HL Deb 15 February 1916 vol 21 cc3-29

Bill, pro forma, read la.



My Lords, the task of moving that an humble Address be presented to His Majesty in reply to the gracious Speech from the Throne has been entrusted to my care. I confess that I feel very diffident of being able to do full justice to the occasion, but as your Lordships are wont to be considerate to those who, like myself, are but recent additions to this Chamber, I ask you to grant me that indulgence which you are accustomed to give to those who address the House for the first time. The decision to prosecute the war with absolute steadfastness of purpose will, I feel sure, be received with unbounded satisfaction, not only by the entire people of the Empire but also by our Allies. It will further demonstrate to the enemy our determination never to sheath the sword until Belgium and the other small nations in Europe have been avenged, and more than avenged. The difficulties are indeed colossal, and to some extent are inseparable from military operations carried on in so many different theatres. The progress has, it is true, been slight and slow; but since, less than eighteen months ago, the enemy was driven back from almost the very environs of Paris to approximately his present front, notwithstanding his stupendous efforts at great cost in men, money, and materials, he has been unable to make any material advance on either of the two main fronts.

I spoke a moment ago of the difficulties. Difficulties are made to be overcome and if they are met by ourselves and our Allies, as I feel sure they will be, in this spirit, it will lead us on to victors for our just and honourable cause. In spite of the vainglorious boasting of the enemy, the British Navy still retains the mastery of the sea, and our naval predominance enables us to move our troops with comparative ease from one theatre to another and to escape the kind of economic pressure which the Central Powers are now feeling, and which we hope ere long will bring them to their knees. The Empire has a great deal to be thankful to the British Navy for. Its courage, its tenacity, and its resource merit and receive our grateful appreciation. Its never-ceasing vigil in the North Sea and in the other seas of the world may, indeed, at times be a very tedious duty, but none the less it is a duty which cannot possibly be dispensed with. We and the entire Empire share, I believe, with every officer and man in the British Navy a keen desire to come to close grips with the enemy, who might almost be described as a phantom opponent, an opponent who prefers to lie in safety within the confines of his own harbours rather than come out and try conclusions with our brave and fearless men.

The enemy, I think, incorrectly gauged the resources of Empire. He did not reckon at the outset on the co-operation and support which have been freely and ungrudgingly given by the Dominions overseas. They have. indeed, risen to great occasion. Their contributions have been in all directions prodigious; and their gallantry, their self-sacrifice, their loyal and devoted patriotism gain the admiration and gratitude of us all. These efforts made by the whole Empire point. I believe, to a reconsideration of the political as well as the military relations with the Mother Country; they point to a consideration of the military resources of the Empire and a joint examination of all questions of Imperial policy. To many like myself, who have lived amongst and made a home for some time with our kinsmen overseas and who have come thereby possibly to a better understanding of their aspirations and ideals, there seems to be approaching the dawn of an era when the ties between the Mother and her Sons will be closely knit together in a real and indissoluble union.

The war has been going on for eighteen months, and in spite of tremendous sacrifices and of much grief and sorrow the Allies are, if possible, more staunch in their purpose than at any time since the outbreak of hostilities. There seems to me to be no indication whatsoever on the part of our friends, or, indeed, on the part of the people of this Empire, of any weakening towards the cause that has been espoused; nor is there any desire to treat as a "scrap of paper" that written and signed bond to conclude no separate peace. On the other hand, there exists a fixed and righteous determination to exact, when the time comes, a full and complete reparation of all that is due to Belgium and to the other small nations in Europe which have suffered so cruelly from relentless barbarity and disregard of the teachings of civilisation at the hands of the common foe. Whatever the outcome of this tremendous struggle may be—and there can only be one, victory—we are one in our determination to see to it that no penal code is established against those peoples and those nations that I have mentioned.

And now, my Lords, as to our own position. The number of men whom we have put into the field is indeed prodigious. No one some time ago would have thought it either possible or probable that this country would be employing an Army overseas of such huge dimensions. The difficulties of supplying such a large Force, which were inevitable at first, are now being speedily overcome. But all this involves a very heavy strain upon our resources, and one can but ask oneself this question—Is the need of husbanding these resources, is the need of public economy and private thrift, sufficiently realised to-day? I venture to think that there are many lessons yet to be learned in this connection, though I cannot help feeling that the entreaties by and on behalf of the Government will ere long bear fruit.

I come now to one or two questions which assume some importance in the public mind at the present moment. I conceive it to be my duty this afternoon to introduce nothing into the remarks that I have to make of a controversial nature. There is, however, some anxiety amongst the general public on the following questions —first, the interception of enemy supplies; secondly, the measures to be taken by His Majesty's Government to protect this country against air raids. In regard to the interception of enemy supplies, our policy has very naturally been to prevent them from reaching the enemy; and although it is true that all have not been intercepted, it is equally true to say that the amount has very greatly diminished owing to the precautions which we have been able to take. The geographical difficulties in connection with this question are naturally immense, and need not be referred to by me this afternoon since they are obvious. Although supplies, it is admitted, are reaching the enemy countries through the medium of the neutral countries, at the same time grave danger would arise were we, in carrying out our blockade, to ride roughshod over the undoubted rights of neutrals. Then with regard to air raids and the measures to be taken by the Government to protect the country against them. The whole question is indeed a novel one; this is a new peril with which we have never been confronted in the wars that we have carried on heretofore—a new peril the dangers of which cannot be easily measured. In this respect the need for co-ordination among the various Departments of the Government immediately concerned with this all-important matter is, I believe, fully realised, though, if I may say so, I question the wisdom of dual control. It is further satisfactory to feel that the civic authorities, when they appreciate the tremendous difficulties with which the Government are faced in preparing an effective scheme of protection, will assuredly accord their hearty support and co-operation. There is yet another matter about which some anxiety exists in the public mind-I refer to the publication of news regarding our operations. No one, I believe, asks for the publication of anything that could possibly be assumed to be of the slightest assistance to the enemy; but I venture to suggest in all humility that the country is able to stand the truth whether the news be good or bad, and if, perchance, it be bad I cannot but feel that our people would be spurred on to even greater efforts than heretofore.

