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Commons Chamber
18 February 1920
Volume 125

House Of Commons

Wednesday, 18th February, 1920.

[ OFFICAL REPORT.]

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

King's Speech

His Majesty's Answer To The Address

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reported His Majesty's Answer to the Address, as followeth:—

" I have received with great satisfaction the loyal and dutiful expression of your thanks for the Speech with which I have opened the present Session of Parliament"

Private Business

Blackpool Improvement Bill,

Bridlington Corporation Bill,

Read a second time, and committed.

Brighton and Hove Gas Bill,

Read a second time, and referred to the Examiners of Petitions for Private Bills.

Bristol Corporation Bill,

Bead a second time, and committed.

Central London and Metropolitan District Railway Companies (Works) Bill,

Read a second time, and referred to the Examiners of Petitions for Private Bills.

Coventry Corporation Bill,

Derwent Valley Water Board Bill,

Read a second time, and committed.

Dublin Port and Docks Bill,

To be read a second time upon Monday next.

Ebbw Vale Urban District Council Bill,

Erith Improvement Bill,

Read a second time, and committed.

Farmers Land Purchase Company Bill,

Great Eastern Railway Bill,

Read a second time, and referred to the Examiners of Petitions for Private Bills.

Great Northern Railway Bill,

To be read a second time To-morrow.

Halifax Corporation Bill,

Huddersfield Corporation (General Powers) Bill,

Read a second time, and committed.

Lands Improvement Company Bill,

Read a second time, and referred to the Examiners of Petitions for Private Bills.

Leigh Corporation Bill,

Liverpool Corporation Waterworks Bill,

London County Council (General Powers) Bill,

Read a second time, and committed.

Londonderry Corporation Bill,

To be read a second time upon Wednesday, 3rd March.

London Electric Railway Companies (Fares, &c.) Bill,

To be read a second time To-morrow.

London United Tramways Bill,

Read a second time, and referred to the Examiners of Petitions for Private Bills.

Lowestoft Corporation Bill,

Read a second time, and committed.

Metropolitan Electric Tramways Bill,

To be read a second time To-morrow.

Mid Glamorgan Water Bill,

Read a second time, and committed.

Newcastle-upon-Tyne Corporation Bill,

To be read a second time upon Monday next.

Norwich Corporation Bill,

Pontypridd Urban District Council Bill,

Read a second time, and committed.

Port of Portsmouth Floating Bridge Bill,

Read a second time, and referred to the Examiners of Petitions for Private Bills.

Portsmouth Corporation Bill,

Redcar Urban District Council Gas Bill,

Rhondda Urban District Council Bill,

Read a second time, and committed.

Rochester, Chatham, and Gillingham Gas Bill,

Read a second time, and referred to the Examiners of Petitions for Private Bills

Seaham Harbour Dock Bill,

To be read a second time upon Monday next.

Sheffield Corporation Bill,

To be read a second time To-morrow.

Southampton Corporation Bill,

Read a second time, and committed.

Southend-on-Sea Gas Bill,

South Metropolitan Electric Tramways-Bill,

Read a second time, and referred to the Examiners of Petitions for Private Bills.

Sutton Coldfield Corporation Bill,

Swansea Corporation Bill,

Tredegar Urban District Council Bill,

Read a second time, and committed.

Tyneside Tramways and Tramroads Company Bill,

Read a second time, and referred to the

Examiners of Petitions for Private Bills.

Wallasey Corporation Bill, Read a second time, and committed.

Wear Navigation and Sunderland Dock Bill,

To be read a second time upon Monday next.

Wolverhampton Corporation Bill,

Wood Green Urban District Council Bill,

Read a second time, and committed.

Wrexham District Tramways Bill,

Yeovil Corporation Bill,

To be read a second time To-morrow.

Local Legislation Committee

Ordered, That the Committee of Selection do nominate a Committee, not exceeding Fifteen Members, to be called the Local Legislation Committee, to whom shall be committed all Private Bills promoted by municipal and other local authorities by which it is proposed to create powers relating to Police, Sanitary, or other Local Government regulations in conflict with, deviation from, or excess of the provisions of the general Law:

Ordered, That Standing Orders 124, 150, and 173a apply to all such Bills:

Ordered, That the Committee have power to send for persons, papers, and records:

Ordered, That Four be the quorum:

Ordered, That if the Committee shall report to the Committee of Selection that any Clauses of any Bill referred to them (other than Clauses containing Police, Sanitary, or other Local Government Regulations) are such as, having regard to the terms of reference, it is not in their opinion necessary or advisable for them to deal with, the Committee of Selection shall thereupon refer the Bill to a Select Committee, who shall consider those Clauses and so much of the Preamble of the Bill as relates thereto, and shall determine the expenditure (if any) to be authorised in respect of the parts of the Bill referred to them. That the Committee shall deal with the remaining Clauses of such Bill, and so much of the Preamble as relates thereto, and shall determine the period and mode of repayment of any money authorised by the Select Committee to be borrowed and shall report the whole Bill to the House, stating in their Report what parts of the Bill have been considered by each Committee:

Ordered, That the Committee have power, if they so determine, to sit as two Committees, and in that event to apportion the Bills referred to the Committee between the two Committees, each of which shall have the full powers of and be subject to the instructions which apply to the undivided Committee, and that Four be the quorum of each of the two Gommittees.—[ Major Baird.]

Oral Answers To Questions

India

Eranchise Rules (Non-Brahmans)

5.

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asked the Secretary of State for India what instructions, if any, have been sent by him to the Government of India or to the Governor of Madras with regard to the framing of the franchise rules governing the representation of non-Brahmans in the province of Madras; and whether an agreement has been reached by the Government of India with regard to the method and amount of representation to be given to the non-Brahmans in Madras?

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My right hon. Friend has sent no instructions either to the Government of India or the Governor of Madras, beyond requesting, them to carry out as speedily as possible (along with other recommendations) the recommendation of the Joint Select Committee contained in paragraph of their Report under the heading "Clause 7" and explaining to the Governor of Madras that in recommending provision for non-Brahmans of "separate representation by means of reservation of seats" the Committee did not intend to recommend the setting up of separate electorates consisting only of non-Brahmans. The Viceroy reported on the 26th January that Lord Willingdon was hopeful of a speedy settlement of the matter. I am not aware whether a settlement has actually been reached.

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Is the right hon. Gentleman not aware that the Joint Committee expressly suggested that the matter should not be left to the Governor of Madras, but dealt with by the Government of India on its own initiative; and that a great deal of unrest has been caused in Madras by the intervention of the Governor of Madras in the very delicate negotiations.

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Who should properly intervene, or more properly intervene, than the Governor of Madras?

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I think it is quite obvious that the Governor of Madras is the proper person.

Financial Relations (Provincial Contributions)

6.

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asked what progress has been made by the Committee on financial relations which is considering the question of provincial contributions to the Government of India in view to the eventual equalisation in incidence of such contributions?

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The work of the Committee is barely begun, and no report of its progress has yet been received.

Officers' Pay And Pensions

7.

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asked when the new rates of unemployed pay and pensions for officers of the Indian Army, Indian Medical Service, and Royal Indian Marine will be published?

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I hope that revised rates of pension for officers of the Indian Army and Indian Medical Service will be settled shortly. Revised rates of unemployed pay are under consideration. I am awaiting the Government of India's views on the question of the revision of the rates of pension for officers of the Royal Indian Marine.

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Can the right hon. Gentleman give any indication of the date when these new rates of pensions will be published?

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No, Sir.

13.

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asked whether the Government of India intends to bring the pensions of officers now serving, and of those who served during the War, but have been invalided out, or reached the age limit, into line with the increases granted to the Royal Navy and British Army; and whether any further action is to be taken to improve the position of the widows and children of officers killed in action or subsequently dead of wounds and disease contracted on active service?

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The revision of the pension scale of officers of the Indian Army is now under consideration in communication with the Government of India. The question of improving the position of widows and children of deceased officers is for the Ministry of Pensions in the first place; the Royal Warrants on the subject are applied to the families of European officers of the Indian Army.

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Does the Ministry of Pensions here in England deal with the pensions of those in the Indian Army?

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I understand that is so.

British Officers (Shortage)

8.

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asked what arrangements have been made to remedy the shortage of British officers with the battalions of the Indian Army and to give leave to those officers who have for so long been deprived of it.

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A large number of temporary officers have been recruited from various sources to remedy the shortage, and I understand that regular officers are now coming home on leave pretty freely.

Officers' Uninsured Peesoinal Effects (Compensation)

9.

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asked the Secretary of State for India whether, in accordance with the recent Army Council Instruction, compensation will now be given to those officers of the 6th Poona Division whose personal effects, exclusive of military equipment, were removed out of the regimental depot stores by order of the Government of India and sent home uninsured and torpedoed in transit, without any warning having been given to either the officers concerned or their agents as to the removal or shipment of these belongings or any opportunity of insuring them?

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My right hon. Friend has asked me to reply. Compensation will be given under Army Council Instruction 27 of 1920.

Mrs Annie Besant (Passage To India)

10.

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asked the Secretary of State for India what were the reasons which induced his Department to grant a passage to India to Mrs. Annie Besant, when there were still a great number of soldiers' wives waiting for passages in order that they might join their husbands in India?

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At the time when Mrs. Besant obtained her passage a certain number of passages had been set apart for military, and a certain number for civilian, passengers. Mrs. Besant belonged to the latter class, and consequently her passage would not have been available for a soldier's wife.

Military Clerks

11.

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asked what steps have been taken by the Government of India to improve the conditions of service of the military clerks on the unattached list employed in the brigade and divisional offices in India?

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The organisation and conditions of service of the Indian Unattached List are under examination by the Army in India Committee. Pending their report the rates of pay have been considered, and it is hoped that provisional revised rates will be announced shortly.

Kabul (Bolshevist Mission)

12.

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asked the Secretary of State for India whether he can give the House any information regarding the Bolshevist mission said to have been sent to Kabul?

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I am aware of the despatch of Bolshevist agents to Kabul. The situation is being very carefully watched both by the Government of India and by His Majesty's Government. I do not think that I can usefully say anything more at the present stage.

Death-Rate

IV.

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asked what was the death rate per 1,000 in British India from the years 1913 to 1919, inclusive?

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The death rate per 1,000 for the years 1913 to 1918 was as follows:

191328·72
191430·00
191529·94
191629·10
191732·72
191862·42

Figures for 1919 are not available.

The exceptionally high mortality in 1918 was due to a severe epidemic of influenza.

Participation In Strikes (Punishment)

18.

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asked what was the number of Indians fined and imprisoned or punished during 1919 for participation in strikes?

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Participation in strikes, is not an offence punishable under the ordinary Indian law. I have no information whether any prosecutions were instituted under the provisions of the Defence of India rules relating to tampering with Government or railway servants or to impeding work necessary for the prosecution of the war. But it seems very unlikely that any such prosecutions were required in 1919.

Massacres In Cilicia

Baltic And Black Sea Forces

19.

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asked the First Lord of the Admiralty if he will state what British naval forces are now in the Baltic and Black Seas, respectively; what naval restrictions on the movements of merchant ships in those seas are in force; and whether His Majesty's ships have taken part, or are taking part, in the fighting between the Bolshevists and General Deniken's forces on the Black Sea coasts?

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The answer to the first part of the hon. and gallant Member's question is—

In the Baltic, four light cruisers, and eight destroyers.

In the Black Sea, two battleships, three light cruisers, seven destroyers, and one sloop.

But in either area the number varies constantly.

As regards the blockade, the policy is as already announced by my right hon Friend, the Prime Minister; but owing to local conditions, there may be some delay in carrying it out in the Black Sea.

As to the last part of the question, our forces have been supporting General Deniken. They are at present employed in evacuating women, children, and wounded, from those regions which are being overrun by Bolshevists.

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Is it a fact that when the Bolshevist Army entered Odessa they were fired on by our ships, and did not this take place just at the time that the Prime Minister was making a pacifist speech in this House?

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In reply to the first part of the hon. and gallant Member's question I have no information; and as to the second part I think his description of the speech of the Prime Minister is singularly inaccurate.

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Are we to understand that the blockade still exists or does it not exist?

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I think the best advice I can give to my hon. and gallant Friend is to listen to my answers.

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In view of the raising of the blockade and the massacres in Cilicia would it not be possible to take some of our fleet from the Black Sea and send it to the Cilician coast to prevent the massacre of Armenians?

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The force we have at present in the Black Sea is fully occupied. I can assure the hon. and gallant Member that our naval forces, wherever they are at present, have all the work they can do before them and it would be impossible to detach a portion of them in that way for this particular duty. It would be necessary to send out fresh forces if the duty he suggests were undertaken.

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In view of the change of policy, is it necessary to keep this fleet in the Black Sea?

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Yes. The change of policy has boon effective in the Baltic, but in the Black Sea there must be delay in carrying it out, and until the conditions are altered it would not be possible to detach any part of the force.

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Is our fleet in the Black Sea still under the orders of the Russian Admiral and obeying the orders of General Denikin?

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The Black Sea Fleet is under the orders of the Commander-in-Chief of the Mediterranean.

36.

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asked the First Lord of the Admiralty what is the strength of the British Fleet in the Black Sea; whether it is engaged in active operations against any enemy and, if so, whom; and, if not, what is the object of its stay in those waters?

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The strength of the British Fleet in the Black Sea, is—

  • 2 battleships,
  • 3 light cruisers,
  • stroyers, and I sloop.
These vessels are not (engaged in active operations against any enemy, but are employed in support of the British troops at Batoum, in safeguarding the British Mission with General Deniken, and in affording protection to the women, children, and wounded, in districts which are being overrun by Bolshevists. Moreover, I should add that, inasmuch as a state of war still exists between this country and Turkey and Bulgaria, the necessary precautions during an armistice period cannot be relaxed.

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Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that we were told the other day by the Prime Minister that the British troops had been withdrawn from Batoum?

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I think the hon. Gentleman is wrong. What the Prime Minister said was that they were intended to be withdrawn, which is very different from saying that they had been withdrawn.

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The Prime Minister said they had been withdrawn. I read the Report very carefully.

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Surely that would be a misapprehension. It has been decided to withdraw the troops and the withdrawal has begun, but it has not been completed, and so long as any remain at Batoum, it is the duty of the Navy to protect them.

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Is it not the case that these ships have been instrumental in saving thousands of lives?

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Very probably so.

( by private notice)

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In view of the gravity of the information which the Leader of the House has given us in regard to Constantinople, what is the earliest date he can allocate for a discussion of the matter, rather than by the very unsatisfactory method of question and answer?

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Docs my right hon. Friend mean a discussion with regard to Constantinople or the Armenian question?

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I mean Constantinople, but of course that links up the Armenian question.

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As regards the Armenian question, we have taken all possible means to obtain information. The amount of information which we have is very small and very unreliable. The best plan of my right hon. Friend would be to put a motion on the paper, and I will see whether it is possible to give time.

Turkish Rule In Constanixople

50.

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asked the Prime Minister if the Inter-Allied Council has decided to maintain Turkish rule at Constantinople, and whether he will arrange that the British public shall receive as much and as prompt information as the French public?

54.

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asked the Prime Minister whether he can make any statement to reassure the Armenian and Christian people of the Turkish Empire that the pledges and promises given to them will be strictly carried out?

56.

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asked the Prime Minister whether His Majesty's Government stand to the pledges they gave during the War, and repeated recently in both Houses of Parliament, that the Armenian and other subject races should be delivered from the dominion of Turkey?

57.

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asked the Prime Minister what part of Armenian territory it is proposed to leave under the domination of Turkey; whether the recent massacres and expulsions of Armenians are sufficient reasons for so leaving those territories; and, if not, whether he will say why the promises made by His Majesty's Government during the War are not to be carried out?

58.

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asked the Prime Minister whether, as part of the treaty with Turkey, he will see that the Christian races which are still loft in subjection are secured the right of carrying arms to protect themselves if their allies in the late War fail to secure them protection?

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I do not think that it is necessary to assure my hon. Friends and the House that the protection of the races referred to in the questions is one of the most vital subjects to be decided in the Turkish Treaty, and the steps necessary to secure that protection are being considered at the Conference, but it is not possible to report from day to day the progress of the discussions now-proceeding. In consequence, however, of the massacres in Armenia, and with the view of putting a stop to them, our representative in Constantinople was authorised to announce that the Peace Conference did propose to leave the Turks in Constantinople, but that, unless the massacres ceased, the decision of the Peace Conference would probably be modified, to the detriment of Turkey.

