions, in supporting the Motion, and I will give the reason. I am not going to pretend that I am satisfied with the rate of progress of the Government in dealing with the problem of unemployment. It would be idle to say so. I listened to that long schedule of 1,000 here and 1,000 there and 5,000 somewhere else, which all ran up to about 220,000. That is one-twelfth of the unemployed. If anyone had said, before the last General Election, that that was all the Labour Government could do, there would have been considerable disappointment.

My ground will not be that I am fully satisfied with the rate of progress. But in February we moved a Resolution from these benches calling upon the Government to take action on certain lines, and to review the situation afresh. We indicated the lines, and not merely was that Resolution accepted by the Government; it was accepted by the whole House. The responsibility is not ours. It is not the responsibility of the Government. Those who acquiesced in that Resolution are just as responsible for it as we are. The question I have to ask now is: Am I justified in saying that that Resolution, carried in February, has been disregarded by the Government to such an extent that I would move a Vote of Censure upon them for their delinquencies If I were to do so, it would be grossly unfair. Look at the facts. As soon as the Resolution was carried, I was put in touch with the late Lord Privy Seal, who arranged a series of meetings for the consideration of three or four huge problems, such as housing, telephones, land, and one or two other things. I know that the late Mr. Vernon Hartshorn applied himself to the problem with great assiduity. No one could have worked harder. He broke down. I am talking now, not of his death, but of the fact that he had influenza, which took him away for some time, and the fact that we were not able to continue the negotiations. Then came his death. The Prime Minister had then the responsibility of finding a successor.

7.0 p.m.

Is there anyone who has been in the position of Prime Minister—there are two present besides the present Prime Minister—who can say that the right hon. Gentleman took too long in choosing the man for a very onerous, delicate and difficult position? The Prime Minister was bound to look around very carefully and to consider the whole thing. I for- get whether he took nine or 10 days or a fortnight at the outside, but I do not think there was any indication of any dilatory action on his part. The question I have to put is this: In so far as I have heard the new Lord Privy Seal's speech to-night, I think the Prime Minister's choice has been justified. Can any reasonable man say that within the time the new Lord Privy Seal has had he could have done more? I say quite frankly that I do not think he could. I have had one or two interviews with him, and so has the right hon. Member for Penryn and Falmouth (Sir T. Walters), who has had such a, wonderful experience in building. There is no man in this House who has had more experience, in the building of workmen's cottages especially. I do not see how the Lord Privy Seal or anyone else could, within the time at his disposal, have carried the matter further than he has done up to the moment. I have one or two things I should like to say to the Government upon this question. The speech to-night was a speech which showed, at any rate to any unbiased person, that the Lord Privy Seal has got a very firm grip of the position. It is too early yet to say whether he will be able to tackle it. It will depend entirely upon the backing he gets from his colleagues and, if I may say so, notably from his chief. Here, again, speaking as an old Prime Minister, I say that no man in a Government can really put a big job through unless he has the Prime Minister not merely wholeheartedly at his back, but constantly helping him over his difficulties. Therefore, I am making an appeal to the Prime Minister. It may be something that is beyond my function, but so much will depend upon that. I am speaking here from experience. It is a gigantic task. The Lord Privy Seal seems to have a good vision of it, and should be thoroughly backed up. He is the one man I have come across who is not afraid of his departmental officials. That is probably because he has not got any. He is, therefore, in a position to discuss the thing from a more detached point of view and to give due value to the advice which he gets from experts, who are not official experts, but who have a practical acquaintance with these problems, especially problems like housing.

I was very glad to hear what he said about housing, and about the proposal which was made during the Debate in February that you should build 100,000 workmen's cottages in the rural areas, and that the Government should take the responsibility of the burden. Those who know the rural areas will know that it is no use depending upon the county councils. In the first place, a good many of them are, I will not say reactionary, but slow in the uptake. There is another reason. They have not got the resources. I asked the clerk of a very progressive county council the other day, "Supposing you did not get the Government to take the thing in hand, how many houses could you build under existing legislation"? He said: "Not one-third of what is required." They will not. Therefore it is no use doing this unless the Government themselves undertake the task. May I point out to the Prime Minister—I am not sure that I have not urged this upon the Lord Privy Seal, but I should like to point it out—why the Government are in a specially advantageous position. The building of 100,000 houses means the employment of one-and-a-half man per house. That is the usual allowance. It means the employment of 150,000 men. The usual calculation is that for every man you employ on the job, there is another man on transport of bricks and so forth. I think that is too high for housing. Therefore if you have 150,000 men employed on building, I do not think you can reckon on more than 100,000 men for the incidentals. That would be 250,000 men. At the present moment it is the Exchequer that bears the burden of maintenance of these people. You have gone beyond the limits of insurance, and beyond those limits everything comes out of the Exchequer by borrowing. That means £15,000,000 in the course of a year, or an average of £60, when you take into account the 3d. or 4d. which is contributed by those who are in work. A county council have not got that to draw upon. They have not that contribution at their disposal. I very strongly urge upon the Government that they should take that action. I also asked a question of the Lord Privy Seal with regard to town planning.

I would remind the Lord Privy Seal, without reference in the least to any of his colleagues, because he is new to the job, that it is not a question of the Liberals or the Conservatives submitting proposals and their being examined microscopically by officials, who think that if the schemes can be justified it is rather a reflection upon them that they have not thought them out before. It is no use having that attitude of mind, and afterwards running to the Prime Minister and saying, shortly, "Such and such a Liberal scheme was absolutely torn to shreds to-day. "That is no use. It is the business of the Government to propound schemes. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bewdley (Mr. S. Baldwin) missed the best quotation of the lot. If it had not happened that I was going to use it myself, I would have passed it to him. He must talk to his Central Office. They did not do him well to-day. The real document is, "Labour and the Nation. Just listen to this. I do not quote it merely in order to attack: The Labour party will not be satisfied, as Capitalist Governments "— his and mine, have hitherto been satisfied, merely with tinkering with unemployment when unemployment occurs. It declines to accept their placid assumption "— "their" being the right hon. Gentleman and myself— that, in the twentieth century, the recurrence of involuntary idleness is still to be regarded, like tempests and earthquakes, as an act of God. It conceives it to be a primary duty to develop opportunities for employment, and it regards "— and now listen to this bit— it regards the necessity for providing maintenance for workless labour as a measure of the failure to cope with the major problem. Every dole that is paid is a proof of the failure of somebody to provide work. That is really very good material. May I just go on: There is no lack of sound schemes the urgent need for which is generally admitted. Then comes a schedule of schemes, and here I am coming to what I want to call to the attention of the Prime Minister: In the clearance of slums, and the erection of new houses, and in the building of new 'satellite towns' with their own public buildings, schools, theatres and business premises. I urge the Government to take definite action with regard to that programme, whether the officials of the Ministry of Health will allow them to do it or not. Then there is a vast programme which lies ahead of us in the building of new roads. That is all right. The other thing is: A recognition of the fact that the main roads are national rather than local in character. I am very glad of the courtesy with which the Lord Privy Seal has examined every proposal, and not merely the courtesy, but the open-mindedness, and I hope he will get his colleagues to put forward proposals on their own as well. We are prepared to support any scheme of that kind which will lead to "national reconditioning," to use the phrase of the Prime Minister before the last election, and reconstruction. There is a vast amount of work to be done. A good deal of it was detailed by the Lord Privy Seal, but by no means all.

We come back to the Motion. I tell the Leader of the Opposition that I cannot support it. It appears to me that it is an unfair and an unjust Motion. When you have a Motion of this kind, as I pointed out when pleading the precedent of a very distinguished Unionist statesman, you must consider the consequences. Did the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bewdley, when he was denouncing the Government because they were not carrying remedial measures, say what his were? What are they? I listened with very great care, right to the end of his proposals. If the Prime Minister were defeated to-night, the right hon. Gentleman would come in with his colleagues, because he moves the Vote of Censure, and whoever moves the Vote of Censure would naturally be sent for, by the working of the Constitution.

The strength of the Prime Minister is not so much in his own Front Bench, but in this one. When I feel disposed to vote against him, I just look round and see who will follow. This Motion cannot be carried to-night unless a sufficient number of my friends behind me and myself vote for it. We would like to know: Supposing it is carried, what are your remedial measures? Is food to be taxed? [interruption.] I have been reading some very interesting correspondence, and that is one of the remedial measures.

But there are three or four—quota, prohibition and taxation of food. All, or none of them. What I want to know is, taking this row of right hon. Gentlemen there: Who are the "all" men? How many are "any" men? How many "no" men? I thought there was complete agreement the other day. Differences had been patched up and there was common agreement on the remedial measures. But it is not the first time that there has been a patch and afterwards a rent, and afterwards a patch on that again. This last time we thought it was the last patch, but we looked again, and we were not quite sure. It was not the same pattern of cloth as the rest of the garment, and we were not quite sure which pattern was outside. I thought the whole thing had been decently stitched together, but what has happened to-day? The pins and stitches are out already. The fact of the matter is that the whole thing is so rotten that it will not hold together. And here is the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition going on a campaign to recommend this. I am afraid that the garment in which he starts on his journey will be in shreds and patches—it will be no more than a tramp's breeches. We would like to know. Here the Leader of the Opposition has made a speech to-day, and, if this Motion were carried, he would have the responsibility of forming a Government and the responsibility of putting to the country his remedial measures. He has never condescended to take this House into his confidence at all. Why? Is it that he does not know his policy, or that he is ashamed of it, or is it that there is going to be one policy for the agricultural areas, but when you go up to Bradford "no taxes on food"?


Or Sunderland!


What is it? Is it fair to the constituencies, is it fair to the country that you should not tell them what it is that you do propose? The right hon. Gentleman has always been supposed to be more honest than the average politician. Is it perfectly straight that he should not tell us, when he is asking us to turn out a Government which at any rate has given us to-day a very full statement—[Interruption.] Well, you may say that it is inadequate, but at any rate it is ten times as big as anything which the Conservative party did when, instead of developing the roads for motor traffic, the Road Fund was raided to make up for the deficiencies of thoroughly bad finance. [HON. MEMBERS: "One million unemployed."] Anybody knows the figure of unemployment, and any honourable man would admit that the increase in the unemployed is certainly—[An HON. MEMBER: "Due to dumping."] Is there dumping in the United States of America? Is there dumping in Germany That kind of stuff may do all right for the constituents of the hon. Member, but it will not do when he has to face the House of Commons. That is why we have had a Debate here upon alternatives, and no one here on the Opposition side of the House has attempted to put forward the alternative which they will go to the country, when there is no one to answer them, to advocate. We are entitled to know it. For these reasons, I do not think that it is fair to the Lord Privy Seal that you should censure him when everybody knows that he, at any rate, has done his very best within the short time at his disposal. I do not think it is fair after the Motion of February to censure the Government, without giving them a fair opportunity, and, above all, I do not think it is fair to the country that we should precipitate the issue without knowing definitely, clearly and unreservedly from the Leader of the Opposition what he proposes to do.

Photo of Sir Robert Horne Sir Robert Horne , Glasgow Hillhead

As I listened to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George), bubbling with that humour which he alone in this House can achieve, my mind reverted to a paragraph in an Irish newspaper which described a person apparently of somewhat similar temperament, and, after a disquisition upon his merits, added that "he was the life and soul of his father's funeral." I venture to think the analogy not inapt, because it is the obsequies of the Liberal party which we are attending to-night. After all, a party can only live upon principle, and, in the course of this Session, the Liberal party has deserted every principle it has ever professed. Sometimes, as in the case of the Coal Bill, its opinions changed iii a night from opposition to support although the policy of Protection which the right hon. Gentleman has so eloquently denounced this evening was as they themselves said, written larger on that Bill than on any other Bill ever presented to Parliament. Time after time we have had similar exhibitions of, shall I say, suppleness, in dealing with the situation in Parliament. The right hon. Gentleman referred to certain great people of the past. The action which they took was upon grounds of policy, but what is the policy which induces the Liberal party to go into the Lobby with the Government or to abstain from voting upon so many matters on which they entirely disagree with the Government? [An HON. MEMBER: "Common sense!"] No, unfortunately, it is not so high a motive. It is because of a determination at every coat to avoid facing the country. I read a speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Darwen (Sir H. Samuel) the other day. Addressing a large Liberal audience, he excused the Liberal party's support of the Government in Parliament on the ground that if they did not do it there would be a Conservative Government in power. But a Conservative Government could only come into power if the people voted for it.

Photo of Mr Herbert Samuel Mr Herbert Samuel , Darwen

What I said was that we should have a Conservative Government in power, in all probability elected by a minority of the electorate.

Photo of Sir Robert Horne Sir Robert Horne , Glasgow Hillhead

I can give the right hon. Gentleman the passage: Probably by this date there would have been a General Election and at this moment we should have been living under the auspices of a Conservative Government as like as possible to the Baldwin Government of 1928. I find nothing in that passage about a minority vote.

Photo of Mr Herbert Samuel Mr Herbert Samuel , Darwen

That Government was elected on a minority vote. [Interruption.]

Photo of Lieut-General Edward Fitzroy Lieut-General Edward Fitzroy , Daventry

I must ask hon. Members to refrain from interruptions. We must conduct this Debate in an orderly manner.

Photo of Sir Robert Horne Sir Robert Horne , Glasgow Hillhead

In any case, I would remind the right hon. Gentleman that the Conservative party is not repre- sented in this House to-day according to the votes which it received in the country. Although we are in a minority of 30 to the Socialist party, we polled a vast number of votes more than they did in the Election. Is the Liberal party by the action which it now takes in Parliament, not only to bully the Government, as it has done so frequently already, but to hold up the country and prevent an election taking place which would put in power those in whom the people have confidence?

I am content to leave the Liberal party to go to their disaster in their own way, and I turn to the speech of my right hon. Friend the Lord Privy Seal. I should like to compliment him upon the way in which he has faced a very difficult task. He has certainly put the best shape upon it which was possible, but even with all his ability, which we greatly admire, he has been unable to present a situation which is agreeable or even tolerable. He reminded us that a great economist long ago attributed unemployment to sunspots, but even he could not conceal that all the remedies of the present Government for unemployment are moonshine. He made the usual complaint that the Government are in a minority, but, as the Leader of the Opposition has shown conclusively, there is not a single proposal made by the Government which the House has not been ready to adopt. They have indeed had far more power than they would have had if they had been a majority, because they have had an amount of acquiescence from the Opposition which they would not have had if they had been in that fortunate position.

What does it all come to? The right hon. Gentleman explained that they have completely fulfilled their pledges. He said that out of 11 points which they put forward in "Labour and the Nation" nine had been put into operation. But what is the result? When they have put all these nine remedies into operation how much unemployment has been affected? They have only succeeded in providing direct work for 100,000 men and indirect work for as many again, and this is the result of Labour policy as embodied in the pamphlet which the right hon. Gentleman put before the House. It has involved a vast expenditure of money. I think that the figure which he gave of grants made by this Government came to something like £153,000,000, but the results of their policy have surely proved a good illustration of what a predecessor in office of the right hon. Gentleman said to the effect that any man who thought he could cure unemployment by the expenditure of money was living in a fool's paradise. When I first studied the problem of unemployment when I was Minister of Labour in 1919 I also was imbued with the idea that it might be possible to provide work for people and, instead of giving money for no results, to obtain some concrete return for the money spent by the State. One always hoped that something of that kind might be done. Experience is constantly showing us how futile that belief is. I am not sure if many Members have read a very careful and impartially written work by a Mr. Davison who, after examining all the periods of unemployment in the history of this country and the remedies that have been taken, comes to the unhappy conclusion that it is difficult, if not impracticable, for the State to raise the level of employment by anything that they can do. He said: it is difficult, if not impracticable, for the State to raise the level of employment or stem abnormal unemployment by inventing or expediting public works for the needy unemployed. Through the whole of our history he refers to only one example where the expenditure by the State has proved in the end to be fruitful in curing unemployment. One can see reasons for that if one analyses it. It is obvious that in most cases you are putting people to work to which they are not accustomed, and in every case that must be uneconomical. What do you do when you expedite work? I know many schemes which are being put into force—I am in touch with some of them—for expediting work, and people are. being, I will not say bribed to do that work, but are getting interest paid by the State in advance on their money. What will be the result? It only means that in three or four years' time that work which would be done then, but which is being done now, will not be available, and we are now paying a large sum of money in order to rob the future of the employment which ordinarily would come to it. I am not putting this forward as a dialectical argument. I have come to this conclusion with great reluctance, but in the face of the results, this job is not to be tackled after that fashion. If you look back to the schemes which we put into force between 1920 and 1927, you will find that we spent £105,000,000 on just the kind of schemes to which the right hon. Gentleman has been referring, but the result was that we provided 4,000,000 man-months of work at a cost in the case of each individual, on the average, of £324 for the year. I am sure that the House will not regard that as a very fortunate result of our efforts, but in every case you will find that these attempts by the State to do work which in the ordinary way would be done by the community at the appropriate time, end in utter disillusionment and great disappointment.

