Colonel Sir RHYS WILLIAMS (in military uniform):
I beg to move, "That a humble Address be presented to His Majesty, as followeth:
Most Gracious Sovereign,
We, your Majesty's most dutiful and loyal subjects, the Commons of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, in Parliament assembled, beg leave to offer our humble thanks to your Majesty for the gracious Speech which your Majesty has addressed to both Houses of Parliament."
The selection of a serving soldier and a sailor to Move and Second the Address is an honour conferred upon the Army and the Navy which will be warmly appreciated by the sister Services. The duty of the Mover of the Address in the past has been a difficult one. To touch on controversial matters, without taking a part, is a delicate operation. But a new era has opened—a new day has dawned. The great national danger through which we have just passed has knit the nation together as it has never been knit before.
The Gracious Speech which we have just heard read contains little or no controversial matter. It will be received by all who have the welfare of the country at heart with acclamation, and every section of this House will, I know, welcome wise measures for improving the health of the nation—measures for the improvement of the housing conditions of the community, measures for improving transport facilities, measures for encouraging; settlement on the land, measures for increasing the output from our industries and the output from agriculture, all vital to the prosperity of the nation. Is not the Gracious Speech a recognition that the country has earned special measures and that it has proved itself worthy of generous treatment by its conduct in the War?
While history is read, will it ever be forgotten—that passionate outburst of patriotism which greeted the outbreak of war? How by tens of thousands, and then by hundreds of thousands, of our men here and our kinsmen from the Dominions rushed to join the Colours, till the greatest Navy in the world was amply manned, and the greatest voluntary Army in the world was formed; and how 5,500,000 men voluntarily joined the Colours! It will never be forgotten how every reverse which our arms abroad received was only a stimulus to recruiting—a sure sign that the heart of the nation was in the right place, and that it was not the glamour of war that attracted our men, but the feeling that the nation required them. Our fighting ancestors have no cause, I think, to be ashamed of their descendants. Will it ever be forgotten how money poured out in a golden flood for the use of the State? Up to the 18th of January of this year the amount raised by War Loans came to the gigantic total of £4,175,000,000. In addition there has been raised by War Savings Certificates £217,000,000. The splendid total is £4,392,000,000 sterling. Before the War British Government securities were held by 345,000 persons. British securities are held to-day by 16,000,000 persons, one in every three of the population of Great Britain— 16,000,000 shareholders in the world's greatest undertaking, the British Empire.
The nation was ready to give of its all for the State. A new Empire had been created, a united Empire as in the days of old, when
Romans in Rome's quarrel
Spared neither' land nor gold,
Nor son nor wife nor limb nor life,
In the brave days of old,
When none was for a party,
All were for the State.
The responsibility rests on Parliament to see that those, who have subscribed get a return for their confidence, and that they get dividends of health as well as wealth. His Majesty's Gracious Speech points out the way. While giving due credit to our admirals and our generals, let it never be forgotten that the victory which is ours is due to our men—our splendid men.
Let it never be forgotten that the soldier of to-day whom the nation delights to honour is the worker in the factory and on the farm of yesterday and to-morrow. They must reap the fruits of their victory. What are the fruits of victory? A greater share in the markets of the world, so that they may increase their earning power, so that they may improve their conditions of life, and make those conditions worthy victors in the greatest of the world's wars: a fitting reward for their patriotism. What is patriotism? Is it love of country? Yes, but not only love of country. Love of country is not enough. Love without confidence is not a permanent condition. Love of country and faith in our destiny is patriotism. It is that faith in our destiny which has led us to success throughout the War. It is that which has been the underlying force which has supported us through the dark days and throughout the four long years of desperate struggle, four long years in which it was a long time before the light came. It is faith in our country that has done that, and we must preserve that faith. The splendid example of untiring energy which has been set by His Gracious Majesty and the Gracious Lady who shares his throne has done much to encourage that confidence, and I would like to add that the Army will never forget the very gallant officer who has seen service on three fronts and who, like the stormy petrel, always seemed to contrive to be at hand when the hurricane was fiercest. I refer to his Royal Highness the Prince of Wales. The example set by the Royal Family we must continue to follow.
Ours is a great nation, and has done its great best, but we must not relax yet. There is much to do. Our great national industries, dislocated by four years of war, have not yet recommenced. Much valuable time is being lost. The labour troubles, of which we have had some experience are much to be deplored; but they are small matters compared with the great national danger through which we have, just passed. We must retain our sense of proportion. Owing to the dislocations of trade, labour differences are inevitable. It is also equally inevitable that in a highly intelligent community such as ours solutions for these labour questions will speedily be found. The country is worthy of our trust. We learned in December what little sympathy the country has for that small and noisy section which professes to prefer anarchy to a constitution based on freedom, and moulded by the experience of centuries. There must be no hanging back in the hope that prices of materials may fall and that times may improve. We have to start, and start at once, in the race for the markets of the world. In this race the man who gets off with a bad start has lost. What business ever prospered in which large enterprises did not enter, and where no risks were run? Patriotism demands that we should encourage that spirit of enterprise which inspired our forefathers, and created our Empire. That spirit of enterprise we must invoke now. It must enter into our whole national life and stimulate all our efforts. Our industries must be set going in full blast, and at once. The hum and throb of our industry must be felt throughout the world. After four years of war, the whole world is a buyer, and the whole world is in want. Unemployment should be unknown. If there is a tendency to hang back, the Gracious Speech from the Throne should give encouragement. We must have faith in our nation, faith in our destiny, and then we shall reap the fruits of our victory. We shall assure the prosperity of the nation; we shall raise up to the memory of those who have made the Great Sacrifice a memorial in which our kinsmen across the seas will have their share, a memorial which, I hope, will last to the end of time—the memorial of a great Empire made greater, happier, and nobler still.
In rising to second the Address in reply to His Majesty's most Gracious Speech from the Throne, which has been so ably proposed by my hon. and gallant Friend (Colonel Sir Rhys Williams), I must ask the kind indulgence of the House. I realised that the difficulties would be great when I was first asked to speak on this occasion, but they are much greater to me now, as I am only just immediately out of bed after a severe attack of influenza. I do not find it easy, as a stranger in this House and in such an assembly, to deal at all adequately with such an honourable task, but I am conscious that rather than as an honour to me personally my position here to-day is meant as a compliment to the Service which I, as a member of the Auxiliary Patrol, have the honour to represent, and perhaps I may be permitted also to take it as an honour to my native town which has been so good as to elect me as one of its representatives. My hon. and gallant Friend, in proposing the Address in reply to His Majesty's most Gracious Speech, has so well covered the ground that very few words of mine are necessary. But I amglad to note that there is every hope of the terms of peace, or at any rate the preliminaries, being settled in the near future. I trust and believe that they will be such terms as will be worthy of the effort which has cost the country so many thousands of lives. I am glad to note the very prominent position given in the Speech to the housing question, because I feel personally that that question is the absolute foundation of any social reform that there may be. It is absolutely useless to my mind—and I have some little knowledge of industrial districts—to give higher wages and more leisure time unless the people can spend that leisure time in comfortable homes and surroundings.
His Majesty, in his Gracious Speech, points out that it is one duty, while maintaining the rights of property and persons, to spare no effort in dealing with the causes of disunion and unrest. I have little doubt myself that we shall soon pass through these troublous times. We have one very great safeguard, namely, the loyalty of the people to the Throne, a loyalty which, to my mind, has been the backbone of the country during the War. In 1914 it constituted almost our only arm. "For King and Country" were no idle words to the hundreds and thousands of men who flocked to the Colours in those days, and the bond of union between the people and the Throne is to-day, I venture to think, as strong as it ever was. How many heads of families who had sons at the War must have felt humbly grateful to their Majesties when they realised that they also had sons who were fighting with the Army and the Navy? I think that if we continue to hold the ideal of King and Country in the peace that is coming as we did during the War we shall have no difficulty in carrying out the desire set forth in His Majesty's Gracious Speech; we shall not be very long in passing through the troubled waters, and again reaching that harbour of peace from which we set out in 1914. We can then rest content that we have worked together to make our country a better place for coming generations. Our cause shows that we have learnt to live and let live, and we shall have proved to future generations that we have learnt the many lessons which four and a half years of war have taught us. I should like to thank the House for the kindly way in which it has listened to me.
I desire in the first place to congratulate the hon. and gallant Members, the Mover and Seconder of the Address, on the eloquent and appropriate terms of their speeches. I also congratulate them not only on the speeches to which we have listened with interest, but also on the notable and gallant services they have rendered to the country. I am certain that those qualities which have secured for them honour and distinction in the Army and Navy will justify us in looking forward to an honourable and successful career for them in this House. I note with pleasure the lofty tone and eloquent terms in which His Majesty's Gracious Speech from the Throne brings before us to-day the spirit of unity and sacrifice which has animated all sections of our people in the course of the great struggle through which we have just gone. In particular do I note with satisfaction the terms in which His Majesty enjoins Members of this House to reward that service and that sacrifice by heralding in at the earliest possible moment a new and better social order of national life, in which a resolute war will be waged against poverty, unemployment, inadequate housing, and the many other remediable ills which unfortunately may still exist in this country of ours. The tone and spirit of that appeal is in harmony and accord with the countless statements that have been made in the Press, and from platforms and pulpits during the last four and a half years in this country, namely, that the common sacrifices, suffering, and services in which all sections of our people have taken part would at the close of the War be bound, in the very nature of things, to produce a different atmosphere and an entirely different relationship amongst all sections of our people to that which we have been accustomed to in pre-war days.
That promise and, above all, the knowledge of the value of the services which have been rendered, have created in the minds of working people of this country not only a spirit of expectancy of the coming opportunities of living a fuller and higher life, but they have also created a determination to take the steps which are necessary, by constitutional means, for securing a just and equitable share of the wealth earned by our united energy, and so to translate into understandable terms the meaning of the promise made in the course of the time to which I have just referred. I hope that no attempt will be made to disappoint that legitimate expectation of the working classes of the country. We have reached the stage when all sections, of our people should understand that we require to lay all the cards on the table, if the country is to continue to live and prosper. We have reached the stage when to us the famous declaration of Abraham Lincoln, in a speech delivered before the war of rebellion in America, has some meaning—a meaning which I think we would be well advised to have proper regard to. The declaration to which I refer is one in which the old President declared, at a very large meeting of his fellow countrymen, "that this country cannot continue to live and to prosper half slaves and half free." We have reached that stage when the working classes of the country will refuse longer to continue to be treated as cogs in the machinery for mere profit-making purposes. We have reached that stage when all sections of our people fully realise that the greatest freedom and the greatest spirit of toleration will require to be exercised, and when our people of all sections will require to be recognised as standing on an equal footing before the State. The King's Speech is interesting not only for what it contains, but also for some of the very important questions to which no reference is made in it. I intend, in the course of my remarks this afternoon, to deal shortly with some of the contents of the Address as well as some or the omissions. Dealing with the omissions first, I note with regret that no mention is made of any measure to deal further with the question of pensions, separation, allowances, and grants to our serving men and the men who have, been demobilised from the Army. The Mover and the Seconder of the Address have drawn our attention to the great services rendered by our men in the Army and the Navy. Surely these services are worthy of the highest and most generous recognition that it is possible for this House and the country to give. I noted, with some satisfaction, that during the course of the recent election nearly every one of the candidates contesting the various constituencies of the country were putting first in their programme higher pensions, larger separation allowances, and other rewards to our soldiers and sailors, and I am certain that in all parts of the House this omission will be as much a matter of regret to hon. Members as it is to myself. I hope the Prime Minister, in the course of our proceedings to-day, will give us some indication of the manner in which the Government intend to deal with this very important point.
