The MINISTER of MUNITIONS (Mr. Lloy George)
I beg to move, "That this House do now adjourn."
96 6.0 P.M.
I rise to move the Adjournment of the House in order to make a statement on the present position of munitions. It is now a little over six months since the Prime Minister invited me to take charge of the provision of munitions for the British Army in this War. Although the work is by no means complete, and some of the most important parts of it are still in course of development, I think the time has come to report progress to the House. Perhaps I had better preface my statement by a short survey of the relation of munitions to the problem of the War, so that the House should understand clearly why we have taken certain action in order to increase the supply. There has never been a war in which machinery played anything like the part which it is playing in this War. The place acquired by machinery in the arts of peace in the nineteenth century has been won by machinery in the grim art of war in the twentieth century. In no war ever fought in this world has the preponderance of machinery been so completely established. The German successes, such as they are, are entirely, or almost entirely, due to the mechanical preponderance which they achieved at the beginning of the War. Their advances in the East, West, and South are due to this mechanical superiority; and our failure to drive them back in the West and to check their advance in the East is also attributable to the tardiness with which the Allies developed their mechanical resources. The problem of victory is one of seeing that this superiority of the Central Powers shall be temporary, and shall be brought to an end at the earliest possible moment. There is one production in which the Allies had a complete mechanical superiority, and there they are supreme—that is in the Navy. Our command of the sea is attributable not merely to the excellence of our sailors, but to the overwhelming superiority of our machinery.
There is another aspect of this question which has become more and more evident as this War has developed and progressed. The machine spares the man. The machine is essential to defend positions of peril and it saves life, because the more machinery you have for defence, the more thinly you can hold the line, therefore, the fewer men are placed in positions of jeopardy to life and limb. We have discovered that some of the German advanced lines were held by exceptionally few men. It is a pretty well-known fact that one 97 very strong position, held by the Germans for days and even for weeks, was defended against a very considerable French Army by ninety men, armed with about forty to fifty machine-guns, the French losing heavily in making the attack. Machinery in that case spared the men who were defending. It is one portion of the function which has been entrusted to the Ministry of Munitions to increase the supply of machines in order to save the lives of our gallant men. On the other hand, it means fewer losses in attacking positions of peril, because it demolishes machine-gun emplacements, tears up barbed wire, destroys trenches, so that, therefore, the losses are much fewer when you are attacking strong positions held by the enemy. What we stint in materials we squander in lives.
Those are the main elements of the problem which the Prime Minister invited me to help in solving. In the Ministry of Munitions we have taken the control of supplies gradually. We have only just secured the direction of design. It was entrusted to us by the Prime Minister about three weeks ago. Woolwich Arsenal passed into our hands about three months ago. Inventions came and then went, and came back again. I should, first of all, give the House the position when the Ministry of Munitions was first appointed. When I made my statement some time ago we were too uncomfortably near that date to give many particulars. It is quite impossible for us to give any sort of statement as to what is being done unless I first indicate what headway we had to make. There was undoubtedly a shortage. That was known. Our troops knew it; so did the enemy. But neither of them knew how really short we were in some very essential particulars. Now I can with impunity give at least one or two figures. I will take gun ammunition. Gun ammunition is roughly divided into high explosive and shrapnel. There is no doubt that military opinion, at least in this country—I am not quite sure about France—was wedded to shrapnel, for reasons which are not unconnected with the events of the South African War. It was supposed that the days of high explosives were numbered, except for siege guns, and that shrapnel was the only weapon for fighting in the field. The developments of this War—many of them unexpected, and many of them unexpected by the greatest soldiers—proved that that expert opinion was not altogether correct in its anticipation of the demise of high explosives. But we were late and reluctant 98 converts, and, like all reluctant converts, we were very tardy in giving up the old shrapnel. We came to the conclusion, at any rate, that a very high proportion of high explosive ammunition was essential to success in the kind of trench warfare to which we had settled down. I think we still have a higher opinion of shrapnel than either the French or the Germans. It is not for me to express an opinion upon it. My business is to take orders on this point and to supply whatever the military opinion concludes is best. There is a good deal to be said on both sides. At any rate; our military experts concluded a very considerable proportion of high explosives was necessary—quite one-half. But we came rather late to that conclusion, and that accounts for the shortage in the beginning of the year and later on in April and May, and further.
I will now give the House an indication of the leeway we had to make up. The Germans at that time—I have already given the figures to the House—were turning out about 250,000 shells per day, the vast majority of them being high explosive shells. That is a prodigious figure. The French have also been highly successful in the quantity which they have been turning out. But they have great armies, and their arsenals, which were turning out the materials of war for their armies, were naturally on a larger scale than ours. Our large arsenals naturally took a naval turn, and the bulk of the engineers who were turning out munitions of war were engaged on naval work, so that in the month of May, when the Germans were turning out 250,000 shells a day, most of them high explosives, we were turning out 2,500 a day in high explosive shells and 13,000 in shrapnel. That was neither right in quantity nor in proportion. I have already given the House some of the reasons why the supply was so low. One was the lateness at which we came to the conclusion that high explosives were to play a great part in the War. The other was the fact that the Navy—this is a fact which is too often forgotten, not merely in this country, but, if I may say so, abroad—absorbed an enormous number of our engineers and a very high proportion of our engineering resources. I have not the figures at the present moment, but, unless I am mistaken, something between two-thirds and three-quarters of the engineers occupied on munitions were turning out material for the Navy. The Navy, since the War, has been 99 devoting itself with greater energy and promptitude to meeting new conditions of naval warfare which had not been anticipated. The result has been that the amount of work which they have turned out has absorbed a very large proportion of our engineering resources. No wonder there was great anxiety at the front and great anxiety at home. That was one reason why the Government came to the conclusion that it was better, perhaps, seeing that the energies of the War Office were engaged in raising Armies and in feeding and supplying troops, that there should be a separate Department which could concentrate the whole of its mind and its energies upon the production of guns and munitions, and generally the material of war.
The first step, of course, was to create an organisation for the purpose. The demand had risen so suddenly and there were so many demands from every quarter upon the energy and thought of the War Office that the organisation had not grown in proportion to the demand, and the first step was to improvise a great business organisation for the purpose of coping with this problem. We had to find a staff, and we drew it from every quarter. Some of the Government Departments lent us able Civil servants. The War Office placed at our disposal a good many soldiers and other experts. The Admiralty helped. But, I think, the main feature of the new organisation has been that we have had placed at our disposal the services of a considerable number of business men of high standing who had been running successfully great business concerns. I think most of the branches of the Department are run by men of that type—men who have given their services voluntarily for the purpose. They were men who were earning great salaries—salaries such as the State has never paid to any of its public servants—and in almost every case the firms who placed their services at the disposal of the State continued those salaries. I cannot say how grateful the country ought to be for the services which these great business men have rendered. I do not think it would have been possible to improvise the organisation without their assistance. We have also had experts placed at our disposal by some of the great armament firms as well as those whom the War Office lent us. Then, having divided the organisation up into a number of Departments, we had a special 100 Department whose business it was to collect and assemble every week the facts with regard to the progress made by each Department, and a weekly report is submitted to my colleagues and myself as to the work which is going on, so that we know, if not from day to day, at any rate from week to week, where progress is made, where the work is halting, and where there are shortages which ought immediately to be made up. Then it is our business to call attention to them immediately, and see that something is done to bring every Department up to the mark. Of course, when you improvise a great organisation like that, and gather your staff together hurriedly, there must be weak points. There are weak points in Departments which have lasted a good deal longer than this, and in the Ministry of Munitions there are, of course, deficiencies, which I am very glad to see my hon. Friends calling attention to by questions and otherwise, and calling my attention to privately. I am always grateful to them for doing so, because it is quite impossible for any man to know everything that is going on in a great Department of that kind, unless he gets the assistance of every patriotic citizen.
When we got our staff together the first step was to ascertain the causes of the shortage. One reason, of course, was that the orders for high explosives had come late. Another was that perhaps they were not sufficiently spread, and then, as I in-dictated before, we trusted too much to the old firms without seeking new sources of supply. The result was that, deliveries were but a percentage of the promises. I think the deliveries were at that time 16 per cent. of the promises. I am talking now of the shortage in high explosive shells. In shrapnel it was very much better.
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
That is in May, before the Ministry was appointed. I am presenting the case as it appeared at the moment when we took it over. These were deliveries, not of shells, but of shell bodies, which is a very different thing. A complete round of shell has many components. There is, first of all, the shell body—the steel case that holds the explosive. Then you have the fuse, the gauge, the cartridge case, the primer, or the tube in the case of high explosives, the high explosive, and the propellant. Then there is the filling, which is another operation— 101 the gauge, the fuse, the primer, the tube, the shell, and the cartridge. All these operations have to be gone through. All these components have to be assembled before you have a complete shell. I have pointed out that the delivery of shell bodies for high explosives was 15 or 16 per cent. of the promises, but the components were only a percentage of the deliveries of shell bodies. Our first duty was to see that the contracts already entered into were executed, and our second was to seek fresh sources of supply by utilising the great engineering reserve of this country which had not been tapped up to that point.
What were the steps we took to hurry up the contractors? The first, obviously, was to discover why the deliveries were late, and why they were not fulfilling their contracts. We organised a system of weekly progress reports to be sent in by every contracting firm throughout the country. First of all, we had a column for promises, and we had next a column for deliveries, and the mere filling of these brought every week to the attention of the contractors the fact that they were not carrying out their contracts—not a bad way of getting contractors to stir up. Then we asked for the reasons why they were short, and they had to give us an explanation every week. Was it deficiency of labour, of machinery, of material, of transport, of motive power, or had they any other explanation? That is how we ascertained what the failure of the deliveries was attributable to, and then we set ourselves to assist the contractors to remove those causes. We found that what no individual contractor could do for himself, a State Department sitting in the middle was able to assist him in doing. We found that the deficiencies were largely due to lack of machinery, of labour, of the ready and steady supply of material, and sometimes to transport difficulties. The foundation of production is, obviously, the ready supply of material, the ample provision of the necessary machine tools, and of the necessary labour to manipulate both. Our first duty therefore was to organise a strong machine tool department, and to place on a more systematic basis the work which had been initiated by the War Office. For this purpose we utilised the services of experts we had taken over from the War Office, and we added very considerably to their numbers and formed them into a separate department. We had an elaborate and careful census made 102 of all the machinery in every industrial firm in this country. We knew what the resources of this country were, especially the resources which had not been utilised up to that moment, and we found there were a very large number of lathes capable of being turned to the production of munitions. But this was not enough. There was a good deal of machinery which could not possibly be set aside for the purpose of manufacturing munitions. There was a good deal of machinery which was entirely inapplicable, and we had to look to new sources of supply for machine tools. It was decided then to place the whole of the machine tool trade of this country under Government control. It was found that not only were machines being made which were unnecessary in the interests of the country in such an emergency, but also that contractors were holding back on account of the extra expenditure involved in working night shifts and overtime, and that they were therefore not making the best use of their shops. Further, by restricting the export of machinery, the Ministry was able not only to secure fresh sources of supply to meet the new increased programme, but at the same time to place machinery at the service of existing contractors who were behindhand with their deliveries. This resulted in an immediate increase in production. It was found that there was considerable congestion of machine-tool imports owing to the congestion at the ports. This difficulty was overcome by sending down promptly a resident official to expedite delivery of this machinery. We sent representatives to America to order new machinery, and, acting in conjunction with Messrs. J. P. Morgan and Company, they have been able to place there the necessary orders and to ensure that the machinery is of the right class. It was also discovered that a considerable amount of machinery had been collected by contractors who were unable for various reasons to utilise it. This machinery the Department was able to distribute amongst firms who were in a position to utilise it. Steps were also taken to simplify the machinery, and that led to a considerable increase of output. These are the steps we took in order to increase the machinery, which is the basis of production, and considerable improvement was effected in a very short time in that respect, and the effect upon production was almost immediate.
103 The next step we took was in regard to raw material—metal. At the time of the formation of the Ministry, one of the chief difficulties of the contractors was the lack of a regular and sufficient supply of the necessary raw material. Under the system of competition in the open market prices of material were rising to an extent wholly unwarranted by the situation. So we formed a separate Metal Department to deal with that situation. Steps were immediately taken to place the Ministry in control of the supply of metals of all classes, and arrangements were made for providing the contractors with all the raw materials they required, and for making good any shortages by tapping fresh sources. The effect of these efforts has been to effect considerable reduction in the prices of raw materials. There has been a saving, in the aggregate, of something like £15,000,000 or £20,000,000 on the orders, due entirely to the action taken by the Metal Department of the Ministry of Munitions in securing control of the whole metal market of this country. It enabled us to ensure a supply which was adequate to meet, not only in the immediate future but for many months to come, all the demands of the various contractors, both old and new, as they are made; and also, which is equally important, to provide large supplies for our Allies. Indeed, it was only by these efforts that a crisis in the market was prevented, and that manufacturers have been able to effect the substantial increase in the output which has actually taken place.
Another step we took was in regard to labour. As I shall deal with that separately later on I will not dwell upon that now, except to state generally that we took steps to endeavour to increase the supply, more especially of skilled workmen in the various trades. We also supplied technical advice by experts to help manufacturers to get over their difficulties which were retarding output. That was a very useful step, especially in the case of firms who had not been in the habit of turning out this class of work. We appointed a number of hustlers to visit the works and to find out what was wrong, to help to put it right and to press contracts forward. The effect in itself of calling upon the industries to supply weekly reports was to improve the output. Contractors often were not aware of their own difficulties until they were forced to face them and give them an account of them. The net 104 result of all these steps which I have summarised has been to increase the deliveries on old orders from 16 per cent. of the promises as they were then, to over 80 per cent., a very considerable increase, of much larger promises as they are now. That is in regard to high explosive shell. We also effected a very considerable improvement in the percentage of the deliveries of shrapnel. The deliveries of high explosives and shrapnel have gone up much more considerably than these figures indicate. The promises were increasing from month to month and week to week, and we have succeeded in increasing very considerably the deliveries in both.
I have been dealing with the deliveries of shell bodies. Now I come to the component parts of shells, which have given us a great deal of trouble. This is the most trouble some part of our work, because you are always finding that some component or other is falling short. You get a report that you have not enough primers, and you concentrate your attention upon that, to bring them up to the necessary number. Then you find that another component is short, and as there are so many of them and the filling of each of them is a separate operation, even necessitating separate buildings, it is one of the most anxious, trouble some, and baffling operations that we have to watch. We have found that the arrangements made for shell components were on too modest a scale, and that just as in regard to shell bodies, the orders given were considerably in arrears. There was too much reliance placed on Woolwich and too little on seeking fresh sources of supply. The first steps we took in regard to this problem were similar to those I have sketched out in regard to shell bodies. The next step was to seek out fresh firms with the capacity to undertake the manufacture of the various components; and the third step was to erect new buildings for the purpose of supplementing private firms, and to hurry up the erection of buildings in course of construction. Our census of machinery enabled us to discover rapidly and without loss of time the new sources of supply, and the local boards of management, which I shall refer to later on, assisted very considerably. Sometimes we had to adapt components to the kind of machinery which was available, in order to increase the supply. There were two emergency factories erected for filling purposes, and completed in six weeks. I think that was a very fine piece of hustling. Large filling factories have been put up in various parts 105 of the country in order to cope with the rapidly increasing demand, owing to the rapidly increased delivery of shells.
