§ Considered in Committee.
§ [Mr. WHITLEY in the Chair.]
§ Motion made, and Question proposed. "That a sum, not exceeding £1,000, be granted to His Majesty, to defray the Expenses of the War Office, which will come in course of payment during the year ending the 31st day of March, 1916."
§ The UNDER-SECRETARY of STATE for WAR (Mr. Tennant)
I intervene at this stage not with any hope or desire of avoiding criticism. I entertain no such desire, and indeed to do so would be futile. I intervene now because there are a few broad propositions which I desire to lay before the Committee. At the outset I would ask the Committee to remember that we have now been at war for nearly nine months, and during that time we have maintained in the field an Army larger in numbers than ever appeared upon even the most speculative and fanciful horizons. Drafts have been supplied to I hat Army with a punctuality so remarkable that Sir John French has drawn attention to it in his latest dispatches. We have sent out vast quantities of ammunition and armaments, and equipments have been supplied and maintained with a regularity which I think is very gratifying Food and fodder for men and horses have never run short. On the contrary, the commissariat has been so ample and excellent as to invoke 435 the admiration of all who are informed and the gratitude of the forces in the field. When you consider the kind of warfare which we have been waging, and particularly when you consider the kind of weather in which it has been waged, the health of tie troops has been remarkable. All epidemic diseases, such as measles or enteric fever, have been so brought under control as to enable us to circumscribe their area, and to localise them at the earliest possible moment, whilst special illnesses to which the troops were particularly prone, such as frost-bite, have been so treated in the early stages that where actual prevention has not been effected, recovery in the shortest possible time has been general. To this, again, the Field-Marshal Commanding-in-Chief has drawn attention in his latest dispatch.
I have before now laid special emphasis upon the sanitary arrangements of the responsible officers in the Royal Army Medical Corps. Again I would say that nothing could exceed the efficiency or the precautions they have taken, or of the corps itself—indeed, I think the absence of disease is the greatest and most eloquent tribute in their praise. To those who have knowledge of the diseases of warfare, when I mention this fact that there is not a single case at the present time of dysentery amongst our troops, it will be agreed, I think, that is one of the most significant things anyone can say. It is the same with regard to the arrangements for the care of wounded, bringing them from the scene of active operations in the field to the clearing stations down to the base hospitals, and their transit in motor ambulances or hospital trains from those base hospitals to hospital ships and to this country, the arrangements for the treatment of wounds and disease both in France and at home—all these are subjects of legitimate pride and gratification. It was no uncommon feature of the battle of Neuve Chapelle that the wounded should be back at hospitals in London within twenty-four hours of their wounds having been received. I had the pleasure of seeing a lieutenant-colonel in one of the Highland regiments who was wounded at Neuve Chapelle whilst in the trenches, between the hours of 1.30 and 2.0 o'clock in the afternoon. He became unconscious on receipt of his wound, and he awoke to consciousness soon after 3 o'clock in comfort in a bed in the hospital eleven miles behind the firing line, with his wounds 436 dressed. I think that is a most remarkable achievement. I mention these facts, which are well-known to hon. Members in all quarters of the House, because I believe them to be the broad outline of the picture as we see it to-day, and I ask hon. and right hon. Gentlemen never to forget that broad outline when they are endeavouring to fit in the details of their criticisms.
I come now to the filling in of some of those details myself, and in doing so I shall refer to those points of criticism which have been directed against the administration. In the first place, it has been said that we have neglected the interests of the regimental officers. I should like, at the outset, to join in the glowing tributes which have been paid to the feats and the devotion to duty of our regimental officers. The charge of neglect brought against us has been based on the ground that whenever we asked an officer to undertake work which belongs to a higher rank, neither the substantive nor temporary rank with its consequent emoluments has been given to that officer. I have explained upon more than one occasion the steps which are being taken or have been adopted to meet the situation where an officer is killed, wounded or taken prisoner. The junior officer next to him who takes his place upon recommendation is, in the event of the death of his senior, gazetted to the rank at once, and in the case of missing and prisoners of war the gazette is issued in three months. In the latter case where he is missing or a prisoner of war involves the creation of a new rank of temporary major or captain, as the case may be, becomes necessary. I have to announce a new departure which I have already indicated in an answer to a question. In the case of a lieutenant-colonel being appointed a brigadier-general, or his being wounded or sick, the next senior officer will command for a month in his previously existing rank, and if the vacancy extends beyond a month he will then commence to draw the pay and allowances of a lieutenant-colonel, and he will be granted the temporary rank. Similarly, a subaltern who has to command a squadron, battery, or company for more than a month will get temporary rank and pay of captain after the first month. It is not proposed to give any temporary promotion from captain to major, as the work of captains and majors is usually considered interchangeable. In the case of vacancies caused by 437 officers being taken prisoners or being reported missing, the step will go throughout the unit It will be temporary for the first three months, and if the officer, prisoner or missing, has not rejoined by the end of those three months the promotion will be made permanent from the end of the three months.
§ Mr. TENNANT
Yes, I think that is so, during the War. It may not be out of place while dealing with promotion if I tell the House the steps we have, taken to secure an adequate supply of officers for the New Army about to take the field. It has been perfectly correctly stated that in the past a certain number of young men were encouraged to join the ranks in order that they might secure commissions, and a good deal of disappointment has been felt because of the fact that their commanding officer has not recommended them later on for commissions. One can understand and sympathise with the feelings of those commanding officers, who are very anxious not to have their units depicted, because this affects their prospects of getting sent to the front. We must all greatly admire the almost universal desire amongst the men to get away from this country in order to fight in the trenches, and that feeling is almost universal amongst our troops. I ought to tell the Committee that many hon. Gentlemen know the actual steps that have been taken, and I am therefore rather passing over the earlier stages, but several letters were written by the Army Council to the officers in command of districts and brigades informing them that it was desirable and their duty to see that the best use was made of the material in their commands and that men who were more obviously suitable for commissions should not be retained in the ranks. Finally, we wrote this letter on 12th April to the General Officer Commanding the 118th Brigade. It was more particularly in relation to the Public Schools Corps, which is the 118th Brigade, and others that the difficulty arose:—I am directed by the Army Council to inform you that they have decided that it is desirable in the best interests of the Army as a whole that all those candidates whom you can recommend as being in every way suitable for promotion to commissioned rank should be appointed second lieutenants. … It is estimated that from four to five hundred suitable candidates are now serving in the ranks of the 118th Brigade, and I am to request that you will report by an early date how far this estimate is correct. The Army Council will endeavour to assist you to obtain suitable recruits in 438 order to make good the depletion caused by the withdrawal from the ranks of the non-commissioned officers and men whom you now recommend for appointment to commissions.The Committee will be interested to know that the Brigadier-General falls in quite cordially with the advice there given and that he will put no obstacle in the way of suitable candidates obtaining commissions. Inasmuch as that is so, we feel that it must be left to the commanding officers themselves to choose those who are suitable candidates, and therefore I would ask my hon. Friends not to press individual cases, but rather to leave it to the choice of the commanding officers.
§ Mr. TENNANT
I mean the commanding officer of the Public Schools Corps. I mean the corps in which the private soldier or non-commissioned officer is serving. I think the right hon. Gentleman will agree with me that it is desirable that those commanding officers should be given that amount of latitude. It is only reasonable and fair.
§ Mr. LONG
This really is very important, because, as the right hon. Gentleman knows, in a great many cases commanding officers of battalions have refused to allow names to be sent forward for commissions, and in other cases men have been taken out of battalions without reference to their commanding officers and have been given commissions. Their commanding officers have not known until the men themselves have come to them and have reported that they have, received commissions. Are we to understand that system is to be terminated, that in future the commanding officer of the unit is to have the power of selecting men for commissions, and that unless they are selected by him they will not be given commissions by other commanding officers?
§ Mr. TENNANT
The cases to which the right hon. Gentleman alludes of privates and non-commissioned officers coming to their commanding officers and saying that they have been granted commissions in another unit are, I think, extremely rare. It has not, at any rate, been the practice in the last few months. We have refused in the present year to grant commissions to men not recommended for them by their commanding officers.
§ Mr. TENNANT
I am very much surprised to hear that, and I hope the right hon. Gentleman will give me the details, in which case I will inquire into it.
§ Mr. TENNANT
Hon. Members will bear me out that persons expressing their desire to obtain commissions have been almost invariably met with the statement that we are unable to do anything unless the commanding officer will recommend them. There was some variation at the very beginning of the War, but for the last four or five months that has been the universal practice. With regard to the question of my hon. Friend the Member for East Edinburgh (Mr. Hogge), the letter was written specially to the Brigadier-General commanding the 118th Brigade, but other letters to which I have referred quite cursorily were addressed to all commands, and to that extent, of course, the officers in command of divisions and of brigades will be acquainted with the desire of the War Office that the material at their command should be put to its best use. That completes the question of promotions from the ranks. The reforms which I have announced both in regard to this latter point and the earlier point of temporary rank do go a very considerable way, but I am aware that they do not meet the entire demand of hon. and right hon. Gentlemen and to that extent they must fail to satisfy them. I regret very much not being in a position to announce a policy or an act of procedure which will give entire satisfaction to Members in all quarters of the House, but I should like to address a few observations to those critics of mine whom I have failed to satisfy. Critics to be useful and helpful, and I know that hon. Members in all quarters of the House are desirous of being both, must make suggestions. I would like to acknowledge the assistance that I 440 have received from them. Any suggestions that they make will be carefully reviewed and considered and wherever possible adopted, but if, as is conceivable, their adoption should involve us in certain other difficulties not anticipated, the remedy must be sought elsewhere. It is not always possible for persons viewing matters from the outside to gauge the full result of the introduction of some new influence. If you take a machine as a simile—and the Army is now a gigantic machine—a suggested alteration may effect what is desired, but if, in doing so it acts as a connecting rod to other parts of the mechanism and puts its rhythmical revolutions out of time and gear, then more harm than good is done.
I am still endeavouring to fill in the details of my picture, and I feel that no picture would be complete without the figure of the recruiting officer. I think the House would like me to say something on that point, and I am glad to be able to announce that the Secretary of State for War bids me tell the House of Commons that the result of the recruiting during the last few months has been most satisfactory and gratifying. The numbers week by week and month by month are very good, and, what is more and to my mind the most interesting thing, is that they are maintained with a regularity which I think is surprising when one reflects on the vast numbers that have already joined the Colours. My Noble Friend desires me to add that when he calls to the Nation for more men he feels quite confident that the Nation will respond with that readiness, that promptness, and that decision which we have learned to look for with gratitude and from which we are able to gauge the unquestionable determination of our people. We have raised certain local battalions, civic battalions as they are called, by local and individual efforts. By that means well over 100,000 men have been raised to join the Colours in special battalions. We owe an enormous debt of gratitude to those patriotic men, both individuals, and civic bodies and localities, who have given us so largely and freely of their time and money.
One other word upon recruiting officers, their duplication, and the alleged competition between them. Regular recruiters have always been in charge of and responsible for recruiting for the Regular Army. In the same way the Territorial Forces Associations have always, ever since the Territorial Force was started, had the 441 responsibility of raising the Territorial Corps of the district. It was not possible to make any change during the high pressure through which we have been passing and through which we are still passing, and, moreover, I am very doubtful whether any change with advantage could be brought about in the system to effect an amalgamation of the two. I am very doubtful whether the Territorial Forces recruiting officer and the Regular recruiting officer could be amalgamated. You would always lay yourself open to the possibility of one side or the other thinking themselves rather neglected and of soldiers being taken at the expense of one or the other.
The question of rewards was raised in the last Debate. The reward to a bringer of a Regular soldier enlisting for the duration of the War is one shilling, and a similar reward is paid for a Territorial Force recruit who will enlist for Imperial service. It has been asserted that we have spent too much labour and ink upon attestation forms. I would assure the Committee that really is not so. I am quite willing to show the right hon. Gentleman opposite what we have done. We have made very considerable alterations in the attestation form since the beginning of the War. There used to be about twenty questions asked, and they have been reduced to about eleven. I have got them here and will show them to any hon. Gentleman interested in the reforms. The terms of enlistment, the pay, the medical history of the recruit, and so on, must be carefully stated. All these things must be recorded accurately. It is not only in the interests of the soldier that it should be done, but it is also in the interests of his family in order that separation allowances may be paid regularly and without delay. It is not only in the interests of the soldier's family, but it is also in the interests of other soldiers, because if you get into a state of confusion owing to imperfect or erroneous records on the attestation forms then other soldiers and their wives and families suffer. I am sure that my hon. Friend the Financial Secretary to the War Office (Mr. Harold Baker) will bear me out when I say that many of our difficulties in the past with regard to separation allowances have been the result of the imperfect filling up of these attestation forms.
The right hon. Gentleman opposite was, I think, under the mistaken belief that we were using for recruiting officers men who ought to be in the fighting forces of 442 the Crown. He spoke of men longing to take their part in the fighting in France. I am glad to be able to remove that impression from the right hon. Gentleman's mind, and from the minds of any other hon. Gentlemen who entertain it, because no men are used as recruiting officers who are fit for duty at the front. Some fear has been expressed with regard to the purchasers of horses and their age, particularly the purchasers in Canada and America. It was said that the wrong kind of man, both with regard to his knowledge of the market and to his age and efficiency, was being employed. It was said that he might be employed fighting. I have already in a previous Debate dealt with the prices and quality of the horses. I am sure that good horses cannot be purchased for less money, or indeed at all, anywhere else. The average landing price is £56. I think when the House considers the excellent quality of horses—they are the best kind of Artillery horses—they will agree that is a very modest figure. With regard to the officers themselves, we have twenty-one employed in purchasing horses in Canada and the United States, their ages range from forty-seven to sixty-six, indeed there is only one officer under the age of fifty years, and, when it is remembered that these men are of that age, I think it will relieve the minds of hon. Gentlemen who entertained the rather groundless fear that we are thus employing men who might be better engaged elsewhere.
I stated, in answer to a question in March last, that the deaths and destruction among horses had represented less than 2 per cent. The figure was derived from the returns from the Veterinary Department, and it included the deaths and destruction among the horses that remained in the United Kingdom. But that really was not a good way of arriving at a conclusion, because all units leave their sick horses behind on embarkation, and an appreciable number of sick horses also when they land. The true figure would be a comparison of the deaths and destruction with the total number of horses purchased or imported in a definite period of time, and, if we take the eight months ending in March, we find it works out not at 2 per cent., or rather under, but at 2.5 per cent. in eight months, which is a very different thing. I wish to make that correction, because the figures I gave in answer to the question conveyed a wholly erroneous impression.
443 May I turn from Pegasus to the wings of the Army? Everything is going well with the Flying Corps. Very large additions indeed have been made to its effective strength since the beginning of the War. In spite of the difficulties of training new men for this most difficult branch of the Service, the difficulty of manufacturing material, and other very great difficulties, it is hoped that the new formations and new Armies when they take the field will be sufficiently equipped in this branch of the Service. Considerable strides have been made in making the country self-supporting in this matter. In the very severe fighting that took place on the Continent in the month of March the Royal Flying Corps more than justified itself, and more than justified the reputation which I claimed for it when I spoke on the 8th of February.
Only two points remain for me to deal with. Now that the rigours of winter may give place to the intensity of summer heat we naturally are apprehensive that plagues of flies and insects may harass the troops, and we have sent out, in order to combat that evil, entomologists of world-wide reputation, who are now engaged in trying to take such precautionary and preliminary steps as are possible while these creatures are in the larval stage, to render the larvæ unlikely to bring forth the insects. At home, bacteriologists have gone all over the country and have taken in hand individual cases of cerebral spinal meningitis, which is a most dangerous disease, and which might prove a scourge and ravage our ranks. I hope and believe that that difficulty has been successfully overcome.
In regard to the reporting of accidents, there is always, of course, great anxiety that reports of casualties should come as quickly as possible, and in order to get that quickness and celerity mistakes have in the past been made, relatives being informed in some cases of a casualty or death, which really related to another man of the same name. That is a contingency which might well happen in a Highland Regiment or in a regiment raised from a particular locality, including many men of the same name. In this War it was preferred that there should be certainty rather than celerity, and that has caused delay, particularly where the casualty list was a long one, as, unfortunately, it was at Neuve Chapelle. We regret we cannot relieve the anxiety of the relatives of our 444 gallant soldiers as quickly as we could wish, but I have been in conference with Sir Alfred Keogh and Sir Arthur Sloggett, the head of the Casualty Department of the War Office, and I hope that the arrangements we have been able to make are such as will expedite the issue of the lists, and that they will be sent out as quickly as possible, having regard to the certainty which is so desirable. It is only due to relatives of officers of the Territorial Force to tell them that the reporting of their casualties involves one step more than is the case with officers of the Regular Army, because the notice goes from the War Office to the Record Office, which is under the Territorial Forces Association, and is reported from the Record Office, while in the case of officers of the Regular Army the notice goes direct from the War Office. In the case of non-commissioned officers and men, both in the Territorial Force and the Regular Army, the notice goes from the War Office.
The most important lesson of Neuve Chapelle was that learned in the expenditure of ammunition, particularly by the Artillery, and in reading Sir John French's dispatch it will be seen how alone it is possible to make headway against an entrenched and stubborn foe without that terrible sacrifice of human life which is otherwise inevitable. It is absolutely only possible by an unlimited expenditure of artillery and ammunition, and the Secretary of State asks me to say that he places no limit at all upon his demands for such ammunition. The most patriotic action any man can take to-day, I believe, is to assist in the production of that essential article. I am not going to stop to determine to-day the relative value to the Empire in fighting efficiency of the man at the bench or the man in the trench. Each is performing his apportioned task with that firm resolve which is so characteristic of him, and we look to the labourers at the bench and the lathe to vie with their colleagues in the firing line in their courage, tenacity, and determination. I believe we shall not look in vain.
I have filled in the details of my picture with one most important exception, and that is the action and spirit of the troops themselves. There are some atmospheric effects, some deep shadows and some rays of sunshine, which defy delineation. I shall not make the essay. I cannot bring myself to speak on the bearing and courage of our troops, because it seems almost impertinent for us, who are subjected to none 445 of their hardships, to praise with our faint words that courage and bearing which have aroused, not only our deepest admiration, but our undying gratitude. I will, however, say a word to those who are at home, to those who have husbands, sons, or brothers at the front, to those who have given their dearest for our cause, and to those others who scan with trembling anxiety the dreaded casualty lists. And I will say this, the great sacrifices which you are making, the gigantic sacrifices you have made, can never be repaid. Yours, however, is the proud knowledge that your loved one died a hero's death in a just and glorious cause, and it is not in vain that so much brilliancy and promise has been cut short, that you have been robbed of what yon hold dearer than life itself, but in years to come it will be your privilege to say that no sacrifice made by you or by those whom you loved was too great, and no oblation too tremendous, when the truth, honour and birthright of our liberties were at stake.
§ Mr. LONG
I am sure we are grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for having made this statement to-day, although I am bound at once to say it does not by any means cover the ground, as, indeed, he anticipated it would not do. No doubt his statement was satisfactory in some respects. It certainly was instructive, and I am sure we listened with unaffected pleasure to the concluding passages in which he referred to the past eight or nine months' history of the War and the duty that lies on us all at the present time. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, in the powerful and interesting speech which he made in this House yesterday, seemed to think that my hon. Friend the Member for Hereford (Mr. Hewins), who opened the Debate yesterday, and that some of us who have taken part in these Debates from time to time, have failed to realise the wonderful work which has been done by the War Office in carrying on the War as it has been carried on. I think that impression of the right hon. Gentleman was quite unfounded. I know that on more than one occasion, on Army Debates in this House, we have testified, not only to our admiration of the work of the War Office in many of its branches, but the profound gratitude we feel to Lord Kitchener, whose genius, inspiration and wonderful powers have been the main cause of the work which has been done, and also to those distinguished officers serving under him, without whose 446 aid, and without much of the work which, they had done before, it would have been impossible to have obtained these wonderful results. I say again without hesitation, I do not believe the nation can ever repay the debt we owe to those who, at the War Office, have done such wonderful things.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer told us yesterday, in rather greater detail, what has been the work of the War Office, and the Under-Secretary has given us a further account to-day. We all know from the reports we hear of the troops at the front, and from the troops we ourselves see all over the country, that an Army which numbered less than two or three hundred thousand in the old days is now counted by hundreds of thousands, and has been, produced in a period of time incredibly short, with results that have been magnificent on the field of battle, and which are believed to be wholly satisfactory at home. Certainly we should be most ungrateful if we did not testify here, as we have done, and are ready at any time to do, to the debt we owe alike to Lord Kitchener and to those who have worked under him. Perhaps more than any other men the Adjutant-General and the Quartermaster-General deserve our thanks. The Adjutant-General had the gigantic task of dividing this great Army into armies distributed all over the country, with their staffs, and so on; while the Quartermaster-General had the immense task of providing for our Army in the field, feeding and clothing them in a way which has never been equalled in any war in which this country or any other country has ever been engaged. We pay these tributes gladly, willingly. I can answer for everybody on the side of the House on which I sit, and I certainly can say for myself that we would much rather, when the Army Estimates are proposed by the Minister in charge say "Aye" to all that he says, and ask for no opportunity for discussion at all. Nothing would give us greater pleasure than to feel that no criticism was called for, and no suggestion was necessary. If we do offer criticisms and make suggestions it is not because we want to criticise or find fault, but because we believe there is still room for improvement—improvement which the War Office could very easily effect. That certainly will be the spirit in which I intend to make certain suggestions, which, indeed, the right hon. Gentleman himself invited in the speech he has just made.
447 The Prime Minister was asked a question at Question Time by my Noble Friend the Member for Portsmouth (Lord C. Beresford), about the Dardanelles. I have said before in this House—I was confident I was right then, and I am even more confident, if possible, now—I have said times out of number that the right way to govern our people in a time of great national crisis like this is not by concealing from them facts which can with perfect safety be given to them. The other day the daily papers produced a wonderful account of our last great fight. Those who read that story could not but feel that it had a most wonderful effect on the people who read it, and that it was the kind of account for which we have been so anxiously longing, and for which we have so often asked. We know that this country is engaged in a great many campaigns. I really am not quite sure if I know the precise number, because they have been added to. There are certainly not less than seven or eight in different parts of the world. How little we know what our troops are doing; how little we really know of the actual problem that we have to face, and that we, as a nation, have to see through.
