I beg to move, in page 5, line 43, to leave out "commissioners," and to insert:
Commissioner for the depressed areas in England and Wales or for any deputy commissioner appointed under this Act.
I think the House would not expect, after the very long and full debates which have occurred on previous occasions, that I should make a long series of observations, and I think that that would be the less desirable because I am sure that Members in many parts of the Bo-use will wish once again to state in their final form their various comments, favourable or unfavourable, upon this Bill. But there are one or two things which appear to me to be desirable to put before the House, especially by one who is at present connected with the Government of Scotland. I should like to say a word or two on the advantages of the proposals in this Bill from the point of view of one who, for the last three years, has been intimately concerned with the government of Scotland. I think that any Minister who is concerned with the government of Scotland, in view of the concentration of offices in the hands of the Secretary of State, has a general purview of the public activities of the government of Scotland that no single Minister so easily has with respect to England. Therefore, when my right hon. Friend asked me if I would move the Third Beading of the Bill, I addressed my mind to the question of what advantages I felt that this Bill would bring from the point of view of one responsible for the government of Scotland, and I found that in so regarding it I brought rather to a focus the provisions, of the Bill.
From the point of view of those who, on the one hand, are trying to develop and to accelerate the work of land settlement in Scotland, and, on the other hand, are preparing a Bill to deal very comprehensively, all over Scotland and not in distressed areas alone, with such questions as the rehousing of an overcrowded people, and are trying to deal, administratively or legislatively, with the general problems of Scotland, it will be found to be of real assistance that in the depressed areas especially there will be a commissioner whose attention will be concentrated on—and who will have for the purpose a sum which we think for the present is substantial—this situation and the features and characteristics of the depressed areas. I am sure, from such experience as I have had after over three years of work in connection with the government of Scotland, that the existence of such a commissioner, endowed with power, will be a real reinforcement in handling the problem in Scotland, and mutatis mutandis I have no doubt that exactly the same will prove to be the case on account of the existence of a similar situation in other distressed areas.
I think it is clear, from the reports of the investigators, the provisions of the Bill, and the general discussions that have taken place in the House on the Bill, that everyone is looking forward with interest to the work that the commissioner will be able to do with regard to the land. Even there I am sure that we shall gain, and I mention that particularly because, owing to the form of land settlement legislation which we have in Scotland, the Government are constantly dealing with land settlement. Even where, as I say, it is the normal function of the Government and the Department of Agriculture to further land settlement, the existence of a commissioner with special powers and supplies will be of advantage from the point of view of developing land settlement in one form or another, and in particular in experimenting with the various forms of dealing with the land. Even in Scotland, where land settlement as a whole is so much more the direct concern of the Government than it is south of the Tweed, I think it will be of real value.
I do not think the House as a whole is familiar with the experiments which for the last two years we have been making in Scotland in giving to miners plots of land much smaller than the ordinary smallholdings, but quite definitely larger than allotments, varying in size between a third of an acre and an acre. We have been able to do that, as it happens, with the ordinary money that we have as a result of our particular form of land legislation, but while we are doing that, we have had to do it all over the industrial region, and even there I am sure there will still be room for the commissioner to do more in the depressed areas and to do special things.
We have at the moment 780 holdings, but even there, in a work with which Scottish Members are familiar and which meets with general acceptance on all sides of the House, I am sure the commissioner will be able to further, and assist, and develop that work inside this very area where it has already been in operation. Therefore, this is one point where the commissioner's existence and presence will reinforce the armament of the State. It has been said, and very naturally said, that this is a new experiment and a new proposal in State aid. I am satisfied that in the immense problems connected with the depressed areas there is room for immediate experiment, not merely as a final proposition, but as a stage in our understanding of how they are to be dealt with. There is all the difference between theorising as to what should be done and having the opportunity with some money behind it of putting an experiment into practice. In the practical administration of affairs and the development of new ideas there is all the difference between the stage when you are thinking out a proposition in the laboratory and the stage when you are trying it out even on a small scale with a certain amount of money. In trying out a thing you meet new difficulties and new problems and sometimes new hopes. That is a valuable side of this scheme for dealing with the depressed areas.
The Industrial Transference Board's report of 1928 showed us even then what was wanted. It would be an easy party gibe to ask why the Government in power did not do anything. The answer is that the world situation, as reflected in Britain and augmented by policies which from our point of view were unwise, produced a situation in which it was impossible to deal expressly with depressed areas. As soon as the general situation brightened there could be no excuse for delay in dealing with the matter, and as soon as possible after the turning of the tide we applied ourselves to it. The House is naturally far more interested in this experiment from a practical point of view than from a theoretical point of view, but it is the case that in this Bill we are debating a new method of dealing with a great problem. The commissioner will occupy a status which we can only guess at at the moment, but I believe we have invented a functionary of a very interesting sort, not with the attributes of the permanent civil servant, or those of a Minister, or those of a mere private individual, but a man with a public status, with the status of a public person, yet with the elasticity of a private individual.
That is only guess work, but I think it is worth while to point out not only that the matter is of intense interest as giving the State an opportunity for experiment, but that in making these proposals we are blazing a new trail with regard to personal functions. As these functions go on it may well be found that the peculiar position of the commissioner which I have indicated may give him specially easy relations in dealing with private individuals, with local authorities and others, because he will approach them from a new point of view, and they will approach him from a new angle of vision. These are observations of only a general character, and I would like with emphasis to repeat that from the point of view of a Minister who, perhaps more than any other, has an opportunity of judging what is the effect of the existence of the commissioner, the presence of a commissioner concentrated on these depressed areas with a certain amount of money and with the new status will be of value in reinforcing the resources of the Government.
I beg to move, to leave out "now," and, at the end of the Question, to add "upon this day six months."
We have come to the final stage of the Bill which is based upon the reports of the investigators sent to the depressed areas. Those reports aroused great expectations in the minds of Members in every part of the House and of the public in general, but the Bill has given as little satisfaction on the Government benches as it has given to those of us who sit opposite the Government. The question of depressed areas has been disturbing hon. Members from those areas for many-years. There were times when we almost despaired of ever getting the Government to realise the nature of the problem and the conditions prevailing in those areas. As the years have gone on, there has been aroused in the country, among people far away from the depressed areas, a great deal of sympathy and concern for the condition of things prevailing in those areas. I want to pay my tribute to that great section of the public which, although it has no direct interest, has been very deeply disturbed and has at times shown its concern in a voluntary way and in a magnificent spirit which is worthy of the best sentiments and the finest traditions of this country. Governments have been far behind public opinion in dealing with this question. I emphasise that side of the matter, because I have had to say some rough and strong things about the attempt to make voluntary organisations do things which they never can do in relation to this problem. Although I wish to emphasise that point, I wish it to be clearly understood that we are not in the least under-rating the finer side of British public life which is trying to do a little in this respect.
The Bill as we now have it is very much the Measure which we were given originally. The right hon. Gentleman has accepted some Amendments, but on the whole the Bill is almost untouched. That is because the Government decided that on neither Bide of the House would there be an opportunity of making any real amendment. The Government said: "We are going to appoint the commissioners, to state their functions, and give them £2,000,000, and, as far as the House is concerned, it will never increase the amount nor change the functions of the commissioners." The Government saw to it, by the kind of Money Resolution which they introduced, that there would be no amendment. The hon. Gentleman who moved the Third Reading told us of the advantages of having commissioners on the spot whose minds would be concentrated on the immediate problems in the areas. That, he says, is a great change. We ask now, as we have asked right through these Debates: What are to be the really effective powers of the commissioners for dealing with this problem? When the Chancellor of the Exchequer made his announcement of the Government's policy, he said that the object of the appointment of the commissioners would be to short-circuit the ordinary method of dealing with Government Departments. He pointed out that those methods were very often slow and that they had acquired the description of being bound up with red tape. I have not the same optimism as the hon. Gentleman, even with regard to the powers of the commissioners for a quick and ready use of their functions in order to achieve things quickly.
If the hon. Member will look at the new Clause which has been adopted to-day he will find in Sub-section (2) that there is a great extension of powers. In fact, I thought it was a dangerous extension. He will see that power is given to make orders to obtain such supplementary and consequential provisions as the Minister may consider necessary.
I do not see that that touches the point at all. If the hon. and learned Member will look at Sub-section (3) of Clause 1 he will see that the commissioners shall act under the general control of the appropriate Minister and that it shall be their duty to keep in touch with Government Departments and other authorities. Sub-section (4) is, I think more ominous. It says:
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.
That means that the commissioners will probably find themselves going from Department to Department with some of the old arguments with which Ministers and ex-Ministers are so familiar, and with not the power of a Minister, and certainly not the necessary experience, for dealing with those Departments. But where is a commissioner to have the power to act directly? I have already had a mass of correspondence from people who are interested in land settlement and have operated schemes, and they say that the Bill is anything but direct in its methods for purposes of that kind. While I will not deal at length with that point there is one particular side of it to which I
wish to draw attention. On Second Reading I ask what were the powers of the commissioners for dealing with the pumping out of mines which are flooded, and I was told that they could make suggestions to the Secretary for Mines, who would consider them; but he has already stated that he has no power to deal with the question, although it is one of first-rate importance from the point of view of finding immediate work. The Civil Lord of the Admiralty, in his report on Durham, said that in the derelict areas there were mines which had not worked for many years, but that there was almost a guarantee that those mines would work again if they were pumped.
Everybody knows what is happening. A short time ago I read an article in the "Northern Echo," written by someone who was evidently an experienced miner and also had technical knowledge of the matter, in which he described what I as a miner know to be the case. He said that water had been gaining on the south-west coalfield of Durham on a colossal scale. I dealt with this on Second Reading, and think we ought to have something more explicit on this point from the Government. The writer of that article spoke of there being roundabout the West Auckland Colliery something in the nature of a subterranean lake of 10 square miles, always filling and, consequently, always seeking for an outlet. I happen to know that the West Auckland Colliery is closed, and that at Thrislington Colliery the water was gaining ground to such an extent that the owners had to go back to the Eldon Colliery, which had been closed, and undertake the pumping of Eldon Colliery in order to keep their own colliery in workable condition. There is a great mass of opinion, not only among the miners but among the technical men of the industry, that this great mass of water continually pressing upon the lower areas towards the sea constitutes a great danger, and I have heard a very able engineer say that a wall of coal 10 yards thick, I think, is a mere nothing in the face of the pressure from this giant lake. I should have thought that if there was one question with which the commissioners had the right to deal direct it would be this, because it would avoid the red tape methods of Government Departments in finding work. The Secretary for Mines knows very well that everybody desires that the question shall be settled and that pumping shall go on on a big scale, but no one is responsible either for pumping the pits dry or looking after the question of flooding.
Can the hon. Member say whether he knows of any scheme originated by the coalowners in that district for carrying out this work themselves for their own salvation and advantage?
I do not know whether the owners have originated any scheme, but I know there is a scheme which was drawn up by engineers under which it is pretty certain that pumping could be carried out effectively. I believe the commissioner who visited Durham dealt with that point. He states on page 112 of the report:
The draft of a scheme to deal with the water in part of the coalfield in South-West Durham has been submitted by Messrs. Dorman Long & Co.; it appears from outside inquiries that it is feasible from an engineering point of view and that it would reduce the pumping costs for pits at present working and safeguard other collieries from the danger of inundation, quite apart from its possible value as a means of de-watering certain pits now closed.
It does not, however, appear to be worth while having this proposal examined in detail until it is known whether the Government are prepared to consider the unification of royalties.
I do not know whether I should be in order in dealing now with that question, but I would remind the Government that the Prime Minister gave me an answer to the effect that the Government were considering the unification of royalties. I hope it is an active consideration, and that that answer was not an attempt to put us off. There is another phase of the question which ought to receive attention. One section of partners in this business has been lying silent. They have no responsibility and they are nonexistent until such time as the pits are pumped dry and begin to work again, and then they come forward for their royalties. I submit to the Government that if people have no responsibility for keeping the pits dry they have no right to own royalties. That cannot be called a question of theory or of mere opinion, it is a fact. The way in which these pits are allowed to become flooded and derelict while the royalty owners escape
all responsibility ought to receive very serious consideration from the Government. Our objection to this Bill is fundamental. We say that the depressed areas are merely the spear point of unemployment. It is true the areas have had to sustain a heavy burden of unemployment over many years, but it is not the areas that are so much concerned as the industries which have spread to other parts of the country. We say that if the Government limit the problem by dealing with these particular areas they ought to pay attention also to other questions which are involved. As I said on Second Reading, we cannot dissociate this problem from that of the raising of the school age or the lowering of the age at which people become entitled to pensions. It may be that there are some who are too optimistic about the employment that would follow from the raising of the school age and the lowering of the age for pensions.
No, I should not make any such suggestion. What I do suggest is that we cannot deal effectively with the root of the distress in these areas unless we deal with larger questions of policy, some of which I have mentioned. Then there is the question of the direction of industry. I do not think that either this or any other Government can sit with folded arms and allow industry to go where it pleases up and down this country. I do not want to repeat what I have said before about the possibility of great danger arising from the agglomeration of great masses of industrial workers in areas on the outskirts of London.
What I say is that there is a problem for the Government of the day in the continuous expansion of industries in the area round London. I say the Government ought to consider the location of industries in the light of the situation in these depressed areas, which ought to be supplied with the lighter industries. The right hon. Gentleman can make what use he likes of that. I did not raise the question for the purpose of scoring party points. It is better for a nation to get its workers and its younger people out into the wider spaces. I do not think it is good for an area to be growing at the rate of this great Metropolis, and as one who has had quite a little bit of experience in industrial matters and industrial trouble I can tell the right hon. Gentleman that the Government of this country will never know trouble has begun until they find themselves in industrial conflict with the united workers in a great area such as the Metropolis is now becoming. Everybody will regret it then; there will not be any scoring of party points if ever that state of affairs should come to pass.
This Bill does not touch the edge of the problem. The £2,000,000 that is given is merely an indication of the Government's conception of the problem. The Government say: "You cannot measure the problem by money." A certain amount of play may be made with a statement of that kind. I think there is a clear indication that the Government do not mean to do anything on a scale worthy of the problem which they are called upon to face. There is the question which I put during the Second Reading, and raised during the Committee stage, which they have not yet settled or to which they have not given any answer, as to whether they have abandoned their antagonism to large-scale public works. In all these areas there are useful public works waiting to be done and which might be done if the commissioners had power to give the necessary grants on a big scale.
I make no apology for referring once more to the great work which would not have been done had the principle of public works not been accepted by the Government of the day between 1929 and 1931. I see the Minister of Health upon the Front Bench; he has decided upon a survey for water purposes. There has been a great outcry about the shortage of water. The Labour Government gave Durham a very large grant to make a great reservoir, which is now a very fine piece of work. You stand on the moors nearly 2,000 feet above the sea, and you can see the streams coming down the Pennines. This reservoir is draining about 100,000 acres of land and gathering up the waters to convey them ultimately to people in different parts of the country. There were those who said that that work was a waste of money, and according to the standard which the Government accept it was a waste. The Government say that that work is a kind of relief work, but let anyone go and see that reservoir, where about 700 men are working. No one can say that those men are wasting their time. I sometimes think that the Government's finance is very questionable when dealing with public works. Go to the reservoir and see many older men working there. I believe that the principle of the Ministry of Labour is first of all to take men who are married or married men with families. They usually take the men with the largest families, men who are riveted and held down in that area.
In regard to the amount of unemployment benefit which has been saved on those men and to the grant which has been given by the Government Departments concerned, it would be very interesting to know whether the Government had not actually saved in putting in hand that public work. That great work was accounted as a kind of relief work, but it turns out merely to be in advance of the opinion of the present Government because the Minister of Health has gone ahead with a survey for water. When the question of public works is examined, it will be discovered that the financial experts who advise the Government and determine their financial policy on those matters are just as wrong on the general question as on the particular question of the making of the reservoir. If the Government are still antagonistic to a policy of public works, what is the good of this Bill? All they propose is the kind of work that could be done by ordinary voluntary organisations. They do not mean to do anything on a big scale. For that reason, the Bill is certainly nothing like equal to the problem which has to be faced, and we shall vote for its rejection.
Mr. LLOYD GEORGE:
Those who have any experience of the House know that this is not a propitious time to discuss any matter of importance, because it is the morrow of a very exciting Debate. The House must have time to assimilate the lessons of yesterday. While I do not in the least minimise the enormous importance of the problem which has been discussed during the past three days, I do not think that it is more important for this country than the question which we are discussing now. It does not matter how well you provide for the government of the Empire outside unless the heart of the Empire is sound and healthy. I am, therefore, clearly of opinion that we have arrived at the stage where, unless we face this problem of the chronic evil of unemployment, we may manoeuvre ourselves, into a position which would be disastrous to our strength and prestige.
This is the 13th, if it is not the 14th, year of abnormal unemployment. We refer with a certain amount of pride to the fact that our unemployment is not comparable with that of America and other countries, and that we are so much better off than America. I was always doubtful of those ragged speeches. I should not have thought that it was altogether a wise reflection to impress on your creditor how much better off you are than he is, when you have still not paid his bill. There has been far too much of that kind of speech from the Treasury Bench in reference to the United States of America. Notice is taken of it each time, and they say, "If you are so much better off than we are, is it not about time you paid your debts to us"? This is about the 14th year of our abnormal unemployment, and the United States have had three years. Before that, it had a boom unprecedented in the history of any country. We have something inherent which we are utterly unable to move. We get the numbers down to 1,000,000, and then up we go. Until 1929, 1,000,000 was regarded as a sort of rock-bottom of unemployment, or rather the lowest figure; now it looks as if 2,000,000 is substituted for 1,000,000. I remember saying in this House during the last two years that the figure would be down to 2,000,000 by the end of 1932 or 1933, and to 1,000,000 by October, 1934. I was far too sanguine. It is still, in round figures, 2,100,000, and the numbers of the unemployed are higher to-day than they were six months ago. If the Minister will look at the figures for himself he will notice that.
The Under-Secretary of State for Scotland, in a speech which was a most welcome contribution after the deplorable exhibition of his chief the other night, really handled the problem and dealt with it. He said one or two things which were refreshingly new about the efforts made in Scotland, more particularly to set up small cottage holdings in the Lanarkshire area. He said, "Now that you have arrived at the turn of the tide you can do these things." Year after year the Opposition have urged the Government to take the thing in hand and the answer given has been: "You must first of all put the finances of the country right. The moment that the finances are put right, we will deal with the problem." I have heard for the last two years that the national credit has been re-established, the Budget has been balanced, we are in a better position than any other country in the world, gilt-edged securities are creeping up, and we are able to reduce our rates of interest. The tide surely has turned, though the vessel is still sinking deeper into the sand. At any rate, we are told that the tide has turned and this is the first—I will not say contribution—concrete proposal to liquidate the problem of unemployment. I am talking about the provision of work for the workers, which is far and away the more important branch of the problem.
I cannot understand why the Government have brought this Bill in. When they were putting the finances of the country in order—I am not now entering into the controversial proposition of whether the Government went about that in the right way, because "One controversy at a time" is always a very good motto; I am not entering into it; let us assume that they were putting them right in the right way—all this experimental work to which the Minister alluded last week might have filled up the time, and, indeed, it might have done a good deal more. The experiments could have been made, the commissioners could have been appointed to go round and investigate the conditions, so as to be ready when the deluge subsided and the ark was resting on its Ararat of hope, which I understand it is perched on at the present time. That could have been done. Why is the Bill introduced now, when the country's credit, I am told, is the best in the world, when you have hundreds of millions of idle money, when bankers do not know where to put it, when gilt-edged securities, even now that they are converted, have gone up—I forget what the figure is to-day? Why have they gone up? Because the banks have no other place to put their money at this moment. There is no other reason for it. A banker said to me the other day that, if anyone came to him with £2,000,000, saying that he wanted to put it on deposit, he would ask, "Are you a friend of mine?" and if the answer were "Yes," he would say, "Then would you mind taking it to the other bank?" They do not know what to do with it. I forget what Treasury bills are at the present moment, but I believe they are only a few shillings per cent.
That is the state of the country's credit, and this is the Bill which is brought in to provide work for the work-less under those conditions. It has nothing to do with the reports. I have read the reports, and have marked and pencilled and inwardly digested them with great care, because I think they are a very remarkable set of reports—really honest and straightforward. There has been some suggestion that instructions were given to the commissioners—I only saw it in a paper and therefore it must be true that the commissioners were told before they started that they must not indulge in all kinds of recommendations which would involve a heavy expenditure of cash. All I can say is that there must have been here a conflict of loyalties, and, indeed, a conflict of honesties—loyalty to the Government and honesty to discharge their duty to those who appointed them, but a loyalty to truth and an honesty to tell it. I am very glad to see that they decided in favour of the latter. There are recommendations in these reports which, if carried out, would involve an expenditure of hundreds of millions. If the report of the Civil Lord of the Admiralty were carried out, it would involve a capital expenditure of hundreds of millions.
