§ The PRIME MINISTER (Mr. Asquith)
When you, Sir, leave the Chair, I shall submit to the Committee a Supplementary Vote of Credit for £250,000,000. This will be the fifth Vote of Credit which the House has been asked to agree to since the outbreak of the War. It may be convenient that I should summarise the facts, although they are fresh in the recollection of the House. In the financial year 1914–15 there were three Votes of Credit, which provided for the amount required beyond the ordinary Grants of Parliament in order to meet expenditure connected with the War. In that financial year the full normal Supply of the year on a peace basis had been voted before the outbreak of the War. Consequently the Votes of Credit provided only for the additional expenditure necessitated in consequence of the War itself. The first Vote of Credit, on 6th August, was for £100,000,000. The second Vote, on 15th November, was for £225,000,000. The third Vote, in March, was for £37,000,000, making a total 555 for that financial year of £362,000,000, which, as I have already said, does not include the normal expenditure on a peace footing for the Army and Navy. As a matter of fact, the £362,000,000 so provided was about £5,000,000 in excess of the actual expenditure of the financial year. The War covered 240 days in that year, and the daily expenditure out of the Votes of Credit was therefore, roughly, about £1,500,000 per day. That was the state of things as regards the last financial year. In the present financial year the first Vote of Credit for which I asked the assent of the House on 1st March was for £250,000,000. I then pointed out to the Committee that that Vote differed from its predecessors, inasmuch as it provided not only for war expenditure, but for the whole of the normal expenditure upon the Army and the Navy during the year, which, roughly speaking, amounts to about £80,000,000. We accordingly presented to the House, for the purpose of Parliamentary discussion, separate Estimates—token Votes—of £15,000 for the Army and £17,000 for the Navy. It was calculated at that time that the Vote of £250,000,000 would last for, approximately, 100 days—that is to say, until about the second week in July. The basis on which that calculation was made was as follows: For Army and Navy expenditure, a total of £2,000,000 per day, of which the normal peace expenditure, being, as I have said, about £80,000,000 a year, or £220,000 per day, is to be put down under that head. It follows that the Army and Navy for the 100 days required £200,000,000. To this has to be added another £50,000,000, at the rate of £500,000 per day, to meet other expenses, such as advances to our Dominions and to Allied Powers and other foreign States, purchase of foodstuffs and other commodities, and miscellaneous minor items.
The House will be interested to know how far the forecast which was made on the 1st of March has been realised. I will take the figures from the 1st of April, which is the first day of the present financial year, to Saturday last, the 12th June, inclusive, a period of seventy-three days. Our estimate is that during that time, from the 1st April to 12th June, the expenditure has been approximately as follows:—
making a total of £194,000,000. Accordingly the average expenditure out of the Vote of Credit passed on the 1st March, during the seventy-three days up to the 12th June, may be put approximately at £2,660,000 a day, which, as the House will observe, is slightly but not very much higher than the estimate which allowed for £2,500,000 a day. I think it was a fairly exact forecast. If we take the expenditure on the Army and Navy alone during that period, it amounts to £157,000,000, or an average of £2,155,000 a day, corresponding to our estimate in March of £2,000,000 a day. On the evening of the 12th June, Saturday last, the Treasury had still in hand, out of that Vote of Credit, a sum of £56,000,000, which will be sufficient, it is estimated, to carry on the public services until the end of the present month. So much as to the past.
- On the Army, £121,000,000;
- On the Navy, £36,000,000;
- On loans to Foreign and Colonial Governments, £26,000,000;
- On food-stuffs, £10,000,000;
- Other services, £1,000,000;
The further Vote for which I am going to ask the assent of the Committee presently is for the same amount as the previous one, namely, £250,000,000. It is very difficult to make anything like an accurate forecast as to the rate at which public expenditure will continue during the next two or three months. It is clear that the expenditure on the Army and Navy will expand to some extent, and we think it will probably require not less than £2,250,000 per day during the period to be covered by the Vote. Further, as the War continues and extends its area, the obligations of His Majesty's Government in regard to the financial assistance to our Allies will certainly not be lighter than they have hitherto been. On any showing, it will not be safe to assume that the total expenditure from the Vote of Credit will be much less than £3,000,000 a day during the ensuing months. It might conceivably be more. There is only one new feature in the Vote of Credit which I am about to submit as compared with the four others that have preceded it. Those who have the White Paper will see that it comes under head (1). It is expressed in these words:—Repayment to the Bank of England of advances made by them at the request of His Majesty's Government for the general purposes of the VoteI do not think it is desirable to say more in regard to that at this moment than that such advances have been made, and made on a very large scale, and that we 557 desire to have the power, and we hope the House will give us the power if circumstances show it to be necessary, to repay to the Bank out of the sums included in the Vote of Credit, from time to time, such items as may for the time being be convenient.
I have so far dealt with what I may call the technical and financial considerations which are for the moment relevant to the further prosecution of the War. But in the circumstances in which we are placed, I must ask the House—and not only the House, but the country and the Empire—to follow me for a few moments in a rather larger and wider survey of the situation. I have, during the last three weeks, with the approval of the King, reconstructed the personnel of the Government. Let me say at once, in the plainest possible terms, that I should not have been justified in doing what I have done under the pressure of any outside influence, of any temporary embarrassment, or of any transient Parliamentary exigency. The task, which I am sure the House will realise, was as unwelcome—I would go further—as repugnant a task as could fall to the lot of any man. I have a deep an abiding and an ineffaceable sense of gratitude to the colleagues who, under the stress of new and unforeseen responsibility, for the best part of ten months, sustained with undeviating loyalty, and, in my judgment, with unexampled efficiency, the heaviest load which has ever fallen upon the shoulders of British statesmen. No body of men, in my deliberate judgment, could have done more or could have done better, and there is not one of them to whom I, as the head of the Government, and, I think, the nation at large, does not stand under a permanent debt of obligation. To part with them, or with any of them, has been the severest and most painful experience of my public life.
I should like, if I may, to add this: I ask not only my old colleagues, but my friends and supporters, to accept my assurance—if, indeed, any assurance be needed—that there is not a man among them who is more faithful than I to the great principles of public policy which, during the best part of thirty years, have been to me the aim, the inspiration, the moulding and governing power of such service as I have been able to render to the State. I recede from nothing; I abandon nothing; I sacrifice nothing. What I have held in the past I hold to-day as strongly and tenaciously as ever I did. It is what in the future, if 558 I have any future, I shall work for and fight for, with whatever remains to me, I need not say, of conviction, of faith, of hope, of energy, and of vital force. I hope that the House will not think that I am degenerating into an egotistical mood. If they do, I will add that the same claim which I make for myself I put forward with an equal measure of assurance for my new colleagues, who in the same temper and spirit, felt it their duty to respond to my invitation to associate themselves in a supreme national crisis with lifelong antagonists.
Why then, it may be asked, and I am sure the question is in the mind if not on the lips of all good party men in every quarter, have I—for, after all, I am the person mainly and directly responsible—brought about, for the time being, this upheaval, this transformation of the normal conventions, the inveterate traditions and the well-settled practice of our political life? The word "coalition" has not a pleasant savour in the vocabulary of British politics. It is connected, as in the notorious and classical case of Fox and Lord North, with associations of faction, intrigue, personal rivalries and antipathies, to which, it was widely and perhaps justly believed, the national interests were sacrificed. On a lower plane, as in the case of the so-called "Ministry of All the Talents" in 1806, and perhaps to a lesser degree in the case of the Ministry of Lord Aberdeen in 1853, the name "coalition" recalls ill-assorted, and in the results more or less ill-starred, arrangements which, with the best intentions, were proved by experience to be lacking in practical efficiency.
In the main and in the long run our system of government by party has vindicated itself, and our rare and exceptional departures from it have for the most part been found wanting both in dignity and in success. The House and the country will be assured that we are, none of us, forgetful of these discouraging precedents, but my answer to the question which I put a few moments ago is, after all, as far as I am concerned, very simple. It may or may not carry conviction to others. I can only speak for myself, and I will make to the House the fullest and freest admission that up to the last moment, apart from the almost invincible personal considerations to which I have referred, I was not without doubt as to how I should best respond to the call of public duty. The situation is without a 559 parallel in our national history. The demand which it makes, and which it will continue to make, upon the energy and the patriotism of the nation, and in a wholly exceptional degree upon the patience and the foresight of those who are responsible for its government, and I will add—a most vital consideration—upon the confidence felt by the one in the other, cannot be measured by any precedent.
There was not, and there is not in my opinion, any call for any change in our National policy. That remains what it has been since the first week in August—to pursue this War at any cost to a victorious issue. Nor was anything substantial or worth consideration to be gained by the mere substitution of A for B in this office or that. What I came to think was needed, and here I come to the root of the whole matter—what I came to think, slowly, reluctantly, but in the end without doubt or hesitation—what I came to think was needed, was such a broadening of the basis of government as would take away from it even the semblance of a one-sided or party character; which would demonstrate beyond the possibility of doubt, not only to our people at home, and to our fellow subjects across the sea, but to the whole world—allies, enemies, and neutrals—that, after nearly a year of war, with all its fluctuations and vicissitudes, the British people were more resolute than ever, with one heart and with one purpose, to obliterate all distinctions and to unite every personal and political as well as every moral and material force in the prosecution of their cause.
I suppose there is no man on this Bench, or among my colleagues in another place, to whom the idea of Coalition, with all that it involves, in the temporary severance of old ties, and in a thousand other ways, is anything but uncongenial. Party issues were indeed, by general consent, already suspended, and put on the shelf. The normal function of an Opposition, which is to oppose the Government of the day, had been replaced by an attitude of responsible and patriotic, and not unfriendly, criticism. But it appeared to me—and I believe with equal clearness to those with whom I have been before, and probably shall be again, in sharp antagonism on the main issues of domestic policy—that a unique national exigency demanded from all of us something more—actual, visible co-operation, unreserved and 560 whole-hearted concentration upon a single purpose, shared and pursued by men of every section, of every party, of every political creed. It is a great, and, as many people consider, a hazardous experiment that none of us would have chosen. I suppose there is enough of the old political Adam in the whole of our bosoms that will enable me to say that none of us very much like it, and our friends in the country on both sides are, as everybody knows, doubtful, suspicious, bewildered, perhaps pained.
For a moment let me, if I may, say a word about my own personal position. If there be those who think that, having had the privilege of serving in confidential and responsible relations three successive British sovereigns, I have any unsatisfied personal ambitions, they are welcome to that opinion. But they little know the truth. Like other people, I repel as the most wicked of calumnies and the most unfounded of suggestions that the people of this country have shown, or are showing, themselves lethargic. Like other people, not more than other people, I have done, or I have tried to do, my best. But, like other people, when we think of the gravity of the trust which has been cast upon us, we may think that we are all unprofitable servants. What is the personality of this man or that? What does it mean? What does it come to? supreme cause is at stake. We have each and all of us—I do not care who we are or what we are—to respond with whatever we have, with whatever we can give, and, what is harder still, with whatever we can sacrifice to the dominating and inexorable call.
How do we stand to-day? It would be a tempting, but in my opinion not a profitable, theme to compare the military and international situation as it stands to-day with what it was when, at the beginning of March, I asked for the last Vote of Credit. There is one new fact, indeed, which is of immense importance—the accession of Italy to the cause of the Allies. It is impossible to over-estimate either the moral or the material value of her co-operation. But, for the rest, I do not think it is well to say much at the moment. The actual fortunes of the campaign fluctuate from week to week, and almost from day to day. It is not a War of dramatic surprises, or of quick decisions. The theatre is so vast, the scale of operations is so far beyond what the eye can take in at a glance, that, lit up though the scene constantly is by splendid acts of 561 heroic adventure, perhaps the main impression at the moment in the minds, both of combatants and of onlookers, is that of a gigantic struggle of endurance. If that be so, let it be said of us, at any rate, that we endured to the end. For my part, in every speech which I have made to my countrymen since the first day of the War, I have tried to strike two notes—the note of warning as to the gravity of our task, and the note of confidence as to the ultimate issue. There is no discord between the two. We shall do well to continue to pay no heed to the blind counsels of hysteria and panic. We have for the moment one plain and paramount duty to perform: to bring to the service of the State the willing and organised help of every class in the community. There is a fit place, there is fit work for every man and every woman in the land, and, be it sooner or later—it will certainly come—when our cause bas been vindicated, and when there is once more peace on earth, may it be recorded as the proudest page in the annals of this Nation that there is not a home nor a workshop over this United Kingdom that did not take its part in the common struggle, and earn its share in the common triumph.
§ 4.0 P.M.
§ Mr. EVELYN CECIL
I beg to move, to leave out from the word "That," to the end of the Question, in order to add instead thereof the words "this House desires to call attention to expenditure by Government Departments in relation to the War, and to the vital need for public economy."
We have just listened to a very weighty and lofty speech, partly devoted to a stirring appeal for support of the Government in this national emergency, and partly devoted to an account of the circumstances under which the Coalition Ministry has been formed. As to the latter point, I should like to say that many of us are fully alive to the unexampled difficulties of the Prime Minister, and no doubt it was present to the minds of many of us that the Coalition Ministry of Fox and of Lord North the Ministry of All the Talents, had not had by any means a brilliant career. But I think I shall be speaking the mind of the House if I say that in the present case all Members of the House, whether of the rank and file or otherwise, are anxious, in view of the great national crisis, to make this Coalition Ministry a success, and that we shall individually 562 endeavour to do so. I certainly should not dream of moving the Motion at such a moment as this were it not that I wish to bring to the notice of the House matters of very real importance, and in doing so I am voicing, I believe, many subdued comments in various quarters, and that I think by moving this Motion I may ensure greater regard and care for public economy. I can assure the House I am deeply conscious that this is not a time for raising trivial discussions or debating subjects which in a peace perspective might loom large. Matters are much too serious. Many men are losing their lives daily in the field and on the seas for our King, for our Empire, for our country, for us, and all petty discussion ought to be cast aside, and we ought to remember that our one and only object is to win and end the War quickly, and for this purpose to assist in making the Executive the most perfect possible. There is one other preliminary remark which I should like to make, and that is that I have put down this Motion in no unfriendly or carping spirit. I want it to be taken rather in the spirit of suggestion than of criticism. Many of us, and in fact all of us, I may say, desire earnestly to get the utmost service out of the manhood, aye and the womanhood, of this country, and we are equally desirous to get the utmost value out of every shilling. If war is carried on with needless extravagance there must be grave consequences sooner or later.
The National Debt at the beginning of the War was £651,000,000. In a very short time it may easily be two thousand millions, and probably it may reach a very much higher figure. The cost of the annual management will be proportionately increased, and for the present purpose I do not think I need say more than that there is an impression that money is being spent like water unnecessarily, and I want to stop the ground for that impression. It would not be wise that I should refer too precisely to a number of instances which may be in my mind, by way of illustration of this Motion. I intend to call the attention of the House to them generally, and to leave the matter at that, and to let it be clearly understood that if Members of the Government wish me to prove anything I say more specifically I shall be very glad to do so in private, but I do not think it would be in the public interest to do so here. Let me take, in the first place, an instance, of a kind which must have come to the notice of 563 many Members. I refer to the military camps which have been set up. It is perfectly well known to some of us that they were wrongly located, and put in unsuitable places, and that they had to be moved at very considerable cost. The cost of moving them could easily have been avoided if officials at the War Office, or whoever was responsible, had made up their minds at the outset as to precisely what was wanted, and where it was wanted, and if they knew their own minds. The expense in these cases has been caused because of the somewhat superficial and unsatisfactory work of certain officials at the War Office. It is well known to Members of this House that in many cases the camps have been put up in a very shoddy way. It was found after hutments had been erected two or three days that they were not really habitable, that the roofs leaked, and that there were difficulties as to the kind of wood used. If it was no great blame that the Government did not adequately see that the wood was right or that the construction was such as it ought to be, it certainly was a very serious expense to have to take those men out of those hutments and to billet them elsewhere, and to billet them at a figure which I think was quite unwarranted.
At the end of last year soldiers were being billeted out at 3s. 4½d. per day, and I should have thought that 2s. 6d. would have been ample. Remember that that was the figure paid at a time when the price of food was nothing like so high as it is now. Then take the matter of food. It is stated that the food supplied to the camps is really more than is necessary. I know that there is great zeal on the part of the War Office, and very rightly, to endeavour to secure that our brave and gallant soldiers should be everywhere well fed. I think it is a matter of great satisfaction and congratulation that those at the front have been fed so well, as I believe they have. But I do not want to go to the other extreme. Strange stories are about that so much food has been sent to the front that tins of beef have been buried because they could not be used. Such stories are scarcely credible, although told apparently on good authority. Similarly at home I dare say it is within the knowledge of a good many of us, and it has been within my knowledge for some time, that the food supplied to the camps in this country is so much that very often 564 a great deal of it has been given away to the neighbouring towns. We do not vote money for that purpose, and surely there ought to be some supervision to ensure that the money should not be spent in excessive food, though we are strongly desirous that there should be adequacy. I have mentioned that camps were wrongly chosen and cost a great deal to remove, and I should like incidentally to observe that ships also have sometimes been taken in the same way, and were subsequently found not to be really of the capacity or character which the Admiralty required, and after considerable expense it has been deemed necessary to discharge them altogether. All those kind of cases are cases in which I venture to say the Government might have exercised more circumspection. I only suggest that it would be desirable on future occasions that more circumspection should be observed.
Take again a different kind of case, for these matters range over a wide field, that of wages paid. I happened not very long ago to be staying in a neighbourhood where a new Government factory is being erected. I went to the site to see what was being done. I found that communication was being made between the factory and the railway, and that a considerable number of men were working there, and that those men were being paid 5s. 10d. per day, or 35s. per week, whereas the ordinary labourer in that part of the country where this was taking place usually gets from 18s. to 20s. per week Surely there was some waste there or unnecessary expenditure which, I think, might be looked into on future occasions. In the same place I found an untrained lad of fifteen years, quite unskilled, who had just started at his first job as a garden boy at 6s. per week, who had been induced to go to the factory, where he was employed at 15s. per week. It really seems to justify the remark that the Government are willing to pay almost any sum to get anything with two arms and two legs, no matter what kind of work it is capable of turning out. At the same place I found carters bringing bricks, with their one horse and cart. The usual charge for carters working for farmers in that district is about 23s. a week with a house, those who were working for the Government were getting 12s. or even 13s. 6d. per day, and one man said to me, in his provincial dialect, "It is a pity that that there Government have not seen their way to pay 12s. a day in peace time." Take, again, labourers nearer 565 London, who were erecting wooden huts for the soldiers; they were receiving 1s. an hour, or 10s. a day, whereas in the same locality they received 4s. a day before the War. I am told that at one Government factory there are now being employed at £8 a week skilled men who, until they were engaged on this work, were employed in the North of England at £3 10s. a week. I cannot but think that there is room for curtailment of expenditure in these directions. Let me go to another instance. We all know that many married men have enlisted. The age for recruiting has lately been raised from thirty-eight to forty, and there will be more married men within that limitation of age. If these men are killed, there will be pensions and allowances to be paid to their widows and dependants, and the cost ultimately to the country will be much greater than in the case of single men. I cannot help feeling that from the point of view both of economy and of efficiency in fighting it would be better if the Government would turn their attention to getting younger men to join.
