§ Resolution 92 read a second time.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House doth agree with the Committee in the said Resolution."
§ 4.0 P.M.
§ The MINISTER of MUNITIONS (Mr. Montagu)
I have a very long, and if I could only express it adequately, a very interesting story to tell the House. I think there has been no Debate on the Ministry of Munitions since December last, when my right hon. Friend, who is now Secretary of State for War, gave the House an account of the marvellous work which has been accomplished and outlined the work that still remained to be done, and warned us that if the nation did not throw itself heart and soul into the struggle they might find themselves too late. I should like to take the story up where he left it, and I feel sure that I shall have the sympathy of the House when I remind them that I have only been in the office for a month, and that I cannot pretend to know very much about it myself. Even if I knew everything that was to be known it would be impossible to describe the whole Ministry and all its activities in one speech, however long, and therefore I propose to take one or two features of our work and try and describe them. I will take, first, the question of output, for it is by this first and foremost that the House and the nation will ultimately judge the Ministry of Munitions. I will begin with shells. Figures have been given for some other countries showing the increase in the output of empty shell as a percentage of the output at the beginning of the War. But our output, which was only expected to supply an Army of 200,000 men, was so negligible that percentages on such a basis give quite fantastic results. For example, the empty shell output from home sources has increased, since September, 1914, 170 times in the case of 18-pounder shells, and 2,650 times in heavy natures.
I prefer to take as my basis of comparison the average weekly production of complete rounds up to the end of June, 1915, a year before the Ministry of Munitions came into existence. Compared with that, the rate of production of 18-pounder ammunition during the year 1915–16 was six and a half times that during the preceding year, and for 1680 the week ended 1st July, 1916, it was seventeen and a half times as great its the average rate in 1914–15. The weekly average production of ammunition for field howitzers in 1915–16 was eight times that for 1914–15 and is now twenty-seven times as great. The production of ammunition for medium artillery increased seven and a half times in 1915–16, and is now more than thirty-four times as great as the average weekly production up to the end of June, 1915. The greatest increase of all has been in the class of ammunition where increase was most difficult. The average weekly production of heavy shell was in 1915–16 twenty-two times as great and is now ninety-four times as great as it was in 1914–15. These figures can be put in another way, and even, I think, more graphically. The output which, in 1914–15, it took twelve whole months to produce can now be attained from home sources in the following periods:
That is to say, we are now producing every four days as much heavy howitzer ammunition as it took us a whole year to produce at the rate of output of 1914–15. If we lump all natures of gun and howitzer ammunition together, we are now manufacturing and issuing to France every week about as much as the whole pre-war stock of land service ammunition in the country.
- For 18-pounder ammunition in three weeks;
- For field howitzer ammunition in two weeks;
- For medium-sized shell in eleven days; and
- For heavy shell in four days.
§ Mr. MONTAGU
I said delivered in France—for British troops. I come next to artillery, which is one of the greatest features of development. Fifteen months ago the Navy absorbed by far the greater part of the factories suitable for manufacturing big guns. The armament firms of the country had very little machinery or plant capable of undertaking more than a mere fraction of the Army gun programme, and it was necessary to provide very large extensions of buildings and to equip them with new machinery. I am told that the area occupied by the new buildings amounts to 1,000,000 square feet, and it has been necessary to provide new machine tools to the number of 1681 over 2,500 to cope with the work. In addition to the armament firms, hundreds of other engineering concerns all over the country have been engaged in carrying out the work of the programme—building gun carriages, ammunition wagons, and all the various accessories and spare parts required for artillery. The result of these efforts is very marked. We are now turning out in a month nearly twice as many big guns as were in existence for land service when the Ministry of Munitions started. The monthly output of heavy guns increased more than sixfold between June, 1915, and June, 1916, and the present rate of output will eventually be nearly doubled. By June, 1916, the monthly output of the 4.5-in. howitzers had become three times as great as in June, 1915. For every 100 18-pounders turned out between the outbreak of War and the 31st of May, 1915, about 500 were turned out in the following year. As the equipment of 18-pounders is now practically complete, manufacturing capacity, except such as is required for repairs and renewals, has been transferred to other uses. I would remind the House that all this has been done when, I think, something like half the engineering capacity of this country is still hypothecated to the Navy.
I turn to machine guns. The number of machine guns accepted from the outbreak of War to the end of May, 1915, was only one-eighteenth of the number accepted in the next twelve months, the weekly output having increased, since the Ministry of Munitions was founded, four-teenfold, and is still increasing. The total stock existing when the Ministry was formed could be replaced in from three to four weeks at the present rate of output. The wastage of machine guns during periods of active operation is very heavy, and the demands of the War Office are continually increasing both for ground and aircraft work. But, notwithstanding great increases, we shall very shortly have satisfied all the requirements of the British Army. [An HON. MEMBER asked a question which was inaudible.] I said, although the requirements are continually increasing, even the latest increases we shall have satisfied in a very short time, and I hope we will be able to turn our manufactures to the benefit of our Allies. Rifles are more difficult to increase than any other munition of war. Nearly three times as many new rifles of home manufacture were accented after in- 1682 spection in the first year of the Ministry's activities than were accepted from the outbreak of War to the constitution of the Ministry. In addition, many hundreds of thousands of rifles have been repaired and resighted. I understand rifles have always been the chief factor limiting the number of men who can be put in the field, and the best evidence therefore of the progress of rifle output is the size of the Army that we are now able to arm and maintain overseas. It is a matter for congratulation that the equipment of our whole Army, both in machine guns and rifles, has been accomplished from home sources alone. [An HON. MEMBER: "America!"] What I said is true. The arming of our Army now overseas, as regards machine guns and rifles, has been wholly done from home sources.
In obtaining these results the chief credit should be given to the Royal Small Arms Factory at Enfield, which has done very good work and turned out more rifles than was thought possible, and has assisted and co-ordinated the other factories. Without its help I do not think the increase in British output would have been anything like what it has been. The home production of small arms ammunition is now three times as much per week as a year ago. The output of small arms ammunition has necessitated the co-ordination of the brass and cupro-nickel strip manufacture and the results have been so satisfactory that there has been no shortage in supply. We have been able to meet all demands for ammunition made by the War Office and yet at the same time build up a stock which should remove any anxiety for the future. Additional supplies have been arranged in order further to assist our Allies, and this contribution will reach very important proportions in the near future. As to explosives, the production of high explosives is sixty-six times as large as it was at the beginning of 1915, by far the most of it being produced in Government factories. The House may guess what work has been needed to reach the present production of high explosives when I say that the weekly consumption of high explosives in ammunition of all kinds is now between 11,000 and 12,000 times the amount required for the land service ammunition manufactured in September, 1914. In regard to trench warfare, in addition to the great increase in the supply of guns and gun ammunition, special attention has been directed 1683 to mortars and ammunition for trench warfare. Heavy and light mortars are now coming forward in large quantities with corresponding supplies of ammunition. The output of bombs increased thirty-three-fold between May, 1915, and May, 1916. If we compare the weight of contained explosive, we find that 150 times the amount of explosive was required to fill the bombs at the later than at the earlier date. Before I leave the subject of output, these figures, striking as they are, do not by any means represent the whole of our material contribution to the common needs of the Allied cause. I say nothing of the assistance we are giving in supplies of food and other materials not intended for the destruction of human life, or the incalculable services of the Navy and the merchant service. I am dealing only with the services rendered by the Ministry of Munitions.
A substantial quantity of finished munitions is being manufactured for the Allies in our national factories and by private firms. They include shells, field howitzers, heavy guns, grenades, machine guns, and small arms ammunition. We are sending to France one-third of the whole British production of shell steel. This is one of our most important contributions to the Allied cause. Steel is the basis of modern war, and the loss of the Northern provinces of France has robbed our Ally of nearly three-quarters of her steel-producing capacity. There are numerous other metals which, through a system of common purchase which was established some time ago and is now being developed, this country is supplying to our various Allies. These are metals either made in this country or purchased in the Empire or in neutral countries. They include copper, antimony, lead, tin, spelter, tungsten, mercury, high-speed steel and other less important substances. I can give the House the best idea of the magnitude of these metal transactions when I say that the monthly value of those supplied to the Allies is£6,000,000 sterling, while the method of purchase adopted has already, under that limitation of prices, secured a saving of over£41,000,000, a benefit which is shared with the Allies. [An HON. MEMBER: "Per annum?"] That is what has already been saved. We are also sending the Allies the constituents of explosives in very large quantities, manufactured at our national factories mainly, or with the new plant 1684 which the enterprise and initiative of Lord Moulton's Department has established in many gasworks throughout the country. We are supplying them with millions of tons of coal and coke per month, and with large quantities of machinery. Machine tools, as my right hon. Friend explained to the House last December, are one of the most essential factors in the manufacture of munitions, and 20 per cent. of the present machine-tool production of this country is destined for the Allies. After that, I think the munition workers of this country may flatter themselves that they have borne some part in the glorious victories of Russia, Italy and France. That is all I have to say of quantities. I pass now to quality.
§ Mr. HOUSTON
Before the right hon. Gentleman leaves that point, will he explain why we are still importing ammunition from other countries if we are turning out so much?
§ Mr. MONTAGU
The principle we go upon is that of endeavouring to supply both our Allies and ourselves, distributing to the best advantage the goods that we obtain either from this country or from abroad. I think it will be satisfactory to the House to learn that, so far as one can judge, concurrently with, I might almost say in spite of, this remarkable increase in quantity, there has been a substantial and satisfactory improvement in the quality of the material which we are supplying. I do not envy the responsibility of those whose business it is to provide the design of weapons and of ammunition. Eight months ago the responsibility for design was transferred from the War Office to the Ministry of Munitions, because in the belief of those who were responsible for the Ministry at the time you cannot divorce the responsibility for design from the responsibility for supply.
This transfer has greatly contributed to efficient and smooth working collaboration between officers responsible for the design and quality of munitions, and those responsible for supply. The former have worked untiringly at their special task, and are to be congratulated on the results of their labour. The problems they have to deal with can only be referred to in very general terms, but as regards the artillery itself no secret is divulged in saying that our new artillery material has acquitted itself during the recent fighting to the entire satisfaction of the British Army. I received yesterday a special message from 1685 my great colleague in France, M. Thomas, telling me that General Gossot, the head of the technical departments of the French Ministry of Munitions, reported after a recent visit to the British front that he had nothing but praise for our heavy guns and howitzers. He had found them beautifully made in every detail, most accurate and most efficient. One of his colleagues, General Jacquot, speaks equally highly of our new anti-aircraft guns. Credit for this must be given where the credit is due. Previous to the War we were not a military nation, and it was only natural that our designers of war material should pay greater attention to naval than to military armaments. It is a matter for congratulation that our armament firms have produced types of heavy land artillery at such short notice, which have now stood the test of prolonged action. I want to add— I must add—that the types of heavy howitzers now being manufactured in such large numbers were settled before the Ministry of Munitions became responsible for design. The War Office, and particularly the Department of the Master-General of Ordnance, is, therefore, entitled to share the credit with the designers and manufacturers for this satisfactory state of affairs.
Though I say that matters are satisfactory in this respect, it should not be inferred that the Ministry of Munitions is without its problems on the subject of guns. Even when manufactured to the best design and of the best material, guns wear out, and are damaged or knocked out by the enemy's fire. The British Army have suffered remarkably few losses from capture by the enemy. The provision that has to be made for repair, both in the field and at home, is an increasing source of anxiety. During the present offensive the difficulties have been quite satisfactorily surmounted. We are working in close touch with the Ordnance Department of our Army in France, and there is reason for expressing confidence that our means will prove adequate for this great task, but we shall have to mobilise for renewal and repair increasingly as our ammunition increases. Then, again, the conditions of the present warfare continue to emphasise the value of long range for modern artillery. Our unpreparedness for war has, at least, had one compensation in this respect. Our weapons are all of modern type with good range, when compared with similar weapons in the hands of the enemy. Still the demand is ever for increasing range as the value of long-range 1686 fire becomes more apparent when combined with good aerial observation. All I can say is that the Ministry of Munitions has not been unmindful of this tendency in the past and that it is keeping moving with the times.
Now as to ammunition. It is within the recollection of all listening to me to-day that little more than a year ago the character of our artillery ammunition was the subject of much criticism. It is, perhaps, not too much to say that the Ministry of Munition owes its existence to the urgent demand for an increased supply of high explosive ammunition that resulted from the operation of the spring of 1915.
§ Mr. MONTAGU
About May, 1915. Two problems were involved—to increase the quantity, and to improve the quality. To a great extent these are conflicting considerations, as all changes in design, however trifling, react on output. This task has been faced. It was difficult for the following reason: We had little experience of high explosives. Our experience was practically limited to one explosive, lyddite. We knew little about a substance which has become famous and is spoken of as T.N.T. But it was quite impossible to fulfil the programme; on these two explosives, and the dilution of the latter with other ingredients was a first necessity of the problem. So before we could achieve a solid increase with high explosive ammunition a whole series of problems involving much research and experimental work had to be solved. These problems have been successfully solved by the Ordnance Committee, and by Lord Moulton's Department, assisted by the staff of scientific chemists who work at Woolwich under the Superintendent of Research. The proportion of high explosive shells to shrapnel asked for by the Army is now being provided, and although it must be remembered that when you have an improvement in design it is some months before it can be put into the manufactured supply, and before it replaces the stock of the old design, the results in this country and the reports received from abroad show that during the last few months there has been a steady improvement in the quality of this ammunition.
There is another difficulty that has to be faced. Changes that improve the detonation of high explosives are apt to introduce additional risk. In fact, the 1687 artillerist who has to work at this problem is always between two dangers. He has to avoid premature explosions. We have lost some guns through premature explosion. I fear it is very possible that we shall lose more. But in spite of our initial want of knowledge of this subject, in spite of the very rapid rise of output, in spite of the fact that manufacturers without any previous experience have bean impressed into this difficult and responsible service, our losses in guns and in personnel from this cause have never been a really serious consideration, and what I think is eminently satisfactory is that the factor of safety has continued to rise with the improvement in detonation and the rapidly increasing output. There may have been some, there certainly were, who, when the Ministry of Munitions was first formed, were doubtful of the wisdom of entrusting such great responsibilities to a body of civilian amateurs. They feared disaster, and in certain cases openly expressed their fears. Those fears may now be allayed. There is room for further improvement— that I am bound to acknowledge. Many hon. Members no doubt still hear from their friends at the front of "duds," and, according to their temperaments or their actual experiences, their friends tell them that our ammunition is better or worse than the German ammunition. It is not possible at the present moment to say whether our ammunition is better or worse than the German. We know that the enemy has his failures just as we do. What the Ministry of Munitions claims is a very distinct measure of success in dealing with a very difficult question and a justifiable confidence of continued improvement in the future.
Far more so than in the case of artillery, it has been necessary to improvise our trench warfare material. In spite of very considerable difficulties, success in this department has been achieved. Types are becoming settled, and output is very satisfactory. As regards trench mortars, our light and medium types are stated to have done admirable work during the present offensive. A heavy type has been suggested which has done well, but there is probably more scope for the designer in this class of weapon at present than in any other. I am glad to be able to tell the House that the helmet which is now being supplied in adequate quantities is very satisfactory, and is probably the best in the field. The Ministry has carried out 1688 much experimental work with body shields, and we have now some results which are being tested on a large scale in the field. A good deal has recently been said on the subject of lights. Comparative trials have been carried out with our own and captured German lights, and there is absolutely no justification for saying that our own compare unfavourably.
§ Mr. MONTAGU
I will invite the hon. and gallant Gentleman to another trial. Entrusted as I am with the responsibility for one of the most important branches of the conduct of this War. I do not want to give the impression from what I have said as to improvement of quality that the Ministry is inspired by a snug complacency on the subject. Against such an enemy as Germany we can never afford to stand still, oven for an instant. There must be continued progress, or we shall get left behind. My right hon. Friend and predecessor established in the Ministry a separate Department of Invention, the principle object of which was to encourage invention and initiative. The aim of the Ministry ought to be to carry on its research and experimental work with such energy, that whenever the opportunity offers there is always a new and improved design waiting to be introduced. I have now told the House that the quantity of munitions have increased and the quality improved, I think we have all constantly present before us a conspicuous proof of the justice of my claim in the present offensive on the Western front in France. I want, if the House will permit me, to indulge in a short digression. I have tried to understand for myself, in approaching this new problem for the first time, the purpose and the mode of accomplishing the purpose of this vast expenditure of ammunition in a modern battle. I want to give the House the result of my inquiries, in the hope that it will help laymen to understand what is going on, and in the humble hope that it will not arouse the contempt of soldiers.
As I understand it, when an attack is planned against a securely entrenched enemy, with barbed wire everywhere, with elaborate communication trenches, and powerful long-range supporting artillery, the first necessity is to break down the wire and smash his first line of trenches. This means a heavy expenditure of field artillery, shrapnel, and trench mortar bombs for wire cutting, and heavy howitzer 1689 shells for trench destruction. If this task is inadequately performed, if the wire cheeks the Infantry, if machine-gun emplacements remain intact, the attack fails, and fails with horrible results. When the bombardment has disclosed to the enemy an impending attack, the enemy tries to stop it by curtain fire. During the bombardment the enemy, from his observation posts, is constantly watching for the Infantry assault. He concentrates a converging fire from hundreds of long-range guns upon the trench area from which the Infantry must debouch. That fire has got to be subdued, or the attack takes place under a perfect tornado of projectiles; hence the necessity for counter-battery work. An immense expenditure of shells from long-range guns, controlled from the air, whence alone the fire can be directed at the enemy's guns, goes on whenever aerial observation is possible. The guns are well entrenched, and this runs away with an enormous amount of heavy and medium ammunition. Next the attack takes place. Its flanks have got to be protected, and while the Infantry is engaged in facing the parapet of the captured trenches the other way they have got to be protected from counter-attack. A counter-attack begins by the enemy's bombers coming down the communication trenches and bombing the captured trenches. They cannot be seen—cannot be spotted from the Artillery observation posts. The only means of dealing with them is to direct a barrage fire which sweeps every communication trench, leaving nothing to chance. Later the enemy's more formidable counter-attack comes along. It is organised under cover of concentrated artillery fire by means of massed Infantry from the support trenches. The success of these attacks have not only got to be prevented, but the enemy must not be allowed to formulate them. So the successful Infantry must be protected on its flanks and front by barrage fire of shrapnel and high explosive directed against the enemy's support trenches, where the Infantry, unseen, are organising for the counter-attack.
Finally, to be able to press on successfully from one attack to the next, the resisting power of the enemy must be worn down by want of rest, of relief, of food. All day and all night the approaches to his trenches must be kept under fire to prevent relief coming to his men, to prevent the replenishment of ammunition supplies, and to prevent his obtaining 1690 food and rest. If you add one more detail, what I believe the French call tire de démolition, which is directed by the very heaviest howitzer guns against especially fortified nodes which are dotted about the area of the German lines, and consider all the operations which I have described, wonder ceases that you want so much ammunition. The only marvel that remains is you can ever produce enough to sustain the attack which goes on week after week, day and night, with varying, but always with sustained intensity.
