Orders of the Day — Clause 1. — (Appointment and Functions of Commissioners.)

– in the House of Commons on 6th December 1934.

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Photo of Mr John Tinker Mr John Tinker , Leigh

I beg to move, in page 1, line 6, to leave out "two."

This will leave it open for any number of commissioners to be appointed. The Schedule contains a very formidable number of places that the commissioners will have to look after. In England and Wales there are seven county boroughs, eight boroughs, 58 urban districts and 38 rural districts, and in Scotland, three counties and 32 parishes. That represents a tremendous volume of work. It appears to me that these commissioners are expected to set about their work quickly. With the large number of places mentioned, however well intentioned they may be, they will not be able to get through their work as quickly as they would like, and the Minister's attention may be drawn to this. He may realise that it is so and that there ought to be an increase in the number of commissioners. Without this Amendment he would probably have to come to Parliament again to get the power to increase them. The Amendment will give him the power to do just what he likes later on. It is possible that he will want to appoint a commissioner for Wales, and I can well imagine that the Welsh people will want one who can speak Welsh.

I think the Minister realises that other commissioners may be required, and I thought there was a faint idea in his mind that he ought to leave the gate open. When we heard that, it occurred to me and my friends to draw up an Amendment with a view to increase the number. Therefore this afternoon, with all the desire in the world to help the Minister—because one realises that if our efforts to improve the scheme and get more money for it have been unsuccessful, Parliament has to devote itself to trying to make the scheme as workable as possible—I am moving this Amendment, believing that the Minister, after hearing our arguments, will be willing to accept it in the spirit in which it is moved. It is designed so that the Minister can have as many commissioners as he likes—four or five, or only an additional one—to give a better chance for them to perform their duties.

4.1 p.m.

Photo of Mr Joseph Batey Mr Joseph Batey , Spennymoor

I want to support the Amendment. I think that the Minister did a wise thing when we were discussing the Financial Resolution to take "two" out of the Resolution. We want him to do just as wise a thing now, and take "two" out of the Bill, because we believe that if the word remains it will tie the hands of the Minister. We cannot imagine that two commissioners can be sufficient. If the Government really believe that it is possible for the commissioners to do something, then I think they will see the necessity of not putting too much work upon them, but to have sufficient commissioners in order that what they believe can be done will be done. I did not agree with the argument of the Minister this morning. He said that it was not necessary to increase the number of commissioners because the English commissioner, as one might call him, would have three sub-commissioners under him. But there is all the difference between the powers of the sub-commissioners and the powers of the commissioner. If it is necessary to have three sub-commissioners, then I would say to the Minister at once that I think he should face the question, and instead of having three sub-commissioners, have three commissioners. The commissioner for England and Wales will have, in my opinion, far too much to do—far more than any one man can do.

I was surprised to-day by an answer of the Minister of Labour to a question I put to him. When we were discussing the Financial Resolution I thought that if the two commissioners—the English commissioner and the Scottish commissioner—had 300,000 unemployed to look after, that would be the limit; but the Minister, in his answer to-day, told us that in the North-East there are 174,200 unemployed; in Cumberland, 12,300; in South Wales, 110,650. Leaving out Scotland, where the right hon. Gentleman gave the figure of 100,400 unemployed, the English commissioner has to deal with no fewer than 300,000 unemployed, and we have not yet got the number of unemployed who are receiving Poor Law relief. I am expecting the figures from the Ministry of Health, but when we get them the number who are receiving such relief and are not registered at the Employment Exchanges will add materially to the 300,000 which the English commissioner has to look after. In my opinion, it is far too many if any real work is to be done. It is far too many for one commissioner to attend to. My proposition is that the Government are shelving responsibility for the unemployed by putting responsibility on these two commissioners. Seeing that the Government are shelving the responsibility, and expecting the commissioners to meet the situation, they should not put too much work upon them.

Again I want to remind the Minister that the condition of our unemployed demands that something should be done. It seems to me that the Government do not realise the serious position in which many of our men are placed. I hope that the Minister will read the articles in the "Morning Post" by a correspondent sent to Durham. The article in to-day's "Morning Post" is in regard to Spennymoor. The articles seem to me to clinch what first led the Government to realise the serious position in the North-East of England—the articles that appeared in "The Times" of 20th and 24th March. The "Morning Post" has sent a correspondent there, and in his article to-day he says what I think is worth the attention of Members of the Committee. He says: I met the man— This was in my Spennymoor district— trudging in the rain along a muddy mid-Durham road. He was small, perhaps forty-five; his unprotected clothes were damp; he had an empty pipe in his mouth—'out of habit' he said—no tobacco in his pocket, and no prospect of affording any. The writer goes on to say: He tramped away through the downpour, bound for—nowhere He was just walking,' in the same way that he was just living.' This aimless walk in the rain seemed to symbolise his life. The whole of the article would be well worth the attention of the. Minister and every Member of the Cabinet, for the reason that the National. Labour party issued a pamphlet not long ago in which they pointed out what this Government was doing, and said that in this Parliament above all Parliaments it is the Cabinet that counts. If it is only the Cabinet that counts in this Parliament, I would like the Cabinet to read this article, in which there also appears this passage which is well worth attention. The writer is dealing with the family fire. He says: It is a companion in the dusk, and at night—and these places need all the cheer they can get. It helps to light the room and it serves also as the miner's substitute for central heating. Small wonder, then, that when it is out the spirit of the house sinks. That is why, in these stark mining towns, or, let us say, these dormitories for the unemployed—the fire has become a first charge on the household purse. Without fuel the flames must die. All over East Durham they are flickering. The landscape, black-edged, funereal, is streaked with abandoned collieries The town of Bishop Auckland is ringed with silent pits. So is Spennymoor, the precise geographical centre of the county. Here industry has fought a losing battle, and the littered field remains. So one might go on quoting that article. I want the Minister to see the hopeless position of our people in that district. The Government have appointed these commissioners, and they are expecting that at least something can be done by them. Personally, I have riot the slightest faith in anything being done. I believe that the functions of the commissioners leave them with nothing that matters—only trivial things. I believe that the position of our people will not be a little bit better after these commissioners have been working for 12 months, or even 12 years. The position of the men and women in the depressed areas is so desperate that if the Government believe that the commissioners can do something, I say to them, do not give those commissioners too much work to do, but give them a chance of doing something.

4.11 p.m.

Photo of Mr Edward Williams Mr Edward Williams , Ogmore

I should have thought that the Minister, in trying to make effective what he suggests the commissioners can do, namely, to perform necessary salvage and experimental work, would have realised the necessity of placing, particularly in districts like Wales, a person who would have some executive authority. Assuming that the commissioner appointed for England and Wales and the commissioner appointed for Scotland will have some executive authority, and certainly be major officers to the sub-commissioners, it is difficult to understand why the right hon. Gentleman does not realise the necessity of appointing more than two. Anyone who reads the report of the investigation by Sir Wyndham Portal will realise the enormity of the, work. That report has entailed an enormous amount of work, and the fact that so much is stated in the report surely calls for investigation in itself. There is, therefore, some substance in what was said by the Mover of the Amendment.

While I do not desire to argue this upon narrow national lines, a person who could speak and understand the Welsh language would certainly be an asset in making his investigations. Then if one takes the number of unemployed in the distressed areas in Scotland and the number in the eastern portion of South Wales, there are, in fact, more unemployed in the distressed areas of South Wales than there are in Scotland. So that from any angle it may be argued that there is room for a commissioner to be appointed for the Welsh areas. One has to look at the administration of the Unemployment Insurance Act, and assume that the opposite number will be appointed under the new Unemployment Board. In a case of this kind the commissioner, to some extent, would have to relate his office or work to the divisional controller or the person under the new Unemployment Insurance Act. Certainly for an officer appointed as a commissioner in South Wales to have the opportunity to consult his opposite number under the other Act would be beneficial to himself, and, I think, beneficial to the experiment. I think the Minister would be well advised, therefore, to appoint a commissioner for Wales alone. One could argue, from the point of view of linguistic attainments, that someone ought to be appointed for Lancashire or Durham, particularly if they are speaking in the dialect. I am not stressing the point, but there would be a great amount of work for the commissioner to do. The population in the mining valleys of South Wales is very different from that in England. The opportunity to do a great deal of work in those valleys may not be the same as in other parts of the country. The work will call for greater mental concentration and for consultation, and there ought to he someone there with executive authority.

4.15 p.m.

Photo of Mr Frank Griffith Mr Frank Griffith , Middlesbrough West

I rise to support the Amendment, although I recognise what the Minister said on the Financial Resolution that there will, in fact, be three subordinate resident commissioners who will be directly responsible for each of the areas. That raises a small minor mystery, because on the Second Reading of the Bill I specifically raised that point and asked for an answer, and it is rather strange that we had to wait for an answer until the Debate on the Financial Resolution. I am glad to know that this is the case, but it does not seem to be sufficient. I am afraid that the work, as has been indicated, will he too overwhelming for one man. I know that £2,000,000 is not to be taken as the absolute limit, but I imagine that the Central Commissioner in London, getting in his reports and recommendations from his resident commissioners, may find himself gradually overwhelmed by the magnitude of the problem. He will be, if his subordinates do their work properly and put up to him enough work to make the Bill worth while. I am afraid that in considering the financial limits under which he may have to labour he will say: "I have so much to do in South Wales that I cannot afford to do very much for Durham at present." So you may get a lag in the progress of the work.

I would much rather, therefore, have a Durham and Tyneside commissioner who could go up to the limit and see what could be done for Durham and Tyneside with actual executive authority, and I should like to see the same sort of thing in other districts. There must be some co-ordination, but by the terms of the Bill there is the appropriate Minister to whom the commissioners are to be responsible, either to the Secretary of State for Scotland so far as Scotland is concerned, or to the Minister of Labour in this country. I think that that is sufficient co-ordination and that the central gentleman in London may either turn out to be an official hampering the resident commissioners in the districts, or someone not doing very much at all. I am convinced that under the Bill it will be the character, sanity and initiative of the resident people which will count far more than anything else, but I should like them to have a freer hand and the greatest possible scope, and I think that the Amendment is the best way of getting it.

4.19 p.m.

Photo of Hon. Oliver Stanley Hon. Oliver Stanley , Westmorland

I do not in any way want to curtail the Debate on the Amendment, but it might be for the convenience of the Committee if I intervene now, and possibly other hon. Members may desire to speak later. I think that both the Mover and the Seconder of the Amendment have overlooked some of the technical considerations of the Amendment. If hon. Members will look at Subsection (2) of Clause 1 they will see that it is laid down that: The commissioners shall be appointed with the consent of the Treasury: one, by Commissioner for England and Wales, by the Minister of Labour, and the other, the Commissioner for Scotland, by the Secretary of State. Hon. Members will realise that without further Amendments this particular Amendment would not meet the case.

Photo of Mr Joseph Batey Mr Joseph Batey , Spennymoor

We will give you plenty of other Amendments.

Photo of Hon. Oliver Stanley Hon. Oliver Stanley , Westmorland

I was only trying to assist hon. Members. I really raised this point for the purpose of showing that, at any rate at this stage of the Bill, the acceptance of the Amendment would not meet with the desires of hon. Members. I realise the spirit in which the hon. Member moved the Amendment. Some hon. Members opposite disagree with the Bill. They do not think that it will do any good, but I believe that they are sincerely desirous of seeing that, within its limits, whatever can be done shall be done. Frankly, I disagree with the views of hon. Members as to the necessity, or indeed the advantage, of having another Commissioner, and from this point of view. It will be necessary for each of the districts to be in fairly constant touch with the Departments in London. Therefore, a structure which provides for a Commissioner, with headquarters in London and in close touch with the Departments, served by district commissioners resident in the district with much personal responsibility in matters of detail and answerable to him on matters of general policy, is, in fact, the best machinery.

On the other hand, in any ease, the appointment is to be made by; the Treasury and the appropriate Ministers and the acceptance of an Amendment of this kind would not mean that more than one Commissioner for England and Wales would be appointed. Certainly the point raised by the hon. Gentleman the Member for West Middlesbrough (Mr. K. Griffith) is worth considering, namely, that it may be wrong unnecessarily to tie your hands now when circumstances may arise which may make you alter your opinion in the future. Although, as I have said, I think that the machinery proposed in the Bill is the best, and I would hold out no promise or hope that at the present moment, and as at present advised, I shall appoint another Commissioner, yet if hon. Members will put down the Amendment on the Report stage in the proper form, with the consequential Amendments, I will consider then whether, from the point of view of keeping my hands free in future, it would not be wise.

4.24 p.m.

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

We are pleased that the right hon. Gentleman has gone so far in suggesting that he will give the matter consideration on the further stages of the Bill, and that he did not wish to tie his hands. I trust that later on he will see the reason for taking out the words limiting the number. I suggest that the right hon. Gentleman was rather afraid of various areas clamouring for direct representatives under the Bill. I do not know whether that is the real reason or not, but, if the right hon. Gentleman regards the Bill as a great experiment, as he has said, it would appear to be an additional reason why his hands should be free. If the matter develops as the right hon. Gentleman thinks it will develop, and if his best hopes are realised, it is just possible that he may want people with special experience to join his commissioners. He may want more commissioners with particular experience in order to help him out. We appreciate the fact that he is going to give serious consideration to this matter on the further stages of the Bill, and I suggest that we might be able to have a consultation with him as to the form in which any Amendment should be put down.

4.26 p.m.

Photo of Mr Kenneth Lindsay Mr Kenneth Lindsay , Kilmarnock

I would like to confirm the case made out by the Minister on purely technical grounds. It is not a question as to the number of commissioners either in Scotland or in South Wales. I regard the appointment of one commissioner important for the reason that we have the Minister of Labour, the Minister of Agriculture and several other Ministers dealing with the problem of the depressed areas. Here we have the first hope of getting a single commissioner to deal with the various Government Departments. Scotland is a different Department.

Photo of Mr William John Mr William John , Rhondda West

So is Wales a different Department

Photo of Mr Kenneth Lindsay Mr Kenneth Lindsay , Kilmarnock

If there be a case for Wales on this ground, I am not in the least opposed to it, but in the interests of good executive authority it is better to have the commissioners working under central direction so that there will be more chance of getting the beginnings of an employment policy from some central direction. Therefore, not on any party or other grounds, but on technical grounds, I strongly support the case made out by the Minister. Whether later on we should decide to have three commissioners is another matter.

4.27 p.m.

Photo of Mr Aneurin Bevan Mr Aneurin Bevan , Ebbw Vale

The Minister has already made a substantial concession, but I do not think that it has the significance which the hon. Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. K. Lindsay) gives to it. The hon. Gentleman is the most optimistic and buoyant spirit in this House. Every goose is a swan to him. He believes it to be the beginning of organisation for national planning in Great Britain. I am afraid that he sees in the appointment of the commissioners far more than does the Minister. If the hon. Member had not listened to his own optimistic voice but to the speeches of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, he would have realised that the commissioner is to be merely a stop gap to serve in the interregnum between now and the time that the Unemployment Assistance Board gets going. He is merely to be a pioneer converting the areas into a. laboratory and making experiments, and successful experiments will be handed over to the Department. I hope that we shall not have the same optimistic and entirely erroneous speeches from enthusiastic people as we had on the Unemployment Insurance Bill.

The Minister ought to exercise the powers he proposes to take to appoint more than one commissioner immediately and not wait. If he waits, lie will find that the whole scheme will turn sour. Outside this House people are not quite as familiar as we are with the limits which are to be imposed upon the commissioner in Wales, in Durham and in Scotland. Large numbers of our people believe that something substantial can be done, and only experience will rectify that impression? What will be the result? Local authorities all over these areas will hold conferences and send their deputations to see the commissioner. They will not be fobbed off with a suborbinate. They will want to see the responsible commissioner himself. They will object to having a subordinate fobbed off upon them. At the same time the subordinate will not be able to give them any conclusions. He will merely be able to receive them and say, "I will put your representations before the commissioner and let you know his conclusions." The result will be that there will be some months of delay. In the meantime, such enthusiasm as may have been stirred up by this Bill will have died down, and the commissioner will have to flick it into life again.

In the interests of the Minister himself, he should have a commissioner in each of the districts to receive the people in the first flush of their enthusiasm, to take whatever schemes they have to put before him, to examine them and to give his considered conclusions upon them. I speak not in any spirit of captious criticism. I would seriously suggest that if the Minister leaves it to one man he will find that after three or four months have elapsed vast accumulations of work will have accumulated, and because of the disappointment and disgruntlement that will have arisen the whole of his scheme will turn sour upon him, and the commissioners themselves will be faced with hostility instead of being able to harness the enthusiasm which will arise in the first instance.

4.31 p.m.

Photo of Mr Thomas Martin Mr Thomas Martin , Blaydon

I do not know what the last speaker means by referring to what he described as the erroneous speech, or words to that effect, of the hon. Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. K. Lindsay). We have heard so many similar speeches from the hon. Member that it is not his place to accuse any hon. Member of misleading the Committee. I think it was the word "erroneous" that the hon. Member used, and I am only saying that he is not justified in thus describing the speech of the hon. Member for Kilmarnock. I I should like to support the hon. Member for Kilmarnock in asking the Minister not to go outside the printed words of the Bill. I think everybody agrees that it will depend upon the man on the spot whether or not anything is accomplished.

Photo of Mr William John Mr William John , Rhondda West

He will not be on the spot.

Photo of Mr Thomas Martin Mr Thomas Martin , Blaydon

I understand that the commissioners will he aided by three assistant commissioners, who will be the men on the spot. These three assistant commissioners will be permanent whole-time men on the spot, examining the conditions, equally capable with the commissioner himself of coming to any conclusion as to what should be done. They will advise the commissioner and send in their reports, and the commissioner will act as a co-ordinating and directing officer on questions of policy. The only possible reason which has been suggested for the Minister departing from the original proposal is that he said there might arise some contingency in the future which cannot be foreseen now. I am afraid that if the right hon. Gentleman does give way there will arise other difficulties, because the work will have been split up instead of being kept in the hands or the mind of one director who can direct the whole thing from the centre. So much depends on the men who go to the districts. We cannot cavil at the particular machine. Let us see that the men who go there are the right men to carry out their work successfully.

4.34 p.m.

Photo of Mr George Hall Mr George Hall , Merthyr Tydfil Aberdare

I appreciate the spirit in which the Minister has met us, but I would ask him not to announce the names of the sub-commissioners until such time as the matter we are now discussing has been finally disposed of. I noticed in one newspaper to-day the name of a certain gentleman.

Photo of Hon. Oliver Stanley Hon. Oliver Stanley , Westmorland

I understand that the Commissioners have sent an announcement to the Press to-day in regard to the appointment of two of these men.

Photo of Mr George Hall Mr George Hall , Merthyr Tydfil Aberdare

Then I am afraid that my suggestion cannot be met. I think it would be very much better if the Minister intends to reconsider the position as to the appointment of another commissioner that someone should be appointed who would be resident on the spot and who would have greater powers than a sub-commissioner.

4.35 p.m.

Photo of Hon. Oliver Stanley Hon. Oliver Stanley , Westmorland

I want to make it quite plain that so far as the appointment of an extra Commissioner is concerned, there is no question of my reconsidering the position. I made it plain that I think the machinery that I am setting up is the best one. What I did say was that I would consider the Amendment between now and the Report stage from the point of view put by the hon. Member who moved it, that other circumstances might arise in the future, and therefore whatever we intend to do at the present time it is unwise to tie our hands too tightly.

Photo of Mr Edward Williams Mr Edward Williams , Ogmore

Can the right hon. Gentleman say on what authority these new appointments have been made before the Bill has been passed?

Photo of Hon. Oliver Stanley Hon. Oliver Stanley , Westmorland

I understand that it is possible without waiting for the Bill to be passed, to make the appointments.

4.36 p.m.

Photo of Mr George Hall Mr George Hall , Merthyr Tydfil Aberdare

I was under a. misapprehension as to what were the Minister's intentions. I understood from what he said that after hearing the proposer of the Amendment there was a, possibility of his reconsidering the matter before the Report stage and that if the Amendment were put down on the Report stage he would be able to say whether he would appoint an additional commissioner instead of sub-commissioners.

4.37 p.m.

Photo of Captain Richard Evans Captain Richard Evans , Carmarthen

The speech which we have just heard from the Minister rather alters the situation. He has told us, with that magnanimity which always characterises his attitude, that he is prepared to accept the shadow and reject the substance. I fail to see what purpose we can achieve in altering the words if the right hon. Gentleman categorically asserts that it is not his intention to appoint another commissioner. Before we dispose finally of the Amendment I appeal to the Minister to give special consideration to the situation in South Wales. I make no appeal on the ground of national sentiment but purely on the ground of expediency. I have been looking at some of the tables in Sir Wyndham Portal's report, and on geographical grounds it is necessary not merely to have an assistant commissioner but a resident commissioner for Wales. What is going to take place? There are scores of local authorities who have been under the harrow for years. I do not know where the right hon. Gentleman proposes to place the offices of the resident commissioner, but I can imagine the local authorities of South Wales coming down the valleys, like a trailing cloud of glory, demanding action. May I assure the Minister that they are not going to he fobbed off.

In the Rhondda Valley alone there are something like 29,000 unemployed, and Sir Wyndham Portal states that of these 12,000 will never be employed again. There are comparable conditions in the Eastern and Western Valleys of Monmouthshire. It is an insult to the Committee for the Minister to say: "I will accept these words," and then really to do nothing. I am not concerned about theoretical questions as to the skeleton of the new planned social order suggested by the hon. Member for Kilmarnock, but I am concerned about something concrete being done immediately, and I cannot see how it can be done by merely having an assistant commissioner in South Wales while the executive officer, the commissioner, is in London, perhaps engaged with other preoccupations. I would ask the Minister not merely to say that he will accept the form of words suggested in the Amendment but that he will assure us that he will give us the substance of reality.

Photo of Mr John Tinker Mr John Tinker , Leigh

After hearing what the Minister has said, that he will consider the matter before the Report stage, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

4.41 p.m.

Mr. LLOYD GEORGE:

I beg to move, in page 1, line 8, after "be," to insert: a thorough survey of the economic possibilities, and on the basis of such an examination. It is 30 years since I moved an Amendment in this House, and I hope that my deficiencies will be made up by the obvious merits of the Amendment itself. Owing to the character of the Financial Resolution under which we are discussing the Measure in Committee we are considerably restricted, and I do not propose in the least to circumnavigate the Ruling of the Chair in that respect. We cannot discuss the sum that is allocated in the Money Resolution, although it is obviously and I think ludicrously inadequate. The object of my Amendment is to see that the best use is made of the money provided by the Government. We cannot discuss the amount, but I think it is vital that the best use should be made of the resources at the disposal of the commissioners. I will tell the Committee what I fear. When the commissioners have been appointed there will be applications from every quarter. We have been told that various local authorities have been under the harrow. They will start squealing, naturally. Every kind of organisation, whether municipal or otherwise, for the purpose of making provision for the unemployed, will instantly say: "This is our hope."

What I am afraid of is that the money, which is quite inadequate for the purpose of providing work, will be dissipated before it accomplishes what it might accomplish if it were properly expended. You may give £10,000 to one authority and £5,000 to another authority, each of them having merits, each doing admirable work, and each saying they would do very much better work if you could give them a little more cash. There is not one of them that cannot make out a case for assistance. What will be the result in the end? You will have distributed what I call eleemosynary tit-bits, and at the end of a year nothing will have been accomplished. What I seek by the Amendment—I do not say that it is the best form of words, but I have put it down in order to raise this particular issue—is that it would be of very considerable value, in spite of the smallness of the allowance, if the money could be spent in a careful and systematic survey of the needs and possibilities in each area.

There are recommendations of the greatest value in the reports of the commissioners. I was very much impressed with some of them. The commissioners had evidently been impressed with the seriousness of the problem, they had a new vision of what could be done, and I regret very much that the Government_ have not seen their way to adopt some of the recommendations. I cannot help thinking that sooner or later the Government themselves will be forced to attempt something on a very much bigger scale than they are attempting now. I want the money to be spent on a closer examination not merely of the problem but of the methods of dealing with it. Let me tell the right, hon. Gentleman what I have in my mind. There are two special recommendations that it is impossible to find employment for most of the workers except in the direction of land settlement. Whether that be possible or not is a matter which only experience can teach. The report of the Civil Lord of the Admiralty on Durham and Tyneside is a most remarkable, impressive and important document. He begins Section V of his report in this way: No comprehensive survey of the condition of the Durham coalfield can avoid the conclusion that the ultimate destiny of a large part of the county, now Industrialised, must be to return to agriculture. That is a very remarkable statement and a far-reaching statement. In my own way I have been trying to call attention to exactly the same thing. I have tried to convince my fellow Members that in my judgment there was no other means of meeting permanently this chronic evil, which is getting worse. You have your refractory million becoming a refractory two millions, and I am glad that in their reports some of the commissioners have come to the conclusion which I have urged many times on this House that there is but one solution of the problem, and that is to find some kind of work in the cultivation of the land for what I consider to be an inevitable industrial surplus. Take two proposals which have been put forward. One is afforestation, and the other smallholdings. Whether the experiments should be on a large scale or on smallholdings, or on poultry farms, is a question of experiment. I have never dogmatised about it, although I have been investigating it for many years.

Take afforestation. Let me put forward a suggestion which has come from one of the ablest men associated with an examination of this problem, Professor Stapleton, whose investigations are world famous. His view is that the whole of the mountainous area behind the distressed coalfields in South Wales might be converted into a forest. It would be a real danger to attempt to plant a little spinny here and there. His view is that to do so would be a mistake, and that it is much better to take a vast area of 50,000 acres, or 100,000 acres, of land which is not cultivated and convert it into a forest. You could then parcel out your smallholdings behind the shelter of the forest. But that is a matter upon which one would not care to express an opinion until a survey has been made, and part of the money to be allocated to South Wales might be spent in an examination of that,particular problem, in a survey of the whole of that territory. It is easy to talk very glibly about afforestation, but after all it is a question of soil and climate, the prevailing winds and water supply. All sorts of questions enter into a consideration of the matter, including the particular kind of tree which would be likely to flourish.

No one can express an opinion upon such a problem by talking at random or thinking at large. It requires careful examination, and there is no authority in existence at the moment which has the necessary resources for the purpose. The Universities of Wales have done some work in this direction, but what resources have they for the purpose? Only a few hundreds of pounds. One of the worst things done by the National Government was to cut down the money for research. It was one of the most disastrous things from the point of view of economy. You have saved nothing, and from the point of view of science and the possibility of improving the soil it was most disastrous. At any rate, even if you restore the cuts, the money is quite insufficient for the purpose of making an adequate examination of what can be done. What I suggest is that somehow or other—I should like some words in the Bill—before you begin spending money here and there, there should be an examination of the problem. If your schemes are based upon a thorough examination of the problem and the possibility of solving it, you will gain time in the end.