Talking about components brings me to Woolwich, because Woolwich was primarily responsible for filling and assembling. The various shell bodies and components from different parts of the country were sent to Woolwich to be assembled and filled, and the Department responsible for Woolwich was the War Office. That dual responsibility undoubtedly hindered and delayed the position of our work. Without blaming anybody, I may say that the mere fact of having dual responsibility in itself creates delay, and the War Office came to the conclusion at the end of August that it would be better to hand over that part of Woolwich to the Ministry of Munitions. I think I can give very striking figures of the effect which this has had on the solution of some of our difficulties. Sir Frederick Donaldson, the distinguished engineer, who is at the head of Woolwich, has gone to America and Canada and helped us to organise new sources of supply there, and has rendered us very great service. The engineer of the North Eastern Railway Company (Mr. Vincent Raven) was placed at our disposal, and he is in temporary control, and the services which he has rendered there have been conspicuous. I will give one illustration. The manufacture and filling of various articles has increased since he took it in hand in some cases by 60 per cent., and in others by as much as 80 per cent., whereas the staff has only increased 23 per cent. One of the reforms he initiated are statistical records of the output. These records were not compiled prior to his assumption of control. Now they are having, and will continue to have, a potent effect not only upon the output, but upon the cost of output. As an illustration of the use to which such figures can be put, I will mention that when the output of a certain shop or section of a shop is noted the following morning it is possible for the superintendent or the works manager to immediately put their finger upon the fact that perhaps the flow of raw material fails, or that owing to congestion of the arsenal railways the output cannot be got rid of; and, therefore, the inefficiency can be checked. Such hitches in the daily work of a factory can only be avoided and minimised by a most complete system of statistical control, and that has been instituted at Woolwich.
106 I now come to the question of new sources of supply. The House may per haps recollect that soon after I was appointed Minister of Munitions I made a special appeal to private firms hitherto not engaged in the manufacture of munitions to place their works at the disposal of the Government to enable us to increase our supply, more especially of gun ammunition.
The country was divided into twelve areas: England and Wales, eight; Scotland, two; and Ireland, two. I acknowledge the very great assistance which my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Waterford (Mr. John Redmond) rendered to us in enabling us to raise supplies in Ireland, which I confess I was not very hopeful of being able to do at first—more especially the things we stood most in need of, such as fuses, primers, and components. The works of Ireland have been extremely helpful, and I gladly acknowledge that I have been disappointed on the right side. We set up forty local munition committees in the most important engineering centres, each with a small board of management consisting of business men in that locality. The whole of Great Britain and Ireland, except districts which were barren of any engineering resources, is practically covered by the operation of these boards.
There were two alternative methods of production adopted under this scheme. One was to set up national factories—national shell factories—which belonged to the Government. They were run by the local boards of management on behalf of the Government. The machinery was supplied partly by the Government and partly by borrowing from local engineering works, and a good many engineering works very patriotically assisted us with lathes, etc., at some sacrifice to themselves. These national shell factories have answered two purposes. Many of them have been conspicuously successful. They have increased our supply threefold. They have minimised our labour difficulties—there have not been the usual questions between capital and labour. They have enabled us to check prices, and I will show later the value of that when we come to consider the matter of finance. In addition to these national shell factories, of which we have thirty-three, we have a co-operative scheme by which we utilised the plant of private firms who up to that time had not been occupied in turning out any munitions of war. It is 107 very difficult to disentangle the firms that have done nothing in the past from the firms which have perhaps done something in a small way, but I think I am entitled to say, after some examination, that hundreds of firms which before the constitution of the Ministry of Munitions never produced any ammunition have been engaged in turning out shells and components of shells. The services of the boards of management are purely voluntary. They are composed generally of great business men in the neighbourhood who place their services at the disposal of the State gratuitously. In each area there is a superintending engineer and his assistants, a labour officer and his assistants, a representative of the Admiralty and generally a trench mortar representative, and the result of this organisation has been that, although those firms never turned out any ammunition at all, and for some time, no doubt, they made several mistakes—so did the national shell factories—they made starts. A shell was not what it ought to be; they had to start again; it was inevitable; it was quite new work; it was premature to criticise them; they were just finding their way to doing the work. But although they have been engaged only for two months, last week they turned out three times as much high explosive shell bodies as was turned out by all the arsenals and works in the United Kingdom in the month of May last. This is not a comparison with the 2,500 complete shells per day, because the actual shell bodies delivered then were more than that. These are private firms which have never done anything in the way of turning out shells before. But they did more than that. They either themselves, or through firms which they helped the Ministry of Munitions to discover, turned out prodigious quantities of components to enable us to complete not merely shell bodies which they delivered, but shell bodies on order before. We owe a great deal to the patriotism of these manufacturers—they came forward so readily; they turned their works inside out; they gave up work which was highly remunerative, in order to undertake something which they knew nothing about, which they were not quite sure they could successfully manufacture, and the result of their operations has been of a most gratifying character.
I should like just to say a word about American orders. I shall say something 108 later on about American orders from the point of view of finance. Soon after the Ministry was appointed, Mr. Thomas, an old Member of this House, went over to America to report upon the position, to let us know exactly what was going on there, to place fresh orders, and, if possible, to accelerate orders already placed. He went there independently of agents, and I am bound to say to the House, and I am sure that the House will be glad to know it, that he comes back speaking in the highest possible terms of the services rendered to this country by Messrs. J. P. Morgan and Company, not merely for the selection of firms for the supply of munitions and the orders they have placed, but because they have saved many millions of money to this country by the efforts they have made to reduce the rather inflated prices which were prevailing before they took the matter in hand. Mr. Thomas assisted in organising the purchase and inspection of machinery both in the United States and in Canada, He has helped very considerably in speeding up, in effecting economies, and in placing absolutely essential orders for the supply of necessary munitions for this country. To sum up what has been done with regard to gun ammunition, I should say that the Ministry has endeavoured to help the contractor to obtain better deliveries of raw material, of machinery, of additional supplies of skilled labour; and technical and financial assistance has been given in a large number of cases. With regard to fresh orders, we have organised the engineering resources of this country into factories of a national character or the adaptation of factories employed on non-war production. By co-operative efforts we have done a good deal to develop Colonial and foreign markets of the United States of America, Canada, France, Switzerland, and elsewhere. Every effort has been made to simplify specifications and make them understandable by inexperienced manufacturers, to simplify patterns in order to eliminate unnecessary processes, and to accelerate processes and make the best use of skilled labour, of which there is a scarcity. Attention has been given to the decentralisation of inspection and the avoiding the loss of time arising from inspection generally. Woolwich has been taken over and some progress has been made in the introduction of modern methods of inspection of material and of factories. The problem of relieving congestion at Woolwich has been 109 dealt with by an elaborate system of well-distributed storage, and the railway congestion there has been decreased. What is the net result of the steps we have taken to increase the output and delivery of gun ammunition? I have given the figures for May. I cannot give the figures for November as yet. The House will be entitled later on to get them. All I can say is that the quantity of shells fired in the recent operations in September was enormous. The battle lasted for days, and almost ran into weeks, but there was no shortage. On the contrary, the Chief of the Staff assured me that they were perfectly satisfied with the quantity of shells. This was the result of four months' careful husbanding, but it will be reassuring for the House to know that the whole of the expenditure was replaced in a month, and we shall soon be in a position to replace it in a single week.
Now I come to the question of guns. Large orders for field guns were placed in 1914. In June deliveries were fair, although not up to promise. Medium guns and howitzers were largely in arrear, but I am glad to say that there has been a considerable improvement in the last few months, and the machinery of the Department has rendered most valuable assistance in this respect. In regard to these guns the House may take it that the position is thoroughly satisfactory. Now I come to the more important problem of the heavy guns. I experienced some difficulty in speaking about it last time, because whatever you may say about it must to some extent advertise your resources to the enemy. Before I made any statement to the House I consulted the Prime Minister, and the Prime Minister thought that it was well to endeavour to let not only this country know, but our Allies know, that we were putting forward very great exertions to equip our Forces with the heaviest possible artillery. I am of opinion that the decision that the Prime Minister gave was a right one. There are certain things you cannot hide from the enemy. It is a great mistake to assume that they do not know. After all, they know what shells you have, what size of shell you have, how much heavy and how much light, exactly as we know about theirs. These things are not produced merely for the delectation of our soldiers. They are used in order to send them across to the enemy, and the enemy knows that the moment you have got them they will be passed on, and if they are not 110 passed on the enemy comes to the conclusion, not at all unnaturally, that you have not got them. On the other hand, your Allies want to know that you are putting forward all your strength; it encourages them, and therefore the Prime Minister came to the conclusion that it was better that the facts should be divulged Up to midsummer of this year, big guns on a large scale had not been ordered. We came rather late to the conclusion that on a large scale big guns were essential to the successful prosecution of the War. I am not surprised. The House will recollect the kind of gun which was regarded as a prodigy in the Boer War; it was just a poor, miserable, medium gun. Now the soldiers are doubtful whether it counts in the least in trench warfare. Someone told me that in that very interesting novel about the invasion of this country by the Germans, which was published about three or four years ago, the big gun which was to terrify everybody, as described in that novel, was the 4.7. That is nothing compared with requirements now. The heavy siege gun which we had at the beginning of the War is now the lightest, not only because there has been such a change in the ideas of the military, but because the facts have forced the conclusion on us that it is only the very heaviest guns that will enable us to demolish these trenches. The trenches are getting deeper and deeper still; there is trench behind trench, trenches at every conceivable angle, labyrinths of trenches, with concrete emplacements, and nothing but the most powerful and shattering artillery will enable our men to advance against them, except along a road which is the road to certain death. Therefore, the War Office came to the conclusion that it was essential to success and victory, and essential to the protection of the lives of our soldiers, that we should have an adequate equipment of the heaviest possible artillery. We are erecting great works in this country, and I have no doubt some hon. Members have seen some of them. They are mostly associated with the programme for the production of these guns and the supply of adequate projectiles. I am very glad to say that we are making rapid progress with these structures. We have placed at our disposal the services of one of the ablest contractors in this country; I think he is manager to Sir William Arrol's firm. He came to our assistance gave up his work, and voluntarily and gratuitously placed his services at the 111 disposal of the Ministry of Munitions to help in pressing forward the construction of these works. The help which he has given us is of a very conspicuous character. That is all I can say under that head.
I come now to the equally important question of machine guns. The dimensions of the machine-gun problem will be realised if the House will consider not only the increase of the size of the Army, but also that the number of guns per division has increased many-fold. When the War began our ideas were that each battalion should be supplied with two machine guns. The Germans supply each with sixteen machine guns. There is no doubt that the machine gun is by far the most destructive weapon in the whole of their army; it has destroyed far more lives than their rifles. In fact, I was told the other day that the machine guns and artillery between them are probably responsible for more than 90 per cent. of the casualties, rifles being responsible for not much more than 5 per cent. We were rather late in realising the great part which the machine gun played in this War, and I think I am entitled to say that the first time that the importance of the problem was impressed upon me was by the Prime Minister after one of his visits to the front in June.
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
When my right hon. Friend returned from the front, he impressed upon me, in the gravest possible language, the importance of supplying machine guns on a very large scale; and one of the first steps was to make arrangements for multiplying many-fold, and as quickly as possible, our output of machine guns. We immediately placed large orders at home and abroad. But we have taken steps, so far as the home orders were concerned, to see that they were executed. We assisted firms with machinery, labour, and material. We completely equipped a new large factory for the manufacture of the Vickers gun, and all the machine tools and equipment have been delivered, but production is delayed for want of skilled labour. In another part of the country an existing machine gun factory has been extended in order to increase its output of machine guns. This has been done, substantially, for weeks, while a new factory to produce a similar amount has been built and equipped in the same district. Two new factories have been erected elsewhere to 112 turn out other types of machine guns. There is one type which is best for defence, another type infinitely better for attack, and another which is best of all for aeroplanes. Therefore, we have to turn out various kinds of machine guns. At two other works extension of plant has been made for the production of machine-gun plant in order to increase machine-gun production. The net result since we began these operations has been to increase the production five-fold; we turn out five times the number we were turning out in June. In the New Year there will be a production greater still, and, in short, our requirements are well in sight of being fulfilled.
With regard to rifles, we have taken steps similar to those taken with regard to shells and machine-guns. The plant has been extended at home, and large and important orders have been given to worth mentioning. We have "peddled out" a large amount of work to certain firms; they have not turned out rifles, but some have made certain component parts, while other firms turn out other parts of the rifle. We peddle out these parts to a great many firms, and we propose to have them assembled under the supervision of some expert firm like Enfield, and by that means obtain a considerable increase in the possibilities of output.
I come now to the trench mortar. This is almost a new development, and yet, although it is a new development, there is no part of this War where the soldiers have resorted more to old methods—catapults, spring-guns, and, of course, grenades, and the helmet. All that I can say about this is that since we undertook this task the grenade output has increased by forty times—and this is an output entirely new to the trade. There has been a school established for instruction in connection with this work. The output of trench mortars has greatly increased. The present output in a fortnight is equal to the whole output in the first year of trench mortars; at any rate, if the increase in regard to mortars which we turn out now is taken, I think the House will regard that as satisfactory. There are other developments in this respect which I dare not mention. There has been valuable experimental work of a kind which I had better not discuss.
There are several branches of work which I might have dwelt upon, for instance, the output of optical munitions. 113 We were so dependent on Germany for optical glass that when the War broke out there was an acute famine in this country. Orders have been placed wherever possible abroad. Steps have been taken to extend largely the operations of the few firms in this country. With regard to explosives I have already told the House of the steps which we have taken, and of the important new works which have been constructed in different parts of the country, so that I feel confident that while the output of shells and munitions becomes very considerable, the amount of high explosives and propellants to fill them will be quite adequate. Not only that, but I think we shall be able to supply, as we are supplying, very considerable quantities, especially of high explosives to our Allies who are in need of them. During the last three weeks there has been an addition to the powers of the Ministry. Hitherto, whilst manufacture was in our hands, design was in the hands of the War Office. The fact that you separated the design from the manufacture necessarily caused delay, and there had been a good deal of unnecessary delay, for which I blame no one except the system by which you separated the control and the direction of the two branches. In France the manufacture and the design were under the same control. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister was in charge at the War Office when I put the whole case before him, and he took the view that it was infinitely better in the interests of increasing output that the Minister of Munitions should be responsible for both, and the effect of that has been that the Ordnance Board and the Royal Laboratory at Woolwich have been transferred to the Ministry of Munitions. We are able now to co-ordinate design with manufacture. We have made very important changes in the Ordnance Board. We have placed at the head of this new Department one of the most distinguished Artillery officers in the British Army, and one who had experience for about fifteen months in directing Artillery in France. He has had the assistance of two or three others, who also had experience at the front, and that in itself is a great advantage when you want to manufacture the right design to have the actual experience of men who have been directing operations at the front.
