Orders of the Day — Supply.

– in the House of Commons on 6th July 1937.

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[16TH ALLOTTED DAY.] Considered in Committee.

[Sir DENNIS HERBERT in the Chair.]

CIVIL ESTIMATES, 1937.

CLASS V.

MINISTRY OF LABOUR.

Motion made, and Question proposed, That a sum, not exceeding £14,338,000, be granted to His Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1938, for the Salaries and Expenses of the Ministry of Labour, including sums payable by the Exchequer to the Unemployment Fund, Grants to Local Authorities, Associations and other bodies under the Unemployment Insurance, Labour Exchanges and other Acts; Grant in Aid of the National Council of Social Service; Expenses of Training, Transfer and Resettlement; Contribution towards the Expenses of the International Labour Organisation (League of Nations); Expenses of the Industrial Court; and sundry services."—[Note.—£9,500,000 has been voted on account.]

3.48 p.m.

Photo of Mr Ernest Brown Mr Ernest Brown , Leith

The Estimate which I present to the Committee to-day covers a net sum of £23,838,000, a net increase of £119,000 over the financial year 1936–37. The total average staff of the Ministry of Labour is 27,897. The Committee will be interested to know that 86.38 of them are ex-service men. The work of my Department affects the whole nation, and especially some 14,000,000 insured workers in industry and agriculture. Some idea of the amount of the work done can be gained from the fact that, in the financial year 1936–37, payments were made through the Employment Exchanges amounting to no less than £71,545,000 and, in addition, through assoiations, the sum of £1,263,000. That vast sum is the product of a remarkable system of social service which, I venture to say, is unequalled in the world. The staff figures indicate that the Minister of Labour of the day is the temporary head of a very large family and, as in all families, there is an experience which is a mixture of gains and losses, ups and downs, agreements and disagreements, and times of prosperity and times of adversity. My privilege at the moment is to be the head of the affairs of this great domestic office when, after a time of great stress and storm, we have passed into comparatively quiet water with very good cargoes aboard.

The industrial recovery of our people is vividly shown in the outstanding facts of our employment position. Let me, at the commencement of this discussion, state three outstanding facts with regard to the employment record of last year. There was an exceptionally sharp rise in the numbers available for employment; there was a large increase in the numbers in work, which, indeed, reached a record that has never been approached since the statistics have been kept; and, thirdly, there was a remarkable decrease in the number of unemployed. The result of the work of the Ministry has been extremely interesting from the administrative point of view. When, over two years ago, it fell to my lot to go to the Ministry, we were much more concerned with the problems involved in the tragedy of worklessness than with the problems involved in a return to work, whereas now we are having from day to day to devote more attention to that side of the Ministry's work which deals with the problems of the return to work, although we are still, but happily to a less and less extent, gravely occupied with the problems involved in worklessness.

The day-to-day work of the Ministry of Labour is concerned with many things that pass with the day, but it is concerned mainly with affairs that are permanent, with the tasks that go on from day to day, from month to month, and from year to year, and occupy the minds of successive Ministers of all parties. It is the permanent work of the Ministry about which I want mainly to speak to-day. I know that I shall be best serving my own time and the convenience of the Committee if I say comparatively little about those subjects which we have discussed so often in recent special Debates, and rather more about that part of the Ministry's work which rarely comes before the House of Commons and the public eye, but which is vital to the smooth and successful working of the great industrial life of this land.

The permanent work to which I refer includes the work of conciliation and arbitration for the avoidance of interruptions in the normal course of industry; the work of the great joint industrial council movement and the substantial and well-founded work of the trade boards; a hundred duties in connection with employment which never come before the public eye, and the administration of the greatest system of social insurance in regard to unemployment that the world knows. Then there are the problems involved in the work of the statutory bodies, for which the Minister has to answer in the House of Commons, but for whose particular actions he is not directly responsible. This is a new technique, which requires a great deal of understanding, tact, and courage. The Ministry of Labour has, of course, at the moment the largest experience of this kind of work of any Government Department, although other Government Departments have similar bodies working with them in the growing complexity of our national industrial life.

At the moment we are concerned with three of these bodies which are permanent in character, and one which is temporary. Let me first mention the oldest, namely, the Central Advisory Committee for Women's Employment and Training. This is the oldest body working with the Ministry of Labour, responsible for its own actions, for which the Minister has to answer in the House, and for whose operations the Vote is to be found only inside these Estimates. As hon. Members will know, this committee has done extremely valuable work since the War days, and I propose to say a word or two about one particular side of its activities a little later in my speech. Its chairman from the beginning has been Miss Violet Markham. Then there is the Unemployment Assistance Board, for which the Minister answers in the House but which is a statutory body bearing its own responsibility. Its chairman is Lord Rushcliffe. There is another statutory body with different powers in connection with the Unemployment Fund, namely, the Unemployment Insurance Statutory Committee, whose chairman is Sir William Beveridge. Then, coming to the temporary body, we have the Commissioners for the Special Areas. We are all working with them so that the effect of our mutual work for the recovery of the nation may be that these Special Commissioners may cease to be needed, and that they may become temporary organisations in our national life.

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

The right hon. Gentleman is now coming to matters which are outside the first Vote on the Order Paper, which is the only one before the Committee, and, therefore, it would be just as well if the Committee would come to a definite understanding as to how the Debate is to be conducted.

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

May I say that my name is down to move a reduction of one of the Votes, but, if I move that reduction, I understand that it would limit the Debate to that particular Vote. It is not my intention to move that reduction until practically the end of the Debate this evening, and I should like to ask, therefore, whether it would not be possible to allow the Debate to be as general as possible, so as to cover all the Votes that are on the Order Paper?

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

There are four different Votes on the Order Paper, and, according to the ordinary rules, the Vote which has been read from the Chair is the only one that can be discussed. Of course, there have been a number of occasions on which the Chair has, with the assent of the Committee, allowed the discussion to range over a number of different Votes on the Order Paper; I only want to say that I hope the Committee will not get the idea that, just because there are several Votes on the Order Paper, all of them can be discussed together. In every case it must depend upon the circumstances as to how far the Votes can be regarded as being inter-related with one another. In this particular case I think it would be convenient that all of the Votes which are on the Order Paper should be discussed together, if that receives the general assent of the Committee, and I take it that it does. As the hon. Member for Chester-le-Street (Mr. Lawson) has just said, if a reduction of this one Vote were moved on behalf of the Opposition, it would, of course, upset that arrangement, but, if that reduction is not moved until the end of the Debate, it will be possible for the Debate to range over all the Votes that are on the Order Paper.

