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Commons Chamber
30 October 1918
Volume 110

House Of Commons

Wednesday, 30th October, 1918.

The House being met, the CLERK AT THE TABLE informed the House of the unavoidable absence of Mr. SPEAKER from this day's Sitting.

Whereupon Mr. WHITLEY, the Chairman of Ways and Means, proceeded to the Table and, after Prayers, took the Chair as DEPUTY-SPEAKER, pursuant to the Standing Order.

New Writ

For the County of Wilts (Southern or Wilton Division), in the room of Sir Charles Bathurst, K.B.E., now Baron Bledisloe of Lydney, called up to the House of Peers.—[ Colonel Sanders.]

Private Business

Gas Light and Coke Company Bill,

As amended, considered.

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

Bill accordingly read the third time, and passed.

Local Taxation (Scotland) Account

Copy presented of Return showing payments into and out of the Local Taxation (Scotland) Account for the financial year 1917–18 [by Command]; to lie upon the Table.

East India (Sedition Committee, 1918)

Copy presented of Report of Committee appointed to investigate Revolutionary Conspiracies in India, with two Resolutions by the Government of India [by Command]; to lie upon the Table.

Colonial Reports (Annual)

Copies presented of Colonial Reports, Nos. 971 (Ceylon, Report for 1917), 972 (Hong-Kong, Report for 1917), 973 (Zanzibar, Report for 1917), and 974 (St. Helena, Report for 1917) [by Command]; to lie upon the Table.

Oral Answers To Questions

War

India

Military Clerks (Unattached List)

1.

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asked the Secretary of State for India whether his attention has been called to the financial difficulties experienced by the military clerks on the unattached list employed in divisional and brigade offices in India; and whether he will suggest to the Government of India the advisability of the appointment of a Committee to inquire into and remedy the hardships complained of?

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Certain proposals for removing a block in promotion, due to the present embargo on retirement, in the portion of the India Unattached List to which military clerks belong are before me. Otherwise I am not aware that they are under any exceptional hardships. Those whose pay is not at a consolidated rate get the full advantage of the recent increase in the British Army rate of pay, and for those whose pay is at a consolidated rate an increase of pay has recently been sanctioned.

Officers' Families (Permission To Travel)

2.

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asked the Secretary of State for India whether his attention has been called to the hardships inflicted on officers serving in India by the enforced separation from their wives and families; and whether it is possible now to grant permission to the wives detained in England to join their husbands in India?

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I fully realise the hardships to officers and their families, but in the present condition of shipping accommodation and the restrictions imposed on journeys of women and children by certain routes passages cannot be obtained for more than a small proportion of wives of officers, military or civil, who desire to join their husbands in India.

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Is it not the case that women and children are allowed to go to the Cape, and if they are allowed to go to the Cape, could they not be allowed to go viâ the Cape to India?

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As my hon. and gallant Friend knows, the route viâ the Cape is not prohibited, but there is the same difficulty in getting passports owing to shortage of shipping.

Retirement Of Officers (Unemployed List)

3.

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asked the Secretary of State for India whether, in view of the fact that the decision of the Secretary of State in Council of the 16th October, 1918, permitting officers on the unemployed list of the Indian Army who have reached the ages of fifty-five and fifty-seven and are working under the War Office to be placed on the retired list is of no benefit to those officers unless they carry retrospective effect, he will issue orders that these officers are to be allowed to retire on pension with effect from the dates on which they reached, respectively, the ages of fifty-five and fifty-seven or became entitled to their thirty-eight years' pension?

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I do not admit that the officers in question will derive no benefit from the permission now given to them to retire, unless the permission is made retrospective. I would remind the hon. and gallant Member that the Government have an unquestioned right to suspend retirement when and for such time as it thinks fit, and that what may be permitted now might not have been prudent a short time ago. As at present advised I am not disposed to give the Order retrospective effect.

India Office

4.

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asked the Secretary of State for India whether he has appointed a Committee to consider the future organisation of the India Office; and, if so, whether he will communicate the names of the members of such Committee to the House?

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As I stated on Monday, I shall make an announcement as soon as possible.

Tolerated Brothels

6.

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asked the Secretary of State for India whether tolerated brothels for the British Army still continue in India and Burma; and, if so, whether the practice will be summarily stopped?

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The law applying to military cantonments in India does not admit of "tolerated brothels." There is no kind of official control or protection over prostitutes as such in any Indian station or cantonment.

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That includes Burma?

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That includes Burma.

Representative Government

34.

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asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether, in view of the grant of representative government to India, he will consult with the India Office as to machinery which shall eliminate from our Colonial administration anti-Indian action based on obsolete colour-bar ideas?

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As the alleged action has no existence, there is no occasion for consulting the India Office with regard to it.

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Does my hon. Friend know that the Indian population of Mombasa have protested against the recent action of the Colonial Office?

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No; I am not aware of it.

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Is the hon. Gentleman not aware that the Indian residents of Mombasa recently sent letters of protest against the action of the Colonial Government?

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The Colonial Office has no information as to what the hon. Gentleman has stated.

War Expenditure

46.

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asked the Prime Minister when the Resolution sanctioning the increased contribution of India to the expenditure on the War will be proposed?

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I understand that it would probably not be convenient to take this Resolution, at any rate for a week or two.

Fighting In Transcaspia

5.

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asked the Secretary of State for India whether he will give the House information regarding the fighting which has taken place in Transcaspia in which Indian forces were engaged?

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Accounts of the fighting which has recently taken place in Transcaspia have been communicated to the Press and published on 18th and 25th October. I have nothing to add to these communications at present.

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Can my right hon. Friend say why we are fighting in Transcaspia?

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I do not think my hon. and gallant Friend will expect an answer to such a question now.

Disabled Sailors And Soldiers

Dockyard Instruction

7.

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asked the First Lord of the Admiralty whether he will give facilities for teaching trades to disabled sailors and soldiers in the dockyard workshops in cases in which the dockyards are a convenient centre for these men?

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At some dockyards arrangements have been made for the definite training of disabled sailors and soldiers in particular classes of work; and it is being considered whether arrangements of this kind can be more extensively applied, in conjunction with the schemes of the trade advisory committee.

At all dockyards opportunities are afforded, as far as possible, for disabled men entered as labourers to qualify for the rating of skilled labourer.

As a matter of interest, I may say that since the beginning of the War over 4,000 men who have been discharged from the military forces have been entered in His Majesty's dockyards, and have been directly placed on remunerative work.

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When will the official consideration and decision be given to the point of my question, the training of disabled sailors and soldiers in the yards, not the question of how many you employ, important as it is?

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My answer covered more than the numbers employed. Certainly I will make that representation to the trade advisory committee.

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Will the right hon. Gentleman, in connection with any scheme of this kind, consult the workpeople?

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I cannot imagine that this is done except with their consent.

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Is the right hon. Gentleman aware of the convenience of this centre for the training of these men, and will he take advantage of it?

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That is a matter, however it may be, for the trade advisory committee.

Anti-Torpedo Device

8.

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asked the First Lord of the Admiralty whether his attention has been called to the device and model claimed by Mr. D. Marshall, of Cheltenham, to render a vessel secure against submarine attack by torpedo and to the offer of that gentleman to construct and fit to any appointed vessel the device for testing with uncharged and live torpedoes; and if he has taken any action?

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Mr. Marshall was interviewed at the Admiralty on 24th June last, when the device was inspected. After full investigation by the Admiralty Departments concerned, the device was not considered to hold out any promise of practical development into an efficient torpedo defence for seagoing ships. In these circumstances Mr. Marshall was thanked, and informed that it was not proposed to proceed further with his device.

Fishing Vessels (Post-War Sale)

9.

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asked the First Lord of the Admiralty whether, on the termination of the War, patrol and other boats which may be suitable for fishing purposes will be sold; if, when disposing of such vessels, he will give preference to those fishermen who have served in His Majesty's forces during the War; and whether he will arrange to grant special facilities, such as easy terms of payment, so that fishermen who have been absent on active service may resume their calling under the best possible conditions?

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As far as can be foreseen at present, there will be a number of fishing craft available at various dates after the termination of the War. The arrangements for their disposal have not yet been drawn up, but any applications from men who have served in the Navy during the War will be given every consideration when the time comes.

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Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that fishermen who have been working at home have accumulated large sums, and are therefore in a better position to pay than those in His Majesty's forces, and will he give easy terms to the latter?

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I have no doubt that is quite true, and that is a matter that I have no doubt those who have to give consideration will take into account.

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Will my right hon. Friend see that Scottish fishermen get their fair share?

Mercantile Marine

Shipyard Labour

10.

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asked the First Lord of the Admiralty if he and the Controller-General of Merchant Shipbuilding expect to obtain the extra 75,000 men declared by the latter to be required for the existing shipyards and their extensions; whether the 20,000 skilled men from the Army promised by the Government have yet been given for shipbuilding work, if not, why not; and whether the Government have decided that shipbuilding is not now of the first importance, and that building 3,000,000 tons per annum is not essential to the maintenance of our national strength?

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I endeavoured to explain last Wednesday to my right hon. Friend the Member for South Molton that it will not be possible for some months to absorb the whole of the men necessary. As regards the earlier part of the supply, as I then explained, we have that in hand. As regards the extra men who will undoubtedly be necessary for the latter part of the supply, I presume, so far as skilled men are concerned, the only available source, broadly, is the Army, and here the military situation is the governing factor.

As regards immediate and ultimate supplies of unskilled men, we hope it may continue to be possible to secure a number of recruits through the agency of the Ministry of National Service. The number of men released from the Colours for work in the shipyards, up to date, is 15,370, and in view of the urgent call for man-power in the Army, it has not been found possible to release men in excess of this number. We certainly have not decided that shipbuilding is not now of the first importance. Neither have we decided that the building of 3,000,000 tons per annum is no longer essential to the maintenance of our national strength. And my right hon. Friend may be fully assured that Lord Pirrie, who has direct access to the War Cabinet, will not lose any opportunity, as necessity arises, of pressing the claims of merchant shipbuilding, and the labour and material in connection with it, before that body.

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May we have an assurance from the right hon. Gentleman that in the event of the military situation during the next few days becoming more favourable the whole of these men—skilled men—will be at once sent back to the shipyards?

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I cannot give that assurance. I should have to consult the Controller-General of the Merchant Shipping Department. Every effort is made to get the maximum output from the facilities for shipbuilding that we have and shall have in this country.

Shipbuilding (Housing Schemes)

11.

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asked the First Lord of the Admiralty whether the housing schemes for a shipyard and marine engine works employés are to be proceeded with; if not, what alternative means are to be adopted to house the extra 75,000 men declared by the Controller-General of Merchant Shipbuilding to be necessary for the existing yards and their extensions; and whether, in view of the urgency of accommodation being found for these men as they come forward without subjecting them to any hardship or delay, he can announce that the housing and hostel schemes for this purpose will be pressed on immediately?

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The Controller-General of Merchant Shipbuilding has worked out a number of schemes designed to meet the additions to labour in the shipyards as they arise. The materialisation of these schemes depends upon the extent to which it is possible to give priority in labour and material to them.

Lord Pirrie is at the moment out of London; and, as I should be glad to discuss this question of claims for priority with him personally before finally answering this question, I shall be greatly obliged if my right hon. Friend will postpone it.

