§ Mr. HOGGE
In yesterday's Debate, in the course of the Prime Minister's remarks, he was good enough to say that I did not know what I was talking about and I was equally good to tell him that he knew less what he was talking about. I have given notice that I was going to raise this on the Adjournment to-day, but I do not see any sign of the Prime Minister or, as a matter of fact, anybody who can reply to the discussion I am about to raise. 1711 We cannot leave this Session without dealing with what is, after all, the most important matter, because it is the most practical matter which has been dealt with yet to-day in our Debates. This is the third occasion since the Vote of Credit was brought in last week on which I ventured to raise the question of the wives and children of our serving men. So far I have not been able to get a sympathetic reply from the Government. Therefore I am reluctantly compelled at this late hour of the last day of the Session to raise this question again, and I will continue to raise it on every occasion until the Government realise what their duty is with regard to those people and will deal with it in a competent way. We had, as I have pointed out before, a proposal made by the Government to increase certain allowances. Those allowances were divided into three categories, namely, the allowance of wives, wives with children, and mothers of apprentices who have joined the forces. While every Member of the House joins in congratulating the Field-Marshal who commands our forces on the advance made to-day, I cannot help recalling the fact that a great part of that advance is probably due to the fact that we have been able to put into the fighting line, owing to the emergencies of the situation, lads of eighteen and a half and nineteen years of age whose mothers are not getting a single penny from the State for the services which these lads are rendering to the State, and I consider that it is a standing disgrace and scandal to this House, because it is to this House. It is not to the people in the country. It is not to the nation. The nation would not grudge any expenditure upon these people. They grudge the very wasteful expenditure to which this Government has been committed which are now being revealed by the Financial Committee which is going into so many matters at the moment.
So far as I am able to pin any responsibility down, it lies on the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Prime Minister, who refused to face the facts of the situation, and who apparently prefer to waste the money of the country on these enterprises of which we are now receiving information, rather than give it to the mothers and parents of the soldiers who, among others, have made this magnificent advance to-day. I refuse to leave this House of Commons for a long Recess, 1712 during which I and the Chancellor of the Exchequer shall draw our salaries when we refuse to pay to those people what they are entitled to, and what they are being deprived of because this Government has failed to face the facts of the situation. I propose to deal with the matter now, seeing that we have more time than usual, and that there are very few Members present in the House. Incidentally I would like to point out that when we do consider vital matters of this kind many Members of this House do not seem to be sufficiently interested to take part in those discussions. It will be different if we are having an election in November. My right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer is going to stand for a division in Glasgow. He will have to answer a large number of questions on this point when he gets to Glasgow. I will take care of that. When he faces his constituents he will be up against the people who matter, whom he cannot put aside. The wives of our serving men who are going on the electoral register for the first time, our discharged soldiers, and the men who are going to be demobilised are going to have something to say to the Members of this Government who have looked after every other interest, including their own, rather than the interests of the serving men and the discharged men, and the dependants of the men who have been killed.
The first of those classes are the wives, whom, unfortunately, we call childless wives. We have been told by the Financial Secretary for War that if a wife who has no children, and is in receipt of 12s. 6d. a week, requires more to maintain herself in physical efficiency she ought to go out and work. I object root and branch to the attitude taken up by the Financial Secretary to the Treasury on the part of my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer that, because a wife happens to have no children, because the State by the law of this country has compelled the husband of that woman to fight, to lay down his life for this country, if she has to have enough to eat she must go and work. It is a mean and despicable action on the part of any Government, and on the part of the House of Commons, to say that a woman that because she happens to have no children—a woman from whom you have taken her husband by law—she shall be compelled to go into the industrial market and work in order that she may 1713 maintain herself. In order that I may put the House in the proper atmosphere, I will read a typical letter which explains the position. I do not know what letters Members of this House have been receiving during the past few days, but I have not yet been able to open within the last few days the numbers of letters that I have received dealing with this particular aspect of the question. I am sorry that this letter will take some time to read, but we have plenty of time, and it will enable you to understand exactly the position:I have been reading of your complaining in the House of Commons of the rate of the soldiers' wives' allowance—12s. 6d. per week. You are quite right. It is not enough and has driven many women to work who have not been well enough. I will state you my case. There are thousands more such as I to be found. When my husband enlisted in 1914 I had two children. In the following April they contracted measles and I had the misfortune to lose them both in twelve days—a girl, three years and three months and a boy eleven months. My allowance was then reduced to 12s. 6d. I was forced to work. I went charing to keep my home going and worked until 3rd November. Then I fell down unconscious with nervous debility. I was suffering from chronic bronchitis and from asthma and internal troubles. That illness lasted six months. I went to work again. I worked four months. Then I had sixteen more weeks in bed. That was in 1916. My sister-in-law made me apply for civil liabilities. I do so. They made me a grant of £5 a year, to be paid quarterly. I had to go away after the illness. I went into the country for eight weeks. I came back to work again. The usual thing—was ill again. So a doctor said I was not fit for work or to be left in the house alone. He advised me to go away. I went to a friend of mine. While there I was under the doctor six weeks in bed with congestion of the lungs and muscular rheumatism. I had to have the district nurse in twice a day. I went on a few months. Then another month down in bed again. So I got better. I told my friend I would come away and go to work again, the price of food being so dear, I worked a month. The result, bed again for five weeks. I cannot get the necessary food to give me strength. I was dangerously ill at a hospital. I am up to-day for the first time, 7th August.I have also a letter from her showing the husband's case, but I do not want to go into that. [An HON. MEMBER: "Bead it!"] If the hon. Member wants it read, as there is plenty of time I will do so. This woman's letter says:My husband enlisted in the winter 1914—I see my hon. Friend is going away. I simply began to read it because he wanted me to do so, but as there are other hon. Members who do not want it read I will not proceed with it further. But this kind of thing is typical, and it is absolutely a matter of most serious concern.
