Orders of the Day — Unemployment.

– in the House of Commons on 2nd March 1933.

Alert me about debates like this

3.55 p.m.

Photo of Mr Thomas Williams Mr Thomas Williams , Don Valley

I beg to move, to leave out "£156,423,000," and to insert instead thereof "£156,422,900."

After the event which we have just witnessed, namely, the very emphatic reply from Rotherham to the action of the Government with regard to the administration of the means test, this Debate ought to be of great interest to hon. Members opposite, and particularly to industrial Members who must recognise that they no longer represent the views of their divisions. In view of the statement which has been made that the Minister of Labour is to tell us about the work schemes which the Government have in hand, I am looking forward with great interest to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman. I regret very much that the Minister could not have preceded me. Several Debates have taken place upon the question of work finding and the problem of unemployment generally, and this Debate was intended to be one to deal exclusively with the question of administration. Nevertheless, we shall welcome the statement which we understand is to be forthcoming from the Minister, and in all probability the course of the Debate will change when the right hon. Gentleman has imparted his cheery optimism and has indicated what schemes the Prime Minister had in his mind when he spoke. I would ask the right hon. Gentleman whether it is his intention to make his speech upon schemes and pro- posals which the Government have produced to find work for those who are disengaged? If that is the case I am sure that all of us will be interested, especially after the chorus of despair to which we had to listen a few weeks ago in this House.

I wish to deal with one or two questions which are exclusively points of administration for which the right hon. Gentleman is responsible. His is a vast Department catering for approximately 12,000,000 people, and dealing with tens of thousands of Employment Exchanges, and questions ranging from unemployment grants to hours of labour, juvenile training, and the administration of the means test. It would not be out of place to have a general picture of the unemployment situation before our minds. The figures given by the right hon. Gentleman to-day indicate that we have 2,380,000 people wholly unemployed, and I would invite hon. Gentlemen to recognise that the number of wholly unemployed is constantly increasing, and the more rapidly since the present Government took office. There are partially unemployed approximately 520,000, making in all, with those who no longer sign on at the Employment Exchanges, approximately 400,000 more than when the present Government took office. That perhaps is not the worst side of the case. The right hon. Gentleman will observe that, month after month, the number of hard cases, of persons who have been unemployed for more than 12 months, has continually increased, so much so that instead of the 100,000 18 months ago, according to the figures of the Ministry of Labour, there are now 400,000 people who have been unemployed for a period of at least 12 months. That is a situation which we cannot view with equanimity, and, in view of certain statements made by the Prime Minister and the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the statement which the Minister is to make will be welcomed if it tends to reduce the abnormal number of people who have been out of work for 12 continuous months.

Then the number of transitional cases continues to increase. I notice that between January, 1932, and January, 1933, there is an increase in the number transferred from the Employment Exchanges to the Poor Law authorities of no less than 268,000, or a total in transition of 1,174,000. The right hon. Gentleman will know without my wasting the time of the House how this problem is affecting certain districts. In Glamorgan, for instance, 42 per cent.; in Monmouthshire, 45.8 per cent.; in Durham, 44 per cent.; in Middlesbrough, 48 per cent.; and in Sheffield, 40 per cent. of the workpeople are unemployed. As a result of this vast increase in the army of unemployed, local authorities all over the country are groaning under burdens which many of them are unable to bear. Since the right hon. Gentleman and the Government took office we have been producing paupers at an alarming rate. I think that the Government have been chiefly successful in that they have produced paupers at a quicker rate than any other Government has ever produced them.

The question of Poor Law relief is an equally serious one, I repeat, for Poor Law authorities, and I want to point out that while the average number per 10,000 of the population all over the country persistently increases, it has increased at a more alarming rate since this Government came into office than at any time prior to that. In Lincoln, for instance—and the Government are to an extent responsible for these figures by their attitude to Russia—out of every 10,000 persons resident in that ancient city, 1,410 are in receipt of public assistance; that is, out of every 100, no fewer than 14 are paupers. At Liverpool the number is 901 out of every 10,000, in Sheffield 1,141, in Manchester 735, and in Barnsley 907. The point I want to emphasise is that the Government have a tremendous responsibility for dealing with the problem of unemployment, and for seeing that our large local authorities are not sent into a state of insolvency.

The first question I want to ask the right hon. Gentleman, therefore, is, What steps, if any, are the Government taking to assist local authorities when they are burdened with increased responsibilities by the administration of the means test? The right hon. Gentleman knows that it is a mere transfer from national funds to local funds, and he also knows that rate burdens are real burdens upon industry, because they have to be paid out of industry, while, at any rate, Income Tax is not paid unless the income has actually been obtained. Will he tell us, therefore, when he comes to reply, just what assistance is going to be made available to places such as Liverpool, Manchester, Barnsley, Lincoln and the rest which are confronted with a Poor Law rate of anything from 6s. to 7s. or 8s. in the pound, while residential areas, where are the homes of the people who make the profits but never live in industrial areas, are approximately rated at 9d. or 10d.

The next thing to which I want to refer is the very cheery statement made by the Chancellor of the Exchequer a fortnight ago. Although the Government were returned in order to restore industrial prosperity, indeed to resolve all the problems confronting the State and nearly all the world, the figures given us show that the situation to-day is infinitely worse than when the present Government took office. The Prime Minister talked about 2,000,000 men whom he termed "scrap," but the Chancellor of the Exchequer was, if I may say so, much more honest than many hon. and right hon. Gentlemen when they are talking about this question of unemployment, for if the Chancellor visualises a perpetuation of this profit-making system, which has no relation to human needs or human desires, I agree with him that there will be no material reduction in the army of unemployed within 10 years. Indeed the Chancellor went on to state: If anybody expressed any hope that improvement was in sight or was about to set in that could only be set down to a sort of dogged optimism which refused to take into account ale evidence. Well, the Chancellor has got the evidence, and he gives little or no hope either to the unemployed or to those who may presently be unemployed. Again he said: There must be a transition period in which things will be very difficult and unemployment will be largely increased."—[OFFICIAL RRPORT 16th February, 1933; cols. 1216 and 123, Vol. 274.] He went on to suggest that four things were required—restoration of confidence, increase in wholesale prices, cheap money and international co-operation. If you increase the prices of commodities to be purchased by the unemployed, whose benefits you have reduced by 10 per cent., will you create confidence in the hearts and minds of the 3,000,000 unemployed? The Chancellor states that we must have international co-operation. Having watched this Government very closely during the past 18 months, it seems to me that if they have been striving for anything at all, it has been nothing but international isolation. They have done their best to prevent any sort of movement in trade. Whenever an international movement in trade has been proposed for dealing even remotely with this colossal human problem, the Government have done their very best to prevent any progress being made. We have been told by Ministers that all these work schemes are hopeless failures. Export credits, unemployment grants, housing, drainage, roads and so forth are of no service in this problem. The Government have economised on wages, work schemes and the rest, and they have added approximately £30,000,000 or £40,000,000 in direct taxation on the consumers of the country, and to that extent have reduced the spending power of the poorest of the poor.

If, as the Chancellor truly states, there is no likelihood of any material reduction during the next 10 years in the army of unemployed, what are they going to do with the unemployed if they are unwilling to do anything for them? Twelive months or so ago the International Federation of Trade Unions raised at Geneva the question of the 40-hour week. It was at that time turned down by two votes. Italy resurrected the question later, and it found its way on the agenda of the Preparatory Conference for Technical Problems. A representative of the Government went to Geneva and represented the British Government's point of view. When we challenged the right hon. Gentleman by stating that his instructions must have been to oppose the 40-hour proposal by any and every means, the right hon. Gentleman engendered some heat and indeed, on occasion, some indignation. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, a fortnight ago, read out the following quotation: The British Government delegate stated that his Government considered that the question of the compulsory limitation of the hours of work to 40 a week had not yet been sufficiently examined to warrant a definite conclusion being reached, and that therefore his Government were opposed to proceeding at the present time with the project of a draft convention. He pressed for a comprehensive inquiry into the whole question before any definite action was taken."— [OFFICIAL REPORT, 10th February, 1933; col. 1224, Vol. 274] When the Chancellor quoted that he appeared to think that it was conclusive and that the Government had not in fact opposed the 40-hour Convention. I will give another quotation. I will not select a sentence or two from the context, and I Apologise in advance for a long quotation, because I want to give the full statement made in "Industrial and Labour Information," published by the International Labour Office, League of Nations. This was the statement made by Mr. Norman, the Government representative, when intervening in the discussion. Mr. Norman said: At this stage he would deal only with that aspect of the problem which related to wages. Grave as was unemployment, it was necessary to bear in mind that the number of employed persons still exceeded the number of unemployed, and any proposal likely to result in lowering the standard of life of those now in employment ought to be subjected to the most critical examination. The British workers were in favour of a reduction of hours provided that it was not accompanied by a reduction of individual earnings. The generality of British employers, for a variety of reasons—technical, financial, economic, etc.—were opposed to the imposition of a 40-hour week by legislation; further, if legislation were imposed, they held that they would find it impossible to retain earnings at their present level, and would be compelled to reduce the individual earnings of the employed people. If in these circumstances the British Government did impose a limitation of hours to 40 per week, the result would be industrial strife over wages, the setting aside of collective agreements, confusion and controversy of a very dangerous kind. This being so, the lot of the unemployed would not be assisted in any degree. ' He concluded: It had been proved conclusively by Dr. Sitzler, in an article which appeared in the December issue of the International Labour Review that in present circumstances it would be hopeless to attempt by international convention or by national legislation to control wage rates so as to prevent earnings from being reduced coincidently with hours. Apart from technical, economic and other obstacles in the way of an acceptable 40-hour Convention at the present time, the wage difficulty was conclusive. The British Government therefore suggested that the Conference should look to other arid more helpful fields of inquiry and not waste time and energy in pursuing the phantom of a 40-hour Convention. I would ask whether that statement does not represent the point of view of Mr. Norman and, presumably, of the Minister of Labour and the whole of the Govern- went. They are entirely opposed to a 40-hour week. While every other industrial State in the Conference voted for the second of the two resolutions at Geneva, the British Government, the most important one in Europe, was the only Government to oppose that second resolution. That is by no means a new standpoint for the Conservative party. When we listen to the Minister of Labour we always feel that he is the very essence of sincerity, but we cannot forget the attitude of the Conservative party when they were in office from 1918 onwards. We had the Eight Hours' Convention which was passed at Washington in 1919. Did the Conservative Government do anything to ratify that Convention at that time? No. We had also a Conservative Government in 1923. Did they take any action to examine the problem, or even to think about it? Dominated then, as they me to-day, by representatives of the employers, they did nothing. We had a Conservative Government from 1924 to 1929. What action did the Minister of Labour at that time take to initiate an inquiry so that the delicate agreements on wages and hours could be carefully examined and the problems smoothed out and the Government could ratify the Washington Convention? They did nothing. They never even felt that they ought to take any steps in that direction. They left office in 1929 with nothing done in regard to hours, because they had not in the Government a Minister of foresight or any person capable of visualising the problem.

Photo of Mr Arthur Steel-Maitland Mr Arthur Steel-Maitland , Tamworth

As the hon. Member has referred to me, may I ask why, in those circumstances, the succeeding Socialist Minister of Labour first undertook to ratify and then in the course of two years did not do so?

Photo of Mr Thomas Williams Mr Thomas Williams , Don Valley

I am much obliged to the right hon. Gentleman for having raised that point and I will deal with it, but the point at the moment is this —[Laughter.] If hon. Members will contain their souls in patience for two or three seconds, I will turn to the right hon. Gentleman's question. Perhaps it would satisfy hon. Members and check their amusement if I deal with the point now. The moment that the Labour Government took office one of the first problems with which they tried to deal was the problem of the Washington Convention. Sir William Jowitt spent a month with his coat off, so to speak, dealing with the problem. [Interruption.] Well, at all events, the Labour Government produced a Bill, and we said then, as we say to-day, that as near as it is humanly possible to obtain agreement on such a comprehensive Measure outside a Committee room of the House of Commons, agreement was obtained, and it only required numerical strength in the House of Commons to carry it.

Photo of Sir Geoffrey Mander Sir Geoffrey Mander , Wolverhampton East

You had that, but you never gave it a Second Reading.

Photo of Mr Thomas Williams Mr Thomas Williams , Don Valley

The hon. Member for East Wolverhampton (Mr. Mander) has pursued this question very tenaciously, and I am proud of his persistence, because I am equally persistent, but I would remind the hon. Member that in 1929–30 he did not control the Liberal party. He could never guarantee that the Government of that day had behind it sufficient Members of the Liberal party, with the Members of the Labour party, to make a majority and to carry the Bill. There was another reason why we did not carry the Bill, and that was that we were not aware at that time that we had so many Conservative Ministers in the Labour Government. Whatever the right hon. Gentleman may say, he must bear that fact in mind. We have had to shed a good many of our misfortunes which prevented action on that occasion. Let me summarise the position. From 1918–1922 nothing was done in regard to ratifying the Convention. In 1923 nothing was done. From 1924 to 1929 nothing was done, and now in 1933, with 30,000,000 unemployed, for 3,000,000 of whom we are responsible, when a proposal is made for a 40 hours week, the right hon. Gentleman says that we cannot deal with that matter because we have not had time to consider it.

It appears that the Government are anxious to do as little for the unemployed as possible, if their actions are a true guide. Three or four weeks ago the right hon. Gentleman made a statement in the House that in the short space of time before July there is no hope of examining this problem and making a good job of it at Geneva in July. Is that to be the Government's attitude towards the Convention? Have they made up their minds in advance that they are going to be as unhelpful as they possibly can? Germany and the other Governments are anxious for such a proposal. Their representatives spoke in support of it. Are we to be the only Government who have no desire to deal with the new social problems which have arisen, and which will have to be dealt with sooner or later?

I know the old argument. It will be equivalent to the argument that was raised when the hours were 10 per day. It was then said that the employer depended upon the last hour for his profit and that if we reduced the working day from 10 hours to nine we should rob the employer of his profit. The same statement was made when the hours were nine. We are now down to eight hours a day. Those reductions were made on ethical and humanitarian grounds, but future reductions will have to be made on social grounds. When one visualises the effect upon juveniles between the ages of 14 and 21, for whom no adequate arrangements can be made, it becomes a real social necessity for us to examine the advisability of an international convention on this subject. One of the four things which the Chancellor of the Exchequer considers to be necessary is international co-operation. Will the Minister of Labour take up the challenge of the Chancellor of the Exchequer and make a convention in regard to a 40 hours' week the starting point for international co-operation? If it is possible to have international cartels, international restrictions and the ramifications of international financiers, it ought not be impossible to have an international convention for the purpose of dealing with working hours.

My third point is this: What is the Minister going to do with the victims of an economic system over which they have no control? Transitional benefit has been administered now for 18 months and we have had a good deal of experience of it. Until recently in the West Riding of Yorkshire we had few complaints, but the situation has been different since the Minister intervened. He sent Mr. Basham to Rotherham and he helped to bash the Government in the by-election there. The West Riding County Council have been told that unless they administer transitional benefit more harshly—that was not the actual word used—or more in accordance with the Order in Council, the right hon. Gentleman will have no alternative but to supersede them. The West Riding County Council, dominated by Conservative and Liberal members, not wishing to undergo the indignity of super-session, responded to the threat of the right hon. Gentleman. They set up a sub-committee to consider the question and see what could be done. That subcommittee has made certain recommendations and there are two paragraphs in their report which finally and definitely demonstrate that transitional administration means a destitution test. Whatever the right hon. Gentleman may say, it will be difficult for him to escape from the words in the sub-committee's report where they say: Your sub-committee deem it essential to remind the public assistance committee, and through them the several guardians' committees, that in the administration of relief there is no authority to do more than relieve destitution, and any allowance which may be more than sufficient for that purpose is illegal, and the scale suggested in the restrictions recommended has been formulated with due regard to the legal limitations imposed. In another paragraph the sub-committee say: Such restrictions, if imposed, would be directed primarily to applications for public assistance, but they would have equal effect upon applications for transitional payments. Therefore, it is a pure, unadulterated destitution test that is being applied, and we have had some early results of it in the West Riding. For approximately 15 months I do not think I have had occasion to write one letter to the Minister of Labour or his Department, or his officers, for whom I have very profound respect, complaining of the administration, but the moment the Minister insists upon the West Riding County Council going near to the letter of the Order in Council, we find that in the Don Valley area 25 per cent. of the total cases have been re-examined in the light of the recommendations of the sub-committee. If the remaining 75 per cent. of the cases for examination are dealt with similarly, the increase of determinations where the applicant receives nothing at all will be round about 14 or 15 per cent.

I want to give a few cases and to ask the right hon. Gentleman and hon. Members whether they really think that these determinations should have called for the threat of supersession from the Minister of Labour. Here is a case of a miner working one week out of every two, through no fault of his own. It is an order of the management and presumably it is suitable to them. There is the man and wife and the gross earnings, according to the colliery wage return, have been £1 5s. 3d. per week. The deductions at the colliery for rent and other stoppages is 13s. 6d., leaving the man with only 11s. 9d. to take home each week. The public assistance committee therefore granted the man 10s. a week, or slightly less than the maximum benefit payable. He had, therefore, £1 1s. 9d. a week to keep himself and his wife, to provide clothing and to meet all the needs of the home. Does the right hon. Gentleman think that such a. person is not entitled to 10s. a week? I ask any hon. Member to put that question to himself. Now that the county council have devised a scheme what is that man's position? He works at the colliery for one week but is unable to work the next week through no fault of his own. His net receipts from the colliery are 11s. 9d. a week. Can the right hon. Gentleman or any hon. Member say that men are going to continue working down the coal mines for 11s. a week. After having paid their weekly contributions, as they must by law, to be denied the right of receiving any sort of benefit, is the last word in aggravation and is calculated to produce an atmosphere that will reflect itself adversely, sooner or later.

Here is another case of a man who has a wife and two children. He works one week in two and his earnings average 30s. per week. The deductions for rent and other stoppages amount to 15s. 5d., leaving 14s. 7d. for the man, his wife and two children. The public assistance committee awarded 12s. transitional payment. Is that too much? It means 26s. 7d. per week to maintain four persons. The right hon. Gentleman and his Department think it is too much and have browbeaten the county council into taking it away. Here is a man and wife and two children who are to maintain themselves on 14s. 7d. per week. There is no reason, common sense or fair play, in an administration of that character. Here is another case, a man and wife with three dependent children, two girls, one of 15 years and one of 17 years, and a boy 19 years. The man himself is unemployed, and the boy's earnings are £1 9s. 3d. per week. There are deductions amounting to 15s. 4d. for rent and other things, leaving the boy 14s. 6d. to take home each week. The public assistance committee have reduced this man's benefits, which ought to be 21 9s. 3d. per week, to 16s. per week. Therefore, a man and wife with three dependent children and two girls 15 and 17 and a boy of 19 working in the pit, eight persons in all, are now told that they must exist on 30s. 6d. per week.

That sort of thing will not bear scrutiny. I need hardly give further similar cases. If we are in the position which the Chancellor of the Exchequer suggests, that there is no hope for 3,000,000 people for 10 years and if this is the sort of treatment they are to expect from a National Government in their hour of direst need, I suggest that such conditions are calculated to create communism and rebellion, to which I am the last person to look forward with equanimity; but at the same time it does suggest to decent men that they may by force get better conditions than they do by decent conduct. I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he thinks that this public assistance committee, this county council, or for that matter the Rotherham and Durham committees are doing their job as we would have them do it? Question and answer in this House have left hon. Members in a state of confusion. We do not know to whom we ought to appeal when we receive letters complaining of the methods of administration. Have we to write to the right hon. Gentleman or have we to write to the commissioner We have reached a terrible stage if hon. Members have to write to a Commissioner, the employé of the Minister, to ascertain whether or not such methods are justified. The right hon. Gentleman told us that he gave the commissioner no instructions, he had no power, but in the next sentence he told us that the commissioner was responsible to the Minister of Labour. We want to know exactly who is responsible for this deadly work of the commissioner and to whom we may appeal when we find ourselves confronted with individual problems.

I know that hon. Members are looking forward to hearing of the work schemes about which the Minister of Labour is to tell us and I will not, therefore, unduly prolong my speech. I should like to have made some observations with regard to juvenile training and educational facilities but I will conclude by asking the right hon. Gentleman to reply to three specific questions. Some local authorities have to budget for an annual expenditure and they do not know whether to estimate it at the rate of 4s. or 6s. If he can tell them, or give them a hint as to what the Government are going to do, whether the public assistance committee is to increase the rate up to 1s. and what assistance the Government is going to give; if he will enlighten them on that point then the chancellor of the exchequer of a local authority will be able to do his job more effectively. We also want to know whether Mr. Norman was speaking for the right hon. Gentleman, and that he has made up his mind that the Government are going to take no positive action to reduce the hours of labour in this country.

It is no longer an ethical or humanitarian problem, it is a great social problem. If you solve your problem of War Debts and Reparations, your currency problems, and many others, there is still the technocracy problem, the mechanical problem, which is producing unemployment daily and which must be dealt with in some way. You will have to consider how to reduce hours of work without reducing wages. You will have to share the work and increase the spending power of the working people. Instead of giving temporary educational facilities at juvenile centres we shall have to think of increasing the school leaving age. The Minister is responsible for hours of labour; and we want to know what his attitude is going to be. We want to know whether he considers the sort of administration now in progress in the West Riding justified, and if not whether he will tell the commissioner and the public assistance committee that they are too harsh with the people just as readily as he has told those people who he considered were too sympathetic towards poor miserable wretches who have been denied the right of earning their own livelihood.

4.48 p.m.

Photo of Sir Henry Betterton Sir Henry Betterton , Rushcliffe

Let me congratulate the hon. Member for the Don Valley (Mr. T. Williams) on his speech and also thank him for putting down this Vote to-day. I do so for two reasons, one because I want to say something about the work of the Department and, secondly, because I am glad to have an opportunity of correcting some serious misapprehensions under which the hon. Member is labouring. If hon. Members will be good enough to listen to the answers I am going to give I think the Debate will serve a useful purpose. In regard to the work of the Department, the House will remember that when I was appointed some 18 months ago I expressed the view that the Ministry of Labour was too often regarded by the public as merely a bureau for paying benefit. I feel that the constructive work of the Department, about which the hon. Member for Chester-le-Street (Mr. Lawson) is just as proud as I am, is too little recognised and too little known. The Ministry of Labour is, in some respects, in a different position to any other Department. Sometimes, as a result of highly controversial legislation which is passed, it may fall to the lot of the Ministry to administer the Act, and when controversial questions arise the Minister of Labour is the proper person to bear the responsibility for such administration. In so far as I am concerned, I hope hon. Members do not think that I have ever tried to shirk that responsibility.

A good deal of the work of the Ministry is not political at all and, furthermore, a good deal of it would not be possible unless we had the help and cooperation 'of many people quite independent of any political considerations, who by their aid and assistance make our administration as helpful as it has been. The hon. Member for the Don Valley said one thing with which I agree. He referred, pointedly, to the sympathy of the officials of the Ministry of Labour in carrying out their duties. Having regard to the difficulties of their task, they carry out their duties with a sympathy which is universally recognised, particularly towards that section of the community which is most in need of it.

When the Ministry of Labour was formed some 14 years ago one of the principal duties, perhaps the principal duty, of the Department, in the eyes of those who set it up, was the placing in work and the finding of jobs for those out of work. That I still regard as one of the principal duties which the Department perform, and I can assure the House that we have spared no effort to develop that side of our work. It has been the subject of a constant and sustained effort throughout the whole of the last 18 months, and I am glad to say that I do detect a growing appreciation of the value of the employment exchanges, a value which is becoming more and more obvious. In the last two years we have found places for nearly 2,000,000 cases in each year. That to me is gratifying evidence of the usefulness of the work which we are trying to do. I will give just one example of the versatility of the Ministry of Labour in placing work. Last summer we had a request from the potato growers in Jersey to find them labour with which to get in their crop. Formerly it had been done by Frenchmen. One of our officials took in hand the duty of recruiting for this work, and I saw a report of that work when it was completed; it was a most interesting document. The experiment was a complete success; the experience of all those who went to Jersey was satisfactory and out of the 3,000 who were found places very few failed to make good.

I want to say a few words about the juvenile placing. It is, of course, a truism to say that the most impressionable age in anyone's life is at the time of leaving school. I suppose that almost all Members of this House through the chance of circumstances were able to make their own choice of the calling that they proposed to follow; but there are many who are less fortunate, and it is those whom we want to help, if we can, in this juvenile placing work. Two things are obviously necessary if you are to help a boy or girl to get a job. First of all -we must know something of the character and capability of the boy or girl, and, secondly, we must know the industrial prospects of the district in which the boy or girl lives. Through the local committees for juvenile employment we have been able to do a work of very great value in assisting boys and girls, and in partnership with the local education authorities we have been able to place a great many boys and girls in employment.

I would take this opportunity of paying a tribute to those public-spirited persons who have helped in this matter, and who have given much of their time to the work. In addition to the local committees for juvenile employment there is a committee in London, the London Juvenile Advisory Council, and there are special committees dealing with secondary school boys and girls, set up by the Ministry in co-operation with the two Associations of Headmasters and Headmistresses, both in London and in the provinces. The hon. Member for Chester-le-Street will remember that in England and Scotland there are also two national Advisory Councils which during the last five years have made many reports on this matter, which have been of the very greatest use to the Ministry and some of which have been accepted.

I want to speak about the question of training. It will be seen in the Estimates, on page 5, that there is an increase for the training of young unemployed men, and an increase for the improved course of instruction for unemployed juveniles. With regard to both of these Estimates, clearly in these days of financial stress and difficulty it is essential that we should justify any increase of any estimate. The House will remember that the other day it was stated that the policy of the Government was to encourage works of an economic character. What work could be more economic in a period of unemployment than any effort to prevent the deterioration of those who are out of work, and particularly the deterioration of the young. Therefore I feel that that item of increased expenditure is justified to the full. It has been my endeavour to provide instructional centres in as many industrial areas as possible, and I am in a position to say that there are very few industrial areas now where such facilities have not been provided. It is estimated that during the last 12 months something like 150,000 juveniles have attended at these centres.

