§ The PRIME MINISTER (Mr. Asquith)
I beg to move,
"That an additional number of Land Forces, not exceeding 1,000,000, all ranks, 214 be maintained for the Service of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland at Home and Abroad, excluding His Majesty's Indian Possessions, in consequence of the War in Europe, for the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1916."
It may be convenient if I tell the House how we stand in regard to this matter. On the 5th August, 1914, the House authorised a Vote of 500,000 men, and on 9th September in the same year another Vote of 500,000 men, followed on the 12th November by another Vote for 1,000,000, making 2,000,000 in all. In the Estimate for the current financial year, 1915–16, the figure was taken at 3,000,000 men, at which figure at this moment it stands. I am now proposing to the Committee that they should authorise the raising of another 1,000,000 men. At the end of sixteen months we have at this moment in the various theatres of war, including our fellow subjects from overseas, a fighting force which I cannot define with complete precision, but which certainly amounts to over 1,250,000 men. The casualties, which are regularly published, have been on a very large scale, and though happily a considerable percentage of the wounded recover rapidly and return to duty, the weekly and even the daily wastage of modern war is enormous. The first call on our reservoir of men at home is to replace that wastage in all the units which are recruited from the United Kingdom, and to provide the stream of reserves which are needed to keep those units up to their full number. Our governing end should always be to keep the real strength as far as possible and as near as possible up to the nominal strength, but this is no easy task, especially in regard to the Territorial Force. Subject to that first condition, we want as many more men as can be spared to fill the new formations and to increase our aggregate fighting force.
The Government is sometimes asked to-state in terms of divisions or of rank and file the precise number of the Forces which we need or, at any rate, at which we ought to aim. As I think I have said 215 before, I prefer myself to put the matter in a rather different form. I think we should aim at getting potentially every man of military age and capacity, not disqualified by physical or domestic conditions, who is available, consistent with making an adequate provision for our other national necessities. Those necessities are well known. They include, first and foremost, the Navy, and next the business connected with the production and transport of munitions of war. My right hon. Friend the Minister of Munitions last night told us that he needed for that purpose—he was in urgent need—80,000 skilled workers and 200,000 unskilled workers; but as is shown by the long and complicated lists and supplemental lists which have recently been issued in connection with recruiting, of reserved occupations, there is a vast field of employment on the continued working of which depends our subsistence, the maintenance of the machinery of our social life, and the export trade which is absolutely essential both for ourselves and our Allies. Whatever system of recruiting you adopt, voluntary or compulsory, those deductions must be made before you can arrive at your recruitable maximum. Let me add that under either system, Voluntary or compulsory, that is the maximum which we should seek to secure. So far I am repeating in substance what I said in this House, I think, on the 2nd November, when Lord Derby's efforts, which have just been brought to a close, were in their early stages.
I much regret that it is not possible to communicate to the House to-day the result of those efforts in any detail, or indeed at all. The task of classifying and tabulating the figures, drawn from every constituency in Great Britain, has been one—I do not exaggerate when I say—of stupendous magnitude and complexity, and it is no reproach to anybody concerned that Lord Derby was unable to send in his Report until last evening. I have only had time myself to take a hurried glance at it, and it has been circulated for the first time to-day to my colleagues in the Cabinet. The figures and the inferences to be drawn from them 216 deserve, and ought to receive, the most careful consideration. In the meantime, so far as recruiting is concerned, there will be no delay. Already, as the House is aware, all the four groups of young unmarried men, between the ages of nineteen and twenty-two, have been called up for next month. I hope it is not necessary for me to do so, but to avoid the possibility of misunderstanding, I repeat once again the pledge which I gave in this House on 2nd November—and which was reiterated during the recruiting campaign—to the married men, who have responded, on the whole, so well to the call of patriotic duty. One does not need to wait for an examination of details to express the nation's appreciation and admiration of the conduct of Lord Derby's campaign. I purposely refrain from giving any figures because I do not think that any figures ought to be given which are not complete figures; but I may say this—it does not trench upon the domain of figures at all— that apart from the response which has been made in this country, from far-distant places overseas, Hong Kong, Cadiz, California and Rhodesia, applications have been made by men who wish to come home here to be attested— a commentary, and I am sorry to have to add a very sad commentary, upon the lethargy of some of those here at home who have not taken the opportunity to respond to the call. Without going into the figures at all, I advise everybody to receive with caution the haphazard and conjectural estimates which are put forward. I do not believe a more splendid exhibition of patriotism and self-denial is easy to be conceived, or one more significant of the invincible determination of our people here, as a whole, to continue and to win this War, or more calculated to carry that conviction to the hearts of all our gallant Allies. I am sure I am expressing the universal opinion of the House of Commons when I say that the country is under the deepest debt of obligation and gratitude to Lord Derby himself, who has done what I doubt very much whether any other man in the Kingdom could have done, and who wishes me to add, with special emphasis, our obligations to the 217 Parliamentary Recruiting Committee and the Joint Labour Committee, to the recruiting committees throughout the country, and to the staff at the War Office and in the local centres. Let me, before I pass from this topic, and while we are about to give our close attention to Lord Derby's Report, leave on record one more word both of caution and of appeal. On the one hand, no one must be misled by gross totals, whatever they may be, into imagining that such totals afford any concrete measure of what—after all the necessary deductions which are inevitable—will be found to be a recruitable reservoir. Those deductions, in view of what I have said a few moments ago, must of course of necessity be on a very large scale. On the other hand, it is reported to me, from many quarters, that there are parts of the country where the young unmarried men have not come forward as they should have done in response to the national call. Do not let it be supposed that I, or anybody else, is making any charge against them as a class. Nothing is further from my thoughts. I venture to say this, and I say it with as much earnestness and emphasis as I can command, that those who have been disposed to hang back, whether for good or for bad, will even now seize the opportunity of following the example which has been so patriotically set to them by the great masses of the community. We are asking in this Vote for power to raise an additional million of men. I do not believe there is any man in any part of the House who will say "No" to that demand.
I do not propose—it would not be either convenient or expedient—to enter upon any general survey of what I may call the strategic situation. But there are one or two events of recent occurrence which can be spoken of now without reserve. The first is the retirement of our troops in the Gallipoli Peninsula from the advanced position which has been so long held at Suvla and at Anzac—a retirement which does not involve any similar operation at Helles, where our joint naval and military Forces command the entrance to the Straits. That step has been taken by the 218 Government on the combined judgment of their military and naval advisers, and after all the positions had been examined on the spot by General Monro and by Lord Kitchener himself. It is not I need hardly say, without deep reluctance and regret that we sanctioned the withdrawal from Anzac, which is consecrated by so many heroic exploits, and has won for our gallant kinsmen from Australia and New Zealand undying memories of honour. Moreover, the operation is one which was exposed to peculiar hazards, and in which the least miscarriage might have led to-serious loss. It has been carried out by the Navy and the Army, in combination, in a manner of which no praise can be high enough, and which, I believe, will give it an enduring place in the annals of warfare. With the exception of a relatively small quantity of stores and six guns which had to be left behind, after having been destroyed, the whole Force at both places, with its full equipment, was removed with perfect security. The total casualties—it seems almost incredible, but it is a fact—during the whole operation were two military and one naval wounded. I do not believe there is anything comparable to that. I am sure the House will join with the Government in taking the earliest opportunity of expressing admiration and gratitude to General Monro for the whole of this difficult operation, and, as he is careful to point out, to the officers to whom he gives special praise—General Birdwood, who will always be associated with Anzac, and Admiral Wemyss, who supervised the naval operations. It is a most gratifying fact that these splendid troops have been embarked to their new destination without the loss of one single life, and after a short and much-needed rest they will be ready, as I am sure they will be eager, to resume their glorious career.
In the Western theatre Field-Marshal Sir John French, as the House knows, after sixteen months of arduous warfare conducted with conspicuous gallantry, ability, and resource, has, at his own instance, relinquished his command, and he is succeeded in it by General Sir Douglas Haig. His Majesty has already 219 shown his appreciation of the Field-Marshal's splendid services in the field by raising him to the dignity of a viscount, and when the appropriate time comes I feel sure this House will not be slow to mark its sense of his great services. We all rejoice to know that Sir John French, as we still call him, is willing to undertake and discharge the very responsible duties of the Home Command. I may add in that connection that Lieutenant-General Sir William Robertson has been recalled from France to assume the duties of Chief of the Imperial General Staff, in succession to Lieutenant-General Sir Archibald Murray, who has rendered the Government invaluable help, for which no gratitude could be too warm and no eulogy too high. He is about himself to proceed to an important command.
In order to win the War we want, and that is the object of this Vote, first and foremost and most of all an adequate supply of trained men to refit and reinforce and augment our Armies in the field. We want next, as my right hon. Friend urged in his eloquent speech yesterday, an ever-growing reserve of munitions. But we want further such a stewardship of the economic resources of the country as will enable us to lift and to carry the financial burden which we are called upon to bear, both in our own interests and in the interests of our Allies. Finally, and perhaps what is as important as anything, we want to counteract the advantage which the enemy has over us in the single direction of his share of the campaign by a greater unity and concert of strategic control among the Allies. The practical difficulties, from physical distance and from other obvious causes, are very great. But for weeks, and indeed for months past, efforts have been on foot to surmount them, and I believe the task will be found far easier than at one time seemed to be the case. We ourselves, some of us who sit on this Bench along with our colleagues who sit elsewhere, have now been several times to France for personal consultation with the French Government and its advisers. A fortnight ago a most important military 220 conference, and the first, I think, of its kind, was held for two or three days in Paris, attended by representatives of the Staffs of France, Russia, Italy, and the United Kingdom. The leading strategic problems of the immediate future were fully discussed there in confidential conference, and certain most important conclusions were arrived at with absolute unanimity. The adoption and development of this procedure will, as we all hope—and by "we" I mean all the Allied Powers—lead to greater concentration of purpose, co-ordination of plans, economy of energy, and effectiveness of action.
It is satisfactory, though not the least surprising to know, that there is not one of our Allies who is not as determined as we are ourselves to win the War, to have nothing whatever to do with a separate peace, to persist at all costs until our supreme and common purpose is achieved. I agree with what was said last night by my right hon. Friend and colleague, the Minister of Munitions. I agree that while at this or that moment what may be called the superficial facts of the campaign may seem to be against us, all the fundamental facts, the facts which really in the long run matter, are steadily and growingly on our side. There has been in this War, as in many others—in this War, unprecedented as it is in its scope and in its conditions—an abundance of errors and miscalculations, not confined to either side. So far as we in this country are concerned, and I believe it is the same, I know it is the same of our Allies, our will has never wavered for a moment, while our fighting resources, both in men and in material, become every month more ample in quantity and better mobilised and organised for the purposes of the campaign. That is all I have to say. I ask the House once more with the same united front which it has presented to the world from the first day of the War, to give us the men for whom we ask.
§ 4.0 P.M.
§ Mr. CHAPLIN
I congratulate the right hon. Gentleman with all my heart on the statement that he has been able to make. I congratulate him upon the ammouncement with regard to the withdrawal of cur most 221 gallant soldiers from the Peninsula of Gallipoli. Undoubtedly that has been a marvellous, almost a miraculous, operation. In a single sentence I will express my own feelings with regard to it, which I think will be approved of by the House at large, and that is that this withdrawal has been the happiest and the most welcome Christmas gift that could possibly have been made to the nation.
§ Mr. JOHN REDMOND
The speech of the right hon. Gentleman, or a portion of it at any rate, was full of the deepest interest to every Member of the House. I am sure there is no man in this House who did not learn yesterday with the deepest sense of thankfulness that the great operation of withdrawing the troops from that portion of Gallipoli had been successfully carried through. I know that to a great many of us who knew the state of things there the thought of these men and of the possibilities of what would happen in their withdrawal has been for many weeks something like a nightmare. It is with a sense of deepest thankfulness that we learnt yesterday, and again to-day in more detail from the Prime Minister, how magnificently the situation was handled by Sir Charles Monro and the Admiral in Command, and how successfully these gallant fellows have been removed from the scene of their heroism and suffering. In connection with that matter there is one question I would like respectfully to press upon the right hon. Gentleman and the War Office. We have not to this moment yet had a detailed dispatch from Sir Ian Hamilton as to what occurred at Suvla Bay. I think that is something of a scandal. Unfortunately, I am myself in possession of information which points to the fact that probably the whole facts—the entire truth as to what happened there— could not with advantage be published even now. But we have had no account of it. I think it is unworthy of the Government that the men who faced the untold sufferings which these men faced in that land and showed unparalleled heroism in their conduct should be left to-day without any official dispatch recording what they had done. What is the meaning of it? I repeat that I know there are things that perhaps you cannot say; but, at any rate, in its main features, let us have a dispatch stating what occurred.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
Will my hon. Friend allow me to interrupt? I am sure he would not make the suggestion, but 222 there has been the suggestion that the Government have in some way or other delayed the publication of this dispatch. The Government never received it; they have only received it in the last few hours.
§ Mr. REDMOND
If I am not to blame the Government, whom am I to blame? What has Sir Ian Hamilton been doing? Surely he was recalled in order to get a report from him as to the ghastly failure which followed his action. I do not say that the Government have held back his Report, but I do blame the Government that they did not insist on getting his Report. I pass from that in the hope that we will not have to wait any longer for some official statement of the extraordinary sufferings and heroism of the men who landed at Suvla Bay. That part of the speech of the right hon. Gentleman was, of course, intensely interesting; but I must at the same time confess to a feeling of disappointment myself—a disappointment probably felt by every Member of the House—as to the whole effect of the speech of the right hon. Gentleman. He has said nothing, and under the circumstances I am sure that he could say nothing, on the question which is really the vital question uppermost in the minds of most Members of this House—that is the question of either the continuance or the abandonment of the voluntary system of recruiting. The right hon. Gentleman practically said nothing about that. Of course, the reason is that he is not able to give us the detailed figures. But a decision upon that question will have to be come to. It may be come to very soon, and the House of Commons is adjourning. In view of the fact that that decision may be come to very soon I desire to avail myself of the opportunity, not, indeed, to make a speech, but to make a statement, and a very short statement, of my views on the question.
We have not had Lord Derby's figures. In passing, perhaps I may be allowed very respectfully to add my tribute to what the Prime Minister said as to the extraordinary energy, ability and success with which Lord Derby has transacted his work. We have not Lord Derby's figures. No one can complain of that. I am sure they are of a character which makes it most difficult properly to analyse them for presentation to the House. But we do know enough, even apart from what the Prime Minister has just said, to recognise that those figures will show an extraordinary demonstration of determination and; enthusiasm on the part of 223 practically the whole people of Great Britian. The moral effect of that demonstration must, in my opinion, be enormous through the whole world. From my point of view, I think the moral effect of that demonstration will be due entirely to the fact that it has been a voluntary outburst of the feelings of the people. I think it would be an absolutely pitiable result if that moral effect were to be destroyed by being followed by the compulsion of any class or section of the people. For my part, I do not believe it is true of any class or section of the people of this country to say that they are shirkers. I am perfectly certain that when a full opportunity is given to every section and class in this country it will be found that that accusation does not lie against any section of the people whatever.
Let me state what is my personal view upon this matter of compulsion. I am content to take the phrase used by the Prime Minister in his last speech. I am prepared to say that I will stick at nothing—nothing which is necessary, nothing which is calculated to effect the purpose—in order to end this War, and that is the view, I am certain, of the people of Ireland. Although I am not going to say more than a passing word about Ireland, I think fair-minded men will admit that Ireland has shown, since the commencement of the War, what her view is, both in the number of men she has sent to the Colours—and, mark you, although the Derby scheme was not in operation in Ireland, we had a scheme of our own in operation, and while recruiting has been going on rapidly in Great Britain it has been going on rapidly in Ireland, is going on at this moment, and will continue to go on. Not only by the numbers of men she has contributed has Ireland shown her view, but I think I may say with pardonable pride that her view has been emphasised upon the battlefield by her sons at every seat of war, both in the East and in the West. I say that she is ready for any sacrifice which she considers necessary for the successful ending of this War, or, to put it lower, that she thinks is really calculated to lead to a speedy and successful ending of the War. My position is that I am not convinced that the compulsion of any class of people in this country is necessary to the ending of the War or is calculated to lead to that result. This is not with me a question of principle; it is a question of expediency and necessity. If you prove 224 that it is necessary to end the War, the case, so far as I am concerned, is conceded. But I do not myself think it is necessary, and I am perfectly convinced in my mind that you cannot prove that it is necessary. On the contrary, I believe that the introduction of compulsion under the circumstances and conditions of the moment would have the opposite effect. With the man who would say that he would sooner lose the War than have compulsion I have no sympathy at all, and I do not believe anybody has. My sole point is this: the onus of proof rests on those who advocate Conscription.
Remember, this is not a question of universal compulsory service. That project is one which before the War had many advocates in this House, and I fancy that after the War is over, unless the War ends in a crushing defeat of your enemies, that proposal will have many more supporters. But that is not what compulsion means now. Universal military service is a thing which does not spring up in a moment. It may take a generation to bring into being. It commences at schools and so forth. Compulsion now means going in the middle of the War with something like a Press-gang to compel into military service a certain class or classes of the people. I say that anybody is foolish indeed who would lightly make such a proposal as that, and he would be foolish indeed who would shut his eyes to the certain dangers and drawbacks which any proceeding of that kind would have In my opinion it would be fatal. I am convinced that it would be disastrous. The reason I speak now is that a decision may be come to in this matter before we know where we are or before an opportunity of discussing it comes again. Therefore I say that if it is proposed under present conditions and circumstances, I, for one, shall oppose it by every means in my power. I am convinced it would break up the unity of this country. It would be fiercely resented and fiercely opposed, not only on the floor of this House, but outside, and in the end, I am profoundly convinced, its result in point of men would be ridiculously small. I have only risen for the purpose of saying these few words, and I wish to-say to the Prime Minister and to the Government—and in this I speak for all my colleagues from Ireland—that under the existing circumstances and conditions of the moment we are opposed to anything of the kind. We sincerely hope, in the 225 interests of this country, and in the interests, as we believe, of the speedy and successful termination of this War, that the Government will make no such proposals.
§ Mr. STANTON
I trust hon. Members will grant me a little indulgence, a stranger to this House, especially if I find myself once more in open opposition. I have hardly been here long enough to understand one-quarter of the usages and procedure of this House when I discover I am right up in opposition to the last speaker. After all, if my views are in opposition, hon. Members will forgive me. Here I stand, on the floor of the House of Commons, and it is necessary for one to think out one's speeches, not in ways tied up and of partyism, and not by way of putting a chain upon one's individual thoughts, but by way of expressing our own individual opinion. The people of Merthyr Boroughs were good enough to elect me on the straight war ticket. They thoroughly understand it was not a sham electoral cry that I made, so as to try and sneak into the House. They knew me and knew how I had sacrificed my position as a miner's agent; and they understood what I was doing, not as a partisan to back up the war party, but to do all I could as a humble individual, in my lowly sphere of life, to try and bring this War through successfully, and to bring as much as possible disaster, trouble, and tribulation to the Germans and Huns. I would remind the House—for there is little doubt about it—that the majority of our people in the Merthyr Boroughs would also agree with the last speaker that they do not want anything in the shape of compulsion. At the same time, as they were good enough to elect me, and as I am responsible to go back and meet them, and as I am responsible to my conscience more than I am to the electors of Merthyr, and more than I am to the Members of this House, I claim the right to put before the House the views that I desire to put. We know the old saying about volunteers being worth more than double the number of unwilling men. Still, if the people will not volunteer, what is to be done? It has been humiliating to me to see placards on the hoardings with the headings, "Will you come now, or will you wait to be fetched?" "Will you come, boys?" "My boy, it is your duty to come," and so on. On another hoarding I noticed a grand picture, all colour and splashes, where was pictured a number of our poor chaps rushing on to 226 some trenches, with the inscription beneath, "Are you coming to help us?" I do not think that much of an invitation to anybody to go and help under the cir cumstances pictured' Seriously, will any one contend that while, under ordinary circumstances we would like to meet a person's individual opinion, and give him the opportunity of exercising his rights as a citizen, and that those who do not wish to join anything of a military concern may stand aside, now, when this Empire is in danger, is it too much to expect that every man who has lived under its wing and under our flag, who has reaped all the benefits, and got all the securities which have been vouchsafed to us all, should do his part? If the country has been good enough to live in, surely it is good enought to fight for! Therefore, I would ask hon. Members to consider well before they declare their particular view. Although we are not satisfied with the report we have had from the Prime Minister, who has withheld something for certain purposes best known to himself and the Government—for I think that Lord Derby's Report must be not quite so satisfactory—in my humble opinion that that must be so or we should have heard of it—
§ Mr. STANTON
Bad news travels fast, but good news also travels fast. Therefore I am afraid that Lord Derby's Report is not satisfactory. If not, what is going to happen? Every day, every week, the delay is an encouragement to the enemy, and may it not cause a note of despair in the hearts of our poor boys in the field— in the hearts of my sons, your sons, your brothers, somebody's sweethearts out in France and elsewhere? We ought to drop this sham, hypocritical, nonsensical talk about avoiding Conscription. In a country such as this is, with our Empire extending to the four corners of the earth, we have so much more than any other nation that, although I have stood up at street corners and told our people otherwise, I think I may venture to say that we have much for which to be thankful! It is at a time like this when we really find ourselves. I have been sneered at and reviled because I declared that I was a Britisher. I discovered it; I really did not know it. But I was a true Britisher when the hour of trouble came. My boys have gone, and I have done what little I could in my humble way to try to make things hummingly 227 successful. We may feel grateful to those in responsible positions who have done so such to carry on the War so well as it has been carried on, for we cannot help some little blunders—we all blunder occasionally—and we have to forgive, and everyone try to help.
I honestly believe that a certain section of the Press in this country, which has gone so far to damage, discourage, and dishearten our men at the front, and done so much really to poison the minds of the workers, has been responsible to a great extent for the fact that our people have not volunteered. There are other reasons which I might give, but I dare not. I suppose I may not take liberties with this House, but I have no desire to do so. I feel deeply that, after all the sacrifices which have been made by the boys from Australia, the boys from South Africa, the boys from New Zealand, from the Antipodes, and from every part of the British Empire, when the British lion's cubs have come here to put up a fight for the old Motherland, that they should discover, as they will from time to time, what slackers we have in our midst! What will they think? There are slackers! There are young men, and young married men— some of whom married to dodge their responsibility, and who are not ashamed to slink behind the garments of their womenfolk. Are these the people who are to breed future Britishers? I think it is shameful. Our best men have gone to the front. Some of the best may have stayed behind for certain reasons. However, I do think that this House should seriously consider, without hypocrisy or humbug, what is best for the nation and what we should do. The right hon. Gentleman mentioned the old press-gang. Those were among the greatest days of England's greatest glory when the press-gangs were at work. It was then discovered that if you left men free to do what they liked, what result would follow. I wonder how the Early Closing Act would have been applied in the manner suggested, and whether it should be left to the children to say whether or not they should go to school, for people to be vaccinated or not as they think well, to abstain from going into a public-house or not during prohibited hours? None of these things are done.
For, after all, liberty of the individual must be controlled in view of what is best for all. Surely, then, at a time like this— 228 it may be that my views may appear uncouth—surely as rational, practical men we ought to do what seems well? I have endeavoured honestly to give my thoughts. I think in this country we are capable of doing infinitely more than we have done if every man will do his duty. May I appeal to hon. Members in this House? May I appeal to every one to join in at this eleventh hour and make it possible, at any rate, to supply our boys in the field with what is required, and let them know that the country is behind them, and see to it that we give no encouragement throughout the length and breadth of the Empire to the enemy. Our resources are unbounded. Our courage I have never doubted. Let us get away from cant, humbug, hypocrisy, and fight in the way which I have always understood was traditional with our race in its glorious past. I stand for that as one humble individual. How long it will take me to understand the procedure of this great mystical House, I do not know, but so far as I can assist the Government—I do not care who is in power—I am going to do it, and to try to put up a strenuous fight against the Germans and the Huns for my country and Homeland.
§ Mr. DUKE
The hon. Member who has just sat down, and whose presence is so welcome to this House, has struck, as I think a deeper and truer note than did the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Waterford (Mr. Redmond). I think the hon. Member's speech came from his constituents, and, if I may venture to say so with great respect, the latter part of the speech of the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Waterford savoured rather of political text books than that patriotism which animated the former part. I would have been very well content with the speech and observations with which the right hon. Gentleman dealt with the difficult task that is before us. The right hon. Gentleman did not commit himself. I was glad he did not commit himself. I do not want the right hon. Gentleman to be precipitate about this matter. He need not go ahead of the country, but he will make a great mistake if he does not keep up with the country, and keep in the van of public opinion. The matter stands in this way—I am not going to inflict upon the House anything in the nature of an essay upon the relative methods of compulsory service or of voluntary service—that we can reserve till 229 the War is over—but we are speaking of a new system to which reference was made by the hon. and learned Member for Waterford, and which no doubt will be discussed here. We are in this position at the present time, that Lord Derby, who has rendered unexampled and unprecedented service to the country, has put us in the position of commanding possibly a million and a half of men—the best man-hood of this country—if we have the pluck to take it—if we have the pluck to put aside copy-book maxims, political prepossessions, and accept the offer of our fellow countrymen. The new recruits Lord Derby has brought to be attested consist of a certain proportion of single men, and a certain proportion, and I believe a larger proportion of young married men. The young married men have the protection of the solemn pledge of this country that they shall not be called to serve until the unmarried men in this country have done their duty. That is the position.
The matter with which the right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues will have to deal—nobody envies them their task—is to decide whether they will annul the attestations of possibly a million young married men. For my part I cannot conceive that there is any political purist, either in this House or anywhere else who, if the practical question is put for settlement, would forgive His Majesty's Government if they consented to annul these attestations because, forsooth, it is said that there are young and robust men in this country who regard it as a sacred duty not to defend it. I confess it was painful to listen to the enthusiastic response which came from some of those Benches opposite to the premature entreaty of the hon. and learned Member for Waterford (Mr. Redmond) to the Leader of the House to commit himself in this matter before he knows, and before the House of Commons knows, what the exact situation is with which he has to deal. I would have been delighted not to take any part in this controversy. I have as great a tenderness I hope for the conscientious feeling of my fellow country-men as any man has. But how do we stand in this matter? I said to as big a meeting of my Constituents as I could get together the other day that, on this question of recruiting — and they all agreed with me—the State may command a man's goods and his life and everything he has except his soul. Is that 230 true? Do the hon. Gentlemen opposite believe in it or not? Apparently one or two do not. But do our countrymen believe it? Our countrymen recognise that our business now is to maintain the fortress and foundations of civilisation, and if the country calls for a supreme sacrifice, money is little, fortune is little, and in these times life is not all, but the readiness to serve and the readiness to sacrifice it for these things is all, and the country calls for it.
I confess it was a painful thing to hear the hon. and learned Member who spoke of the patriotism and great efforts of his own countrymen and of our countrymen in the struggle that is going on; it was painful for me to hear the hon. and learned Gentleman appealing to the Prime Minister, in advance, to close his mind against the possibility of performing his pledge not merely to the married men, but to the country and the Empire. What is the inducement which is held out to the right hon. Gentleman? It is a very welcome thing, I believe, to most of us in this House to have a breath from the constituency, the breath from Merthyr Tydvil, which the hon. Member who last spoke has brought here. Merthyr Tydvil is a place where men have not been prone, so it was thought, to sacrifice everything for the country, and there was one supposed to represent them here, who spoke in another note. If Merthyr Tydvil has thus done its duty, is it to be tolerated that the House of Commons shall not do its part? Yet the right hon. Gentleman, the Leader of the House, has been enjoined on pain of dismissal from his office—as though that mattered—to entertain the question, if need arises, of not redeeming the pledge which has been given to the married men by calling upon any lingering single men who wait for a more imperative call—by calling upon them in the name of the State to render services to the State which it is the ultimate duty of all of us to render. I am confident the right hon. Gentleman will not be misled by any apprehension of political consequences into any default in this matter. I hope he will not hesitate to fulfil his pledge to the country, a pledge which the House of Commons approves, and I hope he will realise that the vast majority of its Members on this occasion require it, and that the country will attach blame to those who hesitate to do their duty in the position in which we are now placed.
§ Mr. HOLT
(indistinctly heard): It does not seem to me that this Vote really raises the question of compulsory service. It is a Vote asking for an additional million of men for the Army, and the question of voluntary versus compulsory service, however important it may be, appears to me in this instance to be only a side issue. But as the subject has been raised, there are one or two observations I would like to make. I rather protest against the aspersions which are so readily cast upon single men. After all, single men are of exactly the same flesh and blood as married men, and surely it cannot be suggested that the mere fact of getting married immediately converts a lazy man or a shirker into a full-blooded patriot. Again, I would like to urge that the question of compulsion does not arise if we can get a sufficient Army by voluntary means, and before any decision can be come to on that point we ought to have before us all the figures to enable us to judge whether it is or is not possible to obtain the necessary Army by voluntary means. I should like to ask the Prime Minister, and I hope he will give me a reply, has the Government attempted to recruit into the Army more than the 3,000,000 men already authorised?
§ The PRIME MINISTER
I do not quite understand what my hon. Friend means, but I can say that up to this moment the law has not been in any way violated.
§ Mr. HOLT
That is quite a satisfactory assurance. A good many of us had an uneasy feeling that possibly the law had been violated. I am very much obliged to the right hon. Gentleman for his assurance. It should be remembered by the Committee that when we are asked by the Prime Minister for another million men it means a million more fighting men, and it is of course in addition to the number required to make up for the wastage through death or permanent disablement in the force already authorised. The Prime Minister, in his speech, did not give the House any real information whatever as to the reasons why he asked for this additional million men. He told us, in words with which I entirely agree, that we have to strike a great blow for ourselves, and at the same time to strongly support our Allies. But not one single word or figure did he put before the Committee which would enable us to judge whether or not the Government were justified in making this demand. I 232 respectfully submit that we ought to have much more ample information from the Government before we assent to this increase in the establishment of our Army. The right hon. and learned Member for Exeter (Mr. Duke) seemed to think that it was purely a question of pluck whether there should be an increase in the number of our fighting forces or not. I do not agree with him. I think, on the contrary, it is a question of wisdom. It is a question whether it is wise, and not whether it is brave. It is a question whether by thus increasing the Army we are more likely to bring the War to a speedy conclusion. That is the question we now want to discuss, and I shall hope before I sit down to put before the Committee the considerations which make me think it is very doubtful whether we are more likely to end the War with 4,000,000 men than with 3,000,000 men.
I want to discuss the position of labour in this country in connection with the carrying on of our trade and business. I have had a good deal of experience of the transport trade of this country, and I think everybody will agree that if the transport trade cannot be carried on satisfactorily, none of the other trades-can go on smoothly. My experience is— and it is an experience gained in London and Liverpool and other large ports; it is a personal experience—that I cannot get at the docks, either in London or Liverpool, more than half the number of men I ought to have for the purposes of my business, and I do not believe that any other shipowner is in a better position. The difficulty applies to all classes of transport labour, to carters as well as dock labourers, and indeed to all other men employed in transport work. We are terribly short of men, and it is getting worse as time goes on. I do not know what the position of the country will be if you take away another million able-bodied men from the ranks of labour. We know the same difficulty is being experienced in connection with our railways. The railway companies cannot get a sufficient number of men to deliver goods from their great depots to the shipping ports. The rolling stock on a great many lines is out of repair, and only the other day the manager of one of the Scottish railways told one of my agents in Glasgow that he had 7,000 trucks in sidings which he dared not use, because he could not get men to put them into a proper state of repair. That is a 233 very serious state of affairs indeed. I would remind the Committee that this question of transport lies at the root of our financial insolvency. We are not a self-contained nation, and never shall be. Our existence depends upon the importation of commodities into this country, the manufacture of them into different forms and their re-importation, and if that process does not go on the prosperity of the country must come to an end at once. If you cannot support the population under ordinary circumstances without that process, still less can you do it if you withdraw all these men from industrial pursuits and transfer them to the fighting line.
We must keep up the export trade of the country, and how on earth are we going to do that if the Government make this tremendous inroad on the active and able-bodied men, who are now already too scarce for what is necessary? Within my own knowledge ships are leaving behind goods that are ready for transport because it is impossible to get them on board, and the position is being made worse. How are we to get our imports of raw material and at the same time provide the food and enormous quantities of munitions which are required for the purpose of carrying on the War? Not only is the House asked to vote this extra million men for the Army, but only the other day it was asked to take 300,000 men out of industry—out of the export trade, in order that they may be utilised for the manufacture of munitions. Therefore at one sweep it is actually proposed to take 1,300,000 men off the industrial and financial strength of the country in order that they may serve in the War. I do not believe you can do it. I do not think the country can stand it, and this will be found out long before the million men have been obtained.
The Government have made no attempt whatever to show this House how they are going to take a million and a quarter of men from the ranks of industry and turn them into a fighting force; neither have they attempted to show how, if that is done, the financial security of the country can be assured. Remember, if you take these men from industry they will no longer be self-supporting, and the country will lose the benefit of their earnings. Every man taken from industry and converted into a fighting unit represents a double loss to the country. It is much the same as when an hon. Member of this House crosses the floor. His secession 234 represents a loss of two votes upon a division, and therefore every man transferred from industry to the fighting force represents a loss of two in the calculation of the industrial strength of this country. I think everybody will agree that the demand for the Navy should constitute the first claim on the country. The financing of our Allies and the supply of munitions constitute the second. That is only right. The people of this country have much greater facilities than anyone else for financing the Allies. The organisation of this country itself constitutes it a much more powerful asset from the point of view of finance than, say, Russia, France or Italy. But it is not a more powerful asset from the point of view of fighting men. Our responsibility to our Allies is undoubted, and clearly it is the prime duty of this country to help them in the matter of finance and munitions. That, to my mind, is the policy most likely to produce the best results.
I would like to ask the Prime Minister this question: Have any of the organised commercial and trade associations ever been consulted by the Government as to the number of men that can be spared? Was there any such consultation before the Government decided to come down and ask this House to vote this additional million men? I do not believe there has been. I believe the only thing the Government did was to ask the military authorities how many men they wanted, and, naturally, the answer was they require every single possible man. I submit that our commercial organisations ought both to have been consulted as to whether or not it was possible to spare from our industrial ranks another million of men for the fighting services. Again, have commercial people been consulted in any way as to which men can best be spared? I think the Army ought to be satisfied with the residuum not only in quantity but also to a certain extent in quality. I have never been able to understand why this question as between married men and single men has ever been brought forward. It is simply absurd to raise it. When we are carrying on the trade of the country we do not inquire whether the clerks we engage are married or not. That is not a relevant question at all. The question is, can they perform their duty properly, and the employer very often does not know whether or not the clerk is married. I would point out that, in view of the calls in the 235 direction of taxation which are going to be made upon the country, we want the most skilful clerks the world has ever seen if we are going to carry on our business successfully. Yet at this very moment you are making it more difficult than ever for us to carry on our trade. The Government, apparently, while recognising the inevitable disadvantages attaching to their procedure, are taking for themselves all the advantages. I think we ought to have an assurance much stronger than we have hitherto had that no attempt will be made to take away the best and most intelligent among our young men in order to put them into the fighting line. We have to look forward to the future, after the War is over.
§ Mr. HOLT
I repeat that it will not do to take away the best, most promising, and most intelligent among our young men, and sound judgment ought to be exercised in regard to the men taken. This increase of the Army is adding enormously to the financial strain upon this country. In addition to reckless expenditure and waste of resources there has been a heavy rise in freights, due in large measure to the Dardanelles Expedition. Prior to that freights had slightly fallen, but with the enormous demands which the Expedition entailed on our mercantile marine freights went up, and they have been increasing ever since that time. I protest against this increase of the Army, because I believe it will strike at the root of our national solvency—at the root of our power. I have not the slightest doubt we can win the War. But we shall have to adopt a different policy. Since the War began we have changed our old plan of campaign. Our original plan was to put in the first place the Navy, in the second place finance, and, thirdly, only to have a small Army well within our resources. Since the War began we have tried to go in for an Army on the Continental scale. In my opinion, the thing is impossible, and any attempt in that direction can only lead to disaster. Everybody knows that if an athlete in a contest overstrains himself it is fatal to his success, and the same principle will apply to this country in its policy in regard to this War. If we are to bring this War to a successful conclusion, we must only attempt that which is well within our power. I hope that this Vote will not 236 be accepted unless the Government are prepared to give us much more detailed assurances of what the men are wanted for, and much more precise information as to the position of the country. It is their duty to hold the balance evenly as between trade and industry and military power. I think we are entitled to protest against being asked to discuss the Vote at all before the details of Lord Derby's scheme are known to the public. Although I am not prepared to make a Motion myself, I do hope that some hon. Member will propose the Adjournment of this Debate until the Committee is in possession of much fuller information than has yet been vouchsafed. But certainly, in the absence of such an explanation, I do not myself feel justified in giving support to this proposal of the Government.
