House Of Commons
Wednesday, 31st July, 1918.
The House met at a Quarter before Three of the clock, Mr. SPEAKER in the Chair.
Shropshire, Worcestershire, and Staffordshire Electric Power Bill [ Lords] (by Order),
Third Reading deferred till To-morrow.
Bristol Corporation Bill [ Lords],
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, with Amendments.
South Suburban Gas Bill,
As amended, considered; to be read the third time.
Ipswich Dock Bill [ Lords] (by Order),
Second Reading deferred till Friday.
Rothesay Tramways (Amendment) Order Confirmation Bill,
Read the third time, and passed.
Trade (Foreign Countries And British Possessions)
Copy presented of Annual Statement of the Trade of the United Kingdom with Foreign Countries and British Possessions for 1917 compared with the four preceding years. Volume I. [by Command]; to lie upon the Table.
Copy presented of Minute of the Committee of Council on Education in Scot land, dated 30th July, 1918, providing for Grants in aid of the Salaries of Teachers and for other purposes [by Command]; to lie upon the Table.
Oral Answers To Questions
Concrete Vessels (Admiralty Contracts)
Mr. GEORGE LAMBERT
asked the First Lord of the Admiralty if the British Construction Company. Barn-staple, Devon, is working under the Admiralty; and, if so, whether the terms of payment are for results achieved or whether payments are made on a cost plus percentage basis?
The PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY to the ADMIRALTY (Dr. Macnamara)
Yes, Sir; contract terms have been arranged with the firm named for five reinforced concrete barges, and provide for payment of actual cost of labour, materials, and establishment charges (as verified by Admiralty accountants) plus a fixed sum for profit. The firm have also accepted an order for five concrete tugs, on the condition that they will leave to the Admiralty final decision as to terms of contract and price.
Promotion By Seniority
asked the First Lord of the Admiralty if he will say how many officers of the ranks of commodore, captain, and below have been given acting or substantive rank in the grades of rear-admiral, vice-admiral, and admiral, outside the method of promotion by seniority during the War; and, in the event of the answer being only one, whether the Board will have regard to the practice in our own Army and in other armies?
The answer to the first part of the question is one: Captain (Commodore, First Class) Sir R. Y. Tyrwhitt, K.C.B., D.S.O., who was given the acting rank of Rear-Admiral in January last. With regard to the last part of the question, the Board of Admiralty are satisfied with the powers they possess at present.
Will the right hon. Gentleman have regard to the more satisfactory answer given by his colleague for the War Office and induce the Board of Admiralty to go and do likewise?
Will the right hon. Gentleman inquire whether it is not a fact that the conditions are not at all satisfactory in the Army, and that they give rise to a great deal of difficulty?
I cannot possibly answer that. But as regards my hon. and gallant Friend's further question, I was present at the discussion by the Board when the principle of giving acting flag rank to captains selected was adopted, and I was a member of the Board Committee that worked out the details of the application of the principle. I was impressed with the unprejudiced way the Sea Lords determined to meet war necessities as they arise, whilst at the same time preserving the great traditions of the Navy that promotion to flag rank must in no way be affected by personal and improper influences.
Surely the same argument would apply to the Army, and surely there are some officers with merit?
Pensions (Chief Yeomen Signals)
Major Sir BERTRAM FALLE
asked the Secretary to the Admiralty if he is aware that a number of chief yeomen signals drew 6d. per day from 14th August as seniority allowance, and that since the granting of pensions, plus pay, for those who have become eligible for pension the 6d. has been withdrawn and past money claimed as from date of pension, and the repayment required in one lump sum, in some cases equivalent to three-quarters of the annual pension; and, if he does not think the 6d. might well be retained, if he will have the repayment spread over a longer period?
Senior allowance of 6d. a day is not payable to pensioners. In order, therefore, to obviate disparity of treatment as between pensioners called out at the commencement of hostilities (who have not received the allowance) and the men to whom pensions have recently been granted, it has been necessary to recover from the Latter the amount of senior allowance credited from the pension date onwards. Further, the retention of this allowance by these men would not only cause the above-mentioned disparity, but would also prevent the number of active service ratings eligible for the allowance from receiving the same, since only a certain number can draw the allowance.As regards recovery, in this and all cases, it is certainly not our policy so to recover as to inflict hardship. The policy of spreading recovery over a period of time is the policy which generally governs our action in these matters, and certainly consideration will be given to any case in which it can be shown that hardship has been entailed by the method of recovery.
Sir B. FALLE
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that in some cases the amount is at least three-quarters of the annual pension?
I saw it in my hon. and gallant Friend's question, and I have asked for a list which will show in detail the pension receivable and the amount of the lump sum recovered so that I may examine it.
Treaties With Enemy Powers
Major GEORGE PEEL
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he can see his way to publish the text of the treaty recently concluded between Germany and Finland, and also the text of the treaties concluded between the Central Powers on the one hand and Roumania, the Ukraine, and Russia, at Brest-Litovsk, on the other, together with the appropriate maps in each case?
The SECRETARY of STATE for FOREIGN AFFAIRS (Mr. Balfour)
Yes, Sir. Translations of the various treaties are in active preparation and will be published as soon as possible. They are very voluminous.
North Russian Expeditionary Force
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what countries are represented in the Expeditionary Force which is to operate in Siberia?
I am not at present in a position to make any statement on this subject.
asked the Under-Secretary of State for War whether he can make a statement concerning military operations on the Murman coast; and who is the officer in command of the Murman Expedition?
The UNDER-SECRETARY of STATE for WAR (Mr. Macpherson)
It is not desirable at present to add anything to the announcement which appeared in the Press.
Will not the right hon. Gentleman make it perfectly clear that he will not answer questions on this subject, and so save them being put down?
This is the first I have answered on this subject.
Mr. TYSON WILSON
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the names of these generals appear in the American Press?
I cannot help that. I cannot add to my answer.
Will the right hon. Gentleman be careful not to make any statement that he is not going to answer questions on the subject when addressed to him in a proper manner in this House?
I have not done so.
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether suggestions or proposals to enter into negotiations for peace have recently been received from the enemy?
No enemy Government has approached us.
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware of the report that was circulated lately—and now actually, I think, appearing in the Press—that proposals of this sort were considered in Conference not long ago at Versailles; and can he give that a denial?
I presume I have given it a denial. No enemy Government has approached us.
General Reserve (Promotion Of Officers)
asked the Under-Secretary of State for War if he is aware that instances have occurred in which officers of the General Reserve above the rank of major have been reported on as fit and recommended for promotion by the general officers under whom they were serving overseas, and that they have been refused promotion in spite of the provisions of the Royal Warrant and of the Army Council Instruction under which they are eligible for it; and if, in the interests of the Service and in justice to the officers concerned, he will take steps to rectify this?
This question is at present under consideration.
Gas Mask Illness
Mr. SWIFT MacNEILL
asked the Under-Secretary of State for War if he will furnish a complete Return showing the number of officers and men in the Army who have suffered or are suffering from trench gums, a complaint alleged to be due to the combination of a noseclip and mouthpiece, especially the latter, of the small box respirator attached to the gas mask at present in use in the field?
I regret that the figures asked for are not readily available, and the preparation of such a Return would involve an undue amount of time and labour. A special investigation, of which this subject will form a part, has recently been commenced at the Royal Army Medical College, and it is hoped that this will result in valuable information being obtained upon the prevalence and prevention of this condition.
Chinese Labour Corps
asked the Under-Secretary of State for War whether the officers commanding Chinese Labour Corps in France have received instructions to prohibit their men from using maisons tolérées?
I am making inquiry, and will acquaint my hon. Friend of the result in due course.
Expeditionary Force, France (Leave)
asked the Under-Secretary of State for War if he can furnish a reason why leave to England is granted from France to officers and men on Army corps and divisional staffs, and attached thereto, more frequently than to officers and men in or nearer the line, on whom the strain, discomfort, and peril of war weigh far more heavily; and if any steps can be taken to remedy this state of affairs?
I regret that I am not in a position to answer my hon. Friend's question. All leave for officers and men of the Expeditionary Force serving in France is regulated by the Field-Marshal Commanding-in-Chief, and I have no doubt that he makes the best arrangements which the exigencies of the Service permit.
Would it not be possible to make some arrangement by which the existing hardship which these men up the line do suffer in comparison with men in easier places could be remedied? There must be some remedy.
I need hardly tell the House that the Field-Marshal Commanding-in-Chief bears in mind all relevant facts.
Would not the grievance be met if when a certain number of permits for leave are granted to a division these permits for leave were allocated to officers, non-commissioned officers, and men in proportion to the strength of those rank in that division?
I would point out that that peculiar fact is before the Field-Marshal now.
asked the Under-Secretary of State for War concerning Private J. Finan, No. 61572, Royal Army Medical Corps, British Expeditionary Force, France, a soldier who has served in Egypt and Palestine for two years and since then has served four months in France, and has had no leave for the whole period of two years and four months, whether he will endeavour to arrange for the soldier in question to have a leave at an early date?
I regret that I cannot take any special action in cases such as the one mentioned, but I know that the claims of all men so situated receive every consideration possible in the situation prevailing on the Western Front.
Egyptian Expeditionary Force
asked the Under-Secretary of State for War if he is aware that Private E. H. Whitley, No. 59500, Machine Gun Corps, Egyptian Expeditionary Force, who has been on active service seventeen months in Salonika and Palestine, during which time he was with his company in every encounter, only reporting sick once, was told by the officer commanding his company two days before starting on leave to Egypt that his leave had been cancelled solely on account of refusal of inoculation; what disciplinary steps he proposes to take with this officer for not complying with his repeated assurances that men should not be penalised for exercising their legal right in regard to inoculation; whether he is aware that numbers of other officers have similarly defied his authority without being punished; and whether he will state why discipline is not maintained amongst officers who refuse to honour his published assurances by obeying Army Council instructions?
I am making inquiry into the case of Private Whitley. I have no information which would support the statements made by my hon. Friend in the last two parts of his question, but if he will furnish me with particulars of any specific cases I will certainly have the matter taken up.
Major Sir BERTRAM FALLE
asked the Under-Secretary of State for War if a time-expired Royal Engineer of thirteen years' service, now in France and eligible for £20 bounty and wanted by his chief in the dockyard, can forego the bounty and return to the dockyard?
Without knowing the age and medical category of the man concerned, I regret I cannot say whether he could be released to return to the dockyards, but, speaking generally, the answer to my hon. and gallant Friend's question is in the negative.
Army Nursing Service
asked the Under-Secretary of State for War whether the certificate of training presented in evidence of qualification by London Hospital nurses applying for posts in the Army service states that the nurse has had three years' training in the hospital or only two years' training?
As I informed my hon. and gallant Friend on Thursday last, steps are always taken to ascertain that a nurse has completed the necessary period of training and service in the wards.
Sir C. HENRY
Is there any differentiation in the nurses that come from the London Hospital and from the others?
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that he told us that a three years' certificate of training is necessary for appointment to the Army Nursing Service, and I ask him in the present question, Does the London Hospital certificate of training say two years or three years?
I cannot add anything to the answer I have given; but I would like to point out that the three years includes two years' training, and one year's service in the wards.
Is the right hon. Gentleman not aware that he told us, in reply to a question on 18th July, that time spent in private nursing is not allowed to count towards the qualifying period of three years? Does he tell us now that two years' training is all that is necessary in the hospital, and that the time spent in private nursing makes up the period?
Certainly; I am within the recollection of the House. My answer was, "We are satisfied in every case with the nurse who comes from the London Hospital or any other hospital if she has completed the necessary period of training, and service in the ward."
May I call the attention of the right hon. Gentleman to the previous reply; will he explain the discrepancy in the two replies?
The right hon. Gentleman has explained.
Prisoners Of War
Censorship Of Letters
Mr. SWIFT MacNEILL
asked the Under-Secretary of State for War whether he is aware that a letter of Mrs. Keegan, of Ballyshannon, county Donegal, directed to her son, James Keegan, of the Innis-killing Fusiliers, a prisoner of war in Germany, enclosing to him, in compliance with his request, a Sacred Heart badge and an Agnus Dei, was returned to Mrs. Keegan by the English censor, who, by way of explanation, enclosed a printed notice that letters to prisoners of war must not contain printed matter or any other enclosure, the last four words being underlined by the censor; whether, having regard to the fact that Mrs. Keegan has two other sons in the British Army, both of whom have been wounded, the one crippled for life and the other fighting again in France, there can be some relaxation in her case of the rule, not of the German, but of the English censor, which forbids a parent to send to her son, a prisoner of war, religious emblems affording him consolation in his captivity; and whether the Government have considered the prejudicial effect such a line of conduct is calculated to produce on enlistment?
I am not aware of this case, but the facts are no doubt as stated, and I can assure my hon. and learned Friend that there are very sound reasons for imposing such a rule. If in this instance the badge and Agnus Dei are sent by Mrs. Keegan direct to the chief postal censor they will be forwarded by way of exception.
Prisoners Captured By British (Western Front)
asked what is the total number of prisoners captured by the British Armies since 21st March on the Western Front?
Since the 21st March last, the number of prisoners captured by the British on the Western Front is about 14,500. It is not possible to give the exact number as the returns of those taken during the past few days have not yet been received.
asked whether, in view of an election, officers and soldiers who have been adopted as prospective candidates will be granted immediate leave directly it is decided that an election shall take place?
I would refer my hon. and gallant Friend to my reply on the 21st March last to a question put by my Noble and gallant Friend the Member for Horsham of which I am sending him a copy.
Electors (United Kingdom)
asked the President of the Local Government Board if he will state the total number of persons registered as electors in the United Kingdom up to 25th July, 1918; how many of these are females; and what steps have been taken to ensure that sailors afloat and soldiers serving in distant parts shall have the opportunity to vote at the next General Election?
The PRESIDENT of the LOCAL GOVERNMENT BOARD (Mr. Hayes Fisher)
The information asked for by my hon. and learned Friend is not yet available. A Return will be prepared when the registers are complete. As to the latter part of the question, Orders in Council have been issued prescribing proxy areas and Regulations as to the mode of appointment of proxies. Forms have been prepared and forwarded to the ships and to distant fronts and stations for distribution to the voters to enable them to appoint proxies.
Etaples Hospital (Bombing By Germans)
asked the Under-Secretary of State for War whether he is aware that the German Government are now justifying the bombing of the Etaples Hospital on the night of 19th–20th May by the allegation that the Red Cross was not shown; and will he inquire into and expose this statement?
I am aware that the German Government are justifying the bombing of Etaples Hospital on the night of the 19th/20th May, by the allegation that the Red Cross was not shown, and I have seen in a German newspaper photographs published by them with the intention of proving that the Red Cross sign did not exist on the 21st May, but did exist in large numbers on the 27th. German photographs of this nature, as we have reason to know, are never conclusive. In any case the hospitals were bombed on the night of 31st May—1st June in spite of the Red Cross signs, which German evidence shows to have been in existence on 27th May.
The right hon. Gentleman is satisfied that the Red Cross sign was shown on the 19th?
Am I personally satisfied? Yes.
asked what is now the position in relation to the Ayrton fan; and whether Mr. Greenslade's services are being employed to supervise the training with this device?
The Ayrton fan is a service issue, and is applied to the uses for which it is adapted. The answer to the second part of my hon. and gallant Friend's question is in the negative.
Is training in the use of the fan by instructors who do not know how to use them still going on, and Professor Greenslade not being employed to put things right?
Well, I am not quite sure that I can answer that question exactly at the present moment; but I know he has been round the country.
Has the right hon. Gentleman read the report of Professor Greenslade?
I have not personally read it, but we have it.
Naval And Military Pensions And Allowances
Sir FORTESCUE FLANNERY
asked the Under-Secretary of State for War whether the practice of the War Office is to stop separation allowances for wives and children in the cases of soldiers who, being unfit for further active service, are sent to work on the land; and whether separation allowances will be continued in cases in which the wages given to the soldier on the land are less than the combined amount formerly received of pay, value of rations, and separation allowances?
The FINANCIAL SECRETARY to the WAR OFFICE (Mr. Forster)
Separation allowance is only stopped when the soldier is living at home.
Colonel Sir F. HALL
asked the Financial Secretary to the War Office whether, considering that the London allowance was designed to enable those who lived in London to meet the extra cost of living involved by residence there, and that such allowance is withdrawn on removal from the London area, the allowance is claimable by the wives of soldiers who find it necessary to remove from the country to London and thereby have to bear these extra costs; if not, whether he will explain why this allowance should be refused; and whether he will take steps to have such alterations made in order that all dependants living in the London area should receive similar treatment?
I am afraid that I can find no ground for altering the present practice, which has been in force all through the War.
Sir F. HALL
Does the right hon. Gentleman think it is fair or equitable that there should be two rates in the London area?
As I have already, I think, informed my hon. and gallant Friend, the separation allowance in London is a continuation of the old allowance given to soldiers whose permanent homes were in London before the War; it was given mainly because rents in London were higher than elsewhere. There has been no general increase.
Sir F. HALL
Since it is admittedly owing to the increase of the rents in the London area, and that those who remove from London to the country lose—and rightly lose—the allowance, should not the tight hon. Gentleman consider the question as to whether or not those who find it necessary to remove from the country to London should receive the 3s. 6d.?
No; I think not. It is the case where a man has a permanent home here. But I do not think it is desirable to encourage a general incursion into London. Any case of hardship, as my hon. and gallant Friend knows, can be met by application to the local war pensions committee.
Does not the right hon. Gentleman recognise the injustice, say, in the case of two women living side by side, the one a Londoner in receipt of the 3s. 6d. and the other, having had to remove from the country, being deprived of the 3s. 6d.—is not that financial inequality?
Well, there is inequality—
An HON. MEMBER
Why should they come from the country?
asked whether the proposed increases in the scale of separation allowances will apply in the case of soldiers drawing family allowance whose families are accommodated in public quarters and in the case of soldiers drawing family allowance whose families are not so accommodated?
The answer on both points is in the affirmative.
asked the Financial Secretary to the War Office if his attention has been called to the case of William Scott, son of Alexander Scott, of 25, Church Street, Johnstone, who voluntarily enlisted in 1915 when he was an apprentice fitter and his wages were 8s. per week, but after nine months' training was sent back to his trade, finished his time, and worked as a journeyman for twelve months at £4 a week wages, and was afterwards called up and transferred to a Highland regiment to act as fitter in a battery of the Royal Field Artillery; if he is aware that this soldier allots his mother 6d. a day; and if, having regard to the circumstances mentioned, the dependent mother is entitled to the full separation allowance?
Inquiry will be made, and I will inform the hon. Member of the result in due course.
