1. "That a Supplementary sum, not exceeding £700,000,000, be granted to His Majesty, beyond the ordinary Grants of Parliament, towards defraying the Expenses which may be incurred during the year ending the 3lst day of March, 1919, for General Navy, Army, and Air Services in so far as specific provision is not made therefor by Parliament; for the conduct of Naval and Military Operations; for all measures which may be taken for the Security of the Country; for assisting the Food Supply, and promoting the Continuance of Trade, Industry, Business and Communications, whether by means of insurance or indemnity against risk, the financing of the purchase and resale of foodstuffs and materials, or otherwise; for Relief of Distress; and generally for all expenses, beyond those provided for in the Ordinary Grants oil Parliament, arising out of the existence of a state of war.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House doth agree with the Committee in the said Resolution."
§ Mr. CAUTLEY
I think I may safely say that there is no place in England or in Scotland where there is not much agricultural discontent and dissatisfaction, and more discontent and more dissatisfaction than those interested in agriculture have ever known. Although I shall have to criticise the Food Controller, I desire at the outset to state definitely that I do not criticise him in any part of his work relating to rationing or the distribution of human food or the fixing of prices of human food. But I shall deal solely with his dealing and management of the farms of Great Britain, which in my opinion he has improperly usurped from the Board of Agriculture. Speaking as a farmer and for farmers, I desire to dwell this afternoon more particularly on the national loss of food that has been caused by the various Orders he has made for the administration of our farms, rather than on the personal loss to farmers, although 2698 they are heavy enough. Some hon. Members may think the Armistice having taken place that things may be better in the future than they have been in the past, but for my part I do not take that view. Having regard to the fact that the large population of the Central Powers are now coming into immediate competition with the Western world for the world's food supplies, in my opinion the shortage of meats and fats, which was very serious, and which was likely to be more serious in February and March, may be considerably accentuated rather than diminished. Before coming to the main question with which I wish to deal, let me refer to one point of administration By the Food Controller which particularly affects my own Constituents. I refer to the appointment of an official called a super-grader of cattle, or I think the Food Controller calls him a sub-commissioner of grading. The House—or, at least, those who take an interest in the subject—may recollect that under the Cattle Sales Order, made by the Food Controller, all cattle sold for slaughter have to be sold in a market, and they have to be graded by a person authorised by the Food Controller, and they then have to be sold to a person authorised by the Food Controller, and the farmer and owner of the cattle has no other way of disposing of them. The Order goes on in terms to say that after they have been graded by the person so authorised by the Food Controller his determination as to the value and as to the grading or weight of such animal shall be conclusive.
The House may further recollect that there was an attempt made by the Food Controller to foist on the agricultural population a system by which the only means of sale was to be by dead-weight. That was strongly opposed by agriculturists all over the country, and it was ultimately settled by the system of grading to which I have referred. The system brought into being was this, that the grading or quality of the cattle—that is to say, the percentage of meat contained in a live beast—had to be ascertained by a committee consisting of one appointed by the Butchers' Association of the markets and one by the Farmers' Association of the market, and one by the auctioneer, who was called in if the other two could not agree. That system—and I defy the Food Controller to bring any instance to the contrary—worked well. There were cases undoubtedly where, perhaps, the farmer got the better of the matter, and 2699 other cases where the butcher got the better of the transaction, as there must be in all valuations and in all estimates. But, on the whole, the ups and downs balanced, and farmers were satisfied and butchers were satisfied. But whether that were so or not, by the Order under which they were appointed, as soon as their determination was declared it was conclusive, and the Order in Council has the effect of a Statute. I am going to put it to the House that the Food Controller has been guilty of gross illegality; and, furthermore, if not of illegality, as I am firmly convinced he has, that he has adopted a system of gross inexpediency. I think the best way of showing what he has done will be to give a concrete case. A farmer in my own Division sent a cow to the Haywards Heath market. It was graded by the Grading Commission appointed by the right hon. Gentleman in the third class at the price of 53s. per cwt. It weighed 9 cwt., and the farmer ought to have received nine times 53s. To his surprise he received only nine times 50s.—in other words, 27s. less than he anticipated. On application to the auctioneer he was told that, alter the Grading Commission had done its work, the sub-commissioner, or super-grader, came round and reduced the price to 50s. Application was made to the auctioneer for the balance of the 27s., and it was referred to the right hon. Gentleman's office. The farmer was told that Mr. Godfrey was a super-grader appointed by the right hon. Gentleman himself, and that he had reduced the price. The Food Controller was applied to for information as to the business of Mr. Godfrey and the terms of his appointment. The Food Controller—and I have his letter in my hand—refused to give either Mr. Godfrey's business or the terms of his appointment. Would the House be surprised to hear that Mr. Godfrey is a butcher, having a large butcher's shop at Eastbourne, and formerly the manager of a business within one mile of Haywards Heath market. He is a friend of all the butchers in the district. I do not know anything about him except that; but I do appeal to the House, what would be said by any man of business in the country if the spinner were compelled to sell his weft to the weaver at the weaver's price? What would the right hon. Gentleman himself say if that were done in Lancashire; 2700 if the manufacturer had to sell at the merchant's price, or if the shopkeeper had to sell at the chance customer's price?
Yet this is the position in which agriculture is placed under the right hon. Gentleman's administration. I would ask the right hon. Gentleman to refer the legal question to the Law Officers of the Crown; but I would suggest that if it is found that the action is illegal, the right hon. Gentleman should be asked to repay to the farmers all over the country the money of which they have thus been improperly deprived. I made such inquiries as I could at the Haywards Heath market. I found that the gentleman appointed in this way goes round after the Grading Commission has done its work. He ascertains the prices fixed by the Committee. He never puts one up; he only pulls them down. And in other markets in Sussex where I have applied for information I do not think a case is to be found—except, perhaps one solitary instance at Lewes—where this gentleman has ever put up a single price.
Let me now turn to a more general question than the one to which I have just referred. I have already stated that under the Cattle Sales Order—and the same applies to sheep—the farmer who has any cattle or sheep for slaughter is bound to sell in the market, and is not entitled to sell to anybody but a Government agent. I suggest that that should cast, I will not say a legal obligation, for I do not think it comes to that, but at any rate it casts an obligation, in the view of the ordinary man in the street, on the Government to provide purchasers for these cattle and sheep when they come to the market, more especially when we remember that the Food Controller issued an invitation to all farmers to hold their stocks in July. It hardly needs me to inform the House that the grazing season for cattle comes to an end in or about October. Anybody with the smallest knowledge of agriculture knows that in October cattle have to be taken from the grass, which has lost its feeding properties, and those that are ready for the slaughter have to be slaughtered; or, if they are not ready for slaughter—if they are only three-parts fat and gradually getting fit for the market—they have to be taken into the yard and fed on concentrated foods and roots. There are, roughly speaking, three classes of grazing farms for fat cattle in this 2701 country. You have the grazing farm pure and simple for fat cattle during the summer months. There is no yard into which to put the beasts when the bad weather comes, and consequently they have to be sold to some other farmer who can make them fit for market in the yard. The second class of farm in this country has both grazing land and arable land, and these farmers at the end of October can put their cattle into their yards and fatten them there for market with cake and concentrated foods. Then you have a third class of farmer—the man who has a yard and requires the straw for manure for growing corn. He is the man who buys the lean stock from the first class of farmer and fattens the cattle up in the way I have mentioned. Owing to the fact that we have as Food Controller a Gentleman eminent in many ways, qualified for his office in many ways but disqualified by his sympathies and by his lack of knowledge of the management of farms in England, he does not make the slightest preparation for October and November, and he does not provide for the cattle those foodstuffs which anybody who has the slightest knowledge of agriculture is aware that they need. If they are fit to go on the market he does not provide the other alternative—that is, freezing plant and chilling plant necessary for their cold storage.
Before the Food Controller stepped in, and took over the work, the Board of Agriculture had already taken steps to provide this freezing plant; but now nothing has been done, and the result is that the cattle unsold on the market have to be returned to the farmer, who has no food for them, and no means of getting food for them or of keeping them. As a result in the case of those cattle which are fit for slaughter the flesh is running off them, and I need hardly tell the House that the flesh runs off an animal if it is not properly fed much faster than it can be put on when the animal is properly fed. I do not suppose the right hon. Gentleman is aware of the fact, but if you send a fat animal ten miles to market and subject it to all the disturbing elements of the market and then return it to the farm from which it started it will take at least two or three weeks to get it back into the condition it was in when it was sent to market. It is impossible at the present time to keep an animal of that sort at a less cost than £1 a week, so the sending of the animals to 2702 market and returning them to the farm involves the farmer in a loss of at least £2 per head, and many men skilled in agriculture put it as high as £3 or £4 per head. These cattle have been returned to grazing farmers, who have no means of keeping them and nothing to feed them on. All the markets in the neighbourhood have been shut up for some weeks, and the loss of flesh is running into many, many tons, while the loss of money to the farmer is running into many thousands of pounds, and that is due entirely, I venture to submit to the House, to the want of foresight, knowledge, and capacity on the part of the Food Controller.
The same argument applies to sheep. No provision was made for giving sheep even the smallest modicum of cake and concentrated food, things which are so necessary for them during the critical periods of their lives. In the East Riding of Yorkshire—on the Yorkshire Wolds-lambs have died by the hundreds. I do not want to exaggerate; I will therefore say they have died in large numbers, while the rest of the flock have been deteriorated in value. In the South of England, where sheep feeders and sheep breeders go in for early maturity and where corn is grown on the land, in the cases of the animals in the critical periods of their lives when they are lambing and when they have to be weaned, and when, therefore, there ought to be no paucity of feeding-stuffs, no provision has been made to supply them. When we come to the pig, of which I have some knowledge, we find that the Food Controller has first pulled its head and then its tail until it has practically disappeared. They decided, first of all, that it was not economic to put bread corn through a pig and to make it into bacon or pork. They decided that the bread corn would feed more human beings as cereals than if passed through a pig, and so made into bacon or pork. They did not learn, even from the Germans, that man cannot live by bread alone, but must have fat. But when they ascertained that simple fact, they realised that the pig was the most rapid means of making fat, and they suddenly reversed their policy, altered the whole thing, and everybody in the country was to be induced to keep pigs and make bacon. They entrusted that to the Board of Agriculture, and thousands of people, and very poor people, were induced to keep pigs to carry out that policy. Orders were made, by-laws were 2703 waived, and inducements were offered, by putting aside the Food Hoarding Orders of various kinds, to get people to keep pigs. Having induced the people to keep pigs, and because, as I venture to say, the American Food Controller comes over here and sees our Food Controller, the whole policy, in a night almost, is altered without a single consultation and without a single communication with the persons who have been asked to induce the people of this country to keep pigs. All that is sent round is practically an Order to put an end to their pigs before 25th January.
That is the way in which our affairs are managed. What has caused it? We are told there are no feeding-stuffs. Why are there no feeding-stuffs? Why was not a proper allocation of shipping made for the greatest industry in this country? Because we have a gentleman at the head of our farms in England who cares nothing for agriculture, and because we have that gentleman assisted by another who cares nothing for agriculture, and they are unaware of the importance of this industry, and they play fast and loose with it in this way. The argument is that we can get the food from the United States. I do not wish anything that I say to be taken in any way as any offence to the United States. I rather admire the United States for having such an efficient negotiator and bargainer as their Food Controller, but the fault I find is that our Food Controller was no match for him, and the result has been that we have been handed over in our meat supplies to the greatest trust in the world to-day, that is, the American Meat Packers' Trust, not intentionally by the right hon. Gentleman—of course, I do not suggest that—but we are actually put in the same position, and suffer from the same grievances as the United States. I am perfectly well aware that this Meat Packers' Trust has been found by a committee of the House of Congress an illegal conspiracy, but I am afraid that even President Wilson will not be able to bust it with all its ramifications, which extend to the Argentine, and, I believe, has got its tentacles in Australia and New Zealand. The whole tendency of the administration of the Food Office has been, and is now, to hand over our meat supplies to this American trust.
One would have thought in this country the proper people to look after our farms and animals were the Board of 2704 Agriculture. The Board of Agriculture are responsible for diseases and for counting the animals, but when it comes to feeding them, or distributing such food as there is in the country, the House will be surprised to hear that they have not a single voice, practically speaking, in either one or the other. The Food Controller works through three committees. He has the Home Cereals Committee, the Meat Committee, and the Feeding-stuffs Committee, and the charge I bring against him is that he is entirely in the hands of the retail trade. On his Meat Committee he has butchers, meat dealers, and meat sellers of all kinds. On his Home Cereals Committee he has corn merchants, corn dealers, and so on. When the farmer looks further and sees that, as the result of these various committees, every article of produce he has, whether of grain or meat, has to go through a market, and when he sees that every article of food, even down to his damaged grain, has to go through a market, and one of these middlemen takes his profit out of it, are you surprised at the unrest and dissatisfaction there are in the farming community?
An instance occurs to me of the sort of thing we have to put up with through this ignorance of all farming matters of the Food Controller. I think it will rather amuse the House. In carrying out this policy of putting everything under the control of the middlemen, so that, as I say, the middleman's profit has to come out of it, they carried this recently to pigs as well as to cattle and to sheep. But the right hon. Gentleman—I am not surprised at it—forgot that the fat pig cannot walk to the market, but must go in its own carriage, and he actually provided by an Order that every single pig which was to go to slaughter had to go to a market, and if his Order had stood we should have had the spectacle of every small man in the country, every cottager, every workman, ten or fifteen miles, in some cases, from the market, when he wanted to sell his pig, having to hire a horse and cart, which he could not do in any part of the country under 15s. a day, and having to lose his day's wages to take his pig to market. It was by the merest accident I discovered that. At that time I was called Director of Pig Production, but I was the last person he thought of consulting. Fortunately, a chance copy of this scheme came into my possession, and at last I 2705 succeeded in inducing the Food Controller to exempt a man from the Order who sold only three pigs in one year. The Food Controller, not content with taking into his capacious maw the feeding of the whole population, assumed to himself the feeding of our animal population, and the feeding-stuffs for our animals are actually at this moment being carried on by a Feeding-stuffs Committee appointed entirely by the right hon. Gentleman, over which the Board of Agriculture has no control, and to whom it has nothing to say. When I tell the House that my experience in the last two months has been that half of my correspondence was complaints as to the administration of this Feeding-stuffs Committee, and that all I could do was to send a copy of these letters to the Food Controller or chairman of this Committee, without getting a single alteration, the House, I think, will understand what an impossible position it was.
Having landed us into this difficult position by the Regulations he made, and by the incapacity of the Feeding-stuffs Committee to distribute such feedingstuffs as there were, he would not accept the slightest advice or slightest suggestion as to how that could be ameliorated. He had no sympathy with the farmer. It was urged on him by myself many times, and in this House, that there was one way in which to afford some amelioration, and in which he could have shown that he had some sympathy with the farmers. I pointed out it was a monstrous thing that the farmer should be deprived of the right he always had of using his damaged corn, his damaged grain, for feeding animals when the Food Controller deprived them of the right of feeding them with any other stuffs. He would not listen. He went further with his bureaucratic ways; and even to-day, although I have a field of barley which was only gathered last week, which is grown through and through, which cannot be threshed, which is good for nothing except to let pigs pick over, I am not entitled to give that to my pigs unless I go ten miles to Haywards Heath to persuade the officer there to come up and look at it, and to give, a licence to me to use it. Is not that bureaucracy? That is the position in which we are.
There is one point on a fresh matter altogether to which I must draw the attention of the House. In addition to these powers which the right hon. Gentleman 2706 exercises in this way—bureaucracy, as I say, of the worst kind—he has taken to himself the power of taxing the agricultural community, and there are millions going into his office, instead of going into the Treasury, to hide the enormous expense and extravagance of which he is the author, of which the public have very little idea, and, I venture to say, the House of Commons has very little idea. I charge him not only with that, but also with being a profiteer of the worst kind. He has by himself, without the consideration of this House, and without the consideration of the Board of Agriculture, levied a tax of 11s. 4d. a hundredweight on every bullock or head of cattle that is slaughtered from one end of the country to the other. There are at the present time—in these times of scarcity—something like 400,000 beasts killed per year. If we take the average animal at 10 cwt.
I think that in below the average, but take it so—that is a £5 13s. 4d. tax on the owner of every single bullock or cow that is slaughtered in this country. I think that is a gross sum of £2,250,000. On every sheep—and 2,000,000 of sheep are killed annually in this country—he has levied a tax, and is collecting it in varying amounts, about, say, 5s. for every 12 lbs. in weight. I think, on a reasonable estimate, £l per sheep tax is paid to the Food Controller. That amounts to a sum of £2,000,000 upon all the sheep that are killed. There are now 150,000 pigs killed per year. He has levied a tax of 2d. in the pound on every pig killed. So far as I can gather, a fair average is about £2 per pig; and although that may not be quite the figure, it is near enough, and amounts to a total of £300,000 in all. The total sums levied by the right hon. Gentleman on the owners of this stock is something like between £1,000,000 and £5,000,000 sterling. In addition he has put on a charge of 1s. 6d. per head on every owner of sheep and a charge of 2s. 6d. on every owner of pigs, besides put ting on the owners of pigs the expense of getting the pigs to market.
I think this ought to be made public. I do not charge the right hon. Gentleman with it, but farmers are not very popular, because the idea has been fostered that they were profiteering. Yet you have these large sums charged on home-grown meat which is going to feed this army of attendants that the right hon. Gentleman has got, is going to pay for this American 2707 beef with which we are to be flooded, whilst our own mean is disappearing in the way I have mentioned. Our young pigs are being killed as soon as they are born. Our sheep and pigs are losing flesh; and I spent my last day at the Board of Agriculture in considering two cases—when two poor pig owners were being prosecuted for starving their pigs because the Feeding Supplies Committee had broken down, and they could not get any feed for them; whilst the men themselves, remember, had been keeping the pigs at the request of the Board of Agriculture! For this administration we have this enormous tax, and the public believe it is going into the pockets of the farmers. I have said all I have to say. I think hon. Members will agree with me that there is an enormous waste of meat going on in this country which we shall very much need, if not now, in the very near future. The industry of which I am speaking is harassed beyond all reason by countless and stupid orders that are made. In my firm belief the agriculture of this country, and our herds and flocks, are likely for many years to feel the effect of these things unless they are got rid of before long, and unless control is handed back to the Board of Agriculture. The right hon. Gentleman knows a great deal about cotton; he knows nothing about cotton cake. He is very learned in calico; he does not know much about corn. I ask him what would he think if a farmer were appointed to control the cotton trade, or if a farmer had been appointed to control his own union?
§ Colonel FITZROY
I hope the right hon. Gentleman the Food Controller will acquit me of any wish to embarrass him, or to speak of him in any unfriendly spirit, because there is nobody who realises more than I do the extraordinary difficulty of his task. I do not believe that any Department of State has had to deal with a more difficult question than has the Controller of the Food Supplies of this country in rationing the people. I venture to say, so far as that goes, the right hon. Gentleman has given great satisfaction, and I fancy that those people who have had to suffer from rationing have done it with the least amount of grumbling possible. While I say that, I am one of those who have been very anxious and have looked forward to a great increase of production from agriculture in this 2708 country. I am afraid, however, that if the methods with which agriculture has been treated in the past by the right hon. Gentleman are pursued we shall not get that increased production in agriculture to which we have a right to look forward. That may not be the fault of the right hon. Gentleman, because we must remember that we have the Board of Agriculture; but for the life of me I cannot understand why it is not the Board of Agriculture that controls agriculture, and not the Food Controller. The great mistake, in my judgment, that has been made by the Food Controller is that he has neglected entirely to look after the interests of the producer and considered alone the interests of the consumer. We know—unfortunately know—that there is always a certain amount of antipathy between the town and the country. I think it ought to have been the object of the Food Controller to try and make the consumer in the town look upon the agriculturist as his best friend. If that were the policy pursued there would be much more opportunity in the future to get this increased agricultural production for which we hope.
I do not wish to criticise the right hon. Gentleman, but I want to ask for information. I happen to represent in this House one of the largest grazing districts in this country where the grazing and the feeding of cattle is pretty well the principal industry. Knowing, as I do, that the success of agriculture entirely depends upon the confidence that you put in it, I want to know what is to be the policy in regard to feeding-stuffs in the future? The hon. Member who has just preceded me has told us something about the losses that have taken place in the last two or three months—the losses in meat by the policy pursued in regard to the sale of fat cattle. I do not want to approach this subject, any more than the hon. Gentleman opposite did, from the point of view of the loss that the farmers themselves have sustained, but if the amount could be calculated the House and the country would be amazed to find the quantity of meat that has been lost to the consumer by the policy adopted in regard to the sale of fat cattle. I myself graze and feed a considerable number of cattle. I have been inundated with Orders each more contradictory than the preceding one. I have not been able to send cattle to market when they have been ready. When I have been allowed to send them to market I 2709 have had to send them one day and bring them back the next, and send them again the next, and in some cases fat cattle have had to walk 24 miles to market when they might have been allowed to go on one day and have walked only six. That kind of thing has been a cause of the enormous waste to consumers in this country.