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Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that this leakage of information, which emanated from London, is constantly occurring, and can he take steps to put a stop to it?

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At the very beginning of the Conference that subject was taken up by the representatives of all the Allied countries, who recognised that nothing could be worse for the Peace Conference than that leakage, and we have done our best to prevent it.

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Will the right hon. Gentleman explain how he reconciles the answer he has just given with the reply which he gave to the Noble Lord (Lord E. Cecil) last Thursday, in which he stated that an inquiry with regard to the fate of Constantinople was about the last question he could answer until the whole Turkish Treaty was finished?

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I do not think it is very difficult to reconcile. My own view, and I believe the view of the delegates at the Peace Conference, is that it would be undesirable to make public any part of a Treaty which has been arranged until the whole has been completed. It is very undesirable, for instance, that the Turks should learn one part of it without knowing what the whole is. But, on the other hand, this breaking out of these massacres in Armenia raises another question. We then had to decide whether or not this announcement, coupled with the statement I have made, might not be useful in preventing these massacres.

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Is the Government satisfied that any pressure put upon Constantinople is likely to be effective, seeing that the massacres are being carried out by Mustapha Kamil, a Nationalist leader, and his troops, who do not acknowledge the authority of the Sultan?

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We recognise that it may not be as effective as we desire, but we think it will have some effect, because, to put it mildly, there is some connection between the Nationalist movement and the Turkish Government, and our statement ought to have effect with anyone who desires the continuance of Turkish nationality.

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Does not my right hon. Friend think it would be more consonant with the traditions of the House it the announcement as to the fate of Constantinople could have been made in answer to a question in this House rather than communicated to Admiral de Robeck, and through him to the papers, and reached hon. Members in that way?

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I think there is no ground for any suggestion that there is want either of precedent or of courtesy to the House. The decision to send this message to Admiral de Robeck was taken with a view to preventing these massacres. It was at Constantinople alone that it could have any effect.

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If the massacres are committed, as is now stated, independently of the Central Government at Constantinople, why is the Sultan to be threatened with punishment by expulsion from his capital?

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I think my hon. Friend misunderstands. It is not a case of expulsion. It is a case of the whole Turkish nationality. Our view is that there is a hope that this statement might influence the Turks.

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Is my right hon. Friend aware that the news that the Turks are to be left in possession of Constantinople will be received with very grave disappointment and resentment by many thousands of people in the United Kingdom?

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That is a matter for argument.

53.

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asked the Prime Minister whether he will invite the League of Nations to assume the duty of delivering the subject races of Turkey, and of protecting and guiding them until they are in a position to be wholly responsible for their own government and safety?

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I do not think the hon. Member's suggestion is practicable.

War (Official Naval History)

22.

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asked the First Lord of the Admiralty whether he can state when the official Naval History of the War and official account of the battle of Jutland will be published; whether the Admiralty have any German official accounts of the battle of Jutland: and, if so, whether they can also be published?

32.

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asked the First Lord of the Admiralty whether satisfactory progress is being made in compiling the history of the battle of Jutland; whether any despatches of the German Admiral Von Scheer are being utilised to check the information available from our own official despatches and records; whether any other information has been acquired from German sources as to the demoralising effect of the battle on the German navy; and whether the services of the officer selected by the Admiralty to collate the facts as to the battle are such as to render him thoroughly competent to deal with the task?

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I understand that the first volume of the Naval History of the War, which is being compiled under the directions of the Committee of Imperial Defence, will be issued in about a month. The official narrative of the battle of Jutland will, I hope, be published shortly afterwards. The Admiralty are in possession of a report by Admiral von Scheer, the German Commander-in-Chief, on the battle, and have decided to publish it as an appendix to the official narrative. This report has been utilised to check the information available from our own records. There is a large amount of information, which is constantly being added to, which goes to show that the morale of the German fleet was very seriously shaken. As regards the last part of Question No. 32, I am grateful to my hon. and gallant Friend for giving me the opportunity to defend an officer who, in my opinion, has been most unfairly attacked. The preparation of the official account consists to a large extent in plotting the movements of the ships engaged, from a great mass of evidence available. For this work Captain Harper is admirably qualified, being a navigating officer of the highest standing, besides having hail staff experience afloat during the War.

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Would the right hon. Gentleman's remarks also apply to his assistants?

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Obviously, as regards staff experience, I cannot apply my remarks to all his assistants, but as to their fitness and their claim to be released from this form of attack, I think their case is identical.

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Can my right hon. Friend say in what way Captain Harper has been most unfairly attacked, and where anybody has said that he is not fully qualified to produce a narrative of the battle of Jutland! This is not a substitute for a War staff report?

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There may be a question of interpretation. I should be the last person to desire to interpret the hon. and gallant Gentleman, but certain statements were brought to my notice which Captain Harper felt very much indeed. I considered that they did not reflect upon him, and I said so.

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Will the right hon. Gentleman arrange that hon. Members of this House do not write books before they know?

Royal Navy

National Defence (Lord Jellicob's Report)

20.

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asked whether Lord Jellicoe had made any Report to the Admiralty with reference to the problem of the national defence of the Empire: and, if so, whether that Report will be available to Members of the House of Commons?

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Lord Jellicoe has made no comprehensive report to the Admiralty on the Naval Defence of the Empire, that being rather a matter for the Admiralty themselves; but he has made a series of reports to the Dominion Governments on the local problems of Naval defence, including naturally the local aspects of Imperial defence.

As I informed my Noble and gallant Friend last Session, I will arrange that this House is put in possession of information on this subject equivalent to what is published elsewhere; but I think it will be best to issue it here in a single White Paper, and I therefore propose to wait until we know exactly what is being published in each Dominion.

Welfare Committee

21.

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asked whether the First Welfare Committee has concluded its sittings; whether it has made any report to the Admiralty and, if so, whether the report will be available to Members of the House of Commons; and, if so, whether the former recommendations, the recommendations of the First Welfare Committee, and the Admiralty decisions can be set out in parallel columns?

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The Welfare Committee has concluded its sittings, and expects to present a report to the Board of Admiralty in about a fortnight. Until the Board have received the report, I am afraid I cannot say what action may be taken.

Prize Monky

23.

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asked the First Lord of the Admiralty when the distribution of prize money to the Navy will be made?

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I would refer my Noble Friend to the reply given last Thursday to a similar question by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Maidstone (Commander Bellairs), a copy of which I am sending him.

Schoolmasters

24.

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asked the First Lord of the Admiralty if he will state the number of schoolmasters who have been entered into His Majesty's Navy as a result of the recent Admiralty advertisement; and how many of all the dockyard apprentices or ex-apprentices who have been invited to enter the Navy as schoolmasters have accepted the invitation?

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Under the regulations for the Schoolmaster Branch, it is provided that schoolmaster candidates must have such qualifications as will enable them to undertake the preliminary course of instruction, Recently, applications were received from a number of dockyard ex-apprentices to enter for the 22 weeks' training as probationer schoolmasters. Six of these had completed their apprenticeship some time ago, and had actually had teaching experience. Of the remaining four, all had completed their apprenticeship some time ago: two are Whitworth Exhibitioners, and the other two had continued their education in outside secondary education establishments. These ten candidates have been accepted, and so far as we can see, appear to be quite suitable to take advantage of the probationary training now offered thorn. But we are not at all satisfied that in the case of applicants who have had no teaching experience whatever, the course of 22 weeks can equip them for the specialised and advanced educational work which they will ultimately have to undertake as schoolmasters, Royal Navy. That part of the scheme for training schoolmasters for the Navy is therefore now receiving consideration.

25.

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asked the First Lord of the Admiralty, if he is aware that all naval schoolmasters, except the four head-masters, are in receipt of less pay and allowances than a large percentage of the chief petty officers of the Navy; that of the numerous branches of naval officers those of the schoolmaster branch only do not receive the pay of the rank they hold; and, as the new rates of pay for naval officers were approved in consequence of the changed economic situation, can arrangements be made so that schoolmasters also should receive corresponding rates of pay?

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As regards the first part of the question, no doubt the pay of chief petty officer of the engineer and artisan branches is in many cases in excess of the initial rates of pay of schoolmasters. As regards the second part, schoolmasters are the only warrant officers who do not receive the same rate of pay as other warrant officers, but it must be borne in mind that schoolmasters are given this rank on entry whereas in other branches it is rarely obtained, I am advised, under 10 years' service. As regards the final part, the question of the rate of emoluments for schoolmasters has been before us for some time, and representations on the matter have been made to the Government.

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Is my right hon. Friend aware that not only is the schoolmaster the worst paid of his rank, but he receives no separation allowance, no clothing allowance, no badge money, and no grog money?

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I could not say off-hand, but I will take it from my hon. and gallant Friend.

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Does the right hon. Gentleman consider that the pay of the schoolmaster compares as favourably to-day with the pay of the other warrant officers as it did before, the increase to the other warrant officers?

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As I have said, we have the pay of the schoolmasters under consideration.

Royal Fleet Reserve (Peace Retainer And Gratuities)

26.

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asked the First Lord of the Admiralty whether, in accordance with an undertaking given in October last, the Naval Welfare Committee have considered the questions of the peace retainer and gratuities to Royal Fleet Reserve, Class B ratings; and, if so, can he make a statement?

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Although no representative of the Royal Fleet Reserve, Class B, was attached to the Jerram Committee, which sat in the early part of last year, the Committee considered numerous requests affecting them, amongst which were these two points, and made recommendations thereon. These questions having been again raised, it was decided to refer them to the Naval Welfare Committee when it sat in the fall of the year, but in the meantime the Fourth Sea Lord and myself saw a deputation on the 14th November and discussed the increase of peace retainer and gratuities, together with a number of other matters. The reception of this deputation, which directly represented the men of the R.F.R., Class B, obviated the necessity to proceed with the original undertaking to refer these two points to the Naval Welfare Committee. The recommendations on the points raised by the deputation to the Fourth Sea Lord and myself have been considered by the Board of Admiralty, and the decision of the Government thereon is awaited.

Naval Officers (Income Tax)

27.

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asked the First Lord of the Admiralty whether any decision has yet been come to as to the rate of Income Tax to be charged on the pay of naval officers; and whether, if the full civilian rate is to be charged, provision will be made in the forthcoming Navy Estimates for such increases in the pay of officers as will compensate them for this charge?

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The answer to the first part of the question is that it has been decided by the Government that as from the 1st April next Income Tax is to be charged on the assessable service emoluments of naval officers at the ordinary rates applicable to the rest of the community: and to the second part that no provision of the nature suggested has been made, the principle of charging increased rates of Income Tax having been decided upon when the new increased rates of pay were sanctioned. This decision was promulgated in the Fleet Order as the new rates of pay.

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Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that in Admiral Halsey's Report with reference to the pay of naval officers it was recommended that if the Service rate of Income Tax were no longer to be charged the question of their pay would have to be reconsidered?

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That: is quite correct, but when the question was finally considered and decided that recommendation was not adopted.

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Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that in some cases the Income Tax will very nearly swallow up the whole of the increased pay?

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I do not think so. I have looked through a great many specimen cases myself and that point was considered when we had the whole proposal before us, but there is hardly any case where the description would be applicable. No doubt, when you come to rearrange things, the new rates always adversely affect some of the old conditions.

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Are we to understand that officers serving abroad on long commissions are to be charged civilian rates of Income Tax?

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All officers are on the same rate.

Coal And Oil Fuel (Consumption)

29.

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asked the First Lord of the Admiralty what was the expenditure of coal and oil fuel, respectively, by His Majesty's Navy during the last six months of the year 1919; and what amount of coal and oil fuel is expected to be expended by His Majesty's Navy during the present year?

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I am informed that it has not hitherto been considered advisable to publish figures relating to the Navy expenditure of coal and oil fuel, and I do not think it is desirable to depart from this practice.

Naval And Military Pensions And Grants

Retired Naval Officers

28.

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asked the First Lord of the Admiralty whether, in the case of naval officers who had retired prior to the War and who were called out to serve during the War, their pre-War pension has been increased by the amount due to the time so served?

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Retired naval officers who were called out during the War are not eligible to count such service for increase of retired pay, but, in lieu thereof, were granted a bonus of 25 per cent. upon their full pay during service. All such officers, however, are eligible to have their retired pay in respect of service before retirement re-assessed upon the revised scale introduced last year.

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May I ask whether in the case of officers who were kept on the time did not count for an increase of pension, and whether it is not unfair that officers who were last in from the retired list should not be rewarded in a similar manner for similar services?

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My hon. and gallant Friend will recognise that is a highly technical question of which I ought to have notice.

Disabillity Pensions

31.

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asked the First Lord of the Admiralty whether he can yet announce what is the increase of pension to be granted to those who served in the late War and are in receipt of disability pensions only?

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I would refer my hon. and learned Friend to the reply given to a similar question by my hon. Friend the Member for Devonport (Sir C. Kinloch-Cooke) on Monday last, a copy of which I am sending him.

Officers' Children (Allowances)

38.

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asked the Secretary to the Admiralty if he can make any statement as to the granting of children's allowances to any rank of officers, Royal Navy, and if he can state the policy of the Admiralty as to married quarters for officers or give any information thereon?

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As regards the first part of my hon. and gallant Friend's question, I can only say that the grant of an allowance to certain ranks promoted from the lower deck is under consideration. As regards the second part of the question, it is not proposed to provide married quarters for Naval officers.

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Why has the allowance been withdrawn from Naval officers while it is continued in the Army?

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I do not know that any difference exists. I do not think so, but I really do not know.

Royal Dockyards

Chatham

30.

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asked the First Lord of the Admiralty whether he is now in a position to make a statement as to what has been decided in regard to Chatham Dockyard, as the result, of the deputation to the Prime Minister and the prospect of work in that yard?

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Owing to the great pressure of work in the Constructive Department at Chatham now and for some months ahead, there is no immediate possibility of laying down a merchant ship at that yard. I may add that negotiations are nearing completion for the sale of some sixty acres of ground in Chatham Dockyard to a private firm for mercantile shipbuilding purposes.

Pembroke

33.

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asked the First Lord of the Admiralty whether, in the event of Pembroke Dockyard being leased to a private firm, it will be a condition of the lease that the yard shall be maintained continuously at work for the period of the lease to the extent at least of its full pre-war normal capacity as deter-mined by the number of men employed; whether, if at any period enough private work Will not be available to ensure this, the Admiralty will provide sufficient Government work to enable the lessees to carry out the provisions of the lease in this respect; and if he will state what is the minimum term of the proposed lease?

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In the event referred to, it would be proposed to make it a condition of the lease that the lessee should take over our present employees, to be subject thereafter to the usual conditions of wages and service ruling in the industry under private management—less, of course, those established men who may be transferred to other dockyards. It is not proposed to make provision for the contingency referred to in the second part of the hon. Member's question; the terms of the lease are not yet settled, but the period would not be less than 21 years.

Hong Kong

37.

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asked the Secretary to the Admiralty if he can make any statement as to the petition to the Admiralty from the agreement workmen, Hong Kong dockyard; and if the answer to this petition can be expedited?

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The question of the pay of the Home Dockyard workmen serving under agreements at Hong Kong Dockyard, who are paid at rates fixed in local currency, is at present engaging the attention of the Department. I am not in a position at present to make any statement as to the decision which may be taken, but my hon. and gallant Friend may be assured that there will be no unnecessary delay in dealing with the Petition which has been received from the employees concerned.

Ss "River Clyde"

45.

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asked the Prime Minister, why the s.s. "River Clyde" has been sold to Foreigners; why this historic ship could not have been preserved at Malta; and whether nothing can be done to re-purchase this ship for preservation.

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The "River Clyde" was sold by auction because after very careful consideration it was not thought either that His Majesty's Government would have been justified in incurring the heavy expense involved in bringing her to this country, or that preservation at Malta was desirable.

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Could it not have been arranged to reserve the ship for a British firm? Would not the expense of keeping it at Malta have been infinitesimal?

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We thought the best way of disposing of property of that kind was by auction, and that is why it was done. It was a very old ship, and had it remained at Malta it would simply have rusted away and have been of no benefit to anybody.

Merchant Shipbuilding

Colwyn Committee (Report)

34.

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asked the First Lord of the Admiralty if he is now prepared to lay the Report of the Colwyn Committee on the Question of Merchant Shipbuilding in His Majesty's dockyards upon the Table of the House?

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It is hoped to lay this Report on the Table of the House shortly.

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Will the Report be available to hon. Members before the Naval Estimates are taken?