Mr. LLOYD GEORGE:
Yes, I will later on; in fact, it is my theme. The right hon. Gentleman must allow me to develop it. You could not do what the Civil Lord recommended without an expenditure of hundreds of millions. It may be said that it would be passed on to the local authorities, but, whether it is the local authorities or the Government, the scheme of land settlement which he recommends could not be carried out without the expenditure of hundreds of millions of pounds. I will just give that indication so far. Here are recommendations—drainage, land settlement, and about a dozen other vital suggestions. The proof that this Bill has no relation to the reports is the fact that, if anybody here were to get up and move one of these recommendations as an Amendment to the Bill, he would be ruled out of order. So irrelevant is the Bill to the recommendations of the commissioners that it would be out of order even to propose them. Therefore, it has nothing to do with the reports. You appointed commissioners, you sent them down to investigate, you received their reports, and then flung the reports on one side. I heard the Chancellor of the Exchequer deliver his most extraordinary speech. For about half an hour he lauded this document, drawing a tragic picture of the conditions of these distressed areas, and saying how very well the commissioners had done their work and how they had earned the gratitude of the State for what they had done. Then he ended up by saying, "I am going to find £2,000,000 for the purpose of carrying it out." I have never heard such a non sequitur in any speech that I have ever listened to in this House. Not only has the Bill no relation to these reports, but it has no relation at all to the facts of unemployment. A capital expenditure of £2,000,000. Think of that.
I will answer that question, though I am astonished that the right hon. Gentleman should ask me to do so. It is within the recollection of the House that the terms of the Bill are such, and the Bill has been recommended to this House on the ground, among others, that the £2,000,000 is the sum allocated for the initial expenditure contemplated by the Bill.
Mr. LLOYD GEORGE:
Now we know what the Government's policy is. This is the beginning. We shall then go on. This is the initial experiment, the initial stage. Then we shall go on, and we shall get to other expenditure. I would like to ask the Minister whether he adopts the policy expounded by his leader below the Gangway. I say that the Bill has no reference at all to the solemn facts of unemployment. Unemployment is costing us about £100,000,000 a year, taking into account everything—the outdoor relief and the expenses of the local authorities as well as of the State and the fund. Since it began, since we had the first break which created this condition of permanent unemployment, we have expended, simply upon maintenance in enforced idleness, £1,200,000,000. If this Government lasts the term of its unnatural life, by the end of that term we shall have spent £1,400,000,000 in the maintenance during idleness of millions of men who ought to be producing wealth—improving the conditions of this country, building houses, draining waterlogged land, bringing land that is out of cultivation into such a state that it can produce food for the people, and the multitude of other things which could have been done and which would have left this country a better land than it is at the present moment. So far from its being a waste, you would have cleansed the waste—the slums and the rural conditions which are a degradation to this country. Instead of that, you have spent £1,200,000,000 in keeping these people-men, young, old and middle-aged—in idleness, demoralising them, rotting their stamina.
Let me put it in another way. A sum of £2,000,000 is being provided to deal with a problem which has absorbed £1,200,000,000 already, and which means £100,000,000 a year. You say to the unemployed, "Here is £50 for you just to keep yourself from starvation, and here is £1 for you to start business." I agree with the right hon. Gentleman that the commissioners are in themselves of a value apart from the fund placed at their disposal, but still, commissioners cannot do anything unless you give them some cash. The age of miracles is past. You cannot feed the multitude with two commissioners and five sub-commissioners. There they are. They are sent on their apostolic mission, not without purse or scrip, but pretty near it—with just a little bit in their pocket to deal with a problem that is costing £100,000,000 a year. I hope the Government will give us a better prospect than that.
What I am afraid of is this: It looks to me as if this represented the last effort of the Government to solve the problem of worklessness. Next year the House will have to deal with a Bill which, whether people think it is a good or a bad one—and it has taken three days in the House of Commons to discuss that question—is a stupendous project, and is bound to take up the bulk of next Session. Next Session, therefore, is mortgaged already, and so I do not see any prospect of the Government undertaking to deal with this problem on a scale in the least equal to its gigantic nature. What can the commissioners do? They are very able men, no doubt, and I do not wish to say a word against them; but what can they do? The Minister said in his speech last week that he did not regard this as a contribution to the solution of worklessness—to wages. I know he does not propose that these 2,000,000 should work without wages, and therefore what I mean is that, as it is not a contribution to the provision of wages, it is no contribution to the problem of providing work. It is clear that it has nothing to do with it. It is not his dog; he is just taking it out on the lead under the orders of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. He is not responsible.
I was asked what I meant by saying it would cost £100,000,000 to carry out these recommendations. Surely the Minister has read the reports. On page 96 the commissioner for Durham, the Civil Lord of the Admiralty, says that the only alternative to the pauperising of a very considerable number of the people is to provide them with a living on the land. Has the right hon. Gentleman worked out what that means? There are 174,000 unemployed in this area alone, and all the other commissioners have come to the came conclusion. The Civil Lord goes beyond that, and he says: "You cannot deal with this as if it were merely a sectional proposition The remedy that you apply to one particular part like Durham must be something that you can apply to the country all round." If the only alternative to pauperising your 174,000 in Durham, or a great part of them, is to put them on the land where they can earn their living, can he give me any other alternative in other parts of the country?
Four areas have been investigated and the commissioners have come to exactly the same conclusion in every case. I have never had any doubt about it myself, and I am not alone in that respect. A great many people have been investigating the problem for years, but have found no other alternative employment for the surplus population of the country except the bringing of this country somewhere on to a level with other countries in the percentage of its population that is employed on the soil. But every time we proposed it wise men shook their heads. The commissioners of this great Government were sent down to investigate it, not one of them that I know of having held these opinions before. They never expressed them. I am not putting that as a criticism of them, but as proof of their impartiality. They go down there probably holding exactly the same opinions about the suggestions that have been made from time to time. They come back, and, without any previous concert, come to the conclusion that that is the only alternative method.
See what it means! How many people would you settle on the land if you spent the whole of this £2,000,000 upon the problem? Have they gone into that? In 1919, when we voted about £21,000,000 for the purpose of land settlement, the expense was almost prohibitive. You can now build a cottage for a very few hundred pounds where before it cost £1,200 because materials and labour then were three times as much. But even now you could not with this £2,000,000 settle more than about 3,000 people on the land, that is, one out of every 800 of those who are unemployed. The 2,100,000 are not the only people who are unemployed. Those are simply the people you have on your register. Where are your black-coated people? There is not a Member of the House who has not received the most despairing and poignant letters from people of that kind out of a job and without a penny-piece to keep themselves and their children from starvation. There is not a day when letters of that kind do not come in. Has anyone reckoned them? Has anyone searched them out? It is one of the dark, unexplored conditions which we have not yet investigated or thought of investigating. I think it was the "Morning Post" that put them at 250,000. If you put the really unemployed down at 2,500,000 you would be nearer the figure than 2,100,000, and you are going to have a fund of £2,000,000 to begin to provide work for them! You could not settle a quarter of the population in the Durham area alone within 30 years under this proposal.
Is it not possible for the Government to give a little more hope than this and a little more comprehension? The Bill shows that they have no comprehension of the realities. They do not understand that something catastrophic has happened in the economic system of the whole world. They think still that it is the usual trade depression—in an aggravated form I agree. The whole structure has been overstrained and is visibly collapsing in every country. America understands that apparently, and is making an effort which, at any rate, is commensurate with the stupendous character of the problem. I can express no opinion as to whether it is proceeding on the right lines or not, because I do not know enough about it, and I do not know about the conditions in America. But, at any rate, the whole of the community is spending its resources in dealing with the problem, which they regard as a gigantic one. If anyone went to Congress in America and moved this, there is not a Congressman who would not think he was unbalanced and wonder where he came from.
We are patching and peddling in the hope of restoring an old machine to its original shape. You have to think out your problem anew exactly as they are doing in America. They are not afraid of experimenting and of saying, "Well, that is not the remedy." It is so complex and so delicate, there is such a tangle that you cannot find out the way without experiments. But let the experiment be commensurate with the task. That is what they are doing in America, and two years after the colossal experiment has started that great country has endorsed the action of its Government. Many of these experiments have been acknowledged not to have been successful, but they said, "You were right. You were at any rate trying to grapple with the problem. You understand what an immense thing it is. One think is perfectly clear. Whether this experiment succeeds or fails, no one ever dreams of going back to the old system."
Just look at the way in which this Government has tried to handle the problem of work. Just this time a year ago a Debate was raised by my right hon. Friend on the question of unemployment. Notice was given to the Government but unfortunately the Prime Minister could not be present. He went to Lossiemouth and said: "We are going to give £10,000 to help to provide work—bridge-making, land, picking oakum, tidying up slag heaps." That did not solve the problem of unemployment, so they made a second effort, and he said: "The land is the way. Put them on the land." So they proposed £50,000 for smallholdings in England, Scotland and Wales. That did not solve the problem of unemployment. I do not know whether it has all been spent. Perhaps it has not, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer therefore thinks it was not needed. We have these three steps on the ladder. First £10,000, then £50,000, and now £2,000,000, a real salmon leap, and still you have this appalling gap between £2,000,000 and a problem which has cost us £1,200,000,000 already and an annual expenditure of £100,000,000 a year. When will they provide steps which will enable us to reach somewhere near the altitude, or the depth, of the problem? This is trifling with it. They have no right to do it.
They say trade is recovering. The Chancellor of the Exchequer has dwelt upon that. He has been good enough to tell us that it might take a very long time. There has been a certain rally, but no one who has inquired into the matter, and no one who has looked into the vital figures, can doubt that it is beginning to drag. It is all very well to talk about the spring tide. At best it was only a neap tide. It is still flowing in, but very sluggishly at the present moment. So far from it affecting the problem of unemployment, we are worse off than six months ago. If anyone will look at the figures for last month, he will find that the thousands of increase, of employment are not the real figures. The serious figure is the increase of 27,000 in the permanently unemployed at a time of the year when employment usually goes up.
I think that if the right hon. Gentleman look? at the figures he will find ever since they have been kept exactly the same phenomenon in these months of the year, that the seasonal worker goes into complete unemployment at the end of the season, and that the man engaged in basic industries working short time during the bad time in the summer, takes up full time during the winter.
Mr. LLOYD GEORGE:
I think that if the Minister will look at the figures once more he will generally find that the taking on of the seasonal people is the time when there is an inclination for the figures to go up, and that the real drop comes in January. I remember perfectly well the Minister of Agriculture saying when my hon. Friends were in office, "Wait until January," and when January came I believe that there was a tremendous drop. Here is another serious figure. Let us compare the figures of this year with those of 12 months ago. It is not such an improvement. It is not an improvement which makes you say that trade is beginning to boom. Your permanent unemployment is only better by 126,000 compared with November of last year. That is a very serious position, as the Minister knows full well. Has he inquired into the condition of the shipping industry? There is just a little improvement, but in the main it is a disastrous position. Can he say there is going to be a change? What is going to happen to put us right? Expansion in foreign trade? There is some room for expansion undoubtedly, if you can stabilise exchanges to begin with. There is no doubt at all that an improvement can be effected if you reorganise your coal industry so as to reduce expenses and improve marketing, not for the benefit of certain agents and combinations, but for the benefit of the industry as a whole. There are limits within which you can improve foreign trade, but they are pretty narrow limits. I could quote a passage again from the report of the Civil Lord of the Admiralty, which I read in its entirety, in which he points out that the hope of finding employment through a restoration of our whole position of trade was something upon which we could not bank.
What else is there except development at home? The President of the Board of Trade said that, so far as home trade is concerned, we had reached the point of saturation. I do not agree with him at all. If we have reached the point of saturation when we can do nothing at home in the way of development, then the prospect of this country is indeed a hopeless one. The resources of this country have been by no means developed to the full, or anything like it, and those of the Empire have been barely scratched. We are buying £300,000,000 worth of produce from other lands at present prices which we could produce at home if the Government created the conditions under which it could be done fairly and favourably. The right hon. Gentleman smiles at that statement.
Mr. LLOYD GEORGE:
No, but what the Minister forgets is that there are certain staple industries which, under present conditions, you cannot restore to their pristine prosperity. Anyone who has studied the problem—and I am sure that he must have done that, otherwise he would not be Minister of Labour—knows that you have to do what the commissioners have done, consider the question of alternative employment in some form or other. If you place people on the land, it does not only mean that you place people of that particular trade on the land, but for every man you put upon the land, you are finding employment for somebody in some other business. You have to consider the problem of alternative employment, and if the Minister has not got that into his mind he has not got the very essence of the whole of the problem. "You can develop here and in the Empire." The Minister very conveniently overlooks that phrase. It so happens that the Empire is overseas and that shipping from Liverpool could trade if you developed the resources of the Empire, both in exports, and in imports of things which we cannot produce on this soil because they are mostly tropical. Immense changes are essential in the housing conditions of this country, in town and in country. Our transport needs developing, and in connection with our electrical supply there is a great deal of work to be done to bring the country up to a reasonable condition of efficiency, comfort, health and amenity. We have still the means to put this right.
I do not know whether it is any use appealing to the Government, but the House of Commons must surely know that it has its responsibilities and that it will have to render an account, at not so very far distant a date, for the way it has discharged them. It has responsibilities to the people of this country. There are two policies upon which you have to decide. There is the policy of restoring credit, cheap money, protecting the home market, and being content merely with that. Give that policy time to work out. Gradual improvement will come if you do that. That is the old policy of "Wait and see." You can eke it out with subsidies. That is not a policy. If you had added up all those subsidies and made them the basis of a loan for the purpose of the development of the resources of this country and the Empire you would have had bigger results. As it is, take them one by one, these great subsidies running into millions—and, I am not sure, into tens of millions—beet, wheat, beef, milk, shipping, and the subsidy that was given towards the rates, they come to tens of millions; they have all been lost in the desert sands.
What is the alternative? To recognise fearlessly that the old machinery of wealth production and wealth distribution has broken. It has to be reconstructed. To save itself, this system has been driven to restrict production of essential commodities for lack of which millions of people are suffering privation to-day. This system cannot adequately feed, clothe, house or even provide employment for a large proportion of the workers of this country, or any other country. It cannot even find useful employment for the wealth which those workers have created. Wealth is lying idle. It consequently needs, and imperatively demands, a thorough reconsideration and overhaul. This Parliament may not decide that issue, but it will be the issue upon which, in my opinion, the people of this country will pronounce at the next election, and I have no doubt about it.
I must apologise to the House for addressing hon. Members again so soon, but I could not remain in my seat after the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George). It is almost a pleasure to this House to hear the right hon. Gentleman again on this subject in which he has taken so great an interest and on which he has always taken a consistent line and recommended the same general line of remedy. I particularly want to say that I warmly agree with him that the evil with which we are now contending is not the evil of a trade cycle or an economic crisis. We are entering upon a new economic era in the world. Conditions have fundamentally changed. There can be no doubt that the system of producing and distributing wealth, as he has said, is not working to-day as it worked in earlier days, because the conditions of continuous expansion which prevailed in earlier days have ceased. It is true, as he has said, that that system, the economic system of the world, will need a careful and thorough overhaul, but I am sure that he will also agree with me that, if we have to meet new situations, we must meet them with new ideas, and that if the old catchwords of Capitalism will not suffice, neither will the old catchwords of Socialism.
I wonder whether the right hon. Gentleman will agree with me when I say that I have one fault to find with his speech. It is perhaps temperamental. I have fault to find with a certain quality of flamboyance and invective which, I say, is purely temperamental, but which leaves me sometimes with the impression that I am not quite certain as to what I am being asked to assent to. I always think the right hon. Gentleman's handling of figures is perhaps more dramatical than arithmetical. This is merely temperamental. As it is, the criticism I would make of the speech of the right hon. Gentleman is that he did not sufficiently distinguish between what, I think, are two quite distinct propositions. One is the question whether the Government proposals for doing certain things in the depressed areas themselves are adequate, whether sufficient money has been provided, whether the powers given to the commissioners are adequate, and whether the appointment of the commissioners in itself is useful. The second proposition is whether you can in any degree touch the real problem of the depressed areas by any action within those depressed areas themselves. The second problem is the one to which the right hon. Gentleman intended, I think, to devote most of his argument. He was not arguing, or I hope he was not arguing, that all the hundreds of millions of pounds which would have to be spent to deal with this problem would be spent within the depressed areas themselves as they now exist. I sometimes think that the danger of this public works policy, as described, for instance, by my hon. Friend the Member for Chester-le-Street (Mr. Lawson), is that it tends to concentrate attention on what you can do within the area itself.
When you have a distressed area which is distressed because the machinery of production and distribution has broken down, some people are apt to conclude that the only way you can deal with such an area is by pumping money into public works. The right hon. Gentleman would be the first to agree that if you take, for example, the South Wales mining valleys, you cannot solve the problem of land settlement within those valleys themselves. Here, I should like to say to the Government that they have laid themselves open to attack on this Bill because of the manner in which these proposals were originally introduced by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. The Chancellor of the Exchequer said, in effect, that we could not deal with this question until we had restored the financial position of the country and had money to spend. He said that we could not deal with these depressed areas until the rest of the country generally was all right. Now, he says in effect that the rest of the country is all right, everything in the garden is lovely, and these are isolated black spots which can be taken and dealt with by themselves. That was the impression that he gave. It is not true.
Nothing that you can do in the depressed areas themselves can solve the problems of the depressed areas. That is the real charge against the Government in connection with the report of the Civil Lord of the Admiralty. One thing that the Civil Lord emphasised was not so much land settlement, certainly not land settlement within the depressed areas as a whole. His argument was that you must have a general policy with regard to industry and agriculture in this country as a whole if you are to tackle the problem of the depressed areas. The same thing is true in measures of social policy. In regard to education he said that it would have been absolutely essential to propose the raising of the school-leaving age in Durham if it had not been for the junior instruction centres. What does that mean? It means that the junior instruction centres are only a method of postponing the national policy required to deal with the problem. I am not entering into that question now. I expressed my views upon it recently in the North-East, and I will not worry the House with it now.
That is the real charge against the Government, that they have confined this Bill, introduced as it was with something of a flourish of trumpets, to the smallest part of the problem. They take up these areas, but they have not given us any indication of what their general policy is, with one exception, and here I do not think the hon. Gentleman opposite was fair. We ought not, in fairness, to refuse our recognition of the Government's housing policy as a contribution towards the diminution of unemployment. The programme of slum clearance and the further programme which we are now expecting is a real contribution on an enormous scale.
No, but do not let the right hon. Gentleman forget the actual slum clearance programme. Do not let us judge any Government purely on the question of how many new Bills they introduce, but rather on what use they make of existing legislation. If we are to be fair we must admit that the slum clearance policy of the present Minister of Health is precisely what we have been pressing Governments to do for the last 10 or 15 years. Therefore, do not let us refuse recognition of what the Government have done in this regard.
I come now to the question we are more specifically discussing to-day, and that is this: Is what the Government are doing inside the depressed areas sufficient or useful? I admit that something does need to be done in the depressed areas, quite apart from the question of a general national policy. Let us take the Government's proposals within those limits and ask ourselves whether they are adequate. The right hon. Gentleman hardly touched upon that. He touched upon the question of finance, but he was not fair in his reference to the £2,000,000. The £2,000,000 may be adequate or inadequate, but we know that that is the sum available until the Estimates for 1935 are introduced. It is only to last up to the end of the current financial year. That is the whole basis of the Government's financial proposal. It is not, however, to the financial side that I would address myself, but rather the conception of the commissioners' functions.
Two years ago, in a speech in this House, I recommended the appointment of commissioners in the distressed areas, particularly mentioning Tyneside. I advocated that because I felt that it was hopeless to get any co-ordinated public effort in an area like Tyneside unless you could get the multiplicity of local authorities to act together. That was the main reason for the appointment of commissioners. What is to be the position of the commissioners? They are to have no functions over the expenditure of money on any subject for which Government grants are now available. We have worked every field of social effort so intensively in recent years that there is very little useful public activity which is not covered more or less by some system of Government grant. Certainly, that restriction may be interpreted as practically preventing the commissioners from giving assistance to some of the most needy organisations in those areas. Take the county nursing associations. Those associations in the depressed areas are suffering extreme difficulty in carrying on their work and in employing labour to develop it. The county nursing association has a subsidy from the local authority towards its maternity work. Is the nursing association therefore a subsidised body which can hope for no sort of assistance from the commissioner?
