Board Or Education
Motion made, and Question proposed,
"That a Supplementary 611M, not exceeding £575,000, be granted to His Majesty, to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1923, for the Salaries and Expenses of the Board of Education, and of the various Establishments connected therewith, including sundry Grants in Aid."
I am anxious to say a word before my hon. Friend the Member for Wood Green (Mr. G. Locker- Lampson), moves the Amendment of which he has given notice. The Committee knows the circumstances in which we decided to introduce this Supplementary Estimate. I have taken into account, since my announcement on Wednesday last., the evident desire and wish of the House that the Committee should be appointed at once, as we have now appointed it, and that its Report should be rendered to the House as rapidly as possible; and we have the very encouraging statement of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Cambornc (Mr. Acland) as to the length of time which he thinks will be required by himself and his colleagues. I think, therefore, I had better say at once that I am encouraged to hope that I have overestimated the amount of money that we shall in any circumstances require, and that I will accept, on behalf of His Majesty's Government, the reduction of £200,000 suggested by the hon. Member for Wood Green, which I think is the largest on the Paper. If the Committee will permit me, I would ask them not to go beyond that. reduction. They will observe, in the first place, that I have taken the. largest figure Which is suggested. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] I beg pardon. There is on the Paper an Amendment to reduce the Vote by £565,000, hut that, would really be to negative the proposal of the Government. Except for that, the figure of £200,000 is the largest that is proposed. As we have to take a Supplementary Estimate, the Government are, naturally, anxious to take a sufficient sum in that Supplementary Estimate to preclude the necessity of having to present yet another Supplementary Estimate later on.Of course, if the Select Committee reported to the House, or if the House, after consideration of its Report, came to the conclusion that the honour of the House was pledged, a very much larger Supplementary Estimate would he necessary, but, speaking for myself, I cannot believe that that its going to happen, and I am, therefore, not attempting to provide against that. contingency. I do, however, want to provide for the expenses to which we may probably be put. What is the character of those expenses? However promptly the, Select Committee act, I think that, before we can take up the Bill again, owing to the intervention of other business and of the Whitsuntide Recess, practically a month must elapse from the date on which we were discussing the Second Reading of the Bill and when I honed the Second Beading would have been passed, so that the Standing Committee would have already by now got to work upon it and it would have been presented to the House for the Report stage early after Whitsuntide. Let me say again that the presentation of this Estimate to the Committee, and its acceptance by the Committee, if the Committee accept it, is no pledge or expectation held out to anyone that they will be relieved of any part of the charge. which the Bill originally intended. There is, however, this difficulty, which the House may wish to he free to consider. The teachers' salaries are paid monthly, and, even if the Bill had gone through as rapidly as we had hoped, there would have been a considerable amount of salary paid before it would have received the Royal Assent, and the 5 per cent. on that salary already paid would have had to be added to the 5 per cent. on the actual salaries of the succeeding months and deducted from them. in other words, for every month that elapses 'before the Bill becomes law, the greater is the burden on the months that follow, instead of its being spread evenly over the whole period. I may say that my right hon. Friends and I contemplated as possible that the House might say that we could not: charge hack to the beginning of the year in any circumstances, and, but for the change of heart—T think that is a proper expression —which has passed over the House in the course of the last few days, I should have said it was more probable that the House would find it more difficult: to charge back to the beginning of the year with every additional week of delay. Accordingly, therefore, I want to provide for the possibility that the House may not think it right or proper to date back the charge to the beginning of the financial year, even though they are prepared to accept the charge. We want also, since we have to have a Supplementary Estimate, to have a little money available for any changes which the House may think it necessary to make in the Bill, or which the Government may think it right to propose. For example, not to prejudge the matter, but. merely to indicate a sub- ject on which the House may desire to have latitude when it comes to the Bill, we were reminded a moment ago that some 43 local authorities are not paying the Burnham scale, and, when the House comes to consider the Bill, the question may arise whether the treatment which is fair and proper in the case of teachers who are now on the Burnham scale would be equally fair and proper in the case of those teachers who have not had the benefit of that scale.
I think I ought to say that it would be out of order now to argue on the merits of the Bill. It is only in order now to allude to the Bill insofar as it has a hearing on the Vote before the Committee at the moment.
Yes, Sir. I hope I was not transgressing beyond that ruling. I was very conscious of it, and meant to conform to it.
The right hon. Gentleman was getting a little near the border.
All that I desired to do was to answer in advance, so far as I could do so satisfactorily, a thought which I expected to find expression from hon. Members as soon as I sat down, namely, that the whole of this reduced Estimate is not required by reason of the delay which the decision of the House the other day involves. That is perfectly true, but, having to lay a Supplementary Estimate, I want to take as much money as may be required in one amount, and not to have a succession of Supplementary Estimates, which are always made a subject of reproach to the Government. I hope I have said all that I need say and I trust I have said no more than I ought to say. I shall be glad to accept the reduction of which my hon. Fiend the Member for Wood Green has given notice. Perhaps, as my last word, I ought to repeat what I said the other day, that of course we shall not spend any more money on this matter than the decisions of the House on the Bill require us to spend.
On a point of Order. In calling Amendments, will you not first call the Amendment to reduce the Vote by £565,000?
If the hon. Member wishes to move, he can move his Amendment for any sum.
What the right hon. Gentleman has said places me rather in a difficulty, because, from what lie said the other day, I imagined, in placing my Amendment on the Paper that there was really not the slightest chance of the Government accepting it. My experience has been that, whenever a good case has been made for the reduction of expenditure on Supply, we have never been able to get the Government to meet our case by accepting an Amendment. I maintain that not one penny of this Supplementary Estimate is necessary, and I think that a very good case can be made to show that, if no Supplementary Estimate was required while the Bill was going through its Second Reading stage the other day, for exactly the same reason no Supplementary Estimate is equired now. The two things seem to me to stand on exactly the same footing, and while I am certainly prepared to move my Amendment—I am grateful for small mercies—yet I do not want the right hon. Gentleman to think that is going to debar me from voting against the whole Estimate.
Does the hon. Member move?
I beg to move to reduce the Vote by £200,000.
On a point of Order. I understand ii my hon. Friend moves, the Question you will put will be that a reduced sum of so and so be granted, the Government will accept that, the reduced sum will be granted, and there is nothing further to be said.
Undoubtedly that will be the Question put.
Whether the Government accept it or not, I imagine it will be possible for hon. Members to say they will not accept the right hon. Gentleman's view and to vote against the whole sum.
It is always possible for those who desire it to disagree with the Government. My Noble Friend has often illustrated the truth of that.
If the Government accept the £200,000 reduction, is it afterwards possible for me to move my further Amendment?
Not if that is carried.
Would it still be open to oppose the Motion on the question as put by you?
It is open to move another Amendment if the first be unsuccessful.
I quite sec that the Leader of the House has gone a long way in this matter, but I appeal to him and ask whether he could not go on further and postpone the whole Vote. What happened earlier this afternoon has completely changed the whole situation. The Chairman of the Committee has told us that. he expects to report on Wednesday week. I cannot see any object in getting the money now, and there are very many reasons for postponing the Vote until after we have had the report of the Committee. The reasons my right hon. Friend gave for pressing on with the Vote now were first, that a month had elapsed since the time he had hoped the Bill would become law, and that therefore more time had run. Surely that is a reason for not asking for the Vote until you knew exactly what you have to pay. What I object to here is that we are taking a leap in the dark, and that we are asked to sanction a Vote when the real expenditure may be either bigger or smaller, but, anyhow, a quite different sum. Secondly, my right hon. Friend said that if a long time went on—and some time had run since the beginning of the year—the House might not wish to date back the reduction of 5 per cent. of the teachers' salaries in case the Committee reported in that sense. I quite agree. They might or they might not like it. But surely whether they take off 5 per cent. from 1st January, depends entirely upon the date on which the request is made. If six or nine months of the year have run it may be a hardship on the teachers, and there again we cannot come to a decision on that point until we have the Report before us, and if the Report is in favour of charging five per cent., until we know from which date that five per cent. is to be charged. Last of all, any Debate that we hold now may prejudge the very important question before the Committee. I will give one example of that. The Leader of the House said there is a doubt whether the same plan which would be applied to the Burnham scale teachers should also be applied to teachers not under the Burnham scale. I think by making that distinction alone the Leader of the House might be held to prejudge the case and to admit that certain teachers ought not to be reduced. So in view of the difficult matter the Select Committee has to decide, involving the giving of a pledge and the honour of the House. because I am extremely anxious that, it should not be prejudged, and also because I do not wish to vote money until I know the exact amount I have to pay, T appeal to my right hon. Friend to adjourn the Debate.
I beg to move, "That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again."The only sensible course is the one which has just been suggested. I do not see that tins Vote is at al] necessary unless the Bill is not carried eventually. The right hon. Gentleman has been giving very good arguments for the necessity of a Supplementary Vote some time or other. Let us have the Supplementary Estimate on what it is for. Supposing the House passes this Bill as it was. The right hon. Gentleman says that a Supplementary Estimate will be wanted for other things. Then let us have it for other things. But if the Supplementary Vote is only wanted for this particular object, surely a delay even of a month—
It is only a fortnight.
The Whitsuntide Recess makes it practically a month in the teachers' year, and therefore we have to look upon it as a month's delay. Surely the proper way of dealing with this, without wasting the time of the Committee in going into the matter now, in which we are doing a great deal of mischief, is to adjourn the Debate till the moment when the money is required and we know how much is wanted.
I am rather inclined to think that is the best way out of the difficulty in which we have unfortunately got ourselves by the Rules of the House. As I understand it, if we go on and divide on this Motion, hon. Members who desire not to drop the Supplementary Estimate will first have to vote against the reduction, which is not at all their wish, and when the main Question is put they will have to vote against that. That will be a complicated and a difficult matter. There might be a certain number of votes given by hon. Members who had not heard the whole Debate which would not exactly carry out their wishes. There seems to me a good deal to be said for the Motion to Report Progress. It really is not very desirable that we should proceed to deal with this now, because the question really has not arisen. We do not know yet what we shall have to pay or when we shall have to pay it. The right hon. Gentleman says the appointment of the Committee would involve a month's delay. If he thinks again, I think he will see that it will only involve a fortnight's delay. He would not have got his Bill, on his own showing, until after the Whitsuntide Recess. Supposing the Committee reports, as he anticipates, there is no reason why the Bill should not be obtained within a fortnight of that time, if the views of the right hon. Member for Camborne (Mr. Acland) are carried out and you get the Report of the Committee before the Whitsuntide Recess, 'and therefore you will be able to get through the stages of the Bill a fortnight after the Whitsuntide Recess, supposing, as the result of the Report, the House decides to go on with the Bill. Until the Division the other day, the Government did not think it necessary to have a Supplementary Estimate at all. The Supplementary Estimate was announced only because of the Division—[Interruption]—and someone suggests that it was a punishment of the House. I do not think the Leader of the House would be so foolish as to try to punish the House of Commons. I am sure he will agree that procedure of that kind is never successful in the House of Commons. But whatever the reason, the right hon. Gentleman did not think it necessary until the vote took place, because there was no certainty that any Supplementary Estimate would be required. By what possible process of reasoning can it be defended that we should now grant even £375,000 because the Bill may be delayed for a fortnight? It really is not sensible to ask for this Estimate because, if the Committee reports as the Government think it will, the Bill may be delayed a fortnight. Why did not the right hon. Gentleman ask for a Supplementary Estimate originally? Because he did not think it was necessary. He was going to ask the House to date back this deduction from the teachers' salaries to the beginning of the financial year. If that was a reasonable proposition when the Bill was presented the other day, it cannot have become utterly unreasonable because there is going to be a fortnight's delay. It really cannot make any difference. If it was a proper thing to do then, it would be the proper thing to do now.
Does the Noble Lord advocate it now?
That is a different matter altogether. I have not formed an opinion on the subject. I shall wait and hear the Debate on the subject if it is raised, as I am sure the hon. and gallant Gentleman will, and he will then form his opinion and I shall form mine. In the same way, my right hon. Friend now suggests that it may be necessary because certain educational authorities have not adopted the Burnham scale, and it is hard to insist on a contributory pension in the case of those authorities. That was all true when the Bill was introduced. This kind of hypothetical case for a Supplementary Estimate is very objectionable. You ought not to ask for a Supplementary Estimate which will only become necessary if the House of Commons makes a change in the Bill. That is contrary to all good financial principle. A Supplementary Estimate ought to meet some unforeseen charge which is practically certain to come upon you. To ask for a Supplementary Estimate to meet a charge which may become necessary if an Amendment is passed in a Bill is unsound finance, and is stretching the principle of Supplementary Estimates far beyond the length to which it ought to be stretched. I am sure my right hon. Friend will agree with me that there is nothing that ought to he more carefully watched in this House than the practice of presenting Supplementary Estimates. My right hon. Friend smiles. I am sure that he will agree that it is a very bad system, and though it is inevitable on occasion, it ought not to be done unless there is an absolute necessity for it. It seems to me that no ease for the Supplementary Estimate has been made out to-day. The proper course is to wait until such a case has been made out, and then the House will be ready to agree to whatever Supplementary Estimate is necessary.
My Noble Friend made reference to the smile which played over my countenance a moment ago. I was admiring the ingenuity with which my Noble Friend can use his objection to or criticism of a Supplementary Estimate for his own purpose or his argument, whatever it may be. His habitual argument is this: produce your Estimate before you spend any money. We produce our Estimate, and he says: "Let us spend the money first, and have the Estimate afterwards. It is contrary to all decent and sound finance that you should have a Supplementary Estimate before the money is wanted."Let us see where we stand. Last week I was standing at this box, with my right hon. Friend the Minister of Education, pleading that the House should give a Second Reading to a Bill which was to effect a large saving in educational expenditure, and every speech that was made, and, almost without exception, all the cheers that came as hon. Members spoke, indicated the gravest reluctance on the part of the House to face up to the unpopularity involved in reducing the expenditure. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] Yes, it is so, and those of us who were in the House know that it is so. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] The Division list showed how strong that reluctance was in the House. We thought it necessary to bring the House face to face with the farts. If they will not face the unpopularity of cutting down the expenditure, they must face the unpopularity of voting Estimates on the expenditure which they will not cut down. The House, to judge by the speeches made to-day, is as unwilling to face the expenditure involved in this Supplementary Estimate as it was to face the cutting down of the expenditure last week. The Government, so far as the speeches are concerned, notably those of my Noble Friend, gets as little assistance as it got last week. I do not expect assistance from my Noble Friend. He separated himself from us, and he is openly an opponent of the Government, of all its works, of its existence, and is ready to take any proper Parliamentary means of terminating its exist- ence as early as possible. I do not believe that that is the general sense of the House. I believe they wish to give a fair examination of all the Government's proposals. My Noble Friend is singularly unsuccessful in achieving his purpose. There is an undoubted change of opinion between last Tuesday and to-day. I do not know whether that change of opinion is going to last., and how far it will be carried, but the Government do think, in spite of what my hon. Friends say, that since the House has thrown back this Bill, and since the Bill, its passage and its future, is in doubt, the House should, judged by their action, at least show that they are ready to make good any expenditure which they insisted upon being undertaken. If the House ultimately decides to pass the Bill as it was originally brought in, not one penny of the money in the Supplementary Estimate will be spent. The House and the country had better realise that the alternative is between the Bill and the Supplementary Estimate. Hon. Members cannot vote against the Bill one day and vote against the Supplementary Estimate this week. There is some unpopularity attached to either course. My hon. Friends must make up their minds which unpopularity they are going to face, and say which course they think it right to follow. I hope they will support the Government in carrying this Supplementary Estimate, and that they will reserve their judgment as to the terms and conditions on which they will apply any particular money until they again consider the Bill, after the Report of the Committee.
It is, indeed, a very pleasant Monday afternoon for the Labour party. [HON. MEMBERS: "Where are they?"] The rest of the Committee are in a somewhat uncomfortable position. [HON. MEMBERS: "Where arc the Labour party?"] The Labour party need not be here in great force. They have made up their minds. It is the rest of the Committee who are in the uncomfortable position of not knowing whether they were right last week or whether they are right this week. Even the Leader of the House himself is not too comfortable. He has successfully scored off his own supporters. I do not think it is very useful for the Leader of the House to score off his own supporters, though it is very amusing for the rest. of the Committee. We are enabled to enjoy the spectacle. Hon. Members have either to carry out the heroic vote of last week or they must come to heel to-day. I can assure the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House that they will come to heel, and, if it is any satisfaction to him to know, he will have in this Vote this afternoon the enthusiastic support of the Labour party. They are where they were last week, in favour of spending this money for education—
The question before the Committee is whether or not we are to report Progress. The Vote is not before the Committee at the present time.
I am aware of that, and I am sorry if I have trans-pressed the rules of Order. The question, as last week, is whether we should adjourn the House in order that the Committee may have an opportunity of changing its mind. On the whole, seeing that we do stand for the dignity of Parliament, the Committee had better decide this question without any further adjournment. Last week the right hon. Gentleman smote the box and said: "You must make up your minds, yes or no, now." That was right, but the House could not manage it. Now, after a week's reflection, they will be able to make up their minds whether or not they are for the expenditure of this money. It is an interesting spectacle, Members of this House being charged by the Leader of the House with the base motive of being afraid to vote for the Bill on account of the opposition of the teachers, and the House accepting that charge, recognising the truth of it, and coming to heel on the second call. It is one of the most beautiful examples of the power of the Government, and, at the same time, a lamentable example of the lack of strength of character of Members of this House, who, apparently, do not know their own mind as to whether education should come first or not.
We have listened to a somewhat irrelevant speech from the hon. and gallant Member, who may always be trusted to try to exalt the importance of the Labour party at the expense of the House of Commons. The real question is what the dignity of the House of Commons requires on an occasion like this. Shall it be involved in the trammels of its own forms, or deal with form and substance? I am not in the embarrassing position which the hon. and gallant Member has just suggested, because I was fortunate enough or unfortunate enough to be in my own constituency when the vote was given last week. I am not going to pretend to possess any superior virtue or to say whether I should have voted with the Government or not, nut I do think that the Government, in putting down this Supplementary Estimate, are taking the only practical course which they could take. They framed their Estimates upon the assumption, as to which they were the best judges, that a Bill would be introduced and pressed through, but the House decided that the Bill should not he proceeded with. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] At any rate, the House decided that the Debate should not be proceeded with. It appears to most people, therefore, that the Government, as prudent trustees of finance, must make that provision which would have had to have been made if the Bill had not been required to be introduced. Hon. Members must appreciate that it is necessary from time to time to know what amount of money which the Chancellor of the Exchequer has available has been used. Unless this Estimate had been taken, presumably the persons who framed the Budget will not be able to count whether this money is or is not required. If this Vote be now taken, the guardians of the Exchequer will know that, until the House decides otherwise, the money is required. When the Select Committee has reported and the House has given a decision upon the question of the Bill, it may he necessary to say that the money will not be required, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer to that extent will he better off. Ninety-nine people out of a hundred would say that the point of substance to-day is whether temporary provision should be made for this purpose so that, so to speak, a certain amount of money can be mortgaged for this purpose. If the money is not required it will not be spent. The House will be acting most consistent with its dignity if it proceeds on the basis that the money will have to be spent, and if the Debate is not debased for unworthy purposes.
The Leader of the House led us to believe that the question last week was wholly a matter of expenditure, but, surely, the Adjournment was moved purely from the point of view as to whether there had been a pledge or contract. I understood that the main attack against the Government was from that point of view, and not from the point of view of expenditure. This is confirmed by the Motion to set up the Select Committee, because that Committee is not to discuss expenditure. It has been set up purely to discuss whether there has been any undertaking given by the Government or Parliament. I do not see how those Members who voted against the Government last week can be said to have voted for the expenditure of money, when it was only a question of whether there had been a pledge or undertaking. Now that we have this Supplementary Vote before us, I do not see why it should be said that really we have voted for this expenditure. I do not think it will be to the dignity of the House to allow this Estimate to go through, because hon. Members are having the accusation thrown at them that they have voted for expenditure and have defeated the Government on the question, and that they want the Government to spend more money. On the contrary, I think that the dignity of the House requires that it turns this Estimate down, so that no Member who voted against the Government the other night will be accused of having voted for expenditure. I was not one of those myself who voted against the Government. Unfortunately I was not here at the moment, but had I been here I would have voted for the Government.
I must remind the hon. Member that the Question is whether or not we report Progress.
I am very sorry, but I was led aside by remarks of hon. Members. Apart from the dignity of the House, I do not see why a Supplementary Estimate is necessary. The Leader of the House suggested that the new system will not come into force from the beginning of the financial year if this Supplementary Estimate is passed. I do not see why it should not come into force from the beginning of the financial year. As I understand, it may be a. month later when this Bill is passed, provided that the Select Committee report in favour of the Government. But that is no reason why the Supplementary Estimate should be passed, and no reason why the new scheme should not start. at the beginning of the financial year. When the matter has been fully debated and the Bill passed, the new scheme should start from the beginning of the financial year. I am in favour of a contributory system. As to whether £200,000, less or more, is required, that is not a very important matter. £660,000 or £360,000 if the Government do not wish—
The hon. Member cannot go into the merits of the Estimate. The only question before the Committee is the adjournment of the discussion.
I hope that the Committee will not be led aside and will not pass this Supplementary Estimate.