Photo of Mr Ernest Brown Mr Ernest Brown , Leith

I am sure, Sir Dennis, that the Committee will be grateful to you for that Ruling. I think it will meet the general convenience if I carry out my intention not to say much about the particular subjects to which I have just referred, and leave any points about them in which hon. Members may be interested to be dealt with in the reply of my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary. I wish to deal particularly, as I have said, with some of the aspects of the work of the Ministry which are not normally in the public eye and do not often find expression on the Floor of this Chamber. Let me begin by saying a word or two about the work of that division of the Ministry which deals with industrial relations of every kind. It deals, of course, with the work of negotiation, conciliation, and arbitration. Its cost on the Estimate is small, but its results are far-reaching. The work is done quietly, behind the scenes, out of the limelight for the most part, but its value cannot be overestimated. Occasionally the head of the division finds a spotlight playing upon his work, as in the case of the recent London omnibus dispute, but when the division is most successful in its operations there are no plaudits and no headlines. for the quiet settlement of disputes behind the scenes is, of course, not news. The work is concerned with meeting difficulties halfway, trying to prevent their going the rest of the journey to a crisis. When the break occurs, and not till then, the public imagination is struck, headlines flare, negotiations become first-class news matter. For one case of that kind there are scores of cases which call for tactful handling and in which by experience and by advice wisely given to the right people, a breakdown has been avoided and the threat of disruption has been dispersed. There is no responsible member of a trade union or of an employers' organisation who is unaware that that is done regularly behind the scenes by the Ministry of Labour and its industrial relations department, month by month and year by year.

I have put that in the forefront because it does not often get a chance of public discussion. When I talk of "the right people" I mean, of course, the responsible people in the employers' and the trade union organisations. There are some people who regard these organisations as obnoxious. That is not the view of any wise observer of our industrial life and work. On the contrary, it is the duty of the Ministry of Labour to help those organisations as indispensable elements for the full working of a system of shrewd collective bargaining, argument and agreement, a system which, as I say, is grow- ing more and more valuable in the national life each year. The methods adopted by our industrial relations section vary greatly, but they are rooted in the general belief and experience that people in industry generally know their own business best, and that collective agreements without the assistance of the Government are the ideal method of regulating working conditions. Nevertheless, as in the affairs of the cotton trade recently, an occasion sometimes gives the Ministry power to intervene, to enforce upon minorities the agreed conditions, if it is concluded, as it was concluded in certain talks upon that trade, that there is a small minority not playing the game in the industry.

In the field of industrial relations we are bound to pay tribute to the general effectiveness of the various forms of joint machinery for determining wages and working conditions. The value of this machinery was fully tested and proved during the long period of industrial depression, and it is equally proving itself since the general improvement of trade and industry. Nevertheless trade disputes cannot be entirely avoided. The Department is concerned with differences and disputes over a wide range of industry. It is worthy of note, however, that during recent years, contrary to some popular notions, there have been very few large-scale disputes in industries in which proper joint machinery has been established. In the last 18 months the number but not the importance of these disputes has increased, but they have been mainly concerned with individual establishments and comparatively small bodies of workpeople. In many cases they have occurred in the establishments of employers not affiliated to the normal trade machinery, who do not observe the conditions commonly recognised in that industry as a whole, and are otherwise reluctant to recognise trade unions or to enter into negotiations with them.

The number of disputes has also been swollen by unofficial stoppages. All reasonable persons recognise that such stoppages tend to destroy the value of organisation and constitutional machinery, and at the same time they emphasise the need for dealing with causes of the disputes. It is not the function or practice of the Department to intervene in differences or disputes that are apparently capable of settlement within the normal machinery of an industry, and for obvious reasons it is no part of the Department's normal duty to interfere in unofficial stoppages. As I said in answer to a question recently, it is as much a part of the duty of the Minister to know when not to intervene as when to intervene. But even so, there are a number of differences in which the assistance of the conciliation officers of the Department is invited by the one side or the other, including, of course, may cases where the employers and the workpeople concerned are not (-covered by joint machinery.

Methods of assistance vary greatly. In some cases it may be a matter of offering negotiations, or suggesting or advising as to a way out of the difficulty. In others we may use such influence as we have to bring the parties in touch with each other. In others a joint conference may be arranged, which may be merely between the parties concerned or a conference over which an officer of the Department may preside. As a result of such action a settlement may be reached or arrangements made with the consent of both sides to submit the dispute to arbitration. There can be no hard-and-fast rule as to the form of an arbitration tribunal. It may take any form that suits the parties concerned or the merits of the dispute. Perhaps the Committee will allow me to take an illustration from last year's experience. There were great difficulties in the wool trade. One of the advantages of going to Geneva was to hear the debates about the textile trade last year, and to hear what was thought about the wool trade in this country. As a result of that experience and knowledge gained of the trade I appointed an inquiry. It was neither a conciliation board nor an arbitration tribunal but was appointed to examine formally the difficulties which exist with regard to wages and hours of working in the industry. The board's report contained recommendations which laid the issue bare to the public, and the trade and the House know that as a result a new agreement was reached, which meant a satisfactory improvement both in the relations of the employers' organisation and the trade unions concerned and in the conditions of the workers in that industry.

Let me sum up. During 1936 officers of my Department were concerned with over 200 disputes and they were directly associated with 45 settlements. Not all of these disputes, of course, came near to the stage of a stoppage of work. Occasionally by means of settling the dispute in advance full deadlock was not reached. If the matter is one affecting national or public interests the Minister may have to exercise the only compulsory power given to him in this connection by appointing a court of inquiry to examine all the facts of the dispute and to supply an impartial account for the information of the public generally. It is a very happy circumstance that the need for this action does not often arise. The court of inquiry in the recent dispute in London exposed the issues clearly to the public and contributed vitally to paving the way to the ultimate return to work.

There is one other aspect of the Department's work in this field, and it is of equal importance to, if not of greater importance than, that to which I have just referred. I refer to the establishment or extension of machinery for the settlement of wages and working conditions on a co-ordinated and stable basis. Here again the methods of assistance offered by the Department are very varied. A formal inquiry may be necessary in some cases, as in the case of the committee appointed jointly by the Minister of Transport and myself last year to inquire into the conditions which were necessary for the better regulation of working conditions in the commercial road transport industry. That report is now before us, and we are actively working on it in order to prepare the steps which may be necessary in order to carry out the recommendations of the report. Again, of course, it may be necessary to stimulate discussions in an industry where there is no form of organisation.

There are hon. Members opposite who know very well that during the last 18 months we have done our best to stimulate that kind of atmosphere and machinery in that greatest of all series of trades in employment value—the distributive trades of the country. It is not usually understood that in this country there are 14,000,000 persons between the ages of 14 and 64 who are insured against unemployment, and that of these 2,000,000 are engaged in the distributive services of the country. We have had long discussions, and during those discussions facts have been brought to the notice of employers, and several new agreements have been reached between individual firms and the unions concerned. There is a wider appreciation of the value of the unions' work in this sphere on the part of many more employers, than was the case 18 months ago. Just recently for the first time for Scotland and England and Wales a joint committee of employers and employed has been formed to consider the whole of the facts and to begin working out what I hope will prove to be stable joint machinery in that great and difficult series of trades. This is work which does not come to the public notice. It is known only to those who are affected by it, those who have to run the great organisations of the land and those who from day to day in the Ministry of Labour do this work. I hope that more and more employers in the retail distributive trades will take a vital interest in this subject, and that in the end we may work to a position where a general improvement, in some cases sorely needed, may take place in the conditions of shop assistants and others in the retail trades.