Take the question of land settlement. That is also a question of research. There is an examination of the experiments which have been made to find out to what extent some are failures and others a success. Why, for instance, have smallholdings in the East of England been a tremendous success? I think there are only seven failures in the whole of these dark and dismal years. Why? There must be some reason. But apart from that, you have to examine questions like improving the quality of the soil, the suitability of an area in regard to transport and marketing facilities, what will have to be done to improve the roads to get the stock to market. All these matters should be examined, and at the present time there is no fund available for the purpose except that which is now created by the Bill. I hope the money will not be frittered away—it is small enough in all conscience—and will be utilised for a thorough and systematic survey before any expenditure is begun. That is the object of the Amendment.

There is a further consideration. Not only do I think that the money should be spent in the first instance in a survey and examination of the possibilities, but also think that when you come to spend the money you should spend it rather in the experimental direction. You may have to leave out this area and that, you are bound to leave some areas out because you have only £2,000,000 to spend. That is an amount which only provides work for 8,000 people for one year. Is it not better to use it in such a way that when you have spent it you will be in a position to advise how much more money might be spent usefully in directions in which you come to spend more money? I do not pretend that the last words have been said in regard to the large farm and small holdings. It is possible that the large farm may be more useful for a certain class of worker than small holdings, because small holdings involve not merely a knowledge of the soil but a certain skill in marketing. A man may be able to cultivate his little holding, but lose it all in his lack of skill in business. That man is much better at work on a large farm at a steady wage. You can try experiments on large farms, on co-operative farms, on small holdings, on the family farm where everybody contributes ; you can try experiments in poultry farming, bee-keeping, cottage holdings and in allotments. If the thing is carefully chosen, the locality and the experiment, with a view not merely of providing work for a certain number of people but of finding out which of the experiments is the most suitable under certain conditions, then the £2,000,000 will be of considerable value in solving a problem which is a chronic social as well as an economic evil.

Training is another matter which is very vital. I do not agree with people who say that you must necessarily have men who have already worked on the land. A friend of mine made some investigation into the working of smallholdings in the East of England, and out of 150 smallholdings there were only seven failures, and all of them were men who had previously worked on the land. The most successful were those who had never worked upon the land before. We have new ideas in cultivation, science has come in, and it is very difficult to unlearn old tricks, whether in agriculture or in politics. These men will not take to new methods and new ideas, their arteries are hardened, whereas the new men who come in are anxious to learn and take the advice of the inspectors, who are now to be found in every county in the country and who, in my judgment, are first-class men. That is another thing which could be done by the aid of this money; you could give a certain amount of training. If the money is used in that way I think the Government, in spite of the ridiculous smallness of the amount, will make some practical contribution towards an examination of the problem and the best method of solving it. I am trying to get some soul of goodness in what I will not say is altogether an evil thing, but a thing which is not sufficiently good by any means.

5.0 p.m.

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

I would like to say a few words on this subject. A very considerable amount of information as to experience in connection with unemployed men who have been set to work on the land during the last 30 years is available. Sometimes, as I listen to right hon. and hon. Gentlemen, I feel like a sort of Rip van Winkle who has suddenly awakened out of a long sleep and is hearing over again the sort of speeches that were heard in this House in 1910 and 1912 from Labour Members and other Members on the subject of the unemployed and agriculture. Mr. Keir Hardie. who I suppose was one of the first men to force unemployment on the attention of Parliament, appealed again and again on the question of afforestation. I should have thought that the experience gained since then in Scotland and Wales and this country, practical experience in connection with afforestation, would have been sufficient for the Government to have found the money and to have extended the work very considerably.

The hon. and gallant Member who represents the Forestry Commission made a speech here the other day in which he dealt with afforestation, and said that if the Commission's grant had not been cut down the Commission would have been able to do very much more. The hon. and gallant Member also spoke of the terrific loss of young trees that had occurred because of the cutting down of the grant. For information on the subject of afforestation I do not think that the Government need go further than the Forestry Commission. The hon. and gallant Member who made that speech convinced us all that he understood what he was talking about, and he gave us details of a very valuable piece of work which the State is carrying on. He did something else. There was the question of smallholdings in connection with afforestation. He pointed out that miners and others who have been given this kind of work, in conjunction with the smallholdings which they cultivate when not needed for afforestation, had been very successful. That information is at the disposal of the Minister and those who are to deal with this matter whenever necessary. There is no need for another inquiry.

I have been engaged in this sort of humdrum work on unemployment for many years. About 30 years ago, when Sir Oliver Lodge was at the Birmingham University, he took a great interest in the question of unemployment, and one of the things that he advocated was that the unemployed should level the slag heaps and turn them into forests or make them available for agricultural purposes. He prepared a scheme based on his scientific knowledge, and put it before the Government of the day. The right hon. Gentleman the Dominion Secretary will remember that when we were attempting to do all the wonderful things that we imagined we were doing, I wrote to Sir Oliver Lodge and asked him if he would let me have the scheme. If the commissioner or the Minister desired it he would probably find that scheme in the archives of the Dominions Office or somewhere where such documents are kept. The Government really do not need any more information than is already available on that question.

There is the other question of surveying these areas. The Lord President of the Council is present. I would prefer that the Government should allocate another sum of money for the purpose of surveying the country as a whole. I do not think that agriculture should be thought of in the hotch-potch, patchwork way in which it is considered now. Although I am a Londoner, not by birth, I have never ceased to have a great interest in the development of agriculture, and as I feel sure that the great days of export are drawing to a close I believe that we and other countries will be driven more and more to agriculture, and will have to develop the whole of our own agricultural resources. I have always felt that the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) was right when he was pleading, right through the War, that we should deal with agriculture and plan out what, part of the country was best for one cultivation and what part was best for another.

There again I have had practical experience with the unemployed, in trying to develop small holdings for fruit growing and so on. I learned a great deal while we were doing that, and I learned in the teeth of very much contemptuous criticism. I learned that the unemployed man could plant fruit quite as well as those who have been doing it all their lives. Down in Suffolk and Essex the men were not paid proper wages at all. They got 6d. a week and their keep. You will find the trees and bushes that they planted at Hollesley Bay and Laindon still there, and at one or two other places in Essex which I do not for the moment remember. That work was done under the most unpleasant conditions, Poor Law conditions, and yet the result was magnificent.

What I do not understand is why a Government which believes that we ought to develop and get everything possible out of the land, has not long ago carried out a survey of the land. I do not put that forward as my thought, for it has long been advocated by the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs. The Government should survey the whole country in order that we may get out of our own land every ounce that it is possible to get out of it. There was a startling statement made the other day, that in England to-day there are fewer people employed on the land than there were 12 months ago. I feel so strongly on this subject that I would even support this Bill if I thought it was going to bring about a real survey of the country from the point of view of agriculture.

I object to the idea of mere training. The right hon. Gentleman the Dominions Secretary will remember that he asked Sir Oswald Mosley and myself to go to the training centres for the unemployed. We went down into Norfolk and there saw as fine a body of 200 or 300 young men as could be found anywhere in the world, finely built, clean limbed, and all of them working on the land in various ways. But not one of them had any hope for the future. If it had not been for the splendia :men who were controlling that place the whole heart would have been knocked out of the unemployed before they had started. They gathered round us and the one thing that was worrying them was, would would become of them. Emigration had just been stopped. I had the view then and still hold it, that instead of sending men to these camps where they cost a considerable sum to maintain, much more than would be paid them to live at home, if the Government of which I was a member had seen its way to bring before the House a Bill to deal with agriculture comprehensively, it would have been far better. We could have determined where we would place the men, whether on big farms or small farms, and they could have got their training at the place where they were to remain.

It may be said that such a thing is doomed to failure. If the records of Hollesley Bay are still in existence they would repay perusal. In the very earliest days I persuaded a millionaire friend to put up money and build cottages. We took out of Poplar and other parts of London a handful of families, and we gave them just enough for a smallholding, mainly for fruit and vegetables. Not one of those families was a failure. When we started people said, "The women will not stand it." There was no wireless then ; there were no motor buses, and the people were eight or nine miles from a railway station. It was said, "They will never tolerate the quietude and dullness of the winter." But they did stand it. Had we been able to go on with that scheme and develop it we could by now have seen a real expansion of that kind of thing. Therefore, I support the proposition and plea to the Lord President of the Council. I made an appeal to him once before when he was Prime Minister.

We are allowing some of the finest of our young people to go to ruin and at the same time we are leaving many miles of our country derelict and there are many more miles which appear to be waste, but which could be brought into cultivation. Why should we not spend millions on settling our own land? Why should we not courageously say, "This is our heritage and we must make the most of it." Just before my accident I spent three days alongside the Wash in Lincolnshire, and as I looked out over it I said to my friend, "If this were in Holland it would have been reclaimed a century ago." I understand that some authorities are talking of sending boys who have been guilty of offences clown there and training them on little bits of reclamation work. Why wait until they have committed some offence? Why not take them now? There is no one connected with the Home Office who will not say that without question the rise in petty crime at present is due largely to unemployment.

I do not want these boys sent down there as trainees. I want to be certain that they will earn proper wages and that they can live under proper conditions. I was brought up in the midst of the railway development in this country, and my parents followed the work which was made available by the building of the railways. They lived in hutments—was born in a tollhouse—but the work was paid for under the ordinary conditions of payment, and no one then felt any shame or degradation involved in the work of navvies or other workmen in that way. Why should we not reclaim the Wash and do all these other things about which we talk so much? Sir Horace Plunkett commented to me once upon how long you have to talk about a, thing in England before you can get it done. He came over here to try to persuade us to adopt the co-operative system in agriculture as he had established it in Ireland, and I remember hearing him say, "If only you people would value the land of your country and understand that it is infinitely better than the land of Denmark, and if you would realise that you could produce every scrap of bacon, butter, and cheese and all the eggs that you require, what a difference it would make."

Nobody listened to us then when we spoke of these matters and I do not know that anybody at present is doing more than just casually listening to us. I hear Members from agricultural districts talking about tariffs and so on, but what we need for agriculture is real thorough-going organisation — first a survey to know what the land is fit for and then national planning, not merely to see how much profit can be made out of the land for some idle people but to see how much food can be grown for the people to consume. I am not going to raise the question of Socialism just now—[HON. MEMBERS : "Hear, hear"]—not because I am afraid to do so but because what we are discussing here is a temporary thing. I am a Socialist and I have spent my life in doing what hon. Members opposite always say Socialists will not do. I have been connected with this sort of business all my life. No one I think has more practical experience than I have had of dealing with the unemployed and putting them to work. It is my solemn conviction that if the Government would take this matter in hand they would contribute not towards finding an absolute solution of the problem but towards finding a way of tiding us over the terribly difficult time which so many of our people are passing through just now. I do not expect the Minister to say that he can spend this money as we have desired him to do, but let him at least say that he will go to the Cabinet and do what other people have done—try to compel them to remember that we have these two great things, namely, the natural gift of human labour power and the places where it can be applied for the production of wealth. Both are lying idle and all that is needed to bring them together is intelligent handling and a proper application of the brains which God has given us for the use and service of mankind.

5.20 p.m.

Photo of Mr Harcourt Johnstone Mr Harcourt Johnstone , South Shields

I should tike to associate myself and my friends with the Amendment, but I hope that the Minister of Labour will not accept the recommendation made by the two right hon. Gentlemen who have last spoken that he should spend the whole of this money upon a survey. I hope at the same time that he will spend some of it in that way and not wait until he is able to persuade the Cabinet or the Treasury to make a special grant for that purpose. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) referred to the report of the Civil Lord of the Admiralty on Durham. I think we all agree that it is a first-class document in importance and in real vision, and it gives great ground for the initiation of such a survey as has been suggested. Section 5 of the report dealing with the question of employment on the land shows that although the Civil Lord has no doubt as to the value of land settlement and the development of agriculture for the specific purpose of absorbing the unemployed, yet he has doubts as to exactly how those schemes are to be put into effect. In particular he has doubts which we must all share as to the utility of such schemes until it is ascertained that there is a market available for the produce. It is no good spending money in settling men upon the land if they are merely introducing a redundant source of supply into a particular area. The Civil Lord writing on the question of market gardening says: It is true that there is land in Durham, the Wear Valley for instance, which appears to be well suited for such cultivation. But he also says : if it is right to proceed with caution in regard to land settlement as a whole then a policy which at once induces intensive competition in existing markets must be open to serious objection. That may or may not be so, but neither the Minister nor the Committee can know without adequate inquiry. It is true, as the Leader of the Opposition said, that a good deal of information is already available. The Civil Lord refers to a number of reports on the subject made in Durham, but a report made locally is not the same as a report made nationally. It is not reasonable to suppose that the only object of settling men on the land is to provide local sources of supply. In many cases the food which they grow may be marketed at the other end of England, or, conceivably, abroad. The Civil Lord also refers to the question of setting up canning and bacon factories—an important and developing industry. If the Minister is prepared to work this scheme in the spirit of the reports, as I believe he is, it can only be to his advantage to have a report of a national nature available. I would not like all the money to be devoted to the compilation of such a report and I do not think that would be necessary. The sum of £2,000,000 is the sum available for a quarter of the year and not for the whole year, and it would not be necessary to spend even a quarter of that amount upon the preliminary investigations necessary for such a report as has been suggested. But you could easily spend 10 per cent. of it or possibly 5 per cent. and you would at any rate make a big start in the first quarter of the year on a survey. I cannot help thinking that it would be extremely useful.

The Bill contemplates that these schemes are to continue with the approval of Parliament year after year and we hope on at least as large a scale as is at present envisaged. If it is in contemplation to have one commissioner for the English and Welsh areas that commissioner will need such a report if he is to approve and co-ordinate the recommendations of local commissioners. It will be very difficult for him to do so without some report of that kind. Moreover, as the Leader of the Opposition said, we are apparently coming into an age in which it is at any rate fashionable in Government circles to talk about the planning of agriculture. I hope that it will go beyond mere talk and that the matter will be put upon a practical basis by the compilation of a report covering the whole country—not reports by county agricultural advisers or by universities, valuable though those are, but a real big survey enabling the Minister and his commissioner to plan the reconstruction of agriculture and the placing of unemployed men in agriculture upon a truly national and permanent basis. I do not know whether the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs is going to press this Amendment to a Division or not, but as far as my hon. Friends and I are concerned we hope that the Minister will show himself prepared to devote some part of this money to what we regard as a very necessary work of a survey of the country's agricultural possibilities.

5.29 p.m.

Photo of Mr Anthony Crossley Mr Anthony Crossley , Oldham

I welcome this little Debate, if only for the benign influence which has been cast over the Committee by the right hon. Gentleman who moved this Amendment. We on these benches hope that he will move many Amendments in the near future. I think we are all agreed that the important point is that this money should he utilised to the best possible advantage and I think we all want it to be used as much as possible for experiment and not merely for alleviation. The Amendment refers to "a thorough survey of the economic possibilities" and procedure on the basis of such an examination. There are many experiments which have already gone a considerable way, undertaken aired developed by the Ministry of Labour or helped by them and also private experiments in which I suppose the Ministry are interested. There is for instance the experiment at Upholland. There are also experiments such as the sharing-out of the work for three weeks in a factory of mine and allowing the workers in the fourth week to work on a communal subsistence plan. There are other similar experiments, such as that of training families for emigration and the possible application to this country of the experiment, which met with wide success in Germany, of giving a man the materials with which to build his own house and so to develop a smallholding. If this commissioner is enabled to put such experiments as those into operation, I conceive that that would be a most valuable and important work. We, least of all, want to pour cold water on a scheme for a survey—we want a survey very much—but we doubt if this is the right method of getting a great national survey. We are very grateful to the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) for having raised the question.

5.31 p.m.

Photo of Sir Alec Douglas-Home Sir Alec Douglas-Home , Lanark

We, and particularly those of us who have come to this Rouse for the first time, were delighted to hear the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) move his first Amendment, as he said, for 30 years. It was very nice to see that after all those years his weapons are still polished, his criticisms still as pointed, and his ability to incite speech in others still as unrivalled as ever. Perhaps I might, in passing, express the hope that he will not dissipate his energies in the next 30 years in trying to attract unworthy outsiders into his small party, but will allow family Amendments to remain pure and undiluted for many years to come. I have a good deal of sympathy with the right hon. Gentleman's appeal for a general economic survey, but I see practical difficulties in the way of such a survey being carried out by a commissioner. Certain surveys of smaller isolated subjects, I have no doubt, could be carried out in this way, but to require the commissioner, as the Amendment does, to make a thorough survey in order to ascertain the economic possibilities of these areas, is to make it impossible for him. May I give the. right hon. Gentleman one example? You cannot, for instance, ascertain the economic possibilities of a, county like Lanarkshire without, first of all, proving the existence, extent, and fertility of the lower seams of coal which have so far not been worked in that district. There is a subject which is clearly, as I am sure the right hon. Gentleman will agree, outside the possibility of a survey by a commissioner. It would require technical knowledge and machinery which he cannot command.

There are certain things which I think he can do, and I will not apologise for raising once again a subject which I raised in a speech on the Address only a few days ago. It is the subject of the smaller villages, which are isolated from-the omnibus routes, where the land is so poor that it cannot be utilised, in the way that the right hon. Member for Car- narvon Boroughs suggested, in the provision of plots or smallholdings—in other words, a village that is actually and accurately dead, because the pit on which it was dependent has been worked out, or flooded, or has died from some other cause. The point that I would make to the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Labour is this: The Prime Minister announced to-day that ale Government are coming forward with a housing policy and following that 'with a policy to deal with overcrowding. The local authorities all through the country have to make up their minds now where they are going to place their new houses and whether they are going to spend more money on schools or on roads leading to those villages, and I think a survey of these villages, conducted either by the Ministry of Labour or by the commissioner, would be a, most valuable thing from the point of view of the local authorities and the country as a whole. The right hon. Gentleman said he did not want to see this money dissipated and wasted. I absolutely agree, but there is no way in which you could spend it less efficiently than by spending it on villages which are absolutely dead and which do not lend themselves in any way to land settlement or agriculture.

The right hon. Gentleman has talked about land settlement. I am with him in his campaign, and I have no doubt he will be interested to hear that since we have been able thoroughly to protect our markets, we have been able largely to extend our home production. In Scotland we have acquired so much knowledge about land settlement, through our Department of Agriculture, that it would be. unnecessary to make a survey in that. direction. We have proceeded by trial and error. We began after the War in giving larger smallholdings to ex-service men, and we had a large percentage of failures. We learned our lesson from that. We have learned to concentrate in recent years on smaller holdings of five acres or so—intensive cultivation of fruit and the like. We are making satisfactory progress. Conditions differ in England, and it may be that it is necessary for a survey, and I agree that the chief concern in the question of land settlement is that we must realise that public opinion will sicken of it unless we can make sure that there is a low percentage of failures. I could not, vote for the Amendment in its entirety, although I have sympathy with its object, because it seems to me that if we adopt it and this commissioner has to make a thorough survey of economic possibilities, and on the basis of such a survey get to work, it will delay him unduly. I think there are certain things he can very well do without having first of all to wait for the result of such a survey.

5.38 p.m.

Photo of Captain Henry Scrymgeour-Wedderburn Captain Henry Scrymgeour-Wedderburn , Renfrewshire Western

I am sure the Committee is most grateful to the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) for having added so much to the interest of our debate by moving his Amendment this afternoon. If I may be allowed to say so, I was particularly interested in what the right hon. Gentleman said on the subject of afforestation. He has envisaged the slopes of the Welsh mountains clothed in timber. I hope that if that were to be done, it would not obscure the right hon. Gentleman's favourite views from the summit, or the effectiveness of his perorations.

I have often argued in this House that it would be very much to the advantage of the country if we were to spend more on afforestation. At the same time, do not let us over-estimate the numbers of men who could be employed in that industry. The Committee may perhaps remember that when the Labour Government took office in 1929 they set up a new Ministry, a Ministry of Employment, under the sanguine control of the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for the Dominions, and one of the first things, I understand, which was done by that Ministry was to go to the Forestry Commission and ask them how much they could spend. The Forestry Commission were encouraged and even incited to open their mouths as wide as they could. They responded very properly by producing the maximum programme which, in the opinion of the commissioners, could be carried out with complete efficiency.

What were the dimensions of that programme? The grant was gradually to be increased until it reached a sum of £1,000,000 a year, which would have meant an annual rate of planting of about 44,000 acres. That, in the opinion of the commissioners, was the maximum speed at which the programme could proceed, and the total number of men who would have been employed under that programme at its height would only have amounted to 7,000 for the whole country. That is a figure that is by no means to be despised, but it is only a drop in the ocean of the unemployment problem. At the same time, I hope the Government will consider what the right hon. Gentleman said about afforestation. Although the total number of men who would be employed might not be very great, it is worth pointing out that the proportion of men employed to the money spent is very high indeed. The present Forestry Commission grant is, I think, £450,000 per annum, and the number of men employed on the average is about 3,000. That is a rate of employment of about one Man to every £150, direct employment, in the year, which I think compares very favourably indeed with any industry, public or private, in the country.

As for the actual words of this Amendment, I do not know what attitude the Minister will take up. If he were to accept it, I dare say the inclusion of these words might do no particular harm, but they seem to me to be quite unnecessary. I think that all the objects which the Movers of it had in mind are already sufficiently provided for by the wording of the Clause as it stands in the Bill. Both the right hon. Gentleman and the hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. H. Johnstone) referred to the report of the Durham commissioner. I entirely agree that that is a very remarkable document., and in particular I think the summary of its conclusions on pages 106 to 109 is by far the most succinct and illuminating exposition which I have seen, not only of the area which they cover, but of the entire problem which we are now considering. It is true that he recommends, and I quite agree with the recommendation, that there should be some form of national planning of industry, but what form is that planning to take? Let me draw the attention of the Committee to the third paragraph on page 109, where the commissioner says : Day to day decisions, based more upon intimate local knowledge and upon methods empirically devised than upon the strict interpretation of some general code, will be required if the task of rehabilitating the derelict towns and villages is to be energetic- cally undertaken, and appreciable results achieved at the earliest moment. "Day to day decisions"—not a stereotyped plan which would tie you down in advance to the continuation of some course of experiments which might not prove to be successful, but planning which must, in the nature of the case, be evolved empirically. Suppose you start off with a big land settlement scheme. That might lead to the creation of some new industry, such as a canning industry which might in its turn lead to another, and it might not be at all possible to foresee what course the development was going to take. I should be content to begin with the three major recommendations in the report—afforestation, land settlement, and special housing schemes. So far as the housing is concerned, I think that is covered in the Bill by paragraph (b) of Sub-section (3) of this Clause, where the commissioners may make recommendations to the Government to accelerate any schemes which the local authority is empowered to carry out, but may be prevented from carrying out owing to lack of means or some other cause. Afforestation, I have already-dealt with.

Finally there is the question of land settlement, to which the right hon. Gentleman devoted the greater part of his remarks. My Noble Friend the Member for Lanark (Lord Dunglass) has just reminded the Committee of the experiments which are already being carried out in Scotland. In March we passed the Land Settlement (Scotland) Act and gave a grant of £700,000 spread over three years to the Scottish Office. This is being used to settle 1,000 men on the land on holdings of a much smaller type than those to which we have previously been accustomed, ranging in size from five to nine acres. The results so far have been extremely encouraging. This, of course, is not a scheme particularly for unemployed men, but for any applicant. But it may serve as a valuable example. In Scotland we do not want any more surveys, and I should be sorry if any part of this sum of £2,000,000 were wasted in the carrying out of an unnecessary survey, instead of getting on with the job as quickly as possible.

5.46 p.m.

Photo of Commander Hon. Archibald Cochrane Commander Hon. Archibald Cochrane , Dunbartonshire

I approach this Amendment with a smaller measure of agreement than has been expressed by other hon. Members. There is the obvious danger of almost indefinite delay, but the right hon. Gentleman has made it clear that that is not his purpose. I will, therefore, pass to another point. With all respect to the great experience of the right hon. Gentleman, I would suggest that he is putting forward his proposal on premises which are really unsound, and, indeed, out of date. The right hon. Gentleman referred to afforestation. I agree with the Leader of the Opposition on that question, and I do not think there is anything more to be said. When the right hon. Gentleman passed to the much more important subject of agriculture, he assumed, as I understood, and as I think he has done for many years, that those engaged in agriculture must get the whole of their living from that industry.

Mr. LLOYD GEORGE:

indicated dissent.

Photo of Commander Hon. Archibald Cochrane Commander Hon. Archibald Cochrane , Dunbartonshire

I do not want to misrepresent the right hon. Gentleman, but he classified various types of holding, namely, la ego farms, small farms, family farms, allotments and cottage holdings. Never once did he suggest that the people who,are engaged on these holdings, of whatever size, could also be interested in other kinds of industry.

Mr. LLOYD GEORGE:

I am glad the hon. and gallant Member has called attention to this point, because it is important. I have never taken that view. On the contrary, I have always advocated the sort of policy they have in Germany, where they begin with holdings of two, five, 10 and 20 acres, until they get to holdings which are self-supporting. As a matter of fact, the majority of the holdings in Germany, and, I think, Denmark, are those whose occupiers work on other farms, and when they are not engaged on them they give their time to their own holdings.

Photo of Commander Hon. Archibald Cochrane Commander Hon. Archibald Cochrane , Dunbartonshire

I am much obliged to the right hon. Gentleman, but I do not think we are talking about the same thing. He suggested that the people with the very smallholdings might be employed on other farms. My point is, why should they not be engaged in another productive industry, such as coal-mining or steel? It is of fundamental importance to do something of that kind in the derelict areas because there is, on the one hand, the call for fresh industries, and, on the other hand, the call that full use should be made of whatever land is available. I believe that we can make full use of the land only by combining the two requirements. The main requirement to-day, particularly in these areas, is to give encouragement and hope to those people—and they are the majority—who are willing and anxious to support themselves. I do not believe that that can be done as the result of an elaborate survey, and I am certain we cannot do it if as the result of that survey—and it is the inevitable result of any survey whether it be scientific or not—we have to have another classification. One of our great troubles arises from the fact that we have in the past put productive industry in one watertight compartment and agriculture in another, and they have very rarely met. Wherever they have met there has been immense advantage.

My hon. Friend the Member for West Renfrew (Mr. Scrymgeour-Wedderburn) referred to our experiment in Scotland. The value of that experiment lies in the fact that the people who have the smallholdings are not tied down to them. We are no longer saying to them, "Here is a holding : go and make your living out of that alone." We are experimenting with the idea of giving people from the land some part of their sustenance and livelihood for themselves and their families, and I am convinced that in the derelict areas, when we try to rehabilitate conditions there, it must be done on the lines of a combination of fresh industries or the revival of existing industries with the use of the land by the people who are gaining some part of their livelihood from those industries. It is because I think the suggestion of the right hon. Gentleman would militate against them, that I feel bound to oppose it. I do not feel that any inquiry of this kind will be helpful. It is, after all, only by the utmost freedom of everybody concerned that we can get ahead. If we start laying down categories and classifications, we are bound to put an obstacle in the way of these people getting on and maintaining themselves in the way they all wish to do.

5.52 p.m.

Photo of Hon. Oliver Stanley Hon. Oliver Stanley , Westmorland

I am sure the Committee has enjoyed the right hon. Gentleman's first venture of this kind for 30 years, and are particularly glad that most of the discussion should run upon the question of agriculture with which we know he is so familiar. How frequently at the cinema have we seen the right hon. Gentleman sandwiched between the antics of "Mickey Mouse" and the allures of Greta Garbo to display to an astounded audience of farmers some suitable vegetable, unconscious, of course, of the proximity of the camera-man.

