HC Deb 10 August 1914 vol 65 cc2308-35

Message to attend the Lords Commissioners.

The House went, and, having returned,

Mr. SPEAKER reported the Royal Assent to,—

  1. 1. Anglo-Persian Oil Company (Acquisition of Capital) Act, 1914.
  2. 2. East African Protectorates (Loans) Act, 1914.
  3. 3. Labourers (Ireland) Act, 1914.
  4. 4. County Town and Parish Councils (Qualification) (Scotland) Act, 1914.
  5. 5. Diseases of Animals (Ireland) Act, 1914.
  6. 6. Entail (Scotland) Act, 1914.
  7. 7. Feudal Casualties (Scotland) Act, 1914.
  8. 8. Intermediate Education (Ireland) Act, 1914.
  9. 9. Merchant Shipping (Certificates) Act, 1914.
  10. 10. Merchant Shipping (Convention) Act, 1914.
  11. 11. Milk and Dairies (Scotland) Act, 1914.
  12. 12. Metropolitan Police (Employment in Scotland) Act, 1914.
  13. 13. National Insurance (Part II. Amendment) Act, 1914.
  14. 14. Elementary Education (Defective and Epileptic Children) Act, 1914.
  15. 15. Osborne Estate Act, 1914.
  16. 16. Criminal Justice Administration Act, 1914.
  17. 17. Injuries in War (Compensation) Act, 1914.
  18. 18. Police Reservists (Allowances) Act, 1914.
  19. 19. Public Works Loans Act, 1914.
  20. 20. Education (Provision of Meals) (Ireland) Act, 1914.
  21. 21. Bankruptcy Act, 1914.
  22. 22. Deeds of Arrangement Act, 1914.
  23. 23. Housing Act, 1914.
  24. 24. Milk and Dairies Act, 1914.
  25. 25. Unreasonable Withholding of Food Supplies Act, 1914.
  26. 26. Housing (No. 2) Act, 1914.
  27. 27. Special Constables (Scotland) Act, 1914.
  28. 2309
  29. 28. Constabulary and Police (Ireland) Act, 1914.
  30. 29. Rivers Navigation Improvement (Ireland) Act, 1914.
  31. 30. Town Charities (Extension) Act, 1914.
  32. 31. Local Government Board's Provisional Order Confirmation (No. 3) Act, 1914.
  33. 32. Local Government Board's Provisional Order Confirmation (No. 18) Act, 1914.
  34. 33. Local Government Board's Provisional Order Confirmation (No. 19) Act, 1914.
  35. 34. Kirkcaldy Corporation Order Confirmation Act, 1914.
  36. 35. Wick Harbour Order Confirmation Act, 1914.
  37. 36. Edinburgh and District Water Confirmation Act, 1914.
  38. 37. York Corporation Act, 1914.
  39. 38. Sheffield Corporation Act, 1914.


The Port of London Authority, as I understand it, have stopped dredging for Thames ballast. The importance of this is that this ballast is used extensively for making cement for building operations, and, as one may hope that building work will be soon resumed in London, it would seem a very great pity if that industry should again be stopped through a lack of ballast. I do not know what may be the reason of the Port Authority for taking this step—no doubt they are very good ones, but I mention the subject in the hope that the Financial Secretary may be good enough to look into it and see if anything can be done in the matter.


I wish to ask a question of the Board of Trade as to the embargo placed on the exportation of food supplies. At Grimsby a very large business is carried on in salt fish. The fish is not consumed in this country. It is exported mainly to Catholic countries—Spain, Portugal and Italy. There are a great number of people employed in the business and they are at present thrown out of employment. Their produce is perishing, because it is not cured sufficiently to keep for any definite period. It will only keep a short time in fact, and they would like to know whether the Government cannot allow the export of this fish to go on so long as they are assured that the food is not going to a country with which we are engaged in war. It is a very important industry for Grimsby. It is stopped at present, the food will perish because it is not consumed in this country, and there is only a foreign market for it.

Colonel YATE

I would like to say a word or two in support of what has fallen from the hon. Member for Stoke (Mr. John Ward) with regard to Reservists obtaining re-employment at the conclusion of the war. I should like the Under-Secretary to give us an assurance that some measures will be taken to try and enlist the sympathy of employers generally throughout the country so that by co-operation, the claims of these men when they come back at the close of the war may receive just consideration. There is one other subject mentioned by the hon. Member for East Nottingham (Sir J. D. Rees), with regard to Indian officers on leave in this country. I believe some hundreds are going out by steamer to-morrow, and I presume some measures will be taken to escort them, if necessary, on reaching the Mediterranean. I do not know there is any urgent call for them in India, whereas there is an urgent demand for officers for the new force of 100,000 men which is to be raised, and certainly these officers might be much more profitably employed in England training and drilling the men. It is, I know, a question for the India Office to consider, and I earnestly hope it will not be lost sight of. I also hope that the claims of Reservists for employment when they return home will be given priority.


