§ Naval and Military Operations (Vote of Credit).—£100,000,000.
§ For defraying the Expenses which may be incurred during the year ending the 31st March, 1915, for all measures which may be taken for the security of the Country; for the conduct of Naval and Military Operations; for assisting the food supply; for promoting the continuance of trade, industry, business, and communications, whether by means of insurance or indemnity against risk or otherwise; for relief of distress; and generally for all Expenses arising out of the existence of a state of War.—[The Chancellor of the Exchequer.]
§ Bill, as amended, considered.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read the third time."
§ Mr. J. WARD
This morning I received a very important petition from the Constituency I represent asking that the question of the enforcement of small debts, debts accumulating for the future, should be taken into consideration. It is suggested that the County Courts should be either limited or that they should be closed for a period. These Courts are used largely for the purpose of collecting small debts, such as rent. There will be debts accumulating as the result in many cases of workmen being 2168 unable to find the means of meeting their creditors for food and so on, and it is thought even by a considerable number of the tradespeople in my locality, that some suggestion should be made to the House that these Courts should be suspended for a limited period, so that the working-classes and the poor debtor should have some consideration as well as the wealthy debtor.
§ Mr. JAMES HOPE
Is there no power in the Home Office or in anyone else to prevent newsvendors bawling false and exaggerated news about the streets? They were doing it last night to the obvious discomposure of patriotic people not well informed on naval matters. They were bawling out reports about a great naval disaster, which referred to the regrettable sinking of His Majesty's Ship "Amphion." I do suggest, if there is no power to stop this, that such power should be sought and obtained.
§ Mr. ARTHUR HENDERSON
I desire to associate myself with the hon. Member for Stoke (Mr. J. Ward) in the point he has just raised. Acting on behalf of a conference of working-class organisations, I sent a letter to the Chancellor of the Exchequer dealing with the question of small debts, and gave him notice that I was going to raise the matter to-day. Many Members of the House know, for instance, how much the question of hire purchase enters into working-class life. I think I am right in saying that there is no provision in the moratorium that was passed the other day covering small debts of any kind. At any rate, I believe I am right in saying there is nothing covering small debts below £5. We all know that there may be any number of families paying from 2s. to 2s. 6d. a week, and doing it honestly, in order to fulfil their agreements under the hire purchase system. It may be that owing to the husband or members of the family having gone to the war, or having been thrown out of employment, that they are absolutely unable to continue these payments. They cannot do it with the very best intentions in the world. The conference of working-class organisations, over which I presided, considered that this matter was one of very great urgency. I do not know whether the Secretary to the Treasury could give us any information on the point. 2169 Then there is the question raised by the hon. Member for Stoke as to whether the law of distraint is going to be allowed to operate without regard to the unfortunate circumstance in which many of the working-class people may be placed. It seems to me that it is legitimate for us to protect them, and I think every Member of the House will agree that we ought to seek to protect them, just as much as we make arrangements for protecting others. I am putting the thing forward in no party spirit. We have heard to-day that the House is likely to close for two weeks on Monday, and I think the Treasury ought to be in a position to give us some information on those points I have just raised, and I appeal to the Secretary to the Treasury to do so.
