§ Motion made, and Question proposed,
§ "That a Supplementary sum, not exceeding £37,000,000, be granted to His Majesty, beyond the ordinary Grants of Parliament, towards defraying the Expenses which may be incurred during the year ending the 31st day of March, 1915, for all measures which may be taken for the Security of the Country; for the conduct of Naval and Military Operations; for assisting the Food Supply, and promoting the Continuance of Trade, Industry, Business, and Communications, whether by means of insurance or indemnity against risk, the financing of the purchase and resale of food-stuffs and materials, or otherwise; for Relief of Distress; and generally for all expenses arising out of the existence of a state of war."
§ The PRIME MINISTER (Mr. Asquith)
The first of the two Votes which appear on the Paper, the one which you have just read, provides only for the financial year which is now expiring, and is a Supplementary Vote of Credit. The second, which follows, is a Vote of Credit for the ensuing financial year, 1915–16. I think it will probably be convenient in submitting the first Vote to the Committee, not to distinguish between the two but to make a general statement with regard to the whole matter. Dealing with the first for 590 the moment, the Supplementary Vote of Credit, I would remind the Committee of how the matter actually stands. On the 6th August of last year, the House voted the first Vote of Credit for £100,000,000, and on the 15th November (1914) the House passed a Supplementary Vote of Credit for £225,000,000, raising the total Votes of Credit for the now expiring financial year to £325,000,000. It was found, however, that this amount would not suffice for the expenditure being incurred to the 31st March. We are, therefore, asking the Committee for a further Vote of £37,000,000 to carry on the public Services till that date. If the Committee assent to our proposal, it will raise the total amount granted by Votes of Credit for the year 1914–15 to £362,000,000.
I need not say anything as to the terms in which, or the purposes for which, this Vote is required. They are the same as upon the last occasion. But I ought to draw attention to one feature in which the Supplementary Vote differs from the Vote to be subsequently proposed for the services of the year 1915–16. At the outbreak of the War the ordinary Supply on a peace basis had been voted by the House, and consequently the Votes of Credit for the now current financial year, like those on all previous occasions, have been taken in order to provide the amounts necessary for naval and military operations, in addition to the ordinary Grants of Parliament. It consequently follows that the expenditure charged or chargeable to Votes of Credit for this financial year represent, broadly speaking, the difference between the expenditure of the country on a peace footing and that expenditure upon a war footing. The total on that basis, if this Supplementary Vote be asserted to, will be £362,000,000.
For reasons the validity of which the Committee has recognised on previous occasions, I do not think it desirable to give the precise details of the items which make up the total; but without entering into that, I may roughly apportion the expenditure. For the Army aid the Navy, according to the best Estimates which can at present be framed, out of the total given there will be required 591 approximately £275,000,000. That is also in addition, as I have already pointed out, to the sum voted before the War for the Army and the Navy, which amounted in the agregate to a little over £80,000,000. That leaves unaccounted for a balance of £87,000,000, of which approximately £38,000,000 represents advances for war expenditure made or being made to the self-governing Dominions, Crown Colonies and Protectorates, as explained in the Treasury Minute of the 17th November last, under which His Majesty's Government have undertaken to raise, on the credit of the Imperial Exchequer, the loans required by the Dominions to meet the heavy expenditure entailed upon them. In addition to that sum of £38,000,000, there has been an advance to Belgium of £10,000,000, and to Serbia of £800,000. Further advances to these Allies are under consideration, the details of which at is not possible yet to make public. The balance of, roughly, £38,000,000 is required for miscellaneous services covered by the Vote of Credit which have not yet been separately specified.
I think the Committee will be interested to know what the actual cost of the War will have been to this country, as far as we can estimate, on the 31st March, the close of the financial year. The War will then have lasted 240 days, and the Votes of Credit up to that time, assuming this Vote be carried, will amount to £362,000,000. It may be said, speaking generally, that the average expenditure from Votes of Credit will have been, roughly, £1,500,000 per day throughout the time. That, of course, is the excess due to the War over the expenditure on a peace footing. That represents the immediate charge to the taxpayers of this country for this year. But, as the Committee know, a portion of the expenditure consists of advances for the purpose of assisting or securing the food supplies of this country, and will be recoverable in whole, or to a very large extent, in the near future. A further portion represents advances to the Dominions and to other States, which will be ultimately repaid. If these items be excluded from the account 592 the average per day of the War is slightly lower; but, after making full allowance for all the items which are in the nature of recoverable loans, the daily expenditure does not work out at less than £1,200,000. I have spoken of the average. These figures are the average taken over the whole period from the outbreak of war; but at the outbreak of war, after the initial expenditure on mobilisation had been incurred, the daily expenditure was considerably below the average, as many charges had not yet matured. The expenditure has risen steadily, and is now well over the daily average which I have given. To that figure must be added, in order to give a complete account of the matter, something for war services other than naval or military. At the beginning of the year these charges were not likely to be very considerable, but it will probably be within the mark to say that on the 1st April we shall be spending over £1,700,000 a day above the normal in consequence of the War.
Perhaps I may now say something which is not strictly in order on this Vote, but concerns the Vote of Credit for the ensuing year, which amounts to £250,000,000. The Committee will at once observe an obvious distinction between the Votes of Credit taken for the current financial year and that which we propose to take for the ensuing year. As I have already pointed out, at the outbreak of war the ordinary Supply of the year had been granted by the House, and accordingly the Votes of Credit for 1914–15 were for the amounts required beyond the ordinary Grants of Parliament for the cost of military and naval operations. When we came to frame the Estimates for the ensuing year, 1915–16, the Treasury was confronted with the difficulty, which amounted to an impossibility, of presenting to Parliament Estimates in the customary form for Navy and Army expenditure apart from the cost of the War. All the material circumstances have been set out in the Treasury Minute of the 5th February, and in principle have been approved by the House. As the Committee will remember, the total Estimates which we have presented for the Army and the Navy amount to 593 only £15,000 for the Army and £17,000 for the Navy. The remainder of the cost of both these Services will be provided for out of Votes of Credit, and the Vote of Credit now being proposed provides for general Army and Navy services in so far as specific provision is not made therefor in the small Estimates already presented. This Vote of Credit, therefore, has two features which I believe are quite unique and without precedent. In the first place, it is the largest single Vote on record in the annals of this House, and secondly, as I have said, it provides for the ordinary as well as for the emergency expenditure of the Army and the Navy. The House may ask on what principle or basis has this sum of £250,000,000 been arrived at? Of course it is difficult, and indeed impossible, to give any exact estimate, but as regards the period, as far as we can forecast it, for which this Vote is being taken, it has been thought advisable to take a sum sufficient, as far as we can judge, to provide for all the expenditure which will come in course of payment up to, approximately, the second week in July—that is to say, a little over three months, or, to put it in another way, something like one hundred days of war expenditure.