Now I come to what I think is a much more serious point. The commissioner, being restricted in this way as to the projects in which he may take a financial interest, is inevitably restricted to the field of what the Government have called the clearing of derelict factory sites, the getting rid of disused slag heaps and so on. That is an inseparable part of town planning, and town planning is the function of the local authority. Town planning and the incidental development of it is helped under the existing general scheme of grants from the Ministry of Health. How is the commissioner to work? Let me give an instance which the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs will know very well. Let me take the case of Dowlais. One of the reasons for the clearing up of disused factory sites and slag heaps is to increase the general amenities of the area both from the economic point of view and from the point of view of those who would otherwise be glad to live there. The object, among other things, is to attract new industries to the area.
What will the commissioner gain by spending money in clearing the site of Guest, Keen and Nettlefold's works at Dowlais when they finally move? Across the way, on the other side of the main street of Dowlais, there are lines of shop fronts, closed shops, with the fronts falling out, Every side street out from there is like a side street of Pompeii, with three or four cottage sites in every street crumbling into ruins, with nothing but the four bare walls standing, and those tumbling down. If you are going to restore the amenities of Dowlais and make it a proper centre for attracting new industries, what are you going to do with the existing multiplicity of railway stations? I do not know whether any hon. Member here has ever tried to leave Dowlais by train. He cannot get any reliable information from any inhabitant of Dowlais as to which of the seven stations he ought to go from.
How can you restore, even apart from the unpleasant question of railway stations, the amenities of a semi-Pompeii by a commissioner who has only the power to clear a few slag heaps, completely out of relation to what the Minister of Health may be doing in the way of building new houses, or what the Minister of Health may allow the local authorities to do in the way of demolishing old houses and making new open spaces. How can you cope with that position efficiently by adding a fifth wheel to the coach in that way? If the commissioner is a Napoleon; if he can so much impress the local authorities, with no powers and no incentive behind him, that he can impose his will on them, although he is not giving them any money and although he has no authority over them, he may by diplomatic force of will produce some co-ordinating policy. Possibly he may be able to influence the Mayor of Jarrow, who said that he was going to a conference of Tyneside mayors, "but far be it from him to reveal the offers he had for new industries, because they might bag his pigeon." The commissioner may possibly persuade the Mayor of Jarrow that that is not the way to redevelop Tyneside. In any case, it is only going to be a matter of diplomacy, because he has no authority.
On the contrary, every Government Department in London is anxious to retain in its own hands its authority over local authorities. They are only too anxious that the commissioner shall not butt in and spoil their game. Is that an efficient way of dealing with the restricted problem of what you can do in the distressed areas themselves? I feel it a duty to the Minister Labour that one Member of his party should say what I think nobody in the House has said, that our gratitude is due to him in his Departmental functions for introducing this Bill. Whatever its defects, it is an effort to bring some immediate help and some novel experiment to the depressed areas. Moreover, as far as his Departmental policy is concerned, let the House not forget that he gave us, in winding up the Debate which was introduced by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, a very comprehensive, and, to my mind, satisfactory statement of the measures which were now being taken by his Department as regards the encouragement of the transfer of juvenile labour, and in regard to consultations with industry about hours and work. In so far as he can, within the limits of his administrative functions, the Minister of Labour has tried not only to do what he can within the depressed areas themselves, but to follow out some of the principles laid down by the Civil Lord of the Admiralty; that in order to deal with this problem you must deal with it on a national scale and that questions like hours of labour are questions which you must tackle nationally. We owe him a debt, and I should like to say "Thank you."
But let me say to the Government as a whole that they have committed, practically and politically, an almost fatal mistake in launching this little bit of policy as if it were all that they had got to propose. They have made a fatal mistake in not having thought out in advance the broad outlines of a national policy which could be offered as a comprehensive attempt to solve this problem. If they have made this practical and political mistake it is far more important to say that they made a fatal mistake, from the point of view of the welfare of the nation itself, when they are postponing the formulation of a programme which is the thing for which these miserable sufferers in the depressed areas are really waiting. It is true, as the Chancellor of the Exchequer has said, and as we all know, that the sufferers in the depressed areas are pathetically grateful for any manifestation of public sympathy and constructive public effort within the areas themselves. They do want people in the areas whom they can consult, whom they feel represent the power of a nation which realises their condition. They are grateful for that, and it does help to maintain their morale, but what they ask for, far more than the personal presence of people like that, is an evidence that the Government of this country has a national economic policy which offers some prospect, in its broad outlines, of bringing a solution of our present difficulties.
It has been a great pleasure to hear the challenging voice of the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) in a speech which exercised the same kind of appeal on me which similar speeches by him did in the years gone by. After listening to that speech with its great delineation of the enormous problem before us, to hear it followed by the Noble Lord the Member for Hastings (Lord E. Percy) dealing with the subject on similar broad lines—after these demonstrations of the size of the problem—and then to come to the Bill is like seeing a doll's house propped up in front of St. Paul's Cathedral. If the Minister of Labour had desired his Measure, small as it is, to be welcomed by this House, he might have presented it in a different way. The House is inclined to take more interest in a Bill if it has had an opportunity of shaping the Measure itself, if it has felt that by some Amendment here or there it has been able to help the Government and the Bill, and, we hope, the nation. The Bill comes before us on Third Reading in practically the same shape as on Second Reading; we have had no opportunity of making any substantial alteration.
I am aware of that. I did not attempt to move one because I was not in agreement with it, and they were all on points of detail. The only Amendment we have actually got to the Bill is the one which the Minister of Labour has put in with regard to increasing the number of the commissioners, and in that case he has expressed a firm determination not to use it. The Government may slave themselves trouble by dealing with the Bill in this way, in so framing it that it is almost impossible to move Amendments although the House might desire to help. In taking this course the Government are doing much to destroy interest in the Measure. We have heard something about the limitation of the areas. I did not intend to interrupt the hon. Member for Chester-le-Street (Mr. Lawson) in any unfriendly sense, I was rather following up what he was saying. At the same time, it is not a matter of minor importance to those people who are left out of the areas. It is not so much that we are going to lose the glorious benefits of this Bill by being left out. It means much more than that. It means that for the first time a statutory definition has been given to depressed areas which will be taken over into future legislation, and it is a statutory definition based on no scientific description whatever. We have a Schedule which merely consists of places which the commissioners happened to visit. If they had gone to Bournemouth it would have been put in as a depressed area. Tees-side is left out merely because the commissioner had not time to visit it, as will be found in the words of the report itself. It is an entirely faulty basis for a statutory definition of a depressed area to found it on something which has no logical basis whatever. Just as the areas have been taken at random so the functions of the commissioners are limited in the extreme. I will not say anything further on this point as the Noble Lord the right hon. Member for Hastings has anticipated a great deal of what I was going to say.
Here we have a Bill upon which, if we follow the ordinary practice of Third Reading discussion, and debate only what is in the Bill itself, it will be extremely difficult to make a speech at all. When there is nothing it is extremely difficult to make a speech about nothing. There is the appointment of commissioners; and really it comes down to that. If the commissioners are great geniuses, Napoleons as the noble Lord has said, then out of this Bill there may come something of value. But, really, they have to make their own work and functions. As far as any direction is given by the Bill, there is very little that we can say about it. I am not going to vote against any effort of any Government to do something for the depressed areas, although I may regard it as insufficient. When the Labour party was in power, I voted time and time again against Votes of Censure upon them for making insufficient efforts to meet the problem, and on this occasion, when at least officials are being sent to the areas from whose efforts something may proceed, I am not going to attempt to deprive the Government of the opportunity of doing that.
But the psychological effect on the nation is exactly what the Noble Lord has described. The Government have let it be supposed that this is their Bill for dealing with unemployment. They have created a bad impression, and it is essential that that bad impression should be removed. The Minister of Labour did do his best to make it clear that this is not the Government's Bill for creating employment or for dealing with unemployment, and that it is only their Bill for dealing in a limited way with a limited number of unemployed people in extremely limited areas. That is what it is. We want to hear something commensurate with the speech of the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs, and with the speech which the Minister of Labour himself delivered on the Second Reading of the Bill. Although not going as far as the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs, the Minister of Labour did say that he wanted the Bill to be regarded as a contribution, a beginning, towards the organisation of leisure. Viewed from that standpoint the Bill is disappointing. We want to hear of measures for the organisation of leisure, a correct distribution of the actual work that has to be done among those who are to do it, the giving of leisure, and opportunities for enjoying that leisure in accordance with that estimate; that is what we want, and that is just what we lamentably fail to receive in the Bill.
I suppose that we could not expect to hear from the Minister of Labour to-day what we so earnestly desire to hear, what is the Government's larger scheme. This can not be all. If this were all, then not only in the depressed areas but throughout the country the people would turn away from the Government in disgust. I am prepared to expect even now that behind this Bill there lies something more worthy. Let us hear what it is. It is not in the mouths of Ministers of the Government to disparage relief works if they are not going to try something which they consider better in their place. The works which we have advocated, and which have been referred to by the hon. Member for Chester-le-Street, are not works which will be undertaken merely for the sake of giving occupation as an alternative to idleness. They are works which have a value in themselves, and they need not by any means be confined solely to the depressed areas. I should like to see this treated as a great national problem, with a national policy for the organisation of leisure, and then this Bill would fall into its proper place. The disappointment which has been occasioned is that, although we continue to hope, we have very slender grounds for hoping that there is anything else than this in the minds of the Government.
The Third Beading of the Bill seemed to have almost reached a quiet death when we had the intervention of the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George). After that the whole Debate was electrified. Then we had the speech of the Noble Lord the Member for Hastings (Lord E. Percy). As I sat here I asked myself, had either of these two right hon. Gentlemen occupied a seat on the Government Front Bench at any time? It always appears to me that when men are in office they never see the thing that ought to be done, but as soon as they get out of office they find a whole lot of things that need to be done, and which they themselves ought to have done when they were in office, and they begin to condemn those who attempt to do what they themselves should have done. I do not know whether that is always to be the position in this House.
The prominent man who has gone out of office, it seems must get back to office by criticising those who are in office; it is not sufficient for him to remain quiet and to follow the orthodox way that he would have followed if he had been in office: he must do something sensational to attract attention again. The right hon. Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) is a standing example of that. I did, however, think that the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs was not going to be led in the same direction. Least of all did I expect the Noble Lord to do it. We get this sort of thing every time, and we get a little bit tired of men who, having had a chance to do things, did not do them, and then criticise. It may be argued that some who held office in the Labour Government did not do what they ought to have done. Perhaps they ought to have gone faster than they did.
With regard to the Third Beading of the Bill, our thanks are due to the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs for covering so wide an area. He went a long way in showing what ought to be done, and one wondered whether he was allowed a privilege not given to other speakers in the ground he was allowed to cover. The point I want to emphasise is this: I want to know what the commissioners intend to do in certain eventualities. My hon. Friend the Member for Chester-le-Street (Mr. Lawson) spoke of the derelict areas. He told us about the derelict mines, and about the flooding of those mines. He asked, would the commissioners have power to give advice to the Government as to what should be done in cases like that? I want to emphasise that point also, because in the survey of the derelict areas we have found that much of the trouble has been caused by the methods of working the mines. The people who own these places have not done their duty and have allowed things to go to rack and ruin without any attempt to put them right. The question is, how long is that to continue? Will the commissioners have power to advise the Government to take action when they satisfy the Government that huge patches of coal are made unworkable because of flooding?
I mention that because this Bill is only a start in dealing with what are called depressed areas. All over the country we have a similar state of things. In Lancashire there is a standing example of large coal areas being flooded, and no one seems to have control over them. Before long such places become derelict. It will be the duty of the Government to try to do something for the people who are to be left destitute. I ask, will the Government attempt to do something before that stage is reached? We have had an examination of these areas, and I am pleased that it has been carried out. The thanks of the whole House are due to the Government for having attempted it. They have brought to light what is happening in various areas and they are satisfied that much wrong has been done. Will they attempt to prevent this sort of thing happening in future? Will they take powers to say to employers: "You cannot do what you like. You cannot wrest from the earth just what you want and then leave the whole place derelict." I wish some day it would be possible for you, Mr. Speaker, to visit the North and take a train ride from Bolton to Wigan, and from Wigan to St. Helens, and see on every side the whole country barren of vegetation, with great hollows filled with water where the land has sunk; and then I would like to know what you think of people who were allowed to do that in times gone by and then cleared off leaving the people to make the best of it. That sort of thing is happening all over the country.
I am anxious that the Government should not allow these places to remain as they are. It is not sufficient to put the commissioners in certain places, to spend a mere flea-bite of £2,000,000 and to leave matters there. I want the Government to take a more comprehensive view of the situation. The life of this Government or of any Government will depend on how it handles the unemployment problem. If the Government fail with that primary duty, it will be condemned by the electors. I wish to emphasise how disappointed people all over the country are with this Bill. When it was known that the Government were to make an inquiry in certain areas every one knew what they would find; every one knew that what they found would satisfy them as to the need of something being done. The public thought that something big would be done by the Government. Anyone reading the commissioners' reports must be satisfied that there is sufficient in them to urge any body of men to get on with their work. Because the Government are not doing very much and the Bill contains very little, the country is very much disappointed with what is happening.
I have here two newspaper cuttings. One is a report of a speech by Mr. Malcolm Stewart, one of the two commissioners appointed. This is what he said:
The task resolves itself into a steady attack on a defined front. The enemy of depression, so long and deeply entrenched, will not be quickly overcome; it will not be easily dislodged. The lie of the land lends itself in few places to a rapid advance, but persistent attack will bring victory.
That is a statement by Mr. Malcolm Stewart, who is trying honestly to do his best in very hard circumstances. The commissioners' reports tell of the difficulties he will experience. Here is another quotation with regard to the derelict areas. As is well known, the Prince of Wales paid a visit to the derelict areas of Durham a few days ago, and this is a report of what he saw:
After lunch he saw two undertakings which seemed to excite his interest and curiosity more than anything that had been shown to him so far. One was at the little village of Escomb, where the unemployed have attacked a monstrous mound of pit slack and are converting it into a plateau big enough for two football grounds and a number of tennis courts. If the work contemplated is brought to completion an ugly blot on the countryside will be converted into an amenity. Incidentally, the reduction
of the height of the tip is opening to the villagers a new view of a charming stretch of countryside.
The Prince, one is glad to say, does pay attention to these matters. He saw men removing a blot on the countryside. The huge mounds that are put up do blot out the sight of the open countryside for many of the inhabitants. Nothing is done when the mounds are being built up. Surely, if we stand for anything at all we have to prevent this kind of thing happening. It is not sufficient for this House to wait until these things take place. Our job is to try to prevent their taking place. I hope that as a result of the commissioners' reports and the Third Reading of this Bill, we shall not rest content until we have got at the root cause of these evils, and that we shall prevent their happening again, so that we may give to the people a full life, work and maintenance.
I think the last speaker was a little unfair to those whom he called the critics of the Government. It is true that some critics of the Government were in office and are now out, but the time that they have been out of office has not been spent idly. They have been thinking of this question of unemployment and have brought constructive criticism to the Government with a view of helping and not of hindering. That is quite a different point of view from that of the right hon. Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill). It is hardly fair to put all critics in the same class as the right hon. Member. Of course he is a little disappointed, and acts in the way men behave when they have been on the Front Bench. I only hope for his own sake that the hon. Member who has just spoken will never get there, because he will have that worst of all things, disappointment. The hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton) would commit suicide if he ever found himself on the Front Bench.
We are all deeply disappointed, I think, with the Government for bringing in this wretched little Bill. Some of us read with pride and enthusiasm the reports of the commissioners. We said, "Now this really has come," and we waited for the Bill. The Government had done better than any other Government in the history of the world in so short a time, and we were proud of it. When the commissioners' reports came out we thought that at last the young men had seen the light and were going to put before the Government a vision of a real national programme. The Prime Minister and the Lord President of the Council are always appealing to the young men. Now the young men have reported to the Government and what has happened? We know that it is not the young men in the Cabinet who have won. It must be that those who are not quite as young as they used to be, have won. We waited for something big, I might almost say dramatic, to happen, and instead we get this pitiful little Bill.
It is true that the Minister of Labour in his last speech held out hopes, and it is obvious that he sees the necessity of carrying out the recommendations in these reports and even of going further. But I would remind the Government that people like the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) and others who have spoken in criticism of the Bill are not really trying to hinder. After all, the Government is the only hope we have of getting something done. We know that unless they get a national policy and do something on a bigger scale than has ever been attempted before, we may yet have—just think of it—the Labour party in office again. That is a prospect which causes Liberals and even our Communist friends below me to shiver. It causes many of us to shiver, not because we are afraid that they are going to do something—we would welcome that—but because we know that they will do nothing. People who do not know them, people in the City and the like, shake in their boots at the prospect of a Labour Government because of the fear that that Government will do something terrible. We in the House shake in our boots at the prospect because we know that such a Government will do nothing, and in the world as it is to-day it is impossible to contemplate a mere policy of drift.
I agree with nearly every word that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs said. No matter what mistakes the United States Government has made, it is trying to do something, and every thoughtful student knows that this is not just a national problem. It is an international problem. A psychological change which the Government do not seem to realise is happening. I am not going into intricate questions of economics, because I know nothing about those matters, and I never try to speak in the House of Commons on what I do not know—and that is a very good hint to some other hon. Members. But nobody can be interested in public affairs without realising that this Government of all Governments will have to have some bigger policy than this for dealing with the almost static problem of unemployment within the next year or two, and when we criticise the Government we are simply imploring them to "get on with it."
Take the question of land settlement. Few people realise the great success that has been made of smallholdings. Even hon. Members who represent agricultural constituencies seem to know nothing about it, but there are people who do know, and there is no need for the Government to send out commissioners to look into that question. There are men and women in the country who could come in and help the Government with a great scheme of land settlement and that, I believe, is one of the constructive things which the Government will have to do in the immediate future. Then there is the question of open-air nursery schools to which the Civil Lord referred in his report. I think it is very disappointing that there is not some instruction to the commissioner under the Bill to look into that question, but nothing has been said about that or about the raising of the school age. I am not speaking about this matter from the purely local point of view. Plymouth has unemployment, but no one would put it down as a depressed area. It has been, however, my misfortune, or perhaps my fortune, to visit these depressed areas and I know something about the work which is being done in connection with these schools.
We have been told that in Merthyr the one bright spot is the open-lair nursery school set up under the emergency committee for open air nursery schools. The Civil Lord made a recommendation in connection with this matter, but, as I say, we have heard nothing about it. It may seem a small thing but it is important. Merthyr had an almost Communistic
body. There seemed to be no social consciousness or initiative to do anything, but in regard to this open air nursery school there they come together and the whole neighbourhood is brightened. I have a letter from a parent in one of the northern areas where the unemployed have helped to build and run one of these open air nursery schools. She writes:
The parents are anxious to help in every possible way and five mothers take it in turns to help with the preparation of dinner while others do the washing in their own homes of overalls, towels, tablecloths and so forth. Willing volunteers clean the windows, help in the gardens and make stretcher beds, etc. The cooking is done by an unemployed ship's cook who gives his services free.
I am not saying that this is a great constructive thing, but it is something which ought to be taken into account by whoever is instructing this commissioner. I wish there had been one woman commissioner. A woman would see the psychological side of this problem, because the need for these nursery schools in the depressed areas is not particularly because of the health of the children. According to the reports, the health of the children is really not so bad in the circumstances, and is better than some of us expected. But from a psychological point of view it is of importance to get the fathers and mothers interested in schemes of that kind. The Government might indeed try to work out in these areas a great system of reorganisation of the whole educational system. There is a wonderful chance to do something on those lines but that subject is out of the picture this afternoon and I do not wish to dwell upon it.
I do ask the Government however to consider the views of their backers, of those who are keen on them, who believe in them and who realise that in such matters as housing, unemployment insurance and public assistance they have taken a national view. The only subject on which the Government do not seem to have taken a national view is unemployment. We hope that before long the older Members of the Government will stop appealing to the young men in the country and will listen to the young men in the Government and in the House of Commons. I do not mean the too young men. No one wants to listen to flappers. We all realise that when you appeal to the too young men all you get is a dictator. Throughout the world what the young men have done has been to set up dictatorships. When I say that the Government ought to listen to the young men, I mean men of a reasonable age. I mean those young men who have thought over this problem, who have studied it and who are courageous enough to admit that they have made mistakes. I have no doubt that the Noble Lord the Member for Hastinsg (Lord E. Percy) now wishes that he had taken my advice four years ago and raised the school age. But after all, while young men may have made mistakes in the past these young men are making no mistake in regard to the future when they warn the Government that the country expects something better to deal with unemployment than this wretched little Bill.
I wish to refer to a statement made by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) but before doing so may I mention a remark which fell from the hon. Member for West Middlesbrough (Mr. K. Griffith). I could not help being amused by his speech because he made only two points, one of which was that the Bill was no good whatever while the other was a complaint that there was no chance of extending the Bill to the division which he represents.
