§ The amount which may be deducted from the pay of a soldier in respect of a bastard child under Sub-section (2) of Section one hundred and forty-five of the Army Act shall be increased, in the case of a non-commissioned officer who is not below the rank of sergeant, to sevenpence, and in the case of any other soldier to fourpence, and accordingly the words "in respect of a bastard child sevenpence" and "in respect of a bastard child four-pence" shall be substituted in that Subsection for the words "in respect of a bastard child sixpence" and "in respect of a bastard child threepence" respectively.
§ Mr. KING
I beg to move to add to the Clause the words, "This Section shall apply to orders made before as well as-after the passing of this Act."
In order to make the meaning of this Clause quite clear I desire to move my Amendment—if it is necessary. If a member of His Majesty's Forces is the father of an illegitimate child his money can be stopped, and the rate is now being increased from 6d. and 3d. a day to 7d. and 4d. for non-commissioned officers of the rank of sergeant and above, and below that rank respectively. We desire to make it clear that this change is retrospective as well as prospective.
§ The UNDER-SECRETARY of STATE for WAR (Colonel Seely)
My hon. Friend was good enough to send me notice of his Amendment, but I got it only this morning. I have made inquiry of our legal advisers 1285 as to whether this Clause will be what my hon. Friend calls "retrospective" as well as "prospective"—meaning, I assume, not that arrears should be made up on the new scale, but that from the passing of the Act the amounts of present orders should be increased. Our legal advisers are not quite clear—though I should have thought it was clear—that the Clause will be retrospective in its character. There remains the further question as to whether it can legally be made retrospective, as we intended. I should explain at once that the War Office and the hon. Member are entirely at one in this matter. If it is legal, and if there is any doubt as to the meaning of the Clause, I will undertake that an Amendment shall be put forward. I could not accept the precise form of words that the hon. Member suggests, but I can assure him that it is our intention that in future, not only to children born after the passing of the Act, but to children now being provided for, that this additional penny should be paid.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ (Amendment of 44 and 45 Vic, c. 58, s. 4).
§ "In Section four of the Army Act 1881, for the words 'shall on conviction by court-martial be liable to suffer death or such less punishment as in this Act mentioned ' there shall be substituted the words 'shall on conviction by court-martial be liable to be kept in penal servitude for life or any shorter period (not less than three years), or to such less punishment as in this Act mentioned.'"
§ I have a large number of Amendments on the Paper, and the speech I intend to make in support of them will not take up nearly so long as the reading of the Amendments themselves. The Amendments are in the form of new Clauses which would amend the Army Act in respect of the very severe punishments which are now set for offences in nearly all cases under the Act. Offences chargeable under the Act by courts-martial or otherwise are now punishable by such very severe penalties that they are quite out of touch with what I may call the better spirit of the age. They are a relic 1286 of the past, and one that it is time we dropped. There is no necessity to-day to have these really terribly severe penalties in any form on the Statute Book. The discipline of the Army is steadily increasing, and the loyalty of the troops was never higher. Moreover, we practically alone among the nations of the world have volunteer forces, and by that means are guarded against possible dangerous offences which may be even common in other armies. In view of the state, not only of public opinion, but of our Army in particular, I venture to say that offences under the Army Act might well be met by lighter penalties than at present. I do not intend to press this matter to a Division, but I seriously and earnestly suggest to the Under-Secretary for War that the time has arrived when for these various offences the penalties might be reduced. If the right hon. Gentleman will give me as sympathetic an answer as he gave me a few minutes ago I shall only be too ready to withdraw my Amendments.
§ Colonel SEELY
Perhaps I had better deal with all the Amendments of my hon. Friend at the same time, as he has done in his opening speech, in so far as I am in order in doing so. What my hon. Friend desires to do in this series of Amendments is to reduce the penalties for various offences by one degree in each case—to reduce penal servitude to imprisonment, and to reduce imprisonment from long to short periods. In so far as my hon. Friend desires to see that the Army is ruled not by severe penalties but by better methods, I am entirely at one with him, and so is every Member of the House upon both sides. The answer I have to give is this: It is quite true that many of these penalties appear to be extraordinary severe, but, in point of fact, the penalties imposed are never anything like so severe as those mentioned, nor have they been in the past, nor will they be in the future. Let me take one technical point which my hon. Friend Has overlooked. If he will look at the King's Regulations, paragraph 583, he will see there that instructions are given to courts-martial to deal with these various offences, and that whereas the sentence which might be imposed for such and such an offence is penal servitude for a long term of years he will find in this section of the King's Regulations the actual punishment recommended to be administered is reduced to so many days' detention. I do not propose to deal now with the specific points 1287 raised by my hon. Friend (Mr. Keir Hardie) in his Amendment, nor those raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Bow and Bromley (Mr. Lansbury). I think we had better now confine ourselves to the questions of the scale of punishments, and whether they should be slightly reduced or not. I do not think I can give the same kind of answer to my hon. Friend now that I did on the last Amendment. Then I met him completely; I cannot now meet his demand completely because, although no one in any part of the House wishes to see the Army governed by brutal penalties or to go back to the bad old days of the last century, when flogging and brutal penalties were the rule rather than the exception, at the same time I think the soldier is amply safeguarded now against such penalties by the practice that prevails. Not only is there this section of the King's Regulations, but there are in addition two further safeguards.
Supposing the court-martial does impose a very severe penalty which my hon. Friend would question, and which probably most Members of this House would think to be too severe, the sentence of the court-martial goes up to the Judge Advocate-General himself, a lawyer and not a soldier, and the Judge Advocate-General has power to reduce the sentence and even to advise the Secretary of State for War to remit the sentence altogether. There is this further safeguard, that in all cases where serious penalties are imposed the Judge Advocate-General sends all the papers to the Secretary of State for War and the Secretary of State, or as in my case, the Under-Secretary of State, who is responsible to this House, has to study these papers and the whole of the circumstances of the case and to decided upon them. In point of fact, during the past few years the number of serious penalties imposed have been very few. I said on the introduction of the Army Estimates, that there was a very satisfactory reduction in the number of crimes in the Army as shown by the figures, and nobody is more glad to see that than those who, like myself, have learned to admire and to love the soldier. In cases of what are called serious offences during the past few years, there have been hardly any at all. Cases of mutiny in the past few years there have been none at all, and therefore, one fact upon which the hon. Member lays great stress, namely, the death penalty in cases of mutiny, does not arise, because no such 1288 cases have occurred recently or are likely to occur.
§ Colonel SEELY
I thought my hon. Friend would say that. I do not agree that we should drop all these penalties. It is true that the British Army is not always on active service, but nevertheless the British Army is dispersed throughout the Globe, and although not technically on active service, yet in many parts of the world it is practically on active service all the time, and the danger to the whole community in cases of insubordination on the part of anybody in the Army is so great that it is necessary to have a code of laws to deal with it. I am not referring now to offences that may be dealt with by the ordinary law and are dealt with by the ordinary law. I am dealing with purely military offences.
§ Sir W. BYLES
Does my right hon. Friend say that all the judgments of courts-martial are reviewed by the Judge Advocate-General?
§ Colonel SEELY
Yes, and in many serious cases they come forward to the Secretary of State, and I do think that is a real safeguard. In view of all the considerations advanced I hope my hon. Friend will not press his Amendment. I can promise that so long as I have the honour of holding my present position every care will be exercised to see that no hardship is done, but I do not think the time has come in this country, nor in any country in the whole world, to abolish or reduce those penalties, which might be necessary in times of great trouble, although in reality these are not applicable to the Army at the present time.
§ Mr. J. WARD
I agree with a great deal of what the right hon. Gentleman has said, but I would like my hon. Friends to understand that we are now discussing and have a real opportunity of raising the whole of the questions that have been raised in this House with reference to the employment of the military in case of civil disturbances. We are now discussing the question of punishments to be inflicted upon the soldier for mutiny, and that being the case the whole question of the recent agitation and opposition to soldiers being used for the purpose of suppressing civil disorders can be discussed at the present moment. I thought probably the right hon. Gentleman would at 1289 least have held out some hope that whilst the death penalty is possibly the natural result of open mutiny on active service, and I cannot see for the life of me what other penalty you could impose upon a man who by wilful act or by insubordination not only risked his own life, but that of the whole of the people for whose service he was supposed to be employed. I do not complain of the severity of that punishment in the least degree, but I think the Solicitor-General will support me when I state that the Clause we are now discussing does not merely deal with mutiny on active service, but also with open mutiny in case a soldier refuses to fire upon the civil population. I believe it would, as a matter of fact, apply to mutiny of every possible description. I hope my hon. Friend will not be allowed to withdraw his Amendment until there has been an adequate discussion upon this subject. We are really discussing the whole question of what is the responsibility of the soldier not merely on active service against the enemies of the King outside the King's territories, but also the alleged enemies of the State within the territories of the King. While these severe penalties may be justifiable when a soldier is upon active service during war, there should be some indication that when soldiers are ordered to fire upon their own kith and kin within their own territory a breach of discipline of this description should not be visited with the death penalty as is the law at present. Those who advise soldiers to mutiny should understand what a terrible responsibility they are undertaking in advising a man to commit an offence for which he may lose his life.
§ The CHAIRMAN
The hon. Member is really going too far. The question before the Committee is an Amendment to Section 4 of the Army Act, 1881, which deals with the offence of soldiers on active service. It begins:—(1) On and after the commencement of this Act, where a soldier on active service is guilty of an aggravated offence," and so on.
§ Mr. JOHN WARD
May I draw your attention, Mr. Whitley, to the statement of the Under-Secretary for War and the Mover of this Amendment on this point? The Mover said he would withdraw the whole of his Amendments if he received a satisfactory answer, and the right hon. 1290 Gentleman, in his reply, said he would give a general answer. That being so, I understood the whole matter was under discussion.
§ The CHAIRMAN
It will not be convenient to discuss the whole question on one Amendment. It is true that the Mover of this Amendment took his first proposal as typical of the whole of them, and to that extent the discussion is permissible. The hon. Member was going into detail upon another question which really comes up on a subsequent Motion by the hon. Member for Merthyr Tydvil.
§ Mr. JOHN WARD
So long as we are not losing a most important opportunity I do not wish to carry this discussion any further. I. think the right hon. Gentleman might have given us some indication that while this Code should be applied to ordinary offences on active service there should at least be some mitigation in the case of soldiers breaking the rules of discipline during civil disturbances.
§ Colonel SEELY
We can discuss the points which have been raised much more conveniently on more than one of the Amendments standing in the names of hon. Members below the Gangway. On the general question of reduction I hive already replied.
§ Mr. RAWLINSON
I quite agree, out does Section 4 apply to cases where the military are called out in civil disturbances?
§ Mr. KING
I think the Under-Secretary might give some indication that he is willing to consider the whole subject, and that is what I pressed him to do. To urge as he has done, that the operation of courts-martial and the action of the Advocate-General mitigate these harsh penalties is not sufficient, and I think the right hon. Gentleman ought to give some undertaking that before next year he will consider this matter sympathetically.
§ Question put, and negatived.
§ (Amendment of 44 and 45 Vic, c. 58, s. 6.)
§ In Section six of the Army Act, 1881, for the words "shall, on conviction by court-martial, be liable, if an officer, to be 1291 cashiered or to suffer such less punishment as is in this Act mentioned, and if a soldier, to suffer imprisonment or such less punishment as is in this Act mentioned" there shall be substituted the words" shall, on conviction by court-martial, be liable to suffer imprisonment or such less punishment as is in this Act mentioned."
§ For certain offences the punishment is applicable equally to officers and men, but there are some offences set forth in the Act in regard to which there is a distinction drawn between the officers and the men. This question has often been raised in this House in former years, but I have never yet heard any satisfactory explanation as to why there should be this distinction between the officer and the common soldier. When I raised this question on the Motion for the Adjournment a short time ago, an hon. Member opposite denied my statement that there is a distinction drawn between the private soldier and the officer in regard to these punishments, and I understood at the time that the Under-Secretary for War agreed with the hon. Member who made that assertion. If that be the case, why this distinction between the two? I move this Amendment, first, in the hope of hearing an explanation why the wording is as it is; and, secondly, in the hope that between now and the appearance of this Bill next year the Clauses of which I am complaining will be amended, so that the officer and the soldier will stand on perfect equality in the eye of the law, both for punishment and for the method of carrying the punishment out.
§ Colonel SEELY
When I spoke the other night I was referring to another point, and not to this. I did not say there is no distinction between the officer and the soldier. Of course, there is, I fully admit, a difference, as I shall presently show. My hon. Friend proposes that the officer and soldier shall, in respect of certain offences, be exactly on the same footing, and I understand his view is that the officer at present is having the best time of the two. That, I presume, is his case: that the penalty in the case of the officer is less—
§ Colonel SEELY
That makes it very difficult to deal with the Amendment, 1292 because I had assumed my hon. Friend supposes that the officer was not suffering so great a penalty as the soldier. In any case, what my hon. Friend wishes to do is to put them on an absolute equality. Let us take one offence, and suppose anyone strikes a soldier when he is acting as sentry. That is one of the few cases under Section 6 referred to in this Amendment, which may arise equally well in times of peace. He proposes that the officer and soldier should both be liable to imprisonment, and he thinks that would put them on the same level. It would not do so at all. If he will turn to page 32 of the Act, he will see that an officer is cashiered when he is sentenced to penal servitude or imprisonment. If the Amendment were accepted, the officer, therefore, would be punished twice over; and, what is more, his consequential punishment, the cashiering, would be infinitely more terrible than the imprisonment itself. If a soldier strikes a sentry he is liable to various penalties; but, on referring to the King's Regulations, it will be seen that he will in fact get twenty-eight days' detention.
§ Mr. KEIR HARDIE
A soldier when sentenced to penal servitude or imprisonment may, in addition, be discharged with ignominy. Why is ignominy to attach to the soldier?