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Will the right hon. Gentleman explain why it is that, although shipbuilding is admittedly one of the most important things, that it does not get first priority?

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Lord Pirrie has charge of the scheme, and I want to consult him. I have not had an opportunity of inquiring how he is going on with the scheme.

Ship Repairs (United Kingdom)

22.

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asked the Secretary to the Admiralty whether he can state the total number of British and foreign merchant vessels which are now under repair, or awaiting repair, in the United Kingdom, and their aggregate tonnage?

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The number and tonnage of British and foreign merchant ships under repair in the United Kingdom, either in dry dock or afloat, at the 17th October, were as follows:—

Nos.Tons.
British264979,161
Allied3192,713
Neutral4477,955
3391,149,829
With the exception of one important vessel, the repairs to which could not, until lately, be sanctioned, there are no vessels reported as awaiting repairs at the moment, although occasional short delays owing to local conditions are, of course, unavoidable in ship-repair work.

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Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that yesterday at Liverpool there were 140 steamers which required repairs in the dry dock list, and in view of what the right hon. Gentleman has said, will he see that our Allies are informed of our limitations of shipping?

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I have given the facts to the 17th of October, but I will take note of what my hon. Friend has told me.

Ocean Traffic

British Women (Permits)

12.

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asked the First Lord of the Admiralty whether, in view of the cessation of U-boat attacks on our commerce, he will take steps to permit British women once more to cross the ocean to join their husbands or to get married, or to take up work of national importance?

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The existing restrictions will be reviewed as soon as there is a certainty that merchant vessels are safe from attack by the enemy.

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Can the right hon. Gentleman say how much longer the Admiralty is going to continue this grandmotherly interference with the rights of the people?

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Will the right hon. Gentleman consider the priority of more ladies who have been waiting a long time in our Colonies to come home, and also see that when sufficient facilities are available there should be no delay as to who should come first?

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There are lists of applicants which are already being considered.

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Has the right hon. Gentleman any reason to believe that the attacks on U-boats have ceased?

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I must refer the hon. Member to the statement made by the Leader of the House.

Crystal Palace

Deaths In Naval Division

13.

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asked how many deaths have occurred during the past six months at the Crystal Palace and what diseases have been diagnosed as the causes of these deaths, giving the numbers attributed, respectively, to each disease?

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There have been 120 deaths among men at the Crystal Palace during the last six months—117 from pneumonia following influenza, one from cerebrospinal meningitis, one from cerebral abscess, and one from Addison's disease. The average number of men stationed at the Crystal Palace is roughly about 5,600. During the course of six months, the number of men passing through the Crystal Palace would be much greater than that. As my hon. Friend will observe, the main, practically indeed the only, mortality during that period has been from an epidemic of influenza which affected, I regret to say, over 1,000 men.

14.

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asked the First Lord of the Admiralty if his attention has been called to the number of deaths occurring at the Crystal Palace from pneumonia following inoculation; and whether he will have an inquiry made by persons other than officials into these deaths and into the suitability of the Palace for its present purpose?

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I gave the mortality figures in answer to the previous question. Of the 117 men who unhappily died from pneumonia following influenza, none were inoculated against influenza or pneumonia. Prior to the outbreak of influenza at the Crystal Palace, the average daily sick rate had been slightly less than 3 per cent.

Though the building was not originally intended as a living place it has been satisfactorily modified subsequently to its being taken over at the beginning of the War, and the health reports prior to the present outbreak of influenza do not point to any serious objection to its continuing to be used for the purpose for which it was acquired. A very recent sanitary inspection of the building has been made as a result of which certain minor defects in ventilation are being remedied.

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I understand none was inoculated against influenza or pneumonia. Have any of them been inoculated at all?

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I do not know what the hon. Member means. None has been inoculated against influenza or pneumonia. If the hon. Member wants to know whether some time or the other some have been inoculated against small-pox, perhaps he will put that on the Paper.

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I do not want to know that. I want to know whether any of them have escaped inoculation against typhoid fever?

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The hon. Member had better put the question down more definitely.

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Is it not a fact that the percentage of deaths has not been larger than the percentage in all other large buildings where troops are housed?

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I cannot say.

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Has not a report been received to that effect?

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Is inoculation against influenza considered official by the medical fraternity?

Submarine Warfare

Sinking Of Steamship "Leinster"

15.

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asked the First Lord of the Admiralty whether he will state the speed of the "Leinster" and the speed of the average destroyer in fair weather and in rough weather, respectively; whether he will also state if the steamers plying between Larne and Stranraer have been protected by the Admiralty; and, if so, why protection was refused to the City of Dublin steamers?

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It would be difficult to give precise comparative statements as suggested by my hon. Friend. "Lloyd's Register" gives the speed of the "Leinster" as 23½ knots. This speed represents the maximum effort under the very best conditions—that is, steaming trial conditions. Generally speaking, at least a knot and a half may be deducted for the speed which the vessel would average during the passage in fine weather, but, of course, under stress of weather, the speed would be further reduced. Though I cannot give the precise comparison, I can assure my hon. Friend that heavy weather would affect far more seriously the speed of the average destroyer than a vessel of the class of the "Leinster." In regard to the second part of the question, all mercantile traffic, including the Dublin-Holyhead service, has been given protection by the antisubmarine measures in force.

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The right hon. Gentleman has not answered the question whether the steamers plying between Larne and Stranraer have been specially protected by the Admiralty.

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Yes; if the hon. Member will consider he will see that there are very vital interests by that route.

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Is it not a fact that the mail steamers from Kingstown to Holy-head have been convoyed by destroyers many months ago in heavy weather, and that these destroyers—they were American destroyers—last January were able to work in half circles round about the bow of the mail steamer, and had a great deal more speed than the mail steamer itself? I know that of my own knowledge.

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That may be so. Needless to say, we are all glad to see my hon. Friend here.

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Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that at the inquest in Dublin the managing director of the City of Dublin Steam Packet Company, the owners of the "Leinster," gave evidence that the maximum speed was 21 knots, and that that evidence was suppressed by the Censor?

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I gave the figures from "Lloyd's Register," and I explained what that means.

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Is it not a fact that the steamers plying between Larne and Stranraar were not protected except in extremely fine weather?

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There are some ports to which it is necessary to devote more attention than other ports. It is purely a naval consideration. I shall be glad to tell the hon. Member why.

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What is the speed of a destroyer?

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That is a debating point.

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It is not a debating point. It arises out of part of the question which he has not answered. What is the average speed of a destroyer?

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As I said at the outset, it is difficult to say what is the average speed of a destroyer.

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What is the average speed of a destroyer? He has given the average speed of a steamer and not of a destroyer.

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He has said it is practically impossible.

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It is not. Everybody knows but the Admiralty.

23.

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asked the Secretary to the Admiralty whether he is aware that he was misinformed by his technical advisers as to the speed of the mail steamer "Leinster" and as to the time she was torpedoed and sent out her S.O.S. call; and whether her S.O.S. call was so faint, owing to the explosion, that it did not reach Kingstown, but was picked up by the ss. "Ulster," at that time about three miles distant, at 9.50 a.m., and immediately transmitted to Kingstown?

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As regards the speed of the "Leinster," there is no question of misinformation by technical advisers. I gave the Lloyd's figure in reply to my hon. Friend on 15th October, and gave it correctly. As regards the moment of the torpedo attack, the Senior Naval Officer, Kingstown, received 9.25 a.m. as the time from a survivor, and reported the same to us. It appears that this was inaccurate. Further reports go to show that the first torpedo struck the "Leinster" at 9.30 a.m. A corrupt message was received between 9.40 and 9.44 by Wireless Kingstown and the complete message was received at Kingstown at 9.50, both these messages being made by the "Ulster." It appears very doubtful if the S.O.S. signal, which the "Leinster" apparently attempted to transmit, was ever received coherently by any vessel, the presumption being that the "Leinster's" wireless was put out of action by the torpedo attack. As was stated above, the "Ulster" transmitted the message between 9.40 and 9.44 and again at 9.50. It was not till the last-named time that the message could be understood.

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Is the right hon. Gentleman not aware that the speed given in Lloyd's book is simply the trial trip speed, and that the actual speed is, I think, 21 knots?

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I have explained what is meant in my reply to the hon. Member for South Down.

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Is it not a fact that not alone did the "Ulster" receive a wireless call, a weak call, from the "Leinster" that morning, but that a number of people on board the "Ulster" saw the actual explosion of the first torpedo that struck the "Leinster," and were it not for the fact that there was a heavy storm of wind and rain sweeping over the sea they would have seen the explosion of the second torpedo, and the end of the terrible catastrophe?

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That may very well be, but I have not heard that before.

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Is there any reason why the "Ulster" did not go to the assistance of the "Leinster" when it was being torpedoed?

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That does not arise.

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Go to sea, and learn something.

24.

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asked the Secretary to the Admiralty whether he has now made arrangements for the ss. "Ulster" to be escorted; and is he aware that on Thursday last the ss. "Ulster" was accompanied by destroyers which had no difficulty in keeping up with her?

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As stated in answers to previous questions, escorts are provided when conditions permit, one of the conditions being the state of the sea. On the date in question, weather and other conditions enabled escort to be given.

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Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that a torpedo was fired at the "Ulster" last week from an enemy submarine?

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I am not aware of that.

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It is a fact.

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I will make inquiry.

52.

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asked the Prime Minister whether he will arrange for an independent tribunal, consisting of at least one judge of His Majesty's High Court and several independent members, to investigate the circumstances in connection with the loss of the mail steamer "Leinster"?

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The Government are not prepared to go beyond the steps indicated in reply to previous questions, and are not, therefore, prepared to adopt the suggestion contained in the question.

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Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that because of what transpired at the inquest in Dublin and other matters in connection with the sinking of the "Leinster" the public will not be satisfied with a Departmental inquiry, and that there is a strong demand by the public for an independent tribunal?

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I do not know about that, but I have given a full answer to the question.

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Will the right hon. Gentleman represent to the Leader of the House that there was a direct conflict of testimony between witnesses at the inquest and statements made on behalf of the Admiralty, and call his attention to the fact that the reports of the inquest have been suppressed and censored by the public Censor; and having regard to those facts will he consider the advisability of having a searching and independent public investigation into the whole matter?

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My answer, I think, covers all that.

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Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that it is commonly believed that it was known that a submarine was in the vicinity for two or three days before the "Leinster" was sunk, and why was no protection given to the mail boat which had a large number of military as well as civilians on board?

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The hon. Member should give notice of that question.

Naval And Military Pensions And Grants

Retired And Emergency Naval Officers (Bonus)

16.

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asked the First Lord of the Admiralty whether the 25 per cent. bonus on the full pay earned by retired officers and Emergency List officers is a definite grant in lieu of pension which is suspended and cannot be increased by time served during the War and a definite grant on re-employment in time of war?

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The 25 per cent. bonus referred to, plus full pay, is paid to retired officers and officers on the Emergency List re-employed. So far as the retired officers are concerned, it is a payment in lieu of counting service for further pension during re-employment.

17 and 18.

