HC Deb 16 November 1914 vol 68 cc256-304

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That a supplementary sum not exceeding £225,000,000 be granted to His Majesty beyond the ordinary Grants of Parliament, towards defraying the Expenses which may be incurred during the year ending the 31st March, 1915, for all measures which may be taken for the security of the country, for the conduct of Naval and Military operations, for assisting the Food Supply, and promoting the Continuance of Trade, Industry, Business and Communications, whether by means of insurance or indemnity against risk, the financing of the purchase and resale of foodstuffs and materials, or otherwise, for Relief of Distress, and generally for all expenses arising out of the existence of a state of war."

The PRIME MINISTER (Mr. Asquith)

I propose to deal very briefly with this matter to-day because my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer will to-morrow present to the House a full statement of the proposals which the Government propose to make to meet in various ways the expenditure incurred and rendered necessary by the War. But in submitting to the House this Vote of Credit I must make one or two explanatory observations. It will be in the recollection of the Committee that on the 8th of August a Vote was taken of £100,000,000, and the Supplementary Vote which we now propose is for no less than £225,000,000, which will raise the amounts which the House is asked to vote beyond the ordinary Grants of Parliament to £325,000,000. I do not know that it is necessary to point out, but I may perhaps say in passing, that our machinery in this matter, which is well settled by precedent and by usage, is that when Votes of Credit of this kind are taken the practice has been to use first the ordinary Grants made by Parliament so far as they suffice and only to fall back upon the issues of the Votes of Credit when those normal Grants have been exhausted. Ultimately, when the accounts of the year are made up, the sums chargeable against the Vote of Credit ought and will, roughly, at any rate, and approximately represent the extra expenditure due to the War. But at any intermediate period of the year the expenditure on the Vote of Credit need not, and often will not, exceed the actual total War expenditure incurred up to any given date. The House authorised on the 8th of August last a Vote of Credit of £100,000,000. I do not think it would be expedient in the public interest to disclose precisely at this moment the figures, at any rate, the items of expenditure, which have been incurred under the authority given by that Vote, but I may state them in general terms.

In the first place, as the House will readily believe, by far the largest amount, if not the largest amount, of the sum authorised by that Vote of Credit, has been expended and is being expended week after week for what I may call military purposes, the actual conduct of operations of war. But, in addition to that, there have been large outlays under a number of other heads included in the general terms in which the title of the Vote is framed, and some of which have gone to the grant of loans to our Allies, and some also, a very large sum, towards securing the food supplies of the country, especially in regard to sugar and in regard to wheat and some of the other necessaries of life, which, although on the face of it, and, for the moment, will have involved very large disbursements of money, will, as we believe, be ultimately recouped to the Exchequer when the supplies so secured, have reasonably and prudently secured, have been distributed and paid for by the traders and consumers. Then there is the sum—the not inconsiderable sum—which we have had to expend in order to secure the active control of the railways of the country, which was necessary at a time like this; and there are other smaller matters, some of which I do not think it is expedient at this time to particularise, but which include expenditure, which I am sure the House will gladly recognise as necessary and judicious, in regard to foreign refugees and destitute aliens. Of course, full and complete details of these various heads of expenditure will in due time be rendered. I trust that the Committee will be content for the moment with my assurance that it is under those various heads that that expenditure has taken place.

I come now to what is more relevant and important for the immediate purpose of the Vote I am asking the Committee to entertain this afternoon, namely, What are the purposes for which we are asking the sanction of Parliament? There, again, I do not think it would be wise to name particular figures, but the great bulk of this new Vote of Credit for no less than £225,000,000 will be for Army and Navy expenditure. There are certain other categories as to which it is right the House should be informed in advance of what the intentions of the Government are. They fall under two heads—Civil Expenditure and Loan Expenditure. The Civil expenditure, I am glad to say, does not amount to anything considerable, and in point of money it is largely, if not exclusively, for the purpose of completing the supplies of food, sugar, and other classes of food, which owing to the contraction of the marker resulting from the War the Government felt bound in the interests of the community to take in hand. There are further certain particular commodities, some of them necessary for our own purposes and others of them necessary, so far as we can, to exclude from the use of our belligerent opponents. I shall not be expected to say precisely what they are. There are commodities which fall within both those classes, and with regard to them we think it will be right to give the Government certain latitude to deal with. The item of loans is a very large one. I do not think there is any objection at this point to my stating the figure. The Committee will understand that this Vote of Credit is entirely for expenditure up to 31st March next, the close of the present financial year. All these loans, which, if the Committee authorise this Vote, we shall propose to take authority for ourselves to raise during that time and not for our own purposes, amount to £44,000,000. I said "not for our own purposes," but I ought to exclude, when I say that, a comparatively small sum which we may have to raise for the use of our local authorities here in relief of distress. I am glad to say that that is likely to be a very small sum of money. I hope it may not be necessary to raise any sum at all, but still we must, as a matter of precaution, take power to ourselves to raise a small sum for that purpose.

The main item—and there is no objection, I think, in the public interest to disclose it—is with regard to the Government of Belgium, which has already, with the warm approval of Members in every quarter of the House, received a loan of £10,000,000, and, as I said already, a small amount has been advanced to the Government of Servia, which has received a loan of £800,000. I may say, with regard to both these loans, that we do not propose that any interest should be charged upon them until the conclusion of the War.


They ought to be gifts.

4.0 P.M.


We are not charging any interest upon them. A much larger item is the item of loans which we propose to raise for the benefit of our Dominions. The Committee will like to understand what is the position of that matter. These great self-governing Dominions would, in the ordinary course, have been compelled during the present financial year to come to the London market for the purpose of raising money, sometimes for the renewal—I think to a large extent for the renewal—of loans which have expired, and the repayment of which was due, and, in some cases, for other purposes which were essential for their domestic interests. The Dominion of Canada, the Union of South Africa, the Commonwealth of Australia, and the Dominion of New Zealand, are all in that category. Obviously it would be most inexpedient that these various Dominions should come into the London market each endeavouring to raise for itself upon its own terms the money needed for its own local purposes. We propose to relieve them of that responsibility and ourselves to undertake the raising of loans for them all to an amount which we estimate at the moment at about £30,250,000. I am sure the Committee will realise that, under the circumstances, that is much the best course to take in the interests of the Dominions and of the Empire at large. It is desirable that everybody should understand that out of this very large Vote of Credit which we are submitting to the House of Commons, a sum of nearly £45,000,000 is to be immediately devoted to that purpose. In other words, it will not be—certainly in regard to the loans to the Dominions—an ultimate charge on the Exchequer of the United Kingdom; but it is a necessary operation for financing our sister and daughter possessions in the exigencies caused by the War. These are the main items to which the Vote of Credit will be applied.

The Committee might like to form some kind of estimate, or to know what kind of estimate the Government have formed, as to the cost of the War itself. I do not—it would be very undesirable to do so—pry into the future; I do not attempt to speculate as to what commitments it may in the course of the next few months be necessary for us to incur; but I think I may say—this is the only figure I will or ought to give, and it is one which anybody who carefully studies the national accounts as they are presented from week to week will be able, more or less roughly, to calculate for himself—that up to the present date—that is, up to last Saturday—the actual cost on the Exchequer of this country for carrying on the War over and above all our normal expenditure as voted by Parliament during the last Session, amounts to somewhere between £900,000 and £1,000,000 a day. I do not say that we shall keep it at that level. On the whole, having regard to the enormous scale of the operations, the gigantic commitments which we have had to undertake, not merely in regard to the Navy and the Army, but in regard to other matters connected with the maintenance of the trade of the country, the food of the people, and, so far as we could, the prevention of supplies reaching our enemy, I do not think anybody will say that that is a sum which exceeds the expectations which might reasonably have been entertained. At any rate, I cannot hold out any hope that during the continuance of the War that daily expenditure is likely to be diminished. I believe that tins Committee, and all sections of the community, will agree that the Government ought to ask from the House of Commons a provision up to the 31st March which will not only satisfy calculations based upon the actual experience of the 105 days during which the War has lasted, but leave them with a reasonable margin in regard to such calculations as they can make for future expenditure up to the end of the financial year. I purposely confine myself to a very brief businesslike statement, because I do not think that this is an occasion upon which it is in the least degree necessary to appeal to the patriotism and the devotion of the House and country to the cause in which we are engaged. I can only assure them that the estimates have been most carefully considered and revised again and again, and that they represent the minimum of what the Government think it right to ask from the House of Commons in what is perhaps the greatest emergency with which in our history we have ever been faced.


I am sure the whole Committee will have listened with a profound feeling of satisfaction to the statement just made by the Prime Minister. Not only is it clear and concise, as his statements always are, but he has made it evident to the Committee that the Government are determined to carry through this great War with due regard to wise economy, but with a steadfast determination that nothing shall be left undone to make the issue the only one which we can contemplate, namely, a successful one. We have all heard with satisfaction the announcement of the Prime Minister in regard to the items of expenditure to which he has referred. The loans to the Allies were welcomed by everybody in the country when we heard of them. The control over the railways has not only worked without a single hitch, but with the most wonderful regard for the convenience of the public at large. It has been, I think, one of the most successful enterprises ever undertaken in this country. We had a variety of systems of railways; we had to make an enormous demand upon them for the conveyance of troops and stores; and we had, if possible, not to interfere unduly with the travelling public. I myself, have had occasion to travel about the country from the beginning of the mobilisation orders, and I do not believe that any reasonable person can by any possibility complain of the way in which the Government have expressed their control and provided alike for the needs of the nation and for the convenience of individuals.