I come now to a consideration, the last, and which perhaps some hon. Members will think was the last consideration in my mind. I mean economy, and I should like 114 to deal with that before I come to labour. I should like to tell my hon. Friends below the Gangway why I put economy first and labour second, and why I am putting them so near together. The Ministry took over from the War Office certain members of its financial staff, and during the first few weeks, and I think months, of our administration, we had the advantage of the services of Sir Charles Harris, who is one of the ablest men in the Civil Service. The work was too great for him, and we had to make other arrangements. Even before the Government examined the problem of supervision of the expenditure of the great spending Departments, we had created a special organisation for the purpose of revising prices and costs. There was a very able accountant, a member of one of the most important firms in this country (Mr. Lever), who placed his services, gratuitously at our disposal. We set him to the task of scrutinising contracts and examining prices and generally seeking out methods of cutting down and keeping down expenditure. He gathered around him a staff of experienced business men and accountants. He first of all devoted his attention to the question of gun ammunition, because that is the largest item of expenditure; incomparably the largest item of expenditure. The prices were fixed for gun ammunition when the need was very urgent. There was no time to bargain, and that is true both of the War Office and of the Ministry of Munitions. New firms were also taken on, but at first the actual cost of production of unaccustomed and inexperienced firms is very considerably higher than that of experienced firms, so that for one reason or another prices were high.
The Committee have examined very carefully the cost of production, and, as I pointed out earlier in the course of my statement, the national shell factories helped us there, because we discovered, and we knew from our experience in the national shell factories what the actual cost of production was in every operation. This new Committee came to the conclusion that prices could be considerably reduced. A new scale has been devised, but, of course, it is only applicable to new contracts and to renewal of old contracts. Therefore it has not yet come to full fruition, but I will just give the House an indication of the saving which will be effected by this means. The cost of the ammunition for 18-pounders, which is a very considerable item, running into 115 millions, has been reduced by 40 per cent., and the cost of the ammunition for 4.5 howitzers has been reduced by 30 per cent. since the Report of this Committee, and all the new contracts are based on those prices.
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
The body of the shell. I am speaking of the gun ammunition, which is the most important item of expenditure. The gun is a comparatively small matter compared with the ammunition, and there is no item of expenditure which compares with the expenditure on shells. Therefore Mr. Lever's Committee devoted its energies to examining the cost of shells, and that Committee is still going on. They took first of all the lighter guns, because that is a considerable item at present, but they are proceeding to examine the heavy ammunition, and they are going on to examine the whole of the items of expenditure in the Ministry of Munitions. By this means we hope we will save, and save very considerably—save in millions, in tens of millions—upon the expenditure which we are incurring. Here I should like to make an appeal to the local committees. Contracts are being placed very largely through these local munitions committees. At first it was always necessary to let contracts at fairly high prices, because there were unaccustomed firms coming in, and they would not make much out of it, although the prices were high. But now the time is coming when the local boards of management should assist us in placing all the new contracts and all the renewals upon the new scale. As we have had a good deal of decentralisation in the letting of our contracts a good deal of responsibility necessarily falls upon those committees, and we must have their co-operation in achieving this very important result in the interests of national economy. When we regard the prodigious cost of the War every million saved is of vital importance, not merely for the future, but actually in order to conserve our energies for the carrying on of the War itself.
I have already pointed out the economy which has been effected in taking control of the metal market. We have to examine the prices in this country, compared with the prices of similar metals in America and elsewhere, to find how sub- 116 stantial those economies are. We have saved in the course of a single year something which is equal to 6d. or 7d. in the £ of Income Tax in the metal market alone. There is another method of saving—and here I am coming very near to labour—by altering the proportion of home and foreign orders. When the Ministry was formed the proportion of foreign orders in the most expensive items, like gun ammunition and rifles, was two foreign for one home. What does that mean? The more foreign orders you have the greater your exchange difficulty, and the prices are always higher, even in times of peace, in America than they are here. You have no control over the industries there, and therefore you cannot prevent inflation of prices, except by competition. But when every available firm is working hard to produce for you there is practically no competition, but the moment you reduce your orders there you are in a position to dictate terms with regard to prices. The next consideration is the desirability of leaving the American market as much as you possibly can to the equipping of those Allies who have not the same industrial and engineering resources as we have. Therefore, from every point of view, it is vital that you should do everything to increase the proportion which we manufacture here in comparison with what we order from abroad. There are other reasons as well. Our aim ought to be to develop the home resources, and we have already effected a very substantial change in the proportion of the orders, especially in the more expensive articles, but the success of this essential object depends entirely upon labour—entirely, and I come to that now. We want labour to man the old factories. There are machines now standing idle—machines of the most modern type for the manufacture of machine guns for which oru Armies, and the armies of our Allies, are clamouring, and which are essential for offence and for defence. We cannot put them out because we have not the necessary skilled labour. There are some things for which you must get skilled men. There are other operations for which you really do not need skilled men. That is the whole problem. If you can get the skilled man from the place where the unskilled man or woman can do the work just as well and put him into the factory where you must have a skilled man, the problem of the War will be solved.
117 So much for the old factories. What about the new factories? We require for these new factories 80,000 skilled men, and from 200,000 to 300,000 unskilled men and women. Upon our getting them depends, as I think, our success in the War. But take the lowest view of it. Upon that depends entirely whether we are going to alter substantially the proportion of orders in favour of this country, and consequently reduce the cost of the War by tens and scores of millions of pounds in the course of a single year. It depends upon that whether we can furnish our Armies with guns, the right sort of guns, plenty of the right sort of guns, rifles, machine guns, projectiles to enable them to make next year's campaign a success. I should like to dwell a little more upon two considerations, because they are of overwhelming importance. I have heard rumours that we are over-doing it, over-ordering, over-building, over-producing. Nothing could be more malevolent or more mischievous. You can talk about over-ordering when we have as much as the Germans have, and even then I should like to argue how far we have to go. So mischievous is that kind of talk that I cannot help thinking that it must have been originated by men of pro-German sympathies, who know how important it is that our troops should, at the critical moment, be short of that overwhelming mass of material which alone can break down the resistance of a highly entrenched foe. In spite of our great efforts, we have not yet approached the German and French production. We have got to reach that first and not last. France is of opinion that even her colossal efforts are inadequate. I have consulted generals and officers of experience in the British and French armies. The conferences which I have had with the Minister of Munitions in France have given me full opportunity of obtaining the views of the most highly placed and distinguished officers in the French Army. Before I quote their opinions let me point out that all these generals up to the present have invariably underestimated the quantity of materials necessary to secure victory. I am not surprised. It is so prodigious. I remember a great French general—one of the greatest—saying to me that it was one of the surprises of the War. He had studied tactics with the highest authorities, and he says that that is the great surprise of the War. Every battle that 118 has been fought has demonstrated one thing: that even now it is an under-estimate and not an over-estimate. Take the last great battle—that of Loos. You had a prodigious accumulation of ammunition. There is not a general who was in the battle who in giving his report does not tell you that with three times the quantity of ammunition, especially in the heavier natures, they would have achieved twenty times the result.
It is too early to talk about over-production. The most fatuous way of economising is to produce an inadequate supply. A good margin is but a sensible insurance. Less than enough is a foolish piece of extravagance. £200,000,000 will produce an enormous quantity of ammunition. It is forty days' cost of the War. If you have it at the crucial moment your war might be won in the forty days. If you have not got it it might run to 400 days. What sort of economy is that? But it is not merely that. It is this—and this is a fact which I mean to repeat in every speech that I make on the question: What you spare in money you spill in blood. I have a very remarkable photograph—I do not think I ought to say where I got it—of the battlefield of Loos, taken immediately after the battle. There was barbed wire which had not been destroyed. There was one machine gun emplacement: intact, only one. The others had been destroyed. There, in front of the barbed wire, lay hundreds of gallant men. There was one machine gun—one. These are the accidents you can obviate. How? Every soldier tells me there is but one way of doing it. You must have enough ammunition to crash in every trench wherein the enemy lurks, to destroy every concrete emplacement, to shatter every machine gun, to rend and tear every yard of barbed wire, so that if the enemy want to resist they will have to do it in the open, face to face with better men than themselves. That is the secret—plenty of ammunition. I hope that this idea that we are turning out too much will not enter into the mind of workman, capitalist, taxpayer, or anybody until we have enough to crash our way through to victory. You must spend wisely; you must spend to the best purpose; you must not pay extravagant prices; but, for Heaven's sake, if there are risks to be taken, let them be risks for the pocket of the taxpayer, and not for the lives of the soldiers!
The right path of economy is therefore not to reduce the output, but to reduce the 119 cost, and labour alone can help us here. There are only 8 per cent. of the machines for turning out lathes in this country working on night shifts. [An HON. MEMBER: "Why?"] I am coming to the reason why. We have appealed to the employers. They say, "We cannot get the labour." It is true. They have not got the skilled labour. But there are many of these operations which could—I will not say just as effectively, but effectively enough—be discharged by unskilled men and women. We have done everything we could to supply skilled labour. We have done our best to increase the efficiency of labour. We have had a most able Committee, under the chairmanship of Sir George Newman, trying to increase the efficiency of labour by seeing that the men and women get good conditions for working. The abolition of Sunday labour has been recommended. There are committees on fatigue. There are questions of health welfare. There are questions of canteens. All these questions are being gone into with a view to improving the strength of the men, enabling them to endure and to do better work while they are at it. We have done our best by means of a great system of munition volunteers to fill up the gaps. It is no use going into the question why we did not get more than 5,000 or 6,000. We are trying to get men from the Colours, but it is a great rearguard action. It is like getting through barbed wire entanglements without heavy guns. There are entrenchments behind entrenchments. You have not merely the Army, the corps, the division, the brigade, the battalion, and the company, but the platoon, and even the squad—everybody fighting to prevent men from coming away. I am not surprised. I am not blaming them. Skilled men at any trade are skilled men at every trade. Your intelligent skilled man is a good man in the trenches, and nobody wants to lose him. Therefore every corporal fights against parting with a good, intelligent, skilled workman. As my hon. Friend points out, the men themselves feel that they are running away from danger in order to go back to comfort and high wages and emoluments, and they do not like it. It is a very creditable story. At last I think we are" beginning to get over these difficulties, largely through the pertinacity and tact of Major Scott. Let me again acknowledge the very great assistance we 120 have got from hon. Members of this House. Hon. Members have assisted very materially, not merely by what they did, but by their very presence. They have no idea how much that counts. The fact that it was known that hon. Members had taken particular interest in the matter and were helping enabled us to get the men. We have got a very considerable number, but nothing like what we want. It all depends upon organised labour. Unless they allow us to place unskilled men and women at work which hitherto perhaps has been the monopoly of skilled men, in order that we may take the highly skilled men away and put them into other work, we cannot do what we want. You may ask why it has not been done? I will tell the House why. It is far better that the House should be told quite frankly. The leaders of the trade unions made an agreement, but we found exactly the same difficulties as we found in the release of men from the Colours. If you go down, down, down, there is an action to be fought in every area, every district, every town, every workshop, every lodge—they all fight against it. The weakness is this: Our bargain was that we should restrict the profits of the employer. To a certain extent the fact that we have kept our bargain has been against us. Why? A few employers have done their very best to what we call dilute the labour, and they have been met with unquestionable resistance. It has taken us weeks to overcome this resistance. The rest of the employers know this, and say, "At any rate, we have no personal interest in the matter. If we increase the output by means of night shifts it does not increase our profits." The personal interest has been completely eliminated, and when men are working hard superintending their work, and anxious enough work, and suffering from over-strain, they really do not feel like embarking in a conflict with their own men in order to increase the output which so far as their works are concerned makes no difference. So that really we are suffering because we carried out our bargain with labour. There is only one appeal to employer and employed; it is the appeal to patriotism! The employer must take steps. He is loth to do it. It is a sort of inertia which comes to tired and overstrained men—as they all are. They must really face the local trade unions, and put forward the demand, because until they do so the State cannot come in.
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
We have had an Act of Parliament, but the law must be put into operation by somebody. Unless the employer begins by putting on the lathes unskilled men and women we cannot enforce that Act of Parliament. The first step, therefore, is that the employer must challenge a decision upon the matter. He is not doing so because of the the trouble which a few other firms have had. Let us do it. Victory depends upon it! Hundreds of thousands of precious lives depend upon it. It is a question of whether you ere going to bring this War victoriously to an end in a year or whether it is going to linger on in bloodstained paths for years. Labour has got the answer. The contract was entered into with labour. We are carrying it out. It can be done. I wonder whether it will not be too late? Ah! two fatal words of this War! Too late in moving here. Too late in arriving there. Too late in coming to this decision. Too late in starting with enterprises. Too late in preparing. In this War the footsteps of the Allied forces have been dogged by the mocking spectre of "Too Late"; and unless we quicken our movements damnation will fall on the sacred cause for which so much gallant Wood has flowed. I beg employers and workmen not to have "Too Late" inscribed upon the portals of their workshops: that is my appeal.
Everything in the next few months of this War depends upon it. What has happened? We have had the co-operation of our Allies. Great results have been arrived at. At the last conference of the Allies decisions were arrived at which will affect the whole conduct of the War. The carrying of them out depends upon the workmen of this country. The superficial facts of the War are for the moment against us. All the fundamental facts are in our favour. That means we have every reason for looking the facts steadily in the face. There is nothing but encouragement in them if we look beneath the surface. The chances of victory are still with us. We have thrown away many chances. But for the most part the best still remains. In this War the elements that make for success in a short war were with our enemies. All the advantages that make for victory in a long war were ours, and are still! Better preparation before the War, interior lines, unity of command—those belonged to the enemy. More than that, undoubtedly, he has shown greater readi- 122 ness than we to learn the lessons of the War and to adapt himself to them. He had a better conception at first of what war really meant. Heavy guns, machine guns, trench warfare—that was his study! Our study was the sea. We have accomplished our task there to the last letter of the promise. The advantages of a protracted war are ours. We have an over whelming superiority in the raw material of war. It is still with us in spite of the fact that the Central Powers have by their successes increased their reserve of men and material. The over whelming superiority is still with us. We have the command of the sea that gives us ready access to neutral countries. Above all—and this tells in a long war—we have the better cause. It is better for the heart. Nations do not endure to the end for a bad cause. All these advantages are ours. But this is the moment of intense preparation. It is the moment of putting the whole of our energies at home into preparing for the blow to be struck abroad. Our Fleet and the gallantry of the troops of the Allies have given us time to muster our reserves. Let us utilise that time without the loss of a moment. Let us cast aside the fond illusion that you can win victory by an elaborate pretence that you are doing so. Let us fling to one side rivalries, trade jealousies, professional, political. Let us be one people! One in aim, one in action, one in resolution to win the most sacred cause ever entrusted to a great nation.