I fear, my Lords, that I have already trespassed at too great length upon your patience, but, if you will allow me, I should like to say one word more. This House is not concerned in times of peace in the same way as is the House of Commons with questions of finance. Yet, my Lords, I think you will agree that this question at the present moment is ever present in our minds. The carrying on of the war, the supply of men and materials, spells but one word, and that word is money—vast amounts of it. We in this House are just as anxiously concerned with the arrangements and with the policy connected with the successful prosecution of the war as is the House of Comons, and we await with consummate interest the proposals of His Majesty's Government. We have, I think, no reason to complain of the treatment which has been meted out to us by the other House, but if I gauge the feelings of my brother Peers correctly I am bound to confess that we as a component part of the Constitution of this country will be slow to part with our right to criticise all questions introduced by them, even questions of finance. This House desires to offer suggestions; this House has a desire, as much as any man outside it, to be a help and not a hindrance to His Majesty's Government; and I, for one, feel hopeful that any comments or criticisms offered here will not be resented in another place, but will be looked upon rather as a desire to assist and to share in the grave responsibilities of the present situation.

I beg to move the following Address:— "Most Gracious Sovereign,—We, your Majesty's most dutiful and loyal subjects, the Lords Spiritual and Temporal of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland in Parliament assembled, beg leave to offer our humble thanks to your Majesty for the Gracious Speech which Your Majesty has addressed to both Houses of Parliament."


My Lords, I crave your patient indulgence while I second the Motion that has been so well moved by the noble Earl—That our thanks be conveyed to His Most Gracious Majesty for his Speech from the Throne, delivered to us in his own words. May I say how much I appreciate the speech of the noble Earl? The only criticism that I can make upon it at the moment is that I fear he has left little for me to say. My only means of supplementing it is by one or two considerations that may, perhaps have struck me more than they have struck him. It may be that on many ordinary questions the noble Earl and I might not be in whole agreement, but I think that on this occasion we might imitate higher examples and form ourselves into a coalition of two. As far as I can recollect, it has been the custom in this House upon these occasions always to treat His Majesty's own words with an amount of respect that results in not moving any adverse Motion or even moving an Amendment. Nevertheless, when there is on the Front Bench opposite an official Opposition—and I hardly think that the very distinguished, but still, perhaps, incongruous coalition that I see on the Front Opposition Bench would wish to be regarded as an Opposition —when there is an official Opposition they appear to see behind the majestic screen of the Speech the sinister influences, what I think is called the "knavish tricks" in the national anthem, of an unscrupulous and detestable Ministry. Thence follow various uncomplimentary words, which we hope that His Majesty does not take too much to heart.

But this is not the case upon the present occasion. This is an occasion where all are unanimous, where the King has struck the true note with a true instinct in a Speech short and to the point, as one wishes all speeches were; this is not the occasion for controversy, but for a unanimous vote to carry out to the end that which we are recommended by His Majesty in the gracious Speech. Before I go further I should like to refer to that which so deeply moved and concerned the whole nation a short time ago—the accident which happened to His Majesty the King. I believe that I am not going beyond what is customary in this House in alluding so far to His Majesty as to say how universal is the feeling about his devotion to duty, and what a shock to the whole country was the news of that accident. Ready as His Majesty is to visit Fleet or Army according as use or encouragement may prompt him, I venture to think that his advisers should say to him as the great men of old said to King David, "Thou shalt go no more out with us lest thou quench the light of Israel."

I wish, my Lords, to associate myself with what the noble Earl said about those brave men who on the sea and under the sea, on the earth and above the earth, face death without flinching from month to month. It is true that through them we hardly at this day yet realise what are the horrors of war and what are the dangers with which we are threatened. Pitiful is the tale of their losses; hardly a home is there which has not in the most poignant manner been brought to desolation. To those who have done these noble deeds war is glorious. There come back to us across the ages the words of the great Athenian @ Of famous men the world itself is tomb. Far wider is the world now than it was when Pericles spoke; but what spot is there from Pole to Pole, from the new West to the ancient East, that is not sanctified by the grave of some British hero?

As for the main question before the House in this Motion, it seems to me that it is one which must receive unanimous assent without hesitation from all, from the most ardent militarist, if I may use such a term about any one in your Lordships' House, to the most conscientious objector if there he any. It seems to me that this is a proposition that we can all assent to, and I should wish out of many reasons to give two. The wonderful answer that has been made to the call to arms, the multitude of our nearest and dearest who have sacrificed home and life, establish such a claim on us to carry out this enterprise to the end that both objections and even conscience must yield. The second point is this. The Germans have taken the matter into their own hands. It takes two to make peace. The Germans have avowed with all the force of their grim nature that this is no question of peace—it is a question of subjugation. That being the case, my Lords, there is only one thing for us to do—to fight the thing out to the only finish. To carry this war to such an end, or not to do so, is the meaning of the noble Earl's Motion before the House. There can be but one answer to that question, and FO I leave it with your Lordships. Having said so much, I am sure your Lordships will not understand me as referring to any difference of opinion that there may be about the causes or about the conduct of the war. There is nothing before us to-day to prevent or diminish the right of freedom of debate on some future occasion on many points connected with those subjects. I agree, if I may say so, with the noble Earln what he said about that.