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Oh, yes.

Living-In System (London Shops)

39.

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asked the Minister of Labour if his attention has been called to the practical establishment of the curfew system by certain large firms in the neighbourhood of St. Paul's Cathedral whereby the liberty of the subject is seriously threatened; and if he will consider the advisability of introducing a measure controlling and limiting the living-in system?

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No representations have been made to the Department on this mater, but I have seen reports in the public Press. It appears that the particular difficulty has now been satisfactorily settled. Legislation does not appear to be necessary.

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May not a man shut his door when he likes, even if he lives in St. Paul's Churchyard?

Civil Liability Committees

42.

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asked the Minister of Labour whether he is aware that dissatisfaction is caused to many local civil liability committees owing to their carefully considered recommendations being rejected by the Civil Liability Commissioners without any reason being assigned; and if he can see his way to have this method of procedure altered?

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I understand the hon. Member to mean by local civil liabilities committees, War Pensions Committees. On this assumption, I would state that wherever possible the grounds upon which the decisions of the Civil Liabilities Department are reached are communicated to these committees. All applications are decided in accordance with the Treasury Regulations by which the Department is governed. It is true that the Department is sometimes unable to accept the recommendations of local War Pensions Committees, but this is frequently due to the fact that local committees have failed to recognise that the regulations governing the grants of the Civil Liabilities Department are different from those under which the King's Fund, which is now ended, was operated. Every endeavour is being made to remove misunderstandings on the part of the War Pensions Committees, and they have been assured that where their recommendations are in accordance with the regulations, grants will be made.

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Has the procedure been established which states that if a man has been discharged from the Service 12 months he is not entitled to claim anything from the Civil Liabilities Commission, and docs that apply to men who have been receiving training or treatment?

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I think the hon. Member will find an answer to that question in detail in a reply given on Wednesday or Thursday last week.

Ministry Of Labour (Appointments Department)

43.

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asked the Minister of Labour if, in view of the urgent need for placing every ex-officer, or men of similar accomplishments, in employment, he can state how many of these men have secured employment through the Appointments Department of the Ministry during the past 60 days; how many are still awaiting employment; and what efforts are being made to place the balance in positions at the earliest possible moment; and can he state to what extent has the scheme of placing these men through Members of this House been successful?

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3,868 men of the class referred to by the hon. Member have been placed in employment by the Appointments Department during the last eight weeks, 635 of this number having been placed in the week ended 13th February, 15,817 ex-officers and men are still on the books of the Department as unemployed. The efforts which are being taken to place these men in employment include the canvassing of individual firms, advertisement of the work of the Department in the public press and elsewhere and addresses to Chambers of Commerce and other representative bodies of business and professional men. At the present time special efforts are being made to set up, generally throughout the United Kingdom, additional special Employment Panels of business and professional men, to interview and advise all candidates for employment. These panels, which have been in full operation in the London district for more than two months, and have already been formed in twenty-six other towns, are proving of great use in finding employment for candidates. The scheme of placing men through hon. Members resulted in the issue to employers in the London district by fifty-three Members of some 2,000 letters, as a result of which at least seventy-five men have been placed in employment. I venture to take this opportunity of asking all Members to do all that lies in their power to assist the scheme and to interest others in the work.

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Why is it that only London M.P.'s have been asked, so far, to co-operate in this work? In view of the fact that the methods adopted in the London area appear to have been so eminently successful cannot the right hon. Gentleman see his way to apply it throughout the whole country?

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That is my intention. We made a beginning in London and the success undoubtedly justifies a continuance and extension of that procedure.

Employers' Roll Of Honour

44.

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asked the Minister of Labour (1) if he will consider the advisability of subdividing the roll of employers who, in answer to His Majesty's appeal, have co-operated with the State in the matter of providing employment for disabled ex-service men according to towns and districts; and if he will cause such rolls to be posted in some prominent place in every town and district; (2) what steps have been taken to give such publicity to the national roll in connection with the scheme for the employment of disabled ex-service men that the names of those firms which have, and of those firms which have not, co-operated with His Majesty's Government in this matter may be universally known?

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The names of the employers inscribed on the King's National Roll have been arranged under counties in the first issue which is now almost ready for publication. The Roll will be made available at Free Libraries and other public places throughout the country. I shall be glad to consider the suggestion of the hon. and gallant Member in connection with the issue of the next edition.

In answer to the hon. and gallant Member's second question I have to say that the first edition of the King's National Roll is at present being printed and copies will be available within the next two or three weeks. It is proposed to distribute copies to all employers on the Roll and to other persons and organisations interested, as well as to make the Roll available in Public Libraries and other public places. Copies of the Roll will also be placed on sale.

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Is it possible to put them up in the Post Offices?

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I will consider whether that is feasible.

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Will the right hon. Gentleman also arrange to put up a list of employers who have not redeemed their promises to men who joined up?

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They have yet to be discovered.

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Will the right hon. Gentleman consider the expediency of adding a list of the trades unions which have boycotted returned soldiers?

Profiteering Act

46.

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asked the Prime Minister whether it is proposed to introduce an Amending Bill to the Profiteering Act; if so, when; and whether any steps are in contemplation to make this Act more effective?

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I have been asked to reply. As indicated in my answer on Monday to questions, by the hon. Member for Hertford and my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for East Bradford, I hope to introduce an Amending Bill at an early date.

Parliamentary Elections

47 and 48.

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asked the Prime Minister, (1) if he is now prepared to make an alteration in the procedure of elections whereby the long delay between the polling and the counting of the votes can be eliminated;

(2) if the intentions of the Representation of the People Act as regards absent voters would be fulfilled if an opportunity of filling up a proxy was offered to each member of His Majesty's forces on going abroad on duty for any length of time?

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The various Government Departments concerned are now considering this question and will report immediately. I cannot therefore make any statement to-day, but I hope to be able to do so by the end of next week.

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Will the right hon. Gentleman consider making an exception in such a case as the Wrekin Division of Shropshire, where, apart from the Absent Voters' List, the result has always been a foregone conclusion?

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I cannot accept the statement of fact in the last part of the question. I do not think it is possible to make exceptions. We must have one rule.

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Will any other suggestions which have been made in connection with an amendment, of the Representation of the people Act be considered so that the whole can be dealt with together in one amending measure?

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If the hon. and gallant Gentleman will let me know what especially he refers to I will consider it, but my impression is that this change can be made without legislation.

Peace Treaty

Zeppelin's (Surrender)

49.

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asked the Prime Minister whether the Government are now in possession of indisputable evidence that the seven Zeppelins which should have been surrendered by Germany under the Peace Treaty have been deliberately destroyed; what steps are being taken in the matter; and whether the attention of the German Government has been directed to this and other instances of the wilful destruction of German national assets, in connection with their application to the Allied Governments for a reduction in the amount of the indemnity imposed on Germany by the Peace Treaty?

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No information has been received by His Majesty's Government with regard to the matter referred to in the first part of the question. The second part does not, therefore, arise. As regards the last part, any action by the German Government which is likely to result in a breach of the Treaty of Versailles and which comes to our knowledge is at once brought to the notice of the Council of Ambassadors, with whom it lies to warn the German Government.

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Will the right hon. Gentleman ascertain whether there is any ground for the suggestion in the Press that these Zeppelins have been destroyed?

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There is a Commission at Berlin, on which the Air Force is represented, to deal with this kind of case. I think we can trust to it letting us know if there is any foundation for such a statement.

Neutral States (Paetition)

51.

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asked the Prime Minister whether any neutral state will be partitioned during the present secret conference of London?

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I can add nothing to what has already been said in reference to the publication of information with regard to the conference.

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When may we expect open diplomacy in all these matters?

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Never, I hope, in the sense the hon. and gallant Gentleman means.

Summer Time

52.

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asked the Prime Minister whether the Government has come to any decision with regard to the permanent adoption of Summer Time in this country; and whether, before taking any step, he proposes to make inquiry into the working of the change?

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I have been asked to reply to this question. Summer Time was the subject of a very full inquiry by a Departmental Committee after its first introduction in the summer of 1916. No fresh considerations of importance have arisen since that inquiry, and I see no occasion for a further inquiry. As I stated in reply to a question on 4th August last by the hon. Member for the Henley Division, the Government believe that the general feeling is strongly in favour of the continuance of the system, and it is their intention to propose legislation for the purpose of making it permanent.

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If it is the intention of the Government to propose legislation, why do they continue this in the War Laws Emergency Bill?

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When is it proposed to put this system in operation, and will the right hon. Gentleman, if the question is still under consideration, have regard to the representations of those concerned in the agricultural industry?

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Yes, all questions are considered.

Military Stores Abroad

55.

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asked the Prime Minister whether any Allied country within whose territory British military and other stores are lying awaiting disposal have placed any export, duty upon such stoles if sold in that country for foreign export; if so, whether this restriction greatly retards the sale of such stores by the Disposals Board; and whether representations have been made to such Allied Governments urging that such regulations may be modified?

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No export duty has been levied in these cases. As regards ordinary Customs duty leviable on goods imported, arrangements have been made with the Allied Governments concerned to any a commuted rate in respect of surplus stores sold. These arrangements compare very favourably with the rate leviable under the ordinary tariffs, and so far as can be judged have not retarded sales.

Amritsar Incident

60.

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asked the Lord Privy Seal whether he proposes to give an early opportunity for a discussion on the Amritsar incident?

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until the report of the Committee now sitting in India to inquire into this matter has been received it is not possible to consider this question.

Disabled Ex-Service Men

Unemployment

62.

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asked the Minister of Labour if more than 30,000 disabled ex-Service men are registered as unemployed; and if he will consider the advisability of issuing such a comprehensive statement in regard to the difficulties of his department in the matter as will give hon. Members of the House sufficient information upon which to base their consideration of the best means of grappling with the problem?

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The number of disabled ex-Service men on the registers or the Employment Exchanges at 6th February was 30,653. I am hopeful that, consequent upon the settlement of the moulders' dispute, the number of disabled men for whom employment has still to be found will decrease substantially in the near future, and that further improvement will result from additional efforts that are to be made to promote the success of the national Scheme for the employment of those men, when, within the next two or three weeks, the first edition of the King's National Roll is available. As regards the general causes of unemployment among these men, I would refer the hon. and gallant Member to a comprehensive statement which was made in answer to a question asked by the hon. Member for Kirkdale on 22nd December.

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Will the right hon. Gentleman cause inquiries to be made as to the demonstrations of disabled ex-Service men, with a view to ascertaining for what length of time the individuals concerned have been unemployed?

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I shall be very glad to do anything in my power to assist in obtaining employment for any disabled men, but I do not think it is practicable to discover the men who are in the streets, and to ascertain the conditions of each man's case.

Vocational Training

67.

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asked the Minister of Labour if he is aware that there are about 100 discharged disabled men in the county of Wilts awaiting vocational training; that many of these men are on 20 per cent. to 70 per cent. pensions, and have not yet succeeded in obtaining work; and what steps he proposes to take in view of the fact that the out-of-work donation of these men will cease next month.

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The figure given in the first part of the question is approximately correct. Every effort is being made to place these men in training and prior consideration will be given to individual cases of hardship that may arise out of the cessation of any man's out-of-work donation.

Mansfield Registrarship

74.

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asked the Minister of Health whether he is aware that the Mansfield Board of Guardians advertised in the papers for applicants for the position of registrar for births and deaths, stating that preference would be given to ex-service men, but although several ex-service wounded men applied for the position, a person has been appointed who has not been in His Majesty's Forces; and will he take the necessary steps to cancel the appointment and instruct the guardians to appoint a person in accordance with their advertisement?

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The facts referred to in the question have already been brought to my notice and efforts have been made to induce the guardians to appoint an ex-service man to the office in question. The matter is, however, one for the guardians, and no powers are available under which the steps suggested in the last part of the question could be taken.

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Is it not a fact that the guardians have not kept faith with their promise, which was distinctly made, that preference would be given to ex-service men, and will not this set a very bad example to private employers in regard to the employment of ex-service men? Is there any course which the right hon. Gentleman could take with a view to cancelling this appointment, which is contrary to the advice given by His Majesty the King and the Government department?

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I entirely agree with my hon. Friend as to the deplorable eflect of this example, and if I had any power to intervene, under the circumstances I would.

Out-Of-Work Donation (Scotland)

65.

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asked the Minister of Labour whether he is aware that ill many of the smaller urban centres in Scotland out-of-work donation continues to be paid to ex-soldiers who cannot find employment locally, and who have; not sufficient means to allow of their travelling to the bigger industrial centres; and whether, with a view to reducing the national expenditure on this unproductive donation and securing the more rapid return of ex-soldiers to productive work, he will favourably consider the institution of travelling grants, to be administered by the local authorities to men in search of work?

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According to my information, the obstacle in the way of the employment of ex-service men in the circumstances described in the question is the lack of housing accommodation in the industrial centres, rather than any inability to pay travelling expenses. The railway fare charged to an ex-service man travelling to take up employment found for him through an Employment Exchange is reduced to one-half the ordinary rate, and the amount of the fare thus charged may be advanced by the Exchange in proper cases, and subsequently repaid by the workman or his employer. I think these arrangements are working satisfactorily in providing means of travel.

Woolwich Arsenal (Discharged Men)

66.

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asked the Minister of Labour if he can state the percentage of the unskilled and semi-skilled men discharged from Woolwich Arsenal since the Armistice who have been found fresh employment?

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There are no figures available which would enable me to answer the question of my hon. Friend.

Housing

Lnterst On Loans

70.

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asked the Minister of Health whether the amount necessary for payment of interest on loans for housing schemes will have to be raised by the local authority, in the first instance, by means of the rates; and what are the provisions made by the Government for the repayment of such expenditure?

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Interest and other charges will be paid by the local authority out of its housing receipts which comprise rents, rates, and exchequer subsidy. Advance payments on account of Exchequer subsidy will be made half-yearly, on application from local authorities, at such times as are suitable in view of the dates at which various payments by such authorities in respect of loan charges are due.

Local Authorities (Default)

75.

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asked the Minister of Health whether he now possesses adequate powers to compel lethargic authorities to build houses where these are urgently needed; and, if so, whether he proposes to exercise these powers?

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I would refer my hon. Friend to the terms of the Housing, Town Planning, &c., Act, 1919, under which I am empowered to authorise county councils to act, or may act myself, in default of local authorities who do not take adequate steps to provide the houses needed in their areas. I have for some time been pressing backward authorities to expedite their schemes, and it is my intention to use my powers where this is necessary.

Census (1921)

72.

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asked the Minister of Health whether any proposals are to be submitted to Parliament in connection with the Census of 1921?

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Yes, Sir. I hope to introduce a Census Bill at an early date.

Registrar-General's Department

73.

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asked the Minister of Health whether he proposes to reorganise in any way the Department of the Registrar-General; whether, in connection therewith, it is proposed to increase the charge for certificates of births, marriages and deaths, and, if so, can he state what the proposed new charges will be?

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The reorganisation of the Registrar-General's Department has been receiving my close attention, but I have not had in contemplation any increase in the statutory foes payable by the public, which would, in any event, require legislation.

Maternity Homes

76.

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asked the Minister of Health what action is being taken by his Department to promote the establishment of maternity homes by municipal authorities?

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The Local Government Board and the Ministry of Health have for some time pressed upon local authorities, both in general circulars and in individual letters, the importance of the provision and maintenance of maternity homes, and have obtained Treasury sanction for a grant of half the approved expenditure on these purposes. A memorandum has just been issued and will be placed on sale, giving guidance as to suitable plans and equipment and so forth, of which I am sending a copy to the hon. Member. During the last year or so about 25 such homes were established by municipal authorities, and about 20 by voluntary bodies, who, as a rule, received financial assistance from local authorities. Many similar homes have been planned and are likely to be established in the near future.

Food Supplies

Milk (Dispute In South Wales)

( by prirate notice)

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asked the Minister for Food, whether he was aware that during the past 24 hours the milk producers in the South Wales area have ceased to supply the milk wholesalers, and whether in view of the serious consequence of this Act to densely populated areas affected he will intervene and call a conference, of the interested parties?

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I regret that by an accident I only received notice of this question a few minutes ago: but my attention had already been called to the fact that at the present moment there appears to be an extensive strike of milk producers in South Wales, and in Glamorgan, Monmouthshire and some other counties very large portions of the milk supply are at present being withheld from distribution. I am fully alive to the seriousness of the situation, and I will have inquiries made; indeed, I had already directed inquiries to be made.