I have listened with interest to this Debate, and I think that the issue which the Leader of the House has put was an absolutely false one, which reflects on the House of Commons itself. The question before us is whether this discussion should be adjourned and no vote taken for the Supplementary Estimate to-day. My position is a very detached one. I heard the statement of the Minister of Education and should not have voted against the Second Reading of the Bill; on the contrary, I should have voted for it. It seemed to me to be a large economy. I am not going into the merits; I am only explaining what went on in my own brain. Then the question was raised as to whether or not, desirable as the economy might be in itself, we were not estopped from making it, by some pledge or understanding given or made between the teachers and those who are responsible on the part of the central authorities. It was on that ground, and that ground only, that the Debate was adjourned. It had no connection whatever with the merits of the Bill itself. I am as certain as I can be. of anything that happens in the House of Commons that a number of hon. Members voted for the Adjournment who, if that issue had not been raised, would have been favourable to the Second Reading.How do we stand to-day? The Government have wisely agreed to the appointment of a Select Committee to consider and determine the specific point, and nothing else, whether there was or was not such an honourable understanding between the teachers and the State as would make it what is called a breach of faith to proceed with a particular economy in existing conditions. A Select Committee has been set up, of which my right hon. Friend the Member for Camborne (Mr. Acland) is a member. He occupies an authoritative position in this matter, and he has indicated his opinion that he will be in a position to report very shortly, possibly before Whitsuntide. What then is the necessity for pressing the Supplementary Estimate at this moment? If the Committee report that there is no breach of faith, the Bill can proceed, and if it proceeds in its original form there is no necessity for a Supplementary Estimate, and a very large economy will be affected. If, on the other hand, the Committee report in the other sense, then I agree that sonic provision will have to be made. Until we get the Report of the Select Committee which we have appointed, what is the necessity of a Supplementary Estimate in anticipation and ignorance of what the Report of the Committee will be? Let us wait, at any rate, until this Committee has reported. Why should we not adjourn this Debate? The position will not be affected. I am not under any form of intimidation or pressure from any outside source, and it it not fair to the House to suggest that the decision come to the other night was due to outside pressure. It was a common-sense decision on the issue which was raised as to whether or not you were keeping faith with the teachers of the country. If the Government would listen to my advice I would recommend them to accept this Motion to report Progress and allow the House to come to a decision after the Committee has made its Report.
The Government is grateful to My right hon. Friend for his expressions of friendliness on these matters, but. I am suspicious of friendly professions with regard to economy after some of my recent experiences, and I may suggest that some of my right hon. Friend's colleagues have not entirely anted up to their professions in this matter. I would like to answer the point which my right hon. Friend has made. Assume for a moment that we had been presenting Estimates for the year, taking no regard to the possibility of effecting any economy by asking the teachers to contribute to their superannuation fund. Suppose the idea of the Bill was a new one to-day. Then it is perfectly clear that the House of Commons would have had originally presented to it in the shape of the Education Estimates a figure which would have been larger by £2,300,000 than that which is before it at present, and the Budget accordingly would have been entirely different. For example, the, sum involved would have represented at least three halfpence on the pound of tea, and other considerations would have to be taken into account. Here we are to-day, a considerable time after the opening of the financial year. We hoped that we should have been able to get this Bill through within a measurable time. We recognise that there is some difficulty at this period in ante-dating this economy right back to the beginning of the financial year. It is likely when we come to discuss the Bill, whatever view hon. Members may take upon the merits, that the question will be raised whether we are right in enforcing the period before the date at which the Bill is actually passed.We were taking some risks in the Bill as originally presented. We find ourselves faced with an inquiry. It is true that it may go through very rapidly. I am glad that. it may right hon. Friend the Member for Camborne (Mr. Acland) thinks that it can be got through in a fortnight. Personally, I fear that that may prove to be an optimistic estimate, judging by some of the considerations which were raised. Accordingly, the practical question faces us what is to he done in these circumstances. We think it right that the House should know exactly what the failure to realise this economy means in the shape of expense, and that we should take means whereby we should be assured of that money if it is required. On the other hand, it is equally plain, if the House takes the view that the Measure can be ante-dated back to the 1st April, that none of the money will be spent at all. But if we take the view that the period can he taken back to the 1st May that would involve a sum less than that which we originally estimated, and more like the sum which my hon. Friend the Member for Wood Green (Mr. G. Locker Lampson) has now proposed. The important point is that we should have the provision made, and, in the second place, that we should know, as everybody will realise, that no money will be spent that is not absolutely required. On these short grounds I venture to ask the Committee to agree to the Supplementary Estimate as amended on the suggestion of my hon. Friend the Member for Wood Green.
The statement to which we listened this afternoon from the Leader of the House confirms my view that this is not abonâ fide request for money for the work of a State Department, but is in fact a demonstration. Let me examine the question for a moment. Salaries of the teachers are paid monthly by local authorities, and not by the State. A State subvention is given to local authorities quarterly, and, with some small exception, the bulk of the money paid to local authorities in respect of the first quarter of the financial year will be paid at the end of June. Until that date there is no need for the House to grant large sums of money. But if there be any need for large sums of money, this £200,000 or £300,000 will be a bagatelle. The money will be wanted in millions then. It will be a quarter or thereabouts of the forty odd millions Vote submitted to the House a little while ago. The fact is that though the Bill, which is still before the House, has failed to pass, this money will not be wanted for the service of the Board of Education until February of next year. Therefore, it is a sheer waste of a sitting of the House to come forward with this Vote this afternoon. The proposal is most unfortunate. Apparently the further we go with this question the worse the muddle into which we get. I need not enter into the merits of the Vote at the moment, not of the Bill which has led to it, but I say without hesitation, and, what is more, with the knowledge I have of educational administration, that this money will not be wanted, if wanted at all, for several months.
The hon. and gallant Member is under a misapprehension. The Board of Education pay monthly to the local authorities. The important matter is not whether they pay quarterly or half-yearly or monthly, but whether we can claim back money on salaries already paid to the teachers.
Whether I be right or wrong, or whether salaries be paid monthly or quarterly, I agree that it is a matter of small importance. But equally let me say that what is of no importance whatever to this House is the fact that the local authorities have to claim back from the teachers. That is a matter for them, and it does not affect this Vote this afternoon. I am a member of a local authority. I do not think the Leader of the House is. I tell him quite frankly that local authorities are not looking with any great admiration lo the task of collecting the back subscriptions of the teachers.
My right hon. Friend is in too great a hurry. Whether his Bill passed or did not pass, the authorities cannot commence that task until the end of June next. Will the right hon. Gentleman deny that? If they attempted to make the deductions at the end of May they could he sued for the payment of full salary. Therefore, whether the Bill passes or not before Whitsuntide, they cannot make the deductions until the end of June, and, consequently, the contingency which this Vote has in view cannot possibly arise until the end of June. It might, therefore, just as well have been postponed until we know the fate of the Bill. That is why I must support the Motion to report Progress. The fact of the matter is that an attempt is being made—I speak quite frankly and I hope not bitterly—to place upon those who voted for the Adjournment of the Debate last Tuesday the responsibility of being opposed to all economies. That is not fair and it is not true. I am surprised that any Minister of the Crown should have lent himself to that interpretation of last Tuesday's Debate.I have never excluded from my own mind the possibility of a contributory scheme. I made no remark on the merits of the Bill. The few remarks I made were limited to a very narrow issue raised by the right hon. Member for Hitchin (Lord N. Cecil). On that, the Adjournment was taken, and it is most unfair to say that those who voted for it are against economy. Let us wait until the Bill is fully before the House and see what the vote will then be on the Measure. I cannot help repeating my judgment that this is nothing but a demonstration this afternoon and an attempt to place, quite unjustly, a responsibility upon many of us of being opposed to economies, so as to enable someone to turn round and say, "When we introduced a Bill which would effect some economy, the House of Commons is against it. Here are the natural consequences. You have to face a vote in Committee of Supply." This is a parade and demonstration. There is no need whatever for it. I challenge any representative of the Board of Education to suggest that their coffers are empty and that they cannot meet the demands of the local authorities for next May, June and July without coming to the House for this Vote this afternoon. The Vote for which the Government asked in the first instance may be depleted by January or February next, and, if so, that is the time to come to the House for a Supplementary Estimate, instead of troubling the House now with an altogether unnecessary and unjustifiable demand.
I very much regret that the Government do not show any readiness to consider the delaying of this matter on the grounds that have been put before the Committee. The matter ought to be delayed, because we are asked to vote a sum of money which the Government admits is not wanted, or which they are not sure will be wanted. The whole question arises from the troubles of 1918, during the latter part of which year we were too ready to agree to the voting of large sums of money to everyone who wanted it. It is significant that the two right hon. Gentlemen who have spoken for the Government have made no reference to the fact that, when they brought their Bill before the House last week, six months of this year had passed, and that the very objections they are alleging against us this afternoon were just as true last Tuesday when they introduced their Bill. The addition of the extra fortnight, surely, cannot make any difference to the merits of the case. With reference to the speech of the Leader of the House, I am in a position that is utterly different from that of many other hon. Members, inasmuch as I opposed the Bill last w eek, and, previous to taking that action, I had in writing told the National Union of Teachers in my constituency that I believed in the Government policy of a contributory scheme. The observations of the Leader of the House, therefore, do not apply to me, and I know they cannot be fairly applied to a number of other Members who voted against the School Teachers (Superannuation) Bill. The right hon. Gentleman said with considerable emphasis that Members of the House could not vote against the Bill one week and then against the Estimate the next. Does not that remark rather show that the whole purpose of the Government to-day is to try to put those Members who voted against the Bill in a difficulty? From what I know of a large number of those who had the courage to vote against the Bill last week, this action on the part of the Government is not likely to frighten them. Men who can vote against the Government on such an important matter, many of whom, I know, have plainly stated in their own constituencies that they are in favour of a contributory scheme, cannot be fairly attacked as the Leader of the House attacked them. I hope that the Government, on the grounds of plain common sense, will postpone the matter until we know what the decision of the Committee is and until the Government know exactly what money is wanted and for what it is wanted.
I appeal to the Government to withdraw this Vote or to agree to the reporting of Progress. I was one of those Members who had what I think was the wisdom to vote against the Government last Tuesday. I resent very strongly the imputation of the Leader of the House that I did it either for fear of the consequences to myself or for any other motive than that I thought there was a case for inquiry which had not been cleared up by the Government. I regard this Vote, put down for an unnecessarily large sum and to cover an unnecessarily long period, as an attempt at a sort of petty revenge by the Government on those supporters who voted against them. It is an attempt to say: "You voted against us on the Motion for the Adjournment and therefore we are going to label you in your constituencies as wastrels." I consider it as a piece of great and un- necessary courage on the part of any Government that has the present right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Board of Education to charge anyone with waste. This Debate and this Estimate need never have arisen if the Minister of Education had done what I think a reasonable man should have done before bringing in the Bill.
That is not relevant to the question that the Committee should report Progress.
Other people have set me a bad example. I hope that the Government will not insist on this Vote in order to avenge themselves on Members who voted against them last week, for I do not think that would be good for the Government or for the dignity of the House.
I listened to the speech of the Leader of the House, and I must say that it struck me that the account which he gave of what took place last Tuesday was very inaccurate, and, what with him is very unusual, was decidedly unfair. What the right hon. Gentleman tried to do was to put a certain number of Members of the House in an embarrassing position, if he could, altogether apart from the merits of the case. He talked about Members having to face one or other of two opposing unpopularities, and he insinuated that it was from the desire to escape one or the other that their votes were given. When insinuations of that sort are made against right hon. Gentlemen who happen to be in an official position, they are hotly resented by Members of the Government, and I do not think it is a bit more true of them than of those of us who occupy more humble positions in this House, that we are able to give our votes conscientiously and altogether apart from: the sort of influences to which the right hon. Gentleman referred. The right hon, Gentleman also said he noticed a con siderable change of view since last Tuesday. I do not know whether such a change has taken place or not. I can only say that I have not in any way changed my view. If he suggests that those of us who voted against the Government last week are in the embarrassing position, that having done so we cannot vote now against the Supplementary Estimate, I may say that having done the one I intend to do the other. I do not really greatly care whether this particular Motion is carried or not, or whether we are giving a decision to-day or not. Whenever time for the decision arrives, I shall vote against this Supplementary Estimate. I quite agree with the hon. and gallant Member for Accrington (Major Gray) when he says this is not really abonâ fide Parliamentary transaction at all. This is an attempt to be vindictive, in the Parliamentary sense, and I find myself in the unusual position of agreeing with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Paisley (Mr. Asquith). I agree with almost every word he said. On Tuesday last, if I could do so, I wanted to support the Bill, but having heard from various hon. Members who knew more about the history of the matter than I did, that if we voted for the Government we should be guilty of something approaching a breach of faith, I did not support the Bill and I think it is a very honourable thing that a statement of that, sort should give, us pause. It was in order to have that particular point cleared up that I voted for the adjournment of the Debate last Tuesday. This Committee has now been set up, and I understand the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Cam-borne (Mr. Acland) has given his opinion that it can come to a decision in a fortnight. That does not surprise me, in view of the very small and narrow point which they have to decide—indeed, should decide it in an even shorter time, and for the Government to build upon that small delay a necessity for passing this Supplementary Estimate does not seem to me—and I do not wish to use strong language—to be abonâ fide financial transaction.As has been pointed out, it really does not make any difference in regard to the general Vote and the demands which have to be met. The Leader of the House says that these payments being monthly, difficulties might arise at the end of June in regard to getting contributions for back payments. I, like many other Members of the House, both during and since the. War, had many cases before me, where soldiers and sailors, and others who have served the Crown, were overpaid very often through some stupidity on the part of a Government Department. We have all known cases where a man in receipt of a small pension has had for some considerable time payments deducted from him to make up for alleged overpayments. In view of that fact, I cannot believe there would be the slightest administrative difficulty—should it be found necessary to do so—for some months after the Bill, if passed, comes into operation, in having deductions made in order to make good contributions which should have been recoverable earlier. It is merely a pretence that more money is required now. As the Chancellor of the Exchequer truly said, it might be a question to be debated when the time comes, as to whether this retrospective action is right or not. If it was right to bring it into the Bill, it is right to maintain it in the Bill. In any event, probably, the Bill will not be passed until the middle or end of June. Consequently, if this proposal is to be decided at once, I think, with great consistency, I shall vote against the Supplementary Estimate. On the other hand, if the Motion to report progress is carried, I shall not care one way or the other, but at all events, it will postpone the necessity and the occasion for this proposal, which appears to me to be entirely unnecessary and quite unfair.
I am rather surprised that when I rise as almost the first Member to speak any word in support of the Government on this question, I am interrupted by cries of impatience, but I intend to assert my own opinion. It is difficult to deal with the question within the limits of the very narrow issue to which we are now confined, namely, that the Debate should be adjourned and it is impossible for me to enter into the very large question which my hon. Friend who has just spoken seemed to regard as coming within the scope of that issue. I am not prepared to deal with the arguments of the hon. and gallant. Member for Accrington further than to say that he spoke of this as a demonstration. There are worse things than a demonstration. This is a demonstration, to a certain extent, and it is a demonstration to which people outside this House ought to have their attention turned. In the Debate of last week arguments were used which I will not describe as strange or ignorant, but certainly very unfair arguments were used against those of us who spoke in that Debate with as much conscience and as much desire to further the interests of the teachers as others who pose as the only friends of the teachers. Those arguments were used against us because we ventured to differ from the view that in all respects the teachers were right and we were wrong. I would like to say this, having 3,000 or more teachers in my constituency, that a speech which I made on this subject last week was I am certain read by every one of them and I had one letter on the matter, from a teacher and a constituent saying that he felt that I was taking the sane and the wise view in the interests of the teachers. I shall read an extract from the letter:
That is the only letter I received, and not one word of protest reached me. I mean to stick closely to the point of the present discussion which is that the Debate be adjourned. That is really a fundamental question, and we ought to decide it at once. We have waited now for a week, and we have been going backwards and forwards. We have been told that at the expense of the teachers we are saving a little money, and we are told now that this money must be provided. How is it to be provided? It is suggested that it can be "slipped in" somewhere. Is that proper finance Does the Noble Lord the Member for Hitchin (Lord R. Cecil) suggest that we should use some money which we have somewhere else in order to meet a deficiency on the Education Estimate? At the Committee of Public Accounts that is a thing we have to fight more than anything else. Money voted for one purpose being temporarily used for another. It is rotten finance. if the House of Commons was not prepared to accept the Bill last week, let us make up our mind that we must come to a decision on the question of where we arc to find the money. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Paisley seemed to think that the only question on which our decision was asked was the question of the Bill introduced last week. That is not the case. That Bill has been postponed for we do not know how long. It is all very well to say, as the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Camborne has said, that in ten days or a fortnight it can be proceeded with. We have lost a week now, and it will be at least ten days more before the Report of the Committee is due. Is it to be thought that there can be less than a month's delay before the Second Reading. That month of delay implies that the saving of £2,300,000 will have to be depleted by a certain amount. That is perfectly plain and straightforward. We have not to decide on the Bill; what we are asked to decide here is whether or not Parliament is going to keep its accounts in proper order. How are we to make up the Education Vote if this contribution is remitted? Let us deal with it plainly and provide the extra sum required. Do not slip it in and say, "Perhaps you can use some other sum. Perhaps it will never be required; perhaps it will turn out that the demonstration against your niggardliness to the teachers is, after all, only a demonstration; but why should you take us at our word by asking us to vote for this Estimate? "That attitude seems to suggest that some of my hon. Friends who made themselves prominent in the Debate of last week feel that they have been hoist by their own petard. I ask that the Government should proceed promptly to a decision and not put off or adjourn the Debate. We should be fair to the Government lion. Members know perfectly well that I am not backward in opposing the Government strongly when I feel that it is right and proper to do so, but this is a matter of book-keeping. Either you must support the Government in saving the money or, if you cannot do that, you must help the Government to put the money into the Exchequer in the proper way, Let it be referred to as a "demonstration" if lion. Members so prefer, but when people are stampeded by unfair lobbying on the part of the lower grades of teachers—[HON. MEMBERS: "Withdraw!"]—into voting against a proposal like this, and when they are asked to replace the money, they should not say, "Oh, no, do not ask us to vote. We are scrupulously conscientious, but we should not be asked to vote this money now." Hon. Members who take up that attitude seem to suggest that we should wait a little while and that perhaps the Committee which they insisted upon setting up, in order to judge the honour of this House, may not find that this was a breach of faith. The hon. Baronet the Member for Twickenham (Sir W. Joynson-Hicks) laid great stress on the point as to whether or not this was breaking faith, and some hon. Members who voted against the Government seem to wish to say, "We are sure the Committee will never take the view that it was our function last week to urge, and therefore do not be so hard on us and do not ask us to carry out the unpleasant duty of voting money to make up for that which we prevented you horn saving.""As you will no doubt by now have received protests against your speech in the House yesterday, I would like as a schoolmaster and a constituent to express my appreciation of your point of view and of the wise attitude you recommended to the profession."
If this were a mere question of adjourning this Debate or not I confess I would be thoroughly in favour of adjourning it. Before I give my vote I should like to ask the Leader of the House whether he will leave the question to a free vote of the House or not. Speaking for myself, I do not attach the great importance to this question which some hon. Members have attached to it. It appears to me to be a question of procedure rather than of substance. If the Government tell us that, in their judgment, the proper procedure is to proceed now, I certainly will not vote against them, especially if they tell me that it is to be a vote of confidence, and that in the event of their defeat they will go cut. Honestly, for myself, I should not be prepared to vote against them on this occasion, if an adverse vote were to have the effect of turning them out. There are many occasions on which one has felt it his duty to vote against the Government, but I think we should make a mistake if, by our vote upon what, after all, is a relatively less important matter than most of the things with which we have got to deal, we were to take a decision adverse to the Government.
I rise because my hon. and learned Friend the Member for York (Sir J. Butcher) made a personal appeal to me, and I also would make an appeal to the Committee. It is not possible for the Government to take the course which my hon. and learned Friend suggested and detach themselves from the responsibility for the decision which the House should take. We look very gravely on the refusal of the House to proceed with the Bill last week, which we were prepared then and there to defend upon its merits, if the House would have considered its merits instead of moving the Adjournment of the Debate, but the House would not. Out. of respect for the House the Government agreed to appoint, this Select Committee, but they felt that the House, having taken that decision, was bound to make provision for the expense which might, and probably would, be involved in the decision they had taken. I cannot leave that question to the unguided judgment of the Committee. I must say that the Government attach importance, and great importance—all the greater because of the defeat of last week—to the decision to which the Committee is now asked to come, and we shall, of course, put on the Government Whips. The appeal I would make to the Committee is that we should be allowed to come now to a decision, because, after all, either on the original Motion or in the speeches on the Motion to report Progress, we have really covered the whole ground. It is a very narrow issue, there is a great deal of other business to get through, and I would urge that the Committee should take a decision on the Motion to report Progress and upon the Vote itself without further delay.
I thought, and I think still, that it would have been the best way to put off this Vote to a future occasion, as there has been no speech made by anybody that shows any necessity for the immediate voting of this money, but if the Government wishes to take. a Vote of Confidence, it is not right to take it on a Motion to report Progress.