Another item relates to the scheme of training under the heads of "training centres" and "instructional centres." The object of the training centres is to improve the chances of employment of unemployed men who, either because of their lack of skill and experience or because their skill has lost its marketable value, have little expectation of further regular employment. These training centres provide a training for six months, and from the point of view of training they have been successful. The numbers who will pass through the nine centres will be something like 4,000 in the year. In addition there are the 11 instructional centres, through which about 9,500 will pass in the year. With regard to the instructional centres the recruitment is on a voluntary basis amongst unemployed men in the depressed areas. The response of the volunteers has been extremely satisfactory. I have visited many of the centres myself and have found that they are really doing a useful work. Therefore, this increased grant is justified on every ground, both social and economic. With regard to the training centres our policy has been not to take more men than those for who we can reasonably expect to find jobs. A very large proportion indeed—I think it is something like 90 per cent.—of those who have passed through the training centres have been found jobs. With regard to the instructional centres, their work is regarded as reconditioning, without the practical certainty of a job being found.

Photo of Mr Aneurin Bevan Mr Aneurin Bevan , Ebbw Vale

Has any attempt at all been made to follow up the history of the lads who have been placed in these jobs? A figure can sometimes falsify the whole of the facts. Is it the case that the boys get into jobs and almost immediately are out again?

Photo of Sir Henry Betterton Sir Henry Betterton , Rushcliffe

We have in fact had samples taken, which show the subsequent history of those who have been through the training centres. I have not the detailed information here, but I know that these samples, speaking broadly, justify the view I have just expressed, that this work ought to be carried on, and that it is serving a useful purpose in the country. Therefore, I have no hesitation in commending it to the House.

Photo of Mr David Kirkwood Mr David Kirkwood , Dumbarton District of Burghs

Will the Minister say whether it is the case that young men who refuse to go to these training centres are cut off from the Employment Exchanges?

Photo of Sir Henry Betterton Sir Henry Betterton , Rushcliffe

In one of the recent Acts, I think it is the Act of 1929, there is a provision which enables the Ministry to say that unless they go to these centres they will be cut off. It is a fact, so I am informed, that the volunteers are sufficient to fill the centres, and in practice that Act has been applied very little in this respect.

Photo of Sir Henry Betterton Sir Henry Betterton , Rushcliffe

I am stating broadly what is the position.

Photo of Mr David Kirkwood Mr David Kirkwood , Dumbarton District of Burghs

In the case of my young men, for instance, in Dumbarton and Clydebank, I want to know whether it is the case that those who have refused to go to the training centres have been cut off.

Photo of Sir Henry Betterton Sir Henry Betterton , Rushcliffe

I have told the hon. Gentleman what the law is. The law does give that power to the Minister. The numbers of those who have actually been so cut off I could not state without notice. Another question with which I want to deal is that of training for women. The amount of the Estimate is £81,000. The training for unemployed girls and women is carried on by the Central Committee for Women's Training and Employment, on behalf of and financed by grants from the Ministry of Labour. In the last 10 years or so something like 60,000 women have passed through these centres. The work of this central committee I personally have followed very closely. We have two types of centres, one residential and one nonresidential. There are 26 non-residential centres, and about 2,700 women are trained during the year. There are seven residential centres, and there are 1,700 trainees admitted annually. I have made inquiries in order to ascertain whether the expenditure is justified. I visited some of the centres and made personal inquiries. I am satisfied that this is a charge which I am justified in asking the House to meet. About 80 per cent. of those who have passed through the centres have been settled satisfactorily in their occupations.

One other item to which I must refer is the grant for assisting the voluntary provision of occupation for unemployed persons. I say quite definitely, with regard to this voluntary work that is being done up and down the country, that I have not claimed, and do not intend to claim, the slightest political credit for it. I regard it as a work done by people who want to help their fellows and I do not suggest that it should be, or that it is being, regarded by me as a substitute for something which the Opposition think we ought to do, but which we have left undone. I wish to make it clear that the tremendous success of the voluntary effort is the result of work for which I, personally, at any rate, claim no political kudos. It is quite obvious to everybody who has been reading the papers and watching what has been going on throughout the country that there has been a very remarkable movement in the past year even in the past few months among a large number of people who are sincerely anxious to help if they can in some way or other those who are unfortunately unemployed.

I need not go into the activities of various bodies in this connection. They are well known to hon. Members of this House but work of some kind has been started in approximately 500 areas and that work covers at the present time about 150,000 persons. When there was an increase in this work it became clear that there was considerable need for a central body to collect information and generally to guide and assist voluntary effort. The Government accordingly decided to recognise the National Council of Social Service as the body which would most appropriately undertake this work and they have made a grant for this purpose to the National Council. The terms upon which that, grant is made may be described, roughly, as pound for pound within a limit, that is to say the amount given by the Government is added to, pound for pound, from the organisation.

Photo of Mr Joseph Batey Mr Joseph Batey , Spennymoor

Will the Minister tell us why he proposes to make it £25,000 next year?

Photo of Sir Henry Betterton Sir Henry Betterton , Rushcliffe

About £7,000 or £8,000 of the £25,000 will be devoted to assisting the National Council of Social Service in what we may call its administrative work—in other words, in enabling it to assist voluntary organisations, as for instance by preventing mistakes made in one place from being repeated in another, and in enabling it to collect information and, in general as I have said to guide and assist voluntary effort. It is proposed to grant £15,000 of that sum to enable the Council to provide assistance in promoting, in areas suffering from severe and prolonged unemployment, schemes of occupation for unemployed persons, either directly or through the organisation of national or regional bodies which they may invite to act on their behalf.

Photo of Mr Jack Lawson Mr Jack Lawson , Chester-le-Street

Are these the schemes that the Prime Minister said that the right hon. Gentleman was to describe?

Photo of Sir Henry Betterton Sir Henry Betterton , Rushcliffe

I have the Prime Minister's answer here. The right hon. Gentleman, I find, said: I have already explained the policy of the Government in regard to the provision of employment. What I am sure he had in mind there was the whole question of relief work which I certainly am not going to deal with to-day. Then he went on: As regards the alleviation of the condition of the unemployed, I would ask the hon. Member to await the statement which will be made. That is the statement to be made by me. What the right hon. Gentleman had in mind I have no doubt was the general work of training and placing which I am dealing with to-day.

Photo of Mr Jack Lawson Mr Jack Lawson , Chester-le-Street

I am sorry to interrupt the right hon. Gentleman again but if he will look at the question which was put to the Prime Minister he will see that it asked the right hon. Gentleman to lay before the House a White Paper giving full details of the schemes for the alleviation of unemployment which the Government have now under consideration. The Prime Minister in reply said that the Minister of Labour was going to give us those schemes.

Photo of Sir Henry Betterton Sir Henry Betterton , Rushcliffe

I think the hon. Member has entirely misunderstood the Prime Minister's answer. At any rate I am not going to repeat in the Debate to-day what he and I have said on many other occasions, namely, that with regard to these relief schemes we think they would be worse than useless.

Photo of Mr Joseph Batey Mr Joseph Batey , Spennymoor

I hope the Minister will excuse me for intervening again but this is an important matter. Several supplementary questions were put to the Prime Minister and, in answer to the supplementary questions, the Prime Minister said very distinctly that if we waited we would hear the schemes of employment for the purpose of relieving distress announced by the Minister of Labour. I hope that the Minister is going to give us that information.

Photo of Sir Henry Betterton Sir Henry Betterton , Rushcliffe

The hon. Member knows as well as I do that what the Prime Minister had in mind and what he understood this Question to mean—[HON. MEMBERS: "No 1"]3—obviously was the question of relief schemes—a matter which has been discussed over and over again in this House and which I certainly am not going to discuss today, if for no other reason than that it would be out of order to do so because it would need legislation.

Photo of Mr Joseph Batey Mr Joseph Batey , Spennymoor

Are we to understand then that the Minister of Labour is not going to carry out the promise of the Prime Minister to give us information about these schemes. In that case I think we are entitled to move the Adjournment of the House, and if you, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, will accept such a Motion, I am prepared to move, "That this House do now adjourn," in order to give the Prime Minister an opportunity of attending and telling the House what he did mean this afternoon.

Photo of Mr Dennis Herbert Mr Dennis Herbert , Watford

This is not the proper time to move that Motion. The hon. Member ought to have done so at the conclusion of Questions. I am afraid I could not accept that Motion now.

Photo of Mr Jack Lawson Mr Jack Lawson , Chester-le-Street

On a point of Order. I think it will he within the memory of hon. Members who were present at Question Time that this was a very explicit question addressed to the Prime Minister and placed on the Paper. It was not a mere general question. It asked for a White Paper giving, details of the schemes for the alleviation of unemployment which the Government have now under consideration. The Prime Minister did not give a general answer, but stated

very definitely that the Minister of Labour in this Debate would give a clear answer on the question. It appeared to us therefore that the Minister of Labour was going to make a statement of very important Government policy here this afternoon. I intervened previously because when the right hon. Gentleman began telling the House about the schemes run by voluntary organisations, dealing with a handful of people, I began to think that those were the schemes which he was going to tell us about rather than the schemes alluded to in the question. I submit that there is ground for moving the Adjournment. If the right hon. Gentleman opposite is right, the Prime Minister has not only misled the House but has knowingly misled the House.

Photo of Mr Dennis Herbert Mr Dennis Herbert , Watford

I was not quite sure what kind of Motion the hon. Member for Spennymoor (Mr. Batey) had in mind when he raised the point. I thought he desired leave to move the Adjournment in order to discuss a particular matter under Standing Order 10. In that case the proper time to have asked for leave would have been at the conclusion of Questions. But it is open to any hon. Member to move, if the Chair accepts the Motion, either "That this House do now adjourn," or "That the Debate be now adjourned." That is a different matter altogether.

Photo of Mr Aneurin Bevan Mr Aneurin Bevan , Ebbw Vale

If the Motion has been moved I beg to second it—that is, if you Mr. Deputy-Speaker accept the Motion.

Photo of Mr Dennis Herbert Mr Dennis Herbert , Watford

I have not accepted any Motion. At the moment no Motion has been put to me.

Photo of Mr Aneurin Bevan Mr Aneurin Bevan , Ebbw Vale

I beg to move, "That the Debate be now adjourned."

Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER, being of opinion that the Motion was an. abuse of the Rules of the House, put the Question thereupon forthwith.

The House divided: Ayes, 48; Noes, 269.

Division No. 64.]AYES.[5.12 p.m.
Acland, Rt. Hon. Sir Francis DykeCape, ThomasDavies, Rhys John (Westhougkton)
Adams, D. M. (Poplar, South)Cocks, Frederick SeymourDobble, William
Attlee, Clement RichardCove, William G.Edwards, Charles
Batey, JosephCripps, Sir StaffordGeorge, Major G. Lloyd (Pembroke)
Bernays, RobertCurry, A. C.Greenwood, Rt. Hon. Arthur
Bevan, Aneurln (Ebbw Vale)Daggar, GeorgeGrenfell, David Rees (Glamorgan)
Buchanan, GeorgeDavies, David L. (Pontypridd)Griffith, F. Kingsley (Middlesbro', W.)
Grundy, Thomas W.Llewellyn-Jones, FrederickPrice, Gabriel
Hall, F. (York, W.R., Normanton)Logan, David GilbertSalter, Dr. Alfred
Hall, George H. (Merthyr Tydvll)Lunn, WilliamThorne, William James
Hicks, Ernest GeorgeMcEntee. Valentine L.Williams, Edward John (Ogmore)
Johnstone, Harcourt (S. Shields)McGovorn, JohnWilliams, Dr. John H. (Llanelly)
Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)McKeag, WilliamWilliams, Thomas (York, Don Va'ley)
Kirkwood, DavidMander, Geoffrey le M.Young, Ernest J. (Middlesbrough, E.)
Lansbury, Rt. Hon. GeorgeMaxton, James
Lawson, John JamesParkinson, John AllenTELLERS FOR THE AYES.—
Leonard, WilliamPickering, Ernest H.Mr. Tinker and Mr. D. Graham.
NOES.
Adams, Samuel Vyvyan T. (Leeds, W.)Dugdale, Captain Thames LionelLockwood, John C. (Hackney, C.)
Altchison, Rt. Hon. Craigle M.Dung lass, LordLoder, Captain J. de Vere
Albery, Irving JamesEillston, Captain George SampsonLovat-Fraser, James Alexander
Allen, Sir J. Sandeman (Liverp'l, W.)Elmley, ViscountLumley, Captain Lawrence R.
Allen, William (Stoke-on-Trent)Entwistle, Cyril FullardLyons, Abraham Montagu
Amery, Rt. Hon. Leopold C. M. S.Essenhigh, Reginald ClareMabane, William
Anstruther-Gray, W. J.Everard, W. LindsayMacAndrew, Lieut.-Col. C. G. (Partick)
Atholl, Duchess ofFalle, Sir Bertram G.MacAndrew, Capt. J. O. (Ayr)
Baldwin, Rt. Hon. StanleyFermoy, LordMcCorquodale, M. S.
Balfour, Capt. Harold (I. of Thanet)Forestler-Walker, Sir LeolinMacdonald, Capt. P. D. (I. of W.)
Balniel, LordFraser, Captain IanMcEwen, Captain J. H. F.
Barclay-Harvey, C. M.Fremantle, Sir FrancisMcKie, John Hamilton
Barton, Capt. Basil KelseyGanzonl, Sir JohnMaclay, Hon. Joseph Paton
Beaumont, Hon. R.E.B. (Portsm'th.C.)Gibson, Charles GranvilleMcLean, Major Sir Alan
Betterton, Rt. Hon. Sir Henry B.Gilmour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir JohnMacmillan, Maurice Harold
Bird, Ernest Roy (Yorks., Skipton)Gledhill, GilbertMagnay, Thomas
Bird, Sir Robert B. (Wolverh'pton W.)Glosson, C. W. H.Maitland, Adam
Blindell, JamesGod. Sir ParkMakins, Brigadier-General Ernest
Bossom, A. C-Goldie, Noel B.Manningham-Buller, Lt.-Col. Sir M.
Boulton, W. W.Goodman, Colonel Albert W.Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. D. R.
Bower, Lieut.-Com. Robert TattonGower, Sir RobertMartin, Thomas B.
Bowyer, Capt. Sir George E. W.Granville, EdgarMason, Col. Glyn K. (Croydon, N.)
Briscoe, Capt. Richard GeorgeGrattan-Doyle, Sir NicholasMaynew, Lieut.-'Colonel John
Brocklebank, C. E. R.Gretton, Colonel Rt. Hon. JohnMilne, Charles
Brown, Ernest (Leith)Grimston, R. V.Mitchell, Sir W. Lane (Streat ham)
Brown, Brig.-Gen.H. C.(Berks.,Newb'y)Guinness, Thomas L. E. B.Molson, A. Hugh Elsdale
Browne, Captain A. C.Guy, J. C. MorrisonMoore-Brabazon, Lieut.-Col. J. T. C.
Buchan-Hepburn, P. G. T.Hacking, Rt. Hon. Douglas H.Morris, John Patrick (Salford, N.)
Burnett, John GeorgeHall, Capt. W. D'Arcy (Brecon)Morris-Jones, Dr. J. H. (Denbeigh)
Butt, Sir AlfredHamilton, Sir George (Illford)Morrison, William Shepherd
Cadogan, Hon. EdwardHanbury, CecilMuirhead, Major A. J.
Caine, G. R. Hall-Hanley, Dennis A.Munro, Patrick
Campbell, Edward Taswell (Bromley)Harris, Sir PercyNation, Brigadier-General J. J. H.
Campbell-Johnston, MalcolmHartington, Marquess ofNewton, Sir Douglas George C.
Carver, Major William H.Hartland, George A.Nicholson, Godfrey (Morpeth)
Cayzer, Sir Charles (Chester, City)Harvey, Major S. E. (Devon, Totness)Nicholson, Rt. Hn. W. G. (Petersf'd)
Cazalet, Capt. V. A. (Chippenham)Headlam, Lieut.-Col. Cuthbert M.North Captain Edward T
Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. N.(Edgbaston)Hellgers. Captain F. F. A.Nunn William
Chapman, Col.R. (Houghton-le-Spring)Henderson, Sir Vivian L. (Chelmsf'd)Patrick, Colin M.
Chapman, Sir Samuel (Edinburgh,S.)Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel Arthur PPeake, Captain Osbert
Choriton, Alan Ernest LeotricHerbert, Capt. S.(Abbey Division)Pearson, William G.
Christle, James ArchibaldHills, Major Rt. Hon. John WallerPeat, Charles U.
Clarke, FrankHoldsworth, HerbertPenny, Sir George
Clayton, Dr. George C.Hope, Capt. Hon. A. O. J. (Aston)Percy, Lord Eustace
Cobb, Sir CyrilHornby, FrankPerkins, Walter R. D.
Colfox, Major William PhilipHorobin, Ian M.Patherick, M.
Collins, Rt. Hon. Sir GodfreyHudson, Robert Spear (Southport)Peto, Sir Basil E. (Devon, Barnstaple)
Colman, N. C. D.Hunter, Dr. Joseph (Dumfries)Peto, Geoffrey K.(Wverh'pt'n.Bllst'n)
Colville, Lieut.-Colonel J.Hunter, Capt. M. J. (Brigg)Pickford, Hon. Mary Ada
Cook, Thomas A.Hurd, Sir PercyPotter, John
Cooper, A. DuffHurst. Sir Gerald B.Pownall, Sir Assheton
Courthope, Colonel Sir George L.Hutchison, W. D. (Essex, Romfd)Procter, Major Henry Adam
Craddock, Sir Reginald HenryInskip, Rt. Hon. Sir Thomas W. H.Purbrick, R.
Cranborne, ViscountIveagh, Countess ofRalkes, Henry V. A. M.
Croft. Brigadier-General Sir H.Jackson, Sir Henry (Wandsworth, C)Ramsay, Alexander (W. Bromwich)
Crooke, J. SmedleyJames, Wing-Com. A. W. H.Ramsay, Capt. A. H. M. (Midlothian)
Crookshank, Col. C. de Windt (Bootle)Joel, Dudley J. BarnatoRamsay, T. B. W. (Western Isles)
Cross, R. H.Jones, Lewis (Swansea, West)Ramsden, Sir Eugene
Crossley, A. C.Ker, J. CampbellRathbone, Eleanor
Culverwell, Cyril TomKerr, Lieut.-Col. Charles (Montrose)Reid, David D. (County Down)
Daikeith, Earl ofKimball, LawrenceReid, James S. C. (Stirling)
Davidson, Rt. Hon. J. C, C.Knight, HolfordReid, William Allan (Derby)
Davison, Sir William HenryKnox, Sir AlfredRenwick, Major Gustav A.
Dawson, Sir PhilipLatham, Sir Herbert PaulRhys, Hon. Charles Arthur U.
Denman, Hon. R. D.Leckie, J. A.Robinson. John Rotand
Denville, AlfredLees-Jones, JohnRopner, Colonel L.
Dickie, John P.Leighton, Major B. E. P.Rosbotham, Sir Samuel
Donner, P. W.Levy, ThomasRothschild, James A. de
Doran, EdwardLiddall, Walter S.Runge, Norah Cecil
Dower, Captain A. V. O.Lindsay, Noel KerRussell, Albert (Kirkcatdy)
Drewe, CedricLloyd, GeoffreyRussell, Alexander West (Tynemouth)
Russell, Richard John (Eddisbury)
Rutherford, John (Edmonton)Southby, Commander Archibald R. J.Wallace, John (Dunfermline)
Rutherford, Sir John Hugo (Llverp'l)Spears, Brigadier-General Edward L.Ward, Lt.-Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)
Salmon, Sir IsidoreSpencer, Captain Richard A.Ward, Irene Mary Bewick (Wallsend)
Salt. Edward W.Stanley, Hon. O. F. G. (Westmorland)Ward, Sarah Adelaide (Cannock)
Sandeman. Sir A. N. StewartSteel-Maitland, Rt. Hon. Sir ArthurWaterhoute, Captain Charles
Sanderson, Sir Frank BarnardStevenson, JamesWedderburn, Henry James Scrymgeour-
Shakespeare, Geoffrey H.Storey, SamuelWells, Sydney Richard
Shaw, Captain William T. (Foliar)Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)Whiteslde, Borras Noel H.
Skelton, Archibald NoelSueter, Rear-Admiral Murray F.Wilson, Clyde T. (West Toxteth)
Slater, JohnSummersby, Charles H.Wilson, G. H. A. (Cambridge U.)
Smiles, Lieut.-Col. Sir Walter D.Sutcliffe, HaroldWindsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel George
Smith, Louis W. (Sheffield, Hallam)Thomas, Rt. Hon. J. H. (Derby)Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl
Smith-Carington, Neville W.Thomas, James P. L. (Hereford)Wise, Alfred R.
Smithers, WaldronThomson, Sir Frederick CharlesWomersley, Walter James
Somerset, ThomasTitchfield, Major the Marquess ofWorthington, Dr. John V.
Somervell, Donald BradleyTodd, Capt. A. J. K. (B'wick-on-T.)Young, Rt. Hon. Sir Hilton (S'v'noaks)
Somerville, Annesley A. (Windsor)Train, John
Soper, RichardTryon, Rt. Hon. George ClementTELLERS FOR THE NOES.—
Sotheron-Estcourt, Captain T. E.Turton. Robert HuchSir Victor Warrender and Major
George Davies.

Question 'again proposed, "That £156,423,000' stand part of the Resolution."

5.22 p.m.

Photo of Mr George Lansbury Mr George Lansbury , Poplar Bow and Bromley

I want to ask your guidance, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. As you are aware, a question has been raised concerning the Prime Minister's statement this afternoon in reply to Question No. 46, put by my hon. Friend the Member for Spennymoor (Mr. Batey), asking that a White Paper giving full details of the schemes for the alleviation of unemployment which the Government have now under consideration should be published. The Prime Minister made the quite definite reply that the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Labour would put before the House this evening those schemes—that that would be part of his statement. We now know from the Minister that he has no such statement to make. The Prime Minister is not here, and I respectfully 'ask you, Sir, what steps the Opposition can take to bring the Prime Minister to his place here to explain the position. We think you will agree, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, that the word of the Prime Minister in these matters ought to be sacred and that there ought not to be any question as to misleading the House or anything of that kind. We are not wanting to make those charges, but what the Prime Minister said is within our recollection quite definitely, and we put it to you, as Deputy-Speaker, that you should, if possible, 'advise us what we can do in order to protect the rights of the minority in this House and also to give the Prime Minister the opportunity of defending his own honour in this matter.

5.25 p.m.

Photo of Sir Henry Betterton Sir Henry Betterton , Rushcliffe

In my submission to you, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, this appeal made by the other side completely misinterprets both what the Prime Minister obviously meant and what he said—[HON. MEMBERS: "No !"] Well, with the permission of the House, I will state what he did say:

Photo of Mr Joseph Batey Mr Joseph Batey , Spennymoor

Are we to understand from that reply that the Minister of Labour is going to tell us what schemes the Government are considering?

Photo of Mr Ramsay Macdonald Mr Ramsay Macdonald , Seaham

I would ask my hon. Friend to wait and see."

Photo of Mr Joseph Batey Mr Joseph Batey , Spennymoor

May I not invite the Prime Minister to tell us what schemes the Government are considering for the purpose of alleviating unemployment?

Photo of Mr Ramsay Macdonald Mr Ramsay Macdonald , Seaham

Yes. That will be most appropriate to the discussion which we are having to-day."

HON. MEMBERS:

Hear, hear !

Photo of Sir Henry Betterton Sir Henry Betterton , Rushcliffe

May I say, in answer to that, two things? The first is that that policy which I have already elaborated is the policy for alleviating unemployment and, secondly, that such schemes and such a policy as hon. and right hon. Members may have in mind would be in any case out of order in this discussion, because they would need legislation. Therefore, I am confining myself quite strictly to the answer which the Prime Minister gave, and in my submission it is perfectly clear that I am carrying out the answer which he gave. If, as hon. Members seem to think, this was to be the occasion for again re-discussing and re-debating the whole question of relief works, I can assure hon. Members that that was neither in the Prime Minister's mind, nor is it my intention.

5.27 p.m.

Photo of Mr George Lansbury Mr George Lansbury , Poplar Bow and Bromley

I am sure the right hon. Gentleman has no intention of mis- leading the House, but he has only given a portion of the reply, because he has not read the original answer. [Interruption.] The hon. Member opposite is very fond of interrupting, and it is quite unworthy of him or of any other Member of the House. I am putting a perfectly clear question to Mr. Deputy-Speaker. I am asking that the answer to the original question put by my hon. Friend the Member for Spennymoor should be given. The question put to the Prime Minister was: If ho will lay before this House a White Paper giving full details of the schemes for the alleviation of unemployment which the Government have now under consideration. He was referred to the right hon. Gentleman's statement to-night for an answer to that question, and it is really just getting round and begging the whole question to take up the attitude that the right hon. Gentleman has now taken. Everybody at Question Time took the Prime Minister's answer to mean that the Minister of Labour would tell us what schemes the Government were proposing.

5.29 p.m.

Photo of Mr Dennis Herbert Mr Dennis Herbert , Watford

The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition asked me, so far as I am concerned, what steps he could take to bring the Prime Minister here to answer certain questions which would be put to him. I think the right hon. Gentleman will know that I have no power to assist him in that matter. If he wishes to address a special question to the Prime Minister, or if he wishes the Prime Minister's presence in the House on any particular occasion, no doubt he will communicate that to the Prime Minister in the ordinary way, and I have no doubt it will be dealt with as far as possible. I do not see that any question arises now where the Chair can assist the Opposition. They have made their protest by moving the Adjournment of the Debate, and I do not think there is anything further that they can do.

5.30 p.m.

Photo of Mr George Lansbury Mr George Lansbury , Poplar Bow and Bromley

I am much obliged to you for your courtesy in considering the question, and we understand the difficulty. The point is that this is a case so exceptional, where the Prime Minister has promised the House—[HON. MEM- BERS: "No!"] We are content to base our case on the Prime Minister's answer to the question and even on the answers that the right hon. Gentleman has read. The intention of the Prime Minister was that the right hon. Gentleman should answer the question. We, of course, cannot force the Prime Minister to act as a Prime Minister should, and defend his own action. We can only emphatically protest against this gross travesty of a Prime Minister's duty.

Photo of Sir Henry Betterton Sir Henry Betterton , Rushcliffe

After that interlude, I may perhaps be allowed to resume my speech. I want to come to the first point raised by the hon. Member for Don Valley (Mr. T. Williams).

5.31 p.m.