I observe that in the gracious Speech the question of economy is treated as a matter of course; it is apparently quite unnecessary to mention it. I will only venture to say this much upon that subject. Of all our great powers, not the Fleet, not the Army, not our airships are our vital strength; our matchless resources, the fruit of our industry, of our finance, of our commerce, constitute the weapon with which, if we use it aright, we shall wear out the foe.

I now turn to another part of the Speech, to what is said about legislation. The usual menu of a legislative feast to which we are accustomed in the Speech front the Throne is necessarily absent this year, but your Lordships may expect—indeed, the Speech so indicates—that Finance Bills and Emergency Bills will come before us. I hope I am not too sanguine in expecting that the Government will be at some pains this session to bring those measures before the House in such a way that the debates here shall not be a farce, and that the great fount of wisdom and experience within these walls shall not time after time be lost to the country. I will venture to give an illustration from last session of what I mean. The Government declined to discuss a subject on one occasion when all the great authorities in the law and in commerce were assembled here to do so. Yet after-wards, almost without notice, they brought forward a Bill dealing with that subject and asked your Lordships to pass it through all its stages at the very death-bed of the session: but I must admit the masterly manner, when it did come here,in which the noble Earl administered extreme unction. I should like to say one word also of another class of Bill—I refer to those which I trust are not excluded by the limitation about legislation that is mentioned in the Speech. I refer to Bills of a completely uncontroversial character and of general utility such as the Larceny Bill, which the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack introduced at the end of last session. I venture to say there is no reason whatsoever why that kind of legislation should not proceed, and I trust—in fact, I have no doubt—that the noble and learned Earl, Lord Loreburn, will, as in former years, place at the disposal of the House his services on a Joint Committee of both Houses.

I apologise to your Lordships for having spoken so long. I will, if I may, come back for one moment to the main Motion before the House. My Lords, the end of this war will be the opening of a new chapter in the political and social history of this country. I do not think we need have fear now of any inconclusive peace. The nations of Europe have had an awful lesson. I think we need not trouble ourselves about German militarists. At the end of the war the German people will know very well how to take care of themselves in that matter. They willexactsuch a reckoning as that both the ears of every man who heareth it shall tingle. Great as are the issues of this war, greater issues are in the future. Doors have been opened which will not be shut; eyes have been opened which will not be closed. My Lords, let us fight this tight out to the only possible finish. and the sooner will those who survive get to work. I beg to second the Motion.

Moved, That an humble Address be presented to His Majesty as followeth:—

"Most Gracious Sovereign,

"We, your Majesty's most dutiful and loyal subjects, the Lords Spiritual and Temporal of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland in Parliament assembled beg leave to offer our humble thanks to Your Majesty for the Gracious Speech which Your Majesty has addressed to both Houses of Parliament."—(The Earl of Clarendon.)


My Lords, for many years it has been the custom in this House, after the speeches of the mover and seconder of the Address, for the Leader of the Opposition to rise in his place, raise a number of questions, and express his acknowledgments to those who have performed those duties. To-night we are in a different position. There is no Opposition. We are all here with one common object—to advance to the greatest degree in our power the conduct of the war, to strengthen the hands of the Government, and to induce them to take, according to our lights, the most effective steps with that object. We are also in the position of having no Opposition Leader, and my only reason for rising is that in the absence of my noble friend Lord St. Aldwyn I have been asked by some of my friends to put a few questions to the Government on certain points which we think may advance the conduct of our discussions during this session.

I think we would one and all wish to adopt the apt phrase used by the noble Earl in moving the Address, in which he said that our desire was that we should be a help to the Government and not a hindrance. The noble Earl said several notable things in the course of a speech which was a maiden effort, but which had a ring of patriotic earnestness which we all admired and was delivered with the calm demeanour of an old Parliamentary hand. The speech which he made, while it recalled to us the fact that he had not previously addressed us, set off the observations of the seconder of the Address, whom I must say I was much relieved to see no longer in the position which he has so long occupied of a listener, sympathetic, I hope, hut I fear critical, but a fellow sufferer now with us in the difficult art of oratory in this House. What we would chiefly urge upon the Government is that they should give to the closing words of the noble Earl's speech their serious attention. If the meetings of Parliament during the months which are to come are to be made of real public advantage, the Government should to the fullest extent in their power take Parliament into their confidence as to their difficulties as well as in regard to the more advantageous position of the situation. Last session we had a great number of discussions, and we had many measures hastily brought in. I believe that we may do far better if this year we concentrate our energy on fewer discussions more in the direction indicated by the seconder of the Address. It is really impossible for Parliament to be simply the channel for information a good deal of which has already been forestalled from unofficial sources, or to become the mere registry of measures required in the interests of the war.

There are two points on which sonic of us would wish to have a discussion, and I feel sure that the noble Marquess opposite will agree that it is better not to begin in a desultory fashion to-night. The first is the question of the blockade. The speeches made in the City yesterday show that there is a case which the Government will no doubt wish to answer. If the statistics which have been given are false, the sooner an opportunity is given of supplying the correct statistics the better it will be for the Government and the country. If a false focus of the question has been established, the sooner we get a true focus the better. I hope the Government will not think it insisting on our part if we ask that at an early date, either in this week or next week. the whole question should be made the subject of discussion in this House.