Division No. 115.]
|Ammon, Charles George||Hirst, G. H.||Poison, Sir Thomas A.|
|Asquith, Rt. Hon. Herbert Henry||Hodge, Rt. Hon. John||Raffan, Peter Wilson|
|Barker, G. (Monmouth, Abertillery)||Hogge, James Myles||Rendall, Athelstan|
|Barnes, Major H. (Newcastle, E.)||Holmes, J. Stanley||Roberts, Frederick O. (W. Bromwich)|
|Bramsdon, Sir Thomas||Irving, Dan||Robinson, S. (Brecon and Radnor)|
|Cape, Thomas||John, William (Rhondda, West)||Royce, William Stapleton|
|Cecil. Rt. Hon. Lord R. (Hitchin)||Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth)||Sitch, Charles H.|
|Colfox, Major Wm. Phillips||Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)||Smith, W. R. (Wellingborough)|
|Collins, Sir Godfrey (Greenock)||Joynson-Hicks, Sir William||Spoor, B. G.|
|Cooper, Sir Richard Ashmole||Kennedy, Thomas||Sprot, Colonel Sir Alexander|
|Cowan, D. M. (Scottish Universities)||Kenworthy, Lieut. -Commander J. M.||Sueter, Rear-Admiral Murray Fraser|
|Curzon, Captain Viscount||Kenyon, Bamet||Thomas, Brig-Gen. Sir O. (Anglesey)|
|Devlin, Joseph||Kiley, James Daniel||Thomson, T. (Middlesbrough, West)|
|Edwards, C. (Monmouth, Bedwellty)||Lambert, Rt. Hon. George||Thorne, G. R. (Wolverhampton, E.)|
|Erskine, James Malcolm Monteith||Loyd, Arthur Thomas (Abingdon)||Thome, W. (West Ham, Plaistow)|
|Galbraith, Samuel||Lyle-Samuel, Alexander||Waterson, A. E.|
|Graham, W. (Edinburgh, Central)||Maclean, Rt. Hn. Sir D (Midlothian)||Watts-Morgan, Lieut.-Col. D.|
|Gray, Major Ernest (Accrington)||Malone, C. L. (Leyton, E.)||Wedgwood, Colonel Josiah C.|
|Griffiths, T. (Monmouth, Pontypool)||Mills, John Edmund||Wignall, James|
|Grundy, T. W.||Mosley, Oswald||Wilson, Capt. A. S. (Holderness)|
|Guest, J. (York, W. R., Hemsworth)||Murray, Hon. A. C. (Aberdeen)||Wilson, James (Dudley)|
|Hall, Rr-Adml Sir W. (Liv'P'l, W. D'by)||Myers, Thomas||Wilson, Rt. Hon. J. W. (Stourbridge)|
|Halls, Walter||Naylor, Thomas Ellis||Windsor, Viscount|
|Harmsworth, Hon. E. C. (Kent)||O'Connor, Thomas P.||Wintringham, Margaret|
|Harris, Sir Henry Percy||Ormsby-Gore, Hon. William||Wise, Frederick|
|Hayday, Arthur||Parkinson, John Allen (Wigan)|
|Hills, Major John Waller||Percy, Lord Eustace (Hastings)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES. —|
|Colonel Gretton and Mr. Foot.|
and therefore I am prepared to withdraw my Motion. I shall vote against the expenditure, and I may tell the right hon. Gentleman that the change in the House has not taken place from the causes he thinks. The change in the House came from a very real cause. The other day there was a letter that I received—and most Members in this Houses received similar letters—expressing, from a very good authority on the Front Bench, that the Government did not need our support till 10.30, and many of us thought they were able to take care of themselves then. It is a very different statement which appears in a similar letter received to-day. However, I do not wish to make a difficulty, either for the Committee or for the Government, and I think that if the Committee wishes to vote straight on the subject, it is better that it should not vote on a Motion to report Progress, but should vote on the Supplementary Estimate, personally have always been against the teachers on this question, and have told the teachers so, and I am prepared to vote against the Supplementary Estimate, as I should have been to vote in favour of the Bill. However, I ask leave to withdraw my Motion.
Question put,"That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again."
The Committee divided: Ayes, 79; Noes, 264.
|Adair, Rear-Admiral Thomas B. S.||Ford, Patrick Johnston||Newman, Colonel J. R. P. (Finchley)|
|Agg-Gardner, Sir James Tynte||Forestler-Walker, L.||Newman, Sir R. H. S. D. L. (Exeter)|
|Amery, Leopold C. M. S.||Forrest, Walter||Newson, Sir Percy Wilson|
|Armitage, Robert||Fraser, Major Sir Keith||Newton, Sir D. G. C. (Cambridge)|
|Armstrong, Henry Bruce||Fremantle, Lieut.-Colonel Francis E||Newton, Major Sir Harry K.|
|Ashley, Colonel Wilfrid W.||Gardner, Ernest||Nicholson, Brig.-Gen. J. (Westminster)|
|Austin, Sir Herbert||Gee, Captain Robert||Nicholson, William G. (Petersfieid)|
|Bagley, Captain E. Ashton||Gibbs, Colonel George Abraham||Nield, Sir Herbert|
|Balrd, Sir John Lawrence||Gilbert, James Daniel||Norman, Major Rt. Hon. Sir Henry|
|Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley||Gilmour, Lieut.-Colonel Sir John||Norton-Griffiths, Lieut.-Col. Sir John|
|Balfour, George (Hampstead)||Glyn, Major Ralph||Pain, Brig.-Gen. Sir W. Hacket|
|Balfour, Sir R. (Glasgow, Partick)||Goff, Sir R. Park||Parker, James|
|Banbury, Rt. Hon. Sir Frederick G.||Goulding, Rt. Hon, Sir Edward A.||Pearce, Sir William|
|Banner, Sir John S. Harmood.||Grant, James Augustus||Pease, Rt. Hon. Herbert Pike|
|Barlow, Sir Montague||Greene, Lt.-Col. Sir W. (Hack'y, N.)||Peel, Col. Hn. S. (Oxbridge, Mddx.)|
|Barnett, Major Richard W.||Greenwood, Rt. Hon. Sir Hamar||Perkins, Walter Frank|
|Barnston, Major Harry||Greig, Colonel Sir James William||Perring, William George|
|Barrand, A. R.||Gritten, W. G. Howard||Pilditch, Sir Philip|
|Barrie, Sir Charles Coupar (Banff)||Guest, Capt. Rt. Hon. Frederick E.||Pinkham, Lieut.-Colonel Charles|
|Bartley-Denniss, Sir Edmund Robert||Guinness, Lieut.-Col. Hon. w. E.||Pollock, Rt. Hon. Sir Ernest Murray|
|Beauchamp, Sir Edward||Gwynne, Rupert S.||Pownall, Lieut.-Colonel Assheton|
|Beck, Sir Arthur Cecil||Hacking, Captain Douglas H.||Pratt, John William|
|Beckett, Hon. Gervase||Hamilton, Major C. G. C.||Prescott, Major Sir W. H.|
|Bell, Lieut.-Col. W. C. H. (Devizes)||Harmsworth, C. B. (Bedford, Luton)||Purchase, H. G.|
|Benn, Sir A. S. (Plymouth, Drake)||Haslam, Lewis||Rae, H. Norman|
|Betterton, Henry B.||Honderson, Lt.-Col. V. L. (Tradeston)||Raeburn, Sir William H.|
|Bigland, Alfred||Herbert, Dennis (Hertford, Watford)||Raper, A. Baldwin|
|Birchall, J. Dearman||Hilder, Lieut.-Colonel Frank||Raw, Lieutenant-Colonel Dr. N.|
|Bird, Sir R. B. (Wolverhampton, W.)||Hinds, John||Rawilnson, John Frederick Peel|
|Blair, Sir Reginald||Hoare, Lieut.-Colonel Sir S. J, G||Rees, Capt. J. Tudor-(Barnstaple)|
|Blake, Sir Francis Douglas||Holbrook, Sir Arthur Richard||Remnant, Sir James|
|Boscawen, Rt. Hon. Sir A. Griffith-||Hope, Sir H. (Stirling & Cl'ckm'nn, W.)||Richardson, Sir Alex. (Gravesend)|
|Bowles, Colonel H. F.||Hope, Lt.-Col. Sir J. A. (Midlothian)||Richardson, Lt.-Col. Sir P. (Chertsey)|
|Bowyer, Captain G. W. E.||Hopkinson, A. (Lancaster, Mossley)||Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring)|
|Brassey, H. L. C.||Horne, Sir R. S. (Glasgow, Hillhead)||Roberts, Rt. Hon. G. H. (Norwich)|
|Breese, Major Charles E.||Hudson, R. M.||Roberts, Samuel (Hereford, Hereford)|
|Bridgeman, Rt. Hon. William Clive||Hunter, General Sir A (Lancaster)||Roberts, Sir S. (Sheffield, Ecclesall)|
|Broad, Thomas Tucker||Hurd, Percy A.||Robinson, Sir T (Lanes,. Stretford)|
|Bruton, Sir James||Hurst, Lieut.-Colonel Gerald B.||Rounded, Colonel R. F.|
|Buchanan, Lieut.-Colonel A. L. H.||Inskip, Thomas Walker H.||Royds, Lieut.-Colonel Edmund|
|Buckley, Lieut.-Colonel A.||Jackson, Lieut.-Colonel Hon. F. S.||Samuel, A. M. (Surrey, Farnham)|
|Burgoyne, Lt.-Col. Alan Hughes||James, Lieut.-Colonel Hon. Cuthbert||Samuel, Samuel (W'dsworth, Putney)|
|Burn, Col. C. R. (Devon, Torquay)||Jameson, John Gordon||Sanders, Colonel Sir Robert Arthur|
|Butcher, Sir John George||Jephcott, A. R.||Sassoon, Sir Philip Albert Gustave D.|
|Campion, Lieut.-Colonel W. R.||Jesson, C.||Scott, A. M. (Glasgow, Bridgeton)|
|Carew, Charles Robert S.||Jodrell, Neville Paul||Scott, Sir Leslie (Liverp'I, Exchange)|
|Carr, W. Theodore||Jones, Sir Evan (Pembroke)||Scott, Sir Samuel (St. Marylebone)|
|Casey, T. W.||Jones, J. T. (Carmarthen, Lianelly)||Seager, Sir William|
|Cautley, Henry Strother||Kellaway, Rt. Hon. Fredk. George||Sharman-Crawford, Robert G.|
|Cecil, Rt. Hon. Evelyn (Birm, Aston)||King, Captain Henry Douglas||Shaw, William T. (Forfar)|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. J. A. (Birm. W.)||Kinloch-Cooke, Sir Clement||Shortt, Rt. Hon. E. (N'castle-on T.)|
|Cheyne, Sir William Watson||Larmor, Sir Joseph||Simm, M T.|
|Child, Brigadier-General Sir Hill||Lewis, Rt. Hon. J. H. (Univ., Wales)||Smith, Sir Harold (Warrington)|
|Churchill, Rt. Hon. Winston S.||Lewis, T. A. (Glam., Pontypridd)||Stanley, Major Hon. G. (Preston)|
|Clay, Lieut.-Colonel H. H. Spender||Lloyd, George Butler||Steel, Major S. Strang|
|Clough, Sir Robert||Lloyd-Greame, Sir P.||Stephenson, Lieut.-Colonel H. K.|
|Coats, Sir Stuart||Locker-Lampson, Com. O. (H'tingd'n)||Stevens, Marshall|
|Colvin, Brig-General Richard Beale||Loseby, Captain C. E.||Stewart, Gershom|
|Conway, Sir W. Martin||Lowe, Sir Francis William||Strauss, Edward Anthony|
|Coote, Colin Relth (Isle of Ely)||Lowther, Maj.-Gen. Sir C. (Penrith)||Sturrock, J. Leng|
|Cory, Sir J. H. (Cardiff, South)||Lyle, C. E. Leonard||Sutherland, Sir William|
|Courthope, Lieut.-Col. George L.||Macdonald, Rt. Hon. John Murray||Taylor, J.|
|Cralk, Rt. Hon. Sir Heory||Macdonald, Sir Murdoch (Inverness)||Terrell, George, (Wilts, Chippenham)|
|Dalzlel, Sir D. (Lambeth, Brixton)||Mackinder, Sir H. J. (Camlachie)||Thomas, Sir Robert J. (Wrexham)|
|Davidson, Major-General Sir J. H.||M'Lean, Lieut.-Col. Charles W. W.||Thomson, F. C. (Aberdeen, South)|
|Davies, Alfred Thomas (Lincoln)||Macnamara, Rt. Hon. Dr. T. J.||Thomson, Sir W. Mitchell (Maryhill)|
|Davies, Sir William H. (Bristol, S.)||Macpherson, Rt. Hon. James I.||Thorpe, Captain John Henry|
|Doyle, N. Grattan||Magnus, Sir Philip||Tickler, Thomas George|
|Edge, Captain Sir William||Malone, Major P. B. (Tottenham, S.)||Townley, Maximilian G.|
|Ednam, Viscount||Marriott, John Arthur Ransome||Townshend, Sir Charles Vere Ferrers|
|Edwards, G. (Norfolk, South)||Martin, A. E.||Tryon, Major George Clement|
|Edwards, Major J. (Aberavon)||Mildmay, Colonel Rt. Hon. F. B.||Wallace, I.|
|Edwards, Hugh (Glam., Neath)||Molson, Major John Elsdale||Ward-Jackson, Major C. L.|
|Elliot, Capt. Walter E. (Lanark)||Mond, Rt. Hon. Sir Alfred Moritz||Ward, Col. L. (Kingston-upon-Hull)|
|Evans, Ernest||Montagu, Rt. Hon. E. S.||Ward, William Dudley (Southampton)|
|Eyres-Monsell, Com. Bolton M.||Morden, Col. W. Grant||Waring, Major Walter|
|Falcon, Captain Michael||Moreing, Captain Algernon H.||Warren, Sir Alfred H.|
|Falle, Major Sir Bertram Godfray||Morrison, Hugh||White, Col. G. D. (Southport)|
|Fell, Sir Arthur||Munro, Rt. Hon. Robert||Wild, Sir Ernest Edward|
|Fildes, Henry||Murchison, C. K.||Williams, C. (Tavistock)|
|Fisher. Rt. Hon. Herbert A. L.||Murray, C. D, (Edinburgh)||Williamson, Rt. Hon. Sir Archibald|
|FitzRoy, Captain Hon. Edward A.||Murray, Hon. Gideon (St. Rollox)||Willoughby, Lieut.-Col. Hon. Claud|
|Flannery, Sir James Fortescue||Neal, Arthur||Wills, Lt.-Col. Sir Gilbert Alan H.|
|Wilson, Lt.-Col. Sir M. (Bethnal Gn.)||Woolcock, William James U.||Young, Robert (Lancaster, Newton)|
|Wilson, Col. M. J. (Richmond)||Worthigton-Evans, Rt Hon. Sir L.||Young, W. (Perth & Kinross, Perth)|
|Winterton, Earl||Yate, Colonel Sir Charles Edward||Younger, Sir George|
|Wood, Hon. Edward F. L. (Rlpon)||Yeo, Sir Allred William|
|Wood, Sir H. K. (Woolwich, West)||Young, E. H. (Norwich)||TELLERS TOR THE NOES. —|
|Wood, Major Sir S. Hill- (High Peak)||Young, Sir Frederick W. (Swindon)||Colonel Leslie Wilson and Mr.|
Question again proposed, "That a sum, not exceeding £375,000, be granted for the said Service."
I want to explain to the Committee that my position is a little bit difficult. When I put down my Amendment for a reduction, I was under a misapprehension, as I thought that, first of all, we should have a discussion on the question whether any money at all was required, and that when that was disposed of, my Motion to reduce the Vote by £200,000 would come on. I understand that by moving this Amendment I am standing in the way of hon. Members who want a larger reduction, and wish to see the whole of this Estimate practically wiped out, and I, personally, believe, although I put down this Amendment, that no fund at all is required. That being so, I am entirely in the hands of the Committee, but I am perfectly willing to withdraw my Amendment, and to allow those Members who think that no money is required, to move accordingly. I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"]
I voted for the Government on the last occasion, and I am not taking sides in this particular matter, but the position is this: The Government come down and ask for a Supplementary Vote for a large sum. Some think that the whole sum should be granted, and some, apparently, think that none should be granted. The hon. Member who has just sat down moved a reduction of £200,000. The Government accepted that Amendment—a thing I have never known before. But there are still, apparently, a large number of Members who wish to express the view that that sum should be further reduced. Surely the House of Commons must have some way of dealing with this question of Order It is perfectly ridiculous that, after a Motion for a reduction of £200,000 has been moved, you cannot move to reduce the Vote still more. By our old procedure, which is very excellent for many purposes, but not for this, you cannot move a further Amendment, and, therefore, if we divide at this moment, the hon. Member for the Isle of Thanet (Mr. E. Harmsworth), in order to express his view, would have to vote against this reduction, so that Members would be voting entirely at cross-purposes. It is not right that those who wish to express a view should have no opportunity, as they have had no opportunity of expressing their view. Keen though I am about Parliamentary rules, they ought not to be used when they stop a real issue, which requires to be raised.
I am very reluctant to stand between the Committee and the Division, but I do not think I can refrain from offering a word of explanation after the complaint of my hon. Friend that I accepted the Motion, and the complaint of my hon. and learned Friend that that places certain Members of the Committee in a predicament. My hon. and learned Friend says there may be Members who may want to vote against any money being granted.
They have said so.
Then they can vote against the reduced sum. My hon. and learned Friend was anxious that the case of the hon. Member for the Isle of Thanet (Mr. E. Harmsworth) should be dealt with, but he, I thought, wanted a reduction of £1,000. I have not had the least hesitation in accepting a very much larger sum. With regard to the observations of my hon. Friend the Member for Wood Green (Mr. G Locker-Lampson), understood my hon. Friend thought it not unreasonable, at any rate, in the Government, that they should feel bound to make a provision for the contingency, but that he thought our provision excessive. I agreed with the general desire of the Committee to get the matter quickly disposed of, and I agreed to accept my hon. Friend's Amendment. I told him I would do that if he choose to move it. He moved it reluctantly, because I said in advance I would accept it, and ever since then he has made it a grievance because I accepted his Motion. My hon. Friend knows his own mind, but I find it difficult to please a person who is so fanciful. I beg the Committee to come to a decision on a matter which we have thrashed out. The Government ask for a reduced sum, and the Committee has to decide whether or not it will grant it.
On a point of Order. Would it be in order for me to move that the sum be further reduced by another £275,000?
The Question I am about to put from the Chair is that a reduced sum of 375,000 be granted. Any Members who wish to reduce that have only to negative the Motion.
Cannot I move an Amendment to it?
No Amendment can be moved to this Question.
Question put, and agreed to.
"That a Supplementary sum, not exceeding £;375,000, be granted to His Majesty, to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1923, for the Salaries and Expenses of the Board of Education, and of the various establishments connected therewith, including sundry Grants-in-Aid."
Motion made, and Question, "That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again," put, and agreed to.— [ Colonel Leslie Wilson.]
Resolution to be reported To-morrow.
Committee report Progress; to sit again To-morrow.
Anolo-Persion Oil Company (Payment Of Calls) Bill
Read a Second time, and committed to a Standing Committee.
Empire Settlement Bill
As amended ( in the Standing Committee) considered.
New Clause—(Agreement To Scheme Conditional)
The Secretary of State shall not agree to any scheme. unless he is satisfied that the Government, authority, or organisation with whom the scheme is agreed has offered any
required assistance, such as is provided for in this Act, to suitable persons already domiciled in that part of His Majesty's Dominions to which the scheme may apply. —[ Mr. Kennedy.]
Brought up, and read the First time.
I beg to move, "That the Clause be read a Second time."I want to assure the House that I do not move this Clause with any desire to obstruct the Measure. On the contrary, I think I can say that all those who are associated with me on this side of the House wish that no obstacle should be put in the way of any worker in this country who desires to emigrate. We desire to put no obstacle in the way of a man who believes he will find overseas a means of earning a livelihood which is denied him at home, but we do feel, with regard to a Measure of this sort, that provision should be made to prevent any possible conflict of interest or of opinion between workers on this side and workers overseas. Workers who emigrate do so, in nine cases out of ten, on account of economic pressure, and, for that, general emigration is no solution. It is, indeed, no palliative of the problem of unemployment which gives birth to this Measure. The evil with which this Measure deals is not one to be remedied by the transference of sections of workers by emigration from one part to another. Unemployment is not due, as many people seem to imagine, to overpopulation: it is due fundamentally to the fact that in our modern markets the means of production are enormously in excess of the means of distribution, and the means of purchase on the part of the community. The problem with which this Measure deals, therefore, is not the simple one of peopling the waste places of the earth; otherwise the peopling of the millions of uncultivated and undeveloped acres in other parts of the Empire would be met by it. I think the obligation which rests not only on the Government of this country, but upon the Overseas Governments, is one of showing agreement, not only as to the available spaces overseas, but the means of earning a livelihood in the sense of not only having land cultivated, but markets for the produce of the cultivator. If we examine the condition of the Overseas Dominions, what do we find? That there is not a single part of the British Commonwealth which has not its unemployment problem relatively of the same magnitude as that with which we are faced at home. In these circumstances, the first duty of the Dominion Governments is to the people already settled there. I think, therefore, that this is a necessary administrative Clause, and it should not be regarded by the Government as an unnecessary interference with the province of the Dominion Governments. It is one which ought to be included in the Measure, if only as an assurance to the people overseas, who may regard the transport of large numbers of workers from this country to the Dominions as an attempt to overcrowd an already overcrowded labour market. It is notorious that a very large proportion of emigrants have gone in years past to the Dominions in order to achieve that living which they could not find at home, and having first settled on the land, and finding it no very successful, have gradually drifted back into the great industrial centres. I can say that with some degree of authority, as I possess the information in regard to the industrial position in the big industrial centres; and I can say that in the Colonies the labour organisations and labour generally are suspicious of this scheme of emigration. Their suspicions may be unfounded. I desire that the Government should prove to them that they are so by accepting this new Clause, for it will be an assurance, at any rate, that no single worker already domiciled in the Dominions will be precluded by this scheme from having a prior access to any required assistance. It is purely for that object I move the Second Reading of this new Clause.