§ Sir A. MARKHAM
I want to ask the consideration of the Admiralty to a very serious and grave matter. Towards the end of last week a request was made by the Admiralty to the owners of Welsh collieries to ask the men to work on Tuesday and Wednesday of this week. A number of the men employed at the collieries with which I am associated in South Wales wanted to go to work, but they were stopped from going by their leaders owing to a resolution passed by the Socialist Federation in Cardiff on the previous Friday. The Vice-Chairman of the Labour party the Member for South Glamorgan (Mr. Brace) is President of the Welsh Miners Federation. If these men had acted in this way in Germany they would have been taken out and shot forthwith, and it seems to me at a time when we were actually at war, when ships were actually waiting, and when the Admiralty within my own knowledge required this coal it ought not to have been possible for any men to stop men working to obtain the very necessaries to enable the Fleet to operate. It was a perfect scandal. What is the Government going to do in a case of this kind? It is not the men; the men themselves would be willing to work. The general manager of the collieries with which I am associated in Wales saw me this morning in London, and he told me that a number of men put on their working clothes on Tuesday and were anxious to go to work, but they were stopped by the Welsh Miners' Federation from going. This is a Socialist body, part of whose policy is that all war is wrong, and that every step should be taken to prevent the Navy getting the necessary supplies of coal. 2170 That is a resolution which was passed at a federation meeting presided over by Mr. Smillie. It is an endeavour on the part of the federation to persuade the working classes to take the view that they should do what they can to prevent the community engaging in war at all. That may be right or wrong from their standpoint, but it is a position to which the State for a moment cannot submit. I suggest there must be some power in the State to deal with men who incite citizens not to do their duty at a time of this kind. I feel very strongly about this or I would not have brought it under the attention of the House. But it came within my own knowledge that men had actually been prevented going to work by agents of the federation in pursuance of this Socialistic resolution. This occurred at a time when coal was necessary for the Navy, and when ships had been chartered and were waiting for coal. Such action was detrimental to the interests of this country, and I want to know what the Government is going to do.
§ Mr. JAMES PARKER
I have not spoken, and I think it is due to an hon. Member who is absent that some explanation should be made on his behalf. I think I am right in saying that the hon. Member for South Glamorgan (Mr. Brace) did from this House wire to the men to go back to their work.
§ Mr. HENDERSON
On a point of Order. The hon. Member for the Mansfield Division (Sir A. Markham) has charged me with having stopped these men from going to work on Tuesday—
§ Sir A. MARKHAM
I never said a word about the hon. Member. I do not think he knows what he is talking about.
§ Mr. HENDERSON
I merely turned round to confirm the statement of my hon. Friend that the hon. Member for South Glamorgan sent this telegram, when the hon. Member for Mansfield exclaimed: "Why did you stop them on Tuesday'" I think that is a very serious charge to bring against myself. I had nothing whatever to do with the matter. I only rose to make the explanation that I knew the hon. Member for South Glamorgan did send this telegram when he found the position we were in in this country on Monday 2171 afternoon, and I think the hon. Member for Mansfield should at least have found that out before he made such a serious charge against any one of his colleagues in this House.
§ The PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY to the ADMIRALTY (Dr. Macnamara)
I hope that this matter will not be pursued, and that nothing will be said to create quite uncalled-for apprehension and quite uncalled-for irritation. I would point out that the Conciliation Board arrangement provides for three days holiday at this period—Bank Holiday, Tuesday and Wednesday. The Admiralty have no anxiety about their coal supply and certainly it is untrue that they were in want of coal at that time; but certain inquiries were made with a view of making doubly sure in all directions, so that there might be no delay in getting coal, and also in order, if I may say so, that undue inconvenience might not be caused to the private consumer over whom, at the present time, the Admiralty have all priority. That was one of the grounds for the inquiry. In point of fact a great many of the men did go to work on Tuesday—a great many of them, and they are all at work now. Further, I have the most complete assurances from the hon. Member for South Glamorgan that I can rely on him to do everything he can to secure that we shall get all the coal that we want. I hope the House will accept that from me in order there may not be any uncalled-for apprehension or irritation.