Army Service Corps (Mechanical Transport)
Sir F. FLANNERY
asked the Under-Secretary of State for War whether the promised reconsideration of the proposal to reduce the pay and allowances of storekeepers who enlisted voluntarily in the Mechanical Transport Service of the Army Service Corps in France has been effected or whether a mistake in regard to instructions has been made at the 3rd Echelon base in France; and whether the pay of 6s. per day, which was agreed upon enlistment, will in future be made to these men and arrears rectified as regards any deductions that have already been made?
The matter is still under consideration.
Sir F. FLANNERY
Does not the right hon. Gentleman remember that this question was raised about a couple of months ago, and does he not consider that an alleged breach of faith justifies a more rapid decision in the matter?
The decision does not rest solely with the War Office.
Sir F. FLANNERY
Will my right hon. Friend state the cause of the delay?
I think my hon. Friend will know perfectly well that in these matters, involving finance, the Department is not free to act as they would wish to do.
Active Service Decorations (Dominion Troops)
asked the Under-Secretary of State for War whether he can now state the decision as to the issue of a decoration for the Australian and New Zealand troops who served in Gallipoli; and whether any similar decoration will be granted to other Dominion troops?
The issue of a decoration to Australian, New Zealand, and Newfoundland troops has been approved by His Majesty. It will be issued by the War Office, but the Governments of Australia, New Zealand, and Newfoundland will determine to whom it should be granted. This decoration will not be issued to Imperial troops, as it is designed to meet the desire of the Commonwealth, New Zealand, and Newfoundland Governments to mark the entry of their troops for the first time into a European war. If any other Dominion Government should desire a similar recognition for its troops, the question will, no doubt, be settled on similar lines.
Are we to understand from that reply that Colonial troops will have two decorations and the Imperial troops only one for the same operation?
No, Sir; I do not think so.
Has any other Dominion Government applied for similar recognition?
I think that is a question that ought to be put to my right hon. Friend the Colonial Secretary. I said in my answer that a Dominion Government has the power in its own hands to give or not to give such a decoration.
Army Pay Office, Dublin
asked why, when ex-Service men apply for employment to the Control Section, Army Pay Office, Beggars Bush Barracks, Dublin, they are informed that they cannot be engaged under any circumstances as civilians?
There appears to be some misunderstanding locally. The only reason why ex-Service men cannot at present be engaged as civilian clerks in the office of the Regimental Pay Office. Dublin, is that there are no vacancies; but when there are, preference will be given to suitable discharged Service men.
Am I to understand that these ex-Service men cannot be engaged in the Regimental Pay Office, Dublin, under any circumstances as civilians?
As far as my information goes that is not the answer which was given. I am told that the answer was that extra civilian clerks could not be taken on without reference to the War Office, and they could not be taken on because the establishment was full.
May I send the right hon. Gentleman a copy of the official answer sent by the officer?
Harvest Work (Convalescent Soldiers)
Sir B. FALLE
asked the Financial Secretary to the War Office if he is aware that a convalescent soldier from a hospital if sent out for harvest work receives 2d. per hour out of the 6d. the farmer pays for his services; and whether, in order to secure a fair remuneration for the man and induce men to volunteer for the work, he will arrange that a less-sweated rate of pay is offered the convalescent soldier?
The 2d. is drawn in addition to full pay and allowance, and has been fixed after careful consideration of the rates of wages drawn by other soldiers and by civilians engaged on the harvest.
Sir RICHARD COOPER
asked the President of the Board of Agriculture if he has received complaints of the manner in which feeding-stuffs are controlled and distributed by the Food Controller; and has he requested the control of feeding-stuffs by his Department and through the agricultural committees throughout the country?
The PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY to the BOARD of AGRICULTURE (Sir Richard Winfrey)
The Board of Agriculture have received numerous complaints respecting the control of feeding-stuffs. The substance of these complaints has been transmitted to the Ministry of Food, with whom the Board has for some time discussed the scheme of distribution to be adopted in the light of the supplies and requirements which may now be anticipated. The Board is not a United Kingdom authority, and has no powers to control manufacturers. The reply to, the second part of the question is therefore in the negative.
Sir R. COOPER
Is it not a fact that the distribution of foodstuffs is so unsatisfactory because the Department of the Food Controller has no machinery in the country through which they can operate in regard to the distribution of foodstuffs?
Sir R. WINFREY
I am afraid that is so.
Sir R. COOPER
Can it not be remedied? We want to get on with the War and get food for the people, and cannot something be done?
Major GEORGE PEEL
asked the Minister of Food whether, in view of the desirability of providing non-alcoholic drinks for harvesters in the coming harvest, and, in view of the relative failure of the fruit crop and of the consequent liberation of sugar which would otherwise have been used for making jam, he can see his way to allocate more sugar for the manufacture of non-alcoholic drinks during the period of harvest?
The MINISTER of FOOD (Mr. Clynes)
The need for conserving the sugar stocks is so great that I am unable to authorise special issues of sugar for the purpose indicated.
Sir F. FLANNERY
asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food whether his attention has been called to the fact that in the case of the licensed house known as the "Chequers," in the village of Goldhanger, Essex, far in the country and in the midst of agriculture, the shortage of harvest beer has been the cause of complaints by the men and by the rector on their behalf; whether, in these circumstances, he can arrange for larger supplies of beer to be available than one and a-half barrels per week for sixty harvest men, such increased allowances being made immediately available in view of the short rations and laborious work of the men and the approach of heavy harvest labour; and whether the brewing of luxury beer will in future be restricted so as to increase the supply of harvest beer without increase in the consumption of grain?
The answer to the first part of the question is in the negative. Additional supplies of beer for harvest purposes have been and are being allocated to each agricultural district. The brewing of luxury beer has already been extensively reduced in order to provide more of the lighter qualities for the industrial classes, and it is impossible to increase the supply of harvest beer without increasing the consumption of grain.
Sir F. FLANNERY
Does my right hon. Friend suggest to the House that, in view of the heavy harvest, the supply of a barrel and a half per week for sixty harvest men is sufficient; and will he not take some definite steps to improve the condition of these men in this regard during harvest time?
I will not dogmatise in my answer as to what is precisely a sufficient quantity in any given area, but my answer must be taken as implying that larger quantities are being distributed in the agricultural areas this year than last year.
Sir F. FLANNERY
Will the right hon. Gentleman give attention to this specific allocation in this special district and deal with the matter accordingly?
I shall be glad to take into account the conditions of any special district.
Will that special allocation apply to harvesting in Ireland as well as in England? [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] It is part of the Empire, anyhow?
71 and 72.
Sir R. COOPER
asked the Minister of Food (1) whether it is with the knowledge and sanction of the Government that the United Kingdom Linseed Oil Consumers' Association, which has been entrusted with the function of distributing linseed oil to manufacturers in this country, refuses to make an allotment of more than 5 cwts. per month to anyone who is not a member of the association, to which admission is possible only by election and by payment of a fee of two guineas periodically; whether he will publish the names of the firms or individuals who are members of this association, and who are the individuals who determine the allotment of oils to manufacturers applying for a share of the available supply; (2) if the officials who determine the supply of linseed oil to manufacturers are connected with firms interested in the production and disposal of such oil; and has he received any complaints of the partial manner in which linseed oil is distributed?
The United Kingdom Linseed Oil Consumers' Association was formed at the suggestion of my Department for the purpose of allocating linseed oil to the various trades by which supplies are required. Allotments in excess of 5 cwts. monthly are only made to members of the association, but any trader is eligible for membership at an annual subscription of two guineas. The membership exceeds 400, and I will forward a list of members to the hon. Baronet, if he so desires. The members of the committee which determines the allocation of linseed oil are elected by the association, and are necessarily representative of firms interested in the trades eligible for membership. No substantial complaints have been received of any partiality in the distribution of available supplies.
Sir R. COOPER
Will the right hon. Gentleman please send me the list?
Sir C. HENRY
asked the Minister of Food if he is aware of the difficulty, since the price has been controlled, for retailers to obtain a supply of golden syrup; whether there are fair stocks of this article; and, if so, whether he will arrange, in consideration of the supply of jam being restricted, that a greater quantity of golden syrup shall be made available?
I am aware that retailers find difficulty in obtaining as large supplies of golden syrup as they would be glad to have, but this is due not to the fact that it is controlled but to the abnormal demand for syrup consequent upon the restricted supplies of sugar and jam. The only effect of control was to reduce the extravagant prices which this abnormal demand had produced. Stocks of syrup are negligible. Every effort is being made to improve the supply, which is dependent upon the amount of tonnage available.
Would the right hon. Gentleman reconsider the advisability of rationing syrup, as it is a very good substitute for sugar?
In connection with our consideration of the system of rationing jam that has been taken into account.
Sir F. HALL
asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food whether he is aware that London butchers are still having allotted to them old cow meat which, in pre-war days, would have been condemned as unfit for human consumption, and that in many cases London butchers are having delivered to them meat of inferior quality which is practically nothing but skin and bone; will he say on what grounds such meat is imported, seeing that there is no nutriment in it; and whether, considering the price that is demanded by the butchers in consequence of the cost of them, he will preclude altogether the importation into this country of such inferior meat?
As the hon. and gallant Member was informed on Monday, the answer to this question was printed in last Thursday's OFFICIAL REPORT.
Sir F. HALL
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that I withdrew the question owing to it being so late on the list, and, in the circumstances, will he be good enough to give the reply in the House?
I think the answer was not given in the House because the question was not reached.
Sir F. HALL
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware of the great importance London butchers attach to this question, and will he give instructions, or has he cabled instructions abroad that his buyers are not to purchase any more of this emaciated cow-beef that is being distributed so largely in London?
If the hon. and gallant Member will look at the terms of the reply, as it has been printed in the OFFICIAL REPORT, and will cast his mind back to the information given to him together with a deputation which came to the House two or three days ago, he will have all the information as to our efforts to improve the quality.
Sir F. HALL
Will the right hon. Gentleman reply to that one question, whether he will do so or has done so?
asked the President of the Local Government Board, with reference to the grading of milk, if he will state by whom certificates are to be granted that a herd is free from tuberculosis and what is to be the test; and whether he is aware that the milk of at least 85 per cent. of the cows which have been tested and react to the tuberculin test is free from tubercle and that previous injection of tuberculin within six weeks of a test will render the ensuing test worthless?
Mr. HAYES FISHER
Certificates as to freedom from tuberculosis, as determined by the tuberculin test after the 1st August, will have to be signed by a veterinary surgeon. The figures given by my hon. Friend are, as I am informed, approximately correct.
What steps are going to be taken to prevent tuberculin from being in the possession of, and used by, people other than qualified veterinary surgeons?
That is a question of which the hon. Member had better give me notice.
That is raised in the question which points out that if an injection of tuberculin has taken place the test is quite valueless.
Territorial Force (Allowances)
asked the Financial Secretary to the War Office if his attention has been called to complaints made by members of the Territorial Force who, their period of enlistment being completed, are, in accordance with the usual practice, entitled to £15 allowance, the ground of their complaint being that they are only paid £5, the remaining £10 being put into the War Loan, and that no scrip or receipt of any kind is given to them; and if he will say whether the procedure complained of is in accordance with Army Regulations?
There would appear to be a good deal of misapprehension regarding this bounty. It is payable one-third on completion of the term, and two-thirds with interest on discharge, but no investment of the money is made and consequently there is no question of scrip.
Sir FORTESCUE FLANNERY
asked the Financial Secretary to the War Office whether he can now state the reason for the delay in reimbursing the Kelvedon Parish Council for the compulsory use on the 29th March, 1917, of their fire engine; whether he is aware that expenditure amounting to £4 17s. was incurred by the parish council in making an unnecessary attendance in obedience to superior military orders; and whether the expenditure will now be refunded by the War Office?
I am afraid my inquiries are not yet complete. I will communicate with my hon. Friend as soon as I am in a position to do so.
asked the Financial Secretary to the War Office whether his arrangements for requisitioning the 1918 crop of hay are now completed; what are his intentions and instructions to district purchase officers in this respect; and, in view of the recent wet weather, what provision will be made to enable dairy farmers and stockowners to feed their stock during the coming winter?
It is hoped to publish the Army Council Order in the "London Gazette" on Friday next.
asked the Financial Secretary to the War Office whether grass is in the Ormskirk district under his instruction being baled and stacked in bales green; and whether this process turns out satisfactory hay, or is much of it found to go mouldy in the centre of the bales?
No, Sir. The local officers are discouraging such procedure in every way possible.
Land Drainage Bill
Major G. PEEL
asked the President of the Board of Agriculture whether, under the Land Drainage Bill now before Parliament, the Board of Agriculture has power to provide for differential rating of an area within the limits of a Commission of Sewers already in existence, and for the total or partial exemption from such rating of buildings within such an area, as a substantive order, where it is not proposed to make any other alteration of the powers of the Commission or of the area of its jurisdiction?
Sir R. WINFREY
The Land Drainage Bill has now become an Act of Parliament. The point referred to cannot be answered in general terms, but the Board will be ready to give careful consideration to any petition on such matters which may be laid before them.
Cows (Tuberculin Test)
asked whether the Board has any information as to the percentage of the cows in the dairy herds of Great Britain that do not react to the tuberculin test; and whether it is more important that the animal should not react to the test or that her milk should be free from tubercle?
Sir R. WINFREY
The Board have no information as to the number of cows in dairy herds which react to the tuberculin test. It seems more important that milk should be free from tubercle bacilli than that the cows producing it should not react to the tuberculin test, though I am advised that the best way of securing tubercle free milk is to keep a herd of non-reacters.
Land Cultivation (Tractors)
asked the President of the Board of Agriculture if he will give the number of Fordson tractors with Oliver plough attached now at the disposal of the Food Production Department and also state the type of the 1,700 heavier tractors now available and of the further 200 to be provided?
Sir R. WINFREY
Three thousand seven hundred and eighty Fordson tractors with Oliver ploughs are at the disposal of the Department, but not all of these are proposed to be used for the Department's own tractor scheme. The 1,700 heavier tractors are of the following types:—Titan, 25 h.p. Mogul, Saunderson, Overtime, 35 h.p. Clayton. The further 200 tractors will be 35 h.p. Clayton.
Would it not be practical, seeing that there is so much land to plough up a little later, to make a considerable addition to the heavier type of tractors because the Fordson tractor is quite unsuitable to plough any land except light land, and that is really quite unsuitable to spring work?
Sir R. WINFREY
I think the Food Production Department are of opinion that the 200 heavier tractors now on order will be sufficient for the purpose.
Are the war agricultural committees not making representations on the subject?
Sir R. WINFREY
I do not think that any war agricultural committees are asking for more heavier tractors than we have provided.
District Wages Committee (Sussex)
Mr. CHARLES DUNCAN
asked the President of the Board of Agriculture whether he is aware that one of the appointed members of the Sussex District Wages Committee is an employer of agricultural labour and is therefore an interested party in deciding the wages and working conditions; and whether he will take steps to end this appointment and appoint some other person likely to be entirely impartial?
Sir R. WINFREY
The appointed members on the Sussex District Wages Committee are Colonel A. Sutherland Harris, High Sheriff of Sussex and Chairman of the Education Committee of the East Sussex County Council; Mr. W. P. G. Boxall, K.C., Recorder of Brighton; Mr. T. Pargeter, railway signalman and president of Newhaven Trades Council; Mr. C. C. Lacaita, J.P.; and the Hon. Lady Maxse. It does not appear to me that the personal interest of any of these persons in agricultural wages is sufficient to throw doubt on their impartiality.
Mr. C. DUNCAN
asked the President of the Board of Agriculture whether he will cause inquiry to be made as to whether some, if not many, of the appointed members of district wages committees are employers of agricultural labour, and therefore neither disinterested nor impartial persons, as is expected of those who come within the administration of these wages committees, as laid down in the regulations of the Corn Production Act; and whether he proposes to take any action in the matter?
Sir R. WINFREY
The definition of agricultural employment in the Corn Production Act is wide, and it is probable that some of the appointed members employ men who come within it. Farmers dependent for their livelihood on the occupation of land have been excluded, but the difficulty of securing the services of persons familiar with rural conditions would be insuperable if the fact that they employed men who are subject to the provisions of the Act were held to debar them from exercising an impartial judgment. The reply to the last part of the question is therefore in the negative.
Iron And Steel Trades
asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he proposes to set up the committee to consider the exceptional difficulties experienced by the people of North Staffordshire under the monopoly of the North Staffordshire Railway Company, as recommended by the Report of the Departmental Committee of the Board of Trade to consider the position of the iron and steel trades?
The PRESIDENT of the BOARD of TRADE (Sir Albert Stanley)
I am in communication with the parties interested in this matter and am considering whether any steps can be usefully taken in the direction indicated by the hon. and gallant Member. When a decision has been come to I will communicate with him further.
Mr. HERBERT SAMUEL
asked whether the agreements into which he proposes to enter with manufacturers of dyes will include any provision relating to the exclusion of foreign dyes from this country; and, if so, what will be the general terms of such provision?
Sir A. STANLEY
There is no intention that the agreements which will be entered into with manufacturers of dyes shall include any provision relating to the exclusion of foreign dyes from this country.
Titles Deprivation Act
Mr. S. MacNEILL
asked the Prime Minister whether any, and, if so, what, steps have been taken under the provisions of the Titles Deprivation Act, 1917, which received the Royal Assent on 8th November, 1917, for the striking out of the Peerage Roll peers who have, during the present War, borne arms against His Majesty or who have adhered to His Majesty's enemies; and, if no steps for this purpose, as provided by Statute, have been taken, will he say what is the reason for the delay, having regard to the construction likely to be placed on the attitude of the Government in this matter?
The CHANCELLOR of the EXCHEQUER (Mr. Bonar Law)
The Committee of Council appointed to deal with this matter will meet to-morrow. I am informed that no greater delay than was necessary has occurred in the presentation of the material for their Report.
Mr. S. MacNEILL
asked the Prime Minister whether he is aware that an announcement, dated 24th May, appeared in the "London Gazette" that the King, as Sovereign of the Order of the Bath, had been pleased to command and declare that a person therein named, a Commander of the said Order, should from that date be removed from said Order, he being unworthy any longer to remain a member thereof; on what grounds, having regard to the undertaking given on 20th June, 1917, by the Chancellor of the Exchequer on behalf of the Prime Minister that orders had been given that henceforward all alien enemies shall cease to be members of any British Order of Chivalry to which they belonged before the War, there has been no public announcement of removal of enemy aliens from these Orders; have any enemy aliens been removed in consonance with that undertaking, and, if so, how many and what is the number of alien enemies removed from each order of knighthood, respectively, and the dates of such removals; and, if such removals have taken place, on what ground is the expulsion of an unworthy member who is unconnected with Royal families made a subject of notoriety while the expulsion of enemy princes is effected in secrecy?
