§ I thank the House for the indulgence with which Members have listened to me. The condition of the nation is grave at the moment. It can be redeemed by effort. We are suffering enormously from under-production and over-consumption. We are not living as a nation within our means. We must ruthlessly cut down all needless expenditure, public and private, and must increase production by every legitimate endeavour. With production, we get prosperity; without it, we starve. To ensure production, the good will of all engaged in the task of production is essential. With that good will every reasonable cause of complaint must be removed. Confidence must be restored—the confidence of the workman in his employer—yea, the confidence of the employer in the workman—the confidence of both. Then their business will be conducted under conditions of fairness. That is our problem, and there is the solution. With effort, with endeavour, the prospects are good. The nations are 2022 thirsting for goods. They have gone without them for four or five years of the War, and they are anxious that we should put them on their markets. All we want is that we should settle down to our daily tasks. Let Europe settle down. Europe is suffering in exactly the same way, only in a worse degree. It is tossed about and troubled, and unable to resume its task. It is in the condition, known to those who live on the seaside, especially on the Western shores, where the sea, after a pro longed period of tempestuous weather, cannot settle down. Then you have continuous waves rolling in from each and every direction, thrashing each other—helpless, restless confusion. Navigation is difficult and dangerous under those conditions. Some seek to help, Some lie prostrate and weary. Some try to upset the boat, either because they dislike the steersman, or want to steer themselves, or because they prefer some crazy craft of their own. With a clear eye, a steady hand, and a willing heart, we will row through into calmer and bluer waters. But we must know where we are rowing. The Government have done their best to give a direction. Let all who will man the boat, and save the nation.
§ Mr. ADAMSON
In the address to which the House has just listened the Prime Minister referred to many questions of vital interest to the people of this country, and I have no doubt that his words will be eagerly read with a view of seeing whether he has found a way out of the serious position in which all sections of our people believe that the country stands at the present moment. In the beginning of that very long speech to which we have just listened the Prime Minister stated that a time had arrived when we ought to speak plainly. With that sentiment I am in complete agreement. I think that the time has arrived when, if we are to be saved as a nation, we require to have some very plain speaking indeed, and, notwithstanding the many questions that have been touched upon by the Prime Minister in the course of his admirable address, there are certain points on which, I think, he has not spoken as plainly as many of us would have liked. During the course of his address, he complained that there were some people who were thinking that we should instantly return to normal times when the War was over. I do not think that there are many people in the country who were foolish enough to imagine that, after the conflict such as we have been engaged in for about 2023 four and a half years, it was possible for us immediately to return to normal conditions. But I would remind the Prime Minister that almost nine months have passed since the Armistice was signed, since the fighting was practically finished, and as yet the people of this country see no sign of our returning to normal conditions. Nine months is a long time, and we should have had some sign of returning to normal conditions in the course of that period. The Prime Minister, dealing with that same particular idea, pointed out that he remembered, as Minister of Munitions, how long it took us to change from peace conditions to war conditions, and he believed that it would take us as long to change from war conditions to peace conditions. As one who has every intention of speaking plainly, I want to say to the Prime Minister that, if he is correct, it will be a bad job for this nation if it takes us as long to change from war conditions to peace conditions as it took us to change from peace conditions to war conditions. If we have to go on spending at anything like the rate we have been spending for five years, then I do not think the financial resources of this nation will stand the strain for the length of time the Prime Minister seems to have in his mind that it will take us to change from war conditions to peace conditions.
The first question with which the Prime Minister dealt in an exhaustive way was the trade position. He gave us what he called—I think very rightly—the facts of the case. He pointed out how the facts of the position before the War had been completely reversed. Before the War we were able to have the balance in our favour, that balance being secured, as the right hon. Gentleman very carefully explained, by interest, by our carrying trade, exchange, and other things. One question occurs to me, because I think I realise the vital importance of the things named by the Prime Minister in putting the national balance on the right side. I should like to ask the Prime Minister whether the report is true that the Government, since the War ended, have sold to a foreign country 161 ships of various kinds, because, if so, it was a very foolish thing to do? I put that as a question, because I realise the careful explanation of the Prime Minister, that when our trade before the War was summed up we had still an ad verse balance against us of £150,000,000 2024 and that our carrying trade, interest, and the exchange changed it into a balance in our favour of, as I understood it, £200,000,000. If these things were vital to us before the War they are more vital to us now, and this question about the sale of ships to foreign countries is put because it bears on the point, and because it appears to me, if true, to be a foolish transaction, crippling us seriously in our efforts to restore our financial position.
The Prime Minister then went on to say that if we were to get out of our deplorable condition we must increase our production. I want to say quite frankly to the Prime Minister and to the House—and in saying this I carry the assent of everyone associated with me on these benches—we are at one with the right hon. Gentleman there—we believe that we must increase production if we are to get out of the condition, in which we are at present. But in discussing this vital matter of the in crease of production I want to say quite frankly that I do not think we will help the position very much if we look at it continually from the point of view of getting that increased production out of the workmen alone. In the course of his treatment of this question of increased production, the Prime Minister pointed out that in America wages were higher and hours were as short, but that labour costs were much lower than in this country. I want to ask the Prime Minister why have we that state of affairs in America? I am looking at it now from the point of view of the mining industry here and in America. Does the Prime Minister, or does he or the House, remember that the reason we have labour costs lower and higher production, so far as mining is concerned, in America—
§ The PRIME MINISTER
I know, of course, why the men produce more in the mines, but I was not thinking of mining at the moment I spoke, but rather of iron and steel. The figures I had bore exclusively on that.
§ Mr. ADAMSON
Take iron and steel, or any of the industries of America. I ask the Prime Minister, Does he think that it is because the American workmen can, man for man, produce more than can the British workmen? I do not believe it. I would have the Prime Minister and the House remember that many of these men producing in the various industries of America at present are men who have been trained here and have gone forth 2025 from this country to America. No, Sir, the reason why you have increased production and lower labour costs in America is because you have the American employer of labour paying more attention to the machinery of production than is the case with the British employer of labour. If we are going to increase our production—and to live as a nation we must increase our production!—this is a matter not for the workmen alone. I know how vital it is for production that we should face this important issue, but it is not a matter for the workmen alone. It must be faced by the employer of labour as well as by the workman. It is the duty of the Government to see that employers of labour do face this issue. If it is to be faced successfully, then you will have to scrap your machinery to a large extent in many industries here. You will have to employ more machinery in certain industries where, at the present time, very little machinery is used. You will have to scrap your antiquated methods of transport in many sections of the industrial system.
You will also—and this is just as important as the other things I have mentioned—have to stop the cheese-paring policy that has been adopted by a section of British employers. This is a thing you do not find prevailing to the same extent in America. Once your rates of wages have been fixed in the United States, if the workman increases his production the workman gets the benefit of that increased production. That has not been the case in the industrial system of this country. You here find a man or men who have been working at a certain rate, and because they were able, by putting extra skill, energy, and knowledge into their work to raise their wages by 1s. or 2s. per week over what was looked upon as the standard wage, the employer came down and cut into the rate, lowering it, and killing the initiative of his men. There are many industries in this country where the employer is entirely to blame for killing his men's initiative by this cheese-paring policy. If the present position of matters is to be remedied that sort of thing re quires stopping, and the employer and the Government must see to it that, if the workman is prepared to give of his best both of brain and brawn, he enjoys the fruits of his industry to a far larger extent than ever before.
Still dealing with this subject the Prime Minister said that we must either increase our production or lower our standard of 2026 life. There is one other thing I observed, and that is where I complain of the Prime Minister not speaking out as plainly as I would like, because I think the time has come for plain speaking. Does not the Prime Minister think that the same thing that applies to the workman's standard of wages should apply to profits? I am dealing with profits that have obtained till now, and still obtain. Surely if we are to increase our production these things that I have briefly discussed are vital to securing increased production. If we are to attain to a greater degree of financial prosperity than we enjoy at the present moment, and if the country is to be saved from disaster, you do not require only to increase your production. There are several other ways in which you can assist in regaining your financial stability. You can spend money wisely. When once you earn it, in spending it wisely you will assist yourself financially very much. The Armistice has been signed nine months. The Government is still spending at the rate of £4,420,000 per day, fully £2,000,000 more than the Chancellor of the Exchequer is able, under existing conditions, to raise, thus adding to the burdens we have to bear. Since the Armistice we have spent no less than £70,000,000 on Russia. We cannot go on spending at that rate, and the Government had better realise it. I do not believe that people will stand any Government spending at that rate very much longer. We have not had much in formation as to the Prime Minister's intention to put down Estimates. My advice is to begin from now, and in the most drastic fashion end the extravagance that goes on in Government Departments, and cut down your Estimates at the earliest possible moment.
Take, for example, the item connected with the Air Force, on which we are spending no less than £66,000,000. The American Government proposed to spend almost an equal sum, but the American Parliament refused to endorse it, and only gave power to spend not more than £10,000,000. That is an illustration of how we continue foolishly to spend money, much of which could be saved. The Secretary for War has made several interesting speeches this Session on the reorganisation of the Army. He told us of the numbers of the men and the manner in which they are to be reorganised, but he made no allowance of the effect that the establishment of the League of Nations would have on our international relations 2027 in the future. What are we continuing to spend these vast sums upon the Army and Navy for? Where is the enemy that is a danger to the people of this country at the moment against whom we require to pre pare? Germany, the country against which we had to prepare prior to 1914, is no longer a menace, and Russia is not a menace. Are our Allies France or America a menace to us? I do not think so. I see no signs of it, and there is no need for the vast sums of money which are still being spent on the Army and the Navy to continue. You are heaping up by the expenditure an amount of dissatisfaction on the part of the parents of the lads who are still being retained against their will in the Army and the Navy. One of the things the Prime Minister requires to do is to drastically cut down the Army and Navy Estimates as well as the Civil Service.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
Not the Civil Service?
§ Mr. ADAMSON
Yes; I could give examples in the Civil Service in which you can well afford to cut down drastically the Estimates that we have passed. There is another way in which we can assist the financial position in which we find ourselves. In addition to wisely spending the money the Chancellor of the Exchequer is able to raise, we can in various ways make more money as a nation than we are doing at the present time. The Prime Minister told us that one of the things he intended to do was to use more effectively the water-power of this country that was running to waste, and I hope that will be done, for I have suggested it before. The water-power of this country should be effectively used for the benefit of the nation, and not for private enterprise, and the returns ought to come to the public purse and not to the private individual.
Another method is for the Government to effectively exploit whatever oil supplies there are in this country, and this should be done by the nation securing the profit instead of the private individual. There is also the question of the Post Office, which is now national property. Its operations are very limited, and you stop at the very point where the Post Office could become a very profitable institution, and you permit business that really ought to be transacted through the postal department to be undertaken by private en- 2028 terprise, and consequently the profit made in that way finds its way into the pockets of the private individual instead of the State. These are just examples of the way in which the Government would add to the money that is now being raised by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and I hope they will give the question of a national development of these very important national services more attention.
I wish to say a word or two with reference to raising funds to enable us to get into a healthier financial condition. In the course of his speech the Prime Minister several times mentioned the manufacture of munitions. Only last week a Profiteering Bill passed through all its stages, but that Bill was only a skeleton of the measure that some of us thought was necessary in order to effectively deal with the question of profiteering, and it does not give any power to the Government to examine the position from the point of view of profiteering during the last five years. If it had done so, I suggest to the Prime Minister that would have enabled the Government to have raised considerable sums of money which would have been very helpful in getting over our financial difficulties. The Prime Minister gave us an example, and he pointed out, when defending the voluntary workers in the various Government Departments, that they have been the means of cutting down to an enormous ex tent the price of shells and other necessaries which the Government required during the War. Why were they able to cut down those prices? Because they were able to keep a closer eye on those supplying the necessities of the nation. But, nevertheless, these people were able to continue to make enormous profits, even after the voluntary workers came in. That in itself surely points to the necessity for this Profiteering Bill being made retrospective, so that the Chancellor of the Exchequer may be able to get millions of pounds that have been made by the profiteers out of the necessities of the people of this country.
An hon. Member for one of the Divisions of Aberdeen has been going closely into this matter by questions to the various Government Departments, and the result is that he is convinced that at least £1,000,000,000 could be recovered in the way I am suggesting. I hope the Government is going to have the Profiteering Bill strengthened, so that the profiteer will have rather a rough time if he attempts to 2029 continue his unholy operations. Not only that, but I hope it will be made retrospective, and that the millions out of which we have been fleeced will be brought back into the public pocket, and this will enable us to get over some of our financial difficulties. My last point is the question of the Government policy so far as the mining industry is concerned. I want to say frankly that personally I was much disappointed to hear the Prime Minister outline the policy of the Government. In dealing with that particular part of his address this afternoon, the Prime Minister pointed out that he had never made any promise that they would nationalise the mines, or that the Government would give effect even to the Report of the Commission they had set up. I do not charge the Prime Minister with saying that the Government would give effect to the Report, but I want to remind him of the work of his colleague, the Leader of the House. When the right hon. Gentleman was reporting here what was contained in the Interim Report of the Coal Com mission he pointed out what had been re commended by Mr. Justice Sankey and three of his colleagues, first as to wages, then hours, and the other matters in the Report. He then went on to point out that the members of the Commission, and particularly the Chairman, had stated that, if this Interim Report was accepted, it was the intention that they would go on to consider the question of nationalisation, housing, baths, and other questions of that kind. After he made that explanation, he added, "And it is the intention of the Government to carry out the Report in the spirit and in the letter."
§ The PRIME MINISTER
That is the Interim Report.
§ Mr. ADAMSON
But you cannot dissociate the circumstances that surrounded the making of that statement, and to such an extent is that the case that I can assure the Prime Minister and the Leader of the House that the vast majority of the mining community believed—
§ Mr. BONAR LAW (Leader of the House)
May I interrupt the right hon. Gentleman? I have just been told the substance of his speech, and that he says that I gave some promise that I accepted in advance. Will he give me the precise words by which I made such a promise?
§ Mr. ADAMSON
I went on to describe what occurred in the House, and how, in 2030 reporting here as to what was contained in the Interim Report of the Sankey Commission, the right hon. Gentleman pointed out that it gave 2S. a day in wages, a reduction of one hour, and several other matters, and that, if this was satisfactory to the miners, Mr. Justice Sankey had intimated that the Commission was quite prepared to continue its sittings and deal with housing, baths, railway clearances, and nationalisation, and all those sort of things; and he then said, "And the Government intend to give effect to the Report in the spirit and in the letter." I think those were the words he used.
§ Mr. BONAR LAW
"To this Report."
§ Mr. ADAMSON
You cannot dissociate the Interim Report from what you were describing was to follow. I do not want to claim too much there; all I want to say is that the circumstances of the words were such that the vast majority of the mining community believed that, if the majority of the Commission reported in favour of nationalisation, the Government would accept that Report. The majority has re ported in favour of nationalisation, and to-day we have had the Prime Minister telling us that they are not going to accept the Report of the majority, but are rather going to follow the lines suggested by one single member of the Commission. What has been outlined by the Prime Minister as being the policy of the Government, so far as mines are concerned, is practically the Report of Sir Arthur Duckham, which is signed by him alone and by no other member of the Commission. The Prime Minister and the Government may take this view, but, supposing that to be the policy, it does not dispose of the question of nationalisation of the mines. The idea of the nationalisation of the essentials of national life has bitten far too deeply into the people of this country for this to be the last that will be heard of it. I believe that at the next General Election, and it may be at succeeding General Elections, the question of the nationalisation of the mines and railways will be test questions which the members of the present Government will require to face, as well as Members in other parts of the House. I hope we have not yet heard the last word from the Prime Minister and the Government so far as this important matter is concerned. I can assure him that, as I have just pointed out, even if they have made up their minds that they cannot go 2031 further, the question will be made a test question at every succeeding election until the principle has been secured and is made part and parcel of our national policy.