Anyone who knows anything about agriculture knows perfectly well that at this time of the year fat cattle on grass fall away in flesh extremely rapidly, however good the pasture may be, unless their feeding is supplemented by concentrated feeding-stuffs. These we know we cannot get. But the Food Controller knew we could not get them just as well as we did, and therefore should have anticipated the meat supplies with which he had to deal at the latter end of the summer. Every year in my country we buy cattle in the spring, and we reckon to finish them off in the first week in November. The hon. Gentleman who is beside him (Major Astor) went down to a farmer's meeting. I do not know whether he did it then, or at another time, but, at any rate, he stated that the farmers who had fat cattle and could not get rid of them were to put them into store. But in the grazing countries we have not got yards to put the fat cattle into; we have to keep them at grass and supplement their feeding with concentrated feeding-stuffs. I would like to ask the right hon. Gentleman the Food Controller whether he is going on controlling feeding-stuffs and the Board of Agriculture, or whether he is going to hand the matter over to the Board of Agriculture? If he is going to continue the control of feeding-stuffs and agricultural pursuits, I hope he will tell us what is his policy for the future. This Parliament is very near Dissolution. Probably we shall not have another opportunity of bringing forward this question, or of hearing, for a considerable time, what has to be said by the right hon. Gentleman. In a few months the farmers in my country will be thinking of buying for next summer. If they anticipate that they are going to be treated next autumn in the way they have been treated this autumn they certainly will not buy in the spring with any confidence. Therefore, we should like to know what is the policy of the right hon. Gentleman with regard to feeding stuffs. I would ask, further, in regard to the Board of Agriculture: Why is it that Board has given up its control of agriculture? That is a 2710 thing the farmers of the country cannot understand. Difficult as it is at the present time to carry on the agricultural industry, what with all the contradictory orders that we get from the Food Controller, the difficulty of getting labour and so forth, if that is accentuated and added to by lack of confidence in the fact that the Food Controller of this country controls agriculture and not the Board of Agriculture, the agricultural industry will go back instead of, as we all hoped, going forward. I could only wish that the President of the Board of Agriculture were here—
§ Colonel FITZROY
So that he could tell us why it is that, to a very large extent, he has relinquished his control over agriculture and handed it over to the Controller of Food Supplies. I trust the Food Controller will tell us what will be his policy in the future.
§ The MINISTER of FOOD (Mr. Clynes)
I hope hon. Members will not take it amiss if I say that, little as I may know about this problem, my small stock of knowledge has not been increased by anything that has been said this afternoon, for, simple as I am, I know if cattle are not fed they will not thrive, and I know that there is less grass available in October and November than in May and June. Having listened with the greatest patience in the hope of profiting on this side of the question, I have listened in vain for any valuable addition to a Food Controller's moiety of knowledge on these food questions. If the House will give him some little of its time I think an answer can be afforded which will convince hon. Members that no just charge can lie at the door of the Minister of Food with regard to the feeding of cattle, and the national effort to obtain feeding-stuffs from abroad, or with regard to the distribution and grading of cattle.
I continue to resent the imputation that I have no sympathy with agriculture. The hon. Gentleman who commenced this Debate said very emphatically that whatever I possessed in the way of other qualities, I had no sympathy with agriculture. I may have failed in my purpose from one reason or another to meet the needs of the Food Ministry, but I resent the charge that that disability or failure is due to want of sympathy with agriculture. 2711 I was charged when I fixed the price of milk, and when I fixed an increased price for grain, and when in regard to other foods I fixed prices far higher than representative consumers desired, with having surrendered to the agriculturists and with having been in the grip of the profiteer. [An HON. MEMBER: "Who by?"] The hon. Member for Blackburn (Mr. Snowden) quite recently in the Labour Press, in relation to my fixing of the winter price of milk, said that this was the case of a Labour man having surrendered to the profiteer. On every Labour platform I have stood since I have seen fully the facts of this great food problem, I have expressed my deep sympathy with agriculturists, farmers, and food producers, and I have said what I repeat here, that it is clear to any mind or any person who troubles to understand this problem that agriculture has been one of the ill-treated and despised trades of this country. That those who have laboured as agriculturists and farm workers have not been sufficiently paid and properly treated is clear to all who have studied this problem. As a consumer, if as nothing else, I say that those of us who look for good food and good supplies of it should consent, whatever else we might neglect, to pay as consumers rates and prices for our food that will afford a good and reasonable return to those who have both their labour and capital invested in agriculture. I have not failed on that account in regard to want of sympathy in reference to any defect in the work of the Food Ministry.
There is just one other personal point. The hon. Member complained that when a certain change took place in our policy with regard to pigs, I did not communicate with him. It was not my business to do so because he was the representative and the servant of the Board of Agriculture, and it would have been improper for me to have done so, or to have communicated with him upon such a matter, and it was not my duty as Food Controller to usurp that particular function. As to the general question of the Food Controller usurping the functions of the Board of Agriculture, the answer is that when the food situation reached the stage it did towards the end of 1916, it was decided by the Government, with the general assent of the House—and I do not know that any objection was taken then by my hon. Friend—to establish a Ministry 2712 of Food. That Ministry was given certain functions and duties, and we are exercising those functions and discharging those duties, but we are keeping in the closest touch and working in the warmest co-operation with the President of the Board of Agriculture and his representatives.
On all Committees that have anything whatever to do with questions affecting food, cattle and prices, representatives of these two State Departments mingle together their stock of knowledge and usually reach agreed conclusions. The cases are rare where any action of the Ministry of Food is resented or disapproved of by the Board of Agriculture. Personally I do not fix prices, and I do not reach decisions on policy without communicating with the President of the Board of Agriculture. In cases where there are serious differences, and we find ourselves unable to agree, there usually is a Court of Arbitration, and that Court is the War Cabinet; and frequently the President and myself have been before it to place our respective views or make our joint appeal, as the case may be, and it has been by that process, before this supreme Court, so to speak, that decisions have been reached relating to questions like prices and our treatment of cattle. Certainly I have not usurped any of the functions exercised by the Board of Agriculture before the War, and for myself I shall be heartily glad to have my task lessened by a more equitable distribution, if that is seriously the desire of the House. I cannot claim to be master of such a mass of jobs as fall to the lot of the Food Controller, and if I was a complete farmer, in how many other respects would I be lacking in my understanding of scores—indeed, hundreds—of different questions which have to be handled by the Ministry of Food! No man can live a life long enough to make himself complete master of the bewildering number of subjects which come under the Ministry of Food.
I will mention two or three points as illustrating what I think is a lack of point in some of the arguments and some of the charges which have been made by my right hon. Friend opposite. He complained by giving to the House an instance of super-grading by those who have been charged with the duty of grading cattle. This is done by sub-commissioners who were appointed as the result of experience. The House has had an opportunity 2713 of debating this matter, and the reasons were given. They were that it was quite possible for ordinary graders to err and they are not infallible, and there were defects and mistakes in grading discovered to such an extent that though we did not allege that there was any deliberate wrongdoing, yet clearly there were instances revealed to us calling for supervision, and this Commission was appointed for the purpose of checking and preventing mistakes in the interests of the consumer and the Government, and I think common experience has justified these appointments. Although there may be here and there an odd case of even a sub-commissioner himself being at fault, I say that, generally speaking, experience has fully justified the appointment of these representatives in the public interest.
I was charged with not having foreseen what would arise from there not being adequate freezing apparatus and sufficient feeding-stuffs for cattle. I was charged with having surrendered to Mr. Hoover, and with having changed in a night the policy of the Food Ministry. I leave the House to test these charges by the answer. I do not want to prey on the feelings of hon. Members by allusions to the War, but the War so closely affects the question and is the cause of so completely upsetting our food programme for cattle that I must allude to it. I did not foresee in March last that the Germans would make such headway, or that they would get within 20 miles of Paris. I did not foresee that this country would lose such enormous quantities of munitions of war stores which were waiting to be used. I did not foresee that we would have to make good those errors and losses. I did not foresee in the months from March to August, during the period of the German advance, that we would require to bring over American soldiers at the rate of 300,000 a month, and that ships would be required for all that additional tonnage which the building up of an army carried over the sea means. I did not foresee all this, nor did Marshal Haig, nor Marshal Foch, but it is within the memory of the House that both these military leaders told us they could look with confidence to the German attack.
All that means that a state of things was reached in this country in August, when the Cabinet, in spite of our appeals, upset the foodstuffs programme, insisted upon combing out more and more slaughtermen and butchers, and all those whose work in detail must be linked up with the 2714 larger aspects of the food problem. In August, when we went to get shipping facilities to bring in this cattle food, we were not opposed by Mr. Hoover nor the Allied representatives of other countries. We have an Inter-Allied Food Council, and the representatives of France, Italy, and America agreed with respect to the quantities of feeding-stuffs that we asked for, and those quantities I think, if I can trust my memory, were rather larger in bulk than were previously claimed by the representatives of the Board of Agriculture. We went before the Cabinet with our food programme when the military situation was such that in respect to our appeals the Cabinet decided that our food programme must be cut down. Naturally, we were compelled to begin, not with the food of men, but with the food of cattle. I know that the two are closely associated, and that it is important to feed cattle if we can in this country in order that the cattle may be turned into food for human beings; but, expressed as it had to be at that moment in terms of ships, it meant that it was more economical and more necessary as a military measure for us to import food from abroad than to import a much heavier weight of feeding-stuffs in order to produce food here in this country. We were faced with that situation, and the Cabinet had in sight the more supreme military reasons, reasons which have since been justified, and which have enabled us this week to rejoice at the War practically being brought to an end. The Cabinet, having reached those decisions, I think it can now be said that if the farmers of this country are told the truth they will not be likely further to complain of the policy of the Government at so critical and so supreme a moment. I am not going to pretend, nor do I think any hon. Member here would pretend, that the farmers, compared with any other class, are in such a situation that they cannot bear their full share of the burden imposed upon all classes by the War. I am not saying that they are not prepared to do so; but, patriotically as they have worked, and willing as they have shown themselves, our war measures, stern as they have been, have not placed the farming class under any greater disadvantage as regards this world's goods and the prospects of profit than any other class. The general state of admitted prosperity 2715 —relative prosperity, at any rate—amongst the farmers and food producers of this country is ample evidence that our measures have not treated them in any way prejudicially as compared with any other class in the country. It was not the ignorance of the Food Ministry; it was not a want of foresight on the part of the Ministry of Food; it was not the machinations of Mr. Hoover; and it was not the ambitions of those who wished to place us in the grip of the American Food Trust which caused this so-called reversal of policy—it was the supreme military necessity that drove the Cabinet at that critical moment into saying that whatever else came second, whatever else was lost, soldiers and munitions must come first, and ships must have the prior claim over everything else. Faced with that situation, I submit that no just complaint can be made against the action taken by the Ministry of Food.
The hon. Gentleman who commenced this Debate gave two other instances in detail of unjust dealing with the farmers. He explained that the farmers made claims for supplies of damaged grain and appealed in vain. I am assured that in nine-tenths of the cases the claims are met. What is it that compels us to refuse in the tenth case? It is that where there is a shortage of a particular article there must be rationing. There must be arrangements for apportionments. You must issue licences. You must tick off and take the applications that are made with the quantities that are available in order to ascertain the quantities that should be conceded. That this causes dissatisfaction we well know. The wonder would be if in these times the farmers were not dissatisfied. Every class must of necessity be dissatisfied with the Regulations and Orders which war-time has entailed. My hon. Friend referred to a tax, or a levy as he termed it, amounting to some £4,000,000 or £5,000,000, which he said the farmers were compelled to pay practically for permission to sell their cattle. These charges merely take the place of other sums which cattle sellers have always had to pay in the way of market dues and auctioneers' charges. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] If I am wrong in this respect, so are my advisers, and so are the agricultural experts and all those who know these questions as intimately as hon. Members can know them, for these things 2716 are done upon their advice and upon the strength of the customs which have prevailed in connection with the sale of cattle. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."]
§ Mr. CLYNES
There is a Live Stock Fund. Answers have often been given as to the centre to which all these moneys go and out of which the various charges in connection with this business of State cattle buying have to be met. Let me try to give the House one or two evidences of the policy of the Ministry during the course of this difficult and trying time of serious shortage of cattle food. I have tried as Food Minister to maintain supplies of human food at quantities equal to maintaining in reasonable comfort our home population. Next to that, or contingent upon that frequently, there have been sacrifices which we have had to make to supreme pressing and military considerations. For instance, it was never our desire to lessen in this country the number of coal miners or of slaughtermen, or of butchers, or of very important farming hands, which in turn brought great difficulties to the Food Ministry, but we could not have our way in face of these pressing military necessities. There have been financial considerations as well as the shipping considerations to which I have referred, and these drove us incidentally on to the nearest market—America—which inevitably was the dearest market. It would have been preferable to have gone further overseas and to have brought meat from Australia rather than to have given our patronage to such a considerable extent to America. Had shipping been available we could have secured the 1,700,000 tons of cattle feeding-stuffs for which we appealed in August last when we went before the Cabinet. I am not now revealing secrets. These things are really common knowledge, and I cannot understand how the hon. Gentleman who commenced this Debate seemed to be totally unaware of these more or less well-known facts. We failed to convince the Cabinet, and we were driven to the nearest market for reasons of quantity and for reasons of finance.
Since August this feeding-stuffs programme has been further drastically reduced, bringing about the announcement which has to be made in relation to pigs. That announcement was travested in some 2717 newspapers and commented upon in others in a manner unfortunately to mislead certain pig-breeders. What we said was, that in view of this decision of the Cabinet we could not carry feeding-stuffs for pigs and that in view of the small stocks of cattle feeding-stuffs we could not guarantee the quantities after Christmas. It was then for those who had done their best to respond to the call that was made to them last May to face the consequences as we were compelled to face them. The appeal that was made in May to increase the supplies of food and to breed pigs was made before the August situation could possibly be known by anyone, and in this at least, I refuse to admit that there was any reasonable lack of foresight in estimating what the food situation would be. This drastic reduction in our minimum programme unexpectedly occurring within the last two months has created an extremely difficult position, but in face of the changed military situation relief, I believe, will not be long delayed. We have lost no time since the military situation changed and even before the Armistice was signed in pressing in the proper quarter the urgency of releasing ships for the purpose of increasing food production at home, and I shall be able to close, I think, with some consolation for those poor cottagers particularly and small pig owners who undoubtedly have laid out their few pounds in response to the national appeal and whose position ought to receive the greatest sympathy from the Government.
It was early last month that the War Cabinet decided its policy in relation to the maintenance of munitions importations and determined that the importation of feeding-stuffs must be; so far restricted as to involve a possible serious rationing being applied to dairy herds and breeding stocks. These restrictions came upon us only because of overwhelming military necessity, and it was determined to inform the public, as we did, that after Christmas food for pigs could not be guaranteed. Meantime, in view of the change in the food situation, the restriction on the slaughtering of young pigs has been withdrawn. Instructions will now be given that in the allocation of additional feedingstuffs care shall be taken that cottagers and those who have joined pig clubs can secure a sufficient quantity of offals to enable them to fatten their pigs. Several relief measures have been taken. The price of cattle and sheep will be increased as from December on a graduated scale. 2718 The highest point will be reached in May, when the price will be 85s. per live cwt. That was a measure of mere justice, providing reasonable compensation to farmers who were obliged to keep back their cattle at a time when we could not guarantee feeding-stuffs for them and at a time when, had we consumed any increased ration, we should have endangered our prospects of even a slender ration during the beginning of next year.
§ Mr. CLYNES
The prices have been quite recently announced in the House, and can easily be referred to, but I have not the scale before me. I have only before me the highest price—85s. per cwt. The second measure that we propose to take—it has been authorised and approved by the Cabinet only this week, which shows that we have been urging these matters forward as well as we could—is in order to deal with the present heavy surplus of cattle from the grazing districts, estimated approximately at 18,000 head per week. Supplies have been first taken from these districts, and the markets in arable districts have been temporarily closed to local supplies. These markets are being supplied from adjacent grazing counties. Further, the use of barley for feeding-stuffs has been sanctioned by the Cabinet during the course of the day.
§ Mr. CLYNES
My impression is no, but I should not like to give a definite answer. The Cabinet, as I say, has sanctioned a contemplated release of barley, and arrangements are now being completed to release to the farmer 20 per cent. of each thrashing of barley, the remainder being allocated to manufactures, distilling, munition purposes, and stock owners who do not grow barley. On a rough estimate, this should make no less than 3,000,000 quarters of food available for the feeding of stocks. Again, in order to assist pig owners, the prohibition of the slaughter of pigs weighing less than 112 lbs. live weight, as I have intimated, has been withdrawn. The steps taken as regards closing markets in arable districts I have already announced, and they are quite in accordance with the recent recommendations of the War Emergency Committee of the Royal Agricultural Society. 2719 As a result of the relief in the tonnage situation afforded by recent military events, the Cabinet have sanctioned a reduction of the percentage of flour to be extracted from wheat. This alone will mean a release approximately of 18,000 tons of offal weekly to the farmers—food which will be in every respect finer than that commonly used. The House will see that as soon as there was a release from the critical period, and as soon as we were able to pursue further our demands for shipping on the Cabinet, the Cabinet, relieved of the military tension, has reasonably met the present needs of agriculturists and farmers. The rationing of individuals, to which my hon. Friend did not refer, was really a small thing in comparison with the larger task of practically rationing nations, and in order that that rationing should be carried out we have worked recently in connection with or through an inter-Allied Food Council. Food and feeding-stuffs were and are short, and unhappily for some time must remain short, and the scarcity was aggravated by unequal distribution. It was imperative, therefore, that these arrangements and this machinery should be set up so as to secure equitable distribution of whatever feeding-stuffs were available.
We pooled practically our finances and our shipping as we have pooled our military resources as allied nations, and the farmers and agriculturists of this country are suffering no more severely—indeed, I would allege they are suffering less severely—than the farmers of France and of Italy. We have not been unmindful of their sufferings, and I do not think we have unfairly aggravated them by any want of foresight or by the absence of any policy that in the circumstances could have been pursued. The aim of the inter-Allied organisation is not absolutely limited by the War. We must continue, I think, to control supplies and prices until the normal demand is satisfied and prices reach a level commensurate with the wage-earners' purchasing power in this country. At the present time meat prices range from 1s. 5d. per lb. in this country to 4s. in some neutral countries. In Austria a pound of meat can be bought for 8s., and in Germany between 4s. and 5s. These are things which clearly have had their bearing on the recent military situation, and it is not too much to say that the Ministry of Food has by its policy and its inter-Allied 2720 purchasing arrangement, and the manner in which it has been able practically to monopolise the markets of the world outside Russia and the Central Empire, provided some of the factors which recently have brought about the happy military situation which has caused us to rejoice during the course of this week. Reference was made to the position of the American Meat Trust. I think my hon. Friend (Mr. Cautley) will not suspect me of any sympathy with a meat trust.
§ Mr. CLYNES
Since we were compulsorily driven to that American market I have been as mindful as anyone of the unrest and the natural uneasiness of the farming class of this country as to what ultimately would be the effect of trading with the meat trust of America to any considerable extent. As to the extent of it, I am able to say that our recent purchases have not been more than about one-third of the total. There are very much larger quantities of meat, so far as we can bring them to this country, brought from other places than those supplied by the American Meat Trust. We did not trade with them for preference, but out of necessity. We have had before us as a Ministry the findings and recommendations of the American Parliamentary Commission appointed to investigate the position of the Meat Trust. Those recommendations have been placed before the President of America, and until he gives a decision it clearly would be improper for me to express myself further than I have already done. I have already pointed out that we are protected as far as we can be by the fact that we buy meat in the United States through the American Food Administration, and buy at exactly the same prices which they pay themselves for meat for their Army and Navy. Before the War we bought little meat in North America, and it has only been by economy of consumption that the United States has been able to supply our present demands. As I have said, we are not buying all the meat in America, and of the recent purchases, covering a total of more than 600,000 tons, not more than 200,000 tons were bought from the United States. Let me, as I close, refer to an aspect of this question which I trust will receive some sympathy from hon. Members. The question naturally is asked as to what relaxation of restrictions may be possible now 2721 that we have substituted armistice for hostilities. Victory imposes obligations on us as well as a state of war, and the duty of feeding the destitute countries is one of them, and it is a satisfaction to be able to announce that, in conjunction with Mr. Hoover, I was enabled to set up the inter-Allied organisation to which I have referred through which assistance can be rendered to the starving enemy—it is not too much to say that—and at the same time further continue to ourselves.
§ Mr. J. O'CONNOR
Does the right hon. Gentleman consider the starving friend and Ally? Take, for example, Serbia.
§ Mr. CLYNES
Certainly; I do not mean to give any preference to the starving enemy. The neutral and Allies certainly have our first claim. All I say is that before we substantially increase our own rations, or throw away our own coupons, there is an obligation which victory imposes of supplying the reasonable and immediate needs of the conquered foe. That is not a mere measure which humanity dictates, but is advisable as an act of self-protection, for if that were not done there would be indiscriminate buying at famine prices the world over. It would mean that we would be still further within the control of trusts, and those who are interested only in getting big prices. It is far better that for the common purposes of mankind there should be co-operative buying for the reasonable supplies of the feeding of the world. The needs of these starving nations are before the Ministry of Food, and steps are being taken, which we are satisfied will receive the approval of the country at large, in order that speedy relief may be given. I have already dealt with the matter of cattle, and now let me just touch on one very small matter, though it is of very great importance to some traders, and some people of particular tastes. Owing to the changed situation in respect of shipping, we believe before long we can secure supplies of apples, oranges and nuts, and certain fruits, and provide a much more agreeable Christmas table than we could last year. I submit to the House, whilst not having attempted any complete reply to all the arguments which I am certain are yet in the minds of hon. Members, nor so far as they have been uttered, that working under the stress we have, and being by no means our own masters, but mastered by greater forces than ourselves, we have shown no lack of 2722 sympathy with the agricultural community, and, if this be not accepted, I ask the House to accept the assurance and see our sympathy in the relief to the agricultural community to which I have committed myself in the announcements I have made.
§ Mr. G. LAMBERT
My right hon. Friend has by his sympathetic speech relieved, I hope, some of the worst fears of those who are interested in the production of food. Personally, with the glorious news we have been rejoicing at, I propose to let bygones be bygones, and do not propose to twit him at all with his lack of foresight. I cannot think his defence even this afternoon has entirely exonerated the Ministry of Food from lack of foresight, but I am not dealing with that subject now, because, after all, we have all made blunders, and as we have all come out very well, let us let those blunders slide. There are one or two points to which I would direct the Food Controller's attention. Starvation evidently is the great question that has to be faced in Europe. You cannot combat starvation by a food controller; you must have food production, and I cannot understand why the President of the Board of Agriculture is not present, because, after all, the Board of Agriculture is especially charged with the problem of increasing food production in this country.
