Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a sum, not exceeding £7,000, be granted to His Majesty, to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1927, as a Grant-in-Aid of the mission of their Royal Highnesses the Duke and Duchess of York to Australia and New Zealand.
I do not know whether I am too sanguine in hoping and believing that this is a proposal which will be accepted with unanimity by the Committee. I certainly hope it will be, and I expect it will be, and, more than that, I think that as the occasion has arisen for presenting this Vote the Committee might very well take the opportunity of expressing their very best wishes for the expedition which we are assisting by this Vote. The Committee will be very familiar with the occasion which calls for it. It is a great occasion in the history of the British Empire. This Royal Prince, at the invitation of the people and Government of one of our great Dominions, has gone out there to inaugurate the new capital which has been created by the Commonwealth of Australia as the expression of the new—it is still new—unity amongst the various States which previously have been quite separate and distinct. The inauguration of this new capital and Parliament House is a great occasion—as hon. Members know, that Parliament will be adorned by a Chair which is a. replica of the Speaker's Chair here—and His Royal Highness is going out, in the name of the Government, and as the representative of the British nation, to take a leading part in that great ceremony. Advantage is being taken of the occasion for the Prince to visit other lands. It is not quite such an extensive tour as that which the Heir to the Crown undertook a short time ago, but His Royal Highness will visit a number of lands where he is being received with acclamation and welcomed very warmly as the representative of the Crown and people of this country.
In these circumstances I am sure that we shall wish him well in his great undertaking, for it is a very heavy responsibility he has undertaken on our behalf; and with great confidence, and recognising it to be a privilege to submit this proposal, I ask the House of Commons to vote this Grant-in-Aid to enable the ceremonial arid entertainment part of this tour to be carried out in a manner and style befitting our representative on this great occasion. I would point out that the sum will be carefully audited, as is announced on the Paper, and that if any of the money is not required for the purpose it will be surrendered, in the ordinary course, to the Exchequer.
I am sure the right hon. Gentleman and the Committee will not think, if we raise questions on this Vote and ask for some further explanation, that we are in any way criticising their Royal Highnesses, or in any way reflecting upon the work they are doing. We recognise that if our Dominions ask, as I understand they have asked, that a representative of the Crown should go out on this auspicious occasion, it is a claim they are entitled to make, and, therefore, it is not right that we should do anything to animadvert upon the visit. At the same time, if the right hon. Gentleman could give some explanation on one or two points, it would save some talk later. Does the £7,000 represent the whole amount to be spent? I see in the note on the Paper that there are certain expenses in connection with the visit which will be defrayed from the Navy Vote. The first question I wish to ask is whether they will be additional to the £7,000; and also whether the sum of £3,500 already advanced is additional to or is part of the £7,000.
That deals with the first question. Then I think it would help us on this side if the right hon. Gentleman could give us an assurance that there has been no undue measure of extravagance. There has been a period of considerable stress in this country, and people are apt to contrast, perhaps without a full knowledge of the facts, expenditure incurred in this way on what seems a pleasure trip, regardless of the duty which is being performed; and it will be a considerable relief and advantage, if we can have that assurance, with a little fuller detail as to what is involved, so that there may be an assurance that there will be no unnecessary expenditure beyond that incurred in the discharge of the duties they have been asked to undertake by the Dominions in opening the new Parliament House.
I would like to deal with the hon. Gentleman's points at once. As to the Naval expenditure, that, of course, is additional, and is quite apart altogether from this; it is the whole of the expenses of the "Renown" during the tour, and the figure, I think, has been given already by the First Lord of the Admiralty in answer to a question. With regard to this particular sum, which is of a more intimate and personal nature, and has nothing to do with the running of the ship, I can give the hon. Member an assurance, in answer to his very reasonable request, that to the very best of my belief aid judgment, this is a very small sum for the purpose. There has been, up to the present, nothing in the nature of prodigality, or extravagance, or display, arid I am quite certain that strict economy will be observed in the expenditure of this money, though without mean parsimony.