§ Mr. HAYES FISHER
I want to call the attention of the House for one moment to the provision that is to be made for the wives and children, and possibly, later on, the widows and orphans of our soldiers and sailors. On the last occasion on which we had a great war, as I said yesterday, an appeal was made by the Lord Mayor for one large fund, and that fund was distributed amongst the different societies in existence for the relief of those who suffered by reason of the war. I see that the Government, knowing that the area of distress will be very much larger on this occasion, have, in my opinion most rightly, issued an appeal of a much larger and wider character—that is, an appeal for funds for the relief of distress generally. I hope that those responsible for that appeal will co-operate with the Royal Patriotic Fund Corporation, the Soldiers' and Sailors' Families Association, and 2172 other bodies, one of which is, by Statute, compelled to take under its special charge the care of the widows and orphans of our soldiers and sailors. This morning there appears a very noble appeal headed by the Prince of Wales, and another not less nobly headed by the Queen Mother, while I have here a letter from His Royal Highness the Duke of Connaught, the President of the Royal Patriotic Fund Corporation, asking me to use my influence with the Lord Mayor to issue an appeal on behalf of the Royal Patriotic Fund Corporation for the widows and orphans who, I fear, will shortly appear on the scene. It seems a pity that there should be all these rival funds. It seems a pity there cannot be co-ordination. There should be one large fund, and that fund should be distributed, according to needs, through the various forms of machinery which have acted so well for many years past in the relief of these various persons. The most necessitous on this occasion, those whose needs are really immediate, are the wives and children of the soldiers and sailors. They cannot in all cases wait for the setting up of new machinery. Here is old machinery at work, and I hope that that existing machinery may be used. I ask the Government to consider if they cannot bring in all these useful bodies, so that there may be one large fund which may be distributed through the various organisations which exist at present for diffusing any relief which may be needed by those most deserving objects of the benevolence of the nation.
§ Mr. BECK
I do not wish to add to the burden on the shoulders of the Government, but I venture to make one small suggestion which I think will not in any way add to their trouble, but may do something to steady the conditions of our national life. If one takes a glance at the national conditions under warfare, one is struck by this fact, that while many trades are grievously affected, there are a few that possibly benefit by war conditions, and one of the greatest of these is agriculture. The suggestion I venture to make to the Government is this, that they should allow those of us who have a knowledge of and an interest in agricultural districts, to form ourselves into a non-party Committee, in connection with the Board of Agriculture, but not adding to the burdens of that Board, to see whether in the months to come we cannot employ every possible hand in agriculture. 2173 I believe that by organisation we could absorb a great deal of labour in the agricultural districts, which at present is not being employed there. There are Members in all parts of the House with a greater knowledge of this matter than I have, but I think very large profits will be made by agriculturists in this country as a result of the war, and I am convinced if we, so far from relaxing our efforts to develop the agricultural districts during war-time, were to increase them, we should by a little organisation employ a great number of people, either temporarily or permanently in those districts. I am thinking of cases where a farmer dies—and cases of that sort—where farms come into the hands of landlords. I am certain that patriotic landlords would give us every assistance in this national crisis. The feeling of all of us must be that the greater the number of people who can continue in their normal occupation during this crisis the better. Of course a great number of people will necessarily have to live an entirely different life in every way from that they live in peace time, but in the rural districts, if some system of organisation can be thought out, we have a reservoir which will absorb a good deal of unemployment and give occupation to people who are useless in the fighting line, such as old men and boys, and enable them to do a great deal towards the support of their families. I do not ask the Government to give me any complete answer at the moment, but I do ask them earnestly to consider the question. Certainly the Noble Lord who has been appointed President of the Board of Agriculture will readily give us facilities if we in this House agree to form ourselves into a non-party Committee to consider this grave question.
