- July 1922 in the United Kingdom
June 1922 in the United Kingdom, August 1922 in the United Kingdom, and the Timeline of British history.----
Discussion in House of Lords
While the fighting was in progress stories of outrage were reported in
Englandof a character worse than had hitherto been reported in the whole of the disturbances in Ireland. On July 3 the House of Lordswas shocked by a horrible story by Lord Carson of crime in Tipperary, in which the victim was a young married woman. After reading an affidavit of the man and his wife Lord Carson demanded to know how such a state of things was going to be stopped. What, he asked, did the government do for the loyalists, and what did they advise them to do? Lord Crawford, in reply, said that the provisional government had had the facts of the case communicated to them. They had reason to suspect a particular individual as being the ringleader of the band of ruffians, but he appeared to have left the neighbourhood of the outrage and an active search was being pursued. The district where the outrage took place was in the hands of people who were fighting the provisional government and where the power of the latter was at its lowest. It was a sinister and atrocious affair which had no excuse or pretext of politics. It involved collective discredit on the country as a whole, and if such crimes continued unchecked the foul disease would spread, and the consequences on the moral status of the nation would be incalculable. That particular horror, he said, was alien to the records of Irish crime, and on that account he was confident that the government and the community as a whole would do their utmost to stamp it out.
Lord Salisbury said that the
British governmenthad a responsibility in the matter which they could not be said to have discharged. History might be searched in vain for a parallel of the proceedings of the government in handing over Ireland to anarchy. They had taken no precautions whatever to ascertain that there was settled government. There was no proper provision of courts of law, or of armed forces, or of police. They had withdrawn the protection of the imperial government, and left part of Ireland to welter in disorder. They ought to recognize the depth of their blunder and do the utmost in their power to see that the provisional government did justice in avenging the wrongs of loyal British subjects.
Lord Long, who said that he had supported the action of the government as the result of the Irish conference, thought that a period in the history of Ireland had been reached which demanded some different treatment and fresh consideration. The great blunder made had nothing to do with the treaty, but was to be found in the removal of the natural guardians of the people before there were men actually ready to enter the sentry boxes they had vacated. When the civil war that was now raging in parts of Ireland was over - as he hoped it would be very shortly - they had only reached the first stage of the journey towards the goal of good government in Ireland. He implored the government to give advice to the loyalists as to whether they should leave the country or remain. The reputation of the government was at stake, and it was their bounden duty to consider the question without delay.
In the middle of July Lord Stuart of Wortley moved in the House of Lords that it was the duty of His Majesty's government to advise loyalists in the South and West of Ireland as to the course they should follow in order to protect themselves and their dependants against attacks on life, limb, and property, and to state what steps it was proposed to take to give protection and relief. The Lord Chancellor said that the government had come to the conclusion that the course they had adopted in dealing with Ireland was the right course to adopt. Lord Carson declared that the cases were numberless of loyalists who, since the armistice or treaty, had been dispossessed of every particle of property they had then owned. Lord Long urged that a time limit should be given to the Irish government, and Lord Stuart's motion was then agreed to.
During July the murderers of Field Marshal Sir Henry Wilson were tried and convicted. They turned out to be two young men named Reginald Dunn and Joseph O'Sullivan. The trial only lasted three hours. The judge refused to allow Dunn to read a statement from the dock on the ground that it was not a defense but a political manifesto attempting to justify the right to kill. The prisoners were condemned to death and executed at Wandsworth Prison on August 10.
Discussion of Economy Bill
The endeavour of the government to achieve economy in the public services was represented by the introduction during July of the Economy (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill. The second reading was moved by the
Chancellor of the Exchequeron July 10. It contained several educational clauses, the chief one of which made it permissible to keep a child from school until the age of six. Other clauses dealt with the Board of Tradefees as provided for in the Merchant Shipping Act, admission fees at the British Museum, registrars' fees, the consolidation of the police force, and other matters. During the debate Sir Donald Macleanexpressed the wish that the bill had provided for the abolition of the Ministry of Transport. After some discussion the closure was agreed to by a majority of 141, and the second reading was carried. The bill was referred to a standing committee but made no further progress.
