Motion made, and Question proposed,
That an additional number of Land Forces, not exceeding 300,000, all ranks, be maintained for the Service of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland at Home and Abroad, excluding His Majesty's Indian Possessions, for the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1922.
§ Mr. HOGGE
On a point of Order. For the convenience of the Committee, may I point out that the three Estimates we are to have before us deal with the Army, the Navy, and the Air Force, respectively, and they all raise the question of the Defence Force? I wish to ask whether on the Army Estimate, which conies first, we could not use all the arguments we hope to use on that question, and save discussion subsequently.
§ The SECRETARY of STATE for WAR (Sir Laming Worthington-Evans)
This Vote is an Army Vote, and I am asking for an additional number of 300,000 men. I propose to tell the Committee why that figure was selected. When it was determined to call up the Reserve, I had to provide for a number of men in addition to the original Estimate, which would be approximately 71,000. Actually we did not call up those of the Reserves who would have had to join in Ireland, and pretty large exemptions were made of pivotal men and men employed in the wholesale distribution of food and other national services. Then there is always a certain percentage of men sick, and so I did not expect actually to get the 71,000 which was the total of "other ranks" in the Reserve. It may interest the Committee to know, however, that rather over 58,000 rejoined, and it is true therefore to say that, taking into account 1558 those who were not called up and those who were exempted, practically every man who was on the Reserve rejoined.
§ Mr. RONALD McNEILL
May I ask the right hon. Gentleman just one question? He spoke of the exemption of men concerned in the wholesale distribution of food. Does that mean that those engaged in the retail distribution are not exempt?
§ Sir L. WORTHINGTON-EVANS
Yes, it does. I answered a question on the point in the House at the end of last week. It would be quite impossible to extend the list of exemptions to cover the retail trade. My hon. Friend will realise that the value of a reserve is that it should be available at the moment when it is required, and if exemptions were extended the money that is paid to retain the services of the men to be called up when required would be absolutely wasted, and thrown away, and the reserve and all it means would be destroyed.
I expected, as a total, that I might require about 60,000 men, which would leave me a margin on the 300,000 figure of 240,000 men. I cannot pretend that this is anything like a close estimate. At the time this Estimate was put down it was impossible to say how many men would be required for the Defence Forces. I took a large figure, a figure which I hoped would be much in excess of what would be actually required. The Committee might like to know something about the Defence Force and the response that has been made. The Defence Force, as hon. Members will remember, is a force enlisted for general Army service, for the short period of 90 days or less, and for use in England, Scotland, and Wales, but not for foreign service and not in Ireland. I emphasise the point that they were not for use either abroad or in Ireland because a certain amount of propaganda, I fancy, has been circulated, trying to play upon the fears of the men that they will be sent to Ireland or abroad. An endeavour has been made to prevent men from joining on that account. The pay of the Force was the ordinary Army pay with a marriage allowance and £5 bonus on demobilisation. It is also intended that the underclothing served out shall be retained by the men. We have 1559 had a most remarkable response to the appeal. Hon. Members must remember that recruiting was limited to trained men. No general appeal to the public was made. The appeal was made to members of the Territorial Force and to ex-Service men. Large numbers were offered. We took the service of 75,000 men, and recruiting has been stopped. It is the more remarkable as throughout the country there séems to have been a very general belief that in some way or another a settlement would be reached.
We could have had a great many more if we had desired—a great many more, in fact, registered—but we wanted to regulate the flow. If we had taken too many at a time it would have created great administrative difficulties. Housing, clothing, feeding, all had to be improvised, and, although those who have joined have, no doubt, suffered some inconvenience, yet, on the whole, successful arrangements have been made for their comfort. Some of the Force have been already employed. They have been placed, at the request of the civil power in each case, in various districts, ready in case at any moment their services might be required. Some have already relieved the Regular troops. Others not quite so forward have been doing preliminary training, either in companies or in battalions, and some more advanced have been already concentrated as brigades or in divisions. Recruiting has been stopped, and, of course, the next step is demobilisation. I may be asked when that will take place. It will take place whenever precautions are no longer necessary. The whole of the Force was a precautionary measure, and whenever the political horizon is sufficiently clear we shall be able to take steps to demobilise them.
§ Mr. HOGGE
I rather thought that the Secretary of State for War, before he went into details, would have given the reason why the Government have preferred in the industrial situation with which we were faced up till Friday last to develop a Defence Force instead of relying upon the precautions taken in previous disputes. The Committee were entitled to know why they have abandoned the old habits of Governments faced with such situations, and why they have preferred 1560 the creation of a Defence Force, which fortunately, as we have heard from the right hon. Gentleman this afternoon, has now been stopped and will be demobilised, I presume, at the very earliest possible moment. The question which faced the Government in the crisis was two-fold. There was the question of the maintenance of order, and further the question of the maintenance of national services which might be destroyed as a result of a strike. I am putting those two propositions without expressing any view one way or the other as to the merits or demerits of the particular dispute. In all these disputes, it is perfectly obvious that those two duties—the maintenance of order and the maintenance of national services—rest upon the Government. With regard to the maintenance of order, in the past the Government have consistently relied upon the special constables. During the War, in particular, this Committee had ample evidence of the ability of the special constables to deal with the situations with which they were called upon to deal. I should have thought therefore that the Committee were entitled to know why in the recent dispute the Government did not again fall back upon the mobilisation of the special constables to assist the ordinary police in the maintenance of order, should any disorder arise as a result of the strike. That is the first point which I desire to put with a view of securing some explanation from the Leader of the House as to the policy which inspired the Government to create the Defence Force.
There is the second point with regard to the national services. The Committee will remember the details of the National Service scheme during the War and how from time to time great numbers of men and women with particular abilities for particular jobs were recruited to supplement the few men who were left in the country and were not absorbed in the Army in maintaining and carrying on those national services. In this case, the Government have preferred to enlist men in the Defence Force primarily—at least my right hon. Friend does not make out a case otherwise—to assist the Army in the maintenance of order, and not presumably to carry on any sections of the national services that might break down as a result of the strike. These men were recruited for 90 days, and, as far as I have been able to ascertain, have been undergoing the ordinary 1561 military training which is associated with the creation of an army. We are entitled to know before we exonerate the Government from the scheme which they have adopted, why in place of a Defence Force of soldiers the scheme of national service was not reverted to in order to cover the difficulty of maintaining the national services. We have to bear in mind that this is absolutely the first time that this experiment has been made. I do not remember any other occasion of an industrial dispute—and there have been industrial disputes quite as grave and serious in magnitude as the present dispute—in which at the very first opening of the campaign the Government have resorted to any device of this kind.
§ Mr. HOGGE
There was the railway dispute, when the whole of the country was likely to be deprived of the ordinary services, and when Hyde Park was used, not by a Defence Force, but by a voluntary force to carry on the national services. The right hon. Gentleman may have some reasons and may be able to carry the Committee with him in the reasons which induced the Government to create the Defence Force, but I am putting forward the contention that never before in the history of industrial disputes have the circumstances been met at the very threshold by the creation of a Defence Force. I want the right hon. Gentleman and the Committee to consider the psychological effect upon the mass of workpeople. After all, this House has concerned itself very much during the last ten days with efforts to secure peace, and I think, with common consent, men belonging to different sections of the House have devoted their energies to making things easier rather than more difficult. I want, therefore, to ask the Government whether they have considered the psychological effect upon what are called the working classes of the creation of a force of soldiers on the threshold of the dispute.
I am more encouraged to put that point by the three Estimates that we have in front of us. I can see some reason why the Army might be increased in view of the small number of Reserves and in view of the exemptions that were made, resulting in 20 per cent, of the Reserves 1562 not being called up, but why we should require an additional number of 25,000 officers and men for the Navy, about which my right hon. Friend gave us no facts—I do not know how many have been called up—and why we should need 10,000 more for the Air Force I do not know. I ask Members of the Committee to put themselves in the position of the men who were engaged in this industrial dispute, watching events, and seeing that in addition to this large Defence Force there were great additions to be made to the Navy and to the Air Force. Those men would be likely to discuss among themselves what this new potent meant to them, engaged in perfectly legitimate industrial struggle. We must never forget that fact. However much we dislike the methods of organised industry, there can be no doubt that they are perfectly legitimate in the aims which they pursue and perfectly entitled to take the steps which they do take in trying to secure their particular object. The psychological effect, therefore, of the addition of men to the Navy and to the Air Force in my view is very much worse than the creation of a Defence Force. It may be an exaggerated way of putting it, but it looks to me as if it might be interpreted as a declaration of a kind of civil war, in which the working classes were to be left to believe that, if they pursued those methods, there was no length in the exercise of power- to which the Government were not prepared to go to stop them in their legitimate endeavours. I am only trying to interpret what those men might say. Never before has such a situation been dealt with in this way.
The men have seen special constables enrolled and the Army used to help to maintain order, but in no industrial dispute ad hoc has there ever been created, before there was any need for it, a Defence Force of this kind, and I am putting this point, that the working classes of the country might quite easily conceive that the Government may have determined to use new methods in dealing with industrial disputes and that in some particular they might even go the length of maintaining that it was a declaration of a kind of civil war. I regret personally that the Government saw their way to do this and not to exhaust first of all the other methods which have served so well in the past. I think we are entitled to know some 1563 approximation of the cost of these measures. My right hon. Friend has said nothing at all about that, but surely, so far as the 75,000 men who are recruited are concerned, he ought to be able to say for the maximum of 90 days what it will cost the nation, and I should think equally so the Secretary for the Admiralty and the hon. and gallant Gentleman who represents the Air Force, and who has just returned to the House to take up that work, could give us some estimate of the cost incurred by their respective Departments. I personally feel that I cannot approve of these Estimates unless one gets from the Government some better explanation than we have got so far from the Minister of War as to why the Government resorted to this expedient in dealing with this difficulty, an expedient which they have never hitherto resorted to in any industrial dispute.
§ Sir GODFREY COLLINS
In his opening statement, the Secretary for War referred to the ready response by the public to the appeals made by the Government, and made the statement that the recruiting had been stopped, whether due to the policy of the Government or the shortage of clothing and other necessities was a little doubtful. The anxiety felt by the Government in the last ten days has been fully shared by the House of Commons, and no word of recrimination will fall from my lips this afternoon, and I think in that way I shall interpret the true spirit and intention of the House of Commons. The House of Commons and the Government are anxious to create the right atmosphere in this question, and if I make a suggestion to the Government on that point, it is because I am anxious to create a true and right atmosphere for the quick and final settlement of our present industrial troubles. The Government policy during the last ten days has been a twofold policy. They have attempted, on the one hand, to act as mediators between the two sides, and, on the other hand, entrusted as they are with the maintenance of law and order, and supported as they have been by this House in all the attempts that they have made, they have carried out these attempts, correctly interpreting the true spirit of the House of Commons; but the main danger of a general strike is now removed, and this afternoon we are faced with a new 1564 situation. During the next 72 hours before the meeting takes place on Friday, can this House create a new atmosphere, not only in London, but throughout the country, which will enable the industrial struggle to be brought to a close? The Government and the Committee must be conscious of the extreme economic and financial struggles which this strike brings in its train. We have, on the one hand, a decreased revenue week by week, and the figures read out from the Chair this afternoon show the increased expenditure which the industrial struggle has brought in its train.
Since the last meeting of the owners and men a new situation has arisen. We had the statement published in the Press on Friday by the mineowners, and also, as the Committee well knows, the statement made by the Secretary of the Miners' Federation, and if I make one reference to the meetings which took place upstairs last week, it will be a short one. No hon. Member in this House desires to criticise, much less judge, the Secretary of the Miners' Federation, Mr. Hodges, for not resigning his post. Is every Member of the Government to resign his office if he is not in complete agreement with the policy of the Government? Is every director of a public company to resign his office if he is not in complete agreement with his co-directors? I think every Member in this House has too much difficulty in keeping his own conscience in order for him to criticise, much less judge, the conscience of any other individual. There is another point which has arisen since the Government made these preparations, and that is that the leaders of the railway and transport workers have been quick to detect the new situation when they called off the general strike last week. The point I am anxious to put to the Government is this. Will they quickly seize this new situation which has arisen; will they flash over the wires this afternoon a message to disband the volunteers and trust to the good sense of the British public? We have to allay the deep-seated suspicion which exists, whether right or wrong, in the minds of the great masses of the British public, and a noble act, acting on a noble impulse, emanating from the Prime Minister and the Government, would do much in the next 72 hours to strengthen the 1565 hands of every moderate individual throughout the country, and bring our industrial struggles to a quick end.
I know that in these military preparations, once they have been made, once the machinery has been started, it is difficult to let the machine down, but we are anxious in this House to pass from the abnormal to the normal; we are anxious to get back to peace conditions and a peace outlook. I do not blame the Government for a moment for taking every possible step to protect life and property during the. last ten days. It is their first duty to maintain law and order and protect life and property, and everything they ask for in this House will be willingly granted, but since these powers were first granted a new and completely new situation has arisen, and I appeal to the Government to trust that sound good sense of the British public, which has never deserted this country in days of crisis and trouble. If there was to be acute disorder, it would have come, I think, during the week-end, but the Press reports this morning contain nothing of any grave disorder. I know full well that the Government are anxious to disband the forces which they have properly created during the last seven to ten days, and I appeal to them, by an act of generosity, by a large spirit of magnanimity, which has never yet failed the Government and the country, to show that confidence in the British public, and if they cannot send the Reservists back to' their homes, at any rate to disband the Volunteers at the very earliest moment.
§ Mr. CLYNES
The Committee is indebted to the. hon. Gentleman who has just sat down, not merely for the view which he has expressed, but for other acts of a helpful character in relation to the coal dispute, and I want to join with him in the appeal which he has made to the Government in order that the Government should make by an immediate act of its own an effective contribution, as I believe it would be, to the steps that are to be taken during the course of this week for a settlement of the trouble. The speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War was to me a real disappointment, and I doubt—if I may go the length of saying this—whether he has appreciated the really big task which fell to his lot in submitting this Estimate this 1566 afternoon. In the most perfunctory manner, as I thought, by the use of a few easy sentences, amounting almost in terms to departmental congratulations, he submitted this Estimate to the Committee without any attempt to explain or to justify it. The Government's move is a big and momentous move which there has been no attempt to explain or to justify. It is a grave departure from the established, and I would say the British, method of dealing with industrial difficulties in this country. We are not enabled this afternoon to deal with the merits of the dispute, nor, indeed, at this moment do we desire, but we cannot surely avoid altogether some reference to what was the first underlying cause of this act of recruitment on military lines, on naval and air force lines, which the Committee this afternoon is called upon to consider. I do not think there is an instance on record where any Government was so deaf to repeated appeals made to it to avoid the calamity which it was foretold would occur, and the Government has blundered into one of the greatest and most disastrous industrial conflicts with which the country has ever been faced. They were told it would happen. In speeches of great force and great warmth made from different sides of the House they were warned that this was sure to occur. [An HON. MEMBER: "Threats!"] There was no threat. No one could be in any doubt as to the certainty of a stoppage who knew the meaning behind the figures of the monstrous wage reductions which the miners were called upon to submit to, and it was in ignoring these facts, that were real things, that the Government blundered. The simplest man could see what would happen, but in face of the reality and the certainty of this occurrence, the Government simply let the stoppage occur.
Now we are asked to assent to the military, naval and air force provisions which have been made, and the character of the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War at least indicates in his mind an assurance of confidence, amounting almost to a certainty, that he will have the backing of the serried ranks behind him. That may be, but it is a bigger problem than that. This is not the last year in which Parliament will have to act for the nation. This is not the last Government which 1567 will have to carry on the affairs of our country, and I think we are entitled to take note of the bad example which this Government is setting in relation to these industrial disputes. It is another, and a most unfortunate, step in the emphasising of the class war which this Government has done a great deal to reveal. We heard a great deal in the House before last Friday of the motives, the malicious purpose and destructive inventions of the Triple Alliance. The events, as they have travelled on, have revealed the fact that there has been in this struggle no more pacific peace-making instrument than the Triple Alliance itself. It has not so much waited upon events as it has tried to meet them. I told the House on Friday, and I think before Friday, that no body of men has entered with greater reluctance upon the sanction of a strike than the men who had to give that fateful decision, and I said, what I repeat, that they did it, feeling at that time, and faced with things as they existed prior to the night of Friday last, that any other act on their part would have had to be regarded, even by themselves, as an act of betrayal and desertion of working-class interests in this country.
Circumstances have changed, and this House ought to make the most of that. The working-class leaders who were condemned in the most unmeasured terms, are the men who changed those circumstances. They are the men who declared the strike off when it appeared that there was an opportunity of discussions being resumed, and the possibility of some settlement being reached. If the House does not believe me in anything else, I hope it will in this, that usually the Labour leader, who is suspected, foolishly, by many men in this House, as well as in the country, as being the first man to desire a strike, is the first man to try to prevent it. Criticism has not been fairly levelled against the men who have had these very responsible duties to carry out. The preparations, suddenly anounced to the House, I think, a week last Friday, when, for the time being, once more negotiations broke down, appeared then to my mind to be what they are now, provocative and unnecessary, as they are unprecedented preparations for military and aggressive action against large masses of the working-classes of this country. What was there, even before last Friday, 1568 to justify the measures that you have announced? If there is no answer to that, what has happened during the course of this week-end to justify any continuance of these provisions? It is true that in the first few days of the dispute there was some damage to property, disturbance, and, I believe, conduct bordering upon riot in a few of the more troubled centres. But is that any justification for such national preparations on such a scale as these which were announced to the House? If it be that the Government can rely upon the patriotic response of any large number of men in the community, as I feel they can in time of need, it would have been far better for them to have used that readiness and responsiveness to organising locally some purely civic force that would have been equal to local needs, instead of rebuilding a military and Air Force as though the country had been suddenly threatened by the invasion of some foreign foe.
I allege, then, there was absolutely no need for measures of this kind. The right hon. Gentleman failed to betray the slightest consciousness of the underlying fact in relation to the rapidity of the recruitment and the nature of the response of the men who have enlisted. The attestation papers ought, in these circumstances, to provide for some useful information on the question of how far these thousands of men who have responded were out of work, and were faced with no possibility of getting it. Again, I am not in the least seeking to lessen the readiness of the community to respond to any Government appeal when there is real need. But those of us who know something of the outside facts know that a very large number, if not the great majority—I should venture the belief that the great majority—of the men who have responded to this call of the Government, were men who were out of a job, and who were faced with no prospect of immediately securing it. If that statement is challenged, I think it rests with the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War, who may be possessed with some information on the point, to tell the House what is the truth. Is it wise further to intensify and embitter the conditions of these industrial struggles by organising into a military force one section of workmen, who are out of work against their 1569 will, to deal with difficulties caused by the struggles of other sections of workmen, who are also out of work against their will, and resisting proposed reductions in wages? Nor did the right hon. Gentleman say anything on the question of the cost of this step which the Government is taking. That is, no doubt, a topic which he would very much like to avoid. He is faced with recurring demands from all quarters, not merely to talk, but to practise economy and to retrench. We cannot afford money for any, or for many, of the purposes for which the Government is at times being pressed for money. It appears we have money in reserve, or credit ahead of us, equal to meeting any of the financial obligations resulting from this totally unnecessary step which the Government has taken, and if the House of Commons is entitled to anything at all, it should at least be told something on this question of expense. What is it to cost the country? And should that cost have been incurred, if some other and better way, which would have been an effective contribution to a pacific settlement of this unhappy trouble, could have been found?
The Prime Minister was not in his place when, in the earlier part of my remarks, I said that, before the stoppage of work actually took place, the Government blundered into this stoppage, and thereby forced one of the greatest industrial struggles which this country has ever had to face, and I think the Prime Minister, if he is to speak during the course of the Debate, should revert to that first underlying cause of all this unhappy contest. It is not the mine-owners; it is, indeed, less the mine-owners than the Government who are to be blamed for having really set at nought the conditions which made this dispute almost inevitable. The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War indicated that, although recruitment had been stopped, the effective organisation and use of the provisions which have so far been made would be maintained until such time as the Government might no longer see need to retain these men in this service. In face of the mood which has been produced in the country and this House in relation to this dispute since the events of Thursday night, I suggest we are entitled to some more definite and some more acceptable state- 1570 ment than that, and for that reason I join very heartily in the appeal which has been made immediately to disband this force, with some such compensation to those who joined it as that to which their action might entitle them. The presence of this force will not be a contribution to the settlement of the dispute, and it is settlement which, in the main, must be in the minds of the Government, as in the minds of every; Member in every quarter of the House. Let me cite a letter as showing how this marching of men and shouldering of rifles and bayonets act upon a civil working-class population, and we must look at these matters, not, say, from the standpoint of people in Mayfair so much as the standpoint of people in Merthyr—in the colliery centres. This is a letter received to-day from the Secretary of the Trades and Labour Council in Abertillery:About 250 naval ratings have been drafted into this town, whilst perfect peace prevailed, and nothing had taken place which pointed to any disturbance even likely to occur. I am instructed to forward the enclosed resolution to you. From information given to us by some of the naval ratings, it appears that they were told before arrival at the Town Hall that the inhabitants were burning, looting and smashing, and that they would have to fight their way into the town. They marched from the railway station with fixed bayonets.That is in a Welsh town where, as a fact, there was no disturbance or tendency or sign of disturbance. This is not the way to treat working men, even though they are on strike, or perhaps locked-out or involved in a disturbance. There is still the legal right in this country to knock off your job if you are not satisfied with the terms. We are well aware that with? large masses of men acting together, there are all the elements tending; to disturbance which do not exist, if only an individual is affected. But we should not anticipate the worst in the case of our countrymen, nor look upon them as the nation's enemies, because they are struggling, as they believe, in a cause in which they are entitled to fight and win a victory, if they are able to. The Prime Minister has to his account many things of which he has cause to be proud, but I think he can scarcely look back with any feeling of satisfaction to the fact that he is at the head of a Government which has taken this new and unhopeful step in relation to industrial dis- 1571 putes. Our disputes, serious as they have been in recent years, have, on the whole, been conducted with admirable regard to the law and for peaceful arrangements as between employers and employed. Men may be condemned for excesses; good excuses sometimes in the circumstances may be adduced for follies and mistakes on the part of masses of men.
Governments, on the other hand, have not the same reasons, nor excuses. There-lore the Minister of War made out no case whatever. He did not even attempt to make out any case to justify the policy of the Government upon this question. He treated it as a duty, and as though it were an every-day occurrence, which the House should almost formally accept and approve of. I think the House will expect something from the Prime Minister by way of some explanation and some defence of this new and lamentable step taken by the Government. Those of us therefore, who have been anxious to avoid an extension of the dispute and at the same time to secure a settlement that would be fair and just to the miners and have offered advice in relation to the proposals for a reduction have had our task made extremely difficult by the steps which almost day by day the Government has taken. Such appeal as we have made has so far gone unheeded. I now add my appeal to that already made in the House. Although it was a mistake to take this step, to incur the expense, and to create the feeling which has been created, the position might even now be altered for 'the better if the Government at once were to announce that its steps are to be retraced and these organized military forces disbanded.
The CHANCELLOR of the EXCHEQUER (Sir Robert Home)
I would not for a moment dissent from what the right hon. Gentleman has said in regard to the gravity of the step which the Government has taken in its desire, on 'behalf of the community, to meet the emergency which has arisen. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Platting described the steps which we have taken as unusual in character. They were unusual in character, but the emergency with which we were faced, was of a most exceptional description. If my right hon. Friend will cast his mind back 1572 to the Friday upon which the Proclamation was issued out of which these operations have arisen—I mean the recruitment to which reference has been made by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for War—he will remember that the nation at that time was threatened by the announced intention of a strike on the part of the Triple Alliance on the following Saturday evening. We have never yet seen a stoppage of the whole Triple Alliance at one time. What did it mean? It meant that not only were we being deprived of the coal supplies of the nation—that in itself was bad enough—but it meant that, if that stoppage occurred, our transports from overseas would not be unloaded if the dock workers could prevent it. It meant that no trains would run if any railwaymen could stop them. It meant that vital supplies necessary to keep the nation's life going would be kept from the community.