§ Mr. CHARLES BATHURST
I entirely agree with the appeal which the hon. Gentleman has made that all patriotic citizens who are not otherwise engaged in national service should turn their hands, as they most usefully may, to work in connection with the harvest and the resowing of the land as soon as possible in existing circumstances. I doubt, however, the efficacy or the advantage of a Parliamentary Committee to discuss the matter. There are most valuable means of effecting his purpose, but I doubt whether it would be most usefully effected through the medium of Members of this House joining forces on a non-party basis. A Belief Committee has been set up, and 2174 I am sure it must be a source of satisfaction to everyone in this House and to the country that steps had been taken so promptly to make arrangements for relief on an organised basis. I am glad to see that steps have been taken to fix maximum prices for groceries and other commodities. But the speculator is at work, not only in the towns but, I am sorry to say, to some extent in the country districts. The hon. Gentleman (Mr. Beck) has spoken of the possibility of farmers making huge profits. I hope the Government will make it impossible for the farmers or anyone else to make huge profits out of a national trouble. There is a serious danger to-day of persons turning national troubles to their own financial advantage, and I want to appeal to the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Government to take the earliest opportunity of putting a stop to any such possibility, even in the rural districts. The harvest is now being gathered in, and there is likely, at an early date, to be a very large quantity of wheat and other grain upon farm premises. May I appeal to the Government not to allow that valuable national asset to pass away from those farm premises, but that they will, at the earliest possible moment, take control of it themselves, so that they may deflect it to those particular parts of the country where there will be the most need for it in the course of the next few weeks. I want to make a very strong appeal to the Government not to rest satisfied with the organisation of the food supply in the towns, but at the earliest possible moment to take control of the food supply at present in the country districts and prevent it passing away from those places where the Government can most usefully control it, and from whence they may deflect it to those places where it will be most required.
§ 1.0 P.M.
§ Sir COURTENAY WARNER
I should like to say a word as to the funds. I think the Prince of Wales' Fund is for general distress, and it will not in any way be possible for the money subscribed to it to be given to either of the other two funds which are most important—either the Patriotic Fund for the wives and children, which is what we may call a permanent charge on the country, nor will it be possible, I understand—and I have good authority for saying so—for any of this money to be diverted to the wives and families of the Soldiers' and Sailors' Fund, which is 2175 already an institution, for which there is now some money, but for which large sums will be wanted. I should like to give a word of warning to those who subscribe that there are these three funds and not merely one. I hope all those who can will give all they can to all three funds. As to the question of stopping County Court actions, it is no doubt very important that people should not be pressed whenever possible, and that as great discretion as possible should be left to the County Court judge. I want to warn the Government and my Friends below the Gangway not to press too hard on the Government in this matter, because there is a danger, if the recovery of debts is made impossible, that the credit of the working man or the working man's wife may be injured. The credit of the working man's wife at the present moment is one of their most important assets, and anything that will in any way destroy that credit or prevent tradesmen giving them credit for a week or two will be the greatest injury that could be inflicted on the working-classes. I hope that the Government in anything they do will not in any way injure that credit.
§ Mr. SANDERSON
With regard to the point raised by the hon. Member for Barnard Castle (Mr. Arthur Henderson) as to the recovery of small debts, everybody must be in sympathy with the object the hon. Member has in view, inasmuch as the moratorium does not include small debts under £5, and there may be great pressure brought to bear in respect of hire purchase agreements and so forth. I desire to make a practical suggestion. I agree with the hon. Baronet who has just sat down, that the County Court judges have a very wide discretion in this matter. If they find in any particular case that there are facts which justify people not being called upon to pay, we may be perfectly certain that the County Court judges will exercise their discretion and stay execution, with the result that distraint will not be levied in cases where it ought not to be. The only practical suggestion I wish to make is that we who are County Court judges are familiar with circulars sent out by the Home Office with regard to matters that come before us. If the Government deals with this matter at all I suggest it might be dealt with by means of circulars sent out to the County Court judges calling their attention to the matter. The working classes will feel quite safe if the matter is 2176 left to the County Court judges, who are generally very lenient to the working-classes, and will take everything into consideration.
§ The CHANCELLOR of the EXCHEQUER (Mr. Lloyd George)
I regret I was not here when my hon. Friend called attention to this very important matter. I agree with the hon. and learned Gentleman opposite (Mr. Sanderson) that in so far as the discretion rests with the County Court judges—it does not always do so, as he knows—it will be exercised with great leniency and indulgence. I am sure a County Court judge would be giving the highest interpretation to his duty in doing so. From my experience I am sure they will exercise their functions sympathetically under the present conditions. Sometimes, of course, a County Court judge has no discretion, and the judgment and the warrant of distress go automatically.