Other examples of action taken by the Department are on great questions of social and industrial improvement, namely, questions such as holidays with pay. The Ministry appointed a committee under the chairmanship of Lord Amulree to consider that question, which is of wide interest and importance now. They have had six meetings and are actively pursuing their work, and I have no doubt that the nation as a whole and those concerned in industry will be put in possession of information and recommendations which will afford a basis for guidance and for wise action in the months ahead. This year we have also decided to appoint a committee to consider the question of the working of the Fair Wages Resolution. This is the first inquiry into this subject for more than 25 years. That committee will start work almost immediately.

There are many other matters with which the Department is concerned. The hon. Member for Chester-le-Street (Mr. Lawson) was concerned quite recently in raising questions about a problem even more difficult than that of the distributive trades, and that is the catering trade. This is not a single trade but a collection of trades with certain characteristics in common. It is one of those cases in which the machinery of a trade board might not be the most appropriate. I propose to enter into discussions with organisations on both sides to see what steps ought to be taken for the better regulation of conditions of work.

I hope that this little survey of the Industrial Relations Departments work, on a very small scale, may have been of assistance to the Committee. I am sure the opportunity is valued by the Minister, because this is the kind of quiet work which really ought to have public recognition. Sometimes that which gets the headlines is not anything like as valuable as the quiet work which is known only to those who take part in movements behind the scenes.

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

Can the right hon. Gentleman give us the figures as to the number of disputes in which the Industrial Relations Section has intervened?

Photo of Mr Ernest Brown Mr Ernest Brown , Leith

I will ask the Parliamentary Secretary to obtain the figure before the end of the Debate. I was only anxious not to be drawn into a discussion of the merits of various disputes, but to paint the picture as a whole, and especially to emphasise the point as to the value of the work done in disputes which happily never come to the stage of a stoppage.

The Ministry also deals with the question of those who desire to employ labour that is not British in this country. It is very interesting and difficult work. A permit has to be granted, and the Ministry of Labour has the duty of safeguarding the interests of British workers. In 1936 the grand total of applications was 21,652 including applications to the Home Office and permission was granted in 19,119 cases. This year to the end of May, the last figures that I have, the total applications were 11,086 and permission was granted in 9,182 cases. [An HON. MEMBER: "What type of labour?"] There is an analysis in the Annual Report of the Ministry of Labour showing that 50 per cent. of the permits issued were for private and domestic service.

Photo of Mr James Griffiths Mr James Griffiths , Llanelly

Is a permit necessary for the Irish Free State?

Photo of Mr Ernest Brown Mr Ernest Brown , Leith

No. The Irish Free State is a Dominion and does not rank as a foreign State; therefore, I have no power under the Aliens Order, 1920, which is the basis of my powers in that regard.

Photo of Mr James Maxton Mr James Maxton , Glasgow Bridgeton

How much is domestic service?

Photo of Mr Ernest Brown Mr Ernest Brown , Leith

About 50 per cent. On page 24 of the Ministry's annual report the hon. Member will find an analysis of the nature and classes of labour. Domestic service is one of our most difficult problems. Side by side with the increase of employment we have two other movements. There was in the early part of the life of the National Government a downward trend of employment and of prices, but since 1933 there has been a change which, of course, comes under the purview of the Ministry of Labour, because, on the one hand, we take regard of the series of rates of wages which are returned to the Ministry through collective agreements showing either increases of rates or decreases and, on the other hand, we are responsible for the working out month by month of the index figure of the cost of living. There have been many criticisms of the cost-of-living index. Many have been wrongly founded, but there are some that are well-founded, because the calculations were made on a pre-war basis, and there have been many changes in the habits of cur people since the list of articles was selected which form the basis of that index.

The Government have decided to institute, in connection with the question involved in the complicated calculations of the cost of living index, an inquiry as to the actual up-to-date habits of spending in the homes of our people. That decision having been made, a very strong Advisory Committee was appointed. It included representatives of trade unions, employers' organisations, statisticians, economists, representatives of the Ministry of Health, in order that the Ministry might be advised in conducting its inquiries as to the basis upon which it should be done. We have now been advised on that, and, as a result, enquiries will be made of some 25,000 or 30,000 households. We shall attempt to get the largest number of budgets we can get, four times in the next year. They will be taken, if we can get the co-operation of the housewives locally, as we hope to do, at four periods, October, January, April and July, and we shall hope to get sufficient information to make the basis of the cost-of-living index up to date and a real representation of the facts of ordinary working-class life, and express it also in an index figure linked with the present index figure, so that there will be no break in the two figures. We are starting next October. We are taking households and areas at random all over the country.

Photo of Mr Neil Maclean Mr Neil Maclean , Glasgow Govan

The right hon. Gentleman says this inquiry is to be made at random. Will it not be better to have some scheme to provide for taking the various areas mostly affected and getting specific figures?

Photo of Mr Ernest Brown Mr Ernest Brown , Leith

I used the word "random" to show that we had no cut-and-dried plan of selecting particular areas or people. The hon. Member has put a fair point. It has been under our consideration, and it was the main reason for getting a strong advisory committee to agree as to the best method of doing it. They have spent some months considering the whole of the facts involved in this very difficult problem and, as a result, we have had sufficient advice to allow us to go ahead in the assurance that, without being arbitrary, we shall be able to get an accurate representation which we can defend both socially and scientifically as the basis of an index which will be up to date, and will represent the facts of working-class budgets. There are a number of industries in which wages depend on the cost of living index, and it is vital to know how ordinary people are now faring, as the basis of the present figure was adopted in pre-War time.

Photo of Mr David Logan Mr David Logan , Liverpool Scotland

Is the right hon. Gentleman going to take the unemployed and give us their budget, or is it to be the employed, or both?

Photo of Mr Ernest Brown Mr Ernest Brown , Leith

That problem was put to the Advisory Committee. I had no prepossessions about it. After considering their representations, I have decided that it is better to confine it to those in work, or in receipt of unemployment benefit, excluding applicants for unemployment allowances, and it is on that basis that it will be done.

Photo of Mr David Logan Mr David Logan , Liverpool Scotland

This raises a very important point. If it is to be calculated on the employed, are we to take it that the pur- port of the inquiry will be to raise the unemployment rates of pay if the cost of living is greater?

Photo of Mr Ernest Brown Mr Ernest Brown , Leith

The hon. Member will not expect me to enter into a hypothetical question of that kind. In determining on this inquiry, the Government were facing all kinds of possible eventualities. They are desirous of getting a real up-to-date index which will represent the facts.