§ Colonel SEELY
That point arises under another Amendment. The officer must be cashiered, if he has been imprisoned, whereas the soldier may not, often is not, and would not in the case with which I am dealing be dismissed the Service. If he struck the sentry he would, of course, be sentenced to twenty-eight days, but he would then continue in the Service; but, supposing I accepted the Amendment, if "Captain Jones" struck the sentry he would not only be imprisoned, but he would be cashiered. What does cashiering mean to the officer? We must take the world as we find it. It may be there ought to be no distinctions, but there are as regards the consequences of their acts. The cashiering of an officer is a penalty so terrible that, were you to ask a thousand officers which they would prefer, to be imprisoned or to be cashiered, I know quite certainly the whole thousand would say, "Give me the imprisonment." There can be no doubt whatever of that. If the hon. Member doubts it, let him ask any officer he pleases whether cashiering is not the 1293 more severe penalty of the two. It involves, as the hon. Gentleman no doubt knows, dismissal from His Majesty's Army, losing all material right, such as pension and wearing of uniform, expulsion from every club and from the society of every decent man. He is a social outcast, and the only thing the poor man can do is to leave the country or, possibly, the world; and that is what does happen. If the hon. Member thinks cashiering is not so bad as imprisonment, he is quite in error. Every officer who saw this before him would jump at the opportunity of having imprisonment without cashiering instead of cashiering. If the hon. Member wishes to leave the Act as it is and make the officer liable to imprisonment, the answer is that would subject him in addition to be cashiered, and he would be punished twice over; and, if on the other hand, he says, "Oh, amend the Act and let him be imprisoned, but not cashiered, then I say that would be unwise, because the deterrent imposed upon officers in the Army would be so greatly reduced. I have every desire to see fair play between officers and men, and indeed it is most desirable, on active service; but the Amendment would not achieve the hon. Member's desire, and I do not think we can, therefore, accept it.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
The hon. Member is so obsessed with the idea that everybody must be on exactly the same footing that he has brought down an Amendment which is perfectly absurd and ludicrous. It will not carry out what he desires. Under the Act as it stands, an officer is dealt with much more severely than the private, because, although it is not a pleasant thing for the private to be dismissed the Service, yet he gets work, and probably in a few years it is forgotten he was ever in the Army, or at any rate the reason he left is forgotten. It is entirely different with the officer. To be cashiered means disgrace and ruin for life for him.
The hon. Gentleman is under the impression apparently that the officer is being better treated, and he comes down and moves an Amendment which would give to the officer what would be far and away preferential treatment. That is, as I understand it, exactly what the hon. Member does not want to do. Really, he must see that there is a difference between the officer and the private soldier in this matter. He thinks they are exactly the same in every way, but there 1294 is a great difference. The private soldier is a very deserving man who has done great service to the country; no one has greater respect or admiration for the private soldier than I have, but it is not the same thing for him to be dismissed the Service as it is for an officer to be dismissed the Service. In the case of the officer, his whole career is blighted. He has gone into the Army in order to make a career, whereas the private soldier goes into the Army to learn habits of discipline, which in my opinion are very good for him, and then he drifts away, but the officer does not drift away. The hon. Member suggests that in the case of breach of discipline the officer is to be relieved of the punishment of dismissal, and I can only conclude that he does not really understand the Army or the Army (Annual) Act. He has carried his love for equality so far that in this case it has led him astray, because if the Amendment were carried what would really happen would be that the officer would be put into a preferential position as compared with the private soldier. I have not had the good fortune to have served in His Majesty's Army, but I have a good many friends and relatives who have served in it, and there are many of my Friends around me who have also served in it, and I venture to say that not a single one of them would agree that this Clause ought to be altered. As it is, it is a good Clause, as good as can possibly be conceived for the object for which it was put into the Act, both for officers and men, and I am glad the right hon. Gentleman the Undersecretary for War has taken up the position which he stated in his speech. If the hon. Member for Merthyr Tydvil would accept my advice—I am afraid he will not, but it is given in a kindly and friendly spirit—he would avoid interfering with the Army, of which he knows nothing and understands nothing.
§ Mr. J. WARD
There was one reference made by the right hon. Gentleman the Under-Secretary for War, and also by the right hon. Baronet (Sir Frederick Ban-bury). I think both of them made too much of the position of the officer who was cashiered as compared with the position of the man who was dismissed. I quite agree that for the officer it means social ostracism, which the officer thinks is of great importance and naturally so, but both the right hon. Gentleman seemed to think that there was no ostracism attached to the 1295 private soldier when he was dismissed in disgrace. That is a most absurd and unheard-of suggestion. Everyone knows that, as a matter of fact, it is a most difficult position for the private soldier.
§ Colonel SEELY
I would not like the hon. Member or the Committee to think that I made any such suggestion as that there was no disgrace attaching to the private soldier in this matter of dismissal. But that is not the point we are dealing with. What we are comparing is the cashiering of the officer and the imprisonment of the man and not the dismissal of the man, which will come up on another Amendment. We are not discussing the dismissal of the man on this Amendment; we are comparing the cashiering of the officer and the imprisonment of the man.
§ Mr. J. WARD
I would venture to suggest that the two things are upon a par, the question of dismissal, which is practically cashiering, in the case of the man, and the cashiering in the case of the officer. What I rose to point out was that there was a great deal of odium attached to both punishments, and that in the case of the man it is real punishment; it is not as has been suggested, merely like the passing of a resolution in the case of the man and something terrible in the case of the officer. It is a thing which follows a man for the rest of his life, or, at any rate, for so long as he remains in this country.
§ Mr. LANSBURY
I did not quite understand the right hon. Baronet's statement, but I may tell him that I have known of a gentleman who had been a British officer and had been cashiered having a good time in the Colonies with money which his outraged friends had provided him with in order to make a new start, but the private soldier never gets any such chance. I am going to vote for this Amendment because I want the officer and the private soldier to be treated precisely the same for the same offence. Whether it is to the advantage of the present officers or not does not concern me. I want to give every man who commits an offence in the British Army, whether he is general or private, exactly the same discipline and the same punishment. It does not affect me in the least that the officer would rather have imprisonment than be cashiered. I should be very sorry to give him the chance. Those who commit this kind of thing—we all know the kind of people they are—do not bother 1296 very much about those social distinctions, but they would bother about a couple of years' penal servitude; they certainly would not like it. Hon. Gentlemen opposite may not agree with me, but this is a matter of opinion, and that is my opinion, and no hon. Gentleman on that side can say with certainty any more than I can what such men would like. I hold to my opinion, and what we stand for is absolute equality of treatment. Another thing I would like to see in connection with this is the taking away of the mere cashiering of an officer and giving him some real punishment. Despite what the Under-Secretary for War says, I do not consider it is a real punishment, because it means letting his friends provide for him in another and perhaps easier way. I would prefer if you give imprisonment to the private soldier you should give it also to the officer, and I repeat that it is not a question of wanting to do what the officer wants or does not want; it is simply a question of having the same discipline for the officer and for the private soldier throughout the Army.
The hon. Member for Bow and Bromley (Mr. Lansbury) has told us that he wants the same discipline for officers and men throughout the Army, and that the officer ought to have imprisonment when the man got it.
§ Mr. LANSBURY
No, I did not say anything of the sort. What I said was that whatever punishment was meted out to one for a particular offence should be meted out to the other. If I had my own way I should wipe all those things out.
I apologise to the hon. Member, and I quite understand now that what he means is that if a private soldier is to be imprisoned for any offence the officer should be imprisoned also. I think he missed a very important point in that particular matter. Supposing an officer got six months' imprisonment and was not cashiered, he would come back having served a term of imprisonment and would still be an officer in His Majesty's Army. I think that would be intolerable, and I do not think that the hon. Member for Bow and Bromley would desire to see that take place. Then, take it this way: If an officer is convicted by the civil power and suffers imprisonment, he is ipso facto cashiered, and, if the hon. Member had his way, the officer would be punished twice and far more severely than the private soldier.
§ 4.0 P.M.
§ Sir FREDERICK BANBURY
The hon. Member for Merthyr Tydvil insists upon equality and thinks everything would be right if he had it; but let me point out what would happen. Suppose the Amendment were carried, and an officer had done something under the Act and a private soldier had also done the same thing, the private soldier would get three months' imprisonment, and, according to the hon. Member, the officer should be given the same penalty, instead of which he is cashiered, but the hon. Member for Bow and Bromley says, "Oh, that is not a serious penalty," because he saw a man in the Colonies who had been cashiered, and who was much better off he thinks than he would be if he had remained in the Army, and was having a pleasant life with money provided for him by friends in England. I do not doubt the hon. Member's accuracy, but I suggest that that was probably an exceptional case, and I think if the hon. Member could have seen inside that man's heart he would have found that he would much rather have remained in the Army than be ostracised and have to go abroad, even if he did receive certain pecuniary assistance in the Colonies from his friends in England. Supposing the Amendment were carried, and the illustration I have given were to take place, what would happen to the soldier at the end of three months' imprisonment? He would go back to his regiment. He would not, perhaps, be so well received by his companions, but, after a certain time of good conduct, would be forgiven. How would an officer be treated after having had three months' imprisonment? He would not be received by his fellow officers, or by his equals in life. He could not remain in the Army after having done three months' imprisonment; he would be obliged to retire. Therefore, leaving out of account the Regulation which my hon. and gallant Friend (Major Stanley) has read, which provides that an officer cannot be imprisoned if he has once been cashiered, the effect of this Clause would be that he would be imprisoned, and would by necessity have to leave the Army afterwards. I think the hon. Member (Mr. Lansbury), after a little more consideration, will see that perhaps for the first time in his life he has made a mistake, and he had better not vote for the Clause—not that I believe for one moment that the hon. Member for Merthyr (Mr. Keir Hardie) will go to a Division.
§ Mr. O'GRADY
I think we are arguing this case from two standpoints, and therefore we shall never see eye-to-eye upon it. The hon. Baronet opposite (Sir F Ban-bury) argues from the point of view of the men who take up the Army as a profession, but who are well enough off so far as the affairs of this life are concerned. He thinks little or nothing of the young soldier who has suffered imprisonment. That man cannot get out of the Army unless he commits some other offence, and for the rest of his period of service his life is a veritable purgatory. Anybody who knows anything about these matters knows that when a man is dismissed with ignominy it is almost impossible for that man to get employment from employers.
§ The CHAIRMAN
The question of discharge with ignominy comes on with the very next Amendment, and I think it had better not be raised upon this Amendment—any way, on the point as to an officer not being cashiered, but being imprisoned instead.
§ Mr. O'GRADY
I quite agree that to cashier an officer is a very strong punishment, but it is not quite the class of punishment as is made out by the hon. Baronet opposite (Sir F. Banbury). Everyone knows that, although it moans ostracism from public life in England, in the Colonies that kind of treatment does not count for much. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh, oh!"] After all, brains count there—and must do. There are many stories of young officers who have been subjected to that kind of treatment, and who have gone to the Colonies and made names or made positions for themselves there. I agree with the hon. Member for Bow and Bromley (Mr. Lansbury) that there ought to be equality in this treatment. I do not think there is equality. Let the result be what it may to the private or to the officer, there should be equality before the law in this matter.
Mr. MacCALLUM SCOTT
I do not profess to speak as an expert on this question. The hon. Baronet opposite (Sir F. Banbury) is very severe upon those who are not experts, and who have not the same full knowledge of military questions as he has himself. I presume he speaks as an expert, because he has told us so.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
On the contrary, I was careful to say that I never had the honour of holding His Majesty's commission.
Mr. MacCALLUM SCOTT
But the hon. Baronet told us what were his qualifications. He said he was entitled to speak as an expert, because he had relatives in the Army. When he puts forward that qualification to speak upon the subject, he ought to go a little more into detail; he ought to tell us exactly what position these relatives occupy, because it is manifest that if they are subalterns, or majors, or generals, their qualifications will differ, and the expert knowledge of the hon. Baronet will differ in degree with the positions held by his relatives in the Army. He made another omission. He did not tell us whether they were privates or whether they held commissions. If they are privates, of course he is entitled to speak with expert knowledge about the position of a private; but if they hold commissions, then he is entitled to speak only with regard to laws as they affect officers. Therefore I have failed to get any instruction from the hon. Baronet's remarks. I feel that, so far as he indulged in comparisons, he was only entitled to take his stand upon the position of the officers or of the privates, according to whichever position his relatives hold.
§ Mr. KEIR HARDIE
I shall ask leave to withdraw the proposed Clause.
Before doing so, may I say that I leave the Under-Secretary and the hon. Baronet opposite (Sir F. Banbury) to compose their differences in regard to the feeling of officers about this Amendment. The Under-Secretary assured us that 999 out of every 1,000 officers would vote for this Amendment, but the hon. Baronet said the direct opposite. The short discussion we have had justifies the bringing forward of the Amendment. It has revealed an amount of class feeling; it has given us an insight into the kind of social boycott that obtains in what is called society, which when preached by the working classes become dangerously akin to sedition. I maintain that the common soldier has as high a code of honour as any officer in the Army, and that being dismissed is as much a social disgrace to him as it is to the officer.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ (Amendment of 44 and 40 Vie., c. 58, s. 44.)
§ The words "Discharge with ignominy from His Majesty's Service," in Section 1300 forty-four of the Army Act, 1881, shall be left out, and the words "Dismissal from His Majesty's Service" shall be substituted.
§ In moving this new Clause, I should like to draw attention to the Army Act, 1881. I should say without hesitation that if all the recruits about to enlist read the Regulations, it is a serious question whether you would have many recruits join at all. I desire to draw attention to Section 44 under the heading "Punishments," Paragraph (E). It says in conection with officers, "Dismissal from His Majesty's Service." Paragraph (L) in connection with the private soldier, says: "Discharge with ignominy from His Majesty's Service." I understand from what has already been stated by the Under-Secretary that he is almost inclined to accept this Amendment, in order to place the officer and the soldier upon the same footing. If that is so there is nothing more to be said on the matter. I think it is generally understood that the soldier has many more causes to break the Regulations than the officer. I have heard in conversations with the soldiers that some of the officers are most tyrannical, and punish for the least offence, such as looking to the back or front, or to the right or left. It would only be fair to put the soldier on the same footing as his officer.
§ Colonel SEELY
The Amendment of my hon. Friend is in the same words as that of the hon. Member for Bradford (Mr. Jowett). They both aim at eliminating the words "Discharged with ignominy," from Section 44 of the Army Act. I am not quite clear whether they wish to eliminate these words because they think there is a difference here, as in the previous Amendment, between the officer and the soldier, as the last words of my hon. Friend seem to imply. If he thinks there is a difference between the officer and soldier because the fifth penalty in the case of an officer is dismissal from the Service, whereas the fifth penalty in the case of a soldier is discharge with ignominy from His Majesty's Service, I say at once that if that were the case I would, of course, with the full approval of the Army Council, and of everyone in this Committee, take steps to remedy what would be an obvious injustice. But I can assure my hon. Friend that is not in the least the case. The lists given in the Act are not corresponding lists. It is not the case, for instance, supposing an officer commits 1301 a crime, such as crime (A), and is dismissed, that the soldier committing crime (A) is discharged with ignominy. This is a list of the things which may be done to an officer and the things which may be There is no relation them in the way in I am glad to make because I remember, when I read this same Army Act when I first became a Member of the House, I took the same point that my hon. Friend now takes, and thought it a great injustice. But it is not so. There is no difference between the officer and the soldier in the matter, because the officer can be dismissed with ignominy just as much as if the phrase is "cashiered," or "dismissed, His Majesty having no further requirement for his services," or "dismissal by court-martial" All three amount to dismissal with ignominy. He can be dismissed more easily than the man with ignominy, and we can undoubtedly say that the officer stands in greater peril than the man does. The soldier can frequently get off with a small imprisonment where the officer is dismissed.
§ Colonel SEELY
If the point is not that the officer gets off lighter than the man, then comes the question whether the soldier ought to be subject to be "discharged with ignominy "while the officer is only to be "dismissed from His Majesty's Service." The answer is again what I have been trying to explain. "Discharged with ignominy" corresponds with cashiering.
