§ The CHANCELLOR of the EXCHEQUER (Mr. Lloyd George)
Of all the perplexing and disagreeable tasks that has fallen to the lot of any Minister, I think the attempt to provide a solution of the drink difficulty is about the worst, and I would, therefore, beg the indulgence of the House, not merely for the speech, but for the effort which we are making to submit a solution of this trouble. To agree upon the facts is bad enough, but to agree about a remedy is almost impossible. One cannot hope to satisfy everybody, because it is a problem that will always provoke very intense feeling, and, unfortunately, it is a question where everybody has what I call "previous convictions." But after the experience of weeks in trying to get a solution that will not provoke controversy I feel at the end of it I am prepared to take, politically, a pledge never to touch drink again. I can assure the House that I certainly should not have touched this question if we had not been driven by a very serious sense of responsibility to do our best to meet the difficulty. Nothing but real necessity has driven us to submit our proposals to the House. Every Government that has ever touched alcohol has burnt its fingers in its lurid flames. Whenever you try to approach it, there are barbed wire entanglements on every road, with passions and prejudices and principles, all of the most explosive character, behind them. Therefore, I can assure the House that unless it were for a very strong sense of responsibility in the matter, a sense of responsibility which, if neglected, would have been a betrayal of our duty, I should not have been here on behalf of the Government to submit any proposal.
It has been suggested that we have attached undue importance to the part which drink plays in the output of munitions of war, and that we have treated 865 it as if it were the sole cause of the delays which have been experienced. That is exactly the reverse of the facts. I think I was one of the first to call attention to this matter, and that was in a speech in which I put first, the importance of mobilising the whole of the engineering resources of the country. The second difficulty I pointed out was the effect of restrictions on labour, restrictions upon the produce of munitions and armaments of war, and, in the third place, I referred to drink. That is the way in which the Government has treated the matter in the House of Commons. The first step we took in order to increase the output of munitions of war was to introduce the Defence of the Realm Act, a very strong measure—I rather think the Leader of the Opposition referred to it as a "revolutionary" proposal, and it certainly is a very strong measure. It is a measure which gave us power to commandeer all the works of the country, and not only that, but to take away plant and machinery from any workshop where it was thought necessary, in order to increase the output of munitions of war. That was the first step we took. What was the second step? It was the summoning of all the leaders of the unions concerned in the output of munitions and war material to discuss the best method of suspending the operation of restrictions and regulations which had been set up for generations, but which would have the effect perhaps of diminishing the possible output of armaments. The third step we are taking is the removal of another obstacle in the way of the increase of the output of munitions and armaments, and that is the excessive drinking among a section of those who are engaged in these works.
I need hardly tell the House how all-important it is that we should be able to utilise every available resource in this country to its fullest measure for the purpose of increasing war material and ammunition. Early in the War I can say I was convinced that this was a war of munitions and material, even more than of men. A very distinguished Frenchman said to me, "The weight of munitions in 866 this War will count more than the weight of men." That does not mean that the man at the front counts less, but it does mean that the man at home counts more than ever. The Allies have a great supply of men of the finest quality and sufficient reserves to overwhelm any enemy. But behind all that is the question of supplies and equipment. Although in six months you may raise and train a million of men equal to the best men Germany can put into the field, it takes much longer than that to equip them and to supply them with ammunition. On sea there are new developments which require new expedients to counter them. Therefore the problem of victory on sea and land for the Allies is largely a question of material. In this country our resources for the purpose of making our materials are capable of almost unlimited expansion, but those resources have to be mobilised, and our problem is that of the mobilisation of all our latent energies with the least delay and the greatest possible efficiency. Last week I ventured to point out in the House that whatever the adequacy of our munitions for the present developments of the campaign, the time is coming—it is not for me to say how soon—when the attack must be on a greater scale, and necessarily of a more sustained character, than anything that we have yet witnessed. The enemy is still in Flanders and a large part of France. He has to be driven out. When the time comes for the great attack which is to accomplish this vital purpose, the expenditure of munitions and material must be on a scale hitherto unprecedented in any war in history. It is to enable our gallant Army at the front to carry through that enterprise without flagging, and, above all, without any avoidable loss, that we are straining every nerve to increase by every means in our power, far beyond even our present production, guns, rifles, shells, ammunition, and material of all kind, without which they cannot hope, with all their gallantry, for complete victory. In this time counts, Time is essential. Time is vital. Time lost means opportunities lost, battles 867 lost, strength—financial and economic—lost, and precious life lost. Speaking on behalf of the Government, I say the nation ought to put forth the whole of its strength, and to subordinate everything to the accomplishment of this purpose—wealth, comforts, conveniences, certainly indulgences.
The engineering firms allowed that Bill to pass through which allowed us to take over their works and their machinery, and possibly disarrange businesses which it had taken a lifetime to build up and custom which it had taken perhaps two generations to accumulate. Yet there was never a protest. It was a fine thing in the history of the commercial community of this country. The trade unions had regulations, for which they had fought for generations, for the protection of their own labour against over-greedy employers. Those regulations were their safeguard. They were prepared to give them up. They were prepared to suspend the work of a lifetime and of two generations to help their country. I think we are entitled to ask anybody anything that can help, and to ask anybody who can clear an obstacle out of the way to do so in order to win victory in this great War, I can assure the House that in approaching this question I have but one consideration in my mind—that is to clear the road in order to enable us to increase the output, which means life to this Empire. If the proposals which I make do not do that, they stand condemned by that very fact.
All classes in the community are agreed that no wise Government ever asks a nation for an unnecessary sacrifice. Every unnecessary sacrifice means a waste of moral material, the most valuable of all contributions, whether in peace or war. Therefore, when I submit these proposals, I shall submit them with that test and for that criticism, that they are necessary to enable us now to win victory—not only to give ultimate victory, but victory without unnecessary loss of time, and without the unnecessary loss of brave men who are fighting for us. We all owe that to them. What is the case for interference—inter- 868 ference, I admit, with the habits of the people—I do not disguise it, I do not minimise it in the slightest degree—and interference with interests? I do not minimise that. What is the case? As what I have said has been so much misrepresented, perhaps the House will forgive me if I put the case in my own words and then quote the facts which I think justify them. This is what I said upon this subject:—Most of our workmen are putting every ounce of strength into this urgent work for their country, loyally and patriotically. But that is not true of all. There are some, I am sorry to say, who shirk their duty in this great emergency. I hear of workmen in armaments Works who refuse to do a full week's work for the nation's need. What is the reason? They are a minority. The vast majority belong to a class we can depend upon. The others are a minority. But you must remember a small minority of workmen can throw a whole works out of gear. What is the reason? Sometimes it is one thing, sometimes it is another; but let us be perfectly candid. It is mostly the lure of drink. They refuse to work full time, and when they return their strength and efficiency are impaired by the way in which they have spent their leisure. Drink is doing us more damage in the War than all the German submarines put together.On the facts which I shall give to the House, I invite them to say that every word I stated there is justified by the facts and the figures. What happened? At first, when attention was called to the drinking, there was a great deal of alarm. There was a demand for drastic action. Everybody agreed about the facts until they had heard about the remedies. Afterwards they referred back to the facts, and fitted them to their opinion about the remedies. There was undoubtedly exaggeration. Exaggeration always follows when you have any evil. There are some who will exaggerate, and by that means undoubtedly do a great deal of harm whenever you are trying to set the matter right. That produces the inevitable reaction. What happened was that persons said that the statements which were made were very exaggerated, and, because they were exaggerated, they said, "The whole story is untrue." They said, "All workmen are as sober as judges, and there is no slacking—at least none that matters." Then somebody discovered that things were not worse than they were in peace time. What has that got to do with it? This is not peace time. 869 Undoubtedly there is always, even in peace, a good deal of lost time in consequence of excessive drinking. But we can afford it then. We cannot afford it now. It would be no use for the men at the front to say, "Why, you are asking me to do something that you never expected of me in time of peace" Of course we are. The result is that there have been many statements of late, not that the evil has been exaggerated, but that it did not exist. Well, people are always ready to believe smooth things that please them. That is the trouble in every country and in every war. I am all for taking a hopeful view of the War. I have always stated that. But it is all the better to look all the facts in the face—to look them straight in the face. That is the difference between the true and the false optimism. True optimism is the horizon of courage; false optimism is really the veil of cowardice. Let us look the facts in the face. That is how we shall win in the end. I say the same thing about this evil and the means by which to remove it. I want to give the facts upon which I base my case, and the reason why I think the facts show that the evil is so serious that nothing but strong action can possibly enable us to cope with it. If the House is not convinced of that, then I have made no case.
The first thing I want to tell the House of Commons is that the consideration of this question was not forced upon us by teetotalers. I cannot recall a single resolution—I am not referring to what has happened during the last few weeks or days, which has not been very helpful—[An HON. MEMBER: "Disgraceful!"] I am not referring to that, of which I am the worst victim, because I have not seen ray letters for about six weeks, although perhaps that is not a great infliction. What has happened? The consideration of this question was forced upon us by officials responsible for the output of war material and transport. Their letters and their reports came in. Constant reports came in from some, but not all, of the chief centres of armament activities. That is where some confusion has occurred. There are some hon. Members here who live in 870 districts from which we have had no complaint at all. If I began mentioning them, those I did not mention will say, "What about us?" I can see hon. Members here who represent districts from which we have had no complaint at all, but they must not assume from that that there are no districts which cannot possibly claim the same perfection as the constituency they represent. The reports came from the chief centres of armament activities that failure of anticipated war material and dangerous delays in transport were due largely to avoidable loss of time on the part of a section of the men engaged, and that that loss of time was mainly attributable to excessive drinking. We have a right to expect in this time, which is a very grave and serious time to our country, that every man shall strain every muscle, and work to the extreme length of his endurance. Some men in all ranks are putting three years into one.
What about those who are engaged in turning out the equipment and material of war? First of all, let us take those who are engaged on the work of the Navy. I have heard men dismiss the case for dealing with drink by saying, "After all, it is only the men engaged in the shipyards," as if that settled it. Have they any notion what the shipyards mean to us at this moment? Shipyards mean supplying deficiencies. Shipyards mean the production of new developments and expedients rendered necessary by new methods of warfare. Shipyards mean repairing damaged ships and machinery breaking down and wearing out, as it constantly does under pressure, and the pressure is enormous; and it is essential that it should be attended to speedily in order to keep the Navy up to its strength. Shipyards, in fact, mean the safety of our shores. I want the House and the country to remember this. One has to remind them of these facts. The wear and tear of the enemy's Fleet is nothing that can be compared with ours. We have to keep the seas. We have to patrol the seas. They take prolonged periods of "rest cure," so that their shipbuilding energies can be devoted to building and constructing. Therefore, the safety of this country depends largely 871 upon the work of the shipyards, and the slackness of work in many of them is causing serious anxiety to those who are in command of the Fleet on the high seas, and they have communicated their anxiety.
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
I am coming to that. It is perfectly true that there are yards where the men are putting forth the whole of their strength. That is true of the Royal Arsenals. The Prime Minister referred to them the other day when he said they were working at the very high average figure of from sixty-seven to sixty-nine hours per week per man. Let me give Portsmouth Dockyard, and I think it is a pretty fair sample of the rest. Its importance is to show what men can do when they are doing their best, because we have heard that the men in the other yards are too tired, and cannot put forth more exertion. It is very difficult for a man who is not a riveter or a plater to be able to say whether that is so or not, and there is only one way to do it. That is by showing that there are other riveters and other platers engaged in exactly the same work who put forth infinitely more exertion and with sustained regularity. Take the men engaged in the Dockyard at Portsmouth. The normal hours there are forty-eight per week. Seventy-eight per cent. of them were working for the week ending last Saturday, the 24th inst., sixty hours or over. There were 6 per cent. who worked eighty-five hours in that week; there were 18 per cent., including those I have quoted, who worked over seventy-five hours, and there were 37 per cent., including those I have quoted, who worked over seventy hours. All honour to these men. They are doing their best for their country, and no one can do more. I could go on quoting other yards. I give that as a sample, because I have the figures. That is why I asked the hon. Member to be a little patient. Let us now come to the other yards, which are more important than the Royal dockyards, because you have, I think, four times the number of men engaged in 872 them. What is the case there? It is summarised by the Sea Lord who is responsible for practically the whole of the material for the Navy:—Reports which have been received from the Clyde, Tyne and Barrow districts are in agreement that, at the present time—that is about the end of March—thr amount of work put in by the men is much leas than might reasonably be expected. Put briefly, the position is that now, while the country is at war, the men are doing less work than would be regarded as an ordinary week's work under ordinary peace conditions.We really must face these facts, however unpleasant they may be, because we have to deal with them. Compare that with what I have given from Portsmouth. I think the normal hours here are higher than Portsmouth; they are 53 or 54; but let us take the Portsmouth figures again. Take the normal hours on the Clyde and the Tyne, fifty-three. At Portsmouth Dockyard 82 per cent. of the men work more than fifty-three or fifty-four hours in a week. Let us look at the others. I still quote from Admiral Tudor's report.The problem is not how to get the workmen to increase their normal peace output, but how to get them to do an ordinary week's work of fifty-one or fifty-three hours as the case may be The reasons for the loss of time are no doubt various, but it is abundantly clear that the most potent is in the facilities which exist for men to obtain beer and spirits, combined with high rates of wages and abundance of employment. Opinion on these points is practically unanimous.He goes on to say that in the large armament firms the output is also adversely affected by the drink question, not quite to the same extent, but it is adversely affected. The following is also given by Admiral Tudor. It is the week's work of 135 fitters in a particular yard. They are turning out submarines. I need hardly say how very important that is to us at this moment. On Monday only 60 of these 135 worked a full day. Out of 1,282½ hours that they ought to have worked, the time lost was 336½ hours. On Tuesday 90 of them worked a full day, on Wednesday only 86, on Thursday only 77, on Friday 91, and on Saturday 103.
