§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That a sum, not exceeding £900, be granted to His Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the Charge which will come in course, of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1918, for the Expenses of the Ministry of Munitions."—[NOTE.—£100 has been voted on account.]
§ The MINISTER of MUNITIONS (Dr. Addison)
It is a little over two years since a small party of us gathered with my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister one Wednesday afternoon, in No. 6, Whitehall Gardens. We were about to open a munition shop. There was to be one aim and one aim only—to obtain the goods, and make delivery of them to the Army. No other interests, no considerations of leisure were to be entertained. At the same time a process of man-grabbing was resolved upon. We were to seek out capable and trustworthy men, and to secure their help in the big task on the same terms. And such was the beginning of a story which, I trust, that some day someone more skilled in the art of narrative than I am will tell, in all its romantic interest, with faithfulness and with affection. It will be a story of disappointments many, of difficulties manifold and often unexpected, of expedients without end, as well as of the determination by which they were steadily overcome. It would be a story of improvisations gradually leading up to the formation of an organisation, which, assuming, or having forced upon it, first this function and then that, became at last as prodigious in its proportions as in its output of munitions. It will be a story of the courage and uncanny insight of my right hon. Friend of the labours of a band of helpers of a unique and splendid character, and of the untiring and patriotic efforts of men and women, employers and employed, who, by their collective efforts, have provided an imperishable tribute to British genius and resource.
We may conveniently review the work of the Departments of the Ministry as they form associated groups. There are, first, 559 those Departments which are concerned with the production of completed ammunition and the guns which use it, then those which require the use either of steam or of internal combustion engines, those which deal with the provision and working up of metals and minerals, certain common services, the trench warfare, and other specialised departments; and those of labour and finance. Throughout this review of the activities of the Ministry, which in the time at my disposal must necessarily be brief and incomplete, I hope to be able to show the Committee that the War is providing lessons and opening out vistas of opportunities before us as a nation of which it is our duty diligently and courageously to make the fullest use.
The Department of Explosives Supply is the oldest Department of the Ministry and was the first to become organised. Lord Moulton had secured the services of a band of men, to whom the British Army is deeply indebted, and, before the formation of the Ministry of Munitions, had already embarked on a scheme of production on a great scale. Rut the demands of the Artillery programme, as it was formulated in the latter half of 1915, were so great that it was necessary to plan for the erection of large additional factories. The designing and equipment of these, as of those which had been begun before, were undertaken by Mr. Quinan, the American engineer. He is not the only American citizen who has assisted the Ministry of Munitions throughout its career. In the great works at Queensferry, Gretna, and other places, we have become possessed, through the genius of Mr. Quinan, of factories which, to a very large extent, will be of permanent value to peace industries and in our national life. They were erected at such a pace that what was untouched green fields one year a year later was the site of great factories, capable of dealing with the raw materials of minerals or cotton, and working them up into finished explosives, in great quantities, every week. In the early days the Explosives Supply Department had to press into its service any works capable of being adapted to the manufacture of explosives, although, in many cases, they could only produce relatively small quantities. With the development of our capacity of production in centres remote from poulation, I am glad to say that we are now able to cease manufacture in nearly all those factories which are in the 560 centres of population, and it may be hoped that we shall be spared any recurrence of explosions in residential districts.
As an example off the value which we are deriving from these national explosives factories, I may mention that in a group of T.N.T. factories, which have been operating for the longest period, a capital expenditure of one and a half millions has provided us with capacity which has already produced, at a cost of three and a half millions, explosives which, at the contract prices being paid when the factory was under construction, would have cost seven millions. The present cost of production of T.X.T. at Queensferry, exclusive of interest and amortisation, is 8½d. per lb. The cost in the market, when this factory was started, was 1s. 9d. per lb. As the Committee is aware, during the later months of 1916 it was decided to erect a large additional factory near the Bristol Channel for the production of a certain explosive for which we had hitherto been mainly dependent upon American supplies. Our thanks are due to the American firm of Dupont, who sent over their experts, and gave us great assistance in the planning of it. The Cabinet, however, recently reviewed the question, and decided not to proceed further with the work. The grounds for this decision were, first, and foremost, that we could now count upon the active support in the War of the great Republic in the West, and that a great saving, both in money and material, as well as in tonnage, would thereby be effected, seeing that three to four tons of raw materials-were required to be shipped for every ton of finished explosive produced. We have found ourselves able to dispose of a great deal of the material which had already been used for this factory, and some of the work undertaken will, in any case, be of lasting service in the locality. For a long time the output of explosives was in advance of the output of shells and other forms of ammunition, but during the last few months we have been able to balance one with the other, and to adjust production accordingly.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
Before the right hon. Gentleman passes from the Bristol factory, will he say how much money was spent?
§ 4.0 P.M.
§ Dr. ADDISON
I will give the details later. The Committee will form some conception of the magnitude of the production of explosives in this country when I say 561 that in March, 1917, the capacity for the production of high explosive was more than four times that of March, 1916, and twenty-eight times as great as that of March, 1915. The Explosives Supply Department of the Ministry, of which Lord Moulton is Director-General, and Sir Keith Price his deputy, is, of course, intimately concerned with the great chemical trades. It is responsible for the sulphuric acid necessary for the manufacture, not only of explosives, but of superphosphate and artificial manures generally, as well as for that of a great many other commodities. Under recent arrangements with the Food Production Department, we have started a section of the Explosives Supply Department for the provision of all the artificial manures which are required. By our control of the iron and steel industries we are able to provide all the basic slag required, and I have little doubt that we shall be able to meet the programme which has been supplied to us, requiring at least 1,000,000 tons of superphosphate, nearly 500,000 tons of basic slag, and 250,000 tons of sulphate of ammonia. Hitherto this country has been entirely dependent upon Germany for its supplies of potash, and I noticed in the papers the other day a statement to the effect that the Germans expect after the War to hold us to ransom on this account. I see no objection to saying now that in that anticipation they will be disappointed. Thanks to the ingenuity of Mr. Kenneth Chance and other gentlemen working with him a process has been discovered whereby great quantities of potash may be obtained, and the development of the scheme is now in operation with the assistance of the Ministry. We shall be able to provide every ounce of potash that the glass trade requires as well as very largely to meet the needs of agriculture. Another case which affects German competition relates to the production of sulphuric acid. The production of sulphuric acid in this country has necessarily undergone great development not only in private works, but in our own factories. Especially is this the case with regard to the strong fuming variety, of which the present capacity for production in this country is more than fifteen times greater than it was before the War, while it is being produced at much less cost. It is sometimes said that the progress of a country may 562 be measured by the quantity of sulphuric acid which it requires per head of its population, and there is a good deal of truth in this statement. Whatever arrangements are made for the future, it is essential to secure that sulphuric acid is made available to bonâ fide users at fair rates, for if this is done it should lead to the establishment of an important group of new industries. From the supply of explosives, I now pass to the supply of shells and shell components. The great new national factories for shell and fuse production have come into their full bearing during" the past year, and we have been able also to reap the fruits of the work of the Boards of Management which were established throughout the country in accordance with the scheme of organisation designed in the early days of the Ministry and carried out under Sir James Stevenson. These boards direct the operations of local cooperative groups as well as of a number of factoriess which are described as "national shell factories," and they superintend the execution of an infinite number of local contracts. They are responsible, in fact, for about a quarter of our total shell output, and we are indebted to them for many valuable suggestions resulting in improvements and economies in the manufacture of different munitions. It has been my privilege on many occasions to have to discuss important programmes with joint meetings of the boards of management, and I can assure the House that there are few more wholesome correctives for those of us who might be inclined to think more highly of ourselves than we should than to hold a meeting and receive the frank advice and criticism of the representatives of the boards of management.
The variety of the production, under Sir Glynn West's Department, of gun ammunition supply is only paralleled, I am glad to say, by the volume and improving quality of the output. The great national projectile factories for the production of the heavier natures of shell which were built under the direction of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister have been in full operation during this-year, and produced in March exactly one-third of the total output of those heavy natures of shells. Some impression can be obtained of the diverse processes for which this Department is responsible by considering for a moment the manufacture of a single round of ammunition. Apart from the more obvious constituents of steel, and so forth. 563 it is necessary to obtain and work up emery stone, cryolite, calcium carbide, magnesite, wolfram ore, acetone, carborundum, nickel, bauxite, nitrates, oil, cotton, antimony, and many other items from different countries. Forgings and castings must be supplied here and there, brass rods and stampings, an infinity of machining operations must be done, along with the superintendence of equipments, the ordering of the machinery, the manufacture, distribution and supply and use of hundreds of gauges, the assembling of ingredients from different works in appropriate centres, the calculation of the raw material, the arrangements for transport, and so forth, making up such a multitude of operations per week that they present collectively manufacturing and other problems of the greatest magnitude as regards organisation, production and direction. It all runs so smoothly now, the supplies and processes of one Department operating with those of another, that the country is scarcely aware that it is going on. It is a result which could only have been secured by the hearty co-operation of carefully picked staffs at headquarters, of engineers, manufacturers, inspectors, transport officers and others in the different districts, assisted by the good will and patriotic and continued devotion of business men and workpeople from one end of the country to the other. We recently reached such a state of production that we have been able to divert certain of our national factories, in whole or in part, to assisting other sections of the munitions programme.
The Department of Gun Ammunition manufacture is necessarily closely associated with the Filling and Inspection Departments, as well as with that of Design, and for some time past now we have had in working order a small board, meeting weekly, of the heads of these four Departments, under the chairmanship of General Bingham, for the adjustment and execution of their joint affairs. After extensive trials at the front, it was found a few months ago that a component of a new type possessed great advantages for certain purposes over any which had previously been produced. It was doubtful whether we should be able to produce any large quantity in time for the spring offensive. Thanks, however, to the co-operation of these gentlemen and their staffs, we were able to provide 564 a large supply in a short time, and the result has proved of the greatest value in facilitating the advances at the front, and in saving life. Again, during January last, it appeared that we might possibly be behindhand in the accumulation of the great reserve of field-gun ammunition asked for, and I instructed the Filling Department, under Colonel Milman, to make arrangements to provide, over a certain period, a greatly increased weekly output. The requirements were fully met in good time, and the arrangements are working so smoothly that, notwithstanding the enormous expenditure of gun ammunition during the last few weeks, I find that, after the first nine weeks of the offensive, the stock of filled shells had only fallen by 7 per cent. The Committee may be interested to see these things depicted on a curve of output, and in studying this curve I should like to draw attention to the, revelation that it makes of our early difficulties and ceaseless struggles. We have had to get ammunition in enormous quantities, working with a new explosive mixture, training gauge-makers and other operatives, building factories, and making machinery all at the same time. I remember how, when first one difficulty cropped up and then another, even the sanguine temper of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister sometimes showed signs of wear. There were endless difficulties over obtaining an efficient detonator, difficulties over gauges, and, above all, over the different types of fuses, with a perpetual struggle against duds on the one hand and prematures on the other. It seemed sometimes as though we fought our way through one difficulty only in order to discover another. It was like a man climbing a mountain conquering with joy and expectation the peak in front of him, only to find another and a more difficult one before him. But our work has not been fruitless, and our soldiers on the ridges of Vimy and Messines can now see the plain beyond. In those early days Sir Eric Geddes handled with singular courage the provision of new filling factories and their installation with machinery. I remember him often saying it will be so many months before you begin to see a big rise of output. The plans were well and truly laid, and this curve shows the result of his efforts. Many of our filling factories, like the shell factories, are worked by voluntary boards of management, and in this way we are able to make full use of 565 the services of many able men in each district. At this point I would like to refer to the ingenuity and boldness of resource shown by Lord Chetwynd in the management of his great filling factory. It is to him that our Army in the field owes a great proportion of their earlier supplies of heavy ammunition. The national filling factories now employ about 100,000 persons, and are responsible for the filling of about 85 per cent, of the shell ammunition. We have succeeded in reducing the cost of filling by 40 per cent. as compared with a year ago.
As the work has grown, it has necessarily cast an increasing burden upon the Inspection Department. About a year ago my right hon. Friend asked Sir Sothern Holland and Sir Harry Ross Skinner to leave the Explosives Department and to undertake the direction of the rapidly-growing work of inspection. Its growth has necessarily been great, not only because of the increasing magnitude but because of the increasing diversity of the munitions supplied. In July, 1915, the staff of the Department consisted of 8,761 persons. It now consists in this country of nearly 40,000, with an additional staff in the United States of America of more than 8,000. We have sought to employ women in every possible way. In March, 1916, they composed 28 per cent, of the staff; they now compose 61 per cent., numbering 29,000, and they are employed practically on every operation which does not require special technical experience or physical strength. There are only 1,372 men of military age employed on this staff who are classified as fit for general service, and these are practically all of them men skilled in various branches or with special technical qualifications. The work of inspection, I am afraid, is often very tedious and monotonous. When we remember that there are no less than 183,000,000 separate gauging operations for every million rounds of 18 pdr. shell, which is no great quantity nowadays, we get some glimpse of its monotony.
Inspection is necessarily very closely associated with design, which is under the charge of General Bingham. This too has undergone substantial development during the last twelve months, and through the work of the small standing Committee, to which I have referred, there has been established a much closer working relation between the four Departments of Design, Inspection, Supply and Filling. Many of the former prolonged experiments and 566 tedious trials have come to fruition during the last few months, and the perfection of our present ammunition is due to the increased expertness and careful collaboration of the staff of these four Departments, as well as to the growing expert experience of those concerned with manufacture.
During the battle of the Somme we were constantly brought up against the difficulty caused by premature explosion of shells and damage to guns. The increase in the quantity of the ammunition supply has happily coincided with the improvement in the quality. I am glad to say that the record this year is that the proportion of premature explosions has been fifteen times less than it was during the battle of the Somme, with the result that Sir Douglas Haig, the other day, paid a high tribute to the quality of the ammunition. It is well known now that the splendid equipment of our troops, with a high proportion of heavy artillery, is largely due to the far-sighted determination of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister. The heavy artillery has proved one of the most important contributory causes to our recent successes, and to the decrease in the number of casualties which have attended them. The Gun Supply Department during the past year, under Sir Charles Ellis and Colonel Symon, has had thrown upon it one of the most difficult tasks assigned to the Ministry. The plant required is so large and so extensive, and, in some respects, the degree of skill required is so high, that the factors limiting output are specially difficult to overcome. The Committee knows also that guns of British manufacture are to be found both on the Russian and on the Italian fronts.
Demands for guns for anti-aircraft purposes and for the arming of merchant ships, demands to meet which the Ministry has naturally been required to assist, have thrown a particularly heavy strain upon our capacity for producing long range guns. With the increase in the number of guns in the field, the work involved in making good wear and tear and in providing for repairs has also grown in proportion. In order to develop to the utmost limit our capacities in this direction for coping with the growing demand, I have lately associated Sir Glynn West and his Department with the work of gun manufacture. Sir Glynn West's Department commands more machine shops and 567 greater manufacturing resources than any other branch of the Ministry. Machine guns and rifles cause us no trouble now. The output at Enfield has increased tenfold, and our capacity for the production of machine guns weekly is more than twenty times greater than it was two years ago. Some months ago, also, our output of small arms ammunition became so abundant that we have dispensed altogether with any foreign assistance, and we still have spare capacity.
I should like here to say a word about Woolwich. We are indebted to the great arsenal for almost every kind of munitions, and for the performance of work of the most highly specialised and skilled kind, including the preparation of drawings and specifications. In August, 1914, the staff consisted of 10,866 persons—now it amounts to 73,571. As an instance of the increased employment of women, I may say that the number of women employed in 1914 was 125—now it is close on 25,000. Many new shops have had to be built and equipped, and 31 canteens have been provided to assist in the provisioning of the workers, many of whom, I am sorry to say, have to come from considerable distances, although we have undertaken extensive housing schemes in the neighbourhood. Recently, owing to the urgent demands of the Admiralty, I have lent Sir Vincent Raven, the Superintendent, to Sir f Eric Geddes, the new Controller of the Navy. We have concentrated the testing of master gauges at the National Physical Laboratory at Teddington under Sir Richard Glazebrook, and the skilled work done there suggests another section of supply that is of first-class importance, not only for war purposes, but for the establishment of industries, of, I hope, permanent value, and for long after the War. I refer to the section under Mr. Esslement, which deals with the supply of scientific instruments. Gun sights, apparatus for aeroplane photography, for telegraphic work, for commercial and scientific glass, and for a host of other purposes is supplied by this branch. Its triumphs have been due to the enthusiastic co-operation of scientific men, of makers, of workers, and of the training schools. I will mention only one of the new industries that this Department has created. Before the War we could rely on British sources for 568 only about 10 per cent, of the optical glass this country required; most of the rest came from Germany or Austria. Difficult formulae have had to be worked out, especially for manufacturing purposes, mainly by Professor Jackson and his colleagues. We now have adequate supplies of the higher type of optical glass, not only for ourselves, but are able to provide substantial assistance to our Allies. A whole group of new industries connected with the, glass trade has been placed on a secure commercial foundation.
I now come to the Machine Tool Department—which is the common servant of all. It has to provide tools for the tiniest machines and the mightiest crane. Mr. Herbert and his assistants have an anxious time, and have always two applicants for one machine. Recently, in order to relieve the pressure somewhat, we established a machine tool clearing-house. By this clearing-house we investigate used machinery or insufficiently used machinery with the view of diverting it to different or better use. I am afraid this is part of the work which can only be done under the autocratic methods of the Ministry, and it has resulted during the past seven months in releasing 42,000 machines, which, if we had to buy them, or make them, would have cost £3,129,000. This completes the survey of the different departments which are ranged round shell and gun production, and associated branches. I now come to another great group, which is concerned in some form or other with internal combustion engines. These are the Departments which supply railway material, motor transport, tanks, agricultural machinery, and aeroplanes. With the exception of the tanks, every one of these Departments has been created during the year.
I dare say the House will have noticed the other day that Sir Douglas Haig paid a high tribute to the work of the Military Transportation Department. It has been the duty of the Ministry to supply the goods, and there are few more thrilling stories in the history of the War than how the Railway Supply Department, under Sir Ernest Moir and his colleagues, in a few months succeeded in meeting the enormous demand. It was quite impossible to supply the trucks, locomotives, wagons, and all the rest of of it by manufacture, so that we had to rely, except for what the Railway Execu- 569 tive Committee could divert, upon obtaining existing stocks to supplement the manufacture. I have here the minutes of a meeting on 8th December at which a Return, for which- I had asked, was presented of the railway guages of the different railways in the British Empire. This Return was asked for in order that we might have a guide to the size of the locomotives, trucks, and rails which we had to find. It presents a curious medley. The gauges vary from 3 ft. 6 ins. to 5 ft. 6 ins. Hon. Members will even find in adjacent Colonies a 1-ft. difference of gauge. There is a great opportunity here, I would suggest to the railway world, for improvement after the War. Australia, Canada, and India, as well as this country, made their contribution. The Government of Canada, in response to our inquiry, within forty-eight hours had offered to pull up and supply in a complete condition 800 miles of track. We did not require quite so much as that from Canada; but I may say that we have already supplied, since November, more than 2,000 miles of track in a complete condition, and nearly 1,000 locomotives of different kinds, apart from those supplied by the railway authorities.
I do not need to say much about the tank section. Everyone is familiar with it. I may, however, say that we distinguish two varieties of tank—the male and the female. At the close of last year, after the battles on the Somme, there were a great many improvements in design called for, and some heavy work was thrown on the Department until the beginning of this year in the preparation of new designs of tanks. But supplies of the new designs are coming forward excellently. The end of the story of the tanks is not yet, for the enthusiasm of Colonel Stern, Sir Eustace D'Eyncourt, and the others associated with them, knows no limit. Motor transport was another of the Departments which last year was transferred to us from the War Office. It is directed by Colonel Holden. Our Army is well supplied in this direction, and that is all I need say on that, I think. The supply of agricultural implements came to us early this year, and Mr. Edge is the controller. We asked the agricultural implement trade to appoint a small committee of experts to help us in production, and I need scarcely say that we met with no refusal. In fact, I do 570 not recollect an instance in the history of the whole Ministry in which, when we called upon a great business man to give up his business, and to give all his time; to the Ministry of Munitions, where we have met with a refusal. The requirements for locomotives, tanks, and trans ports were great, but in January we had to undertake the supply, for the Army and Navy, of aeroplanes and seaplanes. It evidently was desirable that we should have under our control all varieties of supplies to meet the demand upon internal-combustion engines. I there fore asked our Advisory Committee to recommend a scheme which would bring the production of all internal-combustion engines in the country under a unified system of production and control. As in the ease of the agricultural implements, we obtained for the asking the services of Mr. Martin, of the B.S.A. Company and of the Daimler Motor Company, to control production.
We found that often there were five or six different types of aero-engines being made in one shop. There was a great diversity of type, so that we concentrated upon simplified production as far as possible Only one type of engine was to be made in one shop. We also arranged for as few as possible types of manufacture—and, of course, those of the best. The functions of this Internal-combustion Engine Control Department is not executive. It is simply to give orders to all the Departments of the Ministry requiring these engines as to where they are to get them. It is responsible for the proper sorting out of the productive capacity of the country for this kind of machine. Sir William Weir, who, as Director of Munitions has worked for us since the beginning of the Ministry in Scotland, undertook the supply of aeroplanes. Mr. Martin and Sir William became members of the Air Board and of its technical committee, and in that way we established a close working relation between the manufacturing side and the Departments which formulate programmes and designs. I am glad to say that the output of aeroplanes is rapidly increasing. In May it was more than twice as great as it was in December and was four times greater than in May, 1916. We shall make very rapid progress, and are making very rapid progress, in this matter. The supply by Christmas will be vastly greater than it is now. I am 571 sure that the House will appreciate the fact that this department of work makes a particular demand on skilled workers, for our increased production of aeroplanes depends largely upon an adequate supply of skilled workmen.
I turn now to the next Department, which controls our overseas transports. I am sorry to say that we are responsible for the importation of about 1,500,000 tons of shipments monthly of one sort or another, but the House will derive some comfort, and our enemies will not, when I tell them that since the opening of the submarine campaign—the so-called ruthless submarine campaign—the loss on shell components coming across the Atlantic, which are, of course, to supplement our home production— taking the item on which there has been the heaviest loss—the aggregate loss up-to-date—is only 5.9 per cent, of the amount shipped.
Some months ago, at the request of the Secretary of State, Sir Frederick Black and a number of officers went to India with a view to assisting in the formulation of a programme of munitions production in that country. They have now returned. Our two greatest sources of overseas supplies are the United States and Canada. We have, or had, throe organisations in the United States—the purchasing department, the inspection department, and the supply department. Recently these have been consolidated, and I have appointed Mr. Gordon, the vice-chairman of the Imperial Munitions Board in Canada, to be our chief officer in the United States, and he reports out there to Lord Northcliffe in the same way as the heads of other British services. Some time ago also we set up in London an inter-allied bureau for the formulation of the programmes of the different Allies, so far as their purchases in the United States are concerned, with the idea of preventing overlapping. Since the return of Mr. Balfour's mission we are taking further steps to consolidate and extend this organisation. If it can be carried through, as I think it will, it will mean an enormous saving of expense for the Allies, and will be of great assistance to the United States in helping us more rapidly and more efficiently. The Imperial Munitions Board in Canada, almost like the Ministry of Munitions in this country, has grown until it is the 572 biggest organisation in that Dominion. It employs, I believe, about 200,000 workpeople.