The Food Controller himself, however sympathetic he may be, still must have the co-operation and the advice of the Board of Agriculture. One of our complaints is that he has not, taken that advice and that he has not worked in sufficient co-operation with the President of the Board of Agriculture in the matter of promoting production. I am far more interested in production than in the control of prices. It is production that we want to encourage entirely. The cost of living to-day bears with almost intolerable hardship upon people whose wages have not been commensurately increased—upon old age pensioners and especially upon people with small incomes, who have not benefited by this fictitious war prosperity. You cannot get a decrease in prices until you have increased production. I want to impress upon the Food Controller that he will not get an increase of food production by an enormous increase of officials. That is what we are complaining about in the country as much as anything—the enormous number of officials. We have to go to an official for this and to 2723 an official for that. Really we do not know-where we are. In fact, the two plagues from which the country and the country districts are suffering to-day are officials and influenza; both of which leave very debilitating influences behind them.
§ Mr. LAMBERT
The influenza is bad enough. May I put this question to the right hon. Gentleman? He stated that owing to the Cabinet's decision of August last shipping facilities for 1,700,000 tons of feeding-stuffs had to be cut off. How far do the concessions he has made this afternoon go to fill up that gap? It has a very important bearing for the stock-raising community. What the Food Control Department does not quite understand is that in farming operations you must have sufficient notice. You cannot produce beef or pork or even wheat without some months and, in some cases, years' notice. Therefore it would be a very great convenience to the agricultural community if the Food Controller himself or the Parliamentary Secretary would give us an assurance later on as to what these concessions which the Food Controller has adumbrated really amount to. Another thing I want to point out is that it is no use issuing these priority certificates in country places unless the stuff is there to supply the certificates. I hope things will be better now, but in our small village the other day several holders of these priority certificates for feeding stuffs for cattle went to the merchant and he had no stuff with which to supply them. He brought out a bundle of forms which he said they might have, but that was all. I hope that somebody will see—I do not know whether it is the business of the Food Controller or whose business it is—that when these priority certificates are issued the cattle-feeding foods shall be there to meet them when they are presented. I do not know whether the right hon. Gentleman can guarantee that. Another point about which he did not give us information is whether shipping has been released for bringing cotton cakes and linseed to this country. Could he give us the information now? He told us that barley would be released and that the milling of flour would be greater, but has any shipping yet been released for the conveyance here of cotton seeds and other cattle-feeding cakes? The Food 2724 Controller said he had been pressing it upon the attention of the Cabinet, but has the Cabinet done this thing? That is what we want to know. After all, it was recommended by the Central Advisory Committee, and I want very earnestly to press home that recommendation, because I can assure the right hon. Gentleman and the Government that these concentrated feeding stuffs are like the steel in the spearpoint. The farmers may have roots and potatoes, but they must have concentrated feeding stuffs in order to make their stuff fit for the market.
Again, cannot the Food Controller reduce the high charges which are made upon the seller and so make the selling of bullocks and other animals cheaper. I think he said that these charges were only just as much as they were before. Let him believe me when I say he is very much mistaken. The auctioneers used to receive 2d. in the £1, that is to say, if you sold a bullock for £30 the charge was 5s., whereas the right hon. Gentleman's charges range up to £2, or something like that. This money is apparently going to maintain a large number of officials at the Food Ministry. Personally, I would far rather that the benefit went to the consuming public; it would be far better for everyone. Can the right hon. Gentleman reduce those charges? It would give a great deal of satisfaction to the farmer to know that the money of which he was mulcted in respect of the sale of his stock was not going into the pockets of a large number of officials. I am very grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for his announcement that the farmers may use their home-grown barley to some extent for feeding cattle. May I ask another question which does not relate entirely to the Food Controller, but which does affect food production: What about the supply of manures to farmers? I have no doubt my right hon. Friend cannot give me any information on that point, but we have a grievance against the Board of Agriculture for not being represented here this afternoon to answer these questions. Another matter which has been the subject of a great deal of circumlocution is the getting hold of a supply of labour. I am still on the point of food production. If you want to get home key-men, it really takes a scythe to cut away the red-tape that envelopes them. I made an application recently, and I was first told to go to the Ministry of National 2725 Service. I went there, and I was told to go to the War Office. I went to the War office, and they referred me to the Ministry of Labour. I went to the Ministry of Labour, and was referred back to the Ministry of National Service again in order to get this man back. It is the business of the Food Controller, who is responsible for the food position in the country, to impress upon the authorities that if they want production we must have labour, and the sooner we can get this labour home the better it will be for all concerned. The Government might have given us some assurances on this point.
I regret that the Treasury Bench is so meagrely attended this afternoon, because this is a real problem, and it is going to be a real one for many months to come. Probably it will be quite as acute in February, March, and April as it is today. I do make complaint that we have not had a representative of the Board of Agriculture here to tell us something about one or two mutters I have mentioned, and especially with regard to one question which is of primary importance, namely, the getting home of some labour to put in the crops for next year's consumption. There is one further point I would like to put to the Food Controller, as it directly concerns him. He has fixed the price of milk at 2s. 3d. per gallon. I suggest to him that it would be well—here I appear rather against the interests of some of my Constituents who are producers—if he could allow the local food committee to fix the price of milk, because in rural districts the 2s. 3d. per gallon for milk is a price which ought really not to be paid. I say that because there are so many people who have to consume milk. If I were the right hon. Gentleman, I would really leave it as a matter of local government to the local food committees to ensure that there is a sufficient supply of milk in their districts; then I think they would fix the price at a figure much lower than it is now and would also ensure an ample supply. I throw out that suggestion to my right hon. Friend. I thank him very much for the concessions that he has granted this afternoon, and I trust he will not think I have been guilty of personally criticising him. I have endeavoured to impress upon him, as I do upon everybody, the fact that food production is vitally essential to the mation in the months to come.
§ Major LANE-FOX
Before dealing with the main subject of the Debate, I should like to refer to a remark made by the right hon. Gentleman who has just sat down (Mr. G. Lambert), when he urged the Food Controller to further reduce the price of milk.
§ Major LANE-FOX
I hope that the Food Controller will do nothing of the kind. I am not speaking on behalf of the producers in saying this, but I know that the most anxious question in the whole food situation, as the right hon. Gentleman knows, in the West Riding of Yorkshire is how to maintain the supply of milk. There is every prospect of there being a milk famine in the spring. Already, owing to other causes, such as the shortage of labour and feeding-stuffs, there is a reduction in the stock of dairy cattle, and a great many farmers are seriously considering going out of the milk business altogether. If that happens, and a further reduction is made, there is a grave danger in the industrial districts of a milk famine. Many of the local food committees do not know their own interests, and it is impossible for them to realise what is likely to happen. I had something to do with bringing a deputation to see the predecessor of the right hon. Gentleman on this very subject. We went most carefully into all the figures of production. Although I admit that, in certain cases in rural districts in the south, the prices may be higher than is necessary, in the northern districts, especially where vegetation is bad owing to smoke and other causes, it is impossible to sell at a price which yields any sort of reasonable profit below that which is fixed now. I am not speaking on behalf of farmers, but with the knowledge I have of the very grave anxiety of the Food Ministry's own local officials with regard to the situation that might arise if there is a milk famine in the West Riding.
The right hon. Gentleman's announcements of the so-called concessions which he has been able to make have made his position a very pleasant one, and have put us all in a very good humour. I am the last person to wish to attack him personally. I recognise the excellent work that he has done, and no one can deny that in carrying out the rationing of food for the population of this country, the Ministry has been wonderfully successful. It is 2727 enormously creditable to him and those who work with him. As long as he has stuck to his own job he has been a magnificent success, and I very much hope—I am sure he did not wish to trench upon the work of the Board of Agriculture—that at the earliest possible moment he will try to shed all such encroachments on their work, and that he will realise that his chance of fame hereafter depends on sticking to his own immediate job, the control of food, rather than the control of production. The control of production should be in the hands of the Board of Agriculture. He said one thing about farmers which, although he did not intend it to be unfair, was not strictly accurate. He suggested that farmers have had a pretty good time, in spite of the difficulties and drawbacks which the War brought upon them, and were a little inclined to complain unduly. I do not think that is a fair statement to make. Farmers have had a good deal to put up with. I do not think the right hon. Gentleman would suggest that they have been profiteers. He knows better than that, although it has been unfairly and very ignorantly said in many cases. But I do not think it is fair to say they have been complaining unduly of the various drawbacks which have come to them through the operation of the War. They have had a great deal to complain of, and have borne it extraordinarily well—the constant shifting of policy and the constant change of Orders which come out day by day. After all, the farmer is not accustomed to shifting his policy or to reading fresh Orders. He is not looking at the newspapers every day seeing exactly what the policy of the Food Controller is, and the whole thing has been most harassing and difficult. Farmers deserve the greatest credit for the way they have borne all these things. The right hon. Gentleman has told us of certain improvements in the situation which, owing to the change in the military position, will now be possible. I hope he will not delay it, because the situation is really very urgent. It is only very slightly a question of the farmers' profits. It is very largely a question of the maintenance of the live stock of the country. One point which is very obvious, though it has not been mentioned, is the absolute necessity of keeping up the stock of cattle on the farm in order to maintain the fertility of the soil. If we allow live stock and cattle to go down we shall inevitably destroy the fertility of the soil. 2728 We are all talking about the number of men we hope to be able to put on the land after the War. If we starve the soil first and then put the men on it, we shall starve the men after the War.
The right hon. Gentleman has had a fairly easy task, because he has been able to turn on to the pleasant announcements with which he finished his speech, and thereby left out some of the charges which have been made against his office. I do not wish to be ungenerous. We are all smiling over the announcements he has been able to make, and I do not wish to go back on his statement, but I do not want the House or the public outside to-have the impression that the speeches which have been made have no justification. We have had no explanation of the local butcher who became a supergrader. We have had no explanation why better provision was not made for a situation which must have been obvious months ago—the situation of the surplus cattle coming into the market all at the same time. I merely say that in justification of my hon. Friends who have raised these questions. They have not been answered and there is considerable justification for bringing them up. I am sure the rural community will be enormously relieved when they hear the announcement which the right hon. Gentleman has been able to make. If the situation had gone on any longer disastrous results would have happened. Above all things I hope he will get these measures passed on without delay and will impress on the Cabinet, as far as he can, the absolute vital necessity of maintaining our live stock, and above all, maintaining our milk supply, owing to the great danger of industrial unrest if it comes to a milk famine. If the Ministry of Food and the Board of Agriculture between them can do something at the earliest possible moment to get key men back to agriculture they will do more for maintaining the success of the Department than any other measure-which could be adopted.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Clynes) in announcing the concessions he was prepared to make has said nothing about cake. I should like to ask what he proposes to do with regard to cake. I found very great difficulty first of all in obtaining the form necessary to apply for cake from the merchants from whom I generally purchase it. I had a short interview with the right hon. Gentleman and then I wrote 2729 to the Department, but it took at least ten days before I got an answer. Then I had to write to the merchants and then I had to receive the forms, so that nearly three weeks elapsed from the time I first wanted cake before I could fill up the forms and send them to the merchant. Then I found I was only allowed 8 cwts. I wanted to give it to thirty-two calves about six months old. I should have had to fetch it from the station to my farm. I have never had less than 2 tons at a time, for two reasons. First of all, you got cheaper railway freight, and secondly, a wagon and a man and two horses will take 2 tons. I had to send a wagon, a man, and a horse to fetch 8 cwts. You have only to see the number of times 8 cwts. will go into 2 tons to see that there would be several occasions on which I should have to send a cart, a horse, and a man, at a time when labour is very scarce and horses are scarce; and once you get a man and a cart to the station you do not get him back much before the close of the day. I should have to waste a whole day, when I could get all the amount I want in one day. The result was that I did not have anything at all. I made up my mind I would go without. I wish to impress upon the right hon. Gentleman that farmers do not give their animals more food than is necessary. You can trust them. If you allow them a certain amount, they will not waste it. It is against their interest to waste it. There seems to be an idea in the official mind that a farmer will out of malice prepense use a greater quantity than is necessary. That is a very great mistake. Also cattle should have a certain ration every day, and you must have a certain spare amount of food in stock, because if you have not, and you are delayed in getting a fresh quantity in owing to delays on the railway or any other cause, and have to alter the ration of the cattle, the result is disadvantageous. You must always have a certain amount of stock in hand to bridge over the period when you are getting more stock. That does not seem to have occurred to the officials of the Food Department. I hope they will remember, first of all, that the farmer does not want to waste his food. He is anxious in his own interests to use as little as possible consistent with keeping his cattle in proper health or fattening them, as the case may be. Secondly, he cannot afford to be constantly sending to the station for small quantities. As far 2730 as I can make out from the forms which have been sent to me, no provision has yet been made for sheep. Ewes must have a little cake when they are suckling their lambs next month, but no provision has as yet been made for that.
I want to say a word about the super-grader. The right hon. Gentleman, as I understood him, said it was necessary in the interests of the country to appoint a super-grader because errors had arisen in grading. There has been very great feeling amongst people who had had cattle to send to market with regard to grading, and if it is in consequence of suspicion of that sort that he has appointed a super-grader, I do not know that I have anything to say except to ask what proof he has that the super-grader is any better than the existing graders. As far as I understand, the super-grader who has been appointed in the particular instance brought forward was a butcher. Why should one butcher be better than another? Butchers are the people who have been a little suspect in this matter as graders. I do not see that you are going to improve matters by setting one butcher to watch another. I do not quite know why, unless the right hon. Gentleman's Department was a little ashamed of the business of the particular gentleman in question, they refused to state his occupation. It is a very important matter because you are putting into the hands of two or three men at each market a very great power to influence the business and the profits of their neighbours, I admit it is a very difficult thing to get people who have a thorough knowledge of the grading of cattle who can be trusted to carry it out in a fair and impartial manner. It is one of the difficulties of the situation. But if these people are not doing it properly, the right thing to do is to get rid of them and to put some one else in their place, not to leave them there and put someone else over them.
I understand the Minister for Agriculture has had a family bereavement, and that is the reason he is not here to-day. He said he would come down to listen to the case I wanted to bring before him, but I thought I could not possibly ask him to come cm such an occasion, and therefore I shall be obliged if the right hon. Gentleman will communicate my remarks to him. I have a letter from Colonel Turner, who is a landowner in Wiltshire and a magistrate for the county and has been acting Chief Constable. He informs me that he had a dispute 2731 with the Wiltshire Agricultural Committee about a year ago. He entered into possession of a farm of about 720 acres at Lady Day this year, the tenant having left the farm. He desired to keep a portion of it, and the house, for the occupation of his; son, who is an officer in the Army. The rest he let on a grazing term of six months to a neighbouring farmer with the exception of about 58 acres let on permanent tenure. The Wiltshire Agricultural Committee took the farm away from him and took that portion of the land which was let on a six months' grazing tenancy away from the tenant. They then proceeded to stock it, and according to his statement, it was stocked with the cattle of one of the sub-committee who had come down and recommended that the farm should be taken away from him. It was then let to a nephew of one of the members of the committee. In the first place, they took the farm away from him then they prevented his son, who is in the Army, occupying the farm, they turned out the grazing tenant and let the farm, according to Colonel Turner's statement, to a gentleman who is supposed to be a nephew of one of the sub-committee who recommended that he should be turned out of the farm, and they stocked it with the cattle of one of the members of the committee. Colonel Turner, feeling aggrieved at the treatment he had received from the war agricultural executive committee, instructed his solicitors to bring the facts before the notice of the President of the Board of Agriculture, which they did, and a reply was received to the effect that what the executive committee had done was in order and that any claim for loss must be referred to the Defence of the Realm Losses Commission. On the 10th June application was made to the Committee for forms, but they were not received until the 23rd September. If you take a man's property and tell him he may claim compensation you might at any rate give him the forms with which to make application a little quicker than the space of time between the 10th June and the 23rd September. The amount of the valuation of tillages between him, the Committee and their tenant was received by the Committee last July, but they have not paid Colonel Turner anything. Colonel Turner asked for the farm to be inspected, because he says it is being very badly-farmed at the present moment. He tells 2732 me that the hayricks have never been thatched and that they have been spoilt owing to the incessant rain, but notwithstanding this they have been sold to the Government at the top prices. He says the corn ricks have never been thatched, and that the corn has been spoilt. Colonel Turner asked the Board of Agriculture to send someone to look at the farm, and the reply he got was that the farm had been inspected in July and could not be inspected again. I think that a case of this sort ought to be brought to the notice of the Board of Agriculture, because it is not conducive either to the good cultivation of the land or to the security of property if people are treated in this way. If the agricultural committees are to do these things, they ought to-be careful that no member of the committee benefits, directly or indirectly, from their action.
§ Mr. KILBRIDE
The Food Controller has said that his Department have not aggravated the conditions of the farmers, by want of notice. I cannot agree with him in that statement, because it appears to me quite evident, and I think it appears evident to any hon. Member who represents, either in Leicestershire, Yorkshire, Devonshire, or elsewhere, grazing districts, that the want of knowledge shown by the Food Controller as to the numbers of cattle that would be fat in the fall of the year shows absolute ignorance and has led to this want of notice. I cannot understand, if they had knowledge, that they would not have made provision for the present condition of affairs. It is evident to me, and to every man in this House, that they had no knowledge whatever of the number of cattle that, after the grass season, would come fit for slaughter from the middle of October to the middle of November. The result is that they have restricted the number of cattle fit for the butcher that could be slaughtered and the number of cattle that could be slaughtered per week. The excuse given by the Food Controller is that they desire that the supply of beef after Christmas should be kept up. To any man with any practical knowledge at all of the situation, either in this country or in Ireland, a more ridiculous excuse was never made by any responsible Minister. Two days ago I asked the hon. Member for Plymouth (Major Astor) whether any calculation had been made by the Food Control Department as to the loss that would be incurred in a beast of 10 to 11 cwt. from the middle 2733 of October to the middle of November—when it was fit for slaughter then—if it had to be kept over on bare pasturage without cake or without any other concentrated food until he relaxes his present Regulation. I asked what the loss of food would be, and how much the beast would reduce in weight and in grade. The hon. Member said that that was too hypothetical a question for him to make a calculation about. Anybody who represents a grazing district knows that a beast in the middle of October fit for the butcher, weighing 12 cwt., to be kept for the next two months until after Christmas on a bare pasturage without cake or without any other concentrated food, will not weigh 12 cwt., but will lose before Christmas every bit of increased weight it has put on since the 1st of May. The whole of the beef will run off the beast, and on the 1st of January you will have a store beast. You will undoubtedly have skin and bone, but you will have very little beef.
I cannot understand how an intelligent man like the Food Controller, and how intelligent men like those who were associated with him in his Department, can for a moment imagine that they are going to increase the beef supply after Christmas by preventing cattle on grazing farms that are now fit for slaughter to be sold and used for food. The hon. Member who opened this Debate reminded the Food Controller of the condition of affairs that exists in England in the grass districts. There is no farm steading here, and it is so in all the grazing districts in Ireland. There is practically no farmsteading. No matter how willing the farmers on the grass farms in this country or in Ireland may be to help the Food Controller to prevent a beef famine in the spring months of the coming year it is out of their power to do so. They have no steading to keep them and no concentrated food to give them. Neither the Food Controller nor anybody connected with his Department had any previous knowledge how, under ordinary circumstances after the 1st November, fat cattle were kept on grass farms. True, they were kept on very often until Christmas on grass farms by giving them cake and other concentrated food, which was necessary if you wanted to keep them. The grass farmers will be only too delighted to assist the right hon. Gentleman in his desire to avert the beef famine after Christmas, but there is no cake or concentrated foodstuffs to give the cattle. I 2734 cannot understand why it is that the English people are deprived of excellent beef now when it is fat. It will not be beef in the next few months; the cattle will be nothing more than store cattle.
What is the loss to the farmer? The right hon. Member has told us that he is doing nothing to aggravate their condition. May I point out that if he continues to keep this regulation in force the effect on every grass farmer who has land that will make cattle fat will be that before he can turn his cattle into cash he will lose his profit for the whole year. The right hon. Gentleman does not appear to have realised that. He prevents the people of this country from having excellent beef now, but he does not conserve the beef supply by what he is doing; he deliberately deprives the grass farmers of this country and in Ireland of the usual profit of their occupation. We have more than that to complain about. One hon. Member who has spoken said that owing to the nature of agriculture you cannot make sudden changes. You must give farmers a reasonable warning if you are going to make great changes in their industry. It may be necessary to make changes in the stress of the time we have gone through, but unless you give them warning it is impossible for the farmers to comply with the condition. No such warning has been given in this case. If the right hon. Gentleman knew last May the numbers of cattle that were to be fat now, he ought to have given the farmers, five or six months ago, some warning as to what the condition of affairs would be, and then the farmers in this country and in Ireland would not find themselves in their present condition. On the question of sudden notice, I may say that the exporters and the farmers in Ireland had no notice whatever of the changes that the right hon. Gentleman was about to make. There was not a port in Ireland, Dublin, Dundalk, Newry, Waterford, or other ports from which fat cattle are shipped to this country in which, through want of notice of the sudden change, large numbers of cattle were not held up in the hands of the exporters who had taken them from the farms ready to be shipped. There was not a single port in Ireland where numbers of these cattle were not held up, and it meant almost ruin to some of the exporters dealing in these cattle. They could not send the cattle back to the farmers from whom they had first purchased them. They had to keep them in 2735 the yards and supply them with hay, and very often with very indifferent hay. It is perfectly obvious that these cattle could not maintain their condition. They were held two or three weeks before they could be shipped, with the result that enormous losses were incurred by the exporters because of a little want of prescience on the part of the right hon. Gentleman. If he had given a week or two weeks' notice he might have avoided all these difficulties.