Writers in the German Press have endeavoured to comfort the enemy by the assurance that our heavy bombardments in the last few weeks have made irreparable inroads into our resources of ammunition—the ammunition which has been laboriously accumulated for months past. It is truer that the expenditure of heavy ammunition during the last month has been more than double the amount that only eight months ago was thought to be wanted at the time. The preliminary bombardment in the week before the attack consumed more light and medium ammunition than the total amount manufactured at home during the first eleven months of the War, while the total heavy ammunition manufactured during the same period would not have kept the bombardment going for a single day. It is, however, a great satisfaction to be able to state that in the larger natures the output of the factories week by week covers the expenditure. If workers and employers continue to play their part nobly, as they are doing to-day, there is now no fear that the present offensive will be brought to a premature conclusion by shortage of ammunition.
I have much more to say, even at the risk of wearying the House. I have just said, as briefly as I could, what has been accomplished, both in amount and in quality. I should like to say a little about the methods by which it has been done. The Ministry of Munitions, although it has only been in existence thirteen months, already numbers on its central staff over 5,000 persons, and it is growing till it bids fair to become one of the largest Departments of the State. I know there has been much criticism and suspicion of this mushroom growth. I want, however, to ask the House to believe that the growth has beer inevitable in view of the increasing variety, diversity, and complexity of the work which we have been compelled to undertake. It is not merely a question of placing orders for a large quantity of materials. My 1691 predecessor, when he addressed the House in December last, referred to the extensive organisation which was' necessary for following up and expediting the completion of contracts. The Ministry of Munitions is sometimes compared—to its disadvantage—to the corresponding French Department, because the latter is much smaller. But it must be remembered, for one thing, that we have to do a great deal of administrative work here which my colleague in France is spared. Thus, the problem of labour organisation in France is far simpler than it is in England. They have no Munitions Act to administer. They need no such system of leaving certificates or of munitions tribunals as we have had to set up. They have not to administer the limitation of profits in some 4,000 controlled firms. They are spared many of the complicated problems created by the suspension of trade union regulations and the introduction of the dilution of labour. The release of soldiers from the Colours for munitions work can be far more simply performed in France than in England.
I would ask anyone who is disposed to criticise the size of our administrative staff to remember that we have to control an expenditure of far more than£1,000,000 a day. If you compare the cost of the central staff with the amount of its expenditure, the cost of the central administration is low, and amounts to less than one-sixth per cent. I want to give the House a trivial illustration, if I may, of the variety of matters with which the Ministry deals. When I was told that I had to make a statement on the Munitions Department, I cast my thoughts back over the matters with which I had to deal on that particular day. I began with a friendly controversy with a Government Office about the transport from near the Arctic Circle to a neutral country of a mineral the name of which was unknown to me, but which I was assured was the limiting factor in the output of certain indispensable munitions. I went on to discuss the question as to whether we should press the India Office, in the interests of the munitions supply, to construct a certain railway line in a remote part of India. There was a question of certain measures affecting the output of gold in South Africa. There was a discussion as to the allocation of a certain chemical, very limited in quantity, to meet the competing needs of the Army, the Navy, and the Air 1692 Service. There was a deputation from an important educational institution asking to be allowed to continue certain building operations. There was a discussion about the men deported to the Clyde. There was a discussion on certain contracts in America valued at over£10,000,000 sterling. In the course of the morning the Munitions Inventions Department brought to see me some walking specimens of exceedingly ingenious artificial legs. There was a conference on the allocation of several highly skilled workmen of a particular class amongst competing firms. There was a discussion as to the quickest means of manufacturing gun carriages. There were a hundred and one topics which must confront any body of men who spend their whole days watching curves which ought always to go up and figures which ought always to swell; reading reports from all parts of the world, and confronted always with the cry, "More, more, more!" and "Better, better, better!"
I can only choose, as I have said, one or two aspects of the administration of which to tell the House. The first one is the question of inspection. Inspection grows, of course, and the inspection department grows pro rata with all classes of munitions. The whole programme is dependent upon its work keeping pace with the output. It is sometimes thought—until a very short time ago I should have thought it if I had thought at all—that inspection means taking one or two samples out of a number of articles, looking at it, and telling by touch or smell whether it ought to be passed or rejected. As a matter of fact, inspection involves the most careful testing and gauging of every article that is passed, and that is a process in production which involves a very large factory staff. The average type of shell requires thirty gauges, a percussion fuse 100 gauges, and a time fuse 240 gauges. As these gauges must fit to within less than a thousandth part of an inch, and in most cases one-third of that figure, to obtain uniform results, it will be understood why the supply of gauges has been one of our greatest difficulties. An even greater difficulty was the supply of adequate staff. In France and other Continental countries a large staff of officers, who had been trained in the technical artillery schools, was in existence at the beginning of the War, and was turned on to supervision of manufacture and to inspection. The outside administrative staff 1693 of the Munitions Department in France is, consequently, almost entirely military. In England it is mainly civilian, it is civilian, and it has been created during the last eighteen months.
We owe a great debt of gratitude to the small core of Artillery officers who alone, at the outbreak of war, possessed the necessary knowledge and experience for controlling inspection, and who have formed the nucleus round whom the vast staff which has been formed has grown up. A large body of engineers has been specially trained in a school of instruction at the Ordnance College at Woolwich, and these men constitute the inspectors and assistant inspectors throughout the country, and they have a great deal of administrative as well as technical work to perform. They supervise the work of the examiners who handle the gauges and carry out the actual operation of inspection. The training of examiners for this inspection work is also a matter of great importance, and it is satisfactory to note that women are now being largely and successfully employed for this purpose. The staff employed by the Department has grown during the past three months from 19,000 to 30,000. Of the total, 14,000 are women, 9,000 of whom have been appointed in the last three months. The Inspection Department have a great responsibility in that guns, shells, fuses, and all other munitions to be of value must not only be dangerous to the enemy, but safe to the troops using them, and to ensure this is by no means an easy task, having regard to the immense volume of all warlike stores now demanded for operations in all theatres of war. Not only have you got to preserve the morale of your men by supplying them with munitions which give neither "prematurea," which kill them, nor "blinds," which fail to kill the enemy, but you have got to remember that "prematures" very often destroy the guns, and therefore safety of inspection is one of the prime necessities of supply. I trust that manufacturers will remember that when they are disposed to chafe at the tedious and elaborate processes of inspection, which are, of course, a check on output, but an essential and, I hope, the only welcome check on output.
The next Department to which I wish to draw the attention of the House is the Department which deals with marshalling and completion of ammunition. The 1694 manufacture of constituent parts of ammunition may be carried on all over the world. These components come from everywhere in an increasing stream by rail and by sea. The stream has got to be regulated so as to avoid congestion and, at the same time, bring an adequate supply of finished components for the filling factories. It is like a highly complicated chess problem to keep everything moving on a colossal scale, and it is made all the more complex by the fact that our supplies of components come from all over the world. You cannot control the supply in country overseas. Railway transport is not subject to our regulations, and the arrival of shipments is necessarily irregular. So we have had to set up a special Department formed to deal with home transport, and a second to deal with overseas transport. The latter is now handling, in co-operation with the Admiralty, 1,300,000 tons of freight monthly, including materials from Spain, Scandinavia, West Africa, the Far East, Chili, the United States, and Canada, and the quick discharge of ships to enable freight tonnage to be used to the best advantage, the expeditious clearance of railway wagons—all these are practical steps of great utility, and everyone who helps to shorten up any one of the stages of transport or handling of material is helping the country at the present time. When the components have been marshalled and assembled, they are dealt with by the filling Department of the Ministry, the development of which has been one of the chief features of the last six months. This development reflects the greatest credit not only on the head, but on the military and civilian officers assisting. While the tonnage of completed gun ammunition issued from the filling factories has risen in six months nearly four-fold, the administration expenditure per ton has been halved. This increase of tonnage takes no account of the enormous quantities handled by the Explosives and Trench Warfare Departments.
Then I turn to another part of the machine. The supervision and control of the Government factories need a very large staff. Before the War there Were three national factories working for the land service. Now there are ninety-five. These factories include eighteen factories for filling gun and trench mortar ammunition, all of which have been ordered, 1695 planned, and built during the last twelve months, and all of which are under the direct management of the officials of the Ministry. One of them is filling nearly twice as much as Woolwich, which, for the first eighteen months of the War, carried practically the whole of the burden of completing ammunition. There are thirty-two national shell factories, which are managed by local boards of management under the supervision of the Ministry. I cannot mention those factories without referring to the highly efficient local area organisation of which they form part, built up under the personal direction of one of the captains of industry whom my right hon. Friend roped into his net, with the enthusiastic co-operation of the foremost men in the engineering industry all over the country. Some indication of the work accomplished by these Boards of Management in organising new sources of supply is given by the fact that between September, 1915, and August, 1916, the factories for which they were responsible, none of which had ever handled a shell before produced in certain natures of shell four times the output of these shells during the first ten months of the War. Then there are twelve national projectile factories in various stages of completion occupied in making heavy shell under the management of large engineering firms supervised by the Ministry. These also are all in buildings which have been ordered, planned, and built by the Ministry of Munitions. They have just, today as I speak, barely developed one-half of their total capacity, but they are already sending out 25 per cent. of the heavy shell produced in this country. I have got some figures of a form familiar to the House. I am told they cover an area in buildings of seventy acres. They consist of bays with an average breadth of fourteen feet, and a total length of fifteen miles. They contain 10,000 machine tools, which are driven by seventeen miles of shafting at an energy of 25,000 horse-power, and their daily output would fill a train one mile long composed of 400 trucks, and requiring eight engines to pull it. They are very largely operated by women's labour. The number of women employed in them is already about 15,000, although a year ago we were told it was impossible for women to manufacture heavy shell. I think the nation is under a great debt of gratitude again 1696 to the men who have been responsible for the establishment of those factories, and to the courage, faith, and perseverance of those responsible for the labour policy which has rendered these factories effective. Of the remaining national factories twenty-two are concerned with the manufacture of explosives and their raw materials, six with the manufacture of cartridges and cartridge cases, while one makes nothing but gauges, and another nothing but small tools.
They serve two purposes: first of all, they render us independent of supplies from abroad, and, secondly, their administration affords us invaluable experience for controlling the whole volume of munitions. As regards the first point, my right hon. Friend pointed out eight months ago its importance, and the Ministry has been improving it. At the time the Ministry of Munitions was started, the percentage of American orders was 70 per cent. of the total output of light shell. We are now able to do altogether without any American supply of light shell bodies, and these orders are in process of being discontinued. As regards heavy shell, American supplies have been invaluable during the development of the new factories, and the orders are still required; but if home and Canadian output comes up to expectation, we ought ultimately to be able to do without American shell altogether. I do not like to pass on without saying that the House of Commons is aware that Messrs. Morgan are our purchasing agents in America, and without expressing our admiration of the way in which they and the American contractors have organised a proportion of their great industries for the output of munitions. As to the second point, that of controlling by means of national factories the output of munitions, I want to say a word as to the finance branch of the Ministry. The finance branch of the Ministry of Munitions which controls an expenditure of, as I have said, over£1,000,000 a day, has been given deliberately far greater powers than, I understand, is the case with the finance branch of other spending Departments. It retains a supervision over the financial clauses of all contracts during their negotiation. It has not had to use at all largely the power of examining the costs of manufacturers conferred by the Munitions Acts and the Order in Council. We have made alterations in costs with the concurrence of manufacturers.
1697 The key to the problem of financial control has been provided by the cost accounting system introduced into our own factories. The knowledge so gained has enabled the Ministry to put their finger on the weak spots in administration and extravagance in the factories themselves, and has afforded a standard to check contract prices. The cost of the factories, which was high at the start, has fallen rapidly, and is now much less than the 1915 contract prices. The reduction in home contracts which has ensued represents a saving in the case of shell of £20,000,000 a year. American shell contract prices have been reduced 15 per cent.; Canadian shell contract prices 12½ per cent. Fuse, Gaine and T-Tube prices have been lowered from 20 to 25 per cent., and trench warfare munitions from 40 to 50 per cent. Similar reductions have been made in the prices of explosives, ammunition bexes and small arms ammunition. It is worth recording that the cost of the large explosive and propellant factories erected, or being erected, in this country will be completely covered in from six to twelve months by the difference in the cost of their output and the price of these articles imported.
I wish to draw the attention of the House to the extent and variety of our interferences with the commercial and even with the private life of the country involved in the results which I have given. Germany, let us never forget, was organised for war. Her ceaseless and intelligent preparations had given her the workshops, the arsenals, the machine-tool factories, the chemical factories, the skilled labour necessary to equip an Army of many millions. We had no Army—at least comparatively none; we had no intention of being a military power; and while our industries were peace industries Germany was able to mobilise her second line of industrial defence and to use her dye works and her fine chemical works by turning them into explosive factories^ We followed her example after the War, but we had to begin from the beginning, and the demand for munitions of war has entailed a most comprehensive disturbance of the chemical and engineering trades of this country and of their allied and dependent industries. The State has had to step in and control them to an extent which no one a few years ago would have expected the country to tolerate for 1698 a moment. For this purpose we have had to establish an elaborate system for instructing Government contractors as to the order of priority which they are to assign, not only to Government, but also to all private work which they are asked to undertake. Again, we have had to fix maximum prices for steel, iron, and coke. We have had to regulate iron-ore freights from the Mediterranean and from Spain. We have had to prohibit speculation in certain metals and to place others under regulations whereby dealings are prohibited without licences. Then there is the case of the machine-tool department, which exercises complete control over the whole of this section of the country's trade. No machinery tools can be ordered from Government or private works without the authority of the Department. It controls the supply of machinery to all Government contractors, as well as the Allies and neutral countries and for private work. It has exercised very freely the powers which the Ministry possesses for removing existing machinery and transferring it to places where it is needed for the manufacture of munitions.
Again, our building programme necessitated our stopping private building. We have 1,500 applications now under consideration which we hope will lead to a large supply of available building labour. I think it is on the side of labour that we have interfered most with the rights of the individual. If I say that we are to-day far better off in regard to the supply of labour than we expected to be a year ago, I hope no one will think the problem has been solved, and it cannot be solved as long as there is an Army in the field. Our task has been to take the strictly limited supply of labour and spread it as thinly as was compatible with efficiency over the whole demands of the, nation. This has only been done by what is called "dilution," and it is only by dilution and further dilution that we can carry out the programme we have set ourselves. There are other expedients which have Been helpful—something has been done by bringing back men from the Colours to supply skilled labour. Forty-five thousand soldiers have been released from the Army and are now employed in munition factories. They come from 4,000 different units, and have been distributed amongst 3,800 employers. These men have greatly helped to make possible the large increase 1699 in the number of persons employed in munition trades. Then we have schools for the education and training of skilled and semi-skilled labour. Over 500 people have been trained as tool-setters to work on one special type of machine; nearly 200 plumbers have been trained as lead burners; and 130 jewellers have been trained as gauge makers. These are examples of what can be done by our system of training centres and university departments, and I trust employers will avail themselves more of the supply. Then there are the War Munitions Volunteer scheme, which has yielded 13,500 skilled workmen who have actually been transferred to war work.
By utilising these various resources the following results have been achieved: When the Ministry of Munitions was started the number of persons employed was 1,635,000. By June of this year this number had increased to over 2,250,000. Of these about 400,000 are women, which is nearly double the number employed a year ago. The proportion of women is increasing rapidly. In 1914–15 it rose from 9 to 11 per cent., and in the last year it has increased from 11 to 17 per cent. But in spite of all these advantages I have to say once again, notwithstanding that men have been brought from the Colours and that men have been specially trained, the only real way of meeting the difficulty is by an increased application of dilution.
Now I have shown how we have increased our output, improved its quality, how we have done it and disturbed trade to do it, and I want to complete the picture by expressing our debt to those people in particular to whom, I think, we owe it. We could never have secured this development unless the whole heart of the people was in the cause. Wherever we have asked for help we have got it. Wherever we have demanded services men and women have laid aside their own interests in order to serve the cause. I need not enlarge upon the services of the staff who have been working without intermission at the highest pressure in the offices at the centre and in the district areas into which the country is divided. But I want the House to consider for one moment the debt we owe to labour, skilled and unskilled. For forty years organised labour has been endeavouring, through the trade union movement, to win recognition for certain principles which are held to be necessary to secure a proper recompense 1700 and an equitable share in the control of industry. When the War broke out there were disputes in progress, and many grave industrial questions seeded likely to arise in the near future. The declaration of war required that a truce should be declared, and from that moment the time which might have been used as a period of preparation for a contest between capital and labour was consecrated to the services of the whole nation against the common enemy.
But the cessation of disputes and the postponement of the reforms which slowly emerged from the clash of conflicting interests do not exhaust the full measure of the sacrifices which organised labour has made. The trade unions placed on one side the whole armour of trade union regulations upon which they had hitherto-relied. For all the weapons slowly forged during long years of struggle—rules and customs relating to hours of labour, overtime, the right of entrance to trades, demarcation of industry, the regulation of boy labour, and the exclusion of women from certain classes of occupation—all these directly or indirectly might have tended to reduce the output during the War. The Government asked Labour to put all these on one side. It was a great deal to ask. I doubt if any community has ever been asked for greater sacrifices, but with a loyalty and statesmanship which cannot be overestimated, the request was readily granted. The trade unions required, and they were right to require, a scupulous record and recognition of what they were conceding. It was promised to them as a right, but they will receive more, not only the restoration of the system they temporarily abandoned, but the gratitude of the Army and of the nation, and they will, I trust, place the nation still further in their debt by playing an important part in devising some system which will reconcile in the future conflicting industrial interests.
Now I want to say a word about women. Women of every station, with or without previous experience of the difficulties, or of the strain and monotony of munition work, have proved themselves able to undertake work which before the War was regarded as solely the province of men, and often of skilled men alone. Indeed, it is not too much to say that our Armies have been saved and victory assured largely by the women in the munition factories, where they helped to produce aeroplanes, howitzer bombs, shrapnel bullets, 1701 shells, machine tools, mines, and have taken part in shipbuilding—there are, I believe, some 500 different munition processes upon which women are now engaged, two-thirds of which had never been performed by a woman previous to twelve months ago. I do not want to elaborate this point, because it is well known to the House, but I ask the House, to consider this, together with the work done by women in hospitals, in agriculture, in transport trades, and in every type of clerical occupation, and I would respectfully submit, when time and opportunity offer, it will be opportune to ask: Where is the man now who would deny to women the civil rights which she has earned by hard work?
We have also had to call on employers and capitalists to make sacrifices. Those sacrifices have been equally heavy and their patriotism equally marked. It has not infrequently happened that employers and workpeople have had the exceedingly galling experience of being pulled up short when production was just getting into full swing. I can assure the country that the Ministry does its utmost to prevent irregularity in its demands, but war does not run according to schedule. New phases of the War create new necessities and demand changes, and recognising, as I do, how unpleasant this experience is—particularly when the work has been undertaken not from a sense of profit, but from a sense of duty—I am certain workpeople and employers alike will continue to put up with the inevitable in the same cheerful spirit which they have shown in the past. Our achievement really is explained by the simple fact that the nation was willing. You cannot govern an unwilling nation, but there is nothing you cannot do with a willing nation. The response to our appeal for a postponement of Bank holiday is a very good example, and it has been cheerfully accepted on beth occasions by the workpeople. We have decided to inaugurate a period of rest at the end of September for certain munition works where relay holidays have been found to be impossible. I trust that this will not be transformed into a national holiday, because it is only intended as a recognition of the fact that machinery and men, and still less women, cannot be worked for ever without a halt for repairs.
