Mr Churchill's Statement
asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he can make a statement as to the present situation in Ireland?
I have come to the conclusion that, in all the circumstances. I should be better advised to postpone any statement that the House might desire me to make on the Irish situation until next week, and probably until the middle or latter part of next week. Nothing of special urgency requires to be dealt with at the moment; and on the whole the state of the country, both in Northern and Southern Ireland and on the frontiers, is distinctly quieter than it was when we separated for the Whitsuntide holidays.But there are two events of very considerable importance which will take place to-morrow. The first is the Irish Elections and the second is the publication of the Irish Constitution. So far as the Irish Elections are concerned, I am sure that the less we say about them here at this stage, the better. So far as the Irish Constitution is concerned, unexpected progress has been made. The Constitution will be published in to-morrow morning's newspapers on both sides of the Channel, and it is my duty to state on behalf of His Majesty's Government that in their opinion the Constitution is in conformity with the Treaty. To-morrow morning, therefore, everyone will be able to study the Constitution for himself, and probably by Tuesday next all the Irish Election results will be complete. We shall then be far better able to form an opinion on the general position in Ireland, and I shall be able to give a fuller and truer appreciation of that position than I could do at the present time, with the Elections unheld and the Constitution unpublished.
Is it following the practice adopted in such cases that the Constitution should be published in the morning papers before it is submitted to this House?
The Constitution would naturally be published by the Provisional Government of Ireland, and at such time as they think fit. There is nothing in the Treaty, or in any arrangement entered into, which prescribes any definite hour or time for that publication. I assume, however, that the newspapers on this side will get the information as soon as it is issued on the other side. I am quite ready to lay a Parliamentary Paper, but this is not the stage at which this Constitution comes formally before the House of Commons.
Are we to assume that the publication will be made by the Irish Provisional Government, or by His Majesty's Government?
The Irish Provisional Government are to make the publication, and they have undertaken to do so, to their own people, before the election which takes place to-morrow. It would have been quite impossible for them to do it any sooner. It is being done at the earliest possible moment, but I think that there is no reason whatever why the newspapers on this side should not be facilitated in obtaining copies of this document, which is to be published by the Irish Government in Ireland.
Seeing that one of the most important matters which the Irish people have to vote on to-morrow is this matter of the Constitution, did the right hon. Gentleman make any attempt to have publication of this document made at an earlier date than to-morrow morning, when it will be much too late for many at the voters to have seen the document before registering their votes?
Everybody made every effort to get the document published at the earliest possible moment, and I am sure that that is being done.
Are we not in this country at least equally interested in the Irish Constitution with the Irish Southern Government, and are we not entitled in this House to have as early information of the nature of that Constitution as the Irish people in Southern Ireland?
The procedure in that regard in every Dominion is that the. Constitution is formulated by the Dominion, and comes up for subsequent ratification and approval by the Imperial Parliament. That is the course that is being taken in this case.
Why should there not be publication this afternoon both in Ireland and here? The Constitution has been seen by the Government, and everybody knows that it has been settled. Why is the House of Commons not allowed to have first access to this news?
I do not know at what hour the Provisional Government intends to publish the Constitution. In fact, I am to receive that information later this afternoon. It is impossible to lay a Paper at the moment, because matters have only just reached a stage at which publication can be made. But I am quite ready to lay a Paper, so that at the earliest possible moment an official copy will be formally in the possession of every Member.
Will the right hon. Gentleman say whether this document, to be published by the Provisional Government, is not really a document which has been approved by the Cabinet in this country, and, therefore, having the imprimatur of the Cabinet, ought it not to be communicated to this House?
No, Sir. As I said on the last occasion on which I spoke on this subject, we have seen the Constitution confidentially and as a matter of courtesy.
It is no use my hon. Friend assuming those airs of indignation. We have seen the Constitution as a matter of courtesy. There is no obligation on the part of the Irish Provisional Government to consult us, or to show us the document before they make it public. Of course, the moment it is made public, our freedom to examine it and discuss it would begin, and, as we have in this House to approve it before the full juridical status of the Irish Free State is complete, it is obvious that our rights and constitutional position are in every respect safeguarded. But there is no obligation in the Treaty arrangement, nor in the practice now current between this country and the Dominions, for previous consultation. It has been done as a matter of convenience and will prove, I think, to have been very convenient.
Has the proposed Constitution been before the Cabinet, or only before the Ministers who are described as signatories to the Treaty?
The hon. and gallant Gentleman has no right to inquire into the manner in which the Cabinet discharges its functions internally; but I strongly recommend him to wait until he has had an opportunity of reading the Constitution in to-morrow's newspapers, or until he receives an official copy of it. Then he will be able to see what lines it would be most fruitful to follow.
Has not this Parliament conferred a Constitution on Southern Ireland, and have not the Government, who are responsible to this Parliament, at any rate, a right to be informed of the terms of that Constitution before it is published?
