§ Order read for resuming adjourned Debate on Question [6th May] "That the Bill be now read a second time."—[Mr. Lloyd George.]
§ Question again proposed. Debate resumed.
§ Mr. LEIF JONES
In introducing this Bill to the House the Chancellor of the Exchequer said that he proposed to take powers limited to the period of the War, because he did not wish to raise any issue beyond that. In offering a few remarks to the House on the Second Reading of the Bill, I propose to treat it as a purely temporary measure to meet any emergency arising out of the War, and I say to the House and the Government that that character must be preserved in the Bill if our discussion is not to be lost in the shoals of ancient controversy. The licensing question is the most or among the most difficult of all questions which this House has to consider. It is one on which the House is exceedingly well informed. It is one on which the House is hotly divided, both in opinion and on matters of principle. It has always seemed impossible to me that the House could deal in any satisfactory way with this question when we are in the 1370 middle of a great War. Therefore the Government have acted wisely in introducing a purely emergency measure. The House will know that I approach this measure with preconceived opinions. I do not stand alone in that respect, because it is very difficult to find in any quarter of the House an hon. Member who has not pretty well made up his mind on the question dealt with in this Bill. The charge has been frequently levelled against the temperance organisations in this country that this Bill has been introduced by the Government in obedience to representations received from those societies. The agitation which has had its outcome in the Bill now before the House did not emanate from the organised temperance forces in this country. The movement which led to the Bill had its origin in the experience of the great employers of labour on the Clyde and on the Tyneside, and in many other parts of the country. It is they who approached the Government on this subject, it is their experience of trying to turn out Government work which led them to make representations to the Government, and it is they who, in the first instance, brought the question into the prominence which it now occupies. If I may offer a criticism I would say that we have not been too much consulted in this country but, if anything, too little consulted.
As to the evil with which the Bill deals I was very glad to hear the Leader of the Opposition say in his speech the other day that he did not join, in the attacks which were made upon the Chancellor of the Exchequer for having raised this question, and he did not join in the criticism of those who said that to refer to this matter was to make an onslaught on the workers of this country. It is not the enemies of labour who are convinced of the great evil in this country. I speak on temperance platforms, and my frequent companions have been the Leader of the Labour party in this House the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Barnard Castle Division (Mr. Arthur Henderson), the hon. Member for Blackburn (Mr. Snowden), the hon. Member for Leicester (Mr. Ramsay Macdonald) and the hon. Member for Barrow (Mr. C. Duncan). Those are the men who have been educating the country for years as to the effect of the drink evil in this country on the efficiency of the workers. So long ago as 1834, this House appointed a Select Committee to go into the question of 1371 drunkenness in this country, and I would venture to read to the House a short quotation from the Report of that Select Committee, which was received by the House in 1834. The Report said that among the evils found—The loss of productive labour in every department of occupation to the extent of at least one day in six throughout the Kingdom (as testified by witnesses engaged in various manufacturing operations), by which the wealth of the country, created as it is chiefly by labour, is retarded or suppressed to the extent of one million out of every six that is produced; to say nothing of the constant derangement, imperfection and destruction in every agricultural and manufacturing process, occasioned by the intemperance and consequent unskilfulness, inattention and neglect of those affected by intoxication, producing great injury to our domestic and foreign trade.That was eighteen years ago, but there is no year which has passed since then in which those words, found by that Committee of this House, were not true, and is it not now significant that that Commission in 1834 recommended as the remedy the total prohibition of spirits and that the Leader of the Opposition who received the Report was Mr. Daniel O'Connell? It is a curious illustration of history repeating itself.
§ Mr. WATSON RUTHERFORD
May I ask if we are to discuss the whole of the temperance question? If so, it will take many weeks.
It would be as well to point out to the House what the title of the Bill is. It is the Defence of the Realm Bill. I think that sufficiently indicates what is the subject before the House.
§ Mr. LEIF JONES
I have read beyond the title of the Bill, and as far as I have read it deals wholly with the question of drink and its effect upon I the production of the workers of this country. I think that in reminding the House that we are not dealing with the new evil I am not irrelevant. The point I was making is that with regard to the facts in the White Paper, startling as they are—some of my hon. Friends say they are incorrect—at any rate similar facts and similar reports have been issued, not by Government officials, year after year, and there is nothing startling or very new in the statement that drink interferes greatly with the efficiency and productive power of the workers of this country. But there is this to be said about the present evil with which we are dealing. It is undoubtedly intensified by special causes during the War. In the first place, you have taken on in the shipyards 1372 and munition areas numbers of men who would not be very readily taken on in time of peace. There is a very great demand for labour, very difficult to find, and men are finding jobs to-day at high wages who would have the utmost difficulty in getting jobs in peace time and who would very likely lose their places even if they got the jobs, so that you are dealing with an evil in a particularly intensified form in the cases of these unsteady men, who would very likely not be employed in time of peace. In the second place, the wages paid are exceptionally high at present. These men are earning very large wages who earn very low wages in ordinary times, and, again, it is a commonplace of the movement that whenever you have a great increase of wages you have, unfortunately, an increase in the drinking of a certain section of the people. It is no use abusing these men, and laying all the blame upon them. I have had a resolution sent to me that what we ought to do is to treat these men as convicts and as traitors for getting drink when they ought to be rapidly turning out munitions of war. It is not by heaping punishment upon these men who over-indulge that you are going to solve your problem. What we have to do—and the Government has seen it very clearly—is to change the conditions under which these men live and work, and to that end, as I understand, the Government are proposing to take over, in the munitions area, the whole control of the liquor traffic.
I am sorry they have elected to act locally instead of nationally. I think some of the difficulties which they have met with and some of the charges which are made, that they are attacking particular workmen and laying a particular burden upon certain sections, would not have been made against them had they decided that, in order to have a maximum output in the munitions area, the country should lay upon itself a self-denying ordinance, and in order to help these people themselves submit to any restrictions which may be necessary in these particular areas. I think, had the Government acted nationally, they might have found their difficulties less. Moreover, the drinking of the men in the munitions area is not the only problem arising. There is the drinking of the women and there is the drinking which is going on among convalescent soldiers who have nothing to do, and who are being kindly treated, as it is said, though unkindly in reality, by having 1373 opportunities for drinking freely given them by friends, and all this would have been met better by national action than by local action. I am not going to say that the country is at present ripe for prohibition—I do not know whether it is or not—but the country is ripe for whatever steps may be held to be necessary by the Government for dealing with evils arising out of the liquor traffic. The country has not grudged any powers for which the Government as a whole has asked for dealing with this or any other question, and I very much regret that the Government have-not put into the Bill, and I appeal to my right hon. Friend whether he cannot even now put into the Bill general regulations as to the hours of drinking throughout the country. He would immensely strengthen this Bill in public estimation if he were to prohibit the opening of public houses throughout the country in the early morning. A great deal of the worst drinking that is going on throughout the country is done before breakfast. I confidently look forward to the right hon. Gentleman and the Government, when their Bill is passed, putting an end to the state of things in the munitions areas. I have myself seen the drinking on Tyneside before breakfast, at six o'clock in the morning, just when the buzzer goes at the Elswick factory, and however extreme you may regard my opinion as being, no one can defend the drinking of raw spirits in the early mornings before the men go to their day's work.
My right hon. Friend told us that the prohibition of spirits was the alternative method to the taxation of spirits. But taxation of spirits has gone, and I urge upon him that he should consider seriously whether the prohibition of spirits should not be put into this Bill. I commend to him the example of our Allies on the Continent. They have proceeded by way of prohibition. I do not say by total prohibition. No one believes more than I do that you cannot enforce prohibition beyond the limits of public opinion; but public opinion would support a strong measure of prohibition in regard to hours, and in regard to the classes of liquor; and I still ask my right hon. Friend whether it is too late to put in some general provisions for the whole of the country, instead of leaving the question to be wholly solved by local action. However, the Government have elected to deal solely by localities. They are going to take action in particular areas. There is nothing in the Bill to tell 1374 us what those areas are to be, and I do not know how far the Government have really considered or determined what the areas should be. They must be very large areas if they are to deal effectively with the evil on Tyneside or any similar places, because if you have small areas you will intensify the evil which you are fighting—irregularity of work—by compelling the workmen to go a certain distance further for their drink. I hope the Government intend to use their power in a prohibitory direction in these areas. I was glad to hear the words used by the Chancellor of the Exchequer that the intention is to close part of the houses in these areas, where the great evils of drinking are caused. Every worker in these neighbourhoods will be able to point out to the Government authorities which are these particular houses, and certainly the police authorities will know them. The Government can then act upon that information. The Government also intend to supply proper refreshments in the munition areas; that intention has-been indicated by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. Such a course seems to me an eminently desirable step, and I can only wonder that in these great factories where they are turning out Government munitions of war they have not long ago insisted that proper provisions should be made for the refreshment of the men in the intervals of their work. I should have thought that there was already sufficient power in the Defence of the Realm Act to enable that to be done. I shall not carry the House with me in the view I am about to express, but when you are introducing all these measures in order to prevent drinking, it seems to me a little inconsistent that the Government should be very anxious to take powers to supply drink inside the works. I think they may find that that particular part of their scheme will not make for the better work that they desire. Leaving that question on one side, it is eminently to be desired that good food, hot coffee, tea, and soups, and counter attractions to drinking in the public-houses should be provided inside the works, or close to the factories where the men are employed.
The Government are facing this great evil with a determination to reduce drinking, and I press upon them that the way to do that is by the limitation of the facilities for obtaining drink. That is the remedy which the temperance organisations of this country have always offered 1375 for the drink evil. Speaking as a member of those organisations, I should like to say that our opinion ought not to be brushed aside as that of fanatical and rabid teetotalers. I notice that teetotalers are seldom spoken of in this House without one of those epithets. I think the Hosse is hardly entitled to brush aside our experience of the last seventy or eighty years, and the information which the societies have been gathering through their work during that period. These societies have concentrated their attention upon the very problem which is now engaging the attention of this House, and whether you agree with their conclusions or not, at any rate, without prejudging this question, when it is necessary instantly to deal with the problem, the House would do well not to disregard wholly the experience of the temperance workers throughout the land during the last seventy or eighty years. The House might very well bestow a passing glance upon the remedies proposed by these temperance organisations. The unanimous conclusion—perhaps unanimous is too strong a term to use in regard to any question—or I might say the conclusion, mainly reached by these societies is that the limitation of the facilities for obtaining drink is the only real method of preventing the drunkenness involved in the problem which we have to solve. Increase of facilities mean increase of drinking; diminution of facilities means decreased drinking and decreased drunkenness. I wish the Chancellor of the Exchequer every success in this effort to deal with this great evil. I hope that he will remember that this Bill is of a purely temporary nature, as he has said in his speeches, and that he will take no steps in the interim period which will prejudge a settlement of the licensing question at the end of the War. That would not facilitate the passing of this measure, and I do not think it would meet the wishes of anyone of us.
I think we have all reached the conclusion that what we want to deal with is a temporary emergency; that we want to deal with it quickly, and that we do not want to prejudge any of the questions which divide us in ordinary times. There is, however, in the Bill a phrase which implies that there may be a permanent purchase of the trade in certain areas. I think that is to be deprecated. Any purchasing that may be done should be for the period of the War, and no longer. If 1376 the Bill goes further than that the Government might accept Amendments which will make it perfectly clear that the object is to deal with a temporary emergency and that the Bill does not go beyond that. There is a large section of the community which would object strongly to anything like public ownership of the liquor trade after the War is over. This is no time to settle disputes of that character. We are putting aside our personal opinions in dealing with many problems during the War, and that implies on all hands, and especially on the part of the Government, respect for all those opinions, and that no attempt should be made to prejudge the issue after the War is over. Subject to those indications, seeing the measure is a purely temporary one, I would urge upon the Government, if they can grant it, that there should be a general provision for the whole country which will give us some restriction of the liquor trade, and will apply to all alike. I ask further that in these munition areas they should take prohibitory action, and not complicate affairs by endeavouring to supply liquor themselves.
My right hon. Friend (Mr. Lloyd George) murmured an aside to me a moment ago which seemed to indicate that he thought I was rather ungrateful to him in making any criticisms of this Bill at all. I can assure him that I am deeply grateful to him for the efforts he has made upon this question. I give him my warmest thanks and admiration for the courage with which he has dealt with this most difficult question. It is no pleasant task, and no man knows it better than he does, to tell a nation of its failings, but I think the Chancellor of the Exchequer need not be afraid that he has lost anything by his straight speech upon this question. What the nation is asking from its leaders to-day is clear vision, straight speaking, and strong action. Any criticism that I have felt obliged to address to the House has only been with the object of stating that while I recognise the clearness of the Chancellor of the Exchequer's vision and the straightness of his speaking to the people, I think the Bill is hardly adequate to the speeches which led up to it. I think the Government may find themselves obliged to go further on this question than they have gone in this particular Bill. They cannot draw back. Drink is the proved enemy of the strength and efficiency of the people of this country, and the nation, which has given to the Govern- 1377 ment boundless and encouraging confidence in all the measures against our foreign foes, expects that the Government will deal as strongly and as effectively with the enemy within our gates.
§ Mr. W. O'BRIEN
On a point of Order. I thought that the Chancellor of the Exchequer might have shortened this discussion by making an announcement similar to that made in the newspapers on Saturday. Am I to understand from your ruling that it would be out of order to discuss that announcement on the Debate for the Second Reading of this Bill; if so, I would like to know whether the Resolutions passed in Ways and Means the other night will have to be rescinded before the new Resolutions can be introduced?
In reference to the question raised by the hon. Member, I understand that the general discussion on the financial question is to be resumed in Committee on Wednesday, and that will be the occasion for any announcement in regard to this particular matter.
