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Orders Of The Day

Volume 236: debated on Monday 10 March 1930

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Resolution [4 th March] reported,

Civil Estimates And Estimates For Revenue Departments, 1930 (Vote On Account)

"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."

[ For details of Vote on Account, see OFFICIAL REPORT, 4th March, 1930, cols. 275–8.]

Resolution read a Second time.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House doth agree with the Committee in the said Resolution."


I rise to call attention to the present position of unemployment in this country. The time has arrived when the House ought to review that position. The Government have been in office between nine and 10 months. When they came into power the unemment figures were [HON. MEMBERS: "Power?"]—do not let us quibble about anything like that, when they came into office—1,100,000 in all. The latest figures are 1,539,300. The figure of 1,100,000 was regarded as very all arming.

Yes, but I brought it down by 500,000, and you have put it up by 400,000. [Interruption.] I hope we are going to have a fair Debate. Surely this is a matter that concerns everyone. I repeat that the figures were regarded as alarming at that time—so alarming that not merely the Members who sit on the Liberal benches, but those who are now sitting on the Government benches, made a feature of the extraordinary number of people who were still unemployed after nine years. The right hon. Gentleman the Lord Privy Seal, when he undertook his very onerous and very difficult task—I am perfectly certain he has the sympathy not merely of the whole House but of the country in his extraordinarily difficult duty—appealed, and rightly so, for patience. I think that he said in so many words that no impression would be made on the figures until the month of February. He led us to believe that by February there would be a definite impression made upon those alarming figures. I am sorry to say that the figures are 147,000 worse than they were this time last year. They are 200,000 worse—this may be of some use to hon. Members who have interrupted me—than they were when I left office. The right hon. Gentleman must be disappointed, and he would be the first to admit it. That disappointment is shared by everyone in the country.

I think the time has come for a very candid and fearless review of the whole position, not so much in a spirit of criticism or of censure, but, if possible, in a spirit of helpfulness, and, if I may call it so, in the spirit of converting the House into a Council of State. The House of Commons cannot escape responsibility. I have heard many Debates on unemployment in this House, and I think hon. Members will agree with me that if any stranger had come to the House and had seen what was going on, he would have thought that the Debate was some topic of no particular importance, because of the atmosphere of boredom in the House. The House has generally left this matter to the Government of the day; it has never shown any responsibility as the High Court of the nation, examining grievances and the relations of the problem, and insisting upon remedies being applied. The time has come when the House of Commons ought to shoulder its supreme responsibility in the matter and insist that action be taken. At the present moment we can examine the matter in a spirit of tranquillity. On Thursday next he shall have all the heat and fumes of controversy; we shall all descend together again to the old fiscal crater. I understand that it is beginning to show signs of eruption. That will be the arena. It is not a good atmosphere in which to examine a problem of this kind.

I am not venturing to say anything that would be regarded in the least like censure. I am only saying that it is far better to examine a problem of this kind when you are free from any of those controversial issues, and for that reason I am not going to conclude my address by moving a reduction of the Vote. The House should take counsel together and act authoritatively. The Lord Privy Seal, everyone will admit, has worked hard. No one can accuse the right hon. Gentleman of any slackness. He has thrown himself with all the energy of which he is capable—there is no man who can show a more explosive energy when he likes—into the examination of this problem. If I were to make a criticism of him it would be this that his action has been too lop-sided. He has concentrated upon one particular aspect of the subject—and I am glad that he has attended to that—and that is to effect what he regards as a permanent remedy in the industries of this country by achieving further efficiency in those industries. But what the right hon. Gentleman has overlooked is that there is a temporary problem which has to be attended to as well as the permanent one.

The right hon. Gentleman in concentrating on rationalisation and in giving thought to other remedies, forgets that by that very process he is increasing the temporary evil whilst he is finding no remedy for it at all. I go beyond that and say that some of the remedies which he is applying to temporary conditions are of a character that will contribute to the permanent efficiency of the industries of the country. Otherwise they would be no use. But the right hon. Gentleman, as far as those remedies are concerned, has taken too narrow and too limited, and I think far too timid, a view of his responsibilities. I think he has treated the matter as if conditions were normal, and has forgotten that he is dealing with an emergency. Effective steps have not been taken to overcome emergencies. I shall point out later that I think he could have taken more effective steps to overcome delays, even in those remedies which he himself has sketched out. They are not delays of his Department, but delays in all sorts of things, in Whitehall, in municipalities, in corporations, and, above all, when dealing with lawyers and engineers and surveyors and all sorts of people who have to be brought in before a start could be made with any of the projects which the right hon. Gentleman has initiated. There is too much on paper. You cannot make roads or railways out of that.

4.0 p.m.

I would like to review what I consider to be the present position, as far as trade and employment are concerned. I shall invite the right hon. Gentleman, if he will, to give his view to the House, because he is in closer contact with information than I am. But I have made some inquiries. Trade depression and unemployment are world-wide. They are not dependent, as far as I can see from a survey of the situation, upon any fiscal system. You have got it in Germany; you have got it in the United States of America. Figures vary from the particular point of view of the person who is arguing for the time being, but, at any rate, there is general agreement that unemployment in these two great Protectionist countries is very alarming. In Germany the figures are over 3,000,000, and in the United States of America they are given at between 3,000,000 and 5,000,000. As far as British trade itself is concerned, I do not think there is any cause for anything in the nature of panic. I cannot see any symptoms of decline in British trade as a whole. It is perfectly true, when you take some of the more important industries in this country, that the country is suffering very considerably, but, taking trade as a whole, as far as I can see, so far from there being a decline, there has been a steady progress. World trade, of course, has suffered a good deal as one of the results of the War, but world trade is making progress. All that you "an say about it is this: The progress that international trade is making is not comparable with that which it was making before the War. The ratio of increase has slowed down very considerably, and our proportion of it is not quite what it was, but, as far as I can see, taking the figures for a number of years, our export trade has increased. One has to reduce the figures to something which is comparable, because the values fluctuate very much from year to year, but my recollection is that during the year 1920, which was the lowest period of our trade, we had recovered something like 50 per cent. of our international trade. Last year we had recovered up to 85 per cent. That represents a very substantial progress in the course of nine years, and, therefore, there is no reason to feel that sense of despondency and panic which would come from an indication that this country was losing grip of this great trade.

There are several other factors which one must take into account. I ventured to call attention to them once before, but I think they are worth emphasis once again. We are the country with the greatest international trade in the world, and, therefore, we are more dependent on international trade than any other country. Take our great rivals. The United States of America have a population of 40 per square mile. France, a very prosperous country, has a population of 192 to the square mile. Germany has 345 to the square mile. We in Great Britain have to maintain a population of 481 per square mile. Therefore, when there are any difficulties in international trade, we naturally feel it far more seriously than any other great country in the world. There are only two other countries of which I think it worth while to give figures, because they contain a lesson. Holland has 605 to the square mile, and Belgium 674. Neither of those countries by the way—it is quite incidental—has high tariffs; Holland is substantially Free Trade, and Belgium more so than it was before the War. But I am not calling attention to that. They are the only two countries which have developed their agriculture and their industrial side simultaneously, concentrating and using the whole of the power and credit of the State for that purpose. That is worth our while remembering when discussing the problem of unemployment in this country.

The balance of our foreign trade last year, I see from the paper which has just been issued by the President of the Board of Trade, including our invisible exports, was £150,000,000 in our favour, which is £40,000,000 more than it was in 1927. In addition to that, as far as I have been able to ascertain, and I have made careful inquiries, every year there is a balance of savings which amounts to a very considerable sum, which is available for investment. That is not a matter to be overlooked when you come to the remedies for unemployment. But take any test. There are none of those symptoms which accompany a decline or a decay in a nation. Clothing is better, and so, on the whole, is food. People certainly consume more expensive food. There is more travelling. There is more spent upon amusement. Then as to houses. I was talking to a very distinguished gentleman whom I met with the Prime Minister the other night at the Foreign Office. He had been here up to the beginning of the War, and then had left and came back, I think, to a Conference over which the Prime Minister presided. He said to me, "The change that I find in this country is not so much in London as outside. What staggered me when I drove outside was the numbers of new houses that are going up." No one can look round without finding very beautiful houses all over the country. The population is better housed, and, although it is true that houses are subsidised, they are occupied. That really counts. When you have symptoms of decay and decline in a country, you can see the thing crumbling. There are none of those symptoms in this land. An hon. Friend of mine the other day was talking about the distributing trades. The increase in the number of people employed in the distributing trades is very significant. You must have something to distribute before you can employ more people there. [An HON. MEMBER: "Foreign goods!"]

I will come to an observation made by my hon. Friend. He took the number of multiple stores and their prosperity in the South of England as a proof of increased luxury in the South at the expense of the North. The multiple stores are not maintained by people who buy luxuries. Had it not been for the working population of this country, those multiple stores would all have been in the Bankruptcy Court.

I was drawing attention, not to the multiple stores, but to the great West-end emporiums, which mainly supply goods which the working-class do not buy.

I was using the very words of my hon. Friend, but I will take even those emporiums. The hon. Member would be amazed to find the percentage of goods sold to people who are not of that class, and I have made inquiries about it. Had it not been for what they do sell to people of that class, I doubt whether some of them would pay a dividend. You might take, for instance, the co-operative stores, which are multiple stores. The hon. Member will find that there is an enormous increase not merely in privately-owned but in co-operative stores as well, and I am just putting it to him to cheer him up. At the present moment there is no doubt that there are very disquieting figures. Take the railway traffic returns, which I have always examined, because I think, on the whole they are the best test of whether business is going up or going down. It is true that there is a slight advance as compared with last year in the quantity of merchandise which is carried on the railways. Coal has gone down, for reasons I do not know; but merchandise has gone up, and if that rate of progress is kept, at any rate we shall be better off at the end of the year than we were at the beginning.

As my right hon. Friend knows very well, the most disquieting feature is that with regard to raw material, and it is very extraordinary and very odd that we should be suffering from an over-production of the things we all want. That seems to be the case now. There is over-production of wheat, cotton and rubber. There is not so much of wool. Then there is steel. I am taking raw material for the moment. There is an over production in raw materials as we all know, and that is one of the reasons which are responsible at the present moment for a kind of stagnation in trade. It introduces an element of uncertainty. Nobody wants to buy his cotton at a certain figure when he anticipates that, perhaps, next month, if he waits, that figure will go down, and he will have to sell at the price of next month, and not at the present price, because by that time the raw material will have gone down. Until there is complete confidence that you have touched bottom in respect of raw material, very likely you will not get an upward tendency. But the real trouble—and the Government must face it, though I am not satisfied that the Lord Privy Seal is facing it—is the temporary depression. I have no doubt ultimately the thing will come out all right, because the tendency is upwards definitely. [An HON. MEMBER: "Are you not sorry?"] What a discreditable observation! [HON. MEMBERS: "Withdraw!"] The hon. Member, on reflection, will be ashamed of making an observation like that.

The difficulties are temporary, but "temporary" may mean a few years, and the right hon. Gentleman is there really to deal with that temporary emergency. The first is that we have not yet recovered the whole of our foreign trade, and although gradually we are doing it, having gone up from 50 per cent. to 85 per cent. already, we have really got to get up to 120 per cent., having regard to our liabilities and increased population, to be even on a level with 1913. The second is this—that employment is not keeping up with the increase in population, above all when you take into account the labour saving which is due to the process of rationalisation. I am told by those who know, and I have asked a good many people who have come in contact with these processes, that, on the whole, rationalisation has been responsible, in most of our industries, for a cutting down of 10 per cent. in labour. [HON. MEMBERS: "More!"] I give the figure which has been given to me. It does not necessarily mean a cutting-down of production but, giving the same production, there is a cutting down of 10 per cent. in labour. There are some cases in which, I agree, the cutting down is more serious, but we must take the average over all the trades of the country and I am assured that 10 per cent. is the figure which can be taken on the whole.

This is also very largely responsible for the huge unemployment in the United States of America. Although production has increased labour-saving appliances have been introduced at such a rate—as they always are after a big War, as they were after the Napoleonic Wars—that a considerable number of people have been thrown out of employment, not because production has gone down, but because the methods of production are of a character which saves the actual employment of labour. The right hon. Gentleman—I think rightly so—is quickening that process in this country, because in the long run, undoubtedly, it will lead to more employment. But, although I do not anticipate that 1,500,000 will still remain unemployed, although I anticipate that there will be a considerable reduction, I shall be very surprised if the right hon. Gentleman, unless he takes much more drastic methods than he is adopting now, can get over that refractory 1,000,000. The right hon. Gentleman above the Gangway brought the figure under 1,000,000 for a few weeks, but back it went again, and somehow or other it seems that you are unable to break through this 1,000,000 which is a sort of Hindenburg Line of resistance. I cannot see our getting below it unless some strong definite bold action is taken and that without delay.

How is that surplus of 1,000,000, which you are constantly increasing by your rationalisation, although you may be absorbing it by degrees in trade, to be utilised? How are you to deal with it? I cannot discuss the question of tariffs. I wish I could. It would be much more exciting, but I realise that I should be completely out of order in doing so. The only observation which I would make has nothing to do with the merits of that question. Even assuming that the merits were all on the side of right hon. and hon. Gentlemen above the Gangway—an assumption that staggers one—there is the time problem. You have four very doubtful events to get over before you can get the full advantage of this great, new, united, federated and welded policy.

I am now dealing solely with the question of time and I am trying to prove that this is very largely for us a temporary problem. There is first of all this difficulty. You must get a Dissolution. I do not know when a Dissolution will take effect. [HON. MEMBERS: "Ask your party!"] It depends upon right hon. Gentlemen opposite, more than upon right hon. Gentlemen on this side, either above or below the Gangway. I am very glad that the Prime Minister is here. I have just one quiet gentle word to say to him. I do not know whether he wants an immediate Dissolution or not. If I were in his place I would not—not with 1,500,000 unemployed. It depends entirely upon the extent to which he can impress upon his colleagues the importance of what he said at the beginning of this Parliament, namely, that he meant to treat this Parliament as a Council of State. He is not in a position—and I am very glad of it because I have always thought it was bad for legislation—where all he has to do and all that Ministers have to do is to give orders, knowing that they have a sufficient majority. When they have to consider the opinions of the House as a whole it is a very good thing for Bills, and a very good thing for the quality of the work which we do. If the right hon. Gentleman has been too busy with very big affairs outside to do so recently, will he now just look into that matter and give instructions to his Ministers to carry out the orders which he gave in June last that he means this Parliament to be treated as a council, where we are all to be consulted, where our suggestions shall be taken into account and not as a place where we are to be dragooned.

The hon. and gallant Gentleman who knows something about obstructing, knows perfectly well, if he brings that charge against hon. Members on these benches, that he is making a charge which has no warrant in fact at all.

Let me finish. I think if my hon. Friends and I wish to engage in obstruction we can do better than this.

I have said nothing about hon. Members there. I asked would the House behave in that way? There has been, as the right hon. Gentleman knows, very notorious obstruction above the Gangway.

I am getting away from the point, but perhaps you will allow me, Mr. Speaker, to make an answer to that remark. I have seen obstruction, and I have taken part in obstruction, and if that is the best that hon. Members above the Gangway can do in the way of obstruction, I do not think much of their gifts. I have seen a Clause passed in a single night which in the old days before hon. Members became so degenerate as I understand from the hon. and gallant Member opposite they now are, would have taken at least a week. I do not think that the hon. and gallant Member's remark is a fair remark. But do not let us be drawn away from the point. I am trying to make an honest examination of the position. That is the first event—the Dissolution. The second event which has to be considered is this, that you must secure an effective majority. The third event is that you have to square the Dominions, and that is not so easy as squaring Lord Beaver-brook. You can square him by scaring him, but you cannot scare the Dominions. The fourth is the Referendum. Well, all that must take time and that is the only point I make about it. It must take at least—what? Three, four, five winters, if you take all these events together? Meanwhile you have the 1,000,000 out of work, and you have to deal with that problem. That is why I think something ought to be done to deal with the temporary position.

Then I understand that there is a great memorandum on this subject. I have only seen it in the Press and you cannot depend upon the Press always, if they are, to use the old American phrase, reconstructing. I have seen suggestions that the right hon. Gentleman the Lord Privy Seal and his colleagues, who would be even more responsible than he if this policy were carried out, have been invited to solve the problem easily and by a short cut by giving pensions to everybody over 60. That is a wasteful, extravagant and fantastic proposal. I am going to put in a word for the sexagenarian. What would become of this Government if you got rid of all the men in it who are over 60? There is the Prime Minister, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the Foreign Secretary. Can you imagine this Government without them? I would say that the rest of them are very much "on appro." [Interruption.] I was going to say that some of them are not shaping very well, but we must wait. Then there is the Lord Privy Seal. By the time he reaches 60 he will have learnt two or three things which he does not seem to know now, and I am very glad to find that he is under the charge and tuition of a very competent septuagenarian, the First Commissioner of Works, who, I believe, has taken him in hand and is trying to teach him some of the elements of this problem. More power to his elbow—if it is the elbow that he uses on these occasions.

I hope, at any rate, that that is not the sort of short cut to which the Government will find themselves committed. It is a prodigious task. It would simply be crushing and it would not answer the purpose. I remember that the ablest generals in the War were over 60. [An HON. MEMBEE: "Was there any?"] Marshal Foch was one of the ablest men who ever undertook a task of that kind. What is it that ought to be done? May I suggest to the Government that they ought to make a real survey of the needs of the nation. [An HON. MEMBER: "You did 20 years ago!"] I daresay, but this is not 20 years ago. We are considering what has to be done now. The State ought to take stock of tasks which, sooner or later, must be undertaken if the efficiency of the nation and the well-being of its people are to be maintained and increased and use its credits and its powers to the full to anticipate and accelerate the performance of these tasks. The Government, in my judgment, have taken much too limited, much too narrow, in some respect much too unimaginative, a view of the scope of these tasks. That is the difficulty. It is really not a question, as the Lord Privy Seal has said on more than one occasion, of spending money in order to find work and employment. If it were merely a question of just ladling out money in order to find a job, I should be entirely in accordance, but the whole point to consider is as to whether it is a job that ought to be done, whether the nation will be better for its being done, and whether you are getting value for your money.

I will give a very summarised survey of what I consider to be the things that the right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues ought to be taking in hand. Take agriculture. We are far behind practically all the Western countries of Europe in the matter of agriculture, and my criticism of the Government from that point of view, is that, as far as I have been able to ascertain from the public Press, there is no representative of agriculture on the Committee for Unemployment. It is a mistake—[An HON. MEMBER: "Chancellor of the Duchy!"]—I do not regard the Chancellor of the Duchy as a representative of agriculture. I remember very well an hon. Gentleman, a scion of the aristocracy, getting up from those benches, some time ago now, very well groomed—we all remember him—and beginning his speech by saying, "Mr. Speaker, I aim not an agricultural labourer." I think the Chancellor of the Duchy could very well say the same thing. I would not regard him as a representative of agriculture, and I do not think that he himself would claim that. There ought to be, on a Committee dealing with unemployment, some live representative of agriculture, and especially if you are looking for permanent remedies.

As I have pointed out already, Holland and Belgium are finding employment for an infinitely larger proportion of people than we are, because they have combined the development of their industrial side with their agricultural side. We have got the richest land in Europe. At least, there is no country in Europe than can compare on the whole with us. Taking acre for acre and mile for mile, this country is the richest, and yet, according to the statistics of the Ministry of Agriculture, it is less productive per acre than almost any other country; we are employing fewer hands per 100 acres, and we are more dependent on overseas for food supplies that we could produce here. You could double the production of agriculture, and you have got a market at your own doors. That is a factor which is well worth considering. it is the best market for agricultural products in the world. There is nothing you can put 2 per cent. on at the present moment for which you could get a secure market except agricultural products.

I think we could do far more at the present moment to employ a great number of our young people, especially in the colliery areas, by putting them into training centres for agriculture. I was rather struck by what an hon. Member, who, I think, sits right behind the Government bench, said the other day in the League of Nations discussion. He said there were 200,000 men in the colliery areas who will never find a job in the mines again. I think that is probably true. Would it not be far better that they should be trained for a development of the great natural resources of this country in the soil? In afforestation, we are far behind, and we have not even made up for the devastation of the War. In reclamation, we are practically doing nothing. In Holland they are reclaiming a tract of territory the size of Oxfordshire. In Italy, I found they were spending enormous sums of money in irrigation, and they propose to put 200,000 families on land which is now being reclaimed. Our canals are less adapted to modern needs than any canals in the world. In telephones, we are the sixth in Europe and the tenth in the world. In electricity, we are still lagging behind.

I am going to come to another branch, which I want to urge upon the right hon. Gentleman the Lord Privy Seal. During this Parliament, although we have put it forward, I have not put a case for it—I should like to have the attention of the right hon. Gentleman to this—and that is roads as a means of finding employment. I cannot understand the reluctance of the Government to putting forward a big, broad, strong programme upon that. One hon. Member, sitting on a back bench opposite, has referred to road development as if you were going to turn people on to stone-breaking. There is nothing that would provide more useful labour, immediately, than a big road development programme. I am afraid the right hon. Gentleman the Lord Privy Seal is suffering a little from the railway obsession—we have all got our professional prejudices—and I want him really to get away from that. It is needed badly.

Let me give one fact in order to show how little the importance of a road programme has been appreciated by the Government. The road transport of this country, including repairs and construction, employ" three times as many men as do the railways of the country. Numbers equal to one-eighth of all the insured population in this country are employed, in one shape or another, on traffic connected with the roads. Some 150,000 of the railwaymen are being employed in delivering their goods from the railways. Still more, employment on the railways is stationary, and I do not think that anything the right hon. Gentleman can do can increase it very materially. On the contrary, employment on the roads is increasing year by year—on road transport. It is not merely passengers, but goods. If the right hon. Gentleman would take the trouble to look at the figures, he would find that the most remarkable growth is not in the number of vehicles, but in the weights they carry. Did he see that letter in the "Times" to-day from a number of very distinguished gentlemen at Oxford? They began like this:
"The immense increase in the volume of heavy motor traffic passing through Oxford gives rise to great apprehension for the safety of our college buildings."
If he goes to any town, like Oxford, which is on some kind of trunk road, he will find the same thing. Coming up today, I was amazed to find the number of lorries on the road, carrying traffic which about 10 years ago it would have been thought incredible would ever have been on the roads, and that is going on. You have doubled the number of vehicles in 10 years, but you have quintupled what you are carrying. Why? For one very good reason, and that is that it is the only way in which a man can command the time and method of delivery of his own goods without being at the mercy or the choice of anybody else. The result is that it is more convenient. Whatever the right hon. Gentleman may or may not do, road traffic is bound to develop at a great rate, and the only question is whether you are going to take steps to prepare for it, to make ready for it

I wish the Minister of Transport were here. [HON. MEMBERS: "He is."] I am very glad to see him, but I wish he were not so far on the side, because that is what I am rather afraid of. He will bear out what I say now, that there is no part of the country where there is not an urgent demand for widening roads, for straightening roads, for new bridges, for by-passes, for tunnels at level crossings, and for trunk roads. Every county is in that condition. A rather important technical journal for engineers, dealing with roads and road construction, says—and I commend this to my right hon. Friend:
"Probably the present Government is the last which will have railway support in its obstruction of a bold road policy."
The roads are overcrowded; they are not adapted to motor traffic; they are getting less and less adapted to motor traffic; there are thousands of bridges which are quite unsuited to motor traffic; there are alarming accidents, which are growing every year; and there is the appalling loss of time of business people in deliveries, because of the fact that the road accommodation is not adequate.

The Government, I see, are bringing in a Housing Bill. I am very glad, and I am very glad that the Minister of Health has it in charge, because there is no one in this House who has made a better impression by his Parliamentary efficiency than the Minister of Health. I know nothing about his Bill, but may I just say this? You will never solve the slum problem or the housing problem until you get better access to the country from the towns. I heard a Debate, introduced by my right hon. Friend the Member for Sevenoaks (Sir H. Young), the other day, on rural amenities, and there were two or three hon. Members opposite who opposed the Bill on the ground that it did not go far enough. They put the case that what you really want for the health of the community, especially children, is to take them out of these great crowded towns and plant them in little suburbs outside. I thought it was quite sound. Roads are the first essential to a solution of that problem, and of agriculture, and you will never solve it until you get better roads. The agricultural problem is a marketing problem very largely. [Interruption.] Anybody knows that who knows anything about the difficulty of getting his stuff to the market. It costs too much, and you have got to organise it.