The second point on which some of nn-friends are anxious to invite the Government to make a statement is the position of affairs in Mesopotamia. That has been the subject of considerable anxiety for a number of weeks. and I do not, think the Government will consider it unreasonable that we should ask that some statement should be made. I understand that the noble and gallant Field-Marshal proposes to give your Lordships to-night some account of recent military operations, and I will not, stand for more than the briefest period between your Lordships and Lord Kitchener. It is possible also that the Government may be in a position to say something as regards Salonika, on which we were promised some weeks ago that as early a statement world he made as the Government found possible. Then, as Lord Clarendon suggested, the question of the protection of the country from hostile aircraft is one on which discussion is desired. I saw in his place a few moments ago a great authority on aircraft, Lord Montagu of Beaulieu, whom I am sure your Lordships were glad to see back again. His dramatic escape the other day is a matter of congratulation to us all not only on account of our personal regard, but for the admirable services he has rendered to the country.

I would ask the Government to consider how best they can utilise the opportunities of discussion which arise in this House. I understand that it is the intention of the Government in another place to take the whole time of the House. I do not mention that for the purpose of criticism. During the war it may be a necessary proceeding. But unquestionably it places a much heavier responsibility upon your Lordships' House, which in the circumstances becomes, with the exception of the Press, absolutely the only means of ventilating public subjects in the manner they deserve. May I say that I do not think we in this House have any cause to be ashamed of the contributions which we made during the last session of Parliament to the national object of forwarding the war. I could mention six or eight different occasions on which advice which was given from these Benches was accepted by the Government, but accepted after a long interval. We might, I think, claim that earlier attention to and some more distinct acknowledgment of the importance of the advice tendered would have been of great public advantage. It is more than a year ago that the very organisation which was subsequently passed by Bill for securing the requisite supplies of men for the Army was adumbrated from these Benches, and a debate of several hours duration took place upon it; but nine months elapsed before advantage was taken of it, and in the interval there had been occasions when a serious want of men had been felt. In the same way on the subject of munitions, advice was tendered to the Government as to the delegation of business which could not be conducted wholly in one Department. That advice was taken many months afterwards, but, as we now learn from the Minister of Munitions, with the result that a lamentable shortage occurred in the interval. The noble Lord opposite has spoken strongly with regard to retrenchment. I might point out that brave sentiments were delivered on that subject many months ago in this House before advantage was taken of them, and I am afraid that of the magnificent array of economies set out in speeches a very bedraggled remnant finally creeps in through the Ministerial portals. And with regard to supplies to the enemy, I need hardly point out that whoever has been right in the discussions which have passed in this House the position is one which, whether inevitable or not, gives satisfaction to no man, woman, or child in this country.

In the gracious Speech we are told that the only measures which will be submitted to us are such as, in the opinion of the Government, tend to the attainment of our common object—namely, the successful prosecution of the war. We welcome the insertion of that particular clause. But may I ask that we shall not be subjected, as we were a month ago, to having measures —which could have been brought here many weeks before and which had taken many weeks to pass through the other House—introduced at the last moment with the request not merely to pass them within twenty-four hours but to place in them very important Amendments. In these matters we have some right, if we are to have what we desire, which is complete understanding with the Government, to ask that we should not be treated as an Opposition when our sole desire is to forward the business of the war, but that adequate consideration should be given to the matters which we advance and that we should not be asked to decide on those which are dearest to the heart of the Government without any deliberation at all.

I do not know whether I may throw out a suggestion. Parliament has been in session since the commencement of the war for more prolonged periods than has ever been its custom before. Our power of initiating debates is unlimited, and the responsibility of not initiating them is, perhaps, greater than it ever was. Would it not be desirable that we should not remain in quite such constant session; that we should rather try to concentrate our criticism than to make it continuous? In those circumstances could we not agree to meet on somewhat fewer days, and occasionally allow an interval of ten days between the sittings, we on our part endeavouring to reduce the number of discussions so as to make them more intelligible, more concentrated, and more effective? I do not say this in the least in order that we may relax any rights which your Lordships possess, but I think those who attended the discussions during last session will admit that both the number of discussions and the attendance left, something to be desired. What I would ask the noble Marquess before I sit down is whether His Majesty's Government will be prepared to enter upon a full discussion of the question of the blockade at an early date; whether they will he willing to make a statement with regard to Mesopotamia and affairs in the Near East; and whether he will state what his view is as regards the opportunities of discussion which should be given in the future.


My Lords, it has been the invariable custom, when the Address has been moved and seconded, for the Leader of the House and the Leader of the Opposition to present the thanks of both sides to the two speakers for the manner in which they have performed their task; and this afternoon, although the Opposition has been, so to speak, placed in commission, yet my noble friend opposite (Lord Midleton) who represents it has not forgotten that part of the usual duty. I am glad to fulfil my share of it with all the conviction in the world, because both my noble friends behind me. as it seemed to me, fulfilled their task with extraordinary skill in view of the fact that they were altogether without the usual supply of raw material in the shape of legislative proposals with which movers and seconders are usually provided. My noble friend who moved the Address bears a name which is historically honoured in this House, and we feel certain that the more part he agrees to take in our debates when his other duties permit the more credit he will earn. My noble friend the seconder, as was pointed out by the noble Viscount opposite, knows almost more of this House and its precincts than any of us; for five-and-thirty years he held a high and confidential Position near the Lord Chancellor, and, like the noble Viscount opposite, I am glad now that we have him amongst us and able to make such contributions to our discussions as that which he has just made.