§ Mr. JAMES HOPE
I desire to say a few words on this Bill now, solely for the purpose of saving possible trouble in Committee. Such trouble, I think, would be saved if the Chancellor of the Exchequer were in a position to say rather more clearly than he has yet done something as to the areas to which he will, and, what is more important still, the areas to which he will not, extend this Bill. I think that a great deal of feeling will be saved, if it is possible—it may not be possible—to make such a statement to-day. In the second place, I think that a proposal of this kind should not be applied without some kind of local inquiry. I quite understand that it may be impossible to have a local inquiry in each area before the measure is applied; but I do think that even when it is applied there ought to be some power for that neighbourhood, whether through its proper local authorities or otherwise, to represent the need of a local inquiry, and that the local inquiry should then take place. I would ask the right hon. Gentleman before the Committee stage to give those points his attention, and if he can arrive at something which will meet these points a certain amount of trouble here, and a great deal of heart-burning elsewhere, will be saved. We have to regard the question as a whole, and I do not think that I am going beyond the bounds of order in saying that this is not the only measure which the Government have in view for increasing 1378 the provisions of munitions of war. It is just about two months ago since the Secretary of State for War made a very important announcement referring to the kind of measure which the House is now considering. But he also distinctly announced a policy of division of war profits among those who work to create those profits.
§ Mr. J. HOPE
I would ask the right hon. Gentleman and other Members of the Government whether they cannot see their way to make some announcement on this matter so that those who are responsible for it in this House may know that the Government is in earnest in the intention to give effect to it.
I desire to say a word in reference to the statements that have been made as to the position of the working people in this country who are employed in the production of ammunition and in shipbuilding. I take it that the object of this Bill is to speed, up the production of ammunition and everything that is necessary to a successful conclusion of the War. So far as the members of this party are concerned, there will be no opposition whatever to this Bill. Our desire in the main is that everything possible should be done to help the Government to carry this War to a successful issue, and I think I can say, and the members of the Labour party can say with one mind, that, so far as the working people of this country are concerned, they are just as eager as any Member of this House to help towards a greater production than has ever been experienced in this country. But there has been a White Paper issued, and there have been statements made with regard to the action of working people engaged by various munition factories, and it is thought by the members of this party that our silence in these circumstances might be misunderstood. All the statements that have been made are one-sided statements. In the main they proceed from employers of labour, and also from some who have been appointed by the Government to make special inquiry into the matter. I should 1379 have thought that, before any publicity was given to statements from either of the parties mentioned, some inquiry might have been made from those who are closely identified and associated with the workers, many of whom sit as Members in this House on the Labour Benches. I should like to point out that these statements are very unfair, unjust, and one-sided.
I would put it in this way, suppose that some Member of this House were to say that there is a certain minority of Members in this House who are preventing its business from going on as it ought to do because of their intemperate habits, there would be a great deal of trouble and misunderstanding in this House. Everybody, I believe, would be wondering who these particular Members were. We might bring the illustration even to the Treasury Bench or to the Front Opposition Bench and there would be a great deal of heart searching, if any such statement were made and insisted on by some Members in this House, and by the whole of the Press, in difficult circumstances like those in which we find ourselves at the present moment. I do not wish to criticise unduly these statements made by employers in this matter, but it will be obvious to every Member that it is not right to take statements that come only from one side. Suppose, for the sake of argument, that the Members of this House who are more closely identified with the workers and the trade unions had gone about the country making a number of assertions in the matter, I think that it would be suggested in this House that our statements were necessarily biassed, and I do not suggest that there might not be some truth in that suggestion. On the other hand, surely we are entitled to allege that if these statements are made only by employers of labour, the charge of bias is equally established there, and that before these statements are thrown broadcast to the public it is only right that those more immediately identified with the sections of men who are aspersed by these statements should be consulted before these statements are made.
I will draw attention to a few facts in this matter which seem to have been entirely overlooked. In the first place, the statements are made with regard to the losing of time by these men at a particular time of the year when, as everybody 1380 knows, the outside conditions are at their worst. Everybody who understands anything about shipbuilding knows that it is all outside work. It is all done without any cover in very bad weather and stormy weather, and everybody who is familiar with shipyard work knows that hundreds of these men are laid up at a time. At the same time it is well to remember that at this season of the year there is a very large increase in the amount of sickness. There is probably a greater degree of sickness amongst the men engaged in shipyard work than in any other section. In the trade union with which I am particularly identified it may be news to the Chancellor of the Exchequer that the increase of sickness amongst these men has increased by no less than 72 per cent. It is just as well to remember that the statements made by the employers in the White Paper contain never a word as to men being laid off through bad weather—never a word from beginning to end. There is never a word as to sickness, never a word' as to the thousand and one little incidents that compel men to me off work at times—that is to say, that a man may have a death in his family, or there may be some serious cases of illness among men's families; and every man who is conversant with these things knows that there are many circumstances over which the men themselves have no control, but which compel them to leave their employment. Yet there is not a word said from beginning to end of the White Paper about these-circumstances. I do not want to minimise any evils which may attach to the workers of this country. All I can say in that connection is that, at any rate, the Members of the party with which I am associated come directly from these people.
Most of us occupy pretty high positions in the unions with which we are connected; and there is one outstanding fact which emerges, and it is that amongst the representatives of labour in this House, there is a far larger number of teetotalers than in any other section. I go further and say that so far as we on these Benches are concerned in this matter, we are not to blame. It is not many years ago that an effort was made to deal with this traffic. That effort was brought to naught in another House. I want to say, here and now, that while all the criticisms that you can bring to bear on the workpeople of this country ought to be stated in this House, yet, without casting any 1381 reflection on any section of this House, I submit that to-day we are only reaping the fruits of our own legislation. In the White Paper itself, time and again, mention is made of this fact, that where these great armament firms are situated they are surrounded by large numbers of public-houses, and I would respectfully urge that it is of no use preaching "Lead us not into temptation" whilst this House, and the whole of those who are connected with the licensing justices, for years and years, and scores of years past, have been deliberately placing temptation in the way of these people. It is the greatest piece of nonsense to allege in this House that the workpeople are responsible. It is not the workpeople; it is this House, and it must accept its full share of responsibility for what has happened in this country to-day. It is the duty of those who are connected with the Labour party not to deny any faults there may be among workmen to-day, and nobody on these benches will attempt for a moment to do that. We are anxious, if there are faults, to get those faults put right. But we say that before such statements are made, vilifying the workpeople of this country, even though it may be a small minority of them, their side of the case should be heard.
I suggest that the illustration that I have given to the Chancellor of the Exchequer will indicate to his mind that it is not right nor fair to make these charges, even though they do involve a very small minority, without giving any proofs, and without laying his case before those who are more closely identified with these people than himself. He should endeavour to obtain their assistance, and I must say they will be willing to give that assistance and to help to the best of their ability to get matters put right. It is just as well to remember, as a previous Member has said, that a large number of the best type of men that ever worked under armament firms have gone away—they have joined the Forces. The best type of men have gone, not the worst. You have taken the pick of the men for the Army. It is creditable to these men that they responded to the call, and I am not here to suggest for a moment that they should not have responded; rather, if anything, I would have encouraged those men. But I want this House to realise that a number of extra men have been started in their place. Not only is that true, but thousands more, who had never previously 1382 worked in ammunition works or shipyards, are being engaged—men totally inexperienced in this particular class of work, and men who under ordinary circumstances would probably have often found it a difficult thing to get a regular job anywhere. But there they are It may be that these circumstances explain some of the difficulties with which we are faced to-day.
But another point emerges. I do not know whether the Chancellor of the Exchequer is familiar with the conditions existing in some of these towns today. The weight which he has given to the statements made by the employers convinces me that he is not. What are these conditions? Let me take my own Constituency as an illustration. The housing problem has been bad for years in Barrow-in-Furness. How much worse must it be now that thousands and thousands more men have been dumped down into that town? The building of new houses is almost at a standstill there; new houses are not being built in such numbers as would give accommodation to these men; the result is, of course, that they have to travel miles and miles away to small places outside the constituency. They have got to rise very much earlier in the morning to travel to their work. Besides, the same statement will apply not only to Barrow-in-Furness but to Woolwich, Enfield Lock, and all the Government dockyard towns. Not only is that so, but I wonder if the Chancellor of the Exchequer knows that all the beds are on double shift, and that the men, most of them, get no kind of social intercourse, as we understand that word! Just imagine for a moment what takes place. Thousands of men are drafted into these places. Many of them have two homes now; they have left one home to go to another; they have to endeavour to make homes in strange places. These men are living in quarters where, as I have said, the beds are on double shift. The people with whom they lodge can give them no convenience at all, because as soon as they rise from their beds, instead of staying in the house, they have to get away in order to enable the people to keep the house tidy and clean.
Under these circumstances there cannot be for a moment such conditons as would enable those men to live anything like a pleasurable or comfortable life. These are the sort of difficulties which exist, and I venture to say that the statements which 1383 have been made in the. White Paper will indicate to anyone who understands shipyard work that some of the men who have been sent to make inquiries on behalf of the Government did not understand the conditions, and the Government might as well have sent a number of old grannies. This may be gathered from some of the statements made about the "Black Squad" in the White Paper. It demonstrates, if demonstration be necessary, how unwise it is to send people to make inquiries into these matters who do not know the circumstances under which the men are employed. I venture to suggest that it was the business of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, knowing that there are Members of this House who are closely identified with these workmen, who know all the circumstances of their work and their lives, who know exactly the operations they have to carry out, to approach those Members, and I am sure he would have got a good deal of light and guidance, and, before now, instead of talking about these matters, we might have had them put right, and the whole thing speeded up—a conclusion which he himself suggests he desires. In my judgment, instead of concentrating all these thousands of men into those places, the only way to secure a remedy is to spread the men and spread the work. The more concentration you bring to bear, the more difficult it is to get these men to work as you would like them to work; and not only that, but the more difficult it is for them to do the work when they are there.
I know that shouting will not shift the trouble, and I suggest that it might be wise on the part of the Government to listen to some of the speeches that have been made by the leaders of the Opposition. The Cabinet at present is just the same as it is in peace time. I have no doubt that all the Members of the Cabinet are very badly overworked; they are working overtime; but probably there is a little assistance from other parties in this House which might be very useful to them. This has been done in France and Belgium. I would suggest to the Chancellor of the Exchequer that if this complaint with regard to drinking by working men indicates anything, it indicates that the people who are responsible for making this complaint have been working too hard; they have jumped to a conclusion without making sufficient inquiry; they come forward and make a general 1384 charge, which I submit cannot be sustained, especially when one considers the peculiar circumstances existing at this particular time in the towns where all these men are gathered together. I suggest that we should have a Committee of Inquiry into the statements and allegations which have been made, and which I venture to say in this House, if we have such an inquiry, will have to be withdrawn. I believe that if this inquiry had been made before the issue of these statements in the White Paper—indeed, I have not the slightest doubt in my own mind—things would have been put right, if they were wrong, and there would have been nothing to complain about at the present moment.
I hope the Chancellor of the Exchequer will consider the suggestions we are putting forward, and that he will be good enough to appoint the Committee we ask for, because I can assure him that where you can get the good will of the workmen the day of miracles is not past, but if you once get these men soured, if you get them to feel that they are maligned, if you get them to believe that you are not dealing fairly, honestly, and justly by them—you can take a horse to the water, but you cannot make it drink—you will find that one of the qualities of the people of this country is that you can lead them but you cannot drive them. They can do those things, I understand, better in Germany, but we are not there yet, and not likely to get there. [An HON. MEMBER: "Oh, yes, we are."] I hope the Chancellor of the Exchequer will listen to the appeals that are made because I can assure him of this, that the workmen who are engaged in the production of munitions and in the production of ships are I just as anxious as he or any other man in this House to help the Government to bring this war to a successful conclusion. Believing as they do that we are involved in a war which for us is righteous and just, they are prepared to do their duty.
§ Mr. SAMUEL ROBERTS (Sheffield, Ecclesall)
The other day, when this Question was before the House, I happened to make a short speech as to the conditions which prevailed at large armament works in Sheffield. Now that the Bill has been printed I see that it is what is called an enabling Bill with nothing compulsory about it. It gives the Government power, where they are satisfied or where it seems expedient to them for the purpose of the successful prosecution 1385 of the present War, to make certain regulations with regard to the sale of liquor, and, by Order in Council, to define an area or certain areas. The point I wish to impress on the right hon. Gentleman is this: that before exercising that power to define the area he should carefully consult local opinion and the local committees. I am quite sure of this, that if the right hon. Gentleman will state to-day that it is the intention of the Government before exercising this particular power in any particular place to consult that committee, then I do not think there will be any danger of harm. But I do see a danger if the work is going on satisfactorily, as I stated to the House the other day it is in the Sheffield armament works, and where the men are working loyally for the benefit of the State, then what I say is; do not upset them, leave them alone, they are doing their work, and be very cautious what you do. If the right hon. Gentleman will follow my advice, and, before exercising the power either in defining the area, or, after he has defined the area, in exercising the power itself, consult the local committee, then he will find his scheme will work smoothly.
Sir HERBERT ROBERTS
I am sure that everyone in the House is anxious to support the Government in bringing this measure into operation at the earliest possible date. Representing the views of Wales, which in a special manner I now represent, I wish to say that no quarter of the country is more deeply interested in this question than the Principality. On behalf of the people of Wales I desire to express to the Government their readiness to support the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Government in this step or in any step which the Government may think necessary in order to prosecute this War to a successful issue. As the House is well aware, I have for a very long time taken an especial interest in all classes of temperance questions, but any opinions which we may have must be subordinated for the time, at all events, for the general welfare of the nation as a whole. I may, perhaps, venture to express this hope, that as a result of the great changes which are bound to follow this great struggle there may come into the ranks of every section of the community a new spirit and new perspective and new desire to grapple with this question as a whole unitedly, and not politically and controversially as has been the case. There are many hon. Friends of mine 1386 sitting opposite who take diametrically opposite views on this question, but I am firmly convinced if it were possible to meet them that we could arrive at a certain amount of general common ground in regard to any future steps to be taken in order to settle this important problem. With regard to the Bill itself, I do not think it is necessary to make any detailed comments on its provisions now. I am heartily in accord with all the provisions which appear in the Bill with regard to the munition areas.