Take a completely different case of a very instructive character. It has to do with the big armament firms at the beginning of the War. I quite admit that the Government wanted in this case a great deal of foresight and astuteness and do not deserve to be unduly blamed, but it is a case where it is well that all concerned should know that such matters do not escape the public eye. On the outbreak of war, as I believe, the Government contracted with the big armament firms by tender. There was immediately some outcry that the smaller firms ought to be given a chance. Possibly there may have been a fear that the big firms would be united in some form of ring or combination. At any rate the Government not unnaturally thought it right to give the smaller firms a chance and decided to employ them. The small firms at once said that they could not undertake the work, as they had not the capital to put down fresh machinery, plant, and so on. The Government thereupon, to meet them, agreed to guarantee them the cost of production, or a large percentage of it, plus a reasonable profit. Immediately that occurred the small firms grew indifferent to what they spent on the cost of production. They offered higher wages to entice labour from the large firms, and they bought raw material in the market, also against the big firms. Ultimately both prices and wages went up in the market 566 for big and small firms alike, the only difference being that the enhanced cost to the small firms was entirely defrayed by the Government—a very serious matter. The remedy probably was—a remedy to which I believe the Government have resorted since—to allow the big firms to sub-contract with the smaller firms. If that remedy does not prove adequate, I presume that some form of State control, or of greater State control, will really become inevitable. There is another matter in which expenditure is very noticeable; it has been discussed to some extent in this House—I mean the question of the inadequate employment of interned German shipping at the beginning of the War. I believe that these interned German ships are being used now much more completely—I dare say quite completely and satisfactorily—but when they were first interned a good many of them were allowed to lie idle, and a great deal of waste of public money was in that way incurred.
To go in a quite different direction for an instance of unnecessary or undesirable expenditure, I want to quote the Land Valuation Office. I do not want to raise any party controversy over the fact that the Land Valuation Office has been set up and the valuation is being made. At the Land Valuation Office there are a large number of employés of military age. When I asked a question on the subject, about a month ago, the then Chancellor of the Exchequer informed me that the number was 2,260, and that it was continually decreasing. I hope it is decreasing very rapidly indeed. I am not sure that it is, and I shall be glad to have information on that point. Three matters arise in this connection from an absolutely national point of view. By keeping these men there engaged on what is entirely a peace occupation, and one that does not press, you are wasting a lot of recruiting material, and you are simply employing able-bodied men to value land as on the 30th April, 1909. It is a very fatuous and unnecessary occupation in such a national crisis as the present. We do not want to waste either men or money on things of that kind at this moment. Even assuming that the valuation is absolutely necessary, we are wasting an opportunity of getting good men, and since the Land Valuation office costs something like £800,000 a year to keep up, we are surely wasting a great deal of money that ought to go to the War. The third objection is that the 567 effect of such an example on other people is to make them follow this lead. Each man in his own way or in his own sphere finds reasons for not enlisting or not devoting himself to the utmost to the service of the country. Many more instances could be adduced, but I think I have taken sufficiently representative instances from a very wide field to show the object of my Amendment. I can assure hon. Members that they are typical instances. I have made my Amendment as wide as possible, because I want to ensure the application in every direction of adequate financial and common-sense supervision by the Government spending departments.
By the way of conclusion. I want to urge two points. One is, that it is a great mistake to wage a gigantic war of this kind on the general theory that no expense matters. It does matter. I am not by any means advocating cheeseparing, or the petty saving of a few shillings here and there; but I want the Government methods to be, as I feel sure that we shall get an assurance that they will be, sound, far-seeing, and astute, both as to regulating bread and meat, as to organising industries, and as to supplying ammunition. There are plenty of people all over the country who are most ready to help. Many of them, are saying aloud, "Judge of our capacity; tell us what we may do; and we will do it. Show us where our niche is in this public emergency, and we will fill it." If only the Government will give a lead they will find innumerable men ready to follow. I want an assurance from the Government—this is really the object of my Amendment—that they will exercise the utmost vigilance, care and supervision in all these respects where it is so much required. I should like at the same time to appeal to contractors on the one hand and to workmen on the other to recognise that it is their patriotic duty to play straight with the Government. If by moving this Amendment I can do any good by way of remedying these evils for the future, I shall be very well content. The other point is rather a corollary to the arguments I have put forward. The example of bad public economy fosters bad private economy. We want the Executive to set the best of examples. The ordinary person will not realise the national advantage of his own personal saving if he sees the Government running on the other tack. Everyone ought to 568 have it brought home to him that neither increased dividends to shareholders in armament firms, nor war bonuses to workmen, nor domestic savings of the ordinary kind, are at this moment as a general rule best spent on private objects, but that they are better spent in being invested in War loans. Every class ought to be proud of economising in the first instance—following, as I hope, the example of the Government—and then investing their savings, even the smallest amounts, in the War loans of the Government. I hope that when the Chancellor of the Exchequer brings out his next War loan he will make it as accessible as possible to the small investor.
§ Mr. JAMES MASON
In seconding the Amendment proposed by my hon. Friend, I wish to confine myself as closely as possible to the wording of the Amendment rather than to touch upon the questions of broad policy with which the Prime Minister dealt in his very important speech. It will be generally agreed that on the outbreak of War it was not unnatural that at first money should have been poured out like water in doing our utmost to meet the emergency; and any remarks that I now make are less with a view to criticising that expenditure than to calling attention to the results in certain definite cases, in the hope, if possible, of stopping the continuance of such a system, and, above all, of preparing ourselves to face the necessarily critical financial position which we shall have to meet at the end of the War. Our position at the commencement of the War was one in which we were forced to provide ourselves in a great hurry with the necessities, both human and material, to carry on the struggle. It is a well-known fact that when you buy goods in a great hurry you are more concerned with immediate delivery than with the price, and naturally you pay very dearly for those goods. The war of 1870 was very illustrative of that fact. I have seen it stated that during that war it cost France more than double as much as it should have done to keep her soldiery in the field, because France was not prepared for the War and Germany was.
A question which was touched upon lightly by my hon. Friend, that of married soldiers, is one which is due a great deal to our system. It would be entirely out of place now to go into the merits of voluntary recruiting against any other system. But it is desirable that we should fully 569 realise from which we are suffering, and the effects due to that system. It is a fact with which, I think, all of us who have been engaged in recruiting in the country are thoroughly familiar, that the proportion of married men has been in all cases very large. In many districts, I believe, it has amounted to 70 or 80 per cent. of the total recruits enlisted. I believe, as a matter of fact, taking the country as a whole, the proportion of married men to single is something over 60 per cent. I also believe that the proportion of single men of military age still left in the country is larger even than that figure. I think it will be admitted that it is a great pity that those figures are not reversed.
§ The UNDER-SECRETARY of STATE for WAR (Mr. Tennant)
Is my hon. Friend giving the House those figures officially or are they estimates?
§ Mr. DILLON
On a point of Order. Before my hon. Friend proceeds, may I ask if we are entitled, on this occasion, to discuss the relative merits of compulsory and voluntary service?
§ Mr. SPEAKER
The Amendment of the hon. Member who spoke last calls attention to the need for public economy. Speeches will have to be confined to that point until it is disposed of; then the general question will again be open.
§ Mr. J. MASON
I will confine myself, then, to pointing out the simple fact that, no matter what may be the proportion of married soldiers, no one will deny it is very large. I will confine myself to pointing out that in the case of a married soldier we have a very considerable access of cost over the single man. We have to pay separation allowance, which I suppose on an average, taking into consideration the number of children which have to be provided for, probably works out at somewhere about £1 per week. If that is the case, it is perfectly obvious that for every 100,000 or for every 1,000,000 married soldiers we may have we are paying an extra £100,000 or an extra £1,000,000 a week more than we should have to pay if these soldiers were single men. My hon. Friend dealt with a considerable number of specific cases of what he considered to be excess payments in various directions. I do not think it is necessary to labour that point or to raise up unnecessary instances There are several cases, 570 such as the billeting prices which were paid earlier in the War, which were open to criticism. There is also the case of the prices which have been paid for farming out Canadian horses brought to this country. The Government have been paying people 25s. per week for keeping these Canadian horses. That sum is one which will enable people to make very fairly out of it. I have kept one of these horses, and I had a very strong feeling about accepting the price given, which I thought was distinctly and unnecessarily high. When I expostulated with a military friend in the neighbourhood, I was informed that I had better not attempt to resist the payment, as it would probably lead to a considerable amount of correspondence. That is a comparatively small point, because I think that the system does not now obtain in respect of these horses. Another system of concentrating them has been adopted.
Without going into any more specific cases of undue expenditure, I would like to call attention to the effect which the employment of labour generally, and especially on munitions of war, is likely to have from an economic point of view. We all know that there is a tendency for wages to be raised, and for war bonuses to be paid in a great many cases, with the result that labour, as a whole, is comparatively and actually very well off. That necessarily leads to a very considerable increase of the consumption of the various articles which are consumed by the working classes. As a rule the money which goes in extra bonuses to the working classes would not, I think, be available for investment, but would be to a much greater extent consumed in one way or another. Articles of consumption being consumed in larger quantity means an increase in the imports to this country, and those imports having to be paid for either by exports or by gold—exports being limited very considerably—the effect of a great consumption is distinctly a disadvantage from the economic and financial point of view. My object in pointing that out is that I think we ought to do all we can to encourage all those who are malting as much, or more, during this period than they did previous to the War, to economise generally in consumption, so far as possible, and to save as much as they can, both with a view to their own advantage and to be able to assist the Government financially when the time arrives.
571 One other suggestion which I have is well worthy, I think, of consideration. Have the Government, as a whole, done all they can to discourage unnecessary work? My hon. Friend referred just now to the question of the Valuation Department. There are various other directions in which it is very essential that both the Government and individuals should do all they can to discourage the employment of productive labour so as to set it free for more essential duties. Is it necessary that the money which is now being spent to improve the roads of the country, money which is still obtained from the Development Fund for that purpose, should be continued? Is it not reasonable that both the labour and the money which is now being spent on the roads should be postponed until it can be more easily found? The labour would be invaluable in other industries which are more essential at present, and the money obviously would be available to meet the financial demands of the country. In various other public Departments, such as public parks and gardens, the labour being expended might be very considerably curtailed and devoted to the purposes to which I have called attention.
It is certainly necessary for us to realise that our income, as a country, is to a very large extent artificial. There are considerable classes of people who are now deriving a very good income which, to a very large extent, is an income due to the War. All those who are employed on munitions of war and similar services are being paid out of money provided by the Government, and which will require to be almost entirely raised by loan. As those people, therefore, are being paid a lot of money, and as they are producing articles which will not reproduce themselves—that is to say, articles which are necessary for the War and which are not otherwise profitable—it is quite evident that so far as such expenditure can be prepared for and the circumstances can be prepared for, it is desirable that we should have a clear understanding of our position. The War is, from what we have heard this afternoon, costing something like £800,000,000 or £900,000,000 a year. That money has to be found. The investments of times of peace, such as ordinary savings, the profits of shipping, commissions on trade, and interests on foreign investment, are all being, in one way or another, reduced during this period by the War. Taking 572 the whole of these sources together, I think we may reckon that we shall have a larger amount of the money required to be found by sheer economy than we should have if we had those sources of revenue still open. In what way can we find this money by economy?
The money can only really be found in two ways. One is by impressing upon all classes of the community, and all public bodies, that we must, as far as possible, restrict ourselves to those articles of consumption which are dependent upon imports for their supply. The second way is by, as far as possible, postponing unproductive work, which not only requires money to carry it on, but the employment of labour which would be of far better use, and is at this moment far more required, in the essential services of food supplies, transport, munitions, etc. No one can doubt that when this War does come to an end we shall be faced with a very serious financial position. It is perfectly clear that the public debt must amount to at least £2,000,000,000, and that to meet that debt, in addition to other commitments to which we are already engaged, we shall be obliged to raise a revenue of about £300,000,000 per year. What will be the effect of having to meet this crisis, after having spent the enormous sum which we are now spending?
It is perfectly obvious that, at a time when our capital has been largely depleted, taxation will have to be increased, or kept at a very high level, to meet this national bill. That increased taxation will further deprive us of the power of saving and building up fresh capital, and to that extent will make it more difficult than it otherwise would have been to replace the industries of our country on a strong footing. And all this has happened, and must happen, at a moment when the men who are now employed on making munitions of war will no longer be required in those industries, and when also many of our soldiers at the front will be returning to civil life. It is evident, therefore, that we may look forward—and it is better that we should plainly look forward and prepare for it—to a period when unemployment is likely to be serious and trade reduced. And I believe that the difficulties of meeting both will be increased in proportion to the size of our National Debt and the consequent difficulty which that will throw upon us of finding fresh capital wherewith to carry on the industries of the country. The 573 Germans some time ago instituted a system of bread tickets. I do not propose to go into the question of whether or not that was necessary for their food supply, but I do believe that it will have had a very considerable effect on the German nation educationally, and I believe that if some device here could be discovered for really bringing home to the people of this country the absolutely pressing necessity of exercising economy, not only in public life, but also in private life, we should have taken a very big step towards meeting the difficulties which undoubtedly will face us in the future.
§ Sir LEO CHIOZZA MONEY
We have had two very interesting speeches on the subject of economy. One of the hon. Members—I think the last—spoke about pouring out money like water. He will recognise what we have all to recognise, and that is that it is necessary. You cannot improvise a big Army without wasting money, and waste has been forced upon us by the circumstances of the case. I am not sure that any particular charges of lack of recognition of the need for economy have been justly brought against the Government, using that term to include both the Ministries that have carried on the business of the State. I do think that something might be said with regard to the conditions which have been forced upon them by the principles under which our Army has been raised. I was very much interested to see the lack of information on the part of my right hon. Friend with regard to the number of married men who have enlisted. He asked the hon. Member opposite how he had arrived at his figures. There is an available figure, I think. A White Paper issued showed that 900,000 separation allowances had been paid. My right hon. Friend can easily see the proportion of married men in the New Army is enormous; it is probably 50 per cent., and I should not be surprised to find it more. Does my right hon. Friend recognise what that means from the point of view of economy? I should be out of order in referring to its military aspect, which is also important. I mean the economic aspect, and that aspect is this: day by day we are piling up an enormous liability, not only present but future; it is a liability which, after the War, will hamper all our energies when we try to recuperate from the carrying on of the War. It is a great misfortune.
I think the White Paper of November last put the cost of pensions at a total 574 of £123,000,000, but since then, of course, they have been increased, and I think very properly so, because, if there are married men in the Army we must have proper regard for their dependants. We have increased the scale of pensions and, if I remember aright, the actuary based himself on the supposition that the proportion of married men in the New Army would be the same as the proportion of married men amongst the civil population. I think he was wrong in assuming that premise. As a matter of fact, it is only too likely to be higher, and I should not be surprised to find—and, indeed, we should be fortunate if we do not find in the sequel—that the process by which we have enlisted our New Army, and with which I am entirely in disagreement, will involve us in a liability of something like £300,000,000, which will hamper us in all our efforts after the War to recover from the effects of the War. My right hon. Friend showed us this afternoon that he had not taken the subject into consideration.
§ Mr. TENNANT
On the contrary. My right hon. Friend has not accurately represented what I said. What I asked my hon. Friend opposite was, what ground had he for giving the House that very large percentage of married men who have enlisted?
§ Sir CHIOZZA MONEY
My right hon. Friend interrupted the hon. Member opposite to ask him the source of his information, from which I gathered he is not himself acquainted with the source which is open to every Member of this House, and certainly to every Member who constitutes the Ministry. I should be glad to hear the Chancellor of the Exchequer devote himself to that point when he addresses the House presently. To pass to more general topics, it is, of course, exceedingly difficult to discuss the War in water-tight compartments. We labour under the greatest difficulty in taking part, in Debate, because all these subjects are inter-related. You cannot consider finance without considering recruiting, and yet it is out of order to discuss recruiting this afternoon. But, before I pass from that, I should like to point out another connection in which enlistment has created the greatest difficulty with regard to economy. In time of peace it is generally agreed in this country we have too few agricultural labourers. We neglected that fact when we set out to make a new Army, although 575 we have only raised what is comparatively a small Army in relation to our population, for, let us fairly remember, the Army we are raising is not a big Army on the Continental scale, but is a comparatively small one. We have 46,000,000 people, and we have got 8,000,000 men of the present enlistment age. We have not been able to ascertain what the enlistment amounts to, but certainly we have scarcely enlisted one-third of the men of military age. Yet we could not keep our hands from enlisting agricultural labourers, of whom we had already too few.
Let me remind my right hon. Friend what the result is going to be. There is going to be reduction in the production of food in this country because we have cleared off so many of the most valuable of the agricultural labourers. Farmer after farmer has written me on the subject, because I sometimes speak of these matters in public. The reduction of food will mean the necessity for more food imports, which have got to be paid for by this country, and, therefore, you get a further enlargement of that tremendous balance of trade, which is one of the greatest difficulties with which my right hon. Friend has to deal. That is what I mean by the intimate connection between every part of this great problem before us. I only regret we have no opportunity of dealing with it as a whole and putting all its parts in their proper place. It is the same with coal. The prosperity of this country is based on coal. People say, "Give us coal; we cannot carry on essential work for lack of coal." Why? Because we enlisted the wrong men again; because we forget that, in enlisting too many coal miners, we were striking at the very root of the wealth of this country. That is another great misfortune. I will not trouble the House with minor illustrations; the major illustrations are quite sufficient. There is an intimate relation between matters of recruiting and the difficulties of my right hon. Friend below me, and I want to point out to him, before the Government goes on any further with what I call promiscuous recruiting, that it ought to be very careful what it is doing from the point of view of economy of this country after the War.