The right hon. Gentleman, dealing with other items of expenditure, expressed the hope that the Committee and the country would be willing to give the Government very wide latitude as to their expenditure and as to any explanation they might give about it at this stage. I believe that the Committee and the country will go further than even the Prime Minister has asked, and give to the Government, not only a wide latitude, but an absolutely free hand, so long as they are satisfied that the Government mean to prosecute the War with vigour and determination. That I believe to be the view of the country at large at this moment, and I am satisfied that any attempt to take a different line would meet with no support at all among the great masses of our people. I was very glad to hear what the Prime Minister said about Civil expenditure. I have had some little opportunity of watching the progress of distress and relief work in this country since the War began, and I believe that the Prime Minister has not been in any sense unduly optimistic in the view which he has expressed. There is every evidence that the country is facing the situation calmly and quietly, and on all sides there are indications, I am happy to say, that we are not going to be faced with that stupendous problem of unemployment which we might naturally have expected, and with which we were at one time threatened by many people, who probably were a little too quick to anticipate misfortune. Therefore I hope and believe that the demand of the Government for money for the relief of civil distress will not be a serious one.

With regard to the loans to Belgium and Servia, I am convinced that the Government have rightly interpreted the wishes of the country. This is not the time or the occasion on which to dwell on the heroism and sacrifices of Belgium, but I am convinced that everybody in the country feels that we cannot do too much to help that devoted country or to show to them how we appreciate the marvellous courage, the undying pluck, and the wonderful sacrifice which they have displayed since the War began. They certainly deserve the help which the Government have given. In this respect again we are quite content to leave it to the Government to decide not only when interest shall be payable, if they so decide, but what form their decision shall take. Whatever their decision is, we shall support them. May I speak in the same vein in regard to the steps taken to provide our great Overseas Dominions with money? Here, again, it is not the moment to speak of the wonderful way in which they have come to the aid of the Mother Country. Certainly, from the economic point of view, it is desirable to aid them as proposed, and I cannot help thinking that in our own interests it is a wise thing to do.

We would like to make a few suggestions of a perfectly friendly character to the Prime Minister in regard to what, after his speech, may be regarded as somewhat minor matters, though they are of grave importance. I take it it would be in order to refer briefly to them now, and I think it would be for the convenience of the Prime Minister that we should do so, because the settlement of most, if not all of them, must rest mainly with the head of the Government. But if we raise them at this moment, it is not with the desire—far from it—that the Prime Minister should give us an answer now—that would be impossible—but that he may have these matters in his mind and be in a position to deal with them on some future occasion. The Prime Minister has dealt with the financial situation, and with the main purposes for which this vast sum of money has been or may be required; but, of course, it must be clear to the Committee that the main purpose for which the money is required is for the increase of the Army, and for the supply of our Army in the field. Whatever money we may vote here, however ready we may be—and I am convinced we are ready to place at the disposal of the Government all the supplies that they need—money by itself will be useless if there are difficulties in the way of getting the men which cannot be overcome. I venture in this spirit to make a few suggestions to the Prime Minister with, I need hardly say, the assent and approval of my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition, and to pray for them at his hands the most favourable consideration.


Might I suggest to the right hon. Gentleman that it would be more convenient to take those suggestions on the Vote that follows—the Vote for one million men? It seems to me to be desirable to keep the discussion in one whole, rather than take part now.


Might I make a suggestion? The course you have suggested is obviously the more convenient one at ordinary times. But the Session will probably be a short one. Would it not, therefore, be really more convenient to take all the speaking now, so long as it is relevant?


The Vote to which I refer follows immediately on this to-day.


We do not want to have to make two speeches!


Perhaps not, and I do not wish for the moment to lay down any hard or fast rule, but I think it will be as well to keep the matter separate.


Perhaps I might offer a word. I think the most convenient course would be to take the whole discussion now, otherwise there may be undue duplication. It is unnecessary, perhaps, to point out that it is almost impossible to dissociate the question of money from men or men from money. Perhaps, if you think it will assist the general convenience, we might take the whole discussion on this Vote.


Under the special circumstances I am quite willing to fall in with the wish expressed.


I am very grateful to the Chair and to the Prime Minister for his observations. It was with that intention that I did propose to raise this question, because it seemed to me that if we took this discussion now the Vote would follow as a matter of course. There are two, comparatively speaking, small matters, but they are really of great importance as affecting the Army that we are sending abroad. The first is in regard to the officers. I would venture to urge on the Prime Minister and the Government that this is a singularly fitting opportunity to take some steps to improve the position of the officers as regards their pay and allowances. I doubt if anybody realises how hard are the circumstances in which officers' wives find themselves, especially the widows of officers who lose their lives on the battlefield. For many years there has been but a very small increase—made the other day—and made within limits—in the pay of officers. When we realise that the remuneration given to people who are paid for their labour has steadily increased during recent years, and that the cost of living has materially increased, and when we remember the many demands made upon officers in regard to the claims of their domestic arrangements and from their regiments, I think it may fairly be urged that the time has come when their position should be reconsidered. Some steps taken in this direction now would be especially welcome, and would, I think, bring relief to many a home that is darkened not only by the possible shadow of loss, but also by financial straights which might easily be relieved, and that at no very great cost to the country. I should like to urge a special case upon the Prime Minister in regard to officers who are called out for particular duties. I am not going to trouble the Committee or the Prime Minister now with the details, but if the right hon. Gentleman will permit me I shall be very glad to hand those details to him privately. I will only say this, that whatever the case of the Department may be, if you create a feeling of injustice, and if you give any foundation for the cry that the Government are departing from their undertaking, you thereby do an enormous amount of harm to the cause you have at heart, namely, urging the need for further men for the country. That is undoubtedly the impression—I do not say it is well founded—which has been created. Let me take recruiting officers. They certainly were promised a grant in respect of their kits. That promise has gone through a variety of changes, and now these officers find themselves called upon to find the money, and not to get the grant.

Passing from the officers to the men, that is a really small question, but it bulks very large in some districts in the country where the National Reserve are numerous. The National Reserve were promised a bounty of £10 in one case, and £5 in another to join the Colours. These men are among the best, the most stalwart, and the most loyal that we have got with the Colours. Almost in every case they left good civil places, and good wages, bringing with them excellent characters from that civil employment on joining the Colours. Many of them are engaged not with the Colours, but on work that is very difficult, not free from danger, namely, that of guarding our railway' bridges, etc., and many of these men have not received that gratuity. Why? One reason is that they did not sign certain cards which were issued to them and which they ought to have signed. It was a condition of their employment. I frankly admit that it was a condition of their employment, but I ask the Government: Is this the moment in which to enforce rigid conditions of this kind? I can give the Prime Minister one special case which I am sure will appeal to him. I myself am not familiar with the particular conditions on which this force exists, but I believe each local branch of the National Reserve is divided into something like a company and placed under a local commanding officer. The War broke out. As the Government knows full well, an immediate and very urgent demand was made upon the patriotism of all classes, and many men flocked to the Colours. One of these cases I investigated myself. The local captain was the first, or one of the first, to volunteer for service. He joined a Territorial battalion in Wales. The result of his going was that none of his men received their cards: the cards were never issued. I may be told that the men ought to have known how the thing stood. Perhaps they ought. But these men all belong to the labouring or artisan classes. They have very little time to make themselves familiar with conditions of the kind. They leave home early in the morning, and when they get back from their work at night they are pretty well tired, and it is rather hard to punish them because they omitted a formality when they have given that which is of much more importance than their signature—that is, their service to their country, and this with the utmost willingness! I would earnestly ask the Prime Minister to himself look into this matter, because it is having an effect on recruiting.

If we are to get all the men we want we must carry with us not only the men but the women of the country. It is the women who complain most loudly about this grievance, because they are left at home and expect this gratuity. They believe—and I am bound to say that I thoroughly agree with them—that they are entitled to the money. They ask, with considerable insistence, why is it, when their husbands have gone, and when there was an undertaking that they should get the money they have not got it, and "simply because my husband did not sign a particular card!" I do not think the case against the grant can be maintained, and I would most respectfully and as strongly as I can urge this matter upon the Government, because this particular case of the National Reserve means a very small sum of money. I know—as everybody that has been in a Government Department knows—that the danger of conceding a small demand is not to be measured by the size of the demand, but because it possibly will be used as a pretext and justification for other demands. But I really believe that in this case that not only are you creating an wholly unnecessary obstacle to recruiting, but you are doing an injustice to a body of men—not very large in number, but very loyal and very efficient who are at this moment giving service to the country which may ultimately lead to sickness, wounds, or actual loss of life. Under the circumstances any technical difficulty might be waived, and these men might be given the gratuity or bonus which they were promised if they came out when called upon.

In regard to the conduct of the War abroad, may I make very earnestly a recommendation to the Prime Minister? We believe—I think everybody believes—that we can get all the men we want. The country is magnificent. But do not let our enemies think that our men are wanting either in courage or in determination. If they are not flocking to the Colours as rapidly as they were there are many reasons to account for it. There have been difficulties. Nobody is to be blamed for them, for it is not extraordinary the difficulties have arisen when we remember—as the Prime Minister told us the other day—that the Army has been raised from a few hundred thousands to over a million. The machinery which dealt with two or three hundred thousand has had to deal with over a million men. No wonder then that there have been difficulties. I hope, nay, I believe, that those difficulties are being rapidly overcome. I can assure the Committee—and this, no doubt, is the experience of others beside myself—that it is not the hardships of temporary camps, it is not the severity of the work, it is not the repetition of the drill, or the weariness of the instruction—these are not the things which lead men to grumble. What they grumble about is the delay in getting their equipment; the long time that is allowed to elapse before they are served with their uniforms, and so on. I believe all that is being overcome, and that in future everything will go more rapidly and more smoothly, and that we shall get our men. There is no mistake about that!