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
I am quoting a case where there is no Sunday work. Let us take the loss in that week. The number of hours they ought to have worked, not on a basis of overtime, but on the 873 basis of an ordinary week's work in time of peace, would have been 7,155 hours. The actual hours they worked were 5,664½. They lost 1,510½ hours, a loss of 30 per cent. of the week's work upon the basis of average normal peace work. I have here, also supplied by Admiral Tudor, a statement of lost time in works of first-class importance to us. The employers in these works do not care very much to give the name unless they are bound to, because it produces difficulties and friction, although they are perfectly prepared to do so if necessary. Here you have seven weeks' work for riveters. It is on the basis of the possible Dumber of hours a week. Fifty-one is the highest. It is nothing like the Royal dockyard hours. This is on the basis of 51 for one week; 50 for the next; 51 for the next; and 54 for the last week. They all range from 50 hours a week to 54. Let the House see how these workmen stand that test. In the first week the percentage of time lost was 32 per cent.; next, week 32 per cent.; next week 35 per cent.; next week 37 per cent.; next week 35 per cent.; next week 37 per cent.; and the next week 35 per cent.
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
I can only give the evidence of admirals and captains and employers, and not merely employers, but independent investigators. We have really taken every trouble to sift the evidence. Of course, my hon. Friends may say they cannot accept the evidence.
§ Mr. O'GRADY
Is it not a fact that the case mentioned by Admiral Tudor of the 135 men was knocked into a cocked hat at the conference between trade union officials and the Government and the admirals and generals at the Treasury? That particular case was mentioned, and when we came to go into it, there was scarcely anything in it at all.
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
My hon. Friend may state that later on. I shall be very glad if there is an explanation which is satisfactory. I am giving facts now which deal not with the 135 men, but with another firm. It is almost impossible to conduct a controversy about each individual case whilst I am developing it. My case does not depend merely upon one particular instance. Unless the cumulative effect of the evidence is sufficient, this House is not justified in interfering. Take the case of the platers. The platers are better, but there, again, the loss of time ranges from 22 per cent. to 30 per cent. That is the loss of time in that particular works for seven weeks upon that basis. There are other cases. Take this case, which is also mentioned by Admiral Tudor. A ship came in to be repaired; I think it was damaged in action. It was most urgent work. The workmen knew it was urgent work, the Admiralty pressed that the ship should be repaired with the least possible delay. What happened there? Constant absences. Absences from the first quarter ranged from 23 per cent. up to 39 per cent. That was before the breakfast lime—from 6 to 9. The absences afterwards in the second quarter ranged from 13 per cent up to 26 per cent. The second quarter was not so, bad, but still bad when the work was urgent.
Then there was an increase in wages. What was the result? The percentage of absentees went up. The Admiralty had to resort to every means in order to try and get the work through. There was an increase in wages, and the only result was that the men had more money, and they lost more time. An hon. Gentleman asked me whether there is any division of the amount of time which they are putting in. Let me repeat it, because it is necessary to repeat it, that this is not a charge against the whole of the men. It is necessary to repeat it, because this is the kind of accusation which is always distorted. There are some men working who are not merely beyond reproach, but who deserve every commendation which the State can give to them. Let me take the figures. There has been an analysis of the figures of the hours worked by the men in, I think, 875 forty or fifty firms. Twenty-four per cent. of them are working more than a normal week; that compares with, I think, 80 per cent. in the Royal dockyards. Of the remaining 76 per cent., 40 per cent. are working between forty hours a week and the normal fifty-three hours. Thirty-six per cent. are working under forty hours a week. Four hundred and ninety-three men out of every thousand are, in time of war, working less than forty-five hours a week. I can analyse this between the Clyde and the North-East coast; but there are the deplorable facts.
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
For the Clyde and the North-East coast, and Barrow and Birkenhead as well. I am speaking now purely of shipyards. I will come to the others by-and-by. I know it is said that these men have been working so hard that they cannot possibly put in more than forty hours a week. Let us examine that. I will take a firm where there is practically no Sunday labour. Monday is usually the worst day, and that is after a day and a half rest. This firm gave three days' holiday during Easter for rest. On the Tuesday after Easter, after three days' rest, out of 8,000 men 1,800 failed to turn up, and 1,431 in the engine and boiler-shop, and 666 in the repair department. The first 1,800 are in the shipyard department; the 1,431 are out of 4,500 in the engine and boiler departments, and the 666 are out of 1,000 in the repair department. On the following day 3,000 men—I am giving round figures, it is precisely 2,916—were out from work in the first quarter of the day. That is after a holiday, and of this number 1,670 remained out all the day. The following day 2,500 were out the first quarter, and 1,500 were out all day. That is after three days for recruitment and restoration of strength. I can give no end of cases of this kind, but the figures will be supplied to the House. In every one of these cases the men who are responsible ascribe it in the main to 876 exactly the same cause. It is worse after a holiday, it is worse after Sunday where the men are not working and after they have had a half-day on Saturday.
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
I can let the hon. Baronet know that. In fact, one of the remedies which I propose bears on the answer to that very question. But the hon. Baronet knows. I have two observations I would like to make upon these figures. There is no doubt about the slacking. There is absolutely no doubt about the lost time. I have tested cases where the weather was perfect the whole week, tested them by the amount of time which could have been put in, and I have found exactly the same percentage of slacking in those cases, and with no Sunday labour. There are two explanations. Had it not been for these men who are working perhaps above their strength, the average would be deplorably low. It is very low now. One can hardly imagine what it would have been but for the 26 per cent. who are working far above normal times. What possible explanation can there be for that? You might say that the physique of these men is so enfeebled that half of them can only work less than forty-five hours a week, and one-third of them less than forty hours a week, even in time of great pressure, when the safety of the nation depends upon them, while men in the Royal arsenals are working fifty-three, sixty, seventy, and even eighty hours a week. Anybody who knows the fine physique of the men in the North knows very well that that explanation is thoroughly absurd.
What is the other possible explanation? It is that although they know their country is engaged in a great War, the greatest War that this or any other country has ever beèn engaged in, although they must know that it is straining our resources to the utmost, they refuse, in spite of every appeal, to put forth the whole of their strength to help their country. If that were true, it would be less creditable than the explanation which is given. But it is 877 not. The explanation which is given in every report we have received—official reports, reports from the works, and reports from men we have sent down to specially investigate the circumstances—is that it is attributable merely to excessive drinking amongst a section of workmen who are receiving very high wages, and who spend them in this way. I will give some of the reports we have been receiving from the directors of naval equipment. Here is one, and it comes from the Clyde:—From close observation the amount drunk by a section of the men in much greater than it was before the War and it is on the increase. Those principally concerned are iron workers and shipwrights, and on their efficiency the output entirely depends. The sole reason for this heavy drinking is that the men earn more money than they know what to do with.He gives the case of a ship which was sent in for repairs, and the work was so badly Carried out as to suggest at once on inspection that it, could not have been done by men who were sober. It was dangerous, and had to be condemned. That is another side of the question. A loss in time does not represent the whole loss in these works. There is loss in efficiency as well. The report goes on:—All this—and the serious point is that it is growing worse each day—has a much greater effect on delay than shortage of labour. I cannot state too forcibly my own opinion that the total prohibition of the sale of spirits will be the most effective act that could at present be taken to win this War.This is an official report from the Director of Naval Equipment in that particular neighbourhood—the Clyde. He goes on to say:—Any measure less drastic will not be a cure. It will keep alive the craving which has been growing up during six months' indulgence, and some men will endeavour to satisfy it by keeping away from work.Then the report says:—The districts in which restrictions should be enforced cannot be too wideA similar report comes from the Tyne from the official in charge there. He says:—The money earned is sufficient to satisfy the men's standard of living, and anything extra beyond ordinary wages encourages abstention to enable loafing in public houses, instead of doing their honest day's work.Both of them explain that they are referring to sections of men who do drink. I do not want to detain the House by quoting a great many of these cases, because they will be circulated, and the House can judge 878 for itself. Unfortunately, there is some truth in the suggestion that it is fatigue. I ventured to consult a very eminent physician who is not a teetotaler, and does not believe altogether in teetotalism. I thought if I consulted one whose views were very strong against alcohol, his opinion would be of very little use. This physician gave me an opinion which explains really why it is perfectly consistent with the story given by these men that it is duo to fatigue. He said that the human frame can digest a certain amount of alcohol. He told me how much. I am not sure that I should be justified in saying how much. I might be held responsible afterwards for those who took considerably more than the number of ounces of alcohol which this gentleman said they could digest, but there is no doubt it is a fairly liberal allowance as things go. I just mention that to show that this gentleman is not the kind of doctor who says alcohol is absolute poison. Therefore, his opinion is more valuable from this point of view. He says that anything in excess of that is really a consumption of strength, and that the men feel still weaker when this has evaporated. Then they take another dose, and the result is that they get weaker, and weaker. There is a consumption of strength by excessive alcohol; and there is no doubt, therefore, that they are suffering from fatigue. We mean to do our best to save them from that kind of fatigue.
Another thing which he told me is that the method of drinking the spirits without dilution is very fatal. He said, that when the human frame digests alcohol it must be very well diluted. Taken raw or in its concentrated form, it destroys the mucous membrane, and he gives the most terrible description of what it really does. But the men drink it sometimes without diluting it at all. They just toss it off raw in very considerable quantities. Another thing which he told me—and this bears upon what I am coming to later on—is that the very worst way of taking alcohol is to take it on an empty stomach. But this is what they do. They take it in great quantities. The result is that they lose the first quarter, and by the time the second 879 quarter arrives very often they are not fit to take up their job. Then they take alcohol on the way home to their dinner; it is consumed in the very worst form, and at the very worst time. All that explains a good deal, though not all. I wish it were possible to report that the state of affairs existing at the end of March was no longer true, but I am sorry to say that the reports received indicate no perceptible improvement. This is the sort of thing that is done. Here is a report from a great shipbuilding firm engaged on submarines, monitors, and destroyers—all of them of great importance:—We regret that it should be our duty to report to you that out of the 114 platers employed, fifty-six were off all day yesterday and forty-five to-day"—that is within the last few days. I think I had better not indicate where it comes from—As all our Workmen are engaged on urgent Admiralty work, the immediate effect"—this is rather important, as indicating how the absence of men throws the works out of order—of the absence of these men is to stop the platers work until they return, while the days which are lost by the trade are lost later on by the riveters and by other trades which follow them, owing to platers' work being behind, In fact, it resolves itself into a dead loss of construction. We regret to report that this state of affair is almost entirely due to excessive drinking on the part of the men.That is the position of affairs as far as the shipbuilders are concerned. I really must apologise to the House for taking so much time, but it is important that whatever action is taken should be taken on sufficient warrant and on sufficient evidence. In the case of the armament works, the loss is not so great, but it is sufficiently serious. Here again I am not referring to the Royal Arsenal.
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
My hon. Friend is looking after these men very well. I am referring to other works, and it is not true of all the armament works. There are districts as to which I do not say that there is no drinking, and there is no loss of time. All I say is that if the loss of time were no greater than it is in those areas, we certainly should not be sub- 880 mitting proposals to the House to-day. But it is not true of some of the most important works in this country. Take some very important works where they are turning out shells. The loss of time in a given week by the fitters represents 22 per cent.; the loss of time in the other branches of the work represents 15 per cent. Both are very serious losses when every shell that is short is a real danger to the life of some man. Here, again, I come to the work done by the men. It is remarkable how some men can work. Those who are working over eighty hours a week are 100 out of 1,000. Those working over seventy-five and up to eighty hours a week are eighty-six out of 1,000. Those working from seventy to seventy-five hours are 177 out of 1,000. That is, those who are working in this shell factory over seventy hours a week number 358 out of 1,000. No words can convey what we really owe to men like these. Then, those who work over sixty-five hours are very nearly 500, and those who work over sixty hours are 656.