He says he has not gone out of his way to inflict unnecessary suffering or unnecessary hardship upon anybody. I say he has. It may not be intentional with him; I do not suppose it was; but it was due to the fact that, whatever other qualities the right hon. Gentleman possesses to deal with the food question of this country, it is lamentably true that he was absolutely ignorant of every condition with regard to farming and the farming industry. A short time ago I sent the Department the result arrived at by a very considerable conference of the South Kildare Farmers' Association. South Kildare is an agricultural constituency, and North Kildare is a grazing constituency, and the calculation made by these practical men was this, that, taking the present prices—store prices—on the 1st November at 70s., and with the increase of 13s. per cwt., a 10-cwt. beast on 1st November would in April probably weigh about 12 cwt., live-weight, and, allowing for the 2 cwt. increase in weight, it would not be sufficient to compensate them for the feeding of the cattle, taking cake, where it is available, I think it is £22 10s. a ton, and making a low calculation, the attendance per beast during 150 days, the calculation was that it would be only 1d. per week. I think that was a very low calculation. The hon. Member, in reply to a question, said that did not show that the present prices were the increased prices. The calculation was made at the time the official price was 80s. per cwt. The conclusion they came to was this, that a beast of 10 cwt. on the 1st November to be sold in April at 80s. weighing 12 cwt., calculating the ordinary market price for hay, for straw, for cake, for turnips—only £19 per ton—that the loss per beast would be £3 1s. 5d. The hon. Member says, "Yes, but the increase of 3s. will largely obviate that loss, and we cannot increase the price." He did not refute the calculation, he did not pretend to say that it was wrong, he rather by inference admitted that it was quite correct. I want to ask 2736 him this. Are the farmers in this country and Ireland the only industry that you expect to work for the State at a loss? I know no other industry that has been working for the State during these times at a loss. On the contrary, several are infinitely richer to-day than on the day when war broke out. I know some people myself whose banking accounts on the day War was declared were rather slender, but who now have two or three motor-oars. [HON. MEMBERS: "Irish."] English, I am sorry to say; I wish they were Irish. I understood from the Food Controller that 18,000 cattle per week is what he calculates to be going to the market about this time. I did not quite follow the calculation he was making, and I asked him if that included the 4,500 fat cattle which is the maximum which we are now allowed to export per week from Ireland. He said he thought it did not. I should like to know if he will tell us what are the actual numbers which are going to be permitted to be slaughtered per week in Great Britain, also whether it includes that 4,500 fat cattle from Ireland. Considering that the usual Dublin weekly market, held every Thursday at this time of the year has about 7,000 cattle, that shows you are dealing with a good deal more than half the cattle which is shown per week in the Dublin market. That 4,000 has nothing in the world to do with cattle in the provinces or in the province of Ulster. They go to other markets. The Dublin market is largely made up of cattle which come from the province of Leinster alone. I do not want the House to understand that 7,000 fat cattle is the total number produced in Ireland. That 7,000 a week is the number usually shown in one market—the Dublin cattle market. We are restricted now to 4,500, but he says, "You can export as many as you like," meaning, send them to a store market in England. I think that is extremely unfair to the Irish farmer. It means this, that an Irish farmer who has fat cattle, and must get rid of them at this time of the year because he has no keep, must take his chance of what he can sell, and as for the others, he can send there here to a store cattle market. That means that an English farmer can buy the Irish farmer's fat cattle at store cattle prices. Is that equal treatment? Is not that differentiation? I am glad the Chief Secretary is here. The right hon. Gentleman always boasts about equal 2737 treatment, and says that the Irishman gets as good as the Englishman does under British rule and administration. He does not. I do not know whether the Chief Secretary has a voice of sufficient influence in the present Government to have these matters changed.
§ Mr. KILBRIDE
The hon. and gallant Gentleman makes a mistake. I agree that if the English farmer can by no possibility keep them, then the Irish farmer is in the same position. But I think my hon. Friend here was talking more as I was of the Irish grass farmer than he was of the farmer in the agricultural districts. But an English farmer who has a sufficient supply of farm steading and of roots can buy Irish fat cattle at store prices in the markets here. He can put them into his steading and can keep them on. I say that that is unfair, and is differentiation against the Irish farmer, and in favour of the English farmer.
§ Mr. KILBRIDE
That is the difficulty, because we have not the steading, we have no housing accommodation as you have here, and that is our difficulty in keeping cattle on during the winter. I admit that steadings on some English farms are just as scarce. I have been in Leicestershire more than once, and I observed extremely little steading, if any at all. I ask the Food Controller that if, after this Debate, they should find it necessary to make any other changes in their regulations, they should give the farming community some decent notice about it. It is of most vital importance to the farming industry that when changes are made they should get sufficient notice of what those changes are. I hope that he will be able to see his way to increase the price of meat in the month of April. I do not think there will be a large supply of beef in the month of April. Last year we were told over and over again that the prices fixed for February, March and April would be sufficient to safeguard a supply, and to ensure a supply of beef in this country during these months. But what happened? We all know that during the spring months of last year a beef famine existed, due no doubt somewhat to the shortage of food, but largely due to the fact that farmers 2738 did not see their way to feed cattle during these five or six months, and sell them at control prices. I know one man, a friend of mine, who usually fed a considerable number of cattle every winter, and who, last year, did not put in a beast. The reason he did not tie up a beast was, as he said to me, that he was certain that the control prices, instead of meaning a profit to him, meant a dead loss. The same thing, in my opinion, will largely occur unless the Food Controller increases the April and the May prices above 83s. and 80s. I know that he desires to keep food as cheap as possible; but which is better, for the working population and all classes—that you should have a sufficient supply of food at a high price or no food at all at what you may call a reasonable price? What is the use of a reasonable price for beef if you have none? Another question I want to ask is: What about the price of sheep in the spring? Some time ago the regulation was that there should be an all-round increase, a flat rate of 5s. per head per sheep, no account whatever being taken of the relative weight. I pointed out to the hon. Member what that meant. It meant on a big Roscommon wether in the month of March a halfpenny per pound, while on a short-woolled wether of 60 lbs. it meant a penny per pound. This is another instance of the want of knowledge of a practical kind in reference to farming on the part of the Food Controller, and it means differentiating in favour of the lightweight short-woolled breeds as against the heavyweight long-woolled breeds of sheep. I am not quite sure as to what the regulation is now, if the regulation is to work out fairly all round it ought to be an increase of so much per pound. I wish to know what the spring regulation about the price of sheep is to be. Is it to be a penny, or a halfpenny, or how much per pound over last year's spring price? Does the hon. Member not see that when you allow a flat rate-that was the first proposal—of 5s. per head next spring over last year's spring price it is not fair to all sheep breeders, and that it operates in favour of the man who breeds lightweight, short-woolled varieties and penalises the sheep breeder who breeds long-woolled heavyweight sheep?
My hon. Friend here says what about the price of wool? You want more wool, and in order to get it you put a premium on the sheep that produces the least wool 2739 and penalise the breed of sheep that produces the most. But that kind of thing on the part of any Government Department does not surprise me. These are questions to which I would like the hon. Member to address himself. He told me the other day that there was going to be no controlled price for malt, and that a committee was to be set up consisting partly of maltsters and partly of brewers to fix the price of malt. Are the barley growers and producers to have any say in this matter? If not, it is quite clear that their interests will not be represented by the maltsters and brewers, and will be forgotten, while the interests of the maltsters and brewers will be remembered. Then I would like the hon. Member to tell us when he is going to remove the restriction of 4,500 head of cattle from Ireland per week, as a settlement of this question is the greatest necessity in Ireland at present. These cattle are wasting, losing flesh; they will be worth from £4 to £5 per head less in a few months than they are now. Meantime you are depriving the English people of food. You are restricting the quantity of beef that is there available for them, and you are not conserving it. You are losing it by wasting it. The weather is washing it away. An hon. Member says that you have too much of it already, but have you so much of it that you want to waste it, because that is exactly what you are doing? You are getting rid of it by waste instead of allowing people to eat it. I hope that the hon. Member will direct his attention to the state of Ireland in reference to these matters when he comes to speak.
§ Sir F. BLAKE
I have been asked by farmers in my own Constituency in which which I live to protest in their name against the appointment of the super-grader and his action. I listened to what the Food Controller said on this subject, and I do not think that it gave satisfaction to the House. He dealt with the matter in a very superficial way, and gave no justification for the appointment and existence of these officials. I hope that when the hon. Gentleman comes to reply he will tell us something more than we have hitherto heard of the abuses which were alleged, which the appointment of these gentlemen is supposed to check. I cannot imagine a better method for ascertaining the quality of a bullock than by asking those who feed him and those who 2740 buy him, each of them, to appoint one of their most experienced and trusted members, and, with the auctioneer as arbitrator in case of dispute, to leave it to them to fix a fair live-weight of the animal. I do not know why that method is departed from. I should like very much to know what are the dangers which a super-grader is meant to check into which the super-grader himself is not likely to fall. Why was this method of dealing with the subject adopted at all? Why were these committees set up? I understood that they were set up to avoid the very perils and dangers that are likely to be incurred by the appointment of a suitable arbitrator, such as has been appointed now—that they were set up to avoid all difficulties and dangers and suspicions which are likely to be engendered in the minds of those who have to take the judgment and decision of a single arbitrator. Surely it is going back upon that wise decision practically to appoint somebody who overrides the decisions of those who have been set up for the purpose, of avoiding these one-man judgments. It is asking too much of any man. It is not a super-grader you want for a business of this sort, it is a super-man.
I defy any man—and anybody who knows anything about agriculture, and, at all events, anybody who knows anything about stock-breeding will bear me out—to come down and say, of a particular animal, when it has been valued at, Bay, 74s. or 75s. a cwt. live-weight, to say, "It is not worth 75s. It is only worth 74s.," or "If it is worth more than 75s., it is worth 76s." It is mere speculation, mere guesswork, and does not commend itself to those who have to take the verdict of the man who purports to give such a decision. It is not a position in which any man ought to be put. Just to give the House an instance of the difficulties in these matters: I heard, the other day, that two bullocks were brought into the market that I know. They were exactly the same weight, 11 cwt. apiece. They were graded exactly in the same grade and valued at the same price—75s., or whatever it was—and the butcher who was there, a man of great experience, was given his choice of the two and he picked out that which he thought was the better, and another man got the other animal. But when the animals came to be killed that which was supposed to be the better, which was taken by the butcher who got his choice, killed 6 stone less than the supposed inferior 2741 animal. That is an instance of the impossibility of anybody coming in and checking the considered judgment of two or three people who have been specially appointed for the purpose. It may seem a small matter to the right hon. Gentleman and those who are associated with him, but it is just one of these pinpricks which they ought to try to avoid. I know, from what has been said to me on many occasions, that farmers and butchers alike look upon this as questioning or impugning their honesty and throwing doubt upon their judgment. I do hope, therefore, that the right hon. Gentleman will look into the matter, and that, if he is satisfied, as I am sure he will be, that their work on the whole has been honestly and fairly done, though there may occasionally be errors of judgment, and that the appointment of these people over them to check these errors is unnecessary and leads to distrust, friction, and a want of that co-operation which is just as necessary now as it was at the most strenuous times of the War, he will cease making these appointments and do what he can to withdraw those which have already been made.
§ Mr. W. NICHOLSON
My hon. Friend the Member for East Grinstead (Mr. Cautley) called the attention of the Food Controller to the new duty which has lately been imposed upon home-grown beef of 11s. 4d. per cwt. When the right hon. Gentleman replied to my hon. Friend he rather passed over the question of this duty and stated that he did not think that any duty which had been imposed by the Food Controller had in any way placed the farmer in a worse position that he was in before. I differ entirely from the right hon. Gentleman. This tax is having a great effect on the price of low grade cattle, and it is going to have a greater effect in the future. I shall give the House an instance of the effect on low-grade cattle. On the 16th October last four dairy cows were sent in by a farmer to Petersfield Market, and were put into the fourth grade before the tax was imposed on animals, and at that time they would fetch as much as 42s. per cwt. After the tax was imposed butchers were not anxious to buy fourth-grade cattle, because they were to some extent unaware of what the tax might be on the cattle which they bought. When these cows were brought into the market the other day and put up to auction the four cows, which originally 2742 had cost their owner £50 each, were sold for the large sum of £2 each. That is where the 11s. 4d. tax comes in. The purchaser of those four cows had to pay £8 in the market, and the Food Controller comes down and charges a duty of £20 8s. on them. In fact, the Food Controller has imposed upon the food of the people of this country a tax of 250 per cent. of the value of the cattle. I wish to ask the Parliamentary Secretary whether it is not the fact that the Food Controller in the past has prosecuted various people for profiteering, and whether in this case the farmer is guilty of profiteering for having sold what originally cost £50 for £2, or whether, on the other hand, the Food Controller is profiteering by imposing a tax of 250 per cent. on the price of cattle sold in the open market? I hope that the Food Controller will give his attention to this very important matter, because a large number of cattle are now being brought into market. If the number is beyond the quota allowed to the particular market they have to be sent back, if they cannot be sent to London to be slaughtered and put into cold storage. Having been sent back they come up, perhaps, in a month's time and will be classed in the fourth-grade, and consequently the farmer will lose, especially if a large number of cattle become classified in that grade.
Another important point is that within the last few months I understand the Food Controller is closing some of the markets for fat cattle. For instance, I understand that at the next market to be held at Winchester no beasts will be allowed, and the week afterwards no mutton will be allowed. I am told that in some cases markets are being closed altogether both for cattle and sheep. The tax will, therefore, fall all the harder upon farmers in the future, and I am not at all surprised that there is a very great deal of discontent expressed by farmers in the markets at the present time with this 11s. 4d. tax per cwt. There is then the question of dealing with damaged grain. The farmer has to take a sample of damaged grain to an inspector. A short time ago a farmer had a certain amount of damaged rye. A sample was taken to an inspector at Winchester who said he could not deal with it, but that it must be sent on to another inspector at Reading, and some days afterwards the farmer received a certificate from Reading and across it was written in pencil "fit for human food." The farmer was quite sure it was not fit for human food. He took 2743 another sample to Winchester and the inspector said, "An inspector will be sent from Reading to inspect this rye." The inspector eventually did arrive, inspected the rye, and found it was totally unfit for human food. The farmer then received a telegram from Heading to say that the rye which had been considered fit for human food was not so fit, and that it might be disposed of for animal food. From the time the first sample was submitted until the matter was disposed of there was an interval of three weeks. I do not know what is going to happen in that instance, but I understand where a farmer receives a certificate that damaged corn is fit for human consumption, he had then to apply to the Food Controller to reimburse him to the full value of the rye, or 75s. 6d. per quarter. I strongly object to the taxpayer to have to pay for the faults of the food control office or of its inspectors.
I sincerely trust that the Food Controller will reconsider the whole question of allowing farmers to use their damaged corn. I believe if you were to do away with those inspectors who are running about the country in motor cars and doing no good work, and if you were to ask the farmers of the country to save the corn which is fit for human consumption, and on the other hand, allow them to use whatever damaged corn they had without asking any further question, you would find far more corn saved, and the farmers in a better condition than they are at present. Farmers have been simply hustled and harried by the Food Control Office for the last few months and for the last few years, and I am quite sure if the Food Control Office wish to get on better with the farmers of this country than they have done in the past, the best thing they can do is to withdraw as many as possible of the restrictions which they have imposed and reduce their officials to a mere fraction of what they are at present.
I do not think that the answer of the Food Controller to my hon. Friend the Member for East Grinstead (Mr. Cautley) was quite so satisfactory as seems to have been thought by some hon. Members. The whole gist and substance of the right hon. Gentleman's argument was that he did not foresee, and that he could not have foreseen, the crisis which has arisen with regard to feeding-stuffs. His reason was that in March of this year an unforeseen military 2744 crisis arose and that they were short of shipping and short of men and short of other supplies, and that, in his own words, he was helpless in the face of an overwhelming military situation. Surely all those who follow the important question of agriculture in this House must remember, and I have no doubt do remember, the speech that was made two months earlier by the right hon. Gentleman the Minister for Agriculture, whose absence for the reason which we have been told we all so much deplore. In that speech of January of this year the President of the Board of Agriculture pointed out that there was no prospect of anything like the usual supplies of feeding-stuffs during the course of this year. You have not, he said to the farmers of the country, up to this moment realised what your position would be if all that supply of feedingstuffs was cut off, and it is cut off. At this moment, he continued, you have barely sufficient concentrated feedingstuffs to feed with a reduced ration your horses and cows, and hardly anything will be left during the remainder of the year for your pigs and poultry. If the Food Controller had read and was acquainted with the speeches and views of the Minister of Agriculture he must have foreseen long before March, when the disaster occurred, what a grave situation was bound to arise in regard to the question of feeding stuffs.
There is one further question I would like to ask. I do not quite understand from the speech of the Food Controller how it was exactly that he appointed a director of pig production in March to do all he could to increase the number of pigs, although the Board of Agriculture was at that time perfectly well aware of the great shortage of feeding-stuffs. I do not quite understand either how it was that the hon. Gentleman the Member for East Grinstead could have undertaken that task, in view of the fact that it was well known that there was that great shortage. Further, I recall that in July of this year there was a great scene here of mutual self-congratulation among some of those interested in agriculture on the great increase in the production of pigs. There was a speech by the then hon. Member for Wilton, now Lord Bledisloe, who, although not very apt to indulge in lavish eulogies, did on that occasion deliver a most warm, gushing eulogy on the Board of Agriculture on account of the extraordinary and successful efforts 2745 made in the production of pigs. He said that the President had been most far-sighted as to the question of the additional production of pigs, and, having given instances, added, "If, as a result of the right hon. Gentleman's efforts, that is reproduced all over the country, I shall offer him my warmest congratulations, because I am sure there is no industry which deserves greater support." What was the reason, in face of the well-known shortage of feeding-stuffs, why the hon. Member was allowed to encourage this great production of pigs, and that he was not stopped until it was too late? I am afraid to say that the reason was a campaign in the newspapers. There was a campaign between January and March in favour of the production of pigs, and one of those numerous Press stunts, and I really think that and no other is the explanation for this appointment and this great attempt to increase pig production. Only a day or two ago I was in the Fens of Lincolnshire, and in spite of the hon. Gentleman's encouragement in this House for the production of pigs, I do not think the people there will feel very satisfied when they are told, as they have been this afternoon, that they can have the advantage of slaughtering their pigs. The only other point I wish to mention is as to the very grave charges advanced by my hon. Friend this afternoon with regard to this country being under the control of the American Meat Trust. We are told on the other side that we are not under that control, and there, so far as this House is concerned, the matter is left. But I would suggest that we should ask, not for statements and counter-statements on this point, but for proof that we are not under the control of this Trust. As I understand the situation, the American Meat Trust prefer to send us the finished product. I think I am right in saying that in December the American crop of maize will be ready for shipment. In the Argentine also there is a great deal of maize of the 1917–18 crop. I can quite understand that the American Meat Trust and other American interests are not very desirous to see the transfer of that maize from the Argentine in order that we may get back our trade with the Argentine, a trade which we are very anxious indeed to recover, and I would suggest that the proof that we are not under the influence of the American Meat Trust is whether we can get from the Government any promise that these feeding-stuffs 2746 are to be shipped to us from the Argentine and the States. I should be very glad to have some answer on that point. I have only to say, in conclusion, that I think the speech of my hon. Friend—a very powerful one—has hardly had a sufficient answer, and I for one would like to see those two policies co-ordinated in some respects, so that we may speak with a single voice in the matter of agricultural production.
§ Mr. LOUGH
I think the point in the very interesting Debate we have had to-day to which the most importance must be attached, is the reply received from my right hon. Friend, the Food Controller, with regard to the changes which will be made when peace comes. I am afraid the right hon. Gentleman did not; promise any change. Let us look at one or two of the complaints that have been made this evening. They are not new complaints. The complaints, for instance, about the grading of cattle were fought out six months, or a year ago, when the matter was brought before this House as a practical question. We then said the scheme could not be worked, and the complaints which have been repeated to-day have shown that it cannot be worked fairly. Yet we do not get any promise that it will be moderated or withdrawn. Take the extraordinary position in which we are put with regard to fat cattle. My hon. Friend who spoke on behalf of Ireland put the case for that, and there is only one thing to be said. As far as my knowledge goes—and I am a farmer in a small way—everything my hon. Friend said about Ireland was true, but he seemed to try to make out that the grievances of Ireland were greater than the grievances of agriculturists in other parts of the Kingdom.
§ Mr. LOUGH
I cannot follow my hon. Friend there, and I would suggest it is better policy for us in this House to fight one another's battles, especially when we have a united case. I think, at any rate, that on this question the complaints in England are just as grave as those in Ireland. Here you have the meat ration reduced to a miserable scrap of meat with which one can scarcely do anything. It amounts to 3 ozs. per coupon. On the other hand, thousands of tons of beef are-actually being wasted. The man who has the beef is not allowed to sell to the person who wishes to buy it in this country. That 2747 is the state of things with which we have to grapple. The complaint we make against the Food Controller is this, that in dealing with these great commodities he invariably takes the wrong course. What reason is given by the Food Controller for destroying all these thousands of tons of beef? He says, "I am destroying the beef now in order that there may be plenty of beef in January, February, and March next." That is the only reason he gives, and it has been repeated in this House ad nauseum. Is it likely to encourage the production of beef three or four months later on? I am afraid it will have the contrary effect. I may mention one or two other commodities. The case of milk was alluded to by my right hon. Friend. He rather complained of our criticism of his policy. I think the House does not remember the whole case of the Food Controller with regard to milk. It can be put in a nutshell. He said that by increasing the price of milk to 2s. 3d. per gallon on the 1st October he would be able to get more milk later on. I never heard a more foolish defence of the Government policy than that the price you fix on the 1st October will produce you more milk in the following winter. My right hon. Friend should go back to the period of gestation of the cow. It is no good giving high prices on the 1st October. What you want to do is to treat the farmer fairly in the preceding spring. In March and April the right hon. Gentleman came down to this House threatening the agricultural interests that he would reduce the price of milk to 1s. per gallon on the 1st May. That is what he did in March and April, which were the vital months, and he thought that thereby he was going to produce plenty of milk in the winter. But as a matter of fact he then struck a fatal blow at the industry. The House pressed him at the time to put up the price, but he would not move from it. He said it must come into force on the 1st of May, and when it came into force he would then appoint a Committee to consider the question. What is the good of doing a thing and then appointing a committee to say whether or not it is wise. This Committee sat and reported in four or five weeks. It reported that the price was absurd and that it should have been 1s. 4d. per gallon. The right hon. Gentleman had promised to compensate those farmers who had supplied milk at the lower price if it 2748 should be found that the price was unfair. The Committee found that it was unfair. They said it should have been at 1s. 4d. a gallon, and that was the condemnation of the right hon. Gentleman, but I have never heard yet how those people who supplied the milk at the lower price during the month of May or the beginning of June were compensated.