Photo of Mr Aneurin Bevan Mr Aneurin Bevan , Ebbw Vale

I want to raise a point of Order for your guidance, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, as to the course of this Debate. The right hon. Gentleman has just left that portion of his speech in which he was dealing with a grant of money from public funds to various charitable organisations, and he intimated that he did not intend to accept responsibility for the administration of those organisations or any political kudos which might accrue from whatever they might do. May I ask you, Sir, in what way this House is to retain control over the expenditure of public money if the Vote from which the payment is being made is not to be the occasion upon which the administration is to be questioned We understand that last year the maximum amount was £10,000. This year it has been increased to £25,000. This is not a definite lump sum, for the amount which the Exchequer will give will be determined by the contribution made by private persons, so that it is indeterminate up to a maximum of £25,000. Are we entitled in this Debate to bring the administration of those societies which receive these grants of public money under review in this Debate, and, if not, on what Vote are we to have those discussions?

Photo of Mr Dennis Herbert Mr Dennis Herbert , Watford

I do not think that there is anything in what the hon. Member says which calls for a Ruling from the Chair. It appears to me that all those matters which have been the subject of discussion in the last few minutes are matters of debate. It is not a matter on which I am called upon to give any particular Ruling.

Photo of Mr Aneurin Bevan Mr Aneurin Bevan , Ebbw Vale

Are we entitled to expand the scope of the Debate so as to bring under review the acts of omission or commission of the organisations receiving this money?

Photo of Mr Dennis Herbert Mr Dennis Herbert , Watford

That is a paint of Order which should be dealt with when it arises. If and so far as grants have been made to particular bodies simply as grants under arrangements which do not impose on the recipient the obligation to submit their methods of dealing with those grants to this House, it is not a matter which can be discussed here in the same way as a Vote.

5.33 p.m.

Photo of Sir Henry Betterton Sir Henry Betterton , Rushcliffe

After that second interlude, which had no more in it than the first, I will resume my speech. The hon. Member for Don Valley raised the question of the Government's attitude with regard to the proceedings at Geneva in relation to the 40-hour week, and he criticised the Government on two grounds. The first was apparently that they did not agree to pass legislation before there had been an adequate examination of the subject. His second ground was that the Government had insisted on the necessity of proper examination of the facts before giving their support to the proposal for an immediate international convention. This question of a 40-hour week and the discussions on it are not new. The Trades Union Congress in 1931, and again in 1932, passed a resolution calling for a reduction of weekly hours of work to 40 without a reduction of earnings. The General Council set up a special committee to investigate the application of the principle of the 40-hour week in industry. The committee issued a questionnaire to all the affiliated unions asking for information regarding the method of applying the 40-hour week, the existing hours of labour, the probable effects of the 40-hour week upon wages and costs, and other relevant considerations. It is perfectly obvious that the General Council took a very wise and necessary course realising, as they do, that that information is necessary for their own guidance. It is curious, therefore, that the Government should be criticised for insisting on this information before they themselves frame a policy.

I ask, do hon. Members opposite want propaganda and politics, or do they want business? If this is going to be made merely a question of political propaganda, then, indeed, it will be pretty hopeless. I fully recognise that all means by which employment in industry can be increased requires the most careful consideration in association with responsible industrial organisations, and although this particular aspect of it has been isolated, the necessity for a proper examination still exists. I have therefore asked the Trades Union Congress and the National Confederation of Employers' Organisations to meet me in order to discuss this matter and the methods by which the absorption of workers into industry may be examined in a practical manner. To commit yourself to a convention without knowing beforehand what will be the inevitable reactions of such a, convention, and without knowing the consequences upon wage agreements and the like, would be absolute folly. So far the overseas countries have not been able to supply information to the International Labour Office. In view of the serious effect of the competition of Eastern countries on such industries as cotton, it is unthinkable that this country should be willing to agree to a form of international regulation which left those countries out of account. What I have just stated is entirely consistent with the attitude of my representative at Geneva. What he said was this, and I am going to repeat the statement which the hon. Gentleman has already read: The British Government delegate stated that his Government considered that the question of the compulsory limitation of the hours of work to 40 a week had not yet been sufficiently examined to warrant a definite conclusion being reached, and that therefore his Government were opposed to proceeding at the present time with the project of a draft convention. He pressed for a comprehensive inquiry into the whole question before any definite action was taken. I say again that to proceed on a matter of this enormous importance without making ourselves fully acquainted with what the consequences would be, and without knowing all the facts so far as we can ascertain them, would be the height of folly; and it would be doing exactly what the Trades Union Congress is wise enough not to do. I hope that. those interested in the matter will meet me. The Trades Union Congress have accepted my invitation.

Photo of Mr Thomas Williams Mr Thomas Williams , Don Valley

Are we to understand that at long last in 1933 the Government have made up their mind to examine this problem, and that they are really seriously trying to do something positive in place of the negative position they have taken up for so long?

Photo of Sir Henry Betterton Sir Henry Betterton , Rushcliffe

The hon. Gentleman must not use the word "negative." The policy of the Government is exactly what I have said. It is not to commit themselves to a convention until they know what that convention is and what its effect would be if it were ratified.

The next point to which the hon. Gentleman referred was the administration of the means test in the Don and Bother Valleys. His charge was that the county council of the West Riding had made regulations at my instigation and that what was going on in the Don and Bother Valleys was satisfactory. The position is this. There is a guardians committee of the county council in both the Don Valley and the Rother Valley. Both those committees were, prior to the incidents to which I have referred, exercising their duties in a manner inconsistent with the Order-in-Council. As I have said before in the House, that Order is an Act of Parliament for which the House is responsible. Hon. Members may not like it, but the position in which I am as Minister of Labour is that the responsibility of carrying out my duties is imposed on me clearly by that Order, and I should be false to my position and should not carry out the responsibility which has been thrown upon me unless T saw to it that the law passed by this House was carried out. Let me state how these two committees were carrying out their duties in a manner inconsistent with the Order-in-Council which was passed in this House. They disobeyed the Order because quite clearly they made a differentiation of treatment between those in receipt of relief and those in receipt of transitional payment. The House will remember what the Order-in-Council said: A committee or sub-committee in determining any question under the last preceding paragraph (paragraph 1 of the Order) shall make such inquiries and otherwise deal with the case as if they were estimating the need of unemployed able-bodied persons who had applied for public assistance.

Photo of Mr George Lansbury Mr George Lansbury , Poplar Bow and Bromley

Boards of guardians and public assistance committees had a very wide margin of discretion. The assistance given differed in various places, and the only person who interfered was the auditor of the accounts; but now the right hon. Gentleman interferes in the matter, and has really taken on himself to decide what is and what is not sufficient for an applicant. Under the Poor Law the guardians decided it, and the Minister of Health always said that he could not interfere, and the only person who had control, a very full control, was the Poor Law auditor. Now the Minister of Labour usurps that position —or he and the Minister of Health.

Photo of Sir Henry Betterton Sir Henry Betterton , Rushcliffe

Let us see how far that is so. Quite obviously that clause in the Order was inserted because the local authorities were spending Exchequer money and not money raised from their rates, and there had to be some check and safeguard in respect of the Exchequer money. On 3rd November reports were received from the general inspector of the Ministry of Health saying that in the Don and Rother Valleys effect was being given to determinations which could not be justified by reference to the authority's public assistance practice. I will give illustrations of the decisions made. I have a good many cases, but I do not wish to take up too much time in dealing with them. Here is the case of a single man with a father and mother and two brothers. The amount coming into the house was £6 0s. 10d. and he was allowed 13s. a, week by the committee. The right hon. Gentleman had a very long experience of administration by local authorities. May I remind him that in his own Government the right hon. Member for Wakefield (Mr. Greenwood), when he was Minister of Health, felt so strongly on this question of the family income that he issued a Circular on 3rd January, 1930, in which he said that certain specific points had been called to his attention and that he desired to offer his observations for the guidance of boards of guardians.

Photo of Sir Henry Betterton Sir Henry Betterton , Rushcliffe

This is guidance which he offered to the boards of guardians.

Photo of Mr George Buchanan Mr George Buchanan , Glasgow Gorbals

Will the right hon. Gentleman say whether this was issued confidentially to boards of guardians or was a public document? In view of the fact that it may raise urgent matters, will the right hon. Gentleman make it available to Members of the House? When a Minister quotes a document it is the general custom to make it available to the House.

Photo of Sir Henry Betterton Sir Henry Betterton , Rushcliffe

This document has nothing on it about its being confidential. It is Circular 1069, dated 3rd January, 1930, from the Minister of Health. There is nothing secret about it.

Photo of Mr George Buchanan Mr George Buchanan , Glasgow Gorbals

I take it that it will be available for any Member who wishes to see it? In Scotland we do not always follow these Circulars, because we have a different Ministry there.

Photo of Sir Henry Betterton Sir Henry Betterton , Rushcliffe

I have no doubt at all that it is available for anybody. This is what the right hon. Gentleman says in that Circular: In assessing the amount of relief to be afforded the general principle is that income and means from every source available to the household must be taken into account.

Photo of Sir Henry Betterton Sir Henry Betterton , Rushcliffe

Under the Order-in-Council, also, the law is that in assessing transitional payments they must assess them, as I have already explained, as if they were dealing with able-bodied persons applying for public assistance. Therefore, it is perfectly clear that in this case and many others from the, Rother and Don Valleys which I have before me there had been infringements of the statutory duty of the authority.

Photo of Sir Henry Betterton Sir Henry Betterton , Rushcliffe

We pointed out to the appropriate authority, the county council, what was happening. The county council drew up a scale which was binding upon all their guardians committees, including those in the Rother and Don Valleys. I had no voice in those scales at all, and I have not interfered. I understand that the scales do not differ substantially from those in operation under public assistance authorities over a large part of the country. Therefore, with regard to the points raised by the hon. Member in the Rother and Don Valleys cases, I say that my duty to this House was absolutely clear. I could do no other thing than take note of the matter. The other case about which I want to say something is, the House will be surprised to hear, the case of Rotherham.

Photo of Mr Thomas Williams Mr Thomas Williams , Don Valley

I am sorry to interrupt the right hon. Gentleman but before he leaves the West Riding I would like to ask whether, if he has any experience of the scale they are now applying, he agrees that that scale is consistent with what he regards as the spirit of the Order-in-Council?

Photo of Sir Henry Betterton Sir Henry Betterton , Rushcliffe

What I have said was that I understand those scales do not substantially differ from those in operation by public assistance authorities over a large part of the country.

Photo of Mr William Lunn Mr William Lunn , Rothwell

May I intervene? Are not those scales a change, absolutely, from what was the position previously under all the guardians' committees in the West Riding; and have not the guardians' committees been placed in the position that they have no power whatever except to grant what has been laid down by the county council through the Ministry of Labour and the Ministry of Health?

Photo of Sir Henry Betterton Sir Henry Betterton , Rushcliffe

Frankly, I cannot answer the first part of the question, because I do not know. The answer to the last part of the question is that the county council are responsible for the scale. As I have said, I had nothing to do with drawing it up, nor have I made any representations about it. It is really a matter for the county council. As I said before I was interrupted, I would like to say a word or two about Rotherham. Very soon after the coming into force of the Order of 1931 we had reports from the Ministry of Health that the administration in Rotherham was not in accordance with the law passed by this House. Before the introduction of transitional payments there was no definite scale at Rotherham at all, but when this Order was passed a scale was drawn up for both public assistance and transitional payments. I gather that it was within the law; it made no difference between transitional payments and public assistance.

Quite soon, January, 1932, to be exact, a report revealed that in practice there was a wide difference in administration as between public assistance cases and transitional payment cases. I will give an example. A single man, aged 25, applied for public assistance. I would remind the House that if he got it it would be paid out of the rates. He was living with his father, who was unemployed, his mother and his sister. The total income of the household was 47s. 3d. a week. He was granted 7s. 6d. relief. The sum of 7s. 6d. was regarded as proper relief when the money was coming out of the rates, but let the House observe the difference in the attitude of the authorities at Rotherham when they were dealing with a transitional payments case—where the family was substantially the same—in which the money came out of the Exchequer. In this case a single man, aged 31, was living with his father and mother and two brothers, with a household income of £5 10s. 6d. a week, and he received the full determination of 15s. 3d. I ask hon. and right hon. Gentlemen "How could I, responsible to this House for the administration of this Order, allow that discrimination between relief and transitional payments?"

Photo of Mr Aneurin Bevan Mr Aneurin Bevan , Ebbw Vale

How many were in the house?

Photo of Sir Henry Betterton Sir Henry Betterton , Rushcliffe

The number was practically the same in both cases. In the public assistance case there was a single man living with his father and his mother and his sister. In the transitional payments case there was a man, his father, his mother and his two brothers. There was one more in the household in this latter case.

Photo of Sir Henry Betterton Sir Henry Betterton , Rushcliffe

The difference in allowance where the income was 47s. 6d. and the money came out of the rates and where the income was £5 10s. 6d. and the money would come from the Exchequer was, of course, preposterous. I will take another case. A single man, aged 27, was living with his father, two brothers and a housekeeper. The total family income was £3 4s. 8d. He received 10s. as public assistance—from the rates. In a transitional payments case a single man, aged 20, living with his father, mother and two brothers, with a family income of £7 a week, received the full determination of 12s. 6d.

Another class of case concerns grants out of public money, not out of the rates, where an applicant had really substantial means of his own. I agree that those cases are much more common where a transitional payment is sought, because, obviously, there is less likelihood of a man having means of his own seeking public assistance. A single man, living with a brother in receipt of 15s. 3d. unemployment benefit, had £530 in the bank and £50 on loan and received a full determination of 15s. 3d. Another applicant, a married man whose wife was in receipt of an old age pension, had £950 in the savings bank, and was given out of the Exchequer money a determination of 10s. These cases having been brought to my notice, it was impossible to allow them to pass by without some effort on my part to secure that the law was obeyed. What happened was this. Representations were made in March, 1932, and the authority was warned that its administration was not in accordance with the law. Then they agreed to a scale—this is very important—in consultation with the Ministry of Health, and that scale was adopted by the Council on 2nd August. That scale was no sooner agreed to by the Council than it was most flagrantly broken.

Here, again, I have a number of cases showing that determinations were made, in one case where there was an income of £7 17s. 2d. coming into a house, and in another case where there was an income of £6 9s. 10d. The Commissioner now at Rotherham has adopted the scale which was actually agreed by the Rotherham authority after consultation with the Ministry of Health in August last, and therefore there is no ground for saying that the scale which he adopted is unreasonable because it is, in fact, the very scale which was adopted by the Rotherham authority.

Photo of Mr George Buchanan Mr George Buchanan , Glasgow Gorbals

Will the Minister tell us how the scale compares with the scale paid to those who do not come on that benefit and who are on what we call able-bodied relief?

Photo of Sir Henry Betterton Sir Henry Betterton , Rushcliffe

I have not the scales before me, so I cannot say. I think that it is just as well that these facts should be stated. I have attempted to put them without undue heat or prejudice, and they ought to be known both inside and outside this House. I have already taken up a great deal of the time of the House and I am only just going to say a word or two more in conclusion. I have now ascertained the figure which was asked for by the hon. Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan). I am told that the public assistance authority in Rotherham are applying the same scale as the Commissioner.

Photo of Mr George Lansbury Mr George Lansbury , Poplar Bow and Bromley

The right hon. Gentleman will admit that all public assistance committees, like the old boards of guardians, administer relief subject to the auditor, who has tremendous powers of surcharging them.

Photo of Sir Henry Betterton Sir Henry Betterton , Rushcliffe

The answer that I have given was in reply to the question put by the hon. Member for Gorbals.

Photo of Mr George Lansbury Mr George Lansbury , Poplar Bow and Bromley

They are not free to give what they like.

Photo of Sir Henry Betterton Sir Henry Betterton , Rushcliffe

I want to say a word about the figures which were given by the hon. Member for Don Valley in regard to unemployment. I must confess that I did not follow his argument. What I want to point out is that nobody pretends that the register is not at a terribly high level, and it is not to be thought for a moment that I am complacent as to the position. Nothing is further from my intention and nothing is further from the impression that I want to give, but while not being complacent, I have a right to make comparisons. Comparisons do not necessarily follow complacency. I will mention one comparison. The last figures which this country had of the state of the Register were those for January last. In February last year there was a decrease on the January figures of 27,000. That was the first time for three or four years that there bad been a decrease in the figures for the month of February.

In 1931 there was an increase in the month of February as compared with January of 23,000. In February, 1930, there was an increase of 51,000. In 1929 there was an increase of 32,000. Last year, for the first time, there was a decrease in the figures for the month of February. I do not know what the figures for February this year will be because they are not yet verified and collated, but I can state, without being too optimistic, that I shall be disappointed if there is not a further decrease in the figures over January. Should that turn out to be so, it will be observed that there will be a decrease in the figures for the month of February, while in the years 1929, 1930 and 1931 there was an increase. I do not mean from that that we are justified in building high or extravagant hopes, but it is an indication that the progressive increase has been checked, and I am sure that hon. Members opposite will be just as glad of that as I shall be if that should turn out to be permanent.

Photo of Mr Jack Lawson Mr Jack Lawson , Chester-le-Street

Do I take it that the Minister means that the figures that he has already assembled justify him in expecting a reduction in the figures for the month of February?

Photo of Mr Jack Lawson Mr Jack Lawson , Chester-le-Street

I asked the right hon. Gentleman that question because he will remember that only a month or two ago there was sent out what seemed to be a semi-official statement which led everyone to believe that there was going to be a reduction, whereas there was an increase. We can only hope that the right hon. Gentleman is right.

Photo of Sir Henry Betterton Sir Henry Betterton , Rushcliffe

I am glad to be able to assure the hon. Gentleman that I had nothing whatever to do with the semi-official statement. The hon. Gentleman has been at the Ministry of Labour, and he knows exactly what I mean when I say that the preliminary figures that I have justify me in expecting that there will be further decrease in February over the figures of January. I have dealt, I hope, with the points that have been raised, and I must apologise to the House for taking up so large an amount of its time.

6.8 p.m.

Photo of Mr William Dobbie Mr William Dobbie , Rotherham

As a newcomer, I would crave the indulgence of the House for intervening in what is to me a very important Debate. I have come from a. centre and from a constituency where the ruling questions that were paramount during the election were the means test and unemployment. I am staggered at the complacency with which hon. Members talk about those great problems and their effect upon the struggling men and women of the country. I have heard statements here in relation to Rotherham. At Rotherham during the election, in the midst of snow storms, I saw women with boots that were a travesty and a tragedy; and men who were going about in clothes that were a disgrace to our civilisation. When one remembers that those were men and women who, like us, wore made in the image of God, with the same God-given right to live decently as any of us here, one is staggered and amazed at the complacency, the coolness and the coldness with which this problem is discussed in this Assembly.

When Rotherham had been referred to, I wondered whether the Minister took into consideration the name of the commissioner whom he sent down to replace the public assistance committee. They call him Basham, and he has done it, in a way one would hardly believe one human being capable of perpetrating what, in my opinion, is injustice upon others. I have known not one but many cases in Rotherham where homes have been broken up because of the application of the means test by the commissioner. Over 400 cases have been refused, and over 1,100 cases have had the benefit cut down considerably. There are hundreds of citizens in Rotherham to-day living in fear and dread of the commissioner.

My election was fought and won on the test question of the abolition of the means test, the right to work and the right to maintenance without the Poor Law taint. The result of Rotherham, just as was the case with Wakefield and Wednesbury, is a warning to the Government. It is a definite challenge to the Government of the day in regard to the treatment of the unemployed in this country. That has been verified not by Rotherham alone, but by the scores of telegrams that I have received, yesterday and to-day, from industrial constituencies, wishing that they had the same opportunity to give their verdict on the conduct of the Government and its treatment of the unemployed. I ask the Minister to review the situation. I ask the Government to recall the commissioner and to reinstate the public assistance committee with full power to do their work in a proper and humane manner.

The election at Rotherham was fought, as I have said, on the question of the abolition of the means test, and no one looking at the result can misunderstand the verdict of the electorate. I make bold to say that that would be the verdict of the electorate throughout the length and breadth of this country if given their opportunity. The abolition of the means test, the right to work and the right to maintenance on a proper, decent and humane standard without Poor Law taint were the questions at the election, as were the social services and the Government's attitude to them. I hope, that as I am a new Member, you, Sir, will forgive me if I am not just correct in my designation, but I believe that the Lord President of the Council was the title of the right hon. Gentleman who yesterday said: I want the House to remember that there is one method of reducing taxation, and that is by reducing it at the expense of the social services, and this Government will not do that."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 1st March, 1933; col. 446, Vol. 275.] I hope that that is the statement and the assurance of the Government of the day to the people of this country. I hope that the statement made by the Lord President of the Council yesterday is one that will be honoured by the Government in their conduct towards the social services during the future.

6.14 p.m.

Photo of Sir William Brass Sir William Brass , Clitheroe

I should like to congratulate most heartily the hon. Member for Rotherham (Mr. Debbie) on the speech to which we have just listened. I am naturally sorry that we did not win Rotherham, but I was interested to hear the hon. Member after the very pleasant fight that I had with him in Clitheroe in 1929. I hope that we shall hear him on many occasions in this House. It is quite easy for anyone at the present time to fight an election especially in a constituency like Rotherham on the question of the means test. If one went to a constituency where there were vast numbers of unemployed, and asked them this question as to the means test, naturally the principle of whether there should be a test or not would be received by them in the way in which it was received at Rotherham.

I want to put a few questions and to make a few points on the administration of the means test and on the question of unemployment benefit. I would ask my right hon. Friend to consider two points. In the first place, there is no doubt that this means test, or need test, is a very sore point indeed at the present time in most industrial constituencies. Certainly it is in mine in Lancashire, and I am not at all satisfied with the present 'administration of the test. I realise that the Minister of Labour has gone a long way to help in the matter. By the Act which was passed not very long ago he has brought more uniformity into the question of disability pensions, workmen's compensation and savings, but still he has left out of account the all-important question of the rates of benefit which are being paid. Those rates show a lack of uniformity all over the country. I would like to quote one or two as examples. The rate of benefit for a man, his wife and three children at Manchester is 39s. At Salford it is 36s., at Warrington 34s., and in my constituency, which is in the Lancashire Comity Council area, it is only 29s. In the town of Darwen, which is partly in the borough of Blackburn and partly in the Lancashire County Council area, the rates actually vary from one side of the road to the other. That, I think, one cannot possibly allow.

Photo of Mr George Buchanan Mr George Buchanan , Glasgow Gorbals

Do the rates quoted by the hon. and gallant Gentleman include money earned?

Photo of Sir William Brass Sir William Brass , Clitheroe

No; these are the rates that are given assuming that there is no money coming into the home. They are the rates given to a man, his wife and three children—the full rates in cases in which there are no resources at all.

Photo of Mr George Buchanan Mr George Buchanan , Glasgow Gorbals

They are as much as 36s.?

Photo of Sir William Brass Sir William Brass , Clitheroe

Yes, that is so. I stand to be corrected, but that is the information that is given to me. I think that this lack of uniformity in the giving of benefit to people receiving transitional payments is due to the dual control. It is due to the fact that the public assist ante committees have to administer two things. They have to administer the Poor Law, and they have also to administer transitional benefit, which latter does not come from the rates, but from the Chancellor of the Exchequer. The result is that, where you have 'a county council or a county borough which gives a more generous scale as far as the Poor Law is concerned, the public assistance committee there can also give a more generous scale as far as transitional benefit is concerned. The fact is that the county councils or borough councils that have these higher rates for poor relief are able to get from the Chancellor of the Exchequer more money for their people who 'are unemployed and on transitional benefit than is obtainable for people who happen to live in an area which is poorer, and unable to pay the same amount of poor relief as the richer area. That, I think, is entirely wrong. I see no reason at all why the people in my constituency should not receive just as much transitional benefit as people in any other constituency. I think they have a perfect right to receive just as much benefit as 'anyone living in a borough abutting on my constituency, or in any other part of the country, because that money is not raised locally; it comes from the general taxpayers of the country. There ought to be uniformity over the whole country. I would appeal most earnestly to my right hon. Friend to do away with this dual control, and to put the whole thing under the Ministry of Labour, so that there may be uniformity over the whole country, and we may be able to say, whether the benefit be low or high, that people are being treated properly and 'alike.

There is another point which I should like to raise, and that is in regard to the question of earnings. I am sure my right hon. Friend is aware of this. I will take the Lancashire County Council area as an example. Suppose that one member of the household—possibly a son, or daughter, or brother of the householder —is in employment, while all the rest are unemployed. In the Lancashire County Council area, in assessing the amount of transitional benefit to be paid, the public assistance committees have been instructed that the amount that is to he allowed free before the family income is to be assessed is 65. or 25 per cent., whichever is the less. Assuming that a man is earning a week, 25 per cent. of that is 10s., and 6s. is less than 10s., so that he would be allowed free only 6s. In a borough which abuts on my constituency, the amount allowed free is one-third of the earnings. Consequently, assuming that in this borough a man is earning £2 a week, he is allowed free 13s. 4d., whereas in my constituency he would only be allowed 6s. That shows a complete lack of uniformity, and is most unfair. The result is that in that particular borough the people are able to draw from the Chancellor of the Exchequer more money for their benefit than can be drawn in my constituency.

With regard to the payment of unemployment benefit, we know that employés in the greater part of industry, with certain exceptions such as agricultural workers and so on, have to pay premiums for unemployment benefit, and, consequently, we expect that, when those people become unemployed through no fault of their own, they will actually receive unemployment benefit, because by law they have been asked to pay premiums for the benefit which they expect to receive. I want to point out what happened during the recent cotton dispute in Lancashire. I assure the House that I do not wish to take any side in that question at all; I have no brief either for the employers or for the employés; I am merely going to point out what has happened. In Burnley, the constituency next to mine, where there are 16 mills, people were thrown out of employment owing to intimidation by a crowd. The mills were closed because it appeared that they might be burnt down or casualties might occur. The operatives who wanted to work were unable to get work, because the mills were closed by the owners. They claimed benefit, and they got benefit.

In my constituency there are 30 mills under similar conditions. The mills were closed through intimidation, the operatives claimed benefit, and it was refused to them by the insurance officer, under conditions identical with those in the 16 mills in Burnley, where benefit was allowed. There was an appeal to the referees, and the referees allowed benefit. The insurance officer then appealed further to the Umpire, and the Umpire reversed the decision of the referees and refused benefit. He did so on the ground that there was a dispute between worker and worker, between striker and non-striker. In fact, however, that was not the dispute at all. The dispute was that a certain number of people wanted to work, and a large crowd of people, who were not even in the same trade, came into my constituency and intimidated the workers and threatened all sorts of things, with the result that the mills were closed.