At the same time, what I want to urge upon the Government is something which really affects our men in the field, not those at home. But if the changes that I have suggested are made, I believe the effect on the men in the field will be excellent, and that it will react upon the men at home. I do not believe that in the long glorious history of the British Army that the men have ever done more wonderful work than has been done by the British Army on the Continent. I make that statement, not from news which we get from the newspapers. I make it from letters which I have received, and which others have shown me. Those letters do not tell me of the feats of arms of the particular corps to which the writers belong. In regard to their own corps the writers are silent. But they tell one of the feats of the others, and very wonderful they have been. They are stories which thrill you as you read them. Splendid though the record of the British Army has been in the past, things more wonderful still, if that is possible, have been done in the last two or three months. The British Army has, I believe, done more than its full share to save Europe and the world from awful catastrophe. And if this be true, and I believe it is in no sense an exaggeration, then is it not possible to do something more to let them realise there that we not only appreciate their services—they know that—but to let them know that we know something of what is going on? They do not ask for our praise; they do not ask for our thanks; I do not think they even ask that these matters should be made known. But, after all, they are human, and is there any man, however brave and devoted, who does not like to think that when he is there passing through hardships and dangers, and doing wonderful things, that the people at home should know something of what he is doing, something of what is going on? But, Sir, we know very little.

I believe the Government might at this stage establish some system of correspondents at the front—recognised, authorised men, limited in numbers. I do not know, I have not the knowledge necessary to enable me to say or express an opinion, whether there be any objection to this on behalf of the Commander-in-Chief of the Allied Forces or the Commander-in-Chief of the British Army. But if there is, I hope their objections may be overcome by the statements made here at home. I am sure, in the interests of our Army abroad, it is desirable. I am sure it is only that to which they are entitled as a matter of justice that we should know something of their splendid feats. And while we should, in making this change, be doing only justice to them, I venture to say you would give increased enthusiasm to people here, and you would largely augment the stream of recruits from different parts of the country. Let the Committee remember what was the effect of the statement about the London Scottish—a magnificent regiment. I have watched it for twenty-five years, when it was commanded by a brother of my right hon. Friend the senior Member for the City of London (Mr. Balfour). He did much to bring it to the state of perfection it was in then. It is a regiment with a splendid record, and has done justice to that record. The announcement of what the London Scottish have done was welcomed by every patriotic and loyal man, but can we wonder that the friends and relatives of other regiments, who know that their regiments have done just as heroically, and borne the privations and sufferings of the War over even a longer period and were just as fully entitled to commendation and to the fervid admiration of our people at home as the London Scottish, are surprised that all their doings are shrouded in silence. Surely this feeling is natural upon the part of the friends and relatives of other regiments. Is it to be wondered at that it leads to the demand for the publication of more news? I believe the only way to get that information is by having accredited and carefully selected correspondents. Soldiers, God knows, have got enough to do to conduct their campaign, and correspondence is not after all the work of the soldier. He is not trained to that kind of business. It is a special work. We have all read in our time the stories told by those great war correspondents who made their names famous by their accounts of various campaigns, and we know that the records of those war correspondents have often been the foundation of most valuable reforms in our Army and in the conduct of campaigns. I venture to say it would not only be in the interests of the soldiers at the front, and not only in the interest of recruiting at home, but in the interests of the future of our Army, that this system should be adopted, and I most earnestly hope the Government will consider it and adopt it, with as little delay as possible.

Why should there not be a daily statement for us here in England? It need not necessarily cover the whole field of war; it need not necessarily deal with all that is done by the Allied Forces. We have sent abroad a little Army, as it was called, but it is the grandest Army this country has ever sent from its shores to guard its honour; and well indeed and nobly has it done! And may we not have here every day some statement from authorised people telling us what our Army has been doing and what it is doing now. It is not necessary to include in these statements anything that would give information to the enemy. That is the last thing we want. If we cannot have this information without aiding the foe, then we will go on without it. But we believe it can be done, we believe you can give a great deal of information which would give enormous pleasure and comfort and consolation to the people of this country, and would give thousands in this land practical proof of what our men are doing out there, and therefore additional reason to be proud of them. If this feeling could be aroused in the country I believe it would do more to get recruits than all the flags and all the bands you could parade throughout the land. If that suggestion is adopted I hope it may take the form of producing an English bulletin for the information of those specially interested in the English Army.

I want to urge upon the Government something in regard to which I feel very strongly indeed. During the War in South Africa I heard a great deal of the subject I am going to mention now, and I ventured at the beginning of this War to write to a high military official at the War Office about it. I am sure the Government ought to take action in regard to it, I mean the rewards to officers and men, and the promotion of officers and men, especially regimental officers and men. We hear a great deal about the German Emperor and the Iron Cross. We have our own V.C., our Distinguished Service Order, and other decorations, in addition to which we have promotion. Now I know there are difficulties in connection with this. At present recommendations under our existing system for these coveted honours have to go through a rather long process. I do not know anything which goes more to my heart than the notices one not infrequently sees in the papers that an honour or a promotion has been conferred upon so-and-so, and then in brackets "since dead." Those who won these splendid and coveted rewards died without knowing they had this honour conferred upon them. I remember one of the first cases that occurred in the War in South Africa—I am now dealing specially with cases of promotion in the regiment. An officer who was devoted to his regiment—and I am sure the Committee will realise that one of the great foundation principles of an Army has always been the affection of officers and men for their own regiments and their pride in their own regiments—an officer, who was very proud of his regiment, and had done extremely good service in the past, had frequently been offered promotion in another regiment. He refused and preferred to stay in his own regiment, which was a very good one. But he was very anxious indeed and very keen to get promotion which had been long overdue. He was senior officer of his rank in the whole of the British Cavalry. He was grieviously wounded somewhat early in the South African War. He lay suffering greatly for several days, and he constantly asked whether his promotion had come. He lost a great deal of self-control naturally, and this thing was uppermost in his mind. He wanted to know whether his promotion was gazetted. He died one evening in South Africa, and the "Gazette" practically the next day contained his promotion. This can be avoided. There is power resident. I believe, in the Commander-in-Chief in time of war to confer these honours, decorations and promotions on the field—I speak in complete ignorance of this—if necessary that power ought to be strengthened. He ought to be given the widest possible authority to confer these decorations, to sanction these promotions without any delay or reference to home. We can trust our Commander-in-Chief.

The Commander-in-Chief of the British Army enjoys the fullest possible confidence, and deservedly so, of every man and woman in this country. He is not only a most brilliant commander, but we know he has the confidence of the Army, and deserves to have it. Surely he could be entrusted in the fullest possible way with the power of conferring these decorations and of making promotions. And I would earnestly ask the Prime Minister to give a moment of his time—I know he is heavily burdened—to the consideration of this branch of the question, because regimental officers and men are too often overlooked. Those who are on the staff come more easily into view, their claims are more easily pressed, and they are more in evidence throughout the whole campaign. But the success of our Army depends more upon regimental officers and men than any other officers and men in our Army, and their reward has not been, I think, as great as it ought to have been in proportion to their services, and I am convinced if the Government could see their way to intimate to the Commander-in-Chief that he can exercise his own discretion, untrammelled by any regulations at home in regard to these matters, it would do much to show our troops at the front that we not only realise what they are doing, but that we are anxious that so far as humanly possible men should be rewarded on the spot for the splendid deeds they have performed. I have no other suggestion now to make to the Government. It only remains for me to say, speaking for those with whom I am associated, that we make these suggestions in no spirit of criticism, certainly in no spirit of hostility I have endeavoured to put them forward in such a manner as to make that clear. They are made in a spirit of pure friendliness. We all desire but one thing, the success of our Army, and a speedy termination of this terrible War; but I think we also desire that in accomplishing those two things we shall do everything in our power to bring home to our soldiers and sailors, not only that we are grateful for their services, not only that we know they are giving us of their best, but that we are determined that they shall be fed from home with all that they need, and that they shall get with as little delay as possible on the spot these small rewards, which are little enough in themselves, but are greatly coveted by those who defend our shores, and which mean, at all events, the outward and visible sign of the good work done by men who deserve not only our gratitude but command our admiration and deserve to be described as the finest body of heroes who have ever gone from this land to fight for our Sovereign and our Flag.


I rise to urge upon the Government in a very few sentences that a greater amount of this Vote than was the case with the previous one should be spent in taking care that no supplies are going from this country to assist the enemy. No doubt the right hon. Gentleman will be able to give the House a reassuring statement on the point, but I can assure him that very considerable anxiety, and not a few risks, exist in the country with regard to this matter. One or two figures may be of interest. In September, 1913, before the War, 154,000 tons of coal went to Holland. At the end of this year, after the War, the figures for September were 276,000 tons, which shows an extraordinary increase for the month of September this year as against last year. In the case of Denmark the increase went up from 275,724 tons to 405,842 tons. With regard to Sweden the figures are more alarming. In September last year, the total was 394,314 tons, and this year for September 633,546 tons. To Norway the figures have increased from 174,000 tons to 233,754 tons. Of course, if these coals remained at their first destination there would be no cause for anxiety, and it may be suggested that the difficulty in getting coals from Germany is the explanation. But I am not satisfied that this is a complete explanation, and I hope we shall have some statement as to what the Government are doing to satisfy themselves that the enemy is not getting the advantage of this extraordinary increase in the exportation of coal to neutral countries. I have received a letter from a gentleman on the East Coast of Scotland whom the Prime Minister knows very well, and I am sure that what he says will be regarded as correct. He writes to me from a very small port on the East of Scotland, not far from the right hon. Gentleman's constituency—


In Fife?


