HC Deb 27 March 1917 vol 92 cc318-79

I do not intend to follow the right hon. and learned Gentleman on the question of censorship, except to say this that the policy of the First Lord of the Admiralty differs in some degree from the policy which he advocated in Opposition. If, as I can well understand, circumstances have since arisen which have caused him very properly to have changed his mind. I hope he will come down to the House and tell us that. in view of the present situation, the facts he is now making public are what he thinks best in the public interest. The Amendment of which I have given notice—["That in view of the continued growth of the National Debt, there is urgent need for increased control by the House of Commons and the Treasury over Government Departments, their staff, and their expenditure"—is divided into three heads. It refers to the growth of the National Debt; secondly, to the lack of control by the House of Commons and the Treasury: and, thirdly, to the expenditure of public Departments. To those three points I invite the attention of the House, and I hope to be able to offer a practical contribution to the Debate. A hon. Friend said ironically to me the other day that if the War lasted much longer all we should have left would be the Consolidated Fund and the National Debt; meaning thereby that everyone will either be a salaried servant of the State or living on the interest of the money he has lent to the Government. We are moving straight in that direction. Twelve months ago we were faced with the theory that the War would be brought to an end by the attrition of men, and we are faced to-day with the reality of famine and debt. Why is this? is it not because of the probable waste of our resources by the late and by the present Government? Every shipowner knows of the waste which has been going on for many months in ships, and every manufacturer knows of similar waste in Government Departments. This new national luxury of Government State Departments will, if it continues, smother the State. Their number grows fast and their cost comes out of the pockets of the taxpayers. The waste of men, involving a waste of expenditure and of energy, with the logical sequence of national debt, goes on all round. To-day we are confronted with a National Debt of 4,000 millions, on which yearly interest alone will be 200 millions, and at the moment a 5s. Income Tax, practically a quarter of the income of Income Tax payers; so that the nation is disposing of its productive capital, which is being diverted to unproductive purposes. That is the reason for the present abundant prosperity.

The position is similar to that of a man who, owning a large estate, mortgages it up to the hilt and disperses his money in countless directions. Sooner or later debt stares him in the face, and his income and credit have disappeared while he has diffused great prosperity all round. When soldiers and sailors return they will hear of these huge profits and high wages, and they will be asked to share equally with those at home the heavy burdens of the future. The Chancellor of the Exchequer told us that our resources are not unlimited, but we are waging war on the unlimited liability principle without clear direction as to how our resources are being expended. If the country is to stay the course, much more care should be exercised in the financial and economic position which the War has brought in its train. It is true our revenue is 500 millions, but the abounding revenue is the product of our abounding national expenditure, and the abounding revenue to-day is no criterion of the future. When the millions of public expenditure cease, where will the revenue be found to meet the interest of the debt and the expenses of the Government. In view of high prices of the necessities of life, the Chancellor of the Exchequer is not likely to turn to indirect taxation as a source of potential revenue, but will be forced to rely upon direct taxation after the War to meet the new debt and pensions charge, because the working classes, deprived of war work and high wages, will be in no condition to accept taxes on food and clothing. Did a nation ever make sacrifices so freely as this nation has made during the last thirty months and a Government ever expend the nation's resources so recklessly as they have done during during that time. In May, 1916, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, in introducing his Budget, told us that our expenditure for this present financial year would be 3¾ million pounds per day. He said he would be disappointed if serious economies could not be effected and that large total reduced. The present expenditure is £7,000,000 per day. During the last twelve months our National Debt has increased by 40 per cent. and the rate of interest which the Exchequer requires to pay has increased by 15 per cent. To-day our National Debt is 4,000 millions. It is rising steadily. It is true that our loans to our Allies and to our Dominions amount to a thousand millions and I feel sure that they will endeavour to repay, to the best of their ability, the interest and in time, the capital sum. But we cannot overlook the fact that our Allies may be in great financial straits and that through the stress and strain after the War the interest on the money may not be immediately forthcoming. This money has been advanced by the people of Great Britain, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer must face that fact and raise the necessary revenue. But there is another way of looking at it. If we subtract this thousand millions of National Debt, our present debt to the public of Great Britain is £3,000,000,000. Even if the War ended to-morrow a further thousand millions of borrowed money would be required to pay for demobilisation, as only gradually can our natrenal expenditure be reduced, and therefore we fall back again upon this figure of £4,000,000,000 as the sum of our National Debt to-day. I am assuming in these calculations that the War is coming to an end to-morrow, while we know every day that prices are steadily rising, and in view of these few remarks I do not think the House will think me pessimistic in what I am saying.

Whereas twelve months ago the Chancellor of the Exchequer reckoned that he would require £165,000,000 for the interest on the National Debt, Sinking Fund, and Pensions, we start the coming financial year having to find £200,000,000 alone for the interest on the National Debt, and allowing a half per cent. for Sinking Fund accounts for another £20,000,000. Then we come to the most painful of all additions to our expenditure, the amount required for pensions, and according to the official figures this is some £25,000,000 or £30,000,000 a year. Adding these three figures together we get a total of £250,000,000 to be paid for the interest on National Debt, Sinking Fund, and Pensions, or a total increased charge during the year of £85,000,000. It has been calculated out that our total capital of stored up wealth amounts to £16,000,000,000. It is quite certain that we could not liquidate a quarter of that amount, but we have succeeded in borrowing a quarter of that amount and have turned a quarter of that amount into National Debt. The question I ask the Government is this: How far can we go along in that manner? The Chancellor of the Exchequer, in May, 1915, told us that the amount of money brought under review by the Income Tax assessors was £1,150,000,000, and that the amount on which tax was paid was £970,000,000. If a further 10 per cent., equal to 2s. in the £, graduated both ways, up and down, was put upon the income brought under the review of the Income Tax assessors, the amount raised would be about £100,000,000 a year, equal to the increased charges which will be required to meet the interest on the National Debt and the pensions. Hon. Members may form their own opinions as to the amount of Income Tax which will be required in the future, but so far as figures at my disposal permit me to form a judgment, an Income Tax of 6s. 6d., graduated up to 12s. 6d., will be necessary to find the money to pay the interest on the Debt, Sinking Fund, and pensions. That is the reason why we invite the Government to face the question of expenditure in their public Departments.

I have referred to the present financial position. May I come to the method adopted by the Government in spending the hard-earned money of the public? Here I turn to the Report issued by the Comptroller and Auditor-General of the Navy, on page 14 of which he refers to the prices paid for coal. The House will remember that in July, 1915, a Bill was passed to limit the increase in price to 4s. a ton which was to be charged to the public. Business men would assume that the Admiralty would not pay such a large increase, but instead, and here I use the exact words of the Comptroller and Auditor-General, The prices paid by the Admiralty have generally been higher than would have been payable had the Act been applicable. In other words, the Admiralty paid a larger sum than 4s. increase for the coal used by the Navy during that year. On page 15 of the Report he refers to the system adopted by the Admiralty in placing their contracts. Everyone knew that during the years 1915 and 1916 to place contracts on the basis of the net cost plus a percentage was an absurd basis. Everybody knew it led to extravagance and removed every check to safeguard the public purse, but it was not until thirty months after the War started that the Treasury, at the instigation of the Public Accounts Committee, suggested to the Admiralty that their present system should be dropped and that contractors' profits should be fixed, and even now the Admiralty have not agreed to this proposal, which I hope the House will note was first suggested to the Treasury by a Committee of this House. I will now turn to page 16 of this Report, where the Comptroller and Auditor-General refers to the prices paid by the Admiralty for cordite. The House will quite appreciate that during the first fifteen months of the War very large quantities of cordite must have been ordered by the Admiralty from their contractors, and that these large quantities would have permitted the manufacturers to reduce their charges by enabling them to spread their output over a large quantity of goods, and so reduce their on-cost charges. What do we find? According to this Report, the prices paid in 1915 and in the later months of 1914 were the same as during the pre-War period. It was apparent that there was a ring or an understanding among these contractors to maintain the prices they received from the Admiralty. I would like to read to the House, if I may, the words of the Comptroller and Auditor-General, on page 16 of the Report. He states: It was observed that towards the end of 1915 the firms tendering for these supplies had offered for the year 1916 a reduction of a penny a pound on the then existing prices, but that the Admiralty, apparently at the suggestion of the Ministry of Munitions, refrained from accepting that offer. In other words, towards the end of 1915, these firms agreed to reduce their price by 1d. a pound, and let the House recollect that at the time when wages were higher than during 1914, and all through 1915, they were getting these higher prices, but the Ministry of Munitions evidently came to the aid of the Admiralty in this matter, and the Admiralty refused to accept the reduced price. I have, I think, quoted enough cases from this account to justify my words about the method adopted by the Admiralty in the expenditure of public money. While referring to this subject it is very striking to observe that on four occasions in this Report the Comptroller and Auditor-General states: My inquiry has not yet been replied to It seems to me that the Admiralty are seeking out some justification for their laxity in this matter. I hope that the hon. Gentleman, who represents the Government at present may give us some assurance that business men are going to be employed in future with the supreme power of placing contracts in which public money is involved at the Admiralty. Turn now for a moment to another Department where a large waste has been going on. No doubt other hon. Members will be able to cite instances of waste in other Departments. I turn to the Ministry of Munitions for another example of waste in men and commodities. This has been going on during the last twelve months. Weeks after a certain type of gun was discarded by the military, for good military reasons, the manufacture of shells for this discarded type of gun continued. The Ministry of Munitions were occupied in manufacturing waste every day! These few instances, I think, are sufficient for my purpose; yet let me refer also to one new Department—the Ministry of National Service. This Department has enlisted 150,000 men, and by so doing they have created unrest and uncertainty in the minds of these men. At present, so far as I can understand, they have few situations to fill.

Let the Government, instead of lecturing the public in the matter of economy, lecture themselves. In respect to the overpowering National Debt I have given chapter and verse as to the waste of public money; also waste in the manufacture of commodities by two great Departments of the State. The practical question is: What can the House of Commons do to help the Government to wage this War effectively, and meet the difficulties which the War has brought? Ministers in this, and in the late Government, paid, and pay, lip-service to economy. In reality few care. Control over expenditure by the House of Commons is gone. Ministers, when questioned, place the responsibility for expenditure on the House of Commons. That is a shallow reply to a deep question. Treasury control has gone. Treasury control has disappeared, if it ever existed, over these new Departments. I hope the Government will deny that statement; and I challenge its accuracy. Have the Government power to check expenditure in the new State Departments which have been created during the last four months? We are drifting to a six shillings Income Tax, and the country asks, and is entitled to ask: "Are we getting value for every man employed by the State to-day? Are we getting value for all the commodities which are used by the State in their various Departments?" The supreme object of the House of Commons is control of expenditure, but the necessary knowledge is deliberately withheld. Without knowledge control cannot be effected. Without publicity the facts cannot be known. Without discussion the present position cannot be remedied. Publicity in these matters is not a danger, but a safeguard. Honest finance can never be achieved without publicity. Obscurity and lack of knowledge cover up mistakes, and enable those mistakes to be repeated. Strategy is common-sense applied to war. Unless the cost is known, how can success be achieved? Even that knowledge without the creation of a right spirit of economy cannot be effective.

I suggest that the expenditure of £7,000,000 per day should be classified under two heads, and that this classification should be applied in a geographical sense. Omitting the cost of the men in the firing line and on the high seas, we ought to know the cost of the remainder. Our expenditure should be divided under effective and non-effective heads. Omitting the men in the firing line and on the high seas, are we getting value for the men we are thus employing? That is the kernel of the whole position. As the House well knows, in business the cost of an article is determined by two factors. There is first the wages paid for productive labour, and secondly the on-cost charges, wages, machinery, etc. It is the aim of every business man to reduce the second of these two items. My suggestion is to apply-that broad line of demarkation to our national expenditure. If applied, the proper atmosphere created, and the matter pressed well home, I am positive that this expenditure could be reduced by one or one and a half millions per day. The Cabinet are failing to reduce expenditure. I suggest that they should call in the assistance of the House of Commons. Several subtle psychological influences which are a check on expenditure in the past have disappeared. The Government of the day does not require to find the money to pay, as the money is borrowed. Even the check on private firms has disappeared, as the Admiralty instances I have quoted show. The present expenditure has risen through State management, without check, aggravated by scarcity and high prices.

A summary of expenditure under the headings I have mentioned would enable the War Council, and the Committee, which, I think, should be appointed from this House, to compare the cost of our expeditions abroad, in men, commodities, torpedo-boats, and trawlers. This analysis would show that to produce a given effect, say, at Timbuctoo, the cost would be so much, and to produce the same effect at Ypres, the cost would be also so much less. A comparison could be made with the value of this expenditure at a time of exhausting resources with the potential result which might be achieved. Further, I think the Government should appoint someone, a member of the War Council, as controller of public expenditure. This matter has completely got out of hand. It is only by some drastic step that the reality and seriousness of the situation will be understood. It must be brought home, not only to Departments in London, but to every officer, to every employer who is employing men, to everyone who is using commodities. Let the question be to them: Can a £1 commodity do instead of one at £2? Can four men do the work of five? Economy in practice can only be effected if a proper atmosphere is created. It must percolate through the head down to his thousands of assistants. Effective economy cannot be imposed from without; it must start from within. Then the thousands of assistants will take their lead from the chief, because if it is imposed from without instead, they will spend their time in trying to defeat the foreign aggressor in the shape of an outside authority.