One would like to believe that there are lines in which good work of this kind might be done by the State, and one of the regions to which one looks is housing. Here a great effort was being made by the State to provide one of the things which the community needed and which could not be provided quickly enough by ordinary private enterprise after the dislocation that took place in the War. Much has been done no doubt, but what has been the performance of the present Government in respect of housing? The House was given the figures two nights ago, and what was exhibited was a complete failure to keep up the rate of house building which had been going on in previous years, and we know that the effect of what the Government have done has been to create a larger number of unemployed people in the building trade than there has been for several years. In fact, the efforts of the Government in this direction have proved to be a costly failure, and on those grounds alone it would be appropriate to pass the Vote of Censure which has been moved by my right hon. Friend.

We have heard this afternoon of a variety of suggestions which have been made—new suggestions in addition to those things upon which the Government have previously been spending money. My right hon. Friend the Lord Privy Seal added brightness to his argument by speaking of the result of a visit of a very highly placed commercial ambassador to the exhibition at Buenos Ayres, but I hope that he does not think the Government are entitled to take credit for that. We heard from him also of his communications with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Falmouth (Sir T. Walters). I wish him every success in carrying out schemes which the right hon. Gentleman has suggested, but I hope that more practical work will be done in connection with them than the Government have done in connection with their own housing schemes in the last two years.

Then he put forward a particular proposition which he said he was describing in carefully chosen words. It made one wonder who chose the particular words. It was in connection with the better uses of coal and the development of fuel research to enable us to make the best possible use of the great coal measures which exist in this country. I am very glad to know that my right hon. Friend has turned his attention to that particular form of activity. If he can solve that problem, he will achieve one of the greatest benefits to this country that could possibly be achieved. It is a matter on which people have been working in this country for a good many years, and a certain tribute ought to be paid to those private individuals who have spent vast sumps of money without return in developing research in this direction. There are in this country many installations and establishments which have been working hard at this problem, and people have been putting up money year after year without any fruitful effect, but I believe that we are on the edge of finding better returns from these plants. Everyone knows that up to now it has been impossible upon a commercial scale to make a sufficient success of these plants by using devices which seem to give much promise in laboratory experiments. But hope springs eternal, and science is always advancing and, in spite of all the difficulties, I believe that before many months are over, we may get results which will encourage the efforts of the people who have been working on this problem for a considerable time.

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

There are commercial plants already operating.

Photo of Sir Robert Horne Sir Robert Horne , Glasgow Hillhead

I do not wish to say anything which will disparage any plants that are in existence, but I do not think that it can be said that up till now any plant has worked on a commercial scale at a profit sufficient to attract expenditure of new capital.

Photo of Sir Robert Horne Sir Robert Horne , Glasgow Hillhead

I think not. I think that the hon. and gallant Gentleman will find that results have not been proved on a successful scale. I hope very much indeed that, by the help of the Government, something will be achieved. This is a matter in which the late Lord Balfour as President of the Council of Scientific Research took a great interest, and the last Government put up some money for an experiment at Greenwich and another in connection with the South Metropolitan Gas Company. I am glad to think that the right hon. Gentleman is pursuing the same lines, and I wish him every possible success.

The last matter he mentioned—apart from a conference which he said was taking place with regard to a bridge across the Forth, and a report from an electrical committee—was Russia. He hoped that by extending the terms of credit to 18 months instead of a year, we should get much business done with Russia. I would beg to point out to the House that Russia requires no extra credit to trade with us at all. What is the situation to-day? Russia sells to us something like £26,000,000 worth of goods a year, and buys from us only between £6,000,000 and £7,000,000 worth. All the other £20,000,000 is available as a credit to her, and I venture to suggest to the right hon. Gentleman that when Russia asks for longer terms of credit, he should say, "What about the money we have paid to you for all the goods we buy from you in excess of those you buy from us "? It would not be impracticable to say to Russia, "We will buy from you to the extent you buy from us." Russia cannot afford to do without our market. She cannot find any other market so near or so lucrative for the goods she has to sell, and the right hon. Gentleman has pressure which he can put on her without conceding extended terms of credit which might involve this country in a loss.

I come to a point which has relevance to some of the things which the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Liberal party has mentioned. I venture to say against this Government that not merely are they not taking adequate means or active enough means to find employment for our people, but they have actually destroyed employment. The matters to which I will refer appear small, but the principle is there. Why should the Government have withdrawn the Safeguarding duties applicable to the glove industry, the lace industry and the cutlery industry? Everyone knows that the result of withdrawing these Safeguarding Duties has been to create unemployment in those industries. In the glove and lace industries employment greatly increased as the result of the Safeguarding Duties, but now people have been thrown into the street who previously had weekly wages for the work they performed. Was anybody complaining about these duties? Could anybody be found who said that they objected to the Glove Duty or the Lace Duty or the Cutlery Duty, or that these duties had done them any injury? Why should the Government have gone out of their way to withdraw duties which were creating employment, to deprive men of opportunities for work, and to throw large numbers of women also upon the street? I suggest to the Government that there is here a means by which they could have preserved employment instead of destroying it.

Let me say in answer to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs that I am not at all appalled by his suggestion that we are to have duties upon goods in this country if another Government comes in. It does not frighten me at all to meet him upon this matter either in Parliament or in the country. I do not understand why he should suggest that when we go to speak in the country we shall be met with no opponents. I have always believed that the right hon. Gentleman was a greater performer in the constituencies than any orator we have had in recent years. Why should he be frightened and suppose that the citizens will be deluded by having our propositions put before them without a reply? The reply is as available to our opponents in the country as it is in the House of Commons. I would ask the right hon. Gentleman this question: Is not one of his favourite schemes for dealing with unemployment to re-enact the Trade Facilities Act? The Trade Facilities Act provides that guarantees should be given for payment of goods supplied only by Britain. Any person who gets the advantage of the Trade Facilities Act can supply only British goods. That is a form of prohibition, and it is far stronger than any import duty that could be put upon foreign goods coming into our country.

In connection with the building of the right hon. Gentleman's roads, I remember that in one of his most eloquent passages he stated that it would not only provide work for the people who would be actually engaged in the operation of building the roads, but would provide employment for all the people who supply the necessities that were required for the building of the roads. That could only be on the assumption that British goods alone are used. So it is with regard to the suggestion that we should use steel sleepers on our railways. That suggestion could only do us any good if the sleepers were made in Britain, yet everyone knows we could buy them from Belgium at £1 a ton cheaper. That really means an import duty of £1 a ton in favour of British steel. A form of import duty, and in some cases a form of prohibition is justified, it is said, in such an emergency. But why, in this emergency, do the Government drive people out of employment by taking off the Safeguarding Duties which preserved work for them? It is perfectly illogical to take up that attitude.

I am prepared to argue that in the interests of finding employment for our people it is absolutely necessary to safeguard our trade. How can we possibly hope to keep people in employment in our industries when we get competition from people who pay less taxes and who get less wages? Something on the lines that I have suggested must be done sooner or later if we are even to keep the employment we have, let alone get back the employment we have lost. There are other ways in which this Government are destroying employment. The right hon. Gentleman this afternoon mentioned the effect of annulling the Clause about genuinely seeking work in the Unemployment Insurance Act. What has been the effect of that? It has set up a whole series of abuses which everybody deplores. That view is not confined to one side of the House. Everybody shares it. The Government know that many people are drawing the dole who are not entitled to draw any dole at all. The Government actuary has pointed out that we could save at least £10,000,000 a year by getting rid of these abuses. How is that £10,000,000 being found at the present time? It is being provided out of taxation; and what is the effect of taxation upon the business of this country? It depletes the reserves which people would otherwise put into their businesses.

The 6d. which the Chancellor of the Exchequer added to the income tax in the last Budget cost our industries £6,000,000 paid out of the reserves necessary to re-equip their works. If they cannot re-equip their works they cannot offer employment to our people; in competition with rivals better equipped they go down, employment disappears and workmen come upon the streets and upon the dole. If instead of wasting money the Government were to go in for a really economical policy they could do a great deal towards stemming unemployment. If business people believed we had a Government who were going to attempt to work the country on economical lines, to cut down unnecessary expenditure until we have passed out of this time of depression, there would be a feeling of confidence which would bring about a revival. I have addressed the House at much greater length than I had intended, and I will end my speech by supporting this Vote of Censure with words used by the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs which seem to me to justify it to the hilt. He said, no later than 6th December: The Government are an acknowledged failure. There is no grip, there is no direction, there is no real supervision. They are haphazard and self-complacent. If the Government deserve all those epithets, it is time they ceased to govern the country.

Photo of Mr Ramsay Macdonald Mr Ramsay Macdonald , Seaham

The right hon. Member for Hillhead (Sir R. Horne) has had, even for him, a rather leisurely ramble over a very wide field. I am afraid there is another split in the Tory party. The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition has put down this Vote of Censure on the ground that we have done nothing. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Hillhead has spoken for over half-an-hour in criticising us for having done too much—[HON MEMBERS: "Harm!"] it will be a very miscellaneous Lobby at 11 o'clock when the Division is taken, so far as the other side are concerned. Is the Leader of the Opposition really asking the House to censure us because we have done nothing, because we have not fulfilled our pledges What would he have done if we had fulfilled them to the extent that was laid down, say, in "Labour and the Nation," which contemplated not the length of one Parliament but the length of several? He wants to have it both ways. The right hon. Gentleman knows perfectly well that this is one of the oddest, queerest Votes of Censure that has ever been moved against a Government. Why is he so modest about his purpose in moving this Vote of Censure I understood that during the last day or two he had been plucking up courage to fight. Where is the evidence of it to-day? Until the right hon. Gentleman behind him spoke rashly, with a rashness which does not become him as a Scotsman, even the tip of the tail of the cat was not allowed out of the bag.

One thing upon which the right hon. Gentleman was studiously careful in the carefully-prepared speech which opened the Debate was that nothing should be said about tariffs. His idea was, I suppose, to fulfil the statement he made in a recent public speech in one of the miscellaneous clubs of a constitutional character. He said, "I can turn the Government out—but it is a secret! I will not tell you how and when." Is this the secret? Did he really think that hon. and right hon. Members below the Gangway were such extraordinary simpletons that they would turn out King Charles in order to put King James in his place? One of the reasons why he was so very economical in telling us the full story of his mind was, I think, that he is not quite sure himself where he stands. There is no leader of a party who has changed his mind more frequently within a year than the right hon. Gentleman. I will not remind him of certain lurid Biblical language which he employed in a recent speech at the Queen's Hall to describe people who were then his enemies, but have since become his friends—[Interruption]—for the time being. I think the word used was "harlot." Since then he has extended his family to include them; and apparently, in the innocence of his mind, he put down this simple Motion for discussion under the impression that his embracing arms should extend to hon. and right hon. Members below the Gangway. What does he mean? What is he going to do? What is his alternative? If he succeeds to-night, what is to be the result, so far as he is concerned? On 16th May last year, speaking at the Albert Hall, he said: I am not, so long as I lead this party, going to ask for that free hand with regard to food at the General Election. That is quite plain. On 6th March this year he said: Above all, I want a perfectly free hand to deal with the Dominions in order that I may make arrangements with them which may be favourable to this country, even if that free hand involves putting a tariff against foreign foodstuffs or foreign imports of any kind. Is he so much afraid that he is not going to stand on either of those opposing grounds between now and the General Election that he will not give any indication which is essential to this Resolution of where he stands? He knows quite well, and I am using the word in the same inoffensive sense in which my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Dominions once used it on another occasion, that this Motion as it stands and as he advocated it, is humbug. I hope that is Parliamentary, Mr. Speaker; if it is not Parliamentary, I will withdraw it at once.

This is not a pious resolution moved in a. debating society of the Young Men's Christian Association. This is a Resolution of action. This Resolution, if carried, is not merely recorded in the Journals of the House. As is perfectly well known, the Government will accept right away a Resolution of Censure passed upon it in this way. The Government will not, when a Resolution of Censure is passed upon it, advise that somebody else should be sent for. Not at all. A Resolution of Censure passed upon the Government means an appeal to the country. Let us clearly understand that; and everyone who supports this Motion, in its innocent form, or in its more intelligent form, filled in in detail, supports the tariff policy of the Opposition. "We are going to try to make an economic agreement with the Dominions based upon food taxes, especially bread." That has to be filled in in this Motion. They go further, and they say that the general trade policy of the country is to be based upon tariffs—at a moment when every country suffering more severely than we are suffering is suffering under a tariff system. They say they take that view because they desire to lower the standard of life of the country.



Lieut.-Colonel Sir FREDERICK HALL:

The First Lord of the Admiralty.

8.0 p.m.

Photo of Mr Ramsay Macdonald Mr Ramsay Macdonald , Seaham

They say that if the standard of life cannot be reduced by a direct lowering of wages they will lower the purchasing power of wages by imposing a tariff and increasing the cost of living. They say, moreover—and it was their practice when they were in office before—that the salvation of this country is going to be low standards. My hon. Friend who made such an excellent maiden speech pointed out that their whole theory of coal reorganisation was lower wages and increased production. That is what has to be written into this Resolution by everyone who supports it. The Government's position has been detailed, and I do not propose to go over the ground that my right hon. Friend has covered. I can say quite candidly that I think he deserved the welcome which he got, and I can assure my right hon. Friend opposite that every ounce of support that I can give him in an energetic carrying out of that policy as outlined will be heartily given on my part. As the "Times" says to-day, with a candour that it would have been well if it had been imitated by the Opposition to-day: By common admission the world depression and the fall in prices are the originating causes of this appalling addition to the live register. When those economic forces, which we are going to control, and make no mistake about it, but which you cannot control in a day or in a year, but which are to be controlled and must be controlled—when those forces began to operate so suddenly, I did hope that the problem, the temporary problem, created by them would have been dealt with by a term that has been very much used and abused—a Council of State. I offered the party opposite to make it, and I offered the Liberal party to make it. The party opposite rejected it. They preferred criticism, punctured every now and again by Votes of Censure, so drafted that they hid the hand which they themselves were playing. The Liberal party came in. The Liberal party and ourselves have been co-operating on this special problem. They have put their ideas and proposals into a common pool, and the results have been good, and that co-operation is not yet finished.

Even now, if other sections in the House have experts whom they trust, if they would like to put some people who advise them into contact with us, I invite them to do it. [Interruption.] I have chosen my language in such a way that the question of high policy in an ordinary way is excluded. If they tell us—and let them do it quite fairly, and I shall not object—"It is no good discussing anything with you except upon a basis of tariffs," then I understand them. That is quite an intelligible position, but, if they are putting tariffs in such a position as that, what further reflection is there in parliamentary language to make upon the wording of this Resolution?

I put it quite plainly. This House may end this co-operation to-night if it likes by voting against the Government, and those who withhold their votes will have to be just as responsible as those who give them. The Leader of the Opposition said, less than 10 months ago: The free hand means in practical politics food taxes on the platform and at the election. I have no fresh evidence yet to make me alter the decision to which I came some months ago, and that is that such a policy at the present day would lead to our defeat at the polls. All right. He has his chance to-night. If the Government are defeated on this Vote of Censure, we shall be very glad indeed to take up the challenge and to give him an admirable chance of testing his original opinion against the one which he seems to hold at the present moment. I hope the Government will receive the confidence of the House, so as to enable us to go on developing, extending and working definite schemes—not schemes, but works, bricks, coal and lime—housing, rural housing, slum clearance, satellite towns, and so on; and in order to do that, it will be necessary for the Government to get a good majority in the Division Lobbies to-night.