I hope the right hon. Gentleman will not press the Amendment, which he has rather used as a peg on which to hang the very interesting discussion which we have had. I agree with the criticisms of my hon. Friends that to accept the Amendment would inevitably mean delay in the work of the Commissioners in the kind of work to which he has particularly referred. I do not think that the Amendment gives him what I gather from his speech he wants. It seems clear that the survey would have to be confined to these areas, and I do not think he would suggest that from the particular view of agricultural development a survey confined to the limited areas in the Bill would really be of fundamental value. That does not mean to say that we cannot through the agency of these Commissioners get the advantage of a survey.

I am particularly grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for having brought the discussion on these Commissioners on to a proper basis. He pointed out clearly what I have never attempted to deny, that merely as work-giving machines it is idle to look upon them as any real contribution to the unemployment problem in those areas. Their value must depend, not on the actual amount of wages they pay out, but on the basis which they can lay for the extension of their schemes to other parts of the country in future. In the original discussion on these proposals, when the right hon. Gentleman was not present, I laid the greatest stress on the fact that the value of the Commissioners might be in exactly those directions to which the right hon. Gentleman has been referring. Although I.am not a practical farmer like the right hon. Gentleman, it seems to me that the knowledge you want for any real future view of the possibilities of agriculture in this country is of three kinds—the possibility of your market, the possibility of your soil, and, in between, the machinery of production which it is possible to adopt. The survey of markets and of soil is not really a matter for the Commissioners, but they may provide, not by survey but by experiment, some valuable information upon the question of machinery and the various types of production that might be adopted.

My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Dumbartonshire (Commander Cochrane) has emphasised the point on which we have very little knowledge, namely, the possibility of some kind of subsistence holding in which you start out not with the object of making a man entirely dependent on the land, but with the object of seeing that he has in addition to what he may get from the land, some assistance whether it be a part-time wage from some industrial occupation, or assistance from the Unemployment Assistance Board, or some other source. Experiments of that kind want the most careful working out in practice, because we have not yet arrived at any real knowledge of what is the optimum number of men whom we can get into a scheme of that kind, and who can by exchange between themselves largely increase their own standard of life without interfering with the markets of those who are making agriculture their sole means of livelihood. Some hon. Members have been interested in a particular scheme in Lancashire, and most people who have seen it have been sur-

prised at its success on a very small scale. The sort of thing which I hope the Commissioner will do is to see whether an experiment of that kind, which succeeds on a very small scale, cannot succeed on a bigger scale until you finally arrive at what is the best number that can be maintained in a subsistence colony of this kind. By far the most valuable part of the Commissioners' work may well be the experience and the knowledge that they will be able to gain of the various possibilities of small-scale agricultural production.

With regard to the much wider question of the reclamation of the Wash, I think that it would be extending the scope of the Debate too much to answer it, but I can assure the right hon. Gentleman that we are fully conscious of the increasing part which agriculture is bound to play in our national life. I agree with him that any decision as to the possibilities of the future can only be based on really scientific knowledge, though, as I said to-day, some of the most valuable information can never be obtained merely by a scientific Survey, but will, in fact, be obtained by practical experiments which these Commissioners will, I hope, carry out

Question put, "That those words be there inserted."

The Committee divided: Ayes, 60; Noes, 228.

Division No. 13.]AYES.[6.3 p.m.
Adams, D. M. (Poplar, South)Foot, Dingle (Dundee)McEntee, Valentine L.
Attlee, Clement RichardFoot, Isaac (Cornwall, Bodmin)Maclean, Nell (Glasgow, Govan)
Banfield, John WilliamGardner, Benjamin WalterMason, David M. (Edinburgh, E.)
Batey, JosephGeorge, Rt. Hon. D. Lloyd (Carn'v'n)Maxton, James
Bernays, RobertGriffith, F. Klngsley (Middlesbro', W.)Paling, Wilfred
Bevan, Aneurin (Ebbw Vale)Griffiths, George A. (Yorks, W.Riding)Parkinson, John Alien
Brown, C. W. E. (Notts., Mansfield)Griffiths, T. (Monmouth, Pontypool)Rea, Walter Russell
Buchanan, GeorgeGrundy, Thomas W.Smith, Tom (Normanton)
Cape, ThomasHall, George H. (Merthyr Tydvil)Stewart, J. Henderson (Fife, E.)
Cocks, Frederick SeymourHamilton, Sir R. W.(Orkney & Zetl'nd)Strauss, G. R. (Lambeth, North)
Cove, William G.Harris, Sir PercyThorne, William James
Curry, A. C.Holdsworth, HorbertTinker, John Joseph
Daggar, GeorgeJanner, BarnettWest, F. R.
Davies, David L. (Pontypridd)John. WilliamWilliams, David (Swansea, East)
Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton)Johnstone, Harcourt (S. shields)Williams, Edward John (Ogmore)
Davies, Stephen OwenJones, Morgan (Caerphilly)Williams. Dr. John H. (Llanelly)
Dobble, WilliamKirkwood, DavidWood, Sir Murdoch McKenzle (Banff)
Edwards, CharlesLansbury, Rt. Hon. GeorgeYoung, Ernest J. (Middlesbrough, E )
Evans, David Owen (Cardigan)Lawson, John James
Evans, Capt. Ernest (Welsh Univ.)Leonard, WilliamTELLERS FOR THE AYES—
Evans, R. T. (Carmarthen)Lunn, WilliamMajor Lloyd George and Mr. Groves.
NOES.
Acland-Troyte, Lieut.-ColonelAmery, Rt. Hon. Leopold C. M. S.Astor, Viscountess (Plymouth, Sutton)
Agnew, Lieut. Com. P. G.Apsley, LordBailey, Eric Alfred George
Albery, Irving JamesAske, Sir Robert WilliamBaldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley
Allen, Sir J. Sandeman (Llverp'l, W.)Assheton, RalphBarclay-Harvey, C. M.
Allen, Lt.-Col. J. Sandeman (B'k'nh'd)Astor, Maj. Hn. John J. (Kent, Dover)Beaumont, Hon. R. E. B. (Portsm'th,C.)
Belt, Sir Alfred L.Greene, William P. C.Penny, Sir George
Benn, Sir Arthur ShirleyGrimston, R. V.Percy, Lord Eustace
Birchall, Major Sir John DearmanGritten, W. G. HowardPetherick, M.
Blindell, JamesGuinness, Thomas L. E. B.Peto, Geoffrey K.(W'verh'pt'n, Bilston)
Borodale, Viscount.Gunston, Captain D. W.Pike, Cecll F.
Boulton, W. W.Guy, J.C. MorrisonPotter, John
Bowater, Col. Sir T. VansittartHacking, Rt. Hon. Douglas H.Power, Sir John Cecil
Boyd-Carpenter, Sir ArchibaldHamilton, Sir George (Ilford)Pownall, Sir Assheton
Braithwaite, J. G. (Hillsborough)Hannon, Patrick Joseph HenryPurbrick, R.
Briscoe, Capt. Richard GeorgeHartington, Marquess ofPybus, Sir John
Broadbent, Colonel JohnHarvey, George (Lambeth, Kenningt'n)Radford, E. A
Brown, Col. D. C. (N'th'l'd., Hexham)Haslam, Henry (Horncastle)Raikes, Henry V. A. M.
Brown, Ernest (Leith)Heilgers, Captain F. F. A.Ramsay, Capt. A. H. M. (Midiothian)
Brown, Brig.-Gen. H.C.(Berks., Newb'y)Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel Arthur P.Ramsay, T. B. W. (Western Isles)
Buchan-Hepburn, P. G. T.Hore-Belisha, LeslieRamsbotham, Herwald
Burgin, Dr. Edward LeslieHorsbrugh, FlorenceRamsden, Sir Eugene
Burnett, Jonn GeorgeHoward, Tom ForrestReed, Arthur C. (Exeter)
Butler, Richard AustenHowitt, Dr. Alfred B.Reid, David D. (County Down)
Cadogan, Hon. EdwardHudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hackney, N.)Reid, James S. C. (Stirling)
Campbell, Sir Edward Taswell (Brmly)Hudson, Robert Spear (Southport)Reid, William Allan (Derby)
Campbell, Vice-Admiral G. (Burnley)Hume, Sir George HopwoodRenwick, Major Gustav A.
Campbell-Johnston, MalcolmHunter-Weston, Lt.-Gen. Sir AylmerRobinson, John Roland
Caporn, Arthur CecilHurd, Sir PercyRosbotham, Sir Thomas
Cautley, Sir Henry S.Hurst, Sir Gerald B.Rose Taylor, Walter (Woodbridge)
Cayzer, Sir Charles (Chester, City)Jackson, Sir Henry (Wandsworth, C.)Russell, Albert (Kirkcaldy)
Cayzer, Maj. Sir H. R. (Prtsmth., S.)James, Wing-Com. A. W. H,Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth)
Cazalet, Thelma (Islington, E.)Jamleson, DouglasSamuel, Sir Arthur Michael (F'nham)
Cazalet, Capt. V. A. (Chippenham)Joel, Dudley J. BarnatoSamuel, M. R. A. (W'ds'wth, Putney).
Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. N.(Edgbaston)Kerr, Lieut.-Col. Charles (Montrose)Sandeman, Sir A. N. Stewart
Chapman, Col. R.(Houghton-le-Spring)Keyes, Admiral Sir RogerShakespeare, Geoffrey H.
Choriton, Alan Ernest LeofricKirkpatrick, William M.Shaw, Helen B. (Lanark, Bothwell)
Christie, James ArchibaldKnox, Sir AlfredShaw, Captain William T. (Forfar)
Clarke, FrankLambert, Rt. Hon. GeorgeSmithers, Sir Waldron
Clarry, Reginald GeorgeLaw Sir AlfredSomervell, Sir Donald
Clayton, Sir ChristopherLeech, Dr. J. W.Somerville, Annesley A. (Windsor)
Cobb, Sir CyrilLewis, OswaldSouthby, Commander Archibald R. J.
Cochrane, Commander Hon. A. D.Liddall, Walter S.Spencer, Captain Richard A.
Colville, Lieut.-Colonel J.Lindsay, Kenneth (Kilmarnock)Spender-clay, Rt. Hon. Herbert H.
Cook, Thomas A.Little. Graham-, Sir ErnestStanley, Rt. Hon. Oliver (W'morland)
Cooke, DouglasLloyd, GeoffreyStorey, Samuel
Capeland, IdaLockwood, John C. (Hackney, C.)Sugden, Sir Wilfrid Hart
Courtauld, Major John SewellLoder, Captain J. de VereTate, Mavis Constance
Craddock, Sir Reginald HenryLoftus, Plerce C.Thomas, Rt. Hon. J. H. (Derby)
Croft, Brigadier-General Sir H.Lovat-Fraser, James AlexanderThomas, James P. L. (Hereford)
Crooke, J. SmedleyMacAndrew, Lieut.-Col. C. G.(Partick)Thomas, Major L. B. (King's Norton)
Crookshank, Capt. H. C. (Galnsb'ro)Mac Andrew, Capt. J. O. (Ayr)Thomson, Sir Frederick Charles
Croom-Johnson, R. P.McConnell, Sir JosephThorp, Linton Theodore
Crossley. A. C.McCorquodale, M. S.Titchfield, Major the Marquess of
Culverwell, Cyril TomMacDonald, Rt. Hon. J. R. (Seaham)Todd, Lt.-Col. A. J. K. (B'wick-on-T.)
Davies, Maj. Geo. F.(Somerset, Yeovil)Macdonald, Capt. P. D. (I. of W.)Touche, Gordon Cosmo
Denman, Hon. R. D.McLean, Major Sir AlanTrain, John
Danville, AlfredMacpherson, Rt. Hon. Sir IanTree, Ronald
Donner, P. W.Magnay, ThomasTryon, Rt. Hon. George Clement
Doran, EdwardMakins, Brigadier-General ErnestTufnell, Lieut.-Commander R. L.
Dugdale, Captain Thomas LionelMargesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. D. R.Turton, Robert Hugh
Duggan, Hubert JohnMartin, Thomas B.Wallace, Captain D. E. (Hornsey)
Dunglass, LordMason, Col. Giyn K. (Croydon. N.)Wallace, John (Dunfermline)
Ellis, Sir R. GeoffreyMills, Sir Frederick (Leyton, E.)Ward, Lt.-Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)
Emrys-Evans, P. V.Mills, Major J. D. (New Forest)Ward, Irene Mary Bewick (Wallsend)
Entwistle, Cyril FuilardMitchell, Sir W. Lane (Streatham)Warrender, Sir Victor A. G.
Everard, W. LindsayMonsell, Rt. Hon. Sir B. EyresWaterhouse, Captain Charles
Fielden, Edward BrocklehurstMoore-Brabazon, Lieut.-Col. J. T. C.Wayland, Sir William A.
Fox, Sir GiffordMorgan, Robert H.Wedderburn, Henry James Scrymgeour-
Fremantle, Sir FrancisMorrison, G. A. (Scottish Univer'ties)Wilson, Lt.-Col. Sir Arnold (Hertf'd)
Fuller, Captain A. G.Munro, PatrickWinterton, Rt Hon. Earl
Galbraith, James Francis WallaceNormand, Rt. Hon. WilfridWolmer, Rt. Hon. Viscount
Ganzonl, Sir JohnNunn, WilliamWomerslley, Sir Waiter
Gillett, Sir George MastermanO'Neill, Rt. Hon. Sir HughWorthington, Dr. John V.
Gilmour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir JohnOrmsby-Gore, Rt. Hon. William G. A.Young, Rt. Hon. Sir Hilton (S'v'noaks)
Glossop, C. W. H.Palmer, Francis Noel
Gluckstein, Louis HallePeake, OsbertTELLERS FOR THE NOES.—
Grattan-Doyle, Sir NicholasPearson, William G.Captain Sir George Bowyer and
Dr. Morris-Jones.

6.10 p.m.

Photo of Mr Aneurin Bevan Mr Aneurin Bevan , Ebbw Vale

I beg to move, in page 2, line 5, to leave out "the appropriate Minister," and to insert: a specially appointed economic planning committee of responsible Ministers set up to deal with national economic development. Hon. Members will see on the Order Paper a further Amendment in the name of the same hon. Members and myself—in page 2, line 24, to leave out Subsection (4)—to which I wish to refer in passing.

Photo of Mr Robert Bourne Mr Robert Bourne , Oxford

Do I understand that those two Amendments go together, because I had not taken them as doing so?

Photo of Mr Aneurin Bevan Mr Aneurin Bevan , Ebbw Vale

No, I am merely making a reference to this second Amendment in order to develop my argument. Subsection (3) of Clause 1 says: The commissioners shall act under the general control of the appropriate Minister"— that is, the Minister of Labourand it shall be the duty of the commissioners to make suggestions to, and cooperate with, Government Departments, local authorities, voluntary organisations and other bodies concerned with matters within the functions of the commissioners. In order to emphasise that the commissioners are not to have over-riding powers, but are merely to act in consultation with these other bodies, and to secure co-operation with them. Subsection (4) provides: Before doing or undertaking to do anything which any other Government Department is required or authorised by any Act to do, the commissioners shall obtain the consent of the Department. Those two Sub-sections make it quite clear that no additional authority is being vested in any person whatsoever, and that the veto will still be exercised by the appropriate Government Department. In point of fact, the Minister, in framing this language, appears deliberately to have divested himself of power to impose his will upon the various Government Departments. He can impose his will only upon his own Department, and if other Departments were involved, as they would inevitably be in almost any scheme brought forward, he would have to obtain the consent of the Minister before that Department could be instructed to co-operate. In other words the machinery set up by this Bill does not simplify existing machinery, does not provide any driving power, does not centralise the appropriate authority, and does not short-circuit any of the delays which ordinarily occur in Departmental administration.

If hon. Members will give me their minds for a moment, I feel they will agree that this Amendment is the real test of the Government's intentions. If the Government resist the Amendment, it will be evidence of the fact that this Measure has very little ambition behind it, and is the product of a Government who are coming to the end of the third year of life without very much hope of having any future life at all. If they had looked forward to exercising power over the next five or six years and wanted to tackle this problem, they would have set up appropriate machinery, but obviously they are not doing so. They are merely setting up commissioners who will be additions to the authorities which already exist. They will not rearrange the existing powers so that the commissioners are put at the top of a hierarchy to exercise coercive powers over the rest.

I hope hon. Members will pardon me for making a second reference to this matter, which seems germane to the subject of our discussion, but in 1929 there were 1,000,000 people unemployed in Great Britain. I think that was the lowest figure since the peak point of 1922 and 1923. Unemployment to-day ranges around 2,500,000—using a conservative figure and leaving out of account large numbers of unemployed who are not registered in the ordinary way. In addressing myself to this matter I wish to be as non-controversial as possible, and hon. Members must acquit me of any other purpose in moving this Amendment than that of effecting a substantial improvement of the Bill. If the Amendment is accepted, I shall have some hope, not of the Bill being of much value, but that value will grow out of it. It seems to be barren at the start. As was pointed out by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George), the 1,000,000 of refractory unemployed has grown into 2,000,000. If there be a revival of trade we may expect that the additional 500,000 will be wiped out, but I should not think many hon. Members on the Government benches would say, upon the most optimistic estimate, that the refractory figure will fall very much below the 2,000,000.

In 1929, when dealing with the 1,000,000, the Government put the view that one of the gravest difficulties in the way of tackling unemployment was that Government Departments are all of equal status and that the powers necessary to deal with unemployment are dispersed among the various Departments. No one had authority to knock on the head anybody who stood in the way. The Prime Minister at that time came before the House and produced a scheme which found universal agreement even upon Conservative benches. He said it was desirable that some Cabinet Minister should be made responsible for dealing with the special problem, there should be placed at his disposal two subordinate Ministers who could give the problem, their undivided attention, and he would have over-riding powers in respect of all the other Departments for whatever plans might be formed to deal with unemployment. The Dominions Secretary, then Lord Privy Seal, was appointed as the Cabinet Minister, and the other Ministers were the present Leader of the Opposition and the hon. Baronet who is not now in the House and who has gone somewhat astray. I am not suggesting that the unemployment plans produced by that triumvirate were found to be solutions of the problem, but that the Government of the day envisaged the problem; as so unorthodox that it had to be tackled by unorthodox machinery, and that it was necessary to provide somebody with authority to drive a policy through the various Departments without having to deal with captious opposition.

The difficulty in the Bill is that the commissioners will be subordinate to the Departments. They will have to paddle around. A commissioner can only go to the Ministry of Labour in respect of the Ministry of Labour itself; he cannot go to the Ministry- of Labour about the Ministry of Health, the Board of Education, the Board of Trade, or the Ministry of Agriculture. All those Departments will be outside the power of the Minister of Labour. I am not moving to take the Minister of Labour out of the Bill for the reason that I have no respect for him and no belief in his sincerity or intentions; as a matter of fact, I think that if we are to have a Minister responsible to the House the best is the Minister of Labour, not only because of his personal qualities but because, since matters relating to unemployment benefit have been taken outside the House and the Unemployment Assistance Board have been appointed, a great many of the Parliamentary functions formerly exercised by the Minister of Labour have been taken from him or attenuated, and his appears to b the appropriate Department to which additional responsibility should be given. When the Minister of Labour will speak on behalf of the commissioners in this House it will not be on behalf of all the other Government Departments but merely in respect of what the commissioners have done after they have succeeded in obtaining the approval of all those different authorities. We are, therefore, still tackling what everybody admits to be a most stubborn and complicated problem, and we are meeting a heterodox problem with the same orthodox machinery.

We suggest that the Government should appoint a Committee of the Cabinet who would hold themselves responsible to the House for tackling the problem of the distressed areas and of national development and planning in general. I do not wish to suggest what Ministers they should be, because that suggests itself. If the Committee were given those powers, then by taking out Sub-section (4) at a later stage, they would also be given powers to override any Government Department that might wish to stand in their way. There would then be Ministers responsible to the House for a special task. They would be armed with authority which they do not now possess, and would be able to survey the problem as it should be surveyed, not merely in fractions but as a whole. From that survey and that machinery something might subsequently emerge of which successive Governments would be able to get hold and work into something valuable. My hon. Friends and I take the view that it is absolutely impossible to deal with the distressed areas independently of the economy of the country as a whole. The distressed areas do not constitute a separate problem, but are symptomatic of industrial dislocations that are consequent upon the changes in the location of industry and the nature of production. It is impossible to deal adequately with the problem of the distressed areas unless what has come to be known as the drift of industry to the South and the South-East is also dealt with.

I know that the lion. Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. K. Lindsay) takes exception to the expression "drift of industry," but we do not mean that a factory has been torn up from Lancashire and put down in the South. We mean that an industry which was carried on in Lancashire is substituted by an industry established in the South, and that is an entirely different matter. A colliery, for example, might be closed down in one part of the country and a huge refinery for petroleum established somewhere else. That is not replacing the colliery with a new colliery but with a new form of power. The substitution takes place, even though not in the same kind of production. In my own area I have a very difficult problem. When Sir Wyndham Portal made his report to the Cabinet, I believe he made very special mention of Ebbw Vale and surrounding districts, and I suspect that the references he made were of the kind that would strengthen my case now if they were made public. He pointed out that a drift of the basic industries from the heads of the valleys to Cardiff and the surrounding districts was taking place in South Wales.

We gravely question whether that substitution is economically justifiable, even on strict commercial grounds, but there is no one to whom I can go to raise the matter. There is no authority to whom a Member of Parliament may go even to have the data placed before him. I go to the Minister of Labour; he is not responsible. I shall not be able to go to these commissioners because they are not responsible. The Bill deliberately divests us of power to intervene in any profit-making concern. The main question of the location of profit-making industry which lies at the root of this problem is taken out of the hands of the commissioners from the beginning. I cannot go to any semi-political organisation like the Bankers' Industrial Development Company because they tell me that they were set up for the purpose of the rationalisation of industry, and that they have no responsibility whatever for the decline of concerns or their resuscitation.

Photo of Colonel Louis Gluckstein Colonel Louis Gluckstein , Nottingham East

Can the hon. Member not go to the industry itself?

Photo of Mr Aneurin Bevan Mr Aneurin Bevan , Ebbw Vale

That is a frivolous interjection. The owner of an industry is not an elected person. He is responsible to nobody except to his creditors, and that is as much responsibility as he wants.

Photo of Mr David Evans Mr David Evans , Cardiganshire

I want to understand the argument of the hon. Member. Does he suggest that any authority in this House or in the Government should have the power to tell industry that it must remain, for example, at Dowlais or Ebbw Vale? I can well understand that if another economic system were introduced into this country that might be so.

Photo of Mr Aneurin Bevan Mr Aneurin Bevan , Ebbw Vale

I thought I was making myself clear. If the hon. Member would read our Amendment he would see that I am asking for a specially appointed economic planning committee of responsible Ministers to be set up to deal with national economic development.

Photo of Mr David Evans Mr David Evans , Cardiganshire

What powers would the hon. Member give the committee?

Photo of Mr Aneurin Bevan Mr Aneurin Bevan , Ebbw Vale

They would have powers at once—

Photo of Mr Robert Bourne Mr Robert Bourne , Oxford

The hon. Member for Ebbw Vale is now developing his argument outside the scope of the Bill. It would be perfectly possible under his Amendment to set up a committee, but nothing in the Bill—which is all that we are dealing with at the moment—confers any powers such as those to which he has referred.

Photo of Mr Aneurin Bevan Mr Aneurin Bevan , Ebbw Vale

It is not I who am straying outside the Amendment; I am being strayed out of it by interjections. All that I am suggesting is that the proposed committee should have the right to make a survey of the economic possibilities of the country and to investigate into the reasons why many of our basic industries are shifting their sites. Obviously they would have no power to prevent an industry from being established here or from being established there, but they would have power to make investigations and to satisfy themselves that the reasons which were influencing the shifting of basic industries were reasons making for the public good, and, if they were not satisfied that that was the case, they would be able to come to the House and ask for powers to deal with the problem. In the first place, however, a survey must be made and the facts ascertained. At the moment no one knows the facts. The hon. Member shakes his head. I do not know them, and I have investigated the matter very carefully. I am acutely concerned with the well-being of my constituency, and if I can have an answer to my problem, the problem of the eastern part of Monmouthshire, would he immediately solved, and there would be no distressed area there in five or six years' time. If we could get the Ebbw Vale steelworks started, there could be grouped around it a large number of attendant industries, but if the works are permanently closed down you will have a permanent seeping sore in that district, and there will be no possibility of ever reviving industry there again. The point I am making is that there is no central authority in the State which is responsible for surveying this problem, no central authority to whom any employer can go.

I come now to the last part of my argument. I believe that a great deal of the shifting which takes place in this country, and a great many of the bad social consequences which follow from the unorganised nature of modern industrial development, are consequences of the fact that no employer can have access to adequate information to guide him as to where it will be best for him to establish his works—

Photo of Mr Robert Bourne Mr Robert Bourne , Oxford

I think the hon. Member is really getting rather far outside his own Amendment. The only effect of the Amendment would be that the commissioners, instead of being responsible to the appropriate Minister, would be made responsible to a sub-committee of the Cabinet. The hon. Member is now going into a much wider aspect, which hardly arises on this Amendment.

Photo of Mr Aneurin Bevan Mr Aneurin Bevan , Ebbw Vale

If I may say so, it seems to me that it would have been much more appropriate if the Amendment had been ruled out of order, rather than that I should be prevented from addressing myself to the language of the Amendment, because the Amendment proposes that a committee should be appointed by the Cabinet, and that that committee should be charged with certain responsibilities. It would be charged with the responsibility of economic planning, using, of course, the commissioners as an instrument for the purpose, and the committee would deal with national economic development.

Photo of Mr Robert Bourne Mr Robert Bourne , Oxford

If I had realised that that was the purport of the Amendment, I should have been bound to rule it out of order. I took it that the object was that the commissioners, instead of being responsible to one Minister, should be responsible to a committee of Ministers who would take a, broad survey of the situation. If I had realised that the Amendment went further than that, I should have been bound to rule it out of order.

Photo of Mr Aneurin Bevan Mr Aneurin Bevan , Ebbw Vale

I do not desire at all to take advantage of the language of the Amendment, and I do not want to address myself to the question of economic planning as a whole. I was merely suggesting that if we had this committee of Ministers, and if we had the machinery that would naturally begin to revolve around them, we should have a nucleus of national responsibility around which probably later on a folio of economic development could have been established. That would be a valuable beginning of the development to which we could all look forward with some hope of success. At the moment there is no hope at all. It seems to me that, if the Minister rejects this Amendment, as I anticipate he will, it will be conclusive evidence that the commissioners are not going to tackle this problem in any realistic or ambitious way, but are merely going to tinker with it, and that the Minister does not really intend to do anything important, but only intends, as we have been urging throughout, to get the whole problem shifted from the Floor of this House into the hands of a poor, harassed, worthy and able gentleman, who will find that he has been charged with a responsibility to meet which he has not been endowed with the necessary powers. It seems to me that this Amendment should secure support in all quarters of the Committee if there is any real intention to make the Bill a real beginning of an extensive effort to deal with this very stubborn problem. I have tried to move the Amendment in as non-controversial a spirit as possible, in order to try to secure that support, and, while I shall not be disappointed, nevertheless such hopes as I may have entertained will be dashed to the ground, if the Minister informs me that he cannot accept it and that we are still to go on in the old humdrum way, with deputations to this Department and that Department, with this official obstructing and that official obstructing, so that in the end nobody will have the enthusiasm to propose schemes which would have any prospect of success.