I can only speak by leave of the House, but as a large number of questions have been put to me I ask the indulgence of the House while I endeavour to answer them. The hon. Member for Colchester (Mr. Worthington Evans) inquired about pensions, and whether those for Reservists would be on the same scale as those given to men on the strength. I do not think he will expect me to answer that off-hand. It is a matter for the Treasury as much as for the War Office, but I promise to give it careful consideration, and I hope to be in a position to answer his question very shortly, because I quite recognise that it is one which should be decided soon. The hon. Member also raised the question as to the employment of civilians in a semi-military capacity, and the organisation of them in groups—not exactly regiments, but, say, camps—in order to aid the civil power in the event of disturbance. I may inform the House it is proposed to set up committees which will act as a connecting link between the Territorial Associations all over the country and the military commanders in the various districts, and it is hoped by that means we may be able to establish a body on which will be represented local gentlemen of influence, with special local knowledge which would be of value in relation to these matters. These committees will act as a connecting link between the Territorial Associations and the military forces, and by that means some organisation may be set up which may redound to the advantage of the locality. The Noble Lord the Member for Portsmouth (Lord C. Beresford) was good enough to postpone a question which, owing to great pressure, I was unable to answer at the moment. The question was—

"Whether the Under-Secretary of State for War will consider the position of officers of the Territorial Forces of small means and with many calls upon them, with a view to making them a Grant for the purchase of the equipment with which they are required to provide themselves on mobilisation, having regard to the pecuniary sacrifices they are making on behalf of their country."

My reply is:—

"Under existing Regulations, these officers have all received outfit allowance, and on mobilisation they are entitled to the camp-kit allowance given to Regular officers and to a gratuity of £5 in addition. These sums should suffice to cover the purchase of equipment."

6.0 P.M.

I think the Noble Lord will find this is a very liberal allowance, and, considering the enormous number of claims on the Government at the present moment, he probably will not make complaint. My hon. Friend the Member for Woolwich (Mr. Crooks) asked one or two questions. To one a reply will be given by the Secretary to the Admiralty. But the hon. Member asked, as did also the hon. Member for Louth, as to the increased charges for food, and the excessive prices paid by the Government for food for the military forces of the Crown, and, I believe, also he suggested for civilians. The latter is really a Home Office question. But on the subject generally I may remind the House that in the last few days we have passed an Act of Parliament, to which the Royal Assent has been given in the House of Lords, intituled, "An Act for the Acquisition of Food." I think that is really an almost complete answer to the question put by the two hon. Members. In reply to the hon. Member for Faversham (Mr. Wheler). I would say that considering the enormous number of horses which the military authorities of the Crown have lately acquired, it is not surprising that I should be asked a few questions of this kind. Indeed, I am surprised that there have not been more complaints and a deeper growl at the great depredation which it is to many civilians throughout the country, especially in connection with farming operations at the present time. I think it redounds to the credit of the Remount Department that this acquisition of horses has been made on so vast a scale, as I hope it has been made with so little dislocation of trade. Having said so much, I cannot believe the complaint brought to me is quite well-founded, that a lady or a gentleman, I forget which, driving in a gig was stopped, the horse taken out of the gig and the person left to look after it. I cannot believe that was done by a responsible officer of His Majesty's Government. I cannot help thinking that that was a case which ought to have been referred to the local police. I should not be at all surprised if there are isolated individual cases of that kind. The hon. Gentleman asked me whether these remount buyers or impounders were armed with a certificate or document of some kind. If they are not, I believe they will be.


If we can have a Government assurance on that point that they are in future to have them it would give confidence in the future.


The hon. Gentleman says "in the future." I hope he is not contemplating the mobilisation of the Army being a constant action on the part of the British Government.


They have not finished getting all the horses yet.


I will endeavour to see that it is done, if it has not been done. The House will realise that the great bulk of the work of the acquisition of the horses has already been effected. The hon. Member for the Handsworth Division of Staffordshire (Mr. Meysey-Thompson) asked me if exception would be made in the case of single horses. I think they certainly should be made exceptions. I do not want that to be taken literally in every case, but it certainly is desired that exception should be made in the cases of owners of single horses.


The right bon. Gentleman formerly stated that horses employed in the distribution of food should not be taken. I have known instances where a butcher's only horse has been taken. That is the sort of case I mean. I am quite sure the right hon. Gentleman is most anxious that it should not be done.


I have already told the House that the owners of horses engaged in the distribution of food shall in no cases have more than 50 per cent. of their horses taken, and, if there is a single horse, of course it will not be taken. I have been asked whether it would be possible for the War Office to pay the rents of women married both on and off the strength who are left behind. I have already informed the House at some length of the steps the Government have taken in order to provide for the women married on the strength, and now, according to the statement made by the Prime Minister, of those married off the strength as well. Having regard to the fact that funds are being raised, including the Prince of Wales's Fund, and that a very large sum is at the disposal of the President of the Local Government Board which is to be distributed by the committee of mayors, and also having regard to the fact that for the first time we are giving a separation allowance to women married off the strength, it is not possible for us to contemplate the actual payment of rent. I do not think the House ought to ask it of us. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear!"] I am glad to hear the cheers of the small remnant of economists left in the House. The hon. Member for Stoke (Mr. John Ward) and the hon. and gallant Member for the Melton Division (Colonel Yate) raised the most difficult problem of all—that of keeping places open for men who are going to fight the battles for their King and country. I think most good employers, after demobilisation, will do everything in their power to reinstate men who return from the war. A large number of employers have already announced their intention to pay one-half of the wages of the men who are going to the front. I have certainly done it on my own estate. Every consideration will be given by the Government to their own servants who are now joining the Colours and going to the front. The class to whom my hon. Friend (Mr. MacCallum Scott) alluded as being servants of this House are not permanent servants, but are engaged from time to time. They will be given the utmost consideration. The hon. Member for East Nottingham (Sir J. D. Rees) alluded to the Indian officers who are here on leave, and who will be ordered to return to their regiments in India. Primarily, that is an India Office question, and it is not possible for me to answer it. All I can promise to do is to represent to my Noble Friend the Secretary of State for War that it might be most useful, as the hon. Member has said, that those officers should be employed, or as many of them as the India Office can spare from India, in training the new 100,000 recruits.


