Mr. J. C. C. DAVIDSON (in Court dress)
I beg to move:That an 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."
In rising to move the adoption of an Address to His Majesty in answer to the Gracious Speech which the House has just heard from the Chair, I have to ask for that forbearance and that kind indulgence which this House never fails to extend to those who have the honour of addressing it for the first time. The more to merit that indulgence, I shall be brief. I am confident that the House will have heard with satisfaction that international conferences are to be held at an early date in London to deliberate upon the effective application of the Treaties of Peace. It is always with the sincerest pleasure that the representatives of our Allies are welcomed within these shores. At the same time, the presence of German and Turkish representatives cannot fail to have useful results, since the experience of the past has invariably shown that where there is divergence of opinion one or two discussions round the table are more likely to bear good fruit than perhaps weeks of interchange of despatches.
These discussions are all the more necessary because the greatest present need of the world is to return to normal conditions and to remove the difficulties which have been left as a legacy from the Great War. I am quite sure that I shall be expressing the universal sentiment of the House when I say that the thanks of the country are due to that gallant Field Marshal, His Royal Highness The Duke of Connaught, who has on His Majesty's behalf inaugurated the new councils in India. In undertaking this important and arduous task His Royal Highness has once again shown that unselfish devotion to duty of which our beloved Royal family gives daily proof. I am confident that this House will share His Majesty's hope that the assump- 17 tion of new responsibilities by the peoples of India may bring progress and political peace in its train. The announcement that the Prime Ministers of the self-governing Dominions and the representatives of India are shortly, possibly this summer, to meet again round the council table will meet with universal approval. The closer the co-operation between the nations of the Empire the better, not only for this Empire, but for the world at large. The interchange of views and information is of the utmost service to the future development and civilisation of the world.
The House will also have welcomed the intimation contained in the Gracious Speech that His Majesty's Government propose to exercise the greatest economy with regard to administration. The financial position of this country is the key-stone to our advancement, and it is the duty, the primary duty, of this House to be the guardian of the national purse. At the same time the difficulties which have been bequeathed to us by the War must not be lost sight of, and, although every proposal for new expenditure must be examined with the most critical eye, those difficulties to which I have referred may have a very necessary bearing upon the situation. The Chancellor of the Exchequer is the most unhappy Minister in any Government. He is on the horns of a permanent dilemma. If he has, as it is to be feared that the Chancellor of the Exchequer will have for many a long day, a deficiency, and a large repayment of debt to make every year, naturally, because of the burden of taxation, he cannot individually be popular. If, on the other hand, he has a surplus, every man in his turn tries to get a share of it.
The information in the Gracious Speech that His Majesty's Ministers propose a lighter programme of legislation will be most welcome. The arrears of domestic legislation which accrued after 5 years of war have been to a great extent, though not entirely, caught up, but the pressure of the last two Sessions was such that an attempt to incur an equal pressure upon the House this Session would prove disastrous not only to Parliament but to the Government Departments upon which the administration of the country depends.
The Bills foreshadowed in the Gracious Speech are few in number, but will deal 18 with subjects of the greatest complexity and difficulty, and it is only with the co-operation of the House of Commons as a whole that the Government can hope successfully to carry out their programme. It is much to be desired that the House of Commons, remembering as we do the War so recently and realising that times cannot become normal for years to come, will regard everything that comes before it, every problem and every difficulty, from a national point of view and act, solely in the national and not in the party interest. In spite of the present gloom of unemployment, and the present uncertain position, I can see no reason to despair. We as a nation have always had one attribute which perhaps above all others has served us well. We have always been able to face the facts whatever they are, to debate them, to criticise, and to find a solution. If for one moment we look back a hundred years, we see that after the Napoleonic wars, or even after the Crimean war, much the same situation on a smaller scale was present in the country. The same attacks were made on the Government of the day for extravagance. Lord Cochrane, in 1817, 104 years ago, introduced a petition in this House referring to the magnitude of the taxes and the extravagant military establishments, and during the Debate upon it Mr. Brougham used these words:The petitioners allege that these calamities could never have assumed so aggravated a character but from the gross neglect of the House in checking the ruinous expense of the Executive Government. They pray that the system of exorbitant expenditure may be speedily diminished.Those words might have fallen from any hon. Member during the last Session. During the Budget Debates in 1857, Mr. Gladstone, in the course of a long speech when in opposition, used these words:Sine 1853 a change has passed over the spirit of our dream; a change has passed over the temper of the Government, over the temper of the Departments, over the temper of the House of Commons, and over the temper of the country. Do not let us seek to shift the blame from ourselves. I believe that in a great degree this change is the natural and necessary result of the War. If we were beings governed by pure reason, then no doubt it would be justly argued that in time of war, when enormous demands are made upon the public purse to meet the necessary purposes of the public service, we ought at all events to exercise a peculiar economy in all the ordinary19Departments of the State. But the case is practically just the reverse. You contract a habit of extravagance. War, of necessity, means reckless expenditure; useless, and worse than useless, expense; and even if there were an attempt to control it, nothing worth naming could be done. But the civil expenditure of the State and the temper of the House of Commons are infected with this habit of extravagance, and see what is the result.How true those words were then. I believe they were true yesterday. I do not believe that they will be true tomorrow. It is scarcely possible to say that during the War the House of Commons became subservient, but the Government became an absolutist Government, because it is necessary in war for the power to rest with the Executive, but now that peace has come the House will naturally reassert itself and by close criticism and helpful criticism will take that part which is its due in the life of the country. Again, even in those days there was the fear of direct action, or unconstitutional action. The mover of the Address in that same year, 1817, who stood in my place, used these words:Malcontents, availing themselves of the existing distress, have sought to inflame and infuriate the public mind. They have indeed endeavoured to withdraw altogether the confidence of the people from the disposition and wisdom of Parliament and to shake the security of the Constitution.Critics to-day when levelling their attacks against the Government, I think through lack of skill rather than malice, sometimes miss the Government and hit the House of Commons. No man could do a greater disservice to his country at the present time than to try to bring Parliament into disrepute. The mind of man has not devised any system to stand between civilisation and anarchy except a deliberate assembly. The discomfiture of Ministers may be warranted, but it is a dear price to pay if you strike at the root of the Constitution. As I said before, and as I wish to repeat, at no time in history like the present has the position of this House and the country more required strengthening and maintaining. The eyes of Europe and of our Allies, especially on the Continent, are upon us, and we must remain steady and we must recuperate quickly. I cannot do better than resume my seat with the words which Canning used, speaking in times much like our own 100 years ago: 20And that which I have most at heart, and which I venture humbly to implore of the House of Commons, is that, whatever may be your pleasure to decide as to the merits of individuals or as to the fate of Administrations, you will be careful to preserve, sacred and uninjured, the Constitution which is entrusted to your charge.
§ Mr. FILDES (in Court dress)
I rise to second the Motion submitted to the House by the hon. Member for Hemel Hempstead. With regard to foreign affairs, it is probable that there will be a pretty wide divergence of opinion, but the House will be unanimous in that His Majesty's Ministers have been faced with a situation of great complexity and many difficulties, a situation which has not fallen to the lot of any body of men to deal with in the history of our land for some time, and especially is that true of the burden of responsibility and anxiety which has fallen on the shoulders of the Prime Minister and of the Leader of the House. I would ask, therefore, that in our deliberations we should bear in mind the exceptional difficulties of the situation. If the results of all the negotiations have not been entirely as all the Members of the House would like them to be, I think we can say that His Majesty's Ministers have striven their best for that which they consider to be in the best interests of this country and of the world. I observe from the Gracious Speech that it is hoped to resume trade with Russia. If an arrangement satisfactory to His Majesty's Ministers and to the House can be come to, I think we are all agreed that it will be all to the good, because in pre-War days Russia made a most substantial contribution in foodstuffs and raw materials, and the world needs these things greatly. I hope that when this agreement comes into operation it may fulfil all the anticipations of those who have promoted it. This House has been termed the "Mother of Legislatures," and I am sure it is to all of us a matter of special pride to receive the intimation in the King's Speech of the inauguration of the new Legislative Councils in India. I am confident that the whole House and the whole Empire will be delighted if success attends the efforts of these Councils and if they make for the great and lasting good of the Indian Empire. Just at this time, I think, it would be well that we should remember the great services that have been given to India and to 21 the Empire in days gone by by a body of men remarkable for their earnestness and for their efficiency—I refer to the Indian Civil Servants—who, in times past, in fighting pestilence and famine and in doing great administrative work, have been actuated by the single idea of doing the best they could for the welfare of the great Indian Empire. The House will be delighted to know that we are to receive a visit from the Premiers overseas. Nothing but good can come from intercourse between Ministers overseas and Ministers at home, and in this connection the House will bear me out when I say that it is desirable that we should give some recognition to the very magnificent results that have been achieved by the visits overseas of His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales. In my opinion, it is a matter for congratulation and pride that His Royal Highness combines in his person so many of the best and amiable attributes of His honoured line. This House shares to the full the distress which the present condition of affairs in Ireland is entailing on His Majesty. I believe it is the unanimous wish of the House and that we shall be delighted if the desires and anticipations of those who framed recent legislative measures for Ireland have a result in bringing amity and concord to Ireland. It will be a welcome relief to this House and to the whole Empire.
Being associated with an industrial constituency, I feel I must dwell very briefly upon the question of unemployment. This is indeed a serious matter. It is one to which the House will, I have no doubt, give very serious study and attention. If measures can be introduced to alleviate the sufferings attendant upon unemployment and bad trade, we shall all be delighted. The question of the key industries, and the question of dealing with the extreme extraordinary position which has arisen in connection with the rate of exchange of commodities among nations of the world will come before the House and will demand our closest attention. I believe we are all agreed it is imperative that something should be done, but we must be careful that, whatever is done, does not in any way impede or trammel the growth and freedom of the trade of this country. There is just one question which is of little personal interest to Members of this House—I refer to the licensing laws; but it is a matter on 22 which, outside, opinions are held very strongly. I would ask the House to try and overcome its natural indifference to this topic and to give very careful consideration to the proposals of His Majesty's Government. Personally I should be delighted to see the present restrictions—though they may be necessary they have been instituted at the behest of a Committee appointed for war purposes—replaced by whatever may be decided upon by the House of Commons itself and not merely by a war-time Committee. I thank the House for having been so kindly tolerant, and I have much pleasure in seconding the Motion.