§ Sir R. HORNE
My hon. Friend the Member for East Edinburgh (Mr. Hogge) describes our preparations as a sort of declaration of civil war. My right hon. Friend the Member for Platting (Mr. Clynes) in his speech talked of aggressive action taken against the industrial classes of this country. What was the aggressive action? Great masses of people were going to try to starve the community according to their threat. What was the Government doing? It was doing nothing more than providing that the nation should be supplied with the food necessary for existence; not merely for the rest of the nation, but including the very people whose threat involved that they would starve us! My right hon. Friend, when he reflects upon the language which he used will, I think, see that it is entirely inappropriate. He asks, perfectly fairly: Why have we continued these precautions in view of the change which has taken place over the week-end? We all welcome that change. The announcement was made upon Friday, and I have no doubt that it brought a great sense of relief to the mind of the community, but cam our state of difficulty and trouble be said to have entirely ceased? Can it be said that we have no longer any need to have apprehension as to what may take place? Does my right hon. Friend forget that only the other day an exasperated band of 1573 miners in Fife attacked and drove out of the railway station the people who were there to carry on one of our essential services? Does he forget that in different districts in Scotland most violent attempts have been made to prevent the thing which lie himself has acknowledged in this House to be one of the most essential character, namely, the pumping of the mines? I am sure he realises that even to-day some force is necessary by way of precaution to prevent the interruption to that most necessary service. We know that there was a band of people, by no means composed, as to its majority, of miners, but of other elements, unfortunately turbulent and violent, who took advantage of the opportunity to set up a condition of things in some parts of Scotland with which only force was adequate to deal.
It need not be feared by my right hon. Friend but that we shall get rid of all these elements of defence as soon as the precautions are no longer necessary. From my point of view, holding the office which it is now my privilege to hold, I, for one, shall be very glad to see this factor of expense eradicated at the earliest possible moment. The cost, so far as we can make out—this is in reply to a question of my right hon. Friend—the cost to the country is something rather less than £1,000,000 per week. In point of fact it is not a great expense as compared with what we are steadily losing by reason of the coal stoppage. It is not a large amount to pay for the insurance of the nation against the trouble which many of us feared. But I am sure the Committee will readily understand that it is not an expense that we shall incur for one moment longer than can be helped, or than the necessity for these precautions requires. With the disappearance of this necessity, so also will the force disappear we thought it necessary to gather together in order to defend the existence of the nation.
There is one other point to which I should like to refer. It was made by my right hon. Friend in his speech and also by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Paisley (Mr. Asquith) on Friday. I have hitherto passed it over. It is said that the Government in some way or other precipitated this conflict. My right hon. Friend says that the Government is more to blame than either the miners or the 1574 owners. It might be imagined that we had done something which was like a "bolt from the blue," entirely sudden, and anticipated by nobody. Decontrol of the coal trade took place on 31st March. It did not surprise anybody engaged in the trade.
§ Sir R. HORNE
It did not surprise anybody engaged in the trade, or at least anybody who was taking an interest in it. Already before the end of December it had become apparent that the conditions which made control necessary had disappeared. If any hon. Member cares to refer to the speech which I made in connection with the introduction of the Mining Industry Bill he will find that I said that that Bill provided for control continuing until 31st August, but that control would only continue so long as it was necessary for two purposes: one was to prevent the price of coal in this country from rising higher than was reasonable for our industries to pay and the ordinary consumer of the country to provide himself with his necessary coal—that was one reason—and the other reason was to prevent coal being exported in larger quantities than we could afford. The demand for coal at that time was so great from every quarter of the world that we were in great danger of being left with a shortage of supply in this country. These were the two purposes, and hon. Members will find that clearly made out in the speech which I then had the honour to make to the House.
By the end of December we had more coal than was being required. There was no longer any reason to restrict the export because we could not get sufficient orders for the coal which we could spare. In regard to the price, the value of coal had tumbled to such an extent in the world market that there was no longer any reason to restrict the price to be borne in the home markets. We had seen coal drop from something like 92s. per ton f.o.b. for export to something like 43s. 6d., and, so far as home coal was concerned, there was no attempt to demand any price which was higher than the maximum at that time. Both reasons for control were therefore gone. On the other hand, the Government was carrying on the coal trade at a great loss to 1575 the taxpayer. The Government was carrying it on inefficiently. I do not think anyone who has had any experience of Government control will deny that, although you may act according to your best judgment, nevertheless no Government Department can conduct a great industry with anything like the efficiency and the skill which is put into operations by a person whose individual existence depends upon the success of those operations. I cannot speak of the exact date, but certainly in the month of' January I called together a conference both of coal-owners and the Miners' Federation, and from that time onwards I had various conferences with them until the time when they announced to me, towards the end of March, that there was going to be a stoppage. There was, therefore, no surprise in the minds of the people who really were dealing with this industry, because I called them together for the purpose of telling them in the month of January that I thought decontrol must come soon, although it was impossible then to fix the precise date.
It is said, " But you caused a very sudden drop in wages at the end of March." Yes, there was a sudden drop in the wages offered, although we are in no way responsible, nor have we expressed any opinion upon them. That there must be some drop in wages was obvious if the coal industry was to meet its liabilities. Mr. Frank Hodges, in his address at one of the conferences last week, told us something about his analysis of the February accounts of the coal trade, and they showed that it would require at least a decrease of 4s. 2d. per shift if the account was to be made to balance. That shows what had occurred as the result of the slump in prices. The reason why the descent at the end of March was bound to be steep was because we had kept wages at an artificial height during the first three months of the year, and you might have had a less steep descent if you had reduced wages at the time prices began to fall. But surely the people who have been getting the advantage of those higher wages should not complain, because it has left them with more money in their pockets than they would otherwise have had.
I cannot understand the complaint of my right hon. Friend (Mr. Clynes) on this 1576 matter. The real reason why we are confronted with this trouble to-day is not because of the action of the Government, as my right hon. Friend suggests, but it is really due to the circumstances which he mentioned with great courage in his speech in this House last Friday. He said the great difficulty that Labour Leaders were confronted with was that very often, so far from leading, they were compelled to follow. I would remind my right hon. Friend of this fact. It has 'been disclosed as a fact, and it has never been contradicted, that the Executive of the Miners' Federation with whom the Government had been dealing before the stoppage occurred, went to their conference of delegates and urged them to accept either as a temporary measure or a measure of some permanence, a settlement of wages on the basis that was offered, and it was only because their advice was rejected by the delegates that the stoppage occurred. If the Executive of the Miners' Federation had been convinced of the propriety of that action, surely it is not for the right hon. Gentleman to say that the Government erred because the Executive failed to convince the people behind them, or that their leaders failed to induce their followers to obey. My right hon. Friend stated that he hopes for a fair and just settlement. That I am sure is the hope of every hon. Member of this House. I willingly pay my tribute to the great efforts made by my right hon. Friend and others acting with him to prevent this lamentable occurrence, and also to bring it to a speedy end; and I hope we shall still all be able to act together for the same purpose.
§ Mr. A. SHAW
I hope this Debate is not going to degenerate into an inquiry into the motives which actuated the Government in setting up this Defence Force. There are good reasons which I could produce which in the special circumstances of the case made that necessary, but I think in the present temper of the country it would be very much better to let bygones be bygones and accept the frank acknowledgment made by the Secretary for War that further recruitment would be stopped, that he had an open mind on the subject, and that at the earliest possible moment this Defence Force would be demobilised. In the extremely able speech to which 1577 we have just listened from the Chancellor of the Exchequer I seem to detect just a little note of hardness, and it is a hardness which was absent from our proceedings upstairs last Thursday. It is the hardness of the trained logician and expert. We are faced with two great facts which the theorists on both sides seem to ignore. One of these great facts which has not received sufficient attention is the wholly exceptional part played by the bounty of nature in differentiating between one coal mine and another. That is a fact which seems to me to render the coal mining industry an entirely different proposition from any other industry, and one set of theorists close their eyes to that fact.
The other great fact is the part played by foresight in selecting the location of mines, by expert management, and human skill in differentiating one mine from another. Some of these theorists seem to think that we should not recognize the enormous part played by Nature, and others that we must close our eyes to the enormous part played by human skill and management in differentiating one mine from another. I yield to nobody in maintaining that if this country is to endure and not fade away the fullest scope ought to be given, and the fullest reward ought to be given, to private enterprise and private initiative and energy. But I would remind those theorists who blind their eyes to the facts to which I have alluded that any system involves hardship. The system of private enterprise involves hardship just like any other system, and no system is made more secure by shutting one's eyes to undoubted facts.
I think it is very remarkable how in the organs of the Press, which might be supposed to be unduly partial to the mine owners' point of view, the distinguishing fact of natural conditions in this industry has been pointed out. We need not go further than a very able article in "The Times" this morning to see that that fact is realized, and certain deductions must be drawn from it. A supporter of the Prime Minister's policy, "The Observer," only yesterday drew the same conclusion; and a great economist, Sir William Beveridge, draws the same moral in a letter in "The Times" this morning. We should open our eyes to both sides on this question, and not drive to destruction our logical theories 1578 on one side or the other. There is the part played by nature and the part played by man in regard to this question, and it is not beyond the statesmanship of the Government or the owners or the men to open their eyes to both of these two facts and arrive at a settlement which may not be completely logical and may yet be fair and just. We are called an illogical people because we recognise facts which do not fit in with any theory, and which cannot be made to fit in with the limits of any precise theory; but, nevertheless, our progress has consisted in recognising facts, absorbing them, and carrying on. If the hard logicians and pure theorists had had their way there would never have been such a thing as the British Constitution. So whether it be by a Court of Inquiry, as was employed in the case of the dockers' dispute, or some other means, at any rate, some method must exist for giving due weight to both these facts, and arriving at a fair settlement.
§ Mr. SHAW
That was a Royal Commission, and I am talking about a judicial inquiry. It is impossible to make some people see the obvious. The obvious is just the thing which very clever people often fail to see, and the more clever the man is the more likely he is to miss the obvious. The most dangerous class are the pure theorists who go on repeating like fanatics of some dark superstition that there is a conflict and upheaval inevitable between labour and capital in this country. Talk of this kind is nothing short of a crime, for no such thing exists as an "inevitable" conflict. There has never been in this country that great unbridgeable gulf which existed in Russia. There are ladders of education and of opportunity for all to climb, and even more since the War there are ties of sympathy and common sacrifice which probably exist to the same extent in no other country.
My right hon. Friend the Leader of the Labour party has often pointed out this further immense fact, that the development of the feelings, the instincts and the aspirations of the people of this country can be translated into legislative form if they can get a Parliamentary majority behind them. Let us open our eyes to these facts and recognise first of all one 1579 other undoubted fact. These preparations were necessary to maintain the security of life and property and to maintain individual freedom in the case of events which fortunately have not arisen, but that does not seem to be thoroughly understood throughout the whole of the country. They have been misrepresented sometimes by people who completely misunderstood their object and at other times by people who thought they could make political capital out of them. In any case their effect has been to harden and tighten the temper of the country. I think, therefore, that the Government would be well advised in following up the gesture which has been made by two great confederations of labour in favour of a friendly settlement, and might well close down these preparations at the earliest possible moment. Then we can get back into the atmosphere of last week, and every working man in the country will realise that this House is determined that the miners and every other body of labour shall have a fair deal, and is determined also to do its level best to ensure it.
§ Major WATTS MORGAN
I must ask the indulgence of the House for addressing it in a very husky voice, because I have lost my voice during the week-end, since I left the House on Friday last. I desire, first, to associate myself and to endorse every word which has been said by the hon. Member for East Edinburgh (Mr. Hogge) and also by the right hon. Member for Platting (Mr. Clynes), as to the points which at the present moment are being largely discussed by the workmen in the mining valleys. We have got an Estimate to-day on the White Paper of the number of men of all ranks it is proposed to recruit, but I regret we have no statement from the Minister for War with regard to the amount of money to be expended upon this new scheme of recruiting. I also regret, because it touches various parts of the district which I represent, that no answer has been given to the question with regard to naval ratings which, both in Abertillery and elsewhere, have been marched through the streets with fixed bayonets. I ask the House to believe that it is not conducive to good feeling to have armed forces of the Crown marching through colliery villages and centres, especially when there is a dispute of this kind on. Since last Saturday morning we have 1580 been holding meetings throughout the two Rhonddas, and the hon. Member for Rhondda West (Mr. John) and myself have addressed anything between 40,000 and 50,000 people. Although those people are smarting and are feeling very bitter indeed regarding the result of the negotiations, although they are sorely disappointed with the result of some of the incidents of Friday last, not a single occurrence, no incident whatever of any kind, in a population bordering upon 200,000 people, has taken place to mar the harmony and peace of that large industrial centre, the biggest council in Britain.
I See the. Chancellor of the Exchequer is not in his place. I was not going to say anything to the detriment of that Gentleman, but I confess I am afraid that the speech we have heard from him is not going to help us very much. I want to urge that the bulk of the mining community, although something may have been said in January and February last to what I will call the heads of the Departments on both sides, although there may have been some talk in their conferences of the possibility of decontrol, yet the large body of miners never anticipated, and never had any kind of expectation at all, that the industry would be decontrolled before 31st August. The first, intimation they got of it was when the Decontrol Bill was introduced on the floor of this House. We also had some statements from the Chancellor of the Exchequer which I do not propose to follow. Hon. Members on my right and in front of me know more about the transactions of last week than I do, but when it is stated here that the leaders asked the conferences of the men in London to accept the proposals made by the ewners. I say that that is absolutely untrue and misleading, because there is no leader in the mining movement to-day, there is no-one in this House, there is no one in public authority who would venture to ask the miners to accept the proposals which have been made by the owners. Some hon. Gentleman near me seems to doubt the statements which have been made by us with regard to wages. This is what I want to say on that particular point. The proposals of the owners would mean that the general worker in the mines, who have been getting £4 4s. a week, will be reduced to £2 2s., and out of that £2 2s., translated into pre-War value—supposing he is to live on the same 1581 standard as he lived in pre-War days—he will require £l 16s. to clear the weekly budget for his family, and every week he would be getting into debt to the extent of £1 16s. Therefore, nobody in this House or outside would venture to ask a general worker in the mines to accept such conditions for governing his wages and employment for six days' work in each week.
The inhabitants in the Rhondda Valley are unitedly demanding the withdrawal of the troops and police from their part of the district. I am glad to see the Prime Minister is present. If we are to have a measure of good feeling, if we are to restore that state of comradeship between employers and workmen—and heaven knows it is necessary we should restore it in order to settle our coal dispute on a just and fair basis—let that be done. The men employed in the industry believe that they have rendered great services to industries outside in every other employment during the five years of War. They know that money has been taken out of the industry, and they think they are entitled to some assistance from the State at the present time; therefore I agree with the hon. Member for Greenock (Sir C. Collins) that if a message can be sent none would be so acceptable as the one that the police and the military are to be withdrawn. That would create an atmosphere for the conference, to be held in London on Friday next, that would do far more than anything else to bring about a feeling which would enable us to bring to a close the present lamentable dispute and to get our men back to work contentedly.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Sir S. HOARE
The hon. Member for East Rhondda (Major W. Morgan) offered some criticisms on the speech of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. I do not want to be drawn into controversy with him on that matter, but if I say anything, it will be that for my part I regret a good many of the observations made to-day by the right hon. Member for Platting (Mr. Clynes), than whom we know no one worked more earnestly in the cause of peace. I regret his controversial treatment of the cause of this dispute. It seems to me that today we have got beyond that attitude, and my opinion, whatever it may be worth, is this. I saw the Government faced with a very grave national emergency, and I am not prepared, on a Ques- 1582 tion of which they have full knowledge and in regard to which I have very limited information, to say that the steps, they have taken have been unjustifiable. I believe myself that, under the threat of a general strike, they could not have done otherwise. I further believe that the methods they have adopted have been the right ones. The leader of the Labour party emphasised the suggestion that the situation could have been dealt with by the enlistment of special constables. I do not believe, if a general strike had eventuated, that such a method would have been adequate; and the Defence Force was really the only force the Government could have created under the circumstances. I therefore cannot agree with the criticisms we have heard of the measures which the Government has been compelled to take. Further, I should like to get back to the immediate situation, and by that I mean the situation not of last week but of today—the situation in which the miners" controversy has been isolated from the threat of a general strike. That seems to me to mean that the extremists on both sides have been defeated, but it does not mean that organised labour has been defeated1. No hon. Member should have, even at the back of his mind, the feeling that the action.of the Triple Alliance last Friday means the break-up of organised labour.
Moreover, it should not be forgotten, that, although the extremists have been defeated, the coal problem has not yet been solved. I suppose there never has. been a more complicated industrial problem facing the country than the present problem of the coal industry There are all the complications of the natural differences which have been referred to; there are all the complications connected with the different rates of wages in various parts of the country; and there is the even greater complication, that the controversy, at any rate as it presents itself to me, is one in which each of the three parties is, to a great extent, right. There is the owner, who demands, and demands with justice, a. legitimate return upon the capital which he has sunk in the industry. There is the Government, which says with equal justice: "We must do away with the control that has been crippling a great industry." Thirdly, there is the miner, who says, with no less right: "I am 1583 entitled to a fair living wage." The fact that all three of the parties in the dispute are right makes it a good deal more difficult to find a fair solution, and, if that be so, it seems to me that the essential condition of coming to any kind of agreement, when there is so much to be said for all these three parties, is good will all round. It seemed to me that at the end of last week, if nothing else happened, the feeling on all sides became less bitter, and a new atmosphere of good will was generally introduced over the field of controversy.
I want nothing that is said to-day or that may be done this week to interfere with this feeling of good will; and, holding that view, one is naturally in some sympathy with the hon. Member for Greenock (Sir G. Collins), when he points to the great machinery of defence that has been built up, and says to the Government, "Let us show our willingness to solve this dispute by abandoning this great machinery of national defence." I do not feel justified in going all the way with him, although I have great sympathy with that view. I would say rather to the Government—the Government alone can have the knowledge for deciding what forces of national defence are necessary in a given emergency—that it looks to me, a private Member, in view of the fact that there have been no serious disputes in the coalfields during the last few days, as though those forces might be reduced to a minimum. In justice to the Government, I would say that I was very pleased when I heard the Secretary of State for War say that only 75,000 had been enlisted, that that number was considered sufficient in the view of the Government, and that further enlistment had been stopped. I would only ask the Government to give the House a somewhat more definits assurance than was given by the Secretary of State for War—who, in his short statement, did not go into these more controversial subjects—and to let the House have some further pledge that they will reduce and eventually disband this extraordinary force of defence on the earliest possible occasion. I say that in the interests of economy, and also because it often happens that a great machinery which is created for some special and necessary crisis, and which is needed at the time, is allowed to go on 1584 functioning long after the emergency has passed. I venture to throw out this suggestion of warning to the Government, and to ask them to maintain the atmosphere of good will which we believe now suffuses the mining controversy; and, with that in view, to give the House an assurance that, as soon as the maintenance of law and order allows, this special force will be disbanded.
§ Lord H. CAVENDISH-BENTINCK
Like the hon. Member who has just spoken, I would urge the plea that bygones may be bygones. I have no desire, even if I could do so without an infringement of order, to enter into the question whether the Government was justified in calling out this great force. I feel, however, that the events of the last few days have given us all a lesson in the futility of force. I am old-fashioned enough to believe that strikes are settled, not by the alarums and excursions of Triple Alliances on the one side, and Defence Forces on the other, but by the influence of public opinion; and I would remind my hon. Friends around me that it was not until they stated their case before hon. Members of this House that the opinion of the country turned in their favour. I think that really the best way of protesting against the force which the Government has raised, and of trying to get this enormous burden oft our backs, is to do one's best to create an atmosphere of peace. There seems to be so much common ground in this dispute that I cannot help feeling that with a little good will peace might be secured. Is there, for instance, really any valid objection to the claim of the miners for a national settlement? Is not the claim a logical outcome of the trade union movement that the' workers in any industry should be recognised nationally? Is it not also what one might reasonably expect them to ask for? Again, is it not also agreed that the wages in the coal industry should be on a subsistence level, and that the proposals of the mine owners in many large districts were such as would drive the wages of the miners unquestionably below the subsistence level? Mining is a dangerous occupation, and it is not right that any portion of the mining industry should be treated as a sweated industry, Then there is the question of the industry itself. The right hon. Gentleman the 1585 Member for Paisley (Mr. Asquith), in objecting to a national pool, said that it would be almost preferable that pits should cease to be worked. I venture to differ from that. It seems to me now to be a question, not whether this pit or that pit in a certain district should go out of use, but whether, owing to the unexampled depression in the trade, whole areas, such as the East of Scotland and Wales, should be faced with absolute ruin, and the workers driven into the workhouse or driven abroad. I think we are all agreed that any such eventuality would be a national disaster.
If we are agreed that the miners are entitled to a national settlement, that they are also entitled to a living wage, and that it is not in the national interest that any large number of pits should go out of use, cannot we arrive at some solution of the difficulty? The miners themselves are willing to make fair contributions to a settlement. They are willing, as far as I understand, to make a sacrifice of 12s. a week. The owners, too, are prepared to make some sacrifice; they are prepared to go without any profit, though for what period I do not know. Is there really any valid reason why the Government, as representing the people of this country, should not come to the assistance of the miners and the mineowners? After all, the mining industry of this country does not owe the community very much. For the last few years the Government have taken very large sums of money out of it, and the public have had coal at less than cost price. If the miner has his duty to the community, the community has also its duty to the miner, and I cannot see that there would be anything but agreement in the country if the Government were to come forward and say they were prepared to help the mineowner and the miner with a handsome subsidy, at all events while this depression lasts. If that is not to be the settlement, and if the miners do insist on a national pool, we have to ask ourselves without prejudice whether there 'is anything very dangerous in this proposal of the miners. I have read the Prime Minister's statement of the objections to a national pool, but I do not think the right hon. Gentleman has taken the trouble really to understand what the demand of the miners is. The miners are not demanding that there should be a pool of profits, but merely that there should be a certain levy on 1586 every -ton of coal, and that the proceeds of that levy should be given, while the necessity exists, to the more necessitous areas. Is there anything very dangerous in a proposal like that? It requires a very great stretching of the imagination to believe that it could possibly have the dangerous and blasting results upon the industry that the Prime Minister would have us believe. On the other hand, is it not possible that some such arrangement as this might lead to a great improvement in the efficiency of the industry? Is it not possible that, by enlisting the sympathy and co-operation of the miners, we might get a new and a better spirit, with an improvement in the working of the pits and a larger output of coal? This question is not only a question of wages; it is to a large extent a psychological question, and demands some exercise of the imagination and sympathetic insight. Coalowners have many estimable qualities, but they have not displayed sufficient imagination and sympathetic insight into the question. If they had exercised their imaginations they could not possibly have asked the miners to accept a wage in a great many areas which drives their wages down below the real subsistence level, even below the wage of 1914. If we are to have peace in the coal trade, as well as in any other of our industries, the employers must recognise that the aspirations of the workers are to a very large extent only human aspirations. The moment we get a spirit like that we shall have peace, but we must recognise that the aspiration of the worker to be treated as a human being, and to be treated as a partner in a form of national service, is the only way to bring prosperity and wealth and welfare to the country and contentment and happiness to the workers.
§ Earl WINTERTON
I should like to say a word more about the Vote itself than some of the speeches to which we have recently listened. So far as I was able to understand the arguments of the Noble Lord opposite (Lord H. Cavendish-Bentinck), there was nothing that we on this side would object to except that I regret what I can only describe as the rather offensive observations that the Prime Minister had not made himself acquainted with the demands of the miners, which is rather a childish thing to say at this period of the day.