§ 5.0 P.M.
§ Sir EDWARD CARSON
I must confess that if at any time since I left the Government I have been inclined to be critical of their actions, the speech we have just listened to would restore me to my normal equilibrium, and I feel glad to think that the Government are not likely to be influenced by considerations which the hon. Member for Hexham has just put forward. Well, I hope they will not, because I believe it would be fatal to the country. The hon. Gentleman seems to think that you can conduct war on peace principles. He seems to imagine that every business and every trade can go on without interruption in the middle of a. struggle such as we are at present engaged in. I venture to think there never was a Government in power in a struggle of this kind which has paid so much attention to the maintaining of the economic position of the industries as this one, and if I have any fault to find with them at all it is not that they have taken too little care of the question of the interruption of industries; but it is that they have treated many matters very much too tenderly, and have thereby delayed what was necessary for the military operations in the field. The hon. Gentleman said that he did not suppose the Government had consulted a single employers' association about the number of men they could spare. I venture to think that that is not the question which ought to be put to employers' associations. The real question is, How many men can the Government spare to the Employers' Association to carry on the industries of the country?
237 So far as I am concerned, my only criticism of this Vote is, first, that it comes too late, and secondly, that I think that it is not large enough. I think that will be easily demonstrated in a very few moments. It was perfectly apparent for many months during the early part of the autumn that recruiting was not going on at a rate sufficient to keep up the divisions that we had in the field. It stood over for various reasons. There was a question between Conscriptionists and those who opposed them. There was delay occasioned by controversies and agitations that arose upon both sides. For my own part I have never cared very much whether you have Conscription or whether you do not, because in my opinion the only question you have to consider is, can you keep a sufficient force in the field; and, if so, how are you to do it? If you cannot do it by voluntary means you must of necessity, unless you are going to abandon the country, do it by means of Conscription, or, as people so wrongly call it, as I think, compulsion. What has happened by reason of this delay? I was given the other day by an officer who, I think, had a good deal of information on the subject, really an alarming account of the way in which many of our battalions and of our divisions in the field at the present moment are depleted— a matter of supreme importance from many points of view, because one is led to believe that you have in the field a very much larger force than you really have, and, in the second place, that you are unable to keep up the reserves for your battalions. I am told by military men who understand it that nothing you can do to affect the morale can be worse, and one can readily understand that. I was given an instance of three divisions of thirty-six battalions in the Near East who are now reduced to some 11,000 men. What does that mean? It means that instead of having your battalion of some 900 to 1,000 strong, it is reduced down to 350 men. One can readily understand what the effect of that must be upon the morale of the men who are fighting, when they see their comrades fade away from them day by day and no reserves sent out to keep up the numbers.
Before this Debate is over I hope the Under-Secretary for War, or some other Minister, will give an assurance upon a matter which I believe to be of the highest importance—that the question of sending out reserves to bring up our battalions to full strength is receiving the immediate 238 attention of the War Office. The whole reason why we have come to that is simply this: that we have been putting off from day to day the necessary steps that will have to be taken sooner or later, and in my opinion the sooner the better. To make it certain to this country that whatever else happens we are not going to allow ourselves to be defeated in this War by reason of any man holding back from fulfilling the most elementary duty that he owes to the country of fighting for it if it becomes necessary. Now the hon. Member for Hexham asked us to look forward as to what would happen if we went on denuding this country of what I think he called the best men, or the main portion of the best men. I should like to ask the hon. Member this question. He says, after we have won the War what will happen? Would he kindly get up and tell us how we are going to win the War without the men?
§ Sir E. CARSON
Does the hon. Member ever reflect to himself that the Government act upon military advice?
§ Sir E. CARSON
What the hon. Member is trying to do is to make his own measure of what is necessary to carry on, what he believes to be, the economic industries of this country. What he wants to do is to give the surplus to the Army. I say they ought all to be given to the Army, and the surplus ought to be given to the hon. Gentleman's business and other businesses. It does not require a soldier to look around on the various stages of the War to see how we are standing. If you look to the East, are we in a position there to carry the War to victory? And, if so, how? If you look to the West, are you going to carry the War to victory, and how? I suppose hon. Gentlemen and right hon. Gentlemen who conduct the Government have worked this out, but do reflect that you have tried already with vast Armies and with vast quantities of munitions to break through the German lines, 239 which I believe in the long run is the only way in which you can bring the War to a victorious conclusion. With the material and the men you have had up to this you have failed. And what is the lesson you derive from that? Is it that you will give in? Certainly not. The lesson from that is, that you must get men and men and men, and munitions, munitions, munitions, until you carry it through to the end and drive the Germans back over the Rhine. It is idle to get up here as if the Government were forgetful of the economic conditions of this country. I know right hon. Gentlemen opposite; I know, for instance, the President of the Board of Trade, who, I venture to say, has these questions at his finger's ends more than any man I have ever come across in relation to his own particular business—anyone brought in contact with him would say he has devoted his time from morning to night in mastering the positions that arise with reference to this great question. Trade is perfectly safe in his hands, and he is a Member of the Government that comes down here and asks for a million men and an hon. Member engaged in trade gets up and says trade cannot spare them. Trade will have to spare them, and trade will willingly spare them, and the country will spare anything that is necessary to bring the War to the speediest possible conclusion.
I am not going into the question of Conscription. I would only like to say this, that I do not believe for a moment the country from which I come will hesitate, if it becomes necessary for finishing the War, to join in any measure that may be necessary to raise sufficient Armies to bring about victory for the United Kingdom. I do not believe it for one moment, but I do not know why my hon. and learned fellow countryman introduced this subject to-day at all. We all hope Lord Derby's scheme may prove successful. Of course nobody wants to do by compulsion what you can do voluntarily, and certainly you may take this from me, whether it be taken as a hostile criticism or a friendly one, that the last man to want to do that is the Prime Minister. If the Prime Minister had asked for Conscription because it was necessary on the Derby figures, I at all events can bear testimony that he will do so with the greatest reluctance from the point of view of wishing to coerce anybody in this matter. But he will do so because it is a great 240 patriotic duty on his part to put it in that way before his fellow countrymen, and I hope the hon. and learned Member for Waterford did not mean to throw out in advance that there would be any difficulties in this House or in Ireland in relation to a question of this kind.
The only other observation I should like to make is one in which I join with the hon. and learned Member for Waterford. I think it is a great public scandal that three months have elapsed since the landing at Sulva Bay, and that, except a telegram or two, we have never heard one word of those operations. The hon. Member for Waterford and myself are deeply interested in those operations because there was a brave division, of which I am as proud as he is, who were fighting there and of whom many rumours have been spread abroad, and of whom, I think, if the matter is inquired into, it will be found in connection not only with them, but of some of the officers involved, a grave injustice has been done. I speak about something I have taken the trouble to inquire into in such documents as I could see. I do ask the special attention of the Government to this because it is one of the matters which makes the country restless and disturbed and dissatisfied as the War goes on and is prolonged. There never has been an expedition in which there has been greater disappointments than the expedition in Galliopli. It is not for me to go back now into the origin and history of it. Great hopes were held out and those great hopes have been falsified, but that is not what I am criticising at the present moment. The time will come when the miscalculations—the gravest that have been made in the whole War—will have to be gone into, and we shall have to know who was accountable for them.
But what I am protesting about at the present moment is this: In the month of August you had your last operations in Gallipoli, and from that day until this we have not heard a single word about what has been happening there, and now we find it is hailed to the nation as if it were a kind of victory that we have successfully abandoned two of the fronts in Gallipoli. No one joins with greater joy than I do at the successful operations so bravely carried out by our Army and by our Navy, a task that I know was thought to be almost impossible without great loss of life and great sacrifice of men, munitions, and of stores—indeed, we may well send our congratulations to all who were engaged 241 in such an operation. But what the country would like to know is, if you were doing nothing in August, September, and October, and on up till the 20th December, why were these men left in a kind of hell there, sometimes losing their men by sickness at the rate of a thousand a day, while someone or other was making up his mind as to whether these men ought to be left there or whether they ought not? As far back as August it was the business of those who had charge of these matters to make up their mind, first, what would be the force necessary to drive through, and then, if you had that force, to use it, and, if not, not to keep on with an operation which has cost us disaster, death, illness and discomfort beyond all description. It went on from day to day until at last, as if you had no generals there, you would get a general to go down to see what was happening or what might happen, and as far as I recollect, from statements that were made in another place, it is certainly six weeks or more since the report of that general came to this country. The abandonment of Anzac and Suvla, in its operation itself, has been a glorious page in the history of this country; but the operations from August till now, the hesitancy, the doubts, the failing to make up your mind, has been a blot upon the management of this War which it will be difficult to obliterate. All I desire to say is this: Let us not have any more of these delays in fulfilling the necessary obligations to the country in carrying out this War to a successful conclusion. Whatever may be found to be necessary on the analysis of the figures of Lord Derby's scheme, I venture to hope and press upon the Government that whatever course may be taken, whatever the extreme, twenty-four hours will not be lost to this country in adopting it.
§ Mr. THOMAS
The right hon. Gentleman has delivered a very interesting speech. He commenced by saying that, so far as he was concerned, any criticism he had to make was not against the Vote for 1,000,000 men, but was rather that 1,000,000 men were not sufficient, and that the Government had somewhat delayed in coming forward with the Vote. Before he concluded his speech, however, he proved that the difficulties in connection with this War, so far as the blundering was concerned, and so far as the serious indictment that he himself made was concerned, were not due to a lack or a shortage of men, but to entirely different reasons. It 242 is just as well that we should separate the two things and not get confused. The right hon. Gentleman went on to say that, so far as he was concerned, he was prepared to give all the men to the Army. I could quite understand him making that statement if he were in the position of either of our Allies. I could quite understand him making that statement if he were speaking in the French or the Italian Chamber, but how are we to fulfil our obligations to our Allies by making them munitions, by loaning them money, and by providing them with all the other equipment to conduct the War? How is it going to be done? How are we going to get the money? How can he reconcile that statement with the speech of the Minister of Munitions last night? The Minister of Munitions, who was a Member of the Cabinet with him, made it perfectly clear that at no period of the War was there an abundant supply of munitions. He went beyond that and said that in his opinion the real way to win this War is to secure 80,000 skilled men and between 200,000 and 300,000 unskilled men immediately. He said "Until I can secure them I am unable to open and make use of the new factories that I have had built." How can that be reconciled with the position of the right hon. Gentleman? The real answer to his indictment is that if the Government at any time have been short of men the Government them selves are responsible, and they ought to have come down and told the House so.
I am therefore going to base my case on the supposition that every appeal that the Government has made has been responded to. Let me say that, in my opinion, nothing is more unfair than to talk of one side of the case unless the other side can be heard. When we heard the stories of Neuve Chapelle and Loos, and the Dardanelles, it was very depressing. I refrained from telling the working classes what I heard about those things, because I knew perfectly well that there might be an answer, and in any case that it was a dangerous thing to go about telling the working people of this country. Do not let the right hon. Gentleman or anyone else assume that Members of this House do not hear these stories. We have all heard about the loss of life, and about all the blundering, and it has pained us. because we know that these blunders have meant the sacrifice of some of our own flesh and blood; but we are at War, and the unity of this country must be main- 243 tained. If we who conduct great trade organisations, who influence thousands of men, who have hundreds of thousands prepared to follow us, went to them day after day, week after week, and told them all the gossip and the scandal that we hear, what would be the moral effect of it? It is not that we are afraid to speak out, or that we do not know these things, but it is that we are genuinely anxious that the working classes should feel it their one duty to respond to every appeal that the Government makes to them. It would be much better for many Members of this House and for certain sections of the Press to realise their responsibility in the matter. The working classes up to now have been magnificently loyal and have responded splendidly. Do not let us engender suspicion in the minds of the working classes, because they may not act in the constitutional way and as you would like them to act. They may act in another way, and it is because I want to avoid that I plead for tolerance and at least common-sense methods in this matter.
I want this afternoon, as one who knows exactly what has taken place under the Derby scheme, to put before the House the reason why, in my opinion, no conclusion can possibly be arrived at at this moment. I do not want to approach the question of Conscription from the standpoint that we want Conscription for Conscription's sake, because if there is any man or any section of men who hold that opinion they may take it that there will be a fight and that the workers and no one else will have it. I want to approach the question frankly from the standpoint of what are the best means and what is the best method whereby you can meet the requirements of the Government, and at the same time maintain the unity of the people. That brings me at once to what the Prime Minister said in reference to the pledge to the married men. Nothing, in my opinion, has been more discreditable than the attempt by innuendo to imply that the Prime Minister never intended to keep his word. The very suggestion that certain men asked him to break his word was not only a libel upon those men, but it implied that the Prime Minister was capable of being influenced in that direction. I, therefore, immediately put it down as one more of the attempts by this section of the Press, at least, to get 244 rid of him with a view of having Conscription at any price, and when I think this I do not hesitate to say it. I told the workers this, and I believe it is the position.
The Prime Minister made it perfectly clear when he gave that pledge to the married men—at least this was my impression—that what he meant by "single men" was men who were most capable of bearing the burden of war—that is to say, men with the least responsibility— and, secondly, that he was primarily concerned with maintaining the unity of the nation. Keeping those two points in mind, no correct conclusion can be drawn from the Derby scheme. In the first place, a real confusion arose, because it was not made clear whether starred men were to attest. Nearly three weeks elapsed and those of us who were working the campaign knew that there was confusion all over the country as to whether starred men ought or ought not to attest. That was immediately followed by certain employers of labour issuing a circular to the effect that all men who attested and who medically failed must supply them with a medical certificate. Men from all parts of the country, branches with two and three thousand members, immediately wrote up and said, "We are not going to attest. If our employers are going to take advantage of our difficulty and of our patriotism, we are not going to give them the opportunity of doing so." Can you blame the men? It took us nearly a fortnight before we could persuade certain general managers. Let me say, in fairness to Lord Derby, that I got him to intervene to get this point cleared up, but the mischief was done. There was delay and there was suspicion. Men said this is altogether too risky. One man did fail in the West of England. He said, "I have been up to attest, and the board has failed me." The railway company immediately suspended him, and he was suspended for a week. It took very many days before we could remove that suspicion, and all the time we were genuinely anxious to make the scheme a success. We were trying to remove the difficulties, but these things were uppermost in the minds of the men.
§ Mr. THOMAS
The Great Western; and in fairness I must add that when Mr. 245 Potter's attention was drawn to it he immediately took action and said that the man should be paid for the time he was suspended. The point I am making is the moral effect it has upon other men. These men go all over the country; one man tells the other. You know perfectly well that a thing like this will immediately spread. The next difficulty we had was that we found an employer was taking on single men of military age to take the place of those who enlisted, because, mark you, in connection with the Derby scheme we were not only persuading men to attest, but we were persuading them for direct enlistment as well, and the result was that the men said, "No; why should I enlist, or why should I attest if men of military age are being employed in my place?" That was followed by some confusion, not in one part but in all parts of the country, by the men saying, "If I do attest, am I denied my civil rights?" Immediately the question was put to the Prime Minister he replied, "Most certainly you retain all your civil rights until you are called up for the Army." This not only shows that all the time there was delay, and it not only shows the difficulties we were experiencing, but it was the clearest possible indication of the suspicion of the working classes of this country of militarism in any form. But we battled with it; we endeavoured to persuade them that there were no difficulties. We tried to smooth all these things away, but the point I am making is that the mischief was done in the six weeks we were allowed for the scheme.
Whatever the Derby figures may prove, they will certainly prove that the heart of this country is right. They will certainly prove that men will fight for freedom, and they will fight as free men. They will prove that the working classes in this country do realise their national obligations, and it is because I believe they prove that that I am absolutely sanguine there is no need to think for one moment of any change being introduced. But do not let us get into this bogey of single men. In the first place, I dissent from the suggestion that the single man is not to have a conscience as well as the married man. I want to test it for a moment, and I am going to test it from actual experience. Would anyone who believes in this talk about the married men suggest that a single munition worker should go before a married unstarred man? That is the first point I put, and I put it from the stand- 246 point of efficiency—of winning the War. Let me develop it for a moment. Could anyone suggest that the young man who has got a widowed mother, or whose father and mother being dead takes the responsibility of maintaining the younger children—has he not any moral obligation? Is he not in. precisely the same position as the married man? Take the thousands of homes in this country where there are two and three sons already fighting. Mothers have written to me and said, "Save me one of the boys." Are these men cowards? Are these men slackers? Are these men to be pilloried without there being an opportunity to examine the case? Take the man who has got his capital in a small business, and his brains alone direct it. All these are domestic factors that must be taken into consideration. There is one railway company—and if I am challenged I have all the letters here—that did not allow a solitary man to attest—that said, "We will not allow a solitary man to attest."
§ Mr. THOMAS
The point I am making is this: Are the single men in that company to be called slackers or cowards? Therefore, I say that, in the first place, the Derby scheme must not be taken as definitely proving that the maximum result has been obtained. Let us put the human side a moment. Will anyone deny that there is a feeling in this country amongst many that they want Christmas at home? It is only those who have been out recruiting and got right to the hearts of the people who know this, and I venture to assert without fear of contradiction that this is the slackest possible period, because of the large number who said, "I am not wanted now, and I will come directly after Christmas."
§ Mr. THOMAS
It only shows that the hon. Member cannot have applied himself to the point with which I am dealing. We were anxious to get direct enlistment. Do not let us get into confusion with the two points. I want any single or married man who has got none of these obligations, who is free and ought to do his duty, to accept the Prime Minister's statement this afternoon and say, "I will see that no other system is necessary." That is the appeal I am making to the single men. I am 247 making it to married men as well; but that does not disprove what I am trying to demonstrate, that, in regard to the single-men cry in connection with Lord Derby's scheme, none of that goes to show that the voluntary system is a failure, because, as I have clearly shown, we were asked to do in six weeks what ought to have been tackled six months ago. [An Hon. MEMBER: "Six years ago!"] If that is so, and we have met all your requirements up to date, what is the bother or the hurry for a change?
§ Mr. THOMAS
So do we. Is it suggested by that that we do not want to win the War? Is it suggested that any of you have done more than the labour leaders to try and win the War? Therefore, if you admit that six months ago this scheme would have been better, is not that the strongest possible argument for saying "Continue"? When the Government can come down to this House and say, "We are short of men. We want men. Every requirement has not been met," that will be the time for hon. Members to talk, but not before. On the other hand, I am going to submit that unity is necessary. Take my hon. Friend the Member for Merthyr, whom we all welcome here. I will take him as a typical illustration. Has he not been most frank in saying, "While my personal opinion is so-and so, my Constituents' opinion is not"? [HON. MEMBERS: "No!" and dissent.] Yes, he did. He quite honestly made it perfectly clear, and, therefore, what you have to keep in mind is that, whatever Conscription may have been in other countries, it is foreign to the traditions of our people. It hated by many people, and it is looked upon with suspicion by many more. Here I agree with the right hon. and learned Member for Exeter. I believe— in fact, I am persuaded—that the whole question has been prejudiced because of the hasty and indecent action of one section of the Press in trying to jockey us. But that does not alter the fact that the working classes of this country are suspicious of it. They believe that there is an ulterior motive behind it, and they know that wherever it is in operation in foreign countries it has always been used against the working classes. Why are railwaymen suspicious? Because, they tell you, "When the time comes we may have a dispute, and we may be treated as our French comrades were." I may try to persuade them it is wrong, and I think 248 you will admit I do not advocate strikes very often, and I try to conduct them on peaceful lines; but that does not alter the fact that there is that deep-rooted suspicion there. Therefore, realising that to be the position, believing as I do that the working classes and all sections—because it is not true to say that the working classes are doing more than any other class; I want to be quite fair and say that I believe the class barrier is very largely broken down; I hope it will be kept down, and I want to approach it from that standpoint—believing that, I say let the Derby scheme be examined. Take into consideration the points that I have mentioned, which I submit with all honesty are points germane to a proper consideration of the whole scheme. Let the Government give Lord Derby another opportunity. Give us another opportunity, and I am perfectly sure not only will we do all we promised to do, not only will it be justified, but, above all, you will prevent letting loose a feeling and a passion that cannot do other than weaken and hamper us in this conflict.
§ Colonel YATE
I should like to congratulate the hon. Member for Derby (Mr. (J. H. Thomas) on the manner in which he has done his best to surmount all the various difficulties with which he tells us he has been confronted in endeavouring to carry out Lord Derby's scheme. I cannot congratulate the hon. Member for Hexham (Mr. Holt) on the protest he made against the raising of the million extra men for the Army. I look upon that speech of his as one of the most astounding—I might almost say the most unpatriotic it has ever been my lot to hear. As to the utterance of the hon. Member for Merthyr Tydvil (Mr. Stanton), I should like to say how heartily I concur with him in the sentiments he expressed, and how heartily I congratulate him upon his first speech in this House. In connection with this question of recruiting, I do not desire to raise any controversial question or debate whether the recruiting is to be carried out upon a compulsory or a voluntary basis. I would, however, ask the Prime Minister in considering this important question not to confine his attention solely to the adult manhood of the nation, but to think of the growing generation as well. I would ask the Prime Minister to take into consideration the enormous number of young men who are now growing up, who cannot pass the standard of height or the chest 249 measurement and who are consequently rejected at the age of nineteen, when they apply for enlistment. The immense number of rejections in regard to the Army has now been brought home to the parents of the boys, and throughout the country the parents of our boys now realise how those boys are suffering from the lack of proper physical education and development. Wherever I go I now find a demand for better physical education. This better physical education must be brought in if we are to save the national physique of our race and are to raise and train all the young men who are growing up and fit them for service in the Army, as we wish them to be fitted.
I do not know whether the House is aware of the fact that the General Annual Report of the Army for 1912—the last one we have before us—states that in 1911 246 men out of every 1,000 who offered themselves for enlistment were rejected as unfit before attestation, and after attestation another 11 per thousand were again rejected, making 257 per thousand of those who offered to enlist rejected as unfit for the Army. This is the last Report published. I cannot quote any further figures. We have no official information as to the result of recruiting during the present War, but I can tell the House, because I know it for certain, that in Leicestershire, with which I am particularly concerned, during the period from the commencement of the War in August, 1914, to the end of that year, no less than 15½ per cent. of the men who offered themselves for enlistment were rejected on the spot, and another 12 per cent. were rejected after the men had been sent to their units as unfit for further training, so that in Leicestershire there is a percentage of 27½, or 275 per thousand, of the men who offered to enlist who have been unable to pass the tests. That is in addition to those who knew that they could not pass the tests, and did not apply at all. What that number is we do not know, but we know that in all places it is a very large one.
It is not only in regard to the standard of height that men fail, but in chest measurement as well. A height standard of 5 ft. 1 in. is certainly not a proper standard for this country, but the War Office has now provided that for the bantam battalions the height standard should be 5 ft., showing that our national physique is deteriorating. As to chest measurement, I was surprised to see how many 250 men, who at first were unable to come up to the standard, after they had done a course of drill and exercises under competent instructors, were able to bring themselves up to the required measurements. This shows, of itself, that if these youths had had proper training at school they would not have deteriorated as they did. In many towns, I believe, endeavours have been made to remedy this. In Leicester, the town with which I am personally associated, great efforts have been made by patriotic and generous citizens to help the younger generation to qualify themselves for enlistment by the formation of junior training leagues. In that town a large drill hall has been erected by voluntary subscription, in which some 1,800 to 2,000 young men between the ages of sixteen and nineteen have been voluntarily learning at night, after their day's work, the drill and exercises that ought to have been taught them at school. All credit to those boys and those generous and patriotic citizens who have made it possible for them to fit themselves for the enlistment in which we want to see them engaged! So important is this matter considered, that the Lord Mayor of London has called a conference on the subject. All success to that conference! But what can be done by private effort in this direction is infinitesimal in comparison with what could be done by national effort. It is national effort that I ask the Prime Minister to inaugurate in order to meet this demand Nothing will help us more to obtain by voluntary means—we all want to obtain them by voluntary means—the number of men required to keep our Army up to full strength than a national effort in the direction of preparatory training for our boys under the age of nineteen. This is not a question of Conscription. I am not advocating Conscription. It is a question purely of education. Personally, I am of opinion—I have expressed it before—that cadet training ought to form part of the curriculum of all our schools.
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN (Mr. Maclean)
The hon. and gallant Member is going rather beyond the scope of the discussion on the Question which is before the Committee, which is the immediate supply of men for the Army. He is now going into the whole question of National Service, which is rather outside the Question before the Committee.
§ Colonel YATE
I have no wish to enter into the question of National Service. I am speaking solely on the question of 251 meeting requirements at the present time with reference to lads now growing up, who will be fit, in the course of this year or next year, for service in the Army. I do not want to go beyond the scope of the Debate in the least. I was asking the Prime Minister that an educational system of physical training and cadet training should be brought in, in order to fit our boys for enlistment during the present year, by giving those boys the physical drill exercises which are so necessary to them at that time of life, and which have been proved in Leicester to be so necessary to fit them for enlistment. All the boys between sixteen and eighteen now training there will be fit for service. I ask the Prime Minister to introduce a national effort to bring up those boys fit to serve— an effort which would be much more satisfactory than any voluntary effort and private subscription which is now being carried out at the present time. Personally, I consider it is the duty of the educational authorities to train up our lads to be real men, and not merely undersized striplings. I ask the Prime Minister to take this question into his serious consideration in connection with the recruiting of the extra million, and to start a national effort which will fit boys who are now under nineteen to enter the ranks as soon as they are of age to do so.
§ Mr. DILLON
It seems to me that the speech delivered by the Prime Minister in moving this very important Vote was deplorably lacking in any attempt to give us justification or explanation of the necessity of adding the fourth million to the number of men already raised. Although the procedure of this House has fallen lamentably out of gear, and although the House has been taunted in the Press as being almost paralysed, I really think, when the British House of Commons is asked to vote for 4,000,000 of men to be put into the field, that we are entitled to some fuller explanation, first, as to the ground upon which that demand is made, and, secondly, some explanation or statement of the reasons why the Government consider that the country can profitably afford such a number of men. Upon that particular aspect of the matter the Prime Minister was absolutely silent. There is another point which I hope will be cleared up in the course of the Debate. It was raised by the hon. Member for Hexham (Mr. Holt)—namely, that when we add another million men, bringing the total 252 under arms up to 4,000,000, I understand that we are fighting with 4,000,000 of living men in the field—that is to say, the total has no reference to the drafts who take the place of casualties—and that the meaning of this Vote is that 4,000,000 of men are to be alive and in the Army at the same time.
§ The UNDER-SECRETARY of STATE for WAR (Mr. Tennant)
Perhaps I may interrupt the hon. Member to say that is not so. Parliament only gives authority for the raising of a certain number of men. Some of those men may be in hospital or in convalescent homes. They are being paid by the State. We are only entitled to have that number of men.
§ Mr. DILLON
I understand. They are living men in the service of the State, and do not include the men who have been killed. The Prime Minister was very chary of figures. I honestly confess that on all these occasions he pushes the point of secrecy in that matter rather too far. He said the total fighting force in the field, including the troops of the Dominions, was about 1,250,000. I thought we had a larger fighting force in the field, but, if that be true, how can it be maintained for a single moment that we are not in a position to provide ample drafts, because we have already voted 3,000,000 men? We must assume, when the Government come down to ask for another million, that they have completed previous Votes, or approached very closely to a completion, and that they have either exhausted, or see in the very near future the possibility of exhausting, previous Votes. How is it possible for the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Trinity College (Sir E. Carson)—about whose speech I shall have a word or two to say in a moment—to declare that the Government were not in a position to send out drafts, and that battalions were allowed to fall from 1,000 to 200 strong for one of the drafts, if we have voted 3,000,000 men and have only 1,250,000 in the field? The Prime Minister attempted, in his own way, to defend the number of men which the Government demand. He said once more that he must decline to go into numbers, even approximate numbers, but he defined the maximum at which the Government should aim as being to get into the Army and add to the Colours every man of miltary age, being physically fit, who could be spared from the essential industries of the country. That is a proposition he has laid 253 down more than once, and of course it is instantly challenged from this side of the House. It is one of the most important points that can be raised on the question of this Vote.
It was frankly and openly challenged from this side of the House and hon. Members sneered at the idea that the industries of this country, and financial considerations, were to put any limit on the military necessities as stated by the War Office. That is a perfectly clear issue. I heard several Gentlemen on this side state that point. The War Office—and one cannot blame them; it is their function—has no limit to its demands. Why should it have a limit? It is not responsible for the maintenance of the trade of the country, or the finances of the country, and when the right hon. Gentleman (Sir E. Carson) said the fault he had to find with the Vote was that it came too late and was too small, that is the War Office spirit. All Votes of men are too small for the War Office. I am not saying that by way of criticism, because, of course, it stands to reason that if the War Office could tomorrow, or in the course of this year, get 5,000,000 or 10,000,000 men they would undertake to conclude the War, and some of the statements which have been made by the champions of the military policy point in that direction. They say every man who is capable of bearing arms ought to be enrolled and let trade take care of itself. That has been advocated over and over again in my own hearing. I find no fault with it. That is the military temper, and if we take up the position that we place no limit to these demands for men, we are travelling along a road which will lead us not to victory, but to financial ruin and to the loss of the War. Lord Derby's own chief lieutenant, in the first week of the Derby campaign in the North of England, said, "We want 3,000,000 men within the next six months." That was in the first speech he delivered. Three million men in six months would ruin this country, and the whole combination of the Allies would go down like a house of cards. It is not the duty of the War Office to fix these numbers. That is one of the reasons why I challenge the speech of the right hon. Gentleman (Sir E. Carson). It is the duty of the War Office, no doubt, to lay before the responsible Government of the country what, perhaps, they would like to have and what 254 numbers they think they could train and arm, though upon my word they do not seem to have had a very adequate conception of that in the past. There were hundreds of thousands of men in this country knocking about in the mud last winter without either the means of training them, or arms, or a roof to put over their heads. That is the business of the War Office, and it is the business of the responsible Ministers of the country to say how far the country can afford to go without endangering the entire combination upon which the whole Allied forces rest.
But to my mind it is a very grave mistake to narrow down the issue which is before us to-night on this Vote to the question whether a few alleged unmarried slackers are to be conscripted or not. I was exceedingly glad to notice that the hon. Member (Mr. Thomas) raised that question of the unmarried. I challenge the right of Lord Derby, or any other man, to get up this cry of the unmarried slacker. We have not had a single figure, nor a single proof, that there is more slackness or cowardice amongst the unmarried than there is amongst the married. I have asked myself over and over again in whose brain this idea germinated of the unmarried slacker. According to the theory that is common to the readers of the "Daily Mail'" and of that Press you would imagine that the average Britisher was more or less a coward until he provided himself with a wife, and then he became a hero, eager for the field of slaughter. I can only assume that the theory emanated in the mind of some man whose marital experience was extremely unhappy.
But that, to my mind, is not really the gravest issue. The gravest issue before us to-night is the great principle whether this nation is to be turned, almost behind our back and without our consent, into a great military nation—whether the unbroken policy of England for two hundred years, since the days of the Duke of Marlborough, not to send upon the Continent of Europe great armies, is now without consideration to be totally abandoned, and whether in the agony of a desperate struggle against the monstrous system which Prussia has imposed upon the various States and the people of Germany, we are to allow a section in this country, which is saturated to the marrow of their bones with Prussian principles, to impose upon free England the very same yoke 255 which has brought upon Germany and the world the hideous catastrophe which at this moment threatens the destruction of the entire civilisation of the world. The alternative has been frequently put to us who are irreconcilably opposed to Conscription, as I admit I am, are you prepared to lose the War rather than submit to Conscription? It is a false alternative. No man has the right to put it. No reasoned attempt has ever been made, based upon facts, to prove that such an alternative has the right to be stated. I am deeply convinced that the two alternatives which we are forced to choose between are, on the one hand, by adopting Conscription, to sacrifice the unity of this nation and probably to lose the War, and on the other hand, by sticking to the voluntary system and restricting—and I lay stress upon these words—within reasonable limits the number of men which England can undertake to maintain in the field, to win the War.
Remember this fact, which seems to be wholly forgotten. We have been told on high authority that this is to be a long war. What is the position of this country financially? I should very much like to hear a frank statement in private from the Chancellor of the Exchequer where we stand. We are bearing a gigantic and almost intolerable burden, and if we put 4,000,000 men in the field shall we be able, supposing the War lasts over next summer, to face another year? I do not think it. I should like to know very much to what extent the Chancellor of the Exchequer has been taken into consultation before this House is to be committed to this step, and what his views are as to the financial position. If the latter course is adopted, and the country adheres to the voluntary system, it will have the proud consciousness when this War is over that it has vindicated the principles for which she has professed to go into the War, and that she has struck one of the greatest blows that has ever been struck for human liberty in the history of the race. One of the most surprising and deplorable things to my mind is that within the last year, without any due consideration, all the traditions of the great statesmen of the last two-hundred years have been thrown aside. The Duke of Marlborough the other day in the House of Lords used this very extraordinary expression, and the fact of his name has a certain point of interest because it was his great ancestor 256 under whose leadership we last figured as a great military Power on the Continent. He said we had gradually abandoned the old point of view and had drifted into the position of a great military nation. That is an absolutely accurate statement of what has happened. We have drifted into that position and it has not been the deliberate act of the nation.
For two-hundred years, up to last year, the strength of England lay in her Fleet and her finance, and it will be an evil day for England when she forgets the sources of her strength. Even in the great Napoleonic wars and the wars against the French Revolution we never departed from this policy. For twenty years we fought Napoleon, and I do not think that the British Army on the Continent ever exceeded 50,000 men. I do not think Wellington ever had more than 50,000 men in the Peninsula, and when he started that expedition it was an expedition to assist the Portuguese with 18,000 men, and at Waterloo we had 20,000, or thereabouts. Therefore even in these great wars we never departed from the tradition which had grown up in England, and which we based on the wisdom of successive generations of statesmen, that England must rely upon her Fleet and upon her finance, and we won that war after twenty years. If we had put vast armies on the Continent to face Napoleon's troops we never should have won the War. We should have been beaten, for the simple reason that our financial resources would have been dried up and exhausted. During the whole of the nineteenth century that policy was adhered to and, so far as I know, was endorsed—that is an important thing—by all the great Ministers of the last century, from the Duke of Wellington and Sir Robert Peel down to Mr. Gladstone. The Duke of Wellington himself has frequently expressed that view. The only departure from that policy in the whole course of the last century was the Crimea, a comparatively small expedition, the results of which when carefully studied are not likely to encourage England to pursue a similar policy in the future. The two sources of England's strength for two-hundred years have been her Fleet and her finance, and I say to-day that we are in danger of forgetting that fact and of being drawn away without any adequate debate or any reasoned statement by Ministers, into the position of being a great military nation, putting into the field forces comparable in numbers with the vast armies 257 now maintained by the nations of Europe. That is an impossible position for England to take. This is not the moment when that whole matter of policy can be adequately discussed, but the hour will come when the whole policy will have to be fully discussed, as well as the diplomacy which contributed to this War and has brought us since the War broke out into the position which we now occupy.
But now I quite recognise that what we have to consider is how we can win the present War. We have to consider how best we can win it so that we may in the smallest degree possible sacrifice the great principles for which we entered the War, and so that we may inflict in the future the smallest amount of destruction and misfortune on the hopes of the human race. We must always remember —though I know it is very hard to get anyone to do that now — that a great victory is not always a great blessing to a nation. I do not suppose there was ever in the history of mankind a more resounding victory than the victory achieved by Prussia in 1870. What has it brought her? The Prussian army came back through the Brandenburg Gate and were the envy and glory of Europe, and everybody thought that Prussia had laid the foundations of her strength and her greatness on absolutely impregnable foundations. But because that war was fought in the pursuit of militarism and domination, and because when Prussia had conquered her enemies she showed no mercy and no consideration, that war has brought to Germany a curse, and has involved the whole of the civilisation of Europe in the most dreadful catastrophe that has ever overtaken it. Let us not forget these facts at the present time, when considerations of that kind can find hardly a footing in Great Britain. One can scarcely wonder at that, because it is always so with nations at war. Let us, however, not forget these consideratons altogether or banish them from our minds.