§ Mr. ASQUITH
It is agreeable to one who, like myself, has had a long Parliamentary life, and has seen the arduous and delicate task of moving and second- the Address performed many times with an infinite variety of degrees of excellence and the reverse—it is agreeable to one who has had that experience to be able, as I am able to do, not as a mere conventional tribute, but in all sincerity, to congratulate my two hon. Friends who have just sat down on the manner in which they have acquitted themselves. The Mover (Mr. Davidson), who was very temperate in his speech, rather alarmed me by inventing what, I believe, is a new logical instrument— a permanent dilemma. Most of us who have had experience of Parliamentary dialectics have had enough to do in struggling to escape from the horns of a temporary dilemma, sometimes with very indifferent success. But I think I understood my hon. Friend to suggest that this particular logical difficulty was the property, possession, and appanage of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and when the Budget comes, in due course of time, we shall see how far the Chancellor of the Exchequer is able to extricate himself from that new logical difficulty. My hon. Friend (Mr. W. Fildes), who seconded the Address with so much geniality, referred to what, if his view be correct, is a change since my time, at any rate, in the attitude of the House on licensing legislation. He seemed to think that this Parliament regarded it from a perfectly detached point of view—one it may be not in accordance with the feelings of democracy as representatives of which they are elected. I think he is mistaken. I do 23 not know what form the legislation of the Government is going to take, but I am quite sure it will be followed with as keen and as direct personal interest in the present Parliament as in past Parliaments.
Both hon. Gentlemen have referred to the facts that the Gracious Speech from the Throne covers a comparatively small area of ground compared with some of those in previous years. I share their satisfaction at that change, but however small may be the controversial ground covered by the proposals adumbrated in the Gracious Speech, I think we may be quite sure that as this Debate develops, it will be found to provide a multitude and an amplitude of contentious points. I am going, however, in the few observations I propose to make, and in accordance with what is, I believe, the unbroken usage of the House of Commons on the first day of the Session, not to anticipate some of the hard tasks that may fall upon us, but rather to deal with one or two points, in order that, before we proceed with the discussion of controversial matters, we may, if possible, elicit information not at present in our possession. I may say in that connection that the Speech which has been read from the Chair, commendably brief as it is, and so far as I can trust my eye and my ear, grammatically unimpeachable, is more remarkable for the things which it omits than for those which it contains. No one will gather from reading the Speech that there has been within the last week assembled in Paris a Conference of the Allies, at which vital decisions were taken revising and recasting in most important particulars the Treaty of Versailles. I am not going—this is not the occasion to do so—to express any view of my own on the character and effect of those far-reaching changes, many of which seem, at any rate as far as I am concerned, still difficult to understand and to interpret. I must point out, however, that our neighbours on the other side of the Channel have had the advantage of a full and detailed explanation from the Prime Minister of France and from his colleagues of the new provisions and arrangements arrived at, as the result of the consultations at that Conference, and they have had some four 24 or five days' debate in the Chamber of Deputies on the subject. I suggest to the Government that the House of Commons in turn should have an equally full and authoritative explanation of this new arrangement and its far-reaching consequences, and, if it should so desire, equally free opportunities for criticism and discussion. I ought to ask one supplementary question with regard to the international situation which is suggested by the first paragraph of the Speech, announcing that a Conference is to be held at an early date in London, which will be attended, not only by our Allies, but by the representatives of Germany and Turkey. I am very glad that that is going to be the case, but I think it would be interesting to the House and to the country if the Prime Minister would say—of course, in general terms—what is to be the scope and purpose of that Conference. To put one concrete point, is the Treaty of Sevres to be a subject of discussion, with a view to possible change or revision, in these forthcoming deliberations?
There is another notable omission from the Gracious Speech, in that it contains no mention of the situation or of the policy of His Majesty's Government in relation to Mesopotamia, and the large group of acutely difficult problems which has sprung up in what is called the "Middle East." I have gathered something about it, not from the Gracious Speech from the Throne, but from another speech which is reported in the newspapers this morning, by my right hon. Friend (Mr. Churchill), whom I may be allowed to congratulate with the fullest goodwill. He has held most of the great Offices of State, and his ambition must be very nearly satisfied, though there may possibly be some, or at any rate one thing, in reserve. I congratulate him very heartily on undertaking the administration of the Colonial Office. He has signalised his retirement from the office of Secretary of State for War and his accession to his new post in a speech which contains a great deal of interesting information, of which we get no hint in the Gracious Speech from the Throne. I see that he says "He has been entrusted with the formation and conduct of a new 'Middle Eastern Department,' and that, when he has got the machinery well in hand, he hopes"—I am quoting his own language, as reported 25 to-day—"to relieve the Army Votes of the vague, indefinite and formidable charges resulting from, these mischievous and novel commitments; and that he hopes in course of time to reduce these commitments, and bring these regions into a less extravagant condition than is now the case."
I read that with very great pleasure, and I should like to ask one or two questions about the new "Middle Eastern Department." What is it? Is it to be independent of the War Office? Is it to be an excrescence from the Colonial Office? And what, if any, are to be its relations to the Foreign Office? Where does it stand in the hierarchy of the Government? Which Votes will it have under its charge for submission to the House of Commons? Above all, what is to be its policy, on what lines is it going to work, and in what direction is it going to move? I agree that this is an early stage, but I suppose that, if already born, the new Department is in the swaddling clothes of its career, and I am sure it will be most welcome to the House and to the country if, even at this stage, we could have some indication by what mode of curtailment these "extravagant and extraneous and novel commitments" are to be cut down. That is a point, as I have said, upon which the Gracious Speech is altogether silent, and upon which we should have learned nothing but from the necessity for my right hon. Friend's making a valedictory address before leaving the War Office.
I pass with pleasure to the succeeding paragraphs of the Speech, which deal with India, with Egypt, and with the proposal that there shall be a further consultation between the Prime Ministers of the Mother Country and of the great Dominions. With regard to India, I have only to say that, without any distinction of party, we in this country look with the greatest goodwill, and I would add with the most perfect and sanguine expectation, upon the great new adventure which is now on foot. Speaking for myself personally—though I am sure I shall be re-echoing the opinion of a great many others—I think it is a very great advantage to the Empire that the early stages, the critical stages, in that adventure should be presided over by a man of the sagacity, experience, and popular sympathy of my friend Lord Reading. With regard to Egypt, the language used in the 26 Gracious Speech is somewhat vague, and the House will be glad to know whether we are to understand from it that the Report which we are told has been submitted to the Government by Lord Milner and his colleagues in the Mission of which he was the head, is to be adopted, or is to form the basis of the policy which the Government intend to pursue. With regard to the bringing of the Colonial Prime Ministers into conference here, that is a wise development of a policy which has been the common property of all parties in the State now for the past ten years, and from which nothing but the most beneficent results to the Empire can ensue.
Matters of a much more controversial kind are raised in the references which follow in the Speech to the condition of Ireland and to the problem of unemployment. I am not going to say anything in a polemical sense about either this afternoon, because both are likely to form subjects of Amendments to the Address which we shall be discussing in the course of the next few days, and upon which we shall be able freely to express our minds. I am asking solely for information. With regard to Ireland, there are three points upon which I think it would be desirable that the Government should give us a little further light than we at present possess. In the first place, we should all be glad to know to what determination they have come with regard to the publication to the world of General Strickland's report as the result of his inquiry into the burnings in Cork. All sorts of conflicting statements have been made, and many rumours have been current on that subject; and at the earliest possible moment the Government should tell us exactly what in this matter they have determined to do. Again, a very remarkable pronouncement was made about a week ago by one of the Irish County Court Judges with regard to the state of things in the County of Clare, and the action of the Executive there, as disclosed in the compensation claims which have come before him in his judicial capacity. I think that that Report ought to be made a Parliamentary Paper, and that the House of Commons should have the opportunity of considering it. Lastly, the House is entitled to know what truth and authenticity there is in the statement put forward this morning, and 27 purporting to be on the authority of the body which is called "Dail Eireann," as to the negotiations which took place in the month of December between Archbishop Clune, Father O'Flanagan and others on the one side, and the Prime Minister on the other. That apparently authoritative statement, which is published to-day, with regard to the course of those negotiations, contains a very serious matter from the point of view of those of us who hoped, as I certainly did myself, from the statement made by the Prime Minister shortly before we rose in December last, that the negotiations—unpropitious as were many of their surroundings and un congenial in many ways, for such a purpose, as was the atmosphere—might have found a way of escape which all well-disposed and loyal people in Great Britain and Ireland would have been glad to find.
With regard to the proposals for legislation, I will not comment upon them, for the very good reason that we do not know precisely what form that legislation is to take. We must be content there—I am sorry to have to repeat the phrase—to "wait and see." There is one paragraph, and one only, dealing with the legislative intentions of the Government, to which I must call a moment's attention. It is unique, as far as my experience goes, both in form and in substance. Let me read it. It is the last paragraph in the Gracious Speech:My Ministers further trust that the work of the Committee"—this is the first time that I have heard of a Cabinet Committee—I presume it is a Cabinet Committee—being referred to in a Speech from the Throne—My Ministers further trust that the work of the Committee now examining the question of the reform of the Second Chamber will be finished in time to permit of proposals being submitted to Parliament during the course of the present Session.A more modest aspiration, couched in more diffident terms, and suffused with a more pronounced tinge of ultimate mistrust, I think has never been put into the mouth of the Sovereign since King's speeches first became a recognised Parliamentary institution. Talk about "wait and see"! We are frankly told here that we shall have to wait, at any rate, and to wait without, even in the minds of those who tell us to do so, anything in the 28 nature of a confident assurance, anything more than a dim struggling beam of faith that this Session, at any rate, it may possibly come within the range of vision. We have been told by those who profess to speak outside with great authority, but probably with very imperfect information of the perhaps not always fixed and constant intentions of the Government, that this must be in the forefront of the legislative programme of the present year. It will "brook no delay." I have heard that before, too. It certainly cannot be described as any longer in the "forefront," if we read in a literal sense the language which has been put into the mouth of the Sovereign. We must possess our souls in patience. I, for one, am quite prepared to do so.