Mr. BONAR LAW
The answer to the first part of the question is in the affirmative, and, as regards the second part, the reply which I gave to the hon. and learned Member on 20th June last year was a public announcement. The information asked for in the last part of the question will take some time to collate, but as soon as the list is compiled it will be published. As regards the last part of the question, the officer referred to was a British subject, a full as distinct from an honorary member of the Order of the Bath and within the jurisdiction. The Sovereign was, therefore, able to remove him in the usual way.
Why is not some public notification given of the names of the persons in the same way as in the case of British subjects? Why are German names sheltered at the expense of British subjects?
Mr. BONAR LAW
Apparently the hon. Member did not hear my answer. I am told that it is difficult to find out who they all arc, but as soon as the names are known they will be published.
Sir R. COOPER
Will the right hon. Gentleman answer the part of the question which asks if any enemy aliens have already been removed?
Mr. BONAR LAW
The hon. Member has evidently not followed this controversy like the hon. Member for Donegal (Mr. MacNeill). The public announcement is that they are automatically removed.
Review Of Naturalisation Certificates (Committee)
Sir R. COOPER
asked the Prime Minister if the Committee recently appointed to review certificates of naturalisation is a purely Advisory Committee, or does he intend to give it executive power?
The SECRETARY of STATE for the HOME DEPARTMENT (Sir George Cave)
My right hon. Friend has asked me to reply to this question. This Committee has not yet been appointed, but will be appointed as soon as the British Nationality and Status of Aliens Bill becomes law. Its functions are defined by the Bill.
Sir R. COOPER
Will they be advisory only or will they have any executive power?
Sir G. CAVE
My hon. Friend can judge of that as well as I can from the Bill. To some extent they will simply inquire and report, but to a great extent their report will be binding.
Have the Government taken into consideration the suggestion of Lord Beresford that Mr. Justice Sankey's Committee should be wiped out of existence as unworthy of confidence?
Sir G. CAVE
No, there is no question of the kind.
Lord Beresford proposed it last night at the Albert Hall.
Sir R. COOPER
asked the Prime Minister if he will call for a Report from the Naval Intelligence Department on the state of prohibited areas and the reason why so many persons of enemy origin still reside therein?
Mr. BONAR LAW
I am informed that the competent naval and military authority has complete power under the Defence of the Realm Regulations to deal with any person residing in a prohibited area and that this power is fully used by him.
Sir R. COOPER
Would the right hon. Gentleman call for a confidential report for his own guidance, in order that he may understand why these authorities are unable properly to exercise the powers which they wish to exercise and may remedy the defect?
Mr. BONAR LAW
Why does the hon. Member say that they are unable to exercise them? I know, although I was not present, that, as a matter of fact, the Prime Minister discussed this question some time ago with the naval and military authorities, and I have every reason to believe that both he and they were satisfied with the powers.
Sir R. COOPER
If I may, I will send to the right hon. Gentleman copies of confidential papers which will prove that there are people residing in prohibited areas whom the naval authorities would like to remove, and that so far they have not been able to do so.
Mr. BONAR LAW
I shall be very glad to receive them, but I am rather sceptical.
Is it not a fact that the naval and military authorities can only make recommendations to the Home Office, and that it is for the Home Office to accept or reject their recommendations?
Mr. BONAR LAW
I do not know what the technical powers may be, but I know that both the naval and military authorities always exercise the authority.
They can only make recommendations; they have no authority.
asked the Prime Minister whether the Committee recently set up to investigate the non-internment of enemy subjects contains no member acquainted with the East End of London, although there are more enemy subjects and aliens in that part of the Metropolis than in any other part of the United Kingdom; and will he add to the Committee a member with experience of the East End?
Sir G. CAVE
My right hon. Friend has asked me to reply to this question. I believe that the facts are as stated in the question, but I do not think it necessary to add to the Committee a member with experience of the East End of London. The Committee deals with alien enemies only and not with other aliens.
S Oppenheimer And Company, Limited
asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he will make inquiries about S. Oppenheimer and Company, 47, St. John Street. Smith-field, a firm of alien enemy origin who largely control the ring of firms that were employed in the exporting to Germany from this country of goldbeaters' skins; can he ascertain if about the year 1901 Mr. Louis Oppenheimer, who has left this country, was discovered by the Inland Revenue authorities to have defrauded the Inland Revenue of a large sum by falsification of Income Tax returns over a series of years; is it intended to wind up this firm; and will Mr. Louis Oppenheimer be allowed to return to this country at the conclusion of hostilities?
Sir A. STANLEY
Inquiry into the business of S. Oppenheimer and Company, Limited, showed that nearly all the shares were held by persons of enemy origin who are citizens of the United States. Mr. Louis Oppenheimer, the previous manager of the business in London, became a naturalised citizen of the United States more than thirty years ago. There is no ground on which the business can be wound up by the Board of Trade, and they have no information as to Mr. Oppenheimer's Income Tax returns.
Would the right hon. Gentleman make inquiries of the Inland Revenue authorities to find out the enormous sums this man did default for?
Sir A. STANLEY
I do not know that any good purpose would be served by my making that sort of inquiry.
asked the Prime Minister whether his attention has been drawn to the cases of town leaseholders, both shopkeepers and householders, whose leases have come or are coming to an end during the war years, in which the freeholders are claiming the full measure of repairs from the leaseholders, and that in many cases, owing to the shortage of labour and material, it is impossible to carry out these repairs; and whether, under these special circumstances caused by the War, the Government will consider the advisability of taking some action to afford these leaseholders relief either by extending the period of the existing leases or holding over all repairs until a reasonable time after the conclusion of peace?
Mr. BONAR LAW
The answer to the first part of the question is in the affirmative. The Law Officers advise that legislation would be required and this could not be introduced before the Recess. I shall, however, carefully consider the possibility of bringing in a Bill to deal with the hardship referred to after the House reassembles.
Does the right hon. Gentleman propose to include Ireland in this measure?
Mr. BONAR LAW
I shall require notice of that question.
Temporary Civil Servants (Ex-Officers And Men)
asked the Prime Minister whether anxiety exists among the ex-officers and men who are holding temporary positions as Civil servants in the various Government Departments as to their status upon demobilisation; and whether, in view of their general feeling of insecurity, he can offer an assurance that the claims of these ex-officers and men to subsequent permanent Government employment will be considered before those of other temporary Civil servants?
Mr. BONAR LAW
The whole question of recruitment for the Service after the War is now being examined, and my hon. and gallant Friend may be assured that the claims of those who have rendered service with the forces will receive the most sympathetic consideration.
Australia (Prime Minister's Speeches)
Mr. P. HARRIS
asked the Prime Minister whether the Prime Minister of the Commonwealth of Australia is the guest of His Majesty's Government?
Mr. BONAR LAW
The answer is in the affirmative.
May I ask whether it is consonant with the position of a guest of His Majesty's Government to make offensive speeches relative to political matters?
The hon. Member must give notice of that question.
War Anniversary (Prime Minister's Message)
Mr. SWIFT MacNEILL
asked the Prime Minister whether he will address, in the words of the announcement, an important message to the British people which is to be dispatched in a sealed envelope to the proprietor of every theatre, music hall, concert hall, and picture hall in the country, the idea being that at nine o'clock in the evening of 5th August the seal of the envelope be broken publicly on the stage and the message read to the assembled audience; why should the audiences in theatres and music halls have a precedence in being informed of this message, having regard to the fact that tens of thousands of people plunged in sorrow at the death in this War of near and beloved relatives have no inclination to frequent places of public amusement, and why should the contents of the message be in the possession of theatre and music hall audiences for hours before it will become known to the public in the morning newspapers; in music halls, where there are two performances nightly, will care be taken that the message be read, for the encouragement of early hours, to the audiences of the early as well as at the late performances; whether there is any and, if so, what precedent for this novel method of publishing an important announcement; and whether he will consider the propriety of describing this unique communication by some other term than message, that word being usually used in public documents for communications signed by a Secretary of State from the Sovereign to his people, for communications from one House of Parliament to the other, and for official communications from the President of the United States to Congress?
Captain GUEST (Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasury)
I have been asked to reply to this question, as Chairman of the War Aims Committee. I must apologise for the length of the reply, though it is no longer than the question to which it refers. The answer to the first part of the question is in the affirmative. The scheme was specially designed to reach those who normally frequent places of entertainment, and not to draw audiences. In response to many urgent requests, it has been arranged to communicate the message also to the chairman of all fêtes, sports, and other public gatherings, organised for public and patriotic purposes, which have an evening programme. The message will be conveyed to the Press at the same time, and an opportunity will be thereby afforded for its notice and comments on the following day. The message will be read at all evening entertainments. With regard to the latter part of the question, it is admitted that the method is novel, and it is hoped that a corresponding advantage will thereby be obtained. As regards the use of the English word "message," while realising that that expression is in use in the manner described in the question, the Committee could find no statutory or Parliamentary embargo on its adoption in this case, and were of opinion that its simplicity of meaning commended its use.
Is there any intention of the Prime Minister appearing at any of these music halls, either at the first or second performance?
Pottery Works, North Staffordshire (Coal Supply)
asked the Prime Minister whether his attention has been called to the closing down of pottery works in North Staffordshire owing to lack of coal due to the combing out of miners for the Army; and will he take steps to secure an adequate labour force for the maintenance of this staple British industry in view of the fact that America has 20,000,000 men of military age anxious to make the world safe for democracy?
Sir A. STANLEY
The Prime Minister has asked me to answer this question. The shortage of coal in the potteries in Staffordshire at the present time is not only due to the comb out of miners, but to the unfortunate influenza epidemic which has raged during the last month; and while it is hoped that an improvement in the output will now take place, it will still be necessary to ration the pottery industry, and the Controller of Coal Mines has agreed with the National Council of the pottery industry that this body should undertake the rationing on his behalf within the limits of the amount of coal which it is possible to allot to the industry. Every effort will be made to avoid unduly interfering with the industry.
Will my right hon. Friend see, in allotting a certain amount of coal to the Staffordshire industry, that they are given priority in the pits in the district?
Sir A. STANLEY
No; I could not undertake to give any such promise. We have to have regard to the needs of the country as a whole. We could not allot output of any particular mines to the area in which the mines are situated.
Does the right hon. Gentleman understand that it is important that we should get the coal and not be given a certain ration which it is impossible to supply to us?
Sir A. STANLEY
I think it may be accepted that if the Coal Controller does give a particular ration for this industry, he will take steps to see that the coal is provided.
Income Tax (Allowance In Lieu Of Rations)
asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether he can now make any statement as to the exemption from assessment to Income Tax of naval and military allowances in lieu of rations?
Mr. BONAR LAW
I have looked carefully into this matter and have come to the conclusion that the practice for the Navy and the Air Force may be assimilated to that which at present obtains for the Army. Broadly, the effect will be that where members of the naval, military or air forces receive pecuniary allowances in lieu of fuel and light, and rations to which they are entitled in kind, Income Tax will not be charged upon such pecuniary allowances. Lodging allowances will similarly be relieved except in the case of officers holding appointments for a fixed or practically fixed term.
Will it be necessary to have a Bill or can it be done by administrative means?
Mr. BONAR LAW
I have looked into it. It is doubtful whether legislation is needed. In the meantime we will do it, and, if necessary, it will be included in next year's Finance Bill?
May we assume from the right hon. Gentle-man's reply that the Income Tax is not due on these allowances for the current Income Tax year?
Mr. BONAR LAW
Yes; that is my intention.
Liverpool Post Office
asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer if his attention has been drawn to a petition from the retired postal and telegraph officials, formerly of the Liverpool Post Office; and, if so, can he see his way to take their representation into favourable consideration?
Mr. BALDWIN (Joint Financial Secretary to the Treasury)
The answer to the first parts of the question is in the affirmative. I am afraid that I can add nothing to the answers given on several occasions to questions relating to proposals for increase of superannuation allowances to members of the Civil Service.
Old Age Pensions
Sir B. FALLE
asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer if pensioners who are not receiving more than £26 pension and are eligible for an old age pension are allowed to earn a further sum not exceeding 30s. per week and still receive an old age pension; and if he can see his way to grant an old age pension to all pensioners of seventy-five or eighty years of age who are unable to work in receipt of a pension not exceeding £52 per annum?
The answer to both parts of the question is in the negative. Under the Old Age Pension Acts the legal limit for a pension is an income of £31 10s. from all sources as estimated under those Acts, and nobody in receipt of an income above that figure is entitled to a pension.
Can my hon. Friend explain why the Treasury allow people in receipt of an old age pension to earn this further wage up to 30s. and refuse to give to people who may be in receipt of Army allowances the old age pension to which otherwise they would be entitled?
I have answered that question very often. In the case of men already in receipt of a pension it is possible, by straining the law, to let that allowance be given, but in the case of the payment of an old age pension it is impossible to give that consideration without breaking the law, and fresh legislation would be necessary.
Would it not be possible to introduce a small non-contentious measure to remedy this matter—there would be no dispute about it at all?
Civil Service (Joint Standing Councils)
Sir WILLIAM COLLINS
asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether his attention has been called to the recommendations contained in paragraph 25 of the Fourth Report of the Royal Commission on the Civil Service, 1914 [Cd. 7338], in reference to the right of Civil servants to join trade unions and associations, the recognition of such associations, and their affiliation to a political party; whether any action has been taken in regard to these recommendations; and whether they will be considered by the Interdepartmental Committee which is about to consider the applicability of the principle of establishing joint standing councils to the case of the Civil Service?
Mr. BONAR LAW
The Interdepartmental Committee will no doubt consider the recommendations referred to so far as they are strictly relevant to the inquiry.
Sir W. COLLINS
Does not the right hon. Gentleman realise that the questions raised in the Report of the Royal Commission on the Civil Service lie at the root of the problem of applying the principle of standing joint councils?
Mr. BONAR LAW
Yes; I do realise it, but, as my hon. Friend knows, this is a Committee composed entirely of Ministers, and they will naturally deal with the whole subject so far as it is necessary to do so.
Railway Packing Regulations
asked the President of the Board of Trade whether his attention has been called to the fact that, notwithstanding the appeals to traders to dispense as far as possible with the use of timber for cases and containers for goods, complaints have been made to his Department that the railway companies are charging double rates on goods sent in packages instead of in cases as formerly, and, in addition, insisting on such traffic being consigned at owner's risk conditions; and whether, in view of the necessity for reducing the traffic on the railways by avoiding the return of empty cases and of the shortage of timber, he will make representations to the railway companies on the desirability of relaxing their requirements for packing goods in wooden cases, and that such goods if sent at owner's risk should be charged the same rates as when sent in cases?
Sir A. STANLEY
The only general alteration made by the railway companies in their packing regulations in recent years is, I think, that made in 1916, when, having regard to the shortage of timber referred to in the question, they agreed to accept traffic consigned in reliable fibre-board packages. I am aware that, in accordance with the provisions of the classification, certain articles consigned unpacked or lightly packed are charged at higher rates than if they had been more substantially packed, but I cannot undertake to ask the railway companies to reduce the charges in such cases or to accept at company's risk articles which, owing to insufficient packing, cannot safely be conveyed by rail.
Patents (British Subjects In Germany)
Sir F. HALL
asked the President of the Board of Trade whether any, and, if so, how many, patents have been taken out by British subjects in Germany since the commencement of the War; if not, whether any application has been made to take out such patents; what attitude has been adopted by the German Government in the matter; whether all outstanding enemy patent rights in this country which were alive at the outbreak of hostilities have been voided; and whether, under the licences, if any, which have been issued to Germans since the War, patent fees will have to be paid for the use of patents in this country?
Sir A. STANLEY
According to the information available to the Board no patents have been taken out by British subjects in Germany since the commencement of the War, but numerous applications for patents have been made in Germany by British subjects under the licence issued by the Board which has recently been rescinded. There are no official statistics showing the exact number. The German Government followed the practice of the British Government in allowing applications for patent rights to be recorded, but refusing the grant of a patent on such applications. Enemy patent rights existing in this country on the outbreak of war were not voided as a whole, but the Board of Trade took powers to suspend or void any such patents or to grant licences to British subjects thereunder on the application of any person interested. No licences have been issued to Germans under these powers, but in the case of licences issued to British subjects royalties have been fixed in the majority of eases payable to the Public Trustee.
Railway Season Tickets
asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he is aware how many places are similarly situated to Romford that, although over 12 miles, only the 10 per cent. increase is charged on the railway season tickets; and can he state the places?
Sir A. STANLEY
The arrangement that, where the distance travelled is only just over 12 miles, the 10 per cent. increase should not apply, is not confined to Romford, and is applicable to any other places similarly situated, but I cannot say how many places are so situated.
Can the right hon. Gentleman give some indication of the distance over 12 miles that is allowed in order to exempt the place from the 20 per cent. and put it under the 10 per cent. increase?
Sir A. STANLEY
I do not think there is any arbitrary distance fixed. I think that considerations as to the local circumstances guide the Committee.
In view of the anomaly that now exists, will the right hon. Gentleman consider the advisability of extending the area in which the 10 per cent. applies to the residential portions?
Sir A. STANLEY
I really think it would be a great mistake to reopen this question.
Post Office Pensioners (War Bonus)
Mr. EVELYN CECIL
asked the Postmaster-General whether, bearing in mind the increased cost of living and the principle accepted by Parliament in augmenting payments to old age pensioners, he can see his way to sanction a war bonus, at any rate, to the lower-pensioned officers of His Majesty's Post Office service?
The POSTMASTER-GENERAL (Mr. Illingworth)
As I have previously stated, Post Office pensioners are in the same position as other retired Civil servants, and I am not in a position to take independent action in the matter.
Royal Dockyards (Soldiers)
Sir B. FALLE
asked the Minister of Munitions, if he is aware that many soldiers have been placed in Class W for the purpose of working in shipbuilding yards and such men have asked to be sent to yards near their homes; that there are several such who were formerly in Portsmouth Dockyard, but that their request to be employed near home has been refused; and if he can give any reason for this, and if he will have the men's requests favourably considered?
I have been asked to answer this question. The answer to the first part of the question is in the affirmative. As regards the second part, I may inform my hon. and gallant Friend that a considerable number of men nave resumed their employment in Portsmouth and in other dockyards, and naturally men who have left their employment for military service are taken back into their civil employment at the same dockyard if vacancies offer themselves. But it may happen that the need for the services of certain men is considered more pressing elsewhere, and in that case they would not be sent to the dockyard from which they came.
London Hospital Nurses
asked the President of the Board of Education whether nurses trained in the London Hospital have been appointed to any posts under the jurisdiction of the Board?