Let us remember that we went into this War declaring that we were fighting for liberty, for the right of small peoples to live, for the principles of justice, and, above all, against militarism, and to banish from Europe the awful curse of the Prussian system which in its modern development is the direct result of the victory of 1870. Let us not be brought, as we might well be by the spirit of militarism, to find ourselves, even if we win the War, another Prussia, insatiated with 258 the temper and the curse which overcame Prussia in 1870, and to find ourselves a huge military power on the Continent, with over a million men in the field, with the greatest fleet in the world, and the richest nation in the world, conditions which would bring down upon ourselves the hatred of mankind. Surely the time has come when we are asked to Vote another million men, making a total of 4,000,000 men, that we should be told on what facts the Government base this new demand to put 4,000,000 men in the field. What induced the Government to believe that this can be done without trenching upon other elements of the nation's strength? We have not had one single word from any Minister to indicate that that problem has been considered. That appears to me to be the radical failing in the whole matter. It is within the memory of all those who listened to him, that the Minister of Munitions, when he was Chancellor of the Exchequer, made a famous speech on 4th May last. I thought it was one of the ablest speeches that the right hon. Gentleman ever delivered. Sometimes the point of view changes when you pass from one sphere of public duty to another. At that time the right hon. Gentleman had to provide the funds, but now he has only got to spend them. I do not quarrel with him in the least, but I observed last night the same bounding enthusiasm to spend the money that characterised him in defending the Exchequer when he was Chancellor. What did he say in that speech? He was bringing in the Budget, and he said in the most solemn words—I do not pretend to quote precisely—"I do say, and I ask the Allies to make up their minds what they want England to do." He then went into the points as to what England was doing and could do. He said: "First of all, we can keep the seas." I may here say, in passing, that that has been done magnificently by the British Fleet, but it is very apt to be forgotten what England has done in that respect. The right hon. Gentleman then went on, "We can supply the Allies to a large extent with munitions, and we can finance them to a considerable extent." And then he said, in the most solemn terms, "If they want millions of men on the fields of Europe they must let us know and then we will cease to do these other things and husband our resources." I do not know whether the right hon. Gentleman holds that same opinion now, but I gathered certain facts from the speech of 259 the Prime Minister on the 2nd November. What did the Prime Minister say on the 2nd November? He said most distinctly that the military necessities should only be provided for after full provision had been made for the industrial necessities of the country. He first of all specified munitions, and he also specified the provision necessary for the export trade and for industry in this country, and added that until those had been provided for the military necessities must take second place. When the right hon. and learned Gentleman (Sir E. Carson) challenged that proposition to-night he was cheered by nearly all the hon. Members on the Opposition Benches.
Therefore this is a square and clear issue: Are we, or are we not, to take into account the financial necessities of the country and the industrial necessities of the country before we supply the military necessities? Within two days of that speech by the Prime Minister we had a letter—I can remember the terms of it— from Colonel Repington, the famous Colonel Repington, the military correspondent of the "Times," who might be described as the twenty-third member of the Cabinet, very much more powerful than many of the other twenty-two members. Colonel Repington challenged this statement of the Prime Minister, and be said that on that road lay ruin. He said that we were under an obligation to France, not only to maintain the full strength of our Army in France, which at that time, I think, was about 800,000 with drafts, but to supply seventy new divisions, and that we should immediately set to work to create New Armies on a large scale, besides maintaining the reserves necessary for the front. He condemned the statement of policy made by the Prime Minister, and said that if that policy was pursued the country would be ruined. We are here to-night asked to vote a fourth million of men, and we have not had a single word or hint from a Minister as to whether they adopt Colonel Repington's policy and the policy of the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Trinity College (Sir E. Carson), or whether they adhere to their own policy as laid down by the Minister of Munitions and the Prime Minister. That is, in my opinion, an issue of vital and overwhelming importance, and the Committee ought to know, before this Debate closes, where we stand. We had a very characteristic 260 speech from the right hon. and learned Member for Trinity College. I sometimes ask myself whether the Government were very happy in ever taking him into the Cabinet. He made a most ferocious attack upon them to-night and he ended up with a warning that if they did not come to a decision upon this question of Conscription within twenty-four hours after examining Lord Derby's figures that they would hear from him again. Judging from the tone they heard from him to-night, I should imagine that they will not be very anxious to hear from him again. He made an appeal to the hon. and learned Member for Waterford (Mr. Redmond) not to press the Prime Minister for a decision to-night. That is exactly what the hon. and learned Member for Waterford did not do. He did not press the Prime Minister for any decision. What he said was that the Prime Minister ought to know, before he arrives at any decision, all the elements of the situation, and so far as I understood the hon. and learned Member for Waterford, his claim was that no decision should be arrived at in a hurry, in the dark, before the House of Commons had had an opportunity of discussing it.
Looking at the question from the point of view of our military obligations to France, we promised France—and I am sorry that the promise was made behind the backs of the House of Commons— 160,000 men. We have voted 3,000,000 and we are asked to-day to vote another million to the support of this War. Let it not be thought that I grudge these men to France. I would like to give 5,000,000' men to France if it could be done, because she has fought a glorious struggle in this War. The question is not what you would like to do, but it is a case where you have got to cut your coat according to your cloth, and I do hot think anyone on the Continent has a right to complain of what England has done. I would like to know whether the President of the Board of Trade, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and the chief exporters of this country were consulted before this Vote for another million men was put down, and, if not, why not? I think they ought to be consulted, because, in my opinion, the trade of this country is in great danger. As was pointed out by the hon. Member for Derby (Mr. Thomas) with great force, the Minister of Munitions said last night that he had great factories and machines standing idle because he could not get 261 80,000 skilled men and 200,000 unskilled men. Is there a single Member of this House who will stand up and say that this country in its present condition can bear that strain and then provide an additional 1,000,000 or 1,500,000 men for the purpose of the Army, and still carry on the industry of the country? I do not believe it. I know a little, but nothing like what the right hon. and learned Member for Exeter (Mr. Duke) knows, about the state of transport in this country. The ports are blocked, and deliveries of goods are extremely delayed. If you take another 80,000 skilled men and 200,000 unskilled men for munitions I think you will find that you have got very few men to spare after that. If you call up this 1,000,000 of men, when they are voted, you will find that the result will reflect very unfavour-ably in the returns of the Chancellor of the Exchequer.
It seems to me that it has come to be an accepted doctrine in the minds of whoever started this great cry about married men and unmarried men that the great proportion of the men of this country are cowards until they are married, and then they become heroes. I want to challenge seriously the men who are defending the Derby scheme. Who was the originator of this doctrine? I do not believe a word of it. I do not believe there is any foundation for it. I believe that it is founded exactly on the same basis as the war babies. You have almost forgotten the war babies, although for six weeks they dominated the situation, and there were several associations of highly virtuous ladies formed in this country into what were called baby clubs, but the babies did not arrive. The "Daily Mail" ran the war babies most successfully for a fortnight. Then they were found out, as is always the way with the sensational Press. Meanwhile, the war babies increased their circulation enormously. There were to be war babies by the thousands, and then inspectors were sent round, and they discovered that the whole thing was a fraud. I want to deal with this question seriously. Every second man you meet in the street says, "You must bring in all the unmarried men before you bring in the married men." Here is a copy of the "Daily Mail," which was issued before Lord Derby's scheme was introduced. It is headed, "Compulsion. All Single Men First." They did not even talk about age. It was to be up to my age, I suppose. Then the headings went on, "Compulsion on 262 and after November 30th." What I really want to draw attention to is the principle on which the Lord Derby groups of enlisted men have been arranged, and I have no hesitation in saying that it is absurd and indefensible. There are an enormous number of groups: Group 1, single men of eighteen; Group 24, married men of eighteen. Therefore, if a man gets married at the age of eighteen, without any provision for a living, he is then a privileged person. I submit that the classification is preposterous and is perfectly indefensible and absurd. It comes to this: that in twenty-three groups single men up to forty are to be called out before the married men of eighteen. Under this grouping the man who is a waster and a slacker, and who is married at eighteen, gets into a privileged class of men, while the man who is waiting until he can provide a home for his wife is called out first.
The whole scheme is ludicrous and absurd. You ought to consider each case on its merits. No doubt Members have plenty of letters in their pocket explaining different cases. I got myself, the other day, a letter from a man who has two sons at different fronts; one was killed at Sulva Bay and one in France. Can you take his third son without inquiring into the merits of the case, whilst the man next door, a married man, may not have done anything at all for the War? There should be inquiry into each individual case on its merits. If you take twenty men, ten married and ten not married, any impartial tribunal would send the majority of the married men before sending the unmarried men. It is all a question of classification, and therefore I say that the Group System is absolutely indefensible. We have heard the expression that those who are left are a negligible number. What is a negligible number? It is a matter of opinion. You take up the position that there is a negligible number, or the "Daily Mail" says, "All, up to the last man, are to be taken." In my opinion it is an absolute absurdity. There are a great many other anomalies that will undoubtedly come to light when this question is investigated. For instance, I know myself of cases where the whole of the men in factories have been drafted in and have attested by hundreds, being assured before they attested that they were perfectly safe not to be called upon until the single men had been called up.' They were told that they could attest 263 and could be perfectly certain that they would not be called upon. How are you going to apply the principle of taking single men before married men?
I submit that you are drifting into a dangerous position; the enthusiasm of the country will be damped, and the people will suspect favouritism in the case of the men who are starred. Look at what occurred when this campaign commenced. It was stated that every man would be canvassed. I think that went on for a fortnight or three weeks. Then came Lord Selborne, who declared that the starring had been so scandalously, negligently, and criminally done that it would have to be done all over again. Then Lord Derby, after a fortnight or three weeks of that system, suddenly issued a ukase that all men of military age, starred or unstarred, should attest. What he wanted was that every man in the country should offer himself to serve, and then afterwards his case would be investigated and, if necessary, he should be left out. The result of this system has been that all the starred men were called upon to attest, but they have not all attested; in certain districts they have not attested; in other districts they thought they would obey Lord Derby, and they came in. How are you going to deal with the men who are starred and who have not attested? Are you not going to touch them, while you take the starred men who have attested because they were patriotic and thought they were bound to obey Lord Derby's call? I think, myself, that Lord Derby went somewhat beyond his authority in making such a demand as that. I should be very sorry to criticise Lord Derby myself, but it is evident that Lord Selborne criticised him in the most merciless manner when he talked of the canvass having been conducted in a negligent and criminal way.
You will find it quite difficult enough to deal with this business from the broader considerations which I have mentioned, the point of view of justice and fairness. Any attempt to direct compulsory service to any section of the population will be far worse than if you said frankly that the old system of the ballot shall be applied directly and fairly to the whole country. If you pillory a certain section of the population and subject them to compulsion, you may find things which may astonish the Government and seriously endanger the unity of the country in the conduct of the War. One thing is perfectly 264 certain, and I would commend it to the attention of the Government, that if the yoke of Conscription in any shape is to be placed on the neck of this country the people will insist, and ought to insist, on knowing the full details of the blunders at Gallipoli and on the other fronts—who is responsible, and whether the officers responsible are still in control of the troops. It would be an intolerable thing that the people of this country should be forced into military service without full knowledge of the facts, and my reading of the history of the War is this, and I feel very confident that I am right, that the evils and failures have been in no measure due to lack of men, and still less to the quality of men that have been sent from this country. They have been due, as we heard yesterday, to many causes, but in no case to the men nor to the lack of men. Before any Government of this country seeks to enforce Conscription on this country I say that the men who have been responsible for the failures must be pilloried and removed. The people of this country must have some assurance that if we do go into battle it will be under fair conditions and with a chance of winning the War.
One other objection to Conscription occurs to me. Suppose you conscript men and pillory them. I believe it would be found that nine-tenths of those who have not come forward had been actuated by domestic or praiseworthy motives, while others had been prevented by their employers. Suppose you pillory men as conscripts, where are you going to put them? I have heard over and over again of officers and soldiers who say that they will not allow conscripts into their regiments; that they will not have slackers and cowards. It is also suggested that there should be special regiments of conscripts set up, a sort of penal regiment. That will be a very fine acquisition to the British Army! This may appear very ridiculous, but it is a serious question. There is no doubt a strong feeling among a great many men at the front that they do not want conscripts put into their regiment. Again, I say what is the use of talking about the want of men! There has been no want of men. What is the use of sending out such gallant and magnificent troops as those who fought at Anzac and Suvla if they are led and handled in a manner to bring about disaster? This is really a burning question, and I repeat that there is not a lack of men.
265 Two other points occur. Some of the Anglican bishops in this country and in Ireland have distinguished themselves by demanding Conscription and insisting upon it in most eloquent speeches, but when asked what their views are with regard to their own clergy, they said, "Hands off." Take the unmarried clergy. I am perfectly convinced that many of the Anglican clergy would gladly go to the front, and I say that the bishops have no right to demand Conscription for others when they forbid the clergy to take part in the War. This raises an exceedingly delicate and difficult question. How are you going to meet it? Are you going to create privileged classes? Are Nonconformist ministers to be conscripted and the Anglican clergy to be left out? What about the Catholic priests? At least we can say that no Catholic bishop has ever called for Conscription, I think very wisely. For myself, I am against applying Conscription or compulsion to Christian ministers. But I am against Conscription altogether. You must bear in mind that those who are fighting for Conscription in this country cannot get away from this problem. The columns of the "Daily Telegraph" in the last few days have been filled with letters abusing the Anglican bishops for endeavouring to withdraw the clergy from the War, though clergymen are quite willing, and have shown their readiness, to fight for their country. Those in favour of Conscription should remember that in every democratic country on the Continent where Conscription has been adopted, the clergy have been compelled to submit to it. The priests of France, twenty thousand of them, have to serve; the priests of Italy are subject to Conscription; in every democratic country that is the logical outcome of Conscription. I believe the only privileged clergy on the Continent are amongst the Huns. Therefore I warn you that if you once go in for Conscription you cannot get away from the problem of who are to be the privileged classes who are to be exempted. I have pointed out the case of the Anglican clergy, the Catholic priests, and Nonconformist ministers; does anybody propose to conscript any of them? What about the Society of Friends? Are they to be conscripted. Are they, who for generations have suffered every indignity and insult for conscience sake, because they object to taking human life, to be subject to Conscription? Do you propose to enforce Conscription on the Society of Friends? What are you going to do?
§ Mr. DILLON
That may be one solution, but that is not Conscription. There is no use trying to wriggle out of it in that way. Are others who object to going to be allowed to carry stretchers or help the wounded? Conscription is that you are to go and do what you are told and act as you are told, and not that you are to say that you are willing to do something else. There are other sects in this country, who may not be numerous, but still there they are, and you are up against them, too, who take the teaching of Christ's Gospel literally— which I am afraid very few of us do—and who object on conscientious grounds to taking human life. That problem, so long as you have the voluntary system, does not matter and does not trouble you, but it is a very, very serious problem. Russia found it a serious problem with her sects. She shot them down in hundreds, and knouted and lashed them. [An HON. MEMBER: "Hear, hear!"] I notice that an hon. Member says, "Hear, hear," so that, perhaps, he approves of that.
§ Mr. OUTHWAITE
If you refer to me, I said, "Hear, hear," because I am glad you pointed out that fact.
§ Mr. DILLON
I was afraid there was some hon. Member who thought that a similar thing ought to be done here in England. But, small as the problem is, I have been brought into contact with it. Men have spoken to me and have said deliberately that they will submit to death before they will consent to take another human being's life. I dare say that many hon. Members saw the particulars of a very touching case which happened the other day, and which shows the reality of this matter. It was the case of an unfortunate soldier who, under pressure—and I do not complain of the pressure, for, although it was very great, it was not absolute Conscription, or that system—enlisted after declaring that it was against his conscience and principles—Deceased was a dispenser at a sanatorium at Wokingham and a nurse said that he told her he had been overworked at that institution. In November he was told to enlist, and he then wrote saying he was very depressed about it and that war was antagonistic to his nature. He would, he said, rather shoot himself than shoot a German. After joining the Honourable Artillery Company he wrote saying that a soldier's life was intolerable to him and the Army shall never dominate my better nature. I love life purely for the good I can do, and nothing made me more happy than sacrifice for others.I can quite understand people reading that with great intolerance, but it is the fact 267 that there are a certain number of men who will submit to death before they will consent to take any man's life. You are raising all those questions and difficulties by going into Conscription, and, in my opinion, you are raising them unnecessarily, mischievously, and for no good object whatever, because the whole sum total result of Conscription will be perfectly absurd compared with what you get under the voluntary system.
Finally, I come to say one word, and it will only be a word, on the case of Ireland. That is one of your difficulties. There is no use arguing about it. I have left it last because it requires only a few sentences. We are quite prepared to bear our share and our portion of the burdens of this War. We have done so, both in men and, in spite of all poverty, in money. We, the majority, the representatives of the Nationalist party, have demanded no special exemption from the taxation which falls upon Ireland. I was reading the other day, talking about Ireland's contribution, a very interesting and fascinating and contemporary account of the military career of Sir Ralph Abercromby, one of the greatest generals and one of the greatest gentlemen who ever served in the British Army. This is what his contemporary said:—Throughout his career, whenever he had a particularly dangerous job to do, he always used his Irish troops. He had the 29th Regiment, composed solely of Irishmen. He told me himself, wherever there was a very dangerous enterprise, he trusted it always to the 29th Regiment and was justified in his choice.That has been the tradition of the greatest generals in the British Army, and that is their tradition to-day. They have put our troops in the most dangerous positions, and our men have splendidly redeemed the reputation of their race. I, for my part, have rebuked my countrymen in public meeting for complaining of that being done. There is an old song in Ireland which we are very fond of singing, although really it is not an old song, but it is very popular, and a line of the chorus runs, "The van is the right of the Irish Brigade." I will never complain of any British general or reproach him for putting an Irish regiment in the foremost line of battle. We have borne our part, and we will continue to bear it. I feel it to be my duty to-day to warn the Government, and any Government that may succeed them, that Conscription we will not tolerate in Ireland. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Trinity College 268 (Sir E. Carson) got up to answer for Ireland. He knows perfectly well that his own people in the other part of Ireland are just as much opposed to Conscription as we are. Ireland is nearly solid on this subject, and no Government can impose Conscription on Ireland. We will bear our part in this War as we have already done, and we have done you many services which you will never know of until the archives of the Foreign Office are revealed and disclose them to this country. We are your faithful Allies and you can rely upon us; but we are a free people, and we will not be trampled upon. It will be an ill day for this country, and for the Government that dares it, if they attempt to put Conscription in force in Ireland. It will ruin the whole cause, and it cannot be thought of. I put it to you not by way of threat at all, because there is no mystery about it, is it a wise thing to begin this with all the difficulties that I have recited, and which are all genuine difficulties, and difficulties that you will find it hard to solve?
Many hon. Members cannot realise the moral effect that has been created in the United States of America and throughout Europe by the unexpected union between England and Ireland in this War. You have sealed it in the blood of our men upon every battlefield that has been fought, and are you going to cast all that away for this ridiculous fad of twenty or thirty or forty thousand alleged slackers and cowards in England, and proclaim to the world that England and Ireland are no longer united, because that is what people will say. It will not be true, because we go on our own road whatever you do in England, and we will help you, and I know perfectly well that no Government will ever attempt to enforce Conscription on us. It will not, as I say, be true, and we will go on helping you, but it will be said and people will ask on the Continent why was it when they proclaimed Conscription that they did not include Ireland. This is my last word. I say that when you sum up the arguments on one side—and I have never heard them detailed by any champion of Conscription in a rational way—and balance them with the evils which I have pointed out on the other side, that it would be an act of political insanity for any Government to embark on Conscription during this War.
§ 7.0 P.M
Mr. EDMUND HARVEY
I do not propose to follow the speech of the hon. Member for East Mayo (Mr. Dillon) in most of the issues he has raised and in 269 which he pointed out some of the great difficulties of Lord Derby's scheme and the still greater difficulties that would necessarily ensue in any form of Conscription. Throughout and over the whole of this Debate there is resting the shadow of Lord Derby's scheme and what may possibly follow it. The shadow lay also upon the speech of the Prime Minister. I wish to join in the appeal of the hon. Member for East Mayo and to ask the Prime Minister to make clear his position with reference to one section of the community, not merely in the interests of those who are called religious or conscientious objectors, but in the interests of the whole State, because our whole conception of the State hangs upon the decision which is taken in this matter. There were certain words in the Prime Ministers' weighty appeal to our unmarried men who have not enlisted which I wish to bring before the Committee and the Prime Minister himself in the hope that he will make clear his position in respect of them. He said that he felt that it was the duty of every man not disqualified by physical or domestic conditions, subject to certain industrial interests, to come forward in response to the appeal of the State. Those words were very clear. They make no exception for religious conviction, for conscientious conviction, however profound, and I do appeal to the Prime Minister that he will make clear his position to the country as a whole on this point without delay. It is of the very greatest importance. I am not making this appeal so that under the cloak of conscientious conviction men may shirk doing their duty to the State. I recognise, and I believe those who share my views do so to the full, the immense claim the State has upon the lives of all citizens. We owe so much to the community, and our lives are so wrap up with the life of the community that we cannot consider the life of the individual apart from the life of the community. I know and recognise that. But I do not agree with the statement of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dublin University that it is the elementary duty of the citizen to fight for the State. It is the elementary duty of the citizen in an elementary State, but I believe we have reached already, even in this imperfect state of civilisation, a higher conception of the State and of the duties of the citizen. I believe that it is possible for citizens to serve the State without transgressing the higher claims in which they 270 believe conscientiously. When religion and conscience tell a man that he must not take human life I believe the State ought to recognise that and ought to allow him freedom to find other forms of service which may be of the truest value to the community, not merely in the time of war, but throughout the whole course of national life. When the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Exeter (Mr. Duke) appeals to Members of this House to put aside political maxims, I would answer that we will go with him as far as we can, but this is not at all a question of political maxims with us. It is a matter of the profoundest conviction. We are prepared, if need be, I believe, to lay down life itself in the cause of our fellow countrymen, but we cannot take life, even at the call of the State, and that because we recognise a higher call even than that of the State it-self. It is not divided loyalty, although it may seem so—the loyalty that we owe to the eternal State, the eternal city of God, and the loyalty that we owe to the State of to-day. We believe that in answering the appeal that we have heard to be loyal to the law of the eternal State we are serving in the long run even the State of to-day. We would do our utmost in so far as it is possible to serve that State in accordance with the light that we have been given, but we cannot disobey the clear command of our conscience; we cannot disobey what we believe to be the eternal laws of God.
§ Mr. HUME-WILLIAMS
I listened with the deepest attention to a speech delivered just now, and I am bound to say that the views expressed seem to me to be fraught with danger, and they fill me with the greatest disquietude. The theory seems to be that we are to stay at home, cultivate finance, and limit the troops we are sending to the front to take part in what was described as the battles of France, although they are in fact our battles just as much as they are those of France. We are to stay at home, cultivate our trade, hoard our gold, restrict the output of our troops, and, in my view, receive the deserved contempt of the whole world. Beyond that what are we to do? The hon. Member and others who have spoken in the same tone have deplored the fact that the trade of England is suffering. We are told that our ports are congested, and that some of our factories have not full employment. But in France there is no trade, and in the 271 countries of our other Allies, such a thing as trade, as compared with trade in normal times, is not to be thought of. In France at the present moment there is not a factory at work that is not producing something for the War.
§ Mr. HUME-WILLIAMS
If that is so, if we can supply them, that is what we ought to do. If that is so, why complain of the normal trade of the country suffering? Of course it is suffering. But what comparison is there? An hon. Member opposite deplores the fact that if the younger men are forced by some form of State interference or legal obligation to take an active part in the War trade will be handicapped, and the people who are already shorthanded will be still more shorthanded The hon. Member forgets that what we advocate is not that every man should be taken willy-nilly and sent to the front to fight, but that the whole energy of the nation should be coordinated into one regulated machine, and each man put to the job that he can do best in the national interest. It is for that reason that in the scheme of Lord Derby there is a tribunal set up in every place to consider, partly from the point of view of the individual, but still more from the point of view of the State, what is to become of every man whose case comes before them. It is obvious if a tribunal of that kind is sitting, directed by men of sense, when a case such as the hon. Member suggests is brought before them and the employer says, "If you take all my employes and send them to the front, my factory will stop and the State will suffer," they will carefully consider the matter. The object of the institution of this tribunal is that it should allocate among the men in that factory those who are required to carry it on and take only those who can be spared. That is the foundation of the scheme. Therefore all these arguments about its having a bad effect, and about our having to preserve finance and to keep up the trade of the country, ignore the real fact. What we ask is, not that every man should be driven into the trenches, whether he wishes to go or not, but that we should have one vast machinery for the whole of the country which shall utilise, if need be forcibly, in the interests of the State, the best skill, the best knowledge, and the best energy that every citizen can supply for the service of the country.
272 Comparisons with Napoleon and his troops are not very helpful. The hon. Member for East Mayo (Mr. Dillon) says that at the time of the Napoleonic Wars we had only 50,000 troops at the front, and that it was because we had only that number engaged, and we cultivated our finance in England, we won the war. It would have been interesting if we could have consulted some of the English generals at the time, and asked them whether they would not have liked to have had more than 50,000 troops. The whole conditions were different. This War is unlike anything that has preceded it in the history of the world. When we hear about the troops that we, are sending, and the splendid work that we have done in aiding our Allies, we must not forget what the position of England was at the beginning of the War. We were unready. We know it. We never intended to take part in a European war of this kind. We thought ourselves as an island with the best Navy in the world immune. We have found out our mistake. It is too late to say now that we provided 160,000 men at the beginning, and that the men we are now sending are a splendid contribution. That is not the question. The question is, are they enough? All these arguments may have been cogent when we were considering the question whether we would take part in the War or not. But we are in it, and being in it, we must see that we come out of it with credit, upholding the honour of our country in the opinion of the Allies with whom we are fighting.
I wish some of the hon. Members who take part in this Debate could go to France and realise for themselves the spirit and the conditions among the French people. It was my privilege, for a couple of months in the summer, to be attached to the French Army. That is a fact of no importance; I mention it only because it enables me to speak with a little more knowledge on the subject than I might otherwise have. During the course of my duties I went right across Northern France, a distance of 200 miles, and through the whole of that journey I never saw one man of military age who was not fighting. There were old men and women working in the fields, and children, but there was not a man to be seen who could be fighting who was not fighting. Compare that with what happened last night in my club. I say it to my shame. I met one of the members of the club, well under 273 thirty years of age. I said, "Well, have you been called up yet?" "No," he replied quite sharply, "I am over twenty-two." "When are you going to the War?" I asked. "Oh," he replied, "I do not care for soldiering; I am not going to be a soldier." "Well," I said, "I think you are making a mistake. I think you will find you will have to." "Oh, we shall see about that," said he, and off he went home with his champagne inside him. To listen to remarks of that kind and feel that you have no answer makes one's blood boil. How are you to deal with people of that kind? It is a national shame. [An HON. MEMBER: "How would you deal with him?"] Take him, drill him, make use of him, send him to the trenches. That is the very foundation of the argument in favour of State interference. The men who have already volunteered will not be affected by it. On the contrary, I hope that those who come in afterwards will come in on less favourable terms than those who have come forward and voluntarily shouldered their country's burden. The only people who will be hit by it are those who ought to go, but do not. The only way to get at them is to have some form of State interference which shall drag the unwilling to the place to which these heroes have already gone, and where they are fighting, while these others stay at home and say, "I am not a soldier; I do not hold with it. Fetch me if you can." No, the time has come for steps to be taken. In my opinion it ought to have come earlier. At the very beginning of the War we ought to have organised and coordinated all our forces, so as to utilise to the best advantage the energy and strength of the country.
The hon. Member opposite (Mr. E. Harvey) has expressed sentiments to which we all listened with the deepest respect. But, after all, if you do not want to go and fight, if you have such deep convictions as the hon. Member says, there are plenty of spheres of industry, there are spheres even at the front which can utilise to the full your youth, your energy, and your patriotism. I have had the honour of working side by side with the Quakers, who have one of the best ambulances in France. They have been in Flanders for more than a year, and there are no men more heroic, more brave, facing death daily, and bringing succour to the wounded and the sorrowing, than those Quakers whose deeply religious convictions keep them themselves from fighting. 274 They run just as much danger as the others. They are doing what accords with their religion. They are rendering as good a service to the cause of the Allies as ourselves, and those actually firing in the trenches. There is plenty of opportunity for everybody, and everybody's convictions can be respected. Everybody who wants to go has had an opportunity to go under Lord Derby's scheme. Those who can go and do not want to go; those who have the energy and will not give of their energy, should and ought, in the interests of the State, be forced to go. Now is the time! The hon. Member says why this. distinction between married and unmarried men? The hon. Member again asks, "Where has the idea come from that the unmarried men ought to go first?" It comes from the highest source; it comes from the pledge of the Prime Minister of England. There is no higher source, none that we in England respect more. It is because that pledge has been given that we know it is going to be carried out, and that these young men who are loafing about the place at the present time in, I am sorry to say, their hundreds—ay, their thousands—shall have their case considered. That is all it comes to. I hate the word compulsion; it need not be used. They can come before the tribunals and have their case impartially considered. It is obvious that in the case of young men like the one to whom I spoke to last night that there is no earthly reason but cowardice why such a one remains behind. As soon as their case comes before the tribunal the verdict of that tribunal will be decisive. No man need be put to that of which he is not capable, or that which is against his religious convictions, but every man should thus be taught to give the State his best energy, his best knowledge and experience, and his best practical patriotism, and that his country is right to demand from Rim these things.
I hope that the Prime Minister will remain fixed in his purpose. I hope that there will be no shadow of yielding on the part of the Government. I hope the pledge will be carried out in its spirit as well as in its letter, and that these young men will be sent to the front whether they like it or not. One thing more: I hope that the time has now arrived, if it did not arrive a long time ago, when the Government will see if they cannot make of our country what France is, one of the best of machines for one purpose, and one purpose only, and that the successful continuation 275 of this War. I believe that until that time comes we shall have useless Debates, much talk, and much backbiting. The time has tome when the Government, with their exceptional opportunities, with a united country behind them, should make of England one great war machine, patriotically directed to follow in the wake of our Allies, with no more talk about what was our contribution. I trust we shall do not only what was expected of us, but that we shall do all we can and everything we can. Not until the time comes that we are prepared to do this, working on equal terms with the Allies who are side by side with us against the common foe, shall the triumph be within sight.
§ Sir NORVAL HELME
Never had a Government behind it a more united nation than to-day in its determination to carry through this War to a successful issue. Just as the Government, through its various Departments, is endeavouring to deal with the various aspects of our requirements of the War, so this House desires to give its unstinted support so that those efforts may be successfully achieved. As the House may know, there exists within it a group of Members informally associated together in order to watch the commercial interests of the nation. It is known by the term of the Commercial Committee. That Committee has met, and in its name I would earnestly appeal to the Government to stand by the policy so clearly laid down by the Prime Minister on 2nd November, and in the clearest terms repeated to-day. We find that the War Office is carrying out to the utmost of its power the work that the Government commissions it to perform. Our object is, whilst recognising the righteousnes of our cause, to endeavour to press for a Department of State to hold up the necessary requirements in order to support the War Office in the successful carrying on of this great contest. Some time ago this group ventured to put on the Notice Paper a Notice of Motion, which I will read:—That in view of the necessity for maintaining the financial strength of the country for the successful prosecution of the War, this House is of the opinion that the new scheme of recruiting offers inadequate security for the retention of a sufficiency of labour for carrying on the vital trades of the country, and for the maintenance of exports.The Commercial Committee, as the names attached to that Notice of Motion shows, are drawn from every quarter of the House, and represent great commercial 276 interests in the country. They represent the textile interests of Lancashire, of Yorkshire, and the mineral interests of the Midlands, and also representing great financial interests they feel it their duty to call the attention of the Government to the absolute necessity of providing, and being in the position continually to provide, the means with which to carry on this War. The members of the Commercial Committee yield to no man in this House in their absolute determination to assist the Government. I may use the expression in the correspondence addressed to the War Office by one of the greatest and most prominent manufacturers of the North, who said:—They would be prepared to spend their last shilling and give their last man rather than the Government should be weakened in their efforts to win this War.With such a motive behind them the Commercial Committee only ask that the Government shall see to it that these great issues are carefully dealt with. We are as anxious as any men to support the Government. When the Prime Minister comes down to this House and expresses his convictions I venture to say that we wish to be guided by the fact that he has information that we as private Members do not possess and cannot obtain. So it is that we are particularly desirous that we shall not be misunderstood in asking the House to look at this side of the question, along with and subject to, the great issues that we are united with other men in desiring to assist the Government to carry through. This Resolution, which, it is needless to say, we have no desire to press in any form except so far as arguments will allow us, is an assertion, first, of financial interests, and, secondly, it expresses the need for the retention of the vital trades throughout the land. We speak not as individuals, for we have the distinct expression of the Associated Chambers of Commerce to fall back upon. Their executive have approached the Government, and that address has been confirmed by a full meeting of the Association. They say:—We are of opinion that the maintenance, and where possible the increase, of the export trade of this country is vital to the interests of the nation, especially at this juncture in connection with the position of the Foreign Exchanges; and they therefore consider that His Majesty's Government should afford all reasonable facilities and every possible encouragement for the maintenance and increase of this trade.In the "Statist," as a great organ representing the financial interests of the country, we have enough confirmation of 277 the view that it is necessary for Parliament to cast a long view forward in order that we may see how we are going to find the additional, shall I say, thousands of millions that may be necessary? We are fighting with brave Allies, and the question for us is, what is the best service that each can render to the whole, and what is the highest duty of this country? Our thanks are due to our powerful Navy that has played such a magnificent and determining part in this War. We heard from the Chancellor on 21st September that we had advanced at that time £423,000,000 to our Allies in order that they might carry on the War. The Army in France and elsewhere has been doing its utmost. All honour to the men who have carried their lives in their hands. We in this country desire to help them to the very fullest; but we wish to have a clear and definite statement from the Government as to how, as representing the nation, they will organise and harmonise the great and important elements upon which we are waging this War. We heard last night from the Minister of Munitions how the anxieties of his Department pressed upon him. So if we look for a moment at the relation of the different countries in their efforts to carry on this War we are reminded that whilst in Great Britain we have some 8,000,000 or perhaps more men of military age, and while perhaps in France we may say they have a somewhat similar number, while in Russia there are said to be 20,000,000 of men, it is the Cabinet alone which has to decide how far we shall call up the very flower of our young men, and take them from the employment in which they are supporting the financial strength of this country, which alone will enable us ultimately to win. Let hon. Members cast their minds forward to the time when this country could not carry on the War. We have heard that the War will go on for three years. Think of it! Consider what we are spending. In all this we must have regard for this one point: how can we best play our part with the Allies with whom we are fighting?
The responsibility upon the Government is great. The responsibility of this House is great. None of us would stand up here and be thought to challenge the patriotic sentiments which have been uttered by hon. Gentlemen who have appealed for the prosecution of the War regardless of any of these other considerations. There is behind this an important question as to 278 how the trade of this country, and how the markets to which we send goods—can be maintained. I have a letter from a City firm pointing out that, at the present time, Americans are endeavouring to arrange for a depot in this country for the purpose of recommending their goods to the home trade. I know in other branches how competition is being forced upon this country. We have consequently to face this problem, and the question is how far can the nation go in withdrawing men from its industries. The Prime Minister gave us little indication to-day when he emphasised the necessity of the Government policy, and we are inclined to ask that we should have a clearer statement from the Government of the proportions and the relations of these two duties than we have at the present moment. The effort of the President of the Board of Trade was handsomely acknowledged by the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for the University of Dublin (Sir E. Carson). We, as traders, desire to say how greatly we appreciate the part the right hon. Gentleman has played in endeavouring to secure the extension of the principle that was at first adopted, namely, that men employed in works producing engines of war and ammunition should be excluded from the canvass that was to be made. The right hon. Gentleman, exercising the powers of the Department over which he worthily presides, has secured the issue of a list of reserved occupations. We thank him for having recognised the fact that there are men who are absolutely necessary in certain occupations unless this country is to face commercial ruin.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer knows only too well how the revenue is made up as a result of commerce which has been developed after years of effort. I am glad to see that the representations that were made to the right hon. Gentleman in regard to the constitution of the tribunals have borne fruit. The right hon. Gentleman has been good enough to tell us that on the appeal tribunal, on which as originally constituted there was but one gentleman who could be said to represent trade, the hon. Baronet the Member for Ayr Burghs (Sir G. Younger) and he I understood was chosen to represent Scotland rather than the trading community—it is now intended to have representatives of the textile and other industries—I understood that has been arranged—although it has not been officially announced—and I 279 thank the right hon. Gentleman for it. In face of this situation we venture to ask the Government to consider whether the instructions to the tribunal are really as fully in harmony with the policy of the Government as those instructions should be. The right hon. Gentleman's recruiting scheme has been loyally carried out through the length and breadth of the land, and if any man has hitherto felt it his duty to hold back he has now the opportunity of getting others to decide whether or not it is his duty to serve the State in one or other department. There are many loyal young men who have gladly attested, relying upon the careful and judicial consideration of the claims of the Army on one side and of the Exchequer and of the Board of Trade as interested in the manufactures of the country on the other. But the instructions that have been sent round have not fully met the suggestions that some of us, on behalf of the Committee, submitted to the Board of Trade. I find that the President of the Local Government Board made a most admirable speech on the 9th July to representatives of municipal corporations, and in the course of it he said:—We must maintain our position in the field by pending out constantly men and munitions of war. If we are going to do this we must pay for them, and in order to pay for them we must maintain our trade and industry here at home, and in addition to that we must maintain our export trade.It is suggested in the Press that a further communication is to be made, and I want, if the House will bear with me for a few minutes, to press that before the tribunals are called upon to exercise their judicial functions the Government should send out a distinct and definite statement so that they may understand that the policy of the Government is that which the Prime Minister has declared to-day, and that which was enunciated in the speech of the President of the Local Government Board. The instructions, so far as I have been able to understand them, are not in sympathy with that side, if I may use that expression, of the matter, and I want to see sent out a carefully framed set of instructions that will be perfectly clear even to a member of the tribunal who does not know anything of the declared policy of the Prime Minister except as read through those instructions. I take it any member of the tribunal would read into the instructions sent out, the necessity to make it almost impossible for any man who is attested to be sent back to his 280 trade, and in view of the danger I say special attention ought to be drawn in such a circular to the danger of withdrawing from industry men such as those specified by the Prime Minister. But there is no recognition of that whatever.
