April 1922 in the United Kingdom

April 1922 in the United Kingdom

"See also:" March 1922 in the United Kingdom, May 1922 in the United Kingdom, and the Timeline of British history.----

Attitude of the Unions

At the beginning of April the outlook in the engineering and shipbuilding disputes was very dark. On the 4th the result of the ballot of shipyard workers was announced, and the proposed reductions of the war bonus were rejected by 37,026 votes against 26,451 votes. It was noticeable that not more than one-third of the members of the unions recorded their votes. As regards the engineering dispute, a difference of opinion arose between the Amalgamated Engineering Union and three important groups represented by the Federation of Engineering and Shipbuilding Trades, the Federation of General Workers, and the National Union of Foundrymen. The latter groups, comprising forty-seven unions, accepted proposals made to them by the prime minister for a resumption of negotiations with their employers, and the lockout notices which affected the members of these unions were suspended. The Amalgamated Engineering Union, on the other hand, maintained its determination to stand aloof. The unions outside the Amalgamated Engineering Union formed a joint negotiating committee, which then carried on negotiations for several days with the employers. On the 14th, however, these negotiations broke down on the fundamental issue of managerial rights, and the claim of the unions to prior notice and consultation in the event of material changes being introduced in workshop conditions. The main point of controversy was whether the management or the unions should have the right of deciding what were material changes. A week later, as a result of the mediation of the National Joint Labour Council, a conference was held between representatives of the Engineering Employers' Federation and of the Amalgamated Engineering Union, but hopes of progress towards a settlement were disappointed. In the case of the other unions, it became clear that no agreement could be reached, and the lockout notices, which had been suspended, were again renewed. This lockout threatened to affect about 1,000,000 men in addition to those already unemployed through the lockout of the Amalgamated Engineering Union.

Whereas at the end of April the engineering dispute was thus more threatening than it had been at the beginning of the month, a move towards peace was made in the shipbuilding trade by a conference of the executives of the unions concerned, which decided to recommend their members to agree to an immediate wage reduction of 10"s." 6"d." a week, to be followed by a further reduction of 6"s." in two instalments of 3"s." each, to take effect on May 17 and June 7. It was agreed that these terms should be submitted to a ballot, the result of which should be declared early in the month of May.

The Republican Party in Ireland - Fresh Outbreak of Disturbances

In Ireland, the agreement reached at the end of March between the representatives of the Dublin and Belfast governments was welcomed by people of all creeds and classes except extremists. The royal assent was given, on the last day of March, to the Irish Free State Bill, but the hopes that were now entertained of peace in Ireland were destined to be quickly disappointed. At the beginning of April Belfast experienced another weekend of violence. A Protestant policeman was shot dead in the street, and afterwards four men were killed and three children wounded (all Roman Catholics). On the 2nd the anti-Treaty faction of the Irish Republican Army held a big parade in Dublin. It soon became clear that they were endeavouring to prevent the Irish Free State from coming into existence, and speeches were made by persons who claimed to represent a majority of the Irish Republican Army virtually declaring war on the prospective Free State. In County Mayo Michael Collins was prevented from speaking, and his meeting was "proclaimed" by disaffected members of the Sinn Féin. At Dundalk Eamon de Valera denied the legitimacy of both the provisional government and the Northern government, and ridiculed the London agreement. Acts of violence and lawlessness continued to be reported from many different parts of Ireland, and the authority of the Dublin government began to wane under the vigorous challenge of the republican extremists. On April 6, five former policemen were shot dead in Clare and Kerry. On the same day police in Ulster suffered four casualties in a border ambush, and the trade boycott of Belfast, carried on by the rebels, was enforced by the burning of goods seized from trains. On the 10th special police discovered a land mine buried in a road in County Armagh.

Further efforts to secure peace were now instituted by a conference between Michael Collins and Arthur Griffith on behalf of the Irish government, and de Valera and Cathal Brugha, representing the section of Sinn Féin which was opposed to the treaty. The conference was arranged for April 14, and after a discussion of three hours adjourned until the 18th without reaching any agreement. Meanwhile sectarian attacks continued in the northeast. In Belfast on April 13 sniping took place between Catholics and Protestants, and police were fired at from the housetops. In Dublin a raid was made by a large force of armed men on the Four Courts, the law courts of Dublin, which was captured and successfully held by the insurgents. Shortly afterwards Kilmainham Gaol, famous in the history of Irish nationalism, was seized by the irregular troops. An attempt was made to prevent Griffith, president of Dáil Éireann, from carrying out his intention to make a speech at Sligo on April 16. He was warned by the mayor of that town that all public meetings had been "proclaimed". He replied that the Dáil had not authorized any interference with the rights of public meeting and free speech, and in defiance of the proclamation he succeeded in addressing a crowd without interruption, though guarded by armoured cars and Free State troops. On the 16th Collins was attacked by armed men in Dublin, but escaped injury. He returned the fire of the attackers and captured and disarmed one of them, on whom a live bomb was afterwards found. Other disturbing events of the middle of April included a midnight attack on the barracks in Dublin where the new National Army had their headquarters. The sniping, which continued in Belfast, necessitated the use of machine guns by the police, but there was no further sign of trouble on the new border.