§ Lord ROBERT CECIL
I rise to make only a very few observations, and should not have risen at all except that I wanted to say a word about Armenia. Before I come to that, may I just express, with the greatest possible respect, my deep regret that the Government should have thought it right to follow the course of presenting this very elaborate review of their industrial policy, and the statements that have been made upon it, on the very last day of the Session. I recognise and admit, of course, what the Prime Minister said, namely, that that would give an opportunity to the country to consider the proposals before the House of Commons reassembles. But, with the greatest respect for the Prime Minister, I cannot help feeling that that really does indicate an opinion of the true functions of Parliament which I personally deplore. Parliament is here, not merely to listen to what is said outside, whether in the newspapers, in Trade Union Congresses, or anywhere else. Parliament is here to debate and discuss and give a lead to the nation. Under these circumstances it is practically impossible for Parliament to do that. I regret it because—and I hope the Prime Minister will not think me unduly critical—I do feel that the Government have on more than one occasion shown in this last week a really regrettable indifference to the dignity and the sovereignty of Parliament. I do not want to rake up old quarrels, nor again to go over our grievances in regard to the Profiteering Bill; but that was only one instance of several in which the Government have over and over again, as it seems to me, appeared to consider Parliament as the instrument for carrying out the policy of the Cabinet, and indeed of the Prime Minister. That really is not the Constitution under which we live, and it is not a Constitution that can be made to work in this country. Unless you preserve in the minds of the people of this country the prestige of Parliament, you really have no answer to direct action. It is the one safeguard you have against revolution, and there should be no consideration of Parliamentary convenience, no question of keeping the House sitting for another day or so, no question even of Ministerial convenience—which was the only excuse for the Profiteering Bill. 2032 There was no necessity for sitting up all night if Ministers had been prepared to sit a few more days. It is really a most wicked prostitution of Parliament to force a Bill of that magnitude and importance in one Sitting.
But that is not the only thing. I do not wish to say anything that would appear to be a criticism of the Prime Minister for not attending Parliament during the War and during the very strenuous months that have elapsed since, but I do hope that in the coming Session he will see whether he cannot be present rather more often than he has been. I am quite sure, if he will allow me to say so, that he would find his own work easier if he could keep himself in close personal touch with the House of Commons, and I am perfectly certain that it is useless to expect the people of this country to regard the House of Commons as the supreme, or one of the supreme elements of authority in the Government of the country if the Prime Minister very rarely attends its proceedings.
I am sorry to have begun on a note of criticism. May I say just a word as to the concluding observation of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Fife (Mr. Adamson). I am not foolish enough to suppose that nationalisation has been heard of for the last time. Nobody is. But I do hope and trust that, before the leaders of wage-earning opinion in this country commit themselves irrevocably to nationalisation, they will really carefully think out what it is that they hope to get. It is impossible to argue it at any length this evening, but, as it seems to me, the real demand of the working classes—with which I personally am profoundly sympathetic—is a demand for, to use a cant phrase, self-determination. What they really want is greater liberty and freedom, and control of their own destiny. I am sure of that whenever I talk to them. I was in my own Constituency on Saturday, and many of my Constituents say that they do not regard themselves as sufficiently free. They say. "We are treated like dogs." That is the kind of phrase that those who are discontented use. "We are not treated as free men; we are not given any real control or any real voice in the management of industry, or anything of that kind." I trust very much that the Government will be bold in this matter. The Prime Minister used some phrases which, if I may say so. I welcomed very heartily, about the changes which he hoped to make in the organisa- 2033 tion of industry. It seemed to me, however, though I may be wrong, that he was holding back from the full doctrine—namely that you must recognise that as you democratise your political institutions you have to democratise your industrial institutions. That really is the bottom truth of the matter. You cannot have a country as democratically governed as this one is in all political matters and maintain untouched the old organisation of industry, which is really based on the principle of autocracy
I only make that digression in order to say to hon. Gentlemen opposite, if I may, that you cannot get any freedom by nationalisation. It is a profound delusion to suppose that the direct wage-earning servants of the State are freer or have more control over their destiny, or any better share in the management of industry, than those who are serving private employers. It was an invention, I believe, of a German school of socialist economics which, I believe, is becoming discredited in France and in other countries, and which, I hope, will become discredited here. It is based on the theory that the State should have control of everything and rule and direct everything and destroy individual freedom. No one has less to gain from that than the wage-earning classes of this country. The Prime Minister said a great many things with which we are all in the heartiest agreement about the necessity for increasing production and for the diminution of industrial unrest. But I am not sure that he gave quite sufficient weight to the greatest cause of unrest, namely, that due to the present condition of prices. He spoke of wages having gone up, but I was very much struck, in talking with my Constituents on Saturday, by the universal proposition that they were better off on 21s. a week before the War than they are on £3 a week at the present time. Several of them gave me instances of this kind. They said, "We have to buy boots for our children. They cost 18s. 6d. now, as against 5s. before the War, and do not last half as long." If that is the case, a mere increase of wages will never meet it. I am sure it is right to say, as far as one can, the truth about these matters. I do not believe the stopping of profiteering is going to make a very great difference in prices. It may, in some cases, bring down the price of this or that article, but it will not be a general remedy. We must seek for remedies in increased 2034 production, in rigid economy, and, as I believe personally, in some reform of the currency conditions at present prevailing in this country. No doubt economy and production are the two great things, and if you are going to have economy you can only effect big economy if you direct your policy to that end. With that part of the Prime Minister's speech I am in entire agreement. What I want to urge on the Government is this, that the great national expenditure is expenditure on armaments. That is by far the most expensive part. If we are to have a reduction of armaments, it must be by changing our policy in such a way as will enable us to have that reduction. I am not going into particulars of foreign policy now, but I do say this, we have established a League of Nations, and we must make that a reality. It is no use having established it—indeed, it would be far better to scrap it—unless the Government mean to work it as a reality. I say that with some meaning. I am not satisfied at the present moment—and here I am not referring to Ministers—that some of the officials with their spirit of bureaucracy have any real desire to make the League of Nations what it should be. I find an illustration in the interesting speech made by the Secretary for War the other day, in which he advocated economy, but in which there was not the slightest reference to this point. I observe the same in almost all the speeches of Ministers dealing with this question. Really, we must try to get a new point of view and a new spirit if we are going to make the League of Nations a success, and if we intend to save this country from bankruptcy and disaster.
That brings me to the Armenian question. I feel in considerable difficulty in making any observations on this. The case for assisting Armenia is really over-whelming. I do not want to recount again to the House the history of the massacres of 1915—the most terrible that have ever happened in the history of the world. Nothing ever happened before involving such terrible destruction of life and the infliction of such suffering as happened in these Armenian massacres, when 800,000 people, out of a population of something over 2,000,000, were killed, and killed with the most brutal and wicked form of torture and cruelty. They were killed, do not let us forget, because the ruffians—there is no other word for them—who con- 2035 trolled the Turkish policy thought at that time they were likely to be of assistance of the Entente. The massacres were organised from Constantinople clearly because it was thought that the Armenians were our friends. At the time when Russia went to pieces through the Revolution, no doubt these Armenians had for some months to some extent maintained the Entente cause in that part of the world. They fought gallantly, but by so fighting they merely exacerbated the views which obtained in that part of the world. At the present time they find themselves in this position. They are surrounded by bitter enemies and treated as traitors, and they are still subject to the old Turkish influences. They are also the enemies of the Georgians, and I have not the slightest doubt that if we took our troops away the remainder of these unhappy people, probably a million and a half of them, would be slaughtered almost to a man, woman and child. It maybe a few would escape as they did before. Indeed, the people now there are largely composed of those who fled from the Turkish massacre in 1915.
It would be a great responsibility to take away the division and a half of British troops now there if it should mean that in consequence these people would be extinguished. I quite recognise the enormous difficulties of the Government. I do not want to press this matter unduly. I do not say that you must leave the troops there, because I recognise the warning which the Prime Minister has given, as to the financial danger to our position being extreme. We cannot, therefore, afford any expenditure there at this moment, unless it is absolutely and vitally essential, because if we spend money in excess, we may drive our country into economic disaster. At the same time I hope that some middle course may possibly be found. Something might be done by agreement. If there is competition between helping General Denikin and the Armenians I think the latter have a first claim. They have been our friends, and if we desert them they will certainly be destroyed. Therefore, if it be possible to help them by diverting some of the assistance that is being sent to General Denikin, it may be desirable to adopt this course. I merely throw this suggestion out. I do not want to press for any particular policy. I only wish to do what I can to put the case of these people before the 2036 House and before the country. I hope I may be forcing an open door so far as the Prime Minister is concerned, but surely it might be possible to accept assistance from another quarter. There are other nations, one of which was mentioned by the Prime Minister, which might, help in that direction, and if one of them could be induced to come to the assistance of the Armenians, either with money or in any other way at this moment, I am sure the Government could well accept such assistance with the greatest freedom. Anything that can be done—and I do not want to say anything that would be indiscreet—to assist these unhappy people should be done. Although I recognise the difficulties of the position, I hope we shall not have to deplore in a few months time the final extinction of a race which, what ever its faults, is a race which has had heroic passages in its history, and which has held aloft the banner of Christianity in a land in which that banner has not often been raised.
§ 8.0 P.M.
§ Mr. BRACE
I am sure the House listened, as it always does, with interest and attention to the speech of the Noble Lord. He deeply interested me not only with his human notes, but with his democratic declarations. I do not think there can be any great gulf between the Noble Lord and the Labour party, and, therefore, we shall not be surprised to find the Noble Lord discovering the broad ground on which he can conduct his operation for carrying into action his opinions among those who belong to the part with which I am associated. But I rose really to address myself to part of the speech of the Prime Minister. I really could have wished the right hon. Gentleman had made that speech not on the last day of but earlier in the Session. It is a speech of far-reaching importance, dealing as it does with questions vital in their character to the welfare of this nation in particular and of the world in general. I do not dissent from the conclusion of the Prime Minister when he said that if we are to reconstruct this nation upon a standard of life to which our people are entitled, then we must produce much more largely than we are doing to day. No doubt the dire need of the moment is production. When I came down to the House to-day I was full of hope, tinged with a little anxiety, as to what my right hon. Friend would have to say about the famous Box. I frankly confess he disappointed me with his proposal for deal- 2037 ing with the mining situation, as he certainly will have disappointed the mining community and all the working sections of it. I do not think he was quite fair to the Coal Commission or to the conclusions of the distinguished judge who presided over that Commission. The Prime Minister said that all that distinguished judge had to recommend his proposal for nationalisation was that it was going to bring about a better under standing between employers and workmen and to give industrial peace to the country. But my right hon. Friend forgot to quote sections of the Commission's Report which had a much more important bearing upon the Coal Commission's conclusion than the statement made by the Prime Minister, and if the House will bear with me for a moment, I would like to draw attention to Clause 18 of the Second Report, in which the learned judge, who was Chairman of the Commission, says:There are in the United Kingdom about 3,000 pits owned by about 1,500 companies or individuals. The unification of State ownership makes it possible to apply the principles of standardisation of materials and appliances, and thereby to effect economies to an extent which is impossible under a system where there are so many individual owners.That is entirely different from what the Prime Minister told the House as to the foundation upon which the Chairman of the Royal Commission makes his report. Here we have the fact that there are 3,000 pits owned by 1,500 different firms, and that therefore, apart from the unification of these firms under Nationalisation, it is impossible to bring about a standardisation such as will make for a larger output than is being obtained to-day. In addition to that I would call the Prime Minister's attention to Clause 3 of the same Report. The learned judge and his colleagues did not ask, and certainly did not expect that the Government was going to put a scheme of mining nationalisation into operation to-morrow because Clause 3 contains this provision:I recommend that the scheme of local administration hereinafter set out, or any modification of it, adopted by Parliament, be immediately set up with the aid of the Coal Controller's Department, and that Parliament be invited to pass legislation acquiring the coal mines for the State after the scheme has been worked for three years from the date of this Report, paying fair and just compensation to the owners.What the Chairman of the Coal Commission and his colleagues who agreed 2038 with him desired was that we should endeavour by a gradual system to bring into operation in this country mines nationalisation spread over three years. We should know by then whether the scheme would apply. It was not to come into operation all at once. It was to be under the control and in charge of the Coal Control Department, and if at the end of the three years it was found upon that experience that mines nationalisation was not going to give the country the output it required, then would be the time to come to this House and say that mines nationalisation had proved in practice to be a failure. I must ask the Government to reconsider their decision upon this point. Output is absolutely necessary or we perish as a world Power. That being so, it is no use dealing with this question in any fragmentary manner. We must get down to the bottom of it. What is it the Government propose? I am not going to belittle the proposals dealing with housing and the social amelioration of the people I represent. I welcome gladly the proposal that before the Government will allow the money to be paid over for the minerals of this land a proportion of that money shall be taken to enable the mining community to reconstruct their lives upon a higher standard than exists to-day in the mining villages of the country. When I am asked, when this House is asked, when the large masses of the people whom with my colleagues I represent, are asked to accept the scheme of the Government, I would ask the Prime Minister and the Government to realise that all that they are proposing is a glorified combine of private capital. That is what it amounts to. You are going to divide the United Kingdom into certain districts, and all the collieries in those districts are to be brought into an amalgamation. That amalgamation is to be the one unit for operating the mining industry in that part of the country, and upon that Labour is to have a voice. What kind of voice? Is it an effective voice?
§ The PRIME MINISTER indicated assent.
§ Mr. BRACE
Very well. The Prime Minister says that Labour is to have an effective, voice. Do you think that the coal-owners are going to welcome Labour having an effective voice upon that? I 2039 invite the right hon. Gentleman to consider for one moment Section 32, page 11, of this Second Report. This is what I want him to appreciate:The attitude of the colliery owners is well expressed by Lord Gainsford, who, speaking on their behalf as a witness before the Commission, stated; 'I am authorised to say on behalf of the Mining Association that if owners are not to be left complete executive control they will decline to accept the responsibility of carrying on the industry, and, though they regard nationalisation as disastrous to the country, they feel they would in such event be driven to the only alternative—nationalisation on fair terms.'Therefore, I would invite the Government to realise, even if they get the workers in mines to give a favourable consideration to their programme, the Mining Association representatives on the Coal Commission, through the mouth of Lord Gainsford suggest that they will have nothing to do with it, and that rather than that the workmen should have any effective executive control they would prefer nationalisation. It is upon that point that my right hon. Friend's scheme must break down, because if he is going to give to the workers an effective power in the control of the mining industry, then the coal-owners decline to co-operate, and if he does not give an effective power to the workers in the co-operative scheme, which the Government now seem to be desirous of carrying into effect, we as workers cannot be expected to co-operate. There must be nothing of a sham thing about, this. It is because I am convinced, quite soberly convinced, that nationalisation is the only scheme which contains within itself the promise to give to this country and to the world that standard of ouput we must have to live, that I stand by nationalisation, and I beg the Government to give it the most careful reconsideration.
What is the position? It is partly psychological. Through many generations—mark you, I do not place all employers of labour in this category—the workmen have been treated not higher than the machinery, although a human wealth-producing machine. That has created in the minds of the masses of the workers a real distrust and suspicion of the private employer. I am very sorry for it, because it creates added difficulties in dealing with this problem. But the Government will make a profound mistake unless they take into their calculation the fact that that psychology has to be dealt with. If you ask the miners to produce, unless it can be 2040 shown they are going to produce not for the profit of private individuals but for the advantage of the State, I assure my right hon. Friend that he is up against a mentality which will block him at every turn. Take one instance. Are you going to continue the payment of 1s. 2d. per ton profit to the employer I think you are What does that mean?
§ Mr. HARTSHORN
They are paying more now.
§ Mr. BRACE
Whatever it is, it is on the capital. It means that for every ton of increase that comes out of the mines the private employer got an increase in profit. You will have to meet that; it is no use trying to evade it, you are right up against it. If the Government cannot see their way to nationalisation at this moment, they ought to abolish the system of remunerating capital. You do not pay the railway shareholders upon that basis. Any support which the Government gives to railway shareholders is on the basis of the average pre-war profits. Why do you not pay the colliery owners on a system of that kind? It seems to be much fairer. Whether it be more fair or not, I do assure the right hon. Gentleman that unless he can get the miners away from the idea that the more they produce in coal the more they are producing in profit for the private owner, he is asking for trouble in asking them to get an increased output from the mines. I am most anxious to in crease the output. One of my hon. Friends has been co-operating with me in Wales to secure an increase in output. Therefore, when I make these statements in the House, I am basing myself upon our experience. We are most anxious to bring into operation a system under which, we shall have this increased output. My right hon. Friend, with all the controversial skill of an old debater, made me most uncomfortable owing to the way in which he quoted some of my colleagues, and used those quotations as reasons why we should not have nationalisation. The three Members upon the Coal Commission were very important men, but they are not more important than the Miners Federation of Great Britain as a whole. Until the Prime Minister can cite a motion carried at a Miners Federation Conference against an endeavour to find a way to settle disputes by negotiation rather than by war he is not entitled to quote them as a reason why the House of Commons should not debate nationalisation.