If the hon. Member will look back at the records, he will see that the duty was put on the Provisional Government of drafting a Constitution, which was afterwards to be laid before this House.
asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether, seeing that an agreement was made between His Majesty's Government and the Provisional Government that the Constitution of the Irish Free State was to be published before the Southern Irish elections, and seeing that no such publication was made before the date of the nominations for such elections, will he say what steps he intends taking to secure the enforcement of this agreement, so that electors opposed to or desirous of amending this Constitution may put forward candidates to express their views?
The hon. and gallant Member is mistaken in thinking that any such agreement as that which he suggests was at any time made between His Majesty's Government and the Provisional Government. It was at the desire of the Provisional Government—who expressed a wish that an opportunity might be afforded to Irish electors to study the draft Constitution before the elections—that an Amendment was inserted in the Irish Free State (Agreement) Act, postponing the latest date for the holding of the elections; but the date of the publication in Ireland of the draft Constitution is a domestic matter for the decision of the Provisional Government, with which His Majesty's Government would not desire to interfere.
Am I to understand that the elections will take place and the Constitution be promulgated on one and the same day?
That win be what is actually going to happen.
Cannot the right hon. Gentleman say whether the electors of Ireland are to have an opportunity of approving this Constitution?
It is a question of what is our business in the matter, and what is not our business. Our business with this Constitution will be very serious when it comes to us in the regular course, but we have nothing in the Treaty which justifies us in requiring the Irish Provisional Government to put the Constitution before the electors at this election. As far as we have any opinion on the matter, we should have preferred them to have gone to the country on the simple issue of the Treaty many months ago, but it was by their wish that events have taken the course they have, and we are wholly free to adopt our full Parliamentary rights in due course.
In view of the fact that these gentlemen have a Constitution of their own, why is it their business?
Old Age Pensions
asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether old age pensions are still being paid out of the Exchequer to the aged people of Ireland; if so, what is the average weekly sum so paid per head and the total amount per month; and whether, and when, the British taxpayers will be relieved of the burden?
No, Sir; old age pensions in Ireland are not now paid out of the British Exchequer. The second and third parts of the question do not, therefore, arise.
asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether his attention has been called to the attack on the Mater Infirmorum Hospital, Belfast, on the night of Monday, 5th June, between 11.15 and midnight, by armed forces under the control and direction of the Government of Northern Ireland; whether he is aware that the attack lasted upwards of 40 minutes, during which time a constant fusillade of bullets was rained on the hospital from Crown forces in Crumlin Road Gaol and surrounding streets, windows being smashed, and bullets flattening themselves against the walls of the wards, in which lay sick and wounded men, women and children; that the patients, many of whom were hysterical, had to be removed from their beds and laid on the floors, where they remained for over an hour; that after the cessation of fire the hospital was raided by three separate parties of special constables, some of whom were under the influence of drink, and the doctors, sisters in charge and lay nursing staff subjected to insult and indignity; that the attack took place during curfew hours, when the special constables and Crown Forces had full control and possession of the streets; and whether he will cause a full and searching inquiry into this whole matter?
On a point of Order. Before the question be answered, may I ask, in reference to this and question 51 on the same subject what is the distinction in principle between these questions and numerous questions which it was desired to put from this side of the House—questions which you, Mr. Speaker, have not allowed, on the ground that the responsibility for the administration in Northern Ireland had been conferred upon the Northern Parliament? You will observe that at the end of this question my hon. Friend opposite has, with an intention which we can all understand, brought in a reference to the Crown Forces. That was also done in former questions, on which you informed the House that the Crown Forces in Ireland could act only at the request of the civil power, and on that ground you disallowed the questions, although I am unable to distinguish them in principle from the question now asked. It would be an assistance to the House in framing future questions if you would explain why the one question is allowed and the other disallowed.
This question was not specially brought to my notice; but the ground I have taken is this, that until the House was asked to vote a sum of money in aid of the Special Constabulary in Northern Ireland, I had declined questions dealing with the action of the police in Ireland, but when such a Vote was brought before the House, it clearly altered the situation, and I did not feel justified in refusing questions about the conduct of the police in Ireland.
I would refer the hon. Member to the OFFICIAL REPORT issued on the 8th instant, of the inquiry into this matter which has already been held by the Ministry of Home Affairs for Northern Ireland. I can see no ground for a further inquiry into the matter.
What redress is there in the case of a great institution like this, when forces of the Crown attack patients, nurses and doctors, and fire into hospital wards? Is there to be no redress for criminal conduct of that character carried on by officers of the Crown, paid for by this Parliament?
I think that the statements which have appeared have been very much exaggerated in regard to this incident. It appears that a certain number of shots were fired at the gaol from the direction of the Mater Hospital, and that the special constables around and in the gaol fired a certain number of shots back, with the result that a number of windows were broken. However, no one was hurt.