Then I come to the others, and I must say that the figures are perfectly deplorable. When you talk of averages, it means that from 300 to 400 are working in such a way that it is almost inconceivable that human strength can bear it, but they are doing it. It means also that you have got a percentage of 10, 15, 20, sometimes 30 per cent. who are not putting forth anything like the exertion that they ought to put forward for their country just at this moment, and you have got men working only twenty-five, thirty, thirty-five, and forty and forty-five hours, and I am sorry to say that they represent quite a substantial percentage. I have got reports from another firm. They come from important munition works, and say:—Some drastic restrictions are absolutely necessary if the largest possible output of certain war munitions is to be obtained. Amongst smite shell workers there is a considerable amount of lost time due to their drinking habits. With the better class of mechanics the time lost due to drinking is comparatively small, but in the case of labourers and semi-skilled trades it is a very serious item.Here is the report from another factory which is turning out an all-important thing—that is explosives. We have not merely got to supply ourselves, but it is 881 essential that we should turn out as much as we can to help our Allies. We have in this country means of doing it which they have not. This report says:—We also take this opportunity of expressing in the strongest possible manner our opinion, that something should be done in this district to curtail the sale of drink. We fear that, unless drastic steps are taken to lessen the sale of alcohol, before long we shall find it impossible to deliver anything like the quantity of trinitrotoluol, which we have undertaken to supply to your Department. Even at the present lime we are not turning out as much as we could otherwise owing to various causes, and this is due to the fact that the men have been making good money and unfortunately wasting most of it on drinking. Consequently, they are in such a condition that it is impossible for them to attend to their duties in a proper manner, even when they do come to the works.
§ 5.0 P.M.
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
I would rather not unless I get their consent. I think that it would be putting them in a very invidious position with regard to their men. I am perfectly certain that no one would believe that they are merely slandering their men. They are simply doing this from a deep sense of duty; and besides that, the Government are pressing them to turn out more and more ammunition and explosives. But we have also been making an independent investigation. This was after the facts were challenged, and we thought that it was very desirable that we should not depend on the opinion of the officials, or of employers, or managers. So the Home Department have conducted an independent investigation. They sent some of their most trained investigators, and also consulted the local factory inspectors. These men went not merely to the employers of labour, managers and foremen; they also saw the men in all these districts. They had conversations with them; they actually visited the public houses. I will just read the experience of one of them who said that he had experience of workers in Government establishments. He states that he has never seen so much drinking at all times of the day as he had witnessed in one of the most important districts for shipyards and ammunition works in the whole country. The conclusion he came to was 882 summarised from the document itself—that while many of the men are working regularly, and at any rate beyond the normal hours, there is a considerable number, especially among the "black squad" in the shipbuilding yards, who are not working up to their maximum capacity. Among these are the riveters, and some distinction is drawn between them and mechanics employed in engineering. The reason given for the irregularities of attendance are mainly that they are due to long hours over extended periods, and that the high wages lead to idleness and habits of drinking; and it is not altogether possible to isolate these causes, as they are more or less closely connected with one another. But the reports are unanimous in the conclusion that drink is by far the most important factor. That is the summary given of the matter. They say of these men—and in Scotland especially—that there is a considerable proportion of them teetotalers. To those who are heavy drinkers the facilities for drinking are, unfortunately, very great, and an instance is given where in one street there are no fewer than thirty public-houses in a distance of half a mile. The yards and works are surrounded by public-houses and drinking-bars, where every possible facility is offered for obtaining drink for consumption both on and off the promises. I come to the question put to me by the hon. Baronet the Member for Ayr Burghs. There is also a prevalent practice in Scotland of taking whisky in bottles home in the evening, especially on Saturday nights, for consumption on Sunday, when public houses are closed. I give that as an answer. But I am not arguing this from any point of theory; I am just giving the facts now, without reference to any particular theories held on each side, however destructive they may be of any theories. That is not my intention.
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
My right hon. Friend again gave me a case in which one of his officers noticed that in a big bar on 883 a Saturday night one hundred bottles of whisky were filled, which it was expected would be sold between half-past nine and closing time. Here we have a case where the time lost is now three times as much as it was before the War. The margin allowed is three times as much as it was before the War for lost time. A factory inspector states that in some districts, it is true, there is not the same amount of drinking; but I will come to what the factory inspector says about the time. I take the report, and this is a very fair indication of the evidence it contains. The inspector says:—I beg to report that I have taken deep interest in the subject of lost time here since the commencement of the War, and on every possible occasion I made it a point to discuss the subject with the employers and managers, the foremen, and the workers themselves.Following comes the general conclusion:I have to report that so far as the shipyard workers are concerned there is no doubt whatever in my mind that the drinking habit is more responsible than any other cause for the great loss of time among the workmen. It is common knowledge among the shipyard workers in this district that in normal times they indulge very heavily at the week end, and Monday is a very bad day in regard to the work. In the present time of continuous employment these week-end habits have broken out into indulgence at irregular intervals during the week, and the effect of the men having double pay on Sunday is that they have so much more than usual, that this no doubt tends to foster the habit of indulging in drink. … I do not place a great deal of reliance on fatigue as a cause of a great deal of the lost time. I think the financial aspect, combined with the indulgence in drink, is solely responsible.But in the case of the engineers he does say that the drinking habit undoubtedly plays a most important part, although not to the same extent, in regard to lost time. There are two or three things in the report with relation to the remedies proposed to which it is important to call attention. The investigators almost all agree that the lost time is due in the main to excessive drinking; they also agree that a good deal of mischief is done owing to the inadequate provision of food for the men in and around the works. This rather agrees with the medical testimony which I quoted. I will not say there is no provision, but practically no provision, for not merely food but for ordinary healthy stimulants. Instead of the fiery raw spirit which is sold in some parts, the 884 heavy, very heavy, stupifying beer, there is no provision even for stimulants of the best, and there is practically no provision, in the public-houses around the yards, for the supply of food. There is a good deal of evidence that the men do not get sufficient food. They live a good way from the works, and, when they are tired and needing food to restore their strength, feeling that they want something to strengthen them and pick them up, some stimulating food would do it. If they got alcohol with their food—there are doctors who say it would do them harm, but there are doctors who say it would do them no harm—I am perfectly certain that for the purpose I have got to consider now, the question of excessive drinking from the point of view of munitions of war, it would do away with a vast amount of the evils in these cases. The only other question to which I wish to call attention is that of transport. This is the kind of report we are getting from the Director of Transport. I need hardly tell the House how very important it is that when we are waging war across the sea, reinforcements of men and material should be sent without any delay. Delay may mean very often the loss of a position. Time is vital when we are sending reinforcements of men or material. The Director of Transports says:—I wish to call attention to the fact that transport work is now being conducted under serious difficulties. … It is already taking three times as long to get ships fitted and ready to sail as it did when War broke out. Expedition is a thing of the past, and it is obvious that this may at any moment have a disastrous effect on naval and military operations.Let the House listen to this:—The root-cause of the serious congestion at some of the dock is not a shortage of labour, but the fact that the men can earn in two or three days what will keep them in drink for the rest of the week.The Director of Transport reports:—I can only reiterate that the time now taken to prepare ships for service is a grave danger to the success of military operations, which depend so largely on efficient sea transport. To-day I find a transport required for urgent military service, to prepare for which would normally occupy seven days, will take twenty-two days to complete, in spite of every effort to accelerate the work.I will quote extracts from the reports of officers in various portions of the United Kingdom. It is stated that sometimes because of the crew ships cannot get out 885 to sea, or sometimes because of dock labourers—sometimes one reason, and sometimes another. In another report it is stated that some of the workers work only three days, and the other three days they spend in drinking, and it is impossible for them to do their work efficiently. The suggestion is made that the men should come under military control—this view is taken by the Director of Transport—that all licences for the sale of intoxicating liquor throughout the country should be withdrawn. This is not from a teetotal advocate; this is from a man who is simply dismayed at the delay in the matter of sending troops and material abroad owing to the habits of a certain number of the men. I have another important document of the same kind, but it all comes to the same thing. One of the officials of the Admiralty says:—I am confident that the root of all the trouble is drink and the high scale of wages now ruling. Instead of acting as an inducement to increased efforts, they tend to produce the opposite effect, inasmuch as it enables the men to earn in a shorter time the amount of money they require for their needs, and they are able to work fewer hours, and spend more time in drinking.Here is a later document, but I really do not wish to pile up the evidence; it is all of the same character. Here you have not merely a loss of time. The percentage of time lost does not represent the whole loss; there is a percentage of efficiency which is lost. There is a loss of 25 per cent. in time. On what basis? Where the loss of time is given at 25 per cent. of loss, in a period of grave war, of efficiency you cannot count the loss. There are 900,000 men now engaged in the shipyards, building yards, steel and copper works, all engaged on Government work. There are 130,000 men in the shipbuilding yards, which are not Royal yards, and 730,000 in other works. It would mean one-third added on to the number—or 15 per cent., or 10 per cent. if you like, added on. We are short of men. The Board of Trade is scraping everywhere, in its Labour Exchanges, feeling, searching, advertising everywhere, recruiting for labour. We get 4,000 in one month, 3,000 in another, and 700 another, for the work. Here they are. You add what is the equivalent of 150,000 886 men to your yards, to your armament works, without spending a day in additional structure, without finding a single additional machine, or machinery plant, which takes months to obtain, without adding to supervision, practically lessening it, and all by one act of sacrifice on the part of the nation in order to strengthen the race, and win through to the victory for our country.
I have here a most remarkable letter from a man who read a speech made by an hon. Friend of mine, I will not say who he is, in which it was said that the workers were not drinking. This is a very remarkable document. It was so remarkable that I said it could not be true, and that a man who was really doing these things would not write at all about them, and so I made special investigation. I think it is really worth reading. This is a man from the Clyde who says he is one of the workers. He says he was amazed at that speech of the hon. Member, and that the hon. Member knew nothing about it. In order to commend himself to me, he says he is an ex-Baptist—[An HON. MEMBER: "What is he now?]—and he goes on to say that owing to family trouble he had to give it up.As late as Friday the 2nd April I got my pay, as thousands of others. I, as the rest, got pretty well full up—went to work next day at 7.30, the 3rd. I did not do my work, nor way able to do so, owing to my condition, nor even able to clean my machine either. At 12 we stop work. I went again, got pretty well royal. At 6.30, I went on purpose for a country walk, met a friend, got his company, went for a three-mile walk. But three miles from home we got helplessly drunk, never knew where we parted, but on Sunday I had a skinned cheek bone and eyebrow. My friend had his bottle of whisky broke, and a dislocated nose. None of us knew how we came by it, owing to our intoxicated state. On Sunday, I could not leave my bed. I was so bad under its influence, and my sore which I got on Saturday night. On the Monday, the 5th, I was so bad I could not do my work at all.If anybody will look at the time-sheet, he will see blue marks and little red marks against the men coming in after the first quarter. But I will tell you something that is not on the sheets, and that is the kind of work they do when they are in that condition. The letter continues:—I tried to get my mates to stop at 12 noon, but they did not. At 12, I had two glasses of whisky and one pint of beer, went back to work not caring how things went. At 5–30, I had three glasses of whisky, one pint of beer before going 887 home—after that a good deal. Tuesday was so bad after effects, did not go to work at all, drinking all the time. Wednesday, the 7th, was so weak and helpless was an agony to put in nine hours. Thursday, the 8th, had a few drinks to soothe the others; but Friday, the only day for twelve, I was not myself, or able to do my bit.I am not going to say that the man is a type of many men, but there are too many of that type of man, as anyone will see who will look at the time sheet. These are not the men of whom we are 35 per cent. short, but they are the men who throw a squad out of work because they are absent. I think the House will realise, after what I have said, that, however unpleasant the task, however difficult, and whatever trouble it may brew or distil, we should be betraying our trust to the country if we did not propose something. We have sought for a long time the best method of doing it, and not merely the best method of doing it, but the best method of doing it without controversy, which is in itself not the best method in time of war. I cannot pretend that we have succeeded, but we have done our best. Whatever you propose there will be some persons to say, "Try the other thing," and they are very often the persons who, if you had tried the other thing, would have said exactly the same thing. Whatever you propose, it involves a measure of surrender and of abnegation by those who are not to blame. Wars are now waged, not by armies but by nations, and nations therefore must be under discipline like armies. I am not proposing anything to-day as a solution of temperance, as a promotion of sobriety, as an advancement of any social reform. Whatever I propose I propose as an act of discipline during the War, and for the purpose of making war efficiently. All discipline involves a surrender of liberty. There are two millions of men in this country who voluntarily surrendered their liberty to serve their country—cherished liberties, liberties of the most elementary kind that no one would dream of interfering with—but they have done so because their country needs it, and if it had not needed it such discipline would be irksome and humiliating.