Yes. The Government are not strict enough yet on the East Coast. There is far too much coal going away in alien vessels. Eight hundred and twenty tons left here the other day for Fredericia, which is quite close to Schleswig-Holstein. We shipped lately in a week 2,246 tons to Norway and 1,390 tons to Denmark. Last year we shipped about 400 tons a week to these places combined. The quantities are nothing, but the increase is very significant. Whisky from bond is being shipped to Norway and Denmark in large quantities, and I am told—I won't guarantee its truth—but I am told the vessels make very quick voyages and get back with extraordinary rapidity. If that is the case in a small port in the East of Scotland, what must it be in some of our larger ports? Some of that coal was going to places in close proximity to where the German Fleet is at the present time. Perhaps there is some explanation of this large increase. In regard to other articles the increase is equally significant. Take cocoa, for example. In September, 1913, we sent to neutral countries 79,000lbs. of cocoa, and in 1914, 189,000lbs., or an increase of 109,727lbs. For October the figures are even more significant, and they have gone up by a very large percentage indeed. Tea is also very alarming from the point of view of the figures. In September, 1913, we sent to neutral countries 424,000 lbs. of tea, while in the month of September, 1914, we sent 1,721,000 lbs., or an increase of 1,296,000 lbs. In October before the War, we sent to neutral countries 595,353 lbs., whilst in September, 1914, we sent 10,384,000 lbs., or an increase in one month of 9,789,644 lbs. I think that is a very important fact, because it is hardly conceivable that the people of those countries have been drinking six times more tea than they did before the War. The case is very much the same in regard to other articles, and I want to know what is the explanation of this extraordinary increase in tea alone.

It will not do for the Government to say that none of it is going to Germany, because I know that some of it is going to Germany, and if the President of the Board of Trade were here I have no doubt he would be able to confirm my statement. I can state on my own authority that one parcel of tea alone of 40,000 kilograms went from Gothenburg to Germany, and was sent from this country, representing about 80,000 lbs. of tea. I think in a matter of that kind an investigation should be made from the shippers who sent that tea. I also know from facts in my possession that 1,300 chests of tea from this country went from Copenhagen to Germany, and how much more was sent I do not know. I think greater efforts should be made to see that Germany is not getting any advantage from this increase. Some people say that the kind of tea we are sending abroad is not the kind that Germany likes. You might just as well say that a soldier would not drink Scotch whisky on the battlefield because it was not his own particular brand. In time of war the Germans will be glad to get any kind of tea, and it is our business not to allow them to get any kind of tea or anything else likely to help them in the course of this War. With regard to the exportations to neutral countries, cigarettes have gone up by 99 per cent., cocoa by 78 per cent., bicycle tyres by 66 per cent., motor bicycles by 41 per cent., bicycle parts by 44 per cent., and boots by 21 per cent. Generally speaking, the increase to the neutral countries on the borders of Germany is greater than can be fully explained, and I ask the Prime Minister whether he can give us an assurance that an increased effort will be made to take care that none of the exports from this country are allowed to go into the enemy's camp? I think in a crisis like this we ought to secure all these supplies for our own people, and take the risk of offending some of the neutral countries, because after all the previous demand was not of such a gigantic character as to merit any special consideration. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will be able to give some assurance on these points.


With regard to this expenditure, I think the Vote asked for by the Government is a moderate and modest one. I had expected, and, indeed, I should have voted for a much larger amount. I rose to say a few words upon a different topic. I think the House thoroughly appreciates the action of the Ministry in the conduct of this War, and more especially the anxious care which has been thrown upon the shoulders of the Prime Minister. The right hon. Gentleman need never fear coming before this House and asking for a Vote, no matter how large it may be for this purpose, for I am sure the House will cheerfully grant every subsidy he requires. Having said this I now wish to make a small criticism upon a possible form of this expenditure. I entirely agree with every word which was said by the right hon. Gentleman on the front Opposition bench (Mr. Walter Long). I think he voiced the general opinion of this country. I also heartily associate myself with the demand of the Labour party in respect to the remuneration of soldiers, and compensation to widows and dependants. This is the first real national War in which this Empire has been engaged, and it appeals to the hearts and souls and activities of every one of us. The notion that any poor dependant of a soldier or sailor shall suffer from want in this struggle is repugnant to all our minds.

In former times, when we have had battles, we have seen unfortunate cripples in our workhouses, and people have said, "This is how they are treated." We are not going to have this again. We are not going to have poor people risking their lives and getting maimed and then seeing their dependants thrown upon the scrap heap. I assure the Government that any sums that may be required in the interests of these soldiers, sailors, or dependants, will be cheerfully voted by every Member of this House. Having said this, I wish to take up a small point with regard to another form of expenditure. While we are willing and glad to vote expenditure on behalf of the poor who have lost relatives in this War, I myself view with some anxiety a certain tendency with regard to the rich, especially in the City of London. I quite agree with what the Government have done with regard to the banks. I think that is a wholesome and necessary operation; but if there be anything in the rules that are to be made, that will give relief to stockbrokers, I only say let the names be published, and that will be a sufficient protection. When people are put upon outdoor relief through ordinary poverty their names are published on the union wall.


And they lose their votes.

5.0 p.m.


The hon. Member for Stoke says they lose their votes, and they are disfranchised. I quite agree that after the catastrophe of War unusual steps may be necessary, and I do not quarrel with any action the Government may take in regard to any individual case, but what we shall insist—and I hope the whole House will remember it—is that the facts shall be made public, not now, because they might be used to the detriment of the individuals, but when this business is over and we have cleaned the slate. Then I think we shall be entitled to know that any money we vote here to-day has not gone into the pockets of those individuals. There is a strong temptation in connection with the Treasury to ingratiate themselves with City magnates, and for my part this is one form of expenditure which I shall scrutinise, criticise, and watch very carefully You may vote as much as you please for the Army and Navy, but as little as possible for the City of London. Having said that, I now wish to make another observation with regard to Belgium and Servia. Although the Government are bound, with their responsibilities, to be careful and prudent with regard to any statement they make having an international character, I think I might speak and tell the Belgians and the Servians that the House of Commons will never exact one farthing of the sums which have been given as loans. I have no authority whatever—except my own view—to say that, but I think I know enough of the temper of this House to be able to tell the Belgians that we shall never collect a kopeck of this amount. What the right hon. Gentleman who has just sat down said with regard to the censorship is really only a moderate expression of the feeling of the people of this country, and not merely of the people of this country but also of people abroad. Does not the Government realise that we are making ourselves a laughing-stock over the censorship? I will take only yesterday. Not a battle picture, but some invocation to Mahomed on behalf of the Turk was censured, according to the newspapers. He was invoking the powers of Mahomed on behalf of the Turkish arms, and then he was suddenly deleted by the Censor. Who is responsible for all this?

It seems to me that the Government are really over-cautious. It is very natural that they should have that feeling, having regard to their responsibilities, but will they please remember what the wireless system has put Germany in possession of? Spending a short holiday in America, this is what I noticed: A long telegram every morning from Berlin by wireless to a place in Rhode Island copied into all the American papers stuffed with German lies, and then on our side an attenuated abortion giving an account of the Allies and their proceedings. How can such a thing be reconciled with common sense? We have not control of the air, we have not control of the wireless system, and Germany is pumping into every country of America her own version and her own side of the story. How, then, can you expect that you are concealing something from the Germans which they know much better than we do yourselves? Then there is another absurdity. The Germans have a fight with us in a particular town, but you do not state the name of the town. [An HON. MEMBER: "Or the regiment!"] Was there ever such an absurdity? An American asked me if I could explain this extraordinary system of newsmongering, and I must say now in public what I said in private. I gave the explanation that the Government had put the whole of this work under a Chancery lawyer who was accustomed to drafting affidavits. He is a most able man in his profession, but would anybody have selected him a priori where questions and news were concerned? I would as soon think of asking a plumber to make illuminated manuscript. I say that with great respect to the right hon. Gentleman. He is an admirable lawyer, but this is not a job for lawyers. I respectfully think that the whole system of Press censorship needs immediate and absolute revision. Having said that, I can only say, in conclusion, that I cordially support the Vote, and if it were much larger, I should be quite willing to support it.


I desire to associate myself with the very timely criticisms of the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Long). We on these benches support him in what he said in relation to officers. The salaries paid to officers are all too low for the purpose of enabling them to make arms their profession, and I think those who used to talk about the swank of officers must have realised by now their courage and heroism so far as this War is concerned. There is not one of us who is not full of the greatest admiration for our British officers, and if the Prime Minister would do something by way of improving the conditions of the officers during the existence of the War, or increasing the pensions to the widows, it would meet with my colleagues' hearty approval. I happen to have a letter in my hand from a gentleman in a moderate position in life whose son is an officer, and who says that unfortunately he himself is not in a position to do for the wife of his son what he would like, and undoubtedly there must be many cases of hardship. I have already said that we, at any rate, would hail with satisfaction any improvement that the Prime Minister chooses to effect.

I also desire to associate myself with what the right hon. Gentleman said with respect to bounties. My colleagues and myself have been inundated with letters from men who feel that they have been deceived. Let us have a little less red-tape and a little more common sense and equity with regard to these bounties. I should also like to associate myself with the criticisms which have been made with respect to the Press censorship. Everyone unable to fight who has been doing something else for his country, such as attempting to help recruiting, has had a great many questions addressed to him as to the misdeeds of the Censor, and I have wondered why it was that we could so quickly receive that glowing account of the splendid charge of the London Scottish and yet have not had depicted to us the deeds that other regiments have accomplished. There cannot be any doubt that the reading of deeds of that kind thrills one, and would have a similar result as in the case of the London Scottish of bringing in recruits. With regard to Belgium, I am sure that I voice the opinion of my colleagues when I say that we would gladly make the money advanced to Belgium a gift. Later on we can collect it from the Kaiser.