We try to avoid fresh burdens, but, notwithstanding our efforts, they come to us almost automatically. Before the outbreak of War the output of steel in this country was about 7,000,000 tons a year, and it has remained thereabouts for some years. The output now is nearly 10,000,000 tons, and we are working at a great scheme by which I shall be very disappointed if we do not reach an output of 12,000,000 tons by the end of 1918. We shall then have gone far, if this scheme goes through, towards doubling our previous steel output, and many Members whom I see before me know far better than I do what that means in the enrichment of the industrial resources of this country. I ought to give the House, perhaps, a little explanation of the undertaking for which we are now responsible, and I must, I am afraid, introduce one small technicality. The steel produced from home ores, except in the case of the rich mines of Cumber-land, is mainly what is called the basic kind. A large volume of imported ore was mainly of the same variety as that obtained from Cumberland, so that a programme to increase the use of home ores involves extensive rearrangement of our blast and steel furnaces. In January, however, we made a comprehensive survey of the possibilities with a view, as far as possible, of making ourselves safe whatever the submarines might do. We do not aim, of course, at restricting importation. We aim at increasing our productiveness of steel by an increased use of home ores. Mr. Hunter, the director, obtained the services of a large number of gentlemen, whose names I refrain from mentioning lest I should miss some out, but they have produced a-scheme which is now, I am glad to say, coming into operation, and if it succeeds, as I think it will, by May next year we shall have increased our capacity for the production of basic steel— that is from home ores by 1,750,000 tons per annum. We shall have increased our power to produce this kind of steel in fourteen months by 30 per cent. Notwithstanding this, we have had to introduce a severe system of control over use, as we have over other materials, and with the increased demands of the shipping programme and the munition programme, I am sorry to say that, 573 notwithstanding the increased output at which we are aiming, I can offer no prospect of better supplies to private users.
We have had a signal success in the process of fixing prices in this Department, and I may say that, notwithstanding the increased cost of material and labour, we are obtaining steel plates in this country at less than, half their cost in the United States, and we are obtaining shell steel, as compared with the United States, at a reduction of 30 per cent. The Committee will realise that the steel problem means a very big Department, and the Department which deals with other metals, I am afraid, is no smaller, and tends to grow. The Non-ferrous Metals Department, under the charge of Mr. Leonard Llewellyn, deals with spelter, aluminium, copper, and all sorts of other metals, but it offers the best prospect to the nation, perhaps, after the steel Department, that war industries will prove to be of peace value. The production in this country before the War of spelter or commercial zinc was only about one-third of our national requirements. Before the end of the present year we shall have doubled that capacity, and I believe that the new works will be found not only designed on the most modern lines, but capable commercially of holding their own with any spelter plants in the world. A part of this scheme involves the use of the Australian ores, which had previously been under the control mainly of German companies. Just as we have developed home resources in steel and spelter, so we have in regard to tungsten, which is required for the production of high-speed steel. I may say we are able now to produce sufficient tungsten in this country to meet all our national requirements, and to spare something for our Allies, and if anyone will compare the price of the highspeed steel that we are obtaining in Sheffield with the price in America, I think he will say that the existence of this Department is justified by the result.
A short time ago my hon. Friend the Member for Colchester (Sir W. Evans) suggested a scheme for rationing aluminium. The reason for this was that we were faced with a shortage of some thousands of tons of aluminium. It is an unpopular business to have to ration aluminium, but the aeroplane programme demanded it, and I am 574 glad to say that we have converted a prospective deficiency into an actual surplus. But there is another metal which has given us more difficulty, and that is copper. I will not enlarge upon that now, as it would occupy too much time, but I will say that in the case of no metal is there more to be done by commercial men in this country than in the refining and working up of copper. All these things, which drove us to take steps to make this country more independent than before of foreign supplies, led us to establish a special Committee, under the chairmanship of Sir Lionel Phillips, to assist in the development, on commercial lines, of the mineral resources of these islands. I will not give details of their work at this moment, but I will only say that we are already fairly sure of reaching valuable results.
The fact has been that there has been a shortage of world supplies for world requirements in many of these important metals, so that we were compelled to establish a system of priority, and a short time ago, after a conference at the Ministry, the Dominions and India decided to co-operate with us in establishing a system of priority for requirements of metals on similar lines to those we have adopted. My hon. Friend the Member for Merthyr Tydvil (Mr. E- Jones), as the House knows, is the director of this section, who have a singularly difficult and thankless task, and I think it speaks well for the way in which that task has been discharged, as well as for the loyalty and patriotism of our traders, that the Ministry has been enabled to institute this necessary and unpopular system of strict priority with so little adverse criticism. We cannot expect that a man who wants a crank shaft for a motor car and is not able to get it is likely to love the Ministry of Munitions more. The Department has to adjudicate on an average more than 9,500 applications per week. It has about 1,000 individual interviews with representatives of firms every week, and its control extends over steel, iron, copper, lead and other metals, as well as over numerous alloys.
Some time ago, in order to be as secure as we could that this work was carried out with a minimum of hardship to private trade, I instituted a standing Priority Committee of business men, under the chairmanship of Mr. John Wormald, of Messrs. Mather and Platt, 575 to examine and advise upon various schemes of priority as they affected individual industries. The trades affected, I may say, cover a large variety of industries, from the manufacture of washing machines to that of jewellery. Priority is one method which we have adopted of affecting economy in the use of metals. We have also instituted a system of scrap collecting and distribution. This is now getting into working order througout the country under the direction of Mr. Alexander Walker, and I hope that it will lead to the disappearance of those masses of scrap of all kinds which I have often seen in or about munition works. As a further contribution towards economy—and I am sure my hon. Friend the Member for the City of London (Sir F. Banbury) will approve of this as one of our leading economists— we established an extensive Salvage Department, under Sir Charles Ellis, which works in co-operation with the Armies at the front, for the salvage, reshipping to this country, reforming and reissue of a large number of parts of munitions. We are now able to reform hundreds of thousands of 18-pounder cartridge cases per week. When it is remembered that the price of a new case is about 7s., and that it can be reformed four times, and that we are reforming cases at the cost of 4d. a case, the importance of this branch of work is obvious.
As another contribution towards the saving of metals, I asked Mr. Fielding, chairman of the Rio Tinto Corporation, some time ago to preside over an expert Committee, working in conjunction with the Designs Department, and charged with making recommendations for economising the use of the more expensive metals. Largely through the efforts of this Committee we are securing a considerable reduction in the amount of copper used in copper bands, amounting to a saving of many thousands of tons of copper; and less expensive metals are now being brought into use as constituents of various fuses and other shell components. The Munitions Inventions Department, under Colonel GooldAdams, has examined, notwithstanding the long duration of the War, more than 6,000 new suggestions since the beginning of the present year. Many valuable contributions have been made over a wide field, varying from improvements in scientific instruments and modifications 576 in defensive and offensive apparatus to economies in the use and treatment of fuel. In sixty-five cases special rewards have been made to employés of firms for useful suggestions. Later on I shall have something to say on the great problem of reconstruction and on the development of home industries after the War. But at this stage I should like to make a passing reference to the attempts now being made to promote the production of nitrates at home, with the avoidance of importation. These proposals are founded upon the work of the Nitrogen Products Committee, which consists of a number of eminent engineers, manufacturers and scientific men, under the chairmanship of Colonel Goold-Adams.
The latest addition to the responsibilities of the Ministry is that of the organisation and direction of the efforts which are being made—or which can be made— in these Islands for the development of oil production. Thanks largely to the tact and knowledge of Professor Cadman, we have already promoted an excellent working arrangement between the workpeople and employers in the Scottish shale districts which has resulted in a great economy in the methods of production, as well as in an increased output of oil. Subjects such as these have necessarily led us to appeal for the aid, and we have not appealed in vain, of a large number of scientific men, especially chemists, physicists and engineers. The Trench Warfare Research Committee, under the chairmanship of General Jackson, has been responsible for the initiation and development of the more highly specialised forms of warfare which are peculiar to the trench fighting on the Western Front. I cannot, of course, describe in detail any of the newer developments, but we can certainly say, with confidence, that although we started a, long way behind, we are, I believe, as superior to our enemies in this section of warfare as we are in that of artillery. The Trench Warfare Supply Department covers an enormous variety of supplies, from fireworks and grenades to the heaviest form of bombs; also helmets, shields, specialised chemical apparatus, trench mortars and their ammunition. This Department has supplied one and a half million steel helmets during the past six months, and, as an illustration of the increasing demands of the Army for trench warfare material, I find that in December the tonnage requirements 577 amounted to 7,648 tons, whilst last month it reached 17,963 tons. I am sorry to say that Sir Alexander Roger, who has done much in the collection of the staff and in the direction of this fine Department, has recently incurred a severe illness as a result of attending trials of trench warfare apparatus, and that he will, in consequence, be laid aside for some time.
The Trench Warfare Department of the Ministry has brought us into contact, in some of its branches, with manufacturing problems of a peculiarly difficult, and often of a dangerous, kind, and we have received much help from the branches of the Ministry which had special charge of the welfare and health of munition workers, and which were established when my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister was Minister of Munitions. The Health of Munition Workers' Committee, under Sir George Newman, has helped us a great deal in this matter. I should hope that some of the reports which they have published, and which we have adopted, will lead to a permanent improvement in our methods of industry. More than 600 firms have appointed supervisors, whose sole duty is to promote the welfare of their workers, and great benefit has resulted in different directions. They deal with such questions as food, clothing, light, ventilation, rest, and so forth.
I am sorry to say that during last year the problems arising out of the handling of T.N.T. and other poisonous explosives became acute, and I appointed a special Committee, under the chairmanship of Dr. W. M. Fletcher, secretary of the Medical Research Committee, to investigate them and make recommendations. The efforts of this Committee, in conjunction with the Filling Department, have resulted in the application of suggestions which have been accompanied by an enormous diminution of the cases of illness. We have found hero, as we have found often enough before, that the problems of prevention, when understood, are easier than those of cure.
You will see that the munition programme is an ever-changing one, and we have had to make great and sudden efforts—first in one direction and then in another—with the result that the problems which have presented themselves in connection with labour supply have been just as great as those connected with health.
578 Sometimes I wish that our critics had a nearer realisation of the immense difficulties of the task. We ourselves perhaps—I admit this—have been so closely engaged in obtaining production and in dealing with our manifold difficulties, that we have not kept the nation as fully informed of them as we might with advantage have done. We an; taking steps to try and remedy this as far as we can. In the early days of the Ministry, when we surveyed the programme as it then was and reduced it to its labour requirements, we were confronted with a need amounting to many hundreds of thousands of workpeople. But the work of the Ministry has almost doubled within the last twelve months. These difficulties therefore do not diminish—indeed, they must increase.
At the beginning of this year, we found that the aircraft supply programme would require at least 10,000 additional workers, many of them skilled, and what applies to aircraft applies to the new shipbuilding programme and to many other items of munitions supply. I must thank here the Members of this House who undertook a recruiting campaign for us in the china-clay districts in Cornwall to obtain workers to assist in our new iron ore scheme. We are obtaining, I hope, additional labour through the Coal Controller. This has involved an endless series of negotiations and conferences both with the employers and with the men's unions, in which my hon. Friend, the Member for Bedford, has taken an important part. I should like here to mention, as one of the most gratifying interviews I have ever had on labour questions, a deputation which I recently received of the Joint Employers and Employed from the Cleveland iron ore district. During the discussion it appeared that they had not had a strike of any magnitude in that trade for nearly forty years, and when one saw the spirit and traditions which had been established between the two parties, manifested in the patriotic way in which they tried to meet our demands, no surprise could be felt at their splendid record. The House and the public, hear little or nothing of the conferences, deputations, and arrangements about all these matters which have gone on almost daily for the last two years. These are the unornamental, difficult things which are so essential to output, and which are so unattractive to record.
579 If we have regard to the upheaval it has involved to industrial methods we may claim, I think, that the widespread employment of women in munition work has been attended with singularly little difficulty. From 60 per cent, to 80 per cent, of the machine work on shells, fuses, and trench warfare supplies is now done by women. They have been trained in aeroplane manufacture, in gun work, and in almost every other branch of manufacture.
It has been quite impossible to meet the demands often by any of the available mobile labour without training and without bringing into operation a large body of labour previously inexperienced. This necessity has cast a large burden upon the training section of the Ministry, which has operated to supplement the training which goes on in the works. More than sixty technical schools and colleges in Great Britain are used in this work. We have trained more than 32,000 workers in these places. There are also five special industrial factories engaged in training. Nearly 8,000 people trained in specially difficult processes have been placed in employment this year, and we have contributed 1,450 trained mechanics to the Royal Flying Corps. Three other sections of the Ministry have been in constant operation to supplement that which is done either by dilution or training. There are 38,000 skilled workpeople enrolled as war munitions volunteers whom we move about from place to place, and I cannot pay too high a tribute to the loyal manner in which they have observed their undertakings and been willing to move as the urgency of one part of the munition programme may have acquired priority over that of another. There are also over 40,000 soldiers who have been released from the Colours who have similarly placed themselves at the disposal of the Ministry, and, in addition, we have another mobile army of more than 30,000 Army Reserve Munitions Workers who have been placed on work of construction in the steel trade and elsewhere. It would have been impossible to have met the ever-changing and growing programme without this large body of mobile labour, and I cannot refrain from a heartfelt tribute to the work of Sir Stephenson Kent and his colleagues who have had charge of labour supply. In the nature of the case, the Ministry cannot escape, so long as the 580 War continues, from the difficulty of having to meet great programmes of supplies of all kinds and the demands of the Army for reinforcements. The perplexities and difficulties which these conflicting problems present can possibly be imagined, but I cannot undertake to describe them.
In October of last year the Man-Power Distribution Board recommended the Cabinet to suspend the issue of badges, and, at the same time, to secure the retention in industries of the necessary-supply of skilled workers. With a view to meet the difficulties which afterwards arose in this connection, the trade card scheme, of which so much has been heard lately, was negotiated by my right hon. Friend the Secretary for India and my right hon. Friend my predecessor (Mr. Montagu), with Mr. Henderson. It was found, however, that the release of men strictly according to age groups in some of the most important industries, such as the electrical trade, the magneto industry, aeroplane manufacture, and others which are relatively new, and therefore largely staffed by young labour, presented special difficulties, and had necessarily to undergo some modification when it was tried last December. The Man Power Distribution Board also, after a careful examination of the case, came to the conclusion that the only available source for the skilled labour required—at all events, in some industries—must be derived from private and commercial work, and recommended that the methods of dilution, under proper safeguards, should be extended thereto. The need to-day is much greater than it was then. I have previously told the House of the conferences which were held on this subject during November last by my right hon. Friend, Mr. Henderson, and other opportunities will occur for dealing with it in greater detail.
Apart from the difficulties inherent in the administration of the Trade Card Scheme, the Ministry, along with other Departments, was instructed by the War Cabinet early in this year to provide a certain quota for the Army during the coining months, and this, apart from other difficulties, which I have previously explained to the House, compelled a revision of the Trade Card Scheme.
We are making special efforts to deal comprehensively with the whole issue of organised skilled labour at the present time, and have decided to make drastic 581 modifications in the Munitions of War Act, in an effort to provide a working scheme which, whilst giving us the skilled labour which we require, with adequate safeguards, will go far, I hope, to remove the hardships and difficulties which have inevitably been involved in the administration of the Munitions Act itself.
It would be unfair to the Disputes Section of the Ministry, under Mr. Wolff, if I did not give the Committee some indication of the extent of its work. I should like, if we were starting with a clean slate, to have all labour disputes for all Government Departments dealt with in one Department. But a Department which is responsible for the employment of two million persons, and for keeping the products of their exertions up to a level which continually rises, cannot escape from responsibilities that attach to every good employer of labour. We have dealt successfully in the Disputes Branch with more than 100 disputes on an average every month which have been accompanied by short cessations of work. I would like to give the Committee the record of working days lost. I find that during the first five months of 1916 the number of working days lost through suspensions of work was 1,559,900, which itself is less than one-quarter of the figure for the same period in 1914. During the same period of the present year, however, notwithstanding all that we hear against the Munitions of War Act, the figure has fallen to 540,700, or only one-third of what it was a year ago, and only one-twelfth of what it was in the first five months of 1914.
There are forty-five Local Labour Advisory Boards, many of which have rendered invaluable service in this work. We have to administer and apply to our workers, for example, the 1,500 awards which were given by the Committee on Production during 1916. There are about 230 cases dealt with each week under the Fair Wages Clause, and we have, on the average, to adjust and deal with awards, apart from the Fair Wages awards, at the rate of four every day. These are, for the most part, separate from the findings of the special tribunals, and the orders issued as the result of their findings which affect the wages of women. These latter awards have now been applied to more than 90 per cent, of the women employed on munition work in 582 controlled establishments, and the House may gather some conception of the magnitude of the achievement as it affects women's wages when I tell them that', before the War, the average wages for women employed by time-rate, doing fort-eight hours a week, was 12s. a week. At the present time the lowest rate for time-work for adult women is 22s., and the average rate for women time-workers is 25s. a week. The munition workers in many trades have earned high wages, but they have worked long and laboriously. Those connected with munition work, either directly to the War Loan or through certificates issued through the boards of management, are known to have contributed no less than £40,387,381.
The Labour Department of the Ministry of Munitions has come in for a good deal of criticism lately, much of which, of course, has been directed against myself. We have made our mistakes—who would not? We are entitled to ask the House to look at the magnitude of the difficulties, the enormous extent and variety of our operations, and to bear in mind the thousands of cases in which adjustments are smoothly arrived at without anyone hearing of them.
One day you are confronted with the demand for aeroplane workers; another day it is an augmented production of chemicals for smoke clouds; another day it is acetylene welders that are wanted for bombs or mines; another day it is workers in T.N.T. and poisonous compounds. Then it is a demand for long-range guns, then for agricultural tractors, then for iron-ore workers, and so on and so on, requiring ever-changing adjustments and improvisations—time rates, piece rates, movements of labour, and all the rest of it.
We face our critics without apology, and we shall find, I believe, that in the rates of pay of women workers, in the reduction of the hours of labour, and in more humane methods of employment, as well as in many other directions, that the Labour Department of the Ministry of Munitions has made an enduring contribution of high value towards our industrial methods. The employment of so many workers, especially women, away from their homes raises social and other problems which are very difficult to deal with, and there are few questions of administration which cause one at times more anxiety.
583 It is our duty to do the best that can be expected of a good employer, and also to recognise the responsibilities which belong to the State. But the difficulty of obtaining personal and tactful assistance of the right kind, properly directed, and without interfering with the proper liberties of the subject, raises a number of personal and human issues which are very difficult to adjust. If you leave it simply to the voluntary effort of the locality, you will find sometimes that it is done very well; sometimes you will find that the work is not done at all, and sometimes it is overdone. My hon. Friend the Chairman of the Billeting Board, is endeavouring to organise and direct local committees for these purposes, and I have associated with him the section which deals with outside welfare. Our housing schemes fall into three groups. In the first place, those in which, by Government contribution, we have assisted local authorities or others to provide permanent housing; secondly, where the Ministry itself has constructed temporary cottages or hostels; and thirdly, I am sorry to say that in some cases we have made inroads into private dwellings to convert and adapt them for the use of munition workers. The establishment of canteens has made great progress during the last twelve months, and I find that altogether in controlled establishments and in national factories canteens have now been provided for supplying meals to 810,000 workers daily. The canteens supply food at a cheap rate, they have to be self-supporting, and they are.
The commitments of the Ministry with respect to new buildings or extensions of factories are so numerous and were made in the emergencies of the War under such diverse conditions that I recently asked a number of gentlemen from outside who had had the necessary technical and business experience to devote themselves, under the chairmanship of Mr. Palmer, of Messrs. Rendel, Palmer and Tritton, to examine and control all works of building and extensions undertaken or assisted by the Ministry both from the structural and financial point of view, as well as from the point of view of their necessity. It has involved a very heavy burden of work, but I am glad to say that substantial progress has been made. The controlled establishments branch, under Mr. Owen Smith, and his advisory accountants, is necessarily 584 closely associated with this side of our work. But this item of expenditure is small in comparison with some others.
The expenditure of the Ministry on extensions has necessarily been great, but by far the most considerable item of the enormous expenditure for which we are responsible is that connected with the provision of shell ammunition. We have done our best by the methods with which the House is already familiar to reduce the cost of shell components, and see that the cost of ammunition during the past year, as compared with the cost that the same amount would have involved at the prices of the previous year, represents a saving of £42,000,000. The control of this enormous expenditure imposes great burdens upon the Finance Department, the charge of which devolved upon Mr. John Mann after Sir Hardman Lever left us. A short time ago, after referring the whole question to the Advisory Committee, a reorganisation of the keeping and control of stores was instituted under Sir Harry Ross Skinner and Major Cripps, and, at the same time, I invited some eminent accountants from outside to devote themselves to the scrutiny and supervision of stores accounts. The magnitude of their task may be imagined when I say that our different stores cover a floor area of 5,000,000 square feet; that we make more than 60,000 individual consignments each week; and that the number of articles handled each week by the Stores Departments exceeds 50,000,000. The complexity and difficulty of the checking and control of this expenditure and material is hard to describe, and we welcome every useful suggestion which makes for its more efficient discharge. In order that we might have constantly with us a body of men able to devote themselves, free from office duties, to the consideration of these problems, I set up, a few weeks ago, an Advisory Committee on Finance under Sir Clarendon Hyde, consisting of a small number of gentlemen experienced in these matters, and the Committee may rest assured that I shall not hesitate to adopt suggestions which are found to be practicable and necessary. This completes the review of the chief Departments of the Ministry as they exist to-day, and before referring to the steps which we are taking to be ready for reconstruction when the War ends, I may perhaps refer in a few words to the methods we adopt to secure direction and control in our great and constantly chang- 585 ing responsibilities. So far as possible allied Departments are grouped under a number of directors-general. In some cases, as I have indicated, those in charge of associated groups meet for the consideration of their common problems, whilst special committees deal with questions which arise in special Departments. In order, however, to secure the consideration of big problems affecting many Departments of the Ministry as a whole, we have a Ministerial Advisory Committee, consisting of Sir Arthur Duckham as Chairman, Sir James Stevenson as V ice-Chairman, with Sir Frederick Black, Sir Stephenson Kent, Sir Ernest Moir, and Sir Alexander Roger as members. These Gentlemen have considered and recommended schemes for dealing with many of our greatest and most difficult problems, such as those raised by the addition to our duties of aeronautical supplies, by the control of metals, the regulation of stores, and a large number of kindred subjects, and I cannot speak too highly of the help which they have ungrudgingly rendered.
The Ministry presents perhaps the most remarkable aggregation of men and women of diverse qualifications and attainments that has ever been got together in this country or in the world. Men from every branch of commerce and industry are serving with us, often ass volunteers, scientists, lawyers, literary men, commercial men, travellers, soldiers, sailors, and I know not what besides, are working in our ranks, and faithfully have they served the State. From what I have said the House will recognise that the problems of reconstruction and the possibilities of useful developments which the experience of the Ministry have provided during the last two years are so many, and of such great moment, that they may well engage the constant attention of the best minds. Whilst, with true British instinct, we dwell upon our faults and failings, nothing throughout the War has been of greater value than the proof which has been afforded that, given the incentive and the intention, the nation is abundantly equal to making a full use of the lessons and of the opportunities that present themselves. Nothing in the relations between Capital and Labour gives rise more to difficulty and distrust than two customs which are dependent upon one another. The first is the cutting of rates of pay on piece work so as to limit the rise of earnings when improved 586 methods of manufacture, leading to a great output, are introduced. It is not the practice of the best employers, but it is adopted by many. This practice—or the fear of it—has inevitably led to the second and retaliatory practice of the restriction of output. The influence of these two practices on our industrial life is thoroughly poisonous. We must establish a system whereby both parties have a direct interest in the introduction of improved methods. Without it our progress will inevitably be accompanied by endless disputes. The accounting side of the Ministry has abundantly proved that modern methods of production are not only well able to afford good wage rates, but are benefited by so doing.
In some industries, vital to the prosecution of the War and to the maintenance of improved peace industries, we had allowed the Germans to acquire control, either of the whole industry or of some part of it which was essential to its continuance. We have steadily overcome these drawbacks, but it is almost impossible to describe the handicap they have been to us. In overcoming them, however, we have been awakened to some of our neglected opportunities and have founded —and will be able to found with proper direction—-great new industries and extensions on a vastly improved scale to the old ones. We shall find ourselves, after the War, as I have explained, with a capacity for steel production more than 50 per cent, greater than it was before the War, with modern coke ovens, equipped with recovery plants, with knowledge of how to extract and use the valuable byproducts, with groups of blast furnaces, steel furnaces, and rolling mills arranged on a big scale, suitably situated and co-ordinated with one another. Instead of being able to produce at home about one-third of the spelter that national industries require, we should have a capacity for producing two-thirds or more. Instead of having to look to Germany for our fertilisers, we should be able to produce at home spelter and acid and fertilisers and many other products related to those trades by modern economical and efficient methods on a vastly augmented scale. At the beginning of the War we found ourselves with no facilities to smelt the copper produced in our own Colonies. We were dependent upon Germany for the potash so vital to some of our industries and to our agriculture. The story of glass and dyes is so well known 587 that I need do no more than refer to it, and the catalogue could be continued to a great extent. There are, however, two matters of great moment to which I should like specially to allude. We have had to import nitrate from Chile and pyrites from Spain for practically every ton of essential nitrates that we require. I have good hope of the schemes which are at present in hand for the use of gas works ammonia and for the production of cyanamide, as well as other means for obtaining nitrogen. Germany is obtaining all her nitrates without a cargo from Chile. The importance of the solution of this problem as a key to immense industries can scarcely be exaggerated, and no effort should be spared to solve it on commercial lines.