Why is it necessary to impose restraints? Is it because these men would not do their 888 duty? No. It is because you always get in every body, in every rank of life, in every class and race, a body of men who cannot, through some inherent or acquired weakness, do without these restraints. The majority have got to endure the same restraints, because if these men fail the whole Army fails. But that is equally true of a nation in case of war. We invite the House of Commons to consider remedies which may affect everybody, and may affect communities against which there is no complaint. There are armament districts against which we have no complaint. We invite it for the sake of the nation. I never saw any proposal yet to deal with anything that you could not find reasons against. It always strikes me that there are many more reasons against doing a thing than for doing it, and that all of them are good, but I think they are not good enough. That is the test which I hope the House will apply, that we have simply done our best, and, taking into account everything, to propose the best remedies which would enable us, at any rate, to cope in some degree with the evil.
Let us take the various remedies that have been proposed—restriction of hours; very useful, especially the hours before breakfast; but the reports we have had show that the restriction of hours is by no means adequate, for this reason: It very often defeats the very purpose you have in view. Men when they get so completely out of control by a habit of this kind almost mechanically and unconsciously subordinate everything to it, and the time of work is fitted in to suit the hours the houses are open. They go long distances in order to get drink where the facilities are greatest, and very often the mere restriction of hours not only does not answer the purpose, but defeats the purpose. We received not from temperance advocates, but from the most unlikely quarters, proposals for complete prohibition, and there is always the grand example of Russia. [An HON. MEMBER: "There is not prohibition there!"] If we could get prohibition as complete in this country I think it would startle the hon. Baronet very much. Take Russia. Un- 889 doubtedly it has improved the productivity of labour there by over 40 per cent. That is the report. Still I think, before we do that, we are bound to try everything short of it. It is such a very serious interference with the habits of the people that I do not think we would be justified in attempting it until, at any rate, we have approached it and tried every other method, and it has failed. The other is total prohibition of spirits. That has been advocated, and by officials and by men who are ordinarily opposed to every proposal which has ever emanated from this side about the liquor traffic. If we hesitate to accept that until we are driven to it, I should like to give the reasons. It is a beverage of particular localities, and we wish to avoid the appearances of being unfair to local tastes if possible. [An HON. MEMBER: "Ireland."] Not merely Ireland, but Scotland. There is no doubt at all that the mischief from spirits, the drinking of spirits, is incalculable, especially drunk in its absolutely undiluted form, as it is too often.
We have come to the conclusion that at any rate we ought to make an effort to restrain, as much as possible, the sale of spirits and of the most alcoholic of beer, and for that purpose we propose a very heavy surtax on spirits, and also a very heavy surtax on all the beers containing more than 7 per cent. of proof spirit.
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
I know the point, not 7 per cent. of alcohol—Oh, no! There are very few beers have quite got that. There are some, I know. It is 7 per cent. proof spirit.
There is another point which I will put about spirits. There is a maximum of dilution for spirits. At the present moment you are not allowed to sell spirits without notice which is lower than 25 per cent. under proof. That is for brandy, whisky or rum. We propose that the limit of dilution should be extended. It is in itself a good thing from the point of view of selling less alcohol for what is apparently the same quantity of whisky; but in addition to that, it is a method which 890 enables the publican to recoup himself while charging the same price to his customer. It serves the State and it serves the vendor of spirits at the same time. There has been a good deal of anticipation of coming events, and a vast amount of spirits has already been withdrawn out of bond. That makes it very difficult to know exactly what the revenue will be in the coming year from the proposals which we make. We propose to double the whisky duty. [An HON. MEMBER: "Whisky only?"] The spirit duty. I am speaking in terms of whisky. With regard to beer up to 43 specific gravity we do not propose any alteration at all in the beer duties; after that we propose a surtax, which is a graduated one, and it is done deliberately with the intention of discouraging the heavier beers. Between 7 and 8 per cent. of proof spirit, that is, up to 48 specific gravity, we propose 12s per barrel. [An HON. MEMBER: "In addition to the existing duty?"] Yes, a surtax. Between 49 and 53, 24s.; and afterwards 36s., when you get to the heavier beers. This does not interfere with exports at all. The hon. Baronet is absolutely wrong. He is in a great hurry to impart information, but I would not mind that if it were correct. It is perfectly true about export, but it is not true about the stout sold, say, in Ireland.
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
I cannot give the effect on every brewery in Ireland; it is perfectly impossible. If the hon. Gentleman will put down a question, I will give an answer about a particular brewery, but I am not prepared with regard to Bass, Alsopps and the rest, to say what the effect would be. Those are our proposals as far as spirits and beers are concerned. It is perfectly obvious that the same scale of taxation must apply 891 also to wines. At the present moment wine is not bearing the same percentage of taxation upon the alcohol it contains as are spirits. If you put heavy duties upon heavy beers and spirits, you must also interfere with the duty upon wine. It is true that during the last few months the consumption of wine has fallen by 25 per cent. All the same, you cannot justify putting heavier taxation upon alcohol as produced in this country and charging, say, merely 7½d. per bottle upon champagne, when you are charging twice, three, or four times as much on your bottle of whisky. Therefore it is proposed, in order to put it on somewhere about the same scale, to increase the wine duty by quadrupling it. Upon sparkling wines, which now bear a surtax of 2s. 6d. a gallon, which means 2s. 6d. half a dozen bottles, there will be a surtax of 15s. a gallon. On the revenue side, owing to the very heavy anticipation, and the difficulty of knowing the extent to which there will be dilution, it is almost impossible to estimate what will be produced by spirits. I should doubt whether this year spirits will contribute more than they would at the present rate of duty. The consumption has gone up enormously during the last four or five months. I do not know what will be the effect of a duty of this kind. The effect of the additional duty of 3s. 9d. was to reduce the consumption of spirits by, I think, about 20 to 25 per cent. The consumption went down by something between 7,000,000 and 10,000,000 gallons. That was the effect of a mere addition of 3s. 9d. If the addition of another 14s. 9d. will answer the same purpose, we shall have achieved very largely the purpose we have in view, without prohibiting the sale of spirits in this country. As far as beer is concerned, we anticipate that the change will produce a revenue of £1,600,000. As far as wine is concerned, we hope to get a revenue of £1,500,000 out he propose now?
§ Mr. CHAMBERLAIN
Is there change or any new duty upon alcohol in other forms, in other beverages—cider or so-called temperance drinks? [An HON. MEMBER: "Ginger ale!"]
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
I have seen figures showing that so-called temperance drinks contain 4 or 5 per cent. of alcohol. If that is true, they must be escaping the revenue officers. As the right hon. Gentleman knows perfectly well, people would have no right to sell them unless they had a licence. I believe that 2 per cent. is the maximum at the present moment. If they exceed that, they certainly ought to be taxed. If I could get any proof from the gentlemen who write to the papers, I should certainly take steps against them.
§ Mr. CHAMBERLAIN
I am asking, not in criticism, but only for information: Does the right hon. Gentleman propose to deal with cider, having regard to the alteration he proposes in the position of beer?
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
I should doubt very much whether you have much cider in this country with more than 7 per cent. of proof spirit.
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
I think there is some special provision for that. I have promised to consider the point. A question has already been put to me by an hon. Member opposite, and I propose to deal with that question. We must extend the exemptions there, especially now.
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
Thirty-five. I do not pretend that these measures alone will be adequate, and the Government, after careful and prolonged consideration, 893 have come to the same conclusion. We must have, in addition, more complete and thorough control of the liquor trade in areas producing war material, or where there is transport, or occasionally in camping areas. Even with spirits at double duty, and beer with 7 per cent. of proof spirit and above raised in price, men earning exceptional wages can buy quite enough to incapacitate them for work. In these areas, therefore, where it is vital to us to stop excessive drinking, the Government must have complete control over the sale of these commodities. I have already, when summarising the evidence, indicated the perils. There is excessive drinking; there is a congestion of public-houses at points where they are direct temptations to that minority of men whose wills have already been sapped by alcohol; there is the absence of provision for healthy, decent refreshment, both in the way of nourishment and of stimulant; and there is the fact that the sale of liquor is bound to be in the hands of those whoso special interest is rather in advancing their business than in controlling the appetites of their customers.
We propose to take powers, limited to the period of the War, because we do not want to raise any issue beyond that. I do not mind saying that I should have liked, if it had been possible, to have taken this opportunity of putting the nation in a position at the end of the War to deal with this problem without the complication of vested interests. After all—the House will allow me to say this—the nation has got to live afterwards. It could perhaps afford a drink bill of £160,000,000 before the War. Even then many lived in squalor and misery. But it was a prosperous period. No one knows how long this War will last. No one knows how exhausting it will be. What we could afford before the War we certainly cannot afford after the War. One of the things we cannot afford is a drink bill of £160,000,000. I had hoped it was possible, by the agreement of all parties, for us to be placed in a position to do something that would have given us complete control during the War, and which would have made it unnecessary for 894 us, either to have very heavy taxation, or any of those other expedients which would give us complete control, at the same time leaving us free, men of all parties, to consider, when we put our heads together, how we are to rebuild our country.
However, that is not the proposal I am now making. I simply propose that we shall have powers during the War to enable us, for instance, to close any public-houses in these areas whose presence is considered for the moment injurious, and having a prejudicial effect on the output of munitions, the transport of material, or the discipline of the troops. We must have the power also to use either licensed premises, or any other premises in the areas, for the purpose of supplying reasonable refreshments to the men engaged in these burdensome tasks, and for the purpose of preventing any section of men from abusing the facilities for the supply of intoxicants. Even the power must be included, should it be thought necessary, to suppress the sale of spirits, or of very heavy beers, in these areas. This power need not be exercised unless the exigencies of the War, which are paramount, make it, in the judgment of the Admiralty and the War Office, absolutely essential that this power ought to be given. The areas themselves will be defined by Order in Council, on the advice of the War Office, the Admiralty, and, of course, the Home Department. The extent of the areas must depend upon what those Departments consider necessary, in order to ensure real and effective control. [An HON. MEMBER: "Will the areas be large or small"?] That is a matter which they will have to consider. Each case will be considered upon its merits. Sometimes men live at a great distance, and sometimes railway and tram accommodation enables them to travel easily outside the mere city or borough boundary. The control will be exercised by a Central Board, appointed by these Departments and representatives of them. Hon. Members will ask, what about compensation? We have come to the same conclusion here as we did in the other Defence of the Realm Acts—that where you are taking away a man's property and a man's livelihood, you must give him fair 895 compensation. That will be given for the acquisition of all interests where public-houses or other property is used, appropriated, or damaged.
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
If a house is taken for the purpose of supplying refreshments, you may take it either permanently or temporarily; that is a matter which has got to be settled by the Board itself.
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
They will have to be considered like the others. We must see that people are not damaged, and do not suffer, in consequence of any action that is taken. For instance, the State must be free to purchase its supplies of intoxicating liquors from any brewer, without reference to existing ties in those areas. The State, if it supplies refreshments, must supply the very best it can provide, and therefore it must be free from ties; and the compensation payable to the brewer will be in proportion to the temporary loss of custom which he thus sustains.
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
The clubs will, of course, be under the same control. Our view is that you must give complete control over the supply of intoxicating liquors in those areas to those departments which are responsible for war material.
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
That is exactly I to what I am now coming. The principles I and methods upon which compensation is to be based are exactly the same as in the acquisition of other properties, and injury to other interests already dealt with under the Defence of the Realm Act. A Commission will be appointed—whether the present Commission or another, I propose to announce on the Second Reading 896 of the Bill—for the purpose of ascertaining what is a fair amount to be paid; the names of the Commissioners will be given before the Second Reading of the Bill. I do not profess to believe that our proposals are cast in an heroic mould. They are not so thorough and so bold as that of the Russians. I do trust, however, that they will be sufficient, and that it will not be necessary for any Government to proceed to more drastic courses in order to ensure the output of munitions of war. They involve undoubtedly a great amount of self-abnegation on the part of a considerable portion of the community, but I feel confident that the community, as a whole, will be prepared to endure all that if necessary in order to increase the output of munitions. There are hundreds of thousands who are enduring more at the present time—much more! I gave figures to the House last week. I am sure that in order to help them the country is prepard to suffer any sacrifice that is necessary. Their gallantry is beyond description. They are constantly appealing to us to send them more munitions, more material, to enable them to cope with their terrible task. They know what it means. They can see in front of them miles of entrenchments, defended by every art of human ingenuity, and defended—as we know by now—by some of the blackest arts that man ever devised. They ask us to help them to get through without unnecessary loss. Their appeal is not lost on us. Their appeal is for a fair chance in the fight. Honour demands that whatever it costs us, we shall give them it.