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
I am not quite sure about the matter, because it is a very long time since I had anything to do with it. My own impression is that a good deal of the work goes automatically, and there is no discretion vested in the various officials. At the same time they can retard the action of the law where the law is harshly called into operation. I am sure my hon. Friend's experience is also mine, that the traders behave quite indulgently to the working classes where the failure to pay is not due to their fault. For instance, take the case of a great strike. I have never heard of any trader under these conditions issuing warrants for distress against workers who cannot pay.
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
That is quite true. They are really the workers bankers, and under those conditions I cannot imagine anyone exercising harshly his powers for the recovery of debt. Of course, there may be cases where a worker is in full work and either he or his wife has got into the habit of not paying their debts. I cannot see why the traders in that case should be deprived, under a sort of shadow of the moratorium, of the right of recovery of their debts, and that is why I will not at present take the responsibility of extending the moratorium until I am convinced that the traders are abusing their power, but I do not think they will. 2177 We shall discover that in a very short time, and it is better for the moment that there should be no interference with the power of the law under these conditions. On the whole we think it better to see how things are going. Another point which has been put is with regard to hire purchase agreements. I have had several letters from different parts of the country on this subject, and I think it is desirable that attention should be called to the proclamation of the law yesterday adopted by this House in reference to hire purchase agreements. In cases where the total amount of the original liabilities does not exceed £5 they are, I think, covered by the moratorium, notwithstanding that the instalments may be less than £5. It is very important that that should be known and I am glad my hon. Friend has given publicity to that fact. In a document like a moratorium proclamation it is impossible to deal by name with every form of debt, therefore I should be very glad if hon. Members would communicate with the Treasury if they have any special cases in which they wish to advise their constituents. The point raised by the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Hayes Fisher) has been dealt with by my right hon. Friend.
§ Mr. HAYES FISHER
There is one question he did not answer, and that is, what is going to be done for the widows of those who are killed in battle who married off the strength? There is no Government pension for them at present. I most earnestly plead for them, and I want to inform the right hon. Gentleman that the Royal Patriotic Fund Corporation, of which I am chairman, has no money at their disposal at present.
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
I can assure the right hon. Gentleman that all these questions have been very carefully considered by the Government. I do not think it would be advisable for us to announce a scheme prematurely. All that the House wishes to be assured, I think, is that the matter is being considered and that there will be a scheme to make provision for cases of this kind. That is the only answer I can give at present. I have also promised that the point raised by the hon. Member (Mr. C. Bathurst) shall be considered by the Committee that is now investigating the matter of our food supplies. I know that the question put by my hon. Friend (Mr. Beck) is being considered, but it is premature to make any declaration upon it. I think the suggestion which 2178 he put forward, that there should be a non-party Committee which would investigate and consider and report to the Government, would undoubtedly be very helpful to the Government itself. Naturally we do not wish to deal with a question of that kind controversially under present conditions. It would be very desirable that there should be a non-party Committee to consider such a suggestion. I am sure the House will like to hear what reports we have had up to the present of the way in which the new arrangements with regard to banks are proceeding. I think they are very satisfactory at present. There is no sign of panic or commotion anywhere. The Governor of the Bank reports that there is no pressure anywhere except at Manchester, and there is no difficulty in coping with it, and the people are paying in freely. There is, I understand, a small queue at the Bank of England, but they are mostly people who want small change more than anything else, and I am told they mostly look like foreigners. This is a specimen of the sort of report from a great Joint Stock Bank. Here is one of the greatest of them. "Things are going on perfectly quietly both in London and throughout the country. People are paying in quite freely." I am getting reports of the same kind from other great banks.