I regret more than I can say that the War Office has not seen fit, so far as they are concerned, to give us fuller information of a more popular character, if I may so describe it, and at more frequent intervals. Everybody knows that so far as the campaign in France is concerned, thanks to what I regard as most admirable postal arrangements, letters now pass between the front and here with great rapidity, from two to three days being the utmost time they take. There are other parts of the world where His Majesty's troops are fighting for our freedom and for our flag, and letters are constantly reaching friends of the writers here. The Prime Minister said something about the action of the Censor on that question. I confess I have often been puzzled about the matter, but I have never been so puzzled about anything in my life as about the action of the various Censors. We know there are several of them. Apparently they exercise the most strict control over certain material and excise a great deal that many people have thought might, with perfect safety, be left in. On the other hand, they allow letters to pass which seem to me letters which ought to have been strictly censored. The other 448 day I saw two letters in the papers, one of which had sentences and words blotted out by the Censor. Nobody required to be a student of cipher or anything of that kind to be able to fill in every word that had been blotted out. On the other hand, I have seen letters written by people in different parts of the world where we are fighting which conveyed an immense amount of information. That information is getting broadcast over the country and is gradually being distributed.
I am frequently asked, as no doubt other hon. Members are, "I hear this or that; do you know whether it is correct or not?" What is the answer we are bound to give? We may believe or know it to be correct; it may come from people in whom we have confidence and who know the facts, but there is only one way in which we can say we know it to be correct, that is, when the Government authorise a statement saying this is what has taken place. There is no other way in which authorised statements can be given to the public as records upon which they can rely. I deplore nothing more than that it has been the practice maintained up to the present and one which I gather they intend to maintain, to give us only from time to time the very inferior accounts that we get now, the result of which is that he nation does not know and cannot know what is the real problem and the magnitude of the problem with which we are confronted. The Under-Secretary told us in his speech a moment ago—we all heard the announcement with perfect satisfaction—that recruiting in the country is wholly satisfactory. Therefore I imagine the answer of the Government is that so long as we are getting all the men we want for the Army, why should we give any more information than we are giving now. That is by no means a complete answer to the request we have made, nor docs it in any way cover the case. You will get recruits, as I have said from the beginning, because the country from the very beginning made up its mind that throughout this great crisis it would do its duty, and I said that you would get recruits as long as you asked for them. When the right hon. Gentleman says they are getting all the recruits they want, I am not at all sure they are taking them in the way that is best in the interests of the Army or of the industries of this country. In the last few days men have been taken as recruits who are well over forty years of age, who have five, six, seven, or even eight children. No properly controlled system of 449 recruiting would have a result of that kind. These men ought not to come in until you are brought to the last fighting line.
§ Mr. TENNANT
I was rather surprised to hear the right hon. Gentleman talk about a man well over forty years of age. That is outside the limits of age prescribed, except for one or two individual corps.
§ Mr. LONG
Perhaps I ought to have said forty. At all events, they are men who are much older than the average recruit and who have large families. I do not care much about the age, even if it be thirty-five or thirty-six. If a man is in regular industrial employment, with a family of eight children, look at the matter solely from the point of view of the cost to the country. In the case of every one of these men with seven children that you take you have to allow his wife maintenance for herself and children every week. That would not occur if your recruiting system were properly organised. I honestly believe, if it is not too late now, the Government would find that better results would follow if they would tell the country far more frankly than they have done the real difficulties with which the country is faced and what it is the country has to do. The Prime Minister told us that the War Office feel very strongly that information ought not to be given which would be helpful in any way to the enemy. Nobody suggests they should do anything of the kind. The last thing any of us would ask is that anything should be said in the Press or anywhere else that is likely to be helpful to the enemy, but we all know that in many papers which are published in other countries an immense amount of information is given as to what is going on every day in this country, and very much more is given than in our own papers which are subject to the Censor. I believe that with perfect safety further information could be given, and I wish with all my heart the Government would give it. With regard to munitions of war which we discussed yesterday, the Under-Secretary made an eloquent appeal to us and told us we were called upon to do our duty. I forget his exact language, but he made a very eloquent appeal to us. I do not know whether he was present yesterday in the House—of course the Prime Minister could not be here then—when a most remarkable statement was made by my hon. Friend the Member for East Somerset (Mr. Ernest Jardine). That is an illustration. I do not 450 think the Under-Secretary needs to appeal to us or to the country. He wants to look at home, at the War Office itself, and to stop those practices in the War Office which are absolutely injurious to anything like organised production of what they really want. I am going to give two instances, for both of which I can vouch. My hon. Friend the Member for East Somerset, whose speech I have here—I am not going to read it to the Committee, because many of them no doubt heard it—made it perfectly clear that he made an important offer to the War Office, that he had no answer, and that the opportunities which he could have afforded for the provision of munitions had not been availed of.
§ The FINANCIAL SECRETARY to the WAR OFFICE (Mr. H. Baker)
I am sorry to interrupt the right hon. Gentleman, but I referred to that case later in the Debate.
§ Mr. BAKER
Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will allow me to finish. I think he will see that so far from the hon. Member not receiving an answer, it was purely a legal difficulty which stood in the way of accepting the services of the hon. Member. His services are being used for the benefit of the country in another way.
§ Mr. LONG
That is exactly of what I complain. We are told we must organise our munitions of war, or, at all events, that you want a greater supply. The hon. Gentleman thinks he has given a complete answer to the statement my hon. Friend made in the House yesterday, but my hon. Friend made it perfectly clear that he had put at the disposal of the Government certain opportunities of which they have not availed themselves. The hon. Gentleman's answer is that there was a certain legal difficulty. Good gracious me! How many Acts of Parliament have we passed? I think forty-five were passed one after the other in groups or batches. We passed more Acts of Parliament in a week in this House than we are used to passing in three Sessions. Everybody knows that if the Government found there were legal difficulties in the way which prevented them organising the supply of munitions of war in this country they could have passed an Act of Parliament to remove those legal difficulties in an hour.
Let me mention another difficulty. I am glad to be able to mention this in the Prime Minister's presence. This is what is going on at the present moment. You 451 now have a business Committee, which, I understand, is controlled or worked by Mr. Booth—I am sure a very able man. What has happened under your newest system? Representatives of the two Departments, the Admiralty and the War Office, visit the factories and call for returns from these factories of all their employés and the different class of work they are doing and everything that the factory produces; then they visit the factory to see whether those returns are in accordance with the facts of the case. The Admiralty give certain orders; then comes somebody from the War Office and makes the same request. The manufacturer says, "I am working full time and double shifts. I am doing all that I can already to turn out munitions of war for the Admiralty. I cannot possibly do more work titan I am doing." What is the answer of the representative of the War Office—I am not drawing upon my imagination, but am telling the Committee things that have happened within the last forty-eight hours? The War Office go to these manufacturers and say, "You may be engaged in manufacturing munitions of war for the Admiralty, but I belong to the War Office. I do not care about what you are doing for the Admiralty: I want work done for the War Office." It is a very old truth that example is better than precept, but is it the least likely that you are going to co-ordinate your supplies and get the maximum of output when the representatives of the two great Departments of the State, the Admiralty and the War Office, are actually competing with each other, and by their competition interfering with the productive power of some of the factories?
§ Mr. LONG
I think in less, but certainly within the last two days, I will give the right hon. Gentleman full information 452 about it in every way, and I think I can give him other cases. What you want is to so co-ordinate your work of production as not to interfere with existing factories, but to increase your supplies and take care that the representatives of the two great Government Departments do not compete one with the other. I am told also that representatives of Government Departments go to our large factories and tell them that they ought to alter their hours and their system of employment. I do not believe that is the way in which you are going to add to your productive power. Let your manufacturers deal with their own employés. They know them, and they are getting the best out of them in nine cases out of ten, and you are much more likely to get what you want if you trust to them than if you attempt to impose upon them suggestions of your own.
The Under-Secretary made an announcement also about the health of our troops abroad who might suffer from certain special diseases. I want to make an appeal to him on another branch of this question. Some references have been made here to the condition of our battlefields abroad. We all anticipate that the time is coming when our troops will advance over the country which is now occupied by the enemy, and certainly no-one who has read even the very partial accounts which are available, and certainly no one who has been there, can doubt that the condition of that country will be awful. There are now vast numbers of dead bodies, many of which are only partially buried. A great many churchyards have been destroyed by shell fire, and dead bodies are exposed, and will be exposed, and the general conditions are, I believe, as awful as they can well be. I know that the War Office have heard of most painful accounts of the condition of the trenches which our troops have taken, and that condition of things is growing worse and worse every day. Of course, I have no technical knowledge on the subject at all, and this special appeal is only made to me in a letter which I got a very short time before I came to the House, but it is from a very high authority, not a soldier, who feels that the matter is so grave that it ought to be under the consideration of the War Office now. I cannot do what the Under-Secretary asks me to do—I cannot make a suggestion on the point. It is purely a technical question, but it is possible, I 453 am told, to take steps which would, if not destroy, at all events modify very greatly the risk of the outbreak of a very bad epidemic. I am confident that everyone will agree with me that nothing could be worse than that we should make an advance as the result of the bravery of our troops, and that, as we drive the Germans back, our troops should suffer from the horribly insanitary conditions found existing in the country when we come to occupy it. Every possible provision should be made in advance so that, if it is possible, these evils will be overcome and, at all events, a minimum of trouble may occur. I do not think the Government will complain if that suggestion is made, and I only regret that it has not been made by someone with more technical knowledge than I have.
The Under-Secretary dealt with a question which I have raised on more than one occasion before—the promotion of our officers. He made an announcement which, as far as it goes, is quite satisfactory. I think he complained on the last occasion when I spoke of a sentence of mine in which I said that the action of the War Office in not dealing properly with this question of promotion is breaking the hearts of officers at the front. I think he thought that was an unduly strong expression. I am sorry I cannot withdraw it or alter it, and further than that, I have had—since I made that speech—many letters confirming the statement then made, and, after all, is it extraordinary that it should be so? An officer joins the Army in the hope that his ambitions will be realised if he does his duty, and that he will get promotion in due course. I will show the Committee into what an extraordinary state of confusion this question of promotion has got, and I do not think anyone who will give a very short study to the question can doubt that it is of the very greatest possible importance. You have now got three Armies; you have the old original Army; you have the Territorial Army, which was in existence before the War broke out, and you have what we call the New Army. Surely, any of us would assume that if you are to give special treatment to anyone of these three Armies, it would be first to the Regular Army, which is composed of men who have given their whole time to the Service, and who have made themselves as fit for their work as it is possible for them to do. But that is exactly the reverse of what you are doing. The Under-Secretary told us that there are to be certain alterations in 454 promotion in regard to men who are wounded, taken prisoner, killed in action, and so on, but that is only a very small aspect of the case. What we have contended for and what I am contending for now, is that where officers are entitled to promotion—that is to say, where there is a vacancy in a regiment due to whatever cause, the next senior officer, if he is fit for his post, should get promotion.
§ Mr. LONG
That is exactly what we have tried so hard to point out to the War Office. Take, for instance, the case of brevet rank. The right hon. Gentleman told us on the last occasion that it was decided to give brevet rank in certain cases. The answer I made then I make now on behalf of the regimental officers, that if you do only that which helps one man you are not doing that which the commanding officer of the regiment desires, and which you ought to do. You are not giving the whole regiment the benefit of the steps which are due in consequence of the promotion or loss of the commanding officer.
§ Mr. LONG
The hon. and gallant Gentleman is mistaken. The Under-Secretary said himself that they do not propose to follow up the promotion of troop officers, or company officers, and the squadron commander or company commander who is to-day doing the work of major as captain should be left as captain.
§ Mr. LONG
I do not agree that they are interchangeable. The establishment of a regiment—take, for instance, a Cavalry regiment—is a colonel and four majors and so many captains and lieutenants. You have no right to reduce that establishment which you would have in peace time when these men are fighting at the front. The right hon. Gentleman was asked what would be the effect of 455 promotion upon the widows. The Financial Secretary to the Treasury sent me a letter while the Under-Secretary was speaking, explaining the provisions which the Treasury propose to make. I understand that if the officer is in the enjoyment of temporary rank, and has the misfortune to be killed, he reverts to his original rank, and his widow will get the pension of his substantive rank. You are going to have an immense amount of confusion about this, and I think this is not the spirit in which you ought to deal with cases of this kind. These are cases which call for treatment in a much more generous spirit than anything which is evidenced even by the concessions which have been announced to-day. Now, the right hon. Gentleman tells us that this change is to be made in regard to the officers serving at the front. In dealing with the question of promotion, what we want is that there should be a recognised system which will apply to all officers serving with the Colours. You have not got that. No doubt the right hon. Gentleman is doing his best to get it, but you have not got it, and really it is not so very difficult. Look at what is now going on.
People are always talking of the splendour of the service of the officers who are fighting for their country, but we ask you to do something more than that, and to give practical proof that you appreciate what they are doing. You have sent out Territorial regiments who have covered themselves with glory, but see what you have done to the Regular officers in the old Army in consequence. In these Territorial regiments you had, when the war broke out, to fill up vacancies, because you had men who could not go, who were not well, who could not pass the doctor, and so on. You brought in men from outside. You have sent to the front in these Territorial regiments, which belong to the second and not the first line of national defence, junior officers who have not had the training or the experience, but to whom you have given higher temporary rank, whilst you have not given it to the officers serving in the Regular Army. The right hon. Gentleman tells us that the change has been made, but I have got a case here. This is a case which illustrates the position, and it really is a most remarkable one. It has been suggested outside this House that some of these peculiarities are the result of favouritism. As the right hon. Gentleman will bear me out, I have never made any suggestion of 456 that kind. I have never even hinted that there is anything of favouritism in it, but if these charges are made it is the fault of the War Office and not our fault. I have said that in the new battalions you are giving promotion which you are not giving in the Regular Army. Here is the sort of case, and it is only one of many. A new battalion of the Regular Army is formed. It is a new battalion of an existing regiment. An officer is appointed to command it who is an old soldier. At the beginning he gets somebody as second in command who has never been in the Army. The commanding officer is sent to the front and that second in command, who has never been in the Army before, and has never had any previous military training, is put over the heads of soldiers who have had ten, twelve, fourteen, and eighteen years' service. He is made a colonel over the heads of other officers who have spent their lives in the Army and are trained professional soldiers. That is not justice, and it is not, in my judgment, in accordance with the principles laid down by the right hon. Gentleman.
I will give another case, and I will give the particulars to the right hon. Gentleman, though, of course, he will regard the names of the officers as confidential. Here is the case of an officer who joined the Army in 1889. He became captain in 1896 and major in 1906. Here is another officer who joined the Army in 1899, ten years after the other officer, became captain in 1906 ten years afterwards, and the War Office have now made him temporary lieutenant-colonel commanding his regiment, while the officer who has ten years' seniority, and who has for three months been in command of his regiment at the front, is to-day a major. Can you wonder that people who see these things charge you with favouritism? There is no explanation of it so far as I can see, and I am very familar with the facts.
§ Mr. TENNANT
Will the right hon. Gentleman say whether they had retired before the outbreak of War?
§ Mr. LONG
No. Case A is the case of an ordinary regimental officer who has been right through the Service with his regiment from lieutenant up to major, and he is to-day and has been for three months 457 commanding his regiment at the front. The other is the case of an officer who has been promoted to the command of a very distinguished regiment, and he is himself very closely related to a Noble Friend of many of us here who sits in the other House. I am not saying this in order to imply that there has been favouritism. If I thought there was favouritism I would say so and take action accordingly. You have only yourselves to blame if charges of favouritism are made when a man who has all this social influence and who happens to be in a very famous, popular regiment, socially speaking, gets this step in promotion, while an ordinary regimental officer in a Line regiment who has ten years seniority of service and has been three months in command of his regiment at the front is left with the same rank he had years ago. This particular commanding officer with this short service is actually junior to another officer, whose name I have got here, and who is to-day a captain. I quote that because the right hon. Gentleman says that these changes which he proposes to make are not to apply to captains. This is a question which affects the interests of the whole of our Army.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
I want to be clear on this point. Does the right hon. Gentleman suggest that these cases of hardship to which he refers are due to some rule or practice which ought to be changed, or that they are due to caprice?
§ Mr. LONG
I wish I could answer the Prime Minister's question, for I have been trying to find out to what cause they are due. I think—and I say it without meaning any offence to the War Office, for the suggestion is made in perfectly good faith—it is really due to the fact that since the War broke out the whole work of the Military Secretary's Department of the War Office has been impossible of performance by anything like the ordinary machinery available for the purpose. I think that must be so, and I could not have helped thinking that it must be in-advertance if it had not been for the fact that I raised these cases a month ago. Whether the people at the War Office think it necessary to read my speeches, I do not know. Therefore I cannot say that it is due to inadvertence. The Prime Minister asks me whether it is due to some rule. There is no rule that I know of. Then he asks if I think it is caprice. I do not suggest that it is anything of the 458 kind. But I do think it is a failure to realise the justice of the case, or its importance. I will put a point which the Prime Minister and the Committee will appreciate. In many of these cases these officers are, of course, able to provide for themselves and their widows and children. But in many other cases this step in rank from captain to major means that after the death of their husbands in the field, the widows will be able to give a decent and sufficient, or an insufficient, education to their children. This £30, £40, or £50—I do not know the precise amount of the pension—makes all the difference in the world. These men have been doing, as the Under-Secretary has reminded us, heroic work. In many cases they have had to face the most fearful hardship, and had to do heroic deeds, separated from their colonels or generals; deeds such as the British Army has not often had to do, and I know that in their time of waiting—not in their time of fighting, for when they are fighting they can think of nothing else—they think about their position.
These men have to spend long hours in the trenches waiting, and that is the most trying time of all, and that is the time when they realise that they ought to have a rank superior to the rank they have got, and when they feel that the loss of that rank will mean that if they are killed their widows will be infinitely worse off than they ought to be. Therefore, I think, the Committee will see that these are cases which cannot be left to personal and private representation. They cannot be left where they are. I would much rather not have brought them forward in the House of Commons. I would rather have represented them privately at the War Office. I have done so. I have done everything in my power to bring these matters under the notice of the War Office, and I am bound to raise them here because months have gone by. We raised this question in the House of Commons months ago. I raised it a second time recently, and I would ask hon. Members opposite who were in the House on that occasion to be my jury. I appeal to them to say whether I am not speaking the simple truth when I say, that if I had tabled a Motion expressive of the representations I was making it would have been carried unanimously in this House, and it would have been the general wish of the House that it should come into immediate effect. Yet nothing has been done.
§ Mr. LONG
The right hon. Gentleman finds fault with me for saying nothing has been done. I say that our men are fighting to-day, they were fighting yesterday and the day before, and they will be fighting to-morrow, and if you really mean this change—if you mean that every man who is entitled to promotion, so that his pension will improve, is to have that promotion—why have you not got a special Gazette out to-day or yesterday? What is the cause of the delay? Delay in issuing the Gazette means that if a man is returned in the casualty list tomorrow you can do nothing unless you propose to make a new arrangement which will go right back. If you do that, so much the better. Unless you do something of that kind it means the man's relatives have to pay the penalty of the omission to give him his promotion. I have got a number of cases here. In the cases I have given there has not been any promotion, which the right hon. Gentleman tells us he has now decided to make, except in the one case where a commanding officer has been made temporary lieutenant-colonel, that commanding officer being in a very special position.
So far, the objection to this question of promotion has been a very definite one by the War Office, and, so far as I know, it has not been removed. It has been a financial objection—the inability to bear the burden to provide for the extra officers. There may be another objection. There may be the objection that the man is not fit for his new rank. If that is the case, you have no business to leave him in command of men at the front. If he is not fit for his command, relieve him, and put someone else in who is fit. Do not let such a man remain in command for months together, responsible for the lives of hundreds of men, and, it may be, responsible for the holding of some particular line upon which depends the security of the whole of the rest of our line. That man may have upon his shoulders the greatest responsibility of the fight for the moment, and you have no business to leave him there if he is not fit for his work. If he is fit for his work, you have no right to ask him to do foreman's work when you are only paying him at the rate of a day labourer. You have no right to ignore these recommendations because it makes no difference to the fighting qualities of these men. I have said before, and I repeat it, that these men do feel this injustice. They feel it profoundly. They 460 think you are treating them badly, and they are quite unable to understand why you are doing it. But it makes no difference to their fighting. They are just as ready to fight and do their duty as they have been all along; but I say this, that because these men are made of this splendid stuff and because they never think of their own advantage or their own reward, and because all they say is, "We are doing our duty and we ask for no recognition," you have no right to take advantage of it, and to let them suffer an injustice which can be removed to-morrow morning, and which ought to be removed, and which if we were living in normal times would be removed by the compulsion of this House supposing that the War Office resisted. I cannot understand why it is not done. I do not know whether there exists any other reason with which I am not familiar. The financial reason was the one given to me at the War Office. I was told that the Treasury were not prepared to sanction the pay of two lieutenant-colonels at the same time, or of two brigadier-generals. That is to say, an officer who is in command of a regiment, and is made a brigadier under a temporary appointment during the War, may have to revert to his command, and during the time that he is brigadier they are not prepared to sanction the pay of brigadier.
§ Mr. LONG
They are now going to sanction the pay of a second lieutenant-colonel, and the making of temporary lieutenant-colonels, but I would ask them to go further, and I would ask them to say that in the case described the officer is entitled to promotion not as a temporary rank. He is just as much entitled to it as an officer can be, and I hope that as the next step the War Office will give these promotions, so that these men will no longer feel, as they feel now, that they are labouring under a very great injustice. The same thing applies exactly to the doctors who are serving in the Army. I heard the right hon. Gentleman answer a question by the hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds. It was no answer. I wish that these cases were in far better and more capable hands than mine. I wish that I could do more justice to them. What happens to a man like myself? We come here and argue this case to the best of our ability. We go down to these camps and we find there men holding the rank of major or lieutenant-colonel who have 461 never done a day's Regular service in their lives, who have only taken up soldiering as an additional means of employing their time. They are doing their work well. I am not criticising them. All honour to them for their patriotism, public spirit, and industry, but they are not Regular soldiers. Yet under your system, as it exists now, you give those men promotion, periodically making majors and colonels? of these men, while you leave the regular professional soldier without the promotion to which he is absolutely entitled by all the rules of the profession.