Of Teachers' Superannuation Bill
On May 16 the government had suffered a defeat during the second reading of the School Teachers (Superannuation) Bill. The question which then arose was whether any undertaking existed that the provisions of the Teachers Superannuation Act, 1918, should not be altered while those scales remained in force. After the defeat of the government on this point a small select committee was appointed to ascertain and report upon the matter. The second reading of the bill was in the meanwhile postponed. On July 3 it was resumed, and
Francis Aclandsaid that the select committee were agreed that no undertaking had been given that the provisions of the Superannuation Act, 1918, should not be modified so long as the Burnham scale of salaries remained in force, but that they were not unanimous on the question whether such an undertaking had been implied. He suggested that the bill should be amended. Herbert Fisherstated that the government were willing to limit the operation of the bill to two years, and it was then read a second time and referred to a standing committee.
During the report stage on July 19, the Chancellor of the Exchequer moved an amendment to provide that the 5% to be deducted from the teachers' salaries should be paid as from June 1 instead of July 1 as decided by the select committee. Fisher moved an amendment providing that the contribution of a teacher should not exceed the amount (if any) by which his salary exceeded four-fifths of the full salary which the Board would be prepared, in his case, to recognize for the purposes of grant. These amendments were both carried and the bill was passed, and received the royal assent on August 4.
On Allied Indebtedness
On the motion for the third reading of the Finance Bill on July 14,
H. H. Asquithraised the question of Allied indebtedness, and declared that it was essential to the general economic development, both of Europe and the rest of the world, that the question should be put on a stable and equitable foundation. Whatever settlement was made care should be taken, both in the interests of debtor and creditor, that the mode of liquidation was consistent with the easiest possible development of industry and the interchange of wealth.
In reply the Chancellor of the Exchequer gave the amount of the debt to the United States as £938,000,000, which was less than when the pound sterling was worth $3.20. After referring to the reduction of the floating debt and
internal debt, he said these figures were of very great significance as showing the increasing financial stability of the country. The request recently made by the United States that the government should consider funding the amount of the debt, and placing it on a stable and equitable foundation, would be completely met. He said that there was no question at all about the attitude of this country. No one had any doubts as to the complete and absolute necessity of Britain's fulfilling her debts to the very utmost. Sir Robert Hornewas optimistic also as to the possibility of reducing expenditure during the coming year. He intimated that the cabinet had appointed two committees, one presided over by himself, to deal with civil expenditure, and the other, presided over by the colonial minister, to deal with the fighting services, and it was his anticipation that they would be able to effect economies, not merely in next year's estimates, but in actual expenditure. Sketch estimates were being submitted much earlier in the present year in order that those committees might be able to guide and advise departments. In conclusion he declared that, as Chancellor of the Exchequer, he looked forward to the future with much less apprehension and anxiety than was the case a year ago. There was no reason, he said, for looking on the present situation with any kind of despair.
On Award of Honours
During the middle of the month much interest was taken in the question of the principles followed in nominations for honours, and debates took place in both houses of Parliament. In the House of Commons the subject was introduced by
Godfrey Locker-Lampson, who suggested that public suspicion and disquietude had been aroused which could only be allayed by a proper inquiry. A small committee appointed by the prime minister, he said, would not be sufficient to restore public confidence, and he regarded such restoration as essential. He insisted that there must be a properly constituted body to recommend the best way of dealing with this question in future. He moved that a select committee of seven members of the House of Commons be appointed to join with a committee of the House of Lords to consider the present methods of submitting names of persons for honours for the consideration of His Majesty, and to report what changes (if any) were desirable, in order to secure that such honours should only be given as a reward for public service.
The motion was seconded by Sir Samuel Hoare, who alleged that unknown and apparently undeserving persons seemed to be included in the honours list in increasing numbers; that for no apparent reason individuals were constantly advanced from one dignity to another, and from one grade in the peerage to a higher grade, and that the resolutions of the House of Lords had been flouted by the government. While disclaiming any intention to bring about the end of party honours, he maintained that party service should not receive an exaggerated reward, and that no kind of reward should be given simply and only for money payment.