This is the last point which I want to put to the right hon. Gentleman. The right hon. Gentleman ought, in my judgment, to have taken far more drastic powers to deal with the emergency. I have seen in our country the delays which are attributable to the lack of these powers—all sorts of people stopping business. The railway companies say, "We will not consent to your doing that until we know what you are going to do five miles away." One has nothing to do with the other, but the right hon. Gentleman has not at the present moment the power to put a thing through. There are delays in Whitehall; a clerk in the Treasury, for instance, can cause delay. I will give an illustration of the sort of thing that is going on. The right hon. Gentleman sanctions a scheme or the Minister of Transport sanctions a scheme. The scheme is agreed between the Ministry's engineers and the engineer of the county, but a clerk at the Treasury suddenly says, "This road is too wide; it ought to be 24 feet instead of 36." After weeks of delay that is overcome, but, meanwhile, the whole thing has to stop. There ought mot to be the possibility of that sort of thing, because the unemployed are out of a job the whole of the time.

The right hon. Gentleman ought also to reconsider the ratio which the local authority contributes, and the percentage of those whom he insists shall come from distressed areas. I find that almost impossible to work. The Minister of Transport knows the difficulty in the case to which I am referring. Taking the county as a whole, the percentage is low, but it was discovered that the towns which were contiguous to the place where the job was to be done had a higher percentage than many of the areas that are regarded as distressed. It is almost impossible to work. The right hon. Gentleman has taken too narrow a view altogether of what the State can do, although it is communal; I wish I could overcome the prejudice of the Socialist Government against communal enterprise. This is all public authority work. The right hon. Gentleman ought to take much more drastic powers for overcoming the little difficulties that create delays. Then where is his Betterment Bill which he proposed? That Bill was to have been introduced immediately, but it has not been done.

I have done my best to avoid anything in the nature of criticism, except where it was inevitable, and I could not avoid It. I have tried to review the situation quite fairly. Our failure year after year to deal with the problem of unemployment is leaving a bad impression abroad. I would just remind the right hon. Gentlemen of what his colleague said about the action of the Government. The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, speaking in this House, said:
"I do not think anyone would suggest that any measures taken by the present Government are affecting the unemployment situation materially one way or the other, either beneficially or adversely."
That is a criticism by a Member of the Government which came from that Box. I am appealing to the right hon. Gentleman and to the Government to take this great tragic problem in hand boldly, and to take the necessary measures to deal with it effectively.

The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) said, in his opening remarks, that he did not want to introduce the atmosphere of the crater, and I am sure that we were all interested to see how he would impress the House in his new capacity as a fire extinguisher. Speaking for myself, I have a sneaking preference for the old fiery leader over the gentleman to whom we have listened this afternoon. He told us early in his speech that there was really no ground for panic. Indeed, he painted such a picture of all things being, if not well, at any rate comparatively well in this little island of ours—

I thought that that was the most surprising part of the right hon. Gentleman's speech, and it was the most disappointing part, because he told us that trade was good, and he produced evidence. He told us about the multipie shops and the co-operative societies and these large concerns being in a state, if not of prosperity, certainly of being a long way from bankruptcy. What struck me was that in this period of fairly good trade we have 1,500,000 unemployed, and I wondered what we might expect in the way of unemployment when we have to enter a period of depression, when the co-operative societies are not going well, and when the multiple concerns cease to pay a dividend: I wondered whether we are likely to have not 1,500,000 unemployed, but 4,000,000. Then the right hon. Gentleman expressed surprise that these shops are doing well. In many of the industrial districts the shopkeepers are literally living on the dole, and, if it were not for the Unemployment Insurance Fund, there would be wholesale bankruptcy among the small shopkeepers.

The right hon. Gentleman tried to leave the impression that the period of rationalisation was temporarily painful and was not likely to last; and that, when the operation was over, the patient would be in a much better condition than he is to-day. What reason has the right hon. Gentleman for thinking that what he considers the results of industrial rationalisation are temporary? I wish he could have satisfied my mind that these results are temporary, and that, when we have brought the industries of Britain up to the standard of efficiency of the world, then all will be well. I do not agree with the view that our industries are badly managed compared with the management of industries in other parts of the world I believe that the very efficiency of their management has hastened the problem with which we are confronted. The right hon. Gentleman reminded me of a speech which I delivered recently when dealing with this subject. He said that we have a surplus everywhere. We have a surplus in wheat, steel, rubber, tea, coffee and coal, a surplus in all the requirements of the human kind. Surely, that must have convinced the mind of the right hon. Gentleman that the problem which we are up against is not one of production at all. It is the rationalisation of consumption that we require, more than rationalisation of production.

I have frequently stated in this House that it is not creditable to our intel-ligen that we cannot solve a problem like that. We have not only a surplus of everything, but 1,500,000 of surplus labour, people who want to produce goods, and Who are skilled in the production of goods. It should be for intelligent people the easiest matter in the world to solve a problem like that. The right hon. Gentleman spoke of agriculture having a market for double the present output at its own door in, Britain. Can he tell us anything in human requirements that could not double its production to-day and cot find a market at its own door? Could we not consume the whole quantity of goods which we produce? Could we not consume a greater quantity of coal at home than we are consuming for domestic purposes? If we could find an outlet for everything that we produce, would not that, at any rate to some extent, produce an outlet for the surplus labour which the Tight hon. Gentleman deplored? Whenever he and any Member on the other side of the House, and many Members on this side, turn their attention to this problem, the first thing they seek is an improvement in our methods of production. When the right hon. Gentleman thinks of roads, he is not thinking of roads in the sense that goods in greater abundance may reach our rural population, but he is thinking of roads as an aid to the production in the rural parts of the country.

I listened to the right hon. Gentleman's appeal to the Prime Minister to treat the House as a council of State, for so little had been produced in the way of constructive policy. If the right hon. Gentleman's speech is to be regarded as a sample of what we might expect from the initiation of a council of State in this House, there is not much encouragement for the new policy. I expected something better. Here is his constructive programme. He began by chaffing the party above the Gangway for the slow nature of the preliminaries, the inevitable preliminaries to the policy which is ther object. He said, "Give us speed; give us something now," and the first thing he mentioned is a national survey. Here is something to deal, not with the ultimate, but with the immediate, something that will not keep us waiting two, three, four or five winters. Has the right hon. Gentleman any experience of national surveys? Does he knows that a national survey would probably take as much time as the unification of the Conservative party?

5.0 p.m.

Well, if we are to conclude from that interjection that the national results of his policy would be no greater than the national results of what has taken place in that party, I do not think it is something that justifies the introduction of the system of a Council of State. But, seriously, I did expect that we were going to get something substantial from the right hon. Gentle-man, because he as well as any Member of this House could give us a constructive policy if it were possible to improve the defreioncy in consumption by an improvement in production. The right hon. Gentleman must know that be is wrestling with the impossible when he is trying to find through the rationalisation of industry—however much our desine for that in itself may be—an outlet for the surplus goods of every kind which we see to-day.

The next item was that we were to use the national credit to a very much larger extent for the development of these roads. My colleagues here remind me that that policy has been denounced by the accepted financial authorities on the other side of the House. The late Chancellor of the Exchequer, speaking in the Debate on the Address, stated that we had only a limited pool of credit, and that if we used that credit for making roads it would withdraw it from other forms of industry and create mare unemployment than we should relieve. The late Chancellor of the Exchequer, in support of that statement, quoted words of exactly the same meaning used by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for St. Ives (Mr. Runciman), who, I understand, is the financial authority of the Liberal party. Speaking for myself, I do not accept that view, I do not agree with that theory, but both parties opposite accept that theory. [Interruption.] Well, does the late Chancellor of the Exchequer speak for the Conservative party when he addresses the House on questions of finance? [HON. MEMBEBS: "No!"] He does not! Does the right hon. Gentleman the Member for St. Ives speak for the Liberal party when he addresses the House? [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] I think the House is entitled to know, because if he can get up in this House and advise us on questions of finance from the Liberal point of view and the Liberal party, when it suits them, can repudiate the right hon. Gentleman, that is not, I submit, treating the House fairly.

The right hon. Member for St. Ives (Mr. Runciman), both in this House, in his constituency and in the country has supported the policy of using the national credit for the development of our harbours and our national resources.

That is quite true, because whoever holds that theory would be bound to yield to the contrary view to some extent. Otherwise, we could not have harbours, we could not have docks. To say that because he would use that credit to the limited extent of constructing a harbour that, therefore, he holds to the view in the full sense of the policy laid down this afternoon by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs is not reasonable. We are entitled to know whether the ex-Chancellor, when speaking from the Con- servative benches, or the right hon. Member for St. Ives, when he makes pronouncements on finance, have the support of the parties behind them.

I wish the House to believe that I would like this problem solved, irrespective of what political party succeeds in solving it. I come from a Division where men are being turned out in hundreds every week, and I wish the right hon. Gentleman or someone would give us the evidence on which is founded the belief that the present industrial difficulty is temporary. I can see no evidence of it at all. The right hon. Gentleman told us that rationalisation had led to a 10 per cent. displacement of labour. I do not want to question his figures, but I can find no evidence for them. I am assured by people here who speak for the textile trades that the displacement in those trades has been 33 per cent.; and I am told that in the steel trade, taking the years from 1920 to 1927, there has been a displacement of labour which comes to about the same figure. I have the steel figures in my mind at the moment. During the seven years from 1920 to 1927 the output per man employed in the steel industry increased by 51 per cent. in the pig-iron department and by 68½ per cent. in the finished steel department. If we lived in intelligent circumstances, we should regard that as a national benefit.

Is it not a dreadful thing that we should fear over-production? In one part of his speech the right hon. Gentleman aroused sympathy for the slum population, but a slum population are people who are not merely living in decayed houses, but are people who are under - fed, under - clothed, under-educated, under-shod, who are short of all the requirements of life. Can we imagine anything more depressing than that in one part of his speech the right hon. Gentleman should tell us we are embarrassed with our riches in goods and in another part tell us we are embarrassed by the poverty of the people through the shortage of those goods! Is it any wonder that a large section of the British people are entirely losing faith in Parliament when people who have devoted their minds to this problem and have had special training in the art of solving public problems cannot solve the simple problem of bringing the surplus goods to the starving population?

The point I was at was the effect that rationalisation of industry was having on the displacement of labour. In the steel trade, in the textile trades, and, I have no doubt, in all trades, during the past seven or eight years, there has been a 33 per cent. improvement in production, but at the same time the actual wages, which represent the purchasing power of the consumers, have steadily decreased in inverse ratio. In the steel trade wages were £5 3s. 1d. a week in 1920, but in 1927, when the output per man had gone up by fully 33 per cent. on the average, wages had come down to an average of £3.

How can we hope to go on under an industrial system which reduces the purchasing power of its people as it increases their productive power? How can any intelligent man or woman expect that we can continue the output of goods at a greater rats than we can consume them, and how else can we consume them at a greater rate than by giving the people the power to buy those goods? I wish the country would settle down to this problem, because this is the problem which is eating the very life out of the nation. This is the problem that in its very nature will kill the nation. We cannot escape from it. I prophesied a year ago that we should have 1,600,000 unemployed now. I prophesy now that we shall have 2,000,000 unemployed during the next winter. The right hon. Gentleman talked about improving agriculture. All over the country there is an agitation against the insufficiency of the markets for the agricultural products we have now. Are not the warehouses of Canada, America, and Liverpool glutted with surplus wheat which they are waiting to dump on our markets? Have not our people held up their hands in terror at the prospect of getting goods as cheaply as they could be supplied from that source? What a situation—that we are in danger of being ruined by free food! What a menace! We have had meetings of farmers, labourers and landlords in Scotland and elsewhere wondering how they were going to get a market for their potatoes, how they are going to get from the people who take potatoes as much money as will enable them to continue the production of potatoes.

We are bringing about some wonderful amalgamations. The unity of the Liberal party and of the Conservative party will be nothing compared with the union of the agricultural labourers, the landlords and farmers for political purposes which is now taking place in every part of the country. It shows that we are in difficulties when the cherished political traditions of masses of our people are being lightly scrapped in view of the menace with which we are confronted. The menace is that if we get free food from Canada, or food at half price from Canada, it will ruin the food producers of this country. The political policy of the right hon. Gentleman's party in the 19th century went a long way to ruin agriculture in order to boost the production of pots and pans, and we cannot now afford to go any further on the way to ruin. That is the problem. Week by week we are improving our power of production, and week by week that is leading us into circumstances in which there is greater insecurity that a large number of our people will get a fair share of those goods.

There is the problem which I appealed to the Leader of the official Opposition to apply his mind to three years ago. I appealed to him not to set up committees to help to find a way out of the difficulties that beset production to-day, but to set up a committee that would apply its mind to the task of how to use the enormous output which modern knowledge and methods give us for the betterment of our people, and how to organise our political machinery so that no backward nation outside this nation would be allowed to use its backward methods to impede the path of progress of the nation of which we are citizens. Whether that appeal come from people who claim to be extreme Socialists, or from the other side, surely it is an appeal which in present circumstances is worthy of serious consideration. We cannot have any monopoly in the rationalisation of industry. We cannot introduce into any branch of production to-day a machine that will improve production without our rivals in every part of the world having an offer of that same machine to-morrow. You cannot get any further by reducing wages just as you cannot get any further by maintaining long working hours. There is no road that way.

We have been told that Britain requires to keep on its way to prosperity, but surely the proper way for the State to attempt a solution of this problem in face of the existence of so many surplus goods is to provide the people with more food and enable people to have more goods. Surely the same argument applies to clothing and to the textile trade. I know the difficulties which naturally appear when you think of this system. We shall be told how one trade ruins another, how coal gets dearer, and that manufacturers cannot sell steel in competition with their foreign competitors. Surely such arguments are all the more convincing that you are up against a great national problem, and you want a great scheme of national orgnisation to deal with it.

My criticism of the Lord Privy Seal has always been that the right hon. Gentleman has been attempting to find a solution along the lines pursued by both parties opposite. This nation has not failed to solve this problem because the parties opposite are inferior intellectually to the party on this side, but they have failed to solve it because they have applied wrong methods. We have been told to-night that in the remedy to be applied there must be nothing in the nature of Socialism, but, when that statement was made at the Labour Conference, I told the Lord Privy Seal that the people whose policy he was pursuing would before very long be denouncing him in the country as a failure. The Lord Privy Seal has failed, not through any fault of his own, but on account of the policy which he has pursued. He has adopted a policy which belongs to the Nineteenth Century and one which is not suitable to the needs of to-day.

I do not think the parties opposite have any serious desire of forcing a General Election this year. I am not going to be frightened by what the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs has said in order to get concessions from our Front Bench; in fact all I say in that respect is good luck to him. I think the Government should have sufficient courage to ask the House to proceed on the right lines in order to solve this problem. I am sorry that the Government have indicated no particular plan in this direction. Up to the present, the policy has been that the Lord Privy Seal waits upon somebody about constructing a new road, a new bridge, an improvement in railway sleepers, or a special order for coal from Canada; but that is not the way to face a problem like that of unemployment. This is not a problem which arises only once or twice in the history of a nation, but it is a big permanent problem.

The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs pointed to the desire of local authorities for making roads, and he said that they want more roads. In the city from which I come, hundreds and thousands of pounds have been spent on useless roads. Behind the house in which I live, a useless tramway track has been put down in order to provide work for the unemployed. Up to the present not a single tram has gone over that line, because it would cost £18,000 a year to maintain a service along it. The only labour that will be given by that undertaking in the future will be lifting up the rails which have been laid down, taking down the cable, and repairing the road which will be injured by the laying down of the tramway track. That is the kind of thing that has taken place in almost every district in Glasgow. I wish the Lord Privy Seal would ask those connected with local authorities what they think of these proposals for solving a great national problem by such pettifogging methods as those which I have described.

The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs has chaffed the Lord Privy Seal about having an obsession for railways and not being able to get away from the railway track. I wish the right hon. Gentleman would get back again to the local authorities, because I am sure he would find the information he would get from them very useful when he comes to address this House on the problem of unemployment. We are dealing with a very big problem. The policy which is being adopted can only afford temporary relief, and this problem is only temporary in the sense that it is not eternal. You have continued to deal with this problem in this way from 1920 to 1930. We have been told that the number of unemployed has never been below 1,000,000, that it is now 1,500,000, and that the number of unemployed has been as high as 2,000,000.

Therefore, we cannot accept the view that it is temporary in the ordinary sease in which that word is used, because it is really a permanent national problem.

The difficulty is due to the fact that our country is highly developed industrially. At the present time, you have very few of the demands that we had in the Nineteenth Century for materials for railways, bridges, the equipment of mills, and the erection of docks and harbours. Just at the time when that outlet closed you reached the stage when your output doubled; consequently, your outlet has been halved during the time when your output has been doubled. You are therefore embarrassed with riches, and you do not know what to do with them. You have a population containing a large percentage of unemployed at a time when there is a surplus of all kinds of goods in the country.

Therefore, it is not a problem of work at all. It is time someone changed the whole philosophy of the present system which means that if the Almighty gave us all the goods we require which are alleged to have been given in the Garden of Eden with no necessity to work we should still be bound to starve. Is that the new philosophy? I think we ought to give our people a higher standard of living and a much higher standard of education than they are getting to-day. Surely, we have in this country the most efficient and the most intellectual race that has ever appeared up to now on the face of the earth. I think that is an idea to which this country ought to apply its mind. Is not the foundation of all your wealth material goods and a superabundance of those goods, and, if that is so, why not take advantage of that to remove poverty from the path of the people? Let us remove from this House a great deal of the political humbug that exists to-day, and let us devote our brains and our time to the saving of our people from the disease that threatens them if the present system of distributing wealth is allowed to continue.

In rising to speak for the first time in this House, I am sure that I shall receive the indulgence which is always accorded to a Member on the occasion of his first addressing the House. I must confess that I was rather surprised that this Debate on unemployment should have been initiated by the Liberal party. After all, the Government owes its continued existence to the support which it receives daily in the Lobbies from hon. Members who sit on the benches on this side of the House below the Gangway, and I feel, and I believe that the country feels, that the indictment of the Government made by the Leader of the Liberal party this afternoon is really an indictment of their attitude in supporting the Government and maintaining it in office. As far as I am concerned, I shall try to point out to my constituents that the responsibility of the Government in its failure to deal with unemployment is a responsibility which must be shared by all those who support it day by day.

I want to draw attention to one or two aspects of the problem of unemployment which are not, I think, very controversial. Unemployment has had to be faced by every Government in a greater or lesser degree, and the fact that, since the coining into operation of the Unemployment Insurance Act, weekly figures have been published and additional data have been available, has had two results—it has focused public opinion upon the size of the problem, and it has also tended to focus attention upon the problem of dealing with those who are unemployed, that is to say, the problem of providing for their maintenance, rather than upon the problem of dealing with the causes which produce unemployment. The very size and consistence of the figures has naturally drawn people's attention away from what is really the important part of the subject, and has made them think more of the human side. The propaganda of the Socialist party has been directed to that object. For many years their speakers up and down the country have deliberately concentrated, or tried to concenttrate, the attention of the electors upon the problem of relieving the unemployed, rather than upon the problem of rooting out the causes of unemployment. It was easier to win votes and seats in Parliament by suggesting to the unemployed what would be done to relieve them, than to explain the rather complicated proposals—and they must necessarily be rather complicated to explain from a public platform—for dealing with the causes. I would hardly like to suggest that the reason for that was that the party opposite had in fact no cure for unemployment in which they believed. I think that, perhaps, it was because they had no cure for unemployment in which they thought they could make the electors believe, and so attention has been directed, for one reason or another, more to the problem of dealing with the people who are unemployed to-day than to the causes of their unemployment. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) this afternoon went back to that aspect, and asked the Lord Privy Seal to direct his attenteion more to the present problem than to the permanent part of the problem.

As far as I can see, the Government appear to have no constructive proposal for dealing with this problem. With the support of the Liberal party, they have made one contribution—they have increased expenditure upon pensions and upon Unemployment Insurance. The Liberal party cannot get over their responsibility in respect of that, for not only did they support the Government in the Division Lobby, but from time to time, when they thought, perhaps, that some electoral advantage might be gained from doing so, they made proposals and brought forward Amendments which would have increased the expenditure under the Bills which have been passed. I think that that policy of increasing expenditure upon the relief of unemployment, and especially the policy of using the Unemployment Insurance Scheme as a means of doing it, is a retrograde policy, and one which is damaging, and will eventually destroy, the whole object for which Unemployment Insurance was instituted.

I have never understood, and cannot understand to-day, why men engaged in industry who have regular employment, who seldom draw any benefit from unemployment insurance, should willingly and without complaining go on contributing week by week their quota to the scheme—a scheme which benefits chiefly, and indeed almost entirely, their less fortunate comrades who draw from the scheme far more than they pay into it. I say that I do not understand this, and I think that it is because they do not understand exactly what they are doing. They are still under the impression that this is an insurance scheme.

They pay into it because they feel that some insurance scheme is necessary, and nobody disputes that. The Minister of Labour put the point very openly and fairly the other day when she was discussing the question of bringing agriculture into Unemployment Insurance. She said then that she wished for good lives as well as bad lives, for good industries as well as bad industries, and that she hoped to get from the agricultural industry a full contribution to keep the Unemployment Insurance Fund solvent for the benefit of the more unfortunate industries. A number of industries, which may have, perhaps, a low percentage of unemployment, are being asked to contribute for the benefit of those which have a large percentage of unemployment, and the result may be that unemployment will be increased in industries which, while they have a low percentage of unemployment, are, nevertheless, like agriculture, on the verge of bankruptcy.

The Unemployment Insurance Scheme has been used by successive Governments, and may be used by other Governments unless we are very careful, to cover up and hide certain aspects of unemployment which people are rather afraid to face. In all districts, and especially in the depressed districts, the great majority of the men unemployed are men who are willing and anxious to work, men who are physically fit and are skilled. But in every district there is a residue, and a fairly considerable residue, of what I may call unemployable men, who, through no fault of their own—because they are of poor physique, because they have had indifferent health, and because they are unskilled and, therefore, for unskilled work, require to be of good physique and in good health—are to all intents and purposes unemployable. There is also a certain number of men who are unwilling to work regularly. People are often afraid to face up to that fact, but there is no doubt about it at all, and the people who know it best are these men's fellow workmen. There is a certain number of men who prefer to exist on what they can draw in unemployment benefit, rather than work for a wage which, perhaps, after all, gives them only a slightly better condition of life. I am in favour, and I think everyone is in favour, of insurance against unemployment. I think that industry should support those engaged in it. But these men, who are in fact practically unemployable, can hardly be allotted to any particular industry, and yet the Unemployment Insurance Scheme is used to support them, and they are, in fact, an incubus upon those who are producers.

One constructive proposal that might be made to help to relieve of this incubus those who are producing would be to take out of the scheme these men who are unemployable, and devise a new scheme to carry them. It could be done in exactly the same way and for exactly the same reasons as the last Government took the rates off productive industry, and made them a national charge upon the whole of the people. I am sure that people under-estimate the number of men who are living on this insurance scheme, who are, in fact, being paid for by those who are working, are adding to the cost of production in this country, and, in turn, are increasing unemployment in other industries. It is with those who are unemployable that the Government have to deal, and, as far as I can see, up to the present, they have no constructive scheme for that purpose.

When the Leader of the Liberal party mentioned the question of agriculture, I thought he was going to propose that the Government should bring out a strong agricultural policy, but I do not think that he had in mind what I have in mind. I am told that there are about 700,000 men employed regularly in agriculture, and some people say that, with a really strong agricultural policy, that number could be doubled. I do not necessarily accept those figures, but I am sure that, with a strong agricultural policy, between 200,000 and 300,000 more people could be employed in agriculture. I do not suggest that that is to be done except by giving direct assistance to agriculture. The Beet Sugar Subsidy gave direct assistance to sugar beet growing, and it has provided a very large amount of employment in that industry. I believe that it would be a good stroke of business for the State to spend more money on developing agriculture in this country, and so to bring about the employment of more men on the land. The putting back of from 250,000 to 300,000 men into employment would save the State, would save the taxpayer, in unemployment relief, something like £12,000,000 to £15,000,000, taking the cost of such relief as £50 per man per year, and far less money than that, applied to agriculture, would have the effect of enormously increasing employment on the land.

It is not only a question of material benefit. There is a benefit far greater than the material benefit. To stop the flow of men to the towns, to lessen the burden of the slum problem, to take men back to the country and to the fresh air, would, in the long run, be a benefit of far greater importance to the nation than the material benefit of dealing with the problem of unemployment to-day. Unless we can improve the health of the nation, we shall always have a body of unemployable people hanging round the neck of industry, and having to be supported by industry. I suppose that what struck many of we most of all during the War was the observation of those splendid bodies of men who came to England from our Dominions and Colonies. Nobody who saw them could have failed to be struck by their splendid physique and appearance, and, although climate might have had something to do with it, I think there is no doubt that it was in their open-air life on the farm that was to be found the cause of their fine physique. Not one of them was unemployable. I believe that, by concentrating upon agriculture and trying to increase the number employed in agriculture, as it could be increased for quite a reasonable expenditure, by thus taking men back to the country, we shall be doing something, not only to deal with the problem of unemployment to-day, but to deal with the problem of unemployment in the future, by making it possible to raise a race of men and women who will not be unemployable.

