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Dorothy Constance Bayliff Peel.

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A YEAR IN PUBLIC LIFE



A YEAR
IN PUBLIC LIFE



BY

MRS. C. S. PEEL



LONDON
CONSTABLE & COMPANY LTD.

1919



Printed in Great Britain



TO

MY FATHER AND MOTHER

LONG SINCE DEAD
BUT WHO I THINK STILL INTEREST THEMSELVES

IN THE
DOINGS OF THEIR DAUGHTER



CONTENTS

CHAPTEH PAGE

I. EARLY DAYS IN THE FOOD MINISTRY . . 1

II. THE MINISTRY UNDER LORD DEVONPORT . 22

III. MEETINGS ....... 47

IV. MORE MEETINGS . 76
V. THE PREPARATION OF SPEECHES . . . 106

VI. THE PREPARATION OF SPEECHES (continued) . 121

VII. THE MINISTRY UNDER LORD RHONDDA . 136

VIII. THE SECOND VOLUNTARY ECONOMY CAMPAIGN 162

IX. NATIONAL KITCHENS 179

X. DOMESTIC WORKERS AND FOOD ECONOMY . 208

XI. "OuT OF THE MOUTHS OF BABES" . . 227

XII. A FEW DAYS IN FRANCE .... 240

XIII. THE MINISTRY UNDER MR. CLYNES . 277



A YEAR IN PUBLIC LIFE

CHAPTER I

EARLY DAYS IN THE FOOD MINISTRY

The Appointment of Lord Devonport as Food Controller
Grosvenor House How I came to be a Ministry ot Food
Official " United Workers " An interview with Sir Charles
Bathurst Sir Henry Rew Mrs. Pember Reeves " Round
about 1 a week " How Mr. Lloyd George and Mr. Asquith
work Our Partnership Furnishing a Ballroom We plan
out our Campaign.

WHEN reading Memoirs I have often reviled
the author's discretion, for the more in-
discreet the more interesting the book is apt to be.
The ideal book of Recollections, from the point of
view of the reader, is of the order which " leaves
nothing for the Day of Judgment,*' which criticism
is said to have been made by Mr. Gladstone of
Purcell's Life of Manning. But now that I essay
to write a book of Recollections, I, too, alas ! find
myself obliged to be discreet so discreet that I
have given up any attempt at writing a history of
Food Control, and confined my attention to the
lighter side of my Ministry of Food experiences.




Vr: VIX IN PUBLIC LIFE



regains which may be said of the
happenings both great and small of that year
during which I played a part, if a humble one, in
public life. Perhaps it is because my part was
humble that I may be able to present to the
readers of this book scenes which the writer of
more importance would consider unworthy of
notice, for if some Memoirs lose in interest because
their authors cannot tell all they know, others fail
because they do not tell all which they might.

The important person no doubt finds it difficult
to put himself in the place of the unimportant
person ; he assumes that much which is known to
him is known to every one, forgetting, for example.
that to many people the life of London is repre-
sented by the Army and Navy Stores and a
matinee at the Criterion ; to others by May
meetings and the restrained splendours of the
Windsor Hotel !

Vast numbers of people have never met a Food
Controller ; they have never seen the Prime
Minister's front door, much less the interior of
10 Downing Street. They have never entered the
House of Lords and never will. (I have only once
been there myself, and then it was to listen to the
speeches of various old gentlemen who continually
referred to women as " irresponsible persons.")
Others there are who do not know if Lord North-
cliffe's hair is black or red (it is, as a matter of fact,



EARLY DAYS IN THE FOOD MINISTRY 3

all but black, and he bears a strong resemblance to
Napoleon) ; or why mayors have parlours, and
what they do in them ; and yet they, like myself,
are passionately curious about all such matters.
It is for these nice human folk and for my own
pleasure that I write this artless chronicle of
twelve months' work in the Ministry of Food.



I imagine that there are to-day no three names
better known in our country than those of Lord
Devonport, Lord Rhondda, and Mr. Clynes, and
this for the reason that they are connected with
the intimate details of our lives ! It was they who
ordained we should or should not have bacon for
our breakfast or jam for our tea.

When husbands grumbled wives made a whipping-
boy of the Food Controller, and I have heard the
demand of a child for jam dismissed with the
words : " There ain't none, and if you're not a
good boy I'll ask Lord Rhondda never to let you
have no more neither."

