ページの画像
PDF
ePub

ment for setting up a Committee, that Committee was now hailed as having performed a service to the country such as had been performed by no other Committee. He expressed high praise of the Reports of the Committee, but claimed that many of the economies suggested had been spontaneously offered by the departments themselves. The Committee had suggested an economy of 18,000,0001. in the Education Department, their suggestions including a reduction in the salaries of teachers and the exclusion of children from school until the age of six years. The Chancellor of the Exchequer announced that the Government were not prepared to put into operation either of these proposals.' The salaries of teachers, he said, were for the most part the result of the contracts entered into by the local authorities and the teachers. As to the age for admitting children to school, there was no doubt that the health of the country had immensely improved by the effect of the medical attention received. He intimated that a change would be made in the system of providing for the superannuation of teachers. This year teachers would have to contribute 5 per cent. of their salaries, which would provide a sum of 2,000,0001. Economies on education would therefore amount to 6,500,0001. instead of the 18,000,0001. suggested.

Turning to the Navy, the Geddes Committee had recommended a reduction of 21,000,0001., without regard to the savings effected as a result of the Washington Conference, and the Admiralty had offered 20,000,0001., including the savings effected as a result of that Conference. The Chancellor stated that the comparable figures could be put at 10,000,0001. against 21,000,0001. Out of the amount recommended by the Committee only 14,000,0001. was specified. If the specified reductions were compared with the reductions offered by the Admiralty, there was only a difference of 4,000,0001. The Geddes Committee proposed a reduction of personnel next year to 88,000, whereas the Admiralty suggested 121,600. The figure of 98,000 men had now been agreed to, the Government being of opinion that there could not be a reduction below that figure. That compared with the figures of 129,000 in the United States. Had it not been for the decisions of the Washington Conference, it would have been necessary to make greater provision. He believed that in the course of the next year there might be further investigation and agreement leading to a still greater reduction in the expenditure on the Navy.

The saving recommended on the Army was 20,000,0001., and the amount proposed by the War Office was 17,000,0001. As against the reduction of 54,000 men proposed by the Geddes Committee the War Office proposed a reduction of 33,000. This included twenty-four battalions of the line, five cavalry regiments, and 40 per cent. of the artillery. The result of this economy would be that, instead of being able to send six divisions overseas at the beginning of a war, it would only be possible to

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

send two in the first month. Dealing with the Air Force reductions, he said it might be questioned whether they were not running great risks in making a reduction of 13 per cent.

Coming to the Departments of Labour, Health, and War Pensions, he mentioned that the former department was reducing expenditure from 22,000,0001. to 14,000,0001. next year. The proposed amalgamation of Health Insurance and Unemployed Insurance was a matter for investigation. The cut of 2,100,0001. in the Ministry of Health had been accepted by the Government, but would be operative in different ways. The Government also agreed with the suggestion that the houses erected by the Ministry of Health should be sold, and instructions had been given for steps to be taken to remove the statutory restrictions upon sale. Health Insurance contributions would be increased £d. per week. Six million pounds reduction had been suggested by the War Pensions Committee, and this had been accepted. This saving was entirely effected by departmental economies, and did not affect the amount of the pensions granted. On the trade group, consisting of the Ministry of Transport, the Department of Overseas Trade, the Department of Mines, and the Department of Forestry, the expenditure was being reduced by 495,0001. as compared with the suggested 538,0001. In conclusion, Sir Robert Horne dwelt on the way in which our financial system was proving its soundness and stability. Of all the countries in Europe we were in the best position to take advantage of any revival of trade that might occur. Our currency had been steadily rising in value, with the result that we had more power to-day to purchase all the food and raw material we required for our own need. Altogether the situation was more hopeful and more favourable than could have been anticipated a few months ago, and in spite of the burdens and anxieties which still remained as a result of the war and its consequences, he was confident that when those anxieties were no longer so menacing we should emerge from them with success.

The result of the conferences between Lord Allenby and the Government with regard to Egypt was announced in the House of Commons on the last day of February. The result of these conversations was that Egypt was to become independent. The British Government would abolish the Protectorate and leave Egypt free to work out the national institutions best suited to the aspirations of the people. Certain reservations were made to the grant of independence: the security of communications of the British Empire in Egypt, the defence of Egypt against foreign aggression or interference, the protection of foreign interests in Egypt, the protection of minorities, and the question of the Soudan: all these matters were reserved to the discretion of the British Government.

Further outrages occurred in Ireland during March. On the 3rd Mr. Max Green, Chairman of the Irish Prisons Board, was shot dead in Dublin by one of three armed men who had just committed a robbery. On the 6th there was a renewal of shooting and robbery in Belfast, and from an early hour sniping and bomb-throwing took place in various districts. A rebellious section of the Irish Republican Army invaded Limerick on March 5. On the 13th a bomb was thrown in Belfast among a crowd of people, injuring about thirteen, including several children.