§ Mr. CLYNES
I did not fix the price. That was done by a better man than I. I simply made the announcement.
§ Mr. LOUGH
Quite so, but the extraordinary position is that the people who sit behind the right hon. Gentleman are far worse than he is. He has considerable merits. I acknowledge that he makes a good speech. He is courageous; he is candid, but he has behind him counsellors who always give him the wrong advice. The proper time to secure plenty of milk for this winter was last spring, and whatever he does in October cannot bring about that desirable result. He cannot increase the quantity of milk available. I should like to say one or two more words about beef. A year or two ago we were fighting the stupidity of the policy in this matter, and we then received exactly the same answer as we have got to-day. The House will remember the circumstances. In September last year the right hon. Gentleman, who was then Assistant Food Controller, announced a graduated increase in price for beef, but in January it was to be 15s. less than in September. No more cunning step could have been taken by the most ingenious man to discourage people from producing beef. The result was that the Food Controller, as a result perhaps of the criticisms of the House, altered the prices when it was too late. That is the complaint we have to make over and over again. Foolish steps are taken which produce exactly the opposite result to those which the Food Controller desires. For these reasons I am very sorry we have got such an unsatisfactory answer from the right hon. Gentleman. When will the producer who serves the country be allowed to deal directly with the consumer? He is only too anxious to serve the consumer in the future, and now the War is over we might expect more encouragement with regard to a change in policy than we have had from the right hon. Gentleman. I may mention the example set by other Ministers. The Minister of Munitions the other day said that the policy of that great Department was to restore the supply of 2749 material as soon as possible to the regular channels of business. The Shipping Controller told us that ships are to be freed from control as soon as possible. I want to know from the Food Controller what is to be his policy in this matter. Will he as soon as possible, in the interests of the public and of the consumer, free these articles from a control which has worked so badly and done so much harm?
Perhaps my hon. Friend who has maintained the Debate on one subject will excuse me if for a moment I mention one or two other commodities. I asked my right hon. Friend a question this afternoon about coffee, and I got a written answer of a very unsatisfactory character. There have been some speculations in coffee. We were all agreed with the Controller in not rationing it. What we object to is the bad methods which the Food Controller adopts to secure his ends.
§ Mr. LOUGH
As my hon. Friend says, "unbusinesslike methods." I asked him a question about coffee. You would have thought he would get a correct answer for me, having had notice of the question. I pointed out the great speculation in coffee, and that it had gone up 50 per cent. He replied that coffee could be got in London to-day at 85s. None could be got at that price since October. By 25th October it was 95s., and by 9th November 105s., and this is all due to speculation. I appealed to the right hon. Gentleman and he said he would consider the matter. In view of that inaccurate statement with regard to existing prices, I do hope a little more consideration will be given to that point. I will mention tea. The control of tea—will my agricultural friends forgive me for saying—has been as bad as the control of beef. The control was to terminate on the 28th December, but my right hon. Friend has given notice that he is going to extend it for seven months. Will the House remember the promise he made about tea? The promise was that he would bring in China tea, of which there is plenty, in May last, but he did not do it. He promised he would reduce the price of tea in May last. He did not do it. He is profiteering in the most gigantic way in tea, and he is introducing that most fatal system of treating tea as if it were all the same quality. The result is the tea is now sold of a kind which, I am afraid, must have a very bad effect on the health 2750 of the country. There is some medical opinion, I believe, which traces influenza to bad meat and bad cheese. I heard a story about cheese. Some friend of mine interested in sending food to prisoners bought 20 tons of cheese for this purpose. They got one ton as the first consignment, and they said this Government cheese nearly walked out of the window. Everybody knows the cheese is almost uneatable, and why? Because the right hon. Gentleman insists that there shall be only one price. He told me he gives the same price when he is buying skim-milk cheese as for full-cream cheese. In giving these answers you would think that a man would admit himself to be foolish in the sight of all mankind, but he says these foolish things and goes on all the same. So much for the first answer he gave the House. He has not told us that the system will be modified as regards anything. He wants to go on. He likes this job, perhaps. I am glad to see he shakes his head. He likes to keep these committees going, and the 10,000 officials in his Department. They are all working, I suppose, so nicely that it has all to go on perpetually.
I want to direct the attention of the House for one moment to the second answer my right hon. Friend gave. He said they had to cut off feeding-stuffs because of the exigency of the War. I now want to call the attention of the House to a statement we have had from my right hon. Friend in another quarter. He published an article in a magazine in which he explained why he took these steps, and in that magazine article he dealt entirely with what he would do when peace came He did not give the same explanation he has given in the House. The article was headed, "Peace without Plenty." That was a bad subject to take for an article. We have had plenty in this country for 1,000 years; and if it is the policy of this new party, which is so ably represented by my right hon. Friend, to abolish plenty in the country, I do not think it will be a popular party. He laid down five principles on which the new policy after the War was to be based. The first was "We have to import as little as possible." Why should we import as little as possible? Why not import as much as possible? This country gets rich by importing. Then he said, "We must not expect to throw away our ration books." Those beautiful ration books, which are so unequal in their operation, are to be continued 2751 during time of peace. The third was, "We are compelled to use the grain for fodder; there is nothing else to be done." Then, "We must revolutionise our methods of feeding cattle." This restriction on the importation of feedingstuffs is a matured policy which is set out in this article.
My right hon. Friend denied this afternoon—at least, so I understood—that he made any bargain with Mr. Hoover, but in this article he says, "America has assured us our food supply for two years," and he used this expression, "America is providing us with half our food for nothing." What did he mean by that? I wish my right hon. Friend could have told us. He makes the most remarkable statements, in view of the Debate we have had to-night. He was showing that it was a good thing for this country to give up fattening cattle. I wonder what Irishmen think of that? In substantiation, he made this statement—and I would like to know whether he adheres to it—that you can give 64 lbs. of dry fodder to a steer before you get 1 lb. of beef from it. Does the right hon. Gentleman adhere to that statement? He does not make any sign. I am willing, however, to exonerate him from this article altogether. I believe it was written by some of those foolish professors whom he employs at the Ministry of Food. But look at the statement that for every pound of beef the steer gives us, it must receive 64 lbs. of dry fodder. Why, all these cattle from Ireland never receive one pound of dry fodder. They are eating grass all the time. He says we must revolutionise our methods of feeding animals, and that all our cattle, as I understand him, should be killed, as they are on the Continent, at the calf stage. Here is the policy set out in full. If any hon. Member wishes to see it more fully than I have given it, he will find it in a magazine called "London," and it is carrying out that revolutionary policy which is plunging the country into such difficulties with regard to this matter. I do think some explanation ought to have been given. This Parliament is so near its end, that Debates do not go very well, but I do think we might very fairly have expected some explanation to be given of the extraordinary statements that were made in that article as to the new policy which the Government is going to adopt.
I would only make one protest in conclusion. My right hon. Friend might make all 2752 his experiments if he were going to pay for them, or if he would allow the country freedom to carry on its business while he makes them. He will not allow feedingstuffs to be imported, and he will not import them himself. He will not allow anyone to bring in tea, and the Government do not bring it in. There has been a great change—even quicker in other countries than this—with regard to shipping. I saw last week that for the Scandinavian countries the insurance rate for. America is down to one per cent. and even half per cent. If we cannot get British ships, and if freedom is only given to the importers of this country, they will get other ships to bring in feeding-stuffs and food of every kind to this country. It is a dreadful thing that we should have all these prophesies of evil and not be allowed to help ourselves. I would appeal to the right hon. Gentleman to consider this policy. He told us that oranges and nuts may be brought in. I would ask him with regard to sugar, beef, tea, and feeding-stuffs, that freedom should be restored, that the ports should be reopened, and that we should be allowed to do for ourselves what he refuses to do for us, and if he gives us that promise, I venture to say that the position in every respect will be improved in a very few months.
§ The PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY to the MINISTRY of FOOD (Major Astor)
I understand it will be generally convenient if I now deal with some of the points that have been raised, as there are other subjects which the House wishes to discuss presently. We have covered a great deal of ground, and there are a considerable number of comparatively small points in the main dealing with the past which have been raised. The majority-have been quite fair, and some of them have been due to misunderstanding. To-some of the criticisms and suggestions which have been made, I have no reply to make except this, that our action was due-entirely to war conditions and that we had really no alternative. The only thing to which I take exception—and I am sorry the hon. Member is not here—was a statement of the hon. Member who started the discussion (Mr. Cautley), who said I have no interest in the maintenance of agriculture. He had no right whatever to make a statement like that. After all, as I said just now, most of the points which have been dealt with refer to our action in the past, and our action, as my right hon. 2753 Friend explained in his speech earlier in the afternoon, was guided, as was the policy of the Government, entirely by the military situation. The Government had only one policy, and that was to win the War. They had to make adjustments periodically in order to carry that out. An hon. Member who spoke just now referred to the fact that the President of the Board of Agriculture in February or March—
§ Major ASTOR
—in January said there would be a shortage of feeding-stuffs. As a result of the German offensive in March, the Allied Governments had to find more men. In the early part of the year they got them from this country. Later in the year they had to get them from the United States, and had to bring them across the Atlantic. In August and September they were bringing them over by the hundred thousand. In August they came to a final decision as to the number of American troops to be brought over during the autumn. It was quite impossible for my right hon. Friend to know in January or February the number of American troops' which the Allied Governments decided to bring over in August and it was because of their decision in August that various Departments had to make adjustments in their policy. It was because of that, that in August and September our feeding-stuffs and our human food programme had to be altered.
We have had two Debates on the question of turning back cattle, and on our policy as it affects cattle graziers and farmers generally. On previous occasions I was able to summarise the main reasons which compelled us to take the action, which we realised quite frankly imposed hardship upon the farmers, but for which there was absolutely no alternative. The hon. Member for Kildare, I think, said we ought to have given the farmers four or five months' notice. It was quite impossible to do that, as the Government did not give us four or five months' notice of their policy, which was decided by the German offensive. In all these things we had to look ahead as far as we were able, always realising that it was subject to adjustment and modification, according to the course of the campaign.
It has been also said that we ought to have known more accurately the number of cattle which were to come forward this 2754 autumn. Earlier in the year we sent out requests for this information, and asked that we might be told the number of cattle the farmers expected would be coming forward month by month. The actual number that did come forward during the autumn showed that the farmers themselves had made mistakes which had misled us as to the number of cattle coming forward. I need not go into that now, because I have already dealt with it. But the experts, whom we are always urged to consult, were themselves wrong in the estimates and forecasts of the number of cattle coming forward in August. We have had a good deal of criticism, but I have not heard any practical proposal this evening which the Ministry had not itself thought of—as I have said on previous occasions—for dealing with the situation. It is no good saying that there ought to have been more of one thing or the other. I have already explained we could not have both cold storage accommodation and the freezing plant. On the whole, the Ministry, I think, were wise in concentrating on storing accommodation. There is ample storage accommodation. We could not have both.
§ Major ASTOR
Oh, yes. We are freezing as much home-killed beef as possible. There is a difficulty in the plant which we have. It is adequate for maintaining the temperature, as I have already said, for frozen meat in good condition. It takes three or four days to get to the proper freezing point for this, while it takes twelve to fourteen days with the plant we have to freeze fresh-killed meat. The hon. Member referred again to the fact that we were inviting the farmers to hold back cattle. I quite agree that some of the cattle may lose condition, but it is better to have, from February to April, a beast that has lost condition than to have no beast at all. We are dealing with the situation, and by adding to the rates we give the farmers to keep their cattle back, hope to meet it. The Food Controller saw what appeared to be the obvious position, and he trusts that his measures will enable the farmers to produce their cattle in better condition later in the year. As I have said, and as probably most Members who are interested in this question-know, improvement in the position has been going on in grazing districts, and the situation is getting easier every day in the week. 2755 At the moment we are killing something like 50,000 beasts per week, and I understand that next week we shall probably be able—this in answer to a question which was put to me specifically from Ireland—considerably to increase the number of cattle coming from Ireland—by something like 50 per cent.
§ Major ASTOR
Something like 50 per cent. increase some day next week, and without prejudicing the British farmer. There will be equal treatment. As to the added price we have fixed for the cattle, that was naturally settled after consultation with the representatives of the Board of Agriculture and the Central Agricultural Advisory Committee, and, generally-speaking, these prices have been accepted as being fair. The hon. Member from Ireland raised one or two points. I will re-examine those points, and see that the whole matter is gone into again. The hon. Member for the South Molton Division (Mr. Lambert) wanted to know what additional feeding-stuffs would be available as the result of the announcement made by the Food Controller. We shall be able to get 18,000 tons of offal more per week, so that the total may be easily reckoned, but it will be not quite double the amount of offal that is now available. In addition to that there will be 20 per cent. of barley, which—I again speak from memory—is equivalent to 300,000 tons. In respect to the total represented to be damaged grain, I think it is 17 per cent. of the cereal crop which is damaged. I am not able offhand to say what that amounts to in total tonnage. As to feeding cake, every effort is being made to increase the amount of that. We are in touch with all the markets where cake may be available. It is only fair to say that I saw a cable announcing that the United States were actually importing cake, so that it is quite possible we may not be able to get supplies from there. Very frequently, when the crop is particularly good in the States, we are able to get it. The right hon. Baronet the Member for the City of London referred to the amount of cake allocated to sheep. Any alteration, of the tonnage that the Food Controller has at his disposal can be very small, and thus limits the amount of feeding-stuffs, but he has allocated them over the different kinds of live stock. 2756 He consulted the Board of Agriculture and also the Central Agricultural Advisory Committee in fixing the actual ration for the different classes of live stock, and where priority was given it was arrived at in consultation with those expert bodies. Everybody who has any knowledge of the matter would admit the prior claim of dairy herds over store cattle, and that was the principle adopted by the Food Controller when he fixed the amount of feeding-stuffs available for the different classes of stock.
On the question of milk, everyone in the House will realise that the Food Controller, when fixing what is admittedly, from the point of view of the consumer, high prices for milk to producers, was guided by the main consideration—the vital necessity of maintaining the milk supply of the country for the children.
§ Major ASTOR
I was going to deal with that point; let me deal with it now. My right hon. Friend says it ought to have been done last spring. Could the right hon. Gentleman have told us last May whether the cost of labour, and, if so, to what extent, was going up in August; and could he have told us last May the cost of the amount of feeding-stuffs available, and all the other factors which had to be considered by the Food Controller and the Committee that decided on the price of milk? It was quite impossible last May to give anything like an accurate and satisfactory figure.
§ Major ASTOR
They did not fix the price last May; they were sitting later. I think I am right in saying that the Subcommittee, in respect of the winter price—
§ Major ASTOR
But the right hon. Gentleman also said that the winter price of 2s. 3d. ought to have been settled before October. That was the point with which I was dealing.
§ Major ASTOR
Oh, well, certainly, I understood him to say that. As regards the price of milk, a Committee was set up. That Committee sat for a long time dealing with the question of price to be fixed for this winter. They were asked specifically whether it was possible or advisable to have different rates for producers in different parts of the country, or whether there should be a flat rate. They unanimously recommended a flat rate for producers throughout the whole of the country. We were guided by the urgent, the vital necessity, for maintaining the milk production even in those areas where the milk production is expensive. It would have been prejudicial to the welfare of the children if the output of milk this winter had been reduced by 10 per cent. as a result of preventing the production of milk in those areas where that production is expensive. Now another Committee has been set up and has been going into the question as to whether or not it is possible to vary the rates.
Various hon. Members have raised the question of the appointment of super-graders. These officers were appointed by the Food Controller because there had been errors both in respect of the farmers and the butchers, and it was considered advisable and desirable to appoint these additional officers to supervise the operations. As a result of their appointment there have been fewer complaints, and the grading on the whole has been considerably improved.
§ Major ASTOR
Then I am glad to have the support of the hon. Gentleman to the appointment of these super-graders. I was just going to say that I understand that actually in one market there has been such an improvement in the grading that the gain to the Ministry—there was a loss before—has more than made up the salary paid to the super-grader. Various points were raised in connection with charges: the cost of auctioneers, and various payments made in handling the cattle as between the producer and the retailer. The farmer, as a matter of fact, is not paying more now than he did in pre-war days. Very often he did not know that the price he; received included some of the charges which are now borne by the Ministry as middlemen and of conveying the cattle between the producer and the retailer. There is the actual cost of handling 2758 the cattle and other charges in connection with that operation.
The hon. and gallant Member opposite referred to the danger of the meat trust. I agree there is a danger, and it is a great deal more serious than many hon. Members realise, but it does not represent a danger coming only from the United States of America. Before the War the United States was becoming less and less an exporting country for cattle. At the present moment North America is exporting cattle for the use of the Allies in Europe by reducing their own consumption of meat, and this is very largely due to a special effort to assist the Allies in Europe by sending them meat from the nearest market. If it were not for the fact that consumers in North America are deliberately and patriotically cutting down the consumption of meat there would be less coming from there.
The danger in all importing countries is very serious, because the meat trust is not restricted in its operations to North America. There are branches in the Argentine and Australasia, and they control well over 50 per cent. of the available and importable supplies of meat in the world which can be imported by the countries which have to import. Here we import something like 40 per cent., and there is a very serious? menace to the producers and consumers of this and all importing countries. We have this world trust. When hon. Members talk of this danger they must not speak as if it were only a danger from North America. It is a danger because of the branches which exist in other countries and because of their position and hold on the Argentine market. It is a very real danger. You have a world trust and a national trust able to control the supplies on which all importing countries depend for their meat. It may interest hon. Members to know that before the War retailers, to an increasing extent, were making purchases from the agencies in this country of the American Trust, because it was so convenient to be able to buy just the joint they wanted instead of buying a whole bullock, and in many cases they were able to supply what appeared to be more tender meat.
The House will forgive me, perhaps, going into this matter in some detail, because the exact nature and extent of the menace is not understood. If it is a menace, it applies to a greater extent to 2759 the producers and consumers of the United States than to the producers and consumers here, because in the former case there is less competition. We hear all the talk about Mr. Hoover, but we must realise that he has exactly the same interests as hon. Members. They are identical, and they are exactly the same as regards the meat trust; they are, in fact, the same as the interests of the Food Controllers of this country, France, Italy, and all countries which have to import meat. Take the number of the consumers in the United States of America and the number of producers, and it will be found that they are far more numerous than the people connected with the meat trust. The hon. Member opposite said he would take it as a proof that we were not influenced by the meat trust if I could assure him that we were taking every possible step to get feeding-stuffs from the Argentine. Surely he does not think that the American Trust controls the export of feedingstuffs, because that is no concern of theirs, as far as I know. In any case, they have nothing to do with the actual amount which the Government decided to import, and we are trying to get as much maize as we can from the Argentine.
§ Major ASTOR
I know we can, but it is only fair to say that it will not get here for some months, because the ships have to be sent to the Argentine, load, and then come back again. We are taking every step to increase the amount of feeding-stuffs available, and we include in that programme maize from the Argentine, and wherever else we can get it. I have not time really to explain to the House the extent of the ramifications of the meat trust and they are not confined to meat. At the conclusion of the War this country would have been faced with a very serious position if it had been the case that there was an international world-wide organisation controlling more than half of the available supplies of the world in a position to dictate the price of the supplies. Hon. Members will doubtless realise that there is going to be for some time a real shortage of meat in Europe. There will be a great demand now for meat, and what is the remedy?
§ Major ASTOR
As hon. Members have raised that point, I will deal with it 2760 now. Suppose you had increased home production 5, 10 or 15 per cent., either of pigs or cattle, you really would not have met the danger, because you would still be dependent largely on imported supplies. Hon. Members will also realise that this is a menace not only to this country, but to all countries which have to import meat. My right hon. Friend the Food Controller has already explained to the House the organisation which he and Mr. Hoover, together with the French and Italian Food Controllers, have set up. They have established an Inter-Allied Food Council, and that council buys in the world market wherever there is an exportable surplus through one buyer. This eliminates competition. It is, therefore, in a strong position to fix a reasonable price for consumers in this country. This Inter-Allied Food Council is, I believe, going to be in a position to dictate, if necessary, to the international meat trust. I cannot conceive of any other way of providing an organisation which would be stronger because it is international to deal with the international meat trust. It is quite possible that neutrals and other countries requiring meat or other supplies of which there is a world shortage, will all come in and get their supplies through this allied organisation. Only time will show the vital importance and magnitude to the consumers in all importing countries of this Inter-Allied Food Council which is world-wide in its operations, and which will be able to protect the interests of consumers in all European countries, and which alone could possibly deal with such dangers as exist through the ramifications and the magnitude of the operations of the international meat trust.