The next omission to which I want to draw the attention of the Prime Minister in particular is the absence of any reference to the disposal of Government property in the shape of shipyards, ships, and stores of all kinds, on which millions of pounds have been spent. One observes from newspaper reports, which are not always reliable, that some of these stores have already been disposed of, and if there is any truth in this report I would desire some assurance from the Prime Minister that fair price has been obtained for any part of that Government property which is reputed to have been sold in newspaper reports. I would very respectfully suggest to the Government, and to the Prime Minister in particular, that if these reports are not true, and if the larger portion has not yet been sold, it would be well that they should be retained in the hands of the nation and be properly used in the interests of all sections of our people, instead of the interests of a very small section of the community.
The next omission to which I want to direct the attention of the Prime Minister for the moment is the absence of any reference to Russia. This is a matter upon which neither the House nor the country has received any explanation of the Government's intention and policy, and I can assure the Prime Minister it is a question that is causing great dissatisfaction in the minds of a large section of our people, and in particular in the minds of those parents whose sons have been sent to Russia, after having performed valiant services on other battle fronts. I think that the Government would be well advised to give the country a full explanation of the position, and I think that explanation should be given at the earliest possible moment. I am glad to notice from the newspaper reports that a suggestion has been put forth from the Peace Conference that representatives of the various sections of the Russian people should meet at a certain centre with a view to discussing the affairs of Russia.
I proceed now to deal as briefly as I can with some of the questions which are referred to in the King's Speech, and in that connection I am glad to note that the Government propose at an early date to introduce a Bill dealing with the housing of the people. I can assure the Government that that information will be received with a considerable amount of satisfaction by a very large section of the people in this country, for there are not many social questions regarding which there is so much concern being displayed as the question of housing, and I hope that the Prime Minister will give us some assurance when he comes to reply this afternoon as to the steps the Government intend to take with regard to this question. It is now nearly three months since hostilities ceased, and in the interval the manufacture of munitions of war has been greatly reduced; large numbers of men and women have been discharged from Government employment, and they are at the moment finding great difficulty in a large number of instances in finding suitable employment. As far as one can see, notwithstanding that that is the condition of affairs, not one single step has been taken for the purpose of building the necessary houses. Surely it is worth the careful consideration of the Government as to whether now is not a suitable time to begin the building of houses on a very large scale so as to reduce, as far as possible, the hardships of the unemployed.
My next point in this connection is that in the interval there has been great difficulty in getting houses either of a suitable or an unsuitable kind in many parts of the country, and I suggest for the earnest consideration of the Government the extension of the life of the Increase of Rent and Mortgage Interest (War Restrictions) Act so as to avoid the great difficulties which are bound to arise in the present shortage of houses that exists in the country if this Act is allowed to expire as provided for in the Act. I also suggest that land will be needed for the building of the necessary houses, and that steps should be speedily taken for securing at the earliest possible moment the necessary land for this purpose. I would, in particular, draw attention to certain proposals to meet the difficulties of local authorities getting from Government Departments at a reasonable rate the necessary land for building purposes. Surely the Government ought to set an example both to employers and to landowners, and where there is land in suitable localities it should be made as easy as possible for the various local authorities who desire to build houses to get that land on reasonable terms.
The next matter to which I desire to draw the attention of the Prime Minister is also one in which a brief reference is made in the Speech from the Throne. I refer to the present industrial situation, a situation which, in my opinion, is almost as menacing a danger as the war itself from which we have just emerged, and which if not dealt with wisely and quickly will undermine the stability of the State and endanger the continued existence of this country. During the past few weeks I have observed that serious attempts have been made in the Press and on the platform to create the idea that there were two factors mainly responsible for the serious industrial situation that exists in this country at the present moment, those two factors being, firstly, the presence in the ranks of the working classes of the country of a small band of revolutionaries who are out to upset the existing order of things, and, secondly, the presence in the trade union movement of a small band of men who are out to upset the officials of that movement, if not to undermine and destroy the movement itself. These are statements that I have no desire to minimise, and which, as a member of the Labour party and a trade unionist, I have no desire to shirk. As a constitutionalist, and as the leader for the moment of a party constitutionalist, I speak for a party that will not give encourage- ment either to revolution or to unofficial action in the Labour movement.
At the same time I wish respectfully to point out to the House and to the country that these two sections which have been named, and on which the blame has mainly been put, represent a very small proportion of the Labour movement of this country, and that unless there were some genuine grievances which they could exploit and thereby secure the support of a large section of our men, there would be no danger of those sections which have been held up for weeks past making very much headway in this country. Unfortunately there are many genuine grievances that await speedy remedy. These grievances, no doubt, have been used in a small number of instances for ulterior purposes, but if the country is to see the end of the serious industrial situation that confronts it the Government and the House must deal speedily, effectively, and wisely with the grievances which are undoubtedly inflating the minds of the working classes of the country at the present moment. What are these grievances? If I begin to discuss them in detail, I shall run the risk of wearying the House. I had better refrain and merely mention them, and ask the Prime Minister what he and his Government intend to do in the near future to deal effectively with them. What are these grievances? They are wages, hours, unemployment existing in a considerable number of areas at the moment and the fear of a further development of the evil of unemployment, and the cost of living and the fear that encouragement is being given even by the Government itself to the creation of monopolies that will make impossible any reduction in the cost of living in the near future. These are some of the leading grievances existing in the Trade Union and Labour movement at the moment. In concluding my remarks regarding the unrest that is undoubtedly seriously menacing the stability of the State, I would ask the Prime Minister to give us some reply at an early date as to the steps that the Government intend to take for dealing effectively and satisfactorily with this matter. I might also indicate that the principal Amendment which the Labour party intend moving to the Address will deal with the question of the causes of industrial unrest.
There is another matter mentioned in the King's Speech to which I want to make a brief reference. It is stated that the Government intend at an early date to create a Ministry of Transport. I desire to ask the Prime Minister if that foreshadows the fulfilment of a promise that was given by a member of the Government during the course of the late election that it is the intention of the Government to nationalise the railways and other essential national services? The King's Speech also intimates that a Ministry of Health is to be created. The Labour party welcome that intimation, and hope that the Bill will have a speedy passage to the Statute Book. At the same time, I want to remind the Government that unless the Ministry of Health is entirely free from the taint of the Poor Law it will receive the strenuous opposition of the members of the party which I represent. There is one other matter in the King's Speech to which I want to make a brief reference. It is stated that, in order to reap the full fruits of victory, and to safeguard the peace of the world, an adequate Army must be maintained. Will the Prime Minister, in his reply this afternoon, assure us that that does not mean the continuance of Conscription in this country, because I can assure him that there will be great dissatisfaction if this passage means, as some of us fear, the continuance of some kind of conscripted Army? The Prime Minister might also tell us if it is the intention of the Government to bring before this House the final terms of peace for approval before they are ratified by His Majesty's Government and agreed to by His Majesty the King.
There are many more matters with which one could deal if one cared to deal in an exhaustive way with all that is raised within the terms of the Speech from the Throne, but I have taken up sufficient time of the House and possibly have already exhausted the patience of most right hon. Members. I want, in conclusion, simply to say that the party with which I am associated, the Labour party, have been ambitious enough to intimate to the country, and to others concerned, that they intend to fill the rôle of the principal Opposition to His Majesty's Government That claim may be contested, but I can assure you that it is a claim that it; made by the members of the Labour party in all seriousness, and in the course of the proceedings of this House they will endeavour to justify the claim which they have put forward. The nature of the opposition which they will give to the Government will be of an
entirely different character from the opposition of the past. The Labour party will not oppose the proposals of the Government simply because they have been made by the Government. If the proposals of the Government are such as we can support we will gladly support the Government in giving effect to them, but if the proposals are of such a character that we cannot agree to them, then on the other hand we shall give them our most strenuous opposition. We are here as a party to do our best—again referring to the words of the Speech from the Throne—"to usher in at the earliest possible moment a new social order," to bring to working-class lives and to give to working-class homes higher and fuller opportunities of life than they have ever been able to enjoy up to the present moment. We are here as a party to take such steps—again referring to the words of another famous American statesman—
as will prevent vested interests in all forms from continuing to press down upon the blow of labour a crown of thorns, and from continuing to crucify the worker upon a cross of gold.
Notwithstanding the somewhat terrifying intimation of my right hon. Friend (Mr. Adamson), I have the temerity to rise and attempt to catch your eye, Mr. Speaker, and I note with gratification that I have succeeded in so doing. I only say this because the matter touched upon by my right hon. Friend in the most friendly spirit is one of those matters which are settled by you and the House of Commons, and I am content to leave it in that way. I know the House of Commons well enough to realise that the main anxiety to-day is to hear what the Prime Minister has to say, and therefore I will confine my remarks within quite a brief limit. I will speak by the clock, and I promise him and the House not to exceed fifteen minutes.
Let me at once join in the most pleasant duly of congratulating the Proposer and Seconder on the extremely efficient and able way in which they have performed their most difficult task. They have served with distinction and success in the field of war, and we most earnestly and confidently trust that similar success will meet them in the field of peace and within these walls. I also desire to express my most hearty agreement with the references that have been made to their Majesties the King and Queen. We can all join in condoling with them on the domestic loss which they have so recently sustained. The sympathy and condolence which they have given in such full measure to all parts of the country will come back to them in greater measure, pressed down and running over.
It has been customary for all those who speak after the Proposer and Seconder of the Address to make some reference to the election which has brought about the new House. We are face to face with the unprecedented result of an unprecedented election. There have been swept out of this House the representatives of many forms of opinion, useful many of them, others distasteful. Let me say this, that when you, Sir, spoke the other day from your place on these benches—if I may say so with great respect—you uttered some very wise words about the expression of unpopular opinions. I do regret that some of those representatives of unpopular opinions have not been returned to this House, because this is the place where unpopular, and, indeed, harmful, opinions are best dealt with. Time after time, especially during the last year of the recent Parliament, have I sat here and listened to speeches with which I was not only in disagreement, but which provoked in me feelings of profound aversion and repugnance; but one was able to sit tight and listen, because he knew that almost immediately the answer would come. I am quite certain that the rush of the tide of the recent election has in that respect rather minimised the real usefulness of this House in regard to the expression of unpopular and even of harmful opinions, because here you can give an immediate answer, and deal with them, and people can know it. Again, the result of the election was to sweep away from this bench, at which for the moment I speak, many men who have been of proved and tried service to the country. I would only say this, that my right hon. Friend Mr. Asquith is a man whose devoted service to his country, whose high magnanimity and splendid public services will yet have full credit given to them, and I hope and believe that at no distant date he will be with us once again to join in the councils of the nation, and take a proper and full share in the attempts to solve the problems which face it.