The prime minister then defined the position of the government. He pointed to the exceptional circumstances of recent years as justifying the increase of honours. He was not prepared to say that no mistakes had been made, but he claimed that the percentage of mistakes was as low as in any previous period. He doubted whether there was a genuine desire to investigate the question of honours, or whether it was a mere pretext for attacking the administration. Political honours were only a comparatively small percentage of honours. He denied that contribution to funds was a chief element or decisive consideration. He said that no prime minister knew, when names were submitted to him, who had contributed to political funds. He wished to throw upon the House the responsibility of deciding whether the system of awarding party honours should be abandoned, but he warned members to reflect gravely what would happen. In particular he warned the Labour Party against the danger which awaited them when they assumed office, for he contended that a nation politically organized was twice as safe as one which was not. He did not believe that there was any disagreement in the House as to the impropriety of trafficking in honours, and he had no desire to defend it. If the House of Commons wished for reassurance then the government were in favour of reexamining the methods of submitting names, but the responsibility of the chief minister must remain. He then undertook to appoint a royal commission to consider and advise upon the procedure to be adopted in future to assist the prime minister in making recommendations to His Majesty.
Asquith agreed with
David Lloyd Georgethat contributions towards party funds should not be a disqualification. He went even farther, and declared that it was the duty of those people who took politics seriously, and had adequate resources, to contribute to the limit of their power to party funds. He welcomed the inquiry promised by the prime minister.
Charges against Lord Waring and Lord Forres
John Robert Clynesinterpreted the prime minister's speech as meaning that the stability of the country depended upon secretly-secured sums of money from men of large means. If the party system had to depend on the traffic which had been impugned, then, he said, the party system had better go. The granting of honours in perpetuity could not be defended. Ronald McNeillreferred to the case of Lord Waring, who, he said, was managing director of a large business which went into bankruptcy in 1910. There had been a reconstruction, and if his information was correct a very large figure was put down in the balance sheet as assets representing the value of stock. He expressed the opinion that that stock must have been very much overvalued, since the debenture holders holding £100,000,000 in debentures were obliged, in the reconstruction, to take 75% of their holding in preference shares in the new concern, and these preference shares of £1 now stood at the value of 10"s." a share. Subsequently, when the war came on and Lord Waring, who was the head of the business, made a very considerable fortune in constructing and turning out equipment for aeroplanes on government contracts, no part of that fortune went to paying the shareholders or making up the deficiency for the debenture holders in the concern of which he was the head and the managing director.
"For what reason", McNeill asked, "was this particular businessman singled out at this time for this very high honour?" McNeill then turned to the case of Sir Archibald Williamson, who had now become Lord Forres. He said that this gentleman was head of a large and important firm of merchants doing business in South America. He alleged that during the war the laxity of the firm in relation to trading with the enemy was notorious. It became so notorious that a statement was drawn up in the Foreign Office containing twenty-four different heads of accusations against the firm. The statement, he added, had been confirmed by the consul-general in
He also alleged that this firm sold fuel oil to certain German nitrate factories in 1915-16 at the very time when out there the British minister and consuls were devoting all their energies to strangling as far as possible the German
nitrate trade. He wanted to ask the government whether or not, when these transactions were going on during the war, the law officers of the crown were ever consulted as to whether this member of the House was or was not liable to prosecution for breach of the regulations for trading with the enemy. He asked whether it was not strange that this gentleman was subsequently given office in the government and singled out for honours.
The accusations of McNeill were not allowed long to remain unanswered. On the day following the debate in the House of Commons a similar debate took place in the House of Lords, when the Lord Chancellor disclosed the fact that four years previously a peerage had been offered to Lord Forres, and that thirteen years previously he had been offered the chairmanship of the
Port of London Authoritywith a seat in the House of Lords. The charge which had been made was one which could not be misunderstood. It was pointless to object that Lord Forres was trading with the enemy unless it was meant that he traded with the enemy in circumstances which were improper and discreditable, making him a traitor to this country. If it were a fact that at every stage in the transaction he invited counsel from those very people in the government who had to decide those delicate matters, and received guidance and advice under which he acted, then he had been cruelly wronged on a charge of the kind made.