Of course, there are many minor ways in which economy might be practised. I do not want to dwell too much upon them, but, since I mentioned coal, I may mention an illustration brought to my notice 576 by one of our best known economists. Writing from a little town which cannot be said to be engaged in making munitions, he says it is lit up all night every night. Why, he asks, is there not someone to remind that town that they might really lower their expenditure of gas, and, therefore, reduce their consumption of coal? I think, myself, many of our municipalities might be reminded of their duties in that connection. I was passing through a thoroughfare I know very well which is continually torn up by motor cars, which are usually driven by men of military age whom we have neglected to enlist, while we are enlisting agricultural labourers. As the road is torn up it has to be mended, and there comes up a traction engine with able-bodied men, while other able-bodied men mend the roads, and the unfortunate ratepayers have to pay for it. All this is going on under our eyes, whilst we are doing the wrong kind of enlisting, when all these economies mean so very much to the country at large.
I hope I shall not be supposed to be taking a pessimistic view of finance. In spite of the enormous figures that were read out to us by the Prime Minister, I do not conceive that we need fear we cannot carry on financially in this matter. After all, this is a very rich country, and even in war it is getting a magnificent income. When I think of the possibilities of our expenditure, whether in peace or war, on quite ordinary things, I am not afraid that we shall be able to win through on the financial side. I was going into our expenditure upon only four items of what we may call the luxuries account, alcohol, temperance drinks, tobacco, and motor cars, covering only a few of the luxuries indulged in by rich and poor in this country in an average year, and I find it works out at nearly £350,000,000 a year. That is a confident figure, because a nation which can find that enormous sum of money to spend on these things will not have any difficulty in finding a sum of two or three times as great to carry on the greatest war in history in a single year. There is no reason in the world why we should spend a penny more than is necessary on these things, and certainly there is no excuse for us not proceeding and raising money in the best possible way. I am one of those who believe that, sooner or later in this War, before it is over, the Government of this country will have to resort to the expedient of a forced loan. 577 I am not at all sure that what I have to say on this subject will meet with general acceptance. Nevertheless, I hope I shall be allowed to state my point briefly. The hon. Member opposite spoke with great force of the need to reduce imports, and we are all agreed that economy is very necessary for the country. It is easier to talk about economy than to practice it, and there is an enormous amount of unnecessary expenditure still going on, which is exceedingly difficult to stop. I hardly agree with the Prime Minister's statement that the people of this country fully realise the terrible character of the struggle in which we are involved. I can only speak from personal observation, but I have been able to check my own observation by the observation of friends in whose judgment I have a good deal of confidence. A friend of mine came over from the Continent, where he had been in several neutral countries, and he made to me a most striking observation. He said England was like a neutral country, and he meant that the character of the expenditure of the common life of the people was more like that of a neutral people than a people at war. The reason for that is that the happy severance of our country from the Continent of Europe prevents our soil becoming a battlefield and this makes it difficult for the average man or woman to realise the realities of war.
It is all very well to talk about economy, but how are you going to get it? The Minister of Munitions made a serious speech on this subject on the 4th of May, which was reported in some form or other, or commented upon, in every newspaper in the country, and which must have reached an enormous number of our people, in which he made an earnest appeal to the people to save money. I wonder how much money has been saved in consequence of that speech. I am afraid the amount is very small. Appeals of that kind are not very much use, and that is why I am inclined to put forward the suggestion that whilst sooner or later we shall certainly be driven, whether we like it or not, to the expedient of a forced loan, it might be worth while, from a point of view of economy, to consider this expedient at once. What would it mean? That all persons in the country enjoying a certain income, or possessing more than a certain amount of property, should be asked to contribute to the National Exchequer at a certain definite rate of interest a subscription to a loan. Of course, that subscription 578 would be payable by instalments, and what would be the result of the payment of those instalments? The result would be that economy would be, if you like to use the word, enforced or compelled and brought about automatically. You would in this way get economy in consumption which I think you will get in no other way. If this expedient is deferred, I do not think you will get the economy that is hoped for, however much you care to ask for it in this House, or however much you care to preach it in the country. It is so difficult to bring home to the people's mind the realities of the case that I do not think your appeals will very strongly affect our people. I believe myself that forty-six millions of people given a proper organisation at this time, can not only furnish, if necessary—and I think it will be necessary—a very much larger Army than we have now cither produced or voted, but it can also furnish workers to produce munitions of war in sufficient amplitude for ourselves and our Allies, if necessary. Further, we have a sufficiently large population and a sufficient number of workers in the country, while doing those things, at the same time to produce an enormous quantity of what I may call peace goods.
I will endeavour to sketch broadly what I consider to be the possibilities. There were twenty millions of workers in this country at the outbreak of war. Since that time hundreds of thousands of persons have entered work who were not working for gain when the War commenced. I do not think it is too large an estimate to put the figure at hundreds of thousands. If the Government will create a suitable organisation, we can very largely raise the number of available workers in this country, especially amongst women, and I think we might possibly raise the number of workers in this way to twenty-five millions, so that the country would be divided into twenty-five millions of working persons and twenty-one millions unoccupied dependants. Let us assume that we had four millions of military age engaged in the Army and Navy, and a further four millions of persons not of military age, although we should still have plenty of those. Let us suppose that four million other persons of both sexes were required to make munitions of war, you would then have told off eight millions of persons for the prosecution of the War as fighters and producers of munitions of war. You would, therefore, have left seventeen million persons of both sexes, to use a phrase which was 579 so common at one time, to go on with "business as usual." In other words, you would see your way to an organisation which at one and the same time gives you an ample Army, an amplitude of munitions, and yet enables you to carry on an establishment which would provide plenty of those silver bullets so much required by the Chancellor of the Exchequer.
§ Sir CHIOZZA MONEY
That is the Census figure of 1911, which gives twenty millions in occupations of gain. Of those I suppose there are four million men of military age told off as fighters and four million persons of both sexes, including some of military age, making munitions of war. That leaves seventeen millions, including some of military age and others older and younger as well as women and children, engaged in the production of what I may call peace goods. I think that is a possible organisation in this country which the Government, if the new Minister of Munitions does what is hoped, lies clearly before us, and which will enable us not only to carry this War through to a successful issue, but will enable us to come out at the end and face the serious problem of reconstruction. Not only have we got to face the raising of the money for the War, but it will be found impossible to suddenly cease Government expenditure at the end of the War, because if we did we should not be able to bring back our people and turn them back into the arts of peace without a terrible amount of misery and destitution. We might easily arrive at a disaster which would drive hundreds and thousands of young men to emigration, if at the end of this War we cut off all Government effort and left the rest to chance. We shall not be able to afford to do that, and it is that consideration which makes the subject of economy, to which we are indebted to the hon. Gentleman opposite for raising, which makes it of such tremendous importance. I earnestly hope the Chancellor of the Exchequer, in the observations which he is about to address to the House, will be able to assure us that the Government is fully alive to its duty.
§ The CHANCELLOR of the EXCHEQUER (Mr. McKenna)
The terms of the Motion moved by the hon. Member for Aston Manor (Mr. Evelyn Cecil) are of 580 a nature which must meet with general acceptance from the whole House. We all agree that there is a vital need for public economy, and as the speech, both of the Mover and the Seconder, indicated, we are all agreed that there is vital need for domestic economy. It is often overlooked that we have entered into certain obligations for our Allies. We have undertaken not only to keep the seas open for their trade, but we have also undertaken to finance a great deal of their foreign supplies. If we are to take upon ourselves these burdens, quite apart from the military burden of a supreme Navy and of financial undertakings covering our Allies as well as ourselves, it is essential that we should be prepared to meet part of that burden, at any rate, by immediate national and domestic economy. I hope that the statement of my hon. Friend who spoke last will not prove to be justified when he said that the speech of my predecessor the present Minister of Munitions had probably not had very much effect in producing domestic economy. If my right hon. Friend failed I cannot hope to meet with success, but I would urge upon all hon. Members when they undertake recruiting meetings to throw in a word in favour of economy and remind their audiences that now, if ever, is the golden time for saving. Every pound saved now can be invested at remunerative rates of interest which can never be hoped for in peace times, and every pound saved now will be of vital use when peace comes. It serves a triple purpose. It is economy to-day when we need economy in order to maintain our credit; it is economy which is most remunerative to the economist; and it will be a capital fund which will be ready for use when the day comes and the anticipated decline of trade follows upon the inauguration of peace. For those reasons it is urgently vital in the interests of the saver as well as of the community that every effort should be made to save at the present time.
I was rather struck by the underlying difference of view between my two hon. Friends who moved and seconded the Motion (Mr. Evelyn Cecil and Mr. James Mason) and my hon. Friend who supported it (Sir Leo Chiozza Money). They founded their case largely upon criticism of the actual administration, and of what we might term the organisation power of the War Office. They told us—I am not prepared in my present office to deny it; on the contrary, I am bound to say, with all 581 due loyalty to my colleagues, that I welcome it—that a general recognition for economy in detail is necessary, but both my hon. Friends pointed out that in the selection of huts or in the purchase of horses the War Office, which is the responsible authority, has not shown the necessary skill and organising power. My hon. Friend behind me (Sir Leo Chiozza Money), on the other hand, is so satisfied with everything that has been done that he suggests that they should have thrown upon them the much greater difficulty of selecting, not huts or horses, but men. I would beg my hon. Friend not to place such implicit trust in the power or the wisdom of Governments as to assume that it would be an easy task for any official to go down into the village and say, "I select A and reject B." I am afraid he would find that such complaints as have been addressed to Ministers in this House in regard to past deficiencies of the War Office would be nothing to the complaints of their deficiencies when they had to make that vital selection in what he calls organising the forces of the nation.
I think that he went too far in his estimation of our resources. By a most ingenious use of his figures he pointed out that the 20,000,000 workers before the War might be converted into a potential 25,000,000. He deducted from those 25,000,000, 8,000,000 who in one form or another would be devoted to war work—4,000,000 fighting and 4,000,000 engaged on the manufacture of munitions—and be left 17,000,000 to conduct what might be termed the ordinary peace trade of the country. I do not believe, with great respect to him as an authority upon these matters, that we have any such margin or reserve power of industry or wealth in this country. We know what we mean when we talk about good trade and bad trade—when we have booms and depressions. When we see the figures of unemployment go up to 5, 6, or 7 per cent. we say that trade is very bad, and if it goes up to 10 per cent. we say that trade is disastrous, but my hon. Friend is not going to take out of employment in the ordinary peace community 10 per cent.; he is assuming that 8,000,000 out of twenty are being taken away from peace industry, and are devoting their energies to the War without impairing our power of production. We may have to devote the services of 8,000,000 workers to the War. Whatever efforts we are called upon to make we must make them, but do not 582 let us assume, if 8,000,000 are devoting the whole of their energies to the purpose of the War, that the remaining 12,000,000 are going to maintain the ordinary peace industries of the country at their full efficiency.
I would use this argument to press home to the House how vital it is that we should conserve our financial resources. We all know that the mere transfer of money from A to B is of no effect to the nation as a whole, but what is of value to the nation is to know whether energies which have been expended in producing goods consumed are energies devoted to the production of goods which are required and which will assist us in this War, or goods which are not required and which will not assist us. My hon. Friend referred to motor cars as a case in point. If we spend £1,000 in buying a fine new rich motor car we are causing energies which might be devoted to the manufacture of goods which we could export to be devoted to the manufacture of a car for our own use, and there is not energy enough in the country to manufacture all the goods which we ordinarily require in our ordinary peace consumption. This is where I join issue with my hon. Friend.
§ Sir CHIOZZA MONEY
I did not make the assumption that we could keep up all our ordinary production. I said that we could bring to bear upon the manufacture of what I termed "peace goods" 17,000,000 workers, and that I repeat.
§ Mr. McKENNA
I quite agree that I rather overstated my hon. Friend's argument in my last observation, but I think in my previous summary of what he said I was accurate. The argument, however, stands good. To pay for this War without permanent impairment of our financial powers we have got to pay for it to a considerable extent out of revenue. We have to import very largely from America for our own use. We are importing more than we do ordinarily in peace. We have not only to import ourselves, but we have to pay for the imports from America of other nations. We can only pay for these goods in one or other of various ways. It is a very simple and old proposition. We can either sell securities which we own in America, but that we can only do to a limited extent unless we sell them at what might be termed the knock-out price. A sale at a knock-out price would permanently impair our financial position. Secondly, we can pay for them by sending 583 out goods in exchange. We can only send out goods in exchange if we have the manufacturing power. There, again, I get back to the question of domestic economy. We have only got such resources of manufacturing power as we do not take up in the satisfaction of our own domestic wants. Thirdly, we can pay for the goods by our services as carriers and bankers. But those services will not be greater, They will be less, because so many of our ships are taken up in the service of the War.
We are therefore driven to the conclusion that in the payment for these goods which we are bound to import we shall have to use every effort to meet the claims upon us by our own domestic economy. There is no other resource which we can expand. All the other resources will be needed. That is the only one which it is within our power to expand. That is the reason why we shall have to use every effort to convince ourselves first and the public afterwards that personal extravagance must be avoided in the War. It may be said, "Well, if we do not pay for the goods for the time being, we can borrow in America or elsewhere to pay for them, or we can owe for them." Both those resources, no doubt, will be open to us, but those are resources of which we can only avail ourselves at a price. I come back therefore to the conclusion that if we are to maintain our great financial position, and if we are to emerge from this War not merely victors in the battlefield, as we shall, but with our financial position unimpaired, we must make great sacrifices now. For that reason, I welcome cordially the speeches of my hon. Friends opposite, and I also welcome cordially the claim of my hon. Friend for better organisation. Although I cannot go the length that he does in believing in the possibility of the superlative organisation which he has in mind, still I would gladly go with him in welcoming all public and domestic efforts for securing better organisation and greater economy.
§ Mr. J. A. PEASE
On the last occasion when a Vote of Credit for £250,000,000 was asked the House thought right without demur, without criticism, without a single word, to pass the whole of that Vote of Credit both in Committee and on Report stage. On this occasion I think the House might have been well advised from one point of view if it had been able to do the same. It would at any rate 584 have shown to the world that the view which we took in regard to supporting the Government a few months ago is the same view which we take now, and that this Vote of Credit will be readily given to the new Government just in the same way as £250,000,000 was given to the previous Government. But the Debate which has arisen has not been so much on the statement of the Prime Minister as on the importance of economy and the necessity that it should be exercised in future even to a greater extent than it may have been in the past. The very fact that we are about to spend something like £2,660,000 a day on the War in place of the £1,500,000 which hitherto has been our expenditure, justifies the House in looking at this question of economy with full earnestness.
I have to congratulate, if I may, the Chancellor of the Exchequer on his maiden speech as Chancellor of the Exchequer. It has been a speech which, if I may say so without undue patronage, proved full of sound maxims and wise precepts. He has told us that economy is necessary in every detail in the public service; that now is the time, if ever, when the nation should save, and that we ought to conserve our financial resources. The right hon. Gentleman has uttered words which we may well take to heart. He has told us how we ought, personally, to make sacrifices. But what I think it is right in this House to do is to urge on the Government of the day to make sacrifices also, and to make savings where it is possible to avoid extravagance. We are all prepared to generously meet the demands of the men who are ready to sacrifice their lives without stint, but what we do object to is unnecessary expenditure which might possibly be avoided. Since I left office several cases have been reported to me of methods of extravagance which might possibly have been avoided. I will give two illustrations. An individual came to me yesterday and said:I wish you would look into a question connected with the supply of certain material required in our various camps in this country and in France. I quoted a price for this article to the Government—both to the Admiralty and to the War Office. It was a price below what I ought to have taken. It was considerably below cost price, because I had made a miscalculation. I know another firm which has the order. I doubt whether that firm can supply any better material, but it might be able to supply it in greater bulk. A few days afterwards a contractor came to me and asked me to supply him with exactly the same goods, and then I not only rectified my miscalculation, but I put on a good substantial profit and I was able to get an order from the contractor, although I could net get an order to supply direct either to the Admiralty or to the War Office.585 Another individual told me last week that he was very anxious to deliver goods for the Government in connection with munitions of war, but he said:—My men that I employ have placed me in a very difficult position because they tell me that they must insist upon double rates being paid for every scrap of work which is turned out in my works for the Government, while they are quite prepared to accept ordinary rates of pay in connection with ordinary routine work.This gentleman is anxious to supply these goods, but apparently the Government has not sufficient supervision to see that the rates paid to workmen are the same on Government work as for private contract work. I give these two illustrations in order to show the kind of extravagance which, I am afraid, does exist to a certain extent in connection with war contracts. I recognise to the full the difficulties, not only of the War Office and the Admiralty, but also of the Treasury, but I do urge upon our new Chancellor of the Exchequer that he will not relax but rather will insist upon severer oversight of the work which is contracted for by the War Office and the Admiralty. If the Treasury will only exercise careful supervision, I believe that these causes for extravagance may be very much curtailed in the future. The only other point I want to make is this: In the speech to which we listened this afternoon from the Prime Minister the right hon. Gentleman alluded to the amount which we had in hand—£56,000,000—out of the last Vote of Credit of £250,000,000, but he omitted to tell us what had become of the £5,000,000 which was saved from the £37,000,000 last voted in connection with the past financial year. I think it would be satisfactory to the country if we could be told that that £5,000,000 is to be added to the £56,000,000, making £61,000,000 in all. It is possible, of course, that the £5,000,000 have been restored to the Exchequer.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
I should like, if I may, to congratulate the new Chancellor of the Exchequer upon his devotion to economy. I should also like to qualify that by saying that I hope his devotion to economy will not expire when he leaves that box. I do not remember ever having heard any Chancellor of the Exchequer 586 from that box encourage spending. They always encourage economy when standing there, but when they leave the box they have sometimes not proved sufficiently strong to resist the pressure put upon them by their more extravagant colleagues. I therefore hope that the right hon. Gentleman, when he is requested to find money for a variety of things, will bear in mind the statement he has made this afternoon. It is with great pleasure that I have, almost for the first time in my life, found myself in agreement on two subjects with the hon. Gentleman the Member for East Northamptonshire (Sir L. Chiozza Money). That hon. Gentleman has pointed out that in going through some village or town he found it extravagantly lighted. He also saw on the road a large number of able-bodied men picking up the road and laying it down again, when they might have been employed in much more useful service. Personally, I have not found any extravagant lighting, but I have seen the extravagant picking up of roads and laying them down again, and I am glad that the hon. Gentleman shares with me the view that among the worst offenders in extravagance at the present moment are the municipalities, who do not seem to realise that we are at war and that it is vital not to carry on at the present moment those various projects, good no doubt in times of peace, which they have considered so necessary in the past.