§ Mr. BONAR LAW
The right hon. Gentleman has made a long and interesting speech, but I confess that, after listening to him with the utmost care, I am somewhat bewildered, and I do not clearly understand what are the proposals of the Government. I do not for a moment suggest that that is due to any want of lucidity on the part of the right hon. Gentleman. The subject is very complicated, and no doubt when we read his speech we shall see clearly what the Government propose to do. I have, however, come to the conclusion—only within the last few minutes—that in these circumstances, 897 when I do not understand the proposals, it would be out of place for me to make a speech expressing any opinion in regard to them. I have determined to take that course for myself, and I am inclined to think that the House, as a whole, will consider that it would be wiser to wait till we have seen the Bill, until we have seen the reports which the right hon. Gentleman has promised to circulate, so that then we shall be in a better position than we are to-day to express an opinion on the subject.
§ Mr. JOHN REDMOND
I entirely agree as to the force of what has been said by the Leader of the Opposition. At the same time the character of the proposals which the right hon. Gentleman has put forward is such that I feel it incumbent upon me without any delay, at this stage, to say a few words. I think the right hon. Gentleman entered upon an unnecessary task when he devoted a large portion of his speech to prove the gravity of the situation in which the country stands, and the duty of all of us to do everything in our power to enable that crisis to be properly met. I am quite sure that there is no man in any quarter of this House, and I am certain that there is no man of any responsibility in Ireland, who does not fully grasp the gravity of the situation; and I do not believe that there is in Ireland any section of men whatever who are not willing to face any sacrifice that is proved to be necessary to enable the crisis properly to be met. I therefore pass that altogether.
Speaking for those for whom I am entitled to speak, I say that we are willing to face any sacrifice that is proved necessary in order to meet this evil. The right hon. Gentleman went on to prove his case—that is to prove that, although no slur is to be cast upon the general attitude of the workmen of Great Britain, there are a certain number of workmen who are slack in their work, and he attributes that—and quotes authority for the statement—to excessive drinking. I am bound to say that listening to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman, and before I have the opportunity of reading the reports and of 898 weighing the actual matter, I thought for the moment that so far he had made good his case for some remedy of this defect. When it comes to the case of Ireland, however, I have to remark that he made no case out at all. There are great works in Ireland, great shipyards in Belfast, great transport businesses carried on in other ports in Ireland, and great explosive works at Arklow, in Wicklow County. He did not venture to allege, because I know he could not allege, that there has been either any increase in drunkenness in these places in that country, or that there has been any slackness on the part of the workers. On the contrary all the information I have received from Belfast concerning the workmen of Belfast redounds to the eternal honour of the city of Belfast. I am told that the men are working longer hours than ever they did, and that there is less drunkenness amongst them. I am told that is true of every other place where anything which can be included in the definition of munitions of war is being manufactured in the country. Therefore, so far as Ireland is concerned, not only did he not justify this, but he did not attempt to make any allegations whatever. That being so, I am bound for a moment, even at this early stage, to look at the remedies he is proposing.
With reference to the second proposal in his Bill, namely, that he should take complete power in any munition area as the authorities deem necessary for the purpose of dealing with slackers, I confess if he had stopped there I would have been inclined cordially to accept and support his proposal. I think that proposal is a just and reasonable one. It is not just because of the misconduct, or the alleged misconduct, of workers in one district that a whole people should be penalised, but I think it is just, and quite justifiable, that wherever it is proved in any particular district that the interests of the country are being injured by excessive drinking the Government should have in its hands sufficient power in that district to deal with the matter by taking over public houses, by establishing perhaps canteen systems whereby good liquor, food, and accommodation can be given to the men and so forth. So far, therefore, as the proposal of the right hon. Gentleman is concerned, I think he would be quite justified in making it, and I, for my part, would cordially accept it. I am happy to think in practice it probably would not have to be applied to Ireland at all, because in these 899 munition districts of Ireland there is no need for it; but, if the need arose in the future, he would have the power, and no one would complain that that power should be put rigorously in force.
But the right hon. Gentleman proposes something else. He proposes, in effect, to destroy root and branch a great Irish industry. Now I would not even complain of that if he could make a case. I do not complain of any sacrifice, no matter how awful it is, which may be entailed upon Ireland in doing her duty in this matter; but I say when there is no case made it would be a cruel thing without the smallest necessity to inflict this injury upon this Irish industry. The right hon. Gentleman opened his speech by saying it was all a case of necessity. Unless he could prove necessity he said—I think those were his exact words—his whole case went by the board. He has failed to prove necessity in the case of Ireland, and, so far as Ireland is concerned, I say his case goes by the board, and I do not think it would be right if I allowed even this preliminary stage to pass without saying that, in my opinion, his proposals will be resented by every party in Ireland. I do not believe that there is any party in Ireland but will resent these proposals in view of the fact that no case has been made out against Ireland. I felt it was only candid and right on my part that I should make this protest at this stage.
§ Mr. SAMUEL ROBERTS
Might I just ask one question of the right hon. Gentleman? Was I right in gathering from what was said that this central body was to have absolute control over the areas to be defined? The right hon. Gentleman was good enough to give me private information that, so far as the area which I have the honour to represent is concerned, legislation for that area, considered by itself, would not have been necessary.
§ Mr. WILLIAM O'BRIEN
Judging by the first portion of the Chancellor's speech, one might have expected his proposals would have been more chastened, but before he had finished his speech I was convinced that he had struck a most unjust, and possibly a fatal, blow at almost the only considerable manufacture that is left in the three southern provinces of Ireland. Men of my way of thinking, up to the present, have refrained, and will still refrain, from saying or doing anything that would increase the anxieties of the Government in 900 the tremendous task that they have before them on the Continent. It is a matter of life and death; but there really is a limit if Irish representatives in this House are not to forget altogether that they are Irishmen and the representatives specially of their own country. We claim that the only just and logical treatment of Ireland would be to exclude Ireland altogether from this Bill. If the Home Rule Act which you have passed is anything better than a worthless scrap of paper, you have renounced the right of this House to interfere in the management of Irish affairs of this very special description, and yet the Chancellor of the Exchequer is to-night the first to set his own Act at defiance, to destroy a great Irish trade, and forestall and usurp the authority of the Irish Parliament, even before you have brought it into existence.
As to the great Irish distilling trade and the great Irish brewing trade, you have already taxed them within an inch of their lives—14s. 9d. a gallon upon whisky, and £1 a barrel upon porter—and I really do not know how these manufacturers are going to survive the new pains and penalties the Chancellor has announced to-night. I have often heard Englishmen speak with indignation of the laws by which the Irish woollen industry was crushed in the interests of English traders. For the last fifty years you have been persecuting this great Irish manufacture, which is of as great importance to Ireland, practically, as the cotton industry is to England. You have been persecuting it—I do not charge with the same malicious intention, but certainly with the same deadly persistency with which you extinguished the Irish woollen trade. You raise the Irish whisky duty by large amounts at various times, and now tonight you propose additional penalties which will practically break the back of that industry. I am afraid that the effect of the Chancellor's proposals upon the Irish brewing trade will be almost equally disastrous. The Members for Dublin, if they chose to do so, could say what Dublin would be without Guinness's brewery, against which, I am informed by competent authorities, a proposal of this kind will strike a deadly blow. Gentlemen opposite have shown upon this subject an ignorance which, I think, is a little unworthy.
§ Mr. W. O'BRIEN
But having just handed over to Ireland the management of her own affairs, does not the hon. Gentleman think he might attach some little importance to the opinion of the Irish people themselves as to the existence of the one industry in which Dublin beats the world? As the hon. gentleman has challenged me, I for one will stand no cant or nonsense as to the product of that manufacture. So far from Guinness's stout or Cork stout having any pernicious influence upon the health or morals of the people in the same way as absinthe, I have yet to meet any experienced Irish doctor who will not tell you there is no more wholesome, healthy, or fortifying medicine that can be prescribed for delicate people or hard workers, and it is that reputation of Irish stout that has been earned by those very qualities of strength which the Chancellor to-night proposes to penalise in order to satisfy a lot of self-righteous prohibitionists opposite, without daring to deprive the English working men of the particular class of beer of a lighter quality which conforms with their tastes and habits.
I will go further—I suppose I shall horrify the hon. Gentleman who interrupts—and say that the same may be said of properly matured Irish whisky. I say that there is no more healthy or more hygienic tonic than Irish whisky. [HON. MEMBERS: "Scotch whisky!"] Hon. Members speak for themselves; I have never tasted it. The great majority of the doctors of these countries will tell you that no better, no more healthy tonic can be prescribed for a man than Irish whisky which has been allowed to ripen in casks for four or five years. The trouble only comes in from villainous adulteration, and from the sale of raw spirit while it is still reeking with fusel oil. If the Chancellor of the Exchequer had confined himself to a remedy for these adulterations, we should have gladly joined him in preventing the sale of these poisonous drinks to the people. To that extent I am in entire agreement with a portion of his statement, and I know of no responsible Irishman who would not welcome any regulation for the pureness and matureness of whisky before released from bond for sale. But that is not what the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Gentlemen who sit behind him are now driving at. They are not driving at maturity of the whisky sold to the public, but they are driving at killing the trade altogether 902 by inches. I take the consequences as to my own Constituency of the right hon. Gentleman's proposal to-night. Between the distilling trade and the brewing manufacture I am safe in saying that at least 10,000 of the population depend more or less upon these manufactures. I do not know how many distilleries and breweries will disappear under the right hon. Gentleman's new proposal. In addition to that, there is the destruction of employment, which seems such a light matter to some hon. Gentlemen opposite. The county of Cork is one of the most extensive barley growing districts in the country, and if you succeed in crushing this trade you will reduce that barley producing area in Ireland to the condition of a wilderness, although, as everyone knows, the chief hope of the country is that it may be able to increase its acreage under cultivation. I am not exaggerating when I say that if the Chancellor of the Exchequer, by his surtax, succeeds in annihilating those two great manufactures in Cork, the result will be as appalling as if that city were bombarded and sacked by the Germans. That is the truth, and the wrong to Ireland will not be lessened in the estimation of the Irish people by the misconduct, if I may use the term, of the self-righteous Gentlemen who are urging these proposals. We were the first in all Ireland to declare for England in this War, not only in speeches, but in recruits, and from the very first hour, without a moment's hesitation or equivocation, we took that course, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer has now made a very handsome return for our patriotism. There would be some consolation in this matter if we could even persuade ourselves that we were being victimised for some good object connected with the successful prosecution of the War, but it is nothing of the kind. This is not a genuine War emergency measure, and the conduct of hon. Gentleman behind the Chancellor of the Exchequer shows that it is in reality a teetotal measure which the Government, have been tempted to accept under cover of war pressure. I venture to assert that the pretext of that war pressure has now been pretty well disposed of.
It seemed to me that the Chancellor of the Exchequer made rather a feeble defence of the statement, which ran through all England, that drink was a more formidable enemy than Germany. At all events, we have the fact that the Prime Minister forgot all about that 903 speech when he paid his visit to Newcastle. The right hon. Gentleman has undoubtedly given us a most shocking and painful picture of the misconduct and the want of patriotism of a section of British workmen. I am afraid he has made a statement which in its way is as great a discredit to Britain as the loss of a battleship. I would entirely agree with the right hon. Gentleman if the case he made out in regard to the minority were true of the huge majority of British workmen. I mark to-night that although the right hon. Gentleman brought out with tremendous emphasis the state of affairs in regard to particular sections of the country, he made no general statement showing the extent of this horrible misconduct, and he left the House under the impression that he referred merely to an inconsiderable minority of British workmen, whom the Defence of the Realm Act already gave him the most drastic powers to deal with. I have the utmost respect for men who are in the habit of taking a rational measure of alcohol, and who renounce that measure, but when we come to those hon. Gentlemen who were born with an aversion to alcohol, and to whom alcohol is not one of the vices they are incurring, I have very little respect indeed for them when they thrust their compulsory virtue upon men who lead harder lives, and to whom stronger nutriment and stimulants may be necessary to enable them to bear up against the exhaustion of life.
I will not discuss to-night the extraordinary effect which the right hon. Gentleman's proposals will have upon the finance of Home Rule. This is perhaps a subject of remote and melancholy interest under present conditions. We are not in the confidence of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and we cannot pretend, on the spur of the moment, to be able to measure the financial consequences of his proposals; but if what I apprehend about them is justified, you might as well throw the Home Rule Bill into the fire right away so far as the revenue of Ireland is concerned, for you will have sacrificed something like half the entire revenue of Ireland, and I really do not know how you are going to replace it unless you place a tax upon Irish potatoes or tax the new peasant proprietors out of existence, not to speak at all of where the new Irish Parliament, if it ever comes into existence, is to find material for its own 904 schemes. Next Tuesday the Chancellor of the Exchequer will unfold his Budget, and I hope that we shall then be in a better position to understand where we shall stand in Ireland as to the future. I cannot allow an hour to pass without entering my strongest protest against the right hon. Gentleman's proposals here to-night, and I will only say that, in my opinion, he has done an ungracious and a bad day's work for the future relations of his party with Ireland.