I beg formally to second the Motion.
Up to a certain extent. I think I would agree with the motive that underlies the introduction by the hon. Gentleman of this new Clause. Certainly it would be undesirable if large schemes for introducing new settlers were started in the Dominions, and nothing had been done to meet the needs of the people of those Dominions for settling on the land, or for other employment. I can assure the House, however, that that is the last thing we would think of doing. All through our action in the matter of free passages for ex-service men we have not assisted a single ex-service man unless the authorities in the Dominions concerned were satisfied in view of the labour situation in their Dominion that the man of that particular class could go out and in securing employment not displace a worker already domiciled. It is a very desirable precaution. We shall certainly continue to act on those lines. We do not desire to introduce into the Dominions any undesired class of person. I would not agree to do so from the point of view of those sent out. We should not like to do that if by so doing we might be creating difficulties with the Dominions themselves.Our whole object is to facilitate cooperation with the Dominions, so that those shall go out who want to go out and for whom there is employment and opportunity, not only in our opinion, but in the opinion of the Dominions and authorities concerned. To that extent I certainly agree with the motive underlying the new Clause. But when it comes to laying down in a new Clause that we shall not enter into any agreement affecting land settlement or passage money or anything of the sort with the Dominion Governments, unless we have satisfied ourselves —I suppose by inquisitorial methods—that they have done their duty by their own citizens, I confess I think it is an unnecessary and an undesirable Clause to add to the Bill. My own knowledge confirms the view that the Dominion Governments are very much alive to the needs of their own people. If there is temporary and not very large unemployment in certain industries they—if I may use the phrase—put a "stopper" on immigration very quickly. They would not attempt to embark upon large settlement schemes if there were large numbers of their own people willing to go directly on the land for whom they had no provision. They have made very generous provision for all their ex-service men. I think it would be a reflection upon the Dominion Governments to put into the Bill anything of the sort suggested. One word as to the Clause itself. It refers to the "government, authority, or organisation." If this proposed new Clause were added to the Bill it would mean that no municipal authority or provincial authority in the Dominions. or no private or philanthropic organisation, could enter upon any work dealing with settlers from this country unless the particular organisation—and it might be quite a new organisation—had already for a certain time devoted itself to doing something similar for the people of that country. It might be that another similar organisation had devoted itself to working for those domiciled there. That would not, however, meet the requirements of this proposed new Clause. I think under the circumstances, and in view of what I have said as to the policy which the Oversea Settlement Committee will certainly follow in this matter, that the House will agree that this Amendment is unnecessary.
I hope the House understands the motive with which this Amendment is brought forward. We do not want emigrants from this country to have a better chance than the ordinary worker in Australia and Canada. We want it to be quite clear that, wherever they are, workers shall have an equal share of the opportunities. After the statement that we have heard from the hon. Gentleman, I would advise my hon. Friend the mover of the proposed new Clause not to press it to a division. We have made it clear, and the Government have now made it clear, that in this matter of Empire migrants there is to be no preference in any particular part of the Empire.
Question, "That the Clause be read a Second time," put, and negatived.
Clause 1—(Power Of Secretary Of State To Co-Operate In Schemes)
(1) It shall be lawful for the Secretary of State, in association with the Government of any part of His Majesty's Dominions, or with public authorities or public or private organisations either in the United Kingdom or in any part of such Dominions, to formulate and co-operate in carrying out agreed schemes for affording joint assistance to suitable persons in the United Kingdom who intend to settle in any part of His Majesty's Oversea Dominions.
(a) the Secretary of State shall not agree to any scheme without the consent of the Treasury, who shall be satisfied that the contributions of the Government, authority, or organisation with whom the scheme is agreed towards the expenses of the scheme bear a proper relation to the contribution of the Secretary of State; and (b) the contribution of the Secretary of State shall not in any case exceed half the expenses of the scheme; and (c) the liability of the Secretary of State to make contributions under the scheme shall not extend beyond a period of fifteen years after the passing of this Act.
(4) Any expenses of the Secretary of State under this Act shall be paid out of moneys provided by Parliament:
Provided that the aggregate amount expended by the Secretary of State under any scheme or schemes under this Act shall not exceed one million five hundred thousand pounds in the financial year current at the date of the passing of this Act, or three million pounds in any subsequent financial year, exclusive of the amount of any sums received by way of interest on or repayment of advances previously made.
I beg to move, in Sub-section (1), to leave out the words
The Bill, as it stands at present, provides that"or private."
The Government, if this Amendment be adopted, will still be free to co-operate with foreign Governments or public organisations or public authorities, but will not be able to deal with private organisations. It is true that in this Bill there are £3,000,000 a year to spend, but I think that that money will be quite easily spent in connection with schemes where the co-operation is with public authorities or public organisations, without spending money on co-operation—and a somewhat dangerous co-operation —with private organisations, Over and over again we have seen, particularly in connection with emigration, the actual effect of some of these private organisations dealing with emigration. After the War there was a great scheme for emigrating ex-officers to Kenya. Many of these officers bitterly regret that they were sent out to East Africa. In that case there was, I think, co-operation between the Colonial authority and with a private organisation. There are worse cases than this, too. There are many cases of land settlement where the land to be settled was either derelict or marshy or utterly unsuitable for settlement. People who have gone in for speculation on the other side would be delighted if they could get the co-operation of the Government in planting unfortunate settlers upon that particular sort of land. There is the standard case of Martin Chuzzlewit, who picked up a "back section," somewhere in the United States, which was not worth the money. We do want to see that the schemes brought forward are started with the best possible chance for the community, and not as a speculative chance for some private organisation. So long as you allow private profit to come in in connection with these schemes, it is undoubtedly true you get an undesirable element introduced. My principal desire in this Amendment is to prevent any opportunity of private profit coming in in connection with these emigration schemes."It shall be lawful for the Secretary of State, in association with the Government of any part of His Majesty's Dominions, or with public authorities or public or private organisations either in the United Kingdom or in any part of such Dominions, to formulate and co-operate."
I beg to second the Amendment.
The hon. and gallant Gentleman said one thing with which I am in entire agreement, and that is that the object of any scheme in which we co-operate should be to give the best possible chance to the settler, and not to act merely as an opportunity for the enrichment of private interests. In every scheme that may be put forward that is the whole object, and we shall judge the scheme as to whether or not it will offer a settler from this country a fair chance of making good. Will the terms be such as from the settler's point of view will not overload him with heavy capital expenditure and will give him a fair chance? Apart from that I think it would be undesirable to restrict the liberty of the Government in dealing with these matters to act in co-operation only with Governments or public organisations. There may be very useful and helpful private organisations with whom or through whom we may co-operate. Still, I may flay as a general rule, what we contemplate is certainly not participation directly in commercial companies or in any form of commercial development. This we may, broadly speaking, rule out. It may, and I think it very often will happen, however, that there will be cases in which a Dominion or provincial Government or public authority may say that there are certain schemes which a private organisation is willing to work, and if all the conditions of such schemes are favourable to the settler we might agree to utilise such a body as the best administrative organisation through which assistance can be given both by ourselves and other public authorities. I have in my mind at this moment a very admirable private organisation in Australia, which is run on business lines but whose sole object is to promote settlement in Australia. The scheme under which it works is one by which the very best is done for the settlers. We should be very foolish if we precluded ourselves from dealing with organisations of that sort and thus preventing them from securing assistance from the local State Government, say, in Australia on the understanding that we should co-operate to some extent in the work. It would be dangerous to the interests of the settlers that we should tie our hands to such an extent. Whenever a Government or public authority comes forward with good schemes they would naturally be the ones with which we should deal first of all; nor should we take up any settlement scheme with any private organisation which had not the approval and guarantee of its Government, which must know more about the conditions out there, both as to the reputability of its promoters, the character of the land, and the whole scheme of settlement. There, again, as with regard to the previous Amendment, I would ask the House to extend, at any rate, some measure of confidence to those who are going to administer the scheme.
I beg to move, in Sub-section (3), after the word"that" ["Provided that"] to insert the words
Among the provisos which the Secretary of State shall consider, I wish to see this one. It may, at first sight, seem to be similar to the Amendment we have just discussed, but it is not entirely so, however, because there are some colonies, both Crown colonies and self-governing colonies, which are able to put forward schemes under which the land is open to the settler without any private owner having to be compensated in connection with them. At the present moment the schemes principally before the House have been the scheme in Western Australia, and the irrigation scheme, the Darling Valley in New South Wales. There are also prospects of a scheme in the Northern Territory. In all these cases the land is either already, or is going to become, the property of the Government of the State, or the Government of Australia. Under all these schemes, therefore, this proviso would be met. The settler would not have to pay for the land upon which he was settled. He might have to pay an annual rent for the cost of the water supply under the irrigation scheme in the Darling Valley, but under normal circumstances he would not be saddled with rent for his new land. The same applies to Rhodesia and some of the African colonies, such as Nyassaland. There you have state land, public land, available for the settler. It is true that the settler might, in some cases, have to pay a rent, but whatever he did pay would go to the State and not to a private individual. If you are going to keep these schemes clear altogether of private profit you must see that the principal element in them, the land, is not acquired to the enormous advantage of certain private profiteers. We do not want emigration schemes mixed up anywhere with private land speculation. It may be said that if this Amendment were carried it would be quite impossible to have any scheme of land settlement in Canada. That is not so. If the Amendment were carried, any scheme in Canada would have to be in connection either with alternate blocks on the Northern Pacific which have not been taken up, or in connection with the land which has been acquired by the Canadian Government, and which the Canadian Government would then pass on to the emigration scheme. The proposed proviso is an admirable one because the Canadian Government would then itself be dealing with the private landowners in Canada, and would not leave it to the Colonial Office in this country or to the private organisations with which the Colonial Office might be working, to go into the open market and make a purchase of land at prices which would often be far from remunerative to the settlement scheme. It is very well known that the Canadian Government, in dealing with land such as this or with railways, have driven bargains which the owners of the property thought were very hard. The harder the bargain the better for the settler, and I would far rather see the bargain driven by the Canadian Government, even though it were similar to that driven with the Grand Trunk Railway, than leave it to the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty and the experts to go into the market and buy up land, paying a price that would strangle a scheme at its inception instead of allowing a profit to be made by the settler."(a) the Secretary of State shall not agree to any scheme which involves the purchase or leasing of land from private persons."
I beg to second the Amendment.
The hon. and gallant Member for Newcastle-on-Tyne (Colonel Wedgwood) who moved this Amendment appears to be unconscious that, if it, were carried, its effect would be to prevent the attainment of the objects which he desires to see achieved. If he will look at the Bill, he will see that an agreed scheme may be made with the Government of any part of His Majesty's Dominions, and it is quite possible that if these words were inserted they would prevent the Secretary of State for the Colonies obtaining, in cooperation with and under the advice of the Government of one of the Dominions, from acquiring suitable land for settlers, simply because that land happened to be private property. All these limitations which are proposed, though most excellent, will hamper the hands of the Secretary of State. If we cast our minds forward for 15 years, it is impossible to say what developments may take place and what the position may be here or in the Dominions. If this scheme is to have a chance of success, we ought to give the Secretary of State for the Colonies as free a hand as possible, in order that he may not be tripped up here and there by limiting words. Therefore, I hope the Government will not agree to this Amendment which, although I quite sympathise with the excellent objects of its Mover, will prove a pitfall in the long run.
My hon. Friend who has just spoken has supplied one very strong objection to this Amendment. It is an Amendment which ties not so much our hands as the hands of any Dominion Government with which we may have to do business. I would say, with regard to this Amendment, exactly what I said about previous ones. What we are con- cerned with is the success of the settler, and that success depends upon two things. One is that land should be reasonably cheap, and the second is that the settler should have reasonably easy access to his market. The latter is, from the point of view of most people who have anything to do with settlement, even more important than the price of the land itself. I remember years ago in Canada being told by a. man of great experience in settlement that there is no land in Canada so dear as free land which is many miles from the railway. It is no kindness to the settler to preclude him from getting a piece of land, even if he has to pay some small consideration for it, within a few miles of the railway, and to ask him to takegratis a piece of land 50 miles away. Even with regard to free land, it is not free by the time it has been cleared. A piece of prairie land at £;2 or £;3an acre is far cheaper than a free gift of the same area standing under thick timber, which may have to be cleared at great expense before it becomes productive. I agree with the hon. Member for the Kirkdale Division of Liverpool (Mr. Pennefather) that you must leave the matter to the judgment of the Government concerned. What did the Canadian Government do when they were dealing with men whom they were particularly anxious to benefit—the Canadian ex-service men, for whom the entire people of Canada were very anxious to get the best possible settlement? The Canadian Government did not settle them on the uninhabited back lands. To a very large extent these men were placed in more settled parts of the country, wherever a suitable farm happened to be vacant or was not utilised. The Government went as far as to pay up to £1,000 for farms for ex-service men, knowing that a man settled under good conditions would be far more capable of repaying that £1,000 in a few years than a man who was settled in a place where he could not get access to a market would be of repaying £100.
Supposing a man has not got £1,000?
It depends on the Government policy if they will advance the money. Surely, in this matter, we cannot drag in all our prejudices against anybody ever making a private profit. It is not only a question of land; the settler will want a house, agricultural implements, cattle and stock. Are you going to preclude him from ever having a house built by a private contractor or from buying ploughs from a private firm? What is the final object of this Measure? It is to enable the settler to make private profits himself. I think really, looking at it under present conditions and not from the point of view of theoretical objections to all private profit, that it would be most unwise to accept this Amendment.
It seems to me that the hon. Member for Kirkdale (Mr. Pennefather) as well as the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty has not altogether read the Bill aright. The hon. Member for Kirkdale said that the Government were under an obligation to act with the Dominion Governments. I do not see that in the Bill.
I did not say that. What I did say was that an agreed scheme might be made with a Dominion Government.
It might be agreed between the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty and a private corporation in Australia or Canada. I take it that this Amendment is to prevent that, and to impose on the hon. Gentleman, or whoever acts in this case, an obligation to act with the Dominion Government. That is a safeguard for the settler.
This Amendment is intended to prevent these people making profits out of the taxpayers' money. One of the cases coining forward will be schemes drawn up in connection with the Canadian Pacific Railway. We want to put the settlers in those countries on a sound footing, and not start them handicapped by a heavy purchase in favour of some public company which would do its best to make profit out of the taxpayer.
With the permission of the House, I should like to deal with that point. The Amendment would preclude co-operation with Dominion Governments or public authorities in dealing with any land bought by them. It is quite true that under the Bill we are authorised to deal with a private organisation, but we should not do that unless we had satisfied ourselves that such a course had the approval of the public authorities in the Dominion concerned, and that it was wholly and directly in the interests of the settlers concerned. On these grounds, I hope the Amendment will not be pressed.
I beg to move, in Sub-section (3,c), to leave out the word "fifteen," and to insert instead thereof the word "five."Under this scheme the Secretary of State may make contributions up to 15 years from now. The Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty 15 years hence may not be in charge, and other people may take his place, and, therefore, I do not think we are wise in tying the hands of his successors to continue these schemes for 15 years. Under these schemes the hon Gentle-Man is going to make considerable advances for a period of years. There is no reason why the repayments should not be spread over a long period, but what we may justly fear is that at the end of 15 years we may find ourselves carrying on schemes involving the people of this country with a very heavy burden and not resulting in the satisfactory settlement of these people in the Dominions across the seas. We shall want to revise these schemes very care-fully. Over and over again we may support schemes and start them. They may be failures, and for these reasons I think it is unwise to tie our hands for 15 years before the schemes may be thoroughly revised. The hon. Gentleman knows quite well that he has rushed this scheme, and he got his £3,000,000 a year before the House and the country saw clearly what was being done. The sum of £3,000,000 a year for 15 years means £45,000,000 to be spent upon taking people from this country and settling them in other countries. The same amount of money spent in this country would put far more people on the land than the hon. Gentleman is ever likely to get on the land in Australia and Canada. He has got his scheme through, but I am certain that long before the 15 years are exhausted the people of this country will resent the idea of spending £45,000,000 of their money in planting people in another country. No other country would spend even £1,500,000 a year in sending their citizens away from their own country.
They have no Empire.
There are many other countries that have more land under their control than we have. In my view, this country would be best defended by the satisfied people at home rather than by a population scattered throughout the world. You cannot help the Empire by spending the taxpayers' money on wild-cat schemes. I am certain that if you really want to develop the Empire, it would be better to attempt to solve the unemployment problem here rather than deport your population abroad.
I beg to second this Amendment, but not for the same reasons as the mover. The best way of maintaining the Empire seems to me to be to send out a moderate stream of people from the mother country, and they should be the best men we can find, who are intellectually equal to the men in the country to which they propose to proceed. A period of 15 years seems to me to be really too long to contemplate, even in the interests of the men you propose to settle. I am, on the other hand, inclined to think that five years is too short. I think you should have a period under which you can help and assist the men whom you send out. That is necessary for many reasons. One is, that they feel that they are not entirely cut-off from the interest and care of those who sent them out, and that is an important matter. It is a great wrench for a young man to leave his country and all his associations of early days, but it is a much greater wrench for a man with a family. In this connection I should like to express my personal thanks to the hon. and gallant Gentleman for the great interest he has taken in this question. The settlers, under the most favourable circumstances, will meet with experiences which will try the fibre of the people you are sending out, especially at a time when there is a large surplus of labour in those respective countries, and this will be found to be so all the more when they realise that your great objective is the land and land settlement.That means you are sending men from this country to cultivate the land, and in that connection I am glad my hon. and gallant Friend withdrew his former Amendment, because it is necessary that these men should be placed under the most favourable circumstances, and as a great deal of the land must already have come into the hands of private persons if his Amendment had been carried, it might even have precluded a relative from bringing out his friends. So far as Governments are concerned, this term of 15 years means nothing. You laid down in your Agriculture Bill that it could not be repealed or amended or interfered with for four years, but you discarded that provision during the life of your own Government, and when you are talking about the future it is apparent that the hon. and gallant Gentleman cannot bind any Government for 15 years, and he could not hind his own Government even for 15 minutes. Therefore a period of 15 years is quite out of the question, and unless he can have given to me some good reason for retaining 15 years I should rather favour my hon. Friend's Amendment to insert five years.
I think I am not very far apart from my lion Friend who has just sat down, and I can supply him at the outset with one good reason in favour of the figure contained in the Bill. May I remind the hon. Member and the House that the whole Bill is the outcome of a discussion at the Imperial Conference where a Resolution was adopted in which the Dominion Governments expressly asked this country to introduce legislation showing that we intend to adopt the policy of co-operation with the Dominions as a permanent policy. While one would not like to pass any legislation in perpetuity, I think the period of 15 years is a sufficient guarantee to the Dominions that we mean to pursue a permanent policy, and we in that way lay down our intention to co-operate for a period of at least 15 years, so that they will not be afraid of making schemes which will not be hurried, but may begin on a small scale and gradually develop.I want to clear up one other point. We are not committed to spending the whole of the £3,000,000 for the whole of the 15 years. If the various schemes that are tried do not turn out well no Government would go on with that policy, nor are we compelled under this Bill to make individual schemes for 15 years' duration. We might make a scheme for five years, and at the end of that time we could do exactly what the hon. and gallant Gentleman suggested, that is, revise this scheme. The period of 15 years would not bind this House in any way in regard to its freedom in dealing with the money as to the amount it shall spend later on. All we do is to show that our intention is to co-operate with the Dominions for a long period of years. There is one other point in which in one sense I am in agreement and in another sense I am in profound disagreement. I agree that we should not encourage our people to go to foreign countries, and I agree that the best thing for our future strength and prosperity is that our people should be settled at home. Where I differ with the hon. and gallant Gentleman is with regard to the meaning of the phrases, "foreign country" and "at home." The British Dominions are with us and form part of one great world Commonwealth, and every British citizen is at home in every part of the Dominions
I beg to move, in Sub-section (4), to leave out the words "or three million pounds in any subsequent financial year."That would leave the amount which the hon. and gallant Gentleman can spend at £1,500,000 and not £3,000,000. Although I do not think it will be in the least useful to press such an Amendment to a Division, I would like to point out to the House that this is money out of the taxpayers' pocket and when everybody is being urged to reduce expenditure I think to save £1,500,000 a year for 15 years is worth thinking about. It is quite possible to do a great deal of kindness in this country with £1,500,000 a year. It is useless for the hon. and gallant Gentleman to pretend that by spending this money he is not going to get a great deal of gratitude from the people who will benefit out of it. I hope my constituents will also benefit under it. I have a good many people in my constituency who have been out of work now for nearly two years. The iron mills were shut down and these people are driven by necessity of unemployment to seek emigration beyond the seas. They are being forced over to Australia or Canada or New Zealand not by the law, but by economic necessity. Under this scheme £1,500,000 will no doubt provide an opportunity of escape to possibly thousands of people. It will enable them to escape from England. I wonder how many will be helped. I wonder whether before voting this money we ought not first to have asked how much money was going to be spent per head in order to give these enormous benefits to people who are being driven out of the country. There must be some sort of estimate at the Colonial Office. It is quite true schemes will differ and in some cases the cost will only be £12 per head while in other cases it may run up to £200 or £300 per head. If we are going to spend £300 in settling a man in Australia, we are going to do that man a great deal of good. We could all do with £300, even although expended by a Government Department for our benefit, and those who get the money will no doubt be very grateful for it. But there is something which ought also to be remembered and that is that the money will have to come out of the taxpayers' pocket.