6.38 p.m.

Photo of Mr Joseph Batey Mr Joseph Batey , Spennymoor

I should like at the beginning, Captain Bourne, to ask for your Ruling as to whether in discussing this Amendment we shall be allowed to mention the work of the committee which we propose should be set up, that is to say. economic planning. I do not mean to discuss economic planning in detail, but economic planning generally.

Photo of Mr Robert Bourne Mr Robert Bourne , Oxford

I am afraid not. The Bill is very strictly limited to certain areas of the country, and I am afraid we must keep within those limits. The money available under the Financial Resolution is also limited. There is an obvious point as to whether the commissioners should report to a Minister or to a Cabinet committee, which I understand is what the Amendment is designed to secure.

Photo of Mr Joseph Batey Mr Joseph Batey , Spennymoor

If this Amendment were to be carried it would mean that those words would be inserted in the Clause, and surely we are entitled, therefore, to state our view generally on the work of such a committee in economic planning. I venture to think that we should be allowed to argue it generally; one is not asking that it should be argued in detail.

Photo of Mr Robert Bourne Mr Robert Bourne , Oxford

Hon. Members would be entitled to argue that it would be desirable that certain Ministers should be deputed to consider planning, and that the commissioners should report to them and not, to the appropriate Minister; but I do not think we can develop the question of what the Ministers ought to do.

Photo of Mr Aneurin Bevan Mr Aneurin Bevan , Ebbw Vale

Further on the point of Order. In the Bill the commissioners are empowered to promote schemes outside the distressed areas. They are not confined in their activities to the distressed areas themselves; they may go to any part of the country to promote schemes to transfer people from the distressed areas. It seems to me that that gives to the venue of the operations of the commissioners a national basis, and on that basis the proposed sub-committee of the Cabinet could promote national planning as a whole.

Photo of Mr Thomas Martin Mr Thomas Martin , Blaydon

Further on the point of Order. I understand your view to be that under the Amendment the commissioners might report to a kind of subcommittee of the Cabinet; but, if you accept the words of the latter part of the Amendment, referring to a committee set up to deal with national economic development, do not those words in themselves take it further than merely a subcommittee co-ordinating the efforts of the commissioners?

Photo of Mr Robert Bourne Mr Robert Bourne , Oxford

No; I think that obviously those words are merely descriptive of the committee, and do not confer any powers. With regard to the point raised by the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. A. Bevan), it is true that the commissioners, under Sub-section (5) of the Clause, would have power to act in places outside the area, but any expenditure on those places is strictly limited to people inside the area. The money can only be spent for the benefit of these areas.

Photo of Mr Joseph Batey Mr Joseph Batey , Spennymoor

I am rather sorry that that narrow interpretation has been put upon the Amendment, but we have to accept it. I suggest that it would be a fatal mistake to allow these commissioners, as the Bill proposes, to be under the control of the appropriate Minister, who in Scotland would be the Secretary of State for Scotland and in England, the Minister of Labour. We have had Ministers of Labour for many years, but we have never had them dealing with this aspect of the question. Our Ministers of Labour have generally been engaged with the finance of the Unemployment Insurance Fund, dealing with men's benefit, and matters of that kind, and they have had no time to direct their attention to the finding of work for unemployed men. I think that under the control of the Minister of Labour the commissioner will be hampered and tied, and will feel that he is not free to use his own judgment and decide upon a course with which he agrees. If the commissioner were free, there might be a little more hope, but with these words in the Act the commissioner will not be free; he will have to report to and be under the control of the appropriate Minister, and that will make his powers ineffective.

In suggesting this Amendment to the Committee we have, as the Mover has said, the experience of the Labour Government in 1929. The Labour Government then, with the same Prime Minister as to-day, thought that the best way to deal with unemployment, or the finding of employment, was to appoint three members of the Government, and they appointed the present Dominions Secretary, as Lord Privy Seal, the Leader of the Opposition, who was then First Commissioner of Works, and a Member who was then Chanceller of the Duchy of Lancaster. It was the duty of these three to try to find schemes for employment. I think it was a good idea to lay the responsibility upon members of the Government. I have always believed that, while the idea was good, the mistake was in having the Lord Privy Seal, the present Dominions Secretary, to deal with the question, because at that time he could never see any further for the finding of employment than mending roads. I remember arguing privately with him one day—

Photo of Mr Robert Bourne Mr Robert Bourne , Oxford

I think, perhaps, we had better leave these reminiscences alone.

Photo of Mr Joseph Batey Mr Joseph Batey , Spennymoor

I was giving that in order to encourage the Committee to carry the Amendment. I just happened to mention incidentally what I believe was the weakness of the idea and the cause of its failure. The whole object of the Bill is to shift responsibility from the Government on to the shoulders of the commissioners and then, if the commissioners are not successful, it will keep Ministers clear. I believe the idea underlying the Amendment is the best. I am sorry, Captain Bourne, that you will not allow us to say anything in regard to economic planning, because if there is a subject which has made progress during the last few weeks it is that. If a plebiscite could be taken of Members of the House to-day, there would be a majority in favour of it. In my opinion, that is where lies the secret of solving the unemployment problem. Unless we deal with industry we shall never solve it. There will be very little done by beautifying districts or putting men on allotments, or even on smallholdings. As long as we rest there, we shall get no more forward. I believe economic planning is the solution of the unemployment problem.

6.48 p.m.

Photo of Captain Richard Evans Captain Richard Evans , Carmarthen

I rise not so much to support the Amendment as to invite the Minister to explain in rather more detail than has been supplied up to the present what exactly he expects from the commissioners. We have been told more than once that this is a temporary phase. The Government are not going to be satisfied merely with tidying-up. We have been assured—and I am sure that they are sincere—that they quite appreciate that this is not so much an aesthetic as an economic problem and that this is a temporary phase of their attempt to deal with the problem of the depressed areas. I am prepared to assume that that is the case.

Photo of Mr Robert Bourne Mr Robert Bourne , Oxford

I think the Minister will have to reply to this question on the Question "That the Clause stand part," and not on this Amendment.

Photo of Mr David Evans Mr David Evans , Cardiganshire

I am sorry if I am approaching this from rather a wide angle, but I felt that it was relevant to the position, because I wanted to ascertain exactly the kind of organisation that should be set up in order to secure the maximum results from the appointment of the commissioners. In my own mind I was not wide of the mark. What is expected of the commissioners? Are they merely going to undertake a few odd jobs here and there in the ugly derelict areas, or are they going to be asked to utilise their intimate knowledge of local conditions in order to provide data which will enable the Government to launch a larger and more drastic policy later on? If that is the case, I feel certain that the commissioners will have to report upon proposals which cannot he dealt with by only one Minister. Take the case of South Wales. Take the recommendations of Sir Wyndham Portal with regard to hydrogenation. Take the report with regard to royalties. He points out that they are a heavy burden upon the coal exporting industry. There are 101 factors in the situation of which, I imagine, a wide awake Commissioner—and I feel satisfied that the commissioners who have been appointed are men of that type—can report, because obviously we are not tackling the problem merely by the tidying-up and beautifying of these areas. Those who live in them and are face to face with the realities of the situation, know how utterly inadequate that is. Would it not be wise and expedient on the part of the Government to set up some co-ordinating committee? Obviously reports will have to be submitted. A report on royalties or any observations that the commissioners would make would go to the Minister of Mines, with regard to afforestation to the Minister of Agriculture, with regard to credits perhaps to the Treasury, and with regard to the school-leaving age to the Minister of Education. The problem cannot be dealt with in this piecemeal fashion, because it is a permanent problem. Here we have a situation where we are fast approaching the level of production attained in 1929—

Photo of Mr Robert Bourne Mr Robert Bourne , Oxford

What the hon. Member is saying may be very true, but I find it very difficult to reconcile his argument with the Amendment. On the question "That the Clause stand part of the Bill" it will be quite relevant.

Photo of Mr David Evans Mr David Evans , Cardiganshire

I am relating the Amendment to protestations which have been made more than once that this is not a final solution, and that further schemes are envisaged. I am simply asking that the opportunities provided by the Bill should be utilised to the maximum in order to secure data for further action. The Bill is put forward as a preliminary to further action. I am suggesting that the setting up of this co-ordinating committee would be an arrangement well worth while in order to co-ordinate the various reports and to provide us with data for future action. It is in that way that I suggest that I am in order. I want to make an appeal to the Minister to tell us exactly what the intentions of the Government are. What do they expect of these commissioners?

Photo of Mr Robert Bourne Mr Robert Bourne , Oxford

I am afraid I should have to stop the Minister if he tried to answer that on this Amendment. It will come at a later stage of the proceedings.

Photo of Mr David Evans Mr David Evans , Cardiganshire

I have nothing further to say except that I regret your decision, Captain Bourne.

6.54 p.m.

Photo of Mr Thomas Martin Mr Thomas Martin , Blaydon

I cannot see how the Government can possibly accept the Amendment. I say that because, having admitted that this is only a preliminary Bill dealing with the whole problem, it does not attempt to deal with fundamentals. But I think the Government might concede the point expressed in part by one or two speakers that, if the commissioners could submit their reports to the appropriate Ministers in turn, it might be better if those appropriate Ministers were themselves gathered together in a committee. If the Amendment read "appropriate Ministers," I think the Government might accept it as being a form of machinery which would perhaps save a great deal of time, would achieve a form of co-ordination that is possible under this and perhaps be much more effective from the point of view of the commissioners themselves. But as far as the rest of the Amendment goes, although I should like very much indeed to circumnavigate your Ruling, Captain Bourne, and say a great deal on the terms of the Amendment as spoken to by the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. A. Bevan), I cannot possibly see that the Government could allow it after having stated that their policy is not to attempt to embark on any such fundamental planning or wider aspects of the problem at present. I would ask the Parliamentary Secretary, therefore, whether he would not consider making some concession by saying that perhaps before Report he would bring in some form of words, say, "a committee of appropriate Ministers," to satisfy what I think is the cogent argument that the commissioners themselves would be better served and the House would be more pleased if the appropriate Ministers were considered as one body to consider the weekly reports of the commissioners, and were able to make a statement as a body and co-ordinate each others' activities. I hope the Parliamentary Secretary will convey that to the Minister, and will be able to make some concession on that line.

6.57 p.m.

Photo of Mr Robert Hudson Mr Robert Hudson , Southport

If I understand your Ruling correctly, Captain Bourne, the point at issue on the Amendment is really a very narrow one. It is whether it is more likely that the Commissioners would achieve the object that we all have in view more rapidly by reporting to an individual Minister or by reporting to a committee of the Cabinet. The hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. A. Bevan) said that one of the objects of the Amendment was to secure rapidity of action, and he quoted in defence of his proposal the experience of the late Government in setting up a committee under the chairmanship of the Dominions Secretary. That is obviously one way of trying to get this work done but, without wishing to go into old history, it was not on the whole a very successful one. We have decided to try a different way, which is to set up independent outside Commissioners with access to the individual Departments concerned to see whether they can obviate or escape some of the necessary delays involved in the ordinary day-to-day consultations of the Departments among themselves. Naturally, if there is any particular subject which requires the attention of more than one Minister, it will get it through the setting up of an informal committee of the responsible Ministers concerned, a course of action which takes place every week on various subjects. The net result of the Amendment, if it were accepted, would be to delay rather than to accelerate the operations of the Commissioners and, wherever it is necessary for them to consult more than one Minister, it will be quite possible in the ordinary course of Governmental procedure for them to do so. For these reasons, I hope the Committee will agree that the Amendment would not be to the advantage of the Bill and would not result in the job getting done, and I hope the Movers will not press it.

7 p.m.

Photo of Mr Thomas Cape Mr Thomas Cape , Workington

I am very much surprised at the Parliamentary Secretary's refusal on behalf of the Government to accept the Amendment. The only ground which I can suggest for its non-acceptance is that the chief functions of the commissioners will be to consult generally with the Unemployment Assistance Board. If it is the intention of the Government to pass the problem of solving unemployment entirely over to that board, then they had better let the House know of the fact. The Clause says: The commissioners shall act under the general control of the appropriate Minister, and it shall be the duty of the commissioners to make suggestions to, and co-operate with, Government Departments and so on. This proposal, I suggest, would speed up the commissioners' efforts to get something done. Assume that it is a question of smallholdings or land cultivation, which will come under the Department of the Minister of Agriculture. Will it mean that the commissioner will have to report to the Minister of Labour, that the Minister of Labour will transfer the matter to the Minister of Agriculture and that it will then have to come back to him again, leaving him to determine whether or not he will accept the suggestion of the commissioner? If that is so, the same thing will have to apply to the Minister of Health, the President of the Board of Trade and other Ministers whose Departments might be concerned in any matters which the commissioners might be able to suggest. In that case it will be a cumbersome and slow method of getting anything done about suggestions submitted to the commissioner or about suggestions which may come from the commissioner himself. Frankly, I cannot see that the commissioner will be able to make any suggestions of vital importance under this Bill. I should like to know in what way the Minister of Labour intends to act upon suggestions that may come from the commissioner—suggestions which directly affect other State Departments and do not directly affect his own. I should like him to explain if everything will have to come back to his own Department for approval before being put into operation.

7.4 p.m.

Photo of Mr Kenneth Lindsay Mr Kenneth Lindsay , Kilmarnock

I should like to take this opportunity to press home one point. I very much agree with the spirit of the speech of the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. A. Bevan). I say "the spirit" because I think the actual words have little meaning and application in this case, but it is already difficult to understand what the precise relation is between the Minister of Labour and the Minister of Agriculture over certain sections of this Bill. Those, I think, we shall come to later, and I do not suppose I am allowed to raise them at this point. You, Captain Bourne, ruled out of Order any discussion of the commissioners' work, but I have come to this conclusion, as a result of the answer from the Minister, that while the country thought, at any rate until the speech of the Minister of Labour, that this Bill was an answer to the report, it no longer thinks that. Secondly, it no longer thinks that this Bill can be as it were a vehicle for presenting a series of suggestions to responsible Ministers.

It may be that it is better to have one man responsible than to have three men, as was tried out in the Labour Cabinet. I am quite prepared to admit that there should be only one man. But we have not had an answer to the objections which a number of us see arising already in connection with this Bill. The Parliamentary Secretary said that informal consultations take place between Ministers regularly each week. They may take place each week but what some of us want to feel is going to happen—some of us who are going back this week end to the distressed areas—is that the phrase "making suggestions to" will be interpreted in the exact spirit and letter of the words. In other words, if these commissioners are merely going to experiment—and I am all for experiment—and are not going to be permitted to make suggestions to such Government Departments as the Board of Education, the Ministry of Agriculture and the various sections of the Board of Trade, within the terms of the Bill as at present drafted, then a number of us will be very disappointed because we cannot see effective action taking place. On the other hand, if that can be read into Sub-section (3) of this Clause, then the Minister of Labour and the other Members of the Cabinet will be armed with a great mass of very valuable new information. May I give one suggestion It may be possible to raise the school-leaving age in one distressed area. A strong recommendation from the commissioner—

Photo of Mr Robert Bourne Mr Robert Bourne , Oxford

I think the hon. Meember is now again going outside my Ruling. The point really is a very narrow one. It is whether a report is to be made to one Minister or to a Committee of the Cabinet.

Photo of Mr Kenneth Lindsay Mr Kenneth Lindsay , Kilmarnock

I am sorry, Captain Bourne, if I have not circumnavigated your Ruling successfully. I only want to come back to this point. Whether it is one Minister or whether it is three, we want to be absolutely certain that not only will experimental work go on, but also that it will be possible to report back suggestions to a variety of responsible Ministers, and so to speed up the work in the other Departments. We think that is one of the most valuable things this Bill can do, and if we can be sure that this is possible within the reading of the Bill, we think it is an enormous step forward, and naturally we shall oppose the Amendment.

7.9 p.m.

Photo of Mr Tom Smith Mr Tom Smith , Normanton

I am not going to try to circumnavigate the Ruling of the Chair. I want to assure the Parliamentary Secretary that this Amendment has been put down not to delay the work of the commissioner but rather to speed it up. We feel that in practice it will be found that a committee of, say, three Ministers dealing with the Departments would work more expeditiously than one Minister. Let us assume, for example, that the commissioner suggested to the Minister of Labour that certain work should be done in Durham and that this work comes within the Departmental jurisdiction of the Minister of Agriculture. The Minister of Labour naturally will consult with his colleague and eventually he will get either agreement or disagreement. The same procedure would follow with a question affecting the Secretary for Mines. We feel that, in practice, there is likely to be a good deal of red-tape and conflict. We feel that if the Ministers to be consulted had the same responsibility as the Minister of Labour in coming to the decisions, you would get quicker decisions. A committee of, say, three responsible Ministers would work more expeditiously. The Parliamentary Secretary rather gave some little support to the idea of a consultation with other Ministers. He told us that us practice there are informal talks between Ministers on matters of common interest. That is true, and no doubt it will go on quite apart from whether a committee is set up for this purpose or not. But I suggest that we should find that if Ministers consulted had equal responsibility in the matter we should get quicker decisions than if the whole thing is left to the Minister of Labour.

7.12 p.m.

Photo of Mr Edward Williams Mr Edward Williams , Ogmore

No doubt the Bill provides for collaboration between the commissioner and the Department, but we think that the Amendment would make more effective the purposes of the Bill. The centre of the distressed areas problem is the position of the basic industries. The distressed areas are attached to the export trade, and it may be possible for small things to be done which will cause more annoyance and difficulties unless things are properly done at the beginning. I have in mind the experience of my predecessor in the House, who was greatly revered by all Members, the late Right Hon. Vernon Hartshorn. For some time he was Lord Privy Seal, and I can remember hearing him speak at that Box from time to time when I was sitting in the Gallery listening to Debates. I have heard gibes at him from the then Opposition, and particularly from that section of it which is now designated, I believe, "the Y.M.C.A." In my conversations with him, I found that he was for ever complaining about his having to go from place to place and from Department to Department. He could get nothing done because he himself had no responsibility—except to the House, to report what was happening from time to time. The Opposition at that time were always putting down Censure Motions in order that he should be jeered at continually.

That, I think, will happen again. I knew the difficulty that Mr. Hartshorn had in actually doing what was expected of him. I can remember his saying that be used to go to the Ministry of Transport, where he could look over the documents. He could then go to the Ministry of Health and could go through the files, and all the rest of it. He could also go into the Treasury but he found, of course, that it was impossible for him to accomplish anything. In substance this was always a Treasury problem, but he was just perambulating from place to place, and was often made a laughing-stock in the House because he had not authority and power. The same thing, I think, will happen in this connection. I put it to the Minister that, of course, slag-heaps will have to be removed—and I am not thinking about the General Election when I say that. What is to prevent the colliery companies from making new slag-heaps while the old ones are being removed. That is happening all over the mining valleys of South Wales. What is the use of beautifying the top of one valley in South Wales and at the same time permitting colliery companies to disfigure the bottom of the valley by tipping their rubbish from the pits there in huge quantities? These pit-heaps are one of the biggest eyesores we have in South Wales and they should be removed. But the Minister, apparently, will have no powers to stop colliery companies making other slag-heaps.

Sir Wyndham Portal makes reference in his report to hydrogenation. Surely the location of an industry is an important matter. In Clause 3 we find that the Departments have to be consulted and the local authorities may have to be consulted. Surely it is essential that there should be some committee, to co-ordinate work between the Departments and to secure co-ordination between the Departments and the local authorities. I should have expected to have the support of hon. Members who have been speaking of the necessity of planning in this House during the last couple of weeks. This would have been the opportunity, and I should have thought that the Minister himself, particularly if he had re-read the peroration of his speech on the Second Reading, would have realised the necessity of having some authority of a national character to go into this matter.

The speech made by my hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. A. Bevan) has yet to be answered. Not only is Ebbw Vale and the thousands of persons in that locality affected at the moment, but they will be affected in perpetuity unless something is done to see that works are not shifted from that area to, say, Newport on the coast. The same thing will happen if hydrogenation works are to be established, as is recommended, in conjunction with Imperial Chemical Industries. There will be a question whether they should be established at Cardiff or, say, in my constituency, which is the centre of the bituminous coalfield, where the coal has been tested out by the Department, and where there is a railway junction, all of which is designated as a distressed area within the ambit of the Bill. The three urban authorities, and every square yard in my constituency is a depressed area. Surely, there ought to be a Committee able to decide that, if a hydrogenation plant is to be established, it should be established in the centre of the coalfield so as to convey the greatest measure of relief to the distressed area.

We are not satisfied with the reply of the Parliamentary Secretary and would like a reply from the Minister to the case which has been put by the Mover of the Amendment. The distressed area is essentially a problem of location of industry. We can see at the moment no prospect of the export trade of this coun- try recovering. South Wales is going from bad to worse. Even under the Trade Agreements its position is worse this year than it was last year. The problem of the distressed area is one that concerns the export trade of this country, and the Government ought to face up to the fact. What is the use of patching here and there or of spending £2,000,000, putting even the best interpretation upon the Financial Resolution, within a few months, and then finding that next year the problem will become greater than it is at the moment, inasmuch as the export. trade is being more adversely affected from year to year? It is a national problem, and the Government ought to appoint a Committee of the Cabinet to analyse the whole position in relation to the location of industry, social values, and the various institutions spending large sums of money in those areas, and see whether it is not possible to co-ordinate all the efforts and obtain what the Minister desires within the confines of the Bill.

7.20 p.m.

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

I appeal to the Minister to give this matter a little more consideration. The commissioners have to make suggestions and co-operate with the Government Departments. The central argument of the speeches against this proposal has been that, the Dominion Secretary, Sir Oswald Mosley and myself, having proved ourselves such an inept committee, we should not appoint another committee of the Cabinet. But look at the present Cabinet of all the talents and of all parties bringing in this Bill which everyone has said is a Measure for the purpose of investigation to find out how best to develop industry. I expect that certain hon. Members have perhaps been speaking with inside knowledge of the last Cabinet, because they have our old chiefs in the present Cabinet, and I expect know all our virtues and all our vices. I expect the right hon. Gentleman has learnt that there was something in existence then which, I should hope, for the sake of the sanity of the present Cabinet, is not in existence now, and that is a kind of super body of experts who did everything except do anything, and who, whenever you asked them to decide any questions, agreed that there was nothing to be done. The one thing they agreed about was their disagreement. The Government have not such a body now, I am sure. We are asking that the supermen who are at the head of affairs now should meet the commissioners and discuss what I understood was to be part of the duty of the commissioners, namely, how to re-organise the industries of this country. You ought not to ask them to go from pillar to post.

I will give my personal experiences in this connection. I was supposed to receive deputations. Being a hefty sort of person and a sort of buffer, the deputations who came with schemes were usually sent to me, and I was supposed to say pleasant things, such as the Minister says to us now, and make them believe that I sympathised with them and understood what they were telling me. I had then to convey the information to my chief who in turn sometimes put it to the Sanhedrim and sometimes to the Treasury, and the usual result was nothing. That was because there was never any notion in the head of anybody that the industry of this country needed that which all the Tory Members who speak now say it needs, namely, re-planning and reorganising. An hon. Gentleman made a very good suggestion that, if the Minister cannot accept our proposal, he should at least accept his suggestion which was that the Ministers concerned in these matters should meet, say, once a week or once a fortnight to discuss matters. I take it that hon. Members really mean what they are saying, that it is not merely an experiment of putting people on allotments or pulling down an old building, or removing a slag heap, but that it is really a definite attempt to find out how to get people back into regular work through the development of trade and industry. I should have thought that they would want to meet the President of the Board of Trade, the Secretary of the Overseas Trade Department and the Minister of Agriculture and so on.

I should like to hear the right hon. Gentleman say that he will look at our proposition and that of some of his own supporters, and I would ask him to look at the speech of the hen. Member for Blaydon (Mr. Martin) to see what proposition he made. It was on lines similar to the proposition which we have made. If our proposal of a specially appointed economic committee of responsible Ministers is not quite what ought to be done, though we think that it is, I would ask that there should be a definite provision in the Bill to the effect that it should be the business of the commissioners to act in co-operation with the Ministers, and that they should meet the Ministers for consultation and try to discover how to deal with the sort of question which my hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. A. Bevan) could not develop but only mention. I have only intervened to emphasise the fact that the Government have a set of Ministers who know how to do things. Hon. Members opposite should not continually throw their heads over their shoulders and talk about what has been. The Government took away our three chiefs, who ought to be helping them to do the right thing just as they helped us to do the wrong. But, on the other hand, the Government have the Sanhedrim to fall back upon, and I am sure that they have not the cast-iron Treasury with which we had to deal.

7.28 p.m.

Photo of Hon. Oliver Stanley Hon. Oliver Stanley , Westmorland

I gladly respond to the request of the right hon. Gentleman that I should speak on this Amendment, and I regret that I have had to be absent during some parts of the Debate. Dealing first of all with the unique question of the Amendment as it is framed, I would say frankly that it would add more to the difficulties of the Commissioner. What is the proposal? It is to make the Commissioner responsible to a committee. That means to say there should be no single person who could take any decision on the Commissioner's behalf. Every time he wanted a decision on policy he would have to get a decision from the committee. The Commissioner is to be responsible to one Minister. It is true that the Minister has to consult the Departments, but one man will have the right to say: "You have my authority to do this, or you have not my authority to do it." The Minister in turn is responsible to the House of Commons. I cannot possibly see how a system can work in which the Commissioners are responsible for every action to a committee, which in turn would be responsible to the House of Commons. It is an extraordinarily novel proceeding.

Hon. Members opposite talk with a great deal of feeling, but they have talked com- pletely wide of their Amendment. I do not think that they would have put the Amendment down were it not for the desire to raise the whole question of the economic planning of industry, which, of course, goes far beyond the question as to which Minister or Ministers the Commissioners are to be responsible. I am afraid that it will be impossible for me to accept the Amendment. I understand that in a speech during my absence the suggestion was made that there should be some consultation. I think it is only natural in any Government that informal arrangements are made for consultations, but I certainly should resist an attempt, which I think has never been made before, to make a meeting of Ministers, which might take place normally for the conduct of business, into a statutory affair. Even if that were done I can see no value in it, because a mere statutory provision that certain Ministers are to meet each other is of no avail. I can assure my hon. Friend that it is my earnest desire to avoid any delay that might occur by the Commissioners having to go from Department to Department, and that every possible arrangement will be made within the machinery of Government to obviate delays of that kind.

7.33 p.m.