§ Sir THOMAS WHITTAKER
I quite agree with the Leader of the Opposition that it would be unwise and undesirable to discuss these proposals to-day. I think we ought to consider them and thoroughly understand them. I have risen to make two remarks. The first is with reference to the statement of the hon. Member who has just sat down that these proposals have been thrust upon the Government by temperance people and teetotalers. That is a statement without an atom of foundation whatever, which has been evolved only in the hon. Member's imagination, and for which there is no justification. No suggestion of this kind has been made to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and, so far as I am aware, no member of the temperance party knew what proposals the right hon. Gentleman was going to make. These proposals have not come from the temperance party. The whole thing has arisen, so far as I have understood it, from the impression which has been made upon the Government as to the necessity of doing something in this matter, and they have evolved in the Cabinet their own proposals. They were not moved to take action by the temperance party. Whether these proposals are the wisest that could be made, we can best discuss when we are more familiar with them. I would suggest that any proposals that are to be made in connection with this very difficult subject will be found to be surrounded with difficulty in every direction in which you wish to move, and there will be no difficulty in bringing criticism to bear upon any of these proposals. Therefore I suggest that we should adopt the suggestion of the Leader of the Opposition, and calmly consider these proposals before proceeding to discuss them.
§ Mr. CHAMBERLAIN
I wish to ask two questions relating entirely to procedure. My first question is, when shall we have the Bill in our hands and the Papers 905 which the right hon. Gentleman has promised to lay on the Table, which, of course, are necessary for the further consideration of this question. I draw the inference from the statement of the right hon. Gentleman that he is going to take a series of Taxing Resolutions in Committee of Ways and Means as soon as he has got leave to introduce his Bill. The second question I want to ask is, are the Resolutions which he intends to move going to be embodied in this Bill, or are they to be reserved for the Defence of the Realm Bill next week?
§ Sir G. YOUNGER
I merely desire to say that I think the right hon. Gentleman opposite has taken a very wise course in adopting the suggestion initiated by the Leader of the Opposition, and I propose to reserve any criticism I have to make until the Second Reading stage.
§ Mr. T. M. HEALY
I should like to say a word or two on the subject of procedure, because I consider procedure is at the root of the liberties of this House. I think the course suggested by the Leader of the Opposition and the hon. Baronet opposite cannot be taken to-night, for the very good reason that you have passed an Act of which the right hon. Gentleman proposes to take advantage of in Committee of Ways and Means by a course against which I protested at the beginning of the Session. I assert that no course similar to that to which I objected just after Questions has ever been taken by any Government since this House has been a House of Commons. What is the course suggested? You put down a Defence of the Realm (Amendment—No. 3) Bill. Invariably we have all given the Government, without question, any powers they demanded under the Defence of the Realm Act. But what followed the Defence of the Realm Act? "Ways and Means Committee," in which the Chancellor of the Exchequer is to move Resolutions. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Spen Valley seems to think that the course suggested by the Leader of the Opposition can be treated as a First Reading; but it cannot, because the moment we pass our Resolutions in Committee of Ways and Means to-night, as the right hon. Gentleman suggests, as an annex to his statement on the Defence of the Realm Act it has the effect of an Act of Parliament if he so chooses. How, then, can we treat this as a mere preliminary Motion? What are the words of the Act of 1913? This is 906 why I said at the beginning of business to-day that there was no precedent for the course proposed to be taken. It practically amounts to this, that the Government propose to have a Budget discussion next Tuesday, while all the effect of the Budget discussion is to be taken to-night by reason of the Ways and Means Resolution. This is the Statute of 3rd Geo. V.:—Where a Resolution is passed by the Committee of Ways and Means of the House of Commons (so long as it is a Committee of the Whole House) providing for the variation of any existing tax, or for the renewal for a further period of any tax in force or imposed during the previous financial year, whether at the same or a different rate, and whether with or without modifications, and the Resolution contains a declaration that it is expedient in the public interest that the Resolution should have Statutory effect under the provisions of this Act, the Resolution shall, for the period limited by this Section, and subject to the provisions of this Act, have statutory effect as if contained in an Act of Parliament.What is the meaning of putting the Resolution down? Either this is Budget night or it is not. I do not complain of the right hon. Gentleman's retort when I interrupted him and asked whether this is a Defence of the Realm Act or a Finance Act, but he is the most reckless man as to procedure who ever held his office. He cares nothing for the forms of this House. Can he show us any occasion on which this has ever been done? The Budget is fixed for Tuesday. On Thursday, the preceding Parliamentary day, he puts down his Resolutions in Committee of Ways and Means, and, if we are not watchful, the Clerk may mumble them at the Table, and, not having seen them on the Paper, we may have a Statute doubling the taxation upon whisky, increasing it upon beer, and largely increasing it upon wine, without knowing what they are. Is that the normal procedure of this House? The fact is that you intend to use this period of War and our feelings in regárd to the War, and in regard to the soldiers themselves, on a taxing question. If beer and whisky are bad, prohibit them altogether. That is the logic of the case. Come down and say, on your responsibility as a Government, "whisky is bad," as the Russians said that Vodka is bad, and we will support you, but do not mix up this attempt at taxation with a War measure.
907 Are we considering revenue to-night or are we not? We are considering whether we are going to win or lose in this War. We have not grudged the right hon. Gentleman money. He has not been grudged taxation. Do not let him mix up the two things, and do not let him mix them up by means of a procedure for which I challenge him to find a precedent. He has had great experience; he has secretaries galore and he has a large staff at the Treasury. Can he show any precedent for what he is doing to-night? He must admit that there are many things which in a normal time might be criticised, and which we have never attempted to criticise. When the War is over England and Scotland in some shape or form will have got the benefit of the thousands of millions of taxation that you are expending on the War. You produce shells and your workers who produce them are getting higher wages. We are not getting anything except so far as shipbuilding in Belfast is concerned.
There never has been such a spectacle as Ireland has shown during this War in all her connection with England. Troops going through the streets have been cheered, men taking rifles from soldiers going to the docks and carrying them, knapsacks being taken off their shoulders and borne by little children, and "God Save the King" being sung as well as "God Save Ireland." There never has been anything like it in the history of the country. Yet this is the occasion which you accept to bring in what you call a temporary measure. It is not temporary. That is the extraordinary thing about the proposal of the right hon. Gentleman. When you have destroyed these distilleries and breweries, they are gone for ever. When the War is over where will all the workmen be? There are 8,000 heads of families in Guinness's brewery.
§ Mr. JOYNSON-HICKS
I did not say that it was a proposal to drive men into the Army, but, when the hon. Member said that it would involve 8,000 men going into the workhouse, I ejaculated, "could they not some of them enlist?"
§ Mr. HEALY
I said "half of them." I have always said that there are a great many—too many—public-houses in Ireland, but it was done by eight resident magistrates with the distinct Government object of getting revenue from the Irish people. It is your own Act. You did it. England has got, and will get, the value of all her munitions, all her artillery, and everything in the nature of equipment for her men, but the only thing Ireland is getting—so far as I know—is measured by the extent to which food is taken out of the country. The revenue which is promised to us under the so-called Home Rule Act depends very largely upon the taxation which was to come from spirits and beer, and hon. Gentlemen must not be surprised if we see in these proposals practically a, proposal to destroy that measure. I unhesitatingly say, "With the proposal made to-night passed into law, good-bye to the Home Rule Act so far as ifs efficacy is concerned."
I cannot altogether forget the right hon. Gentleman's own position. It is an amazing thing to me that he should have made the speech he did and that the Prime Minister should have gone to Newcastle-on-Tyne and should have made the speech he did. The two speeches are wholly irreconcilable. The Chancellor of the Exchequer made this extraordinary statement: "The lure of drink is a greater danger than the power of Austria or the power of Germany." He stated also that in consequence of that lure this country was short of munitions of various kinds. Down went the Prime Minister to Newcastle-on-Tyne. Did he say the same? Nothing of the kind. He said the very contrary. He said that this country was adequately supplied with munitions of war and that there is no shortage of munitions of war. He is again given the lie to-night by his own Chancellor of the Exchequer. Really, I think in a matter of this kind we are entitled to have the Prime Minister present, and for my part I object to the passing of a Bill of this kind to-night having statutory effect unless we are told 909 which story we are to believe. Are we to believe the gospel of the Prime Minister at Newcastle, or the gospel of the Chancellor of the Exchequer? They are absolutely irreconcilable, and there are no means that I can see of taking the two of them and for any Liberal to say, "I take my stand rather with the Chancellor of the Exchequer," or "rather with the Prime Minister; there is really very little difference of opinion between them." I say that they are poles asunder.
I think, therefore, we are entitled to know whether the right hon. Gentleman means to put his Ways and Means Resolution under the Act of 1913. Will it have statutory effect from to-night? If so, what is the tremendous urgency? Why did not the Prime Minister tell the people of Newcastle that there is this tremendous urgency? Why have all the papers been led to believe that no such strong and drastic action will be taken? Above all, I think we are entitled to know this. The right hon. Gentleman, according to the newspapers, has been in constant conference with the hon. and learned Member for Waterford (Mr. John Redmond), the hon. Member for Mayo (Mr. Dillon), and the hon. Member for Belfast (Mr. Devlin). Did he speak to them in the sense that he has spoken to-night, and did they then and there acquiesce in the proposals he has put forward here? I should also like to know this: Will Ireland get anything in return for this altruism, because that is really what it amounts to. Nobody has suggested that the case which the right hon. Gentleman has made applies to our country. It could not apply to Ireland because we are not making munitions of war. What are we going to get in return? Why has the Government exhibited all this tremendous anxiety with regard to one particular trade? Why are the poor being robbed as to flour, coal, and other things, and no attempt being made by the Government to stir a finger to prevent it? Why is all their energy directed against one particular industry? In some parts of Ireland coal is £2 5s. and £2 10s. per ton. It is £2 10s. in the county of Cork. Why do not the Government establish a minimum price, or do something?
I think the Government in this matter are taking a plunge, and my hon. Friend the Member for Cork was justified in saying that this is a teetotal scheme, and that advantage is being taken of the War for teetotal purposes. The Welsh people 910 are very discontented because of the surrender as regards their Church. We have read of the great discontent caused in Wales by the proposals of the Government. But many of the people who favour Disestablishment are very strong teetotalers, and this is a sop to them. [A laugh.] I am glad to see that teetotalers can laugh so heartily. Certainly, it is very remarkable you should have a Bill proposed as to Wales without the knowledge of the Welsh Members and against their wishes. They were told that they were consulted, but they replied that they never heard of it, and in the middle of the seething discontent that existed in the Welsh party you suddenly find the storm deflected; you suddenly find a change in the bowling, and a new interest is discovered in which the Welsh Nonconformist clergymen are almost as much concerned as in the Church itself. And the Welsh Nonconformists will now understand from the Chancellor of the Exchequer that, while he did his best for them on the Church, he had to give in to the Tories and brewers, but he had stuck to them on the drink question. That, in my opinion, is really the genesis of the matter. The right hon. Gentleman is so varied in his actions and speeches, he is so adroit, that I am sure when he came to put all the strands together, and to make his decision, this suggestion as to the betrayal of the Welsh Church was not left altogether out of account, but did pass through his mind.
I maintain that this Defence of the Realm Bill is not a Bill standing by itself. It should be allowed to stand by itself. There has never been, so far as I know, a Ways and Means Resolution to found the Defence of the Realm Act. Ways and Means is a separate thing from the Defence of the Realm Bill, and I think we are entitled to know of what Bill the Ways and Means Resolution is the foundation. According to the procedure adopted in 1913, the Ways and Means Resolution was followed by a Finance Bill, and the Finance Bill got its First Reading. I speak subject to correction. I may be a little rusty on these matters, but I think the Finance Bill immediately followed the passing of the Ways and Means Resolution. It would certainly be a very remarkable thing if the Defence of the Realm Act Bill is based on a Ways and Means Resolution. You would have in the Defence of the Realm Bill practically the provisions of Budget legislation. Such an extraordinary, incongruous legislative, monster has 911 never been produced by any previous Chancellor of the Exchequer.
