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expression of belief, on the part of the Provisional Government, that the Northern Government did not intend to keep the agreement which had been signed in London. At the end of April, therefore, there was little encouragement for those who desired to see peace finally established in Ireland.
At the beginning of April the Prime Minister returned to the House of Commons after an absence of three weeks, and submitted a motion of confidence in the policy pursued by the Government at Genoa. The motion was to the effect that the House approved of the resolutions passed by the Supreme Council at Cannes as a basis of the Genoa Conference, and would support his Majesty's Government in endeavouring to give effect to them. In the course of his speech to the House Mr. Lloyd George said that the Conference at Genoa had been summoned to find the best means of restoring order in Europe. The difficulties of the present time were due, not to exacting reparations, but to the fact that there was something to repair. If we were to insist upon payments beyond the power of a warexhausted country, it would precipitate a crisis by no means confined to Germany. He warned the country that it was a mistake to believe that a conference had failed if it did not achieve everything it set out to achieve. He proceeded to justify his proposed action in recognising Russia. The conditions of such recognition were that they in their turn should recognise their national obligations, should restore the property of nationals, paying compensations where it had been destroyed, should establish impartial tribunals, and should undertake that there should be no aggressive action against the frontiers of their neighbours. He warned those who objected to dealings with the Soviet Government that if they waited for it to disappear it might be replaced by a worse Government. He warned the critics of the Government that the movement of opinion, as revealed in the bye-elections, was not in their direction.
Mr. Clynes moved an amendment as an act of opposition to the Prime Minister going to Genoa. He declared that Mr. Lloyd George had ceased to be a Prime Minister and had become a mere party prisoner. The party conflicts of a Government which was clearly crumbling, he said, had revealed to the Prime Minister that he had not that confidence in a mission which might have led to a promising highroad to trade revival and the gateway to a General Election campaign. Mr. Clynes was followed by Mr. Bonar Law, who said that with regard to Russia he had been afraid of two things—(1) that recognition might be given when it ought not to be given, and (2) that some quixotic scheme of lending money to other countries might be brought forward. His fears on these points had now been removed. He would do nothing to attempt to overthrow the Soviet Government, but he would do nothing to strengthen that Government as recognition would do. Ultimately the Labour amendment was lost by 295 votes, and the Government motion was carried by 372 votes against 94.
The spirit of discontent prevailing within the Coalition ranks led to a challenge by the Independent Conservatives of the whole principle of Coalition Government. This challenge took the form of a motion by Sir William Joynson-Hicks on April 5, to the effect that, in view of the lack of definite and coherent principle of the present Coalition Government, a Ministry should be established composed of men united in political principle. Sir William Joynson-Hicks, in moving his resolution, disclaimed any intention of conducting a personal attack either on the Prime Minister or any member of the Government. He objected to the application of Liberal principles to the policy of a Government of which he was a supporter. He expressed his belief that the Prime Minister was a perfectly honest Liberal, but he and his friends held that the old policy of the Conservative Party was more beneficial to the State. Sir William Joynson-Hicks appealed to the Conservative leaders in the Cabinet to come out and lead the Cnoservative Party, which was the finest instrument the country had ever known.
An amendment was moved by Colonel Hurst, asserting that the best solution of our national difficulties was the co-operation of well-affected citizens of all political parties in working for the common good. The true and traditional Conservative principles, he said, were attachment to liberty and Empire, and devotion to the Crown and Constitution.
There was nothing in the record of the present Government that in any way offended any single one of those principles. He characterised the “ diehards” as representative of that type of mediaval Toryism which regarded aĪl change and all reform as revolution.
Mr. Chamberlain subsequently spoke, referring to the critics of the Government as men who were going counter to the great mass of the Unionist Party throughout the country. He pointed to Sir William Joynson-Hicks as the alternative Prime Minister, saying that he and his supporters had been engaged for eleven days in seeking to draw up a resolution which would secure support from every discordant element within the House. He sought in vain for some hint of policy in the resolution, and he had turned to a speech delivered by the mover of the resolution at Twickenham. The only policy he had been able to note was something with regard to Canadian store cattle. He criticised the attempt to make the present difference of opinion between a small fraction of the Unionist Party and the leaders a subject for public and formal discussion.
Mr. Chamberlain was followed by Lord Hugh Cecil, who said that the motive underlying the resolution was that the present Government, or rather the present Prime Minister, was ruining the country. He was sure that no Prime Minister could be so bad as the present Prime Minister, and that so long as he was Prime Minister the condition of the country would get worse and worse, as it had done ever since the Armistice.
The House divided on Colonel Hurst's amendment, which was carried by 288 votes to 95.
An effort was made in the beginning of April to obtain some facilitation of the conditions under which Old Age Pensions were granted. Mr. Myers moved a resolution in the House of Commons, declaring that the old age provisions ought to be modified so as to enable old age pensioners to derive the full benefit of their thrift, and to receive assistance from friends, employers, and organisations without reduction of their pension. Mr. Hannon moved an amendment declaring that, in view of the financial exigencies of the country, this proposal could not at present be entertained. After Sir R. Horne had stated that the proposal would add to our annual expenditure a sum of 15,000,0001., the amendment was agreed to by a majority of 43 and the resolution thus amended was carried by a majority of 64.
Both Houses of Parliament adjourned on April 12 for Easter, the House of Lords until May 2 and the House of Commons until April 26.
On April 8 Mr. Churchill, speaking at Dundee, gave a broad general survey of British national politics. He said that the keynote of our foreign policy in Europe was to bring about a good understanding between France and Germany, while giving France the assurance that she would not be left unaided if she were again to be the victim of an unprovoked aggression by Germany. The offer to France had become a factor which no French Government could treat other than as a matter of the highest consequence. The interests of Britain could only be safe when they were coincident with the interests of civilisation and of peace.