Personally I also think it might be wiser, though there may be difficulties with which I am not acquainted, to take similar powers not only with regard to the areas where the production of munitions is carried on, but that those powers should, under certain conditions, be applied to the country as a whole. That is my own view. I hope, at all events, the Government will consider that point before the Bill leaves the House. I welcome most heartily the provision in the Bill which will enable the Government to provide not only food but drink for the men engaged in the production of munitions of war. Anything we can do in order to help the environment and efficiency of those men will be to the public good. I should myself like to see those men who are engaged in producing things which are absolutely necessary for the success of this great struggle treated just in the same way as our gallant fellow countrymen who are fighting on the field of battle and regarded as an integral part of the Forces. As one who has taken a very deep interest in this question I welcome this Bill, and I hope that the House unanimously will allow the Government to carry it into operation as soon as possible.
§ Sir FREDERICK BANBURY
There cannot be any doubt that there has been a good deal of time lost in various factories making munitions of war. I do not think that the greater portion of that time has been lost through drink. I do not think the Chancellor of the Exchequer ever said so. He said, I believe, that only a minority of the people who have lost time have lost time through drink. If that is so, and personally so far as I can hear it is so, then I am not quite certain that this Bill will do what it is supposed to be going to do, because if there are a certain number of people who lose time not because they drink but for other reasons, a Bill stopping drink will not make them work. I believe that the real origin of the evil is that the 1387 wages paid are so high that the men can earn in a certain number of days—four or five, as the case may be—sufficient for their needs, and, having done that, some of them rest, some of them go to football matches, and some of them spend their money in drink. This Bill will not, I think, touch them. My belief is that the only way you can deal with that situation is by conscription. Supposing that the Government were to bring in conscription it would be perfectly open to them to say if a man were losing time, "You will have to join the Forces," and, I think, two things would result. A good number of men knowing that would not lose time, and if there were a certain number of men who were in the habit of drinking, and who had that habit so ingrained in them that they still lost time through it, I think six or seven months' training in the Army would do them a considerable amount of good. They would not be able to obtain so much drink, but if they got drunk they would be punished under martial law. I would also remind the Chancellor of the Exchequer of what the French Government did in the railway struggle some years ago. Having conscription, they embodied the men and ordered them to do certain work. Whether that was right or wrong in time of peace, I feel quite certain that it is quite right in time of war. My belief is that a short Bill, bringing in conscripton, would have far more effect than this Bill will have.
I am not opposing this Bill. I would not go the length of the hon. Baronet (Sir Herbert Roberts) and support anything that the Government brought in, but I would go a good deal in that direction. I am not opposing this Bill. I am merely stating my humble opinion, that though it may do some good I do not think it will do all that we require. With regard to the Bill itself I am very glad to find myself, not for the first time altogether, in accord with the hon. Member for the Ruschcliffe Division (Mr. Leif Jones) who objects to the word "permanently" in the Bill. If the hon. Gentleman will move the omission of that word and will go to a Division, I should be very pleased to tell with him, no doubt for different reasons from those which he entertains. This is a temporary Bill meant to deal with an emergency, and therefore the word "permanently" is out of order. Though the hon. Gentleman would no doubt like eventually to see this question dealt with, I think he will agree with me that this is 1388 not the time to deal permanently with the liquor question, and that therefore those words should come out. Then, again, why put in twelve months after the War? I think that is too long, and that six months would be perfectly long enough. Subject to those few remarks I shall certainly support the Second Reading of the Bill; but I do ask the House as a whole to consider whether or not there is not some ground for argument in my suggestion that we should now have conscription. I believe it would meet this particular evil, and I believe it would do a great deal towards bringing the War to a successful conclusion and to bring about that conclusion shortly.
§ Sir THOMAS WHITTAKER
I think we all agree that this question of drink or anything dealing with the drink problem is one of the most difficult questions that ever comes before this House. [An HON. MEMBER: "And religion!"] Drink and religion are the two most difficult and most dangerous questions for any Government to touch. I am sure we all heard what the Chancellor of the Exchequer said about the pledge he was supposed to take on this question with a good deal of sympathy when we know the trouble he has had. When, in addition to that fact, we are working under a political truce—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh, oh!"]—yes, we are—it is perfectly obvious nothing can be done unless there is a good deal of give and take on both sides. The Government have come to the conclusion that in the particular areas immediately affected, it is essential that they should have full and complete control. There are so many difficulties to face that it would be absolutely futile for them to attempt to take detailed power in any Bill that they could put before the House. They would have trouble over every line, and then they would not be able to cover all the matters intended to be dealt with. They have come to the conclusion—and I think they are right—that a great many of these matters cannot be dealt with by legislation; they can only be dealt with by giving the Government full control. Under existing conditions, it is not sufficient that you should lay down outside regulations as to what should be done. We have legislation enough upon the liquor traffic now. It is frequently said, and with considerable truth, that if the law as it exists were enforced, the trouble which results would be enormously diminished. You cannot deal with the 1389 matter in that way. In an emergency like the present, you must give the Government full control.
Objection has been taken, perhaps not unnaturally under the circumstances, to the word "permanently." But practical difficulties will arise when you come to the end of the period dealt with. Supposing that you close these houses for a year, one and a half, or it may be two years; you start out with that intention; you kill the trade; are you going to hand those houses back to the brewer'? Will you ask him to take them back? On what basis will you compensate him for those houses? I think he will say, "Thank you for nothing; if you want these houses you must take them permanently. They are no use to me two years after." In the same way, if you take over the control of the houses and run the trade in those houses—for that is what will have to be done in some of these areas where you do not close the houses—what will the brewers say? I think he will say, "What are you going to take these houses for? You are going to take them over largely for the purpose of stopping or reducing the trade in them—damaging the houses from my point of view. Therefore, you must take them altogether." At any rate, at the end of the time you will have a lot of damaged goods from his point of view. What are you going to do with them? Reference has been made to the size of the area. There is no question about it; the area will have to be a considerable one. In my judgment, some of the worst of the difficulty is not the munition areas. The impression made on my mind is that some of the worst of the difficulty is at the ports, such as Southampton, Newhaven, Birkenhead, and other places—particularly at Southampton. That transport facilities should be good there is absolutely vital. Whatever may be said in criticism of them, the reports that we get from the transport officials—and you may allow a considerable discount—there is still a great deal left which shows very serious danger to the vessels taking troops, supplies, and whatever is required across the Channel. Running the risks that they have to run in these days of submarines and other dangers, you require that every man on board should be efficient if the vessels are to be taken across satisfactorily.
It is perfectly obvious that no regulations as to hours of closing are of any use. The shipping trade does not work from six in the morning till six at night. Ships 1390 are in the docks at all hours, and men are on leave at all hours of the day and night. At whatever hour the public-houses are open, it is bound to be during hours when some men are on shore. If you have firemen getting drunk, you will have danger to the ships. You must take full control. It seems to me that in Southampton, for instance, you will practically have to take the lot, because the houses are all within an area which can be reached. Unless you make the area wide enough, there is substance in the suggestion that men will be away longer because they have further to go to get liquor. There is also a little difficulty of that kind in connection with opening later: men may stop away from their work until the houses are open. Of course, all this refers to a minority, and no doubt you are dealing with men who are somewhat difficult to guide and manage in this particular. In some of these districts you will have to take over and close a large number and manage the rest of the public-houses in the area. I have indicated what I think the brewer will say with a great deal of force in regard to some of the houses. But will he not go further and say, "What about my brewery? I supply to these houses the liquor that I manufacture. What am I going to do if you shut up the greater part of my houses and run the others? Where is my product to go? All the other houses are either closed or they belong to other brewers, and I have no outlet for my beer. These public-houses and my brewery are part and parcel of one concern. You cannot separate them. If you take the houses, you will have to take the brewery." At the end of the period you will have to grapple with the property which you will have on your hands. Therefore, while the word "permanently" may be modified, I do not think it will do to leave out the twelve months afterwards. You will have a difficult problem to deal with at the end of the time.
A good deal was said a little while ago with regard to a larger proposal which the Chancellor of the Exchequer had. That proposal was a very startling one, and for my own part I am very sorry that it was not able to be more fully considered and discussed. I believe that we missed an opportunity under the political truce of taking one of the biggest steps that we could take, and one that would have been of permanent advantage. The whole drink question is one of the thorniest and 1391 most controversial that ever comes on the floor of the House. Get rid of this opportunity of the political truce and all the fires will blaze again, and you will not have the opportunity which, to a very large extent, exists now. Whatever you propose—I do not care what it is—it will meet with difficulty in this House and outside. It will meet with political difficulty. We had an illustration of that in the action of the Irish Nationalists last week. It will meet with practical difficulties. I have indicated one or two which I think will arise. It is not sufficient to criticise the proposals that are made. Any proposals will be open to legitimate criticism, and will be of a nature that many will think is second best. I should like something very different from what is proposed. So would the Chancellor of the Exchequer himself. But it is not possible to get it. This is not the time for controversy! It is too serious. We have to get something now. In my judgment, it is essential that the Government should have these wide powers.
It has been suggested that the Chancellor of the Exchequer should not act locally only, but should make bin proposals applicable to the whole country. It seems to me that if he were going to take any extensive action over such a widespread area he would get into controversy again of a very serious nature. The ground put forward for this measure is that it is a War measure, and largely a measure for munition areas. If you attempted to apply the same regulations to the whole of the country—as some of us would like to see them applied—I am certain that you would have considerable difficulty. A general reduction of hours would be an advantage. A later opening in the morning would also be an advantage. But it would not remedy the evil. The houses do not open till ten in the morning in Scotland, but you have no greater difficulty anywhere than on the Clyde. You must have Government control. It has also been suggested that we should have prohibition of spirits. I do not know what the Irish Members would say to that. They had a great deal to say about putting on a heavier tax. If you prohibited spirits altogether, the fat would indeed be in the fire. We are discussing these matters under conditions where there must be something like substantial agreement, and it seems to me that that particular proposal could scarcely be put forward as a practical proposal at the 1392 present time. The hon. Member for Barrow (Mr. C. Duncan) wants an inquiry by Committee. Personally, I should not be disposed to raise an atom of difficulty about an inquiry by a Committee into certain assertions which have been made with regard to working men. I understood the right hon. Member for Barnard Castle to suggest that action should be delayed until we had had an inquiry.
§ Sir T. WHITTAKER
Yes, yes. I think that that would be a fatal mistake. The hon. Member for Barrow spoke with considerable force about the excessive temptations which admittedly exist around armament works. We need no inquiry about that. There may be need for inquiry in regard to certain assertions about work-people; but there is universal agreement that something should be done in regard to the excessive licensed houses around certain works. Therefore I hope there will be no delay in that direction. This Bill will give power to deal with those very temptations which the hon. Member for Barrow says are in excess.
I come, in conclusion, to the remarks of the hon. Baronet opposite (Sir F. Banbury). His suggestion is conscription. If I gauge correctly the feeling of the country and of the men in question, if you want to have a row, go in for conscription. If you want to prevent the output of munitions of war, go in for conscription. It is said that the trouble from which we are suffering largely arises from; the fact that we have in these works a large number of men who are not ordinarily there, and who are not up to the standard of the ordinary men. We all know that in every trade there are a number of men who are never employed if there is anybody else to be got. Every employer, every foreman, every workman knows that in his particular trade there are men who will never be employed as-long as anybody else can be obtained. Now that so many men are at the War, these men have had to be taken. All sorts of men have been let in, and they are not the most satisfactory men under conditions of this character. The hon. Baronet suggests that conscription would be an effective remedy. I do not think that they are the sort of men you want at the front. If they are a failure here, if they are difficult to deal with here. I faney 1393 that they are better at home than at the front. At any rate, to propose conscription would only give rise to controversy and discussion which would do infinitely more harm than good. Although this Bill, perhaps, is not what everybody wants—I am certain it is not what the Chancellor of the Exchequer himself considers ideal—we are living in a time of difficult questions, and it is essential, if we are to have something like compromise, that there should be a good deal of give-and-take. This is the outcome of the deliberations of the Government. It is a whittled down portion, but I venture to hope that we shall pass this with unanimity and speedily in order to show to the country that we really mean in earnest to deal with this difficult question.
§ Sir GEORGE YOUNGER
Before I deal with the very interesting speech of the light hon. Gentleman who has just sat down, and with which I find myself at many points in complete accord, I should like to say a word or two on the question of the White Paper. I want to ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer why it was that the reports which were embodied in that Paper were not accompanied by the deliberate instructions asking that these reports should be made. I do not think I ever read a previous Report which did not clearly say at the outset the instructions which authorised its production. I cannot help thinking, after reading through the White Paper, that when these instructions were—properly enough—sent to ascertain in how far excessive drinking had to do with the shortage of time worked by many of the men that they apparently excluded from the purview of the inquiry altogether the various other conditions which perhaps largely contributed to that reduction. That is very unfair.
§ The CHANCELLOR of the EXCHEQUER (Mr. Lloyd George)
No, no, that is not so. On the contrary, they suggested all the alternative explanations which have been given. In the letter of instructions to the officers it was stated that drink was suggested as the cause, but it was also stated that it had been asserted by, I think, trade union leaders and others that there were other causes, and that the officers were to inquire fully into the whole of these matters.
§ Sir G. YOUNGER
Would the right hon. Gentleman have any objection to lay that letter of instructions on the Table?
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
It is in the Department of the Home Secretary, but I am perfectly certain my right hon. Friend would not object.
§ Sir G. YOUNGER
It is very desirable that we should see it. I shall say nothing more about that, though I do not think very much notice of the other conditions is taken in the reports which are embodied, in the White Paper.
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
I am referring to the special investigation which the Government conducted by thirty or forty investigators to whom instructions were given.
§ Sir G. YOUNGER
Quite so; that is exactly to what I am referring. As regards the Clyde, there is one thing which I do not think is noticed at all, and that is the appallingly inclement weather we have had, and the severe conditions under which these unfortunate men have had to work—absolutely unprotected from the fury of the rain, sleet, and storm. I do not suppose we ever had a worse winter in Scotland. If any of the investigators had had to take a hand at riveting during such weather they would not have stood it for long. The reports, therefore, do not do these men justice, nor do they give them credit for sickness and other causes due to the inclemency of the weather. I frankly admit—I do not deny it—that there has been a minority of men who have drunk to excess, and I think myself that they ought to be dealt with, although I myself should not propose the very drastic measures which some of the correspondents of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Rushcliffe appeared to suggest to him. I think they might have been dealt with in quite a satisfactory way in view of the effect on the other workmen, and with the consent of the latter, and so far as I can make out without their being too severely penalised.