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asked the First Lord of the Admiralty (1) whether he is aware that retired and emergency officers employed in departments outside the Admiralty—namely, transport officers, port convoy officers, shipping intelligence officers, officers in charge of D.A.M.S., and commodores of convoys—are receiving consolidated pay plus the 25 per cent. bonus; if he can see his way to give similar treatment to retired and emergency officers employed in departments inside the Admiralty, and to make the rectification retrospective; (2) whether he can say, in view of the provisions of the Orders in Council regarding the employment of retired officers in time of war, dated 8th March, 1895, and 12th November, 1900, 16th May, 1904, 5th March, 1910, 5th July, 1911, 3rd February, 1915, and 15th February, 1916, and in view of the provisions of the Orders in Council regarding the employment of emergency officers in time of war, dated 13th May, 1901, and 11th February, 1913, why retired and emergency officers employed at the Admiralty are debarred from receiving the consolidated rate of pay of their rank and in addition the 25 per cent. bonus on their full pay, less allowances, as provided for by these Orders in Council?

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As regards retired and emergency officers recalled to employment at the Admiralty, they receive pay and allowances plus bonus, or consolidated pay where the same is more to their advantage. As regards retired and emergency officers specified in question No. 17, they get consolidated pay plus 25 per cent. bonus. This was decided upon after careful consideration.

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Is not the right hon. Gentleman aware that men now employed in provincial towns are getting the consolidated rate of pay, plus the bonus, and not in London, where it costs a great deal more to live than in provincial towns.

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The hon. Member is right in the points of Question 17. The officers therein specified are getting consolidated pay plus bonus. Those who are recalled for service at the Admiralty receive pay and allowances, plus bonus, or consolidated pay. The matter was decided after very careful consideration, and I cannot carry the matter beyond that.

Medal Recipients (Gratuities)

77.

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asked the Financial Secretary to the War Office whether there is any reason why a gratuity or an addition of 6d. a day to pension should be given to recipients of the Distinguished Conduct Medal, Meritorious Service Medal, and Military Cross while the same is denied to recipients of the Military Medal; and whether he will in consequence consider the desirability of giving a bonus to those military medalists who have won a bar to their medal for a second act of bravery in this War?

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The Military Medal was instituted with a view to providing a form of decoration in recognition of bravery in the field which did not reach the standard of the Distinguished Conduct Medal, and so did not call for the addition of the gratuity and extra pension which the latter carries.

78.

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asked the Financial Secretary to the War Office whether, in view of the fact that 6d. a day is added to the pension of a recipient of the Distinguished Conduct Medal who is discharged to pension, he will consider the grant of a like sum for life to distinguished conduct medalists who are not discharged to pension in lieu of the gratuity of £20 which is awarded them instead?

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This matter has been carefully examined, and it is considered undesirable to multiply small pensions of 6d. a day where there is no other pension to which they would form an addition.

Kit Renewal

72.

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asked the Under-Secretary of State for War whether, in view of the difficulties which officers living on their pay experience in replacing articles of kit when they become worn out after many months on active service, he will consider the possibility of giving an additional outfit allowance of £15 per annum to all officers who have served three years and over during the present War?

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Renewal of kit was one of the necessary expenses taken into account when the present scale of pay for officers was fixed by the War Cabinet.

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Will the right hon. Gentleman take into consideration the still further increase in the price of kits since the last arrangements were made?

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Arrangements have been made by which articles of uniform and so forth can be purchased at fixed maximum prices.

Royal Navy

Engineer Officers (Pay)

19.

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asked the Secretary to the Admiralty if he is now in a position to make a statement as regards the kept-on engineer officers of the Royal Navy and their pay?

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I can only repeat that this question is still under consideration.

Coast Watchers

25.

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asked the Secretary to the Admiralty whether he can state the approximate percentage of the civilian coast watchers employed under the Admiralty who have never served in the Navy or Army or in the Mercantile Marine during the present War; and whether he will consider the advisability of replacing them by discharged men of all Services who are fitted for work of this nature?

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It is not possible in the time to complete the inquiries which are necessary in order to furnish a reply to my hon. and gallant Friend's question. If he will repeat his question one day next week, I shall be in a position to answer him.

German Government

Legation, Berne

26.

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asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he is aware that the German Legation at Berne, which in pre-war days consisted of a staff fewer than fifty in number, now exceeds 1,200 persons; if he has any official information showing that this Legation has become the headquarters of the German system of espionage throughout the world; and if he will make representations to the Swiss Government as to whether Swiss consent has been obtained for so great an increase?

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The staff of the German Legation at Berne has been very considerably augmented. I am unaware of the exact numbers of its present staff, but I doubt if they are as high as is suggested. The answer to the second part of the question is in the negative, and I am afraid that it would be impossible to comply with the final suggestion.

Constitutional Changes

27.

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asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he is in a position to explain the constitutional effect of the changes in the system of government in Germany referred to in the reply of the German Government to President Wilson's Note; whether the powers of the Bundesrat as a legislative body and as the supreme administrative board have been in any way modified; whether the Secretaries of State and other heads of executive departments have gained any responsible authority or remain answerable to the Imperial Chancellor alone and liable to be dismissed by him at will; and whether the expression War Cabinet now appearing in reports of German political movements implies the existence of an executive Government with collective responsibility to the Legislature, similar in constitutional status to that assigned by modern usage to the Cabinet in the United Kingdom, France, and Italy?

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I fear that I could not within the limits of a reply to a question explain the constitutional effect of the changes now being made in the Government of Germany. As far as I know, there is no evidence that the powers of the Bundesrat have been in any way modified. With regard to the third part of the question, it does not appear that there is any proposal to alter the position of Secretaries of State in Germany. They remain, as I understand, subordinate to the Imperial Chancellor, and are appointed by the Emperor on his recommendation. They are also, I suppose, liable to be dismissed by the Emperor, who will presumably exercise this power on the recommendation of the Imperial Chancellor, although this does not seem to be specifically provided for. The last part of the question is, therefore, presumably in the negative.

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Will representations be made to the German Government that the powers of the Bundesrat should be regulated under the terms of the Parliament Act?

Roumania (British Subjects' Property)

28.

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asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he is aware that a considerable quantity of property owned by British subjects in Roumania was destroyed on the direct instructions of British officers; whether, in consequence, some of the owners thereof have been reduced from affluent circumstances to the verge of poverty; and whether, considering that the loss of such commerce must eventually be made good, the Government will now make reparation to the owners of the property, either in payment in full or by a payment on account, instead of waiting until after the cessation of hostilities?

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I presume that this question refers to the destruction of oil property in Roumania at the end of 1916 for the purpose of preventing its being utilised by the enemy for military purposes. This destruction was effected by the direction of the Roumanian Government, and was carried out under the supervision of Roumanian, French, and British officers. Any claim for compensation must therefore be, in the first place, one against the Roumanian Government, and no question of any payment being made by His Majesty's Government can be considered until the matter has been adjusted in consultation with the Roumanian and the other Governments concerned. I would point out that even if the destruction had not taken place the British owners could have received no income from their properties so long as these remained in the hands of the enemy.

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As the property to which I refer was destroyed on the express instructions of His Majesty's Government, will the matter be reconsidered?

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I will consider any additional facts which my hon. Friend may bring before me, but I do not think that it is accurate to say that anything was done by British officers except as agents of the Roumanian Government.

Russia

Mr B Chrysin (Deportation)

29.

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asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he is aware that a Russian gentleman, Mr. B. Chrysin, deported with Mr. Litvinoff on 26th September, is in London; and whether his return is in connection with any political object favoured by the Foreign Office?

141.

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asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he is aware that Mr. B. Chrysin, who was deported from this country on 26th September, is now in London and writing letters from his address in the city; by what means and with whose permission was Mr. Chrysin allowed to return; and what action he proposes to take?

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My right hon. Friend has asked me to reply to question No. 29, and I will answer at the same time question No. 141. I regret that, in answering the hon. Member's question on the 17th instant, I was mistaken in saying that Chrysin had left this country. This was the information given me, but it proves to be incorrect. There has been some confusion in the case owing to the illness of the officer concerned, but the matter will be investigated.

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Will the right hon. Gentleman apologise to Mr. Chrysin, who carries on business in the city in the co-operative movement, and can now have it put to him that the Home Secretary has said that he has been deported when he has never been deported; and will the right hon. Gentleman say who is the official who is responsible?

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I am having the matter investigated.

Ceylon

30.

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asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether a cablegram has been received from the Ceylon Reform League and the Ceylon National Association informing the Government of the disappointment caused in Ceylon by the announcement of the Government that the time was inopportune for the discussion of reforms in Ceylon; whether there are any and, if so, what reasons why the same consideration should not be given to the demands of the people of Ceylon for responsible government as the Government is now giving to similar demands from the neighbouring people of India; whether any and, if so, what reply has been given to the Reform League and National Association; and whether he will call for and publish a Report of the Governor of Ceylon upon the steps necessary for introducing into Ceylon a measure of responsible government similar to that proposed by the Secretry of State for India?

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Telegrams have been received from the Ceylon Reform League and National Association. I have asked the Governor to inform these and other bodies in Ceylon who have approached me that I will carefully consider their views, but that I am not prepared to form any definite conclusions until the time is more opportune for examining all the proposals which have been submitted. I have no doubt I shall be furnished with the Governor's views in due course.

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Can the right hon. Gentleman say when he is likely to have the Governor's Report?

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I do not know.

31.

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asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies how many persons condemned by court-martial for offences during the Ceylon riots of June, 1915, are still in prison?

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I have no recent Return giving the desired information. The bulk of the prisoners were released in 1916, and the sentences of those remaining have been carefully reviewed.

32.

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asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he has received a memorial from Ceylon denying that all the cases of illegal shooting alleged to have taken place during the riots have been investigated, and containing sworn affidavits going to show that the eye-witnesses of the shootings and the relatives of the persons shot have never been examined, and that the inquiry was confined to calling for a report from the officers accused of illegal action; and whether, in these circumstances, he will order a full public inquiry into all these cases?

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I have received no such memorial, and I have nothing to add to the answers previously given on the subject of the proposals for a further inquiry.

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Are we to understand that the Government entirely declines to clear up this old question?

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I have said that I have nothing to add.

Australia (British Imports)

33.

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asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies what is now the average Import Duty on British manufactured goods imported into the Commonwealth of Australia; to what extent, if any, these duties have been raised since 1st August, 1914; and whether any other of the self-governing Dominions have similarly increased Import Duties on British manufactures?

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My right hon. Friend has asked me to reply to this question. A calculation made by the statistical authorities of the Commonwealth shows that the average incidence of the tariff of 1914 (which came into operation after the outbreak of war) amounted to about 16¾ per cent. ad valorem on imports of all descriptions from the United Kingdom, as compared with about 14¼ per cent. in the case of the previous tariff. There has been a general increase of rates of duty in Canada, and one on important classes of goods in South Africa. In New Zealand and Newfoundland a few articles only have been subjected to higher rates.

Mombasa

35.

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asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he will state why the segregating of Indians in a special part of Mombasa was not submitted to the India Office before it was carried out; whether he is aware that Indian opinion in the Colony is disturbed by this new departure; whether any further extensions of a colour-bar policy are intended; whether Indians have representation on the Legislative Council of the Colony; and whether he is aware that Indian troops have taken a leading part in defending the Colony from the Germans?