§ Lord H. CAVENDISH-BENTINCK
I only said the- Prime Minister did not correctly interpret the wishes of the miners, and if the Noble Lord will read the Prime Minister's statement, I think he will agree with me.
§ Earl WINTERTON
I understood the Noble Lord to asy the Prime Minister did not understand them. I, of course, accept his correction. I no doubt misunderstood what he said. However, the point as to what my Noble Friend's views on the question are is not a very important one. Few of us on this side of the House would find anything to object to in the speeches which have come from the Labour Benches to day, and I should like to pay what humble tribute I can to the reasonable and moderate attitude which has been adopted by spokesmen from the Labour Benches throughout the controversy. We all appreciate that, and we on this side of the House are only too anxious to approach the question from the same point of view. It is a controversy on which no private Member need make any apology for speaking, for it is obvious already that the action taken by private Members in many sections of the House has had a bearing on the result. As one who prides himself on having always done his best to stand up for the rights of private Members, I am delighted to see that the mass of private Members are again making their influence felt, and doing it in a way which will act as a valuable check upon the obvious determination of a large section of 'the Press to take what influence they can away from this House. I am very pleased that that meets with the assent, as I believe it does, of the majority of the House. That being so, obviously everyone should do his best to avoid saying anything of a provocative nature on this Vote. The first thing I am going to say will not be considered provocative—indeed, I think it will receive the assent of the Labour party and many others as well. I should like to ask why it is necessary to produce, even in these extraordinary times, such a remarkable form of Vote as that which is laid on the Table this afternoon. I never remember discussing Estimates before on an occasion on which there was no sort of sum given at all. I never remember an Estimate in this form:Vote A.—Number of men of all ranks required for Army service in addition to the number already voted.1588 The right hon. Gentleman is quite entitled to say it is impossible to estimate really what sum of money will be required, but I think we ought to have had some sort of Estimate. I do not think the House ought to be kept in the dark as to what the cost is going to be. I am sure the Prime Minister will agree that we always used to have during the War token Votes, and it is important to Keep these old Parliamentary forms. They might, at any rate, put down a token Vote if they could not put down the whole Vote. The token Vote was in existence as long ago as the Napoleonic wars, when it was not desirable to have the enemy know the amount we were spending. This is a novel way of presenting a Vote.
Apart from that, I should like to say one word on an aspect of the subject which has not been referred to at all. We have had the point of view put from all parts of the House that it is very undesirable to do anything which can look like provocation to the miners at present on strike or to any other section of trade unionists who are likely to be going to strike, but no one has referred to what I think is the very important fact that there is no country in the world in which the Central Executive Government has in normal times a weaker military and police machine to carry out its functions than the Executive Government of this country. I admit I am treading on very delicate ground, and one is very liable to offend someone opposite, but no one can deny that the Government must be able to use force in the last resort, just as it is a truism that all diplomacy rests upon force in the long run. No country that is not able to support its point of view in the last result by an Army or Navy—before the War let us say—is likely to have its point of view adopted, so it is perfectly obvious that the Government of any civilised country must be available, when it requires it, a military or police, machine to carry out its orders. Even in America the ordinary Executive Government has far more power in that sense than this country has. In France in an emergency of this kind the whole of the conscript Army is called up at once. The same thing was done in Germany before the War. The same thing was done in Austria. The same thing was done in Italy and Spain.
§ Earl WINTERTON
And may I say to the hon. and gallant Gentleman who cheers that the same thing will be done by his friends in Russia when the necessity arises? Lenin and Trotsky must be able to use the armed workers of the country, in order to put down the other workers. It is true that the Federal Government of the United States has only a small regular army and a small federal police force, but when any disturbance arises it can call upon the States to arm their militia and put down disorder in that way. Anyone who has followed the history of American disputes knows that that power is most drastically used. There is no country in the world, either in this or any previous, dispute, that makes less use of its military and police machine than this country has done. Hon. Members do not realise the feeling there is in a country like France when there is anything approaching a general strike. The leaders of the strike are arrested at once. What happened to an hon. Member who went to France at the time of a strike? He was at once ordered to leave the country.
§ Earl WINTERTON
No, I do not. The hon. and gallant Gentleman has missed the whole point of my argument. Every country in the world except this country is provided with a machine, and a most efficient machine, for carrying out its orders by force if necessary, which machine this country has not got. For one thing, the police force, with the exception of the Metropolitan Police, is not even under the Executive Government, but is under the local authorities. I have tried to ask questions occasionally about local police forces. I have been told by the clerks at the Table and by Mr. Speaker that I cannot ask a question about them because the organisation of local police forces has no connection with the House. I fail to see, in time of great emergency such as we have passed through, that you can complain if the Government forms a force—I admit ad hoc—to deal with possible disorder which may arise. I agree that it is the duty of the Government at the earliest possible date, when they no longer need to force, to disband it. An hon. Member referred with great indignation to the fact that marines marched through Abertillery with 1590 bayonets on their rifles. It is an extraordinary point of view, after such a War as we have recently fought, that His Majesty's troops are not permitted to march through a town with fixed bayonets without it being a provocative action. It is true the hon. Member was informed that there was likely to be bloodshed, but I cannot see what bearing that has on the point. The accusation he made was that they marched through the town in a provocative manner, which shows the extraordinary point of view people have. It shows that we rely more on our common-sense and our sense of law and order than do other countries. But I cannot conceive any other country in the-world in which a Member of the Legislature would say it is a provocative action to march His Majesty's troops through a town with fixed bayonets. In freedomloving America they would not march through a town with fixed bayonets. They would take far more drastic action than that.
One other thing I want to say which has not yet been said. It is to remind hon. Members opposite and hon. Members on this side, whose spirit of conciliation I always very much admire, though possibly from the formation of my nature I do not follow it quite as far as they do, that it is all very well to say very good feeling has been displayed. I think it has. We all admit that the leaders, particularly those in this House, have done everything they can to restrain their followers from any possible violence. But it is unfair to blame the Chancellor of the Exchequer, as has been done on more than one occasion—he has almost been accused of using provocative language—when we remember that he is in a position to know far better than any other Member of the House the great harm that was done in the early days of the strike to the machinery by flooding in the mines, and the enormous sum of money that was lost. Under these circumstances would not the Government be not only foolish but absolutely criminal if they did not take every possible step-to protect that machinery? I very much hope that danger has entirely gone. I hope the hon. Member opposite is correct when he says that if all the police and troops were withdrawn from South Wales there would be no possible disorder. I hope one may take that as meaning that all the collieries would be allowed to be worked. On the other hand, after the 1591 money which has already been lost in the most vital of all our industries, you never would be justified till the strike is settled in refraining from taking adequate measures, so long as they are not provocative, to protect the mines. In this matter we have to follow closely cause and effect. While we on this side of the House have a responsibility in not taking anything which may look like provocative action against them, they, equally, have responsibility, not themselves, and not to allow their friends from the country, to make provocative speeches and talk about what labour could do, if it only organised, in holding up the life of the community. If they do make those sort of speeches they must not complain if the Government take action to defeat their object.
§ 6. 0 P.M.
§ Mr. G. BARKER
I want to emphasise the demand that these reserve forces should be disbanded. There is no necessity whatever for the mobilisation of these forces. The hon. Member for Horsham (Earl Winterton) has missed the whole point of the protest so far as it refers to Abertillery. There is no resentment against the forces at Abertillery. It is the aspersion that is cast upon, the town by the sending of these men into a town which is absolutely peaceable and quiet, and marching them from the railway station, with tin helmets on their heads, with bayonets fixed, and with two machine guns accompanying them, and with thousands of rounds of ball cartridge. It is an insult to the inhabitants of Abertillery to send such a force there. There is no resentment against the personnel of the force. There is the utmost good feeling prevailing between the inhabitants and the men. The first thing that the townspeople did was to call up the glee party and send it to the military headquarters to entertain the men. That good feeling was highly reciprocated by the men, who made a collection for the distress fund of the town. Therefore the hon. Member for Horsham entirely missed the point when he cast an aspersion upon the town by saying that they resented the defence forces of this country. They resented the motive that sent the force there, and they resent it now because there is absolutely no reason why that force should have been sent 1592 there. [HON. MEMBERS: "Are they pumping the mines?"] The pumps are working, and the officials are working the pumps. There is not one of these naval men at any of the collieries. They are confined in a square place, and railed off like wild animals. They are not being used for the purpose for which they were ostensibly sent there. The same can be said of Abercarn, where 200 or 300 police have been sent. The town is absolutely quiet, and there is no justification whatever for the bringing of these forces into either Abertillery or Abercarn.
I resent the spirit displayed by the Government against the workers of this country. I remember the national strike of 1912, when there were nearly 1,000,000 men unemployed for six weeks. The right hon. Member for Paisley was Prime Minister at that time, and there were no cases of disorder during that strike. In the national strike which took place last year there were no cases of disorder. I have put questions on the Paper asking the Home Secretary to furnish cases of disorder, but he says that the information is not available. It is not available, because there is no evidence of any disorder. Therefore there is no reason why this force should have been mobilised at the present time. We believe on this side of the House that this force has been mobilised for a sinister purpose. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] Those are our opinions. We believe that the force has been mobilised in order to cause resentment amongst the members of the force so that they will blame the miners because they have been called up. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] We may be wrong, but that is our opinion. We cannot see any reason why the force should be called up. We are driven to that conclusion, and we hold to it whether we are wrong or whether they are right. [Laughter.] Hon. Members may laugh, but that is our opinion.
I want to come to the crux of the dispute. The crux of the dispute is the national pool. I understand from what the Prime Minister said on Friday last that the principle of the National Wages Board has been conceded, and he is prepared for the National Wages Board to meet the Mineowners' Association for the purpose of fixing wages. I want to submit to the Prime Minister that his design is that this National Wages Board shall fix the district wages; that they should fix varying rates for the varying districts.
1593 That is the crux of the present dispute. We contend that there is the same difficulty existing at the present time in regard to the district pool as there is in regard to the national pool. I will take as an example the South Wales coalfield, which concerns 220,000 men. In the South Wales coalfield we have the same varied conditions that exist in the national area. We have thick seams and thin seams, hard coal and soft coal, strong roofs and very bad roofs. We have all these varying geological conditions existing in the South Wales coal field, and we have-had ever since the Minimum Wage Act was passed practically a uniform rate of wages for that coalfield. We have a minimum rate of wages which applies to the whole coalfield, except to two or three collieries on the east side of the Cleddau River. There is a minimum wage of 6s. 10½d., plus the varying percentages in regard to piece-work, for all the collieries that are working in abnormal conditions. There is a rate of wages of 5s. minimum, plus percentages, for every labourer in the whole field, and we have under Lord St. Aldwyn's award a schedule of rates that applies to every grade of the industry throughout the whole of the South Wales coalfield. This has been in operation ever since 1912, and I have never heard any complaint from the coalowners with reference to the operation of the Conciliation Board and the award of Lord St. Aldwyn. I have been a member of the Conciliation Board at Cardiff for about 20 years and have dealt with many disputes, and I have never heard or seen any difficulty or any protest by the owners that they had to pay this universal rate of wage. If that is so, what is the obstacle to adopting the same principle for the nation as is adopted for the South Wales coalfields?
We have now in the coalfields of this country what is called a basic or standard rate of wages which varies in every coalfield. There is no proposal made by the Miners' Federation to interfere with those standards. They do not want to interfere with the disparity that exists between one coalfield and another so far as the standard rate of wages is concerned, but what they do say is, that if there are any advances in wages superimposed upon these standards that those advances shall be of an equal character. They say that for that purpose it is neces- 1594 sary to have a national pool. It has been said that! a national pool would destroy incentive. There has been no incentive destroyed in South Wales. If we had a National Wages Board working a national pool, the owners would still have the same freedom that they have, aU the present time. It is true that there would be a levy made upon each ton of coal which would be paid into the pool for the purpose of equalising the wages in the pool. If we had collieries that were not contributing their quota to the pool there would be experts on the National Wages Board, and the owners would have their mining engineers and experts. They would send their experts to these collieries to investigate the difficulties that these collieries had to contend with, and if it was found that through geological conditions a colliery was unprofitable, there is no doubt that the experts would close the colliery. The present abnormal state of things arose almost entirely out of the War. Since 1914 there have been very few new collieries sunk, and the old collieries have been worked under the abnormally high prices that were fixed by the Government. With those high prices no longer prevailing, these collieries have become unprofitable. If it had not been for the War we should not have had this difficulty. If it had not been for the War new collieries would have been sunk, and as the old collieries were closed the men would have been transferred from the old collieries into the new collieries. At the present time, men who have been employed in the collieries that are not profitable have been discharged. In my own constituency there are over 10,000 men who have been unemployed for six or eight weeks because they have been working in some of these very old collieries.
There is no insuperable difficulty in the way of establishing a national pool. It is highly essential, if you are to have any lasting peace in this industry, that you should have a national pool. The owners want to go back to the district conditions. It is within the recollection of hon. Members of this House what these sectional differences create. In the South Wales coalfield we have had strikes of six months' duration because of these Sectional differences. In Yorkshire there have been strikes at different periods arising out of these sectional differences. The 1595 House will recollect that Lord Rosebery came in and closed a strike in the Midlands which had lasted 16 weeks and involved 200,000 men. That is what the owners want to go back to. The miners will not go back. They are determined that they will not work in one district to blackleg men who are on strike in other districts. Therefore if there is any genius for organisation amongst the owners, if they can organise themselves the same as the Miners' Federation organised the workers, there would not be this trouble s/t the present time.
I hope the Government will compel the owners to put this industry upon such a basis that it can function without putting the country into such a state as it is in at present, but if they drive the men back by mere force of starvation into these district settlements, they will be confronted afterwards with an interminable war between one district and another. There is no necessity for this. Let them establish this pool. They had to establish a pool during the period of the War, and there were no great difficulties. Let them do this instead of wasting the wealth of this nation in mustering forces that are not required, spending the nation's money in pasting this country -with bills that contain false statements with reference to the wages of miners, and having this great national strike which is sapping the foundations of the wealth of this country. We have been charged by the Chancellor of the Exchequer with being responsible for this strike. The Miners' Federation are not responsible. The men are locked out. They have already submitted to a reduction of a guinea per week this year, and the proposed minimum reduction is a further two guineas, making three guineas. I say that if men do not produce wealth in these conditions, it is the employers themselves who are responsible and not the workers. I do not want to say anything more on that point, but I am simply defending the point of view of those whom I am sent to represent. I conclude with an appeal to the House, and especially to the Government, to go further into the question of this National Wages Board with this national pool, and I am certain if they do they will find that it is not only the best thing for the miners, but the best thing for the owners as well, and that 1596 ultimately it will be the salvation of the country.
§ Mr. STEVENS
I represent a constituency in which there are some thousands of coalminers. Speaking as a private Member, I have no doubt that both parties entered into the negotiations with the very best intentions. The items were necessarily very complicated, and as often happens with negotiations when they continue too long, they got stale. One is apt to dwell upon particular points on one side or the other, and sometimes on both, and I know that it is frequently thought by the negotiator that the point is insurmountable except upon the particular lines upon which he is approaching it. That- is what I think has happened to a great extent in the troubles with which we are now faced. Nothing is more desirable than to break off the negotiations which are entirely on those particular lines and endeavour to find a new basis. We had an opportunity of listening to a proposal put forward by the mineowners, and the wages proposed to be paid to the men were a matter of the greatest surprise. On this question of wages, surely we can reach some equitable basis, not only for the mineowners, but for the whole industry of the country. I will hot be a, party to the miners I represent receiving a less equitable basis of wages than I would want to give those with whom I work. I would not offer any of the many men with whom I work less than the pre-War rate of wages plus the increased cost of living due to the War, and that I would give as a minimum until such time as the capital invested in the business would have at least obtained some equitable interest. Whether that would be 6 per cent., 7 per cent, or 8 per cent, is a matter for subsequent negotiation.
I had an opportunity upstairs of asking Mr. Hodges two questions. The first was, " Are the miners prepared to consider a new and more suitable basis of negotiation for a permanent settlement?" The answer was, " For a temporary settlement, yes, but not for a permanent one." That was before Mr. Hodges knew what the proposal was. The proposal that I have is as useful for a permanent settlement and on a national basis as for a temporary purpose. I have already practically stated it. I asked him if the rate of wages were at the pre-War rate plus the increased cost of living as a 1597 minimum until the owners obtained a percentage on the capital employed. I suggested that 6 per cent, might be thought a reasonable basis to which the Federation would agree, and his answer was, "Yes, any suprplus to be divided proportionately between capital and labour." The point I want to make is this. If any such solution were reached—and here I am glad that the Prime Minister is in his place—or any other equitable settlement of wages were reached to-day in any of our industries, it might result in unemployment on a large scale, because the export trade is practically frozen up. What I mean is this. Give the miners, a reasonable wage, and you can imagine that the mineowners cannot sell the coal without making a great loss. That is the point on which we should come to the Government. It is the same in the cotton and the other manufacturing industries, and why should coal be treated differently? I see by the Returns that another 100,000 have gone out on unemployment in the past month and the settlement would be a good one for the miners now, though impossible to carry out—that they should be paid an equitable rate of wages to go back to work, those of them who could find work, and the remainder of them to come on unemployment pay until the Govrnment finds a way out.
I have had on the Paper to-day a serious question. I asked the Speaker last week if he would allow me to ask it as a private notice question, because it was so urgent He agreed that it was urgent, and that I should ask it. He wrote me that the Prime Minister was not in a position to answer it, and asked me to put it on the Paper for to-day. The Prime Minister's Secretary wrote me that he and the Leader of the House thought that it was a question that ought to be put on the Paper to-day. It has been put on the Paper to-day, and only one sectional part of it has been dealt with, and that by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasury, and here we are floundering around for want of some plan which will enable this country to get on with its work. Everyone who was looked on as an authority in this country 18 months or two years ago as to what was the cure for reconstruction after the War said that there was only one thing—production. Why, before we have begun to produce we have got into this condition, as regards Manchester goods, that the Eastern markets are full 1598 of them. Coal we cannot sell abroad and what is happening, from the Government point of view, may be likened to giving us a number of pieces and asking us to put them together as a jig-saw puzzle without even giving us the picture that the puzzle is to make. The time has come when we must have from the Government, and I see no other way, a plan to deal with this difficulty. No business man will make a proposal of that sort without having his view that some such scheme is possible. There are practical schemes. I could formulate practical schemes, and I should be delighted if the Prime Minister would allow me, viva voce, to explain to him how I think the difficulty could be met. I say that because I am not accustomed to addressing audiences of this sort, whilst around the Table or in the Committee Room I can easily hold my own.
§ Mr. STEVENS
That is only part of it. Question No. 45 to-day has been misunderstood, I gather from the Prime Minister's remark. That question did not relate only to exchanges. The first thing of all is a far greater matter, and that is the stabilisation of some basis of wages in this country which the Government should bring forward to this House and get the opinion of the House upon, if only by a Resolution. That could then go forward to the country as the basis of wages, and the Government would back the country up from that point and take the responsibility beyond of dealing with all the external matters which, as the Leader of the House told us, it is impossible for us to do by ourselves as a nation.
§ Lord R. CECIL
I have listened to a speech which contains the germ of what may be a very interesting proposal. It is very difficult to deal with it in Debate, because the hon. Member has said he would rather communicate it privately to the Prime Minister. With the broad general proposition that you cannot expect a permanent solution of the ordinary industrial difficulties until you can by some means restore your foreign markets, I imagine no one would disagree. The difficulty, of course, is how that is to be done. I am not quite convinced that the original prescription is fundamentally unsound. What is really required is a 1599 great increase of production without an increase in the cost of production. I do not propose to go into that further. This is a vote for the men required by the Government to meet the necessities of the Defence Force which they have created for the purpose of keeping order in the country. I have listened to a certain amount of criticism of that proposal. It is said that too many men have been required, and that it is an unusual procedure. The Government, on the other hand, say that the Force, in their judgment, is necessary to meet the present situation. As far as I am concerned, I should find it very difficult to express any criticism of any executive Government in this country which in this very serious crisis took the steps which they thought necessary for preserving public order. They may be wrong, and events may prove that they have an exaggerated view of the situation. Then will be the time for the House of Commons to criticise them, but for the time being I do not see my way to do that.
There is a difference between what is called a national strike and a local strike. It is not only a difference of degree, but a difference of kind. For what it is worth, I commend this observation to my hon. Friends of the Labour party, because it is a matter to which they ought to give very serious consideration. In a local industrial strike the purpose is to deprive an employer of the profits of an industry until he redresses some grievance. A national strike, as I understand it, is entirely different. The proposition is to put pressure upon the people of this country so that they will put pressure on the Government, and in that way redress by the Executive Government of the grievance will be secured. I think hon. Members will agree that the two operations are entirely distinct. It appears to me that a national strike will always either be unsuccessful or useless, and, therefore, unnecessary. If it is partial in its character, if you stop a certain amount of the public service of this country, you will necessarily have against you the whole population, or almost the whole population, affected. They will take their measures to deal with the hardships and the misery caused. Unlees you can call out so large a body of workmen that they will be something 1600 like a majority of the adult population of the country, it does not appear to me that a national strike can ever be successful. If you are in a position to call out anything like a majority of the workmen engaged, surely the constitutional remedy at the ballot boxes is infinitely more effective and far less costly?
I hope that that matter will be very seriously considered by those who will be listened to by their fellow workmen. I am sure they are on the wrong track. The plan of the last week or two is a bad plan from their own point of view, and one which is of the greatest possible danger to the stability and security of the country. I do not want to dwell upon that, nor do I wish at this time to discuss, though I think it ought to be discussed at some time, how it was that the strike came about. I should not say a word about it except for an observation that fell from the Chancellor of the Exchequer. Ha explained how decontrol came to be carried out, and he made undoubtedly a very strong case for the economic necessity of decontrol and the consequent proposed reduction of wages. Yes, but if I was going to make a criticism on the whole proceeding I should say there has been too much economics and too little psychology. It is all very well to say that these things are economically necessary, but in point of fact if you go to a large body of men and say, "We are going to reduce your income by 20, 30, 40, or 50 per cent.," you will put upon their moderation and powers of self-restraint a strain which I do not think it is fair to put upon any section of the community. Therefore, I do not feel convinced by my right hon. Friend's contention. I do not want to go into that further. I do not know that recrimination is of any value now. What I want most urgently to impress upon the House is that they should take into serious consideration the industrial position in the country. We cannot afford to have these perpetually renewed industrial crises. It is impossible.
I have said nothing in criticism of the action of the Government, and I do not want to do so at this stage. [HON. MEMBERS: "If they deserve it, give it to them!"] My hon. Friends of the Labour party regret that I am of so pacific a tendency, and I welcome their regrets, because the charge is not commonly made against me. But I do not want to say more on this occasion, because we are all 1601 anxious to produce a settlement of the controversy, and my experience is that if you once begin a question as to who is to blame, it does not conduce to a peaceful atmosphere. We cannot afford to have these perpetually renewed crises. Undoubtedly all these proceedings for bringing into existence great armed forces and the rest of it are in themselves a most undesirable thing. I am sure the Government would be the first to admit it. Much more undesirable, or quite as undesirable, is the fearful dislocation of the whole of our industry by the existence of the strike or lock-out. I ask the Committee to consider carefully what is the underlying cause of this state of things. Do not let me be told that it is one of the consequences of the War. It is not. This state of things existed before. There were constant disputes and constant unrest. There was more than one national coal strike. There was a national railway strike a year or two before the War, and everyone knows that another was threatened almost at the moment when the War broke out. It is impossible to go on like this.