It fell to my lot to work under the direction of
these three Food Controllers, though the third-
Mr. Clynes (formerly Parliamentary Secretary to
the Ministry of Food) did not become Controller
until after the sad death of Lord Rhondda, which
occurred after I had left the Ministry.

Three men differing so utterly in personality it



4 A YEAR IN PUBLIC LIFE

would be difficult to find ; they seemed to me
alike in two respects only that they were all more
or less self-made men, though Lord Rhondda had
enjoyed more advantages in his early life than had
either Lord Devonport or Mr. Clynes, and that all
three suffered in health owing to their anxious and
arduous work. Lord Devonport resigned owing to
ill-health ; Lord Rhondda, after a long illness,
died while yet in harness, and Mr. Clynes in 1917
was very ill with pneumonia.

Although, as every one knows, War was de-
clared on the 4th of August, 1914, it was not until
December, 1916, that Lord Devonport was ap-
pointed Food Controller.

By that time rapidly rising prices made it so
necessary that some central form of control should
be established that, after much consultation,
Mr. Lloyd George telegraphed for Lord Devonport^
who was in the country, and at a subsequent inter-
view, asked him to accept the position of Food
Controller. Lord Devonport once told me that it
was a beautiful sunny day on which he received
the summons. He was looking forward to a rest
and the enjoyment of his garden, and when the
message reached him he did not feel at all inclined
to return to town, neither did he desire to become
Food Controller, but ultimately consented to
accept the position, persuaded thereto by the
Prime Minister, whose personal magnetism is so



EARLY DAYS IN THE FOOD MINISTRY 5

great that he seems able to persuade most people
to do that which he desires of them.

Having secured a Controller, a Bill was promptly
passed establishing a Ministry of Food, the control
of food to cease twelve months after the end of the
War, or on any earlier date, the Food Controller
being appointed for the purpose of economising
and maintaining the food supply of the country.

Lord Devonport appointed Sir Henry Rew,
then an assistant secretary in the Board of Agri-
culture, first secretary of the new Ministry, Mr.
Beveridge of the Board of Trade second secre-
tary, and Captain Tallents an assistant secretary.
Sir Henry had been closely connected with the
various committees which had hitherto dealt with
our food supply, while Mr. Beveridge and Captain
Tallents had also in the Board of Trade played an
important part in matters connected with Food
Control.

While speaking of the men who were connected
from the first with our War-time housekeeping
it may be of interest to give a short sketch of the
occurrences which led to the formation of the
Ministry of Food.

During the first weeks of the War there was
something approaching to panic with regard to
food ; people bought wildly, and a consequent
sharp rise in prices was the result. The Govern-
ment promptly set up a Cabinet Committee on



6 A YEAR IN PUBLIC LIFE

Food Supplies ; returns of stocks of all foodstuffs
in the country were obtained and arrangements
made for a regular collection of information ; a
Royal Sugar Commission was established, and at
the same time export of food except by licence
was prohibited, while the Board of Agriculture
at once appointed a Consultative Committee to
assist in stimulating production.

In the autumn of 1914 the immediate position
as regards wheat supplies was more or less satis-
factory, but the outlook for the future was not re-
assuring, and became less so when the Dardanelles
was closed. True, there was wheat in plenty in
the United States and Canada, but had our
Government joined openly in the competition for
this supply prices would have soared to most un-
desirable heights. To deal with a difficult situation
a secret Committee was set up in November, 1914,
and during the next few months purchases were
made, stored, and distributed through the usual
trade channels. In the spring of 1915 a Committee
was formed to deal with Indian wheat, and large
quantities were shipped to this country between
then and August, 1915.

Although the Government had had, of course, at
once to buy food of all kinds for the Army and
Navy, they at first dealt only in sugar and wheat
for civilian requirements. But during the winter
of 1914-15 France and Italy bought largely of



EARLY DAYS IN THE FOOD MINISTRY 7

wheat, and this competition naturally proved as
prejudicial to the interests of those two nations
as to our own, and this resulted in an agreement
that the purchases of France, Italy, and Britain
should be made through one agent. An allied
purchasing Committee came into being on January
5th, 1916, comprising representatives of the three
countries, and for nine months they met daily to
conduct business.

It was, however, one matter to buy food from
overseas countries and another to bring it to our
shores. Wheat might be bought in overseas
markets, and there it would remain unless ships
could be obtained to convey it to its destination.
It was not then considered advisable to requisition
tonnage and it had therefore to be secured in the
open market. At this time the loss of shipping by
enemy attack was comparatively small, but cumu-
lative, and as not only Allied but neutral shipping
became involved the reduction of tonnage became
extremely serious.