I feel that I really must enter a protest at the way in which this Estimate is presented to us. If we take it that the visit of their Royal Highnesses is one which is necessary and essential to the betterment of the relations between the Dominions and this country, it is only fair and right that the people of this country, and this House as representing them, should know exactly what is the cost of the mission. The right hon. Gentleman has said that the cost of the "Renown" is borne on the Navy Vote. I suggest that it is not a naval charge at all. The "Renown" is not being used as a vessel of His Majesty's Navy, but has been taken from its ordinary work and set aside to transport their Royal Highnesses to various parts of the Empire. I contend that this Vote ought to have been presented as an Appropriation-in-Aid to the Navy for the expenses of the "Renown," giving the Navy the credit of that expenditure, and putting the whole cost in one Vote so that we may be able to know actually what it is. We are getting into the habit of presenting the Estimates too loosely. The other day I had to make a protest in a case in which we had an Estimate for £65,000 presented to us whet the expenditure was really £73,000; and a saving of £15,000 was not shown and we should have known nothing about it if it had not been disclosed to us by the Minister in his speech. That is a deceptive method of accountancy, because, of course, no one knows what the charge is.
If there is an advantage in visits of this character, and that might possibly he a matter of dispute, I think this special setting apart of persons in a special ship is absolutely wrong. If there was advantage to he gained from this visit, their Royal Highnesses could have gone in the ordinary way in a passenger steamer to visit the various parts of the Empire. The advantage, if advantage is to be gained, would have been immense. They would have beeen in association with the persons on those ships, and they would have heard the opinion of people travelling backwards and forwards from various parts of the Empire. Under the present arrangement they are practically wrapped up in cotton wool. They are kept aside on the ship with naval officers all around them. Their Royal Highnesses may be of great importance to this country in the future, and it is absolutely necessary that they should know the varying opinions of people from different parts of the world. After all, I do not think that this is a time when this visit ought to have taken place, considering the distress existing in this country, where we have 1,500,000 people out of work, and a much larger number unemployed and unable to make a decent living. I think it is a great reflection on the Government that it has tended this advice to the Crown in favour of a pleasure trip of this kind, and I wish to enter my protest against it.
I want to urge again a most emphatic protest on behalf of the working classes of this country against this sum of money being voted to their Royal Highnesses. I listened to the speech made by the Financial Secretary, who is in charge of these Estimates, and ho told us that their Royal Highnesses had gone out at the invitation of Australia. That being the case, I should have thought that if any part of the Empire invites anyone else that part should pay the expenses. Here we have got to pay for the sending out of their Royal Highnesses on this excursion, which is simply a joy-ride. There is no doubt about that. I listened, more in sorrow than in anger, to the Financial Secretary when he said we had to realise the 'great responsibilities that were resting on; the shoulders of their Royal Highnesses. I think they carry those responsibilities very lightly, and the right hon. Gentleman knows that better than I do, because he knows them personally. I know the responsibilities that my own class are carrying at the present moment, and they are very heavy, and I also know that they have not the wherewithal to meet those responsibilities. Nevertheless, the Government come forward at this time, without a blush on their cheeks, and ask for £7,000 for their Royal Highnesses to send them out to various parts of the world, including Australia and New Zealand.
The House will remember that on a former occasion I raised this question in regard to the Prince of Wales when he went on his joy-ride from Africa to South America, and we were told at that time from all parts of the House that the reason for him going was for the benefit of trade and for the cementing of the British Empire. Did it turn out that way? [HON. MEMBERS: "Yes!"] He went to the Argentine, and now this Government has given the Argentine Republic the order for beef that formerly was bought by the Government from Australia. Is that cementing the British Empire? That is what this Government does. They do those things because they are not sincere—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh, oh!"]—neither about the welfare of the British Empire nor any other Empire but their own particular Empire, and that depends on the firm and the house of financiers which they happen to represent. The Duke of York and his wife are being voted this £7,000, and who has to pay it? The working class has to pay it, my class, my fellow-tradesmen the engineers —[HoN. MEMBERS: "NO"]—with their £2 15s. a week. The miners have to pay it, and they are the people in regard to whom the Leader of the Opposition said last week your Government acted as a sub-committee to the mineowners.