I reject the theory which finds favour with some of my hon. Friends, that it is due to the exceptional unreasonableness of the miners or members of the working class. I believe that all Englishmen and practically all Britons are pretty much like ane another. I do not believe there is a very great difference between the psychology of a miner and the psychology of a Member of Parliament. Speaking from my experience of members of the working class, they are very reasonable and very moderate men, and I believe everybody will say so of the hon. Members who represent Labour in this House. Therefore I reject the theory that there is a double dose of original sin on the part of the workman. I reject equally the theory that all this is due to the wickedness, greed and folly of the capitalists. I do not believe either one or the other; I believe it is due to an unsound organisation of industry. I believe this very dispute would never have occurred if there had existed proper relations between employer and employed, so that the employed accepted what the employer said about the economic conditions and the employers understood, without experiment, what would be the effect of a great cut in the wages of the employed. Misunderstand- 1602 ing and suspicion are at the bottom of the trouble, and there is also the deplorable fact which the hon. Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Shaw) has referred to, that from a certain quarter is constantly being preached the doctrine of an essential hostility between employer and employed and an essential divergence between the interests of the two classes. Any one, I care not what side he sits on or what class he comes from, who does anything to embitter feeling between employer and employed is an enemy of the country. Class war is the most terrible thing that can afflict the country and every patriot should strive his utmost against it. Unless we can get rid of any feeling of that kind, there is not only no hope of reverting to industrial peace, but very little hope for the future prosperity of this country.
Therefore, I earnestly beg of the Government and of this House, that as soon as ever we can, as soon as this dispute is settled, if not sooner, we shall make a real effort to investigate what is the cause of the industrial unrest in this country. I have my own theories and views which I have laid before the House on previous occasions. Very likely my diagnosis is at fault, but if it is, let us get a better diagnosis. Do not let us go on drifting from one industrial crisis to another. We cannot afford it, and it is a disgrace to a Christian country that it should go on.
§ Mr. HARTSHORN
I do not know whether at this stage anyone can usefully add to what has already been said. I think the issues involved have Keen discussed in almost all their bearings. With reference to the question directly concerned in the Estimate before the House I have very little to say. I agree with those who have suggested that the sooner we can bring about the demobilisation of this force the better for the country and everybody concerned. I realise, as every one must, that if a state of things develops in the country in which disorder is threatened, in which damage to property or risk of life is involved, that it is the business of the Government to take the necessary steps to safeguard life and property. But I must say I think the demonstration of force which the Government has brought about is altogether out of proportion to the needs of this occasion. It is not desirable that at this stage 1603 a matter of that kind should take first place. We know perfectly well that, as far as its influence upon the minds of the workers is concerned, it has a bad rather than a good effect. I remember in 1915, when we had a week's strike in South Wales, several members of the South Wales Executive and many delegates to conferences were in opposition to the strike policy, but the moment the Government issued a Proclamation, the effect upon the workers was electrical. Those who had been striving to avoid a strike on that occasion were swamped as a result of the action taken by the Government. Much has been said about industrial unrest being psychological. There is no doubt it is largely so, and in dealing with this matter and endeavouring to apply a remedy that factor must not be lost sight of. I was at an executive meeting in South Wales to-day, and I heard this matter discussed. I heard reference made to the situation in Abertillery. It was stated then that every man necessary to keep the pumps going was engaged on the work, and that some of the officials had actually declined to continue working under protection. The companies were assured that protection was not needed and that the pumps would be worked, and yet to-day these men are in that district where there is absolutely no need for them. The feeling of indignation is very considerable, and is certainly a hampering influence against the creation of that atmosphere in which a settlement can be brought about. I appeal to the Government as quickly as possible to bring about a diminution in the forces to the lowest possible point consistent with national safety.
On the question of the mining trouble itself I would like to say two or three words. I hope now that the Triple Alliance is out of the way—at any rate, at the moment—and the miners and the mineowners and the Government are in this business without any outside interference, that the matter will be discussed and dealt with on its merits, and quite apart from those considerations which influence everybody when threats are being made on one side and counter-threats on the other. I think after last week's proceedings no one will expect me to make definite proposals, or, at any rate, new proposals. But it is as well we should look at two or three broad facts of the 1604 situation and see if it is not possible to deal with them in such a fashion as to make settlement possible. I understand the two outstanding points in the dispute have reference to a National Wages Board and a National Pool. I would like the Prime Minister to tell me whether I have correctly interpreted his statement to the Triple Alliance as meaning that as far as the National Wages Board is concerned the Government agree with the miners that it should be conceded. It is very important that we should have a very clear statement as to where we stand. I find in the verbatim report of what took place when the Triple Alliance representatives met the Prime Minister on Thursday last that they had been suggesting that the Government had sided with the owners, and the Prime Minister answered that charge. In doing so he called attention to the numerous points involved in the dispute and enumerated them. He said they had not come to a conclusion at all; they had not sided with the miners or the mineowners, and had an open mind, and were prepared to have a full investigation of these matters and come to a conclusion on the merits of the case. He mentioned two matters regarding which there had been a decision, namely, the pool and the National Wages Board, and he said:The fourth point—to which I am coming now—is the national settlement of the wages. That certainly was not an owners' point. That was a point which was put by the miners. I want to make it clear that on no vital question have we accepted the owners' position except on the pooling, where their point of view and ours is the same. In regard to a national settlement we have accepted the miners' point of view that there should be a National Board.7.0 P.M.
I would like a very definite frank statement from the Prime Minister as to that. When he says "We have accepted the miners' view that there should be a National Board," does he mean a National Wages Board in the sense in which it has been put forward by the Miners' National Executive? In previous interviews, he has rather indicated that while he agrees to a National Committee it is not a National Wages Board, but more in the form of a national appeal court to which districts could make appeal. I would like him to make that very clear. Does he mean by his reply to the Triple Alliance that he accepts the contention of the miners that 1605 they should have their wages settled by a National Wages Board? If that point is conceded it seems to me that we have got a long way on the road towards permanent peace in the coalfields. I think I am correct in saying that the chief provision in connection with a Wages Board whether national or district is the provision which deals with ratios which profits must bear to wages. There is an agreement in principle that the proceeds of the industry should be divided as between owners and workmen in accordance with ratios to be agreed upon. The principle is settled, but the ratios have not been agreed upon, and it is a vital issue and a matter of the first importance. The miners say the ratio should be as 10 to 1 or that the owners should have 10 per cent, of the wages, while the owners says they want 17 per cent. I do not think it is possible for mutual agreement to be reached between the owners and the miners upon that rate of ratio, but I understand that the Miners' Executive have intimated to the Government that, as far as they are concerned, on that vital issue, having the National Board conceded to them, they would be prepared to submit the matter to the decision of competent persons to decide upon it. If that is so, that is another very long step in the direction of reaching a settlement. There is nothing in the setting up of a wages agreement which is by any means comparable with the settlement of that great issue. If that can be decided, if we can know in advance that there will be agreement on that point, which will be reached either by negotiations and mutual consent or after a reference to some form of arbitration, it will carry us a long way upon the road to getting an agreement that would put things right in the mining industry. So, if I am correct in assuming that the Prime Minister does mean that the National Wages Board is conceded, that carries us a long way. The other difficulty which stands in the way is that of a national pool. The Government are opposed to this because, says the Prime Minister, it would involve a reversion to control. That was his statement on Friday.
There can be no doubt now at all as to what the issue is, and upon that issue we are firmly of opinion that a surrender on the question of control would be disastrous 1606 to the interests of the State."—[OFFICIAL REPORT. 15th April, 1921; col. 1480, Vol. 140.]Is not that view based on a misunderstanding? Do the miners ask for a reversion to control; do our proposals involve a reversion to control? The whole contention of the Miners' Federation is that the pool as proposed by them can be established, set up and administered without any Government interference at all, without any sort of Government intervention, and without any sort of Government control. If the Government's opposition to a pool is based on their assumption that it involves a reversion to control, and if, in fact, it does not involve anything of the kind, does not that lead us to the position that there ought to be further discussion as to what this thing really does mean and how exactly it can be worked? I am going to suggest to the Prime Minister that he requests the parties to this dispute to meet together and discuss in open conference all the points involved in it.
I should like to call his attention to a few figures which I have obtained from the Ministry of Mines. They relate to Welsh coal, and I should like to give them as an illustration of the difficulties we are up against. Anyone who will look at the statistics for January, as published by the Mines Department, will see that the loss on the coalfield for January was 14s. 6d. per ton. We say that we are making a fair proposition when we ask that the wages of the miners should be based upon the average ability of the industry to pay wages. If you look at the financial statement for the month of January you will see a loss shown of 14s. 6d. per ton. Then the owners come along and say, "We are prepared to work without any profit at all. There is a loss of 14s. 6d., you must accept a reduction of wages equal to 14s. 6d. per ton, and then we shall have no profit." That, on the face of it, sounds all right, but, as a matter of fact, it is very different from that. It is to illustrate that point that I want to put these figures before you. Although, in January, the loss on the coal produced in the Welsh coalfield averaged 14s. 6d. per ton, the figures reveal this remarkable fact, when you get down to an analysis of them. In 19 undertakings representing 28.23 per cent, of the total coal sold in the coalfield, more than a quarter of the total output of the coalfield was sold at a profit, some of it 1607 more than 5s. a ton profit, most of it below 5s. If you get a reduction in wages of 14s. 6d. a ton on the Welsh coalfield, the people who own collieries where that profit is made would get that 14s. 6d. a ton also", and their profits in that case would be, not 5s., but 19s. 6d. a ton. There were three colliery companies whose losses were under Is. per ton. If you get a reduction in wages of 14s. 6d. per ton, you convert that loss of 1s. per ton into a profit of 13s. 6d. per ton. There were seven companies which lost between Is. and 2s.; three which lost between 2s. and 3s.; two which lost between 3s. and 4s., and two which lost between 4s. and 5s. So the thing goes on, but only 31 per cent, of the output of the collieries that were losing money were within the range of 14s. 6d. per ton. All the rest meant heavier losses than that, with the result that you would only put 31 per cent, of your collieries in working order if you wiped out that 14s. 6d., but you would increase the profits of those already making profits to an enormous extent, and a very large proportion of the coalfields would be unable to work at all. In regard to January, based on the calculations I am now making, 40 per cent, of the Welsh coalfield would not be able to work at all, even though we accepted a reduction on that basis, whilst some of the coalowners would be making fabulous profits.
We say that the fair way to deal with that is in accordance with the scheme we have devised. The coalowners raised objection to it. What is their alternative? Do they suggest that we should shut down 40 per cent, of the mines in the Welsh coalfield?—and what applies to the Welsh coalfield applies in varying degrees to every other coalfield in the country. Have they any other alternative scheme to submit? If they have, I do not know that we are wedded to any particular form. What we want is simply this. We want the wages of the miners based on the average ability of the industry to pay wages, and we want the industry so organised that we shall not be having a large number of our own men thrown out of work and a considerable proportion of the capital in the industry thrown on the scrap heap. If our scheme is capable of doing that, and I contend it is, we are prepared to adopt and prove it, without 1608 any reversion to control at all. If we are in a position to prove that, and the owners say, "We do not like that," let them come forward with some other proposal which will secure the same end. It must be admitted—and I am saying this in no unfriendly spirit at all—that in this controversy the coalowners have simply offered nothing as a contribution by way of an enlightened policy to meet the new aspirations with which we are faced in the mining industry. Their only proposal is, "Let us go back to the good old days, the good old times and the good old systems." These have been condemned by a Commission set up by this House, and we cannot possibly—whatever the Government may desire, or I or any other Member of this House may desire—bring about a permanent and lasting settlement in the mining industry.
It is the business of the coalowners as well as of the miners to contribute something by way of new proposals to a solution of the great problem with which we are faced in the mining industry. Let them meet together in the spirit which has been suggested, and discuss the practicability of each other's proposals in all their bearings. Let the Government say, "Very well, if you can prove to us that it does not involve a reversion to control then, so far as we are concerned, our opposition is gone, the only thing you have now to do is to prove that that is a practicable proposal." If it is proved to be practicable, and the owners still say, "We do not like it," then let the Government say to the owners, "Put down your alernative plan." If the thing is dealt with in that spirit there ought not to be very serious difficulty in overcoming the obstacles which stand in the way of a settlement. I hope the matter will be approached in that spirit, and that the Prime Minister will call them together again in the hope that we may get a settlement.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
The hon. Gentleman who has just sat down always contributes to the Debates in this House in a spirit of great moderation, with very accurate information and knowledge with regard to the topic under debate. He is always very full of practical suggestions and therefore his speeches are worthy of very special attention on the part of those who have to deal with the problem under consideration. Before I come to the latter 1609 and the more helpful part of his speech, he will allow me just to refer to the first part of his remarks, in which he follows criticisms which have been directed against the action of the Government in reference to the raising and maintenance of exceptional forces. I am very anxious not to say anything which would be in the least provocative, but, at the same time, it is essential that I should defend the action of the Government in that respect. Why did the Government adopt these exceptional measures? Because, as my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer has already pointed out, we had to meet very exceptional conditions. I have seen many trade disputes in this country and I have taken part in endeavours to settle a good many; but there never has been a trade dispute where there were at the outset so many rather novel and sinister elements to deal with.
There were three absolutely new elements with which we were confronted. The first was that it was a dispute which challenged a definite decision of Parliament. Parliament had decided to decontrol. The first demand put forward was practically a reversal of that decision. That was a change in the whole character of trade disputes. The purpose of the ordinary trade dispute is to ask for increased wages or to protest against decreased wages, or to improve the conditions of labour either in respect of hours or otherwise, but this was, for the first time, a dispute which put in the forefront of its demands a reversal of a decision arrived at by Parliament. That constituted a very serious new departure in the character of the dispute.
The second new element, and a very dangerous element, with which we had to deal was the decision taken by the Miners' Federation for the first time not to adopt the necessary measures to save the mines. [An HON. MEMBER: "They were locked out."] I am not arguing whether it was right or wrong, but I am just pointing out that there were new elements; I am very anxious not to argue, because that would involve going back upon a controversy which happily is closed. The third point was the organisation, or rather the threat, of a general strike, which for the first time matured even to the point which it had reached before it finally was abandoned.
Those were three very threatening elements which had never before been in- 1610 troduced into any great struggles in this country, and of which we were bound to take notice. If we had neglected to do so we should have failed in the elementary duty of Government. It is all very well to say that it turned out to be unnecessary. I wonder whether it would have turned out to be unnecessary if it had not been done. I will tell hon. Members what I mean. The vast multitude of the workmen of this country are opposed to anything in the nature of disorder—the vast multitude. They will admit—in fact, there is no one who has more reason to complain of the fact than they have—that there is a small element whose sole means of achieving their end is a. revolution. It is a small body, but it does exist. Those who interfered with the pumping of the mines in Fifeshire and in Midlothian were a very small percentage of the miners, but there is always in every country a second body of men. They are not revolutionaries; they are against revolution, because they are temperamentally opposed to it, and because their common-sense teaches them that it is not the surest method of achieving their end, but if the revolutionary elements succeed up to the point of making the prospect of success a reasonable one, they have no constitutional objection. That is a larger body, and therefore it is essential that the revolutionary elements should not succeed up to the point which would induce the second and the larger body of men to join them, and that is always what a Government must bear in mind. You may over-insure, and the worst that happens is an Estimate. If you under-insure, what is the worst that would happen? Therefore, I had rather stand at this box to defend over-insurance than underinsurance, when you have the condition of things with which we were possibly confronted about a week or a fortnight ago.
We were not the only people who were using the word revolution. There were moderate men amongst the Labour people who were equally afraid of it. They were just as frightened as we were of the possibility, and under those circumstances it was a good thing for Labour itself that we should make it clear to the wilder elements in this country that we had resources that were adequate to deal with a situation like that. It forced even those elements to depart from any plan or scheme or idea they had in their minds that there was the slightest possibility 1611 of success along those lines. I believe that this display of force, this display of the readiness of the community to defend itself against anything in the nature of sabotage, anything in the nature of an attack upon property, anything in the nature of an attack upon the established institutions of the country, was in itself a useful demonstration and calculated in the long run to help the reasonable elements in the Labour party, who have got their fight, who have had it, as anyone can see, for months, for years. It would help them to triumph that there should be that knowledge of the determination of the community to defend itself against all these ultra-constitutional methods of achieving an end. I think it necessary to say that.
My hon. Friend (Mr. Hartshorn) has referred to cases where, in his judgment, it is not necessary any longer to display this force. He knows that the civil authority down there in Glamorganshire is a purely democratic one. It is elected in the main by workmen, and if the civil authority down there is of opinion that it is not necessary to have the support of the forces of the Crown, they have only got to make representations in the usual way. We do not want to thrust military aid upon a civil authority that has come to the conclusion that it is no longer necessary, but as long as they think it is necessary it would be a great mistake to withdraw it and to precipitate disturbances. My hon. Friend must have seen the report in the South Wales papers to-day of meetings that were held yesterday—and I am not sure whether they wore not held on Saturday—where resolutions were carried in favour of recurring to the old plan of refusing to pump the mines. I do not know whether that represents anything like a body of opinion in South Wales, but until we are completely reassured on that subject it would only encourage those elements to go on passing those resolutions, and the step from resolution to action is a very short one when a strike is on. In the interests of himself and of those whom he represents, the reasonable and common-sense people down there, I do not think it would be desirable, unless the civil authority are of that opinion, prematurely to withdraw this demonstration of force. My hon. Friend who spoke earlier in this Debate (Major Morgan) represents 1612 moderate opinion, and he considers that it is not necessary, but, if it is not, he admitted that there was nothing provocative in the attitude of the forces of the Crown in that area. On the contrary—and I think the hon. Member for Abertillery (Mr. G. Barker) also said the same thing—he said that they were fraternising, and that there was the best feeling among them.
§ Major MORGAN
I expressed the opinion that I was fearing it might lead to trouble, because notwithstanding we have a democratic body in Glamorgan, we have no right with regard to calling in the police or the military, which is in the hands of the Chief Constable himself, and we have no voice in the matter.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
The Chief Constable represents the Police Committee, half of which is chosen by the county council, and if the Chief Constable of Glamorgan is of opinion that he does not require the support of the forces of the Crown, that is the first step to their withdrawal. But I am very glad to know that their presence is not provocative, and that they are on the very best terms with the miners. That is exactly what happened at Tonypandy when there was a bitter strike there some years ago, and the soldiers went down there; there never was the slightest disturbance once they appeared on the scene.
I have been wanting to dispose of that part of my hon. Friend's criticism before I proceeded to deal with the suggestions he made for a settlement of the dispute. I am very glad that my hon. Friend's suggestions are all on the line of a permanent and not a temporary settlement. I think it would be a misfortune if this dispute were determined by another temporary patch-up. We should only postpone the trouble for another few months, and it would come up again, and we have had quite enough of that, as my Noble Friend (Lord R. Cecil) has already said. Not only that, if it were just a temporary patching up of the difficulty, the industry would not settle down to business—neither the mineowners, the managers, nor the miners—and therefore I think it is better, even at the risk of taking a little more time, to try and secure a permanent settlement upon a basis that will restore peace to the coalfields for years to come. I do not think that 1613 is an impossible end to achieve, so long as it is quite clear what are the limitations within which we cannot operate. My hon. Friend has put to me two or three questions which he is quite entitled to ask. Upon the amount of wages we never expressed an opinion, and we were right in not doing so. Whether the mining industry could pay more than the suggested figures is a subject which we are free to enter upon without any pre-conceived expressions of opinion. There are some of these figures that must obviously be amended; on the face of them, they seem indefensible, but I do not want to carry that further, because the Government do not wish to enter into any negotiations prejudiced. I am only dealing with figures which have been given to the public, and of which I have seen no adequate explanation, so that when you come to discuss the actual figure of the wages we can enter into the subject without any of the limitations to which I have referred.
The second point put by my hon. Friend was the question of the National Wages Board. I do not wish to enter into any detailed scheme for the setting up of such a Board, nor to commit the Government as to its exact functions, but, so far as the national settlement of wages is concerned, we are entirely of opinion that the principles upon which the wages in all the areas are to be fixed must be settled nationally. What do I mean by that? I am hopeful that this dispute will end in fixing nationally—I mean with the whole of the Miners' Federation, with the whole of the Mining Association and with the Government present—the basis upon which wages can be computed—something that will vary according to the conditions of the trade, according to the profitableness of the industry—a scheme that will give the miners, as well as the mineowners, a real interest in the prosperity of the industry. Once that is settled nationally, once the principles are laid down nationally, it is afterwards only a question of interpretation. If there are any difficulties in the districts, if they cannot be settled locally, then the miners can come to the National Wages Board. As my hon. Friend knows very well, these differences are very often settled without even coming to the district association, and you do not want to cumber a national body with all the local disputes that may arise.
§ Mr. HARTSHORN
It is of vital importance that we should understand where we are. Does the Prime Minister mean, when he talks of a National Wages Board, an instrument that shall determine, after all district standard rates are fixed, when it comes to share in the prosperity of that industry, that that should be shared by a National Wages Board by a percentage advance which is to apply all over the country? Does the right hon. Gentleman mean that?
§ The PRIME MINISTER
Unless I am mistaken, my hon. Friend is coming to the national pool. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] If he does not mean the national pool, then undoubtedly the National Board would settle the principles upon which wages are to be ascertained. That is our view. But when he comes to the national pool, it is a totally different thing. I ventured to say, in the statement which I made to the miners, that a national pool inevitably meant setting up State control. My right hon. Friend the Member for Platting (Mr. Clynes), on Friday last, said that the mere fact that the Government were against the national pool, proved that we were against the miners, and I was very interested to see in a paper, which is certainly not usually hostile to trade unionists, the "New Statesman," an article in Saturday's issue, which, I think, must have been written almost at the very moment when I was making my statement to the Triple Alliance, and almost in the same words. I can assure the House that I never met the writer of this article, and I never had any arrangement with him! There is no conspiracy here! I do not even know who he is. The "New Statesman" says:The national pool is, after all, a mere expedient, and a very doubtful expedient—doubtful in the sense that it is Utopian to imagine it can be adopted or maintained without some form of actual compulsion applied to the owners of the more favourably situated mines. To believe that the proprietors of a profitable mine in Yorkshire will ever consent to subsidise the proprietors of an unprofitable mine in Glamorganshire without being legally obliged to do so is surely an idle dream. The Government and the employers are unquestionably right in arguing that such a system, even if it could be started, would inevitably break down in a very short time, unless the Government exercised financial control not less expensive than that which has been in operation for the last five years. Moreover, a national pool is at best a cumbrous and awkward piece of economic machinery. It has many of the 1615 defects, with none of the advantages, of nationalisation.The very phrase I used—If the miners are entitled to interfere at all with the internal and financial organisation of their industry, then they are entitled to demand nationalisation—a much more defensible demand.That comes from a great Socialist organ. [An HON. MEMBER: "Sidney Webb."] I thought he was a Socialist. My Noble Friend knows more about this than I do.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
That means it is much more up-to-date. I have noticed that in his speeches. That is an argument which has been advanced, and which I ventured to advance on Thursday, that you cannot have a national pool without re-establishing control. Control could only be defended owing to the special exigencies of the War, and what happened immediately after the War. But it is common ground to all those who know its effects, that it had a most disastrous effect in depressing the output of the mines, and I do not think that anyone who really knows about it is sincerely desirous of re-establishing it. It is the power to meddle with the mines without the power to manage them. There can be nothing worse than that in any business.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
No, I have no time for that. Therefore, it is essential that the miners should know, before we ever enter into any negotiations, that it is quite impossible to set up this national pooling system. If they do, then it is quite within the limits of possibility that a scheme could be hammered out—and that in a very short time—which would be satisfactory to miners and mine owners, and to the community as a whole. The old system which came to an end on 31st March was a bad one, and I believe that in the improvement which could be effected in the working of the mines, there is a pool that would enable wages to be improved considerably in a very short time, even if not immediately, upon the proposals of the owners. Take what has happened as the result of the operations of the last 1616 few years. In Yorkshire, the output per man has been reduced by 17 per cent. In South Wales the output per man is down by 48 per cent. This is compared with the pre-War period. It is not due to the miner merely; it is due to the causes which were very eloquently set forth by my hon. Friend himself in the speech he delivered last week, that for one reason or another, neither mineowner, miner, nor manager has quite put his back into the work during the last two or three years. What is really wanted, therefore, is a scheme that will offer an inducement to all the parties who are engaged in the mining industry to do their best to decrease the expenses, and to increase the output per man. If that is done, that is where the real national pool would come in. The other is an artificial one, which, as stated here in the "New Statesmen," would break down inevitably in practice. It would induce inefficiency. There would be no inducement for mines to do their best. My hon. Friend knows perfectly well that, at the present moment, you may have one mine with a good seam making a good profit, and near by you may have a mine with an equally good seam not making a profit. It is often a question of management. My hon. Friend said "You must strike an average wage." I agree, but that is not an argument for averaging the profits. Take any business. You may have five different classes of business. You may have one man who is making a huge profit, and another man in the same business making a good profit, but not as great a profit as the other. Then you have the third, who is the average, but below him you get another man who is just barely making a profit, and then you have the fifth man, who is working, perhaps, at a loss. But you have got that in every business. That is not merely coalmining.
