Skip to main content

Commons Chamber

Volume 95: debated on Monday 2 July 1917

The text on this page has been created from Hansard archive content, it may contain typographical errors.

House Of Commons

Monday, 2nd July, 1917.

The House met at a Quarter before Three of the clock, Mr. SPEAKER in the Chair.

Private Business

Seaham Harbour Dock Bill,

As amended, considered.

Ordered, That Standing Orders 223 and 243 be suspended, and that the Bill be now read the third time.—[ The Chairman of Ways and Means,]

Bill accordingly read the third time, and passed.

Dundee Harbour and Tay Ferries Order Confirmation Bill,

Read the third time, and passed.

Shops Act, 1912

Copy presented of Order made by the Council of the undermentioned local authority, and confirmed by the Secretary for Scotland:—

Burgh of Brechin

[by Act]; to lie upon the Table.

National Relief Fund

Copy presented of Report to His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales by the Executive Committee of the National Relief Fund on the Administration of the Fund up to 31st March, 1917 [by Command]: to lie upon the Table.

Liquor Trade

Copy presented of Appointment of Committees to consider the Financial aspects of control and purchase of the Liquor Trade by the State [by Command]: to lie upon the Table.

Fee Fund (House Of Lords)

Copy presented of Account of the Fee Fund of the House of Lords from 1st April, 1916, to the 31st March, 1917 [by Command]; to lie upon the Table.

Isle Of Man

Account presented of Revenue and Expenditure for the year ended 31st March, 1917, with the Report of the Comptroller and Auditor-General thereon [by Act]; to lie upon the Table, and to be printed. [No. 105.]

Superannuation Act, 1887

Copy presented of Treasury Minute, dated 27th June. 1917, granting a. Retired Allowance to Patrick O'Sullivan, Officer of Paisley Second Station, Greenock Collection, Customs and Excise [by Act]; to lie upon the Table.

Oral Answers To Questions

War

Greece

King Alexander

8.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether King Alexander of Greece has given satisfactory assurances that he will in all his public acts and statements be guided by the advice of his Ministers; and whether the King's uncles Andrew and Nicholas will be allowed to remain in Greece?

King Alexander has given assurances that he will respect the Hellenic Constitution. As regards the last part of the question, I understand that the King's uncles have already left Greece.

Salonika Expedition

72.

asked the Undersecretary of State for War whether he can give the House any explanation of the retirement of Allied troops over the Struma; and whether he can indicate, even in its general scope, the purpose of the Salonika Expedition?

Our troops east of the Struma have been withdrawn to the foothills on the western bank, owing to the insanitary conditions prevailing in the river valley during the malarial season. The last part of the question is one of high policy, and should be addressed to my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer.

Has my hon. Friend considered this point, that the Government may be drifting into a disaster comparable to Gallipoli and the Dardanelles; and is it not better that all questions should be looked into beforehand instead of afterwards, when it is too late?

Stockholm Conference

9.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether the British Socialist party, an organisation with a membership of less than 5,000, has applied for passports for three more delegates to attend the proposed Conference at Stockholm; whether at the last annual conference of the Labour party, held in Manchester in January, 1917, a resolution moved by the Independent Labour party delegates in favour of holding an international Socialist congress was defeated, 696,000 voting for and 1,498,000 against; that at the same conference a resolution moved by delegates of the British Socialist party in favour of the Government entering into immediate peace negotiations was defeated, 302,000 voting for and 1,697,000 against; that at the same conference a resolution was moved by the hon. Member for South-West Ham that the fight should continue until victory is achieved, and that this was carried, 1,036,000 voting for and 664,000 against; and whether, before granting passports to the delegates of these Socialist organisations, he will ascertain if it is their intention to go in support of the decisions arrived at by the annual conference of the Labour party?

I understand that the facts are as stated in the question, though the Foreign Office has no special sources of information on the subject. No passports have been granted, so far as I know, to any members of the British Socialist party to attend the proposed Conference at Stockholm.

British Prisoners Of War(Parcels)

10.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what authority has decided to alter the conditions under which parcels are now sent to officer prisoners of war by their relatives, and what are the reasons for such alteration; whether it is proposed to prevent relatives from sending parcels direct to such prisoners and to regulate the contents of such parcels; and whether, if any new regulations are required, it would be sufficient to regulate the number and weight of the parcels without interfering with the contents or with the senders?

The decision in question was taken by the War Cabinet. Papers will be published almost immediately setting forth the objects and the details of the new arrangements, which will come into force on 1st August.

Spain

11.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he is in a position to give the House some information on the present crisis in Spain?

I have no special information on this subject which I can with advantage give to the House.

Will the right hon. Gentleman give an assurance that the influence of this country will not be used against those who desire to make a republic in Spain?

It is not the practice of the present Cabinet, or of any British Government, to interfere with foreign nations in the direction of their own destinies.

Mesopotamia Commission

Lord Hardinge

12.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether Lord Hardinge is Permanent Secretary at the Foreign Office; if so, whether he is still performing the duties of his office; and whether, pending a discussion in this House of the Report of the Mesopotamia Commission, Lord Hardinge will temporarily retire from active participation in Foreign Office work?

The answers to the first two branches of the question is in the affirmative, to the last in the negative.

Has the right hon. Gentleman read the Mesopotamia Commission's Report? Is he aware that severe strictures have been "passed in that Report on Lord Hardinge; and are all these strictures to be considered merely as scraps of paper?

I do not think that this is a fitting moment in which to discuss the Mesopotamia Report.

May I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether the late Chief Secretary for Ireland was compelled to resign when animadversions were passed upon him by a Commission of which Lord Hardinge was the Chairman; and whether, if there is any sense of decency, this gentleman will retire at the earliest possible moment?

I really do not see what relevance to the answer to the question there is in this historical account of what happened in Ireland.

I beg to give notice that, in view of the very unsatisfactory answer of the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, I shall call attention to this question on the Adjournment to-night, or at the earliest possible opportunity.

46.

asked the Prime Minister whether he will assure the House that there is no intention to appoint Lord Hardinge as British Ambassador in Paris, or, alternatively, that Lord Hardinge will not be so appointed until the House has considered the Report of the Mesopotamia Commission?

There is not, and has not been, any intention of transferring Lord Hardinge at the present moment either to Paris or to any other diplomatic post.

May we take it that Lord Hardinge will have no advance or preferment pending the discussion of the Mesopotamia Report by this House?

Does that necessarily imply that no change is contemplated in the Paris Embassy?

Can the right hon. Gentleman say whether Lord Hardinge has sent in his resignation?

Can the right hon. Gentleman say whether it is possible to continue the employment of these political and military administrators in the same posts that they occupied and do occupy?

47.

asked the Prime Minister, if, pending the discussion of the Mesopotamia Report in the House, he will give orders that no person censured by the Commissioners shall be promoted to any higher post than that which he now holds?

Will the right hon. Gentleman give this House an opportunity of discussing the desirability of impeaching one or more of these military or political chiefs? May I ask for a reply?