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The responsibility for the administration of the East Africa Protectorate rests and must remain with the Secretary of State for the Colonies. I have had representations from Indian Associations in the Protectorate on the matter referred to, but I can give no pledge that further steps will not be taken if necessitated by the sanitary considerations, which have governed the measures already adopted. I am, of course, fully aware of the part taken by Indian troops in the campaign.

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Does that mean that the Colonial Office declines to consult the India Office on matters concerning the welfare of our Indian fellow subjects?

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I have nothing to add to the answer.

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If the hon. and gallant Gentleman knows better than the Colonial Office, he need not put the question.

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I asked whether the Colonial Office in this matter had consulted the India Office?

36.

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asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether there is need for Indian residences in Mombasa; and, if so, whether any land will be sold to Indians as it has been to Europeans?

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In answer to the first part of the question, I have no information. As regards the second part of the question, I have no doubt that if this is so, and if land is available For the purpose, the answer will be in the affirmatve.

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May I take it that the Indian population of Mombasa have made representations to the Colonial Office that they want land as well as the white settlers, and that land will be provided for them?

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I stated the hypothesis in perfectly correct terms, and I think the answer is complete.

Wound Distinction

38.

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asked the Under-Secretary of State for War whether, in view of the fact that men wounded in former wars may now receive the same concessions in respect to military service, and the same rates, of pension as men wounded in the present War, he will also grant them the gold stripe, as given to men who have been wounded since 4th August, 1914?

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The wound distinction was introduced to meet the peculiar circumstances connected with the present War, and it is not proposed to extend the conditions of award so as to include men wounded in previous wars.

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Can the right hon. Gentleman say what are the peculiar circumstances of this war, and why men wounded in the South African and former wars should not be given the gold stripe as well as the men wounded in this War?

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This War is a very prolonged one, and it was thought at one time in the House that there was a great distinction between the man serving at home and the man who has come home wounded after serving abroad in this War.

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Why should not men who have been wounded in former wars have a like distinction?

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Questions should not be made the subject of debate. It precludes the later questions from being asked.

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This is my third question.

Military Service

Thirteen Years' Service

39.

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asked the Under-Secretary of State for War whether, in view of the fact that, under the Military Service Act of May, 1916, men could claim their discharge if they had thirteen years' service to their credit and had reached the age limit of forty-one under that Act, he will now extend a similar concession to men who have reached the age of fifty-one and have also thirteen years' service to their credit?

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I regret that in existing circumstances it is not possible to adopt my hon. and gallant Friend's suggestion. The question suggests an amendment to the Military Service (No. 2) Act, 1918, and should, therefore, be addressed to the Minister of National Service.

Recruits Under Nineteen

44.

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asked the Under-Secretary of State for War whether he is aware that a draft of lads under nineteen was sent overseas from the Gordon Highlanders early in September and, in spite of the undertaking given by him on 7th August, in the same month were sent into the firing line?

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Inquiries are already being made, and I will let my hon. Friend know the result as soon as possible.

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Would it not be the greatest hardship to lads of nineteen to peremptorily forbid their entering the firing line, in view of the fact that they have displayed the greatest gallantry during the War?

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I have already said that I regard the conduct and attitude of these young fellows when perforce they were sent abroad in March last as simply magnificent.

Conscription (Ireland)

53.

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asked the Prime Minister if he will have the calling up of men of over forty-five suspended until the necessity of conscripting the young men of Ireland shall arise?

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I regret that I can add nothing to the previous replies on this subject.

Re-Enlistment (Rank)

64.

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asked the Under-Secretary of State for War whether he can now state what decision has been come to with respect to the restoration to their former rank, irrespective of their medical category, of warrant officers and non-commissioned officers recalled to the Colours under the last Military Service Act?

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Generally speaking, ex-warrant officers and ex-non-commissioned officers on re-enlistment are given the substantive rank which they held at the time of their discharge from the Army. There are, however, certain exceptions, which are explained fully in the instructions which have been issued on the subject, and of which I am sending copies to my hon. and gallant Friend.

Class W (Reserve)

76.

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asked the Under-Secretary of State for War whether a man transferred to Class W of the Reserve is considered to be a civilian or a soldier?

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A Reservist in Class W cannot strictly speaking be called either a soldier or a civilian, but while permitted to remain in reserve he is not subject to military discipline. He is, however, liable at any time to be recalled to the Colours for service as a soldier.

Royal Army Medical Corps

40.

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asked the Under-Secretary of State for War if, having regard to the fact that women doctors serving in military hospitals discharge similar duties and receive the same pay as men doctors and are entitled to wear the Royal Army Medical Corps badge, he will take steps to rectify the anomaly of their being refused even honorary commissions or to wear badges of rank which would be helpful to them in maintaining discipline; and if he can arrange that they obtain equivalent relief from Income Tax as is granted to men doctors under the Service rate?

70.

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asked the Under-Secretary of State for War if he is aware that duly qualified women doctors, attached to the Royal Army Medical Corps and performing the same work as Royal Army Medical Corps officers, are not granted commissions or the badge of rank; and will he consider favourably an alteration in these Regulations?

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I am sorry that I cannot give a definite reply to-day, but I can assure my hon. Friends that the question is at this moment receiving every possible consideration.

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Can the right hon. Gentleman say when he will be able to reply, as this matter is greatly pressing?

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I quite agree that the matter is pressing, and I hope to be able to give a reply next Wednesday.

22Nd Cheshire Regiment

41, 42 and 43.

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asked the Under-Secretary of State for War (1) whether the 22nd Cheshire Regiment (4th Reserve Battalion. Territorial Force, was sent from Oswestry to Kinmel because there was a proposal that German prisoners should occupy their hutments at Oswestry; why the battalion was moved before a definite decision to use such hutments for prisoners was made; whether such hutments have been occupied since the battalion left; (2) whether the 4th Reserve Battalion Cheshire Regiment, Territorial Force, have recently gone into billets at Whitstable because their canvas camp has been in an exposed place and has been blown down; whether this involves the expenditure of large sums for billeting money; whether there are no public buildings suitable for training in bad weather; why this Reserve battalion cannot be placed at Kinmel, where there are plenty of empty hutments, etc.; (3) whether the 4th Reserve Battalion, Territorial Force, of the Cheshire Regiment, having been first moved from Oswestry to Kinmel, were in July, for no ostensible reason, moved to Tankerton Camp, Whitstable, and put under canvas; and whether he will explain why this course was adopted, as the cost of transporting recruits from Cheshire to Whitstable is at least three times that of taking them to Kinmel, and the cost of home warrants to the country similarly great, as well as the cost of men joining up from Lancashire and Cheshire hospitals and command depots?

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The battalion referred to was moved in accordance with the measures necessary for the defence of the country. The camp at Tankerton was blown down under exceptional climatic conditions, and the battalion was placed in winter quarters a few days in anticipation of the normal moves of troops which had been arranged. The accommodation at Kinmel has already been allotted, and is not available.

As regards question No. 41, my hon. Friend is under a misapprehension. The hutments at Oswestry occupied by the battalion had been allotted previously for prisoners of war, and a certain amount of barbed wire had been put up in order to make the camp suitable for their reception at any time. The hutments were occupied by prisoners of war as soon as the special arrangements necessary were completed, and have since been continuously occupied by them.

Dominion Premiers

45.

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asked the Prime Minister whether Mr. W. M. Hughes is still a guest of the Government?

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I have been asked to reply to this question. The answer is in the affirmative.

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May I ask whether the business of the Dominion Premiers is not already finished, and whether, in these circumstances, their expenses could not be paid by the party organisations? [HON MEMBERS: "Order, order!"]

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Notice must be given of that question. The question on the Paper has had a complete answer. Questions must not be used for the purpose of initiating debates.

Enemy Aliens

47.

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asked the Prime Minister whether he will consider the advisability of appointing a second Committee, similar to that presided over by Mr. Justice Sankey, so that the cases of internment or repatriation of enemy aliens may be dealt with more expeditiously?

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I do not think this desirable. The Committee have great experience, and are making good progress. I do not think it would conduce to expedition to hand over part of the work to another Committee.

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How many cases have been dealt with, and how many remain to be dealt with?

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I cannot answer that without notice. I will inquire if the hon. Gentleman puts down a question.

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Does the right hon. Gentleman think that anyone else will be before the Committee?

48.

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asked the Prime Minister whether, in view of the possibility of a General Election in the near future, he will introduce legislation to prevent anyone of enemy alien birth, whether naturalised or unnaturalised, having the right to sit in Parliament or on municipal and local councils?

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I would refer the hon. Member to the answer given by my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House to the hon. and learned Member for the Ealing Division last Thursday.

49.

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asked the Prime Minister whether, in view of the possibility of a General Election in the near future, he will appoint additional Committees, similar to that presided over by Mr. Justice Atkin, so that the certificates of naturalisation granted to aliens can be reviewed without further delay, and so prevent all those who are proved to be undesirable from exercising the franchise at the forthcoming General Election?

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This Committee is making good progress with its work, and I do not think it necessary to appoint an additional Committee.

Peace Conference

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asked the Prime Minister whether he can state who will represent Ireland at the Peace Conference?

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It is impossible to say now who will be the delegates of the British Empire at the Peace Conference.

Reconstruction

Munitions (Employment)

51.

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asked the Prime Minister if, in view of the possibility of an early peace, he is now in a position to make any statement as to the arrangements which have been made to wind up contracts for the manufacture of munitions and to find employment for the workpeople engaged thereon?

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I cannot add anything to the previous replies which have been given on this subject.

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As this is a matter of great importance, may I ask when the light hon. Gentleman thinks he can make a statement?

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I cannot say.

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As a large number of people may be thrown out of employment at short notice, can the right hon. Gentleman say what steps are being taken to avoid that?

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My hon. Friend may be quite sure that the matter is being very carefully considered.

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Will the right hon. Gentleman make representations to the War Cabinet that an opportunity should be given to the House to discuss this matter before the General Election?

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I will convey that to my right hon. Friend.

Imperial Conference (Migration Resolutions)

54.

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asked the Prime Minister whether legislation will be required to carry into effect the Resolutions on migration between India and the Dominions which were passed at the Imperial Conference; and, if so, whether it is proposed to introduce such legislation during the present Session?

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I think that no Imperial legislation will be required, and that the necessary steps can be taken in India.

Miss Sylvia Pankhurst

55.

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asked the Prime Minister whether it is by his orders or authority that Miss Sylvia Pankhurst had been summoned to appear on 28th October at Ronishaw, Derbyshire, for a speech advocating Socialism delivered on 28th September; and whether the Government has taken any decision to suppress the advocacy of Socialist opinions?

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Miss Sylvia Pankhurst was prosecuted by the Director of Public Prosecutions, and was convicted of an offence against the Defence of the Realm Regulations. The answer to the latter part of the question is in the negative.

Influenza Epidemic

Belfast Prison

57.

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asked the Prime Minister what steps, if any, the Government have taken to prevent the influenza epidemic spreading; if he is aware that over 100 political prisoners are now suffering from this illness in Belfast Prison; that they have not sufficient hospital accommodation or nurses to cope with the outbreak; that their food is insufficient and of a poor quality, being tea and dry bread; and if he will state what steps the Government propose to take to deal with the matter?