As I have said before, this War will be won on margins, and the Food Controller is bringing this home to the people. Reduction of our non-effective expenditure will increase our effective strength. Efficiency regardless of economy may have been justifiable during the first six months of the War, but will anyone seek to justify that position to-day? I pleaded for control in this House eighteen months ago. The Government of the day then turned a deaf ear to my appeal. I hope we shall have a different response from the Government to-night. I have pleaded for knowledge. I have pleaded that the Government should create the true spirit of economy in Government Departments. Without complete knowledge I do not see how a true and correct policy can be determined, and without a correct spirit in administration that policy will fail in action. This is no party, but a national matter. The interests of the State are in jeopardy whilst our present expenditure continues. I urged eighteen months ago, while the Income Tax was only 2s. 6d. in the £, that it should be heavily increased. It is to-day 5s. in the £, and from what I have said earlier in my speech we are faced with a further increase in the immediate future. This problem can only be solved if the Government create the spirit. It is for the House of Commons to impose their will in this matter on the Government. The pressure can come from no other source. They have not to go to the taxpayer and ask for increased burdens. They can place the burdens if they will upon posterity, but I appeal to the Government to face this matter, to create this spirit, to place someone on the War Council as a controller of public expenditure, and to call to their councils a Committee of this House to impress upon every Government Department the vital need of restricting expenditure and conserving the national interest.


The House is, I think, indebted to my hon. Friend for having directed our attention to this question of national economy, and I do not think that anyone who has really considered the facts and the figures will think that he has put an exaggerated case before the House. I think in all the figures that he has given to us he has stated his case with studious moderation, and he has rightly placed in the very forefront of his case the growth of the National Debt. We are to-day spending not our income but our capital. We are not in the position of a rich man spending out of his superfluities. Every day the capital indebtedness of the country is growing. Every day we increase the debt. Every day we are moving along the road which, if continued far enough, must bring this country face to face with ruin. On the showing of the Government, during February and March the national expenditure has been at the rate of £7,260,000 a day. We were told when the Supplementary Vote of Credit was brought in that that was only for a short period, owing to the special demands for ships and for some other items, and when we entered upon the new year the daily expenditure would be considerably diminished. We shall enter on the new year, however, as I think I can show, with an expenditure not, it is true, of £7,000,000 a day, but with a daily expenditure which I work out—and I should be glad to be corrected if I am wrong—of £6,600,000. The Vote of Credit which has been taken for the first two months of the new year is £350,000,000. That was to cover sixty days, which is at the rate of £5,800,000. But there is a great deal of expenditure which does not come out of the Vote of Credit, and that cannot be put at less than £800,000 a day. The interest on the debt, which, as my hon. Friend has said, is close upon £4,000,000,000, I reckon at £195,000,000 a year. The Civil Services and Revenue Departments require about £100,000,000—I am dealing in round figures—so that of expenditure which does not come out of the Vote of Credit at all there will be £800,000 a day, giving a total for the new year of £6,600,000 a day. If that is continued for twelve months—and I will not put the proposition which my hon. Friend put of supposing the War is going to end to-morrow; it is far better not to say this War will come to an end before this day twelve months, and we had better make our arrangements on the assumption that the War is going to continue than that it is coming to an early close—we may take it the expenditure will not be less than £6,600,000 a day, and it is more likely to increase; but, assuming that it is £6,600,000 a day, the expenditure for the year will be £2,400,000,000, and assuming that our revenue remains at what it is to-day, or even allowing that we have a revenue next year of £600,000,000, you will add during the year not less than £1,800,000,000 to our National Debt. That means to say that to the National Debt, which on 31st March is put at £3,900,000,000, you are going to add £1,800,000,000 at the present rate of expenditure, which would take you to £5,700,000,000. I should be surprised if in the next financial year there is a smaller National Debt than £6,000,000,000. That is the case which we present to the Government for their consideration.

The late Chancellor of the Exchequer, in presenting his Budget about a year ago, said if we continued at the rate of £5,000,000 a day, he thought the nation could bear the strain for as long as he conceived the War might last; but I ask the Government and I ask my hon. Friend who represents the Treasury, do they think that this Government can face a war of indefinite duration if the expenditure is to continue at £6,600,000 per day? It is because I am convinced that the country cannot indefinitely stand that strain that I associate myself with the demand made upon the Government by the hon. Members opposite to take some further steps than they have yet taken to diminish the expenditure and bring it within more reasonable bounds. We are on the road to ruin as things are. I know it is an easy road to travel, because all check upon our expenditure is gone from a man the moment he begins to spend his capital and begins dipping into his purse, represented by the capital instead of by income. The man who is spending in this way his capital is inclined to think that he has apparently unlimited money, but the Government are now in the position of running further into debt with an unlimited purse, and no form of expenditure is blocked on the ground that we cannot avoid it.

I ask the Government to tell us of any instance in which they, as a Government, have blocked an enterprise on the ground that it was too costly to undertake. I know there have been some limitations in the building of new post offices, or a few public buildings of that kind, but this has been more than made up for by the hotels they have taken over and the expensive new Departments which have been created. As long as a man is spending a limited income he feels a check upon what he does, and he will refrain from an undertaking because he is going to exceed his income. We are told that the Government will not exceed in their expenditure the capital of this country, although they are making such large drafts. I would, however, remind them, and especially my hon. Friend who represents the Treasury, that an effective check used to exist, because when additional expenditure was incurred new taxation had to be proposed by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and he used to dislike proposing it very much. That check is gone, and we are now at the absolute unfettered will of the Government in matters of expenditure, small and great, both in matters of policy and administration. The Government have elected to govern this country without the House of Commons, and we have little or no control left.


So did the last Government.

10.0 P.M.


I am not making a charge against this Government in particular. I believe the same charge is true of the last Government, although in a somewhat less degree. We have got further on that road, and we have little or no control. Civil enterprises are undertaken without the House having any part in them. We hear of them after we are committed to the policy, and if a Bill is necessary we may be asked to give our sanction. [An Hon. MEMBEB: "All stages in one day!"] I would like to know how far has the Treasury been consulted in regard to the new idea of purchasing the liquor trade of this country by the Government as a productive enterprise? We are told in the Press that that is the decision of the Government, but we have never been told it in the House of Commons, we have never been asked here if we wish to indulge in a trading venture of this kind in the middle of a war, and we have never been asked whether we wish to add £300,000,000 or £400,000,000 of a liability to this country at the present time. I instance that in passing. I suggest that if the Government wish to diminish expenditure it would be well to refrain from expensive enterprises which do not immediately conduce to the better conduct of the War. If we do not control policy, neither do we control the administration of that policy, and that again is wholly in the hands of the Government.

It is quite true that there are some things required for the service of a country like ours which must be done whatever their cost may be. I admit that, but I submit that the number of those things is very small, and I further submit that the cost is an essential element even in deciding upon a warlike enterprise. I beseech the Government—there was a time when the House of Commons did not beseech the Government in matters of expenditure, but they ordered, and I am sorry the House of Commons has yielded its power to the Government in this matter. We stand here in a position of absolute helplessness in face of the Government which is settling its own policy behind our back as well as its own expenditure, and they come to us merely for a formal expression, or rather for a fulfilment of the ancient formality, because the money cannot be got except by the formal consent of the House. [An HON. MEMBER: "You can refuse supplies!"] How is the House of Commons to refuse supplies in the middle of a war? That, of course, is a remedy open to us in a time when we are not in the midst of such a conflict as we are now engaged in. At present the Government are masters of the situation by the fact that we are in the midst of this terrible War, and we cannot bring forward those ordinary methods of criticism which are open to us in time of peace.


Turn them out!


That has been done, and I would ask my hon. Friend whether any improvement has resulted. With regard to the remaining part of our expenditure, we no longer have any Estimates. If hon. Members look at the Estimates which are presented they will see that there are none of the details which used to be found in them, and if you take the Navy Estimates you will find hundreds of millions grouped under one heading. I am not sure that you would find even the millions, and you might find a Token Vote. Under the Army Estimates it is the same. I do not say that it would be possible to present ordinary Estimates, because they are public documents, and they might contain facts which might be of service to the enemy. I am only putting this point to show that such control as the House used to exercise over the Estimates is gone. There used to be some control in the review by the Public Accounts Committee of the expenditure after it had taken place, but that review occurred a long time after the expenditure had happened, and therefore is, to a large extent, ineffective, but even that control is no longer there. If hon. Members will look at the Army Appropriation or the Navy Appropriation Accounts they will find that for the larger part of the money which has been expended by the Government no details at all are given. The same is true of the expenditure on the Army. That control which used to be exercised by the Committee of Public Accounts has really gone, because during the War we cannot even review the past expenditure on the Army and the Navy.

That brings me to a practical point which I would commend to my hon. Friend opposite. The Committee of Public Accounts founds its Reports to this House or reports of the Controller and Auditor-General in regard to the audit which is made of the public accounts. That audit is not undertaken at the end of a financial year, when the Report is presented to us; it is a continuing audit. The Controller and Auditor-General now has his representatives in every great public Department and in every sub-division of every great public Department, and it does seem to me that when you have a continual audit going on, when irregularities of expenditure or extravagances are continually being brought, to the notice of the Controller and Auditor-General, it is a great misfortune that there is no method by which the Controller and Auditor-General, acting as the representative of this House, can instantly bring to the notice of the notice of the Treasury, or of the House, or of a Committee of the House, those irregularities or extravagances. You have an audit continually going on, yet it is twelve or eighteen months before the House or the Committee of Public Accounts is put in possession of the results of the observations of the Controller and Auditor-General. I think there is a real waste of opportunity of correcting errors through not making a better use of the audit of the Controller and Auditor-General, and I would ask my hon. Friend to draw the particular attention of the Treasury to that matter.

I am told that you cannot make this use that I suggest of the continuing audit by the Department of the Controller and Auditor-General without undermining the Ministerial authority of the heads of the various Departments. If a head of a Department were to feel that responding to a remark of the Controller and Auditor-General, or a remark of a Committee of this House, drawing attention to the audit, would relieve him of responsibility I do not think that the House would assent to that view. I do not see why when the Comptroller finds out an irregularity or extravagance he should not at once bring it to the notice of this House. He does it at present in an irregular way. He knows the head of the Department and probably sends word privately to him or to some other person in the Department whom he may probably know. All we require is that when an officer of the Comptroller and Auditor-General comes upon an irregularity he should authoritatively and at once bring the matter to the notice of the Department and the House, so that it may be checked without further delay. If that practice had been in operation during the last two years, very large sums of public money would have been saved. As I have stated the control of the Estimates is gone. The control of the Appropriation Accounts is gone, and you are left in this House absolutely without any form of control over the expenditure. Then there is the Treasury, and I would ask my hon. Friend how much control has he got left. I have complained before that we have not to-day in the House the Financial Secretary to the Treasury. It is outrageous that this House should be without its official representative at the Treasury in the shape of the Financial Secretary. I know that the Chancellor of the Exchequer is here as a Member of this House, but that is not enough. He has his hands absolutely full and it is not possible for any one man to discharge together the work of the two offices of Chancellor of the Exchequer and Financial Secretary to the Treasury. I wish to protest, and indeed I shall protest on every occasion when I have an opportunity, that we are left here without our proper representative in financial matters—the Financial Secretary to the Treasury. But even if we have the Financial Secretary to the Treasury here, the fact remains that the Treasury have already yielded up very largely their control. They have-issued a series of minutes by which they have parted with the control they formerly exercised, control which they have have exercised for many decades—I was going to say for centuries past. They were told at the beginning of the War that the exercise of control by the Treasury would mean delay in matters which could not be delayed. I do not deny there is a great deal in that at a time when war suddenly and unexpectedly breaks out. At that time it was necessary for large expenditure to take place in regard to which there was not time to consult the Treasury or anybody else. But we are not now at the beginning of the War, we are nearing the end of the third year of it, and by this time financial arrangements and the means of controlling expenditure ought to have been duly thought out and fully rearranged to meet the exigencies of this War.

I submit that neither the Treasury nor the Departments have really hammered out a system by which extravagance can be prevented in war-time. We have lost control of finance. The Treasury have yielded up control to the Departments. The Departments have got internal committees for controlling themselves, I believe, but controlling ourselves in matters of expenditure is very inferior to the authority and control which is exercised either by wise overseeing or by hard facts. Neither of these limitations any longer apply to the expenditure of any of our Departments. Each Department is its own master. It spends as it sees fit, and no one interposes at any time to check the expenditure, or if he does, he is asked, "Do you know a war is on? Why do this sordid sort of thing as talk about money? You will stop us at your peril." I ask my hon. Friend to see to it that the financial representatives in the different Departments are armed with full authority to enforce such measures of economy and restraint as the Treasury may see fit to exercise. I think our Debate to-night will not have been wasted if we can bring home to the Government how responsible we hold it. They have taken into their own hand the whole control of this matter, and the nation will hold them responsible if hereafter, owing to the lavish expenditure now going on, we should be driven to concluding an unfavourable peace because we are unable to continue this vast expenditure.