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Is the hon. Member aware that a very large number of wholesalers have repudiated the prices which have been fixed by the Food Controller, and have fixed prices of their own, and that the milk producers have declined to fall in with those prices?

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The hon. Member is under a misapprehension. It is not a question of prices fixed by the Food Controller. As I understand it, this is a dispute between the Welsh producers of what is a reasonable price.

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In view of the seriousness of the position, will the hon. Member expedite the inquiries, and not confine them to communications which never come to an end?

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Yes. As promptly as possible inquiry will be made.

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Are we to understand that Bolshevism is spreading amongst the farmers?

President Wilson's Despatch

Supreme Allied Council (Reply)

( by private notice)

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asked the Leader of the House whether there is any truth in the statements appearing in the public Press to the effect that a harsh and uncompromising reply had been originally drafted to President Wilson's dispatch, but that this reply had been subsequently changed as the result of representations made by Lord Grey, the Noble Lord the Member for Hitchin (Lord Robert Cecil), and the Chancellor of the Exchequer?

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There is not a shadow of foundation for any such suggestion, and, indeed, I think it hardly necessary to say that there is not a single representative of any of the Allied Powers at the Conference who does not recognise the supreme importance of a good understanding with the Government and the people of the United States.

Notices Of Motion:

Imprisonment Of Service Men

On this day fortnight, to call attention to the continued imprisonment of Service men, and to move a Resolution.—[ Mr. Griffiths.]

Control In Matters Agricultural

On this day fortnight, to call attention to regulations regarding control in matters agricultural, and to move a He-solution.—[ Mr. Cautley]

High Prices And Profiteering

On this day fortnight, to call attention to the question of high prices and profiteering, and to move a Resolution.—[ Mr. J. A. Parkison.]

Bills Presented

Diseases Of Animals (Scotland) Bill

"to transfer the powers and duties of the Board of Agriculture and Fisheries under the Diseases of Animals Acts, 1894 to 1914, so far as they relate to Scotland, to the Board of Agriculture for Scotland." Presented by Lieutenant-Colonel ARTHUR MURRAY; supported by Major William Murray and Major M'Kenzie Wood; to be read a second time upon Thursday, 26th February, and to be printed, [Bill 31.]

Tithe Rent-Charge (Rates) (No 2) Bill

"to amend the Law with respect to the payment of Rates on Tithe Rent-charge attached to a benefice." Presented by Lieutenant-Colonel Sir SAMUEL HOARE: supported by Mr. Rawlinson, Major Hills, Major Earl Winterton, Mr. Edward Wood, and Brigadier-General colvin; to be read a second time upon Friday, 7th May, and to be printed. [Bill 32.]

Orders Of The Day

Silver Coinage Bill

Order for Second Reading read.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."—[ Mr. Chamberlain.]

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Before we vote on the Second Reading, we should hear some explanation from the Government as to this measure. We know, of course, that the price of silver has risen enormously during the last 12 months, and that silver coinage instead of being a source of profit to the Government has become a source of loss, but still we are entitled to some explanation as to why we should cut down the value of silver in our coins to just one-half of its present value. We ought to also know what the result of this change will be on our currency, because, of course, the first law in currency is that bad currency drives out good, and we ought to know how much of the good silver currency is in the country, what is the means of calling that money in before it is all hoarded, and how the Treasury intend to save themselves against loss? Further I would like an explanation from the Chancellor of the Exchequer as to the profits on coining silver for the colonies, particularly for the West Coast of Africa. In the old days great profit was made on the West Coast of Africa by supplying silver coins. That should have gone into the local Treasury. Now that the profit is going to be larger there is all the more reason for revising that system. I particularly want to know what is the meaning of this latest rule which we have had in East Africa fixing the value of the rupee at one-tenth of a pound?

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I would remind my hon. and gallant Friend that this does not arise under this new Bill. It is a matter of colonial administration, and is not under the control of the British Treasury.

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We are in a difficulty in not having had the Bill moved with a speech of explanation. Then we should have known exactly what was in the Bill.

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My hon. and gallant Friend will believe me when I say that there was no conscious discourtesy to the House. I had reason to believe that certain hon. Gentlemen wished to speak. I have only the right to speak once. I have been waiting for those hon. Members whose names have been given to me, but they did not rise. My hon. and gallant Friend must not think that I wished to slip the Bill through. I was waiting to hear those who wished to address the House.

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I jumped into the breach because I saw that the Bill was going to be read a second time. There would have been no speech at all if I had not got up. I think that the question of the coinage in West Africa does come within the Bill. I see that the Under-Secretary for the Colonies (Lieut.-Colonel Amery) is present, and I think that there ought to be some protest made against appropriating for our own benefit revenue which ought to go to the West African colonies. The important thing is what is going to be done with the present currency, and how is it going to be called into the bank instead of being hoarded.

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I would ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer, is it necessary to have the three-penny bit, or would there not be a saving if it were left out in the coining of the next lot of silver? If possible a larger amount of copper coinage should be circulated through the country. I know that there is a shortage of copper coinage to supply the needs in our large towns and cities. I have never yet known anybody who wanted particularly to get a three-penny bit. [An HON. MEMBER: "On Sundays."] I am not speaking about the first day of the week. I think that as long as the present position continues, with the reduction in the value of the coins, of course it naturally follows that the less silver coinage is struck the better. If in those circumstances the Chancellor of the Exchequer would consider the elimination of the three-penny bit and the striking of a considerably larger amount of copper coinage it would meet the general wish.

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I wish to appeal to the right hon. Gentleman, on three grounds, to think twice before we pass this measure. The first ground is that of national sentiment. The Chancellor of the Exchequer is no doubt aware that he is endeavouring to change what has been the rule for 1,200 years. British silver currency from the time of Offa onwards has, with the exception of 14 unhappy years, always been good silver.

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dissented.

4.0 P.M.

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11·2 oz. to 18 dwt.—the old English standard. There has been one unhappy interval of 14 years in the reigns of Henry VIII, Edward VI, and Mary. These are the 14 unhappiest years almost in English history, and that unhappinoss was to a very large extent caused by the horrible debasement of the silver currency which the right hon. Gentleman may read up if he likes in Acts of Parliament and Bishop Latimer's Sermon. Bishop Latimer's Sermon on the base shilling is a particularly interesting one. Throughout the Civil War of Charles I and the Commonwealth and all other periods when there was a temptation to issue base money, we kept clear of it. May I ask the right hon. Gentleman to think twice before he puts an end to what has been the good history of English currency which has retained practically the same purity from the time of Alfred and Edward I until now. Compare the English penny with the French denier and the German pfennig. The German pfennig started by being equal in value to a penny, but was down to one-tenth of the English penny before the War. The French denier, which started by being equal to an English penny, during the eighteenth century was down, I believe, to 1–240th of an English penny. All that was due to debased currency. We kept our currency clean while the other countries did not.

No doubt it is pure sentiment that we should desire to maintain that purity of the eleven ounces two pennyweights against eighteen dwts. of alloy, but there is something moral in my opposition as well. All through English literature and through every literature I know, from the Greek downwards, you are riddled with taunts of base money. From the Greek tragedians down to Shakespeare you find taunts of base money. Why is that? Because there is something in the spirit of honest men which revolts at putting out what looks like the money of other generations, but which is something that no longer has that value.

"German silver" may serve as an example. "German silver" means those token which were issued after the Thirty Years' War by the unhappy bankrupt States of Germany. The very term "base money" has an evil sound in it. Not only that, there is something else of a practical kind. Gambling with tin tokens or half-tin tokens is a very different thing from gambling with honest money. When you receive honest money there is not by any means such a temptation to gamble, it is the worthless or half-worthless stuff that, passing from hand to hand, easily tempts to thriftlessness. There is an absolute temptation to throw it away, because it is in itself intrinsically comparatively valueless. It is a well-known fact that the old gamblers of the last century, when they played with counters rather than guineas, were more reckless in their play. If in return for your one pound you get, not the well-known old shillings, but something that docs not contain all pure metal, the moral feeling is very different. Token money dependent upon the good old standard sovereign of gold—the St. George and the Dragon sovereign—is very different from token money dependent upon a one-pound note or the Bradbury. A token depending upon a token is very different from a token dependent upon gold. What the right hon. Gentleman is proposing to induce us to undertake is that we should substitute "obscurius" for "obscurum"—for the doubtful Bradbury the still more doubtful half tin token. What the value of the Bradbury is at present I am sure I do not know. It varies from day to day in New York. From reading the English police reports, I believe that a great deal more than one Bradbury is required to purchase a golden sovereign now, as appears from the cases of those offenders against the law who are already trafficking in sovereigns. I cannot think there is any security in money secured on what has already begun to be the sinking paper note. On the sovereign it is a very different thing. We cannot even call this a token currency, because it is a token on a token, in fact a double-token currency.

The third point I want to make is on the economic question. When you demonetise the old complete silver currency and begin to replace it by one which is not all silver, there is is a terrible economic crisis at once. That was seen in the reign of Henry VIII., and it has been seen in Germany quite recently. People are not quite simple when they are told, as they have been told, that their shilling is worth more than a shilling and that their half-crown is worth more than a half-crown. They will treat it as bullion. It will not go into the banks. It will go underground. It will be hoarded or melted and go out of the country. The right hon. Gentleman will have to produce on the spur of the moment an enormous sum of money that will be wanted to replace the suddenly vanished good money. Sir Thomas Gresham's "Law" says that the bad money drives out the good. The sudden appearance of this bad money will cause good money to disappear. It will go out of sight. In the meanwhile, there will be the economic necessity to produce thirty-seven million pounds or so of this stuff to be shot all over the country at once. The crisis will be an extremely difficult one for whoever has to see to this matter of the sudden change. Perhaps I shall be asked what I recommend. I am going to implore the right hon. Gentleman to stop coining for a bit. I went to the Mint by chance at the end of January and found they were turning out two-shilling pieces as hard as they could go, some time after they had ceased to be profitable. That seemed to me to be extremely thriftless. What did our ancestors do in a similar situation? They stopped coining for years. There was no silver coinage from 1763 to 1787, and again there was no official silver coinage from 1787 to 1816. The results were tiresome, but much less deplorable than they would be in the case of adopting a method of this kind. I do not know whether the right hon. Gentleman realises that we passed through the American War of Independence without striking any silver money at all. There was no money struck by the Mint from 1763, when the Northumberland shilling was struck, down to 1787. After 1787 we did not strike any Government silver at all. There were other arrangements. The Bank of England struck money of a lesser standard, and although the Bank was pledged the Government was not. May I implore the right hon. Gentleman to put this Bill off for a bit. Let us see to what the price of silver is going to settle down. For 104 years it has been possible to mint profitable silver, but for the last three months it has been impossible to mint it at a profit. It is only during the last three months that the matter has become a pressing one. Instead of waiting a reasonable amount of time to see what silver is going to do—it fell 4d. last week suddenly—the right hon. Gentleman produces, this extraordinary Bill to do what no Minister, except the Ministers of Henry VIII. and Edward VI. ever thought of doing—debase our coinage. I think it will send up the price of everything. Silver, the
"Pale and common drudge
'Tween man and man,"
as Shakespeare called it, will be disappearing and something coming in its stead. That will tempt everybody towards recklessness and thriftlessness, and the only possible result will be higher prices. I represent a Constituency which, perhaps more than any other Constituency represented in this House, is composed of the new poor. I suppose that the clergy, teachers and others, who form the Constituency of the University of Oxford, have got nothing and have suffered frightfully from this War. The salaries at Oxford were fixed by the University Commission in 1880, and have not been changed since. We of the new poor cannot face any more high prices, and we implore the right hon. Gentleman to do nothing that may send anything up one penny higher than it stands to-day.

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I have to ask the indulgence of the House in following the very scholarly sentiments we have heard from the hon. Member for Oxford University (Mr. Oman). While I feel that perhaps sentiment and morality may be a little too expensive for these commercial days, there is a great commercial objection to this Bill. I understand that if the silver coinage is debased in the way proposed by this Bill, it will be extremely difficult to tell what is legally a good shilling from a bad one. I would suggest to the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether what he requires could not be met to some extent by reducing, perhaps a great deal, the size and weight of the silver coinage, and yet keeping it up to the present standard of fineness. That, no doubt, would involve the abolition of the threepenny-bit, but certainly, as a church-warden, I should not regret its disappearance. If he proposes to proceed with the Bill, we ought to have some assurance that the shilling made under the Bill will be as easily distinguishable as our present shilling is from a bad one.

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I would ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he could see his way to go very slow with this Bill and, if possible, to adopt the suggestion of the hon. Member for Oxford University (Mr. Oman) and not coin, anything for some time to come. Otherwise the result may be higher prices which will affect adversely the poorer members of the community. There has been a campaign for some time in the Press about nickel coinage, and I am very sorry to see the Chancellor of the Exchequer has given his favour to it. There is something elemental in human nature which will prevent a man giving the same amount of what he has to sell for an inferior coin as he would give for a coin to which he is accustomed. Take the case of people who have to meet their little weekly requirements. A man will not give them as many herrings, bananas or potatoes for five nickel shillings as he would give them for five shillings of the quality to which we are accustomed. There are many people whose weekly financial budget is a few pounds and no more. If the retailer says to them, "We are not giving you so much because the money is inferior," I think it will lead to a good deal of worry and dissatisfaction, and probably trouble, before very long. Let me give an example of what might happen. I do not say it will happen here.

About 12 or 14 years ago there were violent riots in many Chinese cities and people were killed. The ordinary member of the public said they were anti-foreign riots. They were nothing of the kind. The Chinese Government had debased the copper cash, which was the money with which the wages of the poor were paid. The poor found that they could not get the same amount of rice as they were accustomed to receive for their money. They raided the shops and there were considerable riots. What happened in one place may happen in another. I do not say there is a likelihood of anything as serious as that, but when people gift hungry and find they cannot get for their money as much food as they are accustomed to, they are liable to be very cross about it. In this Bill you are simply giving a great deal of ammunition the agitator, who can go about and say that this is a dodge to reduce the value of wages, and that the workers must therefore ask for more wages. We shall have the ever vicious and widening circle increasing. There will be a demand for more wages, and there will come higher prices and an increased cost of production. I can understand there is a loss on the coinage of silver at the present price, but I think it better that that loss should be met, and it is better to meet it directly. It is really a ease of the department against the public. Lot the department say, "We have to buy that silver and we lose so much by it." Let them put it into the national accounts.

What is the position now? During the last 30 or 40 years the Government has gained on coinage a profit of millions of pounds. It is always advisable to keep something in hand for emergencies. Silver has for 3½ months gone above the coinage price of 66 pence, a very short time, and I think you are doing an unwise thing in introducing this Bill, The very day this Bill came out with 8S pence appearing on the first page as the price of silver, owing to the Chinese new year, when all Chinese try to pay their debts, they sold some silver and it fell 4d. on one day and 2¾d. the next day. In two days, therefore, 7 per cent. of the loss disappeared. At 66 pence you can coin without loss. What is the loss? Only about a shilling an ounce, the forward price being 78 pence. For a small thing of that kind it is not worth while disturbing the whole economic life of the country, especially in view of the subsidies which the Chancellor of the Exchequer has to pay on bread, coal, the railways, and so on. If the country desires to avoid another cause of worry and trouble, it, would be much better, if it be necessary, to spend a few hundred thousand pounds to fill up gaps, especially in view of the enormous profits made in years past. If you say you must have more currency, I would rather see an issue of 5s. notes. There is plenty of silver in the world, and directly American exchange gets to about 4 dollars, which is not an impossible thing, we hope, and if you stop buying, the speculators who are holding silver in America would be bound to disgorge.

The hon. and gallant Member for New-castle-under-Lyne (Colonel Wedgwood) made a very interesting point. He spoke about West Africa. We finance West Africa with British silver coinage. It is one of the fancy coinages—a gold currency without any gold. Trade in West Africa is increasing by leaps and bounds. A few years ago we received from West Africa cocoa to the value of £30,000 per annum; now its value is £3,000,000 or £4,000,000 per annum. From that country also we get palm oil, edible nuts, and the component parts of margarine, which is now a staple food. It is said that people will not put up their prices under this Bill. Even if the British retailer is noble enough not to do it, the native will certainly not give the same quantity of what he has to sell for a coin 500 fine. Therefore the price of palm oil and cocoa will tend to rise, and by spreading this thing over all the country for all time, as this Bill does, our people will pay on their breakfast tables time after time a great deal more than you will lose by meeting the loss on coinage with a grant of a temporary nature.