2041 It is a wrong impression which the country has that miners can stop without notice. The lightning strike and direct action without notice are new inventions. I am glad to think we are getting into a much better atmosphere now. Most of our people are beginning to realise that the constitutions under which we have worked in the past on the Conciliation Boards are not altogether wrong. Under those constitutions, if the workman has a grievance he must strive to settle it with his official. If he cannot settle it with the official, he must try to settle it with the committee at the particular colliery or works with the representative of the work men. It is only when they have failed there that the matter can be taken to the central Conciliation Board, and the man cannot stop work even then until the Conciliation Board has had an opportunity of inquiring and trying to attempt a settlement. The Prime Minister will, therefore, see that he has put a very minor proposition against the actual practice under which we work. I hope it will not be taken as a reason why the Government cannot adopt nationalisation as a solution of this great national difficulty. I noticed that the Prime Minister quoted a speech made by a Member of the Labour party. It was quite proper for him to do so, and I make no complaint, because the Prime Minister was quite within his rights. But I should like him to remember that this is not the only opinion. The broad fact is, taking the great national services, the Post Office, the Army, and the Navy, that there is in actual practice nothing like the disputation as between the nation and the workpeople as there is in any private enterprise. I feel sure that if the mines wore nationalised we should not only be able to get a much larger output from the mines, but that we should be working in a different atmosphere, where disputes and stoppages would be an exception—a very rare exception—compared with our experience in these days. If my right hon. Friend wants output, and he does, and so do we, then we must have the industry settled upon the basis of nationalisation and then have the whole price-list reviewed. I myself have always been in favour of piece-workers. If the House will allow me to say so, I have always thought that working by the piece more closely fits in with the genius of this race than any other system. Under any system of day wages, you must have 2042 officials to see that a certain quantum of work is accomplished. Where people work by the piece, provided they observe the rules and regulations, they are their own master. It is because the miners work by the piece and are their own masters that you have such a virile body of people who, with their independence of character, with all their faults and shortcomings, are a wonderful asset to this nation. Therefore, I believe in working by the piece. If we are to have our people working by the piece, you must first settle their minds on the question of fundamentals. Whether nationalisation comes this year, the next or the next after, there never will be peace in the mining industry until the mines have been nationalised.
Why should you not nationalise this industry? Why should you engage your selves in the great undertaking of forming combinations of capital when you are told beforehand that the coal-owners them selves would prefer nationalisation to any such system? The Prime Minister says, "When I say workmen are to have a voice on these committees, I mean an effective voice." Unless we have an effective voice we will not go on them. If we have an effective voice the coal-owners say, "We will not have it." It seems to me the Government will be driven to adopt nationalisation. Why not adopt it gracefully now so that we may go to the mining community and say, "The Government have now agreed that the mines shall be nationalised. We will agree to review the proposals at all these collieries, and have the widest possible margin between the piece-workers and the day-workers"? It is no use having day-work rates and piece rates very nearly upon the same standard, because if you do there is no inducement for men to work by the piece or the yard or the ton. Therefore if we start with nationalisation, backed up with the review and resurvey of all these questions, the Government will be pre paring the way for an increased output. We want nationalisation, and we think we ought to have it. We think the Government will be acting wisely, as a business proposition, to give it to us. I realise myself so clearly that unless we can have an increased output we are going to ruin the trade of the country that I shall be prepared to co-operate as best I can in securing an increased output. Having said that it is pushing an open door to ask my colleagues and myself to co-operate for 2043 an increased output. We will do what we can, but from our experience and knowledge of our own people there are difficulties in the way and obstacles which must be removed, and I beg the Government, between now and the time when they will have to bring in their legislation, to reconsider the whole matter, and if they can adopt in spirit and in letter the recommendations of the Coal Commission and give us nationalisation, we shall be able to get in a very short time a standard of output which will meet the requirements of the nation and give us that export trade which we are so hungering for in these days.
§ Lieut.-Colonel WHELER
I quite realise that the Prime Minister was unable to deal fully with the matter of agriculture, but I very much regret, having told us that we were the only industry which has increased our output, he had not time to say a few more words on the subject. With the dry weather we have been experiencing the difficulties of agriculturists, specially cowkeepers and so on, are increasing more and more, and every assistance which can be given to the industry through the trying winter which is coming will be welcome, and a few words of assistance from the Prime Minister would be of value, realising, as agriculturists would realise, that they are not being forgotten in this difficult time of that industry's trial. I really rose, however, to say a few words on behalf of a section of the community which is vitally affected by the utterance of the Prime Minister. I speak on behalf of the royalty owners, a small body, who were not represented on the Sankey Commission. We are naturally opposed to the policy of nationalisation. It is the thin end of the wedge of all nationalisation and it is a dangerous policy to embark upon. Of course the right hon. Gentle man did not outline—I suppose we could not expect it—as to how these proposals are to be put into operation, but I think I am entitled to make one or two points on behalf of the royalty owners. It is most distasteful to me to speak on a matter in which I have a direct interest, but I feel my responsibility. The suggestion has been made of a fund, which I gather was to be taken from the royalty owners, to be used towards the social amenities of mining villages. If that is done I presume that policy will be ex- 2044 tended to ironstone royalties and royalties of all sorts, because what is the difference? It is an embarkation on a new principle and one which I imagine would apply to other industries as well. If the right hon. Gentleman will look into what the mining royalty owners have done, he will find that they have not been on the whole unmindful of their responsibilities with reference to the money they have received from the mines. I could quote, and no doubt he could get from evidence, a good deal of information as to how that money has been spent. It has been spent on the social amenities of the district from which the money has come. Therefore I would urge that we should be treated on the same lines as any other royalty owners, because, all said and done, royalty owners are only rent-owners.
The word "royalty" is not understood by the community at large. From the point of view of the person who owns the royalty, it is a very unfortunate word, be cause the reason of most of the royalties has come from the fact that you must have a large amount of capital to sink a pit and work it. There are many small owners who have not that capital, and it is far better for them to go to a neighbouring colliery and say, "We will let you our coal." We come to an agreement at so much an acre, or so much a ton, and the big company takes over the responsibility of working it, and therefore it becomes the same as a rent. These rents have been recognised as rights of property. They pay mining royalty duty, and in some cases where estates are mortgaged they are of great value, for the mortgage of the estate is based on the value of the coal underneath. I would ask the Prime Minister, when these proposals are being put forward, to consider these rights of property on broad and just lines. We are a small class, but I think he will find, especially in the case of the bigger royalty owners, that a very large amount of their money has been spent in social development, and has been used in a profitable way. Mine has been spent in the last four years in running a war hospital. One is justified in mentioning that in such a case, where there is a possibility of losing a considerable amount of this property. I felt bound to rise, because, as I have been working on the matter on behalf of royalty owners, I felt it was not right for me, when we heard these statements made, to sit still and go away for the 2045 holidays and not ask the Prime Minister to give us fair consideration as honest and upright citizens.
§ Sir R. THOMAS
I should like to refer to the speech of the Prime Minister because it happens that the policy which he has enunciated here to-day is the policy upon which I fought my election. I represent a colliery constituency in North Wales, and I had an opponent who was the secretary of the North Wales Miners Federation. That gentleman advocated very strongly nationalization during the election. Therefore, I can say with truth that my election was fought mainly on the question of nationalisation. I advocated, more or less, the same policy as that put forward by the Prime Minister to-day, namely, co-operation between the employers and the employed. That found acceptance amongst the great bulk of the miners of North Wales, with the result that I was returned by one of the biggest majorities in the country, no less than 14,000. The right hon. Member for Abertillery (Mr. Brace) has sounded a very unfortunate note in his speech to-night. As a rule my right hon. Friend is very wise in his utterances, but I think it was un wise on his part to assume that the employer is not going to co-operate with the employé on the committee of management into the condition of the mines. He has no right to assume that the employer will not do that. I think he ought to encourage and give that principle a trial before taking such a drastic step as the nationalisation of an industry which is going to affect every other industry in the country. If we are to try an experiment in nationalisation, let us start with some industry that will not injure other industries. Let us start with some side industry and try the experiment on that, and not upon an industry which affects the whole business and the whole life of the country.
I regretted to hear the Prime Minister mention that he did not propose to give the miners power in the executive management. I think that in our dealings with Labour we ought to treat them openly and honestly. We ought to put our cards on the table and let the miner understand the whole working of the industry. Let him appreciate the advantages and disadvantages of working the industry. All these collieries are not making money. There are many collieries which are not profit producing. There are others which are making handsome profit. It is essential 2046 that the miners should understand what the profits are and what the losses are. In other words, the employer should trust the British working man and the British, working man will not be found wanting. What we want to inspire in this country—I am now speaking as a business man who has employed hundreds of men—is confidence. If we can inspire confidence between employer and employé we shall solve all our difficulties. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Abertillery has sounded a wrong note, and that is the chief reason why I have risen to reply. I deprecate any attempt to create suspicion either on the part of the employer or on the part of the employé Let us give this proposal which the Government has brought forward a trial. Let us leave the working men and the employers to solve these problems and increase production, which is absolutely essential to the prosperity of the country.
§ Mr. CLYNES
The immediate cause of my rising is to make reference to the situation which has arisen from the re cent police strike, but before touching upon that them I should like to associate myself with the observations of the Noble Lord (Lord R. Cecil) as to the extraordinary course that Parliamentary form is now taking in relation to the Adjournment discussion. I am not claiming to be a very old Member of the House, but having been here for thirteen years I recall that, in the main, until quite recently, Adjournment dates at different period of the Session were used chiefly to afford ordinary Members of the House an opportunity to raise many questions which they had no chance of bringing for ward during the ordinary course of the Session, and which could not be done properly by question and answer. It is a serious and a further invasion of the rights of private Members to have these large questions of Government policy brought before us when there is no real opportunity for us to debate the great issues raised. This portends no good. Democratic government is further enfeebled by taking away from the House of Commons the opportunity of discussing great deliverances such as those placed before us by the Prime Minister this afternoon. We are to adjourn to-night. The Motion which will be carried to-night with the numbers behind it which support the Government precludes discussion to-morrow, and we are sent 2047 out, according to the order of the Prime Minister, to take the opinion of the country on big issues which this House has had no chance fully to discuss. I think the reference of the Prime Minister to agriculture shows a lack of a sense of proportion on the part of the Prime Minister in relation to the functions of this House in matters of present-day government. He has informed us that shortly or some time in the immediate future he will address a meeting in the country representative of agriculture, and will there announce questions of policy which may not be in his mind to-day or which may not at this moment have been properly concluded. Great questions of this sort, affecting, as he said, what is still the biggest business or industry in this country, the business of agriculture, should be dealt with here. This is the proper place for announcements of great policies and for inviting fresh discussion on the Government's announcements.
There is one conclusion on the speech of the Prime Minister which if I offer it will ensure for me a great deal of agreement, and it is that since the War, in matters of industry and trade and business, we have been obliged to deal rapidly and in a very short time with what it would have been well for the country if employers of labour had agreed to do gradually and bit by bit in years gone by. It is merely stating a fact of history to say that employers of labour did not concede advances in wages, or concessions with regard to improved conditions of ser vice, or reduced hours, to make the work lighter or more agreeable, except in response to two forms of pressure: one was the threat of the trade unions to strike, and the other was the instrument of the law when the law had to be used against them to compel them to make improvements. So that throughout in the relations between employers and employed a great deal of bad blood has been engendered and the doctrine of force has been considered as the one policy that could succeed so far as organised labour is concerned.
Now we find ourselves after the War in conditions of a very different temper and frame of mind on the part of the masses of the workers from what they were before the War. In short, workmen will not now submit to conditions to which they submitted year after year for years before 2048 the War began. Accordingly, the Government is faced with the necessity of interfering with employers and employed and trying, through the agency of legislation, to allay discontent and compose the differences which occur so constantly. There are many causes, for instance, to account for the reduced output to which the Prime Minister referred so frequently, and indeed it is necessary for him to refer to it, and for all Ministers who speak with knowledge and authority to continue to warn the country against the danger in which particularly an exporting and importing country like ours is placed on account of this state of reduced output. But there are several causes to account for that to which he did not refer. To mention only one. Take the reduced hours of work. I confess that the demands made by considerable numbers of workmen for shorter hours of work since the War closed have gone beyond even the pre-war ambitions of labour. They were then content with the ideal of an eight-hours day. What is the explanation of this? It is that workmen have seen this country revealing a wealth beyond the dreams of avarice. They have seen men grow even richer as a result of the War. They have seen trades and businesses revived and re-established and placed upon a level of prosperity as a mere by-product of the War, and they have seen every class in the country—I speak, of course, apart from those who made the appalling sacrifice of life or limb in connection with naval or military service—derive consider able profits from the trade or business to which the War gave rise; and naturally men who would have been well content with an eight-hour day before the War are asking now for a seven-hour and even for a six-hour day. But I would suggest to the Prime Minister that reduced hours of labour in respect to manufacture and trade need not in themselves be the cause of reduced output of volume of product.
Before the War there were many examples of employers of labour in this country with real patriotism and public spirit willing to go ahead of the mass of employers. I need not mention names, but they will occur to the minds of hon. Members who listen to me, and they will recall some of the most successful employers of labour, successful in the sense of being able to return great sums to their shareholders or to themselves and vastly to expand their business. Those were the men who led the way in establishing 2049 standards of labour far above and far better than that of the majority of employers of labour. They established an eight-hour day. They gave holidays. They gave consideration to the workers that was not at all common. The only conclusion to which I wish to draw attention in this matter is that none of those employers ever proposed to go back to long working hours. The results of reducing hours, coupled with reorganisation and improved systems of output and manufacture, as a rule, left those employers well content to go on with reduced hours of labour. I listened with the greatest care to what the Prime Minister had to say with regard to what might be called the reform of the mining trouble. I gather that it is not the intention of the Government to nationalise the mines, and the conclusion I have reached is that the scheme which was explained by the Prime Minister blends all the bad points of the system of nationalisation so far as they might exist and the system of private ownership so far as they exist now, and I doubt whether the Government can adhere to this line any more than they are able to adhere to the main outlines of their plan for dealing with profiteering which the House has just considered. I trust that opinion in the country on this point will tend more properly to balance the judgment of the Government and of the Prime Minister before the House is called upon to deal with the question by legislation.
I am glad to see the Home Secretary present, so that he may hear the few words that I wish to utter in relation to the police trouble. It has formed some part of the industrial disturbance not unconnected with the statement of the Prime Minister to-day, and therefore is not out of place in a discussion of this kind. I would suggest that it is now appropriate to consider what step can be taken by the Government, either in relation to the police in the Metro polis or in some advisory way, or by way of suggestion in relation to the police who may be under the control of local authorities in centres like Liverpool, Birmingham, or elsewhere. So far as the Government had a clear object in the policy they have pursued during the last few weeks in this House, I would suggest to my right hon. Friend that that object has been attained. That is to say, that the dispute may be regarded as practically having been brought to an end, and that a state of things approaching something 2050 like order and system has been properly established in connection with our police force. I had better try to clear up misapprehensions which have been reflected in newspaper comments and in the country, and which, I have no doubt, exists in relation to those Members with whom I act on this side of the House and myself in relation to this trouble. It is not for me to enter into any elaborate criticism of those who were at the head of the Police Union. I limit myself, there fore to saying that, had they accepted the advice which we had repeatedly tendered to them, nothing of what has happened would have or could have occurred, and that no one was more bitterly disappointed or surprised than we were when we knew that this strike had taken place, and that the opportunity of arranging matters—if I may use that term—as between the proposal of the Government and the needs of the men, had been lost. That fact, how ever, ought not to prevent us from taking up the case. I pursue this matter now, not because I approve at all of what has been done, but because I feel keenly the sense of individual loss which some 2,000 or 3,000 of these policemen are suffering—a loss which, I say, will do the Government no good and in no sense improve the loyalty or the value of the police force as a whole, but a loss which will continue to embitter very much the relations between the Government and organised labour unless the matter is taken in hand.