If that is the case it is our duty to watch very carefully and be suspicious in regard to every act of the Government, and not simply accept Estimates that are put forward like this for £7,000. Hon. Members might think that we were a well-off people living in comfort, and that all was well with the people who produced the wealth of this country. Evidently we are not well off, because when dealing with the working class another Lord comes forward with a Report on Unemployment Insurance which means hell for the unemployed of this country, and which means the cutting off of about 6,000 unemployed because the country cannot afford to keep them going. That is a statement which has just been made and yet the country can afford to vote -£7,000 to send out their Royal Highnesses to the uttermost parts of the earth, and it would not matter one iota to the welfare of the country supposing they never returned.[HON. MEMBERS: "Order, order!"]
I bow to your ruling, Sir; I do not wish to fall foul of you. But the fact remains that here are their Royal Highnesses being sent out at the expense of the people of this country. Money is no obstacle where they are concerned. When they got married, I protested in this House[Interruption]—because, prior to his being married, he had £10,000 a year, but when he got married he got an increase of £15,000. That is what I protested against.
I leave the whole matter with you, Sir, and with the Committee generally to deal with, but you will agree with me that this is the second time I have been interfered with since I started to make this speech, the reason being that there are certain persons in the House who are very much offended because I am making it, and those are the same persons who hold that this is the great free speech place, where everyone has a right to express his point of view, and they make it as difficult as possible for me to express my point of view. That is evidence of it—and King's Counsel at that. When I was interrupted, I was speaking about the Duke when he was married. I have a right to refer to that. He had 10,000 a year. It is not very much when you say it quickly enough. I protested here then because the then Prime Minister lectured us that we ha I to study economy. He was lecturing the working classes of the country. Study economy—the workers have always to study economy. That is why I protested at the time. I said to him that he should start at the top, and not lecture us; that here was a good opportunity to economise—to tell the young chap to go and get married, but that he was not getting any £15,000 of increase. Now he has 25,000 a year, and. again I am going to raise my voice here in an emphatic protest against our paying such huge wages—you can call them salaries. I am going to protest against anyone in this country getting thousands of pounds a year. I say here, as I say everywhere, that if the working classes of this country—the miners, the engineers, the working class in general—are not worthy of a comfortable living. if the best we can get is under £3 a week, there is no man in Britain worth over £1,000 a year, and that we are doing wrong, this House is doing a serious wrong, committing a crime before high Heaven—
In reference to the point of Order, I may tell you, Sir, that you were in the Chair when the hon. Gentleman, who does not represent the working class, but who is in a favoured position, being supposed to represent the intelligentia of Great Britain—you were in the Chair when he raised that question before, and I told him, quoting from the good old Book, the Bible, that to clap hands was all right because you were making a joyful sound, and that is something that he knows nothing about. [Intirruption.] I thought that the hon. Gentleman was going to carry it a little further, and I was going to give him every encouragement. I was busy protesting when he interfered with me, and I wish the working class were here just now. I wish they had their eyes on me protesting here on their behalf. I have come right from Plymouth to-day, where the women of Plymouth asked me on their behalf to protest as vigorously as I possibly could against this expenditure, because even they think that those Princes and Princesses have plenty of money of their own, and, according to the same Minister in a reply to Ease once, they do not pay any Income Tax. We really do not know how much of an income they have, or why they should be in a special compartment on a particular occasion that is away above ordinary mortals when taxation is on, but when expenditure—
I am coming to the expenditure. When expenditure is on, then they are in the place of beggars. This House, the Government,, places them in that position and comes to this House and begs of the House to give them £7,000. [Hon. MEMBERS: "No!" and "Yes!"] You can put it in any phrase. ology you like, but a rose by any other name will smell as sweet. That is the language of the Tory Government when we appeal to them on behalf of the working class; that we are begging for them. Now you are begging for the Royal house. You are begging here of the working people of this country, who are right up against it at the moment. The workers of this country are watching what is going on here. They see the Tory Government crushing the workers and acting as a sub-committee for the employers when the employers are starving the workers into subjection. Then on the other hand they are coming forward and asking for grants to enable the Royal Family to go away to the uttermost parts of the earth. I protest most emphatically.
