Prevailing Conditions of the Year.

Orders of the Day — Finance. – in the House of Commons on 29th October 1919.

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In considering the expenditure of the year, may I pause for a moment to ask the House to throw -their mind back to the conditions of this year? The usual form which criticism takes is to say that it is now nearly a year since the Armistice was signed, and yet what has the Government done? Is that fair? Is it helpful? Does it aid you to discover the truth 1 Months after the Armistice was signed, on the very eve of the signature of peace, who knew whether peace would be signed or not? It was not then a question of demobilising. It was a question whether within forty-eight hours we should march further into Germany. How misleading it is to speak as if all Europe had been peaceful and untroubled, not Europe only but Asia too, ever since the signature of the Armistice on the 11th November l No, up to the very moment of the signature of peace it was uncertain whether we should not have to advance instead of proceeding with demobilisation. Some of the best judges thought an advance voted be necessary.

Then another thing. There is no single feature in the world situation which places a heavier strain upon us in men and money at the present time than the fact that peace with Turkey is not signed and a settlement made throughout the East. We are the first to regret it, but it is not a matter for which we are responsible. It is not a fault which it is within our power to remedy. The settlement of peace with Turkey is an international affair. Everybody knows it is delayed pending a decision by America as to whether she will undertake her part in the white man's burden and in the execution of the tutelage of the League of Nations. Not unconnected with the fact that no settlement has yet been arrived at with Turkey, we have had serious unrest in Egypt. We, have had an Afghan war, and if we turn from foreign affairs to home affairs I do not need to remind the House that the railway strike was but one of many strikes that have had a seriously disturbing effect upon the recovery of trade and commerce, and have retarded the production of wealth and the resumption of a normal situation.

I would ask the House, in considering what we have accomplished and what we have been unable to accomplish, to bear in mind the conditions under which we work, and not to judge us as if the world had been different from what it was, or as if we were individually or as a Government responsible for delay which we have done our utmost to avoid.