I know that the right hon. Gentleman looks upon some of us who voted for premium bonds as not very respectable people, but I do say that it is quite as respectable to vote for premium bonds with a little exchange of interest between one Englishman and another, as to try to work off a nickel coin on a West African negro. In my view the unsettling possibilities of this Bill are greater than are recognised. I would, therefore, add my appeal to that of my hon. friends. The good silver coinage will be molted down and will disappear, and your position will be worse than it was before. I asked yesterday a question about the silver coinage. The answer I received was that we did our business before the War with 13s. worth of silver coinage per head of the population, that we bought £33,000,000 worth of silver during the War, and that we have now in this country 27s. 6d. worth of silver coinage per head of the population. I think that if we have doubled the amount of silver that we had before the War we might call a halt at this particular moment and not uproot the old currency that we are used to.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer need not be afraid that silver will always be at the present price. I have had a certain amount of experience of silver and it is always a tricky thing—it goes up and down. By the position the Chancellor of the Exchequer takes up in this Bill he is evidently a "bull" in silver at 88 pence. I wish he had been a "bull" at 22 pence. I would like the right hon. Gentleman to look at the way the China banks work. China is the only free silver market in the world. The right hon. Gentleman will not find that the banks there share his confidence. They fix the rate always below the bullion point and keep a safe margin. If silver falls a penny, the rate drops twopence or threepence. I do not think that when the world settles down there will be any difficulty about the mines getting to work in producing silver. I think we may reasonably hope that silver will be back somewhere to the level of 66 pence or a little under. For these reasons I ask him not to act in a great hurry. I agree that it might be useful if we had nickel coins up to, say, sixpence; at all events, I do not think that would do much, or any, harm. But when you come to shillings, two-shillings and half-crowns outside this country, I ask the right hon. Gentleman to be very careful. I would ask him not to proceed very far with this Bill, but to put it into his pocket as a sort of reserve bargain. I ask him, as a prudent Chancellor of the Exchequer, not to be led away too far. He might let the matter remain in abeyance for six or eight months, and I am not without hope that we shall see silver come down.

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I hope the hon. Members who have spoken will not think that I wish to detract from or to depreciate the "interest of their speeches if I say that I have seldom listened in so short a space of time to so magnificent a display of confused thinking. I hope that before I have done I shall have convinced the House that, in the first place, what I am proposing is a simple and common sense application of our past practice to existing conditions; in the second place, that there is no reason to fear the disastrous consequences which my hon. Friends have suggested; and, thirdly, that if I were wrong on both these points, the alternatives suggested by my hon. Friends are open to exactly the same objections as they have alleged against mine, and to other objections in addition. Let me first state the case for the Bill. The Bill proposes to reduce the fineness of Imperial silver coin current in the United Kingdom and in certain Dominions and colonies where these coins circulate from 925 fine pure silver to 500 fine. The reason for the change is the greatly increased price of silver bullion, due partly to reduced production in the mines and partly to the exceptionally heavy demands for silver in Eastern currency. In 1914 silver was worth 28d. an ounce; it is now worth over 80d. an ounce. My hon. Friend (Mr. Stewart) says I was a "bull" in silver at 88d. I do not advise him to speculate on that basis. Although I by no means anticipate that this immense rise, or the whole of it, will be long retained I think if, extremely unlikely that for a long time to come we shall get back to anything like the pre-war level. When the price of silver is 66 pence per ounce then the silver of our silver coins is more valuable than the legal value of the, coin, and it becomes profitable, if it were not illegal and punishable by severe penalties, either to export the coin and sell it, or molt it down and use it as bullion. The export is prohibited and there are heavy penalties for melting. As long as your silver coin is worth more when melted and sold as bullion than as legal tender you are offering a premium on the commission of an offence in the melting of the coin. The result is that our silver coins have ceased to be what they wore, namely tokens. What the Bill proposes is not a novelty as suggested by the hon. Member for Oxford University (Mr. Oman), who in addition to his other attainments is a distinguished numismatist. We simply go back to what has been our practice for many years and restore the token character of the silver coinage.

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Was it done by putting base metal in?

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Yes, that is the way it was done before the War. You put in silver very much less than the face value of the coin.

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How much base metal?

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Of course what was not silver was base metal.

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Eighteen penny-weights-not one-half of the coin.

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We propose to make the coinage which has lost its token character resume its token character. With a fineness of 500, which is the fineness we propose, the melting point of the new coin will be slightly over 122 pence per ounce, so long as the price of silver remains in and about 88 pence. When it remains over 46 pence per ounce, the intrinsic value of the new coin will be more than the intrinsic value of the old coin up to 1914.

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May I remind the right hon. Gentleman that for many years the price was 60 pence per ounce?

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It has always been a token coinage in recent years. It was a token coinage with a smaller pro-portion of intrinsic value to face value in 1914 than it will be when the new coins are issued under this Act.

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What about the years from 1870 to 1914?

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As the price of silver varies the value of the silver, whatever it may be in any particular coin, must vary, but never from 1816 has our silver coinage been anything but a token coinage. Nobody ever thought in 1914 that because silver was 28 pence per ounce, that the shilling was not worth a shilling or a half-crown worth a half-crown for the purposes of a coin. No argument has been deduced to show that a coin, the intrinsic value of which is relatively higher to its face value than our silver coinage was in 1914 can now properly be described as a debased coin, or that any of the ill consequences which my hon. Friend has foretold should follow from adjusting the amount of silver in the coin to the value of silver at the present day. I do not go as far as that, but I say as long as silver is at 46 pence per ounce or over, the intrinsic value of the new coin will be more than that of the old coin in July of 1914. That is my case for the Bill, and I now come to examine the criticisms that have been urged against it. The hon. and gallant Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Colonel Wedgwood) was interested in the effect of the proposal on West Africa. But it has its own silver-coinage and retains the seigniorage upon it. It only applies for our coinage when for any reason it is short of the coinage which it strikes for itself.

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Is its fineness altered by the Bill?

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It does not affect any coins except the coinage of the United Kingdom, wherever that coinage is current. There are other parts of His Majesty's Dominions which use our coins. In the case of the self-governing Dominions, in order to make it perfectly clear on the face of the Bill' that we should not act except with and upon the advice of the local government in making this coinage legal tender there, I propose to put down an Amendment in Committee. This applies only to our coinage where that coinage may be used. The hon. Member for the Withington Division of Manchester (Mr. Carter) suggested that instead of taking the course proposed here we should stop the coinage of threepenny bits and increase the bronze coinage. He said he did not want threepenny bits, and he did not know who did. I can assure the hon. Gentleman that there is an immense demand for threepenny bits, and I should certainly got into very hot water if I proposed to abolish the coin of that denomination.

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Into hot water by whom? Nobody wants them.

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How does the hon. Member think they get into circulation? Does he suppose that the Mint sits down, and says, "What kind of coin should we like to strike? We have not taken a turn at threepenny bits for a long time—let us strike them."

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Does the right hon. Gentleman not recognise the fact that this is the time in which it has to be considered whether these coins are really desirable or not, and is he aware, practically speaking, that nobody wants them?

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There are two questions, namely, as to whether those Coins are desirable or desired. I will finish my argument. Does my hon. Friend suppose that the Mint followed its own fancy in selecting what coins it should strike? It does not; it follows the public demand. The customers go to the banks, the banks go to the Bank of England, and the character of your coinage which is apportioned between the different coins follows the law of demand and supply. We have to find what the public want. When my two hon. Friends say that they do not find the threepenny bits to be a useful coin for their purpose, I accept that statement, but I suggest as there is a great demand for the threepenny bit clearly the experience of my hon. Friends and myself is not typical of that of the country at large.

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I was speaking of 30 years' experience in Manchester.

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Coins do not go out unless they are asked for, and of all the coins the threepenny bit is the one that I would soonest retain. If you ask me whether it is an economical coin and a desirable coin from my point of view it is not, but there is a public demand for it and a very large public demand for it. There is a demand also for increased copper coinage not wholly unconnected with the coins temporarily lying idle in the penny-in-the-slot machines. The increase in wages and in spending power naturally call for a considerable increase in the silver currency, and I think an increased demand for small coins has been largely produced by the split sums which owing to the action of the Insurance Act have constantly to be paid in wages now instead of round sums. I come now to the main criticism of my hon. Friend the Member for Oxford University. He appealed to me, on the ground of historic sentiment and morality and the fear of an economic crisis arising if this Bill were carried into law, to withdraw it and to adopt some other method.

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To hold it up.

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Yes, and not to proceed with it. I venture to say there is a good deal of confused thinking about this matter. Our silver coinage has always been a token coinage. I think my hon. Friend is misled by recollections of the Middle Ages.

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I was referring to times up to 1816.

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By recollections of the Middle Ages when there was no gold standard and when the monarch by reducing the amount of silver in the silver coin did in fact debase it and lessen its value. Ever since 1816 silver coinage has been a token related by law to the pound. My hon. Friend the Member for Oxford University thought the introduction of the paper pound note introduced an entirely disturbing factor, but no such thing was the case. Bradburys and the silver coins are both tokens relating to the pound in gold, and the fact that you have pound notes affects neither one way nor the other the value of your token silver in its function as coinage.

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Will the right hon. Gentleman promise to make them interchangeable at 20s. of these new coins for a gold sovereign? All my objections would fall if that were so.

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I am delighted to answer that, and I will give my hon. Friend at once the assurance he wishes. Our silver coinage is legal tender up to 40s. only, and the new silver coinage will be legal tender for the same amount only. In exactly the same way twenty shillings will still make a pound. I did not know the objection of my hon. Friend was so much on the surface and was so easy to remove. What was my hon. Friend's remedy? His remedy was that we should stop coining silver altogether.

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Not altogether; for the present.

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Stop coining for the present. Then what is to happen? There would be an insufficiency of coins. My hon. Friend who spoke last provides an alternative, and he says, "Do not reduce the fineness of your silver but issue small notes." Why, may I ask in passing, is a person to attribute to a five-shilling note, which is a pure token with absolutely no intrinsic value, a sacredness and a solidity which he will not attribute to two half-crowns which at any rate have an intrinsic value?

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Only as a temporary measure.

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But if my hon. Friend's line of reasoning is right, the economic crisis will follow also as a temporary measure, and the disturbance of prices also will follow, as well as the rather doubtful morality vis à vis the West African native—all these direful consequences which my hon. Friend suggests will follow the reduction in the fineness of silver coins will follow on the substitution of paper for a silver coinage.

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You have twice as much silver coinage now as you had before the War.

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My hon. Friend is not answering my argument, but merely interrupting it. My hon. Friend recognises that you would have to have more coinage. The hon. Member for Oxford University says, "Stop coining," and I will follow that suggestion up presently; but my hon. Friend the Member for Wirral recognises that you could not stop issuing coinage, and says that therefore you should issue notes. Very well, I point out to him that the notes have less intrinsic value, are a pure token, and' are, therefore, open to all the objections of the token coin and to all the direful consequences and predictions which he draws from the fact that we propose to restore the token character of our silver coinage. I took some trouble to ascertain whether an issue of small notes would be acceptable to the country. As a matter of fact, I have got a large stock of five shilling notes and smaller notes printed in case it might be necessary to issue them, so that we might be ready to meet a crisis, but the result of my inquiries was a unanimous reply from employers and workpeople alike, that they did not want paper notes for small values. I thought the replies evinced really more dislike of the existing pound and ten shilling notes than I had anticipated, but there was no doubt about the immense body of objection from all classes to the adoption of my hon. Friend's suggestion of issuing five shilling, half-crown, one shilling, and I do not know whether he would go as low as sixpenny notes, in addition to the pound and ten shilling notes. But if you are not to issue silver and not to issue notes, what is to happen? My hon. Friend referred to the period during the Napoleonic wars, when the striking of the silver coin of the realm was suspended; but what did happen? My hon. Friend knows that if you enter the museums of any of our great towns you will probably enough find in them a collection of local tokens issued by firms or individuals in those towns to make good the default of the Government to provide the public with the currency that they required, and to supply the lack of a public currency by a currency issued on the private credit of individuals and, of course, received only where those individuals were known.

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Nine-tenths of it was issued by the Bank of England, which coined many millions between 1804 and 1814.

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My hon. Friend, I am sure, will not dispute that you will find in all the great centres local tokens. I have got somewhere a standard Birmingham coin, a token issued by Birmingham firms because there was not enough currency to serve. It had a special value, of course, as coming from Birmingham, but what it was worth at the time was exactly what the credit of the individual who issued it was thought to justify, and it had necessarily the most restricted circulation. My hon. Friend recognises the inconvenience of that but apparently thinks that while the Mint should cease working, the Bank of England should go on issuing currency. What would my right hon. Friend the Member for the City of London (Sir F. Banbury) think of that proposal? The Government is to cease to meet the needs of the community in the matter of coinage, and the Bank of England is to take their place with an issue of token currency of its own I Why is the issue of a token currency by the Bank of England exempt from all the evils inseparable, in my hon. Friend's opinion, from the currency of the Government?

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I never advised it in the least, but I said it was done from 1804 to 1814, and it began ten years after the last silver money ceased to be struck at the Mint. It was more than ten years before the Bank of England began to strike the small currency after the expiration of the last issue of the royal money.

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I cannot hold up the silver coinage. I have no guarantee that that is possible, and I must do one of three things within a short time. Either I must issue small notes, but I do not believe that the representatives of the commercial community for one moment desire a fresh issue of notes of smaller denominations, notes of half-a-crown, one shilling, and the like. The second is that I should coin at a loss, that every coin struck should be struck and put into circulation at a loss to the taxpayer. My hon. Friend says cheerfully that it is not worth disturbing the whole community for such a trifle as this; it is a question between the public and the Department. Is not that an illustration of confused thinking on his part? Who are the Department? Does he think that I, as Master of the Mint, or my Deputy, will, as private individuals, bear the loss? It is a question as between the public and the public, and if the coinage is issued at a loss, it is the taxpayer who will have to meet it.

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I say you ought to have the moral courage to accept the loss, and say, "We have lost so much on the silver coinage; we made millions in the past, and we think it is as well now to keep the coinage on at a small loss."

5.0 P.M.

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I think the rights of seigniorage are one of the oldest rights of the Crown, and I think they are rightly applied as part of the revenue of the Crown for the public service of the country. My hon. Friend may think differently, but, at any rate, that has been the practice approved by Parliament, and the money has been spent. There is no reserve on which I can draw, and if I am to issue coins at a loss, taxation must be so much higher, or something else must be foregone which could otherwise be done, and as long as I issue coins at a loss it is the same thing as saying that I am issuing a coin which it pays every man to melt the moment I have minted it. If he is caught, he will be punished, but is it wise to go on putting that temptation in his way? Is it wise to spread a bait, as it were, for those who can be tempted? Is it not more reasonable to put that temptation out of their path by reverting to the old token character of the coin? Then, if you do not coin at a loss or issue notes, there is only one other thing to do, and that is to reduce the fineness of silver, and I come back to the point where I started, that even so reduced the intrinsic value of the coin, quite apart from its legal tender, is likely to be higher for a long time to come than it was immediately before the War: that in all the years of the nineteenth century, and of this century, up to the War, the silver coinage was a token coin, and that really our people are not so easily seized with panic that they will imagine that, because the token character of the silver coinage is restored, the most calamitous results are going to follow. The fact of their being a token coin does not raise prices. It is not the currency that raises the prices; it is the amount of credit which is in existence, which is created, and the relationship of that credit to the amount of the commodity. The coin is merely an expression of the amount of credit interpreted through the needs of the people in their daily transactions, and, if you restrict it in one direction, the only result will be that you will have a larger demand for currency in some other form, and if you refused to coin silver you would get back, very probably, in a short time to the situation which we may remember prevailed for two or three days at the outbreak of war, when, owing to the succession of bank holidays—I think there were four bank holidays in succession—the currency did not return to the banks, and got back into circulation, and we all went about with five pound notes, begging someone to change them, and failing to find anyone who could. That is really not a possibility I can contemplate. I want to avoid the issue of these small notes. I want to avoid the issue of coinage at a loss. I beg the House to give me the Second Reading of this Bill, and allow it to go upstairs to a Committee, where, of course, it will have a proper examination, and to pass it into law rapidly, so that I may neither be driven to fresh coinage of silver at a loss to the public, nor to the issue of notes, to the great annoyance and inconvenience of the public.

