HC Deb 12 March 1918 vol 104 cc189-236

By passing the Second Reading of the Consolidated Fund Bill the House will be granting the largest sum of money ever granted at any one time to any Government for any purpose, and in these circumstances it is legitimate that we should ask whether all the expenditure of the Government is necessary expenditure and whether the best use is being made of the vast sums of money which the House is voting. The House of Commons has for some time past been conscious that there has been a great waste of public money in Government Departments, and they have endeavoured to safeguard themselves with respect to the financial control of the House by appointing a National Expenditure Committee, which has been examining into the expenditure of the Departments. The publication of the Report, which appeared in the Press yesterday, on the work of the Ministry of Munitions will show that it was high time that the House examined into the expenditure of the Government. But it is not my purpose now to examine the past expenditure of Government Departments. I do not doubt that the Government are strengthening their financial methods and that they are doing better in the matter of making good use of the money voted. I think an effort is being made throughout the services to reach a, higher standard, and not before it was time. But, in addition to asking that they shall spend wisely the money granted to them, we are entitled, seeing how great is the pubic expenditure, how great is the necessary expenditure, to ask the Government whether they are in every way cutting off unnecessary expenditure, both by themselves and by the people of this country. Are they in everyway safeguarding the material resources of the people, so that they may stand the increasing strain that is being put upon them by the War? In that connection I want to draw attention to the expenditure of the country upon drink, and the burden entailed upon the nation by allowing the present expenditure upon drink during the War. In raising this subject, may I make an appeal to hon. Members? My views upon this question are very familiar, and a great many may think it quite unnecessary that I should deliver a speech upon them. They may say that they know what I am going to say beforehand, and they have already made up their minds that they can deal fully with any of my arguments, and therefore they need not listen to them. I have seen it urged in the Press that those who support my view are accused of being a group of Members who are taking advantage of the War to further their own view. I was exceedingly sorry to see that the Secretary of the Ministry of Food, in the Debate on the Address, allowed himself to lend colour to that misrepresentation. I will read to the House the hon. Member's words, which, to me, seem to be very unfair, and I think it is unfortunate that he should have allowed himself to fall into them. He said: The feeling of many working men is that the extreme teetotal element in this country stands in the same position as the representatives of the brewing and distilling interests, and they have availed themselves of the opportunity afforded by the War to urge their particular point of view. The Government are not in the habit of giving their own sentiments, but they put these views into the mouths of the working men of this country.


My right hon. Friend is quite wrong. If he reads my speech further he will find that I stated that I would not say in that case that the working men were right.


The hon. Gentleman gave currency to the thing by quoting that opinion. I wish to point out the difference between the two positions. By continuing the liquor trade the members of that trade are deriving great profits. What analogy is there between their position and that of a body of people, misguided if you like, who are advocating unpopular opinions from which they can get no personal advantage, and whose only motive can be that they wish to help the nation in a time of stress and burden such as never before has come upon us. What possible personal advantage does any temperance reformer get out of advocating that opinion? My hon. Friend opposite should have been more careful before he allowed himself to fall into saying something which I think should not have fallen from a Minister of the Crown in this House. We teetotalers are often accused of being prejudiced in our views. We have decided views, but the prejudice of a man who drinks alcohol is at least as strong as that of a man who does not. Therefore, I think I am justified in appealing to the House to put on one side preconceived opinions on this matter, and to treat as if they came from an impartial person the figures which I am going to present to the House as succinctly as I can.

The drink trade as it is carried on now is too heavy a burden for this nation to bear during the War which taxes our resources and energies to the utmost. The figures I give are vital and may be decisive to the issue of the War. Let me take the financial aspect. The drink bill in 1914, by which I mean the amount of money paid by the people of this country for the beer, wines, and spirits which they consume, was £164,000,000. Early in 1915 the present Prime Minister said One of the things we cannot afford during the War is a drink bill of £160,000,000. And yet in the year 1915 the drink bill was not £160,000,000, but £182,000,000. In 1916 it was £204,000,000, and I am sorry to have to tell the House that according to a figure which has not yet been published, but which will be issued to-morrow, the drink bill for 1917, in spite of all the appeals for economy from the Chancellor of the Exchequer and members of the Government, and after all the Government have done to restrict the sale, the drink bill for 1917 is £250,000,000 at least, and will probably be nearer £270,000,000 if you take into account the diminution of the stores of spirits scattered throughout the country, which we have no proper means of estimating. Along with that the Government are getting less out of it. In 1915 the country derived from taxation upon drink £60,000,000, out of a drink bill of £182,000,000, or 33 per cent. In 1916, with a drink bill of £204,000,000, the taxation derived was only £54,000,000. In 1917, with a drink bill of £259,000,000, the taxation is only £35,000,000, or 13¾ per cent. So that the proportion paid in direct taxation by the trade has dwindled from £60,000,000 in 1915 to £54,000,000 in 1916, and to £35,000,000 in 1917. It is true that these figures have to be corrected by the amount taken in excess profits from the brewery companies and distillers, all of whom have been making very largely increased profits. The Chancellor of the Exchequer knows as well as anybody that the excess profits taxation does not raise anything like the same amount as direct taxation put on before the profits are made, and he knows how excess profits are reduced by extravagant expenditure and the fact that a good deal of this money has been made safe against taxation. Since the War began £750,000,000 has been spent on drink, and out of that sum I do not think that the Government have got £200,000,000 even with excess profits. I hope the Chancellor of the Exchequer will give us the figures on the Budget, for he has something to explain in the remission of taxation he made in his Budget of 1917, when he thought it necessary to give £1,000,000 in Licence Duties to the brewers. More than £500,000,000 out of £750,000,000 is dead weight expenditure during the War. Seeing what the call for money is and seeing the demand for saving that is put forward, I say that is too much money for this country to spend upon what is at best a luxury.

The financial aspect is not at all the strongest aspect of this question. I turn to the question of shipping of the material out of which the drink is made. The Chancellor of the Exchequer was accused in the Debate on Thursday with having made a somewhat gloomy speech to the House. I do not complain that the speech which the Leader of the House made was gloomy; on the contrary. I should like to thank him for his speech, for he did, in much greater measure than the Government had hitherto done, endeavour to tell the truth to the house and the country about the shipping situation and other matters. I am most thankful that to some extent the Government are lifting the veil of secrecy in which they have wrapped so many of their arrangements. The only complaint that I make is that in his talk about shipping and in the Debate about shipping last week the Government were still too optimistic. The country do not yet realise how grave is the situation. I do not know, but I suspect that the Germans are building U-boats quite as fast as the Admiralty are sinking them. He would be a very unwise man who thought that the submarine menace was going to be over come at any early date. Our ships are being sunk weekly in great numbers. The First Lord of the Admiralty tells us that the curves of sinking are going steadily down, but so are the ships every week. The shipbuilding programme is hopelessly in arrear. I am not going back on the Debate of last Thursday or to apportion praise or blame, but the employers, the men, and the Government are involved. The Government state that it is the employers and the men, and the employers and the men state that it is the Government. I do not know whose fault it is, but the result is that the ships are not being built, and we are not getting the output. It is hopelessly in arrear.

The Government realised this at the end of last year, and, as we were told by the Shipping Controller at a meeting upstairs, they caused to be prepared an indent of the necessary imports. They cut down everything to the absolute essentials for munitions and for the food of the people, and, when they had reached the limit with regard to food and munitions, there was practically nothing left for carrying on all the industries of the country. They secured priority for the importation of necessary foods, and it does seem to me that the imports should have been necessary foods. The Government, as they say, have left out everything unnecessary. They have cut out foreign products and all items that are not regarded as essential foods, and they have left only sixteen classes of essential foods. Yet I find, among those sixteen classes of essential foods, that cereals for brewing are included. I want to know what justification the Government have for using 600,000 tons of our depleted shipping for the purpose of importing cereals for brewing? I want to know whether they have revised their programme and whether they have determined that there shall be no more cereals imported for the brewers use until the bread of the people is safe? I know the figures, though I am not at liberty to give them, but I say that if the House and the country knew the figures as I knew them they would not allow another ton of shipping to be used for the importation of brewers materials until the situation was amended.

I turn to the food position. The Government had warning with regard to the food position. A committee of the Royal Society sat during 1916 and reported at the end of 1916. In their report they said that the margin of food in this country was a small one, being no more than 5 percent. above what they thought was necessary, and even that small margin at that time, twelve months ago, was so unequally, distributed that some people were below the safety margin. The report stated that if you went below the 5 per cent. margin the health of the workpeople would suffer seriously. They urged various ways of saving food and of using it for the best available purpose, and they showed that the greatest saving was to take the food used for brewing and distilling and use it for direct human consumption. The Government thought that they knew better. They were impressed a little, and they said that they were going to cut down the beer to 10,000,000 barrels. They did not do so. They permitted more to be brewed in the summer because it was hot and more in the winter because it was cold, and in the end the standard barrels numbered 16,000,000, the bulk barrels reaching 21,000,000. The Government were urged, and they did make an effort, to increase the wheat reserve. They did reach a very much larger reserve than we had had before. Where is that reserve now? What does it stand at? I ask the Government again, Are they going to take the country into their confidence? I know the figures, and if the country knew them as I know them—I am not at liberty to give them—they would not allow another quarter of barley to be used for brewing beer until the bread situation was better. During 1917 the Government allowed 600,000 tons of barley and 60,000 tons of sugar to be used. We were asked by the Food Controller to save 180,000,000 4-lb. loaves. The brewers used up the equivalent of 268,000,000 4-lb. loaves, and 240,000 tons of offal. Poultry must be cut down, and men must no longer give barley to pigs. You have punished men for feeding pigs with barley, but you have permitted brewers to use barley for making beer. The amount of grain used in 1916–17 for distilling purposes was 370,000 tons. The estimate for 1917–18 is 270,000 tons. Here I want to put a question that I put a year ago to the Government, and which they have not dealt with for a long time. As far as I can ascertain, there is still in stock a store of 135,000,000 gallons of spirits. Are the Government going to use those spirits for munition purposes? They can use them. They refused to use them before because they said it was amore expensive process, but there is no process so expensive as starving the people. It is time that they turned to this store of spirits and used it for all the War purposes for which it can be used.