The prime minister placed the maintenance of our export trade on a level with the provision of munitions, although he put it in a separate category. But no mention of this is to be found in the circular. Again, employers of men employed on munitions have a right of appealing to the Munitions Board, but employers in ordinary trade throughout the country have not had the same consideration extended to them, and have no power to go to the Appeal Court in regard to men who have enlisted and have immediately joined the Colours. That very important point was not clearly put by all the enthusiastic recruiting officers. Many of them omitted to explain it was absolutely necessary, in certain cases, for men to register under Section B, as otherwise they could not claim a delay in being called out. Other mistakes I believe have been made, and I would ask why should not power be given to the Board of Trade to deal with the cases of such men as these? In the wording of the circular there was no recognition of the case of the employer who might be charged with self-interest or a lack of patriotism in desiring to keep his business going. In the circular the words "national interest" are used. But there is no definition of how far the interests of the nation are met by putting into the Army an individual whose employer may claim that he ought to be allowed to remain at his work. In the absence of a definition of "national interest," or of any allusion to those interests, how will men of military caste who may be members of the tribunal deal with that point? Then there is the question of individual enlistment—the enlistment of men who are individually indispensable and ought to be sent back. Further, there is the question of businesses which cannot be properly maintained, businesses in which it is impossible to get temporary substitutes.
Further, an employer has to show that he has given reasonable facilities for the enlistment of his men. But how would that apply to the case of an employer who belongs to the Society of Friends, a case which has been so well referred to by one of the hon. Members who has taken part in this Debate. There is no mention of these matters to show that consideration should 281 be given to them. There is a further important point which I think requires attention. There are concerns in which a very large proportion of the men enlisted twelve months ago. These firms already have been obliged to close down a large portion of their works, and I can instance the case of a firm in my own Constituency from which 1,300 men have gone. Its business has, of course, been considerably reduced. The firm was engaged in a trade, very largely export; and now at the present time, seeing that the supply from Germany, Austria, and Belgium is cut off, I can assure the House there is centreing upon England a greater volume of business than would otherwise have been the case, and the men engaged in the manufactures of this country find themselves unable to deal with the situation. I recognise with great satisfaction the efforts the War Office have made in appointing an Advisory Committee to assist in the prior consideration of the cases which are coming before the tribunal, but I would suggest that we ought to have, if possible, a sort of appeal advisory committee where these matters might be dealt with. I want to ask whether it is not advisable that in cases where large proportions of men have previously left, thus reducing the staffs of manufacturing concerns, whether an application should not be made en bloc for the exclusion of the men in groups all turning upon the question of how best to serve the national interest.
With regard to the list of reserved occupations, the Committee which has had to consider this matter have had a serious responsibility cast upon them, and they have striven to do their best, but their experience has not led them to completely and accurately describe all the branches of work which they have scheduled. I would point out that representations have already been made to the President of the Board of Trade on this matter. The result of what has been done is that if the tribunal meets within the next week, in a case which I could quote there will be a refusal to sanction the return to civil employment of a group of men each standing at the head of a large number of others. That makes it absolutely impossible to say that protection has been given to that industry, and I ask the right hon. Gentleman to consider that point. Take the case of the bankers. Who is so competent as the manager of a bank as to judge whether an individual clerk representing an important interest in some of its branches should go 282 or not? To the municipalities power has been given in regard to the public utility scheme by which they can decide whether any man so employed shall go or not. If | that can be done through a municipal committee, surely some power might be given by which the interests of the traders can be dealt with en bloc just as you are prepared to do in regard to municipal departments and similar concerns. In such cases an appeal advisory committee would be advantageous. In this matter the local chambers of commerce have been ignored, and they are the trading authorities throughout the country. In Lancashire, where many of the mills are carried on in the rural districts of the country, surely some other protection is necessary beside the mere tribunal selected by a rural district council to consider great commercial undertakings. This is a matter of life and death to the commercial classes. The financial security of this country depends upon the maintenance of the trade that has been built up through generations by those who have devoted themselves to it, and I claim that this is so serious that the Government should speak with a clear and definite voice as to how far the tribunals shall recognise these conditions.
The Prime Minister has enunciated the groundwork of his policy. He says that the commercial requirements must be completely met. On this matter the right hon. Gentleman has spoken in terms that will be welcomed throughout the land by the business men. In him we have a responsible Minister who recognises the importance of this great question. The Chancellor of the Exchequer will have to rely upon the people of this country for annual Budgets of enormous amounts. Take the question of the interest upon the National Debt alone. If we have £150,000,000 to provide for the Sinking Fund; if we have to provide for those who have been killed in the War or have been wounded; if we have to provide for the widows of those who have fallen, we shall run up to £200,000,000 before we approach the provision of money for the ordinary maintenance of the affairs of State, and we cannot yet tell how far the future may demand an expenditure upon militarism. We are trying to kill militarism in Germany, and we hope the result will be that we shall be able to usher in a condition of things that will allow us to go back to a normal expenditure for the defence of our own realm, and other countries, we hope, will do the 283 same. But we must win this War first, and whether it lasts one, two, or three years, we must not forget that the commercial classes are the backbone and sinew upon which the Chancellor of the Exchequer must rely both to-day and in the future. Just as we commercial men cannot look at these military matters with the eyes of those who are accustomed to them, just as we cannot deal with matters of law as well as the gentlemen connected with that profession, neither can they understand the responsibilities of those of us who are interested in manufactures and devote our lives to these matter-of-fact considerations which are as nothing compared with the great duty that we are reminded of is the highest ideal of every loyal subject. We claim, in trying to press upon the Government the necessity of seeing how far we can best serve the interests of this country in conjunction with our Allies, if we could spend money on munitions and send out the money necessary to other countries, would it not be an equitable thing to ask Russia out of its 20,000,000 available men to raise 10,000,000 men if we are going to raise 5,000,000 out of 8,000,000 men? In the opinion, most deliberately and carefully formed, of many of the most responsible leaders of commerce in this country, I tell the House that with the magnificent response we understand has been achieved, and of which we are so proud, of the young men of this country to stand by the nation in this time of peril, we feel that there is not so large a reservoir of men left as those who are pressing Conscription upon us imagine. We put these questions before the House in the hope that the Government will not hesitate to give the tribunals throughout the land a clear indication that their policy includes the maintenance of these men who are necessary for carrying on business, and we believe that these things ought to be rectified in order that justice should be done.
§ Sir ROBERT FINLAY
A good deal has been said about the commercial interests of this country in this Debate, but I wonder what will become of the commercial interests of this country if we lose this War. I find myself in cordial agreement with the last speaker, to whose observations I am sure the House listened with great interest, but I would point out that the necessity of the hour, to which everything else must be subordinated, is to see that no stone is left unturned in 284 order to secure the successful termination of this War. It is admitted on all hands that we have not before us the necessary material for determining whether Conscription is necessary or not, but that did not deter the hon. and learned Member for Waterford (Mr. John Redmond) from plunging into a fiery denunciation of Conscription, and he told the Government that if they introduced any measure for that purpose they might count upon his determined opposition. I very much deprecate appeals of that kind being made at a time when we have not the materials before us for determining the question, and when it is a matter on which the House must necessarily have the guidance of the Government. One objection has been raised in a speech, which the whole Committee listened to with interest, from the hon. Member for West Leeds (Mr. E. Harvey), and it is that of the conscientious objector. One could not but feel moved by the terms in which he stated his own feelings on that subject, but, after all, I would ask him to reflect what would become of the country if every citizen entertained the same views as he does on that subject? In this country there is only a very small minority holding strong conscientious views which prevent them from taking some part in the defence of the country, and I cannot help thinking that the religious difficulty of which we have heard so much is any real difficulty in this matter. For the few who hold such views there could be found some means of enabling them to serve their country in other spheres and by other methods than actually bearing arms which would conform to their views and at the same time assist the successful conclusion of the War.
With regard to what has been said about protecting our industries and manufactures, that is a matter of great importance, but I take it for granted that any scheme for compulsory service would provide for exempting those whose services were wanted not only for the manufacture of munitions, but for any industry the continuance and prosperity of which is essential to the existence of the State. Not a single hon. Member who has addressed the Committee has got up to say that he would rather lose the War than have Conscription. Although we have listened to some very earnestly delivered speeches, some of them delivered almost with passion, I do not believe there is a man in the House who, if that question were put to him would say that his objections to 285 Conscription were such that he would rather face the dreadful alternatives I have mentioned than adopt a system which has been adopted by almost every country in the world. Take the great Republic of the United States of America. When they adopted compulsory service during the agony of the Civil War, President Lincoln, to whom the United States owe their success at the end of that crisis, took the sternest measures of repression against those who ventured to resist by violence the enforcement of what was considered necessary for the safety of the country. We are all agreed that we ought to take any step that is necessary to win the War and enable us to bring it to a successful issue. With whom must we leave the decision? Surely it must be with the Government, and they must decide, because they alone have the necessary information; they alone have the means of bringing to bear upon the subject in all its aspects their mature judgment. I say to the Government that I think they may depend upon having at their backs the immense majority not only of this House but of the whole country if, after deliberation, they find it necessary to adopt compulsory service. The responsibility of the Government if it were necessary to win the War to adopt such a measure would be very great; if they failed to adopt it their responsibility would be tremendous, and I should not envy any member of the Government who shared the responsibility of not taking a step which has been taken by almost all other nations when occasion arose, and which in a time of stress is necessary for the successful prosecution of the War.
There is one other topic I wish to deal with. A pledge has been given that no unfair pressure will be put upon the married men who have volunteered while a substantial proportion of unmarried men have not done what we consider to be their duty in this matter. The Prime Minister has given us a clear, explicit, and definite pledge on that subject, and of course that pledge will be kept. Those who have gone forward will have the satisfaction of knowing that they are not to be sacrificed in the interests of others who have not the same demands upon them and who have not faced the legitimate claims of the country. In my opinion it is the first duty of every citizen to be ready to take his place in the defence of the country when the occasion arises, and I am perfectly certain that if the Government come 286 to the conclusion that a call of that kind should be made, the country as a whole will be ready to accept it.
§ 8.0 P.M.
As the House very well knows, I have been associated with those who have been dealing with the question of recruiting, and therefore I speak with some little experience upon the matter which is under review this afternoon. I am disappointed that we have not got the figures and the facts before us this afternoon. It has been a mystery to me from the outbreak of war why it was considered always impossible to get any candid statement from the Treasury Bench as to what the numbers of our forces were and why the country should not be told the facts. Time after time have the Parliamentary Recruiting Committee asked the military authorities for the figures, but they have never given them to us, ostensibly, I suppose, because it was considered that they might be of some disadvantage to us if the enemy get to know what the numbers were. But is anybody in this House so foolish as to believe that the enemy does not know what we are doing in this country, or a great deal with regard to our numbers? They know a good deal, and more, I am afraid, than the public in this country, as to what are the actual figures, and I cannot understand what value there is in a Debate such as we are having this afternoon when we are discussing a question entirely in the dark. The right hon. Gentleman who has just addressed the House (Sir R. Finlay) said that if so-and-so and if so-and-so happened, then the Government, in doing so-and-so, would be in a terrible position so far as the country was concerned. This kind of argument does not depress me, and in a Parliamentary Debate does not carry us very much further. What we know is that the Prime Minister has stated from the Front Bench that we have an Army of 3,000,000. Some of us know something more of the figures, but in loyalty to the Committee on which we are serving we do not give them. We also know that the Census showed what number of men there were in this country between nineteen and forty, and we know as well, what the hon. Member for Lancaster (Sir N. Helme) says is quite true, namely, that the commerce of the country will suffer if—I will put it this way—you take away one single man more than is absolutely necessary for the Army to win this War. Some of us are suspicious, and with some cause. It is all 287 very well for some people to talk about national service. I believe in national service. I believe a man has no right to claim the protection of the State unless he is prepared to serve the State in the best way he can. Has not the country responded to the call? You may say a tremendous amount of moral pressure has been used. I know it has, but that is a very different thing to fetching your men practically at the point of the bayonet. It is not only the hon. Member for Mayo (Mr. Dillon) and the hon. Member for Derby (Mr. Thomas) who are prepared to fight against Conscription. Some of us are prepared to fight as hard against Conscription as we have fought to get men into the Army under the voluntary system, and we are prepared to take the risks we shall incur. People should not think that they are going to keep a united country by forcing Conscription upon us when we know perfectly well we cannot equip the men we have got, when we know that we cannot equip the men on the lists now for—I will not state the time, but hon. Members and those working for Conscription know perfectly well that we cannot hope to equip the numbers we have for a very, very long time to come. Seeing that that is so, why this pressure that is being put upon the House at the present time to force this particular fad upon us?
I have to say in this regard that it is not only the people who are advocating compulsory service who have tried to make use of this War for the purpose of pushing their own particular fads. Some on this side of the House have done it. They have tried to make use of this War for pushing their own particular ideas, and not altogether for the advantage of the State, from my point of view. The hon. Member, I think, for Bassetlaw (Mr. Hume-Williams) ventured to speak of the spirit of the country—"If we could only go to France and see the spirit of the country." What has France done that England has not done? Why always be bringing in the other country and crying down your own? Where is the other nation on this earth that could give an Army of nearly 4,000,000 on the voluntary principle? The trade unions have thrown on one side almost all their rules in order to help the country. Men have been working seven days a week in order to help their country. Men have joined the Army in large numbers, and the reason they have not done so more quickly is that the military authorities 288 themselves were largely to blame. They damped down recruiting last December, and hon. Members here stood up and hoped this would have the effect of damping it down. We should have got 1,000,000 men last December if the military authorities would have done at that time what has been done in attestation under the Derby scheme. It is useless to talk of the failure of the voluntary principle. I only refer to this matter because I have taken an active part in recruiting, and know the spirit of the country. This Debate is largely a waste of time, conducted without the facts before us. It is nonsense for us to waste the time. The business of the Government is to tell us what men they have and what men they want to finish the job, so far as they are able to calculate it, and I say the Government have far more men than they can use for the next couple of years, however this conflict may extend.
§ Sir JOHN RANDLES
It seems to me that we are in danger of getting wide of the real object and purpose of this Debate. The question is are we to have another 1,000,000 men? And if that is so, are we prepared to allow the Government to get that 1,000,000 men? It is not exactly our business to tell them how they are to get them, or where they are to get them, and I think it was an unfortunate circumstance that the hon. Member for Waterford (Mr. J. Redmond) this afternoon introduced the question of Conscription, and converted what ought to have been, I think, a Debate on other lines into a Conscription versus Voluntaryism debate. I have never made any declarations myself in favour of either Voluntaryism or Conscription, and I am quite content that the Government, who are responsible, should determine on the facts, and should decide as to the method they will employ to secure a sufficiency of men, provided the House gives leave to raise the additional 1,000,000 men. I think however, some weight does attach to the consideration put forward by the hon. Member for Lancaster (Sir N. Helme) this afternoon. I think what we most of all want is that the Government should have at their disposal the whole manhood of the country, and that they should be able to utilise in the manner that is most effective the brain and the muscle, the energy and the power, of every man, of every citizen, in this land. We owe so much as individuals to our country, that we should be prepared to put ourselves absolutely at the service of the State, and 289 if the State determines that certain industries will suffer, that certain trades and businesses will suffer, by the removal of what are termed pivotal men in the arrangements of its affairs it Will surely give such instructions to the tribunals set up, or to be set up, that it will be clearly understood what kind of men should be retained for carrying on the trades and industries of our country. It has come to my notice that there are certain people who have a fear lest important persons in their concerns will be taken away from them.
I think the Board of Trade through their exemption lists, of trades which have had exemptions allowed to them, have met the case very fully, and very fairly. If, on the other hand, the instructions which have been given to the tribunals are not sufficiently clear, I would join in the appeal made by the hon. Member for Lancaster that they should be made quite clear, so that there should be no ambiguity or misunderstanding as to the intention of the Government to secure the placing of men where they will serve their country best. It may very well be that it will be necessary to say that all single men that are eligible should go and do their duty at the front. It may be that some of these men will be better serving the State on the railways, or in the workshops in the various munition factories, and so forth, but I do not think we here can determine a question of this kind. I think we must support the Government in asking them to do this work, and to do it thoroughly, and to give to the Department concerned that power and that strength to determine effectively, through the tribunals, who shall stay and who shall go. When the Government come down to the House, if they do so come down, and say this measure or that measure is necessary, whether Conscription or voluntaryism, I, for one, shall be prepared to support them in whatever course they consider best, at home for the maintenance of the trades and industry of the country necessary to carry on the War, and abroad in the field for the men necessary to win the War. There is a real shortage of men. That is the trouble, and unless by the most careful manipulation of our resources at this time we keep alive such industries as must be kept alive, we shall do much injury. At the same time we must grudge no sacrifice of blood or treasure to secure the victory which we all seek, and which this House is here for the sole purpose of attaining.
Mr. GORDON HARVEY
I do not rise to join in the Debate on the relative methods and merits of the voluntary system or of Conscription, but I would just like to say this in answer to a remark made a short time ago by the right hon. Gentleman on the Front Opposition Bench (Sir R. Finlay). He said that in his opinion there was no individual in this' House who would continue to object to Conscription if the maintenance of such an objection meant the losing of the War. I, like another speaker in the previous part of this Debate, do not believe that is a fair or proper alternative. I would like to point out to the House, what no doubt many of its Members know, that if we take the figure of 3,000,000 as having already enlisted in this country, and if we add to that the modest estimate of 2,000,000 attested men under Lord Derby's scheme, we then get a total of five millions of men, and I venture to remind the House that, in proportion to population, that is a larger number of men than is obtained under any Continental system of Conscription to-day. I think the House has no reason to regret that the figures and results of the recent recruiting scheme have not been put before us. Had they been they would have distracted attention, already sufficiently distracted, from what is, after all, the main purpose of the discussion to-day. The Prime Minister, warned us to be very cautious in accepting current estimates of the result of this recruiting scheme. I would only say this: that, in my opinion, if we accept the very lowest estimate of all it will show a most unexampled and remarkable response OH the part of the youth of this country. The House is asked to-day to vote 1,000,000 men for military service in addition to the 3,000,000 men already recruited, and it is somewhat significant that, following the habit of reticence which the Government has made their own in all the circumstances of the conduct of this War, the real purpose of the Debate, the Vote for 1,000,000 men, was tucked away in one brief sentence in the Prime Minister's speech. I wish we had had more information about it. This, of course, will not come to a vote, but whether we vote or not the Members of this House have a right to the fullest in-formation that can be afforded.
We were told that this million men was partly to reinforce and partly to augment our Armies, and we were expected, so the Prime Minister said, quite courteously, 291 of course, to Vote the million as readily as we had voted the other millions that had gone before. I have no doubt that reticence is necessary to a considerable extent, but I do think the Prime Minister might fairly have given us tome indication of policy or of plan before we were expected to acquiesce in this tremendous demand. Failing information, we are, of course, driven to speculation as to why this large number of men is required. Alas! we have a dwindling Army in the field through the fortunes of war. That is shared with us by all the belligerent nations, and we are safe in assuming that Germany's armies are dwindling more rapidly than our own. Although I agree that we must keep up, and will keep up, the number of the forces we now possess, I cannot quite see why we should be called upon to add to them. At any rate, if we are so called upon, I think some explanation should be afforded. Is it that new expeditions are going to be undertaken? If so, that brings up, and must bring up, very anxious thoughts in the minds of all of us. I should like to ask how this calculation of a million men has been arrived at. because I say it with all respect that the simple ipse dixit of the War Office is not enough. The War Office, of course, demands men. It is the business of the military advocate to call for those who serve his direct purpose best. I would like to know if the Under-Secretary of State for War can tell us whether there has been any well-studied and carefully-thought-out plan before this estimate has been arrived at. We in this House know nothing about it.
The Government speak constantly with most harmonious voices, but they show most jarring and discordant action sometimes when action has to be taken. Today the whole call is for men. That seems to be the one thing necessary to win the War. Yesterday it was nothing but munitions. Men were of small account. It was a war of machinery, and we must have more and more men to make that machinery. To-day the War Office comes down and grabs a million men. Yesterday the Minister of Munitions came down and bagged 400,000 men, and so we go on. To-morrow, perhaps, the President of the Board of Trade will come down and will demand—I hope he will—that millions of men are wanted to maintain our industry and look after the production of our exports. Here we have three voices, or we shall have if he speaks, without any sign 292 of harmony, without any sign of co-ordination of purpose, and without any appearance of having correlated the vast requirements of the nation. It is most unsatisfactory, either from the point of view of winning the War or of pure businesslike administration.
The Minister of Munitions said that the War was one of machinery. I venture to say that it is a war of grim endurance, and it might equally well be called a war of cash and a war of credit. The House has had several solemn warnings of this kind. The Prime Minister himself, on 2nd November, told the House that the most important desideratum was the production of munitions in the first place, the maintenance of exports in the second place, and, in the third place, out of the reservoir of men remaining we were to get the greatest possible number of recruits. That seemed a very modest pool for the recruiting officer to fish in. It is not the reservoir in these days. The grand fisherman has put out his small mesh nets over the whole ocean, and nobody can compete with him. We shall have to catch all the small fry we can that escapes from his net. The Minister of Munitions also offered most excellent advice on 4th May. He was then Chancellor of the Exchequer, and perhaps he saw things in a somewhat different light. He said:—We have raised enormous numbers of men, but I say, speaking now purely from the point of view of finance that the time has come when there should be discrimination, so that recruiting should not interfere with the output of munitions of war. and so that it should interfere as little as possible with the output of those-commodities which we export abroad."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, col. 1015, 4th May, 1915, Vol. LXXL.]Those were weighty words from a most responsible Minister. The capacity of this nation is not as limitless as some people would have us suppose, although of course its capacity is immense. We have taken a stupendous share in this great conflict. It is insulting to Great Britain to suggest that we are not doing our share. We have done far more than the most sanguine of our Allies ever expected of us when we entered this War. We have given to them the full use of that gigantic and expensive Fleet of ours, which is the Fleet of the Allies to-day and which serves the purposes of all. It will continue to do so as long as the War lasts, with the hearty consent of everyone in this country. We have brought out a mighty Army, another of our capacities which we are exercising to a far greater extent than we ever supposed possible in this country. Our other capacity is the capacity to finance, the capacity to help to equip, the capacity to 293 find the money wherewith those of our Allies less fortunate in this respect than ourselves may do their share in this great conflict. I think the last consideration, that of financial stability and financial power, should receive from the Government more attention than it has hitherto done. I am not speaking as one of those who is alarmed into prophecy, because after the recruiting that has already taken place the industries are suffering very severely at the present time. The output is diminished in every trade. The transport of material and goods, as was well pointed out by the hon. Member for Hex-ham (Mr. Holt) earlier in the Debate, has become most difficult, most expensive, and, to my own certain knowledge, it often interferes with and prevents the carrying on of the export trade with foreign countries. Merchants in their offices are deprived of their clerks, and, with the consent of the House, I will say one brief word about the clerks. The clerk is often talked about as if he were a very inferior, useless person who might be recruited readily and without hesitation, because he can so easily be replaced by anyone you can pick out in the street. There was never a greater delusion. The clerks employed in great commercial undertakings are most highly skilled and experienced men, who are particularly qualified by training and experience to deal with that department wherein their duties are carried out, and they are a much more useful and important section of the community than is very often supposed.
Just one word about the cost of this increased enlistment of 1,000,000 men. I say at once that if I had been told why they were to be raised, and how they were to be used, I should not hesitate about the cost; but so long as I see no settled plan, I am bound to refer to the question. It should be remembered that the cost of future enlistment in this country will increase very much as time goes on. You will more and more recruit men of responsible positions, men to whose dependants the allowance which the Government makes is of really no importance reckoned by the income they are accustomed to spend. And what is to become of the dependants of many men in the lower middle classes who lose their whole income for a paltry £1 a week or less in return? Unless great care is taken, many of them will become absolutely dependent on the charity of the country. Then, as you recruit men, many of whom will have to come out of industries, you will keep taking 294 the larger wage earners. Let me give an example which I know in the cotton industry. Every cotton-weaver we now take will materially diminish the amount of trade we do with foreign countries, and, as the House knows, the cotton industry is to all intents and purposes almost exclusively an export industry. If you take a weaver from the mills, it means that you are taking away a man whose output is equal to £700 per annum. That £700 will be lost to your exports—lost to the country. You have to add to that £700 the £300 which each soldier costs, so that you are going to get soldiers now of that class at the rate of £1,000 per man per year. Again, I would point out this man is taken from the cotton industry, whose great consumer is our Dependency of India, and if you prevent that £700 worth of goods going to India, you prevent India disposing of £700 worth of tea, so that you are not only doing something very expensive to ourselves, but you are depriving the people of India of a certain amount of their means of livelihood at the same time. The output of the great industries of the country that are not making munitions of war is now I venture to say, at a moderate estimate some 20 per cent, less than it ought to be. To what, then, are we looking forward in the near future when 1,000,000 men are taken from these industries? It is said that our pivotal men will be left, but a pivotal man is only useful in so far as you can replace under-men. We can no longer do that. We have drained the wells of industry well nigh dry, and, if you take the undermen, the pivotal men will have to be discharged.
I put those considerations to the House because I thought it my duty as a business man of business experience to introduce them into this Debate, or to follow in this Debate those friends of mine of equal experience who have urged this not unimportant consideration upon the attention of the Government. I said a moment ago, and I hope the House will credit me with full sincerity, that if the Government want all the men, and can show us that by getting them all they can speedily and victoriously win this War, every industry of the country must close; but I am not sure of that. The President of the Local Government Board or other responsible Ministers in the Cabinet should assure this House before the Vote is granted that the fullest consideration has been given to all these three most important points of a great question.
§ Sir JOHN SPEAR
I want to emphasise the importance of having a tribunal to whom people attested will have to appeal composed and directed most carefully, so that equal and fair treatment and justice may be extended to all. It is, I think, of first-rate importance, and I am sure the Government will see the need of providing that there be no partiality, but fair treatment of all who come before that tribunal. I am sure those who have listened to the Debate must be convinced that every Member of the House wants to win the War, and to win it in. a way that is as considerate as possible to men, and that will do the least possible injury to trade and agriculture. I am bound to say that, whatever steps the Government deem it necessary to take in order to accomplish that, I shall heartily support, and therefore I very cordially shall support the Vote now under consideration. But there is just' one point occurred to me when we have been discussing the necessity for more men, and we all recognise that. We want to win this War, and the men must be provided. I would desire very humbly to join in the expression of gratitude to Lord Derby and those who work with him for the energy and ability with which they have sought to provide the necessary men to end the War.
What I cannot quite understand is why, if more men are wanted, the Government do not take some steps to allow the time-expired men who are anxious to continue in the Army, to do so. By the Regimental Order 252, Army Form B, men are not allowed to re-engage after their seventeen years' service. As recently as the 8th November a further Order was issued in the Southern Command that Reservists compulsorily retired after seventeen years' service with the Colours will not be allowed to re-engage. Surely that is an unreasonable practice just at the time when we want the service of every seasoned and experienced man. Valuable as are the recruits—we have every reason to be proud of the way in which the men called "Kitchener's Men" and the Territorials have borne themselves in the War— yet we must feel that the man who has seventeen years' experience in the Army must make a more desirable soldier at this crisis than one who has had little experience. I ask the Government to give that matter due consideration, and to see whether, at any rate for the period of the War, that Order cannot be annulled, so that those men who are anxious to re- 296 engage and give the country their services may have an opportunity of doing so.
With reference to the question of the maintenance of trade and agriculture, I yield to no man as to the necessity of providing the men. But we must also provide the money to pay them and the food to support them. I am sure that the Government are anxious, as all Members of the Committee are, to accomplish these three purposes, with due regard to the claims of each. As to the importance of the tribunal being impartial and judicially minded, I am driven to the conclusion that unless that is the case gross injustice will be done under the National Register. The starring of the National Register was done very erratically. There seemed to be no rhyme or reason in it, and no uniform principle that guided those who starred the Register. Therefore the only chance of justice being done is that the advisory committee and the tribunal before which appeals will have to be made shall deal with the question with strict impartiality and justice. To show the absurdity of the starring, I would mention that in some cases the tradesman who is engaged in his own trade or business is not starred. We see that a farmer, in many cases of military age, farming from 150 to 200 acres of land, is not starred, while the horseman or cowman on that farm is starred. We know we want the horseman and the cowman, but what is the use of them on the farm unless the farmer himself is there to manage the business? It seems most extraordinary that in the case of the trader managing his own business, or the farmer managing his own farm, that neither of them are starred. They have to attest— they get their 2s. 9d., I presume—they have to be medically examined, which means a doctor's fee, and they are put to all the trouble and inconvenience of having to go before the tribunal and be excused from service. It is a most unreasonable, irritating, and unbusinesslike method.
We have had strong appeals from Lord Selborne to raise as great an amount of food as possible. I believe that farmers as a whole, and traders as well, are trying to do their best to provide, on the one hand, food, and, on the other, to carry on business in such a way as will maintain our financial credit, but we do want to be treated on business lines. Therefore, I can only impress upon the Government the importance of giving these advisory com- 297 mittees and tribunals such instructions as will enable them to proceed on uniform lines in dealing with the several cases that come before them. I agree with all that has been said as to the great importance of maintaining the trade of the country, but the first interest we have is to win the War. If we lose the War, our farms will be devastated and our trade permanently ruined. We are all agreed that the first thing is to win the War, but, side by side with that, with wise counsel on the part of the tribunals, the men who are indispensable to the carrying on of trade and agriculture will be starred, so that we may be able to have their services. It is a department of national work which is necessary for the well-being of the State. I hope the hon. Gentleman on the Treasury Bench will impress on the Government the importance of giving very careful directions to the advisory committees and the tribunals, so that perfect impartiality and fair treatment may be given to all sections of the community. That is what the community wants and has the right to demand. It is a very difficult task, indeed, that these bodies have to carry out. I am sure they are anxious to do justice. They ought to have such definite directions as will make it comparatively easy for them to accomplish that purpose. I would ask the War Office to consider whether, as the time has come when we want more men at the front, the seventeen years' service men should not be allowed to re-engage. I believe that thereby they would add considerably to the number of our fighting men, and make it less necessary to take from the essential business and trade of the country the men who will be wanted, unless these men are re-engaged, to take the places the recruits will have to fill. The men are anxious to re-engage, and I believe it would be good for the country and for the men if, at least during the period of the War, the present Order which prevents them from being reengaged is annulled.
§ Mr. PARTINGTON
I think we all agree with the hon Gentleman that we must win the War. The only thing is how we can bring that about in the best way. The Prime Minister has told us that we have three functions to discharge in this country. The first is to supply an adequate number of men for the Army, the second is to provide munitions, not only for ourselves but for the Allies, and the third is to help our Allies out of their financial 298 difficulties. We have already raised 3,000,000 men, and we are supplying our Allies with munitions to a very large extent, and the question we have to consider most carefully to-day is the financial question. Lord Kitchener has admitted, in another place, that we' should only recruit more men after providing for the necessary services of the country, and those necessary services include the export trade. Today we are trying to bring back from the trenches men to fill the huge national munitions factories that we have set up—men who have cost this country hundreds of pounds in training, in equipment, and in food, and who ought never to have left this country at all. But what I am afraid of is that if we are not very careful it may be necessary, in the near future, to bring back men to work our factories, not only to supply us with armaments, but to maintain our export trade. That would be most disastrous from every point of view. Employers of labour are to-day experiencing tremendous difficulties in getting their works fully employed. Unemployed men do not exist. In fact, the millennium which was promised us by the Tariff Reformers many years ago has now arrived. There are two jobs waiting for every unemployed man. If we take too many men away from the necessary work of the country, if we are not very careful the trade of the country will become utterly disorganised. Our docks and ports to-day are congested with goods which cannot be moved. Many of our steamers are held up because they cannot get berths owing to the docks being crowded, and the result is that freights have gone up tremendously. The same thing applies to the railways. The railway companies today refuse for days at a time to take goods for delivery at the docks or ports, or even in the country, because of this great shortage of labour. We are told this is going to be a war of existence, and that the country which can raise the last £100,000,000 is going to win it. But if the output of our factories is seriously curtailed and our exports diminished, the financial position in this country would become even more serious than it is to-day.
The Minister of Munitions has told us that this is a war of machinery. We must keep our machinery going to make munitions, but at the same time we must keep our machinery going making things which will pay for those munitions. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, in an interview with the "New York Tribune," quite 299 recently, stated that we must still, in the main, depend upon our export trade to pay for our imports; and he went on to say that our Allies, as well as ourselves, depend upon our power to export, and every man who is taken from the export trade to-day increases the difficulties we shall have in paying for the huge imports which are coming into this country. I know merchants to-day who send representatives to the United States to purchase goods to be exported to India and the Colonies. Those goods would be made in this country if we had sufficient labour to manufacture them. I state this not because I wish that these merchants or manufacturers should make more profit. All I am concerned about at present is to try and improve our export trade so that the balance of trade against us to-day will not be increased. If we are to vote another 1,000,000 men, that will naturally increase the difficulty. We have been told that each soldier costs the country £300. That means that when all this 1,000,000 men are absorbed the increased cost of the War will be something like £300,000,000. Not only that, we are turning what were producers into consumers, and we are losing the value of their capacity to turn out goods. We have been told repeatedly that the financial situation is serious. But how are we to ensure the balance of trade? Gold is not going to fall down from heaven like manna because we are fighting in a just and righteous cause. We have raised a Loan in the United States of America, but it has not been what you might call a brilliant success. I think our share of the spoils is sufficient to keep the War going for ten days. Then we are taking our foreign securities. But we cannot finance the War very long out of that. We must either export gold or we must export its equivalent in the shape of goods. The hon. Member for Nottingham rather jeered at traders for trying to keep their works going. But if traders do not keep their works going, what is going to become of the old men, the women, and the children? Are they going to be thrown on the rates? Then, again, if the works are not kept going, where is the Income Tax coming from? I believe next year we shall raise something like £150,000,000 from Income Tax, and there will be the Excess Profits Tax as well. I do not think it is quite fair for learned Gentlemen to jeer at us simply because we are doing our best to put the 300 financial conditions of this country on a better foundation than it is at present. I have simply risen to warn the Government that an increase in the number of men will not in iteself win the War. The financial support we can give to our Allies is of equal importance, and if our export trade diminishes I think it would be a very disastrous thing indeed for this country and for the War.
§ Mr. THEODORE TAYLOR
I should like to give the Committee the result of my own experience on this question of labour. It was my duty yesterday, along with two other gentlemen representing the woollen trade, to go to the Reserved Occupations Committee, and ask them to allow certain classes of workpeople in the woollen trade to be reserved to carry on our woollen industry. The other gentlemen were two of the very largest employers in the industry, appointed, not by manufacturers, but by some eight or ten different Chambers of Commerce in the West Riding of Yorkshire, all interested in the woollen trade. We asked, for example, that spinners should be allowed to be kept for the purpose of preparing yarn, and that another class should be reserved so that the woollen industry might not cease altogether. We were told in a moment that the Home Office Would be quite willing to allow women to work at night. I may here point out that in order to make the goods required for the Government it is necessary to run the spinning departments of the woollen trade at night in order that the looms may be kept going during the day time. We pointed out that if the spinners were taken away from our trade and could not work at night, we should have half our looms standing. In reply we were told that the Home Office would be quite prepared to grant permission for women to work at night. We pointed out that already there was a shortage of women for day employment. The largest manufacturer of blankets in the world was there, and he stated to the Committee that his firm had already many looms standing in the day time on account of the shortage of weavers. I can quite understand the impatience of a great many patriotic gentlemen who look upon this matter from the military point of view, when they see business men coming forward and stating their difficulties, which, however real they may be, these patriotic gentlemen think have only a basis of greed and selfishness. I want to 301 put this point most clearly to the Committee, that I believe manufacturers, so far as I know them, in the cotton industry which concerns the district I represent in Lancashire, and in the woollen district in which I live in Yorkshire, are as earnest, as anxious, and as honest in their desire to win this War as any military man, however brave, self-sacrificing and single-minded he may be.