But it will come back again.
The hon. Member must be aware that these schemes will not all be self-supporting. If they were going to be that, the Government would not be in them at all. They are bound to cost money, so much per head, and we want to know how much per head is going to be expended. We also want it to be realised that whatever the cost, the sum is coming out of the taxpayers' pockets, and the British taxpayer consequently will have so much less money with which to buy the things he wants, while the people who might be employed in making those things will be thrown out of work, so that what may be gained by the expenditure of money in sending people abroad, will be lost to some extent by the creation of unemployment, at home. At a time when every Member of this House is giving lip service to economy, we should be paying quite enough for this scheme, in the complete absence of any information as to the cost per head, and we shall be doing justice to the scheme and to the country, if we limited the expenditure to £1,500,000 per year instead of £3,000,000, as proposed.
Amendment not seconded.
Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read the Third time."
I shall divide against the Bill if there is any sign in the House of that anxiety for economy which one might expect. I rise to get from the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty some kind of estimate of what the cost per head is going to be of sending people to, say, Western Australia under the Darling scheme, or under the Canadian scheme or under the Rhodesian scheme. There must have been some estimate prepared in connection with these schemes, and surely we ought to be told what is going to be spent per head or per family in sending settlers out. Is this going to be a bonus on all emigration, or only on some emigration? Who is going to select the settlers? Is the hon. Gentleman going to take them from his own constituency or will they he drawn from other constituencies? Will adequate justice be done to all applicants, or are only a few going to benefit by this scheme?
I am almost sorry that my hon. and gallant Friend could not find a Seconder for his Amendment just now, because if that Amendment had been carried, it would have removed the restriction of £3,000,000 expenditure laid down in the Bill, and would have empowered the Government to spend up to any amount they chose. It would have given us more money and not less. I am sorry that the effort I made in the Debate on the Second Reading to explain how the Bill would work out and what it would cost to send people to the Dominions fell on unheeding ears, so far as the hon. Gentleman is concerned.
You gave no figures.
I think the hon. and gallant Gentleman will find that I gave fairly detailed figures. I will give one or two now by way of illustration. Under the ex-service men's scheme, under which we paid the whole of the passage out, those passages cost on an average £26 per head. Under the scheme which we are now entering upon, at least one half of the expenditure will be borne by the Governments of the Dominions to which the settlers are going. At a special conference on this question, which was held in February of last year, the attitude taken up by the Dominion Governments was that it was desirable that part of the passage money should be given by way of advance, and not by way of grant. The general scheme then provisionally agreed upon was that one-third of the passage money should be by way of grant, and one-third, or possibly two-thirds, by way of advance. Take the case of a passage to Australia, which perhaps is the most expensive. It is hoped that the cost will come down to £36, and, in that case, we should contribute a sum of £6 by way of grant in respect of one-third of the passage, and we should also advance £12 by way of loan to the settler in respect of two-thirds of the passage, the Commonwealth Government taking an equal burden with ourselves in this case. It is hoped that with the general fall in prices the cost of passages also will fall.As regards land settlement, the view pressed by myself on behalf of the British Government at the special Conference, to which I have referred, was that whatever the cost, the amount we should be prepared to advance to the settler should not be more than £300, although, as a matter of fact, the cost of settlement might well be over double that amount. That, as a general rule, is a proposal I shall be inclined to adhere to, and, if I were not so inclined, I rather think the Treasury would insist upon my adhering to it. Of course, we shall try to get people settled on the land on the most economical basis, but in co-operation with the Dominion Governments we shall not advance more than £300 per settler, and we reckon that, in the greater number of cases, we shall get our money back. There will, of course, be a certain number of failures, and where there is a failure, we and the Dominion Government concerned will sharepro rata in the loss. But, roughly speaking, we hope in nearly all cases to get our money back. Then there is a third item in the settlement scheme, which I illustrated in the House the other day, in reference to West Australia. Under that scheme it was suggested—and of course the matter will have to be gone into much more fully than it has been so far—that we should give no advance towards the total cost of the settlement, but that we should make a contribution towards the interest on the cost of the settlement for the first five years, to cover any loss and to cover also the initial period before the settler could repay. In such a case, it would be a grant, so far as we are concerned, and not a loan, but it would be a very much smaller amount. In the Second Reading Debate I pointed out that under the scheme we had had before us the Western Australian Government undertook to settle 75,000 persons, men, women and children, at a cost of some £6,000,000, provided that the Commonwealth and the United Kingdom made a contribution of one-third of the interest for five years on the successive instalments raised. This, spread over a period of seven or eight years, would cost us something like £600,000, or £8 per settler. Personally, I think these figures are too low. I do not think quite so many people could be settled there for so low an expenditure. But, given suitable areas, it may be possible, by means of a contribution to the interest on the scheme, to settle men even more cheaply than in any other way. I hope I have given my hon. and gallant Friend sufficient indication as to the expense likely to be involved.
The hon. Gentleman has not answered one question. As far as I can make out, under the most expensive of these schemes, the average cost would be about £150 per family. I want to know what measures will be taken to select the settlers, and by whom it will be decided who shall get that £150 from among the enormous number of applicants there is sure to be. What steps are to be taken to prevent any idea of injustice arising because some people are selected and others are turned down.
I was really going to deal with that point. I thought my hon. and gallant Friend was intervening to raise another point. On this matter of selection the only test must be the suitability of the applicant himself and the prospect of his succeeding. We had exactly the same problem to face in connection with the free passages for ex-service men. The numbers selected represented only one third of those who applied. In every case we refused to give a free passage to a man if the Dominion Government con- cerned informed us that in their opinion he was not a likely individual to make a suitable settler or by reason of his class or occupation would not have an assured chance of employment under the economic conditions prevailing in the Dominion at the time. I am quite sure that many of those who did not get free passages were very disappointed.
Does that mean that only agricultural people will be selected?
Oh, no. It depends on the Dominions. Some of them are taking men from a variety of trades. Canada is closing her door very narrowly. Naturally the Dominions are anxious to get suitable agricultural workers. If under the ex-service men's scheme we had given free passages to all the men that applied, the whole scheme would have been an utter failure and we should have brought to misery tens of thousands of unhappy men, while we should have damned the whole idea of co-operation in oversea settlement in the Dominions. It was essential that we should narrow down those who received this assistance. We want those who go to be people who are suitable and likely to do well overseas. The selection naturally and properly rests with the Dominions concerned, who will be responsible for them from the time when they land on the other side. I can assure my hon. and gallant Friend that there is no possibility of this matter being settled by any kind of favouritism or arbitrary selection. The Dominions are very anxious to get only suitable settlers. Indeed, they are inclined to be overcautious as to what may be a suitable settler. We prefer to err, with them, on the side of over-caution, rather than to involve any man who sells up his home here; and roots himself up from old friends and old associations, in the risk of going out there and doing worse than he would have done in this country. I should like to express my appreciation of the sympathetic and understanding reception which this Measure has received from every section of the House.
Do I understand that the settlers in connection with these land settlement schemes will be selected by the Dominion Governments as men suitable for land settlement? If that is so, will it not be the case that the industrial unemployed of the country will get no assistance whatever in connection with these passages?
No, Sir. That is not quite the way in which it will work out. We ourselves are primarily concerned in easing the industrial situation in the long run, and we realise that at the present moment the Dominions are not in a position to take a large number of industrial workers until they have filled up their land somewhat more fully. Therefore, in the main, they give preference to men who either have had some experience on the land or who, being physically fit, are willing to try work on the land. The latter category is one that we are specially anxious to assist. Still more are we anxious to assist boys and lads for whom nothing but blind-alley occupations are waiting in this country to take to the land before they become hopelessly wedded to urban life. I think we must be actuated all through by the desire that we, on our part, shall do the best we can for our people, and that the Dominions, on their part, shall do the best they can for the future development of their territory. We do not want to off-load on to them men who will be failures. We do not desire, that, either in the interests of the Dominions or of the men themselves. On the other hand, the Dominions know quite well that they cannot fill up the whole of their vast spaces from the, far too depleted margin of agricultural workers in this country, and that, if they want to develop, they will have to tap a much wider source of supply than that of the shires of this country.
Let them take more from the towns.
They are getting a few from there, and I hope they will get more. This Measure, which has had a very considerate reception in the House, is necessarily an experimental Measure. If the Dominions cannot co-operate in suitable schemes, if it is difficult to frame schemes which will really be in the interest of the settlers, no Government would persist in a policy which clearly is going to prove a failure. I do believe, however, that this policy can be made a great success if it is begun moderately and carried on with caution and prudence in the interests of those for whom it is initiated. There is no question of wishing to send people out of this country. It is simply a question of properly organised facilities for the great stream of human beings that always has left these shores, and always will, and of giving them a better chance of succeeding on the other side than they have had before. There is no desire to get rid of our best men. We do not want to send anyone out who will fail; but, on the other hand, we believe that the average of this country, given a fair chance in life, is a good average, and will make good, and that if, where you have conditions of congestion and overcrowding, you give one man a good chance overseas, you will be making a better chance for his neighbour at home to become a better man than he was.
While appreciating the desire of my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Colonel Wedgwood) to save the taxpayer from being fleeced by the land speculator, I am sorry that my hon. and gallant Friend is going to take a vote on this occasion.
I am not—only my own.
I welcome this Bill, because, in the first place, it seems to me to be calculated to weave bonds of mutual interest and sympathy between ourselves and the territories overseas I agree with the definition "commonwealth of nations," which has been given by an hon. Member, rather than the term "empire." We have now reached the stage when each of the overseas Dominions is a self-governing country, and can manage its own affairs as it likes, and from that point of view it is necessary that we should come into more cordial contact, by way of bonds of interest as well as of sympathy, with the Dominions; and something of the nature of a Bill of this character is necessary in order that we may discuss and settle matters of mutual interest and concern. This Bill is an effort—the first, so far as I know—to regularise emigration, so that the man who goes from this country will go to the country of his adoption with some chance of success. We have too long left these people, under the pressure of poverty, somehow or another to get to Canada, very often the United States—where they are lost to us —or some other overseas country, and have left them to their own resources there in a foreign environment, under conditions to which they are not accustomed. When I have been to overseas countries I have seen these people, very often, walking about out of work and just as badly off in their new home as they were here. This Bill is for the purpose of lessening that evil by co-operation between the mother country and the Dominions overseas. I should have liked to have seen it limited to co-operation between the Dominion Governments overseas, but still it is an attempt, by cooperation between the Home country and the Dominions overseas, to place these people there in a regular manner to their own advantage, and, as I think, to the advantage of the mother country as well as of the overseas Dominions.It seems to me to be of supreme importance that we should get work for our unemployed people. The hon. and gallant Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme considered that we ought to get them employment in this country. I wish we could, but he knows as we all know that that has been a matter of discussion for generations. It might be possible, under some better land system in this country, to find employment for all our men, but have we not been talking about that for generations without getting much forrader? It seems to me that the only possible way in which we could get a large number more men on the land would be by some system of intensive cultivation, and that is a very difficult matter. It is all very well to say that if we adopted intensive cultivation we could employ a great many more men on the land. That is quite true, but it is very difficult to tilt human material into a way that is against its own will.
This is the Third Reading. It is a time for discussing the Bill, but not for discussing schemes that might have been.
I thought. I was justified in using that argument in favour of.the Bill, as against those advanced on the other side.
I looked to my left with some apprehension, because the right hon. Gentleman was apparently beginning to deal with the whole land question.
I am in favour of this Bill because it provides a means by which we can lessen industrial unemployment. The hon. and gallant Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme said that the men placed on the land in Canada and elsewhere must necessarily be men accustomed to work on the land in this country. It seems to me that we might have gone a little further and have done something in the way of training men in this country who are not now suitable to go on the land, but who might be made suitable. That, I agree, involves a, further cost, but I do not agree with the hon. and gallant Member that it is all going to come out of the taxpayers' pocket without return. I think the return here will be increased many-fold, because, by increasing the population of those overseas Dominions, which in the first place are agricultural populations—that is a necessary factor in the circumstances—
If you increase the population of Scotland you will be doing more useful work.
That raises a large question, upon which much might be said, but at all events it does tend to get men placed in a country outside their own under conditions where there is a chance of their making a living and increasing the demand for our commodities.
I should like to ask the hon. Gentleman one question upon a point which I do not think has yet been referred to. I had a letter this afternoon from the Overseas Settlement Office telling me that after the passing of this Bill it would take some considerable time before any approved scheme of assisted passages could be arranged. In view of the fact that many people are waiting anxiously for these passages, could the lion. Gentleman give us any idea as to how long it will take for the scheme to come into operation so that these passages may be obtained?
With the permission of the House, I will reply to my Noble Friend. He will understand that when this Bill becomes law we shall be in a position to negotiate with the Overseas Governments for schemes in which we can co-operate with them, and I hope it may not be very long before we have at any rate a passage scheme agreed with Australia. From information that I have had from the Australian authorities, they are very anxious to conclude a passage scheme as soon as the Bill becomes law. Settlement schemes will, of course, require very close and careful investigation. It would be a great disaster if we embarked on schemes too rashly. I hope it may not be many weeks after the passing of the Bill before we agree to some passage scheme, and before we have agreed with some private organisations for schemes for preliminary training on the land here, such as my right hon. Friend the Member for Gorbals (Mr. G. Barnes) referred to, and which are certainly a matter of the greatest importance. In all these matters we depend upon the co-operation of ethers. We are not going to organise the schemes overseas. It is only if the Dominion Governments are, as they expressed themselves at the Conference to be, eager to develop Imperial settlement and bring forward schemes, that then we shall he most anxious to co-operate with them within the limits of the Bill.
I hope that those of my hon. Friends who seem rather inclined to express a dissentient note will not do so at this stage, because intending emigrants will need all their courage and resources and high spirits to achieve success, as I am sure we all hope they will. If I were disposed to reply to the remarks of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Gorbals, I should say that the argument against this Bill, from an agricultural standpoint was that you are sending these men across the seas to cultivate land which in all probability is not so good as that which we have at home, and, at the same time, making them competitors in practically their only market with the already too adversely affected agricultural conditions in this country. That is an argument that might be used against the Bill, but, on the other hand, the arguments in favour of it are very much better. I myself have seen at least three separate schemes of land settlement, and in each case the amount of tribulation which the settlers have gone through has been very great. There is no question about the difficulties that face people in a new country, especially when you take them out in any quantities to settle them. The diffi- culties are tremendous, and they require all the fatherly care and kindly interest of the hon. Gentleman to stimulate and help the people when they reach their destination and face the trials which are inevitable in settlement in the new country where they have to provide everything; where, no matter what kind of supervision is made and what arrangements are made to ensure comfort and welcome on arrival, the fact remains that it will rest with the settlers themselves to achieve success. They can achieve it, but it will take time. I hope the Bill will receive its Third Reading without anything from this House except the expression of the best and warmest wishes that the emigrants will be successful in the land to which they go, and will retain their kindly interest in the country whence they went, and that, like a good many others who have been out, they will prove a good investment, because although they come into competition with our agriculturists here, they will have needs and requirements in other directions which will more than compensate for any difficulty we may experience in that respect. We shall meet their competition with a good deal of assurance, and we shall he only too grateful to receive the orders for the many industrial articles they will need in the course of their lives in the country to which they go.
I do not want to suggest that the Empire should not be developed. The right hon. Gentleman in charge of the Bill says that we are not driving people out of this country. There is no desire to drive them out. of this country, but the whole policy of the Government has given these people absolutely no alternative but to seek an outlet and to do work in other countries, when the same amount of money spent at home might have found them more lucrative, employment and retained the very best men in this country to the benefit of the country and of the Empire. The hon. Gentleman suggests that in Western Australia they welcome emigrants, but it is a remarkable commentary that we should assist them to the extent of £600,000 a year, when only three years ago they forecasted the possibility of an expansion from this country to Western Australia without a charge upon the taxpayers of this country, and they wanted a loan. We found that the finances of the country would not give them a loan of £9,000,000 in order that they might do the very work we ought to set about to do at home—open up the country so that land might be accessible for cultivation. They could not get a penny. The financiers of this country said they were not going to finance Labour Governments in Australia to open up the Empire. What security had they? Although we turned down the request of the Prime Minister of Queensland and his Government, the same Ministers who criticised that proposal say to-day that this is a very benevolent scheme which we ought to support. Men in my division have gone there and found things very precarious, but when they went they saw that our policy was so niggardly and parsimonious that there was no possibility of the Government ear-marking money to develop our resources in the homeland. There are hundreds of thousands of square miles undeveloped in the Colonies, but although we are, perhaps, the most intensely organised industrial country in the world, yet there are parts of our country where, with the same amount of money and with well-considered plans, we could find work for all the men who are out of work. You have the Overseas Department, the Board of Trade, and the Ministry of Transport. Time and time again they have inquired into the possibility of making provision whereby our surplus labour could be utilised. They have got them in dockets in the various Departments. There are the findings of the Commission that there are enormous possibilities of utilising all our man-power within our own soil to great advantage. Where are those now? Three years age, to avoid this kind of thing, a great Bill known as the Ways and Communications Bill was introduced.
This is a speech suitable for the Second Reading, but not for the Third Reading. On the Second Reading of a Bill we discuss alternatives—quite rightly—to the Bill. Having come to the Third Reading, we deal with what is in the Bill itself, and not with alternatives.
We regret that such a Bill is possible. We hope there will be a little more co-ordination in the various Government Departments and that they will see the possibilities at our own door, and that they will spend money wisely for the development of our resources and the utilising of our man power.
When this Bill was introduced I gave notice of a number of Amendments to it for the purpose of bringing in those alternative suggestions which, as you, Mr. Speaker, say we can only debate on the Second Reading. As I was not a member of the Committee which considered the Bill, I wish to take this opportunity to put a point of view before the hon. Gentleman which I hope he will take note of in carrying out the Bill. The main objection to it seems to be with regard to what is likely to happen in Australia. The Bill deals not merely with Australia, but with any of our Colonies to which any prospective emigrants desire to go, and it provides them with certain facilities for getting there, and also with certain opportunities for going upon the land. I traversed a good portion of Canada last year. I went as far as Vancouver, and in all the places I went to I found out as much as I possibly could about the resources of the country and the possibilities for emigrants. One thing struck me very forcibly, and various people to whom I remarked upon it agreed entirely with me, that Canada has got out of balance. The bulk of her population is now in the very large towns, and if this Bill is going to send out men who, after spending a few months upon the land, throw the whole situation up as hopeless for making a living upon the land and go into the 'big towns, you are going to increase the very grave unemployment problem which Canada has at present and which she had last autumn and winter. The Minister of Labour, Senator Robertson, gave me figures of the numbers of unemployed in the various towns and districts. When I asked him about the likelihood of employment for he said he expected there would be employment for six weeks or two months at harvest time and that the various provincial Governments were going to pay their fares, but that was not helping the unemployed problem because, when the six weeks' or two months' work was finished, the men would either be left stranded in the prairie provinces or the prairie provincial Government would require to send them 'back to the provinces they had left. Some condition should be laid down that these men must remain upon the land for a particular period, otherwise they may go there and after six months find the whole scheme unsuitable. They have been brought up in towns and have town associations. The loneliness of the prairie or the loneliness of farm life may not appeal to them. They may have a craving for companionship and may want to get to the towns. If you do not do something to keep these men upon the land or insist that if they do not remain upon the land for a certain period they must come back to this country, it means that you are giving them financial facilities to clear out of the country and you do not care a hang what happens to them after that, and the whole Bill is merely a method of getting rid of them.I am certain those who have framed the Bill do not look upon it from that point of view. It has been introduced really with the object of doing the best that possibly can be done for men who find themselves unable to make headway in this country and who believe that an almost virgin country opens up wide possibilities and that there is ample scope to develop any industry they possess, but unless you are going to have some saving clause which will prevent some individuals—I do not say all—who take advantage of this to get out of this country and find when they get there that the life is unsuitable and go into the big towns, I am afraid the purpose of the Bill will not be fulfilled in any degree with regard to some of these people. My reason for rising was not to take exception to the Bill. I am all for colonisation. So great am I for colonisation that I want to see my own country colonised. That was the object of the Amendments I put down. There is ample scope within our own boundaries for colonisation, but at this stage we have no power to discuss the colonisation of the homeland. I hope that something will be done under this Bill to see that the men affected have not only an opportunity of getting out of this country, but that safeguards will be entered into with the Dominions Governments so that when the men have arrived there, if they find that conditions are not as suitable as they desire, they will not remain as a menace and a competition to the overwhelming population in the big towns. I have been out there and have met workmates of my own who have worked with me in the same shops, and who had gone out there desiring to take up land, and to follow what they thought would be an ideal life; but Canada does not want men in her big towns. They want men with the old pioneering spirit, men who can hack and hew and carve a way for themselves. If you are simply going to send out men who are accustomed to work in industrial shops, and who, when the day's work is over, wander about the streets and meet their cronies, you will fail in the object you have in view, because these men will drift into the towns and will augment the very large numbers of unemployed who are there. If I could see the wildernesses of Canada populated I should be glad, because all the things that can minister to human life can be taken from the land there—grain and fruits and other things. If this Bill is going to give the men with a pioneering spirit an opportunity, and if it will imbue them with that spirit, and put them there to start life afresh, to build up a home of their own, and to become independent in their own little way, it will, at. least, perform some useful purpose, but if it is only going to get rid of men from this country who, a few months later, will drift into the big towns of Australia or Canada, it will fail in its purpose. The Minister in charge of the Bill might, with the assistance of the Dominion Governments, devise some scheme of safeguards whereby the things that I have indicated will be prevented.