I have purposely avoided, in accordance with the spirit which I think ought to breathe through our proceedings on the opening day of our re-assembling, anything, I hope, in the nature of an unduly polemical spirit, but I have asked for information. I am, at the moment, in the attitude of a humble searcher after truth and light. But I have no doubt—let there be no misunderstanding about that—that as the Debate develops and Amendments are in due course brought forward, there will be no lack of controversial matter for discussion, and I hope energy and confidence will be shown among those who have real convictions in pursuit of what they believe to be the truth. I ask the Government to give us such information as they can in answer to these interrogatories, and I am certain if it is supplied, as I hope it will be, fully and frankly, the House will be in a better position than it otherwise would have been to grapple with the real tasks of the Session.
§ Mr. J. H. THOMAS
Unfortunately I am unable to follow the line of my right hon. Friend, inasmuch as it will be necessary even at this stage of the Session to be somewhat controversial. I associate myself whole-heartedly with the compliment paid to the Mover and Seconder of the Address. They have performed their very difficult task with skill, tact, and ability which have commended themselves to Members in all parts of the House.
I have observed that in the Gracious Speech from the Throne there is a phrase with regard to expenditure which may be used by all Members in all parts of the 29 House, and a, different construction could be placed upon it by each section. The phrase is that it is the Government's intention to reduce expenditure to the lowest level consistent with the well-being of the Empire. That is a phrase that any hon. Member can adopt with perfect security. But, so far as the Members of the Labour party are concerned, while we realise the urgent necessity of a curtailment of expenditure, while we realise the serious financial position, we submit that the real and most effective means whereby economy can be established is not in curtailing a few thousands on social reform or education, but rather in tackling the millions which are being wasted on armaments and on our expeditions in Mesopotamia and other places. We welcome the reference to unemployment, but I am sorry to disagree with the Mover of the Address when he says he sees no need to despair. If he or I were one of the 1,250,000 out of work at this moment, including 300,000 or 400,000 ex-Service men who only a few years ago were told the country would never forget their obligations, who realise at this moment that they are not only out of work, but many of them and their families starving, we at least would sec need of despair. In the Gracious Speech from the Throne there is a statement that unemployment is consequent upon the world-wide restriction of trade. I agree entirely. That phrase can be justified. But I submit that the problem of unemployment is not local, is not national, but is international, and cannot be separated from the foreign policy of the Government. We submit that the first and real step towards the cure of unemployment is to heal the wounds of the late War, and frankly to recognise that however much we may talk about punishment of our late enemies, every time we hit them we are hitting ourselves. In other words, the high cost of living and the problem of finding employment cannot be re-established until trade and commerce are set going the world over. It cannot be set in motion until we frankly realise that our first duty is to forget the events of 1914 to 1918.
I rose primarily to draw attention to the serious situation in Ireland. Whilst mention is made of criminal violence in Ireland, there is no word of Government reprisals. In all parts of the world we as a nation are suffering in consequence of what is taking place in Ireland. We 30 are causing bitterness and hatred between the English and Irish people which, unless checked, will in my judgment be a real danger to the Empire. Reference has been made to the Cork Report. We were told when the House was last in Session that immediately it was issued the public would be informed. My right hon. Friend, in answer to a question from the Irish Benches two days before the Session ended, did not hesitate to say that he was then awaiting a Report from Cork. Every hon. Member expected that when the inquiry was promised and when we were told that it was taking place under a General whose name is respected by every Member of the House, the Report would immediately be made public. But from that day to this, except for vague Press reports, we have heard nothing about it. I now come to the latest and, in my judgment, the most barbarous incident that has happened in Ireland among the many outrages which have taken place. On 29th January Captain King and his wife were shot at near Mallow Station. The wife, in her anxiety to save her husband, rushed in front of him, with the result that she was shot and died the next morning, and I understand Captain King was severely wounded. Whoever was guilty of the crime, there is no punishment too severe for him. We need not mince words about sympathy of any sort or kind, because I have no sympathy for anyone, Irish or English, who would cruelly murder a woman as this woman was murdered. I dissociate myself, and every Member of our party, entirely from sympathy with this outrage. Those are the facts of the case. What follows? In Ireland at present, wherever the curfew is in existence, any employé or employer who is called upon to work in curfew hours is subject to punishment as if he was trespassing. Supposing an engine driver runs into Mallow Station and arrives at 8.10 at night. He has brought his passengers safe into the station, the engine is taken to the shed and he gets to the shed at 8.30. That man must stay on the premises all night because he dare not go home owing to the curfew. If a signalman finishes at 8.10 at night, which is ten minutes after curfew, he must stop in his signal-box because he dare not go home. I want the House to get that fact clearly in mind, because it is the basis of everything that has taken place at Mallow.
31 The day after Mrs. King was shot a signalman named Thomas Moylan finished work at 8.30, half-an-hour after curfew. He was unable to go home and must remain in the signal-box. He was in the signal-box at 10.20 p.m., when he heard shots fired. A few minutes later some policemen came to the signal-box door and demanded it to be opened. Upon entering the box they ordered Moylan and the others to put up their hands and searched them. They were then ordered to go to the platform of the station and to stand with their backs to the wall and with their hands up while the police levelled their rifles at them. The police then said that a woman had been shot, that they had done it, and that if she died 15 railwaymen would be shot for it. At eleven o'clock the police marched the men to the barracks, with their hand above their heads. Let it be remembered that these were railwaymen on duty, railwaymen taken from their posts while discharging their duty. Amongst the six men were Moylan, Gyves, and Signalman Hayes. They were searched five times in two different cells. Between three and four o'clock in the morning the occupants of Moylan's cell were taken out to a military motor, and after being beaten by the police with fists, revolvers, and rifles, they were told to go and carry the dead body of a woman to a lower cell. On returning they were again, beaten by rifles and revolvers, and detained in the cells till 9.45. They were then told to run, and while running they were shot at. Three were shot dead when running. [HON. MEMBERS: "Shame!"] That is not all.
Let me here say how we have obtained these statements, in order that there may be no talk about the tainted source of the information. These men were members of my organisation. In order to ascertain the facts we did not even depend upon our Irish secretary, but sent over from this country one of our organisers. We sent him to Mallow to see the men, and to obtain all information, and every quotation that I make is from his report and not from any tainted source. The question arises, what was the state of mind of soldiers or policemen who could have done this? I will show that they did worse. The lady in charge of the refreshment room stated that the police 32 and soldiers broke into the station refreshment room, took every scrap of food and spirits in the refreshment room and started firing in the refreshment room. The bullet marks in the refreshment room were seen last night at 8 o'clock, when I had the last report. This is something that cannot be merely contradicted; it can be proved. Here is a definite statement, first in regard to the men and then in regard to the refreshment room.
The next case is that of Michael Mahoney, one of our members. On the night in question he went on duty at 8 o'clock. Everything went on as usual until 10.30, when he heard rifle shots from the direction of the platform. He was in the locomotive yard attending to an engine, but on hearing a couple, of shots from the goods yard, immediately opposite the locomotive yard, he thought it was getting a bit dangerous, so he went into the driver' waiting room in the shed, where he found five or six other men. He had only been in the room about five minutes when the door was opened by a man in khaki, who shouted, "Hands up." This man was accompanied by another in police uniform. After asking the men where they had been that night he ordered them to walk to the platform with their hands above their heads. As they passed the north signal box the policeman, who was behind, fired several shots above their heads. On arrival at the platform they were confronted by two men in civilian clothes, one of whom Mahoney recognised as the head constable. These men asked how they could account for being out at that time of night, to which the reply was that they were railwaymen on duty. What is the state of a policeman or soldier who marches men out from a signal box or from an engine shed, where they are working, and then asks them what they are doing out at that time of night? I ask the House to draw their own conclusions. The men were then ordered to walk to the police barracks, with their hands above their heads. On going out of the station another man in khaki ordered them to "halt," then ordered them to "double" and afterwards to "run." Immediately they started to run, but before they had got 12 yards away a volley was fired into them. Three men fell in front of Mahoney. One was Dennis Bennett, a cleaner, another was Paddy Howe, a driver, but the third man was not recognised. Mahoney was shot in the 33 hands and the right knee. The police did not follow them, but persisted in firing whilst they were injured and stumbling along as best they could. Mahoney eventually sought shelter in a garden, where he remained for over an hour. He then made an effort to get home, but his right leg was so painful that he had to move along on his back. His home was only a quarter of a mile away, and he crossed some gardens and a lawn. It took over six hours to get there. The bullet passed right through his knee. He is still in hospital. The others are dead. Here are these railwaymen taken from their place of duty and marched to the station with their hands up. In one case they were told, "Go and carry that dead body." They were told to run, and when they started to run away a volley was fired into them; three were killed and others injured. One died last night. That is the statement of Mahoney.