It is surprising that the hon. Member should so misrepresent my speech after such a short lapse of time. I made it clear that the reason why I objected to the limitation in the Schedule was because this is a first step in the direction of reconditioning the depressed areas and sets a precedent which is likely to be adopted in all future legislation. It was not a matter so much of this particular Bill as of possible future legislation. I made that plain.
I am sorry if I misrepresented the hon. Member, but I certainly thought he was anxious to have this particular Measure extended to his own constituency, and I found it difficult to understand why he should wish to give the Government powers to extend a Measure which he considered was of no use.
Actually I understood the hon. Member to say that the Bill is like a doll's house in relation to the requirements of the situation, and I think he will agree with me that that could be taken as indicating that he did not think much of the Measure. I leave it at that. The other matter to which I wish to refer is the statement of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs in regard to the finance of the Bill. For one who has occupied the position of Chancellor of the Exchequer to have made play with this figure of £2,000,000, as the right hon. Gentleman did, was, I think, hardly fair to the House. I do not think that the arguments which he adduced and the way in which he used that figure were worthy of one who has occupied such high office as the right hon. Gentleman. I heard the Chancellor of the Exchequer making his statement on this matter and it was perfectly clear. What he said was that for the remainder of this financial year the Government were placing £2,000,000 in the fund for the service of the commissioners.
Any hon. Member who has served on local bodies knows the time which it takes to initiate schemes of this kind, and I would ask any such hon. Member whether, if he were told to begin in November to spend £2,000,000 in this way, up to March, he would not find the sum ample—short of giving the money away. Even the most ardent Member of this House if he was instructed in November to get together a staff, devise schemes and put them into operation—schemes to which the money available before the end of March could be applied—would probably find that £2,000,000 for that period was an ample sum. All the Chancellor of the Exchequer said was that the sum of £2,000,000 would be provided for that period. After that Estimates were to be put before the House in the usual way. All we know is that the sum of £2,000,000 is avaiable up to the end of March. Hon. Members may argue that afterwards the Government do not intend to give any more, but there is no indication as to that or as to what amount the Government will be prepared to make available in the future. Surely the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs should have been able to understand the language of the Bill itself, in which it is made perfectly clear that this sum relates to the period up to 31st March, and that after 31st March such sums as the House may vote in the ordinary way——
Certainly. Clause 2 (2) states:
There shall be paid out of the moneys provided by Parliament into the Depressed Areas Fund in the financial year ending on the thirty-first day of March, nineteen hundred and thirty-five, the sum of two million pounds"—
I think we are all agreed as to that. Then the Sub-section proceeds:
and thereafter such sums as Parliament may determine.
That is what I said. Hon. Members opposite may argue that the Government will not make any further sums available, but what I am now pointing out is that the way in which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs used this figure of £2,000,000 was unfair and unworthy of one who has occupied such high positions as the right hon. Gentleman. He has for a number of years been urging that the remedy for unemployment was to be found in what is called the provision of large sums of public money. To-day he is saying that there is idle money and idle men. It is a vital point in connection with any work to be undertaken to know what price you are going to pay for that idle money. Although the right hon. Gentleman may say that these schemes ought to have been started some years before, I wish to point out that if there had been a very large expenditure out of public funds and large loans of the kind he is suggesting had been made—loans running to hundreds of millions—then we could not have expected to have the cheap money which we have available to-day.
You cannot have it both ways. You can spend money and keep up the price of interest on money; or you can do what this Government did, by allowing a certain accumulation of money which in due time led to a reduction of the rate for interest. The result is that to-day, when you borrow money for housing purposes, you are having, as everybody knows, the great advantage of cheap money. If it seems that the Government were not doing anything when they refused to put out these large loans suggested by the right hon. Gentleman, you have to take account of the amount of money being spent to-day on the building of houses. I am not going into the cost of the houses; that is another point. But the number of houses built during the last six months shows that to-day private enterprise is building more houses than it has done for many years. Whether those houses-are exactly what we want for the working classes I am not now discussing, but this building means that men are being employed in all forms of labour, and that has been made easier by the financial policy of the Government in making cheap money available at the present time.
When we are thinking out this problem of finance as outlined by the right hon. Gentleman we must not muddle up the two things. We cannot spend the money and think that we are going to have cheap interest. But when we have got the price of money down, we can reap the benefits afterwards. It seems to me that in a number of points which the right hon. Gentleman made he really sought to make the best of both worlds. He urged most strongly that men should be placed on the land, presumably to provide food for this country, and I could not help recalling that at the last election the right hon. Gentleman stood as a Free Trader. What would happen to these men that he is going to place on the land to provide-food for this country if in a short time a policy such as the right hon. Gentleman still supports, I believe—the policy of Free Trade—were brought into existence and those men suddenly had to compete with all the cheap food coming in from other parts of the world? It seems to me that if we are to place people on the land, inevitably we are bound to protect their markets.
I do not profess to know very much about farming, but I just know enough to realise that the farming industry has been in a very bad way. Most of us know friends who have been attempting to farm and who have had an exceedingly difficult time. As a matter of fact, one gains the impression that many of them have been saved only by the protectionist policy of this Government. When the right hon. Gentleman talks cheerfully about putting people on the land, that does not go with his policy. In a short time, it seems to me, these people would be inevitably ruined unless you were going to back up the policy by a protection of the food markets in this country. So much for the right hon. Gentleman's view. My view is that experience has proved the financial policy of the Government to be justified. After all, trade has revived and 900,000 more men and women are in work to-day than were in work three years ago. Even if the proposals now before us may not represent all that many of us desire, at any rate the Government have a very strong case up to the present time for claiming that their financial policy has been justified.
With regard to the Bill, I would say that we do not really know what the Government have in their minds about this Bill. I think the great point about this Bill is the appointment of these commissioners. The success of this Bill, in the first place, will depend largely on the initiative of the commissioners and, in the second place, upon how much money and backing the Government give them when they bring forward their schemes. One of these commissioners I know something of, and I know him to be an exceedingly able man. A friend of mine who has taken a special interest in the relief problem in South Wales told me that he believed that this Bill will mean far more to the distressed areas than many people have made out. As a matter of fact, we may find that these commissioners are going to make far more of this Bill than many Members think at the present time.
I think the Government made a mistake when they placed these reports before us in not analysing the recommendations and dividing them into various categories. They contain certain big proposals like those dealing with mining royalties and the raising of the school age—proposals that are more national than applicable only to the distressed areas. Then you find a second category of recommendations which, if they are to be taken up, would occupy a considerable time before they could be put into force. There are, for instance. such suggestions as that for a tunnel under the Tees, and the amalgamation of a number of municipal bodies. Those of us knowing anything about municipal life know that these things will take a considerable time, and I cannot see that the commissioners should necessarily have to do that. In the third place, we get at number of recommendations dealing with specifically local problems, such as dealing with land, clearing waste areas and things of that kind.
I cannot help feeling that it is a pity the Government did not divide these recommendations into categories and inform the House that they contained certain important matters of policy which obviously could not be considered at this time; that they contained other matters which it was for the local authorities to deal with; that on these other points, dealing with land, allotments and matters of that kind, they were appointing these commissioners, and that they intended to back them up in every way possible regarding the schemes they brought forward. If something on these lines could have been done the House would have had a wider and better idea of what the Government intend to do in this matter. Personally, I believe that the appointment of these commissioners is a tremendous step forward, and we may find that in the hands of these able men, as long as the Government really help them, a great work will be done—a work undoubtedly greater than many Members foresee to-day.
I have listened to parts of these debates, and I have read a larger portion of them. They take me back 41 years, to the time when in 1893 this question of unemployment was raised by a man who used to represent part of the constituency which I now represent—the late Mr. Keir Hardie. In his opinion there were only two derelict areas in Great Britain; one was Poplar and the other was West Ham. When he raised this question in the House he had nothing but a derisive reception. He was even insulted by the then Prime Minister, who ought to have known better, seeing that he was a university man. The problem of unemployment was then comparatively small, for it was computed that only about 100,000 men and women were out of work in industrial areas, mostly concentrated in the Southern part of England. At that time we pointed out that unemployment was an integral part of the capitalist system, and that as the system grow unemployment would grow with it. We have been justified in our prophecies. Everybody admits the evil, but nobody suggests the cure apart from those of us who belong to the Socialist movement.
By this Bill we are going to level out the number of unemployed throughout the country. We are going to select certain areas and say: "There is abnormal unemployment in these areas; therefore, we will spread it out." It seems to be proposed that we shall shift men from South Wales to Sivertown where we already have 10,000 unemployed. Is that solving the problem? We may reduce the high number in one part of the country without touching the fringe of the wider problem. I am not finding fault with the Government, for I expected nothing better from them. In this respect it is true to say, "Blessed are they who expect little, for they shall not be disappointed." So far as we in the South of England are concerned, we would like to ask Members who make invidious comparisons between the South of England and Wales and the North of England where are these prosperous areas about which we have heard so much? The nearest one that I can hear of is Slough—and that is a "Slough of Despond" so far as workers in the London area are concerned, because everybody seems to be crowding into it. Men have heard that there are jobs going at Slough, but there are not. Thousands of members of our own trade union are out of work in that area. I would like to know where this work is. Men have been told in some of the newspapers that there was work there and they have gone running into the district, making the position worse than it was before.
I understand that the hon. Member for Finsbury (Sir G. Gillett) used to be a member of the Labour party before the last General Election. If you want to find a man who will make excuses for anything you should go to a man who used to belong to the Labour party. When he was with us on these benches he voted for all the Amendments we moved in connection with this matter of unemployment. The only solution of the unemployment problem is the finding of employment. England will be a beautiful country when it is finished, but we have not started work on it yet. It has great possibilities. We have all the natural means for producing superabundant wealth, and we have the skill and ability of our people. There are no finer skilled workers in the world than those of Great Britain. Why cannot we marry the skilled workers to the natural resources of our country? What stands in the way?
The last speaker happens to be interested in banking, and he was telling us about rates of interest and a plentiful supply of money, but the trouble is that the wrong people control the money. If the people controlled the money nationally, the money would be used for national purposes, not to subserve private interests, and one of the first things that ought to be done in connection with unemployment is to provide the money necessary for carrying out schemes of public improvement. If some of my colleagues would come down to Silvertown, I could show them plenty of opportunities for improvement. We have made a big improvement lately in the new road to the docks, and that is not yet finished, but as a consequence of that great national scheme other schemes will follow. All the streets around that neighbourhood will want to be reconditioned and the houses improved. There is plenty of work of a useful character, which cannot be called relief work. It is necessary work to enable the people to give out the best that is in them and to take advantage of their opportunities. Whatever is done to make life better and brighter for the people is not relief work, but is necessary and essential work from the national point of view.
The Noble Lady the Member for the Sutton Division of Plymouth (Viscountess Astor) became somewhat enthusiastic about schools for children in the open air. I agree. We in West Ham have done our bit in that direction, and we have some of the best of these schools in the country. As a matter of fact, we have a residential school miles out in Essex, where children from the slums can be restored to health through being able to stop there. We should like to see that kind of thing all over the country, but it is very bad policy merely to talk about the children when the fathers are walking the streets hungry and unemployed. The whole thing wants to be treated as an entity. The children and the fathers and the mothers ought to be taken as part of the whole community, and if we are going to do anything for one, we ought to do something for all.
I have read the reports of these Commissioners, and I congratulate them upon the broad view that they have taken of the problem and upon the knowledge of which they have gained possession. But what is the good of telling us that to the end of this year £2,000,000 is at our disposal? In March the Chancellor of the Exchequer will open his Budget, and he may open his purse. "Live horse, and you will get grass." This is not a new problem, and the Government knew when they took office that it was not. One of the charges that they made against us at the last General Election was that our party had been in office and had not dealt with unemployment. Every newspaper was full of queries as to what the Labour party had done for unemployment. Now the Government have had three years, with the biggest majority a Government has ever had since 1832. They have a party behind them to support them, and we would not oppose them if they came forward with a revolutionary scheme to deal with unemployment. We never had the power to do the things that some of us would like to do, but the Government have the power, and there is nothing to prevent them using it.
We have had the mountain in labour. Behold the mouse. This beggarly pretence that you are dealing with the problem of unemployment will not hold water so far as the great majority of the people are concerned. The by-elections have proved it. There is not a seat in the country with a majority of less than 20,000 where you can say you are safe. Is this the best you can do? We say that it is not good enough. We know that we shall be defeated on a Division, but we have been used to that. I have never won a victory yet except in my own division. Everywhere else that I have gone, I have lost. I do not mind losing, and I can keep up the fight, until eventually we shall win. Our party is bound to win eventually—not the same people probably, but those who will come after us. You know very well what you are up against. You have exhausted the possibilities of effort in this direction. You have gone as far as you can go on the lines of the capitalist system. You must make a change and adopt a new policy, and that policy can only be a policy on the lines in which we of the Socialist movement believe. You must solve a national problem in a national way, and you must go further than making a national effort and come to international co-operation before you can settle these economic problems.
This is an economic problem of the first importance. Men are not out of work because God is angry and nature is dilatory, but because somebody cannot make a profit by employing them. As soon as further orders cease to come in, as soon as the employers of labour cannot get rid of their products, automatically the sentence goes round "You are not wanted." We have almost 2,000,000 of a permanent army who will not be wanted in industry again. The people who used to be our customers have now become our competitors. They are developing their own industrial resources, and in consequence there will be less and less demand for the things that we are able to produce. That means a new organisation of our industry, and that organisation can only be founded upon the basis of producing wealth for use and not for profit. The organisation of our industries on national lines for a Socialist object is the only way out; otherwise, you will go on floundering here and there, giving a sop to the people to keep them quiet a little longer. That is all that this policy means—spending a million here and a million there to keep them quiet. But the time will come when you can no longer feed the people on opiates. You have got to get down to brass tacks and tackle the problem in reality. The only way to do it is to tackle the system that creates unemployment, and that is to abolish the private ownership and monopoly of the means of producing and distributing wealth.
Lieut.-Colonel CHARLES KERR:
I intend to be very brief, but there is one aspect in regard to the Bill that I want to mention. The hon. Member for Silvertown (Mr. J. Jones) said that the thing to do was to find employment. Surely this Bill is a genuine attempt to go out and explore and to find employment. I think it really is that. The hon. Member talked about the money. I should be very sorry to see the people's money, which I suppose is what he suggests we should use, develop into political money. It would be a very dangerous thing if that were so, and I feel that we should leave the money where it is and let it be employed when there is a really good scheme on which to employ it for the general wealth of the country. I do not know whether there are any miners in the House at the moment. I was one myself, and this Bill seems to me to be something like this: The original commissioners were sent out to prospect, and they came back with their reports. Now the Government are saying: "We are going to spend £2,000,000 to see whether, in regard to the information which we have obtained, there is anything which will develop into what we may term a mine, or some scheme that will be of benefit to the whole country."
I noticed that the hon. Member for West Middlesbrough (Mr. K. Griffith) referred to the fact that there was a limitation in regard to distressed areas, but surely, if this £2,000,000 were spread over the whole country, nothing would come of it. We are bound to have a limited area of operation for this first £2,000,000. We all have our distressed areas. I have one in my own division. In one of my boroughs we have 33 per cent. unemployment, but, much as I should like some of this £2,000,000 for my own division, I should be against it at this stage, because I think the Government would not be able to push their ideas and bring something good out of their investigations if they spread this money too widely. Therefore, it seems to me that first of all they sent out their prospectors, now they have the area on which to work, the £2,000,000 is going to be spent there, and if a scheme comes from the expenditure of this money—and this is where I do not agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan), because I believe that in this Bill this is laid down already—then it is up to us, the House of Commons, to say how much money we will spend, because I believe the Minister will give us the opportunity. It is in the Bill, and an hon. Member who spoke a little while ago from this bench read out the actual Clause.
It seems to me perfectly clear that we are trying to find a way of creating employment by the expenditure of this small sum of £2,000,000. I think it would be unwise to spread it over too wide an area, but, if a scheme does come out of that expenditure, then the amount of money which will be spread further from that will be for us in this House to determine. That seems to me to be a perfectly simple, easy problem, and I do not think there is anything mean about it. After all, it is the initiation of a completely new idea. I beg the House to give it every possible consideration, and I should like to see the House unanimous in passing this Bill.
I have listened to much of this Debate, and I do not agree with a great deal of what the last speaker said, but he seemed opposed to the indiscriminate spending of public money. The hon. Member for Silvertown (Mr. J. Jones) seemed to think the whole remedy for this state of affairs was just to spend money. It is quite true that, to go back to the beginning of last century, there was a great expenditure of public money, to the tune of something like £170,000,000 on the railway systems of this country, and there was great employment and prosperity throughout the land. It is true that there was a vast expenditure of public money, and that is what we desire to-day. The hon. Member suggested that the money is available in the banks and should be used for this purpose, but the money in the banks is his money, my money, and other hon. Members' money, and I am sure he would like that money to be well spent and would have something to say if the banks were to spend it indiscriminately and without due regard to it being reproductive. The trade unions would be chary if they saw wild advances by the banks. You do not make employment by merely spending money. You must have some regard for what it is being spent on. If we could contrive a scheme which would mean a vast expenditure of capital which would lead to wide employment, it would go a long way towards solving this problem.
The Bill is quite inadequate to solve it. In his report the Civil Lord gives some particulars of the incidence of unemployment in industries in Durham, and gives an extract from the live register for the 4th June, 1934, which he describes as significant, showing that in shipbuilding and ship repairing the unemployed numbered 25,300, and that in engineering, marine and general, the number was 11,900. When the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon (Mr. Lloyd George) tells us that if we increase the expenditure of public money it will go a long way to solving the problem, all that he can suggest as to the way in which the money should be spent is afforestation and settlement on the land. I ask Members of the Labour party whether they really believe that the men who are unemployed in the shipping industry—shipwrights, engineers and mechanics—would settle on the land even if they got the opportunity.
I am glad to have that honest and sincere reply. The mere expenditure of public money will not settle this problem. We have to find some solution that will stimulate trade, and particularly export trades which so closely affect shipping, on which the majority of the men to whom I have referred depend. Anyone who can contribute some ideas as to how that solution can be found will contribute something of a valuable and constructive character to this problem. I congratulate the hon. Gentleman the Minister of Transport on his efforts to make the best of this inadequate Bill. There are no powers in it, however, which will lead, for instance, to an extension of the shipping and shipbuilding industry. I am in favour of the Bill as a palliative, or as an experiment, or as an endeavour to relieve the terrible distress and poverty. Anybody with a spark of humanity would subscribe to that. This Bill, however, is no solution. My friends and I will vote for it because it is something, and I believe hon. Members above the Gangway will vote for it. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] After all, it is something towards that at which they are aiming. Perhaps, however, they regard it as their duty as an Opposition to oppose, and they will oppose the Bill because it is not adequate, just as they opposed the proposal for the better government of India because it did not go far enough.
We on these benches believe the Bill goes some way towards solving the problem, and therefore we shall vote for it. With some friends drawn from all parts of the House I placed an Amendment on the Paper with the object of arriving at something constructive towards the solution of this problem, but, owing to the narrow character of the Bill, the Amendment, which advocated the abolition of the embargo on foreign loans, was ruled out of order. I take no objection to that. It is the purpose of Mr. Speaker to consider, not the convenience of Members, but whether Amendments come within the ambit of the Bill. We hoped, perhaps, that someone might glance at that Amendment, and, if he thought there was anything in it——
I am saying how inadequate the Bill is to solve the problem and that in the nature of things it will not solve the problem of the thousands of men who depend on shipping and shipbuilding. Until we face the real problem and bring our minds to the real solution of it, which is the restoration of our foreign trade and the expansion of our industries, such measures as this Bill will touch only the fringe of the problem. I submit that what I am saying is based on some logic and reason, and that many members, who may not possibly agree with me in other directions, will at least agree that I am basing my arguments on some sense, and that this Bill cannot in the nature of things solve the problem.
There has been some argument on the question of cheap money. The Chancellor the other day spoke of the policy of cheap money as part of the scheme in the Bill to help local industries, but that may be an artificial condition. The reason for the present superfluity of cheap fluid capital is in the main the distressed state of industry all over the world. The contraction of trade means a low rate of interest, which is governed by the amount of capital available throughout the world. I cannot find in any of the arguments advanced by the Government that this Bill can be anything more than a mere palliative. I wish, therefore, to emphasise the inadequacy of the Bill to settle the real problem.