Late in 1915 a Ship Requisitioning Committee
was formed, and this body, together with the Ship
Licensing Committee, dealt with the tonnage
problem.

From then onward the question of the food
supply of these islands became more and more
complicated and anxious. On October llth, 1916,
the Royal Commissioner on Wheat Supplies was



8 A YEAR IN PUBLIC LIFE

appointed, and owing to the arrangements then
made, all speculation in wheat was brought to an
end.

The first article of food the price of which was
controlled was milk, and for this fixing of price the
Board of Trade was responsible.

On the 17th of October a debate in the House of
Commons on Profiteering took place, and it was
then that a report furnished by the Board of Trade
was discussed and Mr. Winston Churchill, Sir
Edward Carson, Mr. Runciman, and Captain
Bat hurst, now Lord Bledisloe, spoke on the subject
of Food Control. As I have already said, a Bill
had been prepared, but the Government would not
run the risk of attempting to pass it. During this
autumn the Asquith Coalition Government went
out and the Lloyd George Government came in ;
it was the Asquith Government which decided to
create a Ministry of Food and the Lloyd George
Government which actually did appoint a Food
Controller.

It was, however, neither shortage of food nor
the submarine menace which caused the Govern-
ment to appoint a Controller, for it was not until
the beginning of February, 1917, that those
responsible for the country's welfare realised how
serious was the submarine peril, and up to the time
of Lord Devonport's coming there certainly was
little or no distress, except, indeed, among the



EARLY DAYS IN THE FOOD MINISTRY 9

professional classes and those living on very small
fixed incomes. In other classes there was evidence
of unusual prosperity. The cause of the bitter
feeling which existed was the widespread belief in
" profiteering."

For the first two years of the War private enter-
prise was responsible for supplying us with food,
and the trader no doubt considered that the man
who took the risk and would have to bear the loss
of failure was legitimately entitled to a substantial
profit if the venture proved a success.

It is argued in some quarters that the trader took
no risk, that prices of all foods were bound to rise,
but records show that prices did fluctuate, and the
corn merchants certainly would have suffered had
the Dardanelles campaign proved successful and
Russian and Roumanian stocks been released. As
it was, the news of the first Dardanelles attack
caused a break in the market. Still the profits
made in many cases undoubtedly were extreme,
and the feeling grew that it was horrible that large
profits should be made out of the miseries of man-
kind, though, indeed, when one comes to think of
it, even in times of peace such a state of affairs was
nothing new. The publication of certain balance-
sheets showing the gains made by dealers in food
were commented upon by the Press ; the public
voiced its disapproval, until at last, as is so often
the case, the people governed the Government



10 A YEAR IN PUBLIC LIFE

and the machine by which Food supply and Food
prices were to be controlled was created.

Lord Devonport, who before his elevation to the
baronetage and then to the peerage was Mr.
Hudson Ewbanke Kearley, was at the time when
he became Food Controller, Chairman of the Port
of London Authority, which position he still holds.
He is a man of fine physique, virile, determined,
of emphatic and decided manner. As he talks he
emphasises his words with expressive action. I
remember being greatly impressed on one occasion
when I had a long interview with him by the extra-
ordinarily clear way in which he put a very com-
plicated subject before me, scarcely ever pausing
for a word or correcting a statement.

At first Lord Devonport was lodged in Gwydyr
House, Whitehall, but he moved on December 28th,
1916, into Grosvenor House, the town residence of
the Duke of Westminster (which was formerly
called Gloucester House, and inhabited by the
Duke of Gloucester, younger brother of George III,
for whom it was originally built). Approaching it
from Park Lane one passes on the right the corner
house so long tenanted by the great Disraeli, and
enters the courtyard of Grosvenor House, which is
screened from the street by quite an imposing
colonnade. The rooms on the south side look out
over a garden, and on the right across the Park.

Before its conversion into a Ministry Grosvenor



EARLY DAYS IN THE FOOD MINISTRY 11

House contained a very valuable collection of
pictures and of furniture, the gallery boasting
specimens of nearly all the great masters, ancient
and modern, including Gainsborough's famous
" Blue Boy."