I want to put in a plea now for reason able consideration, for clemency, if I may use the word, indeed, for justice, to those men who have been led into a position giving rise to a greater degree of personal loss than most of us in this House can imagine. My hon. Friend (Mr. Sexton) will later deal with some outstanding matters in the Liverpool area. I limit myself to the general situation, and I say that the right hon. Gentleman could now, with out any risk whatever to the discipline of the force, to the public interest, or to the loyalty of the men, take into account the enormous sacrifices, amounting to a condition of extreme victimisation, which these men will have to suffer unless some more reassuring announcement is made by the Home Secretary. The position really was this. There was no ballot, there was no authorised decision of the men collectively. It was a new trade union, and a spirit of revolt had undoubtedly been created by the form of 2051 appeal made by the men. The signal was given, and the men who responded to such a signal, it may be taken—I am sure my right hon. Friend will agree with me in this—were the men who, in the main, were amongst the best of the police men, not necessarily what are termed agitators and disloyalist, but men who responded to the initial trade union call made to them. I say that the Government cannot altogether rid itself of blame for what these men did.
These men were not denied the right of a trade union when they first proceeded to establish one. My right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour presided some months ago at a conference called by the Government, and there the Policemen's Union was represented. The chairman of the union spoke at this conference, presided over by the Minister of Labour, and the conference was attended by the Prime Minister and addressed by him. There was then no repudiation of the rights of the policemen to organise themselves into a trade union. The men were led to the conclusion that the Government did not intend to deny the right which has been usually exercised by all other wage-earners in this country. In the circumstances, I trust that the Government, having secured its object will reach the conclusion that to impose this dismissal, accompanied by the sacrifice of all that these men have by their past services secured for themselves, in the way of accumulated pay or pensions, is a degree of personal punishment not warranted by the offence. I trust he will see his way to revise these cases, and that he will admit these men back to the police force.
§ Mr. SEXTON
I want to supplement the appeal made by my right hon. Friend. I am speaking now from a local point of view as affecting the city of Liverpool. I happen to be a member of the Watch Committee of Liverpool. Like my right hon. Friend, I do not subscribe, and never subscribed, to the policy that brought about such disastrous results to the members of the police force. I think the House will remember that at the outset of the business I expressed my direct opposition to the police having an ordinary trade union on industrial lines. I have not changed that opinion yet. I do say, how ever, that now the soreness has somewhat worn off, now that we have come to calmer moments, there are certainly many 2052 cases where these men deserve special consideration. The Home Secretary knows I was a member of the Committee which inquired into the conditions of the police all over the United Kingdom. Our Report gave very generous terms to the police. There is no fault found with that Report. The men themselves accepted it whole-heartedly, and very property so. I would commend to the notice of the right hon. Gentleman the fact that there are men who have served twenty-five and twenty-six years. They sacrifice a lot, whether on principle or because of intimidation I am not quite prepared to say. I would urge that these men should have consideration with respect of their pensions. I do not wish to belittle the new men who have been appointed to the Liverpool police force, but I want respectfully to say that in comparison with the men who have left the new men will not be able to do the duty of the old men for years to come. Petitions have been already got up by the inhabitants and shopkeepers calling attention to this particular fact. The right hon. Gentleman will say that the policeman who is capable of being intimidated is not capable of being a good policeman. When a railway strike occurred in this city and in other places, no difficulty was made about taking back the men who were then affected.
The House and the people were glad to recognise that the men who were going back and that there was not one solitary man victimised in that big railway strike which upset the whole social life of the City for days. I do not say that policemen are on the same level; but I do say that these men are now sorry for it and are willing to express their regret for what they did. While I do not defend in one iota their conduct, I do say that the time has come for an amnesty, at all events with respect to the men of ten years ser vice and over, and the men who have left the police and whose time ought to count for them. I respectfully submit to the right hon. Gentleman that he should reconsider the matter, now that all the heated blood has gone. It has taken me all my time to keep the peace in Liverpool owing to this very thing. Meetings have been called, and there has been talk of a general stop page of work for three days. So far as I am concerned, that stoppage will not take place if I can help it. However, the feeling is there, and, although our men may disagree with the action of the police, they 2053 consider that victimisation is a very severe thing. That disturbed feeling is still going on, and I trust that the right hon. Gentleman may be able to give reconsideration to the whole question.
§ The SECRETARY of STATE for the HOME DEPARTMENT (Mr. Shortt)
I have listened with great pleasure to the speeches of my right hon. and hon. Friends. On the subject of reinstatement let me say at once that the Government must adhere to their decision that any question of reinstatement is out of the question. It is not a question of punishment, but of the fitness of the men to be policemen at all. I cannot admit for one instant, when you are considering reinstatement, that a man of ten years' service and upwards is more entitled to consideration than the man who has only just joined the service. To my mind the man who has been in the service for ten years and upwards and allows himself to be intimidated or persuaded, or whatever you like, to indulge in a strike of this sort has proved himself to be unfitted to be a policeman. The younger man who has been in the service for, say, a couple of years and was led to do this, it may be from want of experience or thoughtlessness, one might have reinstated him and given him another chance; but the man of experience found guilty of taking part in a strike of this description is not fit to be a policeman. Therefore I am afraid I must adhere absolutely to the decision to which I have come—that reinstatement is out of the question. We know perfectly well that ninny of these people were induced to come out by being persuaded that the Government dare not refuse to reinstate them, that they were perfectly safe, that all they had got to do was to strike, and that the Government would be forced to give way. We have just passed through a period of five years when the Government in some cases had to give way and could not help themselves. The spirit that believed that has grown, and if there were no other reason why the Government should adhere to their decision, it would be that the belief has grown that you have only got to threaten any Government and that the Government are bound to give way.
§ Mr. SEXTON
We do not subscribe to that.
§ 9.0 P.M.
§ Mr. SHORTT
I know that the hon. Member does not, but that was played 2054 upon by those who were responsible for the strike of the police. There are a certain number of men of standing, who for some reason chose to join in this strike. They have lost their pension rights and years of service. I agree their loss is severe, but then so far as I have been able to ascertain they are a small number amongst those who have chosen to dismiss themselves. I have stated—though of course I have no control in these matters over the provincial police—so far as the London police are concerned if any hon. Member will bring me any case of particular individual hardship I will see what can be done to assist, but reinstatement is impossible. Many of them are men who, while not fitted to be policemen, are perfectly well fitted for other walks in life, and would do their work in a perfectly trustworthy way. We are giving them characters that will ensure them taking positions.
I cannot admit for a second what my right hon. Friend said, that the men who struck were some of the best of the police, or words to that effect. As a matter of fact, we know they were nothing of the sort. There were some good men among them I agree, some mistaken men, but I unhesitatingly say that a large proportion of those who struck are men of whom the force is well rid. But at the same time, in the case of men of good character who want to get work, we will do our best to help them. The Watch Committee of Liverpool, having seen what I stated, said that they would do the same. More than that we cannot do; it is quite impossible. I regret to take up what may seem to some, perhaps, a vindictive line. It is not vindictive. I can assure hon. Members it is not a matter of vindictiveness, but it is a matter of securing a police force which is a really efficient and reliable force. I believe the police appreciate that, and that a strike of the kind is absolutely incompatible with the conditions which they have undertaken. They are the guardians of the peace, they have great power, they have undertaken great responsibilities, and I believe that they appreciate that position, and that theirs is not the role of any ordinary industrial worker in any sense of the word. Railwaymen are totally different. The reinstatement of railwaymen is the natural course of settling a railway strike, and the reinstatement of any industrial workmen is the 2055 natural course of settling an industrial strike. But that position in the police force is absolutely impossible. If men insist on being industrial workers, they have their choice, and can leave. I have no doubt many perfectly honest, honourable men have made that choice, and everything we can do to help them we will do, but reinstatement to the police force is absolutely impossible.
§ Mr. SEXTON
Can the right hon. Gentleman tell us whether the men will receive their back pay recommended in our Report?
§ Mr. SHORTT
That is entirely a matter for the local people to consider, but they are not entitled to a penny of it. Speaking from recollection, and I do not pledge my memory, by an Act, I think, of 1859, or, at any rate, one of the Police Acts, any policeman who does not go on duty, as these men did not, forfeits all right to any arrears of pay of any sort or description. Anything they get in the way of back pay is a pure matter of grace. By law they are not entitled to a farthing.
§ Mr. CLYNES
May I put one question? The Home Secretary has mentioned that the cases where men are called upon to suffer any serious financial loss in respect of their pensions are very few indeed. May I suggest that, if that is so, it makes it all the more easy for him to deal with that side of the case, and that if he did deal with these few cases it would at least go some way towards meeting the case we have made out,
§ Mr. SHORTT
I suppose the right hon. Gentleman means deal with them financially, as there can be no question of reinstating them. Financially, I have said that any case of peculiar individual hardship that is brought before me I will look into, consider it and do the best I can. The Liverpool people have said they will do the same. One may as well speak plainly, but it is a pure matter of grace. They are entitled to nothing, but at the same time we do not want to press things too hardly, and any case that is brought before me I certainly will consider, and I may say consider sympathetically, but I cannot pledge myself more than that.
§ Mr. A. WILLIAMS
There were perhaps some subjects which the Prime Minister did not touch upon this afternoon which many of us would have liked him to speak about. Nevertheless, there 2056 were in his speech certainly some things which inspired me with a very considerable amount of hope, and I should like to touch upon two of the matters which he dealt with and in which I have been interested actively for a great many years. In the first place, the Prime Minister touched on the very important subject of profit sharing and co-partnership in industry. Thirty years ago I was a manufacturer in the North, but only for a short time, and I was thoroughly convinced at that time, and have been thoroughly convinced ever since, that it was necessary to give, as the Prime Minister said to-day, some direct voice to the working men in the control of their industry and the conditions under which they work, and also some direct interest in the result of their work; and ever since I have been out of business I have been actively engaged in trying to make known those principles and the great successes which those principles have achieved where they have been tried. It was, therefore, a great encouragement to me, and I believe to many others, to hear the Prime Minister say to-day that those subjects deserve to be reconsidered without any of the prejudice which has grown up about them in the past, and that the Government will use its influence to get them reconsidered both by employers and employed. I wish to emphasise this point, that there is no conflict really between the proposal of nationalisation and the proposal of profit-sharing and co-partnership. They are applicable in different ways, but they are not in conflict. Even if you have nationalisation of certain industries, I believe it to be essential that you should also give to the workers in those industries some voice in the control of the conditions under which they work. They are more directly interested than the average member of the community, because they spend their lives there, and therefore besides any voice they get as citizens they ought to have a direct and special voice in the control of the conditions under which they are working, and I venture to think that it will be essential to give them also a direct share in the profit or the enonomy of the work which they are doing. That would be just to them if they do their duty to the State, and it would be in the interest of the State as a very natural means of getting the best service.
But quite apart from the industries which may be nationalised, it is tolerably evident that for a long time to come, what- 2057 ever views we may take of nationalisation in this country as a theory, there will be a very large volume of industry that will not be nationalised, and there certainly the need for giving to the workers a direct interest in the economy of those industries, and a direct voice in the control of the conditions under which they are working, can, I think, hardly be doubted by anybody who will consider the matter dispassionately. Again, there is nothing inconsistent there with trade unionist principles. Trade unions demand a standard wage and standard conditions for the workers, but when you have given the standard wage and standard conditions, then comes the opportunity of adding profit-sharing and co-partnership, with great advantage to employers, to employed, and to the whole community. I might give many examples of the success of experiments of this kind—hundreds of examples and volumes of business running into many millions. There is one particular class of industry where there are nearly forty companies practising this system, and where the total of their capital exceeds £50,000,000. Many of the greatest and most successful businesses in this and other countries practise this system. We who have been working for it for many years do not ask the Government to force this modification of industry upon the community. All we ask is that the Government should help to make it known and should collect all the statistics, and we welcome the suggestion of the Prime Minister, if I understood him aright, that there might be some action by the Government to invite both employers and employed to consider it. I would add that, in my view, the system of co-partnership will never be complete until the interests of the consumers also be included, in a threefold co-partnership of employers, employed, and consumers. If the association which has been working for this great cause so long can be of any assistance to the Government with any information or experience that they have, I hope I should not be presumptuous in saying that we humbly offer to the Government any possible aid that we can give in this matter.
There is another and, for the moment, a much more pressing matter on which the words of the Prime Minister gave me considerable hope as I listened to him to-day, and that is where he referred to the Caucasus. The hope came after a time of great anxiety. For the last week those who are specially interested in that 2058 part of the world, and above all in the Armenians, have been feeling that the withdrawal of our troops from there was opening out a prospect certainly of bloodshed, probably of a massacre on an enormous scale, and, perhaps, of the final wiping out of the Armenian race. But the Prime Minister certainly spoke in a hopeful way to-day, and, if I may say so with respect, he seemed fully to realise the immense responsibilities which depended upon the action of the British Government in this matter. He said these words which struck me very much. He said, We have not yet got peace with Turkey; we have not been able to get peace with Turkey yet, because we have not got America's answer as to what she will do in sharing the responsibilities of that part of the world, but until we have peace with Turkey we must occupy what was Turkish territory.
I venture to suggest that what the Prime Minister said with regard to Asiatic Turkey applies equally to the district of the Caucasus. Of course, I am quite aware that the district of the Caucasus in that connection was not part of the Turkish dominions, and therefore I cannot seize on the words of the Prime Minister as any pledge with regard to the Caucasus, and I do not wish to do so; but I say the future of the Caucasus and Asiatic Turkey are inextricably bound up together. Asia Minor, in the interior parts, away from the influence of the British Fleet, is a perfect powder magazine at the present time. You have Turkish generals, Turkish officials of all sorts, agents of the Young Turk Party, in large numbers pervading that district, organising rebellion against the Great Powers, and organising all the exaggeration of Mahomedan fanaticism to the danger of the peace and the very great danger of the Christian races that live there. A gentleman of very great eminence recently travelled a thousand miles in that part of Asia Minor, where the Entente Powers do not reach at the present time, and his evidence is that there the more truculent elements in Mahomedanism—I am not saying anything against Mahomedanism as Mahomedanism, or Mahomedans as a whole—but the more truculent elements were threatening death and destruction against Armenians and other Christians. It is well known that Enver Pasha is somewhere in that part of the world, either in the Caucasus or Northern Persia, and only to-day, or yesterday, we heard that his brother has 2059 escaped from Constantinople. People of this sort are pervading that part of the world, and are prepared to bring about revolt and massacres—to have one final fling, one final effort of revenge upon their enemies, if they can do no more. They say, "We know we shall be beaten, but we are going to have one final revenge upon our enemies." I say the Late of the. Caucasus is inextricably linked up with the fate of Asia Minor. If it becomes known that we have retired from the Caucasus, then every element of fanaticism among our enemies will be encouraged and excited, and the whole country—both the Caucasus and Asiatic Turkey—I am convinced, and those who know the country are convinced, will be reduced to a state of chaos and a state of butchery.
Therefore, I say that until the peace is settled, and the part America is going to play is settled, it is our duty to occupy the necessary parts of Asiatic Turkey. It is equally our duty and equally our interest that we should see that peace and order are maintained in the Caucasus as well. You cannot leave the Caucasus to a state of chaos without exploding the powder magazine which exists in Anatolia at the present time. I will say more than that. I will say that we have a duty to these people. It is true we have at times helped the Armenian race in the past, and it is equally true we have inflicted a great wrong and injury upon them. It is we who prevented Russia about the year 1880 from liberating the whole Armenian race from the tyranny of the Turks. We have no right to forget that. We owe them a debt. I am not going over old history or the massacres to which the Noble Lord the Member for Hitchin referred to-day. I will only point out that, after those massacres, some 250,000 or 300,000 refugees escaped to the North and went to that part of Armenia which was Russian territory, and there found refuge and help. Since 1917 that part of the Caucasus has been an independent Republic, although it is not yet formally acknowledged, and at the Armistice, England, for military reasons, was in possession of that part of the country. In the Armenian Republic of Erivan alone were 2,000,000 people, and there were, of course, other millions of Georgians and Tartars and other races in the Caucasus. Our troops remained there after the Armistice, not to take part in any civic war, not to fight for one side against 2060 another, but to maintain impartial justice and peace amongst all those populations, and, to a great extent, they have succeeded. Of course, in the turbulent conditions following war and famine, it is impossible they should succeed completely, but to a great extent they did succeed in maintaining peace and order in that region.