Here is the statement of another man, Morrissey. He states that he was in the north signal cabin with signalman Greenwood and a porter named Devitt. Here again the men had to remain because of the curfew. The police went to the box and demanded admission. Morrissey opened the door and the police then gave the order "Hands up." The men were next ordered out of the box and Greenwood, who is 70 years of age, was thrown down the steps. When he got up again he protested that he was on duty. That is to say, that he was the signalman responsible for the lives of the travelling public. After throwing him down the steps the police said: "How did he get here," and he said: "I am on duty." After he had protested, the police said: "Damn the signal box. Damn the railwaymen and damn you." Greenwood, however, was ordered back to the box, but Devitt and Morrissey were marched, with hands up, to the platform. A policeman kicked Devitt and told him to put his hands up higher. He then said to Morrissey: "I suppose you have a gun hidden." Morrissey said that he never had one and he would not know how to use it if he had. The policeman said: "I suppose you belong to the organisation. Anyway, you belong to the railway, and that is enough for us." One of the policemen had a bottle of whisky and he asked the soldier to have a drink, which he refused. The men were then ordered to run, but Morrisey got a bullet immediately he 34 started. He was shot in the right elbow and in a finger. He hid in the ruins of an old creamery and remained there until 4 a.m. He states that he will refuse to resume duty even when discharged from hospital until he can get some guarantee for his personal safety. He knew nothing about the woman having been shot, until he got to Cork hospital at 7 o'clock next morning. The next case is that of Driver Maher. Here is a man who is now in Cork hospital, badly wounded, and who arrived in Mallow at 9.20 p.m. on the day following the murder, and who knew nothing of any murder having taken place at Mallow. He brought his train there from another place. It is like an engine driver starting from Paddington to run to Cardiff. Someone is killed at Cardiff prior to his arrival in Cardiff, but when he arrives he is immediately shot down because he is supposed to be connected with the murder that happens at Cardiff. That is the position of this particular man. In these cases the facts are from the sworn statement of live men. One poor fellow who died yesterday leaves a widow and seven children and another child is expected.
The Government may say that their evidence is contrary to ours. I expect the Government to say that they deplore the facts, if they are as I allege. I want them equally to say that there is justification for an impartial inquiry. If they are going to say that their information is contrary to ours and that all the information at their disposal disproves the horrible statements which I have been compelled to make, I submit that there is only one way to test it, that there is only one way to vindicate not their position but, what is more important, the name of this country, and that is by a free impartial and independent inquiry. An inquiry was taking place yesterday, and there was also an inquiry last week. The law in Ireland and England enables a trade union, in the event of the death of a member, to attend the inquest to protect the interest of its men. That is something with which every Member of this House would agree. Immediately our first man was killed we gave instructions that a solicitor was to be employed to attend the inquest, but we were told that this was a martial law district, and that there was to be a military inquiry. The solicitor asked to be allowed to attend the 35 military inquiry and he was refused. Then, in order that there should be no more lying in the case—because, unfortunately, that is what is taking place—the organiser in this case was instructed by me, before he left for Ireland, to claim the right to attend the inquiry himself. He presented himself yesterday to the military authority, and was refused.
I submit that this is a case that not only calls for an immediate public inquiry but calls for an inquiry that will sift the whole evidence. I am not going to say that the Prime Minister or Chief Secretary would defend any of the conduct that I have mentioned. Of course they would not. But if what I have said is true and if a public inquiry proves it then it is their duty rigidly to apply the law and punish those responsible. Who is it that is suffering more than anybody else at this moment. It is the honest soldier who loves his job but detests doing anything mean or unworthy. Those soldiers have to bear the stigma of the conduct of other people. The Mover (Mr. Davidson) concluded his speech by saying that these are difficult times. But if there is one thing more than another that should be kept in mind it is that nothing should be done that would bring Parliament into disrepute. I submit that that test rests on that Bench to-day. There is nothing that will bring Parliament into disrepute more than a refusal of this House of Commons to demand an open public inquiry into these occurrences. If you are going to maintain the prestige of Parliament, if the House of Commons is going to represent truly the will of the people and to remain jealous of its reputation for justice and equity it cannot refuse an inquiry into these cases. I do not ask an inquiry merely on the grounds that these are railwaymen or because they are members of my organisation. A railwayman has no more right of protection than anyone else. But I ask on the ground that they are Irishmen and citizens entitled to the protection of the law of the land and the impartial and judicial consideration of the House of Commons.
§ The PRIME MINISTER (Mr. Lloyd George)
It is a great pleasure for me to associate myself with the very generous and grateful tribute paid by my right hon. Friend the Member for Paisley (Mr. 36 Asquith), to the Mover and Seconder of the Motion to-day. Rarely during the 30 years in which I have been a Member of this House have I seen that very difficult and delicate task discharged with more tact and discretion. The thoughtful appeal made by my hon. Friend the Mover (Mr. Davidson) was a very fine utterance, and the genial appeal made by my hon. Friend the Member for Stock-port (Mr. Fildes) made a considerable impression on the sentiment of the House. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Paisley well said, this is purely an occasion upon which, to use a legal phrase, it is permissible to address interrogatories to the Ministry, and the business of the Minister who replies is to answer to the best of his ability the questions addressed to him. I shall proceed, therefore, to take them seriatim.
First my right hon. Friend the Member for Paisley asked me some questions about the recent Paris decisions, and seemed anxious for a discussion upon the subject in the House of Commons. He did not encourage the Government very much to assent to that discussion when he reminded the House that these decisions took four days in the Assembly in France, because, as Easter comes earlier than usual this year, we could not spare four days to discuss the Paris decisions. But, taking into account the fact that in the course of the next week there will be a very important, series of conferences held in this country at which we hope to have present representatives of Turkey and Germany, as well as of the Allied Powers, I would suggest respectfully to my right hon. Friend and the House of Commons that it is undesirable to have a Debate before these conferences come off. It is very difficult in the course of prolonged discussion not to commit yourself upon subjects where committal is undesirable until you hear what is to be said on the other side I know nothing of the nature of the counter-proposals which are to be brought forward by Germany. I am very delighted to know that there are other proposals coming, and that they are being considered and considered very carefully by the German Government, and I hope that they may show a real desire by Germany to take the measures necessary to liquidate her liabilities under the Treaty of Versailles. But until we know at least their outline, I think that it would be very undesirable to have prolonged discussion in this 37 House. I had a real sympathy with the French Prime Minister in the position in which he was placed in having for four days to answer questions on every aspect of the proposal of which we knew and the counter-proposals which we had never had before us.
I do not consider my right hon. Friend's description of the Paris Resolutions as a revision and recasting of the Treaty of Versailles as correct. I have repeatedly reminded the House of the very important provisions which were introduced into the Treaty of Versailles, which enable the Powers to consider proposals under what is known in France as the system of forfait, or a system of annuities which would enable Germany to discharge her liabilities. There is full power under the Treaty of Versailles to enable us to consider any proposals of this kind. We realise fully that if you put in the whole of your claim for the destruction of property, house property, factories, farms, land, all the infinite variety of destruction which Germany practised for five years in France and Belgium and on the high seas, if you were to give a detailed claim for all that damage, and had to go through the process of examining and discussing it at length, a vast amount of time would be expended, and that it was desirable not merely in the interests of Germany but in the interests of the Allies as well that there should be an understanding upon a fixed definite sum, which would avert the need for all that protracted discussion. That was all provided for in the Treaty of Versailles. I have repeatedly pointed this out in the House of Commons, and I think I have reminded my right hon. Friend of that, and therefore I cannot assent to the proposition that in accepting the proposals in Paris we agreed to any departure of the Treaty of Versailles. I think that is rather important. I do not think it desirable to say anything more on the subject of the proposal than I have said already. Had Parliament been sitting it would have been my duty to place before the House of Commons a summary of the proposals. I found another opportunity. The proposals themselves have been published. In so far as they differ from proposals which have been put forward before, the main, the essential, difference lies in the proposal that there should be an annuity which would fluctuate according to the prosperity of the export trade of Germany. 38 That is the one essentially new element which was introduced at the last Paris Conference.
With regard to the Turkish controversy, undoubtedly the Treaty of Sevres will be the subject of discussion. What proposals will be put forward by the representatives of the Turkish nation I do not know, and it would be a mistake to discuss all the various indications which have been given in the press of the kind of demand which it is supposed these representatives might put forward at a conference of that character. The supreme interest of the British Empire in the matter and of the Allies and of the world is that peace should be established, whether it is in the Middle. East or in Central Europe, and His Majesty's representatives at this conference will be animated by that supreme desire, subject, of course, also to the paramount obligation to see that right is done to the Christian population of Turkey, who have been suffering so severely in the past from the excesses of Turkish misgovernment.
The other question put by my right, hon. Friend was regarding Mesopotamia and the problems of the Middle East. He wanted to know about the new Middle East Department. He professes never to have heard of this proposal before, and he said it ought to have been in the King's Speech. Why? We had a prolonged discussion here in December upon this very question. My hon. Friend the Member for Stafford (Mr. Ormsby-Gore), in a very able speech, which made a very great impression on the House at the time, referred at great length to this particular question, and he interrogated the Government on its intentions regarding the Middle East Department. I then made it clear, not for the first time, that it was the intention of the Government to set up a Department of that kind. It will probably be in the Colonial Office. It is nothing new. Probably my right hon. Friend was not present. It is rather hard if every time he is not present during a Debate we should have to insert the proposals we refer to in Debate in the King's Speech. As to the relations with the Foreign Office and the War Office, the relations of the new Department will be just like the relations of the Colonial Office with any other part of the world. The Foreign Office may be 39 brought in, as it has been in the past, in reference to other parts of the territories which are under the control of the Colonial Office. The same thing applies to the War Office.
With regard to Egypt, we propose to lay the Milner Report on the Table of the House and the House will have an opportunity of discussing it. The Government are not prepared to say to what extent they can adopt that Report or even accept its recommendations, certainly not until they have had a conference with the Egyptian Ministers, who so far have not been consulted in the matter officially. It will be our business to find out exactly their views on the subject. If it had been possible I should have liked also to take into consultation the representatives of the Dominions before we come to any decision. It is a matter of most vital moment to the Empire, to the peace of the Middle East, and to our future relations, perhaps, with India.
My right hon. Friend asked a number of questions about the House of Lords plan. I will remind him of another quaint phrase of his. I do not mean "wait and see," but another phrase—it is "brooking no delay."