In the Gracious Speech a natural reference was made to the great services of the Army and Navy. I am glad, indeed, to notice that a full and proper occasion will speedily be given for a Resolution whereby this House will formally express the nation's gratitude to them for what they have done forus. Reference was also made to France and to the United States. We know the splendid services they have rendered to the Allied cause. With reference to the Peace Conference, there are two questions which I would like to address to the Prime Minister or to the Leader of the House. I need not make any further reference to what my right hon. Friend has said with regard to Russia, with which no doubt the Prime Minister will adequately deal and, as far as he thinks it is in the public interest to do so, will fully answer. I should also like to know what real progress has been made with the League of Nations, without which there is no hope for the future of this country, or indeed of humanity at large, by way of escape from the terrible scourge from which we are still suffering.
What the country demands and what the world asks for in a much larger measure of publicity in regard to what is going on at the Peace Conference, so that the whole people of this country and of other nations can be carried in sound and general agreement with it. During the War a great deal was said, and very properly said, about the necessity for secrecy. The necessity for secrecy has very largely gone. Let the people be taken into the confidence of the Government, and, bad or good as the news may be, if their confidence be asked, not only will their confidence be given, but their full support rendered to the Government. I hope that a full answer will be given to the question of my right hon. Friend in regard to the paragraph in the Gracious Speech as to the necessity for keeping up the Armies in the field. The Military Service Acts will go on until the War ceases, and until such time afterwards up to the ratification of peace. But if there be one question on which the constituency I have to deal with and other constituencies were deeply moved it was the question of the permanence of enforced military service. There was a deep-rooted distrust in the minds of the people of granting further powers to the War Office and to the military authorities for keeping men any longer than was absolutely necessary under the heel—the necessary heel during war-time—of enforced military service.
There are one or two other points upon which I might venture to ask my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister some questions. With regard to omissions, there were the famous "five points" of which we heard a good deal at the election. As far as I was concerned I was in hearty agreement with them and supported them. There was, first, "Punish the Kaiser," and the others were "Make Germany Pay," "Get the soldier home as soon as possible," "Fair Treatment for returned Soldier and Sailor," "Better housing and better social conditions." With regard to the last two, reference is made in the Gracious Speech. As to the punishment of the Kaiser, that was one of the questions on which, as far as I could gather, candidates all over the country were fully pledged. I only say about that that while there must be enormous difficulties in connection with it, yet what a precedent it would be for any ruler, be he President or Prime Minister, crowned King or Emperor, who plunges the nation into war, to be brought to judgment, and dealt with according to his deserts.
There is one other omission to which so far no reference has been made. In most of tine previous Gracious Speeches a reference has been made to the urgent need for public economy. Perhaps it was so obvious that they did not think it necessary to mention it, but never was there a time when economy in the public service and on the part of the private individual was so necessary as now. As far as expenditure is concerned, we are rather living almost in a fool's paradise. This country for four years has been living on its capital. What happens to the individual who lives on his capital sooner or later happens to the nation? The sooner we face realities in regard to our financial position the better it will be for us. The longer that is delayed the greater will be the crash or the difficulties when we have to face or deal will the actual situation. As to the remedies that are to be adopted for many of our ills, there is one sentence in the Gracious Speech to which I would draw the attention of the House. It begins by saying—
We shall not achieve this end by undue tenderness towards acknowledged abuses"
I thought, it was going to read—
undue tenderness towards vested interests, or to fortunes that have been made entirely in the War.
Why should there be undue tenderness towards any acknowledged abuses? We have acknowledged abases, and we must deal with them in a drastic spirit; it is
not a question of tenderness or otherwise. The time I have allotted myself is very nearly up, therefore let me deal very briefly with the question which was touched upon much more fully by my right hon. Friend, the great industrial position with which we are faced. On the workman's side there is undoubtedly the knowledge that the scale or curve of unemployment is steadily rising. He feels an uncertainty; he feels that his fate may be that of his comrades. It is all very well to say, "This will adjust itself in the long run," but the ordinary working man cannot wait for the "long run." We have therefore the position of unrest and uncertainty on his side. What do we find on the employer's side? We find that he has no idea of what is going to happen to his particular business three months or six months ahead. You cannot expect an employer to launch out into fresh undertakings or expenditure in his particular business unless he has some confidence in what the future hasfor him. What is required is some bold, clear policy. Even if the policy adopted has grave disadvantages it is much better to have a clear, clean line rather than to perpetuate uncertainty, and bring about a condition of things which it is extremely difficult to adjust.
As far as those with whom I am associated are concerned, our outlook upon our Parliamentary duties is just this, no stinted, niggard support of the Government, but in any policy or measure which they may adopt that is likely to better the country, whole-hearted support. On the other hand, where we find it necessary, of course we shall oppose; but I hope we shall all bear in mind that the country is still in the danger zone, and that it behoves us all to work together with a full sense of our responsibility towards a better condition of things.
I should like to associate myself with the very well-deserved congratulatory references made by the two right hon. Gentlemen who have just sat down to the speeches of the Mover and the Seconder of the Address. With a very long experience of this House I do not know that I have ever heard speeches which gave more general satisfaction. Both Gentlemen have taken a part in the fiery struggle out of which their country has now so triumphantly emerged. The Seconder of the Address has won the supreme distinction for valour which his country could give him, and I am sure they both feel more than satisfied with the able way in which they have discharged a most difficult and a most delicate task.
I should also like to associate myself with the observations which fell from my right hon. Friend (Sir D. Maclean). I regret, on personal grounds, the absence of a Member who for thirty years has adorned our Debates. I have worked with Mr. Asquith for years, and I deplore sincerely the genuine misunderstanding—genuine on both sides—which severed our association. But although since then, there have been some of his Parliamentary actions of which I necessarily could rot approve, still my respect for him personally and my admiration for his great gifts are undiminished. I therefore associate myself heartily with what has been said.
I come now to the questions which have been addressed to me by the two right hon. Gentlemen. I mean to take no part in the friendly rivalry which they have so genially initiated. I would only make an appeal to you, Mr. Speaker—that, in the interests of business, you would settle their claims as soon as possible. I am very glad, to hear from the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Adamson)—I think the same observation came from my right hon. Friend (Sir D. Maclean)—that they both mean to support the Government in every honest endeavour they may make to deal with the social difficulties of to-day. We can claim no more. I will now try to answer some of the questions which were addressed to me. Some entered into matters of detail which I would suggest had better be deferred until the measures of which notice has been given to-day are introduced to the House—the question about housing, the question about railways, and the question about pensions, with which I can deal immediately.
There are considerations in regard to pensions and separation allowances which at present are being very carefully surveyed by the Minister who is in charge of the Pensions Department and by his Under-Secretary. I agree with everything that has fallen from the right hon. Gentleman as to the merits of people who have sacrificed so much for their country, and as to the claim they have, I will not say upon the generosity—as to the right they have to expect that their country will see that they suffer no privation for the sacri- fices which they have made for their native land. But I must also give one word of warning. I hope there will be no undue competition in the matter of running up charges on the country which, whatever happens, will have to bear a very crushing burden certainly for some years. I would only put that word of warning in now, and I think it is necessary, and that I say without any detriment to the claims of all those men who have rendered such noble service to their country.
The two right hon. Gentlemen who have spoken have not put any detailed questions, to me about the Peace Conference, and I think they exercised a wise discretion in that respect. It would be a misfortune if the discussions which have been begun there were, before they were concluded, referred to the Parliaments of the various countries who are represented at that Conference. There are many difficult questions, and there are many very delicate questions, to discuss. So far we have made progress which is equal to, and I may even say beyond, the most sanguine anticipations, in. approaching agreement upon most of these questions, and I should deprecate very strongly anything in the nature of a sort of separate Debate in the Parliaments of all these countries upon questions which would best be discussed by the representatives of those countries together. There is this difference between this Conference and any conference that the world has ever seen. You had the Conference at Frankfurt in 1871. You had the Berlin Conference in 1878. You had the Portsmouth Conference in 1904. You had the Conference about the Balkans. They practically all dealt with a difference of opinion between two countries. The differences were simple, the matters to be adjudicated upon were limited.
Here at this Conference we are settling questions which involve every Continent in the world. There are over thirty nations represented at the Conference, most of them with a direct interest in the Conference. Therefore it is a very difficult task to adjust all the various claims which are put forward, and which will be most carefully considered. It was even a difficult matter sometimes to decide the question of representation. We had for instance to decide the representation of the Dominions and of India—for the first time represented in a Conference of Nations. That took some time. There were nations that appealed against decisions, and those questions had to be considered. No time has been wasted. The whole energy of the delegates of the Great Powers has been devoted to trying, not merely to effect an enduring settlement, but to effect it at the earliest possible moment, because we all realise not merely that peace is important, but that a speedy peace is of importance, and that until we establish peace among the nations there will always be a feeling of unrest throughout the world, and industry will not settle down to its normal task.
Only two questions have been asked about the Peace Conference. One was as to the punishment of those responsible for the War, and the other was as to making Germany pay. As to the first question, an able Commission has been appointed, representing all the Great Powers, to consider the responsibility, not of one individual, but of a great many individuals, and not merely the responsibility for the War, but the responsibility for breaches of the laws of war. The Attorney-General has been sitting on that Commission. He has now returned to London to his duties and the Solicitor-General is there, with the Prime Minister of New Zealand representing his country. France is very ably represented, as are America and the other countries, and we hope to get their report very shortly upon the whole question—not merely the responsibility of those who initiated the War, but also the responsibility of those who have been guilty of outrages during the progress of the War.
With regard to the indemnity which is to be exacted from the enemy countries, that also has been deferred to a singularly able Commission. Upon that Commission the British Empire is represented by the Prime Minister of Australia, by Lord Cunliffe, and by Lord Sumner. They are singularly able men, each with several qualifications for the purpose of investigating the matter. The same tiling applies to the representatives of France, America, Belgium and two or three other countries. They have been sitting every day. I saw Mr. Hughes just before I left, and he told me they had been sitting regularly, and they had appointed three Sub-committees to investigate different branches of the question, because you have to consider the questino of the claims put in by the various countries as well as the best method of making the enemy countries pay. But I can assure the House that, so far from that being lost sight of, it is one of the first Committees which was appointed. It has proceeded immediately to work and we shall act upon its report.