And now I desire to pay one other tribute, and perhaps it is the most important. When the War began, the work which our staff of 5,000 people in London alone is now 1702 doing was done by the War Office. A nation which had enjoyed a century of security and was defended by an incomparable Navy had always grudged expenditure of money on military preparations, and the soldier had to plough his lonely furrow without the sympathy of the civilian. Is it to be wondered at that it took some time for the War Office to realise that in this War it was not a soldier's or a civilian's war, but the whole nation's war, and the whole nation for the first time were eager and anxious to cooperate in producing all that was necessary. But apart from this, it must be remembered that the War developed slowly, and that even the soldiers who were responsible for the conduct of operations, and upon whose advice the supply of munitions must ultimately depend, could not be expected at once to formulate their final requirements and to anticipate the vast scale and the endless variety of munition supplies which were to confute the teachings of professors and exceed the vision of prophets. The controversy between high explosives and shrapnel was a controversy settled after much discussion in the fields of France. The knowledge of high explosives which was wanted was not forthcoming until it was crystallised by trench warfare in the Spring of 1915. The great lesson of the early months of the War was that munitions cannot be obtained merely by ordering. You have got to see that the man who takes your orders has the plant and the labour; you have got to follow up the work process by process; you have got to provide from the beginning to the end everything that is necessary. That is the cardinal principle of the Munitions Department. That is the lesson learned in the first months of the War, and it was this main conception with which my right hon. Friend left the Treasury to build out of nothing the Munitions Department and the wonderful output I have described. Everything I have said of our success is a tribute to him. He chose the great leaders of industry who formed the pivots of our machine. He formulated the needs of the moment to labour, and persuaded them to agree to meet our necessities. He realised the scope which our operations should embrace in all the essentials of the production of munitions, and his tireless energy and vigorous personality were the inspiration of the whole vast fabric. He set himself to do more. He realised how much of our prospective 1703 supply of big guns was hypothecated to the Navy. He realised how long it took to collect the raw materials and to train labour. It is no secret to say that he ordered far more heavy guns than was then thought by the War Office to be necessary. It is no secret to say that before he left the Ministry of Munitions he had the satisfaction of receiving new requirements from the War Office, which showed that he had not ordered too many, but too few; and yet, notwithstanding that, it is due to his foresight that the surplus guns will be all ready in or about early spring of next year. For this one courageous feat alone and for the Ministry as a whole—in saying this I do not for a moment underrate the help which he has received—the country owes him the greatest debt of gratitude.
When I say that, I hope the country will not think that all has been accomplished, that our task is complete, and that the end is in sight. Much remains to be done. Our home resources are not yet fully developed. Our dependency on foreign supplies still exists. We have got to keep the organisation up to its mark. We have got to extend it. We have got to overcome difficulties and shortcomings which have been revealed. We have got to anticipate and remedy new difficulties. We have got to devise improvements and achieve a still greater output. The success of our Army is beund up with the supply of big guns, and, though the figures which I have given show that much has been already accomplished, our programme of guns will not be fulfilled till the Army's equipment of heavy Artillery is raised to many times its present strength, and our supply of ammunition must not cease to grow till we are in a position to maintain indefinitely along the whole of our front the present expenditure of ammunition on the Somme. The output of Germany is still increasing, and the end will not be in sight until we have established an Artillery superiority everywhere. The resources of Russia and Italy are insufficient to enable them to establish this superiority for themselves, and I think we must look forward with pride to the fact that a considerable proportion of the further munition-producing capacity next year will be required for them. In war it is as great a thing and as profitable a thing to arm and equip our Allies as it is to arm and equip ourselves. Thanks to our Navy, our resources are unimpaired and our shores are inviolate. Invaded France, despoiled Belgium, 1704 temporarily occupied Serbia, gallant Russia with its ports of entry limited by ice, by distance, and by the Dardanelles—all these must find part of their supplies here, profit by our organisation, and be assisted by our munition workers. And, if I may say so, particularly for Russia, the achievements of whose gallant soldiers are at this moment filling every Allied country with pride, particularly for Russia, whose wonderful and self-sacrificing heroism did so much to stem the invasion of the Germans into France in the earlier months of the War, whose success this year helped so much in the Italian victories over the Austrians, and who is now engeged in putting the finishing strokes to Austria-Hungary, particularly for Russia ought we to redouble our efforts and to prove not only our willingness, for that is certain, but our capacity to help.
Then, is there nothing else? I trust that I shall not be accused of travelling beyond my functions when I ask this question: Is that all? We have organised British industry for the production of munitions. This organisation covers the country and touches our daily life at a thousand points. Scareely any of the articles which it is the object of this organisation to produce are simple in construction. Some are as complicated in their mechanism as the finest watch and yet are put together only to be blown out of the end of a gun. We have learned in this process that where the enemy had an advantage was first and foremost in the application of thought to business results. Old-fashioned machinery and slip-shod methods are disappearing rapidly under the stress of war, and, whatever there may have been of contempt for science in this country, it does not exist now. There is a new spirit in every department of industry which I feel certain is not destined to disappear when we are at liberty to divert it from its present supreme purpose of beating the Central Powers. When that is done, can we not apply to peaceful uses the form of organisation represented by the Ministry of Munitions? I am not thinking so much of the great buildings which constitute new centres of industry, planned with the utmost ingenuity so as to economise effort, filled with machines of incredible efficiency and exactitude. I wish rather to emphasise the extent of which all concerned—and each section is vital to our objects—are co-operating to obtain the best results from the material 1705 in our hands. We have the leaders of all the essential industries now working for us or co-operating with us in the Ministry. The great unions render us constant assistance in the discussion and solution of difficulties, whether with our officers or within their own body. On technical questions of the most varied character we have the advantage of the best expert advice in the country.
We have in being, now that British industry is organised for war, the general staff of British industry. I am sure that we should sacrifice much if we did not avail ourselves of that staff to consider how far all this moral and material energy can be turned to peaceful account instead or being dispersed in peace time. What are we to do with our machines and our factories? How are we to demobilise our labour? How are we to carry out our undertakings to those who have earned our recognition? How, in a word, are we not only to restore the conditions of peace but to make peace more real and precious to all concerned? In the solution of these riddles, which we fail to solve at our peril, we shall need the continued help of all that intellect and experience which has rallied to us for our country's sake. But we must not take our eyes off our immediate purpose. If I lay stress upon the Ministry of Munitions in its achievements, no one will accuse me of claiming any personal credit. More than that, I am sure that my predecessor will agree with me in saying that anyone with our responsibility must feel that his duty lies, not in denying that it is possible for his Department to make a mistake, but in an unwearied endeavour to eliminate a larger and larger proportion of the errors which must arise so long as men and materials are what they are. It is for us to invite and accept criticism, to welcome suggestions and to encourage inventions until the day when the finest and most flawless material is unfailingly and amply supplied to the finest Armies in the world, until in fact the day when we have rescued civilisation from the menace and treachery of our enemies, when we have avenged honour, punished barbarity, restored security, and established peace by the final and lasting defeat of those who have sought this War.
§ Mr. ANDERSON
The Ministry of Munitions has been responsible and is responsible for a large part of the Labour policy of the Government with regard to a very considerable field of industry. The Minister of Munitions to-day has referred 1706 to that matter at considerable length, but the picture which he has painted requires some shading in a number of aspects. I am convinced that a considerable part of that policy has been mistaken and wrong. We have been told that miracles have been accomplished. I do not deny that certain things have been done, but, regarding some of the things done from the wider aspects of Labour policy, they have not by any means been a success. A considerable portion of the policy of the Minister of Munitions towards Labour has been of a penal and repressive character, and that has been particularly so in regard to legislation. That legislation has not won the confidence of the workpeople. It is based upon an ignorance of the psychology of the workpeople, and I am convinced that neither that legislation nor the administration of it are going to win the best work from the workpeople. Personally, I believe that fair play and just dealing as between the Minister of Munitions and the great mass of organised and unorganised labour will accomplish far more than all the compulsory legislation that can be brought forward.
I desire to carry the story back to some months previous to the formation of the Ministry of Munitions, in order that we may see exactly what has happened. It is perfectly true that towards the end of July there was a very ugly and dangerous Labour situation in this country. There were strikes and rumours of strikes. It is also true that when War was declared those Labour troubles for the time being disappeared as if by magic. There was many leading articles which spoke about equality of sacrifice, and about the rich and poor being one family, but, unfortunately, it was very largely left there, and for many months there was not, on the part of the Government, that wise foresight and knowledge that there ought to have been. The bad profit-making system remained unchecked and uncontrolled, and the workers in many cases were the victims of their own generous emotions—and when generous emotions are abused they are apt to turn somewhat sour and cynical. One mistake made in the early days of the War was the indiscriminate method of recruiting, by which a large number of skilled workers were got into the Army. A great deal of trouble and money was expended on getting these skilled men into the Army, and a great deal of trouble and money was expended in getting them out of the Army again. Members of this House had to be 1707 sent to Vancouver and other places in order to get skilled workers. This at the start aggravated the problem of the shortage of skilled labour. Nobody attempted to think out the effects of war on industry, and things were allowed to drift on with inevitable consequences. The people who were making money and who have made money throughout the War were very largely left uncontrolled. There was a great rise in food prices. The workpeople at the start of the War looked to the Government and said, "We have put on one side our labour disputes and we look to you to guard us against any great increase in the cost of living." Unfortunately, nothing practical was done. I remember when the matter was debated in January and February of last year the Prime Minister's only answer was, practically, to say that if the workpeople would wait till June he thought something would happen. The workpeople did wait until June, but nothing happened except that prices continued to rise.
In point of fact, that more than anything else destroyed the initial confidence of the workpeople, and led to a restiveness which even manifested itself during the War in temporary disturbances, strike troubles, and so on. You had first of all the very heavy pressure for Government contracts. Side by side with that, you had a shortage of skilled labour, great competition for workpeople, and general confusion and lack of organisation. In the middle of all that the Ministry of Munitions was born. How did the Ministry of Munitions go to work? I believe that those who were responsible for the Ministry of Munitions have attached far too much importance to the compulsory side of their powers. The late Minister of Munitions, now Secretary of State for War (Mr. Lloyd George), used to beast in many of his speeches about the great powers he possessed over labour under the Defence of the, Realm Acts. My own conviction is that the less we hear of that sort of talk the better, and that you are not going to win the confidence of labour by saying what your powers are under the Defence of the Realm Acts, and so forth. It seemed that labour believed itself to be unprotected against the rise in prices, against the methods of the ordinary capitalist employer, for there was far too much ordinary capitalism allowed to take place, even during the crisis of the War. Labour had been asked to waive, and had waived, all its trade union 1708 rules in respect of output, rules which, in my opinion, are more applicable to times of peace than to a time, of war. Also, they had put aside rules in regard to the training of new workers, and dilution of labour. The law of supply and demand in regard to labour had been abolished by legislation during this War. Labour today is not able to secure the wages that labour could secure if it were left to the ordinary interplay of supply and demand; and while I have always said, and will say, that I do not believe any interest, neither labour interest nor any other, should take full advantage of the present situation of the country in order to get all it can, I do say that the law ought to apply to shipowners, food monopolists, and all round, and that if you abolish the law of supply and demand with regard to labour, and do not allow a workman to leave one shop to go into another where he can earn more money, it ought to apply to the shipowners and those making very large profits out of the War.
There is a great deal of growing talk about industrial compulsion. My own view is that the Munitions of War Act was the beginning of industrial compulsion in this country. I believe it was a wrong method of going to work. I believe very few people understood its application and its implication at the time it was passed, and I am convinced that the administration of that Act to-day is causing constant and serious friction and bitterness inside many of the factories and workshops. The bargaining power of the Workmen has gone. I would not complain of that if the powers of the employer to a large extent were also gone, and if the power of forcing up prices had gone; but the wages of munition workers to-day are governed very largely from Whitehall, and there are constant complaints of long delays in regard to arbitration cases, and the like. I say that if there is to be no strike trouble, and I am quite sure no one desires to see strike troubles until the country wins through to happier times, then it is all the more important that the arbitration cases should be settled justly and speedily, with tb.9 least possible amount of friction and irritation. In many cases where men have been asking for some improvement in their conditions they cannot even get the Arbitration Court to decide one way or the other. One of the main troubles to-day is the question of the discharge certificates under the Munitions of War Act. In many cases they act very 1709 harshly and unjustly. I believe the first Act was a very hastily prepared, slapdash and ill-considered measure; and if I had time to-day I could show that it acted very unfairly indeed as between the employer and the employed, so unfairly that in the end it was brought home to the Ministry of Munitions itself, and an Act was introduced to amend some of these disabilities. The amending Act was not, however, brought forward until great harm had been done, and many workpeople were very irritated indeed at what had taken place. To-day even the amended Act is causing trouble, and I believe this embargo of six weeks is used again and again harshly by employers in a way that ought not to be employed, if you are holding the balance justly between the workpeople and the employers. We have had cases where employers refused to grant these discharge certificates and to allow the workpeople to go elsewhere, and even where the work they themselves were doing was broken, scanty, and scarce, and wages were interfered with. We have had cases where girls, though earning low wages, were unable to get their discharge certificates in order to go where they could get proper wages and be paid at a proper rate. We have cases where a man's health, or his wife's health, is suffering in the district where he works, and he applies to go to a fresh district which will be beneficial to his own or his wife's health. We have a man fined in this Court for speaking back to his foreman, although I have never gathered that a foreman is fined, whatever he may say to the workmen. We have cases of men fined for disobeying orders, and I do not gather that men are expected to obey orders no matter how unreasonable they may be. It has also happened that where a man in some ease has worked himself practically to a standstill, and has taken a few hours off, he is liable to be taken to the Munition Court and fined £2 for staying away from work for a time.
I say that what may seem trifling cases are causing to-day a great deal of irritation. I could read case after case, for thousands of cases have been brought to my own notice—thousands of cases happening, not some time back, but now, where a constant stream of workpeople are going through these Courts. Thousands are going through these Courts, and this sort of thing has happened. Here is an instance of a munition tribunal at Newcastle:
1710 George Morgan, a fitter, is brought before the tribunal, and I suppose he loses a day or two days' work in order to come before the tribunal. He is charged with having refused to obey the orders of his foreman on 31st July. It was stated that Morgan was engaged in removing some flanges, and that he worked until 10.15 p.m. He then went to his foreman and asked him to sign his card, as he was tired of the job. He said that the foreman's idea seemed to be that a man who started a job should finish it. He said he did not disobey any order, and the foreman signed his card at 10.15. The chairman remarked that the case was rather near the berder-line, but they thought there was evidence that the order ought to have been obeyed, and therefore the man was fined £2. The case was on the berder-line, but they rather thought that the man disobeyed some order that ought not to have been disobeyed, and in place of giving the man the benefit of the doubt he was fined £2! There is no need to read out a large number of these cases which are constantly coming up in the Munitions Court, and what I say, and what I wish to impress on the Minister of Munitions, is that they really ought to issue some sort of circular. It is not within my province now to speak of legislation, but they ought to issue some circular and to discourage merely frivolous and vexatious prosecutions. I have seen cases, as we all have, where I think the workman was very much to blame in his conduct, but I do suggest that any number of these cases that are trifling ought never to have been brought at all. In fact, I have seen cases where the chairman of the tribunal said that employers ought never to have brought such cases. I suggest that everything ought to be done to reduce these cases to a minimum, that the cases ought to be serious cases, and that all sorts of trumpery charges should not be brought, seeming to find some special joy in fining the man. If that is to be allowed to continue, the personal and industrial liberty of the workpeople will go entirely. In regard to legislation of this kind, there is a very unfair and arbitrary distinction and discrimination between one grade of workpeople and another. There are large masses of war workers, such as the miners, who do not come under this legislation at all, and you apply one law and one set of restrictions to one group of workpeople from which another group of workpeople are entirely exempt.
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER (Mr. Whitley)
I would remind the hon. Gentleman that he is only entitled to criticise administration. This is Supply, not legislation.
§ Mr. ANDERSON
I quite accept that, but in this matter I am not dealing with new legislative changes. I do think many of these matters are really embodied in administration, and so far as possible I confine myself to that. I think on the whole that perhaps you have allowed me all the licence to which I was entitled up to the present time. This matter works out in very different ways, and I want to deal with two questions which are really questions of administration. I complain of very different treatment indeed. There was trouble among the miners in South Wales, and for reasons which I do not wish now to discuss, 120,000 of the miners came out on strike. It was an enormous force, and the Ministry of Munitions, side by side with the beard of Trade, went down to Wales, met these men, and the matter was settled. The same thing, on a much smaller scale, took place in Glasgow. There was trouble in Glasgow, into the merits of which I do not desire now to go. I am sorry there was the trouble at all, but what did happen in that case was this—
§ The PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY to the MINISTRY of MUNITIONS (Dr. Addison)
Will the hon. Gentleman say to what trouble he refers?
§ Mr. ANDERSON
I am corning to that. In the Glasgow case, so far as I understand, no attempt was made at the time to ascertain what were the real grievances. The houses of men were visited about four o'clock in the morning, and a number of men were exiled from Glasgow to various other points in Scotland. I understand that no charge against them has been formulated up to the present time, but that they are still unable, the majority of them, to return to their homes. These men deported from Glasgow have been placed, I understand, under military law.
§ Mr. ANDERSON
The Parliamentary Secretary shakes his head, but in point of fact I happen to have in my own possession letters from the officer commanding in Scotland which show that he has the widest powers over these deported men, and I have one instance of where a workman, deported from Glasgow to Aberdeen, was afterwards allowed to go to Cardiff to 1712 join his ship, and had to sign a declaration in the presence of the military authority that when he went to Cardiff he would immediately go on beard his ship, that he would not report himself to any local trade union leader or labour leader, or draw the attention of any friend in Cardiff to the fact that he had visited that town. I think those are very, very harsh restrictions to impose, and I believe that that sort of thing is not going to do any good. In point of fact, in regard to that case I asked a question which the hon. Gentleman may remember, and he admitted that the facts I brought forward were entirely-true. I want to touch on another matter that has been arousing some attention recently, and that is the conditions under which soldiers are going to be employed in the munition works of this country. We have had various questions asked in this House in regard to the conditions under which the military are going to be employed for working purposes inside the munition factories. I do think that is a matter which requires the closest attention, because unless that is done there is going to be quite needless trouble, suspicion, and mistrust aroused among the working people. Some of the working people believe that if we are not careful the War itself may be used to subordinate labour. Therefore any step that is taken which lends colour to that view is surely very unwise. I have a letter here from a friend at Llanelly, a worker in the Labour movement, who supplies me with certain facts about the employment of soldiers in the Llanelly Steel Works:These soldiers are not now paraded at the drill hall, but outside the works, and they are marched inside after the roll call. The men are directed and controlled by the lance-corporals and other non-commissioned officers. The officer in charge parades the soldiers on Sunday mornings at the drill hall. This happened this morning.—This letter was written last Sunday.A fortnight yesterday the soldiers were paraded at one o'clock outside the works and were addressed by the officer ill charge, who told them that the men were to be in their billets at ten o'clock each night, that they were to clean up and parade at eight a.m. on the following day (Sunday), that the money had not come through to pay them for the week, but he hoped it would arrive on Monday, and, if so, they would be paraded at 5.30 p.m. to receive their pay. The soldiers have now been supplied with overalls. The soldiers belong to a Labour Battalion, and strongly resent themselves being used in this way.I wish to impress upon the Ministry of Munitions, so far as they are responsible in conjunction with the War Office, that where soldiers are told off for two months 1713 on end by a mere agreement with the War Office—it may be for four months or six months on end—they ought to take them away from military law and place them for the time being under civil control. I am quite sure that unless that is done there will be growing trouble and suspicion in this matter. Here is a question which was asked the other day in this House by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Woolwich (Mr. Crooks). He asked the Secretary of State for War:Whether 200 soldiers have recently been employed in the Army Ordnance Department and by the Chief Inspection Department, Woolwich, working in two batches on day and night shift, for an average of thirteen hours per shift, without extra pay, and were marched to and from the place of work; whether he is aware that numbers of workmen, some of them married, who were employed on the class of work to which the soldiers were put have recently been discharged; and whether, in view of the pledges given against any introduction of industrial compulsion, he will take into consideration the advisability of placing all departments at Woolwich under civilian control?It appears that in the case of Woolwich civilian workmen have actually been discharged, according to the right hon. Member's own statement, and their places have been taken by soldiers under military law and control. I am quite sure that if that is the fact—
§ Mr. ANDERSON
The hon. Member for South-West Ham (Mr. W. Thorne) has a question on similar lines on the Notice Paper for to-morrow, and the matter will have to be thrashed out. I am quite sure that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Woolwich and the hon. Member for South-West Ham would not put down a serious charge of that kind without having some ground for it. The hon. Member for South-West Ham himself only yesterday raised another matter which brings in the same question of the growing militarisation inside the workshops. He gave the case of a wagon-builder of Penistone, in Yorkshire, who, after being engaged for many years, was discharged on 20th July last because of his trade union activities.