§ Mr. HARTSHORN
But is the right hon. Gentleman aware than no one has asked for an average of profits? We have never asked for an average.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
But a national pool is really that. [HON. MEMBERS: "No" and "Yes."] You may argue round and round it, but what it really does mean is exactly what the "New Statesman" says—[HON. MEMBERS: "No."]—well, it is your own paper—that 1617 a profitable mine in Yorkshire is called upon to subsidise an unprofitable mine in Glamorganshire, That is really what it means. You can work it out in any way you like. Put your 2s. or 3s. upon coal. In the end you will have to subsidise in order to enable the unprofitable mine to pay an extra 2s. or 3s. The result will be-that the profitable mine will be called upon to subsidise the unprofitable mine. It is a thoroughly bad system. Therefore I sincerely trust that when the miners come back—as I understand they are coming back—on Thursday, to meet on Friday, they will come back to discuss with the Government and with the mine-owners some scheme that will give them an interest in making the industry really prosperous—not merely in the interests of the mineowners, but also in the interests of the miners. Once you get real co-operation between the miners and the mine-owners in improving the conditions of the industry upon which they both depend, I believe you will succeed in establishing a basis for the whole of that industry which will secure prosperity and peace.
§ Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY
I hope the Prime Minister will pursue his studies in the "New Statesman." I hope especially he will read all the articles in that very brightly written and not expensive publication. If he does that, not only, I believe, will he derive great benefit, but I believe that even the Government of the country may occasionally be driven to think where their policy is driving the country; and all this I am certain will be of great good for the country. I rise, however, to make a definite complaint about the service with which I have been connected all my days, and while the Prime Minister is still on the Front Bench opposite I want very briefly to draw his attention to the matter. I have the greatest objection to the Navy having been drawn into the events of last week. I accept, and always have accepted—and said so before in this House fully—that the Government must at all costs maintain order and law, and so on, in the country. No one objects to that. But I have always said that if the police are insufficient to do that duty, and the Special Constables are insufficient, then the troops must be brought in if it is necessary to resort to force. No one can object to it, and the Government that does not do its duty is not fit to govern.
1618 But the Navy is in an entirely different position to the Army [HON MEMBERS: "Why?"] I will explain.
It has long been laid down that the peace-time functions of the Army, and the function which the Army itself, we all know, partly dislikes, and for which it is maintained, is to support the civil authority. Until quite recently, I believe I am right in saying, that has not been one of the functions of the Navy. It is most unfortunate that the Navy should be brought in. In past years, and, I believe, in the present day, the people in this country have a very real and true affection for the Navy. The first time, in my recollection, the Navy was used for a dispute of this sort was in 1913, and I should like the attention at this stage of the right hon. Gentleman who appears to take a lead in these matters, I suppose, because he has been Minister of Labour and then President of the Board of Trade, and therefore, comparatively, is one of the inner Cabinet in respect to labour disputes. In 1913, before the right hon. Gentleman was in office or a Member of this honourable House, there was a dock dispute in certain seaports of the country.
In Liverpool there was a cargo of perishables going bad. The local authorities were appealed to by the owners of the vessel in the matter, and they applied to the captain of a man-o'-war who had, been sent to the port in connection with the dispute for help to unload the ship. That captain very weakly went beyond the instructions given by the Regulations and sent men to unload the ship. He had received a circular sent to every commanding officer of every ship and marked "secret"; but as this was eight years ago it does not matter referring to it now—besides I have referred to it before. This circular said that the keeping of order was the duty of the police, and that if they were not sufficient then the military, but that naval officers of His Majesty's ships were to decline invitations to assist in restoring order. That is not the function of the Navy. This was in 1913. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer would say, I think, that that was a very proper order to give. The duty of the Navy is to keep order on the high seas in peace time, and to defend our commerce in war time. If you are going to bring the Navy in and send them to pump mines, or to form 1619 pickets and guards, work for which they are not enlisted, as are soldiers, then I say it is a great mistake and wrong. It is not the function for which the boys who joined the Navy go to sea. A man who goes into the Army knows perfectly well that when he takes the oath he may be put to work to assist the police. The boy who joins the Navy is not required to take this oath. I regret very much that this precedent has been established of using the bluejackets on shore. It is going to estrange sections of the community from the Navy. I hope the First Lord of the Admiralty will agree with me that the Navy should be used as little as possible in this respect.
The traditions of the Navy are so high and the knowledge of their importance in the defence of the country so great amongst all ranks of the Navy that it makes it all the more cruel to use them in matters which have nothing to do with their proper functions. The first time the bluejackets were used, to my knowledge, since the War, at this particular work was when they were sent to pump the mines in Yorkshire last year. May I inform the Prime Minister, if he does not know, that on that occasion the pumpmen were withdrawn? There was no Defence Force and the bluejackets were sent to do the pumping work. [An HON. MEMBER: "Why not?"] An hon. Member asks, "Why not?" Because it is not the work these men go to sea for. They enlist to defend the country and not to defend the property of the mineowners! If it is so required that the pumps should be manned, those concerned ought to ask for volunteers in the ordinary way; and if it is required to use volunteers for any so-called essential services for the community, they can ask for them and pay them the usual wage. I agree that such volunteers ought to be protected. Every man has a right to withdraw his labour if he wishes, and in the same way it is quite wrong to prevent a man working if he also wishes to work; and I have no objection to protection to people who are volunteers in this sort of matter. I do, however, feel called upon to make this protest against the unnecessary use of the Service to which I had the honour to belong for a number of years.
We are asked in these Supplementary Estimates to vote an extra 25,000 officers and men for the Royal Navy. When the 1620 Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty comes to reply I hope he will tell us what on earth they require 25,000 extra men for. I am informed that our ships have been withdrawn from their proper cruising grounds and proper stations and concentrated all around our islands. I would point out to hon. Gentlemen who are always drawing up scares about the safety of the country that at the present time the Navy is largely demobilised. If in consequence of any threatening action of any naval power we were suddenly called upon to act we would not have a fleet to act. You have the fleet scattered all over, the bluejackets marching about in Welsh cities, and manning the pumps, and you see them about the parks in London, and the ships to all Intents and purposes are absolutely useless for warfare. We ought to have some explanation as to why these Reservists are required. I think also we ought to be told about the 10,000 extra airmen who are required. I can quite understand what the soldiers are required for, and that is to assist the police, and so on; but I cannot for the life of me see why 10,000 extra airmen are required. Was it proposed to use the aircraft to carry the mails and passengers in the case of a great stoppage on the railways? If so, then the Government should have called for volunteers from the civil aviation pilots and the private companies, and they could have got volunteers to man their machines and to carry the passengers and the mails. Might I inquire if it is intended to use the ordinary air service as an auxiliary to the transport services.
Is it intended to, use the men not as airmen for the defence of the country, but to take the place of the railways? Is it the intention to use the Air Service for police purposes? If so, is it the intention to use them only on the ground or in the air? We know that aircraft are used for these purposes in such places as Mesopotamia. We have been told by the right hon. Gentleman when he was Minister for Air as well as War that the garrisoning of some of the Asiatic mandatory territories was performed by aircraft. As a matter of fact, aircraft have been used for police purposes since the War in the Punjab, and on the frontier of India. But it is rather startling to suggest that our aircraft may be used for police purposes in this country. If so the country ought to be informed, and 1621 that very quickly. If they are going to be used for transport purposes I repeat it is the duty of the Government to call for volunteers, and not put on the ordinary Air Service. What are these 10,000 men required for? Is the Government simply going to lay its hands on any disciplined personnel it has at his disposal? We are entitled to know.
The calling out of these Reserves is going to cost a great deal to the country. I am not going so far as to say that the Government was not justified in calling out the Reserves, but they have generally enough troops in the country. I repeat the Government has every right to keep order, and if it cannot keep it by the police, to get the assistance of the military. All I would like to point out is, that we are put to this great expense and confusion, and the cost of withdrawing the Reserves from industry, and appealing to employers to let their men go, with consequent dislocation of the ordinary industrial life of the country, and one of the reasons we have been forced to do this is that the proper strategic Reserve of the Army is penned up elsewhere. We have a large force in Ireland which normally would be in this country to be used whenever it was required. As, things are to-day, I do not think more than a few battalions could be spared from the army of occupation in Ireland. This is one more example of where the policy of the Government has led us. In addition to that, we have got our Army scattered about in Persia, Constantinople, on the Rhine, and Mesopotamia in pursuance of a policy which has failed, is failing, and will and must fail! We have got our Army scattered about all over the world outside our own Dominions, and, in consequence, we have not got anything like a real Reserve at home. We have got to supplement it with these defensive forces. The Chancellor of the Exchequer talked of the terrible splight we might find ourselves in if the Triple Alliance had material ised, and he told us that we should not have been able to get our foodstuffs un-loaded, and that the economic life of the country would have been strangled. Does he think he will get ships unloaded and the economic life of the country restored by the Defence Force? We have been told that the Defence Force is required to keep the peace. If you enrol 1,000,000 1622 men in the Defence Force, unless they are drilled as labour battalions, they will not produce a ton of coal or unload a single ship or run a single train or carry on any of the vital functions of the community. Of course it will keep order, and I hope that is the only purpose for which it is intended. I wish to ask the Secretary for War if the Defence Force is going to be used purely for preserving order, or can it be put on to do the work of labour battalions, such as unloading ships or running a transport service? The people being invited to join the Defence Force should be told that their functions are solely to keep order, or whether they can be used as a labour battalion.
The Prime Minister spoke about the necessity of finishing this dispute once and for all. He said that there was no vast hurry to settle it, and it would be better to settle it once for all than to settle it temporarily. Let me point out that there is a great hurry in regard to the industries of this country outside mining. In my own constituency we are absolutely dependent upon coal being available for export and for ships' bunkers, and every day is being a tremendous loss on the seaport of Hull and on other seaports of this country. Unless we can get coal it absolutely dislocates the trade of Hull, because it is a coal-importing port. There is a very real need for a settlement, either temporary or otherwise, that will enable coal to be produced at once. There are many other industries in much the same state, and I think the Prime Minister might have had some consideration for those who will be thrown out of employment, and the women and children who must suffer very greatly if the dispute continues. We are told that only 72,000 men have been enlisted, and that it is intended to stop enlistment. If that is so, why are the Government asking authorisation for raising 300,000 men? If I move to reduce this Vote by 100,000 men, will the Government accept my proposal? That is what I intend to do, and I hope I shall get the support of hon. Members. After all, there are a great many people interested in keeping the Defence Force in being who find it congenial and not unprofitable employment, and they will be likely to resist any disbandment of that force, and will attempt to increase it. 1623 With regard to the bounty, I understand that each man is to receive a bounty of £5, and if he does his duty for 90 days I do not think that is very extravagant. In case the force is disbanded in a shorter period are these men going to get the full bounty or only a portion of it? I should be glad if the Secretary for War would enlighten the Committee on this matter.
I have missed a reference to the anarchist conspiracy in the Prime Minister's speech which he used in the case of the last railway strike. I also missed any such reference from the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dun-cairn (Sir E. Carson), and we have heard nothing from these two right hon. Gentlemen about the great conspiracy behind this great dispute. We have been told by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Duncairn and the leaders of the Middle Class Union that there is a vast international conspiracy composed of Irishmen, Russians, Germans, and Egyptians who are seeking to overthrow the British Empire. Have the Government any knowledge on this occasion that there is any German, Irish, or Jewish money behind this dispute? If so, before we vote these men we should know if the Government have any suspicion of foreign money being behind the present stoppage of work in the coal trade. The Prime Minister has talked most plainly about revolution, and I think we should know what it is he means before a force of this kind is imported into our pure British air. The raising of an ad hoc or armed body like the Defence Force, composed of 300,000 men is a very serious step. If a great general strike had taken place, there might have been bloodshed and a very terrible upheaval. I do not think my hon. Friend was exaggerating when he spoke of the raising of a defence force as being the first step towards civil war.
We cannot turn to history because the present situation is fortunately unprecedented, but we can turn to the experience of other countries in quite recent times. I would like to draw attention to what has happened where similar forces have been raised abroad. The best known case in this House is the German Defence Force known as the Sicherheitswehr. There has been a great deal of dispute about it because its con- 1624 tinued existence has been described as a violation of those clauses in the Peace Treaty which limit the military force in Germany. The Sicherheitswehr was raised in Germany for the same purposes as this defence force is being raised now, and it has been used entirely for the purpose of crushing down workmen in Germany on strike or in open insurrection It has become a class army and it is composed almost entirely of the middle class elements, mostly German ex-officers.
Another example is the special terrorist police raised in Hungary, mostly composed of ex-officers and mostly recruited from one political party, the party of the awakening Magyars. This force was raised in Hungary after the Bela Khun revolution. It was formed to prevent violence amongst organised labour, and its treatment of the workmen and the Jewish population has been something deplorable, and its cruelties, murders and tortures are a bye-word in Europe and have created.horror even in this country. That is what has happened in the same sort of force in Hungary. In Italy we have a similar force in the Fascisti. There you have a force which is now taking the war into the camp of the communists and executing the people. The Sicherheitswehr, the Hungarian terrorist police, and the Fascist in Italy have become a purely class force. All these forces were raised for the avowed purpose of preserving order and they have become a terrorist police and they carry on an active class war.
I think the example of those three countries is instructive for us. The way in which we can prevent any force of this sort being used as the forces I have mentioned are used in foreign countries on the Continent is by preventing it becoming a class force. One of the few defences, to my mind, for the raising of an army by conscription is that if you properly conscript the army it cannot become a class army, and that is one argument in its favour from the democratic point of view. My advice to all my fellow-countrymen who are trade unionists is to join the defence force. If this force is again recruited—I suppose once the Government has introduced this new factor, it will be very pleased to use it again—if this recruitment is continued, I hope trade unionists will flock into it. I believe that in many parts of the country trade unionists, manual workers 1625 and wage-earners have flocked into the force. I am delighted, because if a force is composed of a very large proportion of trade unionists it cannot be used for illegitimate purposes. It cannot be used for terrorising the workers, as has been done in Germany and Hungary and Italy, and it cannot be used for strike-breaking purposes. If a force is raised merely to restore and maintain order, the men in it cannot be compelled to labour on transport and other services which are supposed to be vital to the country. If it is composed of a very large proportion of manual workers, it cannot be used for improper purposes; it can only be used for the legitimate and right purpose of keeping order. I hope, therefore, that any natural indignation at the formation of such a force which my fellow-countrymen may feel, because it has been interpreted as a direct threat, and, in fact, the Prime Minister has boasted of its success to-day in an unfortunate passage in his speech, in which he said he was not sure whether this strike would not have come on if the Defence Force had not been brought into existence, I hope my fellow-countrymen, skilled workers, who have been outraged and distressed by the formation of tins force, will get over that feeling and join it, and that the next time an attempt is made to bring it again into existence that they will join it in very much larger numbers, so that we can then be sure it will be used for the proper purpose of keeping order only, and not for strike-breaking or for terrorising the working classes of this country. Such a policy may work in Germany, in Hungary and in Italy, but it is not going to succeed in this country.
§ Major MORRISON-BELL
Does not the hon. Member realise that if it were proposed to use this Defence Force in the improper way he suggests, it would be most repugnant to its members, many of whom are ex-officers of the Army. When has the Army ever been used in that way? I really think the hon. Member should be more careful in what he says.
§ Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY
I did not say it had ever been used in that way; I only suggested that it might be so used, under the rules of the Emergency Powers Act which were passed the other day in spite of the protests of hon. Members on this side. I pointed out this possible effect when 1626 the rules were under discussion last week. I then pointed out that it might be possible to employ disciplined men for strike-breaking, and I said that that would be a very improper use to put them to. I actually moved an Amendment to that effect. I do not blame the officers or men. I say it would be the Government which would be to blame in that case. The last thing I wish to do is to offend the gallant officers of the Army. But when class feeling runs high, when you have bitterness, disorder and bloodshed in the country, if you have a force composed entirely of one class—of the educated middle-class—and if you have it opposed to the organised manual workers, you may have a real danger of its being used to terrorise and to fight the working classes. Therefore I think it is better that it should be composed of all classes, and, if anything, of a majority of the manual workers, and I advocate that because it would be the best defence against the temptation to hot-headed irresponsible officers to improperly use such a force. For instance, I do not think that the colonel who threatened to beat a newspaper seller the other day in the park, and, in fact, burnt his newspapers, would be incapable of such action if he found himself in a disturbed area in Scotland. It is in such cases that it is better to have the force composed of all classes. We want to get this dispute settled.
The Prime Minister in his concluding remarks talked about the pool, increased production, willing work, goodwill and co-operation between miners and mine-owners, but you will not get that sort of spirit if the Government thinks it is well in the saddle, and has scored an initial success, and if it insists on the miners coming back on its terms. This is the greatest test of statesmanship with which the Prime Minister has been faced since he was faced with the duty of making peace with Germany. The Government sees that the Triple Alliance is temporarily shattered. It sees that the miners' funds are rapidly becoming exhausted. It thinks it has public opinion behind it. It has got its Army Reserve, it has called up its motor lorries, and the Prime Minister has said that it is better now to settle this thing once and for all. But it will be a terrible blunder if anything of that sort is attempted. What is needed now is generosity on the 1627 part of the Government, and I hope for generosity too on the part of the mine-owners. We want to keep that hope alive, and I am trusting that the mine-owners are not so past redemption as not to show a generous spirit. We made one great mistake in the international war against Germany when we had Germany beaten that we did not try to make a lasting settlement. The Government may think they have got organised labour beaten. I hope they will not make the same mistake as they did with Germany, but by generous and chivalrous methods they may do much to secure peace. If the men are coming back bitter and sore they will not put in good work. It is therefore worth trying to create a good feeling between employers and employed in every industry. We are going to have serious wage disputes during the year in other industries. I hope that they will not become so embittered as this, but if the Government do not do the right thing to-day, and if the mineowners are not generous or if they are not forced by the Government to be generous, we shall have more bitter struggles and we may find ourselves on the verge of that civil war of which some hon. Members speak so glibly. There has been quite enough bloodshed in the world. We have practically avoided it in this matter, and I hope we shall go on avoiding it.
§ Mr. WALLACE
It has been my misfortune to listen just now to one of the most irrelevant speeches that I have ever heard in this Chamber. My hon. and gallant Friend has hunted throughout Europe for argumentative futilities, and he has found one or more in every country. I ask him seriously, does he attempt to establish, not identity, but even similarity, between the Defence Force which has been created in this country on account of the industrial crisis, and those of which he has given examples to the Committee? Speeches of that description, will not help to solve our difficulties. We had here this afternoon a certain atmosphere of good humour and good feeling, and in my view, speches of the nature of that which we have just heard do very much more harm than good, as I am sure my hon. and gallant Friend knows as well as I do. I do not rise to continue this discussion for any long time, but I felt 1628 that I ought to say a few words, as representing one of the most important coal-bearing districts in Fife. I have heard more about Fife in London during the last week or two than I have for a very long time, and I feel that my home county does not deserve all the hard things that have been said about it. There has been unfortunate disorder in some parts of Fife, but in all mining centres, and, indeed, in every industrial area, we always find extremists, and in my own county the extremists for the time got the upper hand. I hope, however, that what was done by those extremists is not to be laid as a charge against the Fife miners. The Fife miners are a great body of hardworking, decent and highly respectable men. From them were very largely drawn the units that formed the glorious Fifty-first Division, and, when I hear harsh judgments passed upon my county, I would ask that it be remembered that the disorder which has occurred there has not the sympathy of the great majority of Fife miners as I know them. When my hon. and gallant Friend was prophesying those dreadful things about the Defence Force, I realised that, at least in my district, matters are quieting down, and it may interest the Committee to know that last Saturday afternoon a football match took place between a team drawn from His Majesty's Forces and a team drawn from the miners of Fife. I think that that is a very hopeful sign that the embittered relations which have been so freely referred to by my hon. and gallant Friend are not acute in the county of Fife.
I agree that the Government, in view of the disorder, were bound to take whatever measures lay in their power for the protection of peaceful citizens and of property. My hon. and gallant Friend threw out what was, I think, a wholly unworthy suspicion regarding the composition of this Defence Force. Who has ever suggested here that this Defence Force was composed of one class? My hon. and gallant Friend knows as well as anyone that it was open to every class, and that every class would be equally welcome to it. Why, then, does he raise those unworthy suspicions here, and not only here, because his words will be reproduced in the newspapers and will spread in the minds of the working classes that suspicion which hon. Members here, at any rate, should do their very best not 1629 to encourage? I should like to ask the Under-Secretary of State for War one question relating to my own district. One or two of the schools in Fife are occupied by the military, and the education authority and Town Council have called my attention to the matter. They are not in any way complaining of the military coming to the district, but they do wish that, if possible, alternative accommodation should be found for them, and they make certain suggestions, which I shall be glad if the hon. Baronet will pass on to the Secretary of State.
I am not prepared to discuss the main question which has been before the Committee this afternoon, because, being an inexperienced Parliamentarian, I was unaware that the coal question could be discussed so fully on an Army Vote. Had I known that that could be done, I should have prepared a speech on the subject, and the Committee will thank me for relieving them from that infliction. I do wish, however, to say one word on the subject. It is not part of my purpose to attempt to apportion blame to any one side. We shall ultimately have to come to definite negotiations, and in my judgment the sooner that happens the better. I shared the view of my hon. Friend the Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. A. Shaw) that the Chancellor of the Exchequer did show in his speech a certain hard logic which might have been quite fitting in arguing a case in the Courts, but was not altogether appropriate to a very difficult and complex subject such as that with which we are dealing now. There has been, in my judgment, hardness on both sides. The mineowners have stated their terms, and the miners have refused those terms; and to my mind there has been too much of both sides walking about with their chins in the air. I would advise a change of attitude. I should like to give the Committee an illustration, if they will forgive me for referring to a personal matter. About six months ago I had a rather serious accident; I fell through a skylight about 20 feet on to the Metropolitan Railway. A friend, in writing me a letter of sympathy, suggested that, if I wished to get on to the Metropolitan Railway, it would be very much better to take the staircase in place of the skylight. He pointed out that it might take a little longer, but the same point of descent would be reached. 1630 There is a certain descent to be made in the miners' wages, but the descent suggested by the coalowners has been too precipitate; in other words, they have adopted the unwise skylight method of descent. May I suggest to them, with all respect, that they get on to the staircase of negotiation? I think the same advice might also be given to the miners, who are taking up a sort of non possumus position so far as the national pool is concerned. They also must realise that a great and drastic change of that nature must be a matter of negotiation, and that, in the interests of the country at any rate, it is high time this quarrel was settled. The economic position of the country will not stand these recurring crises. I speak with an intimate knowledge of business, and these continuous strikes, wherever the fault springs from, are having a most prejudicial effect upon business, and are rapidly becoming something like a stranglehold on our commercial and industrial prosperity.
