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Navy Supplementary Estimate, 1919–20.

Part of Orders of the Day — Civil Services and Revenue Departments and Navy Supplementary Estimates, 1919–1920. – in the House of Commons on 17th March 1920.

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Photo of Commander Hon. Joseph Kenworthy Commander Hon. Joseph Kenworthy , Kingston upon Hull Central

I want to ask a question as to Sub-heading A, Salaries and Wages. This is a sum of £470,000 to pay for the expenses of the emergency transport that was put into service during the railway strike. I do not intend in any way to bring up the question of the railway strike. Neither my doing so, nor the interruptions of my hon. Friends from the North of Ireland, or those of the hon. Member for Holderness, would be in order. I do not want to question the Government's policy; I did that in Committee. The question I wish to ask is: How much of the sum I have mentioned is due to salaries and wages, and how much to hire of vehicles? We were told these services were voluntarily given. No doubt many of them were. I understand that very high wages were paid to many so-called volunteers, more money than they would be earning in the ordinary course of their work. I am told that the payments were as high as 30s. a day for girl motor drivers, and £2 a day for amateur men motor drivers and the like. By amateurs I mean people who do not ordinarily ply for hire, private car owners and chauffeurs employed by private persons. To begin with, I think the amount spent is much too high. The Government was full of self-congratulation on the breaking of the strike and all the rest of it, although we know now that it was settled by agreement. We were led at a time to believe that the whole community rose in their wrath and saved us from the wicked strikers. Let it not be forgotten that about 40 per cent. of the wicked strikers had served in the War as private soldiers. Now we are asked to foot the Bill. Payment for the cost of petrol I would never for a moment cavil at. If people send their cars, petrol ought to be supplied, but that they should be paid for the vehicle and that their driver should be paid, I think is most questionable. I understand that one of the leaders of the National party, the hon. Baronet who represents Walsall (Sir R. Cooper) sent the money which he received for driving a railway engine, first to the railwaymen's hospital, and, when that institution would not have it, he returned it to the State. That was very patriotic of him and very wise. Why should not other people have done the same thing? I admit that people should be paid their out-of-pocket expenses, but there was a lot of money thrown about in a most unnecessary way on this service, and if we are to have more strikes, as we may have, I think we should be prepared to see that the money expended is spent economically. After all, the people who volunteered for service in the War got a shilling a day. Why, then, should girl motor drivers get 30s. a day for this service?