Lord Forres himself said that his firm were pioneers in the oil fuel business on the west coast of South America. At the outbreak of war they had numerous contracts for the supply of fuel oil for nitrate works and railways. Among these were two with important German companies. These had been made in Chile and were expressly declared to be subject to the jurisdiction of the Chilean courts. In 1915 his firm approached the government, informing them fully of the position, pointing out at the same time that quite a large section of the trading community in Chile were Germans or half-Germans, and that in a neutral country the firm would have to implement their contracts. They asked for approval for their continuing to deliver oil to these German nitrate companies, and pointed out that if they did not do so they would be subject to claims for damages, and they were informed in reply that no objection would be taken. At a later date a system of licences was introduced, and the firm received official authority to transact the business of supplying oil. At a still later date the attitude of the government changed, and further delivery of oil to the Germans was stopped by his firm on instructions from the British government. Throughout no step had been taken without the cognizance of the British government. He then described the lawsuit which was entered against his firm in consequence of the stoppage of deliveries. Lord Forres concluded by saying that he was entitled to complain of the reckless nature of charges which reflected not only upon him and upon his partners but upon the good name of British commerce generally.
In the House of Commons on the same day Sir
Robert Balfourmade a statement on similar lines, and McNeill reiterated his statement that an indictment of the proceedings of the firm was prepared in the Foreign Office, was sent to South America for confirmation, was confirmed, and sent back to this country, and he further threw suspicion on the "bona fides" of the legal proceedings which had taken place in Chile.
Lord Waring replied to McNeill on the following day on taking his seat for the first time in the House of Lords. He called upon McNeill to repeat the statements he had made in the House of Commons in an unprivileged place so that he might at once take legal proceedings against him. Lord Waring gave an unqualified denial to the statements of McNeill. He said that the profits made in constructing equipment for aeroplanes had not come to him but to the shareholders of Messrs. Waring & Gillow.
On July 21 Ronald McNeill made another statement in the House of Commons on this subject. He apologized to Lord Forres for the statements he had already made during the debate on the question of the granting of honours, but refused to withdraw anything he had said in regard to Lord Waring. He declared that he could not subscribe to the doctrine that a member of the House of Commons who conceived it to be his duty, when exposing abuses, to mention the names of individuals was under any obligation to waive parliamentary privilege, and invite litigation to test the accuracy of his statements. If such a course were regarded as an honourable obligation there would be an end of that complete freedom of criticism in Parliament which it was essential in the public interest to protect and maintain. McNeill, on the other hand, recognized that it would be an abuse of parliamentary privilege if a member were to make reckless charges in that House against other people. He was bound to exercise the utmost caution and satisfy himself to the best of his judgment that any charges he might feel it his duty to make were based on cogent and trustworthy evidence.
House of Lords Reform
The House of Lords was occupied during a considerable part of July in discussing resolutions for the reform of the House, which were brought forward by Lord Crawford on behalf of the government, as a basis on which a bill should be founded. These resolutions were as follows:
#That the House should be composed, in addition to peers of the blood royal, law lords, and lords spiritual, of members elected either directly or indirectly from the outside; of hereditary peers elected by their order, and of members nominated by the crown, the numbers in each case being determined by statute.
#That, with the exception of peers of the blood royal, and the law lords, every other member of the reconstituted and reduced House of Lords should hold his seat for a term of years to be fixed by statute, but should be eligible for reelection.
#That the reconstituted House of Lords should consist approximately of 350 members.
Two other resolutions dealt with the powers of the House with regard to money bills and the application of the Parliament Act of 1911.
These proposals found little favour in the House of Lords itself. Lord Selborne complained that they ignored the recommendations of the Bryce Committee. He emphasized the necessity for the repeal of the Parliament Act, which had not been worked for eight years. Under that act this country might become a republic within two years. By the Parliament Act a constitution had been framed under which things could easily be done even though the majority of the people of England were against them. In all quarters of the House the resolutions met with strong opposition.
A long debate took place on July 20, when Lord Crawford defended the proposals of the government. He pointed out that the crown might nominate Labour peers. If a Labour government came into power it could not be properly represented in the House of Lords as it was at present, and it was very important to have some constitutional means by which the crown might nominate members of the House. Lord Crawford admitted that the resolutions did not cover the whole ground, but they did not pretend to do so. He observed that few members had attacked any one of them individually, although a strong opinion existed against any change. He pointed out that 120 members of the House had not taken their places since the opening of Parliament; some were minors, some were too infirm, and others did not wish to attend. There was a danger in excessive numbers because in moments of danger and crisis the additional peers who attended did not add to the wisdom of their deliberations. They were a determining factor on questions of crucial importance without possessing that profound sense of responsibility which governed the action of every peer who made it his business to attend regularly.