§ Colonel SEELY
No. I see my hon. Friend has fallen into the trap which I fell into eight years ago. He thinks it is for the same offence for which an officer is dismissed from His Majesty's Service that a man is discharged with ignominy. It is not so.
§ Colonel SEELY
It does say so. If you assume that A refers to one set of crimes and H to another, and "B, penal servitude," refers to one set of crimes and "J, penal servitude," to another, it would be so; but a cursory glance at the 1302 Act shows that it is not so. You can very easily see that by beginning at the other end—"G, reprimand or severe reprimand" for an officer, and "forfeiture, fines, and stoppages" for the soldier. They are quite different offences, as must be apparent.
§ Colonel SEELY
Of course, reprimand" or "severe reprimand" is much more severe than "forfeiture" or "fine." Obviously one will carry future consequences of a severe nature and the other not. But if we are to consider, as we must, only whether there should be retained this phrase, "with ignominy," I say, in the interests of the soldier, it is very desirable that some such phrase should be retained. Soldiers can be discharged for a great many causes. If you do not retain some phrase like this for these very rare cases—there have only been single figures in the last few months —there is a very real risk, and all those whom I have consulted and who know the soldier best, agree on this point that all men who are discharged for any fault, however trifling, may be tarred with the brush of the "discharged with ignominy" Clause. Again, I ask my hon. Friend to look at the Regulations, paragraph 390, which contains a long list of circumstances under which soldiers can be discharged. There are only a few very grave cases where this penalty of discharged with ignominy applies. If you strike it out, as is proposed by the Amendment, I believe the soldiers will not thank you. Of course, a soldier who is about to be discharged with ignominy will be very much obliged, but how many are there? Probably one or two. But how many are going to be discharged from other causes? Hundreds. Therefore, in the interest of the soldier, I cannot accept the Amendment, though I honestly believe it would have exactly the opposite effect to that suggested by the Mover. If he says the soldier ought never to be discharged with ignominy, we are at issue. Even as the officer ought to be cashiered for real crimes, so ought the soldier to be discharged with ignominy if he commits a grave offence of the nature described in the Act. But, fortunately, we are discussing things of little practical interest. The number of officers cashiered, and still more the number of men discharged with ignominy, is so small that it does no 1303 seriously merit the attention of the Committee except as a technical point. Therefore I beg my hon. Friend not to press the Amendment, for it is one we could not possibly accept.
§ Mr. KEIR HARDIE
The right hon. Gentleman has made his reply rather in the spirit of the pettifogging lawyer than of the straightforward soldier. We are not arguing as to whether the officer or the private should receive the greater punishment.
§ Mr. KEIR HARDIE
We are told that cashiering is in some cases equivalent to discharge with ignominy. Why, if that is so, do not the words "with ignominy" follow "cashiering" in Paragraph (B) of the first part of the Clause?
§ Mr. KEIR HARDIE
That is our contention. We want it made perfectly clear in the wording of the Act that there is no special treatment being meted out to the officer as compared with the soldier. We do not say that that is the case, but simply that the common private is to be discharged with ignominy, whereas the officer is to be cashiered without any reference to ignominy at all.
§ Mr. KEIR HARDIE
Of a certain kind. Can the soldier be dismissed without ignominy? [HON. MEMBERS: "Yes."] How can he? Does not ignominy attach to dismissal? Is not one case the same as the other? [HON. MEMBERS: "NO."] Why not? If the officer has been discharged in consequence of some breach of this Act, ignominy attaches to it. If a soldier is dismissed for disobedience or anything else, the same ignominy attaches to the fact of his being dismissed. What we are contending for is that the wording of this Act shall be equal in regard to both officers and privates. We do not say whether the punishment is unequal or not—that is no part of our contention— but the language here is such as to attribute special ignominy to the private for certain offences which does not apply to the officer. If I understand the right hon. 1304 Gentleman to say he had no objection to the words "with ignominy" appearing after "cashiering" as applied to officers, that, of course, meets our point equally well, but whatever form of words applies to privates must apply to officers if you want to preserve that appearance of fair play for both, which I honestly believe it is the object of the right hon. Gentleman to secure.
§ Colonel SEELY
Of course, as I said, there could be no harm in having the words "with ignominy" after "cashiering," but every officer in the Army would laugh at the phrase, because the word "cashier," I can honestly say, is dreaded by every officer, because it is such a terrible disgrace, carrying with it such terrible consequences. If the sole object of the Amendment is to show that there is no distinction between the officer and the man, and that it is only when they commit disgraceful crimes that they are ignominiously turned out, whatever the phrase used, I think we have had a very useful Debate, because I can assure the Committee that that is so. Whether it is an officer or a man, it is only when he commits. absolutely disgraceful conduct that he is ignominiously turned out. It has been the custom, for I do not know how many years past, to describe a gazetted officer as "cashiered," which has to my mind a more terrible sound than the words "discharged with ignominy." I think we are only arguing about words.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
Could the right hon. Gentleman say what meaning is given in the dictionary to the word "cashier"? I have not a dictionary here, unfortunately, but my belief is that the meaning would coincide with what the right hon. Gentleman says and with what the hon. Member (Mr. Keir Hardie) desires. The right hon. Gentleman thinks it stronger than "discharged with ignominy," and I think so too. Might I suggest that the hon. Member should look at a dictionary and see what the meaning attached to the word is, and if he finds it is not strong enough he can bring the Amendment forward again next year, and meantime withdraw it.
§ Question put, "That the Clause be read a second time."
§ The Committee divided: Ayes, 13; Noes, 152.1305
|Division No. 67.]||AYES.||[4.25 p.m.|
|Bentham. G. J.||Parker, James (Halifax)||Ward, John (Stoke-upon-Trent)|
|Duncan, C. (Barrow-in-Furness)||Richardson, Thomas (Whitehaven)||Wardle, George J.|
|Glanville, Harold James||Smith, Albert (Lanes., Clitheroe)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—Mr.|
|Hardie, J. Keir||Snowden, Philip||Lansbury and Mr. W. Thome.|
|Macdonald, J. R. (Leicester)||Taylor, John W. (Durham)|
|Abraham, William (Dublin Harbour)||Goldsmith, Frank||Nuttall, Harry|
|Acland, Francis Dyke||Greenwood, Hamar (Sunderland)||O'Brien, Patrick (Kilkenny)|
|Agg-Gardner, James Tynte||Guest, Hon. Frederick E. (Dorset, E.)||O'Connor, John (Kildare, N.)|
|Alden, Percy||Hackett, John||O'Connor, T. P. (Liverpool)|
|Allen, Rt. Hon. Charles Peter (Stroud)||Hamersley, Alfred St. George||O'Doherty, Philip|
|Baker, Joseph Allen (Finsbury, E.)||Harcourt, Rt. Hon. L. (Rossendale)||Ogden, Fred|
|Balcarres, Lord||Harcourt, Robert V. (Montrose)||O'Malley, William|
|Banbury, Sir Frederick George||Harmsworth, Cecil (Luton, Beds)||Ormsby-Gore, Hon. William|
|Baring, Sir Godfrey (Barnstaple)||Havelock-Allan, Sir Henry||Pearson, Hon. Weetman H. M.|
|Bathurst, Charles (Wilts, Wilton)||Henderson, Major H. (Berkshire)||Pease, Herbert Pike (Darlington)|
|Beauchamp, Sir Edward||Henry, Sir Charles||Pease, Rt. Hon. Joseph A. (Rotherham)|
|Beck, Arthur Cecil||Herbert, Hon. A. (Somerset, S.)||Price, C. E. (Edinburgh, Central)|
|Benn, Arthur Shirley (Plymouth)||Hewins, William Herbert Samuel||Pringle, William M. R.|
|Benn, W. W. (T. Hmts, St. George)||Higham, John Sharp||Pryce-Jones, Col. E.|
|Bennett-Goldney, Francis||Hills, John Waller (Durham)||Radford, George Heynes|
|Black, Arthur W.||Hoare, Samuel John Gurney||Rawlinson, John Frederick Peel|
|Boland, John Pius||Hogge, James Myles||Rea, Rt. Hon. Russell (South Shields)|
|Brady, Patrick Joseph||Holmes, Daniel Turner||Reddy, Michael|
|Bull, Sir William James||Hope, John Deans (Maddington)||Redmond, John E. (Waterford)|
|Burke, E. Haviland-||Hughes, Spencer Leigh||Remnant, James Farquharson|
|Burt, Rt. Hon. Thomas||Isaacs, Rt. Hon. sir Rufus||Roberts, Charles H. (Lincoln)|
|Byles, Sir William Pollard||Jones, Edgar (Merthyr Tydvil)||Robertson, John M. (Tyneside)|
|Campion, W. R.||Jones, H. Haydn (Merioneth)||Runciman, Rt. Hon. Walter|
|Carlile, Sir Edward Hildred||Jones, William (Carnarvonshire)||Russell, Rt. Hon. Thomas W.|
|Carr-Gomm, H. W.||Joyce, Michael||Sanders, Robert Arthur|
|Cassel, Felix||Keilaway, Frederick George||Sandys, G J. (Somerset, Wells)|
|Chancellor, Henry George||Kennedy, Vincent Paul||Scanlan, Thomas|
|Chapple, Dr. William Allen||King, Joseph||Scott, A. MacCallum (Glas., Bridgeton)|
|Clough, William||Lambert, Richard (Wilts, Cricklade)||Seely, Rt. Hon. Col. J. E. B.|
|Collins, Godfrey P. (Greenock)||Lawson, Hon. H. (T. H'mts., Mile End)||Simon, Sir John Allsebrook|
|Collins, Stephen (Lambeth)||Lewis, John Herbert||Stanley, Hon. G. F. (Preston)|
|Compton-Rickett, Rt. Hon. Sir J.||Lewisham, Viscount||Strauss, Edward A. (Southwark, W.)|
|Cornwall, Sir Edwin A.||Lonsdale, Sir John Brownlee||Summers, James Woolley|
|Cotton, William Francis||Low, Sir Frederick (Norwich)||Sykes, Mark (Hull, Central)|
|Croft, Henry Page||Lyell, Charles Henry||Taylor, Theodore C. (Radcliffe)|
|Dalrymple, Viscount||Lynch, Arthur Alfred||Tennant, Harold John|
|Davies, Ellis William (Eifion)||Lyttelton, Hon. J. C. (Droitwich)||Thompson, Robert (Belfast, north)|
|Davies, Timothy (Lines., Louth)||Macnamara, Rt. Hon. Dr. T. J.||Thynne, Lord Alexander|
|De Forest, Baron||Macpherson, James Ian||Valentia, Viscount|
|Denniss, E. R. B.||MacVeagh, Jeremiah||Verney, Sir H.|
|Dewar, Sir J. A.||M'Callum, John M.||Wason, Rt. Hon. E. (Clackmannan)|
|Donelan, Captain A.||McKenna, Rt. Hon. Reginald||Wason, John Cathcart (Orkney)|
|Doris, William||M'Laren, Walter S. B. (Ches., Crewe)||Wedgwood, Josiah C.|
|Doughty, Sir George||McNeill, Ronald (Kent, St. Augustine's)||White, Major G. D. (Lanes., Southport)|
|Elibank, Rt. Hon. Master of||Malcolm, Ian||White, J. Dundas (Glasgow, Tradeston)|
|Esmonde, Dr. John (Tipperary, N.)||Masterman, C. F. G.||Wood, John (Stalybridge)|
|Eyres-Monsell, Bolton M.||Menzies, Sir Walter||Worthington-Evans, L.|
|Fell, Arthur||Montagu, Hon. E. S.||Younger, Sir George|
|Fiennes, Hon. Eustace Edward||Mooney, John J.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—Mr.|
|Flavin, Michael Joseph||Morton, Alpheus Cleophas|
|Gardner, Ernest||Murray, Captain Hon. Arthur C.||Gulland and Mr. G. Howard.|
|Gilmour, Captain J.||Newton, Harry Kottingham|
§ (Amendment of M and 43 Vie, c. 58, s. 80.)
§ (2) The general conditions of the contract to be entered into shall include an option as to whether the recruit is willing to take duty in aid of the civil power in connection with a trade dispute, and, unless this has been signed in the affirmative 1306 by the recruit, his refusal to undertake such duty during his period of service shall not constitute an offence under this Act or of any rules or regulations connected with service in the Army.
§ It is not a question of words this time. We have now reached a matter of real substance. The meaning of the Sub-section is clear, I hope, on the face of it. When recruiting sergeants are seeking to induce men to enlist the argument they put forward is that men enlist for the defence of King and country, and the wording of this Act 1307 we are now considering—the Army (Annual) Act—is that the Army is maintained for the safety of the United Kingdom and for the defence of the Dominions of the King overseas. I am quite certain that if young men of the working class who join the Army when they are sober, and when they are not starved into doing it, were to be told that part of their duty would be to be called out, not to suppress a riot, but for duty during a trade dispute, simply because it was a trade dispute, very few indeed would respond to the appeal to become soldiers. The difficulties of getting men to recruit are considerable as it is. I want to say quite frankly to the Committee that, so far as I am concerned, and I think I speak for my colleagues in this matter, we shall take care that it is made known to men of the working class when they enlist that part of their duty will be to fire upon their own colleagues and villagers during a trade dispute. The amount of confidence which is placed in the working class during these disputes is best seen, perhaps, by what has just been taking place in the coal fields with respect to numbers of young colliers belonging to the Territorial Force. These men, because there was a dispute going on, have had their rifles taken from them—so I am informed—and rendered useless, and the ammunition has been removed from the districts, or so securely guarded as to be inaccessible. These young men who join the Territorial Force do so honestly believing that they are thereby aiding in defending the homes of the country against foreign invasion, but the moment a big dispute breaks out the means of enabling them to defend the homes of the country are taken from them, and not only so, but they see their comrades of the Regular professional Army drafted into their districts for what they know to be the purpose, however it may be disguised, of aiding the employers to win the dispute.
§ It is said that the soldier is never called out to aid the civil power except in case of riot, or when life and property are in danger. But what about the railway strike in August last? The Government did not wait then until there was even threatened disturbance. Before the strike was declared the Army was mobilised as though for a state of war, and turned out all over the country. The use for which the Army was turned out is best illustrated by what happened at Llanelly in Wales, where a train was stopped. It was 1308 found by the officer in charge of the soldiers, after it had been stopped, that the blackleg engine-driver was drunk. There had been some little stone-throwing—so little that only one person was hit—and in the whole of the train that was standing, and which was supposed to be held up by rioters, only one pane of glass was broken. Because of that, the command was given to the soldiers to fire, and two men were shot dead who were not taking any part in the riot, or in such riot as was alleged to be taking place. They were not even strikers. They were standing in the gardens behind the houses where people live. That is a typical illustration of the uses to which the military can be put during times of trade disputes. There was no more justification for calling out the soldiers during the last railway dispute than there has been during the present miners' dispute.