§ Sir G. YOUNGER
It is not for me to suggest. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Barrow made a suggestion, and I agree with it, that those who inquired as to the conditions prevailing at these various works should have been accompanied by someone who knew the local conditions. I think that is an essential condition of any inquiry. I come now to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Spen Valley (Sir T. Whit- 1395 taker). I am bound to say that he very fairly pointed out a great deal of what personally I feel, that if the Government see that control is necessary in these areas they ought to have it. I am not here at all to oppose that principle, but I do say myself, and I do realise, the immense difficulty we are going to run into, both during the period of trial and at the end, both for the Government and for everyone else concerned in this matter. I do not require to enlarge upon that. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Spen Valley might have been a brewer instead of what he is—a prominent representative of the temperance party—because he stated my case every bit as well as I could possibly do it. He pointed out the weak spots which are not by any means outside, the knowledge of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and which were the very cause of his proposing the scheme which has been turned down, and which, I think, was the only possible way to deal with this difficulty. I must say I sympathise with the Chancellor of the Exchequer in having had the scheme rejected, or on having found that he could not carry it out. It had great potentialities for the present, and very large ones for the future. He has been more or less driven on the rocks. These difficulties are what were foreseen by the right hon. Gentleman. and, somehow or other, they have happened.
I can only hope, as the right hon. Gentleman assured the House, that there will be ample compensation provided for everyone whose interests may be damnified, and that those particular difficulties which the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Sir T. Whittaker) took notice of will at all events be met, to a great extent, by money compensation. That is the only way of getting out of the difficulty. It is open to him to deal with that in a generous spirit. I do not doubt the authority set up to settle all these difficult questions of compensation will be declared, probably, very soon to the House. So far as my knowledge goes of the authority suggested for Scotland, I think it will be found to be very satisfactory, and one in which may be reposed perfect confidence. I should say to the Chancellor of the Exchequer in connection with the question of the control of these areas that he would be well advised to take the trade into consultation; to take into consultation the local people who carry on the local trade. The authorities will, of course, have to work entirely under the 1396 direction of the right hon. Gentleman; but there are experienced men in the business and he will no doubt be able to get a selection of good men in every area, to advise him properly, to carry out his own instructions. He is more likely to succeed in that way, I think, than by any sort of attempt to set up a new kind of authority—in the main of inexperienced people.
There is this difficulty, that a man who may take back his house at the end of this period, and may know he is going to take it back, may not be in quite so independent a position as otherwise he would be; but he can always put the blame for any regulations on the Government, and he can accentuate that, and thus I do not think the question of independence really will arise in the matter. That is one difficulty, but I do not think it ought to happen much. I have only to say that, so far as my knowledge goes, the trade has been quite ready to accept the principle of this Bill. They have raised, as the hon. Member for Rushcliffe raised, the difficulty arising from the words "or permanently" in a Bill which is purely a temporary and emergency measure. My right hon. Friend the Member for the City of London has done the same thing. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Spen Valley Division pointed out a possible explanation of these words. I agree—I do not often agree with the right hon. Gentlemen opposite, except upon the qualities of stone ginger-beer—we are agreed on that, but on very few other questions. I do agree with him in what he said about this word "permanently"—that if this question should be dealt with ultimately after the War is over, we ought to be in a position of perfect freedom to deal with it one way or the other, and there should be no prejudice on either side. Under these circumstances I agree that we ought to make the conditions perfectly free and unhampered by anything of this kind. I have an Amendment which I handed in this afternoon, and possibly the hon. Gentleman opposite would be good enough to second it.
This, of course, is not the time to talk about the duties which were proposed last week, and which now have been abandoned. I desire, however, to thank the Chancellor of the Exchequer for the tribute he paid to those members of the trade whom he consulted over a considerable period in connection with the scheme to which he alluded at that time, but which has now been abandoned. I desire 1397 to thank him for the very generous way he told the House of the patriotic and fair spirit in which those concerned were prepared to deal with him, and in quite a generous and satisfactory way. I think he would agree, if he were now in the House, that in connection with those abandoned duties that they showed exactly the same spirit, and that so far as the beer duties were concerned the brewers of England and Scotland and the National Trade Defence Association—not the Irish brewers, for whom I have no right to speak, and who I do not think have given any expression of opinion on the subject—had agreed to an amended scale which would have met the idea of the Chancellor of the Exchequer to some extent and would have got rid of some of the difficulties involved. It was not found possible to carry that scheme, and therefore it was abandoned. I think the right hon. Gentleman would agree that they showed in that matter exactly the same spirit as in the other proposals and that they deserve the same credit for putting aside their private opinions and taking what I believe to be the most patriotic form of dealing with this very difficult and dangerous and, to them, very serious position.
§ Mr. COWAN
I beg to move, to leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, and to add instead thereof the words
"this House declines to proceed further with a measure under which invidious distinctions may be made between similar localities, which does not provide for the enforcement of a uniform control by the State of the sale and I supply of intoxicating liquor in all areas in which war material is being made, or loaded, or unloaded, or dealt with in transit, or in which men belonging to His Majesty's naval or military forces are assembled, and makes no provision for the drastic limitation of opportunities for drink in all other areas in Great Britain."
In rising to move the Amendment which stands in my name I should like to be allowed to guard against any possible misapprehension. I see it stated in several of the morning papers to-day that in connection with this Amendment I represent the extreme temperance party, or the extreme teetotal section of the House of Commons. I desire at once to disclaim so dangerous an honour. The body I represent is the National Efficiency Committee, a body 1398 which was created to consider and formulate a policy of temperance reform applicable to the period of the War. That policy has been described as practical temperance reform, to distinguish it from many of the impracticable policies voiced by many of my hon. Friends in this House who do represent the extreme temperance party. The policy which I recommend has this distinguishing feature—that it is based upon compensation and not upon confiscation. That, I believe, is the only possible basis for a national policy. I would join in congratulating the Chancellor of the Exchequer upon having risen to the height of a great occasion to this extent, at any rate, by professing his readiness to finance, even at a time such as this, on fair and just lines, a measure of national temperance reform. In asking the House to decline to give a Second Reading to these mere fragments of a much larger scheme, which has been torpedoed from the Irish benches, I venture to say that it is not so much my sense of the inadequacy of the measure as the impossibility of administering it that has led me to take this step, which I think all Members of the House will agree is one which it is not particularly pleasant to take at a time like this, and which, possibly, it even requires some courage to take. After spending many weeks, even months, in considering the situation created by his Pleasant Sunday Afternoon speech at Bangor, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, however, has introduced and abandoned a scheme under which the use of light beer would be encouraged, and the use of spirits be discouraged by heavy taxation. He has abandoned his light beer and he has abandoned his heavy taxes, and he has left us with something which I regard as absolutely unworkable. The Bill is a most interesting production, and from no point of view more than this: It contains practically everything the extreme temperance party has demanded, and almost exerything the extreme party has opposed for the last fifty years. You will find in this Bill disinterested management, which the temperance party has regarded as a heresy of the most damnable kind. Yon will find in it State compensation no less distasteful in that quarter. You will find in it Sunday closing, very acceptable to myself and the temperance party. You will find State ownership and management of public-houses and a provision in munition areas for the curtailment of hours. You will find everything except, perhaps, local option. The right hon. Gentleman the 1399 Member for Spen Valley (Sir T. Whittaker) blessed the Bill, incidentally, with faint damns.
§ Mr. COWAN
Or damned it with faint praise, if my hon. Friend prefers it. The representatives of vested interests in this House have blessed the Bill. The Irish Members, having been reassured with regard to the taxation of their tonics, have blessed the Bill, and those few Members, like myself, who are inclined, even now and under the present circumstances, to rake a somewhat more independent line, find themselves in a position of splendid isolation in the House, but not, I submit, in the country. The temperance organisations which my Friends on these Benches represent in this House, or almost all of them, have issued the strongest possible communications in the last few days condemning the Bill. I do not propose to weary the House by reading all these interesting documents. The International Order of Good Templars at Glasgow adopted a resolution containing the following:—That this executive is deeply disappointed at the complete failure of the Government to grapple with the problem caused by the drink enemy during the war period. The proposals submitted by the Chancellor of the Exchequer are ludicrously inadequate in view of the strong and repealed statements and admissions made by the Chancellor himself. The three main lines suggested are increased taxation, which has never been a solution; partial restriction, which has found to be irritating and ineffective, and a system of Government management of liquor shops which introduces the iniquitous principle of Slate ownership, abandoned with such magnificent results in Russia.The National Temperance Federation, in a paper which was issued only yesterday or on Saturday, declare that theyhave, with deep regret, learned that the Chancellor of the Exchequer is disposed to promote a union between the State and the liquor traffic throughout the Kingdom. It is now disclosed that the Chancellor's Defence Act Amendment Bill, now being rushed through Parliament before it can possibly be discussed by the country, proposes to begin to plunge the Government into partnership in the purchase and sale of intoxicating drinks.The Bristol workers, at a mass meeting held in Bristol on 1st May, passed a resolution entering—an emphatic protest against the slanderous assertions reflecting on the working classes which, on ex parte statements alone, have recently been made in Parliament and elsewhere; and most strongly resents the grossly unjust and puritanical proposals enunicated by Mr. Lloyd George in the House of Commons.Another society issued a paper with the suggestive heading, "Lloyd George, Publican." I am not here to condemn the 1400 Chancellor of the Exchequer for his willingness to engage in the liquor trade. I honour him for it, and I only profoundly regret he has not been successful in submitting to this House and carrying through, his large scheme of nationalisation; but, knowing such a scheme is impossible of acceptance at this time in this House, I did at least expect and hope up till the very last moment that he would give us a measure of some real utility instead of this mere make-believe, this thing of shreds and patches. I for one accept the statements made at Bangor, and I accept the statements in the White Paper at something round about their face value. I believe that there are contributory causes to slackness, bad timekeeping and inefficient work on the part of the minority in some of the munition factories. Many of these causes have been explained to the House this afternoon by the lion. Member for Barrow (Mr. C. Duncan) in a very convincing manner. But when all is said and done and all allowances made, there is no getting away from it that, on the evidence of men of the highest repute, men accustomed to engaging in difficult and delicate investigations, the result of their inquiries, as disclosed in the White Paper, shows a considerable amount of slackness in the munition factories and shipyards, due entirely to the excessive consumption of drink. It seems to me to be too much forgotten that drink is not the monopoly of the working classes. There is a drinking minority in every section of the community and I do not think it is fair, simply because in this connection we have the working classes to deal with, that we should speak of them as if only in that class a minority is addicted to drink. It is not so. But the drinking of the working-class minority in the munition factories and shipyards is endangering the safety of the nation, is endangering the soldiers in the trenches, is endangering our Fleet, our homes and our country. It is intolerable that such a situation should be permitted to continue, and it devolves upon the Government to submit a measure to bring it to a termination.
I oppose this measure because it will not do what it purports to do, and a large amount of support obtained in all quarters of this House shows a curious and suspicious unanimity of qualified praise, due, I believe, to the fact that there is not an intelligent man in this House who does not know that, although we can pass this into law, no Government can make it 1401 work. It is agreeable to everybody because everybody knows it will do nothing. The National Efficiency Committee, in a memorial which it sent to the Prime Minister at the beginning of April, and which was subsequently circulated to every Member of this House, proposed a scheme which, curiously enough, embodied most of the principles embedded in this Bill. But it would never have occurred to that Committee, or to any body of practical men, that such provision should be associated with such machinery as would make it impossible that the provisions should be of any utility whatever. I oppose the Second Reading of this Bill, not because it does not contain much with which I am in cordial agreement; I oppose it because it is a Bill that will not work. If questioned as to what right I have to say beforehand that the Bill will not work, I ask the Government why they have not used the powers which they have had for many months—the ample powers to which the Chancellor of the Exchequer himself referred at Bangor? I ask the Government why they have not used the powers under the Defence of the Realm Acts—powers which give them the right to do practically everything they are asking the House to authorise, and to do it all over the country? I want to know why the Government, which has not used those powers they tell us are ample, now ask the House for similar powers, and associate those powers with impossible machinery?
I want the House to consider how this Bill, if it becomes an Act, will work in practice. Let us suppose, for the sake of argument, that I myself represent a munition area. I learn that the Government propose to proclaim that area under this Act. Immediately my political friends come to me and call my attention to the unfortunate effect which such Proclamation would have. All interests, societies, individuals of all classes make representations to me and ask me to pass them on to the Government. My political opponent would not be human if he did not seize his opportunity. A local inquiry is suggested by some Members. If it is held, do you not think that there would be evidence to prove that a great deal of the slackness and inefficiency was due, not to drink at all, but to such causes as the hon. Member for Barrow has so ably stated to us this afternoon? I believe that in every individual case in which an attempt is made to put into operation the 1402 powers under this Bill the difficulties will be so great and formidable that the Government will not dare to make it more operative than they have made the existing Defence of the Realm Acts.
The Bill in its machinery is arbitrary and impossible. I will not refer to the points which have been raised by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Spen Valley. I think that, while affecting to bless the Bill, he riddled it with hostile criticism, not perhaps of the same sort as my own, but almost equally effective and almost equally damaging. It remains for the Government to answer his criticisms. I say that his criticisms are almost as effective and almost as damaging as my own, for this reason, that it is conceivable that the details in regard to which he criticises the Bill may be matters in which the Chancellor of the Exchequer may improve the Bill, but in regard to the grounds on which I criticise the Bill I say the Chancellor of the Exchequer cannot amend his Bill and introduce machinery which would make it work without absolutely destroying it and bringing into this House a new measure that would create all the friction from which he has with difficulty escaped.
There is no provision in this Bill for any areas not munition or camping areas. Does the Chancellor of the Exchequer imagine that all the wives, sisters and mothers of the dependants of our soldiers in the trenches and camps live in munition areas? Does he not know that these women who are left by our soldiers under the care of the State are receiving large and generous allowances from the State, and properly so? Does he not know how easily these women, with their husbands, fathers, or brothers away, are tempted by what the Chancellor of the Exchequer himself has called "the lure of drink"? Does he forget that when these men come back from the trenches after this long War is over that they will hold us to account for what has been done? Do you think that the workman who left a comfortable and happy home, when he comes back and finds his wife has given way to drink, his home broken up and the children miserable because the State has thrown temptation in her way, will not hold us responsible, and is the right hon. Gentleman prepared to take that responsibility? I think the Chancellor of the Exchequer is bound to do all he can in order to increase the output of munitions to its utmost limits for the sake of the 1403 soldiers who are so bravely and patriotically serving their country, and saving us from dangers worse than invasion. For the sake of the women, the wives, the mothers, and the sisters of these men, for the sake of common humanity, the right hon. Gentleman is bound to make some provision.