§ Mr. J. H. THOMAS
I certainly did not intend to speak, but the appeal of the right hon. Gentleman, as it was to labour, requires, I think, some immediate answer. The right hon. Gentleman has clearly indicated that the responsibility for winning this War depends entirely, in his own words, "upon the attitude that labour is likely to adopt." I am, therefore, justified in saying at the outset that labour has not yet been appealed to without making an adequate response. Every appeal that the Minister of Munitions has made has been sympathetically met by the trade unions of this country. I am satisfied that, instead of replying in this House, the best course will be for the Minister of Munitions himself to appeal direct to the labour forces, and they themselves will be able to deal with the situation. One startling admission in the moving and eloquent speech of the right hon. Gentleman is that the real problem in his opinion at this moment is not the shortage of men, 123 but the shortage of the requirements for the men. At this moment, in his opinion, 380,000 skilled and unskilled men are required. Therefore I respectfully submit that it is the duty of the Government immediately to apply themselves in a scientific and businesslike way to provide for that shortage. It will not appeal to the ordinary man in the street to hear from the Minister of Munitions that there is this terrible shortage, that these men are absolutely essential, when simultaneously we are asking everybody not to make munitions, but to come and fight the battle by enlisting. I shall possibly deal with that aspect of the question at another time, but I would ask the right hon. Gentleman to remember this: He has made an appeal to labour. Whether he knows it or not, it is much better to tell him one or two plain facts which will help to clear the situation. It is true that an appeal was made to the labour leaders in Parliament. He will, I think, be the first to admit that the labour leaders themselves did all they could, but the right hon. Gentleman himself, by his own charges at Bristol, very largely prejudiced their position.
§ 8.0 P.M.
§ Mr. THOMAS
I am going to be quite frank. I say you might not have intended it, but it does not help us in the least to get over the difficulties by skipping over the facts. I am going to submit frankly that the series of charges made at Bristol would not bear investigation. Investigation took place afterwards with the result that a great number, if not the majority, of those charges bore an entirely different interpretation when they were examined. It is useless burking the fact that when the leaders went back to the men the men said it was the right hon. Gentleman's duty to have answered these charges at once, and their decision was very largely prejudiced as a result. In September the right hon. Gentleman made the charges and from September on there has been all this bitterness. I do submit that the working man—no one ought to know him better than the right hon. Gentleman—is at least entitled to a fair deal, and the best way to get the best out of the working man is not to make charges, is not to start to bully him, but to show him the real necessities of the situation. The working men of this 124 country have proved up to now that they are not unmindful of their responsibilities: When we talk of trade-union rules do let the House remember that those rules have been set up after years and years of agitation, sacrifice and misery, and I believe the one guarantee to ensure even those rules being broken down would be for the Minister of Munitions to say, "I will table a Bill that will guarantee the status quo for the trade unions for everything they sacrifice in this War."
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
This is rather important. It has been said that the Munitions Act contained for the first time a statutory guarantee that the privileges will be restored at the end of the War.
§ Mr. THOMAS
Yes, I know, and the right hon. Gentleman knows perfectly well that the request was made to him, and had been repeatedly made by the labour people and the trade unionists; it was simply a solemn pledge that both parties would do their best. That was the strong point urged upon the right hon. Gentleman, and what I am leading up to is this: Here at this moment a statement is deliberately made by a Minister, and, whatever one may say, we are all agreed, so far as the Minister of Munitions is concerned, that his one thought is to win this War. Give him credit for that, and he must at least give us credit for understanding some of the difficulties of the situation. I want his appeal to labour to be successful; but it will not be successful unless he frankly shows that when he made his statement at Bristol there were certain facts that have come to his notice since that have altered the whole situation. If he was wrong, the workers are entitled to be told that a mistake was made, and they will be the first to appreciate it. Therefore, without going into too many details of the right hon. Gentleman's speech, speaking for myself, I say as a labour leader I will do everything I can to win this War. Even on the drink question I never hesitated to take my stand in the interests of the worker. I will do the same on everything that I am satisfied is for the best interests of the nation. I believe that is the opinion of the overwhelming mass of the working classes of this 125 country. I believe that is the view of the majority of the labour leaders in this country; but, nevertheless, I say that the responsibility rests very largely with the Government. Every man that is now turned into a soldier simply aggravates the difficulty of the right hon. Gentleman. If there is a shortage of munitions for your present Army, every additional man that you make a soldier must of necessity increase that difficulty. Therefore, it is for the Government themselves to come down with businesslike proposals and say to the House of Commons, as they ought to say to the House of Commons, "Our contribution to the Allies can be best done by maintaining our trade, by giving them an abundance of munitions, and maintaining our financial position." That, I believe, is the lesson; that is the moral of the speech of the right hon. Gentleman, and it is one at least that I hope the nation as a whole will take to heart, and that labour will play its part.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
I beg to remind the House that I failed to put the Question at the end of the speech of the Minister of Munitions. May I assume that the hon. Member for Derby has seconded him?
§ Major Sir CHARLES HUNTER
I listened to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman with very great pleasure, and I think it is a greater pleasure still to know from him that those shells are being made, and to see them, as I have, pouring into the German lines at a ratio of thirty to one, when last year we know perfectly well the ratio was exactly the opposite. Not only do I congratulate the right hon. Gentleman most heartily on the energy which he has brought to bear in his new office, but I also think I may be allowed to congratulate all those business men who have given their great services gratuitously to obtain this very satisfactory result. When we talk of munitions the minds of ninety-nine people out of 100 at once fly to shells, because they read more about them and hear more about them, and they have been the one absorbing topic of labour. But anyone who knows anything about the equipment of an up-to-date Army, knows that there are not only shells, but hundreds—I may almost say thousands—of other articles, some of which are almost as important as shells. I propose to deal in a few words with two of 126 those articles, namely, rifles and machine guns, and, if I may be allowed to say so, I have some little claim to address the House on this subject. I have been through many various courses, both of rifle and machine gun work. All my life I have been mixed up with fire-arms, and since the War began I have had the absolute entire training of two divisions of the New Armies in both rifle and machine gun work. When I speak about rifles I wish it to be understood that I am only referring to the Mark III. rifle which fires the service ammunition. I leave out of account altogether all those strange weapons that have seen the light lately and are perfectly useless for war purposes. I know that I cannot at this time go into the actual details of the training of the men of a division because I should be getting on exceedingly dangerous ground, and I should possibly be giving information to the enemy, which, of course, I should be one of the last persons in the world to do. But I cannot help saying this—and, of course, I say this from no party point of view, because I should be criticising every Government for the last fifty years—that when this War began we had—I will not say the actual number—but very few Mark III. rifles in stock, and, what is worse still, those rifles that were in stock had to be utilised for other purposes for some time than arming the men who had enlisted in the New Army. It was nobody's fault, but it was a very unfortunate occurrence that the Indian Contingent, on landing at Marseilles, had to be entirely rearmed. That took 70,000 rifles out of the supply we had in store, and beyond that the wastage on the retreat from Mons amounted to nearly 30,000 rifles. That took 100,000 rifles, leaving very few—I will not mention the number—to be rearmed with these rifles.
As a musketry officer—and I feel I am speaking more as a musketry officer than as a Member of Parliament upon these details—I have no hesitation in saying that from start to finish of the training of these New Armies the one thing that has hampered and hindered us all along has been the want of Service rifles. The right hon. Gentleman rather skated over this question of rifles, and, of course, he was not going to tell us, and no one would ask him, what amount we have and what amount we are turning out now; but I should very much like to hear, and I think the House would like to hear, from the hon. Member on that bench who is responsible now, whether he is satisfied as 127 regards the supply of rifles that is being turned out. I am speaking for every one of the musketry officers throughout the whole of these new divisions in the New Army, and I know every general officer will support what I am saying now. The men who had to vise old rifles in these New Armies were extraordinarily keen and were extraordinarily well grounded in all their work. They were looking forward for months and months to carrying out their musketry practice, which was to carry with it a certain amount of proficiency pay, and which aroused emulation amongst them. It was the greatest regret to them, therefore, that they had to carry out their practice very often with an inferior rifle, and I only hope that the hon. Gentleman will be able to give us a satisfactory answer as regards the number of rifles that are coming along at the present time.
I am going to turn for a few moments to machine guns. The Minister of Munitions was perfectly right when he told the House of the enormous power and development of machine guns. I have no hesitation in saying that four machine guns are equal to a battalion of Infantry. If you knock out four machine guns you destroy twelve men; if you destroy a battalion of infantry you destroy 1,000. It cannot be repeated too often, as I think was repeated in another place some time ago, that I might almost say in the first year of the War we were placing men against machines. I know perfectly well that when I speak of machine guns anyone who knows anything about their work knows there are only two sorts in general use in the Army at the present moment. There is another one coming along. That is the Vickers-Maxim and the Lewis gun. They are both excellent guns, and no fault is to be found with them whatever. What we suffered from in the early months of the War, and what hampered us in the training, was the small number we had at our disposal. We had to get hurriedly our detachments trained at the last moment. We had been teaching many of them with a wooden gun before, and then you had suddenly to teach them with a real gun during the last fortnight before they went out on service. I am glad to think that a very large school has been established abroad which is working most admirably, and they have really got more guns than they want, and very soon I hope in this country we shall have more guns than we have men. In 128 modern warfare no one at all can look forward to what is going to happen. After visiting, as I have quite recently, some of the fields of the bitterest fighting carried out by the French Army, I think it will come as a great surprise to hon. Members of this House to hear that the rifle was almost out of date in that great attack which the French made in the Labyrinth and Souchez, and I think I am right in saying that they never used from start to finish a rifle at all. I doubt whether they took the rifle with them into the front trenches, and the whole of that attack was carried out with short daggers and grenades. It was fought in very narrow trenches where you had no room to wield your rifle or to turn round.
No one can possibly foresee what extraordinary changes modern warfare will lead us to. I blame nobody for the shortage of machine guns in this country at the beginning of the War, because our experience was based on what we had learned in South Africa. There we never had a target, and machine guns were wasted, and naturally we thought that in future wars probably machine guns would not play the prominent part they had done. I know the Germans had thousands more machine guns than we had; they took no chances, and they armed themselves with every weapon science could devise with the prospect and probability of some of them turning out trumps. They were perfectly right as regards machine guns. I do not think when the War began the Germans had any more knowledge or forethought as to the tremendous part machine guns were going to play than we had ourselves. In the latter part of the right hon. Gentleman's speech he referred to taking these men away from different divisions for munitions work, and he was perfectly right in saying that every single officer, from the general downwards, is very reluctant to allow those men to go. I know I had some of those gentlemen who came down to take men from my division, and I assure you I hated the sight of them. They were men I had been training for months and months, and these gentlemen came down to take the very best men I had trained. I know you cannot help that sort of thing, and it is only natural that one should take a dislike to these people for the time being taking your best men after you have spent many months in their training. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will be able to let me know that he is satisfied about the number of Mark III. rifles, and 129 that he will be able to say either that they are being delivered or are being made here at the present moment, so as to better arm all these training units, so that they may take more care and trouble and interest in their training.
§ Sir THOMAS ESMONDE
The Minister of Munitions has made a most interesting speech upon which I would like to offer him my congratulations. In congratulating the Minister of Munitions we ought not to forget the personnel of the Ministry over which the right hon. Gentleman presides. There is no doubt about it that whatever success—and great success has attended their efforts—is largely due to the extremely able staff which the right hon. Gentleman controls. This Ministry really has done most amazing work in a very short time. I have had considerable experience of Government offices and officials for a number of years, and I must say that of all the Government offices with which I have ever been connected I find the Ministry of Munitions by far the most satisfactory, because they seem to be gentlemen who intend to do business, and there is very little red tape about them. In congratulating the Minister of Munitions I should also like to congratulate the Ministry upon the result they have achieved. The difference between the right hon. Gentleman and hon. Members who sit below the Gangway opposite I do not profess to know anything about, but whatever it is I hope it is in the way of a speedy settlement, because it is everybody's interest in these islands, capitalists, labour, soldiers, sailors, and taxpayers, that this War should come to an end as speedily as possible. It is to all our interests that this War should be brought to a triumphant conclusion absolutely and finally and without any of us squabbling amongst ourselves while the War is going on. Therefore, whatever little difference exists between hon. Members below the Gangway and my right hon. Friend, I hope it will be settled speedily so that the fullest output possible in the shape of munitions may be produced. It is all very well to have soldiers and sailors fighting for us and defending us, but they cannot do that unless we give them the wherewithal to fight. If you do not give them arms and munitions it is no use expecting them to do what is manifestly impossible. Everybody in these islands is behind the Minister of Munitions, and we all wish to help him in the success of these gigantic undertakings.
130 I have risen to say a word or two in relation to my own country. In Ireland, when the Ministry of Munitions was started, we were far behind everybody else except in the North-Eastern part of the country. In the rest of Ireland we were in a very backward state, for we had not been properly organised, and it is owing to the representative of the Minister of Munitions in Ireland that a very great change has come over the state of affairs in that respect. I think I may safely say now that Ireland has prepared herself very efficiently according to her opportunities, and is now prepared to do her share in this work to the best of her ability. I imagine that the Minister of Munitions really intends this Debate to take a business turn, and I would like to offer him a few suggestions so far as my own country is concerned. The resources of Ireland have not really been properly utilised, and I am perfectly satisfied that we can do more than we have done in the matter of munitions. The request I would make generally is that we should be given a larger opportunity of assisting the right hon. Gentleman in his work. He alluded to the fact that it is possible now to get munitions of war of the most expensive type at a considerably lower price than when the War began, and when the first contracts for the Ministry of Munitions were placed. I quite agree with that principle. It is in the interests of everybody in this country that the taxpayer should get the best value possible for his money, and in whatever I say about Ireland's participation in munitions contracts I ask for no favour whatsoever. I do not ask that we should be given exceptional prices for our output in munitions in any respect. I ask simply that we should be put on an equality with other parts of the Kingdom, and should be merely given equal opportunities. We are making Shells up to 4.5, and I am told that our 4.5 shells are a very great success. I should like to see more shells turned out in Ireland, and I would earnestly ask the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry to make a note of the fact and see whether we cannot have an opportunity at all events of tendering for more shells and grenades. We can supply him with shells up to 4.5 and grenades in millions. I am told that we can even turn out 9-inch shells. I would ask that we should be allowed to send a sample of Irish 9-inch shells. If you do not like them, you need not have them, but Irish; manufacturers ought to be 131 allowed to tender for them. I think they could make them satisfactorily.