Photo of Mr John Colville Mr John Colville , Midlothian and Peeblesshire Northern

If any unemployed man had found his way into the Gallery of the House to-night and had listened to the speech of the Prime Minister, I do not think he would have found any great ground for hope. Our Vote of Censure puts in very clear language the issue that is before the House to-night. I think we are entitled very definitely to consider the pledges which brought the present Government into office. To obtain money under false pretences for the purpose of forming a company is a criminal offence and is punishable by imprisonment. There are men to-day who are in prison for that reason. If to obtain votes under false pretences for the purpose of forming a Government was also a criminal offence, there would not be a member of the Parliamentary Labour party in the House of Commons, because they would all be under lock and key. Let us examine the prospectus which they issued to the shareholders and see what it says in that statement. The Prime Minister issued the prospectus in his election address before the General Election. Let us be clear about what he claimed and how it was that 8,000,000 voters in the country were induced to vote for Socialist candidates at the last election. First and foremost, we find, under the heading "Unemployment": The Labour party gives an unqualified pledge to deal immediately and practically with this question. Its record on unemployment is a guarantee that this pledge will be kept. Then further down he said: Our schemes for dealing with unemployment have been before the country for years before the Liberal party, in the hope of reviving its declining fortunes, appropriated some of them and proclaimed them as original. If these schemes have been before the country for years, where are they to-day? How is it that, two years after the return to office of the Labour Government, who had in their possession schemes which, according to this manifesto, had been ready for years, so far from having made any impression at all on the numbers of the unemployed, their schemes have only absorbed, I think, 17 or 18 per cent. of a greatly increased number? That is a fair question to ask the present Government, when we know that for every minute they have been in office a man has lost a job. That is one way of dealing immediately and practically with unemployment. I hope—

Photo of Mr Adam M'Kinlay Mr Adam M'Kinlay , Glasgow Partick

How many men have been displaced by the combine which was formed of Colville's, Limited, and Dunlops?

Photo of Mr John Colville Mr John Colville , Midlothian and Peeblesshire Northern

The hon. Member asks a personal question. Under the Free Trade system supported by the present Government, men are losing their jobs daily in the steel trade, and until they take action, instead of sheltering behind Commissions, more men will lose their jobs. The steel trade to-day is in a far worse condition than it was when the present Government took office, and the hon. Member and his colleagues must take the responsibility for the thousands of men who have lost their jobs through the operation of their policy. The Labour party, not content with making these promises on unemployment, also gained votes in agricultural areas by shedding crocodile tears on the subject of agriculture. They said: The Labour party is deeply concerned about agriculture, which, having been the plaything of the older parties, is now facing very critical times. That statement was made by them in agricultural areas, and the crocodile tears fell fast when they said, "Farming must be made to pay." I have not got the figures for England, but I know that in Scotland 61,000 acres have gone out of cultivation since the party which undertook to make farming pay tried their hand at the job. It is high time that the Government which gained votes in agricultural districts by that promise made a start with the job of making farming pay. The Labour party, on the question of housing, claimed to be the party of the workers' homes. You are not a snail and cannot carry your house about with you, but you need a house all the same. So ran their manifesto. The party of the workers' homes have succeeded in building far fewer houses than did the party in office before them. In the case of Scotland they have built just half the number of State-aided houses during the Socialist year that were built during the Conservative Government's year of office before. Why is it that the party of the workers' homes does not make a start with building more houses? They blame the local authorities possibly, but they are too late in doing that. They should have realised that the legislation which they proposed and now have on the Statute Book is not so vastly better than the previous legislation that it would induce large-scale schemes for the building of houses. They gained votes on the promise to be the provider of workers' homes, but they have shown themselves incapable in that direction too. There is hardly a question of home policy to which they have turned their hands in which they have not shown themselves to be incompetent.

Three excuses have been given by the Labour party for failure to deal with the problem of unemployment. The first is that the Parliamentary machine is bad, impossible to work and antiquated; the second is that they have no majority, and the third excuse is that world conditions are so bad that it is impossible for the Government to make any substantial impression upon the number of the unemployed. I will consider, first, the excuse as to the bad Parliamentary machine. There is a saying that bad workmen complain of their tools. There is nothing wrong with the Parliamentary machine; blame must be placed upon those who handle that machine. Secondly, hon. Members opposite argue that because they have not a majority in this House, they have not been able to solve the problem of unemployment, but I am afraid that that excuse will not go down in the country at the next election. If the Government have not a majority in this House, why do they not have the courage to appeal to the country and ask for a majority? Hon. Members opposite claim that they know the remedy for unemployment, but they say that they cannot put it into operation because they are in a minority in this House. If that is so, why do they continue to sit in this House impotent and unable to put their ideas into operation Instead of asking the country to give them a majority to enable them to cure unemployment, they prefer to hold on to their jobs. Let hon. Members go to their constituencies and tell them that they could cure unemployment if they had a majority. The Government have not the courage to go to the country.

Take the third excuse. We know that world conditions are very bad at the present time, but what have the Government done to help British industry to face those conditions? The late Lord Privy Seal said that the country was faced with an economic blizzard. The proper thing to do in the face of a blizzard is to shelter those things which you value, but, instead of sheltering our industries, the Government have been busy removing our industrial safeguards. [Laughter.] Hon. Members will not laugh when they go down to the places where gloves are manufactured and where the workers have been thrown out of employment by the policy adopted by the Government. A Government which claims to represent labour is letting British labour down at a time when every other country is looking for a place to dump surplus production and is finding that place in this country. Not only have the Government removed Safeguarding duties and jeopardised British industries, but they have heaped additional burdens on manufacturers, and consequently they must take the full responsibility for the fact that industry has gone from bad to worse since they took office; they cannot blame this result upon world conditions. Hon. Members opposite say, "Look at the condition of unemployment in Japan, Germany and America." Why do hon. Members not look first at the condition of things in their own country, in order to see what can he done to improve matters?

During the recent recess, speeches were made by Cabinet Ministers and others, and on the Clyde the President of the Board of Trade made a speech in which he told the workers that eventually things would be all right in this brightest and best of worlds if only they would have a little patience. It seems unthinkable that a country with great natural resources and creative ability and the unparalleled resources of the Empire possessing a great market for manufactured goods, should lie down to the conditions of unemployment prevailing to-day and simply tell the workers that they must wait patiently and hope for better times. The Government might make an effort to control these things; yet they remain supine and spineless in face of the desperate situation which exists to-day.

The Lord Privy Seal in other days was an active man and possessed a reputation for putting his thoughts and words in a clear manner. His speech to-day cannot have given much satisfaction to anybody who listened to it, and what he said was going to be done for the unemployed was a mere handful of small stuff dealing with afforestation schemes, and oil from coal, etc. I hope and believe that ultimately the development of this process of extracting oil from coal will be a good thing, but to make such a large story about it at a time when it is only in the experimental stage, is an exaggeration of the facts. Does the right hon. Gentleman forget that there is in the country at the present time an old-established oil industry in the Lothians where some 6,500 workers are employed involving a wages bill of £17,000 or £18,000 a week and producing some 40,000,000 gallons of crude oil annually? This industry at the present moment is in jeopardy owing to the world fall in the price of oil. What is the Lord Privy Seal going to do in order to keep in employment men who will otherwise be thrown out of work? If the right hon. Gentleman wishes to do anything to help that old industry, he must be prepared to go against the policy of Free Trade which the Prime Minister has lauded up this afternoon.

I do not think there can be any doubt to-night as to the way the members of the Liberal party will vote upon this Motion. I know that they have had a meeting to discuss their attitude this afternoon. The question which they have to consider is whether or not the Government have fulfilled their pledges. Is there any hon. Member opposite who is prepared to say that the Government have fulfilled their pledges?

Photo of Mr Adam M'Kinlay Mr Adam M'Kinlay , Glasgow Partick

I am prepared to justify the statement that the Government have fulfilled their pledges, and, if the hon. and gallant Member cares to come down to Midlothian, I am prepared to do it on the same platform.

Photo of Mr John Colville Mr John Colville , Midlothian and Peeblesshire Northern

I shall be delighted to accept the hon. Member's challenge at any time. He knows and the other Members of his party know that the Government have not fulfilled their pledges. Have they dealt with unemployment? Have they made farming pay? Have they proved to be the "Party of the Workers Home." In what respect have they fufilled their pledges? We know them for what they are—the greatest illusion since Pepper's Ghost. The Liberal party are faced with a clear issue. Will they support us on this question? Do they honestly believe that the present Government, which they are maintaining in office, has fulfilled its pledges. Let me read from the manifesto of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George), on which he fought the last Election. That is one of the few manifestos which has not been alluded to or quoted from to-night. He said, and I hope that the hon. Member who is representing the Liberal party at the moment will pay close attention to the words of his Leader at the last Election: There can be no national happiness or content so long as more than a million of our fellow-countrymen are unable to find work and earn wages by their work. The nation ought and will rally to whatever party can give ground for believing that it can get rid of this running sore in the body politic. He said that more than a million of our fellow-countrymen were then unemployed. Since that time the number has been doubled; it has been doubled in an amazingly short time, for the reasons I have stated. Can the right hon. Gentleman's party now justify abstention in the Division to-night, or support of the Government, in view of the fact that, since the words which I have quoted were written, the number of people unemployed has so greatly increased? I do not think they can. If the right hon. Gentleman does justify it, on the ground that he is afraid there is going to be a change-over from Charles to James, let him remember that that issue lies with the country. Let him go to the country and persuade the country, if he can, that his policy with regard to unemployment is, to use his own words, one which will rally the country behind it because it will get rid of this sore in the body politic. It lies with the right hon. Gentleman to put it over in the country if he can. But the first step is to get rid of the present Government, and, believing, as I do, that every day of Socialist rule is a day's march further away from prosperity for Great Britain, I know which way I am going to vote to-night, and I hope it will see the last of the worst Government within living memory.

Photo of Colonel Harry Nathan Colonel Harry Nathan , Bethnal Green North East

We have just heard a challenge passing between the hon. and gallant Member for North Midlothian (Major Colville) and the hon. Member for the Partick Division of Glasgow (Mr. McKinley). I should like to be invited to act as umpire and to give a decision in that contest. It would not be the first time, the only time, or the last time that the Liberal party has played the part of umpire in challenges passing from one side of this House to the other. Let me at once tell my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for North Midlothian that in my view the Conservative party is to-day very much less dangerous on the benches upon which it now sits than it would be upon the benches opposite, and that in the present situation the Labour party is far less dangerous to the country sitting where it is than it would be if it were sitting in Opposition on the benches on this side.

Photo of Colonel Harry Nathan Colonel Harry Nathan , Bethnal Green North East

In the speech of the Lord Privy Seal this afternoon, we were given a varied programme, a programme of many projects, which manifestly could not be carried into operation within the immediate future. They will take time to come to fruition, and I ask myself, when I consider the projects which have been submitted to us this afternoon, and the other interesting matters to which the Lord Privy Seal referred, how are we to expect that the Government will act in reference to these large and, on the whole, pretty vague schemes, having regard to what we know from past experience has been their attitude towards far less ambitious but completely concrete schemes?

I propose to ask the Lord Privy Seal certain questions as to the definite and concrete schemes which have been discussed across the Floor of this House, but in doing so let me dissociate myself from the argument advanced by the hon. and gallant Member for North Midlothian as to the blameworthiness of the Government in reference to the vast in- crease in unemployment. I do not carry in mind the precise words on this subject—they were quoted, I think, by the Prime Minister—in the "Times" of this morning, but it would be both unjust and inaccurate to attribute the whole of that vast increase to the Government. I am not at all sure, however, that the Government may not have some modicum of responsibility, some considerable share of responsibility, for it is by no means clear that the Measures which they have from time to time put forward have been pursued by them with the energy and vigor which might be expected of a Government conscious of the gravity of the problem confronting it.

When I say that, I am bearing in mind that I represent in this House a small, thickly congested industrial area of 115,000 inhabitants in all, men, women and children, and that, as the Minister of Labour told me to-day in answer to a question in this House, the number of unemployed in that small area has increased, as compared with two years ago, from just under 3,000 then to just under 7,000 now. It has more than doubled, in fact, so that to-day, of the registered insured workers, men, women and juveniles, 15½4 per cent, are unemployed, as compared with 7½ per cent. two years ago; and, indeed, if the figures were given with regard to men unemployed alone, the present figure would be 22½ per cent., as compared with 11½ per cent. two years ago—a very striking and a very tragic difference. Those who live in these industrial areas—the small man making his way with difficulty, living on the bare margin of subsistence, not knowing whether he is going to be able to keep to-morrow the job which he has to-day—these people want to know what the Government are in fact doing in reference to the schemes which they have promoted.

I wish to take the Lord Privy Seal back to the speech made at the opening of the first Session of this Parliament by his predecessor, who is now Secretary of State for the Dominions. On that occasion the then Lord Privy Seal placed before the House of Commons a definite list of proposals which, he said, were ready to be carried into effect in connection with the alleviation of unemployment. A great song was made with regard to steel sleepers for railways. The last we seem to have heard of steel sleepers was in April of last year—[HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] The last that we heard in this House was on the 29th April last year, just a year ago. On that occasion the then Lord Privy Seal stated that during the previous 12 months some 24,000 tons of steel sleepers had been ordered by the railway companies, and he then expressed the hope that the experience gained would lead to a further extension of their use. I would ask the Lord Privy Seal—[Interruption.] I hope that my hon. Friend on the back benches will realise that I am asking in a spirit of interrogation, and not in a spirit of hostility.

Photo of Mr James Moses Mr James Moses , Plymouth Drake

I was only referring to the fact that the large railway companies are now ordering hundreds of tons of steel sleepers.

Photo of Colonel Harry Nathan Colonel Harry Nathan , Bethnal Green North East

The hon. Member's information is more recent than mine. I am dependent, as regards this topic, on the information which I derive in the House of Commons, and I would, therefore, ask the Lord Privy Seal what is the position to-day with regard to the use of steel sleepers on the railways of this country, and for how many men does he estimate broadly that employment is being found by the substitution of steel for wood sleepers?

Another matter in the same connection referred to by the then Lord Privy Seal in the first Session of this Parliament was the question of 20-ton wagons, which was a very considerable topic of interest and controversy during the General Election campaign. The right hon. Gentleman gave an assurance that, as soon as Sir Arthur Duckham's committee reported upon the matter, it would be taken in hand immediately. I asked a question in February last year and the Lord Privy Seal pointed out that no delay was being occasioned by the Government and that it was open to public utility companies to apply for a loan under the Development Act. What loans have in fact been applied for, and what initiative has the Government taken in inducing from the railway companies and private owners applications for loans? It is not merely a matter of private interest but of public policy in relation to industry as to whether these wagons should be brought into general use. I ask, therefore, to what extent they have been brought into general use, and also to how many men has employment been given? The Minister of Transport about a year ago assured the House that the Standing Committee on Mineral Transport had the matter under consideration and that a decision as to its action would not be delayed. Has action been taken? The question was raised by the then Lord Privy Seal in the same speech as to concrete telegraph poles, and the matter was referred to later in a question I asked of the then Postmaster-General. The answer was that concrete telegraph poles had not so far been adopted except in a few special instances, and he gave rather a curious reason from a Socialist Minister that: No such poles suitable for general adoption have yet been brought to the notice of the Post Office, I am, however, always ready to arrange for any new types of steel or concrete poles to be carefully considered." —[OFFICIAL REPORT, 11th February, 1930; col. 240, Vol. 235.] The proposal as to poles of this kind being used came from the Government. When it comes to the actual work of experimentation, they refuse the responsibility and say they must wait upon private enterprise to submit to them poles that may be suitable. It is the more curious because the then Lord Privy Seal, speaking not only of these concrete telegraph poles, but also of steel wagons, put forward these proposals with a good deal of self-satisfaction in these words: I only give this as an illustration of how I approach the problem and in order to show that at least we are going to apply a new mind and hard thinking to a problem which I believe has been neglected. To what extent and in what manner has that new mind and hard-thinking been applied to the use of steel sleepers, concrete telegraph poles, and 20-ton wagons? From time to time other phantom ideas have floated across the Floor of the House so swiftly that no hand put forward to touch them could catch them. One was with regard to the Lower Thames Tunnel. Not a, great deal has been heard about that recently because, I believe, of some difficulty on account of the opposition of the Port of London Authority. What attempts have the Government made to overcome their opposition? Again, we were told by the spokesman of the Government that it was essential for the purpose of dealing with ease of traffic and the transport of goods, apart from passengers, in London that there should be something in the nature of an outer London goods railway, and it was stated that a committee was being set up at once to examine the various schemes that were in existence. Has the Committee reported and, if so, what is the sense of its report? If it has not reported, what is the present position? I will not delay to ask for information as to the position of the electrification of Liverpool Street Station. I will only stay, in reference to Charing Cross Bridge, to ask whether the right hon. Gentleman is taking steps to expedite the presentation of the Bill, which I assume will be necessary, giving powers to the county council and other authorities. Nothing was said by the right hon. Gentleman with regard to what was to take place as the result of the report of Sir Ernest Thompson's Committee on the cotton industry resulting from the recent visit to the Far East.