India

6.

asked the Secretary of State for India about when Mr. Bhupendra Nath Basu may be expected to arrive in this country; and whether he was asked to declare his position, on Indian reforms, particularly on Indian Home Rule, before being offered the position on the Council of India?

Mr. Bhupendra Nath Basu is expected to arrive in this country about the middle of September next. The answer to the second part of the question is in the negative.

Is it a new departure in the India Office in this country to get in a politician from India?

The appointment of an additional Indian member of the Council and the widening of the area of choice are both novel. I do not particularly care to describe them as a new departure, but I think that they are wise steps to take, and will add to the usefulness of the Council of India.

7.

asked the Secretary of State for India, whether there is any prospect of an Order in the Madras Presidency or elsewhere declaring all Home Rule leagues seditious?

I have no reason to think that local governments in India are at all likely to take repressive measures against associations that confine their programme of political reforms within constitutional limits and pursue it by reasonable methods. But I would beg my hon. and gallant Friend to remember that on the authorities in India rests the responsibility for the maintenance of peace and the protection of life and order, and they are bound to take such steps as are necessary to safeguard them.

Who are to be the judges of what constitutes reasonable measures—the India Office in this country and the right hon. Gentleman or the bureaucracy in India?

I do not know whether my hon. and gallant Friend wishes to describe the present Governor of Madras as a bureaucracy. The authorities in India are primarily responsible. I am responsible to this House for what they do. Of course, I do and always shall attach the greatest importance to the advice which I receive from them. They do and must act in anticipation of consultation with me in grave cases.

Is the movement headed by Mrs. Annie Besant supposed to be outside the Constitution?

I am not in full possession of all the facts relevant to this case at the present time, and I am anxious to avoid, if I can, anything which might appear to be a statement of policy in regard to India before that matter has been fully considered and decided by His Majesty's Government, but the agitation in which Mrs. Besant is engaged, in my opinion, has been not merely a mischievous agitation at this moment, but it has been carried on by improper methods. It is not necessary for the advocacy of constitu tional reforms, however extreme, to destroy, or attempt to destroy, the credit of British administration in India.

Does not the right hon. Gentleman see that the whole point of his answer depends upon the judgment of the bureaucracy out there saying whether a course of agitation is reasonable or not; and will he take steps to indicate to the Indian Government in the Presidency of Madras that the prevention of what would be a legitimate agitation in this country is not the duty of the Government of Madras?

My hon. and gallant Friend is aware that while we habitually allow, and even in these times allow, a latitude greater, I suppose, than that allowed in any other country in the world to political agitation here, there are limits here and there are equally limits in India. The responsibility rests, in the first instance, with the Government of India and with the Provincial Governments of India. If, in my opinion, they take a wrong action that is wrong, I shall correct them, but they have my confidence and I think they are entitled to it.

Mr. HOGGE rose—

Food Supplies

Meat

asked the President of the Board of Trade if the Government is supplying meat to London County Council asylums at the following prices, viz., for beef (forequarters) 9⅝d. per lb., beef (hind-quarters) 11⅛d. per lb., suet (beef) 1s. per lb., for mutton (carcases) 9⅜d. per lb., and lamb l0½d. per lb.; and whether he will arrange to supply any municipality desiring same with meat at these prices for transference to retail butchers at cost on condition that the latter give satisfactory guarantees of resale to the public at fair agreed prices?

The quantity of frozen meat (mainly Australasian mutton and lamb) belonging to the Board of Trade which is available for civilian consumption after the needs of the Allied Armies have been met is limited, and although the Board are able to supply moderate quantities to a few public institutions at about the prices mentioned in the question they are not in a position to supply to municipalities generally. The Board of Trade control the prices of the meat disposed of them up to the point of the sale to retailers, and the Ministry of Food are dealing with the question of retail prices.

Crops (Damage)

14.

asked the President of the Board of Agriculture whether information has reached him that farmers, struggling under special difficulties to maintain and increase the food and forage supply, are complaining of the injury done to growing crops of corn and hay by persons digressing from footpaths which run through or alongside of such crops; and whether, having regard to the inadequacy of the protection afforded by the ordinary law of trespass, he will consider the possibility of obtaining, under the Defence of the Realm Act or by a short Emergency Bill, some prompt and effective means of checking the mischief complained of?

Complaints have been received by the Board from certain districts as to the injury to growing crops occasioned by trespassers. Under the ordinary law of trespass a conviction can only be-secured if damage can he proved. The Board is considering the desirability of extending to all land producing food crops Regulation 2N under the Defence of the Realm Act, which makes it a summary offence to enter or remain on land of which a Government Department or any body or person authorised by a Government Department is in possession or to damage crops on such land.

Bacon (Condemned)

24.

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food whether he is aware that 1,000 bales of bacon belonging to Messrs. Van-den-Burghs, Limited, of Mark Lane, were condemned at the Great Eastern Railway depot, Minories, E.C., on Wednesday, 20th June, after lying there for five weeks, and were then sold for manure to & Mr. Waddington, of Stratford, at £9 per ton; that on Thursday, 21st June, 500 bales of bacon belonging to Messrs. Barnes and Heywood were condemned at the same place and sold to Messrs. Harris and Son, soap makers, Bow, and that since then 1,200 bales of bacon belonging to Messrs. Hey- wood, Dennis, and Barnes, London Bridge, have been condemned, and a further 800 bales which have been lying at the station for the past four weeks are still there, going rotten; and whether this bacon has been held up in order to maintain the market price, which is such as to place this article of food out of the reach of many poor people?

A considerable quantity of bacon shipped to Messrs. Van-den-Burghs and other agents had to be used in the manner described by the hon. Member. Owing to the difficult conditions of transport this bacon reached London in such bad condition that although freely offered for sale it found no market. Arrangements have been made to accelerate both rail and sea transport, which it is hoped will enable this valuable food to reach this country in a sound condition.

Sugar

25.

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food whether he is aware that the Great Horton Industrial Society, Bradford, a cooperative society with over 7,000 members, owing to shortage of supplies, had to reduce the supply of sugar to their members during the last two weeks to 4 ozs. per head per week; and if he will take steps to increase the amount available to the society?

Inquiries are being made with a view to ascertaining whether this society is receiving its proper proportion of its 1915 supplies and to taking any steps that may be necessary in the light of the information obtained. I will communicate the result to the hon. Member in due course.

Is the hon. and gallant Gentleman aware that this is by no means an exceptional case and that there are other large and important industrial societies which are suffering from the same shortage, and will the Food Controller be willing to receive a deputation from those societies on the subject?

I was not aware of the fact, but I will inform the Food Controller of what the hon. Member says.

Cheese

26.

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food whether a retailer will be considered to have contravened the Regulations in selling Government cheese at less than the stated price. 1s. 4d. a lb., where he is supplying institutions, coffee shops, and other customers who are not buying the cheese for their own personal consumption?

I have been requested to reply to this question. The point mentioned and certain other matters of detail connected with the sale of Government cheese are receiving consideration, and I hope that an announcement will be made to the trade very shortly.

Malt

27.