Will the right hon. Gentleman answer my question as to the local organisation for the distribution of relief?


I cannot give an answer to that. The matter is engaging the very earnest attention of the Government, and my hon. Friend knows that it is under the consideration of the Mayors' Committee.


The statement announcing the Press censorship, under the direction of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Walton Division (Mr. F. E. Smith), is a somewhat brief one—


The hon. Member should put a question down.


The hon. Member for Woolwich (Mr. Crooks) asked me a question arising out of the answer given by the Prime Minister this afternoon, when he announced new Regulations making provision for half-pay to married Civil servants and others who were called to the service of the Crown. The hon. Member asked whether that would also apply to the case of the workmen in the dockyards and other naval establishments and at Woolwich and other War Office establishments, whether the men were established or not established? I have examined the answer with great care, and have sent it across to our office to be examined. No doubt it will require examination by the Treasury as well. If my hon. Friend will communicate with me, I will give him an answer immediately on the point whether the men he mentioned are included in those Regulations. My hon. Friend the Member for Walworth (Mr. Dawes) tells me that we have stopped the dredging of the Thames for ballast. I was not aware of it. It may be that it is for military reasons—I cannot say. If I had had notice I would have ascertained the fact. He makes the point that while it may be necessary for military reasons, it will undoubtedly dislocate a particular industry, and may therefore be expected to give rise to unemployment. He knows that the Advisory Committee is watching all these dislocations of trade with great care with a view to adjustment, so far as possible, wherever opportunity arises. I will refer this point to the Advisory Committee.


I wish to press upon the Government as strongly as I can the injustice that is being done—inadvertently, no doubt—to shippers of cargoes as compared with shipowners under the new insurance scheme. There appears to be, from the Report of the Committee, an agreement which has been in force for some time between the State and the shipowners as to what would happen in the event of war. By that agreement the shipowner is enabled to carry on his voyage to the detriment of the cargo owner—that is to say, that the State has agreed to pay 80 per cent. of the risk current upon all vessels which are at sea at the time of the outbreak of war, so that ships may go on to their ultimate destination. According to usage and custom, when war breaks out, a vessel runs to her nearest port of safety, not only for her own safety, but also for the safety of the cargo, whereas under this arrangement the ship is going on to her destination, although she may have on board a cargo three or four times the value of the ship, which is uninsured, and which cannot be insured at the present time at any reasonable rate. I have an instance before me to-day where the owner of cargo is being asked at Lloyd's to pay 15 per cent. on his cargo, while the ship is being insured by the State for nothing. I wish to impress upon the Government that by the arrangement they have made with the shipowners a ship is going to act differently from the way she ever did before, and that a cargo owner is thereby prejudiced. I am aware that the Committee, whose Report was circulated this week, reported against insuring the cargo, but they recognised that hardship is being inflicted. The Report says:— The owners of cargo may find themselves compelled to run uncommercial risks which may prove uninsurable except at prohibitive rates. They go on to give reasons why the State should not insure cargo on the same terms as the ship. Those reasons do not appear to me to be well-founded. I speak with all respect, knowing the very capable and clever people who sit on that committee, but I would point out that the committee was composed practically entirely of shipowners and underwriters. It is true that the chairman is known by everybody to be a great authority on commercial matters, but he is a banker and an underwriter, and on the committee there was no representative of the cargo interest at all.


made an observation which was inaudible in the Reporters' Gallery.


They were not owners of cargo in the same way as a shipper or trader who is shipping on his own account. By this arrangement the State is going to run 80 per cent. and the shipowner only 20 per cent., so the additional risk which the cargo is taking is equivalent to 80 per cent. of the premium charged upon the vessel. If the insurance under the plan was to date only from the neutral port, or the first port of safety that the vessel could put into, the cargo owner would have nothing to say, because then the ship would run for her nearest port in the same way as before. But now she is encouraged to continue her voyage to the detriment of the ship. It is said in the Report of the Committee that the cargo owner will be able to recoup himself by the higher prices which may eventually be obtained for his cargo, but I should think that in ninety out of a 100 cases these cargoes are sold ahead before they are shipped. Very little merchandise is shipped in these days unsold.

There is another point that the Committee recommend at the end of their Report, which is that their recommendations should be immediately made public so that the trading community would have notice of what was proposed. That, indeed, would have been a great safeguard to the trading community if it had been done. The Report is dated 30th April, but the first we heard of it was last week when war had practically broken out. There are other matters in connection with the present state of affairs which need to be considered. Under the conditions of the moratorium the payment of freight is one of the few exceptions. The importer in this country is bound to pay his freight and the exporter has to pay the freight on the goods exported, but how is the importer to pay the freight, when there is a moratorium, on the value of a cargo which is coming in? If no one is obliged to pay the importer how is the importer to find the money to pay the freight? In the same way the exporter of coal, for instance, shipping his coal abroad, is obliged to pay the freight on the cargo, but in turn the shipowner who takes the cargo for bunker coal, or something of that sort, is not obliged to pay for it until the expiry of the moratorium. Another matter which has been brought to my notice, and which I think requires the attention of the Government, is the triple bond which has to be given for the export of cargo from this country. The shipper of the cargo from this country has no control over the cargo once it is put into the ship. The shipowner and the captain are the only people who can control the destination of the cargo once it is on board, and it does not seem right that the exporter should have to find a triple bond for the cargo which is going abroad and which leaves his control directly it is on board the ship, and I cannot see how he is to obtain that triple bond from any reasonable person.