Photo of Mr Neil Maclean Mr Neil Maclean , Glasgow Govan

In view of the fact that the Minister admitted that a large number of workmen in various trades have their wages arranged according to the cost of living figure, is not that an indication that he was rather wrong when he said he was making his inquiries in a random fashion? Would it not be better to adopt a systematic method in order to arrive at a scientific figure?

Photo of Mr Ernest Brown Mr Ernest Brown , Leith

Perhaps the hon. Member will not read too much into that word "random." He is using it in a connection in which I did not use it. I was referring only to the method of selecting the households to be visited. Perhaps I had better go a little further into detail than I intended to do. The official cost of living index was instituted shortly after the outbreak of the War with the object of measuring the percentage changes occurring from month to month in the cost of maintaining the average standard of working-class living unchanged. It has been regularly calculated and published month by month on that basis. It has been of a great service in providing a continuous series of figures showing how working-class costs of living have been affected by changes in retail prices throughout the period of 23 years since it was first instituted. It has been widely used in the regulation of wages. The working conditions of 1,250,000 of our population are governed by agreements containing provisions for the adjustment of wage rates in accordance with the movements of the index number.

Our inquiry is taking place in view of the many changes that have occurred in working-class modes of life and habits of expenditure since 1914. We have considered that the retention of the pre-war standard of living as the basis of calculation was becoming more and more open to criticism, and it has been accordingly decided to revise the list of articles included in the computations and the numerical weights applied to the percentage increases in the price of those articles to correspond more closely with the standard of living now prevailing in working class households. In order to obtain the data required for this purpose, we require to make an inquiry into present working-class family expenditure. We shall get information as to the values and kinds of meat and food consumed that will be of great value to the Health Department and to the Advisory Committee on Diet and Nutrition. Mr. Leggett was the Chairman of the Committee which decided how the inquiry should be conducted, and there were representatives of the National Federation of Employers Organisation, the Trades Union Congress General Council, the Co-operative Movement, retail traders, statisticians, and the Government Departments concerned.

I am very grateful indeed to this committee for the work they have done, for they have explored the whole subject in a very thorough manner in the light of the experience of such inquiries both in Great Britain and in other countries. They have arranged for household samples, and some 30,000 working-class houses, including a proportion of single person's houses, taken entirely at random, are being visited and asked to supply particulars of expenditure in each of the four weeks mentioned. It is hoped that some 10,000 at least of these households will supply the desired information, and that we shall get statistics compiled which will give us an adequate basis for a revision of the cost-of-living index. The committee in that regard have made a large number of detailed proposals as to the nature of the information to be obtained by voluntary workers in the areas in connection with the Employment Exchanges which, of course, will naturally be the centre of inquiry in each area. We shall make a detailed explanation of the procedure in the "Ministry of Labour Gazette" in due course.

Photo of Miss Ellen Wilkinson Miss Ellen Wilkinson , Jarrow

Will professional houses be taken into account in view of the large number of professional workers, such as Civil servants and teachers, whose present salary is based upon the cost of living, which again is based on the old working-class standard? Is the right hon. Gentleman going to perpetuate that?

Viscountess Astor:

Is this really necessary? Has not Mr. Seebohm Rowntree just written a book adequately dealing with this matter? If this is the policy of the Government, it seems to be an unnecessary thing to do, and I do not see what it can mean.

Photo of Mr Ernest Brown Mr Ernest Brown , Leith

The Noble Lady has quite misunderstood the purpose of a book which everybody has read with great interest, and which is based on a limited inquiry in a certain town. We intend to make a wide and representative inquiry which will be flexible enough, in order to get a satisfactory solution of the problem, and to make quite sure that we do not get arbitrary conclusions because we have drawn an arbitrary basis. I do not think that the Noble Lady, who takes a great interest in all problems effecting health and nutrition, will regard this as waste of effort. I think that it is one of the big decisions which have been made by the Government in the last six years. [Interruption.] Hon. Members are giving me a pretty severe cross-examination—

Photo of Mr James Griffiths Mr James Griffiths , Llanelly

You are getting off lightly to-day.

Photo of Mr Ernest Brown Mr Ernest Brown , Leith

—and yet to-day I would have preferred to have had smooth running, because I have so much more ground to cover on other subjects.

Photo of Mr Duncan Sandys Mr Duncan Sandys , Lambeth Norwood

I do not wish to cross-examine the right hon. Gentleman, but would he say a few more words about the purposes of the family budget inquiry? I would like to know the ultimate purpose. Is he trying to lay down eventually the minimum scale of income necessary to maintain a certain standard of life? In other words, is he trying to find out what people are spending, or what they should spend in order to maintain a proper standard of life?

Photo of Mr Ernest Brown Mr Ernest Brown , Leith

All I am trying to do is to find out what they are spending in order to relate the cost of living figures which operate from month to month to the actual facts of modern life, and that will be a great advantage in many spheres of our social and national life.

Photo of Mr Edward Williams Mr Edward Williams , Ogmore

I appreciate what the Minister has said that the visits of inspectors may be taken at random, but I should like to know whether the index will be prepared from the budgets of persons who come under the Ministry of Labour and are in unemployment insur- ance? Does he not think it possible to include a large number of black-coated workers who may not be in insurance?

Photo of Mr Ernest Brown Mr Ernest Brown , Leith

They will be mainly insured persons, but some corresponding classes of uninsured persons will be included, as I understand it. I now come to deal with what is the principal work of Employment Exchanges. The Exchanges, as the Committee know, were established in the hope of providing machinery which would shorten the period of the interruption of work by providing up-to-date knowledge as to where jobs could be found in the quickest possible time. At the moment we have 452 principal Exchanges and 1,136 subordinate offices. They are organised in nine divisions, and their work is becoming increasingly successful. First of all, in the actual placing of those who are out of employment into employment, and, secondly, in their human contacts with the unemployed. Indeed, I was interested the other day to hear an hon. Member who had just been returned to the House describe the local Employment Exchange manager as an adviser of the people. I think that Members of this House who know how firmly this institution is now established in the good will of the employed and unemployed people of the various localities, will agree that this is a very apt description of a great body of public servants.

I should have liked to have said in this connection a good deal about placing, adult transference, and the work in regard to disabled ex-service men, but I will deal with one or two points only. Let me point out to the Committee that. in pursuance of our aim of securing a better organisation of the labour market, we have been increasingly successful, and more and more employers have taken advantage of Employment Exchange facilities. Last year 3,102,758 vacancies were notified which was an increase of nearly 200,000 compared with the previous year. The vacancies filled were 2,624,213 or 112,000 more than in the previous year. Perhaps the Committee will be interested to know the industries which took the greatest advantage of the exchange facilities. In the building trade the vacancies filled amounted to 246,892; in domestic service including hotel work, 238,346; in local government 198,885, and in the distributive trades, 152,265. There is an ever-widening circle of trades, which, I am glad to tell the Committee, is taking advantage of the facilities afforded by the exchanges, and the exchanges are becoming recognised more and more as one of the principal factors in the economy of our important towns. Indeed, under the Agricultural Insurance Act, the local agents are taking their place in small rural communities.