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food if he can state the quantity of malt required to produce the 10,000,000 standard barrels of beer allowed by the Food Controller to be brewed during the year beginning 1st April, 1917; the number of barrels already brewed; and the quantity of malt still remaining at present in the hands of the maltsters and brewers?

The quantity of malt required to produce the authorised quantity of beer under present conditions of brewing is approximately 2,000,000 quarters. The returns of barrels brewed in the quarter ending 30th June are not yet available. The stock of malt on 30th June is estimated at about 1.300,000 quarters.

Will that be enough for the increased output of beer which has been decided upon?

Market Speculations

29.

asked the Attorney-General whether his attention has been called to cases of persons indulging in market speculations calculated to raise the price of articles of food; and whether the Government will at once introduce legislation to prevent further action of this kind?

I have been asked to reply. I would refer the hon. Member to the answer given on Friday to the hon. Member for South-West Ham and to the hon. Member for Rotherhithe with reference to questions of this nature.

Potato Blight (Ireland)

36.

asked how many, if any, new cases of potato blight have been reported; and whether it is considered advisable to make spraying compulsory?

Eight cases have been reported this season, but I am glad to say that no fresh cases have been reported during the last few days. The potatoes affected were early varieties. No instance of a late or main crop variety being affected has been reported. I am informed that the growers are aware of the necessity of spraying for prevention of disease and to increase the yield of the crop. The Department of Agriculture have authorised county agricultural committees to utilise their organisations in getting as much spraying done as possible; but it is not considered advisable to make spraying compulsory.

Food Control (Ireland)

33.

asked the Chief Secretary for Ireland if he is aware that entirely different conditions prevail in the distribution and prices of food-stuffs in Ireland from those of Great Britain; and if, in order to prevent further hardships and waste, a food controller resident in Ireland will be appointed?

I am aware of the facts mentioned. Arrangements which were in progress at the time of Lord Devonport's resignation of office are again under discussion between my office and that of the Food Controller.

Tea

23.

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food whether Scottish buyers are asked to pay the same price for controlled tea as buyers on the spot in London, although the former have to pay railway carriage thereafter, which comes off their margin of profit; if so, will the Department arrange for a Scottish centre of selling so as to put the tea trade of Scotland on the same level as that of England?

The answer to the first part of the question is in the affirmative. It has not been found practicable to establish a distributing centre for tea in Scotland, but I may point out that the additional cost of transport is very small, being estimated at about ¼d. per lb.

German Titles

13.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he can state the names of those gentlemen who have been permitted to exchange German titles for English titles, and who are relatives of the ex-Tzar of Russia; whether the Russian Government was consulted beforehand; and, if not, whether, in view of the importance of respecting the susceptibilities of the Russian people, he will issue an explanatory message to Russia?

As regards the first part of the question—which does not altogether correctly represent the facts—the hon. Member will find the information he requires in any book of reference. As regards the remainder of the question, it is not the custom in this country to consult foreign Governments before conferring titles upon British subjects, and the suggestion made by the hon. Member, that an explanation should be given to the Russian people is, I feel sure, unnecessary.

Are you not in an extraordinary position, and is it not well to dissipate in Russia the impression that prevails there that this Government is secretly in favour of the old régime which has been so discredited and which has passed away?

The Government, as I have already explained in answer to another Gentleman, does not interfere in the domestic affairs of other nations, and if so strange a fallacy really has currency in Russia I do not think it would be dissipated by any answer to a supplementary question here.

Does the right hon. Gentleman maintain that this Government does not interfere in the affairs of Ireland?

Discharged Soldiers(Deafness)

20.

asked the Pensions Minister what facilities are available for the instruction and training of discharged soldiers whose industrial effectiveness has been seriously impaired by deafness due to military service; and what means are taken to acquaint these men before their return to civil life with the educational methods and appliances which may be employed to mitigate the hardness of their lot?

The Statutory Committee have made thorough inquiries into the best methods of treating and training the deaf, and, with the assistance of the Board of Education in England and of the Education Offices in Scotland and Ireland, are arranging for the establishment of centres of instruction in lip-reading. Very few deaf disabled men have, however, applied for instruction or have accepted it when offered, and it is now proposed to establish a special aural board, who will get into touch with the men at the time of discharge or renewal of pension with a view to their advising and getting the men to take the treatment or training most suitable for them.

How can deaf men refuse to accept an offer which the Government has not yet established?

Education (Scotland)

32.

asked the Secretary for Scotland if, in view of the scarcity of male teachers in Scotland which had become serious before the War and is now, owing to the demands of the military authorities, a grave menace to the instruction and discipline of the rising generation, he will, in the national interest, take steps to prevent any further depletion of the effective strength of the scholastic profession in Scotland?

I would refer my hon. Friend to the answer which I gave on the 20th ultimo to the hon. Member for East Edinburgh.

33.

asked the Secretary for Scotland whether, in view of the fact that the Scottish Education Department, the universities, the Educational Institute for Scotland. and various secondary education committees all hold public examinations under more or less conflicting regula- tions and methods, he will reconsider his decision not to establish a central examination board or council for the purpose of coordinating the various examinations conducted by these bodies so as to secure equality of standard and unity of aim?

I am not prepared at present to add anything to the answer which I gave my hon. Friend on the 21st ultimo.

Naval And Militaey Pensions And Grants

Service In Previous Wars

19.

asked the Pensions Minister whether it has yet been decided to augment the pensions of sailors and soldiers who have served in previous wars?

The matter referred to in the hon. Member's question presents considerable difficulties and has not yet been decided. I am consulting my statutory advisers with regard to it.

May we take it that so far as is within his power the right hon. Gentleman is treating this as an urgent matter, as it really is?

What is the difficulty in the way of the Pensions Ministry giving a man who has lost his right arm in the Boer War the same pension as a man who has lost his right arm in this War?

The difficulty is that under the Royal Warrant you cannot treat the Boer man apart from other men.

Officers And Nurses

21.

asked the Pensions Minister whether the new Royal Warrant for officers is now ready for issue?

I much regret that I can add nothing to the answers which I have recently given on this subject, but I should like to repeat the assurance which I have already given that neither officers nor nurses will suffer any financial disadvantage from the delay, as the new Warrant will operate from the 1st April.

Can my hon and gallant Friend give any idea when this Warrant will be introduced?

Civil Liabilities

22.

asked the Pensions Minister if Grants made from the Military Service (Civil Liabilities) Department are terminated upon the death of the grantees; and whether, in view of the hardship involved in many cases, he will consider this matter, with a view to continuing the grants where it is shown that special hardship will occur otherwise?

The Regulations already provide that the grants made by the Military Service (Civil Liabilities) Department may be continued after the death of the grantee for twenty-six weeks in the case of men, and for such period as the Department think fit pending the award of a pension or gratuity in the case of officers.