As regards the daily rate of expenditure—I have dealt hitherto with the expenditure up to 31st March—the War Office calculate that at the beginning of April, 1915, the total expenditure on Army services will be at the rate of £1,500,000 per day—with a tendency to increase. The total expenditure on the Navy at the commencement of April will, it is calculated, amount to about £400,000 per day. The aggregate expenditure of the Army and Navy services at the beginning of 1915–16 is put at £1,900,000 per day—with a tendency to increase. For the purposes of our Estimate the figures we have taken indicate a level £2,000,000 per day. The Committee will remember—I am not sure whether I mentioned the figure—that on a peace footing the daily expenditure of the Army and the Navy, on the basis of the Estimates approved last year, was about £220,000 594 per day. The difference, therefore, between £2,000,000 and £220,000 represents what we estimate to be the increased expenditure due to the War during the one hundred days for which we are now providing. There are other items belonging to the same category as those to which I have already referred in dealing with the Supplementary Vote. With regard to advances to our own Dominions and other States, for which provision has also had to be made, the balance of the total of £250,000,000 for which we are now asking beyond the actual estimated expenditure for the Army and the Navy will be applied to those and kindred emergency purposes.
Before I pass from the purely monetary aspect of the matter, it may be interesting to the Committee to be reminded of what has been our expenditure upon the great wars of the past. I am not sure if the figures have not been given by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. In the Great War, which lasted for over twenty years, from 1793 to 1815, the total cost, as estimated by the best authorities, was £831,000,000. The Crimean War may be put down, taking everything into account, at £70,000,000. The total cost of the war charges in South Africa from 1899 to 31st March, 1903, were estimated, in a Return presented to Parliament, at £211,000,000. These are instructive figures. In presenting these two Votes of Credit the Government are making a large pecuniary demand on the House—a demand which in itself is beyond comparison larger than has ever been made in the House of Commons by any British Minister in the whole course of our history.
We make it with the full conviction that, after seven months of war, the country and the whole Empire are every whit as determined as they were at the outset—if need be at the cost of all we can command both in men and in money—to bring a righteous cause to a triumphant issue. There is much in what we see to encourage and to stimulate us. Nothing has shaken, and nothing can shake, our faith in the unbroken spirit of Belgium, in the undefeated heroism of indomitable Serbia, in the tenacity and resource with which our two great Allies—one in the West and the 595 other in the East—hold their far-flung lines, and will continue to hold them till the hour comes for an irresistible and decisive advance. Our own Dominions and our great Dependency of India have sent us splendid contributions of men, a large number of whom are already at the front, and before very long, in one or another of the actual theatres of war, the whole of them will be in the fighting line. We hear to-day with great gratification that Princess Patricia's Canadian Regiment has been doing, during these last few days, most gallant and efficient service.
We have no reason to be otherwise than satisfied with the progress of Recruiting here at home. Territorial divisions, now fully trained, are capable—I say it advisedly—of confronting any troops in the world. The New Armies, which have lately been under the critical scrutiny of skilled observers, are fast realising all our most sanguine hopes. A war carried on upon this gigantic scale, and under conditions for which there is no example in history, is not always or every day a picturesque or spectacular affair. Its operations are of necessity, in appearance, slow and dragging. Without entering into strategic details, I can assure the Committee that, with all the knowledge and experience which we have now gained, His Majesty's Government have never been more confident than they are to-day of the power as well as the will of the Allies to achieve ultimate and durable victory.
I will not enter in further detail into what I may call the general military situation, but I should, for a few moments, like to call the attention of the Committee to one or two aspects of the War which of late have come prominently into view. I will refer first to the operations which are now in progress in the Dardanelles. It is a good rule in War to concentrate your forces on the main theatre, and not to dissipate them in disconnected and sporadic adventures, however promising they may appear to be. That consideration, I need hardly say, has not been lost sight of in the counsels of the Allies. There has been, and there will be, no 596 denudation or impairment of the forces which are at work in France and Flanders, and both the French and ourselves will continue to give them the fullest and, we believe, the most effective support.
Nor—what is equally important—has there, for the purpose of these operations, been any weakening of the Grand Fleet. The enterprise which is now going on, and has so far gone on in a manner which reflects, as the House will agree, the highest credit on all concerned, was carefully considered and conceived with very distinct and definite objects—political, strategic, and economic. Some of these objects are so obvious as not to need statement, and others are of such a character that it is perhaps better for the moment not to state them. But I should like to advert for a moment, without any attempt to forecast the future, to two features in this matter. The first is that it once more indicates and illustrates the close co-operation of the Allies—in this case the French and ourselves—in a new theatre, and under somewhat dissimilar conditions to those which have hitherto prevailed. We welcome the presence of the splendid contingent from the French Navy that our Allies have supplied, and which is sharing to the full in both the hazards and the glories of the enterprise.
The other point on which, I think, it is worth dwelling for a moment is that this operation shows in a very significant way the copiousness and the variety of our own Naval resources. In order to illustrate that remark, take the names of the ships, which have been actually mentioned in the dispatches we have published. First the "Queen Elizabeth," the first ship to be commissioned of the newest type of what are called super-"Dreadnoughts," with guns of a power and a range never hitherto known in naval warfare. Side by side with her is the "Agamemnon," the immediate predecessor of the "Dreadnought," and in association with them are the "Triumph," "Cornwallis," "Irresistible," "Vengeance," and "Albion," representing, I think I am right in saying, three or four different types of the older pre-"Dreadnought" battleships, which 597 have been so foolishly and so prematurely regarded in some quarters as obsolete or negligible, all bringing to bear the power of their formidable 12-in. guns on the fortifications, with magnificent accuracy and with deadly effect. When, as I have said, these proceedings are being conducted, so far as the Navy is concerned, without subtraction of any sort or kind from the strength or effectiveness of the Grand Fleet, I think a word of congratulation is due to the Admiralty for the way in which it has utilised its resources.
I pass from that to another new factor in these military and naval operations—the so-called German "blockade" of our coast. I shall have to use some very plain language. I may, perhaps, preface what I have to say by the observation that it does not come upon us as a surprise. This War began on the part of Germany with the cynical repudiation of a solemn Treaty on the avowed ground that, when a nation's interests require it, right and good faith must give way to force. The War has been carried on on their part with a systematic—not an impulsive or a casual—but a systematic violation of all the conventions and practices by which international agreement had sought to mitigate and regularise the clash of arms. She has now—I will not say reached the climax, for we do not know what may yet be to come—but she has taken a further step, without any precedent in history, by mobilising and organising, not on the surface, but under the surface of the sea, a campaign of piracy and pillage. Are we—can we—and here I address myself for the moment to the neutral countries of the world—are we to sit quiet, or can we sit quiet as though we were still under the protection of the restraining rules and the humanising usages of civilised war? We think we cannot. The enemy, borrowing what I may, perhaps, call for this purpose a neutral flag from the vocabulary of diplomacy, describes this newly adopted measure by a grotesque and puerile perversion of language as a "blockade." What is a blockade? A blockade consists in sealing up the war ports of a belligerent against sea-borne traffic, by encircling their coast with an impenetrable ring of 598 ships of war. Where are these ships of war? Where is the German Navy?