§ Mr. ANDERSON
He was discharged on 20th July. When this man got his dis- 1714 charge certificate upon it was written the wordsThis man is wanted for the military.That is a discharge certificate, issued, I take it, under the Munitions of War Act.
§ Dr. ADDISON
It is not! The hon. Member knows perfectly well that to write that on a Munitions of War certificate would render the certificate invalid.
§ Mr. ANDERSON
I do not want to make the charge that employers are legally allowed to write that upon the certificate. My point is that many employers are illegally using the power they have. It is quite clear what the procedure is when they write upon a certificate something which is afterwards used, because I find that the man is no sooner dismissed than he receives a military note to appear before the military authority at Barnsley on the 4th August, at 9.30. That is a very serious matter.
§ Mr. ANDERSON
I assure my right hon. Friend that I know he does not want this sort of thing to spread. It is by no means an isolated case. I was in Wales during the last week-end, and while there I was given a copy of a letter which was sent by the Ebbw Vale Steel and Iron Company to a workman who wanted to leave and handed in his notice. There was some trouble there. What did the firm write in reply? This happened on the 22nd May:In reply to the notice signed by you dated 22nd May, 1916, we beg to say that we decline to accept the week's notice or any notice to leave our employment at the present time. (P.S.—If you refuse to work, and leave our employment without permission, we shall at once report the matter to the military authorities.)What right has this firm to report a matter of this kind to the military authorities? If this man acts illegally he can be dealt with in the proper way. Many firms to-day believe that they have a great power, and that the Munitions of War Acts, the Military Service Acts, and the Defence of the Realm Acts can all be pressed into their service in order to serve their own private ends. I see that the danger is extending even to the mines. I was reading the other day a speech made by the president of the Miners' Federation of Great Britain at Edinburgh, on the 10th August, in which he said, in regard to the danger so far as the mines are concerned:Recent revelations as to the conditions under which soldier working parties were being employed in industrial life show that we were not 1715 without cause for apprehension regarding the militarisation of our works. He laid down the proposition that if soldiers were returned to civilian employment they ought to resume all the powers of civilians and cease to be under military authority and discipline. That pledge had been given to the miners over and over again. At the present time negotiations were going on for the return to the mines of a considerable number of soldiers to keep up the national coal requirements. The miners' leaders expected those men to be sent back absolutely clear of military discipline. Some were not being so returned. Whether due to the opposition of the War Office or to the arbitrary action of the local military authorities, he knew of one case where an ex-soldier was sent to a certain mine and told that he must remain there, and that any question of behaviour would be reported to and dealt with by the military. The miners cannot and will not have that sort of thing. If that was a War Office instruction, we are going to take it up with the War Office. Our men must return as free as they were before they were enlisted, otherwise we are in for the worst form of Conscription. I believe the War Office will carry out the agreement made with us. Our interests are the interests of the nation.Those are all actual cases of what is Happening. When we were last discussing the Military Service Act the President of the Local Government beard suggested the formation of a large reserve to which men could be attached who were to be released for industrial employment, and he suggested that during the time they were so released, these men would enjoy their ordinary civil rights and liberties, would work under trade union rules and conditions, and would only resume their military discipline if they rejoined the Army for any reason. I believe that is the position which will be taken up by the working people of this country, and that it is the right position. To-day these various laws are making it very difficult indeed even to give expression to any grievance. If any workmen outside the factory criticises the factory or anything about the Munitions Act or the Military Service Acts, there is always the Defence of the Realm Act ready to be applied. We have cases like that of the Glasgow "Forward," which was suppressed at the instigation of the Minister of Munitions without a trial and was put upon its feet again without a trial so far as the Minister was concerned. That is usurping the power of the Courts and all judicial functions, and placing an arbitrary power in the hands of the Minister of Munitions which he certainly ought not to have.
There are certain other points which are very important to which I wish to refer. First of all, I would ask the Parliamentary Secretary whether he can tell me the exact circumstances in regard to the withdrawal of war badges and certificates? Upon 1716 whose representation is a war badge or certificate withdrawn from a workman? Is it upon the representation of the employer? If not, upon whose representation? Then I want to ask him whether an employer must give a leaving certificate to an unbadged person? What happens to the unbadged person? Does the employer give him a leaving certificate and allow him to go and find work elsewhere, pending the decision of the military tribunal as to what the man is to do in regard to Army service, or has the employer power to retain that man in his empoyment until he is called up for the Army? I have here a copy of a circular issued by the Ministry of Munitions bearing on that point, but it does not make the matter very clear to me. Last of all, I wish to speak of another matter of great importance. The Minister of Munitions to-day spoke of the great work which had been done by the women in this War, and he made a very memorable declaration—I hope it was the decision of the Cabinet—as to what he thought should be done in return for what the women have done.Where is the man—he somewhat rhetorically demanded—who will deny them their civil rights?Well, there is one member of the Cabinet, Lord Curzon, who has been sending circulars to us, and he does not seem very much convinced as to the granting of civil rights to women, so that I am afraid the Minister of Munitions will still have to argue the matter out with Lord Curzon and perhaps with other members of the Cabinet.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
On a point of Order. Is it in order on the Munitions Vote to discuss whether or not women should have the right to vote at Parliamentary elections?
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER
I must confess that an hon. Member was just asking me a question on another matter, and I did not hear what the argument was.
§ Mr. ANDERSON
I am not going to discuss the question of votes for women, but, in point of fact, the question was raised by the Minister of Munitions. As the right hon. Baronet (Sir F. Banbury) is such a great stickler for the rights of private Members of this House, I am quite sure he is not going to allow a Minister to make a statement without allowing private Members to reply to him.
§ 6.0 P.M.
§ Mr. ANDERSON
It was raised. I was only going to make a passing reference to the matter without raising the whole question. The point I was coming to is this. Whatever may happen in regard to the civil rights of women after the War, I am as much concerned at this moment that their industrial rights shall be safeguarded during the War. The women are weakly-organised in many cases, and they have not got the enormous power that some skilled workpeople have, and, consequently, time and again there is less attention paid to these weak and badly organised people, whether they be men or women, than is paid to some of the highly skilled men. It is, therefore, all the more necessary that hon. Members should pay attention to the grievances and claims of those who are least able to defend and protect themselves. In many cases women have been working far too long hours. In certain cases you have allowed them to be put on twelve-hour shifts, and it is only by protests made by various Members in all parts of the House that we have got any modification of that arrangement. After very few weeks, so far from increasing your output by means of that kind, you are weakening the human machine, and your output is beund to go down. I know cases, especially in the earlier months of the War, where very grievous things were done so far as the women's health was concerned, matters which it would be difficult to discuss in the House, but which are very vital indeed from the standpoint of the future of the nation and the children of this nation.
I wish to draw attention to a comparatively small matter, but yet these comparatively small matters cause a good deal of friction so far as these working women are concerned. I wish to draw attention, for instance, to something which is happening at the Llanelly National Steel Shell Factory. Here are various pay forms that I have in my possession which were actually given to women workers in this factory, which is owned and run by the nation. I find on one side of the form a girl has deducted from her wages 4s. 6d. for an overall. Altogether, the deductions from her wages that week amounted to 5s. 1½d. I should say that is an especially bad week. But the amazing thing is that, on the other side, there is a list of rules to be observed by all workpeople. Rule 17 says:Persons who are in possession of war service badges or overalls which are the property of the 1718 factory must surrender the same when ceasing to be engaged at tho factory.On one side the girl is actually made to pay 4s. 6d. for an overall, and yet, on the other side, she is told this is the property of the Government, and must be returned to the Government when she leaves their employment. There are deductions which, I think, are quite unreasonable. There is not only a deduction in regard to health insurance, which, of course, is legal, but there is a deduction from the girl's wage of 6d. for a medical fund, and another deduction of 3d. for a hospital. I should have thought if she paid 3d. for health insurance it ought to have included some of these medical funds and hospitals. Altogether that week, in regard to health insurance, medical funds and hospital, she had deductions to the extent of 1s. 2½d. That, in respect of the wages paid, is altogether too heavy a deduction.
I wish to speak for a minute on the question of wages paid to women under the new order. The great majority of women are not satisfied with the new provisions which are being made by the Ministry of Munitions. The case of women who were doing men's work was dealt with under a previous Order, known as L2. But apart from those women there are great numbers of women engaged upon war work which was not previously done by men, who cannot leave their employment under the Munitions of War Act without undergoing a penalty of six weeks enforced idleness, and if the Government compels a woman to remain at work in one particular factory under a penal of six weeks enforced idleness if she leaves, that Government has a moral obligation to see that her wages are just and her conditions are good conditions. If she is denied the right to go where she can get better conditions, clearly you ought to see that the conditions are just, fair and reasonable. I would recall a speech made by the Secretary for War as far back as July, 1915. It cost about £3,000 of public money, so it must have been a speech of some consequence and value, because it was made to a certain procession and demonstration organised by Mrs. Pankhurst, in respect of which, I believe, about £3,000 of public money was paid. It was a good speech, and I agreed with every word of it, but I do not agree with the way in which it has been carried out, because sometimes the right hon. Gentleman is carried away by his own eloquence, and things do not always work out quite as he paints them on the platform.
§ Mr. ANDERSON
This is what the right hon. Gentleman said on that occasion:The Government will see there is no sweated labour. For some time women will be unskilled and untrained, and they cannot quite turn out as much work as men can who have been at it for some time. Therefore we cannot give the same rate of wages. Mrs. Pankhurst is quite right in insisting that whatever these wages are they should be fair, and there should be a fixed minimum, and we should not utilise the services of women in order to get cheap labour.I agree with every word of that, and the limitations of it as well. I am sorry to say it was twelve months after that speech was made before an Order was issued dealing with it. The Order was not issued until July, 1916.
§ Mr. ANDERSON
It is quite true, and the Order, when it was issued, was a very disappointing Order. I know the right hon. Gentleman is now taken up with other duties, but I wish he would bring his mind to this one point in regard to the Ministry of Munitions.
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
I am very concerned to see that the pledges I gave are carried out, but surely the hon. Member does not suggest that between the date of my delivering that speech—every word of which I stand by now—and 1st July nothing was done to carry out this pledge that women should get fair wages free from sweated conditions!
§ Mr. ANDERSON
Just before the right hon. Gentleman came in I made it quite clear that a circular had been issued—L2—meeting the case of those women who were doing work that men previously did. I am now dealing with the women who are not doing the work that men previously did, but are doing war work. I made it quite clear that a circular had been issued.
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
That circular was agreed between the trade unions. It was submitted to me by the Labour Supply Committee, upon which trade unionists were represented, including the trade unions of the women. I accepted that Circular, as far as I can recollect, without altering a single comma in it. There were employers as well upon the Committee, but it was an agreed Circular.
§ Mr. ANDERSON
I am dealing with another Circular. I am dealing now with the case of those women who were not included in L2, and in regard to this 1720 second Order it does not fix a minimum wage as was promised by the Minister of Munitions. It says that wages shall be in one case 4d., and in another case wages shall be 4½d. That does not mean that a minimum is going to be fixed below which no one can be paid, but you are really going back to the old Elizabethan principle of trying to regulate and fix wages, and if you take a wage of 4d. or 4½d., subject to present conditions and with the enormous rise in food prices and the cost of living, that is altogether inadequate. I do not believe that 4½d. at this moment is worth any more than 3d. would have been prior to the outbreak of the War, and wages ought to be based upon present conditions and present prices, and not upon pre-war conditions and pre-war prices. There is in this Circular no guarantee at all in regard to pieceworkers that their case is going to be adequately met from the standpoint of not forcing down piece rates. There is in this Circular no provision for extra payment for overtime, or for night work, or for Sunday labour, and the Order is not universal. There are-exemptions in it. From all these points of view I hope the matter will be gone into again, and that some substantial improvement will be achieved. I want to appeal to the new Minister of Munitions to tone down the zeal of some of his Munitions Tribunals. I do not believe you need rely on any form of repressive legislation to get the best out of people. I want him to discourage trivial prosecutions before these Munitions Tribunals. When cases arise let them be serious cases. I can give any number of quite trivial cases where prosecutions ought never to have taken place and the workman's time ought never to have been stopped for a day. I have given instance after instance where I think the prosecution ought never to have taken place at all. I appeal to him, as I have appealed repeatedly to the present Secretary of State for War when he was Minister of Munitions, to convince the workpeople by fair dealing and to hold the balance even between them and the employers. I am quite sure to-day that compulsion will always fail as a means of adjusting these difficult economic questions. There is universal admiration to-day for the courage of the soldiers, and I am very glad the Minister of Munitions spoke a word about the work of the industrial workpeople in the factories, and so on, because there is no doubt at all that there have actually been about 4,000,000 men taken away from 1721 the factories and workshops and yet the work is being done at very heavy pressure by those who remain, many of them breaking down in health, and while we have heard a good deal about their shirking and drinking and that sort of thing, in point of fact, so far as the great mass of them is concerned, they have kept industry going under the most difficult industrial conditions. I hope, therefore, though I know this is no part of the work of the Ministry of Munitions, that we are going to recognise our future obligations to these munition workers as well. There is going to be great dislocation at the end of the War in certain branches of industry. There will perhaps be hundreds of thousands thrown idle in certain branches of work, and I think there ought to be some thought for the future. We ought not to be content merely to speak about the restoration of pre-war conditions. I am not satisfied in my own mind that prewar conditions ever are going to be restored again. Conditions at the end of this War are going to be very different from what they were at the beginning of the War.
§ Mr. ANDERSON
If the bargain is to be kept fair with Labour there must, at least, be equal safeguards and equal guarantees to meet the new conditions and the new circumstances. I believe there ought to be no difficulty if that is fairly and generously done, and I am quite sure if the work is undertaken in that spirit it will do something even out of all the present turmoil and evil to build up a better and a greater England.
I do not wish to follow the speech of the hon. Member for Attercliffe in detail, because many of the matters to which he referred are matters with which I am not competent to deal. I will only say this, that speaking as a man in the street or an outsider from his point of view, that if there are so few cases of real injustice under the Ministry of Munitions as he has portrayed, and that if a man gifted with his eloquence cannot make out a more serious case against the Ministry of Munitions than that, it only shows me that they have done almost as great a work in being able to satisfy labour to a perfectly wonderful extent as the other work which they have carried out. What is more, I do not believe the masses of the workers pf this country are really, discontented 1722 with their wages and with the hours that they are working, because they know and realise, perhaps even to a greater extent than some hon. Members in this House, what the conditions of war really are; they know what other men are going through, and they are prepared to take their 'share in various sacrifices and burdens of the War. But I would like to say a word or two with reference to the Very eloquent speech of the Minister of Munitions, and with regard to the munitions which are at present being supplied to the Army. In dealing with such a subject as that one has to be very careful, because this is not a Secret Session, Therefore, anything that one might say which really alluded to actual conditions, if it were severe criticism, might be of some use to the enemy. Therefore, one has to be particularly careful that particular instances are not alluded to. One is also deterred by the fact that, being an officer serving under discipline, it would not be proper for one to make criticisms such as one might make if he were absolutely free and were not an officer in the Army. At the same time, however, I think it is my duty to say that I do not think it is right that the country should believe that everything is well or is yet perfect with regard to our munitions supply. I think when the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Montagu) spoke he used words to that effect, but the general effect of his speech was rather to lull everybody into a feeling that the munitions supply was really adequate and more than adequate at present, and that the quality was excellent. It would be only right to point out the fact that our munitions, beth as regards howitzer shells, field-gun shells—not as regards grenades—but as regards lights, and even in some cases as regards the equipment in the shape of automatic pistols, is not yet as good as the Germans. Therefore, until we reach the same standard in quality as the Germans as well as in quantity, the Ministry of Munitions cannot rest. I drew attention some four months ago, when I was last here in the House, to the fact that a certain number of our shells did not burst. It is a matter of common knowledge, and it is not giving anything away to the Germans to say that—because, of course, the enemy know perfectly well the proportion of our shells which do not burst. I was asked by the Under-Secretary for Munitions at that 1723 time to send him any cases which came to my knowledge, and I did send him some a few weeks ago. I did not receive any acknowledgment from him, but, as a matter of fact, I presume that he got the letter, and possibly some steps have been taken to improve matters in connection with those facts which have been brought to his notice. But, at any rate, it is a fact that at the present time that our howitzer ammunition is not yet satisfactory as regards its bursting powers, and when the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Munitions gets up here and says that the present operations have shown themselves satisfactory, all I can say is that I do not consider that that opinion will be shared by the officers who have been serving, as I have been, in the recent operations. Also it will be proved by the fact, which is also well known to the Germans, that there are very large numbers of howitzer shells which have never burst lying about the lines which we have captured. There are also many instances of howitzer munitions not bursting properly quite recently. Field-gun shells have burst very well indeed, and I think everybody must be satisfied with them—that is to say, as regards their bursting power. As regards their quality and the force with which they explode, they are not as good yet as the German guns. Of course, we cannot expect to reach the same standard as the Germans, because of their very long preparation before the War, and also, I think, because of the organisation of their whole nation for war which we, under our makeshift system, have not as yet been able to equal. But, at any rate, the efforts of the Ministry of Munitions certainly have been magnificent, and we have got an enormous support now which we never dreamt of eighteen months ago. All I wish to say is, do not let the country suppose for one moment that we are yet as good as the Germans. We must go on until we are, and therefore no effort must be relaxed. Now, as regards anti-aircraft shells, the Minister of Munitions also said that they were very good.
§ Mr. MONTAGU
I was quoting the opinion of the French people on the guns, not on the aircraft shells.