Defending the retention of the Parliament Act he said that the stability of Britain did not depend on its constitution; it was on the good sense of the British electorate that we had depended against the dangers of revolutionary movement. There could be no repeal of the Parliament Act unless they had an entirely elected House and the hereditary system was wiped out.
The debate was continued on July 25 and 31. Lord Stuart of Wortley welcomed the arrival of an elected element, and of a nominated element. Lord Long objected to the speaker of the House of Commons deciding whether a bill was a finance bill or not, and he held that the age when a peer could take his seat should be fixed. Lord Islington considered that the first aim should be a reduction in the numbers of the House. Lord Salisbury said that the essential object was to put right the Parliament Act by modifying those parts which militated against the interests of the country. After a reply by the Lord Chancellor the House went into committee on the resolutions.
The Embargo on Canadian Cattle
Great interest was aroused during July by an effort, instigated by "
The Times" and other newspapers, to abolish the embargo on Canadian cattle. The policy adopted for many years past had been that imported cattle should be slaughtered at the port in order to avoid the introduction of pleuro-pneumonia. The subject was first raised in the House of Lords, and it was urged that a royal commission had concluded that Canada was free from pleuro-pneumonia, and therefore that there was no further objection to admitting cattle from the dominions, subject to precautions being taken by means of quarantine. The debate was introduced by Lord Chaplin, who urged the House to decline to remove the embargo which had increased British herds and added to the value of British stock, because purchasers knew that it was free from pleuro-pneumonia. Lord Ernle referred to the pledge which had been given at the Imperial Conferenceof 1917, which was generally understood to mean a promise by the government to remove the embargo, or at least to recognize the exceptional health of Canadian cattle. The Duke of Devonshire emphatically affirmed that there was no danger in allowing free admission of Canadian cattle into this country. Lord Long said that he maintained that an absolute pledge had been given, and was understood by the Canadian government as such. Had not such a belief existed the Canadian representatives would have raised it at the imperial cabinet. If the decision of the conference had been reversed either by the imperial cabinet or Parliament he would have placed his resignation in the hands of the prime minister. The question must be dealt with as an imperial and not a domestic one.
Discussion in the House of Commons took place on July 24, when the minister of agriculture maintained that a pledge had only been given to remove the stigma on Canadian cattle. He contended, moreover, that even if a definite pledge to admit these cattle as stores had been given, it had been given by an individual minister who was not in the cabinet, and who had not consulted the cabinet, and therefore could not be binding on the House of Commons. Asquith, after reading declarations by Lord Long and Lord Ernle, declared that he could not see how it could be seriously maintained that the government were not bound in honour to implement the solemn promises given at the Imperial Conference. The House could only repudiate the pledge by casting discredit and implying censure on the government that gave it. It was all the more impossible to go back on the pledge when the royal commission had reached findings which showed that the pledge was based on reason, experience, and public policy, and he warned the House of the responsibility it would take upon itself if it repudiated the pledge.
The minister for agriculture, however, opposed the removal of the embargo, saying that it was essentially an agricultural question, and that in this matter he represented the great bulk of the agriculturists in England and Wales. He denied that there was any real stigma on Canada, as the regulations applied to every other country. He described how stock-breeding had been fostered and become a great industry, and the success which followed the exclusion of animals from overseas in freeing the herds at home from disease. He asked what was the good of stamping out disease by slaughtering and then running the risk of importing it from outside. The policy pursued in the past had given traders a confidence that they never had before, and if that confidence was maintained we could produce all the stores we wanted in this country. He opposed the removal of the embargo on the further ground of the necessity for preserving the purity of our herds. He asked whether Canadian cattle were free from
tuberculosis, and what was the good of taking steps to stamp out tuberculosis if animals were to be admitted without any test. He insisted that there must be quarantine. He poured contempt on the cry of cheap meat, and suggested that the Labour Party had been caught in a scheme which was preparing the way for a meat trust. On a division being taken the removal of the embargo was carried by a majority of 76.