Photo of Mr Thomas Johnston Mr Thomas Johnston , Stirlingshire and Clackmannanshire Western

I think I said these matters would be dealt with by the President of the Board of Trade at an early date.

Photo of Colonel Harry Nathan Colonel Harry Nathan , Bethnal Green North East

I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for reminding me of that. The statement of the President of the Board of Trade will be awaited with interest as well as with some anxiety. The Lord Privy Seal referred to the effect in creating unemployment of the world fall in the level of prices. What steps have been taken by the Government to obtain international action with regard to that matter? I have put the question to the Chancellor of the Exchequer on more than one occasion, and he has answered in the sense that he was to await the report of the Gold Delegation at Geneva and also of the Macmillan Committee. I am raising this evening on the Adjournment the report of the Macmillan Committee, and I only mention it now to draw once again the attention of the House to the extraordinary and lamentable fact that a committee appointed to deal with a matter of urgent and pressing importance some 20 months ago should not yet have presented its report. It rather makes one think, with the vast number of commissions and committees, that the Government feel, when committees and commissions have been entrusted with some task, that all that is left for Members of the Government to do with regard to the matters entrusted to such committees and commissions is to shrug their shoulders and say, "It is in the hands of a committee, and we cannot interfere." It has been noticeable that the Government have on occasion been apt to look upon these committees and commissions as an entrenchment providing funk-holes rather than an entrenchment providing jumping-off places for effective action. If he will allow me to say so without being thought impertinent, I am sure that that situation will not arise in matters which come within the purview of the present Lord Privy Seal. I would urge upon him the extreme anxiety of the country to observe in the Ministry dealing with these matters not merely the motions of activity, but the actuality of activity.

I wish to make two practical suggestions, or to put forward two proposals for the consideration of the right hon. Gentleman. I wish to draw his attention to the fact that the Balfour Committee appointed by the Labour Government of 1924 presented its report, based upon data accumulated over a considerable period, some two years ago, and that that data upon which the report is based is already, in many important respects, out of date. It is no fault of the Government or of the Balfour Committee. Circumstances have vitally changed since the investigation was undertaken by the Balfour Committee. Although I have no great love for the appointment of numbers of committees, I have a great desire to act upon the basis of ascertained facts when the ascertained facts are up-to-date. The suggestion which I place before the Lord Privy Seal for, I hope, his favourable consideration is that a committee be appointed to bring the data gathered together by the Balfour Committee up-to-date in the light of facts which have since emerged.

With regard to rationalisation and cognate matters, to which the Lord Privy Seal referred in his speech, I suggest to him the advisability of taking into consideration the question of appointing an industrial reorganisation committee, with effective statutory powers, much along the lines of the amalgamation commissioners appointed under the Coal Mines Act. In the present difficult situation and the complex organisation of industry you are bound to act through the medium of committees and commissions in order to ascertain the facts. It is then for the Government to act upon the basis of the facts so obtained. I do not ask the Government to appoint fewer committees. The appointment of committees is, in some of its aspects, evidence of a keen and active mind being brought to bear upon the problems of the day. But I do ask the Government to ensure that they shall receive the reports from these committees promptly, and that, with information brought up to date and the fullest information before them, they will then act with promptitude and vigour.

Photo of Mr James Walker Mr James Walker , Newport (Monmouthshire/Gwent)

I have listened to a few Debates in this House upon the important question of unemployment, but I have to confess on this occasion, as on other occasions, that there has been a lot of talk all round the subject, and that no one seems to get very near it. This subject cannot be discussed in this House without the question of Tariff Reform versus Free Trade looming large. The hon. and gallant Member for North Midlothian (Major Colville), who is an ardent Tariff Reformer, seems to attack the Liberal party on every occasion on which he rises in this House, probably because he was at one time a member of it, and there is no one so bitter as he who leaves a party.

Photo of Mr John Colville Mr John Colville , Midlothian and Peeblesshire Northern

I supported the Liberal party at one time when in the Coalition days the Leader of the Liberal party stood for the safeguarding of British industries, and I left it immediately he gave up his position on that matter.

Photo of Mr James Walker Mr James Walker , Newport (Monmouthshire/Gwent)

I accept the reason, but, at any rate, the hon. and gallant Member and his family were ardent Liberals at one time. Probably that is the reason why he has shown so much bitterness in the attack he has made upon the party below the Gangway. I ask him whether he suggests that the iron and steel industry, of which he claims to know something, would have been any better off than it is to-day if there had been a system of Protection in this country?

Photo of Mr James Walker Mr James Walker , Newport (Monmouthshire/Gwent)

In 1929, under the system of Free Trade in this country, the iron and steel industry produced 10 per cent. more than it produced in 1913. At the same time, with that increase in production, more than 20 per cent. of the iron and steel workers of this country were unemployed. If the hon. and gallant Member knows anything about the matter at all, he will know that there are millions of tons of steel billets in Germany to-day of which they cannot get rid, that they are being produced under a system of Protection, and that there is a similar state of affairs existing in America.

Photo of Mr James Walker Mr James Walker , Newport (Monmouthshire/Gwent)

On several occasions in this House the hon. and gallant Member has stated that that is the finest thing for the iron and steel industry, and he has always mentioned in his speeches that unemployment in this country is due to the lack of tariffs. When we offer a remedy for any of the evils from which we suffer, we are bound to examine that remedy. If the hon. and gallant Member was offered a bottle of hair-restorer by a bald-headed barber, he would inquire whether the barber had used the remedy upon himself. If you find unemployment existing side by side with tariffs in all the exporting industries of the world, and if you find it existing side by side with Free Trade in this country, you are bound to come to the conclusion that neither Tariff Reform nor Free Trade is the cause of the bad trade that exists.

We have had trade depressions in the past. One would imagine from the Debates in this House that the present trade depression, which began in 1920 so far as the iron and steel industry is concerned, was the first trade depression this country had ever seen, and when we hear remedies promulgated by hon. Members in all quarters of the House, such as road-making, telephones, satellite cities, one would imagine that there never had been any trade depression before. Road-making has been going on in this country for many years. We are the best roaded country in the world. If you motor round the various parts of Europe or America, and compare their roads with ours, you find that we are spending more money on our roads than any other country. We have also developed telephones, garden cities, so that the things that are advocated by pseudo-economists to-day existed in the past, and still we have, with recurring regularity, trade depression in this country and other countries. Surely that ought to have convinced us that there is something else which is the cause of unemployment.

The chief factor in the trade depression that exists in the iron and steel industry is the lack of organisation among the employers. There is more individualism in the steel trade as a basic industry than in any other industry. We have suffered from individualism ever since the inception of that trade in this country, and to-day, as the hon. Member for North Midlothian will admit, it is impossible to get cohesion and organisation among the employers in that industry for the purpose of putting it on a very much better footing than it is at the present time.

Photo of Mr John Colville Mr John Colville , Midlothian and Peeblesshire Northern

Seeing that the hon. Member has referred to me, may I ask him if he is not aware that the industry is highly organised? On the export selling side it is highly organised. The British Steel Export Association can deal with a wide range of products.

Photo of Mr James Walker Mr James Walker , Newport (Monmouthshire/Gwent)

During the past few years, since the Labour Government have been in office, and during the period that the Committee was sitting inquiring into the industry, that selling organisation has been organised by the iron and steel industry.

Photo of Mr John Colville Mr John Colville , Midlothian and Peeblesshire Northern

That selling organisation was formed before the present Government came into office.

Photo of Mr James Walker Mr James Walker , Newport (Monmouthshire/Gwent)

Will the hon. and gallant Member give me the date?

Photo of Mr John Colville Mr John Colville , Midlothian and Peeblesshire Northern

I cannot give the date, but I can inform the hon. Member that the arrangements for forming that organisation were made before the present Government took office.

Photo of Mr James Walker Mr James Walker , Newport (Monmouthshire/Gwent)

The answer is so vague and nebulous that it does not require a reply. As a member of the Glasgow City Council, before I came here, and as chairman of a very important committee purchasing steel, I discovered that when we sent out our specifications we got three, four and sometimes half-a-dozen quotations from British firms, and only one quotation from America, and that was from a selling organisation which did not produce any steel. America has shown us the way. For nearly 20 years they have been showing us how to get rid of our steel products in the markets of the world by proper organisation. I welcome the fact, that this has been done in our steel industry to-day, but the people in the industry who have been compelled to do that at the last minute must not claim credit for any organisation that exists at the moment, in view of the fact that so much disorganisation exists in the industry.

9.0 p.m.

What is the real cause of unemployment in this country and in other countries? No matter how much money the Government may spend in alleviating and palliating the conditions created by trade depression, it will never be able to solve the problem so long as industry in this country and in the world remains in the hands of private enterprise, and is controlled under a capitalistic system and where you have a system of credit which is practically uncontrolled not only in one country but internationally. As long as we have those factors existing, all the Governments in the world, with the best intentions so far as schemes are concerned, will never be able to solve the unemployment problem as we know it today.

Photo of Mr William Stewart Mr William Stewart , Belfast South

That is a matter of opinion.

Photo of Mr James Walker Mr James Walker , Newport (Monmouthshire/Gwent)

I will try to prove it from the point of view of what we have seen happening in the past. Why are we suffering more intensely from trade depression than we suffered from the trade depressions of the past? Everyone seems to have forgotten that from 1914–18 this country and other countries in Europe generally were spending money, wasting life and putting forward every possible effort in a deadly struggle of destruction, and piling huge debts around the necks of the various nations. We were enabled to do that, because of the system of credit. The remarkable thing about it was that the very credit which allowed us to overspend and to get into a state of indebtedness, leading almost to national bankruptcy, is the only method whereby we can carry on the capitalist and commercial system of to-day. Just as we as individuals, whenever we exceed our income, and just as groups who ex- ceed their income get into a state of indebtedness, so we get trade depressions arising, and trade depressions which are wiped out only when you have a series of liquidations, cancellations of debts and bankruptcies, voluntary or involuntary, taking place all over the world. It is said that we are in the slough of a trade depression because of the fall in world prices. They have not got back yet to the 1914 level, and we had not a world depression in prices then. Why then should all economists be so much afraid of present-day prices getting back to the pre-War level unless they are afraid of the indebtedness which confronts us.

Our trouble is that we have incurred an indebtedness which costs us £365,000,000 per year in interest on the War Debt. Other countries are in the same position, and it is impossible for us to sell our goods because the people have not the capacity to purchase those goods on account of the impoverishment that prevails owing to the terrible disaster of the years 1914 to 1918. We read statements in the "Economist" that we must have an all-round sacrifice. There has been a sacrifice of wages in this country. In the iron and steel trade they are standing to-day at only about 12½ per cent. above the 1914 figures; but there must be a sacrifice on the part of all classes in the community. By our system of credit and finance we have actually fastened a load of debt on to this country as if we had borrowed it from the past. The banks offered the Glasgow Corporation the loan of £2,000,000 so that we could lend that money to the Government. We took on the job, and made a profit out of it. We borrowed the £2,000,000 at 4½ per cent, and loaned it at 5 per cent. [An HON. MEMBER: "Good for Aberdeen!"] It was not Aberdeen, it was Glasgow, and it was done in every town through. out the land and by business men and individuals.

What did it all mean? Where was all that money coming from? It was coming from the production in the year in which it was lent, but by a system of financial wangling we are fastening a load of debt on to this country and spreading the responsibility. The banks got out of their responsibility and passed it on to the individual, the net was thrown wide; and we are now facing the paying back of that debt. That is what is causing all the trouble in the country and most of the trade depression at the present moment. If hon. Members opposite were honest, they would tell hon. Members on this side of the House that they have either to accept a very much lower standard of life than they have had up to the present, or that they will not be able to meet their indebtedness to the people with whom they contracted as regards the War Debt. That is at the back of their minds, and because they cannot get, without a tremendous amount of trouble, owing to the organisation of the workers of the country, a reduction in wages, they suggest a revenue tariff, a Safeguarding tariff, tariffs of all kinds, which are aimed, and can only be aimed, at a reduction in the standard of life of the people. That is what lies behind most of the arguments for Tariff Reform.

The Lord Privy Seal has given the programme which the Government are undertaking, and there is more in that programme than has been done by any Government that ever occupied the Treasury Bench. Hon. Members opposite cannot deny that. But they do not want the money spent in that way. I have heard the right hon. and learned Member for Hillhead (Sir R. Horne) confess that it did not pay him to employ men in useful labour; he talked about £324 being spent to employ a man. Money is the means of exchange in all the goods that are produced, and if you do not spend money you will have to invent some other method of exchange for your goods. I do not know of any other method, because we cannot go back to the old system of barter in a highly industrialised country. One has to spend money in order to stimulate the purchase of the goods which have been produced, and surely it is a far better thing, if men are idle, for the Government to engage these men in some useful occupation of value to the community. If the right hon. and learned Member for Hillhead will examine the places around the City of Glasgow, of which he is a citizen and a representative, he will find that the money which the community has spent there has given good value to the people of Glasgow in providing better roads for the right hon. and learned Member to motor, and better houses.

If the question of housing is considered it is not for the Tory party to chide or cavil at the Labour Government for lack of interest in the housing needs of the people. They never knew that there was such a problem until the year 1917, whilst the Labour movement in season and out of season had been hammering at the matter for a long time. More housing is needed. Many local authorities, including Glasgow, are not too energetic in their programmes, and if hon. Members opposite would only use their influence with their Tory friends in some of these local authorities and stimulate a desire for better housing they would be doing something for the good of the country. Instead they merely taunt the Minister of Health, who very adequately answered every one of the statements made in the Debate yesterday, and we have had the same old story in the Debate to-day. If we are going to solve unemployment in this country there will require to be a destruction of the system of landlordism and a destruction of the system of private ownership in industry. There will also require to be a reorganisation of all means of producing wealth, with a better system of distributing it. We must produce for the use and the needs of the people rather than for the profit of the few.

Photo of Mr Henry Croft Mr Henry Croft , Bournemouth

I am sure that the House has listened with great interest to the speech of the last speaker. When Members of the Government listened to the concluding portion of the speech they must have been rather inclined to say, "Save us from our friends!" for the hon. Member reminded the House and the country of what the policy was before the General Election. I want to deal for one moment with the opening portion of his speech, in which he referred to the iron and steel industry. This country taught the world how to make steel, and from this country nearly all the great inventions and processes of steel manufacture came. We were absolutely supreme up to a very recent period. When the hon. Member says that a tariff is no remedy and that we should look at the United States and Germany, I beg him to study the colossal advance of iron and steel production in the United States and in Germany—an advance which has left us completely behind. Even in more modern steel producing countries, such as France and Belgium and Luxemburg, we find progress. In the case of France the exports in the last few years have practically doubled, and those of Belgium and Luxemburg have multiplied by 2½, while ours have progressed only to a small extent.

It is no consolation to us when the hon. Gentleman tell us that our production of iron and steel is slightly greater than it was before the War, while our great competitors have multiplied perhaps ten times, and under their protective system are winning markets in other countries where we used to sell our goods. When the hon. Gentleman says that the people in Germany cannot dispose of their billets and blooms, and suggests that a tariff is no remedy, I ask him, would Germany permit the importation of 3,000,000 tons of iron and steel as we are doing now?

Photo of Mr Adam M'Kinlay Mr Adam M'Kinlay , Glasgow Partick

For shipbuilding purposes, yes.

Photo of Mr Henry Croft Mr Henry Croft , Bournemouth

It would not be tolerated for one moment. [Interruption.] I rose, however, mainly in order to offer one or two comments on the extraordinary course of this Debate. We have had some remarkable speeches today—bold speeches, bold and advancing, and then a sudden retreat. We had the speech of the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George). It was a most extraordinary speech. He started by comparing himself with the late Mr. Joseph Chamberlain when leader of the Liberal-Unionist party. But I would remind him that the reason why Mr. Chamberlain was sitting with a separate group in this House was that he had left his party on a grave matter of principle, and it was on account of that principle that he was fighting that battle. That was very different from the situation of the leader of a party who himself has no longer—I am not saying it disrespectfully—from the force of circumstances, no principle.