§ The PRIME MINISTER
Yes, and the debt of honour. But from the point of view of my right hon. Friend's criticism of the King's Speech, the phrase that matters is "brooking no delay." My right hon. Friend will find it much more relevant than he imagines. When he made that statement undoubtedly he meant it, and the Government meant it; he made it on behalf of the Government after consideration by the Cabinet. He and I have been on more than one Committee for the reform of the House of Lords. The subject is not an easy one. He thought, undoubtedly, when he made that statement, that it was a very easy matter, but he discovered it was not. The reason was that he could not find time. There were other things that came in the way, and he did not see his way clear to conclusions which he thought would be quite satisfactory even to his own supporters in the House of Commons. Therefore, the appointment of a Committee is an essential preliminary. My right hon. Friend does not suggest 40 that we should introduce proposals for reform until a Committee has carefully investigated the matter. It is not so much a question of principle. On the question of principle there is no difference at all between the vast majority of Members of this House, on whatever side they may be. The Government of which I was a member under the leadership of my right hon. Friend, with the whole of their own supporters, were just as much committed to the reform of the House of Lords as the followers of my right hon. Friend (Mr. Bonar Law) who sits beside me. It is a matter for the most careful examination. A Committee of this kind is essential as a preliminary to any legislative proposals. The only reason why we approach this subject with great caution is that we know from experience that it takes time. There are these great international conferences to be held, and they may take some weeks. During that time some of the Members of the Committee can certainly not attend the investigations. It is because we cannot give a definite pledge as to when the Committee will be able to conclude its labours that this very careful statement has been put into the King's Speech. After the experience of the past, we think it is essential that the House of Commons should not be misled by promises that we cannot fulfil. They are not promises given by the present Government. They are promises given by a Government, of which, it is perfectly true, I was a Member; but we are pledged to deal with the matter. It is no use giving undertakings like that given by my right hon. Friend opposite, which he honourably intended to discharge, undertakings which, on the question of time, "brooked no delay," until, first of all, we have in our minds a definite and clear plan with which we are prepared to proceed immediately. That is the explanation of that particular and not very abstruse phrase, but, as it happens, a very sincere and honest one.
§ Lord R. CECIL
I wish to ask whether the Committee to which the Prime Minister referred is a fresh Parliamentary Committee or a Cabinet Committee?
§ The PRIME MINISTER
A Cabinet Committee with a view to framing a scheme. As far as outside committees are concerned, the subject has been dis- 41 posed of by a very able Committee presided over by Lord Bryce. The Cabinet have certainly the responsibility of deciding the matter. With regard to Ireland, my right hon. Friend asked first of all about the Strickland Report. I do not know why it is called that. It is not General Strickland's Report; it is simply a Report from the area of which General Strickland is in military command, an ordinary report of an ordinary inquiry such as is always held after either burnings or murders. These reports and these inquiries are invariably held for the purpose of informing the Government upon the subject matter, so that we can know what action it is necessary to take.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
There were civilian witnesses at the inquiry. I do not mind an interruption as long as it is in the least well informed, but that interruption is not so. As a matter of fact, it was not our fault that there were not more civilian witnesses. There were members of the corporation, including the Lord Mayor of Cork, whom we were anxious to summon before this Committee to give evidence, but they fled to America rather than give the evidence. After the military took every step to get the most important civilian witness in Cork, and he refused to give evidence, it is rather hard that they should be accused of not taking the evidence of civilian witnesses. I hope that is not the spirit in which those who are discharging a very difficult task are to be criticised in the House of Commons. That is all that happened with regard to this inquiry. The question was put whether we were prepared to publish this Report. That is a very important decision, and one which you must take, not in reference to one particular inquiry, but in reference to the whole of these inquiries.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
The answer was given by my right hon. Friend the 42 Leader of the House, and he definitely refused to promise publication of the Report. I have seen his answer within the last few hours. If we publish the report of one inquiry, there is no reason why we should not publish every report. I am informed that this is practically the answer given by the Leader of the House:I promise that the question of publication will be considered by the Chief Secretary. I cannot go beyond that.It has been considered very carefully. I think that, with conditions in Ireland as they are, it is a very grave decision to decide to publish reports of these inquiries. It is no use treating Ireland as if you have the same orderly conditions there as you have in Great Britain or in some other well-ordered country. You have a state of insurrection there, a state of rebellion. There are armed men who are going about the country ambuscading soldiers, firing from houses, one moment parading the streets and the roads like harmless civilians, the next moment hiding with arms in their hands to fire at the very police who allowed them to pass with impunity a few minutes before. All that must be taken into account. When you have a life-and-death struggle between those responsible for establishing order in Ireland and those who are resorting to methods that are not countenanced by any civilised people in the world, you must consider what is the best thing in the interests of re-establishing the authority of the law of the country. These inquiries are instituted with a view to informing the Government as to what action should be taken. As I shall point out, we have taken action. In this case there was not an agreed Report, as I shall tell the House, but there was enough in it to justify us in coming to the conclusion that there had been acts of indiscipline on the part of some of the auxiliary force. We have been unable, in spite of every effort, to find out who they are. We have already taken strong action in regard to certain members of the force who have been guilty of other acts of that kind. We have taken the sternest action with regard to offences committed by members of these forces in other cases. The officer in charge of the police took exactly the same steps to ascertain the facts here and to identify those responsible. There were only very few, but we have taken very severe measures with re- 43 gard to the particular company which was involved. The vast majority of them are not in the least implicated. Seven of them whom all we can say is we suspect of being responsible for acts of indiscipline, although we cannot identify them, have been dismissed.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
After all, I believe an officer is entitled to feel that he has absolute confidence in those in his command. He had no confidence in these seven men for reasons that satisfied him, but for which there was no evidence; and the House must remember that one of the difficulties in Ireland, not merely on the one side, but on the other, is to get evidence, and one of the most promising features in Ireland at the present moment is that for the first time we are beginning to get evidence. The officer in command has been suspended. We were not satisfied that he had acted in a way that commends itself to the judgment of the Executive.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
With regard to the rest of the company, the company has been dissolved. The other members have been put into other companies, but there is no evidence to identify anybody, either auxiliaries or civilians—because civilians were found under conditions which were undoubtedly suspicious and justified us in coming to the conclusion that they were associated with the crimes. Once the trouble began, there is no doubt at all that from some of the lower quarters of Cork the population came forth and joined in the attack upon these houses and was guilty of looting, but we have not been able to get any evidence even against these civilians, and that is one of the things with which we are confronted. We have taken action. We immediately instituted further inquiries when our attention was called to the position, with the result that we have taken the sternest disciplinary action which it is within our 44 power to take without direct evidence that would identify any members of the force with a specific act of indiscipline.
I come to the other point put by my right hon. Friend. He said that this morning there is a statement in the papers about negotiations between Archbishop Clune and myself. I have not had the opportunity of reading that statement. It is perfectly true. The Archbishop of Perth came to see me. He was Chaplain to the Australian Forces on the Western front. There was no doubt about his absolute loyalty to the British Empire. He came to see me and asked whether something could not be done to stop this terrible condition of things in Ireland. He made it quite clear, as far as he was concerned, not merely that he had no sympathy with the atrocities that had been committed, but that he strongly deprecated them; but he was very anxious before he returned to Australia to try and restore peace to his native country, the country to which he was devoted with all the passion with which Irishmen are devoted to their native land. I certainly had a good many discussions with him, and I believe he had discussions with the leaders of Sinn Fein—with most of the leaders. He was anxious to negotiate a truce with a view to giving Ireland an opportunity of reconsidering her position. There was a good deal to be said for that, because I believe that if this murder campaign stopped they probably would never resume it so long as they have not got arms in their hands. After consulting those who are responsible for order in Ireland and who are personally interested in putting an end to all this murder in Ireland, because they run very great personal risks, every one of them, themselves, they strongly urged that we should agree to no truce except on the express condition that arms should be surrendered. I think the House of Commons will agree that that was a wise decision. I considered it very carefully with, my colleagues in the Cabinet and our reasons were these. Supposing you have a truce. There is no doubt the heads of this conspiracy are being very hard pressed. I should point out what a difference has been effected in Ireland by the administration, more notably in the last five or six months. [Laughter.] Hon. Members may laugh, but the Sinn Feiners 45 in Ireland do not laugh. I will just give the reasons why. If you said to them that during the next month or six weeks we will have no police chasing these men who are on the run, we will have no raiding of houses to find arms, and the other methods by which we are dispersing those forces and preventing them from resuming the position of activity and power which they possessed before; if at the end of that time nothing had been accomplished in the way of achieving an agreement which, would be satisfactory to Great Britain and to Ireland; if their demands had been extravagant; if they had said, "We stand by an independent Ireland, an independent republic, we must be rid of the British connection," and at the end of six weeks nothing had been achieved, what would have been the effect? These men would have gone back, and having had their six weeks' rest, having had time to restore the broken communications—because they find it very difficult to communicate with each other and to organise—the organisation which was so perfect five or six months ago is now shattered—six weeks would have enabled them to rebuild it—they would have had arms in their hands, it would have been very difficult to prevent their getting more, and at the end of five or six weeks they would have been in a very much more powerful position than ever to attack the forces of the Crown. There fore we did not feel justified.
We should have been glad to have had this truce. If these arms had been surrendered, then I think we would have had peace in Ireland. We even suggested that the arms might be surrendered to their own priests, so that the surrender might not be made the means of tracking down the insurgents, but they declined to accept that condition. That showed that they had not abandoned the idea of bringing independence to Ireland by force of arms, and until they do that there is no peace for Ireland. My right hon. Friend (Mr. Thomas) has asked me a number of questions about Mallow. There are a great many statements which he made which I have heard for the first time, and I am not going now without any investigation to tell him that his statement of facts is inaccurate. I shall certainly see that all the facts which he put before the House of Commons are looked into most carefully.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
I am coming to that. But let me give the House of Commons the facts as reported to us.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
The hon. Member's idea is that you should accept every statement that attacks a policeman or a soldier, but if anyone dares to put in a word—
§ The PRIME MINISTER
—if anyone dares to put in a word on the other side he should be laughed at. I cannot accept that position.
§ Mr. LAWSON
I want to put this point, that for six months we have heard statements here which have been distinctly disproved, and I say so. [HON. MEMBERS: "Sit down," and "Speech!"]
