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Volume 236: debated on Monday 10 March 1930

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Postponed Proceeding resumed on Question on Resolution reported:

"That a sum, not exceeding £139,580,000, be granted to His Majesty, on account, for or towards defraying the charges for the following Civil and Revenue Departments (including Pensions, Education Insurance, and other Grants, and Exchequer Contributions to Local Revenues) for the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1931."
Question again proposed, "That this House doth agree with the Committee in the said Resolution."

May I, with the leave of the House, make an explanation? I have already made inquiries but find that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Tamworth (Sir A. Steel-Maitland) is not here. The House will remember that in the early part of the Debate there was a very serious conflict of evidence between us as to what he alleged to be the position of shipbuilding. He quoted from the Ministry of Labour Gazette, and told the House that the figures of unemployment in the shipbuilding industry showed a considerable increase. He said quite frankly that he could not quite read the figures, but on that evidence he told the House quite distinctly that they meant a 6,000 increase as compared with 12 months ago, It seemed so at variance with my figures that I could not quite understand the difference. I have since ascertained that the difference arose because the right hon. Gentleman was quoting 1928. The difference was that I was quoting 1930 and 1929, and he was quoting 1930 and 1928.

I should like to ask the Lord Privy Seal one question with which he has not dealt nor has anybody on the other side. There are 332,500 women unemployed in this country at this moment, or 125,000 more than there were in February last year. We know that most of them are in the textile trade, and particularly the cotton trade. I want to ask whether the right hon. Gentleman has no plans for these women? He knows perfectly well you cannot put them on railways and bridges. You may say that you are putting 50,000 more in the training centres, but when he and his party were on this side, and we were on the other side, and we discussed unemployment, their hearts used to wring with the tragedy of the women. Their hearts bled, but their heads never worked. I want to ask whether in all these schemes the right hon. Gentleman cannot suggest something for these women? I admire the Lord Privy Seal for all he is trying to do in a most difficult situation, but I remember when the Government party were in opposition for four and a half years, we heard all about pledges and we never had any help from the Opposition. The late Prime Minister appealed for co-operation. [An HON. MEMBER: "You did nothing!"] All the things that you are doing now are the same things that we were doing. We tried the transfer system, but you said it was no good, and that the trade unions were all against it. You have not a single plan. Plan four and a half years we were trying to do something, but nothing was done by hon. Members opposite to help and nothing is being done by them now in the way of thinking. I believe in honesty in politics and I suggest that it would be better and more honest for them to go to the country and tell the people that the Socialism which they preached at previous Elections will not work, but that rationalisation will work. There are no more disillusioned people in this country than some of the hon. Gentlemen opposite who really believed that when a Labour Government came into power something would be done. [Interruption.]

Hon. Members say they have no power but they have more power than they use, and if they would bring in some real scheme anybody on this side would help them; if they did not get the Liberals they would get the Tories to support them. [Interruption.] It is very hard after all those years during which we have tried to do something, to be told that it is all the fault of the capitalist system. Hon. Members are now in office but they have not given us one single thing and they are not telling the country what they know to be true about their Socialism. The truth is that it will not work and indeed the fact is that there are only a few Socialists opposite. When I hear the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Shettleston (Mr. Wheatley) talking about Socialism—why he is as big a capitalist as anybody in the country and he knows it! We all know it, and that is why no one on the Front Bench opposite pays any attention to him. We used to be told that we were hard-hearted and callous, and that we did not care, but with a Labour Government in office there are 1,500,000 people unemployed, including all these women, and not one word comes from the women on the other side.

On a point of Order. Is it in order for any hon. Member to refer to other hon. Members as "women"?

I forget that the party opposite is composed of capitalists when I call them the Labour party, for which I am very sorry, but I cannot help making these remarks when my mind goes back to the four and a-half years when the Conservative Government were in office and when I was working on behalf of the women and trying to get things done for them. Now those who were then in Opposition are in power, but I ask them are they doing as much as we did?

It being Eleven of the clock, Mr. SPEAKER proceeded, pursuant to Standing Order No. 15, to put forthwith the Question necessary to dispose of the Resolution.

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

The remaining Orders were read, and postponed.