§ Mr. RAWLINSON
Had not the train been held up some six or eight hours, and is it not the fact that the firing occurred some four hours afterwards—twelve hours-after the train was held up?
§ Mr. KEIR HARDIE
No; the train was-slopped, not by the crowd, but because someone had forgotten to open the gates of the level crossing. The officer in charge of the soldiers approached the engine-driver to get him to clear off and go on with the train. The officer's own statement at the inquest on the two men who were shot was that he believed the engine-driver was drunk.
§ Mr. KEIR HARDIE
At the inquest the officer said that he asked the driver to goon with the train, and that the driver mumbled something which he could not understand. In reply to a direct question put to him, the officer said he believed that the engine-driver was under the influence of drink. That statement made at the inquest was reported in the public Press. The train was not stopped by the mob. The driver could have gone on, but did not. Despite these facts, and despite the fact that the train was filled with passengers, none of whom was molested, the order to fire was given, with the result I have stated. I repeat, then, that there was no more justification for the presence of the military, and the calling out of the military during the railway strike than there was during the miners' strike which 1309 is just coining to a conclusion. Railway men are no more rioters than are colliers. The point, then, is this: A man wants to enlist in the Army, and does enlist, and he subsequently finds a strike, either on the railways or the mines, in his own district, then some little trumpery outbreak arises, very often as the result of a drunken frolic, whereupon the colliery owners, who are for the most part magistrates, request the military to be sent, and the military usually are sent. Warned by the lesson of what took place during the railway strike, the Government on this occasion refused the request that came from a number of mine owners, with the result that there has been no rioting. Had there been military sent, and had there been a strange force of police brought in as before, there probably would have been rioting. A young soldier enlists and finds that his former employer is able to memorialise the Government to send him down to help in shooting at his comrades and fellow workers, and, it may be, his own relatives. I venture to say that if when enlisting the lad had known that, he would not have been so ready to take the King's shilling. This new Clause proposes that when a man offers himself for enlistment he should be given the option of saying whether or not he is willing to be called out for duty in aid of the civil power during a trade dispute.
The Attorney - General admitted the other evening in this House, in reply to a query by myself, that the soldier has no more civic responsibility to aid in suppressing a riot than has the ordinary citizen. According to the law, every citizen is bound, if called upon to do so by the civil authority, to aid, but the soldier is under no more legal obligation than is the ordinary civilian to respond to that appeal. He is under no more and no less. The point is this: Why should a young man who enters the Army to serve his King and country by protecting this country against invasion be compelled, under a penalty, it may be of death itself, to go out on strike duty at the bidding of his commanding officer? The ordinary citizen has no commanding officer. He may be appealed to and may refuse. The soldier should be in the same position. He should have no compulsion brought to bear upon him to do this thing unless he is so minded. Otherwise you place the soldier in a most invidious position as compared with the ordinary civilian. If the soldier's duty in suppressing a riot is neither more nor less 1310 than that of the ordinary civilian, why is he to be liable to pains and penalties when, he is specially called upon without the civilian being appealed to? The assumption is, all round, that it is part of the duty of the Army to do this thing especially. I say it is not, and therefore the recruit, when enlisting, should have it clearly pointed out to him that he may be called upon by his commanding officer or by the Government to go upon strike duty, and that when he is so called upon he shall have the option of either accepting or refusing the strike duty, and if he refuses no martial law penalties, no penalties under the Army Act, shall be imposed upon him in consequence of his refusal, but the same penalty that applies to the ordinary citizen who refuses shall apply also to the soldiers. But the assumption that the soldier, qua soldier, is under compulsion to be called upon by the civil authorities at any time or at all times is one that will not bear examination and should not be possible.
I hope that there will be a general consensus of opinion of all parties in this House that the soldier should only be called upon as the very last resort, and that, therefore, the calling in of the soldiers should not be made too easy. How many of the recent so-called disturbances connected with trade disputes could not have been left quite safely to the civil authority? But because of the assumption that part of the duty of the Army and part of the special duty of the soldier is to be called out on such occasions, practically no efforts are made by the civil authorities to cope with disturbances, but the appeal is at once made to the soldiers to come in with their arms of precision and death. Therefore, in moving this Amendment, I do so not as a form of words, but as a question of the gravest import to the civil life of the nation, and, as I believe, although this does not commend it to me, making it easier for a good type of recruit to be got in the future than will be the case if the military law remains in its present condition. When the prospective recruit knows on entering the Army that he is not ipso facto to be called upon to turn out during trade disputes, he will do so more freely than he does now. with the feeling growing upon his mind that his first duty may be to go out to shoot down his old workmates, and even his own relatives. Therefore I beg to move the new Clause standing in my name.
§ Colonel SEELY
I will reply only on the Amendment itself, and as far as possible from the military aspect. My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary is present, as is also my right hon. Friend the Attorney General, who will have a better right to deal with many of the points raised by the hon. Gentleman with regard to the general policy of calling out soldiers in cases of disturbance arising out of trade disputes, but I must beg of—
§ The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Whitley)
I must deprecate any suggestion of a general discussion of Home Office policy.
§ Colonel SEELY
I humbly apologise for indicating that my right hon. Friends could possibly break the Rules of Order, but I know that if they did you would promptly rule them out. I was endeavouring to make some suggestion that replies could be made to the remarks of my hon. Friend below the Gangway, which I regard as entirely erroneous. In reply to the actual words which were used by the hon. Member I wish to protest most emphatically against his assumption in his opening remarks that soldiers are called out not to suppress riots, but that they are called out in a trade dispute simply because it is a trade dispute.
§ Mr. JOHN WARD
Surely the right hon. Gentleman will confess that the military were called out in the case of the railways before even the strike had broken out.
§ Colonel SEELY
Surely my hon. Friend will permit me to finish my sentence. On that I say, if the suggestion is taken in connection with the concluding words of the hon. Gentleman's speech, that the British soldier has been constantly called out not to suppress riot, but in a trade dispute because it is a trade dispute, and with his weapons of precision and death as a consequence has caused grave suffering to the persons engaged in the trade dispute and to the strikers, I think the Committee will agree with me that that would be unfair. For those reasons I wish to say here and now that not one single striker engaged in a trade dispute has been shot by the British Army since the South African war. My hon. Friend said that they were strikers, and let us therefore understand this question. I beg the Committee to accept the statement which I have made, because it would be a cruel thing to do to try to make people 1312 outside, and the soldiers themselves, and the recruits imagine that they were entering an Army which was engaged in shooting down strikers. I do appeal to the Committee, and to my hon. Friend, to dispel that gross illusion, that gross distortion of fact, if it has ever been made, seeing that in point of fact ever since the South African war, and I suppose for long before that—but it is only to that period that I have been able to extend my inquiries—not one single striker has been shot by British soldiers. The Amendment of my right hon. Friend would be in effect to put the soldier outside the law. The soldier is subject to a special code of law of his own. He is also for certain purposes subject to the ordinary law. The hon. Gentleman proposed that certain soldiers should be exempt from the duty, in so far as military purposes are concerned, which rests upon other people, to assist the civil power if called upon to do so.
§ Colonel SEELY
Surely my hon. Friend ment we are dealing with creates two classes of soldiers, one of whom would be amenable to ordinary law and the other would be amenable to military law. Therefore those who are only amenable to ordinary law would have an advantage over those also who are subject to military law, and in evading the primary duty of a citizen they would be in a better position than the others. If the recruit A enlists under this Amendment and is not liable to penalties if he does not assist the civil power he is plainly in a better position than recruit B, who has enlisted in the ordinary way. Therefore recruit A is to be put in a specially privileged position when he is called upon to do an act which any citizen is liable to perform. I suggest to the Committee with great respect, and to my hon. Friend, that this is a fantastic proposal. Soldiers are only called in in order to prevent and suppress serious rioting. That has been laid down over and over again, and it has been the policy of every successive Secretary of the Home Department upon whom this responsibility rests. Take a very simple case which is yet a possible case. Suppose a 1313 body of roughs—for as the hon. Gentleman truly says strikers hardly ever come into conflict with the soldiers—attack a mine down which men are actually working. Say that they attack a pit-head, and endeavour to destroy the pumping machinery. That is a thing which is very possible to happen, and a thing that I believe has happened. Every one about will know perfectly well, except those who are engaged in this transaction, who are not the strikers but are roughs or belong to the criminal classes, or are persons who have taken drink— everyone except them will realise that if they succeed in their purpose hundreds of men down below will be doomed to a horrible death and that nothing will save them. Supposing that my hon. Friend the Member for Merthyr were himself standing by and happend to be armed, and if the civil power called upon him to help, and he knew that unless he did help the hundreds of men below would be doomed to this horrible death, I venture to suggest to him—and he will deny what I say if I am wrong—that he would be the first to shoot with his weapon the ringleader, if he knew that by so doing he could save the lives of hundreds down below. So of course would the soldier. But would my hon. Friend in view of that fact seriously suggest that you must have one class of soldier who should be encouraged to evade his obvious civilian duty by having a comparatively mild penalty while there, should be another class who would be in a far less favoured position? I cannot believe that in this vital matter of the duty of all citizens of this country it can "be seriously proposed that you should create two classes of persons differentiated as proposed in this Amendment. I could deal with the more strictly legal aspect of the matter at greater length, but I wish to avoid trespassing on your ruling, and the Attorney-General is present to deal with the more strictly legal aspect of the words proposed. But to differentiate in this way the primary duties of citizens would be contrary to good policy, and I am convinced that it would be resented by the hon. Gentleman himself.
§ 5.0 P.M.
§ Mr. LANSBURY
I understood the Under-Secretary to say that if we gave a recruit this option proposed by the Amendment, we would put him in a more favourable position than the ordinary civilian, who is liable to be called upon to assist the authorities.
§ Colonel SEELY
No, what I said was that one class of soldier would be in a different position from another class—that soldier A would be in a better position than soldier B, and that soldier A would be liable under one set of services, while soldier B would be liable to the whole.
§ Mr. LANSBURY
I was coming to that. I certainly understood the right hon. Gentleman, and he will see it in the OFFICIAL REPORT to-morrow, that what we were really wanting was to put the soldier who had this proposed option in a better position than the civilian who might be called upon to assist. I understand that a soldier who is now called upon by the policeman to assist him would, whether he had taken the oath to do so or not, be in exactly the same position as the hon. Member for Merthyr Tydvil or myself if called upon under similar circumstances. Therefore, we need not bother about that argument, or about whether we should, if we saw men attempting to flood a mine, by any means in our power endeavour to prevent that. That question does not arise, though the Under-Secretary for War spent a good deal of time about it. The point, as I understand, which he does make against us is that we want, by this fantastic Amendment, as he described it, to have two sets of people in the British Army—one set who would be obliged on pain of death or on pain of penal servitude to take up arms against their own parents, their own brothers, their own relations, if called upon to do so, and the other set would not need do that.
That is really where we stand. We really ought to have that position faced. We want to prevent the British Army from being used in any manner different from that in which ordinary civilians can be called upon. We recognise, at any rate I do, speaking for myself, that the people who wish to use the Army in the present way, in connection with trade disputes, really want to see force exercised to compel people to do something that they do not want to do. The right hon. Gentleman at the beginning of his speech was rather warm with us because, as he said, we were insinuating that the Army might be used or would be used to put down strikes. I repeat what I think the hon. Member for Merthyr tried to get the House to see earlier in the discussion. Last year, on the mere threat of a railway strike, nearly 100,000 troops were moved all over the country, or let me say, 70.000— you can have whatever number you please 1315 —and we all know that at station after station in London there were sentries with weapons, and so many rounds of ball cartridge, which are murderous things, I understand. These soldiers stood at the different termini with fixed bayonets. Will anybody deny that? Will anyone in this House tell us what they were there for? Perhaps during the discussion the learned Attorney-General or the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary will tell us why they were sent there. I know that the Home Secretary was not responsible at that time.
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN (Mr. Maclean)
I think the hon. Member is trenching on a subject which is not relevant to this particular Debate.
§ Mr. LANSBURY
I would respectfully call attention to the fact that this has been the burden of the Debate up to the present moment.
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
The hon. Member, as I understood, was proceeding to argue the merits of the dispute last summer, and bringing in the question of the administration of the military forces. That is out of order.
§ Mr. LANSBURY
I would very respectfully submit that the object of the Amendment is to allow a recruit on enlisting to have the option of saying that he shall not be used if he does not wish to be so used as a soldier in a trade dispute, and I was endeavouring to show that last year, in answer to the Under-Secretary for War, that soldiers were put on sentry duty at the railway termini in London, as though all the great railway stations in the Metropolis were in a state of siege. The men were armed with ball cartridge, and had bayonets fixed, and I was arguing that this was done for the purpose of using the military to intimidate and control the strikers. It is with the object of preventing the use of the Army in that fashion in future that we are moving this Amendment. There may be something to be said for an Army when you have got something to defend, though for my part I do not want an Army at all; but, if you have an Army, obviously you ought to use it, not for the purpose of supporting capitalists or the landlords or any other set of vested interests in this country, but to defend yourselves against people from across the North Sea, who appear to have got on 1316 your nerves, or against other peoples. The whole object of the Amendment is to prevent the kind of thing that happened last year. I would ask the Under-Secretary for War whether there is any difference in shooting two civilians who did not happen to be strikers, but who were shot in connection with the strike in South Wales? He made a very great deal of the fact that no strikers had been shot or killed since the South African war. I think some people were killed in Liverpool, some in Belfast, and some at Llanelly.
§ Mr. LANSBURY
No; I deny altogether that they were rioters. The people who were killed in South Wales were not rioters.
§ Mr. LANSBURY
After all that is a matter of opinion, on reading the evidence. The fact is that they were not shot in the act of rioting; that is perfectly certain. These people were killed, and I do not think the right hon. Gentleman has any right to claim as a great score that no actual strikers were shot. Personally I do not know whether they were strikers or not but I do know that they were human beings and lost their lives. In my opinion, which I give not as a soldier but as an ordinary civilian, in what was done in South Wales there was no need to use shot at all. I read the whole of that evidence, and all that was wanted was to get the train through. The train might have stopped another couple of days, or might have gone through when the people had become tired; anyhow, that would have saved people from being killed. Here, it seems to me, that the shooting of a few people does not matter, yet you tell your constituents that they are very important and very valuable people. The right hon. Gentleman said that not one striker had been shot since the South African war, and recorded that as something to the credit of the British Army. The mere fact that people were killed at Liverpool, Belfast, Llanelly, and a string of places shows that the Army is used in a murderous manner when the capitalist class become alarmed. I had a cutting from a Croydon newspaper the other day showing that a celebrated councillor—I am not sure he was not a 1317 justice of the peace—said the proper thing to do with men who in any way attempted to intimidate their fellow men was to shoot them first and try them afterwards. He is one of the men who may have the duty to call for troops to put down what he may be pleased to call a riot. It is a very fine thing that a magistrate should be able to use the Army in that sort of fashion. I would not trust such men to look after rabbits, let alone human beings, under similar conditions. I do not think myself that in asking that men joining the Army should have this option we are demanding anything which is extreme. The class from which these soldiers are drawn are the working class in the main, and always when there is a fight between capital and labour the interests of the higher classes are against the workmen. There is no use blinking the fact.