We can produce ammunition boxes on a very fair scale. There are over twenty places in the south and west of Ireland where we can make ammunition boxes on a very considerable scale, and we can turn them out quite as cheaply as the manufacturers on this side of the Channel. We can use Irish timber for the manufacture of the boxes, thereby saving the considerable cost of importing timber. I would very much like the Minister of Munitions to give us an opportunity speedily of tendering for the manufacture of munition boxes. As a matter of fact, we have made a good many, but I understand that nearly all our contracts are exhausted. There are one or two districts in my Constituency where these boxes are made, and the makers are most anxious that they should be given an opportunity of making more.
I hope the right hon. Gentleman will also give us an opportunity of supplying the Army with boots. I do not think that sufficient attention has been paid to our ability to make boots in Ireland. I hope, too, that Irish bootmakers will be given an opportunity of tendering for contracts for our Allies. With regard to woollen supplies, we can accommodate the Army to a great extent with the cloth of which uniforms are made. We can make excellent cloth, and I hope we shall be encouraged to do so. There is one point which I should like to impress upon the Minister of Munitions. Irish supplies of cloth or boots, or whatever it may be, ought to be examined and passed in Ireland. At the present time the Irish cloth to be made up into uniforms is sent over in the piece, and is examined and passed here. That might very well be done in Ireland. If it were examined in Ireland it would be cheaper, it -would save time, and it would be more satisfactory. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will consider this question of stationing inspectors in Ireland, so that Irish contractors may have their products examined and passed without delay at as small a cost as possible
Another question is the filling of cartridges and shells. There is no such thing in Ireland at the present time. We make explosives on a considerable scale, but there is no place where we can either fill cartridges or shells. I think that is an omission which might be remedied. If we can make shells, there is no reason why 132 we should not fill them, and, quite apart from the consideration of cheapness, it would mean the employment of a large number of unskilled workers, who under proper supervision might easily perform the work; at all events, the knowledge is acquired with small practice. It would be an excellent thing if the Minister of Munitions could establish in Ireland within as short a period of time as possible a factory or two for the filling of cartridges and shells.
There is just one remark I should like to make with regard to what the hon. and gallant Member (Major Sir Charles Hunter) said about taking skilled workers from the Army. Personally, I quite sympathise with his view. It is very hard on a commanding officer when he finds that a good man is suddenly taken away and his regiment is worsened to that extent. I must say that my experience of commanding officers has been extraordinarily good. They have not only assisted me and my friends, but they have shown us the greatest courtesy, as also have all regimental officers. I found that the only objection the men had to leaving the ranks to become munition workers was that they were missing the sport of going abroad and fighting. That was the great objection they had to leaving the Colours. They had all joined for the fighting, and they did not see why they should be taken away to make munitions, and one had to explain to them that they were doing-better work remaining at home making munitions for their friends to fire off. We are all heart and soul at the back of the Minister of Munitions. We intend to support him to the best of our ability, and all we ask, so far as my country is concerned, is that we should be given a fair opportunity of participating in the work.
§ Sir W. PEARCE
Listening to the speech of the Minister of Munitions, one could not help realising what a great asset it is to have at the head of that Department a Minister who is not afraid of doing too much. Perhaps the most valuable work he yet has done is the way in which he has been able to speed-up the production on the old contracts. After all, I should imagine that up to the present all the munitions supplied to our Forces in the field, or nearly all, must have been supplied before the present Minister took charge of the Department. There are some limitations, in spite of my praise, which it is impossible to get over, and I 133 was very glad to hear him remark that he intended to stop further purchases in America to a very large extent. The works we are putting up in this country will require an enormous amount of raw material. Unfortunately, there is a natural limit to the world's production of a good many of these raw materials. It is not possible to make nitro-glycerine without glycerine, or T.N.T. without toluol, or picric acid without benzol or carbolic acid. There is not an unlimited supply in the world, and the stoppage of orders in America might tend to increase the amount of such materials available for this country. I imagine the Department have considered how far these limitations really operate. I am not suggesting that the present works cannot be fully employed, but I have felt and do feel there is a danger that, if large orders for manufactured materials continue to be placed in America, the supply of raw material for our own works may be reduced, and the Minister of Munitions may find himself handicapped by not getting sufficiently large quantities of the materials he requires.
I have spent most of my time in factories, and every week there is brought home to me the increasing difficulty of getting a full supply of labour. Without going into that great controversy in which so many people in this House take sides, but in which I have never taken part, I do want to assure the Minister of Munitions that if he requires the workmen he describes he will have to be considerate in his scheme of recruiting, and in the number of men spared for the Army. A good deal has been said to-night about rifles. There was one remark the Minister made which caused me a certain amount of apprehension. He is relying for his rifles upon what he calls the peddling out system. There is a difference of opinion whether that system is likely to be effective. It is very difficult to put the various portions of rifles together when they come to the place of assembly, and I have heard a strong opinion that unexpected difficulties may happen. There is a good deal of apprehension in some quarters at the course the Government appeared to have decided to take. Another article, in regard to which there may be a real limitation, is fuses. In the manufacture of explosives in this country difficulty is more likely to arise from a limitation in the supply of fuses than of anything else. The whole question is one of extraordinary 134 difficulty and complexity, and my sympathies are entirely with the Department in the problem they have to solve. I hope what I have said will not be taken to be carping criticism, but rather an honest endeavour to point out the rocks which may possibly not have been realised.
There is one other point on which I wish to say a few words, and it is in reference to the policy of the Department with regard to controlled businesses. Under the Extension of the Munitions Act, which we finished on Friday, we gave the Department power to take over a very much larger series of controlled businesses. Two thousand businesses are at present under the control of the Department, and under the old Bill, with the present extension, the number will be almost inexhaustible. I hope that this power will be used with discretion. I agree that the Department ought to have power to take over almost every business. It is necessary to get over the difficulties with regard to labour, and certainly for labour reasons, in some cases it is desirable the businesses should be controlled. Employers again may be selfish, and wish to run their businesses in their own hands. In these cases, too, it may be necessary for the Ministry to control the undertakings. But with these two exceptions, I strongly believe in allowing these businesses to go their own way. There are 2,000, after all, under control, and the more you multiply them, the more trouble you will get, and the more trouble you will have at the time of settlement. I suggest the Department should follow my advice, and not do anything themselves which other people do as well or better. I feel with the rest of the House that the prospects of victory very largely depend on the successful management of this enormous undertaking. I wish everybody concerned in it the greatest success, but I cannot shut my eyes to the enormous difficulties they have to face.
§ Sir CROYDON MARKS
I want, if I may, to reinforce the appeal which has been made to the Labour party, because of the experience I personally have had in connection with the dilution of labour for the production of munitions. At the present moment there is a vast amount of skilled labour doing work that might readily be performed by unskilled persons, and if those now concerned with skilled work would only realise that they are not lessening their skill, or losing their position by allowing other people to come and 135 do that repetition work which they themselves are doing, a great deal of the misunderstanding and misconception that has arisen in their minds will be removed. It has been made clear to our labour friends by the Minister of Munitions that nothing in the way of privilege, or in the way of status, so far as the trade unions are concerned, will be affected by their giving way now, and permitting persons to come and do this skilled work which has become unskilled by repetition, and that the conditions obtaining during the period of the War are not likely to obtain at the end of the War, for the simple reason that most of the work which these people are doing now, and which unskilled people are required and needed to be brought into, is work that is not commercial, and is simply connected with war munitions, which a little experience makes unskilled persons just as competent to perform as skilled persons. Therefore I want, if I may, to suggest to those who have been connected with the labour movement to listen to the appeal which has been made, and should represent to their followers that the output can be increased very materially by the skilled men going to do that skilled work elsewhere, and leaving women and unskilled men to do the repetition work which they themselves are wasting their time upon.
I know works in this country where men are using their skill in a way that is really a waste of energy. Men can be employed and their full skill be used to the greatest advantage if they can only understand that by being transferred as proposed they are not breaking down the system of the trade union to which they are attached. I do not want to indulge in any recriminations such as the hon. Member for Derby used in his references to the speech of the Minister of Munitions, when he suggested that the bargain that had been made had not been kept, because I could, of my own personal knowledge, give instances where trade unionists have not kept their part of the bargain, and where, by not doing so, they have retarded the delivery of things badly needed in this War. I have visited works where I have seen 1,600 men on strike, and while they have been on strike the very articles they have been making have been badly needed for our Army and Navy. I mention that to show that there is still some necessity for them to be careful when suggesting that one is not keeping a bargain and 136 alleging that they on their side have kept their whole bargain.
The time for recrimination has gone. The time for unity exists, and if our friends will throw on one side the suspicion they have that there is an intention to break down the trade-union rules by bringing unskilled persons to do the work of skilled persons, then we would have no further trouble. They could quite well have this understood if they would let it go forth as the pledge of the Minister that there is no such intention and that the bringing in of these people is just a bringing in to meet the needs of the nation in the hour of its necessity. There are many operations which, when the skilled man originally performs them, takes the whole of his skill, but subsequently continuing in those operations he is no longer a skilled man. It is repetition work that other persons could readily be taught in a few weeks. I have seen women working in Manchester in works producing munitions after two weeks' training and producing them as well as the skilled men whom they had displaced, the skilled men being better employed and serving their nation's need better by using their skill for that which the unskilled persons could not produce. I want to reinforce that from my own experience. It has been my good fortune to be associated with some trade unionists who assured me that they would do all that they could to help in the dilution of labour, but that their own men felt suspicion in connection with that which was being done, and because of that suspicion the efforts of their own leaders have been futile. At the present moment there exists in districts known to some of us a difficulty that arises not because of the advice given by their leaders, but because of the suspicion entertained by the men that their trade unions were to be broken down when this dilution was brought about.
Therefore I want to suggest now that what we need most at the present time is for the unskilled person to be brought in to do the work that the skilled person is wastefully and extravagantly doing, in order that the skilled person might do better work elsewhere, where that better work is needed. There are many workshops in this country where skilled men are sought. There are many places where the machines are not fully used. There are many articles that are not being made because of the lack of skilled men; yet, at the same time, we have skilled men in many works who could easily be displaced 137 if the trade unionists in that place would permit them to come in. I appeal to night, as one who has been trying to do his little in order to bring about the dilution of this labour, to the trade unionists outside to join with their leaders, because their leaders have advised them, in responding to the appeal that Las been made here to-night by the Minister of Munitions, so that the energies of the unskilled person can be used to the advantage of the State while the greater energies of the skilled person can be better used by their coming in. If that is done the War, which is concerned with machinery, will be earlier won. If it is not done the more we drag out the more lives we lose, as the Minister of Munitions has pointed out. If I may reinforce that which has been so well put by the Minister of Munitions, I would ask our labour leaders to disabuse the minds of their friends of the suspicion they entertain in order that this dilution can take place without taking a single man from the Army, without robbing a single man of the badge of enlistment that he wears, without taking a single man who is in the trenches, but by taking the women who can do this work and taking the men who are able to do this work, without depleting the Army and without removing any who have enlisted. This would give a great impetus in our shops to the reserve of labour which is only ready and willing at this moment to come in if the trade unionists will permit them to come.
§ Sir J. D. REES
I think the House is quite satisfied that the Minister of Munitions and his staff are working hammer and tongs and doing their best, and that it is a good best. For that reason I do not think it is worth while to consider whether the speech of the right hon. Gentleman was an eulogy of the Government as it is or a condemnation of the Government as it was, he himself having been a Member of both Governments. It was a rather astounding admission that it was only after nine months of war, and after the visit of the Prime Minister himself to the front, that the Government appreciated the fact of our hopeless deficiency in respect of machine guns. I leave that there, because I do not wish to touch upon it. Nor do I think I can follow the hon. Baronet (Sir T. Esmonde) from Ireland in his account of the goods which he can supply to the Minister of Munitions. All I can say is, that if the right hon. Gentleman will invite me to walk into his parlour at Whitehall, I will 138 show him specimens of our goods equal to anything in the long list which the hon. Baronet said Ireland produced and I will back the Queen of the Midlands against Dark Rosaleen. I do not mean to suggest by that that Nottingham is not doing great things, but that she is willing to do more. I know that what she has been doing has been acknowledged by the Government. I do not wish to make any more remarks in the sense of the phrase "M.P. turned traveller." The last speaker made an appeal to trade unionists. I hope I shall be in order in making an appeal to the hon. Member for Derby (Mr. J. H. Thomas) begging him, in the very responsible and influential position he occupies, not again to say that to win the War with Conscription would be equal to losing it. That is a terrible statement to make.
My object in rising is to refer to one or two questions regarding the action taken by the Central Control Board (Liquor Traffic). I put a question to-day to the Minister concerned, in regard to the case of the magistrates at Bristol who fined a man for treating his wife. In it self, that a man should treat his wife is, perhaps, a praiseworthy performance, and that the magistrate should have to fine him for that seems to me to be a regrettable necessity. The Minister of Munitions, instead of dealing with the question as he ought to have done, invited me to suggest how the publican concerned could discover by outward and visible signs whether the lady who is treated is or is not the wife of the gentleman who treats her. It is not for me to do that. It is for the Ministry of Munitions to say that the Central Control Board, which I cannot but think acts certainly with his approval and I suppose at his instigation—it is the duty of the Ministry of Munitions to say that no bench of magistrates should be put in the painful position of being bound to fine a perfectly innocent roan, engaged in a perfectly innocent and praiseworthy action. Another question I raised a day or two before concerns the fact that a man ordering wine, beer, or anything else now, unless he sends a cheque with the order, is actually liable to a fine of £100 or imprisonment with hard labour. This is another monstrous order by this same Board. It is intolerable tyranny. Again the Minister of Munitions said no fine was actually imposed. That may be so, but any Member of this House, or any mem- 139 ber of the public wanting to indulge his legitimate taste for drink, or to supply his house with whatever is required in the practice of elementary hospitality, if he is too proud to drink himself, is actually driven to this proceeding that he has to send a cheque with the order, otherwise he is guilty of an offence. That, also, is perfectly intolerable. Suppose this principle of making credit illegal were extended in other directions, the whole fabric of British trade, upon which the greatness of this country rests, must fall to the ground. It is a monstrous principle, and the Minister of Munitions really did not meet me in any way, so that I am bound to trouble the right hon. Gentleman. I want to know why we have not got some satisfactory answer, and whether the Ministry of Munitions will not impress upon the Central Control Board (Liquor Traffic) that its function is to facilitate the making of munitions of war, and not, under cover of that function, to persecute an already persecuted trade or to interfere with the legitimate rights of the subject in respect of liquid refreshments.