§ Mr. HOGGE
I intended telling her that if she had any knowledge of the conditions which she ought to have been told by the Government, but has not been told except through advertisement in the newspapers, which she could not afford to buy, she could apply to the local pensions committee for a supplemental rent grant, or a supplementary illness grant, but that if she had the same experience as 99 per cent. of the people who do apply, she would not get it.
§ Mr. HOGGE
I do not want to weary the House with a description of the husband's case. This woman's husband came back in November, and has never been out of hospital on account of wounds of one sort or another. If my hon. and gallant Friend knew what occurred at these local war pensions committees he would know that this woman's case would not be considered for a moment. If she goes out to work she has no recourse to a local war pensions committee. The only recourse this woman could have would be for two purposes—a supplementary rent allowance, and, secondly, an illness grant—and she would not get either if her income approximated to the one her husband had before he enlisted. If she is sent out to work by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who represents the Government machine in this matter, she would have no ease before that committee, to whom, of course, I am going to advise her to go if she has the information enabling her to apply. My hon. Friend the Member for Midlothian will afterwards probably tell her better than I how to obtain what she requires. 1715 I hold a further letter from a woman who has taken into her own home a childless woman, the wife of a soldier and twelve years married. She has been reduced from comparative affluence to a mere pittance, plus the magnificent 12s. 6d. a week of which Ministers are so proud, by her husband's voluntary absence with the Army. My correspondent writes:Being an invalid, and a very poor woman, I can supply her with sympathy, but certainly not with food and other comforts necessary for her if she is not to remain a chronic invalid.This is a case in which the hon. and gallant Gentleman would say she was entitled to apply to the local war pensions committee. I wonder how she could prove that she was unable to obtain employment or was incapable of it. What is the use of talking about regulations? What is the use of regulations not humanely administered or are not uniformly administered by the local war pensions committees all over the country. Here is a letter from a childless wife whose husband joined up; she has had a house for twenty-five years, and has had to part with her marriage presents. I wonder whether my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer would like to part with his marriage presents in order to keep his house going. This woman is fifty-four years of age, and if she applied to the local war pensions committee what would she be told? She would be told that if she had no encumbrances she could go out to work. I wonder if the hon. and gallant Gentleman would like to tell the average childless wife of fifty-four years of age in Midlothian to go to the local pensions committee, if she is going to be told that at fifty-four years of age, if she has no encumbrances, she can go out to work. This woman's husband was fifty-one, and serving in the Army. When she asks for a little extra help from the local war pensions committee she is told, forsooth! by that Committee she can go out to work. I should like to be in the position of a local war pensions committee with members of the Government before me in the position of these wives of serving men, who have made this advance today, which the Chancellor of the Exchequer interrupted the order of business of the House to announce. I wish the Chancellor of the Exchequer would interrupt the order of the business of the House to announce that the wives and 1716 dependants of the men who have made this advance are going to get what they deserve and are entitled to from the Government.