I believe the causes are far deeper rooted than that, and that even if this particular Royal tour had not been undertaken the poverty of the people would not have been the less. At the same time I do think that we are justified on this side in drawing a parallel. We have been discussing in this House the question of economy. Yesterday when we had the question of education discussed, the President of the Board of Education, upon every detail of the subject under discussion, pressed upon the House the importance of looking with the most jealous eye possible upon expenditure upon the education of the children of the people. To-day we have some less important subjects under discussion, but we have had the same plea for economy. Those speeches exhibited a very mean and niggardly parsimony on the part of Departments of the Government in presenting certain Estimates to this House. The Government say that it is important that we should economise in every possible direction, small and large, upon the ground that the taxpayers cannot afford even the smallest extravagance without the fullest possible justification. When the last speaker was addressing the Committee a Member opposite questioned the statement he made that the cost of this tour would have to be paid by the working people of this country. I really cannot understand what economic ideas can possess a Member to question a statement of that kind. The whole of the taxation of the country, the whole of the expenditure of the country, is paid ultimately by the working people of this country. I should not imagine that Members opposite were sufficiently within the knowledge of the economics of the party that is represented on this side to know that when we speak of the working people we do not merely mean the man with the pick and the shovel. We mean all those people who give useful service in the manufacture and distribution of wealth.
This is not the occasion to discuss the victor of Smethwick, but I can quite understand the jealously of hon. Members opposite at the victory that was obtained on behalf of Labour and Socialism at Smethwick. The cause of Socialism and Labour, I can assure Members opposite, is not a question of whether a man is well to do or poor, Socialism does not mean the equal distribution of wealth—
I want to keep within your ruling. When an interruption is made one is tempted to answer it. I was dealing with something that was said by a Member opposite with regard to the remarks of the last speaker. We are being asked constantly in this House to keep our eye upon small economies, because we are told the nation cannot afford to educate the children of the people properly, or any rate to make those extensions in tae education of the people that all educationists admit to be necessary for the community. That was the burden of the arguments used by the President of the Board of Education yesterday. Upon every question we have been called upon to support the principle of economy. With regard to the matter immediately under discussion, the cost of the tour of their Royal Highnesses, it may be necessary that representatives of the Royal house shall visit the Colonies; it may be necessary that those visits should not be made in a manner which does not reflect credit on this country; but I am sure we are justified in asking the Government, and the Members opposite, that when they appeal to this House to do things generously on behalf of Royal tours in the interests of the Empire, that they should be more generous to the people to-day who want better education for their children and people who are suffering as a result of unemployment and because of the great burden of poverty that is upon the people. I do not mind Royal tours, I do not mind the extravagance and display; but I do want the same kind of generosity and openness of mind and hand expressed with regard to the people those on this side represent, more directly than any other representatives in this House, because we stand for the working people and we have the bulk of the working people behind the Labour party. We are justified in asking for a sense of proportion, when the question of economy has to be discussed in this House.
I should not have intervened in this Debate if it had not been for the speeches which have been made from the Benches opposite. We have heard this describe6 as a pleasure trip and a joy ride. Is it a pleasure trip or a joy ride for a devoted mother or father to leave a young child a few months old? It is a noble act of self denial in the service of the country. I deprecate most strongly the unfeeling remarks which have come from the Benches opposite. I know of my own personal knew-ledge of the extreme benefit which resulted from the Prince of Wales' visit to South Africa. I believe that visit had a great deal to do with the success of he Imperial Conference when General liertzog entirely recanted his views as to the future of South Africa. I firmly believe the visit of the Duke of York and his wife to Australia will be of equal benefit. I cannot sit here and hear the insulting and unfeeling remarks made from the Benches opposite.