I also venture to agree with the hon. Gentleman in his statement as to recruiting, and if I may, with great humility, say so, I disagree with the Chancellor of the Exchequer as to the difficulty of ascertaining whether A should be sent to the Colours and B retained in the village, or vice versâ. It does not require any great knowledge, any great amount of common sense or even of industry, to find out that A is engaged in a factory producing munitions of war or on the land producing the food of the people, while B may be making or driving motor cars, which the right hon. Gentleman so dislikes. I do not myself possess a motor car and therefore I am not going to add to his objects of dislike. But it does not need much knowledge to be aware that B might be more efficiently employed at the front either in driving a motor car or in fighting. I do not think the right hon. Gentleman met the point made by the hon. Member for East Northamptonshire. He certainly did not destroy it. There was one 587 point upon which I did not agree with the hon. Gentleman the Member for East Northamptonshire. He talked about a forced loan. Personally, I have no doubt we shall be able to meet all our liabilities, and to finish the War without any undue strain—it will be a great strain of course—but without any impossible strain on the resources of our country. I hope we shall not resort to a forced loan. I do not quite understand what the hon. Gentleman proposed. That was my fault, as I was talking to an hon. Friend near me. But I do say that a forced loan is an expedient which should be adopted only in the last resort, and even then I am not at all sure it would not defeat its own object.
I should like to say a word or two in support of the excellent speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Aston Manor (Mr. Evelyn Cecil). There have been one or two cases which have come to my knowledge, and there was one in particular which came to my personal knowledge in which a young man of twenty-one or twenty-two, quite an unskilled labourer who was earning 17s. a week, went to the camp and immediately received 30s. That is not an isolated case. It really was a waste of money. The man was worth very much less. He was perfectly unskilled, and it does seem absurd to have raised his wages from 17s. to 30s. Of course if that is done in the case of unskilled labour it is done equally with skilled labour, and the skilled workman earning £2 or £3 ordinarily has very much larger sums paid to him in these times. Another case told me by a right hon. Friend opposite, in whom I place the greatest reliance, was a case in which certain camp huts were being erected not by contract but on an arrangement for payment of a certain percentage of the cost to the contractor. The result was that the larger the cost the larger the profit made by the contractor. I think the agreement was for 2½ per cent., and therefore if the erections cost £30,000 the contractor would only get 2½ per cent. on that amount, whereas if he could make the cost £40,000 he would get 2½ per cent. on the higher figure. That is what I am informed was going on, and it not only had the disadvantage of prolonging the work and preventing the men getting into the huts as soon as they ought to, but it cost the taxpayers very much more. It encouraged the carpenters to be idle, and my right hon. Friend saw these men who were getting high wages wasting their 588 time, with the approval of the contractor, and not doing more than three or four hours' work per day. That is a matter which ought not to have occurred. I do not see any representative of the War Office present at the moment, but I hope that the representatives of the Treasury will see that that sort of thing does not occur in future. I quite acknowledge that when you have to improvise an Army you cannot do it in the most economical way, because everything that is done in a hurry must cost more money. Anyone who has experience of business will tell you that if you say to a contractor, "I will pay you a percentage on as much money as you can manage to spend," naturally he will spend more money than is necessary.
The right hon. Gentleman who spoke below me (Mr. J. A. Pease) alluded to the fact that the last Vote of Credit was passed without any discussion. None of us wish to put any obstacle in the way of the Government obtaining this Vote of Credit, or one infinitely larger. The spirit which is animating everybody is that of a desire to assist the Government and to point out matters which require alteration and which come within their own personal knowledge. I trust that after this Vote of Credit has been passed, now that we have a Minister of Munitions, we shall, as soon as possible, spend some of the money on the manufacture of shells. I am told on good authority that so far back as September two large guns were only given four shells a day each, so that between them they could only fire eight shells a day. I hope that now we have got the money and the new Minister an end will be put to that sort of thing. I do not wish to ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer any question that would in any way embarrass him, and if he thinks that I ought not to ask it I will not press it. He alluded to the difficulty of remitting money to America. There have been rumours in the City lately that the right hon. Gentleman proposed to rehabilitate the American exchange by issuing a loan there. Of course that would be a method of righting the exchange and probably it has occurred to the right hon. Gentleman. I only desire to emphasise the wish that the right hon. Gentleman in the seclusion of the Treasury will not forget the valuable words relating to economy with which he delighted those of us who for many years have striven to inculcate economy in the minds of the great people who sit upon the Treasury Bench.
§ Mr. RUSSELL REA
I feel compelled to rise in consequence of the remarks of the Chancellor of the Exchequer and his exhortations inculcating public and private thrift. I do not know whether it is commonly realised that, in the first instance, this War will have to be paid for almost entirely out of the national income. It is all very well to talk about our accumulated wealth, the thousands of millions of property that we hold; but in the first instance the accumulated capital of the country is absolutely unavailable. The burden may be laid upon it afterwards, but liquid resources must be found for current expenditure. Practically everything that has to be provided for the War—the services of the men, their provisions, munitions, and everything else—has to be produced within the year, and it has to be paid for, in the first instance, in cash within the year. We cannot pay our debts from day to day by flinging our property away. We cannot carry on this War by putting into the pot the docks, mills, ships, farms, and all that sort of thing. The expenditure has to be realised in some liquid form, and for the most part it must be realised out of our annual income. Our annual income is estimated at something like £2,400,000,000. What it will be this year we do not know; it may be more, it may be less, but it will be very differently distributed. A large number of people will have reduced incomes, while a small number of people will have vastly enhanced incomes. There is a field for the operation of a Chancellor of the Exchequer in the income of this year which there has not been in the income of former or ordinary years. It is all very well to inculcate public and private thrift by exhortation, but we shall have to go a litlte further.
The hon. Baronet behind me (Sir F. Banbury) spoke of his hatred of forced loans. We are in times in which we cannot act according to our prejudices, our preferences, or our habits, and we may have to do things which we dislike. I am inclined to believe that the income of this nation will have to be tapped by some system of compulsory thrift. It has been suggested that among the Income Tax payers there are those who have made money either directly through the national expenditure on the War, and those who have made it under the conditions which have been produced by the War, such as coal owners, shipowners, and others, who should have their extra profits partly impounded, 590 either by a special taxation, or, as I should suggest, by a forced contribution to a loan. It would probably be very difficult to impose enormous taxation on a class instituted in an emergency, and it would certainly be very capricious and unfair. I would prefer that taxation of this sort should take the form of a compulsory contribution to a loan, which would be to that extent a forced loan. I should not be averse to a suggestion of this kind: That every Income Tax payer who is paying Income Tax on an income larger this year than his income last year, should have half of his increase impounded as a forced contribution to a loan, which might be collected by the Inland Revenue, as the Income Tax is now collected.
There is another part of our annual income, that is, the vastly greater amount which goes in wages of the weekly wage earners under the present scale. In many instances the advance in wages has been many times more than the advance in the cost of living. I met with the case of a man the other day who took £15 in wages on Saturday night. That man had a bill at a certain public-house of £7 10s. He was not a drunkard, he was not a slacker, he was a good man and a good worker, but that was his idea of spending a princely income in a generous way. That part of the national income is in some degree wasted. I should propose to the Chancellor of the Exchequer a method of tapping this unwonted increase in incomes of this class. I should take it from them by taxation, but I should adopt the system of compulsory thrift. For instance, I would bring out a loan of low denomination, say in £1 scrip or bonds payable to bearer. It would be impossible to attach coupons for half-yearly interest to such bonds, but I suggest that they be made payable in five years, with accumulated interest of, say, 24s. I would make it obligatory on the employers to hold these bonds in stock, and obligatory upon both employers and employed—the employer to pay and the employé to receive—say where a man's wage was £3 a week, that the man should be forced to accept as part payment of his wages a bond of £1. It would be of good value to him, and it would be of moral value to him. It would be a property that would rise in value for five years.
I would go further, and say that of weekly wages above £3, one half of the income should be given compulsorily and accepted compulsorily in this way. For 591 instance, a man who had £5 a week should accept £2 in bonds, and the man who had £7 a week should accept £3, and so on. I only give these figures as illustrations of the principle. Those men who are in receipt of unaccustomed sums would find the money saved for them. It could be deposited at the savings banks, where it would be kept without interest, while if they wanted the money the bonds could be realised. Meanwhile, the Chancellor of the Exchequer would have had his money. I throw this out as a suggestion, which I think might be made acceptable to the working classes, especially if it were propounded as an alternative to the Income Tax being enforced upon classes who, up to the present, have not paid it. I throw out these suggestions for what they are worth to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and I would express the opinion that mere exhortation to the people of this country to exercise thrift will have very little effect, in fact, no effect, in proportion to the demand for thrift which the occasion has produced, and I believe that in the end some system of compulsion will have to be applied.
§ 6.0 P.M.
§ Mr. GODFREY COLLINS
The right hon. Gentleman who has just sat down stated that he was afraid exhortations to thrift would not be accepted by the people. In that I thoroughly agree with him, because on two occasions during the last month the Chancellor of the Exchequer has stood at the Treasury Box and urged thrift upon the working classes, whereas more action in this matter is what is needed. You have to back your opinion, and the Government will therefore have to increase the taxation of luxuries if they are going to inculcate their ideals of thrift into the minds of the working classes. The Chancellor of the Exchequer earlier in the afternoon pointed out that our imports were rising and our exports were decreasing, while yesterday he told us that we were undertaking financial responsibilities almost beyond our powers to bear. I think that is a true statement. The financial liabilities which this country is taking to-day may strain our financial resources to the utmost. As the Prime Minister well knows, we are to-day still drawing men from the coalfields and from productive industries and turning them into soldiers. Is it wise to continue this policy very much longer? By all means let us expand all our resources to bring this War 592 to a successful conclusion, but let us take care in our successful attempt to create a great Army that we do not weaken the basis, not only of our strength, but of the strength of our Allies—our national finance. The Prime Minister, in moving the Vote of Credit in March, stated that the cost of the Napoleonic wars amounted to £850,000,000. Naturally this country to-day can afford to meet a much heavier bill than it could in those days. Our wealth and our productive power have much increased, but the position of the Government to-day differs in two vital respects from the successful policy followed by Pitt a hundred years ago. Pitt in those days financed his Allies on the Continent, as we are doing to-day, but he did not attempt to maintain a great standing Army as we are doing to-day, neither did Pitt in those days divert practically the whole productive power of the country to making munitions of war, as we are doing to-day. So the position to-day is very different from what it was a hundred years ago.
This argument forces me to ask the Government the question how far is the policy of the War dominated and controlled by the Treasury? In peace time, no doubt, the Foreign Office and the Treasury dominate the policy of the Admiralty and the War Office. How far has the War affected this policy? I can well understand that there must be greater latitude given to the War Office to-day than in times of peace. Recent events have shown the danger of giving uncontrolled power to any one Department. I was hopeful this afternoon that the Prime Minister would have told us how the Government intended to raise this £250,000,000—whether by means of short-dated Treasury bills or whether they intended to issue a new Loan. To-day short-dated Treasury bills to the extent of £200,000,000 have been issued, and I trust that the Government will continue to adopt and follow this highly successful method of raising revenue. Reference was made also by the Chancellor of the Exchequer this afternoon to the sale of American securities, and I think it would be a very good plan if the Government would set up some central authority to collect these large securities in this country—which, I am told, amount to £400,000,000—and let this central authority, representing the Government, offer to the holders of the securities Government scrip to an equal amount, and then let the Government offer the securities for sale in New York, that being the only free 593 and open market. This plan would have two distinct advantages. It would enable the Government here to raise a large sum of money, and it would enable us to husband our gold reserve and to pay for the goods which are coming here from America by the sale of these securities. I make that suggestion to the Government, and I hope some means may be found out of putting it into practice.
There is another point which I should like to put to the Government. Last week the Prime Minister moved the Third Reading of the Ministry of Munitions Bill. That Bill will, I think, in time create two direct competing authorities for labour in this country. You will have the Adjutant-General of the War Office and all his recruiting sergeants in every town and every village recruiting and enlisting men for the Army. The Minister of Munitions has told us recently that they do not intend to enlist men from munition areas, and at the same time he has appealed to men who are working in other factories to divert their labour to munition areas. Week by week in the future I think you will have a ceaseless and senseless competition between these two bodies. The War Office has failed evidently in the supply and the method of manufacture of munitions of war. Would it not be wise, therefore, to take out of the hands of the War Office all questions of recruiting and place them in the hands of the Ministry of Munitions, who would be empowered to work through the local authorities? By this means the local authorities would be able to divert labour either into ammunitions factories or to join the Colours. You would thus, I think, stop the competition which exists to-day, and which will exist in a more marked degree in the future when the Ministry of Munitions is set thoroughly at work, and I hope some fresh methods may be adopted in the near future.
§ Sir HENRY CRAIK
I desire to make a practical suggestion which has not been made in the course of the Debate. When I read the Amendment of my hon. Friend (Mr. E. Cecil), and when I listened to his speech and that of his Seconder, I understood that the main point of the Motion was the enforcement of public economy, in order to produce an example of general thrift throughout society. But the Debate, in many speeches, has covered a much larger range than that simple Motion would imply. It has touched not merely on the old vernacular and ordinary household meaning of economy in the sense of 594 thrift; it has ranged over the whole topic of that science which touches upon social conditions, upon the incidence of taxation, upon the distribution of wealth, and upon the best means of producing that wealth. I wish to bring the Motion back, if possible, to the one object of public economy. I differ slightly from my hon Friend, because I do not think it is possible that we can, in a time of emergency like this, exercise the ordinary rules of economy and avoid extravagance. It is not possible in time of emergency to keep mainly in view the avoidance of extravagance without a possible sacrifice of efficiency at a moment when perhaps something like extravagance is called for. It may be necessary to erect huts or to make a camp or something of that sort. You have, first of all, to obtain the labour, whether you may have to spend a little more for it than you would otherwise or not. We have in ordinary administration a perfectly legitimate and regular and well-known method of checking extravagance, that of the Controller and Auditor-General, of the elaborate examination of accounts, of the check which is imposed upon all who have to do with the spending of public money. I have had myself a long experience of twenty years as accounting officer for the expenditure of some £2,000,000 a year, and I know how useful and effective it was in checking any extravagance on my own part.
But remember, however effective that may be as a method of checking extravagance, it is cumbrous, it is dilatory, it is vexatious, and it is entirely inapplicable to a case of emergency like the present. We are in a state of war, and to avoid extravagance we must apply the rules and drastic methods which would be used in war, and no other methods will stop extravagance. If we cannot have an elaborate audit, and I do not think we can, let us take care to bring home a sense of responsibility as rapidly as possible. It is all very well to talk of avoiding extravagance. Everyone agrees with that. We all feel ourselves more or less interested, but I was not struck by the marked attention on the Treasury Bench which followed the speeches of the Mover and Seconder. That attention was not so marked as to make me think that any particular Minister took it exactly home to himself. I think it is necessary to apply more drastic methods of enforcing responsibility and, above all, of bringing a very quick punishment upon anything like slipshod 595 administration, much more anything like dishonesty among contractors. If you are to check extravagance of this sort it is by bringing home to those who are guilty of it the responsibility which rests upon them. I attempted when the Defence of the Realm Bill was before the House to bring in a more drastic Clause dealing with extravagance caused by any defects on the part of contractors. It was ruled out of order because it was said the Defence of the Realm Bill did not embrace that subject. I regret it greatly. I think there is more necessity for bringing home the responsibility for this extravagance and for dealing very drastically with any acts of dishonesty.
I read the other day how an inspector of the War Office, visiting wholesale factories, enforced a species of blackmail by asking, without shame, for a bribe for himself. He told the employers that it was usual when he entered their factories to be paid a guinea, and if that arrangement had been made their goods would have been passed. This offence, which ought to have brought a penalty of at least many years' penal servitude—tampering with the lives of those who are fighting for us and by bribes passing inferior goods—was dealt with by a fine of £5. Can you expect that dishonesty among contractors and extravagance among contractors and among those arranging for these contracts will cease so long as you think that a penalty of £5 is sufficient for a heinous, despicable, and contemptible crime of this sort, which, I fancy, in Germany would very likely have been met with the penalty of death in time of war. I wish to urge the points I have raised as a means of enforcing the object which my hon. Friend has in view. It cannot be forced by the slow and cumbrous methods of audit and checking accounts which obtain in time of peace. It must be enforced by different methods, and by bringing home in a forcible way the responsibility upon those who are guilty of such a heinous crime as the spending of money which is unnecessary in times of strain, or who are responsible for making arrangements carelessly or thoughtlessly, or dishonestly, to the danger of the lives of those who are fighting for us.
§ Mr. EVELYN CECIL
I think this Amendment has attained its object in creating a very useful discussion, and in order to enable the Prime Minister to 596 move the Vote of Credit when we go into Committee, I ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Original Question again proposed.
Sir H. DALZIEL
I desire to bring the mind of the House back for a few minutes to the statement—I might call it the epoch-making statement—made by the Prime Minister this afternoon. I need hardly assure him that in any effort I propose to make with the object of obtaining information on some important points, I have no desire to embarrass, and nothing is further from my desire than to embarrass him in the slightest degree. If there is any question which I ask which cannot be answered in the public interest I certainly shall be quite satisfied with his assurance. I think the Prime Minister will accept it from me, as an aid colleague for a very long time that when we ask questions in this House, and when we raise subjects in order to obtain the opinion of the Government upon them, we think it is possible to do so without any injury to the public interests. I know it is popular outside this House to get a cheer by sneering at the House of Commons and at any Member who may venture to take an interest in its proceedings I hope that that tendency will cease. It will be a bad day for the House of Commons, it will be a bad day for the country, and it will be a bad day for our gallant men fighting in the field and on the sea, if any Member who desires to raise a point of interest should have the finger of scorn pointed at him and be the subject of criticism outside this House. As far as I am concerned, at whatever cost, and at the risk of whatever criticism, if there is any subject which I think should be raised in this House during the continuance of the War, apart, of course, from the possibility of doing any injury to the public interests, I shall at all times consider it my duty to raise it.