I very much regret the right hon. Gentleman should have fallen under the strictures I have made. Whenever proposals are made for the three Kingdoms, they are bound to be to the prejudice of my country. It is an absolute incongruity. Legislation for England is produced under the stress of Welsh and English public opinion, under the influence of the Press, of the newspapers, and of the pulpits and platforms. Our country, unfortunately, is not in the main track of these public forces. It is subject to wholly different and distinct considerations, and it was with a knowledge of those conditions and considerations that the provisions of the Home Rule Act were passed. Having passed that Act, you are now creating what seems to me to be the greatest difficulty of all. You are now practically putting a rope round our necks and handcuffs round our wrists. Any sacrifice it may be necessary to make for the War we are prepared to make, provided they are war sacrifices. But this is not a war sacrifice. This is a Bill which, if passed, will have its duration and effect long after most of the Members of this House will have passed away. Certainly it will be a sad thing to think, when we have devoted our energies and our aspirations to the defeat of Prussian tyranny, the result will be that, in the one country above all others which is entitled to some consideration for having forgotten the wrongs and injuries of the past, the result of this Bill will really be to subject it to a still more crushing tyranny.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
I think I can set the hon. and learned Gentleman's mind at rest at once, and also the mind of the House. I have not seen the Resolutions to be proposed in Committee of Ways and Means. But I am quite certain that by no possibility can they be included in the Defence of the Realm Consolidation Bill. These Resolutions will have to be passed in Committee. They will have to receive the assent of the House on Report, and upon them a further Bill will have to be introduced.
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
I think I can clear this matter up. If the hon. and learned Gentleman had only allowed me to answer two questions put by the right hon. Gentleman opposite, the main part of his speech would have been unnecessary. 912 The Defence of the Realm Bill stands absolutely alone, and I simply explained the other provisions because I thought it might be convenient to the House that I should submit all the proposals of the Government with regard to the drink question together, rather than explain part of them on the Defence of the Realm Bill and then proceed to make another speech on the Resolution in Ways and Means. I understood the House to give general assent to my proposition that I should take that course and explain the whole of the provisions at the same time. The Defence of the Realm Bill has nothing absolutely to do with taxation. These proposals will be incorporated in the Finance Bill of the year. I explained them together, because otherwise the proposals of the Government would have been truncated, and the House would not have been able to judge them as a whole. The Defence of the Realm Bill, which I invite the House to give me leave to introduce, is a Bill which deals entirely and exclusively with the control of the liquor traffic, and, as far as I can give an absolute pledge, nothing else. It has certainly nothing whatever to do with taxation, and that is my answer to the hon. and learned Gentleman. The Bill will be out to-morrow morning. With regard to the Papers, I am afraid I shall have to submit certain documents to the Admiralty, for it is their responsibility. I do not know whether the Home Office document is ready, but at any rate it will be out either to-morrow evening or on Saturday morning. The House will get them all before we come to the consideration of the Second Reading.
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
Well, really, I am surprised at that suggestion from the hon. and learned Gentleman. For an hon. Member with his experience to suggest that, having already proposed to put an extra duty on spirits, we should then suspend the whole thing and prevent its being brought into operation until Tuesday, is very extraordinary. Of course, he knows what would happen in that case.
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
They are Ways and Means Resolutions. I can give the hon. and learned Gentleman several precedents for Ways and Means Resolutions being introduced in this way. With regard to the age question, I will consider that. A Committee sat on that very question some time ago, and they reported against discrimination. We came to the conclusion that, on the whole, the case was not sufficient to draw a distinction at the present moment. I think the hon. Baronet opposite takes that view.
§ Sir G. YOUNGER
I do not. I think it is a great mistake not to do it. I cannot understand why you leave it out.
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
We had a discussion on this in 1909, and the evidence then was the other way. It was discussed in the House of Commons. I was then perfectly prepared to do it, but when it was gone into I found that those who were in favour of patent stills said they produced a purer article immediately by that process than was produced by the other process in two or three years. I am expressing no opinion on it. It is really a fight between Dublin and Belfast, and Heaven forfend that I should intervene between those two great Irish cities! The hon. and learned Gentleman was good enough to say, in a very amiable way, that I differed from my chief. I am very anxious not to enter into anything likely to be controversial. Everything I said had the full sanction of the Prime Minister. What I said to-night about munitions is exactly what was said by the Prime Minister. I said that there are in front of us operations which will require infinitely more ammunition than we have got at the present moment. The Prime Minister said nothing inconsistent with that. I am not sure, indeed, these were not actually his words. Therefore it is vital for us in the great operations that are in front of us that we should increase enormously our output of munitions. The Prime Minister said absolutely nothing contrary to that. He was dealing with another branch of the subject. The hon. and learned Gentleman will find nothing inconsistent in the statement which I made, with the statements which Lord Kitchener and Sir John French have also made upon this all-important question of munitions. It is really too important a question to be made a matter of personalities. It is a matter of life and death to our country.
§ 7.0 P.M.
§ Sir RICHARD COOPER
I am not going to allow this occasion to pass without objecting to the views expressed by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, that the authorities in this country, including the Prime Minister and the Chancellor of the Exchequer himself, are all consistent in what they are saying about the munitions of war. Such a statement is a preposterous one for any responsible Minister to make to the House of Commons. It is impossible, without the facts and figures in one's hand, to give chapter and verse for the belief I am going to express. I understand that we are passing a Resolution with regard to drastic proposals in connection with drink. There is but one construction to put upon the action we are taking to-night in passing this Resolution. It is nothing more or less than to saddle upon the working people of this country the responsibility for the delays in the production of munitions for the War. I cannot understand how it is that this matter is on the point of being passed without any representative of labour getting up and saying one word in defence of the working classes. The Leader of the Irish party has made a statement, which has not been challenged by the Chancellor of the Exchequer or anybody else, to the effect that in Belfast, where there are great shipyards, there is less drunkenness than before the War. Whether or not that is true I do not know. If it is true, I am entitled to ask why should Belfast shipyards be better to-day with regard to the drink problem and the Tyne and the Clyde so very much worse? Is there all that difference between the Irishmen and the Scotchmen in their habits of drinking?
I have said in my own Constituency, and I repeat here, that I regard the whole campaign against drink as being a means of hiding the faults of the Administration during the past year. To show the House that I am not in opposition to any proposals, right or wrong, for which the Government take responsibility in putting them before this House and which in their view are necessary for the proper carrying 915 out of the War, I would refer briefly to that part of the Chancellor of the Exchequer's proposals which enable the Government to take charge of some of the public-houses in this country. For the moment they are confining it to areas where munitions of war are being turned out. I heartily agree with the Chancellor of the Exchequer in that particular and in what he said. For the first time to my knowledge a responsible Minister has touched the root spot of the drink problem in this country, which lies in the character of the public-houses which are maintained by the State, inspected by the State, and taxed by the State. They are the only practicable social life avail able to the working men of this country. Anyone who will go into the Black Country, which I know, or into those districts of which the Chancellor of the Exchequer spoke to-night, will know that the vast majority of the working men find their social life there. We are all possessed of human nature, and, like the working men, we should inevitably drift sooner or later into the life of the public-house, where the object is only to sell beer and spirits. [An HON. MEMBER: "Oh, oh!"] A member of the Labour party says, "Oh, oh!"
§ Mr. J. H. THOMAS
I do not know whether the hon. Member is looking at me and thinks that I made the remark.
§ Sir R. COOPER
The Labour party has been remarkably silent. I am glad that in this House there has been a little discretion shown. I want the Chancellor of the Exchequer to go beyond what he does to-day, and I hope the opportunity will come while I am still a Member of this House—I want to see the State take over the whole of the drink traffic of this country, and the whole of the public-houses. I want public-houses made places where drink is no more offered for sale than anything else that a man requires. There is not only the working man to be considered in regard to social life, but his wife. To my knowledge there are enormous numbers of working people where the wife has no social life, except perhaps afternoon tea. There is another important aspect of the matter, namely, 916 that we are depending more and more on the work of women in our factories and offices, and that an enormous increase has taken place in the number of women who take up commercial work. If the Chancellor of the Exchequer comes later on to extend the principle he has put before the House to-night, I hope he will consider whether he cannot do what is done in every Continental country, namely, provide a suitable and desirable place where drink is sold by the State, where it is controlled by the State, and where food and refreshments can be obtained not only by the working man, but by his wife and the workgirls.
§ Mr. O'GRADY
This is not the proper time to make rabid speeches upon the statement made by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. So far as we on these benches are concerned, we are not going to allow the occasion to slip without making some protest against the statement made by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. The right hon. Gentleman has had this advantage for several months: he has had experts engaged upon this work, and they have collected a certain number of figures. We want to answer those figures properly. We believe that we can put up a good case against that put up by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. That is the reason why we do not intend to go tonight into the whole question and to answer the Chancellor of the Exchequer. In order that we may put up a proper answer to his statement I would ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will say whether the hours lost by the working men he indicated were lost in the production of the munitions of war and armaments. For instance, he knows as well as I know that in the shipyards there is a certain number of men doing work upon war vessels, but that 75 per cent. of the people employed may be engaged on private work. In regard to private work there are reasons why the men lose time. For instance, this winter we have had the worst winter for many a long year. Hon. Members who know the shipyards know that they are in the open and that the men cannot work during bad weather. I also want to ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether his officers have also taken into consideration that in these yards the men have lost time because they have had to wait for the material, and whether that time lost has been included in his statement. Thirdly, the right hon. Gentleman said himself that a large 917 number of the men—the strong, healthy, lusty men—have left and joined the Colours. The men now working cannot work as well as the old squad, who used to work regular hours and produce the great output prior to the War.
May I also ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether those who have been going into this question have taken into consideration the fact that on the Clyde the normal hours in the shipyards are fifty-three; those for the night shift being forty-five. As a matter of fact, no man works overtime upon night shift, and if you put the forty-five hours against the fifty-three you are bound to bring down the fifty-three. All these practical points require to be considered. As the chairman of an approved organisation I know how the thing is working out. Our books are flooded at the present moment with men, not because they drink too much, but because they are sick through physical exhaustion. An hon. Friend of mine has, as his two branch secretaries, two life-long teetotalers working in an armament firm at Sheffield who now are on the sick list for the first time in ten years. These are instances showing that there is another side to the question. I do not wish to enter into personal matters, but there is no doubt that the Prime Minister did say at Newcastle that we had sufficient munitions of war and that the workmen of this country were working an average of from sixty-seven to sixty-nine hours per week. I am prepared to tell the Chancellor of the Exchequer that that average is a true one when you take into consideration the facts about the private yards, night shifts, and so on. The Chancellor of the Exchequer's statement has apparently come from men who do not understand not only the facts of the case but the facts of life. The right hon. Gentleman quoted the report of an inspector who went round to certain public-houses in the vicinity of the shipyards, particularly on Saturday night, and found, when it was near ten o'clock the bar tender putting up hundreds of bottles for the men to take home. What are those bottles? They are half mutchkins or half pints of whisky which the men take home. There is a great difference between that quantity and the quantity indicated by the inspector in his report. So far as we know there is not, on the whole, as such excessive drinking and this constant loss of hours in the shipyards and on the munitions of war as the Chancellor of the 918 Exchequer has made out to-day. I am sorry the Chancellor quoted that letter from a working man. I know he did not mean to convey that it applied generally, but, unfortunately, someone will take it to apply generally, and I would say to the right hon. Gentleman, as I would say to the man himself, that the best thing he can do is to send down an inspector and get the man certified to go into a lunatic asylum. It is too bad to quote a letter of that kind. We know that workmen do drink, and that some of them take excessive drink, but, after all, that applies to all classes of the community. In the second place, it is not at all typical. Even if there were a thousand cases of a similar character they would not be typical. The main outstanding fact is that year by year our own people are becoming a more sober people. The Chancellor himself, when he brings forward his Budget every year, remarks on the fact that the revenue is decreasing, because the people are drinking less. So we want on another occasion to analyse these figures thoroughly, because, if they stand now, they are a terrible indictment against our own people, and they will resent it, and will ask us what we were doing not to resent it also on the floor of the House of Commons.
§ Mr. CHAMBERLAIN
I think it is clear from the answer which the right hon. Gentleman gave me a little time ago that the Resolutions which are to be put from the Chair in Ways and Means are part of the Resolutions on which the Finance Bill will be drafted, and that the Clauses which make them effective will find their place, not in the Defence Bill, but in the Finance Bill, for which leave will be sought, I suppose, next week. It has been customary for many years to allow a general discussion to be taken on some Resolution of the Budget covering all the financial proposals of the Chancellor of the Exchequer for the year. What I wanted to know was whether you, Sir, will assure us that, by passing the Resolutions which the Chancellor desires to take and must have to-night, we shall not have destroyed in any way our right to a general discussion over the finance of the year on the first Resolutions which will be moved on Tuesday next?