Question, "That the Bill be now read the Third time," put, and agreed to.
Bill read the Third time, and passed.
Audit (Local Authorities, Etc) Bill
As amended ( in the Standing Committee) considered; read the Third time, and passed.
Post Office (Pneumatic Tubes Acquisition) Bill
Order for Second Reading read.
I beg to move "That the Bill be now read a Second time."
I have a Notice on the Paper, to move that the Bill be read a Second time upon this day three months.
I will deal with the point raised by my hon. and gallant Friend. This is a Bill to confirm an Agreement come to between the Post Office and the Pneumatic Tube Company in respect of a tube constructed 40 or 50 years ago between the General Post Office and Euston Station, by way of High Holborn and Tottenham Court Road. For 30 years that tube has not been used for the purpose for which it was intended, and it was almost forgotten. In the course of carrying out some underground works some local authorities, including the London County Council, have cut into that tube. In connection with the proposals contained in the Agreement, there is a fear felt by some of the local authorities that any right they may have obtained may be in some way jeopardised. I should like to give the House and my hon. Friend an assurance that we shall in no way interfere with any work which has been done by any of the local authorities, and that steps will be taken to divert our cables around any of these works. If we get this Agreement ratified by the House there will be a saving of £40,000. If we have to lay a new tube to carry the telephone cables, the difference between laying the new tube and laying the cables through the existing derelict tubes will be a matter of £40,000. It would also involve the intolerable nuisance of having to take up that very important and busy thoroughfare. If the local authorities feel that it is necessary, in spite of the undertaking I have given, that some Amendment safeguarding them should be included in Committee, I shall be perfectly prepared to discuss it with my hon. Friend.
I am very much obliged to the Postmaster-General for his statement, and it will not be necessary for me to detain the House by moving my Amendment. I believe that, on the whole, his proposal is one which can be quite readily accepted by the House, and from the business point of view the postal authorities are securing a very good bargain but I am bound to say that some of us were a little apprehensive in regard to a pneumatic tube which may be very badly punctured. We have run a pipe through it ourselves, and I believe there is a sewer through it, and that one authority has used it as a conduit for electric cables. It is hardly a pneumatic tube now, and could hardly he used as the original company proposed. We were a little apprehensive, notwithstanding our squatting rights—I believe we have been in possession of the derelict portion for 20 years—that we might be called upon to make good some of the damage done, although we committed that damage by Act of Parliament. I take it that the Postmaster-General has no intention of that kind, and I accept very readily his assurance that if, on further consideration in Committee, it does become necessary to put a Clause in the Bill safeguarding the rights of the local authorities, he will readily assent to such proposal. The local authorities are a little doubtful whether they will be in as good a position in future when the Telegraph Acts are applied as they are at the present time. This is a Committee point. The right hon. Gentleman's assurances are so comprehensive that it is not necessary for me to detain the House further.
Question put, and agreed to.
Bill read a Second time.
"That the Bill be committed to a Select Committee of Five Members, Three to be nominated by the House and Two by the Committee of Selection."
"That all Petitions against the Bill presented Five clear days before the meeting of the Committee be referred to the Committee; that the Petitioners praying to be heard by themselves, their Counsel, or Agents, be heard against the Bill, and Counsel or Agents heard in support of the Bill."
"That the Committee have power to send for persons, papers, and records."
"That Three be the quorum."—[Mr. Kellaway.]
Constabulary (Ireland) Compensation
Considered in Committee.
[Mr. JAMES HOPE in the Chair.]
Motion made, and Question proposed,
"That, for the purposes of any Act of the present Session to make provision for the disbandment of the Royal Irish Constabulary.and with respect to magistrates appointed under the Acts relating to that force and for the validation of things done or omitted in the execution or purported execution of those Acts and for other purposes incidental thereto, it is expedient to authorise the payment out of moneys provided by Parliament—
(1) of compensation to officers and constables of the Royal Irish Constabulary who, since the twenty-fifth day of January, nineteen hundred and twenty-two, have been or who may hereafter be required to retire or be discharged from that force; (2) of pensions and gratuities to the widows and children of such officers and constables; and (3) of terminable annuities to the National Debt Commissioners in respect of the commutation of compensation allowances awarded to such officers and constables;
The amount of compensation to such officers and constables and the pensions and gratuities to such widows and children shall he determined in accordance with the Rules contained in the Ninth Schedule to the Government of Ireland Act, 1920, subject to the following amendments and modifications:—
(a) In these Rules any reference to the Lord Lieutenant shall be construed as a reference to the Treasury, and the expression 'existing enactments' shall be construed as meaning enactments in force at the time of the passing of the said Act of the present Session, and any Orders made under those enactments and in force at that time; (b) The following proviso shall be added at the end of Rule 2:—
- Provided that in the case of the surgeon of the Royal Irish Constabulary his compensation allowance may, should he so desire, be calculated in like manner as the pension which he would have been entitled to receive on retirement under the existing enactments applicable to him if the years to be added as aforesaid were added to his years of age instead of to his completed years of actual service;
(c) Rule 3 shall not apply; (d) The following Rule shall be substituted for Rule 4:—
- (4) The allowance awarded to an officer or constable shall in no case exceed two-thirds of the salary on which the allowance is calculated;
(e) The following words shall be added at the end of Rule 5, namely, 'and as if his years of service had been the years of service on which the allowance was calculated.'" [Mr. Hilton Young.]
I beg to move, at the end of paragraph (1), to insert the words "including compensation by way of disturbance allowances."I wish to draw the attention of the Chief Secretary to a very serious omission in the drafting of this Money Resolution, so serious that I have little doubt that when his attention is called to it he will see the correctness of what I say. On the Second Reading of the Bill, we all drew attention to certain points on which the benefits to be given to the disbanded men should be increased. The Chief Secretary promised us—and I refer them to the OFFICIAL REPORT on this point —that we should have the opportunity of raising these questions in the Committee on the Bill. He did not promise that he would accept our recommendations. He said that he would have to consider them, but that we should have an opportunity of raising these matters. Unfortunately, the Money Resolution is drawn so narrowly as to prevent us from raising in Committee the very questions which the Chief Secretary promised we should be able to raise. I do not for a moment suggest that this was done deliberately. If it were it would be a grave breach of faith. I do not believe that the Chief Secretary would be capable of such a thing in a matter affecting the Royal Irish Constabulary, or, indeed, on any other matter. It was done by inadvertence, because I understand that the practice in these matters is for the Treasury to draw the Money Resolution and put it down on the Paper. No doubt what happened was that, when drawing this Financial Resolution, the attention of the Financial Secretary was not called to what had happened on the Second Reading, and he probably was unaware that the Chief Secretary had given his promise and, therefore, the Money Resolution was drafted in a form inadequate to enable the Chief Secretary to carry out his promise. I would remind the Chief Secretary and the Financial Secretary, who probably is not so familiar with this matter as the right hon. Gentleman, of what happened in the course of the. Second Reading of this Bill. Every speaker raised the question of a proper disbandment allowance being given to these disbanded men. It was pointed out that many of these men the moment they were disbanded and went home felt that their lives were threatened if they stayed in their homes, and they were told that unless they left in six or twelve hours they would be murdered. We all know that unfortunately in a great many cases these men were murdered on going home, for no other reason except that they had been faithful to their trust as members of the Royal Irish Constabulary. Therefore we pointed out to the Chief Secretary that this was not an ordinary case of disbandment, that in a great many cases members of the force, in consequence of this intimidation and violence, would have to leave their homes and go to the North of Ireland or England or some other place as a place of refuge, and that in that way they would be subject to very great expense from which in ordinary conditions they would be free. Therefore, what we urged on the Chief Secretary was that a certain allowance in addition to the pension should be given to these disbanded men, in the cases where, owing to danger and intimidation, they were forced to leave their homes. We pointed out that, according to certain terms which had been issued by the Chief Secretary, they were given, so far as I know without any authority from Parliament, a certain disbandment allowance, which probably was going to be brought up later on on the Irish Estimates. But we pointed out further that, not only was that disbandment allowance inadequate, but should be considerably increased, and should be paid at once and not left till some remote period of the year when the Irish Estimates came on, perhaps some months hence, and when, perhaps, these unfortunate men might he starving, and that it was an urgent matter and ought to be dealt with by this Bill. We pointed out that, in order to enable this point to be raised in Committee, it will be necessary to have the Financial Resolution drawn in proper form. As perhaps the Financial Secretary is not familiar with these matters which took place, I may refer him to the Debate. I said:
Then the hon. and gallant Member for Durham (Major Hills), insisting on the same point, said:"I hope that the Chief Secretary will frame the Money Resolution upon which this Bill will be considered in Committee in such a form as will enable these points to be raised and adequately discussed."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 10th May, 1922; col. 2250, Vol. 153.]
Towards the close of the Debate I asked the Chief Secretary what was his view noon giving this increased disturbance allowance. The Chief Secretary said very fairly that he could not promise to give the increased amount without consulting his colleagues. No one expected he would, of course. Then there was some discussion as to the actual increase necessary, and the Chief Secretary said:"There is one very important matter on that to which I wish to draw the attention of the Chief Secretary. Any increased grant must be provided for in the Financial Resolution, because when we come to the Bill it will be too late."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 10th May, 1922; col. 2279, Vol. 153.]
We understood that to mean that when we reached the Committee stage it would be in such a, form that we would be able to raise this question. I am not asking the Chief Secretary to give us a pledge that he will accept our proposal when it comes before the Committee. I am asking only that the Financial Resolution be in such a form that it will be possible for the Committee to raise the question. It would be possible for the right hon. Gentleman to amend the Financial Resolution so as to make it conform with his pledge. On the Second Reading De bate every person who spoke, including the right hon. Member for Paisley (Mr. Asquith), who came in for the express purpose of making a speech about the merits of the 'Constabulary, bore tribute to the magnificent way in which the Royal Irish Constabulary have performed their 'duties. It was said that they were the best disciplined, the most courageous and the most devoted body of public servants who were ever in the service of the Crown. Let us not make a hollow farce and sham of the tributes paid to the Royal Irish Constabulary. Let us see that there is some meaning to be attached to those words of admiration and gratitude, and let us not shrink behind any technicality which will prevent the Committee on the Bill from doing what is due to these splendid men. It would be impossible for me, or any private Member, to propose an Amendment to the Financial Resolution unless such Amendment were authorised by the Order setting up the Committee. That Order contained these words:"I cannot give a definite answer this afternoon. … I hope to have this reserved for discussion in Committee, and that the House will now allow the Second Reading to pass."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 10th May, 1922; col. 2289, Vol. 153.]
The Committee will notice that the word "compensation" is not limited in any way. It is not limited to compensation by way of pensions or gratuities. Unfortunately, the Financial Resolution narrows the meaning of "compensation" so seriously as to limit it to compensation byway of pensions and gratuities referred to in the Government of Ireland Act of 1920. As drawn, the Financial Resolution would prevent us from bringing forward an Amendment dealing with disturbance allowances in accordance with this pledge. For that reason I have moved the first of the Amendments I wish to propose. There would have to be a consequential Amendment to the Resolution so as to preserve the general scheme of the Resolution. That further Amendment would be after the word "compensation" ["Provided that. … The amount of such com. Pensation"], to insert the words, "other than compensation by way of disturbance allowance." The subject is a little complicated, but the Chief Secretary will agree that the matter should be dealt with now. I feel confident the Chief Secretary will do all in his power to see that the pledge which he gave on the Second Reading is carried out in full."A Committee to consider of authorising …. to make provision for the disbandment of the Royal Irish Constabulary and for purposes incidental thereto, the payment out of moneys provided by Parliament of compensation to officers and constables of the Royal Irish Constabulary …."—[OFFICIAL. REPORT, 19th May, 1922; cols. 777 and 778, Vol. 154.]
I only desire to say a very few words in view of the very clear statement of my hon. and learned Friend, the Mover of the Amendment. I am sure the Chief Secretary recognises that there was a distinct promise to the men in the. Debate that the Financial Resolution should be drawn in such a form as not to pre-judge the question. We do not ask the Government to commit itself to the extension which we desire to see in regard to compensation for disturbance, but we do ask that we should be given a chance to raise the matter in Committee. On reading the Financial Resolution I find no mention of compensation for disturbance. If I am right in my reading of it we should be absolutely bound either to accept or reject the compensation which the Bill gives, and we should have no power to enlarge that compensation. I am quite certain the Chief Secretary wishes to deal fairly with us, and I am quite certain that anyone who reads that Debate will have no difficulty in making up his mind that the promise was made, and that on the strength of that promise the Second Reading went through. I appeal to the Chief Secretary, with confidence, to do that which he promised to do.
The hon. and learned Member for York (Sir J. Butcher) and the hon. and gallant Member for Durham (Major Hills) point out that, during the Debate on 10th May, when the House was good enough to give, without a Division, a Second Reading to the Constabulary (Ireland) Bill, I used certain words which they construe and interpret—as I am bound to say on the face of it they are entitled to—to mean that on the Committee stage of the Bill they would be able to discuss the question of disturbance allowances. I am sure they will agree with me that in the whole course of my speech I was sympathetic in dealing with this question of the Royal Irish Constabulary. My main promise was that I would consult my colleagues as to how far it was possible to meet the legitimate demands of certain members of this splendid force, by further grants of money from the Imperial Exchequer in some form or other. I have done my best to fulfil that promise. I took the matter to the Cabinet, and after consulting with my hon. Friend the Financial Secretary and ether colleagues, I am bound to report to the Committee the position in which things stand at the moment.The decision of the Government is this —and it is final—that insofar as the permanent and annual compensation allowances of the disbanded members of the Royal Irish Constabulary are concerned, the Act of 1920, subject to the qualifications in the Financial Resolution on the Paper, absolutely governs. That. is the permanent structure of the annual pensions, and the compensation allowances of the disbanded Royal Irish Constabulary. In addition to that, and separate from that—not covered by the Title of the Bill at all—are what are called disturbance allowances. My hon. and learned Friend will not dispute that the general terms of the permanent compensation allowances under the Act of 1920, and carried into the Bill for which this is the Financial Resolution, are generous. They are rightly generous. They are more liberal than the terms granted to any other fighting force now or at any time in the history of our country, and, as I say, rightly so, having regard to the circumstances of this force's career. But I cannot put into the Bill—the Title precludes me—and I cannot put into the Financial Resolution—the decision of the Government precludes me—any permanent charge outside the Act of 1920, with the qualification I have indicated. I think, however, I can meet to a very large extent—certainly I can in feeling—the views of my hon. Friends. What they are asking for is increased disturbance allowance for those members of the disbanded Royal Irish Constabulary who are compelled to leave Ireland, or it may be to move from Southern to Northern Ireland. I cannot meet that claim in the Bill, but I can meet it, and am meeting it, in consultation with the Treasury, through the Financial Secretary, by administration. I do not know whether my hon. and learned Friend is aware of the fact that already in the Estimates—
There is an Estimate—an additional Estimate—of £300,000 for removal expenses in the cases raised by my two hon. Friends, and as for exceptional cases of hardship, they are daily coming before the tribunal which now sits here in London under the Chairmanship of Sir Edward Troup. If that amount is not enough to cover the expenses of removal or disturbance of members of the Royal Irish Constabulary, I am quite prepared to go to the Treasury and the Government again and consult them, but I put it to the Committee that until that amount of money proves to be inadequate, it is not a reasonable thing to ask Parliament to grant, not only the £300,000 mentioned in the Estimate, but an addition of something like £600,000, which would be the extra amount involved if the Amendment were adopted. My submission is that, even if the Amendment were adopted, it would not help a single case that is not now being met and dealt with either here in England or in Ireland. May I say, in passing, that in addition to this Estimate of £300,000—which is nothing like absorbed or approaching absorption, yet, because the demands upon it are much smaller than I thought they would be having regard to the circumstances in Ireland—I have had to ask Parliament to give us £30,000 for separation allowances for wives of constables, head constables and officers of the force, who are living in Southern Ireland while their husbands are in Northern Ireland or in England. That 230,000 covers only three months, but if the need really exists, then here, again, I am prepared to go to the Treasury and the Government for reconsideration with a view to a further grant. I quite admit that in the very last words of the Debate I hoped it would be possible to raise this in Committee upstairs, but I am unable to do it, and I regret it. My hon. and learned Friend, however, has no real grievance, for he can raise it now. Let us see what the merits are. The hon. and learned Member says we are not getting sufficient money for these gallant men who have to flee for their lives from Ireland. Is that so?
Let us see. Every man of the Royal Irish Constabulary who leaves Ireland for any reason is given himself a free fare and a free railway warrant for his wife, for all his children, and for anyone normally dependent upon him.
If the right hon. Gentleman chooses to go into the whole details of what they get, well and good, but it is totally irrelevant to my argument, which is, that he promised we should raise this in Committee, and not now, and if he has any valid reason for breaking that pledge I shall be glad to bear it.
I am glad that my hon. and learned Friend can raise this question now, in Committee of the Whole House.
We do not want that.
I am sorry, but let us look at the merits. In addition to the railway travelling expenses, we allow a month's pay for an unmarried man, two months' pay for a married man with less than three children, and three months' pay for a married man with three or more children, for the sole purpose of paying the carriage of his furniture if he brings his furniture to this country or to Northern Ireland, and if that is not enough, we are prepared to give him more, so that he will not be out of a farthing in the personal transfer of his family or in the carriage of his family goods. My contention is that that meets the case of disturbance allowances, and, in addition, a special tribunal has been set up before which any man may come—and they are coming every day—and show that because he was a witness, for instance, in a certain trial in Ireland, because of the special danger he might run for this reason or that, he, asks for a credit or an increased allowance, and that Committee, working from day to day—I can speak from personal knowledge—is dealing with these men in exactly the sympathetic spirit that this House would expect. There is no policeman in the Royal Irish Constabulary, disbanded or about to be disbanded, who cannot come before that tribunal and get the most ready hearing and sympathetic consideration, and I submit that that is not an ungenerous way of treating them. The mere question as to whether we discuss this question on the Floor of the House, in Committee on the Financial Resolution, or upstairs in Committee, does not touch the merits of the case. It touches the procedure, I admit, and my hon. Friends are quite entitled to say hard things, if they wish, about me for not being able to take it upstairs. I cannot do it. The Rules of the House and the decision of the Government preclude me from doing it.9.0 P.M. Let me add a word on the question of disturbance allowances. The term "disturbance allowances" is not known to the Act of 1920, and my sub mission is that it cannot be brought within the terms of the Bill, the Financial Resolution of which we are discussing now. On the merits, I am glad to say, I am able to meet my hon. Friends in many of the points which they raised during the last Debate. I am able to meet them not to the full extent, perhaps, but in many points; but on this question as to whether I should set down an Estimate of £300,000, which is already on the Paper, for disturbance and exceptional allowances, or increase it by at least £600,000, and make it approaching £1,000,000, I must make a stand, and until the need is clearly insistent I do not think it is reasonable to ask this House to grant these vast sums of money when the evidence is not yet conclusive that we shall use the whole of the £300,000 already on the Paper in the interests of the police force and their dependants. It is not possible to go into such questions as commutation, and so on, although they may be a subject for discussion on the Bill itself, but I can, as I say, meet many points of substance I regret that my hon. Friends and I differ as to the proper time to deal with the merits of this question, because I must express my gratitude to them, and I know the force itself feels gratitude for the way they have consistently supported the force, during the time when it was bitterly attacked in this House as well as in Ireland, and since the policy of the Government and the unanimous wish of the force have required and demanded its disbandment. The Financial Resolution now before the Committee is necessary for the consideration of the Bill for the disbandment of the Irish Constabulary, which I hope to bring before the Committee upstairs this week. I do not know that there is anything that I can further usefully add, except, in conclusion, to say that there is no one who is more sympathetic to these splendid men than I am, and if in any way in which money can meet their case—arid my contention is that money cannot meet their case, however large the amount, in every way—I shall be prepared to consider it, not as part of the Bill for their disbandment, because that is impossible under the terms of the Bill, but in consultation with my hon. Friend the Financial Secretary to the Treasury, who himself is a Service man of great distinction and is, like all of us who know the history of this force, most grateful for the splendid services they have rendered in the past.
I must express grave and deep disappointment at the speech of the right hon. Gentleman. I am not accusing him of breach of faith. I know he would carry out his pledges if he could, but. I wish that the head of the Government, or the Leader of the House, were here, because I believe it is they who are responsible for putting the Chief Secretary in this most unfortunate position. The Chief Secretary gave us in this House a solemn pledge, which he himself admits to-day, to the effect that we should be allowed to raise a certain question on the Committee stage of this Bill. He admits the pledge, and he now says he cannot perform it.
My hon. and learned Friend must refer to the Government as a whole, and not single out any individual Member of the Government. The Government is united on this point, and I hope my hon. and learned Friend will note the expression I used on the former occasion—"I hope to have this reserved for discussion in Committee." I have been defeated in my hope, but my hon. and learned Friend now has the opportunity of raising the case on its merits.
