The Cabinet Papers banner

1936 Cabinet conclusion on unemployment protests

Cabinet Conclusion 14 October 1936. March of the Unemployed on London
Cabinet Conclusion 14 October 1936. March of the Unemployed on London
CAB 23/85      C 57 (36) 3

Open the original document

Many areas of Britain suffered terribly from unemployment in the 1930s. The traditional heavy industries suffered worse, with areas like the northeast of England and south Wales experiencing high levels of unemployment, poverty, malnutrition and disease.

During the 1920s and 1930s there were many protest marches from these areas, usually in London, to highlight conditions. The most famous was the Jarrow Crusade of 1936, but there were also marches from south Wales in 1927, 1932, 1933 and 1934. Most demanded similar things - government action to create jobs and better benefits for the unemployed.

Questions to consider

  1. Is there any significance in the Prime Minister's use of the phrase 'so-called'?
  2. How did the government respond to this march?
  3. Is it possible to infer anything about the attitude of the government towards the marchers from this extract?
  4. This march, like many others, was supported by the TUC. What does this suggest about the influence of the TUC and working class protest generally on the government?

Transcript

MARCH OF THE UNEMPLOYED ON LONDON.

3. The Cabinet had before them a Memorandum by the Home Secretary (C.P.-256 (36)) calling attention to the arrangements made -- as a protest against the Unemployment Assistance Regulations -- for contingents of unemployed persons to march on London, the marchers being due to arrive on the 8th November. Two other demonstration marches had been organised, both of which were timed to reach London on the 31st October, one consisting of 200 unemployed men from Jarrow, and the other comprising about 250 blind persons, accompanied by some 50 attendants. The existing law contained no provisions by which orderly bands of demonstrators could be prevented from marching to London or elsewhere. The only course open, therefore, was to take every precaution to minimise the risk of disorder on the routes of the contingents and in London, and the Memorandum described the steps taken with this object. After consultation with the Minister of Health and the Minister of Labour, the Home Secretary thought that the best method of informing the public on the present occasion, in order to discourage them from furnishing assistance to the marchers, would be to arrange, probably through the National Publicity Bureau, for selected journalists to be interviewed and given material for exposing the origin, motive and uselessness of the hunger march. He had been informed that, as in the case of previous marches, unemployment benefit would not be payable to marchers, but they would be entitled to relief from Public Assistance Authorities. On the question of the hunger marchers being received in deputation, the Home Secretary pointed out that it was the settled practice of recent Ministries not to receive them, although Ministers would be prepared to receive Members of Parliament accompanied by a few representatives of

Original document