§ Mr. HEALY
I suggest that there is no reason for any departure from our financial principles. A Budget has never before been split up between a Thursday and a Tuesday, and if these are Budget 919 Resolutions it is most important for us to have regularity of procedure. We are now having a Taxing Bill discussed for the first time on a Bill for the Defence of the Realm. The suggestion is now made that when we come to the next Resolution, which is really a Budget Resolution, we shall not treat it as a Budget Resolution, although it makes a most revolutionary change, and that we shall have the whole discussion on Tuesday, perhaps on a Resolution putting a penny extra on tea. What the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Austen Chamberlain) suggests would be a departure from the financial practice of the House.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
I think it very often happens that, on the first night of the Budget, a number of Resolutions are passed, and it is necessary for the protection of the revenue. Then, by agreement between the parties, the general discussion of the Budget takes place on the subsequent Motion, with the assent of the Chairman of Ways and Means. I do not see why that should not occur again. It is not a matter for me to intervene in, because these arrangements are made in Committee of Ways and Means and not with myself in the Chair.
§ Mr. LOUGH
It seems to me that the Leader of the Opposition and the right hon. Gentleman have taken a most serious responsibility, and I am very glad to shelter myself under the action they have taken. I believe everyone will agree to let the Chancellor bring in his Bill, and for no one to say a word about, that until we have considered the proposals; but as to passing the Resolutions I would really appeal to my right hon. Friend. I am sure he has considered the point. I see the difficulty which he raises about giving notice of Resolutions, but there have never been such Resolutions in the history of Parliament. We must pass them sub silentio. I feel a sense of responsibility which prevents a humble Member like myself being entirely silent. I would ask hon. Members if they have lost all sense of responsibility as to the gravity of the procedure that we are following? I will give one figure to show it. We are dealing with a tax on beer which, six months ago, was 7s. a barrel and was raised by 17s. to something like 24s. The beer most used in Ireland has a very heavy specific gravity. We are going to add 36s. more a barrel, that is making it 60s. a barrel instead of 920 7s., than it was six months ago. It is largely used in Ireland and is a very innocent drink, and is suitable to the climate. I do not know anything about it myself, but it is a large subject of revenue, and here is a proposal to make the tax ten times greater than it was six months ago, making three-fourths of the change here to-night, and not a Member of the House of Commons is to say a word about it. I am most reluctant to say a word about it. I should like to give the Chancellor my most hearty support in the object he has in view in everything that he has said to-night, but when you come to look at it, we find that it is totally irrelevant to the subject on which he made his speech. He felt that himself after he had mentioned the revenue. He said, "I have done nothing so far," and then, in a few sentences at the end, he gave what we all believe, and what the whole country must see to be the real step that he has taken in his extension of the Defence of the Realm Act, namely, the power of the State to take over the public-houses and absolutely to control the sale of liquor in all the areas in which ammunition is produced. That is the Bill. That is the thing that we are thinking of. That is what we all approve of.
I would not have detained the House even for the short period that I have occupied if that proposal was before us in its naked simplicity, and if we were agreed to do nothing else but that to-night, but I ask the House to consider this other matter of the revenue. It seems to be the most extraordinary proceeding that we have ever had. It may be right and it may be necessary, but is it not being done with undue rapidity? I would ask the Chancellor to consider the case of business houses. To-morrow they have to close their doors or produce ten times the tax they were paying six months ago. I believe the Resolutions are of the most sweeping description. I said I was a most humble Member of this Assembly. I am extremely sorry to intervene, but I do it with a deep sense of responsibility, because I want to give the Chancellor every support in what I understand to be his main object—that is, to catch those fellows who will not work, and especially a fellow like that whose letter he read who is drinking whisky all the week and making himself unfit for work; but I ask the Chancellor, Will his revenue proposals touch him? Will doubling the price of whisky have any effect on a wretch like 921 that? He will sell the clothes off his children to appease that craving described in the letter. Therefore, the revenue part does not touch that evil. There is not a Member of the House who will not back up the Chancellor in saying, "Let us suppress him altogether; let him not get drink; let us bring compulsion to bear upon him." I have heard Parliament described as a Parliament of poltroons because we have backed the Government up so much. We must back them up, but surely they are putting a very heavy tax upon the House to-night. This comes suddenly upon us. I cannot tell what can be done. I cannot make a suggestion in an emergency like this, but I appeal to him in the most friendly spirit to think of the great businesses which are interested, not all of them malign or evil businesses, and if he can think of some way of shielding them without passing these terrible Resolutions to-night, I would appeal to him to do so.
§ Mr. CREAN
If I did not feel strongly the effects that will accrue from this Bill to Ireland, I should be only too happy to help the Chancellor and the Government in any effort they make to put an end to this cruel war. But, to my mind, the right hon. Gentleman is taking money now under false pretences. He is not Hiving these men whom he is maligning—the workers of Great Britain—a chance of defending themselves against him. If this Bill gets through it cannot be gone back on. I have been a worker myself and have had to deal with cases of emergency. There is a greater reason now why men should not be able to work as well as they could under ordinary conditions. The most physically fit men you have are going to the front. They are leaving men behind them whom the age limit prevents from going. They are incapable of working a full week's work. We have to fall back upon older men and men who are nearly always idle in ordinary times, but when an extraordinary occasion occurs, when numbers of men are suddenly requisitioned, you bring chronically idle men, who would not be employed on other occasions, into the several dockyards, where you have work only fit for younger men. In this way the average of hours worked in the week cannot be accurately sized up. Take a man of between fifty and sixty working in the black squad. I know what it is to have a man working on the side of a ship, knocking down the rivets from early morning till late at night. It is only 922 physically fit and young men who can continue that for any number of hours, and if it is extended over more than a fortnight or three weeks even the very fittest men are incapable of doing the long overtime that they are called on to do under emergency conditions. It is an outrage to introduce this into the House of Commons, and it is a breach of all the Rules of the House. It is a Budget before the Budget is due. It is sprung on the House with no knowledge that it would happen.
If the right hon. Gentleman had proposed to abolish the manufacture of liquor there would be some sense in it. He could compensate those whose business he destroyed. If he had proposed to take over all the public-houses and run them at a loss, no one would object to it. You could give it to whom you like and keep it from whom you like. But you now fall back upon this emergency to flaunt the House of Commons with the fads of total abstainers, and those who will use any excuse to destroy drink of any description. They sneered at the hon. Member (Mr. W. O'Brien) when he dared to say that this was a Bill which would bring injury to the City that he represents by closing two great breweries and one distillery. You have already closed a number of distilleries in that county. You have closed four in the City. There is one working, and you wish to close that now. We are justified in raising a protest against that. You will pass this Resolution without any evidence, and giving no one an opportunity of speaking.
We shall be told that we are against the War and against the Government if we dare to say a word against these Gentlemen here who are urging their fads under the cloak of the War. We are rot against the War. We believe it is necessary to protect the Empire. We are not against men going to the front to fight for the Empire, and to bring the War as soon as possible to a final and satisfactory settlement in the interests of the Empire; but we are against any attempt to malign the workers of the country. You did not dare to refer to any of the industries in Ireland You did not dare to refer even to Belfast, because you could be contradicted here on the spot. I will ask you, does it apply to Haulbowline? Many of my Constituents work there, men belonging to the Black Squad and men belonging to the engineers. I know them, total abstainers, who had to give up their work because it becomes too 923 much for them. They worked overtime until their physical energies were exhausted, and they lost time. It was not drink that knocked them out. You are going to penalise the families. No matter what drink will cost, they will take the drink, and the extra money they spend will be taken out of the mouths of the children, off the backs of the children, and from the family. You cannot separate these men by this way of making a Resolution. Deal with these chronic drinkers in any way you can, tax the country to support their families and put them in prison, but do not malign the working men, and the nation, and the class to which they belong, because a small percentage degrade themselves. I would not stand here and listen to any such charge being made against the working man. I know them better than the right hon. Gentleman who has spoken. I have been president and secretary of many of their societies, and therefore I can speak with authority about the working man. I know your kind of man; he is the poor, feeble man who cannot get any work under ordinary conditions, and if you give the other men the opportunity of sifting them and selecting the men who are guilty of this, as you call it, dereliction of duty, you will find the great majority of those who build up this percentage are men who, during ordinary circumstances, could never get a day's work because they would not be fit to do it. The gentlemen who take these men into work are Government employers. As an hon. Member pointed out, you do not charge them at Woolwich with dereliction of duty. You compliment the hon. Member for Woolwich (Mr. Crooks). You have a constant, steady flow of workmen there who are in the habit of working a good, honest day's work. You have a selected body of men. You have an average employer who has a crush of work who will only keep the good man to do his work; he will not have the others, and they will take anything they can get. What will the employer do? He has here on the stocks work belonging to the Navy. He will bring his waster, and put him there on the work. He does not care that much what will happen so long as he has the man charged against the Government, and he will put the physically fit man on the work he has to do.
There are many things that can be said against the right hon. Gentleman's statements to-night, and I tell him that his 924 Budget will not bring him what he thinks. The Revenue will come not from the people who can afford to pay it. Increase the Income Tax. Increase the cost of wine. The man who can afford to drink wine, let him pay for it. But whisky, often at night they must bring it home to their poor wives when in the toils of childbirth, and you will charge them double and treble as much as they should be called upon to pay for it. Doctors order it in the hospitals because it is a poison. It is ordered in the workhouses where the poorest of the poor are and cannot live without it. Gallons upon gallons are used in the workhouses, and are given to keep life in the poor creatures whose stomachs cannot bear food. They get only a little, and you are going to put all this burden on Ireland. Will you tell me that you are entitled to do it? Will you put that tax on the Canadians? They have Home Rule; we have Home Rule, too, so we have been told. Will you put it on any of your Colonies? I beg to know if you would. If you say the tax you are putting on shall have a reflex action and shall be put on the Colonies, I will support it, but so long as you cannot impose it on the will of the independent Colonies, South Africa the youngest of them, I say you have no right to apply it to Ireland without the consent of the Irish Members.
I challenge you to leave the decision and application of this to Ireland, to the Irish Members of all sections, and I will say: "Right you are, you are entitled to this if they pass it by a majority of even one." But if you do not leave this as you should under the Home Rule Act, your duty here to-night, instead of trying to drive out of occupation tens of thousands of men and starving their families for want of work—your remedy is, "Let them join the Army if they are turned out of work." If you want them to join the Army, that is not the way to do it. You think that because they are doing it in Germany you can do the same, and there will be no protest against it, and you say, "We will make the Irish workmen go to the front for us because we will starve them and leave them no work to do." Your duty will be to see that the Irish Members of the House of Commons of all sections above and below the Gangway have some say in this matter if this is to apply to Ireland, as the Canadian Parliament has to say why it should not apply to Canada.
925 I hope someone will persist in bringing this to a Division to-night. I believe in the interests of Ireland anyhow we should protest in the only way available to us now, and that is to go into the Division Lobby to protest against this charge on their own acts against the Irish people.
§ Mr. GLYN-JONES
I ask the indulgence of the House not to deal at all with the general question, but to emphasise the importance of the Chancellor and his advisers considering the effect of these fiscal proposals, the effect of the taxation on alcohol, on the administration of the medical side of benefit under the Insurance Act, of medicine generally—
§ Mr. GLYN-JONES
I only want to say the time is short; that no one knows better than the Chancellor what a difficult question it is to provide for it, and I ask very respectfully that he will take steps to consult not only the medical profession but the pharmacists and manufacturing chemists of the country with a view to seeing how alcohol which is used legitimately in medicine shall escape the increased taxation.
I should like to know whether the Chancellor of the Exchequer has taken into account the great difference of climate and the habits of the people in Ireland, Scotland, and different parts of the British Isles. The class of liquor which people can drink in the south of England, and do drink, and which suits them is quite a different thing from the class of liquor which people can, and do, drink in, and which is suitable to, the West of Ireland or the North of Scotland. One thing which struck me particularly in regard to the Chancellor of the Exchequer's proposals was that a considerable section of people would have no extra taxation whatever in regard to the kind of liquor they generally drank, or would be likely to drink in the future, whereas other parts of the country would find liquor only suitable to those districts taxed out of all proportion. I would point out that the beer usually consumed in the south and south-west of London would not be tolerated for a moment in either Lancashire or Yorkshire, and it is quite an unfair thing to deal with a subject of this kind in this way and lay down a rule for the whole of the British Isles, including Ireland, without taking 926 into account matters of that kind of great importance, and which would have the effect of discriminating against one class.
§ Bill ordered to be brought in by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the Prime Minister, Mr. Churchill, and the Attorney-General. Presented accordingly; read the first time; to be lead a second time upon Tuesday next, and to be printed. [Bill 68.]
§ Mr. T. M. HEALY
On a point of Order, Mr. Speaker, before you leave the Chair, if this were the formal Budget night, Tuesday next, would you put the Question, "That I now leave the Chair"; and, if not, when was the procedure abandoned?
§ Mr. SPEAKER
Since the hon. Gentleman has called my attention to the matter, I believe the procedure was abandoned about twenty-four years ago. If this were Budget night I should not put any Question, "That I leave the Chair." The Budget is taken in Committee by the Chairman of Ways and Means.