Where did the right hon. Gentleman get that information? Is it not a fact that the police inquirer who inquired into the incident distinctly stated that there was no evidence of any shots having been fired from the direction of the hospital? Does the right hon. Gentleman stand up and justify firing at a hospital because persons somewhere else fired at the police? Did this not occur during curfew, when there were no civilians in the streets, and may I tell him that this was a deliberate and monstrous thing?
I do not justify a great number of things which are going on in Ireland at the moment, and particularly in Northern Ireland. I regret them very much indeed. My hon. Friend ought to remember that there is another place where these particular questions of administration in Belfast can be much better raised, though I quite agree that we share to some extent in the responsibility of the Northern Government.
In view of the fact that the right hon. Gentleman pays for the malefactors guilty of this conduct, am I not entitled to put the question to him, and is a matter of this sort, that is being taken up by the International Red Cross Society, not one that the Government ought to interfere in and prevent a repetition of? On certain occasions have not wounded persons being taken to this hospital been attacked by mobs who have gathered around the hospital?
I must have notice of that question.
Refugees From Ulster
asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether his attention has been drawn to the fact that many British subjects in Dublin and elsewhere are compelled by Republicans to feed and lodge Republican families alleged to be refugees from Ulster; what representations have been made by His Majesty's Government to the Free State Government on the point; and what hope is there of this compulsory billeting being put an end to?
This is a matter for the Provisional Government, upon whom the responsibility for maintaining law and order now rests. I understand, however, that, so far at least as Dublin is concerned, compulsory billeting has now ceased, and that the Provisional Government have acquired public buildings for the accommodation of refugees.
What representations have been made by the Government to the Provisional Government?
The attention of the Provisional Government is being constantly drawn to matters of this kind. Many times a week, and sometimes several times a day, matters are brought to their attention by communications from the British Department on this side to the Irish Provisional Government.
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that, in a great number of cases, these so-called refugees are not refugees at all, but men who have been sent out by the Republicans of the North, at the point of the pistol, for propaganda purposes?
I cannot tell. A great many people have gone out of the North into the South; a great many out of the South into the North, and a good many people from both North and South have come over here.
Will the right hon. Gentleman appoint a Commission of Inquiry into the number of these refugees from North and South?
No, I cannot.
The hon. Member should put that question down.
Malicious Injuries Awards
asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether his attention has been called to the fact that the awards for malicious injuries to property, made by Lord Shaw's Commission, carry interest only from the date of such awards, whereas the original awards made in these cases carried interest at 5 per cent. from the date of such original awards, and that the claimants thereby, through no fault of their own, lose the interest on the amount of the new award for the period, often amounting to nearly two years, between the date of the original award and the date of the new award; and whether he will take steps to remedy this cause of complaint?
It is the duty of the Commission to determine what compensation ought in reason and in fairness to be awarded in the cases which come before them, and I have no reason to suppose that in discharging that duty they fail to take into consideration the period of time which has elapsed between the injury and their award. His Majesty's Government can see no ground for any action on their part in the matter.
Can the right hon. Gentleman say whether, in making these awards, Lord Shaw's Commission adds to the amount of each award the proper amount of interest accruing under the Statute of 1920?
I cannot add anything to my reply.
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that Lord Shaw's Commission did not make clear to the claimants that the previous interest which was due to them was included in the revised claims, and that this loss of 5 per cent. interest is interpreted as a breach of Clause 4 of the Criminal Injuries (Ireland) Act, 1920, in which it is clearly stated such interest is due?
I will bring these questions and answers under the notice of Lord Shaw's Commission.
Royal Irish Constabulary
asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he is aware that many old pensioners of the Royal Irish Constabulary, some of whom retired as long as 10 years ago, are being driven out of their homes in Southern Ireland and are forced to take refuge in England or elsewhere; and whether, in view of the fact that this persecution is solely due to the inability of the Provisional Government to give protection to life and property in Southern Ireland, the Government will, as in the case of Royal Irish Constabulary men recently disbanded, give these men free railway warrants for themselves and their families to any place within the United Kingdom and give them reasonable disturbance allowances?
I regret that I cannot add anything to the reply which I gave to the hon. and learned Member on the 30th May last, namely, that His Majesty's Government cannot see their way to regard the cases of pensioners of the Royal Irish Constabulary as different from those of other civilians compelled in present circumstances to leave Ireland.
In view of the exceptional circumstances of the Royal Irish Constabulary and the fact that these men are being terrorised and driven out of the country for having done their duty, will the right hon. Gentleman not make some compensation to them for the horrible outrages which are being perpetrated on them?
That is a question which I have already answered.
Can these old pensioners apply to the committee presided over by the hon. Member for Chelsea (Sir S. Hoare) when they come over here?
asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he can yet state if any persons were recently carried away from Pettigo by the retreating forces; if so, can he give particulars and say where these persons are, and who is responsible for their safety; and whether the forces that captured them were Free State forces?