Before asking this question, may I ask, on a point of Order, why the following words were deleted from the question: "Whether he is aware that nurses at the London Hospital are taken from their training in the wards and sent out to do private nursing at the end of their second year, receiving 13s. per week, while the hospital draws not less than 29s. per week profit from their earnings; and whether he will see that no nurses are appointed from hospitals that exploit their nurses in this way"—with those words deleted the question is meaningless?
The words were deleted because they were in the nature of giving, not asking, information to a Department which could not possibly have it, and was not responsible for it.
The point was whether, if they possessed that information in regard to the London Hospital nurses, would they not refuse to appoint nurses who were exploited in this way and who were taken from their training in the wards at the end of their second year, depriving them of the amount of training which they should get in their third year, but which was denied to them in order that they might earn money for the hospital.
The Board of Education has no control over the training of nurses at the London or any other hospital.
Sir C. HENRY
Is an hon. Member permitted to make statements in a question, and then repeat them, which are entirely inaccurate?
I was very anxious to satisfy the hon. Member. He was dissatisfied with the action I took. I was trying to show him the reason for the action I had taken.
May I ask the question in this form—
In the form on the Paper.
My right hon. Friend has no information which would enable him to answer this question.
asked the President of the Local Government Board whether his attention has been called to the recent rise in rates for the borough of Stoke-on-Trent, making the rates for the constituent borough of Hanley the highest in England; and, in view of the fact that the policy of the Government as regards production and distribution of coal is leading to the closing down of the pottery industry, will he consider the granting of a special subvention in relief of the rates for the borough of Hanley?
I do not find that my attention has been called to this matter. If any application were to be made for a subvention it would have to be made to the Treasury.
Will the right hon. Gentle-man, at any rate, point out to the Coal Controller that the rates in this borough have now reached close on 13s. in the £, and if this industry is further closed down it will be impossible to carry on municipal government?
The hon. Member is as capable of pointing that out to the Coal Controller as I am.
Does the Coal Controller know the conditions relating to local government which exist in the Potteries district and in the borough of Hanley?
London Aeroplane Works (Dismissal)
Sir F. HALL
asked the Minister of Munitions if he is in a position to state whether full inquiry has been made into the action of an employé at a London aeroplane works who was dismissed by his employers for ceasing work during a busy period of the day for the purpose of holding a meeting, in consequence of which the Government has taken over the factory in question; and what was the result of the inquiry?
The PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY to the MINISTRY of MUNITIONS (Mr. Kellaway)
As I stated yesterday in reply to a question by my hon. Friend the Member for Pembroke, this matter is under consideration with both sides. In the circumstances I should be obliged if my hon. Friend will ask his question in a week's time.
asked the Minister of Munitions whether his Department can take any steps to meet the unemployment in the Potteries district, consequent on the cutting off of the coal supply, by giving that district the benefit of any new war work?
Whilst I shall be glad to do anything possible to meet the desire of my hon. and gallant Friend, and will see if any arrangements can be made, I am bound to point out that, in placing munitions contracts, the governing consideration must be reliability and rapidity of supply.
If any new processes have to come before the Ministry, involving new manufactures, will my hon. Friend remember that this district has been starving and is suffering very severely at present from unemployment?
Certainly I will consider all the considerations which are proper to be considered.
asked the Minister of Munitions whether any of the money to be spent in connection with the extraction of oil from coal is being spent in North Staffordshire, in view of the unemployment in the district caused by the cutting off of the coal supplies and of the suitability of the coal?
The question of dealing with North Staffordshire cannel is under consideration. I would however, point out that the scheme, which is for the utilisation of cannel at gasworks, does not involve the employment of additional labour in the process of car-bonisation, and to that extent it would not be of assistance in relieving unemployment.
Education Authorities (Administrative Staffs)
Mr. LESLIE SCOTT
asked the President of the Board of Education if it is his intention to include in the proposed Bill to provide for the superannuation of secondary school teachers provisions for the superannuation of the members of the administrative staffs of education authorities, for whom no such provision is otherwise available?
The PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY to the BOARD of EDUCATION (Mr. Herbert Lewis)
The answer is in the negative, but my right hon. Friend is in communication with the President of the Local Government Board on the matter.
Sixth Report of the Select Committee brought up, and read; Report to lie upon the Table, and to be printed. [No. 97.]
Seventh Report of the Select Committee (Form of Public Accounts) brought up, and read; Report to lie upon the Table, and to be printed. [No. 98.]
IRISH LAND (PROVISION FOR SAILORS AND SOLDIERS) BILL,—"to facilitate the provision of land in Ireland for men who have served in the Naval, Military, or Air Forces of the Crown in the present War, and for other purposes incidental thereto," presented by Mr. SHORTT; supported by the Attorney-General for Ireland; to be read a second time To-morrow, and to be printed. [Bill 81.]
Orders Of The Day
Business Of The House
Mr. BONAR LAW
I beg to move, "That, as respects this day's Sitting, paragraph 8 of Standing Order No. 15 shall have effect as if Eleven of the clock were substituted therein for Ten of the clock; and that Government Business be not interrupted under the Standing Order (Sittings of the House), and may be entered upon at any hour although opposed."
What does the Government propose to take to-night?
Mr. BONAR LAW
We propose to take only the Second Reading of the Public Health (Borrowing Powers) (Ireland) Bill.
Seeing that the Board of Trade Vote is to be devoted to the policy of the Coal Controller, and will occupy a considerable time, will the right hon. Gentleman see that the Foreign Office Vote, which follows, and on which a discussion has long been promised, is not crowded out?
Mr. BONAR LAW
I hope it will be possible for an arrangement to be come to. The hon. Member knows I have no power in the matter.
Question put, and agreed to.
Supply—20Th Allotted Day
Civil Services And Revenue Departments Estimates, 1918–19, And Supplementary Estimates, 1918–19
1. "That a sum, not exceeding £180,253, be granted to His Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1919, for the Salaries and Expenses of the Office of the Committee of Privy Council for Trade and Subordinate Departments."
2. "That a sum, not exceeding £35,547, be granted to His Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1919, for the Salaries and Expenses of the Department of His Majesty's Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs."
3. "That a sum, not exceeding £31,626, be granted to His Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1919, for the Salaries and Expenses of the Department of His Majesty's Secretary of State for the Colonies, including a Grant-in-Aid of certain Expenses connected with Emigration."
Navy Estimates, 1918–19
4. "That a sum, not exceeding £1,000, be granted to His Majesty, to defray the Expense of the Personnel for Shipbuilding, Repairs, Maintenance, etc., at Dockyards and Naval Yards at Home and Abroad, which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1919."
5. "That a sum, not exceeding £1,000, be granted to His Majesty, to defray the Expense of the Material for Shipbuilding, Repairs, Maintenance, etc., at Dockyards and Naval Yards at Home and Abroad, which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1919."
6. "That a sum, not exceeding £1,000, be granted to His Majesty, to defray the Expense of the Contract Work for Shipbuilding, Repairs, etc., which will come in course of paying during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1919.
Civil Services And Revenue Departments Estimates, 1918–19, And Supplementary Estimates, 1918–19
7. "That a sum, not exceeding £650,000 (including a Supplementary sum of £500,000), be granted to His Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1919, for His Majesty's Foreign and other Secret Services."
Civil Services And Revenue Departments Estimates, 1918–19
8. "That a sum, not exceeding £598,298, be granted to His Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1919, for Expenditure in respect of the Services included in Class I. of the Estimates for Civil Services."
[ For Services included in this Class, see OFFICIAL REPORT, 30 th July, 1918, Cols. 388–389.]
9. "That a sum, not exceeding £1,443,763, be granted to His Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1919, for Expenditure in respect of the Services included in Class II. of the Estimates for Civil Services."
[ For Services included in this Class, see OFFICIAL REPORT, 30 th July, 1918, Cols. 389–390.]
10. "That a sum, not exceeding £2,606,450, he granted to His Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1919, for Expenditure in respect of the Services included in Class III, of the Estimates for Civil Services."
[ For Services included in this Class, see OFFICIAL REPORT, 30 th July, 1918, Cols. 390–391.]
11. "That a sum, not exceeding £14,715,028, be granted to His Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1919, for Expenditure in respect of the Services included in Class IV. of the Estimates for Civil Services."
[ For Services included in this Class, see OFFICIAL REPORT, 30 th July, 1918, Cols. 391–392.]
12. "That a sum, not exceeding £807,421, be granted to His Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1919, for Expenditure in respect of the Services included in Class V. of the Estimates for Civil Services."
[ For Services included in this Class, see OFFICIAL REPORT, 30 th July, 1918, Col. 392.]
13. "That a sum, not exceeding £821,526, be granted to His Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1919, for Expenditure in respect of the Services included in Class VI. of the Estimates for Civil Services."
[ For Services included in this Class, see OFFICIAL REPORT, 30 th July, 1918, Col. 392.]
14. "That a sum, not exceeding £13,502,189, be granted to His Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1919, for Expenditure in respect of the Services included in Class VII. of the Estimates for Civil Services."
[ For Services included in this Class, see OFFICIAL REPORT, 30 th July, 1918, Col. 393.]
Ministry Of Munitions
15. "That a sum, not exceeding £900, be granted to His Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1919, for the Expenses of the Ministry of Munitions."
Ministry Of Munitions (Ordnance Factories)
16. "That a sum, not exceeding £90, be granted to His Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1919, for Expenditure in respect of the Services included in the Estimates for the Ministry of Munitions."
Ministry Of Shipping
17. "That a sum, not exceeding £900, be granted to His Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1919, for Expenditure in respect of the Services included in the Estimate for the Ministry of Shipping."
Ministry Of National Service
18. "That a sum, not exceeding £900, be granted to His Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1919, for Expenditure in respect of the Services included in the Estimate for the Ministry of National Service."
Ministry Of Reconstruction
19. "That a sum, not exceeding £900, be granted to His Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1919, for the Salaries and Expenses of the Ministry of Reconstruction."
National War Aims Committee
20. "That a sum, not exceeding £900, be granted to His Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1919, for the Salaries and Expenses of the National War Aims Committee."
Ministry Of Blockade
21. "That a sum, not exceeding £1,000, be granted to His Majesty, to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1919, for the Salaries and Expenses of the Ministry of Blockade."
Navy Estimates, 1918–19
22. "That a sum, not exceeding £13,000, be granted to His Majesty, to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1919, for Expenditure in respect of the Navy Services."
[ For Services herein included, see OFFICIAL REPORT, 30 th July, 1918, Col. 395.]
Army Estimates, 1918–19
23. "That a sum, not exceeding £14,000, be granted to His Majesty, to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1919, for Expenditure in respect of the Army Services."
[ For Services herein included, see OFFICIAL REPORT, 30 th July, 1918, Cols. 395–396.]
Revenue Departments Estimates, 1918–19
24. "That a sum, not exceeding £3,023,278, be granted to His Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1919, for Expenditure in respect of the Services included in the Estimates for Revenue Departments."
[ For Services herein included, see OFFICIAL REPORT, 30 th July, 1918, Col. 396.]
Resolution 1 read a second time.
Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House doth agree with the Committee in the said Resolution.
Fuel And Lighting Order
Sir J. WALTON
I rise to deal with the question of the policy pursued by the Coal Controller. An Order has recently been issued which, in my judgment, imposes very unnecessary and severe restrictions on coal consumers, and will vitally affect the comfort of people in every household in the country. The grounds upon which this new Coal Order has been issued certainly require some very considerable explanation, which we have not yet had, if it is to be in the slightest degree justified, because the fact is that there is no real shortage of coal. It is true that numbers of patriotic pitmen have recently been called to the Colours, but it is also a fact that many collieries are only working three and four days per week, and if by the Coal Controller's organised power of action they were enabled to work full time there would be no shortage of coal, and there would be no reason to pass the new Order, which will cause people in every household in the next winter to be half starved.If even in the present working time the Coal Controller had not imposed the most needlessly hampering restrictions and Regulations, the output to-day would be much more than it is. If the Coal Controller would only leave the coal-owners to have the unfettered management of the collieries that result would be achieved. If the Coal Controller's efforts were devoted to increasing the production of coal rather than enforcing compulsorily large reductions in consumption, he would do better, and it would be for the welfare and the comfort of the whole nation. If the new Coal Order is not considerably modified, the outlook for next winter is alarming. It is absolutely certain that unless the people are not living in properly warmed homes certain diseases will prevail next winter to a degree that may create the gravest discontent throughout the whole country. Not only that, but we know—medical men tell us—that if we keep ourselves thoroughly warm our need for food consumption is considerably lessened. The result of this drastic cutting down in the supplies of coal to warm the homes of the people will mean considerable increase in the consumption of food. I believe that this Order, if it is proceeded with in its present form, will cause such an outburst of discontent throughout the country when the next winter arrives as will weaken the spirit of the nation in the prosecution of the War more than any hardships that we have been called upon to submit to so far. The whole difficulty would be met if the Coal Controller, who has great knowledge of the working and management of railways, would devote that knowledge and experience to the more rapid transit of coal from the collieries to the consumer, the speedier emptying of the coal when it arrives at its destination, and the more rapid return of the trucks to the collieries to be reloaded. That would solve this very serious problem, and would tend much more to the content and comfort of the people than would the new Coal Order, which will accomplish nothing in the direction required. When you travel the country you see railway sidings chock-full of empty wagons, which stand there for days on end unmoved. Is it due to the scarcity of locomotives? Does that scarcity stand in the way of bringing larger coal supplies to the consumers for carrying on industries and supplying household needs? If that is so, there is need for more drastic cutting down of railway travelling on the part of the public who can quite well stay at home, and the issue of tickets ought to be limited to those who have a real necessity to make a journey. The locomotive power so saved could be used to bring what is much more necessary to the comfort of the people, namely, an ample supply of coal. Although very often the number of trains has been cut down, it is a usual thing to run two trains or one train in two sections. Therefore, it is not true to say that the number of trains have been drastically cut down. This question of having ample and proper supplies of coal on the grounds I have indicated is of the greatest possible importance to the people of this country. We know that a great number of men have been taken out of the coal-fields, and we know that those who are left are not equal in point of power to produce coal as those who have been taken. So long as we have many collieries working short time, and so long as we have too little attention paid to organising the transport of coal to keep these collieries working full time, I think the Coal Controller misses the most vital point in connection with this very serious problem. There is no new Department that has been created in connection with this War that will be so unlikely to last after the War as the Department of the Coal Controller, because of the policy that is being pursued. I will not say the spirit in which it is being pursued, because I believe the intention of the Coal Controller is not to make himself obnoxious to the manufacturers and those engaged in industries and to the whole nation. There is an absolute mistake in his policy, and what I am anxious to press for is a change of policy, so that the hardship that will be felt throughout the whole country next winter under the Coal Order will be averted. The chief mistake was made in passing this Coal Control Bill at all. I supported it, but not in order to bring greater financial means to the colliery owners, because we had the Coal Crisis Limitation Act, which was quite sufficient to prevent an undue rise in the price to the consumers. What is our experience since the Coal Controller took possession of the collieries of this country? The price of coal has been raised to the consumer over and over again. The Coal Limitation of Prices Act allowed an increased charge to be made of 4s. per ton, which did not cover the increased cost, largely caused by the Government not having commandeered the forests of the country in order to supply the collieries with timber at reasonable prices. This fact and the increased cost of everything that is needed in collieries meant that the 4s. increase allowed by the Limitation of Prices Act did not meet the increased cost. Since the Controller came into possession we have had rises of 2s. 6d., 1s. 6d., and a further 2s. 6d. Altogether the increase has been 10s. 6d. per ton. 4.0 P.M. I understand—I shall be glad to be corrected if I am wrong—that the colliery owners have, in fact, put 10s. 6d. on their pre-war prices for the coal supplied to the poorest of the poor, and out of that 10s. 6d., 4s. 6d. per ton has to be credited to the Coal Control Department, and handed over by the colliery owners to the Coal Controller. Warnings were given in this House that this Coal Control Bill would entail a very serious financial responsibility on the general body of taxpayers throughout the country. We got, as a concession, the undertaking that whatever was necessary to be paid in compensation under the Coal Control Bill should not be taken out of any money included in the Votes of Credit, but that it should be provided for in a financial Resolution of this House. But if the Coal Controller is to be at liberty to impose upon the colliery owners the obligation of paying 4s. per ton to the Coal Control Department, I question whether that is at all properly carrying out the undertaking given to the House when the Coal Control Bill was under consideration. I am not speaking in the financial interests of the coal trade; I am speaking solely in the national interest. I say it really would have been better for the consumers of coal, whether for household or for manufacturing purposes, if the management had been left to the unhampered discretion of the colliery owners who know what business is, and the people of this country to-day would not have been called upon to pay an increase of 10s. 6d. per ton over pre-war prices. I am absolutely certain that any hon. Member of this House if he were a colliery owner would realise the worries involved of all the vexatious restrictions and Regulations and complicated forms issued in multitudes from the Coal Control Office, which are sent to the coal-owner to fill up and answer, containing questions which it passes the wit of man to answer in many cases, and all this has to be done by the depleted staffs of the colliery offices—depleted through men having been patriotically encouraged to fight for their country. Still more we ought to bear in mind, the serious depletion of staffs in the accountants' offices, which renders it absolutely impossible to fill up these elaborate and complicated forms, and to meet demands for information, some of which cannot possibly be given and much of which is quite unnecessary. I say all this work ought not to be imposed on people working under war conditions or on any industry so vital to the people of the country. I am sure the Coal Controller must often realise this himself. I should like to know to what extent the staffs under the supervision of the Coal Controller have grown in numbers, and what expenditure is involved. Reverting to the question of the 4s. per ton which is added to the price to the consumer, does the Committee realise what it amounts to? If it applies to the whole reduced output of 200,000,000 tons a year, then it produces the gigantic sum of £40,000,000 a year, and this the general body of coal consumers in the country is to be asked for. And for what purpose? I am certain I can speak in the name of the whole body of colliery owners and say that they wished no such tax as 4s. per ton to be imposed on consumers for the purpose of compensating them. We did not ask for compensation. It is true we pay 11 or 15 per cent. over the 80 per cent. Excess Profits Duty paid by every other industry in the community, but that will only provide a fraction of the amount required to compensate collieries which are subjected to huge losses simply because of the maladministration of the Coal Control Department. That is a serious charge to make. But I happen to have been connected in almost every capacity with the coal trade for the last fifty years. I am, therefore, speaking not from hearsay, but from personal knowledge, and I declare unhesitatingly that if the Coal Control Bill had never been passed, the position in the country with regard to coal supplies would have been infinitely better to-day than it is under the administration of the Coal Control Department, and I am certain, too, that unless my right hon. Friend is able to announce a substantial modification in the new Coal Order, he will invoke a storm right throughout the country such as he little dreams of when the winter season arrives. A more absurd Order was, I believe, never made. I can honestly say that, in the matter of electric lighting, since the commencement of the War no single electric light has been used in my home an hour longer than has been absolutely necessary, and yet with the utmost care my consumption last year amounted to 1,087 units. I am told by the new Order that I am to reduce this consumption to 480 units, and I am to do that although I have subjected myself to great self-sacrifices personally. I had the unfortunate habit of reading in bed with an electric lamp at my side. That habit I have abandoned, and to be told after that great sacrifice that I consumed last year two and a half times too much electric light is perfect nonsense. With regard to coal consumption, so far as I can gather my allowance will be one-fourth of my usual consumption. That is a demand of a most extravagant character, and it is absolutely unjustifiable, There is nothing more vital than that we should have well-warmed, comfortable houses and be free from the hardship and inconvenience which this new Coal Order will entail upon us. It will be in the best interests of the country, and of having a nation absolutely united as one man in the successful prosecution of the War, that this Order should be withdrawn or substantially modified.