We have sympathised with the Prime Minister in the arduous and responsible task which he has had to undertake. After such a long period of office, and after such a trying time, it was, indeed, a great load which he was so unexpectedly called upon to bear, and I believe I am speaking on behalf of every Member of this House when I say that he has had through all these trying months our extreme sympathy daily and that he has now our confidence in the great task which he has 597 undertaken. I am going to say one or two words on one important subject which he raised this afternoon. I make no secret of my belief that I think the Prime Minister was well advised in the course which he took and at the time at which he took it. I know that I have made enemies of lifelong friends by taking that line, but I did it deliberately. In my opinion, the Prime Minister took the right course in the line he adopted, and I will give my reasons in a very few words. My reason is that, in common with many Members of this House, I have made suggestions to almost every Department of the Government, and I have put forward proposals even in this House throughout a period of nine months, every one of which has now been adopted, but not one of which received the slightest sympathy throughout the nine months. I say candidly that the late Administration were too proof against any suggestions from outside and that many of the Departments thought that business men of experience outside the House could render them no assistance at all in the great crisis which the country was called upon to face. I will put it no stronger than that, but I think the late Government had perhaps too much confidence in themselves, and they did not mobilise all that business assistance which was ready to their hands. I am glad that after nine months we have begun to intern the alien enemies in our midst. I am sure it is the right policy. I know the Government decided to do it four or five months ago, but it was not done. I am glad they have begun to do it now. The sooner they intern them the better it will be and the more secure will be not only London but the country. I am glad that, after nine months, the Government are facing to-day the serious question of the cost of living and the price of coal in these islands. That was pressed upon them early after the commencement of the War, and they are taking a firm grip of the question now. I wish them well of it. I wish they had taken the step earlier. I am glad, too, that after nine months they are introducing business methods into the supply of munitions of war. No one would wish to attack the men who have been at the head of that organisation, but it has been obvious from the beginning of this War that we were called upon to make such unparalleled and extraordinary efforts that the consideration of peace methods had to be entirely set aside. I am glad that to-day, late though it is, the Government have formed this new Ministry of 598 Munitions, and I am glad that they have appointed to the head of that Ministry the late Chancellor of the Exchequer. I believe that this change in administration and policy, this renewed effort to deal with what I regard as a grave and dangerous situation at this very moment—I believe that in this direction lies our hope for the future.
I am glad that after nine months the question of cotton is going to be faced. All through these months we told the late Government that cotton was being sent to Germany in order to make ammunition for killing our soldiers; there is no doubt about it. It has been going on all these months, and it has not been stopped. Two days ago, however, the President of the Board of Trade told us, and I was very glad to hear it, that at last the Government were convinced that cotton was going to Germany for the purpose of making ammunition, and that in future they would stop it. I am glad of that, but I wish it had been done very much earlier, and I hope now that the step has been taken it will be effective. I know, of course, what the reply has been. It has been in effect that we have information that Germany has plenty of cotton, and that therefore we need not trouble about it. On the same principle we might say that we know that Germany has plenty of shells and that, therefore, we need not trouble about that. No one can tell the length of the War, and no one can say what cotton Germany will require for her ammunition. Since the first day of the War cotton has been allowed to go into Germany. I might refer also to copper and other things. I hope that the new Government will give attention and quicker attention than the late Government gave to practical proposals when they are put before them, and I hope that they will show their readiness to adopt any practical suggestions that may be made in order to shorten the War and bring it to a successful termination in our favour. The Prime Minister asked this afternoon for a Vote of Credit for £250,000,000. He will get it without a word of objection. If he asked for £1,000,000,000 instead of £250,000,000 he would get it all the same. Why? Because the House of Commons and the country are ready to do anything that the right hon. Gentleman asks in order that they may bring about a successful termination of this War. I would ask the right hon. Gentleman to recognise the consideration that has been 599 shown by the House of Commons since the War broke out. I think the House of Commons has shown a splendid loyalty to the late Government, and it is prepared to show it to this Government, but, after all, there are things which it is necessary for us to bring to their attention.
The Prime Minister is, of course, aware that there has been a good deal of uneasiness and anxiety in regard to the question of our ammunition supply. I am not going to go into that, because I imagine the proper occasion will be when the Minister of Munitions is in his place. The Prime Minister made a statement some time ago, at Newcastle, which greatly reassured the country on this matter. It has to be remembered that nothing can be published in the Press of this country at the present moment which has not the authority of the Government; therefore, it is to the advantage of the House of Commons to be able to get information. I need hardly say that I am not going to touch on any subject which the Press has been asked not to deal with. The Prime Minister's statement at Newcastle gave great confidence to the country. It cleared up and put an end practically to all the criticisms that had been made for a time, and I think it would be of advantage to the new Government and to the Prime Minister if he could reassure us in the direction which he did at Newcastle. In that speech he said:—I saw a statement the other day that the operation, not only of our Army but of our Allies, were being crippled or, at any rate, hampered, by our failure to provide the necessary ammunition. There is not a word of truth in that statement.That was a very reassuring statement, and I hope the right hon. Gentleman to-day will be able to tell us that he adheres in letter and in spirit to what he said on that occasion. It would give a great deal of confidence outside the House as well as inside the House. There is one other point to which I wish to draw the attention of the right hon. Gentleman, and that is whether he can inform the House if there is any truth in the continual rumours that we have got through the Dardanelles?
Sir H. DALZIEL
I am very much indebted to the right hon. Gentleman for that statement, because we had a remarkable speech a short time ago at Dundee on this subject from the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (Mr. Churchill). I am 600 not one of those who speak lightly of the Dardanelles. Far from it. I think it is a very serious matter. I have always doubted our policy in regard to it. I think we might well have been killing Germans rather than Turks for the moment. The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, at Dundee, undoubtedly raised great hopes in the country in regard to this matter. He said we were within a few miles of triumphant success. I would like to know whether the Prime Minister takes as rosy a view of the future—of course, I do not wish him to answer if it is against the public interests—as the Chancellor of the Duchy. But I would very much like the Prime Minister to tell us, if he can. This is a very great undertaking—a much bigger undertaking than the country has any idea of—and I very much doubt whether the Chancellor of the Duchy's forecast will be realised as soon as he thinks.
Sir H. DALZIEL
I know my hon. Friend is an optimist. We need them just now. Nobody is more welcome just now than someone who can give us news which cheers us up; but there is such a thing as being a dangerous optimist, and when any anxiety or disappointment comes the result of that kind of optimism is that things seem to be very much worse. It is well to be optimistic. It is well also to know the facts on which to form your opinion. I hope, therefore, that the Prime Minister will be able to tell us that the splendid forecast given us by the Chancellor of the Duchy represents the views of the Cabinet and is in every way accurate. The change which has taken place has taken place, so far as the position of this House is concerned, without consultation with the party on this side of this House, and has been carried through, of course, largely, as must be the case, as a private arrangement. But so far as I am concerned, I believe that parties and personalities count for nothing at the present time. It is only the country that counts. The times are too serious for anything else. For my part I wish well to the national Government. At the same time I hope that day by day they will take the House of Commons, as far as possible, into their confidence. I hope that, if we are to have, as we must have, constant disasters before this great War is through, they will take the House of Commons and 601 the country into their confidence, and I believe that both the House and the country will respond loyally and with patriotism to any appeal that is made to them.
§ Mr. DILLON
I do not know that I would have cared to intervene in this Debate had it not been for the remarkable speech to which the House has just been treated. I cannot avoid saying that in my opinion it is deeply to be deplored that the right hon. Gentleman (Sir H. Dalziel) who has just spoken should have selected this occasion for a comprehensive attack upon the late Government. He told us that he approves of the change which has been made in the Government of this country, and he went on to explain his reasons. His reasons were that the late Government during the nine months in which they were responsible for the conduct of the War failed in every particular.
Sir H. DALZIEL
I am sure that my hon. Friend does not wish to misrepresent me. I said nothing against general policy, but I mentioned a large number of things that have now been done, after nine months, which I thought might have been done with advantage very much earlier.
§ Mr. DILLON
Yes, the right hon. Gentleman was prepared, he told us, to take charge of the War himself nine months ago, and if the suggestions which he then made had been adopted by the late Government the War no doubt would now have been concluded. That was the purport of his speech. Now he says that the new Government which is taking charge have within a week or a fortnight—that is the whole time—put everything right by adopting all his suggestions. Well, I think it is a great pity that the new Government did not bring him in. I admired the magnanimity with which the right hon. Gentleman said good words of the Government who, though they adopted the policy which he had been preaching for the last nine months, made the fatal mistake of not bringing in the originator of that policy.
This discussion to-night commenced with one of the most powerful and moving speeches to which I have ever listened, a speech which, I have no doubt, appealed to every man in this House and will appeal to those outside this House in the country tomorrow, and which moved us all deeply. 602 Speaking on behalf of the Irish party, I may say that I have never yet been able to see, and even now after listening to that speech I do not see, why the late Government was displaced. I may say—and I speak now not only my own sentiments, but what I know to be the sentiments of all my colleagues in the National party—that bitterly as we felt the destruction of the late Government, who in my belief carried on the War with devotion and with great skill, and who had, I think, enjoyed the confidence of the country in spite of the right hon. Gentleman's judgment, never did we doubt for a single moment that the Prime Minister in the action which he took on his sole responsibility, as he told the House to-day, acted absolutely from a conviction of public duty, and none of us, at least none of us who are old politicians, doubt the deep pain and almost agony of mind with which he must have been oppressed during the ten days when the offices were being divided. I listened to the Prime Minister's statement with very deep feelings indeed. He told us that the reason why at this stage of the War he was brought to the conviction that it was desirable to make this change was that it was necessary to convince the world—he mentioned our Allies especially, and also the enemy—that this nation was completely united in its determination to continue this War to a successful issue. To secure that result he felt convinced that the Government should be put on a broader and more national basis.
If there was one thing which more than any other impressed me during the last nine months, and which would impress the mind of any foreigner or of any of our Allies or of the Dominions, it was the determination of the people of this country with regard to this War. Because this is the only War that I have read of in history, or that I can recall to my own memory, as to which the people of this country were absolutely united. In all previous wars, even in the great wars of the early part of the last century, there was a strong opposition. But in this case there was no opposition, and the Front Bench of the Opposition had from the beginning of the War pursued a thoroughly patriotic course and had given their unstinted support to the Government. Indeed, I think that if there could be a criticism levelled against the conduct of the House of Commons it was this, that during those nine months it had effaced itself too much, yet we hear very 603 often the sneers that were alluded to by the right hon. Gentleman just now, and the threats that have been levelled against this House by irresponsible newspapers, and gentlemen outside, that if the House dared to criticise or to talk more about the War they would be treated like the Rump Parliament and swept out of existence. If there was any criticism justly levelled against this House during the last nine months of this War it was that they spoke too little and not too much. What was the consequence? Criticism, if it be carping and irresponsible criticism in war time, is an intolerable evil, but honest and responsible criticism, which is the only kind of criticism which has been heard in this House during the existence of the late Government, is not an evil, but a good. What has been the consequence of the effacement of this House? Has it stopped criticism? No; it has banished criticism to the Harmsworth press, and to all the irresponsible newspapers of this country which have practised a kind of criticism which, I am happy to say, has been wholly unknown in this House, and in their insolent attacks on this House they have indulged in a kind of criticism which has become a public danger and ought not to be tolerated.
I listened with the deepest sympathy to the statement of the Prime Minister to-day and it failed to give me any clue as to the real causes which led him suddenly, in the tenth month of the War, to decide to break up the Government and form a Coalition. He said that it was necessary, in order to impress on the Allies, the enemy, and the Dominions the fact that this country was united and resolved to see this War through to a successful issue, to broaden the basis of the Government and to bring in new Members, so that it would represent every section and every party in this country. The Prime Minister in the pursuit of that object, whatever the cause may be, was kind enough to ask the party to which I belong to join that Government, and even pressed us to do so, and I think that the Prime Minister will bear me out when I say that when we declined to do so we took care—I do not seek to conceal the fact that it was a bitter piece of news to us, and a bitter disappointment that the late Government should be broken up and a Coalition formed—we took care at the outset to inform him that the reason why we 604 declined to join the new Government was not because of any alteration in our determination to stand in with this country through the War with all our hearts, and not because we had any notion of sniping at the new Government or obstructing it, or withdrawing our support from it in this House, but because we found it to be impossible, consistently with the traditions of our party and with the obligations which we have contracted to our people, to abandon that attitude of independence which our party has practised since its formation in this House. And we further told the Prime Minister that in our deliberate conviction our power, which, as he knows and the Foreign Office of this country know well has been great, to aid this country in her present need, instead of being greater if we joined the Government, would have been to a large extent destroyed.
That was the ground on which we stood, and on which we were obliged to act, and we have, with the Leader of our party, made it quite clear to Members in all sections of this House that, although we have had to undergo some rather cruel blows, we have no intention, and never had any intention, of withdrawing from the position which we took up at the beginning of this War, or of hampering or hindering or nagging at the Coalition Government in its conduct of the War. I do not intend to enlarge on this point; I only mention it in passing. But I regret that the leaders of other parties in Ireland did not imitate our self-effacement. It would have been better for this country—far better. I can hardly expect hon. Members to understand these matters as we understand them, but it would have been far better for this country and the cause which we all have at heart if the leaders of all sections in Ireland had agreed to stand outside the Government. It is not to the advantage of this country in the conduct of this War that it should be in any measure involved in those bitter controversies in Ireland which had only closed on the very eve of the War, and which as a fact, unhappily, were partly instrumental in bringing on the War. It would have been far better if our example had been followed and if the different sections in Ireland had stood outside the Government in a spirit of self-effacement so far as office is concerned. I regret that has not been possible. Harm and mischief—I cannot say how much—has been done in Ireland and elsewhere outside of Ireland by what has occurred in regard to some of the Ministers who have joined the Government. All I can say, for my 605 own part and on behalf of the party to which I belong, is that, while we reserve and are bound to reserve our right to criticise any measure brought forward by the Government on its merits, any action we take will be always controlled by an earnest and sincere desire to aid this new Government in carrying this War to a triumphant issue.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
I do not know that I am entitled to speak again, but I may be allowed to do so with the indulgence of the House. I listened with much pleasure to almost the whole of the speech of my hon. Friend (Mr. Dillon). It is perfectly true, as he has said—he has not put forward a claim in any way inconsistent with the facts—that the party of which he has been for so many years one of the most distinguished leaders and spokesmen in this House has from the beginning of the War heartily supported the efforts of the Government, in whatever has been done, to prosecute successfully the great cause which they feel to be as much theirs as we feel it is ours. He has referred to the fact that when, for reasons which I have already given to the House, and which I do not propose to repeat or to elaborate, I thought it right to alter, from the personal and party point of view, and to widen the basis of the Government, I offered an invitation to the Leader of the Irish Nationalist party to become a Member of the new Cabinet, and when, for reasons which I quite well understood and appreciate, that invitation was refused, I pressed him more than once to reconsider his decision, I regretted then, and I regret now, that he did not feel it consistent with his duty—and I know that he has the whole-hearted support of his party in the course he took—to accede to my request. I regret it, and when I use the expression "regret" it will be clearly understood that it; does not convey even a shadow, I will not say of reproach; but of misunderstanding.
My hon. Friend referred to the fact that there is included in the new Administration a representative, a distinguished representative, of another Irish party. It is only fair to my right hon. colleague, for such he is, I am glad to say, now (the Attorney-General), that it should be known that when it was first suggested to him that he should join the new Administration he also refused, and it was only in consequence of very strong pressure put upon him by those with whom he was more particularly associated, and in which I 606 entirely concurred, that he overcame his original reluctance, and with, I believe, a single-minded sense of public duty, determined to associate himself with us. The absence of representatives of the Irish Nationalist party is, to my mind, the only criticism which can be legitimately levelled against the comprehensive character of the new Administration. It is a criticsm whch, as my hon. Friend has quite clearly explained to the House, cannot be directed against those who are responsible for the formation of the Government, and I myself, personally, would have gone to any length to secure their active co-operation within as well as outside the Government. That was impossible, for reasons which are well known. But I am sure that the whole House and country will welcome the renewed assurance which the hon. Member has given here to-day, that in all steps the Government may take in the prosecution of this War to a successful conclusion, we may count in the future, as we have been able to do in the past, on the hearty co-operation, support, and sympathy of those for whom he speaks and whom he represents.
My right hon. Friend behind me (Sir H. Dalziel), who initiated the discussion, used some very kindly expressions towards myself, for which I heartily thank him. He deprecated, as he was entitled to do if he thought it necessary, any suggestion that legitimate, patriotic, and friendly criticism on the policy of the Government, particularly the administration of the War, should be discouraged or silenced in this House. I think that, from the very first days of the War down to this moment, the House of Commons has set an example to this country and to legislative assemblies of the world, in the large, sympathetic, and self-restrained manner in which it has been content to exercise its legitimate and constitutional functions. So far as the late Government is concerned, I can say, and I think I can repeat it on behalf of my present colleagues and friends, that, so far as we are concerned, we welcome criticism from everyone who sits in any quarter of the House. We know, from the experience we have had, that that criticism will always be conducted in a responsible spirit, with patriotic motives, and with the sole desire to aid and not to hamper the Government in the conduct of the War. Therefore, do not let it be supposed for a moment, whatever ill-considered expressions may escape the lips 607 of this man or that, that there is any disposition on our part to check or misrepresent the purpose of any criticism which in this House may be applied to us.
My right hon. Friend produced a somewhat formidable indictment, consisting of a number of counts, against the late Government, for errors, I think more of omission than of commission, which he suggested might reasonably, at any rate legitimately, be imputed to them in regard to the past conduct of the War. He will forgive me if I do not on this occasion go into these matters in detail. He will allow me to say, and I say it quite deliberately, that I do not think those criticisms will stand the test of examination. There is not a single one of the points of omission or commission which he mentioned as having occurred in the last nine months which has not been the subject of the most anxious and continuous consideration on the part of the Government. I am not claiming for those who are responsible that there have been no mistakes of judgment in the discharge of an abnormal, an onerous, and as complicated a task as has ever been thrown on the shoulders of any Administration. There is no doubt there have been; but when the history of this War comes to be written, when the impartial tribunal which is supposed to preside over the writing of history—I am not at all sure that it is more accurate in its judgment or more infallible in its conclusions than are we, the actual contemporaries, spectators and actors—when that impartial tribunal comes to apportion praise or blame, then will be the time when the particular points my right hon. Friend raised will be judicially weighed in the balance. We shall all have to render our account.