The third question asked about the Peace Conference was whether the Treaty will be placed upon the Table of the House before ratification. I believe that is the ordinary course. Of course, subject to the ratification of the Treaty, the representatives of this country will follow the same course as the representatives of every other country, and provisionally sign the Treaty at the Peace Conference. The Treaty will undoubtedly then be placed upon the Table of the House for ratification. I believe constitutionally there are parts of the Treaty which must be placed upon the Table of the House by the Constitution of this country. [Interruption.] If the House of Commons chooses to repudiate the Treaty the House of Commons is all-powerful.
With regard to the progress of the League of Nations, it has been exceedingly satisfactory. I think all the friends of the League of Nations will say they have much more support than they ever expected. There was a very general feeling in favour of it, especially among the smaller nations, who felt very helpless without the protection which a body of that kind can afford them in the future. There is the most complete unanimity, I am very glad to say. The draft has not yet been completed, but as far as I have been informed, the representatives of the Great Powers on that body and the representatives of the Small Powers are in complete agreement up to that point. There are left only a very few points, not of a very important character. Therefore, I think the House will feel that the experiment will be tried—an experiment full of hope for the future—and tried with the full assent of the nations, great and small, represented at that great Conference.
I come now to the question of Labour unrest, which occupied a great part of the speech of my right hon. Friend the Member for Fife, and was also referred to in the speech of my right hon. Friend the Member for Peebles. I cannot conceive any question more important to the House to take cognisance of than that question. If this unrest continue the consequences will be grave to the trade and industry of this country, and if certain designs which some men harbour in this country, and to which my right hon. Friend referred, had even a remote prospect of success, I can not think of a more serious matter for the House of Commons immediately to concern itself. There is no doubt of the unrest. It is not so easy to define the causes. Some of the causes are legitimate: some are not. Let us consider those which are legitimate.
In some respects the economic conditions of the country during the War have been better than during our lifetime. Wages have been higher. There has been no unemployment. There has been no distress. There has been no poverty comparable to that which existed before the War. There has been no unemployment, which is always a fertile cause of distress, hunger, and privation—none during the War. Still there are special war conditions which have conduced to the unrest. Let us take them first. There is the strain of the last four and a half years. That is why I respond to the appeal of my learned and gallant Friend behind me (Col. Sir Rhys Williams) that we should preserve our sense of proportion. There is no doubt that nerves are rattled. Men have been working at a stretch for four and a half years amidst the tensest excitement, amidst all kinds of anxieties, working time and working overtime. Four and a half years of that is enough to produce a condition of things where men are not in their normal frame of mind when they come to consider any problem. Let us begin by remembering that, and by making allowance for it. I call that a legitimate cause. But it is a passing cause: it is avanishing cause. It will grow less day by day. Patience is required. What is the next? It was indicated by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Fife. It is a genuine fear of unemployment. It is only workmen who having passed through cycles of unemployment know the terror of it, and know what it means to their households. That is why they prefer taking posts which give them most inadequate pay, because these provide them with permanent employment. You see that in almost every country. Men have that dread sense of unemployment. They have that fear now.
What is the other cause that has been indicated? It is social conditions, against which there has been growing dissatisfaction, growing discontent, and growing revolt in the conscience and heart of the community. The better educated the working classes become the deeper and stronger is their resentment at these social conditions, many of which involve human degradation. Men protest against them. There is bad housing, and overcrowding in many districts. You have only to read the Reports which have been presented to this House many a time of overcrowding conditions in many districts where no decent and wise agriculturist would herd his cattle. There are Reports of that kind which I have, read, read at this Table, about certain parts of the Kingdom. All this has been aggravated during the War through the special conditions, of the War. You have had workmen crowding into areas because there were special munition works there, although the districts are already insufficiently supplied with houses. No building has boon possible. The ordinary building of the country has been at a standstill for five years. Men have crowded into these areas.
What other causes are there? There is no doubt at all that even restrictions on the people's luxuries and amusements have helped. All these are causes which have contributed to the unrest. I should like to say something about one or two of them. I first of all make this general observation. In so far as there are legitimate causes of unrest, it is the business of the Government and the House of Commons to do its best to remove them, so as to give no justification for unrest, and so as not to give material for those who are exploiting that unrest. In individual cases we are dealing with them. In individual trades there is much more work being done in regard to hours of work and wages than perhaps the public knows. In trades affecting 3,000,000 of the working people of this country agreements have already been arrived at in regard to hours of labour. In trades affecting another 2,000,000 negotiations are still pending.
There is, however, a good deal to be said about a more general investigation into the whole causes of industrial unrest. The Government welcome such an investigation. They will be glad to agree to any method of investigation into the general causes which will be satisfactory to employed, to employers, and to the community at large. They have certain suggestions which they are prepared to put forward and to discuss on the proper occasion. There is, I think, an Amendment to the Address upon the subject of industrial unrest. That might be the proper occasion to discuss these various suggestions. Take the question of social conditions. This Parliament is pledged up to the eyes to deal with them. There is not a Member returned to this House who is not pledged to deal with these causes. My right hon. Friend the Member for Derby (Mr. Thomas), in the very brave and wise speech he delivered on the subject on Sunday last—I did not agree with everything in it, but that perhaps is too much to expect—
My right bon. Friend said that he did not altogether trust this Parliament to carry out these pledges. He is entitled to say so, because ho won his election upon the same statement.
I cannot imagine a graver indictment against any Government, against any Parliament, than that should it be true. We have, been given authority to deal with these matters, and the Government mean to do their best. I am confident Parliament will support us. If we fail, history will condemn, not merely the perfidy, but the egregious folly of such a failure. My right hon. Friend the Member for Derby, who had the courage to make that speech on Sunday will, I trust, have the courage next year to make another speech, and to say that for the first time in his life he was wrong.
to deal with housing, with health, with the development and the transport of the country, the revival of rural life, with land settlement for soldiers and others, and with reclamation and a forestation.
There is another very important state-made in the Gracious Speech from the Throne which, I think, ought to give an assurance to those who are more diffident about the Government's intentions. That is the statement that we propose to submit to the House of Commons certain recommendations for the improvement of procedure. I have always thought that the procedure of the House of Commons was devised not to promote, but to impede legislation. What I know is that when one was sitting on the other side of the House I knew no better procedure for impeding business. That is the experience with which centuries has provided the Opposition. I am certain that our present methods of examining legislation, of having 600 men scrutinising every line, every word, every comma, for weeks, in the presence of the Press, is a futile method of transacting business. Why, anyone who has been trying to draft a document in a body of fifteen or twenty will know that. It always ends in waste of time. As long as the House of Commons accepts the main outlines of the measure, it is fatal to business to insist upon every Member of the House taking part in a close scrutiny of every word. That is not how great measures were passed; that is not the way to transact business. I am perfectly certain that Magna Charta would never have been carried if all the Barons had adopted the procedure of the House of Commons.
I come now to another point made by my right hon. Friend. He referred to unemployment. I do not believe that there is any fear of unemployment if we behave rationally and wisely; but if there be any attempt to reproduce the conditions which we have witnessed in Russia, where there is a deficiency of profitable employment, that would be indeed fatal to employment in this country. The heavy burdens of the War bear heavily on all classes and on all businesses, and that has got to be borne in mind when you are trying to start all classes of industry again in this country, and I wish that it were borne in mind. If too many demands be not put forward by certain sections of the community, there is plenty of material for employment, if all classes act with restraint and wisely. There was a very admirable passage in my hon and gallant Friend's speech in which he pointed out the arrears which have not been supplied during the last four or five years in some of the essential ingredients of work throughout the various countries that constitute our markets. In railways, in textiles, in ships, in furniture, in buildings, there are great arrears. All these have got to be made up. There is no danger of unemployment if certain essential conditions of employment be adhered to.
What are those conditions? First of all, confidence must be given to those who are responsible for starting the wheels of industry and commerce. It is with difficulty we can get a move on. There is a great hanging back, because men do not quite know what is going to happen. There are so many doubtful conditions. And if men apprehend that an enterprise which they start is going to be interrupted by some social upheaval they would rather not start it. They know perfectly well that if they begin, and something happens, to be caught half-way is to be ruined. Confidence, therefore, is essential to setting the wheels of industry and commerce going. Disturbances create unemployment, and aggravate and perpetuate unemployment.
What is the second cause of possible unemployment? If the cost of production in this country become so high that it reduces the purchasing capacity of the community as a whole, or put us out of the markets of the world—and both will happen if the cost of production be too high—that means disastrous unemployment. That is why one individual trade cannot be considered without reference to the rest, and I should like all sections of the community to bear this in mind at the present moment. A great increase in the cost of some essential ingredients, like coal or transport, may easily destroy our chance of restarting our great export industry. We are a great exporting country. I believe we exported before the War something like £1,000,000,000 worth of goods of all sorts. It was a gigantic trade. It used to be computed that half of that was in wages. Most of that trade was conducted on a narrow margin. A little change, this way or that way, would have given the trade to someone else. Four shillings a ton on coal, and shillings added for some other ingredients, whether shipping or other transports, or in some other way, may deprive us of hundreds of millions of trade in all parts of the world.
What does that mean to employment? It means throwing hundreds of thousands of men out of work. I am not sure that it might not run to millions. Would the miners gain by that in the end? No one can consider individual trades without reference to their bearing upon other trades; and when we talk about unemployment we have, to bear in mind those two essential considerations. I am not sure that my right hon. Friend the Member for Derby did not refer to this. It is a great mistake to imagine that there is an inexhaustible reservoir of profit into which you can dip at any moment without hurting any trade or business. There is no better illustration than the railways. At the beginning of the war the railways of this country were making a profit of £50,000,000. That produced a dividend of under 4 per cent. That is not a very extravagant return for capital, a great deal of which is invested by people who have nothing else to live upon. They are small people. It is not invested in big sums as a rule. What has happened since the war? Owing to increases in one thing or another—increases of wages, curtailment of the hours of labour and increased cost, of material—we have added £90,000,000 to cost, of running the railways. Where is the fund of profit there? It is all gone. Who is to make it up? [An Hon. Member: "The consumer."] The first-class passenger will not produce much, if you double or treble his fare. Every railway manager knows that. We have to get it from the consumer in some way or other—your third-class passenger, your goods, your food. That is the only way to get it. I only want every section of the community, when it puts forward demands, to bear these essential facts in mind—that all these demands are passed on to someone else, and that there is a stage where if you pass them on they crowd on top of some poor industry that can barely march now, and it is crushed. That means unemployment for somebody.
There is a theory that one way of providing employment is by reducing the hours of labour, so that there will be enough work to go round at the same wages. Reduce the hours of labour to what is legitimate and what is fair and possible, but to reduce the hours of labour merely in order to create employment for exactly the same wage is the one way to make unemployment over the whole country. [Hon. Members: "No."] I should have thought that that stood to reason. That is really so elementary. [An Hon. Member: "False economics."] It increases the cost of a particular commodity which a trade is producing. That commodity is an ingredient in something else. If you put up the price, you diminish the purchasing capacity, and if you diminish the purchasing capacity you diminish employment. Not only that, but, as I have pointed out, you destroy the overseas trade, upon which this country depends more than any country in the world.