I rise to ask some representative of the Government whether, with regard to the appointment of the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. F. E. Smith) which was announced to the House the other day as the channel by which official information should be given to the newspapers, and, therefore, to the public, a further detail could be added, somewhat along these lines, that the public might know which communications had passed through his hands and were official, so that in reading one's newspaper one might see these items of information which will be beyond doubt and which might easily be separated from the general cluster of rumours which go about in the Press, and many of which are needlessly disturbing.


I want to bring before the House a matter which was dealt with briefly by the President of the Board of Trade this afternoon in reply to a question. In the engineering trade and the calico trade, German patents are very extensively used in this country. Anyone who wishes to use them at present has no means of getting hold of the patentees in Germany who supply the article, and there is no provision in the Patents Act under which the article can be manufactured in this country without arrangement with the patentee himself. Under what is termed "The Lloyd George protection of industry"—the Patent Act—it is provided that an article patented should be manufactured within a certain time in this country, but owing to a decision by Mr. Justice Parker (now Lord Parker), the onus of proof whether the article was manufactured in this country or not was thrown on the person objecting to the patent. People must use these German patents and I do not know how the Government are going to deal with them. I think they will probably have to bring in a Bill in a fortnight's time to enable manufacturers in this country to put down a plant to manufacture these goods, which are at present manufactured in Germany, but which it is essential now should be manufactured in this country, and I hope the President of the Board of Trade will, during the Adjournment, bring his immediate attention to this question. I can assure him that, particularly in the engineering trade, the matter is one of urgency.

There is another matter that I want to bring before the attention of the Board of Education. The district in which I live is near a military camp, and practically all the horses have been taken and a great many men have been called away with the Colours, and the consequence is that there is a great shortage of labour in gathering in the harvest. I want to know whether the President of the Board of Education would issue an Order. I do not know whether he has any Parliamentary powers, but he has the power not to prosecute in cases where children are used for the purpose of helping to gather in the harvest. At a time like this, when it is so necessary that the harvest should be got in, the children in the agricultural districts—boys and girls of the ages of twelve and fourteen—could be, and ought to be, utilised in getting in the harvest. It would be necessary for the Board of Education to inform the school attendance officers that in cases where these children were taken from the schools for the purpose of getting in the harvest no prosecution should take place. I did not trouble the President of the Board of Education to be here, and if the Patronage Secretary will kindly convey these remarks to him I shall be grateful.


I want a point cleared up which was not satisfactorily cleared up this afternoon with regard to the payment of the Territorials. It is not a small point. It is one which affects a very large number of men, and it is one which is felt strongly by the men themselves. Recently, when speaking to a man on this point, I said, "You are getting 2s. 7d. a day; you are allowed to assign 1s. 7d. to your wife, and keep 1s. yourself under the Regulations. You need have no fear, because the distress committees, if there is any difficulty with regard to your wife, will see that there is no want." The answer came back, I am glad to say very quickly, from a good many of these good fellows, "Yes, but that is charity, and we would rather send our money ourselves." I understand the regulation at present is that when a man is on foreign service and in the Regular Army he may assign the whole amount. But surely this is a time when red-tape might be done away with altogether, and if it is any question of a distinction being drawn between the Regular Army and the Territorials, or between men on active service out of the country and in the country, that might be swept away, and if, when men are on active service abroad and are in the Regular Army, they are allowed to assign the whole or such portion of their pay as they think fit to their wives, that ought to be allowed equally to the Territorials, although they are not sent out of the country. Their difficulty in sending money to their wives may be almost as great as if they were serving abroad. The post may be irregular and their difficulties may be almost as great as though they were abroad. I will ask the representative of the Government to see whether this suggestion of mine cannot be carried to the proper authority, and that the Territorials should be allowed to assign the whole of their pay, or such portion as they think fit, even though it is more than the 1s. 7d. at present allowed, so that their wives may receive payment regularly as from the Government, and the Territorials themselves may not be put to the trouble and possible confusion of having to take the 7s. a week which they receive and get postal orders and send it back to their wives themselves.


There are one or two practical points which has occurred to me during my visit to my Constituency for the week-end that I should like to put before the representative of the Board of Trade. The first point that arises is that many shopkeepers are refusing to accept £1 notes as legal tender, and are offering discount to poor people who know no better, giving the impression that they are not worth a sovereign. Of course this is a serious matter, and I do not know what power the Board of Trade and the Government have in prosecuting or otherwise punishing people for behaving unlawfully. The second point is the question of the Government food prices. Are these food prices compulsorily enforceable, and, if so, by whom, or are they merely advisory? Has the Committee which is regulating these prices any power or will a Bill be passed giving local authorities power to compel people to sell at these prices? Otherwise it will be of relatively little value in provincial towns. The third point has been mentioned before. It is the question of closing public-houses. I have found that the licensing magistrates I have spoken to are unanimously of the opinion that public-houses ought to be shut throughout the country at seven o'clock for two reasons, the importance of people economising whatever money they have, and the danger of large bodies of unemployed men, having nothing to do, spending their time in public-houses and becoming more unmanageable by taking intoxicating liquor. The magistrates, of course, although they have the power to close public-houses earlier in cases of apprehended riot, have no power to deal with it unless they apprehend riot. Of course, in many cases it may be possible that riots may break out, but the apprehension is not sufficiently justified to allow the licensing bench to interfere. I understand that in France, for instance, they have very much curtailed the hours of all licensed premises. I think a short Bill would be generally welcomed by all classes in this country in this great crisis, and would be very valuable and very beneficial indeed.

