HC Deb 22 April 1907 vol 172 cc1403-4
MR. HUNT (Shropshire, Ludlow)

I beg to ask the Secretary of State for War whether in view of the fact that the six workmen lately returned from studying the conditions of the working classes in Germany have all reported that employers of labour in Germany are clamouring on all sides for skilled labour, he could see his way to applying to the German Government for a list of German employers willing to engage the workmen discharged or about to be discharged from Woolwich and other places.


I fully appreciate the profound impression made on the mind of the hon. Member by the conclusion arrived at by six British workmen after a few weeks study of the economic and social conditions of the working classes of the entire German Empire. The Question is, however, one not of the depth of the hon. Member's impression, but of the reliability of the Report on which it rests. I, too, like the six British workmen have interested myself in the condition of the working classes in Germany. But my impressions are not identical with those of the deputation. I am, unfortunately, not in a state of mind to join in the enthusiasm of the hon. Member or in his joy over his discovery of his remedy for social difficulties.


Does the right hon. Gentleman suggest that the Report is inaccurate or untrue?


No, Sir. I never employ such abusive epithets. What I do say is that six British workmen going for a few weeks to survey the whole conditions of the German Empire are not possibly able to give information on which a reliable opinion could be based.


Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the six workmen went to Germany for the purpose of surveying the social and industrial conditions there?


I have no doubt it was a very pious intention, but you could hardly expect them to arrive at a reliable conclusion in six weeks, any more than you could expect them in the same period to arrive at a conclusive verdict on the subject of preference.


But did they go to Germany to take a survey of the industrial and labour conditions of the Empire?


I do not know whether they did or not. I presume they did. I am quite sure my hon. friend has gone to other countries, as I have done, in order to obtain as much information as possible, but I doubt if he would claim to be able to present a Report on which a reliable opinion could be based as a result of such a visit.


Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that five of the six who went out were known believers in free trade?


I was not aware of that.