The hon. Gentleman who has just addressed the House will not think me discourteous if I do not follow him either in his experiment with the procedure of the House with the type of Amendment which he and his friends put down, which was patently out of order, or in the monetary researches of which he has just spoken. Perhaps I may be allowed to say, in passing, that his account of the creation and use of bank credits is slightly disingenuous. I think that like some other hon. Members, he has made a mistake in considering the Bill from the wrong point of view. We have had a Debate ranging over a wide field, and you, Mr. Speaker, must have given us particular latitude, partly as a kind of compensation for the very limited field which we were given in Committee and on Report, owing to the drawing of the Financial Resolution in a manner which called for a good deal of criticism in many parts of the House and some censure from you, Sir. The Third Reading Debate, which some of us thought would be of rather a perfunctory nature, as is often the ease with large Measures, has led to one of the most interesting Parliamentary days this Session. The House has enjoyed the advice, the speech, and the rhetoric of the right hon. Member for Carnarvon (Mr. Lloyd George), and my Noble Friend the Member for Hastings (Lord E. Percy) is to be congratulated on the contribution which he made.
We can now see the Bill in its true perspective on this last stage of the Measure. When the commissioners were sent to the distressed areas high hopes were raised. It was the official recognition by the Government of the importance of this problem, and, when the reports were published, there was a general sense that the commissioners had more than fulfilled their task and had produced reports of real value because of the depth of thought which they had shown in compiling them. And after the raising of high hopes there has, of course, been some sense of disappointment at the apparent dashing of those hopes to the ground. The analogy has been used before, and I repeat it. Parturiunt montes; nascetur ridiculus mus. The mountains have been in labour and there has been born a mouse. My right hon. Friend the Minister for Labour appealed to us, in the first stages of the Debate on the report of the commissioners, not to belittle the importance of the provisions of this Bill. I think I can say for myself and hon. Friends of mine who have spoken during the Debates that we have lived up to that appeal. At no stage have I attempted to minimise the importance, which I believe to be great, of this Bill, but in comparison with the problems before us this is a mouse—a nice mouse, a good little mouse, a profitable and helpful little mouse, but a ridiculous, microscopic Lilliputian mouse.
I certainly do not intend to delay the House with la restatement of some points of view which I was able to put before it only a few weeks ago, but since then we have had opened before us a wider problem, and I would like to make some observations about the speech, to which I think we all listened with great interest, of my hon. Friend the Minister of Labour when he moved the Second Reading of this Bill. He was good enough to make some observations about me in the charming, polished, vivid and witty style which we always expect from him, and I am very grateful for the friendly tone in which he dealt with the mild and genial criticism I had ventured to make on the Government of the day. The main tenet of his observations might, perhaps, have seemed to Members a veiled but none the less forcible comparison between the remarkable success of his political career and the failure of mine. But I am not at all dismayed by that. I rejoice that he should be in the high office in which he now is, but I feel that in these matters even we private Members have our uses. As my right hon. Friend knows well, the most skilful jockey needs the help of whip and spur, especially if he has to deal with a somewhat obstinate and lethargic mount, and I like to feel that I am perhaps of some service to him in that capacity even if he has to disown me and try to conceal, what he does not always conceal successfully, his obvious impatience with the policy of his present owner and trainer. I do not regret the old partnership, and would refer to it in the most kindly way. But I would like to remind him, as he spoke about it in his speech, that we were once rash enough to write a book together which achieved only some succes d'estime, but I am glad to be able to tell him that just as his political career has been more successful alone so my career has been more profitable both to author and publisher, when writing under my own name. However, he has got one great advantage. Instead of the crude and immature alliance he then had, he has now the Members of a Cabinet as the inspiring source of his work. Fastidious eaters consider not only their fare but their company, and, if he is satisfied with his, I am quite content with mine.
However, this banter deals only with the surface of things. The realities of the situation came out at the end of my right hon. Friend's own speech, when he passed from the genial and friendly badinage with which he referred to my observations. He ended that speech by accepting almost in toto the major criticisms of myself and my friends. In a series of trenchant and moving passages at the end of his speech he showed how profoundly he has grasped the true nature of this problem and the far-reaching character of any real solution. This is a Bill, useful and I hope effective, welcomed by us all, to alleviate some of the worst hardships of unemployment in particular areas, though unfortunately, as many of us think, in not enough or sufficiently widely-drawn areas. It is not a policy to promote employment in the widest sense. It is just a Bill to deal in a charitable sense, in the widest sense of that word, with the worst effects of unemployment upon individuals in the worst areas.
But at the end of his speech my right hon Friend gripped and thrilled the House, because he showed that he believed what we all believe, that startling, revolutionary changes are necessary if the system is to be adapted to modern needs, and if the power of man over Nature is to be exploited not to the detriment but to the benefit of mankind. The only thing I am not sure of is whether this revelation was wise on the part of my right hon. Friend. The most successful form of propaganda has always been that of the cell, the nucleus, through which the gospel is spread abroad. Some people may have thought that the partnership to which he referred was still in existence, and that if I was performing to some extent the function of the cell in the private ranks of the party he was performing it upon the Front Bench. Perhaps he thinks the time has come to throw off the mask. "We are all planners now," said my right hon. Friend. I have one advantage over him. When he speaks I can see the faces of his colleagues. When he made that historic remark there was a look of satisfaction and delight on the faces of some of his colleagues—those in the plot, I suppose; but over the rest there stole a kind of sickly and self-conscious smile, Mr. Beerbohm once wrote a true and witty observation, "Life is a prison without bars." So is a Cabinet. I do not know what will be the history of the next two years of this Parliament. I do not know whether we shall drift on without a statement of Government policy, without a formulation of Government policy on a wide scale, but I know that a great responsibility lies upon members of a Government who remain in that Government if they are dissatisfied with the scope of its policy. We have freedom of speech, but they have the responsibility of silence.
We have had the lesson of the Parliament of 1924–1929. We saw the greatest majority of modern times, up to this Parliament, dissipated, lost. We saw a Government flung from office with contempt because there were 1,000,000 unemployed in England. Are the Government going to the country without a policy, without a plan; with their tinkerings, with their alleviations—all good—but without a broad, general policy of economic reconstruction and say that the system demands 2,250,000 unemployed? If they do that they destroy the system. The right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs made one observation with which I could not agree. He said the system cannot adapt itself. It can, but it will not, because those in control of it have not the vision or the foresight to adapt it; and if it fails it will fail because of their weakness, and not because of the impossibility of preserving it. That is the meaning of to-day's Debate, that, as I see it, is the lesson which the House is trying to press upon the Government. From every quarter of the House there has come this demand. Policies take time to work out. They need foresight, they need planning ahead. We cannot suddenly plunge into even such a policy as the right hon. Gentleman was describing without great care and without all the effort of administrative deliberation. We support this Bill, I shall certainly vote for it, because of the merits I see in it, but we want to be assured that the Government are doing more and are going to present to the nation, and ask the nation to support, a policy commensurate with the evils and the necessities of the hour.
I would like if I could to keep my remarks more within the narrower limits of this Bill, but I know myself, and I do not expect to escape doing what other Members have found it necessary to do in tackling this subject. I have spoken on previous stages of the Measure, and I do not suppose there is any necessity to repeat the statement that I find the Measure detestable from every point of view, and propose to carry my opposition to it to the Division Lobby at this stage. I find the Measure objectionable, first of all, because of the whole inspiration of it. I find it objectionable because of the appointment of unpaid commissioners with a large degree of irresponsibility to shoulder which is one of the primary tasks of any Government in this country. I view that experiment of the voluntary commissioners, self nominated, with the gravest misgivings, and though I have protested, as I protest now, that £2,000,000 is a pettifogging sum to devote to this problem, my objection to the smallness of the sum is somewhat reduced by the satisfaction I feel that unpaid commissioners, with much less responsibility than an ordinary civil servant, and fewer restrictions on expenditure than are applied to normal expenditure, are to have control of only a strictly limited sum of public money.
I also object to the voluntary nature of the scheme very strongly, because I am inclined to believe that what is in the minds of the commissioners and the Minister of Labour and the Government and what we are going to have is a whole series of pettifogging little local schemes for turning pit-dumps into playgrounds, carried on by local social service committees composed of the local busy-bodies, who are going to patronise the unemployed and have them working, perhaps for their unemployment money and a free lunch or something of that sort, on work which the nation could well afford to have done by the appropriate workers in that particular branch of labour and with the appropriate wages and conditions, without any patronising. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) indicated clearly that you cannot have any great scheme of public development out of £2,000,000, and that the scheme must be limited to trivial things, particularly when the £2,000,000 is distributed all over the country.
Yes, and over South Wales which is very bad, and the West of Scotland and other places. [HON. MEMBERS: "Which are not in the Schedule!"] The Bridgeton Division is not in the Schedule, but I am not going to be trapped by laying myself open to the very unfair reply of Ministers that those who criticise the limitations of the areas are denouncing the scheme while asking for the areas to be extended to their own constituencies. The hon. Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan) and myself have made it quite plain that we are glad our constituencies are out. We do not want them to be in a scheme of this description. We do not want our unemployed patronised, and we do not want soup kitchens, or that sort of thing. I hope that no Minister will attempt to misrepresent me when I say that a large proportion of the country is left outside the Bill. The sum of £2,000,000, spread over the scheduled areas, without any extension of them, is an insignificant sum with which very little can be done.
I cannot join with hon. Members, or with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs, in believing that there is unlimited scope for putting men back on to the land in agricultural work. I am not an agriculturist, but I have always had a keen interest in agricultural organisation and development, and, if I am not altogether wrong, the future of agriculture will be the same as that of industry, with fewer men, less hand labour and more mechanisation, together with higher forms of organisation and specialisation. The total agricultural production of the country will be carried on with fewer men—I see that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs shakes his head—unless we deliberately set out to put our agricultural production on a more primitive and smaller scale.
Mr. LLOYD GEORGE:
I apologise for interrupting the hon. Member, but this is a very important point. In wheat production that is true; you can produce, with one man and a boy to look after a farm of 200 acres, ploughing, sowing, reaping and threshing, but when you come to the other kind of production you find that you must have individual skill for which no amount of mechanisation will be a substitute. It requires individual handling, and no machine has yet been devised that would be a substitute for that. You cannot get a machine that prunes a tree. You have simply to pick off what you want. For all the things for which you can get a market, with the exception of wheat, you require individual skill. What is required is more skill and not more primitive methods.
The right hon. Gentleman makes out a case, although the instance that he cited would fall more under the heading of horticulture than of agriculture. I ask him to take another example which I shall put forward not in any contentious spirit, because this is a matter which has to be faced out and thought out. The hillside in Renfrewshire behind my home has been since my early boyhood the roughest of rough pasture, carrying a few sheep in the winter and an occasional horse that was getting a rest out on the grass, but which was otherwise doing nothing. A local man whom I know has taken that large acreage. He has placed upon it a big poultry farm, and he has hundreds of houses, tens of thousands of hens, large incubator houses, large rearing sheds using electricity and incubators. All round that district in my boyhood were mixed farms. They did a little dairying and some arable, they had some hens, and they did butter and cheese making. They produced eggs. The egg and poultry industry at that time was organised by a number of men who were locally called cadgers—in no derogatory sense—and who went round the farms collecting a hundred eggs here, two chickens at the next place, and so on. That is how egg production and distribution were carried on. Each farmer having about a couple of hundred hens went about it in a very easy sort of way, and the egg money was the wife's perquisite. That was the poultry industry. Now there is this man on the hillside. I do not know how many employés he has, but there are two or three. This man is running 10,000 hens and is producing eggs by the thousand. He is running his farm with two or three people, himself and one or two others. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs does not agree.
Mr. LLOYD GEORGE:
I can speak from experience. I have not tens of thousands of hens, but I have three people on a poultry farm nothing comparable to that. If I were to extend the breeding sheds, I should require a very much larger number of people. You cannot look after all those hen sheds with three men.
You can do a tremendous number of things by machinery. If it is only carrying the foodstuffs round the houses with a tractor instead of with buckets, or carting produce into the market eight miles away by motor car, the machine is there, and that means time saving and labour saving. I do not want the right hon. Gentleman to misunderstand me; I am not trying to minimise the amount of human labour that is employed.
The work was done in the old days by 100 farms, but the work that this man is doing on a bit of previously unused ground is done under one control and with nothing like 100 employés. Take potatoes. My country has been a potato-growing country. The implements that are used now for planting potatoes and taking them up and carting them into the market are simply extraordinary compared with what they were when I was a boy. The whole of the industry has been revolutionised. In the old days farmers were on the job at four o'clock in the morning in order to get the cows milked and to get the milk into the city some miles away by horse and cart. It had to be there by breakfast time. To-day, by cooling devices, cleaner production, motor cars and organisation, he gets the milk down to the corner of the road near his farm, and a motor car comes along and picks it up and half-a-dozen others.
The simple limited point I am trying to make is that agriculture cannot expect to absorb an unlimited quantity of additional labour in this country. Improved methods, better tillage, the taking of more production out of each acre, and the using of mechanical aids of one sort or another, will tend to reduce the number of people who are required on the land. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs takes the view that agriculture will tend to be small-scale and to remain so, but I differ from that view. That is the one bit of national work where it is felt that additional men can be absorbed. Nobody thinks you can put more men into shipbuilding, engineering, shipping, coal or cotton or any of the big industries of the country.
I have had that argument dinned into my ears for 12 years here, but I cannot see it. I know many members of the Opposition believe that when you take more out of each ton of coal and make a ton of coal do more work you will need more tons, but I do not agree with that argument at all. If one ton of coal is made to do the work that is now done by five tons, it seems to me that you will only want one-fifth of the coal that you are using to-day. I defer, however, to the expert. I was very deferential to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs, who is an expert agriculturist, and I will be deferential to the hon. Member for Eastbourne (Mr. Slater), who is an expert on coal. I am merely stating a commonplace which we all know to have been the effect produced by the economic forces of our time. There has been more scientific development, higher organisation, more production and less human labour; that is the common knowledge of the time. I do not believe that either agriculture or coal are excluded from those effects. Therefore, there is not an unlimited scope for putting unemployed men into existing industries, and no one can devise a new industry which can be placed down now to provide what human beings need and cannot get.
I return to the point which has been made by my hon. Friend the Member for Gorbals and myself. We have made it again and again, but very few people, either in this House or outside, believe us. It is right none the less. The President of the Board of Trade the other week talked about the home market having almost reached saturation point. That was a most astonishing statement for a responsible Minister to make. Fancy the home market having reached saturation point when we have 2,000,000 people living on a standard of 17s. a week. Fancy a man saturating himself with material goods on 17s. a week. I think that that was mischievous, and, if the President of the Board of Trade believes it, I think it is shocking that he should hold his present position. He may have meant something else. I know that the right hon. Gentleman has a habit of meaning something else. I remember that he made a statement during the General Election about the Post Office savings being raided, and, after the election was over, he came and told us here that he meant something different from that. I hope, incidentally, that this sum of £2,000,000 is not going to be taken out of the Post Office Savings Bank——
But it will be all right when they are doing it. On the point with regard to the saturation of the home market, we say that, instead of starting to build an industrial economic system and trying to push men into it to suit that system, the economic and industrial life of the nation should be built round the needs of the people. Let us make up our minds what standard of life people ought to have and reasonably can have in the time in which we live. I personally cannot see any reason why the population of this country cannot have at least the standard of life that I enjoy as a Member of Parliament with £380 a year. I know that many hon. and right hon. Gentlemen think that that is a miserable standard of existence, but it can provide a decent intelligent citizen with a good home, it can provide him with decent clothing, it can provide him with all the foodstuffs that are required for a healthy active life, it can provide him and his family with holidays and recreations and amusements, it can provide him with a well furnished, well heated, and well lighted house.
The Government that is going to solve this problem, as distinct from the Government this is merely tinkering with it, will say: "We have 40,000,000 human beings in this country to look after; we will see that they are all put on that minimum, and we will see that they all take a part In producing that standard of life; and, if we find that that standard of life can be produced, or more than produced, by the number of people who are available to-day, then we will reduce the labour time of each—we will reduce the working day, we will reduce the working week, we will extend the holidays." I do not say that we can rush right on to that and do it right away, but during all the time I have been here no Government has looked at it, no Government has tried to build the industrial life of the nation so as to satisfy the needs of the population. They have gone on trying to solve this unemployment problem. Many people refer to it now as a problem of the distribution of leisure, but it is not in the first instance the distribution of leisure. You do not know just now whether you have surplus leisure; you only know whether you have surplus leisure when you find that you have surplus wealth after everyone's needs are satisfied.
I apologised before I started for the likelihood of extending my observations beyond the very narrow limits of a Third Reading Debate, but I have had good guides in this matter to-day, and I do not think anyone will feel that the day has been wasted, because, perhaps, we stretched the Rules of the House to their absolute limits. I would say, in conclusion, that we are against this Measure. It is small, it is pettifogging, it institutes dangerous new principles of giving private irresponsible people control of public resources, it holds out hopes that cannot possibly be realised, it is inequitable between one part of the country and another, and, above all, we believe that it is tackling the problem from the wrong end.
I feel under a deep debt of gratitude to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George), and also to the Noble Lord the Member for Hastings (Lord E. Percy), for having made contributions which have had the effect of raising the Debate to a high level which has been sustained pretty well throughout. I know, of course, that we had a contribution from the hon. Member for Silvertown (Mr. J. Jones). I have realised for a long time that, if ever any Government requires a cut-and-dried, concrete scheme, worked out in all its details, for dealing with a problem of great magnitude, all that it is necessary to do is to make a deferential application to the hon. Member for Silvertown. No Government, however, seems to have availed itself of the opportunity which is ready at hand at any moment.
I was rather interested in one part of the speech of the hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton). He spoke on a matter which is of considerable consequence, namely, the capacity of industry to absorb unlimited additional labour, and he spoke of hydrogenation, I think after an interruption from the hon. Member for Eastbourne (Mr. Slater). The point is one on which I should like some authoritative information from the Government themselves, because it really does raise a grave issue. In the reports of the commissioners, and particularly in that of Sir Wyndham Portal, the question of hydrogenation and low temperature carbonisation is raised, and it might perhaps interest the House to know something of the divergent views which now exist about this problem. On the 6th November of this year, Sir Richard Redmayne, speaking to the Institution of Civil Engineers, suggested that, if there were a more general use of smokeless fuel, it would be of real benefit to the coal industry. He said that the present consumption in domestic grates is 35,000,000 tons per annum and a further 12,000,000 tons would be required if people used smokeless fuel in their domestic grates. That is one statement by one who is accepted as an authority. But in June last the chairman of Low Temperature Carbonisation, Limited, speaking before the Smoke Abatement Society, said that the radiation efficiency of low temperature coal was 50 per cent. higher than that of coal and that one ton of smokeless semi-coal would give the same heat as 1½ tons of coal. I have not heard any explanation of that. It is true that some weeks ago I sent a letter containing those two divergent views to the "Times." For some reason they did not consider it desirable to publish it, but it is a matter of importance. There you have two recognised authorities giving voice to entirely divergent views, and perhaps someone from the Government bench will be able to enlighten us on it.
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs was criticised very severely for having dealt as he did with the provision of so small a sum as £2,000,000, and an hon. Member below me spoke in very scathing terms of the unfair way in which the right hon. Gentleman had referred to that subject. He referred us to the Bill. I wonder what there is in the Bill to indicate how much money is going to be provided by the Government. It says £2,000,000 and thereafter such sums as Parliament may determine, but surely one knows that such sums as Parliament may determine means such sums as the Executive may decide, in view of the great majority that it has. It will be decided by the very people who have decided that only £2,000,000 shall be provided during the remainder of the current financial year. On the Second Reading, I addressed certain questions to the Government in an endeavour to ascertain what will be the minimum sum provided in any one year, but I got no answer. I suggested that, if £2,000,000 was provided for the current year till March next, at that rate the minimum sum provided in a full year would be not less than £4,000,000. I got no answer. To-day we have no indication whatever, beyond a very general statement from the Prime Minister that additional money will be forthcoming, as to the magnitude of the sum that will be provided.
I asked what was meant by the statement of the Chancellor of the Exchequer that priority would be given to distressed areas in decisions as to the making of new roads and so forth. Did it mean that any new road schemes put forward by local authorities in distressed areas would be given mere priority or would they be given some additional consideration in the shape of an increased grant? I believe at the moment the grant is in the region of 60 per cent. To say to a distressed area, "You may carry out a road scheme, but you will have to provide 40 per cent. of the money," is not a very great deal of assistance especially where the rates are so prohibitive as to prevent new industries commencing there. We badly need a new bridge over the Wear at Durham, but, if we are to be asked to provide 40 per cent. of the cost of construction, it will be a matter of considerable difficulty to raise the additional money. If there be anything in statements made from the Government benches, it may be possible under the Bill to assist distressed areas not only in giving them priority but in making additional grants, not confining it to the mere 60 per cent.
I am very glad to have an opportunity of dispelling a very wrong impression which was, no doubt, created by the words of the Chancellor of the Exchequer in his speech a month ago. He said:
I cannot imagine anything that is more likely to deter a man from starting a new factory than the prospect of having to ask his staff to settle down in a place where there are nothing but slag heaps and derelict factory sites."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 14th November, 1934; col. 2004, Vol. 293.]