We are told that the British Government, finding it impossible to bear this burden permanently; told the Great Powers, and in particular the United States of America, last March, that they would have to evacuate this country. Whom did they tell? They may have told the Great Powers within the secrecy of the council room. They may have told the United States delegate. But did they tell the British public, and did they tell the American public? I think not. I, at any rate, follow these matters as closely as most people, and all I had learnt was that the English were going to retire, and the Italian troops were going to take their place, and it was only just a week ago that it was first known in this country that the Italian troops were not going to take the place of the British troops when they retired. That makes all the difference. As an Englishman, of course, I have more trust, naturally, in British troops than in any others. At the same time, we knew the great necessity for economising both in men and money. We knew that absolutely, and when we were told it was necessary for British troops to be brought back, and that Italian troops were to take their place, we felt we must submit, although it was not what we should have wished. But when we were told that no troops were going to take their place, it was an utterly different thing, because it meant certainly bloodshed, probably massacres, and possibly the wiping out of whole populations. Nevertheless, we are told that it is impossible for this country to maintain permanent protection. We are also told that the Government have been pressed to leave, but that now we are going to leave, everybody says that we must not do it. It is all very well for the Government to be economical—and we are all very glad of it—but it is a strange thing that their first great economy seems to arise at a point where it means the loss of such an enormous number of human lives. It reminds me—it is the great thing reminding one of the small thing—of what happened to some friends of mine in Egypt who had a 2061 native servant who used to do their shopping. They considered that ho paid extravagant prices, and reproved him, telling him that he must be more economical. A few days afterwards he had to buy a piece of furniture, and he bought it very cheap. They complimented him, and he said, "Oh, yes, the owner was very poor, and almost starving and dying, and was therefore obliged to take the low price I offered him." That is a grim story, but the action of the Government reminds me a little of it. When they were pressed to economise, their idea of a first great economy was found in a place where it would mean the sacrifice of an enormous number of human lives. I think that the pressure which has been brought to bear upon the Government to retire from Northern Russia is entirely a different matter from the position in Southern Russia. I would most earnestly bring to the attention of the Government that in Northern Russia we are taking part in a civil war; taking one side, and fighting against the other side. It may be right or it may be wrong. I have never taken part in that controversy, and I am not to-night suggesting it is right or wrong; but that is a very different position and totally unlike the position in Southern Russia. In the Caucasus we are not and have not been taking part in a civil war. We have been there maintaining peace and order impartially amongst all the races. The best of all those races desire that we should remain there, whether it is the Tartars, the Georgians, or the Armenians. They have petitioned to that effect, because they know that if we go the turbulent elements of all those races will beat one anothers' throats in a minute. If we do go, well, I have spoken already of the general effects of our withdrawal; but I would point out in particular the effect it will have on the great civilising work that America has carried out in that part of the world in the last 100 years.
America has covered that country with missions, not only religious, but scholastic, hospitals, and orphanages. At the present moment the American Society is looking after 45,000 children in the Caucasus. If we go away, all that work is destroyed. Food cannot even be got to them. They have not got food this year, because they were not able to sow their crops last year, and if our troops come away the more lawless elements amongst the Georgians will complete the work that they have already begun or threatened to begin. 2062 These people cannot get food, many of them will perish, and the work of the Americans, both in the Caucasus and Anatolia will be destroyed, and practically the civilising work of 100 years will to a very large extent be wiped out. There will be chaos in the Caucasus and in Asia Minor. I fully agree we cannot go on spending in that country. What I plead for is not permanent occupation; I plead against premature withdrawal. I ask that there should be an interval of definite warning allowed to be given not merely to the Governments but to the great publics of this country and of the United States to the effect that the withdrawal will take place at a certain time unless some arrangement can be made with others of the great Powers for sharing the burden, which it is unreasonable that we should go on bearing entirely by ourselves.
When we hear talk of the United States sharing in the cost we must not forget that the United States, by means of private contributions, have borne an immense amount of the cost for the people of that part of the world, in the Caucasus, and in Asia Minor, and that they have within quite recent times spent at least £6,000,000 in helping those people against famine—and keeping them alive. Therefore we are not to suppose that America has done but little I believe that America, when once the facts are known to the people, will see that the American Government comes forward and bears its full share of the responsibility and expenditure in this matter. And if by any chance anything should prevent a measure of relief going through Congress, then the Americans themselves, by voluntary subscription, will collect the money. We want time, and I implore the Government to allow time, in order that this matter may be settled without the massacre or suffering which we fear. I am quite sure of this: that if they do not allow time then when the results which are to be feared have come about, the great American and English peoples will be extremely angry against those who have rendered themselves responsible for such a result. It will not be enough to say: we gave notice in the privacy of the Council to such and such a Minister, or to such and such an Ambassador. The people will want to know why they were not consulted, for surely if ever there was a matter for open diplomacy rather than for secret diplomacy, this is that matter!
Ultimately, I have no doubt—so I am advised by those who know the country— 2063 that all that country maybe organised under gendarmerie drawn from the peoples and races there under English and American officers. A corps of Kurdish gendarmerie may be organised to maintain order amongst the Kurds, and of Tartars amongst the Tartars; and that is probably as far as the principle of nationality and self-determination can be carried under the circumstances of these backward countries. That, of course, will take time. Meanwhile, it is absolutely necessary that someone or more of the great Powers should maintain order there to preserve the better and more peaceful elements of those races from the destruction which will be brought upon them by the more savage elements of those races. I trust before we part to-night we shall hear from one of the members of the Government an even fuller and more complete assurance than we have had on this matter; because we cannot say that what the Prime Minister said was complete or very clear. It was hopeful. But I trust we shall have something more given to us, and that we shall have an assurance that a reasonable time will be allowed before any complete withdrawal takes place from the Caucasus.
§ Mr. T. P. O'CONNOR
I join most heartily in the appeal just made by my hon. Friend to the Government about Armenia. I know very well the pressure which has been put upon the Government to reduce the expenditure of the country, which by universal admission, is bringing the country face to face with financial disaster. But I think I can assure the Leader of the House, from my knowledge of the character and feelings of the British people, that they would not begrudge that few millions of their money in the duty of protecting these Armenians from massacre. I should like also, as a friend of the American people, as warm as there is anywhere, having myself addressed many meetings on Armenians and their sufferings to American audiences, from my place in this House to make an appeal to the American people and the American Government. I can say that there is no cause which has ever made a more successful and a more poignant appeal to the sympathy of the American people than the cause of the Armenians. The House would be rather surprised, I am sure, to know of the abundant machinery which 2064 the Americans have set up towards gathering funds for the relief of the Armenians. There is not a Sunday-school in America in which there is not made a weekly collection for the Armenians. Great as has been the subscriptions in this country to all good causes, and to the cause of the Armenians—on whose behalf my hon. Friend who has just spoken has been to the forefront—the effect is insignificant by the side of the subscriptions from America. No less a sum than £6,000,000 sterling has been contributed in voluntary subscriptions by the Americans towards the relief of the Armenian people.
I had the advantage, the other day, of hearing from an American a brief description of the work in which he had just been engaged, and I never remember to have been more deeply moved than when I heard him describe how 25,000 Armenian orphans and 750,000 Armenian adults were dependent for their daily small ration of bread upon the subscriptions of the splendid organisation the Americans had established in that part of the world. It is nearly a century since a few Irishmen, belonging to a college in America, started out to establish the American missions in Armenia. I have seen their work, and I can say that I believe these missions have done more excellent work in Christianising, educating, civilising, and preserving the people of this race than any other nation in the world.
I strongly urge the American people to take note of the manifestations we have been trying to make in this country as to the imminent danger to the Armenian population. I do not know whether the Leader of the House is aware of it, but I think there is very good ground for believing that deliberate agencies and organisers of massacre in those regions at this moment are plotting to have the work of destruction to which they set their hands before completed. I believe if this question of withdrawal from the Caucasus depended upon money sufficient funds given by the generous people of America and of this country towards solving the problem would be forthcoming in that way. I know that is not the way to do it, but these questions require Government action and Government money, and I hope if this Debate be reported in America the opinion of the people will be roused to the imminent danger, not merely of the massacre of these people, but to the 2065 undoing of the excellent work of a century to which many American people have devoted their lives. There has been a great division of opinion with regard to the intervention of our troops in Russia, but there has been no such division of opinion with regard to keeping our troops in the Caucasus; in fact, an opinion in favour of that course has been expressed by the Noble Lord the Member for Hitchin (Lord R. Cecil), and by my hon. Friend who represents the Liberal Members of this House (Mr. A. Williams), and I am sure that opinion will be confirmed by the Leader of the Liberal party in this House (Sir D. Maclean). An addition, an hon. Friend of mine, the Member for Govan (Mr. N. Maclean), who I should think represents the very extreme of resentment in regard to the intervention of our troops in Russia, has joined in the appeal to keep our troops temporarily in the Caucasus for the protection of the Armenians.
§ Mr. A. WILLIAMS
An international force?
§ Mr. O'CONNOR
Yes; an international force. I do not mind whether they are Italians or Americans. The Prime Minister said that before we could deal with these things we wanted the Americans to ratify the Treaty. I think the American people are predestined to take up this matter. She has not the vast expenditure with which we are still burdened, and she would not be open to the same suspicion as if we took the government of Turkey in our hands. Why is there this delay in America taking up the matter? Is the answer not very plain? The demand that America should take up the control of the government of Turkey cannot precede the signing of the Treaty of Peace, and it must wait until the President has had the Peace Treaty ratified by the American Senate. Until then the American President is powerless to take up this matter I will not go into all the causes—I might perhaps be getting into an embarrassing discussion of the internal politics of America—but I can say that one of the causes—I do not say the only cause—of the delay in the ratification of the Treaty of Peace by the American Senate was the Irish question. [A laugh.] I hear laughter from some hon. Friend of mine on the opposite side of the House, but I say in all seriousness that the fact that all the men and women of the Irish race in 2066 America are against certain portions of this treaty is exercising its influence, and if the American Senate is raising objection to some of the Clauses of the Treaty of Peace, whether just or unjust, I will not stop to discuss—it is not my business—if to-day the hands of the President are held up by the delay in ratifying the treaty, and if the establishment of the League of Nations be embarrassed and postponed, the responsibility rests upon the Gentlemen occupying the Treasury Bench opposite, and, above all, upon the Prime Minister.
I listened to-night, except for three or four minutes when I was called from the House, to the right hon. Gentleman's speech of about three hours' duration. I do not say that a moment of the time was wasted. I listened with the deepest attention to everything the Prime; Minister said, and I did not grudge him a moment of the time, but is it not a remarkable fact that in a speech of three hours dealing apparently with all the burdens and difficulties of the nation he should not find one second to deal with the question of Ireland, one of its most serious difficulties, and one of its greatest perils. Coldly, deliberately, arrogantly, insolently, the Prime Minister refused to say a word about Ireland. It was not by accident; it was done deliberately. It was in defiance of the opinion of this House, because the opinion of this House, with the exception of a small party of reactionaries composed of Irish Unionists and some English unionists, without any distinction of party, is that the Irish question must be confronted, and ought to be confronted, and ought to be settled. He knows the expectations with which we have been looking forward to some message of peace and hope for the Irish people. Deliberately, he has not said one word. That is an extraordinary canon and method of statesmanship. After all, Ireland has had to confront bigger men than the present Prime Minister, and it has broken bigger men. I was one of the majority of thirty five or forty years ago that broke down the Government of Mr. Gladstone after five years' struggle. I may be one of a majority that will still break down this Government.
§ Mr. BONAR LAW
It is only a few days ago that I myself heard the Prime Minister, in this House, say that while he would deal with these questions it was impossible for him to deal with the 2067 question of Ireland in his speech on the Motion of the Adjournment. There was nothing deliberate about it.
§ Mr. O'CONNOR
I should be very glad if I could accept that statement. Does anybody suppose that I wanted him to reveal the policy which is to be brought forward in the Autumn Session? I did not expect anything of the kind, but nobody knows better than my right hon. Friend (Mr. Bonar Law), whose courtesy and geniality I am sure recommends him personally to the esteem and goodwill of every Member of this House, that a word of grace and of hope and sympathy to a nation going through the agonies through which Ireland is going to-day might well be worth five or three minutes in a speech of three hours. What is the Irish position to-day? Take the incidents of the last few weeks. We have had riots, disturbances, and collisions. I am bound to say that I am told that these things have been somewhat exaggerated in the newspapers. For instance, although there was some trouble in Derry, it was mainly caused by young people who take advantage of moments of excitement to display an exuberance of vitality. Still it is bad. A good many Englishmen, at various stages of this controversy have held out as the true solution of the Irish difficulty the ideal of England, impartial, just, beneficent, arbitrating between warring factions, doing the best she can for Ireland. It is the ideal and foundation of our Government in India, and it is an old ideal, but in Ireland it is an impossible ideal. Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman saidGood Government is no substitute for self-Government.If your agents in Ireland were archangels instead of men, Ireland would still demand that she should be governed by her own people instead of by people of another nationality, however well-meaning they may be. Is that taking place in Ireland? Is the English Government in Ireland to-day that calm, judicial, impartial, beneficent arbitrator between rival factions? Not at all. The minority, the intolerant minority, the ascendancy minority in Ireland govern Ireland. Instead of giving Ireland self-government, which is the law of the land since 1914, the self-government which must mean, of course, government by the majority by the people, you have substituted government of Ireland by the minority of the people. 2068 Take the case of the North, to which attention has been drawn already—Colonel Hacket Pain—
§ Lieut. - Commander KENWORTHY
Brigadier-General Hacket Pain!
§ Mr. O'CONNOR
I thought he was only a colonel, because I understand he has never had any service in the War outside the shores of Ireland. If you are only an Orangeman, then under the present regime you are sure of everything, whatever your merits may be. If you are a, briefless barrister, you are sure of the judgeship of the High Court. General Hacket Pain was chief of the staff of the Ulster Volunteers. Whether he took part in the actual gun-running I do not know. But he took part in the establishment of the Provisional Government at a public meeting. Now, I want equal justice for everyone on both sides. Here is this gentleman, who was a potential Radical a few years ago, now in command of the Northern Province. Look at two lists. In one we find men who never earned £500 a year at the Bar raised to the Supreme Court; we find others holding high positions in the Army. Is it a wonder that the Irish people should put in juxtaposition to men like these men who died for the love of Ireland, and who are now under the flags at Kilmainham Gaol? General Hacket Pain is in control of the forces there, and surely an equal measure of justice should be meted out to both sides. As Commander-in-Chief he is in charge of the administration of the Defence of the Realm Act. What is the meaning of that in that country? Under the powers of that Act a man can be brought before a court-martial for certain offences and be sentenced to one or two years' imprisonment. I presume General Hacket Pain has the nomination of the members of the court-martial who are to try his political opponents. Yet he is the man—the ex-rebel—who took part in preparing an Army to fight against the Crown of this country! Can hon. Members be surprised that there is discontent in Ireland when they find appointments filled with men like these, when they find Orangemen ruling the country, with a converted Liberal here and there by way of ekeing out the nudity of the Orange list? I deplore the disturbances in Ireland. I condemn the crimes committed there. I agree with our great leader who said that he who commits a crime gives his country to the enemy. But is Ireland to take 2069 lying down a régime of the enemies of her race? If she did that she would be untrue to those long centuries of struggle by which she has defeated the efforts to break down her nationality in the past.
I am a reader of newspapers, and I find the Irish papers a little more interesting and a little more painful than the English Press. I read sometimes half a column or a column of trials before Courts-martial, and I find men sent to prison for a year or two years, and for what? I have here the case of a man who was sent to prison for two years for the possession of a revolver. It may be that he held it for a criminal purpose. I do not know. If that was the charge it should have been made and proved in a civil court. But for the possession of one revolver, an Irish Nationalist, one of the majority of the Irish people, was sent to prison for two years. There are worse cases than that. My hon. Friend the Member for Galway brought me from there the story of a poor, highly nervous, highly sensitive ballad singer who was sent to prison for singing a song which has as much political meaning in Ireland as has "Auld Lang Syne" in Scotland. It is a song which I have heard sung since I was a babe. It was sung in celebration of a man who died for the liberty of Ireland—a not unworthy sentiment. It was even sung at a little ban quet downstairs, in the presence of the then prime Minister, of this country (Mr. Asquith) who showed his enjoyment by his loud applause. Yet this poor devil in Ireland was sent to jail for singing it there.