Then, there is the question which has been creating a great deal of interest and anxiety in South Wales, and will also probably affect other parts of the country. That is the very important question of obtaining pit props. If they cannot obtain pit props, our collieries will cease work. A large amount of pit props come from the Baltic, and that source, of course, is closed at the present time. I would like to ask whether the Commissioners of Woods and Forests could not get some of their experts to inquire as to the timber that may be available in England. Timber in the New Forest used to provide a supply of pit props, and I wish to know whether the Commissioners could work out a scheme under which this timber would be made available by cutting, in order to supply collieries with what they require. If that could be done, you would at the same time be giving employment to people who may otherwise be unemployed. I cannot say how serious may be the detriment to the industries of this country through lack of timber. There is another point which perhaps the Board of Trade may take up. I find that a very large number of pit horses are being requisitioned by the military. Of course, we do not wish to interfere with the requisitioning of horses by the Territorials or the Regular Army. In some cases half of the horses are taken away, and I wish to know whether it is actually necessary for troops who are not going to the front immediately to requisition horses of this character. I think the Board of Trade might have a conference with the military authorities, because naturally they scarcely look at the thing in the same way as those engaged in industries. These are some of the points which have been put to me, and I would be glad if the Board of Trade would take them into consideration and make some kind of announcement which would put people's minds at rest.


I desire to call the attention of the Board of Trade to a matter which is rather urgent, namely, the breakdown of the ordinary machinery for conveying food supplies to this country. Last week the Chancellor of the Exchequer announced an insurance scheme which should cover cargoes of wheat coming to this country. The prompt way in which the Government have dealt with that matter has prevented the prices of wheat and flour rising to an unreasonable height. A further development which has taken place is likely to be rather serious. Six million quarters of wheat are contracted for at low prices to come to this country from the United States and Canada. That wheat has appreciated in value something like £3,000,000 or £4,000,000. It is also contracted for at low freights. The first difficulty was that Americans could not ship the wheat because they could not get an insurance of the war risk. The Government stepped forward, and a war risk insurance is now obtainable. A number of large shipowners are cancelling freights which had been booked to bring the grain to this country. That is a very serious matter. We have had a lot of legislation passed through very rapidly dealing with shopkeepers and merchants in this country, but there are a large number of people—I know one of the largest shipowners—who own tramp steamers, and I am told that they are cancelling charter parties. That is a very serious thing, and one which the Board of Trade ought at once to inquire into, because if these charters are broken, shippers of wheat and other cheap foodstuffs coming to this country will find at once that they cannot ship wheat or flour, because the British shipowner has broken his contract.

Another difficulty which has arisen is this. We know that bankers have been in consultation with the Treasury, and that the Treasury has given every assistance in their power to keep money at the normal price, and to make the flow of trade go on as nearly as possible in the normal course. The shippers who produce all kinds of articles have drawn and attached to their documents statements that war risks can now be guaranteed by the British Government. What is happening? Not only are shipowners cancelling the charter parties and freights which were booked—and I suppose freights have been advanced—but they are now able to secure better freights in view of the Government guarantee against war risks. Bankers in the United States and Canada are refusing, although the war risks are guaranteed by the British Government, to negotiate the documents. I think the Board of Trade should bring British bankers together in order to see whether some arrangement could be come to by which they could advise their banking friends in other countries, so that these contracts may be carried out. It is very important that this wheat and flour should come forward with all speed. It is the only part of the world where the crop is ready to be shipped to this country. The harvest is earlier in America, and it is of the utmost importance to this country in every way that the wheat contracted for should be sent over here. If the machinery for shipping the wheat which has been contracted for is upset, if the wheat is thrown on the market and has to be resold, and if a freight has to be rebooked and drafts rearranged, it is going to put the price up considerably. What I think is so important is that the price of food may be kept as low as possible.

I do think that the Board of Trade should put this matter before the bankers, because I believe if it is put before them, in view of the fact that they themselves are, I understand, being assisted in their emergency, they will do what they can to benefit the poor people of the country. All the documents in relation to shipments to Liverpool, Hull, and Leith come through London, and I believe if a meeting of the London Joint Stock Banks was called, and if the matter was put before them, something might be done. Surely the shipowners are not going to be unpatriotic. There is a general feeling, I understand, to help in this matter of urgency, and I do think that some pressure should be brought to bear on the shipowners who are so unpatriotic and who wish to cancel freights at the present moment. There is another matter to which I wish to refer. Several people have spoken to me of large companies who have made profits during last year, and have not announced dividends. I see that the North British Railway Company have earned a good dividend, but they have not paid it. The Gordon Hotels Company have also made a profit, but they have not distributed a dividend. It seems to me that if people in the smaller ways of business are to be asked not to put up prices but to give general help at this time, it might be pointed out that great concerns like those I have mentioned are keeping back money which they ought to have distributed in the shape of dividends. That does seem to me unpatriotic. There are many small shareholders all over the country who have money in these concerns, and I do hope that the Board of Trade will do everything in its power to put these matters straight.