That is a very false idea. I was very glad when the hon. Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan) on the Second Reading spoke of the difficulties of Durham and Northumberland. Durham is, on the whole, a very beautiful county. Before the industrial era it must have been one of the loveliest counties in England. It is true that you have various mining centres, but for the most part there remains a great amount of natural beauty unspoilt by the ravages of the industrial machine. In any case, I am not sure that we are anxious to have the importation from elsewhere, as the right hon. Gentleman suggests, of staffs to man any new factories or new industries. We shall be perfectly able to provide all the staff that is necessary, from the manager, or even the managing director, to the office boys that we require.
On the Order Paper to-day stand certain Amendments in the names of the hon. Member for Dundee (Mr. Dingle Foot), myself and others, but, owing to some misunderstanding as to the length of time that would be taken by the right hon. Gentleman's own Clause, these Amendments were not moved and, therefore, certain words which we desired to have removed from the Bill still remain in it. I wished to have deleted paragraph 5 of the Second Schedule, which reads:
The functions of each of the commissioners and of any officers and servants appointed by the commissioners shall be exercised on behalf of the Crown.
This is merely another instance of the use of power by bureaucracy. The House should be grateful to the hon. Member for Central Leeds (Mr. Denman) who on the Committee stage of the Bill moved the deletion of this particular provision from the Second Schedule. I would emphasise the point made by the hon. Member that to include this provision in the Bill is to fly right in the face of the recommendations of the Donoughmore Committee. The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour, in referring to the speech of the hon. Member on that occasion, with that skill to which we are all now so well accustomed, endeavoured to dispose of the objections of the hon. Member and kept very well indeed to the brief which had no doubt been supplied to him on this technical question. There can be no doubt, however, that this type of provision deprives subjects of the right of resort to the courts. It is all very well to say that the particular servants of the Crown who may be guilty of an unlawful act can be sued in tort and that an ex gratia payment would no doubt be made by the Government Department in the manner which is usually followed, but that does not dispose of the matter, which is of considerable importance. The remedy of suing a particular servant of the Crown in tort and obtaining an ex gratia payment is not sufficient, and I hope that the Government will consider how obnoxious this type of Clause is to many hon. Members of this House.
In the Third Schedule (3, b) there is a provision that the Minister can serve upon every owner, lessee and occupier of land which it is proposed to take over under the powers conferred by the Bill a notice which will specify the time within which objections can be made.
Here, again, you have the Government flying in the face of the recommendation of the Donoughmore Committee and one which was ventilated on the Second Heading of the Bill. Even on the Committee stage the Government apparently ignored entirely the recommendations and the appeals which were made by hon. Members from various parts of the House. It is to be regretted that these continued limitations upon the rights and liberties of the subject should be continued. The Donoughmore Committee, on page 65 of their report, said:
A period of challenge of at least three months, and preferably six months, should be allowed.
It should be allowed in cases of the kind I have advocated, and I wonder why the Government are not carrying out the recommendations of that Committee. One can only conclude that Whitehall intends to continue its efforts to secure more and still more bureaucratic power. In any case, it is entirely wrong to give to either of the commissioners or to the Government Department concerned full and uncontrolled power to decide how much notice need be given to persons who may not only be aggrieved, but may, in fact, be vitally concerned and affected by proposals of officials to whom the hon. Member for Bridgeton made reference a little earlier. These may seem to be rather trivial points to raise in comparison with the nature of the problem.
I am not suggesting any such thing. It is well that they should be given powers. The hon. Member will remember that on the Second Reading I suggested that the Government appeared to be giving powers in this Bill which are already vested in the appropriate Departments without whose concurrence you cannot, in fact, act, and that, therefore, that part of the Bill was entirely unnecessary land superfluous. I remember that when this matter was being dealt with on the Committee stage the hon. Member for Chester-le-Street (Mr. Lawson) twitted the hon. Member for Dundee (Mr. Dingle Foot) in these words:
The hon. Member…has I think been rather over zealous for legal rectitude and has lost eight of the social side of the
Measure."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 7th December, 1934; col. 2061, Vol. 295.]
We are not losing sight of the social side of this Measure. We are just as conscious of it and as desirous for the social betterment of the people as the hon. Member for Chester-le-Street, but the continued insertion in Bills of this nature dealing with a Variety of circumstances of a few technical words which are passed over by the great majority of Members of this House have in their sum total, the effect of depriving the subjects of this country of their jealously guarded rights and liberties.
It is not. It has always been the Liberal idea that if you were going to do something by communal action you must, at any rate, preserve the rights of an individual who should not be deprived of that which belonged to him without full compensation.
The Amendments which we suggested would give to the owners of land, whether they be large owners, or only owners of small pieces of land who might even be Members of the party to which the hon. Member for Chester-le-Street belongs, the right of appeal to the courts in appropriate cases to ensure that they should not be deprived of anything without proper compensation.
I have already explained, I hope to the satisfaction of the House, that no one was here to move these Amendments because of a misapprehension as to the length of time the Report stage was likely to take before they were reached. Surely, that is something which might happen to any hon. Member who puts his name down to an Amendment on the Order Paper. It would not have happened if it had not been for the fact that a whole list of Amendments were ruled out by Mr. Speaker at the beginning. I have made my point. I have endeavoured to show that not only Bills but a whole range of matters which come before this House contain clauses and provisions which in their sum total will, sooner or later, and certainly ultimately, have the effect of depriving the people of this country of many of those liberties and rights, among them the right of appeal to the courts, which have been their cherished possession for centuries.
I would not have intruded to-night were it not for certain very offensive and almost irresponsible remarks that were made in regard to my constituency by the Noble Lady the Member for the Sutton Division of Plymouth (Viscountess Astor). I am not going to criticise the logic of the Noble Lady. She knew at the time that her remarks were made that the hon. Member for Merthyr was present, and I only regret that she is not present now. She made charges against the people living in my constituency, and particularly those who are responsible for the administration of the different Acts of Parliament as local government bodies, whom she described as nothing other than Communistic bodies. In some peculiar way, she associated that statement with her passion for nursery schools.
Were it not that the Press of the country does not regard the Noble Lady as being quite so irresponsible as some of us must regard her, I should not have been here attempting to reply to her. So far as the members of the corporation are concerned, it so happens that up to now there has not been a single Communist who is a member of that body. I would invite the Noble Lady, if she is capable of coming down to real, stern facts and to examining the situation which exists in that constituency to-day, to come along and to search for any evidence in the work, the splendid work, that the members of that corporation have done, and she will not be able to discover any abuse of their public position, and certainly no abuse of any fund that they as administrators have to administer. The Noble Lady told the House that there was no social consciousness existing there at all. I am going to assume for a moment that the Noble Lady knows something about social consciousness. It would be very interesting if she would explain to the House how she could account for the fact that for years public service has been given by public representatives in that district and that in the history of the constituency there has been no kind of payment, direct or indirect to any public representative. Government auditors know that only too well.
Possibly the intuition of the Noble Lady is like that of those other hop. Members who have never failed when they have had the opportunity to utter irresponsible charges. Such charges come often from those who, although they may be enjoying a considerable amount of the worldly wealth which is produced in industrial areas, always see to it that they do not live within the industrial areas, subject to the physical environments that are now being condemned so much from the Government Benches and which are being described as nothing but slag heaps. I protest against irresponsible charges being made, and I am extremely sorry that those charges come from individuals who have visited that constituency and who while on their visits protested most loudly as to the great work that is being carried on there.
I would like to ask the Noble Lady how she can account for the fact that, despite 10 years of mass unemployment, there is no part of the country that is so free, or more free of major crime than the constituency I have the pleasure and honour to represent in this House. The most powerful barrier to crime is a lively, clear and solid social consciousness, and I must, in the absence of those who have contributed so much towards retaining the morale of that constituency, which has been so badly hit, on behalf of the people who have kept the cultural institutions of the constituency going, and on behalf of people who have given all their leisure time in the interests of the poor, protest against such charges. I am afraid that the Government are going to affect such service disastrously by the apology of a Bill now before the House.
I object to irresponsible and brutal charges coming from people whose knowledge is derived from the enjoyment of vast wealth, especially when I am not certain that they have made their contribution towards producing that wealth. I object to irresponsible charges being made against people who have given their best under conditions that are most tragic, and who are not here to reply to such irresponsible expressions as we have heard to-night. May I say this, and I say it with all the seriousness that I possess: For the past 10 years the party, the movement of which I have the honour of being a member, notwithstanding many disappointments, much poverty and so much that is harassing, has kept, at least potentially, in the background anything approaching a revolutionary movement in my constituency.
I really do not know how long we may be able to keep such a body in the background and keep it innocuous. The disappointment which this Bill has already created in the constituency, its meagreness, its lack of body and the consequent disappointment of hopes which have been inspired, is already being exploited against any movement or institution which still stands for constitutional government. I regret that I have to say this, but the disappointment is great to these 12,000 people who for the last nine or 10 years have been unemployed. They believe that this House has the power to relieve them, to reconstruct industry and social life, to fulfil their noblest hopes; and all that we can promise them is a ghost, a disembodied piece of legislation, which the more it is analysed the more we find the powers of the commissioners circumscribed until there is very little left for them to do.
My party did not deliberately hold out false hopes and then insult the mass of the people with a fragment, as this Bill does. I shall be surprised if I am questioned as to the Bill itself. Frankly, I am not competent to add to the criticisms which we have heard from all quarters of the House on the Bill. I may not be so impressed by some of the criticisms as I am, and must always be, by the terrible disappointment which the Bill creates among people who were told, only a few weeks ago, that the distressed areas were to come under the consideration of this House, and that legislation would be passed to assist them. These people are disappointed, and I need not tell hon. Members that it will be increasingly difficult for those who have been cradled in the belief of constitutional government and who have entertained the hope and conviction that through the legislation of this House the problem of poverty might be ultimately solved. I do not know whether it is too late to add my appeal to the Government. I should like to see them withdraw the Bill, and, even if it means a little more time, present to the House a far more comprehensive measure which will be an indication that the causes of poverty have been at last clearly understood and, having understood these causes, that the Government, irrespective of traditions and old principles, propose to deal with them and reconstruct the economic, industrial and social life of this country.
I am sorry that the Noble Lady is not present to listen to the speech of the hon. Member for Merthyr Tydfil (Mr. S. Davies) and, of course, I do not propose to make any reply to him. My only desire to intervene in the Debate is because several speeches which have been made seem to indicate a view amongst hon. Members that the mechanisation of industry, which is growing more serious every day, is likely to become a factor with which modern business will be incapable of dealing. It would be quite easy to give a quick and terse answer to that proposition. We have had a considerable number of years of the mechanisation of industry, and I would put this question to hon. Members: Why is it that there are so many more people employed in this country to-day than there ever were in its history? That fact gives the lie direct. It is not true. It is a fallacy. The costing accountant of a great firm in the Midlands gave some startling figures the other day about the highly mechanised industrial concern with which he is concerned. The costing accountant of Austins Motor Company said that a few years ago they employed 3,000 people, and that at that time it took 55 men to make a motor car. Last year that figure had been reduced to seven men, and they were hoping to reduce it to five in the coming year. I want to get these figures into the minds of hon. Members. When 3,000 workers were being employed by this company they were getting an average wage of £100 per man per year. What is the position to-day? Although only five men are now engaged in the construction of a motor car—I am putting the case at its worst against myself—nevertheless the company are employing 18,000 men, and not at £100 per unit of worker per year but at £289 per worker.
That is a most important point. Whatever we throw into the pool of knowledge in this House we do not want to go away from the facts. It is quite easy for hon. Members to get these ideas into their heads, but I know that the Labour party are not so stupid as not to be impressed by the facts and figures I have given. The idea is not confined even to the Labour party. I find extraordinary moods of despair on this matter even on the Front Benches. I have heard the Chancellor of the Exchequer and others taking that line. There is still latent in their minds this bogey of mechanisation. It is influencing their minds in a very important way. Their feeling is something between doubt and despair. They cannot see their way. I have studied our industrial situation as it is to-day and I have been looking back to the days at the end of the War.
In view of the statement that the hon. Member has made regarding the Austin Motor Works, will he say whether the extraordinary wages mentioned apply to the engineers working in that firm?
All of them, every one of them, and not only the engineers, but the figure covers the whole of the workers of the firm, which claims to have the highest pay roll of any works in Europe. The figure I mentioned was £289. I give the House the figures just as they were given at the particular discussion referred to. I have taken care to be exact in regard to the facts. Let me come to the question that is all-important in the minds of hon. Members, the question of mechanisation. It is really a bogey. Throughout the history of mechanisation there has always been a time-lag, so to speak, when invention has gone ahead and has unfortunately left in its trail a number of displaced workers; but the facts show clearly that when that time-lag is passed what takes place is a healthier industry, in which the reward for service is on a higher basis, and, what is much more important, the foundations of the industry are much more definitely entrenched and can meet all competition, as has been the case in the motor industry. Look at that industry's exports. The business that the industry has done has not by any means been all behind the shelter of protection at home. This great firm and other firms equal to it are extending their market abroad at a time when all the markets of the world are dwindling. Therefore it is substantially true that we need not take much notice of the mechanisation bogy.
If we were to pursue that policy of fear, what would be the situation? We could do nothing in the end but bring down the standard of life of the workers. One thing that is sure is that this country cannot exist unless it has a large export trade. In all the countries of the world which have been great producing countries what are they doing now? They are coquetting with secondary industries. In Japan they are offering motor cars at £80 or £90. They are seeking to rob us of our market for textiles. Are we to allow these people to widen the margin more and more against the chances of our industries being able to compete with them, by saying that we shall go back to the primitive idea that mechanisation must stop, and by declaring that we will not progress? Not at all.
No, but the hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton) was very definite on this point. He criticised the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) and said that there was no opening anywhere. He instanced poultry farming, and also said that the new industries that are coming along employ few to-day compared with the number they employed in the past. I could answer that statement in detail. The crux of the whole industrial question in this country is that there are not enough new industries being created to deal with displacement in the basic heavy industries. But that is not only our trouble; the world is full of it, and everywhere we look that is exactly what other countries are facing. We must create new industries. There is no need for us to look on ourselves as inferior to the rest of the world in dealing with this matter. On the contrary our country is leading the world in new industries. I feel satisfied that when the matter of the interim period of post-war industrial change is explained we shall come, as the hon. Member for Stockton (Mr. Macmillan) rightly put it, to the question of deciding whether planning is the method of dealing with the phenomenon.
Frankly I say that planning is a two-sided thing. One cannot dogmatise upon it. Hon. Members above the Gangway are interested in the mining industry. If planning is to be carried to its logical conclusion in that industry they must be prepared to see possibly another 100,000 men put out of work [An HON. MEMBER: "250,000!"] That figure of 250,000 may have been given, but I think that mine is nearer the mark. At any rate my figure is serious enough. There is no use in rushing into planning. As the Minister said when we last debated this question we cannot dogmatise upon it. We must approach it with a certain amount of circumspection and care. The coal industry and the coalowners of this country know quite well what is the easiest thing to do to bring the industry to a pitch where it is first and foremost in giving a higher wage, and a reasonable reward on the capital invested and in dealing with amortisation. We know how to do it. Hon. Members of the Labour party are committed a long way towards that goal. Meanwhile there is something superimposed on this question of what I might call idealism. Something equivalent to humanitarianism, the feeling that it is not right to throw a vast number of people out of work, and that it is not good business. I do not think it is to the good finally of the industry. But it cannot be ignored.
I did not rise, however, to refer to that, but to speak of the nationalisation of royalties. There is not the slightest doubt that in the distressed areas there is unanimity amongst investigators on this question. That is not a Socialist idea any longer, and even if it were a Socialist idea we can afford to learn from Socialists if a thing is right. [An HON. MEMBER: "It is a Radical idea!"] An hon. Member says that we got the idea from the Radicals, but I do not care to whom the credit belongs. My task tonight is to address myself to the present position in regard to this very important subject. There can be no doubt that wherever one turns in considering the problems of the coal industry to-day this question arises. It is no longer regarded as one in connection with which there are ideas of confiscation. I am glad to know that hon. Members above the Gangway Bay that it is a question of a real economic advance in the control of the industry and that they are willing that such advance should be paid for at a fair price. I have spoken to them on the matter both inside and outside the House and I have not heard anyone express ideas of confiscation.
In regard to this matter there is a unique situation to-day, created by the existence of cheap money. That has to be considered when we are dealing with such a capital sum as that involved here. If we turn our attention to this idea as one which is held almost unanimously by the coalowners—there are very few exceptions—one sees that it is a very deep-rooted idea and that there is nothing hastily conceived or ill-digested about it. It is not a question any longer merely of boundaries. Much deeper questions are involved in connection with the nationalisation of royalties, as all those who have taken an intelligent interest in the industry knows. I want to direct the attention of hon. Members to the necessity of seeing that areas like Durham, South Wales and Northumberland should no longer be left derelict merely because there is no thought, no planning, no idea of arranging matters as between this or that particular colliery or other undertakings which are engaged in winning indigenous products.
This involves the question of real planning at the top I would impress that upon the Secretary for Mines to-day. I want him to see all that is involved in the consideration of this subject. I submit that this is the one thing which will bring about the final and ideal unification of the industry. I look to-day at 3 per cent. Government credit and I recall the fact that two years ago we thought of it on a 5 per cent. basis and we are dealing here with a capitalisation which is variously estimated at from £50,000,000 to £80,000,000. This is going to be a splendid thing for the industry. It is going to lead to the Mines Department not merely overlooking the results of the industry from day to day, but putting right at the peak point of its policy the necessity of studying and of looking ahead 20 or 30 years. It means regulating leases and various matters as between the collieries in order that we may not have in the future—what will be certain if this is not done—namely a repetition of the creation of derelict villages, with no hope, where collieries have gone out of existence. All these matters will be dealt with as they ought to be dealt with in a national economy with proper planning and proper amortisation and not left as they are to chance, resulting in despair and an entire reliance on Government assistance. I say that this is the ideal moment to do it from the point of view of cheapness to the nation and I assure the House that I was never more convinced of anything than that this would be the best business bargain that the nation could make as well as being for the benefit of humanity within the confines of our island.
There is another point. When we are dealing with these depressed areas the question which must be uppermost in our minds is whether the amount proposed in the Bill is sufficient or not. As a business man I know that when we make decisions we have to pay for the consequences and I am not coming here as a politician to ask for anything. I know the man who has been appointed to act as Commissioner for England and Wales and you could not have a better man or one who will examine the position with greater earnestness and care. But his work will be tremendously narrowed down by the limitations which are placed upon it. He cannot help one industry as against another and it comes finally to this, that he will simply have to examine the broader issues. In the end, as the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) has said, just as this Government have tackled housing and slums, so they will have to tackle land settlement on an equally ambitious scale. That is my opinion. I know that hon. Members above the Gangway will say that you cannot make shipwrights and engineers live on the land. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] Well, I think at least one hon. Member has expressed that view but I do not believe it. It seems to me that those people, given the land, given the opportunity to work, given satisfactory housing, given technical and commercial guidance and true co-operation could make a sucess on the land. I believe that the commissioner will finally recommend land settlement as the only way of dealing with the real hard core of unemployment in this country.
It is the bold and big way to proceed, as soon as we are sure, and, in the meantime, I would agree that the amount now proposed is quite enough until we have more clarity about the proposals. I am sure that if hon. Members got down to spending this money, with a serious idea of responsibility, between now and March, they would find it very difficult to spend the whole of the £2,000,000 in that period on schemes that are really worth while. I know that if the commissioner can produce a plan which will bring about a diminution in unemployment and submit it to His Majesty's Government there will be no question of any fear to come to this House before March for additional resources. I am sure that the Government when they are satisfied about any scheme will support it. They cannot do otherwise because the situation is too serious.
I have the utmost faith in this Government. They have done more for this country than any other Government in 30 years. I have said it before, inside and outside this House, and I shall stick to it, and I am prepared to argue the question with any hon. Member on the facts. The standard of life of the working people in this country was never higher and I am proud that our country can spend £490,000,000 a year upon social services in the present state of world trade. Those are the facts and hon. Members above the Gangway, instead of opposing this Measure ought to join with us in supporting it. Between the Socialism of the good Conservative and the Conservatism of the good Socialist there is very little and hon. Members ought to help and not to hinder in this matter. They ought to be with us on this question. It is not a matter for party Debate and I would say to hon. Members above the Gangway that this is certain—that by the measure of their support for this and the other Measures which the Government I know intend to follow, they will be judged as to whether or not they are discharging their duty to those whom they are sent here to represent.