The right hon. Gentleman must be aware that there have been meetings in all parts of London protesting against these regulations, and a manifesto backed up by fifty trade union branches and by 200 employers of labour representing all kinds of trades, and particularly those in which he is concerned, in Lancashire and elsewhere, has protested that these restrictions must lead to discontent amongst labour, which it is so important and which the Government goes to such lengths to conciliate. That is my own experience. It is the duty of a Member of Parliament in these critical times, if he is in the habit of getting about the country, to learn what he can at first hand of the feelings in this respect. I protest, and I believe the hon. Member (Mr. W. Thorne) has several times expressed the same opinion in the House—and he knows a great deal about labour—that there is this fear of raising discontent if they proceed further on these lines. I, personally, may have the misfortune of not being able to appreciate the thin partition which exists between Socialism and social reform in these things, but that really does not matter. The point here is something far simpler than that. It is a question how far these regulations are really required for the Defence of the Realm at present and the 140 production of munitions, and how far they are unwelcome, improper, and excessive interferences with the liberty of the subject. There was a large meeting the other day in London at which a protest was delivered against the drastic Orders of the Central Control Board. I protest, for my part, as a citizen, that it is perfectly ridiculous that I should not be able to buy, say, a consignment of light French wine made by our Allies, and good for every man, and why I should be put to this inconvenience of having with the order to send a cheque. It is a perfectly ridiculous restriction, which I hope the hon. Gentleman will tell me his chief is prepared to relax. My colleague in the representation of Nottingham shire, the hon. Member for Mansfield, asked whether any steps had been taken to ascertain the wishes of the people at Worksop, and the Minister could not say there had been. He said he believed it was usual. In fact, no opinion was taken, and no opinion is taken in these matters. This Central Control Board is like a Star Chamber. Anything it does is at once not only condoned but approved, on the ground that it favours the conduct of the War. That is begging the whole point. If once we are convinced that it does so, no one is likely to object to it. That it affects it in any way I profoundly disbelieve. But however that may be, surely something less drastic than these measures could be devised. Meanwhile while there are all these excessive restrictions clubs are not placed under the same restrictions as public-houses, and when I appeal to the Home Secretary on the matter he refers me to the Temporary Restrictions Bill, under which no action can be taken except upon the motion of the chief constable of the county concerned, who may be under the thumb, for all I know, of some association connected with the hon. Member (Mr. Leif Jones). I also appealed the other day, by question, which is the only way open to me, to the Minister of Munitions, and asked him to remove from the Board the hon. Member (Mr. Snowden), not that I have anything against the hon. Member, but because, when a man is supposed to exercise quasi-judicial functions, he is supposed to exercise quasi-judicial discretion and not to make a speech against the liquor trade when his function is to hold the scales equally between the liquor trade and the Central Control Board. I 141 had no success there either. I protest again that for the hon. Member to sit upon that Board seems nothing less than a scandal after the speech he made. I also ask the right hon. Gentleman to arrange that clubs should be put under Section 13 of the Defence of the Realm Regulations through the medium of an Order in Council. I have already appealed to the Home Secretary to that effect, and I repeat my appeal to the hon. Gentleman. I hope he has kindly noted the various matters through which I have quickly gone, because one duty of a Member of Parliament at this time is not to speak at any length, and I have always endeavoured to carry that out since the War came, even if I may have offended on some occasions before it began.
I must not shrink from saying this, because I do it in a perfectly friendly spirit to the Minister of Munitions, who, I am convinced, acts entirely, in his belief, in what is the public interest and against whom I make no charge whatever. But it is the case, and it is useless to blink the fact, that when we are dealing with the public we must consider the personal equation, perhaps more than any other factor in the case. The right hon. Gentleman is himself an extremely ardent teetotaler. He is in the closest connection with the hon. Member (Mr. Leif Jones), who reduces to an absurdity the claims of temperance. But there you have these extremely drastic and very strong Orders passed, appeals for restraint are disregarded, and you have at the head of the Ministry of Munitions a Minister, who, whatever his merits, his eloquence, his capacity and his present attention to the duties of his important office, is nevertheless credited personally, and I know correctly, with the strongest possible bias towards the strictest temperance political view. Is not that a factor in the case? Does that not colour the whole case? Is it not natural that those people who are affected by these Orders should consider that? I find it very difficult even to keep it out of my own head, although I speak in perfectly good faith in saying I credit him with good faith. If I have spoken with any heat, and I hope I have not, it is due to the fact that it is extremely hard to get in any way forward on this subject here. What is a question when you have a Minister sitting there with a row of secretaries behind him, with the last word always on his side, with the power of putting aside a question, of queering the 142 pitch, or disregarding an issue. This makes it impossible for a Member of Parliament to have any real success in questioning Ministers, particularly if the Minister is for any reason, good for him, or as the Member might think, bad, disinclined to meet thim. This is the first occasion I have had of saying a few words on this subject. I hope I shall be excused if I have spoken too strongly, but I shall look forward with some interest to hearing from the hon. Gentleman (Colonel Lee) that he will put this matter strongly before his chief, the Minister of Munitions, and endeavour to do justice.
§ Mr. W. THORNE
In regard to the question of the new liquor regulations, it is quite true to say that there is a great deal of difference between myself and some other Members of the Labour party. I do not expect that there is any body of men but are divided upon this question. I live in a division where a very large number of workmen reside, and I have had no end of resolutions from branches of various trade unions, and I have also received a good number of letters from various individuals, in consequence of what they call these very bad restrictions which have been issued by the Board of Control. My own view about the matter is that if they had left it alone it would have been much better, because with this new trade Order for the closing of public-houses and with the number of restrictions down in the dock area, there is a great deal of irritation taking place at the present time in all parts of London. I am not prepared to say that in consequence of the new regulations there has been interference with the output of munitions, because I do not think there is a single workman in London who will attempt to shirk his responsibility in consequence of these new liquor regulations. I do say, however, that it would be very much better if the Minister of Munitions would give some attention to the views of organised labour in regard to this particular question. It not only affects men working in the dock areas, but it affects a very large number of men who go to work very early in the morning at Smithfield Market—I am led to understand that some little help has been given in that direction—you have the men starting work at two o'clock in the morning and finishing at eleven o'clock in the forenoon. Then there is the case of the Cattle Market, the Borough Market, and Spitalfields Market, where people have to start work early in the morning, and you have other 143 cases of people who start work in the early morning, all of whom are prevented from getting light refreshment. At the docks I think arrangements are being made to set up canteens. That, I think, is a very good idea, but I do not think the Government are speeding the matter up. I think they ought to get to work quickly and erect these canteens where the men can get light refreshment.
The reason I rose to speak was the very damaging speech made by one of the hon. Members for Cornwall (Sir G. Croydon Marks). Anyone who reads that speech to-morrow morning would be led to believe that, so far as trade unions are concerned, there has been absolutely no relaxation of their rules. I suppose that there is no trade union organisation in the country, so far as I know, which has not relaxed its rules from top to bottom in regard to overtime, the apprenticeship system, and so on. As a matter of fact, so far as the trade unions are concerned, it practically means that we have got no rules or regulations to-day. The result is that in every direction—and I do not care what trade union you mention—in every trade union in this country the men are working at the very highest speed possible. They are working with very long hours, with many hours of overtime, and in many cases it has been proved that the men have almost worked themselves to a standstill. When the hon. Gentleman makes this very earnest appeal to organised labour to remove these restrictions, I should like to know where these restrictions are in operation at the present time.
I quite believe that it is a rather difficult job to get the number of men required for what one would call very skilled and very special work. On Saturday morning I made it my duty to call and see the manager of the Labour Exchange at Derby, and he showed me a letter he had received from an employer who wanted a certain number of tool makers—I think, about thirty. If he could have supplied those thirty tool makers and tool setters, the employer could have brought forty machines into working order, and that would have meant the employment of something like 200 or 300 women or ordinary general labourers. Do not put that down to the fault of the ordinary unskilled man; do not put it down to the engineer; do not put it down to slacking on the part of any skilled workman. If it is not possible to obtain tool makers that is your 144 difficulty. It is difficult to obtain tool makers for the purpose of making tools, and it is difficult to obtain tool setters. If the Minister of Munitions could see his way clear to make inquiries from the Tool-makers' Society and try to get more tool makers—and I believe there are a great many of them who have joined the Colours—you would find to a great extent that some of your difficulties would be removed, because there is no doubt that it is in regard to tool makers that we are experiencing difficulty in different parts of the country.
So far as the ordinary general labourer is concerned, I do not think there has been any complaint in that direction. I recognise that you cannot very well expect even a skilled man to be transferred from Manchester to Newcastle, or vice versa, unless-provisions are made for removing that man from one place to another and giving him some reasonable compensation for removing his home. If a man is called upon to keep two homes—for that is what it amounts to—unless some compensation is paid to the man you cannot expect him to-transfer from one district to another. I believe there are Rules and Regulations in the Munitions Act, or under some Order in Council, where a subsistence allowance is allowed amounting to 17s. 6d. a week. I am not sure whether that meets all the extra cost the man will be put to, because of the extra cost of living in all parts of the country.
I listened to the major part of the speech of the Minister of Munitions, and I note that he complained about the cost of the various articles which are being made now in all parts of the country in regard to munitions, guns and so forth. There is one very important raw material which is brought into play in all these things, which he never mentioned, and that is coal. Everybody knows that there is no-kind of munitions made at all unless coal is a very important factor, and the result is that in consequence of the very high price of coal nearly all the things that are being manufactured to-day in regard to munitions have been increased something like 15 per cent. or 20 per cent. I would give one illustration which I am well acquainted with. In my own organisation we have a very large number of men who work on blast furnaces, and I think I am right in saying that it takes about two and a half tons of coal to make a ton of pig iron, in addition to the coke that has to be used. If the price of coal 145 has only been increased 5s. a ton—and that is a very modest estimate, because it has been increased more than 5s. a ton in some directions—that means that at least 12s. 6d. a ton has been added to the cost of pig iron alone in consequence of the higher price of coal. Moreover, if you go into the question of steel smelting, the same thing is brought into operation, because there is a great deal, I do not say the best of coal, but a certain amount of coal used for the purpose of generating the gas supply of smelting furnaces. Therefore, I have no hesitation in saying that if you go into this question you will find that the increase in the price of coal certainly adds to the cost of everything that is being turned out in regard to the munitions of war. If that is so, I should like to know why the Government do not tackle this question. You have tackled many other questions. I know it is a large question to tackle, but we know that very large profits are being made by the coal-owners in different parts of the country, and if you investigate it you will be bound to come to the conclusion that the extra cost of coal has been an important factor in the cost of production. You have tackled the meat question, the freightage question, and why not tackle the coal question, for the benefit of the whole nation, and work and control it in the same way as you are controlling other industries? I believe if you do you will find that you will be able to sell coal to all the factories where munitions are being made at between 5s. and 10s. less than now. I want to emphasise one other point which has been made by the hon. Member for Derby. No doubt he made a very important statement with regard to the charges made by the Minister of Munitions at the Bristol Trade Union Congress, but some of these charges have been made before the right hon. Gentleman attended the Bristol Trade Union Congress, and in some cases they have been investigated and disputed. The Parliamentary Committee of the Trade Union Congress was called on to investigate these charges. They did investigate some of them which proved to be absolutely untrue. When the workmen find serious charges made that are not true they feel they are not being fairly dealt with. If any Member of this House had a charge laid against him that was not true he would feel very much aggrieved, and he would like to have it investigated and have a disclaimer at the very earliest oppor- 146 tunity—little things like that, and many other things—the question of the Munitions Act, and very serious prosecutions against workmen, cases where men have been imprisoned for certain offences without the option of a fine. It is true the Minister of Munitions said that the employers have paid their fines in every case. Yes, but that is put down as part of the ordinary working expenditure of the firm. If workmen are called on to pay fines of £5 and £10 it is an impossibility for them to pay without having to bear great hardship in their households. I know that men have been brought before these tribunals for pettifogging offences. Some members of our own organisation have been fined sums up to 20s. because they refused to work overtime. Their reason for refusing was that the manager refused to pay them the proper overtime rates. In such cases the employer should be brought to book as well as the workman. If the Minister of Munitions would tackle the employers in the same way as the workmen are being tackled at present it would cause more contentment in the factories and workshops, and the way to speed-up the output of munitions is to treat men as they should be treated, and you will get more out of them than by imprisonment and bullying. When I was at work, if I was working under a foreman who would treat me as a man ought to be treated, I would do more work for him than I would for one who was always bullying me. Men will do more with a little persuasion than they will when they are bullied. I am firmly convinced that the major part of the workmen in all parts of the country are doing their level best for the purpose of supplying the Minister of Munitions with all the materials required, and they have certainly made up their minds that they will both work and fight until the War is carried to a successful termination.
§ Mr. MOLTENO
I do not propose to follow the hon. Member who has just sat down in that portion of his speech where he dealt with the restriction on the liquor traffic. I entirely sympathise with the effort to reduce the opportunities for excessive drinking. At the same time, there may be hardship inflicted on men by the rules made by the authorities. However, I do not propose to follow him in that, but I would like to make a few remarks on the speech of the Minister of Munitions. I listened with interest to that speech, but I am not sure I got much information. It 147 appeared to me to be a series of Algebraic formulae, with the symbols unknown. You could not get exact information on any of the subjects he professed to enlighten us upon. We all felt that especially when he said he had the leave of the Prime Minister to make a disclosure in a certain part of his speech, and we were all disappointed that the disclosure did not go further than it did. I do not propose to dwell on that, but I should like to make a few remarks in regard to what he said concerning economy. He mentioned that he had received criticism and information from Members of this House, and that he welcomed them. It is in that spirit that I should like to make a few remarks on the question of economy. It is clear to everybody that it is of the utmost importance that we should not spend more money than is necessary; that we should spend freely but not extravagantly or unwisely. It is in that spirit I desire to draw the attention of the hon. Member who now occupies the Treasury Bench (Colonel Arthur Lee) to some of the instances that have come under my observation. I need hardly emphasise the fact that finance has become of growing and vital importance. The Prime Minister told us that the financial position is serious. The Colonial Secretary told us that we were risking bankruptcy. These are very serious statements made by some of the most responsible Members in this House. In connection with the Ministry of Munitions the Colonial Secretary pointed out that the increase in cost is very great indeed, and the right hon. Gentleman told us to-day that by instituting a certain Committee—a Committee I think he called it—headed by a chartered accountant who had come forward patriotically to give his assistance, economies ranging up to 40 per cent. of the cost had been made. I suggested some time ago that the evidence and conclusions of the War Committees on the South African War might have been availed of, and that a financial adviser should have been appointed at once in these questions of Army contracts and expenditure. Apparently it has not been done, because in a Treasury Minute, issued by the present Minister of Munitions when he occupied the position of Chancellor of the Exchequer, in January last freed the War Department which then had charge of munitions from any supervision by the Treasury, so that Department has been quite uncontrolled by the Financial Secre- 148 tary or by any financial official until quite recently, when this Committee was appointed. I am very glad the Committee has been set up, and that an economy of 40 per cent. has been effected. The Colonial Secretary said, on the 18th November last in this House:—One of the disadvantages of that, and I think one of the most serious, perhaps, of all, is the scale of wages which is established all over the country. One has some hesitation in speaking about that when you see people, as I know from experience, making very large incomes in business as a result of the War, and very large incomes even after the Excess Profits Tax is taken from them.When you see that, one hesitates to dwell too largely upon the scale of wages throughout the country. After all, it is a question of arithmetic. I have looked into it in regard to the cost of some munitions. The rate of wages we are paying means now, as compared with the old times before the War, that the things necessary for the conduct of the War are costing us three or four times as much as they would have cost if the old conditions had prevailed.I would like to draw the attention of the hon. Member on the Front Bench to what I consider to be extravagances and waste that are occurring in the Munitions Department, whereby the cost of output must be enormously increased. We hear a great many stories of extravagances and waste. But the worst of the results is that the rate of wages in various districts are raised to an unnecessary extent, and this has the effect of driving up the rate which has to be paid by private employers, the wages reaching a point which renders it quite impossible for them to carry on their business if they are to be maintained. I think it most proper that the workers should be properly paid, especially when they have to go to other districts, and perhaps have to keep up two establishments and incur other expenses consequent upon their working away from their home. In these circumstances I think they are entitled to the utmost consideration, and due regard should be paid to the position in which they are placed. But I am not calling attention to cases of that character at all. My purpose is to call attention to cases where there has been unnecessary waste. I shall give some details of wages that are paid and which are mentioned in a letter which I intend to read to the House. Not only are high wages paid but time is being wasted as well. Men in some cases who are being paid very high wages are doing nothing. I have come across cases in which conscientious men in munitions departments have refused to receive these great wages for doing nothing whatever.