§ Mr. R. McLAREN
I rise to say something in connection with some remarks made by the hon. Member (Mr. Barker) on the question of why it is that soldiers have been called up. The only fault I am going to find with the Government is that they did not call up the soldiers sooner, as many of the mines have been ruined because the pumps have been stopped, and it was simply because the owners and managers wanted to protect the mines that at last the Defence Force had to be called up. In my own. district some of the mines have been totally ruined. In one case the officials tried hard to keep the pumps going, because they knew that once the water came up the shaft, at least one of the seams would be entirely ruined. This one seam has a very soft roof and a very soft floor, and the water having got both to the floor and the roof, it collapsed altogether, and it will be utterly impossible ever to reopen the seam. In other cases, the water having filled up all the workings, it will take a very considerable time to get it out, and even supposing the strike was settled to-morrow, in many parts of the country, especially in my own district, many seams will not be fit for operations for many months to come. It is for that reason alone that protection has been asked and the Defence Force has gone to the various districts in order to prevent the mines 1631 from further ruin. In the interests of the miners themselves, it is a good thing that we should have these defence forces there. The whole trouble in the coalfields to-day is not brought about by the decent miner, but by a set of men who for many years have been using propaganda for the purpose of bringing about this same state of matters. In one district one day, a man came from Paisley, a Communist, and made a speech to 500 men, which was so seditious that the police took him into custody. He had not long been in custody when about 200 men came and demanded his release, else they would fire the place. The man had to be liberated. These things were taking place in nearly all the districts. In one case where they tried to get something done for the ponies, the manager and his fellow men who tried to get the thing done, were brutally assaulted, and one of them had to receive medical treatment.
What is the cause of all the trouble? We have heard a good deal to-day on the question of control. I am thoroughly satisfied that it would be one of the worst things that could occur to the country if we went back to the system of control. I have opposed control all along, because I knew something of its working, and just so long as control existed, just so long you would have a decreased output, because no one did any better than he possibly could, but said, "After all, what does it matter? The Government is paying for it." So a decrease took place all round. If the same work had been performed during control and especially during 1920, the output would have been nearly 100,000 tons more last year, and that would have been a great thing for the country, because we should have had an export trade. To-day we have no export trade. It has gone. The reason is not hard to find. The American people are able to produce coal very much cheaper than we are. In some districts they produce it at 12s. a ton at the pit-tnad. In' January it cost us over 40s., and in February almost the same. The result is that the Americans compete with us and beat us in our own markets, and have taken our markets from us, and unless, by some means unknown to me, there be a big reduction in price, our export trade must eventually be lost.
In connection with the question of reduction, perhaps it is not well understood 1632 that during control there was a War wage of 3s., a Sankey wage of 2s., and 20 per cent, put on, with a minimum of 2s., making 7s. a week. Unfortunately, the Government put the 7s. on every man, irrespective of what he was able to make. The result has been that by taking off the whole 7s. in some districts the men are back almost to pre-War wages. In these matters consideration ought to be given where men are lowly paid, and something ought to be done in order to bring them up to a better standard. On the whole, the miners themselves recognise fully that if the country is to be reestablished and the trade itself is to take its place among the competitors of the world, it is necessary that there should be, a reduction in price, and they are quite willing to take a reduction in wages. In my own district one reason why the men grumble so much about the large amounts taken off the day is that they complain very bitterly that other men's wages, which have been raised because of the high price of food, have not been touched. They say, "Look at the railwaymen. They are losing 4s. a week, and we are losing 20s. and 25s" They consider it is very unfair. If the Government by some means had at the same time tried to reduce the wages of others, I do not think there would have been the same complaint as there is among the mining population. The miners feel very strongly on the matter. They have been the first to suffer, and they do not think they alone should suffer, but other men with high wages should come down along with them. That may be a right or a wrong reason, but there the fact remains, and these men to-day feel very sore upon the whole question.
A pool could never work satisfactorily, because we have it on the authority of the hon. Member for Ince (Mr. Walsh) in 1912, that it would be unfair to expect the Yorkshire miner, making a big wage, to give up part of it for the benefit of some other district. Every district must stand on its own legs, and if you have a national pool there is no incentive for any one man or manager to do his best to get a good output and making a big profit, because the other man who does not do his best and makes no profit will be receiving something back from the man who makes profit. On the one side there is no incentive to the manager to do his 1633 best, and on the other side there is an incentive to the man not to do his best, because he knows that if he does not it will be paid for by the man who makes good profits. If we want to restore the coal trade to the same position it was in before it is necessary to do everything to raise the output. I am satisfied that if we can get the strike settled and get into a proper state of working again, and if we can get output raised and reduce the cost, it will be for the benefit of the whole industry.
With respect to the National Board, I understand that if trouble arises as to wages the Board will step in, if nothing is done to settle the matter. That will be a good 'thing for the country. On this National Board the miners will be properly represented, but I am not sure that the owners will be properly represented. It must be remembered that, apart altogether from the Mining Association of Great Britain, there are a very large number of small coalowners who do their best for the country and who put out a fairly good output for the country who are not represented at all. I trust that if anything is done in connection with the National Board that this body of men, who are doing their best to give a good output for the country, will be represented on the Board as well as the Mining Association of Great Britain. Many of these small owners are men of practical knowledge, who know the whole industry thoroughly, having been managers generally, and thoroughly acquainted with the work in the mines. If they are invited to join the National Board, they will be of great use in connection with any Board that may be set up. I am sorry to say that hitherto, so far as I can learn, nothing has been done between the mineowners and the miners with regard to discussing the wages question. The owners have produced a certain ratio for wages, but there is no reason why the miners themselves and the owners by sitting round a conference table could not between them fix a proper rate to be given to the men of all grades. It is a great fallacy to suppose that every miner is a miner who is working at the face of the coal. We forget that the miners are divided into a great many grades. People are too apt to look upon the miner as a man who is working at the coal face. One man in Scotland, 1634 referring to the wage of 12s. 10d. a day in Scotland, said: "If that is to be the wage, then, so far as I am concerned, I can make 16s., and I will not strike." The man on the surface is not in the same position as the man who works at the face of the coal, but in many respects there is overtime for the man on the surface by which he can make up his wages. In connection with the wages question there ought to be a fair wage for the man who does a fair day's work.
Much has been said on the question of hours. It was a great mistake on the part of the Government to touch hours at all. That question might have been settled by the men themselves. I suggest that so long as the man on the surface works, eight hours a day there is no reason why the miner underground should not have seven hours, considering the work he has to perform. There is no use talking about getting back to the eight-hours' day for the miners unless other trades are going to work an hour longer. Whatever may be done, there is one thing certain to me as a practical man, and that is that we must by some means get the production increased. Unless we get increased production there is no hope at all of our getting out of the present difficulty. Something has been said about wage reductions and the effect upon the loss in working. Take the month of February. There was a loss of £7,000,000, including interest upon debentures, etc. It will be found that the loss works out, not at 6s. a ton, but at 9s. a ton.loss throughout the whole country. If there be a break of 5s. a day off the miners' wages according to the rate of output per man of 15 cwt., it means that there will be a reduction of 6s. 9d. per ton of coal. That 6s. 9d. will not compensate for the loss on production. There will be a further loss to be taken into account apart from any profit to the owners.
Unless output is increased there must be dearer coal than at the present time. At any rate, the public must not be a bit surprised if when negotiations are finished between the coalowners and the miners there will be no cheaper coal for some time, because for some time to come we shall have a decreased output owing to the fact that very many miners will not be able to start immediately after the strike is over. In the first place, the ordinary repairs have not been going on. 1635 It will take some time to repair the roadways and to clear the roadways to enable the men to get to work. It will take a much longer time to pump out the water where the water has risen up the shaft. One of the very serious aspects of that is where the water has come up the shaft, it means the employment of shaft pumps, and these shaft pumps take up a great deal of room in the shaft. It is much more difficult than carrying out the ordinary pumping operations. Moreover, the pumping machines and the electrical machines underground will be in many cases totally destroyed, and it will take a long time to get machines from the makers and get them into operation. Therefore, the public need not expect to get increased output for some considerable time, and they need not expect that there will be any decrease in the price charged to the consumer.
The Government did a wise thing in creating the Defence Force to protect the men who are trying their best to keep the pumps going. I regret to say that in one case that I know of, through the wilful stoppage of the fans, one man lost his life. Not only so, but after instructions were given by the General Secretary of the Engine Keepers' Association that the engine keeper was to remain at his post until matters were rectified, I regret to say that 1,000 wild men came to the mines that night and demanded the withdrawal of the fires, and would not permit the man, in spite of his certificate, to continue to do his work. That was done by men from other districts, men from the City of Glasgow, who are extreme men and have no desire that the country should get on. It is against these extreme men that the Defence Force has been raised. I trust that the common sense of the country and the common sense of the miners will assert itself soon and that these men will be put in their places. When things have settled down the Defence Force will be withdrawn, and I am sure that the men will be grateful to the Government for protecting them.
§ Mr. J. MURRAY
It is always the function of a Government to adjust its plans and its purposes to meet the needs and circumstances of the time. It is also the function of all Governments, and especially in troubled times, to know how to readjust their policies and their plans to changing needs and circum- 1636 stances. I have no complaint to make of the behaviour of the Government in the action which it has taken. Last week it would have been difficult to say what were the needs and circumstances of the nation. Not even the optimists knew of the twist and turn of events of last Friday, which dispelled a great danger and a great menace.
All through those negotiations the Government seem to me to have used moderation in the highest degree and the fairest and frankest diplomacy, very great scruple and very great economy of means. Since then the circumstances have changed. The menace of a nationwide strike has gone, but some menace remains. The talk of revolution' and the extravagance of nationalisation that concealed the nature of this strike at first from many of us have vanished, and now we know that this is a strike, as all strikes are after about ten days, about nothing but money—about wages. I do not ask the Government to withdraw their soldiers or take them from one district or send them to another, or to send the naval men back, as the hon. Member for Central Hull (Lieut.-Commander Ken-worthy) seems to suggest. I make no specific suggestion, but I put it to the Government that they have succeeded so far in the defence of law and order, and it is for them, knowing the facts more fully than we, to use the utmost scruple in regard to the show of military force and the utmost economy in the actual use of it, and not to be less conscientious, diplomatic, or completely correct in their attitude now than they have been up to this point. I appeal to them, they having to take the decisions, to use the same conscientious scrupulousness as has distinguished them throughout. I ask for no particular change of policy, but I ask them to be on their guard, now that circumstances have changed, against tardiness in taking new decisions that may be necessary.
The Prime Minister in his speech said that in the end this is going to be a dispute about wages and nothing else. [HoN. MEMBERS: "No!"] One is entitled to one's opinion. The Prime Minister referred to district rates and profits in a sketchy and airy way, in a wise way therefore. He also referred to certain aspects of the wages question, which would have to be considered when 1637 the parties meet together a few days hence, as get together they will have to. One thing he did not mention was the differences and the ridiculous anomalies of the differences among district rates in all kinds of trades. I have a strong impression that the difference of standard rates which exist from district to district have hardly any foundation except one of convention. It seems to me that we shall not get out of this wood until this House and the Government face the fact regarding district wages, embodied in the proposals of the coalowners, that you have in South Yorkshire the men getting an advance in wages while in South Wales the wages paid to the men at the top, who are doing work comparable to unskilled labour, were to be halved. A series of anomalies so discrepant as that is bound to arouse suspicion as well as resentment. If I had been a miner I should have said, "If district rates are going to be so different I shall have nothing to do with them." I should have insisted upon some uniform and regulated principle being brought in to adjust these differences.
Some differences must exist, but the question is, where can we get a principle or a mass of information on a scientific basis which will enable us to say wherein district rates ought to differ from each other? I suggest that it is not right to say of one industry that it cannot pay more than so and so. It is a mistake to let that come into the disputes about coal, because precisely that argument has always been the argument of low-paying employers in keeping down wages in sweated trades. They have said, "Our trade is exceptional. We cannot pay more than so and so, and the workpeople have got to take that." That is a profoundly false principle, which has been used to force down wages, and it undermines the wages of other persons in other employments as well. For any one trade to seek to put itself on an exceptional plane and to say, "We can only pay so much," is to make a direct attack on the wages of the district for that particular class of labour. I want to suggest that, unless we have regard to the establishment of district rates, so far as these reflect scientifically the differences in the conditions of living, which affect the costs of living, we shall never get a fair solution 1638 of this matter. At present we have an index figure for the whole country for the cost of living. We are now so and so much per cent. above the figures for 1914. But all those index figures are open to criticism and want to be re-examined and amplified so as to bring out how far, say, in Somerset or South Yorkshire the cost of living varies from the average which the Board of Trade figures bring out.
I would suggest that the Ministry of Labour, which has a section which gives a great deal of attention to the question of the index number, should be required, with any outside help which they may need, to accumulate material of a scientific kind for determining how far that index figure must be varied so as to give the detailed items regarding, for example, Somersetshire and South Yorkshire. Such scientific information, and the analysis of that information, is the best corrective to an industrial strike. I am convinced, from long experience of the difficulties of standard rates for districts, that only by such an examination of the conditions of living will justice be done. I wish to refer to the topic raised by the right hon. Member for Hitchin (Lord R. Cecil) at the end of his speech It seemed to me that just when he ought to have begun to speak, he sat down. He asked the question, "What is it that is wrong with all of us?" —I think we all believe that there is something wrong with all of us— "that has brought all of these industrial troubles on the country?" He said it was not the War, because it was there before the War, but I think that the War has made it worse He asked, What is it that is wrong with us which is getting the country into these successive messes? I want to suggest to the House that it is nothing but original sin. I am perfectly serious in that. Take the question of work. How does work flourish? It flourishes by two things, by energy and by harmony. It does not flourish by machinery, or by plant, or by the efficient pumping of mines, but by the two moral qualities of energy and harmony, and when the poison of bitterness or suspicion comes in, it destroys all the efficacy and all the lucrativeness of work. That is to say, that the conditions for success in work are not technical, but are ultimately and deeply and, first and last, moral.
That is the question which the Noble Lord put to us. I regret to say that he 1639 omitted to answer it. I suggest the answer. He asked how we can get rid of original sin. He looked at the House. I wish he had looked at the future. This is the 18th April, and we are 12 days from the 1st of May, and the 1st of May is the festival of Labour all over the world. I had put into my hand yesterday a curious document from Amsterdam, issued by the International Federation of Trade Unions. It is a pestilent document signed by five international names in the Labour world. It is a manifesto as to what Labour should do on 1st May, and instead of suggesting that work, which is perhaps the best thing in human life and the most reconciling if well done, should be made the occasion for a day of general supplication throughout the nation, this pestilent document sounds the slogan of the class war and urges the workers to fight harder and harder against the master class in order to wrest from them the power and domination that they possess. It seemed to me that that was exactly the wrong line, and that what we want is that this House and this nation, men of all ages and classes and callings and political parties, should recognise that we have got down to the bedrock regarding work, that we have found it a little unsound, and that there is reason why we should search our hearts and consciences and take better and new views regarding work, and by some spiritual and moral change of will and wish, by some rehabilitation of the humanity and sympathy and brotherhood that ought to go into work, enable our country to work better and therefore to live better.
§ Mr. LAWSON
An hon. Member in supporting the calling up of the Reserves and the recruiting of the Defence Force gave as his reason the fact that in one of the Scottish areas there was considerable disturbance. We on the Labour Benches have never said that there should not be any force to deal with people who deliberately disturb the peace. In fact, the right hon. Member for Platting Mr. Clynes) very clearly made that statement, and it was just as definitely ignored by the Chancellor of the Exchequer in reply to the speech. We say, however, that you have sufficient forces, civil and military, at your disposal already to deal with outbreaks, and that the situation did not at all call for the doubling of the military forces. Neither did it call for the sending 1640 of forces of the Crown to areas where there has been no trouble. Some of us in this House spoke very definitely against interference with pumps and general safety men. We went to the areas which we represent and where we had some influence and we just as definitely used our influence there against interference with pump and safety men. I know that in the area from which I come there has been scarcely a speech made—there have been hundreds of speakers during the past few weeks—in which men of local influence have not definitely urged the people to help the forces of peace and thereby avoid any trouble. The speakers in the areas kept the people in good humour, and their advice was taken, but to such areas forces are being sent by the Government. I object to the call made by the War Office in their placards asking people who are loyal to the Crown to come to the help of the country. That appeal marks people who are engaged in this dispute and who could not conscientiously enlist and could not engage to fight against their own people, as disloyal, and indeed includes within that category many who not only in war but in peace have demonstrated that they are patriots all the time and as good as the best men that enlisted.
I would strike a note hitherto omitted, which I should not like to be thought as anything like a disturbing threat, but as one which is worthy of note. Last Sunday night I came through a large railway station where the Reservists and their wives were awaiting the train which was to take the men to the various military centres. I could not help noting the difference between these people and similar crowds that gathered during the War. During the War men joined the Colours with the knowledge that it meant sacrifice and pain, and in spite of all the tears of the parting there was at least some belief in the cause that they were called upon to serve, which was some compensation. But there was a silence and a sullenness about the men I saw on Sunday last which I think are ominous. I know that military discipline is strict, and I would not say a word that would help insubordination, but I am bound to state that in the crowds upon that railway station there were among the Reservists many miners, railwaymen and workmen of all classes who were directly or indirectly 1641 involved in this dispute, and I should say that the spirit which they showed was not indicative of any very great enthusiasm for the cause they were summoned to serve. It would have been much better if the Government had left the civil forces to deal with this matter, if they had left the people in the local areas to deal with disturbers of the peace. The Government probably was upset by some of the stories that were sent abroad.
The hon. Member to whom I have referred spoke about some poor pit ponies which officials were trying to get out of the pits. All pit ponies should have been up within two or three days of the strike starting, and where the ponies were not got out the discredit attaches to the coalowners who own them. In my own constituency I saw the ponies being led along the streets. I saw the women and children looking on and showing an interest in particular ponies whose characteristics were well known in the people's homes. In every pit where the owner cared for his ponies at all, or treated them in a humane spirit, he could get them out. Where they were not brought out—and in some cases I am told they are not out yetx2014;the owner should be called upon by the public to give his reasons for keeping them there.
One of my principal objects in rising was that I might deal with a point raised by the Prime Minister during his speech. Watching events during the past weekend, I wondered what was going to be the attitude of the people who hold responsible positions in the Government and of the coalowners. The independent Members of this House freed themselves from shackles of Government control for once last week. They ceased to take a case for granted, and I wish that had taken place some time ago. They made a close investigation into both sides of the case, and they discovered that there were going to be a drastic reductions of wages. Apart from what has developed since, they came to the conclusion that certain reductions were shamefully wrong. What of the others? There has been a tendency during the week-end for the coalowners to harden their hearts. I have seen it stated that owners from certain parts of the country have declared that their first offer is the furthest that they can go. Now the Prime Minister comes along and says there cannot be any temporary settle- 1642 ment. Is that a change since last week? It does seem to me to be so, especially as he followed it up by saying that it was better to wait two or three weeks for a permanent settlement. The owners want a permanent settlement of their special kind, the Miners' Federation wants a permanent settlement, also of its own kind, and the Government wants a permanent settlement of its own particular order. The Government, having asked for a meeting to discuss temporary arrangements on Friday, the Prime Minister now says that a permanent settlement is wanted. If that is going to be the attitude of the Government it does not give much encouragement to a satisfactory and early settlement of the question. I am the last to say a word which would assist a continuance of the dispute, but if anyone thinks the average Britisher can be intimidated merely because he has suffered for two or three weeks the supposition is a long way wrong, and when anyone comes to the miners and says, "I hope you will be in a more tractable spirit after two or three weeks more," it is a mistake, and a gross mistake, and shows a complete misunderstanding of the psychology and whole spirit of the miners. I remember in 1891, when our fathers went into a strike, we had not any more when we started than we had when we finished, but we managed to get along. We were in the strike three months, and we suffered, but for over a century miners and their wives and children have been learning how to suffer. I hope the Prime Minister is not going to stake the success of his scheme and the future of the negotiations upon the chance that we will accept anything in two or three weeks' time. If it is a case of accepting something permanent, then naturally the miners will say there must be something permanent along their own particular lines.
In all these discussions and in the criticisms of the pool by the Prime Minister and others, I should like the argument brought forward by the hon. Member for Ogmore (Mr. Hartshorn) to be faced, and it is this—why should we perpetuate a system which is going to close up some of the best mines and leave some of the worst mines open? The question of the principle of the pool involves this consideration. I shall repeat to the Committee what I said the other night. I was 1643 working in a good colliery with seams just proved to be of the best character. If that pit was in some other parts of the country it would be regarded as the best in its particular coalfield, yet it has been closed without reference to the Government or the State or the miners or anyone else. Matters like that will have to be dealt with in any future settlement of the question. I appeal to the independent Members of the House—those who were independent last week at any rate—to use their influence to see that the Government does not fall into the state of mind of a man who thinks he can take advantage of a particular situation. The miners are not dis-organised. There are no two minds among us as to our attitude on this question. There may be a difference as to method, but so much is involved for the present and the future that we shall not lightly yield as far as the more important elements of the question are concerned. I wonder if the Committee has recalled that following the Franco-German War, or eight or nine years after it, when a great industrial depression came, we had then a permanent system fixed upon us. It was not our permanent system, it was the coalowners' permanent system. We have had since what is known as the 79 basis, and we have never forgotten it. It has followed us, and we have paid a very great price for it. It is with that in our minds we regard this present situation and say, "If there has got to be a permanent settlement, then it has got to be the one we lay down." If the Government takes up the attitude that there cannot be any temporary settlement, and that their permanent settlement must be finally accepted when we are more tractable, that is not going to lead us anywhere at all. While I would wish for an early settlement of this matter, I think I can say that at least I have used my influence in helping to create a spirit of goodwill and peace during the past few weeks among the people whom I represent. I trust that that spirit will find expression in the negotiations during the coming days, and that the Government will come in with a free hand, expressing the will of the Members of this House, and showing something like a new spirit of freedom and detachment, and a capacity to understand new points of the case. I should wish to see a spirit of generosity 1644 in order that this matter may be brought to an early finish, and may be concluded with goodwill and without bitterness.
I beg to move that the Vote be reduced by 100,000 men. The hon. Member who has just spoken has put his finger on what really is the serious thing that has come out of this Debate. The Prime Minister has declared against the temporary settlement with the miners. I think that declaration will be received in the country as a great shock and a profound disappointment. In the first place, it is entirely against the sense of this House, at least in so far as that sense was manifested last week. There can be no hon. Member who was present in Committee Room No. 14 last Thursday evening who was not impressed with the sense that the whole of the body of men who were gathered there were eager, above all things, to get a settlement, no matter if it should be temporary in character. We were like men clutching at straws—
My hon. Friend derisively applauds that sentiment. Of course he is entitled to do so. We may have been clutching at straws, straws may have broken in our hands, but I do not think we are any further away from a settlement on account of last Thursday's meeting than if it had not taken place.
§ Mr. HOPKINSON
I meant to imply that it was a case of fools rushing in where angels feared to tread.
Well, there were 200 fools. The hon. Member has expressed his opinion about this House on more than one occasion in the country, and that opinion has never been very complimentary. I am inclined to think that on this occasion, however, the country as a whole will think more highly of the House than apparently the hon. Member does. If one can judge from the expressions of the following days, the general consensus of opinion was, and I believe still is, that the House of Commons lived up to its best traditions in that meeting last Thursday evening. The whole essence of the meeting and its object, eagerly and earnestly sought, was to get a temporary settlement. It was for that purpose that Members from that meeting ventured to 1645 penetrate the recesses of Downing Street at so late an hour as midnight. It was for that purpose, surely, that the Prime Minister wrote his letter to the miners on the following morning.