Magistrates, justices of the peace, and those people who have power to call on the Army are all people who do not want the strikers to win, and they are all perfectly ready to use whatever force they can to intimidate and overawe the men on strike. What was the real object last summer? It was to make the railway men feel that they were committing a crime in even talking of going on strike. The whole object of that overwhelming show of force was to show that the Government and the power of the classes were against them. As I said, I do not want an Army at all. I do not want any one to defend me. If I cannot defend myself, well, I will go under, and I think everybody else here ought to do the same. But if you are going to have an Army, then let the men at least have the right to say that they do not want to be used to kill their own flesh and blood, and that at least they shall not be called upon to help the capitalist to starve the people into surrender, for to call out soldiers, to give them so many rounds of ball cartridge, and get them to stand with fixed bayonets, is for the purpose of overawing men of the working class in an economic fight. If there be any rattening from the class represented by hon. Gentlemen on the other side, or if anyone of their number comes over to this side, we at once see how they detest such action as an unpardonable sin against their one Holy Ghost, the Holy Ghost of the aristocracy.
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
I really think the hon. Gentleman must know he is going quite beyond the limits of the discussion.
§ Mr. LANSBURY
If the aristocracy of any country really object to one of their own class going over to the other, then equally you have no right to enlist men on the chance of their being used to kill, it may be, men of their own class. That is the point I wish to make, and, having made it, I support the Amendment which has been moved.
Mr. MacCALLUM SCOTT
This Amendment, I think, obviously arises out of the use of the military during the railway strike and out of the recent prosecution of certain persons for inciting to mutiny. While I agree with much that has been said on the benches below me, and with many of the criticisms that have been made, I feel that I ought to explain why it is I cannot support this Amendment. I agree, and agree absolutely that the military ought not to be used in trade disputes. The military ought not no be used to break a strike. The military ought not to be used to secure the victory of the masters against the men. I agree with that absolutely; I doubt if there is a person in the House who disagrees with that view. I am certain that the occupants of the Treasury Bench agree absolutely and whole-heartedly with that doctrine. The military ought to be used and should be used only to suppress riot and disorder, violence and outrage which it is beyond the capacity of the civil authorities to deal with. It may happen that the persons who are guilty of riot and outrage and violence and disorder are also strikers. That does not seem to me a good reason why the military should not be used. Because a person who is guilty of violence, disorder and outrage happens to be a striker, that seems to me to be no reason why that person should be absolutely absolved from the law of the land, and from the penalties which any other person who was not a striker and who was guilty of violence and outrage would incur. Therefore, I think we are on common ground in saying that the military should not be used to take part in a strike or even in connection with a strike as such, and that they should be used only to suppress violence and disorder.
Then it may be said, and it has been said, about the railway strike six months ago, were not the military there used in connection with the strike. I agree with the criticisms which were passed upon the use of the military in connection with the railway strike. I think the military were used prematurely; I think the military 1319 were used when there was no occasion for them being called out. I think in particular that the military ought not to have been called into Manchester without the application of the local authorities. It is true we incur certain risks, but those are risks which we have got to take in a democracy. We have got to take the risk of violence and outrage, and we have got to take the risk of the civil authority with the police force at its disposal being able to deal with that, and it is only when those civil authorities with the police forces at their disposal have been shown to be incapable in fact of dealing with riot and disorder that the military should be called in. It is part of the price we have got to pay for being a democracy. It is possible some damage may have been done before the military are called in, but better even that damage should be done, and that we should remain a free nation, not Army-ridden under a military routine. The military could be called in quite soon enough to save this country from ruin and destruction, although damage and disorder is done to begin with. I agree with the criticisms that were passed about the use of the military, but I do not agree that the military were called in to finish the strike. The military standing with their bayonets at the stations in London were not there to bayonet the strikers as such. They were not there to force any striker back to his work. They were there because the authorities—
Mr. MacCALLUM SCOTT
Because the Government anticipated in view of other occurrences elsewhere, that there was a possibility of riot and disorder, which is not incidental to a strike but which may occur, and they were taking precautions. I think they took precautions too soon. I think those are risks which in a country like this we are bound to take We are bound to have riot and disorder actually in being, and the police forces actually incapable of handling that riot and disorder, before the military are called in. I do maintain that the military were not used to break the strike, but were used for the purpose of dealing with disorder which was anticipated. I therefore hold it is not necessary to insert these words in this Act. We do not need to provide that the military should not be used in connection with trade disputes. They cannot be used as it is, and it would be illegal to use them in connection with a trade dispute.
1320 Any Minister who so used them would be liable to impeachment and ought to be impeached. They can only be used in connection with violence and outrage. If we are going to insert words at all that the military should not be used in connection with trade disputes, why not go further and specify other things in connection with which they should not be used? Why not say that they ought not to be used in connection with church meetings. We all agree with that, and why not put that in also?
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
I do not think it is in order in discussing this Clause to argue the general question as to whether the military should or should not be used. The terms of the Clause are perfectly clear, and I would invite the hon. Member to deal with them.
Mr. MacCALLUM SCOTT
The part of the Clause to which I was speaking proposes to give the recruit the option as to whether he is willing to take duty in aid of the civil force. I say why should he not be given an option in connection with church meetings. It is not fair that the military should be used to suppress church meetings. Why not have the option in connection with Freemasons' meetings or Orange Lodge meetings? We all agree that the military should not be used in connection with those assemblies, and if we are going to specify everything in which we are all agreed, and in which, as a matter of fact, by law they cannot be used, then there would be no end to the number of pages which this Act might take up. I think that in this Amendment the hon. Member for Merthyr has done a thing which he did not desire to do. He has gone very much further than the words of his own speech; he has, in fact, made it legal, or attempts to make it legal, for the military to be used in connection with trade disputes. At present the military cannot be used in connection with trade disputes as such, but this Amendment actually provides that the option should be given to the soldier to go on service in connection with trade disputes. For the very first time it would be made a matter of law that the military, if they so willed, should be used in connection with trade disputes, a most reactionary and dangerous proposal. I hope I shall never see the day when a band of military or pseudo-military shall be organised, either under private auspices, as some people are proposing to do, or under Government auspices, in which the men will be under 1321 an obligation, if they have exercised the option, to serve in connection with trade disputes.
§ Mr. RAWLINSON
This is a far more important question than the question we were discussing previously, namely, as to the meaning of the word "cashiered." I desire particularly to answer what the hon. Member for Merthyr (Mr. Keir Hardie) said about the occurrences at Llanelly last August, because he gave an account of those disturbances which appeared to me to be absolutely misleading and contrary to the facts of the case. The real facts as to what occurred there were that a train which was going—
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
I do not think the hon. Member is entitled to go into the facts of the dispute of last year.
§ Mr. RAWLINSON
If that is so, I will not deal with the question; but may I take this opportunity, as a full description was given of those occurrences by the hon. Member for Merthyr, to say that I disagree with that account entirely, and I should be sorry if that version went forth as an accurate account. I refreshed my memory from the evidence at the inquest to which he referred and the account in the "Times," and I have got the results here. In view of your ruling, I content myself by stating that I absolutely differ from what the hon. Member said.
§ Mr. KEIR HARDIE
My complaint was not taken from the "Times" account, but from those of the South Wales newspapers, which extensively reported the subject.
§ Mr. RAWLINSON
Mine was taken from an eye-witness, Major Blake, who wrote in the "Times," and from the sworn testimony given at the inquest.
§ Mr. WEDGWOOD
This Debate is of a very important character, and it is the first time this question has been raised in the British House of Commons. The real point at issue at the present time is whether the British Army is to be used exclusively against foreign Powers or is to take up a new role of dealing with the working classes of this country in connection with trade disputes. You may talk around the question as much as you like, but this is the real point: is the Army to be used to interfere in trade disputes or not? The speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Bridgeton (Mr. MacCallum Scott) did not seem to me to be so logical as his speeches usually are. He began by 1322 emphasising the fact that he was opposed to using troops in trade disputes, whether to shoot the strikers or to overawe the strikers, or to take any part whatever in trade disputes. Then he proceeded to say that they never did take part in trade disputes except to protect property. The whole point we have to make is that the troops have been used in connection with trade disputes, and not in connection with the protection of property. The Member for Bridgeton said that they may legally only be used in connection with violence and outrage. I noticed that the learned Attorney-General nodded, and said that that was the law that they could only be used in connection with violence and outrage. In that case, why were they used as blacklegs in Ireland? They were used to run trains in Ireland, and the threat was held over the railway workers of this country that if the food supplies ran short the troops would be employed to run trains in this country too. It was made perfectly clear to the whole country, as well as to the railway workers, that troops would be used to run the trains. That is using them in connection with trade disputes in this country, and to blackleg the workers is to use them in connection with trade disputes. If they are to be used, as in Ireland, to act as blacklegs, then I think it is quite time we should make it absolutely clear to the Government if it is illegal it ought not to be adopted by them when these trade disputes occur.
The whole question comes up as to whether the troops are the right people to use in connection with riots in this country at all. This new Clause prevents their being used in riots in connection with trade disputes. It puts the soldier in the position of the ordinary citizen. It is left to him just as it is left to the ordinary citizen to decide whether the use of a rifle or violence is necessary to prevent damage to property or life. Without this Clause the troops are in a very different position; they are under the same law with regard to firing on their own fellow-countrymen as they are with regard to firing on foreigners. We want to prevent their being in connection with trade disputes under the same law an in connection with disputes with foreign Powers. Our ground is not only that it is wrong that people should fire upon their relations. I think it is wrong that they should fire upon their enemies; but that is not the main point. The question is whether troops are the best weapon the 1323 State has for protecting property and life in times of trade dispute or riot. I maintain emphatically that they are not, and that if the State attempts to use them, it is using a very dangerous weapon indeed. Everyone knows that it is extremely difficult to get troops to fire on people who are not shooting at them. I have had some experience of the Army, and I speak with knowledge when I say that it is most difficult to make troops carry out military executions. You have a platoon of men firing over and over again at criminals; they discharge their rifles, but the prisoners remain untouched, simply because the men will not—and we should not ourselves—shoot the other men, if by holding the rifle an inch or two higher they can avoid it. Anyone who knows the facts in connection with the Franco-German War, or the Civil War in America, will know that it is difficult to get troops to shoot men condemned to death. It is infinitely more difficult to get troops to shoot down unarmed working men in this country. What happened at Llanelly? If the troops had fired on the crowd with modern weapons of precision they would have shot hundreds at every discharge. Instead of that, they killed two people in the background, sitting on a wall in a garden. That means that the troops did not fire on the people—they fired over their heads.
§ Colonel SEELY
On a point of Order. It is really very awkward. Definite statements were made with regard to Llanelly by the hon. Member for Merthyr (Mr. Keir Hardie), and during your absence it has been ruled that those were out of order. I do not question the ruling, but they are now being repeated. They are at variance with the information in my possession, but it appears that we cannot controvert them. I would respectfully submit either that there should be no repetition of the statements or else that we should be permitted to reply to them.
§ The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Whitley)
The position is this. The hon. Member for Merthyr, in moving his new Clause, referred to certain cases as illustrations, his object being, as I understood, to attempt to prove that it was not necessary in the case of riots that the military should be called in. I permitted him to use those cases as illustrations. I am afraid I was not observant enough to know whether the hon. Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme was keeping to that line. My 1324 ruling is that it is not in order on this new Clause to deal with the question of policy in the employment of the military, but it can be dealt with as an illustration, and, as a matter of fact, bearing directly on the question before the House.
§ Mr. RAWLINSON
The illustration given by the hon. Member for Merthyr was the Llanelly case, and, subsequently, it was ruled that I should be out of order in putting before the Committee the facts in my possession in reference to that incident. I gather that the right hon. Gentleman is in the same position. All we ask is either that no further reference shall be made to the matter or else that we shall be allowed to put the other side.
§ The CHAIRMAN
I think that that is correct. It was right that I should allow the hon. Member to put his illustrations before the Committee; but clearly, if the Debate runs on those lines and the facts are not given merely as illustrations, I shall be obliged to admit a reply, and the Debate will travel very far from the question actually before the Committee.
§ Dr. CHAPPLE
If the illustrations given contain details which are incorrect, is it not competent for any Member to correct them?
§ Sir F. BANBURY
The hon. Member for Merthyr made certain assertions as illustrations. My hon. and learned Friend says that those assertions are incorrect. Is it not possible for him to bring forward proof that those assertions were incorrect? Otherwise the illustrations will go forth as having been agreed to by this Committee, whereas my hon. and learned Friend says that the hon. Member has, no doubt inadvertently, made statements which are not correct.
§ Mr. J. WARD
Before you give your ruling, may I ask, seeing that it is proposed that an option should be given to a man on enlistment to say whether or not he was willing to be employed in certain proceedings in which at present he cannot be employed, is it not in order to call attention to occasions on which he has been so employed, and to do so to show their degradation or their irksomeness to the men, and for the purpose of illustrating the necessity of granting this option?
§ The CHAIRMAN
I think that as illustrations and as matters of fact, the references are permissible; but if I allow them I must allow contrary statements showing that the alleged facts are not correct. The proceedings must not develop into an argument on the question of policy.
§ Mr. WEDGWOOD
I understand your ruling, but I do not think that it really applies to my speech. I was simply using the Llanelly case as an example showing how impossible it is to trust troops to fire on rioters at the present time. They are armed with such deadly weapons, that if they fired their rifles at the crowd the bullet would go through seven or eight people before it stopped. If a platoon of twenty or thirty men fired on a crowd every discharge must be so disastrous that there would be a regular holocaust. That is not what the Government wants. It would have the effect not merely of checking the riot, but of annihilating the rioters, which is not the desire of the Government. If troops are used in future for disputes of this character, or for riots of this character, if that term is preferred, you must expect that more and more the troops will refuse to fire on the crowd. They will let off their rifles over the heads of the people, to the great danger of persons at a distance from the scene of riot. It was perhaps all very well to use troops in such cases when the trajectory was very different from the flat trajectory of the present day, and when the bullet stopped at the man that was hit; but it is impossible to use modern rifles without extreme danger to everyone. In this new Clause we suggest that men who are enlisting should have the option of saying whether or not they are willing to be used in connection trade disputes. Obviously a man who stated that he was not willing to be used in connection with trade disputes would be able to refuse to go to Llanelly, or to fire on the people, or if he refused to fire he would be merely liable to the penalties of the ordinary citizen instead of to the penalties of the soldier. That would mean that practically the whole of the British Army would sign on as ordinary citizens instead of as men under military law so far as trade disputes are concerned. We maintain that that is an eminently desirable thing.