My right hon. Friend referred to one or two matters perhaps a little more important in character. He quoted an observation which I made in a speech at Newcastle, I think very nearly two months ago. There again I do not want to get on to controversial ground. It seems to have been forgotten that the object of my going to Newcastle was not to reassure the people, but to arouse them. It was my sole purpose to bring home, as far as I could, both to employers and workmen in that great manufacturing area, the urgency of increasing our supply of munitions. I did, incidentally — perhaps I proved an unskilled advocate for the purpose, 608 and judging from many of the criticisms I have seen, I must have been one of the most maladroit—it is quite true that I did incidentally make the observation which the right hon. Gentleman quoted. I should not have made it without careful inquiry. I should not have made it unless I was sure I was making it on the highest and best authority; and, without going further into the matter now, I beg the House to believe, in fact I am sure they believe without any assurance, that so far from that being an invention of my own, my statement was made on the highest possible authority accessible to me, and I have no reason to doubt it in any respect. But do not let me be diverted from what is really the important business of the hour by what, after all, refers to what is now a more or less remote past. The business we have got on our hands, which I hope we shall discharge, now that the new Ministry has been created under a colleague of mine, whose ardour and enthusiasm and driving power the most ardent critics have never disputed—particularly those around me to-day—now that new Ministry has been formed, I think the country may be assured that this most urgent and vital question, the fullest organisation of the productive powers of the country for the due equipment of our Forces, will not be neglected—it never has been neglected—but will be pushed forward with all possible energy and dispatch.
The other point in regard to which my right hon. Friend asked for information referred to the military and naval operations now going on in the Dardanelles. I do not propose at this moment to enter into an explanation of the past history of those operations or to forecast as to the immediate future. I ask the House to relieve me of the task of doing so or of asking me to justify what; has been done, or what is being done, because I do not think it is in the best interests of the country to enter into a discussion at this moment. One thing, and one thing only, I will say. In my opinion, and it is an opinion that has not been lightly formed, it is an operation of the highest importance, and, as far as I can form a judgment, it is an operation which we will push through to a successful conclusion. I do not think there is anything that I can usefully add. I am deeply grateful to both my right hon. Friend and my hon. Friend who have spoken, and, perhaps I may add 609 to the House generally—I do add to the House generally—for the more than sympathetic spirit, which is obvious to anybody who knows this atmosphere, with which they listened to the speech that I made at the commencement of our proceedings. It was not an easy speech to make. That the House will readily believe. In the—I cannot call it new—position which I have now occupied for over seven years, in the position of head of a Government, having to part with many old Friends and to find myself associated with those whom I have always respected, but with whom, up to quite recently, I have been in constant and acute controversy, In that position—a rare, if not unique, position in our recent political history—I can assure the House of Commons, where I have now spent so many years, and whose judgment I value more than that of any other tribunal in this or in any other country, that it is a source of strength and a stimulus, I hope, for the more efficient performance of arduous and responsible duties, to know, as I think I do, that I have their sympathy and encouragement.
§ Mr. HEWINS
I wish to express, as one of the more recent Members of the House, my complete sympathy with what the Prime Minister has said about the House of Commons itself. Speaking as a recent Member, I can only say this, that I regard the House of Commons as the greatest of all secular institutions. May I also express my sympathy with the Prime Minister's former speech? I thought I detected in that speech a certain note of weariness, which I hope was in no sense a justifiable feeling on my part. But I should like to say, speaking as a Conservative, and as a Conservative who probably differs more profoundly from the fundamental views of the Prime Minister than almost any other Member of the House, that I can sympathise with the extraordinarily arduous task which he had thrown upon him a few weeks ago, and also upon the interruption which has been caused to the carrying on of great works and causes with which he is connected by the catastrophe of this War. That sympathy which I give to the Prime Minister I should also like to express with those whom at present I must call my hon. Friends on the other side of the House, and upon the Irish Benches. The change of Government, and the interruption to the causes in which they were engaged, must have come to them as a great catastrophe. I sympathise with them on that point of view, 610 although I do not agree with their claims or accept their principles. I am perfectly certain those hon. Members will also extend sympathy to those Members of the House who also, to a certain extent, have, had to readjust their perspective with regard to the very great question with which they are associated.
I have no intention of criticising the Government or no desire to do so. My attitude towards the Government is, let me say, one of expectancy and hope. I am not going to refer to two or three subjects, as to which I desire to speak, in any critical spirit, or from any desire to cast any reflection on the Government or any member of it. I merely wish to indicate my profound interest in certain co-related subjects, upon which we are most anxious to see the direction in which the Government may move. Those co-related subjects are the question of munitions, the question of labour, the question of paying for the excess of imports, and the general finances of the country. All those are closely connected. I do not wish to deal in any detail with the question of munitions, because we are to have a statement from the Minister in the course of a day or two, but I want to say this to the Prime Minister. We have got beyond the stage when we need indulge in merely patriotic sentiment. I have got a long way beyond that stage myself. The mere passing of the Munitions Act must not be taken to mean that we carry necessarily very much further the great problems we have to solve. The question of munitions during the last month has been, to my mind, a subject of growing uneasiness and dissatisfaction. I am extremely anxious, now that we have got a Ministry of Munitions, that we should put aside all the more sentimental and journalistic aspects of the munitions question, and get right down to those technical processes of production and of organisation, which alone can give us what we require. I do not propose to say any more about that now, except that I look forward with the greatest interest to what the Minister of Munitions may say, and I shall accept what the Prime Minister just now promised us, and take advantage of it, and I shall see where we stand after we have had that statement.
The second point is related very closely to the munitions problem, and that is the question of labour. I remember that on the occasion of the Munitions Debate, the present Minister of Munitions was a little 611 facetious at my expense, because of the manner in which I referred to the trade unions and what trade unions represent. I am not going to say one word about that very important controversial subject of compulsory service in any shape or form. At the present moment it rests with the Cabinet to decide what they will decide on that point. I am only concerned with what is before the House. In any course which is adopted with regard to labour I, for my part, think it is extremely important that those constructive, safeguarding elements, which undoubtedly exist in the trade union movement, should be carefully preserved, maintained, and guaranteed. I should like to see a statesmanlike treatment of that problem. I am sure hon. Members below the Gangway opposite will agree with me that very important events have taken place in the passing of the Insurance Act, the institution of Labour Exchanges, and the State recognition of labour in many directions, which profoundly modify the position which trade unions have occupied for some years before. At the present time, I believe, a very large amount of uneasiness is felt in the labour world, and that is due to one important cause. I am not now talking of people who are regarded as agitators, but of the more sober-minded people in the trade union world. They have felt that in this great catastrophic War it is quite conceivable without any intention on the part of any party or group of people in this country, that they might be left after the War in a somewhat similar position to that in which labour was left after the Napoleonic wars. Whatever the precise methods the Government may adopt for dealing with the question of labour at the present time, I as one who has taken an interest in, although I do not give an uncritical support to, trade unions, should like to see that uneasiness removed, as far as possible, by some method which would show to trade unions that after the War was over they would not be put in a position whereby they would have to reconstruct all those institutions over again, but that their position would be guaranteed and safeguarded, so that they could retain what they had gained by their struggles in the past.
As to the third point, I should very much like to know what line of action the Government is likely to take as to the question of payment for excess of imports. 612 I think it is very unfortunate that we did not have a discussion on the Finance Bill yesterday. We were all looking for a great and noble and statesmanlike statement from the new Chancellor of the Exchequer. I do not think we have had in this House a statement of what we may call financial policy since twelve months ago—last May or June. In the last speech I remember when we had any sort of general review of financial policy, the ex-Chancellor of the Exchequer was holding out hopes of reducing expenditure, especially by economies in military and naval expenditure. It was shortly before the War broke out, and since then we have had no general presentation of the financial policy of the country. It is rather important, in view of the very large excess of imports with which we have had to deal and the large sums of money Ave have to raise by revenue and by loan in the course of the next twelve months, that the Government of the present day should imitate the Government of the time of the great Napoleonic wars, when Pitt beat the French, not only by military and naval operations but by every device of policy, financial and otherwise, that suggested itself to his mind. Some of Pitt's greatest speeches are those made during the war on the different financial expedients to be adopted to beat the French. I think that we might usefully imitate our ancestors in that respect. I do not say that the burden of the present War is greater in proportion than that of the Napoleonic wars; but now, as then, we are fighting for our existence, and in concentrating our attention, as we do at the present time, upon munitions and upon the military and naval operations, let us not forget that a very large part of our success will depend upon the complete, economic and financial organisations of the country. We would very much like to know the lines on which the Government propose to act. We have had no such statement from the late Government during the War, and we do not want to hurry the present Government; but the country is looking forward, with the greatest interest, to the methods that may be adopted.
In approaching this matter I have no doubt whatever that other hon. Members will take very much the same line as I should, that is, to throw all preconceived ideas to the winds. What we have to do is to solve the financial problems arising from the War. I should like to give the Government an absolutely free hand 613 in the matter. I do not wish them to approach these problems with any notion that they have to do this or that to safeguard or to overthrow any principle that may be involved. They have to approach the matter under war conditions. It is important that we Back Bench Members should put that view before the Government, because in the discussion twelve months ago my right hon. Friend the present Secretary of State for India (Mr. Chamberlain) told the then Chancellor of the Exchequer that he would not approach the problem in the same way or apply the same remedy. Both those right hon. Gentlemen are now in the Cabinet. I do not want to see a policy which is a kind of average of the views and preconvictions of those who compose the present Government. I wish the Government, representing the nation as it does, and drawing its Members from all parts of the House, to unite on the basis of approaching every problem of the War with an absolutely unfettered mind. I am sure that that is what the country wants.
The right hon. Gentleman opposite (Sir H. Dalziel) referred to the record of the past Government. I do not think that the country is at all interested in that sort of thing. The country wants the War carried on efficiently. It does not mind inconsistencies. That Members of the Government should express one view now in contradistinction from the views which they expressed before the War nobody cares at all. They simply want the Government to put their back into the business and carry it through, adopting whatever expedients may be necessary for the purpose. We ask them to act in the spirit of the Prime Minister's declaration, and to take the House of Commons along with them. There are very few subjects which do not gain by discussion in the House of Commons. The more the Government take that line the greater will be the support they will receive and the greater will be the favour with which they will be regarded in the country. In conclusion I merely reiterate my keen interest in the problems which I have put before the House, and express the hope that we shall have upon those problems an early declaration, not of a general kind, but one setting forth so far as it can be done, the definite expedients and lines of policy of the Government.
Mr. LLEWELYN WILLIAMS
I am always reluctant to intervene in a Debate of this description, but after hearing the 614 Prime Minister's speech I felt that, however humble and obscure a Member I might be, I could not refrain from sayng something, at all events, of the feelings aroused in my mind by that moving and eloquent speech. I was glad to hear the Prime Minister say that, whatever may be the motive which caused this upheaval on the Treasury Bench, it was not in any way inefficiency on the part of the late Government. My right hon. Friend made that perfectly clear. The hon. Member opposite (Mr. Hewins) said that the country takes no interest in the record of the late Government. It does. History also will take a great interest in the administration of the War by the late Government. Therefore it is only fair that it should be placed on record, on the unimpeachable authority of the Prime Minister, that it was not because of any inefficiency in the administration of the War that this cataclysm took place. Indeed, if the record of the late Government in the conduct of the War is compared with the record of any Government in this country that ever waged a great war, the late Government will come out first. If the conduct of the Napoleonic wars in the early part of the last century be compared with the administration of the War by the late Government I do not think that any single Department of the late Government need fear the result of the comparison. Still more is that the case if we compare the record of the late Government with the record of the various Governments concerned in the campaigns of Marlborough.
It is utterly untrue, in my opinion, to say that any inefficiency was shown in any single Department. The very fact that my right hon. Friend (Sir H. Dalziel) in his criticism could only bring forward the trivial and trumpery matters to which he referred shows that there never has been a better disciplined and better organised Government than that which conducted the War for the first nine or ten months. They had to bear the brunt of an unparalleled burden. They had to organise and improvise a great Army—not only a great Army, but also the whole nation—in a way that no Government has ever had to do before, and they have come triumphantly out of the ordeal. I am glad, therefore, the Prime Minister has made it perfectly clear that, whatever over-mastering reason influenced him, who was, as he has told us, mainly responsible, the change of Government was not due to any inefficiency in any Department of the late Administration. I was glad also to hear my 615 right hon. Friend say that he was going to see this thing through. My right hon. Friend behind me (Sir H. Dalziel) said that personalities do not count now. I deny that entirely. Personalities count enormously to-day in the conduct of the War, and the fact that my right hon. Friend is still at the head of the Government is a great factor for our success. A great German general said, at the beginning of the War, that the War would be won by the nation which had the greatest nerve. I sometimes think that we in this country have overrated our nerve, if we take some of the articles written in the Press and some of the speeches delivered in this House as indications of our national temper. But there is one thing which I am perfectly certain will steady the national temper and strengthen the national nerve, and that is that so high and trusted a national leader is still at the head of the Government.
I am glad that the Munitions Department is being organised. My right hon. Friend referred to a portion of the speech in which the Prime Minister, speaking at Newcastle on the 20th of April, said, on very high authority and after investigation, as he told us, that the operations of our Army had not been hampered by lack of munitions. My right hon. Friend forgot to mention that on the very same day, in the House of Commons, the then Chancellor of the Exchequer made precisely the same statement, only amplified, and he made it on the authority of the Secretary of State for War. I am speaking from memory, but what he said, I think, was that the Secretary of State for War informed him that, after Lord Moulton's Commission had been sitting since January, we were now relieved of all anxiety in the matter, and we were able largely to supply our Allies with high explosives. I confess that after that explicit statement from the then Chancellor of the Exchequer on the authority of the Secretary of State for War, I cannot see how my right hon. Friend, or anybody else, can single out the Prime Minister's statement at Newcastle for the kind of criticism which he made. I am perfectly certain that the statement made by the Prime Minister and by the then Chancellor of the Exchequer was not made without very careful inquiry, and that it would not have been made unless my right hon. Friends had assured themselves of the truth of what they said.
Another phrase used by the Prime 616 Minister to-day gave great comfort to those of us who frankly did not regard the reconstruction of the Government with any great hope. The Prime Minister said not only that he was going to see the thing through himself—indeed, I think he suggested that when peace was restored, and the old party politics were fought out again, he would be found leading the Liberal party against the right hon. Gentleman on his left—but that the policy of the new Government would be exactly the same as the policy of the old Government. I was glad also to hear him refer to the willing and organised service of the country. The hon. Member for Hereford (Mr. Hewins) said that the House ought to allow the new Government to adopt any expedient, however repugnant it might be to principles which we had held all our lives.
§ Mr. HEWINS
What I suggested was that the Government should take the House of Commons along with them in any proposals put forward.
I am glad to find that I misunderstood the hon. Gentleman. I took him to say, in respect to whatever expedient should commend itself to the Government, however contrary it might be to any fiscal opinion he might have held in the past, that he would be willing to accept it; that he was willing to put his conscience into the keeping of the new Government. I say at once that I for one am not prepared to cast aside those principles that I have held dear during my political life at the request of a Government to which I only owe allegiance in so far as I think they will bring this War to an end. I was returned to this House to support the Liberal Administration. I am, it is true, here to-day still as a Liberal Member. I am quite willing to do all I can in my humble and obscure way to assist this Government in the conduct of the War; but if this Government comes down here and asks me, for instance, to accept conscription, or to accept compulsory service, I say they will have to make out their case before I shall be prepared to support it. Therefore, I welcome the statement of the Prime Minister that he is going to call for the willing—I think that was a most significant word—for the willing and organised service of his countrymen.
I have only to say this in conclusion: I think the new Government can look to the 617 loyal support of all Members of this House so far as the conduct of the War is concerned. If, however, they use the emergency in which we are placed to force this matter upon those of us who have very strong feelings and principles, then I for my part say that the Government will not be able to count upon my loyal support. This change in the Government will not make for less criticism in this House, but for more. I think probably that that should help the better conduct of the War. I believe that up till now this House has been too chary of criticising the Government. It would have been far better if there had been freer criticism than there has been in this House during the last ten months. There is one good thing in the reconstruction of the Government, that is that everybody in all parts of the House will feel more free to criticise the Administration so long as that criticism does not interfere with the conduct of the War. That will make, I think, for good. At all events, now that a new Government has come into being, I think it is our duty to give it every chance. I hope that its Members will be able to live in amity, and that they will do what they ask us to do—forget personal and political differences, and unite together in order to carry this War to a successful issue.
§ Mr. J. H. THOMAS
Whilst I am satisfied that the House generally is still in doubt as to the real motive of the change of Government, the House, I am sure, agrees, from the speech of the Prime Minister, that, so far as he is concerned, he has been guided by a single-minded desire to do his best for the nation. Seeing, however, that the late Government has been mentioned, I think it only fair, seeing that nothing has yet been said, to say a word or two, first, in regard to the services of Lord Haldane. I am not going to speak of Lord Haldane from a military point of view, because there are other people more competent to deal with that side of the question than I am. I am going to speak of the system that he is primarily, I believe wholly, responsible for in connection with this War, and which, when the history is written, will stand out as the most memorable event in it. I refer to the transport system. Anyone who knows anything of our railway system to-day, anyone who knows the manner in which our troops were mobilised, anyone who knows of the efficient manner in which the Expeditionary Force was dispatched to France, cannot help but see there is a 618 perfect system of organisation. It is only due to one who, I understand, was responsible for that system that some tribute at least should be paid to him in spite of the slanders that have been hurled against him from different parts of the country. If there is one weak spot in the history of the change of Government it is that we find someone so efficient as Lord Haldane forgotten, and so not able to render the service that he has already proved himself able to do in the nation's struggle.
We have heard this afternoon, as we have heard on many previous occasions, that the real difficulty to-day is the rules of the trade unions. I submit that the time has arrived when those people who are talking about trade union rules should let us know exactly what they mean. It is all very well to talk continually about trade unionists doing this or the other, about trade unions hampering the War, but the fact remains, so far as the trade unions of this country are concerned, that up till now they are in no way responsible for in any way hampering the War. That brings me at once to the speech of the Prime Minister at Newcastle. As a Labour leader, reading that speech, I say without reserve that it was the speech that the occasion demanded. The Prime Minister was talking to an audience of men who had given of their best, and who had worked night and day. He was talking to an audience of working men that had proved they were alive to the nation's difficulty. He is abused and condemned because he did not go down to these people and say, "You are a wicked lot of scoundrels who are not doing your best." [An HON. MEMBER: "What about the drink?"] I am coming to that in a few moments. What led up to it? All manner of charges up to that stage had been made against the workers. They were abused and condemned, and were called drunkards. Everything that was bad was said about them, and all without a vestige of evidence. When the charges came to be investigated it was found they were untrue. The Prime Minister went to Newcastle and addressed these same people. He simply said to them what they expected from him, and what was due to them, and what I personally think did more good to encourage those men than all the abuse that had been previously showered upon them. I think, therefore, the time has come when we should face these facts.