The estimate of the Government of the amount of wheat from North America to be imported into this country was 7,500,000 tons. Month by month they have made an estimate of the amount that would come. Two months have passed. They did not get their amount in January, and they did not get it in February. They know that they have had to recast their estimate for March, April, and May. I say to them that by 1st June the stores of grain in this country will be at a lower level than they have been in any recent year.

4.0 P.M.

The Government which last year was asked to make a store of food for the people and which saw what was coming in view of shipping difficulties, have much to answer for in allowing our stores of wheat and cereals to be used up and at the same time in allowing this further waste to go on in brewing and distilling. I do not know whether they will tell us that the mischief is done, and that the barley is all malted, and therefore it is not much use meddling with it now. I can assure them that malted barley is very good and very nourishing food. It is also an excellent feeding stuff. There would be no difficulty, if they compelled brewers to give up the hoarded barley and the hoarded sugar, in using it for much better purposes. The Government are prosecuting Members of this House for having hoarded stores of food—too much bread and too much sugar. Why should brewers be allowed to hoard large quantities of grain and sugar? We are entitled to an answer to that question. Another point is that the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food told us to-day that they had not yet decided about rations of bread. He hoped there might not be bread rations, but he had them in contemplation and all was, ready. Has he taken into account the number of men who, in addition to the bread ration, may drink beer or spirits? The one condition of successful rationing is that we shall all be treated alike. Rich and poor, teetotalers and non-teetotalers, we are entitled to fair and equal treatment when it comes to apportioning the limited quantity of bread stuffs. I am informed that one gallon of beer uses up about 2½lbs. of barley. Therefore, two gallons of beer represents a woman's ration of bread. I am told that two pints a day is a reasonable amount to be consumed by a beer drinker, so that the man who drinks two pints a day consumes what would be his wife's ration of bread. Is he to have to do without any bread ration, or have the Government in the rationing scheme taken into account the amount of bread and foodstuff destroyed in the making of beer?

Let me refer to another aspect of the question. My figures will stand examination, and I ask hon. Members to examine them. They may not support my deductions, but the figures are there. I take the question of transport by rail, horse and petrol. That is a very serious matter at the present time, as the Government know. The carrying on of the drink trade of this country during 1917 has involved the carrying about the country of 600,000 tons of barley in various forms—much of it handled several times; from 60,000 to 65,000 tons of sugar, 21,000,000 barrels of beer full, and the same number of barrels empty, and all that they require in the way of handling. I have worked these figures out, as Lord Milner worked them out in the House of Lords, in trucks and trainloads. I find that the number of trucks required for 600,000 tons of barley is 85,000, while 60,000 tons of sugar take 12,000 trucks; 21,000,000 barrels of beer occupy 800,000 trucks; indeed, they occupy them twice, first when full, and then when empty, that is twice 800,000 trucks. Then there is 600,000 tons of coal which is used up in brewing and distilling which represents another 60.000 trucks. That gives us a total of 1,757,000 trucks. Taking the figures for brewing, distilling and wine, altogether you have more than 1,800,000 truck loads of material to be carried up and down the country during the year. That represents 45,000 trains of forty trucks each, or 120 trains a day for every day of the week throughout the year; that is to say, the transport by horse, rail or petrol is equivalent to 120 trains running every day throughout the year. That is a very serious burden upon the transport of this country which, as the Government know well, is getting into a most serious condition.

I turn to the labour dealing with this drink trade. I find that the drink trade employs in the making and distribution of drink 150,000 men. There are not very many of them old men, indeed, most of them are men in the prime of life. There is a reservoir of labour which I recommend to the attention of the Government, because most of these men—I may say practically all of them—might, if brewing, and distilling were stopped, be set free for employment in the different occupations in which the Government now require men immediately. There is another aspect of the labour question. There are not only the men employed in making and distributing the drink; there are the men employed in looking after the results of drinking in this country, which is not at all a small matter. First of all, there is the Control Board itself. You have one of the ablest Departments of the Government engaged in doing nothing else but trying to pre vent the liquor traffic injuring the country during the War. You have an army of people, the police and officials, who have to look after it. There is yet another aspect of the labour question, that is, the effect of the consumption of this liquor upon the efficiency of the consumer. That is a point which the Government had sedulously avoided. The Committee of the Royal Society reported that the alcohol consumed was practically of no benefit to the output of labour in this country. They declared that repeated experience had shown that regiments not supplied with alcohol were in better condition at the end of the day than those to which it had been given. That was the view of the Committee of the Royal Society. The Government took no notice of it. The Control Board, however, I do not know whether in order to investigate that particular point, appointed a committee of doctors to investigate the same subject and, if they could, to make a pronouncement as to the effect of alcohol upon the human frame. I would venture to read to the House some of the conclusions published in this book issued by the Control Board. Incidentally, may I say that I do not see any one representing the Ministry of Munitions here, and I think the Control Board is under that Ministry. I do not know why this excellent book has not been issued to Members of this House as a Parliamentary Paper; at any rate it might be put on the Pink Paper so that Members could ask for it if they desired to do so. It contains the findings of a very able committee of doctors upon this question of the consumption of alcohol. On page 38 they say Alcohol is never a stimulant— These are their exact words— It is from first to last a narcotic drug which attacks the nervous system, the higher functions first. I want to draw the attention of the Government to the effects produced by the consumption of alcohol, because I see in this list not only physical effects but also political effects produced by alcohol. I would ask the House to note how in the political sphere as well as in the physical region alcohol produces its effects. They may be summed up briefly as follows—I am reading the exact words from the book— First, uncritical self-satisfaction of the subject with his own performances. I need not point the moral of that. Secondly, disregard of occurrences and conditions normally evoking caution of act and word. Could anything be more characteristic of the attitude of the Government during the past twelve months? Trespass of rules and conventions previously respected; impaired appreciation of the passage of time; loquacity and an argumentative frame of mind.


May we have the names of the doctors who so reported?


Yes; I will read the names to the House. The doctors did not report on the political effects, but on the physical effects. The names of the doctors are as follows: Sir George New man, K.C.B., M.D., Professor A. R. Cushney, M.D., F.R.S., H. H. Dale, M.D., F.R.S., M. Greenwood, M.R.C.S.,—my hon. Friend will appreciate him—W. McDougall, M.B., F.R.S., F. W. Mott, M.D., F.R.S., Professor C. S. Sherrington, M.D., F.R.S., and W. C Sullivan, M.D. All of them are gentle men holding important medical or scientific positions in this country. What is the effect upon the workman attributed to drink by these doctors? Their general view is that it tends to destroy in a workman accuracy, caution, tact, discipline, punctuality, discretion

I ask any employer of labour or any workman to put these scientific findings together and ask what is likely to be the effect of the continued consumption of alcohol upon the output and efficiency of industrial labour? It is because the industrial side of the question is so important that the prohibition movement has assumed such great proportions in the United States of America. I do not think I need labour the case further. It was said in Debate more than a year ago that the case for prohibition during the War was logically irresistible, and certainly the Government have not put for ward any sufficient answer to it. They told us then, and they have told us again to-day, that the British workman must have his beer, and that, if he does not have it, then he will not do his work. I see members of the Labour party present. They might properly resent the imputation that, if it were shown to them to be necessary that they should do without their beer, they would then refuse to work unless they got it. I know, of course, that many workmen appreciate their beer. I do not approach this question only from the point of view of the workman, because I know there are other classes who like their wine and spirits, just as the workman likes his beer. It is not a class question at all. What I am saying about manual work applies with even more force to professional work of various kinds and brain work of all kinds, because alcohol first of all attacks the higher functions of the nervous system. If it is a question between bread and beer, I do not believe that any work man in this country would hesitate. The Government have told us that if it came to be a question between bread and beer, that they would not hesitate. Then I ask them whether the time has not come for them to make up their minds? I suggest to the Government that they have themselves encouraged this labour unrest. I will read a circular which was issued from the Munitions Department in July last. They represented in this House that there was a spontaneous uproar made by the workers because there was not sufficient beer for the country. There was very little. They had a Commission on industrial unrest which, in certain parts of the country, found that there had been complaints, but on the whole found that far other questions were agitating the minds of the workmen than the question of the supply of intoxicants. This is the circular they set out addressed to the heads of controlled firms:


(Private and Confidential.)

Dear Sirs,—The Ministry of Munitions have been requested by the Food Controller to ascer- tain whether the increase in the distribution of beer of 20 per cent., which was recently authorised, has satisfied the workers in the factories in this area. That invites the answer which no doubt the Government got. If they really wished to ascertain the opinion of the workers of this country, they should not issue leading questions to them. They should put the food situation and the shipping situation before them and ask them, with full knowledge of the facts, to give a vote, one way or the other, whether they will have the beer, which involves risk to the bread, or whether they would rather that their families had the bread and they went without the beer. In a great measure the protest has been an engineered protest. I am going to read a circular which has been issued from a district in the North of England—I do not want to give the name. It was sent out to trade unions, and is signed by the chairman and secretary of a beer, spirit, and wine; trades association: —AND DISTRICT BEER, SPIRIT, AND WINE TRADES ASSOCIATION. We are instructed to ask you to be good enough to try and get your society to pass the following resolution (in own words) as early as possible and forward to the Food Controller, Palace Chambers, Westminster; the Minister of Munitions, Whitehall; the Prime Minister, Downing Street; the Right Hon. G. N. Barnes, M.P., Westminster; the Eight Hon. Bonar Law, M.P., Westminster; and to the local men of Parliament. This is the resolution: The members of this trade union (or friendly society), numbering—members, desire to protest strongly against the continued restrictions on the output of beer as being entirely unnecessary and causing a vast amount of discontent among the workers, whose only desire is to do the very best they can for their country to help to win the War. They hope the Government will accede to the legitimate and moderate wishes of the working classes of this country, and grant, without delay, an adequate supply of beer. If this is done, the action of the Government will be very much appreciated. I am very much afraid the Government has interpreted the engineered resolutions of the liquor trade as expressing the genuine opinion of the working men of this country. So far as they have been tested by genuine votes in Scotland in working-class constituencies, the voters have declared that they are in favour of prohibition during the War. They know well the result. If the Government wants to get the genuine opinion of the workers let them give the facts, which they have not done yet. Let them state the posi- tion; let them ask the workers to make a sacrifice in the interests of their country. They have asked greater sacrifices of them than changing their habits for the period of the War. All our habits are changed. All sacrifices have to be asked for. Alone the Government seems to shrink from asking this one sacrifice, which they know would immensely strengthen the forces of this country in many directions.