The other problem of equal magnitude and, in some respects, closely related, is the provision of cheap power and the utilisation of inferior coals. I cannot go into details, but important developments are in progress and it is most important that no effort should be spared to bring them to a successful issue. We have suffered in the War not only from old-fashioned plants and negligent financial methods, but from a serious neglect of research and scientific work as applied to industry, and I should like to acknowledge the help which has been afforded by the Committee on Scientific and Industrial Research, in the origin of which I may perhaps claim some parental pride. Our manufacturers are awakening to this need and so is labour, and I cannot think of any national investment worthier of thought and of cost than this. A number of the chief men of the different Departments of the Ministry are at work on plans for reconstruction, and there is a Ministry Reconstruction Committee to secure uniformity of direction in accordance with an arrangement made with the Central Reconstruction Committee. The destination of our national factories will at once suggest itself as an important matter for consideration, but others are emerging which may be of greater consequence even than this, and I will indicate one of them.
The War has revealed that a certain measure of central control and common direction may place at the disposal of individual effort opportunities otherwise quite unattainable. The flow of demands in the Priority Department points to an opportunity of securing after the War a great volume of useful commercial work for this country. 588 The flow of foreign orders, demands for restoration abroad, the needs of our railways and shipyards and common service undertakings, show that there are abundant opportunities before us if, with careful forethought and wise administration, we make use of them. If we do make use of them, I am satisfied that we have enough material at our disposal to-day to bridge over the transition between the disestablishment of the industries of war and the establishment of those of peace without serious hardship.
All these things are worthy of the sustained attention of the; best minds the nation can command, and I hope we shall consider them not from any narrow profiteering standpoint, but in such a way as will enlist the help and sympathy of all classes. As we review these things and reflect upon all the possibilities of development, both in material and in humane things, which they disclose, we gather amidst our labours further resolution and take fresh courage in our determination to endure until, in company with those who are fighting with us, we have put down military tyranny in the world and have thus removed the one great obstacle in the way of real human achievement. The minds of our people at the present time are open, their hearts are stirred, and their power and capacity are proved to be so great and so sufficient that properly directed, patiently, with consideration and with careful forethought, the end is sure. We look forward, therefore, to the future with a confidence made strong by the experiences and work of this great Department, the record of whose achievement is to be found not in this incident or in that, not merely in great industrial advances at home, but in far distant lands—at the gates of Gaza, on the hills of the Carso, on the stricken fields of France and Belgium, wherever the British Army is to be found, an Army which, in its equipment of munitions, is now equal, ii not superior, to any other Army in the world.
§ Mr. MONTAGU
May I tender, on behalf of all those who have had the pleasure of listening to the right hon. Gentleman, our thanks to him for the information that he has given us and our congratulations to him upon the story which he has been able to tell. His record during this War is one to which he can always look back in after years with particular pride and satisfaction. He was 589 associated in me earlier stages of the War with the beginning of the Ministry of Munitions, and he has been there ever since—first as Under-Secretary and then as Minister. All those who have had the privilege of working with him can testify that for a sense of duty, an application of untiring industry, and a devotion, he has had few equals even in the wonderful history of this War. What a story he was able to tell us of those years that he has been connected with the Ministry of Munitions! What a story of the marvellous adaptability of British industry, of the success with which everything has been made almost out of nothing, and of the way in which deficiencies have only had to be revealed in order to be met! And as he bold the whole story of the activities of the Ministry of Munitions he mentioned a name here and there—all of them names to which this country is everlastingly indebted for services comparable to anything rendered in the War, and names which are almost entirely unknown to the general public.
Take the case of Mr. Quinan, of the Explosives Department. There is the story of an American, a foreigner, a neutral, a big game hunter, a chemist, a scientist, a man of business, an architect, and a soldier all in one, who threw up everything, and at the beginning of the War came and gave to the service of this country all his ingenuity and ability. We owe to him the fact that we have the explosives now with which to fill the shells for our troops. There is the case of another man I call to mind—a man almost unknown to the public—Lord Chetwynd, who, at a time when we hardly knew anything about the filling of high explosive shells, set himself the task to take out of the ordinary flour mills the machinery with which you grind the flour to treat this dangerous explosive as if it were of no account whatever. Warned by many people that he was doomed to certain death, he went to live in the factory which he constructed himself, and by his own knowledge and industry invented and carried through a process which has been the only means—it has, of course, been imitated and copied—of providing the vast supplies of explosives which our Army has to-day. The Ministry of Munitions and the firms who work for it are filled with heroes unknown and unsung, comparable in their heroism to anything that has been known in the history of the world. Even perhaps more impor- 590 tant and more remarkable than the work which has been done by the Ministry are the defects which have been shown in our national organisation, and the way which has been pointed out by which they can be repaired. We have learned how far we were dependent upon foreign countries, and we have learned what we can do without and what we cannot do without. We have learned how scientific organisation and great effort may mean vast increase in output, and therefore vast increases of wealth.
I am glad to hear that my right hon. Friend and those who are associated with him are not going to allow this organisation to disappear without laying their plans for what is to come after. Has he directed his attention to this one topic? All these great men who serve the State so faithfully under his leadership are volunteers for the period of the War. They are men of business with great responsibilities which they have thrown over, I hope nobody believes that patriotism is a virtue which can be put back on the shelf when peace comes. Is he taking any steps to ascertain how far and for how long he can rely on the services of these men in the vast enterprise which lies before him to restore what he has disturbed and wind up his war activities? There will be what is called a reconstruction period, a period of transition. Nobody can foretell how long it will be, but I believe my right hon. Friend will agree with me that it will be not so much a period as a process which has got to be accomplished. The assistance of the same men who have been the saviours of their country in inaugurating industry on a war footing, or the assistance of some of them will be wanted in inaugurating industry again on a peace footing, and I venture respectfully to submit that we ought to take steps to find out how we stand in this matter against the day for which we are all devoutly hoping.
Another satisfactory aspect of the work of the Ministry of Munitions is presented by the new industries which it hag been the means of establishing. The Reconstruction Committee is constantly supplied with translations and extracts from German newspapers as to what the Central Powers are doing and what the Central Powers are thinking. Many writers and speakers in those countries, who take rather a sober view of the military successes they are likely to 591 attain, talk freely about what seems to be uppermost in their minds, namely, economic rivalry after the War and economic opportunities for the Central Powers; and, as my right hon. Friend has said, nothing gives that sort of man more confidence than the fact that there are certain things in Germany, and particularly potash, with which this country and the Allied Powers can never do without. Nothing will cause so much dismay to these people as the discovery that we have only got to find ourselves without them to be stimulated in order to do without them; and Mr. Chance's work on potash is a war stroke lowering the morale of our enemy, as is much of the work done under the leadership of the right hon. Gentleman. In this economic war which must take place after the War—I do not mean economic war in any controversial spirit; I am talking about the necessary rivalry among all great nations, even among the Allied nations, in order to try and get quickly back into the field which they have deserted for these warlike operations—the people who will get back first must be the people who get their raw material first.
The Ministry of Munitions has established a control of raw material which has got, I presume, some day to be wound up, but it cannot be wound up suddenly when the whole individual control of raw material has disappeared, leaving our trade in the air. The right hon. Gentleman's Reconstruction Department, I hope, are looking forward to making the arrangements for saying to the industries with which they have interfered, "We turned you from this industry to the work we wanted you to do. We place you back and give you back the industry as you had it when you gave it to us, and we place you in the position to get the raw material necessary to start work and employ our returned soldiers at the earliest opportunity." The raw material part of the activities of the Ministry of Munitions cannot cease, in my opinion, immediately peace is declared and no further shells are wanted.
May I now turn to another part of the subject. The Ministry of Munitions has lived through three different epochs. When it began, the paramount interest was to get the stuff. The first need of the country was for guns, and shells to fire out of them. So the Prime Minister collected these 592 great men of whom we have been talking, and they were sent on their missions all over the country to get the stuff at almost whatever the cost and however much they might have to disturb people in doing so. Economy and organisation were, I think rightly, secondary considerations. When the great efforts began to fructify, when the goods began to appear, when everything was all right, when the great offensives were occurring in France and were not stopped for want of munitions, then came the period of organisation. We said we have got these activities; let us pull them together and make them into a well-assorted and well-organised public office, even on this great scale. My right hon. Friend and I know how we worked during the last six months of last year, and how the Advisory Committees to which he has referred came into existence as the first step towards organisation, and how it devised the scheme under which the Ministry of Munitions became responsible for the supply of aeroplanes, a scheme which he told us was working very satisfactorily. I would submit to the right hon. Gentleman that he has now got to a period in the history of his Ministry when it hag to stand criticism and appear before the world as a well-organised public Department. It has got to grow every week. I imagine it will continue lo grow right on till the end of the War, but it ought to be so organised that the new activities will slip into the organisation and that, however big it becomes, it can take on its new duties without disturbing the precision with which it works. It has got to grow, because new demands come to light everyday, and those new demands will have to be satisfied. They may be caused by the failure of some foreign supplies or they may be caused by a realisation of some new need here at home.
Take the ease of agricultural implements and motor tractors for farms. When I was Minister of Munitions it became obvious that, if we were going to cultivate the land, motor tractors would have to be supplied by the Government. There you had another Department going to the places where engines were made and competing with the Ministry of Munitions for the same component parts for different purposes. The Ministry of Munitions ought to undertake the work of making agricultural implements. In my opinion— I have said this before in the House—you will never make the supply of our Army, Navy, and Air Services satisfactory as a 593 permanent thing in this country until you sweep away the divided responsibility between the Army and the Navy for supplying the same sort of things. You have swept it away in aeroplanes. You have at last got them into the Ministry of Munitions. I do not want to criticise the great work which Sir Eric Geddes has undertaken. It may well be that you could not unify the supply of these things to the Army and the Navy in the middle of a great war because it is too big a problem. Think of the situation in which the same shop or the same firm makes the same kind of goods for two different Government Departments, who compete with one another, who give different instructions, and who make different bargains about finance. The right hon. Gentleman ought not to consider himself, if he will forgive me saying so, as the greatest employer of labour. He is not. The Government is. The Navy does not really give orders; the Government, the State does. To keep these orders in watertight compartments in the different Ministries is the negation of scientific organisation of State industry. When I say that, it follows that all engineering supplies, when new demands are made, ought to go to the Ministry of Munitions. While the right hon. Gentleman is absorbing these new duties I would submit to him that he must improve the organisation of his office. I hope he will not consider these suggestions impertinent. They are certainly not meant to be so. He should develop that general staff which found its birth in the Advisory Committee. As I listened to his speech and remembered those six months of ceaseless activity through which he and I passed together I felt convinced that no one man, without a great organisation behind him, could possibly deal with all the things with which he is called upon to deal in the course of a single day.
In addition to organisation, I would submit one other thing. When he takes on new functions he ought to get rid of those functions which really do not belong to him. I now come to the last subject with which I wish to trouble the Committee. It is this: When the Ministry of Munitions was started there was no Ministry of Labour. There is now. I cannot conceive anything more likely to cause confusion and unrest in the labour world than the fact that they have got a Ministry of Labour which is supposed to look after the interests of labour, that they have got a Labour Department of 594 the Ministry of Munitions, and that they have now got, since the Ministry of. Labour was formed, a new Labour Department in the Admiralty. An unfortunate trade union executive, dealing possibly with men employed both on munitions work for the Army and on naval work for the Navy, has got or may have-to deal with three separate authorities for labour purposes. [An HON. MEMBER: "Four!"] That is surely bad organisation. When you think of the great mass of labour and of the problems involved— I am not talking about welfare, which the Ministry will look after—how can the right hon. Gentleman, the most industrious man that ever walked this earth, ever deal with all those problems of raw materials, supply and industry, during the War, when he has to spend weeks in negotiating agreements with trade unions, the very work the Ministry of Labour is set up to do? I would urge him to get the Government to transfer both his labour Department and the Admiralty Labour Department to the Ministry of Labour at the earliest possible opportunity. It may well be said, "You never suggested this when you were at the Ministry of Munitions." My answer must be that I did, or rather, as the right hon. Gentleman will recollect, that at the end of the late Government when National Service was under consideration by the late War Committee, it was then suggested that all recruiting for the Army, recruiting and labour troubles in the Ministry and in the Admiralty should all be transferred to one person—the Director of Labour I think he was to be called—and that we had in our minds the getting rid of those functions of the Ministry which could not be effectively discharged, not by the staff—there is no better staff, in my opinion, in the Ministry than the staff of the Labour Department of the Ministry of Munitions—but by those who were responsible to Parliament.
When one comes to think of it, one sees more and more reason for unifying these Departments. If you take the history of labour unrest for a moment, you find it is caused by a diversity of things; the high price of food is one, the vast receipts into the Exchequer from the Excess Profits Duty is another. The trade unionist, whose services in this War are so remarkable, reads about the Excess Profits Duty and says, "These are 60 per cent, of the excess profits made by my employer over what, he made before the War. He is keeping 40 per cent., and I am asked to 595 make all sorts of sacrifices." These are things which can be argued, the cost of food, the Excess Profits Duty, but the horrible fatigue—fatigue caused by ceaseless work, often in great danger, accompanied by everlasting noise which I can never comprehend how men and women stand, all these arc contributory causes. What is worse still, and what comes nearer home, is the conduct of those responsible for the Military Service Acts, wrongful recruiting and broken pledges—not intentionally broken, but broken by some carelessness or the lack of proper organisation for dealing with them. I remember when I was Minister of Munitions hearing complaints from people who came and cursed me for something the Ministry had done and when you examined it you found it was a War Office misdemeanour of which they were really complaining. It was no satisfaction to them to be told that they had come to the wrong Government Department. Nor is recruiting a War Office matter. It is not a military matter. It is for the soldiers to say what they want and it is for civilians to get it. If you could only get the whole of this question under one roof, in one set of hands, I believe a lot of the friction would disappear. To take other things, I believe that a lot of the unrest in the labour world is due, apart from fatigue, to an atmosphere of suspicion and distrust. Many people in this country believe that the Military Service Acts, dilution and substitution, although admittedly right and proper in themselves, have put into the hands of the employers weapons which are used against the employés. Cases are known of people who were threatened with enlistment if they did not behave. Then there are shop foremen. Cases came to light—I can recall one, the case of Rochdale—in which under the Munitions Act a firm was fined a few pounds for something analogous to an offence for which a trade unionist would go to prison.
§ 6.0 P.M.
§ Mr. MONTAGU
They say these things are one-sided. Then they are haunted by a fear that something may happen which will prevent the fulfilment of the pledge, which has been given to them in all sincerity by successive Governments, that the things for which they have fought for so many years, and have given up, would be restored to them at the end of the War. They are afraid that something will occur which will prevent it. One sees people 596 who say and who write to the newspapers saying, "This is all very well, but we are not going back to the old state of affairs. Surely you can devise some thing better than the rotten system we had before the War." You are bound—no one knows it better than my right hon. Friend, and no one would be quicker to acknowledge it— by everything which lies at the foundation of the system of government in this country to give back to these men everything they had. They must be reassured that they are going to get those pledges redeemed. Redeem those pledges before negotiating for improvement. In my opinion the step which my right hon. Friend and the Government took of appointing a new Labour Commission was an excellent one. I am not sure yet how they are going to devise a common scheme of operation, but anyone who has anything to say about the relations between capital and labour at the moment will, I most devoutly hope, give evidence before the Commission. A man has no right to say that his grievance has not been considered or remedied by the Government, if, through his own fault, he has not come forward and stated it, and if we can find out exactly what are the concrete causes which are producing trouble I believe we can go ahead with some security for the future.
The report of a Committee appointed by the late Government, and presided over by Mr. Whitley, will be published tomorrow. It is really worthy of the consideration of the House. It is signed by great employers of labour and by some of the most progressive spirits in the trade union movement. It asks for industrial councils, representing the employed and the employer, in each of our great, well organised industries, and if you could start now applying some of the recommendations of the Whitley Report to your munitions, with their central industrial councils, their district committees, and shop committees for maintaining discipline and working your munitions, I believe you would get a better atmosphere for dealing with these problems. We have passed through a lot of history in dealing with labour questions during this War. We began in the undiluted old Board of Trade spirit, if I may use the expression without offence, the spirit in which you govern labour for the good of labour on behalf of labour, but keep labour at a distance, and you have gone progressively through stages through 597 which you have given increasing executive functions to the representatives of labour. Now you must go a step further and ask labour to co-operate with you executively all the way through your operations, right the way down to the shop in which your stuff is made, and if you do that, if you show them that they are responsible, I am perfectly certain that the pride of labour in the performance of labour in this War and the most universal growing feeling in this country that victory is essential, and that we will go on whatever it costs until victory is attained, will ensure for you as willing co-operation in the executive functions which you ask from the labour world as you have got, in the story which you have told us just now, from the business community whenever you have asked for it. I should prefer that my right hon. Friend would tell us that he will get rid of labour altogether, and that our next munition Estimate, though one hopes there will not be another, will be concerned wholly with Supply. But if he keeps labour I would urge him to set himself to see how thoroughly he can use labour itself for the control of labour. I believe if that were done and if in addition he could give us an account of a more thoroughgoing devolution and organisation in the vast office over which he presides, he would go from success to success and his great record since the spring of 1915 would be crowned by having been the instrument of the perfected expression of Britain's great capacity and great will to win this vital struggle for our existence.
§ Mr. DUNCAN
I am sure the House has listened with the greatest possible pleasure to the speech of the Minister of Munitions and to that of the right hon. Gentleman opposite. I have been connected with the Socialist movement for over twenty-five years and have listened to many Socialist speeches in my time, but I never heard a better Socialist speech in my life, and I am only sorry that many of the Socialist Members of this House are absent, because they might have picked up a point or two in that speech. A very great position has undoubtedly been faced and surmounted in a manner which not only redounds to the credit of those who were associated with it, but indicates a magnificent success which could not well have been anticipated even a month before the War. I quite agree with the Minister of Munitions that the people of this 598 country are only too prone to dwell upon and to magnify their shortcomings, and that they are never so happy as when they are most miserable. I am very glad to find that the War is teaching the Government many lessons, and the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Montagu), who has had some experience at the Ministry of Munitions, although he was a very apt pupil before, I can quite see has learned a good deal. I hope they will never forget what they have learned during the War, for there can be no doubt in my mind about this. Coming here, as I did, with preoccupations in a certain direction, political and economic, the ability which has been displayed in the getting of munitions and the controlling of industry has, in a sense, been very little, if any, revelation to me, because the whole thing was seen from the very beginning to have been possible. Not only is that so, but surely it is obvious that in this matter the State, which is our great enemy to-day, has for a very considerable number of years been working along these lines and has developed them enormously, and the only pleasure I took in listening to the Minister's speech to-day is that it is very obvious to me that not only has he succeeded in catching up all the start that our friend the enemy has had, but I am rather inclined to think he has gone a good deal better, and that if he only goes on as he has to-day and the War goes on long enough, he will be able to contract to supply the German Army with munitions of war.
I think, too, there is a great deal in what the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Montagu) says with regard to the difficulty that has been experienced with labour. With regard to the wages, particularly of women, there has been a standard set by the Ministry of Munitions which is one of the most valuable things that has ever been accomplished in the history of this country. I know something about the work and the wages of women, and even whilst this War was on there were hundreds of thousands of women working at as little as 2½d. an hour, and there are still thousands of women in uncontrolled establishments working for 7s. and 9s. a week, and when one compares that with the wages being paid in the munition establishments today, I say, with a wide, lengthy and varied experience in this business, that I have nothing but the highest praise for the system and the method which has 599 been employed in dealing with the question of women's wages. I hope the women will take very great care that they are sufficiently well organised not only to succeed in lifting up those employers who are not controlled, but to see that they are never forced back to the bad old conditions of the past. There is no doubt at all that the question of women's wages, and what has been done both by the Labour Supply Committee, under the advice, guidance, and management of the Ministry of Munitions, is indeed a charter for women's labour and is one of the most valuable things that has ever been won for the women who work for wages in this workaday country of ours. There has been a considerable amount of difficulty, I agree, with the workmen, those employed in the munitions establishments as well as those outside. Do not let us confuse our minds by believing that all the difficulties are in the munition establishments. They are not. There are more disputes to-day than there were before the War broke out. There have been more wages questions arising during the War than ever there were prior to the War. Let me give an illustration of what is taking place in my own organisation. Prior to the War the greatest number of disputes that we used to run in a week would be about twelve. Since the War has been on, and since the Committee over which Sir George Askwith so ably presides has been in existence, the union with which I am connected has had between twenty and thirty cases in a given week, so that the work really has trebled. The machinery which has been in operation, while it is true it never has and probably never will meet all the cases instanter, on the whole, I think, has performed its work magnificently. I believe every conceivable attention has been given to it. There are, of course, exceptions, such as the Rochdale case.
When one considers the fact that there are 2,000,000 people employed under the Munitions Department, I think it is only human to admit that mistakes are likely to happen. The men and the women in the munitions establishments have been working all the hours that they could work, for a great part of the year, working overtime, and many of them working overtime still, and they have been doing that during the greater part of the War, Sundays as well as week-days. It is obvious that in these circumstances there 600 must be a good deal of difficulty of temper and difficulty in maintaining the present condition as it stands even to-day. These things, naturally, are conducive to the creating of difficulty, and to the magnifying of difficulties when they arise, and lead sometimes to a display of temper which I am sure even the men themselves in after years will regret as much as anybody else. In the main, however, viewing the whole thing in its widest aspect, I think that it has been successful in a manner that few of us might have anticipated. I remember almost immediately this machinery was contemplated two of the points that I insisted upon as often as I had a chance with the then Ministry of Labour were that, in the first place, every possible effort should be made to speed up the settlement of differences; and secondly, that when piece prices were fixed they should not be altered. I agree with the Minister that the alteration of piece prices in the past has been productive of a condition of things in this country which is discreditable both to the workpeople and the employer. I do not think there would have been any escape from the fruits of that vicious system which has existed, so long as things were to go on as they had been prior to the War; but since the War we have been in this fortunate position, that piece prices have been fixed. Only in very rare circumstances where there has been a considerable change in the method of production or the introduction of new machinery has any change taken place, and the result is that men during this War have earned very much larger wages than ever they earned in the production of warlike material in this country before, and in the main, and we have had it on the admission of the Minister himself, the Department has gained very greatly, probably in greater proportion than the workmen, by the increased productivity of labour, the speeding up of output, and the increasing production of each machine in the performance of its own task. All this has conduced to the making of greater success in the productivity of the things desired in order to make this War a success.