I wish to call the attention of the representative of the Board of Trade to the probability of the cessation of employment from the fact that the railway companies are not being paid by the Government for the work which they are performing for the Government. Under the arrangement now in operation, as the House knows, all the railways have been commandeered by the Government, and some of them are doing the largest part of their work at present for Government purposes. As I understand, the Government are paying railway companies nothing for this work. Of course they will eventually be paid, but the machinery for calculating what should be paid has not yet been devised. Many of these railway companies have contracts for large amounts for the supply of material by various manufacturers throughout the country, but not being in receipt of any money for services they are doing for the Government they are not able to pay for the supplies furnished, or to be furnished, and accordingly they have given notice to some of the large contractors that they will have to suspend the contracts running with them. The result of that will be that very large weekly sums in wages will cease to be paid. I know one case where a large manufacturer has a contract with one of the railway companies. That contract runs to hundreds of thousands of pounds, and the weekly wages bill of the contractor amounts to something like £3,000. Under the suspension which was announced today by the railway company in question that amount of wages will cease to be paid, because, of course, the manufacturer cannot go on indefinitely paying wages if he is not receiving any money. I know that this company has come to an arrangement to keep all their workmen employed if they can at a reduced rate, but they will not be able to do that if a large portion of their work is cut off. They will not be able to keep the workmen employed if they cannot get payment for the goods they supply. Therefore, I do suggest that the Government, as soon as possible, should come to some arrangement by which the railway company should be paid on account for the work they are doing in order that the wages, which eventually result, will continue to be paid to the workmen employed.


The hon. Member opposite (Mr. Wiles) has put before the House a matter that deserves very serious consideration. It is a matter of very great importance, because it may mean not only the stoppage of imports of corn, but it may bring about results which would be disastrous to importers on this side who have corn which they are unable to bring to this country. There is one other point I wish to put. The hon. Member referred to corn from the United States. There is also the question of corn from East India, which is equally important. The same difficulty which is arising in regard to corn from the United States is arising in regard to corn from East India. A merchant may offer Indian bankers £100,000 or £200,000, or more, for the purpose of purchasing wheat in India to be shipped to this country, but in consequence of the crisis which has arisen—and I presume caution is absolutely necessary under the circumstances—the bankers, are not in a position to give currency in India which it is necessary for the merchant to have in order to purchase the corn. There is one way to get over that. I only mention that because I think it is very important that the Government should take it into consideration. The only persons who have money in India at present are, I believe, the Government of India. I think that the Government of India should at once see how they could help this country by assisting the bringing of corn from India into this country. They can do that by arranging for the Indian banks to take payments of the Indian Government in this country, which could be cabled out, and then allowing the merchants to have their rupees on the other side.

If that is not done then we shall be faced with the fact that we cannot get any corn from the United States, and we cannot get it from the East Indies. It is a very important fact, and the sooner it is looked in the face the better I have spoken to the Under-Secretary for India about it, and I believe that the matter has been under consideration. I am not certain that anything has as yet been fixed, because the Government of India would have to be consulted, and I believe that so far they have not given their consent. It is of the greatest moment that the Government in India should assist, as much as anyone else, in having wheat brought to this country. I would ask the Secretary to the Board of Trade whom I see present to bring the matter to the attention of the Indian Government. There is another matter which has been brought under my observation in the place where I live. The distribution of the £5 to the Territorials has had a very mischievous effect, because a great deal of the money has gone to waste through being spent on drink. I would suggest that in future the payment of this £5 should not be made in cash, but should be placed to the credit of the man in the Post Office Savings Bank from which it could be drawn either by himself or his wife for the benefit of his family. A man will not draw money out of the bank in order to spend it in public houses, but, if he has the money lying loose in his pocket it may be spent in this way. Owing to the way in which it is given out at present it seems to be of so little value that the people take no notice of it and the money is thrown about as if it were pence.


In reference to the remarks of the hon. Member for Islington (Mr. Wiles), I will ask the Secretary of the Board of Trade to give wider publicity than has been done up to the present, to the extent of this protective insurance. The hon. Member spoke constantly as if—


I was only referring to the emergency scheme which was started by the Government, because it was put to them that if wheat and flour sold were being protected under the scheme, anything of any kind may be insured.


I do not find fault with the hon. Member. My point is that I have received letters from merchants anxious to know the position with regard to outside insurance, and I would merely ask the Secretary to the Board of Trade if he will give wider publicity to the statement that sugar, tea or other raw materials are entirely affected by the insurance. Another matter to which I would like to call attention is the position of unexpired season-ticket holders, as to which I have received many letters. It would be entirely wrong to allow the railway companies to benefit owing to the position of these persons, and I think that it would be desirable that some announcement should be made that season-ticket holders, on joining the Colours, should either be allowed to hand in their tickets, and have their money refunded, or else that a period equal to the unexpired period for which the season ticket has been taken should be allowed later on, so that the person who has taken out the season ticket shall not be aversely affected.