This being a democratic country and always proclaiming broad democratic principles, I should have thought on an occasion like this, so far away from us, the occasion would have been met in a much more representative way had we sent to that country from this Government some who were highly skilled in the art of government, some who represented art and some who represented education. In that way we should be paying the fullest tribute that a mother country could to any part of its Dominions. We should have been sending those most skilled in the things that the other country which is being visited are interested in. However, we sent those who have no knowledge of these things I have spoken of, and there is no essential representation in the visit because they are cut off, through no fault of their own, from all those ties that hind nations or parts of an Empire together. You cannot build up an Empire which is to last unless you do it upon democratic principles, and this display that is being made now is not characteristic not of democracy. I want to protest against this system, and I hope whatever Government comes in in future will see to it that when this nation is to be represented abroad at any functions such as this, it shall truly represent the nation in all its parts and not merely individuals who are mere figureheads in the community. That conveys nothing at all of what we are in this country to those abroad. A sensible deputation or representation could have been easily procured.
I am pointing out to you what is your duty. If someone asked the hon. Member to go and drown himself he would not do it. The democratic idea that we talk about must find its expression in big things such as this if we mean it at all. I want once more to protest against the whole business with its-naval display and large expenditure—and the £7,000 does not represent what is being spent. No matter who is paying it, it does not represent the money. We, read in the papers about the number of motor cars that are being taken. It does not matter where the money is coming from, that is not the kind of utility that brings in its course any increase in trade. I hope by the next time an occasion like this arises, the British people will see to it that the democrats principles that they rave so much about will be represented by the representatives that go abroad.
My reason for intervening is that I had the good fortune 26 years ago to be in Australia at the time the then Duke of York, who now occupies the Throne here, visited Australia to inaugurate the first Federal Parliament. This is almost as historic an occasion as was that in 1901 when the present holder of the title goes to open the first Federal Capital, Canberra, which may well in the years to come he to Australia what Washington is to the United States of. America. I was witness myself 26 years ago of the extraordinary demonstration of loyalty not only to the Throne but also to the Motherland that was then made by the whole of the Australian Commonwealth. I need hardly say in passing that speeches such as we have just listened to I do not think will he made in the Australian House of Representatives. I feel that when, as has happened in the last few months, a large number of English Parliamentarians have been to Australia as the guests of the Australian Commonwealth without a single penny piece falling upon our Exchequer here, when they had a chance of seeing for themselves something of political conditions in Australia, of throwing into the pool, as happened at the Imperial Conference, these extraordinarily difficult questions which must arise and can only be settled by comparison of ideas, we here and they in Australia, if the Australian Parliament wishes that their Royal Highnesses should visit Australia, as they have done, we cannot have a better investment from an Imperial point of view than the £7,000 we are now asked to vote. It is a very simple sum. It is a 700th of a single penny of the Income Tax. We are spending £800,000,000 a year and this is £7,000. It is infinitesimal, and it seems a great pity to me that some hon. Members opposite should so misuse their position in this House as to raise these questions on every occasion which I am sure do not represent the views of the majority of their supporters.
An hon. Member opposite complained of the immoderate and unfeeling speeches from this side of the Committee. I should like to assure him that as far as possible, considering that, although this is a small Estimate, it covers what is a fundamental clash of belief between Gentlemen on the opposite side and some of us on these benches, I shall endeavour to be as inoffensive as possible. I would remind hon. Members, however, that some of the speeches we listened to from them, and especially from their Front Breach, during the time when many of our constituents were locked out from their work and starving, though they may have appeared to hon. Members opposite to be kindly and proper speeches, appeared to us to be almost the most callous and inhuman opinions to which we had ever listened. Because of that we must try to face that point. My objection in this Vote is not on account of what percentage of a penny it is going to cost the people of the country, it is not on account of the slightest hostility to members of the Royal Family, but because I criticise the wisdom of the whole proceeding by which they are being sent and the expenditure—however large or however small it is does not affect the principle of the matter—being placed upon the shoulders of the taxpayers. Hon. Members on the other side cannot object to members of the Royal Family having their actions criticised. We remember that during the industrial trouble a very distinguished member of the Royal Family was kind enough to assist financially some of the men whom we represent in this House, and immediately we were told by the supporters of hon. Members opposite that princes or bishops should not stand in their way when they were engaged in what they believed to be right. We claim the same right of criticism. [HON. MEMBERS: "Who said it?"] Mr. Evan Williams.