I was talking the other day to a very young girl, who said: "Does not everything depend on the point of view?" I would ask this House the same question—Does not everything depend on the point of view? We are in the presence of the biggest thing, financial and otherwise, this world has ever known, and when the right hon. Gentleman opposite speaking about these matters tells us that the Committee of Public Accounts should be called in to do this, that, or the other why, that is rather like Dame Partington with her mop trying to keep back the Atlantic. The Committee of Public Accounts could not manage this thing. It is too big. They have never been able to do it from the very first day of the War. They could not do it in the old days when we had Budgets of under two hundred millions a year. Even then the Committee of Public Accounts could only pick up items here and there and save us a few hundred pounds. But now we are spending at the rate of two thousand five hundred millions a year. We are told that if we had the Financial Secretary in the House—I do not suggest the right hon. Gentleman said so, but the cheers with which his statement was greeted would lead one to believe there are Members in this House who believe it would make a practical difference if the Financial Secretary were here. I say it would make none. There is not a banker or financial man in the country who could deal with this thing, let alone the House of Commons. We all know that the House of Commons, even in times of peace, could not exercise practical control over expenditure. Everything depended upon the Chancellor of the Exchequer and his policy. Whatever his policy was, that policy was carried out; and the amount of retrenchment that you could carry out was infinitesimal.

I perfectly agree with the right hon. Gentleman that the expenditure is awful. What would he do? How can he stop it? Can he reduce it by £1,000,000 per annum? I doubt it. How would he set about it? Those are the practical questions. It is no good his getting up and saying that he can do it. Will he give some indication how he or the Committee of Public Accounts, or any other Committee of this House, would set about it to cut down this expenditure of £6,000,000 per day? I am myself appalled at the expenditure when I walk across St. James's Park and see those colossal buildings that have been put up and are being put up no doubt all over the country. Of course, one is appalled; but how can you stop it? You cannot stop it! There was one way in which you could have stopped it at one time, and that was by getting ready. Then there would have been no War. I have got to remind the House again, as I reminded it a year ago, that a fortnight before the War, when there was some Debate on finance, I got up and in quite humble tones—I was almost inarticulate in those days—suggested that we should be lucky if we got out of a Continental war with an expenditure of £1,000,000,000, and very lucky indeed if we, got out with an expenditure of £500,000,000. The House was full, because the Chancellor of the Exchequer was expected to speak, and I was howled down with derisive laughter. Even my right hon. Friend the Member for the City of London (Sir F. Banbury), with his great knowledge of finance, who was sitting next to me, said, quite audibly, "Oh! Faber, you have put on a nought too much." Evidently, he thought that we should get through Continental War for £50,000,000 or £100,000,000, showing that he had not the remotest idea what this, the greatest struggle humanity has ever known, was going to cost. You talk of saving a few thousands here and a few thousands there. I tell you that nobody in this country can do it. The right hon. Gentleman says that we are running straightway into bankruptcy. We are. If the War ended to-morrow we we should in one way or another owe £5,000,000,000, and, if you take that at 5 per cent. it is £250,000,000 a year. We have got to face for all time a peace Budget of £500,000,000 a year. [An HON. MEMBER: "And you go on spending!"] What does the hon. Gentleman suggest? Does he suggest cutting down expenditure by having less men in the field, or less ships on the sea? How is he going to cut it down? I cannot say. I am telling you that you cannot do it. I also entirely agree with the right hon. Gentleman that we are going straightway into bankruptcy. And so is the whole of Europe. I do not know if that is any consolation. I know that Germany is going to be just as bad as we shall be, and worse. All the other countries in Europe are going to be broken, and the whole financial control of the world will be in the United States.


Although I agree in great measure with what the Mover and Seconder of the Amendment have said, there is one point upon which I differ from the former completely. When he was asked what remedy he would suggest, he said he would cut off supplies.


Those words did not come from me, but from some other hon. Member.


I suggested that that was one remedy we still had.


I am particularly glad that that interruption did not come from the hon. and gallant Member for Greenock, because that is my native town. If you cut off supplies we shall lose the War, and will not only lose the money we have put into it, but will have to pay an indemnity to Germany as well. I. sympathise very much with the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Leif Jones) in his warning about the great speculation hinted at in the Press as to the purchase of the drink traffic, and I hope the Government will not propose to part with very large sums of money without explaining to us the reasons for it. If you do it for financial reasons you will ask the people to drink more, and if you do it for moral reasons I do not think that these are times in which to make moral experiments. As to the possibility of encouraging economy in this War, I feel it is only fair and just to the Treasury to say that if the Chancellor of the Exchequer were here I should like to congratulate him on having turned a deaf ear to those people who asked him to issue the last loan at 6 per cent. interest. The fact that he got a loan with conversion of over £2,000,000,000 at 5 per cent. has saved this country £20,000,000 a year in interest I earnestly hope that in connection with the new issue of Treasury Bills he will not be too lavish in his interest. Treasury Bills are the most convenient form in which people who have loose money to invest will invest it. It is right that the House should know by a discussion of this sort the position to which we are working. If we are to go on spending seven and a quarter millions a day and the War goes on another year we shall have spent £2,646,000,000. If we add that to the present Debt of £3,900,000,000, we shall have a total Debt of £6,500,000,000, and if we take off the income we are collecting for the coming year, we shall still have £6,000,000,000 of Debt in a year's time upon which to pay interest. If we have to pay £300,000,000 a year in interest, in addition to our Budget of £200,000,000, with pensions added, our taxation, if we finish the War this year, will amount to £5,000,000 a month.

We cannot possibly go on borrowing money in the same successful way we did recently. It is quite clear that if we have to collect £300,000,000 to pay interest on capital, there will be a very strong movement to reduce the interest even if some of the capital is not written off. And that is the cloud that is now hanging over the public if the Government come forward and ask for more money at present. I do not know whether the Treasury would consider showing some hon. Members—say, the four Gentlemen who have put their names down to this Amendment—the War expenditure daily for a fortnight. Would it be possible to show them how you can get rid of such an enormous amount of money as £7,250,000 per day and where the expenses really go? The Public Accounts Committee have done their work very well, but, after all, it only comes on the scene when the money has been spent, and it really has no control over it. To pay contractors of munitions on a basis of a 10 per cent. commission on their outlay was really financially a disaster. It may have got their work done quickly, and probably it did, but it resulted in the contractors bringing in more men than they could usefully employ, paying them any wages they liked, and the longer the pay list the greater the profits. I know of one case in which a small private company, which I think started since the War, with a capital of under £10,000, paid all its excess profits and had a profit of well over £100,000 to its credit after twelve months' working. Last year we spent £2,000,000,000 against a pre-war expenditure of £200,000,000, and we are therefore spending at the rate of £10 to £1, which cannot go on indefinitely. The Board of Trade figures are fairly satisfactory, but it must be remembered that the high price of commodities is inclined to hide the small trade which we are actually doing.

I should like to ask, when transport ships and such-like under Admiralty orders are lost—and a good many of them have been lost—(what account is that debited to? Have we any scheme of insurance? I understand we do not insure warships. Could we be told where the actual money which is lost, is debited? The Admiralty, of course, is immune from criticism, but we get our knowledge from various sources, and I have a list of several ships which seem to me to have been lost in a way which requires explanation. We do not get any explanation. I should like to ask whether, if a ship is lost by impetuosity and imprudence on the part of her officers, whether mercantile or naval, a proper inquiry is held and due responsibility brought home to the people who are guilty or doing their duty in an inefficient manner. I cannot give the names of the ships, but if the representative of the Treasury would like to see them, I can give him half a dozen which have come under my notice within recent times.

It is a difficult and delicate matter, perhaps, to mention the position of America in this War. We do not know whether she is in it yet or not, but we see paragraphs in the newspapers that America is willing to lend so much money to the Allies. It seems to me that America might do something more than that. We do not want her money, but I am sure some of those engaged in the War are, perhaps, less fortunate than we are. Could she be induced to take over some of the money which we have lent to our Allies—to relieve us of the debt, for instance, that Russia owes to us? It would be a fine compliment from one great democracy to another, and I do not believe there would be any need for us to guarantee the transaction. If she would relieve our Treasury of £500,000,000 by taking over the debit balance which Russia has it would be a very friendly and nice thing for her to do. I do not think that is an unreasonable thing to ask, because America has been like a huge sponge mopping up the money of Europe during the last two and a half years. I do not join altogether in the pessimistic cry of the previous speakers. I deprecate the statements made by the right hon. Member for the Rushcliffe Division (Mr. Leif Jones) and the hon. Member for Clapham (Mr. Faber), who say we are on the road to ruin. I rather hope and think we are on the way to victory.


That is a different thing. I do not say we shall not gain the victory.


We should remember that the issues of this War are things that money cannot buy, and though it is important to exercise economy, we must not jeopardise the efficiency of our Fleet and Army. I am quite sure that the Treasury will not take in a hostile spirit what has been said to-night, and that they will, if possible, see their way to adopt some of the suggestions made, and avail them- selves of the services of those hon. Members who are ready to help them to secure the great end which we all desire.


I am very glad that this subject has been raised, and that there are a considerable number of Members here to listen to the proceedings. I am very sorry to say that during the whole Debate, with the exception of my hon. Friend the Junior Lord of the Treasury (Mr. Baldwin) there has been practically no one on the Government Bench. In the last few minutes the Chief Secretary for Ireland has come in, but with that exception there has not been present a single Member of what used to be the Cabinet and what I presume is now the Cabinet. I draw attention to that fact for this reason, that it is impossible to achieve economy if the Government do not desire to achieve economy. We are debating the Third Reading of the Consolidated Fund Bill, an extremely important Bill, which, in the old days, always commanded the attendance of a large number of Members and the greater part of the Government; but in these days, when Motions for economy have been put on the Paper, we have not the presence of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, we have not the presence of the Financial Secretary to the Treasury, because he is not a Member of the House, and, with the exception of the Chief Secretary for Ireland, there has not been a Cabinet Minister present during the Debate.


Move the Adjournment!


In the old days we should have moved the Adjournment. I do not think we can do that now, when such an important thing as voting money to carry on the War is before the House, but I do think we ought to draw the attention of the Government to the fact that they are treating the House of Commons with disrespect and are paying no attention whatever to the desire that economy should be introduced and carried out. Two things are necessary to win the War—one is a large Army, and the other is the money to provide that Army with their pay, their food, and their munitions. We cannot win the War without both those things. One is as important as the other, and therefore it is absolutely necessary that the Government should not only be present, but that they should consider economy. The right hon. Member for Rushcliffe has said, very truly, that this House now has no control whatever over finance or over the Government. We have none. I did hope that under the new Government more respect would be paid to the House of Commons, but I am sorry to say that less respect has been paid to the House of Commons since we had the new Government than before. The hon. Member for Clapham asked, "How can we ensure economy, how can we spend anything less?" May I refer him to the Report of the Comptroller and Auditor-General on the Appropriation Account for the Navy issued this year? On page 14 there is a note on subletting of contracts. A firm on the selected Admiralty list had contracted for certain articles at a price of £54 per set, and had sublet the whole of the contract at a lower price, though permission had been given to sublet a portion only. The case was brought to light when the sub-contractor, who had meanwhile been placed on the selected list, tendered for the supply of those requirements at a price of £12 15s. 6d. a set, instead of £54. I venture to say that that is not an isolated instance. It is an instance which the Comptroller and Auditor-General has happened to find out. We have no representative of the Admiralty present. They do not consider it worth while to be present when questions of this sort are introduced, hut when we have the Admiralty giving £54 a set for something which a sub-contractor is willing to sell for £12 15s. 6d.—a price on which he makes a profit—then we may certainly say that there are many things in which economy might be practised without efficiency being reduced. There is another ease here in which a contractor was given a sum of money to hasten delivery, and in order to make up for the increased cost of materials and wages. When that had been done he was also given the original bonus for quicker delivery which had been promised in the first contract, when it was first instituted, thus paying twice over for the same thing. In another case 6s. a day, with food and lodging, were paid to motor drivers, and then the London General Omnibus Company was paid a large sum of money to instruct these drivers. Surely they did not want to give those wages except to skilled people, and they should have found out, before they paid those wages, whether the men were skilled or not. There can be no question that there are many ways of reducing expenditure, but this cannot be expected as long as the Government take no interest in it and as long as they do not come down here themselves. They might extend to us the common courtesy of listening to what we have got to say instead of staying away. And I say, with all deference to my hon. Friend (Mr. Baldwin), that they have sent down an hon. Gentleman who, with all his knowledge and ability, is new to the work, and has not got that position in his office which gives the authority which he ought to have, and, therefore, he cannot really represent the Government when their conduct is being called in question in this way.