Now that the Umpire has given his decision, it is law, as though it were a decision of the House of Lords, and I cannot go into it, but I would appeal to my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary to put up another case to the Umpire in order to make quite certain that the rule which has been laid down is not to be interpreted in the way that it obviously will be, namely, that if you can get a sufficiently big crowd together, and get that crowd to intimidate the people and the owners of mills and workshops, you can force the people out of employment, and, although they have been compelled to pay premiums for unemployment benefit, they will not be allowed to get benefit. I think that that is a direct premium on mob law, and I would appeal to my hon. Friend to consider putting another case to the Umpire in order to see whether this decision cannot be revised. If he cannot do that, I appeal to the Minister to change the law, so that the real, genuine worker who wants to work, and who has paid premiums for unemployment benefit, shall be allowed to receive benefits when mills or workshops are closed, not owing to his fault at all, but because the owners have been compelled to close them. That is all I have to say on the subject, and I appeal most earnestly to my hon. Friend to mention this subject in replying.

6.30 p.m.

Photo of Mr John Tinker Mr John Tinker , Leigh

The Debate has been rather wider than we expected when we began. First of all, we have had the victor of Rotherham bringing a message to the Commons of what the people think outside, and one expects that their message will be taken notice of by the Government. The second interesting point is in regard to the Prime Minister's statement at Question Time. I thought he was rather saying something that he could not carry out very well. I was wondering what would happen. I thought it was probable that we might be able to get something done, because the Prime Minister was quite definite in what he said. I am sorry that he has not been able to come back to face the Committee and tell us exactly what he meant when he spoke of the Minister of Labour being able to give some definite statement on a scheme for work. However, he has not come, and we are left to go on with the Vote as best we can and try to find out what is in the mind of the Government. The Minister did not make certain things clear to me. I should like to ask: What is the number of juveniles registered at the Employment Exchanges in receipt of unemployment benefit and how many are attending instruction centres—not those who have passed through, but the number attending at present? I should also like to know how many training centres there are for adults, where they are situated, and what is the method of dealing with people when they go to instructional centres away from their homes.

Photo of Mr Robert Hudson Mr Robert Hudson , Southport

Is the hon. Member referring to residential or nonresidential?

Photo of Mr John Tinker Mr John Tinker , Leigh

When they are sent away from home, they either live in or are lodged out. I believe both systems are in operation. I should like to know what actually takes place, what payment is given, and what is the mode of lodging? I should like to know the same about girls and women and how they are dealt with? One of the main points that I want to bring forward is in regard to Circular LA 16 giving instruction to public assistance committees how to deal with certain recommendations. It says: It should he noted that a pensioner in receipt of disability pension may also be drawing allowances in respect of his wife and children. The rule under the present Act applies only to the personal disability pension. I want that point cleared up, because, when the amending Act was brought before the House, most of us thought it applied to the allowances as well as to the pension itself. The matter was never mentioned, but it was taken for granted. The Lancashire County Council is always the first to take advantage of a chance like that. I think it is the worst county council, so far as applicants are concerned, in the whole of Great Britain. I think it would be a very good place for the Department to get commissioners. It must be a good training ground for them. If ever the right hon. Gentleman is short of a commissioner, he will always get a suitable person there. They construed the Minister's letter as he intended it to be construed, that they must leave the allowances out of the question. I do not think the House of Commons ever meant that, and I should like the Minister to make clear his intentions on that point, or is he going to bring in some amending legislation to put it right or give the House a chance to express its opinion? I should like hon. Members opposite to give their opinions on that later on, when the Minter has replied, because this is what is being done throughout the country. They are taking a lead from the Minister, which I believe he had no right to give, to disallow these allowances.

Another point arising under the same county council is in reference to single young men and women. Many of them are being treated in the matter of transitional payment in the way that the hon. Member for Clitheroe (Sir W. Brass) mentioned. Where there is a father working, all the means of the household are taken into consideration. Many of them in their distress, rather than live on their parents or brothers and sisters, went into lodgings and thought that they had met the situation. However, the Lancashire County Council, ever ready to help the Government, set about reconsidering these cases, which had already been granted by the public assistance committees, but were subject to their review. I have here a report from the Lancashire County Council which has gone into these matters: The special sub-committee beg to report that they have held four meetings and their decisions, which have been put into force, are as follows: Transitional payments unaltered in 27 cases. These are cases of young men and women who have left home and gone into lodgings: Transitional payments reduced in 95 cases. Transitional payments disallowed in 182 cases. Cases not reviewed in consequence of applications not being renewed in 87 cases. Decisions deferred in three cases. Here is the tragic side of it: It is reported that some of the single young persons who had left homes where the family income was adequate for support of all members of the household, and who have now been determined to be not in need of transitional payments have applied for relief and have been offered admission to the public assistance institution. So we have the tragedy now of young men and women being told that they can have nothing because other members of the family are bringing in money. It is not a question of having reserve funds or anything like that, but simply of the earnings of the family. If there is one tragedy worse than another, it is that. A country that is driven to that state of things deserves all the condemnation that can be applied to it. No wonder Rotherham and other places are venting their disgust and anger on the Government. Whenever a chance is given in any industrial constituency, the Government will not be safe in any seat with a majority under 10,000, and no one can say they deserve any better. It is all very well for Members of the Government to address public meetings, as the Minister of Labour did not long ago and say: "We are the envy of the world." When young men and women are sent to public institutions, there is not much to be envied from my point of view.

I trust the Government will take this as a warning and will bear in mind what the Lord President said yesterday, that he was not going to cut down the public services any lower. I would advise the Minister also to pay attention to transitional payments. The Lord President said yesterday that for 11 years he had been battling with unemployment, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer not long ago said that we should not get rid of unemployment for 10 years. So we are in the middle of 21 years of a lean period, and at the end of that time it is expected that something may mature. If the Government have any hope in their policy at all, any belief in what they are putting before the House of Commons, any belief in the revival of trade, they ought to try during that period to keep those who cannot get work in something like decency. They are an asset of the nation, and they will remember how they were treated in a time like this. The country can ill afford to be harsh with its citizens at a time when there is plenty of money to meet their needs. My appeal to-day is that, when the chance comes—I think it is here now—the Government will review not only the social services but all other ways of dealing with the unemployment problem.

I should have been very glad had it been possible to get some indication from the Government as to what line they intend to take to meet the situation. I should like to deal with the shorter working period. I see there is an amount here paid for a delegation overseas which has been sent to deal with that matter. We were told that, if other countries dealt with this matter, we were prepared to deal with it. I expected from that that our delegation at Geneva would have said it was the only way to deal with the present economic situation, and were ready to join with other Governments. The Minister has tried to explain that they have to be very careful of what they do. I should have thought that, this being the leading country of the world and the envy of all other countries, the Minister of Labour would have given instructions to the delegates acting on his behalf to give a lead to the world with regard to shorter hours. He has not done so, and to-night we on this side of the House will go into the Opposition Lobby to see how many we can get with us to show disgust at the present treatment of the unemployed.

6.46 p.m.

Photo of Sir Geoffrey Mander Sir Geoffrey Mander , Wolverhampton East

I desire to associate myself with the attempt which was made a few hours ago to move the Adjournment of the House in view of the situation which had arisen. There is no doubt at all that the Prime Minister, at Question Time to-day, did, intentionally or otherwise—whether he quite realised what he was saying or not I do not know —convey the impression that the Minister of Labour was about to lay before the House an important statement of Government policy showing the schemes by which the unemployed were to be absorbed. I was rather surprised to hear him, I must say, but he did say it, and he made the statement over again in reply to supplementary questions, and I feel that the Prime Minister has let down the Minister of Labour very badly. I hope that we shall have the promised statement, if not to-day, at the earliest possible opportunity. I assume from what the Prime Minister said that there are schemes of some kind in somebody's brain in the Government which are coming out some day. We were promised them this afternoon, and I only ask that we may have them at the very first opportunity.

I desire to say a few words on the subject of the means test. I represent the town of Wolverhampton, which has just had a long controversy with the Ministry of Labour and has refused persistently and consistently up to the present time to administer the means test on the lines demanded by the Ministry of Labour. The remarkable thing about it is that Wolverhampton is a very steady and moderate town, with a Conservative majority on the town council, and on most occasions when this question has come up there has been unanimity, and in other cases a majority of all parties, including the Conservative party, voting in resistance of the demand made upon them by the Ministry of Labour. They have taken the view that the scales which they were asked to administer were so harsh and unreasonable that they, as humane and reasonable citizens, could not be asked to carry them out, and, in fact, would not carry them out. It was only when, a week or two ago, they received a definite intimation from the Minister that he was about to send a commissioner to take over their duties, that by a majority they decided, in the circumstances, that it was better to give up the struggle. I know that at the present time negotiations are proceeding, and I hope that something satisfactory will be arranged. But I am very much afraid that it will not be satisfactory from the point of view of the unemployed of Wolverhampton. To show the attitude that this Conservative majority felt obliged to take up. I will quote the resolution sent to me by the Town Clerk of Wolverhampton on 27th September last, which says: I am instructed by my council to transmit to you the following resolution passed by them at their meeting yesterday.'That this council, having made every endeavour to meet the wishes and instructions of the Ministry of Labour in the matter of the administration of the means test, and realising out of past experience thereof the hardships entailed upon many of the applicants for transitional benefit and the increased and increasing cost of the local Poor Law rates resulting therefrom, calls upon His Majesty's Government to take immediate steps to abolish the means test in the administration of unemployment benefit.' Whether they really quite meant all that, I do not know, but with two dissentients they passed the Resolution on that date asking for the total abolition of the means test in the way it was then being administered. It is an expression of revolt against the administration. I will quote two examples showing the difference in the scale between what Wolverhampton were administering and what they were asked to do by the Ministry of Labour. In the cases where there is no income, persons and their dependants, and single persons living with persons other than relatives, and single persons over 18 living with relatives, present scale 15s., Government proposed scale 10s. In the other case, cases in which members of the household are earning, ascertainment of income for man, wife and two adults, the equivalent present rate is 30s. and the Government ask for a rate of 23s. 3d. It is right to bring these facts to the attention of the House because they show a very remarkable outburst of responsible and sober opinion in a town which is not accustomed to take wild or extreme courses of any kind. [An HON. MEMBER: "They elected you."] I think it shows that the Government will have to take into serious consideration the great feeling existing throughout the country in regard to this subject, and no doubt they will be dealing with it in a Measure shortly to come before the House and to which, of course, I cannot refer to-day.

I believe that there are certain steps which even now the Government might take by administrative action to ameliorate some of the harshnesses of the present system. For instance, there is such a comparatively small matter as giving a personal hearing. People on the means test attach enormous importance to the right to maintain personal contact with those administering it, and to be able to put before the committee individually their own personal circumstances. There is no statutory right enabling a person to appear, but I suggest that in this and in other cases, the Minister, while he cannot give a definite instruction or make it mandatory, should issue a circular to the authorities pointing out that from his experience and in his judgment it was wise, sensible and a humane thing to carry out certain practices in the course of their administration. Reference has already been made to the question of a uniform scale and to publicity being given. The scale is regarded as confi- dential at the present time. People have the greatest difficulty in finding out what the scale is supposed to be, or within what limits there can be variations. I suggest that the Minister should give some guidance upon this matter to the different committees by way of circular in which he should suggest certain maximum and minimum scales and give the committees the discretion to act between those scales, and then to publish it so that everyone might know exactly the suggestions.

There is the question of rent. The investigator goes round and makes inquiries as to the rent which is being paid, and you will find that, in spite of the variation in rent—the council houses being much more, of course—no different allowance is made. They are all treated exactly the same. Therefore, again I think that a word or two from the Minister might have very happy results. There is the question of dating back. I do not know whether it is possible under the present law for such a thing as extra allowance to be dated back from the date of birth. It is reasonable in a time such as that to which I refer that if within the first fortnight application is made, it should be allowed to date back to the date of birth. At the present time it is operating very harshly in many cases because there seems to be no elasticity.

Another matter which causes a great deal of feeling is the question of what is gross income. There, again, I suggest that some ruling ought to be given. There are many who ask whether it is the whole income which comes in, or whether there cannot be some allowance for things such as hospital contributions, insurance of different kinds, trade union contributions and travelling allowances. Members of the family may have to go away and work in a different town and have to go by train. These are deductions from income and yet they are treated differently in different places. Sometimes they are included, and sometimes they are not. There can be no case at all for differentiating as regards different ways of treatment. The Minister could do a great deal even at the present time to mitigate and to moderate the undoubted severity of the system as it is now operating.

I wish to ask the Parliamentary Secretary a question with regard to something which was said by the Minister just now. He referred to the success with which instructional classes for juveniles receiving unemployment benefit were being carried out. He said, I believe, that 150,000 had come under its operation during the past year, and that it had gone about as far as it could go. But that does not seem to be quite consistent with a reply which he gave me a few days ago when I asked him for a list of the places where no such courses were being carried out. I will not mention the names of any of those places, because there may be some good explanation in individual cases and I do not want to pillory them, but I would point out that there are 18 counties in which no arrangements are made. There are 14 county boroughs, 50 boroughs and 13 urban district councils where no arrangements of any kind for the training classes are in operation. While I know that the excuse given is that in some cases the number of unemployed is very small and that it would not lessen them, and that in others the juveniles are being dealt with in classes of another authority, I do not think that it can possibly explain the very large figures which I have just read out, and I ask the Parliamentary Secretary to give us some more information about the matter.

My hon. Friend who opened the Debate to-day referred to the long and sad history of the Washington Hours Convention, and naturally did not stress, perhaps, what happened between 1929 and 1931 quite as strongly as what happened between the years leading up to that time. I pointed out to -him in an intervention that the Labour Government, unfortunately, did not themselves ratify, and did not even bring the Bill forward for a Second reading. The Conservative party certainly did not do it, but they did not promise that they would. The Labour Government promised that they would do it, but they did not do it.

Photo of Sir Geoffrey Mander Sir Geoffrey Mander , Wolverhampton East

My hon. Friend may be satisfied with what I am going to say. He gave two reasons. One was right, and, I think, the other was wrong. He said that they did not do it because they could not rely upon the support of the Liberal party. The Liberal party kept them in office for a short period, and we received a lot of abuse for it. I think that we were right in doing it. As far as I know, no suggestions and no requests were ever made that we should support the Second reading of the Bill. There is no doubt at all that we should have supported the Second Reading of the Bill, and it is not fair to throw upon us such a responsibility when it was due to the failure of the Government of the day. The real reason was given by my hon. Friend when he said that he did not realise until now how many Tories there were in the late Labour Government. I think that that is the real explanation; that some of them had such a reactionary tendency that they were not sufficiently keen about it.

Photo of Mr Thomas Williams Mr Thomas Williams , Don Valley

May I recall to the mind of the hon. Member that the statement which I made at first was that the Labour Government, or at least the Ministry of Labour at that time, did produce a Bill for the purpose of giving effect to the Washington Hours Convention. The Bill was introduced into this House, printed and made available to Members. Subsequently we learnt, rightly or wrongly, from official sources —a source no longer available to this party—that after the usual feelings had taken place they were assured that no majority could be obtained and that consequently it would be a waste of time securing a Second reading. My only reason for intervening is to absolve all those back benchers of the then Labour party, and some perhaps on the Front Benches, from any sort of blame, which I want to be transferred to where it belongs.

Photo of Mr John McGovern Mr John McGovern , Glasgow Shettleston

I wish to ask the hon. Gentleman a question, because we had better have the matter cleared up now. A statement has been made in official circles that the reason for not proceeding with the Bill was because the Liberal party had definitely refused to support it. Can he tell us whether that is accurate or not?

Photo of Sir Geoffrey Mander Sir Geoffrey Mander , Wolverhampton East

It is -entirely untrue. There was no meeting of the Liberal party. The Chief Whip informs me that he has no knowledge of anything of the kind. I think that the statement by the Chief Whip of the Liberal party can be taken as correct. On many occasions I pressed the Labour Government to say whether they were going to bring a Bill forward, and there was always the usual reply one gets from the Government. I hope that the hon. Member will adopt his own suggestion, which is the true one, and not try to throw the responsibility on us. With regard to the attitude of the representative of the Government at Geneva on the 40-hour week, I regret that the Government were not represented there by a responsible Minister. Surely the Minister, or the Under-Secretary, who have ably represented this country when they have been at Geneva, might have gone on that occasion. Surely the matter was of sufficient importance to this country, and the whole world. They should not have sent an official however competent.

From all the evidence we have, it is clear that the attitude of the Government on this proposed convention has been, from the beginning, one of definite and deliberate obstruction. They have been driven on and on until they have got into the position that they are obliged to say they are willing to discuss it, and to make inquiries and other investigations as to carrying it out. They have done that only because they have been driven by the pressure of other countries. I believe that the only supporter was Portugal, which is not a great industrial country. Instead of taking the lead we were waiting at the very back, and trying to delay as much as we possibly could. In the years to come—it may be a great many years—the hours of work will be shortened. There is not going to be enough work to go round for everybody. The sooner we get down to the study of the immense difficulties involved in this question the better it will be. It has been found that no conference can succeed unless there is sufficient technical preparation beforehand.

I am sorry the Government have allied themselves with the Employers' Association, who, throughout, have taken up the attitude that they are opposed to any consideration of the 40-hour week. That is a quite impossible situation to defend. I agree that we certainly do not want a convention to be drawn up, like so many are, which will be signed and not ratified. The Government having got to this point, am I sure they will study the question carefully, so that when we finally come to a convention—it may be some years hence—we shall be able to sign it, and every country will be able to carry it out. I hope the Under-Secretary will bear in mind the question I put and not be satisfied with asking the employers Federation their views, but go directly to some of the industries and put it to the joint industrial councils of representatives of employers and employés, who are very closely interested in a thing of this kind. The Government, I hope, will not allow it to be pushed aside by those having reactionary and antiquated points of view.

There is a possibility of introducing, on a limited scale in this country, the 40-hour week, without reduction of wages —where rationalisation is taking place, carrying with it reduction of employment. If, concurrently with that, the industry, or employers, will arrange to reduce the hours to 40, we can maintain the same rate of wages but can restrict, and limit, the amount of discharges otherwise inevitable. I know this matter has been, and is being, considered by many industries in this country. It is perfectly practicable from the business point of view. I hope to see it widely extended in the years to come. Such action is wholly dependent upon rationalisation taking place concurrently with reduction of hours. In sheltered industries something of that kind can be done. In process work it is often found that Saturday morning is an uneconomic unit.

I would like to refer to a question with which the Minister dealt—the grant made to the National Council of Social Service. The Under-Secretary in replying will, I hope be able to tell us rather more of the schemes contemplated, and exactly what is being done. While I quite agree that any effort of that kind is merely scratching the surface of a problem and cannot relieve the Government of their responsibility, I do believe that through that organisation most admirable work can be and is being, done. I wish the Government well in the efforts they are making and in anything that can be done throughout the country to make the unemployed feel they have something to occupy their minds and hands, instead of standing idly by. That is going to make a great deal of difference to their lives. In certain places, and I may give as an example the Good Companions Club in Wolverhampton which was inaugurated by the Mayor, there are occupational centres where all sorts of activities are carried on in a voluntary spirit. These make a great difference to people who have nothing to do but sit at home or walk about the streets. To sit in rest rooms, or other places provided, has less value than the occupational centres working under this scheme. In pressing forward with that work I wish the Government every success, believing it can bring a few rays of hope to the darkest night of unemployment.

We have, unfortunately, not received to-day the proposals of the Government for dealing with unemployment, which we were led to believe at Question Time would be given to us. The Government will be judged by their failure or success in dealing with the unemployment problem. They have abundantly failed up to the present time. The situation has got worse. Their policy is an unimaginative, defeatist policy. They are prepared to accept the situation as it is and make no bold step to get out of it. If that is what they are going to do for the rest of their period of office, we shall see no more of them in the next House of Commons. For the sake of the unemployed, whose interests are above any party or the men who sit on these benches, I hope the Government will change their attitude and, instead of being a weak and feeble Government as at the present time, they will become a really constructive, able, National Government worthy of the name they do not deserve at present.

7.10 p.m.

Photo of Mr Harold Balfour Mr Harold Balfour , Isle of Thanet

I think the speech we have just heard from the hon. Member who was elected to support the National Government is scarcely one which we can regard as really helpful and constructive. Carping criticism—

Photo of Sir Geoffrey Mander Sir Geoffrey Mander , Wolverhampton East

I was elected to support the National Government as it then was, with my trusted leaders in that Government. I have no allegiance to the Government except when they are doing right. Then I wish to support them.

Photo of Mr Harold Balfour Mr Harold Balfour , Isle of Thanet

It is always easy to give support when times are good. One wants friends when up against difficulties. Then it is we know the real mettle of supporters, because they will stand up when the storm is blowing and not desert the deck and leave navigation to those on the bridge.

Photo of Sir Geoffrey Mander Sir Geoffrey Mander , Wolverhampton East

You are going on the rocks.

Photo of Mr Harold Balfour Mr Harold Balfour , Isle of Thanet

If the hon. Member sights the rocks it is better to stay on deck rather than to skulk below to save his skin at the next election. We have heard from him a loud voice and shallow proposals. I would have confined that definition to the speech of the hon. Member for Don Valley (Mr. T. Williams). It was loud in declamation and contained little constructive criticism, but he is now allied to the hon. Member for East Wolverhampton (Mr. Mander) and is in the same camp. Without being like the last Socialist Administration, which was always willing to make promises, in order to take advantage of a momentary opportunity. We are endeavouring to take a long view. I am not ashamed to use the words the Government have had thrown in their faces—we are "pegging away." There are worse things than that, but it is a policy that opportunist Oppositions have not been famous for in the past.

The hon. Member for East Wolverhampton did deal with one subject, although some do not agree with the way he proposed it should be carried out. I believe there is a general body of support in the House of Commons for the idea that by some means or other, at some time, we are going to solve a great deal of our industrial troubles by a shorter working week. My friends and I support the commonsense point of view of the representative of the Government at Geneva. When the patient is ailing, and failing, then is not the time for very experimental remedies. When, with patience, we have got the world into a better way again we can seriously take an appreciation of the situation, and see whether we cannot then have the shorter working week. We have got to wait possibly one, two or three years until we have got the industrial life of this country running not in a series of jerks and crises, but running more on oiled wheels than it has been in the last few years. Then, I believe, we are going to have a solution of much of the problem by the shorter working week. We are not ready for it yet. We have a long way to go in educating the people of this country to enjoy the greater amount of leisure which will be given, and make sure that the country is going to have national benefit from the increased leisure which will eventually come about when the shorter working week is introduced.

There are two particular points in the administration of the present Unemployment Insurance Act to which I would like to draw attention. It would be out of order for me to make proposals which would involve legislation, but I believe that the Minister of Labour by issuing a general direction with regard to substitution work could help in the fairer administration of the present Act. We find in every shop window, and on every hoarding, posters telling us to "Spend for employment." Many people are endeavouring to take an unemployed man for a short period of the day, especially a man who has a family to support, and are trying to help such men by giving them a little extra work. The majority of these men are general labourers—a varied category. Their hours are considered to be from 8 o'clock to 5 o'clock or 8.30 to 5.30. If a shopkeeper wants to employ a man cleaning windows, or the doorstep, between 8 o'clock and 5 o'clock or between 8.30 and 5.30, and gives him 1s., he is deprived of benefit for the whole week for which he daily pays him that sum. If I like to tell that man to come after hours, after general labourers' hours are over, he is not penalised, because he comes under the heading of subsidiary work. I believe the Employment Exchange managers are giving the widest possible interpretation on this matter. By some encouragement from the Minister in the way of a general direction a great many men would not be penalised when they are given work at the present time, as they are being penalised unintentionally now by those who are trying to do them some good.

A second point is the general discontent as regards the administration of the present Act to seasonal workers, particularly those who are employed at seaside resorts in hotels, on seasonal employment. The very word "insurance" denotes a risk. The trouble with these seasonal workers is that there is very little risk about them, because during the season they are virtually certain of employment while during the off season they are virtually certain to be unemployed.

Photo of Mr Harold Balfour Mr Harold Balfour , Isle of Thanet

The Parliamentary Secretary shakes his head. At any rate, in my area, where there are approximately 1,000 seasonal workers who have been struck off at the present time, a very considerable percentage, up to the nineties of those men and women get continuous employment during the season. Equally a very high percentage of them were struck off, although as seasonal workers they are not employed during the off season. They are only entitled to benefit if they can show what is called substantial employment during the off season in two previous years. I think that 15 stamps are usually taken as indicating substantial employment. These men and women to-day cannot show those 15 stamps. Nevertheless, they are paying all the time that they are in employment, and the result is that we have people paying stamps all the time compulsorily, and yet they are unable to draw any benefit during the period when they are unemployed. It is no good the Minister telling me that they are good risks and that those are the sort of risks he wants for his fund for it is no comfort to these people to know that the fund is bankrupt. They cannot get benefit in the off season when they are unemployed, which is to them the main factor.

There are two suggestions that I should like to make. One is that the benefit should be paid in relation to the actual employment year, not on the theoretical employment year of January to January, but on an employment year beginning in the case of the seasonal worker at Whitsuntide and lasting until the 15th October, which is the season in my particular area. At the present time they are not allowed benefit unless they have 15 stamps for the previous 12 months and 15 stamps for the 12 months before that period, and it can safely be assumed that most of these people will be unemployed during the winter. If the employment year could be altered in the way I suggest you might have to give these people a lower benefit, but at any rate they would be getting something for the em- ployment stamps that they pay at the present time. Alternatively, I hope to see one day some co-relation of the benefit to the number of stamps paid, but I cannot enter into that subject now, because it would be out of order. The alteration that I have suggested could, however, be carried out now under the present administration. I should like the Minister in his reply to deal with these two points, that of the general labourers and subsidiary work and that of the seaside seasonal workers.

Finally, although there are anomalies and difficulties in the administration I think that most of us find that the managers of the Employment Exchanges have the general confidence of the unemployed. The hon. Member for East Wolverhampton (Mr. Mander) made a suggestion about a greater personal touch, and I heartily agree with him on that point. It would help tremendously a great number of unemployed if the Minister would send forth a general direction that Employment Exchange managers should have two or three hours in the week set apart when they would not discuss individual cases with any particular man, but the men could go to them and ask for general guidance and knowledge about the law as it stands. All of us in our constituencies come up against cases where the man is puzzled and does not know where he stands. In such cases I take the man to the Employment Exchange manager, and I do not think that there has been a single case where, after a talk with the manager, the man has not come away, if not satisfied, at any rate clear in his mind. We owe a great debt to the administration of the Employment Exchanges. Hard as is the lot of the unemployed, there is no monopoly of consideration for them on the Labour Benches. There is consideration for them in all parts of the House. We are all trying to do our best and shall continue to do so, regardless of the taunts of the Opposition.