Photo of Mr William Cove Mr William Cove , Aberavon

I must say a few words after the speech of the Minister. The Parliamentary Secretary did not do himself his usual justice. Generally, when he replies to any Debate, he makes a contribution which enlightens us as to the intentions of the Government. He failed to do so, and I do not think the Minister has succeeded any better in convincing us that the scheme of this Bill is going to be a speedy or effective one. The argument he used was the same that was used by the Parliamentary Secretary, that if we get this provision then, apparently, there will he no one Minister responsible. From what we have heard from the Government Bench, that proposal would make for delay. Ever since I have been in the House, especially during the period of the Labour Government—and we felt it very keenly—we found that the Minister of Labour really had no responsibility so far as any scheme of an ameliorative kind with regard to unemployment was concerned, and I am convinced from the speeches that we have heard this evening from the two Ministers that there is no more responsibility now than there was when our Ministers were there. We have been told that our proposal would, lead to delay, but the Minister admitted that the system envisaged in the Bill will amount to equal delay. As far as I understood him, he admitted that under the proposals in the Bill he will have to go round consulting other Ministers.

The Bill itself, apart from the practice that has been indulged in hitherto, makes it perfectly plain that no proposals affecting any Department of the State can be undertaken unless that Department is consulted. We are putting forward a proposal which we say will not cause delay but will speed up things. There would be a statutory provision for a meeting of responsible Ministers. Surely, when two or three Ministers of this Government are gathered together, compelled to meet, to deal with this problem, we are going to get something done. The coming together of three or four responsible Ministers, with the capacity they have and with the desire that we have heard them state so frequently they have to do something for the depressed areas, surely should mean that any decision of policy arrived at by those three or four Ministers would have a far greater chance of passage through the Cabinet than the recommendation of any one Minister. I

am very much disappointed with the reply of the right hon. Gentleman and I am confirmed in the opinion that this scheme is mere eyewash and that there is nothing intended to be done of any great value.

If the Government did intend to tackle the problem speedily and effectively, with some responsibility towards the depressed areas, I cannot see why they should not agree to a proposal that would short-circuit the tramping from Department to Department, that would cut off red tape and would tend to break down the weight of expert opposition which my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition has shown exists in Government Departments. Our proposal would tend to break down those things. A decision by such a body as we suggest would have much more authority than a decision of the Minister of Labour himself, capable as we know him to be. The Amendment has served the purpose of showing up clearly and definitely that the Government intend little or nothing so far as the depressed areas are concerned in the years that are before us.

Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Clause."

The Committee divided: Ayes, 195; Noes, 40.

Division No. 14.]AYES.[7.40 p.m.]
Actand-Troyte, Lieut.-ColonelCazalet, Thelma (Islington, E.)Gilmour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir John
Agnew, Lieut.-Com. p. G.Chapman, Col. R.(Houghton-le-Spring)Glossop, C. W. H.
Albery, Irving JamesChorlton, Alan Ernest LeofricGluckstein, Louis Halie
Allen, Sir J. Sandeman (Llverp'l, W.)Clarke, FrankGoodman, Colonel Albert W.
Allen, Lt.-Col. J. Sandeman (B'k'nh'd)Clarry, Reginald GeorgeGrattan-Doyle, Sir Nicholas
Apsley, LordClayton, Sir ChristopherGreene, William P. C.
Aske, Sir Robert WilliamCochrane, Commander Hon. A. D.Griffith, F. Kingsley(Middlesbro',W),
Assheton, RalphColville, Lleut.-Colonel J.Grimston, R. V.
Astor, Maj. Hn. John J. (Kent, Dover)Cook, Thomas A.Gritten, W. G. Howard
Balley, Eric Alfred GeorgeCooke, DouglasGuinness, Thomas L. E. B.
Baldwin, Rt. Hon. StanleyCourtauld, Major John SewellGunston, Captain D. W.
Barclay-Harvey, C. M.Cross, R. H.Guy, J. C. Morrison
Beauchamp, Sir Brograve CampbellCruddas, Lieut-Colonel BernardHacking, Rt. Hon. Douglas H.
Birchall, Major sir John DearmanCulverwell, Cyril TomHamilton, Sir George (Ilford)
Blindell, JamesCurry, A. C.Hanbury, Cecil
Boulton, W. W.Davidson, Rt. Hon. J. C. C.Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry
Braithwaite, Maj. A. N. (Yorks, E. R.)Davles, Edward C. (Montgomery)Harvey, George (Lambeth, Kenningt'n)
Braithwalte, J. G. (Hillsborough)Davles, Maj. Geo, F.(Somerset, Yeovll)Haslam, Henry (Horncastle)
Briscoe, Capt. Richard GeorgeDenman, Hon. R. D.Hellgers, Captain F. F. A.
Broadbent. Colonel JohnDonner, P. W.Holdsworth, Herbert
Brocklebank, C. E. R.Dunglass, LordHudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hackney, N.)
Brown, Col. D. C. (N'th'l'd., Hexham)Ellis, Sir R. GeoffreyHudson, Robert Spear(Southport)
Brown, Ernest (Lelth)Elmley, viscountHume, Sir George Hopwood
Brown, Brig. -Gen. H.C.(Berks., Newb'y)Emmott, Charles E. G, CHurst, Sir Gerald B.
Buchan-Hepnurn, p. G. T.Emrys-Evans, P. V.Jamieson, Douglas
Burghley, LordEntwistle, Cyrlf FullardJanner, Barnett
Burton, Colonel Henry WalterEvans, David Owen (Cardigan)Johnstone, Harcourt(S. Shields)
Cadogan, Hon. EdwardFlelden, Edward BrocklehurstKerr, Lieut.-Col. Charles (Montrose)
Campbell-Johnston, MalcolmFleming, Edward LascellesKeyes, Admiral Sir Roger
Caporn, Arthur CecilFuller, Captain A. G.Latham, Sir Herbert Paul
Carver, Major William H.Galbralth, James Francis WallaceLaw, Sir Alfred
Cautley, Sir Henry S.Ganzoni, Sir JohnLeech, Dr. J. W.
Cayzer, Maj. Sir H. R. (Prtsmth., S.)Gillett, Sir George MattermanLewis, Oswald
Liddall, Walter S.Pearson, William G.Stanley, Rt. Hon. Oliver (W'morland)
Lindsay, Kenneth (Kilmarnock)Percy, Lord EustaceStewart, J. Henderson (Fife, E.)
Little, Graham-, Sir ErnestPerkins, Walter R. D.Strauss, Edward A.
Loftus, Pierce C.Peto, Geoffrey K.(W'verh'pt'n,Blist'n)Sueter, Rear-Admiral Sir Murray F.
Lovat-Fraser, James AlexanderPike, Cecil F.Sugden, Sir Wilfrid Hart
Lyons, Abraham MontaguPybus, Sir JohnSummersby, Charles H.
Mabane, WilliamRadlord, E. A,Tate, Mavis Constance
MacAndrew, Capt. J. O. (Ayr)Raikes, Henry V. A. M.Thomas, James P. L. (Hereford)
McConnell, Sir JosephRamsay, Alexander(W. Bromwich)Thomas, Major L. B. (King's Norton)
McCorquodale, M. S.Ramsay, Capt. A. H. M. (Midlothian)Thompson, Sir Luke
MacDonald, Rt. Hon. J. R. (Seaham)Ramsay T. B.W. (Western Isles)Thomson, Sir Frederick Charles
Macdonald, Capt. P. D. (I. of W.)Ramsden, Sir EugeneThorp, Linton Theodore
McLean, Major Sir AlanRea, Walter RussellTodd, A. L. S. (Kingswinford)
Macmillan, Maurice HaroldReed, Arthur C. (Exeter)Touche, Gordon Cosmo
Magnay, ThomasReid, David D. (County Down)Tree, Ronald
Maltland, AdamReid, William Allan (Derby)Tufnell, Lieut.-Commander R. L.
Makins, Brigadier-General ErnestRenwick, Major Gustav A.Wallace, Captain D. E. (Hornsey)
Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H.D. R.Rosbotham, Sir ThomasWallace, John(Dunfermline)
Martin, Thomas B.Ross Taylor, Walter (Woodbridge)Ward. Lt.-Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)
Mills, Major J. D. (New Forest)Russell, Albert (Kirkcaldy)Ward, Irene Mary Bewick (Wallsend)
Molson, A. Hugh ElsdaleSamuel, Sir Arthur Michael (F'nham)Wayland, Sir William A.
Moore, Lt.-Col. Thomas C. R. (Ayr)Sandeman, Sir A. N. StewartWedderburn, Henry James Scrymgeour-
Morgan, Robert H.Sanderson, Sir Frank BarnardWhiteside, Borras Noel H.
Morris Owen Temple(Cardiff, E.)Shakespeare, Geoffrey H.Wilson, Lt.-Col. Sir Arnold(Hertf'd)
Morris-Jones, Dr. J.H. (Denbigh)Shaw, Helen B. (Lanark, Bothwell)Wilson, Clyde T. (West Toxteth)
Morrison, G. A. (Scottish Univer'ties)Shaw, Captain William T. (Forfar)Wise, Alfred R.
Munro, PatrickSimmonds, Oliver EdwinWithers, Sir John James
Nall, Sir JosephSmithers, Sir WaldronWolmer, Rt. Hon. Viscount
Normand, Rt. Hon. WilfridSomervell, sir DonaldWomersley, Sir Walter
Nunn, WilliamSomerville, D. G. (Willesden, East)Worthington, Dr. John V.
O'Neill, Rt. Hon. Sir HughSouthby. Commander Archibald R. J.
Ormsby-Gore, Rt. Hon. William G. A.Spens, William PatrickTELLERS FOR THE AYES.—
Palmer, Francis NoelStanley, Rt. Hon. Lord (Fylde)Sir George Penny and Captain Sir
George Bowyer.
NOES.
Adams, D. M. (Poplar, South)Davies, Stephen OwenMaclean, Neil (Glasgow, Govan)
Addison, Rt. Hon. Dr. ChristopherEdwards, CharlesMaxton, James
Attlee, Clement RichardGardner, Benjamin WalterParkinson, John Allen
Banfield. John WilliamGeorge, Rt. Hon. D. Lloyd (Carn'v'n)Smith, Tom (Normanton)
Batey, JosephGeorge, Major G. Lloyd (Pembroke)Strauss, G. R. (Lambeth, North)
Bevan, Aneurin (Ebbw Vale)Griffiths, T. (Monmouth. Pontypoel)Thorne, William James
Brown, C. W. E. (Notts., Mansfield)Grundy, Thomas W.Tinker, John Joseph
Buchanan, GeorgeHall, George H.(Merthyr Tydvil)West, F. R.
Cape, ThomasHarris, Sir PercyWilliams, David (Swansea. East)
Cocks, Frederick SeymourKirkwood, DavidWilliams, Edward John (Ogmore)
Cove, William G.Lansbury, Rt. Hon. GeorgeWilliams, Dr. John H. (Llanelly)
Daggar, GeorgeLawson, John JamesWilmot, John
Davies, David L. (Pontypridd)Leonard, William
Davles, Rhys John (Westhoughton)Lunn, WilliamTELLERS FORTHE NOES.
Mr. John and Mr. Paling.

7.47 p.m.

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

I beg to move, in page 2, line 23, at the end, to insert: (c) to provide financial assistance to a local authority for the purpose of contributing towards the cost of any works for which no specific grant is payable by any Government Department or towards the provision of smallholdings or allotments. The commissioners under the Bill are to act under the general control of the appropriate Minister, and it is their duty to make suggestions to and co-operate with Government Departments, local authorities, and voluntary organisations. They are

  1. "(a) to act, in association with the Unemployment Assistance Board in matters relating to the promotion of the welfare of persons to whom the Unemployment Assistance Act, 1934, applies; and
  2. (b) to make recommendations to Government Departments and local authorities as to the removal of difficulties which appear to the commissioners to prevent or hinder 1920 measures which might be carried out under statutory powers."
We suggest, by the Amendment, that a third duty shall be imposed upon the commissioners, and that one of their primary duties shall be to provide financial assistance to local authorities for the purposes of carrying out works for which no specific grant is payable. Under the Clause the commissioners are precluded from giving financial assistance for the carrying on of any undertakings for the purposes of gain and the provision of financial assistance by way of grant or loan to any local authority. I do not know how that particular Sub-section appears in this part of the Bill. It is rather a mixture. Afterwards, those who drafted the Bill thought a little better of it and made a provision to do in a modified way what we are proposing by the Amendment. Quite frankly we wish, instead of having a grant or loan to local authorities, to make it one of the functions of the commissioners to give a grant direct to a local authority to carry out works in cases where no direct grant is payable. We want it to be a primary duty on the part of the commissioners to be able to give grants direct.

The more I listen to speeches made on this Bill the more certain I am that my description of it on the Second Reading was correct. The Government are going, practically, to wash their hands of all responsibility. All the responsibility, in an indirect way, is to be thrown upon the commissioners, who will act as a soft pillow between local authorities and the Government. As a matter of fact, local authorities play but a small part in the Bill as compared with voluntary societies. After deliberately excluding the commissioners from making any grant or loan to local authorities the Bill goes on to refer to voluntary societies. Generally speaking voluntary societies and other bodies stick out all over the Bill, but as local authorities cannot be kept out altogether, that would be rather too glaring, they are stuck away here and there in various Sub-sections. They do not seem to occupy the same place in the minds of those who drafted the Bill, and who I take it express the intention of the Government, as these voluntary societies.

Photo of Mr Thomas Martin Mr Thomas Martin , Blaydon

Will the hon. Member give us some idea of the kind of works he envisages for which these specific grants will be payable? So many things are covered by grants already that I wonder what is in his mind.

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

I was coming to that. There are public works for which no grants are payable and it is to those kind of works that we refer. We desire to make it one of the primary duties of the commissioners to give grants direct to local authorities for such works. It is true that local authorities have statutory rights to apply for quite a number of grants, but everybody knows the value of that right. The Government quite obviously hold to their antagonism of public works on a large scale, and nothing will be done in that respect. Local authorities might want to remove some slag heaps. I have known places, in colliery districts, where they have taken over waste land, part of an old pit heap, covered it with soil and made beautiful recreation grounds. It is not certain that in such a case they have the right to a grant, and, even if they had, it is quite certain that it would be hardly worth the expense of sending a deputation to London.

Undoubtedly, the Government visualises conditions in which local authorities will need money to carry out some of these schemes. Is there any reason why local authorities should not beautify their own villages and areas? Is there any reason why financial assistance should not be granted direct to them for such work? It seems to me that the intention of the Government in this Bill is that that class of work shall be done in a kind of cheap jack way. The Minister, however, gave us a little encouragement, and although his explanation did modify our fears still the Clause is in the Bill, and the particular Sub-section with which I am dealing is very dangerous.

We are asking for a little more than is in the Bill. We want this to be a primary function of the commissioners, and to be clearly stated in the Bill. We want local authorities to have that place in the Bill to which they are entitled. The Government I think will be wise to accept the Amendment if they want their Measure to be a success. In the mind of the public the Bill has already become associated with charity mongering. The Government are responsible for that because of the very tardy recognition of local authorities as active bodies in the operation of the Bill. Up to the moment local authorities have been paralysed as far as public works are concerned. During the last three years it has been very difficult indeed for a local authority to get from any Department the necessary loans to carry out schemes.

We talk about financial assistance. We visualise grants rather than loans. The local authorities are very heavily burdened with debts. Some expert or some celebrated literary man goes North, as one did last winter, and looks at a place like Gateshead, and visits Newcastle and some of the mining villages in the North, and he writes some scathing things which make the local authorities squirm, because they feel that., although they know the ugliness of aspect and the need of cleaning up and doing things just as much as those outside, they have not the wherewithal to do what they desire to do. In view of their difficulty and burdens some of the local authori- ties in the North have accomplished rather striking things in spite of the poverty with which they have been afflicted during the past few years. The commissioner should be definitely instructed that it is one of his primary duties to come to the aid of local authorities that want to do work for which there is no Government grant or loan available. It is not that we want the local authorities to get something for nothing. But we do not want them to be pushed out of the picture. They are entitled to the first place in all the work that is going on, and they should be rescued from the remote corners of this Bill and put in the forefront.

8.5 p.m.

Photo of Mr Thomas Cape Mr Thomas Cape , Workington

I wish to support the Amendment on two grounds. First, I want to know what the commissioner is going to do with the £2,000,000. Secondly, I want to get safeguards for the local authorities in the depressed areas. The Sub-section to which we wish to add the words of the Amendment is very vague as to what can be done or will be clone. Sub-section (5) says that in certain circumstances the commissioner may provide a grant or loan to any local authority. As far as loans are concerned, the local authorities in my district have borrowed up to the hilt, and they fear that other loans may be imposed upon them for them to carry out works for which the Government ought to be responsible. We have moved the Amendment in the hope that the Government will give some assurance to the local authorities that the authorities are to get financial assistance from the commissioner towards any scheme that he may suggest to them for which grants cannot at present be given. In the report of the Commissioner for Cumberland there is a paragraph which pays a high tribute to the work of the local authorities in that area, and mentions that many of the members of those authorities are unemployed men themselves. It is a poverty-stricken area, with tremendous financial burdens, and unless the commissioner is able to give the authorities some financial help without any obligation being placed on them to meet interest on a loan, for the life of me I cannot see what value the £2,000,000 can be to the commissioner for distribution. Sub-section (5) says: Provided that the foregoing provisions of this sub-section shall not prevent the provision of financial assistance—

  1. (i) to any undertaking carried on with the primary object of providing means of subsistence and occupation for the persons engaged in the undertaking with a view to making them wholly or partially independent of assistance under the Unemployment Assistance Act, 1934, or under the enactments relating to the relief of the poor, or"
That states that the commissioner can give grants towards such objects as are indicated. But what are those objects The words used are "providing means of subsistence." What kind of means of subsistence are intended?

Photo of Hon. Oliver Stanley Hon. Oliver Stanley , Westmorland

On the next page of the Order Paper there is a number of Amendments dealing with this specific point. I would ask whether it is in order to discuss them on this Amendment?

Photo of Viscount  Apsley Viscount Apsley , Bristol Central

It is true that there is a number of Amendments on the Paper, one by the hon. Member for Govan (Mr. N. Maclean) and three in the name of the hon. Member for Rhondda (Mr. Mainwaring), and I was about to suggest that when the time comes a more general discussion could take place on those Amendments. That would be more convenient if the hon. Member would leave the matter until then.

Photo of Mr Thomas Cape Mr Thomas Cape , Workington

I do not desire in any way to get across the Chair or the Minister of Labour, but my hon. Friend who moved this Amendment dealt very extensively with some of the points that I am trying to elaborate. Probably it was on account of a conversation between au occupant of the Front Bench and a previous occupant of the Chair that I have struck an unfortunate patch and have been held up just as I was getting into my stride. Will the Minister, when he replies to the Amendment, tell us what are the things that are indicated in the Sub-section I have quoted? What kind of works are they? As far as I understand the matter, local authorities can borrow money for the purpose of street improvement or gas and water undertakings, and can obtain the money for the providing of small holdings. In regard to building, I think local authorities have done right to borrow money. But I want to know what are the works towards which contributions from the £2,000,000 are to be given. I am very much concerned on two points. How are the commissioners to spend this £2,000,000; what are the works for which they can make provision; and if any undertakings are to be carried out by the local authorities, will the commissioner be allowed to suggest to the Ministry that a grant and not a loan be made from the £2,000,000? We ask the Minister to make these points clear. Then we shall understand what the commissioners are going to do.

8.13 p.m.

Photo of Mr Thomas Martin Mr Thomas Martin , Blaydon

I confess that I am getting a little confused at this stage. The last speaker has asked the Minister the question that I put to the hon. Member for Chester-le-Street (Mr. Lawson), who moved the Amendment. The hon. Member for Chester-le-Street rather suggested that he had in his mind many things which are apparently unknown to the hon. Member for Workington (Mr. Cape), who is now asking the Minister a question about them. Although I deplore the restricted nature of the action that the Government are taking to help the distressed areas, I am very anxious to help the commissioner in all his work; but the hon. Member for Chester-le-Street and his friends are not anxious to help him in all his work. That seems to me to be indicated by the fact that the hon. Member for Chester-le-Street wants local authorities to carry out work which the 'Government are proposing that the commissioner should carry out.

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

The local authorities to help the commissioner to carry them out.

Photo of Mr Thomas Martin Mr Thomas Martin , Blaydon

The point turns on the fact that the hon. Member wants the local authorities to have the grants and not the commissioner to carry out the work with the money at his disposal.

Photo of Mr George Buchanan Mr George Buchanan , Glasgow Gorbals

I understood the hon. Gentleman to say that the money ought to be taken from the commissioner and given to the local authorities for the purpose of carrying out these works—in other words that it should remain in public hands.

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

If the hon. Member for Blaydon (Mr. Martin) will read the Amendment he will see that it says: to provide financial assistance to a local authority for the purpose of contributing towards the cost of any works for which no specific grant is payable.

Photo of Mr Thomas Martin Mr Thomas Martin , Blaydon

What I am not clear about is what schemes local authorities would carry out for which they cannot already get Government assistance. That is the very question which the hon. Member for Workington has been asking. If hon. Members will turn to Subsection (4) they will find the words: Provided that the foregoing provisions…shall not prevent the provision of financial assistance…by way of grant or loan to a local authority…towards the provision of smallholdings or allotments. When one speaks of allotments or any other scheme—even a scheme for buying a slag heap and cleaning it up—it seems to me that there are already many avenues through which local authorities can get Government financial assistance. What now stands in the Bill seems adequate to meet any case which might arise in which there was any difficulty in getting financial assistance. The hon. Member for West Renfrew (Mr. Scrymgeour-Wedderburn) mentioned that Scotland had Government financial assistance in connection with putting men on the land. When we were debating the Measure which gave Scotland £750,000 for that purpose I asked the Minister of Agriculture why Scotland should get that advantage and England should not get it. The hon. Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan) laughs rather gloatingly but I did not feel like that at the time. The Minister's answer was that England got this advantage through the local authorities and that the law was different in Scotland. My suggestion that the law might be changed in order to give England the same advantage as Scotland was not followed up and there the matter rests.

Local authorities particularly in Durham are carrying out these schemes and are getting financial assistance. There are many schemes in Durham financed to the extent of 75 per cont. by the Government. I think the actual terms are that the Government stand 75 per cent. of the losses. The exceptional case suggested by the hon. Member for Chester-le-Street of a local authority acquiring a slag heap and wanting to clean it up and being unable to get the taxpayers' money to help on what they are already doing with the ratepayers' money, seems to me rather far-fetched. I am sure the Minister will find no difficulty in answering the suggestion that the Government are giving powers to the commissioner for financing charities rather than the local authorities. My experience in Durham is that the local authority there seems to be able to get almost anything it wants. Certainly they have a great many schemes which are financed by both ratepayers' and taxpayers' money and I am sure that any exceptional cases can be met by what is in the Bill already. Therefore, I submit that the Amendment is unnecessary.

8.20 p.m.

Photo of Mr Aaron Curry Mr Aaron Curry , Bishop Auckland

I support the Amendment for reasons somewhat removed from those given by the hon. Member for Chester-le-Street (Mr. Lawson). I think the insertion of the Amendment here would clarify a point on which there is danger of confusion and that is as regards the precise powers of the commissioners to finance local authorities and other bodies. I think that full justice has not been done to the speech of the Chancellor of the Exchequer in which he outlined these proposals. That speech was precise and clear. The Resolution which we had before us earlier is a perfect reflex of the Chancellor's original statement and I cannot understand the confusion which has arisen out of that speech. But confusion has arisen and in our subsequent discussions a great deal of misapprehension has been shown as to the undertakings for which these commissioners are going to use the funds placed at their disposal. The Bill says definitely in Sub-section (5) that the commissioners are debarred from the provision of financial assistance by way of grant or loan to any local authority. Yet we have had intimations which have led some of us to believe that the commissioners are to be empowered to assist capital developments on the part of local authorities. I would like an assurance from the Minister that my reading of the Bill is correct and that capital works undertaken by local authorities will continue to be financed by grant or loan in the way which has always prevailed.

Photo of Hon. Oliver Stanley Hon. Oliver Stanley , Westmorland

I shall be glad to answer the hon. Member but I must confess that at the moment I cannot quite make out what is the information which he wants.

Photo of Mr Aaron Curry Mr Aaron Curry , Bishop Auckland

That only shows how confused this simple proposition is becoming. Hitherto capital works carried out by local authorities have been financed from the appropriate Departmens by grant or loan I had a letter from an urban district council in my division giving a list of works which they desired to carry out in their locality and implying that 1 should immediately get to work to secure assistance under this Measure. I replied that, as I read the Bill, the procedure as far as they were concerned was not being changed and that they would have to make application to the appropriate Department for a grant or loan. I shall be glad to have an assurance from the Minister on that point because one hears on all hands that these commissioners are expected to take over that kind of work and to finance local authorities in that way.

The commissioners undoubtedly have power to assist local authorities in certain instances where loans cannot be obtained in the ordinary way. This Amendment seeks to put that power into the forefront and to state very clearly that the local authority will have power to initiate schemes of its own. I do not agree that the commissioner should go to the local authority and say "Do this or do that." The local authorities in the part of the country to which I belong are, on the whole, competent authorities and anxious to make the best of matters hi the difficult circumstances in which they are operating. As a member of a local authority I think it my duty to say that on behalf of those with whom I am associated. There are, however, many things which we would like to do but which we feel to be outside our powers. You have voluntary bodies of various sorts doing excellent work, and I understand that the real function of these commissioners will be to co-ordinate that work, to expedite it, and to prevent waste of energy in overlapping. Why should not a local authority anxious to improve the amenities in its district have the same facilities and encouragement as these others?

I should like to give one instance from my own part of the world. We have a town planning scheme, which naturally is being brought up to date, but in making these large, wide roads, we cannot recover the costs from the frontagers; we can only recover them up to a certain amount, and a very large cost falls on the local authority. There are all sorts of smaller schemes also which local authorities might put up. Particularly do I feel that a system of grants and loans for capital works tends to go to the larger authorities rather than to the smaller. The hon. Member for Blaydon (Mr. Martin) referred to the local authorities in Durham county as being able to get all sorts of assistance, almost as fast as they wanted it, but that is quite wrong. We have all sorts of schemes in Durham county that we would like to put under way, but we feel it inappropriate to make application to the Department because of the consequent increase in the rate burden from the proportion which would be left to be borne by the local authority. The whole tendency of this grant system is to concentrate attention on the larger county authorities to the detriment of the activities of the smaller urban districts. I think the insertion of these words would do much to clarify the position, and therefore I support the Amendment in the hope that the local authorities will be still further encouraged to show even more enterprise in increasing the amenities of their own districts.

8.28 p.m.

Photo of Dr Christopher Addison Dr Christopher Addison , Swindon

I should be glad if the Minister, in order to enable me to discuss this matter with more definiteness, would find it convenient to answer a question without prejudice to my being able later to comment on it. I understood him to say that it might be convenient to discuss the relations of the commissioners' powers to those of the authorities in the areas. If that be so, and the Minister will be good enough to answer my question, I should like. to reserve what I have to say on the general discussion rather than on this more limited Amendment. Will the right hon. Gentleman tell us if the expression "local authorities" in the Bill is deliberately introduced to mean, and to mean only, the local authorities, county councils, and other governing authorities in the counties Would it include or exclude a catchment area board, a drainage board, or the work of the Forestry Commissioners?

