A discussion of the Geddes report took place in the House of Commons on a motion for the adjournment of the House on March 1. The chancellor of the Exchequer took the opportunity to announce the reductions in national expenditure which the government was prepared to make. The Geddes committee recommended in all a reduction of £86,000,000, but the government could only see their way to adopt the suggestions to the extent of £64,000,000. He pointed out that, whereas the opposition a few months ago were denouncing the government 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 £18,000,000 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% of their salaries, which would provide a sum of £2,000,000. Economies on education would therefore amount to £6,500,000 instead of the £18,000,000 suggested.
Turning to the Navy, the Geddes committee had recommended a reduction of £21,000,000, without regard to the savings effected as a result of the Washington conference, and the Admiralty had offered £20,000,000, including the savings effected as a result of that conference. The chancellor stated that the comparable figures could be put at £10,000,000 against £21,000,000. Out of the amount recommended by the committee only £14,000,000 was specified. If the specified reductions were compared with the reductions offered by the Admiralty, there was only a difference of £4,000,000. 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 £20,000,000, and the amount proposed by the War Office was £17,000,000. 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% 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 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 43%.
Coming to the Departments of Labour, Health, and War Pensions, he mentioned that the former department was reducing expenditure from £22,000,000 to £14,000,000 next year. The proposed amalgamation of health insurance and unemployment insurance was a matter for investigation. The cut of £2,100,000 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 ½d. 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 £495,000 as compared with the suggested £538,000. In conclusion, Sir Robert Horne dwelt on the way in which the country's financial system was proving its soundness and stability. Of all the countries in Europe Britain was in the best position to take advantage of any revival of trade that might occur. Its currency had been steadily rising in value, with the result that it had more power today to purchase all the food and raw material it required for its 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 the country should emerge from them with success.
Further outrages occurred in Ireland during March. On the 3rd 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. Anti-Treaty Irish Republican Army men invaded Limerick on March 5. On the 13th in Belfast, Unionists threw a bomb into a crowd of Nationalists, 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 by Unionists 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. Unionist bombings continued in Belfast, and the tension on the Ulster border became worse, with raids for arms and attacks made on the police by the Irish Republican Army until the situation on the border developed into a state of guerrilla warfare. Buildings were fired, farmers attacked, and special constables shot. 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 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 Winston Churchill stated that the government were considering placing a portion of the city of Belfast under martial law, a course greatly desired by its Roman Catholic population. He insisted that the real way to stabilize 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 of the Irish Free State and the government of Northern Ireland. Under this agreement peace was declared from that day. The two governments undertook to cooperate 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 reorganized 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. A 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 £500,000 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 strongly opposed 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 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. David 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 cooperate 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 Chamberlain. He had declined to take Chamberlain's answer, and had asked him formally to consult his colleagues in the cabinet and collect their views. Chamberlain said that he had consulted them, and that they had unanimously replied to 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 Churchill at Loughborough, and by H.A.L. Fisher on the education policy of the government. 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.
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 the 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 Edwin Montagu, the secretary of state for India. 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 Montagu without reference to his colleagues in the cabinet. Almost immediately following on the publication of this message came the announcement of Montagu's resignation. The resignation was announced by 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 her allies Britain 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, he said, destroyed the unity of policy which it was vital to preserve in foreign affairs, and gravely imperilled the success of the impending negotiations. The announcement of Montagu's resignation was greeted with an outburst of cheering in the House of Commons. Chamberlain was pressed to set apart a day for a general debate on the subject, but he deprecated such a discussion before the Paris conference took place.
Montagu defended his action in a speech at Cambridge on March 12. He said that he had been accused of outraging the doctrine of collective cabinet responsibility, but he never thought, and he still did not think, that the question of publication was a matter for discussion in the cabinet. The head of the government, he said, was a prime minister of great but eccentric genius. He had demanded the price, which it was in the power of every genius to demand, and that price had been the complete disappearance of cabinet responsibility; but he had now brought out this doctrine at a convenient moment and made Montagu the victim of his new creed. He asked what had happened to the doctrine of cabinet responsibility in the Admiralty memorandum on the Geddes report. Cabinet responsibility, he said, was a joke. The country had been governed by a dictator. The real cause of the commotion was the dislike of the Diehard Conservatives for Montagu himself. The prime minister had done for them what they could not do for themselves, and had presented them with Montagu's head on a charger. Montagu dealt with the particular circumstances in which he authorized the publication of the telegram of the government of India. He stated that the telegram had been circulated to the members of the cabinet along with the request for publication, and that at the last cabinet meeting he had informed Lord Curzon of the fact that he had authorized publication. If Lord Curzon had then objected, and had laid his objection before the cabinet, there would have been time for the authorization to be countermanded. Lord Curzon, Montagu added, "maintained silence in the cabinet, and contented himself that evening with writing to me one of those plaintive, hectoring, bullying, complaining letters which are so familiar to his colleagues and friends, which ended with a request not to discuss the matter in the cabinet, but in future not to allow publication of such documents without consultation with him."