I will deal with that. If the right hon. Gentleman chooses to cover himself with the ignominy which, I think, attaches to Members of the Government, when they will not honour the pledge given by the Chief Secretary, all I say is that it is very chivalrous of him, but the people of whom I complain are those who will not allow the Chief Secretary to carry out the pledge on which he got the Second Reading of this Bill, and he himself says everyone believed we should be allowed to discuss this question on the Committee stage of the Bill. Therefore, I repeat, notwithstanding the chivalrous support which the Chief Secretary gives to his colleagues, I do blame—and gravely blame—the Members of the Government, who, I am sorry, have riot seen fit to come here to defend themselves, and I do place von them a very grave stigma, that they cave allowed this pledge of the Chief Secretary to go unhonoured, and, worst of all, when that broken pledge is against the interests of these gallant men of the Royal Irish Constabulary. When I brought forward this Amendment I assumed, of course, that the pledge was to be carried out, and I said: "I cannot imagine the Chief Secretary would be guilty of a breach of faith. I have no doubt it is due to inadvertence on the part of the Secretary to the Treasury, that proper provision is not made in this Financial Resolution for carrying out the pledge." I can hardly find words to express what I felt, when I found I was entirely wrong in supposing this was the explanation. It is, as I gather, a deliberate breach of what the Chief Secretary promised would be done, and that breach of faith is the result of the action of the Government.What reason does the Chief Secretary give why he cannot carry out his pledge? He says the Title of the Bill prevents it. Surely he does not put that forward seriously. The Title of the Bill is to make compensation to these men, and part of the compensation is this very, benefit which we propose to give them by the Amendment which we proposed to raise in Committee. I cannot think the Chief Secretary really puts forward that argument seriously. It is quite impossible to accept it. This is compensation, the Title of the Bill is for compensation, and the Order setting up the Committee was for compensation, so that really there is no reason that he has given us why he should not make good his pledge, except that he is under some coercion, which he cannot avoid, from his superiors. I have no doubt he is doing what he can. My knowledge of him is that he would do everything he could for the sake of these men. I do not impute to him want of good faith towards these men for one moment. I know he realises what we owe to these, men, and that he is only too anxious to do what he can for them, and I deeply regret he has not found himself able to-night, owing to coercion under which he labours, to do something more. My right hon. Friend says, "You do not really suffer. It. is quite true I promised you that you could raise this question in Committee, but you can raise it now." Does he really seriously suggest that? This question comes on during the dinner hour in almost an empty Chamber, and all the friends of the Royal Irish Constabulary did not expect it to come on, perhaps, for an hour or two later. Is the right hon. Gentleman really serious in saying that we have as good an oppor- tunity of dealing with this specific question now as we should have if we raised it on a specific Amendment upstairs in Committee brought together to consider these questions? I am sure, on consideration, he will see that it is an idle excuse to give us. It is putting us off with something unreal. Can we raise it now? Nobody knew the question was coming on.
It is on the Order Paper.
Nobody thought it was coming on. No one, except some of these hon. Gentlemen behind, who, I suppose, would like to see members of the Royal Irish Constabulary starve—
I have relatives of my own in it.
Well, we are doing the best we can, and I should be sorry not to do the best I can for them, but I say that the Chief Secretary must see that it is an absolutely idle excuse to tell us that we can raise this question now, when our friends are not here. What we ask is that we should be allowed to raise it at an opportunity when the Committee can consider it. I pointed out to the Chief Secretary, by the Amendment which I have moved, the manner in which the pension could be carried out. Does he really tell me he is under orders not to accept that Amendment? Does lie really tell me that the Cabinet have considered this question, have seen the pledge he gave, and have ordered him to refuse to carry it out? If he says that, I wish that some other Member of the Cabinet were here to put forward that excuse, and I think the Committee would know how to deal with it if there be one thing more certain than another in this House, it is that a pledge given by a Minister oil Second Reading, or any other stage of a Bill, should be honoured by his colleagues. That is the unwritten law under which this House has always existed, and I trust there will be a long age to come before one Minister is allowed to give a pledge, and the Cabinet order him to violate that pledge and be guilty of a breach of faith with the House. Is it too late to summon some of those who, apparently, are in favour of this breach of a pledge, and to ask them to come here and listen to the arguments, and see whether they are not bound in honour to give us this opportunity in Committee of raising this point? My right hon. Friend must see that, while I say nothing against him personally—it is the last thing I would desire—his colleagues place themselves in a most unenviable position, and, instead of coming here and justifying this breach of faith which they now insist upon, they leave it to him, who is desirous and anxious to prove his good faith to the House, to announce this breach of faith. I say it is not honourable, and I ask my right hon. Friend if he can send for them and ask them to come here.There is only one word more I want to say. The Chief Secretary went into the merits of the question, and said, perfectly truly, that if the disbandment of the Royal Irish Constabulary had occurred at a normal time, and under normal conditions, the terms given to them would have been considered generous and just. I agree, but the whole point of this case is that the times are not normal. These poor men cannot join their wives and families in their little homes in Ireland. They no sooner get home than they are hounded out by murderers and assassins, and told to go to the North of Ireland or England, and they have to incur expenses—not merely travelling expenses, to which my right hon Friend refers, but expenses of setting themselves up in new homes, in some haven of refuge which is denied to them in the South of Ireland. They have to get into new homes established in some place where they and their families are saved from outrage and assassination. Because the conditions are not normal under which these men have been disbanded we ask that the Committee that is to be set up shall give better treatment than that already indicated. The Chief Secretary talks about travelling expenses. We are not arguing here whether a man shall be given a sovereign or so more for travelling expenses. What we ask is that these poor men who have to fly from their homes in peril of their lives over to England and to set up here under the present conditions, and perhaps for many months while trying to get a new home together suffer from unemployment and may be in great difficulty and misery, shall, in order to relieve these abnormal conditions, be treated with appropriate consideration. To relieve this suffering and to help to tide over this terrible time we ask that we shall be allowed to make proposals to this Committee for more generous treatment for them. I do not ask the right hon. Gentleman to consent here and now to these proposals, but we ask for an opportunity, as he promised to put forward in the proper place, in Committee on this Bill, the proposals I have outlined, and if we justify ourselves there, we claim that the House of Commons should have the right to pronounce upon them.
Personally I agree with all that the hon. and learned Gentleman has just said, for I happen to be au Irishman as well as himself, and there is no Irishman who has not complete respect for the Royal Irish Constabulary. I want to see them treated in the most liberal manner possible. The question has been raised regarding compensation for disturbance. That principle cuts both ways. There are other servants of the State in Ireland who have been disturbed and compelled to remove, both in the North and in the South. If, therefore, the principle for compensation for disturbance for one section for the people of Ireland is going to be recognised, then I suggest that there should be compensation for disturbance for all sections of the people in Ireland. I would remind the hon. and learned Member for York (Sir J. Butcher) that 5,000 shipyard workers are still wandering about the face of Great Britain. These are Belfast trade unionists, Roman Catholics, and Labour men who have been told that, because of their opinions, they cannot work in the shipyards. Will the hon. and learned Gentleman adopt the same principle that these shall be compensated as well as the Royal Irish Constabulary?As an Irishman living in England, I confess that I am ashamed of what is going on in Ireland, of the fact that my countrymen cannot agree at the present time when they have the greatest possible opportunity of solving their own destiny. But I do say, if there is any attempt now being made to put one section of the people on a pedestal as against other sections, you are not going to solve the problem. The Royal Trish Constabulary are entitled to every possible generous treatment, but they are not more entitled to it than the soldiers of Great Britain who fought in the Great War. The other night when we from these benches moved more generous treatment for disabled ex-service men the proposal was talked out.
That related to pre-War pensions!
When a man joined the Royal Irish Constabulary he knew that he took certain risks, and therefore he knew what he was doing. The men who joined the Army and the Navy during the War were entitled to equal consideration. When, however, we brought forward the matter that we did the other evening we were talked out.
The hon. Member, I think, is talking somewhat wide of the question. Compensation for disbandment is already provided for. The only question before the Committee is whether there should be a special allowance in respect of disturbance for members of the Royal Irish Constabulary.
I am obliged, Mr. Hope, but I have already said what I wanted to say. Compensation for disturbance! Every British soldier who came back from the War has had to face toil and trouble; he has had to run the risk of finding employment. The Royal Irish Constabulary seems to be in a specially privileged position and a special pet with some hon. Members. I admire the members of the force quite as much as they do, because some of my own relations 'have been members of it. I suggest, however, that you cannot slide off your responsibility in this way. If you are going to talk about compensation for disturbance, then some of us are going to claim on behalf of the workers of the country who fought in the War and who deserve to be compensated for disturbance in view of what has followed their services. In my own constituency I have men who came back from the War to find that they had no homes to come back to. Are these men going to be compensated for the loss of their homes? Or for their loss of employment? Some hon. and right hon. Gentlemen talk very glibly about the Royal Irish Constabulary, but I say that the workers of this country who stood to risk and lose everything are now back without compensation. I do not care what the promises of the Government are. The promises of the Government are like piecrusts. They are made to be broken. They have promised everybody everything and have given them nothing. Some of us have no faith in those promises. Yet the hon. and learned. Gentleman who preceded me is one of the principal supporters of the Government, and always goes into the Lobby with them when Labour puts proposals forward. Surely he ought to be the last man to break his promises or to favour breach of promise. As a lawyer he knows more about breaches of promise than I do. Now the friends of the Government are finding them out. So far as the Royal Irish Constabulary are concerned, we recognise the magnificent service they have rendered. They are a splendid body of men. We agree that they should be given the best possible treatment, but they should get no better treatment than the Government are rendering to the people who have served them so magnificently. In every part of Great Britain and in my own constituency there are thousands of ex-soldiers whose pensions have been cut down and who have been reduced to a position of impecuniosity after the services they have rendered during the War. On the other hand, we find ex-members of the Royal Irish Constabulary coming over here and getting bigger allowances than our own men who fought in the War and risked everything.
I congratulate the Government, upon a new supporter—
I am not a supporter of the Government.
But I did not follow the hon. Member in his argument, because I thought his whole speech, though very eloquent, was irrelevant. Where exactly do the Government stand in this matter? The Chief Secretary has told the Committee that in the Debate on the Second Reading he used words, which the ordinary man would read as a pledge, that we could raise in Committee upstairs the question of compensation for disturbance. Every hon. Member of the House understood him to mean that, or accepted it as such, and on the strength of it allowed the Second Reading to pass without a Division. Now the right hon. Gentleman says that while he admits that the promise was so understood, he cannot keep it because the Government will not honour it. He thereby puts himself, the Committee and Parliament, in an extremely invidious position. His only answer to us is, "Come forward and discuss it now; now is your opportunity." What mockery that is, because the people who wanted this Amendment made, and were prepared to come and talk about it, were foolish enough to trust the promise of the Government, and they are not here to-night for that reason ! It really is asking too much of us to have forbearance with action of that sort.I am not going into the merits of the question now, I said what I had to say on the Second Reading. It is not a question of merits at all; it is a question of a promise made to the House of Commons, and outside the House to the members of the Royal Irish Constabulary. Can the right hon. Gentleman wonder if, when they read that a promise was given on the Second Reading that their case could be stated, and that the opportunity was snatched away and a sham opportunity only was given, they think that they have been tricked? Does the right hon. Gentleman want to create such an impression as that? I believe that he himself is a sincere friend of this force, but that must be the impression caused. After all, it really is going very far when he meets us with the statement that a promise has been made by a member of the Cabinet and not honoured by his colleagues. I submit to the Committee that business is quite impossible under such conditions.
I want to make one or two observations on this subject, because ever since the Government decided on a certain course of action with regard to their policy in Ireland I have taken an exceptional interest in these men of the Royal Irish Constabulary. I am not an Irishman, but that by no means lessens my regard for this force. When suggestions are made that the position of these men is in any way analogous to that of the ex-soldier who has fought for his country and returned to his home—of course, he ought to be treated perfectly fairly and justly, and his services to the State ought not to be forgotten—we should remember that the ex-soldier, after all, returns as a rule to a friendly people, and to a country that honours him for the service he has rendered to the State. That, in itself, is a great asset in the recompense of a man, because it is not money alone that is of real value, as the Chief Secretary has already said, in regard to the compensation of these men. It may be, as the hon. Member for Silvertown (Mr. J. Jones) suggested, that these men often enlisted knowing perfectly well that they risked their lives, that they joined a semi-military as well as a civilian force, and that Ireland was in a state of rebellion or hostility to the Government, and that therefore they would be liable to all sorts of pains and penalties in the ordinary execution of their duty. This is not merely a case of that sort, and even if it were so the situation, as a rule, is that a soldier goes and defends his country, and the policy which he has maintained succeeds. Everyone assists him so far as possible, and he finds himself an honoured member of the community to which he belongs.These men in Ireland, however, risked their lives to defend the policy of the right hon. Gentleman, the Government, and the House of Commons. I take my share of the responsibility in regard to the policy of the Government in Ireland during the past two or three years. I cannot escape from that if I tried to do so, and I accept it entirely. These men in Ireland were acting under the direct sanction and authority of this House, and in support of its decisions. We found it necessary, after the Campaign had gone on for some time, to make terms with the enemy. These men, unfortunately, belong to the enemy country. They cannot go back to their country like the British soldier can after a war, as has been suggested by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for York (Sir J. Butcher). If they go back to their homes we know perfectly well that some of them will be taken out and murdered. During their service they may have saved some small sums of money out of their salary—I know nothing about it, but I assume they are just the same as ordinary men—they may have got a little allotment or home, and practically everything they have may be invested in the country where they have been disbanded. They could remove furniture, but not land, stock, and houses, and property of that description. Therefore I wondered a little while ago, when I saw that several men in Ireland had been taken out of their beds and shot before their womenfolk, why the right hon. Gentleman did not insist that these men who had been in the service of the Crown under him should be removed to some part of the Empire which was more civilised than that to which they belong. I think the House of Commons would have agreed to a proposition, had it been put before it, that these men should be removed from danger wherever it was possible to do so. Many of these men cannot live in their own country. If they do so, there is not the slightest doubt that their goods and chattels will be destroyed and that they will be boycotted. The unfortunate thing is, as we know in relation to our own grievances, that the injuries inflicted upon the people in Ireland hundreds of years ago by those who came before us are visited on us as though we were actually the participants in that action. These people have the most infernal memory for grievances, and apparently they can never remember a good act. Therefore, knowing that that is the character of these people, we ought to take these facts into consideration and remember that this is an exceptional case. It is not like the case of the teaching profession, the members of which, who were in civil employment during the War, had their wages raised some two-and-a-half times. I confess I do not know exactly how the hon. and learned Member for York voted the other day in regard to the teachers nor how his sympathies went. This is not a case like that. This is the most extraordinary and exceptional case, which would not apply, so far as I know, to any other body of men. The suggestion has been made that if you gave the men of the Royal Irish Constabulary special assistance you would also have to give it to the officials in the Civil Service of Ireland. Nothing of the sort. There is not that hostility and enmity against the civilian employes of the British Government as there is against this particular force, because all your authority rested upon them and your whole law add administration depended upon these men. That being so, for Heaven's sake, when they have done that, do not cast them aside as so much lumber, and practically say that after serving your purpose you do not care a damn for them now. That appears to be almost the position at the moment. This Resolution says:
Apparently, the scheme has to be decided in accordance with the Act of 1920, with certain small provisos. May 'f point out that the situation we are discussing now has no relation to the position in 1920. The Sinn Fein movement in Ireland did not assume that criminal form until a long while after that Act was passed. We have here an entirely different set of. circumstances. You have placed these men for your own purposes into a condition in which, although peace has been established between this country and Ireland, these men can no longer live at peace in their own country. If these men remained in Ireland, most of them would be murdered or their position made such that their property would become useless. They would become bankrupt or pauperised, and, surely, it is best for us to face the position now, when we understand the special services they have rendered. Surely, this is the time to settle in the most generous way possible the security we ought to give them now that they have been broken in our service."Provided that the amount of compensation to such officers and constables and the pensions and gratuities to such widows and children shall be determined in accordance with the Rules contained in the Ninth Schedule to the Government of Ireland Act, 1920."
My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Durham (Major Hills) said the Chief Secretary had given a pledge on the Second Reading of the Bill that he would draw the Resolution in such a way as would enable an increase to be moved in Committee.
I have never made that pledge, and I did not understand the hon. and gallant Member for Durham to say that.
I quoted the right hon. Gentleman's own words, which were taken as being a pledge that we could raise the question of compensation for disturbance in Committee upstairs.
Apparently there is a dispute between my hon. and gallant Friend and the Chief Secretary as to what actually took place, but the Chief Secretary did not contradict my hon. and gallant Friend when he made that statement. I do not know exactly what did occur, and I cannot state whether or not such an undertaking was given. I under- stand, however, that the Chief Secretary has more or less admitted that something of that sort occurred, and now he says that the Government will not allow him to do this, and therefore he cannot carry it out. If that is so, then it is the duty of the Chief Secretary to resign. A pledge, even when it is given outside by persons competent to give such pledges, and particularly when given by a Cabinet Minister, with possibly two exceptions, has generally been observed, and unless that practice is adopted it is impossible to carry on our proceedings in this House.I have never known a pledge given on the Floor of the House which has not been observed. I do not say that in this case the pledge has been given, and I only know what my hon. and gallant Friend has said, but I am always ready to accept his word, and he has clearly stated that the pledge was given, and that the reason it has not been carried out is that the Government have thrown over the Chief Secretary. The Cabinet have no business to do that, and if they could not trust the right hon. Gentleman, they should have come here to see what he is doing, and if they do not take the trouble to come clown here, at any rate, they should carry out the pledges given by their representatives. If the Government have done what has been alleged, then I say that the Chief Secretary has in honour no course open to him but to hand in his resignation to-night to the Prime Minister. I am not going into the merits of the case, but I am certain that Parliamentary bargains must be observed. Ii once we commence with the idea that in order to soothe the House and get a Bill through, Parliamentary pledges are to be given and broken because some Member of the Government who does not take the trouble to come and see what is going on in the House says it is not convenient, then we are at the end of our Parliamentary proceedings.
I have done my best to secure justice for the Royal Irish Constabulary, and to see that if they do not care to stay under the Provisional Government they should not take any harm in regard to their pensions by being transferred from one Government to another. With regard to what the right hon. Baronet the Member for the City of London (Sir F. Banbury) said about the 'Chief Secretary handing in his resigna tion because of a breach of faith, all I wish to say is that if such a principle is adopted, many other Members on the Front Bench would have to resign. At the end of last Session a Bill was put on the Statute Book, and the pledges in it were broken in March this year with disastrous consequences. A Measure was placed on the Statute Book dealing with the agricultural interests, and the pledges in that Measure were also broken. We on these benches are always prepared to carry out our pledges. We do not believe in breaches of faith. If one goes amongst the miners to-day it will be found that this country is living on the top of a silent volcano for the moment, and that is due to the fact that the Government did not redeem the pledges they gave to the miners. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Stoke (Lieut.-Colonel Ward) talked about our soldiers having had homes to come to when they returned from the War, but I would suggest to him that homes are of little value if there is not sufficient food for the wife and children; yet that is the plight of a good many of our countrymen. This is due again to the breach of Government pledges. If this matter is pressed to a Division I shall certainly feel it my duty to vote in the Lobby with my hon. Friend.
I hope we shall have some statement from the Chief Secretary for Ireland in reference to the serious statement by the right hon. Member for the City of London (Sir F. Banbury). That is a very important matter. But what is still more important is to know what we are going to do for these men who have borne the heat and burden of the day in Ireland through very serious and trying times, while many of us have held our hands and withheld our votes in this House, hoping and trusting that the great experiment the Government are trying in Ireland will bear good fruit. Gradually we are realising that the fruit is bitter in The gathering, but we want to know if this pledge said to have been made is going to be broken in the score of economy. Are we really to put economy in money before our honour? I think the honour and pledges of this House should take precedent even at the expenditure of money. This House must see to it that these servants of the Crown are dealt with fairly and properly, and are not driven back to their homes to certain massacre and slaughter, but are brought over to this county or taken to one of those fair lands of which this Empire boasts in order that they may continue to live under the flag in happiness. I hope before we go to a Division we shall have a further statement from the Chief Secretary.
