The Parliamentary event of last week was the introduction by Mr Lloyd George of the Defence of the Realm (No. 2) Bill. The original Defence of the Realm Bill, it will be remembered, authorised the Government to take over, if it thought fit, any factory or workshop actually engaged in the production of war material.
The new Bill goes much further. It empowers the Government to take over and manage any factory or workshop that is not at present engaged in the manufacture of the munitions of war, but which is well adapted to that purpose. I will not deny that the House gasped for a moment at this far-reaching proposal, but it soon resigned itself, as it has done on many other occasions, to a willing acceptance of a measure that in the interests of the State is demanded by both civil and the military authorities.
It is very generally recognised by now that if we are to break through the deadlock that prevails on the western side of the war we must have a superiority over the enemy in munitions and equipment as well as in men. Equally, we recognise as a people that war on the present scale may necessitate the abandonment for the time being of our old-established methods of private and individualistic manufacture. It is a question of more uniforms, more guns, more ammunition, and the sooner we provide these essential commodities in sufficient volume the sooner the war will be over.
I do not touch on the minor questions that have occupied the attention of the House of Commons during the week. There has been a good deal of talk about Donington Hall. Here, it was suggested, the Government had provided needlessly comfortable quarters for a large number of German officer prisoners. A closer examination of the facts and the visit of a Parliamentary committee showed that at Donington Hall the Government had made no arrangements involving unnecessary expense. They had made decent, but by no means luxurious, provision for the captured officers of the enemy's forces, and this had been done not merely from motives of humanity but because our standing in the civilised world requires us to be faithful to the highest observances of war.
It is for the same reason that our sailors do their best to save the lives of the enemy when enemy ships are sunk by the ships of our Navy. We have wish to regulate our conduct in such circumstances by German standards. I trust very earnestly myself that we shall never be coerced into the employment of methods that are unworthy of our great traditions.
From time to time is is useful to estimate our chances of concluding the war on terms commensurate with the terrible sacrifices we have already made. When will the war end? This is a question that is asked me every day and one to which I doubt if General Joffre or General French could give an answer. So far so good, we are happily able to say.
It is clearer now than it was when last I adverted to this question that, humanly speaking, Germany has no prospect whatever of achieving any of her first objects in the war. The enemy has made no advance to Paris since the time when General von Kluck was turned back from his initial stupendous onrush. Again, no serious progress has been made in the attack on Warsaw. Calais, again is withheld from the envious foe by a barrier that is mainly composed of unconquerable British hearts. To put the matter plainly, every one of Germany's great ambitions has been completely frustrated.
But Germany has suffered not only in disappointed ambitions. Every day it becomes more evident that she alone among nations had made full and careful preparation for this decisive conflict. She declared war at the moment that precisely suited her, A nation of tireless energy and of ever-increasing wealth, she had devoted her best endeavours for more than a generation to one national purpose alone - the humiliation of France and, after that, the destruction of the British Empire. I say that unless a miracle happens she will utterly fail in both objects. Meanwhile, she has staked everything on one throw - her commerce, her wealth, the flower of her male population, and her honour.
WE have now some sort of idea what the war is costing us. What is it costing Germany? How many millions of marks a day? We do not know or care. It is a matter of concern to us, however, to realise that Germany has forfeited her status as a civilised nation. By her conduct in Belgium, in France, and now on the high seas that are the common property of all nations, she has sacrificed her position among decent people.
What terms shall we expect from Germany if we win? This also is a question that is constantly asked. I do not seek to anticipate the verdict of those who will have to decide this momentous question, but I do say that the war will have been fought largely in vain if the punishment meted out to Germany is not faithfully proportioned to her many execrable crimes. Vengeance is not ours, but it is not less our duty to punish crime is we have the power, and, what is more to the purpose, to prevent so far as we may the perpetration of crime in the future. The world simply cannot go on on German lines.
I confess that for my part I shall regard the sacrifice of our manhood and of our treasure as a mere spendthrift outlay if it does not result in the defeat of the Prussian aggression and the disappointment of all Prussian hopes. We are not fighting now for a temporary peace. We too are staking our all on the one supreme issue.
Lucky for us that we have behind us a population that has not suffered an overwhelming defeat for nearly a thousand years, and resources that are only limited by the extent of our widespread Empire. I say what I have said since the beginning of this war, that we shall triumph if we make up our minds to.
Little by little during the last few weeks the veil has been lifted from some of our operations in Flanders. We know something now of the tremendous tests to which the courage and endurance of our men and of our Allies have been subjected since first the contending armies settled down to siege conditions along the line from Nieuport to Switzerland.
Our recent brilliant advance at Neuve Chappelle is a happy augury for the success of the allied forces when the great attempt is made to dislodge the Germans from French and Belgian soil, while the sinking of the Dresden reduces the enemy's commerce destroyers almost to vanishing point.
House of Commons
March 16th, 1915.