I think the Ministry of Munitions may take great credit for many of the things it has done. To me to-day it almost seemed like reading some of the thousand and one nights in that book which is descriptive of the stories of Arabia. At any rate, it does show one 601 thing, which has always seemed to be lacking in this country, that where we get concentration of effort and centralisation of effort; where we get the introduction of men skilled in science, and the cooperation of employers instead of competition, the possibilities in production in this country are so great that very few people have yet grasped them. It is very largely because I see there are great lessons for the manufacturers and the workpeople of this country from what has taken place in this War in the Ministry of Munitions that I look forward to the future with a very much larger amount of hope than I might have done. The only concern I have now is whether the employers on the one hand and the workpeople on the other will rise to the occasion, accept the lessons, put them into operation, and profit thereby. It is a very big question, no doubt, as to what can be done with regard to the management of workshops. I appreciate and welcome the suggestion that was made by my hon. Friend on the Opposition Bench (Mr. Montagu). It is too late in the day to assume that the people who are connected with the Ministry of Munitions, whether they be Civil servants, employers, or scientists, have got all the brains. There is one thing that I think this House of Commons does not sufficiently realise—at least it gives very little indication to me of its understanding in that respect—and that is, that in all walks of life amongst workmen you will find that they can read and think as well. These workmen are probably thinking to-day more than they did in the past, and they realise quite clearly, and without any ambiguity, that there are avenues of activity where they can bring their ability, their efforts, and their intelligence to bear which would help materially in bringing about a better state of things, even in the factories, than exists to-day, and where by the introduction of some method of sharing or assisting in the control we could put a degree of responsibility upon these men, which would at least give them an opportunity of sharing in the responsibility, and making them bigger, better, and brighter men than they could be under the old system. I think there is a very great future in this country for some activity in this direction. I am free to confess that, so far as Government Departments in this country are concerned, they need a good deal of teaching along that line. The Ministry of 602 Munitions has been brought into contact with thousands of cases of differences, and I think they have risen magnificently in the settlement of them. There are other Government Departments which dritt along in the old chaotic, out-of-date method of dealing with their workpeople. I would like to see a Government Department created to give attention to the wages questions which are continuously arising among the thousands of men in Government employment.
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN (Sir F. Banbury)
We are now discussing the Ministry of Munitions. We cannot discuss whether or not a new Government Department should be created which might require legislation.
§ Mr. DUNCAN
I accept your ruling, and will leave that matter. I was only endeavouring to indicate that what had been done by one Government Department might very well be followed by others. There is another point of very great importance which has a tendency to create ill-feeling in the minds of workmen, and it particularly applies to the skilled workmen. They have doubts. I suppose all people in this world have doubts about something, despite the fact that every possible guarantee has been given to them with regard to reestablishing conditions that were in existence prior to the War. I suppose it is only natural that some of these men still have doubts. I am one of those people who hope that the old conditions that existed will, at any rate, be put right to the best ability of those whose duty and business it will be to put them right and that in consultation with those who are representing the different unions and who are most intimately concerned with these particular difficulties they may find that as soon as they get to work that the difficulties will not seem so great. I think that is largely the experience of all men in this workaday world. Difficulties always loom large, but as soon as they are tackled, often they settle themselves. I am hopeful that whatever the difficulties may be in the future, they may be settled in a statesmanlike, businesslike, and sensible fashion by those parties who are most intimately concerned with them. If these problems are approached in a fair, reasonable spirit, both on the side of the unions concerned and with the width of view that has been displayed by 603 the Ministry of Munitions, I do not anticipate there will be any great difficulty in the end whilst there is this distrust in existence. I am sometimes inclined to think that some of it is encouraged. There are men in this country whose views with regard to the War are such as do not commend themselves to me, who have done nothing to help this country in its difficulty, who have agreed with nothing that has ever been done by the successive Governments that have been in office since the War began, and have never lifted a finger to help the State in its difficulty—some of these men are, in my judgment, to some extent responsible for sonic of the distrust and unrest that has existed in this country. These men must carry a very uneasy burden on their minds some day when they realise what has happened as a result of their efforts.
In the main, the men who are employed by the munitions establishments have been well guided by their leaders in this country. I can say his for the overwhelming number of trade union leaders in this country, that they have backed this War right from the start up to now. They have guided their men with wisdom, discretion, and judgment, that they have never fomented strife, that they have always done their best to guide their men, and that whenever their men have come out contrary to the desire of their unions, they have done their best to get the men back to work with the least possible delay. The trade unionists and trade unions of this country will, I believe, come out of this War with credit to themselves, having established a reputation which will lift them in the estimation of all people to whatever section of the community they may belong. On the whole they have rendered exceedingly valuable service to the State, and have shown great judgment and tact in facing many and serious difficulties. I am sure of this, that the work of the Munitions Ministry will afford many object lessons to the manufacturers of this country and the workpeople, and I am hopeful, as one of those who carry a good deal of responsibility on their shoulders in these matters, and who probably will have a good deal more responsibility when the War is over, and all the changes take place on the demobilisation of the millions of men who are with the Colours to-day. I have no doubt that my responsibility will increase vastly, and, so far as I 604 am concerned, I welcome the statement that some effort is likely to be made to bring the various employers and trades-unions in this country to a better understanding than has existed in the past, and that this shall be brought into operation because of the lessons that have been taught during this War, both in the management of men and materials, and the running of great and enormous-factories in this country. Certainly I do hope that this effort will lead to success, and that it may lead to a better understanding between capital and labour. If that be so, the result cannot but be-immensely beneficial to all concerned in this country.
I have very little doubt that the productivity of this country can very largely be increased so long as you can get some degree of comity existing between the organisations of the workmen on the one-hand and of the employers on the other. We are getting to-day in this country a long way from the old position of the individual workman and the individual employer. To-day is the day of organisation, whether on the side of the workman or of the employers. We have got to-face the fact that these organisations exist. They will never disappear, because all the lessons to which we have been listening this afternoon indicate that organisation is only a new way of spelling success. It is because I see and realise these things that it is a matter of great and grave concern to me, and it is because I desire to see the interests of this country go along smooth, peaceable and reasonable lines, and it is because I desire to see the workman lifted to a higher and better position, living a more satisfactory and permanent life than he is to-day, and because I believe all these things possible with the use of brains and intelligence, instead of friction and fighting, that I believe and hope for much with regard to the efforts that have been made in this direction.
Considering the munitions establishments to-day, covering, as they do, no fewer than two million workpeople, one can say that if any given employer in this country, or any set of employers, had ever had in their employment such an enormous number of people as is employed by the Munitions Department, there is not the slightest doubt that their troubles would have been infinitely greater than they have been under the present regime. Therefore, while I 605 think that on some points one may have to reserve judgment, and on others it may be to utter criticism, yet I am sure of this, that the Ministry of Munitions have never looked with disfavour upon those who criticise if the criticism is offered in the right spirit, and with a view to effecting improvements in existing conditions. Whenever representations have been made, either by myself or those of my colleagues with whom I am associated, we have always been welcomed, always been treated with the greatest possible courtesy, always been listened to, and we would be, indeed, very unreasonable beings if we had not some measure of praise and recognition for the courtesy that has always been shown to us and the good spirit in which all our representations have been received. I listened with the greatest possible interest to the speech of the Minister of Munitions. I congratulate him upon the great success that he has achieved. I believe that even greater things lie ready to his hand to be done, and I am sure that nothing in his power would be left undone to smooth out any difficulties that may exist with regard to the men working in those munitions establishments, and the same with regard to the women, and I trust that many of the lessons that may be learned by him during this War will be passed on and carried out, both by employers and by workers of this country, and I hope that great good will be the result, not only to the employers and workmen concerned but to the nation as a whole.
§ Sir W. PEARCE
I welcome very much the tone of the last speech. I am inclined to think that there was no more valuable indication of what is to happen given by the Minister of Munitions than when he pointed out that successful reconstruction after the War depended upon good relations between the employers and the workmen, and he also put his finger on the two things which had been so highly detrimental, and which, if removed, will put this country in a very different position. He prophesied that if employers gave up cutting piece rates, and the men would give up restriction of output we should then be able to work all the large industries that he had under his charge with great success; and if he is able to do this, if the policy of the Ministry of Munitions is able to put this spirit into the workmen 606 and employers of this country, I am not at all sure that it will not be the most valuable achievement that the Ministry has been able to bring about. He pointed out also the great importance of certain industries after the War, and it was a satisfaction to me to hear his references to the uses to be made of atmospheric nitrogen. I pointed out in this House for the first time, two years age, the great performances of Germany in this respect. To-day Germany is making the whole of her high nitrogen explosives from nitrogen extracted from the air, and also a large portion of her fertilisers, and she is able to do this without any importation of nitrate of soda. If she had not been able to do this, the War would have been over more than eighteen months ago. That was an industrial achievement which was effected in Germany during this War. The Minister also pointed out how Germany has solved another pressing problem. German manufacturers had taken a very large interest, an almost controlling interest, in sources of supply in various parts of Europe and abroad. They proceeded to get rid of their interest and developed their chief power from low-class coal in their own country, and I am delighted to find that the Minister appreciates the problem, and that he has been working on these same lines. To my mind, the German achievement is one of the most remarkable things in the whole War, and it is a lesson to us that it is by these ways that a nation can inherit the earth rather than by frightfulness and by cruelty. If Germany had been content to use her great brains and her great practical organisation in this way, I think that the countries would have had peace to-day and this awful War might have been avoided.
I may say a few words about the chemical side of the Minister's statement, and I am emboldened to do so by the fact that he pointed out that shell ammunition is a very large proportion of the output, and one which he described to the House as the greatest expense that he had to deal with. It is obvious that chemicals make up a large proportion of this, and knowing something of the Ministry from the very beginning, I know some of the great difficulties that the Department have had to surmount and what it has achieved, and I fully agree with the Minister's praise of Lord Moulton and those gentle- 607 men who are associated with him. When they first took charge of this Department they were short of all the raw materials that were required for the manufacture of high explosives. They were short of nitro-glycerine, short of gun cotton, short of glycerine, short of acetone, and in the last article the shortage was so great that only the most drastic steps enabled them to cope with the manufacture that they had to provide. Then with regard to T.N.T. I remember a famous occasion, more than two years ago, when the Minister told the House that we had plenty of high explosives both for ourselves and for the Allies. I did not venture to say all I knew at the time, because I knew the total production of T.N.T. in these days in the country was less than 20 tons per week, which was less than 5 per cent. of what was actually required. Now today it is true to say that we have plenty of T.N.T. both for ourselves and for our Allies. That is a great achievement. In respect of potash, I was delighted to hear of the achievement of my friend, Mr. Kennedy Chance, but I hope that the right hon. Gentleman is not putting that achievement too highly. It is perfectly-true that we are able to supply potash in the way indicated, but I am afraid— of course I may be wrong—that the new achievement is not going to deal with the very large quantities that were indicated, but rather, which is a matter of extreme importance, the quantities which may be required for optical glasses. First of all, I understood the right hon. Gentleman to say that it would be a notice to quit to Germany in the potash industry. I hope that that is so, but I think, and I am rather confirmed by the hon. Gentleman on the Front Bench (Sir Worthington Evans), that that was placing it on too high a plane.
I was a little disappointed in one respect—that was the tribute which the Minister paid to the chemical industry as a whole. The fertilisers industry and the sulphuric acid industry are both very large industries, and the position is this, that a special Departmental Committee has been appointed to inquire into their position after the War. These two large industries placed themselves unreservedly at the disposal of the Ministry. I was glad to hear the right hon. Gentleman say that he had arranged for 1,000,000 tons of fertilisers to be produced, because it was 608 thought necessary at the beginning of the War to curtail the production of fertilisers by 50 per cent., and, of course, that rather disturbed every one of the manufacturers who had been making fertilisers. Then with regard to sulphuric acid. The whole of the sulphuric acid of the country was put at the disposal of the Government. At the present time not only is the industry under control, but an Order was issued at the beginning of this month—I do not think the House knows how stringent the control of the Ministry of Munitions has been—under which it is necessary to have a licence to manufacture at all, and a licence to supply it, and it is within the power of the Ministry to-day to close any works to-day, to take away their customers and give them to somebody else. That shows the absolute mastery of the whole trade by the Ministry. Such things have to be borne in war. But I should like the Ministry to understand that there is a certain amount of uneasiness about the trade although they do not complain. He spoke of the large amount of production of sulphuric acid in Government works, and he gave us to understand that this large production would be an advantage after the War, because for the first time there would be cheap fuming acid at the disposal of the country. That is not the case, because before the War there was an ample supply of fuming sulphuric acid for all the needs of the country which was sold under the average cost of production of fuming acid in the Government factories to-day, and there was an ample supply.
But it is true that this enormous supply will mean a very large redundancy after the War. There will be, I suppose, at least 400,000 or 500,000 tons of sulphuric acid, which will be too much for the country, and when the Government tell the House that their factories are likely to work at full strength, it does mean a good deal of disturbance and possibly ruin among people who were engaged in the industry before the War, and who have been giving invaluable services to the Ministry. I hope that in any arrangements that are made in settling excess profits, depreciation, and other things, this fact will be borne in mind. Another matter for consideration is the situation as regards the manufacture of steel and the provision of steel for ordinary manufacture; and then there is the question of priority, under which, before you can get 609 any raw materials, you have to go to the Priority Department to do so. I have no complaint to make against the Priority Department, whose work is large and difficult, and I think, on the whole, they have held the scales with a fair balance. But this question of priority is a very difficult one and I hope in regard to this the good behaviour of the Ministry will continue, and that on another occasion it will be seen that, all things considered, the Priority Department have managed matters with a good deal of judgment. I see that my right hon. Friend the Minister of Munitions has entered the House. I am sorry he was not present while I was speaking, for I have had several grumbles, but perhaps he will read what I have said in the OFFICIAL REPORT to-morrow. There is one achievement for which I think he has not taken credit, and it is the new spirit which he has infused into the manufacturing industries of this country. Manufacturers have been taught by the War the necessity of introducing scientific principles into manufacture. The right hon. Gentleman also spoke of the work of the engineers. I have seen at work Mr. Quinan, who has taught large groups of young men-hundreds of them—the absolute necessity of applying scientific methods not only in the management of the factories, but in the examination of results. After the War, in consequence of this movement started by the Ministry of Munitions, there will be hundreds, possibly thousands, of trained chemists and engineers at the disposal of our manufacturing industries, and I am sure that is a fact which must be attended with great results.
§ Mr. ANDERSON
In the business of the Ministry of Munitions, as the Minister has told us this afternoon, about 2,000,000 people are engaged. It is quite clear that apart from other matters the smooth running of this great Department, and of the industries which it controls, must largely depend upon the consent, confidence, and good will of the men and women who are engaged in this work. The speeches made this afternoon, both by the Minister himself and by the right hon. Gentleman who spoke from the Front Opposition Bench (Mr. Montagu), mark, I think, a very distinct advance in labour policy, and as one who has never failed to criticise the Ministry when I thought it was right to do so, I think there is need now of a fresh start, and something in the nature of 610 building up a better understanding. I do not know whether the Minister of Munitions includes me among the critics of whom he spoke this afternoon, but I would say, at any rate, that any criticisms that I have made have always been, in my view, directed to some concrete point, and the removal of some wrong or some injustice. For example, the right hon. Gentleman has spoken about the great improvement that has certainly taken place in the wages of women workers. I think that a real and substantial improvement has been made by the Ministry of Munitions. But I submit that even the critics may have done something towards that result, by bringing forward hard cases again and again, and by pressing them publicly and privately upon the notice of the Ministry of Munitions. I am very glad personally that the Commission of Inquiry is making investigations, and I hope that their Report may really be the starting-point in regard to carrying the workpeople along with you in respect of the daily experiments that are made. It is quite impossible for even a strong Government Department to carry big changes over the head of the workpeople or against their wishes. You may persuade them, even if at times they are difficult to deal with, or even if they are sometimes unreasonable, to do what you wish, but you cannot do that without you have their confidence and support. I believe that if a policy of that kind were followed it would certainly be a very real step in the right direction.
I often think, with the right hon. Gentleman the ex-Minister of Munitions, that there is a lack of co-ordination in regard to labour policy between the different Government Departments — the Ministry of Labour and the Ministry of Munitions has each a labour policy, and both policies sometimes come into conflict. But there are four more Departments than these two that are concerned with labour. There is the War Office, the Admiralty, the Ministry of National Service, the Board of Trade, the Ministry of Munitions and the Ministry of Labour, all have their various labour-policies, and where that happens there is bound to be, and there is indeed, a certain measure of conflict and confusion. I am convinced that sometimes the Ministry of Munitions is made to suffer for the mistakes of other people. I have no doubt on that point at all. This is a question which I think might be very 611 well looked into, since, it would appear, that a new beginning is to be made, and I trust, also, that the Ministry of Munitions will give the whole subject of the Munitions of War Act their attention. I am not going into the whole of the questions that arise in connection with that measure, as I understand that certain changes are to be made, and that we shall have an opportunity of discussing them. Undoubtedly a certain measure of discontent has been evoked by what seems, on the face of things—especially to the workpeople, who have to work too long hours, and who are under the stress of very hard conditions—unnecessary proceedings in the working of the Munitions Act. I hope the Ministry of Munitions will be able to put far greater restrictions on employers in regard to the kind of cases which are constantly being brought before the munitions Courts. I am quite sure that some of the cases brought forward are vexatious and frivolous, and that a discussion of those cases in the factories is bound to lead to a great deal of dissatisfaction. I have here a number of such cases which are examples of the kind of thing that is going on. Here is one from Birmingham: A young woman was dragged into the munitions Court for having lost time. It was admitted by her employer in the Court that the woman upon the whole had been a very good timekeeper. The reason why she was absent on that particular day was that she had got word her husband had been missing from his regiment since April. She stated that she was too upset to think of informing the firm immediately, but on her return to work she told the foreman the reason of her absence; yet, despite the fact that the woman was upset, and did not carry out the technicality of sending a special telegram or a special urgent message to the firm, stating that her husband was missing and that she could not possibly come to work, and despite the fact that she did tell the foreman, she was taken into Court; but I am very glad to say, as was to be expected, that the chairman dismissed the case in the circumstances. At the same time, the woman was put to a great deal of inconvenience and to a loss of wages, because doubtless she will not get the wages for the time she was absent in attending the Court, unless, indeed, the Ministry of Munitions deal with the case. I think the Ministry are bound to realise 612 that some firms apply the Munitions Act far more harshly than do others. Some firms are quite able to carry on their own business and control their own workpeople, maintaining order among them. But other firms are constantly calling for this Act, and seem to me to do that very often for the most trivial reason. I am certain that these oases cause dissatisfaction and discontent.
I have a number of cases that I can quote, and which were given in the "Coventry Herald," being cases which were tried in that town. A woman was summoned for losing time; she wrote expressing regret, and promised to improve in her timekeeping. She added that she had been upset by the news of her brother having been killed. She was fined 10s. by the Court. Another woman was similarly summoned. She did not appear, but she wrote that she had not been well, and sent a doctor's certificate on 13th May. This woman was fined ten shillings. In another case the woman was said to have lost 144 hours in the period under review. She stated that she had been ill for months, off and on, and had been looked after by the works' doctor. She also was fined ten shillings. I submit that cases of that kind are cases of exceeding hardship, that are bound to bring about a certain measure of dissatisfaction. Undoubtedly there are other cases of dissatisfaction for which the Ministry of Munitions is not itself responsible. If you are to secure the smooth working, and if you are to secure the co-ordination of labour. I think the Ministry of Munitions should co-operate with the other Departments in trying to get some pressure put on those Departments, with a view to getting things put right. There is no doubt, for instance, to-day, that the high food prices, and the difficulty of getting certain foods at all, and the long food queues outside shops in various districts, are all things that lead to trouble, and although the Ministry of Munitions is not itself involved in these sources of discontent, they might very well see to it that matters are looked into and that reforms are pressed forward. Everybody knows that war involves a great strain on married women, who have been systematically overworked for nearly three years, and many of them are in a state of nervous breakdown and collapse. I am sure that it would pay the Ministry 613 well to see that they have rest and adequate holidays, and so on. The more the Ministry can get rid of repressive measures and difficulties about leaving certificates and about bringing them before Courts for all sorts of trivial causes the more it will secure confidence and good working. I have been convinced all the way through that the real way to manage this business is to secure the hearty co-operation of the workpeople, and that is not to be done by any measures of coercion or repression, but by making them feel that they are being fairly treated. That is the position taken up by the right hon. Gentleman to-day. It is the position from which many of us have fought all the way through and have stated again and again, both in speeches and questions, even at the risk of being misunderstood. I am glad to feel that more and more that point of view is being realised at the present time. When you come to the whole question of reconstruction and of what might be done, I am very glad personally that the idea of joint committees representing employers and workpeople is being faced and considered. That is a point that some of us have urged on many occasions. I am personally satisfied that if there were these committees representing employers and workpeople that again and again before grievances reached an extreme point they would have been discussed, reasonably dealt with, and got rid of. What happens to-day? Often, too often, the employer and the workpeople are wide apart and grievances are allowed to fester until passion at last springs up and then, of course, you get strike troubles, and so on. If you had these working committees many of those difficulties could be got over without strikes or lock-outs and to the entire well-being of the industry as a whole.
I am satisfied, personally, that the most important or one of the most important questions that is going to emerge as a result of the changes that are now taking place and the reconstruction that will have to be faced after the War, and which has been spoken of in more than one speech, is the question of the status of labour and the status of the workpeople. He is not satisfied to be a kind of outside person, he flees that he is essential to the working and running of industry and must be taken into account. We often hear it said that the people ought to be trusted. I am quite sure that if the workpeople were really trusted, and if their own point of 614 view, the factory point of view, which is sometimes a thing by itself, were fully taken into account, that very many difficulties would disappear. I, for my part, hope with the sittings of these Commissions that they will get right down in their Report to the heart of things. If that is done it will give a chance for a new start, and I hope that the Ministry of Munitions will not be slow to take advantage of that, and to build up a better system of organisation so far as it can.
Mr. CLEMENT EDWARDS
May I apologise to the House for reminding it that the great and bloody European War is raging as fiercely this afternoon, without any sign or symptom of coming to an end, as it was a year ago? We have listened for three hours to speeches of a very fine and inspiring character, but scarcely one of those speeches, not even excluding that fascinating story which we had from the Minister of Munitions, has come to grips with the appalling fact that this War is still going on. The whole thing has been switched on to a contemplation of the wonderful things we are going to do industrially and commercially after the War. We got the i's dotted and the t's crossed by the right hon. Gentleman who sits in Opposition and who was at the Ministry. While I entirely agree with the hon. Member who has spoken for the Labour party that we have listened to a great Socialistic speech, I was not in the least bit surprised that the hon. Gentleman who appears on the Notice Paper for the purpose of moving a reduction has, having regard to the views for which he stands, been so fascinated with the statement made by the Minister of Munitions that he comes here to curse and he remains to bless this gorgeous picture, I am sorry to intrude such mundane considerations into this Debate as the question of man-power and the duty of the Minister of Munitions in regard to the recruiting problem. I asked a question this evening, addressed to the Prime Minister, as to whether a certain circular issued by the thousand by the Ministry of Munitions had been submitted to the War Cabinet, and whether the War Cabinet had approved, and whether, having regard to the effect that that circular is having on recruiting and the effect it is having on the minds of other people, that it might be withdrawn? I am answered not by the Prime Minister, who is absent, and not by the Leader of the House, but by the Parlia- 615 mentary Secretary to the Ministry of Munitions, that that circular was not submitted to the War Cabinet, but that the Schedule upon which it purports to comment was, and that, therefore, there was no necessity to submit the circular itself. I shall point out in a moment that that which purports to be a popular exposition of the Schedule submitted to the War Cabinet is not a true representation of that circular, and I shall point out, too, that the effect of it has been very dangerous and very damaging and very hurtful to recruiting in certain parts of the country.