Take another case, an atrocious case, for which I am willing to vouch in every particular, and if challenged will produce the absolute originals in the case. This woman's husband was earning from 50s. to 60s. a week before he was called up. She was a childless wife married at twenty years. She received 20s. from her husband's employers, which was afterwards reduced to 10s. when the War continued longer than most people expected it would continue. With what result? She then went to the civil liabilities committee to get a grant to carry her liabilities, and I want hon. Members of this House to mark exactly what this woman's letter says. She received notice to appear before the Commissioner, and was told by him that she ought to obtain employment in a munitions works or a tobacco factory, that she was getting too much, that 1s. a day and 2s. 6d. a week for clothes was sufficient. She was asked how many meals she had a day, and when she said "Three," was told by one of the servants of this Government that one mid-day meal was sufficient. She was also asked how many loaves of bread she had a week, and when she said "Two, from Monday to Friday," was told it was too much. The Commissioner then wrote out and gave her the following list as being what he considered sufficient food for this woman per week, and I can produce the original, written by the Commissioner, if the Chancellor of the Exchequer, like the Prime Minister, doubts my word. The Prime Minister yesterday tried to show that I did not know what I was talking about, and the Prime Minister was all wrong. Re knows that, and that is perhaps why he is not here to-night. I remember a Debate in which I interrupted him before, in which he said that if I gave him notice he would always come down and meet any point I put up. I gave him notice this morning by telegram that I would raise the question, as to whether he was a liar or I, in this Debate, and he is not here. I understand he has gone to hear Welshmen singing, rather than listen to a Scotchman speaking. Here is the document given by an employé of this Government to this poor woman, whose husband, perhaps, is one of the men who has taken part in our advance: 1717One and a half pounds of broad or cereals, ½ lb. of beans, peas, or lentils, 1 lb. of dried fruit, 2¾ lb. of vegetables, ½ lb. of grease, ¼ lb. of sugar.He handed that over to the wife of one of our serving men, and said, "You can get along with that for a week, and that is sufficient for you." After this intreview she received one quarter's allowance, £1 5s., was then requested again to appear before the committee and asked if she had obtained any employment, and when she said, "No, she did not feel strong enough," she was told she must consider her grant stopped, and was referred to the committee of the parish in which she lived, from which a lady afterwards called. Among other questions, she was asked if she could obtain a doctor's certificate to say she could not work, and after thinking the matter over she decided not to do this, considering that she had already gone through quite enough. I put a very simple question to my right hon. Friend the other day. If my right hon. Friend took his stand upon the fact that it was not fair to pay to a war bride more than 12s. 6d., would he take into consideration the women who were pre-war wives? That is all I asked. I said I would split the difference with him, and I suggest it again to-night, that if he cannot see his way to extend the 12s. 6d. to the childless wife, who marries a man who is fighting, will he take into special consideration the women of the type that I have mentioned, women of fifty and fifty-four years of age who have a house, who have sent out of that home sons to the war who have been killed? If he will not take into consideration the war bride, will he give to the woman who was the wife of a man before he joined up, who have a house and responsibilities, who ought not to be asked to go out to work between fifty and sixty years of age, some consideration? It is not much to ask, and it would make this holiday very much more pleasant if he did make that concession.
The second point is the question of the wives with children. The Chancellor of the Exchequer is a Scotsman, and therefore he is logical, and I should like to hear his defence—I know he enjoys the spirit of Debate—and I should like to hear his dialectical subtlety arguing in favour of the justice of giving a woman with one child an increase of half a crown and giving the woman with more than one child 4s. 6d. for all the other children she has got. We all remember in our childish 1718 days the story of Mother Hubbard, who had so many children in that particular shoe that she did not know what to do with them. The fact remains that the more children the woman has the less she gets. Hero is a letter from a wife with children:I am a soldier's wife, and I cannot help writing to express my thanks that someone should think and sympathise with us as regards our allowances.This woman has six children. The eldest is eleven years of age, and the youngest two. Her Army allowance is therefore 37s., out of which she has 7s. to pay for rent, and 7s. for the maintenance of a boy at school, leaving 23s. for six to live on. In spite of the magnificent advance in front of Amiens, the wife of a man, it may be, who is in that advance, has been distributing 23s. between six children. She says:I have tried my best not to sink and so had munitions for six weeks, but had a very serious breakdown and have been laid up for five weeks as a result.That is what is happening to the mothers, of those children, who before the War did not know what it was to go without boots or a decent meal. She sees her children, on account of the increased cost of living, crying round her skirts for some of the little comforts they were accustomed to, and out she goes to work, and the woman who goes out to work has a husband who is, perhaps, on sentry duty to-night in No-Man's Land, in front of the very advance we have been cheering here to-night. For Heaven's sake, if this House of Commons is going to be generous about anything, let them be generous to the wives and children of the men who have waited, and watched and suffered four years! Nobody will grudge that money. Let the Chancellor of the Exchequer get up to-night and say, if he likes, that this would cost an extra penny on the Income Tax, and I believe he would not get a single post-card from an Income Tax payer objecting to giving the money for this purpose. Why, in Heaven's name, does one require to bring up this question? One does not want to bring it up over and over again before one can get any satisfaction. The third case is that of the apprentices—the case which the Prime Minister told me what I said yesterday was a lie. I am sorry the Prime Minster is not here. I hope the Chancellor of the Exchequer will send the Prime Minister a copy of the OFFICIAL REPORT, Vol. 108, No. 86, with the reply 1719 of the Government with regard to the dependants of apprentices. Then, instead of calling me a stranger to the truth, he will include all his colleagues in the Cabinet. This reply says:In the early days of the War many lads joined the Colours before they had begun to earn sufficiently, whether by reason of apprenticeship, secondary education, or other causes, and no dependants' allowance, therefore, was issuable to their parents.No dependants' allowance was issuable to their parents! Because I said so yesterday I was called a stranger to the truth. Here it is in the Government's own statement. The Prime Minister had not the time to read it:Others remained in civil life until called up under the Military Service Acts. Wages had risen rapidly meanwhile and they were able to make substantial weekly payments to their parents before enlistment, and dependants' allowance was payable on their becoming soldiers."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 24th July, 1918, col. 1826.]If anybody wants to grip this position, let him get this copy of the OFFICIAL REPORT, and he will have an absolute refutation of the Prime Minister's reply to me yesterday. The point I have put about these apprentices I put again to the Chancellor of the Exchequer. The proposal of the Government is to pay a flat rate of 5s. to the parents of apprentices of they are over twenty-one years of age and not over twenty-three. That is the proposal. Will the right hon. Gentleman listen to this letter from Midlothian, from which I will read:Would you give me your advice on the following? In September, 1916, my son, at the age of eighteen, attested under the Derby Scheme—and do not forget the Derby Scheme was brought about by a Minister of the Crown who is now Ambassador in Paris, and who gave certain promises. He was made a Minister of the Crown on account of broken promises he gave, and was subsequently made an Ambassador in this country, on account of broken promises.and in December, 1916, was called to the Colours. For eight years previously—This is the point. My right hon. Friend is a Scotsman, and knows the inwardness of what I am speaking.I had to work to maintain an invalid husband, and to near a family of four, assisted by my son after he left school, but of course in his apprenticeship he did not earn much. In March, 1916, my husband died.10.0 P.M.