Photo of Mr Milner Gray Mr Milner Gray , Mid Bedfordshire

I would remind the hon. and gallant Member that the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) is not present, and I suggest to the hon. and gallant Member that he has no right to say that the leader of the Liberal party has no principle.

Photo of Mr Henry Croft Mr Henry Croft , Bournemouth

I said it with all respect. When four or five or six Members of the Liberal party go into our Lobby every night, and 10 into the Lobby of the Government, and the rest go home to bed, I am at a loss to understand what their principles are. The right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs opened his attack or his apologia by saying that he would have to apply to himself the test whether he could move the Vote of Censure that is under discussion. The right hon. Gentleman always moves very rapidly from position to position. It was only on 5th December last that he made this statement: The Government are an acknowledged failure. There are not two independent men in the House of Commons belonging to any party who will say that the Government have successfully tackled their job. When the right hon. Gentleman asks himself whether he would move the Vote of Censure that is now being discussed, I would suggest to him that censure was conveyed in every one of those words of his in December last. They are his justification to-day. The other attempt that the right hon. Gentleman made to excuse his position to-day, was his statement that there had been no unnecessary delay, that the new Lord Privy Seal had only just been appointed, and was doing very well, and that he was always ready to consult the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs. Very good. But the Liberal party ought to remember, when they are consulting their consciences to-night and considering the principles for which they stand—retrenchment amongst others—how long it is that this state of affairs has existed. I would remind them that it was something like two years before our lamented friend, Mr. Hartshorn, was appointed Minister in charge of the unemployment question.[HON. MEMBERS: "Not a year!"] A year and a half after the Government took office. [HON. MEMBERS "NO!"] Then only a year; I am content to leave it there. But I think it is right to say that when the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs delivered that speech the Government had been in office for something approaching two years. Be that as it may, it is quite long enough. Speeches from the Liberal benches on this subject hitherto have not been based on the ground that the Government had lost little time, but have always been based on the ground that the Government had been in office a long time and had done nothing to improve the situation.

We had another speech to-day from an equally gallant franc tireur who is associated with the Independent Labour Party. He spoke very strongly and in manly tones against the Government, but at the end I was amazed to find that apparently he was going into the Lobby this evening with the Government. It is very difficult to understand what political principles are in these days, and it is very sad to see how far he has departed from the standards which used to actuate hon. Members in the old days. When I first had the opportunity of sitting in this House, if an hon. Member ever stood up and declared that his Government had absolutely failed, that the whole of their policy was utterly inadequate, and used phrases of that description, I think he would not hesitate to record his vote in accordance with his utterance. The Independent Labour Party should seek the advice once more of the hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton), who, at least, has the courage to go into the Lobby in support of what he says.

We have heard from the right hon. Gentleman who defended the Government an extraordinary catalogue, first of all of items in the Socialist programme at the time of the General Election, which, he told us, the Government have almost entirely put into effect, except for migration and one or two things like that which were outside possibility. Nine, I think it is, out of the 11 of their election points. I submit that this proves conclusively that the election policy of Socialism is no use to this country when with nine out of the 11 points of party policy they have succeeded in increasing the unemployed in this country by 1,500,000. After he told us that, Members of the Liberal party were looking in a gloating manner when they heard that he was going to give some new suggestions. If any Members of the Liberal party were uneasy during this speech, they must have had a most terrible five minutes when they heard what were the great policies that we were to have, in the new concordat under the ginger of the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs. What were we told? We were to have this policy of stimulating a "Come to England" cam- paign for foreign tourists. That is a, Conservative baby for which Members of the late Government working with Lord Derby, have done great work. I am only glad that it is recognised by the right hon. Gentleman, but it is rather absurd to claim that as an invention of the Socialist party.

Then the right hon. Gentleman took us to the Argentine. We rejoiced to hear that wicked capitalists have succeeded in placing a large number of orders in that land. I really do not think that the Government can claim that they have been very considerable partners in that effort, although I am sure that they have given their goodwill. I do not know whether it was a Government inspiration in the first place. We were told that, if we watch and pray, there will come the production of motor fuel from coal. I do not know if the Government claim that they are responsible for its invention, because we have heard it for a good many years, and many people have been looking round and trying to make their fortunes in it. The fact remains that the thing has been discovered, though up to date it has not been a commercial success. It will be very little credit to the Socialist Government if this invention is brought to success, as all parties hope it will be, by capitalist enterprise. If His Majesty's Government are behind that enterprise, as I hope they will be, I trust that they will give it every kind of encouragement.

With regard to the gibe of the right hon. Gentleman to my leaders that, in indicting the Government for their hopeless, complete footling and futility, if I may use the words of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs, in the matter of unemployment, we have not mentioned what we were going to do, it would be very convenient if the prisoner in the dock could try to switch the court over to some other subject. The Government are here being condemned for failure to carry out a policy upon which they secured the votes which put their individual Members in the House. They have failed with that, and it is wise and good tactics for their colleagues to swing round and say, "What are you going to do? "The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Darwen (Sir H. Samuel) has made it perfectly clear that if an election takes place, the Conservative party will come in. That is why he, as a good Liberal, believing in representation of the people, for the people, by the people, is doing so much in this "holy alliance" in order to see that the people shall not have that opportunity of giving their confidence to a Government they desire. If it will assist hon. Gentlemen opposite, I can very briefly say what I understand is the policy of all my leaders—[Interruption]—and with which I am well satisfied.

To-day I can say, for the first time in my political life, that I am satisfied. We are absolutely determined, all other schemes having failed, to extend the policy which we have conclusively proved to be successful in the industries that we have safeguarded, and we are determined to produce on our own soil and in our own factories the needs of our people wherever we have the skill, the aptitude and the possibility. We believe with absolute sincerity that we can exclude from this country and manufacture equally well ourselves £200,000,000 of the £300,000,000 worth of imports which are coming into this country and we know beyond dispute that if we can do that, perhaps not in a month or even in a year, it means employment for 1,000,000 of our countrymen. We know that the Empire overseas is purchasing from foreign countries at least £200,000,000 worth of manufactures which we are capable of producing, and if we can deflect that great stream to our own factories, mills and workshops we shall have provided work for another 1,000,000 of our fellow-countrymen.

In addition to that as we are determined to give a real aid to British agriculture, we can add another 200,000 or 300,000 workers at least, to the number of our employed. Hon. Gentlemen opposite abused us about our policy on unemployment, although we reduced it by something like 400,000 in the last few months of office, and now they are patting themselves on the hack that they have increased unemployment by only 1,500,000. They have tried everything; they have talked of the dim and distant future of Socialism in somebody's time, and they know it will not work. The Chancellor of the Exchequer killed that animal for all time, when he said that it is absolutely impossible to imagine that you can spend any more money on this sort of Socialist enterprise in this country. We, on this side, say that there is only one real policy which has not been tried out to the full, and that is the policy for which we stand.

Photo of Mr Samuel Perry Mr Samuel Perry , Kettering

What about America?

Photo of Mr Henry Croft Mr Henry Croft , Bournemouth

Since the War, and during the last 12 or 14 years, the United States of America have not only been enjoying a most extraordinary prosperity, up to the Wall Street crash, but, in addition, they have been absorbing, as everyone who has studied this question knows, hundreds of thousands of additional citizens. Everybody knows that the actual number of their unemployed compared with population, certainly does not exceed the number in this country. I could go through all the countries of Europe. Take France, our nearest neighbour. France has been without unemployment since the War, and though she has 500,000 unemployed, she has absorbed, since the War, 1,000,000 labourers from other countries. Go to Denmark. She has never been so prosperous.

Photo of Mr Henry Croft Mr Henry Croft , Bournemouth

The hon. and gallant Member for Central Hull (Lieut.-Commander Kenworthy) is the last hon. Member who should make a remark like that because he has definitely told us within the last few weeks that we ought to have a tariff, I think he said a good thumping tariff, on all competitive goods.

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

I am sure that the hon. and gallant Baronet does not wish to misrepresent me. I want a very low revenue tariff on everything brought in.

Photo of Mr Henry Croft Mr Henry Croft , Bournemouth

I take it the hon. and gallant Member wants tariffs not quite so high as that of Denmark in order to gain revenue. Very well. I make him a present of the point. But this country is passing through a terrible time and, while I know that sometimes one's remarks are received with levity, I hope I may be considered sincere on this subject, and I beg of hon. Members of this House to take notice of the fact that some of the very greatest figures in the other parties, men like Professor Keynes and Sir Josiah Stamp, men like Henderson and Cole, and men like Mr. Reginald McKenna and others, some of the greatest ex-Free Traders are declaring the only way to grapple with this great difficulty is to revise our ideas regarding fiscal policy. In view of that fact I say as you have so hopelessly and completely failed, why not be honest with yourselves? Let us come together as a nation and vote for a policy which we know will help to meet the situation and put our people back to work.


It is always exhilarating to come in contact with a faith so robust, so candid, so challenging as that of the hon. and gallant Baronet the Member for Bournemouth (Sir H. Croft). His is truly a faith which can move mountains. It can move mountains of facts out of its way without even noticing that they are there. I hope that I shall meet him with a faith at least as solid and as robust as his own, but I would wish to think that it is rather more closely attached to reality. My desire to intervene in this Debate arises from the fact that I represent a constituency in an area which is, perhaps, more deeply and heavily stricken by unemployment than any other single area in our country. In Lancashire we find the greatest concentration of unemployment which exists in any part of the country. There are over 280,000 unemployed, a percentage of over 40 and in my own constituency there are 28,000 unemployed, 16,000 of them being women or a percentage of over 46. All the surrounding circumstances of this unemployment go to make its character more severe and more depressing to those who have to experience it.

Lancashire is a county which is full of local patriotism and intensely individualist. Its people are extremely hard to move. They are particularists in every sense and deeply rooted in habit. If there be any part of the country which should bear out the view presented to us from the benches opposite, that there has been in the last few years a great revulsion of opinion against the Government, a great sense of bitterness against them, Lancashire ought to be that part, and I intervene to present with the utmost: conviction, a view based on a very in- tensive experience in all parts of Lancashire in the course of the last few years—a view which gives a most decided rebuff to any such description of the public opinion existing in that stricken area. Lancashire at the last election changed its political views in a very marked way, and I defy hon. Members opposite to prove that there has been any great change in the body of opinion voting for Labour candidates and returning Labour Members. Despite the sufferings which they have undergone, they still have a solid faith in the Labour Government.


As far as Lancashire is concerned I am sure my Lancashire colleagues will agree with me that we should be perfectly prepared to face that challenge. There are reasons for this state of things and those reasons are connected with the mentality and character of the Lancashire people. They are also reasons which must make one feel not too satisfied with some of the arguments advanced by the Opposition in the course of this Debate. What the Lancashire people possess, and what has not been shown in the speeches from the other side, during this Debate is honesty—a robust and courageous sense of fact. They are prepared to recognise the real causes of the profound depression from which their industry is suffering. They are aware that a very large proportion of those causes lie outside this country, and outside the control of this or any other single Government. The main trouble from which Lancashire suffers is the loss of its great foreign markets, due to the collapse in the price of silver and revolution in China and to the development of nationalism in India.

These are the deep root causes and they are not amenable to rapid treatment. But we are convinced that the line of policy which has been initiated and pursued since the present Government came into power, a policy of definite resolute pacification co-operation and friendliness is the only line of policy which in the long run can give back to Lancashire any share of its great export markets. Any other policy means that those markets will go for good and all. The people of -Lancashire recognise the facts. They also recognise that the trouble in the trade, due to a very large extent to these external causes, is also due to a considerable extent to the insensate individualism which has characterised the textile industry. Their troubles are not new. They have been going on for the last eight or nine years—ever since the collapse of the over-capitalisation boom in 1921 and 1922.

It is a striking fact that the report of the Thompson Mission to the Far East sent out by the present Government confirmed up to the hilt the findings of the report of the cotton industry committee appointed by this Government, in locating as the root trouble in the industry the absence of any co-ordination. That report suggests that if production costs are to be brought down the only way to enable us to meet foreign competition, the method by which alone that can be done, is not to cut down wages but to establish a centralised co-operative organisation for both production and marketing which will get rid of the frightful internal waste that is crushing the industry under its burden. Individualism which has rotted the cotton industry is not a new thing, but all recent evidence has more strongly than ever before laid its finger on that cause. If, in spite of very strong resolute well-directed pressure from the present Government, the industry itself has not "got a move on," the reason is that that industry is not controlled by the Government, is not controlled by those who share the point of view which we take on these benches, or the kind of modern point of view taken on the benches opposite below the Gangway but is dominated by people whose outlook is limited to old fashioned competitive individualism.

There is another point which must be made in any attempt to give a true picture of conditions in Lancashire. It is true that the schemes of work and the development plans of the Government cannot very greatly affect the operatives in the cotton industry, but I ask any hon. Member who has visited any Lancashire town in the last two years, and has been struck by the gloom of those towns in which people can find no work, whether he has not been compelled to recognise what is a very tragic fact. During these last two years the average family in the Lancashire cotton town has enjoyed a higher standard of comfort than was their lot in the preceding seven or eight years. We are assured that even with low wages and broken time, the amount of money coming into the homes was actually smaller before, than it is now under the operation of the 1930 Unemployment Insurance Act. That Act has prevented the last two years being a tragedy of destitution and starvation throughout Lancashire, and prevented the local authorities having to cope with an actually dangerous situation.

To say that the Government have not been responsible for any remedial action is positively ridiculous. Nobody knows that better than the people of Lancashire. They have a certain quality of recollection, and they have not forgotten how much of the troubles from which they suffer are due to the impact of the Great War, and the utter failure in the years that followed the Great War to make use of the opportunity for industrial reconstruction. There were then in the possession of a Government with a great majority engines of a potent character for the control of industry and for its reconstruction in the war-time controls of prices and production. They would have enabled reconstruction to be made with a minimum of loss, but all that was neglected and thrown away. At that time the dragon's teeth were sown which have since spread and which fertilised during the period of neglect between 1924 and 1929. There were people in our own party who, seeing how these seeds had grown up by 1929, told us that the responsibility for trying to bring order out of chaos was 'a task too heavy to be faced. I was not one of those who took that view, and I do not think there are many Socialists who took that view, since the obligation to render service, when the call to service comes, is, for every Socialist, an absolute and not a conditional one. And service has been rendered.

Again, hon. Members opposite make a great mistake if they think that a, large number of us here during the last election, or at any time since, suggested that the remedy for these tremendous evils and the process of transformation which we desire to see affected could be swift. I have always suggested that the process of change was bound to be difficult and slow, and must proceed by steady stages. That is far more widely recognised in the country than hon. Members opposite, in their vain dream of easily getting rid of us, would admit. This is one of those facts which, if you will not see, will make you feel it, as Carlyle put it long ago. There is only one other thing I should like to add. It is very tempting for any Member on this side, especially from an industrial constituency, and for anyone with a, recollection of the record of 1925 to 1929, to feel a little outraged at the bland effrontery of this Motion. I do not want to say what I feel about it, because I should be offensive, and I do not want to be that.

I want to do something quite different, that is, to make an appeal to hon. Members opposite who have, by the nature of their whole position in this country, vastly closer contact with those responsible for the present control and reorganisation of industry than we have. I want to make an appeal to them not to do something in the interests of party strife which they would regret; to weaken the authority of Government, and, what is far worse, to weaken the faith of the nation in itself. To do that or anything that leads to that is to undertake a work which is not such of which anyone can be proud, and with which serious people in politics will not wish to be associated. It is not as if there were not in the country a capacity of response to this vital crisis which is actually stronger than that of any other country in a similar position. We have no cause to be ashamed of ourselves or afraid for ourselves. We have behind us that extraordinary practical sense of the English to which Carlyle referred when, writing at a time dark as ours, at a time when, as now, 2,000,000 unemployed were the tragic memorial of a great war, he saw, as we see, that in our country there is a depth of sense, of justice, of courage, in which under all emergencies and world bewilderments, and under this most complex of emergencies we now live in, there is still hope, there is still assurance. There is hope, assurance and confidence in our people. They would reject this Motion, and on their behalf, I reject it with all the force of which I am capable.