Shell Shock In Zeppelin Raid

70.

asked the Under-Secretary of State for War whether his attention has been called to the case of a boy named Emanuel Whorwood, who enlisted on the 1st February, 1916, at the age of sixteen, in the 3rd Duke of Wellington's Regiment, and who was taken afterwards to Whitley Bay Hospital suffering from shell shock as a result of a Zeppelin air raid on Whitley Bay in June or July last; whether he is aware that the boy in question was transferred, after he had received his injuries, to the Army Reserve, Class W, and sent to a military hospital at Keighley, Yorks, where he suffered from severe epileptic fits; if he is aware that Whorwood applied for a temporary pension from the Statutory Committee and was informed that, as he was not discharged, from the Army, he was not eligible for assistance; and whether he will take whatever action is necessary to put this boy in a position to claim the cost of maintenance that is due to him?

I have called for a report on this case, and will communicate again with my hon. Friend as soon as I am in a position to do so.

Would it not be as well to let this boy out of the Army, so that he may make his application in the ordinary manner?

Prisoners Of War

34.

asked the hon. Member for Sheffield (Central Division) whether he is aware that English officers, including one holding the Victoria Cross, are now being confined at Crefeld in separate cells, measuring 6 ft. by 9 ft., for periods of solitary confinement extending to five months, as reprisals for alleged similar treatment of German officers in England; whether there is any such treatment of German officers; and whether the Government is taking steps to bring this treatment to the notice of the Dutch authorities?

Certain English officers were lately confined at Crefeld in separate cells, though I am not aware of the exact size of the latter. Such treatment is not justified by any punishment imposed on Germar. officers in this country. The camp at Crefeld has been broken up, but we have no information at the moment as to whether the officers undergoing punishment have been removed, or, if so, whether their treatment remains the same. His Majesty's Minister at The Hague was on the 9th ultimo informed by telegram of the punishments in question and was asked to ascertain, through the Netherlands Legation at Berlin, the precise reason for the infliction of these severe sentences. The question of punishments imposed on prisoners of war is being discussed at the Conference now sitting at The Hague.

Peace Leaflets (Prosecutions)

37.

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether his attention has been called to the imprisonment of Mrs. Skinner for three months and Mrs. Hayes for one month, and the fining of another woman, for the distribution of leaflets demanding that the Government should at once start negotiations to conclude the War; whether the advocacy of peace by negotiations is a crime; and, if not, whether he will take steps to mitigate the sentences imposed on these women?

My right hon. Friend's attention has not been called to these cases. If the hon. Member will let me know when and where the convictions took place, I will have inquiry made.

Prison Officers, Ireland(Bonus)

39.

asked the Chief Secretary for Ireland when the war bonus is to be announced and paid to the Irish prison officers?

The question of the application to prison officers of the additional grants authorised by the recent Treasury circular is being dealt with. I am not yet in a position to make an announcement.

Does the right hon. Gentleman expect soon to be in a position to do it, because it has been under consideration for a very long time?

This part of the matter has only been under consideration since the issue of a very recent circular. I do not think there has been any delay under the circumstances.

Is the right hon. Gentleman, aware that there is great dissatisfaction amongst prison officials in Ireland caused by the dilatory manner in which their grievances have been treated by the Government?

No, I am not aware that the prison officers take any exceptional view of their treatment.

Does the right hon. Gentleman not know that prison officers are prohibited by their rules from forming any association, and that they can only make their grievances felt through their representatives in Parliament, and has the right hon. Gentleman not been asked to see several deputations to present their views on occasions when he himself acknowledged that the grievances were really well-founded?

The hon. Gentleman does not expect lightning rapidity in official movements?

Disturbances In Ireland

Carrying Firearms

40.

asked whether any Order relative to the carrying of firearms by unauthorised persons has, within the past year been, under the Defence of the Realm Act, extended to any part of Ireland; and, if not, whether such Order will be now made applicable, in view of the danger from indiscriminate shooting caused to individuals not directly concerned in the faction fights that are in progress in various parts of the country?

An Order was issued by the competent military authority on 17th July, 1916, applying Regulation 33 A of Defence of the Realm Regulations to Ireland. The Regulation prohibits the carrying of firearms by unauthorised persons.

Police Action (Government Appreciation)

42.

asked whether the Irish Government will issue a general Order expressing their appreciation of the forbearance and courage displayed by the officers, non-commissioned officers, and constables of the Dublin Metropolitan Police and Royal Irish Constabulary during the recent riots in Dublin and Cork when called on to deal with opponents in possession of and using firearms?

I have already stated to the House the appreciation His Majesty's Government have of the excellent work of the police, both of the Dublin Metropolitan Force and the Royal Irish Constabulary; and my statement to the House had been preceded by communications in the same sense with the officers commanding the two forces. No further action seems to be necessary.

Dublin Metropolitan Police

44.

asked the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland whether he has received a copy of a resolution passed on the 25th ultimo by the Council of the Dublin Chamber of Commerce; that the statement made on 19th June in the Police Court by the presiding magistrate, Mr. Macinerney, K.C., that the police had done their best to create a riot cannot be ignored and should be made the subject of immediate public inquiry, and that the Executive should take such action as will restore public confidence in the administration of the law; and if he will say what action he intends to take?

The resolution has been received. The magistrate has resigned, and his successor has been appointed.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the chambers of commerce are no more representative of the citizens of Dublin than the hon. and gallant Gentleman?

Canals (Ireland)

Committee Of Control

41.

asked the Chief Secretary for Ireland whether the Government intend to take over the canals in Ireland; whether he is aware that pooling arrangements are said to exist between the Irish railways and canals to prevent competition; and whether he will make inquiry and publish a Report as to the conditions of inland transport in Ireland?

Arrangements are being made to place canal traffic under a small committee of control, as was done with the railways. The question of pooling arrangements has been referred to the Irish Railway Executive Committee. A full inquiry into the canal system of Ireland was made by the Royal Commission on Canals and Inland Navigations of the United Kingdom, and a Viceregal Commission recently inquired into the Irish railways. The former reported in 1911 and the latter in 1910.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that as a result of these Commissions nothing was done? Will anything be done?

Republican Flag, Ireland

43.

asked the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant of Ire land whether the flag which has been adopted by the Irish republican party, and which was recently hoisted on the Court House, Cork, the General Post Office, Dublin, and other Government buildings, has now been removed?

New Orders Or Titles

45.

asked the Prime Minister whether he will introduce legislation to provide that the sanction of Parliament shall be necessary for the creation of new orders or titles instituting distinctions between citizens?

Is the right hon. Gentleman prepared to give an undertaking to this House that he will not be a party to the selling of any more titles or honours?

Will the Government abandon the use of the word "democratic," which can hardly be applied in describing a system like that?

My experience is that in all democratic countries there has been a recognition of distinctions.

National Service Department(Munition Workers)

49.

asked the Prime Minister if he will say, in view of the fact that the National Service Department has not supplied any substitutes for munition workers, what work of national importance, outside the women's section, the Department of National Service is doing?

The Prime Minister has asked me to reply. The Department has set up an organisation covering the whole of Great Britain for the purposes of supplying substitutes to take the places of men who may be withdrawn for military service from essential industries, and for the reinforcement of the supply of labour to such industries, including agriculture. Approximately, 350,000 volunteers have been enrolled apart from the substitutes which are being provided for by Trade and National service committees. The duty of the National Service Department is to meet and not create demands for labour; and it is a fact that the supply of men at the disposal of the Department is, and always has been, greatly in excess of the demand.