I have received a report from the Government of Northern Ireland saying that four ex-members of the Special Constabulary were carried away from the Pettigo district during the recent operations in that neighbourhood. The Provisional Government, at my request, are making an enquiry into the facts.
Has the right hon. Gentleman no information yet as to where these four persons are or as to whether they are in safety?
No, I have not.
Special Constabulary, Ulster
asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether his attention had been drawn to the interference with priests in pursuit of their religious duties during the last few days by Ulster special constabulary in county Armagh; whether he is aware that the Rev. Canon Sheeran, parish priest of Crossmaglen, was held up, ordered out of his car, and searched when on his way to a temperance congress at Armagh; that the Very Rev. Canon Corr, who is over 80 years of age, and has been invalided for some time, was held up while motoring to Armagh on important business by specials at Lisnadell; that, after searching the driver and nurse who were accompanying the canon, the specials then ordered Canon Corr to get out and be searched; that the canon refused to comply, stating that he was unable to get out owing to illness; and, seeing that this interference with ministers of religion in discharge of their duties constitutes a breach of Clause 5 of the Government of Ireland Act, 1920, and is contrary to the spirit and intention of that Act, what action he proposes to take in the matter?
I would refer the hon. Member to the reply which I gave to a somewhat similar question which he addressed to me yesterday, from which I hope he will understand that it is very far from the intention or wish of Sir James Craig or of his colleagues that any discourtesy to, or interference with, Catholic priests as such should occur, and that the necessary steps to put an end to any such action, if and where it has occurred, will be taken. I have not made any inquiry into the specific instances referred to by the hon. Member; but I have no doubt that if he will call the attention of the proper authorities in Northern Ireland to any such cases, prompt inquiry and, if necessary, action will be taken.
In view of the fact that the persons who commit these outrages are paid servants of the Imperial Government, is this not the proper place to raise this question, and has the right hon. Gentleman made specific and direct representations to the Northern Government to put a stop to these gratuitous and constant indignities and insults to ecclesiastics in the discharge of their duties?
I said yesterday, in answer to the hon. Member, that I had had the opportunity of discussing these matters personally with the Prime Minister of Northern Ireland.
Did the Prime Minister of Northern Ireland give any assurances that there would be a cessation of these constant insults and indignities put upon ecclesiastics in the dicharge of their functions?
He asked me to make a statement to the House, which I made yesterday.
Imports And Exports
asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies if he can state the amount in sterling of imports and exports to and from Palestine in 1921, and what percentages were British goods?
The figures for 1921 were as follow: Imports, £5,665,000; exports, £824,000. 34 per cent. of the imports came from the United Kingdom and about 18½ per cent. from India, Australia, and Egypt. Of the exports, 69 per cent. went to Egypt and 15½ per cent. to the United Kingdom.
Mandate And Contracts
asked the Lord Privy Seal when he will give a day for the discussion of the Motion regarding Palestine standing in the names of the hon. Member for Twickenham and others—["That, in the opinion of this House, Me mandate for Palestine, the acceptance of which must involve this country in financial and other responsities, should be submitted for the approval of Parliament; and, further, that the contracts entered into by the High Commissioner for Palestine with Mr. Pinhas Rutenburg should at once be referred to a Select Committee for consideration and report?"]
I regret that in the present state of Parliamentary business it is quite impossible for me to allot a special day for the discussion of the Motion standing in the name of my hon. Friend. I am, however, arranging for the Colonial Office Vote to be taken on Thursday in next week, and an opportunity will then arise for a discussion on these subjects.
Does not the right hon. Gentleman feel that when a Motion is put down by responsible Members of this House—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh, oh!"]—this Motion is supported by many Members—asking that a Select Committee should be appointed to inquire into the definite action of one Department of the Government, it is at least desirable, in the interests of the Government itself, that an opportunity should be given of bringing that Motion to the test of the opinion of the House? Is it not quite impossible on the Colonial Office Vote to get any decision of value or to get a Select Committee appointed?
With regard to the latter part of the question, I do not agree with my hon. Friend. Should he wish to raise such a question as to the appointment of a Committee to consider a particular matter, he can do that by moving a reduction of the Vote, and get as clear a decision from the House as by moving a Resolution. Speaking for the Government as a whole, we are undoubtedly anxious to meet attack wherever it is offered, to accept any challenge that is offered, and to afford the House full opportunity for discussing matters of importance. But the time of the Session is limited, and if I am to agree with my hon. Friend that, wherever two or three are gathered together, we are to have a day given for a discussion, we may as well give up all hope of doing any Government business at all, or of ever closing the Session.
asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies what was the cost of the Palestine railway; whether it has been handed over to the Palestine Government; and, if so, what have they paid for it?