I cannot subscribe to the argument put forward that very young, inexperienced members of the Royal Family can adequately represent this nation, merely because they are in a position to which fate has seen fit to call them. The Duke of York may be the most intelligent and the cleverest young man in the country, or he may be the most foolish; I do not know, but I do know that there is no certain rule that because a man has been born into a distinguished family that he will be an adequate representative, or that the young lady he chooses to marry will be an adequate representative of the nation in other parts. We really try squarely to face the attraction and the fascination which, undoubtedly, members of the Royal Family exercise, not only over the superior social classes, but over very large sections of what are termed the working classes. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear!"] I am not denying that. You cannot argue by denying everything your opponent says—but I would say from what I have seen that this great spell or hold over a rapidly diminishing section of the working classes—[Interruption]—is because people, are living the kind of lives which the luxury and the greed of a large number of the supporters of the present system make necessary, and the lives of the working people are so prosaic and poverty-stricken and sordid that when they see these people in the centre of considerable pomp and luxury for a short time, it is a case of the Prince Charming and the Fairy Princess. Well, of course, that is all very nice, and if the Australian Government want it, they are entitled to have it, provided they pay for it. I not only doubt the wisdom of bringing up your working classes by attempting to encourage a foolish theory of that sort, but that your superior classes should encourage the snobbishness which is undoubtedly an outcome of this sort of thing.
Hon. Members who have spoken from this side were right in the economic argument against the drawing of money from the worse-off section of our population in order to pay for this sort of thing. It is no good coming here and telling us pathetic tales about mothers having to leave their children, when we know how you have treated our women and children during the last dispute, and when we remember how the Minister of Health has treated English women.
I cannot understand why hon. Members opposite should raise their voices so much in their endeavour to contradict those with whom they do not agree. If they have an argument against what I am saying, I shall be prepared to listen to it. I do not see why hon. Members who have supported the actions of their Government for the last two years should expect to move our hearts with sob stuff about the misfortunes of this extremely fortunate couple, in the worldly sense, to whom we are now proposing to present this £7,000. I should not have felt that I was doing my duty to the people in the poverty-stricken towns if I allowed a party here which is too mean to do any thing whatever for the poorest people in the country, to splash away taxpayers' money for their own snobbish friends.
I would not have intervened had I seen on the benches above the Gangway any Socialist Member who was on the recent delegation to Australia. I feel certain that had there been any one of those Gentlemen who joined with me in the hospitality which we received from the Australian Governments sitting on the Socialist benches to-night, he would have said in my stead, how much we all regret the singular lack of accuracy, reticence and good taste which has characterised the speeches by hon. Members. The whole of our delegation received hospitality from five Socialist Governments in five States, and we found expressed nothing but sincere welcome for the Duke and Duchess of York. Not only was there a note of welcome, but they made it perfectly clear that they asked for the Duke and Duchess, that they wanted them, and that they would have nobody else; and they would be the, first, and they will be the first, when they read this unfortunate interposition of the Socialist Members to-night, to deplore the singular lack of accuracy, courtesy, reticence and good taste which has been displayed.
The hon. Member for the Withington Division (Dr. Watts) complained of the immoderate and inhuman speeches from this side. I do not see any justification for that. I do not think that anybody who naturally expected that this might be a rather heated Debate should complain that there has been immoderate or inhuman speeches. On the whole, I think the Debate has been very good-tempered. The hon. Member complained as if some hon. Members on this side had suggested that the Royal Lady who has gone out was not making a sacrifice in leaving her child. Everybody knows that when a mother has to leave her child—
There is no reflection upon the Duchess of York as a mother. An hon. Member opposite suggested that, if this were spread over all the taxpayers of the country, it would only represent a very minute sum. We agree. But that, again, is not the point. I would like to suggest that the £7,000 is not quite all that is going to be spent. If my memory serves aright, a question was asked in this House last week of the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty, who suggested that from that source an extra £66,000 would be spent, which I presume will be in addition to the £7,000 in this Supplementary Estimate. There might be some excuse for somebody talking about a joy trip for £73,000 for a visit to Australia! What I am most concerned about is the attitude of Members opposite to questions of this description, and their different attitude when any money is being spent which affects the majority of the working-class people in this country. That is my complaint.