The right hon. Gentleman referred with satisfaction to the fact that unemployment had not been as great as we anticipated in the earlier stages of the War. I am glad to say that my own estimate with respect to my own trade has been absolutely falsified, as last month, to take that as an example, we had a lower percentage of unemployment than in the corresponding month of last year. I hope that it continues. It is well, however, that the Government should realise that as soon as the huts for the soldiers have been completed an immense army of carpenters and joiners will be thrown out of employment, and, if some of our local authorities would take time by the forelock and get on with their housing schemes so that some of these men might be utilised in the next two or three months, it would be very much better than waiting until the crisis is upon us. Generally speaking, with respect to the sugar coup and various other matters, we all realise the great things which the Government have done in that direction. I cannot boast of any claim to be a financial expert, but I have had letters—I do not know whether other Members have had letters of a similar character—asking: "Why go to the money market for money?" The Bank of England are permitted to issue so many million Bank notes every year upon which they pay no interest and upon which they reap a profit. The Scottish Banks also have the right to issue so many Bank notes. Why not issue the whole £225,000,000 as Bank notes by the Government, redeemable by them as and when they like? You would have no interest to pay on it, and it would do very much in the shape of interest saved to pay some of the expenses of the War. I am not, as I said, a financial expert, but I do not see why it could not be done. The Government of the Commonwealth of Australia took away from the Banks the right to issue Bank notes, and they are now issued by the State itself. Some four or five years ago the amount of Bank notes issued was something like £6,000,000 or £7,000,000. They have no interest to pay on that money. I do not see why we should not follow their example. There is not anything in the shape of money so far as my colleagues and myself are concerned that we will not give the Government to prosecute the War to a successful and triumphant conclusion.


I should like to thank the last speaker for the generous remarks he made about our officers at the front. We have not always heard such kindly observations from those benches. However, what is past is past, and I am satisfied that the hon. Member has conveyed to the House the sentiments of the whole of the Labour party on the gallantry displayed by our officers. My right hon. Friend below me spoke just now of the lack of information that is being given to the country regarding the gallant acts performed by various regiments. I have been accustomed to handle men all my life, and I say there is nothing that more works up enthusiasm or makes for better comradeship, which is the thing to have in action and in fighting, than appreciation. It is fatal, no matter how honest the sentiments are, to individualise either a ship in the Fleet or a regiment in the Army. For what the gallant Scottish regiment did every praise should be given, but let us remember there are other regiments which have done equally well—regiments which have been longer in the field and which have gone through the harassing and trying time so shattering to the nerves. Their acts have not been mentioned at all, and I would ask the Prime Minister if he cannot see his way to let our countrymen know more of the gallantry of these regiments. It is only fair that the information should be made public. More than that, it would encourage recruiting. There are friends of men connected with every regiment, and it must give rise to a little feeling of soreness, not against the gallant regiment which has been mentioned, of course, if certain regiments should be picked out for mention while others are not mentioned at all. It would be quite easy for the Prime Minister to see that there should be issued such a bulletin as my right hon. Friend has suggested. It could not help the enemy in any way. It would not involve disclosing information vital to the plan of campaign, and it does give us a thrill when we hear of regiments performing such wonderful feats of heroism as they undoubtedly have done in this War. Do not let us pick out one regiment from another. Do not let us star one regiment when others have done equally well. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will also bear in mind what my right hon. Friend said on the question of promotion and appreciation on the field. It is most necessary that while the event of heroism is fresh in the mind of a man's comrades he should be given promotion or some other mark of appreciation. The General has a right, I believe, to give promotion and award decorations, and I think he should exercise it more freely, and that the conferment of the honour should be immediately communicated to the countrymen of the recipient. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will bear that in mind.

Then there is the question of people who are maimed, and people who lose their health in the service of the country. My right hon. Friend in what he said in regard to that voiced, I think, the sentiments of those who are a little better off than other people. I have often found fault with the Chancellor of the Exchequer for the way in which he has taxed that class, but I believe that, on this occasion, those who are a little better off are prepared to be taxed to any amount in order that the dependants of those who have lost their lives in the field, or have lost their health, or have come home maimed, shall never want anything again so long as they live. I am old enough to remember the Crimean war and the Indian Mutiny, and when I was a young man I often blushed with shame at seeing those who had risked their lives and lost their health in those campaigns ending their days in the workhouse. In this House we have to see that that shall never again happen, and I believe that is a sentiment which is universal, not only in this House, but throughout the country. The hon. and learned Member for North-East Cork (Mr. T. M. Healy) also voiced an opinion, which, I am sure, is universal throughout the Empire, when he urged that whatever we elected to give to Belgium should be a free gift. We can afford it. We must remember that Belgium has been fighting our battle, and I hope the Prime Minister will be kind enough to bear that also in mind.


I should like to offer a few observations regarding what has been said by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Kirkcaldy (Sir H. Dalziel). He is not unnaturally alarmed at any prospect of giving any help to the enemy, and I should like to say we are quite with him in desiring that nothing shall be given to the enemy that can be of use to him. But with regard to the four articles which the right hon. Gentleman specified, I think he entertains undue alarm. As to whisky, it surely is not necessary I should offer any remark.


Whisky was not my point.


I can only suggest that if all the whisky produced in Scotland were sent to Germany, there would be no cause for regret or alarm on my side. I will pass on to the question of coal. In regard to that I think my right hon. Friend forgets that Germany is one of the greatest coal-producing countries in the world. There is no reason to believe that the coal that is being exported from this country to Scandinavia is required for Germany. The Scandinavian countries have told us that they need it for themselves, because they cannot get supplies from Germany.


They said that about tea, which I can prove is going into Germany now.


That is the explanation which has been given, and I think we can accept it, and accept it gladly, for the reason that we do not want to injure ourselves in an attempt to injure the enemy. If by sending our coal to Scandinavia we prevent Germany selling coal to Scandinavia, it is a point gained by us. Then, again, my right hon. Friend mentioned tea and cocoa. With regard to the latter I cannot help thinking that we should be ill-advised to do anything which would injure our own colonial cocoa producers, as we should do, by stimulating cocoa production in foreign possessions. At the present moment there is a very considerable amount of cocoa on the market—much more than is needed.


And it is at a much higher price, because we are sending it away in the way I complain of.


We have to consider, not only the question of the sale of cocoa, but the question also of production. If my right hon. Friend had been dealing with articles of any military value to the enemy I could quite understand his position, but we must remember where the article is produced, and we ought not to do anything to hurt our own producers simply because we want to injure the enemy. The same remark applies in some sense to tea. I cannot conceive why we should worry ourselves with regard to the export of tea to countries who are not alien enemies. It is not a medical necessity. It is not appreciated by the Germans as it is by the British soldier, and there is no reason why we should injure our trade at the very time when we want it to be as large as possible. If my right hon. Friend will bear these considerations in mind, I think he will admit there is no strong case made out in regard to these particular articles. I should like to pass from that to the very serious amount of money which we are voting, and gladly voting, to-day. It would be outside the bounds of order if I were to deal in detail with the question of raising the money, but I do want to put in a plea—


Not only the details, but the question altogether.


I consulted the Chairman, and I understood that a general reference to the subject would be permissible.


I do not know what passed between the hon. Member and the Chairman; I can only give him my own ruling.


I did put the matter to Mr. Whitley, or I would not have mentioned it now. Of course, I accept your ruling, and will not pursue the matter further.


I understood it was open to refer to the matter of the personnel on the Votes for the number of men available for the Army, and upon that subject I want to offer a few remarks. In the first place, I congratulate the Government on having come to the decision to adopt a new method with regard to the raising of the men—the system of registration which has been partially employed in some districts and has already been recommended by many authorities. But the most important point with regard to the question of men—a point which must be brought home to us—is the wastage that is going on in the force already raised. I do not wish to go over the old story or to repeat what I have said on former occasions in this House, because I fully realise that the military authorities have put forward great efforts to make good the deficiencies which existed at that time. But there is one fact which comes out now, namely, that there is an abnormal wastage going on in the ranks of those units which have already been raised—a wastage which requires some explanation and the adoption of measures to check it. According to figures which have been given to me, there has been a wastage in many units of as much as from 30 to 40 per cent. of the strength of the unit, and it is due to what is known in military language generally as "avoidable disease." It is a very serious question, and it is one which it behoves the Government and the military authorities to give close attention to it, now that they are dealing with the question of raising a further number of recruits. It is unavoidable, possibly, that a large number of young men thrown into temptations which they have never faced before, should suffer in the way they have done. But at the same time it should have been evident to those who are accustomed to military organisation, that special police measures were required to restrain the causes of this most unfortunate condition of affairs. At present, to put it plainly, the great wastage that is going on in the ranks of the new Army conies from two causes, and two causes only—drink and women. Both these are causes which can be dealt with by administrative measures, and I urge that some measures should be taken. If the powers in the hands of either the local bodies or the military authorities are not sufficient to restrain the sale of drink or the operation of the other social evil, then the Government should come to this House and propose such measures as may be necessary to enable them to deal with the problems. That anything like that wastage should be allowed to go on unchecked in the ranks of the New Army is certainly a most serious matter, and is one for which I do not apologise in bringing it before the Committee. I can assure them that it is a most distasteful and unpleasant thing for me to have to do, and it is only a sense of duty, and also the knowledge which I have gained of these things during my military experience, that has induced me to rise and speak on this question now.