This woman became a widow. For this boy, who joined in 1916 in the course of 1720 his apprenticeship, the mother cannot get 5s. a week until September, 1919, under your new Regulation, and then my right hon. Friend comes to that box, as he is entitled to do, with tears in his voice, and tells us about the magnificent advance of the British troops. We all admire our own troops. There is not a man to-night who is not going home happier and with a lighter step because of the news we have heard at that box. My right hon. Friend knows from personal experience, and many of us have had the same experience, of what these advances mean to all of us, the wiping out of many relatives and friends we have known and loved all our days. It is all right for some of us heads of households who can keep things going. What about the mothers in the streets of our big cities, the mothers in the little cottages in the villages of this country, dreading the postman's knock after reading of the victory in the papers to-morrow—whether that is going to bring the little brown paper that brings so much? The mothers of those boys, who are making these advances, those boys who are enabling us to sit here to-night to discuss the affairs of State, cannot get a paltry 5s. a week. If the boy is killed they cannot establish a claim to a pension, because, forsooth, they cannot prove that there is any pre-war dependence. I would cut off my right hand before I would be left in a position to be thought mean and paltry to these people. I do honestly say—and I have waited all day to do it, and I do not think the House can complain of repetition—that if there is one thing this nation must do, and must do completely, it is to receipt the account after the bravery and courage of these young lads, and the services they have rendered to this nation. If we cannot receipt this account, then we shall go down to posterity with the shame of it upon our heads.
Because I have been unable to get any satisfactory reply, any concessions up to this moment, because these allowances come into operation on the 1st October, before we shall come back to this House, in order that we may have an opportunity of discussing this in a full House, and an opportunity of dividing this House on a fair issue, I beg to move to leave out the words "15th October," in order to insert the words "24th September." That will enable us to come back here before these allowances are in operation. It will 1721 enable us to ascertain the opinion of the wives and dependants in the country. We have no right to go away for ten weeks' holiday, leaving those people in this condition. We have no moral right to do it, and I will not subscribe to it.
§ Mr. PRINGLE
I am surprised, in view of the Amendment just moved, that there is no reply from the Government. My hon. Friend the Member for East Edinburgh has now on two occasions brought the question of which he has spoken before the attention of the Government. Up to the present the Government has been adamant. We have had a reply from the Financial Secretary to the War Office justifying the revised scale. Everybody admits that it is a considerable improvement on what has prevailed in the past. The revision, nevertheless, leaves very serious anomalies, and these are going to constitute grievances which will be felt in many homes during the coming winter. We all know that during this winter this War will be felt in the homes of this country in a way in which it has not been felt before. All Members of this House, no matter where they sit, will be agreed that, wherever the hardships of the War should be felt, that, at least, in the case of these particular dependants, upon whose behalf my hon. Friend speaks, these hardships should be least felt.
The real question which the Government have to face is the giving of an effective opportunity for expressing the opinion of the House upon the points raised. Efforts have been made to bring the Government to what we believe to be a reasonable frame of mind. But the two recent occasions were scarcely adequate, because, obviously, it is impossible to ascertain the sense of the House on the Vote of Credit and Consolidated Fund Bill. My hon. Friend, however, felt so keenly that on the Second Reading of the Consolidated Fund Bill he went to a Division, unwisely in my opinion, because the great majority of Members felt that they could not vote against money for the War, even on a grievance so important as this. No man could be blamed for voting against the Amendment on that occasion. What i[...] desired is an opportunity to the House to express an opinion on this question by itself—that the sense of the House may really be tested. Is the Government 1722 willing to give such an opportunity? We do not desire to delay the Adjournment of the House to-night, or, indeed, to press the Amendment, if the Government will give us an assurance that when the House does meet there will be an opportnuity on a substantive Motion for the House to express its opinion freely upon this question. Two nights ago we had the Lotteries Bill. There was great excitement. Those benches were thronged. The front benches were full. There were appeals to great moral principles on an issue as trifling and as petty as has ever engaged Parliament during the War. Here we have an essential matter. It touches people who are really making sacrifices. This is really a serious question. Not whether a number of society ladies' pearls should or should not be raffled. This concerns the wives and dependants of the men who are fighting to-night as to whether or not they are being fairly treated by their countrymen. Cannot the Government give us a day for the discussion? There is not so much business when we come back. The first week will be devoted to Scottish Education, an important measure no doubt, but the great bulk of it will not be able to be put into operation for ten years. This is a thing that comes within the next ten weeks. If the Leader of the House is not prepared to grant our request we are prepared to divide the House on the Motion for Adjournment.