The railways in Palestine include a section of the Hejaz Railway, the Jaffa-Jerusalem Railway, and the railway constructed by the British Army during the War. Besides constructing the last-mentioned line the British Army did some reconstruction work on both the other two. I am unable to give a figure for the total cost of the whole of this work; nor would it be reasonable to ask the Palestine Government to refund to the British Exchequer the whole cost of a railway line built for military purposes, and not with a view to civil or commercial requirements. All these railways are now operated by the Palestine Government. An expert valuer sent out by the Disposals and Liquidation Commission is now engaged in estimating on a commercial basis the value for disposal purposes of the railway constructed by the British Army and of the work done on the other sections. Both His Majesty's Government and the Palestine Government have agreed to accept the valuation of this gentleman, and the amount fixed by him will be treated as a capital debt from Palestine to the Imperial Government bearing interest at a rate to be fixed later and payable by such instalments as the financial condition of the country may permit.
Will the same principle be followed in connection with Iraq railroads, and are they too being valued?
It is a long way from Egypt to Palestine and Iraq, and, I think, might form the subject of a separate question.
I asked whether the same principle will be followed.
Perhaps the hon. and gallant Member will put the question down on the Paper.
asked the Secretary of State for the. Colonies what was the cost of the railway from Kantara to Palestine; what is the amount of traffic now passing over it other than troops; what is the cost of its maintenance; whether the Palestine Government have been asked to take it over; and what is their reply?
I am informed that the cost of the Kantara-Rafa Railway was £1,300,000 exclusive of labour charges. The cost of maintenance for the current financial year is estimated at about £202,000. The revenue from traffic other than military is estimated at the present time at about 70 per cent. of the total earnings. The control of the railway is now vested in the Air Ministry, acting on behalf of the Colonial Office. The Palestine Government who work the railway share any profit or loss equally with His Majesty's Government. They have not been asked to take over the ownership of the railway, which is situated in Egyptian territory.
School Teachers' (Superannuation) Bill
asked the Prime Minister whether the Government has arrived at any decision on teachers' superannuation?
Yes, Sir; after considering the Report of the Select Committee, the Government have decided to proceed with the School Teachers' (Superannuation) Bill, and the Debate on the Second Reading of the Bill will be resumed shortly.
Retired Officers (Deputation)
asked the Prime Minister if he can fix a date for receiving the deputation of the retired naval officers?
If convenient to my hon. and gallant Friend and the representatives of the naval officers, I will receive this deputation at 10, Downing Street on Wednesday next at 5 p.m.
asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty if he is aware that the post-war establishment of lieutenants promoted by examination from gunners is 4 per cent. of the whole number or 40; that there are at this moment only six such lieutenants; that there are therefore 34 such lieutenants too few instead of surplus; and the full allowance of 40 cannot be reached for many years; and if he will reconsider the compulsory retirement of these officers?
It has never been in contemplation to lay down a separate establishment for lieutenants promoted from commissioned gunner after examination, the Regulations providing only that, as a general rule, one-half the number of promotions will be confined to these officers. No specific posts will be laid down for them, and no question can arise, therefore, of there being a surplus or deficiency, apart from any surplus or deficiency in the total numbers allowed. The Admiralty, moreover, upon general grounds, do not think it desirable to make a distinction between these officers and lieutenants promoted for long and zealous service in applying the conditions of the special retirement scheme, and, having regard to all the circumstances, they are unable to make an exception to those conditions in this case.
Royal Dockyardsmen (War Enlistment)
asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty if he is aware that there are men who entered a dockyard after War broke out and who, in view of the dockyard announcement that their civil pay, less Army pay, would be given them if they enlisted, did so enlist, and that with permission, and are now told that the official promise does not apply to them; and if he will inquire into this matter and have it put right?
The promise referred to by my hon. and gallant Friend was intended to apply to the men who were already serving in the dockyard before the War, and was meant for the benefit of their families while they were absent with the Army. An order was issued on 24th July, 1915, that in no case was civil pay to be granted to persons appointed since the outbreak of War to non-established positions. It may, therefore, reasonably be assumed that all those to whom the promise applied reaped the benefit of it, but if my hon. and gallant Friend knows of any cases to the contrary, I shall be glad to have the claims examined.
Housing (Government Policy)
asked the Prime Minister whether the Cabinet have under consideration any new policy with regard to the provision of houses required to supply those needs which will be unsatisfied after the completion of the Government's curtailed building programme sanctioned under the Housing and Town Planning Act, 1919, and subsequent Acts; and, if so, how soon can it be put into operation?
I would refer the hon. Member to the speech made by me in introducing the Ministry of Health Estimates, which outlines much more fully than is possible in question and answer the policy of the Government.
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that in his speech he carefully refrained from answering the particular question which is here put down, and is the House not entitled to an answer to this definite question? Seeing that the Prime Minister is here, may I ask him what steps are being taken in the matter?