It is the same thing with the doctors, especially those of the Special Reserve. You have got the same extraordinary anomalies there. You have got the doctors whom you have brought into the Army, men without special training and men with a very short service, brought in since the War began, to whom you have given promotion. Yet you have got senior men who are in the Special Reserve, who are older and have got longer service, and who are left with the rank which they had then. These men cannot come forward with their own cases. They are not allowed by the rules and regulations of the Service to write to the newspapers. Do not let the War Office think that these gentlemen have written to me. I have been for a long time made the recipient of an enormous amount of information about what are called hard cases. I can assure the War Office that I am not bringing one-tenth of them or one-twentieth of them before the Committee, and I can add almost any number extra of these hard cases. The last time we were discussing this question the right hon. Gentleman asked whether I did not realise that the War Office were hard-worked. I know that they are bard-worked. I know that the pressure is enormous, but I would ask them to increase their staff. I do implore them to remove these injustices to men who are fighting abroad, who are preparing at home to take their places at the front, and to see that so far as possible each man has the rank and the pay to which he is entitled by his service, and does not have to endure the mortification of seeing men, not for special service or distinguished service, but in the ordinary course, put over their heads, and in some cases actually commanding them.
This is the kind of case which I have in mind. I will give this particular case in detail to the right hon. Gentleman if he likes. An officer of twenty years' service in the Army leaves the Army invalided. 462 He is not on the active list. He returns to the Army as soon as the War breaks out. He is sent out to France to do certain work. He finds himself under the command of officers junior to himself, junior in service, junior in experience. Junior in every way except one: They have been given this temporary rank which puts them for the time being over the heads of a man whose experience is incomparably superior to theirs. That is not justice, nor is it common sense. It is not fair to the man. It is not fair to the Service. It is not in the interests of the country. What I ask the War Office to do is to look into these questions and have them put right, because it is not a matter of answering. There is no answer to these cases. I have not brought forward a single case to-day that I cannot vouch for as being accurate. I have been into it myself and I know of it. I have looked into the matter thoroughly, and I have verified everything before I put forward a single case before this Committee. Therefore you cannot dismiss them by simply saying that some answer is to be found.
I raised then another case to which I beg the Prime Minister to give a moment. The Under-Secretary and the Financial Secretary, I think, thought that I was in error. There was some doubt about it, but I am sorry to say that I was not. I wish I had been. I refer to a case which I consider to be one of the most cruel wrongs, where an officer holding a staff appointment is badly wounded and sent home. What is the reward given immediately for his service? You cut him down to about half his pay. That statement was challenged on the Front Bench, and quite correctly challenged, because I should not have said that you cut him down in regard to his pay. I ought to have said that you cut him down in regard to his pay and allowance, because you have a system at the War Office, which incidentally I always thought a very bad one, under which you pay these men so much, and pay all sorts of other things in the shape of allowances. I think that it would be far better to give a man his full pay, and to give him sufficient pay commensurate with the duties of his office, and leave out the rest. But this is not the time to discuss that. Both the right hon. Gentleman and the Financial Secretary challenged the accuracy of my statement. I have got here the case of a brigadier-general. He is badly wounded. I have seen him myself. He was shot in both shoulders. That man has got to come back 463 here. He has got to get well. He can make a special appeal to the War Office for a special sickness grant, but that is over after a time and it may be months before that man can be really restored to complete vigour again, though he may be well enough, probably, to do portions of his ordinary military duty.
Is it fair that, when these men come back, the immediate result is you cut them down by half the pay and allowances which they were receiving abroad? Surely that is not a fair system. Can it be that the expense cannot be borne? I do not want to introduce controversial subjects at all, but I might refer at another time perhaps to the money that is being wasted over building huts. I am not a contractor, but I have come to the conclusion that it is a remarkably easy way of making money. If all the contractors go on, as has been the case in reference to some of the work which I have witnessed, there is money being wasted there. The Financial Secretary will find men working at those huts who carry boards about with as much tenderness as if they were babies in arms. You are wasting money over that, in my judgment. I do not want to challenge you over it, but I am sure that whatever way you save money you ought not to save it by any reduction in the money allowance to these men who have fought for you, and are lighting still. Let the Committee remember the service which they have rendered to you and to the country. Surely it is not a question of these men making appeals. So long as they are fit to do your service they should be paid at full pay. At all events let them have something to enable them to recover their strength.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
Is the suggestion of the right hon. Gentleman that a brigadier-general should continue to receive full pay as a brigadier-general when he is no longer discharging his duties in that position? I only want to know. [HON. MEMBERS: "Speak up."]
§ Mr. LONG
He was wounded in November, and he was put on half-pay in February. He appealed to the War Office, and the answer which they gave was to quote the regulation. His contention is this. This is a perfectly sound answer in peace time. When an officer has been holding command as brigadier or in any other capacity, it is quite obvious that when he gives up his command he ought to revert to whatever rank he assumes on giving up his command with the consequential pay. I am not asking that we should make a rule which is going to be applicable to the retention of these commands in all times. What I am asking is that, during war time, when a man is wounded on service when, he returns home, his pay should be left tin-same, and I think that this makes my answer to the Prime Minister's question in the affirmative. The officer ought to have that where he is holding an appointment as brigadier-general, at all events during the period of the War, or until such time as the War Office are able to say whether he cannot return to his command at the front. He may turn out to be permanently disabled. He may turn out to be so enfeebled in frame that he may not be able to return to the front, but during the War, while one hopes that he may be able to go back, he ought to be maintained in his pay as brigadier or you should give him the equivalent, so that when a wounded1 man returns to this country he will not feel that, in addition to enduring the suffering caused by his wounds, he has lost half the income, which hitherto he had available to keep himself, his wife and his children. That is my suggestion.
§ Mr. LONG
In this particular case the officer tried very hard to get an interview with the War Office. He was not successful. I should be very happy, of course, to submit any papers connected with the case to the Prime Minister. I apologise to the Committee for the long lime I have occupied. I hoped to say something on the National Reserve question. It is a small matter, and I cannot understand why the War Office did not pay the money. They got men from all over the country who have done their duty, and who came to the Colours believing the promise that they would receive £5. It has been paid in some cases and refused in others, so that you get National Reserve men to-day serving side by side, some of whom have 465 been paid the £5 and some who have not. I defy any man to understand from the War Office why in some cases the money has been paid and in others it has not been paid. There is one other word, and it is about wounded private soldiers. A man may, through good service, be promoted to the rank of sergeant; he is wounded and is sent back to the base, and actually, under your present system, the man is reduced to the rank of lance-corporal, or even to a private, and finds himself deprived of the rank and pay which he was getting at the front when he was wounded. When he returns to duty he has to work under a man junior to himself, perhaps a non-commissioned officer who has never seen a shot fired. Really, if the thing were not so cruel, it would be ludicrous; it is a monstrous injustice. Then there is another case, that of the disabled soldier. The suffering of this man may really be very great indeed; he may have lost an arm or a leg. When the doctor sees that he can do no more for him he is, after a certain period, dismissed from hospital, and finally he is discharged from the Army with a pension of 12s. 6d. a week.
What I appeal to the War Office about is this: I am not discussing the question whether 12s. 6d. is sufficient or not, but I am quite certain that for those disabled men who are discharged 12s. 6d. is manifestly an insufficient amount. It must be remembered that it takes time for men who have lost an arm or a leg, or have been otherwise disabled, to fully recover their strength, and to become accustomed to the artificial limbs with which they are supplied—in fact, they have, to learn the use of these artificial limbs, and they have to train themselves to meet a new departure in life. They have to start life afresh, and they require time in which to familiarise themselves with the new conditions under which they will have to live. There are men in the hospitals who are just preparing to leave, or who have just left, who ask visitors and others where they are to go and what they are to do. Some of them have no friends, and being disabled, and with only 12s. 6d. a week, they ask what is to become of them. There is no answer. A man may be able to get private help, as there may be well-disposed men or women who would make provision for him, but that is not what we want. I submit that there should be proper provision made for these men, until they have had an opportunity to recover their strength and fit 466 themselves for again starting life under new conditions. I feel the profound responsibility of this House and of the country towards these officers, non-commissioned officers and men, who have fought for us and are fighting for us. I ask for them no favour; I do not ask for them anything in the nature of reward; all I ask for them is common justice, and that this country should do for them only what is right. We should recognise what they have done for us, and, if the Government will realise that these are practical difficulties and will deal with them, I am convinced that it will confer a very real boon upon those who deserve at the Government's and at our hands all that we can possibly do for them.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
(indistinctly heard): I have listened with great interest to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman, and I can assure him, speaking on behalf of the Government, that, so far from complaining of anything that he has said, I welcome in the fullest and most unreserved way the use he has made of this most appropriate occasion to bring forward criticisms founded on his own observations or on information he has received in regard to the conduct of the War, and particularly in regard to the treatment of our gallant soldiers and officers. On that subject I am sure there is only one opinion in every quarter of the House. No one, of course, is more interested than the Government themselves in doing anything that will remove all possible sense of hardship, and in dealing equitably and generously with every case of proved or provable injustice. These are very difficult matters, as the right hon. Gentleman himself frankly acknowledges, to work out in detail, in the stress and strain of a great war, making unprecedented demands on the administrative resources of overworked departments. But that is no reason whatever why they should be ignored, or why, when they are brought to the attention of those responsible, they should not be properly dealt with.
Some things, I think, are quite obvious in regard to them. One is, that the regulations, which are well adapted to the conduct of the Army in regard to promotion, pensions, and otherwise, in time of peace, ought to be modified and relaxed, perhaps altogether transformed, in time of war. With that, I think, everybody will agree. In time of war, as well as in time of peace, it is inevitable that in every Army there has always been and there always will be 467 a certain amount of what I may call accident or luck. In one regiment, through good fortune, perhaps, in not being present in the most critical or sanguinary occasions of the campaign, there is a comparatively small list of casualties, and the gaps for promotion are happily few and far between. In another regiment the exact reverse is the case. We have seen it in the South African war; we have seen it in every war in which we have been engaged. In some regiments the promotions are abnormally and unforseenably rapid in consequence of that state of things. You cannot equalise those chances as between different units of the Army. I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman will recognise that it would be unfair, merely because a man in regiment A, who has seen a comparatively short term of service, actually finds himself in command of the regiment, while in regiment B, a man, who has seen a very long term of service, is still junior in rank. These are inevitable incidents in every war and every Army.
But having made these two observations, I go every length with the right hon. Gentleman in saying that the practice of the military authorities in time of war ought to be to deal even-handed justice to all ranks of the Army, and to avoid as far as possible any suspicion of partiality or favouritism—I would promptly refute any such imputation—I will not say partiality or favouritism, but rather what I would call a capricious or irrational application of the rules and procedure of promotion. The right hon. Gentleman has given us some cases which certainly, as he stated them, left the impression on my mind of real hardship. I asked him whether he suggested that the cases to which he referred were due to some rule, or practice, or system in the War Office, or whether they were due to accident or caprice. So far as I can judge and understand from the answer he gave, he acknowledges there has been a considerable abrogation of the rules which previously stood in the way of rationally dealing with these matters, and I am glad to say that in most respects this will be retrospective in its operation, and it is very important that it should be. Take, for instance, the case, which I think is a very hard one, put by the right hon. Gentleman, that of a man, perhaps a captain, who through the hazard of the campaign, finds himself in the temporary rank of lieutenant-colonel commanding his battalion. He is killed in the 468 hour of battle, and I think everybody will agree that his widow ought to receive pension on the scale of his temporary rank, and not of his previous rank. I think that ought to be retrospective.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
I will come to that case presently. I put the case of a man in temporary command, and I think that, as far as that is concerned, it ought to be made retrospective, and, as far as the Treasury is concerned, they should be enabled to make it so. That is a case which is so obviously just and right that it hardly admits of serious discussion. But in regard to several of the cases which the right hon. Gentleman put, and which undoubtedly made a great impression on the Committee, as they did on me, I think he attributed the hardships that have occurred, not to the existence of any settled rule or practice, but to inadvertence, perhaps owing to overwork of the branches of the Departments immediately concerned. Of course, these Departments have been very heavily strained. I had, myself, a short experience of four months at the War Office as Secretary of State. I was Secretary of State at the time the War broke out, and I know from that experience, short as it was, that in these matters, in normal times, the very greatest possible care and attention is given by the Board of Selection, and those responsible for promotion, to prevent anything in the nature of injustice. I was struck by the extraordinary, I might say almost meticulous care with which the Board of Selection dealt with questions of that kind and with other matters. In time of war the question is very difficult. The scene shifts and personalities come and go, and it is very difficult to exercise the same amount of care and surveillance that is possible in time of peace. The only thing that can be done in cases of that kind is that they should be brought promptly to the attention of the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War. The right hon. Gentleman must know as well as I do there is no desire to avoid criticism. I think great service is done by the right hon. Gentleman and by other hon. Gentlemen who bring promptly and effectively to the notice of the War Office any cases of the kind. I can assure him they will be welcomed, because it is one of the instances in which a person outside the sphere of administration can really render effective service in the conduct of the War. 469 So far from the Government resenting or in any way trying to arrest suggestions or criticisms of that kind, I can assure the right hon. Gentleman we welcome them and think them a real contribution to the common objects of the War. I would ask him to be good enough to furnish particulars of those cases, and I can assure him they will be promptly dealt with. There are some points on which I do not like, off-hand, to give anything in the value of a definite pledge: for instance, there is the case he put of the brigadier-general. Although he is retained in his rank and emoluments proper to that rank, from three months after that time he reverts to the lower rank and receives a smaller rate of pay, and I suppose if he dies his widow and dependants are similarly treated. I would like that case to be considered in all its aspects. It will not be considered with any want of sympathy. In regard to all these cases, I wish to give to the right hon. Gentleman and to the Committee, speaking for the War Office and for the Government, the most explicit and emphatic assurances that we are at least as anxious as anybody else. We do all we can for these men. They are covering themselves and their country with glory by the services they are rendering to the country, and they should find when they come home wounded, and their dependants and descendants should find, that if by the fortunes of war they come prematurely to their death, that their country is not only grateful but generous in its recognition of their services.
§ Colonel YATE
May I say how grateful all soldiers will be to the Prime Minister for The kind and generous treatment he has accorded to them in the matter of the pensions which should be given to their widows. The Under-Secretary of State for War told us some time ago that majors are to be given the temporary rank of lieutenant-colonels, but that captains were not to be promoted majors. I would like to ask him whether captains will be treated on the same plane as majors when the vacancy in the command of a battalion occurs, and where there is no major present if the captain has held the command more than a month, that he should be given the temporary rank of lieutenant-colonel. I trust that the captains in command of battalions will not be debarred from temporary rank simply because they have not attained the rank of major. I would also be glad, if I may, to congratulate the right hon. Gentleman 470 on the statement he was able to give us regarding the care and transport of the wounded in the field. I myself have only just returned from France, where I had the opportunity of inspecting ambulance trains a day or two ago. I can honestly say that the organisation and comfort that has now been introduced into those trains are deserving of all credit to those engaged in the management of those trains. We have got to remember that a great many of the railway lines in France are single lines, and consequently those ambulance trains are very often sidetracked for hours to allow munitions and men up to the front. That is the only drawback, and I wish to say that the medical officers in charge of those trains are deserving of every credit for the way they have brought them to such perfection.
I am sorry I cannot join so much with the right hon. Gentleman in praise of ambulance wagons, because we must remember that the drivers of those wagons are often not very experienced men and are often rather rough men. The way they drive wounded over cobble stones and bad roads without any thought of the feelings and sufferings of the poor men inside is a matter that often brings forth pity from those who see it. It is a question that is very difficult to control, because the man who is given a cargo of wounded to drive is left very much to himself without anybody to supervise him. The best is being done possibly, but I do hope some steps will be taken to make those drivers drive as slowly and as comfortably as possible. There is one other point to which I would like to refer and that is as to the efficient and excellent management of the water ambulances. I have had the pleasure of serving on a Committee presided over by the hon. Member for the Isle of Wight (Mr. Douglas Hall) and of which the hon. Member of the Egremont Division of Cumberland (Mr. Grant) is chairman, and we have started No. 1 Ambulance Flotilla as it is officially called. I can tell the House that that ambulance flotilla is now working as a complete hospital with 200 beds and is complete in every possible way. There are four barges accommodating fifty patients each and there are doctors, a staff of nurses, an operating theatre, electric light, and all other conveniences. I trust that as time goes on the War Office will be able to introduce these hospital barges in much larger numbers in all the canals in Flanders and Northern France, and that this No. 1 Ambulance Flotilla is 471 only the start of a system which will largely increase. I saw in those barges a hundred and ninety men badly wounded in the head and in other serious ways, and they told me they never had such rest in their lives. They dreaded going back to the train or the ordinary ambulance and they lay there with sleep and perfect ease. I can assure the right hon. Gentleman there is no better way of transporting the wounded from the clearing station to the hospital ships than by barges, and I trust that that method will be largely extended.
Let me also mention another subject which I have brought to the notice of the right hon. Gentleman once before, and that is, whether he will give attention to the offer of the Malta Artillery and militia for service at the front. I think all people will recognise when we have colonies like Malta and Cyprus and Protectorates like Egypt we should try and engage the inhabitants of those colonies or protectorates with us in what I may call the comradeship of arms, and we ought to give them, with their devoted loyalty, the opportunity of serving with us in the field side by side wherever we possibly can. The right hon. Gentleman has only utilised the Malta militia to garrison Cyprus. I would ask him to largely increase that body and raise reserve regiments and allow the present Regular Forces of Malta Militia and Artillery to serve at the front in the fighting line, and I would ask him if he can do the same for Cyprus and other places. I think that in all our Crown Colonies and Possessions every encouragement possible should be given to the natives of those places to volunteer as the people of India have done with such very satisfactory result.
I would also like to ask the right hon. Gentleman whether anything has been done about the employment of ex-soldiers after the War. He promised us some time ago that Sir Matthew Nathan's Committee was to report this year. Sir Matthew Nathan has left and nothing has been heard of the Committee, and we do not know what arrangements, if any, have been made for the employment of soldiers on the termination of the war. I trust that the right hon. Gentleman will see that the Government will give a start in this matter and will issue a definite, order that at least two-thirds of the subordinate appointments, such as clerks, messengers and porters, should be reserved for soldiers, and not 50 per cent. I would 472 ask for two-thirds or three-fourths to be reserved in every Government Department, and not only there but also in every municipality and county council and public body throughout the Kingdom. I. would also ask him to let us have the Report of Sir Matthew Nathan's Committee, so that we may know how we stand. The last time the Army Debate came on I raised the question of the increase in officers' pay, and I was told that their pay had been increased, but that increase only affected junior officers and men promoted from the rank of lieutenant to captain. I asked that the case of majors and lieutenant-colonels should be considered, and I pointed out the very hard cases that exist amongst officers, and especially married officers, during the present War. I told the right hon. Gentleman of a case of insurance in which a major made provision for his wife and family in case of death by an insurance amounting to £3,000, which would mean about £100 a year, which was the least a man could do for his wife and children. For that £3,000 he has to pay an extra insurance of £157 10s., and with the ordinary insurance his total payment amounts to £221. How can a man live on the balance of £56? The right hon. Gentleman told me that that officer ought to have insured against war risks. It is all very well to say that, but that particular officer had to pay an additional £30 to the insurance offices to cover Indian risks each time he was sent to India. At the present time that man has £56 out of his pay on which to support himself, his wife and family. I trust that the question of increasing the pay of majors and lieutenant-colonels will not be lost sight of.
I would make one suggestion for the consideration of the Under-Secretary of State. Would it not be advisable and also humane for power to be given to general courts-martial at the front—by which I mean within the fighting area on active service—in cases of heinous offences, where they think it desirable, to inflict a sentence of corporal punishment instead of the extreme penalty of death? If my memory serves me right, there was some time ago a great agitation for the abolition of corporal punishment in the Army. That agitation was on purely humane grounds, and was deserving of all credit. In peace tune I quite agree the ordinary law of the land, as administered by courts-martial, is sufficient to maintain discipline; but in war 473 time, especially in a war such as that in which we are now engaged, is it right that courts-martial, in the case of men convicted of heinous offences, should have no alternative whatsoever but to inflict the death penalty? Our soldiers are the finest and most chivalrous in the world. You may put the British soldier where you may; he is a chivalrous, careful and tender protector of the wounded and of women and children. But in all our large armies, such as we have now assembled, there will always be some few men who forget themselves, commit outrages, and bring discredit on the Service. The punishment for these offences must be swift and deterrent. It is impossible to inflict imprisonment upon a man on active service, when a large number of other men would have to be sent to take a prisoner away. Corporal punishment would be swift, and, in many cases, just as deterrent as ordering a man to be taken out and shot. Moreover, it would give a man a chance; it might reform him and make a bad soldier into a good one, save his life, and enable him to fight for his country again. I do not know whether the question has ever been considered; therefore I would ask the right hon. Gentleman to consider whether it would not be wise, even for the sake of humanity, to give general courts-martial at the front power in such cases to inflict some other punishment, such as corporal punishment, instead of their being limited to the one punishment of death.
§ Mr. W. C. ANDERSON
The right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Long) touched on the question of the wounded soldiers. I had a letter the other day regarding a soldier now in Lancashire who was wounded at the battle of the Marne. He was struck by a piece of shrapnel in the right shoulder; he was discharged and has received a pension of 1s. 6d. a day, conditionally, for twelve months. He is a widower with three children. I am sure it will be generally felt that that is not an adequate allowance for the man's needs. With regard to many other questions which have been raised, we realise that the War Office is very much overworked, and that the cry of the soldier's wife or the soldier's mother in a back street of one of our largest towns is hardly likely to reach to the War Office, even when she has a grievance. Therefore, it is desirable that Members of this House who receive letters of complaint in regard to many of these cases should see that the point of view of these people is put forward here, and everything 474 possible done to see that the War Office brings pressure to bear upon those who need it—paymasters and so on—to ensure that payments are made in the right way, to the right amount, and in the speediest, possible fashion. There is a great amount of dissatisfaction at the long delay in making payments, especially in the case of the mothers of soldiers. I have received scores of letters showing that in some cases there is a delay of three or four months before a woman gets the money to which she is entitled. A woman with £3,000 or £4,000 a year might be able to wait for three or four months, but a woman who is entirely dependent on the few shillings a week coming from the nation ought not to be asked to wait that length of time.