After having gone so fully into the subject, I need hardly go into the details with regard to the question of bacon. We have been criticised in regard to getting our bacon supplies from North America, but let us compare the position last spring with the position now. Last spring for many months hon. Members were only entitled to something like 4 ozs. of bacon a week, and one month actually the supply was less than 4oz. even with a low meat ration. Now we have a larger meat ration and bacon is off the coupon. That is a very different situation and this could not have been achieved merely by producing the bacon and the ham here in this country. The bacon may not be so good, but it is bacon and it is better than 2761 no bacon. The position some months ago was that we had to procure 400,000 tons more bacon than we had in sight, and in order to produce that at home we should have had to import 2,000,000 tons of grain. That was the proposition put to the Central Agricultural Advisory Council in a memorandum sent out jointly by the Board of Agriculture and the Ministry of Food. It was not the ignorant Ministry of Food that made this proposal, but it was one agreed to by representatives of the Board of Agriculture, and it was quite obvious that the amount of bacon required could not possibly be produced in this country, and even if shipping had been available it was obvious that there was a considerable saving to be made in tonnage which was so vital that the Cabinet decided to import bacon from North America instead of feeding-stuffs. As my right hon. Friend explained just now our policy has been most consistent. It has been to win the War as rapidly as possible, and when we came to the decision to reduce the feeding-stuffs import programme and increase our imports of human food hon. Members must realise that Bulgaria had not then shown any signs of collapsing, in fact there were no signs of a collapse anywhere. The Government would very rightly have been blamed if under these circumstances they had not insisted upon bringing over as many men as possible with a view of bringing the War to an end as rapidly as possible. Events have shown how right they were. I prefer to deal with these matters quite openly, because nothing is worse than to have insidious rumours going about. It has been suggested that Mr. Hoover somehow or other was responsible for cutting down our feedingstuffs programme. Mr. Hoover criticised every group of commodities that this country had upon its import programme just in the same manner as every group of commodities, whether for human food or animal food, was criticised by the French representatives and by the Italian representatives, and just in the same way as we ourselves, through our representatives, criticised every group of commodities demanded by France and Italy. When you know that you are going to have only a limited amount of tonnage, you are bound to criticise and examine each other's demands. I think the House will be glad to know that we were able to do so fairly without rupture between the 2762 Allies. The final amount of feeding-stuffs passed by the Inter-Allied Food Council, after all our Allied Food Controllers had criticised the items, satisfied the Board of Agriculture, so that the responsibility for the actual amount finally available for live stock was not due to the criticism or action of any of the Allied Food Controllers. It was due to the decision of the Government to give priority to soldiers and munitions over certain foods, both for human beings and animals.
Hon. Members have referred to the relations or the want of co-operation between the Ministry of Food and the Board of Agriculture. I have here a list of the committees on which the farmers and the Board of Agriculture are jointly represented with the Ministry of Food, and it is a formidable list. We go out of our way to consult the Board of Agriculture. It is in our interests to do so.
Finally, it may interest hon. Members if I tell them exactly what economy has been possible owing to the control by the Ministry of Food. There has been a certain amount of criticism and a certain amount of irritation and annoyance, but when hon. Members compare this with the achievements I think they will be prepared to give credit to the Ministry of Food. We were this year actually proposing to import something like 7,000,000 tons less foodstuffs than we imported in 1913. In 1913 we imported about 19,000,000, and this year we were only proposing to import 11,700,000. We were actually making a saving of 2,000,000 tons of imported food as compared with the year before there was any rationing. It is only by this complete control which has been set up that that economy has been possible. It would have been quite impossible without having these very irritating restrictions and complete control. As a matter of fact, during these months, we have been actually importing at a lower rate. I think the fact that this country has been able to do with something like 11,000,000 tons instead of 19,000,000 tons of imported foods and yet maintain adequate supplies for the population generally is a great tribute to the work of the Ministry of Food.
§ Major ASTOR
I quite agree. And to the farmers. They have obviously increased food production, but not to the extent of 7,000,000 tons. Agriculture is 2763 one of the few industries which has developed during the War. I am glad that it has done so, and I hope that the development will be maintained. When hon. Members say that the inconsiderate action of the Food Controller has ruined agriculture or is threatening the extinction or extermination of the herds, I would remind them that our dairy herds have never been so numerous as at the present time. Food production, I am glad to say, has increased and developed during the War, and the fact that that has been possible and that the people have been able to get a fair and reasonable ration is a tribute to the organisation which has been set up by the Department—I am able to say that because I have only recently become connected with the Ministry—and also to the response which has been made by the people, both producers and consumers, throughout the country.
§ Colonel McCALMONT
I desire to occupy the time of the House upon a somewhat different subject which I am afraid does not command the attention of the House very greatly but which is an important one because it concerns a body of officers who are not receiving the consideration that they ought to receive. I refer to the Regular officers of the Old Army who went out from this country in 1914. It is not a matter which could have been brought forward very much sooner, because the obvious answer would have been that it was a post-war problem and not a war problem. I had, in fact, some doubt whether it would be in order to discuss it on this particular Vote. The principal point to which I wish to draw the attention of the House and of the Financial Secretary to the War Office (Mr. Forster) is that of the retired pay of officers who have served their country for many years quite apart from this War. The officers of the New Army are naturally more vocal in the country. There are very many more of them, and they are able to bring their grievances' before their Members with a great deal more freedom than the officers of the Old Army. Taken altogether, this cannot be regarded as quite such an electioneering matter as many of the subjects to which this House has listened during the past few days. The principle under which these officers were granted retired pay previous to the War was entirely that of their particular work during their service. A man did not get higher retired pay unless he had held an 2764 important command. Those Regulations in my judgment are entirely obsolete, but they remain in force, with the result that unless an officer has been fortunate enough to reach high substantive rank in the Army he is treated exactly the same as if there had been no war at all. He gets no credit for his war services, and it is immaterial whether he has commanded a battalion, a brigade, or even a division. Under the Royal Warrant the junior officer who can get any real rise in his retired pay is a lieutenant-colonel. Below the rank of lieutenant-colonel it is practically a flat-rate. This, I think, refers to officers of all services. It is a flat-rate for all officers below the rank of lieutenant-colonel, except in the case of majors with over twenty-five years' service. An officer with fifteen years' service is only granted £80; with sixteen years' service £85; with seventeen years' service £90, and so on up to twenty-four years' service or more, £200.
These rates, despite the increased cost of living, still remain in force. That in itself is a grievance, but the grievance is a great deal more serious now, because it is well known that many officers of junior substantive rank have held very high commands in this War. I will not go into the figures, because my right hon. Friend is aware of them. Many officers whose substantive rank is that of major have commanded divisions. Possibly he is a brevet lieutenant-colonel or colonel, but for the purposes of his retired pay he remains at the substantive rank of major, and it is on his rank as major that he will get his retired pay, without any regard whatever for what he has done during the War. The same applies to a greater extent to brigadier-generals and to lieutenant-colonels. I am, fortunately, able to speak quite freely on this subject, because, joining a new regiment, I happen myself to be of the substantive rank of lieutenant-colonel. A large number of these officers are going to be called upon to retire, or will retire for reasons of health during the next few years, and unless the Government are prepared to give the matter their earnest consideration they will retire as though they had never got any higher than captain, or possibly major. I am very glad to see the Minister of Pensions (Mr. Hodge) present, because he knows as well as I do that a great deal has been done for what are known in the Army as the other ranks. I am bound to say that I do not think that amount of sympathy has 2765 been shown with the officers, and especially with the old Regular officers, that ought to have been shown. It always seems a pity to raise a grievance without suggesting a remedy. The remedy is very simple, and I cannot see that it will be extraordinarily expensive. It merely requires an Order which will entitle an officer who has held higher temporary or acting rank on service in the field to reckon that service in that acting or temporary rank for the purposes of his retired pay. If that is not done, the inequalities and anomalies will be extraordinary. There are many even at the present moment. People like myself who happen to have reached a higher substantive rank will get very much higher retired pay than people who have actually commanded divisions. This is not the first time that I have raised this question. I only raise it now in this form because the answer which I received yesterday from my right hon. Friend did not convey the impression to me that the matter had been fully considered or that he was quite familiar with the details of it. He gave me an answer which for a moment I thought was a pledge, but on further reflection I came to the conclusion that it was not a pledge:I do not think that retirement on £80 after fifteen years' service is likely to overtake any Regular officer who has held a lieutenant-colonel's command in the field."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 12th November, 1918, col. 2485.]If he meant, and from subsequent conversation with him I do not think that he did mean, that there were not many officers who had held a lieutenant-colonel's command with less than fifteen years' service, I can assure him that he is very greatly mistaken. I would almost go so far as to say that the majority would not have as much as fifteen years' service. I thought, when I first heard the answer, that he meant that the matter was going to engage his attention, and that he was very nearly pledging himself to take steps to see that no such thing occurred. If the Regulation remains as it is, it will undoubtedly happen that very many officers with fifteen, sixteen, seventeen, and eighteen years' service will retire with rates of retired pay varying from £80 to slightly over £100, despite the fact that the commands that they have held in the field, the risks they have taken in the field, and the responsibilities that they have fulfilled in the field have been out of all proportion to their substantive rank. My right hon. Friend referred me to one previous answer 2766 which he seemed to think covered the same point. I should just like to point out that the answer he gave to my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Christ-church on the 21st of October really did not touch the question at all, because it referred to officers who had commanded brigades in the field and held the substantive rank of colonel. Those are people with whom I have very little sympathy, because their colonel's retired pay is out of all proportion to the junior ranks. He also referred to those who have retired at the age of fifty-seven or held honorary rank of brigadier-general. That is not the type of officer with whom I am mainly concerned. I am mainly concerned with the young officer of twenty-five to forty who has given all the best years of his life to the service of his country, and who is going to find himself retired on exactly the same retired pay of an officer who has never been out at the front at all, despite the fact that he has been out at the front and held very high rank and high responsibility.
There is one other small matter. It is one which I thought had been ventilated in the House, but which I find has not, and that is the question, of bandmasters. Every class of soldier, I think, in this War has had improved chances of reaching commissioned rank. As a result of this war thousands of men have received commissions who never hoped to receive them under ordinary circumstances, but for some extraordinary reason there has been no increase made in the commissions of bandmasters. People may say bandmasters do not deserve much sympathy. That may or may not be true, but that is not the bandmaster's fault. It is rather unfair to him to say, "You started life as a musician, therefore you are to be left entirely out of the benefits which have been allowed to people of other ranks." Now, it is well known that the foreign bandmasters are nearly all of commissioned rank, and in the oversea Dominions many bandmasters hold commissions. Yet, as a matter of fact, the number of commissioned bandmasters in the British Army remains as before the War, at five, with the result that many bandmasters who are still warrant officers find themselves saluting people whose services in some cases is about 5 per cent. of their own. There are many bandmasters with thirty or forty years' service, who, if they had not happened to be bandmasters, would have reached commissioned 2767 rank if they had behaved themselves and done their duty. I hope my right hon. Friend will give us some assurance that the officer question is not going to be forgotten merely because the officers are badly represented in this House, I mean the old Regular officers, and that he will be able to give us some promise that these matters are engaging the attention of his Department. I do not want to see, after all, that those who have borne the heat and burden of the early stages of the War return to civil life with insufficient money to keep them in decent circumstances.
§ The FINANCIAL SECRETARY to the WAR OFFICE (Mr. Forster)
I can promise my hon. and gallant Friend that with regard to the question of the bandmasters to which he referred in the closing part of his remarks, I hope to have that matter looked into and see whether it will be possible to take any of the steps that he has suggested. My hon. and gallant Friend has brought before the House the position of the officers of the old Regular Army who, after a long service during peace when promotion was slow, have found and seized the opportunities which have been created by the War. He points out with reference to their retired pay that the question is determined by the rules of peace conditions rather than of those obtaining in the War, however meritorious and distinguished the service of those officers may be, and he asks that the rank gained in war shall affect, to a larger extent than at present, the amount of their retired pay. One cannot think of this problem without calling to mind the enormous debt that the country owes to the great bulk of the officers on whose behalf my hon. and gallant Friend speaks—the regimental officers. These men belong to the old Army; they are the men who in the days of peace were the living link in the chain that unites the glorious traditions of the past with the still more glorious realisation of the present, men who in the days of peace moulded and fashioned the old British Army which by such steadfast courage and endurance laid the foundations of the victory that we have won. One cannot overrate the debt that the country owes to officers of that class. It is a debt that can never be discharged in terms of money. My hon. and gallant Friend knows that this question is not merely financial. The whole question of promotion and appointment, 2768 permanent, temporary, acting, substantive, is full of startling changes and unequal incidence. It is so intricate and perplexing as to demand the closest scrutiny and consideration before any final decision can be reached. I am sorry there has been any ambiguity in the reply which I gave to my hon. and gallant Friend yesterday. No ambiguity was intended. I might say, with regard to the senior officers on whose behalf he has spoken—the general officers—that their position has been under consideration for some time.
§ Mr. FORSTER
No, Sir, I think not. I think the retired pay of officers holding temporary rank of major-general, but with the substantive rank of major have been under consideration for some time. I promise to look into the case of the other officers to whom my hon. and gallant Friend has referred. He will realise, I am sure, the difficulty of dealing with the whole question of the retired pay of officers at a time like the present. I am afraid I should lack frankness if I allowed my hon. and gallant Friend to expect any very speedy decision, but I can promise that the matter shall be considered, as far as I am concerned, with great sympathy.
§ Mr. GLANVILLE
I wish to say a few words on the general question of soldiers' pensions, which has been discussed frequently in this House and many times outside it. We have finished one part of the War, but we have yet another part to finish. We shall have millions of men coming back from France, but I have not heard, up to the present, any scheme proposed for dealing with the men who return healthy and strong on the basis of a permanent reward for what, they have done to save the British Empire. I distinctly remember the war in the United States, which occurred in my boyhood. When that war was over, every soldier who fought in it received a pension from his country. I cannot understand why we should not do exactly the same thing with our healthy able-bodied soldiers when they return. Millions of these men flew to the Colours even before we had the munitions necessary to carry on the War speedily and successfully. They did not stop to consider anything with regard to personal interests, but went immediately war was declared. They have seen four years' fighting. What has been going on 2769 in this country during that time? The men who have not been so anxious to go have been earning very high, indeed, abnormal wages, while the men in France and other parts of the Continent have been receiving the bare soldier's pay and, if they have dependants, allowances for them. When these men went they did not even know that their dependants would get any allowance. If they had stayed at home, they would have had many opportunities, such as the munition workers have availed themselves of, to put aside considerable sums of money, which would be useful to them in after days, whereas, in fact, they will come back here, and, although they may go back to their ordinary employment, we must not forget that they have lost four years' opportunity. Although they may go back to their ordinary employment, many of them will find that their prospects of advancement in life are considerably reduced.
It is the duty of our Government—perhaps they cannot do it this Session—to give a statutory right, something that cannot be taken away or altered by a Pensions Minister—to an annual pension, quite independent of any other remuneration to which the men may be entitled. It is the duty of our Government to bestow a pension on every one of these men who fought in France or who has been in the fighting line. A committee or a commission should be set up to devise a scheme by means of which this could be put into practice. A pension of 1s. a day would be a very moderate sum. If that were capitalised, it would not represent any-think like the amount that the same soldier could have earned if he had been at work at Woolwich Arsenal or in other munition works in the country. It may seem rather extravagant to suggest £18 a year as a pension for a man, but he would have been able to save enough to bring in that amount if he had not gone to France or some other part of the Continent. Further, what about the widow? I have heard haggling in this House about 12s. 6d. and 19s. The widow, who cannot see her husband come back after victory, gets 12s. 6d. The Government ought definitely by Statute to lay down that while that woman remains a widow she shall receive £1 a week—it is not a penny too much—and that she shall receive it for life, so that it cannot be taken away from her. The scheme which I heard propounded here last week which included 4s. 6d. for one of the children, 2770 seemed to be little short of an outrage. Four shillings and sixpence a week is not much in these days of high prices, which, apparently, are likely to continue for a year at any rate—I doubt whether we shall get back to the old prices for many years to come. It is proposed to allow 4s. 6d. for the third or fourth child. We ought to have some definite scale of allowances for children from infancy up to sixteen years which shall be statutory, so that no parsimonious Government which comes along later on can whittle it down by 6d. or 9d., as many Departments are fond of doing in cases of this kind. I can assure the House that all over the country the discharged soldiers are dissatisfied, not so much because they have not received consideration, or because their cases are not being investigated, but because they are distrustful and have the feeling that what they are able to get this year may next year, or perhaps a year or two afterwards, be taken away. Everything that is conferred, either on the discharged soldier or on the man who has returned healthy, should be conferred by Statute, so that in no circumstance can an Order in Council set it aside. I know the Pensions Minister is a broad-minded man, that he has plenty to do and think about, and that to a certain extent he is controlled by others who keep a close eye on the finances, but I hope he will give consideration to the suggestions I have made tonight, and that they may not be entirely fruitless.
§ Mr. DILLON
There are two subjects I desire to bring to the notice of the House—first, the question of the arms now held in Ulster, and, secondly, the question of what is the intention of the Government with regard to the maintenance of martial law in Ireland. With regard to the question of arms in Ulster, it will probably be within the recollection of the House that for the last two years there has been in force in Ireland a very stringent system for disarming the people. Throughout the three Southern Provinces and in portions of Ulster the disarming of the people was carried out in a most rigorous way. There was no ceremony about it. All the enormous and unlimited powers which are at the disposal of the Government of the day in Ireland were brought into force. Houses were raided and searched; all those found in possession of arms after the Proclamation was issued were severely punished; and, in fact, at this moment you can read in the Irish newspapers accounts 2771 of men who have been sentenced to six months', a year, and even two years' hard labour for being in possession illegally of arms. As regards the National Volunteers—that section of the Volunteers in Ireland who remain faithful to our party—their armouries were broken into last year and the arms seized by the military by force and unceremoniously carried away. That system was carried on for upwards of a year, while no attempt was ever made to disarm the Ulster Volunteers, although it was notorious that they were in possession of a vast number of rifles, obtained from Germany by means which we have not yet been able to discover, although it is rumoured that they were sent with the connivance of the German Government, and that they have not yet been fully paid for. At all events, it is admitted and not denied that they were shipped from Hamburg on the very eve of the War and were in the possession of the Unionist party in Ulster. Throughout all these months, now more than a year, during which these stringent measures were in full force for disarming the rest of Ireland, the Ulstermen were allow to retain their arms in spite of the Proclamation.
No effort whatever was made to deprive them of those arms although it was avowed, and there was no concealment about it, that the purpose with which the Ulster men held them was, on the very moment when the War was over, to use them in a civil war in the event of the Act which is now part of the law of this country being put into force, an Act which comes into operation automatically without any further interference by this House within a very brief period after peace is concluded, as I am prepared to maintain, and full notice had been given to the Government by most responsible men that the moment peace was proclaimed if any attempts were made by the Government to enforce the law civil war and rebellion would be resorted to in Ireland, and these arms were held for the purpose of that rebellion. That appeared to us manifestly and grotesquely unfair. I am confident that in the annals of any other civilised country in the world you could not find a parallel to such a situation. Accordingly this matter was brought before the House at the close of the last Session, and the right hon. Gentleman who is now responsible, for the government of Ireland was asked what he was going to do in regard to these arms and here is the statement he made. He said: 2772With regard to the question of Ulster arms, I am not going into that except to this extent. I am taunted, apparently, with having left the control of arms to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Trinity College. I have not, in fact, asked anyone to take control of the arms, and when I say that, I mean personal and physical control. I do not acknowledge the light hon. Member for Trinity College or the Member for East Clare, who is now described as the leader of the Sinn Fein party—I do not recognise either gentleman as having control over anybody else in Ireland, and I shall only deal with those who have physical control over arms. So long as I am connected with the administration I shall acknowledge nobody outside the Government. I have already explained my position in regard to arms and it is that we mean to get them without trouble if I can, as I am sure everyone in the House would prefer should be done.—He was very tender to Ulster. He did not bother, nor did his predecessors, about the trouble when taking the arms from the Nationalists. He took them in the roughest and rudest manner possible—If we cannot get them without trouble, we will get them."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 8th August, 1918, col. 1651, Vol. 109.]On the very day on which the House met a question was put to the right hon. Gentleman as to what has happened in regard to the Ulster arms. When questioned in that Debate as to the number of the arms, he said he was informed by the police that there were 50,000 rifles and twelve machine guns. I have made some inquiries since, and I think he underestimated them. At all events, that was the official number given—a very formidable armament. I suppose there was also a very large quantity of ammunition. Here is the reply the right hon. Gentleman gave to the question—The precise figures are not available,"—He had previously stated that they were available—But a very substantial number of rifles have-been handed voluntarily to the military and are under their absolute control. An Order has now been issued making it illegal to have arms without a permit.—That ought to have been made long before.And this Order applies to the whole of Ireland. For all arms handed over voluntarily a receipt is given and they will be returned when the Regulation forbidding the having of arms without a permit is revoked. For military reasons I cannot state where the arms are now kept."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 15th October, 1918, col. 12.]What military reasons? We pressed again and again for details and particulars on the following points: What was the number of the arms handed over; secondly, whether they were handed over on conditions, 2773 and, if so, what are the conditions; and thirdly, where they were? There was a very special reason for asking those questions, because the right hon. Gentleman (Sir E. Carson) when he went to Ulster on 27th September, 1914, made a very famous speech in which he declared that it had been said that he had lent some rifles—the Ulster rifles—to the Government to carry on the War. At that time, of course, our men were really using sticks, and rifles were so scarce that it was impossible to send drafts to France until the factories turned out rifles, and it had been stated that the patriotic men of Ulster had loaned some of their rifles to the Government to make up this deficiency. The right hon. Gentleman (Sir E. Carson) is a man of plain language. He uses language which is not permissible in this House except by way of quotation. He said it was a lie, and that he had never allowed a single rifle to leave Ulster and he never would, although at that time it was a question of saving the Empire. He went on to make this declaration, that if, when the War was over, any attempt were made to put into force the Act which was on the Statute Book, he would call out his Volunteers and defy the law and institute civil war in this country. I have here a short extract from his speech:What I propose to do in the future—may God grant it may be the near future—when the War is over, I propose to summon the Provisional Government.—With us that would be high treason, but of course with the Ulstermen it is patriotism—I propose to summon the Provisional Government together and I propose, if necessary, so far as Ulster is concerned, that their first act shall be to repeal the Home Rule Bill as regards Ulster.What is that but rebellion? In what respect does that differ from the action of the Sinn Feiners in the rebellion of 1916? And are we to patiently look forward after the horrors of this War to have in our country a fresh civil war?I propose, in the same Act, to enact that it is the duty of the Volunteers to see that no Act or no attempt under that Bill shall ever be made in Ulster. We have plenty of guns and we are going to keep them. We are afraid of nothing.He went on to say:Let them treat the Home Rule Bill—he supposed he ought to call it the Home Rule Act—I should rather think so considering that it had the King's signature—"as a nullity." That is exactly what the Sinn Feiners say, that they will treat all the Acts of this 2774 House as a nullity, but they have a good example. The present Chancellor of the Exchequer was standing on the platform beside the right hon. Gentleman and pledged the entire Tory party to back him in that civil war, and in treating this Act as a nullity when the hour came:He solemnly stated that he was in a position: to pledge the entire Tory party to back him in this civil war and go ahead as though it never existed, and let those who dared come and try to force it upon her.In other words, the right hon. Gentleman, undertook to give full notice as to these 50,000 rifles brought from Hamburg—German Mausers supplied by the Germans. They talk here of a German plot in Ireland. This was a worse German plot, which existed before the War and which brought on the War. They sent 50,000 rifles to the right hon. Gentleman in Ulster to stir up civil war. Then they believed that England was out of action with the assistance of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Trinity College, and that they were in a position to trample down the liberties of Europe. That was the condition of things that we had to face when we raised this whole question of the Ulster arms. These rifles and these machine-guns were deliberately left in the hands of a small minority of the Irish people who had announced their intention to rebel against the King and his laws the moment the War was over, encouraged by the present Leader of the House, and who had by their example brought on and given birth to the troubles which have taken place in Ireland throughout this War. To accentuate that position of affairs during the War the Government deliberately set to work to disarm the whole population of Ireland so far as they were suspected of Nationalist ideas—not only those who sympathised with Sinn Fein, but those who followed us and who were faithful followers of the late Leader of my party in the great policy which he preached and which he struggled so hard to carry out. His followers in Ireland were treated as public enemies.