§ The PRIME MINISTER
I will now convey to the House of Commons the statements with regard to the incident at Mallow in so far as we have received information. I will promise my right hon. Friend that I will certainly have a further investigation made into all the facts which he has put before me tonight. There was a police officer, who had been taking, I think, a friend either to the station or to the hotel—I think to the hotel. As he was returning with his wife to his home, shots were fired from the railway station without any warning. The shots must have been fired by somebody who must have seen him and who must have seen that he was accompanied with his wife. There were several shots fired recklessly, without any regard to the fact that there was not merely the officer there, but that there was a woman with him. She was killed, and he was wounded. [HON. MEMBERS: "Shame!"] My right hon. Friend very properly used language of execration of that horrible murder, but do not let us 47 forget the fact, when the police are being attacked, that this was a wanton attack made upon them, not even in the execution of their duty, but in the execution of a social amenity, walking along the street from the railway station. The second fact I want to put is this. He blew his whistle, and his comrades came there and found Mrs. King lying mortally wounded and Inspector King shot. Now there is one thing I want to ask my right hon. Friend. He is very anxious to investigate the murder of two or three railwaymen. Will he also help to press the railwaymen to give information as to who fired the shots at the police inspector?
§ Mr. THOMAS
The question is put to me, and I will answer it. I not only say "Yes," but my right hon. Friend knows that in Dublin itself the question was put to me from an audience of 2,000 Irishmen, "Will you get the military shifted?" And my answer in Dublin was, "No, not whilst murder goes on. Will you stop murder?"
§ The PRIME MINISTER
From my knowledge of my right hon. Friend, I was not putting that question to him merely as a debating catch, but because I want his assistance. Here, according to him, were twenty or thirty railwaymen, and it is very odd that not one of them has come forward to give evidence about a murder committed just outside the station. The Police Inspector came from the direction of the station, and the murderer must have been passing in and out there. Not one of them has come forward to give evidence about that. Let me put another question. There was an inquiry instituted. The father of one of the railwaymen who was killed— Morain—came to the inquest and asked for an adjournment, I think in order to get evidence. The inquiry was adjourned from the 2nd February to the 7th February to enable him to bring any evidence he had before the inquiry. When the 7th came he was not there; there was no evidence forthcoming. I hear complaints that no civilian witnesses are examined, but here was a court of inquiry by the military adjourned for four days at the request of the father of one of the poor men who was killed in order to enable him to bring evidence, and there was no evidence forthcoming. Is that the fault of the military or of the police? They were not merely willing that there should 48 be evidence; they were anxious that there should be evidence, and they adjourned for four days to enable evidence to be given. They are still anxious that there should be evidence, and if any evidence, whether from the Railway Union or anybody else, is forthcoming, they will receive it; but one thing they will not do. If there is going to be investigation, investigation must be in accordance with the rules by which investigations are conducted, but we are not going to submit to threats of strikes in order to intimidate. My right hon. Friend is absolutely right in coming to the House of Commons. This is the tribunal before which all grievances of the nation can be brought. It is the high tribunal of justice. That is right, but a proceeding of the other kind is not merely improper, but it makes justice difficult. If there is any evidence of any kind which shows that our information is inaccurate, the action we have taken in Cork shows that we are perfectly prepared to examine and to take whatever steps are necessary.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
We shall take action upon any findings which military officers, who are men of honour, will find. They examined into the Cork episode impartially and fearlessly, and it is upon their findings that we have taken action. We shall do exactly the same thing here, but we must get some evidence first of all We can only act upon evidence. The story of the police, in so far as we have received it, is that when they came there firing still proceeded from the railway station. It is not an impossible story, after all.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
At any rate, there was firing that took place from the direction of the railway, and then there was firing back. If there is any evidence of that kind, let my right hon. Friend 49 bring it forward either to the Government or in the inquiry which is proceeding still in Ireland at the present moment.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
I think my right hon. Friend opposite is mistaken. These things which he has told me now I have heard for the first time, and I think my right hon. Friend is wrong; he is forgetting. The statement which he has made now is made for the first time. I have heard it for the first time. Let him bring forward evidence to substantiate those statements, and I will give him a guarantee on behalf of the Government that they will be thoroughly investigated by a perfectly honourable and impartial tribunal such as is set up by the military in the area under their control. I am not going to prejudge the decision of the court; I am only giving two invitations to my right hon. Friend at the present moment. The first is that he should supply us with every evidence that will enable us to elucidate this incident. The second thing I want him to do is to try and persuade the railwaymen at the Mallow station to help us to find out the murderer. That was the beginning of the trouble there.
There is a suggestion—and I find it in answers and in interruptions whilst I speak—that nothing has been achieved by the strong action taken by the military and by the police. I have made some investigation into the condition of Ireland before these steps were taken and the condition of Ireland at the present moment. I have asked questions, not merely in official quarters, but from people who are quite impartial, but who know Ireland well, and I have absolutely no doubt as to the result. What was the position when this action was first taken? There were murders on a great scale; there were murders committed in the high street with absolute impunity; there was not even an ambuscade. The murderers never hid themselves, but just went out in a crowd, marked down a policeman, with men and women looking on, and shot him down in the street, and nothing happened. They went to a tramcar with several men and women in it 50 and took an old man out, a resident magistrate, and shot him in the street, with no evidence forthcoming, no protest from the inhabitants, and no help given. That was the condition of things a few months ago, and that is not all. The Irish Republican Organisation had all the symbols, and they had all the realities of a Government. The Courts of the Crown were superseded. They were deserted by witnesses; they were boycotted by jurors. Jurors never came there, and litigants never appeared. Sinn Fein courts were held openly, attended by litigants, jurors and advocates, and their decisions were respected.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
I am glad to hear that, because I can see now the spirit which animates the hon. and gallant Gentleman. [HON. MEMBERS: "Traitor!" and "Disgraceful!"] Sinn Fein soldiers patrolled the country.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
The Sinn Fein police patrolled the towns. The head of the police told me how, when he went there, he was held up by a Sinn Fein police patrol. That is six months ago. The police were besieged in their barracks. There were 600 of them murdered. They could hardly ever go out. They were boycotted; they were insulted. Their wives and children were boycotted and insulted. The necessaries of life were denied them. Milk from creameries, food, groceries, clothing— they were even denied them. That was the state of things six months ago. What is the condition now? The boycott is completely at an end. The insulting of the police in the streets has gone. The Sinn Fein patrols, military and police, are gone. The Sinn Fein courts have disappeared into cellars.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
The hon. and gallant Gentleman likes rebellion everywhere. The police have recovered their authority. The Courts of the Crown have recovered their authority. Jurors are appearing. Magistrates who never functioned are now coming back; litigants are coming back. The Courts are re- 51 establishing their authority throughout Ireland. I will give the House another illustration. When this began the Royal Irish Constabulary were resigning by hundreds a week, and there were no recruits from Ireland. Now we are getting recruits from Ireland, and those who resigned six months ago from fear, are asking to come back, and we do not take them, because they refused to stand by their comrades in the time of trouble. The force is getting stronger and more confident. It is true, if you look at the casualty list, it is still heavy, but that is because the police are pursuing the rebels into these wild places. Before, they were shot down helplessly in the streets of Dublin without a hand being lifted to protect them. Now they are chasing their murderers into the hills. There is no one in Ireland, except a small handful, who wants anything but the breaking-up of this murder conspiracy. We are receiving communications from people who dare not say so openly there. They are delighted to see this reign of terror being broken up. Ireland wants it. Ireland needs it, and if this House will have patience, and the British people will have patience—I know there will be unpleasant incidents, but I have seen the men who are in charge, and I have great confidence, not merely in their courage, their capacity, their determination—I feel confident that order will be restored to Ireland, and, with order, liberty.
§ Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY
I only rise to make a personal explanation, in view of certain remarks addressed to me opposite by hon. Members because of an observation I made when the Prime Minister was speaking. The Prime Minister, towards the end of his very impassioned speech, his very moving argument, described the way in which his methods, as he considered, were succeeding in Ireland, and restoring what he called law and order, and he held out high hopes of the murderers being caught, and so on. In that part of his speech, in which he hoped the murder gang would be finally broken up, I, and I believe all my hon. Friends on these Benches, entirely agree with him. We hope the murderers will be brought to justice, and punished with the full rigour of the law, and that is the stand we have taken repeatedly in this Chamber. But when the Prime Minister boasts of his success 52 in breaking-up the Sinn Fein courts and Sinn Fein police, I can only repeat what I said on these Benches six months ago, that they held out the one hope of restoring peace, happiness and prosperity in Ireland. Those Sinn Fein courts were respected. Loyalists, Unionists, men of all classes went to those courts, and they got justice, and that is what I am afraid the military tribunals do not often give today. The Sinn Fein police did keep order. They had the confidence of the people, and so had the Sinn Fein courts. They prevented ordinary crime, drunkenness, outrage and murder. Now there is nothing. The ordinary police are not doing the work of police, but of Bashi-Bazouks. The poor people before had at least the protection of the Sinn Fein police. They have no protection now against ordinary crime. That is what the people are feeling the effects of, and the right hon. Gentleman boasts of having broken up the Sinn Fein courts of justice. This House is making a tremendous mistake if it confuses the small gang of murderers with Sinn Fein. Sinn Fein is a doctrine. The right hon. Gentleman agrees with me. I wish some of his followers had a little more knowledge of the real condition of affairs in Ireland. When Sinn Fein is spoken of in the "Weekly Summary" and in speeches of the Chief Secretary as a gang of murderers, that is not true.
§ Sir H. GREENWOOD
Never. I challenge the hon. and gallant Gentleman to mention one sentence I have ever uttered as Chief Secretary for Ireland disparaging the whole Irish race, as being in sympathy with, or supporting, this murder gang. I have always drawn a distinction between them.
§ Lieut. - Commander KENWORTHY
The right hon. Gentleman has again and again referred to the whole Irish Nationalist movement as being a gang of murderers.
§ Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY
I will look up the right hon. Gentleman's speeches, and give them to him. [HON. MEMBERS: "Withdraw!"] I am going to justify another thing. [HON. MEMBERS: "Withdraw!"] I will withdraw. I am speaking from recollection, but I will look up the speeches. I did not intend to speak on this question, but, feeling dis- 53 appointment with the speech of the right hon. Gentleman, I have put a little heat into my remarks. I do withdraw that, but I do not withdraw this. In a recent issue of the "Weekly Summary," for which the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary accepts full responsibility, the Sinn Fein movement is referred to as what they call Shinnorea—I congratulate the Chief Secretary on the delicacy of his subordinates—for which the bullet and rope were too good, He must have seen that, because the English papers, which boycott most things from Ireland, did get hold of that, which was so coarse and disgusting that, if the right hon. Gentleman still takes full responsibility for the "Weekly Summary," I say it is time he put his subordinates in order and altered that, and not let the country think that the whole Irish nation is a gang of murderers, when it is only a minority who are going in for deeds of violence. I did not intend to speak today at all, I had intended to speak on another matter, unemployment, but I have lost my chance, having been stung into rising by the Prime Minister's speech. I said just now that these military courts of inquiry were not always impartial and just. The court which inquired into the shootings at Mallow returned a verdict of murder against some person or persons unknown. If the Prime Minister has such faith in these officers who preside over these courts, why is there now being held another inquiry? That makes me doubt that the situation at Mallow—
§ The PRIME MINISTER
I will explain that. The first was purely the ordinary inquiry, which is substituted for an inquest. The military inquiry is an inquiry which always takes place, reviewing the whole of the facts. The other inquiry is one into the deaths. This is an inquiry into the whole of the incidents, and this is the one to which I invite witnesses.
§ 7.0 P.M.
§ Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY
I quite agree with the right hon. Member for Derby (Mr. Thomas) that trade unionists are not entitled to any special protection, because there cannot be one law for trade unionists and another for the rest of the population. In all other cases of murder and mysterious crime, such as men being arrested and suddenly discovered shot in ditches and that sort of thing, is there a special inquiry then, 54 in addition to the rather cursory military inquiry? Is there any inquiry into the whole of the facts, or is it only because of the heinousness of this special episode? Now may I ask what is being done in the case of a man named John O'Connor? It is a short story, but it is a painful one. Several letters have passed between the Chief Secretary and myself following his invitation, quite freely given, and for which I thank him, to give him any evidence I had for him to investigate. I am sure he has done his best. This John O'Connor, a farmer, left his house to go to church, and was arrested, with two or three others, by the military—his wife says because he was wearing a green scarf. He was ordered to be shot out of hand. A Protestant gentleman, who is a landowner in the district, whose brother was killed in France, protested with the military officer in charge. The man, instead of being shot, was put into a motor lorry, and taken some distance away. He was then beaten, thrown into the road, and shot at, and for this and what follows—I am quoting the wife's statement—can be tested by various witnesses.
I can give to the Chief Secretary the name of this Protestant landowner, the priest who attended the wounded man O'Connor, and four other witnesses. This case ought to be investigated, for it happened some time ago. The man was in such agony from his wounds that his screams were heard by neighbours a couple of miles away. Someone came out of a house near and took him into the house, where a Catholic priest, the Reverend O'Sullivan, I think, attended the wounded man in his agony. The motor lorry had gone forward to a small town in the vicinity. From that town came a motor-car with Black-and-Tans. The widow describes what followed. They asked the priest, who was just leaving the house, what he was doing. He told them. They went into the house, ordered the people in the room out of it, and carried this unfortunate man into another room. Then one of them fired three revolver bullets into his head. The names, I understand, can be given, and those whom I have mentioned are prepared to give evidence. The widow declares that her late husband took no active part in affairs, though he was a Republican like the other people round 55 about. If that man was guilty of anything, why was he not brought to trial? One can hardly speak without heat on a matter of this sort. What about English justice? If we had any regard for the honour of this House we would protest against this. I do not protest against it because I have any special love for Irishmen. I have not a drop of Irish blood in my veins, and I do not specially admire the Irish, though I admire their bravery. But I shall go on protesting here and in the country, and I shall do it because I love my own country. It is not the Irish who are doing these things. They, at all events, except for the minority, are keeping their hands clean, and if we tolerate what is going on we are dishonoured. We boast about having won the War, but it is the Germans who have won the War, because their spirit of frightfulness and Prussianism has been transplanted in Ireland.
Sir F. BAN BURY
May I ask the Prime Minister a question? Some of my constituents have written to ask me why there has been such a long delay in stating that peace has been established. There are a large number of important contracts which are dependent upon a statement by the Government as to the declaration of peace. I have here a copy of the Termination of the Present War (Definition) Act, 1918, in which it says:(1) His Majesty in Council may declare what date is to be treated as the date of the termination of the present War…(2) The date so declared shall be as nearly as may be the date of the exchange or deposit or ratifications of the treaty or treaties of peace.I believe all the treaties of peace have been ratified except the Treaty with Turkey. The Treaty of Peace with Turkey was made last August. Something like two years have elapsed since the date of the Armistice. There is a proviso in the Act that I am quoting which says:Notwithstanding anything in this provision, the date declared as aforesaid shall be conclusive for all purposes of this Act.As I read this Act, or rather the proviso, it gives power to the Government by Order in Council to declare peace, even though the whole of the treaties have not been ratified. This really is a most important matter commercially, and I 56 shall be extremely obliged to the right hon. Gentleman if he would look into it, and if possible say something definite on the point.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
I should like to answer my right hon. Friend. He is quite right. If we were to ratify the last of the treaties before we met the Turkish delegates they might say: "What is the good of our coming if you already have ratified the Treaty in its present form?" We have, therefore, held it over for that very reason. They will be here, I think, next week, and if we arrive, as I hope we shall, at an agreement, I shall ask the House to ratify the Treaty right away.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
May I suggest, as the Government have not been averse to passing Bills through all their stages after 11 o'clock, and in one day in order to gratify people, that they shall, if it is necessary, deal with this matter similarly, for I am certain that no one in this House, or I fancy in the other House, will in any way object to it.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
My right hon. Friend the Leader of the House will be very pleased to take the right hon. Baronet at his word.
§ Mr. G. BARKER
I am sure the House will give me its indulgence when I say this is only my second day in the House. I rise to call attention to a very serious omission in the Gracious Speech from the Throne. There is no reference whatever made to any amendment of the Workmen's Compensation Act. I am quite certain that when the Speech is read in the country it will be received with astonishment and with indignation by the whole of the trade union movement. During the War many deputations waited upon the Government. I had the honour to accompany those deputations on several occasions. One deputation waited upon Sir George (now Lord) Cave when he was Home Secretary. They had a sympathetic hearing from the Home Secretary. Liberal promises were made to amend the Act. The Leader of the Government appointed a Committee known as the Holman Gregory Committee to look into the matter. That Committee had 80 sittings, and took evidence from 106 witnesses. They made a Report to the Government on 7th July, 1920. Up till now nothing 57 has been done. No notice whatever has apparently been taken of that Report.
The Miners' Federation of Great Britain sent a deputation to the present Home Secretary about a fortnight ago. I was on that deputation. We could get no definite satisfaction from the Home Secretary. He stated that, owing to the lack of time, the Government could not take up this question. In the opinion of the trade union movement there is no subject in this country more deserving of immediate attention than this Act of Parliament. In the mining industry alone we have 1,100 or more fatalities every year. Yet the widows, suffering from the result of these fatalities, have to meet the 1920–21 cost of living on the 1914 rate of compensation. The compensation for widows under the Act of Parliament is nominally £300. Really it does not amount to more than £130. Every day there are two or three widows made in the mining industry alone as a result of the fatal accidents. During the recent election at Abertillery there was no question which excited so much interest and attention as this question, and it is in my opinion an outrage upon the widows and children to deprive them of an amended Compensation Act.
There is also the case of the worker himself who, when following his employment, is stricken down. He may have a heavy family, which he has to maintain on a miserable pittance of 35s. a week. His compensation at the present time, compared with the compensation value in 1914, has been reduced to 15s. per week. There is an Amendment of the Act required with reference to accident "arising out of or in course of employment." These words "arising out of or in course of employment"—these fatal words have robbed very many widows entirely of their compensation. We had a case only the other day where the man was working at a shaft bottom and was killed. It was held by the County Court judge that this man was not killed in the course of his employment. It so happened that the man was killed by a carriage pinning him against a tram that was against the shaft bottom. It was alleged that the man ought to have been at the other side of the pit. Surely, however, it is common sense to say that if this man had not been working at the bottom of that shaft he would not have been killed. The acci- 58 dent, therefore, must have arisen out of his employment. The Miners' Federation demand that there should be no delay in amending this Act of Parliament. The matter has been before our national conferences time and again. I have in my hands a bundle of amendments that have been passed by our conferences. We demand that this House shall take up this question without any further delay. I am astonished that no reference whatever has been made to this subject in the speech from the Throne, and I hope it is not too late to be remedied. I ask the Government, without any further delay, to amend this Act of Parliament. The question of light employment deserves the very serious attention of the House of Commons. I was a member of a deputation to the Prime Minister when it was stated that advances in wages were really being paid for out of compensation, and the right hon. Gentleman said it was a gross injustice which ought to be rectified at the earliest possible moment.
For the reasons I have given, and I could give more, I contend that this Act of Parliament should demand the immediate attention of the Government. I am afraid that we are engaged too much in high politics in this House, and we do not come down to the people. The working man is flattered that he is a hero, and everything else when the country is in danger, but when the country is not in need, and when it is out of danger, it seems to me that society forgets its obligations to the working classes entirely. I hope that the claims of the widows and the little children will appeal to the conscience of this House, and that we shall have from the Government an amendment of the Workmen's Compensation Act founded on the Holman-Gregory Report with certain Amendments which will probably be moved from these Benches. I am certain that the absence of any reference to this question from the King's Speech will be received with indignation by the whole trade union movement of this country.