I know of a woman who gave way to drink and was placed in the care of a lady, and who, when she recovered and came back to her own home, after she had kept straight for a few weeks, had a relapse. When this good lady called upon her again and asked her the cause of her breakdown, she replied, "Come and stand on my doorstep and look down the street; how do you think I can remain sober with thirteen public-houses in view of my own doorstep?" There is a parish in Hertfordshire, with a population of 843, where they have ten public-houses. I submit that the State which has licensed these houses and connived at these temptations has a duty towards these people in times of peace, but it has a special duty in times of war. I am not a temperance fanatic, and I am not associated with any of the old-fashioned and extreme temperance organisations, but I believe that we are in the presence of a very grave national danger. I believe that a few weeks ago it was within the power of the Government to deal with this matter, and if they had laid before the House drastic proposals I believe, in the mood the country was then in and realising the terrible danger of drink, this House under the circumstances would have passed a measure which would have given infinite satisfaction to the Chancellor of the Exchequer himself and to the country, and would have brought us all the credit which Russia has gained from her magnificent action in abolishing drink. It is in no factious spirit, and with no desire in the smallest degree to infringe the spirit of the truce which is so absolutely essential to our safety at the present moment, that I raise this question and condemn this Bill. I do it merely because I am convinced that it will not work, and that if placed upon the Statute Book it will be the means of losing the most magnificent opportunity for dealing with this question which ever occurred in the history of our land—an opportunity which, I believe, will never occur again.
§ Major BOWDEN
I do not know that I can support the whole of this Amendment, but I speak as a soldier with some capacity to appreciate the military situation, and as an engineer in touch with the great iron, coal, and shipbuilding industries. I wish to point out what I consider the illogical basis upon which the Chancellor of the Exchequer founded his speech on the possible shortage of munitions and the cause thereof. I give my opinion on this question for two reasons. In the first place, I have the honour to represent a very large industrial constituency, and I do feel that the proposals of the right hon. Gentleman are calculated to disturb the great bulk of working men, and they are also calculated to irritate those engaged in producing munitions of war upon which we are depending so much, and which is such a very serious and a very important matter. My second reason is that I consider the proposals of the right hon. Gentleman are quite inadequate as a remedy from a military point of view. In addition to being inadequate, I would like to say that I feel that they raise points which are calculated to cause the public to lose sight of the main issue by inviting controversy on side issues. In stating his case the Chancellor of the Exchequer, when endeavouring to convince this House by reference to facts and experience, said that the munitions were delayed because a section of the working men were giving way to drink, and the right hon. Gentleman made this very important statement:—The explanation which in given by every report we have received is that it is attributable merely to excessive drinking among a section of the workmen receiving very high wage who spend them in this way.This may apply to special cases, but I am not disposed to accept it as applying in the main to all workmen. I agree with one or two hon. Members who have spoken this afternoon that we have no proof from the Chancellor of the Exchequer that any other questions have been taken into consideration. Those who know the shipbuilding industry and have to mix with the men on the Clyde know very well that amongst the most important factors that govern the hours of work in a shipyard is undoubtedly the weather, and illness resulting from it. I am not satisfied that the right hon. Gentleman has taken into consideration the fact that a great number of the best workmen have already enlisted, and probably the men now employed are less fitted for the hard work of riveting and heavy work than their 1405 brother working men who have gone to the front. I am not satisfied with the figures of percentage which were given by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and on the basis of those figures I am not clear whether he had allowed any compensation in the hours worked over and above the fifty-three and fifty-four hours for the men who have lost time under fifty-three hours. Let us assume for the sake of argument that the right hon. Gentleman is right, and that all this trouble is caused by the vice of a section of working men. I put this point to the House, and I would like to have put it to the Chancellor of the Exchequer himself. Does he ask us to believe that there is no other way of punishing the shirker than by penalising and interfering with the liberties of the great bulk of hard-working and patriotic men? I say that there are many other ways, and I am prepared to make suggestions.
One hon. Member on this side of the House said he would not make any suggestions, but in order that I shall not be accused of criticising without constructing any proposals myself I shall make a suggestion to the right hon. Gentleman which I think would be of great service in providing munitions. A speech was made not long ago, purporting to be a personal message from Lord Kitchener to the miners of North-East Derbyshire appreciating the manner in which they had stuck to their work, and the deliverer of that message said the statement in regard to drink applied only to a few. That district of North-East Derbyshire extends right into Sheffield, and I have yet to learn that there is any complaint from Sheffield. On the contrary, I think it is admitted, and must be admitted, that the Sheffield workmen on munitions have most faithfully performed their duties. I think every hon. Member will agree that the situation is grave, and there is undoubtedly real gravity in the position. All those hon. Members who had the opportunity of listening to the Chancellor of the Exchequer and have read the extracts he made from reports, as well as his figures, must have felt convinced that the situation was grave if we were being held up in our supply of munitions to the extent stated by the right hon. Gentleman. The right hon. Gentleman said:—Most of our workmen are giving every ounce of their strength in this urgent work for the country, but there are some who shirk their duty in this emergency.If that is so, why should we not punish the men who are doing the shirking and leave 1406 alone those who are doing their work faithfully and well? The right hon. Gentleman indicated that there were "slackers." Surely it is not beyond the power of Englishmen to deal with this serious question, and surely we are able to devise proper machinery to give the Government power to deal with this class of men! I strongly urge the right hon. Gentleman to reconsider his proposed: remedy in order to remove irritation, and I ask him to deal firmly with the actual "slacker." When I spoke of these proposals interfering with the liberties of patriotic workmen, I did not for one moment wish to say a word in favour of the drone in the hive. The working bees have a very effective way of dealing with drones, and we should not be too squeamish about our methods of dealing with the men who have been proved at this time of national danger to be deliberately endangering the safety of the nation. The right hon. Gentleman quite correctly said that the man working on munitions is every bit as important to the country as the man at the front or the sailor on his ship, but it is no earthly use having the soldier in the trench or the sailor on his ship—he may be of the very-best; he may be as good as you can possibly imagine—unless you supply him with the proper equipment of war and with as much munitions of war as possible. His very life depends upon the supply of munitions, and so does the cause for which he is fighting. Logically, therefore, the life of the soldier in the trench and of the sailor on his ship and the cause for which they are fighting depend upon the worker. The House seems to agree with that remark of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and I am in perfect agreement with the right hon. Gentleman.
On the other side of the picture, the worker is dependent for his life and his liberty on the soldier in the trench and the sailor on his ship. Their responsibility is equal, and, their responsibility being equal, I submit that one of the ways to effect a remedy would be to make them both—the worker working on munitions, as well as the soldier in the trench and the sailor on his ship—responsible to military law. If that were done, it would at once bring to an end this trouble. I do not mean conscription. Make these men soldiers for the time of the War, and bring them under the same military discipline as that to which the man in the trench must submit. Some hon. Members may suggest 1407 that I argue against myself by bringing the good worker under the same rule as the bad worker; but, under military law, the good worker would have no more to complain of than the good soldier, and it would deal, and deal only, with the slacker.
Should that suggestion be criticised, or be not agreed with, I would venture to make one more easy to apply, and one which would probably be better in its application. The Chancellor of the Exchequer said that these guilty areas were known. I would suggest to him that he should not take the centre, but should reduce the area to the actual black-listed works, and, for the length of time that those works are black-listed, place them and all in them under martial law. That would have a rapid effect in reducing the evil. The military authorities could be trusted to see that it would have no effect upon the good worker, and they could also be trusted to see that there was no slackness owing to drink. Those two suggestions applied properly would do more towards attaining the end which I am sure the Chancellor of the Exchequer wants to achieve than the proposals which are now before us. The right hon. Gentleman used these words, and they must be my excuse for speaking of the application of discipline: "What I propose, I propose entirely in the interests of discipline." I agree with that, and I urge him to apply his discipline to those people who are neglecting their work, and not to apply it to those who have committed no misdeeds.
§ Mr. WILKIE
I was one of those who attended at the Treasury on 17th to 19th March, when the Chancellor of the Exchequer put before us this question of the less of time, and made the assertion that it was due to the drinking habits of the worker. He will remember that he could get no definite decision from that representative meeting. A more representative meeting of workers he could not find. We asked for an inquiry. We are extremely anxious to help the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Government in their difficulty, but if, instead of accepting mere ex-parte statements of one side the right hon. Gentleman had taken the opportunity of hearing both sides, I venture to say that the White Paper would never have been issued. My postbag has been swollen to an enormous extent by the denunciations of the workers of these general statements in that Paper. 1408 Parliamentary language is not in it with the language of those letters. It will be noticed that the first report in the White Paper gives the percentage of hours worked by Government employés in the Portsmouth dockyard. May I remind the House that, at the request of the Government, our organisation sent nearly 2,000 to the dockyard to help in this work. They are therefore the very same class of men in His Majesty's dockyard as those outside to whom reference is made. Curiously enough, in referring to Portsmouth, they only tell us about the percentage of hours worked; they do not go into any general statement, like when they come to the Clyde and the Tyne, as to the drinking habits of the workers. I have been in all the ports of the United Kingdom and in most of the shipbuilding ports of the world and I candidly confess that I have seen very little difference in any one of them. A mere ex-parte statement, therefore, proves nothing to me. There are a lot of general statements made on page nine of the White Paper. There is a reporter of the name of Barttelot. I do not know why the Government should have, asked him to report. In referring to the Clyde he says:—From close observation—and my opinion is shared by all the managers of shipyards- the amount drunk by a section of the men is much greater than it was before the War, and it is on the increase. Those principally concerned are the ironworkers and shipwrights, and on their efficiency the output, entirely depends. The sole reason for this heavy drinking is that the men earn more money than they know what to do with.If he means the shipwrights proper, then, as representing these men, I can give that statement the lie direct. There is no statement in my office from any employer complaining of the loss of time by shipwrights. The loss of time is mainly among the piece-workers, which system the employers are so terribly anxious for us as a trade to adopt. The men are in a state of indignation at those general statements. Why did not this gentleman come to our Scottish office in Glasgow, where we could have shown him the other side? I know that the Chancellor of the Exchequer is fair, and I am sure that if he had been dealing with the matter he would have come to us. He would have had the men's statement; he would not have passed them over. The men feel strongly about this, and feel that they have been maligned. I am not talking about the minority. I am now dealing with the general statement, which unfortunately is coming back to us from abroad, from my own people who want to know the facts. This same 1409 gentleman who reported on the Tyne, was down in the shipyards among the men congratulating them on the work they were doing, and he had no word to say anything like that which he puts into this White Paper. Imagine talking to skilled workers about the standard of living. Why those men are equal to a great many who are reporting on them. It is a thousand pities this White Paper was ever issued. It is doing more harm in our great struggle with the most unscrupulous enemy the world has ever known than anything that could have been issued, and I am here to-day to make the strongest protest, in words as strong as Parliamentary language will let me, against its general statements.
I want to show the carelessness with which some of those reports have been compiled. Will it be believed—we can prove it—that included in the figures as to time lost by the workers was a man who had been dead for a fortnight, and some others also who had actually left the firm? Others were included who, on investigation, were on the sick fund or on accident. Will it be believed that no allowance has been made for men off either through accident or sickness? We can say from our own sick list, which is published every month, that sickness has been greatly on the increase. It is an outside trade, and the men have little or no cover, and there has been no allowance made for time lost through bad weather. Then, again, if, when piece men come into the yard in the morning, one of these piece-workers squad is not there, they cannot start work, they are sent off home again. I know of a certain yard on the north-east coast where two or three hundred men were sent home more than once because the work was not quite ready. The slips were not ready for use. The staging work was not ready. It will, therefore, be seen that loss of time is caused by a variety of reasons over which the men have no control, and it ought, therefore, never to have been included in these published statements.
Another point to be borne in mind is that a great many of these men who are said to be responsible for time lost through drinking habits are total abstainers. The time they have lost is all put down to drink, and that is most unfair. I need not go into the reasons why some of these men have lost time; but undoubtedly in a number of cases it has been due to physical exhaustion. No living man can work seven 1410 days a week, and on Sundays, especially, without suffering physically. We have been told that the men will work on the Sunday in order to get two days' pay, and then will stand off on the Monday, but while you may have one man doing that you will find scores of others who are doing all they possibly can to help on the work of the Government. When the "Lion" and the "Tiger" came into the Tyne for repair, there was no difficulty raised then about doing the work; there was no standing off. When workmen have acted as they have done and then are treated as they have been we reply that all these considerations should have been taken into account. We are extremely sorry that this White Paper should have been issued, because it accuses the majority of conduct which is only properly attributable to a very small minority. We have received lots of letters at our offices stating that the men are doing better than could be expected. Yet the Government are supplying the men with a grievance which they certainly ought not to suffer at the present time. For instance, some firms are sending out notices to the following effect:—We regret to notice that, your time sheet is not so good as it might be. We appeal to you to work full-time, and, where possible, overtime. To lose time or to work overtime and then lose time the next, day is not playing the game in this grave national emergency, and is not supporting our men at the front. Every hour's delay in the delivery of our warships is a help to the enemy.That is the kind of notice which is being sent to men who have put in 102, 98. or 88 Hours every week. Men who have worked such long hours, and then get a letter of that description, consider it nothing but an insult. The firm should have had more discretion than to issue such a notice indiscriminately. They should have placed the issue into the hands of responsible men. If they had consulted us, we would have given them all the help we could in the matter. I hope I may not be misunderstood in regard to what I said in drawing a comparison between the dockyards and private firms. The House will understand that the work in the dockyards is done for use, whereas in private firms it is done for profit. I hope that after this War some steps will be taken with a view to securing that all the construction needed by this country shall be produced for use and not for the profit of anyone. When we workers are asked to forgo not merely our trade union rules, but trade customs which have come down to us through long years, we 1411 ought to receive some consideration. We know how, when the Government asked the medical profession to set aside their trade union principles in regard to insurance, the request was met. Imagine the Government asking both the legal and the medical professions to forego all their customs! You well know what reply would be returned. Nevertheless, working men who have shown great loyalty, when asked to accept the assistance of others not of their craft in order to carry on the manufacture of munitions of war, have consented.