I should like to say how very interested I was in the speech of the hon. Member for Eastbourne (Mr. Slater). There was much in what he said with which I agree most heartily. I should like to support what he said with regard to mining royalties. If ever there was a time for doing something about that problem, it does seem to me that the time is now. I would like to support the hon. Member in what he said about a vigorous policy of land settlement; and I would also like to support him in what he said about this Government, when he declared that it was the best Government we have had for 30 years. I think that is very true. The record of the Government's achievement I think compares very favourably with that of any Government we have had, at any rate, during my lifetime. I would like to suggest to the Government, however, that it will be judged not by what previous Governments have done but by what it is able to do to restore the condition of the country and to achieve really effective reconstruction.
I wish to say a few words about two most interesting speeches we have heard in to-day's Debate. I hope that the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) will not think it impertinent of me if I say that I hope very much his interventions in Debate will be more frequent during the rest of the life of this Parliament than they have been so far. Every Government has its weaknesses, and this Government like others; but this Government has one especial weakness, at once peculiar to itself and not its own fault. It is the great weakness that there is no really effective or constructive opposition to it. I think the House will probably agree that the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs can perform a very useful service to the Government by offering constructive opposition to it—and I hope he will confine his opposition to that which is constructive. I think his criticism really was constructive this afternoon, although I regretted the manner in which he presented his case—not the matter of it, but the manner. I think he stressed too much the yardstick in his own mind and seemed rather to suggest that the only measure by which one could judge the aim of the Government in this as in other matters was the measure of the amount of money they are prepared to spend. I think that this is as good a measure as most particularly in these times—but I think it was an unfortunate way of putting his argument, for two reasons. It does give the Government the opportunity of making the answer which it is always ready to use, but which seems quite irrelevant, the answer that: "We tried that from 1929 to 1931, and see where it got us!" The kind of argument used by the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs has another effect. That kind of speech seems to terrify the Governor of the Bank of England; and the Governor of the Bank terrifies the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who terrifies the Cabinet, with the result that nothing seems to be done.
But the right hon. Gentleman's main argument was not really connected, so it seemed to me, with the question of the amount of money to be dispersed. His main argument was that under this Bill, if you are going to use it to settle people on the land, you will make almost infinitesimally small progress towards settling people on the land. I think that criticism is just, and it is the same criticism as was put forward by the hon. Member for Stockton (Mr. Macmillan) when he said that this was a pleasant mouse but still a mouse. I think that criticism can be fairly applied to this Bill. I would like to say just a word about the speech made later by the Noble Lord the Member for Hastings (Lord E. Percy). He said something which seemed to me to be perfectly true when he said that this Bill was like the fifth wheel in the coach, meaning that it would lead to more confusion and further overlapping between the Minister of Health, the Minister of Labour, the Unemployment Assistance Board, and so on.
I would like to develop that line of criticism a little further. The right hon. Member said that you cannot deal with a problem of this kind with three or four overlapping authorities and that you want to get a coherent line of policy; and I would say that you will not be able to deal with this problem of the depressed areas or any of the problems that face us to-day if you go on with your existing Cabinet system. I cannot see how you are going to have any kind of coherent policy, or any kind of reorganisation of industry requiring a well-thought-out policy, if you go on with a system by which the very people who have to frame the policy are tied down to their Departments and to the House of Commons in the way that they are to-day. Under such conditions, it is really impossible for any human being, however much vitality and energy he has, to give sufficient time and physical energy to the framing of the kind of policy which so many of us who support the Government would like to see. I would like to offer the suggestion that in this time, which is still a time of crisis, we might well go back to the system which operated so well during the War when my right hon. Friend the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs was head of the Government. I feel that unless we go back to some system like that of the War Cabinet we cannot conceivably get any definite and coherent policy.
It is becoming the fashion for what remains of what was once the Young Men's Christian Association to support the Government in a big united sort of way and at the same time to pour a certain amount of scorn on the Opposition. The hon. Gentleman who has just spoken welcomed the intervention of my right hon. Friend the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) on the ground that he offered what the Opposition never has offered, and that is constructive criticism of the Government. It is not our fault that hon. Gentlemen treat us with a sort of humorous indifference and grossly distort what we say, or never listen to us. I have seldom in this House referred to what I have said or what I propose, but I asked the Government to give three days to a Debate, when all of us could put our views into a common pool. I have not time to read all that I said on that occasion, but if the hon. Gentleman was in the House, he will know very well that I dealt with agriculture, with water supplies, with the drainage and reclamation of land, and with the small and large cultivation of land. I told the House, as I did the other night, of my experience 30 years ago on this question of land. I believe I have hardly ever made a speech in this House on unemployment and employment in the two years that I was here from 1910 to 1912 or since 1922, when I came back, without appealing to the Government of the day to do something about agriculture. I have said once from this box that I never intend to try to escape my collective responsibility, for the sins, either of omission or commission, of the late Labour Government, but I think there is hardly one of my colleagues who would deny the fact that both for the development of agriculture in this country and the development of settlement in the Dominions, I did my best all the way through.
I am a little sick of hearing people talk in this superior sort of way about us and our inability—for that is what is in their mind—to think of something constructive. The right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs will forgive me when I say that there was not a proposition that he put up this afternoon that I did not make myself in November, 1932. I should never have dreamed of saying that, but for the rather supercilious speech of the hon. Member who has just sat down. The date when I made the speech to which I have referred was the 4th November, 1932, and I hope that the next time he desires to find an excuse for attacking the Socialist party in this House, he will make sure of his facts. I notice that the hon. Member for Eastbourne (Mr. Slater), who also has given us a little curtain lecture, has left the House. He undertook to prove, what in America is recognised as the fact, that, as the right hon. Gentleman pointed out and as we have pointed out 100 times or more in this Parliament, the present unemployment is something entirely new, in this respect. First of all, our markets are more restricted, which restricts our shipping, and secondly, those to whom we have lent money are many of them unable to pay us back and those who do are not able to allow us to reinvest it. I do not think anyone will deny that the fact that there is so much money in the banks to-day unused, is due to that sort of tightening-up of commercial intercourse, brought about by the fact that the nations which formerly, when paying us back, re-borrowed that money for certain purposes, are not doing so now. Neither are we able to invest our money in shipping, or in buying for shipping, or for insurance, or for taking the necessary papers and giving advances on them for cargoes and so on.
None of that, or very little of it, is being done to-day. That is not a fault of any individual capitalist. I am not one of those who say that the capitalists as capitalists are responsible for the conditions of to-day. Certainly not. Those conditions have grown out of a system which has become unmanageable on the old lines. I am told I am turning my back on you, Mr. Speaker. I am afraid I am learning bad habits from Ministers opposite, and I am sure that you, Mr. Speaker, will know it is through no disrespect to you. I want to say that in my view, if this thing could be settled within capitalism, the very able men who carry on the industry of this country would have settled it long ago. It is not that they are so ignorant or unable to manage their business in the ordinary way, but conditions are such that it is impossible, and if anyone want to understand a very able capitalist view on this matter, let him read the quotations which I made on the same date, when we had that Debate, from Sir Harold Bowden, the cycle manufacturer, of Nottingham. They were quotations in which he showed conclusively that it is apparently impossible to imagine that, with the tremendous, terrific development of labour-saving machinery, you can absorb or even hope to absorb the workers again.
The hon. Member who has left the House undertook in one part of his speech to prove that nobody was really out of work, that everybody was absorbed, in the end really contradicted that, but his whole theme was that mechanisation did not throw people out of work. Here is the report of the Civil Lord of the Admiralty. I have already said my say about him, but I think we all owe him a tremendous debt of gratitude for his report. It shows that, although he sits on the other side of the House, he is able to realise conditions as they are, without any regard to the principles of the Tory party. He says:
It has already been pointed out that mechanisation of the mines in the area is steadily taking place, and that the process considerably reduces the amount of labour
required per unit of output. When it is realised that scientific discovery has by no means reached its limit in this direction"—
that is what Sir Harold Bowden says—
and that not all the mines are as yet equipped with mechanical appliances, it becomes clear that employment cannot be expected to increase in proportion to sales.
That is the root of this matter. If we were very prosperous to-morrow, if the country and the capitalists were making the old profits over again, you would still have this problem to face, and I will tell you why. Merthyr has been discussed tonight. Well, for my sins, or virtues, or supposed virtues the late Lord Balfour appointed me on the Poor Law Commission 30 odd years ago, and I visited Merthyr in those days and I visited Dowlais. I wish I could give this House a picture of what Dowlais was then, in the days of the prosperity of Guest, Keen, and Nettlefold. I wrote a report to my colleagues on the commission that I saw scenes there which nothing in the East End of London could ever equal. That was in days of great prosperity when firms were piling up money. Where did the wealth go then? If you would realise where it went, read the first chapter of Carlyle's "French Revolution," in which he tells the story of a woman picking thistles. A tithe of her labour, he says, went to a Seigneur in Paris who spent it at Versailles. The wealth that was created in Merthyr and Dowlais was taken out of the place and spent in every other part of the world but Dowlais and Merthyr.
If those who took the wealth out of that part of the country had stayed there and helped to build a real city, wealth would have been created, but they built mansions in London and went on the Continent and paid for yachts and all kinds of luxuries. I sat in the home of one of these magnates who boasted that his money was safe in the bank. Although I was partaking of his hospitality, I had to say to him, "I should be ashamed to make such a statement; having drawn my wealth from that kind of industry, I would be ashamed to boast that my money was in the bank." That wealth was the unpaid labour of the men who made it. When I am told that we have nothing to contribute to the Debates, I say there is no way out of this problem until the people who create the wealth share the wealth they create. There is no other way. We may talk and talk, and the Noble Lord the Member for Hastings (Lord E. Percy) may talk. I had not noticed the Noble Lord had come back, but I wanted to say something to him. He said, "Let us get away from catch words on both sides." We will get away from catch words when he and his friends tell us how they propose to solve this problem.
The problem is artificial abundance. There is no real abundance until, as the hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton) says, you supply the needs of everybody. There is still a tremendous demand that does not express itself—but a demand nevertheless—of human beings for food, clothes and shelter that they never get. It is due to the maldistribution of the abundance of wealth and the refusal to allow the potentiality that lies idle to go on producing which is at the root of the whole problem.
The right hon. Gentleman challenges me. Will he allow me to say that I expressed my views and my proposals to the extent of 250 pages, and I am afraid I cannot repeat them here.
I am more grateful still. We have put our views here and the Noble Lord is the greatest critic of all of us. I do not mean that in an unfriendly sense. We have all the right to be critical with one another in a friendly way and to acknowledge that each of us has something to give to the common stock. I listened to the hon. Member for Stockton-on-Tees (Mr. Macmillan), to the hon. Member for South-West Hull (Mr. Law) and to the Noble Lord. Nobody can say I am not a good listener. I know a good deal about most people in the House now, but what I cannot understand is the Noble Lord saying, as he said to-night, "Let us fling away these catch words and get down to realities." Let us get down to realities. Everybody is talking about this and that area. The Noble Lord knows my district because he has been across it. We went across some parts of it together at the end of the War. Let him come down there now. It is nearly 50 years ago since Charles Booth, the statistician, made his familiar inquiry. For 50 years some of us have been fighting and struggling and giving money away and begging money and doing all kinds of things to try to lift the district up.
We are continually being told "Give up crying for the moon; give up this, that and the other." Nobody can charge me with not trying to do the practical thing to-day. The hon. Member for Bridgeton thinks I am just daft doing that kind of thing. As I have said in the House many times, I cannot see human suffering without wanting to do something. My charity organisation friends have always said to me, "You should leave it alone; they will find a way out." There are those who say that still. They say, "Let it all alone, the problem will right itself." That was at the back of the mind of the hon. Member for Eastbourne (Mr. Slater) in part of his speech. The problem is not working itself out. That is the contribution which the right hon. Member for Carnarvon made to-day. We are continually thinking that just round the corner we shall be out of it. The Dominions Secretary used to assure the Cabinet and the House about that, and we cheered him like mad when he used to say, "In a few weeks' time we shall be right round the corner."
The right hon. Gentleman has referred to me. May I say that he and I some 14 years ago joined together in a policy of housing in Poplar? The right hon. Gentleman supported me against his party convictions and against the whole of his party in Poplar because he thought this was a genuine attempt to deal with an immediate problem. That attitude is all I ask from the party opposite. I ask them not to be so saddled in this unprecedented situation on their own traditional solution, which Marx set forth in two large volumes. I ask them not to be so saddled on their own opinions as not to be able to co-operate in new policies to meet new situations. The right hon. Gentleman has done it. I am grateful to him, and I ask his party to do the same.
We were really doing something then. I am sure the Noble Lord does not want me to co-operate in doing nothing. There is a lot more I should like to say on that point, but I have not the time.
I must do now what I ought to have done at the beginning, and that is join in expressing my gratitude to you, Mr. Speaker, for allowing this wide discussion. We are voting against this Bill because we consider it to be mean and miserable and feel that it will have no practical effect. I am not speaking theoretically now, and not as a Socialist, but as one who might be called a social reformer. I have been through all this. When I hear this proposal spoken of as if it were some Heaven-sent scheme, something that somebody has suddenly thought of "out of the blue," I wonder where people have been living. No one had a higher respect for the late Joseph Chamberlain than I had, and I remember sitting in the lower gallery one night when the House would not pass a trumpery unemployment Bill setting up a central body for London and unemployment committees throughout the country, and it was the right hon. Gentleman who was then the Member for West Birmingham who rose and insisted that Mr. Balfour's Government should pass that Bill that night, and it was passed. But what was that Measure? Exactly what this is, a mixture of charity land public funds—Parliament going to do a little, the local authorities a little, the public a little. Under that Measure we laid out the Mall, we built sidings at Letchworth, we reclaimed some land at an enormous cost, we started the Hollesley Bay experiment, and a lot of other things. We might just as well have attempted to bale out the ocean with a spoon. I speak of what I know, because I was engaged in that work from the beginning until the War came, when everybody got a job, when there was plenty of work for everybody. If we are to deal with poverty we should tackle it in the same spirit in which we tackled the War. I was quite overjoyed to hear the hon. Member for Eastbourne (Mr. Slater) talk about royalties. If you live long enough you find people coming round to the support of nearly everything you have believed in—if you have believed in the truth; and here is a pillar of the Tory party saying: "Let us nationalise royalties." I shall expect to hear the right hon. Gentleman get up and say "Let us nationalise the land, the whole of it, every scrap of it, even in Lancashire."
The final point I want to make is that we are objecting to this Bill because everything it proposes has already been tried, and because it degrades the finest thing in human life and human character, that is the willingness of people to help others. The Government have no right to take advantage of the good will of men and women towards their less fortunate brothers and sisters, using it as an excuse for themselves not doing their duty. If it be good to have experiments to find out whether men can make a living on the land the nation, and not private charity, ought to undertake them. The men to be employed ought not to have to submit to what I would not like to have to submit to, and what the Minister of Labour would not like to submit to, and that is to living partially on private charity. What I would not like for myself and my children I do not wish other people to have to submit to. The Government must know what the position is, they must understand that this problem can only be settled by a complete change in our outlook on industry and life, and instead of trying to bolster up the present system, which cannot use what it produces, they ought to set to work to-day to do what the Noble Lord thinks we learned from Karl Marx only—though we learned it from looking at life in a common-sense way—and that is ensure that when there is abundant power to produce for mankind, mankind should use it.
The scope of this Debate ought to convince the House at least of the merits of the Bill. We have ranged across the whole globe. We have spoken of Capitalism and Socialism, of the mechanisation of industry and the purity of local politics in Merthyr Tydfil. There is hardly a subject that has been left undiscussed, and as you, Mr. Speaker, will not on the Third Heading of a Bill allow any discussion on subjects that are not to be found in the Bill, I stand astounded at the magnitude of my own production. The right hon. Member for Bow and Bromley (Mr. Lansbury) has delivered with all his usual sincerity and enthusiasm, a speech upon what I may without any offence call his main topic. It is because he sincerely believes that Socialism is the inevitable cure for all ills, and that there is no use in making any effort to ameliorate the present conditions without it, that he, quite rightly, dismisses the detailed consideration of any Measure as being unprofitable unless it should be accompanied by a radical change of the whole economic structure. No one can complain that he should take that view and express it in the House, but I hope that he will not expect me to-night to follow him in such a wide discussion when I have to deal with this particular Bill. To one remark he made I will, however, refer. He said that if an experiment into the possibility of people securing a livelihood, or at any rate partial independence, on the land had to be undertaken, it was wrong that it should be attempted with the aid of charity. That is one of the chief justifications of this Bill. Any such experiments at present are being carried out, I will not say by charity but by voluntary enterprise. Here, for the first time, we have an organisation under Government control——
I would like to turn for a few minutes to the speech made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George). The first question which arose in my mind when I heard his speech was: "Why did he make it now?" During the last few weeks we have had many discussions, under the widest possible terms, in which the great questions he raised were the subject-matter of debate, when he could have had a reply not from a Departmental Minister conducting a Departmental Bill but from the great ones of the Cabinet. Of course, I admired his speech, the whole House did—the splendid sentiments which he echoed, the modulations of his voice, the well adapted gestures. It was a masterpiece which we all admired. Custom cannot stale his infinite variety.
What exactly did he say? I wonder if the right hon. Gentleman has not been guilty of an offence to which he is prone, of allowing a first-class speech to travel on a third-class ticket. Let us examine for a moment, not the superstructure of his speech, but its actual material. If I may say so, it is inconsistent. The first part of his speech was devoted to what I thought was going to be his contribution to the solution of the problem, and that was a large extension of public works. The right hon. Gentleman has always been a consistent advocate of the policy of large schemes of public works—consistent, I should say, since the time when he was head of the Government. Certainly he was an advocate of a very large extension of public works during the 1929 election, when hon. Gentlemen opposite came in and jumped his claim. They put into effect the policy which he had advocated before the election. I am not going again into the results of that policy. I am not saying that it was not affected by world conditions which were against them, and made it fail. They would be the first to admit that it did fail, and that the expenditure of public money could not make any headway against the other factors which worked against it. Whatever temporary employment was given in any district, the mere fact that, after the expenditure of all that money, the depressed areas are in the condition in which hon. Members say they are to-day, shows that it left no permanent mark behind it.
The hon. Member for Stockton-on-Tees (Mr. Macmillan), discussing this question of public works the other day, made the very pertinent remark that it is no good saying, because the policy of public works initiated by the Labour Government had failed, that all policies of that kind in any circumstances must always fail. He pointed out that the effort of the Labour Government was taken at a time when this was a Free Trade country and we were on the Gold Standard, and that the result might well be different when we are a protected country and are off the Gold Standard. That may be all very well for the hon. Member for Stockton-on-Tees, but the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs cannot say it. He recommended that policy when we were a Free Trade country and were on the Gold Standard, and he saw it tried out in the circumstances in which he thought it could succeed.
Mr. LLOYD GEORGE:
It is not for me to criticise what the Labour Government did or failed to do. The policy of land settlement was only put into an Act of Parliament in 1931, and as soon as it was put on the Statute Book, after some difficulty in another place, the National Government came in and scrapped the whole policy. The policy I mainly recommended was therefore never tried.
The right hon. Gentleman has anticipated me, because I was proposing to divide my remarks into the same categories into which he divided his speech, public works first of all, and then utilisation of land. We were told that we must not compare ourselves with America, and yet the right hon. Gentleman immediately turned to America for comparison. He said: "Look at what they have done. How free they have been with public money, and how courageous in their expenditure. How unrestrained by any fears or old political superstitions; and the result is that the Democratic party has achieved re-election." Surely a better test of whether these experiments were a success and whether, therefore, they are an example which we ought to emulate, is not whether this or that party secured re-election, but whether the condition of industry and of the unemployed in that country have improved as a result of the experiment, more than the conditions of our industry and our unemployed can improve as the result of our efforts. It can at any rate be said for us, dull, stupid and timid as we may be, that we have been able this year to restore a large proportion of the cuts which were made in harder times. That can well be reckoned as a result of our efforts as well as the increase in employment and the diminution of short time. Apart from the restoration of those cuts, the wage and salary income of the working-class has increased by something like £50,000,000 a year in the last 12 months or so.
The right hon. Gentleman told us some of the things that we ought to do. He did not say very much about housing, although, as the Noble Lord the Member for Hastings (Lord E. Percy) pointed out, the Government have embarked on a big slum clearance scheme, and proposes soon to present to the House a big scheme to deal with overcrowding. I should like to know from the right hon. Gentleman what is the more important view of housing policy; is it the subsidy that is given or the house that is built? Last year more houses were built in this country than during any other year in our history. It is true that they were built with a less subsidy, but is that really such a disadvantage? In regard to transport, we were told that a large amount of money ought to be spent. There was a happy time in this country when we thought that transport should be self-supporting and that it would finance its own development out of its own revenue. I am not sure that that is a bad state of things to try to re-establish. In the last 18 months, partly as the result of the general policy of the Government, and partly as a result of the Road and Rail Traffic Act, we have restored to the railways, I will not say prosperity, but a considerable advance upon the condition of two years ago. What has been the result of that? Without subsidy or the intervention of Government money, there is to-day being spent by the railways on the development of their lines and the reconstruction of their rolling stock a vastly greater sum than was spent some two years ago. Is it not the result that matters? Is it not just as well that we have done that without resort to the use of Government subsidy and that we have done it by restoration of the normal process by which capital expenditure is provided out of the profits?