I do want, before I come to specific points of criticism, to safeguard myself from the risk and from the possible implication that I regard munitions work as not important. I say, and say at once, that probably the making of the shell is at this stage as important as the firing of the shell. I also want to say this: if, after careful consideration, the War Cabinet had come to the conclusion, on grounds of high policy, that it was well that we should keep a great reservoir of man-power inside the munitions work only to be used in the trenches in a certain distant eventuality, or if they had come to the conclusion that now that the United States has come into the War we might probably be utilising our man-power more effectively by industrial production in the direction of munitions than by sending them into the Army, or if they had come to the conclusion quite recently—and the right hon. Gentleman was a little mixed in his speech as to the clement of time, since the Schedule, to which I am going to refer— that we were going to enormously increase our output of aeroplanes, and that, therefore, these men, earmarked for the recruiting sergeant, must be retained for the manufacture of munitions, or if they said that we were going in for an enormous increase in tanks, and that, therefore, we must withhold men who otherwise might be safely taken into the ranks of the Army, then I, for one, should not desire to question the wisdom of that decision. But, as the matter stands at this moment, there has been a Schedule issued, with the sanction of the Cabinet, and that Schedule, which came into operation on the 7th of May, states:The War Cabinet has decided that in order to supply the number of men required for the maintenance of the Armies in the field at strength, it is necessary to release a considerable number of men fit for general service. They have therefore decided it is now necessary to alter the system 616 hitherto in force and to call upon the workmen of the country for further efforts in the replacement of men fit for general service. Accordingly War Service Badge Certificates and Trade Cards will be superseded by a system which protects from recruiting only men who may from time to time be found indispensable for the fulfilment of the varying programmes of ship construction, munitions and other essential Government work. For this purpose a schedule of protected occupations has been prepared.That sets forth the intention to issue the new Schedule. I will now read to the House a few extracts from the circular to which I called attention in my question this afternoon. This circular is headed, "Ministry of Munitions of War, Protected Occupations, a Short Guide to the Schedule." I venture to say before reading it that if the circular had been issued by, we will say, the League of Democratic Control or by one of the Syndicalist Committees in Lancashire or South Wales, or by a committee of the Independent Labour Party, I am perfectly certain that the Law Officers of the Crown would have promptly pounced upon them for a breach of the Defence of the Realm Act by discouraging recruiting. The first question is this, "How can I tell whether I am protected from recruiting?" That is not a question of direction to the recruiting authorities and industrial needs will not permit them to come in, but simply, "How can I tell whether I am protected from recruiting?" If the man is interested about the future the question is put to him in No. 5: "How shall I get protection from the recruiting authority? Then: "How can I get a card?" "Suppose I do not get a card, where can I send my claim?" "If I receive a calling-up notice, what am I to do?" and it is explained that under certain circumstances he can ignore it. Then in paragraph 15 is the case of a man who is not a munition worker—the other is the case of a man who is doing Government work; how can he be saved from the clutching arms of the recruiting sergeant? How is he to be protected? Let me read from Section 15 of this strange and wonderful circular issued by one Government Department apparently to interfere with the effective work of another Department. All that has gone before refers to a man employed by the Admiralty, the War Office, in munition works, or in railway workshops. What about the man who is in a scheduled occupation, but is not employed on such work? How is he to be helped? All he has got to do is to enrol as a munition volunteer. What for? For transfer to war work—provided he is in one of the occupations for which war 617 munitions volunteers are required ! In other words, here you have a small engineering establishment employing twenty men engaged on actual munitions work. One man is not engaged on that work, but on repair work or something of the kind for someone in the neighbourhood. It is not essential work at all. How is he to be saved? The Ministry of Munitions have very kindly advised him in this guide that all he has to do is to become a munition volunteer, so that in a certain event he may be transferred to war work and saved from the recruiting sergeant. I have no hesitation in characterising this circular as an absolutely scandalous thing and as something which never ought to have been issued from a Government Department. I will inquire in a moment or two into how it comes to be issued.
Before I do so, let me say this: This circular has been issued to certain organisations in this country by the thousand. In the great industrial districts that circular is being taken into the public-houses and into the shops, and is being openly flashed in the faces of married men, who have children, that have been called before the local tribunal; is flashed in the faces of the wounded man with two stripes who is asked: "Why have you not gone into work of this sort: You see now how we are going to dodge it?" As a matter of fact that circular—what may have been the delightful and guileless intention of the Minister of Munitions and his colleagues I do not know—tout that circular in the hands of those who have been opposed to this War, and who are trying to thwart the work of the recruiting bodies in the country, has been used with damaging and detrimental effect, discouraging men on the one side from offering their services, and on the other side encouraging the dodger and slacker, and creating profound discontent amongst those who like fair-play for the part of the married men who have not been fortunate to be engaged in munitions work. Before I come to analyse the reasons for this, let this House and the country know two things. At this moment there are 1,500,000 men of military age in the munitions works of this country as controlled by the right hon. Gentleman.
The right hon. Gentleman shakes his head. All I can say is that 618 if these figures are not correct it shows that there is another disparity as between one Government Department and another.
Certainly. That is to say those works that are controlled and set forth in this Schedule, and for which the right hon. Gentleman's Department is responsible. That is to say, I am including all those men in all those works who cannot be taken by the Recruiting Department without going to the right hon. Gentleman's Department and there getting sanction. I say that the number of men of military age in those works is 1,500,000. There have not been actual figures so perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will be able to supply the House with precise figures. What I was going to say is that so far as I can ascertain there has not been a careful and detailed analysis of those million and a half into age-groups as between married men and single men. I am told in official quarters that if one applies to unmarried men in munition works under the age of thirty-one the same proportion as in the case of mines —which I gave to the House last week—it would probably give a sufficiently approximate result. If you do that then you have the fact that there are 550,000 youths and men from the age of eighteen to thirty-five who are not married, and who are engaged in these munition works of the country. One is not for a single moment going to suggest that all those men can be taken. What, however, I am going to say, and say without fear of contradiction from the right hon. Gentleman, is this: There was an arrangement made by his Department with the trade unions that there should be obtained for the Army a very substantial number of these men—125,000 I believe—and they were to be obtained over a period of four months. Six weeks have gone; perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will be good enough to tell the House what are the exact figures? Six weeks have gone, and the number obtained is a negligible fraction! I say to the Ministry of Munitions—and I say through them to the War Cabinet—that this voluntary arrangement as between one Government Department and the trade unions for the purpose of recruiting is no good at all, and will no more secure the men from the munition works than it has secured the men from the mines.
619 The men say, "We are technically soldiers, and if the Government want us they will take us; it is absurd to talk of calling upon individual volunteers at this time of day when we already, in law, are enlisted in the Army." That is why you will never get the men. I am going to give a case of the sort of thing which arises here, and which raises a very broad question of principle, and a question which, I believe, is of vital importance to the future conduct of the War, and of still more vital consequence to the future of this country. We have had from the right hon. Gentleman a great deal of praise—and quite rightly—for a number of people who have rendered great services, in one Department or another, to the Ministry. We have had from him—and one welcomes it in its broader spirit—considerable praise for the work that is being done by trade union officials. We then get a speech from the right hon. Gentleman opposite more or less in the same tone on that aspect of the problem, singing the praises of trade union leaders, and so on. A good deal of mischief is being caused by this indiscriminate praise. That the real leaders of labour in this country have rendered great service in this War is beyond dispute. The real trade union officials in this country have rendered services that never can be appraised at too high value—patriotic, great, splendid, sacrificing it has been on the part of the real trade union leaders. But there has been a section masquerading as representatives of trade unions who have gone into the trade unions, not for the purpose of rendering great and patriotic service, not for the purpose of helping the trade unions, or of utilising the trade unions for trade union purposes, but for the purpose of exploiting them for ulterior, Syndicalistic, and Socialistic purposes. We had a warning from the hon. Gentleman the spokesman of the Labour party that the great mistake that the right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues have made, as it was the mistake which the right hon. Gentleman opposite and his colleagues made, was in listening to the voice of unrepresentative, but vocal Socialists, Syndicalists, or Independent Labour party persons in these unions, instead of consulting with the solid trade union moderate opinion
620 Let me give a typical case of the kind of thing that has happened. We all know in this House that the hon. Member for West Monmouth, the secretary of the Miners' Federation of South Wales, is a great figure in the labour movement. He is a noble figure. He is a man who from beginning to end has simply taken a large public view of his duty. What has happened? In all these industrial troubles in South Wales he has never been called into consultation a single time. The people who have ulterior purposes to serve are brought in for consultation! Precisely the same thing has been done by the Ministry of Munitions with the Amalgamated Society of Engineers and with the Boilermakers' Society. They have done it with union after union, with the result that you have a state of anger, of discouragement, on the part of moderate trade union persons in the country that their real leaders should be ignored. The result is that whenever there comes any trouble you find the real leader of the trade union, who has been ignored, is simply a passive person in the locality, instead of his services being enlisted for the occasion by the Ministry of Munitions. That takes me right back to the point. Here you have a circular which pretends to be an exposition of a Schedule which has been passed by the War Cabinet. It is nothing of the kind. It is a gloss. It misrepresents. I notice that the hon. Gentleman (Sir W. Evans) turns round with a doubtful eye, but I will give him one specific quotation, if he can construe it and make it read. Section 12 of the popular Guide asks tins question:Are skilled men who are protected by the Schedule still liable to service as Army artificers?The answer is:Yes, they may be called on at any time to join an artificer unit if the Army needs them. They will not be called up for service in Line regiments.The Schedule—a formal document—says this:Men who are released from Admiralty, War Office or munitions work, or from railway work shops, will be posted to Line regiments, if "they do not possess the qualifications required for the technical units in the Army—[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear!"] I purposely stopped there, because it was exactly what I anticipated from the Front Bench—or if there is no demand for them in any technical unit.I notice right hon. and hon. Gentlemen do not say "Hear, hear" to that. The hon. Member understood the other part, but if 621 he pretends to understand that and will explain it to the House—if he can make the popular Guide and the original document jump together—I shall be very pleased indeed. As I read them, there is a distinct contradiction. The popular Guide says that under no circumstances can a skilled man be taken for a Line regiment. The formal document says he can be taken for a Line regiment in the event of there being no demand in the Army for him in a technical unit. That is only typical If the hon. Gentleman likes other examples, I shall be pleased to point them out. I come right back to this point, that this gloss in this disgraceful form issued by this Department has been done as the result of a conference between certain representatives, or unrepresentatives, of trade unions, and this circular, as a matter of fact, has caused as much indignation among the real, solid trade union men of the North as it has created among those responsible for recruiting. In spite of the reply I got this afternoon, in the interests of harmonious working between the different Government Departments, and, above all, in the interests of satisfying that great clamour for men to fill the gaps in France, I do ask that those who are hostile to the War, those who have put every obstacle in the way of recruiting, may be deprived of this ugly weapon against recruiting by its unqualified withdrawal by the Ministry of Munitions.
§ Mr. NIELD
If I switch off the Debate, though I fully appreciate what has fallen from the hon. Gentleman opposite, it is to call attention to a case which, I think, is inconsistent with the conditions under which we live at the present time. Since 1914 we have gradually permitted a great many of the powers of this House over public Departments and over finance to slip out of our grasp, because of the exigencies of the time. We have allowed large bureaucratic offices to grow up, covering our open spaces, involving an enormous number of employés, and, what I feel must be inevitable, there has followed a hopeless want of anything like uniformity, or anything like a business arrangement between Departments, and the result has been that many things which ought to be done speedily have formed the subejct of long procrastination. The case which I am going to bring to the attention of the Committee to-night is one on which I have twice questioned Ministers in this House during the last few days. We are told 622 that our stocks of flour are not by any means large, and wherever we go we see upon Government buildings and hoardings injunctions to eat less, and I have been struck only to-day by the new posters all down Whitehall with the picture of a soldier with his steel cap on his head and of the sailor in his uniform, with the ships in the offing, and the words "Eat less" or "Don't waste." There are in dications everywhere of the necessity for control in this respect. We have a Food Controller, and our breakfast, luncheon and dinner tables are controlled, and everything is done to try to make our stocks last. This is what has happened. One of the latest proposals for the purpose of saving flour has been the edict that maize flour is to be mixed with wheaten flour, and one knows perfectly well that, in the condition of the country, it is necessary there should be no delay—
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN (Sir F. Banbury)
Would the hon. and learned Member inform me what this has to do with the Ministry of Munitions?
§ Mr. NIELD
Yes, because it is necessary to get a priority certificate from the Ministry of Munitions to supply the machine to grind the maize flour to be mixed with the wheaten Hour. Let me come to my documentary evidence at once. The question I asked the Minister of Munitions on the 25th inst. was:Whether he is aware that application was made as far back as 23rd April, 1917, by Messrs. Dobell and Company, Limited, millers, of Uxbridge, for a priority certificate for the delivery of a new maize disintegrator machine; whether he is aware that, in reply on 27th April, Mr. A. E. W. Hazel, signing as deputy controller of the Priority Department-required further proof of urgency, the value of the machine and materials contained in it, and that on 28th April last Messrs. Dobell informed the Department that it was necessary to instal the machine so as to get a larger capacity of output to supply an increasing demand for dilution of maize flour to save the wheat, gave particulars of cost and that it contained 5 per cent, steel, and that the machine was actually waiting delivery; that subsequently the Ministry of Food were informed that the mills were at a standstill and with increasing and pressing orders for maize flour for human consumption, and that the machine was ready for delivery and only awaited departmental permission; whether he is aware that, in spite of frequent applications to both Departments and the knowledge of the use for such flour, it was not until the 14th May certified by the Food Controller that the supply of the machine was considered by him to be of urgent national importance; that notwithstanding that Messrs. Dobell and Company answered promptly all questions put to them and proved that they sold flour maize to other millers, and also themselves mixed it with wheat flour, and that the need of the disintegrator was urgent, the Priority Department of the Ministry of Munitions on 2nd June refused to permit delivery though the 623 machine was there and for some time had been lying at the Uxbridge railway station; whether he will say why in the face or the Food Controller's certificate that the matter was one of urgent national importance delivery of the machine has been refused; and whether he will institute an inquiry into the whole of the circumstances to prevent a repetition of such departmental delays?I had better read the answer, which is just as long, unfortunately, as the question itself. It was this:Dr. ADDISON: Messrs. Dobell and Company applied on the 23rd April for a permit for a new machine, and also for a permit for repairs to the old machine that had broken down. A permit for the repairs to the old machine on a war work basis was dispatched on the 27th April. The matter was then referred to the Department of the Food Controller. That Department made detailed inquiries as to the capacity of the mill and other considerations, and on the 30th May informed the Priority Department that the new machine could not be recommended as essential to the needs of Messrs. Dobell and Company. On the 2nd June the Priority Department accordingly finally refused the application for the permit. The demands for plant and machinery for the increase of food production all over the country are very considerable, and place a serious drain upon the available labour and material that are urgently needed for war work. It is not possible to spare the materials and labour for new plant or machinery, or even for extensive repairs, unless they have been selected as urgent and essential to meet the plans of the Food Controller. Where it is obvious, as in the case of the repair of the broken-down machine, that a permit should be granted, no delays occur. Where on the face of an application there is an element of doubt, care is taken to make minute inquiries, and to consult any Departments interested before the application is definitely refused. It is the case that this machine had been manufactured under an arrangement which had been made for the purpose of avoiding delay. Under that arrangement firms are permitted to manufacture a certain number of machines for stock without a permit, on the condition that the machines will not be released until the permit has been received. In this case, the manufacturer was given to understand that a permit would be forthcoming and dispatched the machine without the requisite authority. This machine is more urgently required elsewhere by a firm that is waiting for it and already has a permit. After considering the advice of the Department interested, and having regard to the strict economy that mast be exercised in labour and materials, if the needs of the various Departments are to be met, I have formed the decision that a permit cannot be granted for this machine for Messrs. Dobell and Company."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 25th June, 1917, col.49.]Now, what is the effect of all this? From the 23rd April, when a permit was asked for this new machine, to the 2nd June, when it is refused, the Department is told again and again of the urgency of the public demand for this machine which is to grind the maize in order to add to the wheaten flour, and that the demand is a very great one and coming from all parts of the country. This machine, in fact, was made for export. It was not exported through some hitch which took place. It therefore remained in the hands of the 624 manufacturers, and it was in the hands of the manufacturers at that time, when these millers, anticipating the great demand, and having their own machine broken down, ordered it in order to meet the demands of the public for maize flour mixed with wheaten flour. Why, I ask, in times like the present, when we are in such urgent need to supply the public requirements, should there be this delay from 23rd April to the final refusal on the 2nd June? What is the need for keeping up a lengthy correspondence, such as that which I hold in my hand, with a firm, from the whole tone of which they would be encouraged to expect the delivery of a machine after certain inquiries are asked; and why, I ask—and I ask in amazement— having got from the Food Controller the definite statement, which I will read, that in the opinion of the Food Controller this machine was of national importance, was that gone back upon without an immediate intimation being conveyed to the millers? After a weary correspondence, beginning on the 23rd April, the Ministry of Food wrote this letter on the 11th May:With reference to your letter of the 10th inst. further to your application for a disintegrator. You are at liberty to inform the Ministry of Munitions that the supply of this machine is considered by the Food Controller to be of urgent national importance. When applying for a 'priority certificate' you should send particulars of the disintegrator to the Ministry of Munitions, stating that it is required by you in the manufacture of maize flour for human consumption to take the place of white flour, and that it is quite ready for delivery from the manufacturers, Messrs. J. Harrison Carter, Ltd., of Dunstable.That was promptly communicated to the Minister of Munitions, and the following day—on the 14th of May—that letter was sent to Mr. Hazel, Priority Branch of the Ministry of Munitions, their attention being specifically called to that portion of it which referred to the supply of this machine as of urgent national importance. Then we get, not a refusal, nothing to indicate that a refusal is coming, but on the 21st of May—I suppose it always takes seven days to answer a letter in the Priority Department of the Ministry of Munitions—the following is received:I am directed to refer to your letter of the 28th of April and to your telegram of the 3rd of May—It does not even refer to the letter of the 14th of May—This Department has been in communication with the Food Controller's Department, and I am to inquire whether625
- (a) You sell flour maize to flour mills?
- (b) You mix it with flour yourselves?I am further to request you to give the fullest possible particulars as to the reason why the provision of a large disintegrator is necessary?I am, Gentlemen,Your obedient Servant,A. E. W. HAZEL.On the 21st that letter was replied to—on the same day a letter crossed asking for a reply. On the 22nd the Food Controller writes to this firm, not telling them that there was someone holding a certificate prior to them, or that there was a possibility of their not getting the machine, but saying this:With reference to your letter of the 21st May, I am to state that the Ministry of Munitions are not waiting for any confirmation from this Ministry. The delay is presumably due to press of work.There is not the least indication there that the Food Controller changes his mind, or that there is anything in the world to prevent this machine, lying in Uxbridge Railway Station, going to the Uxbridge mills so that it could be used for grinding the flour required by the people. I find that on the 21st of May the millers wrote to the Ministry of Munitions as follows:We wrote you on the 14th instant giving Ministry of Food reference No. 19074, 11/5/17, and copy of their letter, but have not yet heard from you. May we ask you to let us have the necessary document by return of post to enable us to obtain the disintegrator and proceed with the manufacture of the maize flour?Again on the 21st they wrote to the Ministry of Food, and on the 22nd they again wrote to the Priority Branch of the Ministry of Munitions. There are so many Ministries nowadays that one's tongue gets tied up in referring to them. The letter says:In reply to your letter of the 21st we can only repeat what we have already told you several times,Nothing came of that, but on the 26th of May they wrote and pressed for a reply, and on the 4th of June they wrote again— to the Ministry of Food this time. I should Bay that in the meantime, on the 2nd of June, there came from the Priority Department a curt little note on buff paper, with which we are so familiar, purely formal in character:
further, the reason we want the larger disintegrator to make flour maize is because we are trying to meet a larger demand for flour maize for human food.
- (a) We do sell flour maize to flour mills.
- (b) We do mix the flour ourselves.Applicant's reference.Date: 14th May, 1917.Reference:General Nature of Order:Disintegrator for Maize Flour from J. Harrison Carter, Ltd.626 and on the other page:Any communication with reference to this matter should be addressed toThe Ministry of Munitions,Priority Branch,1, Caxton Street,Westminster, S.W.,quoting reference.and then,147971/Refusal.So that the curt word "refusal" was supposed 10 sum up this long correspondence. On the 4th June the millers, not content with that, wrote to the Ministry of Food, as I have said:Disintegrator for grinding Maize into Flour for Human Food.That is the heading.We have a new machine ready for delivery from the makers (J. Harrison Carter, Ltd., of Dun-stable), and await the permit from the Ministry of Munitions"—for delivery.We shall be glad if you can do anything for us in the way of recommendation to that Department as the machine is to be used as above and is of much national importance, as the use of maize is now greatly helping in the preservation of the stocks of wheat.Then, in answer to that, the Ministry of Food very discreetly wrote:I have to refer to your letter of the 4th inst. in connection with your request for a Priority Certificate for a Disintegrator, and to regret that my Department could not recommend the application for this machine.Not a word to say that they have altered their mind, or that in the month of May they had recommended it as a matter of national importance. That is the way in which traders are to be treated by these Departments which we have riveted round our necks. I sincerely hope that at the end of the War we shall break those rivets, and break them somewhat abruptly, and that we shall require an account to be rendered of the manner in which the trust has been fulfilled. What is the sequel? The sequel to my first question in the House of Commons was that promptly the Ministry of Munitions fell out with the unfortunate engineers who were about to supply this machine and who had had the temerity to send it at once to the railway station where is was lying idle for all these weeks. This is the letter sent by the engineers to the millers explaining why they could not send the machine:Further in reference to ours of the 12th inst., the Ministry of Munitions have been ringing us up in reference to our having delivered the machine to Uxbridge without permit, and have been rather severe in their remarks. They have definitely decided not to issue the certificate, and instruct us to take the machine back, and this we are doing.627 So that, having had a sojourn for weeks within a few hundred yards of the mills which could have used this machine to turn out the flour which people wanted so badly, this machine has to be carted back to Dunstable in order to comply with the autocratic demands of this autocratic Department. It is scandalous, and it is because it is scandalous that I have gone without my dinner in order that I might ventilate the matter. I am not doing it off my own bat, but on behalf of the hon. Member who represents Uxbridge (Mr. Mills) who is away on Service. It seems to me that a great deal of the work of the county of Middlesex does fall on my shoulders, and therefore I have to take up the time of the Committee. I do ask them to consider how long this should be allowed to go on. Why, if we are having the expense of building these buildings and creating these staffs, cannot they work on a businesslike footing and together? If this machine had been promised to an earlier purchaser it ought to have gone to them at once, and these people should not have had any hopes held out to them that they would get it. The Food Controller ought never to have sent that letter in which he said that the firm were at liberty to inform the Ministry of Munitions that the supply of this machine was considered by the Food Controller to be of urgent national importance unless he meant to stick to it. I do ask the House, and the public, who will get to know of this, to take note of these facts, and I hope that this will be the means of bringing about some drastic alteration in the Departments and of letting the public know that this money is not being spent in the way in which they expect it to be spent.
§ Mr. FIELD
I entirely agree with what the hon. Gentleman who has just spoken has said with regard to the loss of control of affairs by this House. This House, in fact, now seems to have no control over anything. We have so many Controllers that the public Departments and business generally are taken out of its hands. We are really voting machines with practically no power. I do not intend to follow the hon. Member who spoke with regard to the recruiting, but I do wish to address a few observations to the Committee with respect to Ireland. I agree with the Labour Members that the relations between employers and employés ought to be improved, and I hope that will be the 628 case as the result of this War. The War has taught us a great many lessons which probably would not have come before the public, and certainly not before the Government, but for the bitter experiences of this conflict. There ought to be more co-operation between capital and labour, and I agree that a Joint Committee to consider these questions where friction arises ought to be appointed so as to arrive at an arrangement between the different parties. A very short time ago I myself had something to do with the Amalgamated Railway Servants and some friction which arose with regard to railway and other questions, and the result was that when these people met together and conferred and consulted the strike was ended. There ought to be more co-ordination between the Departments, because, as we have heard here this evening, one Department issues a certain number of Orders and another Department issues Regulations which do not coincide with the general tenor of the previous Order, the result being that this brings a certain amount of friction, particularly between the working classes. Of course, we must have certain changes, but in those changes I think friction ought to be as far as possible avoided. What I rose to say was not so much on the general question, but as an Irish Member to convey a message to this Committee concerning Ireland.
The majority of the people of Ireland consider, and in my view fairly put forward the claim, that we have not received anything like a fair ratio of the employment arising from this War, particularly with regard to the Munitions Department. A curious state of things exists in Ireland, particularly in Dublin. Owing to certain Regulations which it is not in order to discuss, and to which, therefore, I merely refer, a very large number of men have been disemployed in Dublin owing to Government action. I hold that if the Government disemploy a large number of people and cause distress it is their duty to provide something in substitution in order that the men may obtain a living. Millions of pounds have been expended here in the manufacture of munitions, and the amount of money that has been expended in Ireland is comparatively negligible. I hope that those who represent the Munitions Department will consider this matter, because it is well for the Committee to understand that the Irish workers have been complimented on the manner in 629 which they have carried out the work which you have entrusted to them, and that they have given the greatest possible satisfaction to the inspectors in connection with those different Departments. That being so, I think there is no reason why we should not get at least an equal ratio in Ireland to that given in Great Britain, for, after all, we are entitled to it. There is another point I wish to bring before the Committee, very briefly, because I do not think there is any use in reiterating complaints which have already been made from several parts of the House. I want to put this to the right hon. Gentleman who so ably introduced this subject: It is asserted that in Ireland the pay of the Irish workers is inferior to that of the worker in Great Britain. I am not in a position to state whether that is really a fact or not, but I do think that the Minister who answers the arguments that have been used in this Debate should make it quite clear, and if it is a fact, as I have stated, they ought to take steps so that the wages in Ireland should be exactly the same as they are in Great Britain. I see no reason why there should not be the same rate of wages in Ireland as in England. I have no information to give to the House as to the precedents which affect Great Britain more than Ireland, but I would like to put these two views to the right hon. Gentleman. We as an Irish party have given all the support that was in our power in this War. We want to win the War. We are earnest in that attitude, and some of us have more or less taken up the position that we are entitled to equality of treatment with regard to the ratio of employment in our country. With regard to industrial dwellings, it will be useful, from an industrial point of view, not only to Ireland but to the Empire, and it is essential that we should have the same rates of pay to the men and women engaged in our country as applied to other countries. I have been requested by my Constituents to bring this point forward, and I hope a satisfactory reply will be given by those whose duty it is to deal with the financial side.