The hon. Member who has just addressed the House represents a constituency which has perhaps suffered more than most in the terrible trade depression which has weighed over the country in the last few years. I understand from what she says that she herself was more prudent than some of her colleagues in the promises which she made at the last General Election, but, if she be accurate in her view of the attitude of Lancashire towards the Labour Government, if those people who have seen their employment gradually leaving them during the tenure of office of the Government, of which one Member, at any rate, promised to cure unemployment and hardship within three weeks, I can only say that that attitude does more credit to their hearts than to their heads.

The Debate to-day has been interesting, not so much perhaps because of any new or valuable contributions which have been made to the problem of unemployment, as because it has indicated the attitude of various sections of the House towards the position of His Majesty's Government. We have not heard very much from Members of the party opposite of the disappointment, the disillusionment, and the resentment which we know that many of them are feeling in their hearts. It is true that the hon. Member for East Leyton (Mr. Brockway) expressed the profound disappointment of himself and some of his colleagues with the speech of the Lord Privy Seal. That shows the danger of expecting too much, or indeed expecting anything, from the present Government. He indicated the programme which those of his group whom he represents desire to urge upon the Government, and he assured the Government that, if only they would adopt it, they would receive his and their enthusiastic support. I did not observe any trace of great anxiety on the faces opposite to me while the hon. Member was speaking; possibly that was because it occurred to the Government that support is support, and that whether it be given with enthusiasm or with profound disappointment, it makes very little difference to the Government so long as hon. Members go into the Lobby in support of them. I would suggest to the hon. Member for East Leyton that so long as his fulminations are accompanied by a declaration that in spite of them he will give his support to the Government, they will always be treated with the indifference and contempt of which he has had reason to complain to-day.

But all of us have known for days past that the result of the Division to-night would not depend upon the Members of the Independent Labour party, and that the real arbiters of the fate of the Government were to be found upon the benches below the Gangway on this side. I do not know whether the Liberal Members are flattered by the amount of attention which they have received during the last week. I should think some of them, at any rate, must have felt that they would gladly escape from the somewhat embarrassing dilemma in which they found themselves. Certainly they have not wanted for advice as to the course they should take. I notice that a few days ago an eminent Member of their party, whose name, indeed, is received with respect far beyond the confines of his own party, gave them advice not to do anything to turn out the present Government. On what ground was that advice given? It was on the ground that the Chancellor of the Exchequer had put his foot down against any futher expenditure, which, he said, the country could not possibly afford. On the other hand, the Lord Privy Seal based his appeal for Liberal support upon the very opposite grounds, namely, that he was going to embark upon new expenditure and turn over a new leaf in order to suit the views of the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George).

It will be seen, therefore, that if there were any Liberals who desired to support the Government on this occasion it would not be difficult to find a reason; they could even find opposite reasons for taking the same course. But all of us knew that the fight between the Liberals and the Government was a sham fight, and, when the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs got up this afternoon to address us, none of us had any doubt as to what would be the conclusions at which he would arrive; the only thing that filled us with intense curiosity was to know the reasons he would give. The right hon. Gentleman made a speech which for adroitness, for ingenuity, and for capacity for diverting the scent by drawing good red herrings across the track, might have well been envied by the leader of the old Liberal Unionist party to whom he paid so warm a tribute. He described the Government as fighting for their lives, although he knew very well that he himself had fully insured them against total loss. He described my right hon. Friend as actuated only by one motive—to transfer his presence from this side of the House to the other. He represented himself and those who are going to vote with him as alone absolutely disinterested in the matter, and as having no thought whatever of forming an alternative Government.

10.0 p.m.

As I listened to him giving his version of the actions of the old Liberal-Unionist party, as I listened to him saying there was nothing new under the sun, I wondered whether he was thinking that the Leader of the old Liberal-Unionists, after a period in the wilderness, joined the Conservative Government, and that the greater part of his official career actually took place after the events to which the right hon. Gentleman referred. I wondered if the right hon. Gentleman could possibly have still retained some idea that such services as he was rendering to the Government to-day might perhaps induce them—.— to welcome him at some future time as one of their most valued and trusted colleagues. The right hon. Gentleman gave us two reasons why he had decided to vote with such of his colleagues as he could bring with him into the Government Lobby to-night. The first reason was that he did not know what would be the policy of my right hon. Friend if the present Government were turned out. I do not think there could be any greater tribute to the oratory and to the ingenuity of the right hon. Gentleman than that he should be able to get away with a reason like that. He knows perfectly well what the policy of my right hon. Friend is.


What is it?


And even if he did not, why should my right hon. Friend, in discussing a Vote of Censure upon the Government, take up the time of the House by saying what his policy was? What would be the result of an adverse vote to-night? The right hon. Gentleman said that my right hon. Friend would immediately assume office. He knew very well that that was not going to be the result of an adverse vote. The Prime Minister was not required to come down and tell us that the result would be a General Election, which is what the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs is afraid of. When a General Election takes place will be the time for my right hon. Friend to submit his policy to the country. If the right hon. Gentleman and the Prime Minister are as certain as they pretend to be to-night that that policy would be condemned by the electorate, why do they shrink from an election [HON. MEMBERS: "What is it?"] The motive behind the action of the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs is clear enough. In the six by-elections which have been fought this year and in which a Liberal candidate has taken part the Liberals have lost no less than 36,000 votes. It is that consideration which is always present to the minds of the Liberal party, and, I venture to say, is the dominating factor in the decisions to which they have come.

Then there is a second reason which the right hon. Gentleman gave us, and that was that it would be unfair and unjust to the Lord Privy Seal to pass a Vote of Censure upon him when he had had so short a time in which to formulate a programme. He attempted to father upon this party the responsibility for the programme which he and his friends put forward in a Debate which took place last February. He said that we must be held to be quite as responsible for that policy because we had acquiesced in the vote. But what was his explanation of his action this evening? He said, "I had to put to myself the question whether I would be prepared to move this Vote of Censure." That was the question that we had to put to ourselves on the occasion to which he referred. When he did not divide on his Motion, we had to consider whether it was a Motion that we would have put down, and we certainly would not have put it down. It is vain and idle for the right hon. Gentleman to attempt to father the responsibility on us.

Photo of Mr Herbert Samuel Mr Herbert Samuel , Darwen

You did not vote against it.


We should have had to weigh the alternative—


We did.


—and to consider whether the effect of voting for the Resolution would have performed what we think would have been the greatest service that we, could perform to this country, and that would be to eject His Majesty's present Government. But this is not a Vote of Censure upon the Lord Privy Seal. This is a Vote of Censure upon the Government, and, if there be any continuity of policy in this Government, then the Lord Privy Seal is only carrying on the policy which was adopted by his predecessor. He has made to-night the best of a bad job. It is true that his proposals filled the hon. Member for East Leyton with utter despair. I wonder what the former Under-Secretary of State for Scotland, who signed the Mosley Memorandum—


I was under the impression that he had signed it. Then I do not make that point. When I look back over the attitude of the Labour party, the Socialist party, towards this unemployment question during the last two years, I am reminded of a passage in a very charming book that some hon. Members may have read, a book by Lord Grey, upon fishing, in which he describes the mental attitude of the salmon fisherman on a day when the salmon absolutely refused to take. He goes out, he said, in the morning filled with expectation, and then after a time, when nothing happens, expectation slowly begins to give way to hope, and when still nothing happens then, after a time, hope melts into resignation, and when again, still later in the day, nothing has happened, resignation darkens down to despair. Can any hon. Gentleman better describe the stages through which the party opposite have passed? Long ago expectation and hope departed. Some of them are now in the stage of resignation—of mind, of course, but not of office—and some of them have reached the stage of despair. The stage of despair is a very dangerous one. I have heard of fishermen who, when they reached that stage, have been known to throw down their rods and trample on them, accompanying their action by the most violent language, and if you merely substitute the word "gods" for "gods," you have a precise and accurate description of the actions of not a few of the Members opposite.

The Vote of Censure which we are discussing to-day makes two charges against the Government. It charges them, first of all, with having failed to carry out their election promises with regard to unemployment and, further, with having now no policy to deal with the unemployment situation as it appears to-day. The first charge has been simply and cynically ignored by the Government spokesmen. The Lord Privy Seal shakes his head. He thinks he has answered the charge when he has picked out a number of items in "Labour and the Nation" and has stated that those items have been put into operation. From the pamphlet issued by that party at the General Election, entitled "How to conquer unemployment," I take this opening sentence: Unemployment is the master election issue of 1929.…. The Labour party is ready to fight this election with unemployment as the acid test. Later on, the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs said, at the Labour party annual conference at Brighton: The Government, in my judgment, will be judged, and rightly judged, by the handling of that problem. At the last election the party opposite had only one thought in view, and that was how to get office. It ended by absolutely reckless promises of what they would do to cure unemployment, and the quotations which we now repeat to them have become so familiar that I have no doubt they are as nauseous to them as they always were to us. It is sufficient to quote from "Labour's Appeal to the Nation," the official election manifesto, in which they said: The Labour party gives an unqualified pledge to deal immediately and practically with this question (unemployment). Its record in unemployment is a guarantee that this pledge will be kept. Our schemes for dealing with unemployment have been before the country for years.


Read on!


I do not need to read any more. It is an unqualified pledge, and the answer to it is that, whereas for the five months before we went out of office unemployment had steadily decreased by as much as 350,000, after one year it increased from 1,100,000 to just under 2,000,000, and it is now over 2,500,000. There is no defence made by the Government to this first charge.

They must plead guilty, and if that were the only charge against them there could be no possible doubt as to the answer. But the second charge is in reality even more serious than the first. It is perfectly obvious to anyone who studies the history of the Government during the last two years and who listened to the quotations that were made earlier today by my right hon. Friend that their whole conception of the methods with which to deal with this problem has completely changed. They started off with the first idea that unemployment was merely a temporary and passing phase. They thought that, by vigorously splashing about in the early months, they could keep their supporters quiet until the tide turned and better times came back. That was the time when the Chancellor of the Exchequer, in full confidence, said: In our first Session we shall deal with unemployment and bring relief and hope to the workers of this land. We shall not disappoint those who have shown a belief in us. My right hon. Friend has shown how quickly that early confidence disappeared and how, by the time that we had reached the 30th April, 1930, the Minister who was primarily responsible for the unemployment question had definitely come to the conclusion that no matter how many millions of pounds may be spent, if it is merely to find temporary work and create dead capital, instead of helping or solving the real unemployment problem, you are merely aggravating the problem and storing up difficulties for the future. I believe that those expressions represent the real convictions of the Government. They started out with a short term policy, but to all intents and purposes now they have given up all idea of the short-term policy. The present Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs on one occasion pointed out that between 1920 and 1927 no less than £190,000,000 had been spent upon the devolopment, of roads and bridges, and his comment was that it had contributed nothing to the permanent solution of the unemployment problem. In a Debate last February the Prime Minister said: What struck me most in producing these schemes was how very limited and temporary that kind of work is bound to be."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 12th February, 1931; col. 651, Vol. 248.] If we turn to the White Paper published at the end of last year, we find a fair indication that those who were responsible for the drafting of that document had already realised that the call upon local authorities to bring new schemes into operation had practically come to an end, because they say: The arrears of work which had accumulated during the War had been overtaken. There are signs that the possible programme of public works which can be said to conform to any economic justification and which can usefully be done has come to an end. It appears from the quotations which I have made that the Government's real conviction is that these short-term schemes for temporary relief can only touch the fringe of the problem, and deal with a very limited number of men, and when the temporary work is over you find yourselves worse off than you were before, because you have to that extent exhausted the capital of the country and your unemployed are worse off than before. If to-day the Lord Privy Seal has stressed once again the amount of short-term work which he and his colleagues have been pushing forward; if he has once again claimed that they have done more than any of their predecessors have done, then the only comment which we can make is the comment made by the hon. Member for Aberavon (Mr. Cove), who in an article in the "New Leader" of 13th February of this year wrote: Mr. Lloyd George beats a hollow drum and trumpets aloud his futile scheme. The Labour Government is forced to troop behind him with halting steps and depressed spirits. I remember that, in that Debate Last February, the hon. Member for Smethwick (Sir O. Mosley), who followed the then Lord Privy Seal, asked, and asked in vain, what was the long-term policy of the Government which was going to succeed the short-term policy. He said he was unable to criticise that which he had not heard, and we have not heard it to-day, unless we are to suppose that the items which the Lord Privy Seal brought before us are really intended to cover the long-term policy of the Government. I have tried to find, in the pronouncements of the Prime Minister, what his idea of a long-term policy was. I do not know whether I have been 'successful, but I find that he said at Trimdon, Durham, on the 8th February last year: The policy which is to be devised by a Government, and which will justify that Government or condemn it, is not merely a policy of relief work; it is a policy which is going to enliven trade, to expand industry, and to enable men to be put in contact with raw material, so that by a combination of labour and raw material goods may be produced which can be consumed by somebody else. The Labour Government's work for industry is going to be the thing upon which it is going to be judged. I wonder if any hon. Member in the House has the very remotest idea of what all those words mean.

The Lord Privy Seal to-day, in bringing forward his ideas, observed that he was going to put them before us in a few carefully chosen words. That phrase seemed to have a familiar ring in my ears. I have been engaged myself recently in one or two interviews—[Interruption]—and one realises, after experiences of that kind, that it is desirable very carefully to choose one's words, in order to prevent misunderstandings afterwards. I wondered, therefore, when the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs had those one or two interviews with the Lord Privy Seal, whether both of them were not very careful, in patching up the tramp's breeches of the Government, to see that the stitches were so carefully chosen that there should not be any possibility of their coming undone afterwards. I can imagine the right hon. Gentleman saying to the Lord Privy Seal, "Of course, you know, I am going to support you all right on that critical Thursday, but I have got some weaker brethren to deal with, and, if I am going to pull the wool over their eyes, as I have so often and so successfully done "—[Interruption]—" we must have a form of words which will enable me to say, 'This man is doing his best; no one could have done more in the short time available to him; don't shoot at the fiddler just now.' Put up something which will sound like a programme, and I will answer for it that it will be all right on the day." So the Lord Privy Seal has spent his Easter in bringing together this scratch collection of items, some of which are to be Government actions and some are to be actions taken by independent bodies with which the Government has very little to do; and he has brought them together and called them a long-term policy.

Let us see what they are. First of all, there is the housing programme, and we are to have in England and Wales 102,000 houses built, as against 51,000 last year. The Lord Privy Seal was not very successful with his housing in Scotland. Housing in Scotland made a sad drop last year as compared with previous years. Now, apparently, he is going to ginger up the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Health, because, only two nights ago, she was telling us that at present there were 36,000 houses under construction, and that, if they managed to get 72,000 built in a year, that would be a very fine increase indeed. If they can, in two days, get an increase from 72,000 to 102,000—if we can build houses as fast as that, at the rate of 30,000 in two days—there will be very little difficulty in the Lord Privy Seal getting his houses built.

Then we had the old story of the "big stick" which is to be applied to rural authorities—the default powers of the Ministry of Health, which have always been held in terrorem over the local authorities, but which have never yet been put into operation. When we asked, a little while ago, whether the Government were going to adopt the proposals of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Falmouth (Sir T. Walters), we were told that there was very little support for them in the House, and the Government could not think of undertaking them. Under the persuasive eloquence of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs they are going to turn over a new leaf. They are very carefully examining their proposals.

Then we are to have long term credits for Russia. I must say I always regard this Russian trade with a certain amount of misgiving, because I recollect that the goods that are being supplied to Russia are going to be used for the furtherance of the five year plan, which is going to be one of the most formidable competitors to industry in this country. I wonder whether these longer credits for Russia, for which credit is being taken by the Government, are not really a means of cutting the throats of our own industrial population. I call this collection of items, which includes so many things—the electrification of railways, which is only at present the report of a committee, and the proposal for the conversion of coal into oil—a scratch collection and not a policy. Many of the items in it are merely what one might call the natural development of industry, but it is a natural development which could only take place under one condition, and that is that there is confidence in the commercial people, in the railway managers, in the scientists and in the industrialists of the country that trade is going to improve and that, if they spend this capital, they will in due time get a return for it.