§ The PRIME MINISTER
What has become of those gigantic battleships and cruisers on which so many millions of money have been spent, and in which such vast hopes and ambitions have been invested? I think, if my memory serves me, they have only twice during the course of these seven months been seen upon the open sea. Their object in both cases was the same—murder and mutilation of civilians, and the wholesale destruction of property in undefended seaside towns, and on each occasion when they caught sight of the approach of a British force they showed a clean pair of heels, and they hurried back at the top of their speed to the safe seclusion of their mine-fields and their closely guarded forts.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
Some of them suffered misadventures on the way. The plain truth is, the German Fleet is not blockading, cannot blockade, and never will blockade our coasts.
I propose now to read to the Committee the Statement which has been prepared by His Majesty's Government and which will be public property to-morrow, which declares, I hope in sufficiently plain and unmistakable terms, the view that we take, not only of our rights, but of our duties. It is not very long, and I think I had better read it textually:—
"Germany has declared that the English Channel, the north and west coasts of France, and the waters round the British Isles are a 'war area,' and has officially notified that 'all enemy ships found in that area will be destroyed, and that neutral vessels may be exposed to danger.' This is in effect a claim to torpedo at sight, without regard to the safety of the crew or passengers; any merchant vessel under any flag. As it is not in the power of the German Admiralty to maintain any surface craft in these waters, this attack can only be delivered by submarine agency. The 599 law and custom of nations in regard to attacks on commerce have always presumed that the first duty of the captor of a merchant vessel is to bring it before a Prize Court, where it may be tried, where the regularity of the capture may be challenged, and where neutrals may recover their cargoes. The sinking of prizes is in itself a questionable act, to be resorted to only in extraordinary circumstances, and after provision has been made for the safety of all the crew or passengers (if there are passengers on board). The responsibility for discriminating between neutral and enemy vessels, and between neutral and enemy cargo, obviously rests with the attacking ship, whose duty it is to verify the status and character of the vessel and cargo, and to preserve all papers before sinking or even capturing it. So also is the humane duty of providing for the safety of the crews of merchant vessels, whether neutral or enemy, an obligation upon every belligerent. It is upon this basis that all previous discussions of the law for regulating warfare at sea have proceeded.
"A German submarine, however, fulfils none of these obligations. She enjoys no local command of the waters in which she operates. She does not take her captures within the jurisdiction of a Prize Court. She carries no prize crew which she can put on board a prize. She uses no effective means of discriminating between a neutral and an enemy vessel. She does not receive on board for safety the crew of the vessel she sinks. Her methods of warfare are, therefore, entirely outside the scope of any of the international instruments regulating operations against commerce in time of war. The German declaration substitutes indiscriminate destruction for regulated capture.
"Germany is adopting these methods against peaceful traders and noncombatant crews with the avowed object of preventing commodities of all kinds (including food for the civil population) from reaching or leaving the British 600 Isles or Northern France. Her opponents are, therefore, driven to frame retaliatory measures, in order, in their turn, to prevent commodities of any kind from reaching or leaving Germany. These measures will, however, be enforced by the British and French Governments without risk to neutral ships or to neutral or non-combatant life, and in strict observance of the dictates of humanity.
"The British and French Governments will, therefore, hold themselves free to detain and take into port ships carrying goods of presumed enemy destination, ownership, or origin. It is not intended to confiscate such vessels or cargoes, unless they would otherwise be liable to condemnation.
"The treatment of vessels and cargoes which have sailed before this date will not be affected."
That, Sir, is our reply. I may say, before I comment upon it, with regard to the suggestion which I see is put forward from German quarters that we have rejected some proposal or suggestion made to the two Powers by the United States Government, I do not say anything more than that it is quite untrue. On the contrary, all we have said to the United States so far is that we are taking it into careful consideration in consultation with our Allies. Now, the Committee will have observed, from the statement I have just read out of the retaliatory measures we propose to adopt, the words "blockade" and "contraband," and other technical terms of international law, do not occur, and advisedly so. In dealing with an opponent who has openly repudiated all the restraints, both of law and of humanity, we are not going to allow our efforts to be strangled in a network of juridical niceties. We do not intend to put into operation any measures which we do not think to be effective, and I need not say we shall carefully avoid any measures which violate the rules either of humanity or of honesty. Subject to those two conditions I say to our enemy—I say it on behalf of the Government, and I hope on behalf of the House of Commons—that under existing conditions there is no form of economic pressure to which we 601 do not consider ourselves entitled to resort. If, as a consequence, neutrals suffer inconvenience and loss of trade, we regret it, but we beg them to remember that this phase of the War was not initiated by us. We do not propose either to assassinate their seamen or to destroy their goods, and what we are doing we do solely in self-defence. If, again, as is possible, hardship is caused to the civil and non-combatant population of the enemy by the cutting off of supplies, we are not doing more in this respect than was done in the days when Germany still acknowledged the authority of the law of nations, sanctioned by the practice of the first and the greatest of her Chancellors, and by the express declarations of his successor. We are quite prepared to submit to the arbitrament of neutral opinion, and still more to the verdict of impartial history, that in this War in the circumstances in which we have been placed, we have been moderate and restrained, and we have abstained from things which we were provoked and tempted to do, and we have adopted the policy which recommends itself to reason, common sense, and to justice.
This new aspect of the War only serves to illustrate and to emphasise the truth that the gravity and the magnitude of the task we have undertaken do not diminish, but increase, as the months go by. The call for men to join our fighting forces, which is our primary need, has been and is being nobly responded to here at home and throughout the Empire. That call, we say with all plainness and directness, was never more urgent or more imperious than to-day. But this is a war not only of men, but of material. Take only one illustration. The expenditure of ammunition on both sides has been on a scale and at a rate which is not only without precedent, but is far in excess of any expert forecast of what was even conceivable. At such a time patriotism has cast a heavy burden on the shoulders of all who are engaged in trades or manufactures which, directly or indirectly, minister to the equipment of our forces. It is a burden, let me add, which falls, or ought to fall, with even weight on both employers and employed. 602 Differences as to remuneration or as to profit, or as to hours and conditions of labour, which in ordinary times might well justify a temporary cessation of work, should no longer be allowed to do so. The first duty of all concerned is to go on producing with might and main what the safety of the State requires, and, if this be done, I can say with perfect confidence the Government on its part will ensure and promote a prompt and an equitable settlement of disputed points, and, in cases of proved necessity, will give, on behalf of the State, such help as is in their power.
Sailors and soldiers, employers and workmen in the industrial world are all at this moment partners and co-operators in one great enterprise. The men in the shipyards and the engineering shops, the workers in the textile factories, the miner who sends the coal to the surface, the dockyard labourer who helps to load and unload the ships, and those who employ and organise and supervise their labours, are one and all rendering to their country a service as vital and as indispensable as the gallant men who line the trenches in Flanders or in France, or who are bombarding fortresses in the Dardanelles.