I would despair if the working classes of the country did not realise that elementary fundamental principle, but I am sure they do. You may, by this process, gain something which looks like a big wage. In the end you increase the cost of everything. See what happened in Russia, where the workers seemed to be getting sumptuous wages. They ran up to the most splendid figures, but when they went into a shop with these wages what could they buy for them? Go there with a £5 note, and you will buy as much as you could buy here very often for 1s. 6d. What is the good of wages being increased for those people, puffed-up wages which look good on paper—and they are paper—as if the working classes at last were coming into their own. They are being cheated by that system at every step, and they are beginning to discover it.
There are legitimate means by which the Government can assist employment. Take the housing problem. My right hon. Friend asked me a question about what we were doing, and he ventured to say that not one single step had been taken. He is quite misinformed. As a matter of fact the Ministry of Supplies has already taken the most gigantic steps to prepare for the housing programme. They have ordered material on a very considerable scale which will provide employment—bricks, windows, and doors and all the material which is essential for the building of houses in the country. That is one method. There is the development of the ways and communications of this country which will open up the resources of the country. That will provide legitimate employment, while it enriches the country at the same time. There are projects like a forestation, settlement on the land, which provides for the healthiest means of employment which any State can give its people in the greatest industry in the land.
Then as to the causes of this unrest, I am bound to be frank with the House. One of them was dealt with by my right hon. Friend, and I am not going to deal with them all. There is the sedulous attempt which has been made for years to undermine confidence in trade union leadership. Why? That has produced indiscipline, which has often been beyond the control of the trade union. It has almost made collective bargaining impossible, and I cannot conceive anything more fatal to the industrial life of this country. A trade union leader acquires in the course of years knowledge and experience in the course of his business, and more than one side and one aspect is forced upon his vision, and he gets to know things which otherwise would never have been brought to his notice. Knowledge and experience give responsibility, and the moment trade union leaders exercise that responsibility they are attacked. Their influence is undermined, distrust and suspicion creeps over them, and the result is distrust where there ought to be confidence; and it is almost impossible to do business in some trades, I have had some experience of it. Why is this done? It is done undoubtedly by some for the very reason that anarchy is the only thing that can follow, and that is what they are after. Anarchy is their aim, and anarchy is the purpose of some of those men who are seeking to destroy not merely Trade Unionism, but the State.
There are certain trades on the continuous working of which success in the War was dependent. Had they suspended their activities for a month, it might, I will not say have produced disaster on England, but it would have seriously impaired our chance of success. The leaders of those trades knew that, and they behaved with a patriotic restraint which does them honour. Now that the War is over, the sense of power remains in those trades, but the peril which produced that restraint is over. There are men in those trades at present who are undoubtedly urging their leaders to use the power which they have got to hold up business. We had some very strong words about that from my right hon. Friend. I have had one or two words to say about that on behalf of the Government. Every demand which is put forward by any body of workmen the Government are bound to examine, and they will examine it fairly and carefully with the view to removing any legitimate grievance, and to redressing any unfairness or inequalities. But any demand which is pressed forward with a view not to obtaining fair conditions, but with ulterior motives—to hold up and to overthrow the existing order and to destroy Government, relying not upon the justice of the claim, but the brute force which is behind it, then may I say as to that, in all solemnity, on behalf of the Government, we are determined to fight Prussianism in the industrial world as we fought it on the Continent of Europe with the whole might of the nation.
Whether it be employers or employed, anybody who uses force in order to drive an unfair bargain with the community, then we are bound to fight that with the whole might of the nation, or we cease to be a Government. I have already indicated that the first thing we have to do is to get peace. You will not get settlement in the world until you have peace. These disturbances are interfering with the making of peace, and they are making it difficult to make peace. Every morning before I went to the Peace Conference I had messages from London about a strike, and when I returned in the evening about another strike, Trade Union leaders thrown over, and bargains repudiated. I do not mind saying it, I think it would have been to the advantage of the Peace Conference had I been able to remain there for a few days longer. These disturbances are promoting the very evils which they are supposed to work against and to get rid of—they are making peace difficult.
I really appeal to men of all sections to consider seriously the effect of demands which are made upon the community merely upon the strength of force behind them. I know the perils, I know the dangers, I have carefully reckoned the cost; and I say deliberately that if the people of this country are prepared to face both the peril and the cost with the courage, endurance, and patience which they have exhibited in the face of an equally great menace; if all classes of the community are prepared to make the necessary sacrifices for the security and freedom of industry on which the future of this land and the happiness of its people really depend, then I am prepared to say with full knowledge that no section of the community, however powerful it may be, can or will be allowed to hold up the whole nation. Claims we will examine, and we will devote the whole of our strength to setting right and redressing all legitimate grievances. But I appeal to the commonsense of all sections of the community, so that the victory won so largely by the heroism and the tenacity of this great nation in five years of sacrifice shall not be wantonly dissipated in a few weeks of frenzied strife.
Speaking on behalf of the body which I represent, we desire to say how cordially we welcome the King's Speech as breathing a larger hope and brighter promise than has hitherto emanated from any of the King's Speeches. We have also been glad to hear the interpretation given by the Prime Minister as to what some of those intentions contained in the King's Speech mean when reduced to reality. We were struck with some of the omissions with which the Prime Minister has since dealt, in the first part of his speech he rather deprecated any illusion in this House or in the Parliament of any of our Allies to the problems with which the Peace Conference is faced, and having done that, he went on to explain certain things with regard to the intentions of the Peace Conference, in reply to a question. With regard to the punishment of the culprits, as to which the vast majority of this House are pledged to see it through, he said there had been appointed a very strong and representative Commission; and he also said, with regard to the question of an indemnity from Germany, to which again this House is overwhelmingly pledged, that there has been appointed a strong and representative Commission. Whereas he told the House that the Peace Conference were prepared to adopt the conclusions to which the Commission might come in regard to the indemnity, he did not make the same observation in regard to the recommendations that might come from the Commission empowered to deal with the question of procedure in regard to the culprits. And I should like to have a reassurance from the Prime Minister in the course of this Debate that it is the intention of the Conference, to adopt the proposals of that representative Commission, whatever they may mean, in the way of punishment either of lowly individuals or of the highest individuals in the German Empire and among the enemy people. The right hon. Gentleman also asked with regard to Russia. One realises that Russia is a delicate problem, but it is a grave problem, and we cannot conceive in this country of there being anything like a comprehensive or a durable peace that can leave the problem of Russia unsolved. Let me assure the Prime Minister that a great deal of disquiet has been evinced in this country by the proposal of the Peace Conference to invite to Prinkipo not only the representatives of law and order in Russia, but also the representatives of all that we know as Bolshevism. It is a fell disease, that is not without, its effect in this country, and the mere invitation to those people to go to Prinkipo has given a certain colour and complexion of legality to their conduct, when to every right thinking person their conduct is that of assassins, of brigands, and of scoundrels of the worst order; and speaking on behalf of the party which I represent, I should like some kind of justification or excuse that may have been at the back of the minds of our delegates to the Peace Conference in inviting the Bolsheviks to take part in the Conference at Prinkipo.
Passing to the great programme of social reform which has been outlined, may I say that I entirely agree with the diagnosis of the social disease which has come from the Prime Minister, and as one who has made a considerable fight during the last five years against those elements that have intruded into the organisation of the trade unions for the ulterior purposes of revolutionism and attempted to exploit the industrial grievances of the people, may I say how whole-heartedly I welcome the declaration of the Leader of the Labour patty with regard to those elements. If the recent General Election has done nothing else than to bring to the minds of responsible Labour leaders that it cannot pay in the long run to harbour and countenance and encourage these elements of pacificism, of syndicalism, of anarchy, and of revolution, then this General Election will not have been in vain; and so long as; the responsible leaders of the Labour party are out to uphold the strength of the trade unions for their great industrial purposes, and so long as they are out even to utilise the trade union machinery for the great work of industrial and social reform along lines of sanity and of evolution, they will only receive the most cordial, help, as of comrades, from those who are associated with me in this House. We welcome beyond measure the statement from the Leader of the Labour party this afternoon that they have no sympathy whatever with these people who have been trying to exploit the trade unions for ulterior purposes. It is a statement and an admission that goes far. If it had not been for conduct on the part of trade union leaders inconsistent with that, you would not have had the absurdity and the crowning scandal of the hard-earned contributions of the trade unionists being used to subsidise and pay the expenses of several hundred candidates of the wild-cat revolutionary order in the late election. We are glad that the emphasis which the General Election has given of public opinion being against that element is realised. We have heard lots of platform talk from that side about this being a Government of reaction, but I tell them that the great majority of the Members on this side will back the Government through thick and thin to give to the trade union organisations unstinted support in securing the redress of industrial grievances and that they shall ever have from our wing of the Coalition at all events the most earnest and zealous support in upholding the discipline of the trade unions against the intrusions or the attacks of any of the wild orders who are trying to run those unions for ulterior purposes.
I should like to have heard from the Prime Minister some definite indication that, while the Government are going to uphold the trade unions and to do all they can to secure the redress of industrial wrongs, they were going to deal specifically with a certain element of the wild order, namely, the alien Bolshevik, who is in our midst. Up to six or seven years ago you had the foreign Jew in the tailoring trade of London and the country, and also in the boot trade, but you had not the Amazing spectacle which is shown to-day of your so-called Polish Jew—although I suspect whether he is Polish or not—as an official in a great number of the trade unions. I know a case in North Wales where a Polish Jew tailor, working in Leeds before the War, is now a check-weigh man at one of the great collieries, purporting to represent the great mining community of North Wales. Hon. friends on the other side of the House will know that that is typical, and they will also know that there has been almost a rising flood of these aliens, and what we say from these benches is that the Government, where they have cases of these foreign Bolsheviks abusing the hospitality of these shores, shall bring in legislation, or use their administrative machinery, to see that they are expelled from this country, and that the ordinary English law shall deal with the conduct of our home-bred Bolsheviks and anarchists. We welcome the large promise of social reform contained in His Majesty's Speech, and we particularly welcome that side of the programme which deals with rural and urban housing. As many right hon. and hon. Gentlemen will know, the party with which I am associated have been running a very strong and comprehensive propaganda on this question of rural reform. We are glad to know that the Government are not going to deal with the rural side of housing as though it were just a self-contained problem, but that they are recognising that it is correlated with agricultural production on the one side and with transport on the other, and yet again with the health question. We shall await, with zealous keenness the production of the measures which will be brought in to interpret these great and promising phrases in His Majesty's Speech, and if they fulfil the promises of that Speech we shall give them cordial and earnest support, and at all events our attitude at all times on the great social programme of the Government, though it will be independent and aloof, will be an attitude of constructional criticism.