§ Mr. DUNCAN MILLAR
I should like, in the first place, to congratulate my right hon. Friend on the extremely interesting and encouraging statement we have listened to this afternoon. As a representative of a large industrial district engaged in munition work, I welcome the 630 tribute paid by him to the spirit in which the workers are undertaking their duties. I think this will be appreciated throughout many other districts in the land. We are aware that heavy demands are being made at the present moment upon all sections of our people, and it must be a satisfaction to the Minister of Munitions to know that he can look to the industrial workers to support him in the arduous work that he is carrying on.
I now want to deal with a matter which can only be raised on this Vote, because the Ministry of Munitions is responsible to the House for the Central Control Board (Liquor Traffic). The administration of the Board can only be raised on this Vote. The point I desire to raise is one of considerable importance and has already been dealt with by question and answer in this House in the last few days. It relates to the control, or the want of control, which is exercised by this House over the Central Control Board in regard to its expenditure.
At the present moment there is, so far as I am aware, no control whatever over the expenditure of that particular Board. The one check that is put upon it in the exercise of its powers under the Defence of the Realm (No. 3) Amendment Act, and the Regulations following upon it, is that claims made by owners of licensed premises for the price of their premises, or of their businesses which have been taken over, should be submitted to the Losses Commission, which was set up in August, 1915. This appears to me to be the only check at the present moment which is placed upon this Board. There are no complete accounts of their expenditure. I understand that twelve months after we may be allowed to see certain expenditure of the Central Board as a Paper of the House. That is too late for us to exercise any effective control. There are no estimates. There is nothing whatever laid before the House to indicate to what extent expenditure is likely to take place during the current year, and, as the Committee is well aware, there have been during the past year or more very large undertakings taken over by the Central Control Board, including a very large number of licensed premises throughout the country.
What I desire specifically to draw the attention of the Committee to is this: the necessity for all claims in respect of licensed premises and breweries taken 631 over by the Central Board under compulsory powers being submitted to the Liquor Losses Commission before a settlement is made. Perhaps it may be convenient if in a word or two I describe the steps which have been taken in empowering this particular Board to take over these premises, and the conditions under which their powers are to be exercised. The Defence of the Realm Amendment (No. 3) Act, 1915, specifically empowered the Central Control Board to acquire compulsorily or by agreement and either for the period during which the Regulations took effect or permanently any licensed or other premises or businesses in the area or any interest therein so far as it appears necessary or expedient to do so for the purpose of giving proper effect to the control of the liquor supply in the area. Then followed Regulations under this Act which provided for the acquisition of such premises compulsorily, and provided certain machinery in regard to taking over the premises. The first step was by service of a notice which after ten days vested the property in such premises in the Board. The notice was to be minuted, and thereafter a simple form of title invested the Board in ownership. No particular mention was made in the Act or Regulation of the price or compensation to be paid in such cases. This question was raised several times in the course of the Debate on the No. 3 Amendment Bill in this House, when the Chancellor of the Exchequer, now the Prime Minister, was placing his liquor proposals before the House. He said:The principles and methods upon which compensation is to be paid are exactly the same as in the case of acquisition of other properties and injury to other interests already dealt with under the Defence of the Realm Act. A Commission will be appointed, whether the present Commission or another I propose to announce on the Second Beading of the Bill, for the purpose of ascertaining what is a fair amount to be paid.Then on the Second Reading, on 10th May, 1915, he announced the personnel of the new Commission. It was a new Commission appointed by Order in Council to deal specifically with the licensed properties which were taken over by the Board, and an expert in the valuation of such properties was placed upon that Commission as an additional member. At the same time a separate Commission was appointed for Scotland. On the Third Reading of the Defence of the Realm No. 3 Bill, or "Dora" (which is an abbreviation perhaps permissible to members of the legal pro- 632 fession, and was so referred to by a judge recently),the Chancellor of the Exchequer referred again to the Commission which was being appointed to deal with compensation matters, and these were the words he used—I ask particularly the attention of the Committee to these words, because they explain what the purpose of the Commission was:I repeatedly explained that the same Committee as under the other Defence of the Realm Acts will deal with the question of compensation. There is no special mention of compensation in any of them. We set up this particular Committee to adjudicate on all claims, with a general instruction as to fair play to everybody, in any way damnified by the operations of these Acts.Surely that was perfectly clear. It was at least perfectly clear to those who at that time had put down various Amendments to the Bill, some of which would have been moved but for that statement that all questions as to compensation would have been submitted to the Defence of the Realm Losses Commission. Not only was this done to protect the individual claimants, as suggested by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, but it was also intended to safeguard the taxpayer. The Commission was formally appointed on the 2nd August, 1915, to deal with claims arising in connection with interference with property or businesses through the exercise by the prescribed Government authority—that was, the Central Control Board (Liquor Traffic)—of its powers under the Defence of the Realm Amendment (No. 3) Act, 1915. I should like to draw the attention of the Financial Secretary to the view which the Board took of this matter. In their Report of 1st May, 1916, they said:The Board have preferred in ordinary cases to carry out the acquisition of the premises by the exercise of their compulsory powers, but with regard to the amount of compensation payable they have, where possible, entered into agreements with the persons interested. These agreements will be submitted to the Defence of the Realm Losses Royal Commission for their approval when the claims of the applicants come up for consideration—Then the Board go on to say,The advantages of this method are (1) that the title to the property can be acquired within a definite time by a process of great simplicity, namely, by the service of a notice maturing within ten days; and (2) that the price agreed is subject to the sanction of an independent tribunal of great authority.The latter reason particularly appealed to the House and to the country generally. I need hardly remind the Committee that the first Losses Commission had as its chairman the right hon. Gentleman who is now Chief Secretary for Ireland, who did excellent work in that capacity, 633 and his successor, Sir James Woodhouse, also has the complete confidence of the whole community. He is assisted by the hon. and learned Member for Newcastle (Mr. Shortt) and Mr. C. De Peyer, as members of the Commission. I think these Commissioners may be safely trusted to protect the interests of all applicants who come before them, and to see that justice is done to the public interest, which is the most important of all, in the event of extravagant claims being put forward. The complaint which is made against the Central Control Board in cases where they have exercised their compulsory powers is in not submitting to the Losses Commission these particular cases before the country has been saddled with the expenditure, and before they have arrived at a final decision in regard to the amount which was to be paid.
I should like to give one or two illustrations. I refer particularly to the case of the Maryport Brewery, Carlisle. The Central Control Board has taken over a number of breweries in different parts of the country, particularly at Carlisle, and a large number of licensed premises in other districts, including Scotland. In regard to these cases the usual procedure was the service of a notice. I understand that in the case of the Maryport Brewery there was a notice served in respect of the property which it was intended to acquire. What happened after the notice was served in this particular case? I want to ask whether any opportunity whatever was afforded to the Losses Commission to investigate this case. I put a question the other day as to whether or not this matter had been submitted to the Commission, and the reply given to me on the 27th instant was that the claim referred to in the question has never been formally submitted to or adjudicated upon by the Defence of the Realm Losses Commission. It was a claim for £140,000, and it was a case which one would have thought the Board itself would have been anxious to have thoroughly investigated, instead of letting it stand purely upon their own valuers' opinion. In these matters the Board is entitled to be fortified by the decision of the Losses Commission. I want to know whether this claim was ever submitted in any shape or form to the Losses Commission? It was the duty of the Board, if any representations were made, to have this case inquired into. Was any indication given that this was a case which required investigation 634 before payment was made? If it was such a case, why was it not submitted? Surely this was a case, if ever there was one, that ought to have been submitted to the Losses Commission for them to deal with, because a large sum was at stake. The Board was also contemplating the acquisition of property in other parts of the country, and it was most desirable to have some definite line laid down with regard to the value of this kind of undertaking.
I understand there are a number of other cases which have also recently not been dealt with by the Losses Commission, although I have reason to believe that up to a certain period it was the invariable practice of the Board to send these oases to the Losses Commission, as was contemplated when the Commission was set up, according to the statement of the Chancellor of the Exchequer in this House. I think the House should have a full and frank statement placed before it as to the policy of the Board in this matter. We are dealing with public money and with a Board which has during recent years embarked upon very heavy expenditure. Frequent complaints have been made in this House that there is no control whatever over that expenditure, and indeed no knowledge as to what extent the Board is embarking upon this heavy expenditure. Surely we are entitled to have this information. I want to know also whether steps will be taken in future to see that every case is laid before the Losses Commission before any sanction is given to payment by the Treasury. In the first place the Board is responsible for carrying out the Statutory procedure, and it is not enough to say that the Treasury itself has sanctioned this payment because, after all, the Treasury is now paying large sums out of the Votes of Credit over which we have absolutely no control. We have no estimate placed before us as to what the amount is, and it is essential that all claims of this character should be investigated before Treasury sanction is obtained for payment. I should have thought that the Treasury would have only been too happy to avail themselves of the services of the Losses Commission, and it seems a curious policy for a big spending department not to avail itself of such an opportunity of fortifying itself, particularly at a time like the present. I cannot imagine that it is suggested that this Commission is not fit for its work. I have referred to 635 the eminent men who form the Commission. I understand that the Losses Commission has given general satisfaction, and that their work has been kept very closely up to date. I believe that the House will not rest satisfied with less than some undertaking that this Losses Commission is to fulfil the purpose for which it was set up. It is not enough to say, as may be said, that they cannot force a man to go before it, because if an applicant does not care to have his claim submitted to investigation certainly he is not entitled to the payment of the sum which he claims if he will not allow it to be investigated in the usual way. After all, this is a matter which at the present moment requires to be very carefully considered in view of the fact that we are entirely in the dark as to the operations of the Central Control Board. The question is one which affects the interests of the whole country, and is one which this House has a special interest in seeing dealt with at the earliest possible moment.
I understand that my hon. Friend (Sir W. Evans) is responsible for the special Department at the Ministry of Munitions which deals with the question of alcohol for the manufacture of munitions. My hon. Friend is familiar with the interest which has been shown in this subject by a number of Members in this House, and I should like to ask whether he and his Department are taking advice with regard to the provision of a sufficient quantity of alcohol for the manufacture of munitions? I confess that I was rather startled to find that upon the Alcohol Committee there are seven gentlemen who represent the patent and pot still distilleries and the rectifiers and blenders in Scotland and Ireland, and only four representatives of public departments. There is not a single chemist upon the Committee, although it is a matter of great importance that we should have one of the best chemists of the country upon such a Committee which is charged with the duty of finding sufficient supplies of alcohol for the manufacture of munitions. Why we should have seven persons representing the licensed trade interests as against four public servants I cannot understand. I hope the hon. Member, when he is considering where ho is going to get the alcohol for the manufacture of munitions, will not hesitate to use the bonded spirit, even against the advice 636 of these gentlemen, if it is necessary to do so in the interests of the country. We have 156,500,000 gallons in bond at the present moment, and yet we are told that we are still importing for munition purposes molasses and also spirits. We are using for this purpose the tonnage of quite a number of ships, when we have already in bond in the country between four and five years' supply of alcohol which is suited for the purpose of the manufacture of munitions, if rectified and dealt with as it easily could be. I do not want to press the point too far, but, seeing that this matter has been under consideration for a long time, I do want to ask whether the hon. Gentleman is now in a position to make a statement and tell us that the Ministry will use these bonded spirits in order to prevent the necessity of further importing for the manufacture of alcohol materials which might be used for the food of the people. I want to ask whether the time has not come for the Ministry to take a decision on this matter, to acquire the spirits at a fair figure, and to use them. I hope the hon. Gentleman will deal with the matter in his reply, and that we shall get a satisfactory answer on the question of the determination by the Losses Commission of all claims for premises taken over by the Board of Control.
§ Sir J. AINSWORTH
We must all join in congratulating my right hon. Friend on the explanation which he gave of the work which the Ministry have done and have on hand. It is a surprise to on the House, and I think it will be to the country, to realise the enormous amount of work which has to be done now by the Department. I would suggest for careful consideration whether it would not be possible for them to economise their time and to ease themselves of a great deal of hard work by transferring all questions affecting wages and labour to the Ministry of Labour. It would on the one hand relieve the Department of an enormous amount of work and on the other hand it would probably be more efficiently done if the whole responsibility of dealing with labour and questions of wages rested entirely on the labour authority. I have mentioned the matter to my right hon. Friend the Minister of Munitions, and I shall be extremely glad if my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary will take it into his serious consideration. I should like to refer to the enormous importance of the whole question of labour and wages after 637 the War. It is about the biggest thing with which we shall have to deal. We all congratulate ourselves on the fact that as the result of the great assistance we have had from the Speaker the question of the representation of the people is now being dealt with, and we all hope that the Bill will be eventually passed. If we could go a little further, and, as soon as we have time and opportunity, devote ourselves to the question of labour and wages it would do more to settle the future of the country and of the British Empire than anything else. Everybody agrees that it is one of the most important questions that has to be dealt with, and I hope the House will take the whole matter into consideration and in the same way arrange for a Conference and try to come to some solution. We all believe that at the end of the War the British Empire will be larger and more powerful and will have a larger influence in the world than ever, and if we could get rid of all these questions which trouble us and solve them in some practical way, we should do an excellent day's work and place ourselves in the best position for dealing with those questions which are certain to arise and which will have to be dealt with as soon as the War is over. I believe in the saying of the late Mr. Gladstone that difficulties exist in order that they may be overcome. If we can set to work to settle some of these difficult and important problems, we shall be carrying out a wise policy for ourselves, the country and the Empire.
I gave notice to the Minister of Munitions that to-day I should call his attention to the conduct of the Liquor Control Board with regard to licences of the landlord of the "Spread Eagle" Inn and the landlord of the "Free Trade" Inn at Oldham, which is my Constituency. As regards the case of the "Spread Eagle" Inn, a man, Mr. Albert Dean, and his wife, Annie Dean, went into the inn. The husband ordered two glasses of beer and paid for them. Thereupon the landlord of the inn—who knew nothing about the matter at all and was not there at the time—the woman who was serving as barmaid, and the husband and the wife were all summoned to the Police Court and were charged with various offences. The landlord was charged with permitting treating, and was promptly fined £l for that offence, and all the others were convicted as well. If the matter had stopped there, probably I should never have brought it before this 638 Committee and the country. This new and serious misdemeanour—that of a man paying for a glass of beer for his wife, who probably has no money of her own, except what she gets from her husband; if he gives it to her outside the public-house to pay for the beer herself when she gets inside the house, it is equally an offence, with his paying for it inside the house—this new and serious misdemeanour is committed under the Regulations issued under the Defence of the Realm Act—the unadorable "Dora," of which we have heard. The Regulations are made by the Liquor Control Board. They have created this new crime and misdemeanour which is punishable by a fine, and, in default of payment of the fine, by imprisonment.
This was the procedure: Mr. Jones was the licensee. On the 21st March this year he was summoned. Two summonses apparently were necessary for this civil offence in his case alone. The first was for having supplied liquor which was not paid for by Mrs. Dean; the second was that he had sold to Albert Dean liquor that was supplied to and consumed by Annie Dean. Two summonses were issued against the servant, Sarah Jane, for similar offences. Next came a summons against Albert Dean because he had paid for liquor supplied to Annie his wife, and the sixth summons was against Annie Dean, because she unlawfully did consume a glass of beer for which her husband paid and for which she did not pay herself. If the matter remained there, I should never have troubled myself very much about it; but, after the man had been punished according to the law, and the full penalty which the magistrates thought right had been inflicted, the Board of Control summoned the man to meet them in Preston, where they sat, and they confiscated his licence altogether for a period of twelve months. The result is that the poor man's business is practically ruined. He cannot carry it on for twelve months. He has lost the savings he invested in the house, and if at the end of the twelve months he is graciously permitted by this autocratic Board of Control to resume business in the public-house, in all probability his customers will have faded away, or, in the meantime, he may be unable to pay his debts and not be able to carry on the business.
The first question I want to ask the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry 639 of Munitions is, has the Ministry of Munitions any control whatever over that Board of Control, or am I only wasting my breath in bringing this matter before the Committee? I understand that the Minister of Munitions is a sort of mouthpiece of the Board of Control in this House, to answer questions which relate to that Board; but I understand the Ministry have no power over the Board of Control, except a certain amount of moral force, which arises from the fact that originally they appointed the members of the Board of Control. Beyond that, all they can do is to politely suggest to them that they are wrong, and the Board of Control has perfect liberty to tell them to mind their own business. If that is the case, what is going to happen is that I shall be obliged to put down a Motion to ask the House to inquire into the powers the Board of Control are exercising, and to put some curb upon them. Let me remind the Minister of Munitions—if it really affects him in the slightest degree, or is a matter of the smallest interest to his Department—that my hon. Friend the Member for Rutland (Colonel Gretton) brought on a Motion in this House, which I seconded, to place some limit on the powers of the Board of Control, and that the Government on that occasion only escaped defeat by eight votes. If a series of cases like the one I have put before the Committee now can be spoken to by other hon. Members, and put before the House, I am not at all sure that, unless the Government abandon their defence of this autocratic Board, they will not be beaten and compelled to do that which the House and the country would much rather they should do by persuasion. There have been a few convictions for treating in public-houses, but none of the publicans concerned have had their licences interfered with in any way and the landlord of the "Spread Eagle Inn" never thought for a moment, when he paid his fine, that he would have his licence taken away. No law has ever been passed to justify it. It was a purely autocratic exercise of power by the Board of Control which chose to take away the licence without having any power, legal or moral, to do it. Oldham has one of the finest records for the production of munitions and for the regular time that the men have worked. We have the largest machinery 640 works in the world—Platts—and various other large machinery works, Asa Lees, nearly as big. When the Board of Control is asked to revise its decision to receive their representatives and to make their submission to them that they treated this landlord too severely they simply get a curt reply that under no circumstances will they revise it and they refuse to see anyone or to have any communication with anyone about it.
It is a fundamental principle of the law of England, and one upon which our liberties largely depend, that no man can be punished twice for the same offence. If anyone dares to prosecute a man after he has been once acquitted the prosecution is promptly quashed. Here the landlord was being treated badly enough in being fined at all because a man paid for a glass of beer for his own wife. He had not served it and knew nothing of it. It was a technical offence as far as he was concerned, and yet the Board of Control, without, I believe, having any legal power whatever to do it, has ruined this man and suspended his licence till April, 1918. I want to know what is the authority under which they do these things. Is there any authority in law or is it absolutely and utterly, as I believe it to be, illegal? If the right hon. Gentleman cannot satisfy me, I shall advise those who advise the licensed trade to test this case in a Court of law. I am quite sure Parliament, when it passed the Defence of the Realm Act which set up this Board of Control, never intended to give such powers to a number of autocratic and absolutely independent and unchecked persons. From their decision apparently there is absolutely no appeal. They are as autocratic as a body can possibly be. They are not under the control of this House, and, as far as I know, they are not under the control of the Law Courts or of the Minister of Munitions. They can do these things just as they please, and this autocratic power which has been given to them, or which they have assumed, leads to injustice and tyranny and to the sort of case I am now bringing before the Committee. Their powers ought to be limited and to be brought within the bounds of justice and common sense. This is, I believe, only one of a long series of cases throughout the whole country. The Board of Control is arousing hatred by action of this kind and bringing the Defence of the Realm Act into contempt.
641 The other case was one in which three women went into the "Free Trade Inn," one of them ordering a glass of whiskey for herself and two glasses of gingerette, which I am told is not alcoholic, for her friends. A policeman, disguised as a civilian, with a patch over his eye, was posted there to watch on behalf of the Board of Control, and he assumed that the gingerette, which was the same colour as whiskey, was whiskey, and when he saw this served and the women drinking it and the woman who had the glass of whiskey paying for the two gingerettes, he promptly called in the majesty of the law, in the person of an inspector and another constable. These three people interviewed the women, and charged them with the offence of treating and being treated, and these are the proceedings: On 21st February, 1915, the landlord, Mr. Alfred Buckley, is summoned for selling liquor which is not paid for by the person supplied. There is another summons against him, that is two, just as in the other case. Harry Wilkinson, a barman, is summoned for aiding and abetting, and there is another summons against him as well.
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
This is a matter of the exercise of the judicial discretion lying in the magistrates. I do not quite see how the Minister of Munitions can answer for that. The Minister of Munitions is here to answer for matters which are within his own discretion. I am quite unable to understand how a case which was tried in a Police Court is a matter for which the Minister of Munitions can answer.
Simply because they were tried at the Police Court and fined their licence was taken away for twelve months by the Minister of Munitions. That is what I am complaining of. The summonses were issued under the authority of the Board of Control under Regulations made by them, and the licensee was fined £5, the potman was fined £5, Margaret Smethurst was fined £2, and the other two women £l each. Thereupon the Board of Control suspended the licence for twelve months and the man is ruined. The point comes in here: not knowing that the Board of Control had such a power, they did not appeal. They are out of time for appeal and the licence is gone for ever. This is going on up and down the country. If the Board of Control is going to act in this way, there will be a rising in the 642 country which will compel Parliament to interfere and put an end to their powers in this direction. The Board of Control has done a great deal of good. It has done admirable work in some directions, but it only shows how dangerous it is to entrust absolutely unchecked, autocratic power to any one body of gentlemen, however eminent and however deserving.
§ Admiral of the Fleet Sir H. MEUX
I have a very similar case of tyrannical injustice to bring to the notice of the Minister of Munitions. Six weeks ago there was a case of treating. There was only one barmaid in a fairly long bar, and it was reported that she had allowed some soldiers to be treated. She denied it, but the case was proved against her. I have nothing to say against that. She was fined £5 and at the same time the proprietor was fine £3, although he was ill in bed at the time. One would have thought that was a pretty severe penalty for a very small crime. If it was not for the law it would not be a sin at all. The law makes it a sin, but there is nothing morally wrong in treating. It is only an illegality. I believe some of my hon. Friends who do not indulge in what they call alcoholic drinks are allowed to treat. If they want to refresh themselves and their friends they say, "Come and split a bottle of gingerbeer with me." They are entitled to do that, but a working man cannot treat his friend to a glass of beer. It is class legislation against working men. See the result of this case at Portsmouth. After three weeks the case was reported to the Board of Control and they have taken away the man's licence for ten months. I consider that a gross injustice for a very small offence. There was no excuse for such a thing. Portsmouth has been second to none in the way it has behaved during the War. It has raised several battalions of troops and its ships go out and, unfortunately, some go down and there is never a murmur. I am informed that there has only been one case of conviction for treating since August of last year in that town. I should like to know whether there are any teetotalers on the Liquor Control Board. I understand there are two teetotalers. [An HON. MEMBER: "And brewers, too!"] To a teetotaler a publican is like a red rag to a bull.
§ Sir H. MEUX
I think I am right. I do not think hon. Members understand what "Dora" means. It does not mean Defence of the Realm Act, but people who take advantage of the Defence of the Realm Act to bring in regulations to rob the working man of his beer.
§ Sir H. MEUX
He is all right. He will take care of himself. The licence holder in Portsmouth, to whose case I have referred, has had this hotel since 1904, and he has had an absolutely clean record. Is there anybody here who will deny that the taking away of a man's licence for ten months, which means a loss of several hundreds of pounds to him, after having already punished him and his barmaid for one offence, is not a savage case of injustice and tyranny? Will anybody say it is not. Not one. I hope the Minister of Munitions will see that the Board of Control restore this man's licence without any delay.