My hon. Friend who has just spoken is deeply interested in the coal trade, and speaks with great knowledge of its administration. To what he has said with regard to the finance of coal control I shall add nothing. I wish to direct the attention of the House to-day to the Order to which he was referring towards the end of his speech. The new Order called the Household Fuel and Lighting Order, 1918, strikes at the very root of our domestic comfort and efficiency, and it will have more to do with unrest, discomfort, and ill-health in the coming winter than any change which has been made by the Government since the beginning of the War. It is, therefore, of the greatest importance that this House, which is responsible for the comfort of our homes and the health of our constituents, should, before dispersing, discuss and examine the proposals which are now being made by the Government. I am not going to embark on any criticism of the coal control, except to say that, on the whole, I think it is quite apparent, from our experience of the last twelve months, that the control by the State of the ramifications of the coal trade has been something in the nature of a failure. It has failed with regard to the distribution of coal. It has failed with regard to the export of coal. It has failed with regard to the economical production of coal, and now apparently it is going to involve this country in the rigours of a winter without the requisite fuel with which to keep ourselves warm. The troubles that have come through the coal control may be a necessary incident of the War. I am prepared to admit that even in the production of fuel we must interfere with our efficiency, and that will, to a certain extent, involve our industries and our households in inconvenience, but it is the duty of the Government to reduce these shortages and that inconvenience by every means in their power, rather than to adhere to their idea of the best methods of dealing with the coal trade. Many of the complications and evils of the coal control have been known in business circles for some time past. There has been singularly little public complaint, but the Government must not think that because there has been so little complaint there is not good ground for complaint. One remarkable feature of the English nation during the War has been the proof that they will stand almost any discomforts and any misery rather than allow their complaints to interfere with the frame of mind which Ministers and Government Departments should possess for the prosecution of the War.But a time has arrived when the duty is incumbent on this House to make known some of the troubles and complications which have arisen from the over-centralisation of one of the most difficult and most complicated trades in the world. What has been known in business circles for some time past will shortly be known in every household. Let me, before dealing with the household discomforts, point to some of the effects of the coal control on our great industries. I take, first of all, the export trade. No one is more conscious than my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade of the enormous part which coal must play in obtaining supplies for this country and in maintaining our foreign exchange. It is of far more effect to us to export coal than to export gold for the purpose of maintaining our exchange, and the price at which this coal is exported is, of course, of the first importance in its effect on our foreign exchanges. What happened in the early days of the control in regard to our exports was, roughly, this: The prices at which the coal is exported were so favourable to neutrals that they were obtaining coal far more cheaply in this country than in the nearer country, Germany. We failed to put up our price to anything like the figure which the neutral should have been paying for necessary fuel, and—whether it was owing to representations of the Blockade Department or some other Department, I do not know—the Coal Controller's Department never allowed the price to approximate anything near to that which was the true open world value of the commodity which we were exporting, and to that extent they affected our foreign exchange in every one of the neutral European countries. I noticed in the Press to-day an announcement that coal is being exported from Germany to Holland under an agreement which has just been made at prices varying from £3 10s. to £4 10s. per ton. If that is the price of coal which Germany can obtain in Holland why should the price which we have obtained in Holland rule at a lower level? Moreover we have been embarrassed in this country by the lowness of the price which has been charged. There has been some recent improvement, but it is nothing like as high a figure as it should be. But we have been embarrassed also by an accumulation of small coal. When you mention to the outside public that there is too much small coal in the country, they do not realise how much that may impede our coal production, and the amount of trouble which it gives to everybody connected with the industry. Moreover, if they notice how much small coal there is upon the lines in many of the dump heaps they would wonder why on earth they should be subject to the restrictions of this household regulation. Why should the Coal Controller not have arranged that every neutral who wished to ship large coal from our ports should be compelled to take a certain proportion of small coal with it? To make my suggestion clear, why, for instance, when steam coal is taken from the Tyne, and shipped to the Dutchman, Dane or Norwegian at 75s. a ton, should they not be compelled to take 50 per cent. small coal? That in itself would have relieved the pressure on our lines. It would have meant a much more even distribution of the coal in our own home industries, while at the same time helping our foreign exchanges and also reduced the hardship which our householders will have to face. This all has a bearing on the household supplies, for every obstacle of that kind adds to the difficulty of the householder. On the question of shipments. Owing to the semi-watertight arrangement under which coal is now distributed, and the prohibition against sending over the purely arbitrary boundaries of our counties, and to certain very severe restrictions, a great deal of the natural buying of our consuming industries has been closed down, and that natural buying has been diverted into purely unnatural economic channels, and these quotas of collieries, which are the counterpart of this semi-watertight arrangement, have meant that large numbers of vessels which ought to be able to obtain their coal supply for export or bunkering purposes with the greatest ease and facility are now compelled, under the quota arrangement, to move about from spout to spout in our various coal ports or from dock to dock, or to wait a considerable time to obtain the necessary coal which in ordinary normal cases would have come freely down the spouts in the ordinary commercial transactions. The sort of thing which was brought to my notice yesterday may be exemplified by two instances which occurred on the Tyne. A vessel requires bunkers from one of the spouts on the Tyne. Coal from only one colliery arrives there, and when the vessel arrives it is discovered that the whole quota that was permitted from that colliery had disappeared down the spout into another vessel immediately before. In normal times there would have been no embargo on the output of other collieries. The bunkers could have been obtained, and the vessel could have proceeded to sea with the least possible delay. Under the present arrangement, the quota having been exhausted the vessel had to move away down the river again to some other open spouts, and she has had to pick up odds and ends of coal as well as she can. During the whole of this time she is urgently required not only for mercantile marine purposes but also to relieve the pressure on small coal areas. I may give another case. A vessel requires her cargo to be made up from a number of collieries. Anybody knows that vessels as a rule do not get their coal entirely from one colliery, but that you may have the coal of half a dozen different mines aboard the vessel. The necessity of drawing from a large area of collieries is of the first importance if you are to have anything like great despatch. So far from that being the custom under the present administration, if the colliery is not the right one there may be hundreds of wagons lying on the sidings immediately behind the spouts whose contents in normal times by an ordinary commercial arrangement would find their way into the hold of the vessel. But the present arrangement means that the ship is kept waiting until the correct quota is obtained, and it is done not according to business and economic laws, but by the central administration for distribution to that vessel. I could give any number of cases of vessels delayed in our coal ports for days and sometimes for weeks, while that quota was coming forward not through the natural channels, but according to the ideas of those who are centralising the control of this great trade. This means a great loss to the consumer, to the nation, to the colliery, and to the coal control account, and it has also a direct effect upon the supply to our households. Every vessel that you put out of action tends naturally to reduce the amount of coal that can be forthcoming, say, for the Metropolitan consumer. It means that you reduce the amount of coal that can be taken away from our overcrowded railways, and it means that our collieries, instead of working every day in the week or five days in the week, in some districts are only working three or four days in the week. If vessels are kept waiting it has an effect on every range of the trade from top to bottom, and it will have a direct effect this winter upon the householder. I mention one or two of these unfortunate results which come from central control as exemplifying the delay and confusion which must result from centralisation. I do not blame the Coal Controller or his staff, but I do say emphatically that when a task of that great magnitude has been handed over to very able men, however able they were, they could not avoid the incessant confusion and loss that are taking place in all our coal areas. I have no doubt that we shall be told that the reason for all these restrictions and troubles which have come upon us is the great demands which are made on our coal supplies. But they are not entirely due to that. They are due very largely to a purely political arrangement which was made in December, 1916. The control of the South Wales mines was inevitable there owing to labour troubles. There was no serious labour trouble at that moment in any other part of the country, and it was only owing to a political arrangement at that time that the control was made wholesale through the whole of Great Britain. The demands, in so far as they are greater now, have, of course, added to the difficulties of my right hon. Friend opposite, and of the Controller. Some of these demands the House is quite ready to admit cannot be reduced, and we have no intention of asking that there should be any reduction. Who would think of reducing by a single ton the coal which is going to the Navy, or the coal which must go in the supplying of bunkers, though I must say that I think that somewhat better arrangements might be made for the supplying of bunkers for vessels running in the Atlantic trade, and far more American coal might be taken in the bunkers than is taken at the present time. It is said that there can be no reduction in the use of coal supplied to our munition factories. There has been a slight reduction in the use of coal on the railways, largely owing to the reduction in the number of engines, and the fact that our fast trains now have disappeared, and that we have nothing but medium-paced trains running on the great lines. There are other directions in which coal is used, where pressure has not been brought to anything like the same extent as it is now being brought to bear on the householder. And let us remember what the proportions are. It is estimated that of the total output of our collieries, the proportion which is consumed by householders is about 15 per cent. It is very difficult to arrive at an exact estimate. There are no available statistics, but the estimate is that 15 per cent. is roughly the amount which is used by the domestic consumer. Another 8 per cent. is consumed probably in the production of light and electric power, but the amount of coal which is consumed in some of the great industries is a far greater percentage. I suppose that the Board of Trade realised, and the Coal Controller realised, that they must make a great reduction in some directions, and that they can more easily squeeze the householder than they can any of the other great consumers of coal. Were they right in that? There are two ways of getting over the difficulty. One is to avoid a reduction in output, and that, I believe, has not been thoroughly considered by the Government. The trouble that has arisen at the present time is due largely to the fact that some 75,000 skilled men are in process of being taken, or during the year will have been taken, from the coal mines and drafted into the Army, and if you take the output on the average of healthy, lusty miners as these men are—I do not take the average of the older men—you must have a reduction in output in the course of the year by 22,500,000 tons at least. A question which I should like to ask my right hon. Friend is this. When the Minister of National Service demanded 75,000 skilled men from the mines, did he or his Department make representations to the Minister of National Service or to the War Cabinet that if these men were taken it would land them in almost insurmountable difficulties with regard to the coal consumers and the coal demands of the coming winter? There has been a general tendency for some time past to regard the transfer of men from industries of various kinds into the Army as being of the greatest necessity. We have now by bitter experience learned that there are some claims prior even to those of the Army. The navy, of course, always comes first, but shipbuilding, the Government have admitted, has a claim on men prior to that of the Army, and if the truth be told, lying at the root of even our essential industries, munitions, shipbuilding, and the real lifeblood of the Allies Is the production of coal. Was sufficient attention paid at the time that a demand for men was made to the enormous importance of keeping our output of coal up to a high level? After the spring offensive, when France lost some of her coalfields which had been recovered in the previous year, it became necessary that a much larger amount of coal must go to France. Then, obviously, was the time for my right hon. Friend to put forward his demand, so that his demand, as well as the demand of the Minister of National Service, should go to the War Cabinet for the preservation of the coal trade, and for the production and distribution of coal, and that the War Cabinet should understand that a larger quota of men was required than was anticipated at the beginning of the year. I know that the right hon. Gentleman has great influence with the War Cabinet, although he is not a member of it, and I wish to know whether he pressed the point with the War Cabinet as to whether the War Cabinet were prepared to run all the risks of shortage of fuel in order to secure 75,000 skilled men from the collieries? And it is not only a question of men below the ground, but it is also a question of men above the ground. I am told that a very large number of the dumps in the Northumberland and Durham coalfields have not been moved, not because they are not quite good fuel, but because the number of men above ground now has fallen off so enormously. As much as 1,000,000 tons is said to have been accumulated in the county of Northumberland alone. Some good judges think that figure is far below the amount. That coal cannot be removed because of the shortage of men above ground. I think it is of great importance to have proper protection for vital industries on national grounds, because the production of coal is vital to everything which concerns the War. The pressure now, owing to the difficulty of obtaining men in the coal trade, is going to fall upon the domestic consumer, and I scarcely think the House realises how heavily it is going to fall. The hon. Baronet opposite told us a bitter tale about his own midnight lamp. But really that is a mere figure compared with the misery which will be experienced by almost everybody in the coming winter. Let us, first of all, take the Order as it applies to coal, and say something about lighting later on. There has already been a reduction of the domestic consumption of coal, and I believe most people last year made a genuine effort, when it was known economy was necessary, to cut down its consumption. The consumption of coal in cottage houses cannot be cut down, and it is absurd to expect the occupiers of those houses to respond to the invitation to effect further economy. Certainly in the Metropolis large numbers of householders fitted their houses with gas fires. They were told to be more economical from the national point of view, and to burn gas rather than coal. Many put in electrical appliances, because they were told that it would not only reduce the amount of coal used, but would also reduce the number of servants in the house. Gas fires and electric fires which have been put in by householders now turn out to be practically useless. Take a sample house, of which I understand there are tens of thousands in Kensington. A sample house in Kensington which I know had a consumption last year of moderate amount. It consumed up to the 30th of June, for lighting and for electric heating, 3,300 units. I made inquiries as to the number of fires they had. They had one sitting-room fire, two bedroom fires, and the kitchen range they did away with and went in for a gas cooker. They consumed with the three fires, managing economically, 3,300 units in the course of the year. Under this Order—if I understand it rightly, though I cannot profess that I grasp the whole of its meaning, I do not know whether anybody can—the maximum that this sample, house in Kensington would obtain would be 480 units. I am told that would not be even enough to light the basement, without having regard to any of the other requirements of the house, but the Order says that the maximum of this sample Kensington house shall be 480 units. Therefore, the gas fire goes and the gas cooker goes, as it would be quite impossible to keep them going under the limitations imposed by this Order. The reduced consumption, I dare say, might be managed in London houses by submitting to live entirely in one room in the cold weather, but that is not a practicable proposition; it cannot be done. You can subject people to a great deal of misery, which of course falls a long way short of what is suffered by our men in France and Flanders, but if you carry it too far you are bound to depreciate the force of the national spirit. I live in a county which is notoriously cold. Northumberland is one of the coldest counties in England on the whole, although some of the high levels in southern counties are by no means warm. Take a sample cottage in Northumberland of four rooms. The largest amount of coal which that cottage can obtain under the Coal Order is to be 4½ tons, in the course of the whole twelve months. That 4½ tons is just about one-third of the normal cottage consumption in Northumberland. What is going to happen in that house? Are they to cut down the number of their fires? In many they have never had more than one, and that is why in Northumberland the parents sometimes sleep in the kitchen. You cannot cut down that fire, or are they to be cut down to one hot meal a day and one hot beverage, and are they the whole of the rest of the day to go about cold? Four tons and a half is a quantity that you regard as quite enough for the ordinary cottager in Northumberland, for the shipyard worker, for the iron worker, the munition worker, the agricultural labourer; but when you come to the miner—against whom I have nothing whatever to say; he is doing his work as well and patriotically as other people—you realise that you could not get his work if he had only 4½ tons of coal per year, and you leave him exactly as he was before the Order, which provides that the miner is not to be interfered with. In Northumberland from 13 tons to 17 tons is the amount which goes into the miner's cottage. My right hon. Friend at Question-time yesterday explained that the reason why this exception was made in the case of miners was that they had to work at all times of the day and night. Yes; but so have the blast-furnace men, and so have a number of munition men and railway men. You will actually have in a good many of the villages and towns of Northumberland and Durham—and I have no doubt it is true of other coal counties—the signalman living under the limitation of 4½ tons of coal as the neighbour of a miner who gets 13, 14, 15, 16, or 17 tons a year. How can that be regarded as a just arrangement? If 13 tons are necessary for the comfort of the miner's house, then that quantity is absolutely necessary for the comfort of these other people. It is quite apparent that the poor householders of the United Kingdom have not yet wakened up to what the Order means. When are they to wake up? I understand that the leaflet for the information of the people in the North of England has not yet been circulated. In other parts of the country the leaflet is already out. It is very difficult to get hold of a copy, and, from what I know of the industrial population of the North of England, they are not habitual readers of the "London Gazette." They have no means of knowing, except through newspaper paragraphs, what they are in for. Our experience is that the newspapers have not yet given a full account of what the Order means. What is going to happen? These people will be liable to penalties if they consume more than their quota; but what is much more serious is that when they get through the 4½ tons in four or five months, which, according to the Order in the "London Gazette," is the whole quantity for the year, they will waken up to the fact for the first time, in the month of January, that they are to have no more coal for the rest of the twelve months. Unless my right hon. Friend gets over that trouble, I am sure there will be such an upheaval amongst the industrial classes as he has not yet seen in England. I do implore him not to have this restriction of consumption in small houses cut down so low, and administered in such a way that it will come suddenly and unbeknown to immense numbers in that part of the country, and in every part of the country. But it is not only a question affecting houses. There are institutions which will be affected. I had a letter this morning from the Liverpool Orphans' (Seamen's) Institution. As soon as I got it I spent about an hour in going through the Order to see how such an institution will be treated. In the Order there is provision made for public institutions, and in some respects there are provisions made for institutions of this sort to which I am referring; but I am afraid that I have not yet been able to ascertain whether or not this Liverpool Seamen's Orphans' Institution is to be warm or cold in the coming winter. This institution has 350 children in it. Under the Order, if it is treated as a household—I presume it cannot be both, and I am not clear that the Order really provides for the case of an institution of this kind—it will have 20 tons of coal plus anything that may be got out of the local overseers. My correspondent says that the contention is that the allowance must be less than the basic quantity. What was the increase last year? They used about 352 tons of coal and 312 tons of coke, but equivalent under the Order to 492 tons of coal. If that institution is to be treated as a household, there will be some deficiency in their fuel during the next winter, for the quantity allowed would be 20 tons. I cannot read that as the intention of the Order, but there must be an expansion of the term "institution" to something of the nature of institutions which are under public control. This is not a school, it is not a workhouse; it is, I take it, a public institution of a charitable nature, but there is no provision, so far as I can see, for institutions of this kind. Let us take another item in their unfortunate position. As regards lighting, this institution will be allowed 480 units, or 30,000 cubic feet, for the twelve months, whereas in twelve months they have used 7,300 units and 102,000 cubic feet. This is absurd, and my right hon. Friend will have to do something with regard to this Order, in order to deal with a case of this kind, and I strongly urge him to relieve the anxiety of those who control these excellent institutions at the earliest possible moment. I would like to say a word or two about industries which are affected by the limitation of the coal output, and which has as serious an effect upon the prosecution of the War as drafting large numbers of men into the Army. We all wish to see the Army as strong and powerful as possible, but it would be very foolish if we had an Army out in France supported on shaky industrial and munitions foundations in this country. In my Constituency is one of the largest heavy woollen mills in England. They have been engaged for a very long time on the production of cloth for the British and Allied Armies. I believe they have already turned out thousands, of miles of cloth—a most amazing production—and this is what has happened in their case. They are still going on doing this. If their output is cut down it will not be a question of requiring smart people to go short of new clothes, but it will be a question of the Armies going short of the cloth which they must have. The manager of these mills writes:
The manager goes on to give me the information of their consumption, and to state how they are to be treated."We beg to enclose copy of a letter which we have addressed to the Controller. We have been unable to obtain the coal which we require for our mills in anything like the normal quantity."