Let me return to the case of the man who was sent to prison for having possession of a revolver. Here again we have a strange contrast. General Hacket Pain is the gentleman responsible, I believe, for the possession of the arms of the Ulster Volunteers at this moment, arms which were obtained from Germany. I wonder the Editor of "John Bull" has not had a word to say about these dealings with Germans before the War. This gentleman, who is now Commander of that province, has surrendered his own arms. The Patronage Secretary to the Treasury recently declared that these arms were in the control of the Ordnance Department, and therefore were not under the control of this gentleman. But General Hacket Pain is in charge of all the departments of the Army in the North, so that you have here the extra- 2070 ordinary spectacle of an ex-rebel in possession of arms for an army which was to make war on the Crown of this country, and still holding custody of them, while a poor devil of an Irish Nationalist is sent to prison for two years because he is in possession of a revolver. I ask my hon. Friends, who represent English constituencies, suppose this thing had happened in England do they think it would be unknown to the masses of the English people? One of my hon. Friends on the Benches above the Gangway, immediately after the refusal of the Government to take any notice of the speech made by the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for the Duncairn Division on the 12th July last, said they were going to hold a thousand meetings of working men throughout England and Scotland and that at every one of those meetings the text of the discourse will be the speech of the right hon. and learned Gentleman. Need I dwell on the dangerous state of feeling that exist in many parts of this country? Need I dwell on the fact that many extreme and foolish men have been preaching the absolutely undemocratic doctrine of direct action, and need I point out, therefore, that these things cannot stop in Ireland. Doctrines are like thistle-down, they are carried on the wind from place to place and from country to country, and every man who preaches the doctrine of direct action by rebellion in Ulster is an apostle and an ally of the men who are preaching direct action in this country and is engaged in putting a match to a powder magazine of discontent and possible disaster.
Let me give another instance of how Ireland is governed to-day. I mentioned the speech of the right hon. and learned Member for the Duncairn Division. There was a Peace Review in Belfast the other day to celebrate the victory of the Allies. In the procession marched men of all religions, because Northern Catholics took their share as well as Northern Orangemen in fighting the battles of the Allies. This Peace celebration, which should have been free from all party passions was turned into an Orange demonstration. Lord French was there. A Field-Marshal was brought over who was an Orangeman. Is it not a pernicious and perilous state of things that great officers in the Army should be allowed to avow their political partisanship and even their alliance with rebel movements against the Crown and the 2071 power of this House? That is what is going on in Ireland. Yet to-day the Prime Minister does not find time, in even a three hours' discourse, to give the Irish people the hope that this state of things is coming to an end. I have sought for an explanation of this. I cannot find it even in his political associates. I know them all. My right hon. Friend the Leader of the House is like many ladies who reach to a position of respectability and almost of piety in middle-age, but they have a past. I do not believe—I have no means of knowing what the opinions of my right hon. friend are—that he is in favour of a non possumus in regard to Ireland. What is the explanation? The Prime Minister has gone through a very hard and trying time, and I understand that he is to be in Brittany among his fellow Celts. I believe that Welshmen can understand the Breton of Brittany as the Breton of Brittany can understand the Welshman. The Prime Minister is not averse to public speaking on an appropriate occasion and amid dramatic and public surroundings. I have no doubt the Prime Minister will make some speeches to his fellow Celts. I wonder what he will talk about. Will he talk about the glories of the Celtic race? Will he talk about the self-determination of races? Will he talk, as he did in a meeting where he addressed his fellow Welsh-countrymen a few weeks ago, of the great contributions to the history of the world that have been made by the small nations? I do not know whether the Leader of the House read that speech. It would do him good to read it. It was a very fine speech indeed. The Prime Minister said that of all the sights he saw at the Peace Conference the one that made the deepest appeal to his emotions and to his admiration—his admiration and his emotions flow with a certain amount of freedom—was the spectacle of these long-oppressed little nations rising from the doom of servitude and coming to the resurrection of their liberty. He mentioned Poland, Alsace and Lorraine, Czecho-Slovakia, and Wales, but he never mentioned Ireland. That was almost as great a feat as his speech to- night. He spoke of the glories of restored liberty and of the contributions to the history, literature, and progress of the world made by the small nations and of all the emotions that rose in his bosom at that sight, and at the end of it all he made no mention of Ireland. If he makes that speech to a Breton 2072 audience he may get some interruptions which will show him that, although he forgets Ireland, his fellow Celts will not forget her.
What has happened to the Prime Minister? I have here a letter he wrote to the Irish Convention in February, 1917, in which he pledged himself and the Leader of the House to a single Parliament for a United Ireland. Within two or three weeks after that he made several speeches in which he declared that self-determination was the principle for which this country was fighting and that in consistency and honour they were obliged to extend self-determination to Ireland, and that so convinced was he of this and, above all, so convinced was he of the necessity of doing it for the purpose of maintaining good relations with America, that he was determined there and then to bring in and push through a Bill giving Ireland self-government. That was in April, 1917. Note the date! The right hon. Gentleman's difficulties may be great to-day, but in April, 1917, we were in all the agonies of the successful push of the German troops. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] I mean the last great push of the Germans. I may be forgiven for making a slight mistake. I was in America at the time trying to cheer up the hearts of our Allies and telling them, what I never doubted, that we were going to win in the end. This promise to push through a measure of self-government for Ireland was made in one of the blackest hours of our fortunes during the War. If the right hon. Gentleman had said then, "Every hour I am looking at telegrams. They bring new messages of peril to the nation. We are fighting for our very lives. We are going to win, but still we have bad quarters of an hour to go through," I should have regarded it as a legitimate excuse, but he did not do so. In spite of the darkness of the hour and the horrible and devastating responsibilities of the right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues at the time he pledged himself to bring in and to pass there and then a measure of self-government for Ireland. Now, in August, 1919, when the black clouds have disappeared and we have achieved the security of our country and the safety of the liberty and civilisation of the world, I find the right hon. Gentleman possessed by what appears to be a paralysing look of vision and courage. I fail to recognise the Prime Minister I 2073 knew in his earlier days. If there were any quality that gave him the great hold he had on the admiration of the masses of the people it was his courage, it was his vision, it was his promptitude. I saw him go through all the perils of the whole War, causes he took up exposed him to obloquy, to suspicion, and to the charge of want of patriotism and sometimes to the peril of his life from masses of his own fellow countrymen, but I never saw him waver. I was a humble comrade by his side in all the great struggles of his democratic Budget, and I never saw him waver. Where has all that courage gone? Where has all that vision gone? Is his great career, crowned by his energy and his courage and unfailing spirit in bringing this War to an end, going to disappear in these quiet and tranquil and comparatively easy times of peace? I pray all Members of this House to join with me in pressing upon the Prime Minister to take up another attitude towards Ireland. I have spent my life in trying to reconcile the people of England to the people of Ireland. My own people naturally have the first place in my heart, but I have the deepest affection for the English people. I want to bring them together. Why should they be apart? There is no natural antipathy between them. I do not think Irishmen are unpopular in this country. On the contrary, the two nations, differing as they are, are a useful complement to each other. When you have a proper system of self-government in Ireland, you will add to the great intellectual resources of your own country. We shall get from you what we lack, and give to you what you lack, and by so doing we may have a better and more wisely governed England than ever before. The tragedy of it is that the people want to come together and factions and Government keep them apart.
I was reading a book the other day by a distinguished Irishwoman of letters, Mrs. Tynan Hinkson, in which she described the military occupation of county Mayo after the rebellion. There were several English officers there who, despite the trouble and discord, had won the affections of the people. To-night the Prime Minister said justly, with the pride which I share as the British citizen, that nearly all the countries in the East beg us to leave our British soldiers there to safeguard their liberties and to preserve their rights. It 2074 is not so in Ireland. This is one of the black exceptions to the repute and honour and the affection which we get from so many countries in the world. The lady to whom I have referred saw a beautiful young girl being taken by a policeman to a lunatic asylum. She was driven to terror and then to madness by the presence of the soldiers. This incident was recounted by the lady to the British officer who was in command, who happened to be a Scotsman, and he said to her "Do not rub it in," which revealed the shame, the humiliation and the sorrow which this conflict between Englishmen and Irishmen produces. I beg every Member and every party in this House to help me in my poor efforts to bring this disastrous misunderstanding to an end and to help to force the Government, even though it may be reluctant and slow, to realise the urgent necessity of giving Ireland a message of peace by a message of self-government.
§ Sir DONALD MACLEAN
It would be quite against precedent had there been an adjournment at this stage without some reference to Ireland, and I am glad that my hon. Friend has brought that matter to the close attention of those who have been fortunate enough to listen to him. The question of Ireland is one that checks us in every Chancellory in Europe. It is a standing obstacle to the development of close relations with the United States, and is an unfailing source of scorn by those who desire to show that, whatever our pretensions are, we at home are not able to give self-government to those who need it. I hope that, when the Autumn Session comes, among the Herculean tasks which have been foreshadowed by the Prime Minister which will be taken in hand—indeed, it brooks no delay—will be that of tackling the problem of Ireland. We listened to-day to a speech of remarkable duration from the Prime Minister. I would have been pleased to take it in serial form, as that would have given the House the added pleasure of his attendance on at least three or four other occasions. I congratulate him on the physical vigour that enabled him to deliver such a speech, and I am sure that he will agree that a word of credit is also due to his audience.
The speech covered a very wide area, as we know, but it had some significant omissions, and the first thing which I would like to deal with, following the lines of the Noble Lord the Member for 2075 Hitchin (Lord R. Cecil), is a matter of vital importance. It is as to whether we are going to resume at the very earliest opportunity Cabinet Government in the old sense of the term. I do not mean a Cabinet of twenty-three, but I do mean that the time has arrived when the Cabinet should function with a proper number, say, ten or twelve, as the case may be, and form that effective link between this House and the Executive which long centuries have proved to be the form of Government best adapted to the British people. What will be the result if that is not done? One of the first results must be a continuance of extravagance in our national expenditure, because no one who has been a careful observer of the history of this House and its forms and powers can miss this fact, that it is entirely owing to the intimate, close personal touch of the Members and the Ministry, and the Prime Minister in particular as a Member of this House, that has given to the House of Commons its close grasp of the national finance. We shall press right through the Autumn Session that the Prime Minister shall once again take his place in the House of Commons.
The Leader of the House knows my feelings with regard to him, and, indeed, the feelings of the whole House, without any exception. He has performed difficult duties with great success, and, while maintaining his point of view all the while, he has carried with him the respect of the House of Commons, which is independent of party. I recognise that fully, just as he recognises the sincerity with which I speak. I say that quite advisedly. After all, it is the Prime Minister who is responsible. Let me tell the Prime Minister that I am quite certain of this: He will get quite as much benefit from associating here with us as we would have from his being here. As the Noble Lord said, truly, this is the place where the decisions ought to be taken, where in the end policies ought to be shaped, and I am certain that, his association with us here would enable him to find out what the House of Commons really is thinking. If the House of Commons, through its Prime Minister and its Cabinet and the Legislative Assembly—taking both Houses together—ceases to govern, it is a very dangerous outlook for the immediate future. We must get back to that intimate association of the House of Commons and the 2076 Prime Minister and the Cabinet, which alone can carry us through the dangerous days that are yet to come.
Let me pass on, as briefly as possible, to say a word or two about expenditure and the need for retrenchment. With every word that the Prime Minister has said on that subject we heartily agree. I would say to the Government, "Give a lead." What have they done? It is now nine months since the Armistice, and six months since the Session began. No one will deny us this claim, at any rate, that whatever our merits or demerits may be—our demerits, I agree, are numerous and obvious—we have stuck to that point, we have endeavoured to press upon the House the great importance of national economy and the reduction of Government extravagance. What has been done? After all, we have heard fine phrases to-day, and we have heard them before, and we are hoping that when the Autumn. Session comes we shall have these estimates presented to us in a much reduced form. But why has something on a great-scale not been done before. Of course, the Prime Minister says we have been more or less at war. We noted what he said about the Duke of Wellington and the risks he took. I was extremely interested in that. What were the risks the Duke of Wellington took? There was nothing like the complete breakdown of the enemy when Wellington had finished his campaign, that there is to-day. I remember all about Waterloo, but the dangers were not more acute in Europe then than they are to-day
I wish that the Prime Minister had been here in the early days of this Session to hear the Secretary of State for War make his statement. It would have startled him. There was not a hint then that Germany had been struck down, Austria laid helpless, and the whole of our enemies completely out of action. What was the impression created by the speech of the Secretary for War? What were the words used? Full of grand military schemes and an appalling prospect which were backed up by the total of the estimates. The position then was one that any one who was thinking the thing out on steady lines of far-seeing common-sense could have observed. Those estimates were utterly unnecessary then. Now we know that the Government are going to take into careful consideration what they are to do in the autumn. Meanwhile the expenditure is 2077 going on. That is the point. As the Chancellor of the Exchequer said the other day, subject to some qualifications of course, our expenditure is something between £4,000,000 and £4,500,000 daily. I do not know that there is any change to-day. We are told the Air Force is to be cut down to about £15,000,000, if it is possible, but, in the name of common sense, if it is possible to do that, why was it necessary to bring in an Estimate of £66,000,000. These are the sort of matters about which the country is anxious, and I do not wonder that the country is anxious, along with the Prime Minister and his colleagues, at the terrible state we are in. There is no real confidence that the Government have yet grappled with the situation. That is what is bothering people outside. If we knew to-day, or a couple of months ago, that the Army Estimates were going to be cut down from £287,000,000 to £100,000,000, or the Navy similarly reduced, or the Air Force cut down to one half, then the country would begin to believe in the Government. It is because the Government is only going to begin to budget in the autumn for those reductions that there is a sense of unreality and anxiety and distrust rampant in the country and so much cause for anxiety. Let me, coming down from millions, take a very small point. We had an answer to-day, or a few days ago, that motor cars were to be reduced to a number absolutely necessary for Government Departments. There you are; those are the little things which show what the main spring is. After all, was there any reason for the Air Force rushing about London and the area with about ninety motor cars, which are now reduced to six? Why was that not done six months ago? Those are the small things which, to my mind, show what the real position is. We welcome what has been said to-day about the removal of restrictions and licences after the 1st September, and that this system of the Board of Trade going about with pockets stuffed with licences which some business man could get and other business men could not get, is to come to an end. But I should like whoever is going to reply to tell us is anything going to take its place. May I ask if the Prime Minister will tell us if the proposal which he makes to-day for dealing with dumping and the protection of key industries are those matters which will require legislation, and from 1st 2078 September to the meeting of Parliament, will the whole thing be free and open. [An HON. MEMBER: "No, no."]
§ The PRESIDENT of the BOARD of TRADE (Sir Auckland Geddes)
Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will allow me to explain. The general licence system is to go. A list of key industries will be published. [HON. MEMBERS: "When," and an HON. MEMBER: "Another Box."] At a very early date. Those things which are the products of key industries are the subject of licences on import. Those licences on the limited group of industries will be continued. In time there will be legislation to modify those in the way indicated by the Prime Minister earlier to-day. In addition over and above that, as the Prime Minister said, power is being retained with those imports which are crossing the line of collapsed exchanges, or exchanges which, under the conditions, are extremely favourable to us in a money sense, and which make them extremely favourable to the other country in the import sense. Those are the exceptions which will remain—one natural operative exception at once of a group of key industries, and the other of a reserved exception, of an emergency exception and it will be revised if necessary.
§ Sir D. MACLEAN
I am obliged to my right hon. Friend for his explanation. All I can say is that the business community will be very much muddled to-morrow morning when they read it. I pass on from that. I just want to say that naturally that legislation, when it is introduced in the autumn, will receive very careful examination, and I can promise the Prime Minister a very considerable amount of active opposition, because it seems to me that it will in fact, whatever fancy terms you may apply to it, undoubtedly be a first instalment of the old enemy of Protection, which he fought so long and so well. He dealt with one or two other points on the social programme, and we wish the Government well in their efforts to provide adequate housing. They know, as we know, how deeply that cuts into the national life at the present moment, but he expressed a certain amount of satisfaction with the Land Acquisition Bill.