Before I say anything about the Speech, I will do my best to reply to the various questions which were put to me by the noble Viscount opposite. The noble Viscount is anxious to add, if possible, to the reality of our debates by concentrating discussion on important subjects at reasonable intervals, and he has pointed out the extra and special burden of responsibility which is thrown upon this House owing to the fact that the whole time of the other House has been taken by His Majesty's Government. As to that, it is, I think, only fair to remark that my right hon. friends in another place have been, and am sure always will be, ready to give a day for discussions of real moment and importance but it has been found necessary in existing circumstances to concentrate there upon the business of the moment which has to be rapidly carried through. Certain difficulties which our right hon. friends have encountered in another place partially account for the delay in the arrival of measures before your Lordships of which the noble Viscount opposite complained. Nobody is more aware them the noble Viscount that this complaint is what the French call "an old song." MY noble friend behind me (Lord Lansdowne) and my self have for many years taken part in discussions couched in precisely the same tone. Perhaps the complaint has proceeded more often from my noble friend than from myself; on the other hand, I have never been slow to admit the force of the contentions which he put forward. It often has been the case that due consideration has not been shown to the power of discussion and examination which your Lordships possess in an unrivalled degree. So far as there has been during the past session and since the war any delay of the kind, I think I am right in saying that it can be accounted for by the conduct of the particular debates in another place. But the noble Marquess behind me and I will certainly once more bring to the notice of our colleagues what the noble Viscount has stated, and that, I think, represents the general sense of the House as regards the manner in which we may reasonably expect to be treated.

Then the noble Viscount asked whether it might not be wiser, as Parliament sits so much longer than in ordinary times, to concentrate our discussions upon somewhat fewer sittings. If the noble Viscount means that instead of sitting three days in the week, for example, we should only sit on two, that is a consideration which my noble friends and I will certainly turn over. But it would, I think, be desirable to see what the state of the Order Paper is and what Motions are put down by noble Lords before we decide whether a certain concentration of that kind would in reality lead to the better progress and conduct of business. The noble Viscount then asked whether we could give a day for a general and complete discussion of the naval and commercial measures which we take in order to prevent goods reaching Germany, he described by the general term of "our blockade" of Germany. The answer to that, of course, is in the affirmative. We shall be glad to give an early day, not this week, I think, but on quite an early date, if we can find one which is convenient to noble Lords.

As regards the two other questions which the noble Viscount asked—as to what is happening in Mesopotamia, and also on the subject of Salonika—after I have sat down my noble and gallant friend the Secretary of State for War will say something on the general military situation, which, of course, includes what is going on in those two parts of the world. Whether when the noble Viscount referred to Salonika he was speaking of the military situation or desired to discuss the political conduct of affairs in South-East Europe I was not quite certain, and on the latter point I would rather reserve my reply until I have had an opportunity of communicating with the Foreign Secretary; but I may say at once that in my view to attempt to discuss now the whole position of affairs in South-East Europe would be by no means profitable and might be even dangerous.

To turn for a moment to the gracious Speech. It expresses once more the determined, the united resolve of His Majesty's subjects and of our Allies to carry the war to a definite conclusion. The noble Earl who moved the Address paid once more in this House a tribute which has often been paid before but cannot be paid too often to the part taken in the war by the Overseas Dominions, by India, and by the Colonies. Equally, of course, we pay a tribute to the support and enterprise of our different Allies; and the noble Earl was right in speaking of the equality of their determination with ours to see this thing through. But besides resolve, my Lords, something more is equired, and that is method: and as between us and our Allies that is repre sented by an improved co-ordination both in diplomatic and in military matters. We have to remember that our enemies possess a vast advantage, not merely geographical, not merely from working on interior lines, but from intensity of purpose and that cold ruthless efficiency which Prussianised the whole of Germany during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries and has now placed in the hands of the Government and the General Staff in Berlin practically the sole control of warlike operations. It might at first sight seem strange that this should be so. Austria possesses all the prestige of the ancient Empire; the Kingdom of Hungary can boast of an honourable story of struggles for liberty; but their will acid power as independent entities seem to have disappeared altogther in the progress of this war. And, of course, it is the same elsewhere. Bulgaria is the washpot of Prussia, and over Turkey Prussia has cast her shoe. That unity of command and purpose, of course, places us in a position of certain disadvantage. Our task is an infinitely more complex one. Not only are we sundered from each other by varying distances of land and sea, but we are continually desiring to act together for the same objects and on equal terms. We desire to act with full common knowledge and with a regular and frank interchange of view. It has necessarily taken not a little time to institute a system by which this can be brought about, and I am far from saving that even now a perfect method has been achieved which can surmount the great physical difficulties which prevent the personal interchange of ideas between, say, the Russian Government and ourselves.

But much has been done and is being done. As your Lordships know, there has been a good deal of—I hope profitable—going backwards and forwards between Paris and London. Your Lordships will have noticed the successful journey which the French Prime Minister has just. made to Rome, and I sincerely hope that as this year proceeds colloquies even more fully attended will take place, both on the military and on the civil side, between representatives of the different countries. Such intensely difficult questions as the allocation between the need of the different Powers of the mercantile tonnage of the world, which, as some noble Lords are aware, is none too plentiful to meet the tremendous calls made upon it not only by ourselves but by our Allies; such a question, again, as the restriction of particular articles of import into this country or into one of the Allied countries—.articles of import which, remember, in some cases may be the profitable product of some other of the Allies themselves—questions of that kind demand personal discussion. If it does not take place there is always the possibility of difficulty and misunderstanding, and it is possible that without it undesirable action may often be taken in some particular instance; and therefore the more that these meetings and colloquies can be multiplied I am certain the better from the point of view of all of us.