Will the hon. Gentleman say whether the Director of National Service did not make an appeal for men to go to munition works to take the place of men of military age now employed in munition works, and will he say how many volunteers have been employed?

I think the facts are known to the House. All I say in this answer to my hon. Friend is that the Ministry of National Service is a supply Department, and has nothing to do with demands.

Why has it not supplied these men to the munition factories when it said it would?

Was not munition employment set out on the enrolment paper? If it is a fact that no volunteers have been placed in munition factories, the whole thing is a fraud.

There are volunteers available, but so far there has not been the demand for volunteers that was expected.

Sir C. KINLOCH-COOKE rose—

Enemy Air Raids

School Children

50.

asked the Prime, Minister whether His Majesty's Government will consider the advisability of providing East London schools with adequate bomb-proof shelters; whether he is aware that the present Regulations require the children to remain in school during an air raid; and whether, in view of the loss of life in one of the East London schools during the recent raid, proper means will be taken to afford immunity as far as possible where large numbers of children are collected together?

I am afraid my hon. and gallant Friend's suggestion is impracticable. There is general agreement that, taking all the circumstances into consideration, the risks to which school children are exposed are less if they are kept in school than if they are allowed to run into the streets. My right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Education has taken the best advice obtainable and will as soon as possible issue a circular dealing with the matter.

Will the right hon. Gentleman consider the advisability of providing hospitals for factories where persons are working on high explosives?

House Of Lords (Conference)

51.

asked the Prime Minister whether he is yet in a position to announce the constitution of the Conference the Government has undertaken to convene to deal with the constitution and powers of the Second Chamber?

I am not yet able to make any statement, but an announcement will be made as soon as possible.

Prohibition Of Spirits(Scotland)

52.

asked the Prime Minister whether, in view of the resolutions passed by public bodies and adopted at public meetings throughout Scotland, demanding the prohibition of spirits during the War, he will consider the desirability of ascertaining the wishes of the Scottish people in this matter by means of an early referendum?

Premium Bonds

53.

asked whether consideration is still being given by the Treasury to the question of the issue of premium bonds; and whether regard will be had to the fact that it would be possible to float such a loan on terms which would result in saving to the State some millions of pounds?

I am afraid that I can add nothing to the reply which I gave on the 21st February last to the hon. Member for the Wellington Division.

Will the right hon. Gentleman consider the advisability of setting up a Select Committee of this House to consider this question and report upon it?

Is the question of premium bonds under the consideration of the Government?

I have considered it, and there is a good deal to be said on both sides.

Afforestation

54.

asked whether the Report of the Afforestation Sub-Committee of the Reconstruction Committee has been completed; and, if so, when the contents will be communicated to the House of Commons?

The Sub-Committee has presented its Report, which is now under consideration. I am unable at present to make any statement in reply to the last part of the question.

It does not follow that it will be published. My answer says that it is being considered.

Income Tax (War Bonus)

55.

asked whether war bonuses granted to workmen to enable them to meet the increased cost of living are to be excluded from assessment for Income Tax purposes?

Under the provisions of the Income Tax Acts all employés, whatever the nature of their employment, are chargeable with Income Tax (subject to the various statutory allowances—exemption, abatement, etc.) upon the whole of the emoluments arising to them from such employment, including salary or wages, bonuses, overtime pay, Sunday pay, etc.

Will the right hon. Gentleman consider the advisability, if not of excluding war bonuses, of restoring the previous Income Tax limit, having regard to the increased cost of living which reduces the income of the working man?

I am afraid that that subject cannot be dealt with in question and answer.

Prisoners Of War (Central Committee)

57.

asked whether, in view of the strictures passed upon the Central Prisoners of War Committee in the Report of the Joint Committee appointed to inquire into its organisation and methods, and the distress and suffering inflicted on our British prisoners of war in Germany by the neglect, omissions, and failure of the Central Prisoners of War Committee, the members of that Committee have placed their resignation in the hands of His Majesty's Government; and, if not, whether it is proposed to remove these gentlemen from positions in which they can continue to cause suffering and misery to British soldiers?

The answer to both parts of the question is in the negative. I do not read the Report as expressing any general condemnation of the Central Prisoners of War Committee, which has been throughout confronted with exceptional difficulties. The Report concludes with the following words: "We desire to call attention to the organising capacity and the great zeal that have been displayed in creating the establishment at Thurloe Place. It was an undertaking of great magnitude, and the success now attained reflects much credit upon all concerned."

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the Report states that the "privations endured by our men for want of bread might have been very much mitigated if not altogether relieved," and that the Central Committee's neglect to take action was "of fundamental importance, and that our prisoners of war suffered real hardship owing to want of medicinal and medical comforts"?

The Report says that the neglect of the Central Committee was of fundamental importance.

I do not say that the Report praises them altogether, but I do say that they have done a very difficult work with a considerable amount of success.

Does the Government propose to adopt the recommendations of the Committee?

Shall I put that down as a question? It is a very important matter.

The hon. Member is entitled to ask questions, but not to make observations.

Visits To Wounded Soldiers(Railway Facilities)

59.

asked the Undersecretary of State for War if he can state whether the issue of reduced price railway vouchers for the friends and relatives of wounded soldiers in the various military hospitals has been stopped; and if he is aware that if such travelling facilities are stopped hardship will be inflicted upon people who deserve every consideration from the nation?

No, Sir. This concession has not been stopped.

Royal Artillery

60.

asked the Under-Secretary of State for War if he is aware that No. 6763, Regimental-Quartermaster-Sergeant J. Healy, Royal Artillery, of 45, Lynton Grove, Portsmouth, aged forty-five, who served in France as battalion quartermaster-sergeant, has been discharged out of the Service while still perfectly sound and in good health; if he is aware that J. Healy holds the long-service and good conduct medals, having completed twenty-two years' service in November last, when he was discharged; against his wish from the service of his country; and if he will have the matter inquired into, and reinstate the regimental quartermaster-sergeant, inasmuch as healthy men of twenty years' service who possess the good conduct medal must be more valuable in the Service than out of it?

This warrant officer, although discharged with an exemplary character, was not given an opportunity of re-engaging as a warrant officer, as he was considered lacking in certain qualities essential to a warrant officer's rank.

Army Officers (Promotion)

61.

asked if it is possible, under existing Army Regulations, for an officer, regular or temporary, to be ranked G.S.O.I. without having gone through the Staff College or through Clare College, or other Staff course, if any, or if service in the field or the expressed wish of an officer commanding a division or Army corps can set aside or override such Regulation, if such exists?

There is no Regulation which bars an officer who has not passed through a Staff college or Staff course from promotion on the Staff, provided that he is in every respect fitted for promotion. It is in the interest of general efficiency that the relative qualifications of all Staff officers who are eligible for promotion should be considered in this connection and not the wishes of one subordinate commander.