I desire to offer very sincere congratulations to the hon. Member who has just spoken, and to express the hope that we shall have the pleasure of hearing him on many future occasions. I am sure he will regard this afternoon as one of the red-letter days of his life. I desire to follow the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) in the line he adopted, which is the development of the Liberal policy with regard to unemployment. I also desire to adopt his attitude, which was one entirely free from any carping criticism but was intended to be more in the nature of a stimulant. We on these benches, particularly those who represent industrial constituencies, are very anxious that the Lord Privy Seal should succeed in the efforts he is making. Our fear is that he is Likely to fail, but the problems are too great for us to allow any party considerations to interfere in the matter. The great problems of unemployment have to be regarded from two angles. The first is the provision of immediate work as an emergency measure for a situation of emergency, and the second is for the more distant future in preparing the way in our industrial economy. As I understand it, the former is the more immediate. The Lord Privy Seal has shown, in the work he has done up to the present, great affection for the railways, which was perhaps somewhat natural. The railway and dock undertakings are to some extent competitive with the railways. It is of the utmost importance that our harbours and dooks should be brought up to the highest pitch of efficiency, not merely because by that means we reduce the cost of handling our commodities, and thereby reduce the cost to the manufacturers and to the consumers, but also because it enables this country to compete more advantageously with Continental ports.

On this question of harbours and docks the right hon. Gentleman has had one great advantage over any former Minister. During the last few months the Port Facilities Committee has held an exhaustive survey of 60 of the principal ports of the country, which has been conducted from the standpoint of representing to the right hon. Gentleman work that is needed in order to bring the ports up to date, and it has been found that in the majority of them various work is required in order to bring them up to the pitch of efficiency that they ought to have. For all these ports, up to the present only seven schemes have been approved. Ten other schemes are before the Minister and are awaiting approval. But, notwithstanding an the other ports which mean to be brought up to date, no schemes have yet been submitted. Here is a field which would be productive of a considerable amount of employment, and which deserves the right hon. Gentleman's immediate activities. I would, in particular, ask his attention to two practical points. First of all, a large number of these ports are quite small and their revenues are correspondingly small, and, important as they are to the coasting trade, they are not able to provide means with which to bring the ports absolutely up to date. The scale that has been adopted with regard to schemes which have been approved has not been to the maximum. In every case the maximum scale should be applied, and the right hon. Gentleman should give special consideration to all the smaller ports with a view to greater financial relief. These smaller ports are in the main used by the coasting trade, which provides a cheap means of transport for heavier traffic from one part of the country to another, and it is most essential, as a matter of fairness to the coasting trade, that there should not be the great advantages which have already been given to the railways, unless some corresponding advantages are given to the struggling coasting trade, which did so much for the country in the War and on which so much of the prosperity of the country depends.

The next feature to which I wish to draw attention—and it applies to ports that are quite small—is this: The right hon. Gentleman is being blanketed by the Treasury. It is provided in Part I of the Act that financial assistance is to be given in the case of capital expenditure in development, reorganisation and re-equipment. The question of re-equipment is of far greater importance than either development or reorganisation, but the Treasury has taken the view that no matters of replacement or renewals of equipment are to be regarded as capital expenditure, and so they are left out of the benefit of these provisions. Matters like belt conveyors, up-to-date electric cranes, elevators, the electrification of a dock power system, are all maaters which are of the life of the ports. They are absolutely vital. No business man would call any of these matters anything but capital expenditure on re-feqpipment. The Treasury is standing in the right hon. Gentleman's way in preventing development. A very great part of the report of the Ports Facilities Committee is on the matter of renewals and replacements, and the work of that Committee will be to a large extent neutralised unless the right hon. Gentleman can come to the assistance of these ports and see, what I am sure is the intention, that renewals and replacements are re-equipment of a capital nature within the meaning of the Act. I leave that to the right hon. Gentleman's sympathetic consideration.

The next point I wish to mention is this: The right hon. Gentleman might be more active in seeing that the use of home manufactures is encouraged, particularly by the public and quasi-public Departments of the country. Perhaps I should make it plain by a simple illustration. The other day a question arose as to automatic road traffic signals, and the Minister of Transport said there were difficulties in the way of adequate production by English manufacturers, and he thought it would be necessary to experiment with imported articles. That is a direct discouragement to work at home. Newcastle can produce and supply as many automatic road signals, made to the requirements of the Ministry of Transport at competitive prices, as the Minister and all the bodies under his direction can pay for. The signal in question has been exhibited at the North-East Coast Exhibition all the summer, and at the British Industries Fair. The right hon. Gentleman ought to see that, in matters of this kind, where British manufactures can be supplied they ought to be supplied and the experiment made with them, instead of giving a direct encouragement to our foreign competitors. I consider that that is good Free Trade doctrine.

My third point is that it is possible to take the figures of the various sections of unemployment and to consider under each head in what way numbers of these men can be employed. That is a practical way in which the problem ought to be approached. I propose to take, as an illustration of that, one that I have pressed upon the right hon. Gentleman previously, because it is one of the largest sections of the unemployed community—I moan the building trade. The figures show that no fewer than 153,000 building operatives are on the unemployment register, and if to that number is added those who are engaged in public construction, that gives another 44,000. Altogether there are in this trade 197,000 men unemployed. That is about 13 per 6.0 p.m.

cent. of the whole problem with which the right hon. Gentleman is faced. There are more men unemployed in this one trade than in any other, with the one exception of the textile trade. Here is one of the largest sections of the unemployed community. The work that can be given to them complies with all the right hon. Gentleman's own requirements, being work of an economic character. One has to consider whether there is not available, ready to the right hon. Gentleman's hand, work on which these men can be usefully and profitably employed. You can find the way the men can be employed by looking at any industrial area in this country. You will find there a great shortage of houses, and that the people in those areas are asking for work to be done which only these unemployed builders can do. I will take a recent illustration. In the St. Lawrence Ward, Newcastle, a survey was recently held, and it was found that 58 per cent. of the people were living in an overcrowded condition, many of them six, eight and 10 in a single room. In one building consisting of 10 rooms there were nine families, with a total of 58 people. In the whole of Tyneside 34 per cent. of the people are living under overcrowded conditions, and four of the largest and most important of those areas are represented by present Ministers of the Crown. In this one city there are at least 1,000 unemployed builders. I suggest to the right hon. Gentleman—and I am quite sure that in this I shall have the support of those who sit on the back benches opposite—that this is one of the most crucial social problems of the present day, and that it is, in the whole unemployment question, the part which is easiest of solution.

The position is quite unique. On the one hand, you have this vast army of unemployed, and, on the other hand, you have the need for the work to which the men can be put. There is no excuse for this work not being put in hand, because this very work of building houses occupies a prominent position in the pages of "Labour and the Nation." Does the Lord Privy Seal propose to put these men into work building houses, and, if so, when? If the answer is "Yes," why is not the work well under way at the present time? Because there is more need for this work to be done than for any of the work to which the right hon. Gentleman has given his attention. I wish to make these further suggestions. It is no use looking to any problem of slum clearance as affecting this question. Slum clearance, unless it is accompanied by the building of houses, merely causes more overcrowding than ever. Slum clearance is merely the taking of people out of one locality and putting them into another. That does not reduce overcrowding at all. What is wanted in this country is the provision over the next two years of at least 500,000 houses. This question cannot be solved by allowing matters to drift along in a spasmodic way as is the case at the present time. An estimate has to be made—and that can be done without much trouble, because all the data is available—as to the number of houses which are required in each locality, having regard to any possible transference of labour. Having found the number of houses which are required the question then is to put on to the building of those houses the men who are unemployed at the present time. I ask the right hon. Gentleman to say where the difficulty is in getting that done. It needs, no doubt, some drive; it needs great organisation. It means that, having got this data together, there should be a scheme for the mass production of houses. The way in which houses can be built cheaply is by adopting a method of mass production.

I am told by gentlemen who are at present engaged in building houses by mass production that there is no reason at all why houses, provided there is a scheme of more than 300 houses, cannot be built at the present time to let at rents of about 7s. 6d. a week, and above that to provide both 5 per cent. interest and a sinking fund which will wipe off the capital amount within 40 years. That is actually being done at the present time by one of the right hon. Gentlemen who sits on these benches. That is the need. The need is not for any of those ideal building estates. That has been the folly of the past. This is an emergency matter. It has to be dealt with from the point of view of an emergency measure, and, if necessary, it may be that the existing building regulations may have to be relaxed. The thing is to get these people who are at present living under these conditions into decent habitation. I wish to urge upon the right hon. Gentleman, in further support of the arguments which I have advanced, that at the present time about £7,000,000 or £8,000,000 is being paid every year in unemployment benefit to these building operatives. That would go a long way towards the provision of a large number of houses. There is this further suggestion. Although the immediate problem would be the employment of those 150,000 builders it has to be borne in mind that for every two men who are pus to work on the actual building of a house another man is put to work in connection with the production of the materials and the transport necessary to provide the builders with the materials with which to work. I hope that the light hon. Gentleman will really put forward his best efforts upon this question. There is no question within our social system which is more worthy of his best efforts, and if he succeeds great honour will be his. If he fails, one will have to take the view that a great deal of responsibility for the continued unemployment of these men and for the continued existence of their women and Children under the distressing conditions in which they live at the present time must, to a large extent, be shouldered by him.

I hope that the Lord Privy Seal has received comfort and guidance from this afternoon's Debate. When I read a speech which he delivered about 10 days ago I marked this passage in it. Having said that he had had thousands of suggestions and heaps of criticisms and abuse, he went on:

"I am still waiting for these people to come down from the sky to the earth and say: 'This is what ought to be done. Do it now'".
I wonder whether this afternoon he thinks that from the multitude of counsels from those benches he has received wisdom. First of all, we had the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) counselling him to double the production, I think it was, of agriculture. There is no one on these benches who is connected with agriculture who would not be delighted to see that done, but if the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs had gone on to explain by what method he would enable the farmer in Eastern England or in Scotland who had to pay something like 40s. per ton in growing potatoes to double his production when he can only get 22s. a ton as the price for them, then indeed he would be giving a boon to this country which would be far better than any of the rest of the great schemes which he has adumbrated.

The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Shettleston (Mr. Wheatley) followed, and criticized the remedy suggested by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs both as regards agriculture and as regards roads. The positive suggestion by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Shettleston was that if you only redistribute wealth, then all will be well. It may be good on other grounds—we are not disputing that to-day—to redistribute wealth, but if by taxation he takes £l from the pocket of the Lord Privy Seal, and gives it to somebody else, would that in itself give more employment? How the second person in spending it is going to create a lot of employment, when the first person on whom the Lord Privy Seal would have spent it loses his, remains to be proved. At the same time there is a real seriousness about the Debate this afternoon which has been conspicuously absent during those long dreary Debates on unemployment when I had the task of responding as the Lord Privy Seal has to do to-day.

The figures are a great deal more serious than ever the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs has shown them to be. When the party opposite came into office, unemployment was 60,000 better than 12 months previously. That 60,000 has been wiped out, and the figure on the picked month of the Lord Privy Seal is 147,000 worse. In other words, there has been a falling back of between 200,000 and 210,000. That is not all. If you had a great catastrophe in one industry, that would be serious enough. The country could understand that if there was a mass of unemployment in one industry and that when circumstances changed it might get better, it did not necessarily mean that there was a great deal of hardship, or that there was much of which to be apprehensive as regards the country as a whole. But during this period employment in the mining world has also improved very greatly. There are between 60,000 and 65,000 fewer unemployed in the mining industry than when the present Government came into office. In other words, the falling off throughout the whole of the rest of the country has not been 207,000. It has been nearly 270,000, that is as regards the country as a whole outside the mining industry. That is the deterioration which has taken place judged by the comparison of the previous year, and yet, at this time last year, there was still continuing that very hard weather which, in itself, was an abnormal cause of unemployment. That makes the question serious enough.

We have had a discussion this afternoon of one of the measures which the Lord Privy Seal has taken in order to deal with it—rationalisation. In this respect I admit my entire concurrence with the policy of the Lord Privy Seal. It is all very well to argue that men will be put out of work, and that may be true, but the number of men who have been put out of work by the rationalisation effected by the Lord Privy Seal is comparatively small. In all those industries to which the right hon. Member for Shettleston (Mr. Wheatley) referred, the amount of unemployment owing to rationalisation has not been very great. He gave a figure of 33 per cent. I have not had an opportunity of looking up that matter since he spoke, but, if, as I think, it proves to be a grossly over-estimated figure, the effect of rationalization, whether it be in the woollen trade, the cotton trade, the iron trade, or the engineering trade, is much less than 33 per cent. What we have to reckon with is the fact that the great mass of unemployment in this country up to recently has been due, as the Lord Privy Seal has been made well aware since he came to his present office, to the shrinkage in the volume of our foreign trade. The result is that it is not a question of whether we want to rationalise or not, but that we must rationalise when we are competing with foreign countries in our overseas markets, if we want to keep what trade is left, much more, if we want to regain a little of what has been lost.

The point before us this afternoon is not only the unemployment that is due to the falling off in our foreign trade. That is serious enough, but the fact is that, little by little, this country, in its internal production and its internal consumption, has been taking up a good deal of the unemployment caused by the loss of foreign trade. The growth of new industries, the growth of the motor trade, the growth of the artificial silk trade, and the spread of minor new industries, have mitigated to a considerable extent the unemployment that has been caused. What is hitting this country so hard to-day is another cause in addition to anything that may be due to the loss of our foreign trade. I have no wish to make a party score on this point, but it is a fact that 75 per cent. of the depression in the present situation is due to the lack of security that at present exists in the business world. The hon. Member for Plaistow (Mr. Thorne), at Question Time a day or two ago, shouted out that employers were turning men off and making them unemployed. As if an employer would turn men off just for the pleasure of creating unemployment! No person would be fool enough to cut off his nose to spite his face. Wherever one goes throughout the country, one finds precisely the same situation in the business world. Business men do not know where they are. They do not know what the future holds in store for them, and the result is that they are not going to enter upon fresh business commitments until they have some confidence and some security with regard to what may be in store for them if they launch out upon fresh business.

I talked to one particular class of professional men who have good reason to know what is taking place, and that is the architects. In one place, I found that in regard to one big factory the plans had been put into cold storage until they know the future. In another case there were five new plans for extensions which are not to be proceeded with again until they are more certain of the future. As regards rationalisation, then, I agree with the Lord Privy Seal. But the great bulk of the excess of unemployment that is now being created is really due to no other cause than the general apprehension and the depression in the whole of the business world at this moment. Is there any wonder? In the first place, we have the whole burden of taxation looming in the next Budget; we have more millions foreshadowed for the year to come; we have statements by a responsible Member of the Cabinet, the Secretary of State for War, as to what he would do in wiping millions off the National Debt. We have a treatment of the unemployment situation whereby people who read the Parliamentary reports and keep pace with what is happening realise that, by a stroke of the pen, the Government will have substituted one clause for another in a way that is tantamount to adding £50,000,000 to £60,000,000 to the National Debt. How can you ask a manufacturer to launch out when he does not know what the price of his coal is going to be. Coal is an important factor in any manufacturing production and it is a vital factor in some.

Lastly—I do not want to stress this too much to-day—we have the statement from the Chancellor of the Exchequer that, whatever may be his other reasons, the delay in letting the safeguarded industries know what is in store for them, has had practically no effect upon the situation. When we consider the cumulative effect of all these causes, there is not a single man of business who wants to start out to make any progressive step forward until he knows what the future is going to bring forward. It is no good the Lord Privy Seal or other Members of the Government talking about the American situation. Of course, the American situation last November affected affairs, but the recovery in America has been far more rapid than the recovery in this country. That can be traced in many ways. I trace it from the stocks and shares. At the present time there is no doubt much unemployment in that country, but the recovery in the price of American stocks and shares is more marked than the recovery of the price here.

Again, it is all very well to complain of the high price for credit, but the price of credit has been reduced to 4 per cent. While the increase in the Bank Rate may, if it is put high enough, create a set-back in time of prosperity the lowering of the Bank Rate will not of itself, without any other effect, help matters when you have a state of acute depression. You may get credit as cheap as you like, but no manufacturer will set about the manufacture of goods, however cheap money may be, unless he knows that there is a good chance of selling them, and no merchant will buy them unless he knows that there is a prospect of sale in the future. That is the cause of the situation at the present time. Let me contrast it with what we were led to expect. We were told, a year ago, that:
"The Labour party gives an unqualified pledge to deal immediately and practically with the question of unemployment. Its record on unemployment is a guarantee that this pledge will be kept."
The Chancellor of the Exchequer, in referring to the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) said:
"The unquestionable fact is, that whatever programme the Liberals may adopt they have not the remotest chance of ever being in a position to carry it out."
Then he went on to say:
"We are the party that has never undertaken a mission and did not carry it through."

If not, I withdraw it, and return to "Labour and the Nation":

"Its record on unemployment is a guarantee that its pledge will be kept. The most important attack upon unemployment is to restore prosperity to the depressed industries and to develop our country. This programme will not only provide employment for large numbers of those who are now out of work, but its reaction on other industries would be immediate and beneficial. A Labour Government will set to work at once by using export credits and trade facility guarantees to stimulate the depressed export trades of iron and steel, engineering and textile manufactures. Shipbuilding and shipping will immediately be benefited and by the increase of foreign trade, the improvement in these industries will be a great addition to the purchasing power in the home market."
It is interesting to contrast those statements with what has been done. Take the suggested increase in foreign trade. I will take the first five months of last year in the export of manufactures. There was an increase of over £7,000,000 for the first five months of the year before, up to the end of May. That had been turned into deficit of £5,000,000 by December, and in January of the present year there was a decrease in the export of manufactures of £9,000,000 as compared with January of last year. That is the way in which they fulfil the promise of an increase in our foreign trade. Take the export of raw materials. The export of raw materials in January of articles mainly unmanufactured showed an increase of £250,000. If it had not been for an increase of £1,250,000 in the export of coal there would have been a decrease in those figures, I suppose the Government chose coal, because it shows the one advance, as a subject on which to experiment, in order to help it to join the other depressed industries.

We were told that "Shipbuilding will immediately be benefited." I turn to the latest figures published by the Ministry of Labour about shipbuilding. The "Ministry of Labour Gazette" for February shows there are 5,700 more unemployed in the shipbuilding industry than there were the same perod in the year before. The Government we were told were going to stimulate the depressed export trades of iron and steel, engineering and textile manufactures. I turn to iron and steel. After the stimulus has been applied, there are 5,300 more unemployed than there were in the year before. Engineering has responded to the stimulus by having 12,000 more unemployed than in 1928 and 3,000 more than a year ago. Take the textile manufactures. In the cotton trade there are 55,000 more unemployed than in 1928 and 47,000 more than a year ago; in the woollen and worsted trade there are 13,000 more unemployed than a year ago. If I take the percentages of increase in unemployment compared with a year ago, I find that the increased unemployment in the cotton trade is 8.7, woollen and worsted trade 5.4 per cent., artificial silk trade 5½ per cent., jute 7.2 per cent., hemp 1.9 per cent., hosiery 1 per cent., other textile industries, 2.1 per cent., carpets 2.3 per cent., bleaching, dyeing and printing nearly 5½ per cent. All these are increases in unemployment compared with a year ago. Compare those results with the promises of the Government.

I have already stated that much of the depression that exists at the present time in the business world is due to the uncertainty as to what the future has in store. We have been asked more than once to treat this question in a nonparty fashion. In quoting the Government's pledges this afternoon perhaps I have treated the matter in a party manner. I have quoted the pledges on the score of which hon. Members opposite obtained their votes in the country. That is what they will have to face in the country unless they can persuade us to treat it in a non-party fashion. In that case the Lord Privy Seal himself will have to change his tactics. I wish it could fee treated in a non-party fashion, but he first and foremost of his colleagues is the person who prevents it being so treated. He makes an appeal for a nonparty treatment and within the next few minutes will make a flagrantly partisan speech. He has done it in this House and outside. Like a chameleon he can change from red to pink; pink to a neutral tint and back again.

He is also quite incurably inaccurate in his statements. I do not profess to say that he is deliberately inaccurate, but it is surprising that his inaccuracies whenever he commits them, and that is frequently, are always on his own side. A year ago he grossly over-stated the amount of unemployment that existed; and a week ago he under-stated it by over 100,000. We want to know what the Government are really doing. In answer to a question of mine, the Lord Privy Seal said that he had stated his policy fully, and that I was not in the House when he made his earlier speeches. I have read them, and, with the exception of rationalisation to help our foreign trade, he has never made a speech in which he has given us any real policy. He will have to come down to earth. He promised information in White Papers in regard to relief works, but it has never materialised. We have asked him for his policy over and over again. I do not believe in relief works and public works. Hon. Members below the Gangway do. We want to know why he believes in them himself. Unless we can get from him something quite specific this afternoon we shall have to go to the country, as I trust we shall soon, and ask those who in the iron and steel trade, in the engineering and textile trades, in the shipbuilding and shipping trades, and all the other trades which were to get the blessings of the present Government, whether they accept the present situation. And I do not care how soon we go to the country.

The right hon. Gentleman who has just spoken opened his speech by contrasting the Debate up to that moment with his previous experience. I thought a note of regret was expressed that we were discussing unemployment in what he called a non-party atmosphere, but if any evidence was needed that he did regret it he made it abundantly clear before he finished his speech. He accused me of being persistently inaccurate; not deliberately. That is to say, he thinks I am suffering from a disease of which he is the victim, but at all events I want to submit to the House that from my opening statement on unemployment I have never once attempted to minimise the gravity of the problem or to hide the facts even when they were against me. There are three questions, and three questions only, that I am called upon to answer. I admit quite frankly that the figures are bad. No one can do other than admit that. I do not propose to make any comparison merely of a seasonal kind; I admit frankly and fully that anyone speaking from my position can do no other than admit that the figures are not only disappointing but worse than anyone had a right to expect seven or eight months ago. Therefore, the three questions I have to answer are these: Are the causes beyond the control of the Government, are the Government responsible; is the Government taking all possible steps to deal with the position; and what are the prospects for the future?

If we put ourselves in the position of a Council of State, forgetting for the moment whatever party capital has been made either on this side or the other side of the House, it will be agreed that the problem of unemployment will always remain something which carries with it too much of human tragedy to be always considered from a party point of view. I repeat, that the answer I am called upon to give to-day is an answer to those three questions. I am going to submit that the Government is in no way responsible for the present abnormal situation. There is a world reaction in trade; and those who want to take comfort either from the protectionist or free trade argument can make their deductions from either of the countries I am going to quote because some are protectionist and others free trade. Germany at this moment, with all her protection, has 3,258,000 unemployed. That is the latest figure we have. Italy has 408,000 unemployed and 21,349 partially unemployed. America gives us two extreme figures. In the Senate last week one Senator made the statement that in his view 6,000,000 was the correct figure of unemployed. Another put it at a minimum of 3,000,000, and the President of the American Federation of Labour put it at 22 per cent. of their membership. Anyone with a knowledge of America and of the way in which our unemployed statistics are calculated would be justified in saying that based upon the same data as our own figures the number of unemployed in America would be much nearer 6,000,000 than anything else. Curiously enough you get two extreme remedies.

Can the right hon. Gentleman give us the percentages, as he has in America?

I have given the only percentage quoted by the President of the American Federation of Labour. Similar statistics to those given in this country are not prepared by the Government in America. Extreme remedies have been suggested. In the view of the Secretary of State for Labour, Mr. J. W. Davis, all would be well if the Senate would give them more protection at once. The President of the Federation of Labour says that an immediate solution would be found if prohibition was abolished. That shows the extremes to which folks will go in their remedies. It is almost as difficult as the three solutions which have been suggested this afternoon. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) said, "Roads," and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Tamworth (Sir A. Steel-Maitland) says, "No, do not spend the money in that way." My hon. Friend behind me says, "Neither of you have a solution. The real solution is Socialism in our time." At all events, I put it to the House that it is idle to discuss this abnormal situation without regard to the world position.

I do not agree in the least with the right hon. Gentleman's suggestion that the cause of this abnormal situation is a lack of confidence in this Government; the obstinacy, as he called it, of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. I will deal with that later. The right hon. Gentleman knows, no one better, that the real cause is a slump in raw material. He knows perfectly well that cotton, steel and silver all make a marked contribution to the abnormal situation. Everyone knows perfectly well that trade is not done in a falling market. For the last few months it has been falling, falling, falling, with the result that no manufacturer will take the responsibility of giving orders. If any proof is necessary as to the abnormal state of the situation, it is to be found in the fact that during the last 12 months there has been an increase of 146,000 in the number of the unemployed. Of those, no fewer than 126,000 are women and girls, chiefly in the textile and distributive trades. I ask bon. Members to put themselves for a moment in my position. I have mentioned an increase of 126,000 women and girls and an increase of 146,000 in the unemployed in the year. Who is there who would suggest that the Government could have any short remedy for that abnormal state of affairs?