The gracious Speech goes on to express the confidence of His Majesty in his Navy and Army. I will say nothing about the Army, because my noble and gallant friend is going to speak after me. But as regards the Navy I will simply say this—that naval construction has progressed in all its branches to a satisfactory extent, and the nature of construction has, as you may suppose, been somewhat indicated by the actual experience pained in the earlier stages of the war. The losses which have been sustained, intensely regrettable though they are, can quite faithfully be described as inconsiderable in view of the bulk and character of the Fleet as a whole. But it must not be forgotten that the programme of continued construction has also met with obstacles. When I refer to labour difficulties I am not speaking of unwillingness to work or of attempted strikes or of anything of that kind; when any difficulty of such a kind occurs the purveyors of news naturally are tempted to make the most of it; but speaking generally and in the large sense, the work of naval artificers and labourers has been steady, hard, and continuous, but the supply of labour has not been an easy matter. In the first place, as we know, it has been the desire of everybody in the country, including the Navy, that all available men should join the Army, and the existence of that desire and of the genera] social and moral pressure which from the beginning of the war has been placed on men to join has, of course, tended to make less the reservoir of possible labour for the dockyards. Then, again, the Navy has had to think in a way in which it does not think or need not think in ordinary times of the mercantile marine, now so closely bound up and linked to the Navy in a number of relations which I imagine were hardly foreseen before the war broke out. That has been another difficulty in the line of naval construction. Then you have the further fact that what, is known by the rather curious technical term of the dilution of labour"—that is to say, the replacing of skilled labour by unskilled labour or by female labour—is not easy to apply to the greater part of the work of naval construction. But it is possible, I hope, that some steps, some possibly of an almost unexpected kind, may be found practicable even in this direction

On the general question of the service which the Navy has been doing and is doing for the country, there is really nothing more to he said. We are all so much agreed on it that there is a tendency to take it almost as a matter of course. Like the shining of the sun or the falling of the rain on the crops, our preservation from danger by the Navy is regarded as so normal that we almost. forget to be grateful for it. So much is this the case that it is positively resented by some that the Navy cannot do absolutely everything in certain directions. I am not going this afternoon to trench even for a moment on the ground of the discussion about the "blockade," if that is the proper term to use, which, as we have said, will take place before long; but it is the fact, although I am not sure that every one has always recognised it, that the Navy is not able to prevent the White Sea from being frozen in the winter, nor can it seriously alter the fact that Vladivostok is not within a few days' reach of Liverpool.

To turn to one other subject—that of the supply of munitions—it is the opinion of His Majesty's Government that the present position may justifiably be considered satisfactory. It has, of course, been no easy matter to build up a great organisation for supplying munitions without interfering with that vast branch of the engineering capabilities of the country which have to be left to the call of the Admiralty, because people, think, are apt to forget that we alone of all the Powers engaged in this war have had to keep large Fleets going both for fighting and for the transport of commodities. We are alone in that respect, and it has, of course, enormously complicated the problem of the supply of munitions. At this moment there are something over 2,700 factories—either Government factories or controlled factories engaged in the manufacture of munitions; and I need not tell your hardships that the problem of finding men and women to work in those factories has been no light one. I do not know whether some of your Lordships have seen a little volume which was issued from the Ministry of Munitions with a number of photographs making clear the part which female labour has been able to take in the production even of comparatively heavy munitions of war. That little volume is well worthy of study, and I think the Minister of Munitions has said more than once how largely the women power of the country has been used in these factories often on work which it would hardly have been thought possible before the war that they could undertake. Your Lordships will, I am sure, appreciate the fact that as the days grow longer it may be assumed that lighting will become more prolonged and more intense in all parts of the world, and it is of paramount importance that the supply of munitions should be almost unending. I think I may venture to say that in none of the theatres of war, so far as is known, has any force taking part yet found itself possessed for a particular action of what might be called an unlimited supply of munitions. The question as to how far the men engaged at some particular point could utilise a really unlimited supply, of course, is one to be separately considered; but the fact remains, which I think may not have been altogether appreciated, that hitherto no Army has found itself, so far as is known, in the possession of a strictly unlimited supply.

The gracious Speech next deals with the financial provision to be made for the war. I need not remind the House of our various multiple contributions. It is, as I have said, the desire of the Government and of the country that the contribution we make to the general cause in men should be as large as is consistent with our carrying out the other duties which we have undertaken. We have, as your Lordships know, undertaken vast financial liabilities on behalf of the Allies. We are proud and glad that our unique position as the central money market of the world and our possession of the general machinery of credit has made this contribution to the general service possible. Without vaingloriousness we may say that it is reasonable to point out that those contributions to the joint purposes of the Allies are and must be the cause of no inconsiderable part of the higher taxation which it is necessary for us to impose and to maintain. Or, to put the matter in another way, if each of our Allies was self-supporting in the sense of being able to finance its own share of the war, taxation imposed on the existing scale—I say nothing of possible increases—would enable us to pay as we go a far larger share of the actual total current expenses of the war than it has ever been supposed conceivable that a great Power would pay in the course of a great war, and, taking any of the great wars of the past as a whole, a greater share than has ever been paid by any country in respect of such a war. That is a remarkable fact worth noting, and I will only say once more that we are indeed proud to be in a position to undertake such a liability; but it is right that the taxpayers of the country should be apprised of the reason for a considerable part of the burden which they have to bear.

Then the noble Viscount opposite spoke, as he is well entitled to do audi as he has done all through, of the need both for national and for general economy. I will not now attempt to enter on the question of what may be called the large scale of national economy. As regards personal economy—what I think the noble Viscount described as "thrift" —I would only express the feeling, Which I am sure is shared not only by him but by most of your Lordships, that it is not easy or palatable for those who, like most of us, live in large houses to impress upon those who live in small, sometimes in very small, houses the duty of personal thrift. lf, therefore, we do not go about preaching personal economy so much as some might desire, I think our reluctance is largely founded on that feeling.