There is a disposition in some cases for people to cross their cheques to the Bank of England, with a view to getting their notes converted into gold. I hope that will not be encouraged by the banks. That is rather an unfriendly thing to do at present. I do not wish to add anything more than I said the other day about that. I hope it will be distinctly discouraged. We want our gold to be paid, if there is any demand, and we can pay it, but at the same time I do not think under present conditions it is a helpful thing—distinctly the contrary—for any citizen of the United Kingdom to take part in a process of that kind. Luckily it is not serious, and it is only an indication which one finds in just a few places throughout the country. Here is the latest report I have had from another great bank. "Working wonderfully smoothly; nothing abnormal." I have taken steps, through the officers of the Inland Revenue and the Customs, to ascertain throughout the country, not merely whether in the banks things are working satisfactorily, but whether the traders think that the banks are working satisfactorily, because, 2179 after all, the Government came to their assistance in a time of great crisis, but on the express condition that they were to give help to the traders of the country. We want to keep things going, and working normally, and if that is done I think that we should save any kind of disaster. There may be unemployment and short time, but I agree with the Leader of the Opposition that things will recover, and in a very short time, certainly after a few weeks things will be working well throughout the country, and there will be no great distress. But we must have the assistance of the bankers and of all the great business interests in order to enable us to do so, and I hope by Monday to have reports from every part of the country showing, not merely from the bankers' point of view, whether things are working well, but also from the traders' point of view, whether the banks are helping them to keep things going. At present I have no further reports to give, but on Monday I hope I shall be able to give these reports, and for the moment I am sure the House will be very delighted to realise that things are working freely, and that people are keeping their heads, and I think that is very creditable to the people of the country under the circumstances.
§ Lord C. BERESFORD
I am sure the right hon. Gentleman will forgive me for asking a question with regard to the widows and orphans who are certain to be created before very long. He says he has a Committee inquiring into that, particularly with regard to soldiers marrying off the strength. Could he indicate in any way how soon that Committee will report? A few shillings at the moment are far more important to these poor people than a larger sum later on. In the face of the terrible suffering resulting from having lost the breadwinners, they will very often be in pecuniary circumstances of great gravity to themselves, and a few shillings would tide them over at a moment of extreme anxiety. I would ask the right hon. Gentleman to indicate, if he can, when the Committee will report. If he can do so, the announcement would tend to relieve the anxiety. We have already lost a large number of men, and if the right hon. Gentleman would give the indication which I now ask, it would cheer up the people who have suffered bereavement.
§ Mr. KING
I want on behalf of the children of England to make an appeal 2180 especially to the Board of Education and the Chancellor of the Exchequer. I speak on behalf of the children in schools who are still paying fees. There are 400 ordinary public elementary schools—not higher elementary schools at all—in which there are no less than 138,000 children for whom school fees are being paid at the present time. I have been reading a speech which was made by the Chancellor of the Exchequer on 25th November, 1902, and I could quote from it with effect on this point if I chose to weary the House by so doing. But I do not propose to read quotations. I make this appeal because I have constantly brought the question of school fees before the House. Let me point out one or two facts. These schools are almost all in industrial districts, like Lancashire and Cheshire, and they are in towns where the distress which is very likely to occur will be serious. I have facts showing that in some of these schools where fees are paid arrangements, for the supply of meals had to be organised all last winter. The children have been bringing the schools pence and receiving free meals all winter. I appeal to the Chancellor of the Exchequer that, at any rate, something might be done through the Board of Education to call the attention of local education authorities and school managers to their powers in this matter. I believe that a great deal of real benefit in the way of relieving distress-might be done in this way, and more especially by entirely sweeping away the school pence in the industrial districts.
§ Mr. JOYNSON-HICKS
The hon. Gentleman has assumed the responsibility of speaking on behalf of certain school children. I know something of these schools, for I had the honour of representing a, division of Manchester for some time. The hon. Member tells us that the schools are in large towns in Lancashire and Cheshire. That is perfectly true, but at the same time I think it right to say that the schools are in districts where there are alternative non-fee paying schools. The schools to which the hon. Member refers exist because the parents of the children attending them desire to pay fees. There is no doubt about that fact, and I am certain that the hon. Member is not speaking with any authority on behalf of the parents whose children attend the schools where fees are paid.