§ Mr. SEXTON
I want to add my protest to that of my hon. Friend who has just spoken in regard to what I consider to be a grave omission from His Majesty's Speech. On this point I wish no better audience than the Home Secretary himself. It is not the first time that I have 59 called attention to the urgent necessity for amending this Act, and a complete codification of the whole of the Acts dealing with compensation. We have the Employer and Workmen's Act. We have the Common Law. There is also the Employers' Liability Act and the Workmen's Compensation Act, and all of them are open to an injured workman to secure compensation for injury. In the confusion of tongues of Acts of Parliament everything seems to be mixed up in the Workmen's Compensation Act, and the latter Act is supposed to guarantee to the injured workman full wages and compensation for permanent injury. The Workmen's Compensation Act only gives 50 per cent, of the average earnings of the man in the firm in which he was injured. I know that amount since the War has been added to by 25 or 30 per cent., but even that represents no more than the workman's purchasing power before the War, when it was only 50 per cent, on his wages.
Under the Employers' Liability Act the workman is entitled to his full wages as compensation for loss of his limbs. Gradually the Workmen's Compensation Act, which gives no compensation for loss of a limb, has superseded the Employers' Liability Act. I should like an Amendment making it possible for a man under the Workmen's Compensation Act to receive an amount equivalent to his claim under the Employers' Liability Act. Supposing a workman is injured and he comes under the Employers' Liability Act. Probably owing to ignorance, or apathy, or through the fear of losing his job, the workman settles his claim with his employer under the lesser Act, and foregoes the benefit of the provisions of the larger Act. Whereas 10 or 15 years ago 60 per cent, of the Employers' Liability cases came under the Employers' Liability Act, we have scarcely one now, although at least 50 per cent, of these cases are entitled to plead under the bigger Act. That is only one reason why this question should be taken in hand.
There was a time when we used to be asked the conundrum, "When is a ship not a ship?" If one side of the ship happens to be tied to the dock, that side is a factory, and the other side is not a factory. The result used to be that a man injured on the quay side of the ship was in a factory, and a man injured 60 whilst on the other side of the ship was not in a factory and got no compensation. I will mention a case which came before a county court judge. Working on a ship a man was killed putting on the hatches and closing the ship up for the night. The hatches had got very slippery on deck and in moving one it slipped down, and the man fell to the bottom of the hold and was killed. The county court judge ruled that, according to the Act, the putting on and taking off of the hatches was no part of the process of the discharging or the loading of the ship. He compared the case to that of filling and emptying a bottle, and he said that the taking out of the cork and the putting it in was no part of the process of the emptying or the filling of the bottle. I could give other cases in regard to the average earnings which are based upon the period which a man actually works. No account is taken in the calculation of sickness or the time off when the man is injured, and all that is considered is the period actually worked. I have known men work for five days for one employer, and working for another employer he is injured on the sixth day, and his claim for compensation has to be based on 50 per cent, of the half day instead of the full week.
With regard to the question of common employment, a more glaring inequality does not exist in any Act of Parliament. We had a case last week of a number of men at work on a ship where one of them was supposed to be the leading hand, but because he was called a foreman, although he worked with the men and did manual labour just the same as the others, he was not considered as being within the meaning of the Act, and no compensation was awarded for the loss of his leg. Take the question of light employment. If a man is injured he draws his compensation, but his case may be taken to the Court and his employer may offer him light employment. The County Court judge decides that the man should take the light employment, and reduces the compensation to Id. per week. The man tries this light employment, and perhaps for one or two days he is engaged brushing up the shed, but at last he has to take a truck in hand and do other donkey work, and if he cannot do that he is put off and he only gets Id. a week although he may be injured for life.
61 There is another monstrous piece of inhumanity which I think ought to be prevented by legislation. Two cases came before my notice where the touts of the legal profession go round to the hospitals visiting broken men on their sick beds and inducing them to come to some arrangement with them while these poor men are lying broken in the hospital. There is no legal remedy for this. This is one of the reasons why this question ought to be taken in hand at once. Another case is where men have received compensation after being in the hospital and appeals have been sent to them from the hospital for the payment of the cost of the ambulance which took them to the hospital. All these things are urgently crying out for redress and I could give many other cases. I could give my own case, but it is rather ancient history. Under the Employers' Liability Act I was a victim of the laws which were made and administered by people who had no knowledge of the technical position, and while they are not deliberately unsympathetic they have no knowledge of the wants and the necessities of the people for whom the legislation was passed.
Passing from that, may I deal with another phase in the King's Speech. Neither Irish unity nor Irish self-government, can be obtained by the means described in that Speech. I want to call the attention of the House to a case which has been brought before my notice. We have had harrowing descriptions given here tonight. Let me give another one. I am in receipt of information from a district in West Kerry which has now been blockaded by Crown forces for a week. A cordon is drawn round the district, supplies are exhausted, and women and children are starving for want of food. I have a letter here from a Mr. O'Farrell, of West Tralee, in which he states that West Kerry has been blockaded by the Crown forces for a week, and that women and children, including the families of members of our Union, are on the verge of starvation. Trains are not running, the district is barren, and supplies are exhausted. Is it any wonder that hon. Members lose their temper in this House when such cases are brought before them?
I could quote one or two more cases affecting officials of my own union. In the City of Londonderry we have a secretary who is not a Sinn Feiner, and has no sympathy whatever with Sinn 62 Feiners, but who is a constitutional Nationalist opposed to the policy of the Sinn Feiners. That man has been shot at, and his office has been raided. He has been pulled out into the street and arrested. Not long ago in Newry—I put a question on this subject in this House last Session—men who were peaceably going to their work to discharge and load vessels were pulled up by forces of the Crown, were manhandled and brutally treated, and the whole work of the port was stopped. I respectfully submit that, if unity be desired, this is no way to bring it about. I agree with every word that has been said about dealing out even-handed justice to the Sinn Feiner, or anybody else who commits crime against the law of the land, but when such acts as these are committed we cannot get, and cannot expect to get, unity, nor respect for the law or those who make it. I am very grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for listening to my disjointed remarks on the Workmen's Compensation Act. I hope that he will take them, digest them, and consider them, and that before the Session is over he will see his way to bring in some kind of legislation to meet the difficulties that I have mentioned.
§ Mr. R. RICHARDSON
I deeply regret that there is any necessity for my entering into this Debate, but in the Gracious Speech from the Throne these words occur:to reduce expenditure to the lowest level consistent with the well-being of the Empire.Probably no Member will take exception to those words, but I am anxious to hear what they mean. I have in my hand a circular from the Board of Education, in which the following words occur:except with fresh Cabinet authority, schemes involving expenditure not yet in operation are to remain in abeyance.It would appear that already an attack is being made upon the education of the children of this country. I know that Press attacks have been made upon this Government and upon all who are desirous of doing something to build up that new England for which we have fought, and already the Board of Education have succumbed to those attacks. Many of us hailed the new Act of 1918 with a good deal of pleasure. We knew something of the Act of 1902 and its shortcomings. We 63 knew how far behind it left many of our children in the matter of education, and we were anxious to have this new Act put into operation, but recently we have been told that on no account must we do so. Let me tell the House how matters stand in my own educational area, and I believe the position there well describes the position in very many other areas. In 1914 we had no less than 17,700 places, short, and we had to crowd the children whom the Government by Act of Parliament compels to attend school into miserable, buildings, because in mining villages there are no halls in which you can put them, to secure a little education for them. Since then six years have rolled by, and nothing whatever has been done to supply the shortage. Indeed, consequent upon the increase in population, the shortage now may be estimated at nearly 30,000 places. Yet we are told that no new schemes not already before the Board should be put into operation. I protest on behalf of the children who cannot speak for themselves. This cowardly attack upon them in the name of economy should not have been the first, but absolutely the last.
The Government perforce had to do something for the teachers to keep them alive, and they set up a Joint Committee which has regulated and practically settled the salaries of the teachers. It would appear now that if the teachers are to be fed there will be nothing left with which to educate the children. How do the Government in the name of economy propose to train teachers to teach the children already in the schools? I am sure that the President of Education had he been in his place would have admitted that we are very far short indeed of the number of teachers required. Trained teachers are absolutely essential in all our schools. We have done our best in my own county to try and bring education to a higher standard than in 1914, but today we have to take anybody who has had any little experience of teaching. Yet the Government have said that so far as they are concerned they can spend no money on erecting training colleges for the purpose of training teachers. Last year, I am credibly informed, some 2,000 of those who did go in for teaching could not find places in our training colleges. The President of the Board of Education has said that for 64 some years to come at least 15,000 teachers per year will be required. We have been getting something like 6,000. If that increased number is to be obtained, then money must be spent on the training of teachers.
Again, may I call the attention of the Government to the fact that secondary education is very far behind. In my own county we have only places in secondary schools for some 3,000 of 150,000 elementary school children. Accommodation ought to be provided for at least 15,000, but we have been told that no money can be found for secondary education. If this be economy, then it is economy run riot. It cannot be said that it is for the welfare of this nation that the children should not be educated. The responsibility of fitting these young people to be citizens of the country rests with the Government of today, but they are not facing the facts, and in many districts children entitled to go to school, and whom the Act says must go to school, are left running about the streets. I cannot agree with those who say that it is no part of the duty of the State to give more than an elementary education. If the children of those who can afford it are educated, and must be educated, is it reasonable that the children of those who have not been blessed with so much of this world's wealth should be left behind? The country needs the best brains which can be found, and we are determined to do our level best, even under such adverse circumstances, to see that the children who are fit should not be prevented from going forward because of any such Orders as have been made by the Board of Education. I was glad during last Session to hear from the Government Bench the statement that no one dreamt or thought of saving money at the cost of education. It was not said in so many words, but clearly that was the interpretation which one was entitled to place upon the words of the Prime Minister and other people who spoke in the interests of the children of this country. We now find that the children are to be attacked. I trust that the Government will seriously reconsider the position, and that, if an attack is to be made in the name of economy, it will be made where it will do vastly less harm than in education, or, may I add, the health of the people of this country. I desire to raise my protest as emphatically as I can on behalf of the children 65 against this being done. It must not be allowed to transpire, whatever is required in the interests of economy, that the interests of the children should suffer.