Lord Devonport was lodged in a charming oak-
panelled room on the first floor, overlooking the
garden. This room opened into the library,
which was used as a conference room, though
singularly ill-adapted for this purpose, as although
not very large it was almost impossible to hear
what anyone said in it. From the conference
room access was gained to the room inhabited by
Sir Henry Rew, while on the other side of Lord
Devonport 's room was a lobby in which his
messenger mounted guard, and into which opened
the apartment of his private secretaries, Mr. Paul
and Mr. Hughes Gibb.

Now let me explain how it was that about two
months after the appointment of Lord Devonport
I found myself an official of the Ministry of Food.

Why it should have been my fate to become a
writer of cookery books I do not know. I never
wanted to write one, and I never want to write
another. " Thank God," as some honest soul once
said, " I am greedy," but not greedier than many
other people. But even my earliest experiences
seem to be connected with food. At my first party,
meeting a hitherto unknown dainty, a chocolate



12 A YEAR IN PUBLIC LIFE

eclair, I bit it. In return it rudely spat custard at
me which dribbled all down the front of my party
frock. Oh, the shame ! the mortification ! Again,
the first time I was ever taken out to lunch I trotted
off full of excitement to find cold lamb and milk-
pudding. It wasn't my idea of a party at all,
and I wept, to the mystification of all present.

Later, I went to stay at Mr. Thomas Bright' s,
near Rochdale, and was honoured by an invitation
to dinner with the great John Bright, and, sad to
say, my chief recollection of that occasion is the
pudding. It consisted of ice-cream moulded and
coloured to represent peaches served on a bed of
leaves. Now I should like to be able to remember
more about John Bright and less about his pudding.

But to proceed.

Some eighteen months before the date of my
Food Ministry appointment I had become a
member of a society known as United Workers
(the Chairman of which was Sir Charles Stewart,
the Public Trustee). Sir Theodore Chambers, now
Controller of the National War Savings Committee,
was a United Worker, and it was through Sir
Theodore, whom I had known before, that I began
to speak for the United Workers, and later for the
National War Savings Committee.

By January, 1917, it had become evident that
great economy must be made by the nation in its
consumption of food, and the National War Savings



EARLY DAYS IN THE FOOD MINISTRY 18

speakers, who then and later carried on such valu-
able Food Economy propaganda, were instructed
to emphasise this point in their appeals. I invited
about forty people to come to my house one Sunday
afternoon to hear Lady Ferrers and Sir Theodore
speak on the subject. Amongst the audience were
Lady Gisborough, Lady Allen, and Mrs. Richard
Taylor, three ladies who promptly responded to
Lady Ferrers' invitation to hold Food Economy
meetings.

Many other private food meetings were held,
at which Lady Ferrers, Lady Nott-Bower, Sir
Theodore Chambers, myself and others spoke ;
but the first great public Food Economy meeting
(organised by the Women's Sub-Committee of the
Lord Mayor's Committee for War Savings, of which
I was a member) was held at the Adelphi Theatre.
Sir Charles Bathurst, Miss Chamberlain, Mrs.
Pember Reeves, Lady Tree, Lady Mond (who
generously paid the expenses of the meeting), and
myself were the speakers.

It was after this occasion that the Women's Sub-
Committee asked Lady Nott-Bower and myself to
see Lord Devonport on certain questions regarding
food. Lord Devonport was away ill, and Sir Charles
Bathurst received us. After we had talked for a few
minutes Sir Charles began to look pathetic ; details
about bones for stock, suet for puddings, and fat
for frying were matters with which he evidently



14 A^YEAR IN PUBLIC LIFE

ftlt himself scarcely fitted to deal, and he sum-
moned to his aid Mrs. Pember Reeves, who was
then working in the Ration Section of the Ministry.

In the midst of all these activities I received a
telephone message from my old friend Mr. Richard
Taylor, asking me to make an appointment to see
Mr. Prothero, with, I believe, some idea of my
working for the Board of Agriculture. But before
this was arranged I was summoned to Grosvenor
House to interview Sir Henry Rew, who asked if I
would accept the position which I afterwards filled
in partnership with Mrs. Pember Reeves.

Sir Henry Rew impressed me at that interview
as being a shy and nervous man, and as I, though
few people believe it, am a shy and nervous woman,
I really do not know which appeared to be the more
terrified of the other Sir Henry of me or I of him.
However, I soon recovered from my terror, for
Sir Henry was invariably kind, and although over-
worked always willing to give attention to our
suggestions, while the helpfulness of his secretary,
Mr. Stanley, I shall always remember with gratitude.

