"C.II." Work-For-All Ideas Debated
GOVERNMENT BEING DRIVEN TO ACTION
Anthony Eden's Lead
IDEAS CONTAINED IN THE CATHOLIC HERALD'S WORKFOR-ALL PLAN HAVE BEEN ADVOCATED BY MEN OF ALL PARTIES IN THE HOUSE OF COMMONS DEBATE ON THE KING'S SPEECH.
Concern is growing at the waste of our resources and the hunger of the people so that the Government is being harassed with grim determination concerning this vital matter.
Members of Parliament have made brilliant speeches in the last few days demanding action in the face of ti million unemployed, the urgent need of revitalising and consolidating national life and of developing Britain's huge resources fully in the interests of peace and defence.
The Tory impatience with a mere negative domestic problem is crystallised in the amendment to the Address which is supported by 38 Members who advocate national union upon three points: (i) Rearmament commensurate with present needs; (ii) The improvement of the conditions of the people; (iii) Development of trade and agriculture.
See Editorial, page 8: Now Is The Time,
In Thursday's debate on the King's Speech, after much recrimination and explanation about the extent and efficiency of our war machines, Anthony Eden wrecked the complacency of those obsessed by a keep-your-powder-dry complex by pointing out that guns for defence were of little use if people decided that the country was not worth defending.
" 1 have noticed it said in the Press and in every by-election lately that the issue today is foreign policy," said Mr. Eden. " I wonder whether that is right? I wonder whether the main issue should not be the building of a better and stronger Britain, which alone can make a stronger foreign policy?
" The present leaders in Germany and Italy owe the extraordinary position that they have achieved in their own countries in the main to the conviction which they have given to their own peoples that their first care is the well-being of their own people. They began with the work of internal reconstruction. They tackled first the question of unemployment. Foreign policy came later.
Our Two Supreme Tasks "It seems to me that in this country we have two tasks of overwhelming importance," he went on, " the security and wellbeing of our own people, the strengthening of our home defences and the creation of a condition of life that is tolerable for all, a life that will give work and interest to every section of our community . . It is no use having the finest armaments in the world unless you have a fit nation to use them, and we cannot have a fit nation unless we devote as much attention to the provision of housing, nourishment, sunlight, as we do to the provision of arms."
His emphasis on the war-like end of an internal social reconstruction is unhappy but understandable in a debate exclusively concerned with the Defence forces.
" Is it not a reproach," asks Anthony Eden, coming considerably nearer the ideas outlined in the W.F.A. plan, " that a time like this, when we hear of national service and everyone wants to organise the full man-power of the nation, we should have 1,750,000 unemployed?"
Family Allowances Mr. Eden advocated the abolition of blind-alley employment of the young; and a complete examination of the family allowance system, with the idea of reducing the hardship in poor families. He pleaded for a unity of parties to carry through a work of national revitalisation, and finished up with what might easily have been a quotation from the CATHOLIC HERALD of four weeks ago, when the W.F.A. plan was discussed in some detail.
" I would like to see every citizen in this country given the opportunity for some training in one or other of our vital defence services. These services are not just the Navy, Army and Air Force They include, of course, air raid precautions, agriculture, and a number of other vital elements.
"Must we go on living from hand to mouth, as we know we are, wasting our substance, without an ordered plan, spending much but achieving little, and reconciling ourselves to a vast army of unemployed?"
One can be cynical, of course, about all this, and mention knowingly Churchill, Amery, Dud Cooper, Nicholson—a new party—Tory revolt—political ramp; or sceptical like James Griffiths, Labour member for Llanelly, who scoffed at " words without deeds "; or one can be hopeful and take Mr. Eden's words on their own merits.
James Griffiths asked for a break-up of large towns, for if the decline of the village goes on " this Britain of ours is going to lose something which it will be very difficult to replace by any kind of organisation. He asked also for a little more interest by the Government in the experiments being made in the extracting of oil from coal.
At the beginning of Monday's debate Mr. Pethick-Lawrence moved an amendment to the address to be presented in reply to the King's Speech, an amendment which by its wording might have been
wholly inspired by CATHOLIC HERALD comments last week on the King's Speech, and by the urgent pleading put forward in this paper for a bold plan of national development.
The amendment read: " . But regret the absence of any reference to the serious problem of unemployment as represented by nearly two million men and women who cannot find work, and the failure of Your Majesty's advisers to recognise that the real strength and prosperity of the people depend upon the full use of the resources of the country, human and material, and upon the equitable distribution of wealth, thus ensuring the maintenance and improvement of the standard of life for active and retired workers and the development of the social services."