I will quote a number of actual cases from Sheffield, and I will ask the War Office to see if something cannot be done, especially with regard to paymasters, so that these payments may be made much more promptly than appears to be the case at present. The worst offenders are, perhaps, the County Territorial Associations and the paymasters of those associations. Certainly some of the cases that I have are in regard to them. Here is the case of a man who enlisted in the Yorkshire and Lancashire regiment; a deduction of 6d. a day from the man's pay was made on 23rd November, 1914, but his mother has received neither it nor any Government pay up to the present moment. The Sheffield Pension Committee decided on 18th November that the degree of dependence of the man's mother was 10s. a week. Several letters have been sent to the paymaster. Another case is that of a private in the Northumberland Fusiliers; no allowance has been received respecting him. There is another case in connection with the Yorkshire and Lancashire regiment. The Sheffield Pension Committee stated the degree of dependence to be 7s. a week; they passed the claim on 30th December, 1914, and papers were sent to York on 5th January, 1915. Several letters have been sent since, but no money has been received. There is another case in regard to the 3rd West Riding Royal Field Artillery. The Sheffield Pension Committee decided on 29th January that the degree of dependence was 12s. a week. Papers were sent to York on 2nd February, but no money has been received. These are typical cases of delay I say that these people simply cannot afford to wait in this way. One of the causes of trouble seems to be the idea that a 475 soldier's pay is not so much a matter of right as a matter of charity. Charity comes into it a great deal. These women are expected to go to voluntary charity societies and apply for relief pending the time when they get their allowance. These societies do not give the women even the amount they are going to receive. They always err on the safe side by giving less than they are entitled to.
§ Mr. ANDERSON
Yes, that will be put right later on; but in the meantime the woman is not getting the money to which she is entitled. She ought not to be asked to go to a voluntary charity society at all: she ought to get as promptly as possible the full amount to which she is entitled. The soldier's pay ought to be regarded, not as something connected with charity, but as something to which he and his dependants have a definite right. There is also a great deal of resentment at the inquisitorial methods adopted by people who go round to find out the exact measure of a woman's dependence upon her son. There is a list of questions drawn up; these people want to find out exactly how much a boy was bringing into the house; what difference there is in the family standing since the boy has gone, and exactly to what extent the woman was dependent upon him. It seems to me that in many cases these questions actually put a premium upon dishonesty, and that the woman who can tell the best story or put her case in the best way is the one who is likely to get the most money, whereas very often the strictly honest woman will come out of the bargain the worst. I say that that is a wrong method, and it is a matter into which the War Office should look very carefully indeed.
In the case of a mother who has given two sons to the Colours, a very narrow view is taken as to the woman's dependence. Is it really necessary that we should cheese-pare this matter down to 6d. a week, and try to screw these people down, so that one woman gets 5s. and another 10s.? It may be that a line should be drawn between a woman partly dependent on a son and a woman wholly dependent, but no other line ought to be drawn. In my opinion, you spend almost as much money on these red tape methods as would allow you to give an extra shilling or two shillings a week, and, 476 in so doing, give the largest amount of satisfaction instead of arousing the maximum of dissatisfaction. I am prepared to hand to the War Office more than a score of letters giving actual cases where women have been kept waiting two months, three months, three and a half months without getting any satisfaction at all. I know that blame does not attach to the War Office, although we hold them responsible; but it is necessary that a large amount of pressure should be brought to bear to speed up the whole machinery, in order to get a larger amount of justice for those who are dependent upon the men now fighting at the front.
§ Mr. MOUNT
I wish to say a word in regard to a class of people to whom my right hon. Friend referred, namely, the National Reservists, and their proficiency pay. I have had brought to my notice facts which are so startling that I should have hardly have believed it possible they could be true. These men, when they joined the National Reserve in August or September, were paid their 1s. a day, plus 3d. proficiency pay. For seven months they have been paid that amount. Now an order has come out in the Southern Command to say that men tire not entitled to proficiency pay unless they have belonged to some branch of the Regular Forces or the Militia. A large number of these men were in the Yeomanry or the old Volunteers. They have now been stopped that extra 3d. a day which they have been paid hitherto. It seems to me a curious method to adopt to select as your standard of proficiency what a man has done in the past, quite apart from what may be his proficiency at present. That, however, is not the real grievance. It is this: These men have not only got their 3d. per day stopped, but they have been asked to refund the amount which has been paid to them in error during these seven months, and paid through no error of theirs. This is how it works out: These man have been getting 8s. 9d. a week, that is 1s. 3d. a day. They are now to be paid 7s. per week. The majority of these men are married men: if they make their allotment all they get is 3s. 6d. per week. The total amount of proficiency pay they have been paid in error is £2 8s. 9d. They have got to refund this. It has to be stopped out of their pay at the rate of 2s. per week. Thus these men will only get up to Michaelmas 1s. 6d. per week.
This is a state of things which I think ought not to be allowed. It certainly is a 477 great grievance to these men. It is certainly a great hindrance to recruiting. I cannot believe that whatever the War Office may do in regard to seeing that these men are not to receive their 3d. per day proficiency pay in the future, they will persist in this demand to refund what has been paid in error. These men are doing very dull work in guarding prisoners, bridges, and so on, but it is valuable work. Almost all of them are tolerably well off as civilians. Under all the circumstances it does seem to me to be a most extraordinary position that these men should be mulcted in this large amount which has been paid to them through no fault of their own. If this demand for repayment is to be made, it would have been far better from the very beginning if this 3d. had not been paid. When, however, it has been paid, the War Office should see to it that it is not required to be repaid. I should like to add how thoroughly I sympathise with and support what has been said by the last, speaker in regard to the delay which has taken place in the payment of the allowances of some of the wives and dependants of soldiers. I know the great difficulties which the War Office must have had, but I do hope they will do everything possible to expedite payment in these cases, because it is a matter of great importance that the money should be paid regularly.
§ Viscount VALENTIA
I understood the Prime Minister to say this afternoon in regard to the case of a lieutenant-colonel—temporary rank—drawing the pay of the rank that he temporarily holds, that in the event of his being killed in action his widow should receive, the pension of the rank her husband held at the time of his decease. I ventured to ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he thought that the principle he enunciated should be carried down to the subordinate ranks and to the case of a temporary major. I dare say he did not feel disposed to give me an answer just then, but the subject is one upon which I have put several questions to the Under-Secretary of State for War and to the Financial Secretary. So far they have told me that the question is under consideration and that possibly a decision may be arrived at later. If it is justice to deal so with a lieutenant-colonel of temporary rank in command of a battalion or a regiment, it is far more just in the case of a captain with a temporary rank of major. If the latter is killed in action his widow 478 should receive the higher rate of pension. The system of temporary rank is quite an innovation so far as the subordinate ranks of the Army is concerned.
For years it has been the system amongst the Civil servants in the various Government Departments to make appointments temporary. The object is quite apparent. It is to prevent the possibility of these men obtaining pensions at the end of their service, or on leaving the service, or in the event of their death of then-widows claiming pensions. But these are cases where men may look forward to a long life, and it is understood they are sufficiently well paid to make provision for the time when they retire. The position is totally different in respect to officers in the Army. They certainly have not a certainty of a very long life, and, further, they are extremely badly paid. I think it is only fair in the case of a man with, temporary rank of major that in the event of that officer's death the widow should receive a pension in accordance with the temporary rank that the deceased held. So far I think no decision has been arrived at by any body which is looking into the matter, and we can only infer that the War Office will recommend to the Committee deciding this question that an officer holding the temporary rank of major should be treated in the same way as those of higher temporary rank. Possibly no promise can be made on the subject, but I think there is one more thing due to the widows of officers who have been killed in action. Perhaps this belongs more to the Department of the Chancellor of the Exchequer: the officer's widow who receives a small pension of £100 has to pay Income Tax on that amount, which is now at the rate of 1s. 9¾d. in the £, with possibility of a larger figure, and a corresponding reduction of the income as time goes on. This is very hard, and should be altered. The pensions of the widows of officers who have been killed in action should be exempt from Income Tax.
§ Colonel GREIG
To-day the Prime Minister invited for the consideration of the Government and the War Office cases of hardship in the various departments under them. There is one case which I venture to bring before the notice of the right hon. Gentlemen, the Under-Secretary and the Financial Secretary, and that is the case of the medical officers of the Territorial regiments. A large number of these appointments of medical officers have been filled by professional men who 479 have given up large practices in order to fill the vacancies caused by the large expansion of that Force. In many cases they are men who have sacrificed a professional career to the needs of the country. There is a considerable dearth even now of applicants for the post, mainly, I believe, because of the inequality of treatment which they are receiving from the country as compared with their professional brethren, to whom, of course, we are very much indebted for their medical services. As between the two, however, the Territorial medical officer seems to be treated very badly. The facts are these: His period of service when he joins, for there is no limit, is as long as the authorities like to keep him. His pay is 14s. per diem, plus certain allowances. The highest possible amount he can get is 18s. 10d. per diem. When he starts his work he gets an outfit allowance of £30, and a camp outfit allowance of £7 10s., which everyone who knows about these matters is perfectly well aware does not cover the camp outfit cost. He gets no gratuity at the end of his service.
I want to compare that schedule of payments with what the officers of the Royal Army Medical Corps are getting. I do not desire for one instant to say that they ought to be paid less. In many cases, following on the experience of the Boer War, a large number of young men have gone into the Force—quite rightly—and we are under great indebtedness to them for having done so. But there are many cases of pupils who have been trained by present members of the Territorial Medical Corps, and when these Territorial Medical officers meet their old-time pupils in camp they find their pupils in higher ranks, and receiving a very much higher rate of pay. The thing is an absurdity! The two sets of men are doing exactly the same work. Of course, the Territorial medical officers in a large number of cases have taken the Imperial Service obligation. No other distinction can be indicated between the two sets. This is what the Royal Army Medical Corps' officers get. Their period of service is twelve calendar months, or until their service is no longer required, which presumably will be when the War has terminated. The pay is 24s. per diem, being a flat rate with no allowances. Travelling on duty is also paid for by the Government. This officer gets an outfit allowance of £30 at the time of his service, the same as the Territorial medical officer, but at the end of his service 480 he gets £60. It is a matter for the consideration, perhaps, in the long run, of the Treasury, rather than the War Office, to consider whether these two sets of professional gentlemen should not be put upon the same footing, and that the scale of pay of the Territorial medical officer should be raised to that of the officers of the Royal Army Medical Corps.
§ Lord CHARLES BERESFORD
There are one or two points on which I should like to inquire of the representatives of the Government. First, let me mention the case of those officers and soldiers who have been rendered blind in the War. This matter, I think, has not been dealt with before. They receive the same pension as those who are incapacitated from other causes, and I am sure the House should wish that they should get something more. Take the case of the officer. I believe he gets £200 a year. He ought to get at least £300. There was the cast that the right hon. Gentleman, the Member for the Strand Division, brought forward. I can assure him that the Army are grateful to him for what he said. I am sure the Committee was delighted to hear the answer of the Prime Minister, that these questions are going to be looked into. I want to bring to the notice of the right hon. Gentleman what was referred to by the right hon. Gentleman below me. That is the question of the private who is made a sergeant at the front—and when he is made a sergeant in those circumstances he is a very good man. He gets wounded, and is brought home. When he leaves the hospital after being cured he rejoins his regiment as a private. There have been some men promoted to company-sergeants or colour-sergeants, and who, after having come home wounded, have gone back to their regiment, or depot, to a rank junior to what, they previously hold in their regiment. I think that is very unfair, and I hope that it will be looked into. I would like to refer to the pay of officers who come home wounded. The remarks of the Prime Minister with regard to pensions were most excellent and most fair; but would it not be possible for officers who come home wounded to retain their full pay until the end of the War? They now retain full pay for three months. I do not mean allowances, because you cannot expect a man, although he is wounded, to have the same allowances as when carrying on duty at the front; but the pay should not be reduced in the way it is 481 now. Without claiming allowances, I would therefore ask the right hon. Gentleman to let the full pay of the rank, whether temporary or not, continue until the end of the War.
§ Sir COURTENAY WARNER
As I have associated myself in a former Debate with what the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Strand (Mr. Long) said about regimental officers, I should not like to let this opportunity pass without saying that I feel very gratified at the results that have been achieved. After what the Prime Minister has said, and after the feeling that has been shown in the House, I hope the Under-Secretary will extend consideration not only to captains and officers commanding battalions, but also to the case of majors. I do not think he realised the point that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Strand had in his mind—the case of the Cavalry regiment, where the major is totally different from the captain, and the captain has not got the same position at all. It is a substantial difference in rank, in command, and in every way. The officers who are in the position of acting majors should be given the temporary rank, and full rank when the time comes when they have had three months in the temporary rank. I do not think it is realised that the want of this rank is causing great inefficiency in many cases. The efficient officer ought to be promoted at once, otherwise an officer who is senior nominally, but who is retired from the Army, and has been dug out from I do not know where, probably having retired from the Army because he was not a great success there, comes in senior to him, and takes precedence of the man who has been found efficient in the field. That causes a great deal of inefficiency in the battalion. If you give the efficient man who is acting in the field his proper rank, you will avoid a great deal of the men going out who have been long out of the Army, or never had the opportunities of learning new drill or things of that kind, from being in position which they are incompetent to fill. I do not think that is the only reason. There are all the other reasons that have been given. It is unfair to the men. I hope that, so far as possible, the new system will be carried out, but I should like to see the temporary rank given, and then the substantive rank after a period.
I should like to put in a plea for generals commanding divisions to have some power of passing over a man they do not think 482 ought to be in command, or of recommending for promotion another man if more suitable. I think there are two systems as to promotion. There is the Napoleonic system of promoting entirely for efficiency at the dictation of the superior officer, which might be called the system of the marshal's baton in every knapsack and there is the old English system of promoting absolutely according to seniority. I think of late years we have been trying to get a little of the other system into the Army, of promoting for special service, and I think if brigadiers and commanders of divisions were given a little discretion in cases where vacancies occur, it would probably be a great improvement to the efficiency of battalions and regiments at the front. There is one other point I should like to mention, and that is the question of recruiting. I understand that at present we are not in great difficulties about recruiting; but there may be a time when we shall be in difficulties again, and it has been suggested that there should be bantam battalions, battalions for special trades, and so on. Might I ask that, when the want of recruits is felt seriously, instead of bantam battalions, which can only be raised in large centres of population, we might have bantam companies, which would be equivalent to the light companies of the old days, and they might be very easily used as drafts for many regiments in difficulties? Reserve regiments that might have to find drafts might be strengthened by a bantam company or a company of tradesmen or any particular class of people who would be allowed as a battalion. I am quite sure a considerable increase of recruits could be got in that way.
There is one other point in the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Strand to which I should like to allude. The right hon. Gentleman talked about preparing for the sanitary arrangements when we make an advance. I have heard something about that from various people who have been out there. I understand the War Office is supplying disinfectant in very large quantities in case of need. There is one thing, though it is certainly rather bulky, which would add to the sanitary condition of the country if supplied in large quantities, and that is quicklime. It is a question of train loads of it very often. I have heard of a case of a whole house being rendered uninhabitable because of a dead cow that had become obnoxious, and as quicklime could 483 not be procured the house remained uninhabitable. If a large supply of quicklime were available, I dare say sanitary conditions could be much improved, especially when the advance takes place. I feel most grateful to the War Office for having done something for regimental officers. I think it is perfectly marvellous what they have done. But there is one point still, I think, wants remedying. I refer to rewards, which seem to be showered on the staff. Some of the staff are very useful and have done excellent work, but a great many have not done much work, though they seem to have had the larger proportion of the rewards. Distinguished Service orders, and various other things which soldiers appreciate, have been showered on the staff, while the regimental officers who have done all the work have got a very small proportion of them. I asked a question about this some time ago, and the right hon. Gentleman's answer was that all these things would be considered in the distribution. Since that, I am sorry to say, the staff seem to have got a still larger proportion of these honours. Recently there have been great showers of these honours of different sorts for the staff, while the regimental officer who has done all the work has got very little recognition in that way. I can assure my right hon. Friend that the feeling in the Army is rapidly becoming one, that after the War it will be a disgrace to have been on the staff, and it is a pity something more cannot be done for the regimental officer than has been done for staff officers. I hope in future there will be more care in the distribution of these honours to the staff.
§ Mr. CURRIE
As the circumstances of the War develop, it is simply inevitable that cases should arise calling for fresh attention at the hands of the War Office from time to time, and, in submitting one or two cases to the notice of the Under-Secretary, I beg he will not regard me as one of his dissatisfied critics. On the contrary, I speak only as one anxious to give him assistance within my power to make things work smoothly in face of difficulties which are certainly very great. I wish to draw his attention to one or two typical cases. Take the case of a man who joins the Army, having passed the doctor. After a short period of service he begins to suffer, say, from rheumatism or any other disease. He is then discharged. He 484 has a right of some kind, either against Chelsea Hospital or against his approved society, but so long as there is the least doubt as to whether his trouble is entirely due to his Army service or not, apparently it is only right that both Chelsea and the approved society should have some hesitation in committing themselves to any liability whatsoever. But, so long as that doubt exists, it is surely unfair that his wife and family should be left stranded. I could supply the right hon. Gentleman with one or two cases where that is exactly the present position, and it should not be really difficult to devise some temporary financial treatment, some modified pension right for a time, in favour of such a man and his wife and family.
One case I have in my mind is really extremely hard. It is a case in which a comparatively young woman has been left with eleven children on her hands. She is told by Chelsea Hospital that there is a doubt, and she is also told by the approved society that there is a doubt, and both are quite right. Nevertheless her hardship remains unredressed. Another case to which I should like to draw the right hon. Gentleman's attention is that of a boy, aged just nineteen, who enlists. Obviously at that age he has not been the support of his parents; he could not possibly have been. His father is alive, earning good wages. In the course of a month or two the father dies. What is the position of the mother? There having been no actual dependency, the mother has obviously no right at present, but is there any reason why the right hon. Gentlemen should not use some dispensing power, which he really must have or could easily get, in order to rectify such a case? The Committee will observe that the alternative is that in order to prevent the mother from falling into a state of partial destitution, if not complete destitution, this young fellow has to contemplate applying for his discharge for what are known as compassionate reasons. If the discharge is granted, as it might be, the Army loses a trained soldier. I think that is a case to which some attention might be given. Of course, both these typical cases involve considerations of justice to the individual, and it is surprising how keen a sense of justice there is amongst those to whom we are urged to address recruiting appeals. I am quite sure the right hon. Gentleman realises that the injustice involved in cases such as these two is extremely bad for recruiting. 485 A third kind of case, which is amongst the most distressing deaths in the field, in where the War Office are unable to say definitely whether an officer is actually dead or not. There are at present women in the really cruel position of not knowing whether they are widows or not. I understand when it comes to the contributory pension they are treated as if they are definitely known to be widows. I think this case is most distressing. I am encouraged by what fell from the Under-Secretary of War and the Prime Minister to think that the Government is anxious to treat cases of that kind as fully and fairly as possible. It must be recognised by the Government that the question is purely one of money, and when I rise in my place and say that, in my opinion, this is a case where money should not be too much held back, I am saying no more than I am prepared to argue before any audience at a recruiting meeting. I do not wish to appear as a dissatisfied critic, but I wish to refer to some other circumstances, and in connection with them I say frankly to the right hon. Gentleman that I am a dissatisfied critic. I am speaking with some experience of recruiting; I do not wish to enter into the question as to whether Highlanders or the Lowlanders are really the salt of the earth, although the right hon. Gentleman opposite may have an opinion upon that point. It is, however, notorious that from the Lowlands of Scotland a large number of recruits have come into Highland regiments. Some months ago that current was known to be so strong that it attracted the notice, and almost the suspicion, of those who are responsible for some of the recruiting in Scotland. There is a reason for most things, and I would like to ask the Under-Secretary for War whether he is aware that one of the reasons for so many recruits having been taken from the Lowlands and put into Highland regiments was that a circular, which I will describe as a somewhat clandestine document, was issued by the military authorities in Scotland, showing plainly that secret influence was being brought to bear to persuade men who would naturally go into Lowland regiments to go into Highland regiments. This circular was issued over the heads of those who, like myself, were doing recruiting work, and are members of the Parliamentary Recruiting Committee. This circular says:—What we would like yon to do is to let it be known privately to those in charge of recruiting offices in your 486 area, that men bearing these names should be encouraged to join Highland regiments.This circular was marked "Private and confidential," and it remained so for some time. What are the contents of that circular?
§ Mr. CURRIE
I am coming to that. What are the contents of this precious document? Here is a list of the names—[An HON. MEMBER: "Is Macpherson on that list?"]—No, Macpherson is not on the list, and we all know that that is a good Highland name. The circular advises that men bearing the name of Cumings, Davidson, Finlayson, Ferguson, Dunn, Gow, Lamont, Leslie, Morison, Robertson, Skene, and Shaw should be specially persuaded to go into Highland regiments.
§ Mr. CURRIE
Because they are not Highland names. [An HON. MEMBER: "You are a Lowlander."] Yes, I am a Lowlander. I have here a letter which was written by the Earl of Rosebery in which he declares that this circular is a very reprehensible one, and he declares that it is ridiculous to insist that people named Cuming and such other names as I have mentioned should be induced to go into Highland regiments. [An HON. MEMBER: "They are Highland names."] They are not Highland names. Is "Leslie" a Highland name, and is it likely that Lord Rosebery would write what I have quoted without having regard to what are really the facts? Why are circulars issued of that kind, marked "Private and confidential?" May I also ask, are there any other circulars of this kind floating around as to which those responsible for doing recruiting work know nothing at all?
§ Mr. TENNANT
Will the hon. Member kindly tell us the date and the place from which the circular emanated?
§ Mr. CURRIE
Yes, it is dated the 28th of August, 1914, and it emanates from the Central Recruiting Committee of which I am a member, which meets in the Liberal offices in Princes Street, Edinburgh. I do not know a single member of that committee who knew that that circular had been sent out until it was discovered accidentally in a stray recruiting office in Edinburgh, and it was then called to our I notice.
§ Mr. C. E. PRICE
Surely the hon. Member knows perfectly well that every one of those names which he has read out belongs to the Highlands of Scotland.
§ Mr. PRICE
That does not make any difference, because I am simply stating a fact. I happen to know the history of everyone of the names mentioned by the hon. Member, and everyone of the clans to which they belong, and I am, therefore, in a position to deny his statement that they do not represent Highland names or Highland clans. I am sure every hon. Member of the House has been extremely grateful to the Prime Minister for his statement with regard to the treatment of the officers. I have received complaints from these men, and I know the hardships to which they have been submitted. I think, however, that the Prime Minister might have gone a little further, although the statement made to-day gives very great satisfaction indeed as far as it goes. I am going to refer to one or two complaints, and I trust the Under-Secretary will not imagine that I am making any personal attack, because I think very few men in any Department have shown greater courtesy and attention to letters sent to him than the Under-Secretary for War. I do not intend to cover cases such as those that have been referred to by other hon. Members, but I have seen many complaints about the delay which has occurred in dealing with claims which mothers are perfectly entitled to make. The constant complaint is that the reply which they received from the associations and the different departments to which they make their claims is, in nearly all cases, that they are awaiting a reply from the War Office. The War Office can scarcely realise the great hardships which is felt by many of these mothers at the delay which is taking place, and I trust that the criticisms made here to-day will be borne in mind, and that this work will be expedited. It is very difficult, I know, to train Civil servants with the rapidity required by the War Office, but bearing in mind the hardships which these women are suffering, I trust something will be done to expedite dealing with their claims.