I hear sometimes whispers, hardly more than whispers, of possible terms of peace. Peace is the greatest of all human blessings, but this is not the time to talk of peace. Those who talk of peace, however excellent their intentions, are, in my judgment, victims, I will not say of wanton, but of a grevious self-delusion. It is like the twittering of sparrows amid the stress and tumult of a tempest which is shaking the foundations of the world. The time to talk of peace is when the great tasks for which we and our Allies embarked on this long and stormy voyage are within sight of accomplishment. Speaking at the Guildhall at the Lord Mayor's banquet last November, I used this language which has since been repeated almost in the same terms by the Prime Minister of France, and which, I believe, represents the settled sentiment and purpose of the country. I said:—We shall never, sheath the sword, which we have not lightly drawn, until. Belgium recovers in full measure all, and more than all, she has sacrificed; 603 until France is adequately secured against the menace of aggression; until the rights of the smaller nationalities of Europe are placed upon an unassailable foundation, and until the military domination of Prussia is wholly and finally destroyed.What I said early in November, now, after four months, I repeat to-day. We have not relaxed, nor shall we relax, in the pursuit of every one and all of the aims which I have described. These are great purposes, and to achieve them we must draw upon all our resources, both material and spiritual. On the one side, the material side, the demand presented in these Votes is for men, for money, for the fullest equipment of the apparatus of war. On the other side, which I have called the spiritual side, the appeal is to those ancient, inbred qualities of our race which have never failed us in times of stress—qualities of self-mastery, self-sacrifice, patience, tenacity, willingness to bear one another's burdens, unity which springs from the dominating sense of a common duty, unfailing faith, inflexible resolve.
§ Mr. BONAR LAW
The right hon. Gentleman began by saying, and it is true, that no Minister in the course of our long history has ever presented Estimates like these to any House of Commons. But I am sure, as he sits down, he must have the satisfaction of feeling that never at any time in our history had any Minister, who feels his responsibilities more certainty of carrying with him in the course on which the Government has entered the full support of the House of Commons and of the country. I am not going to attempt to follow the right hon. Gentleman over the whole or, perhaps, much of the ground which he has covered. He has spoken with that force to which we are accustomed, of the determination not of Great Britain alone, but of our Allies, and of the British Empire to see this struggle through. I shall make no attempt to supplement what he has said. Indeed all that can be taken for granted now. It is not a question of determination. It is a question of the way in which that determination can be made most effective, not only to bring the War to a successful issue, but to end it at the earliest possible moment.
604 The right hon. Gentleman referred in few words, but in words which the House greatly appreciated, to the action in the Dardanelles. I regard it as of the first importance, and, speaking with less responsibility, I am not afraid of indicating in what direction that importance lies. It used to be considered, I believe, that to force the Dardanelles was not a possible operation of war. Thanks largely to the fact that we have ships like the "Queen Elizabeth," with guns which cannot be approached, it is now a possible operation, and we hope and believe that it is going to be successful. If it be successful I cannot doubt that it is going to have a great effect on the ultimate issue of this War. We are fighting two Powers joined in an alliance, one very strong, the other not so strong. They are links in the same chain. The forcing of the Dardanelles will have a dramatic effect which I hope may end in some movement that may cause the attack to be directed against the weaker of the Allies, and help us to see this struggle brought more quickly to an end.
We have been, as the right hon. Gentleman has indicated, seven months at war, and I think I can say that as a nation we have during these seven months done more than could have been anticipated either by friend or by foe. Look at what has been done in money. We have been spending, as I gather, £1,250,000 a day, and that is soon going to rise to £1,750,000. That could have been anticipated. We have kept to the full the command of the sea, and have the power to put a pressure of sea power to a greater extent than has ever been known in the world before. That, too, could have been anticipated. We have also kept in the field since this War began an Army which, though small in comparison with the gigantic forces in arms on the Continent, is by far the biggest Army which has ever been commanded by a British general. It has done great work, small as it is. I believe it is not too much to say that at the critical hour, if it did not save Paris, at all events it gave the aid which enabled the French to save Paris for themselves, and broke the tide which seemed to be the tide of victory.
605 I should like to pay my tribute, if I may, to the skill and ability with which that Army has been directed by Sir John French and the generals serving under him. I would like to say something, too, about the heroism which has been displayed by that Army, of which we know, I think, rather less than we should like, but of which we get glimpses, such as those in Sir John French's dispatch the other day. We have other means of knowing, and this has struck me, and I think must have struck others who have had the opportunity of seeing men and officers returned from the front: The officers cannot speak too highly in praise of their men, and the men are never tired of singing the praises of their officers. I happened to read a few months after the War began an interview with a wounded soldier, which seemed to me to show more clearly than anything I have heard of or read what was the spirit of our Army. He said that he grudged even seeing these decorations given to officers, because where all have done so well it seemed almost invidious to make any distinction. No praise could be higher than that for what our Army has done.
All this could have been expected. Something is being done which could not have been expected. We are creating to meet the needs of this War armies which, even from the point of numbers, can compare with the Continental armies now in the field. That is a great conception, and I wish to say, speaking only for myself, and without having discussed it with any of my colleagues, that I think that conception is due largely to one man; that if it had been left to statesmen on cither bench the probability is that we should have attempted to keep up our Expeditionary Force, that we should have tried to add to our Territorials, but I hardly think this great idea of utilising to the utmost the full resources of the country would have been carried out. If I am right, and if at any time any of us feel inclined—and I think there is good reason—to consider that everything done by the War Office is not quite perfect, we ought at least to remember how much the country owes for this gigantic conception of what we can 606 do and for the way in which it is being made into a reality before our eyes. I said that we have done all, and more than all, that could have been expected of us, but that is entirely the wrong point of view from which to regard it. It is not a question of whether we have done more or less than could have been expected; it is a question of whether we have done, and are doing, everything in our power to bring this War to an end. The other point of view is an unfortunate one, and we see the result of that point of view being held in the strikes to which the Prime Minister has referred. I certainly shall be the last, and I am sure my hon. Friends behind me will agree with me that I should be the last, to say that the fault of these strikes is on the part of the men or the masters, but I do say that a strike under such conditions is inconceivable in France to-day—it would be just as easy to conceive men striking in the trenches—and it ought to be equally inconceivable in England. The reason that it is not, in my belief, is that we have not as a nation even yet quite realised that this is our War. We have not realised that it is not a case of our helping France or Russia, but, on the contrary, that it is just as much a case of France and Russia helping us, for, if we know anything, we know that the bulk and the strength of the hatred of our enemies are directed against us and not against our Allies.