May I ask also if the insertion of the words in Sub-section (5), "for which no specific grant is payable" is in order to exclude the possibility of the commissioners being able to participate in, or to make grants towards, any schemes for which otherwise any grant is payable As the right hon. Gentleman is well aware, practically every important function, of a public authority by way of improvement is a function towards which some grant may be payable. Whether it be roads, or the provision of reservoirs, drainage, water supplies, or land for cultivation, all those are services for which grants are payable, and I want to know whether it is intended to exclude from the services which the commissioners may assist all those services. It appears to me that they are all excluded, because the commissioners are limited to making grants for any action by a local authority for which no grant is payable. It is true that slag heaps may be one of them, but I am not sure even of that. A grant might be payable under certain conditions, but barring things of that kind, it is almost impossible to think of any public service for which, in one form or another, some grant may not be payable, and it is impossible intelligently to discuss this matter until that vagueness is removed.

In the event of the Minister saying that the Bill is designed to exclude assistance being given by the commissioners for the performance of any of these services by local authorities, would it still be possible for the commissioners, under their powers in Clause 1, Sub-section (1), to carry out on their own initiative any of those services? The words in Sub-section (1) of Clause 1 are, intentionally no doubt, very wide indeed. Certainly the provision of a reservoir would be "designed to facilitate the economic development" of an area, although the provision of a water supply is a function of a local authority. Suppose the commissioners, in their survey of an area, find that the Forestry Commission, for example, are not planting sufficient trees, or a catchment area board is not putting into effect a scheme which they think ought to be put into effect, although the commissioners are required to deal with the appropriate department with which everyone of these schemes is associated, would the commissioners themselves be entitled to initiate and prosecute, whatever that may mean, those works? Would they, for example, be able to carry out a drainage scheme for which a catchment drainage board is the properly constituted authority; or would they be able to provide smallholdings, supposing a county council is not providing them, if they deemed the provision of smallholdings to be necessary in carrying out their functions under Sub-section (1) of Clause 1. Unless we have clear answers to these obvious questions it is difficult to discuss this and the subsequent Amendments. If we are to have a discussion on the relationship of the commissioners and the local authorities, it would be helpful if the right hon. Gentleman could answer some of these inquiries.

8.36 p.m.

Photo of Hon. Oliver Stanley Hon. Oliver Stanley , Westmorland

I have been rather amused by the speech of the right hon. Gentleman. Has it occurred to him that what he is asking me to do is to explain his Amendment? All the words which he used come out of the Amendment moved by the hon. Member for Chesterle-Street (Mr. Lawson).

Photo of Dr Christopher Addison Dr Christopher Addison , Swindon

I am doing it with the best and friendliest of intentions. I know what the Amendment is. I am asking the right hon. Gentleman, in view of the possibility, which he himself mentioned, of a general discussion, to give answers to these other questions which are necessary in order to have an intelligent discussion.

Photo of Hon. Oliver Stanley Hon. Oliver Stanley , Westmorland

I was only pointing out that we are now actually discussing an Amendment moved by the hon. Member for Chester-le-Street, and that all the words I am asked to explain are in that Amendment. In fact, the Amendment merely transposes a. Sub-section of the Bill from one place to another.

Photo of Hon. Oliver Stanley Hon. Oliver Stanley , Westmorland

It alters the words "grant or Ryan" to "financial assistance." It makes no difference because "grant or loan" means "financial assistance." From that point of view, it is clear that the Amendment is unacceptable, as it does not have any practical effect. I am not sure whether this is the time to have a general discussion on the relations of the Commissioners and the local authorities, but it seems to me that the proper time is when we discuss the Question, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill." The group of Amendments to which the Chairman referred as that on which we are to have a general discussion, raises a different topic which hon. Gentlemen opposite regard as of great importance, namely, work for wages or voluntary work.

I can give the right hon. Gentleman some information for which he asked in anticipation of the discussion on the Clause. He is correct when he says that this is designed to exclude from the operations of the Commissioners works for which local authorities are in receipt of specific grants. It would mean obvious overlapping if, where a local authority is already receiving a regular grant for a particular service from a Government Department, the Commissioner were empowered to give additional financial aid. If from the point of view of national policy additional aid is to be given to local authorities, it should surely be given by way of increased grants from the Exchequer and not be left to the discretion of the Commissioner to give a little to one local authority and a little to another. Therefore, such works are deliberately excluded from the purview of the Commissioners. I am advised that the term "local authority" is not confined to county and borough councils and district councils. There are a number of other bodies such as catchment authorities that come within the definition.

Photo of Dr Christopher Addison Dr Christopher Addison , Swindon

Are they also excluded from the purview of the Commissioners?

Photo of Hon. Oliver Stanley Hon. Oliver Stanley , Westmorland

They are excluded if they receive a specific grant in respect of a particular work.

Colonel CHAPMAN:

Are the Tyne Improvement Commission and the Port of London Authority local authorities?

Photo of Hon. Oliver Stanley Hon. Oliver Stanley , Westmorland

The question of the Port of London Authority does not arise as it is outside the area, but I think the other body would be regarded as a local authority. It is difficult without knowing the exact facts about any particular body to say whether it is a local authority or not. I hope hon. Members will realise that we shall have a much better opportunity of discussing the general question of the relationship of the Commissioners and the local authorities when we come to the Question, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill." The Amendment which, on the hon. Gentleman's own admission, is merely a transference of similar words from one part of the Bill to another, has no practical effect, and, as a matter of drafting, it is far more happily placed in the Bill where it is now.

Photo of Dr Christopher Addison Dr Christopher Addison , Swindon

I understand from the right hon. Gentleman that there will be a general discussion.

Photo of Hon. Oliver Stanley Hon. Oliver Stanley , Westmorland

It will be on the Question, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill."

Photo of Dr Christopher Addison Dr Christopher Addison , Swindon

If that be understood, I will not detain the Committee further.

8.42 p.m.

Photo of Mr Edward Fleming Mr Edward Fleming , Manchester, Withington

Most of the remarks I wanted to make were dealt with by the Minister, but I would like to point out that the Clause to which the hon. Member for Chester-le-Street (Mr. Lawson) has proposed this Amendment contains the words "co-operate with Government Departments, local authorities," and so on. If the word "co-operate" means that the commissioners shall be empowered to co-operate in the fullest sense with the local authorities, I agree with the Minister that there is no necessity for adding the proposed Sub-section. Those hon. Members who have had experience on local authorities know that there are many schemes which have been brought forward in the last few years in which great difficulty has been experienced in getting a grant from any particular Department. When a Department has been approached the applicant has been passed on to another, and it is well known that schemes that would have helped to decrease unemployment, particularly in parts of Lancashire, have been held up by what I call without shame red tape on the part of Government Departments. There has been a passing-on of applicants from one Department to another, and perhaps quite rightly, because the head of a Department may not have known whether the application could be dealt with by his Department, but if it were the case that these Departments had no authority to make a grant or loan then this proposed paragraph (c) would undoubtedly assist the commissioners, who would not be overlapping the work of the, authorities.

On the other hand, if the word "cooperate" in the specific part of Subsection means that the commissioners have power to make a specific grant in the cases mentioned, where great delay has been entailed because Departments did not know whether the matter came within their province, I think paragraph (c) is not necessary. However, I am so eager to see these provisions put into operation, and this £2,000,000—and more if possible—spent quickly for the benefit of these depressed areas, that if the Clause does not cover the delay hitherto experienced in dealing with applications I should vote for this Amendment if it were forced to a Division. I would say in passing that I do not agree with the the hon. Member for Blaydon (Mr. Martin) that the hon. Member for Chester-le-Street (Mr. Lawson) was not anxious to assist the Minister in forwarding these proposals. I think he is anxious to improve them if possible, as we all are, and if he could have given, us some instances of works for which no specific grant is possible I should have been greatly interested to hear them, because although I have never had experience on a local authority I have had dealings with them, and I have been trying to think of instances in which the grant could not be obtained, or obtained only after long delay.

Photo of Mr Aaron Curry Mr Aaron Curry , Bishop Auckland

I can give the hon. Member the information he desires. I serve on a local authority in whose district a number of narrow roads were laid out before the War. Every effort is now being made to round off corners and to widen the roads and we are acquiring land and spending money on the work—a very little money at a time—but we can get no grant towards that.

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

The commissioner who went to Durham, made it quite clear that there were a large number of public works which in the ordinary way would not have been passed by Government Departments, but that they had a certain value and ought to receive re-consideration by the Departments.

Photo of Mr Edward Fleming Mr Edward Fleming , Manchester, Withington

I am obliged to my hon. Friends for the information they have given to me. It shows there was every good reason for the hon. Member for Chester-le-Street to bring forward this Amendment, because it gives the Minister an opportunity of helping those who, like myself, have had no experience of local authority work, to understand, when we come to a later stage, whether this Bill will deal with the specific point raised by this, to my mind, very important Amendment.

8.50 p.m.

Photo of Mr George Hall Mr George Hall , Merthyr Tydfil Aberdare

I was very much disappointed by the statement made by the Minister. I hoped he would give an indication to the Committee and to the local authorities of what works could be carried out by local authorities in cooperation with the commissioners. I think every hon. Member present will admit that the success of the work of the commissioners will depend almost entirely on the co-operation they can get from the local authorities, but the local authorities must know the works in respect of which they can receive assistance. The Minister said the commissioners could not give assistance in connection with work for which a local authority would receive a grant from a Government Department, but when we come to the other work of local authorities is there a single branch of their work which does not come under the category of public works? The Minister stated definitely on Monday, when dealing with the limitations of the commissioners: The other limitation—the most important one—is the limitation which is put upon the financial assistance which the commissioner may give to the local authority. It was never intended, and it is not intended now, that these commissioners should act as a sort of channel for giving money to the local authorities for the ordinary run of public works."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 3rd December, 1934; col. 1255, Vol. 295.] I ask the Parliamentary Secretary if he can explain what other work is being done by a local authority which does not come under the category of that for which a grant is paid or which can be designated as public works. Local authorities in the distressed areas want to know, because they are anxious to get on with the preparation of schemes in respect of which it is possible to get assistance from the commissioners. We are almost half way through the winter and unless local authorities can get some intimation from the Minister it will be difficult for them to know what to do.

Would the provision of open air baths be the kind of work which the commissioners could assist with a grant or loan? Then there is the question of the provision of recreation grounds, which are an amenity. In the mining areas the renewing of sewers is an important matterowing to the heavy subsidences caused by underground workings. Is that the kind of work which the commissioners can assist the local authorities to undertake? Can the Parliamentary Secretary tell the Committee of any work which a local authority can carry out to which the commissioners will be able to offer financial assistance in the form of a loan or a grant? The Minister, when questioned about this on Monday, referred vaguely to "certain works" without describing them, and when my hon. Friend the Member for Leigh (Mr. Tinker) asked him to give an example all he could say was that a specific reference had been made to smallholdings schemes of local authorities and that there might be the development of a local amenity which the local authority would be entitled to undertake. What is a local amenity What kind of work is it? Before we come to the Debate on the question of the Clause standing part some information should be given by the Minister, because it is important for local authorities to know exactly what they can expect when the Bill is on the Statute Book. Local authorities are looking for this information. They want to commence their work and to give all the assistance they can to the commissioner. They are anxious to get as much work done as they can in the areas which are served by them.

9.0 p.m.

Photo of Mr Robert Hudson Mr Robert Hudson , Southport

I am in some difficulty in continuing the discussion on this Amendment, because my right hon. Friend has suggested that the most appropriate time to deal with the powers of local authorities would be on the question "That the Clause stand part of the Bill." The hon. Member for Aberdare (Mr. G. Hall) having asked me a specific question, perhaps I may be permitted to give, very briefly, an answer. I understand that the services of local authorities which are grant-aided or for which specific grants are payable, and which are therefore included by the terms of the Sub-section, are such things as housing, roads, education, police and land drainage. Those activities of the local authorities which are not included in the list and for which no specific grants are payable, are all activities which the Commissioners, as I understand it, would be able to help by means of grants. They would include such things as amenities, parks and recreation grounds—sewers I am a little doubtful about, and I speak subject to correction when I say that I rather think they would be included—and certain elements of public health. I do not pretend that that list is in any way exclusive, but it goes to show that there are considerable areas over which the Commissioners have power to give financial assistance and within which it would be possible for local authorities to put forward schemes for their sanction.

I would not like to be understood as committing the Commissioners in any case, but obviously the right course for a local authority to pursue before it goes too fully into a matter or spends too much money in its preparation, is to

write to the Commissioner and say, "If we put before you a scheme for so-and-so which we have in mind, is it the sort of thing to which you would give consideration?" I have no doubt that the commissioner would be able to say "yes" or "no" and so on the one hand avoid useless trouble to the local authority, or, on the other hand, encourage them to take steps in matters in which there is a probability of the Commissioner being able to help them.

Photo of Lieut-Colonel Sir Cuthbert Headlam Lieut-Colonel Sir Cuthbert Headlam , Barnard Castle

What does my hon. Friend mean by "certain elements of public health"?

Photo of Mr Robert Hudson Mr Robert Hudson , Southport

I think the details would be much better discussed on the Question "That the Clause stand part." Frankly, I am not in a position to go into the matter in great detail, but that, I think, is the position.

Question put, "That those words be there inserted."

The Committee divided: Ayes, 46; Noes, 193.

Division No. 15.]AYES.[9.0 p.m.
Adams, D. M. (Poplar, South)Dobble, WilliamLunn, William
Addison, Rt. Hon. Dr. ChristopherEdwards, CharlesMacdonald, Gordon (Ince)
Attlee, Clement RichardEvans, David Owen (Cardigan)Maclean, Nell (Glasgow, Govan)
Banfleld, John WilliamEvans, R. T. (Carmarthen)Mason. David M. (Edinburgh, E.)
Batey. JosephFoot, Isaac (Cornwall, Bodmln)Maxton, James
Bevan, Aneurin (Ebbw Vale)Gardner, Benjamin WalterParkinson, John Allen
Brown. C. W. E. (Notts., Mansfield)Griffith, F. Kingsley (Middlesbro, W.)Smith, Tom (Normanton)
Buchanan, GeorgeGriffiths, T. (Monmouth, Pontypool)Strauss, G. R. (Lambeth, North)
Cape, ThomasGrundy, Thomas W.Thorna, William James
Cocks, Frederick SeymourHall, George H. (Merthyr Tydvll)Tinker, John Joseph
Cove, William G.Holdaworth, HerbertWilliams, David (Swansea, East)
Curry, A. C.Johnstons, Harcourt (S. Shields)Williams, Edward John (Ogmore)
Daggar, GeorgeKirkwood, DavidWilliams, Dr. John H. (Llanelly)
Davies, David L. (Pontypridd)Lansbury, Rt. Hon. GeorgeWilmot, John
Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton)Lawson, John James
Davies, Stephen OwenLeonard, WilliamTELLERS FOR THE AYES.
Mr. John and Mr. Paling.
NOES.
Acland-Troyte. Lieut.-ColonelBrown, Brig.-Gen. H.C.( Berks.,Newb'y)Donner, P. W.
Albery, Irving JamesBuchan-Hepburn, P. G. T.Duggan, Hubert John
Allen, Lt.-Col. J. Sandeman (B'k'nh'd)Burghley, LordDunglass, Lord
Aske, Sir Robert WilliamCadogan, Hon. EdwardEdmondson, Major Sir James
Baillie, Sir Adrian W. M.Campbell, Sir Edward Taswell (Brmly)Elliot, Rt. Hon. Walter
Baldwin, Rt. Hon. StanleyCampbell, Vice-Admiral G. (Burnley)Elmley, Viscount
Baldwin-Webb, Colonel J.Campbell-Johnston, MalcolmFielden, Edward Brocklehurst
Beauchamp, Sir Brograve CampbellCaporn, Arthur CecilFleming, Edward Lascelles
Beaumont, Hon. R.E.B. (Portsm'th.C.)Cayzer, Maj. Sir H. B. (Prtsmth., S.)Fuller, Captain A. G.
Benn, Sir Arthur ShirleyChapman, col. R.(Houghton-le-Sprlng)Galbralth, James Francis Wallace
Bernays, RobertChorlton, Alan Ernest LeofricGillett, Sir George Master man
Birchall, Major Sir John DearmanClayton, Sir ChristopherGledhill, Gilbert
Bossom. A. C.Cochrane, Commander Hon. A. D.Glossop, C. W. H.
Boulton, W. W.Collins, Rt. Hon. Sir GodfreyGoodman, Colonel Albert W
Bowater, Col. Sir T. VanslttartCook, Thomas A.Gower, Sir Robert
Bowyer, Capt. Sir George E. W.Cooke, DouglasGraham, Sir F. Fergus (C'mb'rl'd, N.)
Bralthwalte, Maj. A. N. (Yorks, E.R.)Courtauld, Major John SewellGrattan-Doyle, sir Nicholas
Bralthwalte, J. G. (Hillsborough)Cross, R. H.Greene, William p. C.
Brass, Captain Sir WilliamCrossley, A. C.Grimston, R. V.
Briscoe, Capt. Richard GeorgeCruddas, Lieut.-Colonel BernardGritten, W. G. Howard
Broadbent, Colonel JohnDavidson, Rt. Hon. J. C. C.Guinness, Thomas L. E. B.
Brown, Col. D. C. (N'th'l'd., Hexham)Dawson, Sir PhilipGuy, J. C. Morrison
Brown, Ernest (Leith)Denman, Hon. R. D,Hamilton, Sir George (Ilford)
Hanbury, CecilMills, Major J. D. (New Forest)Sandeman, Sir A. N. Stewart
Hartley, Dennis A.Molson, A. Hugh ElsdaleSanderson, Sir Frank Barnard
Hannon, Patrick Joseph HenryMoore, Lt.-Col. Thomas C. R. (Ayr)Savery, Samuel Servington
Harvey, George (Lambeth, Kenningt'n)Moore-Brabazon, Lleut.-Col. J. T. C.Shaw, Helen B. (Lanark, Bothwell)
Harvey, Major S. E. (Devon, Totnes)Morgan, Robert H.Shaw, Captain William T. (Forfar)
Haslam, Henry (Horncastle)Morrls, Owen Temple (Cardiff, E.)Simmonds, Oliver Edwin
Headlam, Lleut.-Col. Cuthbert M.Morris-Jones, Dr. J. H. (Denbigh)Skelton, Archibald Noel
Heilgers, Captain F. F. A.Morrison, G. A. (Scottish Univer'ties)Somervell, Sir Donald
Horsbrugh, FlorenceMuirhead, Lieut.-Colonel A. J.Somerville, D. G. (Willesden, East)
Howitt. Dr. Alfred B.Munro. PatrickSouthby, Commander Archibald R. J.
Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hackney, N.)Nall, Sir JosephSpears, Brigadier-General Edward L.
Hudson, Robert Spear (Southport)Normand, Rt. Hon. WilfridSpens, William Patrick
Hume, Sir George HopwoodNunn, WilliamStanley, Rt. Hon. Lord (Fylde)
Hunter-Weston, Lt.-Gen. Sir AylmerO'Donovan, Dr. William JamesStanley, Rt. Hon. Oliver (W'morland)
Jamieson, DouglasOrmsby-Gore, Rt. Hon. William G. A.Storey, Samuel
Joel, Dudley J. BarnatoPalmer, Francis NoelStrauss, Edward A.
Jones, Sir G. W. H. (Stoke New'gton)Pearson, William G.Sueter, Rear-Admiral Sir Murray F.
Kerr, Lieut.-Col. Charles (Montrose)Penny, Sir GeorgeSugden, Sir Wilfrid Hart
Kerr, Hamilton W.Percy, Lord EustaceSummersby, Charles H.
Latham, Sir Herbert PaulPerkins, Walter R. D.Tate, Mavis Constance
Law, Sir AlfredPetherick, M.Thomas, James P. L. (Hereford)
Law, Richard K. (Hull, S.W.)Peto, Geoffrey K.(W'verh'pt'n.Bilston)Thomas, Major L. B. (King's Norton)
Leckle, J. A.Pike, Cecil F.Thompson, Sir Luke
Leech, Dr. J. W.Procter, Major Henry AdamThomson, Sir Frederick Charles
Lewis, OswaldPybus, Sir JohnThorp, Linton Theodore
Llddall. Walter S.Radford, E. A.Todd, Lt.-Col. A. J. K. (B'wick-on-T.)
Little, Graham-, Sir ErnestRalkes, Henry V. A. M.Todd, A. L. S. (Kingswinford)
Llewellin, Major John J.Ramsay, Alexander (W. Bromwich)Touche, Gordon Cosmo
Loftus. Pierce C.Ramsay, Capt. A. H. M. (Midlothian)Tufnell, Lieut.-Commander R. L.
Lovat-Fraser, James AlexanderRamsay, T. B. W. (Western Isles)Wallace, Captain D. E. (Hornsey)
Lyons, Abraham MontaguRamsden, sir EugeneWallace, John (Dunfermilne)
MacAndrew, Capt. J. O. (Ayr)Reed, Arthur C. (Exeter)Ward, Irene Mary Bewick (Wallsend)
McConnell, Sir JosephReid, David D. (County Down)Ward, Sarah Adelaide (Cannock)
MacDonald, Rt. Hon. J. R. (Seaham)Reid, William Allan (Derby)Waterhouse, Captain Charles
McLean, Major Sir AlanRhys, Hon. Charles Arthur UWhiteside, Borrat Noel H.
McLean. Dr. W. H. (Tradeston)Rickards, George WilliamWills, Wilfrid D.
Magnay, ThomasRobinson, John RolandWise, Alfred R.
Maltland, AdamRosbotham, Sir ThomasWomersley, Sir Walter
Makins, Brigadier-General ErnestRoss Taylor, Walter (Woodbridge)Worthington, Dr. John V.
Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. M. D. R.Russell, Albert (Kirkcaldy)
Martin, Thomas B.Rutherford, John (Edmonton)TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—
Mills, Sir Frederick (Leyton, E.)Salmon, Sir IsidoreLieut.-Colonel Sir A. Lambert Ward
and Major George Davies.

9.10 p.m.

Photo of Mr David Mason Mr David Mason , Edinburgh East

On a point of Order. Would you be kind enough to explain how it is that you have passed over the manuscript Amendment which I handed in?

Photo of Viscount  Apsley Viscount Apsley , Bristol Central

The hon. Member handed in a manuscript Amendment, but it relates to a matter which has been fully discussed already, both on the Amendment moved by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) and on the first Amendment moved by the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. A. Bevan).

Photo of Mr David Mason Mr David Mason , Edinburgh East

On the point of Order. Your predecessor in the Chair informed me that I should be asked to explain my Amendment. May I ask how you can reconcile your Ruling with that statement?

Photo of Viscount  Apsley Viscount Apsley , Bristol Central

I am afraid I know nothing about that. I cannot alter my Ruling.

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

Is it not customary to allow a Member just to explain his Amendment, even if it is not going to be called? The Chairman does allow a Member to explain what his Amendment is about, and, as this is a manuscript Amendment, it would be rather nice for us to know.

Photo of Viscount  Apsley Viscount Apsley , Bristol Central

The subject of the hon. Member's Amendment has already been very fully discussed on two previous occasions, and, unless there be any considerable doubt about the Amendment, I cannot possibly allow it to be explained.

9.12 p.m.

Photo of Mr Stephen Davies Mr Stephen Davies , Merthyr Tydfil Merthyr

I beg to move, in page 2, line 24, to leave out Sub-section (4).

It is obvious now, after the definition of a local authority that we have had from the Minister of Labour, that, unless this Sub-section is left out, the Bill will have been emasculated to a shadow. The answers that we have received from the Government show that it is now intended that the Bill shall have no material force in assisting the distressed areas. With the removal of this Subsection the Bill, at least on paper, would appear to have some body. If the Subsection is retained—and we can say this more definitely now than, possibly, we have been able to say it since the Bill has come under discussion—there will be nothing left for the commissioners beyond a vague, roving kind of commission somewhere in the nebulous territory outside the obligations and functions of a local government authority. As the discussion on the Bill proceeds, we find that the functions which it was alleged, or which we were persuaded, would be granted to the commissioners are being whittled away hour after hour. The definition which has been given has widened the conception that some of us had of a local authority, for it would include catchment boards, the Forestry Commission, and other things that we had not included in our conception of a local authority.

It is obvious that it is not the intention of the Government that these commissioners shall make any tangible contribution to the depressed areas of this country. During the discussions on the Bill, the Minister is being pressed to state what is left to the local authority, and, if the answer is not the whittling down of another answer, it will be just like the answer we had a few moments ago—an answer shrouded in question marks and ending in an appeal that no more questions of that character should be asked. If the Government do not accept this Amendment, it will be painfully obvious that they have an ulterior motive which they have not up to the present had the frankness to state to the House. We have been told that the commissioner cannot interfere with the obligations and functions of a local authority, and now he cannot even trespass into other matters which are customarily outside the functions and obligations of a local authority. What, then, is left to him? Have the commissioners duties, specified by the Government, but not clearly stated in the Bill? I have a very shrewd suspicion that they have not.

What is the use of these vast pretensions on the part of the Government of their desire and anxiety to help the distressed areas? I have in my pocket a scheme with respect to roads in my constituency which has been whittled down as the result of pressure from different Government Departments. They are roads where danger spots have admittedly existed from the time that road transport was not what it is to-day, and, notwithstanding that there have been reports by representatives of the Government, we have failed to get anything done. We are told that the commissioner cannot help us; hence we have to press the Government. Refusal. to accept this Amendment will be a clear admission that the Government have not sincerely intended to face up to the colossal troubles that exist in the depressed areas. Refusal to accept the Amendment will, in fact, strip the mask of apparent benevolence that the Government have shown. There is no intention of assisting distressed areas, notwithstanding the kindly, wheedling way that the Minister has reacted to the House. We shall be disillusioned if they refuse to accept an Amendment to put some little body into the Bill and to give the Government an opportunity of indicating that they are inspired with a little compassion and a little sincerity.

9.19 p.m.

Photo of Mr Aneurin Bevan Mr Aneurin Bevan , Ebbw Vale

The framers of the Bill have made their intention quite clear that the commissioners shall be rendered as helpless as possible, so they have repeated themselves twice in the same Clause. In the first place, they are compelled to co-operate with the Government Departments in whatever they do and to seek to consult them, and in the second place they are forbidden not only to do anything but to undertake to do anything, without first of all having the permission of the Government Department concerned. I entirely sympathise with the reason why this Sub-section has been put in. I have no complaint at all to make against the Government for doing it, because it embodies their intentions. It has been pleaded from this side that, if the Government really wish to do something substantial for the distressed areas, the various Departments already possess the necessary powers. They are not exercised because the Government do not believe in exercising them. They want to protect themselves from any embarrassment in which the commissioners might place them by initiating enterprises which they themselves have forbidden their own Departments to advance, and therefore the com- missioners are to be confined to the narrowest possible territory, to the most barren sort of activity; in other words, to the levelling of slag heaps and to promoting self-help activities of all kinds. It is only necessary to review the various powers that local authorities and Government Departments have in order to see that the commissioners are indeed rendered most powerless by this provision.