It is not very often I find myself in sympathy with the hon. Members who happened to be attacking the Government this evening, but I shall support them to-night because I believe that if a pledge was given it ought to be honoured. On these grounds absolutely I feel that we on this side of the Committee ought to support those who are raising a protest of this kind. On general grounds I have very much sympathy with the men whose condition is under consideration. I had the fortune or misfortune to live in Ireland for little over three years, and as I travelled about the country a good deal I was frequently in contact with members of the Royal Irish Constabulary. I think I can claim to know something about them and their conditions. In the main the members of the force were regarded by the people in Southern Ireland as their worst enemies. They were looked upon as the tools of the British Government. I do not admit that these people were correct in their assumption. But still it was the general feeling towards these men, and I can understand that a good many of them now find themselves in a very uncomfortable position. The Government have no need for their services. They have probably reached or passed middle age. All their family connections are in Ireland, and they have no desire to leave that country if they can possibly avoid it. The thing that rather disturbs me is the statement made by the hon. and gallant Member for Stoke (Lieut.-Colonel Ward) implying that a large proportion of these men are anxious to leave Ireland but cannot get away because there are no opportunities for them in this country.I should like the Chief Secretary, if he is going to reply on the debate, to clear up two points. Will he tell the Committee how many of these men have accepted service under the Provisional Government? We really ought to know what opportunities are open to these men before we can judge what the Government ought to be expected to do in order to make provision for them. Then perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will further inform us how many of these men have expressed a desire to come to this country. I forget the figure given on a previous occasion, but I believe that either the Chief Secretary or the Colonial Secretary made a statement which conveyed the impression that a very small minority of the men had expressed a desire to leave Ireland. In the main, I fancy that would be correct, and it would be largely due to the fact that they had lived there all their lives and have all their connections there. That would make it very difficult at any rate for them to get away from the country, or for them to find suitable avenues of employment in another country in view of their conditions of service in the Royal Irish Constabulary. If a promise has been made, and if hon Members of this House withheld any action they would have taken on the Second Reading of this Bill in consequence of such a promise, then it seems to me it is up to every Member of this House to support hon. Members in the protest they are making to-night. Any promise that was made ought to be fulfilled. It is very easy to talk about repeated breaches of faith by the Government and to prove that they seldom keep their promises. That has nothing to do with the present issue. The question of compensation and provision for these men is a very debatable point. If the Government carried out their promise, these men would be treated fairly, as compared with the treatment meted out to other people who have found themselves in very adverse circumstances during the last two or three years. If one comes to discuss closely the question of compensation, some of those who represent South Wales would be entitled sometimes to ask if it is fair to allege that the position of the miners to-day is due to the mistaken policy of the allies of this Government, how far are you going to compensate those people who have had to spend all their savings and who have found themselves out of work for the last 12 months? Our friends who are raising this issue generally do not agree with us too often when we submit that something ought to be done for these people who are victims of what we believe to be a bad policy. That, how- ever, is not germane to the present issue, which is to compel the Government to carry out its definite promise with regard to the members of the Royal Irish Constabulary. Believing, as I do, in honour amongst men, I believe it to be our duty, if we give our word of honour, to carry out that word of honour, no matter what it may cost. Neither on the ground of economy nor on any other ground are we justified in breaking any pledge we have given to any section of the community to which we are responsible.
This Debate has passed from the merits of the question how much disturbance allowance should be given to the Royal Irish Constabulary, to the question whether or not I gave a pledge on the Second Reading of the Bill on 10th May, 1922, and whether such pledge committed the Government to reserve the discussion of this question of disturbance allowance, not for occasion, on the Financial Resolution, but for the Committee stage of the Bill. Since the Debate was opened, I have had an opportunity of discussing the matter with my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House, and, in order that there should be no doubt at all about the question, I have his consent to accept the Amendment of the hon. and learned Member for York, so that there may be no question as to the interpretation of what is called the pledge that I made on the date in question—reserving, of course, for the Committee the question of merits, a point which has been emphasised by the hon. and learned Member. That being settled, I submit to the Committee that the discussion might very fairly be brought to an end, and I hope that I need say no more, but may reserve what I may have to say for the Committee stage.
I am extremely obliged 10 the right hon. Gentleman. Of course, I do not pledge him or the Government to accept any Amendment in Committee. I should not dream of doing so. All that we want is sympathy, and I am extremely grateful to him.
I am assuming that the hon. and learned Member will move the words of his second Amendment, which are necessary to the course which has been taken. May I say, as regards the other matter, that we are all sensitive to any suggestion that we have led the Committee to take a decision under a misapprehension, and that has been the governing factor in the decision to which my right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary and I have come since I entered the Committee. Otherwise, I should have deprecated referring to a Committee the scope of the financial obligation which it is proper for us to undertake in present circumstances. Of course, the decision of the Committee is unfettered, and the decision of the Government must be unfettered to appeal to the House on Report, if it differs from the Committee, to reverse their decision. In saying that, however, I am conscious that, when once a matter is sent to a Committee, and that Committee has reported, the general sense of the House is that it would like to support its Committee, and that, if the Government should feel that the Committee has gone too far, it would be much more difficult after they have reported than before. I hope that my hon. and learned Friend and the Committee will not feel that. I have said anything improper in the addition which I have made to my right hon. Friend's observations. We are anxious that no charge should lie against him or against the Government that, through him, we obtained the Second Reading of the Bill on an understanding which we have not fully kept with the House. Therefore, if my hon. and learned Friend will move his subsequent consequential Amendment, we shall accept the one which is now before the Committee.
Amendment agreed to.
I beg to move, after the word "compensation" ["The amount of compensation to such officers and constables], to insert the words "other than compensation by way of disturbance allowance."This, as has been indicated, is purely consequential, in order to preserve the general scheme of the Financial Resolution.
May I ask whether this means that, whatever happens, so far as disturbance in Ireland is concerned, in the matter of destruction of property the people of this country will he responsible for the payment of compensation
No. I can at once assure the hon. and anxious Gentleman that that is not the case.
I understand that this Amendment increases the charge. Ought it not, in those circumstances, to be moved by the Government and not by a private Member?
No. It is purely consequential on the previous Amendment. There was an intentional increase of charge in the previous Amendment. Had I been in my place earlier, I might have raised that objection, but I do not think it is proper to raise it now, and the discussion has taken a different turn, on the question whether the Government had secured the decision of the House on the Second Reading of the Bill on an assurance. I could not have taken a point of Order on a matter of that kind. I assure the right hon. Baronet, however, that this is purely consequential on the previous Amendment.
Could the Chief Secretary answer the two points which I raised?
We have got away from that now.
Amendment agreed to.
Main Question, as amended, put, and agreed to.
"That, for the purposes of any Act of the present Session to make provision for the disbandment of the Royal Irish Constabulary and with respect to magistrates appointed under the Acts relating to that force and for the validation of things done or omitted in the execution or purported execution of those Acts and for other purposes incidental thereto, it is expedient to authorise the payment, out of moneys provided by Parliament—
(1) of compensation to officers and constables of the Royal Irish Constabulary who, since the twenty-fifth day of January, nineteen hundred and twenty-two, have been or who may hereafter be required to retire or be discharged from that force including compensation by way of disturbance allowances; (2) of pensions and gratuities to the widows and children of such officers and constables; and (3) of terminable annuities to the National Debt Commissioners in respect of the commutation of compensation allowances awarded to such officers and constables;
The amount of compensation other than compensation by way of disturbance allowance to such officers and constables and the pensions and gratuities to such widows and children shall be determined in accordance with the Rules contained in the Ninth Schedule to the Government of Ireland Act, 1920, subject to the following amendments and modifications:—
(a) In these Rules any reference to the Lord Lieutenant shall be construed as a reference to the Treasury, and the expression existing enactments shall he construed as meaning enactments in force at the time of the passing of the said Act of the present Session, and any Orders made under those enactments and in force at that time; (b) The following proviso shall be added at the end of Rule 2:—
- Provided that in the case of the surgeon of the Royal Irish Constabulary his compensation allowance may, should he so desire, be calculated in like manner as the pension which ho would have been entitled to receive on retirement under, the existing enactments applicable to him if the years to be added as aforesaid were added to his years of age instead of to his completed years of actual service;
(c) Rule 3 shall not apply; (d) The following Rule shall be substituted for Rule 4:—
- (4) The allowance awarded to an officer or constable shall in no case exceed two-thirds of the salary on which the allowance is calculated;
(e) The following words shall be added at the end of Rule 5, namely, and as if his years of service had been the years of service on which the allowance was calculated.' "
Resolution to be reported To-morrow.
Government Of The Sudan Loan (Amendment) Bill
Considered in Committee.
[Sir E. CORNWALL in the Chair.]
Clause 1—(Amendment Of Schedule To 9 & 10 Geo 5, S 43)
The Government of the Sudan Loan Act, 1919 (which authorises the Treasury to guarantee the payment of interest on a loan to be raised by the Government of the Sudan), shall have effect as though the amount which under the Schedule to that Act is allocated to works for the purposes of irrigating the Gezireh Plain were increased by the sum of four hundred thousand pounds (being the amount allocated in the said Schedule to the Tokar irrigation and railway extension) and as though the reference in the said Schedule to the Tokar irrigation and railway extension were omitted therefrom.
Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill."
I think we ought to have some explanation from the Government as to what this Clause actually does. We had a discussion on the Second Reading, but circumstances have changed since then. As far as I gathered from the Debate on the Second Reading and on the Financial Resolution, the effect of the Clause is that the £400,000 which would have been paid to the Tokar irrigation and railway extension will not be paid, but will be used for something else, and that therefore it does not impose an additional burden upon the taxpayer nor an additional amount of loan guaranteed. But in the present financial stringency, before we give a guarantee for a loan we ought to have some explanation as to what is actually to be done. I congratulate the Under-Secretary for Foreign Affairs on his return.
I understand that at the very moment we are discussing this Bill the Government of the Sudan is in question. I understand there is a very considerable item, first of all of Cook's tourists who have been to Egypt, and some considerable section of the Egyptian Government who are insisting that the Sudan is part of Egypt. All I am concerned with is, before we vote the money, to know how far the Government agree with that suggestion, because it would be utterly absurd for us, if at this moment there is under discussion the prospect of declaring that. there never has been a Sudanese Government only so far as there is an Egyptian Government, to sanction any loan or anything of the kind. We want to know at least how far that part of the business has gone. I am interested in it, because when I was a very young man I operated in a campaign in that country. When I came back through the East two or three years ago I visited it again, and when I contrasted the poverty-stricken and hopeless position of the country 30 odd years ago with the condition in which I found it when I appeared there again, one would not have known that it was the same country. I have no doubt it is due to the administration and assistance this House and the Treasury have given to the Sudanese Government which was established after the battle of Omdurman that so much has been accomplished for the benefit of the whole people belonging to it. Now I am given to understand in such newspapers as the "Times, "and I believe I have seen it in the "Morning Post, "which is generally about the best read paper in the country —at least I read it every morning—I am given to understand by one of these journals, for whose truthfulness I can vouch, that there is an absolute set being made against the British connection with the Sudan, that there is a suggestion that the Government themselves are at the moment considering the claim of the Egyptian Government that the Sudan is part of their territory, and that when you gave independence to Egypt you also placed the Sudan under the Egyptian Government. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] You say "No, "but these newspapers are read by far more people than those who will hear and read your "No" Besides, a mere anonymous "No" in this House has no force at all. If I could get the same definite "No" from the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs I would sit down in a moment. But shall I get it? His understrappers may shout "No" for him, so that he has not got to shout "No" at all. I want him to say the word. I am interested in this country, not so far as money is concerned, but I saw it in 1885 and I saw it again in 1919, and I never saw such a transformation in a situation in my life, and if this was going to lead to reconsidering it for a moment I certainly would not vote for this Bill. Otherwise I would.
I think I can, in a few words, set at rest the doubts of the hon. and gallant Member for Stoke (Lieut.-Colonel J. Ward) and some other hon. Members who raised this question on the Second Reading of the Bill. I might take this opportunity of apologising to those hon. Members for my not having been present on that occasion. I should certainly have been in my place if I had known that anyone was likely to raise any political question regarding the Sudan. I can assure my hon. and gallant Friend that the status of the Sudan which he very fully understands as being that of a con-dominium of the British and Egyptian Governments, has in no wise been altered. It is true that some time ago some perhaps not very deeply considered representations were made in Egypt., but these have not met with any favour whatever from His Majesty's Government. I may remind the Committee that this con-dominium, which has existed since the year 1899, is in precisely the same position at this moment as it was when the Agreement was signed by Lord Cromer, on behalf of His Majesty's Government, and by an Egyptian Pasha on behalf of the Government of the Khedive. Coming down to a few weeks ago, I would remind the Committee of the British Government's declaration to Egypt of last February. I need not quote the declaration in full, but I would recite to the Committee a few of the concluding words:
The fourth of these reserved subjects is the subject of the Sudan—"The following four matters are absolutely reserved to the discretion of His Majesty's Government until such time as it may be possible, by free discussion and friendly accommodation on both sides, to conclude an agreement in regard thereto, between His Majesty's Government and the Government of Egypt."
That is to say, the question of the Sudan is to be a subject of discussion between His Majesty's Government and the Government of the King of Egypt, when other subjects are also under review. I must not go any further than that, because it would be clearly improper for me to attempt or pretend to pronounce an opinion as to what the result of that discussion will be. The House will be perfectly satisfied if I remind them of what the Prime Minister said on the 28th February of this year, when he was making a full-dress statement about His Majesty's Government's negotiations with the people of Egypt. He said:"Pending the conclusion of such agreement, thestatus quo in all these matters shall remain intact."
I do not think the Committee will look to me to go beyond that emphatic and categorical statement of the Prime Minister, and I beg my hon. and gallant Friend and others who have any misgiving whatever to accept that statement, as I am sure they will, as expressing the considered views of His Majesty's Government."His Majesty's Government will never allow the progress which has already been made, and the greater promise of future years, to be jeopardised. …Nor can His Majesty's Government agree to any change in the status of the Sudan which would in the slightest degree diminish the security for the many millions of British capital which are already invested in its development."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 28th February, 1922; cols. 273–4, Vol. 151.]
I think that the fears that have been expressed by the hon. and gallant Member for Stoke (Lieut.-Colonel J. Ward) are without any serious foundation—for this reason. A few days ago I myself put a categorical question on the status of the Sudan and received a. most satisfactory answer. I would urge Members of this Committee to support this Bill, believing, as I do, that the future of the Sudan is of the greatest possible importance to this country. There is no getting away from the fact that since the recent agreement with the Egyptian Government the condition of cotton in the markets of Lancashire is most precarious and that the more quickly we can get cotton growing in bulk in the Sudan the better it will be for the looms in Lancashire. I do not speak as a Lancashire Member. I have been in Lancashire as a. member of a Lancashire militia, and I have visited Lancashire and seen the cotton industry. Butt I was one of the first of the Sudan officials and I know the great potentialities of that country and its possibilities in the development; of a great cotton industry. I believe that cotton in Egypt is in a most precarious condition, and for that reason I would urge the House to support this Measure.
I am, in the main, very much in agreement with my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Stoke (Lieut.-Colonel J. Ward), and I am sorry that he should have appeared to resent my interruption in one part of his speech when I said "No!" I also have an interest in the appeal in connection with Lancashire. I have been a close student of Sudan affairs for many years, and lately I have asked two questions in this House on the subject, and when I said "No" just now, I said' it on the authority of statements made by the Prime Minister and the Leader of the House in reply to questions which I put to them. The Prime Minister, in answer to the first question repeated what he had said on 28th February, to the effect that our position in regard to the Sudan was a reserved subject. I am not sure what that means. I think that it might be advisable for some spokesman of the Government to state exactly whether it means that the subject is not to he discussed at all, except as a closed book, or whether it is to he a matter of conference and possibly of compromise. The other question, which I put to the Leader of the House, I think last week or the week before, was the result of statement published in both the newspapers to which my hon. and gallant Friend referred. That was a very definite statement that the Egyptian Commission, appointed to draw up a Constitution for Egypt, had included, among its recommendations, a very definite statement that Egypt and the Sudan were inseparable, and that the Sudan was to remain not only part of Egypt but that the ruler of Egypt must he King of the Sudan.That was a very alarming statement., and when it was produced in both papers, and others, as having been taken from the Commission appointed to draw up an Egyptian Constitution, I thereupon put this question down to the Leader of the House, and his reply again was to repeat that the relations of the Sudan to this country were a reserved subject. That the Government very much disapproved of the statement which had been inserted in the Report of the Commission on Egypt, and that they had communicated with the Egyptian Government, who also disapproved, with the result that some sort of reprimand was to be administered to the Chairman of that Commission. But it still remains that this is to be a reserved subject, and as we are considering guaranteeing a large sum of money, it would be well if some light were thrown on the question as to what actually is meant by the Sudan being a reserved subject. Does that mean that we have settled irrevocably that our position in the Sudan must remain not less strong than it is to-day, or does it mean that the matter is open to discussion at a conference of some kind, with the possibility of our status and rights in the Sudan being whittled down?
I quite agree with my hon. and gallant Friend who said that the question of the Sudan is of very great importance to Lancashire industry, and therefore to the industry of the country as a whole but what we have to consider is that we are risking a certain sum of money belonging to the taxpayers, or rather imposing a liability on the taxpayers of this country.
It is a transfer.
My hon. Friend, who interrupts, is anxious to support the Government in any circumstances. He went to receive the Prime Minister on Saturday. What the Government propose is to guarantee a sum. We are to guarantee that sum or to continue the guarantee of it, and apparently we need not do it. I presume there is some object in the Bill?
It is merely a transfer from one scheme to another.
One scheme does not want the money, and we are to transfer the money from the pockets of the British taxpayer. We are told that cotton is very important for Lancashire.
The cotton industry is the second greatest industry of this country, and it bears the largest amount of taxation in the country—the taxation in which the right hon. Baronet is so interested.
I thought agriculture was the first industry in the country. If we can get cotton to start the industry of Lancashire, no one would be. more happy than I would be. It would encourage all other industries, and that I am only too anxious to do. But I am afraid we are not going to do it. The Under-Secretary for Foreign Affairs said that until the time arose for a discussion the Sudan was a reserved subject, and that when the time did arise the Sudan was one of the subjects which would be discussed. He went on to say that in February the Prime Minister made an emphatic statement that a certain thing would arise. The Under-Secretary for Foreign Affairs seemed to consider that the Committee must take that as an indication that those things would arise. I remember a very emphatic declaration by the Prime Minister that the Kaiser was to be tried in England, and that the pockets of the Germans were to be searched in order to provide an indemnity against the cost of the War. Ireland was to be dealt with; murderers were not to be shaken hands with. Every one of these things has gone by the board, and the Prime Minister has done everything which in the last two or three years he stated he would not do. Why should the right hon. Gentleman himself not. come down here to-night and say that after further consideration, having found that the new King of Egypt could deliver the goods, he was prepared to deal with the new King of Egypt and give him over the Sudan and perhaps send the hon. and gallant Member for Stoke (Lieut.-Colonel J. Ward) to be the Grand Vizier. That is what I want to guard against. Things have changed very much since this Bill was originally introduced. We now know we hold Egypt on a very precarious tenure and we only hold the Sudan on an undertaking by the Prime Minister given as long ago as February. Four months is a long time for an undertaking of the Prime Minister to hold good, and it is more than conceivable that the opinion of the Prime Minister may be changed by force of circumstances. In these circumstances, I am inclined to agree that the hon. Member for the Kirkdale Division of Liverpool (Mr. Pennefather) is justified in asking for an explanation with regard to the question on which, as I understand, he has not received satisfactory answers up to the present. We suspended the Eleven O'clock Rule to-night, and it is now only 25 minutes to 11, and there is a goodly array of Under-Secretaries and other brilliant men on the Front Bench. There is plenty of time, if they have got an answer, to get up and give it.
I agree with the hon. and gallant Member for Stoke that there appears to be some ambiguity about our position in the Sudan. Those who are acquainted with people out there know that a great deal of anxiety exists about the subject of the Blue Nile dam. When I asked if the Sudan Government were to be allowed to build the dam, as they want to, I got a very uncertain answer as to what the actual position was, and I should be very much relieved in my mind if the Under-Secretary for Foreign Affairs could give us a more definite assurance than he has done up to the present, as to our position, and told us that we do not mean to clear out of that country. It has always been a great point with us that the natives of a country should be governed by those people they prefer. What about the Sudan? How much have they suffered under the administration of Egypt in the old days, and do they not prefer the rule which they have now? It would be satisfying to our minds if we got something more definite than the assurance in the Prime Minister's speech, which is rather vague and into which a great many things might be argued from the other side. I think it is ominous that when we wanted to build the dam on the Blue Nile we were hindered in our operations by Egypt putting in an oar and raising an objection to it. I would not like to go the length of voting against this money being granted, but it would be gratifying to know our position, and as to whether or not we mean to retain the hold which we have on the Sudan, and we should get assurance in reference to that.
I have not had the advantage of hearing the whole of this Debate, but one point is quite clear and that is that the British taxpayer is asked to undertake a certain obligation.
No. The Committee will forgive me for intervening now, but I did not interrupt before because I had an opportunity of explaining the financial provisions of the Bill at a previous stage. I wish to remove any misapprehension that may have arisen in the course of the discussion. It is quite a misapprehension to suppose that this Bill proposes any new Vote. The original Bill provided for a guaranteed loan for a large amount for the Blue Nile dam and a small amount for the Tokar railway. The money for both these loans was raised and the issue was actually made, but the money for the Tokar scheme is not now wanted. On the other hand, snore money is urgently wanted for the Blue Nile scheme in order to save the works actually done, and this Bill enables the transfer to be made. It is not and never was the taxpayers' money, and it does not come from the Exchequer at all, but from the investing public. Our only financial interest is in the guarantee and in transferring this sum for the adequate protection of the very large capital expended on the Blue Nile dam.
I am grateful for the explanation of the hon. Gentleman. Apparently there is not a very large financial obligation on the taxpayer. But what is the status of the State where this money is to be spent? The Government has made no statement as to what is their policy, and whether or not they are going to remain in the Sudan. If they are not going to continue to make themselves responsible for it, what is their policy' Are they going to hand over the government to Egypt?
Perhaps the hon. and gallant Member was not in the House when I made the very statement for which he asks.
We want to know what is the considered policy of the Government and not a casual statement of the Prime Minister which no longer inspires us with the confidence which is necessary. What is the considered policy of the Foreign Office on this matter? That is what we want to know. We do not want to know what the Prime Minister or any other Minister said, but we want to know what is the policy of the Government in regard to remaining in the Sudan. The answer to that question is surely quite simple.
Question put, and agreed to.
Clause 2 (Short Title And Construction) Ordered To Stand Part Of The Bill
Bill reported, without Amendment: to be read the Third time To-morrow.
The remaining Orders were read and postponed.
Resolved, "That this House do now adjourn."—[ Colonel Leslie Wilson.]
Adjourned accordingly at Seventeen Minutes before Eleven o'Clock.