The hon. Member should put down that question. The Debate on the Ministry of Health Estimates was adjourned, and there is still an opportunity for the hon. Member to get an answer.
With all respect, Sir, on a point of Order. This is a definite question, and the right hon. Gentleman says he answered it in the course of the Debate. I submit to him there is no such answer in his speech, and I have read it most carefully, and it is because he did not answer that this question has been put down. Is not the House entitled to a reply?
I do not agree with the hon. Member. Either my speech is not fully reported, or he cannot have read it carefully. I made several suggestions in that speech. The hon. Member asked if any new policy was under consideration, and in my speech I made several suggestions.
On a point of Order. Regarding the transfer of question No. 28 from the Prime Minister to the Minister of Health. This is a definite question to the Prime Minister on a Cabinet decision affecting policy. Why cannot the Prime Minister reply for his own Cabinet on a matter of policy?
The Prime Minister has the right to transfer Departmental questions to the Minister at the head of a Department.
On a further point of Order. This is not a Departmental question, but a question of policy, addressed to the Prime Minister as the principal Minister in the Cabinet, and on policy it is the Prime Minister's duty to face his own questions.
Then every question would be put to the Prime Minister.
asked the Prime Minister whether there has been any diminution of the formations in Western Russia, and whether there has been any reduction of the effective strength of those formations since the pact of peace at the Genoa Conference?
The Russian Delegation at Genoa have hardly returned to Moscow yet.
asked the Prime Minister whether at Genoa, before the Treaty of Rapallo between Russia and Germany, Dr. Rathenau made three attempts to arrange a private meeting with him; and can he state if any meeting was held before Dr. Rathenau and the Russian delegates signed the Rapallo Treaty?
The Genoa Conference opened on Monday, 10th April. The Rapallo Treaty was signed on Easter Day, 16th April. I saw Dr. Rathenau for a few minutes early in the week, and in reply to two messages through one of my Private Secretaries I said that I would arrange a meeting with him and the German Chancellor as soon as the first strain of Conference work was over. It was also made quite plain that no questions affecting Germany's special interests would be discussed in the absence of German representatives. I actually tried to arrange a meeting with the Chancellor and Dr. Rathenau on Easter Day, but Dr. Rathenau's absence at Rapallo made this impossible.
Did the right hon. Gentleman receive any information showing that the agreement between Russia and Germany was made prior to Genoa, and that the signing at Rapallo was only the visible sign of the agreement being concluded?
I have had some information that negotiations had been conducted in Berlin, and that only the final stages were concluded at Rapallo.
Claim Against Allied Powers
asked the Prime Minister whether at the Genoa Conference on the Public Debt Question the Russian Delegates replied to the proposals with a claim for damage caused to the Russian State and its nationals in the series of attacks made or supported by the Allied Powers on the Revolutionary Government, and that after deduction of all pre-War and War obligations of the Tsarist authorities there remained a sum of about £2,500,000,000 due to Russia; and what answer was made to this claim?
As was stated in answer to a question on the 25th May, a general claim of this nature was made by M. Litvinoff in the course of the experts' discussions at Genoa, but was not entertained by the Powers concerned. The records of the Genoa Conference do not appear to confirm the figure mentioned in the question.
asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer what is the total amount of German Government bonds deposited with the Reparation Commission?
In accordance with Article 2 of the Schedule of Payments, Germany has delivered to the Reparation Commission Series A Bonds for 12 milliard gold marks, Series B Bonds for 38 milliard gold marks, and Series C Bonds for 82 milliard gold marks (subject to such subsequent adjustment as may be required under Article 1 of the Schedule of Payments).
asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether goods of German manufacture imported into Great Britain from France, Belgium, and Italy are exempted from the 26 per cent. Reparation Duty, whilst on similar goods imported direct from Germany this 26 per cent. is levied?
Reparation levy is chargeable on all goods first consigned from Germany to the United Kingdom. The fact that goods of German manufacture were imported into this country through an intermediate country would not exempt them from the levy unless they had been the subject of a genuine sale to an independent purchaser in that country who had subsequently re-sold them to an importer in the United Kingdom.
Would my right hon. Friend say whether this duty is actually levied on goods exported from Germany?
Certainly it is.
asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether, seeing that neither France, Belgium, nor Italy levy reparation duty on German goods as they enter their respective countries, but receive the amount due by quarterly payments, he will say why His Majesty's Government do not adopt this method instead of the present costly system?
It is not the case, as implied in the question, that France. Belgium, and Italy receive any such quarterly payments, nor any amounts corresponding to the sums received by this country under the provisions of the German Reparation (Recovery) Act. If the operation of the Act were suspended the effect would be that such amounts would not, during the existence of the present arrangements, be received at all.
Does that mean that neither Belgium, Italy, nor France levy any reparation duty on goods imported from Germany?