8.20 p.m.

Photo of Mr John McGovern Mr John McGovern , Glasgow Shettleston

I have listened with interest to the speech of the Minister of Labour in regard to the application of transitional benefit, and I want to say at the outset that I, like other hon. Members, have no complaint to make of the officials of the Ministry in the area that I represent. They are discharging a difficult and thankless task in a manner becoming people who hold a very difficult position in the community. As far as my area is concerned, I think the officials almost to a man are considered white in their character as regards the application of the Act. My difficulty in approaching the subject matter to-night and the points that arise in connection with ordinary transitional benefit is in knowing exactly who is responsible for the application of the benefit to the great mass of the people of this country. When one goes to the ordinary inspector and raises points of difficulty he says: "I am not responsible. You must see the divisional supervisor." When you go to the divisional supervisor, he says: "You must go to the area supervisor." You march to the area supervisor, and he says:" I am sorry, but you will need to see the head inspector of public assistance, because I am acting on the directions that have been handed to me."

You go to the head inspector of the public assistance committee and he says: "The public assistance committee have made a decision and I cannot alter it or modify it in any way." When you approach the members of the public assistance committee, and the Labour or Independent Labour Members raise the issue, the chairman of the committee says: "I am sorry, but the Ministry of Labour are responsible for all the laws laid down here." You may then go to the manager of the local Employment Exchange to point out the difficulties, and he says: "I am sorry, but the officers in Edinburgh have handed me my instructions, and I have only to carry them out." You write to Edinburgh, and they say: "We are sorry, but it is the Minister of Labour who is responsible." You approadh the Minister of Labour in the House and he says: "I am sorry, but it is the public assistance committee who are responsible." You go right round, like hobby horses on a fair ground.

One cannot approach this subject without knowing that there are difficulties thrown up at every turn and that the ordinary Member cannot get to grips with the problem. We have heard references to a promise made at Question Time today by the Prime Minister. I listened attentively to the Prime Minister, as I have done since I was 20 years of age, and I say quite frankly that if Members of the Opposition read the question and the answer, together with the supplementaries, they will, after applying their reason to those answers, come to the opinion that no one can tell what the Prime Minister did mean when he 4ave his answer this afternoon. I will give him the credit for this, that he can be very definite when he desires to be definite. He was very definite when he joined the National Government. He made no doubt about that. These indefinite statements that are always made by the Prime Minister are made for the purpose of refusing to get to grips with the problem that is being put up to him at the moment. Anyone who has read his books and other writings must know that he has always written in the same manner as he spoke this afternoon. He said that the Minister of Labour would throw up schemes of work this afternoon, but anyone who applies his reason to the matter knows that the Minister of Labour and no Member of the Government will throw up any schemes during their period of office that are going to be beneficial to the working classes. We have at the present time on the Front Bench relics of the stone age, who are not going to apply their minds to the problems which society is entitled to demand should be dealt with.

I am always told that a mere denunciation of the Government is the wrong way to treat the House of Commons. I do not agree with that point of view, but I am always willing to try various methods. I am not too conservative in my ideas. I like to have regard to the needs of the time, and I am going to try to get some concessions from what may be termed a hard-faced, business Government. Here is one problem that arises in the application of ordinary transitional benefit. Take the case of a family. The son is out of employment. He draws 15s. 3d. a week ordinary benefit, and goes to a home where there may be the case that is very often cited by members of the Government, where the family income is £10 a week. He pays in his 15s. 3d., or retains it, but that is not the point; he gets the benefit of his 15s. 3d. during his period of ordinary benefit. But a son who draws his ordinary benefit and pays it into a home where the father is on transitional payment has immediately deducted from him part of the ordinary benefit. Whether he is on transitional payment or ordinary benefit, there is no difference. I want to know whether the Government are prepared to deal with cases of hardship of that sort. I should like to know whether the Government are prepared to modify their instructions to the extent of giving an applicant who is drawing ordinary benefit the full benefit of his 15s. 3d. per week during the period he is drawing ordinary benefit.

I want the Parliamentary Secretary to take note of these points—I am not so much a rebel to-night as a statesman—and I want definite replies to these points because they are of interest to a number of my constituents and to the working classes throughout the country. The Glasgow Public Assistance Committee are, as I conceive it, committing an offence against the State in their application of State funds. Take the case of a boy who is excluded from the home; the father says that he is not prepared to retain him in the house because he is receiving nothing at all. He tells him that he had better get outside into a room or lodgings and get ordinary benefit. If the son or daughter is definitely excluded from the home the public assistance committee are refusing, if the income is of the bare amount which excludes him from any kind of benefit, to give a son or daughter outside the home any benefit at all. Since this policy has begun to operate we have had a considerable number of cases in the city of Glasgow where young men have been charged with house-breaking and other offences against society. I went down to the ordinary courts the other day and I found that during the week there had been over 70 cases of persons charged with housebreaking, and that a number of these were young men who had been refused benefit. The Secretary of State for Scotland and the Under-Secretary of State must know the great effect this exclusion from benefit is having upon young men and young women. I maintain that if a father or mother definitely excludes a young man or woman from the home because of the lack of any income that the Minister of Labour must see that ordinary transitional benefit is paid to them to keep them out of crime.

There is also the question of the family with a number of sons and daughters who are working out of town. I maintain that within the confines of the means test or transitional benefit that conditions might be laid down which would be absolutely fair without asking the Government to go outside the Act. There are three sons at home working, and drawing £1 per week from their employment. They may be working very near to their own door and are able to go home for their meals. They have no travelling expenses. You may have three members of a family working in an area like mine. They would have to spend 4s. per week in travelling expenses, that is 12s. less per week than the three members of a family who are living on their own doorstep. There are also other incidental expenses in the way of meals, and I suggest that it is wrong for the public assistance committee to rigidly apply the Act in this way and not give any consideration at all to home circumstances. Such an application of the Act may work unjustly in some cases, and there is no reason for making it more unjust than it was originally intended to be even by this National Government.

There are other cases. Take the case of a son in my area who is getting £3 10s. per week; his father and mother are unemployed. They are assessed at 23s. 3d. A sister 21 years of age is assessed at 10s., and another sister of 19 years of age is assessed at 10s., that is a total of £2 3s. There are three children under the age of 14 assessed at 2s. each, which makes a total charge of £2 9s. 3d. against the £3 10s. of the son. The son is 24 years of age and has been going with a young women for three or four years. He is preparing for marriage, but he is left with a margin of £1 0s. 9d. to keep himself, pay his travelling expenses, his insurance, his trade union fees, his meals and other incidental expenses. It is absolutely outrageous for the Act to be applied in such a way as to compel a boy of 24 years of age, who is perfectly willing to contribute to the upkeep of his father and mother and brothers and sisters, to contribute £2 9s. 3d., and who is definitely prevented from getting any surplus with which to furnish a house and prepare for his marriage. He is faced with the alternative of walking out of the house or of incurring tremendous debts in order to furnish a house. That is outrageous. We ought not to allow a man in one area 12s., in another area £1 and in another area 25s. We ought to have a rule applied by the Ministry of Labour or by some responsible person, and there ought to be greater elasticity than is in evidence at the moment.

Here is another ease of two brothers living in the same house, but not in the same room. They pay 7s. 6d. per week for light, coal and rent to the tenant of the house, and they are treated by the public assistance committee on the same scale as husband and wife. They are paid 23s. 3d. because the Glasgow Public Assistance Committee lay it down that father and mother, brother and sister, or two brothers or two sisters, who are adults shall all be assessed and paid at the same rate as man and wife. The two brothers pay 15s. per week for rent out of their 23s. 3d., and they are left with 8s. 3d. with which to provide the ordinary essentials of life. If they have three meals each per day, or twenty-one meals each per week, at 2d. a meal, surely not an outrageous amount, considerably less than the amount which hon. Members would give as a tip to a waiter in London, 42 meals at 2d. each, is 7s. per week, which leaves these two with a balance of 1s. 3d. for insurance, clothes, boots and all the ordinary incidentals of life.

Future generations if they look back on the horrors and tragedies of the present generation will wonder at the spirit of toleration exhibited by a large number of people in this country. An hon. lady Member of this House gave an entertainment last week which I am told cost £2,000, and hon. Members of this House who were present will presently come in from the Lobbies, and from all over London, not knowing the question under discussion, and will cast their vote for the Government. The case of the two brothers is not a matter which affects a large number of people, but because of its smallness I wonder the Minister is prepared to tolerate such a policy at all. There is also another point in regard to mother and son. The son draws transitional benefit-a new dodge has been adopted here. They are beginning to eat into the ordinary Poor Law relief paid to the mother. If the son does not live in the house a woman of 68 years of age is entitled to 12s. 6d. per week, plus 2s. 6d. because she is an old age pensioner, that is 15s. per week; and 5s. for rent, a total of 20s. per week. But if the son is on transitional benefit they put him on ordinary benefit and pay 23s. 3d. to him; they pay this 23s. 3d. to maintain the mother and son. The son himself is entitled to 10s. and, therefore, the mother now gets 3s. 3d. Something like 6s. 9d. is taken off the Poor Law pay of the old person in order to maintain the son in the home.

Surely that was never the intention of this House. Surely it was never the intention that we should go to an old person of 68 years of age, who has lived a useful life and given to the nation and the locality the best she had, and say to her in her declining years that we are going to take 6s. 9d. per week out of her old age pension in order to maintain a son, which we, an incompetent Government, cannot provide with ordinary employment to carry him through life. Actions such as this are generating in this country a feeling not only of distress but of actual contempt for the ability of any Government to deal with the question. I am not going to say that the present Government have failed or that a Liberal Government would be a great deal better, or that a Labour Government would be a great deal better. They are all inclined to play the same game. The Minister of Labour quoted from a circular issued by the right hon. Member for Wakefield (Mr. Greenwood) when he was Minister of Health in the Labour Government. In this circular the right hon. Gentleman said: In assessing the amount of relief to be applied the general principle is that income and means from every source available to the householder must be taken into account. It should, however, be remembered that when certain classes of income are concerned, such for example as disability pensions or blind pensions, the disability in respect of which the pension has been awarded may be such as to call for a greater measure of assistance than would normally be appropriate. That means that the disability and blind pensions certainly have to be taken into consideration. Then there is the further point, which is a perfect gem. Again it is proper that the earnings of widows and children should be taken into account when relief is assessed. That is, the 2s. 6d. of the milk boy and the 2s. of the paper boy have to be taken into account, according to the instructions of the late Labour Minister when the income was being assessed. We have heard recriminations to-night. We have heard how the Liberal party were sup- posed to have prevented the Labour Government from carrying out the Washington 48-House Convention. The Liberal Members jumped up with indignation, and their Chief Whip, the right hon. Member for Caithness (Sir A. Sinclair) said: "I was the Chief Whip, and it is untrue that we prevented the Labour Government from passing the Convention. We were never consulted and never asked to support the Convention." I was always led to believe that the Liberal party had been a little more progressive than the Labour party, and we were rather surprised to be continuously reminded that they had prevented the Government from carrying this Bill. Liberal and Tory and Labour have all had their opportunity of modifying or abolishing unemployment, but they have made no inroad into it at all, and it has gone steadily up and up.

I remember listening to the speech of the Prime Minister when he was providing money to patch old trousers or something of that kind; £25,000 they were to give in order to carry out various schemes. After I had heard his speech about the societies that were to deal with the welfare of the country, I said to myself "My —, is that the man who is running the destinies of the nation? Is that all he can suggest for dealing with unemployment?" An hon. Member said just now that the Government had their backs to the wall. They will be very lucky if they do not finish up with their backs to the wall and a firing squad in front of them, and I would be delighted to be the man who had charge of that firing squad. All the meannesses and the tyranny and the cunning application of the Act that are being employed are disreputable to a Government that boasts periodically of the wealth it commands and controls in the country. The Government have reached the stage of always taking the penny out of the blind man's tin in order to save those who are at the top of the social tree.

The Government are not only failing to deal humanely with the unemployed of the country, but they display neither the desire nor the capacity to deal with the unemployment problem. They are not attempting to deal with it. They are like mummies in a museum. They are like so many Micawbers waiting for something to turn up. It will turn up. A reckoning will take place. One cannot fail to see the evidence in every country of the world to-day, the grumblings and rumblings of discontented and impoverished classes who are in open revolt against a system that can go on piling up wealth and reducing to penury and starvation the large mass of the people. Quite frankly we look forward, not to a change from a Tory or Liberal Government to a Labour Government, because they have all been tried and found wanting, but to a social revolt and social revolution to clear away the debris and ruin of the present system.

7.50 p.m.

Photo of Mr Edward Doran Mr Edward Doran , Tottenham North

I do not wish to identify myself in any way with the observations made by the hon. Member for Shettleston (Mr. McGovern). He has referred to a revolution in England, and I would remind him that a couple of policemen and a shower of rain will kill any revolution in this country. I want to remind the hon. Member, who is seeking to spread the fire of revolution, that he merely represents one ten-thousandth part of a very small element in this country. I have criticised the National Government and I will continue to criticise it. I have in the course of my letters to the Press challenged the Prime Minister in far more vigorous terms than hon. Members on the Opposition benches have ever dared to use.

Photo of Mr George Buchanan Mr George Buchanan , Glasgow Gorbals

You forget that the Prime Minister has been ill.

Photo of Mr Edward Doran Mr Edward Doran , Tottenham North

At any rate I congratulate him upon the fact that he confesses that he is ill. Hon. Members opposite are ill and do not know it. I do not think that the present situation in this country lends itself to any kind of banter, or rancour in any sense of the term. I am just as well aware of the evils that prevail in this country as my hon. Friend the Member for Shettleston. I have gone through just as hard a mill as he has, and I have just as much sympathy for the downtrodden worker as he has manifested in this House to-night. But I am a supporter of the National Government. If I have criticised that Government, if I have taken the Prime Minister to task—and I have—I have done it from the purest and best of motives, in order to save the National Government and to try to lend a spur to its endeavour.

This afternoon we have seen a wonderful display of red rosettes on the Opposition Benches. Hon. Members have been celebrating their victory in Rotherham, and quite rightly too. I want to pay a compliment to the victor of Rotherham, and say that this man has arrived in the House of Commons as a warning to the Government. Rotherham is a lesson to the Government, and I hope the Government will take it as such. I would rather see Rotherham lost to-day than see the entire country lost tomorrow. I hope the Government will take the hint that the public opinion of this country is changing. I am defending the National Government because I realise, as many in this House realise, that if this National Government fails it is the end of our parliamentary institutions. The people will never trust a Government again of any shape or colour. If this Government fails we are going to put Communism in the saddle, or a dictator, and Great Britain does not require either. As a friend of my country and defender of my Empire I am going to see to it that, as far as my power in this House is concerned, something will be done to justify the existence of the National Government.

I know that I might easily outline schemes to cure unemployment, as other hon. Members have done. Everyone today has a scheme to cure unemployment. We have midget Mussolinis, neurotic Napoleons and washed-out Wellingtons at every corner. We know that everyone to-day has a cure. We are told by people outside what we ought to do for unemployment. I might even suggest, as I have suggested, that we could fill up our obsolete canals with concrete and make a road for the carrying of heavy transport. I might suggest that we remove the slag heaps outside Newcastle and Manchester and Middlesbrough and Birmingham and Wednesbury, and fill up the terrifying gaps that we find in the Cotswolds and in Derbyshire. I might suggest that by doing this we could reclaim land equivalent to two counties in England. I might even suggest that we electrify the railways coming into London. I might even suggest that we knock off the beer duty and put the people back into work again. I might even suggest that we reduce Income Tax and thereby leave more money to be de- voted to real industry. A little later on I will tell you why I do not make these suggestions.

We have seen other countries progress. We have seen the Dutch people reclaim the Zuyder Zee. They have given work to their people and they have added value to their country. I wonder if any of us has heard of that wonderful statesman Mussolini, belonging to Italy. He has rebuilt an entire nation. He has put into operation principles of reconstruction, and he has made his country one of the foremost countries in the world. I see this and many of you see it. The Prime Minister this afternoon gave a very negative answer; he was very evasive; he seemed to have no policy at all. I am willing to agree with the Opposition that he certainly let the Minister of Labour down very badly. We have heard a great deal of talk about Geneva and about Lausanne and about Palestine. I want the Prime Minister to think of London and Liverpool and Manchester. I want the right hon. Gentleman to try to forget his foreign comrades and to concentrate on the people of England. I am not concerned about any foreign countries, but I am concerned about what I have seen when I have gone through some of the districts which my hon. Friends opposite know. I have gone through the Cowcaddens and the Gallowgate districts of Glasgow. I have gone down the High Street of Edinburgh. I have gone through Ancoats in Manchester; I have gone through Aberdare and Rhondda and Rhymney, and I have seen the destitution and the misery of millions of our fellow-citizens who are just as good as we are here. I see our industries perishing, our machinery rusting and the look of hopelessness in the eyes of our working people. Is it beyond the power of our statesmen to devise a scheme that will revive national industry? Is it beyond their power to rebuild this old country which is going to disaster? When I go from Rotherham to Sheffield I find out of 121 furnaces only three working. One recalls what Goldsmith said: Ill fares the land, to hastening ills a prey,Where wealth accumulates and men decay. We want men of courage, imagination, sympathy, vigour and determination to bring this country back to solid founda- tions and take advantage of the wonderful potentialities of the Empire which are at our beck and call. I know that I may be smiled at, but any Member of this House who dares to come forward with a new idea has to take that risk. I realise that and I care not for the risk, because I feel that the time has come for straightforward speaking. The time has come when real men have to assert themselves, party or no party, and tell the country where its salavation lies. I only hope that other Members of this House will give me some little encouragement.

I care not what kind of Government is returned—a Government may label itself "Labour" or "Conservative" or "National" but every hon. Member knows, and every one would confess it if he spoke from his heart that whoever comes here in charge of a Government is the slave of the permanent official. There is no Minister on the Front Bench; there was not one in the party opposite when they were in office, and there will not be one to-morrow, whatever kind the Government may be, who will dare to go against the advice of the permanent official in Whitehall. When the permanent official advises, the Minister follows his advice. When the Minister is handicapped in some way and wants advice he goes to the permanent official. The permanent official is not the man to risk his job. He will undertake no new adventure that is likely to imperil his position. So, he writes to the Minister and tells him that certain things are impracticable, are impossible, and the Minister in turn is without the courage to say what he thinks himself and is guided by the permanent official.

I do not care what votes the people record or what shade of politician they elect—as between the Minister who has no courage and the permanent official who will not venture to take any risks, the people of England and their destinies are crucified. If you had a Labour Government to-morrow you would be in just the same boat, and that state of things will continue until we have a sufficient number of vigorous, enterprising, fearless men in the Cabinet who will tell the permanent officials exactly where they get off. Until then you will never make one inch of progress in national policy. As things are, in four years time you will be exactly where you are to- night. I am warning the Government as a well-wisher, as one who wants to see the National Government succeed for the sake of the generations which are following us in this vale of tears.

Looking throughout the country to-day mothers may well ask themselves what hope there is for their children. They are in a channel of disappointment and despair. No hope has any father or mother for the children to-day. The ranks of industry are closed, and on the workshop gates we read "No hands need apply." Yet we are importing from foreign countries £428,000,000 worth of materials and food that we could produce at home. Are Lancashire Members who represent the cotton industry aware that Chinese and Japanese goods are being dumped into Manchester and Liverpool throwing thousands of Lancashire people out of work? [An HON. MEMBER: "Why do you not stick to Newcastle?"] I do not wish to stick to Newcastle, for the obvious reason that I represent a London constituency but I happen to know Newcastle better than some of the Newcastle Members. The man who knows London is generally a provincial and not a Londoner. [HON. MEMBERS: "What about Scotland?"] I know Glasgow very well and I may be allowed to say that the last time I had occasion to go to Glasgow I met with a serious accident. A Scotsman asked me to have a drink and I did not hear him—but that is only by the way.

Photo of Mr Edward Doran Mr Edward Doran , Tottenham North

I want to make this appeal to hon. Members. Never mind party, never mind any particular incident in politics. I ask the Opposition—and by that I mean the Labour party and the Liberal party and the Members of the Clydeside group—if they are concerned about the welfare of this country, why should they be content to gibe at the Government and put obstacles in the way and attempt to score political points when they know that if they were given full power they could do nothing better? Why cannot we put our heads together to do something in the way of national reconstruction; something to alleviate the terrible distress and suffering which exists throughout the country? We have the finest workpeople in the world. I play second fiddle to no one in my ad- miration for the British working man. He is our greatest asset. The other day I listened to a very able speech by the hon. Lady the Member for Cannock (Mrs. Ward) in regard to Empire settlement. I appreciate her outlook and I admire the thoughts which inspired that speech, but I would remind that hon. Lady that the other countries of the Empire are only willing to take our best. They will not take our worst, and as an Englishman I say that we cannot afford to part with our best.

If we are to generate prosperity in this country, if we are to revive industry and compete with the rest of the world, we must have vigorous, healthy men and women and children. It cannot be done with half-starved and weakly people. To-day one must admire the wonderful patience of our people when we see what is being suffered by men and women of the finest character. The men who made sacrifices, who went over the top: who stood for this country in the great catastrophe of 1914, deserve better treatment than the treatment which they are receiving to-day. I do not stand for any general distribution of doles. I hate the word "dole." But the time has come for the Prime Minister to lay down a vigorous, brave, far-reaching policy of reconstruction, to set our works going again, to have the smoke belching from the factory chimneys once again.

Let us first and foremost prevent this country from being any longer made a dumping ground for sweated products from all over the world. To-day in my own division I can walk round the market place and see Russian timber —manufactured, shall I say, under slave conditions—and Chinese and Japanese goods for sale while thousands of our own people are out of work. I ask the Prime Minister: is it not possible for him to come forward with a great constructive policy I do not want to see everybody put on the roads, for I know that many men cannot do this work. If a man is a carpenter or a joiner or an electrician, you will only ruin him if you put him on to the roads, but surely out of the £130,000,000 that you are whittling away—for the last 10 years £1,000,000,000 have gone into the gutter—you can use some of that money to subsidise your smaller and semi-large manufacturers, help them to take men on at their own occupation, give them £1 for every £2 which they can provide in wages, and save it at the Employment Exchange. You can do this, and you will get a return for your money, and your men will be in their right occupation.

Again, I come back to the point that it all depends upon the permanent official. If he says "No," the Government is finished; he is the boy who has the casting vote. Did I not see it only last week, when all the minions of the British Broadcasting Corporation came down here? Did I not see them lobbying in the most disgusting fashion in this House? Did I not see their little pundits running about all over the place, and the Postmaster-General, like a monkey on a stick—

Mr. CAMPBELL:

On a point of Order. Has the hon. Member any right to make remarks like that about Ministers of the Government? May I ask him to withdraw that observation?

Photo of Mr Robert Bourne Mr Robert Bourne , Oxford

I do not think that the remark was in the best of taste, but I cannot rule it out of order as definitely unparliamentary.

Photo of Mr Edward Doran Mr Edward Doran , Tottenham North

In view of your opinion, Sir, I will withdraw the statement. We have been told by the Chancellor of the Exchequer that we can hope for no improvement with regard to unemployment under 10 years, or words to that effect. [HON. MEMBERS: "No !"] At any rate, I have followed his remarks, and that is the popular impression that he has caused throughout this country, and it has taken the heart and soul out of millions of our workpeople, it has cast a blight upon them, it has disheartened them, and the feeling to-day in regard to the future of this country is a very poor one. I am not a believer in optimism if that optimism is not guided by intelligent direction. I believe in intelligent direction. This National Government has the greatest responsibility that has even fallen to any Government. Not only is it the custodian of 50,000,000 people in the British Islands; it is at the same time the one receptacle of the world's liberty and peace. If this Government fails, you can say goodbye to your constitution, and to your Empire, and to all the things that you hold dear; and the man who is really a patriot, the man who has a, love for his country and a veneration for its institutions, will do all that he can to inspire this Government, to give it encouragement, and, even although he may be called rude at times to tell it in plain English what it has to do.

I know that I am in a wonderful Chamber, where giants once stood. When I go back to the period of Gladstone and Disraeli, and when I recollect such great men as Redmond and Carson, I feel that those men were giants. They took chances and risks, and because they did so they made this British Empire the finest Empire the world has ever seen. Are we going to replace those giants with Lilliputians Have we not got statesmen to-day with backbone, not wishbone? Have we not got men who can really understand the principles of the British Empire, not men who are seeking their own ends and ambitions I am not concerned about the personal ambition of any man. I am going to speak without fear or favour, and I can only say, in conclusion, that if this National Government fails, if our national courage is destroyed, if our bauble of Empire is smashed through our incompetence and because of our lack of courage, the forgiving British people may say, "Father, forgive you, for you know not what you do."

8.21 p.m.

Photo of Sir Adam Maitland Sir Adam Maitland , Faversham

Those of us who have listened to the last two speeches have been left with the impression that their main difference lies in the fact that the attack on the Government by the hon. Member for North Tottenham (Mr. Doran) was in the first part of his speech, whereas the attack on the Government by the hon. Member for Shettleston (Mr. McGovern) came in the second part of his speech. I was very sorry that the hon. Member for Shettleston did not give us a little more of his early promise. He started his speech by saying that he was appearing to-night, not as a rebel, but as a new statesman, and I was rather looking forward to the new method which we were going to have from the hon. Member. I do not know whether it was his proximity to his hon. Friends, but certain it was that in the latter part of his speech—and I say this very kindly —he reverted to type, and he finished what was to be a conciliatory appeal to the Government by the expression of a pious hope that he should be the leader of a firing squad to bring about their decease. The hon. Member for North Tottenham has entertained the House, and in that respect I cannot hope to follow him, nor can I hope to follow him in some of his conclusions, and certainly not in some of the condemnations which he has made of those Members of the Government whom presumably he was elected to support. Even comrades in the same party must have at times differences of opinion, and we will just leave it at that.

I was rather struck by the suggestion of the hon. Member for Don Valley (Mr. T. Williams) in opening this Debate, and very sorry that in opening it he got back so immediately to the effete type of Debate which we have had for so many years in this House—regrettably so, too—on the subject of unemployment. Because of what he said, I took the trouble to go to the Library and look up some particulars. I did so for one simple purpose, and that was to demonstrate the futility of such an argument as that the present Government is responsible for the present state of employment and that the present Government alone is responsible.