We could not contemplate in any circumstances reducing the British Navy below the level of the one-power standard. The Irish Treaty stood for all time as the measure and the symbol of the relationship which should exist between the two islands. Further than the Treaty we could not go. The supreme issue at the next election would be that of a Socialist organisation of society versus individual enterprise. Socialism, he said, was the negation of every principle of British Liberalism and of every sentiment of the British heart.
As the Budget drew near pressure continued to be put more insistently on the Government to reduce taxation. The demand especially was for a reduction of the Income Tax, and on April 24 an important speech was made by Lord Inchcape at the Mansion House on this subject. He said that if expenditure and taxation were not reduced we should land ourselves in national and individual bankruptcy. If practically the whole results of individual effort, hard work, and frugality were to be handed over to the spending departments, all incentive to saving disappeared. One of the most extraordinary anomalies of taxation was that we paid super-tax on income that never reached us. The Government had whittled down the considered recommendations of the Geddes Committee by 30 per cent. If this vital issue of economy should be made the football either of party politics or of departmental pride and intrigue, and if the nation as a whole did not insist upon drastic reductions in public expenditure, the country would be ruined. Borrowing to reduce taxation would simply give the spending departments an excuse to continue their extravagance, and would seriously affect the credit of Great Britain throughout the world. The wealth of the country did not belong to the Government; it was the property of the people who had worked and saved. He said that we were at the parting of the ways. We must reduce our expenditure and cease borrowing or we should come to grief. If the country were rolling in wealth we might be justified in launching out into great philanthropic schemes, but being at death's door financially, it was madness to go on as we were going, multiplying and maintaining State functionaries and State enterprises at the expense of industries, to the visible impairment of our old and hardy spirit of individualism. We had got into a position where many could only pay rates and taxes by realising assets and so diminishing the funds needed for the expansion of business. If this went on our whole social and industrial fabric would go to pieces. The revival of foreign trade was being retarded by the present level of taxation. In a reduction of taxation lay the Chancellor's only road to a wholesome and economically sound maintenance of revenue, just as in a drastic reduction of national expenditure lay his only hope of reducing taxation.
The first business of the House of Commons on resuming its sittings after Easter was to deal with the second reading of the Empire Settlement Bill, the object of which was to give effect to the resolution passed by the special conference of Empire Prime Ministers on the subject of co-operative schemes of emigration, and based upon the work of Lord Long's Committee. Mr. Amery, who moved the second reading, recounted the valuable work done by Lord Long's Committee in assisting Ex-Service men to emigrate. A hundred thousand people, he said, had been sent out, and there had only been a small percentage of failures. With reference to land settlement, there were individual settlement schemes under which men without sufficient capital would be enabled to set up as farmers after the preliminary period for gaining farming experience, and development schemes for opening up large areas to cultivation by the clearing of forests, building roads and railways, and works of irrigation. He emphasised the fact that it was not the intention to create any elaborate new machinery or administration either in this country or overseas. It was not proposed to spend in the present year more than 1,500,0001. The normal expenditure was fixed at 3,000,0001., and of that amount he estimated that about a million would be required for schemes of assisted emigration. The basis of contribution would be normally half and half as between this country and the Dominions, so that the total amount available for that purpose would be 2,000,0001. a year, which would enable between 60,000 and 80,000 people to be assisted in the course of the year.
The remaining 2,000,0001. of United Kingdom money would be available for land settlement and development. It had been agreed at the conference that the British contribution to schemes of individual settlement should not exceed an advance of 3001. a settler, which was about a third of the amount required. Thus it would be possible to settle 3,000 heads of families for the expenditure of 1,000,0001. He recommended the Bill as a measure outside party, but at the same time in the true line of our national traditions and our historic Imperial policy.
The Bill met with no opposition, though several speakers expressed the view that Mr. Amery had been too sanguine as to the wide-reaching results which would follow its passage. Mr. Clynes was anxious to know to what extent Labour organisations in the Dominions had been consulted, for the success of the scheme would depend on securing the goodwill of Labour, organised and unorganised, overseas. The Bill was subsequently passed by both Houses of Parliament, and received the royal assent at the end of May.
In no public department were the recommendations of the Geddes Committee so widely departed from as in that of education. The Committee had recommended an economy of 18,000,0001. for the United Kingdom, but on April 27 the Minister of Education, in Committee of Supply on the vote for education, declared that the total saving to be effected on the current year's estimates would be 6,104,6531. Of this sum 1,205,6831. was due to the diminution of services resulting from the war, and would have no prejudicial effect on the education of the children; and 2,300,5051. was derived from the contributions of teachers in respect to pensions. Further, there was a saving of 3,000,0001, on the estimates for the previous year, although the expenditure was 2,500,0001. higher than in the preceding year.
The Budget was introduced into the House of Commons by the Chancellor of the Exchequer on May 1. He began his statement by a survey of the previous year, pointing out that the industrial trouble experienced in the first three months had had a serious effect on trade and on the revenue of the year. Summarising what had been done in the reduction of debt, he said that the External Debt had been reduced by 170,000,0001., the Floating Debt by 246,000,0001., the Maturing Debt by 260,000,0001., and 88,000,0001. had been added to the reduction of the Deadweight Debt. He pointed out that the expenditure for the year was less than the estimated expenditure by about 57,000,0001., but the revenue was also less by 91,000,0001., and the surplus of revenue over expenditure to go towards reduction of debt was 45,693,0001, Customs and Excise showed a sur