§ 9.0 P.M.
Mr. T. WILSON
As I listened to the speech of the hon. and learned Member for Ealing (Mr. Nield), I was forced to the conclusion that the Munitions Department have not consulted their scientific and expert advisers in connection with the question of maize. At any rate, if they had consulted scientific and expert advisers I would not give much for the advice given by those gentlemen. I am not satisfied with the system adopted by the Munitions Department in the settlement of disputes between them and the workpeople employed in the Government factories. They do not deal with them as satisfactorily as hey might. There may be some improvement now, but the societies connected with the building industry send in their complaints to me, and there is scarcely one of them who are satisfied with the methods adopted by the Munitions Department in dealing with labour questions. I strongly support the suggestion made by the right hon. Member (Mr. Montagu) in regard to the absolute necessity of co-ordinating Government Departments which are dealing with labour questions, and particularly with wage questions. Within the last week or two I have had to go to three different 644 Departments in connection with one dispute. One Department referred me to another, and then the other Department-referred me to another, and I had to go back to the first Department at the finish to have the matter dealt with. In the interest of the smooth working of the Department and of the Government workshops throughout the country, it would be better for all wage and labour matters to be dealt with by the Ministry of Labour, which seems to me to be the proper Department for dealing with such questions. I was very pleased to hear from the Minister of Munitions that the output had increased, and that he was fairly well satisfied with what the workpeople were doing in this Department; but I believe that we should have better organisation by those responsible for the management of the Department. I will give one or two instances of awful waste. Ten months ago the Munitions Department commenced to erect a building at a place near Manchester. They also commenced to erect a building near Oldham. They spent thousands of pounds upon those buildings, and then commenced to pull them down. They despatched some of the material to a place near Bristol, where the timber was used to a very large extent, and then orders were given that the buildings were to be pulled down again. I wonder how many thousands of pounds have been wasted in that way!
I am somewhat doubtful about the ability of some of the scientific gentlemen who are advising the Munitions Department in regard to the erection of buildings. Being connected with the building trade, I am in a unique position with regard to the getting of information as to the enormous waste on buildings erected by the Government or by their agents. I would like to impress this upon the Munitions Department, that there are a very large number of men engaged in work of national importance in munitions factories and explosives factories who have been managers or foremen for very large builders, and who know what they are talking about when they give information regarding waste on buildings. I had a long letter sent to me pointing out that the manufacture of certain material was stopped in a very big works in a Lancashire town. The work was stopped last August, and a couple of months ago there were £5,000 worth of material lying in that works, and nobody seemed to know 645 anything about it except the firm and the workpeople. I will give the hon. Member the name privately. I had a letter from a man employed by the firm who said that the Ministry of Munitions seemed to have lost sight altogether of this very large amount of munitions material.
In connection with these matters some better system of management might be devised. Some better advice might be secured. I am quite certain that these matters would be far better left to a small committee of practical men—not all experts, for all experts are not practical men—in this House, who would deal with the various matters that are being dealt with now by heads of Departments or expert advisers. I would also emphasise the necessity of co-ordinating all questions arising from the question of wages paid by the various Deartments. Some of the disputes which have arisen were due to a most peculiar construction put by some of the officials in the Munitions Department upon the awards given by arbitrators. Before an official, or even before the Minister of Munitions, decides a point with regard to what an arbitrator means, the arbitrator himself ought to be consulted, if there is any dispute between the workpeople and the Department, and asked what he means. We have in connection with the munition works now two or three different rates of wages paid by different Departments to certain skilled workmen on similar work. The First Commissioner of Works is paying wages at a certain scale to workmen in filling factories, and the Munitions Department is paying a different rate of wage. In cases like this the workmen getting the lower rate of wage will become discontented. That is why I suggest that the whole question of wages should be dealt with by one Department, so that the work will go on more smoothly, and everybody will be more satisfied than at present.
§ The PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY to the MINISTRY of MUNITIONS (Sir Worthington Evans)
I think we now have had a good many speeches on various subjects, and it might be desirable to explain the points that have been raised. First, I desire to thank my right hon. Friend the Member for West Cambridgeshire (Mr. Montagu) for his appreciative speech. It is all the more valuable coming from one who has shared in our difficulties at the Ministry and knows all the complexities of our work. I also thank especially the hon. 646 Member for Barrow-in-Furness (Mr. Duncan). I am grateful to him for his recognition of our efforts in improving the labour conditions, and especially in improving the women's wages. I share his hope that both employers and workmen will join together in greater productivity after the War. My right hon. Friend the Member for West Cambridgeshire dealt with many very interesting questions of a more or less speculative character, and perhaps not those which immediately arise in the course of our work as war workers. He suggested, for example, that some further continued control of raw material would have to exist after the War. That, of course, is a matter with which he himself will be dealing as chairman of the Reconstruction Committee. I have no doubt that that subject will be investigated fully by his Committee, and that the Government will be fully advised by that Committee as to what action is necessary. I can quite believe that, as things are to-day, it will really be necessary to continue for at least a short time after the War some of the control which we now hold over raw material.
Then he also suggested that it was desirable now to continue a further stage of organisation, which might produce one supply Department for all the fighting Services, as I gather, for the War Office and for the Admiralty, and one Labour Department to deal with all the various labour questions. The same text of one Labour Department was spoken to by my hon. Friend the Member for West-houghton (Mr. T. Wilson) and others in the course of this Debate. He will not expect that I shall deal with that now, but suggestions of this sort for the better organisation of the Ministry are welcomed by us, and I can assure him that my right hon. Friend is not likely to fail to consider them. The right hon. Baronet the Member for the City of London asked how much we had spent at Bristol. I am afraid that I cannot give the Committee anything like complete figures, and if I do not give a word of warning with the figures they will only mislead. We have actually spent to date £650,000, but that was not our total liability, nor is it likely to be our total expenditure. The estimated cost of the factory buildings and sundry improvements, had the factory been continued, was £4,000,000. I am talking only of the factory which has been abandoned. The preparations for other buildings were in fact started, and necessarily contracts were 647 placed in advance, though the actual expenditure was the figure which I have given. The contracts placed were between £2,000,000 and £3,000,000. Some of these have already been cancelled, and some have been diverted. For instance, £l40,000 worth of goods have been diverted to other useful work, and large orders have already been cancelled, but it will be some time before final accounts can be made up and before I can really give any useful information on the subject.
My hon. Friend the Hember for Tower Hamlets (Sir W. Pearce) raised two or three points. He realised the importance of the work which has been done by the Ministry on the two questions of the fixation of nitrogen and cheap power, but he expressed some fears as to our action with regard to fertilisers and sulphuric acid. He pointed out that the Ministry had taken very wide powers, powers sufficient even to close works and take away customers from private traders. He is constantly in touch with us and he knows that though we have got these powers, and they are absolutely essential if you are to preserve the sulphuric acid for use for war purposes, and prevent it being used for unnecessary purposes, these powers are not exercised in any harsh or arbitrary fashion. He appeared to express the fear that if the sulphuric acid factories belonging to the Government were going to be worked after the War, some of them would have to go to the wall, because there would be a redundancy of sulphuric acid. That is a subject with which the Ministry is very familiar. It is already in consultation with the members of the trade affected, and will continue in consultation with the view of getting a scheme elaborated, which without sacrificing Government assets will do no injustice to those who were in the business before the Government came in.
Then my hon. Friend complained that industries were still held up for want of steel. I am afraid that industries will be held up for want of steel, and I cannot see that there is any possibility of steel being made free to all industries, and that it must be confined to war uses. Then my hon. Friend the Member for Attercliffe (Mr. Anderson), in a speech which I welcomed for the support which he gave to us, made two or three observations to which I have to reply. He pointed out that practically we cannot expect to carry out large changes relating to the condi- 648 tions of work without the workers' support. It is just because my right hon. Friend the Minister of Munitions has realised that very, very fully, that he has been engaged especially for weeks past in consultation with the trade unions, and has, in fact, never ceased to be in the closest possible touch with trade unionists, on all questions which call for big changes and big sacrifices on the part of the workers of the country. Then the hon. Member suggested that hardship was being done by trivial cases being brought before the munitions Court, and he suggested that employers should be in some way restrained. It is easy enough where a large number of cases are considered, to find here and there a case of real hardship which no one for a moment could defend as a case to be brought before the Court, if, indeed, it were a fair sample of the cases brought before the Court. As a matter of fact, I had better not deal with that now, because it is the subject matter of an Amendment of the Munitions Act which will be discussed in this House on another occasion. That brings me to the hon. Member for Glamorganshire (Mr. Clement Edwards), who I see is in his place again. He made pretty play with the circular and the scheduled industries, and I understood him to say that the circular, besides having other objections which I will deal with in a moment, differed from the Schedule.
§ Sir W. EVANS
The hon. Member said that although the Schedule had been approved by the War Cabinet yet the circular had not been approved by the War Cabinet, or, as he says, that it contradicts the Schedule, and ought to be withdrawn.
My main reason for dealing with it was that it would encourage people to shirk their duties with regard to recruiting, and so on.
§ Sir W. EVANS
The first point was that in one particular the circular differed from the Schedule. My hon. Friend called attention to paragraph 12 of the circular and compared that with paragraph 5 of the provisions of the Schedule. But the 649 two things are totally different, are not in relation, nor comparable. Paragraph 12 of the leaflet refers to skilled men who are protected by the Schedule, and it asks whether they are still liable for service as Army artificers, and the answer is, "Yes." That is perfectly correct, absolutely correct. I cannot understand what the complaint of the hon. Member is, because these men are employed in the service of the Army as artificers and are not liable to serve in Line regiments.
The paragraph says that they are in the artificers' unit if the Army needs them, and they are not called for service in the Line regiments. That is a definite statement, and, under the circumstances, are they to go? That is the popular exposition of it, and this document says quite distinctly that men who are released from the Admiralty, War Office, munitions work, or from railway works are proposed for Line regiments if they are not required for a technical unit in the Army, or if there is no demand for them in any technical unit.
§ Sir W. EVANS
That refers to a totally different set of men. Paragraph 12 of the leaflet refers to skilled men who are protected by the Schedule. It refers to them alone, and it does not refer to anyone else.
On a point of Order, Sir. The hon. Gentleman says that it does not refer to the Schedule. As a matter of fact it refers—
§ The DEPUTY - CHAIRMAN (Mr. Maclean
The hon. Baronet is in possession of the Committee, and if he does not choose to give way it is not orderly that two Members should remain standing in their places.
I thought the hon. Member had in fact given way for the purpose of my making my point of Order.
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
If the hon. Member wishes to raise a point of Order, of course the hon. Baronet must give way, but I did not gather that he was making a point of Order.
My point of Order is this: A Schedule was passed by the War Cabinet, which says quite specifically 650 that it has scheduled as protected occupations men employed at the Admiralty, the War Office, on munitions work, or in railway workshops. The hon. Baronet now says that paragraph 5 of the Schedule refers to a totally different set of men.
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
That is obviously not a point of Order; it is upon the merits of the discussion, with which, of course, I have nothing whatever to do.
I ask the hon. Baronet quite specifically to say what paragraph 5 refers to in the Schedule, and what different set of men paragraph 12 of the. circular refers to?
§ Sir W. EVANS
That is precisely what I was endeavouring to do. I did not think that it was a point of Order or I would have given way. It was really what I was trying to do. The hon. Member has stated his case and I wish to try to state mine. My case is that paragraph 12 deals only with skilled men who are protected by the Schedule, and who are still liable to service as Army artificers. These are the people referred to in paragraph 12 of the leaflet.
§ Sir W. EVANS
They are expressed in the Schedule as skilled trades, and are protected by the Schedule, but there may be others working who are not skilled, and who are not protected, and as regards them they are not necessarily placed in the technical unit. It is not easy to deal with an extremely complicated Schedule, but I believe I understand the difference, and I hope I have made it clear to the Committee. I want to deal with the larger point which the hon. Member has made. This is the point he brings to the Committee. He says that the whole of this leaflet is objectionable, on the ground that it is an anti-recruiting leaflet, and that it is a leaflet which ought never to have been issued by a Government Department at all. Why, if it is accurate? If it is inaccurate, it is another case. If it is accurate, is it not right that the men exempted by the Schedule should be told that they are exempted in a language that they can understand? If you do not do that, you have an amount of fidget and unrest which is very detrimental to work. The thing a man wants 651 to know is, "Am I or am I not liable for service?" If they are liable for service they will go and serve; but if they are not, they do not want to be badgered with all sorts of notices and questions, and they want to be able to answer plainly whether they are or are not liable. My hon. Friend complained that this was encouraging the dodger and the shirker. He said if you have not shown him how to get out under Clauses 1, 2, or 3, then at any rate you have done so in Clause 15, because there you say that if he cannot be covered in any other way he may enrol as a war munitions volunteer, and so get out of liability for Army service. That is not a fair way of putting it, because he can only enrol as a war munitions volunteer for transfer to war work provided that he is in one of the occupations for which war munitions volunteers are required.
§ Sir W. EVANS
Of course, if they are required at the time that he offers to enrol, then he comes within the Clause, because we want him, but if at the time he offers he is not wanted, then he is not taken and he is not covered. But there are times when we want war munition volunteers for particular work. You have also got to remember this, that the war munition volunteer can be moved from one part of the country to the other and in the class of labour provided for some skilled job which we want, and which is extremely valuable to us. So that it is quite unfair to represent this leaflet, which, after all, is only telling a man in language he can understand what his liabilities are, as if it were a shirker's and dodger's leaflet produced in some underhand way by a Government Department for some purpose which is contrary to the needs of the country in time of war. If that is the charge made against the Ministry, I repudiate it with all the power I have. There are the points made by the hon. Member for Ealing (Mr. Nield) who is not now in his place. He complained of a delay in the Priority Department of the Ministry in respect of machinery for grinding maize. He read a long correspondence which gave evidence at least of the pertinacity of the people who applied, though in my judgment it was not any evidence of any negligence on the part of the Priority Department. The simple facts are these, and I think I answered ques- 652 tions in the House which showed them, that this class of machinery is wanted at mills and there is a greater demand for it than there is a supply. We who are the suppliers do not supply except on the recommendation of the Food Controller. In this case the Food Controller informed the Ministry of Munitions that he did not consider that this machinery should be delivered to this particular firm. Consequently, the Priority Department refused, and there is nothing more and nothing less in the whole of the case than that one quite simple fact.
§ Sir W. EVANS
I quite agree he had a letter from the Food Controller or from a member of a newly organised Department recommending it. I repeat that we would let that machine go if the Food Controller desired it to go, but on reference by the Ministry of Munitions to the Food Controller he said he did not want it to go to that firm, and consequently we did not allow it to go. Both statements are accurate, and in newly organised Departments hon. Members can realise that things do not always go with that precision which if there was more red tape and less freedom of individual action might be desired. The hon. Member for Lanarkshire (Mr. Millar) asked some very searching questions. First of all, he complained that the Central Control Board had exercised compulsory powers, but had not always gone to the Duke Commission. The position is this, so far as I understand it: They are not bound to go to the Duke Commission on agreement. The Duke Commission would settle and assess a claim if no such agreement were made, but in the case of the Maryport Brewery, to which my hon. Friend referred, the compulsory powers were not exercised. I quite agree that notice was given with regard I to thirty-eight houses, but that was not what was purchased.
§ Sir W. EVANS
It was included. The thirty-eight houses were part of the brewery and there were many more tied houses, 123 altogether. The thirty-eight were part of them, and the history of that case is this: It was thought to be a better bargain and that the Control Board got the business as a whole cheaper than they would have had to pay if they had to pay 653 for the thirty-eight houses and damages for severance. The thirty-eight houses were the pick of the basket, as it were.
§ Sir W. EVANS
By the Control Board's technical advisers. Then there was some wet stock and dry stock which had to be taken at a valuation, and I believe there was a considerable profit on that because prices had risen. It is true to say that the thing as a going concern was bought for £140,000.
§ Sir W. EVANS
Yes. The compulsory powers were not in fact exercised. That notice was given as to the thirty-eight houses is quite true, and had no bargain been made for the brewery and all the tied houses it would have been necessary to go on with the notice which had been given with regard to the thirty-eight houses. It was not necessary because an agreement was come to at a very much lower price than was at first asked by the brewery, namely, £140,000, and it was bought, lock, stock, and barrel.
§ Mr. MILLAR
Is the hon. Gentleman of opinion now that this was not a case where compulsory powers were exercised, and one where the claim ought not to have been put before the Losses Commission?
§ Sir W. EVANS
Was not my hon. Friend's point a complaint that we had exercised compulsory powers, and that it would have come before the Duke Commission if we had not exercised compulsory powers?
§ Mr. MILLAR
I refer to the policy in every case; but if the hon. Gentleman informs me that this was a case of agreement outside, at least so far as the operation was concerned, then that leads me to another matter: I want to know whether, in point of fact, in a case where compulsory powers are exercised the matter is not referred to the Commission?
§ Sir W. EVANS
The true answer to that, I believe, and I am quite sure that the Treasury officials would give this answer, is where compulsory powers are exercised, and no agreement is made, of course, it 654 has to go to the Duke Commission for assessment; but I do not think that the Board of Control are precluded from making a private agreement outside the Duke Commission, where the parties are willing, and a proper price and so forth can be arranged—subject, of course, to Treasury sanction.
§ Sir W. EVANS
Under the Defence of the Realm Act. Failing agreement, the Duke Commission secures that the persons whose property has been taken, have not the matter finally settled without a remedy, and without some compensation for the property having been taken.
§ Mr. J. HENDERSON
I am aware of that Act; but if they have power to purchase is my hon. Friend aware that no Money Vote was ever passed to cary that out?
§ Sir EVANS
I think it does. I think, however, we must not pursue that point. I have answered various questions, and I very much dislike having to repeat that "the matter is under consideration," because when I was on those benches opposite the one thing, above everything else, I disliked was to hear a Minister say that a matter was "under consideration." I have, however, got to say again that this matter is "under consideration." But I have found out that it does not mean that no action is being taken. "Under consideration" is a convenient phrase which may cover doing nothing. [HON MEMBERS: "Hear, hear!"] It does not mean that in this case. Quite the contrary We are and have been for some time considering action in the matter, and within a little while I hope I will be able to lift the veil so that my hon. Friend may see exactly what is under it.
§ Sir W. EVANS
I was talking of existing stocks. I do not know whether my hon. Friend wishes me to deal with the personnel of the Advisory Committee. We have two Committees. I will give him the names if he would like them.
§ Sir W. EVANS
Not quite, because the subject is a very very wide one, the question of alcohol from stock, and the question of recovering alcohol in industrial processes is now being inquired into by what, I believe, to be an extremely expert committee. The hon. Member for Yorkshire enforced a question raised by my hon. Friend the Member for West Cambridge and other speakers suggesting that we should free ourselves from similar burdens by transferring labour and wage questions to the labour authorities. I come now to three cases of public-houses—the Spread Eagle, the Free Trade Inn, and the Yorkshire Grey. They have almost exactly similar features. I will deal with the case of the hon. Member for Oldham quite separately, if he pleases. The only difference between the Spread Eagle Inn and the Free Trade Inn is that in the one case it was the husband and wife, and in the other it was whisky or gingerette. Let me take the Spread Eagle case. My hon. Friend hardly gave the Committee the whole of the facts of the case.
§ Sir W. EVANS
I am perfectly certain of that, but my hon. Friend did not give the whole of the case as I had it given to me. It was quite true there was a conviction before the magistrates for what in peace time is not a very venal offence— treating of one person to a drink by another. That was done the very day after Brewster Sessions, and at Brewster Sessions the magistrates had issued to the public special warning that treating must cease. It has been suggested that there were two punishments for one crime. But these people were warned first, and the very next day following Brewster Sessions they committed this offence of treating. The premises themselves are old and bad structurally, and the chief constable recommended that the licence should be withdrawn. The licensee and the brewer were both informed, and offered the opportunity of putting any defence they chose before the Board of Control. So far as I can see, it being an offence, the procedure was perfectly regular. The magistrates considered it and convicted, the offence being aggravated by the previous warning. The Board of Control gave the licensee and the brewer, or the owner, whoever he was, the opportunity to appear, and then exercised their discretion of suspending the licence.
§ Sir W. EVANS
Apparently not. There were two mouths, and it is mouths that count on these occasions. My hon. and learned Friend suggested that these were two punishments for one offence. He knows very well that when licences come up for renewal, one of the first things that often happen is that police evidence is given of previous convictions, and it is on that evidence that the licensee is refused a renewal. That is just as much two punishments for one offence as in this case. If this licence had not been stopped now it might have been objected to on renewal, and exactly the same facts which caused it to be suspended by the Board of Control would have caused it, or could have caused it, to be suspended when it came up for renewal, and therefore the same procedure is followed in this case as in the case of the renewal of a licence.
Is it the policy of the Board of Control that for one small act of treating a licence shall be forfeited?
§ Sir W. EVANS
I think that is overstating the case. I do not put it as high as that at all. I say in these circumstances, a conviction having taken place for an offence after a warning, the conditions of the house being what they are, and the reports being what they were, the Board of Control in its discretion considered this licence should be suspended. The "Free Trade Inn" case was not very different, except that my hon. Friend said that it was not whisky but ginger ale. Perhaps the people who were convicted did say that to the magistrate? They did. Then the hon. Member must not ask this Committee to sit as an Appeal Court from the magistrate, because the magistrate could not have believed it was ginger ale.
As this was an offence which would not be followed by forfeiture of licence, they did not appeal.
§ Sir W. EVANS
My hon. Friend knows better than that, because a licensee who is convicted does not do that. It is one of the black marks they hate. It is worse than having a motor licence endorsed, because it comes up on renewal day, and it makes them risk their licence. Great efforts are always made to wipe out a 657 blot of that sort whenever it can successfully be done. My hon. Friend must not ask the Committee to sit as a Court of Appeal as to whether it was ginger ale or whisky. You must accept the magistrate's decision on that point, and, once having accepted it, the case is exactly the same as the case of the "Spread Eagle Inn," or rather stronger, because there was not the complication of a wife. I am going to deal with the question of who is responsible to the Board of Control in a moment, but I want to deal with the specific case of the "Yorkshire Grey Hotel." That is another case which is rather worse.
§ Sir W. EVANS
It is not only a conviction, but, according to the information, the treating was not once, but it was on one, two, three and four days, and my report is that the house was being conducted as if there was no prohibition of the practice of treating.
§ Sir W. EVANS
I gather that he did not consider it an offence, but it is an offence against the law.
§ Sir W. EVANS
In this case we have got to follow the magistrate's decision, and that, with all other relevant circumstances, was taken into account by the Board of Control. The tenant and the licensee and the owner had an opportunity of putting their case before the Board of Control, and, after considering all the evidence, the Board of Control exercised discretion. I want to deal also with the question which my hon. Friend raised as to whether the Ministry of Munitions is answerable for the actual acts of adminis- 658 tration of the Board of Control. I understand the position to be that we stand here to answer questions on the action of the Board of Control, but we do not take responsibility for the judicial or semi-judicial action of the Board of Control. That is one of the constitutional questions which I am not going to attempt to answer at this moment. My duty is to answer whether I do or do not. I do not. And in that I think I have answered my hon. Friend's question.
§ Sir W. EVANS
I cannot say more than that, as the representative in this House, or rather as the person answerable in this House for questions addressed to me, I have the responsibility of answering. I have no doubt those answers influence public opinion, but we are not entitled to say, for instance, to the Board of Control, that the "Yorkshire Grey Hotel" licence is to be restored because we, the Ministry of Munitions, say so. That is not our function.
§ Sir H. MEUX
Apparently you can defend, but you cannot make them give justice, and this tyranny has got to be stopped.