§ Mr. MORRELL
It is surprising that no reply from the Government has been given to the speeches made on this subject. I certainly had no intention of addressing the House, and should not have got up, but I do not think the Government is treating this House with proper respect. We have a whole bench of Ministers here, and not a word of any sort has been said upon this matter. I can hardly imagine anything more important than the subject matter raised in the speech of my hon. Friend opposite (Mr. Hogge). Not only is the matter important, but it is of importance in view of what happened in Debate yesterday on the Third Reading. My hon. Friend made a statement the accuracy of which was directly challenged by the Prime Minister. My hon. Friend gave notice to the Prime Minister that he intended to raise this matter to-day. The Prime Minister apparently has been unable to get here, but the Leader of the House is here. Is he going to say anything upon this important matter? Is he 1723 going to give the House any guidance as to what are the facts, as to what is the truth of the case put forward? Are we to hear nothing from the Government benches? We are accustomed to very strange procedure in these days, but certainly in all the ten years I have been in the House I cannot remember any case comparable to this, in which you have an important matter brought forward, after due notice, by an hon. Member who has every qualification to speak upon the subject. The whole Treasury Bench, including the Leader of the House, sits there, and we do not have a word said. The right hon. Gentleman smiles. He thinks it is very funny.
§ Mr. MORRELL
I assure him it is not. This is not treating the House of Commons, or the women concerned, or the matter of pensions with respect.
§ Mr. MORRELL
If so I am delighted to hear it, and I will say no more. The right hon. Gentleman made no motion to get up or that he was going to speak, or I would not have said so much. I should like to hear the defence. There is a very strong case, it seems to me, for the Amendment, so that we may discuss this very serious matter, which has been adequately established during this Session. There is not sufficient time now, but there is an opportunity for making it by coming back a little earlier; by not taking a long ten weeks, which are really unnecessary. I hope sincerely, unless we get some adequate answer, that the House will support my hon. Friend the Member for East Edinburgh.
§ Sir R. NEWMAN
Although I absolutely agree with the last speaker, I think it is quite right that the Minister should not intervene at once, but allow hon. Members first to express their views. I remember one occasion when the Front Ministerial Bench was taken very severely to task for intervening too early in the Debate, and has, in fact, been asked not to reply until they have heard hon. Members speak. I think we owe a great debt of gratitude to the Front Bench for not jumping up too soon and for allowing those who sit on the Back Benches to say what they wish. 1724 Whatever may be our opinion in regard to his politics I feel that the Leader of the House is the last person in this House to treat any hon. Members with discourtesy.
§ Mr. BONAR LAW
The hon. Member opposite (Mr. Morrell) complained that I smiled, but that is an offence of which I cannot very often plead guilty. Fault has been found with me for not making a speech on this question, but I have made a good many more speeches than I desired to make. There really is no ground for complaining that we have not dealt with this question, although it may be true that we have not dealt with it satisfactorily. All these arguments have been used before, and we have endeavoured to give reasons for the decisions to which we have come, after examining this question. The hon. Member for East Edinburgh (Mr. Hogge) has referred to the state of the House at the present moment, but I am sure the hon. Member is sufficiently acquainted with this House to know that the attendance of Members very often depends, not entirely upon the subject, but upon the hon. Member who is addressing us, and it is possible that be cause the subject has been so often put forward, in precisely the same way, that more hon. Members are not present. I do not think there are many hon. Members, even in this thin House of Commons, who did not feel as I did, a little shocked that a subject, with three parts of which no man living can fail to sympathise, should be treated in the sort of tone which has been adopted by the hon. Member. It may be that we are not dealing adequately with this subject, but this, at least, is true, that the conscience of the whole of the nation as a whole is more roused now than it has ever been before in any war, and I can say that no Government anywhere has ever made so many advances in the direction of trying to deal fairly with these people as we have. I think that will be admitted even by the hon. Member for East Edinburgh.