Photo of Sir Adam Maitland Sir Adam Maitland , Faversham

The burden of the hon. Member's speech was to that effect; in fact, he used the phrase: "This Government has brought about great poverty and great distress." If that is not saying that the Government is responsible, I do not know what is. However, I went to the trouble to see exactly what was the record of the last Government in terms of unemployment. According to the figures given in the Unemployment Index issued by the Ministry of Labour, the percentage of unemployment in January, 1929, for Great Britain was 12½. In January, 1931, after two years of Socialistic rule, it was 22. Let us look at the figures at the end of two years of the present Government. The percentage of unemployment to-day is 23.4. If the Socialist party are going to use as an argument the fact that unemployment has gone up during the reign of the National Government, and to place the whole burden of it upon the National Government, they defeat themselves because of the figures during their period of office. May I remind the House that in Durham the unemployment figures were increased from 22.8 in 1929 to 33.6 in 1931. It is no consolation to admit that since the present Government came into office that increase has been only 7 per cent., but if we are arguing on comparisons we are entitled to say that we have beaten the Labour Government by 3 per cent. In Glamorgan we find similar figures. They are staggering and astonishing. In January, 1929, the percentage was 16.2; in January, 1931, 31.4, and in January, 1933, 40. I do not submit these figures as an answer to the Government's action in dealing with unemployment, but I say that if the hon. Gentleman and his colleagues criticise the Government on the figures we are entitled to reply with a statement of their own record.

We are entitled to assume that the hon. Gentlemen who are sitting on the Opposition Benches are serious and responsible opponents of the Government, and that they are presumably the alternative Government. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear!"] I am glad to see that the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for East Bristol (Sir S. Cripps), who is the Leader of the party at the moment, assents to that. May I, therefore, ask him this question. We have heard to-day an interesting speech from a new Member, the hon. Member for Rotherham (Mr. Dobbie). The House is always very generous, and we are glad to welcome the new Member, and we hope that he will play his part in our deliberations. In explaining his recent election, he said that it was won because he fought upon the question of the abolition of the means test. I want to ask the hon. and learned Member for East Bristol, as a responsible Member of the Opposition, if that is the declared policy of the Labour party?

Photo of Sir Adam Maitland Sir Adam Maitland , Faversham

If that is the declared policy of the Labour party, what would they substitute for the means test if they were placed on the Government Benches to-morrow? It is no use saying that they would substitute a change in system and in ownership; they must deal with the position as it is to-day. I put it to the hon. and learned Gentleman that no matter what Government is in power they hold a trusteeship for the people of the country. This document which deals with the Ministry of Labour Vote is a tragic document. It represents in terms of pounds, shillings and pence indescribable suffering. The Government must be, and must take the responsibility of being, the trustee of the disposition of such funds as the nation can afford to those who are in distress. We accept that responsibility and do not apologise for the means test. It is the only equitable test which we can possibly have. How are we to find the position of a person without an inquiry? Suppose any hon. Member were asked to distribute £100 to the poorest families in his division. He would have to make inquiries as to the needs of the poorest people in order that he could distribute the money equitably. That principle applies just as forcibly to the disposition of national funds. In certain cases the administration may be wrong but the principle is right. We understand, however, that it is the accepted policy of the Socialist party to do away with the means test. I am anxious to know, and I shall be glad if any of the hon. Gentlemen who are in a responsible position in the councils of the party will pay me the compliment of telling me, what is their alternative policy and how they will discriminate between the needs of one person and another.

We have had in other respects a very interesting Debate, and I should like to join my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for the Isle of Thanet (Captain Balfour) in what he said about the 40-hour week. It is the easiest thing in the world for hon. Members opposite to distort what has been said about the Government's policy.

Photo of Mr Thomas Williams Mr Thomas Williams , Don Valley

The hon. Gentleman does not suggest that any statement I made distorted the statement of the Government representative? Did the hon. Gentleman listen to the quotation I gave from the official document of the International Labour Office, to which I did not add or detract anything?

Photo of Sir Adam Maitland Sir Adam Maitland , Faversham

The hon. Gentleman will accept my assurance that I was referring more particularly to what was said by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for the Isle of Thanet, and that I was not thinking in any sense of the hon. Gentleman's speech. In the Press and elsewhere we have seen distortion of the real policy of the Government. In a matter of this magnitude we must be guided by previous experience, and we recall what happened in the case of the 48-hour week Convention of Washington. We understand now that the reason why that Convention was not adopted here was that there was a misunderstanding between the Members of the Labour party and of the Liberal party as to whether it should or should not be submitted for approval to the House. If the Labour party believed in it it was their bounden duty to submit it and leave it to the judgment of the House. However, I do not want to go into past history, and would rather say that on the general subject of a 40-hour week they will find, perhaps, a measure of sympathy and agreement coming from quarters least expected. But in the state of the country to-day it would not be a kindness to the workers to introduce a 40-hour week until we were satisfied that there would be no change in the standard of living of those workers. If we were to put into operation a system which involved a reduction of hours in this country without a corresponding reduction of wages, the immediate effect would unquestionably be to impose a greater handicap upon our export industries. It could only be avoided by having a reduction of pay in proportion to the reduction of hours, and I would ask hon. Members of the Labour party if they are satisfied that that is what the workers want.

It is difficult for a private Member to do more than make general statements in these Debates. I have always felt that any descent to details, to a specific proposal, is of no avail, but I understand it is the fact that the Civil Service always give attention to proposals which are submitted during these Debates. In mentioning the Civil Service I would like to dissociate myself entirely from the attack made upon them by the hon. Member for North Tottenham (Mr. Doran). I do not think it is right and fair to attack in this House people who are not able to speak in defence of themselves. I believe it is the fact that the Civil Service take the trouble to fillet all the Debates on unemployment and all other matters in this House and pick out any proposals which are capable of being useful, and so it may be that some suggestion of a specific kind may some day find the light in legislation introduced by a Department. I will venture to make a specific proposal. We have had three days of Debate on unemployment, and we cannot forget the question of unemployment on this Vote. We had a non-party Debate, and many good suggestions were made, but when all is said and done the initiative for introducing legislation to give effect to any proposals, however excellent they may be, must come from His Majesty's Government. I beg the Government to consider whether we could not now have some sort of nonparty discussion, lasting for a day or two days or three days if need be, in order that we might deliberate over and consider the views of the Government on any proposal which they thought could possibly be adopted.

Photo of Sir Stafford Cripps Sir Stafford Cripps , Bristol East

They have not got any views.

Photo of Sir Adam Maitland Sir Adam Maitland , Faversham

The hon. and learned Gentleman says they have not got any views. I think it is quite unfair of him to say that. They have got suggestions and they have got proposals, and as he is not at the moment a Member of the Government he is not in a positron to say whether they have not any views.

Photo of Sir Stafford Cripps Sir Stafford Cripps , Bristol East

The Prime Minister told us this afternoon that the Minister of Labour was going to give us those views in the course of this Debate. They have not been forthcoming.

Photo of Sir Adam Maitland Sir Adam Maitland , Faversham

I was in the House when the Prime Minister spoke, and I have a very clear impression of what happened. The Prime Minister was asked Question 46 by the hon. Member for Spennymoor (Mr. Batey), and said there was to be a Debate to-day upon the question and that would provide an opportunity to raise those points. [HON. MEMBERS: No."] The OFFICIAL REPORT will show what was said. Then an hon. Member asked if the Prime Minister would give a definite statement, and the Prime Minister said, "Wait and see." I never got the impression that there was going to be a specific statement on the part of the Minister, but I got what the Prime Minister said—the fact that it was an opportune time for hon. Members to raise those points during the Debate, and they have been raised. But may I come back to the suggestion which I was putting forward, for I find myself, quite against my inclination and desires, involved almost in a party squabble. I make the suggestion most seriously that we should have a Debate of one, two or three days in which we might have submitted to us the considered and deliberate views of the Government on the subject of unemployment.

I will risk making a proposal and would like to suggest a simple form in which something might be done. It is my conviction that valuable as are the schemes of work initiated by the Government, and valuable as are the schemes put forward by the local authorities, in the long run it is beyond the power of Parliamentary Government or of local government effectively to solve the question of unemployment. We can do a good deal in that direction, but in the long run we must depend upon the trade, industry, commerce and agriculture of our country. I would like the Chancellor of the Exchequer to consider this one point as a means of encouraging the chiefs of industry to extend their operations and employ more people. At the present time manufacturing concerns get certain reliefs under the Income Tax Acts in respect of depreciation and of repairs and so on, and I suggest that the Chancellor should consider the possibility of extending those reliefs at the present time, because I feel certain that would give an incentive to people to expand and develop their works. Money is available for the expansion of well-founded industries, and it would be forthcoming. Maybe my suggestion would not amount to much, but any contribution that would help is very worth while considering. I am glad that the Government have recognised the very excellent services which have been done in this direction. We sometimes criticise each other, but I am sure that we are all agreed that the present tragic situation may be summed up in this way: The amazing thing to anyone unacquainted with our country must be the generosity of the people who are anxious to help the unemployed, and the spirit and the patience of those who are unfortunately unemployed.

I hope that the Government will not rely too much upon the outcome of the coming World Economic Conference. That would be a mistake. I recognise that we cannot look for any permanent prosperity in industry by acting alone, but prosperity in this country is to some extent dependent upon our own efforts, as well as being dependent upon a proper appreciation of the world position on the part of other countries. I venture to say to the Government that the internal position in this country is one wherein we can do a very great deal almost immediately to help our own people, and I beg the Government that, while they are looking forward hopefully, in a way in which we all must join, to good results ensuing from the coming international conference, they will not overlook those internal possibilities and lose no opportunity of putting into operation every scheme likely to help the unemployed. I am satisfied that if they will act courageously and boldly, and not hesitate to bring in schemes that may be subject to criticism, but will initiate proposals, they will have the warmest support from all quarters of the House.

8.48 p.m.

Photo of Mr Edward Williams Mr Edward Williams , Ogmore

I have listened with attention to a number of speeches in this House to-day, and especially to that of the hon. Member for Faversham (Mr. Maitland) who has just spoken. A remarkable change has taken place in this House in the last 18 months. The Government came in with the greatest majority in the history of Parliamentarism in this country, and for the first few weeks it was evident, from the speeches and from the jubilation of hon. Members who were supporting the Government, that they had at last achieved their ambition of sufficient strength to advance their cause of tariffs, presumably for the purpose of solving the unemployment problem. We have witnessed that tariffs cannot solve the unemployment problem, and the speeches that we have had from the supporters of the Government are not only the greatest possible indictment of tariffs, but of the system that this Government is out to foster.

Photo of Sir Adam Maitland Sir Adam Maitland , Faversham

I hope that the hon. Gentleman does not apply that observation to what I have said. If we had not had the application of Protection in this country for the last 18 months, the number of unemployed would have been still more.

Photo of Mr Edward Williams Mr Edward Williams , Ogmore

The hon. Member may examine the facts of the last 18 months, and if he or any Members of the Government can find satisfaction from them, and not from rhetoric or theoretical differences, they are entitled to have all the advantages that they can from that examination. However, I am not concerned with tariffs, but with unemployment. I question very much whether the supporters of the Government regard tariffs as a means of solving unemployment. One endeavours to give as much credit as possible to the intentions of Members of Parliament, but hon. Members have to confess that they believe in the stabilisation of the present system of private enterprise. He that believes in the stabilisation of this system of political economy is not out to solve the unemployment problem. A labour market is essential for the prosecution of this system. The motive at the back of hon. Members' minds cannot be the solution of the unemployment problem. It is true that it may be possible to bring unemployment to what may be described as comparable proportions, which would be very nice, but for hon. Members to say that they are out to solve the unemployment problem is not true to their own philosophy and their own acceptance of political economy. The thing which amazes me most is not the thing which amazes the hon. Member for Faversham. It is that we have in this country, at a time when great poverty faces millions of people, such an enormous preponderance of wealth, and that there is no attempt on the part of statesmen to bring that wealth into the hands of the people who actually require it in order to satisfy their needs. Hon. Members cannot put up, as a defence for the present Government's ineptitude in this matter, any reference to the Labour Government. That Government never satisfied me, but I realised that it was in a minority and that it was subject to the whims of the Liberals and of any people who were prepared to bargain. I am not putting up any defence for that Government, particularly on the question of the 48-Hour Convention at Geneva. Surely it is a very poor argument to relate the present situation, when we have a Government with such an enormous majority, to the situation when there was a Government that had no power, and at all times was subject to the whims of other people, who obviously were not prepared to support it in the solution of the unemployment problem. The people upon whom they depended were people who believed in vested interests—the very people who are supporting the National Government; and, because they believe in this philosophy, they are prepared to accept this system of political economy. Surely such people would not support Labour in any attempt to apply the principles which we believe to be the only principles by which it is possible to solve the unemployment problem.

The hon. Member referred to the means test, and asked what would the Opposition be prepared to do if they came back into office, or, rather, became the Government, because I presume he means, not merely office, but with authority and power. The first thing that we would do would be to abolish the means test. The hon. Member for Shettleston (Mr. McGovern) made reference to a circular issued by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wakefield (Mr. Greenwood) when he was Minister of Health. That circular, however, had no reference at all to the means test. It was issued in 1930, and merely asked the public assistance committees formed under the Local Government Act, 1929, to be far more sympathetic under the Poor Law than they had been. The circular was issued at a time when the means test did not apply to transitional payments, and, consequently, had no reference to it. I think the Minister will accept my statement that the means test did not then apply to transitional payments.

Photo of Mr George Buchanan Mr George Buchanan , Glasgow Gorbals

It is a perfectly legitimate defence to say that the Minister was carrying out the law, but is not that just what the Minister here has said? He has said, "The House of Commons has passed a law, and I am carrying out the law with the means test." If that argument is adopted, both Ministers are carrying out the law. I do not accept the argument of carrying out the law, but, if the hon. Member accepts it for the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wakefield, he must inevitably accept it in the case of the present Minister.

Photo of Mr Edward Williams Mr Edward Williams , Ogmore

I am certain that the hon. Member is finding himself in some difficulty. The opposition expressed by the hon. Member for Shettleston against the Labour Government was on the ground that one of its Ministers had issued a circular. That circular had reference to the administration of a law which had obtained in this country for scores of years, and which is common knowledge to every person who is interested in public life. The circular was issued in order, if possible, to modify the harshness of the application of certain legal enactments. I agree that the Minister is helpless so far as the administration of the law to-day us concerned, but to-day the law is "means test," and, surely, the opposition to circulars issued at a time when there was no means test.

Photo of Sir Henry Betterton Sir Henry Betterton , Rushcliffe

I should like to get this perfectly clear. According to the argument of the hon. Gentleman, he suggests that it is perfectly right when we are dealing with the money of a local authority, but it becomes monstrous, according to him, when we are dealing with the money of the national Exchequer. My point was that, if it is right in the one case, it is equally right in the other. The question put to the hon. Gentleman by the hon. Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan) is unanswerable.

Photo of Mr Edward Williams Mr Edward Williams , Ogmore

Really, we cannot accept that from the Minister. The Circular applied to destitute poor, to people who had received outdoor relief under legal enactments for scores of years. We never believed in such Poor Law principles; we do not believe in a system which involves extremes of poverty and plenty, but such extremes have obtained in this country for scores of years. We do not believe that legitimately unemployed persons who are deprived of their employment through the operation of this system, and who have contributed to a scheme which undertook the same contractual obligations as benefit societies and so on, should have to take the risk of loss. Once a man is under a scheme, we believe that that man is entitled to the benefits of the scheme for all time, if he is rendered idle through causes over which he has no control.

Photo of Sir Henry Betterton Sir Henry Betterton , Rushcliffe

That is no answer to the point put by the hon. Member for Gorbals.

WILLIAMS:

certainly is an answer. I am not going to enter into a wrangle as to the difference between rates and taxes; I am just meeting the point that was put forward in opposition to us with regard to the issue of the Circular. The opposition of the lion. Member for Shettleston was not in regard to the administration of the law, but on the question of the means test. However, I do not want to carry that any further. The last speaker asked us what we were prepared to do if we had any authority in this country. The first thing we would attempt to do would be to see that the £200,000,000 which is now lying idle in the banks of this country should be so utilised as to ease the burden which is now falling upon the shoulders of the unemployed. There is an adequate amount of money to enable the unemployed to have a greater payment. That, in itself, to use the technical phrase, would cause a certain amount of inflation, but it would be immediately spent on absolute necessities, and thus of itself would partially solve the unemployment problem by setting factories to work to produce the things that could be bought. That £200,000,000 has been saved at the expense of the poor by cuts—unemployment cuts, education cuts, cuts in all directions. It is now lying idle. It certainly would be spent, if we had some authority, without the application of any means test in this country. Further, we should certainly tackle very seriously the other aspect of the matter. Yesterday my hon. Friend the Member for Aberavon (Mr. Cove) was dealing with the question of taxation. More than £300,000,000 in this country is handed over to people every year without any means test being applied, regardless of their income. Many of them receive unearned increment, and at the same time they receive interest upon war stock—for what? During the War period we lent a certain sum of money. The same principal may have been turned over many times. Without the application of any means test whatever these people are draining the nation dry. The unemployed, and persons engaged in industry, have to make their contribution and those who make it, if they become unemployed, are subject to this miserable means test by people who mainly represent the rentier class, those who drained the country by taking this unearned increment.

Photo of Captain Sir Peter Macdonald Captain Sir Peter Macdonald , Isle of Wight

There are over £500,000,000 in the Post Office Savings Bank and another £500,000,000 invested in War Savings Certificates by working class people. Do not they receive unearned increment, and would the hon. Member confiscate that?

Photo of Mr Edward Williams Mr Edward Williams , Ogmore

Surely the hon. and gallant Gentleman can appreciate the difference between that and the matter that I have put before the Committee. The Minister referred to the numbers who have been drawn into the juvenile centres and said that about 90 per cent. of the 150,000 juveniles were obtaining employment. Reference was made to Jersey here 3,000 have been engaged in producing potatoes. If such persons are taken to Jersey or anywhere else for two seasons, will they not be put in the category of seasonal workers and deprived of unemployment benefit?

Photo of Mr Robert Hudson Mr Robert Hudson , Southport

They will certainly not be described as seasonal workers if they have only done two seasons.

Photo of Mr Edward Williams Mr Edward Williams , Ogmore

I think we could adduce evidence that they are likely to be so designated. If the umpire has to decide it in accordance with recent rulings, we are certainly inclined to believe that such persons will be deprived of benefit. Can we receive a definite answer, or shall I receive an answer from the Parliamentary Secretary when he replies?

Photo of Mr Edward Williams Mr Edward Williams , Ogmore

We are not satisfied, either, with the part that the Government have played with regard to the Forty Hours Convention. We know that with mechanisation in industry unemployment is bound to increase unless the Government are prepared to do something radical at least to replace that which mechanisation is likely to discard, and, if possible, increase the number brought into industry. Within two or three years in my own area in South Wales 11 collieries have gone into liquidation. The men will never be re-absorbed in those collieries. In the other collieries, which have not gone into liquidation, we have had the introduction of machinery on an extensive scale, reducing the number of men and they cannot be reabsorbed except by a reduction in working hours. We want to know whether the Government are prepared to face up to this which is, after all, the most difficult of all questions that we have to deal with. In other countries the 40-hour system is being seriously considered. At Geneva the other Governments were prepared to give it support, and, from the document read by the hon. Member who opened the Debate we are obliged to accept the fact that our representative deliberately opposed it and that the Government are not attempting to face up to the results of mechanisation not only here but in every country in the world.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer has said that in 10 years unemployment will not be less. One has to assume that he believes that the present Government will be in power and that he will be Chancellor of the Exchequer for the next 10 years, in which case it is pretty certain that the number will not decrease but substantially increase. We had a statement from the Lord President last night indicating that the economy stunt has now come to an end and that there will be no further cuts in the social services. We have had a confession that the policy of economy has completely failed. Shall we have from the Minister to-night a confession that the means test has completely failed, that it is driving young men and women -from home, and that it is causing extreme hardship in the households of decent people? Shall we have some indication that men of 60 and over may be dispensed with, and given adequate pensions, in order that young men, scores of thousands of whom have not done a day's work since they left school, may be engaged in industry? These are some of the questions to which we should like the Minister to endeavour to reply. There are 3,000,000 unemployed and 5,000,000 or 6,000,000 in a, position of complete destitution. It is only a matter of time when those who are on standard benefit will have to receive transitional payment. It is only a matter of time when the persons who are in receipt of standard benefit, with permanent unemployment increasing as it is, will fall into the category of paupers in this country. Meanwhile the Government apparently sit and look on, trying to find out whether their tariff policy is becoming fruitful, and local authorities are being faced with bankruptcy. Liverpool, Glamorgan, Monmouthshire, all the centres where industry has been vital are being paralysed. In the South of England rich boroughs like Kensington merely have to pay coppers in support of public assistance, while the great industrial areas have to pay five and six shillings, and in Glamorgan more than 8s., in every pound in aid of public assistance. It is increasing year after year; the budget this year is higher than last year.

The Government should face up to this very grave situation. Industrial areas are becoming completely paralysed. The policy of the Government, with their enormous majority, has become a complete fallacy and they do not appear to have the will to do anything. In the Far East we see certain things going on, and it may only be a matter of a few years when England may be brought into the trouble. Wealth will then easily be obtained in this country. We had a blizzard over the week-end which damaged many townships in this country and rendered idle large numbers of people. Money will have to be found to put matters right. The House will sit and talk, but it will not advance money to do this sort of work. Yet if war broke out in which we were inveigled we should at once find the money. There is plenty of cash. There are plenty of willing men prepared to do something. There is plenty of cheap raw material. There are millions of acres of land running to waste. The Government certainly ought to bring all those things together. If only they would do so, they would find employment tending to increase. The country, when it gets its opportunity, will throw the Government out, and they will get their deserts for having failed to fulfil the promises which they made.

9.19 p.m.

Photo of Mr Anthony Crossley Mr Anthony Crossley , Oldham

The hon. Member for Ogmore (Mr. E. Williams) certainly outlined a national policy which would require a very considerable amount of increased taxation. It is the claim of his party that direct taxation does not fall upon industry. Yesterday the hon. Member for Aberavon (Mr. Cove) took four years as a basis for proving that there was no direct connection between Income Tax and unemployment. The four years he took were from 1926 to 1930. During that time Income Tax was stable and unemployment was oscillating, and he may have forgotten that during that period we had the General Strike. If he had taken the years 1921 to 1924, e would have found that in 1921 the Income Tax was 6s. in the pound and that the figure of unemployment at Christmas, 1921, was 2,000,000. In 1922 the Income Tax was 5s. in the pound, and the unemployment at Christmas. 1922, was 1,400,000. In 1923 the Income Tax was 4s. 6d. in the pound, and the unemployment at Christmas, 1923, was 1,100,000. If the hon. Member will look up those figures he will, perhaps, change his ideas as to whether there is or is not a direct connection between taxation and industry. The hon. Member has an excuse because at the beginning of his speech he said that he did not understand finance and currency.

Photo of Mr William Cove Mr William Cove , Aberavon

I am a modest man.

Photo of Mr Anthony Crossley Mr Anthony Crossley , Oldham

So am I, but I do not move financial Amendments. I am not one of those who want to make it harder for my right hon. Friend on the Front Bench to run the most difficult department in the Government. Nobody has such a thankless task as he has for all the time he remains in office. He had a good word to say about the public assistance committees. There is nobody who needs a generous word as much as the public assistance committees. They have to stand up and tackle this matter week after week. The public assistance committee in my division had for a considerable time to do without the assistance of the Labour party. It may have been to their credit. I am not saying it was or it was not, but I know one man on the public assistance committee there who had to sign 2,000 or 3,000 determinations every week. He had that task, and if he had not carried it out those people would have been thrown on to the Poor Law. You may say that my right hon. Friend went with a pocketful of pistols. The choice he had was to appoint a commissioner. If he had appointed a commissioner at that time it is clear that the people in Oldham would not have had such a good rate of transitional payment as they received from the local public assistance committee.

Photo of Mr Aneurin Bevan Mr Aneurin Bevan , Ebbw Vale

The commissioner would have to carry out the law. Do we understand that the public assistance committee is carrying out a different law from the one the commissioner would have to carry out, or is the commissioner to carry it out differently?

Photo of Mr Anthony Crossley Mr Anthony Crossley , Oldham

I am not saying that at all. I am saying that at this time we have public assistance committees carrying out the law, and although there is considerable difference between district and district, the public assistance committees are doing their best for the people in their district—most of them. The commissioners under the present Act have, I understand, to be paid out of the amount of money spent, or what would be spent in that area. I sincerely hope that the whole cost of this administration will be borne by the Government and by the taxpayer.

Photo of Mr Aneurin Bevan Mr Aneurin Bevan , Ebbw Vale

The hon. Member has made a most extraordinary statement. Do we understand that the unemployed would be worse off under the commissioner than under the public assistance authority, and that the commissioner would have to collect his salary out of unemployment pay? Is that what the hon. Member says?

Photo of Mr Anthony Crossley Mr Anthony Crossley , Oldham

That is not what I said at all.

Photo of Mr Aneurin Bevan Mr Aneurin Bevan , Ebbw Vale

Then what did you say?

Photo of Mr Anthony Crossley Mr Anthony Crossley , Oldham

It, is not what I intended to say; what, I Intended to say was that a commissioner was appointed in different places in order to administer the law which public assistance committees had refused to administer.

Photo of Mr Anthony Crossley Mr Anthony Crossley , Oldham

Yes, but which public assistance committees had not been administering at the appropriate rate. I am very much hoping that in the near future the administration will take into consideration two principles which remain very important in our constitution. The first is that in the national administration of national money we should not delegate our responsibility for spending money to local authorities, and the second is that every employable man who is now unemployed and wants to be employed should be on the Employment Exchange registers. You should bring into your scheme those people who have, perhaps, bought a little shop and gone out of insurance, and who go on to the rates and not on to the Employment Exchanges. At the same time, all those people who have been in insurance but who are no longer employable should not be a burden on the State.