I would like also to say one word with regard to the extraordinary statements which have appeared in the papers with regard to the purchase of breweries and public-houses. Here when we shall probably, if the War lasts another year, have to face a National Debt of £6,000,000,000, I cannot conceive anybody out of Bedlam coming down and saying that they are going to add to that the enormous sum of £300,000,000 or £400,000,000 in order to buy public-houses or whatever else it may be. The object may be good, but the time is not opportune. There are methods—I do not say that they are very good methods—by which the attention of the House might be called to the expenditure of the public Departments. The first one is giving a day for the Report of the Public Accounts Committee, and to see that the Report is carried out. A day is sometimes given—not always—but nobody pays the slightest attention to their Report, and nothing is done. Something must be done to penalise those people who have, I will not say betrayed their trust, that is too strong a word, but who have been extravagant in their methods of carrying on business. That is one way. The other is that which I have already attacked, namely, that the Government themselves should take some interest in the matter. I would like to make one or two observations upon the extraordinary number of Committees that are being continually set up. I see that two were set up to-day—one to see how the supply of sea-water fish can be improved, and another to see how the supply of fresh-water fish can be improved. Why could not one Committee have looked after both? Are there to be two hotels—one for the Committee on sea-water fish and the other for the Committee on fresh-water fish? The hon. Member for Hornsey (Mr. Kennedy Jones) is apparently to receive the reward for his services in advertising the War Loan. He has been given a position—


He is a director.


No doubt it is a very good appointment [An HON. MEMBER: "He is not paid!"] I do not know whether he is paid or not, but certainly he has a paid staff. I do not know whether they are to have a duke's house or a baronet's house. For the last year or so I have endeavoured without fail to draw attention to the vital necessity there is for economy. I do not take a very gloomy-view of the position, provided the Government in future will see that the money is not wasted. I believe that this great country, if properly, managed, can rise to the occasion. We can meet all our liabilities and can again become prosperous, but that cannot be done if this reckless extravagance goes on, and the means of effecting this must come from the Government, from those in high places. More than two years ago I was present at the Guildhall when two very powerful speeches were made by the late Leader of the Government and the present Leader of the Opposition, and the present Leader of the House, in which they said that they hoped that the City and other parts of the country would practice economy. I was asked to say a few words, and I said, "If you gentlemen will set the example we will follow." I am sure the country would have followed, and I believe the country, in many instances, has followed that advice, but the people who gave the advice have not set the example.


The remarks of the hon. Member for Clapham seemed to me to entirely miss the point. The complaint of the Mover and Seconder was not about expenditure, but about unnecessary and wasteful expenditure. That is the whole point of this Debate, and I agree that there should have been a larger attendance of the Government. The first and most essential thing is to win the War, and the second is to find the money for that purpose. But one cannot fail to note that there is an evil leaning on the part of many people to waste. Waste is everywhere. If a man wastes ten pounds of Government money he quotes in justification somebody else who wastes a hundred pounds, and it seems to be continually accepted that the Government purse is good game. I deplore the lack of a citizen conscience on this point. I mean by citizen conscience that conscience in the citizen which makes him regard a public wrong as a private insult. No one seems to take a public wrong as a private insult and resent it accordingly. I am not going to try and get my tongue round the millions referred to to-night. If we want to counteract waste it seems to me that we must do so with the small no less than with the large sums, and we must educate the public along those linesy I want to make a contrast, which I think will interest the House, where economy and efficiency go hand-in-hand on the one hand and where waste and inefficiency go together on the other. I speak of my own personal experience, and I desire to refer to the sanitary staff of the medical service in France, and to its efficiency and economy, and to contrast that with the administration of our hospitals in this country as an illustration of waste. With the sanitary staff in France nothing can exceed the efficiency and the thoroughness with which the work is carried out. The medical officers go about hunting dumps in order to find abandoned articles, which they put to efficient use. So effective is that work that it excites the admiration of all those who see it, as it excites their amazement. For instance, they want a chimney, and the medical officers get numbers of circular tins, knock out the bottom of? each tin, place one over the other, and thus make the chimney. They have no bricks, but they go about the dump and find tins and pack those tins with soil and construct excreta incinerators. That brings about such a state of efficiency in the sanitary arrangements at the front in France that I could take any Member or group of Members round those sanitary arrangements and defy them to tell me what they were, so free are they from noisesomeness. Boilers are built into those incinerators, and hot water is supplied to the troops in such a way that one can never get a bucket of hot water out wihout pouring a bucket of cold water in They have made from waste products incinerators which preserve health and promote sanitation at the front I give this illustration of how things can be done by applying ingenuity instead of finding money. I refer to the front in France. Come to our hospitals here and go around them I suppose there is nothing upon which we are so willing to spend almost to excess, if necessary, as upon our hospitals. In our hospitals there is reckless waste. One hospital has had spent on it over £12,000 to equip it for surgical purposes. Before a year was cut the whole of that money was diverted, and although a beautiful system of surgical equipment and arrangements and plant was made the whole of it was turned to another use. I could take you to our hospitals where there is constant and incessant waste of food. It might be small, but it is waste, and it is wrong. Why do we find that Government Departments are so extravagant? The whole system of the Army seems to make it difficult to find a remedy.

I suppose the best example of efficiency that I have ever seen is Mr. Cadbury's works at Bournville. What do you find there? You find that every machine, every individual, every hand is at work and producing the largest amount of output with the minimum expenditure of effort, and energy, and time, and money. There is efficiency everywhere. "Oh," you say, "but Mr. Cadbury is a great organiser." Not at all; it does not necessarily follow that the head of that firm should be a great organiser. The secret of the whole success is that somewhere about that building there is a little suggestions box, and everyone is encouraged to make suggestions for improvements, and for every suggestion that is carried out the person who makes it gets a minimum fee of 5s. The result is that in that institution you have a democracy of ideas; every idea has a vote, and the result is efficiency and economy. What do we find in the Army? I suggested to a man a little time ago who made a suggestion to me that he should try to get it carried out, but he said, "If I did I should be far more likely to be court-martialled and shot at dawn for insubordination than I would be to find my suggestion carried out." Just think of the life history of a suggestion in the Army. A private makes a suggestion to a non-commissioned officer; the non-commissioned officer hands it on to the captain; the captain sends it on to the commanding officer; the commanding officer sends it to the A.D.M.S.; the A.D.M.S. sends it to the D.D.M.S.; and the D.D.M.S. sends it to the D.G.; and every- body has dicharged his duty. The private has discharged his because a happy suggestion came into his mind and he passed it on, and so forth. But what has happened to the suggestion? A suggestion rapidly deteriorates when you hand it on. The non-commissioned officer said, "Magnificent!"; the captain said "Excellent!"; the commanding officer said "Good!"; the A.D.M.S. said "Not so bad!"; the D.D.M.S. said, "I don't see much in that!"; and the D.G. said "Folly!" That is the life history of a suggestion taken from its environment and handed on where its value is not known.

The UNDER-SECRETARY of STATE for WAR (Mr. Macpherson)

May I ask my hon. and gallant Friend whether he can give me one specific instance of that kind of thing?


I am contrasting the suggestion that finds effective use in an institution like Mr. Cadbury's, or any other great private institution, and the suggestion that so often follows this course in the Army. We know perfectly well that it is the most difficult thing in the world for an officer in the Army to criticise at all, and this is the difficulty which we have to face. I am sorry that my hon. Friend resents that. I think the House will see the point I am trying to make. I am not making any criticism about any particular individual. I am criticising the system. I was saying that the system does not, in the Army, lend itself to efficiency and economy.


He has to say something.


It seems to me that we cannot secure efficiency in the Army without civilian aid. It can be truthfully said that all through the history of this War contempt has been shown for civilian opinion and effort, and civilian aid, and that has greatly hindered us in in our effectiveness. One of the best things the present Prime Minister did was to find outside the Army persons of business capacity and experience to show how things ought to be done to help towards harmonious and efficient working. Then there is divided responsibility. The man who first makes a suggestion hands it on, and says, "I have sent it on." There seems to be a tendency on the part of our public Departments to try and escape responsibility by putting it on to someone else. It is really pathetic to find how efforts are made to hand over the responsibility to some other Department. What is the remedy? It is difficult for me as an officer in the Army to offer criticism at all. I dare not make this criticism outside the House. Why should the hon. Gentleman resent me making it here? I am saying that the system in the Army does not lend itself to efficiency and economy. I am going to invite my hon. Friend to follow up that suggestion. I do not know whether there-is anyone higher to whom he can send it, and thus relieve himself of the responsibility? But at least I am going to make it. If anyone in the Army has a suggestion to make, and he finds that it is difficult to make it, without having it resented, he is apt to make use of some Member of Parliament. That Member of Parliament may suspect that there is some personal motive or grievance behind the complaint.

11.0 P.M.

What we want is some Commission or tribunal—a mixed tribunal. When the present Prime Minister set up a mixed tribunal a little while ago for some entirely different purpose, he set a very good precedent, and one which ought to followed. It is not necessary to put a man in khaki in order to make use of him in this War. A man wearing civilian clothes and doing civilian work can be of immense assistance if we make use of him as we might do. I suggest that we should have something comparable to the suggestion box, and that this Commission, or tribunal, or committee should receive suggestions to be examined and reported upon. There is waste to be remedied. You could have the body I suggest receiving suggestions and receiving help everywhere, visiting and reporting, and able to back up their recommendations. As I have said, everybody speaking here to-night is resented by the Under-Secretary for War. There is far too much resentment. There is no reason whatever why we should not encourage suggestions from anyone, officer, noncommissioned officer, or private soldier, instead of resenting it as an attempt at criticism, or something like insubordination. We had members of the Admiralty complaining the other day that at Cabinet meetings they were not expected to speak; that it was their duty not to speak unless they were spoken to. Can you imagine the First Sea Lord consulting with Cabinet Ministers and not feeling perfectly free to express his opinion for or against? Yet we had men at the Admiralty who actually complained that they were not at liberty to express their opinion freely. I think that spirit in the Army should be discouraged entirely. We should encourage everyone to express his opinion, and to give his aid, and we should not consider it was a breach of discipline if suggestions were made. This committee to which I refer would give advice, and would have the advantage of speaking out, of speaking upon the platform and through the Press. I have thought it consistent with the importance of the subject we are discussing to-night to make a contrast between one department in the medical service which is characterised by efficiency and by courage with other departments which show a disregard for public expenditure which, I think, ought not to be overlooked, and ought to be easy of remedy.

Mr. BALDWIN (Lord of the Treasury)

The discussion is on a Motion stating that "there is urgent need for increased control by the House of Commons and the Treasury over Government Departments." I think that a discussion of this kind can be productive only of good. I sympathise very much with a great deal that has fallen from most of the speakers, but I sympathise with no remark more than that which fell from my right hon. Friend the Member for the Rushcliffe Division (Mr. L. Jones), when he turned towards me and said, "How much control has the hon. Member got at the Treasury?" I will answer him quite straight—not nearly as much control as I should like. More than that, if I am not giving secrets away, and if I may take the House into my confidence, I have never yet in the short time I have been at the Treasury said "No" to any request that has been made to me, but before I get as far as the smoking-room in the House of Commons, I am beset by Members asking me to change my mind. The hon. Member for Greenock (Major Collins) spoke in words that found an echo in my own heart when he said that what we wanted to get was an atmosphere of economy. I worked on a Committee for eight months in the War Office last year, the sole purpose of which was to help to create such an atmosphere in that Department, and if the hon. Member for Greenock can create such an atmosphere in this House he will have no more loyal supporter, no more warmhearted follower than I shall be myself. It has been my duty during the short time that I have tried to perform the functions that fell to my lot to follow closely the Estimates that have been brought before this House, and in the few weeks that I have been responsible for the presentation of those Estimates there has been urged on the Government, with all the eloquence at the command of various eloquent Members, that they should increase sanatorium benefits, old age pensions, and soldiers' pensions, those merely arising on the last few Estimates that have been brought in. If I look back over some of the discussions at which I have been present on the Estimates in comparatively recent times, I cannot help remembering that when the Government made certain recommendations about the salaries of Members of Parliament serving and suggested means by which the expenditure could be reduced, the House of Commons objected, and I cannot help remembering how last year, when £200,000 was knocked off the Agricultural Vote for Scotland, very severe pressure was put upon the then Financial Secretary and the Secretary for Scotland, which they resisted with much difficulty. This new similar pressure has been put upon me with regard to a similar reduction. I make no complaint, but I cannot help asking when I read the words of this Motion that there is urgent need for increased control of the House of Commons why the House has not allowed itself to be surrounded by that atmosphere of economy to which the hon. Member for Greenock (Major Collins) alludes? Not only that, but the House of Commons—I am not for a moment saying whether it is right or wrong—has sanctioned various increases that have been given in the way of bonuses and wages, and these very increases that we see going on throughout the country day by day, and will go on, they in turn are reacting in the cost of all the commodities of the country, and they help to send each other up and make it more and more difficult for the Government to-day to make any stand in any quarter for that economy which each of us wish to see, but which when we get into a deliberative assembly we seem perfectly impotent to check. If I may give my own personal experience, I have since the beginning of the War been a very loyal supporter of the Government that has been in power for the time being, holding the view that the first duty of a loyal Member is to strengthen the hands of the Executive so long as the War lasts. It was also my lot to investigate from a financial point of view the internal economy of one or two Government Departments. I have always been a keen critic of the Government, and it is very natural, with my commercial training, that I in common with many other hon. Members of this House, must have seen from the time the War began various mistakes made, or what we thought were mistakes at the time, in the light we gained by subsequent experience, but mistakes which were almost inevitable and inseparable from the enormous scale of the work that had to be done, and not only done, but improvised. The conclusion I came to deliberately was that so long as the War lasted I could not see in what form the House of Commons as such, with every desire to see it, could get a more close control over expenditure. Many of us in this House until this Government came into power, and many hon. Members since this Government came into power, may have tried to devise measures without seeing practically a way by which this control could be secured. You must remember that so long as the War lasts it is impossible to devise any other method of financing except by Votes of Credit in the main. Where you get a Vote of Credit you are bound to lose a certain amount of close control. You are bound, when you take the human element into consideration, to see relaxed somewhat and at some time that close control which you get when the sum which has to be spent is bounded by an estimate, and that the persons in charge will be held responsible by the House of Commons if the estimate is exceeded.