The Government is dependent, and we are dependent, more and more in the War upon America and Canada, and the help which they can send us. I wish our Government would lead in the way that some American statesmen are leading. I wish they would bring the same thought and the same utterances to bear upon the War that American statesmen are bringing. The Americans are tackling this question in a very different way from that in which our Government is dealing with it, and they are speaking in a very different way. Mr. Roosevelt, who is not a sentimentalist, who, as far as I know, is no teetotaler, who is certainly keen to win the War, uses this language, which I com mend to the Government: The world is facing a shortage of food. Soon we, in this country, shall face a shortage of food. Therefore let us use all the grain we have for food and not for intoxicants. Now that the War is on let us forbid any grain of corn being used in the manufacture of intoxicating liquors. The Americans are sending us their grain. How long do you think they will go on being short of bread in order that we may brew the grain? They are getting very uneasy, and the Government knows it well, so much so that it has tried to prevent America from knowing what is going on in this country. We have had speakers from America in this country. They have written home of the condition of things which they found in regard to drink in this country. Their letters have been censored, and the parts relating to the drink traffic have been struck out in black in order that America might not know how this country is dealing with the problem. It was an idle attempt. The very men who wrote the letters are themselves back in America now, telling the people what they have seen. Instead of blotting out evidence and refusing to face the facts, the Government should deal with them as the Americans are dealing with them.

I turn to Canada. The women of Canada, who are all voters now, as the women of England are, are petitioning their Government to stop the sending of grain to this country until we cease to use it in manufacturing intoxicants. They are going on two days a week without fire in Canada—two heatless days—because they want the railways free to carry grain to the people of this country. Do you think the Canadians are going with out fire in winter in order that brewing and distilling may go on in this country? They are going short of bread in Canada in order that they may send more grain to this country. Do you think they are going short of bread in order that people here may drink beer made from the grain that they forgo? The Government must face this question as the Governments of America and Canada have faced it, and if they face it they will decide in the same way—the only way. The Government of Canada, said Sir William Hearst, who is no friend of prohibition, or was not before the War, have taken up prohibition in order that they may not follow, as he said, the situation in the Old Land. This is what the Prime Minister of Ontario said: The situation in the Old Land to-day speaks to us in this new land in tones of thunder to avoid the path that land has taken, and to shake off that which hampers progress in peace and may destroy entirely in war. That is worthy language, and it is not pleasant language, I should imagine, for the Government of this country. I ask the Government to reconsider this matter. They must be conscious that they are losing ground daily. I will tell them why. Confidence begets confidence. The Government choose to govern without consulting the House or the country. They do not trust the people, and the people do not trust them. The people know that they are being fed on optimistic fictions manufactured for the million of imaginative Propaganda Departments, instead of the facts which they demand. I ask the Government to face the facts, to state the facts to the country, and to ask of the people the sacrifice that the facts demand. The spirit of the nation is high and unbroken and of unwavering determination. If the Government rely upon it, it will not fail them.

Captain Sir C. BATHURST

Having for some time in the spring of last year, almost every day, parried questions from the Front Government Bench on this subject, I desire to present with the utmost candour to the House what my present views upon it are. I approach the question from an entirely different standpoint from that of the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Leif Jones), and it is only because of the extreme gravity of the breadstuffs position, not only this summer, but even more, so far as one can foresee, next winter, that I find myself in agreement with his conclusions, although not with his premises. Surely the question is not whether the consumption of beer is, from the moral, social, or even a medical point of view, desirable or undesirable. The question we have to face is whether its continued consumption in its present dimensions is or is not fraught with possible peril to this country. I do not hesitate to say that the uneasiness to which the right hon. Gentleman has given expression is by no means now confined to temperance extremists or, as some of us are inclined to regard them, temperance fanatics. It is growing, and will continue to grow unless and until some action is taken by the Government, or, as I should prefer to see, by the working men themselves, to put a stop to some part at any rate of the present large consumption of cereal food in the form of beer and other intoxicants. I have during the last twelve months had a good deal to do with the brewery, and licensing trade, and what ever may be the prejudices in this House against the gentlemen concerned in the trade, I have throughout found them most patriotic, at least as unselfish as any other community of traders in this country and quite prepared, if need be, and at the urgent request of the Government, to forego their trade advantages and their trade profits for the common good. There remains the fact that over 500,000 tons of barley are at present being converted into beer alone, apart from other intoxicants. I may to some extent relieve the apprehension of the right hon. Gentleman with regard to sugar. I can assure him, as Chairman of the Royal Commission on Sugar Supplies, that no sugar which is edible by man is being at present converted into beer. There is a raw crude sugar, which is wholly unfit for human consumption, which is being treated, and in the course of that treatment 40 per cent. of it is being rendered available either for grocers sugar or as golden syrup for human consumption.


Is the right hon. Gentleman right in saying this sugar could not be used for anything except brewing? I understand it could be used for confectionery and so on.


The right hon. Gentleman is under a complete misapprehension upon that point. It is perfectly-true that the raw sugar that used to be used for the purpose of brewing last year was of a kind which could be employed for the purposes to which he refers, but the sugar which is now being converted in this way, invert sugar, which is not sugar at all, which the brewers use, is a raw crude sugar which is wholly unfit for human consumption. However, there remains something like 500,000 tons of barley which at the present time are being converted into intoxicating liquor. It was questioned repeatedly last year as to whether beer is or is not a food. I do not hesitate to say that beer is a food and to some extent avaluable food for those who are employed upon strenuous work, but I cannot agree that the use of barley or other breadstuffs in beer is an economical use of those cereals.

I am not concerned with the question of the amount of money received either by the State or by those engaged in the trade. What is far more serious is that money nowadays counts for little as compared with the essential materials for carrying on the War, and the most essential of all those materials to-day, there can be no doubt, is a sufficiency of indispensable foods, of which breadstuffs must come first. If there is any doubt on this question as to whether or not the efficiency of our manual labourers employed upon essential war work will be impaired by stopping the consumption of beer altogether, or by drastically restricting it, surely, the right method is to consult organised labour in this country and ask them to have a plebiscite to decide for themselves whether the present consumption of beer is necessary to the efficiency of their work, the output of munitions, and so on, or whether in fact they could further reduce it or abandon it altogether. I do not suggest for a moment that it would be wise or right or discreet for the Government to put their foot down and say that beer must be abandoned or drastically restricted; but I do venture to say—for after all we are in the hands of our working people nowadays for the output of our munitions, for the efficiency of war work and for the fighting of our battles—that the time has come when the Government might reasonably put in the plainest possible way the breadstuffs position to the working people, and ask them to decide, knowing the whole facts, whether beer shall either be abandoned or restricted in favour of larger production and the availability of breadstuffs.

The breadstuffs position, and I know it, is a serious position. It may become in the course of a few months a perilous position, and if we mean to move in this matter there ought to be no delay. I know that the answer that may be given this afternoon, which has been given before, is that at least half of this barley is converted into malt. I am not quite sure whether I like malt as well as my right hon. Friend (Mr. Leif Jones) as an article of human diet, but, after all, malt is a very valuable food for our farm animals and for our poultry, if not for ourselves. When we hear that the pig population of this country and the poultry population are threatened with extinction; when the pig, of all animals, in this crisis, when we want to multiply meat as fast as we can, is far and away the most valuable, and when we hear that through lack of a very small amount of available cereal food the pig population has to be diminished or it may be impossible to maintain it, there is a very strong argument for letting a part of this barley or malt, as the case may be, go into the stomachs of the pigs, rather than into the form of beer as an additional cereal ration for those who drink that particular beverage. On that point I have never been able to defend the position of those who say that people who drink beer are just as much entitled to have their beer as those who drink non-intoxicants are entitled to have their form of drink. When we come to the time when the Government are contemplating rationing bread, and probably in the course of the next few weeks proposing to ration bread, how can you in equity defend the position of those who are getting an extra ration of cereal food through the medium of beer? It is obviously inequitable, and on that ground alone I believe that if an appeal were made to the working people and the whole facts told to them, they would say, We are having more than our fair ration, to the detriment of our brothers and sisters in this country. Let organised Labour decide this question, when the Government has told them the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, on the subject.

There is one warning which I would like to give to the House. I approach this by no means from the point of view of the prejudiced fanatic. I do not hesitate to say that I am not a teetotaler. I wish I were, but I am not. [An Hon. Member: Why? Because I have every reason to believe that I should be able to do even more work than I do at the present time if I were a teetotaler. However that may be, there is another side to this question, and I feel pretty certain that if this question of beer is put to the organised workmen of this country they will ask certain rather difficult questions, and questions which it will be difficult to answer. For instance, they will ask how about horse-racing and the giving of 20 lbs. or mare a day of the best oats or other cereal food to horses in full training for racing purposes?


And how about the rich man's cellar?


They will say with far less reason, but with a good deal of natural and legitimate prejudice, What about the rich man's wines? We have got to face these things, and I cannot help thinking that before making this appeal to organised Labour and asking them to decide, the Government would be wise, and would put themselves in a safer and more defensible position, if they were to say that horse-racing henceforward for the remainder of the War should be absolutely stopped, and that some reduction, at any rate an equivalent reduction, should be made in the beverages which the rich man or the wealthier classes are in the habit of consuming. Were they to do so, I believe they could approach the working people of this country with a clean sheet and ask them to determine this liquor question on the facts as they stand to-day, which are very different from what they were a year ago, and see whether their answer would not be such that we should be able to look forward far more comfortably to feeding the nation during the next nine or ten months, and look forward with much greater confidence to the final and effectual winning of this War.