I am quite sure he does not know what happened here the other night with regard to the Land Acquisition Bill. For a long time we fought in Committee, and down here on Report for two things—first of all, that the body of valuers should be the 2079 Commissioners of Inland Revenue—that is, his own land valuers, set up under his own Act, which we shall always be proud we fought for with him; and the other point was this, that in ascertaining the compensation to be paid for land, these valuers should "have regard to"—those were the words—the assessment which the claimant has either acquiesced in or has had laid upon him during the last three years. That is what was ultimately wrung from them, but my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Duncairn (Sir E. Carson) went all the way and said, "If you want land for public purposes, take it at the public value which the claimant or the public authority has set on it." That is the view he took, and he carried a very large number of the Members of this House, quite irrespective of party, with him. But ultimately we wrung that concession which I have mentioned from the Government. The matter went up to the House of Lords and came down here, and what had they done, and what did the Government accept themselves? Instead of "have regard to," they agreed to accept the words "shall consider," and that any question of rating is swept out altogether. It is only capital assessment you must look at or look at if you like. Was there ever a greater travesty? I tell the Prime Minister straight to his face that it is a travesty, and the thing is very largely waste paper. I am sure he did not know what happened the other night, but there it is.
I would like to say a word or two on the very vexed question of coal and the mining industry, and here I am in a very great difficulty, but it would be cowardly if I ran away from an awkward question without saying a word or two about it. I am sorry that I am not able to put myself in line with Members on the Labour Benches who spoke to-day. There are a large number of miners in my Constituency, but still, you have got to say what you think and believe, otherwise, what is the good of being a member of a deliberative assembly? I quite agree that the time has come when the State must take the mineral rights. But to urge upon the Government at the present moment to take over the whole of the mineral undertakings, and to be the owners and workers of them, is to take not a step, but a leap in the dark which I do not think any responsible Government is justified in taking at the present moment. You have 2080 not got the personnel to work it; they must be highly trained. You have not the money to finance it. One step at a time, and in these matters it is well for the nation to make good each step at a time. Let us be honest about it. That is my view, and I stand up and say it wherever I am.
I do not believe a bit in this cry of nationalising everything. If you want to double and treble your difficulties, and make a crushing burden from which you will never recover, I say hand everything over to the State. What is the State? It is you and I—to get down to it. It is an easy, quack cry, which catches all sorts of people—"Nationalise everything." I believe that is the road to national ruin, and I will say what I think about it. It is a shifting of individual responsibilities. When the case is clearly and unmistakably made—yes, by all means. But it is not the British way, it is not the way with which we have achieved the position we have, to take these wild leaps in the dark into unexplored problems. I speak with a certain amount—I will not say of heat, but of conviction on the matter, and I say that I am quite prepared to back the Government in the steps which they propose to take with regard to this. They are steps which I think are justified at the present moment, but they are steps which require to be made good one by one, and I am sure that the duty of us all is to see that we shall place first the public good. Let us have it clearly understood that the great end and aim of government should be the steady, persistent pursuit of the public good, and we must never give way, or give the reins of Government into the hands of any interest, be it employers or employed, and so long as I am a Member of this House I shall always oppose any interference on the part of the employers or employed to hold the whole nation to ransom to secure their own ends, however justifiable, and however just they may seem to them to be. I am certain the only way to deal with this thing is, at any rate, to have a clear policy. Whether it goes all the way, or whether it does not go all the way, have a clear policy and stick to it, if you think it right, at all costs, and you will have the great mass of considered opinion in all classes of society behind you. I hope that the Government through the trying times that lie before them—and us—for there is responsibility on both sides 2081 of the House—the term His Majesty's Opposition implies a duty which we all have—and I join the Prime Minister in the hope that while we are critics our criticism shall be given without the fear or favour of anybody—however powerful they may be—and that we recognise that in the end we are all citizens of the same community, and proud citizens of the same nation.
§ Mr. BONAR LAW
I do not think I should have intervened in this Debate were it not for the reference made by my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Labour party to the supposed pledge given by me that the Government would adopt the Report of the Coal Commission if it were in favour of nationalisation. I am very much obliged to my right hon. Friend for raising this point where it can be met. I have seen a statement of the same kind in the Press, but it was so worded that I did not in the least know whether it was supposed to refer to something said in my speech or something said at the meeting of the Miners' Executive. I am glad to find now that it was supposed to be contained in my speech of 20th March announcing the first Report of the Sankey Commission. The misunderstanding—I think it may be called—is based on two possible things. My right hon. Friend said that in that speech I said that the Government would act upon the Interim Reports, and that I said also that we accepted the Report—we were then dealing with—in the spirit and in the letter. As regards the Interim Reports, may I read a short extract from what I did say:This is not the full Report of Mr. Justice Sankey … It is a very ambitious Report. I think it is a very statesmanlike Report. It proposes, if the Commission is allowed to continue, to deal one by one with all the problems of economy and improvement in connection with the coal industry.Then follows a number of these imports—housing, baths at the pithead, continuity of transport, etc., and then I continued:If this Commission is allowed to continue, what is proposed is that it should from time to time issue Interim Reports—Note what follows—dealing with all these questions, and that these should be not merely Reports, but that the proposals should at once be put into action."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 20th March, 1919, cols. 2345–46, Vol. 113.]That is obvious. There can be no misunderstanding of the proposals of these Reports—they refer to improvements in mining conditions.
§ Mr. HARTSHORN
Does the right hon. Gentleman deny that he gave a pledge to the Miners' National Executive that if the Report of the Sankey Commission was given in favour of nationalisation, it would be carried into effect?
§ Mr. BONAR LAW
Most certainly No word of that kind was ever said. My hon. Friend, I think, was present, and he knows that a verbatim note was taken of what was said. I never in the world suggested such a thing. It is plain, therefore, that the Interim Reports refer only to those smaller points upon which the Sankey Commission promised to give Interim Reports. In addition to that, dealing with the same question, I said:In regard to the whole Report we have had it discussed at the Cabinet this afternoon, and I say now, on behalf of the Government, that we are prepared to adopt the Report in the spirit as well as in the letter.In the very same speech in which I am supposed to have given some kind of pledge to do something which a Scotsman never does—that is, buy a pig in a poke—I said:I am sure there is no one in the House, and I feel certain the miners' leaders themselves will recognise it, who could maintain that such a subject as this, which does not affect a particular trade alone, but which affects the whole life of the nation, is a subject which can ever be decided by any section, however important it may be, of the nation, but must be decided by the Parliament which represents the community.I am glad that my hon. Friend has given me the opportunity of saying these few words, and I hope it is the end of that particular statement.
§ Mr. ADAMSON
All that I put to-night was that the Leader of the House had reported to the House as to what was contained in the Interim Report of the Commission going over wages, hours, and the future sittings of the Commission, and one of the points they had to consider at a future sitting included nationalisation.
§ Mr. BONAR LAW
That is not in my speech.
§ Mr. ADAMSON
I am giving exactly what I put to the House, and if I am wrong I apologise. Then the right hon. Gentleman finished up by saying that the Government would give effect to this in the spirit and in the letter, and it was the natural conclusion of the mining community to come to that the Government were pledging themselves to nationalisation as well.
§ 11.0 P.M.
§ Mr. BONAR LAW
I am sure my right hon. Friend came to that conclusion by a misunderstanding, and if he will take the trouble to read my speech he will see that it is a misunderstanding that cannot last a moment. There were one or two other interventions to which I feel I must make some reference. The first is that of my right hon. Friend the Member for Hitchin (Lord R. Cecil), who dealt with the Government, as usual, faithfully, but a little more gently, and he came to the conclusion once more that our great crime is that we are not treating the House with respect, and that we are lowering it in the eyes of the public. He gave two or three illustrations. One was that the Prime Minister was treating the House with disrespect because ho makes this important statement on the Adjournment, and admittedly does so with the idea that the House of Commons and the country should have an opportunity of considering his proposals before we come to deal with them after the Recess. I cannot imagine what disrespect to the House there is in that. The right hon. Gentleman must know that these are very difficult subjects, and it was stated two or three weeks ago that the Prime Minister hoped to be able to make a statement about them before the Recess, and it was stated later that the statement would be made on the Adjournment. We have been able to carry out that promise, and, strange to say, my Noble Friend who was so shocked at the constituencies having anything to say in these matters took up the greater part of his speech telling us what his own constituency said on the subject. If that is right for his constituents, it cannot be wrong for the constituents of the rest of us. Then my Noble Friend came back to the subject which was dealt with by my right hon. Friend opposite (Sir D. Maclean), namely, the presence or absence of the Prime Minister at our Debates. I was glad that the Prime Minister was here, and that he at once took part in that discussion himself. I did not like to interrupt for fear it might be thought that I was grudging him coming back to the old duties of the Prime Minister in that respect. I can assure the House that he will get no opposition from me if he desires to undertake the task. Perhaps I may be permitted to say, because I am sure that the House will believe that I have no personal interest in the matter, that I cannot 2084 imagine that there is anyone who sees as I do what the daily life of the Prime Minister is, and who knows the necessity for that daily life, a life consisting of interviewing the heads of the Departments one after the other throughout the whole day, who can believe that so long as the pressure of work continues as it Is at present it is possible for the same man to endeavour to control the Departments and to adequately attempt to lead the House of Commons. I do not think that at present it is possible. My hon. Friend will forgive me for referring to this. He gave us another instance of our disrespect for the House of Commons that I kept the House of Commons sitting up all night last week. There are many ways in which you may be disrespectful, but I should not have thought that one of them was to do exactly what people want. That was what happened about the all-night sitting. I did what I think has never been done in the history of the House of Commons before on these occasions. I left it to the free vote of the House of Commons, without the Whips, to say whether or not they would continue to sit; and by an overwhelming majority they decided to do so. It required some ingenuity to suggest that is treating the House of Commons with a want of respect. My hon. Friend—I hope he will not think that I am ill-natured, because I am not—appeals very often to principle but I have noticed, and; I wonder if other Members of the House have noticed, that makes him no more scrupulous than the rest of us in utilising any of the ordinary weapons of party opposition in order to secure the object and the end that we have set before us. He gave that striking example of treating the House of Commons with a want of respect on Wednesday and on Friday he reverted to one of our old Parliamentary customs which had fallen into disrepute during the War—one which, I may say, though I used to adopt it, I have always believed is one in itself almost contemptible, and is certainly one which brings the House of Commons into most discredit because it shows that we are only playing the game—and that is the old Parliamentary method of pure obstruction with no other object in view.
§ Lord R. CECIL
My right hon. Friend has no right whatever to say that I was approached by those very much interested in the Sex Disqualification Bill. They protested in the strongest way against the 2085 Government's action. I consulted the authorities of the House as to how I could call attention to what the Government were doing. They told me that I had no means at all, and then it occurred to me that I might through this method call the attention of the House to it. It is quite true the Government asked to postpone consideration of the matter and the question came up legitimately whether it should be postponed or not. That was all and I took no other part in. the matter.
§ Mr. BONAR LAW
I am not arguing that. I only say the result was that we spent half an hour talking about doing nothing when we might have been doing something.
§ Lord H. CECIL
The Government should manage its business better then.
§ Mr. BONAR LAW
At any rate it was not we who wasted the time. I now come to the question raised by my Noble Friend as to our withdrawal from the Caucasus. I cannot take exception to anything he said on that subject. There is no one in this House who would not desire to prevent a repetition of the atrocities such as have happened in Armenia. But, although we have got great responsibilities all over the world, our first responsibility is to our own people. However anxious we may be to prevent misfortunes happening elsewhere, it is obvious—and my Noble Friend recognised it—that there is a limit, and a very definite limit, to what this country can do. The whole tone of this House, the whole feeling of the country, the whole desire of the Government, has been only to bring our Army to smaller dimensions—to the smallest possible dimensions—as quickly as possible. The whole object of the country is at the earliest possible moment to reduce an expenditure which, if continued, will certainly land in ruin. To cut that expenditure down it is obvious we must reduce the expenditure on armed forces. Of course, we should like to make sure that the threatened misfortunes will not happen to the Armenians, but nobody knows better than my Noble Friend that throughout the Peace negotiations we were receiving telegrams constantly stating that British soldiers were wanted all over the disturbed areas to prevent massacres and things of that kind. But there is a limit to what we can do. We decided so long ago as March that we must withdraw our troops from this area as part of the 2086 general withdrawal of our men from the front. That was publicly announced in this House by the Secretary for War, and it was announced to our Allies, and I put it to this House, Are we justified, seeing that we are no more responsible than any other nation in the world, in continuing an indefinite occupation of these areas?
§ Mr. A. WILLIAMS
It was announced that British troops were to be withdrawn and that Italian troops would take their place.
§ Mr. BONAR LAW
§ Mr. WILLIAMS
And it was only this week we learned that while our troops were to be withdrawn no Italian troops were to be sent.
§ Mr. BONAR LAW
It is, of course, a question of memory, but my impression is distinctly that my right hon. Friend the Secretary for War in his speech made it quite plain that we were not going to keep our troops there and that Italian troops were not being sent. Just think of it from another point of view! Where would this end? The very same kind of appeal is being made to us now by Archangel, where we are said to have obligations of an equal character. We have got to make up our minds. Whether we like it or not, we cannot be responsible for securing good order in countries like this, with which we have no connection at all. That does not mean that we would not gladly do anything in our power to avoid these misfortunes. I hope myself, and I think there is some reason for hoping that the danger is greatly exaggerated. After all, it is one thing for these Turkish pashas to encourage cruelties of this kind in the midst of a war, when they thought their side was going to win, and it is another thing to do it now, when they know their side has lost and they know that they have a world which, if they go to certain extremes, will certainly punish them. Therefore, there is some reason for thinking that the dangers are exaggerated. In any case, British troops in the Caucasus are all men who have the right to be demobilised. They would have every reason to think that they were being treated abominably if they were kept there. The process of withdrawal has begun. It will be slow through the need for shipping. It will continue, I think, until well on in October. I can assure my Noble Friend that if any sign of help were coming from America, as he suggests, we would 2087 only too gladly welcome it. Indeed, I think I might say more, with the consent of my right hon. Friend. It is, if I may be permitted to say so, an American problem rather than a British. They are in a better position to deal with it. They have interests as great as ours—I think, greater. I can assure the House that if the President of the United States were officially to say to the British Government, "We wish you to hold the fort for a little until we can make arrangements," we would certainly do our best to meet him. But I can hold out no hope of keeping troops longer in that part of the country, although I am glad to say that an Allied Commissioner has already been sent to Armenia and that we have Commissioners of our own both in Baku and Batoum. I have reason to hope—I will not put it higher than that—that these evils which are so much dreaded will not come to pass.
We have had the biggest subjects with which any nation can deal brought up for consideration to-day. As regards the coal industry, I can add nothing to what has been said by the Prime Minister, except to point out this, which was referred to by my right hon. Friend who has just spoken, that even if for other considerations it were possible to contemplate a policy of nationalisation, in the present state of our finances it would be, in my opinion, absolute madness even to think of carrying it out.
As regards the trade policy, I must congratulate my right hon. Friend (Sir D. Maclean) on saying so little about it. That enables me to imitate him. He did not say enough to give one an insight into what is in his mind, and I dare say in the minds of many others who hold his views, both in the House and in the country. He is going to treat it in the old way, as a fight between Free Trade and Protection, and this is the beginning of Protection. I am afraid I see an hon. Friend opposite who, if he had got the chance, would have told me that this was only Free Trade with a very thin disguise. I have no doubt of that. But does the right hon. Gentleman really think that we can pass through a convulsion like that of the last five years and that we can have the conditions which prevail to-day and yet deal with these questions on the old lines? Look at it from the Free Trade point of view, apart from anything else. I say nothing about experience having shown that in a world 2088 where war is possible it is not safe to depend on other nations, which may be your enemies, for some of the essentials for carrying on war. But when you realise that at this moment the exchange in Germany is the equivalent of 3d. for 1s.—I believe prices have risen very much more than this exchange suggests, but that is what the exchange means, that what costs 3d. to make in Germany could be sold in England for 1s. as the result of the War—without the War that would be impossible—is there any free trader who is prepared to say that whatever the effect of the exchange may be he would allow goods sold under these conditions to come absolutely without restriction into our markets?
§ Captain W. BENN
Under what Statute do you keep them out?