Courts-Martial (Qualification Of Officers)

62.

asked what is the length of service, after receiving his commission, necessary to qualify an officer to sit on a court-martial; and whether the sentence of a court-martial on which an unqualified officer sits is legal?

An officer must have held a commission for two years in order to be qualified to sit as a member of a district court-martial, and for three years in order to be qualified to sit as a member of a general court-martial. A court-martial has "no jurisdiction unless all the members serving on it are duly qualified.

Air Service (Acquisition Of Land)

63.

asked whether, in August, 1916, the Northern Command gave notice to the owners of certain land at Lullington, in Leicestershire, that they proposed to take it as a night landing-ground; whether orders were given to cut down trees, grub up hedges, fill up drinking ponds, and level the land at a cost altogether of some £2,000; whether, six months afterwards, the scheme was abandoned; whether, about the same time, similar proceedings took place in regard to some land at Popplewick, near Nottingham, except that here hangars and other buildings were put up, and that these were subsequently also abandoned; what was the sum wasted by the nation over these proceedings; and whether anybody has been punished in connection with them?

The ground in both these places was taken for purposes of defence. Owing to developments and alterations in the general scheme of aerial defence the immediate purpose for which the ground was taken ceased to operate. The ground, however, amply fulfilled its object as long as the situation demanded it, and in neither case therefore was the expenditure wasted. The preparation of ground to admit of safe landing by night is inevitably an expensive matter. The ground at Popplewick will almost certainly be required again, and the sheds erected will be utilised either there or elsewhere.

What were the objects which the ground was intended to fulfil? Was it ever used at all?

Is it not the case that the land at Popplewick was found, after the expenditure had been incurred, to be wholly unsuitable?

Military Service

Editor Of "Aeroplane"

The following question stood on the Paper in the name of Mr. CHURCHILL:

64. To ask the Under-Secretary of State for War whether his attention has been called to the fact that Mr. C. G. Grey, editor, part proprietor, manager, and director of the "Aeroplane," aged forty-one years and seven months, and previously marked unfit for military service, has now been medically classified as C2 on examination by the Westminster Tribunal; and whether, having regard to the value and importance of the "Aeroplane" newspaper as a means of interchanging knowledge between all branches of our rapidly extending Air Services and affording a supply of valuable technical and other information to the officers and men and to Mr. Grey's exceptional knowledge of all matters connected with aviation from its earliest beginnings, he will place the editor of this technical and Service paper in the same position as is recognised in the case of the editors of political daily papers?

This case is under consideration by the tribunals, and must be left to their decision. In the special circumstances, however, the military representative has been instructed not to press for Mr. Grey to be made available for military service.

Is it in order for an hon. Member to ask a question for another Member without his consent?

I assumed, naturally, that the hon. Member had the consent of the right hon. Gentleman. Otherwise I presume that he would not ask the question.

"Weekly Bulletin"

65.

asked who is responsible for the publication of the paper known as the "Weekly Bulletin"; who is the editor; to whom is it issued; and what is the cost of printing, publishing, and circulating the same?

This paper is issued by the Recruiting Department of the War Office and is edited by an officer attached to the staff of that Department. It is circulated to mem- bers of the Recruiting Staff and to military representatives, and has proved most useful in keeping the recruiting organisation in touch with the situation and needs of the recruiting service. The cost of printing is £23 10s. a week. It is not possible to give the cost of distribution, as this is done through the ordinary official channels.

Exemption Of Farm Hands

71.

asked the Under-Secretary of State for War whether, in view of the decision of the Government to apply to Wales as well as to England and Scotland the War Office Order providing that men employed on farms will not be taken for the Army without the consent of the agricultural executive committees, the necessary steps have been taken by the War Office to inform the military representatives in Wales as to this decision?

Hides (Prices)

73.

asked the Financial Secretary to the War Office whether his Department are paying the British butchers and hide merchants l0d. per lb. for hides; whether it is paying to South American hide merchants for their hides 18d. per lb., although these latter are branded and are therefore inferior; whether at a recent Prize Court sale in this country it paid a home price of 1s. 3d. a lb. for hides; and, if so, will he say why foreigners should get better prices than home sellers, in view of the fact that a low price for hides-makes dearer price for meat?

The Department does not, as is implied in the question, buy hides from British butchers, but the price at which tanners can buy has been fixed at l0d. per lb. This is considered to be a fair price and is 40 per cent, above the pre-war level. The Department does not buy from South American merchants, but hides from the Argentine have been purchased by tanners at above 18d. per lb. The Department has never purchased hides at a Prize Court sale, but it is understood that tanners have paid 15d. per lb. As regards the last part of the question, the Department cannot control the prices of foreign hides.

Packing Case Makers' Union

75.

asked the Financial Secretary to the War Office whether his attention has been drawn to a complaint made by the Packing Case Makers' Union that Messrs. W. Toogood and Sons, Bristol, tendered for a contract basing their price on the prices submitted by the workmen for the work to be done, and that immediately upon getting the contract the firm introduced boy labour on the work; whether he is aware that the men in protest left the firm and obtained work elsewhere and that all the work on the contract was done by boys; whether he is aware that if the firm had taken this action at any other time than the present the union would have withdrawn all their members from work in the district; and whether, in view of the fact that the firm's action, if acquiesced in, would compel other firms in their own interest to adopt a similar policy, he will take steps to prevent a repetition of this incident?

The attention of the War Office has been drawn to this matter, and the trade union officials saw a representative of the War Office a few days ago. They did not wish to reopen this particular case, which is now some months old, and they expressed themselves as satisfied with assurances as to the future.

Army Pay And Royal Defence Corps

76.

asked the Financial Secretary to the War Office whether men serving in the Army Pay Corps and the clerical staff of the Royal Defence Corps are still being paid at the rate of 1s. 8d. per day, plus ration allowance, totalling 29s. 2d. per week, the rate paid at the outbreak of war; whether many of these men so engaged are living with their families and have to pay daily travelling expenses; whether the women clerks engaged on the same work have been awarded the war bonus of 4s. and 5s. per week, and also receive overtime; whether the men referred to have no fixed working hours and do not receive remuneration for extra time worked; and whether, in view of these facts, it is proposed to increase their pay in order that they may be able to meet the increased cost of living and the travelling expenses they have to incur?

These men are serving soldiers and are remunerated as such. In addition they draw allowances for their families, like other soldiers. No comparison can profitably be instituted between the wages of women clerks and the emoluments of soldiers.

Calling-Up Notices

(by Private Notice) asked the Under-Secretary of State for War if he is aware that it is reported that persons after having been called up by the military have been told by the Board of Agriculture (Scotland) that they need not pay any attention to the summons, and if he will make the positon quite clear?

The War Office has issued clear instructions to its recruiting staff throughout the country giving effect to the War Cabinet decision. If any instructions such as are referred to in the question are being given they are unauthorised. If in any case they can show that the calling-up notices have been issued in error and if in such cases it were to happen that the recruiting officer did not cancel the notices, the representative of the other Government Department should at once communicate with his Department which would make the necessary representations to the War Office.