In this as it has been said many times to-night that we are all at one, and a great many of us are very proud to pay half wages to the workmen who have gone to the War and to look after their dependants. We are very glad to do all we can. So far as I am concerned, I re-echo what has been said already that if allowing the whole of the industries of the country to come to a standstill, so that the men who are of military age might go to the War, would be the shortest way of winning the War, we should be satisfied to do that. But that is a proposition too absurd for words. If we are to win this War, as we were most clearly and most eloquently shown yesterday by the Minister of Munitions, munitions, large guns, machine guns, and any amount of ammu-notion are infinitely more important towards the winning of the War than the addition of any number of men. There was only one inference to be drawn from that speech, and that was that until we have sufficiently armed the battalions of our own men who have already been drilled and trained, and many of whom are on the field of battle losing their lives because they have not enough munitions; until we have a number of machine guns at least equal to the number of machine guns in the possession of the Germans— the Germans having sixteen per battalion and our men having only two per battalion; until our men are protected by guns of calibre equal to the guns of the Germans, and until we have a quantity of explosives equivalent to the quantity possessed by the Germans, the right hon. Gentleman did not say this, but the plain inference from his speech was that it does not matter about the men if you cannot give them the weapons. What did the Minister of Munitions tell us yesterday on this point? I shall never forget the scene that he depicted. He had a photograph which he described to us. It was a photograph of the scene after the Battle of Loos, in which there was some barbed wire entanglement still left standing, and there were the corpses of 1,000 of our men in front of the entanglement because 302 one of the enemy's machine guns had escaped our guns.
§ 9.0 P.M.
§ Mr. TAYLOR
I do not wish to exaggerate, but that incident impressed itself upon my mind as I think no speech ever made in this House has ever impressed itself upon my mind. What was the lesson to be learned from that? What is the lesson of the whole speech, if we are to believe it and take it literally, and I for one do so, for I do not look upon it as an exaggeration for effect for the time being? I do not believe such an unworthy motive prompted it. I believe it was made with the consent of the Prime Minister and with the consent of the Cabinet in order to impress upon the people of this country the absolute, the vital, and the supreme necessity of having enough machine guns, enough large guns, and enough stores without stint of large ammunition. The whole of that speech was meant to convey the same forcible argument to us, that we have heard from numbers of men who have come from the field of battle, all of whom tell us how absolutely necessary it is to have the machinery of war. The hon. Member for Hexham (Mr. Holt) has made a speech, with a large part of which I agree, but with the somewhat critical tone of some portions of which I do not quite agree. However, with his arguments in regard to the financial and commercial aspects of the situation, I heartily agree. He said that it was probably easier to win the War with 3,000,000 men than with 4,000,000 men. That, of course, is a paradox, but we all know what he meant. What he meant was that the 1,000,000 men that might be taken to add to the 3,000,000 would be more usefully occupied in winning the War at home than if they were taken to the field of battle. The real question is, Can we spare from our industries another 1,000,000 men? I am not going to vote against this Motion, but I very strongly warn the Government that it is not a case with us, as one hon. and learned Member said, of hoarding gold—a ridiculous phrase. Who wants to hoard gold? Who cares for gold, compared with the fortunes of one's country? I wish to say 303 on behalf of the business men of this country that they care as much for their country as any other class. As the Colonial Secretary said in this House six months ago, great mistakes are made by official gentlemen in imagining that business men are not patriotic.
What are our factories, our mills, our mines, if we do not win this War? We must win. It is because we want to win, and it is because we realise the great necessity of maintaining these absolutely necessary industries in our country, that we speak these warning words to the Government. I am sure that the bulk of people in this country do not realise what this War is going to cost in money. I very much question whether the great bulk of Members of this House realise what this War is going to cost in money. We are spending at the rate of £5,000,000 a day, or over £1,800,000,000 a year— nearly £2,000,000,000 a year. Do we fully realise what that means? Do we fully realise that of all the Allies, upon us is thrown the chief burden of finding the money? Where are we to get the money from? Let no Gentleman imagine for a moment that we can go on spending our capital. Our troops must be kept going; the machinery of war must be found for them, their equipment, their food, their clothing, their transport—all must be found for them out of the current efforts of the present generation, out of the current income, whether from the ground in shape of food or raw material or as the result of the work in our factories. We cannot feed our soldiers on ploughs and barns. Factories and workshops are not clothing. War cannot be carried on by the consumption of capital, but only by the product of capital and labour which we call income. No one denies for a moment that there is any other way of providing materiel for warfare except by continuing production by the current work of the people of to-day. In other words, we must pay for our Armies out of our income or out of some other nation's income by getting what we want on credit.
There is only one large country in the world beside our own where we can borrow, and that is the United States of America. When we remember the total result of the great financial effort which we made in sending important men from this country to the United States for the purposes of a loan, this country's share being £50,000,000 out of the £100,000,000, 304 and recollect that in the course of ten days it would be exhausted, then the position, I submit, as regards borrowing abroad, with only one country to borrow from, is indeed serious. To people who say that no war was ever stopped for want of money, I ask them to remember one thing. I recollect two great wars, that between Russia and Japan and the Franco-German War of forty years ago. In the Franco-Prussian War the same Powers were engaged with each other, but, instead of having as now, Great Britain, Austria, Italy, and Russia engaged in hostilities, those countries were actively supplying machinery and equipment to the combatants. But now we have those other Powers involved in the strife, and, instead of making profit from supplying equipment, they are spending their income upon war. Moreover, there is a very much larger proportion of the citizens of these countries engaged in this War than formerly were engaged in the Franco-Prussian War, and, from the financial point of view, the difference is still greater.
Do hon. Members realise that this is the most expensive War per man ever waged in any country of the world? We were told yesterday by the Minister of Munitions that the cost of munitions was something enormous, and some estimate of the cost may be derived from the fact which he stated, that a saving of from ten to twenty millions had bean effected on certain orders for munitions. That was the difference between one price and another. Think of the enormous cost of the new guns which are being made, of the immense number of machine guns, and of rifles, of which we have not yet sufficient for the men who have already attested and enlisted. Put all these items of outlay-together and compare them with any previous war in which great nations of the world have been engaged, and remember how much larger a proportion of the population of each country is enrolled in the different armies. Recollect how enormously greater is the number of men fighting than was the case in previous great wars, and I think Members of this Committee will realise at a glance how vast is the expenditure which is being incurred. Therefore, it is no want of patriotism, nor because of any personal or selfish interests to serve—a charge which is thrown across the House from one to another—in those who stand up and ask that the financial position of the country shall be duly regarded by the Government of the day. The 305 Government should remember that not only the large New Army has been drawn from the industries: of the country, but that at the same time munition workers have been taken from industries for the War, and instead of being producers are now become a charge upon the country.
It has been very unfortunate that we have had to buy so large a part of our munitions from the United States of America. Hon. Members will recollect what emphasis the Minister of Munitions yesterday laid on the necessity we were under to secure that a larger part of munitions should be made here, from the financial point of view. If you take more workpeople away from their ordinary avocations you will have to buy a larger part of your munitions from abroad, and thus raise the exchange against this country still more than it is now. Every financial consideration is in the direction of impressing upon the Government the great need for exercising care before industries are brought to a stop by taking away further men. In the industry with which I am familiar we have no spare man and no spare woman. It is the same with the cotton industry which is already reduced by 20 per cent. in volume, and the cotton industry is one of the most essential to the maintenance of our experts. I do want the Government before they utilise civilian workers to take rather a clearer account of the men and women necessary for carrying on the industries of the country.
There is no talk of taking all the 1,000,000 men at once. I do not suppose the Government intends to do that; I suppose they will carry on the War till they see what is to be done later on, but whether they do so or not, may I make a suggestion to them? We all know how well the Territorials have acquitted themselves; we are all proud of them. Is there not a course that the Government could take between the calling up of these million men, or half million men, at once, and leaving them alone altogether? Why should they not take a leaf out of their own book, and get a certain portion of these men to drill on Saturdays or at other times, as is done with the Territorials? They give the men a partial training, and do not take them entirely away from industries. It seems to me not to be necessary to go to one extreme or the other. I believe that most of the Territorials have volunteered for foreign service. The men who are now going to be called up are men. without 306 much military knowledge or training, and I respectfully suggest to the Government whether it would not be worth their while to take a large portion of recruits, and, as in the case of the. Territorials, give them partial training, while they remain at their industries. What I mean is that these recruits should not be taken away absolutely from their ordinary work, but that they should be left at it while opportunities of training are afforded. I think the suggestion is worth the attention of the Government.
§ Mr. TENNANT
I listened with interest to my hon. Friend, and I reply to the suggestion which he has laid before us, namely, that we should not take all the men at once, but should leave them a portion of their time during the week at the industries in which they are now occupied. That was the practice at the War Office during the time of peace. We trained the men for fifteen days and for the rest of the year they followed their usual avocations. But since the outbreak of the War, the House is aware that the Territorial soldier has given his whole time to the process of becoming a perfected soldier, and I am not at all sure that it will be possible to adopt the suggestion of my hon. Friend, inasmuch as the men we want now are men to fill the gaps caused by the casualties in this devastating War, and, that being so, it is essential that these men should be trained with the utmost dispatch in order that they may take their place in the firing line. I would say also to my hon. Friend that the Government is not unaware of the necessity of safeguarding the national purse. As was said by my hon. Friend the Member for East Mayo (Mr. Dillon) to-day, the strength of Great Britain lay in its Fleet and finances. That is true, and is not likely to be forgotten. The Debate turned largely upon the question of safeguarding industry and upon questions in relation to a voluntary, as against a compulsory system of service. The Prime Minister himself particularly abstained from mentioning any figures in relation either to the men whom we have got, or to the necessities of the country at the present moment, for the reason, and the very sufficient reason, that it has not been possible in the short time at our disposa' to analyse and to allocate the figures of the recruits who are attested under Lord Derby's scheme. One hon. Member said that he was fairly confident that Lord Derby's scheme must be a. failure because the. Prime Minister would 307 not announce any figures. I would like to disabuse the minds of any hon. Members who may hold that view, and I should think they would be very few. I will return to the subject of industry later on.
I should like to say to the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Trinity College (Sir E. Carson) if he were present, that in the indictment which he brought against the Government for delay in coming to a decision upon what should be the policy of the Government in the Mediterranean, and particularly in the Dardanelles, he really seemed seemed to forget that operations of war are not determinable beforehand. You cannot say what is going to be the outcome of any particular action. If you were so certain beforehand, war surely would be a much easier affair than it is to-day. He accused the Government of shilly-shallying and of not having arrived at decisions, and of having done nothing during the months of August, September, October, and November in the Dardanelles. I entirely deplore language of that kind. I deprecate it very much. Surely it, is patent to anyone who has followed the proceedings of our splendid troops in those regions in the Mediterranean, that they have made every conceivable effort to try and get through, and to try and conduct tremendously difficult operations in the face of a very stubborn foe, and that although the operations were unsuccessful it seemed almost at one time as if success would be achieved. There was always the hope, and there must always be hope in military operations, or otherwise you would not undertake them, that these operations would be triumphant. Therefore, to say that while we were holding up 200,000 Turks and certainly over 100,000 Turks, that we were doing nothing and only dilly-dallying, is not truthful, or at all a proper representation of the facts of the case.
The right hon. and learned Gentleman, and my hon. Friend the Member for East Mayo also went on to attack the Government because no actual description of these most moving operations has ever been circulated to this House and to the country. As my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister stated, in an interruption which he made, it is not the Government's fault that Generals do not provide us with dispatches. We have had interviews, and I myself have had interviews with the gallant officer in command, who is now at home, and he promised me the dispatch 308 almost at once. I understood from him that it was in a very forward state of preparation more than a month ago. I understand that the dispatch has now reached the War Office, and only reached it yesterday, and it is not yet in print. We know that Sir Ian Hamilton is a writer of great distinction, and that he has a fine literary sense, which I think most of us can admire, if we cannot emulate, and the turn of a phrase is of the very greatest importance to him, and perhaps almost of greater importance than to many of my hon. Friends. Therefore he has taken time, and I make no accusation against him, to put his material in order and polish his periods to the point which he considers necessary. I am only putting that forward as a possible reason. I have not had any communication with him as to why this delay may have taken place. There are several conceivable reasons which I daresay may suggest themselves to hon. Gentlemen, and therefore I shall not enlarge upon the matter. What I do say is that it is not quite fair to bring an indictment against His Majesty's Government for this delay, which is really no part of their action.
§ Sir A. MARKHAM
The Minister of Munitions, in his speech yesterday, said fourteen times that the Government have been too late.
§ Mr. TENNANT
I am not responsible for what the Minister of Munitions says, and I am sorry if that should be so. Even though the Minister of Munitions should have used that word fourteen times, I do not think it necessarily follows that it is the Government's fault that Sir Ian Hamilton has not presented his dispatch. We have been asked to state the reasons why we are asking Parliament to vote another million men. I should have thought that it was evident on the face of it, but if any hon. Gentleman really does desire further information upon that point, I can only say that it is obvious where you have large armies in the field, when you are occupied in a War of this magnitude, and faced with a determined foe, that the casualties are great, and that therefore the reinforcements are correspondingly great. It is in order to keep our very large forces in the field up to the strength at which they should be that we are asking Parliament to take this step. The hon. Member for East Mayo said that, in the eyes of the War Office, all votes for men are too small. I do not think that is the case. The War Office only wish for a 309 sufficient number of men to win this War. That is their business, that is their duty, that is their natural predilection. The hon. Member for East Mayo went on to say, "If I had my will, my way, and if it were possible, I myself would be glad to see 5,000,000 men in the field." That is precisely the attitude the War Office adopt. If we had our way, if we had the possibility of doing it, we would like to have 5,000,000 men in the field. Why? In order to bring this War to as speedy and successful a conclusion as possible. It is impossible for me to go at length into the question of the trade of the country, partly because the figures to which I have alluded are not available. Their tabulation could not possibly have taken place in the time at the disposal of Lord Derby and his staff. But when we are told that our attitude is, "You give us the men, and let the trade and industry of the country take care of themselves," that is a wholly false representation of the attitude of the War Office. We are as alive to the importance of industry and to the importance of safeguarding the financial position of the country as can be the most assiduous trader whom I see sitting near me.
The hon. Member for East Mayo asked, "What is the position of the Chancellor of the Exchequer? Surely the Chancellor of the Exchequer ought to have something to say upon this demand for men which is going to deplete the industries of the country and be disastrous to our foreign trade, and therefore to the foreign exchanges?" The answer is obvious. I have had several conversations with the Chancellor of the Exchequer. He is a very important member of His Majesty's Government. He has subscribed to this Vote for men, and he recognises that it is essential for the proper prosecution of the War. Under Lord Derby's scheme many steps have been taken which I hope will safeguard the position of my hon. Friends who are interested in the commerce and industry of the country. For instance, the men who are indispensable will be able to represent their case to the local tribunal. Their cases will be heard not in the place in which they live or to which they have been brought, but in the places where they are engaged on their work. So that the local tribunal will be fully seized of all the facts, acquainted with the necessities of the case, and able to deal with it as represented to them, according to the actual necessities of the industry concerned. We are most anxious 310 to guard all those trades which are necessary to the country, and to see that they are in no way damaged or hurt by the depletion of their workers. All the industries which are necessary for the country will be carefully safeguarded by the methods taken under Lord Derby's scheme. There is one aspect of the question which I do not think has been realised; certainly it has not been mentioned in the Debate. Every day the places of men who have hitherto been considered indispensable are being taken in increasing numbers by women. Not only is that so, but women are showing themselves admirable in their management of business and proving themselves excellent workers. They are there in large numbers, ready and anxious to do what they can.
I have been asked several questions. It is suggested that men who have attested under Lord Derby's scheme should, when called up, be first of all medically examined. I think that is a very proper proposal and one which I am sure wherever possible will be carried out prior to a man being brought into the ranks of the Army. There is an obvious reason for that. If a man is taken away from the industry in which he is engaged, arrangements may be made for filling his place. It may be difficult to find somebody to do his work and the industry may be dislocated. If, after that, he were found to be medically unfit, there would be a great deal of unnecessary dislocation and annoyance. Therefore, I will mention this small matter of detail to my Noble Friend Lord Derby, and see if we cannot arrange for that to be done. My hon. Friend the Member for East Mayo, in an impassioned period of his speech, told us how disastrous a thing victory may be. He gave us an instance—not at all an untrue instance—that of the Franco-Prussian War. In that case, I think, the victory has proved to be a curse to the Prussians. But what greater curse could there be to this country than to have an inconclusive peace? It would be almost as great a curse as if we were to incur defeat. It is in order that we may avert that terrible disaster that we are asking for these million men. It is not possible or desirable on this occasion to argue the question of voluntary as against compulsory service. But my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has stated with great clearness that if certain conditions in relation to recruiting are not fulfilled, the 311 steps we have taken in the past will have to be given up, and for them will have to be substituted other methods, and it may be that the Government will have to take to themselves other powers. I do not wish to foreshadow what those other powers may be, but I entirely agree with the right hon. and learned Gentleman opposite (Sir R. Fin-lay) that if that eventuality comes about, if the Government ask for those other powers, the Prime Minister will doubtless have behind him a vast majority not only of the Members of this House, but of our kindred throughout the length and breadth of the land. I would make an appeal to my hon. Friends from Ireland and ask them, when they see the necessity has arrived for other steps to be taken, to say that they will not be backward, but that they will throw in their lot with the Government in order to do what we all desire—I am sure my hon. Friends from Ireland desire it just as strongly as we do—to bring this War to the only termination which is conceivable.
§ Mr. ELLIS GRIFFITH
After an earlier period of considerable fulmination from both sides of the House we have now arrived at an atmosphere of calm which I need hardly assure the Committee is much more in accord with my own personal sympathies. We have heard from the right hon. Gentleman the Under-Secretary of State a great literary defence of a great literary general. We have learnt, not for the first time, that the more style, the less speed. At the same time I should have thought that the Secretary to the War Office might have remembered if he turned out the manuscript more quickly he might have given a little less time to turning the phrases to which the right hon. Gentleman alluded. At any rate, as I understand it, we are discussing now whether 1,000,000 more men shall or shall not be provided. That is the basis, however far we may have wandered from it from time to time. There are two reasons, as I understand it, why these additional 1,000,000 should not be provided. The first reason would be that they are not required. I do not think anybody has taken that line in this discussion. If they could be obtained we would be quite willing that they should be forthcoming. That is not the point that has been taken. It is 312 not that they are not required, but that they are not available. That is the real point which has been taken to-night. Hon. Members one after another spoke from the opposite side, beginning with the hon. Member for Hexham and ending with the hon. Member for the Radcliffe Division. One and all ended their speeches—sometimes they did it before they came to the end of their speeches—by warning the Government against the step they have taken. I do not find any fault with the basis of the arguments that these Gentlemen have addressed to the Committee. More than six months ago, some hon. Members will remember, I addressed the House upon the question of what was then called National Service. I took it as the basis of my appeal to the House at that time, that the real basis and justification, as I believe, of my views was that if there was national service the Government of the country could determine once and for all how many men were required for all these essential services. Nobody denies that now; it has become a commonplace.
It is not merely men for the Army we want. That does not dispose of our great trouble in this War. It is said that we have the limitless number of men that we can send to the Army, but there is a certain limit to our military resources. It is for the Government themselves to fix that limit. It is the Government, and the Government only, who have the facts and information which makes a really reliable conclusion possible. I pointed out long ago that after the Government had made inquiries into how many men were necessary for the Army, munitions, equipment, and for our internal and external trade, that if we put all these requirements side by side, and endeavoured to adjust them the one with the other, that then for the first time the Government would, be able to tell us what we wanted to know to understand the position. The Government then should have said: So far as we understand, it, upon these facts, according, to the present situation, we can afford to have an Army of 2,500,000 men or 3,000,000 or 3,500,000. That would have been a logical and reasonable decision to take. We would then have known whether voluntary recruiting would have met the standard that the Government had itself set up. We have never known that. I have some sympathy upon that point with my yoluntarist Friends. They have never known whether the response was adequate. There has been a call, and a 313 response; and there has been another call, and another response. So it goes on from one limit to another. I say this because I am the only one who blames the Government for anything in this House. [An HON. MEMBER: "The Front Bench!"] At any rate, I think it would have been more satisfactory if, long ago, six months ago, twelve months ago, the Government had formally placed before the country their requirements. Whatever fault there may be, whether we national service men are right or wrong, I feel quite certain of this, that the reason this controversy has arisen is because the Government has not faced the situation very satisfactorily. It would not have been necessary for this matter to be raised into, at any rate, a matter of acute controversy if the Government in this, as in many others matters, had taken the country more into its confidence. The hon. Member for East Mayo made, I will not say a violent speech, but one of his usual speeches upon this matter. [An HON. MEMBER: "An able speech!"] Yes, such as a patriotic Irishman would make. As I understand him, one of the last arguments in his speech was that the mistakes of the generals are really of so glaring a character that yon could not apply Conscription to compel a man to serve in the Army. But it is rather hard to ask the volunteer either. I think the hon. Member for East Mayo may have some consolation in this: that however many mistakes have been made, nobody has made them. There have been muddles, but there have been no muddlers. There have been blunders, but there have been no blunderers. The hon. Member's complaint is one that really applies, I do not say quite as much to the voluntary system, but very nearly as much, because if the hon. Member is right he should stop voluntary recruiting in this country, because, according to him, we cannot ask a soldier to take the risk that he must incur under generals whom the hon. Member described.
In regard to these essential purposes for which we want men, as I have said, the Government must make up its mind once for all how to adjust these national needs. I disagree with the hon. Member for Rochdale, who said we have done our share. I disagree entirely with the hon. Member for East Mayo, who said we have fulfilled our promise to France—that we have given 1,000,000 men to France. I think, on reconsideration, he would not put it quite in that form. We have given 314 1,000,000 men to ourselves in France. We have given nothing to France except that we have utilised the fields of France for the protection of England. Talk about fulfilling our promise to France and of giving millions to France! I submit to this Committee that is not a right, accurate, or proper way to describe it. We are all Allies, fighting equally. We seek one common purpose and aim. I do not think that it is at all a fortunate expression to go out of this Committee that the Members of the, House of Commons think that in our contribution to the Western front we have given to France rather than to ourselves. We are fighting in a joint common fight, and it is not a proper thing to say that we are making a contribution to any particular Ally outside. I am not, I hope, going to add a controversial word at the end of the few remarks I have to make. But I think it is too late for my hon. Friend the Member for Derby (Mr. Thomas) and his Friends to argue against Conscription. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh, oh!"] I will tell hon. Members why. I really think that for more than two months now there has been compulsion in operation.
The hon. Member is a long way off my point. This is my submission. I do not complain about his attitude; we know he is well able to clearly advocate his view. What I say is that it is too late to defend voluntaryism now, because it has really gone. Look at it in this way. Suppose on the 2nd November I had gone to an hon. Member on the other side and asked him to give me £10—it is a little habit of mine.
Suppose I said to the hon. Gentleman," Give me £10," and he refused. Suppose I then added, "I may tell you, unless you give me £10 now (that is on 2nd November) I will take it on 30th November," and suppose if he did not give 315 it me on 30th November I said, "I will let you off till 11th December." [An HON. MEMBER: "Who said that?"]
Every recruiting sergeant has said it, and it is in fact the Prime Minister's pledge. May I try to take the Committee with me step by step? Is not this conditional compulsion? I will take it silence gives consent. Then I say there was conditional compulsion and it was clearly laid down in the Prime Minister's letter of 19th November.
There was doubt on 2nd November, and the hon. Member put a question which only created still more doubt.
§ Mr. WHITEHOUSE
I want to ask the right hon. Gentleman whether the date he quotes—19th November—was the date upon which the statement was made in this House?
On 19th November the Prime Minister wrote to Lord Derby:I have received your letter of to-day. It correctly expresses the intention of the Government.I submit that the meaning of the correspondence on 19th November between Lord Derby and the Prime Minister is this: That if more than a negligible minority of single men keep outside the Army then compulsory steps will have to be taken to get them in. That is not only a pledge to the country; it is a pledge under which the married men joined. That is really the position we are in. Whether it is a right or a wrong position, I will not stay to inquire. But do let us face the facts of the situation and let us realise where we stand. I suppose there can be no doubt that upon any reasonable reading of the words I have quoted that is the present position. The pledge has been irrevocably given. I would remind the House, in view of the Prime Minister's words to-day—words uttered after he had had the figures—that the pledge is not in abeyance; it is merely the application of the pledge that is in abeyance. The only question is, Have the facts arisen under which the pledge ap- 316 plies? I understand that the Prime Minister had the figures this morning, and while he is sitting almost judicially on the application of the pledge to particular facts, we have had his speech. Following it we have had these fulminations, and if hon. Members think it is a right attitude, at the moment when the Prime Minister is in the process of applying a principle to the facts, at a moment when the right hon. Gentleman is in the middle of a judicial investigation, if they think it is a right and proper thing for any hon. Member to threaten him, all I can say is that, in my opinion, the better and more proper course is to let the right hon. Gentleman apply his pledge in peace and without any threat.
The hon. and learned Member for Waterford said he would stick at nothing to prevent this.
You will not trust the Prime Minister. It has always been your attitude that you will only trust him if he agrees with you. Why not accept the Prime Minister's pledge? Let us look at this matter quite fairly and squarely. There is no great advantage if anyone says, "I will trust the Prime Minister if ho decides in my favour." The answer to that is, "Thank you for nothing." The man who trusts the Government, the man who trusts the Coalition, is the man who says beforehand what I have always said. "I will accept the decision of the Government. If the Government tells me that this pledge does not apply, if it tells me that a negligible minority or less of single young men only are outside the Army, then I am bound to say, for my part, I accept the decision of the Government." That is the position as I understand it. I trust the Government whether it decides in my favour or not.
No; the pledge is to the married men. That may have been a pledge to the hon. Member's group. In. that case the right hon. Gentleman has given a double pledge. He has given a pledge to the married men, and if the single men do not come in the married men. 317 are entitled to go out. There is no question about that, and if the House of Commons repudiates it—
If the hon. Member repudiates the pledge, he repudiates the Prime Minister. This pledge has got to stand or the Government has got to fall. We all know that, whatever happens. I have tried, and I think I have succeeded, in not introducing any heat into this controversy, and I think my hon. Friends who support the voluntary principle will give us the same credit for honesty of conviction as we give them. I hope they will not forget that for the last two months we have absolutely maintained silence in this House. [An Hon. MEMBER: "Not a bit of it!"] Yes, that is so. We asked for a deputation to meet the Prime Minister, and in his discretion he refused it, but when the matter was almost sub judice the other day, and the figures were about to go out, the voluntarists had the advantage of putting their views before the Prime Minister. Under these circumstances I think we are bound to make our position perfectly clear. As far as I am personally concerned, I do not see any reason for receding from the position I have taken up in this matter. I honestly believe that if national service had been the settled policy of this Government from the commencement of the War we should have escaped a great many of the troubles and difficulties we have met with, and every man would have been allotted his proper task. In a very moving speech the hon. Member for West Leeds (Mr. E. Harvey) spoke from the Quaker's point of view, and he was still more moving to us who as personal friends know the excellent work he has done in France during the last twelve months. If there had been national service the man who said it was against his conviction to fight would have been found plenty of duties outside the sphere of operations. I think under the application of national service you would have had a true adjustment of men to each of the essential trades of this country, and I believe that if the principle we suggest had been adopted very early in the War it would have led to a more speedy prosecution of the War.
§ 10.0 P.M.
§ Sir RYLAND ADKINS
I shall not attempt to follow the right hon. Gentleman who has just spoken in the subject-matter of his speech, because he has the marvellous gift of using honeyed words in 318 a manner calculated to cause a maximum amount of irritation. I shall treasure the copy of the OFFICIAI-REPORT which will contain this model rhetoric. The Committee, I am sure, will forgive me if I now turn to the dull, practical details which arise on this Vote. We are asked to vote 1,000,000 men at a time when everybody is thinking of the result of the famous-Derby canvass, although for reasons which we all appreciate the actual figures cannot be given. Not only are we all thinking of them, but we have heard from a variety of speakers the possibilities which might follow upon the publication of those figures and the position which they will create, I want to point out to the Government that there is one part of that movement which has been, and had to be, a complete muddle through no fault whatever of Lord Derby or those who were helping him. The part which has been and is a complete muddle is that which relates to persons who have been starred. I think it is relevant when we are asked to vote 1,000,000 men to bear in mind the way in which starring has been done up and down the country, because this has had a very serious effect upon recruiting. It was pointed out earlier in the evening how many people were not starred, but obviously ought to have been. On the other hand, those who have taken part in the canvass know very well that a number of people have been starred who never ought to have been starred at all. I know a. farmer who, when the National Register Bill was passed, had two sons of military age, and he also employed two labourers over military age. He dismissed the labourers over military age, and thereupon got his two sons starred. The effect upon recruiting in that neighbourhood, I know from my own experience, was serious. I also know another part of England where a man had four sons starred on a fruit farm on which the only quadruped to look after was an old mare past work. I know those details have a certain comic side, but they also have a very serious side. I think many hon. Members will agree with me when I say that one of the greatest difficulties in getting young unmarried men to enlist or enrol is on account of the existence of other young unmarried men having been starred. I want to take this opportunity of saying how much many of us hope that those who have been starred will be canvassed, because this has been asked for in many 319 parts of the country. I am sure it is not Lord Derby's wish or the wish of the President of the Local Government Board or the Under-Secretary for War that this state of things should continue. For some reason or other the starred cards have never been put in the hands of those concerned With the canvassing, and until they have been, and until the starred persons all over the country have been canvassed, the result of Lord Derby's scheme cannot have the conclusiveness which we all wish to see. I hope the Government will bear that in mind, because it is of the highest consequence to know what number of young unmarried men are really unwilling to serve their country when it has bean properly put before them. Thousands of them cannot have had it properly put before them, because of this wholly improper system of starring. I welcome the opportunity of making these remarks and entering this protest before the Derby figures are published, and while the matter can still be discussed as a business detail of the great and admirable movement which, I am sure, has the support of the Committee and of the country.
§ Sir RICHARD COOPER
The Under-Secretary of State for War made a very impassioned defence of the administration of the Dardanelles campaign, and very strongly deprecated the attacks which he alleged had been made by previous speakers in the Debate. The right hon. Gentleman must know that the facts are not at all in accordance with the defence which he put up. I want to remind him in that connection that there has been an impartial investigation into that compaign by a Commissioner appointed by the Australian Government, whose report has been issued, and in the face of that I suggest it is not fair to the House for the right hon. Gentleman to make the suggestion he did, that there was no material fault to be found with the administration, either civic or military, of that compaign. The right hon. Gentleman who spoke last on this side (Mr. Ellis Griffith) made a serious indictment against the Government in connection with this Vote which is now before the Committee. He did not suggest, but he said straight out, that they were months too late in coming forward with it, and, secondly, that they had done nothing whatever to think the problem out; in other words, that they had no policy, no principle, no purpose, in putting this Vote before the Committee. It is perfectly true 320 that all this evening we have been discussing this Vote, and have not had from the Under-Secretary of State for War, or from the Prime Minister, the very slightest reason why the Government have found it necessary to ask us to pass this Vote. There has been no, assurance from them that they have considered very carefully and thoroughly what effect this is going to have, not only upon the military situation but upon industry and upon finance. They have not given us any assurance that they are in a position to equip the men within six or twelve months, and if this Committee is to be asked to give blank cheques to the Government one after another without the faintest reason for any necessity being given, the sooner this House is closed up and we are put on something more useful and the Prime Minister and his colleagues are given a dictatorship, the better it will be for the whole country. I had put down an Amendment to move a reduction in this Vote, and I did that for the reason that I have no reason to believe that it is a good or necessary thing for this additional 1,000,000 men to be raised. I believe there are grave reasons to think, as so many hon. Members in all parts of the House, and notably on the other side, have already urged, that, unless the most scrupulous care is taken by the Government in looking into in dustry and finance, and all that surrounds them, by raising too large an Army we are likely to do a great injury to this country, especially if the War is likely to continue for a very considerable time.
I must tell the Committee quite frankly that I have not refrained from moving that Amendment from any lack of courage in my convictions, but I do feel this: That when I listened to the Prime Minister giving us assurances of his purpose and determination to carry this War through, when I heard him approving emphatically the extraordinary indictment against the Government made last night by the Minister of Munitions, and heard him appeal to every Member of this House for complete unity in passing this Vote, I realised that the Prime Minister is the one person who holds the responsibility to the House of Commons, myself, and the country, and that, at any rate, it would be a very dangerous and irresponsible thing for any Member, in face of that appeal, to get up and show an apparent lack of unity. It is, of course, true, as I am well aware, that however good and honest may be the motives that 321 prompt any Member of this House to move any such Amendment, such actions are very greatly misconstrued in the country and with the Allies, and I have no desire to lay myself open to that. I disapprove, so far as I am able to judge of it, of this Vote entirely. I have no reason to believe that it is a good thing, and I can see many reasons why it is going to be a very bad and dangerous one. It is a great responsibility for Members of this House to require by this Vote, or by legislation or Resolution, the manhood of this country to go forward to battle to protect our country, and in many cases to lose their life; and there is one condition in my judgment of which sight must never be lost by Members of this House in taking such action, and that is that when we do call upon them to join the Army and go into battle we shall be satisfied that no stone is left unturned to assure them of the greatest possible chance of achieving that purpose for which they are making such a great sacrifice. Does any Member of this House conscientiously believe that there are not many serious directions in which the present Army, let alone this additional 1,000,000 men, are not given that chance of achieving that purpose for which we call upon them to come forward? I should probably be out of order in going into it in detail, but one reason for my believing that this Vote ought not to be supported is that, on the one hand, the Government comes forward to-day and asks for 1,000,000 men, and that, on the other hand, the Government is knowingly enabling our enemies to get the material into their country with which to slay these men. [HON. MEMBERS: "NO, no!"] It is absolutely true. Evidently some hon. Members of this House do not believe that statement. In the month of November—
§ The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Whitley)
The hon. Member had only delivered himself of a single sentence. I think he saw himself that any development of the question would not be pertinent.
§ Sir R. COOPER
I understood that if I entered into any discussion of the principle of blockade I should be immediately 322 stopped by you, Mr. Chairman; but I do suggest, by way of explanation, that it does affect the views of Members of this House who represent the public—and the public, after all, are not a negligible quantity in this matter—whether, when you call upon an additional million men, those men are going to get a fair fighting chance. I do not believe they get it to-day. I will give one reason. I do not desire to prolong the matter, but it is a fact that during the month of November under the agreement this Government has made with the Netherlands Overseas Trust—
§ The CHAIRMAN
It is clear that if these statements are made, even as illustrations, they will require an answer, and, of course, then there will be a Debate entirely outside the scope of the present matter, or else a statement which ought to be challenged will remain without an answer. Therefore, I must stop the hon. Baronet here.
§ Sir R. COOPER
I am not surprised; but as the Under-Secretary of State for War, the responsible man sitting on the Government Bench, said it was not true, and that nobody believed it, I only tried to justify myself in making a statement which I know is true, and which I can support by facts. There is one other matter which has been touched upon this evening of a similar nature by a good many hon. Members. The fundamental reason why an additional million men are asked for by the Government arises out of the continual series of blunders, especially in the Eastern Mediterranean and the Balkans, arising out of the weakness and failure of our diplomacy. There is no getting away from that. The Foreign Office, since the War began, has not done one important thing right to my knowledge, and yet in the face of a long series of blunders which requires the Under-Secretary of State to come to this House and ask for this million men, the same right hon. Gentleman who has been responsible for all these blunders still remains there, and presumably will remain there when the War Office get the million additional men for which they are asking. So many Members in this Debate to-day have already touched on several other points I had down which led me to the conclusion, and a conclusion which I firmly hold, that there is no justification at the present minute for the House passing the Vote for which the Government is asking, that I have no desire whatever to repeat the 323 points that have already been made. I do not think that the Government can complain of the extraordinary confidence shown in them by this Committee, but when they have got this million men they must realise the responsibility that attaches to them to see that they get a fair and full fighting chance of achieving the purpose for which they are called. When they are asking for this additional weapon of warfare, let them realise that, at any rate, in the judgment of many Members of this House, they are not utilising to the full the weapons of warfare which they already possess. If they want to make progress, and if they want to achieve the victory which they talk about so much, though they do not assist it by their actions all that they might, they have got to take the gloves off, and they have got to fight ruthlessly yet honourably and humanely. Unless they do take more drastic steps than in many directions they are already doing, they are not going to achieve their purpose, and neither are they justified in asking for this additional weapon.