I do ask, not by way of criticism, but by way of suggestion, Are we doing everything that we can to end this War? I think, as regards the Army and the Navy, we are doing everything we can, but what about utilising the industrial resources of this country? One of the lessons which our enemy ought to have taught us is that their preparation for war meant just as much the organisation of the civilian population as the organisation of those who are actually bearing arms. That is comparatively easy in a state of government like Germany, for in war, as each form of government has its advantages and disadvantages, a despotic Government has the advantage that it can more easily control these things; but we have seen from what happened in France that it is possible for 607 a democratic country too. When the War broke out France mobilised the whole of her industry in precisely the same way in which she mobilised her troops. Have we done, and are we doing, the same? The Government know that both this House and the country will give them all the power they ask. We are the greatest manufacturing country in the world. This War has been going on for seven months, and if—I do not say that it is so, for I do not know—after seven months there is a shortage of ammunition, or of the necessary munitions of war, then in my belief we have not utilised to the utmost the industrial resources of this country, and I say to the Government now that to bring this War to a close nothing that they can do would be more effective than to look at the industrial position of the country and to consider, though business as usual is wise from the point of view of stopping panic, though business is necessary, that the first necessity is to provide what we need for this War, and it should be done and other business must wait until the needs of the State have first been met. I hope that is being done, and I am sure that it ought to be done.
There is only one other subject on which I wish to address the House, and that is what the right hon. Gentleman has said as to the intentions of our Government and of our Allies in regard to what the Germans have called the "English blockade," but what he has called by its true name, "a campaign of piracy and murder." It is not the time for, and we have long passed the stage of, fighting Germany with our tongue. There is no object in pointing out their atrocities. We have had enough of that, and the world realises it. What we have got to do now is to show them that their atrocities are in vain, and that we will use every weapon in our hands to bring to an end this horrible War. In times of peace we have heard plenty, and here in the House of Commons there has been a great deal said and written, about securing peace and, even what seemed more practicable, about making rules to mitigate the horrors of war. What happens? War comes and one 608 of the belligerents ignores utterly from the first every one of the rules, even those which they had accepted, which are to mitigate these horrors of war. As the Prime Minister said, they began by the violation of Belgium. They continued by inflicting on the civil population of Belgium horrors which not only are a disgrace to humanity, but which were clearly forbidden by the recognised rules of war. They seized private property; they fired on hospital ships; and they strewed mines in the open sea, all contrary to every recognised rule of war.
If these international rules are to be of any use how are they to be—I will not say enforced—but to have any sanction? From what quarter can it come? It must come, if it comes at all, from neutral States. What have we found? Against any one of these violations of international law not a single protest was lodged by any neutral Power. I do not say that in condemnation of neutral Powers. That is not my business. What is the lesson we must draw from it? It is surely that if these rules are disregarded by one of the belligerents and no attempt even is made to enforce them, it is folly, and criminal folly, for another belligerent to allow its hands to be tied. I do not mean by that that we are to imitate them in methods of inhumanity and brutality, but I do say that we are entitled and we are bound to bring to bear our full power without regard to those juridical niceties of which the Prime Minister has spoken.
The use of sea power has always been attended with this danger, which does not apply to military operations on land; that it is contrary to the interests and therefore irritates neutral countries. Our fathers, in a struggle not more deadly than this, faced that danger and on account of it they never for a moment gave up a single one of the rights which sea power gives. Throughout this War pressure by sea has been greater than ever before. I may say, also, that never before has that power been exercised with such a keen regard, not only for the rights, but for the interests and the susceptibilities of neutrals. From 609 the beginning that has been so; but now we are at the parting of the ways. We are face to face with a position where one Power, after starting a campaign of piracy, actually proposes to use that method as a lever by which to compel us to abandon recognised rights which sea power gives us. The thing is impossible. It could not be considered by any Government, and as I understand what the Prime Minister has said—it is exactly what I hoped he would say, and what I intended to suggest that this country ought to say—it is that nothing of any kind will be allowed to go in or come out of Germany, the entrance or exit of which it is in our power to prevent. That, as I understand it, is the declaration. We owe it to ourselves; we owe it to the men who on land and sea are risking and giving up their lives for us; we owe it to our Allies, to France, for instance, for which nation it is not enough to be sure that we are going to win ultimately, but which is exposing every day the flower of its people to death and for whom the issue is a quick end to this War; we owe it to our people; we owe it to our Allies, and in taking that course the Government will have, not the support of the House of Commons only, but it will have the support to the end, of the whole of the people of this country when they determine that no power which is in their hands will be left unused to bring at the earliest moment this terrible conflict to an end.
§ Mr. HODGE
I am sure the moving appeal of the Prime Minister will not fall upon deaf ears. Some of us, I think, quite agree with the words used by the Leader of the Opposition that either strikes or lock-outs in this great national crisis that is upon us are inconceivable. Many of us have done our very best to bring home to the workers generally that a cessation of work, even under the greatest amount of exasperation, ought to be the last thing they should resort to, that they ought to remember that it is their sons, their brothers, their comrades who are at the front and who are upon the scene who may suffer as the result of this cessation of work. I am not the least bit concerned about allocating blame as to who is right, or who is wrong. If one person commits a wrong it does not wipe it out for someone 610 else to commit a further wrong, and my hope is that the Prime Minister's statement to-day and the promise contained in it the Government will see that justice is done, will bring conviction to the mind of the workers all over the country. At the very beginning I was convinced, not only of the justice of our taking part in this War, but I was also convinced of its expediency, and as time has gone on I have been more and more convinced in my own mind of the justice of our cause, and my hope is that the country as a whole will see to it that the Government are backed up to the very uttermost in seeing that when victory does prevail the dangers of a return of such a horrible war as we are now engaged in will be almost a thing of the past. I therefore only desire, so far as I and my colleagues are concerned, to endorse the very moving appeal that the Prime Minister has made.
§ Lord CHARLES BERESFORD
I wish to ask the Prime Minister two questions. As this is the first case, in the whole history of all the ages, that a nation through its Government has declared that it is going to attack another country by methods which he has called piracy and sea-murder, will he tell the House that all those who are caught in this practice shall be interned in a different place from all other prisoners, whether they are officers or men, and that after the War is over they shall be tried for murder? The other question I should like to ask is, Does not the statement of the President of the Board of Trade rather conflict with the Prime Minister's statement that everything is going to be stopped going in and out of Germany? The President of the Board of Trade has told the House that under licence we can get aniline dyes from Germany.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
I was not aware that my right hon. Friend had made that statement. Perhaps the Noble Lord will renew his question. With regard to the first point, I do not like at this moment to make any definite pledge, but I think we shall have to take into serious consideration what is the status according to international law of persons engaged in this practice.