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Dr. MacCormack, the medical member of the Prisons Board specially visited Belfast Prison in reference to the influenza epidemic. He reports that there are now under medical treatment for influenza 111 prisoners committed under the Defence of the Realm Regulations and fourteen officers of the prison. There is no foundation for the allegiation that the food is insufficient or of poor quality, or that the medical or nursing arrangements are unsatisfactory.

Special treatment and diet are afforded to each patient, and the medical officer to the prison has authority to engage additional medical assistance and trained nursing staff, and to order any extra articles of food or medicines that may be deemed necessary. The prison medical officer has already called to his assistance Dr. Tweedie, of Belfast, and Professor McKisack, M.D., as consultant. There is no reason to think that the prisoners are not receiving all proper care and medical treatment.

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Have some of these prisoners been transferred or will any be transferred to hospitals in other institutions where they can be better attended to?

Ministerial Statements

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asked the President of the Local Government Board whether, in view of the continued spread of influenza, he will state to the House how many medical advisers there are attached to the Local Government Board; whether they are all at present engaged in giving their whole time to preventive measures dealing with the epidemic; whether, in view of the grave results arising from the spread of the disease, he considers the staff wants strengthening; and whether he does not think it advisable to issue broadcast advice as to what steps can be taken by the public to prevent the spread of infection?

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The staff of the medical department of the Local Government Board consists of a medical officer and four assistant medical officers, together with twenty medical inspectors.

A memorandum of instruction as to the preventive measures available, which was prepared by the medical officer, has been issued to every sanitary district in England and Wales and the sanitary authorities, under the advice of their medical officers of health, are urging the adoption of the preventive measures in their several districts. In the invaded towns information as to the precautions available has been distributed broadcast by means of leaflets, posters, and Press notices. In many of these areas day schools and Sunday schools have been closed, and the public have been advised to avoid crowded assemblies. In some instances voluntary arrangements have been made for excluding children from cinema performances, and also for increasing the time between performances, so as to allow the air in the building to be thoroughly changed.

The medical staff of the Board are devoting all such time as is necessary to this epidemic, and will continue to do so. I do not at present consider that the staff needs enlargement in consequence of the epidemic.

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Does the right hon. Gentleman know that in many areas there is great uncertainty amongst the public as to the best steps they have to take, and would it not be well to issue some general advice which can be publicly posted and wisely distributed?

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That is precisely what we have done, but we think that that general advice will be much more likely to percolate through the medical officers of health acting through the various sanitary authorities. I am quite ready to make further inquiries as to how far that is being done, and to urge upon the medical officers of health and every sanitary authority to give whatever public notice they can by various means appealing to the public to obey, as far as practicable, the injunctions laid down.

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Is it a fact that a sure preventative against influenza is cocoa taken three times a day?

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May I ask the President of the Local Government Board whether the medical officer of his Board has conferred on this subject with the medical officer of the Board of Education, having regard to the number of children affected by this disease?

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A Conference has been sitting at the Local Government Board during the last few days to which the Medical Officer of Health of the Board of Education has been contributing his very wide experience and knowledge, and other experts are engaged in attending that conference to confer one with another to see what best can be done.

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Can the right hon. Gentleman tell the House whether there are many of the sanitary districts, to which circulars have been issued, which are without the services of a medical officer of health at the present time?

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I could not give the right hon. Gentleman any accurate statistics. There is a shortage of doctors in every direction, and medical officers, no doubt, to a certain extent have been depleted by military calls upon them. I will also make inquiries on that point.

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Having made those inquiries, will the right hon. Gentleman see that in sanitary districts where there is not a medical officer of health, the instructions which he has given shall be applied by some other competent person?

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I will see that whoever is acting as deputy shall be equally apprised, that it is our desire that that information shall be widely disseminated.

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May I ask whether consideration is being given as to the desirability of prohibiting public meetings?

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asked the President of the Board of Education whether, in view of the continued spread of influenza, he will state what is the view of the Medical Department of the Board regarding the advisability of closing schools at the first appearance of influenza in the school; and whether he thinks it desirable to issue some general advice as to what steps can be taken to prevent the spread of infection through the association of so many children?

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The closure of schools, or the exclusion from school of children suffering from infectious diseases, including influenza, is a matter which rests with the local education authorities or the governors of the schools concerned. Appropriate directions, issued by the Board of Education in conjunction with the Local Government Board, for the prevention of the spread of infectious diseases occurring among children attending public elementary schools have long been in the hands of all local education authorities and school medical officers. The wisdom or propriety of closure or other action is obviously dependent on the local conditions of the case, upon which it is, of course, impossible for the Board to pronounce. Among such conditions is the degree of prevalence and severity of the disease, as well as the home or other alternative circumstances of the children thus excluded from school. The case of each school must be determined on its merits. It is, of course, essential that all children suffering from catarrhal symptoms, feverishness, or other illness, should at the present juncture be at once excluded, and in many cases it will be found advisable to close the whole school, or at least departments or classes in the school. As a rule school closure is more effective in rural districts than in towns. Playgrounds should not remain open when schools are closed. As regards the second part of my hon. Friend's question, I have not up to the present thought it necessary to issue any general advice of the nature suggested by him. It is obviously impracticable to consider school children separately from other sections of the population which are not within the province of the Board of Education.

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Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the result of closing schools is that children run about the streets to play, and are more liable to contract the disease than if they are in warm buildings?

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That is one of the considerations to which allusion is made.

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asked the Under-Secretary of State to the Air Ministry whether a serious epidemic of influenza and septic pneumonia broke out at the Royal Air Force Camp at Blandford, Dorsetshire, in the week ending 19th October; whether the epidemic increased in virulence during the week ending 26th October; whether many hundreds of cases occurred last week and many deaths every day, mostly of very young lads; whether the medical arrangements have been utterly inadequate to deal with the epidemic; whether there has been and still is a grave insufficiency of doctors and nurses; whether the sick men are lying on very dirty straw mattresses, and whether there is an utter lack of necessaries and comforts of every description, and especially a great dearth of utensils, crockery, bedding, and blankets; whether there has been any organisation of local supplies and local assistance; whether the Dorsetshire Red Cross have been called upon to give help; whether all last week, when the epidemic was at its height, hundreds of fresh men and young lads were arriving daily in this infected camp; whether fresh men are still being sent to the camp, and what steps are now being taken to deal with the situation?

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The prevailing influenza epidemic reached Blandford Camp on 21st September, and has continued to the present date. The number of cases increased in the week ending 26th October, during which 252 cases were reported; of these 198 were sent to hospital. The number of deaths since 21st September is fifty-nine. The average daily strength of the camp is about 15,000. Since the epidemic started five additional doctors and nineteen additional nurses have been sent to deal with the situation. The hospital accommodation has been materially extended, and recourse has been had to semi-official agencies. My information does not bear out the suggestion that sick men are allowed to lie on dirty straw mattresses, and everything possible is being done to provide necessaries and comforts. For administrative reasons, independent of the epidemic, the drafting of recruits to the camp has been stopped for a period of one week.

Food Supplies

Subsidies

58.

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asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether the extension of the system of subsidy now applied to bread is in contemplation in reference to any other articles of food; and, if so, whether the financial consideration involved will be referred before final decision to the Select Committee on National Expenditure?

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The answer to the first part of the question is in the negative; the second part does not, therefore, arise.

Pigs

80.

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asked the President of the Board of Agriculture if he will state whether any arrangements have been made or will be made to compensate cottagers who were induced to buy young pigs for rearing and who in many instances are now obliged to abandon them on account of the necessary food not being forthcoming?

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No undertaking has been given that supplies of concentrated feeding-stuffs would continue to be available for pigs. The Board's encouragement of pig-keeping was confined to urging the fullest utilisation of waste, green food, and other materials which do not involve a draft upon the limited supplies of imported foods. I cannot agree with the hon. Baronet that any question of compensation for pig owners really arises.

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Has the hon. Gentleman not stated that these cottagers can rear these pigs without some form of concentrated pig-food, irrespective of refuse?

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Yes; I think it is quite possible. I am doing it myself.

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Did not the hon. Gentleman invite cottagers to rear pigs, and will he not now provide food to keep the pigs?

Workmen's Compensation Act

59.

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asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer if his attention has been drawn to the amount paid under the Workmen's Compensation Act; if he is aware that the amounts for accidents and deaths are the same as were paid in pre-war days; and if he will take into consideration the reduction in the purchasing power of the sovereign, which is estimated to be 75 per cent., and have the amounts awarded under the Workmen's Compensation Act increased accordingly?

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I would refer the hon. Member to the answer which I gave to the hon. Member for South-West Ham on this subject on Wednesday last.

Banking Profits

60.

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asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether the Government, in view of the business of banking being a monopoly and in order to circumvent the danger of a money trust, will consider the desirability of limiting the profits to 5 per cent. on the paid up capital of banks; and whether the Government, in view of the money assistance given to Germany before the War, will call upon the great bank amalgamations to discount no German bills for some years after the War?

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I do not think it is possible to take either of the steps suggested.

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Can the hon. Gentleman explain why it is not possible when similar steps are taken with regard to other interests?

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It would take a longer reply than could be given in answer to a question.

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Will the hon. Gentleman send me a written reply?

National Debt

61.

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asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether he will state the total amount of the National Debt on the latest available date?

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The deadweight National Debt outstanding on the 30th September was approximately £6,875,000,000.

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Does that include floating Debt? Will the hon. Gentleman let us have the information?

Officers' Decoration (Territorial Force)

62.

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asked the Under-Secretary of State for War whether, in view of the recent decision of the Army Council to allow non-commissioned officers and men of the force to count their war service as double in reckoning the number of years necessary to serve to qualify for the efficiency medal, while a similar concession is denied to the officers in reckoning the number of years necessary to serve to qualify for the Terri- torial decoration, he will consider putting the officers on the same footing as the men as regards counting war service?

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It has been decided that war service shall count double in reckoning the number of years service necessary to qualify for the Territorial Force Officers' Decoration, and the necessary instructions are in preparation.

Soldiers' Leave

63.

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asked the Under-Secretary of State for War if he will say who is responsible for the granting of leave to soldiers; if he is aware that soldiers in Irish regiments are not receiving the same treatment as soldiers in English and Welsh regiments; if he is aware that soldiers in these regiments have received two and three leaves to one granted to those in Irish regiments; if he is aware that many Irish soldiers have not received a leave since the outbreak of war; and if he will take steps to see that Irish soldiers with good conduct shall receive a leave at or before Christmas this year?

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As I have already informed my hon. Friend on previous occasions, there is no truth in the suggestion that Irish soldiers are treated less favourably in the matter of leave than their comrades from other parts of the United Kingdom. As regards the arrangements for the granting of leave generally. I would refer him to the several replies which I have given recently to questions on the subject.

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May I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he drew the attention of the hon. Member who put this question down to the fact that false statements of this kind are calculated to cause great discontent in the Service, and did he ask him to withdraw it?

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The hon. Member put this question down several times. It is not my duty to point this out to him.

General Election

Position Of Soldiers

66.

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asked the Under-Secretary of State for War if he can say what the position of Service officers, who are serving in their own districts and are presidents or chairmen of political associations, will be during an election; if they will be allowed to act in their political capacity without Service restrictions; and if they will be given leave for the period of the election?

68.