I do not recollect that any fixed duties were
assigned to me at this interview. It seemed that
public opinion was in favour of there being women
in the Ministry, so women there had to be, and
Sir Henry desired that I should begin my work as
quickly as possible. As far as I remember my
interview with him took place at the end of



EARLY DAYS IN THE FOOD MINISTRY 15

February, and as my publishers were most kind in
allowing me to break various contracts I was able
to take up my position at the Ministry on March 1st,
and was allotted as an office a ballroom in which
many famous pictures were formerly hung, though
when I took up my abode in " No. 3 on the Ground
Floor" the walls of this apartment were chastely
veiled in some grey mottled fabric, and its floor
covered by brown linoleum. Three telephones
stood upon the floor attached by long cords to the
grey walls, like so many little dogs on chains.
Tables, chairs there were none, and looking very
small and fragile amid so much space stood Mrs.
Pember Reeves, my co-director a slight, grey-
haired woman, with brilliant dark eyes, and, as I
was to discover, to my joy, the keenest sense of
humour.

I can see her now in her plain black dress with
its little white collar (which she called her uniform)
and the necklace of seed pearls which she always
wore, standing in the room of a departing assistant
secretary who much admired her qualities while
he shook her warmly by the hand and assured her
that he did hope " our wives will make each other's
acquaintance," and the twinkling glance she threw
at me.

Mrs. Reeves, of Scottish parentage, was born and
brought up in New Zealand, educated at Christ-
church, and married at the age of nineteen. It was



16 A YEAR IN PUBLIC LIFE

after the birth of her two elder children that, " feel-
ing so dreadfully ignorant," to use her own words,
she returned to college. It is, perhaps, because she
has known what it is to study hard in the intervals
of tending her children, helped only by a little
nursery maid of fourteen, and having the entire
care of the babies at night, that she feels such
sympathy with working mothers, and can smile
though still with sympathy (for Mrs. Reeves is one
of the most understanding of women) at the
mothers with nurses and under-nurses and govern-
esses who would keep the moneyless mother tied
day and night to her children, lest they might assist
to lessen the " maternal responsibility " of these
overworked drudges.

Mrs. Reeves was not able to remain at college
long enough to take her degree, as her husband's
duties took him to Wellington, and not until her
children could be left in the care of their grand-
mother did Magdalen Reeves pay her first visit to
England to make the acquaintance of her own and
her husband's relations, to return with added
experience to help her husband in his work as
Minister of Labour and of Education. Later, the
whole family came to live in London, Mr. Reeves
filling the position of High Commissioner for
New Zealand.

It was when Mrs. Reeves came to see the
conditions under which so many of our working



EARLY DAYS IN THE FOOD MINISTRY 17

people live that she began to work for the better-
ment of social conditions. Money was put at her
disposal in order that she should make an investiga-
tion into the causes of infant mortality, and it was
when engaged on this task that she obtained the
information which she made use of later in her
well-known book, Round about a 1 a week, a
chronicle not of slum life, but of the lives of many
sober, industrious, honest folk.

It was a happiness to me to work with Mrs.
Reeves, for though our lives had been lived under
very different conditions, our experiences have led
us to form to a considerable extent the same con-
clusions, and we worked in sympathy and close
understanding.

The other day a man was describing to me the
way in which Mr. Asquith and Mr. Lloyd George
worked. " Watch Asquith," he said, " reading a
report sentence by sentence with the closest atten-
tion, until by sheer force of reason he comes to his
decision. Then watch Lloyd George he just
smells out the meaning of a thing. He has the in-
tuition of a dog a woman." (" Thank you," said
I.) This description I think applies to some extent
to the way in which Mrs. Reeves and I did our
work : she, so to speak, painted miniatures while
I daubed posters, and as some people like minia-
tures and others prefer posters our partnership
thrived quite satisfactorily.



18 A YEAR IN PUBLIC LIFE

It is often supposed that women cannot work in
amity with other women, but this has never been
my experience. Twelve hard, difficult, and rather
nerve-racking months spent in the Ministry of Food
have left me, I am glad to say, the richer by several
close friends amongst them Mrs. Reeves and the
members of our staff.

But to go back to that cold morning in March
when on entering No. 8 I discovered my partner
awaiting me.

" Well, my dear," she remarked, looking round
our ballroom, " so here we are."

" We are," I agreed. " But there doesn't seem
to be very much else here, does there ? "


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