§ Colonel ARCHER-SHEE
That, at any rate, is practically the same thing, and, of course, it is the size of the gun. We have not yet got as heavy an anti-aircraft gun as the Germans, but we ought to have before long. I believe we have them at home, but they are not yet in the field. Then, as regards bemb-throwing apparatus. I sent a letter to the right hon. Gentleman the Under-Secretary for Munitions, in which I asked him to see a special gun called the Foulis gun, which is a very useful gun for throwing messages. I think he saw the inventor. I know the inventor had a letter from Sir Douglas Haig asking that this gun should be experimented with. I believe that some experiments have been carried out with it, but my point in drawing attention to that gun at this moment is, not as a bemb-throwing gun, but as a gun for sending messages. One of the great difficulties in war is to get messages back to the people behind the front line, and that, I think, has been the experience in the recent operations. I myself have seen this Foulis gun throws messages something like 600 yards. When the message lands a small bemb bursts. There is a smoke flare-up, which shows the position where a message is. We have nothing in that way at present, and I am certain, from what I have seen during the past few weeks, that we could have saved many men's lives if we had been able to use some device of that kind. I would ask the right hon. Gentleman to have one more experiment with that apparatus. A great deal also was said by the right hon. Gentleman about how we were practically going to supply our Allies, the Russians and the Italians, with munitions, and also the French with steel. Of course, that is very necessary, but I hope that he and everybody who has anything to do with this matter will see that not one man more than can be helped is actually employed in munition making, because we want every single man we can get in the field. I was glad to hear him say that we were making preparations for war next year, because we must develop our full strength in order to bring this War to a conclusion next year. To do that, we want every single man we can get, and therefore I hope you will not make more ammunition for more people than is absolutely necessary, and that you will employ every man you possibly can in our own Army. The right hon. Gentleman also said that the lights were as 1725 good as those of the Germans, and asked me to see a demonstration. I am very sorry that owing to the short time I shall be at home, I shall not be able to accept his invitation to see the lights; but if he will ask any officer who has been in the trenches for many months, and has therefore seen many experiments in practice between our lights and the German lights, and if he can find any single officer who will tell him that our lights are as good as the Germans, I shall be very glad to hear from him. But I am quite convinced that he will not find one officer or one man who has ever been in the trenches who will say that our lights compare at all favourably, either in quality or in quantity, with those supplied to the Germans.
There is only one other matter, and that is the question of shields. I may say I am interested in this matter, because I have' invented one myself. I am not pecuniarily interested in it, and it was rejected. But I am interested in this way, that I have been experimenting with a great many different sorts of shields. One of the things that seem to be certain is that in open warfare it is almost impossible to use shields that will be of any real use in keeping bullets out, because you cannot so far get a bulletproof shield that will cover any reasonable part of the bedy that is under 17 lbs. in weight. Of course, by experiments we might find something lighter, but the lighter forms of shield, which I was told have been adopted by the War Office—and that was given as a polite excuse for refusing mine—have been found by experiment to be almost useless for operations, excepting for trench operations, quite close. I believe the real use of shields is in attacking from the trenches, such as in a new attack when we begin to break the enemy's lines. Then we have plenty of opportunity of bringing up heavy shields under cover of darkness, and the men can wear them, and can throw them away if they prove to be too heavy, and they can be picked up afterwards, but in open warfare their heavy weight makes it almost impossible to wear them. The people who criticise the Ministry of Munitions on this matter ought to take that point into consideration, and to realise that the question bristles with difficulties.
I hope the suggestion made by the right hon. Member for Dundee will be also adopted, and that we 1726 shall bring into use some of our native labour from abroad, if necessary, in order to release more men from, making munitions to go into the Army. We are not making any use of their labour at present, and I am quite convinced that labour in this country would not refuse to work with these men if it were clearly understood that they would leave the country directly the War was finished. I think it will be a matter of necessity to do so in order to provide a much larger Army. Another point in reference to munition work. There seems to be no reason at all that I can see why a large number of these munition workers should not be relieved by some of the men who have been for two years in the trenches, and who have been wounded two or three times already. Lots of these men are quite skilled enough in labour to replace the young able-bodied men who are now working on munitions and who have never worked at munitions before, and those young men could then go into the Army and take their turn at the very wearing work of holding the trenches during the coming winter. I would ask the right hon. Gentleman to consider these points. I end by saying, as regards his remarks concerning the right hon. Gentleman his predecessor, that those remarks would be endorsed by the vast majority of officers and men in the Army, that the country owes a great debt of gratitude to the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Lloyd George) for the work which he has done, and for the imagination and courage which enabled him to order far more than was intended, thereby taking time by the forelock and giving us greatly needed assistance.
§ Dr. ADDISON
As my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for War will reply to the other points raised in this discussion, it might be perhaps as well that I should reply now to some of the criticisms put forward by the hon. Member for Attercliffe (Mr. Anderson). At the commencement of his speech the hon. Member referred to the conditions prevailing before the Ministry of Munitions came into existence at all. I do not feel that there is any obligation upon us to answer criticisms of that kind when the Ministry of Munitions was not in existence at all. I quite agree that there have been a good many cases in which there have been certain delays in deciding cases which were up for arbitration and so on. The House will not wonder, I think, that here and there 1727 the hon. Member has been able to pick out a case where there seems to have been delay, or even to pick out many cases, when you have regard to the very large number with which we have to deal; but he made one statement which occasioned j considerable surprise. I know that there have been foolish employers in different parts of the country who have tried to make improper use of the Munitions Act, and some of the Members below the Gangway know perfectly well that when those cases were brought to the notice of the Ministry we tried to deal fairly with the matter, but the hon. Member said that thousands of these cases had been brought to his notice. He mentioned all kinds of trivial prosecutions which had taken place, including one in which he said a man had been prosecuted because he spoke back to a foreman. I was so astonished at the statement of the hon. Member that he had thousands of these cases brought to his notice, knowing as I do pretty well, I think, the inside working of the Ministry of Munitions, that I inquired how many cases there had been from the commencement of the Munitions Act until now. In all there have ben 6,518 prosecutions. All I can say is that the hon. Member seems to have enjoyed a unique opportunity for becoming acquainted with these cases, as there have only been 6,000 from the very commencement of the Act.
It is a fact that there have been trumpery cases on both sides, and would it have been possible, I wonder, to have an Act of Parliament of so entirely novel a character suddenly applied to two million workers without there being a number of trumpery cases brought before the tribunals? There have been trumpery cases brought before Police Courts and various other Courts throughout the country, but I am sure that we do not blame the Home Office for that. We did our best, we repeatedly do our best, to prevent trumpery cases being brought before the tribunals, and if the hon. Member will tell me of these trumpery cases, I will do my best to prevent them being brought up, but I cannot deal with a mere general statement. He knows that we have invited, in season and out of season, details of these cases, and when we get them we will do our best to induce people to behave sensibly. In what few trumpery cases we have heard of, whether they were brought forward by employers or working men, we have done our best to induce them to use the Act 1728 in a sensible manner, and we will continue to do so.
On the whole, I think that the hon. Member dealt with the subject more leniently than I thought he would, but one of the sins which he laid to our charge was that of the trouble on the Clyde. The picture which the hon. Member presented to the House was that the Ministry of Munitions, so far from making any effort to ascertain the causes of trouble, suddenly invoked the military power and in the middle of the night invaded a number of workmen's houses and deported the men from Glasgow. What are the facts? The facts are that for many weeks, by our own officers, by trades union members or officers and by special commissioners, we had been trying to get to the bottom of these troubles on the Clyde. I think I might truly say that we had been doing it for months. We finally became satisfied, and the event has absolutely justified our action, that the strikes were being fomented by quite a small number of individuals, that these men were not representing the vast majority of the workmen, but quite the contrary, and that they were in fact conducting a campaign just as much against organised trade unionism as against anything else. We finally became convinced of that, and so far from not taking action to inquire into the causes of the strike, we had the most careful analysis made, a long time before this deportation took place, of all the different troubles that had occurred in the various shops on the Clyde, and we had an elaborate investigation, and it is impossible for anyone to see that record without recognising that there were a number of men there who were out to make trouble. There was one day they actually, for a short time, tried to bring the men out of a gun shop because several of the women had tea in their teapots on Sunday while the work-girls had urns on the week-days. A small number were just out to make trouble for the Amalgamated Society of Engineers as well as for the Ministry of Munitions, and it was only with the utmost possible reluctance, and after adopting every other conceivable expedient, that we resorted to the methods which were adopted, and I am quite sure that the result of our action on the Clyde has proved up to the hilt the soundness of the conclusions which we drew, and it did more not to destroy trade unionism on the Clyde, but to establish the authority of organised trade unionism on the Clyde, than all the 1729 speeches that the hon. Member has ever made on the subject. We have upheld the authority of the organised trade unionism on the Clyde which these men have been out to destroy.
The hon. Member raised, very rightly too, a question as to the conditions of the military working parties. There are two classes of military working parties—one which has been regarded always as an emergency expedient for a week or a few days, and the other in which men will be employed for a considerable length of time. It so happens, and there is really no likelihood of it ceasing to happen, that now and then in an emergency we ask the good offices of the War Office to release a number of men for some emergency work. When they are asked for we think that a few days will cover the work, but we find out later on that a few days will not do it, and it dribbles on from week to week, and it does so happen, quite rightly, that a number of cases which were intended to be emergency cases dribble on gradually into a long period of employment. We had to put that right, and the new arrangement which my hon. Friend the Financial Secretary to the War Office announced has been instituted. Where men have been released from the Colours to work for a long time they are employed under civil conditions, and our pledges, so far as I know, have been fulfilled. More than 40,000 soldiers have been released for this civil employment There have been one or two odd cases of complaint, but so far as I know there has been no substantial complaint anywhere that the men have been treated unfairly. I do not know of any. If the hon. Member knows of any, I shall be very glad to look into it.
Then there are cases of men who are released from the Colours and passed into the New Reserve. That is a third class. There are now three classes, the emergency class, the men who have been released from the Colours under the old arrangement, and the New Reserves. The New Reserve is entirely civilian. My right hon. Friend the President of the Local Government beard said that the men can work where they like. That is the New Reserve, which is quite distinct from the men who were released from the Colours to work at munitions work. Let me make this distinction, which I hope the hon. Member and his Friend will bear in mind: Why were these men released from the Colours to go to munitions work? Because we wanted a large number of men, 1730 sometimes here and sometimes there, whom we could move about according to the emergencies of the munitions requirement. These men voluntarily signed an undertaking when they left the Army that they would go to work where we wanted them to go, and they form an invaluable mass of skilled labour which can be moved where we want to according to the arrangements which we have entered into with these men. I am quite sure that if it were not for the services of these 40,000 odd skilled men whom we can move where we want we could hot possibly have produced a certain number of the big guns and of the more difficult munitions that have been turned out for the Armies in the field to-day The hon. Member mentioned a case of a man at Penistone who was discharged because he was a trade unionist, and something or other being written on his certificate. I do not know why he brought that up. Was it a complaint against the Ministry of Munitions?
§ Mr. ANDERSON
I mentioned that there was a number of cases which showed the danger of increasing militarisation where the discharge paper was written on, because when this man was wanted the military very soon afterwards took him away.
§ Dr. ADDISON
The point I was coming to is this; I believe that there are about 1,300,000 badges and certificates to be dealt with, and in dealing with that matter one large Department is solely concerned. I can mention cases like this where discharge certificates have been drawn up and written on, in many cases both by the employers and by the workmen. That has happened, but you cannot deal with nearly a million and a half workers under these conditions without that kind of thing sometimes occurring. But what I want to make clear is that, if this ease to which the hon. Member refers had been brought to our notice, we would not have sanctioned that. Still, it is nothing new. A grievance like this is not the fault of the Ministry of Munitions. It has happened that men have been discharged because they were unionists before the Ministry of Munitions existed—before even there was a war. There is nothing new about it. The Ministry of Munitions has dealt fairly with these matters and have maintained on the one hand that it is wrong to strike against men coming into the works who are non-unionists, and we have prosecuted certain men who went 1731 out because some soldiers came in who were non-unionists. On the other hand, an employer in the Eastern Counties who dismissed a number of men because they were trade unionists was prosecuted, and we supported the prosecution against him on the ground that his action would have the effect of limiting the output of munitions. Not only that, but we required that the men should be reinstated, and they were reinstated. That is the only case in which the principle has been challenged so far as I know, and in that case we upheld the right of the men to the last, right up to the Appeal Court. We have never recognised that it was a proper course to dismiss men because they were trade, unionists, nor have we ever recognised that it is a proper course for men to go out on strike because men working there were non-unionists. The hon. Member asked me two questions, the second of which, I fear, I did not quite catch, but to which I shall give him an answer later. As to the first question, he asked on whose representation it was when badges and certificates are withdrawn? The procedure is that an officer makes a scrutiny of the works, and reports, not to the employer, but to the Minister of Munitions, to whom ho gives the man's name and reports whether he should have his badge and certificate withdrawn. None of these badges and certificates are withdrawn unless the cases have been scrutinised and sanctioned by the officers at the Ministry and reported to the Minister of Munitions. The badge and certificate are given together. Neither the badge nor the certificate can be withdrawn without our consent. It is the certificate which really matters to the man. himself, and this can only be annulled on the direct instruction of the Ministry of Munitions. As to the second question, as I said, I cannot give an answer at the moment, as I did not get the wording of it down.
I will deal with the last charge the hon. Member made—and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for War is somewhat involved in it—namely, the action of the Ministry of Munitions in connection with the employment and "sweating" of women. We all know that it is a very heavy task to organise a gigantic machine like the Ministry of Munitions without there being some inequalities, and to get it to act regularly as clockwork. But what I want to know is: Where are the cases to which the hon. Member referred? Where 1732 are the women who are sweated? We hear a good deal of vague charges, but I want definite information. Give me the names of the employers that do it, and then we will deal faithfully with them; but we cannot do anything until we have got the facts. Let me have the facts. The hon. Member said that in a certain case women were put on a twelve-hour working shift. As a matter of fact, it is not a twelve-hour working shift, and never was longer than a ten and a half-hour working shift. The Labour Committee of the Ministry of Munitions recommended that, so far as possible, the work of the women should be conducted on the eight-hour shift principle.
§ 7.0 P.M.
§ Dr. ADDISON
I know that is so. That is the policy which we support, and we are doing our best to get it adopted. In this particular case, and in others which I could mention, it arose out of the fact that the firm to which reference has been made was opening new shops in which mostly women were to be employed. They are in the Woolwich district, and anyone who knows the conditions down there knows perfectly well that the tram lines and the railways, and whatever the means of conveyance may be, are so hopelessly congested that it is almost an impossibility to carry more workers than are carried. The result of it is that a large number of workers who work there and who have to come from a very great distance, spend a long time on the trams and on the omnibuses before they can reach their work. So great has been this congestion that we have provided housing accommodation for 5,000 workers in that district. In the particular case to which the hon. Member referred the employer wanted to staff the other shops, and we were led to try the experiment of spreading some of the labour from this shop over the other shops. It has now been gone into by the Labour Committee, and we have limited the hours to fifty-four hours a week during the day. I think anyone who listened to the hon. Member for the first time would have thought that the Ministry of Munitions were some unsympathetic and soulless bedy that had been allowing women to be employed anyhow without any proper organisation or supervision of their employment. What are the actual facts? Before this case occurred at all, what had we done? We had set up a separate organisation limiting as far as possible Sunday labour, and there is a 1733 group of gentlemen whose business it is, with the Ministry of Munitions, to check Sunday labour. We did that before any Member of the House of Commons ever mentioned these cases. We set them up and had them working months before any mention of these matters occurred. The next thing we did was to set up an organisation for watching over the welfare of the workers. We laid down that firms which employed women must make certain arrangements on their behalf. In a number of cases it came to our knowledge that women so employed had to refer to male foremen in regard to certain questions, but, in order to put matters on a proper footing, we provided that women supervisors should be appointed, and from that day to this we have had a staff of women supervisors going round the munition factories of this country to see that so far as possible arrangements for the proper and necessary comfort of the women workers are carried out. It is not so easy to do that. The hon. Member, with his friends, can easily find cases where there are unsatisfactory conditions; I could find him twenty in five minutes quite easily. But they existed before the Ministry of Munitions came into being at all. It is not the Ministry of Munitions who are responsible for them. We have really tried to improve matters. I could give him numbers of cases where women have had to get their meals, as have the men, under most disgraceful conditions, but we had the Canteen Department organised before those complaints were ever voiced in the House of Commons at all. We know well enough the disgusting conditions in which a large number of workers got their meals. By our encouragement employers throughout the country have studied the health of their women workers, and canteens have now been set up where the workers can get their meals—of course they pay for them—in decency and comfort. Five hundred thousand munition workers get their meals in these canteens every day, and the number is growing rapidly. I think it is right that the House should know that the Ministry of Munitions is not an unsympathetic and soulless Department, but that it is one which takes care of the workers. We have devoted ourselves, and so have a large number of single-minded persons associated with us, to improving the conditions of these workers, and it is not fair of the hon. Member to come down here and refer to us in the way he does when he 1734 knows perfectly well that we are doing all these things for the comfort of the workers. The same applies to our men workers. I undertake to say that we have brought about more control of excessive hours of labour than has been accomplished by any other Department by direct action for the last twenty years. We have reduced the hours of labour in numberless instances. I do submit to the House that all these things about which complaint is made existed long before there was any Ministry of Munitions, and do not let it be thought that it is the fault of my right hon. Friend, and of this Government that women have been employed for long hours at sweated wages. Bad conditions existed before many of us were born, and we are doing something to improve the conditions. The hon. Member went on and used a phrase which I think I heard before. He accused us of adopting "Elizabethan principles." Let me mention to the House all the various organisations for dealing on "Elizabethan principles" with the welfare of the munition workers. There is the Sunday Labour Organisation, and there is the Welfare Organisation, and the committee which deals with industrial canteens, which has spent over £350,000 in the provision of canteens. There is the committee which deals with excessive hours of work. We have a special organisation which deals with diseases, or affections arising in filling factories, explosive factories, or in other dangerous occupations. We have actually helped to provide crèches where married women can leave their children.
§ Mr. CROOKS
May I assure the right hon. Gentleman that our application for £800 to establish a crèche has been in for three weeks?
§ Dr. ADDISON
All I say is, I have never seen it. However, I will look it up I come to the last part of the hon. Member's 1735 charges, and that is as to the question of wages. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for War said that if he could prevent it, or words to that effect, he would not have people sweated in munition works. The hon. Member was good enough to come to me at the Ministry, and we had a very profitable hour on the subject. He criticised this circular which has been issued. It is true that it does not contain all the findings of the tribunals, but it does contain the findings of the tribunals in respect of the rate of wages. The rate for women and girls on time work of eighteen years and over is 4½d. per hour, which is designed to bring in £l per week. The hon. Member seemed to suggest that that might be used by employers to bring down the wages of anybody who was already receiving more than that rate.
§ Mr. ANDERSON
I did not suggest that. What I did suggest was this: It is not a question of bringing down the wages of those who have got higher wages, but that this wage is really going to be in fact a maximum wage, and that it is altogether insufficient.