The hon. Member for Leigh Burghs referred to a case which I entirely support, namely, the case of the head of a family who has one or two sons who have enlisted. These sons have been encouraged by their 488 parents to enlist, and they have done so. After they have joined the ranks, unfortunately, in some of these cases, the head of the family has died, with the result, in many cases, that his removal has caused very great hardship, because the allowance from one or two sons is not adequate to meet the expenses of the family. In cases such as this, where everything was done in good faith, and where the parents have shown a desire, and even anxiety, that some of their sons should join the ranks, when the breadwinner has been removed, I think the War Office should make adequate provision for the man's family. I trust that matter will be seriously considered, because I know, front letters I have received, that it has caused very great hardship indeed. Reference has been made by the hon. Member for Renfrewshire to the medical service. As everybody knows, there has been a very great demand for medical men during the War, and if there is one branch of the Service which has suffered more than another from a lack of men it is the medical service. I will read a short letter I have received which illustrates my point, and it is from a doctor. He says:—Last August I sent in my name for active or home service. I was then acting as surgeon on the 'Caledonia' (Anchor Line) during the transporting of troops of the Expeditionary Force and Indian convoy, and on my return from India, resigned in the hope that I may be called up by the War Office. Last December I was telegraphed by the colonel of the S.E. Mounted Field Ambulance to meet him in London and, after the interview, he asked for my papers which were sent to the Brigade Office and Association, and then sent by them to the War Office. Since then I have had no word from the War Office.That is a case where as man offers himself in August for a position. He was recommended for a captaincy, and this is the explanation given by the War Office:—It appears that the delay in his appointment was caused by the fact that he was recommended for a captaincy which we were unable to give him.Surely, when a man has been recommended for the position of captain, it is not creditable to, the War Office that he should have to wait from August last to March before he receives an appointment. The great complaint we have to make is that there is too great a delay in coming to a decision, and I mention this as another instance in which something should be done to expedite business at the War Office. I now come to another case, and I am glad to see the Financial Secretary to the War Office here. I have purposely avoided putting down any questions regarding contracts, because I have felt that the War Office has had plenty of 489 work to do looking after the administration of the Department without answering a lot of questions. I am very sorry, however, to say—and I think it is a matter of very great regret—that not one single contract for flour has been placed in Edinburgh, although we have some of the largest mills there in the country. I have drawn attention to this before, and I have now received a telegram saying that 30,000 tons of flour from English mills are at Grangemouth. I should like to know whether the War Office is paying carriage from London up to Grangemouth, and whether the flour manufacturers in Leith have had an opportunity of tendering? I can see that the War Office might strictly and truly carry out the regulations by asking that the flour should be delivered at such and such a place, but if they were to receive estimates for the delivery of flour at Croydon and then transfer it from Croydon to Grangemouth at the expense of the War Office it would not, in my judgment, be fair competition. I regret very much that during all these months not one single contract has been placed in Edinburgh, and that flour is being sent from London to Grangemouth.
There is another question to which I should like to refer. The Financial Secretary to the War Office knows of the complaint I am going to make. The War Office invited estimates for certain contracts, and they were to be returned by 27th February. At the same time they stated that the specifications for the contract could be secured by applying to Woolwich. Application was made to Woolwich, and I think I am correct in saying, although I am quoting from memory, that Woolwich took eleven or twelve days to reply to the request, and that the specifications were not sent to the firm to which I refer until 26th February, or one day before they had to send in their estimate to the War Office. Needless to say, it was impossible for them to comply with the request of the War Office. They wrote asking—and I laid the letter before the War Office—that in every case specifications should be sent at the same time as the request for an estimate or a tender. It was a very reasonable request, but, although the War Office have had it now, I think I am correct in saying, for four or six weeks, I have not been able to get a reply, and this firm so far has been unable to estimate. I say frankly that I do not think that is quite fair and that something should be done. At the present 490 time many firms are suffering from a lack of contracts, and where they can estimate for that which the Government requires something should be done to let them have an opportunity of tendering. A great organisation has been brought into existence in order to expedite the delivery of ammunition and such things, but there are many parts of the country where we are not working to the full capacity of the people, and everything should be done to utilise the services of these people which they are willing to give, and no obstacles should be placed in their way. I take this opportunity of expressing my very great regret that the War Office moves so slowly in the matter, and I sincerely trust, after this public protest, that we shall have some different treatment.
§ Mr. FALLE
I am sure that the Committee will forgive me if I do not think of putting the breeks on the Highlander or of taking them off the Lowlander. There is one point, however, which struck me, and that is that at any rate they do not mean to take the hon. Gentleman who sits on the second bench opposite. I am afraid that I am against my hon. Friend when he wants to claim the Dunn as Lowlanders. I happen to know the Dunn country very well, and everyone in this House is well acquainted with Johnnie Dunn and his famous prayer, which I believe every good Highlander and Lowlander repeats night and morning, "The Lord gie me a good guid conceit o' mysel'." I only propose to touch upon three matters, but they are of very great importance. The first relates to majors of the Royal Army Medical Corps, Territorials. This question was touched upon by several Gentlemen, but they missed the particular point to which I wish to draw attention. If these Territorial majors are attached to any unit but the medical unit they cannot be promoted to lieutenant-colonel. When I say "cannot," I mean that it has been done, but it is very unusual. I know one who has been attached to a Territorial regiment for more than twenty years, and he has gone through all the grades and passed through all the ranks, but he is now told that he cannot be promoted above the rank of major. That does not seem to me to be fair, considering that newcomers are promptly made lieutenant-colonels and receive pay superior to the men who have been over twenty years with their regiments.
There is another point upon which I have already had some correspondence 491 with the right hon. Gentleman. It relates to Territorial non-commissioned officers both below and above the age of forty-five. The wording of the recruiting notice is not as clear as it should be, and I admit, if it is judged by, shall I say, a lawyer, that it is susceptible to the reading the War Office puts upon it, but it is not so susceptible by the ordinary individual. The notice very clearly states that every non-commissioned officer rejoining the Service shall be put back in his old rank, but number of Territorial sergeants, men who have given a great deal of time and money to the Service, now find that this recruiting notice refers, not to Territorial, but only to Regular non-commissioned officers. One man in my Constituency, a man of forty-seven with a small shop, who has struggled to make both ends meet, was a sergeant in the Hampshire Regiment, and on the call of duty he returned to his regiment. He is now acting lance-corporal, and he is getting the pay of an acting lance-corporal. I need not say that his business is not succeeding. He comes to me and says, "What can I do? My business is going to ruin, and I am receiving the ridiculous pay of an acting lance-corporal. How can I get back to my business without shame?" The question is an exceedingly difficult one to answer, and I can see no hope for him, except in what was said to-day by the Prime Minister. I know, of course, that the Under-Secretary is sympathetic in all these cases.
I have also received a third case which affects classes rather than individuals. It is a question relating to those men, who, as it is termed, accede to commissions from the ranks and those who have been promoted to commissions from the ranks in the field. The two classes stand somewhat differently, but in both cases when they were serjeants-major they were receiving comparatively good pay, and their wives were receiving separation allowances. Immediately they were made second-lieutenants they became infinitely poorer than they were before. I admit that old non-commissioned officers who applied for commissions did so, more or less, with their eyes open, although I also say that not one of those to whom I have spoken realised that he would be a great deal worse off than he was as a serjeant-major, and that, having messing allowance to pay, it would be impossible for him to support his wife and family. I therefore ask that something more should 492 be done for these non-commissioned officers, old and young, who have been given commissions. Either quarters should be allotted to their wives, or an allowance should be given to the men. If it is impossible to give it to those who applied for and have been given commissions it should at any rate be given to those who have been promoted on the field for gallantry. These men should not be left to feel that their wives and children are suffering because of the gallant deeds they themselves have performed. These are the three cases which I want to bring before the right hon. Gentleman's notice, but. I especially want to ask for his favourable consideration for Territorial majors attached to units other than regiments.
§ Mr. JONATHAN SAMUEL
I was very much surprised to hear so many complaints about delays in the payment of separation allowances to dependants, and I would urge upon the Government now that the Committee has reported to bring in their new scheme, so that we may have the new contributions and obviate these long delays. I refer to the report of the Pensions Committee with regard to the constitution of the new bodies. I believe that when these new bodies are constituted these delays will be obviated. I should like to support the statement of the right hon. Gentleman, the Member for the Strand Division (Mr. Long), and others, with regard to the very hard treatment of those who come back from the field wounded and who are, for the time being, practically totally disabled. I called the attention of an official at the War Office some time ago to a case that came within my own observation. The man came back with a paralysed left arm. He was shot in the hand and was totally unfit for work. In his case no allowance was received for some weeks. I called at the War Office about the matter and found that there was the same delay as that to which the hon. Member for Edinburgh called attention—that is to say, a delay with the Chelsea authorities. All these cases are referred to them. I would advise the War Office to take this matter in hand and try to continue to pay these men until their case is finally settled, so that they do not suffer an injury by a reduction in their money. I want to suggest that the time is ripe for the War Office to make some practical recognition of the Voluntary Training Corps which we 493 have in the North-East district of England. The War Office does recognise them in a sense; it gives them officail sanction, but no practical aid. The men who join these corps are of military age; they sign a form accepting the terms of the War Office and undertake to serve in the Regular Army if called upon. In the district on the North-East Coast, for which I specially plead, since the bombardment of Scarborough, the Hartlepools and Whitby, and especially since the recent Zeppelin raids, the people, as will be readily understood, are nervy. There is a certain amount of suppressed excitement, and I have had a very large number of requests, not only from my own Constituency (Stockton), but also from Middlesbrough—the interests of which I am looking after, because its Parliamentary representative has accepted a commission—and also from South-East Durham—the interests of which I equally watch—in all these three cases I have had representations made to me to try and induce the War Office to recognise these corps in a practical way.
The material of which the corps are composed is splendid. Last Saturday I had an opportunity of addressing 1,200 of the men after a march past at a great recruiting rally in Stockton. The march past took place in the presence of great crowds, and I am bound to say that the men showed themselves to be splendid in every possible way. They appeared to me to be very efficient. These National Training Corps are composed of business and professional men, as well as of steel and iron workers. They are men of the very best type we have in our towns. We have already no fewer than 2,400 under training in Middlesbrough and Stockton. In Stockton the council has allowed them the use of the playgrounds of five schools, and they have also engaged a very large rink. They train on Saturdays and Sundays, as well as on other days.
§ Mr. J. SAMUEL
Yes, and I think that when men are devoting their time, as they are in many cases after a very hard day's work, they do deserve some practical recognition. I watched them drilling them in the skating rink last Monday night; they are drilled by ex-soldiers, men who have served in the Volunteer Force are in command, the corps is thoroughly trained, and its proficiency, so far as I as 494 a non-military man could judge, is very great. What I want the War Office to do is to give these men assistance in a practical way. They ought, for instance, to be clothed in uniform. The War Office should send somebody down to judge for themselves. I have here a photograph of the Middlesbrough section— a really magnificent body of men. A very large number of them are young men, who, although they are of military age, are compelled to remain at home because they are engaged in the manufacture of munitions of war and in the shipyards. They are working for the Government, and, in addition to that, they are serving night after night in this way in order to train against invasion. If there is any part of the country likely to be invaded it is surely the north-east coast. There we are practically within the War zone.
§ Mr. J. SAMUEL
That coast is more protected. The Tees is almost on a line with the Elbe; so, too, is Scarborough, and I am rather surprised that the hon. Member for Scarborough, now that he is a Member of the Government, has not pressed this matter on the Government.
§ Mr. J. SAMUEL
I have been pressed very hard indeed by people in my own Constituency to bring this matter under the attention of the Government. My hon. Friend the Member for Pontefract (Mr. Booth) has his home more inland, but if he had suffered from the bombardment, I fancy he would have gone further inland than he has done. Nobody should chaff these people with regard to their nervousness. This is a new experience for them, and if the Government would only take in hand these Volunteer Training Corps I am certain it would give immense confidence to the people in the district.
§ Mr. J. SAMUEL
Yes; in the meantime they could make them a grant for clothing. It is mean on the part of a nation like this, when we have voted a matter of £600,000,000, that the men of these training corps should have to go about the district begging for subscriptions to cover the cost of administration. The volunteer movement on the north-east coast is an old tradition. I have looked up local history and I find that in the time of the Napoleonic wars commencing in 495 1797–8, in every one of our localities, Stockton—Middlesbrough was not then in existence, although it now has a population of something like 120,000—Yarm, the Hartlepools and the bulk of the county of Durham, and Darlington as well, all raised volunteer corps which were recognised by the War Office of that day which sent, down a brigadier and colonels to inspect them. I have read reports which showed the great efficiency of these volunteers. These forces were in existence for sixteen years. They were disbanded in 1814 when the Militia Act came into operation, and when men were practically compelled to join the forces. The volunteers in those days used to do permanent work. The Durham men would spend 21 days at Stockton, and the Stockton volunteers would go to the Hartlepools, and, according to the local records, they scouted on the Cleveland Hills watching and waiting for the French to come. A patriotic local poet of the day immortalised these volunteers. I cannot give the whole verse, but after declaiming their virtues and their efficiency, the last two lines read:—Let the French come as soon us they please.But let them beware of the mouth of the Tees.These volunteers really did excellent service at that period, and if the War Office to-day were wise they would take advantage of the magnificent material which is to be found in our district. In a very short time they could raise from eight to ten thousand men who would make themselves efficient if the War Office would only recognise them as they ought to do. I am certain the hon. Member for Darlington will support me in my appeal to the War Office to recognise this force—
§ Mr. J. SAMUEL
I should like to mention one fact: these men would become efficient in case of an invasion. Some people believe there is a possibility or a probability of invasion. It may be or not. I believe the Noble Lord the Member for Portsmouth is one of those who look upon it as a possibility.
§ Mr. J. SAMUEL
This is not a smiling matter; it is a very serious matter for the people on the north-east coast. I want the War Office to recognise that these people are nervous. I wish some hon. Members here could realise that at the 496 time of the Hartlepools bombardment, when it was falsely rumoured that there would be another bombardment on the second day, no fewer than 60,000 men, women, and children left their homes during the night. They could not stand a repetition of the experiences they had undergone. That is the position so far as we are concerned, and I want the War Office to recognise it. Over and over again I have heard it said in this House that the Territorials would never be able to take part in war, but after reading today in the papers the magnificent tribute paid by Sir John French to the Territorial Force, no one will be able to say that when these men enter into action they will not be prepared to face the enemy with the same courage as Regular soldiers. I want the Volunteer Training Corps or the Volunteer Civic Guard to be appreciated. They are devoting a large amount of time and energy to the work and are even contributing out of their wages every week a little money to provide for administration. I want the War Office to take the matter up. Let them send down an officer to inspect the men and report. I plead with them in the first instance that they should clothe them.
§ Mr. J. SAMUEL
And arm them afterwards. The men should have some distinctive clothing. If the War Office appreciate these men they will not discourage them as they are doing at the present time. I have been asked by officers in the Territorial Army to bring two matters before the Committee. The first is that there is no provision for outdoor games for the soldiers. I understand that a Grant of £10 per annum is made towards indoor games, such as chess and draughts, which are played in the evening, but there is no grant for football or cross-country racing. In regard to football, they have to provide goal posts and other things. It is essential that these young men, if they are to be trained physically, should have a Grant of money towards providing them with outdoor games, and I hope the War Office will take notice of that point. The second point is that the officers who provide their own horses are allowed only 1s. 9d. for the maintenance of the horse, while officers who do not provide their own horses, these being provided by the War Office, are allowed 1s. 11d., or 2d. extra, on account of the increased price of oats. I should have thought that the man who provides his 497 own horse would receive the largest amount, but that is not the way of the War Office. I hope they will undertake to rectify these two matters. I do not wish by these points to obscure the main object of my speech, which is that the War Office should take the question of the Volunteer Training Corps, especially on the northeast coast, into consideration. If they cannot deal with the whole country, they should bring the whole of the north-east coast within the ambit of their approval and give them some practical assistance. By that means they will assist to allay the alarm which now exists on the whole of that coast and help the people to appreciate what they are doing.
§ Mr. BUTCHER
A few weeks ago I spoke in the House on the question of the condition of horses in our remount camps. I spoke then on information which was given to me from sources on which I was entitled to rely, but I have since, through the courtesy of the Under-Secretary of State and the Director of the Remount Department, had an opportunity of making a very complete inspection of the remount camp near Bristol, and as a result I am satisfied that some of the information which had been furnished to me on a former occasion was inaccurate. I further wish to say that if the impression could be gathered from anything I said on a former occasion that these who are concerned with the horses of the country have not done and are not doing their very utmost to discharge their enormously increased duties, I sincerely regret it, because such an inference would be entirely erroneous. The Committee will perhaps bear with me while I tell them some of the conclusions at which I arrived after seeing the remount camp at Shirehampton. I saw there a large number of horses; probably it would be undesirable to say how many. I was very much impressed by what I saw. It appeared to me that the organisation for stabling and looking after the horses was quite excellent, and that the work done by the very experienced, competent, and hard-working officers in charge of the horses was deserving of every praise. The horses are brought into that camp sometimes from very long distances, and after very long journeys they necessarily come there often in a very trough condition, showing marked signs of the long journeys. I saw three horses which had just come in, and horses which had been there four or five days or a week or more, and it was most gratifying—the 498 Under-Secretary will appreciate this—to see the extraordinary improvement in the condition of those horses after they had been in the camp for a few days, owing to the manner in which they had been looked after. The horse is an animal who tells you a good deal about the way in which he is treated, and tells you that probably quicker than any other animal. I was glad to notice that after the horses had been there a short time they were quite ready to be ordered out into other camps, and eventually to take their places in the units to which they were about to be attached.
As to the character of the horses, I saw horses of all descriptions, for artillery, light draught and heavy draught, and riding purposes, and, on the whole, they seemed to be a very useful class of animal. They did great credit to the purchasers, and there appeared to be, so far as I could judge, comparatively only a few mistakes. On the whole, the result of what I saw was most gratifying. The country will be glad to know that the War Office has under them an extremely experienced staff of men to deal with this very important duty of fitting the horses for the work they have to do during the War, and I am sure we are grateful to them for all they have done and are doing. I would like to make one suggestion to the right hon. Gentleman with regard to this camp. A part of the camp is on rather low-lying ground, and, although it is all right at this season of the year, yet it would be desirable before another wet season, such as we had last winter, comes on, if the War is still going on, to make up the roads further and, if possible, put in some drainage so as to provide so far as we can against that very serious cutting up of the ground, which is very difficult to provide against when you have a large number of horses on a limited space of ground. That is all I want to say about horses.
There are a few points I want to make which are smaller points, not small to the persons concerned, but small comparatively speaking. The first is with regard to the pay of quartermasters. Some time ago I pointed out that the pay of quartermasters has not been raised since 1881. An Army Order came out a few months ago which slightly increased the pay of officers in the junior ranks, but hardly touched the pay of the officers in the senior ranks. For some reason or other quartermasters have not had their pay increased since 1881. I was 499 informed that they are under this additional deprivation as compared with other officers, that when they are on active service they receive no lodging, light, or other allowances. When I raised the question previously I was told that the matter was under consideration. I hope that one of the representatives of the War Office will be able to tell us to-night that the matter has been considered and put right.
The remaining point is that of proficiency pay, which has been referred to by an hon. Friend of mine, and which is a new point to me. As the Committee is aware, when men who have previously served in the Army rejoin they receive proficiency pay of 6d. in the case of sergeants and 3d. in the case of men of lower rank. Most people were under the impression that persons who rejoined the Army, say, from the Yeomanry or the old Volunteers, would receive proficiency pay just as much as the men who rejoined from the ranks of the Army; indeed, the War Office themselves seem to have been under that impression, because from September or October last they were in the habit of paying this proficiency pay to men who have rejoined the Army from the Volunteers. That went on for some months. It was only the other day, to the great surprise of these men, that they were told that the payment of proficiency pay to them was an entire mistake, that it would be stopped at once, and, what was more, that they must repay all sums they had received for proficiency pay. That is really most intolerable. The men who have rejoined from the Volunteers are doing exactly the same work as the men who have rejoined from the Army. They will not be disputed. Now the Army authorities say they will have a different scale of pay for the same work, and that in one case the proficiency pay shall be given and in the other there will be none. I trust that is a mistake which has crept into the Pay Department and that it will be rectified. I trust the right hon. Gentleman will give the matter his consideration. I am sure the very trifling amount which will be necessary to remove what appears on the face of it to be an injustice will be voted most gladly by this House and that we shall not have the real scandal of the War Office paying men 6d. or 3d. every day for some months and then telling the men that it is a mistake and that they must pay it back.
§ 8.0. P.M.
§ Mr. HOGGE
I have often wondered whether it is serviceable to make speeches 500 on the same subject so frequently, but to-day one is encouraged to do so because the first speech made from the benches opposite was made by the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Long), and it was the fourth speech that he has made on the same subject on different occasions this Session, and this is the first occasion on which he has achieved success. So apparently the maxim to follow is that each of us should make four separate speeches on four separate occasions on the points we want put right, and then we shall achieve our object. In regard to the topic which I want to refer to, I do not want to bring particular cases to the notice of the Under-Secretary or the Financial Secretary, because in my experience both those Gentlemen are extremely good in looking into every detail of any case we lay before them, and I am certain, although one gets the credit in one's own Constituency of having secured a certain payment of arrears to this and that constituent, it is due entirely to the fact that both those Gentlemen take a great amount of pains in going into a case which is substantial if it is laid before them. But I should like to bring one particular phase of it to the notice again of the Financial Secretary, because I think it bears very hardly against one class of person who really deserves more help. I will not give any individual case, but simply draw his attention to the fact that if a mother has a husband and two sons in the New Army she is not entitled to claim separation allowance from all three. But if the husband is not in the Army, it is technically legal, I suppose, for the father to claim for one boy and the mother for the other, and in that way get over the difficulty. That really ought to be put right. I think the Financial Secretary, if he would think of what these women are compelled to do in the meantime, would give that point a little more consideration. The Financial Secretary will have noticed the action of the Glasgow Town Council the other day in regard to a matter of this kind. In connection with the grants from the Prince of Wales' Fund in Glasgow, it has been found that it is not now possible to get from that fund money to pay the rent of wives whose husbands are at the front and who are in receipt of separation allowances, with the result that Glasgow has started a separate fund to supply money to pay the rent of these people. That really is the crux of this business, the continuance of the women 501 under the shelter of their own roof while their husbands or sons are at the War, and I think that ought to be secured to every woman. I do not think any woman ought to be in the position during the War of being compelled to vacate the home which her husband left to go to the War, or to sell up her furniture to find the wherewithal to live. That point ought to be looked into, and I hope the Financial Secretary will look into it.