We do not want to absolve the troops from their duty as private citizens to protect life and property, if it is in danger; but, let it be their duty as private citizens, and not their special duty as soldiers. This 1326 new Clause makes that point clear. No doubt everyone joining the Army would take advantage of the option. There would be no question of a privileged man getting off as an ordinary citizen and an unprivileged man being punished by death as a soldier. They would all be in the same category; they would be relieved of the very unpleasant duty of having to fire on unarmed men, and, if they used their weapons properly, of killing an enormous number of people with each discharge of their rifles. It is far more important to my mind, however, that we should free soldiers from the odium of being used as blacklegs in connection with trade disputes. The real danger of the future is that when the transport workers, the railway workers, or the Post Office employés go on strike, the troops will be used to fill their places, as they have been in France. Is that legal or is it not? The Attorney-General gave us the idea that it was not legal to use troops in that connection. I think we ought to have it definitely in the OFFICIAL REPORT whether or not it is possible to use troops in that way. If it is possible, it is right that every British citizen should have the option on joining the Army of saying that lie desires to be excused that odious duty. Nowadays with the working classes to be a blackleg is the same thing as to be a cardsharper or not to pay your debts of honour in the upper classes. If a man acts as a blackleg he is as much condemned for life as if he were cashiered from the Army.
§ Mr. WEDGWOOD
No; it shows that he is a traitor to his class, and it throws an awful stigma on the man. That has been one of the influences at work on the miners. They have this feeling of honour. They regard blacklegs in the same way that hon. Members opposite regard men who cheat at cards. You ought not to be able to force your Army to discharge this odious duty—to make them drive trains, deliver letters, drive carts, or work ships, in times of trade disputes. If that is to be done, let it be done by a special body, but not by the British Army. Keep the Army for the purpose for which it was originally intended; do not drag it into these trade disputes in a way that is abhorrent to every right-minded member of the working classes. That can only have the result of keeping the best people out of the Army. We do not want to deprive the State of its defence against foreign 1327 Powers, but if the Army is to be used for internal purposes of this sort, whether as blacklegs or as policemen armed with rifles, you will do the worst service to the British Army and to the British State. Only one thing will achieve our end, and that is the new Clause before the Committee. If that Clause is carried it will shortly be impossible for troops to be used in this way, because everybody on enlisting will take advantage of the option, and thereby be absolved from military law in connection with trade disputes. They certainly will not blackleg then. If this Amendment is carried the British Army will be saved for its proper purpose. If things go on as at present, if the labour unrest gets more and more critical, and strikes get more and more dangerous to society, you will find in the first place that your Army will not fire and will become untrustworthy; and in the second place you have not got that security for society which you might have if a different weapon was employed to that of the ordinary soldier enlisted for entirely other purposes.
§ Sir W. BYLES
It is not necessary to agree with all the arguments which have been put forward by my hon. Friends who support this Amendment; but I may say that I am very strongly in agreement with the general desire of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Merthyr Tydvil, to draw the attention of the Committee to the inadvisability of employing the armed forces of the Crown in the case of civil disputes. I expressed that opinion rather strongly last year when the soldiers were brought into my own borough. I daresay all my Constituents are not in agreement with me, and no doubt many hon. Members will be in disagreement. It is for that reason that I desire to explain why I so very strongly disapprove of the introduction of the military in civil disorders. A great deal has been said about the Amendment itself. It addresses itself to the question of using the soldiers to put down strikes. A great deal has been said in this Debate about the soldiers being used against strikers and so forth, so that it must be clear to the House that the impression at any rate, whether it be actually so or not, has got abroad, that the authorities have introduced the Army on the side of capital as against labour—
§ The CHAIRMAN
That is again opening up questions that cannot be allowed. The question is the option of the man that enlists.
§ Sir W. BYLES
I agree, Mr. Whitley, but surely the question of using the military to put down the strike is raised in the effective words of the Amendment itself: I put that to you on a point of Order. I also suggest that most of the speeches, have been directed to that aspect of the case. I was only going to say whether it be so or not, there is obviously the impression abroad amongst the working classes of this country that when the military are employed in cases of riot it is generally on the side of capital as against labour. What are these Syndicalist trials? How have they arisen? It has only been because the writers of the Syndicalist newspapers, and Tom Mann in his speeches have especially referred to the use of the soldiers for putting down strikes. It is because of that impression that I want to base upon it the argument that it is extremely undesirable—and I am quite sure that every hon. Member will agree with me—that there should be any unpopularity to the Army arising from this cause. The Army ought to be—if we have an Army at all—respected by all classes. It ought not to be regarded as belonging to one class as against another.
The Amendment suggests that the recruits should have an option. You put out gay bills asking for recruits for the Army. When a man goes in response to that invitation surely he ought to be able to know what he is being enlisted for and what are his duties. [An HON. MEMBER: "He does know."] Well, he ought also to know what he has not to do. I am quite sure the recruit does not in ninety-nine cases out of a hundred think for one moment that he is going to engage in such duties as have been referred to. I do not understand, anyhow, what we want with 186,000 soldiers. If I were offering my services as a recruit I should want to know what the duties of these 186,000 men were. But I am not going into that—I would only ask that I should be told what I might have to do in regard to civil disorders. That, I think, is a reasonable thing for a recruit to ask. I have been in Ireland many a time when large masses of soldiers have been used. They are treated now very differently to what we are here. We all know over there of the very powerful magistrate in charge of the resident magistracy telegraphing down to Youghal to the officers there to say: "Do not hesitate to shoot." That is the spirit that I do not want to see in this country. I went into the Lobby the other day when the discussions were on concerning the coal crisis, 1329 and I met a Noble Lord who used to be in this House, with whom—
§ Sir W. BYLES
I am glad, Mr. Whitley, that you have saved the Committee from a very interesting reminiscence, which, however, I believe they would have found very much to the purpose. I want to mention one other reason why I think we ought not to use the military in civil disputes. I do not say that circumstances may never occur when the military may not be used. Perhaps there is wanton destruction of valuable property; human life may be in danger; a state of things may occur which may be called civil war; then perhaps the soldiery may be used against the enemies of the King whether they are civil or otherwise; but it should only be in very extreme cases, and cases far more extreme than have lately arisen. My other reason against the employment of the soldiery is that the soldier himself is such an unsuitable weapon for the purpose. If you get the police to restore order when it has been broken the police have the means to do it, the training to do it and the proper arms to do it. The soldier has not. The soldier is trained and armed for one purpose only: that is, to kill his fellow-man. That is the only thing he can do; the only thing he is taught to do. We do not want him to do that in civil disputes. We do not want him to kill riotous strikers, or even hooligans. We do not want him to turn his weapons upon a mixed miscellaneous crowd, all unarmed, many of them perfectly innocent, and with no riotous in tent—some of them being engaged in a dispute with their employers. It is, I say, most improper, and a dangerous thing, to turn a regiment of soldiers with deadly weapons into such a crowd. The soldiers cannot move the man on. They cannot arrest a man. They cannot manage a crowd like the police. They cannot move a disturber from the kerbstone, or else where, like a policeman, nor can they summon a man. They can only kill men. I know some of my hon. Friends say: "What are you to do. Surely you must do something in a case of riots?" Yes, and if I am not out of order, I should like to suggest what ought to be done, but I am rather afraid—
§ The CHAIRMAN
I can save the hon. Member that. All the latter part of his speech has been directed to a question of 1330 policy, the thing I was deprecating only a few moments ago. Clearly a whole debate might arise on the subject which he is just now putting before the Committee.
§ Sir W. BYLES
Very well, I will endeavour to keep within the bounds of your ruling, but I do certainly think that this Amendment raised, was intended to raise, and was so understood by the Government and all present, the whole question whether the military were properly used in putting down civil disorder. If I am wrong in that interpretation I will leave it now entirely. I may, however, perhaps, be permitted to mention that I ha\e received—no doubt other hon. Members have also—a circular signed by the Duke of Abercorn, the head of a volunteer police force organised for the very purpose of making it unnecessary to use the military. That at any rate points to methods by which we can meet the difficulties that confront us without the use of the military. There are various other ways to which I will not refer. It is a wrong idea of society, and a wrong view of our social system, to think that the. Army exists to put down civil disorder. The function of the soldier is to defend the nation against external and internal enemies. After all, we are a self-governing nation. We have no control whatever over the forces of the Crown. We ought to confine ourselves to using all the methods and the persons who are under our control, who are able to maintain our security, and who will not invade and threaten us.
§ 6.0 P.M.
§ Mr. J. WARD
I would just like a few words on this subject, especially after the speech of the hon. Gentleman the Member of the Bridgeton Division. He drew attention to the phrasing and the motive underlying this Amendment, and suggested that it was almost impossible to imagine that we should seriously put it forward as a solution of the difficulty that we are now discussing. I quite agree. If I were basing my position here and the attitude that I shall adopt when the Division takes place on the Amendment; if I were to take it as a serious contribution to the discussion, I should most certainly vote in the opposite direction. But I take it for granted that it is not so much the Amendment we are discussing, though we are pinning ourselves entirely to it. The idea of giving the soldier an option and having two sorts of soldiers, one to be used in civil disputes and one not to be used in civil disputes—and, I 1331 suppose, letting the authorities pay extra to those who will allow themselves to be used—actually to hold out an inducement for them to be used for that purpose— well, I certainly could not support a proposition of that description if I thought there was any chance of it becoming law. There is no doubt we are discussing the matter from an entirely different point of view—the point of view as to whether the soldier should be given an option, or whether the soldier should be used for this purpose at all. The Attorney-General has said that the soldier when assisting the civil power is in exactly the same position as the ordinary citizen. I have never been able to see where that comes in, either in law or in fact. For Instance, when a magistrate is in difficulties, when he finds disorders that it is impossible to overcome, he does not telegraph to the leading citizens in the town whom he knows by name or reputation, and ask them to come to his assistance. Nothing of the kind. He wires to the officer in command of His Majesty's forces in the town to come to his assistance, and I believe the Attorney-General will admit that the moment the civil power asks the aid of the military the military from that moment are on active service.
§ Mr. J. WARD
I venture to suggest that is the case. Look for instance at Section 189. It counts "service" as applying to persons subject to military law and to persons engaged in operations against the enemy. Then looking at another section, you will find a definition of "enemy." As a matter of fact, I used to have something like this actually read to me when I was in the Service. Looking at Section 190, Part 20, you will find that when the soldier is called out against the "enemy" he is on active service, because the "enemy" includes all form of mutineers, rebels, rioters, and pirates.
§ Mr. J. WARD
As a matter of fact rioters are always armed. You cannot riot with your hands, although I have done it once or twice, but it is too close a range by a long way for ordinary purposes, therefore you take it for granted that the magistrate does not ask whether a man is armed with a cutlass, a sword, or a weapon of any other kind. Stones or bottles are 1332 arms in a matter of this kind, and therefore all this talk about the soldier acting when called in to aid a civil power as an ordinary citizen is so much fudge. It may be a legal fiction, but we know as a matter of fact that when the soldier enlists he enlists to serve against the King's enemy, and the enemy is described as being either pirates, rioters, rebels, or mutineers. There is no getting away from that, and to talk about the soldier acting as an ordinary private citizen is not in accordance with fact. The attestation which he makes on entering the Service proves that. He has to act as a soldier, and when called out to suppress a riot he is actually on active service. The right hon. Gentleman who represents the War Office would not hesitate for a second to pension the wife and family of a man killed in suppressing a riot in this country, exactly as though he lost his life on active service.
It was said the other day that no one was ever convinced or altered his opinion by a speech delivered in this House. I must say the other night my vote was influenced by a speech made by the Attorney-General, but I am sure he will not persuade me on this occasion that a soldier acts as an ordinary citizen when he is marched out of barracks, shoulders his rifle, presents arms, and fires on rioters in the street. He does nothing of the kind in my opinion. Therefore I venture to suggest that all this talk of the soldier acting just as if he were an ordinary citizen on such an occasion is not true. On the other hand, I doubt if the policy suggested in this Amendment of giving an option of having two kinds of soldiers is right. I much prefer the suggestion made that the soldiers should not be used as a soldier for these civil disturbances at all. I suggest that there are ways and means which can be employed to use the soldier, if he is called out, different from that of commanding him to shoot down men with arms of precision, which should never be used in disturbances in civil life. The hon. Member for the Bridgeton Division would enact, if this Amendment became law, that soldiers could and should be used in connection with trade disputes, and he argued as if soldiers never were used in trade disputes. What we are attempting to do is not to legalise the use of soldiers in such cases, but to limit the existing civil and military practice. It is contended that we do employ military in trade disputes. There is not the slightest doubt about that. Turning to the interpretation Clause in the 1333 Trade Disputes Act as to what is a trade dispute, would anyone for a moment deny that the military have been used in trade disputes?
A trade dispute may arise between workmen and masters, and the workmen may give notice to their employers that they want an alteration of the working conditions either in the shape of wages or hours, or terms of employment or superannuation after a certain number of years of employment, and as a result there may be a stoppage of work because one side refuses to sell its labour to another until some sort of new bargain is arranged, and to take it for granted that there is a right then to call in the military to assist in regulating the business of one side to that dispute is quite wrong; yet that has been done. I myself was at Clapham Junction one morning when I saw the soldiers drafted in there although the strike had not actually occurred at that moment. It was going to occur I admit, but it did not actually occur until two hours later. There you had the military brought into a dispute two hours before the dispute actually took place. That policy was not applied in this recent strike. If it had, heaven only knows what would have happened, but luckily for the good order of the State that was not carried out, and the possibility of disorder was avoided. The hon. Member for Bridgeton in his speech said: If you mention trades disputes why not other things as well, and he enumerated a number of other things, but in none of them were the military employed. We mention trades disputes because it is only in these the military have been employed and have been allowed to interfere on one side. I go a great deal further than my hon. Friend the Member for Salford (Sir W. Byles). I quite admit that civil disorder may be of such a character that it is absolutely necessary to employ the forces of the State to suppress it. It is as essential to maintain order inside your own territory as it is to attack your enemies outside, but what a confession it is for those who want to employ military in labour disputes. It is to admit that one side is the enemy of the State. That we utterly repudiate and deny. Workmen are entitled to use all the forms the State gives them the right to, for the purpose of obtaining amendment of their wages or working hours, and the military should not be employed unless it is to suppress what looks like an absolute subversion of civil order in the locality concerned. If the military had never been 1334 so employed and it was never thought of employing them on occasions of this description you would never have the Amendment we are discussing to-day brought before the House.