§ Captain TRYON
I have a suggestion to make most respectfully in an entirely nonparty way to the Chancellor of the Exchequer. It is with respect to a matter which I believe will be of some help to many people at this very difficult time. The point is a very simple one. I believe this war may be partly decided by questions relating to the financial and commercial endurance of the different countries involved. A Committee is now inquiring into our food supplies. I suggest that a Committee should be formed to inquire at once into the probable consequences of the war on our trade and production. Ministers are too busy at present to attend to that matter themselves, but I believe it would be of enormous advantage if information could be obtained on the subject. I would suggest that a Committee should be appointed to find out, for the help and guidance of the Government, how the State could help to maintain our credit and provide employment for people who will be affected by the war, and also to ascertain where the greatest distress will be likely to occur, so that the information obtained will be available in connection with the distribution of the money. The whole of our trade with Germany will be suspended. In other cases, however, we should receive a monopoly of the overseas trade. I think such a body as I suggest could ascertain which trades will be most injured by the war and which trades will be benefited. I believe that such information would be valuable to the Government in the distribution of the money and in helping the trades which are affected. For example, certain occupations will give more employment, such as Royal Naval shipbuilding, ordnance factories, and, I hope, agriculture. Other trades will probably give less employment; for instance, trades that fail to get cheap raw material, etc. If we had such a Committee, it would be helpful in finding out the districts to which should be sent such help as can be given by the Road Board and by means of the funds which the Chancellor of the Exchequer has providentially accumulated. In giving relief I think we should work on these lines. In the first place, it should be given to industries which can be saved by State intervention; secondly, help should be given by means of money granted by the Road Board; and, finally, if we cannot keep trade going in any other 2182 way, we should take steps which will enable people to maintain their efficiency while the war is going on. We should endeavour to see that no one will be left without food.
§ Mr. NIELD
I wish to refer to the financial situation in order to ascertain from the Chancellor of the Exchequer certain information which, I think, it is desirable we should have. I wish to know whether the £1 notes available this morning have been issued in sufficient amount, because, on making application for them, I was told that there was a hitch, and that bankers could not obtain them. I do not know that that is true, because they were circulated this morning. I wish to know from the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether there was any shortage of what he anticipated would go out this morning. I should like to know also when the 10s. note is likely to be available, because it is most important for all classes that it should be in circulation, if possible, on Saturday when wages come to be paid. I hope I will be able to get an answer why the largo banks in London were not able to issue pound notes this morning.
§ Mr. ROWLAND HUNT
May I ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether he can say what has been done to prevent local shopkeepers in towns from raising unduly the price of food and necessaries for the very poor? The very poor are the people who suffer most, and they have already suffered. I would like to know what steps the right hon. Gentleman has taken to prevent this suffering from increasing?
§ Mr. TICKLER
Arising out of the remarks of the Chancellor of the Exchequer as to the effect of the moratorium on hire purchases, I want to be quite clear as to the measures which have been taken. It is well known that under the hire purchase system the persons who send out the goods on hire have a right by the agreement to seize the goods if the instalments are overdue. Have any steps been taken to prevent this being done?