The right hon. Gentleman Who opened this Debate did so in a speech of real power, and I want to assure him that, personally, I have a good deal of sympathy with the point of view which he put, and with the main object of his argument. But I think he will see that there is a side of this case which is not demolished by the weightiest temperance platform argument that can be brought against it, and that side of the case springs from a very large body of working-class opinion. It does not find expression through Labour Conferences; it does not find expression at public meetings, but it is opinion which, to some small extent is vocal, and is conveyed in letters and resolutions received in hundreds at the Ministry of Food. I will here refer to the allegation that these protests of working men have been engineered and organised by those interested in the trade. The fact is that the resolution quoted by my right hon. Friend has but recently appeared, and has only been recently used, and is a result, and not a cause, of the discontent to which I have referred in previous Debates, and to which I shall have to refer to-day.


It is issued by the licensed victuallers.


I agree as to its source, but it has been only recently issued, and it is a product of the discontent which exists and has not been the cause of that discontent itself. I want to correct the impression which my right hon. Friend has evidently formed from some previous statements which I have made on this subject I want to say that I have never imputed, and never intended to impute, to temperance advocates in this country any motive as to the securing of personal gain from the attitude which they take up or from the course which they have followed in this House. I merely made myself the interpreter of what is known to be a body of opinion in working-class circles, and I expressed in this House the sentiments which I have heard myself from working men, and put them into the terms which have been quoted this afternoon. It will be impossible for me—indeed, it would not be my place—to deal with many of the arguments adduced by the two preceding speakers in regard to the general sins of the Government, as to the drink traffic and other matters having more or less relation to the War. But this I think can be said, that submarines will sink ships whether those ships are full of beer or beef, and my right hon. Friend does not strengthen his case by giving us a picture of our giving opportunities for sinking our ships merely because ships are sailing the seas bringing barley to these shores. I entirely challenge the view that if the Ministry of Food revealed certain facts, which it is alleged we are concealing, that in the country at large there would be consequences which it is assumed the Government would not like. How best can we secure the real and genuine opinion of the masses of the workers of this country? No working-class meeting, I am certain, would be moved by the rather fanciful picture of the labour, moving in I forget how many ways, day by day, to carry the material needed for the purpose of supplying the working man with his beer. In so far as the working man has decided one way or another on this question, he has decided it on grounds chiefly of necessity, and that necessity will not be removed or undermined by such pictures as my right hon. Friend painted. If we are to test the question on the ground of the things we can do without; if it is to be said that we must only do exactly what is essential as an act for the winning of the War, and that we must only use the food, clothing and shelter necessary and absolutely essential, let the House ask itself how many things we should have to do without! If we limit ourselves just to the things which are necessary and beneficial a very much larger sum of money would be available for other purposes than the big amount which is said to be spent in the course of a year upon alcohol in one form or another.

Employers have given us their testimony as to the consumption of drink and its effect on the efficiency of labour. Hundreds of them have indicated to the Ministry of Food, and some of them gave evidence before the Commission which roamed over the country some months ago, and instead of alleging that inefficiency, neglect of work and loss of time are attributable to the consumption of liquor, they came forward and asked that in the interests of efficiency and in the interests of contentment larger quantities of beer should be provided.


Can we have the names of those employers?


Has the hon. Gentleman ever read the White Paper issued by the Government themselves giving the views of employers as to the reduction of output?


Certainly. I am going to give the other side of the case as well, but on this particular point of efficiency and contentment the employers have given such evidence as I have stated.


Was there not evidence the other way?


The Government are not unmindful of the nature of the case. From the beginning of the War, or at any rate since a few months after it began, the Government has constantly had this problem before it, and has not merely looked it in the face and then turned aside; it has dealt with it when most substantial results, and I had hoped that the right hon. Gentleman in the course of his speech would have acknowledged the very substantial effort which has been made in the direction of obtaining that absolute teetotalism of which I under stand him to be an advocate. Certainly a great deal has been done in the reduction of the quantity of beer produced annually. There is now about one-third only of the quantity formerly supplied and that third is not as strong as in pre-war days. To judge from one's experience here and there the beer is not a quarter as strong as it was before the War, so that both in strength and in quantity there have been very considerable reductions. There are to be further reductions, and I propose to take this opportunity of outlining what more is to be done. The Government has considered this matter because of its immediate relation to the tonnage question and also because of opinions to which we must pay every respect of the most earnest kind—the opinions in America which now supplies so much of our cereal requirements. For these reasons the Government is anxious, while maintaining some reasonable supply of beer for the hard manual worker, to still further meet the views of the other sections of the community. The tonnage, therefore, to be used for brewing materials is to be reduced by further new restrictions which are immediately to be imposed. From 100,000 to 150,000 tons of barley were taken from the brewers and maltsters on 1st March this year, by an Order then issued. A further 200,000 tons per annum will be saved by restricting the standard barrelage or by using substitutes which are more economical of tonnage. As to what particular substitutes are to be used—


Can the hon. Gentleman give me some figures as to the standard barrelage?


For the year 1918–19 the brewing materials will be equivalent to 513,000 tons of shipping. At the beginning of the War and for a considerable time after the total was 1,556,000 tons of shipping, so that there is now being effected a saving in tonnage to the extent of 1,000,000 tons. That surely is going a very substantial way towards meeting the views which have been expressed this afternoon. The total brewing materials, I may add, amount to less than 3 percent. of the total solid food supply of the nation. The speech delivered this afternoon might lead many Members of the House, and many people in the country, to conclude that if we were only to stop brewing the whole food position of the future would be saved. My answer to that is that the brewing materials used in providing beer is less than 3 percent. of the total solid food of the nation.


What do you mean by "solid food"?


I hope the hon. Member will be allowed to make his speech with out interruption. There will be plenty of opportunity to reply to him.


I was putting the argument that, after all, the quantity of solid food used for brewing forms but a small percentage in relation to the quantity of food used in this country, and, therefore, the saving would not be as immense as depicted in the speech of the right hon. Gentleman. I say, therefore, that of that quantity nearly one-third is returned to be used as animal food while at least a half of the remainder may be justly regarded as food to some extent at least by the people who consume beer. I may tell my right hon. Friend that the standard barrelage will be 10,000,000. In view of the complaints which have been mentioned in the course of this discussion, I would like to offer one or two observations. It was in 1917—in the middle of that year—that a great deal of discontent was observed through out the country in engineering shops, in munition works, and in agricultural parts, and it was not any action on the part of the brewers or of the trade in engineering unrest that caused the Government of that time to make some changes and some improvement from the point of view of the beer consumer. It was stated in many authoritative communications sent to us from, agricultural and other sources, by farmers and by the heads of munition works, that discontent prevailed among the men, particularly in canteens that were attached to large establishments which had hitherto been able to secure certain supplies of beer, because those supplies were being greatly reduced, and the men complained that they could not take their mid-day meal without the pint of beer to which they had been accustomed. It was also stated that the harvest was being endangered, and the agricultural interest pressed the view that something should be done which would offer a means of escape from the troubles then pending. Reference has been made to the attitude of the brewers, but I have to say that, ever since the Government assumed control and has had to impose these changes on the brewing interest, the brewers have loyally supported the authorities and have submitted to what ever decrease of barrelage was considered necessary without any complaint. The Ministry of Food has received piles of interesting letters on this subject, and perhaps my right hon. Friend could do worse than spend an hour or two looking through them. I may take one or two samples from this morning's post-bag On the average we get a dozen letters daily on this subject. They are not organised or engineered communications; they are spontaneous statements from plain working men who feel that a drink of beer is one of the essentials of their day Here is a letter from a body of workers in Durham, which says: I am requested to write and see if you can bring any pressure on the Government to try and give us a just share of beer. We are in the lead trade, and we claim that a drop of good beer helps to clean out the lead-dust.


Does the hon. Gentleman assent to that?

5.0 P.M.


It is not a question whether I assent or not. If I say, in reply to this, that, in the national interest, the men ought to make further sacrifices—if I say it is essential for the food of the nation that the manufacture of beer should cease altogether—I have no doubt these men would submit. But think what they are doing now! They begin work earlier, they are labouring longer hours, they are working harder, they are, doing heavier industrial service than ever before; and the real question is, ought we to ask them to submit to further deprivations than the war conditions have imposed upon them? Here is another letter from a working men's club in Leeds: Eighty per cent. of our members work in engineering firms in Leeds on munitions; the remainder are chiefly in the clothing trades making khaki. I can assure you that the absence of a reasonable supply of beer is causing a lot of unrest in our district. We are working from 6 a.m. till 8 p.m., and then are not able to obtain a drink of beer. I may say that our club is the oldest institute in Yorkshire and possesses a fine record, never having been warned during its existence for any offence. … It hurts us, it is disheartening in its effects upon our members, who have been loyal to their King and country during this terrible crisis, to be deprived of a simple thing like this. These are the representations which we frequently receive; and, bearing in mind the substantial reductions already made, I do suggest we ought not to unduly press on these large masses, these millions of men who are performing hard, exhaustive work, to make these further sacrifices which the right hon. Gentleman has demanded. Let me add this: As I under stand it, the average percentage of alcohol in beer prior to the War was 4½per cent. Under the existing Regulations, and within the terms of the further restrictions I have announced, this afternoon, it will be brought down to less than 3 per cent. I gathered from a recent manifesto issued by the Strength of Britain Movement that their recommendation was that brewers should brew only light beers containing not more than 2 per cent. of alcohol. If you have from the people of the "Strength of Britain" movement the claim that this production should be made to 2 per cent., and if actually now the Government policy is to bring it down to below 3 per cent., there seems to me to be very little margin of difference between the two extremes. Finally, may I put to the House a view which may not yet have been expressed I We all, I am sure, rejoice in the fact that there is an almost natural growth of opinion in this country towards temperance, and one can find now amongst working men a view taken about drink which was unknown to them some quarter of a century ago. We now know many working men who really would be ashamed to be found drunk whose fathers were not ashamed of it, who perhaps gloried in it. They are coming to look on it, I will not say as a crime but as a misdemeanour nearly as reprehensible as lying or theft. They do not like to be thought of in terms of being drunkards or of taking drink to excess, but while I put that view I personally cannot conclude from anything I know of this country, or from anything I can observe in others, that a state of enforced teetotalism in this country during the War would in itself be any contribution towards winning the War. I have heard in this House, when Russia became a vodkaless nation, prophecies of what Russia would then begin to do as a more powerful agent, acting with the Allies, towards winning the War. The policy of the suppression of drink in Russia not only did nothing to strengthen Russia either militarily or morally as one of the Allies, but, indeed, we might reasonably ask whether for one cause or the other the abolition of vodka had not something to do with the growth of the discontent which produced finally the state of revolution in Russia itself. So you have no guarantee, founded either on theory or on practice, that the prohibition of drink in a country during war-time will in itself necessarily be any formidable contribution towards the successful conduct of the War.