619 We come to the failures of the War. Those of us who have been in close contact with the War Office and with administration, not once or twice, but on scores of occasions, could have come to this House and made some very startling statements. I have no hesitation in saying that I, from practical knowledge and experience, could bring a tremendous indictment on many heads. How would that help the situation? There are women to-day whose feelings are solely with their sons and husbands; but the whole country is absorbed in the War, and the mere coming down to this House with pettifogging criticisms on any matter is not going to help the War. Still, we are entitled to say to those people who are talking about trade union rules, "Are the trade unions responsible for the shortage?" It is well known that the business has not been organised. To give one illustration, I myself was going up and down the country urging the workers not to lose time. I said to them, "If you lose a quarter you are sacrificing the nation's interests." We actually came to an agreement to penalise men who lost a quarter. Good Friday came and I received an intimation that 60,000 men of those to whom I had been talking were to be shut out for four days—from the Thursday till the Wednesday. I received letters from branches which said, "Here you have been telling us not to lose a quarter, and that if we do so we are hampering the nation; we are willing to work and we are shut out for four days." Are the workers responsible for that? Before criticism is directed to the workers in this matter, matters should be organised on business lines. I interceded, with the result that the opportunity was given to these men to work.
Let me give another illustration. Take my own union—that of the railwaymen of this country. It has sent 84,000 of its members to the War. We have in operation Board of Trade Regulations that allow us to interfere if more than twelve hours are being worked. From August last, since the War broke out, railwaymen have been working twenty, thirty, forty, and up to forty-six hours a turn. We have not been reporting it to the Board of Trade. We have not been coming down to this House and grumbling at the long hours worked. Why? The men have not liked it, but they have not grumbled. It has been very arduous. Large numbers of them have 620 been off sick owing to it. But they realised, as we all realise, that there is an emergency, and they are giving of their best to-day. How, on the other hand, have we been met by the other side? The rail-way companies, by the instruction of the Government, were asked to release more men. They replied, "Very well, there are certain grades that we can release by the employment of women." I have never taken up the attitude that women should not be employed, because, as a matter of fact, women have to live. I am not one to say that women must not come in and do work. I have always endeavoured to see, and our trade union policy has been to see, that women do not reduce the value of men's labour. I am not arguing now the point whether in certain grades of the railway service it is desirable to have women or not, but, at all events, they came in, and in no solitary instance have these women been paid the same wage as the men they displaced. It is no good for anyone to say that trade unions must not protect their rights. In opposing this they are not opposing the War. They are not opposing the employment of female labour, but what they are contending is that the value of their labour shall not be reduced. That is the whole point with them, and I do submit that, instead of this talk of trade unions hampering the situation, it would be much better for Members of the House to try and explain the workers' point of view. If there was one thing I appreciated this afternoon more than another, it was the clear intimation that the Prime Minister did understand the workers' point of view. When he talked of willing-workers he talked in the tone that the workers will appreciate. Whether it be a national Government or any other Government, do not assume by merely flowery speeches that it is only for the War period. Do not assume you can rush legislation through this House and compel the working classes to do this, that, or the other. It cannot be done; and not only I can it not be done, but the Government I will find themselves up against a far more difficult proposition than they have yet undertaken.
It is because I believe we were justified in going into this War; it is because I believe it is our duty to prosecute it to a successful issue, I say, as a Labour leader, that no steps will be too strong for me to take to try and prevent any dispute between capital and labour at this stage. 621 But, keeping all those things in mind, I beg of Members not to mistake the situation, not to assume that they can drive the workers by force, but to realise that the workers are giving of their best to-day, and that the workers are making sacrifices equally as the rich are making sacrifices; to appreciate that the workers have for years been fighting and struggling for a standard of living. Convey an impression that you are going to use this national emergency to break down those conditions and you are up against a stiff proposition. I believe that is the only spirit in which we can approach the question. I hope the national Government will not simply view the question from a party standpoint, but will realise that up to now they have made no call upon the workers to which the workers have not responded. As to all the talk about the Army, everyone knows perfectly well you have thousands more than you can properly deal with to-day, and they are coming from the working classes. All the talk about the shortage of munitions is not due to the workers. Therefore, I say, instead of introducing any new legislation, instead of having an innovation, when the facts come to this House and the case is proved, then you will be heard; but do not allow an outside Press or any party ties to detract from what, after all, ought to be the power of the British House of Commons.
§ Mr. LYNCH
I intend to strike a note in this Debate which has not yet been heard. All the speeches of hon. Members I have heard, or most of them, seemed to be of those who see through a glass darkly, not men but trees, and in this light there has become infiltrated into the atmosphere of this House a sort of hypocrisy, which you know is a hypocrisy, because, judged by what men think and say in their free intercourse in the lobbies, and contrasted with what they speak in this House, their own utterances must appeal to themselves as hypocrisy. I might say with Byron:—O for a forty-parson power,To chant thy praise Hypocrisy.We have been asked to-day for a Vote of £250,000,000, and we have been assured on the authority of the Prime Minister that henceforward the expenditure of this country will be at the rate of £3,000,000 a day. The country is entitled to ask what progress has been made in this War, and what are the expectancies of a successful termination.
622 There have been great blunders made in the whole conduct of the War—blunders so grave that they would damn any reputation, no matter how great, and when one pierces the centre of all those blunders, one finds it, in my opinion, in the routine management of the War Office, the spirit of red tape and that sort of encrusted routine which makes them rebellious to any new idea. Remember we are now in the middle of summer, in the tenth month of this War, and that we were promised—at any rate it was generally understood, not only in this country, but amongst our Allies in France—that at the beginning of spring, when the weather cleared up, there would be inaugurated that forward movement which would crumple up the Germans, roll them across the Rhine, and sweep them out of Belgium. Spring has passed away; we are in the midst of summer, and this year now has only about four months more of good weather in which are possible operations of a forward character. After those four months we shall be settling down once more into that war of the trenches—this sitzfleisch game, as the Germans call it—which has already occupied the greater part of this War. So that the prospect is that twelve months from this date we shall be here assembled to vote new Credits for a military situation substantially the same as it is now. I have heard Lord Haldane praised by a Labour Member (Mr. Thomas) for whose opinion in general I have very great respect, but in regard to this I am completely unable to follow his argument. I think a heavy weight of responsibility rests upon the shoulders not only of Lord Haldane but every man on that Front Bench for an utter want of foresight and providence in dealing with this great problem. There again they are like men in a dream—men who have refused to see facts. One would think this country has suddenly sprung into existence with no organisation whatever, whereas it is evident to those who have studied military problems, and whose duty it was to report to their respective Governments, that ever since 1893 the Germans had prepared this coup, and had established by their strategical lines and defences—the strategical lines pointing to Belgium, and the defences in Alsace and Lorraine—that the passage by which they would invade France was through Belgium. The leaders of this country had acted as if war with Germany were an utter impossibility, had made no adequate provision, and now, after this almost incredible want of foresight, 623 they show a certain energy in trying at so late an hour to improvise an Army. I think the verdict of history will be not to accord them praise in their efforts, but to stamp them with the character of so many Unready Ethelreds who by want of providence have brought the country almost to the verge of ruin.
In dealing with matters of this kind, with the conduct of a large campaign, we are entitled to ask this question: How would Napoleon Bonaparte have acted? Whenever I have read Napoleon Bonaparte's own account of his battles I have been struck most with this: that he proceeds to his task as a mathematician or a mechanician goes to his problem. There is little displayed of the glamour of war, and all his arguments are those of common sense. I would say there never has been a strategist whose arguments transcended common sense. There may have been some who added to the common sense of the man in the street a superior faculty of energy, but there never has been a great leader whose methods of proceeding ran counter to common sense. That has been done in this War, and remember that in the conduct of a war the first operations are of great importance. Already we are beginning to feel the indication—I will not say of failure—but, at any rate, of detriment and prejudice stretched over the operations in Flanders to-day, due, in the first place, to the want of foresight, or the want of energy, which seemed to paralyse our leaders in the beginning, which prevented them rushing up to the aid of Liége when it was being defended in that heroic fashion which we praised but did nothing whatever to support. Liége fell, and the Germans began their forward rush through Belgium; and then Antwerp fell—Antwerp, that fortress which Napoleon in his day called a pistol pointed to the heart of England, and of which it might be said that the designation is as true to-day as in the days of Napoleon Bonaparte. That has affected the operations today, because whereas in the possession of the Allies it would be a continual menace to the operations even on the Western front, by being a powerful position on the flank of the Germans, it will now be one of the most serious obstacles to the Allies when and if they finally defeat the Germans on the Western front and begin that rout for which we are all hoping and for which we have been so long waiting. Antwerp, again, will be a menace instead of being 624 the additional trump card, as it ought to have been, in the hands of the Allies. Its importance the Allies knew for weeks and weeks, for every indication pointed to the fact that it was the objective of the Germans, and immediately it fell into their hands they began to organise its defence—not merely the forts themselves, but the defences of the country around, so that if the Germans are chased out of Belgium itself they will still retain Antwerp, and probably retain it until the end of the War.
For those failures I blame the War Office, and, since every man must have the courage of his opinions, I will not be daunted by any great name, or any reputation, or that hypnotic influence which seizes us in this House: I say the centre of that blame rests upon Lord Kitchener himself. The reason for the change in the Government which we have just witnessed, and for which no adequate explanation has been given to us, stares us in the face, if we only have the courage to look at the facts. That was brought about by criticism of Lord Kitchener, and the steps which the Prime Minister took to give sanction to that criticism indirectly inflicted the greatest blame to Lord Kitchener by taking out of his hands that Department for which his talents ought most highly to fit him, and which, after all, was the most important part of his function—that is to say, the Ministry of Munitions. I think he did well to take that part of the function of the War Office out of the hands of Lord Kitchener and bestow it upon the former Chancellor of the Exchequer, who, though a civilian, has been able to supply precisely those qualities which we have every right to expect in a great military leader of the nation—qualities of quick decision, qualities of energy, qualities which respond to the necessity of the situations, the ability to listen to the advice or the urgent exhortations of the military leaders in the field. He could not put their messages or their urgent exhortations in his pocket without even informing his colleagues in the Cabinet and take no further notice, just as if that particular business did not exist.
§ Mr. CURRIE
On a point of Order, Mr. Speaker. I wish to ask is this attack on Lord Kitchener in order at the present time?
§ Mr. CURRIE
In the first place, on the ground that it cannot be replied to in this House; and, secondly, that it must entail the production of private communications to which the hon. Gentleman cannot have had access.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
I think, if the Government ask for £250,000,000, an hon. Member is entitled to say that the War is not properly carried on, and that such a stun ought not to be voted to carry it on.
§ Mr. LYNCH
Can any better example be found of the intolerant spirit existing in certain quarters than the fact that when these Gentleman state their own opinion in the crudest way they have no other way of meeting fair argument than an attempt to beat it down by force? If we are to have no criticism in this House, why come here at all? What is the function of the House of Commons? I think none of us here need have the least hesitation about entering upon criticism when we have had such an extraordinary sanction given to criticism arising not in this House, but from outside soirees, a criticism which caused the Prime Minister to break up his Government and institute in its stead, in a patchwork and inefficient way, a new Government. [Laughter.] These remarks cause laughter in certain quarters of the House, not because hon. Members do not recognise my remarks as being true, but because they are surprised to find someone rising in his place in this House to express opinions which they themselves freely express in every comer of the Lobby. I will justify my remark about the patchwork character of the Government. Of all the Members of the late Government there were only two who showed any signs of being men of action; one of them is the present Minister of Munitions and the other I will leave hon. Members to name. What has been the fate of that man? He alone, while retained in the Government, has been relegated to a position perhaps of honour—[An HON. MEMBER: "What about submarine prisoners?"]—in which those very qualities in which he had shone, and for which he had been so often praised, are rendered unavailable. Throughout the whole structure of the Ministry is obviously of the same character, because, instead of endeavouring to form a great national Government, the Prime Minister tried to dodge amongst all the entanglements and pitfalls of party tactics. I have spoken of the deficiencies of the War Office with regard to the general line of 626 the conduct of the War, I now wish to speak of the treatment of the officers themselves.
With regard to the criticism which has just been uttered, I would like to say that the French people from the very outset have set us an example. They did not wait for ten months for adverse criticisms of a hostile paper before they set their house in order; they formed a national Government at the beginning which had the respect of the nation. General Joffre has proved one of the great minds of this War, and he did not hesitate to sacrifice men of high reputation, who had been promoted in time of peace to high commands, but who were found to be inefficient. General Joffre dealt with men whom he himself had selected, whose qualities he had highly praised in time of peace, but whom, when they were tested in the crucible of the War, he found in some respects deficient. Those very men who were his own creations he did not neglect to sacrifice. It was by his influence that the French Minister for War gave way to one who was more efficient, and offices were divided so as to introduce a Minister equivalent to the Minister of Munitions. I would like to see the same common sense, and, what is of more importance, the same moral courage, in our leaders here, courage to face the situation, and do that which their intelligence leads them to look upon as the right course to take.
I blame the War Office for the great deficiencies with regard to the general conduct and organisation of the War, and also in regard to their neglect to rejuvenate the cadres of officers. I know a young officer who has been through the brunt of the whole War, and who has lived for months in the trenches. He has seen every one of his brother officers wiped out, and he alone remains. That experience has happened to him, not once, but twice. That man who again and again has shown courage and coolness and endurance and energy is still a subaltern, and he will remain in that position formally months longer, because his promotion depends not upon those military qualities which he has displayed again and again, even to the extent of taking command of his battalion in the field, but because all his brother officers are in England recruiting or organising, and he is unable to obtain promotion until some vacancy has been made either by promotions in England or some deaths have occurred far away on the field of battle. Can you 627 imagine Napoleon Bonaparte treating his officers in this fashion? What inspired the soldiers of Bonaparte and enabled them to gain those astonishing victories against great odds, which form the story of the early days of the French Republic? His own eye was over the field of battle and over the operations of his soldiers, and he never hesitated to promote a man from the ranks. After he had promoted a man he kept his eye upon him, and in a short time, if he was found worthy, he raised him to the highest command. In this War of greater magnitude young men previously unheard of should be promoted rapidly to high commands, as was done in Napoleon's day, when we had examples of generals of the age of twenty-six and twenty-seven.
What I am saying now is what officers who have borne the brunt of the fight say amongst themselves or say to me. They say that, "Instead of promoting men according to some merit, we continually have our movements hampered by some old 'dug-outs' brought from England, who sit perhaps a mile away from the base in an arm-chair to direct us to sacrifice our lives by hundreds." I know one example of a young officer who was directed by his colonel from an arm-chair at the base to move to the attack against strongly fortified places which would inevitably have meant that not one man of that battalion would have returned. The colonel who gave that order had never once visited the front trench, and had not seen his men under conditions of actual warfare. It is by sheer luck that this officer who had the courage to stand up against his colonel was able to call to his aid an adjutant, who happened to be there for some temporary reason, and the adjutant backed him up and the officer was able to prevent this massacre taking place. Let us rejuvenate the cadres. If you are going to make this campaign successful you must promote the men who have shown merit, even from the ranks; you must promote even young officers drawn from Sandhurst who have shown qualities of energy, dash, and decision, or those peculiar indefinable qualities which are tested in the crucible, qualities which mean success in war.
I will not now touch upon the question of the Dardanelles, but that is only another example of incompetence with those in high command. It was worth our while going to the Dardanelles, if that had been done early, and pushing forward 628 the campaign with the utmost vigour. But even that campaign is beginning to show the shadow of a failure. If it is destined to be a failure, surely it is much better to use that energy elsewhere, or if it is not destined to be a failure, we should push forward the campaign with far more vigour than we have seen during the last few weeks. There are many other aspects upon which I could criticise the Government, but I will reserve my further criticisms for another occasion. Having lightly touched upon certain grave faults which are throwing their shade, not only over this campaign but over the whole nation, I wish to say that I shall from time to time as the occasion arises raise these points and drive them home with more and more insistence, and more and more vigour.
This is a War in which we have not to consider the reputations of great men, whether they sit on the Treasury Bench or preside over the War Office. We have to consider the lives of soldiers sacrificed day by day, and the one bright spot in the whole campaign is that in these sacrifices the courage and heroism shown vie with the best days of the history of this country, or of any country since the world began. If this War is not henceforth conducted with more vigour, in the few brief months of fair weather which remain, it will go on over the next winter, and it will become what the Germans call sitsfleisch in the trenches. If this occurs, then those movements towards peace, which are even now beginning to show themselves more and more distinctly in Europe, will become more vehement. Worst of all in a campaign of this kind we must avoid a sort of stalemate which, after all these sacrifices of blood and treasure, would only throw the clock of Europe back and bring us again under the old burdens, but will not obviate, after a few years, even a greater and perhaps a more bloody war.
§ Sir A. MARKHAM
I am glad that the Chancellor of the Exchequer is here, because I want to bring before the attention of the Government a matter which I think is of very great importance during the War. There is considerable unrest among working men owing to their thinking, and rightly thinking, that employers of labour during this War are making large profits, and if the Government could now definitely say that there was going to be a tax of 20s. on all war profits exceeding the average of the three years before the War it 629 would do more, in my opinion, to encourage the workpeople to turn out munitions of war than anything else the Government could do. I know that there are great difficulties in any Chancellor of the Exchequer dealing with this matter in a practical way, but, on the other hand, the benefit of the State by such a policy would be greatly more than any disadvantage. It is perfectly true that in the armament firms it would be very difficult to say what items of expenditure could be legitimately placed on one side or other of the balance sheet; but that is a difficulty which my right hon. Friend ought to face. Take other trades, not armament firms. It does seem to me wrong that in this time of war people should be making immense profits out of food and out of the necessaries of life when other sections of the community have lost every penny of income they had. My right hon. Friend, in his position of Chancellor of the Exchequer, no doubts knows of many people who during this War have lost entirely their incomes.