I am sorry to detain the Committee, but I have a very serious matter to which to call the attention of the Government in regard to the censorship, which I take it comes under this Vote. I want to know whether—I ask it regretfully—they cannot apply some kind of censorship to the writings of my colleague, the junior Member for Merthyr Tydvil (Mr. Keir Hardie). [Laughter.] I am very pleased to see that the Committee takes that rather light view of what the hon. Member has been writing, but when they hear what I am calling the attention of the Government to, I think they will take a more serious view. I took the view a short time ago that apparently hon. Members of the Committee are now taking, that it was not worth while taking any notice of what the hon. Member was writing in his journal, which I am afraid will probably be quoted in neutral countries. That is the point to which I want to call the attention of the Government—the effect of these statements upon neutral countries. I should be the last man in the world to advocate any kind of censorship of or interference with a mere personal expression of opinions, however disagreeable or untimely they might be. But when a Member of this House, who has ceased really to represent the views of his constituents, sets himself out to make statements that are apparently statements of fact, it is very necessary that the attention of the Government should be called to those apparent statements of fact, which I think the Government will find they will have to repudiate and deny. As I said, I took the view that they were not worth notice some time ago. But the Committee must remember that the hon. Member the junior Member for Merthyr Tydvil had already captured the hon. Member for Leicester (Mr. Ramsay Macdonald) and a few others, and that they are still a force within the Labour party itself, and, what is more—


I am quite sure that that is not relevant to this Vote. The hon. Member may have another opportunity on another occasion.


Can it be raised on their salaries?


With all due respect I thought we were dealing with the censorship, and I was calling attention to the need for a censorship being applied to this particular paper and the statements in it.


I agreed to a rather wide scope of debate at the opening of this discussion, but I think that is stretching it too far.


In that case I can raise it on the Adjournment, and I give the Government notice that I will raise it on the Motion for Adjournment.


I desire to express my support of the observations made by the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Long) in regard to the supply of news, or what I would rather call the dearth of news, from the seat of war, with which the public are being supplied. I am not in favour of censoring other people's opinions: I think they had better be expressed and answered, and I am not going to deal with the question just raised and closured, but I am going to deal with the question of news from the seat of war, news which, in my judgment, the public is entitled to get. When our population has sent out its fathers, brothers and sons to the seat of war, and thousands and tens of thousands of people in this country are eager to know what they are doing, it is too bad to keep them absolutely hungry and starving for the news, which need not injure anybody and with which they ought to be supplied. It seems to me that the Government has set up some kind of machinery by which the public is kept from that which it has a right to know and which it is hungry to know. The right hon. Gentleman said that enthusiasm would be promoted in the country if deeds of valour were recorded in the public Press. Everybody knows that is perfectly true, and if there has been any check to recruiting, nothing in the world would do so much to stimulate it as a judicious publication of news. There is one other view which in the course of the Debates on this subject has not been mentioned—if the public does not get news, rumour will invent it. Just as nature abhors a vacuum, so the public abhors the absence of news. When many events are occurring, false ideas and opinions get abroad which are extremely mischievous in the national and public interest.

I am afraid, too, and I am quite sure many others must be afraid, that when we do not hear of things, some things which, perhaps, are not pleasing to hear, are actually suppressed. The public has a right to bad news as well as good news. It ought to know what are the real facts. There is a suspicion that very important things that have taken place since this War opened—very important for the public to know—have been deliberately kept from it, and which some day will come out. When a rumour of a disaster gets abroad, neighbours immediately magnify it and extend it, and make it perhaps ten times worse than it really is. The attention of the Government—and I hope the Prime Minister will think of it himself—should be given to this question. We had a speech the other night from the learned Solicitor-General, who is in charge of the Press Bureau. He seemed to put it forward that news which had the tendency to depress the public spirit should certainly be withheld. I do not think that is a safe plan to go upon. It has been my business for the greater part of my life to purvey news to the public, and I know something of the supply and something of the appetite for news. I believe journalists of reputation are entirely to be trusted to act honourably, to obey restrictions and not to do mischief knowingly. The "Times" newspaper almost every day has remonstrated on this subject, and many letters have appeared in the Press upon it. From Paris we get an official communiqué twice every day; from our own Bureau nothing. I make no apology for supporting from this side of the Committee the most excellent remarks that fell from such an influential quarter as the front Opposition Bench.


There is one point I desire to bring to the notice of the Prime Minister, but before doing so I should like to say that I do not desire to follow my hon. Friend the Member for Merthyr Tydvil (Mr. Edgar Jones), except to say this, that the Labour party in this House and the Labour party in the country have already shown their feelings with regard to their responsibilities. Whatever differences may exist between the two hon. Gentlemen who represent Merthyr at the moment, it would very much better if they settled them at Merthyr rather than that they should bring them into the House and drag the Labour party into them. I desire to draw attention to the remarks of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Strand Division (Mr. Long) with regard to the part that the railways have played in this matter. I, like him, believe that the public generally have not fully appreciated the important part that the railwaymen of this country have played. When, some few months ago, the Prime Minister announced that our troops had been conveyed without loss of either man or beast, he paid the greatest possible tribute to the efficiency, patriotism, and sacrifices of the railwaymen. At the same time, the right hon. Gentleman said that the arrangement between the Government and the railway companies was in his opinion—I think his exact words were— An admirable arrangement. I desire to say that it is a most one-sided arrangement, because while it is true that the railwaymen have worked as they have without murmur or grumble, both night and day, and are depleted to the number of 65,000 who are at this moment serving with the Colours—notwithstanding those facts, the arrangement between the railway companies and the Government is such that while the shareholders are guaranteed their dividends, the railwaymen are not guaranteed a full weekly wage. I put it to the Committee that if the arrangement had been that the railway shareholders were to bear some loss, the railwaymen could not have grumbled. But when the arrangement is, as we all know it to be, that the shareholders are practically guaranteed the same dividends as last year, I am justified in claiming, on behalf of the railwaymen, that at least they should be guaranteed a full weekly wage. I put it fairly and bluntly that that should be the arrangement at this moment, and I hope the Government will recognise the services, from the general manager downwards—I am not claiming any special credit for the railwaymen, because I fully recognise that the officers of the companies have worked just as much as the humble railwaymen. Recognising that they all work, and that they are all doing their duty, I submit that if the shareholders are guaranteed their dividends, certainly the railwaymen ought to be guaranteed their weekly wages. I hope the Prime Minister will be able to say that so far as the arrangement is concerned he will bring that to the notice of the railway companies.


In a word or two I desire to support and emphasise the remarks made by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for South Monmouthshire (Sir Ivor Herbert) who spoke from this Bench a little time back with reference to the efficiency of the Army and the efficiency of the recruiting as affected by the two matters to which he referred. I have no means of judging, as the hon. and gallant Member has, but if it be true that there has been a leakage or wastage in our recruits of something like 30 per cent. or 40 per cent. owing to the cases to which he referred, it is extremely serious indeed.


Where is the evidence of it?


I have no evidence, but we know that there has been a substantial leakage, and we know that there has been great damage done to the Army through drinking and the evils that result from that. I myself, with regret, have seen our new soldiers in uniform rolling drunk about our streets at mid-day, and I saw one man fighting wildly, and it took three policemen to get him to the station. I do not suggest for a moment—the fact is the contrary—that our soldiers are an intemperate set of men, but this is a time of excitement, and it is the public themselves who, mistakenly, through generosity and kindness, tempt these men, who are to blame. That is the cause of the trouble, and it is a serious interference with the efficiency of our men. Nothing could have been more satisfactory than Lord Kitchener's message to the Army when they first went out, and no men realise more thoroughly than our military authorities the importance of having our men sober in order to make them efficient, and I wish to press upon the Government that all the steps which can possibly be taken should be taken to promote the sobriety of our soldiers in this time of trial and of stress and temptation, and that whatever can be done should be done to check the folly of the public in tempting these young fellows in the way they do.


I am afraid if nothing is added to the two speeches we have heard on this subject it may go out to the public, or to an ignorant section of the public, that the 30 per cent. or 40 per cent. which has been mentioned is a prevailing figure throughout the new units. I say with emphasis that it is not. I very much doubt whether a single unit could be named in which either 30 per cent. or 40 per cent. of wastage has occurred, and I say without fear of contradiction from any quarter that in a great majority of localities and a great majority of units the sobriety of the recruits has been very noticeable and there has been an astonishing freedom from avoidable disease. I am speaking with exact knowledge only, perhaps, of one or two units, but in the unit with which I happen to be connected myself, of some 1,600 or 1,700 men, who have been up since the beginning of the War and stationed in places with which you would expect there to be a special temptation of that kind, there has not been a single case of venereal disease. I do not quote this as being exceptional, because I know of scores and scores of units with an equally good record, but I do not want it to go out from the Debate to-day that there has been a great prevalence of avoidable disease or excessive drunkenness.


I want to raise a point I raised on Thursday night when, I am sorry to say, there was not a single Member of the Government representing the War Department present, and I want to make a special appeal to the Prime Minister. I was surprised to hear to-day the very large number of questions which were put to the War Office officials with regard to the recurring non-payment of allotments and allowances. I have had a good deal of correspondence with the War Office on this point, and I want to pay them the tribute that in every case they have attended to my correspondence and that in each case the applicants have received their money. I want to impress upon the Prime Minister this point, that in every town throughout the country we have now thousands and thousands of men who have been sent to the Front and to the Navy. In my own town we have sent between 3,000 and 4,000 men. When separation allowances are not paid and it goes on for weeks, unfortunately the poor women do not know whom to correspond with and they rush here and there to ask people to write to the War Office to get their separation allowances.