We have had a good many discussions about transference, and I will say only two things about that The exchanges always try to place people locally, and where this is not possible, we not merely help to transfer individuals but families; last year 28,000 men and women were transferred successfully, and family transference has taken place with ever-increasing success. In 1934, there were 1,308 families transferred; in 1935, 3,718; and in 1936, 10,025.

Photo of Mr James Griffiths Mr James Griffiths , Llanelly

Will the Minister give us the distribution?

Photo of Mr Ernest Brown Mr Ernest Brown , Leith

Not at the moment. Perhaps I may be allowed to quote one letter received by the Ministry from one of the heads of the families transferred. He says: I am grateful to you and your staff for the sympathetic and human way in which my case was dealt with, as though mine was an individual case and not one of many hundreds. One naturally expects efficiency and smooth running from a Government Department, but to have added to these qualities, warm understanding and kindly advice from such an impersonal thing as a Labour Bureau is indeed admirable. As far as my own case is concerned, it has been a move for the better in many ways, and the best I can do is to say to you all—'thank you.' That is an appropriate comment upon the remark made just now. We regard it very appreciatively, and it is only one of many letters received from day to day by the Ministry. The point of view of the individual is often entirely different from that of those who are making a theoretic objection to a policy of this kind.

Photo of Mr Samuel Viant Mr Samuel Viant , Willesden West

Can the right hon. Gentleman give any indication as to the occupation of the writer of that letter?

Photo of Mr Ernest Brown Mr Ernest Brown , Leith

The hon. Member is surely not doing the cause of labour any service by suggesting that there are not grateful people among the working class. They do appreciate to the full the efforts that are constantly being made, and that this difficult problem of finding jobs outside the home area is tackled with tact and skill. I think that since there was a comment, a very friendly one, but still one which might be misunderstood by a certain type of mind, I was entitled to quote one of the many letters I have received.

Photo of Mr Samuel Viant Mr Samuel Viant , Willesden West

I was appreciating the spirit of the letter. I simply asked whether we could be informed of the occupation of the writer, and there was no need for that remark of the right hon. Gentleman.

Photo of Mr Ernest Brown Mr Ernest Brown , Leith

I shall be very glad to send the hon. Member the name, address and occupation of the writer. I am now going to say a few words about the King's Roll.

Photo of Mr Morgan Jones Mr Morgan Jones , Caerphilly

Before the right hon. Gentleman passes from the question of transference, may I ask whether the Ministry have any system whereby they may follow up a case of transference to see if the persons concerned are living in decent conditions?

Photo of Mr Ernest Brown Mr Ernest Brown , Leith

We have a most elaborate system of after-care for young people who come through our transference scheme to London or to any other town. I am very much obliged to the hon. Gentleman for raising this matter, because it enables me to pay a tribute not merely to my staff in the Ministry of Labour who do a great deal of work voluntarily outside ordinary office routine, but to the local committees who have been most helpful in seeing that the young people are cared for after removal in their new life. I have here a number of instances of an extraordinary character which show that the machinery is working extremely well in respect of after-care. I will not say more than that. In those cases where the Ministry of Labour is not responsible for the transference, if we hear of any cases where we think we may be of assistance, we are very glad to do all we can to see that young people or families, as the case may be, are well looked after in their new life.

I would like to say a few words about the King's Roll in order to give the Committee the latest figures, as I understand that one or two Members of the Committee desire to raise specific points for my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary to deal with at the end of the Debate. At the beginning of April, 1937, there were 22,700 firms employing 203,000 disabled ex-service men, 1,000 local authorities employing 33,000. and Government Departments and undertakings such as railway companies employing 82,000 disabled men. There is a total membership on the Roll of 23,700, and the number of disabled ex-service men employed by those on the Roll is over 318,000, an increase of nearly 2,000 compared with 1936.

I would like to say one word about training. The House knows that the Ministry of Labour has more than one form of centre for training. There is that form which has been increasingly successful known as the handyman centre, technically known as the Government Training Centre. These are centres where men, under 35 as a rule, are being trained as improvers in a whole series of crafts. In December of last year there was accommodation for 6,223 in those centres, and in the month of June of this year it had been increased to 6,711. In 1935, we passed 7,000 into employment, and in 1936, 10,000. This year we hope to place from these centres into improving employment nearly 12,000 men. The figure has been going up repeatedly. Last year 97 per cent. of those who completed the course of training were successfully placed.

Photo of Mr Duncan Sandys Mr Duncan Sandys , Lambeth Norwood

Can the right hon. Gentleman say whether those figures as to the capacity of the training centres are for a year or at one time?

Photo of Mr Ernest Brown Mr Ernest Brown , Leith

The figures are of accommodation at one time. It is a six months' course and each six months' course will accommodate 6,711, if the centres are filled to capacity. Another 6,700 can be accommodated for the second half of the year. Some hon. Members have been to see these centres, and I think every hon. Member who has gone there will agree with me that they are magnificent pieces of work and great machines. The contacts the managers of the centres have made with the industrialists in their own neighbourhood and elsewhere are of the utmost importance to industry, and are giving a new chance in life to many thousands of young men who have found life hard and difficult in their own home neighbourhoods. We have seen the pull of the home in the localities and 18 months ago made an experiment with a local preparatory training centre. We have been so encouraged with the results of the work of this centre, which gives short courses of six or seven weeks, that five new preparatory local centres are to be established in County Durham, on Tyneside, and in South Wales, with a view to assisting in this valuable work. Every effort will be made to settle men locally where jobs are available locally, in order that they may not be disturbed from their homes.

Photo of Mr Hugh Dalton Mr Hugh Dalton , Bishop Auckland

Those attending these centres will continue to live at home with their own people?

Photo of Mr Ernest Brown Mr Ernest Brown , Leith

Yes, Where necessary, they are brought to the centre by bus. They have their daily training and are then sent home. After that they have their choice. If they have appreciated the advantage of the training and wish to go forward, they are given the opportunity of going to one of the larger courses at one of the bigger centres. That is the method adopted and it has been very successful.

There is another departure to which I would draw attention, and that is the training of men leaving the Forces. At the moment the War Office has three vocational training centres but, as was announced in the House by the Secretary of State for War some time ago, the Ministry of Labour is now in the process of taking over the responsibility of training the men who served with the Colours after their period of service with the Colours. We are opening two new centres, one at Leeds and one at Southampton, primarily for service men. {HON. MEMBERS: "When?"] The Centre at Southampton is already open and the one at Leeds will be ready in the early autumn. We are doing this, knowing that one of the factors that militates against service with the Colours is lack of knowledge as to what may happen when service with the Colours is ended.