Since Canadian cattle were at present excluded by the
Diseases of Animals Act, effect could not be given to the resolution without special legislation, and the government offered no prospect of such legislation being introduced in the present session. On July 27 the prime minister declared that the government accepted the decision of the House as a mandate to deal at their earliest convenience with the problem.
The Navy estimates were dealt with in the House of Commons on July 18. Viscount Curzon said that the government had only nine flying aeroplanes in contrast to eighty-five possessed by the United States government.
George Lambertreferred to the alleged differences between the Admiralty and the Air Ministry, and asked if these departments quarrelled who was to decide. He said that expenditure on the Navy would be useless without an efficient Air Service. £16,000,000 were going to be spent on new battleships, but it was futile to spend money on capital ships unless there was sufficient aircraft for the ships already possessed. Leopold Stennett Ameryassured the House that there was not the slightest idea of challenging the general position laid down by the leader of the House in March as to the existence of a separate independent Air Force. The only question was how naval control for the air units that actually worked with the fighting fleet could be most effectively secured, consistently with the fullest training of the personnel of those units in every aspect of air work, and how cooperation could be secured most effectively, economically, and in such a way as to encourage to the greatest extent the development of that aspect of the Navy. The question was at present under discussion by the Committee of Imperial Defence, by the Chief of the Air Staff, and the First Lord, together with the help and advice of the colonial secretary. He made reference to the tests recently made in the Channel. Torpedo-carrying aeroplanes were sighted fifteen minutes before they discharged their torpedoes, they were caught by fighting aeroplanes, and they were under dummy gunfire. He thought it would be realized and agreed that there was a great deal of difference in the morale and steadiness of a flier under dummy fire as compared with what it would be with real fire directed against him. Dummy gunfire was opened by light cruisers and destroyers before the torpedoes were fired.
War Service Canteens Bill
One of the government bills which excited opposition during July was the War Services Canteens Bill, which provided for the disposal of sums in respect of the carrying on of the Expeditionary Force Canteens and the Navy and Army Canteen Board. When the second reading was introduced, Colonel
Joseph Nallasserted that the measure was nothing short of an attempt to defraud the ex-servicemen and the widows and orphans of the men who fell in the war of certain funds which, by moral and legal right, were theirs. He protested against balances due to the men who contributed to the profits of the Expeditionary Force Canteen being applied to the liquidation of debts created by an entirely different organization. In reply Colonel George Frederick Stanleyexplained that the bill was necessary to legalize payments already made to the troops and others. The secretary for war then admitted that the accounts of the organizations which had a turnover of £150,000,000 were complicated. Disclaiming any pretensions to being a financial man, he said he went for advice to Sir William Plenderand asked whether the sum that was being paid over was the right sum, or whether the ex-servicemen were entitled to something more. Sir William Plender's report was that the payments already made to Lord Byng's committee and its successor, the United Services Fund, amounted to £3,729,554, and that it was proposed that a further sum of £3,471,000 should be handed over in cash, making a total of £7,200,554. Sir William Plender added that in his opinion that was a fair and equitable settlement. In view of the persistent allegations that, owing to trade losses which ought not to have been incurred, the profits were less than they otherwise would have been, and suggestions that there had been fraudulent practices, the secretary for war said that he would grant a committee in order that the ex-servicemen might have the satisfaction of knowing whether the sum they were to receive was the right sum or not. Regarding allegations that canteen managers had remitted home large sums to their private accounts, the secretary for war said that if any member would bring forward a "prima facie" case against any official of the canteens he would at once have an investigation made. The second reading was then carried. No amendments were made either in the House of Commons or the House of Lords, and the bill received the royal assent on August 4.
Lords' Debate on the Air Service
The anxiety which was felt on many sides about alleged deficiencies in the Air Service gave rise to a debate in the House of Lords on July 27. The debate arose on a question by Lord Londonderry as to whether the government realized the fact of this anxiety. For some days before, many questions upon the subject had been brought forward in the House of Commons, and the prime minister had announced that the whole subject was under the consideration of the Committee of Imperial Defence. Lord Londonderry, who was formerly undersecretary for air, expressed the view that it was imperative that real coordination between the three arms of the service should be established, and that the combined as well as the separate functions of each and all should be fully understood and clearly defined. He therefore asked whether there was any serious menace to this country from the air, and whether that menace was as great as, or greater than, the menace from the sea. Less than one-tenth of our expenditure on the services was devoted to the Air Force. The financial provision should, in his view, follow the degree of importance which was attached to the services rendered.