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I should have liked the right hon. Gentleman to have dealt with the question, perhaps, from the other side. Surely it would be a great economy to the country if this coinage were made entirely of some base metal. No doubt the right hon. Gentleman has some good reason, but I should have been very grateful if we could have had an explanation.

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The hon. Gentleman who has just sat down is, I am sorry to say, encouraging the Chancellor of the Exchequer to issue valueless coins and so to increase inflation and increase currency.

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As a token.

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But, at the present moment, there is some value in the token, and so long as there is some value in the token we may rest assured it will not be created indiscriminately. It is the printing of all these notes that has, in my opinion, to a certain degree, led to the inflation of prices, and, with regard to what my right hon. Friend said, that it was not the creation of currency notes but the creation of credit, if he will allow me to say so, I thoroughly agree. The necessity for currency notes only arises when credit has been given, and it is the giving of the credit which is wrong and which we ought to stop as far as possible. With regard to the particular question before the House, I rather think the House is making too much of what is more or less a small measure. What really are the facts? Sir William Harcourt altered the value of the rupee, which, I think, was something like 93 or 94, and from that day to 1914 the Mint made considerable profit in silver coinage, with the result that the profits went to reduce the amount raised in taxation. My hon. Friend talks about profits made in the past being used in the future, but those profits have gone to reduce taxation and have been spent, and cannot therefore be used again. Now the position is changed. Instead of there being a profit to the taxpayer, there is a loss, and my right hon. Friend says, "In these hard times I cannot make that loss, and, as silver is a token, I can reduce the amount of silver to such an extent that we do not make a loss." Is that right?

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I do not think, on the whole, there is very much harm in that, provided the advice of the hon. Gentleman who has just spoken is not followed. I am a little nervous whether in doing this we shall not encourage the very suggestion which the hon. Gentleman has just made. But, provided that is not done, I do not see very much objection to the Bill. With regard to West Africa, I am not very much concerned. Of course, silver is only a legal tender up to 40s., and therefore the West Africans can perfectly well say they will not take it in silver provided the debt amounts to 40s. So that I do not think, even if the Amendment, which my right hon. Friend has stated he will put in the Bill, were, not in the Bill, the West Africans need be frightened. But, on the whole, I think the House will do no harm if they pass the Bill, and if there is to be any further discussion on details, it should be in Committee. I would suggest one word of warning. I hope my right hon. Friend will not be beguiled by the suggestion of the hon. Member (Mr. Hopkins).

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I should like to say a word or two in support of what the hon. Member for Oxford University (Mr. Oman) and the hon. Member for Wirral (Mr. G. Stewart) said. To my mind, this is a most serious proposition. It is bound not only to affect people in this country if the Chancellor of the Exchequer debases the silver coinage of this country, but the debasement of their rupee may affect 300,000,000 people in India, and, moreover, the Chancellor of the Exchequer in every country in the world may begin to take cognisance of the action of our Chancellor of the Exchequer. The argument I would adduce for the postponing of this measure is that now we have the League of Nations, and silver is the coinage in almost every nation in the world, the reducing of the value of the British coin is a matter of enormous moment, I say that that Council should take into consideration whether united international action can be taken with regard to fixing in some way the value of silver. If the International Council fixed for a period of years the value of silver, I believe silver mines all over the world would open, and you would have a stable production of silver and a stable price.

We are proceeding to-day, in my opinion, in a very haphazard way. The Chancellor of the Exchequer claims that, from the revenue point of view, we ought to have as much profit as the Exchequer received in 1914, when, he told us, the price of an ounce of silver was 28 pence. The difference between that and 66 pence was what the revenue received in profit in silver coinage. To-day he is reducing, as I understand it, the value of the silver in the florin to the equivalent of the difference between 28 and 66. That margin he is going to hand over to the revenue. I do not think that is a reasonable position to take up. Could he not take the old value of 66 pence to the ounce and set a good example to all the world by instructing the Mint to coin at that equivalent? Why should he seek to go below that? He might say it is a matter for the Committee stage of the Bill to alter the fineness of the silver proposed in the Bill, but there is, to my mind, a great deal in the principle of the Bill. I think one of the speakers was perfectly right. The day these new shillings, half-crowns and five shillings will be issued, in my opinion, will see the total disappearance from the currency of this country of every silver coin that exists. I say as a business man that will be the result. The people will know that these old coins are worth a great deal of money and will hide them away, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer will have the greatest difficulty in finding currency to pay wages. There will not be enough currency, and he cannot make it quickly enough to get it in the' hands of manufacturers and merchants in order to make disbursements.

The right hon. Gentleman says—and I recognise the difficulty—that owing to the increased amount of wages paid in this country the volume of currency must be greatly increased. I hear to-day that there is to be a demand from the textile workers for an enormous increase of pay from 1st April next. That will certainly necessitate more currency of some kind in the country, and I utterly fail to see why the five-shilling note should not meet that difficulty. I am aware the Chancellor of the Exchequer says people do not like it, but I do not think he put the question: "Which do you prefer, a five-shilling note or a debased coin?" I do not want to see half-crown notes or anything less, but I think the issue of five-shilling notes, which the right hon. Gentleman says are already printed and ready for distribution, should be used in an attempt to overcome the difficulty that, in order to meet the ordinary day-to-day currency requirements of this country, a large increase of new currency of sonic sort must be had. I would certainly vote for the five-shilling note rather than the debased silver coin that is now proposed. I think the House will be well advised, while giving a Second Heading perhaps to this Bill, to make up their minds that it has got to be thoroughly discussed before we pass it into law.

Question put, and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read a second time, and committed to a Standing Committee.

Public Utility Companies (Capital Issues) Bill

Order for Second Beading read.

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I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read a second time."

In asking the House to assent to a Second Reading of this Bill, perhaps hon. Members would like a short explanation of what it seeks to achieve. At present, as hon. Members generally are aware, gas and water companies—the only companies to which this Bill refers—are subjected to a very close restriction in relation to their issues and the payment of dividends under the special Acts which constitute them. For example, in some companies preference capital cannot be raised at all under the Act; in others the issue of loan capital is limited to one-third of the total. During, and since, the War things which have occurred have led to a depreciation of the capital of these companies, and has made it almost impossible for them to get new capital subscribed under the conditions of their original Acts. The only way they could do this would be to come to this House in each case with a private Bill. We have been in consultation with the authorities of this House who deal with private Bill legislation, and they agree with us that it would very much simplify procedure and save the time of this House if some general measure like the present were passed: it would also save the companies expense in the matter of private Bill legislation. I should like to point out that what this Bill authorises the companies to do under various paragraphs of Clause I is to issue other denominations of capital, and under paragraph (e) to pay a higher rate of dividend or interest than they can do under their original Act; but not in excess of the total authorised capital, only with the consent of the Board of Trade, and only after an order had laid upon the Table of this House for twenty-one days, during which a resolution against it can be presented by Members of this House. I hope, subject of course, to any small alteration of detail of this Bill, which can be done in Committee, that the House will agree to the Second Beading of this measure.

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I should like to offer a few remarks on one or two points. As I understand the Bill, there can be an issue of debenture stock or money borrowed to an extent not exceeding half the share capital for the time being issued and paid up. I have seen the Bill to-day for the first time, and, therefore, have not had an opportunity of refreshing my memory, but I think, as a rule, the amount of debenture stock which Parliamentary companies are allowed to issue is one-third of the capital, including the preference and ordinary stock.

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That is so.

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I am always rather concerned when an attempt is made—and many attempts, I am sorry to say, have been made during the last two years—to injure the property of debenture holders. Debenture stock is held by trustees and people of that description, and any attempt to depreciate that security ought, I think, to be very carefully watched, I do not quite gather whether the effect of paragraph (d) of Sub-section (1) of Clause 1 is to increase the proportion of one-third to one-half, to make it one-half of the share capital. On page 2 of the Bill there is a definite Clause which says

"The expressions 'stock' and 'stockholder' include shares and shareholders."
I do not know whether that means that under this Bill debenture stock may be issued amounting to half the share capital or half the preference and share capital? What does it mean? If it is only to be half the share capital, I do not know that it will make very great increase in the amount.

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The difference is between one-half and one-third.

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One-third of what?

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One-third of the share capital.

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Including preference and ordinary stock?

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I am not quite sure whether I appreciate the point of my right hon. Friend. The difference is only to change one-third to one-half as the amount of the debentures that can be raised in proportion to the total share capital, excluding debentures.

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Then the effect of the Bill-whether the drafting is quite right or not, does not matter—the intention of the Bill is to increase the amount from one-third to one-half. I am rather sorry about that. It is a dangerous matter. Perhaps the point is a Committee point which can be dealt with later. I have no comment to make upon the rest of the Bill until we come to the Schedule, which I do not quite understand. The Schedule says

"2. If it is so provided in the resolution, the company may—(i) call in and pay off the stock, or any part thereof, at any time before the date fixed for redemption." Then it goes on—
"(ii) redeem the stock, or any part, thereof,"
and so on. Does this apply to what is about to be issued, or to the debenture stock already in existence I It is certainly not clear. It ought to be made clear, because if it does apply to debentures or preference stock already in existence I do not think this power ought to be given. The money has been lent on certain fixed terms. Perhaps my hon. Friends, before we get into Committee, will see that these things are all made quite clear. The only other point which remains is as to whether it is advisable to increase the power to issue debentures. I do not think it is very advisable even in the interests of the company. I can understand the temptation. I think some alteration in that will have to be made in the Committee stage; otherwise I have no objection to the Bill.

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May I ask how many municipal authorities and private companies have made an appeal for the introduction of this Bill in order to avoid coming with private Bills? We desire in this matter to protect the consumers against the private people imposing an increased price for gas.

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The Bill does not touch municipal undertakings.

Question put, and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read a second time, and committed to a Standing Committee.

Merchant Shipping (Amendment) Bill

Order for Second Beading read.

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I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read a second time."

The object of this Bill is to remove an anomaly in the Act of 1853, under which the financial control of the establishment of the whole of the lighthouses passed to the Board of Trade. Under that Act the regulation of the payment passed to the Board of Trade with one exception, and that related to the Elder Brethren of Trinity House. The reason why they were exempted was apparently because there was an omission to repeal the Section in an old Act of 1822, which fixed the remuneration of the active Elder Brethren at a particular sum. The object of this Bill is to give the Board of Trade the same control over the regulation for the payment of the active Elder Brethren as it has over the rest of the establishment.

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I do not gather that it proposes a charge.

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Whatever charge arises out of it is met by the General Lighthouse Fund.

Question put, and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read a second time, and committed to a Committee of the whole House for To-morrow.— [ Colonel Gibbs.]

The remaining Government Orders were read, and postponed.

Publications And Debates' Reports

Ordered, That a Select Committee be appointed to assist Mr SPEAKER in the arrangements for the Official Report of Debates, and to inquire into the expenditure on Stationery and Printing for this House and the public service generally:

Committee nominated of Lieutenant-Colonel Archer-Shee, Mr. Bowerman, Major Cope, Mr. Hugh Edwards, Major Entwistle, Mr. Higham, Sir Clement Kinloch-Cooke, Mr. Ronald McNeill, Mr. MacVeagh, Mr. Moles, and Mr. Sturrock:

Ordered, That the Committee have power to send for persons, papers, and records:

Ordered, That Three be the quorum.— [ Colonel Gibbs.]

Public Petitions

Ordered, That a Select Committee be appointed, to whom shall be referred all Petitions presented to the House, with the exception of such as relate to Private Bills; and that such Committee do classify and prepare abstracts of the same, in such form and manner as shall appear to them best suited to convey to the House all requisite information respecting their contents, and do report the same from time to time to the House; and that the reports of the Committee do set forth, in respect of each Petition, the number of signatures which are accompanied by addresses, and which are written on sheets headed in very case by the prayer of the Petition, provided that on every separate sheet after the first the prayer may be reproduced in print or by other mechanical process; that such Committee have power to direct the printing in extenso of such Petitions, or of such parts of Petitions, as shall appear to require it; and that such Committee shall have power to report their opinion and observations thereupon to the House:

Committee nominated of Sir William Bull, Mr. Alfred Thomas Davies (Lincoln), Mr. Donald, Captain Falcon, Mr. Finney, Mr. Foreman, Mr. Galbraith, Mr. John Guest, Sir Leicester Harms-worth, Major Henderson, Mr. Haydn Jones, Mr. Kenyon, Sir Half or d Mac-kinder, Mr. Ronald McNeill.

Ordered, That Three be the quorum. —[ Colonel Gibbs.]

Public Accounts Committee

Ordered, That the Committee do consist of fifteen Members:

Committee accordingly nominated of Mr. Acland, Mr. Baldwin, Sir William Barton, Mr. Beck, Major Blair, Sir Henry Craik, Mr. Alfred Davies (Clitheroe), Sir David Davies, Mr. Holmes, Mr. Lonsdale, Mr. Neil Maclean, Mr. Stewart, Mr. Walsh, Sir Robert Williams, and Lieut.-Commander Young.

Ordered, That the Committee have power to send for persons, papers and records:

Ordered, That five be the quorum.—[ Colonel Gibbs.]

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There being a Notice of Motion for 8.15, I shall now leave the Chair until that hour.

[ Sitting suspended until quarter past Eight of the Clock.]

Discharged Soldiers And Sailors (Employment)

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I beg to move,

"That this House regrets the action of certain trade unions in refusing to admit ex-Service officers and men to their unions and in preventing many gallant men from obtaining employment, or such training, under the State scheme, as would fit them for certain skilled trades; further, although this House has passed the Restoration of Pre-War Practices Act in order to fulfil certain pledges given daring the War, it is of opinion that it is unjust to men who have been fighting for their country to apply such restrictive legislation to them when they cannot otherwise obtain employment, and calls upon the trade union organisations to reconsider their attitude with the view of assisting such men in every possible way."
I shall endeavour in my few remarks to say nothing to embitter any feelings of my hon. Friends below the gangway. This question of the action of certain Trade unions in regard to demobilised men is exercising a great amount of interest throughout the country. I only wish that this motion had fallen into abler hands than my own, as it is some years since I had the honour of addressing this House. Trade Unions as a body, I know, are playing the game throughout the country, but there are a certain number who, in my opinion, are not, so to speak, playing the game. What are the facts? A lot of these men, when the War broke out, were training for employment in the trades they wished to join. The War intervened, and the survivors who came back after four years of war took every opportunity they could to go through their training, but they found, in a number of eases, obstacles put in their way by certain Trade Unions.

We all talked during the War of what we were going to do for the boys when they came home. I frankly admit that the vast majority of people have done all they can to get these men back to a healthy, civil life, but I am afraid that the War fervour has evaporated in some quarters, and these men are not receiving the industrial welcome to which they are entitled. Personally, I am of the opinion, and I am certain it is shared by every single Member of this House, that for these men everything ought to be done by employers, managers and workmen to get them back to the employment they wished to take up, even if in so doing a certain amount of sacrifice has to be made by some of those employers, managers or workmen. Trade unions are large, powerful and valuable organisations, carrying out a great work in the industrial organisations of this country. They have a great duty to perform, and rightly so, in protecting their members from any unfair action on the part of employers or any other section of the community, and to help them to do that Parliament has conferred upon them special privileges. It is our experience that sometimes when people have these special powers and privileges they are abused, and I am sorry to say that in some cases they are being abused at the present time by certain trade unions. On the other hand, I quite understand the point of view of certain trade unionists, but on this question I appeal to hon. Members who sit below the Gangway. We had a speech from the Prime Minister the other day, who said there were 350,000 of these men who wanted work; there was no lack of work, and he appealed to the Labour party. If it be the case that the country at the present time is crying out for that production which we all know is the panacea for the ills from which we are suffering, I submit, to my hon. Friends above the Gangway that certain trade unions are not playing the game. I know that the trade union regulations may have been absolutely necessary before the War, but surely the War has changed things. We have to get back to the production that is necessary to put this country once more on its feet.