No. That is a complete misapprehension of the answer.
asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer what has been the yield of the Entertainments Duty each year of its existence up till 31st March, 1922, and during the period from 31st March till the issue of the most recent Return of Income and Expenditure for the current year?
The yield of the Entertainments Duty from 15th May, 1916, when the duty was first imposed, has been as follows:
|Year ended 31st March—||£|
|Period from 1st April, 1922, to 10th June, 1922||1,727,056|
Is it not a fact that the Entertainments Duty in this country is entirely killing the cinematograph industry?
Taxation (Great Britain And Germany)
asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer what is the estimated amount of taxation per head, including rates, which will be payable by the inhabitants of Great Britain during the current financial year; what was the corresponding amount during the financial years 1913–14 and 1919–20; what is the average amount of taxation, Imperial, State, and municipal, in Germany, in marks, in the same three financial years; and what is the equivalent in sterling, converted at the present rate of exchange and at the rate of exchange which represents the ratio between the level of wholesale prices in both countries?
As the answer contains a large number of figures, I will, with my hon. Friend's permission, circulate it in the OFFICIAL REPORT.
Following is the reply:
Taxation per head.
*England and Wales.
The sterling equivalent of the taxation per head in Germany in 1922–23 at the present rate of exchange (1,430 marks to £1) would be £1 2s. 6d. On the basis of relative wholesale prices in Germany (6,355) and Great Britain (164·1). In April, 1922, the sterling equivalent would be £2 0s. 5d.
This answer deals with Federal taxation only in Germany.
Particulars of State and Local taxation in Germany are not available.
asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer where the tapestries now are upon which our loan to Austria was secured; at what figure they are valued in the market; under what circumstances we can sell the tapestries to realise; and whether, in view of the phenomenal collapse in the Austrian currency, he will consider the desirability of an early realisation?
The Gobelin Tapestries which constitute the security for the British loan to Austria are in Vienna at present. In reply to the second part of the question, I would refer the gallant and hon. Member to the reply given to a similar question by the hon. Member for Ilford (Mr. Wise) on 28th February last, of which I am sending him a copy. The security for the loan can, of course, only be realised in the event of the loan not being paid off on or before its maturity, i.e., in February next or such later date up to which it may be renewed. The last part of the question does not, therefore, arise.
Are we to understand that if the interest and capital be not paid by February next, we can sell these tapestries; and may I ask whether there is any possible market for them?
We shall undoubtedly be entitled to deal with them according to our discretion.
asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer who valued the art treasures, etc., which are held as security against the £2,250,000 Austrian Government loan; and w hat is the amount of the valuation?
In reply to the former part of the question, the Gobelin Tapestries were not specially valued by any expert on the occasion of their being made the security for the British Loan to Austria; in reply to the latter part of the question, I would refer the hon. Member to the reply given to a question put by him on the same subject on 28th February last.
Did that answer state the valuation put upon these goods on merely some hypothetical offer that had not actually been made?
No. I think it is very well known that the tapestries are regarded as of much more value than the actual amount of our loan.
Safeguarding Of Industries Act
asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer what duty is being levied on ingredients of gas mantles; when the collection of this duty was commenced; and what has been the amount so collected during the period it has been imposed?
In accordance with the award of the Referee, duty at 33⅓ per cent. is being levied on imported gas mantles in respect of the value of the mechanical aggregates of oxide of thorium and oxide of cerium and of nitrate of thorium and nitrate of cerium being ingredients of such mantles. Pending authoritative determination of the value of these ingredients delivery is being allowed, if the importer so desires, on deposit of a sum equivalent to the duty on a value of 25 per cent. of the value of the complete mantles, subject to any adjustment that may prove to be ultimately necessary. In these circumstances it is not possible to give any reliable figure of the actual duty so far collected.
Has the right hon. Gentleman received any money at all?
Yes, I understand that money has been received, but that is subject to adjustment.
Does the right hon. Gentleman consider that the amount of money received is equal to the cost of collection?
That is a totally different question.
asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer what is the value of gas mantles imported from the 1st January to the 31st May, 1922; and can he give similar figures for the same period of 1921?
The total value of incandescent gas mantles registered during the first five months of this year as imported into the United Kingdom was £114,081. The corresponding value for the first five months of the year 1921 was £86,964.
asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer why Messrs. Hulse and Company, of Woodlesford, who imported certain naphthalene balls, were compelled to deposit an amount of 33⅓ per cent. on same, whilst the same substance in the nature of flakes was allowed in free, seeing that at Goole the substance, both in balls and flakes, is admitted free, and, in view of their inability to obtain the refund of the money deposited, can he take some prompt action to give them satisfaction; and will he issue instructions to his officials telling them clearly what articles are dutiable and what are not?
The naphthalene balls and naphthalene flakes in question were submitted for expert examination, as the result of which the balls were found to be comprised of naphthalene of dutiable quality, whereas the flakes were found not to be of that quality. In these circumstances, the duty cannot be refunded.