In 1931 a very large number of road and other schemes which have been approved were stopped. Are they being resumed? The Ministry of Transport have power to give 100 per cent. grants in certain cases for the construction of roads. That has not been done. It is not as if the construction of these roads was entirely uneconomic, because many of them are through roads connecting up with more prosperous areas. We are not suggesting roads in distressed areas which are not likely to have any traffic on them. There are lots of through roads which could be undertaken immediately if the Government had any serious intention of spending large sums of money usefully. One of the commissioners might be influenced by a deputation from a local authority to initiate a scheme of that kind, and the Government want to see to it that they are not embarrassed, so the commissioners are expressly forbidden to take a scheme from a local authority and say they will support it by the pressure of their prestige and bring it to the notice of the Government Department. That is a further justification of my hon. Friend's charge that there is no serious intention on the part of the Government to do anything of useful importance.

I should like to ask supporters of the Government to respond to my hon. Friend's challenege or to cease weeping these crocodile tears about the distressed areas. We have laid before the House proposition after proposition which the Government could undertake and which would be of material assistance, but we have had no reply. We raised these questions on the Second Reading and we had no reply from the Secretary of State for Scotland. We raised them on the Money Resolution, and we had no reply from the Minister of Labour. They have been raised this evening, and they have had no reply from the Parliamentary Secretary. The replies to the Debate yesterday and to-day have been of the most perfunctory kind. Their speeches are as perfunctory, as thin, as frivolous, and as vague as the Bill itself.

Some who look at the distressed areas from London have taken the view that long years of economic decline and falling industry have impoverished the distressed areas of a large number of business men of initiative and enterprise. Consequently, it was thought that the people's imagination had flagged and that somebody had to be put there with a new point of view and fresh spirit to take a new line in these matters. That is the argument that has been put forward by the Government. I can appreciate that a man with the Metropolitan attitude of mind who knows nothing at all about these areas might feel that these 10 or 12 years of impoverishment had indeed taken this generation from the depressed areas and that somebody else had to be put there. So the Government have put a commissioner there.

But under the Bill itself the commissioner is being deliberately deprived of any power of initiative. Roads are within the local authority's power; water supply is within the local authority's power; schemes for colliery drainage are expressly forbidden to him because they are connected with profit-making enterprises and he cannot touch those. Afforestation schemes are in the hands of the Forestry Commissioners; housing is in the hands of the local authority; sewage schemes are in the hands of statutory boards of all kinds; recreation grounds are sometimes in the hands of local authorities—and when they are not, the commissioner may stimulate effort in the making of recreation grounds. But in every piece of activity on which large numbers of men can be employed the commissioner is expressly forbidden to initiate by this Sub-section, because these things all involve a Government Department or the local authorities. So that the activities of the commissioners are deliberately circumscribed by the Government in this Sub-section. I do not quarrel with that. The Government are entitled to circumscribe the activities of the commissioners; but I do quarrel with the claim that the Government are seriously attempting to do something for the depressed areas.

You cannot have it both ways. You cannot confine these commissioners to organising skittle-alleys in the distressed areas, and at the same time say that you are really engaged upon an experimental piece of work that may be of real importance in rescuing these areas from their present condition. I say to the Government that in this Sub-section they are deliberately putting all the obstruction they can in the way of the commissioners. Every petty permanent official in a Government Department will be a more important person than the commissioner himself. The Minister of Labour tried to fob off the previous Amendment by saying that work would be expedited in this House because he would be responsible, and not a Committee of the Cabinet. Under the wording of this Bill he can only be responsible for Ids own Department. He cannot be held responsible for any other Government Department. So that, first of all, the Govern-merit say: "We must throw a sop to Cerberus." There has been a lot of agitation about the distressed areas. The Government decided that they must do something, so they appointed two commissioners, whose appointment is made in the first part of Clause 1. But having appointed these commissioners, the Government seem to have concluded that the commissioners might embarrass them by suggesting, countenancing, or initiating matters which would force upon the Government the necessity for consideration and action.

The Government, therefore, have apparently decided to tic up the commissioners as much as possible by every safeguard they could put into the Bill, so as to confine their activities as narrowly as possible. Speaking with deliberation and with all sincerity, I say it is monstrous that the Government should excite the hopes of these poor people in this callous fashion. I have received to-day a communication from local authorities in my own area to the effect that they are calling a conference of all the urban districts for the purpose of discussing schemes to submit to the commissioner. All over South Wales hopes are being excited, and people really believe that something serious is going to be done. Yet we here in the House of CommonsConservatives, Liberals and Socialists—all know quite well that the language of the Bill is so framed that all these hopes are bound to be dashed to the ground. It would have been far more generous and decent for the Government to have done nothing at all to excite these hopes in the beginning rather than to have raised them only to dash them to the ground, as they are going to do. I will prophesy that in six months' time the commissioner who has been appointed will be one of the most disillusioned, cynical and soured persons that the Government have ever used as a decoy to do a shabby job of work. He will be compelled to turn down scheme after scheme. He will be frustrated by Government Department after Government Department, and he will realise that he is merely being used as a cat's-paw for a Government already advanced in the stages of senile decay.

9.32 p.m.

Photo of Lieut-Colonel Sir Cuthbert Headlam Lieut-Colonel Sir Cuthbert Headlam , Barnard Castle

The gloomy and well-adjectived speeches we have just heard would carry more weight if this Amendment really meant anything. It seems to me obvious that when the commissioners are appointed and entrusted with the expenditure of public moneys there must not be duplication of their work and the work of Departments. So far as I can see, there is nothing in this Sub-section which would prevent Government Departments from accepting the proposals of the Commissioners.

Photo of Mr Aneurin Bevan Mr Aneurin Bevan , Ebbw Vale

Why do they not accept the schemes available now?

Photo of Lieut-Colonel Sir Cuthbert Headlam Lieut-Colonel Sir Cuthbert Headlam , Barnard Castle

The Commissioners will have to consult the Government Department primarily responsible for such expenditure.

Photo of Mr Aneurin Bevan Mr Aneurin Bevan , Ebbw Vale

These schemes are before Government Departments now. Why do they not put them in hand now?

Photo of Lieut-Colonel Sir Cuthbert Headlam Lieut-Colonel Sir Cuthbert Headlam , Barnard Castle

I will try to explain. The hon. Member suggested that the Ministry of Transport was able to give a 100 per cent. grant towards the making of a road. But he should remember that a Government Department has to consider not only works in distressed areas but also works all over the country. Consequently it cannot afford to give a 100 per cent. grant just because an area is distressed, though I admit that larger sums are paid out in some areas than in others, having regard to their financial condition. But when the hon. Member suggests that it is right and proper that these commissioners, who are responsible for the spending of public money, should be able to spend it without any consultation with the Department directly responsible, it seems to me to be an absurd proposition. I should like to see the commissioners as powerful as possible, and I believe they will be. I am certain that it is the intention of the Government that the commissioners shall really work for the benefit of the locality. I do not want them to spend their money in huge undertakings which are more properly the work of other Departments, but to assist in the development, and in the amenities generally, of the depressed areas to the best advantage of the people.

Photo of Mr Aneurin Bevan Mr Aneurin Bevan , Ebbw Vale

The hon. and gallant Gentleman is misrepresenting the meaning of the sub-section. There is not a suggestion in the sub-section that the Minister should spend anything on a scheme.

Photo of Lieut-Colonel Sir Cuthbert Headlam Lieut-Colonel Sir Cuthbert Headlam , Barnard Castle

All the subsection does is to say that if the commissioners wish to undertake or do any-think for which any other Department is primarily responsible, they shall first consult with the Government Department, otherwise the duties and tasks which are to be set 'Before the commissioners are contained in the following sub-section, and that is what I would recommend my hon. Friends to study.

9.37 p.m.

Photo of Mr Robert Hudson Mr Robert Hudson , Southport

I think that a good deal of the criticism of this particular Sub-section is entirely misconceived. If the hon. Member, for Merthyr Tydfil (Mr. S. Davies) will not think me rude, I would suggest that he had not really read it when he moved the Amendment, because throughout the whole of his speech dealing with the Sub-section he spoke about local authorities. There is not a word about local authorities in the Subsection. We finished with local authorities on the previous Amendment. When the Bill was being discussed in the earlier stages, it was made clear that the object of appointing Commissioners was that their action should be supplemental to, and not in substitution for, the existing powers and duties of Government Departments. I can well imagine if, for example, this Sub-section had not been in the Bill, hon. Members getting up and saying, "You are asking the Commissioners to do what the Government ought to do. Why do not the Government do these things?" The hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. A. Bevan) would have made an impassioned speech saying that we had set. up the Commissioners as decoys or as camouflage. It is quite clear that the existing duties and powers of Government Departments will continue and be pressed forward under the Bill as before. Under the Bill we are setting up Commissioners in the depressed areas to supplement the existing powers of the authorities, and it is for that reason necessary to make clear that their powers are supplemental, and not in substitution of existing powers, and it is equally clear that if there are any grounds upon which the Commissioner thinks it is desirable in the interest of the depressed areas to do something which the Department could do, there is nothing to stop him from going to the Department and obtaining permission.

9.40 p.m.

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

The hon. Gentleman must not think that there is no real substance in the Amendment and in the complaint that my hon. Friends have made. When the Chancellor of the Exchequer stood at that Box he gave his reasons for the appointment of the commissioners, the principle of which was that they would act more expeditiously than could the Department. I am very sorry, indeed, that I have not before me the exact words of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, because I am sure that if I read them they would impress the hon. Gentleman. This complaint has been widely made outside by people who are not attached to any party. The hon. Member must realise when he looks at the Bill and considers the emphasis laid upon the safeguards, that the fact still remains that the commissioner is to be placed in the same position as local authorities by a kind of circumlocution method. He can be held up, and it is possible and highly probable that the prophecy of my hon. Friend about disillusioned commissioners will prove to be correct. Everything depends upon whether the Department looks upon this as not being disturbed at all. The commissioners will simply be a kind of decoy, and this will have the effect of short-circuiting the work they were sent to do.

We desire to discuss the subsistence provision to-night, otherwise we would have carried on our opposition in regard to this matter for a longer period.

9.42 p.m.

Photo of Mr Edward Williams Mr Edward Williams , Ogmore

I could understand the Parliamentary Secretary's language that the money spent by commissioners was supplemental to that which local authorities could spend if the Departments granted them the amount of money they required. We cannot accept the words of the Parliamentary Secretary, because we know that during the last two-and-a-half years there has been a deliberate ban placed upon local authorities proceeding with their work. The hon. Gentleman's language in regard to my hon. Friend the Member for Merthyr Tydfil (Mr. S. Davies) was a little ungracious. It is obvious that the local authority is involved through some Department in having to make application before work can be done. I could cite concrete examples from my own constituency in which the Government use the medium of the local authorities. The local authorities have either to approach the Ministry of Health or the Board of Education. When there is anything which the local authority desires to do,

it has to approach some Government Department. Most of the work is really work in respect of which they have to apply to Departments either for cash or for authority to proceed. In my constituency, during the last few months, the whole of the local authorities—and their areas are mentioned in the Schedule of the Bill as depressed areas—have endeavoured to obtain authority from the Ministry of Health to proceed with a sewerage scheme and they have been prohibited, although it is true that a Government inspector has been in the area. Some of the plant belonging to these local authorities was established when the population was only 50 per cent. of the present population. Every application made by local authorities for something to be done in their areas has been sabotaged by the Department, and until the Department lifts the ban on local authorities, how can we believe that there is any desire to use powers supplemental to the existing powers?

Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Clause."

The Committee divided: Ayes, 209; Noes, 43.

Division No. 16.]AYES.[9.45 p.m.
Acland-Troyte, Lieut.-ColonelCaporn, Arthur CecilGoodman, Colonel Albert W.
Agnew, Lieut.-Com. P. G.Cayzer, Maj. Sir H. R. (Prtsmth., S.)Gower, Sir Robert
Albery, Irving JamesChapman, Col.R. (Houghton-le-Spring)Graham, Sir F. Fergus (C'mb'rl'd, N.)
Allen, Lt.-Col. J. Sandeman (B'k'nh'd)Chorlton, Alan Ernest LeofricGreene, William P. C.
Apsley, LordClayton, Sir ChristopherGriffith, F. Kingsley (Middlesbrol, W.)
Aske, Sir Robert WilliamCochrane, Commander Hon. A. D.Grimston, R. V.
Ballile, Sir Adrian W. M.Colville, Lieut.-Colonel J.Gritten, W. G. Howard
Baldwin, Rt. Hon. StanleyCook, Thomas A.Guinness, Thomas L. E. B.
Baldwin-Webb, Colonel J.Cooke, DouglasGuy, J. C. Morrison
Barclay-Harvey, C. M.Copeland, IdaHamilton, Sir George (Ilford)
Beauchamp, Sir Brograve CampbellCross, R. H.Hanbury, Cecil
Beaumont, Hon. R.E.B. (Portsm'th, C.)Crossley, A. C.Hanley, Dennis A.
Benn, Sir Arthur ShirleyCruddas, Lieut.-Colonel BernardHannon, Patrick Joseph Henry
Bernays, RobertCulverwell, Cyril TomHarvey, George (Lambeth, Kenningt'n)
Birchall, Major Sir John DearmanCurry, A. C.Harvey, Major S. E. (Devon, Totnes)
Bossom, A. C.Davidson, Rt. Hon. J. C. C.Haslam, Henry (Horncastle)
Bouftan, W. W.Davies, Maj. Geo. F. (Somerset, Yeovil)Headlam, Lieut.-Col. Cuthbert M.
Bowater, Col. Sir T. VansittartDawson, Sir PhilipHellgers, Captain F. F. A.
Bowyer, Capt. Sir George E. W.Denman, Hon. R. D.Holdsworth, Herbert
Boyd-Carpenter, Sir ArchibaldDuggan, Hubert JohnHorsbrugh, Florence
Braithwaite, Maj. A. N. (Yorks, E.R.)Elliot, Rt. Hon. WalterHowitt, Dr. Alfred B.
Braithwaite, J. G. (Hillsborough)Elmley, ViscountHudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hackney, N.)
Brass, Captain Sir WilliamEmrys-Evans, P. V.Hume, Sir George Hopwood
Briscoe, Capt. Richard GeorgeEvans, David Owen (Cardigan)Jamleson, Douglas
Broadbent, Colonel JohnEvans, Capt. Ernest (Welsh Univ.)Joel, Dudley J. Barnato
Brocklebank, C. E. R.Evans, R. T. (Carmarthen)Johnstone, Harcourt (S. Shields)
Brown, Col. D. C. (N'th'l'd., Hexham)Flelden, Edward BrocklehurstJones, Sir G. W. H. (Stoke New'gton)
Brown, Ernest (Leith)Fleming, Edward LascellesKerr, Lieut.-Col. Charles (Montrose)
Brown, Brig.-Gen. H.C.(Berks., Newb'y)Foot, Dingle (Dundee)Kerr, Hamilton W.
Buchan-Hepburn, P. G. T.Foot, Isaac (Cornwall, Bodmin)Latham, Sir Herbert Paul
Burghley, LordFuller, Captain A. G.Law, Sir Alfred
Burgin, Dr. Edward LeslieGalbraith, James Francis WallaceLaw, Richard K. (Hull, S.W.)
Cadogan, Hon. EdwardGanzonl, Sir JohnLeckie, J. A.
Campbell, Sir Edward Taswell (Brmly)Gillett, Sir George MastermanLeech, Dr. J. W.
Campbell, Vice-Admiral G. (Burnley)Gledhill, GilbertLewis, Oswald
Campbell-Johnston, MalcolmGluckstein, Louis HalleLiddall, Walter S.
Lindsay, Kenneth (Kilmarnock)Patrick, Colin M.Somervell, Sir Donald
Little, Graham-, Sir ErnestPearson, William G.Somerville, D. G. (Willesden, East)
Llewellin, Major John JPercy, Lord EustaceSouthby, Commander Archibald R. J.
Lloyd, GeoffreyPerkins, Walter R. D.Spears, Brigadier-General Edward L.
Loftus, Pierce C.Petherick, M.Spender-Clay, Rt. Hon. Herbert H.
Lovat-Fraser, James AlexanderPeto, Geoffrey K. (W'verh'pt'n, Bilst'n)Spens, William Patrick
Lyons, Abraham MontaguPike, Cecil F.Stanley, Rt. Hon. Lord (Fylde)
MacAndrew, Capt. J. O. (Ayr)Procter, Major Henry AdamStanley, Rt. Hon. Oliver (W'morland)
McConnell, Sir JosephRadford, E. A.Storey, Samuel
McCorquodale, M. S.Raikes, Henry V. A. M.Strauss, Edward A.
Mac Donald, Rt. Hon. J. R. (Seaham)Ramsay, Alexander (W. Bromwich)Sueter, Rear-Admiral Sir Murray F.
McLean, Major Sir AlanRamsay, Capt. A. H. M. (Midlothian)Sugden, Sir Wilfrid Hart
McLean, Dr. W. H. (Tradeston)Ramsay, T. B. W. (Western Isles)Tate, Mavis Constance
Magnay, ThomasRamsden, Sir EugeneThomas, James P. L. (Hereford)
Maitland, AdamRea, Walter RussellThomas, Major L. B. (King's Norton)
Makins, Brigadier-General ErnestReed, Arthur C. (Exeter)Thompson, Sir Luke
Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. D. R.Reid, David D. (County Down)Thomson, Sir Frederick Charles
Martin, Thomas B.Reid, William Allan (Derby)Thorp, Linton Theodore
Mason, David M. (Edinburgh, E.)Rhys, Hon. Charles Arthur U.Todd, Lt.-Col. A. J. K. (B'wick-on-T.)
Mills, Sir Frederick (Leyton, E.)Rickards, George WilliamTouche, Gordon Cosmo
Mills, Major J. D. (New Forest)Robinson, John RolandTufnell, Lieut.-Commander R. L.
Molson, A. Hugh ElsdaleRosbotham, Sir ThomasWallace, Captain D. E. (Hornsey)
Moore, Lt.-Col. Thomas C. R. (Ayr)Ross Taylor, Walter (Woodbridge)Wallace, John (Dunfermline)
Moore-Brabazon, Lieut.-Col. J. T. C.Russell, Albert (Kirkcaldy)Ward, Irene Marv Bewick (Wallsend)
Morgan, Robert H.Rutherford, John (Edmonton)Ward, Sarah Adelaide (Cannock)
Morris, Owen Temple (Cardiff, E.)Salmon, Sir IsidoreWaterhouse, Captain Charles
Morris-Jones, Dr. J. H. (Denbigh)Sandeman, Sir A. N. StewartWhiteside, Borras Noel H.
Morrison, G. A. (Scottish Univer'ties)Sanderson, Sir Frank BarnardWills, Wilfrid D.
Muirhead, Lieut.-Colonel A. J.Sassoon, Rt. Hon. Sir Philip A. G. D.Wise, Alfred R.
Munro, PatrickSavery, Samuel ServingtonWomersley, Sir Walter
Nail, Sir JosephShaw, Helen B. (Lanark, Bothwell)Worthington, Dr. John V.
Nunn, WilliamShaw, Captain William T. (Forfar)
O'Donovan, Dr. William JamesSimmonds, Oliver EdwinTELLERS FOR THE AYES.—
Ormsby-Gore, Rt. Hon. William G.A.Simon, Rt. Hon. Sir JohnLieut.-Colonel Sir A. Lambert
Palmer, Francis NoelSmithers, Sir WaldronWard and Sir George Penny.
NOES.
Adams, D. M. (Poplar, South)Dobbie, WilliamMcEntee, Valentine L.
Addison, Rt. Hon. Dr. ChristopherEdwards, CharlesMaclean, Neil (Glasgow, Govan)
Attlee, Clement RichardGardner, Benjamin WalterMaxton, James
Banfield, John WilliamGeorge, Major G. Lloyd (Pembroke)Nathan, Major H. L.
Batey, JosephGriffiths, George A. (Yorks,W. Riding)Parkinson, John Allen
Bevan, Aneurin (Ebbw Vale)Griffiths, T. (Monmouth, Pontypool)Smith, Tom (Normanton)
Brown, C. W. E. (Notts., Mansfield)Grundy, Thomas W.Strauss, G. R. (Lambeth, North)
Buchanan, GeorgeHall, George H. (Merthyr Tydvil)Thorne, William James
Cape, ThomasHicks, Ernest GeorgeTinker, John Joseph
Cocks, Frederick SeymourKirkwood, DavidWilliams, David (Swansea, East)
Cove, William G.Lansbury, Rt. Hon. GeorgeWilliams, Edward John (Ogmore)
Daggar, GeorgeLawson, John JamesWilliams, Dr. John H. (Llanelly)
Davies, David L. (Pontypridd)Leonard, WilliamWilmot, John
Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton)Lunn, William
Davies, Stephen OwenMacdonald, Gordon (Ince)TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—
Mr. John and Mr. Paling.

Photo of Mr Robert Bourne Mr Robert Bourne , Oxford

Before I call on the hon. Member for Govan (Mr. Maclean) to move the next Amendment, I should like to say that I think we had better take the discussion on his Amendment and on the three subsequent Amendments standing in the name of the hon. Member for East Rhondda (Mr. Mainwaring), together. I suggest, if it is for the convenience, of the Committee, that the discussion on the Amendment of the hon. Member for Govan should cover both points, reserving to the Opposition, if they so desire, the right to take a, Division on the first Amendment in the name of the hon. Member for East Rhondda. I will put the Question so that they may take a Division, if necessary.

9.54 p.m.

Photo of Mr Neil Maclean Mr Neil Maclean , Glasgow Govan

I beg to move, in page 2, line 39, to leave out paragraph (i).

We are agreeable to have a discussion sufficiently wide to cover the points in the four Amendments. The paragraph which I seek to delete relates to the giving of powers to the commissioners to grant financial assistance to any undertaking carried on with the primary object of providing means of subsistence and occupation for the persons engaged in the undertaking with a view to making them wholly or partially independent of assistance under the Unemployment Assistance Act, 1934, or under the enactments relating to the relief of the poor. The Government have got themselves into a difficult position in spite of the wonderful strides they claim to have made towards prosperity. They have not covered themselves with glory. Instead of taking these matters into their own hands and dealing with them as a strong Government should, a Government which claims to have made such a success of all other Measures, they propose to hand this matter over, not, to the Minister of Labour, who usually deals with these questions, but to commissioners who are to be appointed, and give them power to hand them out, sub-let the work, to certain other organisations which have no statutory authority. We view the proposal as a danger. It is a menace, or it might become a menace, to the standards of life which have been set up in the country mainly through the work of the trade unions. If this power is given to outside bodies, the purpose which the Minister claims to have in view, of doing something for the unemployed, might well mean that the standards of life will be reduced to such a degree that others will be thrown out of employment, and the circle of unemployment widened much more.

The commissioners in their reports constantly refer to the good work they found being done in the areas by certain voluntary organisations. They specified some of these organisations, and I take it that the organisations referred to in the Clause are those mentioned by the commissioners in their reports. The money which has been voted is Government money, and direct control for its expenditure should be retained in the hands of the Government, so that without having to wait for a reply from the commissioners we shall be able to have an immediate reply from the Minister himself to any complaint which may be made. These voluntary organisations may be very good. There are other organisations which are also very good, but I am certain that the Government would never dream of handing over these powers to them. Some of these organisations gather the men together and out of subscriptions which they receive set them to do certain work, with a purpose. They are given a small allowance. These organisations do not pay the men the standard rate of wages, because they say it is not productive work and does not compete with any other forms of labour. A small allowance is given in the way of pocket money—

Photo of Hon. Oliver Stanley Hon. Oliver Stanley , Westmorland

Can the hon. Member give us some example of what he has in mind? A great deal depends on it. What are they doing?

Photo of Sir Herbert Holdsworth Sir Herbert Holdsworth , Bradford South

It may be possible that these people may come within the Clause. Could they be independent of unemployment assistance relief if they only get pocket money?

Photo of Mr Neil Maclean Mr Neil Maclean , Glasgow Govan

I hope the hon. Member for Bradford, South (Mr. Holdsworth) will read the paragraph again. It says: to any undertaking carried on with the primary object of providing means of subsistence and occupation for the persons engaged in the undertaking with a view to making them wholly or partially independent of assistance. That may mean not the payment of small sums; and the sums may be increased. But, nevertheless, the fact that they are partially dependent on public assistance relief means that their income is so low that the public assistance committee will give them Poor Law relief.

Photo of Mr Neil Maclean Mr Neil Maclean , Glasgow Govan

Hon. Members must use their intelligence.

Photo of Sir Herbert Holdsworth Sir Herbert Holdsworth , Bradford South

My intelligence tells me that it is under the Unemployment Assistance Act, 1934.

Photo of Mr Neil Maclean Mr Neil Maclean , Glasgow Govan

If hon. Members of the Liberal party do not know what is actually happening under the operation of the Unemployment Assistance Board, nothing that can be said by any other hon. Member will enlighten them, particularly after the long Debates we had on the Unemployment Bill. We believe that by allowing these voluntary organisations to be brought within the scope of the Bill, by allowing the commissioners to have power to enlist their aid, and then make payments to these men which will not render them independent of any assistance under the Unemployment Insurance Act, these people can be used in undertakings in such a manner that they will be used as cheap labour.

Photo of Mr Thomas Martin Mr Thomas Martin , Blaydon

I am most concerned about that statement. Does the hon. Member mean that these undertakings sell the products of the labour for profit?

Photo of Mr Neil Maclean Mr Neil Maclean , Glasgow Govan

That is not the point under discussion. One never knows what may happen under the Bill. The fact is that we are producing certain things which ordinarily are produced by labour paid at standard rates. The local authorities, I am reminded, do not go out to sell products, but yet they pay trade union rates. We are not concerned where the article is going. We are concerned with the manufacture of the article or the doing of the particular class of work.

Photo of Hon. Oliver Stanley Hon. Oliver Stanley , Westmorland

I do not want to interrupt, but I wish to make clear the effect of the Amendment. The place where the article goes is of supreme importance, because unless it is sold and for gain this Amendment has no application to it.

Photo of Mr Neil Maclean Mr Neil Maclean , Glasgow Govan

The commissioners' report states: The activities of the Society of Friends and Scottish National Union of Allotment Holders have made a contribution of immense value to the well-being of the unemployed, and the results present a striking example of activity which has directly rehabilitated the unemployed while providing both mental and physical benefits. Certain industrial firms, local authorities, etc., have also recognised the value of this activity and have provided land and other facilities for its development. I quite agree. I am accepting this with all that it means. But the matter is not ending there. You are giving the commissioners power to use these particular organisations, and you cannot lay down or you do not say that you will lay down any conditions that any produce which is brought from the soil by them will not be sold by the individuals who raise it. That is one of the matters which must be taken into account. There are other points in the statement of the commissioners. There are other voluntary organisations, not merely those mentioned in the report, which could be used. There is no specification in the paragraph of the Clause as to the actual organisations to which the commissioners can hand over some of their duties. It is the vagueness of it to which we object, and the fact that you are going to hand over public money to voluntary organisations to be expended by them when the money ought to be expended by the individuals who are being empowered by this Bill. We hold that these individuals must be strictly under the control and direction of the Minister of Labour, and that no outside organisation which has no connection with the Ministry of Labour or this House should be entitled to do any of that work. We consider that the whole question of voluntary organisations should be outside this Bill entirely. The Minister is being voted money by this House to expend upon certain proposals for the reconditioning of unemployed men and women. I hate the word "reconditioning." It ought never to be applied to a human being. It was used in the Scottish Poor Law Bill and we succeeded in getting it taken out.