I am not going' to weary the House by producing a great number of concrete cases, although I could do so, but I am going to produce two or throe which, I hope, will illustrate what is going on throughout the country at the present time. The Ministry of Labour asked the Campbell Gas Engine Company, of Halifax, to take 12 men into their factory. They agreed to do so four men were sent, an officer, two non-commissioned officers, and one private. A fifth was sent later. What was the attitude of the Union concerned? The workmen objected to these ex-soldiers being sent, and they said if they were retained they would go out on strike. The men were approached by the management of the firm and asked if they would stand by them, and they agreed to do so. The strike took place. The workmen objected to the ex-soldiers on two grounds: First, because they were officers, and that their status in life would give them an advantage over the other men who worked in the factory; and, secondly, that increasing the number of workmen would tend to make wages fall. Surely, the first reason is rather novel and curious. I am told that the trade unions are a great democracy. They believe in a democracy that allows their members to participate in the work of other classes, but they do not believe in a democracy that allows other classes to participate in their work. That is what is called the liberty and freedom of the subject in this country. I quite understand the other reason about wages. I suppose that is the old reason for the limitation of the apprenticeship system. That was absolutely necessary before the War, but surely the War has changed things. I submit that the trade unions would have been well advised to have abrogated this regulation, at any rate, for the time being, in favour of these demobilised men. The strike took place, and I am told that the firm sent out for help in other directions and received between 700 and 800 men. It is, however, the principle that I am after this evening. Certain trade unions, at any rate, are not playing the game.

Another specific instance is brought to my notice of a man who served 4½ years in France and became a skilled electrician. He was offered a post in a big shipbuilding firm, with high wages and a chance of improving his position, but the firm said that he must join the union. He applied for membership of the union, but he was turned down. He could not, therefore accept the post, and he is now working where skilled labour is not required, where wages are much less, and where his chance of promotion is nil. Then we have the case of the hon. Member for Mossley (Mr. A. Hopkinson). but I am not going to deal with that. There was another case in the Gloucester Wagon Works, where an ex-soldier was taken on as a fitter. The man had to leave to save a strike, and eventually he got a job in the firm's drawing office. Incidentally, I may say that the man sued the union for libellous statements, and he got £300 damages. There are many other cases which we could go into, but I am certain that other hon. Members will produce cases later on. Last Sunday, at Walworth, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby (Mr. J. H. Thomas) made a very fine speech, such as we all expect from him. He was discussing the advantages of evolution as against revolution, and he said:
"He found to-day that large masses of people, who had risked so much for us, who went through the hell and horror of the trenches, had returned to find themselves in competitive struggle for employment."
I should like to ask the right hon. Gentleman whether this has not something to do with the regulations now enforced by certain trade unions. Surely it has. Further on in his speech he said:
"He thought that the word 'labour' could only exclude those who had contributed nothing to the well-being of the community."
Have these men who have gone through the horror and the hell of the trenches, as he describes it, done nothing for the well-being of the community? I submit that they have, and that they deserve every consideration. I am perfectly satisfied that hon. Members who sit above the gangway agree and are in favour of doing away with this thing which is a blot on their escutcheon and which hangs round their trade unions at the present time. They represent a minority of manual workers in this country, but industrially their influence is very great. Surely it is Dot too much to ask them to use their influence so that these men may get the employment which they require and so that they may return to the life which they have fully earned by risking their lives for this country. I should like to ask the Leader of the Labour party—I am sure that the ordinary Member would agree—to ask the Government if an inquiry could not be set up into this question. There is a great deal of talk going on about it in the country. Let us get down to the bedrock facts of the case. We can do that if an inquiry is set up by the Government with representatives of the Ministry of Labour, the employers, the trade unions, and members of the ex-soldiers' association on the Committee. Personally, I am not out for any political kudos on this subject. I want to see justice done to these men. No hon. Member can accuse me of taking up too much time of the House, or of being too keen to advertise myself. I have had the honour of being in the House for ten years, and this is exactly the third time that I have had the audacity to address it. Therefore I hope the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Labour party and his colleagues will realise that I am sincere on this subject. I simply want to see justice done. If hon. Members above the Gangway have a good case, lot us hear it. They cannot surely object to an inquiry being set up to find out what are the reasons for the unemployment of these men, and whether it is the fault of the trades unions. There is in the country at the present time a certain amount of ill-feeling on this subject, and, therefore, I would press for an inquiry, which, at any rate, would show to these men that the House of Commons is doing its level best for them.

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Although I have been in the House for some years, like my hon. and gallant Friend who has just spoken, I have not often addressed it, and I certainly have not taken up any of its time during the present Parliament. But this is a question on which I feel deeply, and when I learned that my hon. and gallant Friend was to move the Resolution now before the House, in a friendly spirit to-night I begged him to allow me to second it. I want hon. Members, and especially those belonging to the Labour party, to realise that I speak in a dual capacity. I am a working man myself. I started at 15 years of age in an engineering shop, and I served my time right through. I know, therefore, the difficulties of this question, and I feel I know something of the feelings of the Amalgamated Society of Engineers in relation to it. In addition to that I speak with all humbleness as a temporary soldier during the War. My chief interest was in electrical engineering, and I think one of the very worse examples which I have to bring to the attention of hon. Members opposite was the treatment meted out to Naval ratings by the Electrical Trades Union. I am sorry that the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty is not here to-night. If he were, I am sure he would bear me out when I state that a great effort was made by the Government to persuade the Electrical Trades Union to allow certain Naval ratings, which had worked through out the War with great risk to their lives at their trade as electrical workmen, to be admitted as electrical wiremen to the membership of the Union. But the request was refused, and the refusal still holds good. I have been an electrical wireman. I have been the head of one of the biggest firms of electrical wiremen in this country, and I know there is no finer educational training for the work of electrical wiremen than the training which Naval ratings obtain at sea. Yet the Electrical Trades Union refuse these men and will not accept them as members. They will not allow them to earn their living as electrical skilled men all round.

Then I have another case in connection with a branch of the Ironmoulders' Union at Leeds, That branch has taken up the position that no discharged soldier, be he disabled or not, can be admitted as a member of the trade union unless he is under 16 years of age. It is explained that it is a byelaw of the union that no apprentice or learner shall come in unless he is under the age of 16, I put it to the House, and I put it to my hon. Friends opposite, is it possible for men who have been fighting for five years to still be under 16 years of age? I want next to turn to an entirely different aspect of the question. This House and Parliament have passed into law the Restoration of Pre-war Practices Act. I know that some of my hon. Friends, including my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Moseley, has suffered both in pocket and in mind as a result of that Act, and he feels that the Government is to blame for having put it on the Statute Book. But I want to say this, that the Act was passed by this House to redeem pledges emphatically given as a matter of bargain between the country and the trade unions during the War. We were in extremis during the War; we wanted men badly: we wanted dilution of labour in certain trades, and the great trade union agreed to that dilution, but stipulated that when the War was over their pre-war practices should be made legal again. Their prewar practices were returned to them by this Act, and in this way the Government and the House of Commons have fulfilled the bargain entered into with the trade unions. But I want to put to the powerful men who face me on the benches opposite, this question: Had the organisers of labour trade unions in pre-War days to face the question of discharged soldiers which has now to be faced? Had they to face the question of disabled men? Did they realise in framing their trade union regulations that there might be exceptions which everyone of them, as good citizens of this country must feel, should be met. Did they realise that they would have to make provision firstly for the man who had been disabled while fighting for them, and next for the man who had been lucky enough not to be disabled, but who had done his best for them and had saved their trade unions, their factories, and everything else?

Do let us think, in connection with these pro-War practices, that when they were drawn up there were not any disabled soldiers or discharged soldiers to whom their regulations would apply. Do lot us realise that the boys at 18 who entered the Army as volunteers, or who were compelled to go in, are now men. Five years have passed, and it is only by the good will of the trade unions that such regulations as the one I have instanced in connection with the, ironmoulders can be waived in their favour. Are you going to compel these lads to be unskilled workers all their lives, or will you give them a chance to become skilled workmen The Amalgamated Society of Engineers is one of the vastest and most powerful unions in this country. It is a union with which I was in very close touch when I was a lad in the shop, and knew the men intimately—when they called me "Geordie." That society has not yet been able really to make definite and concrete arrangements, as I understand it, for the admission on special terms of ex-soldiers and disabled men. I know they have their difficulties, but surely you who face me to-night, after the speeches we heard from the Prime Minister and the Chancellor of the Exchequer the other day, and with your own knowledge, know that there is to-day a tremendous boom in the engineering trade. The chief difficulty of employers in the engineering trade is lack of labour. They want more skilled men. I am not going to throw any stones at the moulders or at their strike. We know that engineering has been hung up owing to the moulders' strike, but if we sit down and think we also know that there is any amount of room in the engineering industry for any number of unskilled, semi-skilled, and skilled men, and those places would be filled, and with goodwill on the part of the unions will be filled, by partially disabled and discharged soldiers, who have done their bit to protect those trades.

Then there is the clock and watch trade. My Chief may think I am speaking from information obtained at the Ministry of Pensions, but I really am not, when I say that when the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Hodge), one of the most substantial and distinguished members of the Trade Union circle, was Minister of Pensions he endeavoured to persuade the Clock and Watchmaking Union and industry to take in disabled men who had still got the use of their hands and their brain, but who had suffered possibly by the loss of a leg or in some other way, to learn to be trained at the Government's expense, and then to become skilled repairers of clocks and watches. Before the War we bought hundreds of thousands of pounds' worth of clocks and watches from foreign countries. Surely if that trade had only held out a friendly hand to partially disabled soldiers, with the help of the Government to train them, our position to-day would have been that we could compete with the foreigner in the manufacture of watches and clocks. In addition to that, if one takes a watch to a jeweller's to be repaired, one is lucky to get it back in three months. There are hundreds of ex-soldiers with neat lingers and brains who are longing to learn that trade, and, as I understand it, the Government is prepared to train them, and it only wants a little support from the unions and a little lead from the workmen in the trade and then we could get these men put into an industry which will bring to this country trade which has gone abroad before, and which will give them employment, so that while receiving their pensions in full they can add to their income in the interest of themselves and their kin.

I know the difficulties which the larger trade unions have. When the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Hodge) was Minister of Pensions he made tremendous efforts to get some of the larger trade unions to adopt the ideas I am trying to put before you. I know actual cases where the Executive Committees of Trade Unions agreed to his proposals, but when they started to put them into practice the local branches refused to comply and turned down their Executive. Then I realise the difficulties of hon. Members opposite. They cannot force their views down right throughout their branches, but when hon. Members opposite are out for the nationalisation of coal mines or any other of their great political propaganda they go into the country and preach it, and they take great care that not only they, but their friends throughout the country defend the principle which they really start. Cannot they do the same on this subject? If the Executive Committee of a trade union agrees that it is right and just to admit disabled and discharged soldiers to the benefits of that union and to training in the trade, so that they may earn a good living, I am sure the hon. Member (Mr. Sexton), who is a brother Irishman of mine, will agree with me that his Amendment blaming the employers is really burking the question. I am not blaming the trade unions in the least. The wording of the Motion may have given some little offence, but you have to word a Motion and put it on the Paper in a hurry. I am sure nothing my hon. and gallant Friend said has given offence to the trade unions. We are appealing to the trade unions to help ex-service men more than they have done in the past. Are the hon. Members (Mr. Sexton and Mr. T. Shaw) really going to say that employers have treated ex-service and disabled men badly?

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If they are, I challenge them on that.

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What about the King's appeal to them?

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They responded to that very well indeed, and with a little more help from trade unions they will respond better. I can quote instance after instance where there have been strikes because employers have brought ex-service men and disabled men into their factories. Can the hon. Members (Mr. Sexton and Mr. Shaw) quote one instance where there has been a strike of workmen because an employer would not employ disabled men or ex-soldiers, or can they quote an instance where an employer had shut down his works—

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Yes, when he tried to break the rates.

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Perhaps the hon. Member will accept the challenge. I am sure Mr. Speaker will call on him later, and if he can give one instance—

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We can give you hundreds.

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It is not proper to bet in the House of Commons. If it was, I think that is a statement on which I might make a fortune. We do not want to look at this question in the sort of feeling which has been expressed in the last half minute. This is really a great and serious question. I air appealing to the trade unions for good reeling. If I have said anything to offend my hon. Friend, I withdraw it. I honestly think that the employers are out to help the ex-Service men, and especially the disabled men. If not, and if there are bad employers, then it is up to the trades unions to expose these bad employers, and they will have the support of this House and of all the decent-thinking men and women in the country. The human sympathy which I feel is essential is this: Only by consultation and discussion on the spot can these difficulties be got over. If a branch of a trades union resents the employment of certain men in a certain factory, and if those men are disabled soldiers or ex-soldiers, surely with your influence in the branches you could get them to meet the men themselves, or to meet the ex-soldiers' organisation, if there is one in the town or village, and to hear their case; also to hear the employers' case and, after discussion, consultation, and goodwill, to arrive at a reasonable settlement of the difficulty and allow the soldiers to go on with a prospect of earning a good living in the future.

I feel quite honestly that the leaders of the trade unions have done their best, but it has not been a good enough best up to date. They have failed. The Government have done their best; their absolute best. They have poured out money. As an example of the difficulties, I may say that the Government is trying now to set up treatment and training centres for these disabled men, but owing to strikes, the moulders' strike, a little sectional strike amongst builders or carpenters, a sectional strike amongst slaters, or in some other trade, these institutions on which the Government under the authority of this House are pouring out money in the interests of the disabled men are held up. Cannot the leaders of trade unions say that these institutions are exactly on the same footing as hospitals? When there is a strike in the carrying trade or in the milk trade or any other trade, they always make an exception with regard to hospitals. Could you not help our friends the disabled men by making the same exception in favour of these training and treatment centres. You are just as keen to-day, if one may judge from the hundreds of letters which we get from Labour Members at the Ministry—

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I would remind the hon. Member that it is advisable to address the Chair and not to address hon. Members by the term "You." That is a very valuable old rule of the House.

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I hope that in future the trades union leaders will realise that it is in the interests of ex-service men that these institutions which the Government are setting up should be allowed to be set up as quickly as possible, and that if there is a strike and certain machinery or a particular portion of building is wanted for these institutions an exception might be made in those cases. Like my hon. Friend who moved the Motion, I feel that this is not a question for rancour, heat or dispute. It is a question on which we are all agreed, but somehow or other there are 350,000 ex-soldiers out of work. Someone is to blame. Some people blame the Government, some people blame the trades unions, while other people blame the employers. If we all worked together; if we could only realise that it was these men who saved our country and made it possible for us to have this Debate or to have trade unions at all; if we realised that the Pre-war Practises Act was not intended to effect ex-soldiers, and especially disabled men; if we could get the right spirit into these things, not only in this House, but in the trades unions and amongst the working classes of the country; and if we could get the trades unions to agree that disabled men should be admitted on special terms to learn their work, and that other ex-soldiers who have done their bit should also be allowed to come in on exceptional terms, it would be an excellent thing. I would say to hon. Members opposite, "Make it easier for the Government to train these men. Persuade your local branches that there is plenty of room in your unions for the next twenty years for all skilled men and all hard-working men, who will work when they are at work." We are looking for men in the building trade, the engineering trade, and every other trade. I hope we may get that spirit as a result of this Debate. Although the Motion may be worded in such a way as to give a little offence to some of my hon. Friends, the speech of the Mover and my own speech have not been intended to give any offence. We are pleading with you on behalf of your own brothers, the most gallant fellows in this country.

9.0 P.M.

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I make no apology for taking up the time of the House for a few minutes on this subject. I very much regret the necessity for doing so. There are a good many ox-service men in this house, but this question affects more than ex-service men. It particularly effects the disabled men, the men who have been maimed in the service of their country, and for them, perhaps, I have a right to speak. I have not the eloquence of the hon. Member who has just sat down—he is an Irishman—but if my tongue is not as quick as his, I am sure that my heart is as full. There is very little doubt about the facts. Some of the stories may be more exaggerated than others. There is one particular case, of which I have no doubt we shall hear more later, of one hon. Member of this House who was fined for employing disabled men. Worse than that, he not only employed them, but he paid them more than is usual for the peculiar class of trade in which they were engaged. That, seemingly enhanced his offence. If this state of things were not an actual fact it would appear incredible. I think that W. S. Gilbert never imagined any thing so fantastic as this, that men who had been taking part in one of the greatest Wars in history, fighting for their country, should on their return home be debarred from earning their own living in their own country. I do not think that it is the fault of the Government. They have done all that is reasonably possible towards helping the discharged and disabled soldier, both by pension and training. I do not say that everyone is satisfied, or that the system is perfect, but I feel sure that any faults which there are are faults of detail and not of policy.