What is true of cotton is equally true of wool and of silver. We talk about the great masses of the people reading these Debates. How many of the masses of the people know the repercussions of a drop in the price of silver on Lancashire trade?—Lancashire trade buying raw cotton on a gold basis, manufacturing articles on a gold basis, shipping them on a gold basis, selling them in a country on a silver standard with £30 depreciation in every £100 right away. That state of affairs existed not only to-day, but has existed during the past six months without any break. Therefore, I am entitled to ask, in what way the Government are responsible for that state of affairs? [HON. MEMBERS: "Why blame the last Government? "] I did not hold the last Government responsible. I held the last Government responsible for taking no steps to remedy the position. Incidentally, the last Government did not have that sharp drop in commodities that I have mentioned.

The question I had to answer was, is this abnormal situation due to any action of the Government? I am trying fairly to answer that question. I answer, first, by showing the abnormal effect that the drop in raw materials has upon the position. I put it quite clearly that we as a Government are not responsible. The right hon. Gentleman minimised the effect of the recent American slump. My answer is that the repercussions of that slump are found here to-day, and we are feeling the effects to-day. The Government were not responsible. We are feeling to-day the effects of the new Australian tariff. Lancashire and the hosiery trade are feeling the effects of that tariff. The Government are not in any way responsible for that situation. I have given the House the main causes of the abnormal situation. Let me proceed at once to deal with the second question—are we as a Government taking all possible steps to meet the situation so far as it lies under our control? I submit that the effects I have dealt with so far are such as time alone can heal. No action of any Government can deal with the abnormal situation of the over-production of the raw commodities I have mentioned. Any Government which attempted to deal with it artificially would make a profound mistake and probably do more harm than good. [HON. MEMBERS: "What about coal? "] I propose to show later on the figures of each trade, including coal. My short answer regarding coal is that if I have to choose between people working under starving conditions and a demand for people to pay a bit more for decent conditions, I am prepared to encourage something that will give better wages and a higher standard of living.

At all events I proceed to deal with the second question put to me by the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs. The right hon. Gentleman said in effect, "Whilst we admit that the general situation must be dealt with by means of a long range policy, what are you doing to deal with the immediate situation and with those who may be thrown out of work as a result of your action?" I do not quite understand why so much publicity is given to the suggestion that we favour railways as distinct from roads or any other form of transport. When I introduced the Development Bill I made it clear that all public authorities were eligible. I made it clear that there was to be no distinction and, incidentally, the same Committee, a nonparty committee, is responsible alike for the sanctioning and the amount of grants to all. So that at least the Government cannot be accused of any partiality as between one interest and another. But the Government took the step of dealing with this question by refusing absolutely to admit either for Government assistsance or trade facilities anyone outside a statutory company. The reason was, and my justification to-day is, that in dealing with certain individual trades—trades which the right hon. Gentleman himself mentioned—I am satisfied that much of the trouble and unemployment in some of these industries to-day is due to the last Government's policy of giving trade facilities when it would have been much better for those concerned not to have had the facilities. Anyone examining the shipping position to-day, anyone brought face to face with it as I am brought face to face with it, is compelled to admit that the Government responsible for trade facilities is very largely responsible for the abnormal and disastrous position that some of these trades are in.

In that case how does the right hon. Gentleman explain the fact that that occurred in 1924, when his own party was in office, and will he say how he came, at the last election, to give as one of his cures for unemployment the grant of trade facilities?

The answer is very simple. The trade facilities that I have given I have enumerated, but I have also made it perfectly clear why I excluded shipping, shipbuilding and the coal industry. None of the trade facilities that I have enumerated would come under that category. The trade facilities that I suggested were facilities that would not add to the dead-weight capital of the country, would not bolster up inefficiency, would not even encourage over-capitalisation, but would apply only to those undertakings in which it could be shown that the nation would be more efficient as a result.

The right hon. Gentleman has stated that the grant of trade facilities to shipping had an ill effect, due to the Conservative Government. Will he kindly explain how it was that his Government in 1924 granted those trade facilities to shipping, though at that time they were opposed by Conservatives?

When I dealt with the question of shipping I dealt with it from the standpoint of all trade facilities, and any that were given by the 1924 Government would come under precisely the same category of my criticism. I am called upon to justify my policy. I am being pressed from all quarters to-day to state why I do not apply trade facilities in 101 different directions. I am giving the reason why I do not do it. I proceed now to answer the right hon. Gentleman's question—how are we as a Government distributing our work fairly as between one industry and another, and what sanctions have been given? I have here a prepared statement:

Railways, total amount of schemes sanctioned, £8,000,000.

Docks and Harbours, £6,000,000. That is an answer I think to the hon. Member for Leith (Mr. E. Brown).

In that list Leith is concerned. I have had a wire from Leith Docks saying:

"We have had no word from any Department as to the result of the application on 25th November to the Unemployment Grants Committee, and this threatens dislocation of arrangement for continuing work for unemployed men."

That is rather unworthy, seeing that in the negotiations regarding Leith Docks and when there were difficulties that the hon. Gentleman wanted me to get hold of, which he knows I did, he was always quite ready to come and tell me about them, and did not raise matters in the midst of a speech, when he knew perfectly well that I could not possibly answer him.

Surely the right hon. Gentleman is unfair. He has used this money for weeks now in that statement. I have had this telegram only within an hour, and therefore I could not give the right hon. Gentleman the statement.

I leave the House to judge. No Minister could keep in his head such figures as those with which I am dealing. It is fairly obvious that a Minister's Department must supply him with the figures. I am quoting from the figures showing what has been sanctioned 7.0 p.m.

by the Government. I repeat railways £8,000,000, docks and harbours £6,500,000, water supply £3,000,000, electricity £10,000,000, land reclamation £1,250,000, unclassified roads £2,500,000, trunk roads £10,000,000, road improvements £14,000,000. Here is the Government's contribution of £65,000,000 sanctioned on schemes which will all ultimately tend to the efficiency of the nation. There have been complaints of delay and I ask the House to observe the situation. At half-past seven this evening a Debate will take place on a scheme, not included in these figures, costing £3,000,000, which has been waiting for weeks for this Parliamentary sanction before it can go upstairs. It is a scheme which is included in the Liberal Yellow Book. I am not complaining of the delay, but that scheme with at least 30 other schemes cannot be undertaken until this House has given the necessary sanction. The right hon. Gentleman asked why the Government did not themselves take power over matters of this kind. I would point out to him that it is impossible, and that this House will not only claim but will always exercise its right in that particular respect. That is not the only delay. I sanctioned a scheme for Hull which I considered was long overdue, and which the Hull Corporation assured me would meet with the unanimous approval of the people of Hull. After weeks and months of negotiations, when the Government grant had been sanctioned the scheme was turned down.

I submit that an expenditure of £65,000,000 in 10 months is the best answer to those who assume that the Government are doing nothing. I do not attach the importance to these schemes that the right hon. Gentleman does. From 1920 to 1927 no less than £190,000,000 was spent on roads and bridges and other relief works, yet no one can suggest that it gave any permanent contribution to the unemployed problem. I have applied myself therefore to seeing if we can provide temporary employment on the lines I have indicated pending a fuller investigation and a practical attempt to find a further remedy. In spite of those figures, I am not one who at this moment is going to despair. [Interruption.] I admit frankly that there are a number of factors, some of which I have given, contributing to the present situation, but I also admit that there is a mean attempt on the part of some people to exploit the situation. I am not referring to anyone in this House or to any party in this House, but I am referring to a responsible firm who issued a circular broadcast, which is reprinted in foreign countries, a prominent old-established city firm who can actually print a circular, broadcast it, and suggest that this country is not only down and out but that there is no hope of recovery and they advise people immediately to transfer their money from this country abroad. I say that anyone guilty of that conduct ought themselves to leave the country, because the country would be better without them. I would go further and say that the tendency always to magnify the unemployment figures as against the employment figures also does incalculable harm.

Does not this firm include all the leading lights of Liberalism in the City?

It would be mean on the part of anybody to associate any particular political party with this particular firm. I have said that I do not take such a pessimistic view. I believe that there are a number of factors that tend to give encouragement. I believe that the reduction in the Bank Rate is going to be a very helpful factor. The immediate effect will not be felt, but I am certain that in a few months' time we shall get immense benefit from cheap money. When I look at the shipbuilding industry, to which the right hon. Gentleman referred, I get far more encouragement. Last year we produced 5ft per cent. of the total tonnage of the world, and, instead of the figure of unemployment being on the increase, as the right hon. Gentleman said, the figures of unemployment in that industry to date show a reduction of 8,000 on January, 1929.

The right hon. Gentleman accused me of inaccuracy. This is the "Ministry of Labour Gazette" for February, 1930, and on page 64 it gives the figures for the numbers insured and the percentages unemployed in shipbuilding and ship-repairing, and shows that, with a total in the trade of 204,000, there was an increase of between 2 and 3 per cent. It is a very small figure which I cannot see in this light, but there was an increase in unemployment of between 2 and 3 per cent. over 23rd January, 1928.

I have not seen what the right hon. Gentleman quoted, but for the purpose of this Debate I had taken out the figures of each industry, and the figures for shipbuilding for the end of January, 1929, and the end of January, 1930, show a decrease in unemployed in shipbuilding of 8,000. That must be borne out by the statement I have already made that last year constituted a record for the shipbuilding industry. That is what justifies me in saying that I was not pessimistic upon that head. When I come to marine engines, there was an increase of 20 per cent. last year; ships launched 5 per cent. for the year—

Yes, increase of employment. The right hon. Gentleman drew attention to coal. He will be pleased to know that the output for 1929 was the highest for any year since 1924 and, as he rightly pointed out, there was also an increase in those engaged in the industry. The same figure of increase applies to the pig-iron industry, steel ingots and castings, and electrical engineering. The best figure of all is that, notwithstanding the increase, the capacity of the country generally is to be measured by the fact that there were 750,000 more people employed last year than six years ago. I presumed that the House, and especially the Opposition, were really anxious to find something that would encourage them, that they were not anxious to have merely dismal figures, and that they would be delighted with any improvement. Therefore, I am dealing at this moment exclusively with those who merely content themselves all the time with magnifying the unemployment situation.

The right hon. Gentleman is criticising us, and I have a right to put this question to him. If he criticised us for this, why did he himself say:

"The meanest statement that was uttered to-day was the half-truth that there were more people employed to-day than when the Government took office?!

Surely, the right hon. Gentleman and the House must be aware that in this part of my speech I was dealing with the facts that would warrant my being optimistic. I pointed them out. I pointed out that, bad as was the position with regard to the drop in raw materials, immediately bottom was reached there, there must inevitably be a very sharp revival. Everyone knows that the number of those who are hanging off purchasing the goods of the country at the moment is gradually being depleted, and there will be a sharp rebound from that position. I have already indicated that cheaper money must have its effect and I conclude by making this statement. I suppose that judging from any figures such as we have discussed this afternoon condemnation may be made against the Government. What I have refused to do is merely to make a spectacular effort on the assumption that spending money will cure the evil. I do not believe that it will and I do not intend to do it. What I do know is that there are a number of industries in this country and they must be treated in different ways. Some have too much capital and it has to be wiped out. Some are in need of capital and it has to be found. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"] Oh yes, there are both cases. I find, every day, many industries in that position, and hon. Members know perfectly well that steps are being taken to find the money. I find there are other industries with far too many units; some industries with no co-operative buying organisation and no real selling organisation.

All these things are being dealt with, trade by trade and industry by industry. It is the case, as the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) pointed out, that the process of rationalisation, temporarily, may have a bad effect, but I am certain that in the end the effect will be to the benefit of the nation as a whole. In the interval the Government are not standing by. The Government are doing all that they can, not favouring railways as against roads, or docks against harbours, but merely taking the broad comprehensive view of trying in the end to make the nation more efficient. I cannot answer the individual questions put to me about various harbours, because there is a deputation discussing that matter on Thursday of this week, but I assure the House that, however unpleasant to me may be the task, and it is unpleasant to have to stand by and see the figures go up week after week, it might tempt some folk to make a spectacular effort with a view to trying at least to encourage themselves by merely saying, "Money will do it." I am satisfied that it is a world cause. I am satisfied that there are factors for which this Government are not responsible, and for those for which the Government are responsible, we, at least, will bear our share of the responsibility.

May I rise to make a personal apology? I referred to a firm which was mentioned by the Lord Privy Seal and I said that some of the gentlemen associated with that company were members of the Liberal party.

Yes. I had been informed that a Mr. Ian Macpherson was a director, by somebody who imagined that it was my right hon. Friend in this House. I have since been informed that that statement is incorrect and I desire to apologise to the right hon. Gentleman.

I am sure that I can speak on behalf of my hon. Friends sitting here when I say that we recognise to the full the desire of the hon. and gallant Member to apologise for an inadvertent statement. I am sure that no one desires to depress the Lord Privy Seal by unreal ground of pessimism. At the same time, it is idle for the right hon. Gentleman to cheer himself by unreal grounds of optimism, and, when he comes back to the old Tory argument that, because there is an increase in the amount of employment, that entitles him to be cheerful, let me remind him of what the present Prime Minister said on 24th July, 1928, referring to a statement of the late Chancellor of the Exchequer to the effect that employment was increasing steadily and that there were then 360,000 more people employed than had been the case four years previously. The present Prime Minister said:

"What has that to do with the question of unemployment? The right hon. Gentleman seems to be surprised. Why was he content with four years ago. Why did he not go to 40 years ago, and if he wished to console himself in even greater measure he might have gone to 400 years ago."
If that argument was good against the late Chancellor of the Exchequer it is equally good against the Lord Privy Seal and therefore no one ought to accept that statement as a real ground of optimism. One cannot help feeling that there must dwell in those Despatch Boxes on the Table some kind of malign spirit which, as soon as the right hon. Gentleman cross over to that side of the House depresses them and deprives them of all the hopes which they formed while sitting on these benches. The right hon. Gentleman to-night has been very pessimistic about roads and bridges. His own Prime Minister speaking in the Debate to which I have just referred laid down what I imagine my right hon. Friend the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs would welcome as a perfectly sound basis:
"Are we making the best use of our own material; are our own national resources being developed as they ought to be developed? "
Having put that general question the right hon. Gentleman took individual instances and said:
"There is the whole question of the roads and bridges to be re-built…Nobody who has gone over our roads will be satisfied with what has happened…From John o'Groats to Land's End there are roads to be widened and surfaces to be made new."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 24th July, 1928; cols. 1109–1112, Vol. 220.]
That was what the Prime Minister thought in July, 1928, and, as for the money, there was going to be no difficulty about that because in the same Debate the finest financial authority of the party opposite said:
"You are not going to palliate much less solve the unemployment problem unless you are prepared to spend money. We have spent £600,000,000 in supporting the unemployed in idleness. That money should have been devoted to the development of the Empire and the resources of our own country."
Everyone will be surprised to hear that that statement is from the present Chancellor of the Exchequer. I wonder whether that is the kind of thing which he at present addresses to the Lord Privy Seal in any confabulations which they may have. Does he say "Comrade"—or however he addresses the right hon. Gentleman—" what is wrong with you is that you have not large enough ideas, and you will not spend enough money." I should like to hear the Chancellor of the Exchequer talking in that style because he thought at the time to which I refer that
"If these plans were adopted they would cost money but the Government"—
that was the Government of the hon. Members now above the Gangway—

"prefer to give it in the form of a miserable dole to keep men from work."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 24th July, 1928; col. 1217, Vol. 220.]

Who is giving the miserable dole to keep men from work now? The situation has changed. But it was not only on that occasion or from those speakers that we heard those arguments. The right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary has laid down what I think we should all agree is the essence of the matter, when he said that any Government in any such prolonged period of unemployment had to choose between paying for idleness and paying for work, and that the dole must be turned into a wage. That is exactly what is being suggested from these benches this afternoon, but owing to some change in the geographical distribution of hon. Members, because they are sitting on those benches instead of here, the old Tory ideas have infected them, and it is from them that we now hear the hopeless doctrine that all this is useless and only a temporary remedy. I suggest that even a temporary remedy is better than nothing. Only last November we had the Prime Minister saying that his previous Government in 1924 had left behind them enough schemes of work in the pigeonholes of the Departments to deal adequately with the temporary relief of unemployment. If it was true in November that those scheme were waiting for hon. Gentlemen above the Gangway merely to pick out of the pigeon-holes. how much easier for those who knew where to find them? They would not have wanted the Lord Privy Seal for that purpose, or the First Commissioner of Works. It would have been enough to have sent the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster just to pick these schemes out of the pigeon-holes. But the fact is that there has been a complete change of view on the part of right hon. Gentlemen on the Front Bench opposite.

I think it is very lamentable, and in quoting these arguments from their own speeches I have not done so with a view to reproaching them, unless the words themselves are a reproach. I have done so because I hope to rekindle in them some of the old optimism which they were prepared to show when they were in Opposition. If those arguments were good enough when used against hon. Members above the Gangway, surely they are good enough now. At least, right hon. Gentlemen opposite cannot complain that they have been badly treated from these benches this afternoon. We have come forward with suggestions in which we are willing and anxious to co-operate. All we are anxious for is that some move should be made. Compared with the glowing prospects which were held out in those previous unemployment Debates, what has been put forward by the Lord Privy Seal this evening is only a beginning. He is only beginning to tinker with the edge of the problem: and if more courageous views are adopted, and a larger programme instituted, then we on these benches will be ready to co-operate in every possible way. But it gives us cause for melancholy reflection when we see, little by little, the old arguments for doing nothing infecting the Front Bench opposite, and—to judge from some of the cheers which I have heard this evening—spreading further and further up the back benches, until the tide threatens to overwhelm even the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Shettleston (Mr. Wheatley). I hope it will not do so. I hope we shall be able to claim the right hon. Gentleman and his friends at least as allies when we say that we are not content with what has been done and are looking forward to much greater progress in the future.

I could not help thinking when I listened to the speech of the Lord Privy Seal that he seemed to have brought together in the House to-night two separate statements. One was an admirable statement analysing the causes of the difficulties of the position, a statement as to which one can have no cause for complaint because it is perfectly true that the right hon. Gentleman is suffering from an international position which is not of his making. The other which I thought was less admirable, was that in which he got down to the practical measures which he proposes for dealing with that situation. I do not think the House can accept the view that the world difficulty of which the right hon. Gentleman complained, is some act of God with which we cannot cope. It is up to this House and to this Government to find a method of dealing with that situation, either alone or in co-operation with other countries. We are entitled to know, and we ask again, what this Government propose to do in that connection. He referred to this world over-production, as he said, of raw materials—

It being Half-past Seven of the Clock, and there being Private Business set down by direction of the CHAIRMAN OF WAYS AND MEANS under Standing Order No. 8, further Proceeding was postponed, without Question put.

Private Business

Dartford And Purfleet (Thames) Tunnel Bill

( Certified Bill). (By Order.)

Order for Second Reading read.

Motion made, and Question proposed,

"That the Bill be now read a Second time."

I beg to move, to leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, and to add instead thereof the words:

"this House refuses to give a Second Reading to the Bill until the promoters have given full and careful consideration to the question of building a high-level steel bridge as an alternative to the proposed tunnel."
I am bringing forward this Amendment because I believe the promoters of the Bill, when considering a means of providing cross-river communication between the north and south sides of the River Thames, only considered the question of a tunnel and did not go fully into the question of building a bridge. I think everyone who has studied the question of cross-river communication is bound to agree that a bridge is infinitely preferable to a tunnel. In a bridge you get a much wider roadway, and in the bridge that we are suggesting should take the place of this tunnel, at a very similar cost, there would be a six-way traffic, instead of a two-way traffic, as proposed in the tunnel. In addition to that, a tunnel requires to be constantly lighted and ventilated, because of the fact that we have so many mechanically propelled vehicles using our roads at the present time.

I want also to deal with it from another point of view. This Bill is a certified Bill, because it is supposed to be giving employment to people who are now unemployed, and the nation will be required to find 75 per cent. of the expenditure incurred in providing this cross-river communication. The kind of labour that will be supplied to work in connection with this tunnel will be the kind of labour that is mainly getting supplied to work all over the country in connection with the various road schemes that have been sanctioned by the Lord Privy Seal's Department. It has been stated in this House, in every Debate that has taken place on the question of unemployment, that the iron and steel industry is suffering very heavily indeed, and the right hon. Member for Tamworth (Sir A. Steel-Maitland) showed a keen interest in the fortunes of that trade. I trust that he at least will give consideration to this question of a bridge as opposed to a tunnel, because of the work that would be given to the. iron and steel industry.

A bridge such as we suggest would take about 60,000 tons of steel; that would mean something like 250,000 tons of coal, and that, in turn, would mean employment in the mining industry for 1,000 miners for a matter of 12 months. In addition to that, we have to remember that the iron and steel industry of this country is very largely an export trade and that our bridge-building and constructional engineers are not getting a proper chance inside the country to develop their technique and show what they can do because there is not sufficient scope for bridge-building inside this country. We have done practically nothing of a heroic nature since the Forth bridge was built, but we have a firm of British bridge builders who have demonstrated that in competition with the world they were able to secure a contract for building, at the entrance to Sydney Harbour, a bridge that is very similar to the one which we are suggesting should becon structed across the Thames between Dartford and Purfleet. How are our bridge-building engineers to have the opportunity of competing in the world's markets for bridges, if I can put it that way —

On a point of Order. Is the hon. Member in order in making long allusions to bridges when we are discussing a Measure for building a tunnel?

It is quite true that the intention of this Bill is to build a tunnel, but the hon. Member, as I understand it, is trying to show why we should not proceed with the Bill because a bridge would be better. He is, therefore, quite in order, but he would not be in order in going at too great length into the merits of a bridge.

I thought I was in order when you called upon me, Mr. Speaker, to move my Amendment, because it quite clearly states that my opposition to the tunnel is because I think a bridge would be very much better. We are against a tunnel for the reasons that I put forward in my opening remarks, and if my hon. Friend who raised the point of Order would like me to repeat them, I should be perfectly willing to do so. A tunnel is not the best means of cross-river communication because it does not provide the same facilities as a bridge, and a bridge obviously affords better facilities for traffic than does the tunnel that is proposed. In addition to that, we have to remember that the Bill itself seeks to give employment, and it ought at least to try to give employment to skilled artisans in this country.

The bulk of the unemployment relief schemes are not giving employment to skilled artisans, but are providing in most cases unskilled and in very few cases semi-skilled work for the men who are unemployed to do. That is why we suggest that the delay that would take place would not be very considerable. I understand we shall be told that the reason why this Bill must be pushed ahead is that delays are dangerous and that the promoters want to promote work. The bridge would not be opposed, I believe, by the people who are opposing the tunnel from a different point of view from that which I am putting forward. The shipping facilities of the London Docks would not be interfered with by the high-level bridge which we propose. The level of the bridge would be somewhere in the region of 230 feet above high water mark, and the tallest ship which we have at the moment is the "Majestic," whose height is 210 feet.

The tunnel is being opposed by other Members of this House on grounds that they will state themselves, but I am quite sure that I am voicing their opinions correctly when I say that they would not give the same opposition to a high-level steel bridge. If we had such a project right here in the heart of the Empire, it would be a standing advertisement to the skill and ability of our constructional engineers, and would help our export trade, which we are wanting to build up inside this particular industry. If our people are competing for bridges—and there are very much longer bridges in other parts of the world, not only built, but being proposed—very naturally the people who want to build those bridges ask, "What have you done in your own country?" We cannot show anything, because we seem to have developed a very strong penchant for diving into rivers and getting off the face off the earth in order to try and improve our means of transport. I, therefore, move my Amendment.

I beg to second the Amendment.

The hon. Member for Newport (Mr. Walker) has dealt with the question very ably from the point of view of employment. I take it that the question before us to-night is to consider a Bill, the primary object of which is not to build a tunnel, but to provide means for getting across the river; and, judged from that standpoint, I think we are entitled to ask the promoters of the Bill why it is that they have not considered an alternative method, or, if they have considered it, whether they can put before us cogent reasons why this alternative method so ably outlined by my hon. Friend was turned down.

It is proposed to spend a large sum of public money. The cost of the tunnel has been estimated at approximately £3,000,000, but with the increased depth that would be required by the Port of London Authority, a very considerable addition to that expenditure would be made, and the cost might well be estimated at towards £4,000,000 instead of £3,000,000. What do we get for that money? We get a tunnel, and we get two lines of traffic, undergound, for a distance of rather over a quarter of a mile. I submit that we should consider very carefully whether we are getting good value for that expenditure of money in a long subterranean passage with only two lines of traffic, cramping traffic into that space.