A man who, from patriotism, desired to serve his country, volunteered at an early stage to do munition work. He was 149 put to a lathe, and work was given to him. He worked hard. There was a double shift at the factory, a night shift and a day shift; he was on the day shift. At the conclusion of one day a portion of a shell he was engaged upon was un finished, and he left the shell in the lathe, it being his time to leave work. He was succeeded by his relief at the end of the shift. On the following morning he returned to his work, and he found the shell in exactly the same position as he had left it. He said to his relief, "Why, how is this? This shell is exactly in the same condition as when I left it." The relief replied, "Oh, yes; we have done no work; we have been playing cards all night," and he put his hands in his pockets and said, "Here are my winnings." It is clear that there is enormous waste occurring, and that work is not provided. [An HON. MEMBER: "Is that a private shop?"] This is a munitions establishment. I may say that in my own Constituency I have had universal complaints from manufacturers that they are being deprived of their men—that if something is not done they will be brought to a standstill. They say they will be absolutely paralysed if further men are taken away from them. They also point out the enormous increase forced upon them in wages by reason of the high standard set up by the munitions factory in their neighbourhood. Farmers also are at their wits' end. They say that they dare not cultivate their land because they are unable to see how to meet the cost. I am constantly receiving representations from my own Constituents. I should like to read a letter, one of many, which I have received. I have sent a copy of this letter to the Munitions Department, who have been very kind to me in every way, and offered to do everything they can in these matters. But the fact remains that nothing is done, and the trouble is still going on. This is the letter:—I do hope that you may be able to effect some improvement soon. I have preached to my people publicly on the necessity for thrift, and I am advising the working folks privately to lay aside one-half of the extra pay they are getting just now against the hard times that are sure to come after the War. But what is the use of all preaching and teaching when the Government Departments are making such a woeful display of public extravagance? I could give you instance after instance from my own observation in which hundreds of pounds have been wantonly wasted through sheer incapacity. …. I wish you could do more, however, to prevent the wholesale demoralisation of our countryside that is going on, and which cannot be defended on the plea that it is helping to end the War Can you stop the extravagant payment of boy labour and the taking of apprentices away from their situations?150 I will not mention names, but will just give an illustration to the House of what has occurred. A two and a half years' apprentice, about eighteen years of age, left his work for munition work and is now getting 33s. per week for assisting in one of the contractor's stores. Another two apprentices are earning 40s. 6d. for a fifty-four hour week; another, seventeen years of age, and over a year an apprentice in a cycle shop, is getting £2 14s. 8d. for his week's work. Of two boys under fourteen years of age, relieved from school attendance, one gets 25s. a week and the other—a "nipper" employed to heat navvies cans—is getting 30s. An apprentice to a grocer at 6s. or 7s. a week is now in possession of 20s. a week. These are a few instances, the writer states, and that this has been going on all over the district, and apprentices and young lads, after receiving such high pay for six months or more, may be ruined for life, for they will never return to their apprenticeship or occupation for a few shillings a week. The letter goes on to say that rates of pay are far in advance of anything ever dreamed of in the writer's part of the country. He gives various illustrations and speaks of needless and useless Sunday labour.Many steady working folks complain of the slackness and loafing that goes on all over the place. One man who has just returned after a few years in Canada, says he has been on several big railway and other contracts in Canada and never saw one so wastefully mismanaged. …. I hear also of huts erected that have to be pulled down again because they were planted across a road, or railway line projected. … These are not a tithe of the complaints I hear.Those are actual facts. At a time when every penny ought to count and ought to be saved, it is most important that an example should be set to the country of careful economy, and it is most disastrous that we should have cases of this kind now occurring on a very large scale. I am entirely in favour of men being properly paid, particularly where they have to make a move to what are perhaps very uncomfortable and difficult quarters. We are told of these cases of absolute waste in regard to boy labour and Sunday labour. I understand a circular has been issued with regard to Sunday labour, but I am not sure if it is being carried into effect. The case may not be one entirely of munitions work. At any rate, the want of economy and Sunday labour extravagance has been established by the Report of the Commission which was circulated to-day. It seems to me that our departments are working almost isolated with regard to the effect on other departments. We have Lord Derby getting men at all costs. 151 The right hon. Gentleman told us to-day that he has factories with machinery at the present moment standing absolutely idle and no work being done, with valuable machinery capable of turning out what is the most urgent necessity, machine-guns, for want of men. Again he tells us of the urgent need of 380,000 workmen, and of from 250,000 to 300,000 unskilled workmen. What does Lord Derby say to that? What must be the effect upon that state of thing of making further enormous drafts on the labour of this country. Then we have another recruiter who is recruiting at any cost and at all costs, and that is Lord Murray, who is recruiting for munitions. He does not mind what he pays. He pays any rate, apparently, from the illustrations I have given, to get men, and not only men, but boys. It seems to me we are getting into the position of every department working for itself alone regardless of harmonising the requirements of the whole country and fitting in with other departments. It is a most extravagant way of carrying on the affairs of the country for one department to act in oblivion of, and without regard to, what is happening in another department. The result, it appears to me, is that we are getting dangerously near to chaos. I do not propose to go into the question in more detail to-day, but it is getting very near that chaos when one I do from my own Constituency and elsewhere, of the serious condition into which our industries are now falling for lack of material and for lack of men. I ask that we should have some attempt to harmonise the requirements of all those various departments.
I think I have said enough to establish the fact that there is very serious waste going on in these very large spending departments of the country. The Prime Minister has told us that the cost of the War has gone up enormously recently because of the advanced cost of munitions. We can all see that munitions must form a larger and larger portion of the cost of the War. Therefore it becomes more important that the department of the expenditure which is occupying the greatest area must be the department where the greatest opportunity for economy comes in, and where it is most necessary that it should be brought about without delay. The right hon. Gentleman made a very striking appeal with which we sympathise entirely, and we shall do our best to sup- 152 port that appeal, that now at once, without delay, every effort should be made to get all that is necessary for the proper conduct of the War. He told us how "Too Late" was written over so many efforts either of the present Ministry or the Ministry which has just disappeared—we do not know which. Surely that appeal ought to be most effective to the Ministry of Munitions over which he himself is the head. Let it not be said too late we entered on the economies which ought to have been made in good time, and which, if made in good time, will be most effective in producing the result which we expect from economy—that is, the saving of the precious national resources. The right hon. Gentleman did not tell us whether we had sufficient munitions or not in the sense as to whether our Forces are at the present moment adequately supplied with munitions. In June he told us that if we had had munitions on an adequate scale we could have been at the Rhine. He has not given us any estimate of that kind to-day. He told us he had a photograph of some trenches, or, rather, of some barbed wire, which had not been destroyed, but he did not tell us whether that was due to want of shells or to the want of placing shells on the proper spot. So far as I could gather, I understand we have sufficient munitions at the moment at the fighting line, but we shall be very glad to be assured that that is really so.
§ Mr. CROOKS
I regret exceedingly that the Minister of Munitions has gone away, as I wanted to say a word or two to him about slackers and men who have neglected their work. I think I may honestly claim to have addressed as many munition workers as any other man in this House. All I could find amongst them, and I am talking not of ones or twos, but of tens of thousands, was intense anxiety to do the right thing for the country and to make any sacrifice to do it. At the very last meeting I addressed, on Friday of last week, a firm admitted to me that such service they had never known in all their fifty years of experience as they were getting now, and I was told that some of the men were working eighty hours per week. The fact of the matter is that it seems to run in the minds of Ministers and in some newspapers that the blacker you make the thing the harder men will work. That is a very big mistake. I remember a very old maxim told me by my mother, which is, that there are more flies caught with treacle than with vinegar. If you get that 153 into your head you will say nice things instead of nasty things. "If I am to work hard and be bullied at the end of it, do it yourself"—that is characteristic of our race. When a man is doing his best, for Heaven's sake tell him he is doing his best! I have frequently drawn the picture of a man awakened in the middle of the night, when the forces of life are at their lowest, being told by his wife that their child is dying, but unable to get up to help her, and how much he regretted it at six o'clock in the morning. I have drawn the moral: "Here you have an opportunity of doing over and above the work for your daily bread—a little bit for love. Do not live to regret that you did not do a bit extra." Although I have spoken to tens of thousands of men there has not been a single case where that has not been received with cheers. I recollect saying once that somebody had been pulling the Minister of Munition's leg. "But," I said, "he does not know working men like we know each other."
Again, they do not like to be told that they have neglected their work. What are you going to say to the seventy-six men in the Royal Carriage Department at Woolwich Arsenal who have just received notice that their temporary employment will be terminated on Friday next? The danger is that to-morrow, on top of the right hon. Gentleman's speech telling us that he cannot get men, these seventy-six fitters will spread this news, and they will ask, "What about us?" There may be a satisfactory answer; I do not know. But it seems to me an awfully foolish thing to serve men with their notice in a week when you are asking for more men. There ought to be some satisfactory answer; but be the answer never so satisfactory, the men had no right to receive notice at all; they might have been transferred to some other Department in a proper manner. Here you have seventy-six men discontented. They are told that the country wants them, and yet they get notice to leave on Chrismas Eve, and they are wondering what will become of them in the New Year. Another thing I want the right hon. Gentleman to do is, when sending men from one town to another, to choose the men who desire to go. It is a little hard for a London man to be sent to Coventry and a Coventry man to be sent to London. There is no organisation about that. But I particularly want to know what I am to say to these seventy-six men who have received notice at Woolwich Arsenal.
§ Mr. DAVID MASON
With regard to the speech of the hon. Member for Dumfriesshire (Mr. Molteno), I was struck by many of the details he gave as to the high wages being paid, but after listening very attentively I was at a loss to know what he suggested as a remedy for this state of affairs. No doubt what he stated was not an isolated case, but as to the statement that working men were accustomed to playing cards, while no doubt there are some such cases, I do not think he can really mean that that is a common thing at the present time. We all know that the working class, like every other class, has come forward, and, I believe, on the whole, is doing its best not merely for material reward, but from a high sense of patriotism. No doubt extravagant wages are being paid, and there may be some bad after-effects; but what are you to do in view of the great scarcity of labour owing to the War, when many employers are at their wit's end to get men or boys to carry out the work which is pouring in upon them We have to face the problem of getting the work done; and so long as that is the position we must have regard to the fact and not comment too unfavourably upon the employers who pay these high wages. The Minister of Munitions, in that great speech to which we listened this evening—a speech which showed that certainly he is heart and soul in the Department over which he so honourably presides—brought home to me one outstanding fact. He very frankly stated that when we entered upon the War we were entirely unprepared to face the enormous demands made upon us. I hope that that will be impressed upon the outside world. It is to me a most eloquent testimony to the fact that we certainly did not enter upon this War from an aggressive point of view, but that we went into it with the honourable intention to carry out our solemn obligations. The very fact that we were unprepared is, to my mind, a most redeeming feature. We did not expect to have to raise a great military organisation of something approaching 4,000,000 of men. My right hon. Friend's frank statement as to the enormously increased output of munitions and as to the various plans and organisations which have been set up to meet the position is a testimony to the proficiency of his Department at any rate, and to the work in which he is engaged.
On a previous occasion my right hon. Friend referred, apparently rather longingly, to the methods adopted in France 155 and elsewhere on the Continent with regard to the organisiog of the working classes in the various factories. He seemed rather to coquette with the idea of compulsion, and I think he stated that the Munitions Act was a substitute for the Continental method. I hope my right hon. Friend will not pursue that further. While I can quite believe that any great Minister, anxious for the proficient and speedy carrying out of his work, must feel aggrieved at any opposition to the success of his plans, I hope my right hon. Friend will have regard to the fact that the Continental method of compulsion is entirely alien to the British character. While he may for the moment think that the Continental method has its advantages, he must remember, on the other hand, the spirit infused into our people, and that we have been almost overcome by the number of volunteers, both military and industrial. There is no question as to the spirit of our people. That is in itself worth a great deal. It gives an impetus and endurance to the workman of this country which a mere conscript and compulsory industrial labourer on the Continent is not able to understand or to share. When the Minister of Munitions was speaking in that sense I was reminded of a great foreign Minister, Canning, who, comparing the policy of this country with the policy of the Continent, said that the whole spirit of Continental statesmanship and the spirit of compulsion were alien to the genius of British statesmanship. What is the genius of British statesmanship? Surely it is freedom; and the fact that we have men willing to go forward of their own free will! The hon. Member for South-West Ham spoke feelingly, and as a working man himself, when he said that he was always more prepared to do ten times the amount of work for a foreman if he spoke to him in a persuasive and kindly manner than if he adopted a bullying policy. I think we may take it that the man who speaks from actual experience speaks with greater weight than the man who merely theorises. We have seen it over and over again that if our men are appealed to upon the high ground of patriotism and in a persuasive manner, that on the whole—there are exceptions, of course—the country is more likely to get the best out of them than if coercive measures are attempted, or anything in the shape of compulsion is adopted.