He goes on to describe the kind of cloth which he produces, and, excepting for 25 per cent. of their output, which is for civil purposes, 75 per cent. is for the British or French Armies. He says:"We have for a few years been receiving 600 tons per month of washed doubles and washed singles from the Bullcroft Main Collieries, Limited, Doncaster. This forms about one-third of our total consumption of fuel for steam-raising, but as the other two-thirds consists mainly of local and rather dirty slack and nuts, we have found it absolutely necessary to have this proportion of clean fuel from the Bullcroft Colliery to enable us to keep steam up."
That is not an isolated case. I give it because I know the people and believe their word. But in every one of our essential industries the same kind of thing is going on more or less. The hon. and gallant Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Colonel Wedgwood) referred to the pottery industry to-day and at Question Time yesterday and the day before, and what is happening in the pottery industry is happening to a large extent in the metal trades and in all the textile industries and in a great number of miscellaneous industries. The reduction of fuel for our industries will strike us in our war supplies. It will certainly affect us in the amount of goods which we have available for export, of which, I presume, pottery is one, and the cotton trade will also be affected, and all this comes from reducing the output of coal below the efficiency level—I mean the national efficiency level. If that could be avoided I think my right hon. Friend would be saved from great trouble personally, but what is of much greater moment is that our national strength would be maintained to the full rather than being endangered. I want to ask a few questions with regard to the operations of this Order which, if not cleared up before the cold weather arrives, will land the consumers, certainly in the North of England, in great difficulties. Has the Coal Controller taken into account local customs? In many parts of the North of England we bake our own bread at home. It is all very well, but you cannot economise on your oven if you are to produce bread. If you do so you will not produce bread. You must make some provision in those households where they bake their own bread. You cannot make up in many of these cases by having bakers, for there are no bakers. The custom of the whole area or town is for the whole of the bread to be baked at home, and you must make some provision for them. I gather that there is no provision made in the Order, except by way of exception, which is not defined, for climates which are rigorous although they are not in the Northern Counties. I know an excellent village, on the top of the hills in Wiltshire, which is far colder than anything on our lowlands in Northumberland, but people in Northumberland will be allowed more coal than the cold villages on the top of the Wiltshire Hills, and surely there must be some arrangement made providing for a sliding scale according to the temperature of the counties and not according to their geographical position. Then surely there must be some arrangement made which will allow for the breaking down of the county quota system. You must get rid of these arbitrary boundaries. What is the good of saying to a cottager in Northumberland that he may have his fire on for only one quarter of each week when he sees, perhaps within two miles, or five miles, or ten miles of his own door, a great accumulation of coal? Are you going to prevent these men using the coal heaps that are now accumulating, great masses of small coal? If there is any attempt to prevent the cottagers who are near these pitheaps from using the fuel, it will break down. They will have the fuel by hook or by crook. But then there are a great many who live in towns that are not near to these dumps, but they know that within a few miles of them there is an abundance of coal, and surely the Board of Trade and the Coal Controller cannot mean that in these areas they are to be screwed down to this extremely low level in the average industrial house. If they proceed with that they will offend the sense of justice as well as the physical comfort of our fellow citizens. I would like to ask whether no exception can be made in these coal-producing counties. If it is purely a matter of railway traffic, which I understand is one of the grounds on which my right hon. Friend thought it necessary to publish this Order, it cannot apply in these areas, because the carriage of coal is so small—only for a few miles by line or a few miles by road. Then may I ask what is to be done with regard to lighting? As far as I can gather, the Order does not provide for a differentiation between the North and the South of England in proportion to the number of hours of darkness that we have to endure. Anybody who knows anything about the two extremes of England knows that at all events in the winter months we are bound to put our lights on in Northumberland about an hour and a half earlier than would be necessary for my hon. Friend the Member for Cornwall to turn his on in Cornwall. But there is no provision in the Order for that. We are to have just as small a supply of light in Northumberland as they have in Cornwall, as far as I understand the Order. The Order, I understand, does not yet apply to Scotland. At all events, as far as I can gather, Scotland is not in the list of districts to which the limitations are to be applied. But what I have said with regard to Northumberland applies still more to Scotland. Is no provision to be made for our long nights? I have asked one or two of these practical questions in the hope that there may be some answer to them, and not with the idea of putting my right hon. Friend in any difficulty. He has to make the best use of the material he has at his command. He has to make up for the great deficiencies of our Allies, and for the increasing demands of some of our munition industries. But he might have provided for them quite well by putting in as strong a claim for the production of coal as is put in for other essential industries and also by the Minister for National Service in regard to recruiting for the Army. The one is as essential to our national strength as the other, and I think my right hon. Friend should have taken a firm stand on this subject when he foresaw the troubles that were bound to be reached in the coming winter. Only one word, before I sit down, on the Order as a whole. It is a very long Order, and it is very difficult to understand. I presume I have got an average intelligence, but I must confess that I am left in a state of confusion with regard to many of the points that arise. I have tried, as a test, to apply it to my house in the country, and to apply it to my house in London, and with regard to both of them I must confess that I am left in an atmosphere of obscurity. If that applies to us in this House, it must apply far worse to people outside, and the sooner the Board of Trade make it clear what is actually meant by this Order, and how much of it they are going to impose on the country, the better it will be for everyone concerned. I do ask that we should not run the risk of finding our coal supplies exhausted by Christmas, and then being faced with the horrible alternative of going through a brutal English spring with inadequate supplies of coal, and I think it is incumbent upon the Board of Trade to postpone the operation of this Order, from the due date of the 1st of July, on which it came into operation, to some later date, so that the public can understand what the prospects are. In making that appeal to my right hon. Friend, I am making it really on the larger ground of preserving, not the luxury or the comfort, but the moral and the health of our people. I cannot think that he has fully realised what an enormous difference it will make to British feeling if at the very time when they have stood all sorts of inconvenience with the greatest patience and courage and steadfastness, they now find that they cannot keep themselves warm. It is not only a question affecting their spirits. It will lead to increased mortality amongst our citizens. Old people are bound to have warmth if they are to avoid the ravages of pneumonia and rheumatism, and children must have warmth if they are to be properly nourished and to avoid the dangers of bronchitis and other pulmonary complaints. Any change of this kind which reduces the health of our people will be a real damage to the cause of the Allies, and I implore my right hon. Friend not to press on with this Order in its present form without taking into fuller consideration these much more important subjects."We were advised on the 11th July by the Bullcroft Company that owing to reduced output they could only supply 500 tons per month. We pointed out to them the seriousness of this, but by their letter dated 17th July we are informed that the South Yorkshire Coal Supplies Committee have instructed them to further reduce our quantity by 215 tons per month. This will leave us, instead of 600 tons per month, only 285 tons."
I am extremely glad that the right hon. Gentleman opposite has had the opportunity of explaining to us what this Coal Order really means. I hope the Government will take his advice and postpone the introduction of this Order to such time as the people of the country as a whole know what is going to be imposed upon them. I shall certainly go home to-day, having now found out what the Order means for the first time, and cut down my warm meals at home to one a day, and I think that if the people in the country knew what this Coal Order meant they too would be taking steps now to get accustomed to using a smaller amount of fuel, because however much we may kick at the idea of having to go in for this personal inconvenience, we know that the gradual breakdown of our old civilisation is bound to drive us into unknown paths so far as the fundamental comforts of human life are concerned. The difficulty is that we have got first of all to see that the curtailment of the coal production of the country is absolutely vital, and, secondly, to induce the people of the country to make the necessary sacrifice. I think that probably my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade, if he had realised in April last what this taking of 75,000 men from the collieries of the country was going to mean, not only to the comfort of the people, but to the industries of the country, we should then have had very much more resistance to the taking of those men into the Army. I believe that it is quite possible that the time may come when that policy will have to be reversed and the 75,000 men taken back from the Army and put into the collieries, simply because to cut off our coal supply is like cutting our jugular artery. We cannot carry on the War without money and without cloth, and we cannot carry on the War if there is discontent and starvation at home. Therefore, if necessity drives, the Government may have to reverse their policy and get these men back from the Army. This is far more serious than agriculture. More in this country depends upon coal production than upon food production. We can import food, but coal we cannot import, and upon coal our whole civilised life depends. In any case, there are bound to be great sacrifices demanded of the people of the country, and if you are going to ask them to make sacrifices you must explain the need of them. This is the first time to-day that anybody in this House has explained what the sacrifice is to be. We do not even here know what is the need of this Order—what is the reason of it. Speeches must be made in the country and literature distributed. The Order must be made intelligible to the people of the country, and it might be mentioned that people in America are making certain sacrifices too. I remember when I was over there in January and February last, every Monday in each week was a heat-less day. All the central heating was turned off, and the work of New York was carried on without coal and without heating. It was done to show that America was in the War, and was prepared to make sacrifices for the Allies, just as the Allies were making them.
Sir J. WALTON
It was discontinued.
It did not go on for more than two months, but coming on in the cold weather it was a great evidence on the part of the people of America that they were prepared to make sacrifices to carry on the War. And the people of this country would make further sacrifices if they felt it was absolutely necessary, but, first of all, you have to persuade them it is; and, secondly, you have to show them that there is absolute justice in the execution of the Coal Order. It is not so much the effect of this Order upon workmen's houses to which I want to draw attention, It is the effect upon the export trade of the country. We know quite well that unless we can keep our export trade going now, the whole possibility of competing with German trade after the War is knocked on the head. Let me take the industry with which I am familiar—the pottery industry. In that industry we have managed to carry on during the War. I am bound to say I am proud of the industry, and the way in which they have carried out their patriotic duty. In the whole of the Staffordshire Potteries you will not find 600 men of military age left. The industry is carried on by old men, women, and girls. The female employés have risen from about 45 to over 75 per cent. of the employés in the trade now. The industry has fallen into line with the Government in making joint recruiting schemes to take the last possible man out of the industry. In my own borough they have subscribed a larger amount per head to War Loans than any other borough in the country. They have carried on their industry with enormous advantage to the whole of the country because, by exporting pottery to the United States of America, they keep up the exchange. The trade to America has grown enormously. Every pottery works now has far more orders on its books than it can possibly deal with in the next year, or even two years. The calls of National Service upon the men have kept the output smaller than before the War, in spite of the large demand from America, due, of course, to the fact that German trade is cut out. We have made our effort and spent our money in order that the country should have its finger in the export trade in those countries where Germany used to control the trade. It has been done at great sacrifice.Now this serious position has suddenly come upon us. Our coal supplies are cut down, and factories are having to close their doors. The factory with which I am associated has been closed for a fortnight. The bigger export factories are closing down. It is true, we are rationed nominally at 75 per cent. of our 1916 consumption of coal. We thought we could carry on somehow with the 75 per cent., but, although we are nominally rationed at that figure, we do not see one-half of it. In the Potteries you will see roads blocked with carts waiting to get a cartload of coal for their factory. These people wait day after day for the chance of getting an odd load of coal. The consumption, so far from being 75 per cent. of the 1916 level, is under 35. per cent. now, and the amount of wasted time in the acquiring of that coal is appalling. What makes it far more serious is that North Staffordshire is solely dependent on the pottery trade. Unfortunately, for reasons into which I need not enter, there have been no war industries started in the Potteries. There is no opportunity for the people in the potting industry, who are now working two or three days a week, or are out for two or three weeks, to go into any other work, and so you have the risks of a recurrence of those horrible periods of unemployment we used to have all over the country before the War. Every week there are 1,200 girls who go into the war factories at Leek and into Coventry and Birmingham, and come back at the weekend, but, so far as war industries are concerned, we have nothing in the Potteries. Consequently, you are throwing on to the market an enormous amount of labour, and it is the wives and the children of the men who have gone to the front. We have sent a far larger proportion of men to the front from the Potteries, because the Potteries have been held not to be important for carrying on the War. Therefore, all these women and girls work in the Potteries, and they are not well paid either. Then unemployment comes along and there is no alternative of work elsewhere. Their male relatives are either fighting at the front or working in the collieries in North Staffordshire. Therefore, you get this serious position, that the men working in the collieries see the coal they get in the district sent elsewhere. These people find their relatives cut of work and thrown upon their hands, all because of the want of coal, while they themselves are getting the coal in the district and seeing it sent away. I am quite confident there will be labour trouble in North Staffordshire if these people are out of work, because the colliery men will say, "We won't provide coal for other districts, but for our own district." You have to remember the human factor. These men will work harder than ever if they know the coal they get is going to the factories where their people are employed. If they find it is going away, they will naturally not only take a more gloomy view of the whole situation, but they will also be antagonistic to increasing the output if it goes to other people and not their own. This is solely a question of the men, and not of the masters. The question of closing down the industry does not affect the masters half as much as it does the men. It is always possible to raise our prices. Anyone who knows the Potteries knows that we have raised prices considerably during the War, and we are quite prepared to go on raising them indefinitely to make our profit. The smaller the output the bigger the price. It does not affect us half as much as it does the working classes. The people employed in the factories are the people who are going to be thrown out of work, and that is obvious enough to the trade unions in the Potteries all round. The Potteries trade union has brought this to my notice, that it was a question for the men, and those are the men who are agitating in North Staffordshire now. I am bound to say the Coal Controller the other day received our deputation of masters and men very favourably. He made a proposal to them—or, rather, he accepted their proposal—that they should ration themselves. Just as we arranged for recruiting for military service by a joint commission of masters and men and the National Service representative there, so as to allocate the demands of the Army for men among all the potteries equally and suitably, so we are allowed now to ration ourselves for coal. That will eliminate the feeling of injustice, which otherwise would be a very serious one. But it is not enough to allow us to ration ourselves, or even to say that we shall be rationed at 25 per cent. less than the 1916 standard to enable us to carry on. The important thing is to assure us that we shall have a certain 3upply of coal. The important thing is to allow the potteries to have a call—I should say a first call—upon the production in the pottery area. If we can be assured of our supply, then it will be possible to carry on; but if one month we have 50,000 tons and the next month 10,000 tons, then there will be waste, there will be heart-burning, there will be dissatisfaction, and the whole scheme of rationing will break down. Before 1916 we consumed 1,400,000 tons a year. Give us our 75 per cent. of that, and we will carry on, providing we can be assured of getting that 75 per cent.; but if we cannot, if this coal is going to be jockeyed about the country, allocated to distant areas, and coal coming in to us from Nottingham and Derby and making good that sent there—because that very often is what centralised control means—then you are getting a situation in North Staffordshire that I do not like to contemplate. Our rates are already 13s. in the £—worse than in any other town I know. The place is solely dependent upon the potteries. Close down the potting industry, which is faced with enormous rates like that, and neither I nor people like the Mayor really know what will happen. If in the middle of the War, with prices like they are at the present time and food and coal difficulties, and on the top of that there is unemployment and the impossibility of getting work anywhere else, then a very serious situation will arise in that district—more serious, I think, than either the Board of Trade or the Local Government Board, up to the present, appreciate. We do not ask to have our demands put in front of those of the Army or Navy. In North Staffordshire we have backed the Government in the War and do not intend to turn our hands back from the plough; but we do ask the Board of Trade to give us a definite allowance of coal, and so put into our hands, not only the power of rationing ourselves with that coal, but of laying our hands on that coal regularly and when we want it.
I wish to associate myself with the hon. and gallant Member who has just resumed his seat. I am very pleased to recognise that from all quarters of the House it is admitted that the people of the Potteries have faced the situation in a patriotic spirit, and from the commencement of the War until this time they have done their best to accommodate themselves to the circumstances of the times and to support the Government all the time in men, in means, and in services for the successful prosecution of the War. That applies to the pottery workers, and it also applies to the miners, whom I have the honour to represent, and to others who work in other trades as well. Our people have volunteered for service in large numbers. As far as the pottery workers are concerned, there has been, as the hon. and gallant Member who has just spoken told you, a considerable reduction of the male workers. I think at the commencement of the War the male and female workers in the pottery industry were about equal, but at the present time there is but one male worker to a number of females. The younger women have gone to munition works and the women who were married and rearing families have, to save the industry and help the community, returned to their employment in the factories for the purpose of enabling things to be carried on. I should think seven-sixteenths of the miners of North Staffordshire have joined His Majesty's Forces in one capacity or another. It is, therefore, easy to perceive that all sections of the community in North Staffordshire have done their best in winning this War.I admit that other things have happened in the North Staffordshire mines in addition to the extraordinary number of miners taken away, which have had the effect of reducing the output of coal. We had a very unfortunate accident at the commencement of this year at an important colliery in North Staffordshire which has never worked since. The output of that colliery is a loss to the district and to the country, and, owing to the very serious depletion of colliery workers through enlistment at other important collieries, one of the shifts of working has had to be discontinued. That applies, I think, to at least three of our very important collieries, and the output of the North Staffordshire mines has suffered considerably in that way. In the cases to which I have referred I think the loss of output would be more than sufficient, if it were still available, to keep the pottery works going to the full satisfaction of the people employed there. We are bound to face the situation as it is. I know that output may be interfered with in other respects and that certain factors may come into operation on the other hand to increase it, but, as a matter of fact, mining is not the very easy thing some people might imagine it to be. I believe that, as a whole, the miners of North Staffordshire, from the commencement of the War until now, have done their level best to keep up the output and to supply the needs of the community and of the nation. Neither the leaders of the union nor the members of the unions would excuse in these times any workman who, being physically fit and capable, neglected his work purposely and deliberately. There may be here and there such a case, but I think I am right in saying that his fellow workers and those who represent them would use their best endeavours to persuade him to keep up his output to the best possible amount. It is with respect to the pottery workers that I wish to associate myself with the observations of the hon. and gallant Member. There are about 50,000 in the borough of Stoke-on-Trent, and they live more or less in the six or seven towns within that area. There may be between 12,000 and 14,000 miners living within the area of that borough, and, of course, we are bound to admit the justice of the observations made by the last speaker with respect to the fact that these workers, meeting every day more or less both when at leisure or at work, or in coming and going from their work and discussing these things, must see it strange, whatever the cause may be, that coals produced by them in the vicinity of the factory should be taken away to feed fires elsewhere, whilst the people in their particular locality are thrown out of work in consequence, and reduced to partial or total starvation, because this is what it means in the long run. Under these circumstances, we do not wish to impress upon the Board of Trade the importance and absolute necessity of doing whatever is possible to supply these works with sufficient and suitable coal to carry the industry forward and to save the families of the workers from possible starvation. If they were but a handful of people here and there it might be possible for them to be drafted into some other industry, but you must realise that there are 50,000 of them all living within a very short distance of each other and working in the same area, and consider, too, that with the number of dependants you have well over 100,000 people involved in this question who could not be transplanted to any other locality, even if the employment was available. These people have been brought up to an employment which, to a considerable extent, disqualifies them from facing employment out of doors or in any other particular occupation, and, of course, they have arrived at ages when it would be impossible for them to accommodate themselves to strange circumstances and occupations. That being the case, it seems to us that the Board of Trade would be well advised to consider this question from the point of view of arranging definitely and certainly that these people shall have the chance of the coal supplies that are so near to their doors and to the gates of the factories, so that the factories may be kept going full time. The hon. and gallant Member intimated that they were not over well paid. I believe it to be true to say that the industry, in certain respects, has not had a chance of realising any increase in wages to the extent that the workers of other industries have. There wages have not been increased, I think, more than 20 per cent. as compared with before the War, and their wages then were not very high, so that if the number of days worked are reduced to, say, half or two-thirds, they will be in straitened circumstances very soon—they and their families who are dependant upon them. We therefore hope that this House and the Board of Trade will do the utmost that is possible to save the situation for these people, who are looking to us for assistance.