§ The PRESIDENT of the BOARD of TRADE (Mr. Runciman)
My purpose in intervening in the Debate this evening, after the Prime Minister has spoken, and after the speech of my right hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for War, is to explain to the House some of the methods by which we have sought to adjust all the claims of national service so that the maximum result can be produced from our combined efforts. Many of the speeches that have been made this afternoon and this evening have been based on a theory of military service rather than on a theory of national service. I would presume to say that any such narrowing of the services which can be rendered by the manhood of this country is altogether to misjudge the necessities under which we now labour and the only means by which we are likely to win the War, and, I would add, the only means by which we can do justice on our part to the Allies. Military service is only one of the ways by which our manhood can serve the Allies. It is undoubtedly the way by which our men can run the greatest risk, and for that reason I would give the largest meed of honour to those who are prepared to lay down their lives in our cause. But the business of the Government is not only to allot praise and honour, it is also to put out our 324 fullest national strength. It would indeed be a mistake for us to come down to the House and ask for an unlimited number of men. I do not agree with the hon. Baronet who has just sat down (Sir R. Cooper) that in asking for 1,000,000 men we are under the present circumstances asking for too many. His theory appears to be that if there is anything you can criticise in the administration of a war you are justified in telling those who are asked to come into your Army, "You will not get fair play when you do come in." That way of recruiting is not likely to be successful. But an unlimited number of men would undoubtedly bring to us not success but disaster.
The question before the Committee is not that there should be given unlimited power to the Government, but whether sanction should be given for the raising of a further 1,000,000 men. That 1,000,000 I believe to be as many as at present we can allot for military service in order to produce the best national result. My reason for arriving at that opinion is this: We have to consider not only our naval needs, which absorb not only the men in the Navy, the men in our shipyards, the men in our dry docks, and the men in our factories for a thousand different commodities, but also the men in our steam coal collieries, the men on our merchant ships who supply the Navy, and those which keep our foreign stations replenished with stores. It must of necessity include those who are engaged upon the essential industries and upon the manufacture of munitions. It must include those who are engaged in all the manufacturing industries for the supply of our troops, and, what is of equal importance, for the manufacture of commodities that can be sent abroad in order that supplies can be brought home. It is no new problem with which we are faced in dealing with these competing interests—I mean competing not in the sense of providing some people with profits and interest while others are giving their lives, but competing in the national sense of achieving the greatest national efficiency. So long ago as the beginning of this year we were at the Board of Trade realising that as our recruiting was going ahead with astonishing rapidity, even at that time—though no one, I venture to say, in January, 1914, could have guessed that by January, 1915, the volunteers who had gone into the Army would have reached anything like the figures that were then achieved—those of 325 us who are in daily contact with commerce and manufacturing necessities realised that the time was rapidly arising when we must come to a decision as to how far we could afford to deplete the labour supplies of our industries without really weakening ourselves rather than strengthening ourselves.
I remember a discussion—I think it was in January—when my colleagues were engaged in an examination of this very topic. As President of the Board of Trade I was naturally asked to take my share in the deliberations. We were unable then to arrive at any scientific decision, because, as I shall point out to the House very shortly, you cannot, by merely taking the population of the United Kingdom in the Census returns, look through them, and with a wave of the hand say that a certain fraction shall be set free for the Army, a certain fraction shall be set free for the industries, and that that is to be a guide to the scientific proportion. You have to take every industry one by one; you must go into all the necessities of all our national services. In doing that later on in the spring and summer we attempted to arrive at some fairly accurate estimate of the number of men who might be withdrawn from industries but could be replaced partly by women labour and partly by an elasticity of industrial organisation, or who could be definitely taken out, with a reduction of output, without actually doing us more harm than good. For that purpose I tell the House exactly how we, at the Board of Trade, grouped the industries. We took, first of all, a number of industries like the iron and steel trade, shipbuilding, engineering of all classes, including electrical engineering, the woollen and worsted trades, which at that time were, engaged night and day in the production of cloth for our own Army and the armies of the Allies; we took the boot and shoe industry, which was already up to its maximum output; the leather goods trades, leaving out fancy goods; the chemical industry, which was required for a hundred different purposes; the hosiery trade, which was then not working fast enough to keep our men supplied in socks; the food production industry, leaving out confectionery of the highest class; the makers of cycles, motors, and railway carriages; those who were engaged in the central government and were indispensable to the carrying on of the central government, and last of all, railway servants. Those we put in the first group, and the view that 326 I took, if I may express my own personal opinion, fortified as it was by all the industry, care and scientific training of our experts, I estimated that out of that group of those who were still remaining in the industries, after something like half a million had already gone into the Army, we could afford to take no more.
We could not take any from the iron and steel trades. We could not reduce the number of men in the shipyards without actually injuring the output of ships of various kinds for the Navy. We could not reduce the men in woollen and worsted industries, otherwise we should have had to stop manufacturing much of the cloth which was going abroad to France, Belgium, Serbia, and, later on, to Italy and elsewhere. We could not afford to take any men out of the tanning trades. And so on; you could run right through the list. Allowing for those who had already gone, we estimated no more could be taken from those industries without doing harm.
Then we took the next group, and the view we took in the next group was that out of mining only a small proportion of the men above ground whose industry could be replaced by owners could be spared. The output of coal had already gone down to a dangerous level. It has never risen during the whole of 1915 to the output which was necessary for our own inland requirements if we were to keep up our export trade. Let me point out that the export of coal is just as valuable to us in the purchase of materials from abroad as the export of gold. We took the clothing industries, agriculture, and local government. The view of the Board of Agriculture was that out of agriculture you could only afford to take such of the labour as was replaceable by women. Those who were engaged in local government had their own views as to the number of men they could release and, to their honour be it said, they have managed in the staffs of our cities, towns and counties to part with a very large number of their servants and to reduce their services, and that has been done without a grumble from the ratepayers or those who were dependent upon the ratepayers. We put these in the second group because a little could be spared from them.
Then we took the third group—trades like the furniture and timber trades, glass and pottery, cotton and some of the other textiles, hardware, a number of miscellaneous trades, and transport other than 327 railways. It was clear that a large proportion of some of these could be spared, but not all. We made a careful estimate of the number that could be spared there. Last of all, we took a group where a very large fraction could be spared without doing damage either to internal production or to the export trade. For instance, the brick, stone and quarry industries could spare large numbers of men without doing any serious harm to anybody. The building trades—I am not now referring to those who construct wooden buildings, but those connected with brick and stone buildings—could spare large numbers of men. A large number of men could be spared from the trades which were classified as dealers. So we went through the list and decided that the fraction there could be very large. That was the first classification we made. When I say that these people could be spared, I mean that they could go without really damaging our economic strength within or the export trade upon which we were dependent for our foreign supplies. We made up this total, and we were not far out, although it was an estimate, for when the National Registrer returns were made up our figures corresponded very nearly with the much more elaborate calculations that were made under the National Register. That was long before the present Debate was thought of, and I suggest that it was an evidence of the fact that throughout the whole of this year we have been attempting to deal with this problem of the difficulties of the commercial classes on much more precise and scientific principles than have been applied in the course of the discussion I have listened to to-day.
The next thing that had to be done was to take these big classifications and split them up into different categories—the recruiting officers hard at work, canvassers and county committees, committees in our towns and cities, all labouring to get recruits, enthusiasm at its height—it was necessary to ascertain what industries ought to be left alone from which no man should go into the Army. There is one case which I am perfectly certain no one in the Committee would challenge, and that is every trade which was required for the production or the transport of munitions of war. The list is by no means a short one. I have before me four closely printed columns of the names of the categories alone, covering all sorts and kinds of trades and indus- 328 tries. Not one of these could be spared, for the reason that we could not see any diminution in the output of their industries without definitely weakening either the Army or the Navy. That was a very big limitation of the field from which we could recruit. [Interruption.] I can give an enormous number if you like. Take platers and riveters, for instance, in about twenty or thirty different trades. Take all the shipwrights, the pattern makers, the turners and fitters, the metal machinists, and the different categories. It is perfectly obvious that these were men who ought not to be put in the Army and who were serving their country better as skilled workmen in the making of munitions.
Then we come to coal mining. The Home Office through the whole of the last year have been at work in detail on problems connected with coal mining, endeavouring to get the output up by all sorts of ingenious contrivances, by appealing to the good will of the miners, by altering the systems of working in various directions, by shortening holidays—getting rid, for instance, of the prolonged holidays just after the August Bank Holiday. The number of hours worked has been such that the yield per man for our coal mines has actually gone up during the War. We could not spare any of the workers below ground, and there were half a dozen categories of workers above ground whom we could not allow to enter the Army without actually damaging one of the most essential industries of the country. Then we come to the third list, which covered agricultural occupations, but not all of them. When I heard the criticism of my hon. Friend (Sir R. Adkins) I thought he must have had largely in his mind what happened in the agricultural industry. I regret to say that the list of starred categories in the agricultural industry was made public before the National Register was completed. The result was that a great many clever fellows who did not want to lose their employés put down in some of the starred categories all sorts of servants who could really have been released. In some cases their sons were put down in these categories.
§ Mr. RUNCIMAN
That is quite true, but I believe some farmers, for instance, conscientiously believed that when they described one of their sons who drove a 329 gig as a horseman they were not bringing themselves within the clutches of the law. There was some misunderstanding over that, but on the whole the farmers nearly all over the country have spared their labourers with great patriotism. They have made shift with short labour. Women have come in in many counties and worked harder than they have ever worked before. But for the assistance given by soldiers in getting in the harvest this year we should certainly have been short in our internal production. Then came certain other occupations. There were the railway servants employed in the manipulation of traffic and in the maintenance of the lines and the rolling stock. One of the most remarkable features of this War has been the rapidity with which railway men returned to the Colours. There were large numbers of Reservists who were serving on the railways when the War broke out, and they went back at once. They were followed almost immediately by such large numbers of men who were not Reservists, and were not under any obligation to go, except that of keen enthusiasm and devotion to the national cause, that the railway companies were placed in great difficulty, and in the middle of last summer they had to represent to the War Office that if any more men left the railway service in order to join the Army the difficulties of transport would be so serious that it would be quite impossible for the needs of the combative departments to be met. The railway-servants were, therefore, put on this list. Every section of railway servants was, however, carefully examined, so that none were put on the list who could be left off. The railway companies had to make up for that shortage of labour by employing women in all sorts of capacities. Carriages are now swept by women, as indeed they might have been for many years past. At any rate, there has been an increase in the number of women so employed now. Tickets are collected by women on many lines, and I understand that they do it with great precision and courtesy. Many railway companies have employed not only a few scores, but many hundreds of women at their various termini.
Then there came another category of starred occupations, over which there has been much controversy, namely, those engaged in the export trades. It was no small matter making a careful examination of these classes. It was quite clear 330 that out of these export trades it was possible by reorganisation and by substitution to dispense with some of those employed. We were most anxious that nothing but genuine export trade should be protected. That has been a long and laborious task, which did not end with the work of Lord Lansdowne's Committee. Lord Lansdowne presided over a Committee which sat during the months of the autumn with the object of seeing what value could be got out of the National Register, and the result was that so far as the export trade is concerned, basing the whole examination on the results of the National Register, they came to the conclusion that a great number of categories could be carefully tabulated, and the names of the servants, the employers and the artisans could be carefully ascertained and made known. These lists, five of which have already been published, and the sixth is almost ready for publication, have been put into the hands of the recruiting officers and the canvassers, and the War Office has acted on them, and I believe we have done a great deal to prevent the very rapid recruiting doing much more harm to industry than many of us twelve months ago may have anticipated.
This careful examination may not be a slapdash way of dealing with recruiting. It may appear to be slow and minute, but it is the kind of method which has been adopted by Germany. Do not let us forget that when Germany makes up her Army she does not proceed to divide her population into married and unmarried. She goes carefully through every section of her population. She examines her trade and her industries as we have examined ours. She gives exemptions just as we are giving exemptions. She does not make the mistake of sending too many men to the Colours. She retains a scientific balance and a distribution of labour and skill such as have enabled her to last out this War with, so far as we can see, her strength very little diminished.
The mistake Germany has made is that she has taken on too many foes. When we have developed our strength to the maximum—it is quite clear that the balance up to the present has been against us, or very nearly—it will be entirely on our side. When I say it will be entirely on our side, I refer, not only to the Army, but to the immense assistance we have been able to give to our Allies. Do not let us overlook the fact that we are not the only one of the 331 Allies who have been purchasing munitions abroad, France has been buying abroad, and so has Russia. Everybody knows that the Russians have been making immense purchases in America, and our own have run to very large figures. It is just as essential that we should pay for those munitions as that we should produce them in this country for the men who blow them off when they are provided. We not only provide for those munitions by keeping up our exports and maintaining our foreign exchanges, but in doing it so completely that when we pay for our munitions we give prompt payment as against prompt delivery. It is one of the first necessities that there should be no doubt in the minds of the producers as to the method by which we shall give payment, and that on that payment the exchange shall be so little as not to handicap us financially. That is impossible for us unless our export is kept in as prosperous a condition as possible. I have no desire to see, during this War, anything in the nature of a trade boom. A trade boom during this War, if it is due to anything but the production of munitions, is only to be deplored if it shows in some direction or another that we have not attained the true balance in so far as the firm is not in the production of munitions, and I trust that the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Minister of Munitions will prevent the profits from going into the wrong pocket. It is certain that unless we keep up our export trade it will damage us as much as though we failed to put an extra million men in the field. I believe we have safeguarded to a large extent those who are engaged in various industries. In the course of the Debate my hon. Friend the Member for Hexham (Mr. Holt) was rather hardly dealt with by some hon. Gentlemen on the other side, who seemed to think that the views he expressed referred only to his own trade or his own firm. Everybody who knows my hon. Friend knows that he is much too straightforward and honest for anything of that kind. He made a perfectly true point, and it was this: If you are going to hamper our railways, our ships, and our ports by an abnormal and unnecessary withdrawal of labour from our railways, ships, and ports, you must certainly hobble us, and as a nation we become less efficient.
Let me give two illustrations—London and Liverpool. The authorities of Liver- 332 pool inform me that it is impossible for them to keep the port clear if any more labour is taken away from them. It is my duty to inform my colleagues of that fact, and no one is entitled to say that because that labour in Liverpool, in the dock, on the ships, at the sidings, and on the wagons, is not taken, I am less patriotic than the man who urges that all the men should be sent to the front. I believe, as a matter of fact, that the difference on this point between those who urge that the men should go into the Army and those who take the other view is that we differ not in patriotism, if in good sense, on this question, which has now become much more scientific and is not to be decided by mere sentiment or fancy. We have taken exact measure of the national needs, and one of the first national needs, as a maritime country, is to see that supplies come in freely and go out freely, our ships to pass in and turn round rapidly, and by that means best serve us against the enemy and those along with whom we are fighting. My hon. Friend and others representing the informal Commercial Committee of this House have asked whether we have carefully handled commercial needs. We have a Reserved Occupations Committee which has dealt with letters from no less than 4,000 firms and workmen. They work every day and are incessantly at it, and they are enabled bit by bit to go through every one of the categories that are put to them and examine them. It has been suggested that they are a little hostile to the employers who come and explain their case to them. I think they are right in placing the onus of proof on the employer, for it must be clearly understood that all employers are not as unselfish as those who sit in this House. There are some cases that may be used in illustration of this. Let me take the case, for instance, of a man who is responsible for bringing cotton from the Southern States of America. I take him first. He brings cotton to Liverpool from the Southern States of America. It might be said we do not require any more cotton than is necessary for explosives, but actually we require as much cotton as will keep the cotton mills of Lancashire going in order that those products may go out to China and Japan to provide us with credits through China and Japan which, passing over to the United States, will keep our exchanges there level. Now come along 333 some of my hon. Friends who are engaged in commerce, and they say, "if you take away some of our foremen misdescribed in lists, and some of our clerks who are the brains of our concern we think you are going too far, and if you do that we will have to close down and a large number will be thrown out of work, and amongst them a number of married men at home." Every one of those cases must be carefully examined, and I am sure my hon. Friends will not think we are perpetrating any injustice if we look most critically at every request put to us. That is why, when we produced a list of reserved occupations, I am perfectly satisfied every category on it has passed muster and that it is fair to retain the services of that man in the industry under that head rather than that he should go into the Army. The man may not wish to be kept at home, but, after all, it is not the fate of the man we are concerned with, it is the fate of the whole alliance.
I said I would give another illustration of the kind of difficulty we have to face, mixed up as these questions are with all these commercial problems. I have mentioned Liverpool, and now let me take the case of London. In London we have the largest conglomeration of manufactures in any city in the world. We are too apt to get into the way of thinking of London as the centre of Government and of the Empire. There is actually more production of munitions within the police area of London than within any other industrial centre in the world, and the trade that passes through the London docks is something gigantic. In the world there is no district that can compete with the police district of London in production. Just think of the area which reaches from Woolwich to Enfield, from East to West. At the present moment there is scarcely a single trade in London that you can name, excepting the purely fashionable and frivolous trades, which really do not matter very much; there is not one staple industry you can name that is not directly or indirectly connected with the efficient prosecution of the War. Some of my hon. Friends on the Commercial Committee say, "In going through the list you have left out so-and-so, or you have put in a foreman who might have been omitted or left out a man who is essential." We cannot hope to go into every one of those 334 completely. If we made a mistake we might do a great deal of harm to the London docks, to some works on the river. We realise that.
The reason I take London as an illustration for this purpose is to show that you can make no mistake in any one of these industries without injuring a large number of others. For instance, we have had trouble over the clerks in some of the shipping offices and in the dock offices. They were patriotic fellows, young, some unmarried, and they wanted to go into the Army. Their friends had been in France, some had been killed; they felt that they were scarcely doing their duty in remaining at home, and they were anxious to go. It may have been hard on them, but it was the best service we could render to London when we said, "No, we cannot afford to lose any of the brains now devoted to the organisation of the Port of London." Because a blockage in one commodity may choke a whole dock; to choke a whole dock may spread delay throughout industry in every section of London; and these delays may react upon supplies which are necessary not only for the Ministry of Munitions, but for those who have to supply the Army in a hundred different ways. So one mistake made there may do an infinity of harm. These questions are much too complex to be dealt with by any rough-and-ready rule. I would suggest that we have adopted the right course in taking these reserved occupations one by one and carefully examining them. Our task will not be done until the War is over. We shall go on revising and examining as long as men are being taken from industry for the Army. By doing that we are much more likely to prevent mistakes being made and handicaps being thrown in the way of industries that are essential.
Last of all, there are these local tribunals to which employers may go if they wish to retain men who are already attested. The tribunals may not be perfect. In some cases I think they might have been selected with greater care. But an employer who goes to these local tribunals ought obviously to prove four things to them First of all, that the man whom he asks to be freed from military service is individually indispensable to the firm, not that he is merely one of a crowd when there is a full labour supply; secondly, that he, the employer, has made every effort to find a substitute and has genuinely, failed; thirdly, that the work 335 for which the man is retained is of national importance, being either war work or an essential industry for internal purposes or for export; and, fourthly, that he has given his employés reasonable facilities for enlistment. We are entitled to ask for all four things to be proved. I think that in every case an employer ought to give his employés genuine facilities for enlistment. If he has not done so, it is perfectly obvious that the prejudice, which you cannot overlook, will be against him. If he proves those four things, I have no doubt that in every respect the tribunal will see to it that the industry itself is not seriously damaged. But, when all is said and done, it is quite clear that during this War industry must be damaged. The only question we have to decide is what we can afford to lose. I should be delighted to see all our industries going full blast. I should like to see them in every part of the world capturing the trade formerly held by Germany. Indeed, there are some directions in which we are succeeding in doing that, all to our national good. But you cannot have a war and at the same time have all your industries going as rapidly, with as full a supply of labour and with as complete an organisation as in time of peace. All that we can do is to provide the maximum number of men for the Army with the minimum of loss to the trade and commerce of the country.
It is very easy to jeer at Great Britain as being concerned largely in commercial and financial topics, and, as has sometimes been said in our own country, as not taking its fair share of the burden. The burden is very easily underestimated. I should like to know where the Allies would have been if we had not held the seas; if we had not cleared the German cruisers off the four seas? It would have been impossible for the Allies to have lasted six months! Where would they have been without British credit behind them? Where would British credit have been if we were not at the present time able to maintain many of our staple industries in a state of efficiency? One of the necessities of Great Britain is—if we are to be jeered at let us take it smilingly—that at all costs she must continue as a going concern. It is very easy to say that our munitions abroad should be bought out of the national savings; that we should take our American securities, and buy all that is necessary out of 336 the taxes; that we could diminish some of our exports with real advantage. All these things would not have been sufficient. The one justification for the financiers for making advances to this country is that we are a going concern. If they consider that we are not a going concern they are not likely to believe in our trade. That is why I suggest that if we were to ask for too many men we should be failing in our duty. If we had asked for too few we should be equally failing in our duty. The million for which we ask to-day is not more than enough. I believe by good organisation, by restricting consumption, by economy and substitution, we shall be able to do with the million. Whether we can go farther or not is a matter which I am not prepared to decide at the present moment. I know this: that if we go too far we shall as inevitably bring disaster upon ourselves and those who fight with us as though the Germans had reached the shores of the English Channel. What is necessary is that we should arrive at a true balance of numbers; all the considerations should be duly weighed. To my mind in that duty England has not failed.
§ Major HUNT
The right hon. Gentleman who has just sat down has made it quite plain that this Debate clearly is one of compulsory service or not. He made it quite plain that if we had had compulsory service to begin with we should have been able to take our men, and not have required to send to the trenches for them. We should, too, have been enabled to keep our industries going very much better. I advocated compulsory training before the War, when it was not so favourably received or so popular. Although it is very late in the day it is quite time that we had compulsory service, so that every man should do his share. We cannot, I agree, all fight. We can all do our part in defending the country and the Empire. The hon. Member for East Mayo made a very strong speech against compulsory training. He talked about militarism. I should like to remind him that of all people in the world, the Irish are probably more fond of fighting than anybody else.
§ Major HUNT
I quite agree, and I would leave the Irish outside a compulsory system, because I am quite sure that they would come in the moment they found it 337 was adopted in Great Britain. It is, therefore, really absurd. Is what is happening now in this country fair? I know a man who went out for the fifth time after being wounded, and yet under the voluntary system you have young men in this country—it does not matter whether they are rich or poor—living in comparative comfort and doing nothing at all. Surely that is not right. Does the hon. Member for East Mayo think it is? He talks about the freedom of the people. Is it true freedom that lets one man fight and another man take no part in the defence of his country? We want freedom for all—Englishmen, Scotsmen, Welshmen and Irishmen alike to defend their country.
We are told if we take too many recruits we shall interfere with our export trade. Surely the way to obviate that is for the nation to decide to pick out those who are not wanted at home and make them serve abroad. That is a fair way, and it is the only way you can get the best out of the nation. As the right hon. Gentleman who spoke last said—that is exactly what the Germans are doing. They are very careful not to take the men who are wanted at home. But under the voluntary system you cannot do that. You are obliged to take the man you can get and in many cases they are taken whether they are sound or unsound. The right hon. Gentleman knows it perfectly well. I can point to men who have been taken who absolutely are not sound. But they have been taken because the Government are afraid that if they do not take the unsound men the voluntary system will break down. These are really the broad facts. That is the system which the Government have tried to bolster up. Is it really a voluntary system? Are there not numbers of ways of coercion? We have had pointed out to us to-day ways in which men are coerced into joining the Army. You really have got coercion now. But you will not have honest coercion because you are afraid you may lose votes at the next election. That is the real truth. Ministers look the other way because I am telling unpleasant truths. The right hon. Gentleman said that rapid recruiting is a great injury to industry, but if you had a compulsory system when the War began you would not have been in the mess that you now are. I think this Government and the last are enormously to blame, because they were afraid to tell people the truth, and that is 338 why we are in the enormous difficulties we are in at the present time. I say that we shall do no good in this War until we get rid of the "wait-and-see" lawyer who at present occupies the position of Prime Minister of this country.
§ Sir LEO CHIOZZA MONEY
What I intend to say will be of a purely non-controversial character. I want to bring the Committee back to the subject where it was left in the brilliant speech of the President of the Board of Trade. The right hon. Gentleman, in a speech which I have really been longing to hear all day, dealt with the economic side of this request by the Government for 1,000,000 more men, and, after all, that is the real subject which ought to be before us. The Government is not asking for 1,000,000 conscripts or volunteers. I want to put aside any question of how they are to be raised, and merely consider what I deem to be the most important aspect which was dealt with by my right hon. Friend. After all, what is it that the Government has asked for in respect of the Army? They have asked for what amounts to about one-half not of the working males of the country or the working adults, but about one-half of the working males of military age. The number of males who are working in the country at various occupations is very much greater, and it is because the gigantic working power of the country is so generally under-estimated that many people have been surprised at the extraordinary strength in production, and in exports which has actually, in practice, been exhibited by the country in spite of the fact that we are now in the throes of the greatest war of history. May I remind the Committee that the balance of trade, the excess of imports over exports, apart from Government purchases, has not increased as the Army has increased. Many people have expressed the fear that as time went on our export power would greatly diminish and that we should still have occasion to make enormous and growing imports, while we should be sending out fewer goods to pay for them.
What are the facts of the case that have been actually illustrated in practice? Last month the excess of imports, in round figures, was twenty-eight millions. As long ago as last April it was thirty-one millions. As long ago as last March it was thirty-seven millions. Between March and the present time, I do not know, of course, how many men have been recruited, but undoubtedly an enormous number of 339 men have been recruited in that time; I suppose an average of twenty thousand a week; I have no doubt of it. These men have been drafted into the Army week by week, decreasing the number of working males in the country, and yet the exports have increased instead of diminishing. It is perfectly true that war prices have played some part in maintaining our exports, but may I give the truest view I can of this subject to the Committee by reminding them of the comparison between the exports of last month and those of November in the recent best years of trade? The last three boom years of trade were those of 1900, 1907, and 1913. In selecting those three years I am selecting the highest peaks in the commercial perspective. What were the exports of British goods in the month of November in those years? In 1900 it was twenty-five millions. I venture to say that if in 1900, which was the best year of trade then on record, anybody had ventured to prophesy that in fifteen years' time we should be engaged in the greatest war of history, and that our exports, instead of being less, would be about fifty per cent. greater in value he would not have been believed. They would not have believed we could have exhibited such a great exporting power during a great war.
Take the year 1907. Our exports were worth £36,000,000 in the month of November of that year. In 1913, that extraordinary year of trade, they were worth £45,000,000. Last month our exports were worth £36,000,000—I am referring to the exports of British goods only—and that was done in spite of the fact that the number of armed men that we had drafted into the Army and Navy had then risen to, I suppose, roundly, three millions. That is a very extraordinary and satisfactory fact. What is the explanation? The explanation is to be found in this—and I am not here inventing an argument for the purpose of this Debate, but repeating what I have ventured to put before this House and other places before the War began—a very large amount of the labour, whether of men or of women, in time of peace is, from an economic point of view, wasted. Men, from no fault of their own, and women from no fault of their own, are engaged in non-productive tasks which, economically considered, are of no value to the country. When, therefore, you come to war, even if you do your recruiting promiscuously, as we have been 340 doing largely at the present time, you do not take men entirely, wholly, or even generally, from productive work. You take a large proportion of your recruits, no matter by what system, from non-productive trades. You do not touch the export trade. Indeed, may I remind the Committee that it is a great mistake to suppose that if the Prime Minister had been able, as he was not able, unfortunately, to-day to give us the complete figures of the Derby canvass, those figures would not have given us the economic truth as it was given by my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade (Mr. Runci-man) who based himself on what is really much better information.
The Derby canvass is a canvass ad hoc, and, as we know, it is incomplete. It does not include, I take it, a very large number of men we should desire to be in it, and it does include other men who ought not to be in it. It is incomplete even now. What the President of the Board of Trade took were, I think, very much better documents. He worked upon the census of 1911, and I take it also that he worked on the Census of Production of 1907. They are the only documents that are required if one desires to make a true judgment upon this matter. My right hon. Friend pointed out that the figures and analysis which was made by the Board of Trade, working as I have worked upon Census, figures, gave very much the same results as the National Register. Of course, if the National Register was done accurately, there was every reason why the same result should be produced. It is really not difficult to do what the Government has actually done, but what, as I gather from my right hon. Friends—I hope that I am not doing them an injustice—they did not do until the War had advanced a considerable period indeed. It has been done now, however, and the very fact that the President of the Board of Trade, with the responsibility upon him as President of the Board of Trade, and my right hon. Friend, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, with the responsibility upon him as Chancellor of the Exchequer, feel that they can support this vote for a million additional men ought to satisfy any of my commercial friends inside the House and outside it who have feared that the raising of another million men might have the effect of weakening us in an economic sense. I have every sympathy with the points of the arguments that have been addressed to the Committee on that head.
341 The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Trinity College (Sir E. Carson) went, of course, much too far when he talked, of giving the Army all that the Army require and leaving a residuum for the purposes of trade and for the purposes of sustaining economic labour. That, of course, is not a true argument. It is of the utmost importance not only to maintain the Army and Navy, but also to maintain the economic fabric of the country. What does the Census of Production say on that head? It is really a most extraordinary thing, but the Census of Production showed that of the male workers of the country only about half were directly engaged in material production. When you realise that fact, you understand how it can be that, although you may make a large draft on the manhood of the country, you do leave intact a very large part indeed of its economic strength. I suppose at present, if you count as workers—and, indeed, they are among our hardest workers—the men in the trenches or in training or on board our ships, we have of both sexes about twenty-one million workers. You have got to consider the Army not in relation to the number of men of military age, but in relation to the number of workers of both sexes and all ages, and the number is about twenty-one million. If, therefore, you take as many as four million for the Army, or, if we take the Navy also, call it 4,500,000 to be on the safe side, you have got left 16,500,000 workers at the present time. How are they made up They will be made up like this: 3½ million males of military age, 7 million males of other ages either under 19 or over 40, and about 6 million women and girls, making up the labour force that is left when you have put aside your 4½ million men of military age for the Army and Navy. My hon. Friend here, of course, points out that men are required for munitions.
The number of men who are working in controlled establishments under the Minister of Munitions is, I suppose, something under one million—not a million men of military age, but workers—men, women, youths and girls. When we are talking of units in munitions factories there is too often a tendency to speak of them as if of men of military age, which is not the case. Fortunately, work is very well done by many others, and, as we were reminded with perfect truth by an hon. Member behind me, it is actually a fact that at this moment in the munitions works of the 342 country there are women performing well and thoroughly not only work which was done before by unskilled men, but work which was actually done before by skilled men, and I am one of those who believe that there is still in the country an enormous force of unemployed labour. But I have not taken the, as yet, unemployed force into consideration in the facts which I have put before the Committee. I do-urge, however, that given proper training and proper opportunity there is a very large number indeed of women who are prepared to undertake, and who are capable of undertaking, work which is at present being done by men.
After the speech of the President of the Board of Trade, I am sure any hon. Member must feel himself compelled to admit that the Vote is not asked for carelessly, that it is not asked for without examination, and that it is not merely asked for on the strength of the War Office saying, ” We want so many men” but it is asked for after those Members, of the Government who are responsible for maintaining our financial and economic strength have made very careful examination. Another point of very great interest arises in this connection, which I venture to point out in view of the fact that further recruiting is going to be done. It is a point I do not think was mentioned by my right hon. Friend just now. It is true that if you take from an export trade, or from an essential trade connected with home production, a man of military age and make a soldier or a sailor of him, you do decrease the economic strength of the country, and you do increase our financial difficulties by so much. But there is another consideration. There are other trades from, which, if you take a unit you may increase the financial strength of the country at this time. For example, take trades like the building trade and the publishing trade. There are many others which might be mentioned, but take these because they are very big trades. Both of them at the present time are engaged in doing an enormous amount of work that need not be done, and in doing that work they consume imports, thereby increasing that balance which is one of the main difficulties with which the Chancellor of the Exchequer has to deal. Let us suppose you decrease the work done in the publishing trade by heavy recruiting in that trade, what is the result? You not only reduce the pro 343 duction of articles which are, I will not say undesirable, but I will say unnecessary to produce, but you reduce imports. If there is less publishing in the country there is less consumption of paper, and you reduce one of the greatest of our import trades; that is to say, you do the very thing you desire to do merely from a financial point of view. It is, therefore, a great mistake to suppose that if you recruit you necessarily increase our financial obligations. On the contrary, if we do our future recruiting judiciously, we may further decrease the balance of trade, which is a very important point indeed. It covers, of course, not only the building and the publishing trades, but very many other trades connected with dress.
§ The CHANCELLOR of the EXCHEQUER (Mr. McKenna)
Provided other labour is not brought into the trades.
§ Sir CHIOZZA MONEY
I quite agree. How is the Government to guard against that? I venture to submit, what I think is? also the opinion of my right hon. Friend, that the way to guard against that is to reduce the call for those commodities by suitable measures at the same time that you recruit in the trades in which you desire to reduce consumption and reduce imports. If you do the two things at one time, you at one and the same time reduce the power of consumption of those things, while you take out of the labour forces of the country the very labour which is used in the production which corresponds to the consumption you desire to reduce. The two things are, of course, correlative, and they are of great importance.
There is only one other point I desire to submit to the Committee, which is also a purely non-controversial matter from the point of view of the subject we are considering. It is this: whether we recruit by the voluntary system or by any other system, we do, in effect, make a very large call upon the men who have great obligations to meet. I hope I shall not be misunderstood when I remind the Committee that the working men of our country, as of most other civilised countries, unfortunately, as to a very large majority of them, are accustomed to more or less casual employment. Unemployment is common to them; social vicissitudes are, unfortunately, a commonplace to them. Therefore, when a man of that class is asked to enlist he is proceeding, if he enlists, upon 344 an adventure which is very nearly related to many another adventure which he has had in the course of his life. It is very different, however, with men of the trading, lower middle and middle classes. It is well that we should remember that the appeals we put on the walls for voluntary recruits, just as much as any other system of recruiting you like to adopt, are appeals to the very man who has these obligations upon his shoulders, and you make it a reproach against him if he does not desert all his obligations and offer to serve his country as though those obligations did not exist. I submit very seriously to the Government that we have not as a nation given sufficient attention to that very serious point.
Of course, in countries where they have a system of Conscription or national service or whatever you like to call it, where they have expected at some time or other that the majority of the men of military age would be called up for millitary service, these things adjust themselves in law and in custom in advance. In Switzerland, for example, the law and the custom in effect are that the compulsory soldier is a sacred thing. They cannot take action at law against a man who is serving his country in a conscriptionist country. They cannot sue him for a debt. He is in a comparatively safe position when the nation makes its call upon him. He knows that he can obey the call without leaving his family as it were in the lurch. We are making an appeal at present under what we call a voluntary system. If we adopt I any other system we shall make the call in an even more definite way, and we shall say to a man with such obligations, ” We expect you to serve your country,” even while we know that we have done absolutely nothing to meet his case except to provide a small separation allowance. In the case of a man who has legal obligations to meet, a man who has a lease of a house, a man who is paying a heavy insurance premium, these things will come very heavily indeed, and I do not think it just that at one and the same time you should reproach such a man with not volunteering while we know very well we have made no provision for his case. It is very difficult, of course, to meet such cases by way of emergency legislation. It seems to me it is necessary to do something under some moderate limit of income to face such a man as that for his legal liabilities of the kind I 345 have indicated during the period of War. If we do not do that we make the case very hard indeed for a man in that position, and it seems to me that until we have done something to meet those cases we are hardly justified in pointing the finger of reproach at men who do not enlist. I promised to do my best to say nothing which was not of a more controversial character, and I hope I have succeeded.
§ Mr. WHITEHOUSE
I have listened with very great interest to the speech that has just been delivered. I think it contained some amazing political economy. He may not have been controversial in the party sense, I am sure he was not, but he was certainly controversial in the economic sense. My hon. Friend took out his statistics with great freedom, and if his argument meant anything at all it meant that we could take millions more into the Army and suffer no serious embarrassment in trade in consequence.
§ Sir CHIOZZA MONEY
I said I thought the Government had shown that they had carefully examined the question before asking us to vote 4,000,000 men and possbly even half a million more than the figures they suggested could be got out of the industries of the country without damage. Now my hon. Friend interprets that as "millions more could be safely taken."