The only party in Ireland which had renounced physical force in any shape or form, and had conformed to the law, and for thirty or forty years had patiently, in the face of endless disappointments and cruel delays, proceeded by constitutional methods in this House and discouraged their people from resort to methods of revolution—we were literally the only party in Ireland that stood for the law, 2775 but our followers were disarmed and disarmed in every circumstance of insult, outrage and violence. At last, under pressure of shame in this House, the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Shortt) gave a pledge that he would disarm the Ulster Volunteers. I ventured on that occasion to say that I thought he would not be allowed. The right hon. Member for Trinity College was sitting behind him, and he smiled a grim smile. I knew perfectly well what the result would be. When he came here and replied to a question which was put to him he stated that the Ulster arms had been loyally surrendered, but he was not in a position to say how many. That was somewhat suspicious. I want to state here definitely that this is a fraud, and I am amazed that the right hon. Gentleman should come here and make a statement which is calculated to leave the House under a wholly false impression. He has not got the Ulster rifles. It is not true to say that he has got the Ulster arms. I will tell the right hon. Gentleman what happened, according to my information. He is there, and he can contradict it if he is able to. He went to Ulster to interview certain leaders of the Ulster Council. Although he has been very courageous in his statement to the House that he would recognise nobody who had not the physical possession of the arms, when he went to Belfast he changed his tone very fast, and had to recognise them. He was met by members of the Ulster Council, and there was a discussion as to what should become of these arms. Before he arrived in Belfast the Ulster arms had been distributed to individual houses, and there are thousands of them, according to my information, now in the hands of the Ulster Volunteers.
There was a parley, and certain terms were arranged under which these gentlemen undertook to surrender the arms, but, if my information is correct, I do not wonder that the Chief Secretary, for military reasons, declines to let us know where the arms are. Was there ever such a preposterous thing ever tried to be palmed off on this House? It is not for military reasons that he could not tell us where the arms are, but because the Ulstermen told him that they would not allow a rifle to leave Ulster. He had to obey his master In accordance with the statement of the right hon. Member for Trinity College on the 22nd September, 1914, he said, "I will not allow a rifle to leave Ulster." And he 2776 has not allowed any to leave Ulster. The right hon. Gentleman dare not take a rifle out of Ulster. He got the rifles on an undertaking to return them to the Ulster-men as soon as peace was proclaimed. In other words, they are to get back their rifles as soon as they want to rebel. Meanwhile the military have them, and they are perfectly willing to leave them there. They do not intend to rebel while the War is on—there is no necessity—but they are ready to rebel and fight against the King's Government immediately peace is concluded. Their rifles are there in Ulster, and they know perfectly well that they have the heads of the War Office on their side. Therefore they are not under the control of the military, but they are practically under their control, and they know that they will get them back whenever they want them. The right hon. Gentleman did not tell us about the machine guns. Perhaps they have been distributed like the rifles. A great quantity of rifles were actually distributed while the right hon. Gentleman was discussing terms with the Ulstermen. While that was taking place the rifles were being scattered over private houses. They have retained a considerable armament in that way, and, though they are not in actual physical possession of the remainder, it is just the same for their purpose as if they had been left in their possession.
We want to know, and the right hon. Gentleman ought to tell the House, is he going to make any pretence of honest, even-handed justice and fair play to all sections of the population in Ireland? I was opposed and am opposed to the disarming of the population of Ireland altogether. The unhappy rebellion in Dublin was the result of a series of shocking blunders and breaches of faith on the part of the Government, and it was taken part in by a very small body of men, misguided enthusiasts, who did not extend over one-thirtieth part of the population of Ireland. I believe that if the Government had handled Ireland properly they would have left the arms in the hands of the Irish Volunteers, and they could have taken every single soldier out of Ireland if they had followed the advice of the late Mr. Redmond. It would have been perfectly safe. The object was to relieve the Government of all responsibility for holding troops in Ireland, and in order to do everything in his power to strengthen the Government in the conduct of the War. They did not take his advice. 2777 Every single piece of advice which he gave to them was turned down and defied and the opposite course was taken and the result has been that at the end of the War 70,000 men were kept in Ireland, whereas at the beginning of the War, if they had acted with common sense and listened to the advice of those who understood the Irish situation, they might have taken every soldier out of Ireland and allowed the Irish population to arm as much as they liked in perfect safety. When you once embark on the policy of disarming a section of the Irish people surely any man who understood the ABC of statesmanship would see that the only course was to disarm all sections impartially. To disarm the majority of the population of Ireland and leave armed to the teeth the minority, who had declared their intention of rebellion and of fighting the Government, was the most wicked policy that could possibly enter into the mind of man and was best calculated to disturb the country and exasperate the people. All this you have done. I say it is not true that the Ulster rifles have been taken up in the real sense of the word. The Ulster rifles and machine guns are still at the disposal of the Ulstermen, and the Member for Trinity College has not the slightest notion, and as long as he dominates the Government—and he does dominate the Government in their Irish policy to-day—he has not the slightest intention of allowing these rifles to leave Ulster, and so long as they are in Ulster no one will believe that they are withdrawn from the control of the Member for Trinity College and his Provisional Government, which is still in existence, and which he intends to summon together as soon as peace is declared. So much for the Ulster rifles.
I want to say a few words on the question of martial law. Ireland is at present governed by martial law. It may be forgotten by many Members of the House, but we have not forgotten that when the rebellion was put down in May, 1916, now two and a half years ago, we made repeated appeals to the then Government to withdraw draw the Proclamation of martial law and for some obscure reason for which I could never get any explanation from the Government, they refused to withdraw the Proclamation of martial law, giving a whole series of insincere and hardly plausible excuses; but the fact remains 2778 that they declined to withdraw the Proclamation, and at this moment Ireland is under martial law. I want to know from the Chief Secretary what is the policy in that respect.
Now that the War is over, and all pretence of German plots and danger from rebellion so far as the National side, or I will add the Sinn Fein side is concerned, do they intend to maintain martial law in Ireland? That is a very serious question, and one which I maintain I am entitled to have answered before this Parliament breaks up. Are you going to the country on this platform, that Ireland is to be governed after the War is over by martial law? Was there ever anything to equal it in the history of mankind that a country where there is no serious disturbance, where all military operations and all active resistance to the law has ceased for more than two years, when a state of war is ended, military operations have ceased even on the Continent, that martial law should be maintained in Ireland? When we draw attention to the results of that system, the working of that system, the right hon. Gentleman jumps up—and I really must say in all my experience of Irish Debates in this House I have never heard anything to equal the attitude, the tone, and the style of the replies of the present Irish Secretary. I never heard anything like it. What did he say the other day? His answer was, as a sample of the condition of Ireland, that only the week before last there was discovered in Dublin in one house enough dynamite—I suppose he meant melinite—to blow up the whole city of Belfast and Dublin. With all due respect to the right hon. Gentleman, I think that is a perfectly grotesque exaggeration. He did not state where the house was. That, I suppose, is a military-secret—a secret, as the old saying is, a secret of polichinelle. I know where the house is. Everybody in Dublin knows it. It is a notorious house. It is in Rutland Square, or, as they call it now, Parnell Square. It is a house I bought myself two or three years ago for the National Volunteers, and I daresay he knows it well too through his police spies. He knows the history of this house. It was taken out of our possession by armed men about a year and a half ago. A body of armed men attacked it one night with the connivance of the police, who never interfered, and it has been held by these men since, and he has the unblushing audacity 2779 to stand up in this House and attack the whole Irish cause and the whole country, because in this house, which his police have allowed to be held by an armed force against the lawful owners for nearly two years—that unknown to the police there have been stored bombs and melinite enough to blow up two cities. Where were the police all this time? They knew the character of this house; they knew who were in occupation and control of it; and I say deliberately that these plots in Ireland are, in my opinion, the work of the police spies themselves—of the Secret Service Department. That is what Major Price and company are kept in Ireland for. How did that melinite get into that house without the knowledge of the police? It has been a matter of common rumour in Dublin that there were bomb stores in the city. Everybody has been asking, "What on earth are the police about?" Is he aware of what occurred at Amiens Street Station six weeks ago? I wonder he did not give us that story. That, I suppose, was too indelicate to be heard in this House. The very last time I crossed to Ireland, the night before I arrived, a body of armed men took possession of Amiens Street Station, in Dublin, bound the solitary policeman on duty to a lamp-post, put a revolver to his head, and stole a large quantity of this melinite. The district in which I live was surrounded that night by military, and all the houses searched from the garret to the cellar—a preposterous proceeding, as if the melinite would be stored in the residential quarter of the city! I suppose it was brought to Rutland Square, and they knew quite well where it was and did not get it.
Does anybody in his senses imagine that in the present condition of Dublin and of Ireland that large quantity of explosives would be left in the Amiens Street Station in Dublin with one policeman to guard it, and that twelve armed men would go down and take possession of the whole station, the military being in the immediate vicinity and some soldiers on guard at the station, and carry off this explosive, unless there were police behind it? The innocence of the Chief Secretary is delightful. He gives this as a justification for all his performances in Ireland; but take up the newspaper every day, and you find the other side of the picture. Twenty girls, most of them under twenty years of age, 2780 were arrested in the streets of Dublin last week for selling flags and hauled off to the police station. Two or three men were arrested for singing songs of a seditious character, songs that have been sung in Ireland habitually since I was a child, and were sentenced to hard labour, and in various other ways of that character you make out these terrible eases which, in my opinion, are largely the organised work of your police spies in Ireland to-day; make no mistake about it.
I got a long letter this morning describing the whole machinery from an inside source, from one of your own men. I will not tell his name. But he describes the whole machinery of spies whose only duty is to get into all the secret societies in Ireland and organise these outrages. That system was going on long before the Chief Secretary ever saw Ireland, and is going on still. The only difference now is that money is plentiful. The Secret Service funds are now unlimited. The millions we vote in this House are used freely in Ireland for carrying on this infernal work—it is infernal work; diabolical work. It is part of the machinery by which our race is being traduced before the world and held up, part of the plot to show that Ireland is not fit for self-government and that this Government is justified in breaking all its pledges and in going before the world and saying, "What are they but a race given over to outrage and disorder, and nothing can keep them quiet but martial law." The Leader of the House promised us the other day that the very moment he knew he would tell us what is going to happen in reference to this Parliament. Apparently he does not know yet in spite of all that happened to-day and yesterday, but before this Parliament breaks up we are entitled to know what is the policy of the Government, since they have cast Home Rule aside, and how are they going to conduct the government of Ireland? Is the country to be asked to endorse a policy of leaving in possession of the German arms which they now possess the minority in Ireland, who have announced their intention of defying the King's law and the King's Armies and carrying on civil war in that country if an attempt is made to enforce the law? And is this country to be asked, in the present condition of Europe and according to the high principles for which, in the words of the Prime Minister, we are ostensibly fighting in every country in Europe, to face Europe and face the world with Ireland 2781 under martial law without a shred or shadow of excuse? We are at least entitled to know where we stand.
This is one of the last opportunities which we can hope to get for extracting from the Government some frank and fair statement of what is their policy and what is their programme so far as the Irish question is concerned, and whether for which they mean to go to the constituencies and ask for a mandate for five years, because that is now the avowed purpose of this Coalition. Is Ireland to be kept under martial law for five years? Remember this: if your present system of provocation goes on, I see no end to it. You cannot trample upon the Irish people. The more you trample upon them and kick them, the more intractable, unmanageable, and ungovernable they will become. You cannot, to use an expression of a predecessor of the present Chief Secretary, create in Ireland an atmosphere favourable for settlement by kicking, insulting, and tyrannising over the Irish people. If the Government are going to carry on their present system, things will go from bad to worse. They may provoke another insurrection. I do not know. I pray God that that may not be the case. But according to their policy they are going about having an insurrection one way or another, because if they grant home government Ulster, armed to the teeth, is to fight, and if they do not grant home government, and maintain martial law, possibly even without arms, they may have some attempt at insurrection in the South. The more they carry on this system of repression, the more difficult the situation becomes. It is getting worse from day to day. I warn the Chief Secretary that that is so. He postures sometimes before the House as if he had produced order and contentment in Ireland. He has done nothing of the kind. His policy has been of such a character as to make the situation worse and worse. The country is entitled to know where it stands. That certainly is a very modest demand. Some kind of hugger-mugger arrangement has apparently been come to behind the scenes by the two parties who form the present Government. Nobody knows what that arrangement is. The British people may be content with such a situation, and if you will not give us the right to govern ourselves the least that even we may reasonably demand is that you will frankly, honestly and clearly state how you mean to govern us in Ireland.
I wish to join my hon. Friend in pressing the Chief Secretary for some information as to what he hopes may be done in connection with these Ulster rifles. We have heard statements made in this House, based possibly on reports that he has received, though in my opinion a great many of these statements have been intended mainly to satisfy public opinion in this country—that he, as the representative of the Government in Ireland, is acting in a fair and impartial manner towards all parties in that country. Those who have listened to the various Debates in this House will recollect that some twelve months ago, on the very eve of a series of demonstrations in Ulster, organised by the constitutional party to put the case of the constitutional movement versus the physical force or the extreme movement before the people, that occasion was utilised to raid public halls and private houses, to raid the halls of an organisation with which I have the privilege to be associated, to go into these Hibernian halls, break doors and locks and steal—because I can give no other description—rifles which were there, which were never asked for. But not content with that they proceeded to enter the houses of Catholic clergymen and break locks and doors as if these men were fomenters of disorder and strife. And anyone who knows the position in Ireland will recognise that if there is anything in this world calculated to create disorder and strife in Ireland it is surely this invasion of the private dwellings of Catholic priests. I would like to know how many Orange halls have been entered for the purpose of getting the Ulster rifles, and what means were employed to ascertain where these rifles were?
I would ask the Chief Secretary for definite information as to whether, when an order was issued, or not an order but a request made by the sergeant of the Royal Irish Constabulary stationed at Keady, in the County of Armagh, whether that sergeant suggested to the constables not to mind the order that was issued by the Inspector-General to watch the houses where the rifles were stored so that they would not be removed, and I would also ask him how many rifles have been taken out of that district and out of the Orange halls in that district, because with all his Secret Service surely the right hon. Gentleman will be able to answer a question on a subject which is public property in the district. I ask that in view of the fact 2783 that this particular gentleman was the organiser of the police force in the county to sign the covenant and called meetings during the week previous to the signing so that the police were to throw in their lot entirely with those men. He was stationed at that time at Lurgan. We have these whispering statements made, and we have it given to us as a secret that the rifles, or a certain number of them, have been secured. That may satisfy the very confiding Members of this House, but it certainly satisfies nobody in Ireland, and nobody believes one word about the rifles having been taken. The Chief Secretary for Ireland is merely an agent acting for and on behalf of the hon. and learned Member for Trinity College. He exercises no power in Ireland except with the permission of the hon. and learned Member. Will he tell us how many rifles have been taken in any one county and where they are being stored. Rifles have been taken from the Nationalists and raids made upon them, and the fact that they were taken is public property, and also where they were taken to. Surely if there is to be equal treatment for all people we should get the opportunity of learning here and now how many rifles have been taken and where they are stored. I am informed that the constabulary sergeant at Keady is very anxious to facilitate in every way the Sinn Fein organisers. I happen to know the situation very well there. He was anxious to supply them with information as to how they could conduct their case when a number of them recently were tried. We have looked for some time for information as to the rifles, and we have got very little. Every effort is made by the Chief Secretary and those supposed to be responsible for the government of Ireland to create a panic in the country. One day an order is issued to the Dublin Metropolitan Police that they must all have rifles, and 900 were scattered around the barracks with 250,000 rounds of ammunition, and in the most excited way in the course of a few days all those are lifted, taken back again and placed in the depot. The management of the Government agencies in Ireland is so great that the very guard upon the Chief Secretary's Lodge and on the Vice-Regal Lodge is one day supplied with rifles and a pass word to guard him coming in and going out, and in a fit of this extraordinary panic all that is stopped because the police cannot be trusted, and because Major Price issues an 2784 instruction that they cannot be trusted inasmuch as the policemen on guard outside his house allowed two squibs to be thrown on the tram track, and they had frightened himself and his family.
I have a distinct recollection of a raid that happened to be made on my own house, and there certainty was not the same consideration there for women and children. That was a raid made for what? Will we get any information why that raid was made? [An HON. MEMBER: "A demonstration."] It was merely to tender an insult, nothing more, because supposing, for argument's sake, that I was doing something, and as the Chief Secretary alleged was suspected, surely he does not imagine that I am a fool to keep documents of that kind inside my house. I thought the Government representatives had some common-sense, and I was absolutely mistaken. They thought I was a fool, and they were mistaken. To come to another case referred to by my hon. Friend the Member for East Mayo about a raid upon a house in Parnell Square, a raid is made, and a seizure takes place, and policemen are sent around looking for information and making needless inquiries. What is the object? The object is to try and circulate in the public mind that something desperate is happening, and it is a system of trying to slander and libel the Irish people. If there were such a thing as explosives, surely the special guard at the Great Northern Railway station would have seen those things coming in, and surely there are sufficient police and soldiers there to protect a policeman and prevent him being caught and tied up. I may say I have made close inquiries, and I cannot discover the name of any policeman that was taken up and tied to a post, or anything of that sort. Around where I live there are a couple of railway bridges, and one night suddenly the whole military forces were called out and the whole place surrounded. The only information we could get was that it was a military manœuvre just to see, in case there was a rebellion, how they were to suppress it. There was a deep feeling in Ireland that all these alleged crimes that have been committed are crimes committed in the Secret Service in Dublin Castle, and are crimes generated there, and that we have a repetition of the old methods. Chief Secretaries come and go, but the crime perpetrators, the men who are employed for the purpose of detecting 2785 crime, the Sergeant Sheridan's and Sergeant Sullivan's, are still there, and the only difference is that there are a great deal more of them employed at present. What has this brought the position to in Ireland? It has brought us to this state of affairs, that of all the Chief Secretaries we have had it is generally admitted that the least powerful, the least respected, the least capable of taking charge of the Government machinery, is the right hon. Gentleman who holds the post at this moment. The right hon. Gentleman can ignore these criticisms, but he cannot ignore the responsibility that he owes to the country of which at this moment he is Chief Secretary. He cannot ignore the fact that during the administration of his predecessors Ireland was never in a more discontented state than it is to-day.
Neither Unionists, Nationalists, Sinn Feiners, nor anybody else have the slightest respect for the Government. It is the laughing-stock of anybody who makes the slightest inquiry into the matter. One day a man is arrested for receiving corn in which ammunition is supposed to be sold to him, and he is put in prison for weeks. After all possible inquiries the person who is supposed to have sent away this stuff disappears, and the whole case collapses. It is a strange thing which I want Members of the House to recollect, that when the stuff arrives in Amiens Station the police were watching it, they saw it delivered, they surrounded the building in which it was. Their information was so clear and definite, and yet they are unable to say where these 30,000 rounds of ammunition were procured. I do not think there is any machinery in Belfast for the manufacture of ammunition, except that which is under the control of the Government. But there is a general impression that the ammunition was manufactured in Birmingham, was sent to Belfast, and was transhipped from Belfast to Dublin as part of a deliberate plot to try and create crime on the eve of the assembly of Parliament and thereby to cause a sensation. The whole state of the country is at this moment deplorable. We have the reign of martial law, and that, to say the least of it, is absurd. You cannot at this moment organise an ordinary boys' brigade for the purpose of drilling exercise. You are not permitted to do that. I have tried it myself, and therefore I know. I was refused permission to give absolutely wrong, and so far as I am 2786 little athletic exercise because it was suggested the State would be jeopardised thereby. And yet we have the right hon. Gentleman coming down here and in a most sensational and pathetic manner telling us what serious things are taking place in Ireland, and in what an awful state Ireland is! If it be true, is it not a condemnation of the right hon. Gentle man and of the present Goverment to say that when this War broke out they had practically the whole sympathy of the Irish people; but, by their mismanagement, by their cruel tyranny over the people, they have driven them away and brought Ireland to its present discontented state? If there is all this alleged crime, it is not because it has the sympathy of the people, but because the right hon. Gentleman spends too much Secret Service money in generating crime.