Colonel BURN

I desire to draw the attention of the Government to a section of the community who are going to be very hard hit by this war. I represent a Constituency which contains two seaside places, Torquay and Paignton, where a large number of people earn their livelihood by letting lodgings and doing for visitors in the months of July, August, September, and October, and also in the winter because of the mild climate which induces people to go down there. Owing to the war the people who have engaged rooms for the autumn or winter have written to say that they will be unable to take them. There is going to be great distress among those lodging house people. Remember that the majority of them are widows, and that their sole means of earning a livelihood is by letting those rooms. I know that there are many other things that have to be attended to, and other people who will suffer, but I do hope that some consideration will be given to those people, because if the Government can see its way to help them it will be assisting really deserving people who have nothing to fall back upon, and no alternative means of earning a livelihood.


I desire to draw attention to a question between millers and the growers of corn. A great many farmers are feeling that the prices to which millers have put up flour are really out of proportion to the prices which the farmers are receiving for their corn in the various local markets. It seems to me that, if there is any raising in the price of flour, it may have an effect upon farmers keeping back their corn instead of sending it to market in the ordinary way. I have no doubt that the Government have taken the question into consideration, and I feel certain that it would give a great deal of confidence to farmers who are now in the midst of harvesting their crops if they knew that the question of the price which millers are enabled to charge for their flour was going to be taken into consideration by the Government. The millers should not be making a much greater profit than the farmer who is growing corn is enabled to get in the local market. It is a small matter, but it will have a considerable bearing upon the hoarding of corn among the growers in the country. I understood that the Government had taken over certain mills. I saw in the paper that they were taking over mills in Sunderland. I do not know whether that is true or not. If the representatives of the Government would give some information, a great many farmers would be very grateful to them.


I would desire to bring before the attention of the Board of Trade the important question as to the triple bonds which have to be given by shippers. Communications have been made to me from the Cardiff Chamber of Commerce and others which show that the effect of the present arrangement would be serious in preventing shipments at least from South Wales. Those who are interested view with great alarm the fact that the shipper as well as two sureties have to give a bond for the value of the cargo, whereas after the ship has sailed the shipper has actually no control over the destination of the ship, and even if the shipper sees his way to undergo such a risk, which is very doubtful, it is impossible for him to find two sureties who will undertake such a risk. Then I would draw attention to the question of having branch offices to deal with insurance in the different ports of the country. If it is possible to have branch offices in Cardiff and other ports where an enormous amount of business is done, it would be of the utmost convenience to traders there. Another point is the question of insuring cargoes in foreign bottoms. If the policy is pursued of insuring cargoes only in British bottoms, it will tend very much to increase the rate of freight. We know that there is a large number of vessels belonging to friendly Powers not connected with those with whom we are at war, and if it is not possible to engage their tonnage for shipping there may be an enormous increase in the rates of freight on such things as coal and food stuffs. My right hon. Friend the Member for Swansea drew attention to the question of pit wood, which is a most important matter, and deserves careful consideration by the Government. Supplies have enormously decreased, and no fresh supplies will be coming in. The supplies come largely from France, and all cutting will probably stop there, and, in addition, there will be the difficulty of getting the wood across, even if it was available. On the subject of the moratorium, I may point out that freight is exempt from the operations of the moratorium. But supplies, such as coal and other necessaries supplied abroad, which enable the ship to earn freight, are not exempt. Therefore it is difficult to see how these people can go on with their business if they have to pay out freight and other charges and cannot get payment themselves, and for this reason I think that it is necessary to exempt necessaries supplied abroad as well as freight.


With respect to a number of the points that have been raised, I can only promise to bring the matter before the Departments concerned, or to give it close consideration at once where it affects my own Department That is the kind of answer which I can give to the hon. Baronet who spoke last on such points as the triple bond, the difficulty of insuring foreign bottoms, and the question of moratorium in regard to freight. He can hardly expect me to offer him anything more than to promise consideration on these points. The question of branch offices is under consideration. It was considered by the Committee who reported on insurance that it would be very difficult to have offices anywhere than in London, but the urgent demand which has been made has set us to reconsider this question and possibly the suggestion may be adopted. I cannot go beyond that. With reference to the point made by the hon. Member for Wigan (Mr. Neville), I can promise him that it will be carefully considered. The hon. Member for Torquay will realise that it is very difficult to suggest how to help the unfortunate class for which he speaks, but they will not be overlooked. The hon. Member for Edinburgh raised an important question as to unexpired season tickets. I can only say that I hope that a fair arrangement will speedily be arrived at, and that the railway companies will readily meet what justice and the requirements of the nation demand.


You will take up the matter at once?

7.0 P.M.


Yes, I promised to look into that. The hon. Member for the Elgin Division raised another point as to dealing with the £5, and that I will bring to the notice of my right hon. colleague who represents the War Office. The hon. Member for Inverness Burghs raised the very important point of advances to the railway companies, who are working under great pressure and doing national service. That, too, is under consideration, and I can make no further promise or announcement on the subject. I am afraid I can do no more in regard to the important points raised by the hon. Member for Islington and another hon. Gentleman in regard to the difficulties connected with the importation of corn. The suggestions which have been made will be promptly taken into account, and, indeed, have already been brought before the Department concerned.


Will the hon. Gentleman bring the point as to drafts before the bankers when they meet? I believe the joint-stock bankers have put the point as to drafts before them, and it will be to their interest as well as in the interests of the community generally.