I regret that the Prime Minister is not in the House at the moment, because I should like to have said in his presence, as a humble Member, that I have rarely listened to a speech from him with greater pleasure than to that masterly exposition which he has just given of the reasons and possible remedies for the cases of industrial unrest. I want to deal with rather a different side of that question, concerning which there was very little in the Gracious Speech from the Throne—a subject which equally holds the field of public interest—and that is the question of the Peace Conference and various great points which are being discussed there. The Government appealed to the country at the General Election for a mandate with which they could go strongly armed to the Peace Conference. At the commencement of that Election there were not many indications that the Government was going to appeal on the peace terms at all, and the Government confined itself to a very fine programme of
reconstruction, without mentioning any of these points, and I think the House will bear me out when I say that a great wave of opinion ran through this country demanding that the Prime Minister should give very clear indications as to what was the policy of the Government upon, first, the question of indemnities; secondly, the question of the punishment of the criminals responsible for the War; thirdly, the treatment of all enemy aliens; and fourthly, the question of safeguarding the interests of our Dominions in the conquered German colonies. I think that any candidate at the election will agree that the defeat of Bolshevism and Pacifism were the only things that people really cared about at the polls. This was the most decisive mandate, I think I am right in saying, which has ever occurred in the history of democratic government in this country Armed with this mandate, our delegates went to the Peace Conference in Paris, and the people of this country were surprised that one of the first actions of the Prime Minister was to request—it has not been contradicted—that the Bolsheviks should have representatives in rebuilding this world at the Peace Conference. Then, apparently intoxicated by the success of his action in that respect, the Prime Minister proceeded to imbibe a beverage concocted, I think, by President Wilson, which had a kind of effect, on the right hon. Gentleman which made him think he was dealing with Utopia, or somewhere else which does not yet exist, and, under the influence of this dangerous drug, the light hon. Gentleman, in about four days, appeared to be convinced, if we can believe the rumours in the country—I hope they are not true, but they have not been contradicted—that it was desirable even to consider handing over the territories, which have been captured by the troops of the Empire with such immortal sacrifices during four long years, to the League of Nations as owners. I should like to remind the House of the very emphatic statement of the First Lord of the Admiralty when Secretary of State for the Colonies. He and the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs on different occasions made reassuring statements to the Dominion statesmen in this country and to the country at large, and on 15th November, 1918, the First Lord of the Admiralty stated, in a letter to one of the Dominion representatives, the following:
I understand that you and your colleagues have some anxiety as to the position of the ex-German Colonies. I am authorised by the Prime Minister to tell you that when Mr. Balfour and I spoke on different occasions upon this subject, though we spoke for ourselves, we had the entire approval and assent of the Prime Minister and our colleagues in the Government. The whole support of His Majesty's Government will be given to the claims of the Dominions. The Prime Minister has already made this perfectly clear to the representatives of the great Allied Powers in Paris.
We hope that that spirit still animates the right hon. Gentleman, but, apparently it has been decreed by President Wilson that those territories must not belong to those necessarily who have rescued them from tyranny, but should be handed over to the League an owners, who, in turn, will give mandatory powers to certain countries whom they may select. The Prime Minister in his speech deprecated any discussion in this House about these questions, but I would remind him, if he were here, that already in the United States there has been very vigorous discussion on this subject, and we have had several speeches supporting President Wilson's ideas in the Senate of the United States and in Congress, and we have also had, I am glad to say, very emphatic view points—as they are called in the United States—in the direction that those territories should remain vested in those countries who have made the sacrifices, and I would refer specially to the brilliant speech of Senator Lodge. It seems to me we should discuss these questions equally frankly in this House, because, after all, the United States and ourselves have become such friends during the War that there is no fear of our being misunderstood, and I think if we were to hide our diplomatic thoughts in this House that would be regarded as secret diplomacy, and would therefore be deprecated by President Wilson. If the League of Nations becomes the owner of these territories which at the present moment are being protected by British arms, the natural corollary appears to me to be that the whole cost of the conquest of these Colonies and territories—South-West Africa, East Africa, Mesopotamia, Palestine, the Cameroons, Togoland, and the Far East—must be found by this future State of the League of Nations, because it can hardly be imagined that it could be suggested that all that great loss in treasure and blood to this country should come to nothing, simply because of some new idea that the world has to be governed
in a different way in the days to come. Unfortunately, there is no delegate to the Peace Conference in the House, or I should ask the House: Did President Wilson suggest to the delegates at the Conference that the cost of the freeing of those countries for civilisation should be restored to the British Empire, assuming that the League of Nations became the owner? It seems to me it is only a logical question, because I am perfectly certain President Wilson would not try to eat his cake and still have it, much less anybody else's cake; and if he did not make the suggestion, did our delegates refuse even to discuss the question until that, together with the capital cost of all pensions incurred in all those campaigns, was considered by the Peace delegates?
May I ask the House to consider what would be the effect of this proposal of the mandatory? If we take either group of the Pacific isles, supposing Japan and Australia were the mandatory Powers, and supposing that some great question came up for the League of Nations to deal with—say, the question of labour—is it possible, from what we know, that the views of Japan and of Australia and the League of Nations would coincide? And supposing Japan and Australia were the mandatories, are we sure that either of them, or both of them, would agree to the proposals of labour laid down by the League? Supposing that the United States and Japan differed, how difficult it would be for this country as a member of the League to know which course to take. How much more difficult would it be supposing there was a conflict of opinion between Japan, our Ally, and our kindominion, Australia, on a question such as this; and would we, in that event, be compelled to side with the League or with our Dominion, Australia? I think, if we look at it from this point of view—and there are many other questions which might arise of a similar character—wemust realise that, unless there are certain proposals which have not yet transpired in the Press, these arrangements will be a fruitful source of future wars as between all the various Powers connected with it. It will be remembered that in Egypt and the New Hebrides, where a dual ownership prevailed, trouble was narrowly averted. How much more difficult will it be to see that harmony prevails where you have two score guardians of the League as the real owners of one of these countries.
In connection with this, it seems to me the modesty of the British nation is likely to weaken the results of the Peace Conference if we do not speak up. I believe there area great many people in this country who are beginning to see that it is our modesty which at times does us very great harm, on account of the fact that we bottle our feelings. I am compelled to ask the House whether they can remember that either the Dutch, Swiss, Liberians or the Eskimoes were ever present on the march to Baghdad. One can ask this question with regard to all campaigns in South-West Africa and East Africa, and even those men from the United States whom we learnt to admire so much on the Western Front were not able to take part in those great advances from Gaza and Jerusalem up to Damascus. These being the facts, it seems to me that in their enthusiasm for the ideal of the League of Nations—which, I believe, every Member of this House would desire to see carried out in some form or another—in their enthusiasm to see that ideal got on with quickly, our delegates have been somewhat inclined to forget their duty to the nation and to the Empire. I can understand the Prime Minister yielding an advanced post here or a pill box there over a question of debate at the Peace Conference, but it does seem, from the indications we get—and I was hoping there would be some right hon. gentleman who could reply to this—that we have given up most of our lines of fortification already at the Peace Conference, and that there are grave dangers that the full fruit of this victorious War may pass from us to some illusory State.
With regard to indemnities, here again we know nothing, but are our delegates in Conference likely to forget the overwhelming feeling in this country with regard to this subject which gave the Coalition candidates at the Election a very large part of the great majorities they gained? There are disquieting rumours abroad. The country's view was, and is, and, so far as I can see, will be, so long as taxes are paid in this country, always the same on that question. I believe that the general point of view of the country is this; Every home has suffered through the result of this War, and even if indemnities by way of punishment, and the old accepted idea of indemnities, are not imposed, it is intolerable to think that the cost of the international police should not be imposed upon the criminals who started
this bloody War. What have our people done? What have our fighting men, above all, done that they should go down to their grave burdened with this colossal debt when, after all, they have won the position to dictate the terms to our enemies? It is rumoured again here that President Wilson is keen that this question should be passed over, because he once uttered fourteen points. But those fourteen points, after all, are not the Ten Commandments, and it seems to me that we are in no way bound to them, although we could give a general consent to some of the principles contained therein. But no one would be so foolish as to complain of President Wilson holding those views. After all, his first concern as a good American is to secure American interests at this Conference. That is his job, and when he has done that, of course he can consider International questions. Also we have to remember that that is for better or worse. I think Mr. Asquith, if he were in the House, would not have complained of the comparison. He very frequently, when considering great questions, had to bear in mind the eighty Irish, votes here. His whole policy was framed by that consideration. President Wilson has got to consider the vast American-German vote, and we must not forget that when we are considering this question of the position of nations at the Conference. May I just remind the House of this fact, which is frequently forgotten? This Empire has saved the world. The British Fleet, and the British Fleet alone, saved the whole of civilisation from destruction. I cannot bring a better witness with regard to that than Admiral Sims. Admiral Sims said,
If a catastrophe should happen to the British Grand Fleet, there is no power on earth that can save us. The British Grand Fleet is the foundation-stone of the cause and of the whole of the Alliance.
Those are great words from a great witness, and, with regard to the British Armies, we have no less an authority than Marshal Foch, who has told us definitely that it was the hammer blows of the British Armies which smashed the Germans in the end, so that they had to seek an armistice. I should be the last, having had the honour of fighting for two years by the side of the French Armies, not to admit that we should have been hopeless without the French Armies. But I think any gallant Frenchman would be the first to admit that without our Armies
the War would have been over long before some of our later Allies thought of coming into the conflict. Therefore we can claim with justice that our delegates went to the Peace Conference in the strongest position you can imagine in order to secure everything in the nature of a just peace for this country.
In addition to the question of the Fleet and the Armies on the Western Front. I think it is up to us to remember that, single-handed, we beat that formidable military Power, Turkey, who attacked us. We beat back her attack on Egypt, and swept her back from the Mediterranean and Palestine territories. Single-handed, we wrested the German colonies from our enemies, and with our Japanese allies we thrust them out of Far Eastern waters. The fact remains that it is for this Empire to dictate how these territories, for which they have made such costly sacrifices, should be disposed of, and that it should not be left to some half-incubated League which may come into being many years hence. May I just remind the House for one moment, as a word of warning, who were the principal sponsors for this League in this country—and once more I would say that I believe that your way to a League is through the British Empire and your Allies, and that it is not necessary to allow people who have had no part in this quarrel to come in and dictate the fate of the British Empire in time to come. Who are the principal sponsors? Mr. Asquith, Mr. Runciman, Mr. McKenna, Sir John Simon, Sir John Willoughby Dickinson, Mr. Henderson, and Mr. Macdonald. It is very delightful to be able to mention their names in this House.