§ Mr. WHITEHOUSE
The OFFICIAL REPORT will show that my hon. Friend said not only could 4,500,000 be taken into the Army, but a further number in terms of millions that he did not specify. He seemed to think that because there was a great number of men, women and girls not of military age there would be no difficulty in carrying on the industry of the country. The problem is not so simple as that, and, indeed, the answer to that part of my hon. Friend's argument is found in the fact that only yesterday the House was face to face with an urgent appeal both for more skilled and unskilled labour, even in the limited industry of the making of munitions of war. I should like to put this further question to my hon. Friend, because I listened with extreme interest to that part of his argument, the trend of which, to my mind, was to show that there was no cause for any alarm at all. Indeed, he said that so far from it being a bad thing 346 to stop certain industries it was actually a good thing.
§ Mr. WHITEHOUSE
Will my hon. Friend let me put my argument. I listened to him with great interest and great patience. He said that if you could only stop or reduce the publishing trade and the building trade that it would not be a loss at all. I will take first the publishing trade, and ask the hon. Member why is the publishing trade selected. Is he referring to newspapers or to books?
§ Mr. WHITEHOUSE
To both. Does literature serve no purpose in time of war? If it is wrong for the publication of books to take place is it not equally wrong to write books or to write for newspapers? I confess I do not know where this theory of political economy leads us to. It seems to me to be the most curious kind of war economics that I have ever heard. I pass from these points, because there are other things I want to refer to.
I desire, first, to congratulate the President of the Board of Trade on what I may say very respectfully was a most able, eloquent and convincing speech I wish that the Committee had had the benefit of that speech at an earlier hour, because I think it would have placed the whole Debate in a truer perspective. I congratulate the right hon. Gentleman not only upon the wisdom but upon the great courage of the speech. It is, in my opinion, a most convincing reply to the demand made so frequently for an unlimited Army, and a complete answer to the theory that we can discharge without limit all the functions and burdens that we have taken upon ourselves in connection with the War. We debate the whole question of this Vote under circumstances of great difficulty. We have never yet had a Debate which raises the question of Conscription as opposed to voluntary service and the whole question of the functions of this country: we have never had such a Debate based upon official and exact figures, or even approximately exact figures or facts, we have always had the conduct of the Debate in the absence of any definite official announcement. I am glad that to-day the Prime Minister, though he was unable to give any particulars of what we call the 347 Derby campaign, did not ask the Committee not to debate the question.
I was very much surprised at the line taken by the right hon. and learned Member for Exeter (Mr. Duke). I am sorry to see he is not in his place, because I must refer to his speech. He professed to be greatly shocked that we should be talking about the subject of Conscription at all. He spoke in terms of the utmost concern, because the hon. and learned Member for Waterford (Mr. Redmond) had expressed not only his own feelings but the feelings of his party and the feelings of a great many Members of the House on the question of Conscription. The right hon. and learned Gentleman went further. He was almost pontificial in his utterances, and, with a break in his voice, with a voice charged with great emotion, he expressed the deep sorrow with which he had heard the cheers from these benches which greeted the speech of the hon. and learned Member for Waterford. I think that a very extraordinary attitude to take up. I thought I was listening to a school-master rebuking one of the lower form boys. If I had had an opportunity I should have protested whilst the right hon. and learned Member was in his place against his adopting such a tone towards the leader of a great nation and a great united party for expressing the opinions of a very considerable section of the Committee. What was the position? The Prime Minister had himself stated that he hoped this week to be able to announce the definite views of the Government, and to make a definite announcement on behalf of the Government in connection with the results of the Derby campaign. That announcement, if it is realised, means that the decision of the Government may be taken in the Cabinet before this House has any further opportunity of expressing any views whatever upon the question, and that, therefore, the Cabinet were being invited by the right Hon. Gentleman to come to this decision without taking any steps to ascertain, and without paying any attention to what was the feeling of Members in every part of the House. That, I submit, is a question which could not be reasonably maintained.
I am very glad indeed that the Committee has not followed the advice of the right hon. Gentleman, the Member for Exeter. He has discussed this question, and set forth as far as was possible in the time, views 348 that are entertained upon this subject. Before asking the representative of the Government a question on this subject, I wish to refer to the remarkable speech which was made by an hon. Gentleman who is no longer in his place—the Member for Anglesey (Mr. Ellis Griffith). It is a speech that merits a reply; it is a speech that should not stand upon the records of the House without some answer having been made to it, for it contains the most amazing theory as to what the functions of this House are, what are the duties of the Government, and what are the rights of private members, that I have ever heard advanced during my membership of this House. I am very glad indeed to have the support of my right hon. Friend.
§ Mr. WHITEHOUSE
I am very glad to have the right hon. Gentleman's sympathy. What is the argument of the hon. Member for Anglesey? It amounts to this: We are to wait in silence and in a decorous attitude; or that when the Government announces its views, we are then to receive them unanswered and in silence; we are to accept without discussion, without comment, without any criticism, the decision announced by the Government. If the hon. Member had stayed during the Debate a little later and had come a little earlier, he would have learned that that is not the present temper of a great number of Members of this House, not all of whom, it may be, are agreed upon this question of Conscription. But I ask the Committee to realise what the meaning of the hon. Gentleman's speech was. He said, in effect, that it was not necessary to press compulsion, because we were under compulsion already, and that we had come under a system of compulsion the moment that what is known as Lord Derby's scheme was begun. What does that mean: Was the scheme started and announced in this House as a scheme of compulsion, and that at the end of it there would be no difference in an actual scheme of Conscription passed by Act of Parliament? Was the whole scheme a fraud and a sham then? That is the question I should have put to the hon. Member had he remained in his place to answer it.
The Derby scheme was put forward as a great effort under the voluntary 349 system to demonstrate that this country could produce the men under what I believe to be the only possible scheme, and that compulsion would be altogether unnecessary. I believe the scheme will demonstrate that. The right hon. Gentleman tells us we should have compulsion because the scheme itself was compulsion, and compulsion of the worst kind; and that whatever its results there is no difference between legal compulsion and the Derby scheme. Let me in passing pay a tribute to this attitude of entire faith and trust that the right hon. Gentleman urged us to adopt with regard to the Government. I was only sorry that he urged this counsel upon us after he had become so recently a convert to it himself. I well remember the right hon. Gentleman, who had not long left the Government, took a very different attitude when the question of the Welsh Church was being considered. I did not then hear of this doctrine of passive obedience; I heard of the doctrine of very active revolt, and I could not help thinking that the right hon. Gentleman was pointing out the steep and thorny path to Heaven while heHimself the primrose path of dalliance treadsAnd reeks not his own read.I regret having to make this reply in the absence of the right hon. Gentleman, but that is not my fault, but the fault of the right hon. Gentleman. I come to what was to me the most interesting and instructive passage in the whole of his speech, and that was his statement with regard to what he called the Prime Minister's pledges. He brushed aside altogether as having no relevance to the matter the only speech that the Prime Minister has made to Members of the House of Commons on this subject, the speech that he delivered on 2nd November. In that speech the Prime Minister told us the conditions which he would require to be satisfied before he could contemplate even advising the House of Commons to depart from the voluntary system. He laid great and just stress upon the functions which this country had to fulfil, the vital functions which this country had to fulfil, apart altogether from the numbers of our Army. He said in clear and un-mistakeable words that these vital functions must be provided for; and he quoted the Minister of Munitions' speech of an earlier date, in which that right hon. Gentleman called attention to the fact that the extent to which you could give military help in this great war depended 350 upon the extent to which you discharged these other vital functions. The Prime Minister, after stating these conditions which would have to be fulfilled, made this striking declaration—that he refused to contemplate even the possibility of any failure of our voluntary system. He professed his great hope, indeed his certain belief, that the country would respond to any and all the demands that were made on it, and that there would be no occasion whatever to depart from the voluntary system. Does the hon. Member state that that was not a pledge to the House of Commons? Does the right hon. Member for Anglesey state that that binding speech—the only speech on the question delivered in this House—is now out of date or has been cancelled by anything that followed, and that we have no need to consider it? I very much regret that the right hon. Gentleman is not in his place to answer these questions.
We believe in and support the Prime Minister. We know that when he made that speech on the 2nd November he meant what he said, and our belief is that every hope he then expressed will prove to have been justified. I, for my own part, enter the strongest protest it is possible for me to make against the campaign of menace that has gone on in certain circles and in certain newspapers, and the attempt that has been made to prejudice the whole case and to create such an atmosphere as was thought would lead to the introduction of Conscription. It is all very well for the right hon. Member for Exeter to tell us to be silent and to express his grief that we even cheered the hon. and learned Member for Waterford. What are the facts of the case? On the Monday after the Derby campaign had finished, the "Times" had a leading article on the scheme, and it finished by stating that the Government had now, owing to the enormous success of the Derby campaign, the numerical backing it required to introduce Conscription. This statement of the Northcliffe "Times" was made on the Monday following the Saturday which witnessed the end of the Derby campaign before figures of any kind had been published or could be known. There was a deliberate attempt to make the success of the experiment which was to free us from the menace of Cotfiscription—an instrument to fasten the system upon us. Against these things we protest. We protest, too, against the attempt to bring in Conscription by a side wind—on the side 351 issue of married men versus single men. It is obvious that when the Derby figures have been analysed there will be a certain pool—I believe the number will be small—of unmarried men.
Attention called to the fact that forty Members were not present. House counted, and forty Members being found present,
§ Mr. WHITEHOUSE
When the count took place I was submitting to the Committee as relevant facts that when the figures of the Derby campaign are compiled, and have been analysed and adjusted, there will still obviously remain a certain pool of unmarried men. No one will be able when that figure is produced to say that these unmarried men, whatever their numbers, are either shirkers or slackers. That statement could not be made until there had been a judicial inquiry or an adequate inquiry into the individual cases which had resulted in the failure of these men to come forward. In a sentence or two I want to communicate some of the reasons why these unmarried men, and many married men—for I do not recognise the absurd distinction drawn—have not come forward. They include many who are engaged in the essential parts of industry. They include a great many who have legitimate reasons for not coming forward. I do not think that I should exaggerate if I said there were tens of thousands who have sent one, or two, or perhaps more of the family to the Army, and who have kept the remaining son at home to keep the home or the business together. They have made a contract with the State, a contract not less real because it is unwritten, that if they sent one, two, or more sons to the War, that the last should remain at home to "carry on." Will any member of the Committee dare to say that these are cases of slackers or shirkers? Yet these cases will be found in many thousands in whatever pool is left after all calculations have been made.
If I had time I could go through multitudinous and legitimate reasons which have kept men from going forward. But I will not pursue that argument further. I will merely say this: I believe the Army has reached the point—perhaps it has exceeded it—at which it cannot be extended except at the gravest risk to the country and to the cause of the Allies. The financial burden—
§ Major HUNT
May I interrupt the hon. Gentleman for one moment. There are undoubtedly hundreds of thousands of men in this country who are contributing nothing at all to the interests of this country.
§ Mr. WHITEHOUSE
On that point I have very great doubts, but I will not go into it now, because I have not time. What I want to say is this. I believe we cannot extend the Army beyond a certain point except at the gravest risk to our fortunes in the War and to the cause of the Allies. I fear we are getting dangerously near that point—if indeed we have not already gone beyond it. I think we should remember the other vital functions which this country has to discharge in connection with the War. The speech of the President of the Board of Trade has brought us back to that point. I want to ask a question of my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer who represents the Government at this moment, and who, I presume, will report to the Prime Minister the course of this Debate, On 2nd November last the Prime Minister stated that the one essential condition which it would be necessary to have fulfilled before compulsion can be introduced into this country would have to be something in the nature of general assent. My right hon. Friend has listened to the Debate to-day. He has heard the Leader and other representatives of the Irish party announce the attitude not only of the Irish Members, but of the Irish nation. He has heard the case put by the representatives of which I suppose is the greatest trade union in this country—the convincing and powerful case that was put by the hon. Member for Derby (Mr. Thomas)—early in the sitting. He has heard the case put, not once or twice, but almost continuously throughout the sitting by Members who are qualified to speak for the great businesses, the great industries and manufactures of this country. He has heard the voice generally of Members of the Liberal party and other parties.
I want to ask my right hon. Friend whether he thinks that general assent has been obtained or is likely to be obtained. I ask him with confidence, because I believe that he and the Government and the Prime Minister were in earnest in the views they expressed to us on 2nd November last. I want to appeal to the Prime-Minister and to the Government boldly to say that, in view of the statements. 353 that he has made and of the feeling that has been displayed not only in this House, but throughout the length and breadth of the land—I want them really to say that the voluntary system which has achieved such unparalleled and magnificent results in the past, which was just, as we believe, demonstrated that it is so strong and as powerful as ever to carry the country through this great crisis is the only system possible for this nation, and is a system which is adequate to meet all the needs and responsibilities that have yet to fall upon this nation.
§ Mr. LLEWELYN WILLIAMS
I do not propose to inflict a speech of any length upon the Committee, but I feel that I ought, in justice to myself, to say something about this question, because I, with other hon. Members, waited on the Prime Minister last Thursday, and for that I had been traduced, vilified, and misrepresented in a way that has no parallel in my political hisotry. I am glad to see the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Anglesey (Mr. Ellis Griffith) present, and I only wish he had heard the speech of the hon. Member who has just sat down (Mr. Whitehouse). I would remind my right hon. Friend of one thing he said in the course of his speech, and that was that he did not mind the deputation waiting upon the Prime Minister last week. I wish all those who are in the habit of associating with the right hon. Gentleman, especially since this Conscriptionist agitation was started, were of like mind. I have had put into my hands only an hour ago a report of a certain interview with the hon. Member for Mansfield (Sir A. Markham), in which it is stated that the deputation I have referred to was the result of a hole-and-corner meeting got up by pro-Germans. I have here a report of that interview in the "Western Mail," which circulates in my Constituency, and it says:—Sir Arthur Markham says the deputation was an outrage. It was arranged in a hole-and-corner fashion by pro-Germans.
§ Mr. WILLIAMS
My hon. Friend has no right to say that, and I ask him to repeat in this House that statement in reference to any one of those thirty or forty Members, who are as honourable as he is, and who have done as much in order to carry on this War as he has. I ask him whether he is prepared to denounce us as 354 "pro-Germans"? I entirely repudiate such a statement as that, and I say that there is not one member of that deputation who is not heart and soul in favour of the prosecution of this War and who is not as patriotic as the hon. Gentleman who used that invective against us. What was the object of the deputation? I ask hon. Gentlemen to contrast the position of Conscription to-night with what it was on 2nd November, some six weeks ago. Up to the time when this House met on 14th September I do not hesitate to say that the Conscriptionists were beaten out of the field. My right hon. Friend the Member for Anglesey (Mr. Ellis Griffith) has told us to be obedient and loyal to the Prime Minister.
I never said anything of the kind. I said that I was willing to abide by the decision of the Prime Minister myself.
§ Mr. WILLIAMS
What does that mean? Let me remind my right hon. Friend how this controversy with regard to Conscription arose. On 28th July in this House the Prime Minister got up in his place and made an appeal to the patriotic feelings of the House of Commons and asked us not to discuss the question of Conscription or No-Conscription. The hon. Member for Dorset (Captain Guest), coming back from the trenches, as he said, went out of his way to ignore the appeal of the Prime Minister, and it was he who started this Conscriptionist movement. What happened in the Recess? My right hon. Friend (Mr. E. Griffith) addressed a meeting in favour of Conscription in the Queen's Hall. The meeting was got up by Lord Northcliffe, who subscribed £100, the "Daily Mail" which subscribed £100, the right hon. Gentleman for Swansea (Sir A. Mond) who also subscribed £100, and a few other gentlemen who subscribed various amounts which were acknowledged in the "Times" and the "Daily Mail." What has become of that body? I do not know, but at all events it was under its aegis that the meeting in Queen's Hall was held in August and was addressed by my right hon. Friend the Member for Anglesey. Another meeting was held somewhere south of the Thames under the auspices of the same body, and it was addressed by the hon. Gentleman who is now Parliamentary Private Secretary to the Minister of Munitions (Sir Chiozza Money). That 355 was the origin of this movement in favour of Conscription.
We who believe that Conscription is such an evil that we cannot win this War if we adopt it, were asked to hold meetings against Conscription all over the country, but we refused. Speaking for myself, I was urged to go to meetings all over the country, and certainly all over Wales, and the reason I did not do so was that I did not want to divide the country. I wanted this country to be united, and my case against Conscription has always been that whatever its theoretical virtues may be the effect of it in practice would be that it would hoplessly disunite the people of this country and would not make for the effective prosecution of the War. I felt, therefore, that the more these Gentlemen agitated the worse their case became, and the worse the Parliamentary position of their agitation would be. I appeal to hon. Gentlemen to throw themselves back to the position of things when Parliament reassembled on 14th September. At that time Conscription if not dead was moribund. What has happened that we are to-day again face to face with this bogey? What has happened during the last two or three months? A new direction has been given to the Conscription agitation. As long as Lord North-cliffe and the "Daily Mail" were directing the agitation, I did not fear, because they made every conceivable mistake. I heard Lord Milner in the other House echo a suggestion with regard to the Danish Agreement that there was a mysterious hand at work.
I do not know if there is a mysterious hand at work with regard to the Danish Agreement, but I know that for the last two months there has been a mysterious hand at work directing the Conscriptionist agitation, and a very clever and ingenious hand it is. My hon. Friend says it is quite untrue. I do not know whether he knows more about it than I do, but I say there has been a new direction, and a very clever direction given to this Conscriptionist agitation during the last few weeks. What happened? Why are we confronted to-day with this fatuous idea that there is a difference between the single man and the married man? As I believe the President of the Board of Trade (Mr. Runciman) said to-night, no such distinction is drawn in any conscriptionist country. Why should it be drawn here? Let me tell the House. It 356 is a very mysterious subject, but let me remind hon. Gentlemen how the thing has. arisen.
On Monday, 1st November, there was a Cabinet Meeting in the afternoon. It was well advertised. Everybody knew it was going to held. If I remember rightly, the "Times" mentioned that at that meeting the Prime Minister's speech that he was going to deliver the following day, Tuesday, 2nd November, was going to be discussed. There had been a great agitation beforehand to the effect that the Prime Minister must make a pronouncement of national policy on Tuesday; that the whole future of the country and conduct of the campaign depended on his making this great pronouncement.
On the Monday, after Lord Derby's scheme had been put into operation, the "Times" said that Lord Derby's scheme was successful, that it was the triumph of the voluntary system. To-night, however, we were told by my right hon. Friend, the Member for Anglesey, that what happened on 2nd November was the death-knell of the voluntary system.
§ Mr. WILLIAMS
The right hon. Gentleman said it was too late to defend the voluntary system. Fourteen times last night, said the hon. Member for Mansfield (Sir A. Markham), the Minister of Munitions in his most corybantic, revivalist mood used the words "Too late, too late," and the hon. Member for Anglesey (Mr. Ellis Griffith), who is nothing if not imitative, adopted the same phrase and said it was too late to-night for those who believed in the voluntary system to say a word in its favour, because on 2nd November the whole case had been given away.
What happened? The Cabinet met on Monday afternoon, 1st November. I suppose they deliberated and discussed what the Prime Minister was to say to the House of Commons on Tuesday, 2nd November. On Tuesday, 2nd November, the "Times" came out with a leading article, which I read only to-day,, and it said: "The Prime Minister must touch on this subject; he must discuss this and that topic, or the country will be disappointed," and after detailing topics of that sort it referred to a letter which appeared in another column from 357 the pen of the hon. Member, one of the Members for Glasgow, in which he raised for the first time the question of the married and the unmarried men; and the "Times" said, with great prescience: "The Prime Minister must say the necessary word with regard to this matter."
The PRIME MINISTER came down to the House of Commons in the afternoon and made his great pronouncement. He dealt with one subject after another that had been mentioned with intelligent anticipation in the "Times" of that morning, and he finished up by saying that there was some apprehension as to the position of married men, and then he gave the pledge of which we have heard so much. Not a word had ever been uttered in this House before that day about any so-called distinction between married and unmarried men. It had never been discussed in this House. It had never been discussed in the newspapers; but it was sprung upon us first of all by a letter in the "Times" on 2nd November. It was taken up and adopted by the "Times" on the same day, and before it had been discussed in any way by the House the Prime Minister gave this pledge. I am not here to say that I view that pledge with any sort of affection—I do not. I think it was a pledge that ought never to have been given. All the same, since the Prime Minister has given it, I say, and I have always said so, that it must be carried out in letter and in spirit. Whatever that pledge may be, I for one tell the right hon. Gentleman he must carry it out to the full, though I dislike it, and though I think it ought never to have been given. I say that unfortunate pledge has brought about a great difference in the position with regard to Conscription in the country. What has it done? On 2nd November the vast majority in this country were against Conscription. [An HON. MEMBER: "No!"] The vast majority certainly in the parts of the country I know. Nearly every married attested man is now a Conscriptionist so far as the unmarried man is concerned, such is the Machiavellian subtlety with which this has been worked during the last few weeks. I agree, therefore, that the position is very different now from what it was in October, and I am sorry the Prime Minister, who is a convinced voluntarist, should have been misled on the impulse of the moment into giving that pledge. But I hope—and I am entitled to ask—that if this pledge is going 358 to be carried out in the letter and in the spirit, justice should be done to the unmarried man as well. I have had, as I dare say every hon. Member has had, a vast amount of correspondence about this during the last fortnight or three weeks. I have here a selection of letters which have come to me from unmarried men, who can be divided into five groups. This is the real point I want to make. The first group is the men who are starred as working in munition works, and those who have written to me have asked whether, under these circumstances, they are to attest or not, as they thought they were starred men and therefore exempt from military service. In every case I have advised them to attest, but I have no knowledge as to whether they have in fact attested or not. I have no doubt whatever that there are thousands of men starred who are in munition works who have not attested, and, therefore, to use Lord Derby's language, are unaccounted for under his scheme. There are other men who are indispensable in essential industries. I have a letter from a gentleman in my Constituency who says he is a bachelor with a mother and sisters entirely dependant upon him. He is a small tradesman. I say he has as much right to be considered as any married man.
§ Mr. WILLIAMS
Are there not thousands of married men who have no family, and if they join the Army their wives will get a fair subsistence allowance; but if an unmarried man has his mother and two or three sisters dependant on him, what consideration is shown if he joins the Colours?
§ Mr. WILLIAMS
I do not wish to enter into a small controversy over such a matter as this. At all events, he is in the same position, if not a worse position, than a married man with dependants. I have another case. There are dozens of people who write to me. There is a gentleman 359 who has two elder brothers. They have been carrying on business together in some part of England. The two elder brothers have already joined the Army. He is the only partner left to carry on the business, which has a turnover of £25,000 a year. He has an aged father and workpeople dependant upon him. I say that he is an indispensable man, and under no possible system ought he to be forced to join. [An HON. MEMBER: "He can go before a tribunal."] Take another class—those medically unfit. There are dozens of men who have written to Members of this House to say that they know they are medically unfit, but they do not want to advertise that fact. If they attested they have to present themselves before a doctor, and they know that they will be rejected. That fact would be advertised, and their neighbours and employers would know of it. For that reason alone they say they are not going to attest. They have too much pride, or shyness, or fear that the defect will become known, and that they will not be looked upon as being as efficient in their employment as they were before. Not a single member of the Committee will say that that man, although he has not attested, is a shirker. Is it not perfectly well known that the vast majority of the halt, the blind, the deaf, the dumb and the men who are afflicted in mind are single men?
The majority of them would be single men, and, therefore, those also would be unaccounted for under the Derby scheme. Let me give you another example. Take the man—I have mentioned him before—with domestic obligations similar to the domestic obligations he would have if he were a married man—take the conscientious objector. I am not going to say a word about that after the most moving speech of the hon. Member for East Leeds, but it is perfectly obvious to anyone that it is impossible for any Government—I do not care what Government may be in power, I do not know how long this Government may be in—but, whatever Government is in power, it is perfectly obvious that they cannot deal with the conscientious objector if he is a genuine conscientious objector, and not a shirker, as long as clergymen of the Established Church are forbidden by their archbishops and bishops to enrol themselves in the Army. Take the Quakers. The Quakers have these con- 360 scientious objections, but there are thousands and thousands of other people who are not Quakers, who belong to other denominations, who have the same feeling with regard to war as the primitive Christians had. The primitive Christians, you all know, were persecuted by the best of the Roman Emperors, by Trajan and Hadrian, simply because they held this view with regard to war and the shedding of human blood. We all know that in Russia the Tolstoians and the Doukobhors emigrated to Canada in tens of thousands because they believed in these views. And there are men in this country who believe, as thoroughly and as conscientiously, that all war is murder. They have not objected to this War because they feel that the whole country has risen, almost like one man, and they do not want to stand between the citizen and his view of what his conscientious duty is. But I am perfectly certain that if this question is raised by a Conscription Bill, these people, a few thousands though they may be, I do not know their numbers, I have not inquired, but I know there will be thousands of them in this country who will object, and who have objected, because they have this conscientious objection to the shedding of human blood.
Now, why do I raise all these points? For this reason. I attended the deputation to the Prime Minister the other day, not to ask the Prime Minister to break his pledge—"an infamous proposal" as somebody has called it—or to treat it as a scrap of paper—I have too much regard, not only for the person of my right hon. Friend, but for his office to ask him or any other occupant of his office to do any such thing. I say that the pledge, unfortunate though it was, must be carried out in letter and in spirit. But, when you come to consider whether the number unaccounted for under the Derby scheme is negligible or not you must have regard to the fact that there are tens of thousands of people who have valid objections and valid reasons for not joining the Colours who are not accounted for under that scheme.
My suggestion, therefore, is that before the Government do anything or come to any decision, they should make another inquiry among those unmarried men who have not accounted for themselves under the Derby scheme in order to ascertain whether they have a valid reason for not having either enlisted or attested at all. Then we shall 361 be in a position to know whether the number is negligible or not, and we shall know where we stand. I have only one other word to say, and it is this. The Government, if they introduce a Conscription Bill, may get a few tens of thousands, it may be 100,000, I do not know the number of unmarried men, more into the Army than they would have otherwise. I question very much whether the quality of the men or the quantity that they will get into the Army under such a scheme will be worth all the trouble and the turmoil. But I put my case far higher than that. I say that for the sake of 50,000 or 100,000 men it is not worth while raising all these unnecsesary issues about conscientious objections, and far less is it worth while to disunite the country at a time when it has shown, according to Lord Derby, that its heart is sound, that its heart is in this War. Never was there a war when the people of this country were more united and more determined to bring it to a successful issue, and I hope nothing will prevail upon the Government to make that issue less certain than it is at present.
§ Mr. LYNCH
I rise at this late hour to strike a new note, but before proceeding to the main point on which I wish to say a few words to the House, I mean to refer to the very striking speech of my hon. Friend, the Member for East Mayo. He stated the case for Ireland with a careful consideration of all the elements involved, with much force and power, and in such a manner as to leave it unnecessary for anyone else to traverse the whole ground, except to say this, that I am certain that the views which he expressed are not his alone, are not those of the Irish party alone, but of the overwhelming majority, of almost the unanimity, of the Irish people. So that, whether his views be accepted or not, they must be regarded as, so to speak, a fixed point in this entire Debate, in the sense that he has clearly expressed the mind and the determination of Ireland. However, I will develop another point which he raised, namely, that no matter how many men were supplied to the Army, even if the Army were increased by another million or another two millions, that excess of men would count for nothing as long as the methods employed in the conduct of this War showed the futility which has been exhibited up to the present point. I do not intend to enter very deeply into the many details which 362 will illustrate this; it is touching live wires wherever one comes into contact with the whole machine—live wires, except that the Government alone is not alive. It is acting as a kind of spendthrift Government; it is showing no economy and no management in the carrying on of its own business.
Take, for instance, the question of the Dardanelles. I will touch upon that very lightly, because every hon. Member in the House is acquainted with the broad issues and with many of the details—I should like some slight attention from the Government, because, after all, this is a matter which ought to interest them, although one would think, from the incapacity which they have displayed, that it is one of the subjects to which they have given the least of their attention. We heard, to-night, certainly, from one of the Members of the Government, the right hon. Member who represents the Board of Trade, what I may call a scientific speech, a speech of a man who imported scientific methods into the Administration of his own Department. It was almost the first time, since the beginning of the War, that I have heard that note of scientific efficiency sounded from the Government Front Bench. In the conduct of the Dardanelles we had a sort of apologia from the right hon. Gentleman who, at the beginning of the War, was the First Lord of the Admiralty, and who has now transferred his services—the services of one of the two men of action which the Government could boast of—to another sphere.
When I heard his speech, powerful as it was, one of the most salient points which came before my mind was this, that if the plan of the Dardanelles had been the best conceived, the most finely-illustrated plan which it was possible to put before the Government or the Services—the Army or the Navy—that plan was frustrated by the incapacity, the vacillation, the delay, and the want of prevision of the Government. I will prove that even from his own speech. On 3rd November of last year it appears the Government were already in possession of many of the military facts which were necessary to form an opinion as to the validity of that Expedition. On 30th November the First Lord, apparently the first man to move, the man of action, after seventeen days' delay put forward a proposition to the Minister for War saying that in case of necessity he would be able to provide transports for 40,000 men. The next we hear of the proposition brings us 363 to 3rd January of the following year, when the First Lord interrogated Admiral Garden as to the naval possibilities of the Expedition. He appears to have been in possession of the report of Admiral Garden on 11th January, and on 13th January of that year for the first time the War Council was called together to examine this plan. On 25th January, for the first time apparently, Lord Fisher gave a reasoned criticism of the whole plan of the Expedition. Other delays occurred through the necessity of consulting the Allies, and it was 18th February of the following year before the first shot was fired in that campaign. I would venture to say that by those delays alone the possibility of bringing this campaign to a successful fruition were already destroyed, and the responsibility for that destruction lies entirely with the Government.
The Minister of Munitions last night, in a striking and powerful speech, uttered the words "Too late, too late," coming on every critical occasion like the Leitmotiv of a Wagnerian opera, and when I heard the speech of the First Lord I was reminded of those elementary lessons for political strategy which we read in our school books, where in the campaigns of Napoleon Bonaparte the Holy Council of Austria was continually consulting or deciding or destroying decisions while Napoleon was fighting and destroying their armies at the front. Those lessons were apparently too deep or too complicated to strike the combined mind of the Cabinet in the handling of this momentous Expedition. I say that the first conception of that campaign was good, perhaps the only good thing connected with the whole campaign from beginning to end except the valour of the troops, and that the prize of Constantinople itself was within the grasp of the Government, that key to the whole East, the key to the whole strategic position of the Eastern theatre of war, and that by their incapacity, by their want of energy, by their want of courage, they let that prize slip through their fingers, and it is they who must bear the responsibility of that failure, must bear it in history, because now the possibility of achieving anything has gone, and this will remain in history as a disgrace to their intelligence or to their energy. I mean to put my finger before I sit down on the causes of their incapacity, and in speaking thus I mean to strike an optimistic note, a note of victory, because the first step 364 towards victory and the first hope of optimism should be in a careful study of the causes of failure, and the determination to eliminate them from future operations.
The cause of failure is partly a want of moral courage in the Cabinet, a want of moral courage in this sense, that when they see that any office or any man has been a failure, instead of having the decision and the energy and the courage to replace that man and to put a more efficient in his place, they seem over whelmed themselves by the shadow: of something mysterious which lies above them, and they cower before the representation of a great name. The great leaders of this War, whether on the military side or in diplomacy, have been signal failures. If I am asked for any other reason I have only to point out the results which stare us in the face and which are patent to all the world. Yet it is those very men, and one of them in especial, which the Cabinet has kept in his power and to which the Prime Minister himself, unable to stand against the reputation which he enjoyed, rather sacrificed his whole Government and formed this Coalition Government, which has been more inefficient than the Government which he previously led, and it has given us nothing whatever since its formation to justify its existence. The field of diplomacy has shown as disastrous failures as the military theatre, but there the Government stands in dread of another great name, of another idol of popular imagination who has been one of the fatal men in the conduct of this War since the beginning. I refer to the Minister for Foreign Affairs, and judged by his results I say that the Minister for Foreign Affairs, no matter how great may be his reputation, and no matter how high his—
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN (Mr. Maclean)
We are not now discussing the conduct of the Minister for Foreign Affairs.
§ Mr. LYNCH
I respectfully submit that the Debate has already wandered into fields which have covered this, and that my object is to show that when this Government is demanding an extra vote for a million men we have a right to examine whether this million men will be employed in the most efficient way or whether they will share the fate of many 365 of those compatriots of my own, Australians or Irishmen, who have sacrificed their lives in a futile expedition, and have sacrificed them owing to the incompetency of that Government. Therefore I will proceed to consider the situation of Serbia. Serbia has been a second Belgium, a second Belgium which fixes a greater stigma on the country which had shown its incapacity to handle the situation in Belgium in the first great incursion of the German hordes, because whatever excuse could be made for unpreparedness, in regard to Belgium, the Government had no excuse what ever with regard to their handling of the Serbian situation, seeing that for many months before they had the warning of the first example, and if their diplomatic service had been in the least degree efficient—
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
The hon. Member, I must point out, is now quite obviously again transgressing the ruling I have already laid down
§ Mr. LYNCH
Well, I will seek some other occasion to develop these remarks, if it be the case that when the House is asked to vote another 1,000,000 men for the Army we cannot enter into any argument to ascertain whether these 1,000,000 men would be of service or not, or whether they would be efficiently employed. I will therefore consider the purely military situation; and I may say this: that the failures which have characterised the conduct of the War on the Western front, and which have shown errors in the high conduct of this campaign, have not again been utterly without warning. It is, as it seems to me, as if our great military leaders were like the Bourbons —they forget nothing and they learn nothing. They cling to the methods of fifty years ago, and they are not taught even by those disastrous spectacles which have passed under their eyes like the failure of Neuve Chapelle, because the battle of Loos was, if anything, a greater failure even than the battle of Neuve Chapelle. It was a failure more disastrous, for this reason, that if the smashing through of the German lines, which was almost completed, had been backed up by a proper plan, well considered beforehand, and if those gallant Australian, Canadian, New Zealand, and Irish troops who fell in the Dardanelles had been there and had been held in reserve, so that when the breach was made they could have been launched through 366 that breach to take the lines of communications of the Germans, then we should have had the possibility—and remember it is the only possibility—of winning the War on that front, of crumpling up the German lines, of forcing them to fall to the rear in order to defend their communications, and so we should have broken up the elaborate system of trench defences which have allowed the enemy still to remain in France.
The late First Lord finished up his speech in his defence, his apologia, in which I think he was triumphant, with one note in which I entirely disagreed with him, and which seemed not in the least degree characteristic of his own fighting spirit, because he seemed to despair entirely of winning this War by merely military operations. He said that the campaign might draw on with no success whatever on our side, and yet, as time went on, we might find ourselves in a position of triumph—that is to say, by the operation of the great principle of attrition. A right hon. Gentleman on the Treasury Bench—I think it was the President of the Board of Trade—said even to-night that the German strength, by virtue of the organisation and economy which prevailed in that country, had remained almost unimpaired since the beginning of the War, and it is almost an axiom, at any rate it is a principle verified through history, that if any Army or Power is content to assume simply a defensive attitude that Army or Power is bound in the end to be defeated. Moltke, himself a former great leader of the Germans, expressed that in a military aphorism. The situation is serious, although Members of the House and citizens of the country have not yet seemed to realise it. Nevertheless, it is as grave as that situation which menaced Rome of old when the cry was raised, "Hannibal is at the gates." In France we see that M. Clemenceau insists on stating in his newspaper, day after day, until it shall penetrate the public mind and move the Government to greater energy, that the German Army is only 52 miles from Paris.
Remember that this war of the trenches is not eternal. There is bound to be a move, even by the pressure of circumstances, some time in the spring or in the early summer, when, no doubt, the great crisis of this War will be fought out.
It is not at all impossible that the Germans may break through on the Western front, and certainly the British 367 Army has already proved on more than one occasion that it is not impossible that they should break through the German lines. But it is when they have broken through that they have been unable to avail themselves of their own success. What I demand to know is this: Has the Government now a plan, and in their Cabinet meetings, from which nothing valid ever seems to proceed, have they formed in their own minds some great and valid plan, as some engineer who intends to carry some work to a successful end forms his plan; and are they proceeding to realise that plan step by step in an orderly and methodical manner? If they have that plan, then we should find some evidence of it in the actual course of their own operations, and although they smile now, and affect to treat this as a matter of no great seriousness, their incompetence, the disasters which have overtaken them through that incompetence, and every failure they have made, supply a sufficient comment upon their smiles.