§ Mr. BONAR LAW
When our first proposals were brought forward, the House of Commons did not think they were adequate. I took that view, and suggested that a Committee should be set up to consider the matter. I was not in office at that time. Since then, the subject has been considered over and over again, and the hon. Member for East Edinburgh knows quite well that 1725 what we are now doing, whether it be adequate or not, represents an immense advance, not altogether incommensurate with the increased cost of living. On an average, the pensions and allowances have been almost doubled since the first pension was established in this House. No doubt anyone who chooses could put the case in the same way as it has been put, and it would raise an amount of sympathy which makes it almost impossible to resist any demand of this kind. Take one of the instances given by the hon. Member—that of a wife with six children, who gets 37s. 6d. a week as an allowance. Do not let us forget that if you look at it simply from the point of view of some munition workers, that is a very much larger income than even at the present higher scale of wages is being obtained by them. I say again, when we can compare the amounts that are earned by those who are working in the munition factories with the allowances we pay to the dependants of the men who are fighting our battles, and are thereby doing so much for the country, we cannot feel satisfied. But nobody will suggest we could by any possibility raise the scale of allowances so as to bring them in line with the wages paid in munition work. Would not the logical outcome of any such suggestion be that all scales of payment, including those in the workshops, should be regulated by the State all round?
§ Mr. BONAR LAW
I am afraid that is the logical way of dealing with the matter, but I do not think it would have been possible in the present temper of this country to have made an arrangement of that kind. I have never said that the last word has been uttered on this matter. What I do say is that the subject was considered by the Government only a very short time ago, that we went into it fully, that we had before the Cabinet all the arguments which the hon. Member has again addressed to us to-day, and we dealt with the matter in a manner which we considered best, having in view all the responsibilities that we have to shoulder. I am not objecting to allowing the House of Commons to have a discussion on this subject by itself, if a Motion be brought forward making a direct claim on the lines suggested by the hon. Member. If there be such a claim put forward, and if 1726 there be any indication before the close of the Session that there is a general desire for such a discussion, we shall be willing to consider it favourably. Had there been any indication of a general desire for such a discussion before the Adjournment, I would have found time, and when we come back, if there be an indication of such a general desire—I do not ask for a majority of the House of Commons or anything like it, but if there be really a widespread desire that this question should be discussed by itself—I say at once that I will endeavour to find an opportunity. I think that I have tried to meet the case as fairly as I can. We are now, I hope, going to adjourn till October, but the hon. Member is very much mistaken if he thinks that we are going away for ten weeks' holiday. I admit that we shall be relieved from the necessity of attending this House, but this is the only sense in which we shall have a holiday. I hope, therefore, that Members, looking back upon the Session as a whole, will agree that the Government have tried to treat the House of Commons fairly, and that they will now allow us to adjourn.
§ Mr. BONAR LAW
Certainly; quite definitely if there is any indication that there is really any general desire, and by that, as I have said, I do not moan anything like half the House.
§ Mr. BONAR LAW
My hon. Friend will agree that there has never been a case in which I have made a promise of that kind where the House has not found some way of letting me know.
§ Mr. HOGGE
The right hon. Gentleman is a very old and practised hand in the House of Commons, and he knows perfectly well that in putting a case we use certain arguments in order to achieve certain ends. We put things in a certain way in order to achieve our purpose. I have raised this question three times in order to get what my right hon. Friend has now promised us.
§ Mr. HOGGE
I beg my right hon. Friend's pardon. It was I who put down the original question. It was I to whom my right hon. Friend said that he would refer it to a Committee of the War Cabinet, and it was he to whom I put the question whether we should have an opportunity of discussing it before we went away. I was wiped out on all these occasions, because there were more people here then, and I had not moved an Amendment at half-past ten at night in order to shorten the Recess. I am perfectly prepared to withdraw my Amendment after what my right hon. Friend has said. I am certain that in the Recess hon. Members will hear enough about the matter from their own constituents, apart altogether from anything that we have done to stir them up, on account of the increase in prices, the shortage of coal, and so on, and make them welcome the opportunity which the right hon. Gentleman has offered.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Original question again proposed.
§ Mr. OUTHWAITE
I desire to address the House in reference to the speech delivered by the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs this afternoon. That speech, taken in conjunction with the Prime Minister's speech yesterday, conveys to us the impression that the War Cabinet has once again gone back to what was known as the "knock-out blow" policy. That is particularly borne in upon one by the speech of the Foreign Secretary. It appears that we are now again looking to such a victory in the field as will enable us to carry out those obligations to our Allies which have been set out in what are known as the secret treaties—obligations to secure great territorial advantages to France and Italy. The Foreign Secretary assures us that we are going to claim something substantial for ourselves in the retention of the German colonies, a retention which, according to him, is to prevent Germany amassing great forces of native troops, but which every reasonable man knows is to enable us to retain the sources of raw materials from German industries and transfer them to our own. It is that speech which limits the gratification I felt to-night in hearing of the great advance and victory of our men, because these great feats of heroism will fructify in nothing if they simply mean 1728 that we are going to cast further burdens upon our soldiers. If, whenever we achieved success, we are going to harden our terms and put further great obligations upon our men, of what use is it to them, at any rate, that victory such as we have heard of to-day should be achieved? If we are going back to that policy of the knock-out blow, we should take into consideration what it really portends and make proper preparation for it. That object cannot be achieved within one year or two years; possibly it may be at the very earliest three years. If the Government is intent upon carrying out that policy of military victory, cost what it may, then undoubtedly a time has come when it should make proper preparation for carrying on such a military policy. We have heard during recent Debates, especially in that upon the League of Nations—May I call your attention, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, to the constant interruption going on below the Bar, and ask whether it is in order for hon. Members outside the House to interrupt a speaker by conversation which must distract him? I am trying to say what I have to say before eleven o'clock, but if I am interrupted I shall go on, which I believe will mean that I have an opportunity of continuing my speech to-morrow. I would draw your attention to that, Sir, and ask whether I should be interrupted in this way?