On one other occasion I put a view to this House on this subject which I do not fear to repeat. It is this, that millions of the humbler folk of this country have made very great sacrifices for their country towards winning the War. They are suffering many privations as the result of the War, and they are carrying their full share of sorrow, like so many other sections of the community. But those other sections have some opportunity of escaping from the grim tragedies of the War, and from some of its sorrows. They have better homes than the working classes; they have good clubs; they have tastes which enable them to enjoy life on a somewhat higher plane than the average workman is capable of enjoying. These working men, so far as they have social opportunities, can find them only in the village club or in the town tavern. The town taverns ought to be better than they are; structurally and in other ways they should be very much improved. But there is no guarantee that you are going to improve these places by suppressing them or driving them beneath the surface by force for the time being. The humbler people have their just claims on the consideration of this House, and on this particular article of drink they have had to give way so far that I earnestly ask that they should not during the period of the War be pressed further by those who are advancing this claim this afternoon. I do say that if the point is reached where it becomes a necessity to choose between bread and beer, there will be no hesitation on the part of the Government. But we have not reached that point, and until we have it is not fair or reasonable that the people, whose pleasures and social opportunities are so few, should be forced to make greater sacrifices than they have already made.


I have already spoken in Debate once this Session upon this subject in seconding an Amendment to the Address, a Debate which had, I think, some influence on the Government, though I am not sure that the speech which my hon. Friend (Mr. Clynes) has just delivered represents any great advance in the views laid down by the Government. It would be an impertinence that I should say more than a few words now. Like the hon. and gallant Member for Wiltshire (Sir C. Bathurst), who delivered a very interesting and important speech supporting the view of my right hon. Friend opposite (Mr. Leif Jones), I do not approach this question from the point of view of a total abstainer, or indeed of what I think has been called a temperance fanatic. With regard to an interjection by an hon. Member above the Gangway upon the subject of the rich man's cellar, I think it. would be an obvious corrolary of the view which some of us are pressing upon the Government that the rich man's cellar should certainly suffer in an equal degree. I wish to say that I am not arguing the general merits of temperance, or the merits of morality, or the precepts of Divine Providence. All these things should be argued in their due and proper season, and are not relevant to this Debate. I only say that for this reason: I met a deputation of temperance workers the other day and it impressed me just as much and just as little as many deputations frequently do—because just as we appeared to be reaching the conclusions of commonsense a dissatisfied gentleman got up and said that he thought our movement could never succeed because no one had yet said that he believed in God. I believe in God—and I really do not wish to be profane in this matter—but I do not think this question should be argued, as many excellent people do argue it, as if there were something in the Commandments that the working man should not have a glass of beer. I have no objection to a man getting a glass of beer if the con- ditions of the country permit it, and that is the whole point of the Debate to-day. I am sorry if that contention in any way weakens the case of my right hon. Friend opposite, though I do not think it does, but I do say most emphatically that this is not a blue-ribbon case; it is not an ecclesiastical case; it is not even a medical case; it is a starvation case, or it is nothing at all. That is the only point of view that I am endeavouring to argue.

It has been said by my hon. Friend speaking for the Government, in what I will admit at once was a perfectly straight forward and sincere speech, that the industrial classes engaged on heavy work have very strong opinions on this subject. It is said that the coal miner wants his glass of beer, and that the harvester wants his glass of beer, because he is hot and thirsty. That argument interests me to a certain extent, because last July and August I was doing a job of work in the East, somewhere in the latitude of Naples, and I can assure my hon. Friend that the men were very hot and very thirsty. I may tell my right hon. Friend opposite—I do not know whether this statement will distress him—that I would certainly have given those men a glass of beer, but there was not a glass of beer to give them. All they got was a tot of rum and at able of quinine by doctor's orders; and they only got the tot of rum by doctor's orders, because it was a very unhealthy, malarious, district. It is somewhat notorious that transport is a little erratic in the Mediterranean. There was no beer because of the transport. There was no butter or margarine; there was no cheese; there was precious little bacon, and one tin of condensed milk among twelve. Therefore, I say by all means ration the civil population at home with what the soldier cannot get when he as abroad, give it to them if you have it to give, and ration according to the character of the employment on which the men are engaged. The point we put to the Government in this Debate is, Have you got it to give them? When you have made your shells can you make your ships? Have you, for instance, the raw material for both? And when you have made your bread, can you make your beer? You know, we do not. We do most emphatically say to the Government, It is your responsibility. If at any time in the next few months your bread runs short, and you have used your grain for beer, you have not only made a lamentable and serious mistake, but you have been guilty of a crime against the nation.


I should like to say a few words in support of the line just taken by my hon. Friend the Member for Montrose Burghs (Mr. Harcourt). I also am not a teetotaler. I think I may say I am not a teetotaler in any sense of the word, though I am inclined to believe that it would probably be better for all of us if we were teetotalers. I do not think, however, that this particular matter at the present time ought to be argued from the teetotal point of view, I was almost saying from the temperance point of view, at all. It does not seem to me that this is a consideration which should really be before the country. I think that at the moment this is primarily a question of transport and shipping of what we can afford to bring into the country at the present time. The Government, as we know, have cut down in the most drastic manner the imports it is possible to make into the country, and what we have now to consider is whether alcohol, or the materials for making alcohol, should be in the list of prohibited imports. That is the only consideration which is really relevant at the present time, and that I understand was entirely the view of my hon. Friend (Mr. HarCourt). I think the hon. and gallant Member for Wiltshire (Captain Sir C. Bathurst) raised a false point in the matter of sugar, because even if the sugar used for brewing were quite unfit for human consumption, nevertheless if that sugar were not being brought into this country other articles of equal value could be brought instead. I would remind the House that this is not merely a question of shipping. It is also a question of inland transport. One of the difficulties about food has been the internal distribution. You can get it into the port, but you can not get it out of the port up country; and in the same way, if you have to transport large quantities of materials for brewing you are taking up inland transport which might be used to a very much better purpose. I certainly have no wish to deprive any person of his beer. I am very sorry it should be necessary to ask any person to go without that quantity of beer which he can consume without becoming intoxicated, but I do think we should endeavour to ask everybody to consider what the alternative really is. We have had the figures given to us as to the quantity of material used for this purpose. We know that there is a certain amount of difficulty in getting a really full quantity of bread, but we know this, that there is a great and lamentable lack of feeding-stuffs for cattle, pigs, and poultry, and for the whole range of agricultural work. Even supposing we are bringing into this country at the present time enough cereals to enable us to consume as much cereals as we ought in that form, nevertheless what is going in beer, and the tonnage used to enable the manufacture of beer and whisky to go on, is material and tonnage which is being taken away from the agricultural industry. It means that we are to have less beef, bacon, and eggs. All these things are being taken from us in order that this manufacture of beer and whisky should go on.

Take another important matter. One of the articles which have been cut down is the importation of raw cotton. That is a very serious thing for the financial interests of this country. It may even be a serious matter for beer-drinking gentlemen who are engaged in the cotton trade. If the importation of raw cotton has to be reduced it might be well worth considering whether it is not more in the real interests of the working classes of Lancashire, at any rate, that they should have raw cotton, because if they cannot get wages to pay for the beer there is not much satisfaction in knowing that there is plenty of beer in the country. Those things want very serious consideration. It is said that if you are going to deprive the poor man of his beer you ought equally to deprive the wealthy man of his wine. That is an argument which is quite conclusive if you approach the matter purely from the temperance and teetotal point of view. But it is not necessarily so if you approach the matter from the point of view of transport, because it might quite easily be the case that you could bring wines into the country without using any tonnage whatever. That is not true as regards cereals. The only place from which you can get wine now wthout using tonnage is France, from which large numbers of ships are returning empty. But I feel that if you are going to deal with the manufacture of beer and whisky you want precisely the same thing, even if it is illogical, about wine. You want it for sentimental reasons. As a wine consumer, I am quite ready in that respect to submit to any restrictions which are put upon those consuming beer or spirits, even though I do not think that the same arguments lead to the same conclusion. The proposal that I make to the Government is this: They should say quite plainly that this matter is not approached from the point of view of temperance, but of tonnage, and they should say to the people of this country, You may drink up what exists. We do not wish to deprive anybody of anything that is in existence. There are certain stocks of whisky, beer, and wine—drink them up. But from this day for ward until the end of the War no alcohol shall be imported into this country, and no alcohol shall be manufactured. I believe that that is a sensible way of dealing with the situation, and that we should let it stand until the end of the War. I am quite certain that if you do not do something of that nature, however much you may placate those who wish to drink beer, you will certainly arouse a very angry state of mind among people who do not wish to drink beer, and who find that they are being deprived of the food which is necessary for them in order that others may drink beer.


I agree that transport is the really important object which we ought to have in view in discussing this matter. I was very much impressed by the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Wiltshire, which I thought was a very important contribution to the subject, but it seems to me that the hon. Gentleman who has just spoken, and still more the hon. Gentleman below the Gangway (Mr. Harcourt) rather overshot the point in discussing the matter of transport, because this is a matter of alternatives, and both hon. Members seemed to me to assume that the only alternatives open were the use of ship ping for bread or beer. But that is not so at all. The hon. Member opposite (Mr. Holt), I agree, throws a glimmering of light on the subject when he introduces the subject of cotton, because he said that it was a question as to whether it might not be more important to have a supply of cotton than beer. Before we can decide that it is necessary to cut off the beer supply we should have to review the whole of the imports at the present time. That has not been done.