Lord Montagu of Beaulieu referred to the recrudescence of jealousy between the Navy and Army and the Air Force. The two former, however brave and skilful, would not be able, he said, to ward off the attack which would come, in the first instance, by air. Lord Sydenham, on the other hand, considered that the anxiety expressed in the press was fully justified. Britain had already lost the strong position it had won in the war, and the present position was a dangerous one. He held that the Navy should have control of its own air forces. Lord Long said that he had held that the proposal to set up a separate Air Ministry with control of the air forces of the Army and Navy was foredoomed to failure. Lord Selborne said he was wholly incredulous that the Navy was a back number. The Navy had its work to do in maintaining sea communication in the future. He did not believe that either aircraft or submarines would drive battleships from the seas, much less cruisers and destroyers. If the Navy was to fulfil its function it could not be dependent on any ministry for what was, and must be, an essential part of its training. He hoped the government would reconsider the whole position and on a wider scale.
Lord Gorell, the undersecretary for air, complained that in certain quarters there had been deliberate misrepresentations of the Air Ministry's work, and he thought the common sense of the British people would react against such animus. A separate ministry was less costly than expenditure spread over the other two services. There was undoubtedly, he said, a great potential menace from the air, and they could confidently rely that in the next war the air would play a much greater part than it did in the last war. Raiding on a much larger scale would take place. Personally he refused to believe that there was a menace from France. It was neither just, generous, nor statesmanlike to put up comparisons of air strength with a country beside whose soldiers Britain's soldiers had fought, and in which so many of the people of this country died. The whole subject of the reassessment of air power was being considered by the Committee of Imperial Defence, and they might hope that they would come to a decision in a few days whether more funds and more squadrons should be brought into existence. The total number of machines with the Navy was 358, and with the Army 111, and in addition there were 60 as first reserve, and 6 more available for field training. The question of how best to secure cooperation between the Air Force and the Army and Navy was also under consideration of the Committee of Imperial Defence. He pointed out, however, that there were more squadrons allotted for cooperation with the Navy than there were for independent work. The government had taken a definite decision in regard to the Air Ministry from which they had no intention of departing. The government believed that to abolish the Air Ministry would be a retrograde step. The policy of the ministry had been to build up the nucleus of a very efficient organization which would be capable of extension when the time for reconsideration came.
Post Office and Broadcasting
The progress made in wireless telegraphy gave considerable importance to the question of the broadcasting of messages throughout the country. The government had granted to a combine the right of broadcasting for a period of two years, with the condition that the apparatus to be used for the transmission or the reception of messages must be of British manufacture. This action caused a protest from Captain William Wedgwood Benn in the House of Commons on July 28. He took the view that broadcasting would be a supplement to the newspapers, and would be the biggest development in the dissemination of information since the invention of the printing press. It was not right that the development of this great invention in this country should be left in the hands of a combine. In the sale of its receiving instruments it would be free from foreign competition. What arrangements, he asked, had the postmaster-general made for the copyright of messages?
Frederick Kellawaycontended that there was no monopoly under the scheme. Every one of the manufacturers of apparatus could become a member of the broadcasting company. The Post Office had been pressed to undertake the work itself and had declined. He said that the Post Office had neither the audacity nor the ingenuity to perfect new inventions, and if it had agreed to carry on the work loud objection would have been taken to any proposal for buying German or American instruments. He said that we had to keep this new form of communication in this country in the hands of our own people. Whether in the matter of broadcasting or reception, British manufacturers had a technical skill and capacity in production equal to any in the world. He stated that he was advised that in the two years £6,000,000 would be spent in the purchase of receiving apparatus and broadcasting stations, and of that sum 80% would go in wages. To have German or other foreign firms controlling the communications of this country was unthinkable; we could look after our own communications. He asserted that an attempt had been made to score political capital in the interests of free trade, but it had met with no response in the country.