On the 22nd December, 1914, we wrote to the Financial Secretary to the Admiralty suggesting that the Government work should have preference, and that 10 per cent. or 15 per cent. of the men on mercantile work should be transferred to urgent Government work. We pointed out that that would meet all their then requirements, and I am sure that if that had been done then we should have had more torpedo catchers, and we might have been able to save the "Lusitania." We should certainly have been in a far better position to-day had the Government agreed to our suggestion. I am pleased that the hon. Member for Waterford (Mr. John Redmond), who long before this Government came into power put himself and his friends to considerable trouble when he thought that the labour movement was being unfairly dealt with in this House, has now stated that he cannot accept the the statements made in the White Paper because they are injurious, not only to the workers, but to the country as a whole. It was only the other day that the chairman of Armstrong's, at the annual meeting of that concern, declared that the amount of work turned out was enormous. There is a man who has his finger on the pulse of the country. He says men are employed now who would not be employed in ordinary times, but their services have to be enlisted under the circumstances. He states that the highly skilled society men, and especially those who have been many years in their service, are working long hours, giving an honest output, and helping in every way; and finally he urges that everything shall be sunk into the one question of unity, with consideration for the demands of the nation and the Empire as a whole. I go further and point to the fact that the amount of tonnage turned out in our great rivers—in private yards—is very considerable, and therefore, if our advice had been taken last 1412 December, and if that tonnage had been turned out for the Admiralty, we should have been in a much stronger position on the sea to-day. In many cases we have had resolutions from our men to the effect that, being loyal subjects of the King, they agree to the proposals laid before them. They are fully alive to the fact that by so doing they are assisting their brothers in the trenches who are making even greater sacrifices, and if the demand for munitions of war be as great as it is represented by the Government they say they will do their utmost to increase the output and they will appoint committees to carry it into effect.
It is only fair that these statements should be made in this House. I hope something will be done to wipe out the effects of the White Paper and to prevent our men, who are doing the right thing, from feeling that they are maligned. Let us put the sins of the minority on the minority, and let us deal with them as individual men. They can be dealt with in more ways than one. We are willing to send out representatives to the various works. We have, in many cases, appealed to the men, and the result has been a considerable improvement in time-keeping. If men are only properly led, much can be done. We can show them the enormity of the offence which is being committed. The Government already has ample power to deal with shirkers and slackers, without maligning men who are doing well. Do not let us penalise men who are doing so well when we are dealing with this alcohol question. Candidly, I prefer the Government's own system which they have adopted at the dockyards from time immemorial to their present proposal. What is really wanted is an institution in every large works where munitions are being manufactured, in order to provide food as well as drink for the workpeople. Overwork, long hours, lack of proper food, and drink, all tend to produce the evils that are complained of, and all could be done away with, or at least mitigated.
We are anxious to help the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Government, but I am also anxious that by their measures they shall not make the cure worse than the disease. That, however, is what we are afraid of. It may be remembered that when the Prime Minister came to Newcastle he never said a word upon the drink question, although he was asked about it. I have been a temperance reformer all my life, but I have never been a 1413 teetotal fanatic. The whole difference lies between the use and the abuse of alcohol. Our best plan is to get at the individual man in every employment who is losing time, and, if that were done, I believe you would soon produce such a revolution as would astonish everybody. The sinking of the "Lusitania" and of other merchant ships has brought us up against a great problem, and I think the whole of the workers of the country and the people generally will agree that we must now put every ounce of energy we possess into this conflict. No Parliamentary language can be strong enough to use against men who are acting as the enemy have done against innocent women and children and against our poor fishermen in the North Sea.
§ 6.0 P.M.
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
There has been such a general acceptance of the principle of the Bill, and such a general readiness expressed to see it on the Statute Book in order to enable the Government to proceed to take steps in these areas, that I am very anxious to avoid anything in the nature of controversy in my reply. There is a good deal of what fell from my hon. Friend (Mr. Wilkie) with which I am in entire agreement. He stated his case very effectively. The men could not have a more loyal or courageous champion. He recognised, and he used the word, that it was an "evil" which afflicted the minority. I have always used the same word, and I wish to repeat it. He said the great bulk of the men are undoubtedly working well. I have always said the same thing. In fact, I agree with the very courageous circular which he himself issued to his own society. I do not think the case could be put better than it was put in that circular which was issued in March:—We also appeal to the necessity of everyone losing as little time as possible during this emergency. Many complaints have reached us as to irregular time-keeping, and while we know that the strain of the last few months has been heavy, still we are satisfied that much time has been lost that could be avoided.That has been the case which the Government have put forward. It was very fairly, moderately and courageously stated in that circular issued to the men themselves. The only thing I have said is that I am satisfied that the main reason is not that the men are deliberately shirking the work, but that they have succumbed to a temptation which is too much for them. Of the two, I think that is the more creditable explanation. With regard to the general Debate, I think I 1414 should confine myself in the main to answering questions which have been put to me from time to time. There was a question put by the hon. Baronet for the Ayr Burghs (Sir G. Younger), and although he is not here, I think it is desirable I should answer it, even in his absence. He rather suggested that instructions had been given to the investigators of the Government merely to look into the drink question. I interrupted him, and told him, purely from my recollection, that that was not the case, and since then I have had the real instructions, and I am in a position to say that my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary will issue the document itself. I will quote a few passages from the instructions given to the Government's investigators:It is alleged that the output is insufficient and might be considerably increased. To what may the deficiency now he attributed? Is it due wholly or in part (a) to the workers being overtired; (b) to their earning of good wages so that they can afford to idle on certain days; (c) to drink habits?It goes on to ask whether there was any trade union restriction on the amount of work a man might do in a day:Are there any restrictions on the part of the employers? Double pay is given in some yards. Is work done on Sundays? The men might work on Sundays and do no work for a couple of days afterwards. Is there reason to think that the men have become over-fatigued, and consequently stale by seven days a week work continued over a long period? Is there sufficient supervision to secure effective work? Is there bad time-keeping, and, if so, what are the reasons for it?If the men really earn the money there must be sustained application on their part or their earnings would not be so large. The drink question was only put forward as one among many which have been suggested as the cause.
§ Mr. C. DUNCAN
In the list of instructions there are two points which are omitted, that is with regard to accidents and weather. The result is that all this lost time is lumped in and put down to the one thing.
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
It is all put down. The question put is, what is the cause? They were instructed to find out what it was. I only want to point out that all the suggestions as to over-fatigue and Sunday working and that kind of explanation—they were all given at the time—were all inserted in the instructions, and the investigators were told to find out what is was due to. It was not an investigation of drink merely, but a general investigation into the cause of the lost time. However, the document itself 1415 will be published, and then my hon. Friend will see that we by no means indicated to the investigators that they were only to find out whether there was drinking, and how the drinking was associated with the lost time. That was not the kind of instruction given. On the contrary, the instructions were to find exactly what the causes were, and other causes were actually indicated as possible causes in that very document. I understand that my hon. Friends are not so much opposed to the principles of this Bill or to the Bill itself. They think there is an evil which ought to be redressed, but because they say that the statements are exaggerated, they would like to have an opportunity of clearing their reputation, which they think is affected by the evidence of the White Paper. They would like to have an investigation. Certainly I think they are entitled to it, and, so far as the Government are concerned, we shall be very happy to have any inquiry which would be a fair one into the circumstances and conditions.
There is no doubt that by general agreement there is an evil that ought to be redressed. That is accepted. There is a general agreement as to the general outlines of the Bill. There have been criticisms, but they are mere criticisms of detail. I come to the general character of the criticisms. The first is as to the use of the word "permanent." That was the question raised by the hon. Member for the Rushcliffe division (Mr. Leif Jones), and I am not sure that the same point was not raised on the other side of the House. The experiment, as an experiment, must come to an end twelve months after the War under this Bill. The Government could not, under this Bill, conduct any business for the sale of liquor for more than twelve months after the War. Then it may be said, "Why do you use the words 'permanent acquisition'?" The answer was given by my right hon. Friend the Member for the Spen Valley (Sir T. Whittaker) that there were cases where the business in a particular house would be absolutely destroyed, and the brewers are entitled to say: "This has been absolutely destroyed; there is nothing to restore to us. You have taken over the business in this particular spot merely in order to destroy it." At the end of the term you might say, "There is your public-house." It is true there is no business. You have 1416 taken very good care that there should be no business. You have set up a big canteen somewhere outside. You ran it on principles which have been a success. Therefore you have taken away their business. The brewer is entitled to say in that case, "If you are going to close this house, you must take it over altogether." That would be perfectly fair.
If you are going to close a house permanently, then you ought to buy it permanently, and not merely for the term of the War. I should have thought that my hon. Friend (Mr. Leif Jones) would have preferred that. He wants to close a public-house for eighteen months, but he objects on principle to closing it for ever. That is a very peculiar position for him to take up. I deplore this backsliding on the part of my hon. Friend! I thought he was a man for closing them altogether, but he says, "No; let there be temporary prohibition, but not more prohibition than for twelve months after the War. Let them have as much drink as you can give them after the War." That is a very sad falling from grace! I commend this problem to the alliance. Here is another case. Supposing the body that is to be formed—I will come to that question later on—consider there is a public-house near the works which they regard as being very convenient for supplying refreshments to the men engaged upon the work, but it is not large enough or commodious enough, and they say they must buy the adjoining house. They might knock down the partition, so that they might have fairly large and comfortable premises—as I hope they will—for the purpose of supplying all reasonable refreshments in food as well as drink. What is my hon. Friend's idea of what will happen at the end of the War? If they are only to acquire the premises temporarily and if the lease is for an indefinite period, the War might go on for six months, or it might take longer. The lease will be an indefinite one. The Government will have to spend considerable sums of money in altering the construction of the house, and may have to secure the adjoining house. What is to happen at the end of the War if they have not acquired the premises permanently? They would have no freedom to sell. If you go to the brewer and say, "There is your house, and will you pay us for the improvements we have effected?" he will say, "Pay you for improvements! Why, you have absolutely destroyed the house, and, so far from my having to pay for 1417 improvements, you ought to pay me for making the house absolutely unfit for the sort of business it was doing before the War"—as I hope it will be. Does my hon. Friend begin to see a little light?
§ Mr. LEIF JONES
I will explain to the right hon. Gentleman to-morrow, as I have put down an Amendment to omit the word "permanent."
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
I am afraid he is not open to conviction. I hope he will think it over, and will not make up his mind without allowing these arguments to permeate, perhaps I should say soak as it were, or brew in his mind. Perhaps when his spirit is a little more mature, and less crude and fiery, he will let it out of bond. That is the reason why we have used the word "permanent" instead of "temporary." When you are buying for the purpose of pulling down, reconstructing and enlarging, you must buy the freehold, because at the end of the War the whole thing comes to an end, as it must by this Bill, unless Parliament otherwise orders. My hon. Friend knows that we cannot bind Parliament. Unless Parliament otherwise orders, this experiment must come to an end, and the Government will have to sell out, even at a loss. My right hon. Friend the Attorney-General points out to me that it is a power which we should only use in proper cases. So much for that word "permanently," which is a stumbling block to my hon. Friend, at least till to-morrow.
I come now to the question of the areas. The two hon. Members for Sheffield were rather anxious that we should not define areas or take any steps without local consultation. That is obviously a wise thing to do. It would be impossible to do that successfully without local consultation. You cannot declare an area unless on the whole you have local sentiment behind you. There I also agree, and our proposal is that the Bill should be administered first if all by a Central Board. You would have a representative of the Admiralty and of the War Office and of the Home Office and there would be representatives of labour, and there might be some employers of labour on it, and there would be men who would be regarded as men of rather wider interests and who would be helpful from that point of view. It would be for the central authority to advise the Government on the question of areas, but before they do so they would have to consult the 1418 localities. In some of these areas you have most efficient committees at present. They are committees of employers and labourers, and they are working together very well. I think that it is true of the Tyne and of the Clyde, and I am not sure that a committee of that kind has not been set up in Barrow as well. These committees might either be utilised or reconstructed and other names added to them. But, at any rate, you can only work a thing of this kind through local committees, and upon the reports which they present to you. That is the proposal which we have in mind. My hon. Friend also asked about clubs. Of course, you could not run the clubs. It would be quite impossible for a Central Board of this kind to run a Liberal club and a Conservative club at the same time. It would be a very awkward situation. I do not think, even in view of the Party truce, that could be done successfully. There you would have to use your general powers. I do not think the word "clubs" appears in the Bill.
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
The whole control of supply would be in the hands of the Government in that area, and the clubs could only get their intoxicating liquor through the local committee which would be acting for the Government under these conditions.
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
In that area the whole supply of intoxicating liquor must be under the control of the Government.
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
Yes. In many of these areas they are far the most mischievous. That has been especially the case with regard to the sale of spirits. The men go there and buy bottles and take them into the works with them. That is the evidence we have had.
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
It would include the whole supply of intoxicating liquor in those areas which are declared. If it only gets the control of part of it, it would end in all sorts of mischief. Of course, the 1419 Government can make any arrangement it likes, but that would be under the control of the Government. The hon. Member (Mr. S. Roberts) also put a question on local consultation. We have been considering this. The reports we have had from Sheffield are of a highly satisfactory character. At the same time I can well understand that even in areas like Sheffield there might be a desire to set up Government canteens for the supply of food. Undoubtedly it is a question of the men drinking before they have any food, and, when they have no food, under those conditions the drink which they can buy does them very much more harm than would be done if they first of all had a good meal. That is one reason why a provision of that character will have to be made. Something has been said about the desirability of discouraging private work in the shipyards. I hope before the House comes to that conclusion it will consider very carefully what it means. After all, some of our merchant ships have been sunk in the course of the last couple of months, and it is very necessary to keep up their numbers. They are required not merely for transport for the Army and the Navy, but for the carrying of food and raw material for the people, and if there was a serious restriction of the number of ships the cost of food would necessarily go up very considerably. There ought to be in the yards the means of supplying the losses which must necessarily occur in the course of a great war. In every great war we have ever been in merchant ships have been sunk, and this is no exception to the rule, except in the extent to which ships have been sunk. In the Napoleonic Wars the number of ships sunk in the course of a year came to a higher percentage of the total. Hon. Members below the Gangway take the view very strongly, whatever their opinion may be about some of the figures which have been given, that it is very desirable that there should be complete control and organisation of the sources of refreshment in these various areas. Some of my hon. Friends would like to go further. There is a very bold, daring, courageous Friend of mine who would like to go very much further, but if he had my experience I think he would like to have a rest on the road before he went much further.