My hon. Friend (Mr. Lawson) is quite correct in pointing out that there has been a complete change of front on the part of the Government, because, if there has been no change of front, what are we left with? We are left with the conclusion that the letter of Friday morning was not a bonâ fide letter. If that is the conclusion to which we are brought, we are also brought to the conclusion that the Miners' Federation showed judgment and penetration in refusing to accept it. That is a very serious conclusion to arrive at. I think the Committee will agree with me that the action of the other members of the Triple Alliance last week—an action of tramendous courage and hope for all those who believe in the welfare of this country—was grounded on the belief that the miners had refused an honest and bonâ fide invitation to arrive at a temporary settlement. If that conclusion is to be destroyed, and I cannot see how it can be otherwise than destroyed by the declaration made by the Prime Minister, what must be the result? All the hopes that are being based now upon what is believed to be a real division of opinion between organised labour in this country will prove to be unfounded. A conclusion of this kind is more likely than ever to reunite those forces in a hardness and a bitterness of spirit that will prove to be quite impenetrable by any efforts such as those made last week if they should be renewed.
I hope the Prime Minister has made a declaration which will be reconsidered. I do not know whether anything further is proposed to be said from the Treasury Bench during the course of the evening, but I would join with all the sincerity, and force of which I am capable with my hon. Friend and with other hon. Members whom I believe are imbued with the same desire, in asking the Government to reconsider this decision. Do not let it go out to the country to-morrow from this House that there is going to be anything like a fight to a finish, and that a knockout blow is going to be given to the organised efforts of the miners. Consider what the situation is. These men, many of whom we know, have gone back 1646 to their constituencies during the last week-end, and are still there. They have gone back, themselves disappointed, angry and bitter, to find thousands of their co-workers in this industry in the same condition. These men are there now; they are having meetings, talking and discussing, all for the purpose of coming back to London on Thursday and Friday with powers of settling this question. What will be the effect on these meetings, and on the Conference on Thursday and Friday, if it goes out from the House of Commons to-night that the Government will not agree to look forward and assist in a temporary settlement? These men are not going to come back to London with any disposition to come to a settlement. Whatever else we differ on, we are agreed that the cessation of production in the coalfields of this country is a national disaster. Every day which is lost is an injury striking at our very heart, and to talk, however lightly, of time being of no account, and of it being better even, as the Prime Minister said, to take a little more time about it in order to get a permanent settlement, is to lose all sense of responsibility in this matter.
The miners have been out now for some two weeks or more. How many weeks they may stay out one does not know. I have been all my life amongst the miners of Northumberland and Durham, and many hon. Members here know the character of the miners. They are a stubborn, dour lot; they are people you can coax and jolly, but whom you cannot coerce. Any proposals based on getting them to submit to coercion and starvation have a very poor and weak foundation. If that is the sort of spirit that is going to be introduced into this dispute, if the miners of this country are going to get the feeling that people think they are down and can be jumped on, then I believe we are in for a very long period of stoppage of work, in which this country is going to suffer very greatly. Even as late as this I would ask any Member of the Government who may be going to speak to give us some hope that what the Prime Minister has expressed is not the unyielding attitude of the Government, and that they will be open in the future, as they seem to have been in the past, to bring these contending parties together to get some settlement, even if it is not of a permanent character.
1647 I Want to say a word or two about this force which has been raised. We are told that recruiting is stopped; that seventy-five thousand men have been obtained, and no more are to be recruited. For whatever reasons it has been stopped, they are good reasons, for in my opinion the force was never necessary. It was a provocative thing to raise it, and it is only the good sense and good humour and good temper of the people of this country that has led to the action being comparatively harmless. I do not profess to speak for other mining areas, but in Northumberland and Durham it is the most absurd thing in the world to think of introducing the police and troops. In the last Recess I have taken every opportunity I could of speaking to friends of mine connected with mining, and they all regard it as the most ridiculous thing that was ever done. At one colliery the men stopped work and came to the manager and said, "There is so much coal due to us. What are you going to do about it?" He replied: "Do about it? I will let you have it. Will you help me lead it?" They answered, "No," and the manager of that colliery got a motor lorry out and started to lead the coal round to his men's houses. That is the sort of temper we have got up in our part of the world. Another coalowner has told his men that he will continue to supply them with coal right through the strike, and that if they want any more they can go down the pit and get it. That is the kind of feeling we have in our part of the world, and my own belief is that the same conditions obtain throughout the country, with the exception of perhaps one or two small places, and to raise a force of 300,000 men, and 25,000 sailors, and 10,000 airmen is a most absurd thing.
What is the Army being raised for, and against whom? Even at its worst, when the Triple Alliance was coming out, who were the men that were coming out? They were the men who fought in the Armies in France and Flanders against the Germans, the very men upon whom we were relying throughout the War. Go into any railway station to-day, and you will find a great tablet inscribed with the men from the railway companies, who fought and died out yonder, and it is against these very men that we are raising this great Army, a most absurd and ridiculous position. If we could only get as much common sense regularly into 1648 the discussions in this House as we got in Committee Room 14 last Thursday evening, a proposition of this kind would not entertain the slightest chance of being passed. The Noble Lord the Member for Horsham (Earl Winterton) was very much astonished that the people of Abertillery did not like the sailors marching through their streets with fixed bayonets, but I think he missed the whole point of the thing. Throughout the War thousands of troops were marching through our streets with all the weapons of war, and nobody minded that, because they were directed against the foreigner; but to bring into a place where there is a dispute, and where the people's minds are being filled with suspicion that the Government is up against them, bodies of armed men parading their arms is, to say the least of it, the kind of thing that nobody who wishes to keep the peace would do. In judging the actions of any person, one must always think about the nature of the person, for we all act according to our temperament or psychology, and so I do not want to be too severe on the Government for acting in this way, because this is their temperament, their psychology. They believe in using force. Wherever they are met with an emergency they do it. If they have trouble in India, they do it there, and the same in Egypt, and in Ireland; and so, when there is trouble in England, they do it here.
I suggest to them that they should show in this matter some response to the movement that is being made from the other side, because, frankly, to them it is the other side. They say, "We take the owners' side on this vital question." What I want them to do is to move in the same direction of peace and good will as has been taken by the other side. I believe this Estimate was not Tabled until after the Triple Alliance had threatened to strike. When the miners were out, all we had was the Emergency Regulations, but when the Triple Alliance got together and said, "We will have a general strike," the Government replied by tabling this Estimate, and according to the Prime Minister's speech, he thinks it was an effective reply. He thinks it was this Estimate that frightened the Triple Alliance. I think he is altogether wrong and that he entirely misjudges and misunderstands the psychology of both the railwaymen and the transport workers. I 1649 do not want to be too serious about this matter, because I think in some ways the people of this country look upon this force as a bit of a farce. In our part of the world the miners are joining it. They did not need the advice of the hon. and gallant Member for Central Hull (Lieut.-Commander Kenworthy); they acted without it. They said, "Here is a job with good pay and good food" —as the recruiting bill says: "To all loyal citizens, good pay and good food." They are going to get a free change of underclothing and a £5 bonus, and they do not expect to be called upon to do anything that is really disagreeable, because they know the sense of their fellow workers, and so they are joining up, and from some points of view it is a kind of addition to the unemployment benefit. If anybody had come to the House and proposed to increase the unemployment benefit in this way there would have been a storm of indignation from the Government Benches, but that is the principal effect of this Estimate, and from that point of view I do not want to stress the seriousness of it too much.
I suggest that the Government should do something to-day to increase goodwill, to bring about the atmosphere that has been spoken of, and that they should do it by making a gesture of advance in the same direction of peace as has been made by the transport workers. The Government brought the Estimate in because there was going to be a general strike, but there is not going to be a general strike, so let them do something to modify this Estimate. You have 75,000 men in for three months. If you cannot see your way to demobilise them all at once, why ask for 300,000? Show that you appreciate the change in the situation. Do not show yourselves impervious and impenetrable to the situation created by the action of the railwaymen and the transport workers. A good deal was said about the Triple Alliance in the way of condemnation, and for a little while they were held up as a tremendous bogey to the people of this country, but their action in declaring the strike off last Friday was the greatest evidence that has been given of the common-sense and the sanity of the working classes of this country that we have ever had. Let us acknowledge it in the House of Commons in a substantial way by agreeing to a reduction of this 1650 Estimate, and, in order to test the feeling of the Committee, I move to reduce it by 100,000 men.
§ Mr. JAMESON
I shall not be long. I do not want to make the hon. Gentleman more impatient than he is. I rise to make a protest against the attack on the legality of raising the Defence Force and the policy of raising the Defence Force. I think everyone is really convinced that the Defence Force is absolutely necessary. You had the situation created in the mines by the departure of the safety men. According to the principles of liberty in this country, perhaps not in the least recognised in Russia by Lenin or Trotsky, these men were entitled, and were allowed, to leave off working the safety machinery in the mines. But what they were not allowed to do, and the object of the Defence Force was to prevent them being allowed to do, was to interfere with the liberty of the people who were willing to do the essential work to preserve the mines. It was still more necessary in the event of a transport and railway strike. In the case of the miners, it was their object not to do the work themselves, and not to let anyone else do the work. Accordingly, when you had the volunteer pumpmen doing the work, you had gangs of miners going about threatening to chuck them down the pits. We hope that if the railway and transport men had come out on strike, they would not have followed their bad example. But there was always the risk of their doing so, and that they would not have handed over the motors, that the dockers would not have allowed other volunteers to work, or the railwaymen would not have allowed volunteers to run the railways. There was always that risk, and that would have meant hunger, starvation, and anarchy among the population. Accordingly, the Defence Force was absolutely necessary, because we had not enough military in the country at the time. It was absolutely necessary, not in order, of course, to force the men on strike to 1651 return to work, but in order to protect the men who were willing to carry on the essential services of the country.
Everybody hopes the Defence Force men will be demobilised as soon as possible, both in the interests of economy and in the interests of themselves, and I do hope the Government will be generous and very conciliatory towards the men who have come forward willingly to do the work of the country, and to see that the work of the country is carried on in time of great trial. But as to the policy of the Government in calling upon the nation to come forward and protect the nation from what might have been a catastrophe the like of which had never been seen in this country, I think every lover of law and order, and every person who wants to see the community protected from starvation, famine, lawlessness and disorder, must be grateful to the Government for taking that lead, and taking that strong line, which was also the merciful line. As for the sort of suggestion that the miner is an egg-shelly person, who, at the least touch of provocation, would take offence, I do not believe it for one moment. After all, the mineowner is not irreconcilable because outrages have occurred in Fife, and I do not believe for a moment the miner is such an unreasonable person as to resent the formation of a force, when he saw that the country was threatened with famine and hunger, because that is what it came to. Accordingly, I deprecate any sort of friction being raised over this absolutely necessary Defence Force, and I congratulate the Government upon putting in force the reserves of the country in order to protect the population from what might have been a very great catastrophe. I do not want to contribute anything to an atmosphere of friction, and I do hope the atmosphere of goodwill and peace will reign again.
I am bound to say I think the Prime Minister has been misrepresented very greatly indeed in the last speech, when it is said he set his face against a temporary settlement. What I gathered from the Prime Minister's remarks was that he was pressing for a permanent settlement. He said it was not a temporary settlement but a permanent settlement that he wanted. He merely deprecated a temporary settlement in compari- 1652 son with a permanent settlement. That is the sense of the whole House and the country. We have had enough of these continual threats of strikes and continual strikes. We want to get to some permanent peace and permanent settlement, in which all sides will work together for the good of the country. I was very glad this afternoon to listen to the speech of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, because I heard him give the quietus, if quietus there can be given, to two very great fallacies which have been going on in the country, and which I met with at street-corners in my constituency, where I was speaking last week. In the first place, there is the extraordinary fallacy that the Government was guilty of a breach of faith, the allegation being that it said it was going to decontrol on 31st August, and it had decontrolled on 31st March. One would think that a mere glance at the Statute would be enough to nail that falsehood for ever to the mast, but one hears it repeated in the country, and also in this House, that the Government were guilty of a breach of faith in not carrying on control till 31st August. The Statute in plain terms says that that date is fixed as the limit, and of course it was free to the Government to decontrol at any time within that limit, when the circumstances it had laid down for decontrol eventuated. He also laid, I hope for ever, the falsehood that decontrol came as a bolt from the blue, or that it overtook the mining industry like an avalanche. It did nothing of the kind. It was imminent for months, and all the parties were at liberty to make their arrangements, and were actually in continual discussion. These two things, I hope, have been cleared up by the speech of the Chancellor of the Exchequer this afternoon. I certainly trust we may look forward to a permanent settlement eventuating before long, and no patchwork or temporary settlement, which would leave the country in a continual state of unrest, and looking forward with terror to the next strike. I congratulate the Government for having seen the country through so far. We hope that the end will come shortly, and that this bitterness and strife in the industrial world will cease.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
By permission of the House I should like to make one statement. I understand that in my absence there has been some little mis- 1653 apprehension as to what I said about a temporary settlement. I want to make it quite clear to the Committeex2014;and it is important that I should make it quite clear. What I intended to say, and what I think I did say, was this: that I did hope that any settlement would not be a patched-up settlement that would last for a few months, but that it would be a settlement upon a permanent basis that would last for years. I cannot conceive anything worse than some patched-up settlement now, coming to an end in a few months, and re-opening the whole controversy in five or six months. That has already been stated by some of the miners' leaders in the country, and I entirely agree with them.
§ Mr. CAIRNS
I have watched for three hours for the opportunity to make this speech. I do not understand how hon. and right hon. Members can talk the way they do. They must neither have studied the mining question nor the economics of industry. Talk about raising 300,000 soldiers, 25,000 sailors, and some airmen—to kill the miners! During the War I recruited. I sat on appeal courts. I was on a military recruiting body, and gave 60,000 certificates for men to fight for Britain. If Britain were in danger, even at 63 years of age I would be prepared to fight. I have been in my constituency during this week-end. Thousands of men were about. This is what they said: "We do not object to a reduction "—I am telling hon. Members what the men said—" but 7s. a day, 5s. a day, 4s. a day is too much." Someone has been talking about the psychology of the matter. These hon. Members do not know the mining industry. It is not a question of psychology at all. It is a question of what the industry can pay. In the economics of industry there is no sentiment. It is a soulless science. I do not want to be discourteous nor to insult any hon. Member, but the Chancellor of the Exchequer said that the coalpits which did not pay were due to bad management. I think my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister said the same thing this afternoon.
Take the case of Falstone Colliery and Wallsend Colliery in Northumberland. The first has a 2-ft. seam of coal with 24 inches to the yard ascent. Five shillings per ton railway-carriage is paid to the leaders of the coal, and it cost Wallsend, who have their own wagons, 1654 only 2½d. per ton to take their coal to the ships in pre-War times. That is to say, 2½d. against 5s. This is a difference of 4s. 9½d. a ton on carriage alone. One thousand tons output at Wallsend per day at 4s. 9½d. accounts for about £250. Again, Wallsend Pit has seams 5½ feet thick, and the coal is got out for the owners at lO½d. per ton or a little more. At Falstone it is 2s. 7d. per ton, because we have a basis of 5s. 2d., so that here again there is a difference. Also in the one case the seam is 24 inches to the yard, and there is also the difference between 4s. 9½d. and 2½d. per ton for carriage. Yet the Chancellor of the Exchequer stands in his place and says that where pits do not pay profit it is due to bad management! It appears to me he has not got off the A B C of the economics of the coal-mining industry.
That is not only correct in regard to the County of Northumberland, but true in regard to Wales. You have 2-foot seams and 6-foot seams, and places where you can get coal with pincers. Nobody knows Northumberland miners better than I do—not even the Home Secretary! I have had the pleasure of sitting under his chairmanship. Hon. Members on both sides of the House say that this is a strike. Those who say so do not know the meaning of trade unionism. I will give an instance. In 1909, in the month of December, we got our notices in the County of Northumberland, and as financial secretary to the men I paid out £86,000. I made an appeal to the Government of the day, and I got back £557 because it was a lock-out. According to that precedent of strike money, we hope now if the Government is consistent—and Mr. Burt used to say there was nothing so consistent as inconsistency—this is a lock-out.
There have been lots of mistakes made during this stoppage. I believe we have made mistakes on our side. I believe it was a mistake to withdraw the pump men and the safety men. It would be foolish for the farmer to kill his cows and expect milk, or to kill his hens and expect eggs. There has been a lot of talk in the papers about the mines being lost. I know something about the mines, having been in them for 43 years. You can get them pumped out and started again in a short time; but that is all waste. Someone 1655 said there are ponies in the pits. Where? Tell me, and I will see they are got out, even if I have to go myself for them. Tell me where there is any water in a pit; we will see it is got out. I hope the Government will never fire a shot. What are our men doing? I have been in Northumberland over the week-end, and attended open-air meetings at Mor-peth and colliery districts. The men are saying this: "When are we going to get back to work?" Northumberland voted for a district settlement. What have we been offered? The coalowners in Northumberland offer us 166 per cent., which is only equal to about 110 per cent. The cost of living, according to the figures of the Board of Trade, has gone up 141 per cent. We have 110 to meet that, that is 87 41 to pay 141 per cent. increase in price or cost of living between 1914 and now, and because we are not going to fall on our knees to accept it, the Government are going to send the troops down to drive us. In one village in my constituency £60 was raised the other day for making soup for the miners' families. The men are busy digging their gardens and setting potatoes, while the boys are playing football. There never was a better understanding between the coalowners and the men than there is in Northumberland.
I hope, as the Prime Minister hears this incoherent speech of mine, he will remember that the Government have had for four years, as between export and home price, £758,000,000 from us, and I hope he will give us one-seventh of that. I blame the Government for stopping the export trade. I want the Government to treat us as you would treat your horse. Treat us well, and we will be men and fight for this country, and Northumberland will be loyal. In 1912 the constabulary congratulated us on our good behaviour, and I ask you to withdraw your troops. We do not want any "Black and Tans." You are asking for 300,000 troops to be raised, but we raised 400,000 for the War, and we had 60,000 killed. I am not saying that as a threat, but I wish to say that it will be a hellish game if ever the military and the working classes of this country come into collision. I pray to the Almightly that it will never happen, and I hope something good will come out of this dispute.
If the hon. Member who has just sat down has bottled up all 1656 the wit and wisdom he has displayed for three hours, I wonder that he survived at all to make his speech. It may be a consolation to him to know that I have waited six hours to make mine. I want to direct the attention of the Government to what I believe is a governing factor in the situation, and that is that the miners' delegates are coming back to London next Friday. The chances of a permanent settlement, such as that of which the Prime Minister has urged the necessity, depends very largely on the frame of mind in which those men come back. I think this country would be missing the chance of a permanent settlement if those men came back as broken men with their back to the wall, and as men determined to fight this thing out. I suggest that all that is needed to prevent them coming back in that frame of mind is that there should be a little more explanation as to the position of the parties to the dispute. This Debate has done something to clear the issue, but not as much as it might have done. What is the position of the Government? The Prime Minister has made a speech in which he has indicated the Government's point of view, but I cannot even yet understand from the Prime Minister's statement whether he is willing that negotiations should be resumed with a view to arriving at a temporary settlement or not. If that is not so, let me put this alternative with regard to the resumption of negotiations. Would it not be possible, seeing that the main thing is to get the coal industry started again, for negotiations to be resumed, and for the question of wages first to be discussed, and then the conditions on which the industry should be carried on. The hon. Member who has just sat down has mentioned the basic fact in the mind of the rank and file of the miners, and that is that they are being asked to accept a large reduction in wages. The Government made it quite clear last week that they were prepared to offer a discussion on wages first and foremost, and that is what broke down the trouble which hung over this country like a dark cloud last week. Surely it would be possible to say to these miners when they come back, "We are prepared to abide by the offer we then made, and we want you to enter into negotiations with the owners again, in which wages shall be the first question discussed, and 1657 subsequently the permanent conditions on which the industry should be carried on."
There is another point which ought to be cleared up, and it is that the Government, in the recommendations they made in the course of the dispute last week, offered to make a contribution towards the solvency of the mines in the poorer districts. It seems to me it would remove all possibility of misunderstanding if this House and the country could make quite sure that that offer still stands, and not only whether the offer still stands, but the amount of the offer, and the period over which the promised financial assistance should extend. Let me pass from the consideration of the Government's attitude to the attitude of the owners. What have the owners done? They have offered to carry on their industry without any profit at all. The hon. Member for Ogmore (Mr. Hartshorn) this afternoon showed that really that did not mean what it seemed, and he is quite right, because anybody who knows how the owners prepared their schedule of wages, knows quite well that in various districts in which the owners' schedule had been agreed to many mines would make a vastly enhanced profit, and others would only just have a balance. I asked the owners whether under their schedule of wages what they were proposing was a district pool or not, and they said that each mine must stand on its own footing. What I want the owners to do is to prepare a new scale of wages and put them forward as a basis of discussion. I feel perfectly sure that it is possible to put forward a more generous wage offer. In every other industry in the country a number of trades are now running not only without profit but actually at a loss. They are industries which did no better out of the War, and is it too much to expect that the coal industry in this period should suffer the same sacrifice as the other industries are now suffering? They are doing that in order to recapture the markets, and that is precisely what the coal industry has to do.
The hon. Member for Ogmore says that the miners' latest proposal for a national pool does not involve control. The Prime Minister says it does. I think the hon. Member for Ogmore is right, but, in my opinion, the miners' latest proposal involves a still greater danger than Government control. May I explain what 1658 I mean? The latest proposal for a national pool is this. You can only understand it, as it is a very intricate calculation, if you take the basis on which the owners calculated their schedule of wages. The owners took the wage which they paid to the men in the month of March last and deducted therefrom the whole of the war wage, that is, wages advances made during the War—7s. per day. That brought it down to the 1914 standard of wage. They added thereto the operating cost of the mine, including cost of wagons, pit-props, machinery, tubs, etc., and subtracted from it the price paid for coal in the month of March. That left a residue which is added to the 1914 standard in the form of a percentage addition to wages. I understand that the miners' latest proposal for a pool is that to this operating cost, which comes in the second movement of the calculation I have described, there should be added Is. per ton, and as I understand it, that Is. per ton will be paid by the men out of their wages, inasmuch as the residue left after the subtraction sum is not so much as it otherwise would have been. I do not know whether that is clear or whether it is correct, but if it is correct it is obvious that the next thing to be discussed is the way in which this pool is to be administered.
The pool is to be administered by a Central Committee, presumably in London, consisting of 26 miners and 26 coalowners. It will be a Central Committee governing the industry. In other words, it will be syndicalism. This Central Committee will have it in its power at the time when this abnormal period is over, of making you and me pay whatever they choose for our coal. They will be able to subsidise uneconomic mines which ought to be closed down, as is admitted by the miners' leaders them selves, and this will enable those mines to be kept open at your and my expense and at the expense of the taxpayers of the country. I think I am right in the elucidation I have endeavoured to give of the condition. At any rate, I have not been corrected by the experts, and if I am right in that elucidation—
§ Mr. HARTSHORN
I do not desire to correct the hon. and gallant Member, but I hope he will not saddle me later on with the responsibility for his calculation.
All I can say is that I did try to realise how very serious this 1659 position was, and I did my best to understand it, and, if the hon. Member for Ogmore will come with me into the Library I will work it out to his satisfaction. If I am right in my elucidation of the position of the contending parties, we may have a chance next Friday of entering into negotiations which may result in a permanent settlement, and that is what we are all aiming at. The hon. Member for West Edinburgh (Mr. Jameson) said quite truly that the country generally and the House of Commons were sick of these ceaseless industrial disputes. If that be so, next Friday is the time to make a new start and turn over a new leaf. I am quite ready to admit that there have been mistakes on all sides, that I do not altogether believe the tales of bankruptcy that come from the coalowners. They ought to come forward with generosity, just as the Government and the miners ought to come forward with generosity. Supposing that we agree to enter these negotiations with a view to arriving at a temporary settlement, let the Committee remember what the miners have done. They have offered to make a contribution of 12s. per week, or £30,000,000 a year, towards the deficit in the industry, but that is only provided that the industry is run under permanent conditions such as they desire. Are they prepared to put on paper a translation into temporary terms of that offer, which holds good under permanent conditions to-day? If so, I feel convinced that, if the Executive comes back prepared to start negotiations, it will not be many hours before we can get the men back to work, and on conditions fairly satisfactory both for them and for us, while we are working out the many thorny problems which lie in the path of a final peace. Those are the concrete suggestions which I have to make, namely, that generosity should be shown by the three contending parties, and that the position should be so cleared up before next Friday that the country can see what it has not seen in anything connected with the coal industry for a long time past—men meeting round a table with a reasonable chance of arriving at a settlement before bankruptcy falls upon the country generally.