Let me turn to another subject. I have just been in Germany, and, by the kindness of the German Minister of Labour, I was allowed an interpreter to take me round a good many of the labour exchanges. They have some things in Germany which I should like to see in this country. [HON. MEMBERS: Hitler ! "] No, not Hitler. I have no doubt my hon. Friend is delighted that Hitler is not here. If he were, he and his friends might not be present with us. They have at the big labour exchanges in Berlin food canteens. I do not know whether my right hon. Friend has considered that one of the great difficulties about unemployment is that by buying food on a small scale they have to pay comparatively high prices. Our local authorities provide meals for schoolchildren at 2d. a head, and I believe that if the Employment Exchanges could undertake the provision of meals to be paid for at cost price, that would leave something more in the budget of the unemployed man for clothes and boots.

Another thing in Germany which impressed me very much was that every labour exchange kept two files for each man out of work. One file showed the length of time he was out of work, and the second an alphabetical list to which the employer could look for a particular man. On each of these cards there was a list of numbers and each number represented a qualification. It might be that a man had a blue pencil mark through Nos. 13 and 15 showing that his profession was a builder, and that would mean he was also expert as a plasterer. He might also have a red pencil mark through 37 and 42, and that might mean he spoke French and had some knowledge of political economy. They showed me a card in which there was a blue pencil mark through political economy, which meant that the man was perfect in that subject. I asked them if there was anybody who was perfect in political economy, and they answered in true German philosophy that all things were relative. There is one other thing in Germany which, I think, the Minister might consider. There is a scheme of providing credits for those who wish to forgo some of their payments, and supplying them with a small amount of land and materials with which to build a house. In Germany every man's mind is turned towards land settlement as a partial solution of the unemployment problem. It is, perhaps, natural that they should turn to that method, and I am wondering if it would not be very long-sighted on the part of this Government to see if a scheme could be instituted here by which a man would voluntarily forgo a portion of his benefit or transitional payment, and thereby save the Exchequer a certain sum, and that sum, with the interest on it, should be put aside to help provide him with materials with which to build his house. If necessary, the Minister should take land—I do not say nationalisation—but there is much land lying derelict which might be cultivated.

Then there is the voluntary scheme for helping the unemployed. To my mind, there has been more misstatement on this subject than on almost any other subject. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) drew a most elaborate simile. He divided the sum and found that the amount due to his own county would be 30 pieces of money, and he compared that with another 30 pieces of money of which we have read in history. The grant to the National Council of Social Service was only intended to help them with secretarial expenses, travelling expenses and general organisation. It was not intended to be doled out to different places for starting centres. That was not its object, and we should recognise the fact that there are two unemployment problems. There is the cure of unemployment and the provision of work, possible means of shortening hours and so on; and there is the alleviation of unemployment. I do not think that trade unions and hon. Members opposite have really done credit to themselves when they have opposed the wonderful schemes started by private enterprise all over the country in order to make the life of the unemployed man happier and healthier while he is unemployed. I am very glad that the right hon. Gentleman has left that voluntary movement to be started, because he has not got to take the risk of failure.

One day, if the right hon. Gentleman gets a scheme which is really a, success, I hope he will adopt it and make it a national one, but for the moment it is far better that private enterprise should experiment and that it should be left to private people who are anxious to get schemes going in the municipalities so that you may find out what is the best method and the best set of schemes, and then you may possibly have them adopted in future by the Government. I believe that is sound sense. The schemes we have in the south have not seemed generally popular, but in the north there is an enormous desire for them. Many unemployed in my constituency have told me so. Up to now there have not been many interesting experiments. Most of them have been on the same lines—allot-ments, boot and shoe repair shops, clothing repair shops for women and so on. There have not been any schemes with eight or nine people getting together, one making boots and one making clothing and trying to live on a communal basis.

There have not been any schemes which have attempted the promulgation of craft industries. I am not sure whether the people engaged in such schemes would be entitled to receive unemployment benefit, and I should like to ask the Minister if there is any way by which those who are anxious to start a craft industry, something which in no way competes with an existing industry, would be able to receive unemployment benefit. I see the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. A. Bevan) looking forward again, but I can assure him that what I want to see is not anything in competition with trades union labour. In Germany the trades unions give their whole-hearted support to these schemes, and I think they are wise in doing so, because such schemes are going to be a big element in our national life in the future.

I have not time to speak about other things to which I wished to refer, but I should like to say a few words on the question of shorter hours. That subject has been grossly misunderstood. Bacon said: Let us sit a little longer, that we may make an end the sooner. This is a question which needs not one inquiry but two. It needs a close industrial survey in this country. In the cotton trade, for example, if we started to work shorter hours we should have to bear in mind that we do not compete with European countries in the main but with the countries in the East. In the cotton trade there have not been enormous technical improvements like there have been in other trades, and if we were to adopt shorter hours in the cotton industry and Japan, China and India were not to adopt them, we should lose the little part of the cotton trade that remains. An industrial inquiry is needed in this country to find out just the percentage of production which is used at home and the percentage that is used for export, also the average hours of work and other items, including the social effect. Generally speaking, that is very desirable and it must Dome. The other thing that is needed is an international inquiry, in regard to which our representative at Geneva has worked as well as he possibly could. I hope that the international inquiry will come off and that its report will produce the basis for what ultimately must be the main solution of our unemployment problem.

8.38 p.m.

Photo of Captain Sir Peter Macdonald Captain Sir Peter Macdonald , Isle of Wight

I intervene in order to extract, from the Minister of Labour, if I can, some information with regard to the Estimates before the Committee this evening. There has been a great deal of discussion connected with the International Labour Office at Geneva, and that led me to inquire what are the functions of that organisation and how much it is costing us at the present time. To my amazement I find that while other Estimates are being decreased or pared down to the minimum the cost of the International Labour Office at Geneva has increased this year by no less a sum than £6,300. That led me to put a question the other day to the Minister of Labour with regard to the International Labour Office, and the reply was remarkable. I was informed that not one single Convention or recommendation of the International Labour Office had been accepted by all the nations concerned in the Convention or recommendation since the inception of the International Labour Office 13 years ago. In those 13 years the International Labour Office has cost £5,500,000, of which amount £417,000 have been contributed by the British Government. This year over £500,000 will be spent on the Interna- tional Labour Office and the people in this country are asking, and I think they are entitled to ask for what purpose is this money being spent. Why should £28,229 be spent in travelling and subsistence allowances, when we are informed that riot one single recommendation or Convention has been adopted by all the countries engaged in that organisation in 13 years? One-tenth of the cost of the International Labour Office is borne by this country, and we have only one vote in 24.

These are very remarkable figures in view of the discussion that has taken place to-day about certain Conventions regarding hours of labour. There is more loose thinking and talking upon the question of the 48-hours week and the 40-hours week than perhaps on any other subject. I listened not long ago to an ardent Socialist speaker, who was discussing the question of the 48-hours Convention, and he said that he could not understand why the British Government had not adopted that Convention. He put the blame down entirely to the Tory party. I had the temerity to ask if there had not been two Labour Governments in this country in the last 13 years. He said that was true but that they had not a sufficient majority to carry the Convention. I said: "Can you tell me of any country that has whole-heartedly accepted the 48-hours Washington Convention? He replied:" Yes, India has wholeheartedly supported it." I said: Yes, and well they might, for they can employ labour at two rupees a week. Are you prepared to recommend that British labour should be employed on the same conditions in this country?" That is the whole trouble when people talk about hours Conventions and the recommendations of international conferences. They completely disregard the other factors, namely, wages and working conditions.

The grievance that I have against the International Labour Office is that it seems to be completely dominated by countries that are not industrial. Those countries are always willing and anxious to accept Conventions on hours and other restrictions upon labour conditions, but they are non-industrial countries. Therefore, they are not justified in placing further burdens on industrial nations like ours, depending almost entirely upon our export trade for our existence. Before hon. Members are prepared to chastise the Government for not accepting these Conventions whole-heartedly and putting them into operation, they must realise that the other factors have to be borne in mind, otherwise they will be crippling employment in this country and making conditions still harder for the classes they pretend to represent in this House.

I do not intend to intervene at any length, but I would ask the Minister to give me an answer to the questions that I have put. I want to know the cause of the increase in the cost of the International Labour Office, how many British subjects are employed at the International Labour Office and in what work they are employed. I want to know if it is not a fact that a great deal of the work carried on by the International Labour Office to-day is being duplicated. Is it not the case that the Ministry of Labour have records, duplicates of which are kept at Geneva, and that information could be provided at any moment by the Ministry of Labour to any country which requires it without sending delegates week after week and month after month to conventions and discussions at Geneva. There have been at least 30 conventions during the last 13 years, and not one single recommendation has been carried out by all the parties concerned.

I maintain that the International Labour Office is an anachronism which might easily be done away with. The answer may be that it is part of the Versailles Treaty. I agree, but like many other clauses of the Versailles Treaty it is completely obsolete to-day. They have gone far outside their sphere and have embarked on grandiose schemes which they have no hope of ever carrying through. It is time that their activities were curtailed. It has been said of them, and I agree, that they are nothing more or less than a debating society, composed largely of people engaged in international social organisations through Europe. If anyone will examine the records of this organisation, and the records of the delegates representing various countries, they will find that 90 per cent. of them are Socialists of the extreme element. It is wrong, at this time of financial stringency, that this country should have to meet this added burden in order to subsidise an organisation which is contributing nothing to the solution of international or national problems.

9.48 p.m.

Photo of Mr Jack Lawson Mr Jack Lawson , Chester-le-Street

The Debate, with, the exception of two or three speeches, has been concentrated on the question of unemployment. That is quite natural, but we on this side rather desired that on this occasion to deal with the administration of the department responsible for the spending of this large sum of money. The Minister of Labour was certainly placed in an altogether false position this afternoon by the Prime Minister, and that was chiefly responsible for any interruptions which took place during his speech, which we on this side did not welcome at all. On that incident I will only say this, that this House is usually generous to Ministers, including the Prime Minister, when answering questions. The House understands that it is not, always wise to say the exact word on a subject and is tolerant, but it was really obvious this afternoon that the Prime Minister was telling the House that some statement was going to be made, and I was myself much surprised at the statement of the Minister of Labour.

The Ministry of Labour is the most difficult department in the whole range of government. It is a significant fact—I do not say that the right hon. Gentleman is alone in this respect—that to-night, as on other occasions, the right hon. Gentleman has very little visible support from other Members of the Government. If there is a Department whose Debates ought to be listened to by the Prime Minister or the Leader of the House it is the Ministry of Labour Vote. It has been the grave of more Ministers than all the rest of the departments put together, for the simple reason that he has to face not only very difficult questions but questions which touch vitally the life, personal and social, of this country. The Department deals with no less than seven different sections in administration alone. It deals with wages, unemployment, umpires, courts of referees, training, the International Labour Organisation—and I shall have something to say in reply to the hon. and gallant Member for the Isle of Wight (Captain Macdonald)—the industrial courts and the relations between employers and workmen.

We were quite right in asking for a Debate on the general administration of the Department. There are nearly 3,000,000 unemployed. They have to attend the Employment Exchanges. When we were the Government we used to be assailed as to the condition of Employment Exchanges at every opportunity. We were told of the need for new Exchanges and of the conditions under which men had to wait in winter time. That is as it should be, because men and women have to go to Employment Exchanges, and before the courts of referees, they are subject to the means test, and to the Anomalies Act; and there are nearly 3,000,000 of them. Take the question of the courts of referees. There is grave need to consider what is happening. I have here a document sent out by the North Riding of Yorkshire County Council, who complain that the courts of referees apparently take the view that certain men are not in normal insurance. They say: As these men have been unemployed for so long and are beyond middle-age, they are not likely to be re-absorbed in the trades in which they were previously engaged, and that in consequence they must be considered not normally insured. Everyone knows that that is going on all over the country, apart from the Anomalies Act. It is a fact that whole masses of men who have been out of work a considerable time and are middle-aged are being declared as not normally insured and are thus thrown back on the Poor Law. That is an illustration to show the many different avenues along which men and women have to travel from the Exchanges to become a charge upon the Poor Law. When the position is examined it will be found that that is only one of the many reasons which are responsible for complaints from Liverpool and Manchester and Durham and Wales and Scotland—complaints that masses of the people are being thrown upon the Poor Law and that thus the rates are increasing. Take the case of Durham before the commissioners went in, take Glamorgan or take any area in Scotland where you have a Labour majority or an assistance committee that is sympathetic to the men. These authorities can try as they like to keep their backs to the wall, but the fact remains that the Poor Law numbers are growing and the rates are increasing.

It is a terrible situation, which the Minister and the Government cannot blink 'at much longer. I think there has been something like an increase of 250,000 upon the Poor Law since the present Government came into office. During the two years when the Labour Government was in office, when we were assailed because of the rapid growth of unemployment through causes over which we had no control, even when the unemployment figures were going up the number of people receiving public assistance was always coming down. Now it is the opposite. Unemployment is growing. The Government say it is not growing as fast as it was formerly, but it is lamentable to see the rapid increase in every town, almost every area of the country, and particularly the industrial areas, and the heavy financial burden that is being laid on those areas. The necessitous areas question is looming once more. I do not think there is much virtue in hon. Members continually supporting Acts of the Government which have the direct effect of increasing the rates. It seems to me that the common-sense thing to do is to refuse to accept those Acts which are obviously going to make the position of necessitous areas worse than it was before. I hope that to-night we shall get some answer from the Government with reference to the courts of referees.

The Minister, in dealing with the administration of transitional payments, quoted once more the Circular of my right hon. Friend the Member for Wakefield (Mr. Greenwood). I do not know whether he wished to convey some of the impressions that were given to the House. Undoubtedly, he did create the impression that my right hon. Friend the Member for Wakefield by issuing that Circular gave some countenance to the policy of the present Government. I wonder why the Minister of Labour is so impervious to the explanation of the realities of the position. Here are the facts: In Wakefield the Conservatives actually made that Circular the battle-ground of the by-election. It was clearly explained in a very short time, and the Conservatives wanted to get away from it. But they repeated the same old mistake in Rotherham, and we have seen the result. They did the same thing in Wednesbury. The simple fact is that the right hon. Member for Wakefield issued that Circular 18 months before the need test was heard of.

Photo of Sir Henry Betterton Sir Henry Betterton , Rushcliffe

That is perfectly true.

Photo of Mr Jack Lawson Mr Jack Lawson , Chester-le-Street

My right hon. Friend issued it to deal with the Poor Law when its administration was passing over to the new public assistance committees. He had to explain the law as it was. If the circular is examined in the light of the facts and of my right hon. Friend's duty as Minister of Health—it had nothing to do with the Ministry of Labour —it will be seen that the circular is to my right hon. Friend's credit, and that it actually made a very generous improvement in the administration of the Poor Law.

Photo of Sir Henry Betterton Sir Henry Betterton , Rushcliffe

The point which I tried to make over and over again was that if that circular is right in the case of the uninsured, why is it wrong in the case of those on transitional payment?

Photo of Mr Jack Lawson Mr Jack Lawson , Chester-le-Street

I will come to that later. What my right hon. Friend the Member for Wakefield did was to explain the law as it was when the public assistance committees were taking over the Poor Law.

Photo of Mr James Maxton Mr James Maxton , Glasgow Bridgeton

But did he not go further and justify it?

Photo of Mr Jack Lawson Mr Jack Lawson , Chester-le-Street

I do not think the hon. Member can say that, if the circular is read in the light of the events of that time.

Photo of Mr John McGovern Mr John McGovern , Glasgow Shettleston

Did not the circular say that even the income of children must be taken into account and is the hon. Member aware that the Tory public assistance committee in Glasgow do not take the small amounts made by children into account at all. The circular went even further than they would go.

Photo of Mr Jack Lawson Mr Jack Lawson , Chester-le-Street

I do not mind my hon. Friend putting his point of view, but I understand that there is a great difference between the laws of the two countries in this respect, and he is speaking from the Scottish point of view. [HON. MEMBERS "No !"] In any case, the Minister of Health at the time had to explain the law to these committees.

Photo of Mr Duncan Graham Mr Duncan Graham , Hamilton

May I point out that if that circular which was sent out to the English bodies was to apply generally, the same law would have applied in Scotland, but accordinz to the statement of my hon. Friend the Member for Shettleston (Mr. McGovern) it did not apply in Scotland, and therefore the law in Scotland must have been different from the law in England.

HON. MEMBERS:

No!

Photo of Mr Jack Lawson Mr Jack Lawson , Chester-le-Street

I do not wish to go into that question. It does not make any real difference. The fact is that the Minister of Health, at that time 18 months before the means tests came into operation, was in duty bound to explain the law to the public assistance committees and that he did so and that in that circular he specially mentioned certain classes such as those in receipt of pensions and urged the committees to give generous consideration to them. The Minister of Labour has made a reference to the administration of the law in regard to transitional payments. We have never agreed with the means test at all, as I have clearly stated before, and far less did we agree with the destitution test. Everybody knows what I said in this House. I have always said that if there had to be one, I would sooner have it administered by the Employment Exchanges, under responsible Government authority than by public assistance committees with whom we could not deal in this House.

What has the right hon. Gentleman done in Rotherham and Durham? He has deposed the public assistance committees and substituted, in Rotherham one Commissioner, and in Durham three Commissioners, with 10 area officers who are servants of the Ministry of Labour. He has sent there 10 representatives of his own Department and he repudiates responsibility for them and practically speaking for the amount voted by the House in that connection. The right hon. Gentleman in taking that course is not only applying a destitution test to great masses of people in circumstances which have been well illustrated here today. He is also taking a course which is bad Departmental administration and bad government, in that money is being voted with practically no control by the House. The result is patent. He has taken £15,000 in a few weeks off Durham. He has taken a great amount off Rotherham and he is using these two areas as a threat to other areas in the country. Other areas are being continually menaced and their administration and their outstanding public assistance committees, as I think even Conservative Members will agree, are under the bludgeon or the threat of being superseded by commissioners if they do not come up to the Minister's interpretation of the law.

It is a curious thing that when public assistance committees are operating and interpreting the law as they think it ought to be interpreted, the right hon. Gentleman says, "I differ with you, and, if you will not do what I want, then I will depose you.' But when we come to him about the Commissioners in Rotherham and Durham, he says," I have nothing to do with them; they may be good or bad, they may be carrying out the law or not, but I have nothing to do with it." The right hon. Gentleman is in a dilemma, and he will have to decide something more definite than we have heard of yet about the administration of the means test. I do not wish to emphasise or underline what I have said before, but the Government must be aware that this country is not going to stand the applications of the means test under continual Departmental pressure.

The Minister, it is true, gave a case or two from Rotherham, in which it is said sums of £5 or £6 a week were coming into a particular house and so many people were working and so forth. He also gave some cases from Durham. But he did not say anything about the 99 cases out of 100 in which he is really breaking up homes. That is not a phrase but a fact. While the right hon. Gentleman brings up in this House the one case in which people may be getting more transitional payments than he thinks they are entitled to, yet when it comes to fighting by-elections, it is found that the people know all about the other 99 cases. So the Government get the reply of the Rotherham by-election. That is only an expression of the feeling of the country at large. The Government would do well to take the warning and the right hon. Gentleman as long as he continues this system ought to be more tolerant with the public assistance committees than he is at the present time.

To-day we are dealing with a situation which involves nearly 3,000,000 peoplle directly, apart from their dependants. All the Government are doing is hoping that something will turn up from their tariff policy and that, perhaps, industry will improve somehow or other. Nobody else in this country believes that. The employers of the country do not believe it. They know the facts with which the Government seem to be out of touch. Machinery is growing apace and is displacing men faster than means can be devised for employing them. I believe that even if you get your financial problems, your War debts and reparations, settled, all that you will have done then is to have got down to the fundamental fact that mechanism is re-volutionising industry. Employers know that quite well, and the figures show it. As my hon. Friend the Member for Don Valley (Mr. T. Williams) pointed out, the numbers of the wholly unemployed are growing apace, and there are about 200,000 more now than there were a year ago. As a matter of fact, I think the total is about 460,000 more than it was 18 months ago, although I am not quite sure of those figures. Then, as I pointed out previously, the hard core of unemployment is growing, and instead of 100,000, those figures are now about 500,000. That means that we have almost a revolutionary situation to deal with, and yet, in face of that fact, we have thousands of boys and girls leaving school at the same time that we have 140,000 boys and girls registered as unemployed.

I know of nothing that has been more against the best interests of the country than the action of this House in destroying the Measure wherein the Labour Government attempted to raise the school-leaving age to 15 years. I am very sure that some Conservative Government will be compelled—in fact, I should not be surprised if the industrial facts do not compel this Government, before it finishes its course—to consider seriously the raising of the school-leaving age. I do not say that you can estimate exactly how many such a Measure would put into employment. That is a very difficult matter, in the ups and clowns of practical life and modern industry, to decide, but I am sure that some day, by some Government, this question will have to be seriously considered. Of all the stupidities, I think the worst is the fact of turning, almost every month, some 30,000 to 40,000 boys and girls out of school into industry at a time when you have 140,000 under 18 unemployed, and whole masses of youths of from 18 to 20, perhaps another 100,000 at the very least, unemployed in addition.

Then the Government will have to give much more consideration to the question of a reduction in the number of working hours. The right hon. Gentleman cannot deny, however he may try to explain it away, that the will of the Government has been antagonistic to the reduction of hours. He may have been expressing the official view of the Federation of British Industries and of the Confederation of Employers, and I am sure that their representative in Geneva was with the Government on that point, but I do not believe that the Government is now expressing the will of the great mass of employers in this country on that matter. I have met large numbers of employers who agree that serious consideration must be given to this question of the reduction of hours, and I think the real test was put by the hon. Member for East Wolverhampton (Mr. Mander), on the point as to the Government's view on this matter, when he said that if the Government had been really serious on this, one of the foremost questions of the day, raised by the Italian Government and supported by a great many other Governments, they would not have sent one of the staff of the Department to Geneva to deal with it. Surely the Minister himself would have gone, or his Parliamentary Secretary, who could have spoken with some authority, instead of a member of the staff, who was given his rigid orders and had no real representative power, not knowing what arguments were to be brought out at Geneva.

The Government are rooted in the old ways of reactionary Toryism. They cannot even rise to the heights of enlightened capitalism. The Government simply justify themselves in a very roundabout way without having any fundamental basis for the explanation that they have to give. I would like to say to the hon. and gallant Member for the Isle of Wight (Captain P. Macdonald) that, as far as the International Labour Office is concerned, it would do him good to get at something like closer grips with the facts about the Conventions. I can tell him that it has been my privilege to be a representative of the Government at the International Labour Office on various occasions, and to sit as chairman of the committee which reported on the working of these Conventions. As not merely a theoretical expert, but as one who has a practical touch with industry, I can judge the value of those reports, and I say that if the British Government would give their support and sympathy to that organisation, and use their great prestige to lead the way in it, they would do great things for the British people and for the world.

Photo of Captain Sir Peter Macdonald Captain Sir Peter Macdonald , Isle of Wight

The hon. Gentleman said that he represented the British Government at Geneva. Can he tell us one single recommendation that was accepted there during the term of the Labour Government?

Photo of Mr Jack Lawson Mr Jack Lawson , Chester-le-Street

The hon. and gallant Gentleman must give me the same privilege as he gives to Ministers; I must have notice of that question. I was speaking of my chairmanship of the committee which reported on the working of these Conventions; 700 of them have been passed for various countries and are working to-day. My hon. Friend who opened the Debate was well advised to draw attention to the statement of the Chancellor of the Exchequer that it will be 10 years before we can see anything like an improvement in employment. The Chancellor's speech cast gloom and sent fear throughout the length and breadth of the country, and I do not think that it will do the prestige of the British Government or of this country any good abroad. We now know that the position of the Government is that, whereas they got a doctor's mandate from the country to deal with the patient, the doctor has now no hope whatever for the patient during the next 10 years.

I would like to give the Minister of Labour this hint. There is a view abroad in the country that it may he possible to get an insurance scheme which will pay its way, and that the transitional payment and the means test will probably be carried on. Finally I would warn the Government, as regards any proposals they may have for the future, that neither they nor any other Government will be able to run a watertight insurance system in this country in the face of the facts which are now apparent; nor will this country stand the inquisition and the dastardly results of the operation of the means test, with its dire effects on the welfare of the people throughout the country.

10.25 p.m.

Photo of Mr Robert Hudson Mr Robert Hudson , Southport

We have listened to an unemployment Debate to-day which, in my recollection of Debates on this subject in this House is, I think, almost unique, because it is practically the first Debate in which any consideration at all has been given to the details of administration of the Ministry of Labour. I would like to thank the hon. Member for Chester-le-Street (Mr. Lawson) for the kind things he has said about my right hon. Friend's Department. He knows the difficulties, and that one of the difficulties lies in the fact that the details of our administration are so seldom discussed, and that to a great extent the work of the Department is very largely unknown either to the country or to hon. Members. Therefore, hon. Members will perhaps forgive me if I answer in some detail, within the limits of the time at my disposal, some of the practical questions addressed to me in the Debate. I shall have a word or two to say, also, about the speech of the hon. Member for Don Valley (Mr. T. Williams), who opened the Debate, both on the question of hours and on the question of the effect on trade of this administration.

The hon. Member for Leigh (Mr. Tinker) asked the number of juveniles in receipt of benefit and how many of them attended juvenile instruction centres. The number of juveniles in receipt of benefit is 22,000 boys and 15,000 girls. 14,780 boys and 5,600 girls are in attendance at juvenile instruction centres, and in addition 1,800 boys and 1,480 girls attend other courses of instruction provided by the local authorities. He asked further how many training centres for adults we had and where they were situated, and for similar information respecting girls and women. The training centres for which we are asking approval this year are: Training centres, non-residential—Birmingham, Bristol, Glasgow, Letchworth, Park Royal, Waddon, Wallsend, Watford. Instruction centres: residential—Bourne, Carstairs, Claydon, Cranwich Heath, Fermyn Woods, High Lodge, Kielder, Shobdon, Swanton Novers, Weeting and West Tofts. Non-residential—Carshalton. We have closed the Slough training centre. As regards the non-residential training centres, which are known as "handyman centres," they are, for the most part, manned by men and youths from distressed areas, who have their unemployment benefit made up to 21s., out of which sum they have to pay for lodgings, which are provided for them in ordinary dwelling-houses, at an average rate of 17s. In addition to that they get a free midday meal on six days a week, and reasonable fares are paid. In the case of a few married men sent to these centres an additional allowance of 8s. is made to them to cover their expenses. Men who attend the residential centres which are reconditioning centres surrender the whole of their unemployment benefit, but in return are fed, lodged and, to a certain extent, clothed—they get trousers and boots—and have a pocket money allowance of 3s. a week. The average stay at the residential centres is 12 weeks, and at the other centres, the handyman centres, it is 26 weeks. In the case of girls and women, there are also residential and nonresidential centres. The non-residential centres are for the most part situated in the distressed areas, and the residential hostels are situated at Lenzie in Scotland, Market Harborough, Warrington, Leamington, Long Benton, Harrogate and London. They are run on behalf of the Central Committee on Women's Training and Employment. The women and girls who are there get allowances in the same way, although at a lower rate, as the men in the handyman centres and the residential training centres.