§ Mr. BONAR LAW
I am dealing with arguments and not with methods. I do not think really anyone can take that view. Perhaps I may close with a reference to a speech which I heard with pleasure by Mr. Asquith at this box. It was in the middle of the War. He knew what it meant, and his words seem to me to exactly foreshadow the speech made by my right hon. Friend to-day in carrying out what the then Prime Minister explained. Let me read the words:I will not enlarge upon the special measures which the Government may adopt or ought to adopt to safeguard certain industries which are vital not only to our success in the War but to our normal economic life. The Board of Trade are actively engaged in devising schemes to render us independent of enemy supplies as regards dyes, spelter and other important commodities. It is perhaps right that I should disclose the fact that three most important resolutions—I will only name one of them, namely, protection against dumping or unfair competition—were specially proposed by the British representative.He closed with these words:No one who has any imagination can possibly be blind to the fact that this War, with all the enormous upheaval of political, social and industrial conditions, must and ought, if we are rational and practical people, suggest to us new problems. I should regard it as a deliberate blindness to the teachings of experience if you say we had forgotten nothing and had learnt nothing from a war like this.[Interruption.] The hon. Member forgets that when the Government existed I was always told I was in Mr. Asquith's pocket. It really means one thing only, that we have learnt lessons from the War, that we are living in a new world and we 2089 have got to face all these problems in the conditions of to-day and not of 1914.
§ Mr. G. TERRELL
I want to speak of the Prime Minister's speech from the point of view of trade and commerce. It will produce a sense of great disappointment amongst manufacturers. They had hopes that a great definite policy would be proposed by the Prime Minister, but when his speech is read to-morrow their feeling will be one of very great disappointment. I have introduced a great number of deputations on trade policy to the Prime Minister and other members of the Government, and we have urged upon them, over and over again, the importance of having a clear, definite, understandable policy. Some of these deputations were very big and imposing, representing the heads of the great industrial concerns in the country. We urged this policy before the conclusion of Peace, and on more than one occasion since the Armistice. The last occasion was only a few weeks ago, when I introduced a representative deputation from a great number of industries. The replies we received were sympathetic, but to-day we are limited to key industries. Nobody knows exactly what is intended by a key industry. What we have felt is that a key industry was an industrial essential to the commercial prosperity of the country which required protection from unfair foreign competition, and in fact from all foreign competition. We have had promises made that the policy of the future would be different from the policy of the past. I will quote a few words uttered by the Prime Minister to a deputation which I introduced this time last year. He said, "During the War we have undoubtedly discovered that there were industries in this country which were essential not merely from the commercial point of view, but from that of national defence and security. Under no condition whatever should we let these industries down in future." Those were industries of importance from the commercial point of view, and also from the point of view of national defence. We gathered from that pronouncement that some more comprehensive policy would be introduced, and that the basis of that policy would be a protective tariff. We are told to-day that a tariff is unnecessary at the moment, and that, as regards key industries, imports are to be subject to licence. That is a very unsatisfactory and undesirable policy. We have had 2090 experience of these licences, and I am certain that, though justifiable as a temporary expedient, it was not a kind of policy which the country could adopt for any lengthy period. I was told the other day of a great number of firms who desired to import tooth brushes from Japan. These gentlemen attended at the Board of Trade, and not a single one of them had an English name. They were interrogated, and one after the other said that there was an urgent necessity for tooth brushes, that there was only one toothbrush for every forty people in the country—[HON. MEMBERS: "Name!")—and when it came to the last gentleman who was sitting quietly there he said, "There are plenty of toothbrushes in the country." He was asked how did he account for that, and he said, "I have got the whole lot." That was the case of an importer who had made a corner in toothbrushes, and he was struggling so as to be able to secure the English market for himself. That sort of thing is bound to occur under any system of licences. A very much fairer and more straightforward method of proceeding to protect British industry would be to impose a tariff on articles of foreign manufacture.
I welcome what the Prime Minister said with regard to dumping. He rather extended the definition which he gave to the term dumping. As far as it goes that is satisfactory, but he has omitted absolutely to make any reference to goods which are the produce of Asiatic labour and which hit the English producer just as much as the pre-war dumped goods which came from America, and are going to hit seriously a great number of our industries. I understand that only a limited importation of goods from countries where the exchange has collapsed is to be allowed. That cannot go on much longer. One knows that exchanges fluctuate, but even if there is a limited importation of such goods, who is going to net the profit? If goods which are sent from Germany and are worth 3d. are sold in England for 1s., who is going to net that 9d.? It will open the door to all sorts of scandals and profiteering. I should have thought it would be much fairer to equalise the difference in exchange by a tariff on goods of that character. Then the benefit, instead of going to the profiteer, would go to the country. These cheap goods, many of which are necessary, would not be ex- 2091 cluded, but the benefit would go to the Exchequer. I am afraid that this policy is the result of a compromise. I do not like it at all. Anything in the nature of Protection will receive violent opposition from hon. Gentlemen on these benches, and I am afraid also that the half-and-half policy which has been suggested to-day will receive very lukewarm support from all the great industries which are concerned in the matter.
The result will be, unless I am mistaken, that, unpopular though the Coalition is to-day, it will be more unpopular in future, and that the Government will be between two stools with every probability of a heavy fall. I am sorry that we have not had a better opportunity of considering these proposals, and that a great policy of this kind has been rushed on the House on the Last day. We have not had an opportunity of examining it, of understanding it, and of consulting those who are deeply interested in it. I am told that the President of the Board of Trade will issue a list of what he considers to be key industries, and that the list will probably be acted on at once. We shall, therefore, have no opportunity of considering that list. That, to my mind, is most unfair. The whole prosperity of an important organisation of employers and manufacturers, who take a very keen interest in this matter, is bound up with the question of our trade policy, and I think it must be obvious to the Members of the Government, when they recall the number of deputations they have received, that it is not a matter which will be ended by this Debate to-day. The question is one which will foe pressed and urged repeatedly. I can only express my sense of deep disappointment and my dislike of the very, obvious compromise which has been arrived at. I have in my mind a, speech which the Leader of the House delivered at a meeting two years ago, in which he stated that it was an undoubted fact that the Prime Minister had a certain amount of support from men who would desert if he made a declaration in favour of a tariff, and the right hon. Gentleman went on further to say that after the War he himself would not be a member of a Government which did not make a change in our fiscal system.
We realised during the War that it was necessary to support the Prime Minister by every means in our power, 2092 and, though we considered that the fiscal question was one of great importance, and would affect employment after the War, as it has, yet we have continued to press the question. Now that the War is over we have a strong feeling that the fiscal question is one which has to be settled definitely either one way or the other. If we are to have the old policy of Free Trade the sooner we know it the better, and the sooner the question is settled the better. If, on the other hand, we are to have a Protective policy as our future trade policy, then that question should be settled as soon as possible, and there is not the slightest use postponing the matter from month to month. I would not have spoken so long if it had not been for interruptions, and I content myself with making the protest which I have made.
§ Mr. HARTSHORN
I shall not detain the House long unless there are interruptions. I would not have risen at all at this hour but for the statement of the Leader of the House in which he seeks to convey the impression that we have received no sort of undertaking from the Government, that if we got a Report in favour of nationalisation that Report would be carried into effect I can only say if that is the view hold honestly by the Government it is the exact opposite of the view held by the miners. As we have understood the language of the members of the Government we have had pretty definite terms conveyed to us not merely by the Leader of the House but also by the Home Secretary, who spoke in the Debate when the Bill setting up the Commission was before the House. The Labour Members were urging the Government to concede the principle of nationalisation and merely let the Commission go into the details of it to set up a scheme carrying it into effect. The Home Secretary on that occasion said:We are asked to-night to accept the principle of nationalisation. What is the principle of nationalisation? I confess I do not understand the term. The nationalisation of mines is not a religion. It is a pure business proposition, and if it turns out on investigation that it is for the good of the country as a whole that the mines should be nationalised, that the people of the country would be better off if the mines were worked under a national system, rather than under private ownership, then it is a good business proposition and we should accept it. I should not ascribe that as accepting the principle, and if my hon. and right hon. Friends opposite when they say, 'Will you accept the principle of nationalisation?' really men, 'If, on inquiry, it is found to be the 2093 best thing for the country, will you accept it?' then I unhesitatingly say of course I accept the principle of nationalisation. But, as I say, it is a business proposition, and a business proposition of great complexity.He goes on to suggest that the proper thing to do is to relegate that question, the question of the principle of nationalisation, to the Commission. He said further:The Government desire to go into the matter to see if it is a good business proposition. If it is that, I accept it. If it is proved to be a national detriment rather than a. national advantage, then the Government will oppose it. There their position stands. I should have thought myself that for anyone who desired merely to do that which was best for the country, the proposal of the Government was the best, namely, that the whole question should be thrashed out with expert evidence, expert opinion, expert knowledge before a competent and highly efficient tribunal. So far for nationalisation."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 24th February, 1919, col. 1541, Vol. 112.]So far for nationalisation. Now that is the undertaking given to us by the Home Secretary when replying to the Debate when the Bill was before the House for setting-up the Commission. I say if that does not constitute an undertaking on the part of the Government that if that Commission reported in favour of nationalisation the Government would adopt the Report, then there is only one interpretation to be put upon the statement, and that is that the Home Secretary deliberately endeavoured to mislead the representatives of the miners who were taking part in the Debate in this House. I do not think that was his desire or his intention. I am satisfied that when he made that statement he was speaking for the Government, and that that was the intention of the Government at that time, but that since then, under pressure, the Government has seen fit to change their policy, and now they come forward and declare that they have never made any such promise. The Leader of the House will probably say also that he did not give us any pledge. When we were before him as a National Executive on 25th March at Downing Street, we were dealing there with the Interim Report, which had already given us a seven-hour day and a 2s. advance in wages. We were asking for certain modifications in the Report, and he was resisting every demand on our part to give any modifications, and in referring to the advantages we had already received and the advantages 2094 which were still to accrue to us if the Commission went on, he made this statement:I would like you, gentlemen, to consider, what do you gain by this Report? I do not know what you feel, but when this Commission was set up, I would have thought it impossible that you could have got without a strike, and at once, such a big step towards meeting your demands as you have secured. First of all on the question of nationalisation. I know you attach—I believe, at least, you attach—as much importance to that almost, if not quite, as to improving your immediate conditions. Well, Mr. Justice Sankey has undertaken to report on that within two months—a very short time, I think—and it will be a Report by people who have shown that they are not unsympathetic to the miners' demands. The next question is that of hours—and he deals with that, and then he comes to wages and says we have two-thirds of what we were after and he goes on to say that there are many other things which will be inquired into if the Commission goes on, and he says:In addition to that, I think it is hardly less important to look at the opportunity which is given of improving the whole condition of your industry. Such a proposal as Mr. Justice Sankey has made is certainly something new in Commissions. It really suggests what is in fact Executive action If this Commission is allowed to continue, Interim Reports will be issued dealing with subject after subject in which you are vitally interested, and not merely will those Interim Reports be issued, which in ordinary circumstances might be put into the waste-paper basket, but it is part of the Government undertaking to deal with those Reports in the spirit as well as in the letter.In that speech we get the Leader of the House commencing by a reference to nationalisation, then he goes on to hours and wages and to improved social conditions, and he says that on all those matters we are to have Interim Reports, which are not to be put, in the usual way, into the waste-paper basket, but—
§ Mr. BONAR LAW
No. The words he read prove that that is not so. All I said about nationalisation was that you would have the advantage of a Report of a not unsympathetic Committee.
§ Mr. HARTSHORN
I was there listening to the statement, and every member of the executive, having heard that statement, came away convinced that you were giving an undertaking that if, in the Interim Report issued, nationalisation was reported in favour of, then the Government were pledged to carry it into effect. I do not know whether the Home Secretary was talking for the Government or not. In any case, both the statement of the Home Secretary and that of the Leader 2095 of the House were regarded as constituting a pledge on the part of the Government that if Reports were made in favour of it it would be carried into effect. I desire to say only two or three words in relation to the policy announced by the Government in place of nationalisation. I do not think it would be possible for them to adopt any policy which would be regarded by the miners of this country as more reactionary than the policy that has been announced here this evening. As I understand it, the mining industry is to be trustified; great mining trusts are to be created in this country under the authority and sanction of the Government. I very much regret that the Prime Minister has identified himself with a policy of that description. Every miner in this country to-morrow will regard the Prime Minister as having gone wholeheartedly over to the right. I am sure he will have antagonised Labour thoroughly, but that is a small matter compared with the consequences which will result from the adoption of this policy. The Prime Minister has said that his object, and the object of the Government in deciding upon this policy is to increase output. There is no doubt—we are all agreed—that that is a vital issue. The output from the mines in this country can be increased. There is no question at all about that, but it can only be increased when there is a hearty co-operation between the miners' representatives in this country and the Government, and I say that there is not a miners' representative from John o' Groats to Land's End who will co-operate with the Government in making this thing a success. [HON. MEMBERS: "Shame!"] It does not matter whether it is a shame or not, the result will be the same. There is no man in this House or out of it who has more honestly and sincerely endeavoured to exert an influence in the direction of increasing output than myself; I have done my level best, but I shall certainly not render any assistance in making a scheme of the kind announced by the Prime Minister to-night anything in the nature of a success. [HON. MEMBERS: "Shame!"] I am not the least bit concerned whether you cry "Shame" or not.
§ Captain LOSEBY
It is a shame!
§ Mr. HARTSHORN
I think the less said by you the better. When the miners of the country know to-morrow that they have been duped, and that is really what 2096 the statement amounts to—[HON. MEMBERS: "No!"]—they will know they have been deceived. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] Well, we did not ask for a Commission. We accepted it. We gave evidence before it. Why was the Commission set up? Was it a huge game of bluff? Was it never intended that if the Reports favoured nationalisation we were to get it? Why was the question sent at all to the Commission? That is the kind of question the miners of the country will, ask, and they will say, "We have been deceived, betrayed, duped." The Prime Minister told us this evening that there were over 1,141,000 men in the mines, and that we should get about 200,000,000 tons of coal per year. Since the 6s. was put on output had gone down, and is continually going down. I say after the declaration of this policy it will go down further to ruin. [HON. MEMBERS: "Shame!" and "Order, order!"] It does not in the least matter whether you cry "Shame" or not. If it is to be a fact it is as well that you should know it—you people who have been bringing pressure to bear upon the Government. The shame will be with you when the position comes home to the miners of the country, and they will not in the least mind whether you say "Shame!" or not. If we are not to have a definite difference in the mining industry than in the past, then the miners will not produce on the same terms as they have produced hitherto. Why, even the Duckham Report, which proposed to set up these trusts, suggested some sort of limitation of profit. The Prime Minister did not even think it necessary to tell us whether or not he is going to limit profits. [An HON. MEMBER: "Profiteering!"] But, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, I will not go more fully into the matter than to say this: that since the Armistice—and only since then—the output has been going down.
During the War the Miners' Executive co-operated with the Government—the Prime Minister knows that as well as anybody. We were asked to work harder—on Sundays, holidays and extra days, per week—to work six days per week instead of five, as had been the practice for years—to maintain the output, and so to meet the need of the nation. All that will not be counted—the propaganda to effect it will be forgotten. The Prime Minister, Mr. Asquith, Sir John Simon, Mr. McKenna, and the Coal Controller—all attended, or addressed, or both, big national con- 2097 ferences of miners and mine-owners to help on the vigorous propaganda. What has happened since? Since the Armistice not a word has been said in any direction as to the attitude we maintained during the War. Why? Now a policy has been thrust upon the country without a single reference to the owners or the workmen employed in the industry. If the owners carry out the threat they made before the Commission they simply will not work the mines under the system proposed by the Government. They said rather than have that sort of thing they would go in for nationalisation.
§ Sir EDGAR JONES
They did not!
§ Mr. HARTSHORN
Let us see—
§ Sir E. JONES
What they said was that they would not have divided management.
§ Mr. HARTSHORN
The Interim Report, then, of the Sankey Commission has not been carried into effect, because we have, at any rate, given the assurance—and even this is not denied by the Leader of the House—that we were to have an effective voice in the management and control of the industry. If that is not carried out we are not getting what we were promised. If we were, the owners say they would not co-operate to carry it into effect. I very much regret the decision of the Government. It is, however, their responsibility, and, far from getting an increased output, I venture to say that the result will be a further decline to a very considerable extent.
§ Mr. BONAR LAW rose in his place, and claimed to move "That the Question be now put."
§ Question, "That the Question be now put," put, and agreed to.
§ Question put accordingly, and agreed to.
That this House do meet To-morrow at Twelve o'clock and at its rising do adjourn until Wednesday, 22nd October, and that To-morrow Mr. SPEAKER, as soon as he has reported the Royal Assent to Acts which have been agreed upon by both Houses, do adjourn the House without Question put.