These gentlemen from the start have been very keen on this ideal and have been the principal sponsors. But I would point out that these men have so endeared themselves to the British people that there is not a single constituency, from Land's End to John o'Groats, which would have anything to do with them. They were not defeated at the polls, but squelched. It was the most decisive political defeat anyone had ever known. Why did they rally with such enthusiasm to this case? Because they saw it was a proposal that was unnational and they hastened to write to the newspapers and tumbled over themselves to get on the platform in order to espouse it. I do not complain of that, but I do complain that they espoused it before they had considered all the results which this proposal was going to have on this country and on the Empire at large. If we remember who were the original sponsors in this movement it ought to make us cautious as to how we hand over the destinies of this Empire in the future to a League of which nobody really understands the machinery. Might I give one instance? Mr. Asquith wrote a letter to the newspapers, in which he pointed out that the executive of the League was to consist of the Great Powers. Who are the Great Powers? The great naval and military countries of the world who know how to use armaments. General Smuts followed in a precisely similar line, which was different to the idea Mr. Asquith had when he went to the Brotherhood, but General Smuts and Mr. Asquith were the only two prominent men in this country who had written on this subject before our delegates went to Paris. In a few words, it seems to me that the League is to be conceived in a dreadnought and born in a tank. If the League of Nations is going to be founded on force, how much better to recognise that fact at once, and not to allow people to think that we mean anything else. But if it is not to be founded on force, and if it is to be an idea, such as is proposed by the Churches of this country—most sincerely, I am sure—then you cannot have different grades of civilisation amongst free and equal nations, as it is suggested, and the consequence is that you must inevitably find, ultimately, that your League of Nations' representation will be founded upon population. I would ask the House to consider that, and if it is a fact, then China would have ten times the representation of Great Britain. The first proposal I referred to, the question of the Great Powers controlling the issue alone, seems to me somewhat in the nature of humbug; and that of allowing China, to have ten times more representation than Great Britain is obviously absurd. But there surely remains a third way, and that is that we should start immediately to do everything in our power to bring our Allies together, in order to see that peace terms are settled by the Peace Conference of the Allies, and not handed over to this visionary instrument. If we do that, and if we stand by our friends, there is very little doubt that we shall achieve such a peace as we want, and it seems far more likely to be a lasting peace than if we hand all these difficult questions of territory, German colonies, and things of that kind, over to what might easily turn into a Tower of Babel, with fifty different tongues trying to decide the question. The Prime Minister told us to-day how difficult it was, even with a small Committee, to try to get anything agreed upon. How, with these different nations and fifty different tongues trying to get a decision, are you really going to work together in the direction of world peace?
It is because I see the danger of this League of Nations controlling the mandatories that I do urge that the Prime Minister should give us a further statement on this question. I should have put down an Amendment on the question had it not been for the fact that it was realised that owing to the urgency of the strike question we had to deal with that tomorrow. It is due to the people, after the mandate given at the General Election, that they should know perfectly clearly what is going to be done. If we can we want an end of secret diplomacy; but let us have at least the broad facts before us. Just as some Powers in this War may never become parties to the pact of peace so it is competent for them to make a separate peace if they do not agree with us; but in regard to our own terms let us clearly tell our delegates, once more, the will of the country, which is that Germany shall pay the net cost of the War as far as it may be possible—and I think it is possible and many of my friends think so, too—and also that the British Dominions shall deal with those territories which they freed from tyranny at such great sacrifice. That they should not be allotted to those who have had no part or lot in this quarrel, and that they should have no power to dictate, but that the question should be settled by the delegates of the Allied Powers who have fought and won this war for civilisation.
I am afraid it is out of my power to answer the very interesting questions that my hon. and gallant Friend put to the Government, and I observe that so far as attendance in this House goes war conditions still prevail on the Treasury Bench. Therefore, the prospect of getting answers to his questions is, I am afraid, not a very bright one. But we must recognise the truth of what the Prime Minister says, that there is an inherent difficulty in the way of Parliamentary discussion of diplomatic discussions when they are going forward. What ever else the House of Commons can do it cannot negotiate. If it intervenes at all it intervenes once for all with a definite instruction of one sort or another, which would, of course, be binding on the Government, and to do that in the midst of negotiations, without hearing what all the other parties to the negotiations have to say, would almost certainly be disastrous to any diplomatic understanding whatever. Therefore, desirable though it is in the abstract that the House of Commons should express its opinion upon all questions of foreign policy of importance, it does seem to me practically impossible that it should control the negotiations while they are going forward, or do anything but give appreciation or dissent. Therefore, I do not myself lament that my hon. and gallant Friend is not likely to have his questions answered to-night.
So far as what my hon. and gallant Friend said about the League of Nations goes, I think we must beware of arguing in a sort of dilemma about that scheme. It is, of course, quite true that the League of Nations cannot usefully be created into a sort of super-State in the present conditions and by a single diplomatic act, or by any single act. What it may ultimately develop into in the course of years none can tell, but, in the meantime, it cannot exercise the authority of a super-State unless there is a change of patriotic sentiment, so that the League of Nations would become a national centre for something equivalent to patriotic sentiment. At the same time there is no reason why it should not become a valuable piece of diplomatic machinery, operating in the interests of international peace; certainly not to set aside the means of security with which every nation must provide itself, but as a protection against war and as a means of securing an opportunity of keeping peace to the peoples of the world, who, we must hope, for many years to come, will be uniformly on the side of peace.
My object in catching your eye on the present occasion, Sir, was to advert to an omission in the King's Gracious Speech which I think will distress some excellent people in this country I mean that there is no reference to the promised revision of the financial settlement relating to the Welsh Church, which formed one of the assurances which the Prime-Minister gave a few days before the General Election was announced. I believe there is a considerable degree of uneasiness among Churchmen about that matter. It is not that they desire in any sense whatever to bring back into controversy what is now forth moment out of controversy; certainly it is not their desire that they should do anything which, would disturb the relations, happily now so harmonious, which exist between Nonconformists and Churchmen. But it must be borne in mind that there is in, the mind of Churchmen a profound sense of injustice in the settlement as it now stands.
Let me recall to the House three points upon which we conceive that the Welsh Church measure ought to be modified. First, in regard to the question of endowments. Churchmen are still of opinion that to deprive the Church of its endowments was an act of confiscation. They feel still more strongly that to take away a large sum of money from religions purposes to give it to secular purposes is at any time calamitous and is peculiarly unseemly at a time when the nation is, as a nation, giving thanks to Heaven for a great deliverance. There is something painfully incongruous in this House going solemnly to church and making thanksgiving for the Armistice, and as it will, doubtless again go when peace is finally proclaimed, and at the same time showing so little concern for religion as to transfer from religious purposes to secular purposes considerable sums of money—money considerable from the point of view of the service which that money can render to the community by providing a wage for the ministers of religion, but not considerable in respect of the vast sums with which the nation happily is now wealthy enough to deal. I believe the whole of the endowments of the Welsh Church amount to half a single day's cost of the War. What Churchmen look for and desire is that the endowments should be restored to the Church and be then purchased from the Church by a capital sum valued at equal to the endowments. Doubtless Nonconformists do not think that is required by justice. We do, and I cannot help thinking that most Nonconformists would welcome it from their point of view as an act of generosity. They would feel that it was singularly unacceptable to their sentiments that the new settlement after peace is declared should be initiated by a proceeding which cannot but leave the bitterest memories in the minds of a large body of Christians whom they more and more desire to meet with fraternal kindness. Therefore, from the point of view of Churchmen and Nonconformists, I believe the restoration of the endowments would be welcome.
There are two other matters of less difficulty which ought to be changed. There is the question of the possession of the churchyard, a difficult matter, because there are two very strong sentiments held by Churchmen and Nonconformists which are apparently in conflict. On the other hand, with the present state of feeling amongst Churchmen and Nonconformists. I believe that friendly consultation would be able, to devise some means of joint control which might satisfactorily remove that subject from the region of controversy. It would be most desirable that this question should no longer be one of controversy. The settlement in the Act which takes the control entirely away from the Church would not fulfil the object of creating an atmosphere of peace between religious bodies in Wales and England, and therefore it should be modified. Lastly, there is a question deeply felt by Churchmen as a matter of sentiment, and that is the removal of the Welsh dioceses from their relation to the Convocation of Canterbury and to the See of Canterbury without any ecclesiastical consent asked or given. It is a singular violation of the principles of spiritual freedom that a religious body should be cut in two, so far as organisation goes, without its own consent. There ought to be no difference of opinion as to the desirability of the Welsh dioceses, now that they are disestablished, being separately organised in the ecclesiastical sense, and there could be very little objection to allowing the Convocation of Canterbury to adjust that matter in its own way and according to its own principles.
These are three points which call for amendment in the Welsh Church Act. It must be remembered that time is beginning to be important in regard to that Act, because as soon as the ratifications of peace are exchanged the Act as it stands on the Statute Book comes into force. We were encouraged by the language of the Prime Minister to-day—and from what we read in the newspapers—that the preliminaries of peace will be signed before very long. I do not know how long it will take to make a definite treaty, but after that the ratifications may be exchanged as soon as the various Governments choose to make the exchange. Accordingly time is becoming important from the point of view of the Welsh Church Act, and it is disappointing to find that no mention of it is made in the King's Speech. I need not remind such Ministers as are now present that the Leader of the House (Mr. Bonar Law) is deeply pledged, independent of the pledge given by the Prime Minister before the election, on the matter of endowment. Whatever change the War has made in many directions it certainly has not relieved the Government of the necessity of fulfilling its promises, or the promises of prominent members of the Government, towards a great body of religious opinion which has trusted to those promises. I am aware that the House is anxious to proceed to the discussion of matters of a more exciting kind, but let it remember this, that finally and in the last resort it is the religious life of the country that forms the safest basis of national unity, and if we begin the new settlement after the War by sowing the seeds of bitterness between great religious bodies in the country, we shall very ill inaugurate what we all hope and believe will be a reign of peace abroad and at home.
The Noble Lord is usually an apostle of the doctrine of liberty in this House, but to-day he exasperates me and all of us by bringing forward a defence of the loaves and fishes of the Church of England. Surely there was no occasion more important in the history of this country for sound advice such as he could give to new Members on the principles of liberty and political economy, and it is deplorable that he goes back to the old question which we had all forgotten, that of Disestablishment of the Church of England in Wales. He knows as well as I do that in this time of turmoil it is absolutely the duty of everyone who is an economist to deal with the questions that were raised in the Prime Minister's speech. The Prime Minister stated, quite correctly I believe, that at the root of all the social discontent at the present time was the high price of all commodities in the country. The Prime Minister went on to tell us what had caused the high prices. He mentioned the high wages of labour. He concentrated his attention on the high wages of labour, but he did not draw attention to the fact that this Government is at the present time creating and stimulating these high prices by limiting importation into the country and continuing all the restrictions of war trade, so that prices are going higher and higher. The Prime Minister dealt with the question of unemployment, and told us that shortening the hours of labour from eight to seven or seven to six would inevitably lead to unemployment. In the main he was right, but not altogether, because a man may well do better work in seven hours than in eight hours. I am aware that after seven hours in this place, even when there are interesting Bills to oppose, one's powers flag, and that the work done in the last hour is often not so great as that done in the earlier hours of the day.