§ Sir W. EVANS
My hon. and gallant Friend is, of course, entitled to his opinions, but I have tried to do my duty by explaining these cases as far as I can. There is only one other case with which I think I need deal. The hon. Member who raised it seemed to consider it as evidence of some faulty organisation at the Ministry because a factory at Manchester was put up and pulled down, and part of it was removed to Bristol, where it was again put up and again pulled down. That is true in fact, I do not deny, but I would not like that to go out without a certain explanation, at any rate, and the explanation is that a great deal of money was saved by pulling the building down at Manchester. It was originally put up for a certain war purpose, which I will not define, to utilise a process which would have cost a very large capital sum. By reason of research, and by the assistance of American friends, a better and cheaper process not requiring anything like the large capital outlay was found after the building; in Manchester was started, and very wisely, even at the risk of having it thrown in our teeth that we changed our minds, that building was pulled down and 659 transferred to Bristol, where the new process was going to be worked in conjunction with a building that was then to be erected. As my hon. Friend knows, the Bristol plan was abandoned because the Americans joined us as Allies, and we were then secure of the particular supply that we required from America. That being so, the expenditure in Bristol was stopped, and I am quite prepared at any time, either now or in the future, to go into the details of that cost and prove quite conclusively that a large sum of money has in fact been saved by the action taken, and not only is it not evidence of a want of co-ordination, but it is evidence of a certain breadth of mind which has been displayed in cutting off unnecessary expenditure, notwithstanding that we might be open to criticism.
§ Sir W. EVANS
I have given, earlier in the evening, some figures, and I do not want to repeat them now, because they need a whole lot of qualification.
§ Mr. L. JONES
I do not intend to follow the hon. Baronet into the greater part of his speech, but I really cannot allow the extraordinary account which he has given of the Control Board and its relation to the Ministry of Munitions to pass without comment as severe as I can make it. He tells us that he and the head of the Ministry of Munitions are here to answer questions if they are asked about the operations of the Control Board, but they repudiate, apparently, any responsibility for the policy which is pursued by the Control Board. I do not really see how that position can be maintained. The Control Board is appointed by the Ministry of Munitions under the powers of an Act of Parliament, powers which were entrusted to the Ministry of Munitions, and the Ministry and the head of the Ministry cannot possibly escape responsibility for the action of this Board appointed to perform work entrusted to them. I think that if the hon. Baronet had reflected before he spoke he would not have repudiated all power of, control over the Control Board. It is not, however, my intention this 660 evening to go into the policy pursued by the Control Board in the execution of the functions entrusted to them. What I want to deal with is the financial side of the work of the Control Board, and I am bound to say that as far as I have been able to ascertain the hon. Baronet would have been completely justified if he had said that the Liquor Control Board were absolutely uncontrolled, so far as their expenditure and finance was concerned, by the Ministry of Munitions, or, indeed, by anybody else. The right hon. Gentleman knows that I have asked before for the accounts of the Control Board, but we cannot get any accounts of the large sums which by common knowledge are being spent by the Board. Why do the Board give us no accounts? The only financial statement concerning the Board is the appropriation account for the year ending 31st March, 1916, under which the total expenditure accounted for by the Control Board is somewhere about £21,000. Even regarding that £21,000 they give no details of the expenditure on the property acquired. I believe it was very small, but since that date we have had no account at all, and the Ministry are absolutely deaf to all our appeals for details in regard to this expenditure.
It is quite a customary thing in other Departments which are, so to speak, semi-independent, to publish Reports in which they give their accounts. We have three Reports from the Liquor Control Board, but have had no details of the property acquired, of the method by which it was acquired, or of any of the operations concerned with the expenditure of the money. This Board is spending very large sums of money indeed, and it is not right that we in the House of Commons should have to ask month after month for details of this expenditure, and be met with an absolute refusal by the Government. I am very uneasy—and I do not stand alone in that—at the prices paid by the Control Board for the property they acquire. I do not think it is open to argument that Parliament intended that whenever the Control Board acquired property under the powers of the Defence of the Realm Act the amount of compensation to be paid should be determined by the Commission set up by Parliament for the purpose. If you refer to the statements made in that connection when the Defence of the Realm Bill was passing through this House, you will see that the Prime Minister told us again 661 and again, in response to questions put to him, that the amount of compensation to be paid would be settled by the Commission to be set up. He was pressed not to proceed with the Bill until he had given the names of the Commissioners who were to be entrusted with this great power, and he gave the names. He said they were the names of the present Chief Secretary for Ireland, the hon. Member for Newcastle, and others, names that would command the confidence of the House, and it was to that Commission that this House entrusted the settlement of the amount of compensation to be paid for property acquired by the Board of Control. I think my right hon. Friend was not in the House when my hon. Friend for North-East Lanark read the exact phrase used by the present Prime Minister on the 12th of May, and I wish to read it:There is no special mention of compensation in any of them.That is, in any of the Defence of the Realm Acts.We set up this particular Commission to adjudicate on all claims—not on compulsory claims; I want my right hon. Friend to notice that. The hon. Baronet who spoke just now admits now that unless there are compulsory claims the Control Board fixes its own prices, subject to the sanction of the Treasury. But the present Prime Minister said:We set up this particular Commission to adjudicate on all claims with a general instruction as to fair play to everybody in any way damnified by the operations of these Acts.I say this House requires a great deal more explanation than has been given to it as to why the Government have departed from that promise. I want to know why the Government has allowed any other practice to be pursued than is set out in the speeches of the present Prime Minister with regard to cases going before the War Losses Commission. I go further. In the early days of the operations of the Board of Control there was no question of agreements not going before the "War Losses Commission. I have spoken of the accounts down to 31st March, 1916. In all cases where money was paid for the acquisition of property up to the 31st of March, 1916, they did come before the War Losses Commission. The money was paid under the sanction of the War Losses Commission, and the Control Board in its 662 second Report, which brings us down to some where about the end of March, 1916, declared that they did intend to submit the agreements made to the Commission. I think it is not very clear whether that was only intended where the case was one of compulsory action being taken, but the Report said that if, after they had given notice under the compulsory powers, they reached an agreement, the agreement would be submitted to the Commission. They said—and I want my right hon. Friend to notice their reasons—These agreements will be submitted to the Defence of the Realm War Losses Royal Commission for their approval when the claims of the applicants come up for consideration.And note the advantages the Control Board point out as reasons for this practice:The advantages of this method are (1) that the title to the property can be acquired within a definite time by a process of great simplicity, and (2) that the price agreed is subject to the sanction of an independent tribunal of great authority.There are two good reasons why the Control Board said itself that they wished in nearly all cases to pursue this practice of going to the Commission. Why did they depart from that wholesome practice which they followed for at least twelve months after they were set up? What is the reason they did not continue to allow this independent, impartial, strong body of Commissioners appointed by Parliament to do this work? Why did they take the work out of the hands of that Commission? I cannot get any answer to that question. We have had the case of the Mary-port Brewery mentioned to-night, and the hon. Baronet argued that that was not a case of compulsory purchase, and that therefore it did not come before the War Losses Commission. That is no excuse for the action of the Control Board. If it was not a case of compulsory purchase, why was not it a case of compulsory purchase? Why did not they serve a notice on the brewery? The history of the case has been given. They served a notice on a certain number of public-houses belonging to the brewery, and the brewery said, "No; if you take these, you had better take all our property." Why did not they serve a notice on the whole property and take advantage of the powers given them? Instead of doing that they entered into a voluntary agreement with the company to pay £140,000. They must, how- 663 ever, have been uneasy in their own minds, or apparently they did not succeed in getting the sanction of the Treasury to this as a sum which ought to be paid, because we find that the Leader of the House told us, in answer to a question yesterday, that the Commission were informally consulted as to the price to be paid. Why were the Commission consulted as to the price to be paid, whether formally or informally, if it was going to be treated as a voluntary arrangement?
I suggest when the Control Board realised that the War Losses Commission would not pay the sum they had agreed, the Board went to the Treasury behind the back of the Commission, and the Treasury sanctioned the payment. This is a very serious matter. We were told some time ago that the Treasury was exercising control in a careful manner upon the expenditure of the Control Board. I know we cannot, in the middle of a War, exercise the same control over expenditure as in peace time. I recognise that you must take hasty decisions, and that there is not time allowed to look over the correspondence and other details which may be properly demanded in times of peace. But that is no reason why the Treasury should relax control in a matter like this. The Treasury has adopted a new system of dealing with these independent bodies that are set up to spend public money.
Notwithstanding the enormous expenditure out of the bottomless purse of Votes of Credit, there is no time for correspondence or explanation. So the Treasury control takes this form. The Treasury says, as guardian of the public purse, we will place a member of the Treasury on the spending body; he will know what goes on, and he will watch the expenditure and act in the public interest so far as finance is concerned. The end may be that instead of the Treasury having a representative on the Control Board, the Control Board will have a representative on the Treasury.
It is almost inevitable if you make a man a member of a spending body charged with an important piece of work he will get keenly interested in it, and he will say to his colleagues, "I will see that the matter is placed before the officials of the Treasury Bench and sanction will be forthcoming." I want to put to the Financial Secretary that, as the result of this 664 method, the Treasury itself has no longer the advantage of independent consideration of the expenditure of the Board. The settlement of the bulk of matters concerned in the expenditure is left in the hands of the member they have appointed. I suggest to them, as a principle, that if they are going to place representatives on the Board of Liquor Control or other spending bodies, they might be present at the meetings, and might be cognisant of what passes on, but should not be a party to their action. It is very singular that the change of practice by the Board of Control occurs after the appointment of the Treasury representative on the Board of Control. In the second Report there is no Treasury representative on the Board of Control. That is down to March, 1916. After the appointment of the Treasury representative the Board of Control began to act independently of the War Losses Commission.
Nobody at the Treasury knows very much about the proceedings of the Board of Control, except the representative on the Board. I think the system has worked badly in this case. I recommend to the Financial Secretary that he should consider this whole question in the light of this experience. I believe, in principle, it is a mistake to make a representative of the Treasury a member of a spending body. I am more concerned with the future than the past, and I beg the Government that they will not allow the Control Board to enter into bargains voluntarily or compulsorily without reference to the War Losses Commission. I do not think the Treasury did its duty when it allowed this independent body outside the control of the Department to spend money without estimates, and without going before any independent and impartial tribunal for sanction to pay this large sum. It is the great temptation of the Board of Control to deal handsomely with the people whom they have to oust from the business and property. They have to deal with the liquor trade, and they know how powerful and far-reaching is its influence, and therefore there is a great temptation for them to say, "What does £10,000 or £20,000 or £30,000 matter? Let us pay the money, and it will make things smoother for us." You are not doing the Control Board a kindness by relaxing Treasury control. It would be far better to lay down that Treasury sanction will not be forthcoming without the decision of the War Losses Commission. I challenge the 665 right of the Treasury to pay these sums without the authority of an Act of Parliament or a Financial Resolution, and without the sanction of the War Losses Commission, which was appointed by Parliament to deal with these cases.
§ Mr. BALDWIN (Joint Financial Secretary to the Treasury)
I am very glad that my right hon. Friend has given me an opportunity of explaining to the Committee the circumstances under which this purchase was sanctioned by the Treasury. So far from wishing to keep any transaction of this kind hidden from the House, I was only too glad to embrace this opportunity, and I have no fault whatever to find with the way my right hon. Friend put his case, and I can well understand the feeling which animated him and the hon. Member for Lanarkshire (Mr. D. Millar) in bringing this matter before the House. I take exception to one remark he made at the beginning of his speech. I do not want him to speak to me as though I had abandoned, on behalf of the Treasury, a control over these dealings with the Liquor Traffic Board which has hitherto been maintained, because that is not the case. This Maryport case stands entirely so far by itself. It is a wholly exceptional case, and we referred to it as such when we gave our consent to the completion of the transaction. It was the first important piece of business that came before me when I was doing the work of the Joint Financial Secretary early in February. I do not say that that is any excuse, because I take full responsibility for this action, and on reviewing the whole of the circumstances, as I have done in the last day or two, and after my prolonged experience of six months, if I were asked tomorrow to give a judgment on this one case I should give the same judgment as I gave last February. I had to consider whether I would sanction a certain payment on account of the Liquor Control Board for a certain property, and I had to decide whether the property was worth the payment, or, in other words, whether the taxpayer was getting value for his money. I had had no control over the history of these proceedings. They were many months old when the question came to me ripe for decision. The circumstances have been briefly alluded to by the hon. Member who preceded me (Sir W. Evans). He told the Committee that notice was served regarding a portion of this property, and he explained how the 666 Control Board thought that by making an agreement to purchase the whole they might secure the whole on more favourable terms proportionately than they could hope to secure a part.
§ Mr. BALDWIN
The War Losses Commission had never been approached officially in the matter and I had no record before me that any official proceedings of any kind had taken place before them or of any communication between them and ourselves. I had to the best of my ability to look at it as a business and bargain and decide whether this property was worth the money. The whole case gave me a great deal of trouble, because, as I say, it was the first one of any importance with which I had to deal and naturally one remembers it. I had a great deal of difficulty in arriving at a conclusion, because I saw the importance of the question and realised then, as I do now, that it was entirely exceptional. I was most anxious to avoid creating a precedent, and I assured myself at the time that the sanctioning of this payment would not necessarily do so. I do not think the price paid for the property can be considered excessive on two grounds. First of all, I had figures from three valuers, one, the valuer to the Liquor Control Board and two other, one of which was entirely independent. Each of the three gave it as his opinion, that the price was a very reasonable one. Secondly, though I am not a brewing expert, I have had some experience of balance-sheets, and I examined the balance-sheets of this company for the five or six preceding years. I examined the prices of their stock in the market, and I discovered that the price that they were going to get was practically the same as the mean of the market prices, and their shares and debentures averaged over the three years preceding the War. It seemed to me, securing the whole of the business at that figure and avoiding any question of compensation beyond the small amount of compensation for the directors, which was included in the sum paid, that it was a bargain that might fairly be entered into. It was on that ground that I sanctioned this agreement. I took great care to represent, when the sanction was formally given, that we regarded it as an altogether exceptional proceeding in that the deal, if I may so 667 express it, had been direct and that the agreement had been come to by the two parties. I still regard it as exceptional.
My right hon. Friend asks me if I can give a pledge here as to the future. I can only tell him that no similar case of this kind has come before me since that date, I cannot give him the pledge for which he asks, but I can submit his request to the Chancellor of the Exchequer. For my own part, I can assure him that I have no desire in any way to enter into any transaction which is, I will not say irregular, but exceptional, and I desire, as earnestly as he does, that the procedure to which he is so much attached shall be adhered to. I am entirely with him there. I am also entirely with him in his anxiety to protect the taxpayer in every possible way from the inroads that are being made upon him from all quarters. That is what I spend my life unsuccessfully trying to do. I ought to add a word or two with reference to what the right hon. Gentleman said about having a Treasury representative on the Liquor Control Board. With regard to the general principle, I recognise the spirit that animates my right hon. Friend, and to some extent I sympathise with him. I do see and recognise a risk in Treasury representatives being on bodies that exist to some extent for the purpose of spending money. We must remember, however, two things here. We must remember that there is another side to the question. First, there is a useful purpose to be served by having one's own watch-dog in the citadel. I see the risk to which my hon. Friend refers, but I think there is a use. It is a practice that has been followed by other Governments than this. It is no new procedure. I believe it has been adopted with some success.
§ Mr. BALDWIN
I am sorry I cannot answer that question. I cannot help feeling that if you are only authorised to be present, such is human nature that you are likely to be swayed by some of the eloquence of the members of the Committee. I was going on to say that there is a second cause for the pressure to get 668 Treasury representatives. I am sure the right hon. Gentleman will agree with me that the desire on the part of any Commission to have the services and advice of men of the calibre of our principal clerks at the Treasury is a very natural one. They are men of the very highest ability and integrity and they lend strength to any body they are on. We are always being asked to give help in every direction, even with our depleted staff, so far as we can help by placing the services of our clerks at the disposal of this Department or that Commission. With regard to our representation on the Liquor Control Board, I do not want my right hon. Friend to think for a moment that his influence has been used in this manner. I do not think he would believe that. I found it of the greatest value to have information from him as to what was being done by that Board—information which, I doubt, I could have got in the same way from any other source—and during my deliberations on this question he exercised no influence of any kind upon me nor did he attempt to do so. His conduct throughout has been exactly what one would expect for a man of his integrity and position. We are very much in accord on this matter of Treasury economy and Treasury management. This one transaction of the Mary-port Brewery stands by itself. It was referred to as an exceptional matter when the consent was given. I will bring to the notice of the Chancellor of the Exchequer the right hon. Gentleman's remarks as to the future dealings he may have with the Liquor Control Board.
§ Mr. J. HENDERSON
The hon. Gentleman has thrown very great light on the subject. It was his first transaction with the brewers, and of course the brewers got the best of him. I hold that, reading the Act and the Defence of the Realm Act together, they have no right to purchase by agreement, and I believe the Government has obtained legal advice that it is not entitled to purchase in this way, particularly for money granted on a Vote of Credit. The Act which gives this power says, "His Majesty in Council has power to issue regulations under the Defence of the Realm Consolidation Act, 1914, to take effect in any area in which they apply under this Act." It gives the prescribed Government authority power to acquire, not purchase, "compulsorily or by agreement," and so forth. The War Office can 669 take any amount of property under the Defence of the Realm Act, and they may agree with you, but whether you agree with the War Office or not, you have to go before the Commission before it is settled. I am speaking of what I know. The War Office were willing to agree with me in a particular case the sum to be paid, but they said "We cannot do it. We may agree with you and go before the Commission and say we agree to your claim; and the Commission will probably fix that price, but it is by no means certain." There is no power under the Defence of the Realm Act or this amending Act for spending money in purchase without going to the Whitehouse Commission. Why was it submitted to the Commission? It was submitted to them. [An HON. MEMBER: Not formally!] I do not care whether it went before them formally or not. Why was their opinion asked, informally? Did not they advise that the price was too much, and did not they say that £100,000 was enough? If they did, where is the answer? If you wanted to purchase under the Act, you had to come to this House for a Vote of money to do it. You did not do it. That is one of the many lawless things that have been done by this Government. Will anyone tell me that when the Minister comes to this House for a Vote of Credit for the purpose of the War he has ever suggested that he was going to buy public-houses or breweries with it? If so, does anyone suggest that he would get the Vote? Never more shall I vote money until I have seen the accounts. Without any feeling against the representative of the Ministry of Munitions, I am not going to vote for this. We have not had a statement of accounts from the Ministry of Munitions for two years. It was interesting to hear the representative of the Munitions Department say how he had saved money by putting up a house in one place and then pulling it down and putting it up in another place. If you do that often enough perhaps you would save all the money you want. Why was it not found out before you built the house in Manchester that you wanted to build it in Bristol? Mistakes like this will occur, but they are expensive mistakes, and I have heard of a great many others. The Ministry of Munitions has done a great deal of work most assiduously, but they have had an enormous amount of expenditure which was absolutely unnecessary. 670 They have, for instance, a secret service fund. I shall want to know something about that when the proper time comes. I I do not know when that will be. Perhaps by then there will have been changes on the Front Bench and the Gentlemen who are responsible will have ceased to be responsible. I know that you have thousands of inspectors, and at least one-third of them know nothing about the work they do. That is not a mere statement. I can prove it. I have heard and I know of inspectors going to inspect large quantities of stuff without having any gauges, and when they were asked to produce gauges they had not got them and never thought anything about them because they did not know they would be required. I think it is high time we had some statement of munitions expenditure. The War Office submitted their accounts last year to the Public Accounts Committee, and why should not the Munitions Department submit theirs. Surely you can do it. So far as I am concerned—and I hope other hon. Members will back me up—no vote of any money will be given with my consent until these accounts are produced. In regard to the purchase of the brewery my hon. Friend (Mr. Baldwin) said that he had taken the market value of the stock as a guide. Let me tell him that that is absolutely no guide whatever I appeal to my hon. Friend (Colonel Gretton), who knows more about it than I do, and he will confirm my view when I say that you cannot go by the value of the stock. You find ordinary shares which have paid no dividend for the last ten years quoted at a certain value when there is no value in them at all Preference shares — £10 shares—whicn have gone into arrears, are quoted at £4 or £5, when they are not worth it. If you go by that there is no criterion. I should like to be told what was the annual profit during the last five or six years. Then I could understand it.
I may be wrong, but if so I am backed up by very able lawyers. I say it is illegal for you to purchase outside the powers of the Defence of the Realm Act, which confines you to the Duke Commission. You may acquire by agreement if you like, but the agreement has got to be confirmed by them, the same as is done by the War Office to-day in the ease of ail property that is acquired Compulsorily. Then again, I do not believe that the terms of the Vote of Credit, wide as they are, cover, or were ever intended to cover, 671 the purchase of breweries and public-houses. On the last Vote of Credit, I put the question very strongly to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, but he did not answer me. It is really outside the purview of the Vote of Credit. Further, the Defence of the Realm Act was only for the period of the War and six months after. The Board of Control is created under the Defence of the Realm Act. The Board of Control must cease its operations and cease to be a body six months after the War. I do not think that they have the right, because they acquire these premises to buy them out for all time when they could easily have done with them for the matter of twelve or eighteen months. In any case, I hope my hon. Friend will strongly represent to the Government that they are breaking faith by taking money from the Vote of Credit for any such purpose as the purchase of breweries and public-houses.
§ Colonel GRETTON
The case of the purchase of such properties as breweries and public-houses has been raised. I have protested repeatedly in this House against the use of money voted as credits for this War for the purpose of buying properties for the making of certain experiments in this country. The Control Board has always refused either definitely or by not answering to submit any account of its proceedings. All the information we have got is the speech made the other day at the opening of a new public-house in Carlisle by the Chairman of the Control Board, in which he said that they had made a profit of 15 per cent. What business concern would ever take a statement of that kind from one of the promoters? What we want is a proper account submitted to this House of the proceedings of the Control Board. They ought to show what they have expended, and what they have earned. If the transaction is a straightforward and reasonable one no doubt the House will approve it. If it is extravagant and unjustifiable the House will criticise it. At any rate, all the Departments of the Government are under the control of this House. The Control Board is not a Department of the Government. It appears to be a roving commission and to defy Parliament. When Ministers are asked questions about it they say that they cannot control it. In regard to the method of purchase, I 672 think it is utterly wrong, and the only proper way is to have a vote of this House. You draw this money out of moneys voted for the War, and that is illegitimate and utterly wrong, and I believe my hon. Friend who has recently come to the Treasury has been somewhat misled in the course that has been taken in regard to this particular transaction. With reference to the price, so far as I know, there is nothing about the transaction the Government have made which makes it a bad bargain, and probably it is a good bargain, if the property is managed on ordinary business lines. For myself, I do not like an underhand contract like this. I like straightforward dealing whether it be by the Government or the Control Board, and I submit that if that Board is empowered by Parliament to make large purchases of property, they should come to Parliament in the regular way and get the money voted as is done in ordinary times. In regard to the work of the Ministry of Munitions it is most extravagant, but we are willing to make very great allowances largely because it was a Department hastily organised to accomplish a colossal task. That task I hold has been accomplished at a price which is colossal and out of all reason. Certainly the whole organisation ought to be overhauled and carefully examined, and at any rate the work should be carried out on businesslike and economic lines. I must say that the expenditure that could be saved on this War would surprise many hon. Members of this House. The management of labour, the waste of material, the compilation of transactions, the confusion between different branches, the incompetence of some of the persons employed, and the incompetence sometimes shown by the political heads of Departments, will account for an enormous waste of money, and the squandering of the resources of the nation, which in times of peace it will take years 01 industry and exertion to recover. The Ministry of Munitions, of course, as a whole, is deserving of every consideration and every allowance, but the time has come when criticism should be more definitely directed to the proceedings of this Department, and they should be more carefully examined by this House. The great difficulty is that no accounts are submitted, and we are not able 673 to review their proceedings as a whole. What we know is by the experience of Members and of friends outside. The country is spending £7,000,000 a day on this War, and a very large part of that expenditure passes through the hands of the Ministry of Munitions. I have no knowledge of a kind to justify me in making stronger criticism of the proceedings of the Ministry, but at any rate I voice the view of many Members when I say that there is uneasiness and dissatisfaction at the enormous expenditure which has been incurred by this Ministry.
§ Question put, and agreed to.674
§ Resolution to be reported To-morrow; Committee to sit again To-morrow.
§ The remaining Orders were read, and postponed.
§ Whereupon Mr. SPEAKER, pursuant to the Order of the House of the 12th February, proposed the Question, "That this House do now adjourn."
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Adjourned accordingly at Seven minutes before Eleven o'clock till To-morrow, pursuant to the Resolution of the House this day.