The matter has been most carefully gone into, but the results have not been given to the public. They cut everything down, and apart from food, munitions and material, there is a very small amount of tonnage for any of the Ordinary industries of the country.


I quite understand the right hon. Gentleman's point, but we have not had an opportunity of knowing, and therefore it is only a matter of opinion, as to where there is room for any further cutting down of imports. I know that comparatively recently there was a very considerable importation of lemons into this country. The suggestion that we should diminish the supply of lemonade, there might be, at all events, an alternative that some of the working men would prefer, but that would bring us up against another question, which is a very important one, and must be kept in mind, that is, the interests of our Allies. You cannot in a moment cut off the supplies to this country of such commodities without doing great damage to the interests of our Italian Allies. I am not speaking from actual knowledge of present facts, but I do know that it does enter into the consideration that if you were to cut off altogether the importation of wines we should injure the interests of our French Allies.

These are the matters which you have to consider on the question of alternatives, which only shows that we have not in this House at present got a sufficient review of the whole situation to enable us to judge whether the necessity has arisen, which all hon. Members admit is the guiding principle, to cut off from the working classes of the country the beer which, in many cases, is looked upon by them as very nearly, if not quite, an essential of their daily existence, and, at all events, one of those things which we should not cut away from them without such a necessity as would really leave us no alternative at all. We have not been told that such a case has arisen. My hon. Friend who spoke for the Government intimated very clearly that that desperate moment has not yet arrived, and he spoke with authority which we cannot neglect as to the very serious additional privation which the policy advocated by my right hon. Friend opposite would impose upon the working classes. I do not profess to be thoroughly familiar with the industrial conditions in the North. I have the good fortune to represent an agricultural constituency in the South myself, but I have seen many of these people, and especially during the War it has been my privilege to go to several meetings in the North, and in large munition factories I have seen the sort of toil that the men there are undergoing and the sort of temperature in which they undergo it, and when I am told that it is practically a necessity for those men that in the course of their long hours work they should not drink the ordinary beverage to which they are accustomed it does surprise me, and my sympathies are rather with them, and I certainly refuse to support the views of my hon. Friend opposite, unless and until we have it on the authority of the Government that the necessity has arisen under which, in order to save the whole nation from starvation, we should have to cut off even this degree of luxury from the working classes.


The hon. Gentleman has referred to the question of tonnage which we all agree introduces a very important element into the problem that we are discussing. The hon. Member who replied for the Ministry of Food, I do not think took upon himself to deal with the question of tonnage, speaking authoritatively from the point of view of the Ministry of Shipping, or, indeed, as far as I can gather, speaking on behalf of the War Cabinet. We are aware that representations have been made directly to the War Cabinet by the Ministry of Shipping on this question. The facts have been given in the House by my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary on different occasions. There is no question whatever that there is at the present moment a very serious shortage of tonnage, and strong representations have been made to the War Cabinet that a great increase of tonnage could be secured by prohibiting the manufacture of beer. The figures given to-day by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food, as far as I can understand them, really amount to this, that there are still to be 512,000 tons of shipping allocated for drink purposes, instead of 575,000 tons, which was the figure recently stated by the Ministry of Shipping in answer to a question in this House. If I am correct in that assumption, it really comes to this, that there is only to be a saving in actual tonnage of something like 50,000 or 60.000 tons.


I cannot confirm that statement without examination.


The figure was given in this House. I do not know whether the Leader of the House will be kind enough to clear up the point, but it seems to be very material. The figure given in the House by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food was that 512,000 tons only would now be occupied for brewing materials, as against 1,556,000 tons of shipping before the War.

The CHANCELLOR of the EXCHEQUER (Mr. Bonar Law)

I understood that.


We were informed that the continued brewing in this country at the present time involves a loss of 575,000 tons of shipping, and if you deduct 512,000 from the 575,000 there seems to be an actual saving of only 50,000 to 60,000 tons in the proposals of the Government, which appears to me to amount to something a great deal smaller than what we might have been entitled to expect. Then there is the question of the reduction to 10,000,000 standard barrels, which is represented as a substantial reduction at the present moment; but what the House and the country are entitled to ask is, Does this represent anything like the reduction which should now be made when it is remembered that in the early period of 1917 the output was reduced to 10,000,000 barrels, and that it was raised again to 16,000,000 barrels? In other words, we are now only getting back to the figure of 10,000,000 barrels, which was the figure regarded as absolutely necessary at the earlier date. Are we to believe that the (Government are prepared even now to adhere to that figure? The reason given for increasing the number of barrels was precisely the same reason as that which was submitted to the House again to-day as a reason for not coming down further, namely, that you are up against the beer consumers, the industrial classes. I happen to represent a large industrial constituency, and I think that I am entitled to point out to the Leader of the House, who, I know, understands the working classes in Scotland, and, I am quite sure, is prepared to accept an expression of opinion from them, that the workers in Scotland are prepared to make any sacrifice in regard to the consumption of beer, that may be called for in connection with the War. I can speak for my own district in Scotland, where there is evidence of readiness to make such a sacrifice. I may state that plebiscites have been taken in various districts and industrial centres, such as Paisley, Clydebank, Barrhead, Cowden-heath, Alva, Lesmahagow, Govan—centres with large industrial populations, though one or two of the districts may include some different elements—with the result that there was an overwhelming majority in each place in favour of the prohibition of the manufacture of intoxicants during the War. That is true of other industrial centres in Scotland. I submit that the workers should be consulted, and that they should have the opportunity of expressing freely their views in these matters. I would appeal to the right hon. Gentleman that he should not, on every occasion that this matter is brought up in the House, magnify the difficulties which are unjustly advanced in regard to the attitude of the workers, and which I be have are very much exaggerated. On the last occasion he said: We are of opinion that it is dangerous, from the point of view of the working classes of this country, to prevent their getting something to which they are daily accustomed. May I remind the right hon. Gentleman that the working classes have made very great sacrifices during the War; they have given up many more important things to which they have been accustomed, and it is a very small matter to ask them to give up what is an admitted luxury? May I remind the right hon. Gentleman also of the statement which the Prime Minister made recently: In all the statistical tables there was one column left out. It was a vital one—the column which showed the capacity of men of all classes, all creeds, and of all nations, for sacrifice in a cause they believed in. This War has taught us that lesson. If an appeal were made to the working classes, showing the wastage in food and tonnage that is caused by the brewing of beer, they would be perfectly ready to respond in the most reasonable spirit. One of the Commissions on industrial unrest reported that there was no reason to doubt that all classes would loyally adhere to any reduction of brewing if it was demonstrated to be necessary. We have been informed again and again of the seriousness of the food situation. The Minister of Agriculture quite recently, in a speech delivered to farmers, said: It was not the only pivot of our war activities, but it was the one thing which hung in the balance. We must have food, or we could not make sure of victory. Food therefore had become a munition of war, and the most important of munitions of war. I appeal to the right hon. Gentleman to go frankly to the workers of the country in full confidence—as was indeed recognised to-day by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food—that they will be prepared to accept any proposal that is based on grounds of war-time necessity, and that will help us to secure victory


I wish to put one point before the right hon. Gentleman, in regard to which, in my position as Chairman of the Small Holdings and Allotments Committee of Agricultural Organisation Societies, I have come across, daily and weekly, what I look upon as an extraordinary development of interest in the allotment movement. All over the country it is taking hold of the industrial population in a very remarkable way. It was estimated some time ago that there were already something like a million allotments in existence, producing a great amount of food, and, with the food shortage before us, the idea is really getting into the minds and hearts of the people, of breeding livestock on their allotments. It is only those who have come in contact with these allotment holders, as I do every day, who know-how deep and how tremendous is their keenness and interest in this movement. These men want to keep rabbits, pigs, and poultry on their allotments, but the Ministers in charge of foodstuffs are able to allot only exceedingly small amounts of cereals or cake-food; but I believe that if the Government were to say boldly to the working classes now so immensely interested in this movement, that they might keep live-stock on their allotments, and that it was proposed to make a further cut in the use of cereals for the brewing of beer and keep it for the use of the allotment holders in feeding their pigs, rabbits, and poultry, there would be a very fine response, and the proposal would be very largely welcomed by working men and miners and others. I do not put this matter before the House from the temperance point of view at all, nor do I say that the Government look at it from that point of view; they believe that they have to secure for the working classes a certain amount of beer. On the other hand, I represent a constituency where the whole body of workers, including a great number of miners, would be willing to pledge themselves to total abstinence to the end of the War. There would be no difficulty there in that district, though there might be difficulty, I understand, in some other places. There is one way of getting over the feeling which does exist in some working-class centres, and that is to say to these men, We think that the food which you can produce for yourselves, by keeping pigs, poultry, and rabbits on your allotments is something far more important than such modicum of food that there may-exist in alcoholic drinks. If the Government were a little bolder they would ask the working classes to consider the question in that sort of way. and I am sure there would be a good response. We may have very serious months ahead of us in the near future, and I do urge the Government to be a little bolder in facing the working classes in regard to this matter. I think that if they adopt the suggestion I have thrown out, it will be found that they would meet with a very real and satisfactory response.