I think that can be done, but the matter is not so simple as my hon. Friend suggests. In regard to pit horses, that is a matter which is obtaining attention; and in regard to pit props, my own Department has not adequate information, and it is a matter which should come before the Woods and Forests Department. In regard to the refusal by shopkeepers to receive £1 notes, I would point out that the £1 note is as legal a tender as the sovereign, and there should be no difficulty about the acceptance of £1 notes. An hon. Member behind me raised the question as to the cache to be put on official news. That point has already been raised in this House and is under consideration, as is also the subject of giving assurance that news published as official is actually official. In regard to the question put by the hon. Member for Grimsby, it is impossible to remove the embargo on such exports as he refers to, and he will see the difficulty about the exportation of food supplies, but I can assure him that any steps that can be taken will be promptly taken in the interests of the trade.


What about the question of patents? Is that matter receiving attention?


It is under consideration at present.


I wish to call the attention of the House to a matter of very great importance affecting a large number of persons in this country who bear German names, or names that may appear to be German. Some of them are German subjects, but many of them are Swiss or American subjects of German origin, resident in this country. They have experienced great anxiety and suffering during the last week, because in a section of the Press one or two articles have appeared which have encouraged the ordinary citizen to act as an amateur detective, listening to the conversations of foreigners and following up anybody of foreign appearance. I think the general public have taken an entirely different attitude, and one of notable friendliness and restraint; but, as eases of espionage are likely to occur, there may be very real danger of inflammatory articles in the Press raising public antagonism against innocent people. There are persons who are not German subjects, and there are also a large number of innocent Germans resident in this country, some of them who have been here for many years for the purpose of business; and others who have been here a short time as students and are unable to leave the country, and who have no idea or intention of abusing our hospitality. If my right hon. Friend the Under-Secretary for the Home Department (Mr. Ellis Griffith) is able to make some statement reassuring the public, and recommending a calm and friendly attitude on the part of the Press, he may do a very great service, not only to these innocent people who are in great distress at the present moment, but to the future relations of the two countries. It is very noteworthy that while we are in a state of war there is no feeling of grudging or hostility against the mass of the Germans. We have no sort of unfriendly feeling to them, and we can show, in a time of crisis, friendliness and self-restraint to these unhappy strangers in our midst.


I respond most willingly to the appeal which my hon. Friend has made to me. He has shown very clearly the attitude of the English people at this very moment, and I think all will agree that they have behaved with a great amount of self-restraint. I should be very glad to think that any word of mine would do anything to increase this state of feeling. As my hon. Friend has said, we know that there are a great many Germans and men who bear foreign or German names who have been, if not in name, in reality citizens of this country and resident here for many years past. I am sure we would all regret and deplore any unfriendly feeling towards them, and as regards the Press, I do not think it has done anything so far to promote ill-feeling, a fact which in itself is corroborative of the statement I have just made as to the attitude of the people. If any words of mine will help or emphasise the appeal of my hon. Friend I shall be very glad. So far as the Department with which I am associated are concerned, we are very anxious that Germans, whether naturalised or not, should be treated with every possible friendliness as in the past, and as we all hope will be the case in regard to future relations between these countries. At the same time, the Bill recently passed must be obeyed, and I hope that all German subjects will take immediate steps to register themselves, and thus avoid difficulties which might otherwise occur.




The hon. Member has exhausted his right to speak.


I want to impress upon some occupant of the Front Bench—I do not know who is in charge of the business—the fact that the question put by my hon. Friend the Member for East Aberdeenshire has not been answered by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade. I do not necessarily want to complain of him, because he may say that he knows nothing about it, but, as I understand, my hon. Friend gave notice of these questions as to the insurance of vessels, and the delay in dealing with these supplies of fish, somebody ought to be prepared to answer those questions. But the representative of the Board of Trade neglected them, whilst taking care to answer questions of Members of the Opposition. That only shows how Scotland is neglected by the Government. They can answer Tory Members, but they altogether neglect their Scottish supporters. I am astonished that the hon. Gentleman should have forgotten even to allude to the questions, although I do not say that they come within his Department. I do not know whether the Lord Advocate has anything to say on the matter, but I do know that my Constituency is very largely interested in the fishing question, as is the whole of the North of Scotland. I do hope that somebody on the Front Bench will take notice of these matters, and try to do something in the interests of Scotland and the Scottish people. We have been galloping everything through at the request of the Government, but there comes a time when we must protest against the way in which Scotland has been neglected.


My hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeen put to me general questions which did not relate merely to Scotland, but I believe I omitted to deal with some of those questions. He had nearly finished his speech when I came into the House. The scheme in regard to insurance of fishing vessels was rapidly matured at the Board of Trade, and representatives of the industry were in conference with our officers on the subject. The hon. Member for Aberdeen raised a certain question as to exports which I dealt with in reply to the hon. Member for Grimsby. As regards the Scottish problem my right hon. Friend may be able to make some statement.


With reference to what has fallen from my hon. Friend the Member for East Aberdeenshire, and my hon. Friend for Sutherlandshire, I can assure them that I shall convey to my right hon. Friend the Secretary for Scotland what they have said, and I should like also to assure them that the position of the fishing industry at this particular crisis is very fully realised in the Scottish Office, and that the problems to which reference has been made are engaging its careful attention.

Question, "That this House, at the rising of the House this day, do adjourn till Tuesday, 25th August," put, and agreed to.