§ Mr. STEPHEN COLLINS
Like the hon. Member for Bow and Bromley, I am no lover of armies, and, like him, I look forward to the time when they shall be dispersed, but I ask him and my hon. Friend the Member for Merthyr, and other hon. Members below the Gangway, to endeavour to disabuse their minds of the idea that this Government is the enemy of trade unions. I think the whole history of the Government has shown how sympathetic they have been towards trade unions in all their legislation during the past six years, and I make bold to differ also from my hon. Friend who has just sat down. I do not say whether it is w[...]se or not to call the soldiers out on such occasions, but I say that the action of the Government in bringing out the soldiers is not to attack trade unions or to stop strikes, but that it is, when the minds of men are inflamed with passion and excitement, to preserve good order. When the soldiers were brought to Clapham Junction, as mentioned by my hon. Friend, they were not brought there to stop peaceful pieketing, but they were there to prevent any attempt to disarrange the "points" and to prevent any attempt to upset trains and to endanger the lives of the passengers. The Government never brought the soldiers forward to interfere with the strike; they brought them forward to prevent irresponsible men, many of them the enemies of hon. Members on the Labour Benches below the Gangway, and many of them not belonging to trade unions at all, from doing wrong. There are plenty of men on such occasions who have nothing to do with trade unions, but who are always ready in times of excitement to enter upon mischief. Those kind of men are the enemies of working men, and well-ordered men, as the vast bodies of working men are. I want the hon. Member for Bow and Bromley to withdraw that statement in which he said this Government had encouraged the capitalist to overawe the men to surrender. I do not think the Government had that in their mind at all, because all along they have been most sympathetic towards trade unions, and this was undoubtedly so during the recent coal strike. The hon. Member for Newcastle- 1335 under-Lyme (Mr. Wedgwood) said the soldiers were never intended to act as blacklegs. Let me take as an illustration the town represented by the hon. Member. I will suppose that the people in that town are being starved out owing to a strike, and that tens of thousands of people have no bread to eat. I will assume that the hon. Member and his wife and children are walking through that town and a train comes along driven by soldiers. Surely in such a case the hon. Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme and the hon. Member for Bow and Bromley, and even the hon. Member for Merthyr Tydvil, would thank God that the soldiers were there.
§ The CHAIRMAN
The hon. Member is now arguing questions which are very wide of the Amendment before the Committee.
§ Mr. S. COLLINS
I am no lover of arms and I am a man of peace, but I do not want hon. Members below the Gangway to look upon the officers of our Army as bloodthirsty men anxious to drive the soldiers under their command to shoot down their fellow creatures. We are glad to know that although the troops were brought into London during the recent crisis no lives were lost. I saw the troops myself at Clapham Junction, and I remarked to one of them, "You are having a nice time of it." There the soldiers were lying about smoking their pipes and enjoying themselves, and long may they be able to do that. I hope hon. Members below the Gangway will disabuse their minds of the thought that this Government is the enemy of trade unionism, and that they want to bring out the soldiers to shoot down the people whenever a trade dispute occurs.
§ Mr. WARDLE
Will the Attorney-General state to the Committee what the law is with regard to the position of the soldier in a trade dispute. Some time ago a Committee was appointed upon an Amendment which I moved to the Army Estimates to inquire into the whole question of the use of the military in trade disputes. A Report was presented to the House, and I should like to know whether that Report is being acted upon at the present time, and whether, if any legislation is required, it could be put into the Army (Annual) Bill. I also wish to know whether, when the military are employed, instructions can be given to the soldiers 1336 on the order of any one magistrate after the issue of that report, or whether the Home Office has the power to order them about and send the soldiers here, there, and everywhere.
§ The CHAIRMAN
That question would probably be in order upon the Third Reading, but not upon an Amendment of this kind.
§ Mr. WARDLE
As the whole question has practically been debated I thought we could get it out of the way altogether if the Attorney-General would state the law with regard to this part of the Amendment. This Amendment raises the question whether the soldier who joins the Army shall be given an option in disturbances when a trade dispute arises. Soldiers have been employed in trade disputes. I was in Ireland not long ago and I saw them so employed. I have also seen them in England, and I have seen photographs of them acting as blacklegs learning to drive trains, and we want to know, if the Army (Annual) Bill is passed without this Amendment, whether the soldiers can be so employed.
§ Mr. LANSBURY
In reply to what the hon. Member for Kennington (Mr. Stephen Collins) said, I wish to point out that I did not say that this Government is any worse or any better than any other Government in regard to their action against trade unionists during a strike. [An HON. MEMBER: "They are worse."] Well, probably they are worse, but what I wanted to put forward was that there is such a thing as creating an atmosphere. Hon. Members who want to establish schools in which certain dogmatic religious instruction is to be given understand what the atmosphere of a school means. My contention is that the Government last summer created an atmosphere in London that the workmen were doing the wrong thing in talking about coming out on strike, and in order to create that atmosphere they brought out the troops, who were supplied with so many rounds of shot and were armed with bayonets, in order to overawe the men. That is what I mean when I say that the Government used the military against the strikers, and they definitely did that for a set purpose. I agree with what has already been said that the Minister who did such a thing as that ought to be impeached, but none of us understood how he could be impeached, and so the Minister got another job.
§ Question put, "That the Clause be read a second time."
§ The CHAIRMAN
The Amendment standing in the name of the hon. Member for Merthyr Tydvil (Mr, Keir Hardie) and
§ The Committee divided: Ayes, 23, Noes, 168.1337
|Division No. 68.]||AYES.||[6.25 P.m.|
|Alden, Percy||Jones, H. Haydn (Merioneth)||Taylor, John W. (Durham)|
|Bowerman, C. W.||King, Joseph||Thorne, William (West Ham)|
|Burt, Rt. Hon. Thomas||Macdonald, J. R. (Leicester)||Ward, John (Stoke-upon-Trent)|
|Byles, Sir William Pollard||Nelison, Francis||Wardle, George J.|
|Davies, E. William (Eifion)||O'Grady, James||Wedgwood, Josiah C.|
|De Forest, Baron||Parker, James (Halifax)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—Mr.|
|Duncan, C. (Barrow-in-Furness)||Richardson, Thomas (Whitehaven)||Keir Hardle and Mr. Lansbury.|
|Hadge, John||Smith, Albert (Lanes., Clitheroe)|
|Hudson, Walter||Snowden, Philip|
|Acland, Francis Dyke||Glanville, Harold James||Mooney, John J.|
|Agg-Gardner, James Tynte||Goldsmith, Frank||Morton, Alpheus Cleophas|
|Ainsworth, John Stirling||Gordon, Hon. John Edward (Brighton)||Murray, Captain Hon. Arthur C.|
|Aitken, Sir William Max||Greene, Walter Raymond||Newton, Harry Kottingham|
|Allen, Rt. Hon. Charles Peter (Stroud)||Greenwood, Granville G. (Peterborough)||Nuttall, Harry|
|Balcarres, Lord||Hackett, John||O'Brien, Patrick (Kilkenny)|
|Banbury, Sir Frederick George||Hamersley, Alfred St. George||O'Connor, T. P. (Liverpool)|
|Baring, Sir Godfrey (Barnstaple)||Harcourt, Rt. Hon. L. (Rossendale)||O'Doherty, Philip|
|Barrie, H. T. (Londonderry, N.)||Harcourt, Robert V. (Montrose)||Ogden, Fred|
|Bathurst, Hon. Allen B. (Glouc, E.)||Harmsworth, Cecil (Luton, Beds)||Ormsby-Gore, Hon. William|
|Bathurst, Charles (Wilts, Wilton)||Harvey, A. G. C. (Rochdale)||Pearce, Robert (Staffs, Leek)|
|Beauchamp, Sir Edward||Havelock-Allan, Sir Henry||Pease, Rt. Hon. Joseph A. (Rotherham)|
|Beck, Arthur Cecil||Hayden, John Patrick||Peel, Capt. R. F. (Woodbridge)|
|Benn, Arthur Shirley (Plymouth)||Henderson, Major H. (Berkshire)||Phillips, John (Longford, S.)|
|Bennett-Goldney, Francis||Henry, Sir Charles||Pirie, Duncan Vernon|
|Bentham, G. J.||Herbert, Hon. A. (Somerset, S.)||Price, C. E. (Edinburgh, Central)|
|Bird, Alfred||Hewins, William Albert Samuel||Pringle, William M. R.|
|Birrell, Rt. Hon. Augustine||Higham, John Sharp||Pryce-Jones, Colonel E.|
|Black, Arthur W.||Hills, John Waller||Radford, George Heynes|
|Boland, John Pius||Hoare, Samuel John Gurney||Rawlinson, John Frederick Peel|
|Booth, Frederick Handel||Hogge, James Myles||Rea, Rt. Hon. Russell (South Solelds)|
|Boyton, James||Hohler, Gerald Fitzroy||Reddy, Michael|
|Brady, Patrick Joseph||Holmes, Daniel Turner||Remnant, James Farquharson|
|Bridgeman, William Clive||Hope, John Deans (Haddington)||Robertson, John M. (Tyneside)|
|Bull, Sir William James||Howard, Hon. Geoffrey||Rolleston, Sir John|
|Burn, Colonel C. R.||Hughes, Spencer Leigh||Runciman, Rt. Hon. Walter|
|Burns, Rt. Hon. John||Ingleby, Holcombe||Russell Rt. Hon. Thomas W.|
|Campion, W. R.||Isaacs, Rt. Hon. Sir Rufus||Samuel, Rt. Hon. H. L. (Cleveland)|
|Carlile, Sir Edward Hildred||Jones, William (Carnarvonshire)||Sanders, Robert Arthur|
|Carr-Gomm, H. W.||Joyce, Michael||Sandys, G. J. (Somerset, Wells)|
|Cecil, Evelyn (Aston Manor)||Kellaway, Frederick George||Scott, A. MacCallum (Glas., Bridgeton)|
|Chapple, Dr. William Allen||Kennedy, Vincent Paul||Seely, Col. Rt. Hon. J. E. B.|
|Clough, William||Kerry, Earl of||Stanier, Beville|
|Collins, Godfrey P. (Greenock)||Lambert, Richard (Wilts, Cricklade)||Stanley, Hon. G. F. (Preston)|
|Collins, Stephen (Lambeth)||Leach, Charles||Strauss, Edward A. (Southwark West)|
|Compton-Rickett, Rt. Hon. Sir J.||Lewis, John Herbert||Summers, James Woolley|
|Cornwall, Sir Edwin A.||Lewisham, Viscount||Sykes, Mark (Hull, Central)|
|Cotton, William Francis||Low, Sir Frederick (Norwich)||Taylor, Theodore C. (Radcliffe)|
|Craig, Captain James (Down, E.)||Lundon, Thomas||Tennant, Harold John|
|Dalrymple, Viscount||Lyell, Charles Henry||Terrell, George (Wilts, N.W.)|
|Davies, Timothy (Lines., Louth)||Lyttelton, Hon. J. G. (Droitwich)||Thynne, Lord Alexander|
|Dawes, J. A.||MacCaw, William J. MacGeagh||Ure, Rt. Hon. Alexander|
|Denman, Hon. R. D.||Macdonald, J. M. (Falkirk Burghs)||Valentia, Viscount|
|Denniss, E. R. B.||Macnamara, Rt. Hon. Dr. T. J.||Verney, Sir Harry|
|Dewar, Sir J. A.||Macpherson, James Ian||Wason, Rt. Hon. E. (Clackmannan)|
|Doris, William||MacVeagh, Jeremiah||Wason, John Cathcart (Orkney)|
|Duke, Henry Edward||M Callum, John M.||White, Major G. D. (Lanes., Southport)|
|Esmonde, Dr. John (Tipperary, N.)||McKenna, Rt. Hon. Reginald||White, J. Dundas (Glas., Tradeston)|
|Eyres-Monsell, Bolton M.||M'Laren, Walter S. B. (Ches., Crewe)||Williamson, Sir A.|
|Fell, Arthur||M'Micking, Major Gilbert||Wood, John (Stalybridge)|
|Ffrench, Peter||McNeill, Ronald (Kent, St. Augustine's)||Wood, Rt. Hon. T. McKinnon (Glasgow)|
|Fiennes, Hon. Eustace Edward||Malcolm, Ian||Wortley, Rt. Hon. C. B. Stuart-|
|Finlay, Rt. Hon. Sir Robert||Meehan, Patrick A. (Queens Co.)||Yate, Col. C. E.|
|Fletcher, John Samuel||Menzies, Sir Walter||Younger, Sir George|
|Gardner, Ernest||Mills, Hon. Charles Thomas||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—Mr.|
|Gilmour, Captain John||Mond, Sir Alfred M.||Gulland and Mr. Wedgwood Benn.|
|Gladstone, W. G. C.||Montagu, Hon. E. S.|
Question, "That this be the Schedule of the Bill," put, and agreed to.
§ in the name of the hon. Member for Bow and Bromley (Mr. Lansbury)—[After the word "Crown" ["for the safety of the United Kingdom and the defence of the possessions of His Majesty's Crown"] to 1339 insert the words "and for no other purpose"]—I think raises the point with which we have already dealt. I understood it to be consequential.
§ Mr. J. WARD
I venture to say the discussion has not been general; it has been very much confined. One would have liked to have gone much further than one was able to do on the last Amendment. This Amendment raises the whole question of the purposes for which the Army may be employed.
§ Mr. KEIR HARDIE
In framing the Amendments we had in mind the fact that on this Bill we cannot discuss policy. The policy can only be discussed when the Army Vote is under consideration. We did not, therefore, anticipate the general discussion.
§ Mr. WEDGWOOD
Were we not told the Attorney-General could not reply on the question whether it was legal to use these troops in trade disputes?
§ Bill reported, without Amendment.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read the third time."
§ Mr. J. WARD
I rise for the purpose of giving the Attorney-General an opportunity of replying to the criticisms that have been passed and to the questions that have been asked in Committee. I venture to suggest it would not be politic for the right hon. Gentleman to neglect this opportunity of at least giving some kind of reply to those who have passed honest and just criticisms upon the affairs of the Army and its employment during the last year. While the discussion has been very pointed occasionally, it has not transgressed the limits of fairness or gone beyond those questions on which the House is thoroughly entitled to have some explanation. I myself drew attention to the fact that, whatever lawyers may say, the soldier, when he is requested by his officer to go into the streets for the purpose of suppressing civil disorder, thinks he is acting as a soldier under military law, and is in fact told he is acting under military law. The Act declares active service to be when one is on duty against the King's enemies, and the interpretation Clause defines the King's enemies as 1340 either mutineers, those who are attempting to invade His Majesty's possessions, rioters, or pirates. The Attorney-General keeps referring to the word "armed." I do not suppose any officer has taken the trouble to inquire whether anybody in the crowd upon whom he has been asked to fire is armed or not.
§ Sir RUFUS ISAACS
I only pointed out that "active service" is defined as service against armed rioters.