The hon. Member then went on to ask me about circular L.A. 16 on the question of pensions. He said that it was not the intention of the House—at least he did not think that it was the intention of the House—that when 50 per cent. of a man's disability pension was ignored that portion only should be ignored which was confined to his own disability pension. He objected to the whole of a man's pension in respect of his dependants being taken into account. I have not had time to look the matter up, but I think that I am correct in saying that I explained the matter to the House specifically, in answer to a question, when we were discussing the Bill. I say, subject to correction, that that is my recollection of what happened. In any case, the Transitional Payments Act definitely defined wounds and disability by reference to Section 16 of the Finance Act, 1919, which laid down the facts quite clearly. There could be no doubt in the minds of anyone who had taken the trouble to look at the reference.

Further, I will justify the matter on its merits. I think that it is within the recollection of lion. Members that when we were discussing this matter of a disability pension it was the general feeling of the House that the disability pension to some extent represented blood-money, that it represented a compensation for a definite injury to the man himself, and that it had no bearing on or relation to his earning power. On the other hand, the question of the dependants' pension rests entirely on maintenance, and therefore when you are considering the man's needs and the amount that he requires to maintain himself and his family, it is clear that the dependants' disability pension should be taken fully into account. I hope that I have made myself clear.

The hon. Member then went on to protest about single persons on transitional payments who had gone into lodgings and whose claims had been disallowed. He will remember that this question has already been discussed more than once in the House. It arose mainly owing to the action of a number of single persons in a Lancashire town who had deliberately gone out of their own homes and into their neighbours' homes. There had been an exchange of the young persons. The son of A went into the home of B, and the son of B went into the home of A. They went to the local public assistance committee and said: "We are no longer members of the family. We are lodgers, and as lodgers we should like to be paid full rates of transitional payments." That was such an obvious evasion of the real intention of the Act that my right hon. Friend the Minister definitely told the local authority that if they chose to take such steps as seemed to them adequate in order to stop that practice, they would have his full approval. They have taken those steps, and the practice, I believe, has come to an end. I do not believe that anyone could be found in this House who would justify or defend the giving of any consideration at all to people who are attempting to evade the law in that way.

Photo of Mr John Tinker Mr John Tinker , Leigh

I must protest against the statement that they were simply crossing from one house to another.

Photo of Mr Robert Hudson Mr Robert Hudson , Southport

That is what they did. The hon. Member also mentioned the question of the 40-hour week, but, if he will allow me, I will deal with that when I come to the general question. My hon. Friend the Member for East Wolverhampton (Mr. Mander) said a word about our treatment of Wolverhampton in regard to the administration of the means test, and he said that he hoped that, as the result of the negotiations which had been going on between the Wolverhampton Corporation and the Department, some satisfactory arrangement would be reached. He seemed to use the word "satisfactory" in an ironic sense. I do not know exactly whether it will be satisfactory, but I can assure him that at least it will be legal.

He then went on to raise the question, which is of general interest, of the right of an applicant for transitional payments to get a personal hearing on appeal. Hon. Members probably know that in England, unlike Scotland, the ordinary person applying for public assistance has no legal right of appeal, but the practice, in the great majority of cases of which I know, is that public assistance committees, where a man feels that he has a grievance, or that he can adduce new facts which have not been within the consideration of the committee before, he is practically always granted a right of rehearing; and I feel certain that that is the practice which is followed by practically all public assistance committees throughout the land.

Photo of Mr Reginald Banks Mr Reginald Banks , Swindon

If the great majority follow that practice would it not be possible for all of them to follow it? There seems to be something desirable in it.

Photo of Mr Robert Hudson Mr Robert Hudson , Southport

My hon. and learned Friend, versed as he is in the law, knows that neither my right hon. Friend nor the Minister of Health has any power to issue orders to public assistance committees.

Photo of Mr Reginald Banks Mr Reginald Banks , Swindon

They could make recommendations.

Photo of Mr Robert Hudson Mr Robert Hudson , Southport

The hon. Member raised the question of dating back, and asked why it should not be possible for a man whose circumstances had changed, say owing to the birth of a child, to have his transitional payment altered, two or three weeks later, for the previous two or three weeks; and other Members, I gather, think that there is some hardship in this, and that transitional payments ought to he treated in the same way as benefits. Hon. Members know that if, as the result of a hearing by the court of referees or the Umpire, a man is decided to have been entitled to a certain payment, he can receive back pay for several weeks, or, indeed, months, and it is suggested that a similar arrangement ought to be made with regard to transitional payments. The cases are not entirely parallel, because benefit is a payment received as of right, whereas transitional payments are payments ex gratin in order to meet the needs of the man for the particular week in which they are made. We have quite recently, however, issued a new regulation which will allow a committee to make retrospective increases or changes in transitional payment determinations valid for the benefit week preceding that in which the determination is made, and, therefore, if there is any change in the man's circumstances, there is no reason at all, if he exercises due diligence in getting his case heard or his circumstances disclosed to the local relieving officer, why any man should suffer any delay, and I hope that the new regulations which we have issued will dispose of that difficulty.

He went on to deal with the question of discrepancies in practice. He knows as well as I do that that is one of the matters which have caused my right hon. Friend and myself most concern. We have endeavoured to get discrepancies in practice between local authorities removed by persuasion, but, in spite of our best efforts, we have failed. It is interesting to note that, since we took steps to secure uniformity of practice in the shape of the Determination of Need (No. 2) Bill last year, dealing with cases of disability of pensions, workmen's compensation, savings and house property, practically no complaints have arisen on these four matters, and I have not heard any point of complaint raised in this Debate on the four points covered in the Bill of last year. I think we are entitled to claim that the action that we then took has materially helped to make the administration of this very difficult subject much easier throughout the country. The hon. Member went on to deal with the case of shorter hours. He brought up a particular case and said he thought, from his own experience I gathered—

Photo of Mr Robert Hudson Mr Robert Hudson , Southport

The hon. Member implied it, and it is very generally known —that, as a result of his own experience and knowledge, if there was rationalisation, it would be possible to secure a 40-hour week and still pay 48 hours wages. One of the objects of the 40-hour week in present times is, surely, to spread employment over a larger number of people while maintaining production at its present level, and you defeat your whole object if in 40 hours you get 48 hours' production, because you will then have to work shorter time and some of the men will be thrown out of work. That is precisely what happened in the particular case that the hon. Member has in mind, because the firm whim got a great deal of publicity out of the statement that it had succeeded in shortening its hours to 40 and paying 48 hours' wages, as the result of the introduction of a new system of working, has actually got 48 hours' production out of 40 hours' work. If the whole industry follows that example, we shall be no better off at all. It is worth noting, also, that this firm had to give an undertaking to its men before the trade union would allow the system to be introduced that, in spite of the extra production, they were going to keep them and would not dismiss any men for six months. The six months have not elapsed and we do not know the final result of the experiment.

Photo of Sir Geoffrey Mander Sir Geoffrey Mander , Wolverhampton East

I made no personal reference of any kind. I have knowledge of this matter going far beyond any one works in one industry. It is relevant in all those cases, which are inevitable in certain circumstances, where pressure of competition causes rationalisation. In those cases it keeps more people at work if 40 hours are worked instead of 48.

Photo of Mr Robert Hudson Mr Robert Hudson , Southport

That is the only instance I know where they have succeeded so far in paying 48 hours' wages for 40 hours' work. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Thanet (Captain Balfour) made some very interesting suggestions. I should like to thank him for the generous tribute that he paid to our Exchange managers. I think they were thoroughly deserved. As regards the question of substituted work, the question whether a man who works during the daytime will or will not be disqualified from benefit is one over which my right hon. Friend has no control whatever, because it is a matter to be decided by the court of referees and the umpire, who are entrusted with the job. As regards the question of seasonal workers, my hon. and gallant Friend will forgive me saying that he is a little inconsistent, because he said, in the first place, that there is a fair proportion of seasonal workers who pay the contributions for the whole of the season when they know that they are not going to suffer any unemployment. But he then suggested that in the Isle of Thanet 90 per cent. of them were employed for the season and 10 per cent. unemployed for the season. Even in the Isle of Thanet, it is precisely because of the risk of the 10 per cent. being unemployed that we are entitled to ask everyone concerned for contributions. Those persons ran the risk of not getting employment in the season, and in the course of an analysis which we made a short time ago we found that during the time that the seasonal workers Regulation has been in operation seasonal workers during the season were able to draw a very substantial amount out of the fund. As regards the question of the shorter benefit year that, of course, is a matter which would require legislation, but it is a suggestion which we will bear in mind and see if any use can be made of it.

I turn to the hon. Member for Shettleston (Mr. McGovern), who started off by saying that he was not 'a Conservative. From my knowledge of him I should say that he is far more Conservative than any Member on this side because many of us have changed in our views, but as far as I can make out he still believes in the outworn theories of Marx. He raised a good number of matters of detail, but every one, as far as I can understand, were matters within the discretion of the public assistance committee and should really be discussed with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland, and not upon our particular Estimates.

Photo of Mr John McGovern Mr John McGovern , Glasgow Shettleston

May I have an answer to the questions which I put? If you want to impress me with a desire to become a negotiating statesman in this House, I think I am entitled to an answer to the specific cases to which I called attention, as to the treatment he is meting out, and as to their attitude.

Photo of Mr Robert Hudson Mr Robert Hudson , Southport

I am afraid that the hon. Member is not entitled to an answer because they are all' individual cases, over the solution and determination of which neither I nor my right hon. Friend have any control. They are matters within the discretion of the public assistance committee.

Photo of Mr John McGovern Mr John McGovern , Glasgow Shettleston

Will the hon. Member allow me to put one point in connection with the case of two brothers living in the same house in different rooms? Are those persons entitled to be treated on the same basis as man and wife? Surely the Minister has some opinion on a matter of that description?

Photo of Mr Robert Hudson Mr Robert Hudson , Southport

If the public assistance committee would have treated those persons, if they had applied for public assistance, as man and wife then, under the terms of the Order they are bound to make transitional payments on that basis.

Photo of Mr Robert Hudson Mr Robert Hudson , Southport

With regard to the speech of an hon. Member who 'asked about seasonal workers going to Jersey, the principle laid down is that, where a man takes seasonal work, not with the intention of adopting a career but because he cannot obtain any other work, those cases will be judged on their merits. In general a man is allowed to take up seasonal work for two years before any question arises as to his having adopted it permanently. As the hon. Member knows, I can give no assurance upon this matter, which is in the hands of the court of referees and the umpire. Generally, the ruling of the umpire is to the effect I have just explained.

The hon. Member asked me why we did not give pensions to men over 60 as one of the solutions for unemployment. It does not lie in his mouth to ask that. That is one of the proposals of his party and we are entitled to ask why they did not, put it into force when they had the opportunity. The hon. Member for Oldham (Mr. Crossley) made some very interesting suggestions about land settlement. Of course, he realises that practically all the points he raised require legislation and, therefore, much as I would like to deal with them, I should be prevented by the rules of order. I very much appreciated the tribute he paid to our action in connection with the National Council of Social Service. I now come to the hon. Member for the Isle of Wight (Captain P. Macdonald)—

Photo of Mr James Maxton Mr James Maxton , Glasgow Bridgeton

What about the hon. Member for Tottenham (Mr. Doran)?

Photo of Mr Robert Hudson Mr Robert Hudson , Southport

The hon. Member asked me about the increase in our contributions to the International Labour Office. The answer is that there was one more conference at Geneva this year than last and also that, owing to some of the States not having paid their contributions to the expenses of the International Labour Office, these were paid out of the working capital of the League of Nations at Geneva, and it falls to us to pay our share to make that good.

Photo of Captain Sir Peter Macdonald Captain Sir Peter Macdonald , Isle of Wight

Has no protest been made by the British Government against this form of treatment? Has one single resolution of the International Labour Office been adopted by this Government?

Photo of Mr Robert Hudson Mr Robert Hudson , Southport

We have only one vote against a number of others, but that does not prevent us from paying our contributions unless we are willing to go back on our signatures, which the hon. Member would not suggest. The hon. and gallant Member for Clitheroe (Sir W. Brass) quoted some figures about determinations at Manchester and Salford, but he must have been confusing rates of public assistance and transitional payments, as it was obvious that a man, wife and three children could not possibly receive 39s. 3d. in Manchester or Salford or anywhere else, because the maximum rate of transitional payment would be 29s. 3d.

Photo of Sir William Brass Sir William Brass , Clitheroe

Can the hon. Gentleman assure me that there is no difference in transitional payments between various places?

Photo of Mr Robert Hudson Mr Robert Hudson , Southport

No, the hon. and gallant Member knows, as I have been explaining, that one of the difficulties we have always is the difficulty of the various rates in various areas. I have explained there could not be a discrepancy as great as he suggests. With regard to the question he raised about the trade dispute case, we have no power whatever to submit another case to the umpire, but, if there is any new fact in any case, the umpire is always ready to receive representations and consider the case, provided the fact is definitely a new one. I now come to the speech of the hon. Member for Don Valley. He accused us, among other things, of having supported a policy of international isolation, and he implied that one of the results was the fall in our international trade. He had better think of what happened during his own term of office. Taking our exports, I find that their value fell from £729,000,000 in 1929 to £570,000,000 in 1930 and £390,000,000 in the following year, and has remained practically constant at £365,000,000.

Photo of Mr Thomas Williams Mr Thomas Williams , Don Valley

What about the volume?

Photo of Mr Robert Hudson Mr Robert Hudson , Southport

I have said that in 1931–32 the value decreased £25,000,000. In the following year the volume slightly increased from 76.5 to 76.8, compared with 122 in 1929, which was the last year we were in power. Therefore, there is nothing in the hon. Member's argument.

Photo of Mr Thomas Williams Mr Thomas Williams , Don Valley

Are not the exports down by £24,000,000?

Photo of Mr Robert Hudson Mr Robert Hudson , Southport

The hon. Member spoke, as did the hon. Member for Chester-le-Street, about an increased demand upon the Poor Law. They seemed to think that there has been an increase on the Poor Law over anything that has happened before. If that was not their argument there was no point in it. The fact of the matter is that in 1929, which was taken as the datum line under the Derating Act of that year, the whole of the allowances to local authorities were based on the continuance of the expenditure of what they spent in 1929, and adjustments were made accordingly and weighting was given to authorities which in 1929 had a very high Poor Law expenditure. Then the Labour Government came along in 1930 and passed an Act which upset the whole basis of the arrangement by taking on to the Insurance Fund a lot of people who had no business to be there, and the net result was that in 1930 there was a sudden drop in the number of the persons on the Poor Law. We have never denied that fact, but the whole point is that even to-day, in spite of the distress, the numbers on, and the cost of, Poor Law have not yet got back to the level of 1929, the level at which the grants have been paid for the last two years. In other words, the local authorities of this country had two very good years to which they had really no right.

The final point is the question of hours. Hon. Members opposite have accused us of having adopted an obstructive policy at Geneva. The hon. Member for the Don Valley, I hope entirely unintentionally, misquoted very seriously the words of Mr. Norman.

Photo of Mr Robert Hudson Mr Robert Hudson , Southport

I am sure that it was unintentional, but he ended up his quotation of the speech by using the phrase, "the phantom of the 40-hour week."

Photo of Mr Robert Hudson Mr Robert Hudson , Southport

I heard it myself, and I asked several hon. Members if they heard it too. What Mr. Norman said was, that the 40-hour week Convention as discussed at Geneva was a phantom.

Photo of Mr Robert Hudson Mr Robert Hudson , Southport

One of the reasons for our action in this matter was our experience with the 48-hour Convention. It is 12 years since that Convention was originally adopted, and it has not yet been ratified. Why? Because it was done in a hurry and it has been impossible in the years since to get an agreed interpretation of what it means. In the matter of the 40-hour week Convention, we want to avoid doing that. We are anxious to try to obtain the facts. As my right hon. Friend said, the Trades Union Congress went gaily ahead urging the 40-hour week, and then they had second thoughts and decided that it would be a good thing to ask their own constituent trade unions whether the 40-hour week was a good thing or a bad thing. If the Trades Union Congress, on second thoughts, decided that it was better to be careful, the least that we can do is also to be careful. But that does not in the least mean that we are opposed to the 40-hour week, in principle. We have, as hon. Members know, invited the Trades Union Congress and the Confederation of Employers' Organisations to meet us and try to get a practical inquiry.

Question put, "That £156,423,000 stand part of the Resolution."

The House divided: Ayes, 220; Noes, 47.

Division No. 65.]AYES.[11.0 p.m.
Adams, Samuel Vyvyan T. (Leeds, W.)Cazalet, Thelma (Islington, E.)Ford, Sir Patrick J
Agnew, Lieut.-Com. P. G.Cazalet, Capt. V. A. (Chippenham)Fox, Sir Gilford
Ainsworth, Lieut. Colonel CharlesChamberlain, Rt. Hon. N. (Edgbaston)Fraser, Captain Ian
Aibery, Irving JamesChapman, Col. R. (Houghton-le-Spring)Ganzonl, Sir John
Aske, Sir Robert WilliamCochrane, Commander Hon. A. D.Gillett, Sir George Master man
Atkinson, CyrilColfox, Major William PhilipGilmour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir John
Baldwin, Rt. Hon. StanleyColman, N. C. D.Glossop, C. W. H.
Balfour, Capt. Harold (I. of Thanet)Conant, R. J. E.Gluckstein, Louis Halle
Balniel, LordCook, Thomas A.Glyn, Major Ralph G. C.
Banks, Sir Reginald MitchellCooke, DouglasGoldle, Noel B.
Beauchamp, Sir Brograve CampbellCourtauld, Major John SewellGraham, Sir F. Fergus (C'mb'rl'd, N.)
Beaumont, Hon. R.E.B. (Portsm'th,C.)Courthope, Colonel Sir George L.Grattan-Doyle, Sir Nicholas
Bernays, RobertCraddock, Sir Reginald HenryGraves, Marjorie
Betterton, Rt. Hon. Sir Henry BCranborne, ViscountGretton, Colonel Rt. Hon. John
Bird, Ernest Roy (Yorks., Skipton)Crooke, J. SmedleyHacking, Rt. Hon. Douglas H.
Bird, Sir Robert B.(Wolverh'pton W.)Crookshank, Capt. H. C. (Gainsb'ro)Hales, Harold K.
Blindell, JamesCross, R. H.Hall, Capt. W. D'Arcy (Brecon)
Boothby, Robert John GrahamCrossley, A. C.Hanbury, Cecil
Boulton, W. W.Davies, Maj. Geo. F. (Somerset, Yeovil)Hanley, Dennis A.
Braithwaite, J. 6. (Hillsborough)Denville, AlfredHannon, Patrick Joseph Henry
Broadbent, Colonel JohnDuncan, James A. L. (Kensington,N.)Harbord, Arthur
Brocklebank, C. E. R.Dunglass, LordHartland, George A.
Brown, Ernest (Leith)Eden, Robert AnthonyHarvey, Major S. E. (Devon, Totnes)
Brown, Brig.-Gen. H.C.(Berks..Newb'y)Elliston, Captain George SampsonHaslam, Henry (Horncastle)
Burnett, John GeorgeEmmott, Charles E. G. C.Headlam, Lieut.-Col. Cuthbert M.
Calne, Q. R. Hall-Emrys-Evans. P. V.Hellgers, Captain F. F. A.
Campbell, Edward Taswell (Bromley)Essenhigh, Reginald ClareHenderson, Sir Vivian L. (Cnclmsford)
Campbell, Vice-Admiral G. (Burnley)Everard, W. LindsayHeneage, Lieut.-Colonel Arthur P.
Caporn, Arthur CecilFermoy, LordHerbert, Capt. S. (Abbey Division)
Hope, Capt. Hon. A. O. J. (Aston)Moore-Brabazon, Lieut.-Col. J. T. C.Somerset, Thomas
Hornby, FrankMorris-Jones, Dr. J. H. (Denbigh)Somervell, Donald Bradley
Horobin, Ian M.Morrison, William ShepherdSopor, Richard
Horsbrugh, FlorenceMunro, PatrickSotheron-Estcourt, Captain T. E
Howard, Tom ForrestNail, Sir JosephSouthby, Commander Archibald R. J.
Howitt, Dr. Alfred B.Nation, Brigadier-General J. J. H.Spencer, Captain Richard A.
Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hackney, N.)O'Donovan, Dr. William JamesStanley, Lord (Lancaster, Fylde)
Hudson, Robert Spear (Southport)Ormiston, ThomasStanley, Hon. O. F. G. (Westmorland)
Hume, Sir George HopwoodPalmer, Francis NoelStevenson, James
Hunter, Dr. Joseph (Dumfries)Patrick. Colin M.Stewart, William J. (Belfast, S.)
Hunter, Capt. M. J. (Brigg)Pearson, William G.Storey, Samuel
Jackson, Sir Henry (Wandsworth, C-)Peat, Charles U.Strauss, Edward A.
Jones, Lewis (Swansea, West)Penny, Sir GeorgeSugden, Sir Wilfrid Hart
Kerr, Lieut.-Col. Charles (Montross)Perkins, Walter R. D.Sutcliffe, Harold
Kerr, Hamilton W.Petherick. M.Thomas, James P. L. (Hereford)
Kimball, LawrencePeto. Geoffrey K. (Wverh'pt'n.Bilston)Thomson, Sir Frederick Charles
Knox, Sir AlfredPickford, Hon. Mary AdaThorp, Linton Theodore
Lamb, Sir Joseph QuintonPotter, JohnTodd, Capt. A. J. K. (B'wick-on-T.)
Latham, Sir Herbert PaulPowell, Lieut.-Col. Eveiyn G. H.Touche, Gordon Cosmo
Leckie, J. A.Raikes, Henry V. A. M.Turton, Robert Hugh
Lees-Jones, JohnRamsay, T. B. W. (Western Isles)Vaughan-Morgan, Sir Kenyon
Leighton, Major B. E. P.Ramsden, Sir EugeneWallace, Captain D. E. (Hornsey)
Levy, ThomasRea, Walter RussellWallace, John (Dunfermilne)
Liddall, Walter S.Reid, David D. (County Down)Ward, Lt.-Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)
Lindsay, Noel KerReid, William Allan (Derby)Ward, Irene Mary Bewick (Wallsend)
Litter, Rt. Hon. Sir Philip Cunliffe-Rhys, Hon. Charles Arthur U.Ward, Sarah Adelaide (Cannock)
Little, Graham-, Sir ErnestRobinson, John RolandWarrender, Sir Victor A. G.
Lloyd, GeoffreyRosbotham, Sir SamuelWaterhouse, Captain Charles
McCorquodale. M. S.Runge, Norah CecilWedderburn, Henry James Scrymgeour-
MacDonald, Rt. Hon. J. R. (Seaham)Russell, Albert (Kirkcaldy)Wells, Sydney Richard
Macdonald, Capt. P. D. (I. of W.)Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth)Weymouth, Viscount
McKie, John HamiltonRutherford, John (Edmonton)Whiteside, Borras Noel H.
Maclay, Hon. Joseph PatonRutherlord, Sir John Hugo (Liverp'l)Whyte, Jardine Bell
Magnay, ThomasSalmon, Sir IsldoreWilliams, Charles (Devon, Torquay)
Maitland, AdamSalt, Edward W.Williams, Herbert G. (Croydon, S.)
Makins, Brigadier-General ErnestSamuel, Samuel (W'dsworth, Putney)Wills, Wilfrid D.
Mallalieu, Edward LancelotSandeman, Sir A. N. StewartWindsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel George
Mander, Geoffrey le M.Sanderson, Sir Frank BarnardWinterton, Rt. Hon. Earl
Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. D. R.Shaw, Helen B. (Lanark, Bothwell)Womersley, Walter James
Marsden, Commander ArthurShaw, Captain William T. (Forfar)Worthington, Dr. John V.
Martin, Thomas B.Simon, Rt. Hon. Sir JohnYoung, Rt. Hon. Sir Hilton (S'V'noaks)
Mayhew, Lieut.-Colonel JohnSkelton, Archibald Noel
Merriman, Sir F. BoydSlater, JohnTELLERS FOR THE AYES.—
Milne, CharlesSmith. Sir Jonah W. (Barrow-In-F.)Captain Sir George Bowyer and
Mitcheson, G. G.Smith, R. W. (Ab'rd'n & Kinc'dine, C.)Lord Erskine.
Molson, A. Hugh ElsdaleSmith Carington, Neville W.
NOES.
Adams, D. M. (Poplar, South)Evans, R. T. (Carmarthen)McEntee, Valentine L.
Banfield, John WilliamGeorge, Major G. Lloyd (Pembroke)McGovern, John
Batey, JosephGreenwood, Rt. Hon. ArthurMaclean, Nell (Glasgow, Govan)
Bevan, Aneurin (Ebbw Vale)Grenfell, David Rees (Glamorgan)Maxton, James
Brass, Captain Sir WilliamGriffith, F. Kingsley (Middlesbro',W.)Milner, Major James
Brown, C. W. E. (Notts.. Mansfield)Gruncy, Thomas W.Parkinson, John Allen
Buchanan, GeorgeHall, F. (York, W.R., Normanton)Price, Gabriel
Cape, ThomasHall, George H. (Merthyr Tydvil)Salter, Dr. Alfred
Cocks, Frederick SeymourHarris, Sir PercyThorne, William James
Cove, William G.Hicks, Ernest GeorgeTinker, John Joseph
Cripps. Sir StaffordJones, Morgan (Caerphilly)Williams, Edward John (Ogmore)
Dagger, GeorgeKirkwood, DavidWilliams, Dr. John H. (Llanelly)
Davies, David L. (Pontypridd)Lansbury, Rt. Hon. GeorgeWilliams, Thomas (York, Don valley)-
Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton)Lawson, John James
Dobble, WilliamLeonard, WilliamTELLERS FOR THE NOES—
Edwards, CharlesLogan, David GilbertMr. D. Graham and Mr. Groves.
Evans, David Owen (Cardigan)Lunn, William

Question, "That this House doth agree with the Committee in the said Resolution," put, and agreed to.

It being after Eleven of the Clock, Mr. SPEAKER proceeded, pursuant to Standing Order No. 15, to put forthwith the Question necessary to dispose of the Report of the Vote.