They should write to their Member.


It is not every Member who lives in his own constituency as I do, and I have a very large number of inquiries. I want to make a practical suggestion to get over this difficulty. The Prime Minister the other day announced, and very properly in my opinion, that with regard to the proposed allowances to be paid to the dependants, the old age pensions committee will make inquiries as to their claims. If the old age pensions committee and their officers were to establish a correspondence bureau in every town, so that when a separation allowance or allotment is not paid a woman will have the right to go to the officer of the old age pensions committee, who is an independent and impartial man, and give him the necessary information, he can at once put them into communication with the War Office. It was stated the other night that there was not a single case of arrears. I have had a letter from a lady in Dorset who writes that her husband is a Reservist, she pays 9s. 6d. per week rent, she has three children, and for two months she got no money. Her husband joined on 5th August. She has sent letters to the War Office, but with no result. This is really what these people are suffering from. I know it from my own experience. Much of this misery and poverty would be lessened, in fact, abolished, under the new system of allowances and allotments if these women could go to some person, not to this or that lady, or the Member of Parliament, who may be away from the constituency, but to some officer in the locality under the old age pensions committee, which, I think, is the best one, and could then say, as a matter of right, "I have not received my separation allowance or allotment, can you write to the War Office or the Admiralty on my behalf?" I have a case which came to me on Saturday with regard to the Admiralty. In all these cases there are delays, and if this principle which I have suggested were adopted, I am certain that much of this trouble would be avoided, and a great deal of the criticism which the Government are now having in the constituencies would be done away with and the wives and families would be very much better off.


I think the suggestion just made by my hon. Friend is one of a practical character, and I will bring it to the notice of the War Office in order to simplify this very difficult matter, for it is a very difficult matter, by adopting it in one form or another. I think the course of the Debate has shown that it was for the general convenience of the Committee that we should take the discussion, not only on the strict question of the money, but also on the question of the men and the general conditions under which this expenditure is going to be applied as part and parcel of a single topic. I am quite sure that the Committee will recognise that, having done so, we ought not to go over the same ground again when we take the same Vote. I am the last to complain either of the tone or the substance of anything that has been said in the course of the discussion, and I particularly recognise the friendly spirit with which the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Long) opened the discussion. There was not a word in what he has said to which I could have taken any objection, and I will deal briefly, but I hope not perfunctorily, with the various points which he has raised. They are all points worthy of consideration. The first, I think, was the question of officers' pay. In regard to that I will say, without committing the Government for a moment to any specific proposal, that the matter has been engaging their attention, and Lord Kitchener has drawn up a scheme which is now under the consideration of the Treasury, so that I hope before long we may be in a position to remedy what I have felt for years to be a very serious grievance, namely, the insufficient pay of the lower ranks of commissioned officers. The soldiers' pay has received attention and the officers' pay has been neglected. I can still understand that the soldier is not at present as wealthy as he ought to be, but I am sure that the grievance of the officer, who cannot live on his pay and must either get into debt or be supported by his parents and friends from extraneous sources, is a reproach to this country, and ought to have been removed long before, for it becomes increasingly urgent and scandalous when men are laying down their lives for the sake of their country. The Committee may be quite sure that the Government has got that matter in hand and will not delay to propose remedies.

6.0 p.m.

In regard to the point of the non-payment of bounties to members of the National Reserve, I am not sure that there may not be some misapprehension. As I understand the position from recollections of the short period when I was at the War Office, the bounty was promised to men who registered themselves in time of peace in order that when war broke out the authorities might know where to find them and therefore might at once avail themselves of their services. That was the principle. Men, as I understand, in some cases, who were not registered, came forward and enlisted, very properly, when the War broke out, and they felt a grievance at not having received the bounty, to which they were not strictly entitled. The right hon. Gentleman will, I am sure, agree. I think in many of these cases the matter has been already met by the War Office, who have not stuck to the strict letter of the law but have interpreted these requirements in a liberal spirit. If specific cases of grievance still exist they will be dealt with in the same spirit by the authorities. Then the right hon. Gentleman raised the question, and a very important and serious one it is, of the importance of the speedy announcement of rewards and promotions for gallant conduct in the field, and particularly in regard to regimental officers and men. That is, of course, not a new question. It arises in every war. Sir John French, has been given, from the first, a very wide discretion and very ample power in regard to the promotion of non-commissioned officers to the rank of second-lieutenant, and that power has been very freely exercised by him. No fewer than 438 such promotions have already been made, which I think is very satisfactory. Sir John French has taken full advantage of the power which the Government gave him. With regard to promotion above that rank, it is undoubtedly true, and I think has always been the case, that the suggestions of the General are formally referred home, but they are always attended to. I do not know that there has been any undue delay, but if it is possible to accelerate the machinery, particularly that of publication, I should be only too glad that we should take steps for that purpose. Nothing can be more disheartening and unjust than that gallant men who have earned promotion should be unduly delayed in receiving acknowledgment of it, and sometimes pre- vented by death from knowing they have received it at all. That, I can assure the House, we shall do all we can to avoid.

Then the right hon. Gentleman raised the question which has been touched upon by many other speakers—my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Cork amongst others—the question of war correspondents, and what is closely allied with it, the functions of the Censor, and the exercise of those functions here at home. I go every length with every speaker who has taken part in the discussion of this Debate in emphasising the importance of the rapid and complete publication of the gallant achievements both of regiments and individuals. Allusion has been made to the publicity given the other day in a telegram, I think from the Commander-in-Chief, to the splendid work of the London Scottish, and, of course, no tribute was ever better earned or more appreciated. Upon the face of it, however, it does look an invidious thing to single out one regiment for praise, however well deserved that praise may be, and leave the achievements of other regiments for the time being in the obscurity of silence, only to emerge from that obscurity when the immediate interest of the situation, and, what is of the highest importance from our point of view, the exigencies of recruiting have somewhat disappeared.

I should be glad to see any system by which the most complete and prompt announcement could be given to all the gallant deeds of officers and men, whether of one regiment or another. I pointed out in the Debate on the Address that there are some difficulties in regard to this matter. The right hon. Gentleman was very strong in urging us to allow to be sent to the front skilled war correspondents, who, though they might be unable to cover the whole field of action in the extended line of modern operations, could give us detailed pictures of particular aspects of the campaign. We are not free agents in that matter. We must regulate our proceedings by the proceedings of our Allies, and our Allies, who occupy the largest share of the fighting and the longest line at the front, and who are in their own country, must in the long run be permitted to have a decisive voice as to what should, or should not, be done in the way of the appointment and freedom of correspondents. I am not making any complaint of any sort. I am sure everything that has been done has been done with strict regard to military exigencies. I know the gallant Generals who preside over the fortunes and conduct the operations of the French Army are as anxious as we are that their public, like ourselves, should get the full advantage of the incentive and stimulus which publicity alone can give.


If it could be done for one regiment, is there any reason why it could not be done for all?


I was dealing for the moment with the question of correspondents. The mention of that particular regiment was in a telegram from the Commander-in-Chief. I hope we shall have in dispatches and telegrams from the front the fullest possible recognition of the special achievements of particular regiments and particular individuals. I do not think at the moment we can go further than that. We are all anxious, the Government more anxious than anybody, that such procedure as is expedient and necessary for that purpose shall be adopted, and adopted as fully as may be. My hon. Friend the Member for Salford (Sir W. Byles) spoke of concealment. He said he thought that things had been concealed which ought to have been let out, and he pointed to the disastrous—I will not say disastrous—but to consequences much to be deplored, and that might impair the confidence of the public in the bulletins that have been published.


I spoke hypothetically.


The hon. Gentleman spoke hypothetically, and I am speaking hypothetically also. I ask the House to accept the assurance that nothing has been withheld, or will be withheld, except under the stress of immediate military exigencies. There are circumstances in which it is necessary, not to conceal, but to postpone for the time being the knowledge of what has occurred. I say there may have been things, even in this War, as there have been in all wars that have preceded it, which were adverse in themselves, but which it was of importance for the time being that the enemy should not know and act upon. I think we should have been guilty—I am still dealing with a hypothesis—in such a case of a breach of paramount duty, if, for the sake of gratifying a most legitimate desire on the part of the public to know everything that is going on, we had given away for a moment the security of the strategic interests of our gallant troops, whether by land or by sea. I am quite certain that the House and the country will recognise that that superior duty of reticence, dictated by strategic and military considerations, comes above and beyond everything else. As far as I am aware, and I think I have the fullest possible knowledge anybody can have, if anything has been concealed or withheld from public knowledge, it has been solely and entirely in deference to that consideration. I think I have now dealt with the main points made by the right hon. Gentleman.

The Member for Kirkcaldy (Sir H. Dalziel) entered upon a different line of criticism, but one which, I think, is perfectly legitimate in so far as it was a demand for knowledge, namely, whether we are taking, and have taken, adequate steps to withhold from the enemy's forces supplies on which he depends. There is no subject which has engaged the more anxious attention of the Government from the commencement of the War. It is one of the most difficult of all problems, as we have found, particularly when the supplies of the enemy's forces come very largely from neutral countries, are carried in neutral bottoms, and are taken ostensibly and in the first instance, to neutral destinations. That applies, not perhaps quite to the same extent, but it does apply to the cases where this country is the origin and the source from which the supplies, at any rate immediately proceeded, and were carried in British ships to neutral ports. In the first set of cases you have constantly the danger of coming into collision with the legitimate national rights of neutral countries, and important as it is to withhold from the enemy supplies, whether of food or of warlike matrials, or other things of which he is urgently in need, it is equally important that we should not act in a high handed and lawless fashion in regard to neutral nations and neutral Powers. We have endeavoured—it has been a very difficult task—with much pains and labour, and very considerable anxiety, to reconcile the performance of both those obligations. I do not want at this moment—we shall have to have a discussion about this—to go into details of what we have done.