Then there is the question of ventilation. That tunnel would carry a very heavy motor traffic, which emits poisonous fumes of carbon monoxide gas. It will not only carry motor traffic, but is will be for the comfort and convenience of pedestrians, and I suggest that if pedestrians are to tramp that long subterranean passage, along with the flow of motor vehicles which will go through, the ventilation arrangements will have to be very perfect and very costly in order to cope with those fumes, or otherwise they will have to have at either end of the tunnel a station to provide gas masks and Davy lamps for pedestrians going through. I know that modern ventilation methods are very fine and that much can be done to eliminate gas fumes, but I still think the winds of heaven are the best ventilation of all, and in the alternative method which we propose there will be no artificial ventilation, but there will be the winds of heaven to ventilate this bridge.

There is the question of the services to be given. I should like the House to weigh the two lines of traffic of the tunnel against the six lines of traffic which the bridge could take. Sydney Bridge provides a wide space for traffic, so that this is no engineering impossibility; it is no engineering novelty even. It is a perfectly straight, solid engineering proposition to provide a high level bridge giving six lines of traffic instead of the two lines which would be given by the tunnel. I wish to read a part of the Report of the Royal Commission on cross-river traffic in London, which sat in 1926:
"A tunnel is less commodious and usually more expensive than a bridge, as the immediate approaches require to be considerably greater in length. Representations have been made to us that tunnels are undesirable as cross-river facilities, owing to the difficulty of dealing with the fumes from petrol driven vehicles."
The House is entitled to know from the promoters of the Bill why they selected this method rather than the. alternative which we put before them to-night.

I cannot help being impressed by the fact that the arguments which we have so far heard have very little bearing upon those arguments which appear in a memorandum circulated to Members of the House, and put forward by the Port of London Authority, who are the authority most concerned, when they met some of the Members and the Minister of Transport on the question of this tunnel. Hon. Members have referred to the scheme for a bridge. I have yet to see a scheme properly drawn up and properly constructed for a bridge.

We have a photograph here, if the hon. Member wants to see a scheme.

The hon. Gentleman is showing me a photograph of a bridge which does not exist.

This Bill is a Measure essentially for dealing with a tunnel which is to go from Purfleet to Dartford, and the objections which have been raised generally to that scheme have very properly been objections which are peculiar to the construction of a tunnel, and to that only. The objection about which there has been considerable discussion was as to the proposed depth for this tunnel. I am somewhat surprised to see the circular which the Port of London Authority have sent round, and to notice that they are opposing the Second Reading of this Bill. I was present at a gathering in the room of the Minister of Transport, and I may be wrong, but I confess that I got the impression distinctly that the question of the depth of the tunnel was one which was admitted to be suitable for Committee discussion. I thought that, when the Minister of Transport gave them an undertaking—and, I understand, gave that undertaking in writing afterwards—fully to consider the view of the Port of London Authority in Committee, the Port of London considered that that was good enough. I am surprised that, in spite of that meeting, and in spite of what they said, they are opposing the Second Reading.

I was also present at that meeting, but I have not the same recollection as the hon. Gentleman. The Port of London Authority said that they would not oppose the tunnel, provided they got sufficient depth of water to bring up vessels of the draught that would be required in future.

That is what I thought, and this was to be a matter for Committee discussion. I thought that, if it were given proper weight, and if the Minister undertook to give full weight to the Port's representations in Committee, we would let it go through. That is why I am surprised to see this opposition from the Port of London on Second Reading. There seems to be an unholy alliance between the Port of London Authority—the ship-owning interest—and the steel trade. It seems to me that the chief point about dragging this red her ring of a bridge across the track is merely to frustrate the Bill altogether —

The only practical result in the near future of accepting the Amendment which has been moved, will be to defer it for an indefinite number of years. The tunnel scheme has had a great deal of consideration and years of work put into it, and we should have to begin all over again if we started on the bridge scheme. [An HON. MEMBER: "Why?"] Because, naturally, you have to do a great many things and a great deal of research before an idea such as this can be translated into the promise of an actual bridge. When I consider the demands put forward seriously by the Port of London Authority against this tunnel, my feeling that this bridge scheme has been introduced on purpose is very much deepened, because, as I see it, the Port of London Authority are asking that this tunnel should be no less than 80 feet in depth, that it shall have 10 feet of covering soil, then a 10 feet margin of safety, and then allow the passage of ships with a draught of 60 feet.

That pre-supposes an enormous development in the size of ships in future. The largest ship afloat has a draught of 39.9 feet, and the ship "Minnetonka," the largest ship which comes up the Estuary of the Port of London, has a draught of a little over 36 feet. So the Port of London Authority are supposing a substantial increase in the size of ships. What shall we have to do if we are going to have ships that carry such a draught as 60 feet? What will happen in London? It will not only be a question of the tunnel getting in the way; the Thames is dredged to a depth of 30 feet, and this implies dredging down another 30 feet. Not only that, but ships that have a draught of 60 feet will be wider in their beam and longer, and have more difficulty in manoeuvring than the present ships. How are they going to get round the awkward bends in the upper reaches of the river? What is going to be the effect of dredging down to 60 feet on the banks of the river Thames? The effect will be very considerable, especially near London, where the way of the river is not over-wide. Moreover, it will not be confined to London, because there is no point in getting ships with a draught of 60 feet right up into the Port of London unless the other ports are equally deep. As most of the big ships which come to the Port of London are ships which go to the Orient, probably the great trans-Atlantic liners will go to Southampton and Liverpool, and not to London at all.

I said probably. If you are going to have these large ships, it is not only a question of changing in a revolutionary way every landing stage and dock in the Port of London, but of lowering the depth of the Suez Canal, the Panama Canal, New York Harbour, and other harbours in the world, which are now adjusted to a 35-feet draught, or something like that. It will be a mere bagatelle in view of these enormous alterations to blow up a tunnel which cost £3,000,000; it will be a relatively cheap thing to blow up when you take into consideration all the other enormous works which will have to be done in order to get a ship with a 60-feet draught right up the Port of London.

There is a further point underlying this idea, that we are going to concentrate our ships, large and small, and develop the Port of London right into the heart of the metropolis. I think that is altogether wrong, and not in accordance with the tendency of the times. The chief expense in the moving of goods is in the unloading of the cargo from ships, loading it on to lorries or putting it on to trains, and unloading it at the other end. I do not believe that it is desirable to have a tremendous development of trade in large ships close up to London, because the whole tendency of things is to take them further down, where facilities are much greater, where the entrances to the docks are not blocked up as they are further up—such as St. Catherine's Dock and London Dock, for example—and to concentrate the road and railway transport on some point further down the river. The tendency of modern times is to short-circuit London with transport, and use Tilbury, for instance, where they have built a colossal new dry dock. The whole tendency will be to develop Tilbury, and to use the new orbital road which is to be constructed, the new arterial road which is constructed, and the road facilities which are there now, and to transport on them the goods that come to London. Those that do not come to London can be short-circuited round London. So far as the passenger is concerned, the matter is negligible. It does not matter to him whether he goes by train to Tilbury, which is below the tunnel, or whether he goes to the East India Dock.

8.0 p.m.

I cannot therefore see very much substance in the full demands which are put forward by the Port of London Authority, because they are essentially unreasonable demands. The Authority in their anxiety that they were going to be ridden over roughshod, have opened their mouths unnecessarily wide, possibly in order to assert themselves, and make quite possible that they will get something. I think they have a certain justification for this, because although they well knew these negotiations were going on, and the local papers were full of proposals one way or the other, they were not in the first place officially approached, and I believe that weighed rather adversely when they balanced up the possibilities of this scheme. Though I feel that we ought to take every reasonable proposal from the Port of London Authority very seriously, I am very far from subscribing to their demands in full. I quite agree that this is an unemployment scheme, but it is not primarily an unemployment scheme: these great schemes cannot be and should not be looked upon primarily as unemployment schemes. If this was really going to affect adversely the Port of London, I am certain nobody in this House would support it. But the point as to the depth of this tunnel is essentially a Committee point, and I ask the House to give the Bill a Second Reading on the very generous assurance which the Minister of Transport gave—and having given it once, I am certain he will repeat it—that nobody wishes adversely to affect the interests of the Port of London. Just for the sake of giving a few men work for a few years it would be criminal folly to impair the usefulness of the Port of London. The fact that the demands put forward in the paper which has been circulated are really unreasonable demands obviously gives negotiable margin, and I am sure that in Committee we shall be able to come to some reasonable agreement which will ensure that we have this tunnel, which will be very useful and advantageous, and at the same time make quite sure that the reasonable uses of the Port of London are not interfered with and that the fairway of the river is kept open to trade.

On a point of Order, may I ask whether it is proposed that there should be a general discussion now? The last speech was directed more to the Port of London Authority than to the question of a bridge, and I would like a ruling as to whether this discussion is to range over the whole question, or whether the Amendment is first to benegatived or carried, and then the question raised by the Port of London as to the depth of the tunnel is to come on for consideration.

The Amendment was put forward as a reason why the Bill should not be proceeded with, and it does not appear to me in any way to prevent a general discussion on the merits of the Bill.

The speech just made in favour of the tunnel shows quite clearly how little those who are supporting it grasp the importance to London itself of a deep waterway. The first thing that is obviously in the minds of those who are supporting this scheme is that it is going to provide a good deal of employment.

Perhaps I may be allowed to begin my speech? That is one of the claims made. Unless we lose our sense of proportion altogether, surely we must remember what happens when a vessel arrives in the Thames. Every extra vessel coming into the Thames provides work for scores, nay for hundreds, of men who would not otherwise get work at all. The one disadvantage from which the Thames has suffered in times past is that it is cramped, that its docks have been too small. The old dock companies were not enterprising; they had not the resources; they made their lock sills too shallow; and it was not until the Port of London Authority was set up and there was a programme on a much more grandiose scale, if you like, that the hopes of increased traffic in the Port of London, which are of immense importance to the people employed there, could possibly reach fruition. One of these big vessels, supposing she comes only once every four weeks, will provide more employment every year of her life than you would get out of the making of this tunnel.

On a point of Order. May I point out that this proposal is based on a recommendation dating back to 1902 and 1921 from the Cross-River Traffic Royal Commission and has nothing whatever to do with the relief of unemployment?

There have always been people who wanted to dig tunnels under the Thames.

On a point of Order. I think mine has been the only speech so far which has supported the Bill, and I never justified it on the ground of its being an unemployment scheme, though I said it was an unemployment scheme.

I was not merely disposing of the case of the hon. Member. I was speaking of the case put for the tunnel itself. There is nothing new in the idea of a tunnel. We have already handicapped the Port of London by one tunnel.

Then why should we go further and handicap it by three? The hon. Member says that this scheme has not been put forward in the interests of unemployment, but unemployment has been one of the justifications for it, though it is true that what is most in the minds of the promoters of the Bill, to judge from their literature, and the speeches made this evening, is to provide easy transit between two great counties. If all they were thinking of was the traffic between the two counties, it would have been, to say the least of it, an act of courtesy to take into consultation the Port of London Authority, which is the authority most affected of all. I cannot understand how a scheme of this kind could have received even the conditional sanction of the Ministry of Transport when the Port of London Authority had not been consulted beforehand with regard to it.

Let me suggest some of the grounds on which the Port of London Authority are justified in viewing this scheme with grave apprehension. In the first place, London has been handicapped, and is still handicapped, by its failure to provide accommodation for deep-draught vessels. There are some people who talk of deep-draught vessels in terms of the Suez Canal or the Panama Canal, but they overlook the fact that the deepest-draught vessels in the world do not run through those canals. Traffic through those canals is limited by the lack of water. The vessels of the deepest draught are those which run across the Atlantic, and on account of their size they have been driven to Southampton. They have actually been driven to Southampton from Liverpool, and the reason for that is that you cannot dredge the Mersey to the same permanent advantage that you can dredge the Thames. One of the grounds put forward for making the tunnel is that they will be cutting through clay and chalk, and that is one of the reasons why you can dredge the Thames to a much greater draught than you can dredge the Mersey. There are permanent banks, and there is not the same siltage. The banks do not collapse in the same way as they would in some other waters. Southampton has already taken a great deal of that traffic, and we never see the "Leviathan," the "Majestic," or the "Berengaria" in the Thames, for the very good reason that if they came to London they would never pass Tilbury; and I do not think they could get in to Tilbury except at the top of high water.

It has been said that there has been a great deal of exaggeration with regard to the vessels likely to come into the Thames. Any man who would prophesy what is going to be the draught of vessels 25 years hence is a very bold man. In the last 25 years there has been an enormous extension in draught. In some of the literature circulated in favour of this tunnel it is suggested that the draught of the biggest vessels in the world would not be endangered by this proposal. The present dredged channel depth in the Thames is 30 feet. The natural channel depth—that is in the vicinity of the proposed tunnel—is about 8 to 10 feet more than that, probably somewhere between 35 and 10 feet. The depth of the crown of the tunnel, according to the deposited plans, which are what we must go by, is 42 feet is inches Then the proposers wish to have 10 feet to play with. They want the right to deviate 10 feet upwards, which would actually reduce the draught of water that we have at present. We are not concerned with their proposal that they should have the right to deviate downwards; they can to as deep as they like: but if they come up they will interfere with the channel. We are talking about this tunnel being a £3,000,000 scheme. Some of the vessels which ought to be coming into the Thames cost £4,000,000 to build, and they include more labour in their construction than would be wanted for the construction of this tunnel.

We ought to pay very great attention to the potentialities of the Port of London in the future. Running into Southampton at the present time there are vessels drawing about 40 feet. Some of the figures published are not very accurate. I can give one of my own personal knowledge. My firm operate the "Leviathan" on this side of the Atlantic, and her loaded draught, when she is down to her deepest draught, is 40 feet 4 inches aft. Some of the promoters of the Bill have forgotten the difference between a vessel being deep draught and her mean draught, and have taken her mean draught; it is not the mean draught you have to consider but the deepest draught. It is no use bringing a vessel up the Thames and finding that she sticks aft and then saying "She ought not to have done so, because her mean draught is 1½ feet less." The "Leviathan's" draught is about 40 feet. The "Majestic's" draught is very nearly the same, but she rests on a more even keel than the "Leviathan." The "Berengaria's" draught is somewhere in the region of 38 feet. But that is not the last word. I do not know whether it is news to the House—probably it is not, because hon. Members perhaps know as much about it as I do myself—but when you get a vessel of extreme length the only way of giving her the requisite strength is by providing extra depth; and as we go up in size the tendency will be to go in for deeper and deeper vessels. Designers will be bound to do so, from sheer engineering necessity. It is not a mere fad of those which control ships.

Those of us who are interested in the traffic of the Port of London want to see it grow. It is all very well to talk about short-circuiting the business of the Port of London. It is to the advantage of the people of London that the goods brought into the Thames should come as near to the centre of population as possible. One of the reasons why we have to pay such enormous prices for taking goods across London is that we cannot get them by ship far enough in towards the centre. The nearer the centre the better. The nearer you can bring the big ships the better, and I should have thought that those looking after the interests of the population of this vast area would have been doing their best to facilitate the deepening of the channels right away up to the very centre of London. That would have been a very sensible policy.

I hope the Minister of Transport will make clear what is to be the procedure on this Bill. I think it was begun in the wrong way. It was a great pity to leave the Port of London Authority out of account; and I think it is a pity to imagine that the business can be disposed of by mere haggling across a table in Committee. It is better that we should receive guidance from the Minister of Transport. He must surely realise that the paramount authority in the Port of London is the Port of London Authority—the P.L.A., as it is called for short. We cannot hand over the duties of the Port of London to any county council or, let it be said, to any Ministry. The Port of London Authority has declared its view in the most pronounced way. It may be they have asked for more draught than is imperative, but they have a right to go to an extreme figure rather than run any risk.

Does the right hon. Gentleman say that the Port of London Authority is so paramount in this matter that they are not to be asked to prove their case to the Committee upstairs?

No, but the promoters should have observed the decency of consulting them. They were not consulted before these plans were deposited. They were consulted afterwards, and when there was an interview with the Minister of Transport he was good enough to say that if the Bill went upstairs he would certainly give every facility to the Port of London to put their case. He could not do anything less. They have a perfect right to go there to oppose the Bill.

The right hon. Gentleman is advancing the argument that on anything affecting the Port of London the word of the Port of London Authority must be final.

Surely that was the point of the argument. I put it to him that it is perfectly reasonable to ask that the Port of London Authority must prove its case before a Committee. That is all I ask.

I never used the word "final." I said that in matters dealing with the development of the Port of London the Port of London Authority should be paramount. That was the object in view when the Port of London Authority was set up, and I shall be very much surprised if even the Minister of Transport said that in the Port of London any other authority should be set up. How is this case going to adjudged? Is it going to be decided on the Floor of the House or before a Committee up stairs. If it is going to be settled on the Floor of the House I shall be quite satisfied. If it goes before a Committee I think the Port of London Authority have a right to present their views before the Committee and argue the details. The proposals contained in this Measure have been brought forward by people who do not know, and cannot know, the conditions of the Port of London because they do not employ technical officers who understand this question on either of the two county councils which are concerned with this proposal. Consequently they have no technical officers possessing any knowledge of the Port of London or the river itself.

I know some councils where there are engineers who are good port advisers, but they are not employed by the two county councils concerned with this Bill. The reason why the Port of London Authority was given such large powers was that they had in their employ specialists and experts with the necessary skill and knowledge concentrated on this subject, and there is no other authority which possesses such admirable technical equipment. I have no doubt that if the Minister of Transport carries with him a majority of his party this Bill will be sent upstairs. I want to know, are we to run the risk of the Port of London being handicapped by the decision of a Committee upstairs? I think we ought to guard ourselves against any attempt that might be made to limit the Port of London continuing and extending the useful work it has done in the past. I think the best way of dealing with this Bill is to stop it at this stage, and I do not think it ought to go any further. This Measure has been brought forward without due consideration, and I think the Port of London Authority should be given a fair chance in regard to this Measure to perform the duties for which it was constituted, that is, to provide facilities for allowing larger vessels to deliver their cargoes more in the centre of the population in the same way as other great ports in the world.

The speech to which we have just listened from the right hon. Gentleman the Member for St. Ives (Mr. Runciman) may be taken as an authoritative statement on the question of shipping. Most of the speeches up to the present moment have been voicing the protest of the Port of London Authority, and I am bound to say that the proceedings up to now have not reflected very much credit upon the promoters of this Bill. Surely when dealing with a great waterway under the control of a great body like the Port of London Authority, the promoters of this Measure should have consulted that authority before finally deciding upon their scheme in order to see whether it was a practical proposal or not.

I think the Port of London Authority should have been consulted at the earliest possible moment in the drawing up of this scheme in order to see whether some common agreement could not be arrived at. In the Thames there has always been a large ocean-going traffic, including much that has had to be re-shipped from this country. I hope this House will refuse to sanction any proceedings and refuse to give statutory sanction to anything which are likely to cripple the Port of London Authority in the important developments which they have made during the years since they were constituted the Port Authority. In the statement issued in the Royal Commission Report in 1902 they say:
"The great increase in the size and draught of ocean going vessels has made extensive work necessary both in the river and in the docks, and the dispersion of powers amongst other authorities and companies has prevented any systematic consideration of adequate proposals."
We know that since that suggestion was made, millions of pounds have been spent by the Port of London Authority in creating deep water docks. They have improved the East India Docks and the London Docks, so as to enable them to provide adequate accommodation for ocean-going vessels, and they have also improved the Tilbury Docks and the Royal Victoria Dock, and there has been considerable expenditure on the King George V Dock. In the statement issued on behalf of the two counties that the present sills are not of sufficient depth to accommodate ships of larger draught than those which at present use the docks, they have overlooked the fact that the Port of London Authority have purchased large tracts of land above this proposed tunnel, whereon they could construct fresh docks with deeper sills and of greater capacity. Why should not London have the biggest ocean-going liners that can possibly be brought up the Thames? I venture to think that it is not very fair of either of the county councils to seek to limit, as they undoubtedly will by making this tunnel, the depth to which it will be possible to go. I think that this House should express its opinion, rather than leave it to the Committee upstairs, upon this vital question, and personally I should have liked to move an Instruction to the Committee that they should ensure an adequate depth for vessels, not merely of the present draught, but also of draughts that may be reasonably contemplated in the future.

The question arises, is it impossible? The promoters, in their statement, have made the allegation that it is impossible for men to work under air pressure at a greater depth than they propose. I do not know that anybody in this House can tell us the conditions under which the Barking cable was laid. There is, a Barking cable under the Thames not far from this spot. It is 60 feet deep, and the right hon. Gentleman has assured us, with the knowledge that he possesses, and the Port of London Authority, through me, assure the House, that there is nothing whatever to prevent this tunnel from being put at any depth, because of the substratum of chalk and clay. If that be so, surely no expense would be considered wasted that was necessary in order to go to a sufficient depth to leave the river perfectly free to enable London to uphold what she has already acquired, or to give her the right to acquire, if necessary, an undisputed position among the ports of the world. It is here that large quantities of goods are required. Southampton may be all very well for the American passenger traffic, for it does, of course, obviate a long and tedious passage round the coast; but, as regards freights, it seems to me that nothing ought to stop the Port of London from accommodating the biggest vessels that are afloat. It has already been pointed out to the Minister that the proposed construction is so near the surface that, if the deviation which the promoters claim the right to exercise is in fact exercised, the roof of their tunnel will actually project above the present bed of the river. I do not suppose for a moment that they would attempt to do that, nor ought they to be allowed even to have the depth proposed by the Bill.

The Minister of Transport alleges that we are endeavouring to prevent the Bill from going upstairs, but the Port of London Authority have no intention of preventing the Bill from going upstairs if they can get reasonable satisfaction and an assurance that their representations will receive proper attention. The Committee will consist, possibly, of five Members of this House, and, although they will investigate the matter closely and will have the experts before them, it is the right of this House as a whole to pass judgment as to whether anything should take place which is likely to restrict the usefulness of the Port. For that reason I think that the House ought to intimate pretty clearly that they desire an assurance from the Minister-though of course the Committee is supreme—that no objection will be sustained to any reasonable depth that will ensure for all time that vessels shall pass and re-pass in the Thames without having an obstruction of this sort to reduce their size and capacity. I have here the correspondence which has passed between the Port of London Authority and the Minister, and I do say, from that correspondence, that the Port of London Authority have a right to say that they are not being met as they ought, as a public authority, to be met.

The House must be clear about this. The Members of Parliament who saw me on behalf of the Port of London Authority agreed that the attitude which I had adopted was a reasonable one, and that objection to the Second Reading ought not to be persisted in. The hon. Member for the City of London (Sir V. Bowater) was one of them.

My answer to that is that the Minister's answer was of such a character that it might have been thought to extend further than it did, but, as negotiations developed and letters passed, it was perfectly obvious that the Port of London Authority were not going to get a wide interpretation of that assurance. I hold in my hand copies of the reports of no fewer than four eminent water engineers regarding the conditions in the river, and they all say how very dangerous, and, indeed, how positively destructive, it would be to proceed with these proposals unless the extended depth which is asked for is conceded. I sincerely ask the House to express in no uncertain way its intention that the Committee upstairs shall be authorised—not merely permitted by the Minister, but authorised as a Committee of this House—so to go into this matter, and to investigate it so thoroughly, that at any rate the Port of London Authority shall feel assured that they have not laboured in the cause of the Port of London in vain, but that they are able to exercise their statutory duty, which was imposed upon them by the Act of 1908, of ensuring that the Port shall not be handicapped in any respect by this bar which it is proposed to put across the river.

May I say just a word in reply to the remark of the Minister of Transport with reference to myself? What took place is not exactly as he said. We went away with the impression that the Minister of Transport would, practically speaking, agree to what the Port of London Authority required, and we went away satisfied with that explanation. Some few days afterwards he told me personally that he would not be able to agree with what the Port of London Authority required.

I am sorry to delay the proceedings, but, really, I am amazed at what the hon. Baronet says. I was careful—and I am speaking within the memory of hon. Members who are now present—to say that I could not give a blank promise that the Port of London Authority should, so to speak, he the arbiters of the whole matter, but I said that they must prove their case. Certainly, the representations of the Port of London Authority must be taken with very great seriousness and their case must be very carefully considered. I am so considering it. I am speaking within the recollection of hon. Members who were there, and, really, I am surprised that the hon. Baronet should give another version.

I should like to draw the attention of the House to one or two points in connection with the Bill that is now before us. Being the Member for the Dartford Division of Kent, and following the line of my colleague on the North side of the Thames, I want to advance one or two arguments which I think may throw additional light from a new angle on this problem. The House will remember that I interjected, at the end of the Debate on the Charing Cross Bridge Bill, one or two very pertinent queries from the point of view of the working population in the outer parts of London on both sides of the Thames. Some years ago, when I was first a Member of tais House, I served on a Committee with Sir Alexander Richardson, who was then the Member for Grave-send, with the idea of trying to improve the arterial connections between the two counties, and for a very long time the idea of a tunnel between Gravesend and Tilbury held the field. As a result of the efforts of my hon. Friend the Member for Whitechapel (Mr. H. Gosling), who was Minister of Transport in the Labour Government of 1924—I am sorry to say that he is too ill to be in his place here to-night—something which had been merely nibbled at for years became a question of practical politics.