May I make an appeal to the Committee to come to an early decision on this Vote? It was 1660 agreed at the beginning of the sitting, with your permission, Sir Edwin, that the discussion on the three Votes should be taken on this Vote. I hope, if the Committee wish to divide on the other two Votes, that the discussion on this Vote will be closed in time for the Divisions to be taken before eleven o'clock.
I may, perhaps, point out that an Amendment is now before the Committee to reduce the Vote, and that that Question will have to be put. Then the Original Question will have to be put, and then there will be the two other Votes. Perhaps it would be for the convenience of the Committee that I should put the Amendment and the first and second Votes, and then, on the last Vote, allow the discussion to be continued. I think it would be fair to the Committee if that arrangement were followed.
§ Captain WEDGWOOD BENN
I only wish to put a question to the Prime Minister. I should not say anything at all which would tend to interfere with the extremely favourable atmosphere which has been created by the speech of my hon. Friend behind me and other speeches this evening. The Prime Minister spoke about a permanent and a temporary settlement. Last week a crisis was averted largely by the action of hon. Members of the House, and by an offer which it was understood was made by Mr. Hodges upstairs. In fact, the fact that the offer was not accepted by the committee of the Federation was the reason why the Triple Alliance called off the strike, so that in a sense the action of hon. Members have averted a crisis. I want to ask the Prime Minister this question. Does he rule out of the possibility of peace to-day a settlement of a temporary kind which would enable the men to return to work pending a general settlement of the question at issue? I do not give any period for a temporary settlement, but it is an urgent question, because it is the particular suggestions that created a favourable atmosphere last week.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
The Government rule out nothing that will lead to peace, but we deprecate very strongly a mere temporary arrangement. I think that is the feeling amongst the miners themselves. If there is a chance of arriving at a permanent settlement, it 1661 would be a great mistake merely to patch up something which would end in reopening the whole controversy in another six months. Another reason why a temporary settlement is inadvisable is that it will not be so easy for the Government to come in with a subsidy. The Government might come in with a subsidy for a permanent settlement, but a subsidy merely for a temporary settlement is a liability that we do not see the end of.
§ emphatically on behalf of the Government that we could not advise the House of Commons to vote any money unless they saw the end of their liabilities. We could not recommend the House of Commons to accept an indefinite liability. I still say, whilst ruling nothing out which would lead to peace, it would be exceedingly undesirable merely to have a patched-up settlement.
§ Question put, "That an additional number of Land Forces, not exceeding 200,000, be maintained for the said Service."
§ The Committee divided: Ayes, 50; Noes, 199.1663
|Division No. 75.]||AYES.||[10.30 p.m.|
|Barker, G. (Monmouth, Abertillery)||Hartshorn, Vernon||Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring)|
|Barnes, Major H. (Newcastle, E.)||Hayward, Major Evan||Royce, William Stapleton|
|Bell, James (Lancaster, Ormskirk)||Hirst, G. H.||Smith, W. R. (Wellingborough)|
|Benn, Captain Wedgwood (Leith)||Hodge, Rt. Hon. John||Swan, J. E.|
|Bowerman, Rt. Hon. Charles W.||Irving, Dan||Thomas, Brig.-Gen. Sir O. (Anglesey)|
|Cairns, John||Kennedy, Thomas||Walsh, Stephen (Lancaster, Ince)|
|Clynes, Rt. Hon. J. R.||Kenworthy, Lieut.-Commander J. M.||Waterson, A. E.|
|Collins, Sir G. P. (Greenock)||Kenyon, Barnet||Wedgwood, Colonel J. C.|
|Davies, A (Lancaster, Clitheroe)||Lawson, John J.||White, Charles F. (Derby, Western)|
|Davies, Evan (Ebbw Vale)||Lunn, William||Wignall, James|
|Davison, J. E. (Smethwick)||Maclean, Neil (Glasgow, Govan)||Wilson, W. Tyson (Westhoughton)|
|Elliot, Capt. Walter E. (Lanark)||Mills, John Edmund||Wintringham, T.|
|Galbraith, Samuel||Morgan, Major D. Watts||Wood, Major M. M. (Aberdeen, C.)|
|Graham, R. (Nelson and Colne)||Murray, Dr. D. (Inverness & Ross)||Young, Robert (Lancaster, Newton)|
|Griffiths, T. (Monmouth, Pontypool)||Myers, Thomas|
|Grundy, T. W.||O'Grady, Captain James||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Guest, J. (York, W. R., Hemsworth)||Parkinson, John Allen (Wigan)||Mr. Arthur Henderson and Mr. Hogge.|
|Hall, F. (York, W. R., Normanton)||Rattan, Peter Wilson|
|Adair, Rear-Admiral Thomas B. S.||Cowan, D. M. (Scottish Universities)||Henderson, Major V. L. (Tradeston)|
|Addison, Rt. Hon. Dr. C.||Craik, Rt. Hon. Sir Henry||Henry, Denis S. (Londonderry, S.)|
|Agg-Gardner, Sir James Tynte||Davidson, Major-General Sir J. H.||Herbert, Dennis (Hertford, Watford)|
|Ainsworth, Captain Charles||Davison, Sir W. H. (Kensington, S.)||Hewart, Rt. Hon. Sir Gordon|
|Allen, Lieut.-Colonel William James||Dean, Lieut.-Commander P. T.||Hilder, Lieut.-Colonel Frank|
|Amery, Lieut.-Col. Leopold C. M. S.||Elveden, Viscount||Hills, Major John Waller|
|Austin, Sir Herbert||Entwistle, Major C. F.||Hinds, John|
|Balfour, George (Hampstead)||Evans, Ernest||Hoare, Lieut.-Colonel Sir S. J. G.|
|Banbury, Rt. Hon. Sir Frederick G.||Falcon, Captain Michael||Hohler, Gerald Fitzroy|
|Barlow, Sir Montague||Falle, Major Sir Bertram G.||Hood, Joseph|
|Barnett, Major R. W.||Farquharson, Major A. C.||Hopkinson, A. (Lancaster, Mossley)|
|Bell, Lieut.-Col. W. C. H. (Devizes)||Fell, Sir Arthur||Horne, Edgar (Surrey, Guildford)|
|Bellairs, Commander Carlyon W.||Fisher, Rt. Hon. Herbert A. L.||Horne, Sir R. S. (Glasgow, Hillhead)|
|Benn, Capt. Sir I. H., Bart.(Gr'nw'h)||Flannery, Sir James Fortescue||Hotchkin. Captain Stafford Vere|
|Betterton, Henry B.||Ford, Patrick Johnston||Hume-Williams, Sir W. Ellis|
|Bigland, Alfred||Foxcroft, Captain Charles Talbot||Hurd, Percy A.|
|Blake, Sir Francis Douglas||Fraser, Major Sir Keith||Inskip, Thomas Walker H.|
|Borwick, Major G. O.||Fremantle, Lieut.-Colonel Francis E.||James, Lieut.-Colonel Hon. Cuthbert|
|Boscawen, Rt. Hon. Sir A. Griffith-||Gange, E. Stanley||Jameson, J. Gordon|
|Bowyer, Captain G. E. W.||Ganzonl, Captain Sir F. J. C.||Jodrell, Neville Paul|
|Brassey, Major H. L. C.||George, Rt. Hon. David Lloyd||Johnson, Sir Stanley|
|Bridgeman, Rt. Hon. William Clive||Gibbs, Colonel George Abraham||Johnstone, Joseph|
|Brittain, Sir Harry||Gilmour, Lieut.-Colonel Sir John||Jones, G. W. H. (Stoke Newington)|
|Bruton, Sir James||Goff, Sir R. Park||Jones, J. T. (Carmarthen, Llanelly)|
|Buckley, Lieut.-Colonel A.||Gould, James C.||Kidd, James|
|Bull, Rt. Hon. Sir William James||Gray, Major Ernest (Accrington)||King, Captain Henry Douglas|
|Burn, Col. C. R. (Devon, Torquay)||Greene, Lt.-Col. Sir W. (Hack'y, N.)||Lane-Fox, G. R.|
|Carr, W. Theodore||Gregory, Holman||Lewis, Rt. Hon. J. H. (Univ., Wales)|
|Casey, T. W.||Gretton, Colonel John||Lindsay, William Arthur|
|Cayzer, Major Herbert Robin||Gritten, W. G. Howard||Lloyd, George Butier|
|Cecil, Rt. Hon. Evelyn (Birm., Aston)||Guest, Capt. Rt. Hon. Frederick E.||Lloyd-Greame, Sir P.|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. J. A. (Birm. W.)||Gwynne, Rupert S.||Locker-Lampson, Com. O. (H'tingd'n)|
|Chamberlain, N. (Birm., Ladywood)||Hacking, Captain Douglas H.||Lonsdale, James Rolston|
|Chilcot, Lieut.-Com. Harry W.||Hamilton, Major C. G. C||Lorden, John William|
|Child, Brigadier-General Sir Hill||Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry||Lowther, Major C. (Cumberland, N.)|
|Colvin, Brig.-General Richard Beale||Harmsworth, C. B. (Bedford, Luton)||Lynn, R. J.|
|Coote, Colin Reith (Isle of Ely)||Harmsworth, Hon. E. C. (Kent)||Mackinder, Sir H. J. (Camlachie)|
|McLaren, Robert (Lanark, Northern)||Rae, H. Norman||Thomas, Sir Robert J. (Wrexham)|
|M'Lean, Lieut.-Col. Charles W. W.||Raeburn, Sir William H.||Thomas-Stanford, Charles|
|McMicking, Major Gilbert||Raw, Lieutenant-Colonel N.||Thomson, F. C. (Aberdeen, South)|
|Macpherson, Rt. Hon. James I.||Rees, Sir J. D. (Nottingham, East)||Thorpe, Captain John Henry|
|Maddocks, Henry||Reid, D. D.||Townley, Maximilian G.|
|Mallalieu, F. W.||Richardson, Alexander (Gravesend)||Tryon, Major George Clement|
|Middlebrook, Sir William||Roberts, Rt. Hon. G. H. (Norwich)||Wallace, J.|
|Molson, Major John Elsdale||Roberts, Samuel (Hereford, Hereford)||Ward, Col. L. (Kingston-upon-Hull)|
|Mond, Rt. Hon. Sir Alfred M.||Roberts, Sir S. (Sheffield, Ecclesall)||Ward, William Dudley (Southampton)|
|Morden, Lieut.-Col. W. Grant||Robinson, S. (Brecon and Radnor)||Waring, Major Walter|
|Moreing, Captain Algernon H.||Roundell, Colonel R. F.||Warner, Sir T. Courtenay T.|
|Morison, Rt. Hon. Thomas Brash||Royds, Lieut.-Colonel Edmund||Watson, Captain John Bertrand|
|Morris, Richard||Rutherford, Sir W. W. (Edge Hill)||White, Lieut.-Col. G. D. (Southport)|
|Morrison-Bell, Major A. C.||Samuel, A. M. (Surrey, Farnham)||Whitla, Sir William|
|Munro, Rt. Hon. Robert||Samuel, Samuel (W'dsworth, Putney)||Wild, Sir Ernest Edward|
|Murray, John (Leeds, West)||Sanders, Colonel Sir Robert A.||Williams, Col. P. (Middlesbrough, E.)|
|Neal, Arthur||Sassoon, Sir Philip Albert Gustave D.||Williams, Col. Sir R. (Dorset, W.)|
|Newman, Sir R. H. S. D. L. (Exeter)||Scott, A. M. (Glasgow, Bridgeton)||Wills, Lieut.-Colonel Sir Gilbert|
|Nicholson, Reginald (Doncaster)||Seddon, J. A.||Winterton, Earl|
|Norris, Colonel Sir Henry G.||Shaw, Hon. Alex. (Kilmarnock)||Wise, Frederick|
|Ormsby-Gore, Hon. W.||Shaw, William T. (Forfar)||Wood, Sir H. K. (Woolwich, West)|
|Parry, Lieut.-Colonel Thomas Henry||Shortt, Rt. Hon. E. (N'castle-on-T.)||Worsfold, Dr. T. Cato|
|Pease, Rt. Hon. Herbert Pike||Smith, Sir Allan M. (Croydon, South)||Worthington-Evans, Rt. Hon. Sir L.|
|Peel, Col. Hn. S. (Uxbridge, Mddx.)||Stanier, Captain Sir Beville||Yate, Colonel Sir Charles Edward|
|Pennefather, De Fonblanque||Steel, Major S. Strang||Young, Lieut.-Com. E. H. (Norwich)|
|Philipps, Sir Owen C. (Chester, City)||Stephenson, Lieut.-Colonel H. K.||Younger, Sir George|
|Pickering, Lieut.-Colonel Emll W.||Stewart, Gershom|
|Pinkham, Lieut.-Colonel Charles||Strauss, Edward Anthony||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Polson, Sir Thomas||Sturrock, J. Leng||Colonel Leslie Wilson and Mr. McCurdy.|
|Pownall, Lieut.-Colonel Assheton||Sugden, W. H.|
|Pratt, John William||Sutherland, Sir William|
§ Original Question put.1664
§ The Committee divided: Ayes, 201; Noes, 44.1665
|Division No. 76.]||AYES.||[10.40 p.m.|
|Adair, Rear-Admiral Thomas B. S.||Falcon, Captain Michael||James, Lieut.-Colonel Hon. Cuthbert|
|Addison, Rt. Hon. Dr. C.||Falle, Major Sir Bertram G.||Jameson, J. Gordon|
|Agg-Gardner, Sir James Tynte||Fell, Sir Arthur||Jodrell, Neville Paul|
|Ainsworth, Captain Charles||Fisher, Rt. Hon. Herbert A. L.||Johnson, Sir Stanley|
|Allen, Lieut.-Colonel William James||Flannery, Sir James Fortescue||Johnstone, Joseph|
|Amery, Lieut.-Col. Leopold C. M. S.||Ford, Patrick Johnston||Jones, G. W. H. (Stoke Newington)|
|Austin, Sir Herbert||Forrest, Walter||Jones, J. T. (Carmarthen, Llanelly)|
|Baird, Sir John Lawrence||Foxcroft, Captain Charles Talbot||Kidd, James|
|Balfour, George (Hampstead)||France, Gerald Ashburner||King, Captain Henry Douglas|
|Banbury, Rt. Hon. Sir Frederick G.||Fraser, Major Sir Keith||Lane-Fox, G. R.|
|Barlow, Sir Montague||Fremantle, Lieut.-Colonel Francis E.||Lewis, Rt. Hon. J. H. (Univ., Wales)|
|Barnett, Major R. W.||Gange, E. Stanley||Lindsay, William Arthur|
|Bell, Lieut.-Col. w. C. H. (Devizes)||Ganzoni, Captain Sir F. J. C.||Lloyd, George Butler|
|Bellairs, Commander Carlyon W.||George, Rt. Hon. David Lloyd||Lloyd-Greame, Sir P.|
|Benn, Capt. Sir I. H., Bart. (Gr'nw'h)||Gibbs, Colonel George Abraham||Locker-Lampson, Com. O. (H'tingd'n)|
|Betterton, Henry B.||Gilmour, Lieut.-Colonel Sir John||Lorden, John William|
|Bigland, Alfred||Glyn, Major Ralph||Lowther, Major C. (Cumberland, N.)|
|Blake, Sir Francis Douglas||Goff, Sir R. Park||Lynn, R. J.|
|Borwick, Major G. O.||Gould, James C.||Mackinder, Sir H. J. (Camlachie)|
|Boscawen, Rt. Hon. Sir A. Griffith-||Gray, Major Ernest (Accrington)||McLaren, Robert (Lanark, Northern)|
|Bowyer, Captain G. E. W.||Greene, Lt.-Col. Sir W. (Hack'y, N.)||M'Lean, Lieut.-Col. Charles W. W.|
|Brassey, Major H. L. C.||Gregory, Holman||McMicking, Major Gilbert|
|Bridgeman, Rt. Hon. William Clive||Gretton, Colonel John||Macpherson, Rt. Hon. James I.|
|Brittain, Sir Harry||Gritten, W. G. Howard||Maddocks, Henry|
|Bruton, Sir James||Guest, Capt. Rt. Hon. Frederick E.||Mallalieu, F. W.|
|Buckley, Lieut.-Colonel A.||Gwynne, Rupert S.||Middlebrook, Sir William|
|Bull, Rt. Hon. Sir William James||Hacking, Captain Douglas H.||Molson, Major John Elsdale|
|Burn, Col. C. R. (Devon, Torquay)||Hamilton, Major C. G. C.||Mond, Rt. Hon. Sir Alfred M.|
|Carr, W. Theodore||Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry||Morden, Lieut.-Col. W. Grant|
|Casey, T. W.||Harmsworth, C. B. (Bedford, Luton)||Moreing, Captain Algernon H.|
|Cayzer, Major Herbert Robin||Harmsworth, Hon. E. C. (Kent)||Morison, Rt. Hon. Thomas Brash|
|Cecil, Rt. Hon. Evelyn (Birm., Aston)||Henderson, Major V. L. (Tradeston)||Morris, Richard|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. J. A.(Birm., W.)||Henry, Denis S. (Londonderry, S.)||Morrison-Bell, Major A. C.|
|Chamberlain, N. (Birm., Ladywood)||Herbert, Dennis (Hertford, Watford)||Munro, Rt. Hon. Robert|
|Chilcot, Lieut.-Com. Harry W.||Hewart, Rt. Hon. Sir Gordon||Murray, John (Leeds, West)|
|Child, Brigadier-General Sir Hill||Hilder, Lieut.-Colonel Frank||Neal, Arthur|
|Colvin, Brig.-General Richard Beale||Hills, Major John Waller||Newman, Sir R. H. S. D. L. (Exeter)|
|Coote, Colin Reith (Isle of Ely)||Hinds, John||Nicholson, Reginald (Doncaster)|
|Cowan, D. M. (Scottish Universities)||Hoare, Lieut.-Colonel Sir S. J. G.||Norris, Colonel Sir Henry G.|
|Craik, Rt. Hon. Sir Henry||Hohler, Gerald Fitzroy||Ormsby-Gore, Hon. W.|
|Davidson, J. C. C. (Hemel Hempstead)||Hood, Joseph||Parry, Lieut.-Colonel Thomas Henry|
|Davidson, Major-General Sir J. H.||Hopkinson, A. (Lancaster, Mossley)||Pease, Rt. Hon. Herbert Pike|
|Davison, Sir W. H. (Kensington, S.)||Horne, Edgar (Surrey, Guildford)||Peel, Col. Hon. S. (Uxbridge, Mddx.)|
|Dean, Lieut.-Commander P. T.||Horne, Sir R, S. (Glasgow, Hillhead)||Pennefather, De Fonblanque|
|Elveden, Viscount||Hotchkin, Captain Stafford Vere||Philipps, Sir Owen C. (Chester, City)|
|Entwistle, Major C. F.||Hurd, Percy A.||Pickering, Lieut.-Colonel Emil W.|
|Evans, Ernest||Inskip, Thomas Walker H.||Pinkham, Lieut.-Colonel Charles|
|Poison, Sir Thomas||Shaw, Hon. Alex. (Kilmarnock)||Waring, Major Walter|
|Pownall, Lieut.-Colonel Assheton||Shaw, William T. (Forfar)||Warner, Sir T. Courtenay T.|
|Pratt, John William||Shortt, Rt. Hon. E. (N'castle-on-T.)||Watson, Captain John Bertrand|
|Rae, H. Norman||Smith, Sir Allan M. (Croydon, South)||White, Lieut.-Col. G. D. (Southport)|
|Raeburn, Sir William H.||Stanier, Captain Sir Seville||Whitla, Sir William|
|Raw, Lieut.-Colonel N.||Steel, Major S. Strang||Wild, Sir Ernest Edward|
|Rees, Sir J. D. (Nottingham, East)||Stephenson, Lieut.-Colonel H K.||Williams, Col. P. (Middlesbrough, E.)|
|Reid, D. D.||Stewart, Gershom||Williams, Col. Sir R. (Dorset, W.)|
|Richardson, Alexander (Gravesend)||Strauss, Edward Anthony||Wills, Lieut.-Colonel Sir Gilbert|
|Roberts, Rt. Hon. G. H. (Norwich)||Sturrock, J. Leng||Wise, Frederick|
|Roberts, Samuel (Hereford, Hereford)||Sugden, W. H.||Wood, Hon. Edward F. L. (Ripon)|
|Roberts, Sir S. (Sheffield, Ecclesall)||Sutherland, Sir William||Wood, Sir H. K. (Woolwich, West)|
|Robinson, S. (Brecon and Radnor)||Thomas, Sir Robert J. (Wrexham)||Worsfold, Dr. T. Cato|
|Roundell, Colonel R. F.||Thomas-Stanford, Charles||Worthington-Evans, Rt. Hon. Sir L.|
|Royds, Lieut.-Colonel Edmund||Thomson, F. C. (Aberdeen, South)||Yate, Colonel Sir Charles Edward|
|Rutherford, Sir W. W. (Edge Hill)||Thorpe, Captain John Henry||Young, Lieut.-Com. E. H. (Norwich)|
|Samuel, A. M. (Surrey, Farnham)||Townley, Maximilian G.||Younger, Sir George|
|Samuel, Samuel (W'dsworth, Putney)||Tryon, Major George Clement|
|Sanders, Colonel Sir Robert A.||Wallace, J.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Sassoon, Sir Philip Albert Gustave D.||Ward, Col. L. (Kingston-upon-Hull)||Colonel Leslie Wilson and Mr. McCurdy.|
|Scott, A M. (Glasgow, Bridgeton)||Ward, William Dudley (Southampton)|
|Seddon, J. A.|
|Barker, G. (Monmouth, Abertillery)||Hartshorn, Vernon||Parkinson, John Allen (Wigan)|
|Barnes, Major H. (Newcastle, E.)||Hayward, Major Evan||Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring)|
|Bell, James (Lancaster, Ormskirk)||Henderson, Rt. Hon. A. (Widnes)||Royce, William Stapleton|
|Bowerman, Rt. Hon. Charles W.||Hirst, G. H.||Smith, W. R. (Wellingborough)|
|Cairns, John||Hodge, Rt. Hon. John||Swan, J. E.|
|Clynes Rt. Hon. J. R.||Hogge, James Myles||Thomas, Brig.-Gen. Sir O. (Anglesey)|
|Collins, Sir G. P. (Greenock)||Irving, Dan||Walsh, Stephen (Lancaster, Ince)|
|Davies, A. (Lancaster, Clitheroe)||Kennedy, Thomas||Waterson, A. E.|
|Davies, Evan (Ebbw Vale)||Kenworthy, Lieut.-Commander J. M.||Wedgwood, Colonel J. C.|
|Davison, J. E. (Smethwick)||Kenyon, Barnet||Wignall, James|
|Edwards, G. (Norfolk, South)||Lawson, John J.||Wilson, W. Tyson (Westhoughton)|
|Galbraith, Samuel||Lunn, William||Young, Robert (Lancaster, Newton)|
|Graham, R. (Nelson and Colne)||Mills, John Edmund|
|Grundy, T. W.||Morgan, Major D. Watts||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Guest, J. (York, W. R., Hemsworth)||Myers, Thomas||Mr. T. Griffiths and Mr. Nell|
|Hall, F. (York, W. R, Normanton)||O'Grady, Captain James||Maclean.|