Sir DANIEL GODDARD
I do not propose to follow the line of general shortage of coal. That was very clearly and excellently put by my right hon. Friend the Member for Dewsbury, and I do not think it needs enlarging upon. The seriousness of it must be fully in the mind of the President of the Board of Trade. We have already had speeches which showed how serious it is in connection with the pottery industry, and there is scarcely any other industry but is also affected by it. Reference has been made to some of the larger industries, like that which was quoted, the woollen factory, but, of course, that kind of large business does not come under the rationing Order as do the small industries. Industries which consume less than 100 tons a year are brought within the Order, as I understand it, and have to comply with its provisions. It is more particularly about the Order that I wish to say a few words. This is the second Order we have had this year. In the spring of the year we had an Order which had for its object the limiting of fuel usage by one-sixth. That was a perfectly simple and understandable Order. In some respects the latter Order is better, because that one cut a distinct line between the North of England and the South of England, so that the North part was unaffected by it. A line cut from the Wash to the Bristol Channel was the line of demarcation. Those to the North of it were outside the Order; those to the South were within it. That had rather a serious effect, too. A manufacturer whom I know very well pointed out to me that this Order reducing his fuel account by one-sixth practically meant that he would only have five days' work a week instead of six. But he had to compete with the same class of manufacturer in the North of England who could work six days. How could he compete with him? That was one of the effects of that Order.I am glad to see that in the new Order that rigid line is withdrawn, and although there is some difference made as between the consumption in the North of England and in the South, it is not so marked as it was in the previous Order. Still, that was a simple Order, people were getting accustomed to it, and they were making serious efforts to keep within that one-sixth. Now comes this new Order, which completely upsets that Order, is very much more rigid and drastic, as I think I can show, and is one which really will fail to be complied with by the great majority of the people. The first thing I wanted to say is as to the reference has been made to the nature of this Order which occupies, I believe, in full, something over ninety pages, and also to the difficulty of understanding it. There is a third difficulty—it is difficult to get it! I have made application for this Order, and I know public utility companies to whom it is very, very necessary to have the Order have made application: they are still without copies of the Order.
I have tried to get the order at the Vote Office, and cannot.
Sir D. GODDARD
I believe it is quite true that you cannot get it at the Vote Office, yet the Order, as my right hon. Friend (Mr. McKinnon Wood) reminds me, came into force on 1st July. I have tried to get it, and failed; and on that I am going to rest an appeal to the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade. I understand that there was a very important gathering quite recently in the North of England, that is, within the last few days, and that gathering asked that the operation of this Order should be postponed, at all events, till October. I really hope, in view of the very serious indictment that was made as to the conditions and effects of the Order by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dewsbury, and in view of the fact that we cannot get the Order, and therefore cannot interpret it to those who ought to know and who are liable to a penalty if they break it; in view of another fact that we are now in the summer months, and that they are months in which, after all, the greatest economy cannot be effected, for we are not heating our houses in these months, and lighting them as little as possible—we are within the summer-time operations, and all these things reduce the consumption of fuel, and this is not the time when you can effect economy—in view of all this I would ask the right hon. Gentleman whether it is really not worth his while to consider if he cannot really and absolutely drop the Order, or, at all events, put off its operation until it is well within the hands of everybody, and can be read by everybody, and when it can really be efficient in effecting some economy?There are one or two points of the Order to which I should like to draw attention. I do not want to enter into the question as to the need for some kind of Order. I can quite understand, and fully appreciate, the difficulties which the right hon. Gentleman is under, knowing that he has so much fuel to deal with and the difficulty in knowing how properly to apportion it between the various industries, households, and so forth. I can quite understand the difficulty, and I can understand that there may be a real, downright necessity for some economy. In my judgment, however, that might have been effected in some simpler way than the way suggested. I took the opportunity to mention my view to the right hon. Gentle-man, but he did not think it was quite workable, and therefore that has gone. But the main purpose of the Order is to save coal. If so, I want to ask why was coke included in the Order? Coke is just as much a part of the Order as is coal, in the proportion of 3 tons of coke to 2 tons of coal. Why include coke? Surely if the right hon. Gentleman wanted to save coal, the best way was to encourage the use of coke! One would have thought that was the simplest way that would arise to his mind to get people to use coke. Is there a deficiency of it? There is, I believe, in some parts of the country, but in London there is no deficiency at all. The other day I was down the river and I saw a huge lengthy mountain which looked to me as if it was made of rubbish. I was told that mountain consisted of 50,000 tons of coke. Surely it would be an economical practice to bring as much as possible of that into use! It has lain there for a long time. If coke be not included in this Order a great many people might be induced to use coke instead of coal, and that would be a real saving—so at least it seems to me. So far as I can read the Order, I think it is desired, at all events I understand it is the intention of the Board of Trade, that more coke shall be used for the larger industrial purposes, and in that way it does not come within the Order. I do not know. I have not seen the whole Order, and therefore I do not know whether it is there or not. I have tried to find out if there is any order in this Order compelling companies to use a certain proportion of coke. Therefore it seems to me, that that argument falls to the ground. I put this question to the House at once: Supposing you go to the ordinary dweller in his home and offer him a ton of coal or a ton and a half of coke—that is the equivalent according to the Order. Which will he take? I venture to say that in nine cases out of ten he will take the ton of coal rather than the ton and a half of coke. What the right hon. Gentleman requires is that he should take the ton and a half of coke, and not the coal, and that would be a real saving. That would mean that you would have more coal disposed of in other ways—the more to send to your gas undertakings, where it would be diverted into gas and residuals. With coke in the Order you are really putting a restriction on that which might be a most useful element in the saving desired. I put that forward. I have no doubt the right hon. Gentleman has considered it, and that he will give us some answer to-day. I hope he will further consider it. There was another question which arises in this way: This Order is a very wide and complicated one. I think it is in the Order—I am not quite sure—but I think the right hon. Gentleman told me that there was some promise made to various undertakings concerned, public utility companies, electric and gas companies, and so forth, that they should receive something in payment for the trouble they were at in making out the lists giving the information asked for. If I remember aright, there was a sum to be paid for every 100 names supplied. I do not know whether I am quite right, but there was, I think, something of that sort. It is, however, absolutely necessary that something of the kind should be done, and I do not see anything in the Order at present which indicates that it will be done. Look at the real meaning of this! All these companies are depleted of their staffs. Most of their male clerks have gone. Their work is mostly now done by female clerks, and there are too few of them. Now you are going to put on these additional work. They have to render lists to the overseer. First of all the overseer may go to these companies and undertakings, and ask them for the list, and also what is the ratio of fuel used in these places, just as he can ask the coal merchant, and so forth. Having got that information, which will take a long time to get out, after the first period of time has elapsed, the quarter or the half-year, it is incumbent upon these undertakings to make a return to the overseer of everyone who has exceeded the limit set forth in the Order. I really wonder if the President has fully considered what that means! What it really means is that there will be thousands upon thousands of these people, who strictly, according to the letter of the law have brought themselves within the operation of the Order and who are liable to some kind of penalty.
Sir D. GODDARD
That is what the effect of it will be. What does the President of the Board of Trade propose to do? Does he propose to hale all these thousands of persons before the magistrates for the purpose of being fined? That will have to be done in every district, every town, and it would be an enormous task. I do not think the right hon. Gentleman does mean that. He probably means that where there is a flagrant case of disobedience, where some consumer braves the law and says, "I will have nothing to do with the Order," and, therefore, exceeds his quota of fuel, such case would be reported to him, and he will probably take fiction. That is the commonsense meaning of the whole thing. But that is not what the Order says. It does not remove from the undertaking the obligation of having to supply these lists of thousands upon thousands of people who will fail to comply with the Order. I suppose all this has been very carefully gone into. As to the number of people effected I can give some rather startling figures in regard to a district which I happen to know, in regard to part of the town which I represent, Ipswich. It is what I suppose you would call an ordinary industrial town. We have something like 15,000 out of 17,000 houses which are users of gas or electricity. I think there are more than that, but there are over 15,000 who use gas through the penny-in-the-slot meter system. These people are to have an allowance of 7,500 ft. per year according to the Order.I have taken the trouble to see what the consumption of these penny-in-the-slot consumers is in the year. The average for each dwelling over a specified period was 17,000 ft.; the total quantity set forth in the Order is 7,500. These people have two or three jets, a ring burner on which to boil a kettle; some of them have got a cooking stove for cooking purposes, having been induced to put it in on the representation that it was the cheapest and best form to save coal. Clearly they cannot save much gas. What are they to do? These two-room cottages, in the district where the town is situated, are allowed three tons of coal per year. How much can they save out of that? When you come to look into it, it is difficult for them to save anything out of the three tons used in the ordinary working class household. They would have to save one ton at least before they would come within the provisions of this Order, or be liable to have their names sent up as having offended against it. These are serious considerations. It means an enormous amount of work to those concerned. It will create a great amount of annoyance, and you would not have the people with you. Even now I get hundreds of letters asking what is the meaning of this. I cannot answer all these letters. In the circumstances it does seem to me that it would be a very wise thing for the President to put off the operation of the Order for the present. We have not got it. We cannot get it to read. Nobody really knows what is in it. Put it off for a couple of months. I think the right hon. Gentleman would find that there is still room for wise modifications in the Order, which would make the working of it a great deal simpler. I put these considerations before him, because I think it is a serious matter, and I hope he will have some regard to them.
I wish to draw direct attention to the case of Dublin. At the present time there is considerable hardship there amongst the working classes on account of the scarcity of coal, and although the military and other people can be provided with sufficient accommodation for travelling to race meetings the workers cannot get sufficient coal to do their ordinary cooking. At the same time the wash-houses in the city had to close down for the very same reason, and I think it is necessary that some effort should be made to conserve a portion of the coal supply for those with very small incomes who buy their coal almost from day to day, or, at any rate, from week to week. If there is to be a reduction in the consumption of coal, then I think due regard must be paid to the fact that the people with small incomes have already reduced their consumption since the beginning of the War to the lowest possible minimum on account of the expense, and how you are going to reduce the consumption of those who are only consuming two tons of coal a year I do not understand.I think some effort must be made to get the supply properly regulated or some effort ought to be made to bring into the city of Dublin a large peat supply. There are plenty of bogs of peat if an effort was made to bring it into the city. A couple of railways could be utilised, and all that is required is the construction of a short line of railway from the main lines in order to connect them with the pitheads. These are things which are causing a good deal of discontent in the city of Dublin. I have been receiving letters about the electric supply being cut off through the scarcity of coal. You ought to provide where there is to be a reduction that it should only take place after there has been one fire provided for in every home. This question is going to be a considerable hardship to the children and the aged people, and we ought not to wait until the storm rises, but take steps immediately to meet the difficulty.
Sir WILLOUGHBY DICKINSON
I wish to make a few observations on this matter. As I represent a constituency in London I can speak for a community that has already had very severe experience in regard to the shortage of coal, and where, if that experience is repeated to any more alarming extent very detrimental results will, I am sure, ensue. In the years 1915 and 1916 there was a great shortage, and the price also was very high, and the discontent was very real and dangerous. The Board of Trade and the Coal Controller took up the question, and in the course of the following twelve months they were able to arrange a system of rationing for London which was very successful, and it was based upon the definite provision of such a supply of coal as was deemed to be necessary to meet the reasonable requirements of the London consumers, and with the economies which I have no doubt were observed by most people in London, the coal situation was eased, and since then I think it has been perfectly satisfactory.But now, if this Coal Order goes through, I foresee that in the middle of the winter London will find itself in very much the same position as before, with this exception, that the coal that will be supplied for the use of London will not be more than is required under the provisions of this Order, and there will be no coal to fall back upon in London, even if it is found absolutely essential to provide it. The main difficulty with regard to London arises upon the question of transport, and it was because it was found possible to so arrange transport that enough coal was brought that the difficulties were got over. Now if the amount brought is only sufficient to meet the requirements of this Order, we shall find a very dangerous situation, and so will the Coal Controller, for he will find that the demand in London is so great that the public will have reached a state of great exasperation. I have not been able to see this Order. I tried to get it. I sent to the local coal controller's office, and I was told only yesterday that there was no paper out, and it was not likely to come out for some time. I want to have the opportunity which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dewsbury (Mr. Runciman) had, of reading the Order, which enabled him to give us such a useful exposition of it from the front Opposition Bench. I did see the Order when it came out in the "Times" of the 3rd July, and I have since tried to understand from that fairly full and accurate description of it what the effect would be in my own case. I think it is the best way to judge of a prospective change like this to see how it affects one's individual case, because it must affect others in the same way, and you have all the facts at your disposal. In this statement in the "Times" it was stated that
I find that in my own house I used in the previous twelve months 30 tons of coal, including the coal, gas, and electricity calculated upon the basis of conversion pointed out in this particular Order. I find also that under the arrangement that is now about to be made my supply would have to be cut down, including all these three things, to about 15 tons. Now, that is not one-quarter but one-half reduction, and if that holds good universally the situation will be very serious when the people begin to feel the pinch of this Order, whether the amount is reduced by one-half or one-quarter. I submit to the right hon. Gentleman that it is most important that we should know exactly what is going to happen under the provisions of this Order. Again, take my own case. I understand from this Order that I should be entitled to use 22,500 cubic feet of gas or 360 units of electricity, in addition to about 13 tons of coal. In my house I use coal, electricity, and gas as items of fuel. As I estimate it, I have consumed about 100,000 cubic feet of gas, and I am only entitled to consume 22,500 feet. I know I may use more by taking it out of the coal, but primâ facie I am entitled to use 22,500 feet of gas for lighting purposes, or 360 units of electricity, whereas I used 500 units in the twelve months. What is going to happen? Will the gas inspector come and measure off periodically the amount of gas that I use, or is the electricity inspector to do the same thing? Or will the gas inspector and the electricity inspector put their heads together and settle when my gas or my electricity is to stop? I reckon that if I were to take the course of consuming nothing but electricity my supply would last me until February; gas alone would last me up to December, but if I have to count the two together I shall probably find myself in absolute darkness before the end of the year. I would like the right hon. Gentleman to explain exactly what is going to happen in order to enable the ordinary consumer to know what he is doing. If he does wrong, I understand he will be punished, but no man could know under these circumstances whether he is doing wrong or not, because he will not know what particular amount of each of these sources he has used, or what is his proper measure of gas and electricity. I suggest to the right hon. Gentleman that the Board of Trade should make it very clear what all of us may use, and secondly that the limit of consumption should be fixed at a much earlier date than the end of twelve months. It is absurd to let people go on consuming the normal amount of gas and coal and then to find that at the worst time of the winter they come to the end of all their light and heat. They should be rationed by the month and they should be informed when they are exceeding their monthly supply, because it is very much easier for one to cut down the amount consumed now than later on in the middle of the winter, and still worse in January, February and March. 6.0 P.M. I hope some arrangement will be made by the Coal Controller to see that the permissible allocation of warmth and lighting power is brought to the notice of all householders as time goes on; otherwise we shall find ourselves having burned up all our light and heating power long before the winter. I do not know that I can make any other suggestion, but I would like to join with those in this House who ask that we should have a little more time to consider this Order. We have not been able to see it. I dare say much of what we have said will be explained by the President of the Board of Trade when he comes to reply I can assure him that it is very important indeed to see that no unnecessary difficulties and friction arise in the London population, which consists very largely of small people who cannot store coal, or anything. If the coal suddenly comes to an end there will be the very greatest difficulty, and it will be a very serious matter, not only for our own comfort, but for the prosecution of the War. I hope, therefore, that the right hon. Gentleman will give us a little more time to consider how this Order will affect the constituencies which we represent."the object of the Order is to save not less than a quarter of the coal hitherto available for domestic use in the form of coal or of gas and of electricity produced by it."