Photo of Hon. Oliver Stanley Hon. Oliver Stanley , Westmorland

It is not used in this Bill.

Photo of Mr Neil Maclean Mr Neil Maclean , Glasgow Govan

But it is a phrase that is used in the report of the commissioners. It is there used time and time again. We are not going to consider unemployed men and women as being reconditioned for something that is to come afterwards. The unemployed are entitled to ordinary consideration and should not be looked upon as though they were merely machines which had fallen into slight disrepair and had to be tuned up for productive purposes. We hope that the Minister, if he is asking the commissioners to carry out the work, will see that they carry it out, and that no voluntary organisation shall receive any directions or powers from the Minister or the commissioners to do something which ought to be done by a Government Department.

10.12 p.m.

Photo of Mr Tom Smith Mr Tom Smith , Normanton

I would like, first of all, to ask the Minister why the Government have considered it necessary to put a Clause like this in the Bill. I understand that under the Unemployment Act the Unemployment Assistance Board have already got this power, not only to provide men with work of certain kinds in order to recondition them, but power to make grants to voluntary bodies to do certain work. If that be so, it looks to me as if there is likely to be a good deal of duplication. I remember that during the passage of the Unemployment Act my name was attached to a similar Amendment to this and the moment it appeared in the Press I received communications from numbers of people who were associated with certain voluntary organisations dealing with unemployed men. They all assured me that the work they were doing was absolutely essential, both in the national interest and in the interest of the unemployed themselves. But if I had my way a good many of these voluntary organisations would not touch the unemployed in any shape or form. I have not a word to say in hostility to the voluntary spirit. Indeed I think it is a good thing that well-meaning individuals should bind themselves together in order to give voluntary support to a good cause. I have not the slightest objection to it so long as they are spending the money that they have collected for that purpose. But if we get these bodies recognised by the Government and receiving money from the Government, and doing work which the Government and the local authorities ought to do, then I think we have a right to complain.

I would ask the Minister to make clear why this provision has been thought necessary. As I read the Clause, voluntary organisations must not be engaged in any work carried on for purposes of gain. If the work is carried on for purposes of gain, the commissioners are debarred from making grants. This paragraph states that it must be an undertaking carried on with the primary object of providing means of subsistence and occupation for the persons engaged in it. Will the Minister give us one or two examples of the kind of organisation which he has in mind? He was anxious to ascertain what my hon. Friend the Member for Govan (Mr. Maclean) had in mind. We would like to know what is in his mind concerning this matter. Supposing a body of people in a distressed area make up their minds that a certain pit-heap ought to be removed and they get permission from the colliery company to remove it and they propose to get unemployed men to do the work. Is that the kind of undertaking which the Minister has in mind?

Suppose a voluntary organisation is prepared to take a certain number of people from a distressed area and put them to do certain work on the land—so long as they continue to receive either unemployment pay or assistance under Part II of the Unemployment Act—if the Government, through the commissioner, provides some assistance. Suppose that voluntary organisation expresses its willingness to "recondition" those men, to put them into good physical trim, on those terms—is that what the Minister has in mind? Frankly, we are afraid that this Clause might be used to give grants to voluntary organisations for certain kinds of work which ought to be paid for at trade union rates of wages. It is no use arguing that these organisations are not going to sell the products of the work for profit. We are suspicious of the intention of the Clause, and I am glad, Captain Bourne, that you have allowed a fairly wide discussion on this point. If work of this kind is to be done, it ought to be done at trade union rates and the men who do it ought not to feel that they are recipients of charity.

There is another point. The amount at the disposal of the commissioners is £2,000,000, or £500,000 for each area. According to the speeches we have heard the Government expect wonderful things from the commissioners for that £2,000,000. But if the commissioners are to receive applications from all kinds of voluntary organisations it is going to limit the amount available for use in other ways. I think the commissioners ought to be saved—almost I might say from themselves—in this matter. Once it is laid down that they have power to make grants to voluntary organisations there will be applications from all kinds of bodies, useful and otherwise, and even if those bodies do not get any money, they will divert the commissioners' attention from other matters. I hope the Minister will be frank with the Committee and tell us what is in his mind. If he can convince us that his intention is different from what we imagine it to be, we shall be glad.

10.19 p.m.

Photo of Hon. Oliver Stanley Hon. Oliver Stanley , Westmorland

I think it would be convenient if I were to reply at this stage and make the position clear. There is a good deal of confusion apparently as to the meaning of this Sub-section. The Sub-section has nothing to do with voluntary bodies. The power of the Commissioners to assist voluntary bodies lies in the general power which is given in Sub-section (1). I will explain exactly the origin of this paragraph that we are discussing. In the early debates upon this subject I informed the House that one of the limitations that we intended to put on the powers of the Commissioner was one which would prevent him giving assistance to undertakings which were carried out for financial gain, and I think it was generally agreed that it was undesirable that he should be in a position to subsidise such industries.

If hon. Members will look at Subsection (5) paragraph (a), they will see the limitation which I then proposed. But when we considered the matter more closely, we saw one or two kinds of case which might have been held to be covered by that limitation and which we should have been unable to assist. One instance was the suggestion made, I think, by a Commissioner, of assistance to an experiment on a large-scale farm. There, of course, the produce of the farm would be sold, and as it would presumably be said that the farm was carried on for gain, it would be impossible for the Commissioner to have started something of that kind. Another instance was the kind of cooperative colony to which an hon. Member referred, the Upholland experiment, where, I believe, as a matter of fact, practically all the produce raised by these people who join in this cooperative affair is consumed by the members of the colony, but where occasionally something is sold. The mere fact of selling a cabbage every now and then might have brought the whole of that experiment within the definition of an undertaking carried on for financial gain, and it would have been impossible for the Commissioner to have given any assistance to them at all.

With regard to what my hon. Friend asked me about a voluntary body which wanted to remove a pit heap, that is not dealt with by this paragraph at all. There is no limitation upon it. Though I realise the point which hon. Members have in mind, and which no doubt they would wish to raise when we discuss the question of the Clause standing part of the Bill, so far as leaving out this paragraph is concerned, it would make no difference whatsoever to the powers of the commissioner to assist voluntary bodies. The only effect would be to prevent him giving assistance in one or two cases such as those I have mentioned, where it might be held that a thing that really was carried on for the occupation of the unemployed people was technically an undertaking carried on for gain and, therefore, on to which the limitation would apply and which the Commissioner could not help.

10.23 p.m.

Photo of Mr Edward Williams Mr Edward Williams , Ogmore

We have in South Wales and other parts of the country welfare committees which provide recreation grounds and so on. They are not undertakings carried on for gain, but they employ throughout the country a substantial number of persons. Sometimes they make excavations and do work of that sort. Would such bodies come under the definition that the Minister has mentioned? They would not be seeking gain in any way, although they would be employing persons.

Photo of Hon. Oliver Stanley Hon. Oliver Stanley , Westmorland

The test is not employment. It is what is done with the product of the work. If the work is not done with the idea of ultimate gain, then it is not subject to the limitation in the first place and, therefore, the proviso has no effect.

10.24 p.m.

Photo of Mr Neil Maclean Mr Neil Maclean , Glasgow Govan

Does not the proviso which the Amendment would delete widen the field from the paragraph which makes it impossible for the commissioner to grant anything to any voluntary organisation that is manufacturing or producing anything sold for gain? Would it not enable some outside body whose primary object is not to produce for gain to be assisted? Consequently the deletion of the paragraph would mean a tightening up and would remove fears from hon. Members on this side and make it possible for the Minister to know what particular organisation can be brought within the scope of the paragraph.

10.26 p.m.

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

We have two cases in Scotland which the Minister has not touched. In one case, a number of well-meaning people at Falkirk brought a number of unemployed men together to bake bread. They sold that bread without making a profit and undercut the usual price of the bread in the district. A difficult situation arose in that instance. Would the Minister support an organisation such as that? Organised labour had to take strong action in that case, and they stopped it because it was prejudicing the men usually employed in the baking business. The other is a much larger case and still hangs fire. It concerns some bog land at Airdrie. The advisability of making it a public park has been discussed for a number of years, but the cost of draining it would be beyond the resources of the Airdrie Town Council. The atmosphere has been created that it would be suitable work on which to put the unemployed at less than the usual rate of wages. They tried to use the power of the Employment Exchanges to force the men to do this work and undercut the wages usually paid for such work. Would the Minister support a scheme of that kind? We are afraid that these voluntary organisations will employ men and not pay the proper standard of wages. Here was a municipality which was prepared to do this work provided the men would work for a sort of nominal wage, a subsistence wage, not the recognised wage such as would have been paid if the work had been done under normal conditions.

10.30 p.m.

Photo of Mr Cecil Pike Mr Cecil Pike , Sheffield, Attercliffe

I should like to warn the Minister of the danger of giving a general reply to the question submitted because lie may find that a reply in the affirmative would involve certain allocations of money being made to co-operative societies. They claim that they are not concerns which carry on business for the purpose of gain, and an application by them to the Commissioner for help might be subject to rather peculiar conditions. I wish to know, too, whether, in the event of a voluntary organisation setting machinery into motion for the specific purpose of destroying ordinary business which is run for gain, it would on those grounds, and those grounds alone, have a right to claim assistance from the Commissioners.

10.32 p.m.

Photo of Mr Edward Williams Mr Edward Williams , Ogmore

The reply I received from the Minister has not altogether cleared my mind. At the, moment I can think of no organisation connected with the mining community in. South Wales other than the Welfare Committee. It does not function for gain, it does not sell any products, but it does engage trade union labour to construct institutions. It may be said to produce recreation, but it does not sell it. What about those persons who are engaged in substantial numbers by the Welfare Committee? Secondly, if a doubt arises as to whether an undertaking is producing something that is to be sold for gain or not who is to decide that point? Thirdly, assuming that a substantial number of persons agree to work for a voluntary society on some scheme, but there are some unemployed individuals who are not prepared to do so, will the latter lose their unemployment benefit?

Assuming that most of the unemployed agree to co-operate with a voluntary society to do certain work—say, in making a football ground in the mountains, because in South Wales we have no fields in the valleys available for football—but that a number refuse to undertake the work, would the job be treated as test work and the few unemployed objecting be told that they must either do the work or suffer a partial or entire loss of unemployment benefit? We are dissatisfied with this paragraph because the word "partially" is in it. That is the gravamen of our case. The word "wholly" would perhaps fit the case put by one of the hon. Members for Bradford, but the word "partially" implies that it would be possible for persons to work for less than the trade union rates. In other words, they might have part unemployment benefit and part subsistence allowance from some other source. That word will have to be defined by the Minister. It seems to us that the commissioner will have the right to decide how it will be applied.

10.35 p.m.

Photo of Mr Arthur Caporn Mr Arthur Caporn , Nottingham West

Between now and the Report stage, would the Minister be good enough to consult his legal advisers as to whether the words "primary object" are the best that can be found, in view of the purpose which he has in mind? Those words imply that there might be one or more other objects with which the institutions are being run. I can conceive the case of a factory which might be started with the primary object of providing a means of subsistence for people employed there, but having as its secondary object the division amongst subscribers and shareholders of such profits as were made. Such a factory might be competitive with other industries. I am sure that the Minister does not desire or intend that the commissioner should have power to subsidise a factory of that kind, nor do I believe that the commissioner would do it, but it might be wise to make certain in the Measure itself that the money provided would not be used for such a purpose.

10.37 p.m.

Major LLOYD GEORGE:

I wish to ask about another word in the Subsection which seems equally vague, and that is the word "undertaking." In the first part of the Sub-section it says: the carrying-on of any undertaking for the purpose of gain. That might be applied to land drainage. Take a land drainage scheme: those words would apply to a farm carried on for the purpose of gain, but the actual work might be done for the purpose of providing subsistence for somebody working there. The word "undertaking" would include a farm which was definitely carried on for the purpose of gain, and we should approach the conditions of last century when there were subsistence wages which became quite a scandal.

10.38 p.m.

Photo of Mr Kenneth Lindsay Mr Kenneth Lindsay , Kilmarnock

There appears to be a little lack of clarity in the wording of the Sub-section, which I regard primarily as a sort of nursery for smallholdings. The word "undertaking" is a little unfortunate. I visualise, as the right hon. Gentleman said earlier in the Debate, a certain man who has had to be nursed into smallholdings. He may receive some form of transitional payment or unemployment benefit. The case quoted by the commissioner for Cumberland is rather a dangerous section, because the scheme is heavily subsidised by the Pilgrim Trust and other organisations who are gradually getting men pushed on to smallholdings. Every hon. Member would like to take the liberal view—[HON. MEMBERS: "Which one?"]—in the broadest sense of the word—of this complicated and difficult problem, in order to get men from the difficult stage, after they have been out of work for two years, on to a smallholding where they can make good. But there is a danger that he may be competing with the genuine smallholder. One thing that we do not want is to create rural slums, which we should be liable to do if we were giving partial subsistence and gradually these small colonies came to be selling their produce on a large scale as well. I suggest that the wording of this Sub-section should be somewhat clarified before Report, so that at any rate some of us may know exactly what it means. I certainly took it as referring to a stage before the genuine smallholder, where a man is working, either occupationally or on his own account, and it is impossible to sell his produce—schemes such as some of us have seen, like that at Upholland and elsewhere in the country. It is very limited, and the word "primary" does make it rather difficult. Could we have some enlightenment?

10.41 p.m.

Photo of Lieut-Colonel Sir Cuthbert Headlam Lieut-Colonel Sir Cuthbert Headlam , Barnard Castle

I hope that the Minister will be very careful about changing this word. I quite appreciate what the hon. Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. K. Lindsay) has said about smallholdings and agree that putting people on to the land is an object to be aimed at. But there are other undertakings that can be carried out for the benefit of unemployed men, primarily for their subsistence, but enabling them to improve in workmanship and gradually to build up an industry. As I understand hon. Members above the Gangway, all that they are really concerned with is that, if an industry is started, trade union wages should, if possible, be paid if the industry is competing with other industries. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] I want to make it clear to hon. Members above the Gangway that in my opinion—I am only putting my opinion against theirs—it is better that people should be given a chance to work, and that gradually, as their work improves, they should get better wages.

If the primary object is to provide means of subsistence and occupation for persons engaged in any undertaking, with a view to making them wholly or partially independent of assistance, it would be possible under this paragraph, as I understand it, for the commissioners to assist in improving the wage conditions of the people engaged in any budding industry. This seems to me to be wholly desirable. In the county of Durham, where some little industries have been already started, they are beginning to grow up. Obviously, they cannot pay the trade union rate of wages to start with, but if you can start and build up an industry you have done something, and I suggest to hon. Members above the Gangway that they should look at the matter in that light. The question of working for gain is covered in paragraph (a) of Sub-section (5). I should like to know whether "gain", as used in paragraph (a), would apply in eases where all the profits of an industry go back into the business for the purpose of paying wages? I think it would be a great pity to limit the word "undertaking" to a particular type of new industry, as I think my hon. Friend suggested.

10.44 p.m.

Photo of Mr Joseph Batey Mr Joseph Batey , Spennymoor

The lion and gallant Member for Barnard Castle (Lieut.-Colonel Headlam) completely misunderstands our object. He asks us if we mean that, when an industry of this kind is started, trade union rates of wages should be paid. Certainly we do, but we mean more than that. Wherever unemployed men are engaged on work, they should be paid trade union rates of wages. In the early hours of this morning the Minister made a statement on that question. If I understood him aright, he said that there are many classes of work for which he agreed that trade union rates of wages should be paid, but he said that, if it was a question of beautifying the district, laying out recreation grounds, or such matters as that, he did not agree that trade union rates of wages should be paid. The Civil Lord in his report for Durham recommends that men should be engaged at less than trade union rates of wages, he says: There is a different category of work which could be undertaken at less cost and which would be of great value in providing occupation for the permanent surplus of labour attached to the coalfields. From such inquiries as I have made I think many of the unemployed would be glad to accept a proposal to work for transitional payment, increased by a small additional sum weekly, with working clothes and midday meals. The provision of playgrounds is the clearest example of what is indicated. The need for them is urgent, and it might perhaps be possible to obtain some financial assistance towards the cost of materials from the National Playing Fields Association, reinforced by a special appeal relating directly to the derelict areas. Are we to understand that under this paragraph the commissioners would have power to engage men in that work when they were not paid full trade union wages? If that is the object, I am strongly opposed to it. I hold that, if unemployed men are called upon either to level pit heaps or to make recreation grounds, or any work of that description, they ought to be paid trade union wages.

10.47 p.m.

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

I think the right hon. Gentleman understands that we have very great fears, on genuine grounds, as to the operation of this Sub-section, and there is very strong feeling throughout the country and very great danger is apprehended. It certainly would not do any good to these areas if the only result of the commissioners' efforts was subsistence work which would undermine trade union wages and reduce the purchasing power of the workers.

10.48 p.m.

Photo of Hon. Oliver Stanley Hon. Oliver Stanley , Westmorland

I am afraid I have failed even now to make the position clear. There is a very important point as to whether in any circumstances, at any time, for any work, the Commissioners should be allowed to assist any scheme on which trade union rates of wages are not being paid. That is a very important point which has obviously to be discussed, but, if hon. Members will take it from me, it has nothing whatever to do with the paragraph that they are moving to leave out. Every instance that has been raised is an instance of a voluntary body to which the Commissioners would still be able to give assistance even if the paragraph were left out. That power is inherent in the general powers in Clause 1. If hon. Members were successful in carrying their Amendment, it would still be possible for the Commissioner to assist in every single one of the cases they have brought to my notice. With regard to sonic of the fears which have been expressed by hon. Members in another part of the Committee, I am prepared to look at the wording again if they think it is clumsily expressed. I think I have made clear what it was that we wanted to save from the limitation put upon the Commissioners assisting in any way undertakings to be carried on for gain.

Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out to the word 'means,' in line 40, stand part of the Clause."

The Committee divided: Ayes, 199; Noes, 42.

Division No. 17.]AYES.[10.50 p.m.
Acland-Troyte, Lieut.-ColonelGluckstein, Louis HaliePatrick, Colin M.
Agnew, Lieut.-Com. P. G.Glyn, Major Sir Ralph G. C.Pearson, William G.
Albery, Irving JamesGower, Sir RobertPenny, Sir George
Allen, Lt.-Col. J. Sandeman (B'k'nh'd)Graham, Sir F. Fergus (C'mb'rl'd, N.)Percy, Lord Eustace
Apsley, LordGreene, William P. C.Perkins, Walter R. D.
Aske, Sir Robert WilliamGriffith, F. Kingsley(Middlesbro', W).Peto, Geoffrey K.(W'verh'pt'n, Bilst'n)
Astor, Viscountess (Plymouth, Sutton)Grimston, R. V.Pike, Cecil F.
Bailey, Eric Alfred GeorgeGuinness, Thomas L. E. B.Pownall, Sir Assheton
Baillie, Sir Adrian W. M.Gunston, Captain D. W.Procter, Major Henry Adam
Baldwin, Rt. Hon. StanleyGuy, J. C. MorrisonRadford, E. A.
Baldwin-Webb, Colonel J.Hamilton, Sir George (Ilford)Raikes, Henry V. A. M.
Beauchamp, Sir Brograve CampbellHanbury, CecilRamsay, Alexander (W. Bromwich)
Beaumont, Hon. R.E.B. (Portsm'th,C)Hanley, Dennis A.Ramsay, Capt. A. H. M. (Midlothian)
Benn, Sir Arthur ShirleyHannon, Patrick Joseph HenryRamsay, T. B. W. (Western Isles)
Bernays, RobertHarvey, Major S. E. (Devon, Totnes)Ramsbotham, Herwald
Birchall, Major Sir John DearmanHaslam, Henry (Horncastle)Ramsden, Sir Eugene
Blindell, JamesHeadlam, Lieut.-Col. Cuthbert M.Rea, Walter Russell
Boothby, Robert John GrahamHellgers, Captain F. F. A.Reed, Arthur C. (Exeter)
Bossom, A. C.Holdsworth, HerbertReid, William Allan (Derby)
Boulton, W. W.Horsbrugh, FlorenceRhys, Hon. Charles Arthur U.
Bowyer, Capt. Sir George E. W.Howitt, Dr. Alfred B.Rickards, George William
Boyd-Carpenter, Sir ArchibaldHudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hackney, N.)Robinson, John Roland
Braithwaite, Maj. A. N. (Yorks, E. R.)Hume, Sir George HopwoodRosbotham, Sir Thomas
Braithwaite, J. G. (Hillsborough)Hunter-Weston, Lt.-Gen. Sir AylmerRoss Taylor, Walter (Woodbridge)
Brass, Captain Sir WilliamJamleson, DouglasRussell, Albert (Kirkcaldy)
Briscoe, Capt. Richard GeorgeJoel, Dudley J. BarnatoRutherford, John (Edmonton)
Broadbent, Colonel JohnJohnstone, Harcourt (S. Shields)Salmon, Sir Isidore
Brocklebank, C. E. R.Kerr, Lieut.-Col. Charles (Montrose)Sandeman, Sir A. N. Stewart
Brown, Col. D. C. (N'th'l'd., Hexham]Kerr. Hamilton WSanderson, Sir Frank Barnard
Brown,Brig.-Gen.H.C.(Berks., Newb'y)Keyes, Admiral Sir RogerSassoon, Rt. Hon. Sir Philip A. G. D.
Buchan-Hepburn, P. G. T.Latham, Sir Herbert PaulSavery, Samuel Servington
Burghley, LordLaw, Richard K. (Hull, S.W.)Shakespeare, Geoffrey H.
Butt, Sir AlfredLeckie, J. A.Shaw, Helen B. (Lanark, Bothwell)
Campbell, Sir Edward Taswell (Brmly)Leech, Dr. J. W.Shaw, Captain William T. (Forfar)
Campbell, Vice-Admiral G. (Burnley)Liddall, Walter S.Simmonds, Oliver Edwin
Caporn, Arthur CecilLindsay, Kenneth (Kilmarnock)Skelton, Archibald Noel
Cayzer, Maj. Sir H. R. (Prtsmth., S.)Little, Graham-, Sir ErnestSomervell, Sir Donald
Cazalet, Thelma (Islington, E.)Llewellin, Major John J.Somerville, Annesley A. (Windsor)
Chapman, Col. R.(Houghton-le-Spring)Lloyd, GeoffreySouthby, Commander Archibald R. J.
Chorlton, Alan Ernest LeofricLockwood, John C. (Hackney, C.)Spears, Brigadier-General Edward L.
Clarke, FrankLoftus, Pierce C.Spens, William Patrick
Clayton, Sir ChristopherLovat-Fraser, James AlexanderStanley, Rt. Hon. Lord (Fylde)
Cochrane, Commander Hon. A. D.Lyons, Abraham MontaguStanley, Rt. Hon. Oliver (W'morland)
Colville, Lieut.-Colonel J.MacAndrew, Lieut.-Col. C. G.(Partick)Storey, Samuel
Cook, Thomas A.McCorquodale, M. S.Strauss, Edward A.
Cooke, DouglasMacdonald, Capt. P. D. (I. of W.)Sueter, Rear-Admiral Sir Murray F.
Copeland, IdaMcLean, Dr. W. H. (Tradeston)Sugden, Sir Wilfrid Hart
Crookshank, Capt. H. C. (Gainsb'ro)Maitland, AdamTate, Mavis Constance
Crossley, A. C.Makins. Brigadier-General ErnestThomas, James P. L. (Hereford)
Cruddas, Lieut.-Colonel BernardMargesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. D. R.Thompson, Sir Luke
Culverwell, Cyril TomMartin, Thomas B.Thomson, Sir Frederick Charles
Curry, A. C.Mason, Col. Glyn K. (Croydon, N.)Thorp, Linton Theodore
Duggan, Hubert JohnMills, Sir Frederick (Leyton, E.)Todd, Lt.-Col. A. J. K. (B'wick-on-T.)
Duncan, James A. L. (Kensington, N.)Mills, Major J. D. (New Forest)Touche, Gordon Cosmo
Eastwood, John FrancisMolson, A. Hugh ElsdaleTree, Ronald
Elliot, Rt. Hon. WalterMoore-Brabazon, Lieut.-Cot. J. T. C.Tufnell, Lieut.-Commander R. L.
Elmley, ViscountMorgan, Robert H.Wallace, Captain D. E. (Hornsey)
Emrys-Evans, P. V.Morris, Owen Temple (Cardiff, E.)Ward, Sarah Adelaide (Cannock)
Evans, Capt. Ernest (Welsh Univ.)Morris-Jones, Dr. J. H. (Denbigh)Waterhouse, Captain Charles
Fleiden, Edward BrocklehurstMorrison, G. A. (Scottish Univer'ties)Whiteside, Borras Noel H.
Fleming, Edward LasceliesMuirhead, Lieut.-Colonel A. J.Wills, Wilfrid D.
Foot, Dinale (Dundee)Munro, PatrickWilson, Clyde T. (West Toxteth)
Foot, Isaac (Cornwall, Bodmin)Nunn, WilliamWise, Alfred R.
Fuller, Captain A. G.O'Donovan, Dr. William JamesWomersley, Sir Walter
Ganzonl, Sir JohnO'Neill, Rt. Hon. Sir Hugh
Gillett, Sir George MastermanOrmsby-Gore, Rt. Hon. William G.A.TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—
Gilmour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir JohnPalmer, Francis NoelLieut.-Colonel Sir A. Lambert Ward
and Major George Davies
NOES.
Adams, D. M. (Poplar, South)Davies, David L. (pontypridd)Kirkwood, David
Addison, Rt. Hon. Dr. ChristopherDavies, Rhys John (Westhoughton)Lansbury, Rt. Hon. George
Attlee, Clement RichardDavies, Stephen OwenLawson, John James
Banfield, John WilliamDobble, WilliamLeonard, William
Batey, JosephEdwards, CharlesLunn, William
Bevan, Aneurin (Ebbw Vale)Evans, R. T. (Carmarthen)Macdonald, Gordon (Ince)
Brown, C. W. E. (Notts., Mansfield)Gardner, Benjamin WalterMcEntee, Valentine L.
Buchanan, GeorgeGriffiths, George A. (Yorks,W. Riding)Maclean, Nell (Glasgow, Govan)
Cape, ThomasGroves, Thomas E.Maxton, James
Cocks, Frederick SeymourGrundy, Thomas W.Nathan, Major H. L.
Cove, William G.Hall, George H. (Merthyr Tydvil)Parkinson, John Allen
Daggar, GeorgeHicks, Ernest GeorgeSmith, Tom (Normanton)
Strauss, G. R. (Lambeth, North)Williams, Edward John (Ogmore)TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—
Tinker, John JosephWilliams, Dr. John H. (Llanelly)Mr. John and Mr. Paling.
Williams, David (Swansea, East)Wilmot, John

Ordered, "That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again."—[Captain Margesson.]

Committee to sit again To-morrow.

The remaining Orders were read, and postponed.