I do not believe this Government has a policy. I believe they are only waiting for world conditions to change and, in the meantime, they are hoping to plead extenuating circumstances and to keep their people quiet by tales of world depression. It reminds me of the French counsel who pleaded extenuating circumstances on behalf of his client, who had murdered his mother and his father, on the ground that he was now an orphan. What have the Socialist party ever done to help industry? When they were in opposition they were largely responsible for a series of appalling strikes which culminated in a General Strike. In office they have done nothing but harass and impede industry by ill-conceived legislation, by extravagance in administration, by crushing taxation and by menaces which have destroyed the confidence of the country. The really serious feature of the situation to-day is that the longer this Government is in office the more certain it is that, when world conditions do change, this country will be in no position to take advantage of the change. For the first three months of the year the trade returns are simply appalling. The exports of iron and steel, which in 1929 were 1,151,000 tons, have come down to 481,000 tons. The export of cotton piece goods, which in 1929 was 1,039,000,000 square yards, has come down to 438,000,000. Motors and chassis, which in 1929 numbered 10,000 have some down this year to 6,000. The total exports, which were £211,000,000 in 1929, have this year come down to £121,000,000.

It is interesting to compare the imports and exports of manufactured goods. The imports of manufactures in 1929 was £70,000,000, and this year £58,000,000, a drop of 17 per cent. The exports of manufactures in 1929 were £145,000,000, and this year only £78,000,000, a drop of 46 per cent. What can relief work do to help a situation of that kind? The dominant factor to-day, as pointed out by M. Siegfried in his illuminating book, is that English manufacturing costs are among the highest in the world. When you add to that, that our own markets are being invaded by foreign imports, that our foreign markets are being restricted by tariffs and by local production, and when you see that the foreign policy of the Government of which they are boasting to-day brings no improvement in our markets in Egypt, in India, or in China, I say that the situation of the country is indeed serious. What do they offer us instead Seeds and fertilisers for allotments, bigger and better cemeteries, costly improvements of the best roads in the world, increased taxation, and a Royal Commission on Unemployment Insurance. The answer to the question whether the present Government deserve the confidence of this House when they have reduced the treatment of unemployment to such a farce as that, ought not to be in any doubt, and I appeal to the House to give its verdict without fear or favour.

Photo of Mr Herbert Morrison Mr Herbert Morrison , Hackney South

I understand that the hon. and gallant Member for North-East Bethnal Green (Major Nathan) has put to the Government a series of questions which, I am afraid, it will not be practicable for me to cover in the course of my reply to-night, but my right hon. Friend the Lord Privy Seal has noted each one of the questions of the hon. and gallant Member and will communicate with him in writing fully upon the questions raised.

I have a suspicion that the Vote of Censure which has been before the House to-day must have been inspired by some secret internal enemy of the Leaders of the Conservative party, for the only result of this Debate which I have noticed—and I have listened to nearly all of it—was to give the Government an opportunity of informing the House, through the Lord Privy Seal, of the very considerable extent of their schemes. Moreover, the Debate has conclusively proved the utter bankruptcy of the policy of the Conservative party. I wonder if there is a Member of the House who has listened to the Debate who has gathered a single constructive idea from the Conservative party. The Leader of the Opposition opened the discussion, not as if we were dealing with a grave economic problem, but as if he were performing the opening ceremony at a circus, and the discussion has been carried on, as far as the Opposition is concerned, not upon the basis of considering and discussing a grave economic and social problem, but upon the basis that it was to be a great day and to be a glorious laugh, as if to say, "Let us foregather and enjoy ourselves, even though the problem is serious." The experience of to-day is characteristic of the attitude of the Conservative party ever since the Labour Government have been in office.

There has been another curious aspect of this Debate. It has been cut into two very clearly defined parts. There was Part I, which lasted until the speech of the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George), and Part II which has proceeded from that point until the present time. In the first part of the Debate the Conservative Opposition said not a word about the question of Protective tariffs, nor did they say a single unkind word about the Liberal party; but after the speech of the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs—which I am sure the whole House was pleased to hear, certainly speaking for the Government and the Labour party I say that quite frankly—the tariff propaganda broke loose, and the Liberal party became the subject of vituperation, abuse and denunciation. Nothing was too hard to say of them. It is a curious thing that the Debate should have been so divided.

I can only assume that the Whips Office of the Conservative party said to hon. and right hon. Gentlemen who were going to take part in the Debate: "Remember this, brothers "—[HON. MEMBERS: "Why not comrades?"] I can hardly think that the unity of hon. and right hon. Members opposite has risen to the standard of comrades. "Remember this, brothers, that this Motion is designed to pick up any votes that are going. We do not care whether they are really friends of ours or whether they are enemies. They may be Liberals, they may be Members of the New party, they may be friends of the hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton). Anybody who has got a vote is our man, if we can get him." The result was that at the beginning of the Debate, in Part I, there was an extraordinary performance. Not a line, not a comma, not a smudge of policy did we get from the Leader of the Opposition; not a single indication of what the policy of the Conservative party is upon this subject. But immediately the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs had indicated that the plot of the Opposition, not to get a clear cut issue but to try to form alliances all over the place, had failed, they denounced the right hon. Gentleman for intending to vote with the Government, and tariffs became the order of the day. Hon. Members opposite were for the first time free to say what they really thought.

This Motion of Censure is a dishonest Motion of Censure. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has already said that the Motion denounces us for doing nothing, while all the speakers from the Opposition side have denounced us for doing too much. They wrongly allege inaction on the part of the Government, while every conceivable sort of action in connection with unemployment, with the exception of tariffs, to which I will refer later they have specifically condemned. Hon. Members opposite have no policy upon unemployment except the policy of tariffs, and if the position in America and in Germany is anything to go by it can hardly be claimed to be a remedy. The Debate has revealed that the division in the House upon this question, so far as immediate action and policy is concerned, leaves the Conservative party isolated from the rest of the House. There is no division on principle so far as immediate action is concerned between the Labour party and the Liberal party —[Interruption]—and no discussion in this House has ever proved that more clearly than the Debate to-day. Take the question of economic works for the relief of unemployment. The Conservative party, time after time, have denounced such works as mere relief works which do more harm than good. The point of view was stated by the right hon. Member for Tamworth (Sir A. Steel-Maitland) on the 26th of February, 1930, when speaking at the Caxton Hall and scattering pearls of wisdom before the Unionist Canvassing Corps. He said: They were told that one of the solutions of the unemployment problem was relief works, dealing with which a White Paper had been promised by the Lord Privy Seal but had not yet appeared. But relief works, if they were carried out on a big scale, were a big delusion. The moment you had to give a bribe to a local authority to carry out a piece of road-making which they would not otherwise have done it was a piece of relief work. Therefore, in the minds of hon. Members opposite, and it has been revealed amply in this Debate, the whole programme of £176,000,000, the details of which were given by the Lord Privy Seal is—[An HON. MEMBER: "Pure waste."] As the hon. Member says, pure waste and is doing more harm than good. [Interruption.] On the question of providing immediate employment for any body of unemployed the policy of the Conservative party is, not a man shall be put into employment. [Interruption.] That shall be known not only in this House but in the constituencies of the country. Is it, really true that all these works, which in our judgment are substantially real works of economic development and for the better equipment of Great Britain, are mere waste? I repudiate the doctrine that these are mere relief works or that the Government have conducted them on the basis of mere relief works; as if we were handing out Poor Law relief. Is it not of economic importance to the country that our workpeople shall have healthy houses instead of unhealthy houses? Is not the workman housed under healthy conditions a better workman than the workman who is housed in slum conditions, where his vitality is sapped?

Is it not better from the point of view of sound economics, where a road or highway system exists which is bumpy and badly constructed, involving the consumption of much more fuel for commercial transport than would otherwise be the case, if the mechanised parts of transport are disturbed by the bumps upon the road, that the road should be put in order from the point of view of the efficiency of transport? Let me give a case in point. It is one of those cases where the local authority, in the language of the right hon. Member for Tamworth had to be bribed to do the work. There was, in the provinces, a bridge that the local authority built with a substantial grant-in-aid from the State. Without that grant the bridge would not have been built. The result of the building of the bridge was to save 1s. per ton in the carriage of agricultural produce. But if the Conservative party had its way there would have been no grant-in-aid and the bridge would not have been built without a grant-in-aid.

Are we to understand that assisting towards the greater efficiency of the railways, the building of the much needed Finsbury Park tube extension, for instance, is merely relief work which is doing more harm than good? Are we to understand that the assistance to secure the acceleration of needed work for the improvement and re-equipment of our docks and harbours is wasteful and work which is doing more harm than good? Are we to understand that the development of the great electricity supply industry, in encouraging which to go forward I have been in great trouble, is doing more harm than good? And is the Imperial Conservative party going to say that assistance for development in the British Colonies overseas as a result of money spent in this country, is wrong? Really, when the Conservative party condemn this whole field of State activity, not for the purpose of spending money in order to put someone in a job in the first instance, but primarily for the purpose of improving the technical and economic equipment of our country, I reply that it is a sound thing to do and a proper thing to do. When hon. Gentlemen opposite condemn it as mere relief work, I repudiate the charge and say that it is not a true or accurate description of what is done.

We must, therefore, assume that if the Conservative party came back to office they would stop all of this work dead. They must stop it, because in their view it is all wrong. And, indeed, before, they did their best to stop it. Notwithstanding the fact that they want to stop all this work, they are innocent enough, they have enough self-assurance and optimism to assume that, having wanted to stop all the work that the Government is doing, which is largely in accordance with the programme advocated by the Liberal party at the General Elec- tion—they are innocent enough to think that the Liberal party will tamely and submissively go into the Lobby with them. I marvel at their optimism in the circumstances. But they run away from their own declaration. If all this economic work was wrong and is wrong, why did they put a spurt on in connection with this work just in front of the General Election? If this work, which has been so largely done under the Development Act of my right hon. Friend the Dominions Secretary, and under the Public Works Facilities Act and the Colonial Development Act, was not right, why did not the Tory party divide against these Bills on Second Reading. Why did they not divide against them on Third Reading? They did not, because the Tory party hardly ever has the courage of its convictions.

When the Liberal party brought forward its Motion recently on unemployment, which His Majesty's Government accepted, and which has been condemned by the Tory party in Debate to-day, what did it do? Ran away. Funked it. Said to themselves: "This is a pernicious policy, the kind of policy which will ruin the country and is disastrous from the point of view of economy. Shall we vote against it? Not this time. Leave it until better times, when it is more safe for us to reject the Motion. "This is a dishonest Motion. The Debate is not being conducted by conviction by hon. Members opposite, and really, they do not know where they are.

We come to our export trade. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Tamworth, to whom I am much obliged, pointed out before the General Election, when the last Government was in office, that it is of fundamental importance to remember that the falling off in the volume of our export trade is responsible for the unemployment of between 600,000 and 800,000 persons who would have been otherwise employed. This is still true; in fact, it is more true, owing to the great depression in world conditions which have obtained since the General Election—[Interruption]—in this and other countries of the world, as everybody knows, including protectionist America and protectionist Germany. Hon. Members opposite have a most extraordinarily perverted sense of humour. Countries which are highly protected have suffered just as much as we have, and even more. I suspect that high tariffs have something to do with it. They mourned the loss of our export trade, and they then advocated a tariff which everybody knows makes difficulties for the export trade. The theory is based upon the doctrine of national economic insulation, to use the latest economic political term, and is therefore not particularly useful for the export trade. If one mentions Russian trade, one expects trouble from hon. Members opposite, because it is one of their weaknesses. On this question the Leader of the Opposition, speaking at Newcastle, on 2nd November, 1924, actually said: Whether we like it or not, the natural exploiter of Russian trade is Germany"— and he went on to say that, as a matter of fact, in his view— the best thing for world trade, in which we should get our share, would be the development of Russian trade, as and when it becomes possible, by Germany, and not by us. That is a most extraordinary thing for the leader of a great British political party to have said. He says: "Do not bother about Russian trade, but leave it to the Germans. They can do it much better than us!"

Then to-day we got those extraordinary sneers at the British Trade Exhibition in South America. That was worth doing. It was a good thing to do. [HON. MEMBERS: "Who sneered?"] Perhaps the Front Bench did not notice it, but there is sometimes more humour behind them than there is on the Front Bench. There were distinct instances of humour. [HON. MEMBERS: "Withdraw!"] There is another phase—


Who sneered?

Photo of Lieut-General Edward Fitzroy Lieut-General Edward Fitzroy , Daventry

I hope that hon. Members will allow the right hon. Gentleman to proceed with his speech.

Photo of Mr Herbert Morrison Mr Herbert Morrison , Hackney South

My recollection is very clear



Photo of Lieut-General Edward Fitzroy Lieut-General Edward Fitzroy , Daventry

Hon. Members are not allowing the right hon. Gentleman to do anything.

Photo of Mr Herbert Morrison Mr Herbert Morrison , Hackney South

I quite expected this. The right hon. Gentleman who preceded me took a much longer time than has been left for me, and I think that hon. Gentlemen opposite are finishing this Debate in a way which is hardly creditable to them. [HON. MEMBERS: "Who sneered?"] The next phase is the reorganisation of industry—


Who sneered?

Photo of Lieut-General Edward Fitzroy Lieut-General Edward Fitzroy , Daventry

The hon. Member for Ilford (Sir G. Hamilton) really must allow the speech to continue.


The right hon. Gentleman accused our party of sneering

at the Argentine Exhibition. All I want to know is, who sneered?

Photo of Mr Herbert Morrison Mr Herbert Morrison , Hackney South

The party opposite has had a bad day and is having a bad finish. It is badly rattled. It realises that it has been defeated in Debate, and it refuses to allow the reply to its Motion to be finished.

Question put, That His Majesty's Government, having failed to carry out their election pledges with regard to unemployment, and having ceased even to attempt any remedial measures, do not deserve the confidence of this House.

The House divided: Ayes, 251; Noes, 305.