My hon. Friend, as Minister of Transport, appointed Sir Maurice Fitzmaurice to go into the matter, and, to show the House that this is not merely a hurried question of providing employment for people who are out of work, I want to say quite definitely that this idea of more improved communication between the two sides of the river has been in hand since 1902. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for St. Ives (Mr. Runciman) has spoken of the depth of the Thames in relation to this proposal, and the necessity for protecting the Port, but the whole of these proposals have been based on the Royal Commission of the Port of London in 1902. My hon. Friend the Member for Whitechapel would not be second to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for St. Ives in his zeal for the protection of the interests of the Port, and I am perfectly certain that, as a man who has spent the whole of his life as a waterman on the Thames, he would be the very last to give any kind of support to any interference with the amenities or the development of the Port of London. He is a member of the Port of London Authority himself.

It is perfectly true that there have been under-water communications which may, and probably do, interfere with the efficient working of the Thames. There is the Blackwall Tunnel, and there is the Rotherhithe Tunnel. People talk about the Mersey and Southampton. When Liverpudlians come to London, or members from Lancashire divisions go with me into the reaches of Kent and look across the little stretch of water which is the mighty Thames, they laugh at me and they talk about the great and wonderful docks of Liverpool. Liverpool is developed at its most efficient point, at its mouth. The South of the Thames is the Cinderella of the City of London. The low lying banks right down to Sheerness afford an opportunity for the finest and best developed docks in the world. It is idle to speak of developing the docks that are up the river now, and still more ridiculous to talk about ships like the "Leviathan" and the "Berengaria" going up into the George V Dock. Can anyone think of the beams of those ships and imagine them going round the bends of the Thames? It is enough to make anyone who knows anything of the width of the waterway, laugh. I can quite understand that the shipowner is quite anxious to safeguard the development of the Port facilities, and I agree with him. I am speaking now as representing a division which demands increased facilities to increase the efficiency of our county's communications with the North of the Thames. We are fed up with this bottle-neck called London, this jig-saw puzzle in which goods are held up by the day and by the week, and the existing facilities are holding things up even worse.

One of the greatest firms I know in Essex uses dozens of great six-wheeled lorries to bring metal windows into Kent and down to the coast. Woolwich Ferry is inadequate. They have to go further up the river, under the Blackwall Tunnel, considerably adding to the already congested traffic of those areas. This is not a matter of yesterday. This is the Royal Commission over which Lord Lee of Fareham presided. He deals with the inadequacy of Woolwich Ferry, subject to fog and all kinds of climatic conditions and utterly inadequate, and when goods and vehicles come up from remote parts of Essex to remote parts of Kent, or from Kent into Essex or Hertfordshire, that is the kind of thing they are subject to. When you get right up to the approaches you may be turned back by the attendant because the ferry is inadequate to take them, and if you go over the ferry and see the vast network of docks, again you are subject to what we call the bridges. Thousands of men have lost half a day, and in many cases lose an average of a day a week, through the delay that occurs by reason of vessels entering the docks by bridges.

If you are going to deal with the traffic problem of London you must consider the outer arterial roads by which traffic can get through without going right through the centre, thereby adding to the difficulty. I am not against the idea of a high level bridge. I am connected with the Woolwich Borough Council, and have been since 1919, and for over 10 years we have had a proposal for a high level bridge from Shooter's Hill. That has been objected to on strategic grounds, because in the event of another war an unlucky bomb might drop on it and the River Thames would be closed to traffic. The same objection is made to a proposed high level bridge on the Tyne. The strategic authorities, the great brass hats of Whitehall, are objecting because an unlucky bomb dropped on it would bottle up the river.

This is very interesting. Is the hon. Member stating that the only objection to the bridge was that of a bomb dropping on it?

No, I am not suggesting that. One way of trying to enforce your argument is to introduce a little humour, even if it has the savour of being true, which this is. These are the weighty arguments introduced by the Royal Commission. They state:

"A proposal has been made to us for a high level bridge with a roadway 50 feet wide, which would start from the level of Woolwich Common, cross the river at a height of about 150 feet in order to allow adequate clearance to all vessels using the fairway, pass over the King George V and the Royal Albert Docks, as well as the new dock which is now in contemplation, and join up with the new Barking by-pass road in the neighbourhood of Beckton."
It goes into details and says:
"It also became evident to us that no approach to any agreement had been reached between the public authorities that would be concerned as to the practical possibilities of carrying out the scheme, of which the cost was estimated at about £4,000,000. Moreover, the Ministry of Transport is not in favour of this proposal partly in view of its expensive character and also because a crossing further down the river is considered to be preferable."
I merely say this because this is the Commission of which Lord Lee of Fare-ham was Chairman, and it is not fair to suggest that this has been brought forward by the Lord Privy Seal with a view to giving employment. Surely, if ever there was a classic example of the difficulties that beset the Lord Privy Seal in his endeavour within the limited scope of the present Government to introduce work which does not interfere with private enterprise but which merely adds to the efficiency of communications, it is this very proposal. I join issue with the right hon. Gentleman opposite. The depth of the tunnel is not static. It can be another 15 feet if necessary. The whole of the evidence has been taken with the docks at present existing. The right hon. Gentleman spoke of the "Leviathan." That goes into New York harbour. This level is based upon New York harbour levels. Experts can prove their case in Committee. There is no hard and fast line.

We ask the House to envisage the great need of getting on with this job. Look at the difficulties of getting on with it. We have had this Tunnel Committee for 10 years. Since 1924 it has been a practical policy definitely recommended. It has been in the pigeon-holes of the Ministry of Transport since 1925. Within three days of the Minister securing his appointment we approached him to see what could be done with this and, though we have close co-operation with all the local authorities on both sides of the river, and the Kent County Council in agreement although we have short-circuited every one of the methods of circumlocution, it has taken practically from 8th June right down to a month ago before we could cut through everything and get this presented, not as a Government Measure with powers to act but as a private Bill. That is the law. This is an illustration of the obstacles in the road of the Lord Privy Seal in dealing with the problem of unemployment. Now that it is brought forward as a private Bill, all that need happen is that any hon. Members opposite connected with the shipping interest or with the Port of London Authority can merely say "Object." There is no argument. Over a month has had to elapse because it is a private Bill. I think that it has been rescued as a certified Bill, and now brought forward as a private Bill subject to the Vote which will be given here to-night of our own free will.

I suggest that the difficulties of communication between Kent and Essex, and the lessening of the congestion through the heart of London demand that this thing should be taken up with as much expedition as possible. I desire to appeal to the House to let us have a Second Beading of this Bill. I will give an assurance that if on the Committee stage the Port of London Authority prove their case—and I would say that if this were a tunnel below Tilbury the opposers would have the weight of evidence all on their side, but in the upper turnings of the river, which absolutely preclude the safe navigation of these monsters of the deep, the objection seems to be trivial—I will undertake, although the Member for Dartford, that, if they can validly prove their claim that this Bill will interfere with the work or development of the Port, that I will vote against the Measure after its Committee stage.

It is not often that I find myself in support of the hon. Member for Dartford (Mr. Mills), but on this occasion I do support him. I realise how important it is that there should be a better means of communication between the County of Essex and the County of Kent than there is to-day. The hon. Member for Newport (Mr. Walker) and the hon. and gallant Member for Midlothian and Peebles (Major Colville) raised the question of a bridge, and they based their arguments for a bridge to a great extent on the question of unemployment in the iron and steel industry. But if you make a tunnel you employ a great deal of iron and steel. Further, in the work necessary for a tunnel a vast number of unemployed can be utilised. I do not know whether the two hon. Members have examined the place where they suggest that the bridge should be placed, but I should like to tell them that the ground is perfectly flat. They have told us that this bridge is to be 230 feet above the water. Think of the enormous length of approaches that would have to be made on either side. This matter was considered very carefully by Sir Maurice Fitzmaurice in 1924, and it was rejected then. He went into the whole question of cross-traffic possibilities, and he rejected the idea of a bridge, and said that the only practical method was a tunnel. Therefore, I think that we may say that a tunnel is really the one practical scheme before us to-day.

The Port of London Authority have raised very serious objections indeed, and they base some of their objections on the fact that they have not been consulted. This proposal has been a live issue since 1924. It has been in all the local papers. Everyone knew that this tunnel was projected and, therefore, it was surely up to them to make representations at the time to the county councils of Essex and Kent. The local authorities have had no objections to a tunnel. We are apt at the present time to look at the City of London not only as a terminus but also as a thoroughfare, and the whole object of the Minister of Transport is to try and make by-passes to the great towns. Here we are to have a great by-pass made to the East of London which is most necessary. I should have thought that the Port of London Authority would have helped very considerably in this. They must realise that it is going to save them from a vast amount of congestion around the docks. All the traffic which comes from the counties of Essex, Hertford and Kent has to come either up to Tower Bridge or via Blackwall Tunnel, and there is also a small ferry which can take very little transport. This adds enormously to the congestion and confusion round the docks. So great at times is the confusion that it amounts practically to a calamity, and it is driving a certain amount of trade, that would otherwise come to our docks, across the water to Antwerp and other big ports.

The chief objection which the Port of London Authority have raised is on the question of the depth of the tunnel. They have asked that the depth of the tunnel shall be such as to enable the river to be dredged to a depth of no fewer than 70 feet. I ask the right hon. Gentleman the Member for St. Ives (Mr. Runciman) if he visualises in the next 15, 20 or 30 years a vessel which is going to draw 60 feet of water. The "Leviathan" and the "Berengaria," or the larger of the two, as he told us, draws 40 feet. The depth which is required here is 70 feet at low water. The vessels which come up to-day—the "Minnewaska" and the "Minnetonka"—draw 36 and 37 feet of water. They cannot come up at low tide, and they have to wait until more or less full tide before going into King George V Dock, which has only 25 feet of water at low tide. What size are the vessels to be if they are to draw 60 feet of water?

It is not a question of their drawing 60 feet of water. You must have sufficient water under the bottom of these vessels, first of all, to enable them to steer, otherwise they do what is known as "smell ground," and you cannot steer them. There is the further fact that the place where the tunnel is to be is one of the anchoring or swinging places of the Thames. You have to take care that you have sufficient ground over the tunnel so as not to have a huge anchor, perhaps weighing 12 tons, coming down and going through the top of it, and breaking it up.

I was allowing for another 10 feet. The proposal of the Port of London Authority is to have no fewer than 70 feet, which is allowing for another 10 feet of water below the vessels. They are asking for rather more than probably they expect to get. A vessel drawing 60 feet of water must be something likt 1,500 feet in length. Today the largest vessels are about 1,000 feet in length. How are they to get round the bends in the Thames without going aground somewhere? The promoters of the Bill are the last people in the world to desire anything which may stop or hamper the development of the Port of London Authority in any way whatever. They are, and have been, prepared always to accept such modifications in their schemes as to meet any reasonable wishes of the Port of London Authority. I think it is quite possible that if they come to a compromise, that great depth for which they ask will be regarded as an excessive depth.

At the present time the size of vessels is very much limited by the Suez Canal, which is being dredged to 42 feet in order to take vessels drawing 35 feet. You have the Panama Canal, which is 41 feet in depth, and dredged to take vessels drawing 35 feet of water, and you have the entrance to New York Harbour, which is 41 feet at low tide and 46 feet at high tide, taking vessels of 39 and 40 feet at the present time. Are you going to ask the Port of London Authority to expect to have vessels larger than the "Berengaria" and the "Leviathan" coming up the Thames? Even if you visualise a number of years ahead, you will have to spend a vast sum of money in dredging not only the Thames but all the entrances to the Thames and in keeping them in constant condition. The right hon. Member for St. Ives, who knows far more about shipping than I know, must realise that tonnage has increased in greater proportion than has the draught of the ship. This is done, no doubt, because the existing waterways of the world do not permit of vessels drawing a considerably increased draught. Therefore, they have expanded in either beam or length in far greater proportion than in depth. The promoters of the Bill are prepared to meet them in a very reasonable way. The last thing they want to do is to hamper the Port of London. I suggest that their arguments could very well be brought forward in Committee up stairs, where the right hon. Member for St. Ives (Mr. Runciman) and the Port of London will be able to put their points, and where, I believe, they would be satisfied. If they were not satisfied, they could move the rejection of the Bill on the Third Reading.

I do not wish to take up an unreasonable attitude about this Bill, nor do I think the Minister of Transport has taken an unreasonable attitude. I can remember the River Thames for 53 years. I have come up the Thames as a sailor in all sorts of craft. Thirty-five years ago, as an Alderman of the London County Council, I moved a resolution to institute an investigation into the tideways of the River Thames, compared with the tideways at Antwerp, Bremen and Rotterdam. On this occasion I find myself in agreement with the right hon. Member for St. Ives (Mr. Runciman) perhaps for the first time in my life. I have had to extract money from him for wages. He is a very keen business man. and I considered myself a genuis almost to extract money from him. He has given us to-night very practical points, with all of which I agree. The nation as well as Londoners have neglected the River Thames. The Thames is a river of liquid gold to Londoners and the country, but we have lost trade because the citizens and the councils, mostly in conflict with each other, have opposed any sort of progress. I do not begrudge the progress of Liverpool and Southampton, but if economic reasons were considered a great deal of the trade going to Southampton could be done with greater economy in London.

9.0 p.m.

When it is said that the water level, the depth, of the River Thames more or less corresponds with the depth of New York Harbour, hon. Members forget that the "Berengaria" and the "Leviathan" can go to New York, but they cannot come up the Thames. We have to consider that position. All my life I have been assailed by shipowners and dock companies and authorities when I have asked for increases of wages or improved facilities for labour, and they have always pointed to other ports. I have sailed here in a vessel which drew 16 feet of water. I have sailed in vessels drawing 12 feet of water. In my earliest days it was considered that we should never reach the stage when vessels would draw 30 feet of water. We have now reached the stage when vessels draw 40 feet of water. There is no reason why, considering the advance of science in shipbuilding and the production of metals, in less than a generation to come the depth of vessels should not increase by 10 feet. Whether we consider New York, Hamburg, Bremen, Antwerp, London or any other port, we shall have to make a concession to the march of time and the march of progress in this respect. There have been great developments in the depth of our rivers. Possibly, 100 years ago a man could walk across the Clyde at low tide. Less than 100 years ago a man could walk across the Tyne at low tide; but the enterprise of our merchants and our manufacturers and the genius of invention has turned those great centres into ports with prolific capacity for manufacture and the building of ships.

To leave a margin of three or four feet only is so insufficient that you might as well put a dam across the Thames and say that never again shall a large vessel, however large vessels may be built in the future, shall come up the Thames beyond that dam. It would be more common sense to say that. I appeal to the Minister of Transport as a practical man. I look upon him as the most practical man in the Ministry, but I must not say that, because others may become jealous. However, I know my man, and I know his experience. I do not think that the Port of London Authority have exaggerated in regard to the position. What is a margin of four feet? It will have to be 14 feet within a generation. We shall have to reconsider the position. I am not against the employment of men, but, as the right hon. Member for St. Ives said, the trade which comes to the Port of London is a very important matter.

There is an essential need for a tunnel for transport and for efficiency in the Port of London, but we must have the tunnel sufficiently deep to allow for the expansion and development of vessels in size and depth for at least the next 50 years. We have had arguments at the London County Council about this and that. We were told that the Blackwall Tunnel would ever remain as it was, and that vessels would never get to such a size as to impose upon the resources of the river. I remember our old friend William Steadman debating the issue and, as a true cockney, he said that it was no use doing these things under the water because the tide would do this, that and the other, and that one would not be able to cross the Thames unless one went round. That sort of argument brought fun into our discussion.

We talk about rationalisation, efficiency and the reorganisation of industry, but I say, give the dear old River Thames a chance! Give the Port of London a chance! When the Minister of Transport is approached intelligently, frankly and with candour, and with technical information, I think he will agree with me that the bed of the river should be at least 30 feet above any tunnel that may be built.

I find myself in a somewhat peculiar position being in agreement with the hon. Member for Salford, North (Mr. Tillett) and also with the right hon. Member for St. Ives (Mr. Runciman). The hon. Member for South-East Essex (Mr. Oldfield) said that there was an unholy alliance of the shipowners and the Port of London Authority against this Bill. Surely the shipowners and the Port of London Authority are natural allies. The Port of London Authority is the power which has to look after the docks and navigation of the River Thames.

The hon. Member has rather misunderstood me. I said the shipowners and the Port of London on the one side, and the steel trade on the other side.

I understood the hon. Member to say that there was an unholy alliance of the shipowners and the Port of London Authority. It is said that Southampton and Liverpool are the natural ports for large vessels. The reason they go there now is because they cannot use the Port of London, and if this Bill is passed it will make permanent the disadvantages from which London suffers at present. It is also said that ships should not come right up into the heart of London; that it is better they kept further out at Tilbury. Against that, consider what has taken place in connection with the King George V Dock, which was opened in 1921. In 1923, 390 vessels of a net registered tonnage of 1,500,000 used that dock, and in 1929 this had increased to 797 vessels with a net registered tonnage of 3,400,000 tons. That shows that there is a tendency, when they get the chance, for big ships to come right into the heart of London.

This Bill will make permanent the existing depth of the Thames because the crown of the tunnel is only a depth of 42 feet 9 inches, which gives very little margin to go upon, and there is a Clause in the Bill which allows that level to be deviated from to the extent of 10 feet. That is a dangerous Clause. Actually you would reduce the level of the river. We have to safeguard against that from the shipowners' point of view, and also from the point of view of the Port of London Authority. I do not think King George V Dock is the last word as far as London is concerned. We shall see far bigger docks, I think we all hope to see bigger docks, but if you bring in this Bill it will practically wipe out the development of London as a port in the future. It is the duty of the Port of London Authority to safeguard the development of the Port of London. Something has been said in regard to an alternative scheme of a bridge. Whether it is a tunnel or a bridge, one thing we must have definite from the shipowners' point of view, and that is that neither will interfere with the future development of the Port of London. One reason given against the building of a bridge, perhaps not seriously, was that a bomb might be dropped upon it.

May I point out that the Committee of Imperial Defence were against a high level bridge at Woolwich and on the Tyne because in the event of war the destruction of these bridges would bottle up the Tyne and the Thames respectively.

No; it is not my objection. It is what the Connmittee of Imperial Defence said.

I only mentioned it because it was one of the reasons given against the building of a bridge. If that is the position of hon. Members opposite then I must seriously ask them to reconsider their proposals for scrapping our cruisers. If we cannot build a bridge in this country because a bomb might be dropped upon it we cannot afford to lose the safeguard of our cruisers in the event of war. Apparently, the promoters of the Bill are inclined to be a little more reasonable. They say that they do not wish to put anything in the way of the development of the Port of London. If that is their attitude I cannot understand why they should introduce a Bill which will stop such development. I urge the House before they pass a Bill which is a menace to the Port of London to seriously consider the suggestions that its provisions should be radically altered.

There are many good reasons why this Bill should have a Second Beading. I have listened carefully to the speeches of hon. Members who have opposed the Motion, and even the Mover of the Amendment seemed to base his argument on the ground of the amount of steel and labour which would be provided in the case of a bridge. Knowing the hon. Member for Newport (Mr. Walker) as I do I imagine that if it can be shown that as much iron and steel and engineering skill are necessary in the building of a tunnel he will probably have less objection to the Bill. My view of the situation is this, speaking quite candidly I care very little whether it is a bridge or a tunnel so long as we have adequate and essential transport facilities across the Thames at this particular point. If there was any real substance in the alternative proposal of a bridge, if it was other than an attempt to block the Bill for the time being, I should be quite happy to agree to any plan that would enable us to consider the matter again. The project of a tunnel across the Thames at this point has been before the House as far back as 1924. This present Bill has been before the House already, and there have been adequate opportunities for opponents of the proposal to put forward alternatives. In my opinion the suggestion for a bridge seems to fall in no other category than an attempt to prevent this Bill getting a Second Beading.

On a point of Order. May I make my position quite clear. The suggestion of an alternative bridge cannot be put forward in any way except by an Amendment to the Second Beading of this Bill.

The method of transport across the Thames, whether by bridge or tunnel, has been before the House for a long time. It is an acute question not only for the people in the Dartford division of Kent but also for those in the South-East Essex division. One of the weightiest reasons for giving the Bill a Second Beading is that a tunnel at this point will be one of the greatest contributions to a solution of the London traffic problem, which is getting more and more difficult. I happen to live on the Essex side of the Thames, my constituency is on the Kent side, and I have to come to London every day. Anybody who lives in Essex has to travel many miles up the Essex side of the river in order to get into Kent, and has to be dependent on crossing the river either at Woolwich by the ferry or through the Blackwall Tunnel. He has to go as far as that into London in order to get round into Kent. That is a weighty reason why the Bill should have a Second Reading.

I have listened carefully to all the reasons urged against the Bill. I am bound to say that I have not been very deeply impressed by the plea of the shipowners and of the Port of London Authority against the Bill. No one has more regard than I have for the important work of the Port of London Authority. I do not live by the Thames and represent a Thames-side constituency without taking the trouble to find out something about Thames traffic. I appreciate all the difficulties of the Port of London Authority, and if I thought that this Bill would hamper or restrict any possible or probable or legitimate developments of London docks and shipping, I should not be here supporting the Bill. But, so far as I can see, there is no point of the Port of London Authority or of the shipping interests that cannot reasonably be met.

It is only fair to say that the depth of water over the tunnel must sooner or later have a limitation. Suppose that the 40 feet provided is not enough. The promoters of the Bill have always signified their intention of meeting that plea if necessary. That I understand is the only reservation made—that it is shown to be necessary. They are quite prepared to meet that claim in Committee. But if you go down another 10 feet, and then another 10 feet, there must be a limit to it at some time. It is perfectly true that in the case of shipping it cannot be expected that we shall stand still in the matter of draught, but, again speaking as a layman, I suppose we must have some regard for the peculiar course of the river. It is not only draught that has to be considered, but the navigation of the Thames round very awkward bends. Not only do I live on one side of the river and work on the other side, but I have been up and down the Thames enough times to know that, apart from the question of draught, there is a limitation to the size of ships that can be brought into the heart of the Port of London, whether this tunnel be built or not.

Let me return to the first point I made. The question of transport across the river has been before this House for a long time. It was considered in connection with the Woolwich Ferry, the Blackwall Tunnel and other tunnels. If there was a case for bridges then, why were bridges not adopted? Half the Blackwall Tunnel happens to be in my constituency and the other half in the Poplar constituency. One has only to see the traffic that even these tunnels are keeping from the centre of the City to appreciate how great an improvement there would be if there were another cross-Thames system of transport lower down. As far as I can see a tunnel is the only thing that will meet the case. The suggested bridge, I understand, would be 250 feet high. That would present difficulties, owing to the flatness of the approaches at that point. I am fairly familiar with the ground on both sides, and I say that on the Essex side—I would not be so dogmatic about the other side—it is quite flat, marshy land, and there would be difficulty in building a bridge of that height.

I am impressed by the weakness of the case against the Bill. The only point that has fastened itself on my mind is whether or not this House should give just the extra consideration suggested to the Port of London Authority. As a London Member I am not going to be party to riding roughshod over the feelings or the dignities of the Port of London. Certainly it was not in the minds of the promoters of the Bill to do so. As far as I know the minds of the promoters, they merely wanted facilities for getting across the Thames at this point in order to link up two very important counties, and to make possible the construction of docks and the development of townships lower down the river, and to make the Port of London bigger and more progressive than it is at the present time.

My last word is this. It was urged by the Mover of the Amendment that this was a certified Bill. I do not think we can lose sight of that fact. I do not, in my support of the Bill, approach it at all from that standpoint. I happen to have been in the House when this Bill was promoted in 1924, and I have always from that day to this seen the necessity of the Bill. Although I do not approach it from the point of view of it being a certified Bill, that is an important aspect of the case of which this House cannot lose sight. Here is a Bill to provide a very important facility for transport across the Thames farther down, that will relieve the transport problem of London and will make possible developments between Essex and Kent which will save the people of Essex much travelling. There are some populous areas right down in South-East Essex. There is the constituency represented by the Noble Lady the Member for Southend (Countess of Iveagh) with its 126,000 population, many thousands of whom travel up by road every day and cross London to get to the other side. Having regard to the development that will be possible if this Bill can go through Committee and have the examination it deserves, and having regard to the fact that this certified Bill will provide employment for many people—think of the iron and steel, coal and everything which will be used in a construction of this nature—I urge the House to give this Bill a Second Reading, and to oppose the Amendment, which appears to have been moved mainly for the purpose of preventing the Measure from going forward.