There is another suggestion I want to make. We read in the papers day by day of strikes. We read to-day of strikes occurring even in the coal mining industry, both in Staffordshire and in Wales. Every ton of coal is necessary in the interests of the nation, and I am of opinion that during the period of the War the Government ought to adopt the legislation which, in the past, the Labour party of Australia themselves introduced, and have compulsory arbitration during the time of the War. We ought to have no strikes when we are fighting for our existence; but when the workpeople think that they are not obtaining their fair share of the profits one cannot wonder that they take this course. If the Government adopted the policy which was introduced by a Labour Government in Australia, it would, I am sure, conduce to the efficient carrying on of the War. I do not think that it would be opposed by any section in the House, even by the Labour Members themselves, if it were coupled with a provision for the taxation of profits. My right hon. Friend smiles—
§ Sir A. MARKHAM
But I do not think he would find that the Labour party would be opposed to that policy. In fact, a Member of that party stated last week that Mr. Smillie, President, of the Miners' Federation of Great Britain, had stated 630 that if the Government had regulated the price of coal the miners would not even have asked for any increase of wages whatever. That statement having been made on the authority of the President of the Miners' Federation, the Government ought to bear it in mind and weigh it carefully. I feel very strongly about the administration of the War Office. We have all closed our mouths a great deal, more than we ought to have done, especially during the earlier part of the War. The management of the War Office has not given a sense of security to those who are anxious about the conduct of the War, and no one who knows what is going on believes that things could not be vastly improved. We have got an admirable Under-Secretary who, since he has been appointed to this office, has done extremely well, and whose work is recognised on all sides of the House, but after the Prime Minister's statement to-day—it was a perfectly definite one—that he made his speech at Newcastle on the greatest authority in this country, who could only be Lord Kitchener, I would ask the House to remember what the Prime Minister actually did say. He said that he had seen a statement that the operations of our Army and of our Allies were being crippled or hampered through a failure to provide the necessary munitions, but there was not a word of truth in such a statement.
When that speech was made a howl of indignation went up from every man, or at all events from every officer, at the front who had been limited in many cases to three or five rounds of ammunition per gun per day. The fact is—being in the engineering world, I know it—that for months and months after this War started the War Office took no steps whatever either to organise war or to obtain the munitions which are essential to carry on the War. The right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Munitions stated in this House, a few months ago, that at an early stage he recognised that this was a war of munitions. The right hon. Gentleman, the Secretary of State for the Colonies, likewise stated, after the Battle of Liége, that every military man knew that this was a war of munitions. What had Lord Kitchener done? He failed to order the necessary munitions of war. That cannot be denied. At all events, whether the fault rests with the Quartermaster-General of Ordnance or with Lord Kitchener, the Government ought to let us know. We know that thousands of lives have been 631 sacrificed for the want of munitions, and it is idle to deny that the statements that have been made, that we are short of munitions, and that lives are being lost by reason of not having high explosives, are absolutely true.
I want to ask what is the position of Members of Parliament in this matter? A gallant officer in the Cheshire Yeomanry returned wounded to this country and made a speech to the Northwich Unionist Association, in which he stated that thousands of men were killed through lack of munitions and want of foresight. After making that speech he was called to the War Office by Lord Kitchener and severely reprimanded, and refused permission to be allowed to return to his regiment in France. Members who have come back from the front have made speeches in this House and in the House of Lords, practically saying the same thing, but they have not been censured, and they have been allowed to return to their regiment, although in their case they were not here wounded. This officer, having made this statement—it was perfectly true, and everyone knows that it was true—is not allowed to return to his regiment for a breach of military discipline. Military discipline is no doubt desirable, and it would not do for officers to return to this country and make statements about the conduct of the War, but in this case this officer was calling attention to the fact that we were short of munitions, and that valuable lives were being lost for want of foresight on the part of the War Office in not taking the trouble to organise the industries.
The late Chancellor of the Exchequer has now taken this matter in hand. We all know his indomitable perseverance and energy, and now in the tenth month of war we are about to receive a proper supply of munitions. I ought to say that from my knowledge I know that in the month of August, outside altogether of what the Minister of Munitions will be able to do, a considerable quantity of increased supplies of munitions will be coming forward under orders that were placed by the War Office from three to four months ago. Actually the War Office, as late as March last, was starting to set up machinery for the manufacture of shells—six months after the War has commenced! Who was responsible for that? If a civilian Minister had been responsible he would have been execrated and driven 632 out of public life in an hour's time. But because we have a great soldier in the position of War Minister the House of Commons is not to criticise. Everyone who criticises is deemed a traitor to his country, because we have accepted as our idol a person whom, a popular Press placed in that position.
I think Lord Kitchener is in the wrong place. If he had been appointed Commander-in-Chief, and if we had had an ordinary chief at the head of the War Office, Parliament then would have had no reluctance in criticising what has been done. Great credit is due to Lord Kitchener for the Army that he has raised. But let it be remembered, even on that point, that thousands and tens of thousands of men have been taken from industries and marched about in fields, forming fours, who have for six or eight months never seen a rifle. That cannot be good business. It is costing the country an enormous sum of money, and yet when we ask that men who want to join should have their names registered, and should be called up at such time as they may be required and when they can be properly equipped, we are met with a blank refusal from the War Office, and we are told that everything Lord Kitchener does is not to be criticised. How can it be in the public interest that we should throw money away as we are now doing? Miners have been taken away from the mining districts at a time when coal in London is at famine prices, and they have been marched about in fields forming fours, and have never seen a rifle. They are sick to death of being humbugged in this way. The Government should have allowed them to-go back to their home on the understanding that they should return to the Colours when they could be provided with the necessary rifle. Let the Chancellor of the Exchequer see to it that his colleague at the War Office does not call the men up until he is in a position to arm and equip them. What good does it do to make them form fours, as Lord Kitchener is doing, all this time?
I am going to make a statement which will be very unpopular in this House, although I do not think it will be unpopular in the country. Neither is it unpopular with soldiers. I believe when the history of this War comes to be written it will be found that the man who had done more to carry out our contract with France, when the country comes to realise the truth in a way which it has not been recognised by 633 the sensational halfpenny Press, is Lord Haldane. I have lived a number of years near a military camp. I have the pleasure of knowing large numbers of soldiers, many of whom, I am sorry to say, have now given their lives for their country. All thinking soldiers who know and study what the War Office is doing agree that Lord Haldane was one of the best Ministers we have ever had at the War Office. If it had not been for Lord Haldane we should not have been in the position to send away, within a fortnight of the outbreak of war or even earlier, our large Expeditionary Force, complete in all parts of its equipment—a larger force than has been sent out by any Power in the world, even Germany herself. Yet that force did not exist before Lord Haldane came on the scene. He gave us the Territorial Force which Lord Kitchener did everything to disparage, and notwithstanding that he is execrated because he happens, in the time before the War, to have had a feeling for Germany which many other people had at that time, merely a desire to come to an understanding with her. I have been one of those who desired to see good relations established with Germany, but I admit that now Germany has acted in the manner she has done—as a mad dog—we have to treat her as Lord Haldane himself would treat her; we must beat her down to the dust and put her in such a position as to render it impossible that she should again do such things as she has done during this War. But let justice be given where it is due. I say that with all sincerity. Even down to the smallest detail that Expeditionary Force was complete. Even matters of transport were worked out by Lord Haldane and his Committee down to the smallest item, and I have been told by one of the general railway managers who had the running of troop trains to different ports that there was not the smallest hitch in any way, and that the trains ran exactly to time table. All that we owe to Lord Haldane.
It is said that Lord Haldane reduced the Artillery. He did nothing of the kind, and it has been stated in this House that when he resigned he left the Artillery stronger, both in men and guns, than ever before. It is true we have not the guns or the machine guns we ought to have. But let the House and the country, when it is abusing Lord Haldane, remember what was the state of affairs when the Noble Lord took over the administration of the War Office. We know that at the 634 time of the South African War a state of muddle and chaos prevailed. The Army was then not under the administration of a Liberal Government. If hon. Members will realise these facts I think they will admit there is no justice in these attacks made so unfairly on Lord Haldane. I regret that Lord Haldane is not a Member of this Ministry to-day. I regret he is not in the Coalition Ministry. We shall all, I am sure, give that Ministry every support in carrying the War to a successful conclusion. But we are not going to be gagged; we are not going to cease criticising where we think such criticism necessary in order to carry on the War successfully.
The extravagant expenditure of money going on at the War Office is simply scandalous. The country will not believe it conceivable that men of business should allow that. It must always be remembered, of course, that before the War the War Office had only to deal with 300,000 or 400,000 men. It has now to deal with 3,000,000, but that is no reason why the Government should not take steps to see more businesslike methods brought into the conduct of the War Office, and to prevent this extravagant expenditure of public money. Money is being thrown away on every side owing to what I consider to be the incompetence of the War Department. They have erected huts on land which can only result in the erections being a complete failure. They have spent money without getting a sufficient return for it. In recent years the Treasury has not proved itself the watch dog it should be in regard to the expenditure of public money. A former Member of this House, I wish he was here now to criticise the War Office—I refer to Mr. Thomas Gibson Bowles—once said that in time of war every tap is open and running to waste, with a fool at the other end. I leave one word out. Now that my right hon. Friend has come to the Treasury I hope he will play the part which the Treasury ought to play in this matter, the part of the watch dog over public expenditure. I hope he will realise it is not a spending Department, as it proved itself to be under the administration of the Minister of Munitions. I wish my right hon. Friend every success in the important position of trust in which the Government has placed him. I earnestly trust he will see to it that the War Office are brought to book in regard to the expenditure of money. 635 I know that it is very difficult for him in times of war to say that money cannot be given for this or that, and I know that the Chancellor of the Exchequer has to shovel out the money which the War Office spends in a bad or good way. At the same time, I believe he can, if he wishes, check the War Office by exercising better control over the expenditure than there has been during the last nine months. I want my right hon. Friend to deal with the question of profits made during the War. I wrote to him two or three days ago, when he was about to become Chancellor of the Exchequer, urging him to deal with the matter, but I said that he need not trouble to reply, because I knew I should get the usual stereotyped answer saying that the matter was under his consideration, and that the letter would go into the wastepaper basket I can assure him, knowing something about the working classes, that it will give more satisfaction to them if they can feel he has tackled this question. The late Chancellor of the Exchequer would not face it because there were so many difficulties. The present Chancellor of the Exchequer is a studious man, and I earnestly urge him and the Labour Gentleman sitting on the Treasury Bench now, to consider the matter. Of course, he cannot reply at once. If he is able to overcome these difficulties he will do a great deal towards getting all classes to work together to bring the War to a successful conclusion.
§ Mr. WALTER ROCH
I am sure that those hon. Members who have waited until the fag end of the Debate are grateful to the new Chancellor of the Exchequer for sitting here and listening to them at such length. Perhaps, as a Welsh Member, without making any invidious distinction between him and any of his colleagues, I may be allowed to congratulate the right hon. Gentleman upon his succession to the office he now fills. The point to which I wish to call the right hon. Gentleman's attention is that of the general policy of the Coalition. As far as one can gather from the speech of the Prime Minister, there is no change in policy and the new Government stands where the old Government stood. We knew where the old Government stood as regards matters of domestic policy. The pledge, as understood by all sides of the House, was that the Government were at liberty, for the purpose of the prosecution of the War, to go forward freely, but that all 636 matters of domestic policy on which there was party difference were to be studiously ruled out. I gathered from the Prime Minister's speech that that was also the position of the new Government. I will not say a word about the heart burnings many of us went through during the last fortnight. There were some most unpleasant features which, perhaps, one should not refer to. There was a good deal of heart burning at the fact that the matter was carried through without any consultation, or indeed without the knowledge of or any hint to the men who had supported the late Government so loyally for so many years. It would be a reassurance to many of us if the Chancellor of the Exchequer were able to say that the interpretation I have put upon the Prime Minister's words is correct, and that in the work that lies before them that this is a Government which is a Coalition Government for the prosecution of the War, and that only. With that assurance they would have the support of every hon. Member, wherever he sits. Unless the Government are able to say that those matters of domestic policy which are not necessary for the prosecution of the War are studiously ruled out, suspicions and feelings will arise which will not be healthy or useful, but will be a hindrance and not a help to the Coalition. If it is possible, I should like the Chancellor of the Exchequer to give me some reassurance on that matter.
§ Mr. KING
I should like to join in the appeal made by the hon. Member who has just sat down, and if the right hon. Gentleman will give the assurance asked for, I should be inclined to go over to the other side and resume my old seat. I sincerely hope that anything in the nature of party or any sectional interest which might have been pressed through and credited as a victory to one side or party will be dropped altogether. I am sure that is the only way in which the House and the country will be led more and more to support the Coalition Ministry and in which it will justify itself not by its inception but by its results and unite the House and the country. I wish to call attention, from another point of view to any of those which have already been urged, to the way in which this Vote of Credit is presented to us. Although, naturally, it has been framed in the widest possible manner so as to include every conceivable method of spending money, yet it is not in accord either with the traditions 637 of this House or the previous practice on any similar occasion. The principle of a Vote of Credit is well recognised. A Vote of Credit should always be strictly limited, both as to its amount and as to its object. That is the statement which one finds in the text books, and it is practically an axiom.
This Vote of Credit is, of course, limited in its amount, but it is not limited in its objects. The Prime Minister has told us that it is intentionally so drawn that practically any object might be supported out of the money we are asked to vote today without any further information being given, at any rate for the present, to the House or the country. One of the difficulties in which this country has been placed during this War has been its lack of information. No doubt there are many good reasons and, perhaps, they would have been much stronger if they could have been fairly stated, but apparently they were sufficient for the Prime Minister and other Ministers. On the most important matters we have had a minimum of information. We are not even allowed to know the number of soldiers we are supporting in the field, or the number of prisoners we have taken from the enemy, and in many other ways ordinary information which would be of the greatest interest to the country and, so far as I can see, would be of no conceivable use if it were also known to the enemy, has been altogether withheld from the country. I appeal to Ministers to take the House and the country more and more into their confidence, I believe if they tell the country more and more what they are doing, how they are spending the money, what forces they have, what success they have had, and what prospects they have, they will more and more get the support of the country. Especially we ought to know more as to how the money which we are voting to other Powers is going. We know, and personally I entirely approve of it, that we are making large advances to our Colonies. I am of the opinion that it would be much better to make an advance of £2,000,000 to one of our Colonies than £1,000,000 to any other foreign Power, even to an Allied Power. But I deprecate the extremely vague and uncertain way in which our advances to the Colonies, foreign Powers, and others, are made.
The Prime Minister let fall to-day one expression which, I think, ought to be explained. In the words of the Vote of 638 Credit we are told that this money is required, not only for our Colonies, but also for Allied Powers, for the purpose of expenditure, etc. In his speech to-day the Prime Minister referred to the fact that some of this money would not only be required for our Colonies and Allied Powers, but he also added "and other Powers." It is an entirely new and unauthorised procedure for the Government in this time of war to be paying money to other Powers which are not in active alliance with us in the War without any explanation or any statement being given. I hope at some time, sooner or later, we shall have some information upon this matter, because it is perfectly obvious that when there are hints of this kind thrown out, and when we are left in ignorance, very damaging reports get about, and very great uncertainty and doubt arise, naturally, as might be supposed, to our enemies' great advantage, and they make great play out of these rumours which cannot be contradicted, and they make more play out of uncertainty and rumour than they would out of knowledge of the actual facts. For instance, there is the absurd rumour, which has been stated semi-officially in Germany, as to the basis on which Italy has come into the War. I shall not refer categorically to these rumours and statements, but it is perfectly obvious that when they cannot be denied, and when no certainty exists in this country, even in the House of Commons, as to the nature of these rumours, they are widely believed among our enemies, greatly to our detriment, and also in neutral countries.
§ Mr. McKENNA
I think I ought to correct the mistake of my hon. Friend, if I may call it a mistake. If he looks at the terms of the Vote of Credit he will see that it is limited to advances by way of loans or grants to His Majesty's Dominions or Protectorates outside the United Kingdom and to Allied Powers for the purposes of war expenditure.
§ Mr. McKENNA
With all respect to the Prime Minister, any language which he may have used in his speech will not extend the operation of these words upon which Parliament is asked to vote. I am assuming that my hon. Friend is right, and that 639 the Prime Minister did, incautiously, use a phrase which does not exist in the Vote, but if he did so it will have no effect. The Vote is limited to the terms which I have read.
§ Mr. KING
The explanation of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, which is very interesting, raises another point, upon which I am almost inclined to ask your opinion, Sir. My right hon. Friend has just quoted, not the words of the Vote but the note below. The words of the Vote itself are quite indefinite and vague, and surely in the expenditure of the money it is not the words of the note below, which are not even signed by the Secretary for the Treasury, and has no official authority. I pass that by, and am very much reassured if the point of view of the Chancellor of the Exchequer is right, and I think it is unfortunate if it is not generally understood so. I would only urge again what I have tried to urge before, that the country may now be trusted with more and more information. After all, there is nothing more discouraging than to have hopes raised and then find them dashed. We can face grim facts and serious possibilities, but also let us have encouraging facts at the same time. Tell us everything that you can, without any possibility of damage to our interests and our cause, and I am sure that the country will be grateful and all the more confident.
§ Mr. OUTHWAITE
I want to support the appeal made by my hon. Friend (Mr. Roch), who pointed out that we desire some assurance that the domestic policy of the Liberal party is not going to be disadvantaged by the formation of the Coalition. To-morrow a test will arise on that matter, because we understand that an attempt is to be made to scrap the Land Valuation which is at present proceeding. That will be regarded by great numbers of men who are allied with this cause as a breach of trust if it were accepted by the Government, and will be the end, as far as they are concerned, of the truce which exists at present.
The hon. Member is now raising questions of legislation which, of course, do not arise in Committee of Supply. We are dealing solely with administration.
§ Mr. OUTHWAITE
I was going to point out that it was the duty of the Chancellor of the Exchequer to find fresh sources of 640 revenue, and that it will therefore be particularly disadvantageous to end the possibility of finding the new source which valuation is procuring for him. Therefore I hope that the association of a number of the most bitter opponents of this system of taxation in the Government does not mean, as it will be thought to mean, that the suggestion is made that this policy has been surrendered as a result of the Coalition.
§ Main Question put, and agreed to.
§ Supply considered in Committee.
§ [Mr. WHITLEY in the Chair.]