§ The CHIEF SECRETARY for IRELAND (Mr. Shortt)
I am sure the House will desire that I should not take up very much of its time in replying to the last two speeches. In the first place, we have really heard nothing new at all to-night. I have listened very carefully to both the speeches, and there is not one single charge which has not been made over and over again—and not one single allegation—
§ Mr. SHORTT
There has not been one single allegation or charge which has not been exposed over and over again as totally unfounded and totally inaccurate. The hon. Member referred to the case of Ulster arms. He and his colleagues appear to have an astonishing amount of detailed information as to the sedition, or treachery or rebellion going on in Ulster. Apparently, there never was a more seditious, a more treacherous, or more rebellious organisation than that of the Ulstermen of Belfast and the surrounding district. The hon. Gentleman apparently know everything about them, but so far as my information goes their information is inaccurate. He or his colleagues described how on a certain occasion, when I happened to be in Belfast, Ulster arms were being carefully distributed apparently under my very nose. Of course, I do not know, he may have had more detailed information than I had, but I can say I am satisfied that his information was absolutely wrong, and so far as I am 2787 informed, the movement of arms which no doubt he heard about, and which he quotes as signs of the wickedness of these people was the collection of arms for the purpose of handing them over. I have already stated in this House that substantially so far as we know, all Ulster arms have been handed over, and if they have not been handed over it is just as illegal for Ulstermen in Ulster to possess rifles as it is for men in any other part of the country.
§ Mr. DILLON
Have you ever searched a single house or prosecuted a single person in this connection?
§ Mr. SHORTT
I cannot answer that question. I do not know. It may possibly be that the Ulstermen have given up all their arras and it may be that they have not, but I can tell the hon. Member that if he can give me any information that Ulstermen are holding rifles in an illegal way I will give immemediate instruction for a prosecution. If the hon. Member can tell us that—
§ Mr. SHORTT
If the hon. Member will name a single house we will direct the police to search for rifles and if they are found a prosecution will follow. I shall go no further with regard to that. With regard to the question of martial law, I take it, of course, that when the hon. Member says martial law he is referring to the Defence of the Realm Regulations, and so on, which exist in Ireland to-day.
§ Mr. DILLON
Not at all. I am referring to nothing of the kind. I am referring to the Proclamation which was issued after the rebellion, and which is in full force to-day.
§ Mr. SHORTT
My predecessor tried his best to explain to him that there is not martial law in Ireland or anything approaching it.
§ Mr. SHORTT
As I say, my learned predecessor tried to explain that there was not, and where he failed I do not think I 2788 need take up the time of the House in trying to succeed. There is no martial law in Ireland at this time.
§ Mr. SHORTT
Undoubtedly there is a special law required by the circumstances which exist there. Practically the whole of the law which exists in Ireland to-day exists in this country to-day, and if the necessity arose, either by sedition or any other reasons, to put in force Regulations in England which to-day are put in force in Ireland, then of course they would be put in force. We have heard of some instances of alleged fabrication by the police of crime, though apparently it is difficult to say whether it was to obtain a conviction of some innocent person or whether it was that absurd charge that everything was being done to blacken Ireland. Take the case of the oats, over which the hon. Member waxed so contemptuous. Is it denied that the stuff was there, and that the ammunition was in the oats? Is it denied that the gentleman who would have been charged with putting the ammunition into them immediately took to his heels, and has been missing ever since? If it were a pure police stunt, why did he want to run away?
§ Mr. SHORTT
Really, it is not fair criticism to try to make up a case against the police. If that is the sort of argument, I really do not think I need trouble the House any more on the point. That is typical of all the charges. I have at this box before protested against the attack upon the honour of perfectly honourable men. Apparently any stick is good enough to beat Major Price with, or anyone who is doing his duty under most difficult circumstances. I do not propose to deal any further with it. We have heard these charges over and over again, and have denied them over and over again, and it is useless taking up the time of the House in denying them once more. The policy of this Government has not changed in the least. The policy of this Government is to restore order in Ireland.
§ Mr. SHORTT
That is the hon. Gentleman's opinion. My opinion differs from his. My information differs from his. The policy of the Government is exactly the 2789 policy it was and remains, namely, a policy of Home Rule for Ireland. I do not want to indulge in recriminations. I am not going to argue here to-night who is to blame for what is taking place in Ireland. Suffice it to say this, I absolutely decline on the part of the Government to admit that we have anything but a minor share of the fault.
§ Mr. KING
Surely if there is any truth in the doctrine that we ought to judge the Government by its achievements, or, to put it another way, "By their fruits ye shall know them," there are two countries in regard to which the Government of this country, during the past four years, stands condemned as incapable and contemptible. The two countries to which I refer are Ireland and Russia. Turn your thoughts to four and a half years ago, when we were told that Ireland was the one blight spot. What have we got to-day? Ireland hopeless and helpless, because of the duplicity, incapacity, crooked and contemptible ways of the Government in dealing with it. And really the same remark in the case of Ireland applies to Russia. More than four and a half years ago no country was so united with this country in aim, in methods, in complete harmony of action and purpose; no country was so determined against German aggression and German militarism. And what is the case to-day? We are virtually at war with Ireland. The right hon. Gentleman could only manage Ireland by interning hundreds of the best men in Ireland. I wonder he has not interned the right hon. Gentleman behind him. I think it is only through lack of courage that he has not done so. We are practically at war with Ireland. In spirit there could not be anything more deplorable than the relations between Ireland and this country, and it is exactly the same with Russia. After the greatest enthusiasm four years ago, continuing as it did after the revolution one and a half years ago, we are to-day in an actual state of war with that country, and, moreover, we are at war with that country apparently alone of all the countries of the world. Our warfare with Germany has ceased, but our warfare with our great Ally at the beginning of the War is not only to continue, but, apparently, from all the indications we have, it is to be carried on with greater energy, and now that our soldiers, our sailors, and all our military forces are relieved in other spheres, we are to carry on the war in Russian with redoubled energy. I deplore 2790 this state of things. I think it lamentable. I think that a war against Russia ought not to be carried on without definite reason and definite objects. Attempts have been made by myself and by others in this country and other countries, in the Press, by public men to find out for what objects our military operations are still being carried on in Russia. When I ask questions, or others ask questions, absolutely no reply is given. For what reason are we carrying on war in Russia? I gave notice to two Departments that I would raise this question, and I have had quite friendly and courteous consultation with representatives of those two Departments about the subject, but no one attends. Only a few hours ago I had a definite promise that someone would be present to answer this question. I ask the House to observe we are carrying on a war against Russia, or in Russia. There is no attempted explanation of it, and I cannot understand it. Let me recur to the point, at the end of July and the beginning of August, when the present military operations in Russia were begun. An explanation was then given by Mr. Lansing, the American Secretary of State. I quote his exact words:Intervention in Russia was solely to aid the Czecho-Slovaks to leave Russia for the Russian Front and not to establish an Eastern battle front.The Czecho-Slovaks, when the fighting started, instead of making for the Western Front, have been moving all the time towards the Eastern Front—that is from somewhere in Siberia. They have been moving the whole time towards Vladivostok. They have been offered repeatedly by the Russian Government that they might pass through Russia either to Archangel or elsewhere on the Russian Western Front if they passed through without their arms. As the Czecho-Slovaks had all been prisoners of war, and as it is usual to disarm prisoners of war, and as on the conclusion of Russia's hostilities against the Central Powers they were offered the opportunity of returning home without their arms, we ought, I think, to have some explicit statement why, in the first place, the repeated offers of the Russian Government have not been accepted, and, secondly, why they have not been allowed, as Mr. Lansing put it, "to leave Russia for their Western Front." Then I think we ought to observe that though Mr. Lansing, on behalf of the American Government, stated most explicitly that 2791Military intervention in Russia was entirely and solely on behalf of the Czecho-Slovaks to liberate themthere is this fact, that many of the speeches and remarks by Allied statesmen have indicated that the intervention was to draw the German soldiers from the German Western Front so that, by getting behind the German lines in Russia, their strength on the West, in France and Flanders, would be weakened by their having to retain soldiers on the Russian borderland. Though Mr. Lansing repudiated the idea of establishing an Eastern Front yet that view has always been pressed in various utterances by both French and English statesmen as one of the objects of our operations. Now that there are no German hostilities, and no power on the part of the Germans to continue the War, that object, obviously, must be out of the question. It cannot possibly be the object of our military operations in Russia to draw off German soldiers from the Western to the Eastern Front. Beyond this there may be other objects. I notice in various papers of very high authority other objects are being stated. I take, for instance, the objects stated by that very eminent journalist, Mr. Garvin, in "The Observer." Mr. Garvin appears to have exceptional opportunities of knowing the mind of the Government, and especially the policy of the Prime Minister. He says:Further intervention in Russia against Bolshevism will be imperative, for we must enable the former Russian territories to rise. The Peace Congress will take the responsibility for remaking Russia.These are very important words coming from that authority. I hope they will be repudiated. I maintain that the Peace Congress has no authority, and ought to have none, to continue a war against Russia for the purpose of re-making Russia. If the doctrine of self-determination for nationalities and great countries is to be justified and acted upon, the doctrine put forward that the Peace Congress must take the responsibility for re-making Russia, and must continue its military intervention in that sense, and with that object should be definitely stated. It is so novel and so extraordinary a doctrine that it should be made clear. In connection with this doctrine, that in order to re-make Russia and establish commercial or political relations with ourselves or congenial to those who undertake these operations, I must quote 2792 what a German Junker paper, the "Kreutzerzeitung," says. That journal, which, as anybody knows, is one of the leading Conservative Junker papers in Germany, supporting the idea of continued military intervention in Russia, says, or said:The fight against Bolshevism may prove to be the bridge between us and our enemies.In other words, it contemplated the time when the capitalists and militarists of this country and the Allies should join with the capitalists and militarists of Germany, and the bridge which leads them into Russia and to Russian exploitation and domination should be the union of interests. Those words are very significant. The way in which this war against Russia is being carried on and the objects that are being maintained by all sorts and conditions of the Press, Liberal and Conservative papers alike, with the same object, entering Russia as a great land of booty and adventure, ought to be made clear. What are our intentions in this matter should be stated. Let me quote one other Minister, Lord Rothermere, in his great organ of the Press, says:Russia cannot save herself, but order must be imposed from without.This is what the "Star," a Radical paper, says:It assumes that the Turkish armistice is aimed at our continuing our military operations in Europe, and urges that the great granaries of Southern Russia and the oil reservoirs of Baku will now be open to our trade.Central and Northern Russia are starving and yet we are told the granaries there are for us. Rather strange view for a Radical paper. What are the objects of the Government? We have a right to know how long this campaign is going on. With what object and when and on what conditions the Russian campaign will be brought to a close. I suppose really there never was a campaign that was undertaken so rashly and on such bad information. Again and again, in talking to various people, Ministers amongst them, I was told, three or four months ago, in July especially, that as soon as an Allied force entered Russia the power of the Bolsheviks as a dominant party in the Soviet of the day would collapse, and that all the other parties would unite with the soldiers who came in, and that there would then be peace and harmony in Russia. That opinion was stated in the House and constantly in the Press, and it was a constant supposition of many conversations with authorities on the subject 2793 that the Bolshevik power would collapse as soon as an intervention Army entered that country.
What has happened? Just exactly what would happen if the German Army had entered Ireland. Instead of being at loggerheads with us, the Irish would all have rallied to our side, just as much as if a German Army entered England Radicals and Conservatives, Coalitionists and Labour men, in fact, every man, would have rallied to the side of the defenders of their native soil. That is exactly what has happened in Russia. I read in many papers there the result of our military intervention in Russia, instead of producing a collapse of the Bolsheviks, has really been their establishment. In fact, this is so much the case that in an elaborate account of the position in Russia the other day the "Times," after having prophesied for weeks the collapse of the Bolsheviks, heads one of its articles "Bolshevik Rule Extending"; and we read how the Bolshevik power is extending over North and Central Russia, and from the Urals to the Ukraine. The Bolsheviks have been consolidated by our action, and if your object was to put Bolshevism down, you have gone the wrong way about it. Now you see Bolshevik doctrines spreading like wildfire throughout Europe; and who can say what is the prevailing sentiment amongst the great German people, because, though defeated, starved, discouraged, disheartened, and depressed, they are yet a great people in numbers, genius, and potentiality, and who can say what the prevailing spirit is amongst them? May it not be Bolshevism? I remember reading a speech made by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Fife (Mr. Asquith), in which he declared that "Bolshevism was sinking into its grave." The right hon. Gentleman has made many wise observations in his time, but he has sometimes made remarkably foolish ones, and of all the foolish things he ever said, I think that is the most foolish. I know we have all made mistakes, but has anybody ever made so great a mistake as to declare two months ago that Bolshevism was sinking into its grave, when, as a matter of fact, it is spreading like wildfire over Germany, Austria, and Bulgaria, and our Government is afraid of it here. Military intervention in Russia has only helped to fan the flame, and has added fuel 2794 to it. Who are the Bolsheviks? They are the extreme logical followers of the doctrine of Karl Marx. It is a very popular thing now to represent the Bolsheviks as an absolutely uncultured, incapable set of men, and I would like to quote what the "Daily Mail" says about them through their very eminent correspondent, Mr. Hamilton Fife. This is what they said of Lenin:We must not think of the men Lenin, Trotsky, and Tchitcherin as men of no account or mere mob leaders. Lenin is a thinker and writer. He has been for many years the director of the Bolshevik party, chiefly in exile, but he is a man of high culture, although he is deliberately careless in his dress and prefers to look like a peasant or town labourer, but he has honest ideals.I have had the pleasure of meeting some of these men, and I am not ashamed to say I consider they are as much gentlemen as I am a gentleman myself. [HON. MEMBERS:" Hear, hear!"] I consider that in intellect and eloquence they are even the equal of the Under-Secretary of State for War (Mr. Macpherson). You may represent them through your mob Press, your War Aims Committee, and your other organs of gramophone opinions, as mere blackguards, or whatever else you like, but it does not alter the fact that they are of vital importance in this campaign and to the country and the nation which they have behind them. The idea that you have only to send a few soldiers there and all the people will tally to your banner and down these Bolsheviks is absurd.
There is another fact about Russia which is too painful to ignore. Russia suffered years before any other country in this War from a shortage of food. I have tried to make out the facts on the best evidence that I could get, and I am convinced that food shortage, which in one form or another has attacked every belligerent country and every neutral country in Europe, attacked Russia earlier than any other country, and that there are now, and have been for a year, people dying of absolute starvation in Russia. A very grave responsibility lies upon those who continue this War, meaning as it does the closing of all ports in Russia against the import either of food or rolling stock or engines or anything else, increased difficulties of transport, of food supply, and of the organisation of the people, and the continuation of a horrible state of starvation in Russia. I was speaking the other day to a gentleman who knows Russian 2795 conditons better than anyone else in this country, and he says that if this War goes on there may be millions die of starvation. If it goes on a second year, during next summer and the following winter, without any help in the form of engines, rolling stock, or food, it must mean the perishing of 5,000,000 from starvation.
§ Mr. KING
It is the fault of the people who carry on war when peace may be made. It is certainly not the fault of the poor peasants who are being starved. If the punishment fell upon those who are guilty for all this horrible business, I should not complain, but it falls upon the weak, the helpless, and the poor peasant. That is the horror of this War. I have no wish to abuse anyone. I think everyone is as capable of pity and desires to do justice as much as I do myself, but when a war is being continued under such peculiar conditions one has the right to ask how far and how long it is going to be continued. There is one point of special interest to which I am justified in referring. The various terms of Armistice in the case of Turkey, Austro-Hungary, and Germany all give us particular military facilities for continuing our operations in Russia. There is Article 15 of the Armistice with Turkey—Allied control officers to be placed on all railways, including such portions of the Trans-caucasian railways now under Turkish control, which must be placed at the free and complete disposal of the Allied authorities, due consideration being given to the needs of the population. This clause to include Allied occupation of Batum.Batum is Russian territory, but by the terms of the Armistice we are entitled to occupy Batum—a most unusual condition. Then it goes on:Turkey will raise no objection to the occupation of Baku by the Allies.Here are two Russian ports to be occupied by us if we choose. I could in the same way follow various Articles in the three Armistices which seem framed or which might have been framed for a continuation on a very large scale of our military operations in Russia. We really ought to have some assurance that these military operations will be brought to a close as soon as possible, that we are not going to interfere with the right of the Russians to set up what Government they like, and that we are not there to occupy 2796 the country and manage it for a long period in order to get gain or recompense or repayment of debt or any other material advantage. We ought to seek only the freedom, the self-determination, and the happiness of the Russian people. If we are going to do that by continued military occupation, or continued military invasion, it will indeed be a sad descent from our noble achievements and our noble ideals of liberty and democracy which on the whole this country and the Allies have so wonderfully maintained. I do appeal to the right hon. Gentleman to give us some indication as to how long and with what object this war with Russia is to be continued.
I desire at this somewhat late hour to draw the attention of the Government quite briefly to a matter one of the phases of which was dealt with incidentally yesterday in this House by question and answer. The question was asked of the Leader of the House whether at the earliest possible date members of the Volunteer Training Corps who were serving as such by reason of a certificate of exemption to which was annexed a condition that they should serve in the Volunteer Training Corps would be released from such service at as early a date as was practicable, and I was very glad indeed to hear the answer by the Leader of the House that this would be brought to the attention of the Government as soon as possible.
As this House is aware, there are many members of the Volunteer Training Corps who are serving as such not incidental to the exemption from military service, but because they took up this very important work quite voluntarily and from the most patriotic motive. Many of these men have been serving, as I well know, from the very early days of the War, and they have given most loyal and effective service. Their conditions of business are such now and their staffs have been so reduced that their work has almost reached a strain which has come to breaking-point. I do desire to ask my right hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for War whether he will bring to the notice of the Government this question, in order that not merely those who have this condition annexed to their exemption certificates, but those who are serving in the Volunteer Training Corps may be released at such early date as is practicable and feasible I was glad to notice, two or three moments ago, that my right hon. Friend 2797 the Acting Secretary for Home Affairs is also in his place, because I wish for a moment to refer to the case of those who are serving as special constables. Many of those, as we all know, have given many of their midnight and waking hours to this service for a long time. Latterly, at the request of the Local Government Board, this condition that they should serve as special constables has been attached, in a very large number of cases, to the certificates of exemption from Volunteer service. I hope His Majesty's Government will consider as speedily as possible whether some, at any rate, of those to whom the service as special constables is annexed may not, owing to their special domestic and business positions, be re-leased from that covenant which they gave as early as is consistent with the national position and the service of their country.
§ The UNDER-SECRETARY Of STATE for WAR (Mr. Macpherson)
I think the House will like me to reply to the two speeches which have just been delivered. I appreciate to the full the admirable service of the Volunteer Training Corps, and I agree with every word that my hon. and gallant Friend has said about their services. To-day I was discussing the question as to their future with the military authorities at the War Office, and I can assure my hon. and gallant Friend that steps will be taken as quickly as possible to see what can be done for the men who have received exemption upon the condition that they join the Volunteers. In my opinion these men have not only a claim but the right to return to their civil service in the country. With regard to those who voluntarily enlisted at the very beginning of the War, no one in this House could fail to recognise the patriotic endeavours and patriotic services of these men. They were men who had physical disabilities, or who were over military age, and who were busy citizens of the United Kingdom, yet all their spare time they fully and in all cases thankfully devoted to the service of this kingdom, in case at any time they might be called upon to render resistance to any foe who dared to invade this country. I can assure my hon. and gallant Friend that these two classes will have my most sincere sympathy, and will have my sympathetic attention at once. I hope to be in a position, probably before the House rises or before Parliament 2798 dissolves, to be able to reply at greater length to my hon. and gallant-Friend.
A series of questions were raised by my hon. Friend the Member for North Somerset (Mr. King). Those questions were ingenious in their nature, very comprehensive and bristling with difficulties. I am sure the House will not be surprised when I tell them that I am not in a position, nor do I think any Minister of the Crown is in a position to answer all the questions that he put. I personally regard them as not being in the national interest. When I remind my hon. Friend that the Inter-Allied Congress will meet very shortly and that all the questions he has raised to-night will be discussed at that Congress, he will feel, I am sure, that it would be impossible to give a definite answer, because it is not this House alone that decides these questions. They will be decided as a whole at the Inter-Allied Congress. I, therefore, do not propose to discuss them, and can only assure my hon. Friend that all these questions will be discussed at the Inter-Allied Congress and that they are prepared to discuss them I do not personally agree with his praise of the Bolsheviks. My view of the Bolshevik is. I gather, the view of the whole House, namely, that the Bolshevik, whatever might have been said of him at the beginning, is a pure anarchist. I for one feel that I could not allow the definition given by my hon. Friend of the Bolsheviks to remain unchallenged.
§ Mr. MACPHERSON
I do not care what the "Daily Mail" said; I can only judge them by their deeds. I am certain no Member of the House will agree with my hon. Friend in praising these men when they read of the brutalities and dastardly crimes—
§ Mr. MACPHERSON
I can only rely upon the recollection of the House. The impression created upon my mind was that my hon. Friend was out to defend them. I can only recall to the House the numerous instances of dastardly cruelty inflicted upon the peasants. The peasants have 2799 been treated as badly as anyone. The record of the last few months of the Bolshevik Government is disgraceful, and I am astonished that any Member of the British House of Commons, which is out for freedom, justice, and liberty, should make the observations which my hon. Friend has made. What I object to much more strongly is that the whole tone of his speech was an indirect attack upon the good intentions of this country. He suggested indirectly, if not directly, that we were in Russia at present for aggrandisement of territory. The one bright fact during the whole of this War, to my mind, is that our motives and intentions were pure, and we have entered this conflict, as we shall end it, without any of the guilty motives which my hon. Friend suggests we have.
§ Question put, and agreed to.