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asked the Under-Secretary of State for War whether he can state, in view of a General Election, if soldiers who happen to be home on leave and in khaki during the time of the election, will be allowed to canvass voters in favour of any candidate, or attend and address meetings of any kind in the interest of any candidates, or will they be prohibited under Army Regulations to take part in an election?

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The War Cabinet decided some time ago that Regulation 451 should be vigorously enforced. Candidates, however, prospective and adopted, are having special leave facilities granted to them for the election. The same applies to duly accredited agents.

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Does that mean that those officers who are chairmen of organisations will not be allowed to act?

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Not as chairmen.

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Can the right hon. Gentleman answer my question as to whether soldiers on leave will be allowed to take any part in the election?

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I answered both questions together.

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Do I understand the right hon. Gentleman to say that leave has already been granted to Members of Parliament and other candidates for the next election?

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What I have said is that I have made arrangements that candidates likely to be adopted in the immediate future will be allowed, if in the United Kingdom or in France, special leave to appear before associations. When a candidate has been adopted he will be allowed eight clear days' leave before the issue of the writ, and in all he will receive about 28 days' leave so as to make arrangements and hear the declaration of the poll.

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Does that refer to Members of Parliament like the hon. and gallant Member for Stoke-on-Trent (Colonel John Ward) who is in Siberia, and would require more than 28 days' notice to get home?

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That of course is an exceptional case. It is a very difficult problem, and I had to consider exceptional cases, and the general cases. I tried to make a rule which, I understood would be acceptable to the various parties. With regard to the exception mentioned of the hon. and gallant Member for Stoke-on-Trent, I am quite certain that whether he is absent or present he will be elected.

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Does the answer mean that no officer at home on leave, who is not a candidate or an agent, may speak at the General Election?

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Certainly.

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But does the rule apply to privates as well as to officers?

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Certainly.

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What length of leave is to be given to agents?

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The arrangement which I have sanctioned is as follows—that agents will be given their leave at the same time as candidates, namely, eight clear days before the issue of the writ, and they will be allowed six weeks beyond the declaration of the poll, because I am informed—indeed, I know it to be the case—that a great many matters, monetary and otherwise, have to be cleared up after the election.

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Will persons so allowed leave be allowed their pay during leave?

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I cannot say that. That raises a very difficult question. The question must be faced by my right hon. Friend and colleague the Financial Secretary, whether leave is to be granted with pay or without pay, and that particular side of the question has yet to be considered by the Army Council.

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Are we going to have an election?

Baghdad Hospitals (Beer)

67.

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asked the Under-Secretary of State for War whether he is aware that the hospitals in Bagdad are entirely without a supply of beer, so that the patients when ordered such by the medical officer are quite unable to obtain it, whereas the messes of the officers of regiments stationed there have beer, wine, and spirits on their tables in abundance; and, if so, will he see that orders are sent out for more equal distribution?

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I have telegraphed for information, and will communicate with my hon. Friend as soon as possible.

Skittles Inn, Letchworth

69.

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asked the Under-Secretary of State for War whether an unlicensed house known as the Skittles Inn, Letchworth, has recently been commandeered by the Army Council; whether he can, consistently with the public interest, say for what purpose these premises are required; whether they are the only premises in the nature of a public house in Letchworth, and are much used for meals and for meetings of friendly societies and trade unions, and so forth; and whether his attention has been called to the protests that have been made in Letchworth against the taking of these premises, seeing that there are no other premises available in Letchworth for the purposes hitherto served by the Skittles Inn, and that a number of licensed houses within a few miles radius have not been interfered with?

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This inn was taken over by the War Office at the request of the Aeronautical Supplies Department, to provide accommodation for certain workpeople which it had been found impossible to obtain otherwise. Various protests against the taking over of the inn have been received, and are at present being considered.

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Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the inhabitants state that other accommodation is available?

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All these relevant facts will be taken into consideration now.

Special Distinction (1914 Service)

71.

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asked the Under-Secretary of State for War whether any steps have been taken to provide a special decoration for those who joined the Regular Army or the Territorial Force after the outbreak of hostilities and before the 1st January, 1915; and, if not, whether it is the intention of the Government to provide these men with any special distinction?

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This point will be borne in mind in considering the grant of medals for the present War, but I can make no promise in regard to the matter.

Courts-Martial (Copy Of Proceedings)

73.

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asked the Under-Secretary of State for War if a soldier who has been tried by district court-martial for overstaying his leave is entitled under King's Regulations to a copy of the proceedings of the court-martial and to the return of a medical certificate he has produced as evidence in his defence if he applies for them?

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A soldier who has been tried by district court-martial is entitled on demand, at any time within three years after confirmation of the finding and sentence, to obtain a copy of the proceedings from the Judge Advocate-General, on payment for the same at the prescribed rate A medical certificate produced by him in evidence would be returned on application after the proceedings have been reviewed.

Baku Evacuation

74.

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asked the Under-Secretary of State for War whether he is aware that the official communication sent to the Press on 20th September charged the Armenians in Baku with having negotiated to hand over the town to our enemies; whether the negotiations in question were, in fact, entered into by the advice of General Dunsterville; and, if so, how the original statement came to be made without that vital qualification?

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The report that appeared in the Press on the 20th September made no charge, but was confined to a statement of facts as known at the time. In an extract of his dispatch received subsequently, General Dunsterville stated that he had advised the Armenians to negotiate with the Turks when he realised that the fall of the town was imminent.

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Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that this report as a whole very clearly did convey imputations against the Armenians?

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I do not think so, and I cannot at the moment add anything to the answer I have given.

Regimental Paymasters

79.

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asked the Financial Secretary to the War Office if he is aware that soldiers on active service have reason to complain that regimental paymasters are inconsiderate in regard to the lack of simplicity and legibility of their communications to wives and dependants as well as in regard to unnecessary repetitions of requests for information, as, for instance, the regimental paymaster, Royal Army Medical Corps, Woking, who recently inquired of a soldier's wife what relation her children were to her husband, and if she was drawing any other allowance in respect to any other soldier, although during the three years' service of the soldier in question the marriage certificate and all the children's birth certificates had previously been sent to the paymaster for inspection on more than one occasion; if he will make inquiries into these matters; and, particularly, if he will ensure that regimental paymasters cease to communicate with soldiers' wives and dependants by means of pencilled letters instead of by means of letters plainly written in ink or typewritten?

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I have no reason to think that regimental paymasters are inconsiderate in their communications to soldiers' wives, though there may be individual failures in isolated instances. If the hon. Member will give me the name of the soldier's wife referred to, I will have the matter inquired into and let him know the result. It would be quite impossible to provide typists and machines to cope with all the correspondence in pay offices. Pencil is used instead of ink, as it allows of the necessary carbon copies being made for retention in the offices.

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May I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether a pencil is used in communicating with officers and officers' relatives?

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I think so. The pencil is used very generally throughout the Army.

Munitions

Woodworkers Strike

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asked the Minister of Munitions whether the whole of the wood-workers employed at the munition works in the Birkenhead and Liverpool district are on strike, and, if so, will he state the cause of the strike, and what steps he is taking in the matter.

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A number of wood-workers in the Liverpool district are on strike against the introduction of a system of payment by results at a national factory in that area. This system was introduced at the request of the men in the factory. Negotiations were taking place between the Ministry and the National Aircraft Committee, but certain of the men in the district in works other than the factory in question ceased work whilst the negotiations were proceeding. It is hoped that work will be immediately resumed, but, if not, the Government will take such action as the circumstances require.

Bill Presented

Licensed Stockbrokers (Ireland) Bill,

"to make provision with respect to the rate of brokerage or commission fees of Licensed Stockbrokers in Ireland on dealings in Government stocks or securities," presented by the ATTORNEY-GENERAL FOR IRELAND; to be read a second time To-morrow, and to be printed. [Bill 101.]

Emergency Legislation

Ordered, That Mr. Mooney and Mr. Brady be discharged from the Select Committee.

Ordered, That Mr. Boland and Mr. Scanlan be added to the Committee.—[ Colonel Sanders.]

Orders Of The Day

Business Of The House

Peace Settlement (Ireland)

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May I ask how many Orders will be taken to-day, and whether the House will sit on Friday?

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If there be time, it is intended to take the Bastardy Laws Amendment Act (1872) Amendment Bill, and the Loans (Incumbents of Benefices) Amendment Bill, it is not intended to ask the House to sit on Friday.

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Will the right hon. Gentleman name a day on which to discuss the Motion standing on the Paper in the name of the hon. Member for East Mayo?

["That, in the opinion of this House, it is essential that, before the British Government takes part in any proceeding for the resettlement of Europe on the conclusion of peace, the Irish question should be settled in accordance with the principles laid down by President Wilson, that all nations, large and small, should have free self-determination as to their form of government, and that no people should be ruled and dominated even in their own internal affairs by arbitrary and irresponsible force instead of by their own will and choice, principles for which, in the words of the Prime Minister, the Allies are ostensibly fighting in every other country; and that by the application of these principles the system of coercion and military rule, under which Ireland is at present governed, should be brought to an end."]

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Yes, I propose to ask the House to take that Motion on Tuesday.

Tithe Bill

Considered in Committee.

[The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN (Sir D. Maclean)-in the Chair.]

Clause 1—(Temperary Limitation Or Variation Of Tithe Rent-Charge)

The yearly sum which on or before the first day of January nineteen hundred and twenty-six becomes payable under the Tithe Acts, 1836 to 1891, in respect of any tithe rent-charge, shall be the sum payable in respect of that rent-charge as ascertained by the septennial average prices published under the Corn Returns Act, 1882, in the month of January, nineteen hundred and eighteen.

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The first Amendment standing on the Paper in the name of four hon. Members is not in order as it proposes to postpone the main operative Clause of the Bill.

4.0 P.M.

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May I ask you, Sir, to reconsider your decision on this ground? There are two Amendments on the Paper with regard to the redemption of tithe rent-charge, one in the name of my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Agriculture and one in the name of some hon. Friends and myself, and I submit most humbly it is desirable that the Committee should defer consideration of the first Clause that proposes to stabilise tithe until they have considered which of either of the two schemes for encouraging the redemption of tithes is to be inserted in the Bill. Both schemes are materially different from the proposals in the Bill as originally drafted, but I submit that they have a bearing in common, and that hon. Members should have an opportunity of forming their own opinion as to which of the schemes it is desirable to adopt before they agree to pass this Clause. I ask you, therefore, to reconsider your decision, and to allow this Amendment to be moved.

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May I point out that this is a Motion not for the obliteration of the Clause, but for the postponement of the discussion upon it. There is much in common among the Amendments which have been given notice of, although they differ somewhat in detail among themselves, and it might probably have the effect of shortening the whole Debate in Committee on the Bill if in a general discussion on the postponement hon. Members were permitted to deal with the various Motions of which notice has been given I respectfully urge upon you it would be within the Rules of Order to allow this to be done, and that it would tend to the general convenience, and probably shorten the proceedings.