There is another point which I think the Financial Secretary might look into, and might I ask him to give a quick decision? That is the distinction that is made between people who are drawing separation allowance and people who are drawing the fuel and light allowance for being billeted. In the one case, as compared with the other, there is a considerable hardship. For instance, the husband of a woman who has several children is several shillings a week down as against the man whose wife is being paid separation allowance pure and simple. That, surely, is an extremely hard thing that a man should be taken from his industrial occupation, join the New Army, be sent to a billet and find himself, because he happens to be in a billet, though he might easily be in his own home, receiving less than a man who happens to be further away and is getting separation allowance. Then I should like to have information as to what is the real position with regard to the payment of pensions to the wives of soldiers who have actually been killed. We set up a Special Committee, and one day last week we got a second Report from it, in which it is proposed to set up a new body. It is a long time—over twenty-six weeks—since that Committee met and reported, and all that these people can be getting just now, so far as I understand, is a continuation of the separation allowance which was what the Prime Minister promised would obtain until the question of a pension was settled. Again, can we have any information as to what is being done now? The point has been raised with regard to men who are disabled or partially disabled. According to that report, which the Government accepted, a man who is partially disabled is entitled to 25s. per week, less the amount that he is able to earn for himself, and a man who is totally disabled is entitled to 25s. for life, plus 2s. or 2s. 6d. for each child. Are the men who are permanently disabled in receipt of that now, or are they only in receipt of the smaller sum?
502 I should like to say, on the point raised by the hon. Member (Mr. Currie) with regard to the selection of the men, that after all he will bear in mind that the Lowland counties of Scotland have supplied the greatest number of men to the New Army of any part of the United Kingdom.
§ Mr. CURRIE
What the hon. Member says as to the recruitment in the Lowlands is, of course, quite true. My question was, why should this circular have been issued, either publicly or privately, on 28th August, when recruiting results were not known, and the question is not how many men have been sent from the Lowlands, but is it the case, or is it not, that the Lowlands were used to fill up other regiments as to which there was a temporary difficulty, now a thing of the past, whereas now Lord Rosebery and those working with him in the Lowlands have had increased difficulty by reason of the clandestine action of the War Office in recruiting, say for the Royal Scots. Lord Rosebery has overcome all the difficulty. My complaint is that it was ever allowed to exist by the War Office sanctioning this circular, if they ever did.
§ Mr. HOGGE
We will agree. Might I refer to another question, which also is distinctly under the jurisdiction of the Under-Secretary, and that is with regard to special battalions. He told us that over 100,000 men had been raised in special battalions. That is to say that we have in this country to-day something like eighty-two special battalions which are looked after by committees of one kind and another, and the War Office is only responsible for their military efficiency. I have put several questions on the Paper, and am not yet satisfied with the position, and I want to ask when is the War Office 503 going to make some move towards taking some of them over. We are in the ninth month of the war, and not one of these eighty-two battalions has been taken over. Does that mean that not one of them is fit to go to the front? I do not put that as the reason, but I suggest to my right hon. Friend that people are beginning to ask whether these are simply fancy battalions or real live battalions. Are they meant to be used at the front? I can assure my right hon. Friend that there are a great number of men attached to these battalions who are like other soldiers who have joined the New Army and are itching to get to the front, and they are beginning to wonder whether in the special battalions they have the same chance as in the New Army, and I think my right hon. Friend will be doing them a service by taking them over under the direct control of the War Office for this particular purpose.
A third question I want to raise is the question of the jurisdiction that the War Office exercises over the censorship. I do not believe in the Press censor. I wish he were dead. I should give him either military or naval honours, whichever he cared to have. So far as I am concerned, I think he is a miserable institution which should never have been permitted, and which has made us a laughing stock all over the world—
§ Mr. HOGGE
Except apparently in the corner of the Front Bench. I am prepared to allow a wide difference of opinion on this as on other things, but that is my own view. We had a case the other day in which a newspaper reporter was fined for doing his work. That is an extraordinary position. I understand that the work of men who are on newspapers in certain capacities is to collect all kinds of information and that the work of those who control the newspapers is to put their blue pencil through the information which they do not want or cannot publish. This reporter, in the course of his ordinary duties, telegraphed some news that he had secured to his newspaper. I would ask my right hon. Friend to observe that the message went by telegraph. Therefore, if there was any possibility of leakage at all, it must have been through some person in the public service—the Post Office. That is the only way in which it could get out from the moment it left the 504 reporter. It was not published, presumably because the editor knew that the Press censor would prevent it. I should like to ask what harm was that man really doing. There is far more harm being done to-day by information being circulated by word of mouth that you cannot stop. For instance, my right hon. Friend knows that there has been a battle in the North Sea, if he has heard of the rumour that is going about. He also knows that several ships have been sunk, and that, at any rate, one admiral of the British Fleet is lying wounded somewhere in Scotland.
§ Mr. HOGGE
I was only illustrating a rumour. I do not propose to discuss that. That is the rumour which is flitting all through the clubs. It has been denied officially, and there is nothing in it. Everybody has heard that kind of thing, and I would point out to the right hon. Gentleman that while that sort of thing circulates in every club and in every train that one joins, yet when you get the absolutely innocent fact of a man in the pursuit of his ordinary vocation sending information through a public instrument which can be the only instrument in which there can be leakage, you come down upon that man and fine him £5. That is an intolerable interference with the liberty of the subject. The way in which the Press of this country have tolerated interference by the War Office and the other five or six Departments of the Government who have to do with the Press censorship is really amazing, and reflects extraordinarily to their credit. The censorship is ridiculous when it extends to coming down upon a man who is liable under the new Act to be court-martialled for doing his ordinary work. If you are going to carry out that interpretation of what a man can or what he cannot do in journalism or any other profession, we are going to go about in daily fear of our lives or liberties. One never knows what he is entitled to say except here in the House of Commons, where we are entitled to say anything that the Chairman will allow us to say.
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
The hon. Member in referring to the Press censorship must confine his remarks to purely military matters. He cannot range over the whole question of the Press censorship.
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
Does the hon. Member suggest that I should imagine that he is in order when he is out of order?
§ Mr. HOGGE
No, what I want to suggest is, that I do not intend to repeat the point of disorder. I want to know from the Under-Secretary for War whether we are to expect a continuance of this kind of thing or whether some directions will be issued which will make it clear what a man can do in the exercise of his journalistic duty.
Mr. PIKE PEASE
I am sorry to trouble the Under-Secretary for War, because I know the enormous number of calls upon his attention, but there are one or two points which I should like to bring before the House. In the first place, I should like to emphasise what has been said in regard to the constant courtesy which Members of the House receive from the Under-Secretary for War. I am quite sure that if Members have sent as many letters to the right hon. Gentleman as I have done since last August, he must have received many thousands of communications. In every case I have always found that he has shown, not only courtesy, but very great consideration in regard to every proposal put before him. I want to support, too, what has been said by the hon. Member for Stockton in regard to the Territorials and also in regard to the civilian corps. I am of opinion that the War Office ought to give rather more financial support and recognition to the civilian corps. Those who have not come into contact with the districts which have received attention from the Germans hardly realise what the feeling is in those towns. I was not in Hartlepool when the bombardment took place, but I heard the guns firing, and I know what the state of affairs was in that particular place. There is no doubt about it that the civilian corps gives a considerable amount of confidence, and if the War Office wish to increase the civilian corps they cannot do it in a better way than by providing a more distinctive uniform.
I wish now to refer to a matter which I brought before this House recently, 506 namely, the question of rum rations. I have not heard anything from the War Office in regard to their decision on that matter, and I should like to state what the position was when it was last mentioned in this House. The question was raised by an hon. Member as to an alternative to rum rations, and I was asked by the Under-Secretary for War, in response to a question of mine, whether I could suggest an alternative to rum rations. I have put before him one or two ingredients which I think might be useful. I should like to take this opportunity of saying that I am not at all personally in favour of the abolition of rum rations, because I believe that they are of great use at the front. What I feel is that there are a considerable number of men who go to the front who have been teetotalers all their lives and Good Templars, and it is only reasonable to think that it would be advisable that if something can be found that is a real alternative for rum rations it should be offered to them, seeing that rum rations are offered to those who wish to accept them. I will not mention the various ingredients of the suggested alternatives, because I do not want to advertise them, but I have received a great many communications from various people in, this country who have sent me different beverages to try, and I believe it is quite possible to find an alternative. I would like the right hon. Gentleman to say whether the matter has been considered by the War Office, and, if so, whether any decision has been arrived at.
§ Mr. BAKER
It may be convenient, perhaps, if I reply at this stage to some of the points raised in the course of this Debate. If I do not reply to the matters just raised by the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Pike Pease), I hope he will not think that I am entirely devoid of that courtesy which my right hon. Friend (Mr. Tennant), possesses in such abundance. The House has given much consideration this afternoon to various cases of supposed hardship and suffering on the part of those who are fighting our battles at the front. I think the declaration of the policy on that matter as stated by the Prime Minister was one which gave universal satisfaction. It may appear from time to time when specific proposals are made that they are received by the authorities concerned with a certain want of sympathy, but it is necessary to examine them and consider them on their merits; and, although the House this afternoon, in speech after speech, 507 expressed itself with considerable feeling, feeling undoubtedly sincere, I do not think that even the hardest-hearted official of the War Office can be said to be wanting in similar sympathy and gratitude to the troops who are fighting our battles at the front. I will say a word or two about some of the cases which have been raised. There was the case of a brigadier-general who was wounded, who returned home and who after a period of three months found himself reduced to half-pay.
In that case I may observe this: It is quite easy to say, in answer both to that and to many other cases put before us, that the officer knows the contract under which he engaged to serve, that he is well aware of its terms, and that he is not in any sense damaged. But it is fair to urge in opposition to that, that regulations which are perfectly good in peace may require some modification in war, and that a period which is considered adequate for most purposes might prove to be inadequate, more particularly in the circumstances of a war of such unforeseen conditions as this War. That case will come up for consideration. The case of the wounded sergeant who on being invalided home was reduced to a lower rank has already been partially met. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Strand (Mr. Long) was the first to raise it, but I think that the case that he has quoted must have occurred some little time ago, because the cases now in which sergeants have only acting rank have been reduced to a very small number, and it is extremely improbable that that particularly difficult situation will arise at all.
The hon. Member for the Newbury Division (Mr. Mount) raised a question in regard to proficiency pay. It was the particular case of certain National Reservists who for several months had been receiving this pay, and it was then discovered that the pay had been wrongly issued. The hon. Member for York (Mr. Butcher) also referred to that case, and he said that the War Office should realise their mistake and decide that in such a case no recovery should be made. As already explained, the general principle followed in such cases, where public money has been wrongly issued, is that part of it, at any rate, should be recovered. It is not always fair, it is not always possible, to recover the whole, but it would be extremely impolitic to lay down the general principle 508 that money once wrongly paid away should in no circumstances be recovered from those who had received it. What is usually done, and what is done in this case, is that only part of the money is recovered, and it is recovered in small and gradual instalments, which I hope will not inflict undue hardship upon those who, remember, have already had the enjoyment of this money.
The hon. Member for York then took up the more general question of the conditions and qualifications under which proficiency pay is granted. He seems to have fallen into an error on that point in supposing that proficiency pay is given because of the nature of the work which a man performs. Another error is in supposing that the conditions and qualifications are fixed by the paying department of the War Office. The fact is that this pay is given for proficiency, and the conditions which qualify for proficiency are naturally ones which are settled by the military authorities, who are the persons best able to judge, and service in the old Volunteers and the old Yeomanry in their opinion, with which I think most people will agree, cannot be held to be equivalent to services like the Militia or the Territorial Force, in considering the question of proficiency. Then reference was made to the question of the hardships of doctors to the Territorial Forces. Well, they were well aware of the terms of contract into which they entered, and they have suffered no hardship, but we should all recognise the very great sacrifices, possibly greater than any other class have made, which these, medical officers have made in giving up their practices and giving their services to the State. Something may be done with regard to promotions, and the question of a gratuity, such as has been offered to medical officers especially enlisted after mobilisation, on the outbreak of war, is also under consideration, and I hope will shortly be decided.
I pass now to a different subject, which was introduced by the hon. Member for Sheffield (Mr. Anderson). I regret very much to learn from him that in the cases which he has detailed there has been considerable delay in the payment to dependants. I should be very glad to look into that. He, knowing the facts of the case, recognises that it is not the War Office that is the cause of the delay. These matters are now decentralised outside the War Office, and I gathered from him that it was the county associations who are the 509 chief cause of the delay. I am afraid that I must agree with the comment which he made, that in the case of these allowances it is, generally speaking, the woman who can tell the best story who succeeds in getting the most money, but he may be assured that the cases of delay are being taken up, and that so far as possible the causes of delay will be diminished. The hon. Member for East Edinburgh (Mr. Hogge) referred—I think he said it was for the fourth time—to the case of the mother with several sons in the Army who yet is not receiving dependant's allowance in respect of all of them. For the fifth, or perhaps the sixth time, will he permit me to say that the matter was very carefully considered by the Select Committee, who decided against the course which he recommends, and their decision was based on the principle, which I think is a true one, that no one dependant should have more than one wife. I think that that commends itself to the good sense of the House. He went on to refer to the case of men living at home, who, when the allowances were added together, found themselves at a disadvantage. I think that we are able to meet that difficulty by a new allowance, which will level the men up to the point at which those who are getting separation allowances now stand.
§ Mr. BAKER
This is the case of separation allowances of soldiers alone. The Prime Minister was dealing with the pensions of widows of officers serving abroad. The hard case referred to by the hon. Member for Leith Burghs is, I think, clearly one for the new body to deal with. It is not reasonable to expect the State to provide for every possible variety of hard case, and that is where the advantage of the outside bodies with other funds comes in. They can examine the facts according to the particular circumstance. One or two Members have spoken in regard to War Office contracts. The hon. Member for the Central Division of Edinburgh (Mr. C. E. Price), who has been 510 a very constant and very friendly critic of the War Office, made a complaint in public which he had already made in private, in reference to the specifications for tenders. When he asked for the system to be changed, I told the hon. Member that what he had brought to our notice must be an exceptional instance, and that in general specifications were sent for tenders, and when I asked the question of the authorities, I was given the same information, so, though the hon. Member did not take that definite assurance, he may now be satisfied that the system which he wished to introduce is in fact the system which is in force. Then I must refer to the case of the hon. Member for East Somerset (Mr. Ernest Jardine). Considerable prominence was given to it in one of the speeches. The hon. Baronet behind me (Sir A. Markham) showed an interest in it also. Perhaps I had better make the facts quite clear. The hon. Member, who has large works, which normally are engaged in peace production, was most anxious to render patriotic service to the State, and he came to me and asked what he could do, and he offered to place his works at the disposal of the Government without any profit to himself at all.
It was a very generous offer, and made in a very kind spirit. The hon. Member's proposal came before us, and it was referred to the Master-General of Ordnance. The question arose whether the hon. Member's works were capable of making anything which we wanted. I had in my own mind some doubt as to whether the hon. Member would come under the terms of the Statute affecting contracts in which Members of Parliament had an interest. However, I dismissed that from my mind, as the hon. Member had offered to do the work for nothing. As an ordinary layman—I have had a legal training, but I prefer to rank myself as an ordinary layman—I thought that as he was ready to do the work for nothing it would probably exempt him from the provisions of the Statute. Next the question arose. What were the hon. Member's works capable of doing? It appeared that it was possible for them to make some small parts of rifles. This is a point to which I wish the hon. Baronet to give his attention. It was easy for us to get those parts made elsewhere. There was no urgency or necessity to cause us to go to the hon. Member for East Somerset at all, and it would never have occurred to us to do so if he had not come forward 511 with this extremely generous offer. The hon. Member for East Somerset had to drop the work which was performed elsewhere owing to the legal opinion which we received that it would render him liable as a Member of Parliament under the provisions of the Statute. The hon. Baronet asked why we did not come down to the House to get a special Act passed in favour of the hon. Member for East Somerset, so that he could be set to work. There were two reasons. One was, though not the best reason, that the House latterly had shown itself much more inclined to restrict the action of Members of Parliament than to relax and give greater freedom in these matters.
The other and far stronger reason was that we were under no sort of necessity to go to the hon. Member for East Somerset. We could have got those things perfectly easily elsewhere, and, in the very delicate and difficult situation in which the hon. Member would have found himself if we had still pressed him to do the work, we thought it right to turn our attention elsewhere and to leave him free. As a matter of fact, the hon. Member for East Somerset is now manufacturing something extremely useful, while not in any way contravening the provisions of the Statute. I hope the hon. Baronet will believe that the War Office did not neglect any opportunity for obtaining valuable supplies, and in concluding I would only like to emphasise most warmly the generous conduct of the hon. Member for East Somerset, and the great regret of the War Office that they were unable to make use of it in the way originally intended.
§ Sir A. MARKHAM
What parts of the rifle did the hon. Member for East Somerset, undertake to make, because according to his speech in the OFFICIAL REPORT, he definitely said that he would undertake the making of rifles.
§ Mr. BAKER
No, it was to make a small part; I assure the hon. Baronet that it was a small part, and he may take that from me. There is one other case to which I will return for a moment, and there again it shows that the War Office suffers very unfairly from, I will not say the hasty, but 512 the premature statements which are made in regard to contracts. The Leader of the Opposition illustrated the unbusinesslike qualities of the War Office by telling us yesterday the story that the French had set to work a firm which we had failed to make use of for the provision of munitions of war. What is the real fact? I do not say anything to depreciate the businesslike qualities of the French in providing munitions of war; they have displayed their business ability in a most remarkable degree. The whole of that contract was arranged through the Joint Committee of the War Office and the Board of Trade, and the firm was pointed out to the French people, and they were told that they might come to it because we had adequately supplied our wants from other sources. This was represented as an example of brilliant capacity on the part of the French, and a want of capacity on our part. I do venture to deprecate what I think is the excessive readiness to believe any story which may appear to show that the War Office is filled with children and incompetent servants. As a matter of fact, these stories almost as soon as they are tested, as in those two cases to which I have referred, are discovered to be unfounded.
§ Mr. JAMES HOPE
It is very unfortunate that the hon. Member for East Somerset is not present, but I quite admit that a good deal of fresh light has been thrown on the matter which was not forthcoming last night. I understand that the whole thing had been arranged, and that the hon. Member for East Somerset was satisfied that his patriotic offer had been accepted when at the last minute he was informed it was not. That was his statement. There were some further explanations on that point, and then no option was given him as to whether he was to run the risk of the possible consequence of losing his seat. That matter was not talked over, and the whole thing was summarily withdrawn. I think, perhaps, that rankled in his mind more than the fact that technical objection was taken.
§ Mr. J. HOPE
I quite accept that statement. There is one point on which I 513 would like to say a word, namely, the question of the censorship, raised by the hon. Member for Edinburgh. It is inevitable, if we are to have a Censor or Censors, that they will make mistakes. I would really ask the hon. Members to picture what the case would be if there were no Censor at all. To my mind the appointment of a Censor in a great war is a necessity. Every Censor will certainly make mistakes, and he will certainly be blamed, whether he makes mistakes or not. Let me take an instance. At the beginning of the War, about the end of August, after the battle of Le Cateau, an exceedingly long notice was published in the Sunday papers and passed by my right hon. Friend the Member for the Walton Division of Liverpool (Mr. F. E. Smith), then acting as Chief Press Censor. He was violently blamed for passing it.
§ Mr. J. HOPE
He was blamed, not merely for that last sentence, but for allowing alarmist intelligence from a Press correspondent sent from France to appear in a newspaper, a notice which was undoubtedly unduly alarming, and which caused general perturbation. If you acted on the principles of the hon. Member for East Edinburgh, and allowed correspondents who heard alarmist intelligence from anyone who had served in His Majesty's Forces to appear, the results would be far worse than keeping back pieces of really authentic intelligence. I remember an earlier instance, at the time of Spion Kop, when there was a general demand for further information. At last, in deference to that outcry, the information was given, and all the critics turned round and at once declared it was a scandalous shame that this dirty linen should be washed in public. So we may take it, whether the censorship or the authorities give information freely or withhold it, they will equally be blamed, and critics will equally attack them. Therefore, from the point of view of the censorship, I wish to enter a protest against what I believe to be the pernicious doctrine put forward by the hon. Member for East Edinburgh.
514 What I really want to ask the Financial Secretary to the War Office is this: Can he not, at any rate, indicate the time at which he or some representative of the Government will be able to say something in elucidation of the policy with regard to war profits that was indicated by the Secretary of State for War? It was a very important statement, and must have been a very well-considered statement. It was made by the Secretary of State for War in another place with great deliberation. It said that while war profits must be restricted, there would be a proportionate distribution to workpeople who had done their duty both by their employers and by the State. That, naturally, attracted a great deal of attention. I rejoiced to see it, because I do not think anything will go further to assuage the discontent felt by many sections of workmen than a statement of that kind. Some weeks have passed and no further statement has been made as to the means whereby that policy is to be carried out. Questions have been asked, and the point was raised yesterday by the hon. Member for Devizes (Mr. Peto), but, as far as I know, I do not think anything has been said in reply, I know perfectly well that it is not right to press this matter too far when there is no fully qualified Minister present. I desire also to pay my testimony to the extreme courtesy which I have experienced at the War Office. I have had some small things to place before the War Office, and if I did not always get satisfaction in substance, and I sometimes did, I always got it in form. I quite realise the difficulties hon. Members are placed in, and if they say that the matter is still under consideration and that many questions of difficulty and complexity are involved, and that they cannot give me an answer now, very well, of course, I accept that. But, in view of the great intrinsic importance of the subject, and of the great attention that naturally has been paid to the utterance of such an authority, I do ask them to press the matter upon their colleagues and superiors in the Government, and to let us have some statement of the intentions of His Majesty's Ministers with as little delay as may be.