Let me say a few words about the problem of private domestic service and the work of the Central Women's Committee, which is the oldest of the affiliated organisations of the Ministry of Labour and has done very remarkable work in the last 20 years. It has now six residential centres and 30 non-residential centres. Training in domestic service is given there and also training for hotel work. Every care is taken that the girls who enter upon the course of training—which is for 13 weeks for girls of 15 or over—are placed in good homes, with good possibilities, when the course is ended. I have already stated that we have placed 238,000, mainly women and girls in domestic service from the Employment Exchanges, but there is one problem that has been brought to my notice and we are seeking to deal with it. When we made a sample inquiry we found that of the number of domestic service vacancies notified we were filling no more than 44 per cent. That shows that there is a great field here.

The hon. Member for East Islington (Miss Cazalet) raised this matter in a very direct manner in a recent Debate. I would remind the Committee that these facilities for domestic training exist, and I would invite hon. Members to go and see them. There is one centre at Lapse-wood, in Sydenham, there is another at Leamington, one at Harrogate and there are three others. If hon. Members visit them they will see that they are admirably run, and if they talk with any of the girls who are there taking advantage of the course, or with any who have taken the course and have been placed in employment, they will agree that this is a very fine piece of work. The hon. Member for East Islington pointed out that this problem is more a problem of atmosphere than of training. There can be no doubt as to the existence of a very bad tradition in many households. Another factor is the change of public mood and desire, especially in regard to the use of leisure, and, perhaps greatest of all, there is the question of status. These things are vital obstacles in the way of what ought to be a great move forward to solve this problem. We shall do what we can, in consultation with the Central Women's Committee and with any Members of the House who may be interested, to discuss ways and means of changing this atmosphere, so that what is one of the noblest things that men and women can do, that of assisting to make comfortable and happy homes, may be forwarded as it ought to be forwarded through the great machinery of the Central Women's Committee.

There is one further point about training which calls for mention, and that is the position of the instructional centres. We have 22 instructional centres, with accommodation for 4,065 men, and we have seven summer camps with accommodation for 1,150. The summer camps are filled to capacity. In 1936, 20,900 men came to the centres and the camps, but I cannot report the same success in regard to placing the men who come to the instructional centres and the camps as I can in regard to placing men from the other training centres. Last year out of those who came to the centres and the camps we were able to place in direct employment only 4,246, so that a great deal remains to be done to see that those who come to these admirable centres—most of whom are unskilled men, who perhaps would not pass the committee which determines who shall go to the other centres for semi-skilled training—may get better opportunities of employment, and we may be able to secure a higher percentage of placings. While I say that, I should like to add that recently we have had increasing figures.

I should have liked to have said a few words about the local classes for physical training, and juvenile transfers, but I have already trespassed too long on the time of the Committee. I should, however, like to give the latest figures about the trend of things in the Special Areas. My hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary will deal with other questions relating to the Special Areas. The total number of unemployed in the Special Areas in June, 1936, was 374,088, and the total number of unemployed in June, 1937, was 274,198, a decrease in the year of 99,890. That is a very remarkable improvement which we shall, with the help of the Special Commissioner, do all we can to extend.

Photo of Mr Hugh Dalton Mr Hugh Dalton , Bishop Auckland

Is the right hon. Gentleman going to subdivide those figures?

Photo of Mr Ernest Brown Mr Ernest Brown , Leith

I can do so if the Committee will bear with me. In Durham and Tyneside in June, 1936, there were 135,891 unemployed.

Photo of Mr William Mainwaring Mr William Mainwaring , Rhondda East

Are those wholly unemployed?

Photo of Mr William Mainwaring Mr William Mainwaring , Rhondda East

Can the right hon. Gentleman divide them into wholly and temporarily unemployed?

Photo of Mr Ernest Brown Mr Ernest Brown , Leith

Not at the moment.

Photo of Mr William Mainwaring Mr William Mainwaring , Rhondda East

Then they are no real indication.

Photo of Mr Ernest Brown Mr Ernest Brown , Leith

I have prepared myself very fully with facts but I have not those figures at the moment. I am quoting figures to show the trend.

Photo of Mr William Mainwaring Mr William Mainwaring , Rhondda East

The figures are available every week.

Photo of Mr Robert Taylor Mr Robert Taylor , Morpeth

The case against the right hon. Gentleman in claiming so much for improved employment increases when one examines the figures of the wholly unemployed.

Photo of Mr Ernest Brown Mr Ernest Brown , Leith

Perhaps before the end of my speech I may say a few words about that point as a general subject, but not at the moment. I was asked to subdivide the figures, and I am doing so. In Durham and Tyneside in June, 1936, there were 135,891 unemployed, and in June, 1937, 104,015; a decrease of 31,876. In West Cumberland in June, 1936, there were 11,986 unemployed, and in June, 1937, 10,030, a decrease of 1,956. In South Wales and Monmouthshire in June, 1936, there were 155,598 unemployed, and in June, 1937, 101,619, a decrease of 53,979. In Scotland in June, 1936, there were 70,613 unemployed, and in June, 1937, 58,534, a decrease of 12,079. Therefore, the totals for the Special Areas work out at the aggregate figures that I have already stated.

With regard to Unemployment Insurance, we have had many Debates, and the House has been given an opportunity of expressing its opinion on the various regulations recommended by the Statutory Committee and accepted by the Ministry. What is the broad picture? It is a very satisfactory one. Sir William Beveridge's Committee works as a statutory body. It is charged with the duty of seeing that the Unemployment Fund is kept solvent and of making an annual report, or a more frequent report if necessary, to the Minister. We are paying off the funded debt at the rate of £5,000,000 a year for principal and interest and we have a balance in hand of £49,500,000. [Interruption.] There are constant improvements in the treatment of the unemployed under the Unemployment Insurance scheme. We have added one shilling to the children's benefit, increasing it from 2s. to 3s. We have cut down the contribution by one penny all round in respect of the employer, the employé and the State. We have knocked three days off the waiting period of six days, and we have extended the period of benefit by several weeks in the case of those who have a long period of good employment. A very remarkable result and one which I am sure the Committee will be glad to welcome. These facts show that that part of the Act of 1934 is working very well.

Photo of Mr David Logan Mr David Logan , Liverpool Scotland

Can the right hon. Gentleman state the earning capacity of the balance of £49,500,000?

Photo of Mr George Buchanan Mr George Buchanan , Glasgow Gorbals

Can the right hon. Gentleman say what particular problems the Beveridge Commitee are now examining?