§ Dr. ADDISON
My point is that it is not in the least a maximum wage. As a matter of fact paragraph 8 provides that the foregoing shall not operate in the case of anyone who has better terms and conditions. In deference to the representations made to us by the hon. Member and the Federation of Women Workers we have drawn up—I saw the draft of it yesterday—an instruction specifically pointing to paragraph (8), and informing employers that where a woman has been receiving a higher rate of pay than that mentioned in the circular, that it will be a contravention of the Order to reduce it. What the Order docs provide is that this shall be the rate of pay per hour for persons on time, namely, 4½d. It is designed to provide £l per week. They are not allowed to be paid less. Yesterday there was a representation in to me from a large group of employers objecting to the Order, and on what ground? Was it on the ground that we were reducing the payment of Women? It was on the ground, inter alia, that they had concluded bargains with the trade union represented by the hon. 1736 Member below the Gangway, with the Workers' Union and other unions, which were satisfactory, or had been accepted any way by beth parties, for a lower rate of pay than is provided in this circular, and the objection was that the application of that circular would mean an increase of from 35 per cent, to 40 per cent, in the rate of wages. The hon. Member knows just as well as I do what the conditions of employment are in the case of a large number of women. He knows perfectly well that that circular will do more to improve the rate of pay of women than any other document ever issued by any Department of the State. It applies not to women who are doing men's work, but to women who are doing women's work, and there has never been a document issued by any Department of State which secures to women doing women's work a wage of £1 a week, or anything like it. I quite agree that the circular is open to criticism in some respects, and there are various points with which we hope to deal when we propose to amend it. But it is not fair, and that is why I have risen at this early stage, for the hon. Member to come here and make a speech and lead the House, which has not the full facts before it, to think that, this circular is something which is going to propagate sweating. As a matter of fact—and the organisers of Labour below the Gangway know that what I am saying is true—it will improve the wages of tens of thousands of women in this country, and it could not have been done without the instrumentality of the Ministry of Munitions. I quite agree with the hon. Member that in a revised Order it would be well to deal with Sunday labour and night shifts, and there is going to be a further circular providing that there should be additional pay for that class of work.
It is true we have not yet applied the circular to every workshop in the country. I think that is to some extent a complaint against us, but I will tell the House why we have not done so. We have not done it, in the first place, because in a good many districts you have small munition works, where the rates of pay and other conditions of labour are so entirely dissimilar from anything contemplated in this Order that we have had to exempt them for the time being, pending inquiry as to what modifications ought to be introduced. We have applied it to all the national factories and to all the large munition areas, and we have already, 1737 I believe, brought within the Order far more than half the women employed in munitions outside the national factories—in which case they are automatically included. We have extended it to ammunition, arms, machine tools, shipbuilding, textile, engineering, motor and cycle manufacturing, constructional engineering, and many other trades. There are a few trades, such as electrical engineering, to which it has not yet been applied, because there are some points with regard to wages which we must have cleared up before we can apply it. We are applying it as rapidly as we can throughout the whole country, and we intend to apply it in the spirit and the letter of the undertaking of the Secretary of State for War. I do not think there are any other points dealt with by the hon. Member. I apologise if sometimes there was a touch of warmth in some parts of my reply, but I do feel that, with all the difficulties and burdens of our work in providing glycerine, iron, and the thousand-and-one things which are required, and with all the interests and perplexities with which we have to deal from early morning till late at night, that it is not fair to come down to the House of Commons and issue to the country, to the embarrassment of our work, a statement which will prejudice us in the eyes of the workmen, and which is not correct, and which will lead them to think that we are treating the workers unfairly and not acting up to our pledges and keeping them in the letter and the spirit. I admit that you can find a case here and there, and I could find a great many more than the hon. Member, in which we have not yet been able to do, or even been able to seek out many of the things which require to be dealt with. Rome was not built in a day. The Ministry of Munitions has only had twelve months of life in dealing with these things, and it is doing as well and as vigorously as it can. The right way for the hon. Member to help us is, when he finds a case where he thinks the conditions are not fair, to send on the particulars to us, and not to come to the House of Commons and attack us in general terms, to the prejudice of our work.
§ Mr. SAMUEL ROBERTS
I did not intend to join in this Debate, but I am induced to say a few words owing to the very admirable speech of the new Minister of Munitions. If I may, I desire to congratulate him on the grasp and thought he has managed to 1738 display in his new Department in which he has been Minister only for a few weeks. It is very true that his predecessor, the present Minister of War, has borne the burden and heat of the day, and did it very well, and that he has handed over to his successor a going concern. It is going very efficiently in the interests of the country, and he said very truly that his work was not completed, that the output must still increase, and go on increasing for some period, so that we may not only produce munitions for our own forces, but for those of our Allies who require them perhaps more than we do. The right hon. Gentleman gave us, in the first part of his speech, a very accurate history of the War, so far as munitions are concerned. He told us what is the truth, that when war broke out we were not prepared. We were only prepared with two things, and those two things saved the country. What were they? The supremacy of the sea by our Navy, and a small Expeditionary Force of 160,000 men. But that little force was able to be sent across the sea in very quick time, and, in my opinion, with the French, that little force stopped the onward rush of the Germans. The right hon. Gentleman gave to the House a very accurate history of his Department. It was a very marvellous record of what has been done during a period of twelve months. I do not think any other country in the world could have done it.
We found out, after a few months of war, perhaps six or seven months, that this was going to be a trench war. The generals in the field found that out, and we were not prepared for a trench war; and until the right hon. Gentleman took it up and organised the country to produce heavy artillery and heavy shells, we were not prepared for trench warfare. And that is why the War went against us so much at the beginning. Fortunately, things are now different. We have not yet got enough heavy artillery and shells on every part of our line. The right hon. Gentleman said he would not be content until he had sufficient heavy artillery and shell to cover the whole of the British line in the same way as the line of the Somme is covered now. That will be our task Just a word with regard to munition factories. I happen to be acquainted with some of them, some of the most important, and I can tell the House this, without giving any information which would be of use to the enemy, that the way in which these national factories have been put 1739 down and grown is simply marvellous. I have got in my mind one of them, I will not say where it is. A little over twelve months ago the place where that factory is now was a swamp, it had to be covered up with cinders, ashes and concrete, and now on thirteen acres of land a factory has been built which is producing two kinds of large shells only. It is not working at quite its full capacity, but it is getting on that way. When I was there the other day I found that half of the workpeople in this factory were women working on big shells. We at first thought that women would not be able to work on large shells, 6 inch and 9.2 inch shells. But may I tell the House how it has been done? It has been done by machinery. The shells have not to be lifted by the women at all, the lifting is done by machinery. Little motor cranes running through the long lines of the building are worked by women who ride on them. These little machines manipulate the shells, carry them to the benches where the women are working, deposit them on the lathes, and all the women have to do is to see that the lathes work properly. It is simply marvellous the way in which these women are working, with the greatest heartiness, with no complaint as to wages; these women are always able to make good wages. It is a new thing for these women to earn the wages they are getting at this moment.
In connection with the work of making shells and guns, I should like, as an employer of labour, to add my testimony to what the right hon. Gentleman said about the very marvellous way in which we have been supported by labour. What we have done could not have been done without that. As the right hon. Gentleman has said, trade unions from the very beginning behaved most admirably. They dropped regulations which they valued greatly and were willing to give them up at the request of the right hon. Gentleman. They submitted to conditions being put into an Act of Parliament which brought them under the control of the State, and willingly gave up many principles for which they had fought for so many years. I should also like to pay another tribute to the work of the women. I went into one workshop the other day where they were not making shells but were making munitions, but it was work which women had never done before, and which I should not like to see women continually engaged on. It was heavy, hard and dirty work. 1740 I went up to one strong woman and asked her how she came to be working there. She said, "My husband wept to* the War. He left me at home with my children. I am a strong woman, and I did not like to be doing nothing. I heard of this job and offered my services." But this is the point of my story. "But, Sir, I dare not tell my husband what I am doing." That is the spirit of the women of England which is going to win the War. Here is a woman doing her very best and doing a thing which she says would hurt her husband's feelings if he heard of it, and so she will not let her husband in the trenches know that she is doing it. The right hon. Gentleman ended his speech by making some remarks as to what is to become of these national factories and controlled firms after the War is over. It is a problem which is giving us a very great deal of thought. There will be a sudden stoppage in the making of shells and guns. What are you going to do with the workpeople, the women and the men? I venture to say that the right hon. Gentleman summed up the situation, and we shall want his help and the help of the State to do this thing. It is too big a thing for an employer of labour to do by himself, but it is a question which the State can help us in, and I hope when the War is over, which I sincerely trust may be soon, that we shall have the assistance of the right hon. Gentleman or his successor, and I am sure we shall have the sympathy of the Minister for War, in doing our best in trying to secure that we shall have no labour problem after the War, and that we can utilise these splendid buildings for the purposes of peace.
§ Mr. BARNES
We have heard several very notable speeches to-day characterised by a large degree of social consciousness, from which I adduce that after the Waive are not again going to revert to the wretched, miserable industrial squabbling that obtained previously. We have had two very notable speeches from the Front Bench. The first one, if I may venture to say so, was a comprehensive review, not only of the Munitions Department, but a speech characterised by a large vision with regard to the social and political aspect of the country after the War. There are two very notable features of that speech, apart altogether from the Ministry of Munitions, one with regard to women, into which I cannot enter, but which was very welcome to me, and the other with regard to labour. The 1741 right hon. Gentleman said that he thanked organised labour for what, I think, he called their statesmanlike position during the War. I welcome that statement, and I think it is only due that that statement should have been made on an occasion of this character. It is perfectly true that labour has given up a great deal for which it had fought long and strenuously. As the hon. Member who has just sat down has said, I hope and believe that these concessions are temporary. The conditions after the War will be such that you cannot go back to exactly the same position as we occupied before, but that there will be a fair and square dealing and that we shall start better than ever before. There are some things that I think experience has taught us during the War have been a great deal better for every body concerned. For instance, there is the question of piece-work. Prior to the War there were variations in piece-work prices, but the variations were always downwards. During the War we have found that piece work can be conducted with advantage without these variations downwards. I believe that if this work after the War is safeguarded in such a way that piece-work prices shall be, I will not say fixed, because there should be no fixing of anything when there are constant improvements of machinery and method, but that some machinery could be devised whereby rates might be fixed and adjusted or where employers would guarantee that a man should be paid some percentage over and above his day's work rate of wages where he was at piece-work on prices fixed by the employer. If those two principles were carried out after the War, piece-work, I believe, would be the best method of industrial remuneration, because it would give a man added interest in his work, would lighten his day's toil, and would increase production to his advantage and to the advantage of the employer and of the community.
I congratulate the Ministry of Munitions upon the wonderful achievment of turning out an increased production—66 times, I think it was—and upon the fact that we have placed ourselves in a position of meeting, as he says, all the War Office demands, and that in a very short time we will be able to supply the Allies more than we have done in times gone by. I congratulate him upon having reduced prices from America—I think he said about 15 per cent.—and of Canadian products 12 per cent. I trust something may be done 1742 in regard to food. In reply to a query by my hon. Friend the Member for West Ham, the right hon. Gentleman said that that was not his Department. I hope it will become some Department of State before long, and that this collectivist method of adjusting prices and generally supervising industry will only have begun, and will not finish with the Ministry of Munitions. I was very glad to hear what the right hon. Gentleman said about the Enfield management, in regard to the production of rifles. I happen to know something about Enfield. The superintendent of Enfield is an old fellow worker of mine of many years ago when he and I were making an honest living by toil. I am glad to know that his ability has been recognised, and that he has done so well for the State, not only at Enfield, but in the co-ordination of other rifle factories throughout the country. I come to the speech of the right hon. Member who last spoke, on behalf of the Ministry of Munitions. I think he was rather rough on my hon. Friend the Member for Attercliffe. After all, what are we here for—to hold up the hands of those who work by manual toil? I think my hon. Friend's case was a good one in some respects. It is quite true that the women are getting a great deal better wages in the Ministry of Munitions than they were before.
§ Mr. BARNES
My right hon. Friend knows that the co-operative movement of this country has not the resources of the State nor the blank cheque which he has, and it has had a minimum wage for women, amounting to 17s. a week, in operation for the last ten years. Before the War, certainly when prices were a great deal less than they are to-day, this voluntary organisation, existing largely upon workmen's wages, paid a wage of which he speaks. How does the right hon. Gentleman pay that £1 a week, or whatever it may be? I happen to know something about it. Take the Manchester district. It is carried out in Manchester in a spirit of meanness. The work in Manchester, generally speaking, is fifty-three hours. There are variations ranging from forty-seven hours a week to the fifty-three. Mather and Platt, Masseys, and Hans Reynolds, among others, only work forty-eight hours a week. Therefore you cannot say conclu- 1743 sively the working week in Manchester is fifty-three hours, though you may put it at that. What did the Ministry of Munitions do in regard to the question of the minimum wage for women? The men in the engineering trade, if they work forty-eight hours in a forty-eight hours per week establishment, or if they work forty-seven hours in a forty-seven hours per week establishment, get the standard rate of wages of the district in just exactly the same way as the man who works fifty-three hours. The Ministry of Munitions do not adopt that principle. They have adopted it with the engineers, of course, because the engineers would not work for less. But what do they do with the women? They give the women forty-eight fifty-thirds of £1. The Ministry of Munitions are professing to-day to set up a standard of £1. They say their rate is £1, but they do not pay it. You are introducing at this moment the forty-eight hours per week in the National Munitions Factory in Manchester. You are making three shifts instead of two. Where these women are only working forty-eight hours a week, and where they are practically working short time as a result of the changes brought in by the Ministry of Munitions, their wages are reduced from the rate of the fifty-three hours to that of forty-eight.
§ Mr. BARNES
If I am wrong I apologise, but I am told that by one of the duly accredited officers of the Amalgamated Society of Engineers, whose men are working alongside these women, and are getting their standard rate of wages, while the women are getting less. If it is not true he has misled me, but I do not think he has. Just a word or two about the deportations. The hon. Member who spoke last on behalf of the Ministry of Munitions had a great deal to say about the iniquities of these men, with which I agree. They were very foolish. "Foolishhess" is the word best applied to them, but resubmit that they have purged their offences. They have been away, many of them, for seventeen weeks. The Ministry has recognised that some of them at all events may come back. While you are doing a handsome thing you might as well do it handsomely. The trade unionists in the district now at all events are making common cause with 1744 these men. The other day it was stated from that bench that they had had representations from the Amalgamated Society of Engineers and other societies concerned; therefore we may take it that although the men had been in revolt against the trade unions just as much as against the Ministry of Munitions—they are against society from my point of view, and I have no sympathy with them—the trade unions now have overlooked it. They are in the trade union, and I think that to keep them away now from their homes will appear vindictive, and that the best possible results will be achieved by allowing the men to go back and earn their living and maintain their family, as they desire to do. I am not speaking about the men who are in prison, but only about those who were deported. I want to make that perfectly clear.
My last point is about the disorganisation and lack of proper inspection in some places. I was glad to hear the right hon. Gentleman say that he had the nucleus of a satisfactory and efficient system of inspection so far as artillery was concerned. I know something about that. I have had to work to within one three-thousandth part of an inch, and I think it is a great pity they have not the same nucleus of an efficient system of inspection so far as the laying out of machinery is concerned and the setting up of factories. I happen to have had some information during the last month or two about this matter, and I know there has been tremendous waste. Shafting has been put up about half a dozen times and taken down. Machinery has been bedded down in some places, and then taken away, and bedded down again in other places. Men sometimes have stood idle for long periods together. I put a question to the Prime Minister some time ago. He would not believe me. He doubted my information as to men who had nothing to do being kept hanging about. He asked me to give him some definite information. At this moment, or, at least, a day or two ago, there was an establishment where men had been hanging about doing absolutely nothing for two or three weeks on end. I have a letter from a friend of mine who is engaged in a manufactory somewhere in the Manchester district. He tells me an extraordinary tale as to how things are worked t-here in regard to the matter of which I speak. A factory, he writes, was to be erected. I am not complaining, he says. I went there with a sincere and loyal intention of being useful, 1745 and so on, and he says that, with the exception of five or six second-rate fitters, there was no engineer on the ground. One of these men and himself were the only two persons who appeared to be able to read a drawing.
He goes on to tell me of an extraordinary condition of things, where the factory had been demolished and the whole place—I do not know whether he means by the factory the bricks and mortar—but the machinery that had been in the factory was shifted 25 miles away, where it was to be re-erected. That machinery, parts of motors, parts of engines, parts of the most delicate machinery, were dumped there in the mud where the new place was to1 be erected, and where it was only with the greatest possible difficulty that they could be extricated and put together again. I happen to know that if you want to take a machine down and put it up again that you ought carefully to mark and number all the parts. That was not done in this case. I am told that it has not been done in many other cases. I trust this will be one of those details which may be taken into account by the Ministry of Munitions, and that the more efficient inspection that now goes on with regard to artillery will be carried out as speedily as possible in regard to the laying down of plant, and so on. I would only again congratulate the right hon. Gentleman who first spoke for the Ministry of Munitions to-day on the splendid achievement of which he spoke. We all acknowledge, and also welcome, the statement that he made on behalf of the Ministry as to labour. So far as I can voice the views of Labour, Labour looks forward to a time after this War when it will cease to be a mere dead commodity, bought and sold like boots and shoes. Labour is looking forward to the time when it will be taken into active and intelligent co-operation with the Departments of State, in order that we may have a better system of industry than we have had in times gone by. Labour looks forward to the time when every man and every woman will have a decent standard of living, and be taken into intelligent citizenship.
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
Perhaps I may be permitted, as the late Minister of Munitions, to join those who have taken part in the Debate in congratulating my right hon. Friend upon his lucid and very eloquent speech. I have only intervened because of two or three statements which 1746 have been made in the course of the Debate. The Ministry of Munitions, I think, has a good right to felicitate itself on the absence, on the whole, of criticism after twelve months of very strenuous work which has interfered a great deal with industry and with both employer and employed, and which, naturally, in the course of such work must have thrown a good many things out of gear. The first thing which I should like to challenge—it has been effectively challenged by my right hon. Friend (Dr. Addison)—is the statement by the hon. Member for Attercliffe. It was a challenge of my action—personal to myself. The hon. Member for Attercliffe quoted a pledge which I gave earlier, and soon after the formation of the Ministry, that so far as the work of the Ministry was concerned we would not permit women's sweated labour in any work done by the women for them. What was the action we took to carry out that pledge? First of all, we set up a Labour Supply Committee, which contained representatives of the trade unions themselves, including the Women's Labour movement. That Committee adopted unanimously a recommendation in the form of a circular to all the works in the Kingdom, and that circular was accepted by the Ministry of Munitions without a single alteration. What is still more, that circular was carried out.