Bombing Practice

66.

asked the Under-Secretary of State for War whether, in large and populous districts in which troops are quartered, he can see his way, when bombing practice is carried out, that it should take place on certain days, at certain hours so that the people in the neighbourhood may know when to expect sounds of explosions, thus allaying their fears as to whether they are caused by enemy aircraft or bombing operations?

I am afraid that my hon. and gallant Friend's suggestion is not feasible, as it would seriously delay training. When bombing practice takes place at night the police are informed, with a view to their notifying people in the vicinity, and steps have been taken to bring to the notice of the public through the medium of the Press the fact that bombing takes place daily at most stations in which troops are located. Instructions have also been issued that no bombing practice is to take place during air raids by day or night, within the district affected.

Portuguese Labourers

67.

asked the Under-Secretary of State for War whether Portuguese labourers have been, or are being, imported into this country for forestry work; and whether, before taking this step, every effort was made through the National Service Department, or otherwise, to utilise for such purposes the part-time or whole-time labour of British workers over military age?

My right hon. Friend has requested me to answer this question, as the recruiting of Portuguese labourers for employment on forestry work in this country by the Timber Supplies Department of the Board of Trade has been in the hands of the Ministry of Labour. In consequence of an urgent demand for labour in connection with felling, sawing, and hauling of timber, the Director of Timber Supplies made a request to the Ministry of Labour to obtain about 10,000 workmen. The available sources of supply were carefully examined, and inquiries were made as to the amount of labour of the kind required which might be obtained in this country. It was ascertained that the number of suitable workmen from all sources in this country, including the National Service Volunteers, would fall considerably short of the number required, and it was accordingly necessary to take steps to obtain timber workers from other countries. The best labour of the kind required was found in Portugal, and arrangements were accordingly made to import a certain number of skilled Portuguese timber cutters. Up to the present about 450 Portuguese have been brought over.

Postal Censor (Diamonds Importation)

2.

asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he will explain why Section 259 of the Customs and Excise Act, 1876, is relied on to throw on a claimant of goods seized by the Postal Censor the onus of proof as to goods being of non-enemy origin in the case of the import of diamonds from Holland if properly vouched by invoices or documentary identification, seeing the difficulty of deciding upon the origin of stones in the rough; and whether he will submit to Parliament proposals for the amend- ment of the law to safeguard the interests of British subjects and of our Allies whose goods have been or may be seized by the Postal Censor or others, and who, pending the War, are precluded by such difficulties of correspondence and travel from producing affirmative evidence of origin in English Courts of law?

My right hon. Friend has asked me to answer this question. I presume that the hon. Member refers to Section 6 of the Customs (War Powers) Act, 1915, which provides that where the Commissioners of Customs and Excise have reason to suspect that the country of origin of any goods imported into the United Kingdom is an enemy country the goods may be seized, and in any proceedings for the forfeiture or condemnation thereof the country of origin of such goods shall be deemed to be such an enemy country unless the contrary is proved. I see no reason for any alteration in this provision.

3.

asked the President of the Board of Trade whether, in making a selection and appointment of the persons to serve as members of the Diamond Import and Export Committees, any assurances were given to the Government or any inquiries made as to the special expert knowledge possessed by the persons proposed to be appointed whereby, apart from invoices or other documentary evidence of identification, they were able to determine the place of origin of stones in the rough, and in particular whether the same are of enemy origin?

Before the examiners of diamonds imported into this country and the Diamond Export Committee were appointed, His Majesty's Government were satisfied that their expert knowledge of diamond trade was such as to fit them for the duties they perform.

4.

asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he is aware that, except as to certain yellow diamonds from German South-West Africa, distinguishable by colour, it is not possible to determine whether stones in the rough are of enemy origin or not, and that the former test of stones cut by Belgian workmen employing the Antwerp cut are no longer distinguishable from stones cut by Dutchmen using the Amsterdam cut, by reason of the fact that at the outbreak of the War numbers of Belgian workmen employing the Antwerp cut emigrated to Holland, and many others to this country, where they have since pursued, and continue to pursue, their calling as diamond cutters, and rendered the former test unreliable and unsatisfactory, he will, now discontinue it as a justification for the seizure and condemnation of stones imported from Holland?

It is always open to the owners of goods seized to dispute such seizure when proceedings for condemnation will follow. In such proceedings the experts' views as to the origin of the diamonds in question form a part only of the evidence laid before the Court, and the defence are, of course, at liberty to bring forward expert or other evidence to rebut such views if they think fit.

Potato Riot (Holland)

(by Private Notice) asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether a British ship at Rotterdam loaded with potatoes for England was attacked by a crowd of women and potatoes were carried off on the grounds that there is a deficiency of potatoes in Holland.

Yes, Sir; a British vessel loaded with potatoes was attacked and a small quantity of potatoes was seized. It rests entirely with the Dutch Government to say whether potatoes should be exported or not from Holland. The Dutch Government have it in their own power to keep in Holland the whole of their potato crop so that it may be available to meet the requirements of their home consumption with which no demands of ours can possibly interfere. All we insist upon is the fulfilment of an agreement under which, if potatoes are exported to any belligerent country, we are to be offered our share.

Ridgewell School, Essex (Attendance At Church)

28.

asked the President of the Board of Education whether he is aware that on Ascension Day, 1917. children were taken from Ridgewell School, Essex, to church, without any instructions from the managers and without the requisite seven days' notice to the children, to His Majesty's inspector, and to the County Education Committee, and that those children who did not attend church were kept in for afternoon school while the others were granted a half-holiday; whether he will call for an explanation of these facts from the County Education Committee; and whether he will decline to continue the Grant to this school if these actions are repeated?

The County Education Committee have directed an inquiry to-be held into the matters referred to, and I propose to await the result of the inquiry.

Swine Fever (Ireland)

35.

asked the Vice-President of the Department of Agriculture (Ireland) whether he can state the result of serum treatment for the prevention of swine fever in Ireland?

The serum treatment for swine fever has not been adopted in Ireland owing to the absence of a veterinary laboratory. The question of obtaining laboratory facilities is being examined.

Orders Of The Day

Business Of The House

Can the Leader of the House state what business is to be taken on Thursday and Friday, and when the Debate on Mesopotamia will be taken?

On Thursday we propose to continue the Finance Bill.

On Friday, we will take the discussion on the question of Financial Control.

As to the Mesopotamia Debate, of course I desire to follow the wishes of the House, and, if it is desired, the Debate can take place probably next week. If the right hon. Gentleman will put down a question for Thursday, I will give him an answer.

Will the right hon. Gentleman say how far we are to proceed to-night?

When will the terms of the reference to the Committee on Drink Control be laid on the Table, as promised last week?

Finance Bill

Considered in Commitee.

[Mr. Whitley in the Chair.]

Clause 1—(Continuance Of Customs Duties Imposed Under 5 & 6 Geo 5, C 89)

The following duties of Customs, imposed by Part I. of the Finance (No. 2) Act, 1915, shall continue to be charged, levied, and paid until the first day of August, nineteen hundred and eighteen, that is to say: —

Duty.Section of Act.
Increased Duty on Tea1
Additional Duties on Dried Fruit8
Additional Duty on Motor Spirit.10(1)
New Import Duties12

I beg to move to leave out the line, "Increased duty on tea."