The peace conference, which had arranged to resume on April 18, postponed its meeting till the following day; after sitting for about an hour and a half it again adjourned without reaching any agreement. The campaign of violent interference with free speech continued unabated. Michael Collins, head of the provisional government, was prevented by armed men from speaking in the market place at Killarney on April 22, though he succeeded in making two speeches elsewhere in the town. On the 23rd Collins went to Tralee, but the train in which he travelled was stopped as the line was torn up in several places. Collins, however, succeeded in reaching Tralee by road, and addressed a large meeting without disturbance. On April 24 a strike, called by the Irish Labour Party as a protest against militarism, took place in the twenty-six counties of Southern Ireland. There was a general cessation of labour, no trains or tramcars were run, postal services were suspended, and all places of entertainment were closed. On that day Brigadier General George Adamson, of the National Army, was mortally wounded while holding up his hands in response to a challenge in the streets of Athlone. In County Clare a retired sergeant of the Royal Irish Constabulary was murdered. On the 26th an exchange of rifle and revolver fire took place at Dunmanway, in West Cork, and three prominent citizens were shot dead in their homes. A land mine was also discovered on a road near Newry. A number of further shootings were reported from West Cork on April 28 (the Dunmanway Massacre). Armed men visited the homes of various people in the dead of night and shot them. Meanwhile the situation became further complicated by an 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 hoped to see peace finally established in Ireland.

Commons Debate on Genoa Conference

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 David 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 war-exhausted 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 recognizing Russia. The conditions of such recognition were that they in their turn should recognize 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 by-elections, was not in their direction.

John Robert Clynes moved an amendment as an act of opposition to the prime minister going to Genoa. He declared that 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. Clynes was followed by 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.

Conservative Challenge to Coalition Government

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 Conservative Party, which was the finest instrument the country had ever known.

An amendment was moved by Colonel Gerald Hurst, asserting that the best solution of the national difficulties was the cooperation 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 characterized the "diehards" as representative of that type of medieval Toryism which regarded all change and all reform as revolution.

Austen 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 criticized 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.

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.

Old Age Pensions Amendment

An effort was made in the beginning of April to obtain some facilitation of the conditions under which Old Age Pensions were granted. Tom 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 organizations without reduction of their pension. Patrick 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 Robert Horne had stated that the proposal would add to the annual expenditure a sum of £15,000,000, 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.

peeches by Winston Churchill on Foreign Politics and Lord Inchcape on Taxation

On April 8 Winston Churchill, speaking at Dundee, gave a broad general survey of British national politics. He said that the keynote of Britain's 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 civilization and of peace. Britain 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 Britain could not go. The supreme issue at the next election would be that of a Socialist organization 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 Britons should land themselves 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 people paid super-tax on income that never reached them. The government had whittled down the considered recommendations of the Geddes committee by 30%. 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 Britain was at the parting of the ways. Britain must reduce its expenditure and cease borrowing or it should come to grief. If the country were rolling in wealth it might be justified in launching out into great philanthropic schemes, but being at death's door financially, it was madness to go on as it was going, multiplying and maintaining state functionaries and state enterprises at the expense of industries, to the visible impairment of its old and hardy spirit of individualism. Britain had got into a position where many could only pay rates and taxes by realizing assets and so diminishing the funds needed for the expansion of business. If this went on the 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.

econd Reading of Empire Settlement Bill

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 cooperative schemes of emigration, and based upon the work of Lord Long's committee. Leopold Stennett Amery, who moved the second reading, recounted the valuable work done by Lord Long's committee in assisting ex-servicemen 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 emphasized 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 £1,500,000. The normal expenditure was fixed at £3,000,000, 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 £2,000,000 a year, which would enable between 60,000 and 80,000 people to be assisted in the course of the year. The remaining £2,000,000 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 £300 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 £1,000,000. He recommended the bill as a measure outside party, but at the same time in the true line of Britain's national traditions and historic imperial policy.

The bill met with no opposition, though several speakers expressed the view that Amery had been too sanguine as to the wide-reaching results which would follow its passage. Clynes was anxious to know to what extent labour organizations in the dominions had been consulted, for the success of the scheme would depend on securing the goodwill of labour, organized and unorganized, overseas. The bill was subsequently passed by both houses of Parliament, and received the royal assent at the end of May.

avings in Education

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 £18,000,000 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 £6,104,653. Of this sum £1,205,683 was due to the diminution of services resulting from the war, and would have no prejudicial effect on the education of the children; and £2,300,505 was derived from the contributions of teachers in respect to pensions. Further, there was a saving of £3,000,000 on the estimates for the previous year, although the expenditure was £2,500,000 higher than in the preceding year.

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