Division No. 211.]AYES.[11.0 p.m.
Acland-Troyte, Lieut.-Colonel.Clydesdale, Marquess ofGunston, Captain D. W.
Ainsworth, Lieut.-Col. CharlesCobb, Sir CyrilHacking, Rt. Hon. Douglas H.
Albery, Irving JamesCockerill, Brig.-General Sir GeorgeHall, Lieut.-Col. Sir F. (Dulwich)
Alexander, Sir Wm. (Glasgow, Cent'l)Cohen, Major J. BruneiHamilton, Sir George (Ilford)
Allen, Sir J. Sandeman (Liverp'l., W.)Colfox, Major William PhilipHammersley, S. S.
Allen, Lt.-Col. Sir William (Armagh)Colman, N. C. D.Hanbury, C.
Amery, Rt. Hon. Leopold C. M. S.Colville, Major D. J.Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry
Ashley, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Wilfrid W.Conway, Sir W. MartinHartington, Marquess of
Aske, Sir RobertCooper, A. DuffHarvey, Major S. E. (Devon, Totnes)
Astor, Maj. Hn. John J. (Kent, Dover)Courtauld, Major J. S.Haslam, Henry C.
Astor, ViscountessCourthope, Colonel Sir G. L.Henderson, Capt. R.R.(Oxf'd, Henley)
Atholl, Duchess ofCrichton-Stuart, Lord C.Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel Arthur p.
Atkinson, C.Cranborne, ViscountHerbert, Sir Dennis (Hertford)
Baillie-Hamilton, Hon. Charles W.Croft, Brigadier-General Sir H.Hills, Major Rt. Hon. John Waller
Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley (Bewdley)Crookshank, Capt. H. C.Hoare, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir S. J. G.
Balfour, George (Hampstead)Croom-Johnson, R. P.Hope, Sir Harry (Forfar)
Balfour, Captain H. H. (I. of Thanet)Culverwell, C. T. (Bristol, West)Horne, Rt. Hon. Sir Robert S.
Balniel, LordCunliffe-Lister, Rt. Hon. Sir PhilipHoward-Bury, Colonel C. K.
Beamish, Rear-Admiral T. P. H.Dalkeith, Earl ofHudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hackney, N.)
Beaumont, M. W.Dairymple-White, Lt.-Col. Sir GodfreyHunter-Weston, Lt.-Gen. Sir Aylmer
Bellairs, Commander CarlyonDavidson, Rt. Hon. J. (Hertford)Hurd, Percy A.
Berry, Sir GeorgeDavies, Dr. VernonHurst, Sir Gerald B.
Betterton, Sir Henry B.Davies, Maj. Geo. F. (Somerset, Yeovil)Hutchison. Maj.-Gen. Sir R.
Bevan, S. J. (Holborn)Davison, Sir W. H. (Kensington, S.)Inskip, Sir Thomas
Birchall, Major Sir John DearmanDawson, Sir PhilipIveagh, Countess of
Bird, Ernest RoyDespencer-Robertson, Major J. A. F.Jones, Sir G. W. H. (Stoke New'gton)
Boothby, R. J. G.Dixey, A. C.Kedward, R. M. (Kent, Ashford)
Bourne, Captain Robert CroftDixon, Captain Rt. Hon. HerbertKindersley, Major G. M.
Bowater, Col. Sir T. VansittartDuckworth, G. A. V.Knox, Sir Alfred
Bowyer, Captain Sir George E. W.Dugdale, Capt. T. L.Lamb, Sir J. Q.
Boyce, LeslieEden, Captain AnthonyLambert, Rt. Hon. George (S. Molton)
Bracken, B.Edmondson, Major A. J.Lane Fox, Col. Rt. Hon. George R.
Brass, Captain Sir WilliamElliot, Major Walter E.Law, sir Alfred (Derby, High Peak)
Briscoe, Richard GeorgeEngland, Colonel A.Leigh, Sir John (Clapham)
Brown, Ernest (Leith)Erskine, Lord (Somerset, Weston-s.-M.)Leighton, Major B. E. P.
Brown, Brig.-Gen.H.C.(Berks, Newb'y)Evans, Capt. Ernest (Welsh Univer.)Lewis, Oswald (Colchester)
Buchan, JohnEverard, W. LindsayLittle, Graham-, Sir Ernest
Buchan-Hepburn, P. G. T.Falle, Sir Bertram G.Llewellin, Major J. J.
Buckingham, Sir H.Ferguson, Sir JohnLocker-Lampson, Rt. Hon. Godfrey
Bullock, Captain MalcolmFermoy, LordLocker-Lampson, Com. O.(Handsw'th)
Burton, Colonel H. W.Fielden, E. B.Lockwood, Captain J. H.
Butler, R. A.Fison, F. G. ClaveringLong, Major Hon. Eric
Butt, Sir AlfredFord, Sir P. J.Lymington, Viscount
Cadogan, Major Hon, EdwardForestler-Walker, Sir L.Macdonald, Sir M. (Inverness)
Campbell, E. T.Fremantle, Lieut.-Colonel Francis E.Macdonald, Capt. P. D. (I. of W.)
Carver, Major W. H.Galbraith, J. F. W.Maitland, A. (Kent, Faversham)
Castle Stewart, Earl ofGanzoni, Sir JohnMakins, Brigadier-General E.
Cautley, Sir Henry S.Gault, Lieut.-Col. A. HamiltonMargesson, Captain H. D.
Cayzer, Sir C. (Chester, City)Gilmour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir JohnMarjoribanks, Edward
Cayzer, Maj. Sir Herbt. R. (Prtsmth, S.)Glyn, Major R. G. C.Mason, Colonel Glyn K.
Cazalet, Captain Victor A.Gower, Sir RobertMeller, R. J.
Cecil, Rt. Hon. Lord H. (Ox. Univ.)Graham, Fergus (Cumberland, N.)Merriman, Sir F. Boyd
Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. Sir J.A.(Birm., W.)Greene, W. P. CrawfordMilne, Wardlaw-, J. S.
Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. N. (Edgbaston)Grenfell, Edward C. (City of London)Mitchell, Sir W. Lane (Streatham)
Chapman, Sir s.Gretton, Colonel Rt. Hon. JohnMoore, Lieut.-Colonel T. C. R. (Ayr)
Christie, J. A.Gritten, W. G. HowardMorrison, W. S. (Glos., Cirencester)
Churchill, Rt. Hon. Winston SpencerGuinness, Rt. Hon. Walter E.Morrison-Bell, sir Arthur Clive
Muirhead, A. J.Ruggles-Brise, Colonel E.Thomson, Sir F.
Nelson, sir FrankRussell, Alexander West (Tynemouth)Tinne, J. A.
Newton, sir D. G C. (Cambridge)Salmon, Major I.Titchfield, Major the Marquess of
Nicholson, O. (Westminster)Samuel, A. M. (Surrey, Farnham)Todd, Capt. A. J.
Nicholson, Col. Rt. Hn. W. G. (Ptrsf'ld)Samuel, Samuel (W'dsworth, Putney)Train, J.
O'Connor, T. J.Sandeman, Sir N. StewartTryon, Rt. Hon. George Clement
Oman, Sir Charles William C.Sassoon, Rt. Hon. Sir Philip A. G. D.Turton, Robert Hugh
O'Neill, Sir H.Shepperson, Sir Ernest WhittomeVaughan-Morgan, Sir Kenyon
Ormsby-Gore, Rt. Hon. WilliamSimms, Major-General J.Wallace, Capt. D. E. (Hornsey)
Peake, Capt. OsbertSimon, Rt. Hon. Sir JohnWard, Lieut.-Col. Sir A. Lambert
Penny, Sir GeorgeSinclair, Col. T. (Queen's U., Belfst)Warrender, Sir Victor
Percy, Lord Eustace (Hastings)Skelton, A. N.Waterhouse, Captain Charles
Peto, Sir Basil E. (Devon, Barnstaple)Smith, Louis W. (Sheffield, Hallam)Wayland, Sir William A.
Pilditch, Sir PhilipSmith, R. W. (Aberd'n & Kinc'dine, C.)Wells, Sydney R.
Power, Sir John CecilSmith-Carington, Neville W.Williams, Charles (Devon, Torquay)
Pownall, Sir AsshetonSmithers, WaldronWilson, G. H. A. (Cambridge U.)
Preston, Sir Walter Rueben.Somerville, A. A. (Windsor)Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel George
Pybus, Percy JohnSomerville, D. G. (Willesden, East)Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl
Ramsbotham, H.Spender-Clay, Colonel H.Withers, Sir John James
Rawson, sir CooperStanley, Lord (Fylde)Wolmer, Rt. Hon. Viscount
Reid, David D. (County Down)Stanley, Hon. O. (Westmorland)Womersley, W. J.
Remer, John R.Steel-Maitland, Rt. Hon. Sir ArthurWood, Rt. Hon. sir Kingsley
Rentoul, Sir Gervais S.Stewart, W. J. (Belfast South)Wright, Brig.-Gen. W. D. (Tavist'k)
Reynolds, Col. Sir JamesStuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)Young, Rt. Hon. Sir Hilton
Roberts, sir Samuel (Ecclesall)Sueter, Rear-Admiral M. F.TELLERS FOR THE AYES.
Robinson, sir T. (Lanes, Stretford)Taylor, Vice-Admiral E. A.Commander Sir B. Eyres Monsell
Rodd, Rt. Hon. Sir James RennellThomas, Major L. B. (King's Norton)and Major Sir George Hennessy.
Ross, Ronald D.Thompson, Luke
Adamson, Rt. Hon. W. (Fife, West)Dallas, GeorgeHenderson, Thomas (Glasgow)
Adamson, W. M. (Staff., Cannock)Dalton, HughHenderson, W. W. (Middx., Enfield)
Addison, Rt. Hon. Dr. ChristopherDavies, D. L. (Pontypridd)Herriotts, J.
Aitchison, Rt. Hon. Craigle M.Day, HarryHicks, George
Alexander, Rt. Hon. A. V. (Hillsbro')Denman, Hon. R. D.Hirst, G. H. (York W. R. Wentworth)
Alpass, J. H.Devlin, JosephHirst, W. (Bradford, South)
Ammon, Charles GeorgeDudgeon, Major C. R.Hoffman, P. C.
Angell, Sir NormanDukes, C.Hollins, A.
Arnott, JohnDuncan, CharlesHopkin, Daniel
Attlee, Clement RichardEde, James ChuterHorrabin, J. F.
Ayles, WalterEdge, Sir WilliamHudson, James H. (Huddersfield)
Baker, John (Wolverhampton, Bilston)Edmunds, J. E.Isaacs, George
Barnes, Alfred JohnEdwards, E. (Morpeth)Jenkins, Sir William
Barr, JamesEgan, W. H.John, William (Rhondda, West)
Batey, JosephElmley, ViscountJohnston, Rt. Hon. Thomas
Beckett, John (Camberwell, Peckham)Foot, IsaacJones, Llewellyn-, F.
Benn, Rt. Hon. WedgwoodFreeman, PeterJones, J. J. (West Ham, Silvertown)
Bennett, Sir E. N. (Cardiff, Central)Gardner, B. W. (West Ham, Upton)Jones, Rt. Hon. Leif (Camborne)
Bennett, William (Battersea, South)Gardner, J. P. (Hammersmith, N)Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)
Benson, G.George, Rt. Hon. D. Lloyd (Car'vn)Jowett, Rt. Hon. F. W.
Bevan, Aneurin (Ebbw Vale)George, Major G. Lloyd (Pembroke)Jowitt, Sir W. A. (Preston)
Birkett, W. NormanGeorge, Megan Lloyd (Anglesea)Kelly, W. T.
Bondfield, Rt. Hon. MargaretGibbins, JosephKennedy, Rt. Hon. Thomas
Bowen, J. W.Gibson, H. M. (Lanes, Mossley)Kenworthy, Lt.-Com. Hon. Joseph M.
Bowerman, Rt. Hon. Charles W.Gill, T. H.Kinley, J.
Broad, Francis AlfredGillett, George M.Kirkwood, D.
Brockway, A. FennerGlassey, A. E.Knight, Holford
Bromfield, WilliamGossling, A. G.Lang, Gordon
Bromley, J.Gould, F.Lansbury, Rt. Hon. George
Brooke, W.Graham, D. M. (Lanark, Hamilton)Lathan, G.
Brothers, M.Graham, Rt. Hon. Wm. (Edin., Cent.)Law, Albert (Bolton)
Brown, C. W. E. (Notts, Mansfield)Granville, E.Law, A. (Rossendale)
Brown, Rt. Hon. J. (South Ayrshire)Gray, MilnerLawrence, Susan
Buchanan, G.Greenwood, Rt. Hon. A. (Colne)Lawrie, Hugh Hartley (Stalybridge)
Burgess, F. G.Grenfell, D. R. (Glamorgan)Lawson, John James
Burgin, Dr. E. L.Griffith, F. Kingsley (Middlesbro' W.)Lawther, W. (Barnard Castle)
Buxton, C. R. (Yorks, W. R. Elland)Griffiths, T. (Monmouth, Pontypool)Leach, W.
Caine, Hall-, DerwentGroves, Thomas E.Lea, Frank (Derby, N.E.)
Cameron, A. G.Grundy, Thomas W.Lee, Jennie (Lanark, Northern)
Cape, ThomasHall, G. H. (Merthyr Tydvil)Lees, J.
Carter, W. (St. Pancras, S.W.)Hall, J. H. (Whitechapel)Lewis, T. (Southampton)
Charleton, H. C.Hall, Capt. W. G. (Portsmouth, C.)Lindley, Fred W.
Chater, DanielHamilton, Mary Agnes (Blackburn)Lloyd, C. Ellis
Church, Major A. G.Hamilton, Sir R. (Orkney & Zetland)Logan, David Gilbert
Clarke, J. S.Harbord, A.Longbottom, A. W.
Cluse, W. S.Hardie, George D.Longden, F.
Clynes, Rt. Hon. John R.Harris, Percy A.Lovat-Fraser, J. A.
Cocks, Frederick SeymourHastings, Dr. SomervilleLowth, Thomas
Collins, Sir Godfrey (Greenock)Haycock, A. W.Lunn, William
Compton, JosephHayday, ArthurMacdonald, Gordon (Ince)
Cove, William G.Healy, CahirMacDonald, Rt. Hon. J. R. (Seaham)
Cripps, Sir StaffordHenderson, Right Hon. A. (Burnley)MacDonald, Malcolm (Bassetlaw)
Daggar, GeorgeHenderson, Arthur, Junr, (Cardiff, S.)McElwee, A.
McEntee, V. L.Peters, Dr. Sidney JohnSnowden, Thomas (Accrington)
McGovern, J. (Glasgow, Shettleston)Pethick-Lawrence, F. W.Sorensen, R.
McKinlay, A.Phillips, Dr. MarionStamford, Thomas W.
MacLaren, AndrewPicton-Turbervill, EdithStephen, Campbell
Maclean, Sir Donald (Cornwall, N.)Pole, Major D. G.Strauss, G. R.
Maclean, Nell (Glasgow, Govan)Potts, John S.Sullivan, J.
MacNeill-Weir, L.Price, M. P.Sutton, J. E.
McShare, John JamesQuibell, D. J. K.Taylor, R. A. (Lincoln)
Malone, C. L'Estrange (N'thampton)Ramsay, T. B. WilsonTaylor, W. B. (Norfolk, S.W.)
Manning, E. L.Rathbone, EleanorThomas, Rt. Hon. J. H. (Derby)
Mansfield, W.Raynes, W. R.Thorne, W. (West Ham, Plaistow)
March, S.Richards, R.Thurtle, Ernest
Marcus, M.Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring)Tillett, Ben
Marley, J.Riley, Ben (Dewsbury)Tinker, John Joseph
Marshall, FredRitson, J.Toole, Joseph
Mathers, GeorgeRoberts, Rt. Hon. F. O.(W. Bromwich)Tout, W. J.
Matters, L. W.Romeril, H. G.Townend, A. E.
Maxton, JamesRosbotham, D. S. T.Trevelyan, Rt. Hon. Sir Charles
Messer, FredRowson, GuyTurner, B.
Middleton, G.Runciman, Rt. Hon. WalterVaughan, David
Millar, J. D.Russell, Richard John (Eddisbury)Viant, S. P.
Mills, J. E.Salter, Dr. AlfredWalkden, A. G.
Milner, Major J.Samuel Rt. Hon. Sir H. (Darwen)Walker, J.
Montague, FrederickSamuel, H. Walter (Swansea, West)Wallace, H. W.
Morgan, Dr. H. B.Sanders, W. S.Watkins, F. C.
Morley, RalphSandham, E.Watson, W. M. (Dunfermline)
Morris, Rhys HopkinsSawyer, G. F.Watts-Morgan, Lt.-Col. D. (Rhondda)
Morris-Jones, Dr. J. H. (Denbigh)Scott, JamesWedgwood, Rt. Hon. Josiah
Morrison, Rt. Hon. H. (Hackney, S.)Scrymgeour, E.Wellock, Wilfred
Morrison, Robert C. (Tottenham, N.)Scurr, JohnWelsh, James (Paisley)
Mort, D. L.Sexton, Sir JamesWelsh, James C. (Coatbridge)
Moses, J. J. H.Shaw, Rt. Hon. Thomas (Preston)West, F. R.
Muff, G.Shepherd, Arthur LewisWestwood, Joseph
Muggeridge, H. T.Sherwood, G. H.White, H. G.
Murnin, HughShield, George WilliamWhiteley, Wilfrid (Birm., Ladywood)
Nathan, Major H. L.Shiels, Dr. DrummondWilkinson, Ellen C.
Naylor, T. E.Shillaker, J. F.Williams, David (Swansea, East)
Newman, Sir R. H. S. D. L. (Exeter)Shinwell, E.Williams, Dr. J. H. (Llanelly)
Noel Baker, P. J.Short, Alfred (Wednesbury)Williams, T. (York, Don Valley)
Noel-Buxton, Baroness (Norfolk, N.)Simmons, C. J.Wilson, C. H. (Sheffield, Attercliffe)
Oldfield, J. R.Simon, E. D. (Manch'ter, Withington)Wilson, J. (Oldham)
Oliver, George Harold (Ilkeston)Sinclair, Sir A. (Caithness)Wilson, R. J. (Jarrow)
Oliver, P. M. (Man., Blackley)Sinkinson, GeorgeWinterton, G. E.(Lelcester, Loughb'gh>
Owen, Major G. (Carnarvon)Sitch, Charles H.Wise, E. F.
Owen, H. F. (Hereford)Smith, Ben (Bermondsey, Rotherhithe)Wood, Major McKenzie (Banff)
Palin, John HenrySmith, Frank (Nuneaton)Young, R. S. (Islington, North)
Paling, WilfridSmith, Lees-, H. B.TELLERS FOR THE NOES.
Palmer, E. T.Smith, Ronnie (Penistone)Mr. Charles Edwards and Mr.
Parkinson, John Allen (Wigan)Smith, Tom (Pontefract)Hayes.
Perry, S. F.Smith, W. R. (Norwich)

Question put, and agreed to.