The time will come when we shall be able to get back to the old system, and it is then that I would most earnestly beg the co-operation of every individual Member of this House. We are suffering—all the world is suffering—from a most dangerous inflation of prices. You have in the shortage of commodities common to all the work and in the inflated credits common to nearly all countries two confluent streams, which join forces in a mighty column which will sweep everything before it. The danger point will come after the War. Economy in this country, if we are to avoid disaster, will be an absolute necessity, and the only thing we shall have—the one thing which is always the only corrector of extravagance—is high taxation, and we shall have that for many years to help us. But we want, and must have, the co-operation of every individual Member of this House, and of this House in its collective capacity, and we shall want also, I think, that the Government of the day—whatever that Government may be—shall choose its most repellant personality and make him Chancellor of the Exchequer. We must do that, and we must practice that not only ourselves, but by our example influence those who are in our Constituencies to do it. The only way this country can avoid disaster after this War is for the people of this country, from the highest to the lowest, to work hard and save hard, and if that can be done we may look forward, I confidently believe, in spite of the expenditure on this War, to seeing ourselves within a generation one of the most prosperous people in the world, and with the soundest finance. But if we do not do that, if we allow ourselves to be carried away by thinking that these inflated values existing to-day are going to last, and to be a token of prosperity which in reality is non-existent, then we shall be steering straight to a disaster from which nothing can save us.


I wish to draw attention to the unsatisfactory manner in which applications from men in the Army for discharge are being dealt with in Ireland. While in this country thousands of men have already been released for agricultural purposes, very few have been released in Ireland. There is great delay, and applications are dealt with in a very unsatisfactory manner. The commanding officers look upon the applications only from a military point of view, and have no consideration whatever for the question of food production. The Irish have been called upon to make a special effort to produce food, and they are doing, and are prepared to do, their best, but in the efforts that they are making they expect some attempt at co-operation on the part of the Army.

I will give a few examples and show the way in which applications have been dealt with. A farmer, named Gilbride, 45 years of age, with a wife and four children, the eldest of which is 16 years of age, who held 20 acres of land, left his farm and joined the Army after the War broke out. He applied at Christmas to be released temporarily for spring work, but after considerable correspondence his application was refused. As a consequence, the whole of his land, which is fit for tillage, is lying derelict, and in all probability his wife and family will be evicted. His application was refused on the ground that he was fit for general service, and that he could not be spared. Another farmer, 47 years of age, named J. O'Rourke, who is unmarried and farms 12 acres, joined the Army and left his farm in the charge of his housekeeper. On 2nd February he applied for permission to go home and do the spring work, but up to the present he has received no reply to his application. There is nobody except his housekeeper, and those 12 acres fit for tillage are lying idle. Those are two examples of men who, when the War broke out, left their farms and joined the Army to help, to the best of their ability, to bring the War to a successful issue.

There is another case of a young boy who joined the Army only in February last, and is still stationed at Cahir. He is 17 years of age, and cannot be sent to the front until he attains the age of 19. His father farms 150 acres, 52 of which are tillage, and he finds it very difficult to get men to assist him, no matter what wages he pays. He applied to have the boy discharged temporarily in order to carry on the spring work, after which he could go back until harvest time. He received a reply that the boy would be allowed out for one month during the busiest part of the season. In addition to tilling so much land, this man has a dairy farm and supplies milk to Government institutions in Ireland. Seeing that the boy is only 17, that he cannot be sent to the front for two years, and that he is stationed within 30 miles of his father's farm, he might be dispensed with temporarily and sent home to help produce the food which is a vital matter for the safety of the country. I would strongly urge the Under-Secretary for War to take these cases into consideration. There are many other cases in which similar applications have been made. Such applications will also be made later in the year when harvest time comes. We do not ask for impossibilities. I do not say that it is the fault of the War Office, but there should be some co-operation between the War Office and the commanding officers, and directions should be given to the commanding officers that, in oases in which they have men who are necessary and available, and who could well be discharged temporarily for the purposes of agriculture, they should deal with the cases expeditiously and grant the applications.

Another point which I desire to bring forward is the question of separation allowances and pensions. The present method of arriving at the amount of the allowance or pension on the basis of pre-War dependence is very unsatisfactory, and deserves the serious reconsideration of the Government. That is particularly the case in Ireland. Before the War there was no such thing as an allotment, and many men who joined did not contribute to the support of their parents. Since then, however, their fathers or mothers have been unable to work, either through illness or some other cause. In many of these families there is a number of young children dependent upon the father or mother. These parents under the present system are not entitled to receive any separation allowance or in the case of death, any pension, because there was no pre-War dependence, and we have cropping up, day after day in Ireland, very sad cases of widows and others left practically destitute owing to the death of their sons in the Army. In Ireland family affection is very keen, and when parents grow old the sons maintain them in their old age, though they have to effect large economies to do so. The last thing the old people want to do is to get into the union. Day after day members of the party to which I belong receive letters from all parts of Ireland from these old people, complaining either that they do not get any allowance at all or that the amount which they receive is absolutely inadequate to support them. I have one particular case in my mind of a widow with three sons in the Army. One is a prisoner, another is serving in Salonika, and another in France. She has made frequent applications for a separation allowance and has been refused, with the usual stereotyped reply that there was no pre-War dependence and consequently she could get nothing. If her boys had not joined the Army at the outbreak of the War, her husband having died since, they would have supported her.

There is another case of a widow who had an only son. She was able partially to support herself at the time the War broke out. Since then she has become delicate and half blind and cannot earn anything. Her son was killed on the 21st June last, and she has been allotted a pension of 2s. 4d. a week to support her for the rest of her life. I had a letter form her quite recently. She says about her son: He gave his life in defence of King and country. Now the mother he was so good to may go into the union for all the country cares. It is a lesson hard to learn. I will put my trust in another appeal to your goodness. That is the position of many another Irish mother, and I would submit to the hon. Gentleman that this question of the system of arriving at the amount of separation allowances and pensions based on pre-War dependence is not equitable and is most unjust. Quite recently the Waterford Statutory Committee unanimously passed a resolution calling for reconsideration of this matter, and their example has been followed by other statutory committees in Ireland, and they give their reasons for it. I can tell the hon. Gentleman that one of the chief causes of the decline of recruiting in Ireland was the manner in which the dependants of soldiers who had been killed at the front were treated under this system of pensions and separation allowances. When people saw the way in which they were treated they took very good care to make it known in the district in which they lived. The stories are quite common. I would ask the Government to consider this question, and also the question I raised in the earlier part of my speech.


I should like to reply to one or two of the remarks in the lecture we have had from the Front Bench on the question of economy. I presume that this House and, what is more important, the people of this country, are supposed to condone every form of inefficiency and extravagance exercised by the Government on the understanding that it will be all right, and that we shall pay for it by high taxation after the War. I do not think that that argument is a reply to the points raised by hon. Members. It was suggested that because we had pleaded for fair and just treatment and adequate compensation for the men who had suffered, and for the dependants of those who had been killed, this House was condoning extravagance. As far as I am concerned, and as far as most hon. Members are concerned, we resent that. I do not think that is condoning extravagance. It is giving justice rather than condoning extravagance. Even if it were so, it is no reason why we should ask the soldiers who are fighting to-day to pay for the inefficiency and waste that is going on behind them. The ideas put by the hon. and gallant Member on the other side were perfectly sound. We have had some experience of the Board of Inventions. I know quite a number of excellent inventions which have been submitted to the Board of Inventions, and the Board found themselves utterly unable to cope with them. They have no system for coping with them. When an invention is taken to them it becomes a sheet of paper which is put into a brown cover or a grey back, and it is filed. There is no definite and complete system for dealing with an invention on its merits, and I am afraid that if the suggestion appointing a committee were carried out, we should find that committee over-burdened with complaints relative to the various Departments, Naval, Military, and Civil, and that they would find themselves snowed under with various applications. I would still like to suggest that it might be possible for some form of economy to be produced, if there were committees of this House appointed to exercise a controlling hand on the extravagance and inefficiency in the respective Departments.

When I had the honour and privilege of addressing this Housce for the first time, I raised this point and suggested that for every Department we might have a committee sitting in this House which would not only be able to keep its end up with the House, but be able to control to some extent, or rather to initiate inquiries at once, without the setting up of Royal Commissions, and the delay and paraphernalia of a Government inquiry, and be able to handle immediately any question which might arise in respect to extravagance or waste in any given Department. If I may elaborate the suggestion of my hon. and gallant Friend, there might be a small committee of Members of this House set up, possibly only for the duration of this War, to watch not only the extravagance, but the general administration of respective Departments. Right hon. and hon. Gentlemen who sit on the Front Bench and represent those Departments have quite as much as they can do to handle the Departments as they find them, and I would suggest that they might find such a committee a help instead of a hindrance.

There is hardly a Member of this House who does not know of cases of gross, grave and wilful waste which is going on at the present minute. Yet to whom can we go? We put down questions in this House and get evasive replies. A Minister cannot stand up at the Bench and give his Government away. We put down a question about a contract, and the first thing a Minister does when he goes back to the War Office or the Admiralty is to call for all the papers in connection with the contract. Then, on the information which is supplied, he sees that he stands condemned, because most probably the document is one which he signed himself without reading it. We know quite well what Ministers do with documents. They are brought in in big bundles to be signed. I have brought them in myself. The Minister asks "Is this all right?" and he initials them or signs them without reading them and that is going to cost the Government or the country half a million of money. And then when a Member of the House of Commons puts down a question the Minister sends for the document reads it for the first time, and finds that he has sanctioned a contract which is wholly irregular, and to save his face he has to prepare an evasive answer. That is not only condoning extravagance; it is asking for waste.

I dare say that if I put down a question to-night for the Under-Secretary of State for War, and asked him what was being done as to the R E 7 contract, he would immediately send for all the papers in connection with the contract, and possibly find that it was an order which was given for. I think, 1,000 of that type—or 500 shall we say?—which it was proved is a useless and wholly impossible type for an offensive against the enemy. The order was cancelled, but, as far as I can make out, owing to some mistake they forgot to cancel the older for the radiators—I think it was 1,000 radiators. We know that radiators are very expensive things. Quite apart from the expense to the country there are thousands of highly skilled mechanics employed in making them. I understand that they gave large orders for spares for these machines, and they employ stream line tubing, which is almost unobtainable in this country to-day. We want it to meet the enemy in the air. Probably they will find when they get the papers that they forgot to cancel the orders, or if they did cancel them it was after taking delivery of a good many, and they are scrapped all over the country. They are still making the radiators and still delivering them, and I do not think it an exaggeration to say the mechanics are earning 2s. an hour, which is double pay, for overtime for working at the radiators which will never be used, but will be scrapped.

If we had a committee in this House, we could go through and give this information, but the position is that if we give this information, it has to be so discreetly done. Directly I came to concrete facts, I know that if I gave them as clearly as I could in this House, the Under-Secretary for War would at once send for the contract officer to explain, and that officer would know that it was one of the five men who had given them away. The result would be that the officer in the Service, who was really working for his country, and to save its money as distinguished from those engaged in efficient administration, might be relieved of his command or commission. I put a question the other day to my hon. Friend as to what would happen to an officer who gave information to a Member of Parliament—would he be relieved of his command or his commission? I think the hon. Gentleman was quite right and entitled to answer that he would be, and that under the circumstances, he would be immediately conscripted as a private in the army. That may be perfectly right it may be impossible to conduct a War if officers are to give Members of Parliament this information; still, we may have the case of an officer who may say to himself, "I have tolerated this sort of thing for so long, that I feel I have to stop it." Suppose it is the case of an officer of some stores department, who sees waste to the amount of hundreds of thousands going on. He reports it to his senior, and who does it reach at the finish? The man who is responsible for the waste, and he puts the document into a docket and turns it down.