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
If it is not effective there will be very much more difficulty in persuading the House to go further. I am convinced, after the experience I have had, that it will be very difficult to persuade public opinion at this stage to go further. If this is a success, it will be easier to persuade the country to go further. I should have thought that if a thing worked well, the country might be prepared to extend the experiment. However, if my hon. Friend and I do not agree upon that, I can see we are quarrelling about very fundamental principles, and I always like to avoid that if I want to get a Bill through Second Reading. There is nothing a man likes less than to be convinced by argument, and for that reason I will not proceed to deal with the contention of my hon. Friend. But may I suggest that seeing that there is this general agreement about the desirability of dealing with this, not merely in munition areas—I agree with someone who said it was even worse, practically, in some of the transport areas—the House of Commons will allow us now to proceed with the experiment as soon as possible and set up a Central Committee, and not merely that, but enable the Central Committee to setup local committees to survey the ground. I am doing as much preliminary work as I possibly can, short of getting the Bill through, but there are many things we cannot do without the Bill, and every hour which is lost is irreparable in this great struggle. Therefore I appeal to the House of Commons, seeing the seriousness of this gigantic struggle, that we may be equipped at the earliest possible moment to take every step to deal with this evil.
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
I can go a long way. The compensation authority for England is the same authority as was setup to adjudicate in the matter of the engineers' shops. The hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. Duke) will be in the chair, Sir James Woodhouse and Mr. Wallace are the other members, but we propose also to add Mr. E. C. Peyer, who has considerable experience as a valuer in brewery and public-house cases. For Scotland, I am very pleased to be able to say that Lord Dunedin has accepted the chair of the Committee. No abler judge ever adjudicated upon a case. He will be 1421 assisted by Mr. Alexander Mackay, of Dundee, and Mr. J. M. Macleod, of Glasgow. I think the hon. Baronet will realise that we have done our very best to set up an impartial Committee
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
Of course, it is not proposed to take over any part of Ireland, but if it should be necessary to take over any area there certainly we set up a Commission.
§ Mr. BONAR LAW (indistinctly heard)
I am one of those who are of opinion that since the Government have introduced this Bill there is no object whatever in delaying giving it a Second Reading, and I certainly hope, though I cannot expect to imitate the non-controversial methods of which we have just had an example from the right hon. Gentleman, to say nothing which will even prolong the discussion, much less prevent the Bill being given effect to. In my opinion, the essence of the case is this: Everyone admits that this is one of the factors to be taken into account, and I do not think we need be greatly exercised as to whether or not in presenting that factor it has been too much exaggerated. It seems to me that two things are essential: The first is that in dealing with these munition areas—and I wish the House to remember that, though bigger schemes have been drafted, that in itself is a gigantic problem—those affected should be treated at least justly, and I think fairly, and, possibly, even generously. I am sure that everyone must agree that at a time like this nothing could be worse than to create a feeling of injustice. If you do create such a feeling, you would do more harm than the evil which you are attempting to remedy. I am glad to hear what the right hon. Gentleman has said in regard to the Committees which he proposes to set up. I am not acquainted, except in one instance, with the gentlemen named; but if, as I know to be the case, he has chosen them with the sole desire to deal fairly with these matters, I think we may rely that 1422 the first evil which I fear will not arise. I think there is a second general principle of the same kind. If we are not to have exasperation, it is equally necessary that there should be no sense of injury of any kind on the part of the workmen who will be chiefly affected by the proposals we make. I am not going again to deal with what the right hon. Gentleman has said, or his methods, in presenting the case. I think the speech he has just made, and the way the whole subject has been discussed in the House, will have done a great deal to remove the feeling which we all found did exist, that workmen were, intentionally or not—and we all know it was unintentional—being unfairly treated in the excessive use made of this drink evil as one of the causes of the shortage of work. I am glad for that reason that the right hon. Gentleman has agreed to appoint a Committee, at the request of the Labour Members, to look into that matter.
I do not know that there is much object in discussing the White Paper. I may say this, however, that after reading the White Paper most carefully, I came to the conclusion that if I had only that to depend upon I would not feel so sure that the evil was as great as it has been made out to be. It did not really seem to me to be evidence in any kind of way at all. There was evidence in every direction of shortage of work, I hope the right hon. Gentleman will not think I am being controversial in giving my impression, but this is what struck me in the White Paper. You find their own investigators say that figures are useless unless weather conditions are taken into account. The weather conditions were not taken into account.
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
I have papers here which show that weather conditions were considered. I did not know that the right hon. Gentleman was going to enter into this. I have the documents here, but I carefully refrained from entering into that, because I did not want to be controversial.
§ Mr. BONAR LAW
I did not think I was entering into controversy in referring to it. I will not say more, except this, that two things struck me in the White Paper. One was, and I really think the Whole House will agree with me, that where the men were directly employed on Government work, and knew it was Government work, there was no cause of complaint. That is evident. The right hon. 1423 Gentleman, in making his speech the other day, referred to the figures given by the Prime Minister at Newcastle as if they applied only to Government work. I do not think that was the case. I think they applied also to work other than purely Government work. I think there is a lesson to be drawn from that, and I wish the House would realise that however important this factor is, it is only one of many very important factors, and perhaps there are some more important ones. I heard what the right hon. Gentleman said about private work, and the necessity for ships. I recognise the force of that, but I think we hear too much of that aspect of the case. I do not like "business as usual" talked about at time like this.
While I recognise the truth of what the right hon. Gentleman has said about the need for ships and the effect upon the prices of food and everything else, if there is a shortage of supply, yet I hope the Government will start with this principle and insist upon it from the beginning to the end, that all that work, however important it is, comes second, and that every man who is needed is to be taken first for the work which is necessary to bring this War to a successful end. That is my view. I would like, if the right hon. Gentleman does not, think he will need to reply to me, to point out one other consideration which struck me in the White Paper and in his own speech. He gave us, if I remember correctly, a picture of the heroes of the workshops, who were working eight-six hours a week, and he contrasted that with others who were working much shorter hours. Is it not obvious that, no human being can work week after week for fourteen hours a day? How does the right hon. Gentleman know, or how can anyone know, that the heroes of one week are not the slackers of another week? How can he know without evidence that the same men who work eighty-six hours for one week are not taking it easier the following week? My object is to impress upon the House and the Government that this is only one factor in the problem, and that it will be no advantage to the country, but quite the reverse, if, having got this measure, they think that things will go better now. That is one thing, bat the real thing is to secure a proper organisation of the whole of the industrial life of the country for the one purpose of bringing this War to an end.
1424 I would like to refer to a subject which. I have dealt with before. The last time I dealt with it I had the approval of the right hon. Gentleman. What strikes me is this, that if our people realise exactly what this War means, there will be no talk of shirking and there will be no talk of strikes. I am not going to try to get cheap favour with the working men by seeming to praise them, while the right hon. Gentleman has the courage to point out their faults, but no one can fail to have been struck with the tremendous sacrifices which are being made by highly paid artisans, a sacrifice which perhaps is greater in proportion than that of almost any other class in the community. These men have been having high wages, and high as the separation allowances are for their wives and families, it means that in the case of these men the families are living on a lower scale than usual. That proves their readiness in making sacrifices. Let it be brought home to the men what this means in reality, and the same spirit which sent so many to the trenches will send those who remain behind to help their brothers in the trenches by doing everything they can to provide munitions of war.
I listened with a great deal of interest to what was said by the hon. Member for Dundee (Mr. Wilkie). He said. "Deal with the shirkers." I am not suggesting that the Government will go down to these areas and say, "You are going to be made to work," but I do say that if the representatives of these men show the same spirit that was shown by the hon. Member for Dundee—if you can in any way in your power get the men themselves in the shops to take this up as their question, and deal with it as their question, you will do more than in any other way to get over this problem. I do not know whether everyone else has been struck as I was by the news which we have got from France. I think the country now will realise what this means. I think also that it is the duty of the Government to a greater extent than ever to take the whole nation into their confidence, to hold back no news however bad it may be, and where-ever possible, wherever it can be done without injuring directly military needs, to give to individual localities from which the regiments which are fighting come the same kind of account of what has been done by their fellow townsmen as was given the other day to our Canadian fellow countrymen, and which I know has sent a thrill from one end of the Dominions to the other. That is one of the 1425 things that ought to be done, and if it is done it too will help in the great object which we have in view.
§ Mr. ARTHUR HENDERSON
The chancellor of the Exchequer has appealed to the House for a Second Reading of this Bill. As far as we are concerned on these benches we are prepared to accede to his request right away. He has met us this afternoon, I am happy to say, in our appeal to him for the setting up of a Committee of Inquiry. I want to make it perfectly clear that when we asked for that Committee we did not deny that the evil existed. What we did say, and I am prepared to repeat it to some extent, was that the White Paper consisted of ex-parte statements, and that the workers who were to some extent charged, and who feel that they have been to some extent maligned, had in no way been called in to state their case. We hope that this inquiry will be proceeded with as expeditiously as possible. When I spoke two or three days ago some Members of the House thought that I was urging that no remedy should be applied, and that no attempt should be made to apply a remedy until the Committee had reported. I want to make it perfectly clear that that was not my suggestion. What I felt was that whatever the remedy suggested and accepted by the House might be, if we tried to apply that remedy with the men in the various localities where munitions are manufactured feeling that they had a grievance and that they had been unfairly dealt with—I do not care what the remedy was—we should be making an unfortunate start. I thought it was very much better, whilst trying to apply a remedy, that we should be conducting this inquiry at the same time, in order to remove the feeling of uneasiness that the men in some of our great districts are labouring under. Coming to the proposals contained in the Bill, I would point out that the remedy set out is not the remedy we would have been prepared to have accepted in normal circumstances. We feel that if the disease is as bad as some have made it out to be, then the remedy falls far short of the remedy required to meet the case that some have attempted to establish. Right from the beginning of the War we have tried to look at this question in this way, that the Government must be held responsible for any remedy submitted to the House, and if we were to consult our own opinion 1426 and form our own theories it would probably lead us much beyond the Parliamentary truce, and might have to take us into the Lobby opposite to that in which the Members of the Government would go.
If that truce is to exist two things must obtain. The Government must accept complete responsibility for any remedy that is introduced, and they ought to try to get it through the House with as great a degree of unity as is possible for them to secure. Therefore we say, when we approach this Bill, that the responsibility for the remedy, such as it is, must rest solely with the Government. We are not prepared to take the responsibility of opposing the Bill, and, therefore, we say to the right hon. Gentleman that we assent to its Second Reading. I do not mind saying that I should have liked to see the Government take the line of restriction of hours universally applied. In addition I should have liked to see them take the power to control and if need be to prohibit entirely in any district that showed itself not worthy of being trusted in the restriction of hours. However, these are not the proposals which the Government have seen fit to put into the Bill, but, keeping in mind that they must take the responsibility for the Bill, we shall not take the responsibility of opposing it. If it becomes law we shall do everything we possibly can, through the Central Boards and the Local Boards which will have to be established for its administration in the munitions areas to make it the effective remedy which we believe the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Government desire it to be for the evil that has been so fully stated.
I have a great deal of sympathy with the position taken up by the Chancellor of the Exchequer in reply to the statement made regarding the use of the word "permanent" in his Bill. I listened to the speech from the Mover of this Amendment, in which he stated, in supporting the Amendment, that he was not a temperance fanatic. I do not know that I would be going too far if I claim that I am a temperance fanatic. I am not ashamed of it. I have long felt that the greatest evil with which we, as working folk, have to contend is unfortunately the drunken habits of a large section of our people, and, if they were free from that evil, I have been convinced for a long time that they would soon free themselves from other 1427 social and economic evils of which they are the victims. I have also been convinced that even in normal times intemperance has the effect of reducing the standard of productivity, so far as our workers are concerned. Therefore, if I am charged with being a temperance fanatic, I will not object to the impeachment; I rather glory in the thought. But, while I may be a very strong temperance advocate, in a crisis like this I am quite willing to look at any question and any problem that is brought before the House with a certain amount of common sense, and I am not going to allow this crisis to be the means of advancing any of my theories. I will not take advantage of the present crisis merely to advance my theories and take undue advantage during a political truce of those with whom I may be in strong opposition in normal times. That is my position, and that is the position, I think, of most of my Friends on these benches. Therefore, if the Chancellor of the Exchequer gets his Bill on behalf of the Government, we shall bend all our energies to make it the success that he hopes it will be. As has already been said in this discussion, the crisis in which we now find ourselves demands of all of us any sacrifice, even the sacrifice of some of the theories to which we have been holding throughout a lifetime, if, by the pushing forward of those theories we would tend to create either in this House or in the nation any of that disunion which would impede the prosecution of this War to a satisfactory termination, to that termination at which we hope, in the interests of civilisation, we shall ultimately arrive.
§ Lord C. BERESFORD
The Chancellor of the Exchequer made a remark just now, I am sure quite unintentionally, which would mislead the House He said that the shipping lost through this War was the reason why freights have gone up, and, consequently, food has risen in price. That is not so at all. What really has happened—
§ Lord C. BERESFORD
I understood the right hon. Gentleman to say that. What really happened is that the Admiralty have taken up 3,000 ships—
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
I am sure that the Noble Lord does not want to misrepresent me. What I said was that if 1428 ships were lost, and no means were taken to fill up the gaps thus caused, it would be the means of increasing still further the cost of food.