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER
It is not in order for hon. Members who are technically outside the House to engage in conversation. If they wish to do so they should come and take their seats within the House.
§ Mr. OUTHWAITE
We have heard the fear expressed in recent Debates that if some such arrangement is not made we may have a further war, which would mean the end of civilisation. I do not think that fear need be indulged because the continuation of this War, if it is rendered necessary by the diplomatic policy of the Government, will end civilisation and I am not so sure that the Prime Minister is not at the back of his mind encouraged in his military policy by the knowledge that the continuation of the War will bring about a great revolutionary crisis in this country. I am not so sure that the Prime Minister does not know sub-consciously that he is luring the Tory party and all it stands for to destruction. 1729 The Chancellor of the Exchequer smiles, but if he knew the Prime Minister as well as some of us who were associated with him in the great reform before the War he would know that while he is quite incapable of grasping any great economic principle he is at heart an incendiary, and I do not think he has any inclination to safeguard anything pertaining to the vested interests of the old social order in this country. That will not retard him in the prolongation of the War but that it will bring about the overthrow of the social state I am perfectly confident. Not that I mind. I do not object in the least. The one hope that this War brings me is that it will end civilisation as we knew it. After all, what is there in the civilisation of the pre-war era which was particularly worth salvation. We need not arrest the War for the purpose of saving such a civilisation. It was difficult to quite comprehend what the term civilisation means. I think we can only arrive at it by considering the process of civilisation in operation and then getting to some understanding of this precious system which some hon. Members fear will be overthrown. I have myself seen the process of civilisation in operation. You may take the state of a savage tribe living upon this land and enjoying its fruits. The civilised people arrive to civilise them. The process is to take away their land, to give them no opportunity of providing for their own needs except they go out and work. By the deprivation of their lands they are compelled to do so. The process of civilisation begins. If they resist it war is proclaimed upon them, the Maxim gun is used, they are shot down and brought within the boundaries of the British Empire, and they become thoroughly civilised people, going out to work for a pittance. Such is the process of civilisation. It is deprivation of the people of men's primary rights. Precisely the same process has taken place in this country. The people as a whole have been deprived of their primary rights of land and all natural opportunities. They have been reduced to a condition of a virtual slave people, with the privileged few on top and the ill-paid slave labour beneath. Civilisation, therefore, seems to me to be a simple system of maintaining privilege for the benefit of the privileged few. It matters not, therefore, in the least to the great mass of people whether such a system is overthrown. That it will 1730 be overthrown I think is clearly obvious, and if the Prime Minister has at the back of his mind the thought that the War need not be arrested, because it will have that good effect of creating social, economic, and financial conditions that will overthrow the social order and enable him to play a part such as he would like to play, and I think he will play in the history of this country, I would say to him that that time has already come. It will come through economic and financial causes. There is not the slightest need in order to bring about that revolutionary change to continue the War for another two years. Another two years' war will raise the National Debt to ten thousand million pounds. It will cost us a Budget of a thousand millions a year, which we cannot find. There is no need to go to that point to bring about revolutionary change. We have reached that point already. We shall end this financial year with a debt of eight thousand millions, which will necessitate the raising of taxation to the extent of £800,000,000. That in itself will be a problem such as will bring about a revolutionary change, but there is a greater problem still associated with the ending of this War. We are told that we have raised some 6,250,000 men for the Army and the Navy. These men will one day, when the War is over, be disbanded and unemployed. You have millions of men trained in munition works and subsidiary processes connected with the War which will end with the War, and a great many of those men will be unemployed, or who will be transferred to other industries and whose transference will not immediately take place. As regards the industries of this country, we know that some of the consumers of their products to the extent of many millions will need them no more, because they have been slain on the field of battle.