§ Lord ROBERT CECIL
I want to make one observation about the sums of money that we are raising. They are enormous. No one grudges them; everyone thinks they are right; but I hope and trust that that money is not being unnecessarily 611 wasted, because, after all, we have to face the fact that every penny of it means a draft upon the resources of the country. We are bound to economise and husband those resources to the utmost of our power, consistently with efficiency. I should like to give the Committee one or two illustrations of the kind of thing in my mind. A friend of mine told me the other day that his garden was required, I think for officers' quarters, and the authority who came to get the garden apologised to him for giving him less than £100. My friend told me that the value of the garden was certainly not more than £25, and that was all that he ultimately accepted. The use of ships is another illustration of what I mean. Or take the question of billeting. I do not want to say anything harsh about it, but really 3s. 4d. a day comes to 23s. or 24s. a week, and really it is excessive in many districts as a payment for billeting. Or take what was mentioned in a question to-day, and has been mentioned in the papers this morning—the waste of food.
We do not gain in efficiency by merely spending money. The thing is to spend it properly and efficiently. I am glad to have the opportunity of making these observations in the presence of the Prime Minister, who, I hope, will see to it that that aspect of the question is not lost sight of, because it is really a serious matter. I do not want to make more than a passing reference to the question of the Meyer contract, but there again we should be glad if the Prime Minister will personally see that that is not an extravagant transaction. I do not know whether it is or not, but I shall be glad to know that it was not. I cannot help feeling in reading some of the newspapers that it is a little unfortunate at a moment when there is a dispute going on about wages we should be told in some of the leading newspapers that this House is wasting its time in examining into the profits of a great contractor. We are not wasting time. We are entitled to inquire into these things, and in doing so we are performing a patriotic duty.
I do not wish to say anything about the dispute on the Clyde more than this: I know nothing about the details; I agree with everything that the Prime Minister and the hon. Member (Mr. Hodge) have said upon the subject. I want to say how greatly some of us appreciate the attitude which the labour leaders have 612 taken throughout this crisis. I read a speech by the hon. Member for Derby (Mr. J. H. Thomas) in this morning's paper which is worthy of recognition by this Committee as a fine specimen of the patriotic conception of his duty by a public man. When the leaders of the working men have acted in this way, and the working men for the most part have thoroughly backed them up, we ought in this House to say that we will see to it that they shall not suffer wrong in the circumstances, and that if any of their rules have to be relaxed to meet this great national contingency, at the end of the War we will take great care that they are put in exactly the same position as they were before.
We were told in the very eloquent speech which was reported in this morning's paper, and I agree with it most fully, that the people of this country have not yet quite appreciated the seriousness of the crisis in which we are engaged. That is true. Anybody who has been in France, and particularly in Paris, cannot fail to feel the difference in atmosphere between the two countries. Do not let us put all the blame on the man in the street. There was a great agitation a little time ago against football matches. It was said to be a shocking thing that they should go on during the War. Very little was said about race meetings. It seems to me that the two are on exactly the same footing. I read a solemn reproof of working men because they bothered about wages at this moment, and then I read an announcement that Ascot is to be held this year as usual. That is a deplorable thing, and I trust that the Prime Minister will see that, at any rate, that decision is reconsidered. We hear a great deal about the evils of drink, and nobody feels more on that subject than I do, but I see that the restaurants all over this city are open just the same, as usual. There is quite a different state of things in France. When I was there they were all closed at 9.30 in the evening.
If you are going to make a great demand, as you ought to make a demand, upon the whole people to devote the whole of their energies to meeting this great national crisis, that demand ought to be made equally on all classes, whether they are rich or whether they are poor. For my part I regret very much to talk about "business as usual." It is great nonsense to talk about business as usual. I regret very much the speeches of Ministers in which 613 they have talked about "business as usual during alterations to the map of Europe." A more unfortunate phrase was never used. Business ought not to be carried on as usual; it ought to be carried on entirely with a view to the crisis in which we find ourselves. I regard in the same way all the talk about capturing the trade of foreign countries. It may be right or it may be wrong, but at the present moment we ought to have our minds concentrated on the great issue. If you are to have concentration, the first and most essential filing is that you should tell the people the truth. You cannot expect them to realise the seriousness of the situation unless you tell them the truth. I do not say that secrecy for strategical reasons is not right, but the secrecy which keeps from people unpleasant news has been overdone in a most disgusting way during the present War. The Chancellor of the Exchequer talked about the folly ofMollycoddling John Bull.I quite agree it is a great folly and a great danger. We all know the most celebrated instance, which we were not allowed to mention even in this House without a smile. We all know of the great battleship that was lost off the coast of Ireland; we all know that accounts of it appeared in the German papers and the American papers, and that pictures of it going down appeared in the American papers, yet nothing was allowed to be said about it in public. That was a most deplorable mistake and it is cutting at the root of the confidence of the country in the statements that are made about the War. I deeply regret it. It is not the only instance. We see by letters which have since appeared in the Press that only the other day one of our trenches was blown up, and I suppose captured, and we suffered considerable loss. Not a word of it appeared in the official statement. Why not? You cannot keep from the Germans the fact that they have blown up an English trench. You are not going in any way to aid the enemy by giving a full account of what they have done to us.
§ Lord ROBERT CECIL
The hon. Member thinks it was mentioned in one of the dispatches. If that is so, I apologise to the Committee for having said it was not, but I have no recollection of seeing it. It does not matter whether I am wrong 614 about that particular illustration, because the Committee knows quite well that many other illustrations might be given of that sort of thing. It is a deplorable circumstance, and I cannot understand why the Government have taken up this attitude in the matter. It seems utterly wrong. It is not true to say that everything is going perfectly all right, and that we have nothing to fear. How can you expect the man in the street to realise the seriousness of the situation if you print nothing; in the newspapers except British or Allied successes, if every defeat is ignored or minimised or is to me made into nothing at all, or if some losses that we suffer are deliberately concealed? I see the Prime Minister shakes his head. I shall be delighted to hear that what everybody said was untrue. Does the right hon. Gentleman say that the battleship was never lost?
§ Lord ROBERT CECIL
I thought not. If we are to expect the country to realise the full seriousness of the situation we must take them fully into our confidence and tell them exactly how things stand. No one suggests there is anything of which to be afraid. We are faced with a task of enormous gravity which will tax our resources to the uttermost. With the efforts we are making and which we shall put forward I confidently believe that we shall win, but it is folly to treat the matter as if the struggle were already won, or that Germany is starving and that our troops are marching from victory to victory That is not the true state of things at all. We are struggling, and struggling desperately. Until we realise that, it is not possible to expect people to make the sacrifices which, undoubtedly, will be necessary in order to bring the War to a successful conclusion. The same thing is true about Parliament. We are desperately anxious to be allowed to concentrate our whole efforts on the one subject which is of vital importance at the present moment.