An hon. Member opposite made an interjection to-night that it was a relatively small sum. I remember him speaking last night. He seconded The Amendment to the education proposals that we put forward, and he was complaining that there was not the money to put into operation the raising of the school age to 15 years, and that we should have to wait awhile. Of course, he was in favour of it, but there is never the money to do it when it is something affecting working-class people. The Minister of Health to-day gave an answer to a question, and complaint was made about the slow progress made with slum clearances. The only excuse he could make was that these clearances were taking place at a quicker rate today than last year, but there is not sufficient money for that. I remember that last year, when we had the industrial dispute in this country, when the miners were asking to keep the miserably low wages that they had, we were told every day in this House, when the business was brought up, to face the economic facts of the situation. There is no question of facing economic facts when it is a question of spending £73,000 on a trip of this description. When Members have the audacity to complain about good taste, I think they would be showing more good taste if, in view of the poverty in this country, they spent less money on a trip of this description. I was reading to-day of a Debate that occurred in another place yesterday on the question of railways. One of the Noble Lords there was indicating that the railwaymen were getting too big wages, and that they would have to come down. When one looks at all these questions—slums, education, miners' wages, railwaymen's wages—and remembers the attacks constantly being made on working-class people by Members on the opposite benches, they must not complain if we get up and make comparisons of this description when they are so anxious to spend money on a Royal visit of this kind.
I am concerned in this matter purely from the financial standpoint, although, of course, I regard as of some importance the social side. As a Member of a Committee that is looking after the money affairs of this nation, I am not quit, satisfied with the explanation of the right hon. Gentleman who is in charge of this Estimate. He assured the Committee that tie strictest economy was being practised sc far as the visit was concerned. We have in the Estimate a bare and bald statement of £7,000 expenses. What I want to know is this. When we come to the Navy Estimates and are dealing with. the alterations to this ship, its victualling, and the salaries and wages of the men, how are we going to know, from the bald statement here, whether there is any overlapping or whether there is any part of this £7,000 in these minor detail. Apart altogether from matters of taste, it is part of our business to know what are the details of this expenditure. I take an interest in the expenditure voted in this House, whether it appertains to royalty or anything else. I am net one of those who believe that the representatives of the commoners do it more cheaply than royalty, if it is done on the same scale. So far as the Navy Estimate is concerned, I think it is £56,000.
I want to know what part of this £7,000, if any, will merge in the details that essentially come under the Navy Estimates. We should have some details here, instead of a bare, bald statement. I am surprised that some of the vigilant Members on the other side, who keep an eye on small matters of this kind, have not spoken, but have left us on this side of the House to demand that details should be given. I protest against the bald statement in the Estimate, and the meagre explanation given by the Minister.
Mr. ROY WILSON:
One of my hon. Friends has told the House that, when this Debate is read in Australia, it will cause amazement to our loyal brothers in that Dominion. I am equally certain that, when this Debate is read throughout this country, it will cause amazement and disgust among the people in our own land. An extraordinary thing about it is not only the extravagant statements which have been made on the subject of this voyage of His Royal Highness the Duke of York and his gracious Duchess, but the lamentable ignorance displayed in some quarters as to the value of these voyages which are undertaken by members of the Royal Family. I remember two years ago, in this House, listening to a Debate like this, on the subject of the expenses connected with the voyage of His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales to West Africa; and I would like to assure the Committee, if any assurance be needed, that, from my own personal knowledge, the result of that trip to the West African Colonies has been of enormous advantage to our trade in that part of the world; that it resulted directly in very large increase of trade during the course of Life visit, and that it has undoubtedly stimulated the loyalty of our people in that part of the world in a way, probably, which people in this country hardly realise.