The question which is before us is one of very great importance, and, whatever may be my own view on the subject, I wish to deal with it rather on the grounds of national necessity at the present time. Those of us who are interested in agricultural constituencies have been asking our Constituents to plough up fresh land, and to make the very best use of the land under cultivation, so that more food may be produced. The farmer has been doing what we have asked of him. My calculation is that the land ploughed up this year produces the equivalent, or about the equivalent, of the amount of grain that would be consumed in manufacturing beer. That is rather a strong thing to say, but I think I am correct in what I state. Before the War we raised approximately one-fifth of the grain consumed, and we imported about four-fifths or more; and probably a tenth of the whole of the grain either raised or imported went in the manufacture of beer and spirits. If we had been wise enough at the commencement of the War, or had we been wise enough to foresee the necessity that now exists, we might at that time have appealed to the country to cease the manufacture of beer, and I believe the country at that time would have responded to the appeal, and we could then, automatically, have increased our supply of grain by one-tenth, which would have been available at the present time. Those who have been able to get hold of the Agricultural Journal for the present month must have observed that the use of concentrated foods for the purpose of fattening cattle is to be absolutely stopped. Agriculturists know that this is a, very serious matter. Things have been drifting in that direction for a long time, and it seems that we will have to force upon the market more and more immature stock in a less mature condition, which is a very serious matter. We know from experience that without this food the cattle cannot make flesh in a way that would make them marketable. It is urged that it is absolutely necessary for munition workers and other workers that they should have a certain amount of beer. I have my own views upon that subject, but if it is necessary that a certain amount of beer should be given to some workers, could there not be some reasonable method of rationing whereby those men who must have it shall have it? In the agricultural district which I represent, why should more beer be given to the farmers or farm workers, whose labour is very little harder than that of others? Why should agriculturists and other workers have increased quantities of beer? That is a matter I am unable to understand. It may be that it is really necessary in the case of munition workers, but I think it should be rationed in some way, just as are other foods. We are short at the present time of men, and that matter has already been dealt with, and there is the shortage of ships.

The suggestion has been made that we should ask the working men on this matter. I intend to go to my own Constituency and to urge this, and perhaps it is one of the difficult districts in South Wales; but I believe, if the question is properly put and submitted to them, that the working men who have risen so splendidly before will rise again to the necessity of a great national emergency. I am not sure that it is not the duty of this House to set the example, and I hope another opportunity will be given to it to follow for the time being the example of those in the highest places in the land. Let us set an example to the working men, and exclude all drink for the time being, as an hon. Friend who said he was not a teetotaler expressed his willingness to do. Then we can go to the country with a much better case to the working men. I do not know whether many Members of this House have seen an extract from a speech of Mr. Hoover, the Food Controller of the United States, in which he said that for the duration of the War every bushel of barley is needed for food, and there is not a bushel to spare for beer, and that the argument advanced by the brewers that they are using grain which is unfit for food production is not true, and that the food value of high-grain barley is very similar to that of wheat. That is a very important statement. We know that in the United States, as in Canada, there has been a great outcry that we are not making the best use of foodstuffs in this country. Mention has been made of certain letters to the other side from gentlemen who came over and were speaking from this point of view in this country, and which were censored when they wrote back. I have reason to believe that certain items of news dealing with the elections that took place in Canada have been also censored. Some of the speeches which were censored dealt with the question of young Canadians coming over here from dry States into the temptation offered in districts where drink is sold. I say no more about that, and after all it is only one side of the question. I would make an appeal to the Government to make one more effort and to give the working classes an opportunity of speaking their minds on this subject, and if the case is properly put, and if this House sets a proper example, I believe that the working men are sound and will loyally follow any lead that is given to them.


With the permission of the House, I intervene to make a correction of figures given in reply to an interjection from my right hon. Friend (Mr. L. Jones). I stated that the standard barrelage was 10,000,000. I spoke from memory at the moment, and I should like to take this opportunity to give the House the complete and accurate figures. The authorised standard barrelage is 10,720,000. To that there must be added, as extra for the Army and Navy, 750,000 barrels, and, further, an addition for munition areas as extra supplies of 1,120,000 barrels; so that the total authorised standard barrelage amounts to 12,590,000 barrels.


May I ask whether that figure is going to be adhered to, because twelve months ago the Government announced that the total barrelage would be 10,000,000, while the actual barrelage was over 16,000,000?


Although what my hon. Friend states is quite correct as regards twelve months ago, at a later period there had to be an addition. The reasons for that have been made plain in the course of the discussion this afternoon.


Will that be repeated this year?

Admiral of the Fleet Sir HEDWORTH MEUX

I am not going to follow the arguments put forward by the last speaker, but I think it must be very evident to the working classes of this country that we are not really a very suitable body to discuss what they should drink. We here are sedentary workers, and it is perfectly well known that sedentary workers are not men who usually drink beer, or can digest it. I do not know if the right hon. Gentleman, whose speech I had not the pleasure of hearing, has much experience of hard manual labour?




I think it is very hard on the working classes of this country, who work sometimes for twelve hours a day in furnace works and collieries and are accustomed to have their beer, and mean to have it. [An HON. MEMBER: What about corn?] I am not talking about corn. I think the House would have been more impressed by the arguments advanced if the hon. Members had not been known to have been for many years fanatical teetotalers, who are now by hook or by crook trying to turn this country into a teetotal country—that as to say, they are trying to make it adopt one of the tenets of the Turkish religion. I go so far as to say that anybody who tries to compulsorily force this nation into prohibition is denying the truth of the Christian religion. [A laugh.] Any hon. Members who laugh at that show their ignorance of the New Testament, and of what was most distinctly stated by the Founder of our religion. I forget the exact words, but I dare say the teetotalers know them. In those days days there was a great deal more drunkenness than there is now. About a generation before the commencement of the Christian Era, the Governor of the East was, I think, Mark Anthony, who was notorious as a free liver and a drunkard, and. if my classical recollection be right, he once wrote a treatise on the advantage of drink.

I should like to say a few words about what are called "dry" States. Has any hon. Member taken the trouble to consider why those States go dry? Is it because they are too sober or too drunken? Of course, it is because they are not sober. That is the only reason why a State goes what they call "dry"—because the majority of the inhabitants are not fit to be entrusted with a reasonable amount of drink. Would any man dare to go down to any constituency in England, and tell the people there that they are not fit to be trusted with a certain amount of drink, and that they are drunkards? We are the soberest nation in the world. Who ever sees a drunken man in this country? Walk about, and go about. I dare say there may be a drunkard seen, but I have never come across the man. Where are these drunkards? Why do you want to deprive the people of legitimate drink? An hon. Member from Scotland says that in his district the people would be only too pleased to give up beer. But beer is not the national beverage there; everybody knows it is whisky. It is a very, very bad thing for people to drink too much whisky, and I am quite prepared to support the Government in restricting spirits. All the curse of drunkenness comes from spirit drinking. I speak not from personal experience, I am thankful to say, but it has been my duty in the Navy to be on courts-martial and to order courts-martial, and there was not one single exception to this rule, and I pointed it out to the Admiralty many years ago that, whenever there was a case of drunkenness it was invariably caused by spirits. No man is ever a drunkard on beer. He may get a little tipsy sometimes, but what does it matter if he does? Probably it makes him more good-natured. Take this House of 600 Members, and how many of them are teetotalers? A most contemptible minority in a numerical sense.


That is what the Germans said of the British Army.


I think most of the intellects in this House are not on the side of the teetotalers. I remember, in British Columbia, a very well-known legal gentleman, the Chief Justice, who did more good in that country, perhaps, than any other man has ever done, pointed out to me what is undoubtedly true, that a man who cannot stand a certain amount of liquor without becoming intoxicated is obviously a very inferior creature. The man whose views on drink, I respect more than any other — and we sometimes read about him and meet him—is the reformed drunkard. I do not know whether we have any in this House. I do not think we have. The right hon. Gentleman spoke about a most iniquitous publication, an infamous book which goes by the name of the "Strength of Britain." What a name! The "Strength of Britain" means the people who only drink water.


Oh, no!

6.0 P.M.


I beg your pardon—lemonade. We have all heard of in vino veritas, which means I suppose that when you have had a good dinner you are inclined to speak the truth. It is nearly fifty years ago since I used a Latin dictionary, but I cannot help saying to water drinkers, in aqua dolus. I dare, say a Latin scholar here will tell us what dolus means. To talk seriously, there is not a single beer-drinker or beer producer who, if the necessity arises, is not prepared, for the good of his country and to win this War, to abolish brewing altogether, but until that necessity arises, the Government are only pandering to a really weak section of the community in listening to their views.


I do not intend to follow the lion, find gallant Admiral in his incursions into theological and classical realms. I fear I could not follow there with any great success. But I want to put one or two questions to the Minister. I am sorry I was not present to hear the earlier part of his speech, but when. I came in he was just saying that the amount of food which is used for the purpose of brewing represented about 3 per cent. of the total food supplies of the country, and I understood him to say that that involved 500,000 of tonnage during the year. Can we spare it? I think that is a very serious statement to make. It does not certainly agree with the statements which the Prime Minister has made, and especially the statement repeated over and over again in the "National Food Journal" by Sir Arthur Yapp, and which some of us have had to repeat in, or not in, his presence on public platforms in the country, when appealing to people not to use unnecessary things, so as to save necessary food supplies. Will the hon. Gentleman, therefore, explain how it is that the medical officers in charge of our hospitals have lately received instructions to put patients who are in those hospitals on the lower scale of dietary which I have in my hand? I have here a scale of quantities sufficient to feed 100 patients for one day. There are two scales—.Scale A and Scale B—and I am told by an officer who holds a very high position in the medical service that quite recently they have had instructions from headquarters to cut down the scale in as many cases as possible to the lower scale. Our food position must be extremely critical, surely, if that has become necessary, and I should like the hon. Gentleman to tell us if it is a fact that the shortage of food is so great that men who have come back from the front, and are in our hospitals, are not now to have the food which, under normal conditions, would be regarded as necessary for them?