We know that over huge territories and vast populous cities in Russia there is abysmal poverty and famine, and no prospect of purchasers there for the manufactures of this country. That holds good as regards virtually the whole continent of Europe. Therefore there can be no possibility that in the conditions after the War there will be such a demand as the pre-war demand for the products of this country. The present labour forces of this country, supplemented by machinery and women who have been providing for our civilian and war needs, and for our 1731 Allies' needs as well. What will be the conditions after the War, when there will be lessened demand for this labour, and less demand for our commodities in other countries? We shall have a considerable surplus of millions of men discharged from the Army, and you will have conditions of unemployment, and will be confronted with a state of things which will cast great burdens of taxation upon a people impoverished by conditions which result from the War. You will have this class of unemployed men seeking employment with industries restricted in output through lack of demand and the conditions created by the War. You have already prepared for financial, economic, and social revolution in the days to come. We hear it glibly stated that we must go on fighting until we win the War. No one will be able to say who has won the War for the next ten or twenty years. Hon. Members may be amused at that idea, but that shows they have never thought of the subject. Though you may have a great military victory which may enable you to say you have won the War, ten or twenty years hence it is possible that those who are defeated may be in a stronger economic, industrial, and political position than those who had a military victory. The War, I say, will be won by the country which ten or twenty years hence is in the strongest economic and industrial position. The Government must have concern for the industrial and economic future they are building up for the nation. To my mind, we are taking too great a burden on ourselves—that has been the tendency of this country all through. In the past it may have been a necessity, but when we think of the Allies we have taken upon ourselves, the vast extent to which we have turned our industries for the production of munitions, the great services of the Navy, it is obvious that if we are not careful we, of all the combatants, will come out of the War worst industrially and economically. The more we turn our manufactories and industries to the making of the necessities of the War the greater will be the difficulties of this nation in the restoration of our former industrial activities. We read that for America we are now to turn out the clothing for some millions of men, and we have to provide munitions, and so on. All that means that our labour and our capital and our industry are being 1732 diverted not only for the war needs of our own Armies, but for the war needs of the Allies as well. Consequently, the disruption of industrial life will be greater in this country than in any other Allied belligerent. The consequence is seen in certain directions already. Take, for instance, our mercantile marine, which once gave us the supremacy of the world, which has so largely created the financial supremacy of this country. Our mercantile marine has been reduced in this War by some 3,500,000 tons, while the mercantile marine of our Allies has been maintained. In the case of America, it is going up by leaps and bounds, a fact which indicates that the indefinite prolongation of this War means the end of the mercantile supremacy of this country. When we hear speeches made which entail this indefinite prolongation of the War without any preparation being made by the Government for the economic and industrial result I am filled with concern. If we go on in this way we shall arrive at a position in which we shall have a National Debt of £10,000,000,000. Why does not the Chancellor of the Exchequer come forward with such financial proposals as will give some guarantee that the obligations can be met in future? I am confident that they cannot be met in the future if you raise your revenue by way of loan and cast this burden upon the impoverished community that is to come after the War. We see gigantic expenditure taking place. Because of the ease with which we can raise money there is no endeavour to curtail to the utmost the expenditure of this country. Individually and nationally we have embarked upon a record of expenditure simply because we can raise money easily as long as the Government can keep its printing machines going turning out paper money. It is because I feel it my duty to put on record my view that no proper regard is paid by those who exercise such diplomacy that I felt compelled to address the House to-night on the prospects that are in store.
§ Mr. MORRELL
I am extremely sorry to address the House at this time of night. No one desires more than I do to get this Debate over. For the last ten hours, since one o'clock, I have been waiting to address the House on this matter. It was a great disappointment to myself and many of our party—many of those who are perhaps small in number in this place, but speak for a very large number of people in the country, that the Debate which took place 1733 on the peace proposals was brought to an end so soon after the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs had made his speech, before we had an opportunity of replying to him, I, therefore, just rise to say—I do not intend to keep the House after eleven o'clock—that I trust that in future those who speak for a very small minority in this House, but who speak on a very big subject and for a very large number of people in this country will have more opportunity than we have had in the past of bringing before the House the great issues of peace and war. All through the Debate on the Vote of Credit I wanted to address the House on this subject as did other of my hon. Friends. Finally, the Motion for Adjournment came, and there was only a very short time left, so that we were prevented from rising. All sorts of other comparatively insignificant matters were discussed at a time when thousands upon thousands of brave men are losing their lives in a quarrel which some of us might have brought to an end on perfectly honourable terms to this country in a just and durable peace, very much more quickly than seems likely to be the case if the present policy continues to be pursued. I do not want to detain the House now, or to stop the Adjournment Motion, as I felt tempted to do, because the Leader of the House, I recognise, has met us fairly, and I do not want to stand in the way of the officials. I must say, however, that I want very much to make this protest against the way in which we—although a small minority in this House—have been treated during the Debates of the last two weeks, when we have had before us issues of enormous import- 1734 ance, not only to this generation, but to the whole future of the country. In all that time we had not an opportunity to put our views before the House. That may seem a matter of comparatively small importance to some hon. Members, but to us the questions at issue are of enormous importance, and I feel that I would not be doing my duty unless I protest against my hon. Friends and myself not having had an opportunity to express our opinions. It is for these reasons that I make this public protest.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Resolved, "That this House, at its rising this day, do adjourn until Tuesday, 15th October."