I wish to oppose this Bill for several reasons. The Port of London Authority was established originally to remedy the difficulties that have existed on the Thames in the management of the great shipbuilding trade of this city. Several Members have spoken on both sides with knowledge of the river, but with the population of Greater London amounting to 7,000,000 or 8,000,000 people, I believe that only some five or 10 per cent. of the people of Greater London have ever seen the Thames, by which I mean the Thames which we regard as the Port of London. In Liverpool and Southampton all know their docks. see the ships, make it their daily walk to see their river, but few Londoners know anything about the Port of London. It is because of that that London has taken little interest in the port and in the river. It was for that purpose that the Port of London Authority was established. I believe everyone acknowledges that it has done its work well. It has attempted successfully to bring London up to the level—and, perhaps, to exceed the level—which in sleepier times permitted Rotterdam, Antwerp and the mouth of the Thames to grow so that they took away a large part of our trade.

I have now no connection with shipping, but in the past for some 12 years I was chairman of a company which controlled four out of the biggest shipping companies on the Thames. I remember that I first went to New Zealand in one of the biggest ships in their service, which was 4,000 tons. When I was chairman many years afterwards, and the company owned more lines, we put on the biggest ship which had ever been in the Port of London, and the Port was hardly able to cope with her. She was an 18,000 ton vessel as compared with the 4,000 tonner in which I went to New Zealand. I was also chairman of a company controlling Atlantic transport, when the ships of that line were 5,000 tons. To-day their two ships are of 22,000 tons—five or six times as big as the biggest ship then trading on the river. When the Port of London Authority was established, it set to work to build as fine docks as there are in the world, and the King George V Dock is the result. I think anyone who knows about shipping will admit that it is important to London to get the big ships up as near the centre as you can. Several mistakes were made, one of which meant a delay when once a big scheme of docks was built in affording proper accommodation for London. I have been connected indirectly with a big company which managed the cartage and wharfage of the River Thames. Five years ago they were considering going back from motor haulage on the roads to horse haulage, because of the traffic on the roads between the London Docks and London had become so slow owing to congestion that the pace of the vans was something like one to one and a half mile per hour. The last Government and the present Government have spent millions on the great East India Dock Road which will permit those docks to be connected with London on an economic basis.

consider this Bill to be ill-considered, because it is making what is possibly meant to be an improvement, but which may still be a great danger to the London docks. Anyone with experience of the London river knows that certain tunnels built earlier have prevented ships getting up as near London as otherwise they could. Supposing those ships increase—and who is going to say they will not?—as they have increased in the last 20 years. Anyone who considers this will not be dogmatic enough to say that they will not increase in the same proportion, and possibly in a greater proportion again.

In this ill-considered Bill it is suggested that the tunnels should be made under the river with so little margin that it will be extremely dangerous to send the biggest ships up the river. I do not pre tend that the big passenger ships from the Atlantic, such as those referred to by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for St. Ives (Mr. Runciman) will ever return to London, because their place is to trade at a port so near to the Continent that they can combine the services, with the Continent and with England, but there are certain passenger services, the great services to the East, and other great freight services, with which London has to compete with Hamburg, Rotterdam and Antwerp. It is a most dangerous thing to build a tunnel at this place, where, owing to the fogs of London, great ships expecting to get up to the port and the dock may suddenly have to stop and anchor. That means a great danger—

That means a great danger, with hardly any margin under the keels. You have only just begun making accommodation for road transport from King George V Dock. It is possible when that is done that you will have another impediment to making London a really good port for modern conditions. Is it anticipated that if ships increase in size the promoters will be prepared to blow up this tunnel and sacrifice the £4,000,000? When I saw the Minister of Transport, on behalf of the Port of London Authority, the right hon. Gentleman was most courteous and gave me a reply which I brought back to the authority, but they were not content with it, and it is because of that that they have brought their case before the House to-night. You appoint this great authority of eminent men, and someone has given them cause to believe that they are not going to get fair treatment and that this ill-conceived Bill will be proceeded with at all costs, simply because it has been begun.

Can the hon. Gentleman justify the statement which he has just made from the letter which I sent him?

What I said was that I was going to produce an extract from the printed statement sent to me this morning on behalf of the promoters of the Bill. I did not refer to the Minister. Under the proposals of this Bill, there is the suggestion of the possibility that the level of the tunnel may be raised or deepened in order to suit the Port of London Authority, but in this matter a very difficult problem is involved, and I do not believe that it has been fully considered. I base that comment on the statement of the promoters. They say that if it has to be greatly deepened the difficulties will be considerable and that different methods will have to be employed. They say:

"From the known geological conditions at this spot the promoters are advised that, in view of the water which might reasonably be expected to be met with, it might well be found impossible to carry out the project at all, or at any rate, except at a cost which would clearly render it impracticable."
That is their own statement, and I say the promoters have not considered these difficulties and could not have done so, because they confess that they are ignorant on the subject. I, therefore, submit that it is unfair to give a Second Reading to the Bill when the promoters acknowledge that they do not know what will happen to the sub-soil if they deepen beyond a certain point. We agree with that view, and we say that Members who have spoken in favour of the Bill, whether in their own interests or for the public weal, are the people who ought to bring forward a really well-worked-out plan and not one involving geological questions which they confess they do not understand. I would point out to the House the danger of this experiment, and I submit that it should not be undertaken, especially in view of the fact that we have a workable proposition apart from this proposal for providing for the traffic between these two counties. We ought not to run the risk of passing a Bill which may inure to the harm of the Port of London. I say myself, as one who is not connected now with shipping or with any other trade concerned in this matter, that I would rather not undertake such a hazardous experiment. I wish to protect the Port of London; I wish to see it made the equal and the superior of our rivals of Rotterdam and Antwerp. The inhabitants of those cities look upon their ports as necessary to the greatness of their countries, and we ought to look to the Port of London. I repeat that this is a dangerous experiment, and I hope that the House will not give the Bill a Second Reading.

There are two forms of opposition to this Bill which is one with which the Government are associated—obviously from the fact that, partly for traffic reasons and partly for unemployment reasons, they have decided to contribute a very substantial part of the cost of the tunnel. Therefore, the House will realise that the Government have been consulted all the way through, as previous Governments were, and that we are associated with the promoters of the Bill. The first form of opposition I shall deal with very shortly. It is represented by my hon. Friend the Member for Newport (Mr. Walker) supported by the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Midlothian and Peebles (Major Colville). With that form of opposition, I find it a little difficult to be patient. It represents the attitude of the steel industry, and, as far as I can make out, the position of that school of critics is that, if we built a bridge, more steel would be used than if we built a tunnel, and, therefore, the proper thing is to build a bridge.

May I point out that I based my argument entirely on my belief that a better service would he given by a bridge than by a tunnel?

Certainly, but having adopted the position that it would be good for the steel trade to have a bridge—and that is the position of the steel trade

Having adopted that position I say, then, of course, arguments must be produced to show that it is the sound thing to do technically. I quite agree that arguments were produced, but they are arguments which I cannot accept. It will be a bad thing in the history of Private Bill legislation and the history of the examination of proposals by technicians advising the Government or local authorities on these matters if they are to foe influenced in the choice of materials and so forth by the question whether it is going to benefit this trade or that. If we superimpose that consideration on the aesthetic considerations that must arise as to whether we should build, for example, a stone bridge or a steel bridge or a reinforced concrete bridge, surely we shall be placed in an impossible position. We all meet interests from time to time, but I have never met them so nakedly as upon this issue; and, although the arguments for a steel bridge were considerable, nevertheless I think that that basis of argument is a bad basis and ought to be discouraged by the House.

The hon. and gallant Member said that the opponents of the tunnel would be good enough to accept a steel bridge. But the people who are to pay for this proposition have some right to be heard. It is not the critics alone who should determine what is to be built. The local authorities and the Ministry of Transport who have to make substantial contributions to the work must have some voice in it. I am advised that it is unlikely that the local authorities would be persuaded to embark on such a project as a bridge. They have a dread of the cost of upkeep of a large exposed engineering structure. The quotations in paragraph 7 of the Steel Manufacturers' Association's statement in opposition to the Bill as to the views of the Royal Commission, are somewhat unfair because in the first of these the Royal Commission were referring to a bridge where "breaking" is provided similar to that provided in the case of the Tower Bridge. In modern tunnel construction, there is no reason to fear anything from petrol fumes, and that point can be well met. The difficulty must be faced that on the Essex side of the river the country is very flat, and I do not know how far you would have to go back to start the bridge on the ground level. The consequence would be that the expenditure—on steel, I admit, but still expenditure—would be extraordinary in order to get the bridge right back again to the ground level. The hon. Member for South West Bethnal Green (Mr. Harris) was apprehensive about viaducts in the case of the Charing Cross Bridge, but here is a case where there would be greater apprehension over a much longer viaduct, and I am certain that, in view of its effect on the rateable value of the county of Essex, which is not too great, the local authority would not look at the bridge proposition at all.

In paragraph 2 of the circular the cost of ventilation, lighting, and drainage and police patrol of the proposed tunnel is capitalised at £500,000, but no provision is made in their estimate for the upkeep of the bridge or its lighting or policing. It is argued that you could have a six-line bridge, and there are some who hold the view that that should always be aimed at. What do we want a six-line bridge there for? It is assumed that the traffic there will be analogous to that of Westminster Bridge and Blackfriars Bridge. It is an important thing to link up Kent and Essex—very important—on the merits of the counties, and from the point of view of by-passing London, but to imagine that you will have enough traffic to fill a six-line bridge is to imagine something that will not happen, and the local authorities will be immediately faced with the fact that if they have provided a six-line bridge, they have to provide six line highway approaches, and the cost is going up on the approaches as well as the bridge.

No, Sir, the bridge scheme seems to be based on the virtue of spendinig the maximum amount of money, and, as a true economist, I cannot accept that philosophy of life. I leave that part of the argument, because I think the House is somewhat impressed by the Port of London Authority's argument, but I do not think the House is impressed by the argument of industry on that basis, although I am always willing to see to it that where a steel bridge can properly be considered, it shall be considered. Certainly we want to help the steel industry, but we cannot consider it on the basis which is before the House to-night.

I pass to the tunnel. It has been realised for many years that there was a great need of additional facilities at that part of the river for the purpose of connecting up Kent and Essex, for the considerable traffic that would go from one county to the other, to give better access from Essex to the Southern ports possibly, without going right through the East End to Blackwall, and contrariwise; for giving better access from the Eastern half of built-up London on the North side of the river to Kent; and above all to try and divert some of the traffic that now goes through London to that tunnel and over roads that could better take the traffic. Therefore, I think everybody, including the right hon. Member for St. Ives (Mr. Runciman), will agree that on traffic grounds, on road transport grounds, there is a very strong case for the proposal in the Bill.

Since 1924, as has been stated, the matter has been under consideration as a result, very largely, of the instigation of many local and public authorities in the home counties, a large number of whom have pressed the Labour Government of 1924, the Conservative Government which last went out of office, and this Government for the provision of this tunnel roughly at the point which we have indicated. Sir Maurice Fitzmaurice, the eminent consulting engineer, was instructed by a previous Government to make an engineering inquiry into the proposition, and here arises the point of the alleged want of courtesy towards the Port of London Authority.

I need not assure the House that I am exceedingly sorry if there is any feeling on the part of the Authority that they have not been treated with proper courtesy, either by the promoters of the Bill or by the Ministry of Transport. I cannot be responsible for what happened at the Ministry before I went there, but I should be very sorry if the Port of London Authority felt a grievance in the matter, and they can be assured that, so far as I am concerned and, I am sure, so far as the Department is concerned and was concerned, it is always recognised that in anything affecting the Port of London the Port of London Authority have the fullest right to be heard; and indeed it is to the advantage of all of us that they should be heard and fully consulted. I think the misapprehension, if it was a misapprehension, originally arose in this way: Sir Maurice Fitzmaurice was the consulting engineer. It was assumed by everybody that he would be in consultation with the Port of London Authority's officials, and, as far as the Department knew, he had been in consultation with the Port of London Authority's officials during the period of this engineering inquiry. Those officials do not agree that he was in consultation with them, and, of course, I must accept their assurance. On the other hand, even if I wanted to, I could not disprove it, because unfortunately Sir Maurice Fitzmaurice is dead, and that is probably part of the reason for the misunderstanding, if there was any, that has arisen.

Having made that admission, if so it be, I must add that the discussion of a tunnel at that point has been common knowledge ever since 1924. There was no secret about it. This is not something that suddenly stole along like a thief in the night and caught the Port of London Authority unawares. They knew that it was being discussed, that it was actively under consideration, and they knew that they had only to write to the Minister of Transport, who, after all, is a sort of godfather to the Port of London Authority itself, and that at all times we should have been willing to confer with them. My part of the business comes in here. As I say, we had assumed that there had been consultations, and if there were not I am exceedingly sorry, and I express every regret. We did not know what we required until shortly before the time when the Bill had to be deposited, but directly we knew what depth it was likely we should go to, we communicated officially with the Port of London Authority, as early as the 18th November, 1929, which, after all, is some little time ago; and on the 31st January the Port of London Authority were in a position to tell us the depth they considered they wanted. Between those dates my officers were in consultation with the officers of the Authority, but up to that time they were not themselves clear what depth they would want in figures, though they were satisfied that the depth which we were proposing was, in their judgment, not sufficient.

I venture to say that when matters became effective we took immediate opportunity to inform the Port of London Authority. We did inform them, and we have been in consultation either with the Authority or with their officers ever since. At the beginning of February I received representations from Members of this House who had met together, irrespective of party, at the request, I understood, of the Port of London Authority. Those Members of Parliament asked me to meet them to discuss this particular grievance and the general position. I met them, and discussed it, and I thought—and hon. Members of the House confirm my recollection—that the attitude I took was one which was perfectly reasonable, and was one which ought to have enabled the Port of London Authority to withdraw its opposition to the Second Reading of this Bill. After the meeting, I sent this letter to the Members concerned on the 6th February, to which none of the Members concerned demurred. I agree that it has not been accepted by the Port of London Authority, but none of the Members named in the letter have demurred to the view that this was a reasonable proposition, as indeed was agreed at the meeting, which took place in my room down below. On the 6th February I caused the following letter to be sent to the General Manager of the Port of London Authority:


Lower Thames Tunnel

I am directed by the Minister of Transport to refer to your letter of the 31st January, on the subject of the Lower Thames Tunnel which formed the subject of discussion on the evening of the 4th inst., between Mr. Herbert Morrison and the following Members of Parliament:—Sir Vansittart Bowater, Bart., Major R. Glyn, Mr. E. C. Grenfell, Mr. J. H. Hayes, Mr. J. H. Oldfield. As the Minister then explained, he realises to the full the importance of the interests represented by the Port of London Authority. He was glad to learn that there was every desire on the part of the Authority to facilitate the passage of the Bill provided they could feel that the interests of the port and of shipping were adequately safeguarded, and, on his part, Mr. Morrison is anxious that this desirable project should be carried out with the utmost possible regard to their legitimate claims. The considerations urged on the Authority's behalf regarding the depth of the suggested tunnel will receive the most careful study, and the Minister has given instructions for this examination to be undertaken at once by his consulting engineers and by the technical staff of his Department, who will consult other Departments concerned. It is also hoped, as heretofore, to call into consultation the technical officers of your Authority in order that every advantage may be taken of their special knowledge of the Authority's needs and policy. The points at issue, involving difficult problems of navigation, naval architecture and other branches of civil engineering are so complex that your Authority will not at the present stage expect any statement of the Minister's views as to the specific dimensions quoted in your letter."

I venture to say that that was a perfectly reasonable attitude to adopt. It indicated full agreement as to the vital importance of the Port of London's position, and it promised, as far as the Minister is concerned—I could not answer for the Committee upstairs, for I do not rule them—but as far as the Minister is concerned, every respect would be paid to the views of the Port of London Authority; and I say that if the Port of London Authority proved that the construction of this tunnel will be disastrous to the welfare of the Port of London and its great industry, I would be the first to say that the tunnel must stop. Can any Minister be more reasonable? Can I do more? But the right hon. Gentleman the Member for St. Ives wants me to go further. He may not be sure of what he meant, but I know what he said. He said that the Port of London Authority, in matters of the Port of London, must be paramount, and he indicated that they must not rely on any chance decision of a Committee of Parliament. That is not a very respectful way of referring to Committees of Parliament. They do not handle private Bills on chance issues. Their procedure is very elaborate. They hear evidence, and they will hear a lot of evidence on this question, evidence from the promoters as well as from the Port of London Authority. The Committee will hear the evidence, and it is only fair that the Bill should go before them, for the evidence to be thrashed out.

10.0 p.m.

It is not fair to kill a Bill of this kind before the evidence is heard. No matter of public policy is involved here, like there was in the London Traffic Bills, which had to be decided on broad matters of public policy. If ever there were a question of fact to be proved or disproved, it is in this particular Bill. It is no good Members of Parliament supposing that we can give an intelligent vote at this stage on what is or what is not the proper draught for ships, on what the docks of the Port of London can take, and on all the complicated technical questions which are involved in the discussion which we have had to-night. Let us have a sense of our limitations, and say that the people who have to argue this are the technicians and the lawyers upstairs, and that the people who have to decide are a proper Parliamentary Committee sitting in a judicial capacity, and ultimately reporting to this House on their conclusions. The right hon. Gentleman wants us to take up the position of saying, "Do not wait for the evidence, do not wait for the technicians, do not wait until somebody has seen the naval architects and the engineers and the experts on navigation and shipping. Do not wait for them, but take it from the Port of London Authority now, and do not give the Bill a chance of being examined upstairs." That is not fair on a Bill of this kind. It is fair on a Bill which deals with broad public policy. But no broad public policy is involved here, except so far as unemployment is involved. It is a question of technical fact which has to be proved or disproved. Sir Maurice Fitzmaurice possibly relied upon a recommendation of the Royal Commission on the Port of London in 1902—I agree that is 28 years ago—that the Port's objective should be a channel of 30 feet. I agree that shipping has developed since that time. I am not concerned to show that the depth which is proposed in this Bill is proved, or can be assumed to be an adequate depth. I believe that we shall produce very strong evidence to that effect, but I am not going to be so bold as to say that I must be right, and that the depth in the Bill is necessarily right. The promoters of the Bill have to prove their case that it is right, and unless they prove it, they will not get it. On the other hand, unless the other people prove their case they will not get it. There may be a margin within which this Bill can be altered. There is nothing in the Bill to prevent the tunnel going down to Australia if the Committee upstairs so order, but I am entitled to ask that the Committee should be satisfied upon the point.

What the Port of London Authority will have to prove to the Committee, I presume, is that instead of ships of 40 feet draught, to which we are beginning to be accustomed, ships of 60 feet draught, and even higher, are reasonably likely. They may be able to prove it, and they should be asked to prove it. They may have to prove that sufficient dredging of the channel at the entrance to the port can be done to allow these ships up to and past the tunnel. They will have to prove that the existing docks, and those which they have under consideration, or which they may have under consideration, will take the ships when they get past the tunnel; and they will have to consider whether the entrances to the docks will enable the ships to get in. They will have to argue that ships of such enormous length can clearly navigate in the River Thames and turn round above the tunnel, and they will have to prove that such ships are likely to be economic ships.

Certainly; if it is argued that these ships are coming along, the Committee are entitled to be satisfied that such ships on the whole will be economic ships—[Interruption.] However, that is a matter for the Committee, but if I were a member of the Committee, that is one of the things that I should want to know, and I do not know that I should be ruled out of order. Finally, I should want to know whether, if such huge ships existed, they would come to the Port of London, and whether it would be worth while the Port of London spending many millions of pounds in order to house the limited number of such ships that are likely to be brought to the port. All the answers to these questions may be perfectly conclusive, and the Port of London may be able to prove their case. It may be that the promoters cannot prove their case, and that the eminent technicians who are advising me, and are quite sure that they can prove their case, are standing on their heads and are wrong. All I say is, let the technicians on both sides be called upon to prove their case, and do not deny us the opportunity of arguing the case upstairs when the Bill is before a Committee of Parliament.

It has been said there is no unemployment about this matter. I am not going to argue that any Minister or the House of Commons has a right to do a silly thing in the supposed interests of merely providing work. I will never be a party, if I can help it—sometimes you are driven to it by political pressure—I will never willingly be a party to putting in hand work purely and exclusively for the purpose of providing work. I am not entitled to scatter public money about in that way, and I should want to know that the work is useful and will have a beneficial result to the communal welfare. Therefore I am not judging this entirely from the point of view of employment. But it is no good hon. Members criticising the Government this afternoon for not doing things quickly enough and then saying to-night, "Do not let this scheme get a chance to be heard. Throw it out on Second Reading on technical arguments that Members of Parliament cannot judge at this stage." That is what is being urged.

I am not going to blame the right hon. Member for St. Ives because he did not swallow "We can conquer unemployment." I give him ail due credit for that. I did not swallow it myself. If I were concerned with politics to-night I should throw up any hat with rejoicing for every Liberal Member who went into the Lobby against the Bill and say, "That is another nail in the coffin of the Liberal party." I am sorry the hon. Member for Leith (Mr. E. Brown) is not here. I gathered that he was encouraging the right hon. Member for St. Ives. The hon. Member for Leith, at any rate, was involved in "We can conquer unemployment." What has "We can conquer unemployment" to say about this Bill? It deals with the Report of the Royal Commission on Cross-River Traffic in 1927. I hope the Conservative Chief Whip will listen, as it may be useful to him some day.
"Certain parts of the work recommended by the Royal Commission are, however, ripe for commencement almost at once. In particular, this includes the scheme for the improvement of approaches from the East India Dock Road to the Victoria Dock linking with the East Ham and Barking By-pass, estimated to cost some £3,000,000; and the construction of a road tunnel under the Thames from Dartford to Purfleet, which is also estimated to cost £3,000,000. The rapid industrial development on both sides of the lower reaches of the Thames, the increasing importance of the docks at Tilbury, and the construction of arterial roads between London and Tilbury on the north and between Erith, Dartford, Gravesend and Strood on the south side of the river have emphasised the need for such a tunnel, which would obviate long detours for road traffic and relieve the congestion in the centre of London."
That was issued on the authority of the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George). If hon. Members of the Liberal party want to embarrass their leader, they should vote against the Bill. If they want to provide me and the Chief Whip of the Conservative party with ammunition against them at the next election, let them vote against the Bill. But if they want to get themselves out of a difficulty, they had better come with me and examine the proposal.

I have already exempted the right hon. Gentleman. I have given him credit for not being responsible for that booklet. I am warning Liberal Members of the dreadful consequences of getting into the position of having grumbled at the Government this afternoon for not having done things quickly enough and then voting this evening against one of their own schemes. This is one of the schemes which could be completed within two years! We have had nine months, and we are at the Second Reading stage. I only mention that because I think it is fair that I should warn hon. Members of where they will be getting if they do not look out.

I come back to my central point, though the right hon. Member has moved since he spoke. Then there was no argument about it. The Port of London Authority having said it was so then, as a famous periodical used to say, "It is so." I cannot accept that. I have the highest regard for the views of the Port of London Authority. I will pay them every respect. Their representations must not only be considered by me, but will have to be considered by the Committee upstairs. All I ask of the House at this stage is to say: "We are impressed with the technical arguments both ways." I have very good technical arguments which I could bring to the House now, but I do not want to bore the House. Those arguments ought to be reserved for the Committee upstairs. All I ask the House to say is: "Here are very interesting technical arguments; we do not know enough of the technique of the matter; we will have the matter thrashed out in Committee upstairs. We will put the technicians into the box—the County Council technicians, the Minister's technicians, and the Port of London technicians." They will go, one after the other, into the box, and the lawyers will try to tear them in pieces. The technicians who prove their case will win their case, and the technicians who do not prove their case will lose it. The Minister, who says he is prepared to be judged on the evidence, and the promoters, who say they are prepared to be judged on the evidence, are reasonable people. The objectors, who say they are not willing to be judged, who want the matter to be decided now, who do not want the trial—those who take that line are taking a line which is indefensible. I ask the House to give the Bill a Second Reading.

rose in his place, and claimed to move, " That the Question be now put," but Mr. SPEAKEE withheld hit assent and declined then to put that Question.