It is absolutely necessary that, so far as the Air Service is concerned, a very careful inquiry should be made into the present waste. There are highly skilled men paid high wages at present employed, and we need now, more than at any time in the War, efficient machines, and it is important that we should not lose the benefit of the labour at the present time. It is bad enough to lose the money squandered on these contracts, but it is even worse to lose their skilled labour in the manufacture of a class of machine which is so urgently needed. I think there is very great need of better administration than we have at present, so far as the technical side is concerned. I have had brought to my notice, only to-day, a new order for machines to which I call the attentiol of the Under-Secretary for War. I would like him to tell me how many of these machines had been taken within the last week; I would like him to tell me how many men has been smashed within the last three days. What have you decided to do with the order? Are those machines pliable, or possible to be employed under the conditions? Is it the fact that 250 B.E. 2 C machines, with a Raff engine of 90 h.p. have been ordered for delivery within the next three or four months? These machines have a speed of something like 80 miles an hour, and a climbing speed of something like 550 feet a minute, while there are machines which have a speed of 120 or 130 miles an hour, and a climbing speed of 1,000 feet a minute.

And can the hon. Gentleman tell me why the mortality among airmen is so high? Hardly a day goes by but two or three pilots are killed in this country. I do not think I should be exaggerating if I say that the present average of the pilots we are killing in this country was something like (600 per year, in peace flying training. If my hon. Friend, the Under-Secretary, would like to know why I will loll him. It is because to a great extent we are using the B type machine for training. It is a stable machine and men can be quickly trained by it, but directly the man gets off the stable machine and gets on to an ordinary flyer and starts cross-country work, if his engine stops and he makes a forced landing he finds the landing speed so much higher than that of the machine on which he was trained, that when he attempts to land in the middle of a field he is generally-found in a hedge or tree, because he never had any training on those sensitively-controlled machines. The man always swears by the machine on which he is trained until it lets him in. Until he gets to the front the B type will not let him in. It is an ideal machine for peace conditions, provided you do not take too many liberties. My contention is that it is no good training a man on a peacetime machine hurriedly, and then send him to France to use a war-type machine.

There is no difficulty in teaching a man to fly on an easy type of machine, and it is because they are teaching men on the easy type at first that we are having so many terrible accidents in this country directly we send the men to cross-country work on the Bristol or the Sopwith, and various other machines. That constitutes not only a very considerable loss of manpower, because pilots are scarce and valuable, but, as well, the pilot represents to this country a certain cash value which we shall have to pay in taxation after the War. I expect if you took the whole cost of training in the last two years and spread it over the number of pilots we have trained, you would find that the pilot has cost not less than from two to three thousand pounds per head to be trained. We have all the officers and the engineering establishments necessary to keep up in order to train these men, and the machines they smash must also be debited to the cost of training. We are short of pilots and machines to-day, and yet I do not think I should be exaggerating if I said that we have in this country to-day thousands of aeroplanes. When I put down a question in this House I have got accustomed to the stereotyped answer that "It is not in the interests of the country," or "We shall be helping the Germans if we say that this type of machine has been stopped." A wave of panic would go through the German Flying Corps if my hon. Friend would rise up and say that the B.E. type of machine had been stopped in France, because the Germans would then know they would be coming up against something that was a bigger fighting proposition than that particular typo of machine.

It is absolutely essential that the whole question of our Air Services should be reviewed to-day. It is an extraordinary tiling, it is a regrettable thing, but it is an absolute fact which anyone who has inside information can satisfy himself upon, that never since the outbreak of the War have we been less than three months ahead of anything the Germans have produced—we have been three months ahead of them on design and performance, and we have been 12 months behind them on production right through the War, and I say that the men who are resposible for this administrative muddle ought to be brought to book. I make no personal attack. It is a very difficult thing for me, as lately in the Service myself, to stand up here and make anything in the nature of a personal attack, but if there are certain officers in senior commands or in supreme command of a certain Service, it is impossible to dissociate one's criticism from those men. Either they are ignorant of what is going on, which proves conclusively, to me at least, that they have no right to occupy that position, or they are aware of what is going on, in which case there is no excuse for them at all. There have been more men killed by "Koh-i-noors," by pencils, by calculations that have taken place in our drawing offices, than there have been by gunfire by the enemy in the air. The most elaborate calculations are constantly going on, as I have said time and time again, and at the present minute I am satisfied that there is no system at the Hotel Cecil, and that there is no co-ordination between the military and the naval branches whatsoever. There are men sitting in the Admiralty to-day, technical advisers, who through their technical advice have cost this country millions of money, and they sit there today. Hyde Park itself could not hold their blunders if they were spread out. There are thousands of men employed in this country in building the crazy things they are responsible for, and yet they are there. They have been there from the beginning of the War, and, so far as I can see, unless the criticism in this House is sufficiently strong, there they will remain, to the cost of this country.

Only the other day it was suddenly decided by the Royal Naval Air Service to build a new type of machine. They got hold of a certain type of engine—the 240 Renault, to be correct—and they called on a certain designer, who is a very well known man, to get out a design, so that they could farm its building out to five firms. Orders were given for ten of these machines each to five firms, and when they went to the Admiralty to get the drawings, the Admiralty said, "You had better go down to Shortt's and get the drawings." The representatives of these five firms went to Shortt's to get the drawings to build this wonderful type of new machine, but when they got there they found there were no drawings.

Several weeks went by and eventually they got about five or six sheets of drawings, and for that particular machine there are 978 separate sheets of drawings. This went on for a fortnight, and then the firms in question went to the Admiralty and said, "We cannot get on. We have all our men hung up, and only about eight sheets of drawings for several parts of this machine, and there is no work for the men to do." So to keep these firms quiet a certain officer in the Admiralty, whose name I shall be pleased to give the hon. Gentleman, said they had better have an order for ten more, and these were ordered. Still they got no more drawings, and to keep them quiet, another order for ten machines was given. They went again about the drawings, and a further order was given for ten machines. When the order had increased altogether to 250 machines they started to worry for the general drawings. The engines were delivered, and they were waiting to get on. I think I am right in saying not one machine of that type has ever been erected. I do not think there is one of those firms who knew how these machines were coming together when finished making. They had been making them from small part drawings, and what was the result? After about three months of this—it happened last October—in February, after all the output, these firms were all called to the Admiralty and told that it had been decided that that type of machine was a wash-out, and all the work they had done was cancelled. They said: "What are we going to do?" and the officer in question said: "You had better build 225 Shortts." What is known as that was a wash-out two years ago. It is an obsolete type of machine, but some one at the Admiralty said that if they put 240 Renault engines into 225 Shortts that would be all right. Those firms, I think, at the present moment are building 200 or 250 of those obsolete or obsolescent type of machines simply and solely on account of the mess-up which these young officers at the Admiralty made over this other order to keep them quiet. That thing ought to be inquired into by a committee. When an officer knows a thing like that is going on, when a contractor knows he is becoming a party to robbing the country like that, we must have something in the nature of inquiry. That is why I suggest that a committee of Members might be very well employed in inquiring into cases of this description, which would render it quite unnecessary for me to raise them on the floor of this House.


Will you go before that Committee?

12.0 M.


I have been before all the Committees up to now. I may add I have previously raised in this House the question of sending men out on machines that everyone knows to be inefficient. If we sent men to-day to sea in coffin ships there would be only one name for the men responsible for so doing. Yet the figures my hon. Friend gave when, in my absence last night, he replied to me, regarding the losses at the iront are decimals. I find it impossible to discover how he can kill decimals of men. I think the figure was given for six weeks, or an average of 7.6. That may be quite right, but if the hon. Member referred to losses the figures were quite inadequate. If he had said that our losses at the front at present are something like twice that it would have been a great deal more like the fact. The Germans are quite aware of our losses; they register them. I should like my hon. Friend to give a frank statement to the House as to what our actual losses really are, not only in France but on all our fronts and in England. I assure him that it would take a great deal more than those figures to frighten the men flying for us to-day. We owe them a very considerable debt. No matter how we propose to pay it after the War, we cannot do better during the War than to provide them with the best material it is possible to obtain, and the best administration that it is possible to give. I have been accused of using violent language here. I still go on using violent language. If that is the only possible way of attracting attention to the present Administration I shall do so.


It is the only way to move the War Office, anyway.


As I have said before, I did not come here to achieve a reputation as a politician, a debater, or anything else of that sort, but for one distinct purpose. Our Air Service when I came into this House was in a fairly rotten condition. To-day it is in a fairly rotten condition. I regret that the only thing I have succeeded in doing in twelve months has been to persuade the Royal Flying Corps that it was possible to train pilots to fly at night, and thereby settle the question of the Zeppelin menace. This, by the way, was possibly the best friend the Air Service ever had, because it awoke the people in this country to see what air control might really be. In the next summer we shall experience raids of a, much more serious character than Zeppelin raids. Our enemy has found that we have a cure for Zeppelin raids—provided we keep up the efficiency we had in this country about three months before the Big Push. But the great losses on our front have made a great run on our pilots.

There is another question, that of raids by heavier-than-air machines—aeroplanes. I assure the House that there is no defence against a raid by them. Aeroplanes may come over to this or any other country at night, and at 15,000 or 20,000 feet they may drop their bombs and get back long before we know where they are. It is quite a job finding a Zeppelin at night. It is an impossible thing to find enemy aeroplanes at night. There is only one way by which we shall be able to stop air raids of heavier-than-air machines; that is by reprisals. Whether this country likes reprisals or not bothers me very little. I think in time that the men who are trying to conduct this War on the principle of—well, I do not know what principle to call it—I am almost at a loss for a simple word, but I must say, if we are to be raided in this country, and if we are to have our undefended towns attacked, the only way to stop it is by reprisals. I would like to see our Air Service to-day ready, fit, and able to carry out those reprisals; otherwise we shall have such a wail of indignation if we are raided day and night in the coming months, and this may bring the Government down as it brought the French Government down. It would be unfortunate if a rotten Air Service brought this Government down as well, because it requires so little to put it right, for there never was a country with finer material. We have the finest designers and mechanics and by far the best pilots in the world and the best facilities. There is only one thing clogging the wheel and holding the wagon of success from going forward, and that is the incessant intrigue and bickering and jealousy, and the desire of certain men to exploit their own ideas and designs instead of having to work out their ideas in competition with other machines. It does not matter whose idea the machine is so long as it can prove by a test to be the best of its type, and then it should be adopted. I ask the Government to consider this matter, and I also ask the Under-Secretary for War not simply to wonder how he can evade replying to my points and endeavour to trip me up on points which I have made incompletely, but to be English in the matter. [An HON. MEMBER: '-'Scotch!"] Yes, Irish or anything you like, but be humane, and remember that even at this moment we are needlessly sacrificing the best lives of our country and squandering thousands of pounds which we shall have to pay in taxation. The Under-Secretary should remember that his position is one of great public trust and the lives of men are dependent upon what he does. I would ask him if he can meet certain Members of this House to consider these questions? I am not the only hon. Member who receives letters. Many other hon. Members have information which will support what J. have said to-night. Why not have a conference of these men and cut out all this political twaddle? Let us meet face to face and have it out, and see if we cannot get this matter put right instead of trying to hide and cloak up everything.


I desire to join in the appeal which has been made for further co-operation in the efforts which are being made to extend the area under tillage in Ireland by releasing the men who are essential for the operations of the harvest. I will quote one concrete instance. An application was made early last month by Mr. James Black, of county Donegal, for the exemption of his only son at home. This gentleman farms 160 acres of very rich land, and 80 per cent. of that farm is under tillage. Mr. Black himself was paralysed, and unable to look after the farm, and he applied for exemption for his son, who is twenty-seven years of age. The son is at present in a military hospital in Glasgow, and I ask the Under-Secretary for War to give this case his special consideration. I wish also to bring before the notice of the House and the Chief Secretary the manner in which the Estates Commissioners have distributed the land of the Stewart estate in county Donegal. This is a small estate of only 100 acres, situated in the town of Milford, in county Donegal. I need not remind the hon. Gentleman, who knows county Donegal, that there are no ranches in that part of the country. Nearly all the farms are small and poor, and there is practically no untenanted land there. Consequently when a chance occurred of distributing 100 acres of land, the number of fully-qualified applicants was very large indeed. Furthermore, in distributing the land of this or any other estate, the Estates Commissioners are bound first of all by Section 17, Sub-section (23), of the Land Act, 1909, which lays down that the following persons are eligible for the purchase of parcels of land: First of all, a person being a tenant or proprietor of a holding not exceeding £10 valuation; secondly, a person who has surrendered land for the relief of congestion; thirdly, an evicted tenant or his personal representative; and fourthly, any person to whom, in the opinion of the Land Commission, after adequate provision has been made to supply the requirements of the persons mentioned in the Sub-section I have quoted, advances ought to be made. I hold that the Estates Commissioners are bound by that Section to consider the prevalent congestion in the case of this estate.

