Unemployment.

Part of Orders of the Day — Supply. – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 18th April 1939.

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Photo of Mr Aneurin Bevan Mr Aneurin Bevan , Ebbw Vale 12:00 am, 18th April 1939

I do not propose to keep the House for more than a moment or two, but I have been brought to my feet by what has fallen from the right hon. Gentleman. He started by saying that my hon. Friends on this side were divided on this matter, because some wanted an inquiry but were not sure what the solution was, and others did not want an inquiry because they knew what the solution was. The right hon. Gentleman has rejected the proposal for an inquiry, so we assume that he knows what the solution is. When is he going to apply it? There are 1,750,000 out of work in Great Britain, and they are waiting for the application of a solution. But the right hon. Gentleman knows very well that that was a bit of by-play on his part.

There were one or two things he mentioned that ought to be replied to. He ought not to have treated us to a repetition of the Conservative Central Office propaganda. We have heard the story about the Post Office savings and the National Savings over and over again. It has been answered so often that the right hon. Gentleman really ought not to bore the House with the same argument again. He knows that reputable statisticians, like Professor Bowley and Mr. Colin Clark, have shown over and over again that these investments are made by well-to-do people; and the right hon. Gentleman's statement is, in fact, a complete falsification of the position. He ought not to come to the House with that cheap provincial debating society stuff on an important matter of this kind.

I was chiefly interested in the part of the right hon. Gentleman's speech which dealt with the effect on unemployment of war expenditure. He gave the impression that had it not been for the unfortunate effects of this expenditure in other countries, unemployment would have been practically abolished. Does he really expect the House to believe that? In 1929 unemployment in America reached astronomical proportions, but never was the world less apprehensive than then of a major conflict. From 1930 and 1931 until 1933 unemployment in Great Britain was well over the 2,000,000 mark, but there was no major conflict. Does the right hon. Gentleman suggest that unemployment at that time was due to the existence of international disturbances? What, then, is the cause of it? The right hon. Gentleman is suggesting now that were it not for the fact that there have been these disturbances in foreign affairs unemployment would have been wiped out. Then, what was the cause of unemployment at that time? The right hon. Gentleman knows that he has been talking plain rubbish. The right hon. Gentleman referred to the International Labour Office, but he ought to quote the result of their investigation into the economic crisis of 1929–31. He would have been able to show to the House—it would have been very disagreeable to hon. Gentlemen on that side of the House— that the crisis was caused almost entirely by an increase in the volume of production goods all over the world with no proportionate increase in the consumption of consumption goods.