§ Lord C. BERESFORD
The right hon. Gentleman has made a very good point out of that. But we are so short of ships that we did not prevent a preventable accident with the "Lusitania." That is the fact. If we had had proper patrols that ship would not have been lost.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Main Question again proposed.
§ Mr. DUNCAN MILLAR
It is quite obvious that the House desires that we should get the Second Reading, and get it soon. But I do think that after the Debate this afternoon it is desirable that the Chancellor of the Exchequer should have before him, at least, some statement with regard to the views of every section of the community. Therefore, very briefly, I will add one word with regard to a certain aspect of this, question which has not yet been put before him in this Debate. I refer particularly to the proposals contained in the Bill in reference to State sale and supply of liquor. I do not desire to raise this question in any controversial spirit. We all recognise how anxious the Chancellor of the Exchequer has been to arrive at a fair solution of the problem. But the right hon. Gentleman is mistaken if he thinks that there is not a strong opinion in certain parts of the country against such proposals. I cannot speak for Scotland as a whole, but I can, at least, say this, that during the period when the Scottish Temperance Bill was passing through this House, we had a very good illustration of the strength of the feeling which prevailed even as regards the disinterested management of the liquor trade, which was rejected by a large majority on different occasions in this House. I believe Scotland to-day is opposed to any form of nationalisation. I would like the right hon. Gentleman to consider whether, looking at the powers which he has taken in this Bill he could not stop at control and regulation. 1429 There is a very large body of opinion in this House that would welcome such a limitation of the powers. Many of us believe that the State ought not to interfere in regard to this traffic or to conduct it as a direct State traffic in which liquor would be sold by the State itself.
I want to appeal to hon. Members, many of whom desire that the trade, in this matter, should be treated fairly. Is there any greater indictment that could be brought against the liquor trade to-day than to say that you cannot regulate it and you cannot control it, and that, therefore, the State has got to step in and sell in order to see that the control is made absolute? All the powers contained in this Bill might be put into operation by the Government in the form of restriction and control. What objection is there to restricting the hours and restricting the character of the liquor sold and insisting that food should be provided in the existing licensed premises at fair prices? What difficulty is there on the part of the State in seeing that such regulations are duly enforced, if necessary, under a penalty? Surely at a time like this we are entitled to appeal to all sections of the community and to the trade itself to see that such conditions are carried out in such a way as to minimise the evils in which the House is dealing! I can assure the right hon. Gentleman, with regard to this particular proposal, that there is a large body of opinion opposed to the nationalisation of the drink traffic, and I believe that that great body of opinion will find much greater expression outside the House than it has found in the House up to the present moment.
We have had intimation made of the appointment of a Committee to deal with compensation matters. I would ask the right hon. Gentleman if he can inform the House on what principle this Committee is going to proceed in assessing compensation? If at the present moment, owing to the state of war, the State thinks it necessary to award compensation to the liquor traffic, why should not compensation be awarded to some other classes who, like the fishermen, are excluded from certain areas and are unable to exercise their calling, or, like other members of the community, have suffered a very serious loss through the direct action of the State? The House is entitled to know upon what principle this Committee is 1430 going to proceed, and whether we in Scotland are going to have effect given not only to Scottish conditions but to Scottish law, because in Scotland, as hon. Members know perfectly well, the question of compensation with regard to the liquor trade is on a footing entirely different from that on which it is in other parts of the United Kingdom. That has to be considered. I would point out further that we in Scotland are very anxious that no permanent arrangement shall be made which will in any way confuse the issues at the end of the War. We thank the Chancellor for having indicated clearly his intention of putting in the words "or permanently," in order that the State should be entitled to buy up shops and to close them. I gather that from what he said. He said to the hon. Member for Rushcliffe, "Surely you would not object to our buying up houses and closing thorn!" If that is his intention he should have no difficulty in the Committee stage. On the other hand, if his intention is at the end of the War to have so many houses in the hands of the Government, under Government control, and to say, "Why should we not keep them all in that form?" then that is a breach of faith with the people of Scotland.
We in Scotland have at present on the Statute Book a Temperance Act, and under that Act we have certain local options given to the people of Scotland. The people of Scotland have decided that these options shall be limited, and we think it unfair, at the end of the War, to take advantage of the situation and to say, "Now we propose to carry on the trade in this form in which the people of Scotland do not desire to see it carried on." We all recognise fully, and desire to thank the Chancellor for the courageous manner in which he has sought to deal with this problem, but we desire to warn him that there is a strong section of opinion which feels in the way which I have expressed. I might also add that unless there is to be some driving power behind this new Committee it will not do any more good than the competent naval and military authorities have done under the existing Defence of the Realm Acts. I would remind the Chancellor of the Exchequer that since November last there has been power in the hands of the naval and military authorities to close all the public-houses in any part of the country or to im- 1431 pose conditions upon them. Why have those powers not been exercised? In certain areas where drinking is going on, why should not the naval and military authorities have acted1? Are we to be in any stronger position with this new mongrel Committee which is to be set up? Is this Committee to deal with the Scottish interests as well? Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will inform me whether one Committee will deal with the whole United Kingdom, and, if so, whether there will be Scottish Members upon it, or, at any rate, whether there will be some regard to Scottish opinion. I regret extremely that the Government have not been able to deal with this matter on broad national lines, as they have done, in Russia and in France. This question affects every section of the community. The soaker and the slacker in every class of life is a foe to the nation to-day, and we ought to recognise that this Bill is only a partial attempt to solve the problem. The Government must recognise that. They introduced first the Temporary Restriction Act and then the Defence of the Realm Act. In Scotland the Temporary Restrictions Act is a complete failure. We have only four areas in which these general restrictions as to hours have been put into force. I would suggest to the right hon. Gentleman that it is desirable that we should have further powers given under the Temporary Restriction Act to enable us, along with other remedies, to have the houses throughout the country closed as an earlier time. I do not blame the Scottish sheriffs for the way they have acted in this matter. The duty was laid on the Scottish sheriffs to initiate, and the licensing authorities could then agree, or refuse to agree, to the proposal made. But there were occasions when the licensing authorities were prepared to close at earlier hours, but the sheriffs had not initiated. I hope, therefore, that something more on general lines will be done. The people in Scotland were entirely ripe for the abolition of the sale of spirits. I believe they would have welcomed it, and that it could have been carried out with the greatest ease. [An HON. MEMBER: "Not permanently.] At any rate, during the War. It could be I carried out without much difficulty, and I sincerely hope we shall yet see some I solution of the problem, not on partial lines, which leaves a stigma on certain sections of the community, but from a 1432 general national standpoint affecting the whole country and securing that the evil shall be dealt with in every form. I agree with what the hon. Member below the Gangway said as to the credit due to our workers on account of the great number of hours which some of them are working. I know that the steel-workers of Motherwell and of Lanarkshire are turning out their work splendidly, and I only regret that the Government have not thought fit, at this time, to consult the representatives of the workmen, and those associated with trade unions in regard to this question; for their co-operation would have produced an effect upon the men by showing them what was the opinion of those of their own class. I think it would have been a great advantage if the trade unions had been called into co-operation with the Government in this matter in order that the men might have been dealt with by the leaders of their own class. I sincerely hope that the Government may see their way yet to carry, in some form or another, a more general measure, and that the Bill may be improved in Committee.
§ Mr. GRETTON
The only part of the speech to which I have just listened and with which I agree, is that in which the hon. Member pointed out that the Government have made a great mistake in not taking the workers of the country more fully into their confidence. It is not realised yet what the situation is, and how necessary it is that everyone's exertions should be brought to bear in order to bring this War to a successful and speedy termination. If that necessity were fully realised, there would be far less trouble in doing what is required as rapidly as possible. The form in which the Chancellor of the Exchequer is dealing with this subject is leading him over very thorny ground. I personally doubt whether it is the most effective form of dealing with the difficulty which the White Paper sets forth. Almost everyone who has taken part in this Debate points to this question as affecting a minority only, and not as one which affects the great body of the community. Representatives of the working people and of working constituencies all agree upon that point, yet this Bill proposes to deal in the most sweeping and drastic manner with all members of the community in areas which may happen to be proclaimed under the Act. It is the first time, I think, in the 1433 history of our country where a social experiment is to be undertaken by Order in Council. Nothing can be more vague and more sweeping than the powers that have been conferred upon the Council in making these Orders.
In the course of the Debate it has been pointed out that Committees are to be set up, inquiries are to be held, and all the machinery of delay is to be created. One point of this controversy is urgency, and I am rather surprised that there should be this machinery of delay—inquiry, and so forth. There is urgency in this case, and there is still to be delay. One matter has not yet been noticed. The Chancellor of the Exchequer has committed himself to an expenditure of public money of which he cannot gauge the amount. I am not here representing any particular interest on this occasion; I am here in the interests of the public as a whole; and, looking at it from that point of view, I must raise some protest, at a time when all our financial resources are required, against public money being employed to deal with this question. With strong common sense the hon. Member for Dundee pointed out the way in which to deal with this matter. We are only dealing with a minority, and why do not the Government take power to proclaim those areas where the circumstances show it to be in the public interest? Put the works under control. We have the case of the dock labourers at Havre in the White Paper, which shows that, in the case of the majority among the workers, you would get speedy action without involving the expenditure of public money, and I believe such a course would prove the more effective remedy in the end. However, the Government have proposed a remedy, the responsibility of which is theirs, and in the present circumstances I shall not make any further remarks.
§ Mr. JONATHAN SAMUEL
I have listened to almost every word of the discussion on this measure both last week and to-day, and I am bound to say that every interest has been called attention to—the brewers, the distiller, and the man who sells—except the interest of the poor drunkard himself, about whom no one here has said a favourable word. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear!"] Yes; I say it advisedly, because the man who is affected by drinking is really the victim of the system, and I quite agree with the remarks of the hon. Member for Barrow, who pointed out that drunkenness is really 1434 due to the very large number of public-houses erected round each large works, not at the wish of the workmen themselves, but at the instance of interested persons. If any man will undertake to visit at any time these works, whether they are making munitions or otherwise, or whether it be a factory or a shipyard, or other description of works, he will see a very large number of public-houses surrounding the shipyard, factory, or workshops. I should like the Chancellor of the Exchequer to take into consideration, between this and the Committee stage, the fact that he is taking power in this Bill to sell intoxicating liquor—that is to say, for any scheme under this Bill, the Committee, or those in charge, might have the power to sell intoxicating liquor. I believe the argument has been used over and over again in the House that this is essential. It has been used by the hon. Member for Mansfield (Sir A. Markham) and by other speakers, that every miner should have a pint of beer when he left the pit.
§ Sir A. MARKHAM
No; what I said was that the man who worked in the pit, if he wanted a glass of beer, should have it, and that I saw no reason why, if he wanted it, he should not have it in moderation.
§ Mr. J. SAMUEL
I would point out that a very large number of our workpeople do not require drink. There are thousands of workmen in this country who go through their work and live without taking any intoxicating drink at all. I have here a statement which shows that in my own town, out of 257 men at Furness's steel works, no less than 93 of them are absolute abstainers, or 36 per cent. of the whole. It was stated by some of my hon. Friends that if the men worked at furnaces that it was essential they should have drink if they wanted it. I have here a statement showing that out of eight men employed at furnaces of 70 tons to 100 tons, no less than five are absolute abstainers, three of them life abstainers. Therefore, it is an absolute error for any man to rise in this House and say that if is essential that these workmen should obtain intoxicating drink.
§ Mr. J. SAMUEL
I certainly understood you to say so, and also the hon. Member for Norwich and the hon. Member for Sheffield. I should like to ask 1435 the Chancellor of the Exchequer, in regard to these proposals, to set up canteens around these works, how many glasses it is proposed to allow each man? This is a very serious question. If the Government is going to sanction the sale of intoxicating liquor to those men, then the Government undertake to say to the men, "We are of opinion that drink is essential to you." [HON. MEMBERS: "No, no!"] Yes, that is the assumption, and if a man demands one or two or three glasses and if he is refused there is the possibility of a strike in favour of more. Therefore, I say that the best thing to do if you destroy the public-house is to do so completely. I think the Bill will have excellent results if you do that, and if you take away those temptations from the working men. Under the Act of 1904 our magistrates have the power to remove public-houses, and pay compensation. In some of the districts they have removed a very large number, but they would never think of replacing those public-houses by canteens. Such a proposition never entered their minds. What they want to do is to destroy the very thing that causes the temptation to drink. I have very great commiseration and compassion for those men. They leave their works physically deteriorated, and they have the allurement of drink in going from their works to their own homes, and sometimes they fall victims. Therefore I say it would be a most serious matter for the Government to undertake a system by which strong drink is to be sold when they destroy those public-houses.
I suggest to the Chancellor of the Exchequer that he should send down at once and inquire into the excellent system at a shipyard on the River Tees where they have established an excellent method by which they supply food to 250 men, while the houses are very far away from the yard. They have had this system in vogue for some time. There is not a single intoxicating liquor sold there, and there is no demand on the part of the workmen for intoxicating drink. There is tea and coffee and hot drinks and food, but there is not a particle of intoxicating liquor sold in that shipyard. It is a most serious matter if we are going to touch the great drink question in the form of putting greater temptation in the way of the men. I am not standing here to condemn the working men. I know they have 1436 got so many temptations to which, many men in this House or their sons if they had to go through them, they would fall victims. We want those temptations eradicated. The Chancellor is proceeding in the right way to eradicate them if he will undertake to put this Bill into operation and abolish the public-houses, and then I think we shall live to bless him for many years to come. In the Defence of the Realm Act passed last year the Government have had the power to close public-houses up to 8 o'clock in the morning.
§ Mr. J. SAMUEL
It has been the custom certainly for fifty years for hundreds, of men when they leave the works in the morning to go into the public-houses. Since the public-houses have been closed up to 8 o'clock that is impossible, and as Member for the borough I have not received a single complaint from any workman as to the restriction of his liberties from that point of view. I believe all those workmen are more or less delighted with the fact that those temptations are removed. If the Chancellor of the Exchequer removes the temptations many of the evils of which he has complained, and which appear in the White Paper, will be permanently removed, and we shall all work in complete harmony with a view to providing munitions.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Bill read a second time, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House for to-morrow (Tuesday).