As one who has been in the London coal trade for the last forty years, I have had some experience during the last year or so of the difficulty in respect of this coal control, but I desire to say at the outset that I have no fault whatever to find with the Coal Controller. He has had an impossible task put into his hands. He is a man with whom one can deal, and with whom one has always dealt, in a straightforward, businesslike way, but so far as I am able to judge his task under this Order is one that cannot be performed. Hon Members have said that they have not been able to get hold of the Order. The trade itself was not able to get a copy of the Order-till three or four days ago. There are ninety-six pages of it, and I am quite sure that the average merchant does not understand the Order, and never will understand it, and that there are not half a dozen men in the Coal Controller's Department who could help one to understand some parts of it. One may go to the Coal Controller's Department and see there a very huge staff, but again and again I have been struck with the fact that there are very few men on the staff who understand the Coal Order or the coal trade. The right hon. Gentleman opposite (Sir W. Dickinson) has spoken about the difficulties of London in the coming winter, and I can assure him and the House that there are difficulties in front of us that we do not care to contemplate. In many parts of the country at the present time there is only a, three days' supply of coal, and that in the height of the summer when coal is being raised at the pits in the long days and is being brought into the towns and country districts without the hindrance of fog or any such thing. When it is taken into account that it takes three, four, six, and seven days to bring a truck of coal from the pit, it will be understood that even in the summer time, with the long days, the situation is serious enough.We have more coal in London to-day than we had at this time last year, but we have fewer orders to execute, and, as a matter of fact, we are only balancing our supply and demand at the present time, although we are in the summer, and although the pits are tearing out tonnage as fast as they can in these long days and short nights. The better class people are able to fill in, and they are very wisely doing so. Some of them may not be too much afraid of the six months' imprisonment, because there is a Clause in the Order which says, "If anyone knowingly breaks the Act." If they cannot get the Act, they cannot knowingly break it, and some people who are exceedingly put about because they cannot get the Order need not mind, because if they cannot get the Order they evidently cannot break it. The better class people are filling in, and they are very wise to do so. When the country districts, as the cold weather and long nights come along, begin to call for coal for their winter consumption a large amount of that coal which is now coming to London will have to be sent into those country districts, and, although we have more coal at the present time in London than we had at this time last year, it is the fear of merchants that by October or November that stock of coal will be entirely depleted, and unless there are some means of raising the quantity of coal we shall have to face the winter with hardly any stock in London if we fulfil the orders that are bound to come between now and the end of September. A quarter of the whole population of Great Britain has to be housed in the London area—from 10,000,000 to 11,000,000—and the majority of those people have no storage whatever. A largo number of them have very small storage, because the modern house, even the modern eight or ten-roomed house, has been built in such a way that there is no cellar room at all. Usually the coal cellar is under the stairs and only holds a ton of coal, but even those people are very much better off than hundreds of thousands of people who have very small storage or no storage at all. The street trolley man will tell you that in the small houses the only storage possible is a basket, a box, or a bin of some sort on the top of the stairs, and as soon as the winter demand sets in from the hundreds of thousands of these small houses, and as soon as the street trade springs up, as it is bound to do as soon as October comes in, the merchant fears that, having executed the orders that they will have in up to the end of September, they will find themselves face to face with a demand which they cannot meet. If you have a mild October the poor people do not order coal, and do not take it off the street, because they do not need it, but as soon as a cold day comes, and we get these snaps of cold weather in almost every month after September, the demand springs up double at once. If a merchant is doing 100 or 200 tons per week, it springs up at once 50 per cent., 75 per cent., and sometimes 100 per cent., especially in some of those congested districts where there is the least wharf storage. The railway companies have not the ground to give to the merchants, and there is the smallest wharf storage. The merchants all over London, and more especially in those congested areas, are fearing to face the winter, knowing that at the present time the balance is only just being kept between the supply and the demand, although it is midsummer. Hon. Gentlemen this afternoon have advised the President of the Board of Trade to hold up his Order. If he will permit me to say so, he is really between the Devil and the deep sea. If he were to hold up his Order, and there were to be no rationing of coal, it would mean that the well-to-do people would have the coal put into their cellars without any restrictions placed upon them at all, and then these hundreds of thousands of small consumers in London and in other parts would have to face the winter without any opportunity of having their orders fulfilled. Personally, I say that the Order cannot be carried out unless there is such a mild winter as we have not known for a long time. Then possibly it might be carried out. If in the early or late autumn, or any part of the winter, we have a bitter cold fortnight or three weeks, as we had in February, 1917, the demand for coal will spring up in the congested quarters, as it did then, and that is the time that we fear. I want again to pay a tribute to the Coal Controller, with whom I have had many dealings. He has put his very best into the work, but the difficulty lies in the fact that too many men have been withdrawn from the coal industry. It is an industry that cannot possibly be carried on by women. You cannot put women into the coal mines—we have not got so low as that yet—and if you could I hope that they would not go. You have a class of men trained throughout the whole of their lives. They are born and bred in the coal industry, which is a highly specialised trade. Having taken those men out of the mines and sent them to do other work you cannot replace them by another class of men. What I and others are most anxious about is as to how the output of coal is to be increased. I cannot see how it is to be increased. You may say that you will do away with the Eight Hours Act. I am quite sure that would not raise hardly another ton of coal per man. The miner who puts his back into his work and works eight hours during the day is not fit to do any more work that day, and, if he did, he would not be fit to do his eight hours the next day. You cannot do it by that means. At the present time, so far as the country districts are concerned, their demand is not large, but so far as many of them are concerned, they have not a three days' supply. When the demand springs up and coal has to go out of London—the balance is only just kept even at the present time—the country districts are bound to be short of coal, and how are you going to deal with 10,000,000 or 11,000,000 of people in London when the demand springs up which so often does spring up? So far as the Order itself is concerned, if one takes the rationing there is no fault to be found with it. The allowance for not more than three rooms is 3 tons 10 cwts.; a five-roomed house, 4 tons 10 cwts.; and up to twelve rooms 12 tons. There is no hardship whatever in that. My experience of the London trade is that the average man with a twelve-roomed house would not burn more than 8 or 10 tons of coal, therefore there is no hardship. But when you get into the country districts it is a different matter altogether. What I am afraid of, and what the trade is afraid of, is that that coal may not be forthcoming. That is what we are up against. We have no assurance that the coal will be forthcoming. If we can be told this evening, what we have not yet been told, that there are some means by which that coal will be forthcoming, I am quite sure that not only the London coal trade, but the country coal trade as well, will be very much heartened. The total output for the year now completed is something like 236,000,000 tons. London takes even at this time of the year 100,000 tons a week for its household purposes. When the winter time comes that doubles straight away. Again, we are face to face with the fact that in these long days we are only just balancing our supply and demand. What is going to be the position when our stocks are depleted? How is the trade going to be met in a large city like London when it suddenly doubles or trebles, as the case may be? I have one or two words to say in respect to the cost of coal control. I do not know whether hon. Members present realise what that cost is. It is a huge cost. There was no difficulty in the trade at all up to 1916. The trade then met the then President of the Board of Trade—I was one of those who met him—and we had a talk round the table as to the best means of meeting the difficulties so far as that winter was concerned. We came to an honourable arrangement with him that the prices of coal should not be raised throughout the whole of that winter. The Coal Prices Limitation Act was put into force. The merchants knew what they had to pay, and they came to the arrangement with the President of the Board of Trade that a certain margin should be worked upon and that there should be no raising of the prices throughout London. That was carried out at no cost whatever so far as coal control was concerned. What has happened since that time? Coal has gone up altogether 10s. 6d. at the pit's mouth and 15s. a ton to the consumer. During the last three or four weeks it has gone up, so far as London is concerned, by 4s.—2s. 6d. was given in June and 1s. 6d. again in June to the collieries. The collieries only handle that money for the purpose of bookkeeping and do not derive any benefit from it at all. Four shillings per ton on 200,000,000 tons of coal raised and usable coal comes to £40,000,000. Out of that 4s. per ton the Coal Controller pays the increased wages to men and boys—there was 1s. 6d. per day per man and 9d. per day per boy given in June, and there was another increase in July, and the total of that comes to about 2s. 8d. per ton. The rest of the 4s.—this is the arrangement—is handed over at the end of each quarter to the Goal Controller for the purposes of the expenses of his coal control. Even that represents from £13,000,000 to £15,000,000 per annum. I have consulted the colliery owners in various parts of the country, and I have been given the figures carefully. Of that 4s. I am told that nothing goes to the collieries; 2s. 8d. of it goes to the men and boys, and 1s. 4d. per ton on the 200,000,000 tons of raised and usable coal goes to the Coal Controller for expenses now and in the future, plus, I understand, a part of the 15 per cent. of the excess profits which would also go into the hands of the Board of Trade for the compensation of such collieries as cannot make their collieries pay under the arrangement. Therefore, not only from £12,000,000 to £15,000,000 passes into the hands of the Coal Controller, but something more. This Order is not loved anywhere, so far as I am concerned. For something you do not love and cannot understand, and feel cannot be worked, a sum approaching £15,000,000 per annum is a big price to pay. There is this further feature about it that it is a big indirect taxation upon the ratepayer in respect of something for which he cannot see he is getting value. There is no control over that expenditure except a Departmental control. So far as London is concerned, its share of that expenditure, if my figures are anywhere near right—I have taken a wide margin of £12,000,000 to £15,000,000—would be £340,000 per annum. To an old London County Council member that means something like 3d. in the £ on the rateable value of the whole of London. Whenever we talked about putting the county rate of London up by one penny, county councillors held up their hands in holy horror, but here we are actually putting three-pence on the rateable value of London for the expenses of a control we do not love, which the trade generally do not think is necessary in any shape or form, and in regard to which, so far as I can gather, the whole country holds the same opinion. I do not say it is not necessary expenditure if there is to be a Coal Controller, but I do say there is no necessity for a Coal Controller's Department such as we have at present. It started very modestly with, perhaps, half a dozen rooms and a dozen clerks and staff. Now at the Holborn Viaduct Hotel there are 600 rooms, how many clerks I do not know, and how many more employés up and down the country I do not know, but it will take a fair number of employés to run away with anything like £10,000,000 to £15,000,000 per annum. I have had various figures given to me showing anything from 4,000, 6,000 to 10,000 employés. I know nothing whatever about that, I only know that 1s. 4d. per ton on the huge amount of usable coal raised will produce such a sum that it would take a tremendous staff to run away with the money. So far as the future prospects are concerned, those members of the trade who have had the interests of the trade at heart I am quite sure would rather go out of business at the present time until the War is over if this business is going to be forced upon them. They do not understand the Order, and never will understand it. There is no one at the Coal Control Department who can lead them to understand it. By the bye, the public share in the Order comes to thirty-three pages. What the Rationing Order application forms are to be, I do not know. I have not seen them myself yet, but I am told by those who have seen them that they are of such a nature that even an educated man will not know where he is when he comes to fill them up. In London you have 11,000,000 of more or less educated people—people who abominate forms always—who will have to fill up these forms. They are such complicated forms that the Income Tax papers are simple compared with them. When this is launched upon them and the Order is put into their hands and they are told to carry it out, you may rest assured they will absolutely refuse to do it in the first place. The local coal overseers will be driven mad in trying to help them to understand it. I conclude, as I started, by saying that, able as the Coal Controller is, I have only one fault to find with him—he does not understand the coal trade. But that is the system that governs all these offices. If you are in the woollen trade you are put to buying bacon, or something of that sort. If we have a man who understands railways from top to bottom—of course it comes into the coal trade—as the present Coal Controller does, he is put to controlling the coal trade. As his right-hand man he has one of the traffic managers of the London General Omnibus Company. What does he know of the coal trade? Both of them are of the finest type of business men, but they do not understand the business they are asked to manage. They ought to have a very efficient staff to carry out such a complicated Order, but I am quite sure that they have very few men round them who know anything about the Order at all or anything about the coal trade. I am voicing the opinion of the trade to-day when I say that, with all our sympathy with the Coal Controller, his right-hand man and his staff, we simply abominate the Coal Order and we do not think it can be carried out in any shape or form to the satisfaction of either its promoters or the public generally. With the country districts largely denuded of coal, with only three days' supply, with the London district better off for coal than it was this time last year but with very many fewer orders to execute, and all their orders to execute before the end of September, and with a large trade springing up at any time after September, what guarantee is the President of the Board of Trade able to give that the output of coal will be largely increased, so that not only the country districts but London and other large centres, consuming large amounts of coal, can be guaranteed that they are going to have their supplies, the cellars of the rich having been filled during the summer?
The hon. Member has said London was not able to understand this Coal Control Order. Certainly the Potteries understand what coal control means, because their staple industry is now in process of closing down through lack of coal. It is fairly clear that we should be addressing ourselves not so much to the President of the Board of Trade as to the Director of National Service, and I hope what I have to say will be transmitted to him, for it seems to me that the Coal Controller has an absolutely impossible task to perform. There is not sufficient coal being produced to go round and someone must go short. There is nothing to show that the Coal Controller is not doing his best with the shortage of coal that exists. There has been no criticism directed to that point. The position really seems to be that we have so reduced the production of coal that there is not sufficient for all, not sufficient for the staple industries of the country, and not sufficient to meet domestic requirements. That is, I think, in the main, due to the fact that the Government allowed itself to be hustled by the miserable stunt raised by the "Daily Mail" and its kindred organs a few months ago, when we were told that large numbers of men in the coal-mining industry were shirkers, dodging military service, and the cry went up that they must be combed out and more men must be taken from the industry. We have 70,000 men who have been taken, or are in process of being taken, and a consequent reduction in the output by some 22,500,000 tons a year. If you withdraw these men in this way from industry, and so reduce output, it is natural that these difficulties should arise, and if we are to maintain our industry the only way is, if possible, to return men, and at the very least to see that no further men are withdrawn from it. I hope the President of the Board of Trade will make that representation to those who control the recruiting policy of this country, because undoubtedly the statements made and the arguments used by my hon. and gallant Friend (Colonel Wedgwood) were not in the least exaggerated.To take the particular district with which we are concerned, virtually the whole of the population depends on the pottery industry. It is not a sectional industry; it is not a merely local industry; it is a national industry. The whole British industry of pottery is concentrated in that one district. It may be said it is good war policy, the making of earthenware not being essential to the immediate conduct of the War, to destroy an industry of that kind and to divert more labour to other industries. That is a very narrow view indeed to take. It was not taken at the outset of the War, because I remember when the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Runciman) was President of the Board of Trade he organised a great exhibition in the Potteries, and urged the manufacturers to extend their operations and to send their goods to South America to secure the trade which was likely to fall into their hands owing to the exclusion of German competition. The manufacturers were urged in every direction to increase their output. I am not so much concerned with the particular matter of the supplanting of German goods as German goods, but these goods are being and have been sent very largely to South America. We are drawing our food supplies from there, and we are becoming a debtor country to the Americans, and the only way we shall be able to pay that debt is by the output from our manufactories. Here is an industry which is playing a part in the maintenance of our financial fabric. If the War goes on, the main factor in bringing it to an end, and perhaps a disastrous end for this country, will be financial loss, bankruptcy, and insolvency. The strength of this country in war has not been in its man-power. In the last resort it will be in its financial power. Already the financial power of this country has maintained the War. Italy, France, and Russia would have had to give in years ago if it had not been for the financial strength of this country, and it can only be maintained, even during war, by maintaining the output of essential industries, and in particular those which have an export trade and are helping to pay for the imports of food products into this country. So the destruction of this industry, though it might momentarily transfer some girls into other work, would obviously be a weakening of the national strength in the operations of war itself. A somewhat analogous case arose a year or two ago in France. Owing to the proposal of the Government to withdraw all the men who had been exempted, the silk industry of Lyons was threatened with destruction. That was an absolutely essential industry for the purposes of war, if ever there was one. The manufacturers of Lyons rose in a body, brought pressure to bear on the Government, and showed that it was an export industry and it was consequently helping to maintain the financial strength of France. The Government saw that and met their demands and eased the situation for them, so that they were able in time of war, with all the stress upon France, to carry on the silk industry. Therefore, I think we may urge on the President of the Board of Trade to pay special attention, as far as he possibly can, to the limitation of the coal output and to the upholding of this staple industry. It is already overburdened and under great stress, owing to conditions to which he might also pay attention as a means of ameliorating the hardship which this Coal Order will bring upon us. Already I believe one of his Committees has reported that the railway monopoly, which is destructive of the industries in its district, and the canal monopoly should have special attention. This is a district which has the highest rates in Great Britain. Within the last week they have been raised another 10d., bringing the total up to a little under 13s. in the £. If you withdraw the coal supply from the pottery industry you are going to reduce the rateable value of the borough of Hanley and consequently to raise the rates, to 15s. or 16s. in the £—there will be no limit to the burden—and if you bring about distress and unemployment, at the same time withdrawing their coal supply, you are going to create, a condition of affairs in that district which will not help the successful prosecution of the War.
The PRESIDENT of the BOARD of TRADE (Sir A. Stanley)
The hon. Baronet (Sir J. Walton) made rather an attack upon the control of coal generally. He seemed to suggest that the very unpleasant position in which we now find ourselves with respect to coal is entirely attributable to the action of the Government in taking over the control of all the coalfields in the United Kingdom, and that if the administration of this vast and essential industry had been left in the hands of those who are directly engaged in it, it would have been much better and more in the interests of the country. The right hon. Gentleman opposite also suggested that this control was not necessary, and that it was a matter of political expediency at the time that a bigger step was taken in September, 1916, and that that step itself has not resulted to the advantage of the country. I differ from those who take that line. The step that was taken by my right hon. Friend when he was President of the Board of Trade in securing control of the coalfields in South Wales was a step that was taken primarily, if not entirely, in the interests of securing rest in the labour world. I believe it was almost entirely a labour question at that time, and limited almost, if not exclusively, to that particular area. Therefore, if I may be permitted to say so, I think my right hon. Friend acted very wisely in the step he took at that time. Times have changed since that first step was taken. I shall not go so far as to say that the same acute labour situation developed in the other coalfields of the country as existed in South Wales, but at least there were possibilities of labour difficulties arising. Apart from that there was another reason why the control should be extended so as to include all the coalfields in the country. That reason was one of transport, and I may say, with a full knowledge of all the facts—of course the Board of Trade is the Department responsible for transport as well as coal—that the step taken in December, 1916, which secured the control of the coalfields of the United Kingdom, was a step that has been completely justified by what has transpired since. I say without the slightest hesitancy—there may be some who disagree with me—that as a result of this control—I make no claim that it has been done perfectly—there has been a better distribution of coal and a more uniform distribution of coal, and taking the results as a whole the country is to-day in a very much stronger and better position as regards control than would have been the case, not only with regard to the supply of coal, but also with regard to the price of coal. I therefore respectfully suggest to my right hon. Friend that in the first step he took for dealing with the coalfields in South Wales, a step which we have enlarged upon, he was legislating at that time wisely, and we have done no more than follow in his footsteps.The hon. Baronet the Member for Barnsley (Sir J. Walton) found fault with the number of empty wagons which he had in his travels observed on the railway sidings, and again he seemed to suggest that these empty wagons were due to the control, and that these wagons would be filled if it were not for the control. May I remind him that there has been a considerable falling off in the output of coal during the last few weeks which is not in any way attributable to the withdrawal of men from the mines for military service. The falling off is directly and solely attributable to the very serious epidemic of influenza which has gone through many of the mines, in some instances reducing the number of employés by as much as 60 per cent. I suggest that it would be impossible for us to maintain the flow of coal in a condition of that sort.
Sir J. WALTON
It was temporary.
Sir A. STANLEY
I agree that it was temporary, and I say that the empty wagons upon the railway sidings will also be temporary. Whether there was control or otherwise, this unfortunate epidemic of influenza would have prevailed just the same.
Sir J. WALTON
The collieries in several cases are only working three or four days a week. Give us more wagons to load, improve the transport from the collieries to the consum