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I gave my ruling after very careful consideration of the matter. Proposals to postpone Clauses have come up time and again, as hon. Members will recollect. With regard to the point made by the hon. Member (Sir F. Flannery) as to a general discussion arising on the Motion, the discussion, if permitted, would be limited solely to the reasons for postponing the consideration of the Clause, and it could not touch the merits of the matter. There is a way open, of course, in Committee which would provide for the discussion of the alternative scheme, and that would be to negative Clause 1. I understand that the hon. and gallant Member and the President of the Board of Agriculture have alternative schemes, and if Clause 1 were negatived, then those alternative schemes could be dealt with as they arose. I do not wish to be pedantic, but I am sorry I am afraid I cannot alter the decision which I have arrived at.

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Then may I move the deletion of Clause 1?

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The Committee must first consider the Amendments to Clause 1, but on the Motion, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill," it will be open to the hon. Member to move its deletion.

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I beg to move, to leave out the word "yearly" ["the yearly sum which"]. This is a purely drafting Amendment.

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Do I understand that it makes no difference at all in the Bill as it stands now?

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None at all; it is a purely drafting Amendment.

Amendment agreed to.

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I beg to move, after the word "January" ["the first day of January"], to insert the words "and the first day of April where the parish commutation, award has fixed that day."

I put a question to the right hon. Gentleman opposite when the Bill was up for Second Beading, and the answer he gave me was this, that his reason for fixing the first day of January was because under Section 20 of the Tithe Act, 1840, that was the day on which the tithe was announced, and it began to take effect for the first half-yearly payment on the 1st April in the same year. But under the Tithe Act of 1836, which provides that the tithe rent-charge shall be payable on two days, the 1st January and the 1st July, the rent-charge which commences on the 1st day of January next following the apportionment of tithe, and would become payable on the 1st day of July. Under the Tithe Act of 1837 and under the Act of 1840, it is indicated that the Parish Commutation Award or supplemental agreement may fix a day other than the 1st January or the 1st July; and under the Tithe Act, 1840, it is necessary for the Commissioners to assign different dates when such a tithe commutation award has been made. I am informed that as a result of these two Acts the tithe rent-charge in some parishes accrues due on the 1st January and the 1st July; but in the bulk of the parishes in England it becomes due on the 1st day of April and the 1st day of October. If that is so—and I can quote a well-known authority for it—then if the words stand as they are without the insertion of the words which I propose to insert, the tithe which has been fixed to be payable on the 1st April and the 1st July, 1926, will not become operative in those parishes until the 1st day of January, 1927. There may be some error which is not clear to me, and perhaps my right hon. Friend can explain it; but otherwise I am afraid that will be the position if the Bill is allowed to stand as now. My right hon. Friend has assumed that the first day of January is the day on which tithe rent-charge becomes due, whereas I am informed it is fixed by the Tithe Commutation Award, and if he will accept my Amendment I believe it will get over the practical difficulty.

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I think the right hon. Gentleman is labouring under a delusion in this matter. The Corn Returns Act, 1882, orders that the septennial averages for the year, founded on the averages up to the Christmas next preceding, shall be announced in January in the New Year. Payment follows in the ordinary course, and where the award has fixed payment for 1st of April and the 1st of October, these payments will be continued to be made at those dates; while where the award fixes the payment for the 1st July and the 1st January following, the payments will be made at those dates. Therefore there is no reason for the Amendment, which would really be quite ineffectual, and which would result in this, that the tithe rent-charge would be payable on the very day on which it becomes actually due; and that, I do not think, is what the right hon. Baronet is aiming at. I, therefore, cannot accept the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

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I beg to move to leave out the words, "twenty-six" ["nineteen hundred and twenty-six"], and to insert instead thereof the words "twenty-three."

The effect of Clause 1, if it continues to stand as originally introduced, would be to continue for a period of seven years the rent-charge at £109 as the standing rate of payment. That period of seven years, in the opinion of many people, is much too long, having regard to the other Clauses and conditions embodied in the Bill; and I think, in a Notice of Amendment which my right hon. Friend himself has given, he recognises that fact. I am proposing a change, a reduction from 1926 to 1923, which would reduce the seven years to a period of four years. Perhaps, in the general opinion of the Committee, that may or may not be suitable. I myself would not greatly object if a year more were taken off the period; but this would seem, at all events, to be a suggestion which might elicit the general opinion of the House. Anyhow, seven years is too long in the interests both of the clergy and of agriculturists, having regard to the other provisions. It is very unfortunate, I venture to think, that in the Corn Production Act so recently passed no provision whatever was made for restraining the enormous rise in the value of the tithes. Rents were not to be raised. Such was specially forbidden in consequence of the increased prices of corn. Tithes, it was known, must follow, but no mention even of restraint of that increase of tithes was made. Yet we know that we are seeking to do all we can to encourage agriculture and to increase the growth of food in this country. The original idea of this variation in the value of tithes, be it for a number of years long or short, was, as my right hon. Friend himself has frequently explained, that the income of the clergy should follow up and down the variation in the cost of living.

There is no doubt that in 1836, eighty-two years ago, when the enactment was made, the cost of living did follow very closely the variation in the price of corn. To-day the cost of living does not, with anything like the same closeness, follow the variation in the prices of corn. So in the interests of the clergy, as well in the interests of agriculture, this system must be changed, and radically changed. It is a very great hardship that the clergy not so many years ago had to accept as little as £67 in the £100 as their stipend. It is equally as great an injustice to agriculturists that the rate of payment for tithes should increase, as it will increase, unless there is imposed this restriction to £150, or even £160, in the very near future. These tithes, although paid in the first instance by the landlord, must sooner or later reach everyone else connected with agriculture—the farmer, the agricultural labourer, will have to suffer if some restraint, some equalisation, is not insisted upon. There are some hon. Members whom I know are opposed to the idea of relief to landlords. I would call the attention of such to the fact that you have 500,000 tithe-payers and 270,000 occupying owners who are tithe-payers. A very large proportion of these occupying owners are small men who themselves till the land which they own, and it is in their interests, as well as in the interests of the great landlords—in the interests, I say, of the humble agricultural labourer—that this change must be made. I do not want at the present moment to refer to the proposals of my right hon. Friend, but I think I am justified in saying this: My right hon. Friend proposes in his Amendment to remove a great blot from the Bill. One of the blots of the Bill was that the Board of Agriculture had absolute power to do what they chose in regard to fixing the redemption. Under the proposals now before the Committee that blot will be removed, that is to say, the Board of Agriculture will be limited to a period of purchase to twenty years, and upon the basis of £100 instead of £109. The Board of Agriculture will not have the amount of discretion they would have had if the change had not taken place. What will be the result? The result will be that agriculturists and clergy will both know where they are. That is the great advantage of this Bill, and of this Clause in the Bill. There will not only be fixity of tenure but fixity of rates, a fixed income for the clergy, and fixed payments, or almost so, by the owners and agriculturists—by the farmer and the labourer. This 5 per cent. on the twenty years' purchase is, I venture to think, a fair rate.

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The Amendment of the hon. Baronet is confined to the point of reducing the term from 1926 to 1923. He now seems to be dealing with the general principles of the Bill, and, in particular, with an Amendment which we have not yet reached. I have allowed him latitude so far, so that I could find out what he really meant. I must now ask him to come down to the Amendment on the Paper.

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Very well, Sir, if I have enlarged too much I apologise. I am sure you will appreciate the fact that one is tempted to go a little far, perhaps, when dealing with a matter of this sort. I will, however, confine myself entirely to supporting what I believe to be a right principle, namely, that this should not last for seven years, but should last for a very much shorter term, or for four years, and having generally explained the basis upon which I have tried to reason that out I will confine myself to moving the Amendment which stands in my name.

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I want very heartily to support the Amendment that has been moved by my hon. and gallant Friend. It is highly desirable that this period of seven years should be shortened to four years. In fact, I should like to see it shortened as much as possible, because it seems to me to be a very unjust as well as a very inexpedient thing to fix the present price of tithe for so long a period as seven years. I would like for a moment to ask the House to consider the position in which the clergy are placed in this matter. I would remind the House of the words that fell from Sir Robert Peel when he introduced the Tithe Commutation Act in 1836. Sir Robert Peel on that occasion said:

"Considering that the parties interested are the clergy who have no direct representation amongst us, it is required by a proper regard for the protection of the rights and privileges of these clergy that we should not appear to sanction any principle which we are not satisfied is consistent with justice."
I should like the House to remember that we are dealing here with what is in fact a bargain—one which has been maintained for eighty years. It is a bargain between two sets of people, one set of whom is very largely composed of the clergy who are statutorily debarred from silting in this House. Therefore this House, if anything, ought to err on the side of consideration towards the clerical tithe owners. I say nothing about the lay tithe owners, because they can sit here and look after themselves. The clerical tithe owners cannot. I do, therefore, ask the President of the Board of Agriculture and the House to consider with the utmost consideration the position in which they are placed. What does this Clause propose to do? It proposes to fix the present price of tithes at seven years. That is to say, we are asked to interfere with a bar- gain that was struck in 1836, and to arrest the process which is now going on of a rise in the price of tithes—to arrest that process for seven years. I very much want to know why the term of seven years has been selected. Surely the Government do not think that the War is going on for another seven years! I do not believe that they even think that the abnormal conditions introduced by the War are going to affect the cost of food for another seven years! If the Government do think that, I hope the President will be kind enough to explain to the House the reasons that he has for holding that opinion.

In regard to the special conditions brought about by the War. I should like to put this point of view to the House: The bargain which was struck in 1836 was, no doubt, a rough-and-ready bargain. On the whole it has worked well-that is to say, that when the cost of living was low the tithe was low, and when the cost of living was high the tithe was high. The right hon. Gentleman comes down to the House and says, in effect, that the very abnormal conditions brought about by the War makes it necessary for us to interfere with the automatic rise in the value of the tithes for a period of seven years. Is he going to do anything to reduce the cost of living to the clergy for seven years 2 Is he going to do anything to meet the expenses of living of the clergy, seeing that the tithe is fixed in relation to the cost of living? I would remind the House that throughout the lean years, when wheat was at 22s. per quarter, and tithe was something like 66s., this House did nothing to step in and interfere with the automatic working of the Tithe Commutation Act. Therefore very strong arguments indeed are needed to justify any intervention at the present time. What we, in fact, are doing is, we are upsetting a bargain which, as long as it worked against the interests of a party which is absent from this House, we did not interfere with; but when it begins to play favourably for that party, we are called upon to hang it up for seven years! I do think we ought to be very careful how we proceed about such a business. It is for that reason that I welcome the Amendment, and because I think the term my hon. Friend has fixed in his Amendment is ample. I quite see the force of the contention that tithe next year, or the year after, perhaps, or the year after that, if not dealt with in any way, will reach such abnormal limits as very seriously to disturb the relations betwen landlords and tenants, and to introduce a number of complications and difficulties into the whole of the agricultural population. I admit that fully; but you cannot get away from the fact that you are breaking the bargain, and you are inflicting an injustice on men who did not complain when the bargain told against them, and who only ask to be left alone at the present moment. To hold this automatic rise up for seven years is unjust to the clergy. The President of the Board of Agriculture, in introducing the Bill, explained that he sincerely hoped the result of this Bill would be that universal redemption of tithe would follow. He said:
"Universal redemption is what we should like to have."
With all respect to my right hon. Friend, I say that, unless this Amendment is accepted, and unless other drastic changes are made in this Bill, there will be practically no redemption as a result of it. The tithe payer will see that all he has to do is to sit tight for seven years, and seven years hence food will either be cheaper and tithe will go down or else he thinks he can come to this House, which is always well disposed towards him, and takes less account of the other charge in the transaction, and try to obtain another extension of relief. I think the maximum we should follow is a term which just covers the abnormal situation brought about by the War, and by demobilisation afterwards. I think 1923 will see us through demobilisation, and it will see the tonnage of the world released to bring food supplies to this country and other countries in Europe. We shall be back again to the normal play of the law of supply and demand; and why the tithe bargain should be interfered with in 1923 I am at a loss to understand, unless, indeed, the Government can prove to the House that they really think they can abolish the whole tithe system by this Bill. I do not think they can show that, and, therefore, I shall support my hon. Friend's Amendment on the ground that 1923 is an amply sufficient period to cover the abnormal conditions brought about by the War.