The duty on tea with this increase is now 1s. per lb., and if this Amendment were adopted it would abolish the extra 4d. imposed by this Finance Bill. There was a very remarkable answer by the Shipping Controller the other day which disclosed that the freight on tea had been raised from about ½d. per lb. to 4½d., and that this 4d. goes to the Government as a sort of illicit profit on tea. That seems a most astounding thing, and if this Amendment were accepted the duty imposed directly by this House would be 8d. per lb., while the Government would still get the 1s. by means of this extra 4d. per lb. which is now charged and retained by them. My Amendment is moved as a protest against the duty being raised secretly and indirectly to 1s. 3d. or 1s. 4d. without the consent of this House. I hope I shall succeed in getting support for this proposal. This matter of the burden of the high prices of food is becoming the most important question in this country. Everybody is talking about it, and in every paper you open you see it. Anyone who is familiar with the scenes which take place in connection with some of the articles on which the heaviest burden rests in the poor streets of the Metropolis will agree that if this House does not pay attention to this matter this House is running serious risk of public disorder. The Prime Minister stated in Dundee on Saturday last on this subject as to the conduct of the Government:
"We shall even go to the extent of resorting to the Exchequer in order to see that, at any rate, the price of bread is within the compass of the bulk of the people."
The Prime Minister also said in that speech:
"Food must be brought within reach of the poople. The worst method of enforcing economy is by extravagant prices. It means provoking disconient."
I am doing what the Prime Minister told me to do. He said that the Government would "go to the extent of resorting to the Exchequer." I am resorting to the Exchequer. There is the Chancellor of the Exchequer opposite, and I ask him to have regard to this extra burden direct and indirect which has been put on tea. The Prime Minister went on to mention two causes for the high prices of food, but neither of those account for the high cost and heavy burdens placed upon tea. I am very sorry that the findings of the Committee of this House on Food have been entirely ignored or neglected. The Government of the day appointed that Committee, which issued three Reports. One of those went into the question of tea. I found myself on the Report of that Committee, and I ask that due consideration should be given to the findings of that Committee, and that those findings should not be tossed into the waste-paper basket. That Committee gave four reasons for the high price and cost of tea. The first was the enhanced profits of the producer. That, I think, is at the bottom not only of this question of tea, but also of wheat and meat and sugar, and other things this House has to consider, and I think that is the direction in which we must look. Then they put the action of certain brokers. We had the case of a wholesale co-operative society. I do not pay undue attention to that matter. The representative of the Food Controller, himself a great co-operator, did not like to follow up that matter, and I do not want to follow it up, and merely leave it there. The third point was found to be the increase caused by freights paid to the shipping companies. Since that date mentioned the freights have been doubled, and are paid, not to the shipping companies, but to the Government. My right hon. Friend who looks so innocent is getting 3d. or 4d. per lb. by that means. The fourth reason given by the Committee is the excessive taxation of this article imposed by Parliament Everything we do here is naturally experimental, and my right hon. Friend who raised the duty to 1s. may do something to regain the confidence of the House which may be a little shaken in his wisdom if he supports my proposal to-day. The Parliamentary Committee appointed by the Government, and presided over by my right hon. Friend who was lately connected with the Board of Trade, found that, the high taxation imposed by Parliament was one of the causes of the high prices of tea, and so I ask the Committee to remember that fact to-day. This is a Clause which will now have to receive some attention from the House. It is the extraordinary proceedings of the Government in its purchases of tea, and especially the new Government. We kept the Government right with regard to tea for the first two and a half years of the War, and up to December last the price of tea was low to the Army. The Army was supplied at 10½d. per lb. The price of tea was low to the people, who were supplied at 1s. per lb., apart from the duty. The whole tragedy with regard to tea, so far as it is a tragedy, was caused by the Government— and the new Government! That is the next reason why I ask the House to consider this matter. A very interesting Report has been published, a Report on War Contracts. In this Report there is a little paragraph about tea to which I desire to direct the attention of the House. It mentions that the price of tea was, as I said, 10½d. per lb. for the whole year. Then it says
"A great increase took place."
How did that increase take place? Because the Government instead of being content to supply their requirements on the market basis in the first, place, prohibited the importation of, tea, and that created a great scare, and secondly, they transferred the buying. Now the Government have seen the effect of buying tea—a most difficult and delicate thing to judge ! I said to my right hon. Friend more than a year ago, and I say it to everybody, and I say it to this House, that they ought to get the best expert advice from the houses who have been accustomed to distribute tea, who have distributed it most honestly during the whole of their lives. They could ask their assistance instead of trying—and perhaps succeeding—to create a revolution of their own, with the most disastrous effects on the country. The Government have gone on to buy tea at Calcutta. It has been announced that they have bought tea at 8¾d. or 9d. a lb., but I have a telegram here stating that to-day the price at Calcutta is 5d. to 7d. per lb.—2d. per lb. less. I do not want to be too hard upon them, because they have no expert advice. They are dealing with the producers, and the producers are always most anxious to get the highest price they can get. [An HON. MEMBER: "What about the middleman?"] You will hear about him presently. I would strongly recommend hon. Gentlemen to read this report from which I am quoting. It states that the Government are buying tea at 8|d. What are the Government doing in London?

The Government have fixed prices for tea in London, and to-morrow a sham sale opens, approved by the Government, and the lowest price in that sale is 1s. a lb.—possibly 11d. ! Twenty-five per cent, of that tea has to be sold at 1s., 35 per cent, at 1s. 3d., and 25 per cent. at 1s. 6d. It is a sort of Dutch, auction, a public sale with the Government coming in to prevent the tea falling down to a reasonable price. That is another reason why I ask this House to have mercy upon the poor consumer, seeing that the Government is proceeding in such an extraordinary way, and to do something drastic in this matter. According to this report, which I have quoted, the Government are buying all the tea they can get, and a figure of 60,000,000 lbs. is mentioned at 8¾d. at Calcutta. The report States it costs 1d. to bring the tea here—which is 9¾d. All the time the Government have issued an Order—it is almost incredible—to the buyers that they must not give less than 1s. 4d. per lb. in London for tea. There never was such a thing done. It is perfectly incredible. The auctions have been suspended for a fortnight. They are to be resumed to-morrow, and these prices, approved by the Government, have been established here in London. I ask the question: If the Government can buy this tea, even at the high price of 8¾d., which is 2d. too high, in Calcutta, and can bring it here at id.—if they can do that for the soldiers why cannot they do the same for the people of this country? That is all I ask.

Anyone who reads this report, a most amazing report, will see that it is full of the ability of the Government buyers. Then I say let them buy for the people. Let them buy us tea, sugar, wheat, meat a bit cheaper than now. Notoriously tea ought not to exceed a 1s. a lb., and yet the Government have fixed this high price in the London sales, as compared with the low price of which I have spoken in Calcutta! The House will say: "Of course, the thing will settle itself in a moment." No, it will not settle itself in a moment, and for this reason: The Gove