§ Mr. AINSWORTH
I am sure we all wish to express our appreciation at the trouble that has been taken by the representatives of the War Office, and for the courtesy with which they have always met inquiries. There is one subject to which I would like to make some reference. I 515 think it is hardly sufficient to realise what power there is in the hands of the War Office and of the officers commanding districts with regard to clubs. They have absolute power, if they think fit, to interfere with the hours of clubs, and in doing so they will always have the support of magistrates to deal with them on the same terms as with the hours of public-houses. We had an important statement yesterday as to the extraordinary increase in the production of munitions of war. I had the opportunity recently of being present at a petty sessional meeting in the North of England. It was composed of persons of all kinds of interests and occupations. To my surprise all those at the meeting were absolutely in favour of Sunday closing as the best means of increasing the productive power of the country. The magistrates of that petty sessional district were totally in favour of closing public houses and clubs altogether on Sundays. The meeting in question was held not very far from the Scottish border, and, as hon. Members are aware, Sunday closing has been in existence in Scotland for a great number of years. At the present moment you could not find a man, woman or child in Scotland who would raise a hand in favour of altering the present state of affairs there. I am not going to argue for a moment whether or not that is a good thing to do, except to say that everybody will agree that you will increase the productive power of the country if you do what I have suggested. The result is that the War Office authority at the present moment have the power of largely increasing the productive power of the country, not only in regard to munitions of war but in other directions as well. I cannot ask for an answer on this important subject now, especially as the leading Members of the Government cannot be expected to be present, but I hope the representatives of the War Office will impress on their chiefs the fact that they hold in their hands one of the most effective instruments for increasing the production of the country that can be conceived. Every business man, every employer of labour, every Labour Member, will agree that it is a most important and powerful instrument. Every magistrate in the House will agree that if the War Office choose to use it in regard to licensed houses they will have the immediate support of every petty sessional district, through its chief constable, in advising the clubs to consent to the order.
516 The War Office have that instrument in their hands. I ask anyone: Do you wish to make it easy to increase the production of the country, or do you not? If we do this, it will be not only for the military authorities, but on behalf of every soldier in the trenches at the present time. Would anyone like to face the possibility of a man who is risking his life for the country having to feel that there was the smallest possibility of what he requires to carry on the contest on our behalf being wanted at the moment it is required. No human being in the British Empire would for one moment run that risk if, by any action of this House or of the authorities, that possibility could be reduced to the smallest extent. I ought, perhaps, to apologise for bringing forward a matter of this importance when Members are no doubt anxious that the Debate should come to a close. But the subject is of enormous importance. It appeals to every section of opinion. It is one more stage in the argument that is brought before us day after day, that if in any way we can increase recruiting, or the production of armaments, or the general production of the country, we are doing something towards ending the War. I am sure that the House will never hesitate, if called upon, to do what it can to bring about such a result, which is so vital to the interests not only of this country, but of the whole civilised world.
§ 9.0 P.M.
§ Sir WILLIAM BYLES
Before we arrive at the point of giving my right hon. Friend his money, I should like to recall the attention of the Committee to the case of Mr. Dyson, a reporter, living at Portland, who was prosecuted and fined for sending to his newspaper information which somebody, I do not know exactly who, thought was not in the public interest. The answer that we elicted at Question Time did not leave the case in a very satisfactory state. I am as anxious as anybody that no information should be given by newspapers or anybody else which would be helpful to our enemies or mischievous to ourselves. Much as I desire the freedom of the Press, I would not in war time complain of any reasonable restrictions. My only reason for taking up Mr. Dyson's case is to protect working journalists—a body of men of whom in past days I had long and intimate knowledge—from restrictions which are not reasonable. It seems to me that Mr. Dyson's case is one which really calls for some protest. Mr. Dyson, as I understand, 517 is an ordinary provincial newspaper reporter, corresponding with a number of journals. His daily duty is to gather the news of the district where he lives and send it to his principal. He is stationed in a war area, it is true; therefore, the news that he gathers is naturally often related to military and naval affairs. He sends that news to his editor, and there, I maintain, his responsibility ends.
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
If the telegram related to some other part of the defence of the realm than that connected with the Army, if it had to do with naval matters, it is not open to the hon. Member to bring it up on this Vote.
§ Sir W. BYLES
I understand that the nature of the telegram was such as was objected to by the military authorities. I addressed my question to-day to the Home Secretary, who afterwards privately asked me, if I brought the matter forward again, to address myself to the Under - Secretary of State for War. Whether the information was published or not, it was the editor's affair, not the reporter's. The editor receives instructions from, I suppose, the Press Bureau as to what he may and may not publish. If he has any doubt he can consult the Press Bureau. He therefore takes the risk if he publishes anything wrongly. He can be punished—and rightly punished. But Mr. Dyson is not in that position at all. He knows nothing, and can know nothing, of the limitations which are put upon him as to what news he may or may not send. The Press Bureau would not even let him have the prohibitive circulars which they send out to editors. I have no doubt they are quite right in not sending him those notices, but seeing that he does not get them he cannot be expected to be restrained by them. In perfect innocency he has simply done his duty; then he is pursued by the law, prosecuted, and fined. That is the whole case.
The Defence of the Realm Act is a very severe weapon which we lately forged in Parliament. It is a very severe menace, restraint, and hindrance to responsible journalists, whose primary duty is to tell the public what the public wants to know. I do not complain of the severity of that Act. In these days of military law 518 we have to put up with it, and with a good many other things. I do, however, ask—and it is all I ask—that that severe weapon should not be made to strike the wrong man: that the military restraint which is put upon us nowadays shall not be exercised with disregard to the principles to which we have been accustomed, and without discrimination between the guilty and the innocent. That is all I have to say on that subject. What I want to ask is who ordered the prosecution, and how does the right hon. Gentleman justify that prosecution? I know that this case has aroused a considerable amount of interest, and awakened also some resentment in the journalistic world, and I think that we are, at any rate, entitled to an answer to what I have asked the right hon. Gentleman.
§ Sir GEORGE TOULMIN
I should like to say a word or two about the position taken up by my hon. Friend the Member for Salford. I entirely differ from the hon. Member below the Gangway who said that he wished the Press Censor were dead. I am sure he did not mean that in a personal sense at all, but rather that he wished the office were extinct. I am quite sure it would be absolutely impossible for newspapers to carry on their business with due regard to the safety of the nation if there was not some direct influence which excised those things that might be of use to the enemy. If I were to criticise what the newspapers are allowed to publish, I should be rather inclined to go behind the official who acts as Press Censor, and say that I think the military authorities who really decide what news may be passed through the hands of the Censor to the Press have restricted it rather too much. That is my own feeling; and I think the public ought to be taken rather more into the confidence of both the Army and the Navy. These prosecutions are, I understand, really in the control of the War Office, and the reporter to whose case my hon. Friend has referred was really prosecuted for collecting information. I cannot see how he could find out whether that news was likely to be of use to the enemy unless he had collected it. He goes round in the ordinary course of his duty, and hears a great many things which he passes on to his chief in the office. It appears to me that the punishment which ought to be inflicted for collecting information should rather be for collecting news which is 519 somewhat of the nature of spying, touting about military centres and getting to know news which ought not to be published.
There are, of course, as the right hon. Gentleman is aware, directions that are sent to the Press in regard to matters on which they shall exercise special care. These directions are sent to the editors. The control of the newspapers must be centred. These notices cannot be sent round to every single reporter in every village or in every country district where there may even be encampments of soldiers at the present time. The warnings must be in general terms, and the dissemination of the warning itself might be as harmful as Press references to the matter to which it refers. I suggest to the right hon. Gentleman that the competent military authority by whose directions, I understand from him, this man was prosecuted, are under the control of the War Office, and that they should be directed rather to fly at the big game. I should like to emphasise the responsibility of the editors and managers of the papers in receiving news, because indeed it is they who ought to be punished if anything appears which ought not to appear. I do not myself appeal in the slightest degree for any relaxation of the censorship in regard to matters which may possibly be of use to the enemy. If necessary I would personally consent to even greater stringency. But I do protest that the privates in the journalistic army should in this way be selected for punishment unless they have been guilty of something which is of the nature of almost professed spying, or the dissemination of news, not to their own headquarters, but generally. The censorship generally is useful, necessary, and must go on, and I have very little sympathy with protests against its existence, although, as I say, I might possibly criticise the manner in which it has been conducted.
§ Mr. RAFFAN
I do not desire to continue long this discussion, which has already been somewhat lengthy, and especially would I desire to avoid adding to the stream of complaints and criticisms which have been directed at the War Office during the afternoon. While I say that, I should desire, as most of the other speakers have done, to preface my remarks with congratulations to the right hon. Gentleman upon the work of his Department and its accomplishments in unprecedented 520 circumstances, and also upon the great courtesy which he has always shown to hon. Members of this House. The matter to which I desire to direct attention is probably one in which he has acted on his medical officer's report, and therefore what I say may to some extent be taken as a criticism of that Department. I think we have every reason to congratulate ourselves upon the admirable general organisation of the medical service and the organisation of the Red Cross. Probably the organisation has been carried to a higher pitch of perfection than in any former struggle in which this country has been engaged, and indeed I doubt whether at any time military organisation has been carried to such a point.
Having said that, it appears to me that one Department of the War Office has completely failed to rid itself of those red-tape restrictions which have required to be thrown off in so many other directions. I refer more particularly to the dental policy of the War Office. That policy, so far as I have been able to trace it, seems to have gone through three stages. In the first instance, men whose teeth were not in a satisfactory condition were simply rejected. They were turned away, and there was no effort made, however admirable the recruits might otherwise have been, to make up for these deficiencies. After an interval the opportunity was given to the men to have their teeth attended to, but no financial assistance was given in that direction by the War Office. Now we have reached the third stage, where payment for dental work is being made by the War Office up to a maximum of, I believe, £3 in each case. I do not complain of that development. Probably some development of the kind was inevitable in this as in so many other matters. The War Office has to be congratulated on the fact that it has, after experience, made such alterations as seemed to be necessary.
What I do complain of is that the War Office, guided, I presume, by their officers, have throughout refused the co-operation of a large body of capable and experienced dental practitioners who are willing and anxious to assist the country in its hour of need. On the 13th August, just about a fortnight after the War had broken out, when men were being turned away because their teeth were not in a satisfactory condition, although they were entirely suitable recruits in every other way, the right hon. Gentleman received a 521 communication from the Incorporated Dental Society, the members of which offered to supply free of all charge, at their own surgery or at any place or places that might be selected, dental treatment to those selected as recruits, subject to their being properly attended to and their mouths put in order. Three months elapsed before a reply was sent to that communication. It is only fair to say that when the reply came it was stated that the letter of 13th August could not be traced.
§ Mr. RAFFAN
It was addressed to the Secretary of State for War at the War Office. The reply came on 13th November. It was signed by Mr. B. B. Cubitt, who stated that he wascommanded by the Army Council to thank yon for your letter of the 7th instant, and in reply to acquaint you that they regret that they are unable to accept the services of any dental practitioners who are not registered under the Dentists Act.I should like some information from the right hon. Gentleman as to whether any independent inquiry of any kind was made as to those who made that offer, or whether the War Office simply acted according to their previous practice, upon the advice of their Medical Board, and took up the position that, because these men were not registered, they were not suitable men to carry out this work. If that were so, I suggest it was an entirely mistaken view as to the position of dental practice in this country. As a matter of fact, the registered dentists in this country amount to only about one-half of those engaged in practising dentistry. It is perfectly true that a great majority of those registered are very highly qualified, but it is also true that of those who are on the register, numbering 5,400, there are 1,529 who have no qualification of any kind. They were placed automatically on the dental register because they were practising prior to the year 1878, and they underwent no test and no examination of any kind. These gentlemen, because they are on the register, have their services accepted, whereas the members of the Incorporated Dental Society, who are all, dental practitioners of experience, who, to secure membership in that Society, must have served four years' apprenticeship, and have possessed a minimum of five years' experience, were refused, although they offered their services free to the War Office.
522 What I should like to point out to the right hon. Gentleman is that, in normal times, these dental practitioners are serving very largely the class from which recruits are drawn to a greater extent than the registered dentists, and they are a class in whom these men have confidence. That was shown when we reached the second stage of the dental policy of the War Office. When we reached the stage when men were given an opportunity of consulting dentists and putting their mouths in order, in a great many garrison towns it was found that the members of the Incorporated Dental Society and other unregistered dentists rendered very excellent service, to which testimony was willingly given by commanding officers. If the right hon. Gentleman is willing to go into the matter I shall be prepared to submit to him a large number of cases in which commanding officers have testified to the excellent work which has been done. In Aberdeen, one of those attended some hundreds of men. I have a case at Luton, where nearly the whole of the officers stationed there were attended in this way. Now, when we reach the third stage, and the War Office are willing to pay for services rendered in this direction, the whole of these men who had been giving such excellent service are entirely shut out. I submit that that is a case of very great hardship indeed. I have a case here where the commanding officer of a regiment applied to an unregistered dentist who had received an order, and asked that a deposit made by a soldier should be returned because he could not be recognised as a suitable person to do this work. What I do suggest to the right hon. Gentleman is that, in a time like this, the real test should not be the test of registration, but that of efficiency, and I do hope that he will not be satisfied to accept the policy on this matter but will be willing to go into the matter personally, and investigate it. If he finds, as I say, a very large body, numbering nearly one-half of those engaged in practice in this country, who, although not on the register, are yet men of experience and capacity, I hope he will find some way by which the War Office may be able to avail themselves of their services, and will not continue to reject them as has been done in the past.
§ Mr. TENNANT
I wish to thank those hon. Members who have made personal references to myself. With regard to the subject raised by the hon. Member who 523 spoke last, I regret that he did not give me the opportunity, shall I say, of grinding my teeth upon the subject which he has introduced a little in advance, because although my duties cause me to browse over a wide field, I can hardly be expected to know the intricacies of the subject which he has brought before the notice of the House. If the hon. Member is correct in his assertion that there was a stage at which we declined to accept recruits on account of bad teeth, then it was a very short stage. I remember answering questions, and it was not very long after the outbreak of war, before full provision was made for the case of men who unfortunately suffered from bad teeth. With regard to the question of the registration or non-registration of medical practitioners, obviously it would have been wrong for us to accept such a proposal as that which was laid before us, because it would have been directly opposed to registered as against unregistered men, and it would not be a correct policy for us to have done anything which would have given colour to that suggestion. When the hon. Member asks me not to accept the advice of my advisers, I really must demur to doing anything of that kind. I really must be guided by my advisers to a very large extent, but, nevertheless, I think the House will bear me out when I say that occasionally I have to exercise my own judgment and perhaps direct a different policy. On so technical a matter as the one in which the hon. Member is interested I may say at once that I do not think I can hold out very much hope that I shall be able to overrule the advice which has been tendered to me by the head of the Royal Army Medical Department.
There are not very many hon. Members in the House who have addressed questions to me, but I will deal with the points raised by those who have remained. Two of the points raised by the hon. Member for Leith Burghs (Mr. Currie) have already been answered by the Financial Secretary to the War Office, but there still remains the question of the interesting document which he flourished in the House. This point is an example of the extent to which hon. Gentlemen and the public are ready to attribute blame to the War Office. The hon. Member produces a circular which he tells the House has been issued by a committee of which he happens to be a member, namely, the recruiting committee which sits in Edinburgh.
§ Mr. TENNANT
I asked the hon. Member from whom it emanated and he told us it came from a committee sitting in Edinburgh, and he said in the same breath that he was a member of that committee. The hon. Member goes so far as to attribute the issue of the circular to what he is pleased to call the clandestine action of the War Office. I am as innocent of that document as a babe unborn. The hon. Member himself happens to be a member of the committee who issued the circular, and in perfect good faith he attributes its birth and origin to the War Office.
§ Mr. CURRIE
I am sorry to interrupt the right hon. Gentleman, but he has not quite followed my statement. What did take place was that someone holding high military office in Scotland is responsible for the issue of this document. [An HON. MEMBER: "Name."] I prefer not to mention any name. It may be one of two names, but I will not mention the name until I am quite sure of it. If the right hon. Gentleman will take the trouble he can easily find out who is responsible for the issuing of this document. I would not make a statement of that kind without foundation.
§ Mr. TENNANT
If the hon. Member will allow me to see the document in private I will do what I consider to be correct in the matter and make such in quiries as I deem to be proper. I think, however, that inasmuch as he himself told us that this committee did produce it—
§ Mr. CURRIE
I never said we produced it. It purports to have emanated in our name, but I think I am right in saying that not one single member of the committee knew anything about it until it was discovered in one of the out-of-the-way recruiting offices.
§ Mr. CURRIE
It is not a negligible matter. You cannot call a circular which asserts that recruits are not coming forward as rapidly as they might a negligible matter.
§ Mr. TENNANT
When such an authority produces a statement so divergent from the facts I think we might very well put it into the waste-paper basket.
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
The hon. Member is not entitled to intervene again unless the right hon. Gentleman gives way, and I would suggest that he might now allow the right hon. Gentleman to proceed with his argument.
§ Mr. TENNANT
I really think that the matter is scarcely worthy of occupying further valuable Parliamentary time. My hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh has raised the question of Mr. Dyson, amongst other things, and the Member for Salford (Sir W. Byles) also referred to the matter. It is not easy for me to speak on the subject of Mr. Dyson, because I really have had very little notice about it at all. I think it will be agreed that it is a subject which involves the construction of a new Act of Parliament, namely, the Defence of the Realm Act, and I would much prefer to leave that abstruse and difficult problem to the Attorney-General. On this point I would repeat very much what I said at Question Time, namely, that the Defence of the Realm Act is a gross interference with the liberty of the subject. Its provisions must be so or otherwise we should not have wanted it. The regulations may constitute an intolerable interference with the liberty of the subject, but they are necessary, and this House has deemed them to be necessary. That being so, the question arises as to whether the news was news in the ordinary sense of the word which Mr. Dyson telegraphed, or whether he was, as my hon. Friend the Member for Bury says, prosecuted for collecting information. I am really not able to answer that question, and I do not know the nature of the message. I only know that this Mr. Dyson claimed to be tried by a Civil Court. He was tried by a Court of Summary Jurisdiction. Courts of Summary Jurisdiction may, of course, make mistakes, but I think, as a rule, substantial justice is done.
§ Mr. TENNANT
I understand that the Crown prosecuted, and I think I said that in answer to the hon. Member at Question Time. The competent military authority is, of course, the Crown. We are responsible for the action of the competent military authority, and it will be my business and pleasure to defend the competent military authority upon all occasions. I have really no means of knowing what the 526 nature of the telegram was. My hon. Friend the Member for Bury (Sir G. Toulmin) spoke about greater stringency being adopted by the Press Censor.
§ Sir G. TOULMIN
Personally, I should not object to greater stringency if it were directed to the managers of newspapers, but I do not think that prosecution should be taken against reporters for collecting news or sending it to their head office. If the news ought not to be published, then the newspapers, which have received warnings and indications from the Press Censor of the kind of news that they may publish, should be prosecuted. The matter fell within the domain of the right hon. Gentleman, because he did direct the competent military authority as to whom they should prosecute.
§ Mr. TENNANT
I really must have recourse to the fact, as I indicated before, that in this case the news was not published, showing that the newspapers were on their guard and were careful in the selection of what they did publish. Therefore, if the telegram was so much a matter of danger to the Empire, and of giving information which would be useful to the enemy—and that is the decision at which I take the Court of Summary Jurisdiction arrived—then I cannot help thinking that Mr. Dyson has not really got very much of which to complain. I am driven rather to that conclusion. I do not think that I can say more. If my hon. Friends desire to raise this matter again I hope that they will do so when we have the advantage of the presence of my legal advisers. With regard to my hon. and loyal Friend the Member for York (Mr. Butcher), I should like to say that he has made a speech which gave me the greatest possible satisfaction.
I am sorry that I did not communicate with the hon. Member for Darlington (Mr. Pike Pease) at the time I was making inquiries and investigations into the subject of beverages, upon which he was good enough to make some suggestions to me. The difficulty in adopting some substitute for the rum ration is to get hot water. If we could get hot water into the trenches it would be possible to adopt one of the substitutes for the rum ration which would have almost as good an effect. The difficulty, however, is that it is not possible, to get hot water into the trenches. I will tell my hon. Friend what I am prepared to do. I am prepared to recommend to the Director of Supplies that where the rum 527 ration is not actually issued in the trenches—it is not upon occasions, it is occasionally issued behind, perhaps a mile or so behind, the trenches—and it is possible to provide hot water, we might make an experiment on a large scale with one of the substitutes he has suggested, to see whether it answers, and whether there would be many soldiers who would be willing and anxious to obtain it instead of the rum ration. I warn him, however, that there is no substitute we know of which at all approximates to, or is equivalent, or a substitute for the rum ration when it is issued in the trenches. My hon. Friend the Member for Stockton-on-Tees (Mr. J. Samuel) raised the question of Voluntary Training Corps. He asked us to provide clothing for them, and suggested that we should provide arms as well.
§ Mr. TENNANT
I am sure my hon. Friend and the House will bear me out when I say that none of the indications which I have given of what we might be able to provide for Volunteer Training Corps have been in that direction. I have never suggested that they ought to draw upon the War Office for any clothing, equipment, or anything of the kind. We have, as hon. Gentlemen know, been put to the utmost strain to provide for the Regular Army. The utmost strain has been placed upon every kind of person and establishment in order to provide clothing, arms, equipment, and munitions of war for the Armies in the field, and I must say that I do not think it is, I will not say fair, but really reasonable for other demands to be made upon us until we are in such a position as to be able to say we have so accumulated arms, equipments, accoutrements, and munitions of war of all kinds and descriptions that not only are we able to supply the vast Army in the field to-day, but that we have enough put by to be certain that we can supply the even larger Armies which are going to take the field in a very short time. When that day arrives, then my hon. Friend may come and ask me whether we shall be able to provide equipment or clothing for his Volunteer Training Corps. Seriously, I do not think it is really possible for me to go beyond that. My hon. Friend also asked me whether it would not be possible for the War Office to give a Grant for outdoor games for recruits. 528 There is an extraordinary modern tendency in the House of Commons to draw upon public funds for every conceivable object, and I do rather resent it. I am all in favour of outdoor games for recruits, but I never knew anybody get grants for them.
§ Mr. J. SAMUEL
It has been suggested that the Grant you now make, equivalent to £10 a year, should be given for outdoor games instead of indoor games, such as draughts and dominoes.