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I will deal with the Amendment itself. It proposes that the septennial average for the seven years preceding Christmas, 1922, should be calculated on the septennial averages, and the restrictions placed upon the rise of tithe should be at an end. That is the suggestion. The House knows that the value of the tithe in each year is made up by its value in the seven single years preceding. That is to say, the Amendment proposes to go back to 1916. It takes 1916, 1917, 1918, 1919, 1920, 1921, and 1922, and the tithe-rent charge on the 1st of January, 1923, shall be the result of those figures. What happens?

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Surely that would not be the effect. The effect of this Amendment would simply be, if the other parts of the Bill remain unchanged, to limit the effect of the Clause to four years instead of seven years, and it would not go back mixing up the calculations in the way suggested by the right hon. gentleman.

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The hon. Baronet altogether misunderstands how septennial averages are arrived at. What I have stated is the process by which the septennial averages are arrived at. The seven years' septennial average to Christmas, 1922, is proposed, and the hon. Baronet has taken seven years, which in all probability will show prices of corn without record in our previous history under the Corn Returns Act. Take 1916, which was one of the years which the hon. Baronet has to bring into his septennial average. In that year tithe rose to £141 for the single year. The highest previous record had been £131, and to get that you had to go back to 1847. Therefore, in 1916 the value for the single year rose £10 above any previous record. In 1917 it rose to £188; that is to say, £57 more than any previous record. In 1918 and 1919 it will be about the same figure. What will happen in 1920, 1921, and 1922 I do not know; but, even assuming that you have a considerable fall in prices between 1923 and 1924, you might have a tithe rent-charge of something like £170, which is the very thing this Bill proposes to prevent. The hon. Baronet, who represents a county in which the burden of tithe rent-charge is very acutely felt, is not going to make himself popular with his constituency if I accept the proposal he has made, which is that, instead of paying £109, they should pay something like £170.

As regards what the hon. Member for the Newton Division (Viscount Wolmer) said about the bargain, he is perfectly justified in placing the case of the tithe-owner before the House; but I do not think he can have done me the justice of reading the speech I made in moving the Second Reading of this Bill. I said then the tithe-owners' interest would have to be considered, and that it was my hope that this Bill would be made fair and equitable on all sides, and that the Government would receive suggestions sympathetically in order to make the Bill if possible fair. Therefore, I am willing to accept suggestions which will make the Bill fairer to the tithe owner, but not in the way that the hon. Baronet suggests. If the hon. Baronet had had the choice of a number of years which were worst for the purpose of his argument, he could not have chosen two worse than 1923 and 1924, which is the moment at which the tithe rent-charge, owing to the abnormal and exceptional causes arising out of the War, reaches its absolute maximum. Therefore, I cannot think that any useful purpose, either to the tithe payers or tithe owners generally, or even to the hon. Baronet himself, can be served if I were to accept his Amendment, and I regret I cannot accept it.

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Perhaps it is my fault, but I do not understand the Amendment moved by my hon. Friend or the speech made by my Noble Friend in seconding it to mean what the right hon. Gentleman has just said. I understood that the real effect of this Clause was to say that all the years between now and 1926 the tithe payer should pay tithe at a fixed price of £109 instead of whatever the price might be if reckoned in the ordinary way.

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That is the purpose of the Bill.

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Now I understand my hon. Friend to say we are quite willing that the tithe payer should only pay £109, but he should pay it, not for seven years, but for four years, and, having got that, the tithe payer should revert to the old system under which he paid tithe. Am I right in that assumption?

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You are.

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Then I think the right hon. Gentleman contradicts his speech, which did not deal with the object of the Amendment. It may be that the Amendment has been badly drawn, and the effect may be that it would have the result which the President of the Board of Agriculture states. But if that is so, surely the intention of the Amendment is right, and the right hon. Gentleman might introduce words to give effect to that intention. I am rather inclined to think, and I hope I shall not press this beyond the Rules of Order in touching upon a question of redemption, it is a little hard to say that for seven years the clergy are not to receive the amount which they would have received under the bargain made, but that they are to receive a fixed amount. The answer to that in defence of the Bill is that there are two parties to the bargain and they both agreed to an alteration. I understand the clergy have agreed to an alteration to the bargain and therefore it is fair that it should be altered. The bargain which I understand the clergy agreed to is one that applies to the redemption of the tithe. They want to do away with all uncertainty and have the tithe redeemed. I am inclined to think there is something in the argument that if you are going to give the option to the tithe payer for seven years to pay on a fixed sum he might say "It will be to my interest to wait seven years before I redeem, because my idea at the end of the seven years is that we shall go back to our previous arrangement." It is quite possible something of that kind might result, and therefore I think there is something in the argument that if the object of the Bill is to redeem tithe surely the time in which the tithe payer can do this should be fixed, and he is more likely to redeem if he knows at the end of four years the fixed rate may come to an end. I do not know whether I have made the point clear, but I think it is an important point, and I would like to ask why the President of the Board of Agriculture did not deal with it?

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Because I stuck closely to the Amendment.

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Would it be possible for my hon. Friend to withdraw his Amendment and for the Government to assist him in drawing up one which will carry out his desire? I do not know whether it does or does not carry it out, but I think some such Amendment ought to be introduced, and I venture to throw out the suggestion in the interests of getting the Bill through without undue delay.

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I hope the hon. Baronet who moved this Amendment (Sir Fortescue Flannery) will not press it. If the desire is to use the annual rise of tithe which may take place if no statutory interference occurs as an inducement, or almost as a compulsion at the present time, surely the proper method is to knock out Clause 1 and not to deal with it by an Amendment of this kind. I understand that my hon. Friend who moved the Amendment merely desires to limit the period of stability, which is seven years, to four years. He does not wish to use the probability or the certainty of a very high annual figure of the tithe rent-charge in 1923 as a means of compulsion towards redemption. I should like to point out that by taking only four years you are doing a very dangerous thing. The tithe payable on and after 1st January, 1923, would be assessed under the present system of septennial averages, and it would almost certainly be the seven highest years there have ever been. It would not surprise me if it brought the figure up to £180 or £190. It would certainly not be less than £160 or £170. I do not think that is the intention of the hon. Member. If the situation is really to be met fairly from the point of view of stabilising tithe it is questionable whether the period ought not to be longer rather than shorter than seven years. By making it shorter you are ensuring that the first year of stabilisation will see an enormous figure as the annual tithe rent-charge, and that, I am sure, is not the intention.

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The complaint of the Mover and of the Noble Lord opposite (Captain Viscount Wolmer) is that if you fix tithe for seven years at £109 you prevent the clergy geting a higher sum in cases of redemption, though it is probable that the value of the tithe will be greater than £109 for redemption purposes.

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No; my right hon. Friend has misunderstood both our speeches. We were not complaining about the redemption Clause, but that the payment of tithe should be fixed for seven years.

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The whole of this Bill is for the purpose of redeeming tithe. What has been the experience of the past when you have attempted to fix that redemption sum at something which was not really the price of tithe? Hitherto the payer of tithe has only been able to redeem at par value. The real value being £67, £68, or £69, or whatever it was, you could not get rid of the tithe, because the price of redemption was too high. If you are going to fix the redemption value at over £109, people will stand out to see whether the tithe rent charge value does not come down. My right hon. Friend (Sir F. Banbury) thinks that corn will come back to 30s. Then the redeemer of tithe rent-charge will wait for that chance. You want to get rid of the friction that exists if the tithe rent-charge goes up in value much beyond the point at which it is now. I think it is wise to give the opportunity of redeeming on terms which are exceedingly favourable to the clergy, having regard to the fact that they will get a sum which will represent the value of the tithe rent charge at the time when it was instituted in place of the payment of the actual tithe itself. That is the sum total of this Bill. I confess that I would much rather that the period was extended than shortened. I would much rather that it was made seventeen years than seven years. You would, I believe, get a fairer average if you extended the period rather than shortened it. I hope, therefore, that the Government will not depart from the period laid down in the Bill.

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I would rather like to support the Amendment, and I must say that I think the President of the Board of Agriculture used an argument which was rather unworthy of himself when he taunted the hon. Member (Sir Fortescue Flannery) for making an unpopular proposal. I do not think members who bring forward proposals ought to have that cast into their teeth. However unpopular, the hon. Baronet was quite right in putting his proposal before the Committee. I was very much impressed by the speech of the Noble Lord, but, of course, it was really a speech against the Bill altogether, and I agree with him.

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The right hon. Gentleman really misrepresented the effect of the Amendment. The effect of it is simply to limit the duration of the Bill to a period of four years instead of seven years. The right hon. Gentleman has forgotten that there is nothing whatever to prevent a new Bill being introduced to deal with the period 1923–26 if circumstances between now and then make it appear desirable to do so, The effect of this Amendment is not to make a fixed condition of affairs between 1923 and 1926. All the Amendment says is that we will not now at this time alter the law during those three years, but it leaves it open to the House of Commons to pass legislation to deal with the period between 1923 and 1926 if it thinks fit to do so. I think it is hard luck on the clergy. I am a small tithe payer, but I think it is hard, when everybody else is having his wages raised because of the increased cost of living, that the clergy should not have the same advantage. I should have thought that it would be very difficult to conceive a more just proposal than that a man's income should be strictly relevant to the cost of living, which is what tithe means. I cannot see the real reason for this measure at all. If you are really going to stabilise tithe, surely you ought to do it for as short a period as possible in order that you may wait till the cost of living is stabilised also. How do we know that the cost of living will have gone down in the years between 1923 and 1926 to the pre-war standard? We have no guarantee, and I doubt very much whether the Government in their reconstruction proposals seriously expect that the wages of anybody except clergymen are going back to the old pre-war level. That being so, this does seem to me to be an unfair proposal, and I hope the Government will yet see their way to accept the Amendment, and let this Bill be for a strictly limited period in order that the position of the unfortunate clergy, who are an underpaid section of the community, may receive fair consideration at a date more near to the actual circumstances than we are at the present time.

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I realy think that the President of the Board of Agriculture has not been quite fair with us. The object of our Amendment is not such as a casual following of his speech might lead anyone to believe. You cannot consider the matter apart from the question of redemption. The whole object of the Bill is redemption.

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I beg your pardon. The primary object of the Bill is to limit the rise in the value of the tithe.

5.0 P.M.

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One of the most important objects in the Bill is redemp- tion. I read the right hon. Gentleman's speech very carefully, and he said that the Bill would lead to much redemption.