156 Reference was made by the hon. Member for Dumfriesshire as to the question of Sunday labour. I should like to offer a few observations upon a very interesting Report which has recently been issued, and which I hope hon. Members will peruse. The Report is that of a Committee appointed to consider the health of the munition workers, and the chairman was Sir George Newman, M.D. This document, to my mind, shows in the most conclusive manner, from the point of view of efficiency, the failure of Sunday labour. All through this Report there are pregnant passages, and the Committee, be it remembered, was composed of very eminent men, who have gone into this question impartially and solely from a patriotic point of view. The Report will well repay hon. Members devoting some little time to its study. There is one passage in which the Committee say that from a physical point of view intervals of rest are needed to overcome mental and well as physical fatigue. Then in the fifth passage the Report says:—That the great majority of the employers consulted are unfavourably disposed to Sunday labour.They go on to give their objections, and point out that from a religious and social point of view there is considerable feeling that the seventh day as a period of rest is good for body and mind. Therefore employers generally are opposed to Sunday work, which has been widely adopted. The Report goes on to show that the high rate of pay—referred to by the hon. Member for Dumfries—has been the means of attracting into Sunday labour both women and boys. The conclusions of the Committee generally are that even from an efficiency point of view seven days' labour only produces six days' output. When we have a document of that character showing that from the point of view even of getting an increased output the seven days' labour only produces six days' output it ought to carry great weight with hon. Members in any conclusions to which they come in regard to Sunday labour. The Report continues that while not taking a narrow-minded or bigoted view—because there may be, as they say, sudden emergencies, work on particular sections, repairs of furnaces, etc.—in which there may be need for Sunday labour, the general conclusion of the Committee is that it is a mistake and that it is bad for a man mentally and physically; that it does not at all lead to 157 increased output, or increased efficiency. Finally they say:—The Committee desire to emphasise their conclusions that some action must be taken in regard to continuous labour and exhausting work if it is desired to secure and maintain over a long period the maximum output.10.0 P.M.
To-day the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Munitions has spoken of another year's campaign. God forbid that this War should be a long war! All of us desire that it should be brought to a speedy and honourable conclusion. But here is a conclusion come to by a Committee which shows that if you are faced with a prolongation of this campaign that Sunday labour is a mistake, that you do not get increased output by engaging in it. The conclusions of that Committee are that over a long period it rather tends to a minimum output than a maximum. They also say in their final words:—To secure any large measure of reform, it may be necessary to impose certain restrictions on all controlled establishments, since competition and other causes frequently make it difficult for individual employers to act independently of one another.I hope I have quoted sufficient from Dr. Newman's document to show the inefficient and mistaken policy of Sunday labour, both from a physical and mental point of view. It has been proved to be a mistake. I should like to conclude, perhaps from a higher point of view, for after all man has a soul, and if he has no food for that soul, it will die. If the soul of a nation dies, then the nation decays. If we are wishful to preserve, as I hope we are wishful to preserve; if we believe, as we do believe, that we are engaged in a just cause; then I sincerely trust, if we are going to pursue that righteousness which exalteth a nation we shall do our utmost against Sunday labour.
§ Mr. JAMES MASON
I think that the House will have been satisfied this afternoon by the speech of the Minister of Munitions that, at any rate, he is conducting his Department with energy and determination. I think the House will quite agree, too, on the other hand, that the speech was a terrible indictment of the Government, the original Government, and even the present Government—for after all the principal offices in this Government are filled by the same men who filled them in the last. Everyone knows that we entered into this War in a state of unpreparedness which was lamentable. But what has been demonstrated this afternoon more clearly, I believe, than we have dreamt of before is that after months 158 of war this state of unpreparedness was not being met. The right hon. Gentleman told us that so late as the month of May, when the War had already been in progress for a very considerable period, the output of munitions was lamentably small. The month of May was a very few days after the well-known speech made by the Prime Minister at Newcastle, in which he told us that the question of munitions was satisfactory. What are we to think of statements of that kind? We are faced with these conflicting statements by different Ministers, and are shown that at the moment when we were assured by the Prime Minister that there was no shortage of munitions, that it was not so. Months afterwards it comes out that the output was lamentably small. Again, the right hon. Gentleman told us that it was only in the month of June, after the Prime Minister went out to France, that he became aware of the shortage of machine guns. What are we to think of the Government, that after all these months, when everybody knew that the machine guns were short, and that the Germans had sixteen guns to a battalion to our two, only discovered that the guns were short after the Prime Minister himself went out to see? I am afraid that the whole position really is summed up in the words with which the right hon. Gentleman finished his speech—the dreadful words, "Too late!" Those words apply to far too much that has gone on already. There has been far too much of this want of decision, want of energy, and postponement of doing the right thing till it was too late.
There is another point which the right hon. Gentleman mentioned in respect to the question of controlled establishments, and that was the use of unskilled labour or female labour for work which has hitherto been done by skilled labour. He said that one of the difficulties with which he was confronted was the fact that the controlled establishments had their profit limited to a definite sum equal to the profit before the War, plus a fixed fifth. Manufacturers had not sufficient interest in increasing the output to face their men or the trouble which the change of labour would entail. That obviously shows the defect to be a very real one which I pointed out when speaking on the Munitions of War (Amendment) Bill the other day. The defect in the controlled establishments' machinery is that you fix the possible limits of benefit to the manufacturer in such a way that, even if he is a 159 patriotic man and does all he can, he will not be inclined, when he is to get no advantage out of it, to face difficulties such as were described by the right hon. Gentleman this afternoon. I say there is no necessity to give the manufacturers any more profit than you do now, but instead of it being a fixed fifth part of the previous year's profit, let it be some fraction of the increased profit due to the increased production, however small that fraction may be. I believe it is well worth while for the Minister of Munitions to consider whether at an early opportunity he should not take advantage of changing the basis of this remuneration to manufacturers and bringing it, in fact, more into line with the principle adopted in the case of other factories which come under the Profits Tax. I feel sure that for many reasons it is desirable to bring these two classes of factories into line, and that the proper basis is to fix a proportion of division between the manufacturer and the State of the excess profit made over and above that which was made previous to the War. That is the point which I would ask the hon. Member to consider, and I would refer once more to the general position of affairs—which, to my mind, is extremely serious—that was unfolded in the speech of the light hon. Gentleman this afternoon. I cannot help saying what I deeply feel, and that is that the Government must adopt a more energetic and a more decided management and conduct of this War if they wish to avoid the fateful epitaph of "Too Late."
§ The PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY to the MINISTRY of MUNITIONS (Dr. Addison)
The points made by hon. Members in the course of discussion do not, I think, call for a detailed reply, but there are one or two points of especial importance on which, perhaps, I ought to say something as to the action of the Minister of Munitions. The hon. Member for Dumfries (Mr. Molteno) raised important questions relating to finance, but I should like to call his attention, in respect to the works which he mentioned, and which appear to be chiefly the ground of his criticism, to some considerations from which we cannot escape. It is quite true that when we set about putting up a large factory which is to be put up against time, it must of necessity cause a serious dislocation of labour in the neighbourhood. That is one of the unfortunate consequences of being at war. In respect of this 160 particular factory, I remember some time ago we had serious complaints because the labour which it was absorbing seriously disturbed certain manufacturers who were making a certain kind of preparation of oatmeal. I am afraid the deputation which came to me received rather unsympathetic treatment, because I said we happened to be at war, and, instead of having this special kind of oatmeal, ordinary oatmeal was equally nutritious. It is impossible to carry on an organisation of this kind without hurting special industries. No matter of re-arrangement will prevent the war seriously interfering with many industries. We do it, I am sure, as little as we can, but the fact remains that that must be to some extent unavoidable. I think also the hon. Gentleman was not quite fair to the Department—not intentionally, I am sure—in respect to our efforts for economy. Now in connection with this particular place I believe the original contracts, which were not found to be satisfactory, were both abrogated on account of the very complaints to which he directed our attention, and later on, the rates of wages were fixed by arbitration under the Board of Trade. There is also this we cannot forget. If you decide to create a factory miles away from a town, you have to attract people to go there somehow. They do not naturally gravitate there, and it is a defensible proposition that you must expect to have to pay a certain amount of wages higher in those circumstances than if you employed labour next to its own door.
Then we have had some criticism, not from the hon. Member so much, but from others in this connection, that certain contracts are carried out on the time-and-line system. I should like to take the opportunity to say a word on that. Seeing that the supplies of labour are so exceedingly uncertain for months ahead, that the prices of many materials have been singularly varying, we have found it absolutely impossible in many directions, in factories and in other ways, to get anybody to quote for a lump sum contract in the case of a large number of contracts at the present time. The particular contract to which the hon. Member alludes is the case of a factory that has to be done by a certain date. We require the produce of that factory by a certain date next year, and, whatever it costs, we must have it. That is the long and short of it, and you cannot get a man under the existing circumstances to undertake a contract of that 161 kind at a lump sum. Therefore, I do not think it is quite fair to charge us with extravagance of public money because we cannot under these circumstances obtain the usual form of tenders which are open to us in peace times. But we really do try, and we are making a most serious effort to reduce expenditure as soon as we can ever find a good ground for doing so. The hon. Member knows we have very elaborate machinery for assisting us in so doing.
Some hon. Members have criticised the action of the Central Control Board. Members know that the Minister of Munitions is responsible for sanctioning the area which is to be controlled, but once the area is controlled the administration of the control, and the determination of the extent of control within it, is a matter for the Board of Control itself. The case which was mentioned by the hon. Member for Nottingham (Sir J. D. Rees), where a man was not allowed to treat his wife, seems, when stated of course in that raw fashion, to be exceedingly unreasonable, and I agree, as everybody must agree, that the purpose of the War cannot be served by refusing to allow a man to treat his wife. That is obvious; but, of course, if I may say so, the hon. Member rather missed the point of the Regulations that the publican has got to be satisfied that it is the man's wife. That is the whole point, and it would be very unfair on the publican for the Control Board to make a Regulation which, in the course of its administration, might get the publican, who is trying honestly to administer it, into serious trouble. That is why the Regulation is in its present form, and if the hon. Member can suggest a form of words which will enable the Control Board to escape from that dilemma, I shall be very glad indeed to recommend it to their attention.
The hon. Member for West Ham (Mr. W. Thorne) raised some very important considerations, and already the Central Control Board has taken them into consideration in the case of Smithfield Market, Billingsgate, and the docks and other places, and they have allowed various exemptions in the case of men coming to work very early in the morning. There is one particular case from Woolwich which has been dealt with, and it is only reasonable that these kind of cases should be met. I can assure hon. Members that the chairman of the Control Board will be only too glad to con- 162 sider any cases where the restrictions imposed by the Board require to be modified to suit special local circumstances. Another point mentioned was in connection with the purchase of spirits which have to be bought in advance or for cash paid there and then. I believe that to be a reasonable provision, although it seems a little unnatural when you consider that an ordinary moderate drinker does not require to purchase drink by the quart. The Control Board, however, found that the sale of spirits sold in the way complained of had to be regulated in this way because it resulted in a considerable evasion of the other parts of this Order, and that was the reason for this particlar Order. The hon. Member for Windsor (Mr. James Mason) said that in estimating the excess profit we should have regard to increased output. My right hon. Friend only deals with the larger and general issue involved, but in the rules for the estimation of increased profit there is a special allowance made for increased output, and that point has, to some extent, been met.
§ Dr. ADDISON
It is one of the things which is taken into consideration. The Board determine what shall be the standard of profit, and it might or might not be in addition, for that depends on the circumstances of the case. I will send the hon. Member a copy of the rules. The hon. Member for Wexford (Sir T. Esmonde) invited us to do more in Ireland. As the hon. Member knows, we have done a good deal in Ireland, and we have tried to meet the views of the different localities, and as a matter of fact I believe with the exception of the shipbuilding yards in Belfast, which are needed for other purposes, there is hardly a lathe in the whole of Ireland which we have not got hold of. With regard to some of the other places mentioned, they are not dealt with by the Minister of Munitions, and they come under the control of the quartermaster general. Might I say one word with respect to the labour question? I will inquire into the matters raised by the hon. Member for Woolwich (Mr. Crooks) with respect to the fitters, and see what can be done in the matter. There certainly must be some misapprehension. I can hardly think that these men were fitters in the sense in which the term "fitter" is used in engineering, 163 because there is simply a famine of fitters at the present time, and we can find employment for a thousand by to-morrow night without any delay or difficulty. However, I will look into it. A point was raised by some hon. Members that they did not think that we should do as well as we expect by giving out small peddling orders. We find that this process of giving out different orders for small parts is most successful. Provided that you have the right specifications and gauges, there is no reason why the parts should not fit when they are brought together just as well as if they were made in the same town or in the same works.
My hon. Friends below the Gangway did not take in the full or right spirit my right hon. Friend's remarks on the labour question. The hon. Member for Woolwich attributed to my right hon. Friend some such expression that men were slackers and were not putting their best into the work, or something of that kind. I am sure that my right hon. Friend never used any such phrase and never suggested any such reflection. He said that the labour was not being diluted so as to enable a sufficient number of night shifts to work. There was no suggestion that the men who were working on the day shifts or on the night shifts did not do their level best, and he would not make any such suggestion. We know that they do their best, and the reports which we have had from Members who have been into the munitions works are almost unanimous in giving an excellent and glowing account of the way in which the men are doing the work. The point of my right hon. Friend's observations was that the introduction of unskilled labour so as to spread out the skilled labour over both day and night shifts was not going on fast enough. That was his point, and it is quite true. When we have allowed for the large number we have taken for the British Army at home and abroad, when we have allowed for those who have been moved under the Munition Volunteer Scheme, there is still a shortage in sight of at least 40,000 skilled workers. When we have made every allowance for all those, that 40,000 can only be obtained from one source. They can only be obtained from the skilled labour which at the present time is either being used on non-essential work or else is being extravagantly used on work which might be done by less skilled persons. We must get those 164 40,000 skilled workers from that source—there is no other source from which they can come—if we are to have our national factories running by the time they are built and equipped. That need presses on our mind every day, and it was that to which my right hon. Friend was referring. There was no question of slacking at all. We must dilute down our skilled labour, take it off non-essential work, and take care that it is not extravagantly used, if we are going to obtain sufficient men to man our national factories.
§ Dr. ADDISON
The hon. and gallant Member raised some points about the supply of rifles and machine guns. I am glad to say that we had a satisfactory account from him of the supply of machine guns for the training stations, so that I need not say anything further upon that point. With respect to the supply of rifles, the hon. and gallant Member knows that a rifle is not a very easy thing to make, and that you cannot increase the supply of rifles in a few weeks simply because you wish to do so, or even by placing orders for them. Beyond a certain point you have to build the machinery for making them. I can, however, tell the hon. Member, without saying more than I ought to, that the supply of rifles has very greatly increased, and that we are meeting with greater success in our peddling-out system and in other directions than we anticipated. As to the extent of the supply and the volume of the weekly or monthly output, the hon. Member will, I am sure, not expect me to go into details.
§ Dr. ADDISON
We have issued the Report and circulated it to the 2,000 controlled establishments, and intimated that they are expected to carry it out. I think that is a sufficient indication of the mind of the Minister on the subject.
§ Dr. ADDISON
I am sure the hon. Member will recognise that that is not a question for public discussion in this House. I may, however, say we have made provision for a long time ahead.
§ Question, "That the House do now adjourn," put, and negatived.