§ Mr. TENNANT
I can only suggest to my hon. Friend that happily for us we live in a rich country, and that there are an enormous number of well-disposed persons only too anxious to help good causes. This would be a really good outlet for them, and I suggest to my hon. Friend that with his great influence among a large number of people he has only got to breathe and whisper the word, and he will have an overwhelming response.
§ Mr. J. SAMUEL
Will the right hon. Gentleman deal with my other question regarding allowances for horses?
§ Mr. TENNANT
I should not like to trespass on my hon. Friend's domain to that extent, but if the hon. Gentleman will meet the Financial Secretary or myself we will endeavour to satisfy him.
§ Mr. ANEURIN WILLIAMS
I hope the point which was raised by the hon. Member for Sheffield (Mr. Hope) will receive an answer this evening from somebody connected with the War Office. I feel strongly it is one of very great importance. It is only right that workmen who are engaged in the production of war munitions should have an interest in producing them in the most economical manner. After all, economy of production depends very largely on their efforts, and if, by their zeal and careful work, they enable the country to produce its war munitions on a more economical scale it is only right, and in the interests of the country, that they should have a direct reward for so doing. I am not going to pursue that point further, as it is a very broad principle and not one of detail.
But there is a point of detail on which, with the indulgence of the Committee, I should like to enter, because it is a matter which affects a small class of very poor, very helpless, and very unfortunate people. It is the class of women who have had the 529 misfortune to have bad husbands from whom they have been obliged to get a separation order prior to the outbreak of this War. I mentioned the matter in this House on a previous occasion, and am sorry I have been unable to obtain any redress up to the present. If a woman has a husband who has beaten or ill-treated her in any way—and unfortunately there are too many such cases in the country—and if she has gone to the magistrate to get a protection or separation order the husband usually is directed to pay her so many shillings per week—from 8s. to 12s. or 14s. it may be; 10s. is an ordinary figure in such cases. Of course, a woman only gets the order if she can prove that she herself is not at fault, and the very fact that she gets, the order is proof that the fault is on the side of the husband. In many such cases the husband has entered the Army, and the woman thereupon ceases to get her 10s. per week. She loses, for all practical purposes, the right to proceed against her husband in any way. Up to the present the Government have refused to pay her that money. I understand that they do stop 6d. per day from the man's pay and hand the 3s. 6d. over to the woman, but she loses 6s. 6d., and my claim is that that 6s. 6d. should be paid to her by way of separation allowance. Had she been living with her husband she would have got 9s. I do not ask she shall have the whole of that, but I do suggest that the 3s. 6d. should be increased to the amount ordered by the magistrate.
This has been refused, I understand, on the ground that, as the woman was already separated from her husband, no separation allowance is due to her. That is little more than a play upon words, and a very cruel play. When a woman is granted a separation allowance it is not as compensation for the loss of her husband's society, but it is as a means of subsistence, because she is deprived of the money which the husband was earning in civil life and bringing home to her. These women, who were not in any way to blame, are deprived of 6s. 6d. out of the small pittance of 10s. which the husband was paying for their subsistence, and, consequently, they are left to starve on 3s. 6d. per week. I hope the Government will very carefully consider this matter and afford some redress to these poor, helpless women who are not represented here, and who have, therefore, the greater claim upon a Parliament of men elected by men for justice.
§ Mr. BOOTH
Before, the House adjourned for the Easter recess, I put on the Notice Paper a question relating to the Glanfield clothing contract, and on the first day after the Easter recess the hon. Member for Accrington (Mr. Baker) replied that the contract was placed with Glanfield and Son for one million suits of uniform and one million greatcoats. If we take the value of that order at what they have now agreed to pay as a flat rate, the flat rate being 28s. for the overcoat, 12s. 8d. for jackets, and 8s. 9d. for trousers, we find that the order represented a million times £2 9s. 5d., or nearly £2,500,000 placed in one contract. If the investigations which have been made by perfectly unbiassed people, who have published the result of their inquiries, are well-founded, the profit made upon each of those million outfits—the overcoat, tunic and trousers—is over ten shillings, or a total profit of £500,000 on one order given to one firm. Whether that estimate can be challenged I do not know. We have not had the particulars given to the House of this tremendous order, but I do not think the hon. Gentleman will defend it. I do not think he can defend the placing of such a colossal order as this with one firm.
We know that there are clothing firms all over the country, and yet, such was the business capacity of the Contract Department at that time, they thought it the fairest and best way to treat, a great manufacturing community by placing a gigantic order of this description in the hands of one firm only. The House is entitled to some explanation from the War Office of this extraordinary proceeding. There is no doubt it was a complete surprise to exerybody, and why this contract should have been forced almost upon this particular firm I cannot make out. I do not wish to challenge the position, honesty, or efficiency, of the firm of Glanfield and Son, or of the new firm of Glanfield and Company. At this stage we need not trouble about that. I make no complaint on this score. If the War Office were determined to place a contract of this magnitude with any firm, they might as well give it to Glanfield and Company as to anybody else. Therefore, we will leave the particular firm out of account. What I want to ask is, Of what were the War Office thinking—I am sure it cannot be any business man who advised them—to give such a tremendous order as this for £2,500,000 worth of goods to one firm in 531 this fashion? The estimated profit which I have given does not include the sub-contractors' profits. The explanation given by the Government is that they wished tocreate and organise new sources of supply.No proper account at all has been given of how Glanfield and Company have complied with that desire of the War Office. From inquiries I have made they seem to have scattered their orders fairly freely and broadcast. So they must have done in order to cope with an order of this magnitude. I believe the War Office were approached by the Wholesale Clothing Association, who, if they had received such a huge order, would have placed it out among the firms in equal proportions. I am perfectly certain that any business firm having to deal with this big business would have given it to a number of firms and not to one.
I should like to know whether all of this contract has been delivered; whether there is any truth in the rumours that the clothing produced under this contract is not equal in quality to the clothing for which the War Office has stipulated in other contracts; whether it is a limited firm; and what exactly the relation is between the old firm and the new? I asked at Question Time whether these firms were limited, but I was unable to get any information. I do not know whether my hon. Friend can now tell us. I only ask for information. I do not in the least suggest that there was anything irregular in Glanfield and Son or the new combination or the new firm formed to deal with this huge contract, but the very fact that they had to form this new company in order to cope with it shows that it was thrust upon them as an overwhelming surprise. I understand that Mr. Glanfield was pressed to take it. I do not know why that should be. I have also heard that the men who placed this order are now serving the Government in another capacity. If that is so, I do not wish to press the matter any further against them, but I bring it forward because throughout the clothing trade and the tailoring trade, from one of the land to the other, this contract, by its magnitude and the manner in which it is placed, is the one topic of conversation—similar to the Meyer contract in the timber trade. I therefore avail myself, of the opportunity to invite the hon. Member to make a statement. I have preferred to bring it forward at this stage rather than to spend 532 any further time—I have spent a considerable amount—in making inquiries, because if the hon. Member makes a frank and satisfactory statement with regard to it, even if it was a mistake at the time, I am not going to condemn a Department which honestly at the time was trying to do its duty. But if it is defended, and there is an impression given to the Committee that the matter may be repeated, I frankly say I shall try and persuade the House to support me in preventing any repetition of a business of this kind.
§ 10.0 P.M.
§ Mr. KING
I desire to refer to two matters which have not been raised in this Debate. The first is that there are at the present time, especially in London, a large number of Indians who are students at the Inns of Court and the hospitals, a number of whom have desired, as other students whom they have met at the university or college have desired, to obtain commissions in the Army. So far they have been met with a refusal, and to my knowledge—I have been brought into relation with these students in one or two ways—there is a very strong feeling that the Indian students in London ought to be allowed to have at least one or two commissions, if they are suitable for commissions, just as much as if they were applicants for commissions or positions in the Indian Army in India. They have actually been organising private meetings amongst themselves, and have approached the authorities. Apparently the authorities found that there were difficulties, and that they were, unable at the present time to contemplate a new departure. I hope this subject will receive some attention and, if it is not possible to give any of these gentlemen commissions in the British Army, that they will at any rate, receive sympathy and thanks for their readiness to serve the Empire at this time.
The second matter I wish to bring before the Committee is of a different nature, but is a very important one. I refer to the action which the War Office has taken with regard to granting to alien enemies permission to be either naturalised or leave the country. There were a great number of alien enemies at the outset of the War who were, far more British in sentiment, education, sympathy, and in every other way than the nationality to which they by law belonged. I know of a number of cases which have been brought to my notice, and I will give just one or two. There is a gentleman I know, now 533 in the middle age of life, with two sons born in England, who are now both serving in the British Army. Having come as a child, when he was only six years of age, from a part of the Austrian Empire into this country, he is still technically a citizen of Austria. He was brought here by his father, who was of Bosnian blood, and who came here as a political refugee. This man is therefore technically still an Austrian subject. He is obliged to register, although he does not really know any other language but our English tongue, and, though he has two sons serving in the Army, he is obliged to register as an enemy. He is refused facilities for becoming a British subject, and is prevented from entering a prohibited area, which means, in his case, that he cannot follow his usual employment. All applications to have his case considered are at once categorically refused. There are many such cases as this. Now that the War Office is getting accustomed to affairs as they are being carried on, and that the war machine is running, I think we may say, in all the circumstances, with a regularity which could not be expected at first, these cases of alien enemies should be more generously and patiently considered, and that anyone who brought forward good credentials that his application might be considered, should be allowed by the War Office to have his case brought to the notice of the authorities.
§ The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Whitley)
I do not think this comes under the authority of the War Office. It appears to be a question that should be addressed to the Home Office.
§ Mr. KING
No; on the contrary, the Home Office say they have nothing to do with it; they are simply acting on the instructions of the War Office, and they could not consider this very case which I have just cited. They could not look at it because they had not got the permission of the War Office, which had sent them instructions which included all such cases and prevented them taking them up at all. On many occasions when the Home Office has been questioned about its action with regard to alien enemies, it has replied that the responsibility does not lie with them, but only the executive action, 534 and that the policy has been dictated all through by the War Office. It is this question of the policy that is being dictated by the War Office that I want to get at and make a few remarks on. There are quite a dozen peculiar cases that I could cite, but here is another case of a different character altogether. A gentleman known to me was born an Englishman, but accepted, a good many years ago, a position under the Government in the Austro-Hungarian Dual Monarchy. In order to obtain that position he had to become a subject of the Emperor Francis Joseph. At the outbreak of the War he was in this country and wished to proceed to his own country, for at the beginning of the War we were not a belligerent against Austria, and he applied to go at once. He was refused, and he has been kept, though a paid servant of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, for many months in this country. Just recently he has been allowed to go simply because he has an old school friend in a very high position in this country who has obtained leave for him and the matter has gone through with War Office sanction because this gentleman is a man of the very highest position in the land, and the result is that they have actually sent away an Austro-Hungarian subject to obtain a post in his own country with special facilities accruing. I do not say it was an unjust and unrighteous thing to send that man. Under all the circumstances of the case I believe it was well done, but the fact is that the case, which at the first blush seems an absurd case to send, gets put through because high influences have been brought to bear and the case has been fairly considered on its merits. There are hundreds of cases which have a better claim, either to naturalisation or to be allowed to leave this country, which are not allowed to be considered at all. Now is the time when the War Office may allow the Home Office to go into these matters individually, case by case, to judge each on its merits, and if we do that we shall get rid of a number of people whom we shall be glad to have leave our shores and who will not be cherishing a sentiment of injustice and cruelty against the Government of this country. I hope this matter will receive some consideration.
§ Mr. J. HOPE
Not so much the limitation of profits as the sharing of profits by the armament workers.
§ Mr. BAKER
If the information was not present on the Government Benches yesterday, there is, I am afraid, rather less likelihood of it being present to-day. My hon. Friend (Mr. Booth) has raised a question of the limitation of profits in rather a different form. He addressed to me a certain number of queries in regard to what he called the great Glanfield contract. I had hopes from his opening remarks that he was not going to indulge in the usual kind of suggestion in regard to these matters and would confine himself strictly to the facts, and although I do not wish to complain I think he perhaps did contrive, before the case has been heard, to give a certain colour to the whole transaction which in fairness he would not have wished to give. I say in fairness, because it is extremely difficult in these cases, once an improper suggestion is started and circulated, to correct it. It is printed in newspapers and read and no one bothers at all about the sequel. I think my hon. Friend was well entitled on the facts to ask for some explanation of this contract because it is undoubtedly one of an unusual character, and I think, to clear the ground. I had perhaps better not confine myself to answering the specific questions which the hon. Member addressed to me, but give some account of the origin of the affair.
The first impulse in the direction of this contract came from a body known as the "Women's Employment Committee." I do not say they recommended it either in its exact form or as a corporate body, but the suggestion came from a representative of theirs that it would be a very good 536 thing if the War Office, whom they knew quite rightly to be in need of a large quantity of clothing at that time for immediate delivery, were to set some one to organise outside firms who had not hitherto been engaged in the Army clothing trade. Their object, they frankly stated—and a very proper object it was, too—was to get employment for a large number of women who otherwise had unemployment staring them in the face. Mr. Glanfield came to the War Office with the suggestion. It was just at that moment that recruiting was taking place most heavily and the Quartermaster-General's Department of the War Office was faced with the prospect of new and enormous demands for clothing for the recruits, and the Contract Branch and its officials were at that time considering how best these large supplies might be obtained in the shortest time. As soon as this suggestion was put before him, of someone set to organise the hitherto untouched trade, it appeared to offer a possible solution of the difficulty.
Mr. Glanfield is well known to the officials of that Department. He has been in the Army clothing trade for a great many years, and I think I may fairly say that he is one of the most respected persons engaged in that industry. He has a very high industrial reputation and has frequently performed contracts for the War Office with great satisfaction and with benefit to the public. It was therefore not unnatural that this suggestion, that Mr. Glanfield should be the person to undertake this contract, should be made. I was not present myself at the conference which took place. There were a great number of officials there representing all the branches concerned, and I was informed that Mr. Glanfield was by no means willing to take the contract. At any rate, he was finally persuaded to do so. He said that he could, with his great knowledge of the trade, manage to get into touch with a large number of firms who at present were not making Army clothing, and he would undertake to organise them, so as to turn out a large number of suits per week. There was one condition upon which he undertook to do that, and it was that we would abandon the rather complicated peace pattern and substitute a simplified and modified pattern. He brought down the simplified pattern, which was approved by Lord Kitchener himself, and has proved perfectly satisfactory. The 537 object of having the simplified pattern was that those persons who had had no previous experience in the making of uniforms would more readily learn to do so.
That was the way in which the idea of such a contract came to be made, and that was the way in which Mr. Glanfield himself came to be employed. It was arranged that he should organise these firms who had never previously engaged in making Army clothing, and he undertook to deliver up to one hundred thousand suits per week, and one hundred thousand greatcoats at a fixed price. He was to-be allowed to sub-contract, which was an essential of the scheme, or he could not carry out this contract, but every sub-contract which he made was to include a Fair-Wages Clause. The hon. Member commented on the size of the orders. If size were to be an objection, I am afraid that most of the operations which the War Office has been carrying out would be liable to criticism. It is true that this was a very large order, but I am quite unable to give any estimate as to the actual profit Mr. Glanfield derived from it. I do say, however, that in view of the prices and of the insertion of the Fair-Wages Clause in all the contracts, that the figures, quoted I think by my hon. Friend, must really be regarded as altogether fantastic. I do not think they will stand a moment's investigation. I will certainly take them from the hon. Member and look into them in every possible way. At the same time I do not think that that itself should be taken to be a severe reflection upon the War Office. The real question is whether the average rates which we fixed were fair ones, and whether we took proper precautions to see that the Fair-Wages Clause was inserted in all contracts. On both these grounds I do not think we are open to criticism. The hon. Member asked me if all that was required had been delivered under the contract. I am not sure, but I think nearly all has been completed and delivered. Then the hon. Member made a suggestion that the quality of the clothing being delivered was in some way different from the quality which we demand in other contracts. I hope that he will disabuse his mind entirely of that. The only alteration made was in fact an alteration of pattern which in war time was required, which accelerated enormously the delivery of the goods. So far as quality goes, those goods were just of the same quality as any other. They had to pass the inspection branch before 538 they were accepted; otherwise they would be left on his hands. My hon. Friend then raised the question of the relations between the old firm and the new, but he may be assured of this, that the reason for the creation of the second company was that they might have a separate office and might keep the whole of their arrangements and transactions apart. It was purely to facilitate that being done and to prevent confusion with the existing firm. One expression used by the hon. Member completely mystified me: I do not know what he referred to. He understood that the man who placed the order was now serving the Government in another capacity. I do not know what he meant. Of course, one person may be technically responsible for placing the order, but the arrangement was made at a conference between some eight or ten persons, and to what individual he is referring I am at a loss to understand.
§ Mr. BOOTH
I have said that the new director of contracts is now in charge. I understand that the previous director of contracts who is responsible for this is now the treasurer dealing with the Income Tax. I do not want to give names. I was merely inquiring, but I think that it is a fact that the former director of contracts is now helping to collect the Income Tax. I do not give any names. I have nothing against him.
§ Mr. BAKER
It never occurred to me that the hon. Member meant anything so innocent as that. My imagination was riotously at work in every other direction. It is quite true that the then director of contracts, a very honest and a very able public servant, is one of the persons who no doubt was technically responsible for placing this contract. I come now to the real question which the hon. Member put to me—was this contract a mistake, or was it not? If the hon. Member means was it a mistake in the sense that we ought to have done something else at the time, I think that that is a very difficult question to answer. If he means that it is open to many kinds of criticism and is objectionable in many respects, I am very largely prepared to agree with him. But I should say this, that the situation at the moment was that towards the end of August recruiting took the great upward leap and we were getting as many men in a week as we should get normally in all the year. Then this problem became more acute. The War Office could not possibly themselves, with 539 their then undeveloped staff, place contracts all over the country with the existing firms, and that would not have been enough, but also have got firms who had not been previously engaged in this kind of work to turn their attention to it. The War Office would have broken down in their task and the Royal Army Clothing Department at Pimlico would have broken down if it were put under the strain of dealing at once with all contractors and making all the arrangements which were in fact made with Mr. Glanfield. There was the difficulty. Then there was also at this time a strong injunction on all the Government Departments that they were to spread employment as much as they could. That proper object, which was impressed on the whole of us as a matter of Government policy, coincided particularly with this recommendation which came from the Women's Employment Committee. In addition to that, we had every reason to look to Mr. Glanfield as a trustworthy person. He had a wide knowledge of this particular branch of trade, and, no less important, he was a contractor who knew exactly what the War Office required, because he was continually in possession of contracts for the supply of clothing.
In all those respects I think we were right. I no not think that the Army could have been served in time if it had adopted any other plan. When the hon. Member challenges me to praise this as an admirable arrangement I do nothing of the kind; I am entirely at one with him in condemnation of the contract in its main features. But I am still open to conviction on the question whether there was anything else that could have been done to secure the clothing in time. It was a duty incumbent upon the Government to obtain the clothing in the shortest time possible. The public were demanding that the troops should be clothed, and there must have been an outcry, and not unnaturally an outcry, if we had delayed at all, and allowed those men who had come in with their patriotic feeling, to walk about in ordinary clothes one day longer than possibly could be helped. I hope I have made this matter plain to the House and to the hon. Member. I say quite frankly that it is an exceptional arrangement, and one not merely not to be commended in ordinary times, but one strongly to be condemned in ordinary 540 times—an arrangement not to be commended even in this emergency, but I have not heard from anyone who has considered this matter whether there was any other expedient to which we could have had recourse which would have produced the same success in the same limit of time.
§ Mr. BOOTH
I want to thank the hon. Gentleman for his statement, and I am sure hon. Members will agree with me that it is as satisfactory as anyone could expect on such short notice. So far as I am concerned I do not want to make a point of attacking the War Office on the transaction. But I should like to remind the hon. Gentleman that there is no such thing as a rate of wage in this particular industry. It does not apply to these sub-contracts, and I would like to call the attention of the hon. Gentleman to the Toynbee record, emanating from a neutral source, where social workers have collected the facts. They say that if the Government fix a flat rate under this agreement they should also fix a flat rate of wages, because there is not in this work what is ordinarily understood as a rate of wages amongst the employers or prevailing in the district. That does not apply to this contract, and to this work at all, from the nature of the employment. It is their case. I merely wish to draw his attention to it, so that the House will not think that by simply saying the contract has been done at the recognised rate that ends the matter, because the contention is that there is no such thing. With regard to the figures I gave, I would ask the hon. Gentleman not to regard them as fantastic. They are worked out to the smallest detail. Hooks, eyes, buttons, horns, and everything have been calculated. They show that on the flat rate, sanctioned by the Government, there is gross profit to the large contractor of 7s. 1d. on each overcoat and 11½d. to the sub-contractor on each overcoat. This is as the result of inquiries from people in the East End and from the people who-carried out this and other contracts, and by which means the information was accumulated by totally impartial people. I cannot tell myself what profit Glanfields made, but if they made the profits shown by these documents, then, on the size of the contract, their gross profit is in the neighbourhood of half a million of money.
§ Mr. A. WILLIAMS
Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will kindly answer the point I raised as to separation allowances?
§ Mr. BAKER
I regret I did not answer the hon. Member before, but he described the situation so accurately in his speech that it is hardly necessary for me to do so. I think his description was exact in every particular. It has been considered, and the Select Committee have apparently decided to leave things as they are with regard to the separated wife. Of course, there are powers under the Army Act. I think the hon. Member understood that himself.
§ Mr. A. WILLIAMS
Surely there will be some redress found in these cases! The simple fact is that the Government is depriving each of these women of about 6s. 6d. a week, and leaving them to starve on 3s. 6d. I hope, that will not be continued.
§ Mr. A. WILLIAMS
I maintain that the man is earning sufficient wages. He is serving the Government. If he were living with his wife the Government would pay 542 9s. separation allowance besides the 3s. 6d. They were only paying 3s. 6d., stopped out of the man's pay, and will not pay the rest, although the woman is deprived of her breadwinner.
Committee report Progress; to sit again upon Tuesday next (27th April).
§ The remaining Orders of the Day were read, and postponed,
§ Whereupon Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER, pursuant to the Order of the House of the 3rd February, proposed the Question, "That this House do now adjourn."
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Adjourned accordingly at Twenty-five minutes before Eleven o'clock, till Tuesday next (27th April), pursuant to the Resolution of the House of this day.