The Parliament of Northern Ireland entered on a new session in Belfast on March 14, and Sir James Craig then announced that Field-Marshal Sir Henry Wilson was engaged in the preparation of a scheme for the restoration of order. Sir James Craig added that he had pledged his word that Sir Henry Wilson's scheme should be carried out to the full, regardless of cost and consequences. On the 16th three more bomb outrages were perpetrated in Belfast, as the result of which fifteen persons were seriously injured. On the same day two policemen and a civilian were shot dead and another policeman was seriously wounded in Galway. Further bomb outrages continued to take place in Belfast, and the tension on the Ulster frontier became worse, raids for arms being carried out and attacks made on the police by the Irish Republican Army in Ulster until the situation on the border developed into a state of guerilla warfare. Buildings were fired, farmers attacked, and special constables shot. The opinion was held that these events were part of a concerted plan to precipitate a conflict between the Northern and Southern Governments. At length the position became so acute that it was announced on March 22 that the British Government was considering the question of occupying a zone between the contending forces. On the 24th many murders were committed in Belfast, and the Colonial Office took the initiative in dealing with the situation by inviting Mr. Michael Collins and Sir James Craig to come to London for a conference with British Ministers on the dangerous position in Ireland. On the 27th Mr. Churchill stated that the Government were considering placing a portion of the city of Belfast under martial law, a course greatly desired by the Roman Catholic population. He insisted that the real way to stabilise the position was through a friendly agreement between the Governments of Northern and Southern Ireland.

The invitation to a conference in London was accepted by both parties, and on March 30 an agreement was reached between the Provisional Government and the Government of Northern Ireland. Under this agreement peace was declared from that day. The two Governments undertook to co-operate in every way in their power, with a view to the restoration of peaceful conditions in the unsettled areas. The police in Belfast were to be reorganised so that the special police should consist half of Catholics and half of Protestants. A Court was to be constituted for the trial without jury of persons charged with serious crime. À Committee was to be set up in Belfast of equal numbers Catholic and Protestant to investigate complaints as to intimidation, outrages, etc. The activity of the Irish Republican Army was to cease. The return to their homes of persons who had been expelled was to be secured by the respective Governments. The British Government were to submit to Parliament a vote not exceeding 500,0001. for the Ministry of Labour of Northern Ireland, to be expended exclusively on relief work.

Meanwhile the Irish Free State Bill was carried through the House of Commons. The uncompromising Conservatives attacked it in force on March 2 during the Committee stage. The Government was accused of treachery to Ulster, and the Prime Minister of dishonourable conduct. Various amendments were moved, the most important of which were defeated by majorities of 221 and 189.

In the House of Lords the Bill passed its second reading on March 16 without a division. Lord Carson bitterly attacked the Government, and Lord Birkenhead replied on behalf of the Government. The Bill was read a third time on March 27 and passed into law.

The conflict of opinion in the Unionist Party as to remaining part of the Coalition became acute once more in the month of March. On the 3rd Mr. Austen Chamberlain dealt with the subject in a speech at Oxford. He admitted that there had been a good deal of small bickering, and asked whether that should deflect the Unionist leaders from their considered policy. Mr. Lloyd George had told him that if at any time he or his Unionist colleagues thought that the national interests would be better served by his retirement, he would gladly resign in their favour, and would loyally and cordially co-operate with them in carrying through the policy which they had hitherto pursued in common. The Prime Minister could not help observing the wave of unrest and the differences of opinion which were distracting the Unionist Party at the present moment. A few days ago he had repeated his offer to Mr. Chamberlain. He had declined to take Mr. Chamberlain's answer, and had asked him formally to consult his colleagues in the Cabinet and collect their views. Mr. Chamberlain said that he had consulted them, and that they had unanimously replied to Mr. Lloyd George that they thought that national interests, and even the interests of the Unionist Party itself, would not be served, but would be injured by the Prime Minister's resignation.

Speeches were also made on March 5 by Mr. Churchill at Loughborough, and by Mr. Fisher on the education policy of the Government. Mr. Churchill said that both the great historic Parties were united against the rapidly growing Socialist or semi-Socialist Party, whose doctrines were as harmful to the principles of Liberalism as they were pernicious to the

interests of the Empire. He declared that he was for unity and coalition, and he looked forward to the day when out of coalition there should arise a strong, united, permanent national party. The Coalition Government was the best Government he had ever seen.

Mr. Fisher confined his speech to the subject of education, saying that the large economy suggested by the Geddes Committee was a quite impossible proposal. It would be an improvement in our educational law to give parents the option either to send or not to send their children to school up to the age of six. Legislation to enlarge the powers of the Board of Education for the closing of small schools would be hotly resisted, as the small school was very often a church school. He deeply regretted the necessity for suspending the further development of secondary education, for they could easily fill many more secondary schools with young people competent to derive benefit from them. The Government had resolved that nothing should be done to imperil the future of national education.

In the middle of the month a political crisis of the first magnitude arose owing to the publication of a message addressed by the Government of India to Mr. Montagu. The message stated that the Government of India felt it to be their duty again to lay before His Majesty's Government the intensity of feeling in India regarding the necessity for a revision of the Sèvres Treaty. The Government of India were fully alive to the complexity of the problem, but India's services in the war entitled her-so ran the message—to claim the utmost fulfilment of her just and equitable aspirations. The points specially urged by the Government of India were: the evacuation of Constantinople, the suzerainty of the Sultan over the holy places, and the restoration of Ottoman Thrace and Smyrna.

The publication of such a message naturally caused a widespread sensation, more particularly when it became known that the publication had been sanctioned by Mr. Montagu without reference to his colleagues in the Cabinet. Almost immediately following on the publication of this message came the announcement of Mr. Montagu's resignation. The resignation was announced by Mr. Chamberlain in the House of Commons on March 9. He pointed out that the publication raised an important question of principle, all the more important because a conference was just about to meet at Paris, and there seemed to be a fair prospect that in concert with our Allies we should be able to lay the basis for peace between Turkey and Greece. He declared that the Government were unable to reconcile the publication of the telegram of the Government of India on the sole responsibility of the Secretary of State with the collective responsibility of the Cabinet, or with the duty which all the Governments of the Empire owed to each other in matters of Imperial concern. Such independent declarations,

« 前へ次へ »