1920s >> 1921 >> no-204-august-1921

In the House of Commons

 
Ireland.

 

In addition to the usual charges and countercharges of murder, robbery, and arson, attention has been drawn to the attempted Sinn Fein commercial boycott of Ulster, with particular reference to the advocacy of this blockade by “Freeman’s Journal.” The Government is considering the advisability of taking action against “Freeman’s” on account of this intention to “impede the natural flow of trade.” This latter phrase is somewhat amusing when one remembers how this same Government has burned creameries and private business houses, stopped markets and fairs, curtailed railway services, and forbidden the sailing of coast food ships, all with the deliberate purpose of compelling the submission of the Irish by intensifying the existing distress.

 

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Your Stake in the Empire.

 

Of the total loan indebtedness of the Government amounting to £7,573,000,000 only £596,000,000, or less than 8 per cent., is held by small investors.

 

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Small Nations.

 

The Siberian Republic.

 

The Government couldn’t take notice of the Japanese attack on this republic because it is not in diplomatic relationship with this country. The real reason, the one which always underlies the political sob-stuff served out to the workers when they are wanted to fight, was disclosed later (Hansard, July 6th): “. . as direct British interests in those regions are not great they do not propose to give recognition to the Republic at the present time.” Is the price of the renewal of the Anglo Jap treaty the granting of a free hand to the Japs to protect (that is to exploit) Siberia ?

 

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Viscount Curzon, whose chief title to fame appears to be the frequency with which he gets fined for making himself a danger and a nuisance to pedestrians by road-hogging, asks if something cannot be done to prevent ‘bus drivers from inconveniencing their passengers by starting off too soon !

 

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Agriculture.

 

Corn Production Acts (Repeal) Bill.

 

This Bill has provided some unusually vivid examples of the bad faith of a capitalist Government, and the unashamed lying and incompetence of its ministers.

 

The original 1917 Act was to last to 1922, and by the 1920 Agriculture Act the guaranteed prices for the farmers and minimum rates of pay for the labourers were to be continued with four years notice of discontinuance. Six months afterwards the Government suddenly announced its intention of abolishing the latter entirely and of giving the farmers some £19,000,000 for this year’s harvest. During that six months the Minister of Agriculture, Sir A. G. Boscawen, who now says that the Agricultural Wages Board is an unmixed evil, fought an election in a rural constituency on the cry that he was the “author of the Agriculture Act which guaranteed a living wage to the Agricultural labourer” !

 

The Government in 1917 indignantly protested through Mr. Protheroe that the minimum wage was not dependent on the guarantees, but in 1921 abolishes the former because it is inseparable from the latter.

 

Boscawen objected to the Board because it and the National Union of Agricultural Workers had taken advantage of their legal position to compel defaulting employers to the number of 20,000 to pay up something like £100,000 arrears of wages, and then suggested that the method of conciliation and brotherliness was the better way. One remembers the argument of the early war period about arguing with mad dogs !

 

The experience of collecting these arrears brought to light a most amazing unanimity of thought and action among these farmers. Almost without exception they never knew there was a Wages Board (until it was about to be abolished); they had always paid more than the specified rate ; and lastly, if they had paid less then they had only employed their workers (who were all, it seems, physical and mental degenerates) out of charity.

 

This Minister of Agriculture also showed by his answers to questions that he didn’t even understand the construction and functions of this very Wages Board, the abolition of which had become so urgent.

 

The Labour Party adopted a whining attitude as usual: (Mr. Wignal) “We as a Labour Party gave loyal support to the Government,” and now see how we are treated! The most apt description was Mr. Spencer’s “This Bill gives £19,000,000 to the farmer and goodwill to the labourers.” Mr. Pretyman gave an instructive opinion on election addresses, their purpose and reliability. In answer to the interjection “What about your letter to your constituents? That admits the case he replied “I have nothing to do with any right hon. gentleman’s letters to his constituents. They prove nothing.”

 

At the moment of writing it seems probable that as the result of a very effective publicity campaign in the rural constituencies, conducted by the Agricultural Workers’ Union, and the consequent fear on the part of sitting members that their seats may not be safe at the next election, the Government may grant a concession in the form of power to make legally binding on the industry agreements arrived at between workers’ and employers’ representatives on Conciliation Boards.

 

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Sir James Campbell for four and a half years’ service as Lord Chief Justice of Ireland and Lord Chancellor receives a pension of £3,692 6s. 1d.

 

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Forty-two members of the Irish Police Force have been convicted of robbery since January, 1919.

 

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Colonel Wedgwood, member of the Free Trade Labour Party, wants the Government to prevent the Anglo-American Oil Co. (an American concern) from issuing capital in this country.

 

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How the Labour Party Fights the Government.

 

W. Graham (Railways Bill, 6th July): “We have been very fair and reasonable with the Government in Committee. We have been very much interested in many parts of the Bill, but we have studiously refrained from moving amendments other than those which appeared to us to be vital. I suggest to the Government that we are entitled to rather better consideration than they have shown . . .”

 

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How the Labour Party Fights Itself.

 

(War Pensions Bill, July 8.)

 

Mr. Lawson (Labour Party): “The Right. Hon. Gentleman has quoted the Labour Party’s memorandum.    . . .   I have not seen that memorandum ; I do not hold with it.    .    .”

 

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Egypt.

 

Earl Winterton, greatly upset over the alleged ill-treatment of foreigners by native Egyptians in recent disturbances arising out of the Government’s suppression of nationalist demonstrations, asked what steps would be taken to deal with these “crimes,” these “fanatical anti-Christian, anti-European outbreaks.” Is it really a matter for amazement that Egyptians should be prejudiced against Christians who were primarily advanced commercial agents and Empire builders, and Christians only incidentally ; against foreigners who came to liberate and enlighten, and who, despite a wearisome repetition of promises to depart, have remained to annexe ; who have given the Egyptian peasant in return for security and independence the illusory advantage of engineering marvels from which again incidentally the benefactors reap handsome profit ? Moreover, may these “backward” nations not ask that idle ornaments of the superior white races should before waxing indignant, see that their own houses are in order ? Were the loot-inspired anti-German riots of the war years on such a high moral plane that the Earl can afford to invite comparison, and did he raise his voice in. protest then ?

 

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How to Wangle Balance Sheets.

 

The Prudential Assurance Co., out of a total of £520,000 paid as dividends, puts down £120,000 income tax payments for its shareholders as “management expenses.”

Edgar Hardcastle