I would ask the Committee to consider what it is we have before us. We are very confident, we know we are tremendously powerful, that we have suffered nothing from the War, and that we are certain that our arms are going to be successful. But everyone of these opinions is held with equal confidence by the people in Berlin at the present time. Nothing is more striking than the accounts which reach one privately of the slate of 615 things in Berlin now. We read about the shortage of bread and all the rest of it. I agree with what was said by the Chancellor of the Exchequer yesterday on that subject—that the eating of potatoe bread was a fine testimony to the feeling and temperament of the German people. It is adopted at present, according to private advices which reach me, not because there is any real, immediate shortage at the moment, but as a precautionary measure to enable them to face whatever eventualities may come upon them in the long run. The German people, the German Navy, the German methods of warfare are deplorable, scandalous, barbarous, or any word you like. The courage of the German soldier is second to none. The way he is fighting is as great in its way as the way in which our troops are fighting. Do not underrate the adversary with whom you have to deal; do not minimise the struggle that is before us; but let all, whether rich or poor, whether Government or people, be prepared to make the necessary sacrifices in order to bring this great enterprise to a successful conclusion.
Mr. TYSON WILSON
I heard the Prime Minister say that the terms of a conference had been arranged with regard to the Clyde dispute, and that a matter of a farthing or farthings must not be allowed to cause a cessation of work. That is not surprising seeing what the farthing is in that country. I want to bring the matter nearer home. We have at Woolwich Arsenal now a mass of seething discontent among the men, particularly among those taken on recently. I am told that men who were taken on last week have been asked to accept a farthing an hour less than the trade rate paid by employers outside. Instead of being offered a farthing an hour less at a Government workshop the Government ought to be prepared to give them a farthing an hour more than the rate paid outside. If representations are made to the Government—I believe they are going to be made by the men—I hope the Government will give not only sympathetic consideration to the matter, but immediate instructions that the men taken on must be paid at the rate which is paid by employers outside. If you want work done well, you want a contented set of workmen. A contented set of workmen is one of the best assets the Government could have in getting 616 proper equipment for the War. I hope the Government will give the matter their serious consideration.
§ Mr. T. M. HEALY
I think the Government are entitled, on an occasion when the largest Vote that has ever been asked for is proposed from the Chair, not merely to the tacit but to the open support of Members from that one of the three Kingdoms which is poorest in money and in resources. I heard with unbounded satisfaction every word which fell from the Prime Minister, and I shall vote with cheerfulness and alacrity for the sum of money he demands. I especially welcome the way in which he dealt with the suggestion of intermeddling peace cackle. I think that was the gravamen of the remarks he made. Nothing crystallises the opinion of the House of Commons more than the statement that now, after seven months of war, we are as determined as we were when we began. Furthermore, this War is not a war of the Ministry, it is not a war of the Liberal party, it is not a war of the Conservative party; it is the War of the House of Commons and the War of the nation.
While I endorse entirely the proposed methods of reprisal which the Government has announced, I think that at times there are incidents which we read of in official reports which should be noticed by the Government, with a view of, if possible, of mitigating the asperities of war. I refer especially to an incident described by the Eye-Witness of the Government at the front with regard to the action of a German officer who, in bringing drink to a wounded British soldier, in a most gallant manner met his death by a chance shot, to the great regret, as was stated, of the entire British Army. I think incidents like that should be noticed officially by the Government, either by the release of some German prisoners now in captivity in these Islands or else by some communication made through a nentral Power to the German Government that we are prepared, when this War is over, if we can find the name of the family to which this officer belongs, in some way to recognise the fact that this man met his death in this gallant, noble, and Christian manner. There is only one other remark I desire to make. We are providing cheerfully and readily enormous sums for the service of the State. In Ireland we feel strongly that adequate provision has not been made with regard to naval chaplains. 617 Lord Kitchener has met in an admirable manner the demand put forth on behalf of Catholic clergymen, and I am well aware that shore chaplains in sufficiency have been provided by the State. But seagoing chaplains have not been provided, and I certainly think, when we are voting such enormous sums of money for belligerent purposes, we are entitled to say that this provision which the soldiers are getting at the front should in equal measure be provided in the Navy. The Government are, in the course of their economies, announcing various retrenchments in the Irish Service. I do not complain of that, provided there is an equivalent retrenchment all round. It would be unfair if it were otherwise. I regret, for instance, the withdrawal from the National Library of Ireland of the £2,000 for books, but provided a similar retrenchment is effected in England and Scotland we can make no objection. At any rate, we shall on the proper occasion have a right of comparison in this matter. I sit down assuring the Government that, in my opinion, the steps they tave taken throughout this War, so far as I have been able to judge them, have been efficient and practical, and, having watched their actions critically, I must say I feel thoroughly satisfied that the efficient administration, both of the Marine and Military Services, as been effected by His Majesty's advisers.
Mr. MacCALLUM SCOTT
The Noble Lord opposite (Lord Robert Cecil) made a very feeling and moving speech. But there was one unfortunate passage in it. It would be unfortunate if it were to go out to the world that we were in possession in the House of information which was not given to the country at large, and which the Admiralty had deemed undesirable to make public. I do not think it was the Noble Lord's intention to suggest that Members of this House have information which the Admiralty have designedly withheld, or that we are in the position to convey to the public information which is not permitted to be conveyed by any other vehicle or organ than this House. I rather think the purpose of the Noble Lord's remark was to ask for information, rather than to convey it, upon a subject which has been mentioned in various ways.
§ Lord ROBERT CECIL
The hon. Member correctly represents what I desired. But the news to which I did refer has, in fact, been made public in this country.
Mr. MacCALLUM SCOTT
I have no idea, at any rate, which of the various rumours, if any, is true, or whether there is any foundation at all for them. No doubt, reports of various kinds have appeared in both the American and the German Press. But we have reason to know that these rumours are not always accurate. For instance, there were very-precise and definite statements in the German papers with regard to what had happened to His Majesty's ship "Lion," and we all know that those statements were not accurate. I take it that the Admiralty in withholding information are actuated by the belief that, by so doing, they leave the enemy in doubt as to what has really happened. If the Admiralty believe it is desirable to take that course, I think it would be very unfortunate for Members of this House to press them with regard to such subjects.
§ Mr. W. THORNE
I want to make a reference to that part of the Prime Minister's speech in which the right hon. Gentleman suggested that employers and workmen should try to settle their grievances without resorting to the unfortunate method of striking. So far as I am concerned I hold up both hands for the Vote the Government are now asking for, and if they come to us with a demand for still another Vote, they will have my support, because I have made up my mind that, whatever money the Government wants in order to carry the War to a successful issue shall be granted to them. On the other hand, so far as organised labour is concerned, I do not think the Government have any reason to complain at all. The union which I represent, before the War commenced, had a membership of about 140,000, and over 20,000 of the members have joined the Colours; as a matter of fact, in some of our branches as many as 75 per cent. of the men have joined. Taking organised workers as a whole throughout the country, I do not think I am exaggerating when I state that over 200,000 workmen belonging to the different trade unions have already enlisted. On an average about 10 per cent. of the total membership have joined, and, therefore, I think, from a trade union standpoint, the Government has absolutely no cause of complaint at all.