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
In answer to the question of the hon. Member who has last spoken, all legal processes will be suspended by the moratorium, and not only will the person who supplies the goods on hire not be entitled to recover in the Courts, but he will not be entitled to exercise any other legal 2183 right in connection with the debt. Therefore, in the position which I indicated earlier in the day, the person who has been supplied with the goods would be protected from interference with them. In reference to the question raised by the hon. Member for Brighton, he put forward a valuable suggestion which is worthy of consideration by the Government. As he pointed out, the money accumulated by the Development Fund and even under the Road Board was, it was contemplated, to be used in a time of exceptional distress, and accumulations have been made with that object. I am very glad to be able to say that they represent a very considerable sum of money which will be available for expenditure in a time of distress of this kind. Not only that, but I believe that there have been considerable schemes prepared with that object. The matter referred to by the hon. Member for Shropshire is under the consideration of a Cabinet Committee, assisted by experts in the various trades. I think that they will be able to make an announcement very shortly. They have already, I think, succeeded in checking to a very large extent the rise in prices which was quite unnecessary, and not due to any scarcity, but due very largely to an anticipation of scarcity. I am very sorry to say that in some cases people have taken advantage of that in order to put up prices. On the whole I think that the traders have behaved with creditable self-restraint and self-respect. Some of them have not, but I think that in a very short time they will see the error of their ways and follow the very laudable general practice of people engaged in the same business. My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary, I hope, will be able to make an announcement, before the House adjourns, upon this important subject. In reply to the hon. Member for Ealing, the printing of the bank notes has not merely come up to anticipation but has exceeded it, so that we are able to distribute more notes than we anticipated when the announcement was made in the House. I am sorry to hear from the hon. Gentleman that some banks have not been well supplied with the notes. I heard something about it, and I communicated instantly with the authorities, who will see that this is remedied at once. We have had no complaints from leading banks on the subject.
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
I said "leading" banks. I have had no special news about the distribution, but in the reports which I have had from the banks there is no complaint in this respect. I agree with the hon. Gentleman that it is desirable to get the ten shilling notes out as fast as the printers can manage it. Up to the present they have done better than they promised when the arrangement was first made with them. My right hon. Friend, the Financial Secretary to the Admiralty, will answer the question of the Noble Lord, who will, I think, find the answer quite satisfactory. A Cabinet Committee is dealing with the question of general distress, and the matter to which he called attention is being dealt with by the Admiralty in its own Department.
§ Dr. MACNAMARA
The Noble Lord put some questions with regard to delays that might arise in meeting claims for grants to widows, allowances to children, gratuities to parents and other relatives of sailors, marines and other seafaring persons. I can assure him that no delay whatever will take place in meeting claims. The matter has been the subject of several discussions with myself, and the claimants' branch of the Accountant-General Department are ready to move with the utmost expedition. The moment the persons can be identified the allowances will be made. The Noble Lord will be interested to hear that already the machinery is moving to identify the claims of relatives of the unfortunate men who went down in the "Amphion," and we shall certainly have no delay in this matter. With regard to the wives and children, in the case of the War Office I have no doubt that the same expedition will be used. The other aspect of the question raised by the Noble Lord is the case of the Reservist who is mobilised, and he asked what is to happen to the wife and children while the man is away. The Noble Lord knows that on mobilisation a man receives a month's pay. I can only speak for the Navy in this respect. In the War Office the practice is different. They receive their separation allowances. I think that in some cases men may have had time to hand their wives some or all of their money before embarkation, but not in a great many cases, because mobilisation was so rapid. Therefore, as far as that month's pay is concerned, in the vast majority of cases it is no immediate assistance to the wife and children. The Noble 2185 Lord knows that the sailor can make remittances to his wife and children, and he can make a declaration that he desires to make a regular monthly allotment. These are coming in in vast numbers since mobilisation, and we shall make allotments to the wives. These allotments will not be payable until the 1st of September. This is the 7th August. With regard to the intervening period there are a great many organisations and there are great kindnesses and enthusiasm on the part of private persons and others connected with the Service. We will undoubtedly do all we can in the various Departments to see to the wives and children, and we are considering whether it will be possible, though I can give no definite assurance on the point, to make the payment of the allotments forthwith rather than hold them to the 1st September. Though I cannot give any definite assurance, the Noble Lord knows that our interest in regard to the matter is just as keen as his.
§ Bill read the third time, and passed.