The first person to receive a portion of this estate was a gentleman who received 16½ acres, and he was a caretaker for six years with the landlord. The second was an ex-soldier, who received 16½ acres, who promptly let his land at £5 an acre to a large farmer who already farms 120 acres. The third, who got 5 acres, is a mason working in a town. Another man, named Duffy, got 16½ acres; he was an ex-police man, who already had 11 acres, and he promptly let his new holding. A small farmer named Collins got 16½ acres; another, who had no implements, got 16 acres, and he let the land at £4 an acre to a farmer who had already 60 acres in his possession. A man named O'Donnell, who was not a tenant at all but an employé of the landlord, also got land. The last applicant was a man named O'Brien, who was a good cultivator, well supplied with implements for working on the land. He got 3 acres, but only after the Estates Commissioners had insisted on his parting with 3 acres which he already held. Still another man applied for a holding of this estate. He was encouraged to apply' to the Estates Commissioners, and was told to take out letters of administration in respect of his father's property. He did so, but after being put to the expense and trouble, and after having sent the official documents to the office, his application was turned down. I must apologise to the House and to the Chief Secretary for raising these questions at this hour and on such an occasion, but I only do so because I have absolutely failed to get a reply to a series of questions I addressed to the Estates Commissioners and have got no redress whatever. I suggested in the month of February that these lands were being let to improper persons, and I received an answer from the Estates Commissioners to the effect practically that it was none of their business to inquire into allegations of this nature. I followed that up by sending them the list I have just read to the House, but they have failed absolutely to inquire into the allegations I have made. I appeal now to the right hon. Gentleman to sift thoroughly these matters, and to see to it that land situated in a district where land is so hard to procure shall be used to the greatest possible advantage.


Before the Chief Secretary answers, I would like to address him on another subject. I conceive it is his duty, as the representative of Ireland in the Government, to make demands on the Government which are in the interest of Ireland. I want to call attention to the fact that, although the War has now been going on for two and a half years, the expenditure on munition making in Ireland has not, as I understand, exceeded the sum of £2,000,000 sterling. The total expenditure in connection with the War now amounts to £40,000,000 weekly. Ireland has contributed in actual cash up to the present moment, in the way of taxation, at least a sum of £25,000,000, and yet less than £3,000,000 has been expended on munition work in that country. But the contribution of Ireland for the War is not confined to the amount of cash actually raised by taxation imposed during the year, because, as I assume, our country will be expected to bear her proportion of the taxes to be imposed in respect of the moneys borrowed for carrying on the War. The total taxation of the United Kingdom now amounts to about £500,000,000 yearly, and the excess taxation, over the prewar rate, is fully £300,000,000 sterling. The last Budget prior to the War realised a sum of about £200,000,000, while under the Budget for the current year £500,000,000 is raised by taxation, the additional £300,000,000 being for the pur- poses of the War. Of that £300,000,000 Ireland has contributed £10,000,000, or £12,000,000. During the same period the borrowings have amounted to £1,500,000,000, so that the total expenditure for the year is close upon £2,000,000,000. If Ireland is to bear her proportion of the money borrowed during the current year, and of the money borrowed before the current year, as well as her proportion of what will have to be borrowed in the coming year, she will have to bear not merely the amount already raised by taxation and paid into the Exchequer, but also her proportion of the money borrowed for the purposes of the War. I would ask the Chief Secretary whether it is not his duty, as the representative of Ireland in the Cabinet, to see that a fairer allocation is made of war expenditure than has been made hitherto. The figure of £3,000,000 has been given to me as the war expenditure on munitions in Ireland up to now. So far as I have been able to investigate the matter, I cannot find that a sum of even £3,000,000 has been spent on the manufacture of munitions in Ireland.

I would call the attention of the right hon. Gentleman to the fact that in November last an hon. Baronet, who is a Member of this House, was sent to Ireland by the then Secretary of State for War, now the Prime Minister, to investigate the conditions with regard to the materials Ireland could provide for the purpose of carrying on the War. The hon. Baronet went over the whole of Ireland and made what appeared to be a thorough investigation of the conditions and of the plant and materials available to provide munitions of war. Up to the present moment the report of the hon. Baronet has not been published. When he was in Ireland I had the pleasure of introducing two deputations to him, but I have never heard from that day to this whether there is anything in the hon. Baronet's report in reference to the claims put before him by the deputations, and I do not know what he said in regard to them. He informed the deputations that he would report to the Government. I assume that he has done so. I understand that this Report was sent in to the Government at the end of November last. After the lapse of several months it has not been published, and so far as I am aware no information has been given with regard to it as a whole. I believe tht some of my hon. Friends have been informed of the contents with regard to a receiving depot in Dublin, but I have not seen them. I have only learned that within the last two clays. I was expecting all along that we should be given some information with regard to the Report, but no such information has been given to the public or to the House. Some information has been given to some Members of the House, but I think the full Report ought to be published. All Ireland is waiting for it. I can speak for only a very small locality, but I am aware from the reports which appeared in the public Press at the time that all over Ireland, in every place you went to, in the West, in the North, in the South, in the East, at Dublin, Belfast, Londonderry, Sligo, Galway, Limerick, Cork, Waterford and other towns, deputations waited on the hon. Baronet and made suggestions and put proposals before him, which he undertook to report to the Government, and I presume he has dealt with all these matters in his Report. It is quite unfair for the Government on their responsibility to send a representative in a responsible position, as the hon. Baronet was, as a delegate, as it were, to the people of Ireland in connection with munitions of war and manufactures for the purpose of enabling the War to be carried on. to raise false hopes in the minds of the people and not inform us of what he has said or what the Government propose to do with regard to his Report. Surely a visit which was boomed as the hon. Baronet's visit to Ireland was boomed at the time ought to have some other result than mere futility. It has had no result so far and it is quite unfair that this Government should play on the people of Ireland by declining to inform those whom the hon. Baronet saw as to what is being done or what has been said by him with regard to the representations they made to him.

A Noble Lord who has often been spoken of by way of criticism or referred to in connection with the Press which he controls made a speech about a week ago, in which I am glad to say he called attention to the fact that in Ireland so little expenditure has been made for the purpose of carrying on the War, and he gave the figure I have given He said that while this country is spending over £'40,000,000 a week for the purposes of the War, it is a sad thing to say that Ireland is getting very little benefit out of that expenditure. I hope the Noble Lord will use the Press which he controls in this country with so much ability to press that on the Government. It is said that he has made this Government. I hope he will endeavour to make this child of his obey him now in connection with this point to which he himself called attention. It is very sad to find that up to now no attempt has been made in Ireland to set up any industry which would be of a permanent character in connection with the War. One of the proposals which was made to the hon. Baronet when he came to Ireland was that the Government should in a town where there had been a large leather factory, take over that factory, which they could have had almost for nothing or, at any rate, for quite a nominal rent. They could there have inaugurated, or, rather, revived the manufacture of leather. The manufacture of leather had been carried on in that town until about fifteen years ago, when it ceased on the death of the proprietor of the manufactory. The plant of the factory is there, and is more suitable for carrying on that industry than any other. The people have never heard since that day whether anything is to be done in that matter. The Government have taken control in this country of many factories and industries. They are controlling the chief industries—the railways, shipping, and mines—and surely it is open to them to take some step in Ireland. I do not believe they have started yet. I understand that a few days ago an Under-Secretary was asked a question in regard to mines in Ireland, and said he was not aware that any coal mines existed in Ireland. The Chief Secretary is well aware we have coal mines, and I know he has visited some of them. I wish he would impart his knowledge to some of his colleagues, and especially to that Under-Secretary.

My hon. Friends who have spoken in this Debate have referred to many cases of hardship where men whose release from the Army for purposes of agriculture has been asked for and refused. I have had a case brought to my notice. It is that of the secretary of a county council who had two sons when the War broke out. One of them was killed, and the remaining son then enlisted as a private. The son who was killed had a commission. The second son, the private, was in training over here, and the Department of Agriculture in Dublin asked that he should be released. The father is a large farmer, having a farm of over 200 acres, and was secretary to the county council for many years before the War, and still is so. His duty as secretary to the county council requires him to attend at the office of the county council every day from nine to five, and he has to travel by train to get there. He wanted this son for the season in order to supervise the tillage. He employs a certain number of men, but he wanted this son, who is accustomed to farming, and who had been in charge of the farm before. He enlisted only last September, and was not ready to serve at the front, not having completed his training. It was the Department of Agriculture in Ireland that asked that he should be released in order to supervise the tillage operations in the spring, but up to a week ago he had not been released, though he had been transferred to an Irish regiment, and is in Ireland. The request was made on 29th January last to the War Office or whatever Department is concerned. I think this is an extraordinary case. Is my hon. Friend aware that any request for the release of ploughmen in Ireland is always, or almost invariably turned down? There have been very few cases of release. I should like the Under-Secretary for War to tell us if he can find a number of cases in Ireland where men have been released for ploughing. I think he will find that there are very few. We are told that in this country 14,000 have been released. I would ask, Have fourteen been released in Ireland? That is probably as many as have been released; I should say myself that not more than seven have been released. The commanding officers in Ireland seem to have made up their minds that they ought to release none. It is absolutely hopeless applying in Ireland. Whether warning has been given to the commanding officers in Ireland or whether they do it of their own volition I do not know. They have refused in almost every case to consider the application; certainly they have refused to accede to the applications, and I think that has made a very unfortunate impression in Ireland, for it is as much as to say. "if you are an Irishman, no matter how well you may be able to plough and no matter how much your services as a ploughman may be required, you shall not, because you are an Irishman, be released." That is what it comes to. It is unfortunate, but I am sorry to say that that is the impression which it has made on public opinion in Ireland.


I do not intend to delay the House more than a few minutes, but I should like to draw the attention of the right hon. Gentleman to what is happening in regard to food production. At the inception of the scheme, as he is himself aware, consternation was caused in various districts owing to the impossibility of complying with the Regulations. That particularly applied to that portion of Limerick which I have the honour to represent, because for the last forty years tillage in East Limerick has been unknown. The farmers have chiefly relied upon dairying, and when the tillage regulations were issued they seemed to think, and, indeed, I thought myself at that time, that it was absolutely impossible for them to comply with them. It has now been found that in Limerick alone 850 ploughs were sold to the fanners of the county since the beginning of the operations, and so great is the demand for a tillage demonstrator that a second one has had to be appointed in the county. That speaks very well for the farmers who practically knew nothing whatever about the production of wheat and oats and other commodities which are essential under the demands now put forward by the Government. Something has been said about shirkers. I know the shirker is in the county of Limerick as well as in other counties in Ireland, and as you have shirkers among the farmers you have them among other classes of the community, even Government servants. When the right hon. Gentleman comes to enforce penalties upon any section of the community, I hope he will apply the same rod to the pet darlings of the Government as he would to the ordinary farmer. I attended a meeting in a district where there is a master of foxhounds, a gentleman named Baring, who has been in Limerick for the last fifteen or sixteen years. Since he came into the county he has always employed a pretty large stud, but he has never purchased a pound of oats from any farmer in the county or city of Limerick. He has 700 or 800 acres of land, and all he has tilled is about three and a half acres. I wish to ask if he is to be allowed to go scot-free? Why should not Mr. Baring be treated as an ordinary farmer in the county of Limerick? Far harder treatment should be meted out to him than to an ordinary individual. He purchases all his oats and straw on this side of the Channel, and gives no opportunity to the farmer over whose land he rides of selling him corn or straw.

I come to another gentleman, Arthur White, "Lumping Tommy Sands," as he is called, a land agent who works a farm for an Englishman in a district called Ballynanty near the village of Bruff. It is a farm consisting of 240 acres of the best land in the South of Ireland. That land has been grazed by bullocks for the last forty years, and, as far as I can gather, the profits of the farm are not going to the landlord, but into the pockets of Arthur White. A deputation asked him to give portion of his land, but he turned them down. I went through the place last Sunday week and not a bit of the 250 acres of land is being used for the production of food. Is he to get off scot-free?

Then we come to another case. I have a letter from an adjoining parish concerning a gentleman who is well known to a good many people in Ireland, Mr. Digby de Burgh. He is very fond of criticising the Irish Parliamentary party and the late Liberal Government in the columns of the "Independent." He criticises everybody from the Almighty down to the bottom. He uses his pen and his voice against the local bodies and local Members of Parliament. He criticises everybody except the Tory party. He believes that if the Tory party went into office to-morrow Ireland would be absolutely saved. Tariff Beform would enrich Ireland by leaps and bounds. An inspector asked him if he had no notion of tilling any of his land, or complying With the Order, and the answer he got was, "If anyone comes to compel me to till my land I will give him the contents of a six-chambered revolver." What I want to know from the right hon. Gentleman is whether Mr. de Burgh is be let off on the plea that he is half-mad. If he allows that he will have a thousand half-mad men in the county of Limerick before a week is out. It is far easier to get a six-chambered revolver nowadays than it is to do the other thing. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will see that Mr. de Burgh has to carry out the Tillage Order.