I will only say in conclusion that we look forward. certainly not with a light heart but with sober confidence to the future—sober confidence in the capacity of our commanders and in the spirit of the troops which they lead. One fact, I think, the continuance of the war has borne in upon us—that it is necessary for us to bring to bear on the Central Powers every pressure by every possible legal and proper means that we can. It used to be said and regarded as a sort of statement of a Delphic oracle that no country was ever forced to give up a war or to own defeat for lack of money. That may have been true in the past, but it can only be in a very modified sense true now. Lack of money means, of course, lack of supplies and commodities, and with war conducted on the scale and at the tremendous pace in a military sense and at the cost that it now is, I believe it, on the contrary, to be true that the victory will rest with those who can go on paving the longer. For that reason it is our duty, as I have said, to put every kind of pressure—naval, military, and, of course, also commercial—that we can upon Germany, and to do so as quickly as we can.

There is one phrase which has often been used, and in a sense it is perfectly true, that this war has to be regarded as a war of attrition. In another sense I think the phrase is liable to produce a dangerous misapprehension, If those who believe that we can win a war of attrition mean thereby that we can go on for an indefinite period without "putting in," as the phrase is, everything that we have got, trusting to time and vaguely trusting to our long purse, I believe they are under a most dangerous error. On the contrary, I believe that in the coming months we ought to pile up everything we can and use everything we have, and that it is by this means that the victory as to which we are all most fully confident will be won. Without an effort of that kind I shall not say it will not be won, but it will not be won with the fulness and completeness which is necessary to bring about the purpose which we desire and intend.


My Lords, the opening of this new session of Parliament seems to offer a fitting opportunity for me to review very briefly the recent operations of war in the various theatres in which we and our Allies have been engaged. The Austro-German attack on Russia, which was proceeding when I last addressed your Lordships on the progress of the war, having been brought to a standstill in September, the German Staff at once commenced to organise a campaign against Serbia. The object of this was to extend their influence over the Balkans and to establish a railway connection between themselves and their Ally, Turkey, on whom the presence of our forces in Gallipoli was having a decided effect, causing a great deficiency in both men and munitions, the latter of which they looked to Germany to supply. The French and ourselves were at this time bringing considerable pressure to bear on the Western Front. These operations culminated in the battles at Loos, in Champagne, as well as about Arras. Our offensive in these areas inflicted very heavy losses on the Germans and resulted in the capture of important positions by the Allied troops. The German counterattacks failed to recover the ground which the enemy had been compelled to yield.

Owing to this continuous offensive action on the Western front, considerable German forces were withdrawn from the Russian frontier, where the pressure was sensibly relaxed, enabling Russia to obtain certain successes and to hold the enemy well in check. In order, however, to carry out the German agreement with Bulgaria, under which King Ferdinand pledged his country to abandon her neutrality and to co-operate with the Central Powers in an onslaught on her neighbour Serbia, the preconcerted movement against Serbia was proceeded with. In these operations the Austro-German forces which crossed the Danube on October 7 took a minor part, by holding the defending Serbian forces south of Belgrade, while the Bulgarians attacked them on their flank. To support Serbia, and to enable Greece to send troops to the assistance of her Ally under the Convention which existed between the two Balkan States, the French and ourselves, on the invitation of the Greek Prime Minister, sent troops to Salonika, and entered the field against the Bulgarians in South Macedonia. The inadequate harbour accommodation and the bad railway communications through Greece and Serbia hampered the advance of our troops very considerably, and it was not until October 25 that a French force came into contact with the Bulgarians in the Strumnitza Valley. It was evident that the Serbian Army was not in a position to offer effective resistance to attack by superior forces in front and flank, and could not but be driven back upon Montenegro and Albania. The Austro-Germans and Bulgarians thus succeeded in securing the way for direct communication between the Central Powers and Constantinople, Which was undoubtedly their principal objective in these operations. I may add, however, that under the auspices of the French, large numbers of the Serbian Army are being reorganised and reconstituted as a fighting force in the island of Corfu.

In France and Flanders, since the capture of Loos and the forward movement in Champagne, the Allied lines have remained practically unchanged. Throughout the winter the morale of the French Army has been maintained at the same high level which marked it at the inception of the war, and it may certainly be said that the fighting qualities of our neighbouring Ally were never greater or more highly developed than at present. Although the Indian Division have been withdrawn from France and Flanders for service elsewhere, our forces in that theatre have been materially increased by no less than eight divisions of the New Army, and thus reinforced our troops, through the winter months, have been constantly carrying out active operations which have given no rest or respite to the enemy in front of them.

The activities of the Italian Army were conspicuous in October and November during their advance on the Isonza, nor have their efforts since been relaxed, although the positions occupied by the enemy are so strong as to bar for the present the development of the forward movement which the splendid courage of the Italian troops is sure eventually to push home. I had an opportunity last autumn myself of seeing the indomitable resourcefulness of the Italian Army operating in a terrain presenting the greatest difficulty.

Notwithstanding the heavy blows and consequent losses which Russia suffered during the summer of 1915, and which would probably have overwhelmed any less tenacious and courageous people, her Army has been thoroughly reorganised and re-equipped, her armaments have been increased, and the spirit which pervades her forces is as high as at the outset of the campaign. The active co-operation of the Russian people in the manufacture of munitions of war exhibits very clearly the reality of their patriotism and their determination to carry this life-and-death struggle, whatever its length, to a victorious conclusion.