Representing a constituency which is specially involved in this issue, I wish to say a few words on the subject. I do not think that anybody, and least of all the Port of London Authority, can claim that this Bill has been sprung on them as an unexpected Measure, as there has been in existence for a good many years an influential Committee known as the Thames Tunnel Committee, and several interviews have taken place with the Port of London Authority. They must have known for many years that this Bill was being seriously considered. When we come to the recent improvements made in the Port of London we find they have put up a very fine landing stage at Tilbury, big enough to take the biggest vessels now afloat. They have also made very great improvements in docking facilities at Tilbury. Large new docks have been constructed. It seems pretty obvious that they consider that large ships will in the future probably land their passengers at Tilbury and dock in the neighbourhood of Tilbury. There is no doubt that the County of Kent, the County of Essex and the adjacent counties all desire this Bill and have been working towards it for many years. It involves, as the Minister of Transport said, a technical question, and it should be considered upstairs in Committee. Although I am going to support the Second Reading to-night, I have no hesitation in saying that if in Committee the Port of London Authority were to substantiate the grounds of objection they have put forward I should, at a later stage, vote against the Bill, and I have no doubt there is scarcely a Member who would not do the same thing.

The Debate we have had this evening has shown the extreme danger of the subject which we are discussing being considered merely as a Ministry of Transport question. Although I desire that this Bill should have a Second Reading, I think the Debate has shown that this is a question which concerns the Board of Trade, and we ought to have had a representative of the Board of Trade here to-night.

I have been here all the evening.

This question has not developed under the Board of Trade, and it is evident that the Port of London Authority has been treated with very scant courtesy. I cannot understand how that situation has arisen. I have seen the plans. I am one of the backers of this Bill, and I certainly thought that a Bill introduced under the auspices of two great county councils and the Ministry of Transport would have satisfied the Port of London Authority with regard to the construction of this tunnel. It was only a very short time ago that I heard that this had not been done. It appears that the first time the Port of London Authority heard anything about the tunnel was on 18th November. A meeting took place on the 22nd November, at which it was stated that the tunnel was not of sufficient depth. We should remember that the Woolwich tunnel, only one mile higher up the river, that the King George Dock allows only 21 feet of water and that tunnel, in consequence, has stopped all development nearer the heart of London. We know that under this Bill the depth of the crown of the tunnel is to be 42 feet 9 inches, and that 12½ feet of soil is provided above the tunnel. The Port of London Authority point out that at many parts the tunnel may be even above the bed of the river. It may be that a ship comes in down by the bow owing to accident, and, if such a ship is wrecked on the top of this tunnel, one of the Clauses of the Bill provides that the county council are not liable. The Bill provides, also, for a 10-foot variation. Considering that there will be only 30 feet of water a 10 feet variation will give only 20 feet. Allowing for 6 feet to provide steerage way this would give only 15 feet for ships at low tide.

The hon. Member for Dartford (Mr. Mills) pointed to the Royal Commission of 1902, but we are in the year 1930. In 1902, the Royal Commission recommended a depth of 30 feet, but, in view of the fact that a Royal Commission, unlike a Committee of the House of Commons, usually takes about a year over its deliberations, it seems very likely indeed that a Royal Commission sitting in the present year of grace would recommend that the crown of the tunnel should be at least 70 feet below low water springs. That would be a very likely proposal for them to make. I agree with the Minister of Transport that this is not the time to raise technical points, but I do wish to raise this point. We have got to 30 feet in the Thames. The Panama Canal has got to 41 feet. The Suez Canal is working to about 42 feet. In New York Harbour the depth is 41 feet—always getting deeper. Even then, when they come to deal with the biggest ships, they are prepared to go to Montauk Point, if necessary, to cater for even bigger ships than are produced to-day, and it may be that we shall have to go to a much greater depth. I believe that the House of Commons Committee will be animated by the desire to deal fairly by the Port of London, but the danger is that they may be governed too much by present-day conditions in the desire to grant what is being asked for in Kent and Essex. I would not allow any question in connection with roads in any way to hamper the development of the Port of London, which I believe, since the establishment of the Port of London Authority, has been the biggest contributor to employment in this country. Therefore, if the Port of London Authority do not get a fair deal, I think that a good many people in this country will have reason to thank Heaven for the House of Lords.

We have had from the Minister of Transport an appeal for fair play, but I could wish that he himself had been fair. He stated that, if he is correctly informed, the local authorities not only do not intend to consider the construction of a bridge, but will not go on with this scheme if the construction of a bridge is recommended by this House to-night. A new theory of legislation is being expounded, to the effect that what these local authorities say is law, and that all that this House has to do is to assent thereto and it is all right. There are three suggestions before the House to-night—a tunnel, the consideration of a bridge, and the consideration of the depths of the Thames because of the anticipated change in transport. We are told that these are technical matters. We are told that all that we have to do is to pass this Bill and send it to a Committee, when the depths of the Thames will get every consideration; and in the same breath we are told that the other suggestion will get no consideration at all. That is the Minister's idea of fair play.

It has been suggested that there is an alliance in this House to-night to kill this Bill. I know of no such alliance, but I resent the idea that, because I was not here in 1902 or 1921, I cannot make a suggestion in 1930; and yet that has been put forward to-night as a serious argument against the proposal that a bridge should be built. Frivolity on the part of the Minister does not get rid of the situation, and it is no argument when he suggests that this House is asked to use up steel even to the extent of wasting public money. He knows that that is nonsense. The suggestion that has been put before the House is that, if it is going to cost £4,000,000 to build a tunnel, you could have a six-way bridge in the open air for that money. But if the Minister and the local authorities are tied to a two-line traffic stream, I suggest that, if the Minister had exercised his brilliant imagination, he might have imagined that the building of a bridge for a two-line traffic scheme would cost much less than this tunnel. If that be so, we are wasting public money in building a tunnel, and the question of the proper expenditure of that public money ought to receive, not only the attention and consideration of this House, but the consideration of the promoters of this scheme. A statement made in 1902 was quoted that, if a bomb were dropped on this bridge, it would so block the Thames that traffic would be stopped. Lots of things have happened since 1902. There has been an entire revolution in the construction of ships for one thing—in size, carrying capacity and methods of propulsion. If we are going to reason on past experience, we surely must be compelled to come to the conclusion that that improvement will continue in the future.

If the dropping of bombs is going to wreck a bridge, what will it do to a tunnel? It is just as easy to find this tunnel with a bomb—[HON. MEMBEES: "No!"] Exercise your imagination a little more. If you were fighting me and I had an aeroplane, I would find that tunnel. Since 1902, there has not only been a revolution in shipbuilding but in bridge building. When this scheme was originally considered, bridge building had not attained to the height it has done to-day. There is a British firm building a bridge across Sydney Harbour, which is a much more difficult engineering problem than building a bridge across the Thames. People in 1902, or 1924 even, could not take that change in bridge engineering into account, because it was not in existence. We come to you to-day with a suggestion—not a threat. If this House cares to disregard it, well and good. If it is voted down I am quite prepared on the next occasion to vote for the tunnel. I am as keen on having the two sides of the River connected up as any representatives of local constituencies, but I want it done in the best way when we are doing it. I do not to go burrowing like a mole under the ground. We are offering you a cheaper and better scheme, out in the open air, a scheme that could be more readily and cheaply expanded than your tunnel scheme possibly could be. Therefore, please do not talk nonsense about unholy alliances, and do not say that we want you to waste public money in buying steel, because I am interested in the lives of steel workers, and many thousands of them are out of work. I want you to use public money to the best advantage. I honestly believe a bridge would serve the interests of that area much better than a tunnel, and I intend to vote against the Bill.

I should like to inform London Members that a committee of the county council considered this proposal very closely, although of course it is well outside the London area, and, after taking advice, they came to the conclusion that it would very materially relieve traffic across the London bridges by diverting it lower down the river. A great deal of traffic comes through London quite unnecessarily, because of the absence of proper facilities for crossing the river lower down. Like the Minister, if I were satisfied that his was going to interfere with the Port of London, I should be the very last person to assist it. London depends for its very existence on its port. Anything that interferes with shipping will do untold damage. I agree entirely with the Minister, and the county council takes the same view, that this is a matter for engineers and technical experts. If one steamer is prevented from going up the river to the Port of London the Port of London has made its case, and, when the Bill comes back for Third Reading, I shall vote against it. I am going to ask first in the interests of London traffic and secondly because it will find work for the unemployed, that the Bill shall be allowed to go to a Private Bill Committee.

I intervene for a few minutes to call attention to what I regard, and have regarded for some time, as a bad practice which has recently been growing up in the House, that when we have Second Reading Debates on Private Bills, we have to listen to the Minister of Transport making what I may call a special pleading speech on behalf of the promoters. The speech which the right hon. Gentleman has made was one which might properly have fallen from tine lips of any Minister of the Crown, if he had, in the first instance, informed the House that he was speaking only and entirely in his personal capacity as a Member of Parliament, and not with any sense of responsibility for His Majesty's Government. The right hon. Gentleman must understand that I am not speaking in any way too bluntly in view of the speeches which have been made by his own supporters on the benches behind. Speeches have been made there for and against the Bill. If the right hon. Gentleman is not entitled to say that he speaks for his supporters behind him, still less is he entitled to come to the House and on a Private Bill to state that he speaks for His Majesty's Government.

Having said that, I am bound to turn right round and support the general conclusions which the right hon. Gentleman submitted to the House, because he made a special plea, and one which I have made on many occasions in this House when the Second Reading of Private Bills has been under discussion. I have said, and as long as I am a Member of this House I shall continue to say, that this House, many years ago, set up a special procedure for the consideration of Private Bills. It laid it down that these Bills should be controlled under their own special Standing Orders, and that all opponents should have a right and proper opportunity, by petition in answer to notice duly served, to be heard when the matter comes up for inquiry in Committee upstairs, where the matter could be properly heard and explored. I say, and I wish to impress the fact upon the younger Members of the House, that on a Private Bill we ought to be able to go into the Lobby to give a vote for a Second Reading, even though we may in our own personal interests be opposed to a particular Measure which comes before this House.

In this matter I have as much information before me as most hon. Members of this House. I have before me the general facts relating to the construction of the tunnel and the need for allowing sufficient clearance over the tunnel for navigation on the River Thames, and I have before me the general facts laid by other people as to the merits of a bridge which will provide greater facilities. I submit that I have a certain amount of experience entitling me to come to a judgment on this matter, but we are unable to determine these questions in a discussion and in a Debate in the House of Commons in which we have listened to what must, of necessity, be merely exparte statements. There is only one proper method of determining these issues on matters of great magnitude and detail, the promoters having complied with all the necessary requirements of Standing Orders specially laid down, and that is by submitting these matters to the proper tribunal where the matter may be heard with counsel for and against and with witnesses, and where the matter can be analysed and the true facts obtained for the proper guidance of the House. After that stage, in the event of an allegation being made that the Committee have acted in breach of the evidence placed before them, the House will have its remedy on the Third Reading stage. For these reasons, whatever my views may be as to the merits of the Bill, I propose to support the Second Reading.

The hon. Member for Hampstead (Mr. Balfour) has given us a speech in which he has argued that we ought not to have spent the last 3½ hours in a Second Reading Debate, and that there should never be a Second Reading Debate or a Second Reading decision upon any Private Bill.

That was not my argument. There are many things that emerge in a Second Reading Debate and many points are raised for the purpose of asking for the consent of the House, which would undoubtedly be a guidance to the Committee upstairs.

If the hon. Member had made another speech and had put that point, it would have been interesting, but he made no such point in his earlier speech. He said that the House would have their opportunity if they thought that the Committee upstairs had wholly misjudged the expert evidence placed before them, and that they could reject the Bill on the Third Reading. If the hon. Member's speech led us to any conclusion at all, it was directed against the Second Reading stage on these private Bills. The Minister of Transport was far more reasonable. Although I did not agree with his conclusions', I must give him credit for the way in which he put his views before the House. He said that on a matter of broad public policy he agreed that the House could reject the Bill upon Second Reading. I should like to show that this is a matter of broad public policy and not a matter of technical detail, however important that may be. The broad public policy, as I see it, is whether the Minister of Transport and the Government should lay preponderating weight upon the development of road transport or upon the maintenance and improvement of our port facilities'.

It is because I believe that there is no part of the Government's policy in

Division No. 217.]


[10.40 p.m.

Adamson, Rt. Hon. W. (File, West)Beflairs, Commander CarlyonBrown, Ernest (Leith)
Adamson, W. M. (Staff., Cannock)Bellamy, AlbertBrown, James (Ayr and Bute)
Albery, lrvinq JamesBennett, Captain E. N.(Cardiff, Central)Buchanan, G.
Alexander, Rt. Hon. A. V. (Hllltbro')Bennett, William (Battersea, South)Burgess, F. G.
Alpaas, J. H.Benson, G.Buxton, C. R. (Yorks. W. R. Elland)
Ammon, Charles GeorgeSentham, Dr. EthelBuxton, Rt. Hon. Noel (Norfolk, N.)
Angell, NormanBondfield, Rt. Hon. MargaretCarter, W. (St. Pancras, S. W.)
Apott, JohnBowen, J. W.Charleton, H. C.
Attlee, Clement RichardBowerman, Rt. Hon. Charles W.Chater, Daniel
Ayles, WalterBriscoe, Richard GeorgeCluse, W. S.
Balfour, George (Hampstead)Broad, Francis AlfredCocks, Frederick Seymour
Balfour, Captain H. H. (I. of Thanet)Brockway, A. FennerDallas, George
Barnes, Alfred JohnBrothers, M.Dalton, Hugh
Batey, JosephBrown, Col. D. C. (N'th'l'd'., Hexham)Davies, Maj. Geo. F. (Somerset, Yeovil)

regard to unemployment and the expenditure of public money dealing with that question, in which the Government are so weak and are so lacking in any sign of policy, as the improvement of our ports, that I feel grave doubts about this Bill, especially when I find that one of the greatest of our port authorities, the Port of London Authority, was never consulted—the Minister of Transport did not say that they had been consulted— and that in the subsequent negotiations that have taken place they have never had any assurance from the Minister of Transport that the future development of the Port of London would not be interfered with by this Bill. The Minister of Transport complained that the right hon. Member for St. Ives (Mr. Runciman) objected to this grave matter being left to the chance decision of the Committee upstairs. Every speech that has been made in support of the Bill shows that it is to be left to chance. It is to be left to the chance of the counsel arguing the case on one side or the other being the most dexterous in his cross-examination of the technical witnesses. Where such a great question as the development of the Port of London is concerned, the Port authority had a perfect right to have an assurance that the entry of ships to the new docks and to the prospective docks will not be impeded by this tunnel, and they had a perfect right to have that assurance given before the Second Reading of the Bill. They have not had that assurance and, therefore. I think the House in the exceptional circumstances of the case would be perfectly justified in refusing to give a Second Reading to the Bill.

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

The House divided: Ayes, 246; Noes, 111.

Denman, Hon. R. D.Kenworthy, Lt.-Com. Hon. Joseph M.Remer, John R.
Dudgeon, Major C. R.Kinley, J.Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring)
Dukes, C.Lambert, Rt. Hon. George (S. Molton)Riley, Ben (Dewsbury)
Duncan, CharlesLang, GordonRoberts, Rt. Hon. F. O.(W. Bromwich)
Ede, James ChuterLansbury, Rt. Hon. GeorgeRomeril, H. G.
Edwards, C. (Monmouth, Bedwellty)Lathan, G.Rosbotham, D. S. T.
Edwards, E. (Morpeth)Law, Albert (Bolton)Rnggles-Brise, Lieut.-Colonel E. A.
Elmley, ViscountLaw, A. (Rosendale)Salter, Dr. Alfred
England, Colonel A.Lawrence, SusanSamuel, H. W. (Swansea, West)
Fermoy, LordLawrie, Hugh Hartley (Stalybridge)Sanders, W. S.
Foot, IsaacLawson, John JamesSandham, E.
Forgan, Dr. RobertLawther, W. (Barnard Castle)Sawyer, G. F.
Gardner, B. W. (West Ham, Upton)Leach, W.Scott, James
George, Major G. Lloyd (Pembroke)Lee, Frank (Derby, N. E.)Scurr, John
Gibbins, JosephLee, Jennie (Lanark, Northern)Sexton, James
Gibson, H. M. (Lanes, Mossley)Lees, J.Shaw, Rt. Hon. Thomas (Preston)
Gill, T. H.Lewis, T. (Southampton)Shepherd, Arthur Lewis
Gillett, George M.Logan, David GilbertShield, George William
Glassey, A. E.Longbottom, A. W.Shiels, Dr. Drummond
Gossling, A. G.Longden, F.Shillaker, J. F.
Gould, F.Lowth, ThomasShort, Alfred (Wednesbury)
Gower, Sir RobertLunn, WilliamSmith, Alfred (Sunderland)
Granville, E.MacDonald, Rt. Hon. J. R. (Seaham)Smith, Ben (Bermondsey, Rotherhithe)
Gray, MilnerMacDonald, Malcolm (Bassetlaw)Smith, Frank (Nuneaton)
Greenwood, Rt. Hon. A. (Colne).McElwee, A.Smith, Tom (Pontefract)
Grenfell, D. R. (Glamorgan)McEntee, V. L.Smith, W. R. (Norwich)
Griffith, F. Kingsley (Middlesbro' W.)McShane, John JamesSmithers, Waldron
Grundy, Thomas w.Maitland, A. (Kent, Faversham)Snell, Harry
Guinness, Rt. Hon. Walter E.Malone, C. L'Estrange (Nthampton)Sorensen, R.
Gunston, Captain D. W.Mander, Geoffrey le M.Stamford, Thomas W.
Hall, F. (York, W. R., Normanton)Mansfield, W.Stephen, Campbell
Hall, G. H. (Merthyr Tydvll)March, S.Strachey, E. J. St. Loe
Hall, Capt. W. P. (Portsmouth, C.)Margesson, Captain H. D.Strauss, G. R.
Hamilton, Sir George (Ilford)Markham, S. F.Sueter, Rear-Admiral M. F.
Hamilton, Mary Agnes (Blackburn)Marley, J.Sullivan, J.
Hamilton, Sir R. (Orkney & Zetland)Mathers, GeorgeTaylor, R. A. (Lincoln)
Harbord, A.Matters, L. W.Taylor, W. B. (Norfolk, S. W.)
Harris, Percy A.Meller, R. J.Thomas, Rt. Hon. J. H. (Derby)
Hartshorn, Rt. Hon. VernonMelville, Sir JamesThurtle, Ernest
Hastings, Dr. SomervilleMerriman, Sir F. BoydTillett, Ben
Haycock, A. W.Messer, FredTinker, John Joseph
Hayday, ArthurMiddleton, G.Todd, Capt. A. J.
Hayes, John HenryMillar, J. D.Tout, W. J.
Henderson, Arthur, Junr. (Cardiff, S.)Milner, J.Townend, A. E.
Henderson, Thomas (Glasgow)Montague, FrederickTrevtlyan, Rt. Hon. Sir Charles
Henderson, W. W. (Middx., Enfield)Morley, RalphTurner, B.
Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel Arthur P.Morris-Jones. Dr. J. H. (Denbigh)Vaughan, D. J.
Hennessy, Major Sir G. R. J.Morrison, Herbert (Hackney, South)Viant, S. P.
Hirst, G. H. (York W. R. Wentworth)Morrison, Robert C, (Tottenham, N.)Wallace, H. W.
Hoffman, P. C.Mosley, Lady C. (Stoke-on-Trent)Watkins, F. C.
Hollins, A.Mosley, Sir Oswald (Smetkwick)Watson, W. M. (Dunfermline)
Hopkin, DanielMuff, G.Wedgwood, Rt. Hon. Josiah
Hore-Belisha, LeslieMuggeridge, H. T.Wellock, Wilfred
Horrabin, J. F.Nathan, Major H. L.Welsh, James (Paisley)
Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hackney, N.)Newman, Sir R. H. S. D. L. (Exeter)Welsh, James C. (Coatbridge)
Hudson, James H. (Huddersfield)Noel Baker, P. J.West, P. R.
Hunter, Dr. JosephOldfield, J. R.Whiteley, Wilfrld (Birm., Ladywood)
Isaacs, GeorgeOliver, George Harold (Ilkeston)Whiteley, William (Blaydon)
Johnston, ThomasOliver, P. M. (Man., Blackley)Williams, Charles (Devon, Torquay)
Jones, F. Llewellyn- (Flint)Owen, Major G. (Carnarvon)Williams, David (Swansea, East)
Jones, Sir G. W. H. (Stoke New'gton)Owen, H. F. (Hereford)Williams, T. (York, Don Valley)
Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth)Paling, WilfridWilson, R. J. (Jarrow)
Jones, J. J. (West Ham, Silvertown)Palmer, E. T.Winterton, G. E.(Leicaster, Loughb'gh)
Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)Parkinson, John Allen (Wigan)Wise, E. F.
Jowett, Rt. Hon. F. W.Perry, S. F.Wood, Major McKenzie (Banff)
Jowitt, Rt. Hon. Sir W. A.Peters, Dr. Sidney JohnYoung, R. S. (Islington, North)
Kedward, R. M. (Kent, Ashford)Pethick-Lawrence, F. W.
Kelly, W. T.Picton-Turbervill, Edith


Kennedy, ThomasRaynes, W. R.Mr. Mills and Colonel Howard-Bury.


Acland-Troyte, Lieut.-Colonel.Bromley, J.Daggar, George
Allen, Sir J. Sandeman (Liverp'l., W.)Brown, C. W. E. (Notts, Mansfield)Davies, Dr. Vernon
Aske, Sir RobertBurgin, Dr. E. L.Davies, E. C. (Montgomery)
Astor, ViscountessBurton, Colonel H. W.Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton)
Baillie-Hamilton, Hon. Charles W.Caine, Derwent Hall-Davison, Sir W. H. (Kensington, S.)
Baker, John (Wolverhampton, Bliston)Cameron, A. G.Dawson, Sir Phillp
Bevan, Aneurin (Ebbw Vale)Cape, ThomasDuckworth, G. A. V.
Bevan, S. J. (Holborn)Cautley, Sir Henry S.Edmondson, Major A. J.
Birchall, Major Sir John DearmanCayzer, Maj. Sir Herbt. R. (Prtsmth. S.)Edmunds, J. E.
Birkett, W. NormanClarke, J. S.Erskine, Lord (Somerset, Weston-t.-M.)
Bowater, Col. Sir T. VansittartColman, N. C. D.Ferguson, Sir John
Bowyer, Captain Sir George E. W.Colville, Major D. J.Fielden, E. B.
Boyce, H. L.Croom-Johnson, R. P.Ford, Sir P. J.

Fremantle, Lieut-Colonel Francis E.McKinlay, A.Sandeman, Sir N. Stewart
Gauit, Lieut.-Col. Andrew HamiltonMacLaren, AndrewShepperson, Sir Ernest Whlttoms
Gibson, C. G. (Pudsey & Otley)Marshall, FredSherwood, G. H.
Glyn, Major R. G. C.Moore, Lieut.-Colonel T. C. R. (Ayr)Shinwell, E.
Graham, Fergus (Cumberland, N.)Morgan, Dr. H. B.Simms, Major-General J.
Greene, W. P. CrawfordMort, D. L.Simmons, C. J.
Grenfell, Edward C. (City of London)Muirhead, A. J.Sinkinson, George
Gretton, Colonel Rt. Hon. JohnMurnin, HughSmith, Rennle (Penlstone)
Hacking, Rt. Hon. Douglas H.Naylor, T. E.Somerville, A. A. (Windsor)
Hall, Lieut.-Col. Sir F. (Dulwich)Nield, Rt. Hon. Sir HerbertSutton, J. E.
Hannon, Patrick Joseph HenryPalin, John HenryTinne, J. A.
Hardie, George D.Peto, Sir Basil E. (Devon, Barnstaple)Vaughan-Morgan, Sir Kenyon
Hartington, Marquess ofPotts, John S.Warker, J.
Henderson, Capt. R. R. (Oxf'd, Henley)Price, M. P.Ward, Lieut.-Col. Sir A. Lambert
Herriotts, J.Quibell, D. J. K.Warrender, Sir Victor
Hills, Major Rt. Hon. John WallerRamsay, T. B. WilsonWells, Sydney R.
John, William (Rhondda, West)Raivson, Sir CooperWilkinson, Ellen C.
Jones, T. I. Mardy (Pontypridd)Reid, David D. (County Down)Windsor-clive, Lieut.-Colonel Georgs
Leighton, Major B. E. P.Richardson, Sir P. W. (Sur'y, Ch'te'y)Wolmer, Rt. Hon. Viscount
Lewis, Oswald (Colchester)Riley, F. F. (Stockton-on-Tees)Womersley, W. J.
Lindley, Fred W.Ritson, J.Wright, W. (Rutherglen)
Little, Dr. E. GrahamRodd, Rt. Hon. Sir James Rennell
Llewellln, Major J. J.Rowson, Guy


Lloyd, C. EllisRunciman, Rt. Hon. WalterMajor-General Sir Newton Moore
Lovat-Fraser, J. A.Salmon, Major I.and Mr. T. Griffiths.
Lymington, ViscountSamuel, Samuel (W'dsworth, Putney)

Bill read a Second time, and committed.


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.


Resolved, "That this House do now adjourn."—[ Mr. T. Kennedy.]

Adjourned accordingly at Two Minutes after Eleven o'Clock.