Would it not be better to arrange that a duty should be levied on all naphthalene, thus avoiding one port levying duties, while another port passes the same goods free?
The difficulty has now been entirely removed.
Safeguarding Of Industries Act
I desire to postpone my question regarding the Safeguarding of Industries Act until Monday, when, I hope, we shall have the advantage of the assistance of the President of the Board of Trade and the Prime Minister.
Motor Cars (Taxation)
asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer what was the amount paid by English and Scottish motorists in taxation of motor cars, respectively; and what was the proportionate grant for roads given to each country for the year 1921?
I have been asked to answer this question, and would refer my hon. Friend to the answer given on 28th March to the hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Sir M. Smith), of which I am sending him a copy.
asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he is aware that the policy of the Government has the result of subjecting the private employer to heavier taxation than the joint stock company employer; and will he allow to the private employer the same exemption from Super-tax on sums placed to reserves as is enjoyed by the joint stock company?
I observe that an Amendment to the Finance Bill dealing with this matter appears on the Order Paper, and no doubt it will shortly come under discussion. As at present advised, I do not, see my way to accept my hon. and gallant Friend's suggestion.
Does the right hon. Gentleman not agree that the private employer is unduly penalised as against the joint stock company employer?
That, of course, is a matter of argument, which would require a much longer speech than I can make in answer to a question.
Near East (Massacres)
( by Private Notice)
asked the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether his attention has been called to a telegram from the Patriarch of Constantinople, dated 10th June, announcing that two massacres of Christian women and children have taken place at the Pontus; that a fortnight ago 1,300 women and children from Samsoren were forcibly removed to the interior and were all massacred near Kayak; and whether he has any confirmation of these massacres from the British authorities on the spot?
The answer to the first part of the question is in the affirmative. There are no British authorities in the districts concerned, but the Patriarch's statements regarding the renewed deportations of women and children are confirmed by several recent independent accounts. No confirmation has yet been received of the alleged recent massacre at Kayak, but His Majesty's Government are in possession of reliable evidence of the occurrence of two serious massacres at that spot last year, in one of which 1,300 Greeks are stated to have perished.
Has my hon. Friend any reason to know whether the accounts of these massacres have been conveyed to the Governments of our Allies, Italy and France?
No, Sir, I have no information to that effect.
May I ask whether these Greeks are being massacred because the Greeks were our Allies in the War, and have been used by us for our purposes in Asia Minor since?
I do not think that my hon. Friend's question calls for an answer.
May I ask the Prime Minister to use his good offices with the French Prime Minister on his coming visit to London?
I am afraid I can hardly take the responsibility of adding to the burden of M. Poincaré when he comes here, but I am quite sure that the facts are as much in his mind as they are in the minds of His Majesty's Government.
Grass Sickness, Aberdeenshire
( by Private Notice)
asked the Minister of Agriculture whether his attention has been called to an outbreak of "grass sickness" among horses in Aberdeenshire, from which many horses have already died; whether a vaccine which has been successfully employed in combating this disease has been distributed throughout the counties of Forfar, Perth and Kincardine, and what steps he proposes to take to secure a similar and immediate distribution to farmers in the County of Aberdeen, where this vaccine is at present unobtainable?
I am informed that a disease of horses called grass sickness has existed for several years in Aberdeenshire and other parts of Scotland, and that many horses have died of the disease. I understand that an attempt has been made to prepare a serum against the disease, but I am advised that the use of that serum is still in the experimental stage, and its efficacy has not yet been established. It is not the function of the Ministry to deal with non-scheduled diseases in Scotland, that being a function which has been allocated to the Scottish Board of Agriculture.
Is my right hon. Friend aware that this disease has only recently appeared for the first time in Aberdeenshire, and will he consider the question as to whether it should be made a notifiable disease in view of the fact that it is now spreading to an alarming extent, and in almost every case it is fatal?
As I have said, this is not one of the scheduled diseases, and, therefore, it is not under the purview of the Ministry of Agriculture. I would suggest to my hon. Friend that any further questions should be addressed to the Secretary for Scotland.
As the right hon. Gentleman admits that there is serious disease among horses in Scotland, will he consider the advisability of closing the border between the two countries to prevent the spread of the disease southwards and save the farmers of England from being overrun with this disease, as they were by the cattle disease from Ireland?
I shall require notice of that question.
asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies what the present position is with regard to the amendment of the Ceylon Constitution; have the governor's recommendations been received; and, if so, will they be laid?
I have been in correspondence with the Governor, who has recommended as a first step the appointment of a Committee of the Legislative Council to consider and report on the future allocation and distribution of seats in the Council, a question which has given rise to much difference of opinion in Ceylon. A resolution in favour of the appointment of such a Committee had previously been caried in the Council. I have approved of the appointment of this Committee. Pending the receipt of its report, it would be premature to lay any papers on the subject before the House.