In connection with the question of unemployment the Prime Minister urged that there should be a vast building programme, not entirely for the providing of houses, but in order to provide work; that there should be, great railway enterprise to develop the agricultural areas of this country, but not so much to get cheap produce to the market as to provide work. All well and good, but let us remember that any form of useless work in proportion to its uselessness is waste and creates as much unemployment as it tries to stop. If you take money out of my pocket for the purpose of paying a man to dig up a field instead of using ploughs, that is useless employment and bad economics. It is waste. It will not enable me to buy the coal, the kettles or other conveniences of life that I want, and that will mean that other people are thrown out of work as a result of the useless work created to deal with unemployment. You must increase useful, productive work if you want to increase employment, and not try to deal with unemployment by creating work of the kind to which I have referred or by putting on protective tariffs. It is better to create here the goods which we know how to create most cheaply and to exchange them, say, for Tangerine oranges or other things which we can get elsewhere. No artificial form of employment created by taking money out of taxpayers' pockets or by patting on protective tariffs or limiting free importation can solve the problem of unemployment, but it simply puts an additional burden upon the community, and creates unemployment instead of destroying in employment. We must con- cent rate our attention upon creating useful employment. What is useful work? Useful work is transforming raw materials into goods, and we want them. Every creative work transforms raw materials into the finished article. The sort of work we want to stimulate in this country is in the application of labour to land and raw materials. If you want to increase the opportunities for useful, creative work in this country, there is one safe way, and that is to make it a little easier for labour to apply itself to land and raw materials. If you make our coal easier of access by preventing the owners of the coal from keeping the coalfields idle; if you make it more difficult for the owner of building land to keep it idle instead of throwing it into the market; if you make it a little difficult for the owner of a large farm to keep that large farm under grazing when it should be broken tip for small cultivation—all this makes it easier for labour to apply itself to the land and increases opportunities for employment. That is better than artificial stimulus by the State.
I pass from the unsound economics of the Prime Minister by which he would solve the unemployment problem and turn to one statement which requires some modification. He said it was most undesirable that hon. Members should have anything to say about the negotiations going on in Paris at the present time. As a matter of fact, I consider one of the brightest spots in the Prime Minister's career has been his conduct of the negotiations in Paris. Much to my surprise, he has done in Paris what all sound Liberals in this country wished him to do. He has backed up the President of the United States. He has even gone further; he has taken a leading part in the opening of negotiations at Prinkipo with the hot broth of Russia. The Prime Minister has taken the right line at Paris. It is often much easier to take the right line, especially when dealing with the vested interests of other nations, if you have a substantial backing from the people of your own country. There is no doubt at all that the Government, and not only this Government, but other Governments, value criticism very largely when it strengthens their hands in dealing with the statesmen of other countries.
At the present time there are two directions in which we might well strengthen the Prime Minister's hands. In the first place I think he realises, and it would be as well if the Prime Minister of France also realised, that public opinion in this country is absolutely and fundamentally opposed to any further intervention in Russia, and that in this country the only desire is to effect some sort of settlement in order to get out of the Russian adventure as quickly as possible. The tendency in France has been to say, "We have borne the heat and burden of the War, our troops must withdraw and some other nation which has not done so much fighting, say the British, had better take our place and police Russia." But we, I think it will be admitted, have borne the heat and burden of the War as much as any of the Allies, and to send our troops into Archangel, to Vladivostok, to the New Caucasus, to Finland, or Esthonia, or any other of those one hundred and one little packets, we have careering about in Russia, is to make a demand on this country which is not justified, and which we here, at any rate, resent. I remember a very distinguished American Ambassador saying to me only a year ago that if you read the speeches which have been made by Monsieur Clemenceau about the revolution in Russia, and as to the necessity for interference in that country, you will find that they are translated word for word from the speeches of Edmund Burke against the French Revolution of a hundred years ago. It is largely the fact. One hears terrible tales about the Bolsheviks and I think there is a good deal of truth in them. But we had also terrible tales from the emigrés which were just as bad as those now being told by the Russians. We were dragged by Edmund Burke into the war against the French Revolution, and that act has been a blot on our history. I hope we shall not allow it to be repeated today.
The House and the country are carried off their feet by tales of Bolshevik outrages, but let me give the House a story which I had first hand from the other side. When the Czecho-Slovaks went into Esthonia they beat the Bolsheviks and took 400 prisoners, whom they forthwith shot down with machine guns. There is no quarter in the war out there, there are outrages on both sides. A month later the Czecho-Slovaks opened up the railway to Vladivostok, and their general in command went there and was received by the Allies with guards of honour. There were French, British, Japanese, and Italian troops, but there were no Americans to be seen. Everybody who was anybody was there except the American general and the American admiral. The local people went to the American admiral and asked him why he was not there, and he said, "I have no orders from the State Department." The same question was put to the American general who was asked why there was no American guard of honour, and his reply, too, was, "I have no orders from the State Department." Then they went to the American Consul and asked him why America could not play the game, why the American admiral stayed on his ship and why the American general stayed in camp. The reply was, "I do not know; I cannot say for certain, but I imagine that American officers do not meet generals who shoot their prisoners." The result of all that was that the Czecho-Slovak general went back to his headquarters and gave instructions that warfare in that country was to be carried on on different lines in the future—in a civilised, Christian way. This example of howwar should be carried on is a proof of the influence it is possible to exercise, and which we ought to exercise, both in the Far East and in diplomacy in Paris.
We are now sending troops to the Ukraine. What is the history of that expedition? When the German power was smashed in the Ukraine the Governor-General there became a pro-Ally, a vigorous pro-Ally, and the result was that the population of the Ukraine, who had been held down by the German soldiery while Germany was supreme, immediately rose in revolt. They were not Bolsheviks; they were purely the Ukraine Social Revolutionary party, and were opposed to Bolshevism. Then the Allies came on the scene under French guidance, Allied support was promised to the man who had been the German governor previously, and we are fighting in the Ukraine, not against the Bolsheviks, but against those who really represent the people of the country.
It was not to do things of that kind that our soldiers were enlisted. Too often we are surrendering ourselves into the hands of our Allies. We do not want to see our troops used wrongfully to back up big landlords and big capitalists in countries like the Ukraine, against whom the people are rightly struggling for their freedom. In the Ukraine we have gone too far now, but it would be still possible to save Poland from the evil influences of a reactionary Government. We put a Govern- ment in charge of Poland but we have inspired a national agitation amongst the Poles, who are directing their weapons against a perfectly harmless population. By one word from the Paris Conference the Poles could be told to hold their hands, to cease carrying on civil war against the population on the borders of their country—against the Jews in Lemberg and Lithuania. The sort of perpetual warfare which is going on in East Europe at the present time is not only a crime against our civilisation, but it is definitely creating a Bolshevism, with its poverty and misery which, if we do not soon put a stop to it, will sweep away from Europe the civilisation we have so long enjoyed. There is still time for the Government, if only they will support President Wilson, to take the initiative in stopping the butcheries which are going on in the East. There is still time for them to establish a peace in which not only civilisation, but in which true brotherliness between man and man may prevail.
Mr. GIDEON MURRAY:
This is the first occasion on which I have had the honour of addressing this House and therefore I crave the usual indulgence. It is, indeed, with great diffidence that I, a new Member, venture to address the House at such an early stage of its proceedings, and I only do so because of a matter to which I particularly wish to draw attention, namely, the administration of naval and military pensions in Scotland. It is a question which requires immediate consideration. During the recent election great prominence was given to this subject of pensions, and, speaking from my own experience in the St. Rollox Division of Glasgow, a large working-class constituency, there, was no question that aroused greater interest or produced a larger number of interrogations. I was therefore sorry to see that naval and military pensions were, not referred to in His Majesty's Gracious Speech. At the same time, I am very pleased to hear the Prime Minister state, in the course of his speech, that the Government intend to give very early and active consideration to this subject. I do not wish in any way to depreciate the work being performed by the Ministry of Pensions. We know its peculiarly exacting nature, and we know that the difficulties and intricacies in the settlement of the many and varied issues are enormous. I hope, therefore, the remarks I am about to make will be accepted, not so much by way of criticism but as influenced by a desire to assist the Government in improving the methods of administration of naval and military pensions in Scotland.
What is the present system of administration in that country? We have, as elsewhere in the United Kingdom, a system of local war pensions committees who have done admirable service, and to whom gratitude is due. These war pensions committees have to refer certain matters direct to the Ministry of Pensions in London. They work on necessarily restricted and definite lines, but outside certain regulations they have no discretion whatever. Numerous cases arise outside those Regulations which have to be referred to the Ministry of Pensions in London, a Ministry which is already very much overworked and overloaded. In many cases months have elapsed before any settlement has been reached at all, and during that period the unfortunate would-be pensioners have had to suffer semi-starvation or else live or, charity. Let me cite one example of delay. It is the case of a widow of a man who died after discharge from the Army. His widow applied for the pension in February, 1918, on the ground that her husband had died from the effect of the disability for which he was discharged. No decision was forthcoming until November, and then the woman was informed that no pension would be awarded, because her marriage had taken place subsequently to the contraction of the illness for which the husband had been discharged. That in one case, and many others could be cited, and I have no doubt other hon. Members knew of numerous cases of a similar nature. I submit with all respect that the surest method, or at any rate one of the surest methods, of relieving congestion in the Pensions Office in London to-day, and at the same time of improving and expediting the methods of administration in Scotland would be by decentralisation, which it is believed by many people in Scotland should take the form of the establishment of a Pensions Office in Edinburgh. It may be urged that the expense of setting up such an office would not be justified by the results, but I cannot agree with that view. I think it will be admitted that in Scotland we have sacrificed much both in men and money to assist in securing the great victory which has been ours. I feel absolutely certain that it is the desire of the Government to do everything in their power to ensure that as little hardship as possible should accrue to those who have fought so gallantly for us, and at any rate I think the Government should see that those who have fought and have lost either the whole or the part of the means of earning their livelihood should not suffer.
I would like to draw attention to another aspect of this question. On the Clyde and in Glasgow we know that every case of delay which occurs in settling pensions is made the widest use of by the Bolshevik element to extend their mischievous and revolutionary movement. I am not suggesting any new precedent which is so abhorrent to the official mind, because in Scotland we already have decentralisation in various departments, such as the Insurance Committee, which is perhaps the nearest parallel to my case, and also in the Scottish Local Government Board and the Scottish Board of Fisheries. On the contrary, my request is based on precedent, and especially it is based upon expediency and urgent necessity, and that is the reason why I have ventured to take up the time of the House. I sincerely trust that the Government will, as soon as possible, give consideration to this question, and establish a Pensions Office in Scotland in order, that we may obtain better results.