Some of these matters are of a very delicate kind, but in regard to certain of the commodities to which the right hon. Gentleman referred, I will take coal. I think the excess he has rightly observed in the exports of coal from this country to Scandinavian countries—particularly as compared with the exports at the corresponding time of last year or the year before—is not due so much—is not due at all—to that, and to their being ultimately destined to Germany, as to the fact that these countries were deprived for the time being of the supplies they have been accustomed to receive from the enemy country. My right hon. Friend and I represent different parts of the county of Fife, a great coal exporting county. He and I know very well that under normal conditions the coal of Fife does not belong to what I may call the aristocracy of coal. It is not less useful, though not in the same category as South Wales or the plutocrats of the coal world, but in our humble way we export a great deal of very useful coal to various parts of the world. One of our main competitors, as I have always understood, has been West-phalian coal. For practical purposes you may take it that the export of West-phalian coal has ceased, and it is not unnatural that Scandinavian countries should resort to us in Fife, and other parts of the United Kingdom, to make good the supply which has been cut off. In that way there has been a large, not only an apparent, increase in our exports to them. I doubt very much whether any substantial part has been re-exported to Germany.

The case may be different with some other commodities—tea, for instance. We are dealing with that matter now. I will not say for the moment precisely in what way. There is reason to believe that a considerable fraction of tea which is exported to countries like Holland does find its way by re-export to Germany. There are expedients to which I think we shall be able to resort successfully by which that can be stopped in future. There we are dealing with a neutral country. Holland is a country which has enforced her rights as a neutral throughout the War in a manner none can complain of, in a most delicate and dangerous situation, commanding, as she does, the mouth of the Rhine, with Belgium next door. I make no complaint of the way in which Holland has discharged her duties as a neutral. On the other hand, we must, of course, secure that goods which are really destined for our enemy which will nourish his population, support his army, and supply him with the munitions of war, do not get in under the cloak of being consigned as for immeditae destination to neutral ports. I am sure that the House will recognise that no effort will be spared on our part to prevent any such thing being done.

Another matter which was raised by the hon. and gallant Member for Monmouthshire (Sir Ivor Herbert) was in regard to the alleged demoralisation through drink and other causes, to which he adverted, of a substantial proportion of the New Army. I think that my hon. and gallant Friend—I am sure quite unintentionally—took in this respect a much too gloomy view. We have made most careful inquiry into the matter, and to say that a percentage of from 30 to 40 of these men are disabled from preventible causes, from diseases, from serving their country in any useful manner is, I believe, entirely without any foundation. The Adjutant-General has made most careful inquiry into the matter. I do not like to commit myself to specific figures, but I believe that it would be far nearer the truth to say that there have not been more than 10 or at the outside 15 per cent. of cases of disease of every sort or kind, not only these particular ones, but all sorts of disease of every kind; and on the whole I do not believe that there has ever been brought together a body of men who have comported themselves so well and shown such a regard to sobriety and decency of conduct as the new recruits for the Army. Undoubtedly these men, as is always the case when a large aggregation of comparatively young men are brought together in this casual way, are exposed to temptation, to which some of them probably are strangers, and to which now and again individuals succumb. But I believe, if you take the average standard of conduct, that it is worthy of the country and worthy of the cause. But my hon. Friend may be quite sure that the Adjutant-General, in conjunction with the civil authorities, is taking every possible step to remove all temptation and to secure the highest possible standard of sobriety and conduct in these troops.

The hon. Member for Derby (Mr. Thomas) referred to the position of railwaymen. I quite agree with him that no praise can be too high for the manner in which the railway companies of the country discharged the duty of transport in regard to our Expeditionary Force and the various matters in which they were engaged. I should be very sorry to think that any profit or advantage which they have gained from the admirable performance of a public duty has not been shared by the men. The first suggestion of the kind which I have ever heard has been made by my hon. Friend to-day. Of course, we will inquire into the matter, but I am quite certain that it is the desire, and I believe that it is the practice, of the railway companies as a whole to share with their employés, particularly in an emergency of this kind, every advantage which they have gained for themselves. I think that I have covered the whole of the ground we have been taking in the course of this Debate, and, in conclusion, I would ask the House to pass this Vote on the matter which has been debated, and to give us also the million men for whom we are asking and whom we hope to enlist before very long. We have now under arms in this country—I am not speaking for the moment of Territorials at all—a Regular Army of practically 1,100,000 men. Of course, I am including in that the Expeditionary Force. But that is not enough, and I see nothing in the recent figures of recruiting to discourage for one moment the belief that we can raise our numbers to the highest point which the exigencies of the situation require. Recruiting, no doubt, has gone up and down, but it is now in a very encouraging position, and the circular which, in conjunction with the right hon. Gentleman opposite and my hon. Friend the Leader of the Labour party we, on behalf of the Parliamentary Recruiting Committee, are addressing to the householders, will, we hope, in the course of the next week or ten days bring in information which will enable the War Office to add steadily and quickly and on a large scale to the number of men who are prepared to register themselves as recruits, as well as of those who actually go immediately into training.


Will that circular be sent out to householders in Ireland?


I thought that it had been, but I will inquire into the matter. It has only just gone out.


As a Member of the Committee, may I point out that the circular has been issued only to one part of England at the present time, the Eastern area?


We are taking each command seriatim. Of course, each command will receive it in due course. I am not yet in a position to say what response has been made, as it has only been issued two or three days.


Can the Prime Minister give any figures up to date? In answer to Questions 65 and 84 the Under-Secretary said that he would give some details.


I can give the total number of persons who have been recruited. Roughly—I do not want to commit myself precisely—since the week ending the 10th of August, approximately—I do not say much more, but certainly not less than—700,000 recruits have joined the Colours, and they are still coming in very steadily. They have nothing to do with the Territorials. We must add to that a very large number of Territorials, at least 200,000, and I think more. I do not think that I should be very far short of the mark if I said that a million men had been recruited since the first appeal was made in the first week in August. Of course, the House thoroughly understands that the million for whom we are asking now are for the Regular Army and have nothing to do with the Territorials, but I wish to take this opportunity of saying how greatly we appreciate the services which the Territorial Force has rendered. Some people most erroneously have formed the notion that there was some disposition on the part of the War Office, or persons in authority at the War Office, to disparage the Territorial Force. Nothing could be further from the fact. Again, for obvious reasons, I do not give details, but the Territorial Force is now serving the Empire, not only in this country, but at the front and in various parts of the Empire with the utmost efficiency and gallantry, and not only have we reason to hope, but we have the most confident grounds for believing from the reports which we receive from generals and those who have an opportunity of observing their conduct in action and in garrison duty, that the Territorial Force will more than justify the highest anticipations which have been formed concerning them. It is in no spirit of disparagement of them that we press this demand on the House of Commons. I am quite sure that the House will accede to it, and that recognising the efforts which the country has already made and that its willingness is quite undiminished, compared with what it was in the first days of the War, to prosecute this great endeavour to its final and successful completion, the House will give us the authorrity, which I am certain the country by its action will ratify, to raise another million of men.


There is one matter, which I cannot call small, to which I desire very briefly to draw the attention of the Prime Minister, and that is the large insufficiency of the ministrations of chaplains with the Expeditionary Force at the front. It appears that under the existing system the Church of England chaplains, the Catholic chaplains, and the Nonconformist chaplains are organised strictly according to their military position. It is a very natural arrangement, but it results in the senior chaplain, whoever he may be, being obliged to decide all the administration of the other denominations of which he is not a member, and with the needs of which he is not familiar; and I am told that recently it has not been uncommon to find a large number of chaplains—I think I have been told ten or eleven—idle at one place and most anxious to do their best, while at another place there is a great need for chaplains and there is no one to do the work. Here, of course, as in other matters in this War, we are dealing with a wholly new situation. This War makes greater demands on chaplains than any previous war; not only because the forces engaged are larger, but also because the stream of wounded—and ministrations to wounded men are amongst the most valuable part of the chaplain's work—is almost continuous. Instead of there being a battle and then a period of rest we have one continuous battle always going on. Therefore the system does not work as well, I am sure, as the Prime Minister and the whole House would desire. So I venture to submit that it might perhaps be well to have two or three people who are familiar with the religious needs of the three bodies of religious opinion concerned who might look into the matter and lay suggestions before the Secretary of State for War with a view to readjusting matters in the way in which everyone desires.


There was a complaint I know by the hon. Member for Waterford (Mr. John Redmond) as to the insufficiency of Roman Catholic chaplains. I am satisfied that that was the case, and I hope that it will be remedied as promptly as possible. I believe that there is no further complaint now on that score. The point raised by the Noble Lord shall receive attention.


I wish to say in reference to what my right hon. Friend said just now that no one heard with greater pleasure than I the deliberate denial of those statistics which have been given to me on what I believed to be undeniable authority. Nothing was further from my mind than to cast any aspersion upon the young men who have been coming forward to do their duty to their country. I think that the large number of those men are above all praise. I think it right to say this, because I would not wish it to be supposed for one moment that I was making any charge against these men, or that I was casting any aspersion upon them. I am very glad to hear that my right hon. Friend has been able to state that there is no foundation for the reports to which I have referred.

Question put, and agreed to.

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