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
I carried out every recommendation that came from the Labour Supply Committee. If that Committee thought that the change in prices justified increasing wages, it was for them to make the recommendation to that effect. Every recommendation that came from, them was adopted. I want to call attention to one fact, that Miss Mary McArthur, who, I believe, is challenging the action of the Ministry of Munitions, is a member of that Committee. If there is a single case in which that circular has not been carried out, I want to know why it has not been brought to the notice of the Ministry of Munitions? It is no use making general charges against a busy Department. These cases ought to be brought to their notice. How was it they were never brought to the notice of the Ministry? It is not fair to-make charges in the House of Commons, and to send articles to newspapers arraigning the conduct of the Ministry of Munitions, when not a single case was 1747 brought to their notice that was not redressed. Where are those cases? I am not complaining of my right hon. Friend. He brought a case to the notice of my right hon. colleague. I have no doubt it will be seen to. He acknowledges that, through the action of the Ministry of Munitions, the wages of women have been put up far beyond what they were before. There is a great difference between that and the strident criticism, or, rather, strident nagging, we are getting accustomed to from the hon. Member for Attercliffe. If he has any grievance, let him bring it to the notice of my right hon. Friend. He never brought a grievance to my notice without having it attended to, and I am perfectly certain the same would apply in the case of my right hon. Friend. I venture to say that the action initiated by the Ministry of Munitions to humanise the conditions of labour in the course of twelve months will tell a tale that will effect an industrial revolution in the course of the next few years. Things have been done which are just beginning to improve conditions of life in the factory, and I think those things at any rate deserve one word of commendation from those who specially claim to represent Labour in this House, and do represent it in this House. It is not fair where criticisms have been passed that one word of recognition should not be given to the volunteers, men who have given up their work during these twelve months in order to improve conditions in the workshop. I think they deserve one word of encouragement, and I was very glad to hear what was said by my right hon. Friend the Member for the Black-friars Division of Glasgow.
The pledge which I gave with respect to women's wages has been kept. If it has not been kept, I ask why the cases in which it was not kept were not brought to my notice? Wherever they were brought to my notice, they were set right. I cannot help thinking the real grievance is the absence of grievance. There was no cause at all for complaint, and it was very difficult to keep the organisation going under these conditions. That is the real grievance—that we carried out, through the instrumentality of a Government Department, conditions which have been fought for for years, and even generations, with regard to women's labour. My right hon. Friend referred to the co-operative movement, where there was a minimum wage of 1748 17s. a week. The minimum wage set up by the Ministry of Munitions was 20s. a week.
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
I do not know at all whether that 17s. has gone up to 20s. in the co-operative movement; perhaps my hon. Friend will tell me.
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
I can only assure my hon. Friend of the fact that women have never earned such pay. And to talk as if women were only getting 20s. a week! There are places where they are earning, not merely 30s. to 35s., but are running up to £3 and £4 a week. Women have never earned so much, and the complaints are not coming from the women, but they are complaints manufactured on their behalf. They are working under conditions such as they have never worked under before, and they are very delighted with the work—work which this country will never forget. I should like to say one or two words with regard to munitions. The hon. Member for Finsbury (Colonel Archer-Shee)—I have nothing to say about the tone of his criticisms—said there was still a good deal of improvement which could be effected both in quality and quantity. That is quite clear, but if he knew the improvement which has been effected in both I believe he would be amazed. I can tell him one thing about quality. There is no harm in saying it now. My right hon. Friend in his speech said that we have always had troubles with "prematures" and "blinds." First of all, you have the "prematures" which burst the gun, and then you have to put in delaying action in order to prevent a "premature" inside the gun or just outside. That resulted in a "blind." The delaying action had the effect of preventing the shell exploding until perhaps some time after it had dug itself into the earth, 1749 when the explosion became a perfectly harmless one. That would happen. At the battle of Loos the "prematures" were so bad that we had to give up firing such high-explosive shells as we had. You have nothing of the kind now. I have just come back from the front, where I had a very long conversation with the general in charge of the Artillery, and he spoke in the highest terms of the improvement in the quality of the shell. The "prematures" had been very few, notably in the bigger and heavier guns.
You will always have "prematures"; you cannot avoid them. Every Army in the world has got them. At first the French Army and the Russian Army, and, from information we have got, the German Army, suffered very severely. It was a very serious state of things in all those Armies at one time. Why? The use of high explosives was a perfectly new thing for all of us, and it was a very uncertain quantity. They never knew quite how they would operate, and the result was that in all the Armies there were very serious premature explosions which destroyed the guns. We had to go through that process as well, but we began our high explosives very much later than they did, and, therefore, our "prematures" came very much later than the French and German "prematures." They had their "prematures" in February and March, 1915. We hardly fired any high explosives until late in that year because we had not got them, and therefore our "prematures" came months later than those of the French, the Russians, and Germans, and we had to go through the same process of gradually eliminating the dangerous element. Now that is a thing of the past. Our "prematures" are so few that the number is almost negligible. There is no danger from that point of view. We are still coping with the "blinds," but that is a matter which is gradually and steadily improving. With the old ammunition you had more "blinds." You have steadily fewer and fewer as the process of manufacture improves, and what is still more important is that the kind of fuses and the filling improve.
The House must remember we had to improvise a hugh organisation and get workmen who had never seep a shell in their lives. Anybody who sees a shell with a fuse knows what a delicate business it is and how many parts there are 1750 You have to fill I do not know how many—something like sixty or seventy parts—little bits of things you can barely see. If any one of those goes wrong you have cither a "premature" or a "blind." You had girls, and very often managers, who had never seen a shell before. They go through the process of acquiring experience and knowledge, and the things they turned out at first were by no means their best. The first output was bound to be deficient or inadequate. They are mastering their trade; they are getting better and better. The old stuff which has accumulated in France is the worst. They have fired most of that off. Now you have the newer and the better stuff. The fuse is improved and is continuing to improve, and I venture to say in a very short time the ammunition which will be fired from the British guns will be about the best ammunition in the whole area of the War. The hon. and gallant Member talked about the German shell as if it were perfect. It is nothing of the kind. A friend of mine happened to find a shell in a trench which had been fired at with the German 5.9. About a dozen of these shells fell quite near him—uncomfortably near him. Out of the twelve, five were "blind." That is a very high percentage—about forty-five. No one ever imagines that our percentage is anything approaching that. Luckily for him, the one that fell nearest him was also a "blind," otherwise he would not have been there to tell me the story. I met another friend of mine the other day who saw sixty German shells fired into a village close by. The vast majority of them were blind. Probably the reason for that was that that particular village was not near the battlefield, and the older and inferior ammunition was used there, the better ammunition being reserved for the battlefield. They are suffering from the same difficulties as we are, and they are probably reducing this difficulty, and we are doing the same thing. With regard to quantity, as my right hon. Friend said, we are able to supply now week by week. We are able to supply now week by week the expenditure, and the amount of shell which has been sent is increasing week by week, notably in the heavier natures, and that is the important point. That is perfectly right. The number of guns is increasing very rapidly, and, as the number of guns increases, the quantity of ammunition required for them 1751 must also increase. It is increasing steadily; and my right hon. Friend is looking forward to a very rapid and a very considerable increase on a very gigantic scale. The national factories set up during the autumn have not approached anywhere near their maximum output. In setting up factories the first thing you have to do is to get the machinery; you have to get the tool-makers and the machines to make the guns, and then you have to make the shells. We have ordered as many machines as we can get from America. Now these factories are beginning to fill up with machinery, and you have to get the labour, but the organisation is getting complete, and before the end of this year you will have an output of heavy shells which will be quite adequate to the enormous increase which has been effected in the guns of the larger calibre. Not only that, but I think we shall be able to spare a very considerable quantity of both for our Allies. We have already supplied a very considerable number of guns to our Allies, as well as ammunition of a heavy nature. We hope to be able to do this on an even larger scale early next year, and they are looking forward to our redemption of that promise.
From the point of view of quality and quantity we have not yet reached the maximum. The Ministry of Munitions is working very hard improving both the quantity and the quality. What the hon. and gallant Gentleman opposite has said is absolutely correct, for it would be fatal to say, "Here we are, we have done our best, and we can do no more." We shall have to go on improving and increasing our output until victory is secured. From what I know is going on, I may say that I have never seen men at the front so satisfied, especially men who last year were so full of doubt. The House would be simply appalled to hear of the dangers we had to run last year. We always assumed that we are the only people who make mistakes. That is the only way for us to improve. But when I think of the chances the Germans had last year, and which they did not take, well, I am full of gratitude, and when they get to know it, it will make them feel very unhappy, as unhappy as they deserve. Those who know the conditions last year with regard to big guns and shells and our reserves, and how now the munitions are pouring 1752 in at a prodigious rate, will be extremely grateful to those in this country who have taken part in supplying munitions to the Army. They will be grateful to the employers and the men, and especially to those volunteers who gave their time to improve the output of our munitions.
I wanted to say something about shields, but I do not know that it is a question that can be discussed. The hon. and gallant Gentleman said he had invented a shield. There is no difficulty in finding a man who has invented a shield. I am very glad of it, because it is an indication of the feeling that there is a real heed for something of that kind. Most of our poor fellows who have been stricken down by machine gun fire have a feeling that something might be done to protect them when they are advancing to the attack. The first difficulty is that if you have a shield sufficient to protect a man it is too heavy to carry, but I do not think that is a difficulty which is insuperable. The second difficulty in this respect is that of the men themselves; they have such a prejudice against them because they have enough to carry already, and when you know the amount they have to carry with them you will not be at all surprised that they should object. At first they felt that the helmet was an encumbrance, and it was only when they realised what a protection it was, how many lives it, had saved, and how many wounds it had spared them, that they changed their opinion, and now the helmet of the soldier is inseparable, and they will not now go anywhere near a trench without it. They like it now that they have got accustomed to it, and they regard it as a friend, and I cannot help thinking that once we begin the custom, they may feel the same thing in regard to shields. That is a matter which we will undoubtedly consider.
On this question we are negotiating and organising, and we have to do so in such a way as to save the lives of our gallant fellows as much as we possibly can. I believe our heavy artillery has accomplished that to a large extent It is amazing the trenches they carry now with a comparatively small loss of life. Trenches which last year would have cost thousands of lives and tens or thousands of casualties, now they are able to carry hundreds of yards, and sometimes a mile of trenches, with a comparatively small loss of life, and 1753 this is largely due to our tremendous artillery preparation. The House, I am sure, will be delighted to know that our men at the front are full of spirit and confidence and eagerness. I have never seen men so cheerful; it is not the cheerfulness of ignorance, but it is the cheerfulness of men who have been through it. They are full of confidence and determination and hope, and they have a sense right through from one end to the other that victory is certain. I am perfectly certain that the work which my two right hon. Friends are undertaking, and which has enabled my right hon. Friend to give such a report of will be welcome to these fine soldiers of ours, which our French Allies spoke of with an enthusiasm which would have warmed your hearts. As a rule the soldier requires two or three years' training, whereas many of our soldiers have only had six months' training. They are amazed by their skill and their valour. It is almost impossible to conceive that humanity could face such terrible perils so cheerfully and calmly. What has surprised our Allies and everybody else is that men with only six months' training should behave as if they were veterans. These soldiers have the making of men who will win the battle for our country, and I am heartily glad that my right hon. Friend has supplied them with such a magnificent equipment of guns and munitions which will enable them to beat their way through without undue loss.
§ Mr. PRINGLE
As during the last twelve months I have been a critic of the policy of my right hon. Friend, perhaps he will not think it amiss if I now offer him my congratulations upon his achievements in the office of Minister of Munitions. I am sure we are all gratified to recognise that the greatest achievement of all, namely, the increase of our heavy artillery, is solely due to the right hon. Gentleman who is not a professional soldier. I regret, however, that my right hon. Friend had nothing to say in response to the appeal made to him by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Black-friars Division (Mr. Barnes) on the question of the deportees.
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
I think the difficulty was that they could not get back without being found something to do. "Satan finds some mischief still for idle hands to do," and the temptation might have been too strong for them if they had nothing to do. I understand that arrange- 1754 ments have now been made to find work for them in one of the Government factories and that five of them will come back as soon as possible.
§ Mr. PRINGLE
I thank the right hon. Gentleman for making that statement, but that leaves one recalcitrant unaccounted for. I think even now it would be well for the Government to show clemency towards them all. I can understand that there are differences in the circumstances of the individual cases, but surely the long time these people have been removed from their homes is sufficient to purge any offence they have committed. The House should remember that they have never been accused of any offence up to the present, and no charge has ever been stated against them. Surely deportation for the period the5' have been deported is a sufficient punishment for a charge which cannot be formulated in a Court of law. Apart from the considerations regarding their alleged offences, I think this is a case where the Government would be well advised in allowing all the men to come back. I do not think any injurious results would ensue. My right hon. Friend the Member for the Blackfriars Division is well qualified to speak for the orthodox trades unions, and he has informed the House that the unions are now making common cause with the men, and surely it is in the interests of the Ministry of Munitions to make this concession when it is sought for by the official organisations to which in the past the Minister of Munitions has always paid attention. When we are speaking of clemency, it might be worth while in the near future to consider clemency in the case of some of the men who have been put on trial and sentenced. I am of opinion that at the present time the exercise of the Royal Prerogative in relation to some of these men would certainly do-good. I know two of the men who were put on trial and convicted, and I have been assured that it would be regarded as a graceful act on the part of the Minister if at this stage the Royal Prerogative was exercised in their favour. I hope that my right hon. Friends will take this consideration into account when they come to a decision. There is only one other point with regard to the speeches of the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Munitions and of the Secretary of State for War to which I would like to allude, and that is their singular sensitiveness to 1755 criticism. After all, both right hon. Gentlemen have admitted that in this matter of women's employment they are heartily desirous of improving the conditions. It is one of the main objects which the Ministry of Munitions have set before them in this vast extension of the employment of women. The Parliamentary Secretary to the Department has admitted that there are many cases where they have to deal with recalcitrant employers. Surely it must be an aid to them, in dealing with these recalcitrant employers, to be able to point to the criticism which is taking place in this House as a lever for obtaining further improvement. I think that every Department which is interesting itself in obtaining improvements, instead of deprecating criticism in this House, should welcome it as a means of facilitating the improvements which they think so desirable.
§ Mr. HODGE
The Minister of Munitions painted a very glowing picture of what the Ministry has done, and my hon. Friend the Member for the Attercliffe Division (Mr. Anderson) said that he would endeavour to put in the light and shade, and well he succeeded. May I say, as one representing a very important industry in which, although very few women are employed, there are a great number of general labourers, that whenever we have had cause to complain that employers were treating the men harshly when they had asked for advances of wages as a consequence of the great increase in the cost of living we have always found the Ministry of Munitions most sympathetic towards those low-paid men. It is only fair, when we condemn them for their misdeeds, that we should praise them for their good deeds. My hon. Friend complained of the slowness of arbitration cases. Unfortunately, I have had a great many cases where we have been in dispute with employers respecting increases of wages and where we have had to go for arbitration. The delay has not been with the Ministry of Munitions, but with that Department of the Board of Trade who are in charge of this particular aspect of labour difficulties. When we have agreed with employers upon war bonuses, I have always found that the Ministry of Munitions have given their decision very promptly. We had two cases in South Wales not so very long ago. A joint recommendation came from two Conciliation Boards with respect to an increase of the war bonus, and within fourteen 1756 days the Ministry of Munitions had given their sanction with the addendum, "Do not do it again!" The greatest trouble has been the delay in getting Arbitration Courts appointed, and thereafter in getting the Arbitration Courts to consent. If the Ministry of Munitions could bring any influence to bear upon that particular Department they would do a great deal of good, because, in my own personal experience, these delays have a most exasperating and irritating effect upon the workmen, and in a great many instances so dishearten the men that the output is not so good as otherwise it would be.
I should like to deal with the question of holidays. The Ministry of Munitions have had a very difficult task to perform in connection with the proposal that holidays should be taken by relays. I have had the opportunity of discussing the matter with the Committee that was set up, and of pointing out how impossible the relay system is so far as the iron and steel trades are concerned, and that it ought to be done by units. I am afraid that, while they have in the various Departments of the Ministry of Munitions men who are practical steel makers, they have not men with the practical knowledge which the workman possesses, and as a consequence they have not been able to bring to bear on this particular phase of the question that knowledge which is absoluely essential for the proper handling of it. I have had the opportunity of pointing out that if in the larger works they were to put complete units off at a time, then, so far as the output is concerned, it would be increased. There is one instance in the West of Scotland where the holidays ought to have taken place in the second week in July. The firm work up to that particular time, looking to it for the purpose of general repairs, general cleaning up, and the cleaning of the flues. Good furnaces, as that particular time comes on, begin to lag behind; moderate furnaces become bad; and bad furnaces become hopeless. The result of working past that time has been that the output has absolutely gone down. A thousand tons less pig-iron were requisitioned for August than for July, whereas if the cleaning had taken place at the proper time the requisition would have been for 1,000 tons more instead of 1,000 tons less. That shows that the Department is not so efficiently equipped with practical men as it ought to be, and I would suggest that if a committee were appointed from both employers and workmen to co-operate 1757 with the Department they would get a great deal of useful and valuable information.
We all know that at the present moment the great thing is steel, more steel, and still more steel. During the last fortnight complaints have come from various employers as to the quantity of pig-iron supplied to them for August being reduced by 75 per cent. One firm, in particular, working on shell steel says that a third, if not 50 per cent., of the furnaces must be damped down. The quantity has been reduced so low that to make shell steel becomes almost an impossibility, and, at any rate, they cannot make it so efficiently as they could if they were getting the proper quantity.
§ Mr. MONTAGU
I do not want to interrupt the hon. Gentleman, except to tell him that the Committee that he suggests is about to be appointed.
§ Mr. HODGE
Well, I have written to the Department about that enormous reduction in the quantity of pig-iron by which those two particular firms have been cut down. But, in my opinion, a matter of that kind should be dealt with much more promptly than seems evident. I have written to the right hon. Gentleman, suggesting that I was prepared to come down and talk matters over with him so that he could deal with practical things, and leave the theorists to plan and letting the practical men carry out the work.
§ Mr. HODGE
I am talking about the Minister of Munitions; I am talking about your chief, now. I know that when the Secretary to the Ministry of Munitions has any question to ask respecting the iron and steel trade he is always ready to consult either myself or my assistant, and I believe we have been able to give very real assistance to the Department. That is what we desire. We want to be of real value, and that is the reason why I am seeking to impress on the Ministry the necessity of trusting less to the theorists and more to the practical men. Again, I want to make a grumble about the methods of payments so far as holidays are concerned. We in the trade with which I am connected have never in the past been asked to work on holidays save on very rare occasions. When these rare occasions have been presented to us we 1758 have always made our own arrangements with the employers with regard to what we are going to receive for working in the holidays. We are not like the engineers or the various other trades, which start on Monday morning. Take the case of the Bank holiday, for example. Our men have to work on the Sunday, on the Sunday night, on the Monday and the Monday night, and on the Tuesday and on the Tuesday night, but the holidays for the other people was supposed to be Monday and Tuesday. Yet they put us off, who sacrificed all these days, with the Monday and Tuesday. There is no question of either the Monday night or the Sunday night. There, again, you have people dealing with a problem which they do not understand. I see the chief sinner under the Gallery. We have tried to communicate to them how unfair the treatment is as compared with other trades, and there is this much to be said, that there has been no body of workmen in the whole country so loyal as the iron and steel workers have been. They have never given you any trouble, and that is probably the reason why you cut them down to a bare quarter for two paltry days when they had to give up their Sunday evening and Monday night. It seems to me that people who make the most noise get the most out of you. I want that changed, and I want the Department to pay very much more attention to the protests which we have sent them than they have so far done. As a general rule, I come down to the Department and fight these things out. But I am taking the opportunity on this occasion of showing that although I do that the time does come when it is necessary to do some shouting inside this House. I believe it will do good to the Department as a whole, because if we were all to keep quiet they might become too angelic in disposition, and think they could do no wrong. As a matter of fact, they would think so much of themselves that it would be necessary to take their coats off to see whether or not their wings were beginning to sprout. So my hope is that the criticism to which the Department has been subjected to-day will be of very great advantage so far as the Department itself is concerned.