If Democracy is Best?
Mr. Pethick-Lawrence followed this up by saying; " We can only defend Democracy from challenge if we can show that it is more fitted than autocracy to solve the great issues of the health and happiness of our people . . . It is not only inhuman but ridiculous that unemployment and malnutrition can coexist in this twentieth century with abundance well within our grasp."
He dissipated, however, his time afterwards in proving to his own satisfaction that the Government meant to give us guns at the expense of butter.
Mr. Walter Elliot defended the Govern ment adequately in so far as Guns v. Butter contention was concerned — obviously, as he pointed out, we cannot continue forever to expend the largest part of our income on guns without melting some of the butter but somewhat lamely met the challenge for a bolder social policy by
saying what a good boy the Government already was; look at housing, at education, at the decrease in maternal mortality, and if the unemploYed and many of the employed are in a bad way, spare a little sympathy also for the problems of the employers—" problems of those who have to find and keep markets, who stand on guard against insolvency, problems of those who watch the exchanges, whose business is the purchasing power of the pound, who scrutinise and carry through all that intricate come-and-go which keeps a nation of 40,000,000 at nearly the highest standard of living in the world, in an island which unaided could barely feed 20,000,000."
M. LI.G. and Agriculture Miss Megan Lloyd George, who talked much of the unemployed and suggested some small ways of decreasing their number, such as by building underground car parks, asked the very question put by an agriculture expert in the CATHOLIC HERALD this week. Why don't we increase food production and so satisfy a clamouring market here in England of people of low income?
She emphasised the need of reviving agriculture, if only because " agriculture is the fifth line of defence."
Hamilton Kerr, Conservative, Oldham, agreed with her about the importance of keeping the " Home Front " up to scratch, and seemed to think that a co-ordinating of the administration of existing social services would marvellously help to accomplish this.
The new member for Dartford, Mrs. Adamson, thought the Government should begin now formulating a plan to meet the next slump. She believed " that the best policy is to keep our people in work "--an admirable sentiment which needs no explanation.
A Fitter Nation
The need of national regeneration was expounded by Mr. Amery.
" If I thought that our effort at re-armament was to stand by itself 1 should despair of it saving the country."
He wanted increased fitness through a system of training for all young men and women; better nourished families and bigger families through a system of family allowances; and increased food production.
" Is it or is it not a good thing that the land of England should be unused? is it not time to make a much firmer effort to cope with the unemployment problem on the basis of training the unemployed? It seems to me a very poor second best that an unemployed man should be drawing money instead of being given, by training or in some other way, facilities to do some work that will call out his natural abilities and give him that satisfaction which every man feels in the exercise of those abilities."
This excellent enunciation of some of the principles underlying the W.F.A. plan was unfortunately prompted almost entirely by a fear of " 80,000,000 Germans all in full employment."
" Always tomorrow and never today," was George Lansbury's comment on what ideas for the bettering of the national life had, up to the present, been put forward by the Government. He believed that what hope there was in action by Parliament lay with the young men and women of all parties.
"In a Specified Time"
Miss Cazalet, Conservative member for Islington, ardent in the cause of the unemployed, asked " whether it were not possible to lay down some definite programme, some time schedule, under which a certain number of the unemployed would he given work in a specified time . .
" On all sides today we hear people saying: If only we could retain the wonderful spirit which was apparent during the crisis '—the spirit of service, the desire to do something for the country, the breaking down of class distinction and class barriers . .
" Why cannot we keep this spirit in peace as well as in war?"
General Re-awakening Needed Harold Macmillan, Conservative but penetrating critic of the present Government, said that the power of Britain depends partly "upon our capacity to organise the foreign trade upon which the employment and prosperity of many millions depend, and partly upon the improvement, physical, material and moral, of the people as a whole, and particularly the unemployed . . "
" 1931 to 1937 has been the slagheap period of home policy. A few minor bills, little tinkering measures, to deal with the problem of Special Areas and the unemployed have been considered sufficient. and the chief anxiety of ministers has been directed towards not carrying out the recommendations of their own Commissions."
The attack on Government ineptitude in face of the muddle and unhappiness of present social conditions in England was continued unabated in Tuesday's debate, when the Opposition vigorously demanded an increase in agricultural production.