§ Mr. J. WARD
My position is quite clear. I am not in the position of my hon. Friend the Member for Bow and Bromley, who says that under no circumstances would he employ the Army in civil disturbances. I do not agree with him. I believe in all human society you must rely eventually for the enforcement of justice and of law and order upon force. My criticism therefore is not against the principle, but is against the conditions under which the military were recently employed. When one looks to see who the King's enemies are against whom the soldier may be employed on active service one finds they are those who are armed attempting to invade the possessions of the King, armed rioters, and those who are disobeying the King's law. We may therefore take it that when a soldier is called upon to go into the streets to fire upon rioters he is, as a matter of fact, upon active service. He is not in the position of an ordinary citizen, and it is useless to attempt to pretend he is anything of the kind. I dare say lawyers would be able to show quite clearly that a soldier is a citizen except when actually fighting against the King's enemies outside these realms, or in defending these realms against an enemy from without, but in actual practice one knows that when a soldier is called out for the purpose of assisting the police he has not the faintest idea but that he is acting as a soldier under military law. I doubt whether he would take the trouble to go at all if he had any option. I venture to say, if a soldier did refuse to go out to suppress armed rioters who were damaging property when he was asked to do so by the civil authority, he could, under this very Bill, be court-martialled, and I believe the penalty could be, though it would never be enforced, actually death. It may, perhaps, be talking according to law to say that the case of the soldier and the citizen is exactly the same in the event of civil disorder, but it 1341 certainly is not talking according to practice or common sense.
We have just gone through one of the greatest labour disputes the country has over seen, and we have gone through it with a perfect quietness which is a surprise to the whole of the civilised nations of the world. One has only to look in the rampant Tory Press, which is always against the worker and the striker, no matter for what he is striking, to see that the foreign newspapers are admiring the way English workmen conduct their disputes with such quietness. Why is it? It is simply because we have not had any military display. Once or twice a squad was called out at Cannock Chase to suppress some little local disturbance, but the soldiers were kept in the background, and it was taken for granted by those who were conducting the dispute that as long as the Government did not interfere to overawe the strikers, or to bring the weight of military prestige on the side of the employers, there would be no disturbance. There is another case which oue is sorry to remember where the military were not held off, as it were, for the mere purpose of defending the King's subjects and their property and for maintaining law and order, but where the Army was brought in by some Gentlemen on the Front Bench responsible for its manipulation and used to overawe the men even before the strike had occurred. I venture to say that was really courting disaster. This is unfortunate, because it brings the Army into disrepute, and the citizen thinks it is being used as an institution to prevent him properly, legally, and quietly enforcing his demands. Once the common workman imagines that is the purpose for which the Army is going to be used in the future, it is a moral certainty the Army's reputation will be considerably depreciated. I quite agree that in the recent dispute there was an entire change of policy, and I desire to give the Government all the credit possible for refusing to employ the military in the miners' strike, but I cannot forget it began with an entirely different policy last summer, and I am not going to allow it to be forgotten. I should like some answer to the questions put forward this afternoon as to the position of the military in civil disorder. Under what terms do they act when called upon by the civil authority to suppress riot and disorder, especially when connected with a trade dispute? I think this House, the country, and especially the 1342 workmen most concerned, are entitled to have some official answer on the subject.
§ Sir RUFUS ISAACS
I am quite glad, to respond to the invitation of my hon. Friend and to state to him what is the position of the soldier when called upon to act in some civil disturbance. I do not think there is very much doubt about it. The matter has been inquired into on various occasions in recent years and I think it may be taken as clearly established now. First of all the duty of the soldier is one which arises because he is a citizen, and he is also bound, being a soldier, to obey the commands of his officer. These, as I said in a recent debate, are the two positions in which he is placed. He has both a civil and a military duty, and it is in that which he is distinguished from the ordinary person who has only a civil duty. To be quite frank with the House, I do not think any question can really arise with regard to it. The military forces may be called upon just the same as the ordinary citizen can be called upon to assist in the suppression of riot or in the preservation of the peace. It is the paramount duty of every citizen to assist when called upon in the preservation of the peace. He is bound so to act and equally the soldier is bound so to act. The soldier has this further advantage, and it is for the protection of the public also, that in cases of riot the soldier is a trained man, acting under discipline, and consequently there is less danger, with the soldier acting, than there would be if the ordinary public were called upon to fire or to use weapons. I have heard or e suggestion made by the hon. Member for Sal-ford in the course of this Debate which really startled me. He suggested that following the lines laid down by a Noble-Duke, whom he quoted, the persons concerned should be allowed to employ their own forces. I confess that, in my opinion, nothing could be worse in a labour dispute than to allow the capitalist to have a kind of trained army to assist in case of strikes.
§ Sir W. BYLES
I made no such suggestion. It may be due to my clumsiness of expression, but what I did wish to draw attention to was the case which we have recently seen in this country in which the Duke of Abercorn has started an independent organisation and is trying to establish a volunteer or civilian police force, or some sort of a special force to do away with the necessity of employing the armed forces of the Crown.
§ Sir RUFUS ISAACS
I was merely referring to the point, and the reason I referred to it was to draw the moral and show the inference that might be made if an attempt were made to cope with disturbances by means of this character. The necessary inference from that, if it took place, would be that we would have these volunteer associations formed by capitalists, and that they would be employed in trade disputes, and we should have them attempting to suppress disturbances, but rather I think helping to create them. I quite grasp what my hon. Friend says, but I only wanted to deal with the possible inference that might be drawn from his statement if it went without any explanation. Now another point which arises is this: It is said, "Why are the police not sufficiently strong to cope with the disorder." If you have a disturbance created with which the police can cope, nobody would dream of calling in the assistance of the military, and it has never been done. There might be an occasion possibly, I am not speaking of any specific occasion, but there might be a case in which a difficulty would arise as to whether the police would or would not be sufficient to deal with either a riot which was taking place, or was about to take place, and it might be that in such a case a specially timid local authority might requisition the assistance of the military. The military may be used for the purpose of suppressing riot or unlawful assembly or disturbances which have actually arisen, and they may also be requisitioned for the purpose of preventing a possible riot. It is not necessary there should be actual riot; that would be reducing the law to ridicule, if you are going to say that 100,000 men should be entitled to assemble in Parliament Square, and that until they had actually rioted or had committed some disturbance, you could not requisition any citizen or employ the military to enforce order or to disperse them.
Of course you could, and the military may be used for the purpose of either protecting life and limb or protecting property or preventing disturbance, and equally they may be used and requisitioned in anticipation of a possible riot. Not for the purpose of shooting. My hon. Friends, I am sure, will not misunderstand what I am saying in that respect. Nobody would order a soldier to fire; no Government would ever dream of that unless there was a real necessity for it, in order to prevent something that threatened to 1344 become, or something which had already become, a most serious disturbance of the public peace. It is only when a question of that kind arises that there is any order given to fire. It is said also in reference to this matter that soldiers ought not to be called upon to interfere in trade disputes. I see myself no magic in the words "trade disputes." I say there is no reason why a soldier should interfere in a trade dispute any more than in any other kind of dispute, but the whole principle at the root of this matter is that the soldier may be called upon for the preservation of the peace either where there is a riot or in anticipation of riot, and also that the soldier ordinarily can be requisitioned for the purpose of preserving life or in anticipation of some attack upon life or upon the community. In all these respects soldiers can be employed in the several instances I have given. He is doing his duty as a citizen, and, in addition to that, being a soldier, because he cannot separate his military duty from his civic duty, he becomes liable to do his duty both as a citizen and as a soldier.
§ Mr. WEDGWOOD
May I ask just one question? Can you force a soldier under the military law to act as a blackleg or to work in connection with a trade dispute, such as to drive a railway train, or to stoke a furnace, or to drive carts, or convey mails, or anything of that kind? Is it within the powers of the State to force soldiers to do that kind of work and to make them liable to punishment for indiscipline if they do not obey orders?
§ Sir RUFUS ISAACS
I thought that from what I had said that the hon. Member would have gathered that it depends entirely upon the circumstances. In the ordinary course of things, of course not; but I am not going to lay down the proposition that in no circumstances would it be desirable or necessary to employ soldiers to do some work which otherwise they would not be called upon to do. I cannot tell: it must depend absolutely upon the circumstances that arise.
§ Mr. WEDGWOOD
I want to speak upon that point, because it is the kernel of the whole thing, whether the Army is to be used in order to facilitate the victory of one side or another in a trade dispute, or, still more, in order to preserve the food supply or the supply of raw materials. No doubt the preservation of the food supply or of raw materials is a most important thing to society; but the question is 1345 whether society has the right to compel people to do this kind of work or to compel a soldier, because he is under military discipline, to do work which he objects to doing. I think the State has no right to compel a citizen to do a particular kind of work, and it has no more right to compel a soldier to do work which he does not want to do, work which he considers to be dishonourable. You have no right to compel a citizen to do it; but you have a perfect right to ask volunteers to do it. An hon. Member for one of the southern divisions of London has said that you could not possibly leave the people to starve. Quite so, but you must call upon volunteers to help you to prevent that, rather than compel a man to perform work which he may consider dishonourable or blackleg work against his will. You have a perfect right to call upon volunteers and induce them to do that work by giving them higher pay, but you have no right to compel the military forces to do that which they consider dishonourable. I understand that under this Bill you are taking to the Government a right to do that. You are taking to the State the power to compel 186,000 men to act as "blacklegs, even against their principles.
§ Mr. WEDGWOOD
You have told us clearly that under certain circumstances it might be possible, and perhaps I might ask you under what authority it was done in Ireland? They were used there actually to drive trains. You would have power, under this Bill, to do that. You would have that power over these 186,000 men. Of course, it is vain to hope to prevent the Army Bill passing, but I feel certain that it will soon be found that the democracy of this country is against the State having power to compel citizens to act against their consciences, and that the democracy will not allow that law to be enforced in this country much longer.
§ Mr. LANSBURY
I should just like to point out that the very circumstances to which the Attorney-General has referred arose last summer, and that these soldiers were put to work upon Irish railways to act as "blacklegs" when the men were on strike, and if the men had refused to do it that being apparently a lawful order— the words of the Act are:disobeys in such manner as to show a wilful defiance of authority any lawful 1346 command given personally by his superior officer in the execution of his office, whether the same is given orally, or in writing, or by signal, or otherwise, shall on conviction by court-marital to suffer death or such less punishment, as in this Act mentioned.Now I venture to say that the working people outside are quite unaware that that will be the law of the land when this Act is passed; that soldiers may be called upon to become blacklegs, and that those who refuse may be liable to be shot. That is a most monstrous proposition, one which goes down to the roots of democracy, and it is because I feel that this tremendous growth of the military spirit is against democracy, and certainly against progressive democracy and against every true development of the people, that I will shout "No" against the Third Reading of this Bill even if I am the only person to do so. Any society that in the last resort rests upon force to carry on its ordinary avocations, to carry on the business of production or distribution, is in a very bad way, and that is what we are rapidly coming to in this country. We commenced last year, and this year again we have had that spirit at its height in this House, and on both sides Members have been found to defend the military principle. It only proves how the military spirit has grown when apparently the only thing we can rely upon now is the power of the soldier. I believe the soldier is always on the side of the vested interests of the time, and I view that with a great deal of alarm, as I view also the growth of the notion that the Army must be used to defend the country from someone outside.
That is only part and parcel of the same kind of theory. You can see it in the hatred that is stirred up against other countries exactly in the same way as we have seen in the last few weeks the hatred that was stirred up against men who wanted to prevent blacklegs going to work, who wanted either to persuade them by peaceful picketing or otherwise. The whole theory behind that was that the striker was doing something he ought not to do, and that, as an hon. Member says, he was "injuring society." That is admitted, but for my part I am against the Army being used to enable you to force that principle upon the people who refuse to sell their labour, and I am also dead against the notion that society should rest merely upon force in that kind of way. May I respectfully point out to the 1347 7.0 P.M.
Attorney-General that part of the doctrine he has laid down this afternoon is entirely contrary, I am speaking from memory, to what I heard quoted in the debate last year, as to the doctrine laid down by Sir William Harcourt in the famous Mitchelstown Debate in this House. He laid it down definitely and distinctly, and he was supported by the late Mr. Gladstone, in opposition to the late Lord Randolph Churchill and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the City of London (Mr. Balfour), that the military force ought never to be used until the civil force had actually been overpowered. That was laid down over and over again in that Debate. It shows how far we have travelled since then, and how far the Liberal party have travelled since then, that it was stated this afternoon that not merely can the military power be brought in to anticipate a riot, but that it may be brought in to break a strike, and to be used as blacklegs to defeat the men in their attempt to carry through their strike. It is no use saying, as may be said, that the only reason you do it is to keep open the food supplies for the people. We were told that last summer, and we may be told that again. I say that the proper way to keep open our food supply is not to intimidate the men who are striking for proper wages and proper conditions, but to compel those who employ them to give them proper wages and proper conditions, and so obviate the need for a strike or the bringing in of strike-breakers. I feel that in our country the force of the military power is uppermost. Even our London police are being militarised now; it has to have all sorts of military men to take care of it, and is organised as a military force. It is because a sort of fetish is being made of everything military; be cause I believe that any society that depends upon force to keep open the means of production and exchange is in a very rotten condition, and because I want to see substituted for force the law of order, and for the rule of the military I want to see co-operation amongst people and the getting rid of the causes that make people go on strike, that I am going to vote against the raising of 186,000 soldiers.
§ Mr. O'GRADY
The whole burden of the complaint from these benches has been in regard to the military force being used 1348 against the democracy and not against other people. If this force could be applied to the other side as well as to the working people one would not have so much to complain of. It would be fair, any way. But during the railway strike these men were used to intimidate the strikers. There is a case that happened last summer, which arose out of the railway strike. I believe that ten military gentlemen were engaged to do certain work in London. The result of the collapse of the railway strike was that they were out of work. Representatives were made to the Home Office, saying that the men had given up their positions, and that something ought to found for them to do. The Home Office found work for them to do. Clearly that was to prepare for the next strike of the transport workers in London. What did they do? They surveyed London, they took the numbers of all the cold stores and food supplies, and I believe that they went to the extent of sketching out where Gatling guns and troops could be disposed, so as to get food supplies from the ships to the people who wanted them. All these things were undertaken with a view to preparing for the next transport workers' strike. I submit that that is a form of intimidation which is not fair, and it certainly shows that the military force were being exclusively used upon one side. I think it ought to be made a criminal offence for mine owners to engineer the lock-out or strike that took place in the coalfields. After the Miners' Federation had receded very much from their original position in regard to the Schedules, and had placed an interpretation upon their Schedules which any reasonable business man could have seen could be carried into effect, the mine owners would not see the Miners' Federation or concede their terms. Dozens of questions were put in this House as to whether the time had not come for the troops to be brought into the streets. I say that if that force had been brought out, it would have been brought out to-intimidate the miners and not against the mine owners. These things ought to be taken into consideration, and until the law is amended, until this Act is amended so as to make it perfectly clear that it is going to be used against anyone who endangers the safety of the State. I am going to vote against the Third Reading.
§ Colonel YATE
May I just express on behalf of the soldier my thanks to the 1349 right hon. Gentleman for having raised the rates for breakfast, dinner and supper of the soldier as mentioned in the Schedule.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Bill read the third time, and passed.