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MR. LLOYD GEORGE'S COALITION MINISTRY.
(TO OCTOBER 19.)
CABINET MINISTERS. Prime Minister and First Lord of the Treasury .
Mr. Lloyd George.
Mr. Austen Chamberlain.
Sir Robert S. Horne.
Mr. Edward Shortt.
Marquess Curzon. Colonies . . . .
Mr. Winston S. Churchill. War. . .
Sir L. Worthington-Evans.
Mr. Edwin Montagu (to March 19).
| Viscount Peel (from March 20).
Mr. Stanley Baldwin.
Sir Alfred Mond.
Dr. T. J. Macnamara.
Sir Gordon Hewart (to March 6).
First Commissioner of Works and sThe Earl of Crawford (Member of Cabinet
Minister of Transport . . .1 from April 8).
MINISTERS NOT IN THE CABINET. Secretary for Air . .
. Captain F. E. Guest. Minister of Pensions . . . Mr. Ian Macpherson. Postmaster-General
• Mr. F. G. Kellaway. Chancellor of the Duchy of Lan- Viscount Peel (to March 19). caster . . . . .
Sir W. Sutherland (from April 8).
Sir E M. Pollock (to March 5).
• Sir J. Tudor-Walters.
:(Lt. Col. Leslie Wilson.
Sir P. Lloyd-Greame. . Lord Gorell.
: Hon. E. F. L. Wood.
Mr. Cecil Harmsworth.
Sir J. L. Baird.
Under-Secretaries of State:
Sir John Ross.
FOR THE YEAR
ery slowcontinued to w almost,
DECAY OF THE COALITION. THE social and political problems which attained the most prominence in the year 1922 showed a further departure from those which had chiefly occupied public attention during the war, and the country had by now almost returned to its normal condition. Prices continued to fall during the early part of the year, but very slowly as compared with the previous decline, and in the latter half of the year the fall ceased almost entirely, prices becoming comparatively stabilised at about 80 per cent. above the level of July, 1914. Labour problems, which had occupied so much attention during and after the war, were less constantly in the public eye. The principle of inevitable reductions in wages had been accepted by the working classes as a whole, and there were few strikes on a large scale, the worst being that in the engineering trade, which will be described later. Unemployment continued to be very great, but it was recognised that little more could be done by Government measures for its alleviation, and the subject was much less prominent in the political world than it had been in the previous year. A further indication of the return to normal conditions was in the gradual decay of the Coalition Government; the combination of parties which had been brought about in the presence of a common danger was no longer found to work satisfactorily when the normal problems of peace were at issue. Very early in the year signs of disintegration became manifest in the Coalition, On several occasions the two wings threatened to fall apart, but the Government was successfully held together by the personality of. Mr. Loyd George until the last quarter of the year, when the internal dissensions which had made themselves felt for so many months past reached a bursting-point, and the Coalition was finally rent asunder in a day.
The forces of discontent were already so strong at the beginning of the year that The Times spoke of a dissolution of Parliament as being a certainty at the end of January. The anticipated General Election was averted, however, largely through the opposition of the Unionist Party, the spokesman of which was Sir George Younger, who was the head of the Unionist organisation. He denounced an immediate General Election as a complete betrayal of the Unionist Party, which he pointed out was the strongest section of the Coalition. In point of fact the Coalition Unionists were nearly three times as numerous as the Coalition Liberals, the exact figures being 359 Unionists and 126 Liberals. The opposition of the Unionist Party to an immediate General Election was largely based upon the view that the Government were under an obligation to take in hand the reform of the House of Lords before relinquishing office, and also on the inexpediency of meeting the Labour Party in a General Election at a time of severe industrial depression. It was feared that a hotly contested election, which would be in the main a conflict between the Coalition and Labour, would be likely, under existing circumstances, to raise the issue of capital versus labour in an acute form, and to create feeling which would take many months to abate. At length it became apparent that the Unionist disaffection was so profound and widespread that a united appeal to the country by the Coalition would be impossible, and Mr. Lloyd George accordingly decided to abandon the project. At the same time the meeting of Parliament, which was due for January 31, was postponed for a week to February 7.
It was generally believed that this postponement was due to dissensions in the Cabinet between the Unionist and Liberal sections of the Coalition. This belief was, however, denied by Mr. Chamberlain, Leader of the Unionist Party in the House of Commons, in a speech to Scottish Unionists at Glasgow on January 19. Mr. Chamberlain said that there could be no thought of dissolution until the Irish legislation was completed. That was the unanimous decision of the Prime Minister and of the colleagues whose opinion he had asked. No decision to dissolve had either been taken or sought by the Prime Minister, who was described by Mr. Chamberlain as the biggest influence in Europe. The reform of the House of Lords had got to be carried through, and although there were differences, they did not run on the old party lines. Both sections of the Coalition agreed, he said, that some reform was necessary in the constitution of the House of Lords. Their powers must be revised and their relations with the House of Commons reviewed. No one desired to challenge the old-established control of the House
of Commons over the finance of the country, but laws should not be made which would interfere in any matter of high trade policy. The task before the Government was to reduce expenditure by something between 150 and 200 millions in order to make both ends meet. Mr. Chamberlain expressed the opinion that the Unionist Party would be false to its duty and false to its own cause if it allowed disunion to creep into its ranks. He deprecated any attempt wantonly to break the alliance with the Liberals which had steered the country through the perils of war, and brought it safely through the scarcely lesser difficulties of peace, and in the continuation of which he saw the greatest hope for our national recuperation and our imperial position.
The attitude of the Coalition Liberals was expressed at the same time by Captain Guest, who affirmed that the Socialist menace was being realised and would bring all the sections together which believed in the main principles of private enterprise.
Mr. Asquith expressed the views of the Independent Liberals at a meeting of business men in the City of London on January 19. He pointed out that, although three years had passed since the cessation of hostilities, the country was still paying taxation on a war scale. The Income Tax at its present rate, he said, was a capital levy of the worst kind. In finance there were only two ways of making both ends meet, by taxation, or by borrowing, or by cutting down outgoings, and the last way was the best. If economy had been begun three, or even two, years before, hundreds of millions of pounds would have been saved. The axe should strike at all forms of unremunerative expenditure and at the policies of which they were the consequences. He warmly condemned the Safeguarding of Industries Act, and insisted that real economic restoration was impossible until the question of reparations and allied indebtedness had been fully adjusted. There must be an immediate lowering and an ultimate removal of all tariff barriers. There must be no entangling engagements but an effective prosecution of a universal policy of disarmament on sea, on land, and in the air.
The position of the Coalition Liberals was further defined in speeches by Mr. Churchill and Sir Gordon Hewart in a conference of that Party on January 20. Mr. Churchill stated that the central fact in the political situation was the Irish settlement, which had been achieved by the co-operation of both historic parties. Stability was the main interest of the nation at the present time; recuperation required national co-operation and not party strife. The trader and manufacturer must feel assured that a period of labour tranquillity lay before them, and that the burdens of taxation would be speedily reduced. The workman must know that earnest effort would reap its reward, and that the cost of living would fall under a free trade system. In Europe the need was for confidence and continuity; the national need was for a strong and durable instrument of