Then the right hon. Gentleman went on to talk about the use of which might be made of the land of this country, and he talked about £300,000,000 worth of things which might be produced here, or, he added, in the Empire. He accused me of smiling. I own that, not a smile, but a look of surprise passed across my face, because he had just been deploring the pitiful state of the shipping industry in Liverpool, and I thought that an attempt to produce in this country £300,000,000 worth of things which to-day are brought from overseas was not exactly a contribution to the solution of that unhappy city's problem.
What exactly does he mean by this generality about £300,000,000 worth of things which we could produce here or in the Empire, and which are now produced elsewhere? First of all, where does he mean to produce them? Is it in the Empire? If so, that would mean transferring from foreign countries to Imperial countries both our markets for their goods and their return markets for ours. That, of course, has many advantages. It may well be that, within the Imperial boundary, and especially on a common currency basis, you would get a stability of trade which you cannot get with a foreign country. At any rate you would have a common foreign policy and a common interest, national and Imperial, which would not be so liable to shocks as might be your trade connections with any other countries in the world; and we could look to such a transference for a more stable and gradually a growing external trade.
But the right hon. Gentleman is not going to tell me that that is going to be the immediate solution of the unemployment problem. At any rate, if it is going to be a contribution at all, this is the policy that we started at Ottawa. Has the right hon. Gentleman helped that policy? It has resulted in exactly what he wanted—a transfer of these markets from the alien to the Imperial country. Has he ever said a word in favour of the right hon. Gentleman who negotiated that agreement? His proposal is for the production of an unspecified amount of this £300,000,000 worth of things at home. I know that this part of his speech was loudly applauded by hon. Members who sat around and behind him. I wonder if they faced up to the implication of what it means. In the first place, it is all very well to say that there is all this quantity of goods that we can produce in this country. Of course there is. But the question is, are we going to produce them as well as they are produced elsewhere to-day? The right hon. Gentleman says "Yes"—that we can produce all those things as well as they can be produced overseas. I wonder if that is quite true. If it is—and I accept at once his implication—it would only be transferring to this country the industrial conditions of agriculture which prevail elsewhere. Obviously, it is no use pretending that we are going to produce as well in this country agricultural goods which are best produced under ranch conditions, without introducing ranch conditions here.
I suspect, however, that that is not really the right hon. Gentleman's intention, but that he wishes—and I think there is a great deal of force in it—to embark, for the sake of giving individual employment and individual independence, on methods of agricultural production which are more beneficial to the individual but may not be so economic. It is all very well now for hon. Gentlemen opposite to be silent when there is some criticism, but at the time they greeted the right hon. Gentleman's remarks with wild cheers——
Not the right hon. Gentleman, because he never cheers anything. But they must face up to the implication that is involved in that theory—it may be a perfectly proper one—that you are to adopt in this country a form of agriculture which is not economically the best, because of its social merits.
I am afraid the members of the Cabinet were not warned beforehand that we were going to have a Debate which touched every one of their Departments. Is not the real fact of the matter that there is no one solution upon any one plan, that you have through the proper expenditure of public money to stimulate developments which are much preferable if they can be done through the ordinary operations of industry but which, owing to some difficulty or other, are not being done. No one can complain that the Government have not in fact done it. Complaints are made that we have done too much. There are complaints about the Shipping Bill and there were complaints over the construction of the "Queen Mary." It is the same, too, with the land. No one would pretend that we are going to find a solution for the problem of 2,000,000 unemployed in land settlement alone, though no one would deny that, within the limits of our foreign markets and our home consumption, much greater use can be made of the land than has been made hitherto.
I think the real crux of the problem was put by my Noble Friend the Member for Hastings. The trouble with which we are really faced now is the culmination of two circumstances. It is not only the increased rate of production to which so many hon. Members have referred. I agree that in the long run we have nothing to fear from mechanisation. No one pretends that as the result of mechanisation you are necessarily going to re-employ in the same industry all the people who are put out of it. Think of the advance of science in the years even since I was born. Even at that time there was not such a thing as a gramophone or a wireless set; a motor car was an adventure and the electric light was a rarity. The industries which to-day are employing the greatest number of people were 40 years ago almost unknown. That is the result of mechanisation. We have come to the time of a slowing down in the increase of population; it has almost come to a stop. It is those two factors coming in at the same time which have created the severity of the crisis.
The right hon. Gentleman should allow me to finish my sentence. If yon had this increased outpouring of goods, and an increased number of people still being born you would have production and consumption more or less level without the necessity for adaptations which must now be made and which would otherwise automatically be made.
Part of the quota of goods which cannot be consumed is, even with the present population, brought about because there is no efficient demand for those commodities, and because of that we have the contradiction of abundance on the one hand, and poverty and destitution on the other.
It seems to me that by themselves the lines to which my right hon. Friend referred, and which I agree make some approach to the problem, can never provide a solution. You cannot ignore these two combined factors. You get back inevitably to the question to which I referred on the Second Reading of the Bill, that you are left with the problem of leisure. What immediately springs to people's minds is the question of hours of work, a terribly difficult subject, as everybody here will agree. It is easy enough to generalise about, but terribly difficult to deal with in view of the relationships between production costs here, and those of our competitors abroad, and all the difficulties of bringing the many factors into relation. As I told the House before, I intend in the New Year to enlist the co-operation of both sides of the industries in an attempt to make some inroads upon a problem, the solution of which will be to the great advantage of both of them.
It is not only a question of hours. There is something else in connection with which this Bill is of immense value. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs and the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition have referred to the use of land in an industrial way. That is to say, the person is put on the land either as a wage-earner on a farm or as a smallholder on his own to get a livelihood from the land by selling the produce from it. It is really industrial agriculture. I believe that there is a great possibility in some of the schemes which up to now have been tried in a very small way, with the assistance of voluntary money, which this Bill, and this Bill alone, will make possible to experiment with on a very large scale. The land is used not solely for the purpose of producing for sale, but also for the purpose of producing to consume or to exchange. The hon. Member for Leigh (Mr. Tinker) said that he had seen the experiment in being at Upholland where people help to supply their own needs while continuing to receive a cash payment, and where they are still available for reabsorption into industry. They are provided with an occupation and a resource, and, at the same time, a real means of increasing their own standard of livelihood. When people say that there is no need to experiment in a thing of that kind, I say that experiment is vital. The hon. Member saw an experiment where there were 11 people in a group, exchanging with each other. Will that group system work with 20, 30 or 50 people? You cannot tell until you try it. If we try it and find that it does succeed, then hon. Members must agree that it will bring comfort and hope to a vast number of people in the country. That is one of the justifications for the Bill.
I am afraid that I have spoken too long on subjects which are not closely connected with the Bill, but I think it would be lack of courtesy to some hon. Members opposite if I did not reply to some of the specific questions which, in the intervals which were allowed to us in the discussion of the major policy, they put. My hon. Friend the Member for Chester-le-Street (Mr. Lawson) referred, as did the hon. Member for Aberdare (Mr. G. Hall), to the possibility of mine drainage schemes. The particular scheme in South Wales has been considered by a committee, but no report has yet been made. The question whether the Commissioner can himself give financial assistance to these schemes depends upon whether they are for the advantage of an undertaking carried on for gain. Until I see the schemes I cannot say whether or not that is so. In any case, the Commissioner would be able to fulfil his other function of bringing to the notice of the Government schemes which he thought were good, and trying if possible to remove the obstacles which stood in the way of completing them.
I was asked about consideration of the question of mining royalties. It was said that the Prime Minister had stated that they would be considered, and I was asked whether they were being "really considered" or only just "being considered." My answer is that they are really being considered.
In Durham, I understand that the difficulty is that they have not got on so far as they have in South Wales, because they have not enlisted the mine owners' support for schemes of this kind. No doubt, when the Commissioner is in the area it is the sort of thing that he might consider, and he might see what the position is. I do not know that there are any other particular points raised by hon. Members opposite. A point was raised by the hon. Member for Durham (Mr. McKeag) which he said vitally affected the liberty of the subject and would end in a stern bureaucracy grasping land from the humble poor—but neither he nor his friends were able to be in time to move their Amendments on the Report stage.
My noble Friend the Member for Hastings raised the question of Dowlais and suggested that the Commissioner should be endowed with over-riding powers over the local authorities so that he could enforce his will upon them. The Noble Lord is one among many others who has referred to the report of the Civil Lord of the Admiralty and said how much he agrees with him. It has been the practice for speakers in these Debates to refer to the report of the Civil Lord and enlist his authority on their side, whether he said anything about the matter at all or whether, in fact, he gave a direct denial. The hon. Member for Chester-le-Street made a passionate defence of the report of the Civil Lord and asked why the Government did not adopt it; why had they refused his suggestions? The hon. Member did not refer to the suggestion of the Civil Lord that public assistance in Durham should be taken over by the Commissioner. The Noble Lady the hon. Member for the Sutton Division of Plymouth (Viscountess Astor) referred to the passage in the report
Before the right hon. Gentleman tries to pin me to something I never said, may I say that what I said was that the Commissioner must either have the power or the incentive. He must either have the stick or the carrot for the donkey. I do not care which it is.
I take it that the idea that the Commissioner should be endowed with powers to supersede local authorities is not pressed.
We have now come to the end of the Debates on this question, and I want to make it quite plain that we have never thought, we do not think now, that the passage of the Bill, valuable as I think it will be, absolves us in any way from our general responsibilities towards the industries of this country. Although the consequences of the Bill may be much more far reaching than hon. Members have given it credit for in our discussions, I do not pretend that it can offer a complete, or even a major, solution of the problem which faces us. But, realising this, we say that in this Bill we are making a real contribution to one part of the problem, and that it is a contribution which may have its effect not only in the areas where it is to be applied but eventually throughout the country as a whole. It is on that ground that we enlist from hon. Members in all parts of the House, now that the discussions are over, their co-operation in making it work, in a genuine desire, as I am sure there is, that the experiment will prove a success.
|Division No. 23.]||AYES.||[10.40 p.m.|
|Adams, Samuel Vyvyan T. (Leeds, W.)||Barrle, Sir Charles Coupar||Bower, Commander Robert Tatton|
|Albery, Irving James||Barton, Capt. Basil Kelsey||Braithwaite, Maj. A. N. (Yorks, E. R.)|
|Amery, Rt. Hon. Leopoid C. M. S.||Beauchamp, Sir Brograve Campbell||Bralthwaite, J. G. (Hillsborough)|
|Applin, Lieut.-Col. Reginald V. K.||Beaumont, Hn. R. E. B. (Portsm'th, c.)||Brass, Captain Sir William|
|Apsley, Lord||Bennett, Capt. Sir Ernest Nathaniel||Briscoe, Capt. Richard George|
|Aske, Sir Robert William||Birchall, Major Sir John Dearman||Broadbent, Colonel John|
|Bailey, Eric Alfred George||Bllndell, James||Brocklebank, C. E. R.|
|Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley||Borodale, Viscount||Brown, Ernest (Leith)|
|Balniel, Lord||Bossom, A. C.||Brown, Brig.-Gen. H. C. (Berks., Newb'y)|
|Barclay-Harvey, C. M.||Boulton, W. W.||Buchan-Hepburn, P. G. T.|
|Burghley, Lord||Hills, Major Rt. Hon. John Waller||Ramsay, Alexander (W. Bromwich)|
|Cadogan, Hon. Edward.||Holdsworth, Herbert||Ramsay, Capt. A. H. M. (Midlothlan)|
|Campbell, Vice-Admiral G. (Burnley)||Hope, Capt. Hon. A. O. J. (Aston)||Ramsay, T. B. W. (Western Isles)|
|Caporn, Arthur Cecil||Hore-Belisha, Leslie||Ramsbotham, Herwald|
|Carver, Major William H.||Horsbrugh, Florence||Ramsden, Sir Eugene|
|Castlereagh, Viscount||Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hackney, N.)||Rankin, Robert|
|Cayzer, Maj. Sir H. R. (Prtimth., S.)||Hudson, Robert Spear (Southport)||Rathbone, Eleanor|
|Cazalet, Thelma (Lslington, E.)||Hunter, Dr. Joseph (Dumfries)||Reid, David D. (County Down)|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. N. (Edgbaston)||Inskip, Rt. Hon. Sir Thomas W. H.||Reid, William Allan (Derby)|
|Chapman, Sir Samuel (Edinburgh, S.)||James, Wing-Com. A. W. H.||Remer, John R.|
|Christie, James Archibald||Johnstone, Harcourt (S. Shields)||Renwick, Major Gustav A.|
|Churchill, Rt. Hon. Winston Spencer||Kerr, Lieut.-Col. Charles (Montross)||Rhys, Hon. Charles Arthur U.|
|Clarry, Reginald George||Kerr, Hamilton W.||Ropner, Colonel L.|
|Clayton, Sir Christopher||Law, Sir Alfred||Ross, Ronald D.|
|Cobb, Sir Cyril||Law, Richard K. (Hull, S.W.)||Ross Taylor, Walter (Woodbridge)|
|Colman, N. C. D.||Leckle, J. A.||Russell, Albert (Kirkcaldy)|
|Colville, Lieut-Colonel J.||Leech, Dr. J. W.||Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth)|
|Conant, R. J. E.||Lees-Jones, John||Rutherford, John (Edmonton)|
|Cook, Thomas A.||Leighton, Major B. E. P.||Sandeman, Sir A. N. Stewart|
|Craven-Ellis, William||Lennox-Boyd, A. T.||Sanderson, Sir Frank Barnard|
|Crooke, J. Smedley||Liddall, Walter S.||Sassoon, Rt. Hon. Sir Philip A. G. D.|
|Crookshank, Capt. H. C. (Galnsb'ro)||Lindsay, Noel Ker||Selley, Harry R.|
|Croom-Johnson, R. P.||Llewellin, Major John J.||Shaw, Helen B. (Lanark, Bothwell)|
|Cross, R. H.||Lloyd, Geoffrey||Sinclair, Col. T. (Queen's Unv., Belfast)|
|Cruddas, Lieut.-Colonel Bernard||Loder, Captain J. de Vere||Skelton, Archibald Noel|
|Curry, A. C.||Mabane, William||Slater, John|
|Denman, Hon. R. D.||MacAndrew, Lieut.-Col. C. G. (Partick)||Smiles, Lieut.-Col. Sir Waiter D.|
|Dickie, John P.||MacAndrew, Capt. J. O. (Ayr)||Smith, Sir Robert (Ab'd'n & K'dine.C.)|
|Duncan, James A. L. (Kensington, N.)||McCorquodale, M. S.||Somerville, Annesley A. (Windsor)|
|Eastwood, John Francis||Macdonald, Sir Murdoch (Inverness)||Soper, Rlchard|
|Edmondson, Major Sir James||Macdonald, Capt. P. D. (I. of W.)||Sotheron-Estcourt, Captain T. E|
|Ellis, Sir R. Geoffrey||McKeag, William||Southby, Commander Archibald R. J.|
|Elliston, Captain George Sampson||McKie, John Hamlltor||Spender-Clay, Rt. Hon. Herbert H.|
|Elmley, Viscount||McLean, Major Sir Alan||Spens, William Patrick|
|Emrys-Evans, P. V.||McLean, Dr. W. H. (Tradeston)||Stanley, Rt. Hon. Lord (Fylde)|
|Fleiden, Edward Brocklehurst||Macmillan, Maurice Harold||Stanley, Rt. Hon. Oliver (W'morland)|
|Fleming, Edward Lascelles||Mallalieu, Edward Lancelot||Stevenson, James|
|Ford, Sir Patrick J.||Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. D. R.||Storey, Samuel|
|Fuller, Captain A. G.||Martin, Thomas B.||Stourton, Hon. John J.|
|Ganzoni, Sir John||Mason, David M. (Edinburgh, E.)||Strauss, Edward A.|
|Gillett, Sir George Masterman||Milne, Charles||Strickland, Captain W. F.|
|Gilmour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir John||Mitchell, Harold P. (Br'tt'd & Chlsw'k)||Stuart, Lord C. Crichton|
|Glossop, C. W. H.||Moreing, Adrian C.||Sugden, Sir Wilfrid Hart|
|Gluckstein, Louls Halle||Morrison, William Shepherd||Sutcliffe, Harold|
|Glyn, Major Sir Ralph G. C.||Moss, Captain H. J.||Thomas, James P. L. (Hereford)|
|Goff, Sir Park||Muirhead, Lieut.-Colonel A. J.||Thompson, Sir Luke|
|Goldie, Noel B.||Munro, Patrlck||Todd, Lt.-Col. A. J. K. (B'wick-on-T.)|
|Gower, Sir Robert||Nail, Sir Joseph||Tufnell, Lieut.-Commander R. L.|
|Gravel, Marjorie||Nation, Brigadier-General J. J. H.||Wallace, Captain D. E. (Hornsey)|
|Griffith, F. Kingsley (Middlesbro, W.)||Nunn, William||Wallace, John (Dunfermline)|
|Grigg, Sir Edward||O'Connor, Terence James||Ward, Irene Mary Bewick (Wallsend)|
|Grimston, R. V.||Ormiston, Thomas||Ward, Sarah Adelaide (Cannock)|
|Gritten, W. G. Howard||Ormsby-Gore, Rt. Hon. William G. A.||Waterhouse, Captain Charles|
|Guinness, Thomas L. E. B.||Orr Ewing, I. L.||Wedderburn, Henry James Scrymgeour|
|Gunston, Captain D. W.||Patrick, Colin M.||Whiteside, Borras Noel H.|
|Guy, J. C. Morrison||Peake, Osbert||Whyte, Jardine Bell|
|Hales, Harold K.||Pearson, William G.||Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel George|
|Hanbury, Cecil||Penny, Sir George||Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl|
|Harbord, Arthur||Percy, Lord Eustace||Womersley, Sir Walter|
|Harvey, George (Lambeth, Kenningt'n)||Perkins, Walter R. D.||Worthington, Dr. John V.|
|Harvey, Major S. E. (Devon, Totnes)||Petherick, M.||Young, Rt. Hon. Sir Hilton (S'v'noaks)|
|Haslam, Henry (Horncastle)||Pike, Cecil F.|
|Headlam, Lieut.-Col. Cuthbert M.||Potter, John||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Hellgers, Captain F. F. A.||Procter, Major Henry Adam||Sir Frederick Thomson and Lieut.-|
|Herbert, Major J. A. (Monmouth)||Radford, E. A.||Colonel Sir A. Lambert Ward.|
|Addison, Rt. Hon. Dr. Christopher||Edwards, Charles||Leonard, William|
|Attlee, Clement Richard||Evans, David Owen (Cardigan)||Logan, David Gilbert|
|Banfield, John William||Evans, R. T. (Carmarthen)||Lunn, William|
|Batey, Joseph||Gardner, Benjamin Walter||Macdonald, Gordon (Ince)|
|Bevan, Aneurin (Ebbw Vale)||George, Rt. Hon. D. Lloyd (Carn'v'n)||McEntee, Valentine L.|
|Brown, C. W. E. (Notts., Mansfield)||George, Major G. Lloyd (Pembroke)||Maclean, Neil (Glasgow, Govan)|
|Buchanan, George||George, Megan A. Lloyd (Anglesea)||Mainwaring, William Henry|
|Cape, Thomas||Greenwood, Rt. Hon. Arthur||Maxton, James|
|Cocks, Frederick Seymour||Griffiths, George A. (Yorks, W. Riding)||Milner, Major James|
|Cove, William G.||Griffiths, T. (Monmouth, Pon'ypool)||Nathan, Major H. L.|
|Cripps, Sir Stafford||Groves, Thomas E.||Owen, Major Goronwy|
|Daggar, George||Grundy, Thomas W.||Paling, Wilfred|
|Davies, David L. (Pontypriad)||Hall, George H. (Merthyr Tydvil)||Parkinson, John Allen|
|Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton)||Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)||Smith, Tom (Normanton)|
|Davies, Stephen Owen||Lansbury, Rt. Hon. George||Strauss, G. R. (Lambeth, North)|
|Dobble, William||Lawson, John James||Thorne, William James|
|Tinker, John Joseph||Williams, Dr. John H. (Llanelly)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Williams, David (Swansea, East)||Wilmot, John||Mr. John and Mr. D. Graham.|
|Williams, Edward John (Ogmore)|
Question, "That the Clause, as amended, stand part of the Bill," put, and agreed to.