The Austro-Germans having cleared the path to Constantinople of all obstructions, the political situation in the Near East was thereby gravely affected. The Turkish Army, reinforced by German supplies, were able to organise a movement of troops either against Egypt or to strengthen their forces in Mesopotamia, and at the same time were able to bring a far more powerful artillery attack to bear on our positions in Gallipoli. It was therefore decided to withdraw our troops from the peninsula to reinforce Salonika and Egypt. During the last week of December our positions at Anzac and Suvla were successfully evacuated with practically no loss. This military achievement has already been the subject of eulogy in both Houses of Parliament, and was only surpassed by the later strategic withdrawal from Cape Helles. Although when on the spot I had formed the opinion that this withdrawal could be accomplished with less loss than had been originally anticipated, the method of its execution by the competent naval and military officers in charge exceeded my most sanguine expectations. The Franco-British Forces operating in Macedonia were gradually concentrated in a strongly entrenched position surrounding the town of Salonika. Its line of defence was completed and occupied before the end of the year, and, in order to emphasise the principle of unity amongst the Allies, the supreme command of the forces at Salonika, both British and French, was placed in the hands of the French Commander-in-Chief, General Sarrail.

It will be remembered that during last winter an abortive attempt on the Suez Canal was easily brushed aside by a small British force operating in that neighbourhood. But as a more serious attempt has been threatened by the Turks to invade Egypt from the East adequate preparations have been made to defend the Canal. The Turco-German influence with the religious Chief, the Senussi, on the western flank of Egypt, has succeeded in inducing the Arabs of Cyrenaica and Tripoli to assume a hostile attitude towards us in Egypt. The first attempts made by the tribes have resulted in complete failure and disaster to them, and though this movement in the western desert still causes a certain feeling of unrest, the admirable loyalty of the people of Egypt forms an effective barrier to any penetration by these raiders into the cultivated areas.

In Mesopotamia our forces at the end of September, advancing up the river Tigris, defeated the Turks at Kut-el-Amara, and pushing on after various minor engagements, were at the beginning of November in a position threatening the city of Baghdad. The Turkish forces thus driven back had, however, received considerable reinforcements, and at the action of Ctesiphon, on November 22, showed themselves to be in such strength as greatly to outnumber our Expeditionary Force. A retirement from our advanced position, therefore, became necessary, and this was carried out under General Townshend's direction as far as Kut-el-Amara, a strategical point which he decided to hold until the arrival of fresh troops which were being pushed up the river under the command of General Aylmer. General Aylmer with his forces drove back small parties of Turkish troops and reached a point twenty-three miles below Kut-el-Amara where the Turks had entrenched themselves. The Turkish position was attacked on January 27, but proved too strong to be forced, and General Aylmer, who has been joined by General Lake, is now awaiting further reinforcements before renewing his forward movement to effect a juncture with General Townshend's forces. The behaviour of the British and Indian troops in Mesopotamia has been worthy of the traditions of our Army, and the operations, which have been hampered by the worst possible weather, will, it is hoped, before long reach a satisfactory stage. General Townshend has sufficient supplies at his disposal to maintain his force for a considerable period. The operations in Mesopotamia, which have hitherto been controlled from India, will now come under the direction of the War Office.

In East Africa several small engagements have enabled us to extend our positions, and the Union Government, after their victorious campaign in South-West Africa, having offered troops for service in that country, General Smith-Dorrien was appointed to command the increased forces which it was proposed to employ there. Unhappily his health has prevented his retainino the command, which I am glad to say has been accepted by General Smuts, in whom we can have the utmost confidence in view of his varied military experience. In the Cameroons the combined operations undertaken by the French and British troops have brought that country entirely under the control of the Allies. In January Jaunde was occupied and the German garrisons were either captured or driven out of their colony. All resistance having now ceased and the enemy's levies having laid down their arms, the campaign in the Cameroons may be regarded as virtually concluded. It is greatly to the credit of General Dobell and General Aymerich, commanding the French forces, and the troops under their command that this difficult country has been satisfactorily cleared of the enemy.

At the end of the Year an important change occurred in the highest commands of the British forces in the field. Sir John French, on whose shoulders had rested the heavy burden of seventeen months' ceaseless activity in the field, having relinquished, at his own request, his post in France, was invited to assume command of the forces employed in this country, and to co-ordinate duties of first rate importance which require the direction of a central authority. The country will feel that by his invaluable services he has placed us all under an obligation, and will rejoice at the honour conferred by the King which makes him a member of this House. Sir Douglas Haig has been entrusted with the task of conducting the operations of the British troops in the Western theatre of war, and his brilliant record and high soldierly reputation are sufficient warrant for the confidence in his success which his country-men and our Allies feel in him.

I cannot omit to mention the important measure that has recently passed your Lordships' House enabling the country to call on the services of all single men of military age. We have now some experience of the working of the voluntary group system, and we realise how seriously the numbers immediately obtainable are affected by exemptions. I would pay a tribute to the conscientious work of the Advisory Committees and Tribunals which have been set up to deal with appeals, and I am not without hope that when these appeals have been decided the anticipated numbers of men will be obtained. Time alone will show what increase the results of appeals will give us, but I trust on a future occasion to be in a position to reassure your Lordships as to the chances of our obtaining the numbers required. I would, however, seize this opportunity of again urging upon employers of labour that they should do their very best to release young men for service in the Army and replace them with older men, with women, and with men who for physical reasons have been invalided out of the Army.

In the future as in the past we shall have our dangers, our difficulties, and our anxieties in this great struggle, throughout which the splendid spirit of our troops at the Front and the calm determination of the people at home to support them to the utmost of their ability will enable us to look forward with complete confidence to a victorious issue which shall ensure peace for this and many succeeding generations.

On Question, Motion agreed to, nemine dissentiente, and Address ordered to be presented to His Majesty by the Lords with White Staves.