Lord Grey on Government's Policy
At the end of July Lord Grey of Fallodon made a speech at Newcastle dealing with the policy of the government at home and abroad. Referring to unemployment, he said that the only real remedy was better trade. The one thing on which any government ought to concentrate, as far as its home policy was concerned, was to take the burden of taxation off the springs of industry by reducing unnecessary and wasteful expenditure. Dealing with foreign policy, he said that if an agreement with the Bolshevists meant approaching the European question from the wrong end, in his opinion the right end from which to approach that question was by beginning with the question of reparations, but it would be a vital mistake if the French and British governments attempted to discuss the question of reparations without also discussing the question of inter-Allied debts. As to maintaining peace, Lord Grey said that the main thing in the minds of the French at the peace conference was security for the future. If peace was to be secured for the future there should be a pact, but not exclusive, beginning with France, securing France against aggression, but in a form in which other nations could join. It was not enough to assure France of security against German aggression; they must also assure Germany, if Germany fulfilled her treaty obligations, that she too would be secure against aggression from outside.
Debate on Importation of Fabric Gloves
On the last day of July an important debate took place in the House of Commons on a motion to exclude fabric gloves and glove fabric from an order under the
Safeguarding of Industries Act. This order, which the Board of Trade proposed to make, required the approval of the House. If this approval was given it was to come into force on August 8.
In the course of the debate Asquith denounced the policy of the government in applying the Safeguarding of Industries Act to fabric gloves and other articles. He described this policy as little short of political and fiscal insanity, and claimed that no case had been made out for this petty and disastrous interference with the free course of trade.
Bonar Law, on the other hand, supported the order, referring to Asquith as one of those people who regarded the fiscal questionas a religion. He claimed that the government was simply carrying out the pledge that had been given at the Paris economic conference. The present proposal appeared to him to be of small importance; it had only assumed greater importance by the opposition of Lancashire. If Germany intended to increase the number of her fine spinners, he said, we should not stop her by this small duty, and however small this industry was it would be a certain market for Lancashire yarn if it could be kept here. Stanley Baldwin, president of the Board of Trade, then pointed out that the Safeguarding of Industries Act was already on the statute book, and necessitated orders being made. Admitting that there had been no importation of goods affecting the great staple industries of the country which had caused them to seek assistance of the act, he said that there had been importation of goods of other kinds which had caused anxiety among manufacturers. No fewer than 120 trades had made preliminary inquiries at the Board of Trade, but a large number of these applications had not proceeded further. Of the cases which had proceeded further, and been subjects for investigation, 23 were rejected. There were 12 cases in which further information was awaited and 15 had been referred to committees. Of the latter 4 appeared in the order now before the House; 4 were adversely reported on by the committees; and 7 had not yet been reported upon. He denied that he desired as a protectionist to tax fabric gloves. In this industry employment had shown very wholesome improvement, but this was not sufficient to relieve it from the category in which it was placed by the committee as one in which there existed serious unemployment. The Lancashire case in regard to fabric gloves, he said, was the weakest he had ever read. He had a conviction that in three months time all Lancashire except politicians would have forgotten that there ever was such a thing as fabric gloves.
Henry Norman, who moved an amendment to exclude fabric gloves and glove fabric from the act, declared that Lancashire was thoroughly aroused. If Germany was to be able to pay reparations and return to industrial prosperity she must send something abroad. To tell her we would only allow her to sell what she could not sell in competition with our own factories was the logic of protection and the canonization of inefficiency. Sir Ryland Adkins, who seconded the amendment, declared that the government by this order were flouting the judgment and knowledge of the most important part of the country. Colonel Gerald Hurstsaid that the Lancashire Conservative members regarded themselves as pledged to protect British industries against dumping, and they would not be deflected in their duty by a passing local outcry. Captain Charles Ainsworth, another Lancashire Unionist member, said he voted against the act and should vote against the order. Hamar Greenwood claimed that it was not true to say that the whole of the industry was against the order. He said that the agitation started in letters from German agents saying that if this duty were imposed they would not be able to do any business. At the end of the debate a division took place and the government obtained a majority of 164. Among those who voted against the government was Sir William Edge, one of the Coalition-Liberal whips. Sir William Edge was member for Bolton, the origin of an agitation which had delayed the presentation of the draft order to Parliament for nearly six months. His opposition to the policy of the government in enforcing the order led to his resignation on the day on which the debate took place in order that he might be free to vote against the government.
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