I could name to the right hon. Gentleman six or seven other people in my Constituency who say they will not till. Everyone of them happens to be a Unionist. Why will they not till? It is simply because some of them are half-mad, and the majority have backstairs up to Dublin Castle. It is all very well to say that the responsibility for tillage was forced upon a man who heretofore had been in the habit of tilling, but if you were to distinguish between the ordinary farmer on the one hand, and the grazier of 200 acres on the other, you would be up against a stone wall, because if men like De Burgh, White, and Baring are going by influence and other means to be let off complying with the Order, the farmer will say, "It is the same old game over again. The Government are still saying that any excuse will do—you will not be asked to do your duty; we will throw the responsibility upon the farmer who has already had to do his duty in the way of tillage." I do not wish to detain the House any longer, but I must express the hope that these people will be compelled to do their duty the same as the farmer. I should like, in conclusion, to express the hope that the right hon. Gentleman will take steps before we go back at Easter with regard to setting up the wages tribunals in every county in Ireland. Time is going, labourers are being employed on the land, and the sooner wages tribunals are set up and a minimum wage is established the sooner will they give their earnest cooperation and loyalty to the farmer, which is absolutely essential to the successful prosecution of the food scheme in Ireland. I trust, before we get back, those of us who are associated with the labour movement will be able to say that the right hon. Gentleman has carried out his word to this House, and the direct representation of labour will meet with the thorough approval of all concerned.


The House, I am sure, will not expect me to reply in detail to all the points which have been brought to the attention of the House by hon. Members from Ireland in the course of this discussion, but I will reply to the successive questions which have been raised so far as my present information enables me to do so, and as to the matters on which I have not full information I will make inquiries. The hon. Member for East Donegal (Mr. Kelly), after a considerable display of patience, gave the House a large volume of particulars con- cerning a Stewart estate of 100 acres in county Donegal, where there has been a failure, as he thinks, on the part of the Congested Districts Board to make the distribution possible of certain untenanted land.


It was on the part of the Estates Commissioners.


I should have said the Estates Commissioners. I confess that if the hon. Member had brought the matter to my attention three or four months ago, when the thing was in progress, there would have been a somewhat less remote chance of effective intervention than there is to-night, when the matter has already been dealt with, and probably the steps which have been taken are irrevocable. However that may be, undoubtedly the subject is one which in the constituency the hon. Member represents is regarded as possessing a great deal of interest, and I will take care that due inquiry shall be forthcoming. I can assure the hon. Member that if there is a miscarriage such as he suggests, and it is possible for a remedy to be applied, I will see what can be done in the matter.

The hon. Member for West Water-ford (Mr. O'Shee) raised a question which has already occupied a good deal of my own attention and has been brought to my notice by the hon. Member and a good many of his colleagues—that is the question of the relative disparity between the expenditure on munition works in this Island of Great Britain and the corresponding expenditure in Ireland. Hon. Members who are familiar with that subject will know well that the smaller scale of expenditure there has arisen through causes which it is exceedingly difficult to grapple with in the course of a great war. There has been no indisposition to distribute munition works in Ireland. So far from that, works have been established, plant has been taken over, and workmen have been trained in delicate branches of industry which one would have thought it was impossible to provide. May I say also that they have been trained with excellent results? There is a munition factory in Dublin where practically the whole of the workpeople, both men and women, have been trained during the War. I can tell the House that they have been trained with so much success that the output of shells compares favourably with the best output in Great Britain in quality and price. Works have been established, or are in course of establishment, in the city of Water ford, as the hon. Member for West Waterford will know. I have myself seen works in the West of Ireland in various places—in Limerick and in one or two other towns. Also, there are very considerable branches of munition works in the North, particularly in Belfast. I am not able to go in detail into the recommendations of the hon. Baronet the Member for the Loughborough Division (Sir M. Levy). The hon. Baronet visited many of the industrial centres in Ireland, and in the Report which he produced made recommendations that are at the present time receiving attention. Those recommendations, I think, are likely almost immediately to bear fruit in one or two particulars. The hon. Member for West Waterford referred to the discussion which had arisen in connection with the establishment of a fuse factory and an inspection depot. Both undertakings, I have reason to hope, will be in course of operation before any great time has passed. Steps are being taken with a view to carrying into effect the recommendations in that respect, and the works in Dublin which are being so successfully carried on I expect will be increased in the two particulars to which the hon. Member has referred.

On the general question of the development of industrial possibilities and the attitude of the Government towards the munition industry in Ireland, it is impossible in the course of a reply to questions on the spur of the moment to give the hon. Member so satisfactory an account as he would desire. But with regard to industrial possibilities, I can assure the hon. Member that the Committees which are now sitting to deal not only with immediate possibilities but with the question of the reconstruction and development which must engage attention on the conclusion of the War, are by no means losing sight of the possibilities of Ireland. In that respect the Report of the hon. Baronet the Member for Loughborough is bound to be of considerable use.


Will the right hon. Gentleman say when the Report will be published?


I cannot say that. It was a Report made at the personal instance of the present Prime Minister when he was Chancellor of the Exchequer, and I am not in a position to say whether the document is one which ought to be laid before this House. But I can tell the hon. Member that the recommendations of the hon. Baronet have been under careful consideration. With regard to the matter which he mentioned last in the course of his speech, namely, the position in respect to the development of mines in Ireland, the hon. Member knows well that, notwithstanding all the difficulties to be surmounted, the construction of a railway has been undertaken in the case of one mine, and there is every desire on the part of the Government to utilise, so far as possible, those resources to which the hon. Member has referred.

Then the hon. Member for East Limerick (Mr. Lundon) addressed the House on the question of tillage. I recognise, and every man interested in the increase of tillage in Ireland must recognise, with great appreciation the resolute way in which the farmers generally in Ireland have responded to the invitation of the Government, and to the directions contained in the Tillage Regulations, for the increased production of food to meet our common necessities in the present great emergency. As a matter of fact, farmers in Ireland have, on the whole, responded with astonishing and gratifying alacrity. Nothing, I say, could be more admirable than the response on the whole to the directions contained in the Tillage Regulations. It is quite true, as the hon. Member has said, that in County Limerick there is an enormous demand for ploughs, which has arisen partly from the fact that tillage had gone so much out of use in Ireland, and partly from the effect of the ready and, one might say, enthusiastic response to the Regulations. The hon. Member referred to a number of cases in which he stated that there had been a number of cases of persons, whom he named, who would not obey the Regulations. I can only tell him and tell them that if persons in leading positions have adopted the attitude which he described towards this question of tillage, there will be-no discrimination in favour of such persons when the question of the enforcement of tillage in accordance with the Regulations is finally decided. I must say, in regard to the general question, that in nine cases out of ten where there has been pretence of a resolution not to comply with the Regulations, when the defaulter has come face to face with those who have the power to call in outside help for the purpose of carrying out tillage where there is default, he has altered his mind and has undertaken to conform to the requirements of the Regulations.


I referred to Mr. de Burgh.

1.0 A.M.


I can only say that conduct such as the hon. Member described will not commend itself to the favourable consideration of those whose business it is to enforce these Regulations. It certainly will not commend any man to me, and if in the last resort I had to decide this matter, a resolute defiance of Regulations made in the common interest is the last way of appealing to me. With regard to wages, the labourers in Ireland have shown a great deal of forbearance and patience in this matter. I would say a few words on this subject. There are to be statutory powers in order that the minimum wage may be effective, and I have reason to hope that we shall soon have set up—as soon as these statutory powers are obtained—the machinery will be ready; it is very nearly ready now—in agricultural districts where minimum wage questions have to be settled, tribunals for settling them where this has not already been done by agreement satisfactorily between employers and employed. I am happy to say that the prospect of tribunals for settling these questions has had the result of pricking the consciences of people in many parts of the country, for I have heard of negotiations between employers and employed, who have met one another in the most businesslike way and have come to terms in establishing increased rates of wages. That process will be accelerated and facilitated by the steps the Government will take, and I trust that the result will be at no distant date a great amelioration of the conditions of one of the most deserving, and in the past one of the most neglected, classes of the population of the country—the agricultural labourer. I do not propose to keep the House longer at this time of night. The Under-Secretary for War (Mr. Mac-pherson) has asked me to say that he will look personally into the various matters and cases which have been brought to his notice, including the case which hon. Members from Ireland raised' of the difficulty of obtaining release for agricultural purposes, where possible, from the obligations of military service. He will take those steps, and I do not know, but I hope the House may see its way, as this is a Finance Bill which is essential for the objects we all have at heart, to permit this stage to be taken now.


I will not delay the House for more than a very few minutes, in response to the appeal the Chief Secretary has made, but there are just one or two matters with which I want to deal that arise out of the right hon. Gentleman's speech. I presume the statutory powers to which he referred as necessary before wages boards can be set up in connection with agricultural wages in Ireland will be dealt with in the measure announced to be introduced this week into the House by the Leader of the House.




The points I have risen to refer to arise out of the reply to the hon. Member for West Waterford {Mr. O'Shee) with regard to munition making in Ireland. I think I may say for myself and my Friends on these benches that we welcome the speech of the Chief Secretary and what has been done in Ireland in this matter so far; but we would beg the Chief Secretary and the Government not to attempt to make too much of what has been done, because in proportion to the expenditure for Ireland and in proportion to the gigantic expenditure in this country, what has been done in Ireland is really only a drop in the ocean. My hon. Friend and the Chief Secretary referred to the receiving depot. I was glad to get an announcement yesterday from the Financial Secretary to the War Office (Mr. Forster) that it has been decided to set up that receiving depot in Dublin. Of course, we are very glad indeed of that decision, and I would only just like to say this to the Financial Secretary to the War Office on that point: that we have had to wait a long time for that decision, and I hope that now, when the decision has been come to, it does not mean that we shall have interminable delays before it is carried into effect. We have had bitter experience in the past of War Office delays, and we hope this will not be another case in point.

I think I gathered from the Chief Secretary's speech to-night that a further decision has been come to with regard to the extension of munitions in Dublin in connection with fuse factories, and I hope also that we may have more satisfactory information on that point. I would like to say to the Chief Secretary and to the Financial Secretary to the War Office that I really think the Government would be acting wisely in publishing the Report of the hon. Baronet the Member for Loughborough (Sir M. Levy). His visit to Ireland did raise a great many expectations. He saw many people, and great publicity was given to his visit He received many deputations, and yet not a single word has been heard by the public in Ireland until yesterday, when it was announced that it had been decided to establish a receiving depot. I think that in fairness to the hon. Baronet himself, the Government, if possible, ought to publish his Report, and I hope they will see their way to do so.

There is just one other matter that I want to bring to the notice of the Under-Secretary of State for War. On a recent occasion I had to raise in the Debate here the case of mechanical transport men who had been enlisted in Ireland being transferred to Infantry battalions against their wishes, and refused permission to join Irish regiments. I secured an undertaking that these cases would be individually looked into, but I hear from some of my Friends, and I have seen letters they have received, that there are many of these cases. My hon. Friend here (Mr. O'Shee) says he has two cases, the hon. Member for Newry (Mr. Mooney) showed me a letter he had; yesterday I received another letter on this subject; and the whole weight of evidence is that this is not a special case at all, but that evidently a very large movement in connection with these men has been organised from the War Office or someone else to break the contract with these men for the mechanical transport and to send them into Infantry battalions. Let me remind the hon. Gentleman that the number of men enlisted in recent months from Ireland for the mechanical transport has been the result of a special effort of the War Office for mechanical transport. These men, of course, have special duties and special rates of pay. They were induced from Ireland to join the mechanical transport, and, as I pointed out on the last occasion, more than 1,700 men have been enlisted for this purpose. The letter I received to-day is dated 25th March, and this man, whose name I will send to the hon. Member afterwards, says this. If it is true—and, mind you, all the evidence I have goes to show that it is true—it creates a really serious position that will need to be inquired into by the War Office impartially. He says: I enlisted in the mechanical transport and after some months of training outside London 7 was transferred to Edinburgh with some hundreds of my countrymen. Hut the day we left for Edinburgh we were not told where we were going or that we were being transferred to Infantry regiments, If we had known we would have refused to go. I would like to get back to the mechanical transport, or, failing that to an Irish regiment. My information is that that is true, and hundreds of cases have been dealt with in this way. I say it will be necessary for the War Office to hold a special inquiry into the case of these men, and either return them to the mechanical transport, as their contract implied they were for that branch of the Service when they enlisted in Ireland, or else transfer them, as they are pressing us to urge, to an Irish regiment. It is really a genuine case, and I ask the hon. Gentleman the Under-Secretary of State for War to give it his special attention, in order that we may have no more repetitions of these complaints the causes of which are evidently still going on to-day. I ask him to give the matter his personal and urgent attention.

Question put, and agreed to.

Bill read the third time, and passed.