Lord Curzon replied to Montagu in the House of Lords on March 14. He expressed the view that it was intolerable that he should have to go to the conference at Paris while a subordinate branch of the British government 6,000 miles away dictated to the British government what lines it ought to pursue in Thrace. Lord Curzon spoke of the surprise which he felt when he learned from Montagu's speech that he was deemed to have connived in some way at the injury which had been done to the public interest. Referring to the conversation in the cabinet with Montagu, he said that he was so dumbfounded at Montagu's avowal that he closed the conversation forthwith. He assured the House that had Montagu given the slightest hint that there was still time to cancel or postpone publication, or had he regarded such a suspension as possible, he would at once have brought the matter before the cabinet. Lord Curzon complained that he had received no reply to his letter, and that Montagu, instead of following the ordinary procedure of making his explanation in Parliament, had gone to his constituents and publicly referred to and travestied both his private conversation and private letter, vilifying a colleague whose advice he had not ceased to solicit and receive in unstinted measure in recent years.
Some difficulty was experienced in finding a successor to Montagu as secretary for India. The Unionist Party was so sharply divided in its support of the coalition that prominent Unionists hesitated to accept the post, and there was no question of its being held by anyone but a Unionist. The office was declined in turn by Lord Derby and the Duke of Devonshire, and ultimately accepted by Lord Peel, with Lord Winterton for under-secretary in succession to Lord Lytton.
Sir Laming Worthington-Evans, the secretary for war, referred on March 20 to the crisis in the coalition in a speech at Wandsworth. He hoped that the coalition would continue in existence, and that if the prime minister were forced by doctor's orders to retire or take a prolonged holiday, the Coalition Liberal members of the cabinet might still give their assistance under a different leader. He regarded Lloyd George as one of the greatest assets that the state possessed. There was no reason for Conservatives to throw over the Coalition Liberals when they agreed with them on main issues of policy. The government were still reducing expenditure, and by the time the next budget came they might look forward to some relief from taxation.
Churchill likewise pleaded strongly for continued cooperation between Liberals and Conservatives in a speech at Northampton on March 25. He said that it would be a great disaster to the country if the Conservative Party were broken up as the Liberal Party had been. We must preserve a strong national unity. He could not see why Liberals and Conservatives could not continue to work together as they had done during the last seven years. He had no patience with the doctrine that the Labour Party were to be calmly allowed to go about the country attacking 400 seats.
Lord Carson, on the other hand, speaking at Burton, made a strong attack on the coalition, saying that it was time to return to the party system. This speech called forth a rebuke from the Lord Chancellor in the House of Lords. He laid it down firmly that no judge had the slightest right to go on a platform in the country and make political speeches. Lord Carson expressed his dissent from this view. Speaking in the House of Lords on March 29, he denied that he had consciously or unconsciously broken any rule or any tradition of the House of Lords. The relation of judicial members to party politics raised many more questions than the alleged breach of conduct on his part. He did not object to inquiry nor to a change in the law, and he was willing to retire if he had done anything wrong. The Lord Chancellor then declared that the claim made by Lord Carson that the judges had the right to intervene whenever they chose in party politics in the House and on public platforms was a doctrine as novel as it was revolutionary. The result would be that, when a prime minister had to make an appointment as judge, he would have to consider the question of a man's political opinions and not his ability. Lord Dunedin expressed himself against judges taking part in politics, but Lord Finlay said it was not competent for the Lord Chancellor to lay down a rule, and he did not believe there was any convention such as had been suggested.
The Army estimates were dealt with in the House of Commons on March 15. Sir Laming Worthington-Evans, in presenting them, said that they would total £62,300,000 for the year, and represented a saving of £16,500,000, against the Geddes recommendation of £20,000,000. The net result would be that, exclusive of the Indian establishment, the Army would number 152,000 of all ranks, against 172,000 in 1914. In the latter year there was a reserve of 146,000 and a militia of 55,000. At present there was a reserve of 65,000 and no militia. He proposed to strengthen the reserve by the enlistment of key men and the restoration of the militia.