One other point I would like to make, and that has reference to the statement to-night that, while this expense has been voted for this trip of their Royal Highnesses the Duke and Duchess of York, nothing has been done for the people of this country. It seems to me that is a most amazing statement to make. Hon. Gentlemen above the Gangway have apparently forgotten that nearly £400,000,000 sterling every year is voted by this House for social services and for the people they profess to represent. I do resent most keenly as I am sure every Member of this House on the Conservative side resents, the criticism which has been levelled against their Royal Highnesses and we who take the opposite view believe firmly, in our hearts, as I believe the majority of the people of this country do, that, in undertaking the duties of Ambassadors of Empire, as their Royal Highnesses are doing, they are earning the gratitude, affection and esteem of all decent-minded people in Great Britain.
I do not want to advertise differences of opinion on this side of the House, but I feel that I would be lacking in courage, after what has been said, if I did not indicate my disagreement with some of the speeches made by my colleagues. I think hon. Members opposite should realise, at the same time, that the conditions of poverty throughout the country and the familiarity with that poverty of so many hon. Members on this side explain why the contrast between the substantial figures in this Estimate and some of these conditions strikes them. At the same time, as one who had the privilege of taking part in the recent Empire Parliamentary tour to Australia, I can assure my colleagues on these benches that the people of Australia, including the many there belonging to the same movement as we do, are cordially looking forward to the visit of the Duke and Duchess of York. They do that for one very good reason. It is because they regard the Royal Family as the symbol of the unity of the Empire.
That, I think, is how we ought to look at it. So long as this party accepts the Royal Family as the symbol of this Empire unity, I think we ought not to indulge in pettifogging criticisms as to the conditions under which the Royal Family travel. I am not saying that the expenditure involved may not be more than was necessary, or that it may not contrast badly with other restricted expenditure, but I am quite certain that the tour is very desirable, and that some such provision is necessary. We had the privilege of visiting Canberra and taking part in the first ceremony there, and I know that Labour members and Labour people all over Australia are looking forward to the visit with a view to inaugurating what they hope and believe will be, not only a historic Parliament but a Parliament which will make for the greater prosperity of Australia and for the greater development of sympathy and understanding with the Mother Country. While, therefore, I sympathise very much, and I ask hon. Members opposite to sympathise with the feelings which have prompted certain expressions of opinion on this side, I am sure I speak for the majority of this party when I express pleasure at this visit being undertaken, with results which will doubtless be for the benefit of ourselves as well as of our great Dominions overseas. I can say perfectly frankly also that I believe this tour involves a considerable amount of personal inconvenience to the Duke and Duchess of York. I support this Vote.
I rise to reinforce in a single sentence what has been said by the hon. Member for East Edinburgh (Dr. Shiels). I happened to be in New Zealand some time ago, and I think it is only right to say to the House, as New Zealand is one of the Dominions to be visited during the tour, that while I was there in October preparations were already being made all over the country to welcome their Royal Highnesses, and that it was at the invitation of the New Zealand Government that the tour in New Zealand was undertaken. They would have considered it a very considerable affront if His Majesty's Government had not come to this House and asked for authority for the expenditure involved.
I want to say frankly that I accept the fact that the hon. Member for East Edinburgh (Dr. Shiels) had courage to say what he said. I am sure the hon. Gentleman is expressing the views which many of his colleagues hold, but I hope this House will also accept the views which other Members hold. I am not to criticise the Estimate from the point of view of whether it is for a King or the son of a King. We are asked to vote £6,000 for two persons going abroad. We are assured by the hon. Member for East Edinburgh that he knows the Duke of York so well that he has told him that this journey is a personal inconvenience, and, being so well informed, he knows that it is undertaken at considerable risk. No one believes that half of what is said about the tasks placed upon the Duke of York or the Prince of Wales is true. They are rather looked upon as a subject for joke. All the hon. Members on these benches may not oppose this Vote, but they know in their hearts that this is not justifiable expenditure, that if the same sum were proposed far the poor people this House, including hon. Members on the Conservative benches, would oppose it. I think it is unjustifiable, at a time like this, when we are proposing to take away money for unemployment and other social benefits from the people, to expend this money on a useless visit.