Photo of Mr Ernest Brown Mr Ernest Brown , Leith

At the moment they have before them the problem of institutional domestic service and the complicated problems of the gamekeeper, the groom and the night-worker. The latter problems were very forcibly brought forward in the Debate on the Agricultural Insurance Act. Let me say one word about the Unemployment Assistance Board. The new regulations have been working since November and the process is going according to plan. I have to report, however, as I told the House in answer to a question, that there have been more increases than I anticipated. The future looks better than we could have anticipated because the total number now under review by the Board is less by many thousands owing to the recovery of employment. The advice of local advisory committees is being taken during the transition from the old basis to the new, which is going according to plan. That plan has to be completed in order to avoid undue hardship in 18 months time. Another year's knowledge of the work of the Board shows that the work of the Board's officers is being appreciated more and more by those whom they have to visit regularly month after month, but as we have discussed this matter at great length on previous occasions I will say no more about it at the moment. The Parliamentary Secretary will deal with other points later in the Debate.

Photo of Mr David Logan Mr David Logan , Liverpool Scotland

Is it possible for me to have an answer to my question as to the amount of interest accruing on the £49,500,000?

Photo of Mr Ernest Brown Mr Ernest Brown , Leith

The point is that these sums accrue at various times and are invested at various rates of interest, but I will give the hon. Member a copy of the statement I made to a Committee in the House recently which was very long and very full. I cannot give a single figure without giving a false impression of the case. I am able to report that in the last year the great recovery has been accelerated. At the low-water mark of employment in September, 1932, there were only recorded 9,144,000 insured persons, aged 16–64, in work. This figure was abnormally reduced by the fact that there were 130,000 persons involved in trade disputes who were excluded. Today the estimate is 11,517,000 (excluding insured agricultural workers) the highest figure recorded during the 14 years these figures have been kept. That figure is an increase of 2,373,000 on the lowest depression figures. If you compare June, 1937, with June, 1932, there is an improvement of no less than 2,186,000 persons in employment. The reduction in unemployment is, of course, equally striking although it is smaller because of the growth of population. The peak figure was reached in January, 1933, 2,903,000. The figures published this morning show 1,357,000, or less than half of the peak figure of four and a half years ago, and 1,390,000 less than for the corresponding month of 1932.

Photo of Mr Tom Smith Mr Tom Smith , Normanton

Will the right hon. Gentleman subdivide these figures?

Photo of Mr Ernest Brown Mr Ernest Brown , Leith

Take the incidence of unemployment among insured persons. In 1929 it was 10 per cent., in 1931–32 over 21 per cent., in August, 1932, and again in January, 1933, when there was a sudden jump, it was 22·8 per cent. To-day the figure is 10 per cent. I can assure the Committee that all the under-currents show that this figure will be less by this time next year, and that all principal industries share in it. A large reduction has taken place in coal mining, though I must warn the Committee that coal mining is a contracting industry.

Photo of Mr Tom Smith Mr Tom Smith , Normanton

Can the right hon. Gentleman subdivide the figures to show what the fall has been in the temporarily stopped and in the wholly unemployed?

Photo of Mr Ernest Brown Mr Ernest Brown , Leith

The present figures show that there are 1,088,866 wholly unemployed—877,000 men and 156,000 women—and 199,800 temporarily stopped. There are 67,932 employed who are normally in casual employment, making a total of 1,357,000. That was 94,732 less than in May, 1937, and 346,078 less than in June, 1936. There were 1,085,614 men, 29,612 boys, 209,441 women and 31,931 girls, unemployed on the 21st June, 1937.

Photo of Mr Tom Smith Mr Tom Smith , Normanton

It is no use telling the Committee that there has been a big decrease unless you subdivide the figure. If there has been a decrease in the temporarily stopped men there has been little difference in the number of the wholly unemployed.

Photo of Mr Ernest Brown Mr Ernest Brown , Leith

The hon. Member is not quite correct. There has been a decrease since May, 1933, in the number of those who have been out of work for one year or more of about 200,000. There has been a reduction in the wholly unemployed and in the temporarily stopped in the coal mining industry.

Photo of Mr Tom Smith Mr Tom Smith , Normanton

The coal mining figures do not show it.

Photo of Mr Ernest Brown Mr Ernest Brown , Leith

My knowledge of the coal mining Department is not up to date, but I think the hon. Member will find that men are working more shifts per week and that there are fewer temporarily stopped. In coal mining the number of unemployed in May, 1932, was 338,000, and in May, 1937, 156,065. In 1932 the insured population was 1,045,000. That figure had dropped by July, 1936, to 896,000. Cotton also is a contracting industry. In cotton the unemployment figure has dropped from 184,000 to 46,000, while there has been a fall in the insured population from 518.000 to 421,000, a decrease of 97,000. I had intended to say something about other trades like building, and engineering, which are expanding, but I have already trespassed too long on the attention of the Committee.

The year for the Ministry of Labour has been a very satisfactory year, and it makes us realise the quality of our industrial recovery. At the same time I should not like the Committee to think that we are satisfied with what has taken place, and I propose after 1st September to ask the Parliamentary Secretary and the Permanent Secretary to the Ministry to accompany me and have two day conferences with Employment Exchange managers in order to find out the answer to one or two questions. First, whether there is anything we are doing which we can do better; whether there is anything we are doing which we ought not to do, and whether there is anything we have not done which we can do. I have in mind three problems. First, the difficult problem of the older man. We are all very much concerned with him. It is a horrible idea that a man has lived his life at 55, and it is an idea with which I shall never agree. I am going to see whether we can by special efforts with individual employers give a chance to our elderly friends who have been out of work for a long time, and by the aid of local advice see whether we can formulate new plans in the autumn.

I am also concerned with the number of young men who have never had an opportunity to work. I have had one or two analyses made of the records in particular periods, and it has been a startling revelation as to the huge number of young men who at the moment have never had an opportunity to work. We cannot be complacent about a state of affairs like that, and we must see what we can do to solve that problem. There is also the problem of domestic service. I hope I have not wearied the Committee, and that hon. Members will not grudge me the opportunity as Minister of Labour, whose predecessors would have loved to have had the chance, of reporting to the Committee after two years that the Ministry of Labour itself is not a depressed area.

5.13 p.m.

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

I am sure the Committee will not grudge the right hon. Gentleman the time he has taken in a general review of the work of the Ministry, and I can say that we on this side are not behind in appreciating the work done by the staff of the Ministry in its various activities. I was pleased that the right hon. Gentleman showed some signs of apprehension, in spite of the fact that he has to report prosperity from the point of view of a reduction in the figures, that things are still not well in different parts of the country. We are, of course, extremely satisfied that a certain number of men are going back to work, but we are very conscious that this is perhaps the most dangerous time from the point of view of the worst areas. We are living under conditions which may be described as semi-war conditions. Great masses of the people are engaged and will be engaged upon the making of munitions and armaments. I should like to make this point. For years we have been pleading in this House, both hon. Members on this side and some hon. Members who support the Government, for a certain amount of money to be spent on public works. Mr. Keynes suggested that £200,000,000 should be spent on public works, but the late Chancellor of the Exchequer was very grim towards a proposal to spend that sum of money in order to keep men, both old and young, in a good condition and able to do useful work for the nation. He found strong economic arguments against the spending of a comparatively small amount on public works, and treated it as a waste of public money. The same right hon. Gentleman has now asked the country to spend 1,500,000,000 upon fireworks, not public works.