Both the minister for war and Sir Donald Maclean dwelt upon the improved situation in Europe as compared with 1914, but Sir Henry Wilson, formerly chief of the Imperial General Staff, expressed the view that the situation was not more hopeful but more threatening. Europe had now been broken into a number of small states, and the change had not lessened the military danger. In spite of the reduction of the German and Austrian armies, there were as many armed men in Europe now as there had been in 1913. The way to preserve peace was to have an Army sufficiently strong to prevent war. If the estimates placed before the House and the reductions in the fighting troops contemplated were carried out, Britain should have an Army not sufficiently strong either to prevent or win a war.
The debate was resumed on March 22, and the minister of war had to face considerable criticism regarding the reductions which he proposed to make in the strength of the Army. He announced that, on reconsideration of the estimates, he had found it possible to confine the infantry cut to twenty-two battalions. No regiments, except those associated with Southern Ireland, would be destroyed, but regiments of four battalions would be reduced to two. These, however, could expand again when the emergency arose. The North Irish regiments and the English county regiments would be preserved. Ulster would have four battalions instead of six. He said he thought also that he had found a plan to avoid the destruction of any cavalry regiments, thus bringing back the four cavalry regiments which had been disbanded in 1921, one squadron representing each regiment.
The Navy estimates were dealt with on March 16. They showed a contemplated reduction in expenditure of £15,348,000. The Geddes committee had suggested a further reduction on those estimates of £21,000,000. Leopold Stennett Amery, defending the Admiralty memorandum, vindicated the administration of the Board from a charge which was either one of gross incompetence or complete indifference to the national need for economy. The Geddes committee thought they had discovered an excess of 35,000 officers and men. That meant to say that more than a quarter of the whole Navy was not needed at all. The whole of this alleged excess, he said, was a statistical delusion. After quoting some of the economies effected, he said that the total administrative savings to be carried out in compliance with the Geddes report amounted to nearly £3,000,000. Further savings, due to the continued fall in prices and wages, amounted to £1,600,000. This was the utmost by which the estimates could be reduced before the Washington conference. The Washington economies were still contingent upon the ratification of the naval treaty by all the powers concerned, and might have to be reconsidered if the treaty miscarried. The Admiralty, however, had felt justified in reinterpreting the one-power standard on a definitely lower plane, and they had carried out a further scheme of drastic reduction, carrying economy to the utmost limit. They could not go further unless they were to abandon the one-power standard and drop to the rank of a second- or third-class naval power.
The question of the future of the Air Service was raised by Rear-Admiral Sir Reginald Hall on March 16, who moved a resolution calling the attention of the House of Commons to the serious position of the Admiralty in not being in control of their own Air Service, and asking that the Naval Air Services should be put under the command of the Board of Admiralty, for the full development of the efficiency of those services, for their better cooperation with the Navy, and for the most economical administration and expenditure. The present system, he contended, was not in the interests of efficiency.
Chamberlain then announced that the subject of cooperation and coordination of the services had been carefully investigated by the standing committee of the Committee of Imperial Defence. The following recommendations had been made:
Chamberlain said that the government had not yet found time to consider the recommendation of the Geddes committee for the creation of a Ministry of Defence. They had decided, however, to appoint a committee to examine carefully into the system of naval and air cooperation, and advise how to best secure that the Air Force should be enabled to render to the Navy, in connection with the Army, all the services that the country might require.
The Air estimates were considered on March 21. Captain Frederick Edward Guest, secretary of state for air, said that aircraft was powerful enough, if sufficient in quantity, to defend the British shores from invasion. He believed that in the next few years powerful aircraft would progressively expand the areas in which enemy ships could not move with impunity. As those controlled sea areas increased in size and number, so the remaining ocean areas in which fleet action could take place would become more and more restricted, thus bringing forward the possibility of further economies in ships of war. One bomb could sink the most powerful battleship in a few minutes. As to gunnery, whereas the range of a ship's gun was 20 miles, there was a range of 200 miles with the aeroplane bomb. He prophesied that in ten years' time the combat between the forces of the air and the sea would become entirely one-sided. It would also be possible to transport by aeroplane small forces of artillery and infantry for minor operations.
On March 29 Dr. T.J. Macnamara moved the second reading of the Unemployed Insurance Bill, the object of which was to continue the present benefit insurance, and the benefit given under the provisions of the Dependants Act of the preceding November up to June 1923; also to extend the borrowing powers of the minister of labour from £20,000,000 to £30,000,000. Dr. Macnamara contended that the bill was necessary to mitigate the present distress. He was hopeful that the slight improvement would continue, but he warned the country that industrial disputes would throw the country back into the gloom from which it was emerging. J.H. Thomas protested, on behalf of the Labour Party, against this method of dealing with unemployment. Austin Hopkinson, who moved the rejection of the bill, claimed that the government were adopting the policy of Labour of relieving suffering by borrowing. He declared that such a measure took money out of industry, and further increased unemployment. After a short discussion the debate was closured by 167 votes to 69, and the second reading was then agreed to.