But I hold there is a duty devolving on the Government as well as on the men. Personally I do not say the Government have done all they could do. They ought, in the first place, to put their own house 619 in order. There are some thousands of employés who are working in the various Government Departments for very low wages who have had absolutely no increase whatever. There are many women working in the Post Office who have been taken on as auxiliaries to do certain work hitherto done by men, and they are doing it efficiently for about £1 per week less than was paid to the men who have joined the Colours. It seems to me that in cases like that the Government should have no hesitation at all in increasing the wages of those employés, in view of the rapid rise in the cost of food-stuffs—a rise which bears very heavily indeed upon the London population.
The Government can, I think, help us in many ways. My own union, for instance, or other organisations, may make representation to firms engaged in the manufacture of munitions of war. In one case such a firm has offered a very scanty advance. What are we to do? Are we to advise the men to accept it for the time being, and then, when we have advised a settlement, find the employers ignoring us altogether? I must say that, so far as my own union is concerned, we have not had the slightest difficulty with our members. At an early stage of the War we closed down every strike, and, in some cases, the men returned to work on conditions which were worse than those which obtained when they went out. I have another instance. At Stowmarket there are men working under most dangerous conditions. The munitions of war made in those works are of a most dangerous character, and I read of one explosion in which hundreds of men were blown up, the remains of some never being found. These men are working under these conditions at a rate of about 5d. or 5½d. per hour. This week the firm has come along and offered them, 2s. in some cases and in other cases only 1s., on the condition that they make a 54½-hour week. If a man loses a single quarter of an hour during the week he is not to get the increase.
What are we to do under conditions like that? Are we to advise the men to accept them? Certainly after what the Prime Minister just said, we will advise them to do it for the time being, but I would suggest that the Government itself might see if it cannot bring pressure to bear upon this particular firm. I am informed it is not now a question of contracts. In many cases it is simply a question, "Present 620 your bill and we will pay it." The Government have already agreed to make good to a very large extent the concessions that have been made by various railway companies in different parts of the country, which means that men receiving less than 30s. are to get an advance of 3s., and those earning more than 30s. an advance of 2s. If the Government could persuade the employers of labour in all parts of the country to make a similar advance I should have no hesitation in saying that, for the remaining period of the War, unless food-stuffs go up further in price, the men to a very great extent would be satisfied.
There has been a great deal of talk in the newspapers and among train and tram passengers about the unpatriotic manner in which the men on the Clyde have viewed the situation. May I remind the Committee that not only on the Clyde, but the Tyne and throughout the North-East Coast, men have been working from sixty to ninety hours a week; that they have been subject to this physical strain for four or five weeks at a stretch, and that therefore it is impossible to keep good time all along? They are bound to lose time, and in these trades we find that, in consequence of the heavy strain, our members are more liable to sickness. In consequence of increased sickness the cost has been greater. I know that at Grantham men have been working sixty, seventy, and even ninety hours a week. I say it is a physical impossibility for men to work under such conditions, and the country should understand the conditions under which the men have been working. At any rate, so far as the majority of workmen are concerned, I feel certain that they will take the advice of the Prime Minister, and also the advice which the Chancellor of the Exchequer gave in the speech which he delivered on Saturday last. I think if the labour leaders advise the men to refer all these matters to the Arbitration Committee an effort should be made to speed up their consideration so that early decisions will be given. There is nothing more irritating to men than to have to wait for decisions.
May I remind the House that this Committee is not giving satisfaction as regards its composition? I think there ought to be at least two Labour Members on the Committee. I admit that Sir G. Askwith is a good man and that he has done some good work in connection with labour disputes, but it is impossible for him to understand all the technicalities in connection with the 621 different questions which will come up from time to time. There is not a single representative of organised labour on the Committee. Why should we not have at least two Members on the Committee? If men do not want to work, what powers have you at your command to make them do so? In my opinion you will have to satisfy the men that their claims will be properly considered. I believe that compulsory arbitration is coming along. Compulsory arbitration has been voted down by organised labour many times. I do not think you will get the men to accept compulsory arbitration. I know that we are living under military law. There are always spies at meetings, and if we advise men to come out on strike we will have to take the risk of being brought before a court-martial. I would suggest that the Government should start by giving an advance of wages to those who have not had an advance, and in that way give a good example to employers who have not advanced wages. You may talk about pig-headed workmen, but it should be remembered that there are pigheaded employers as well. If employers would adopt reasonable terms, we will get the workmen to act more reasonably than some of them seem to do at present. The Government have power to put an end to the exploiting methods of shipowners, and I think they should put their power into operation. The men who are in the coal trade should not blame the workmen. I hope the Government will do their duty to the workmen, and endeavour to see that they get reasonable conditions as regards the hours of labour and wages.
§ Mr. OUTHWAITE
The Prime Minister has pointed out that he was asking sums of money for the purposes of the War which are unprecedented. When these sums are being asked, it is strange that there should be no representative of the War Office present to answer questions that may arise on that statement. I wish to say a word or two in support of the views expressed by the last speaker. The Prime Minister appealed for the patriotism of the workers. The Chancellor of the Exchequer in his speech in Wales used similar language, and suggested that drastic steps would have to be taken. These statements arise out of the cessation of work at Clydebank. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer said we would have to introduce drastic temperance legislation to meet this difficulty. I wish to point out that the 622 patriotism of the workers is greater under the stress of to-day than we might have been inclined to anticipate. I wish to deal with the conditions of housing at Clyde-bank. We know that the men there are working long hours, and we know also of the tremendous strain that is being put upon them in the shipbuilding yards. According to a statement which has appeared in the "Times," the workmen, so far from being able to work longer hours, are overcome by the work they are at present undertaking.
There has been a Local Government Board inquiry into the conditions of housing at Clydebank. I wish to give the House a few of the facts which were brought out at that inquiry. I find that in one ward of the borough the population density is 615 per acre. I find that there are 599 habitations per acre, 69 per cent. of the population are living at the rate of more than two persons per room, 28.2 per cent. more than three, and 14.8 more than four persons per room. I am surprised at the patriotism of men who are forced to live under such conditions as these. It seems to me that they have little interest in the country. The point I wish to make is this. We have had this enormous increase of expenditure foreshadowed, and we are undoubtedly going to have increased taxation in the future. I trust the Government will not proceed on the lines already adopted in the levying of taxation, because I hold that the labour unrest which is springing up in certain directions is due largely to the methods of taxation adopted by the Government. In Glasgow there has been an increase of cottage rents, and that is due largely to the increased taxation levied under the Income Tax.
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Maclear)
I think the hon. Member is going far outside the limits allowed for discussion on this Vote.
§ Mr. OUTHWAITE
The point I wish to make is that these men who are striking find that the cost of living has increased. I may point out that it is due to the methods of taxation adopted by the Government in connection with the Income Tax. Under one of the Schedules the tax falls in part on cottages, and the owners of the cottages are passing on the tax to the tenants, from whom they are asking larger rents.
§ Mr. OUTHWAITE
I must bow to your ruling, but I hope that when inquiry is made into this matter the Committee will go into all the economic causes for the increased cost of living.
§ Question put, and agreed to.