That is a factor which enters largely into the present position. I am pleased to see men and women returning to work, but it ought to be realised that that money is being spent on a programme the completion of which is calculated to take about four years. The significant thing about the speech of the Minister is that he has not given the slightest indication that any survey is being made or any movement started in preparation for the almost inevitable collapse that will come. This is a particularly dangerous time not only for the Special Areas, but for the whole of the depressed areas, the areas where the heavy industries and the primary industries are situated.

A very grave state of things prevails in many parts of the country that are not Special Areas. For instance, Birkenhead is not in a Special Area, but it now has one in four unemployed. Durham still has 80,000 unemployed; some of my hon. Friends have given figures to show what is the position in certain parts of Durham. Shildon has 35 per cent. unemployed. South Shields and Jarrow have 28 per cent. unemployed. Sunderland has one in four unemployed. Lancashire is not a Special Area, but out of 1,782,000 insured persons, 14 per cent. are unemployed. In Liverpool, out of 335,000 insured workers, 22 per cent. are unemployed. In Glamorganshire, out of 340,000 insured workers, 24 per cent. are unemployed, and in some parts of South Wales there are even 40 per cent. and 50 per cent. unemployed. The danger of the present situation is that the House of Commons and the country might be led to assume that because a number of people are being employed in those areas, as they certainly are, all is well; but when the period of the armaments programme is ended, if those areas find themselves still relying upon one industry, their final state will be worse than their first state. Unless the Government have some plans for making a great survey in the very near future for the purpose of considering public works, at least with moderate generosity as compared with the amount spent on munitions—unless the Government take some steps to forestall the ending of the period of the armaments programme—it is necessary to warn the Committee and the country that there will be in those areas a very grim state of things surpassing even what we have witnessed during the past few years. With regard to the Special Areas, I know that a great deal is made of the Team Valley Trading Estate. I am very pleased that a number of factories are being put up there to engage in varying kinds of production, but the Team Valley is only a part of Durham. There is also Wales, Lancashire, and parts of Scotland, and I think that the Special Areas need even more serious consideration than they have received.

I would like now to refer to a subject on which the right hon. Gentleman spoke for only a very short time. I wish to draw his attention to the position of the Unemployment Assistance Board. These Estimates give us for the first time what is likely to be the full cost of the administration of the Unemployment Assistance Board. Up to the present the Unemployment Assistance Board has been working partly through the Ministry of Labour and partly through the local authorities. For the first time we are getting some idea of what financially the House was committed to in 1934 by the policy of the Government. In 1930–31, when those on transitional benefit were dealt with through the Ministry of Labour, the cost was about £1,000,000 for 900,000 people. In 1931–32 the matter was handed over to the local authorities, and the cost was £1,350,000 for administration and everything else connected with those who were on transitional benefit.

What is the cost to-day? The cost of the administration of the Unemployment Asssitance Board is £5,000,000 for less that 600,000 people. If hon. Members will look at page 82 of the Estimates, they will see that for the headquarters and out-stations the cost is £1,560,000. When I first looked at this Estimate, I thought that was the total cost, because the outstations are mentioned, but on page 85 I see that there are all sorts of additions to the costs. I gather that the amount of allowances to applicants is £46,000,000. The expenses for travelling, telegrams, appeal tribunals, advisory committees, administration, and contributions to the Ministry of Labour and the Office of Works for various activities undertaken on behalf of the Unemployment Assistance Board amount to some £3,318,000. The total cost of the administration of the Unemployment Assistance Board is now £5,000,000, or at least £3 for every £1 that it cost for administration in the past in regard to the people on transitional benefit. Why does it take £2 or £3 more to chase a man about in order to save £1? If there were an actuarial investigation with regard to this Board, it would be discovered that the Government had foisted upon the House and the country one of the greatest pieces of bluff ever put over this country in order to hound a few poor unemployed men and to lay upon them the whole of the responsibility for the economic conditions that prevailed in 1931.

The right hon. Gentleman did not tell the Committee one thing. Some time ago the whole country was unanimous in crying shame on the conditions under which the miners worked, and the miners were given an increase of 6d. in some cases and is. in another; but in numerous cases the Unemployment Assistance Board promptly scotched the result of the increases that went into certain homes where there were people who were unemployed. Let hon. Members notice that the well-to-do usually look after their own pets. There are some facts in the Estimates about the salaries that are being paid to people whose job it is to hound unemployed men. Two principal assistant secretaries receive between them £3,281, their salary being £1,450, increasing by £100 to £1,650. Four assistant secretaries receive £1,150, increasing by £50 to £1,450.

Let hon. Members remember that all this work was being done by the ordinary machinery and staff of the Ministry of Labour, and that a new staff has been created with the scale of salaries to which I have just referred. A mass of buildings has had to be taken over, and some buildings have had to be erected. The Ministry of Labour's staff has been duplicated and the local authorities' staffs have been overlapped; and thrust in between the two there is this great, powerful organisation with a bureaucracy which, if the Labour Party had been responsible for creating it, we should never have heard the last of at any election. I would ask the country and the Press to turn a discerning eye upon this organisation. I would ask them to weigh up the pros and cons of this question in a cold matter-of-fact manner and in the light of experience. If they do so, I venture to say they will find that this Unemployment Assistance Board has been foisted upon the country without a fraction of the reason which was supposed to exist for it.

Mr. Bread:

Can my hon. Friend tell us what is the salary of the chairman of the Board?

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

I think that is fairly well known. It is one of many salaries. We do not mind people receiving salaries if there is any real reason for the existence of their office, but the only reason ever given for the establishment of this Board was that the cases of certain people ought to be closely investigated, and on that ground 600,000 people are having inquiries made, not only into their own means, but into the means of their relatives, and are being harried and harassed because of some alleged reason which has no basis in fact.

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

The hon. Gentleman has made some complaint about the high salaries paid to officials of the Board, and one of his hon. Friends asked him what was the salary of the chairman of the Board. Can the hon. Gentleman say whether the chairman of the Board is getting any more than the chairman of that very necessary body, the Coal Mines Reorganisation Commission appointed by the Government of which the hon. Gentleman was a member?

Photo of Mr Robert Bourne Mr Robert Bourne , Oxford

We had better not pursue the question of the chairman's salary, because it does not arise on this Vote.

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

I do not think there is any comparison between the salary paid to the chairman of a useful organisation like the Coal Mines Reorganisation Commission and the salaries in connection with a body—

Whereupon the GENTLEMAN USHER OF THE BLACK ROD being come with a Message, The CHAIRMAN left the Chair.

Mr. SPEAKER resumed the Chair.