The shipbuilding and engineering industries passed through a critical period during March. Workers in the shipyards and engineers in the shops both offered opposition to proposals from the Employers' Federation. As regards shipbuilding, the proposal was to withdraw, in two instalments, the bonus of 26s. 6d. a week. Conditions in the industry were so stagnant that shipbuilding firms were by no means certain that they could secure orders for new vessels even if the bonus was abolished, but the men strongly resented yielding up, one after another, the gains they had achieved in recent years. As regards the engineering industry, the question in dispute was chiefly concerned with the regulation of overtime. The employers insisted that they must have the initiative in deciding when overtime was necessary. The open difference between the two sides was not of essential importance, as there was already agreement on main principles, but the employers were determined to get free from any interference with managerial functions by representatives of the men.
On March 8 a conference was held between the Engineering and the National Employers' federations and the Amalgamated Engineering Union, but after a prolonged sitting it broke down, and the hopes of agreement were disappointed. Fresh conferences, however, were held on March 10, but they failed to produce any solution to the deadlock, and on the 11th a lockout began of members of the Amalgamated Engineering Union by firms belonging to the Engineering and National Employers' federations. The union had a total membership exceeding 400,000, but of this a substantial proportion were already idle owing to trade depression. The shipbuilding unions, however, continued their conferences with the engineering employers. Eventually the latter suggested that these unions should be allowed fourteen days to ballot their members on the endorsement or otherwise of the memorandum of agreement on the employers' managerial control, which the Amalgamated Engineering Union had rejected. The employers stated that after March 25 lockout notices would be given to the members of any unions which had not by that date accepted the proposal, and they declined to suspend the notices to the Amalgamated Engineering Union while the ballot of the other unions was being taken. After a long discussion the unions concerned decided to accept this offer of the employers.
On March 20 the matter was discussed in the House of Commons by the minister of labour, who urged all parties in the engineering dispute to get together again and see if they could not compose their differences. John Robert Clynes, who initiated the discussion of the lockout, criticized the government for not taking action. He complained that the minister of labour, whom he complimented on having been active, helpful, and impartial in bringing the parties together, had not had the courage to use the extraordinary means at his disposal. He asked for what purpose the Industrial Courts Act existed. Dr. Macnamara pointed out that he could not bring the machinery of the act into operation while there were ballots proceeding, and emphasized the fact that the court which could be set up could only make recommendations and not issue an award. Sir Allan Smith, the chairman of the Engineering Employers' Federation, declared that if those who were balloting agreed to say that in principle the employers still had the right to manage their factories, the employers would be more than pleased to sit down in conference, while the men were at work, in order to try to come to an agreement with them as to the manner in which the managerial functions were going to operate. He disclaimed any intention on the part of employers of attacking labour. There was no desire on their part to interfere with collective bargaining, but if they were attacked from the point of view of any communistic spirit, they were not going to tolerate it for one moment. Clynes and other Labour speakers accused the employers of seeking to take advantage of the weakness of the trade unions. J.C. Gould said that even if the lockout had not occurred, the engineering trades were faced with practically a total cessation of work within the next six or nine months, and gave illustrations of the enormous increase in the cost of material.
On the following day a deputation from the Joint Labour Council met Sir Allan Smith, desiring a more explicit statement on the question of the employers' rights of management than that which he had made in the House of Commons. At length a basis was found for the renewal of the negotiations between the engineering employers and their men. The agreement admitted the right of employers to manage their own works, and the right of the unions to exercise proper trade union functions. The agreement was scarcely reached, however, before it broke down on the question of the reinstatement of members of the Amalgamated Engineering Union who were locked out. The representatives of the union insisted that these men should be given an opportunity of returning to work as a first condition of the renewal of discussions on the main question at issue in the dispute, but the employers refused to accede to the request that the lockout notices should be withdrawn. The forty-seven unions outside the Amalgamated Engineering Union were thereupon faced with the position of a decisive adverse ballot against the employers' terms. The vote against acceptance was 164,759, and in favour of acceptance was 49,503, giving a majority of 115,256 against acceptance. On March 28 the employers decided to post lockout notices to the members of these forty-seven unions. The notices were due to take effect on April 6. At the end of March the numerous conferences which had endeavoured to find a settlement had all failed, and a complete deadlock existed in the engineering industry.