I know that it is not the fault of the actual members of the different trade unions. They were the men who largely made up the army. There is no class in this country, either rich or poor, brain worker or manual labourer, which shirked its duty during the last five years. They all gave their utmost. It is inconceivable to me that any individual man would object to his pal, his brother, or his son—in a great number of cases these relationships must exist—obtaining employment. The bogy of unemployment must surely be a myth, for a great number of these soldiers would, in the ordinary course of events, without any war, have become trade unionists. In addition, there would be a great many more men, now lying on the fields of Flanders and France, who would have swollen the number. During the last five years all constructive work has been at a standstill. Therefore, it must logically follow now that there is considerably more work to be done by considerably fewer men. If it is not the fault of the individual, the blame must rest, I fear, on the Trade Union Council and the Committee. I do not envy them the burden of the responsibility which rests on their shoulders—that men who fought either for or with them are to be out of employment, not because there is no work, but because, owing to red tape and old-fashioned regulations, they are not permitted to work. The hon. Member for Belfast, in his speech the other night, said that, in his opinion, all soldiers after a war ought to be in prison—at any rate, they would not starve there. I flatter myself that I have a number of friends among the gentlemen on the Labour Benches—among whom I would like to name the hon. Member for St. Helens (Mr. Sexton)—and I would ask them to do all they can to plead with their friends outside this House to bring this sorry state of things to an end.

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I make no complaint of the manner in which this resolution has been introduced. The temper was admirable, and the eloquent appeal made by the last speaker in my opinion was the most forceable of all. I approach this question from a standpoint entirely different from that of the mover and seconder. Every man on these Benches is just as anxious to assist disabled or discharged soldiers as any who have spoken or may speak in support of the Resolution. The mover and seconder are placing the whole of the burden in connection with this matter on the heads of the trades union. It is quite true that there are thousands of discharged soldiers and disabled men out of employment to-day, but the hon. Members seem to forget the salient fact that these men are now seeking to enter industries to which they did not previously belong. The inference, therefore, is that these men who served their country did not belong to the organisation to which they are now seeking admittance. The hon. Members will remember when all of us, myself among the number, applauded the very generous response of the workers of this country when the call to the colours came. These men, who are now unemployed, were engaged in industries different from those which they are now seeking to enter. Otherwise there would be no necessity for the Government or anybody else to train them.

These men were patted on the back and eulogised by their employers, who said, "Good lad; your King and country need you. You are going to fight for that country," and I am glad they went. I am one of those who if I were young enough would have gone myself. "We will keep your jobs until you come back and we will look after your wives and children." Well, they came back and if their jobs are there for them, why do they want to take somebody else's job? The fact is that their jobs are not there for them. Many of these men have come back and have found women in their places, and the women are working at 50 per cent. less than the men got. Now why will not hon. Members recognise that if there are any sins at all some of the responsibility ought to rest upon the shoulders of the employers who promised to keep these men's jobs open and failed to keep their promise? I was told, and very pertinently told, in the outer Lobby the other night that that did not cover all the cases, and that there were thousands and thousands of men who were small business men and now had no occupation and no business. On account of the War they have come back, have found their businesses ruined and they have nowhere to go. All the more shame to a Government which allows that kind of thing to exist! I am not finding fault so much with the hon. Gentlemen who are anxious that the discharged soldier should get a job. As a matter of fact, I would do all I possibly could, either as a representative man or as an individual, to assist them in carrying out their wishes. But this question is not confined to the discharged soldier alone or to the skilled trades. It affects every trade, as the right hon. Gentleman himself has told us.

The hon. and gallant Member below the Gangway opposite (Major Cohen) spoke of doing justice to everybody. I want him to do justice to everybody as well. Take our own case. It not only affects the engineering and the skilled trades, but it affects the so-called unskilled trades, which are not unskilled, but are as highly skilled as any trade in the country. Let me give the House an example of what I mean. I represent an organisation which, when the War broke out, in the Mersey district alone comprised 31,000 men. Out of that 31,000, 7,700 joined the colours, ranging from 18 years of age up to 41, the very cream of the physical workers at the docks. Other men came who were physically unfit to take their places. When the hon. Member opposite talks about increased production, let him not forget the fact that the depreciated physique affected not only the transport trade, but every other trade. It could not be expected to produce the same results as the efforts of the men who went a way, who were the very cream of the organisations to which they belonged. Let me also remind the hon. Gentleman, when he talks about the men who saved the country, that if it had not been for the trade unions the country would never have been saved. When the War was on the employers were patriots and we were all patriots. Now that the War is over, when dividends come in at the door, patriotism ought not to fly out of the window. What I complain of is not so much the speeches made by hon. Members, but the speech made by the Prime Minister on the first night of this Session in reply to the Leader of the Labour party. I will not say that an unfair advantage was taken of that occasion, but a very trieky debating advantage was taken of it. The Prime Minister said:
"I would point, out to the Leader of the Labour party that yon are the people who are responsible for this."
I would remind the right hon. Gentleman and those who sit behind him that they must bear their share of the responsibility for the sin, if there is any sin to answer for at all. Mention was made also last night of the building trade. It was stated that, previously to the War, there were 800,000 men engaged in that trade and that now there were only 600,000. What is the reason for that? Out of the mouths of hon. Gentlemen opposite shall they be convicted. An hon. Gentleman who spoke last night said that one of the reasons why building was not proceeding was the infamous crime of the Lloyd George Land Tax. How chickens come homo to roost! It is practically admitted that the builders of this country, owing to the Land Taxes and the increased cost of materials, absolutely refused to go on with building, the result of which is that the 200,000 men who are now missing from the building trade have drifted into other industries, where they are getting better wages than they were paid in their own, and in consequence the master-builders of the country refuse to go on with building. Last night, not for the first time, we had the phantom millions of bricks trotted out. Last year they were put at 5,000,000,000; last night they were put at 2,000,000,000. I do not know where the difference has gone, unless it be to build castles in the air to redeem the election pledges of right hon. Gentlemen opposite. Mention was made of the fact that only so many bricks were handled by a bricklayer. I have a record, and can let the right hon. Gentleman see it if he wants to, of the particular relations between the building trade and the unemployment question. The building trade is the most highly organised trade in the country. They have national councils and also local councils which meet periodically. Since the creation of that federation of employers and workmen, I challenge hon. Gentlemen to search through its records and find one case where any complaint has been made of the lapse of any bricklayer.

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On a point of Order. Is not the hon. Member referring to yesterday's Debate and not to tonight's Debate?

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I think the hon. Member is rather going back upon yesterday's Debate. We must keep to the terms of the Notice of Motion to-night.

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I was coming to the point, which was only to show that, when hon. Members speak of training men for these particular industries, they do not seem to know the technique of the case at all. Take the building trade. What would you do there with the discharged soldier or the disabled soldier? A bricklayer is a very important man, but he is not the shadow of use unless he has a skilled labourer with him. The skilled labourer is the man upon whom the labourer depends. Where could you place a disabled or a discharged soldier in a building trade? [Laughter.] It is idle to laugh; where could you do it? Will any hon. Member get up and tell me—

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I may tell the hon. Member that I employed soldiers, recently discharged from the Army in actually laying bricks.

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Anyone can lay a brick, but how long will it lay there after he has laid it? We have heard a lot about what men can do and cannot do. But I want to say to hon. Gentlemen opposite, fancy putting a discharged soldier on a ladder with a hod!

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I may say that I have done that also in many cases.

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I am sorry for the brick-layer, waiting for the bricks on top, that is all. I want to point out that right hon. Gentlemen and hon. Gentlemen opposite are making the biggest mistake of their lives when they do not see that, whatever sins of commission there may be on this side, there are bigger sins on the other side than those committed by the trade unions. These men want work; they want training in certain industries. In the early part of last Session we pointed out from these Benches continually that the wholesale methods of-the Government in breaking up and selling big War establishments at less than the cost of building was a mistake, and that these establishments should have been utilised for training men and producing things that the country wanted. For instance, we are short of rolling stock on the railways. It would not have taken much to convert these places into wagon shops or engineering shops. Why did not the Government utilise them to find employment for discharged soldiers?

We have going on now an inquiry with respect to the dockers' minimum of 16s. a day, and I ask, why should we, who have a surplus of men in the transport trade, be expected further to congest the transport labour market by employing discharged soldiers, simply because they are discharged soldiers? [HON. MEMBERS: "Because they fought for you!"] We have had applications every day from societies of discharged soldiers for work at the docks, and to protect ourselves we have had to raise our entrance fee to almost a prohibitive price. We have more men than we want, and still they are coming down to the docks. Is this all the reward the Government are going to give to a man who has fought for his country—to let him drift down to the ranks of casual labour? There is no man who would do more than I to assist a discharged or disabled soldier. But let not the fault lie at our door. Take your own share of the fault, and yon will have enough to think about if you do.

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May I say a few words as one who is connected with an organisation of ex-service men numbering 750,000? I much regret that during the last half-hour our debate has drifted away from the high level with which it started, and has rather degenerated into incriminations between different sections of the House. What I had hoped for from this Debate, and what I still hope for, is some definite conclusion whereby the ex-service men can be benefited, and if blame is to be apportioned let us all take our share and put our shoulders to the wheel with a view of putting things right. I do not deny that some employers have not shouldered their part of the burden. Very likely a great number have not done so. Probably those were the employers who profiteered during the War and made large fortunes out of it. If any means could be devised by the Government by law to get at these men, I for one would cordially support them, and I believe the whole House would do so. You can deal with individuals, but it is not so easy to deal with vast bodies of organised Labour which have powerful representation in this House and which can, if they will, make things extremely difficult for the Government and for the country. Therefore, I would appeal to the good sense of organised Labour and for their kindly feeling, and not endeavour to threaten them in any way or suggest that the Government should bring in penal clauses against them. May I, on behalf of those with whom I am associated, frankly say that we do appreciate the way in which we have been met by the vast majority of trade unions? I do not think the House realises how well most of the trade unions have behaved. As I have said that, I would say equally frankly that there are three large bodies of Labour which have not played the game to the ex-service man. Above all, the Amalgamated Society of Engineers have been, and actually are, hostile to the discharged men. The bricklayers and those engaged in the carpentering trade have been resisting the claims of the ex-service man, possibly because they did not see how to alter their rules. They have not been actively hostile.

The Amalgamated Society of Engineers, however, have, for some reason unknown to mc and unknown, I believe, to the majority of people in this country, done all they could from the beginning to prevent the ex-service man, because he is an ex-service man, from getting any employment in that trade. The Minister for Labour some time ago approached the employers and the trade union with a view of getting some plan agreed upon for the training of the disabled and discharged man, who, after all, is the person we ought to think about most, for the able man can shove his way through the crowd. I believe the Government modified their proposals more than once in order to meet the objections of the Amalgamated Society of Engineers and they cut down their proposals to this: That they asked the Amalgamated Society of Engineers to take in 1,750 disabled men who have been trained, which is one-third of one per cent. of the total membership of the Amalgamated Society of Engineers. What was the answer? The proposal was absolutely turned down. I believe the membership of the Amalgamated Society of Engineers is over 500,000. Can it be contended that that small number of 1,750 men would in any way injure the society? It was true that the society says it has 35,000 men not fully employed now, but surely 1,750 extra men would not hurt the society if it merely wished to do the right thing by the discharged men? The Government undertook that these 1,750 men were not to be employed as journeymen but almost exclusively in office work. They also undertook to train nobody for that particular society unless he was unfit to return to his pre-War occupation. Was it worth the while of the Amalgamated Society of Engineers to return that answer to the Government? I cannot really think that the general body of members of that society hold that opinion, and I cannot help thinking that the executive of that society so arranged it. I would urge on the two or three unions concerned that they should have a secret ballot of the members of those unions which are now standing out to see what is the real opinion of their members. I am quite sure if they will go down to their members and ask them to do the right thing, which is, I am sure, what hon. Members opposite want, by the discharged men then I am certain their members would respond. If the trade unions will do that with the few outstanding I will personally, in my humble capacity, do all I can to support any measure the Government may bring in to compel the private employer who is not doing his duty to do so by force of law.

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In rising to address the House on this very important question, I want to say that I personally felt very much the stirrings appeal made by the hon. Member below the Gangway, and in discussing the question I trust I shall say nothing that may be construed to indicate any lack of sympathy with the gallant and courageous men who went and fought our battles during the Great War. I personally feel that I am indebted to them, and I am sure that every right thinking working man in our country shares my view. But when we come to discuss a question of this character I find that very often those who criticise the action of Labour in connection with this seem to say to us, "You and you alone are responsible," forgetting all the time that the Government had the opportunity of doing a great deal to settle this question even prior to the Armistice. I am not going to blame the present Minister of Labour, because I do not think he was in office at the moment when a very responsible committee, in discussing the demobilisation of soldiers, made a very important recommendation, and one which I should have thought would have commended itself to the Government and to every employer of labour. Unfortunately that recommendation was ignored, and why it was ignored I up to this time am at a loss to understand. That recommendation would have done much to have obviated the need for discussion in this House to-night. It was to the following effect:

"That any man who as in tile employment of a particular employer on the 4th of August, 1914, and remained in such employment until he joined the Army should upon his return have the right to be reinstated by his employer in his original grade at the current trade union rate of wages."
If that had been acted upon it would have meant to many a returned soldier that he would have had no difficulty in securing a place on his return. There are those of us on this side of the House who have been endeavouring to do what we can for the returned soldier, and who have been continually met with the argument, "What is the good of you coming and asking us to do this for the man who does not belong to our trade, when there are men who do belong to our trade who are not being reinstated by their employers?" That being so, there is a certain amount of justification for the attitude adopted by some men in relation to this question. There is an old saying that those who live in glass houses should not throw stones. Hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite seem to me to say to the Labour party very often, "You are not privileged to live in a glass house, and, therefore, you must not throw stones." But when charges are being made against us in relation to any of these questions, we cannot but retort as to what is occurring in the country day after day in relation to these very same men and yet we find no protest from the opposite side of the House. I read in yesterday's paper that a soldier, thrown out of his house with his wife and seven children, appeared on the doorstep of the Prime Minister of this country. I have heard no protest against that kind of treatment. I read yesterday that a disabled soldier had been thrown out of his house to give to a man who, merely for the purpose of hunting, is to be established in that house in his place as groom to the Surrey Foxhounds. What has the Government done to safeguard men in that direction? Is it always labour, and labour only, that is at fault? In relation to the question of discharged men and the training of those men we are told by a prominent official of the District Building Trades Federation that a scheme for the training of disabled soldiers in London, to which the Federation had agreed, was held up by the Treasury on financial grounds. Evidently, when it comes to a matter of money on the part of the Government or the Government's supporters, difficulties are placed in the way, and yet the hon. Gentlemen opposite tell us that the Government have poured out money on these plans. If they have, they have poured out very little in comparison with that which they have given to those who have given their money to the State during the War. If there be anything in favour of the men at all, it should be that the Government should be determined that, before those who merely gave money for the purpose of carrying on the War, the men who suffered and were prepared to suffer should first be regarded by them as deserving of support. Not only that, but in other directions we find there is an attack made on the trade unions. Hon. Gentlemen speak to us as if we belonged to trade unions and they did not. They belong to some of the strongest trade unions there are. I understand the Prime Minister is a member of the Law Society, and I believe the Minister of Health is a member of the British Medical Association. I want to know what those trade-unions are doing for the discharged or disabled soldier.

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Is he aware that at the Bar and in the solicitors' profession we can exclude nobody if they pass examinations?

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I am indebted to my hon. Friend for that admission. Their trade union is exactly in the same position as our trade union. No member is refused admission who is qualified to enter it, but there is this difference, that I believe it is a criminal offence on the part of the people on the side of the law and the British Medical Association if they break the rules of their trade unions. We are often told that this is a matter in which we as workmen should extend the heartiest sympathy to these men, and I undertake to say that we are prepared to extend, not only sympathy, but practical help, provided we can induce the Government to do the right thing in relation to the industrial problem in which they are concerned. This is not a matter merely for sentimental talk. This is a very practical question. The unfortunate thing from my point of view in relation to the Government and to many employers is that they fail to appreciate the psychology of the working man. They evidently do not understand his difficulties. They tinker at reforms in connection with unemployment, but until you settle the question of unemployment all these cases of dilution must of necessity meet with hostility from the organised workers of the country. Until you do settle that question, all other problems that we are trying to solve will be futile in their effect, no matter what legislation is passed in connection with them. I know this matter has been before members of my organisation, and I know that that organisation voted against the Government's scheme. Personally I have no hesitation in saying that I regret that vote. Nevertheless, while I regret it, I recognise that there is some justification for it. The members of the organisation to which I belong, and which has been alluded to to-night, realise that by increasing the number of men in the trade they are at the same time increasing the number of those unemployed in the trade. It is not true to say that there is labour for engineers in this country with the facts before us that there are thousands of engineers at the present moment out of work.

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