The hon. Gentleman also said that the determination to go on with the use of foodstuffs for beer was due partly to the belief as to its necessity on the part of those who use it. Its necessity has been demonstrated not to be in existence by one after another of the Committees which have been set up by the Government themselves. They have said that alcoholic drink is not only not a necessity, but that its use is physiologically unsound. That its use is not necessary is shown by the fact that hundreds of thousands of workers engaged in the most strenuous toil in this country personally abstain, and the late Jonathan Samuel, who was a Member of this House, declared in this House that ho had worked in front of a forge furnace for eleven years without having tasted any intoxicating liquor whatever. Moreover, America has driven intoxicants out of her factories on industrial grounds, because it was found necessary to get the fullest output from their factories, and the original cutting down of supplies of drink in our munition areas was largely due to the fact that the consumption of alcohol was interfering with output. The hon. Member said that the requests for further supplies were on no account due to any suggestion on the part of those interested in the production of beer. In this connection I should like to quote this paragraph from the Manchester Evening News of Thursday, 7th March of this year: At Hyde Brewster Sessions the Chief Constable called attention to a circular which had been issued to the local trade unions and other bodies by a brewery company and by the Hyde and District Beer, Wine and Spirit Association, asking the unions to pass resolutions and forward to the Food Controller and certain Ministers, 'declaring that the members of the trades unions or the friendly societies desired to protest strongly against the restrictions on the output of beer as being entirely unnecessary, and causing a vast amount of discontent among the workers, whose only desire was to do their best for the country and to help to win the War. It hoped the Government would accede to the moderate wishes of the working classes and grant them an adequate supply of beer.' The Chairman of the Bench said it was a grave matter, and that it was not even done openly, but secretly, in the interest of drink sellers. The attempt was made to impress on the Government the view that there was much unrest due to the shortage of beer, which was a slander on working men. The Justices asked the Chief Constable to convey their opinion of the circular to the Government and the Liquor Control Board. Does the hon. Gentleman suggest that none of these requests for further supplies of beer come as a result of suggestions made by the trade? If so, I think he will do well to inquire into this, for I think he will find that a good many suggestions come from that source. When the restrictions were first put into operation in London, there was an attempt to work up a trade union agitation against them. The attempt fizzled out, as attempts in all parts of the country have fizzled out. Trade union after trade union dissociated itself entirely from the attempts to remove those restrictions, and except for these two letters which he has produced, and the letters which were produced by the representative of the Munitions Department last year—a few letters produced here, and said to be typical of a large number—we have had absolutely no evidence of any unrest having arisen in consequence of the restriction in the supply of beer. On the contrary, we have abundance of evidence that, if asked, the workers of this country are quite willing, during the War and during demobilisation, to do without their accustomed drink. May I remind the hon. Gentleman that eight Commissions went throughout the country and made particular inquiry into this point, and that seven of them reported that the shortage in the supply of drink was not a material factor in the unrest? The only one that reported in a contrary sense was the one which examined conditions in the West Midlands. The West Midlands are a centre of the brewing industry, and one can understand, in view of the kind of quotation I made Just now, how easy it would be to get people to complain.

The position, I believe, is very serious indeed. We are not allowed here to have the facts with regard to tonnage losses. We have to rely on statements made in foreign Parliaments. Last May, in the French Chamber of Deputies, a statement was made that during four months ended April of last year 2,150,000 tons of Allied and neutral shipping had gone to the bottom as a result of the submarine campaign. The Public, of New York, stated, on 4th January, 1918: The loss of Allied and neutral shipping from German submarines since 25th February, 1917, the beginning of the unrestricted warfare, has amounted to 1,264 ships with a tonnage of 6.371,000 tons. The constant reduction of tonnage is going on. There is a constant shortage in the supply not only of foodstuffs for our people, but of material for our manufacturers. Manufacturers who do not happen to be fortunate enough to hold Government contracts, and are unable to produce priority certificates, are being ruined by the hundred throughout the country. The position is extremely difficult, and the use of tonnage for the importation of any material which is not really necessary, which at the best is a luxury, is. a crime against the country. It is inviting the very danger which we are asking people to avoid by care in the consumption of food, and is greatly increasing the hardship from which our people are suffering. I quite agree that many of the workers think that beer is necessary. Scientifically it has been proved that it is not, and experimentally it has been proved on the railways and in the factories in America that it is not, and now throughout the whole population of Canada it has been proved that, not only is beer not necessary, but its absence contributes to the well-Wing of the community and the increased output of material. It is perfectly useless to speak of those who desire the discontinuance of the supply of beer as teetotal fanatics. You cannot indict a whole nation like Canada, and I think, perhaps, our Canadian friends will not feel complimented by the references made to them by the hon. and gallant Gentleman. The evidence is overwhelming that the workers themselves, if appealed to, would consent for the time being to do without the drink to which they have been accustomed. Plebiscites have been taken in a number of towns along the Clyde Bank, an area, where unrest has been perhaps more frequent than in any industrial area throughout the country. In Paisley 11,182 people voted for immediate prohibition of all kinds of intoxicants, including spirits to which they are accustomed, and 1,178 voted against it— one in eleven.


How many did not vote at all?


I do not know; I am only referring to those who voted.


Can you give the population of Paisley?


I have not got it here. In Clydebank 8,207 voted for prohibition, and 1,861 against it. In other areas the proportion was even greater. Take, for instance, Alva, where 1,332 voted for and forty-seven against, and Lesmahagow, where 1,076 voted for and thirty-two against. These were not teetotalers. It was merely a distribution of votes from house to house. Those who took the trouble to record their votes for or against are the numbers I have given. That is not all. In a previous Debate I asked the hon. Member whether the Independent Labour Party represented in any sense the workers of the country. If they do not represent the workers, they represent nobody else. The Independent Labour Party, in their congress last May, had a resolution dealing with the food question. To that resolution an addendum was moved demanding immediate prohibition of drink in the interests of the food supply, and that addendum was carried to the official resolution of the party, and only seven voted against it. That is not all. The workers have had conferences on this question again and again since it has become urgent. There was a meeting of the War Emergency Committee, at Newcastle-on-Tyne, last May, attended by 600 delegates from branches of trades unions, co-operative societies, trades councils, Labour representation committees, and Independent Labour Party branches, to consider the food problem. There again, an addendum to the official resolution dealing with the food question was moved asking for immediate prohibition. It was carried without dissent, every delegate being a working man, and every representative a representative of a working-man's organisation. The same thing took place at a conference of the Cumberland Miners' Association, in Cumberland, about the same period of the year. These conferences of delegates representing working-men's organisations axe surely some indication of what is in the minds of the workers. It is perfectly easy—on the suggestion of interested parties, who are making money at a rate never dreamt of before, and who make even prohibitive limitations inure to their own benefit—to get individual men or sections of men here and there to demand that they shall have a further supply of this commodity, because they regard it as necessary. Have the Government, however, ever made any attempt to suggest to these men that substitutes may be found, which would be equally advantageous to them to use in their industry, and by means of which they could slake their thirst and maintain their strength very much better? Has any appeal been made to them by the Government on the ground that food supply is short, and is getting shorter; or are they to be given to understand that we can afford to use a 3 per cent. margin on our food supply for what is recognised by scientific authorities now as a wasteful purpose.

It has been extremely difficult for some of us who have been talking about food enonomy during all these months. We have tried to abstain from referring to this aspect of the matter, because we have been asked by the Government to refrain from referring to it. I really think, however, that if the Government were in earnest, and were less concerned with certain interests, that work underground in the way described by this magistrate in the "Manchester Evening News" the other day, and if they were more concerned for the welfare of the country as a whole, and for the women and children, who are losing their health through forming food queues which would not have been necessary if these materials had been available for food; if they realised the truth of the Prime Minister's statements, time after time, that drink was not helping, but was really hindering the output of our munitions factories, and that without it employment would be more regular, our output would be greater and our chances of beating the foe would be greater; if the Government would seriously face this problem, and make their appeal to the working classes, I believe the response would surprise them. I think they would find that, instead of creating anxiety, they would make them far more contented.


The hon. member for Haggerston has pressed the question of motives. I must say it is the fact that ho one of the articles of food which are used for the manufacture of beer was a cause of food queues. My hon. Friend has challenged my previous statement with regard to Labour's opinion. The Independent Labour Party to which he has referred is numerically a small body, having a political, and not an industrial, basis. What I said is still true, that there has never been any national Labour conference representing organised labour in its industrial aspect which has passed any resolution in favour of prohibition.


I am quite willing to admit that is the fact. I can only refer to the conferences which have been held, and I cannot to those which have not. Does not the hon. Gentleman remember that, apart from these labour conferences, the late Government, in 1916, had presented to them a petition on the same ground, signed by over two millions of persons, collected from every class of society, not total abstainers, but simple signatures collected from house to house' I think the evidence is overwhelming that the people —the workers of the country—on the whole, with certain almost negligible exceptions, are prepared to make any necessary sacrifice, and that if they were asked to make this sacrifice they would willingly do so. If the Government were really in earnest, and if they really meant to win this War, they would eliminate all causes which prevent our winning the War; and if they wanted to accelerate the victory, they really would, for the time being, put a stop to the use of food supplies for the production of beer. In so doing, they would gain a great amount of confidence.

I wish to turn for a moment to another point. I have in my hand an American newspaper, from which I want to read a paragraph: No one in this country begrudges a single kernel of wheat or barley or of any grain that goes to feed our Allies, but every true American patriot must resent sending grain to brewers overseas who make this grain 'into liquor to debauch not only their own people but tempt our own boys who, by edict of the Federal Government, cannot procure any liquor on this side of the Atlantic, while in uniform. The time has come when this Government should make diplomatic representations to France and England to bring pressure to bear upon the booze-makers and sellers of those countries to respect the manifest wish of Uncle Sam with reference to the sale or gift of liquors to soldiers. By all odds the time is hero when not one kernel of grain should go overseas for the manufacture of booze. That is the opinion of many organs of opinion in the United States; and we are really making difficult the co-operation of our own Dominion of Canada and of the United States, by creating in their mind the feeling that they are being called upon to sacrifice necessary foodstuffs, and to cut down their rations, in order that the surplus may come to this country for the manufacture of beer, and for the supply of beer to our people here. That is a thing which they are absolutely prohibiting in their own country. They are prohibiting the use of any foodstuffs whatever in its manufacture, and here we are allowing it. Last year after we cut down the supply to 10,000,000 barrels a year, on the ground of need, we increased it, on the flimsiest evidence as to the need of it during the hot weather, because of the hot weather, Then, during the cold weather, for what cause I cannot tell, we continued the increase until March. Whether it is going on during the whole year I do not know. I understand the hon. Member says that it has only been increased from 10,000,000 to 12,000,000 barrels, but is it really worth while going on with it, in view of the increasing difficulties of tonnage which are far more serious than we are allowed to know; in view of the great shortage of food supplies, and of the peril to the nation, which at least could be mitigated, if ever so little, by the saving of this 3 per cent. of foodstuffs, which is now going in this manufacture, and which could be utilised for food?

Forward to