I only want to say one word more, that is about the women workers. So far as the iron and steel trade is concerned, we have had very little trouble in that respect, but there was one firm employing women which was breaking L 2 circular 1759 Unfortunately, the women did not know the conditions which existed previously to their undertaking this task. When they made an appeal to me I appeared before the Supply Committee, and was able to give them such information that a decision was given in the women's favour. There is only one other point, namely, the question of the soldiers being utilised in a steel works in South Wales. The information that I have got was that the men were utilised in general labour there. We have between 600 and 800 soldiers working in the steel trade, and in only three single instances have we had any trouble about the men being denied their civilian rights. That was in a works where the firm would have had all their workmen as soldiers under military discipline if they could. But immediately we made representations to the Ministry of Munitions the matter was put right, and the men were given their full civilian liberty. So it appears to me that in a good many instances where soldiers are being badly treated it is the result of the lack of effective action so far as their trade union is concerned, or is an instance, unfortunately, of the men having no trade union to back them up. But I feel confident, in a case of that kind, however mighty the individual to whom representations were made, that if they had gone direct to the Ministry of Munitions they would have received the same satisfaction as we have had in every instance when we have placed these matters before them.
§ Sir W. ESSEX
We have had two or three very glowing and interesting speeches from the Front Bench dealing with this Vote for the Ministry of Munitions, and I do not doubt that all those Members of the House who have been privileged to hear those speeches can have hardly failed to have drawn some small degree of comfort from the statements made by the three Ministers. I suppose that never in the history of the world has so gigantic an enterprise, or anything approaching it, been launched with such surprising suddenness upon a people, or has attained within so comparatively short space of time such unparalleled efficiency and success. I am not going to say that I, for a moment, would claim for the Ministry of Munitions perfection in all its doings. But the more I see of its work—in going up and down the country, as I have been privileged to do, and in taking stock of or in endeavouring to form a conjecture of the 1760 great difficulties that have had to be surmounted and the problems that have had to be solved—the more: ready do I find myself to excuse any apparent shortcomings, in view of the enormous achievements in the face of the great difficulties and obstacles which have had to be overcome. I made up my mind to say a few words on this Vote to-day, more particularly because of the complaints made by one or two of my Friends in this House about the women's labour and the conditions affected.
I hope I am not unpatriotic when I say that, apart from the more direct question involved in the War, the business which more than any other engrossed my attention and stimulated my imagination was this new departure of the State in the employment of women. I have not been altogether unfamiliar in my life with factory organisation and methods, but I am bound to say I felt myself an old-fashioned person when I have been able to go up and down some of these gigantic factories and to see women of all classes standing up to jobs in foundries, in forges, in factories, in chemical laboratories, and in many other industries, and undertaking work where it had seemed to me it was quite impossible a woman could profitably put forth her energies or enter into any useful labour. Women may be seen by the hundred to-day standing up in our munition works in front of gigantic lathes. I have a picture in my mind of women each in charge of a couple of big drills turning out huge shells, and doing it apparently thoroughly well, tranquilly and easily, and, if it be not treason to say so in the presence of some of my hon. Friends on the Labour Benches, doing it not only with an efficiency equal to that of their predecessors in the job of the male sex, but, in many cases, largely exceeding their prewar out-turn with similar machines. The army of women so employed, we have been told to-day, amounts to no fewer than 400,000. The figure is a staggering one, and that so slight and slender a set of charges can be brought in this House against the whole treatment of this newly-formed organisation of the present system employing these 400,000 women is, to my mind, the most splendid testimony that could possibly be offered to the successful working out of the many questions involved in this most intricate of all problems.
It may be stated, without the slightest possible fear of contradiction, that at 1761 least 98 per cent, of these women had never been in the workshop before in anything approaching the conditions as to labour which they meet with there. The materials which they have to handle, to say nothing of the tools with which they deal, were entirely unknown to them and beyond all possible experience they could have had. While they have been brought there and organised, the very fact that they are women has introduced a lot of difficult problems which will have to be solved concurrently with the organisation of their labour and the provision of the necessary things to make it more efficient. To show more clearly how eagerly solicitous the Department has been, as far as possible to make the utmost endeavour to secure the comfort, and well-being of these women and to enhance the ease and the general good ordering of their lives under these new conditions, I may say that I was passing through a very large chemical factory, and a brilliant young woman doctor came to me. I had to put to her a number of questions—that was my mission— to whether there were any shortcomings upon which she could put her skilled finger, so that we might have them remedied. She pointed out one or two small unimportant things. Then she said there was one thing which had been revealed to her—she was a woman of high scientific attainments—that was the action of a certain chemical upon the women's teeth. Some of these diabolic compounds which go to the composition of these explosive powders and concoctions had within them a chemical which brought about a decay of the teeth, and this woman doctor who had charge of about 1,200 women was getting very anxious about this matter. In less than a fortnight after bringing the matter before the Minister of Munitions we had the satisfaction of knowing that proper steps had been taken to obviate in the future any peril to any woman from this cause, if she would herself take any reasonable care, and not only as regards these 1,200 women so employed in this particular factory, but also as regards their sisters similarly employed in the enormous chemical industries in which they are working up and down the length and breadth of the land.
Then there came the trouble of clothing. There we had to find out one or two difficulties and present them to the Ministry of Munitions. For women wheeling coke or standing up stoking furnaces, the 1762 ordinary garb was quite unsuitable: indeed, that women should be employed at all in such work would strike many persons as a thing not to be thought of. Immediately they were put to that work, which they were eager to undertake, it was found that their clothing was unsuitable, and a whole string of experiments had to be made for this mysterious creature woman to fit her for her new duties and to help her to discharge them efficiently. They must have spent a very considerable amount of trouble in going into this matter. It seems to us, as men, a simple thing, but at any rate they seem now, from all I have heard, in these particular Departments to have solved that trouble. The women's uniforms up and down the country vary of course, according to the duties they have to undertake, and they must strike all who have observed them not only as useful and comely, but also as reflecting credit on the fatherly care which the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Munitions has exercised over the many thousands of the daughters of Eve who look to him as their protector. I will not labour that question further.
There was one point of discomfort or disquiet to my mind in the statement made by the Minister of Munitions when he spoke, in an aside but in a significant and thought-provoking way, about the German progress still going on in the amount of munitionment for its Army. That was followed by some remarks which fell from the hon. Member for the Gorton Division (Mr. Hodge), and led me to ask myself whether the Ministry is doing all it might to avail itself of steel supplies from outside countries. If the Germans are still increasing their munitionment and the ratio is growing with them as we are glad to believe it is growing with us, we have to remember that we are under one great disadvantage, namely, that our Allies, to a large extent by the adroitness of the Germans in choosing their fields of action, have been robbed of their steel-producing areas. Whether it is in the Polish district, in Belgium, or in Northern France, those are all swept away and go to swell the German opportunity of production. Something was said by the Minister of Munitions about his hoping presently to be independent of American supplies with regard to large shells. Knowing, as I do, that there is a constant clamour coming from one part of the country and another for steel billets 1763 for shell making, I wondered whether he might not possibly be under the perilous temptation of hesitating to import steel as freely as possible from America or elsewhere, even though it might seem to be beyond his immediate requirements or needs, and even though he might feel his present needs were amply supplied by the home product. For there is this to be said about it, that steel in billets can hardly be looked upon as the finished product of the shell. If, of course, the War were to end to-morrow, the steel would be of value to us in this country—a depreciated value, of course (because the market would be lessened) and the shells would not. I hope, inasmuch as it is generally agreed, I fancy, that many of the American mills are turning out most excellent steel, we shall not hear the complaints that reach many of us from one factory after another that there is a shortage of steel. As one manufacturer said to me the other day, "After putting up three big stamps, I have only been able to keep one employed throughout the whole time I have had a contract in hand for making munitions." There is, of course, a side-line of comfort in that statement. If his experience is like that of many others and he is only working one-third of his capacity, we have foreshadowed there a large margin of possible addition to the already gigantic output of the Department when once we have speeded them up.
I got very great comfort from another statement that came from the Minister. It had to do with factory costs. In going up and down the country and noticing the great townships of factories—they can hardly be described in any other way—which the titanic energy of the previous Minister of Munitions had erected pretty nearly everywhere, I have often said, "What is to be done with these hundreds of thousands, possibly millions of pounds worth of buildings when the War is over?" But when he to-day said that the very fact that we have gone in so wholseale a fashion into the building of factories for munition products would not ultimately be a loss to us but that the splendid buildings would actually be paid for in a sense by so increasing our competition with foreign production as to compel them to lower their prices to us. I felt greatly helped because this had seemed to me to be a tremendous expenditure which looked as though there could be no off-setting advantage to look forward to in any way, I 1764 do not know whether I make myself clear, but that is just how the matter presents itself to me. Side by side with that thought came this: As an old Liberal I have been one of those who all my life have shouted out against war expenditure, and when in my tours up and down the country I have gone into some of our old factories—Woolwich, for instance—and have contrasted these antique structures with the modern equipment which the Ministry has given to this country, I have felt that, to a large extent, we have been penny wise and pound foolish. Any man who goes through some of these old ordnance factories to-day, not to enlarge the list of factories and works having to do with military and naval needs, must have been struck with their out-of-date character and the extravagance that is necessary in their working owing to the fact that they have been put together in piecemeal fashion, and have been added to from time to time in a parsimonious and niggling way, and machinery has been allowed to stand which, in many cases, must have cost more to work in a very short space of time than would a new and more efficient machine had it been put in its place. Possibly, however, some of these old factories are doomed. I hope they are. Certainly they cannot hold their own with many of the new ones, and I take it that at least out of this War we shall come with the determination that what war we have to do or to provide for we will, at any rate, see it is carried on in a workmanlike way.
I think the Minister—although he gave us a long speech—it was not a minute too long; a good sermon is never too long for me, and his was an excellent one—might have gone on and claimed for the country something as a by-product out of this orgy of expenditure. What are we going to have out of it at the finish? We are going to have peace; we are going to have security, and the gain of liberty for the peoples. All that we know. But in the hard matter of pounds, shillings and pence is there nothing more coming to the country? I think there is. I think the byproducts of this Armageddon are going to be real and substantial. I know the price we shall pay for it will be enormous, but we shall not begrudge it, or a tithe or a hundredth of it, but a great by-product will be that our mechanical industry and our chemical industry, and all the industries which are touched—and hardly an industry is not touched more or less intimately—will have been revivified, modernised, and invigorated to an incredible- 1765 degree, and that must of necessity react on the whole industrial work of our Empire, and will not only maintain but enormously enhance all the advantages which as a manufacturing nation we have hitherto enjoyed. I heard the hon. Member (Mr. Hodge) speak just now about theorists, and say that the Minister was wrong in consulting them. Does he not know that in the Ministry of Munitions to-day the energy of the previous incumbent of the office has laid hold of some of the very ablest organisers of industry which this country has got? There is not one of the allied trades with which the Ministry has to do, any in which we have not, whether as engineers, civil or mechanical, or as chemists, or what not, or in the mere organisation of industry, some of the very ablest men the country can provide; and when England puts herself to work to put upon the floor of a factory or an office the ablest business man or the ablest mechanic, there are not many countries which are going to beat us at that, and some of the finest in the world are in the service of the Minister of Munitions to-day.
That is not enough. These men are going up and down, week in and week out, month in and month out, energising the thousands of factories which are under the control of the Ministry of Munitions, bringing them up to date in their workshop methods, making them acquainted in many cases I know with tools, the like of which they had no previous knowledge of save by hearsay, bringing them up also to new methods, new systems and organisation until—this is the common testimony of many of the proprietors of these factories—"We did not know our business until we got linked up with the Ministry of Munitions." You are able by this aggregation of the manufacturing industries of the country here employed to level up the whole, and that, I take it, would be a byproduct of incalculable value to the industry of this country, and must enormously affect it for good and make for our advantage in the future competition with other races of the world. Out of this, at any rate, we shall emerge, I am perfectly certain, with a capacity and a knowledge and an efficiency which will give us not the slightest room for fear of any German methods that we may have to meet. The comforting thing with which the whole oration closed was in the reflection, put in language hardly to be surpassed, of a nation's uprising to a national cause and 1766 the outflow to an unparalleled degree of patriotism of the noblest order. The sacrifice of men and women of all ranks and of all classes, from the highest to the lowest, from the eldest to the youngest, has been magnificent. This Department is the greatest of all the Departments of the State to-day, the greatest and, I believe, one of the most efficient, although it is one of the youngest. Working with its kindred services, the Army and the Navy, it has shown that this old country, turning aside from the slumbering methods of peace, has plunged into this gigantic business of war, and the reshaping of the world. May God bring us out of it possessed of benefits, gathered even from this bloody tree, and may we be enabled to find out of all this welter of expenditure, heart-ache, and sorrow, something which shall come not merely as the fruit of bitterness only, but as the product of a time which shall make our race still higher and still worthier of the pre-eminence which in the days gone by our forefathers struggled for and won.
Mr. TYSON WILSON
I was very surprised at the opening remarks of the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down. He has spoken as one who has had some experience of organising labour, while I have had experience of the organising of workshops. I do wish he could get into touch with some of the practical men who are working for some of these munition factories, and hear what they have to say, men who know how to work machines and how to utilise them to the best possible advantage. If he only heard what they say with regard to the method of supervision and organising of these workshops I am quite certain he would change his views in regard to what they are now. At any rate, I must say this, that speaking as one who has had something to do with organising workshops and the control of workmen, I think his knowledge of organising is of the most elementary description that can possibly-be imagined. I gather from what has been said during the time that I have been in the House that we have had the whitewash bucket here, and that we have had the brush, which has applied it pretty freely with regard to the Munitions Department. I should like to say that when it comes to dealing equitably and justly with the men who are doing the work in the Munitions Department, the Ministry of Munitions, and the Secretary to the Ministry of Munitions, have not given 1767 that consideration to the claims of the men they might have done. To my own knowledge these questions ought to have been, and would have been, settled if they had been left to a committee composed of the men and the employers. I know that the Ministry of Munitions is sheltering itself behind the Committee on Production. I do not want to say anything harsh about the Committee on Production. They have not that practical knowledge required for dealing with, I will not say the demarcation, but the allocation of certain work. Let me give a case in point. I believe that at the Falkirk Ironworks Company, which is a controlled establishment, they have men employed in making munition boxes. The local people made certain arrangements with the representative of the company with regard to the wages that ought to be paid to the men when they were employed on munition boxes. By the way, a great deal of skill is not required for the making of munition boxes. Some skill is required, and some knowledge of the use of tools is required, but they approached the managers or the directors of the Falkirk Ironworks Company with regard to the wages to be paid. The wages paid by the company to the men in their employment previous to the manufacture of munition boxes was 7½d. an hour. They came to the conclusion that, seeing that other firms were paying 10½d. an hour, they could not pay less to the men engaged on munition boxes. They were employed on munition boxes at 10½d. an hour, and as time went on the orders for the boxes fell off, and three or four men employed on these boxes were transferred to the ordinary work of the department.
I want the House to remember that while they are working on munition boxes they are using certain tools and certain material, and when they are turned off the munition boxes on to the ordinary work of the company they were still using the same tools and the same material. To their surprise, however, at the end of the first week on the ordinary work they found their wages reduced from 10½d. an hour, which had been agreed upon as the proper rate for work on munition boxes, to 7£d. an hour, 3d. less than they were receiving on the making of the munition boxes. They did not like this. They approached the Munitions Department, and they were 1768 referred to the Munitions Act, which said that if a demand for a higher rate of wages was made it would be referred to the Board of Trade. The matter was referred to the Board of Trade, and the Board of Trade referred it to the Committee on Production. The Committee on Production met and, very solemnly, went into the whole circumstances of the case, heard evidence, and said, "Very well, we will communicate with you when we come to a decision on the point." Some seven or eight days after, the secretary to the men's association was written to as follows: "We have considered very carefully the evidence submitted by you and the representative of the company, and have come to the conclusion that you have not made out a case for the payment of the 10½d. rate while working on the firm's ordinary work. Therefore, you are not entitled to anything more than the 7½d. an hour which you receive at the present time." A more ridiculous position it is impossible to imagine. If a body of practical men, with full knowledge of the skill required and of the work the men were doing for the company outside the munition boxes, would not have hesitated to say that they were entitled to the 10½d., because 10½d. was the wage paid in the district to the men doing similar work for other employers. If the Munitions Department had had any practical knowledge—
§ Dr. ADDISON rose—
I know, I quite agree that it is impossible to expect the Munitions Department to have practical knowledge of the work done by all workmen, but the Committee on Production has not that knowledge either, and I am going to suggest that the hon. Gentleman might bring some pressure to bear on his colleagues in the Government to agree to the appointment of a Committee which has a practical knowledge of the skill required in doing certain work. I suggest that to him, but I do say that a decision like the one to which I have referred causes an enormous amount of dissatisfaction and discontent among the workmen employed. Let me give another case. I had a letter only yesterday in which the writer said, "For God's sake say what Department I can apply to who is responsible for the manufacture of aeroplanes and seaplanes. I have written to the War Office, the Munitions Department, and the Admiralty, and each has turned me on to the other, and I do not know what to do."
§ Dr. ADDISON
I have told the hon. Member myself absolutely definitely that the Ministry of Munitions have nothing whatever to do with the supply of aeroplanes.
I quite agree that the right hon. Gentleman told me that, but if I produce correspondence where they have attempted to deal with the matter, surely the men who have written to me are justified in asking what they are to do?
No. I did not say that they could not get an answer. I said the Department shifted the writer from one to the other. I have told him that, generally speaking, the War Office is responsible for aeroplanes. The Admiralty is to some extent, I know, controlled establishments, whether making aeroplanes or shells, should deal with these matters in a businesslike way, and the Munitions Department are responsible for controlled establishments. I am trying to save the Department correspondence and trouble. If they would explain in districts like London, Leeds, and Manchester that they have nothing whatever to do with the manufacture of aeroplanes it would save me, as well as the Department, trouble. There is plenty of room for better organisation and for co-ordination in connection with certain Government Departments. I do hope that the hon. Gentleman, by regulation or instructions, or something else, will make public through the Press to the people interested that the Munitions Department have got nothing whatever to do with the manufacture of aeroplanes, but that it is the War Office.
I am extremely sorry that the Munitions Department did not make the question of pay quite clear when they appealed to the working men of the country to work during the holidays. Personally, I believe that they did make it clear that all holiday work should be paid for in accordance with the rules and customs of the districts in which the work took place, but this day I sent the hon. Gentleman a case in which the employer said, "Unless we have got instructions from the Munitions Department to pay time and a half, or double time, or whatever it may be, we are not going to pay." Employers should not be in the position of saying they will not pay. It ought to be made clear to them by circular, or in some other way, that they 1770 must pay the extra time allowed for holiday work in a district where the holidays fall on a certain day. I appeal to the hon. Gentleman even now to make it quite clear that the holiday rates of the district should be paid irrespective of what the employers may say. The more simple the instructions issued the better they would be understood by the working people of the country, and the less confusion would be caused. That being so, I think that any Department sending out instructions should make quite clear what their intentions really are, and not employ obscure language. I have not the least doubt but that in every Department of the State a considerable amount of confusion is caused by the ambiguous language used by the Department when it issues instructions
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Resolutions 93 to 114 read a second time, and agreed to.