The one redeeming feature of this War has not been—far from it—the wisdom of the Government; it has not been the intelligence with which the military operations have been led by the high commanders; but it has been the valour of the troops who have won such imperishable glory by their sacrifices and their devotion, but whose qualities nevertheless have not been able fully to compensate for the incompetence with which they have been led. I insist on using the word incompetence again and again until, by the pressure of public opinion, in the end the Government are forced to take their courage in their hands and, having once made a beginning, are induced to continue in that way until they have brought even from the lower ranks men with the capacity to fight and to win. Even now the resources of the Allies are in their favour. At the beginning of the War there was a great preponderance in their favour. One by one they have thrown away their chances, until one would almost think that it would require a stroke of genius to retrieve the situation. But even now, as I have said, the odds are still in their favour if they know how to use them. My call is to the Government to show something of manliness, to show something of virility, to show something of moral courage, to show something of energy, to show something of decision, and to show something of determination, 368 all of which masculine qualities have been lacking hitherto in their conduct and in their decided need of energy such as would inspire the soldiers who are fighting our battles, and would lead to an attempt to introduce some superior intelligence into the conduct of the War.
§ 1.0 P.M.
§ Mr. LYNCH
An hon. Member mentions the Bagdad Expedition. Other Members could mention other expeditions. What I would say is that every expedition shows the same want of prevision, the same want of any kind of plan, the same want of any forethought, the same want of everything but the sheerest futility, drift, and incapacity. The failures of the Government have worked out in the lives of gallant men. However, in view of the lateness of the hour, I will now cease. I will return to this subject as opportunity offers time and time again until, merely by holding up to the country in clear colours the reality of the actual situation, the country itself will arrive at a clear conception of the actual situation and demand from the Government something more than they have hitherto given in the conduct of the War. And the Government itself I will take from the congenial atmosphere of the dreamer and plunge into the energising light of reality.
§ Mr. O'SHEE
An hour ago I had no intention of intervening in this Debate, but I came to the conclusion that it was necessary in this Debate that the opinions of Members from Ireland should be fully heard. This is the first time I have spoken in this House since the War began. I was prepared to blindly vote for this million of men because I have confidence in the Government. I am not in a position to declare any want of confidence in the Government because I, as an outsider and a layman, cannot possibly know whether the failures of this War have been due to the Government as a Government or to the military commanders. I am not prepared to say to what cause the failures are due. The Government, no doubt, has tried its best in the circumstances of this War. The circumstances, as every one knows, are unprecedented. The circumstances are unprecedented, even from the military point of view, and, as the War has gone on, new points of view have arisen in the military sphere. But I am prepared to 369 vote, as I say blindly, for these additional men simply because the Government asks for them. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Anglesey (Mr. Ellis Griffith) spoke of this being a joint common fight. This additional million men we are asked to vote for to-night will make the total contribution of this country to the joint common fight four millions of men. I do think we are fairly entitled to ask the Government to tell the Committee, when they ask for this additional million men for that joint common fight, what are the contributions that the Allies of this country are making in millions of men to the fight. The whole world will know, and knows now, our enemies know now, that this country proposes that its contribution to the common fight shall be four millions of men. The Prime Minister told us this afternoon that at the present moment this country has got in the field something about one and a quarter million men, and I presume that when you ask for an Army of four millions it is intended that there should be an increase in the numbers of the Army in the field to something like two millions of men. The enemies of this country will know this tomorrow, that this is the contribution of the United Kingdom and the Colonies and the Empire to this fight. But surely Russia, and France, and Italy ought to be prepared to tell this country what their contributions are in men to the fight.
This country has got a population of somewhere about 46,000,000; if this country is to put in 4,000,000 as our contribution, Russia, with a white population of 160,000,000, ought to give a very much larger contribution—her contribution certainly ought not to be less, even with all the disadvantages under which Russia labours, than 10,000,000 of men. France has a population of somewhere about 40,000,000, exclusive of the population of the French Colonies, and her contribution on the same basis ought to be at least 3,500,000 men. Italy has a population of somewhere about 26,000,000, and her contribution on the same proportion should be about 2,500,000 men. These figures would mean that the entire Army of the Allies engaged in this joint common fight would be somewhere about 20,000,000 men. Has the Government, in asking this country to provide 4,000,000 men, had any assurance or information which can be communicated to the Committee as to the numbers of men to be provided, for instance, by Russia, and the numbers of men 370 in the New Armies which Russia is putting into training at the present time? We know nothing about that. Surely the contribution of this country in men to the joint common fight depends upon the contribution of men by our Allies, and it ought to be on some proportion to that contribution. We know that this country, apart from the question of its contribution to the Armies in the fight, is contributing largely in money, and is financing this great campaign on all the fronts from the taxation of the people of this country; that it is also, by the efforts of our great Fleets, preserving and conserving the resources which are available to carry on to a successful issue the campaign in which we are engaged. But it ought to be possible for the Government to tell the country just as much about the contributions in men to the fight of our Allies as it is possible for them to tell the country what the contribution is that we have to make to that fight.
When the Government gets this additional 1,000,000 men, are they going to be ready to arm them and provide them with all the equipment which is necessary? We know, unfortunately we know too well, in Ireland how unready they have been in the past to arm and equip the men whom this House was asked to vote on previous occasions. We know that it was ten months after the 16th Division was put in training before any battalion of the 16th Division ever saw a machine gun. We know that on the 1st June last for every battalion of 1,100 men in the 16th Division there were only 100 service rifles available, and at that date not a single machine gun was available. We know that some of the officers of these battalions constructed imitation machine guns in order to give some idea to the men in the battalion what a machine gun was like. If this million of men we are now asked to vote are going to be armed in the same leisurely way, and equipped in the same leisurely way—I should say, rather, not armed and not equipped—if the same treatment with reference to armament and equipment is going to be meted out to the 1,000,000 men we are asked to vote to-night, the House ought seriously to consider, and ask the Government to say in this Debate, here and now, whether they have made provision for arming and equipping this 1,000,000 of men which they ask the Committee to give them. It has been one of the great scandals in connection with the War that men have been in training for month after 371 month, waiting month after month to get a rifle into their hands, and have been unable to get that rifle; waiting also for six months to see a machine gun, and have not been in the happy position of being able to see a machine gun. As I say, I have complete confidence in the Government, and the reason I have complete confidence in the Government is that I do not know whether they are to blame or whether it is the War Office, a Department of the Government, that is to blame, or some individual at the War Office who is to blame. I do not know, and therefore, my confidence in the Government is not shaken, because I cannot prove that they are to blame as a Government.
With regard to the question of Conscription, that blunders have been made everybody admits. It is the common tenor of the speeches of the Members of the Government that they admit that blunders and errors have occurred in connection with this War. Let them be sure that they are not going to make the greatest blunder of all. Whoever has made the previous blunders, let the Government make sure for itself that it—the Government—is not going to blunder into a greater error than has hitherto been made by the War Office, or any other Department of the Government by assenting, under any guise or in any shape, to the doctrine that compulsion is to be applied to the citizens of this country who have just within the past two or three weeks responded in a most marvellous way to the call that was made upon them. When we have heard—as we have heard in the course of this Debate from the hon. Member for Derby (Mr. Thomas) and others who are conversant with the difficulties that arose in connection with the response that has been made to the call—that for several weeks after 2nd November difficulties arose that had to be smoothed away, difficulties had to be explained, suspicions had to be lulled, and that weeks elapsed while this was being done, we should marvel more than ever at the result and at the response that has been made to the call; If there have been in some districts and some industries a failure to respond in adequate measure to that call, surely, as the hon. Member for Derby suggested, there is time enough to ask the districts or the men in those industries where the response to the call has not been adequate, to answer the call, because you have had a 372 tremendous response, and I am quite sure I am not going beyond the mark when I assert that having regard to what has happened in the past with regard to arming and equipment, the War Office is not ready to equip and arm a tithe of the men who have responded to the call and who are to be called up in these various groups.
Surely the fact that there is such a tremendous number of men available enables the Government to make a further call of those districts and those men, whether single or married men, and to give them a further period of time in which they may be able to come forward and attest, or to enlist directly, and to prove that they are no shirkers and no slackers, for I do not believe for a moment they are. I believe that through misunderstanding, and the influence of employers in many cases, and through various other causes referred to in this Debate, these men have been kept back from some such causes, and that they are no slackers, no cowards, and no shirkers. I think it would be a calumny on individuals such as the one to which the hon. Member for Derby referred—where a man of military age whose two, three, or four brothers have gone to the War in the Army, and because he is the sole remaining support of the family, though single and of military age, he stays at home—to say that he is a coward, or a slacker, or a shirker.
There is one thing, so far as I have been concerned, that would have a considerable effect on the response that the Lord Lieutenant has made in Ireland. He gave certain figures with regard to Ireland, He gave certain figures with regard to unmarried farmers' sons of military age as numbering 119,000. He said the unmarried farm labourers in Ireland numbered 79,000. In other words, that in the farming industry in Ireland there were something like 200,000 unmarried men of military age. When you analyse the figures what do they come to? There are something like 350,000 holdings in Ireland, and 200,000 unmarried men, which means little more than one-half a man per holding, in addition to the farmer who runs the holding. Surely it cannot be suggested, having regard to the facts, known to members of this Committee, of recruiting in rural districts in this country—we all know the difficulty of recruiting in rural districts in England, Scotland, and Ireland—that in something like 350,000 farm holdings in Ireland, and on the figures the 373 Lord Lieutenant has given as the basis of his recruiting campaign in Ireland, where there is one unmarried man of military age for two holdings or thereabouts there are slackers or shirkers among the men engaged in rural occupations in Ireland. But still, since the Lord Lieutenant made his appeal, there has been a larger response. I cannot say that this comes from the rural districts. I do not think that it has come, in a large measure, from the rural districts; I do not think it can come at any time in any larger measure than it is coming now from those districts in Ireland. But there has been a large response. The Lord Lieutenant, in his appeal, asked that something like 1,100 men per week should be found in Ireland for the next year, or from the 1st November, for the purpose of filling the gaps in the ranks of the Irish regiments. Well, he got not merely 4,400 men for the first four weeks of the year, but 7,000. I say that that was a tremendous response from Ireland, considering the population of the country.
As to the towns, the men have gone from them into the Army in far greater numbers from the towns in Ireland than from the towns in England. The town in which I reside, with a population of 4,000, has sent to the Army from the town itself and the district immediately around it, 900 men. These men have been fighting from the beginning, from the first day in which the campaign in Flanders opened until a few days ago, when the Ministers, the Dublins, and the Connaught Rangers were mentioned in the dispatch which came from the Balkans. These soldiers have always been in the vanguard when your Armies have been advancing; they have been in the rearguard of your Armies when they have had the order to retreat. I do not believe that any advance, any forward movement has been made by the Army on any front in this great War in which the Irish soldier has not been in the first line; and when your Armies have been ordered to retreat—as they had to retreat when the Germans came through Belgium, and as they had recently to retreat from Macedonia into Greece—Irishmen have been the last in retreat in every case.
§ Mr. OUTHWAITE
I am sorry, at this late hour, to have to detain the House. It is not my fault, and if the Chancellor of the Exchequer desires to move to report Progress I shall be very glad to 374 make way for him. [An Hon. MEMBER: "Move it yourself!"] I think probably if I moved it myself I should be accused by the hon. Member for Mansfield of being a friend of Germany, or something of that kind, and I will not take the risk of that. After all, the occasion is one of very great importance—
§ Mr. KING
Mr. Maclean, am I in order in moving that you do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again? I should like to point out to the Government that we have had this Debate going on for nearly ten hours. I have sat here through the whole of that time, with necessary intervals for refreshment elsewhere. I want to point out, also, that it is an extraordinary strain on the servants of the House—
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
The hon. Member (Mr. Outhwaite) has given way to the hon. Member for North Somerset on, I presume, some point which is relevant to his speech.
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
The House expressly suspended the Eleven o'Clock Rule for carrying on this Debate. There are quite sufficient representatives of the Government here, and I cannot accept it.
Sir H. DALZIEL
On that point of Order, Sir. Is it not in accordance with precedent that a Motion of this kind has frequently been taken, even one hour after the suspension has taken effect? Is there any precedent, when the sitting has continued for two and a half hours after a suspension has taken effect, of a Motion being refused by the Chair? After this Motion was carried this afternoon, the House, by its action, intended to sit after eleven o'clock, but not into the small hours of the morning. In a Debate of this kind we are being treated with contempt, because there is no representative of the War Office here.
§ Mr. BOOTH
On a point of Order, Mr. Maclean. I would submit that there are quite a number of speakers to come, and this is not a subject on which anyone can speak lightly. We have had a succession of speeches, to which there should be some reply. I have not attended the Debate with any other object than to help keep a quorum. May I appeal to the Government, and point out that there is a considerable amount of speaking to be done by some of my hon. Friends who do not, I am sure, take the view of the majority of the House, and replies will be wanted to their remarks. If the Government give replies to all the questions that have been put we shall be going on for a long time. I suggest that the Government might accept the Motion, in view of the fact that there are a great number of other speakers.
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
It is not a matter for the Government to accept the Motion. I have refused to allow the Motion to be put, and I have given my reasons to the Committee. With regard to what the right hon. Gentleman (Sir H. Dalziel) has said, on the point of Order, the precedent is entirely a matter within the discretion of the occupant of the Chair for the time being, and I have exercised it.
§ Mr. OUTHWAITE
As I was saying, I regret to have to detain the House at this very late hour. A matter of very great importance is raised by this Vote for 1,000,000 men, because I have taken from the outset a certain line as to the way in which we can best conduct our military operations. To-night, for the first time, I think I have heard from the Front Bench a statement which seems to me to be the only statement I have heard which, if I were a German, would cause me to have some fear as regards the policy which Great Britain is pursuing in this War. I refer to the speech made by the President of the Board of Trade, who seems to me to be the first Minister who has realised in what the strength of Great Britain really lies and how best that strength can be exercised—a strength which I think has been deteriorated by 376 the enthusiastic views of Gentlemen who may know much about fox-hunting and law, but who know very little indeed about economics; and this is a question which very largely is going to be decided by economics and finance.
The view of the Conscriptionists and the idea which fills their minds, was very forcibly put by the right hon. Gentleman, the Member for Dublin University. He said we should get every available man beneath the Flag, and the surplus could be used for industry. He told us how, having got everybody beneath the Flag, he was then going to proceed to win the War, how by frontal attacks in France we were going to sweep the Germans out of France and Belgium. I very much doubt if that is a method which will carry us to a successful conclusion, because, as has been pointed out again and again, and I do not wish to go over the ground covered by the President of the Board of Trade, it appears to me that at present we are in danger of dividing the whole population of the country into two classes. We are sending one section into the Army and the Navy, and we are commandeering another section for the munition works. If we develope our activities on these lines it means that every man will be withdrawn from the production of wealth in this country, and the result must be that we are going to maintain by borrowing if we can, not only the Army and the Navy, but the whole civil population of this country. If we are not producing from day to day the commodities necessary to maintain them, there is only one way to get them, and that is by borrowing, and along those lines we must before very long come to financial collapse. It seems to me that the Chancellor of the Exchequer is not himself taking at the present time a very courageous line, and that he already sees financial difficulties. For instance, take this issue of Exchequer bonds at five per cent, and handing over the tremendous difficulty of raising a loan to the unfortunate people of five years hence, who will have to raise money to meet the obligations now being contracted by way of Exchequer bonds.
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
Not so very long ago I satisfied myself that there were then forty Members present, and I see no reason for another count now.
§ Mr. OUTHWAITE
I was pointing out that the Chancellor of the Exchequer by the issue of these Exchequer Bonds seems to recognise that we are already approaching the time of peril to our financial position, and I would suggest that the further we go on this indiscriminate line of the recruitment of men and the withdrawal from industry, the more rapidly will we reach the inevitable period of financial crisis and collapse. We saw the other day, quite recently, the speech which was made by the Finance Minister of Germany, in which he made a very bombastic speech as regards the future finance of this country and the future of the Empire which is dependent upon British credit and the British financial position. I do not think that that speech ought to be altogether derided and cast on one side. There would undoubtedly be a very great element of truth to be found in it if we proceeded on the lines suggested to us by Conscriptionists at the present time. I have maintained before in this House, and I maintain it still, that we have to remember, if we are going to achieve victory by way of a war of attrition, what is due to the great power of this country, and the difference between the power of this country is one of the difference in the basis of the power of this country and the basis of the power of other Continental countries. The basis of the power of this country is its industry, international finance, its trade, and its commerce. Other countries have their prosperity and their power more based upon the produce of the soil by the use of their land, and it is very easy indeed to destroy the foundations of trade, of commerce, and of industry, and if we withdraw men from industry and embark upon these vast expenditures we can rapidly bring the whole superstructure of Britain's pre-eminence to the ground. It is for that reason that I have always held that we have to oppose the enthusiastic and completely patriotic endeavours of the Conscriptionists, who seem to leave out of sight this particular necessity of our existence.
§ Mr. BOOTH
On a point of Order. I wish to ask you, Sir, with all deference, whether you are not compelled to take a Motion to report Progress unless you are convinced that it is an abuse of the Rules of the House? I take it by Rule 158, which reads as follows, that that is so, and I presume you know the Rule. It is as follows:—If the Speaker or the Chairman of a Committee of the Whole House or the Chairman of a Standing 378 Committee is of opinion that a Motion for the Adjournment of a Debate or of the House during any Debate, or that the Chairman do report Progress or do leave the Chair is an abuse of the Rules of the House, he may either forthwith put the Question thereupon from the Chair, or decline to propose that Question."—[Standing Order No. 158.]I submit, with all deference, that when five or six Members who wish to speak on this very important Debate give that as a reason for moving this in order to appeal to the Government, it is not an abuse of the Rules of the House but a genuine Motion made on behalf of those Members who wish to debate it, and whether in those circumstances you cannot see your way to take this Motion so that we may hear the views of the Government.
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
The hon. Member has very concisely and courteously put his point, but I would remind him that the very discussion he is raising is a discussion of the discretion which I have already exercised. I am quite familiar with the Rule, and I exercised my discretion with very great regret of course.
§ Mr. OUTHWAITE
I desire to oppose also the suggestion we have heard constantly put forward by the Conscriptionists that if National Service or Conscription had been introduced in the first instance and we had had more men we should have been in a better position than we are in to-day, and that the failure to supply men has limited our success. I think it might be argued that if we had had fewer men we might have been saved great and almost disastrous failures, because the number of men which we had got led to the extension of the field of operations. We might have been saved, for instance, the Gallipoli enterprise; we might have been saved the Mesopotamia enterprise; we might have been saved the Macedonian enterprise also; and, in fact, we should have been. It is the surplusage of men which we had that enabled the Government to set out upon these various enterprises and turned us away from what should have been our true objective—the turning of the Germans out of France and Belgium. I will go further and say that in this question of the number of men which we should necessarily supply, I think the questions of diplomacy must be taken into account. For instance, you take the need of men which was created by the Dardanelles enterprise. We had to supply there an important land force, and we have now suffered 100,000 casualties. Was that not largely the effect of our diplomacy?
379 For my own part I think that demand for men evidently arose from the failure of our diplomacy, and this is shown when you read the Debate which took place in the Greek Chamber as recently as 3rd November' of this year. I find that M. Venezelos at the very beginning—in fact, when this enterprise was first mooted-sent out soundings to the Cabinets of the three Powers interested in the exploit offering to supply a large land force for the purpose of co-operating with the Fleet. During the course of the Debate to which I am referring it appears that M. Venezelos came into conflict more or less with M. Gounaris, who succeeded him as the head of the Greek Government, as to what happened, and I find that he asks M. Gounaris what replies had been received from the Powers to his (M. Venezelos) offer of forces to assist the Navy in the enterprise at the Dardanelles. The Committee will remember that M. Gounaris came into office just at the time of the first enterprise, and the replies to the soundings sent out by M. Venezelos came to M. Gounaris, so that it was the latter who had to answer the question on the subject. M. Gounaris said:The replies were these. One of the Powers replied that 'She would ask the participation of all our forces in the enterprise.' Another replied that 'Your proposal was not very acceptable, our participation not being in harmony with public opinion in her country from the moment when she had as a goal the conquest of the capital of the neighbouring Empire.'After this, M. Venezelos said:I know that one of them was not favourably disposed towards the participation of Greece in the enterprise. But I know that the two other Powers—which were conducting the enterprise—were favourably disposed, and undertook to bring pressure on the third.Well, presumably it is to be gathered from this: first, that the Russian Government was opposed to the participation of Greece in this enterprise, and it seems to me that it shows a great failure on the part of our diplomacy that this difficulty had not been overcome.
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
I think the hon. Member was in the House when I called the attention of an hon. Member for an Irish constituency to the fact that he was going outside the range of the Motion in discussing questions of foreign policy.
§ Mr. OUTHWAITE
But I am not discussing foreign policy except in relation to the demand it makes upon us for men, and surely the additional 1,000,000 men we are now being asked by the Govern- 380 ment to vote are only to be raised because of the requirements of our foreign policy. If we had no foreign policy I submit—
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
I would point out to the hon. Member that another opportunity of discussing foreign policy will probably arise this week on the Adjournment Motion, and I must again ask the hon. Member not further to enlarge upon the topic with which he is now dealing.
§ Mr. OUTHWAITE
Am I to understand that we are not to discuss in any way the reasons offered to-night for the raising and voting of these additional men? If that is so, really it seems to me to place us in a difficulty, especially in view of the speech made by the Prime Minister, who came down and asked us to vote these 1,000,000 men without putting forward any reason whatever for such an enormous, number being required.
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
I have made perfectly clear to the hon. Member what the meaning of my ruling was. He must have heard a large number of speeches in this House relative to the Motion, and I must ask him to keep off the question of foreign politics.
§ Mr. OUTHWAITE
I must bow to your ruling, but I should like to say that I was merely trying to prove that the fact of our having a foreign policy was the cause of our being asked to vote these additional men.
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
The hon. Member must not argue with me. I now direct his attention to the fact that I have twice called his attention to my ruling that the subject he is now discussing is irrelevant to the topic before the House.
§ Mr. OUTHWAITE
The subject I was proceeding to discuss was whether, having had this surplusage of men, it had led us to undertake unnecessary operations, and I presume that would be in order. I am trying to argue that if we had had fewer men we should not have sent land forces to Gallipoli, Mesopotamia, and elsewhere. I think that is a fair reply to the argument of those who say that we have been put in a less favourable position than we should have been in if we had had millions more men to deal with. I would further desire to point out that it seems to me it would be quite fair to our Allies that we should conscientiously and very plainly explain to them our own economic situation, and our 381 views as to how best we can assist them, and that we should not be too much swayed and determined in our actions by their views. I was glad to hear the statement made in that regard by the President of the Board of Trade, who, I think, has rendered a very great service by saying to our Allies that we cannot best serve them by putting the greatest number of men that we can raise by any means into the field. I was told the other day, in reply to a question which I put in this House, that when the War began Russia had 21,400,000 men of military age. I cannot see that it is in any way obligatory on this country to put a greater proportion of her men of military age into the Army than Russia has done herself. The Committee must remember that Russia is in a very different position from this country in regard to the stability of her economic conditions, because it is based on the land, and not on anything that might so easily be destroyed in its fabric as are commerce and industry.
There is just one point I wish to raise in regard to what we have heard in the matter of the Derby scheme. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Anglesey (Mr. Ellis Griffith) told us a great deal about the pledge made by the Prime Minister, and how we must regard it, but I think there was one pledge made by the Prime Minister of which he has not reminded us. If I remember rightly, the Prime Minister said he would not consider the introduction of compulsion unless he was assured of practical unanimity in the country. That is, to my mind, the most important pledge the Prime Minister has made, and it is because of that pledge that insinuations which have been made as regards the deputation which waited upon the right hon. Gentleman a few days ago seem to me to fall altogether to the ground. Those who went as members of the deputation went to tell the Prime Minister that so far as they were concerned he could not count on practical unanimity if Conscription were introduced, and therefore they were giving the right hon. Gentleman information which it was only right that he should be seized of. I think a very great wrong has been done by making a pledge—although I do not know whether the Prime Minister actually made it in so many words—which induced people to believe that married men would not be called up until all the single men had been called up.
382 In the first place, I think it is economically unsound to call up the youth of the country and send them to the battlefield before the married and probably somewhat older men. Having regard to what one Member said, it is not a matter for the individual, but a matter for the nation. The older a man is the better he can be spared from the country. If you say that, the limit of wealth production in a man is, at fifty years, then if a man of thirty is killed twenty years off his wealth production is lost to the country, and if a man of twenty is killed thirty years of wealth production is lost to the country. Looking at it from that cold matter-of-fact standpoint, it is easy to show that it would be less disastrous to the country to lose two old men than one younger man. There seems to me no justice in it whatsoever. I cannot understand how the State can say to one man, "You are unmarried and therefore you shall undertake this obligation and shall risk your life," and to say to another man, "You are married and therefore you shall escape." An hon. Member has said that he did not know whence this state of things arose; it arose further back than has been supposed. I have seen a letter in the Press recently in which it was said that a married man might leave a wife and perhaps children who might become dependant on the State, whereas an unmarried man would leave no such dependants, and that, therefore, to send a married man to be killed leaving dependants on the State would cause an increase of taxation in the future. That is the genesis of this demand that married men shall not go and that unmarried men shall; it is the fear of the rich that if the married men go and get killed they will have to provide for those left behind. That is the origin of it, and if that is the only reason you can find for it, then I say it is a most unfair distinction.
If a man goes to fight and is killed,, then the rich and fortunate people who do not go should make provision for his dependants. It is not a very pleasant thing to have to have regard to, but I think we have to consider the future of the country; and if we denude it of its youth it is a terrible thing to contemplate that the youth of the country should be killed off. And what is to happen to the future of the country? I do not suppose they are going to do what I see the German Government is doing, issuing notices to young men who have been called up that before they go to fight 383 they are expected to do their duty to the Fatherland; if they are unmarried they are still expected to leave children behind. Of course we cannot suggest anything of that kind, but I think we should consider the circumstances which led to such a proposal being made in any country. It is for these reasons that I have tried to put forward in as brief a space as I can, considering the late hour, these views confirming me in the stand that I first made in regard to this matter. I consider, and I think it is very probable, that we shall find that the enrolment and enlistment of another million men will not be the turning point to victory. It will be the turning point, perhaps, to greater difficulties in this country. We have a marvellous industrial structure, but if you are going to take away the workers from industry that structure is doomed. I trust that the views which were expressed with such a wealth of detail and so convincingly by the President of the Board of Trade are the views which are going to determine the action of the Government.
§ Mr. KING
We have had ten and a half hours of this Debate, and I must say that it seems to me to have been one of the most important and one of the most interesting and vital Debates that I have ever listened to in this House: all the more, therefore, do I condemn the Government for compelling us to go on at this time of night continuing it. I am not the only Member who is still wishing to address the Committee on the intensely important matters raised by this Resolution. I wish to say at once that I consider the action of the Government is really most unfortunate—I will use the most moderate word I can; they know the staff of this House is depleted, and yet they make us sit here till two or, perhaps, three in the morning. They do not care; they do not attend here all the time themselves—I make an exception of the Under-Secretary of State for War, who has, during the larger part of the Debate, been in his place, and who is probably the man in the Ministry who deserves our thanks. The Reporting staff in the Gallery is very greatly depleted. This is not a laughing matter. It may be a laughing matter for Cabinet Ministers on the Treasury Bench, who do not even take the trouble to get up and try to give us some assistance in the conclusions we are coming to. I wish they would really take this matter seriously. They think because we are sitting here to a late hour to-night that 384 we are out for an all-night lark. It is contemptible to treat this Debate in this way. That is what they are doing. It is quite unnecessary to sit so late, and it is really very unfair.
It is unfair to take this Debate today in this way and at this length. Up to yesterday we expected the Report of Lord Derby on his recruiting scheme, and, personally, I think it is a matter of almost vital importance in regard to the vote I shall give what that Report is. For instance, if that Report turns out to show that there is no necessity whatever for compulsion in any form, I should much rather vote this large addition to the Army than if I know that it is going to launch us into a great controversy which is going to sever, probably, the Cabinet, bring about long and acrimonious Debates in this House, and create controversies in the country which may last for years. Therefore I say, and I mean it—however sleepy hon. and right hon. Members on the Front Bench are, or pretend to be—that I think it is most unfair that we should have to continue and finish this Debate under these circumstances. I also feel that beyond these considerations which I have mentioned there is one much more important, still which has not really been sufficiently considered by the House.
On every occasion when we have had a Vote for men or money brought before this House in Committee it has been voted practically unanimously by the House without any real arguments against the voting of the money. On this occasion we have speeches from every party in the House except the Labour party, of course, and they are more servile to any Government to which one or two of their members may belong than any other party. We have not had any criticism by the Labour party on this proposal. I see one Member who has risen once or twice, and I hope he will speak, because I believe he is one of the few men in the Labour party in this House who has an independent conviction and opinion of his own. Let me point out to the Government this fact. Here you have the Leader of the Irish party, who has been willing to give you freely everything you want, opposing, in speech, at any rate, this Vote. You have had the Member for East Mayo (Mr. Dillon) speaking strongly, not only against Conscription, but against the granting of these men at all. The Government has 385 had numerous members on the Benches behind them of the party to which the four members on the Government Bench belong opposing this Vote on principle, saying that it is not going to help us, and that it is not going to strengthen the cause of the country in the War. That is a very new experience, and you have even had one hon. Member from the Conscriptionist party, the hon. Member for Walsall (Sir R. Cooper)—a man who, by his speeches, is a most determined—I might say truculent—advocate of carrying through the War with energy—making a strong speech against this Vote altogether, and maintaining—he is, I think, the only Conservative Member who has said it from that point of view—that by another 1,000,000 of men you are not going to make this country stronger for the War.
It gives me much pleasure to see you in the Chair, Mr. Booth, as it enables me to continue this discussion and to know that you, who are such an authority on points of Order, will not allow me to wander from the proper course. I want you to realise this fact, that there have been Members of all parties opposing this Vote, which shows that there is something in the condition of things in the Government and the country to which we have not yet attained in the War. What does it mean? I will put it in one phrase: The country and the House of Commons does not trust the Government as they have done up to the present time. The Government have never had before Members of all parties speaking strongly against their policy, and yet do we see any serious attempt on the part of Ministers to defend it? I wish always to speak with the greatest respect of the Prime Minister, but I must say I never came down to the House expecting a great new departure in policy to be put forward by the Prime Minister by arguments that would appeal to us and felt so utterly disappointed with his performance. He has given us no reason whatsoever. When I think of the striking parts of the speech, what are they? A noble and eloquent reference to the withdrawal from Sulva and Anzac with which the House will be in accord. But if we withdraw men from one area of fighting, is that a reason why we should add another 1,000,000 to our Forces? I am told that from 60,000 to 70,000 men are released from that field of operations, and yet that is given as one of the reasons why we should Vote 1,000,000 additional men.
386 Another point that the Prime Minister made—I am speaking from memory after eleven hours—which still remains with me as a striking part of his speech, was a reference to Sir John French. We all feel entirely grateful to Sir John French, but I have said before in this House that his work in France was done months ago and that he ought to have been recalled earlier, and that it would have been a better thing if he had. I do not grudge him the honour and respect of his countrymen, but I say the Government is in fault for not having recognised before that he was not in the right place there, and, to be quite candid, I look forward to the next great attack that may be made by our men upon the Western front—an attack similar in scope and dimensions to those of Neuve Chapelle and Loos—as much more likely to succeed because Sir John French has gone We may as well be candid and say what we feel in this House, and I am very glad to say that the junior Member for Merthyr (Mr. Stanton) is recognised as, at any rate, a fresh and invigorating influence, and we welcome his great effort here in the House to-day. He said, and it was the one thing with which I agreed in his speech, "Do let us do away with humbug and cant!" I have tried to do away with humbug, and I have tried to divest myself and others of cant, but I say that if you come forward with a great new policy for 1,000,000 more men and all that it means, maintaining, equiping, paying them, and withdrawing them from the industries and work of this country, I do think we are entitled to have some more adequate defence and explanation of that great step, for it is a great step, a great change and development of policy of which we are entitled to have more defence than we have had. We have a Cabinet Minister here now, and I do hope he will get up at the close of this Debate—whatever time it is—and answer some of the powerful speeches that have been made. Let me call his attention to the speech of the hon. Member for West Waterford (Mr. O'Shee), which was really a very striking speech. That hon. Member has not spoken before since the War began, but he asked a question, in admirable taste and with very considerable point, I think, which is really vital.
What are our Allies doing, in point of men, to support us in the great efforts we are making? I really think that one of the unfortunate things about the way the Government conducts this War is that 387 they have not told us the position in which we stand in regard to our Allies. Is there anything to be ashamed of; is there any reason why we should not know? The policy of secrecy, of lurking questions with regard to our Allies, has resulted in this, that we have grave suspicions, doubts, and unfortunate hesitations and reservations in our feeling towards them. I will give the Committee an instance of what I mean. I have lately been talking to three or four people who are extremely well acquainted with affairs and with life in Italy, and I have heard rather strange things, and various explanations. For instance, why is Italy at the present time not at war with Germany? If she is not at war with Germany, has our Cabinet made representations upon the subject? Let me put another point. Why is Italy not assisting our forces in the Dardanelles? Why has Italy's Navy apparently done nothing whatever in the War? Why have they had an Italian crisis which resulted in the resignation of the Minister of Marine in Italy?
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN (Mr. Booth)
Order, order! I would remind the hon. Member that the discussion of the deeds of the Italian Navy is scarcely in order on the Vote before the Committee.
§ Mr. KING
You are quite right, Mr. Booth, but this I think you will see is in order, namely, the circumstances of our Allies abroad and their finance. If we can help them with more money we shall get these things right, but they are not right in Italy at present. If we have to give them more money we shall have less money for our soldiers. I believe we shall really best help the cause of the Allies, which we have at heart, and our relations with Italy, by giving them more money. That will enable them to make more use of their Navy, and we—instead of our spending £250,000,000 a year on another million men, for that is the very least it will cost us—can spend our money in additional subsidies to Italy. Then you would have their Navy upon the seas; you would have their Armies called up which are not now called up, and they would then be able to undertake an expedition on the other side of the Adriatic. I say, with regard to our policy of and assistance to the co-operation with the Italians: Save your money, keep your men back, but give 388 more subsidies to your Allies, then you will efficiently carry out the objects that we have in this War. I know that Ministers may say there is an answer to all this; but if I go to them in private and ask them for an explanation on these very important matters to which I have alluded, they refuse me any information. If I put a question on the Paper, they ask me to remove it. Why this secrecy? Are you afraid of your policy; are you afraid that the Germans should know? Of course, they know much more about these things than we do here, at any rate, more than ordinary Members of this House.
I hope I have not ventured too far in these references to our policy in regard to our Allies. I think I could develop the argument quite sufficiently within the limits of order in other directions, but I do not wish to do that at this late hour of the night. I am also reminded of the pleasing fact that we shall have a Report stage of this Resolution, and some of the points that we are not able to develop now may possibly come up then. But I want specially to press upon the Under-Secretary of State for War this consideration upon which I am not quite sure that even his thoughtful and able mind has been brought to bear. You propose to have another million men; can you really equip them? The Minister of Munitions yesterday made a call for something like 200,000 to 300,000 unskilled men, and about 80,000 skilled men. He did not say whether he wanted these men in order to equip the new million men now proposed, or the three millions of men which we have already voted. I rather gathered, and all the other figures in his speech indicated it, that he wanted these men so that our existing three million soldiers, and those of our Allies, might have sufficient arms and munitions of war. If that is so, and he is still short of munitions in that respect, how are you going to provide for another million, especially when you think that of all these million of men, whom you are now going to enlist, you must withdraw at least hundreds of thousands from the mining, transport, or from all the various industries and occupations which either go to the making of munitions or to the support of those who make munitions. And can you really equip this million of men? I do not believe you can. I believe that if you call up these men within a few months you will have, as you had 389 during the first twelve months of the War, men who in camp for 10, 11 and 12 months who will not get their rifles. I believe you will have thousands and thousands of men who, instead of being in commerce, will be in billets. We were told a few months ago that this present winter would see no men in billets; that they would all be in camp. As a matter of fact there are many towns in England now which have thousands of men in billets. What are you going to do if you have another million men. Why, of course, you will have to go back to the old, bad, ineffective and very unsatisfactory system of putting thousands and thousands of men in billets. I think that is very undesirable, and certainly very costly.
Let me take another point in regard to this, namely, that of medical attendance. Of course, a million soldiers want more medical attendance than a million of the ordinary population, and especially these million soldiers whom you are going to take now. They are not the pick of the young men, the most vigorous, athletic and physically developed. Those men have all gone, and now you are lowering your standard, both in dimensions and in health, and many men are now being taken who have been rejected previously on medical grounds. That means that this last million, which you are now voting, will be men who will have a very much higher percentage of illness, and who will want very much more attendance from medical men. Everybody knows that the dearth of medical men is immense. It is a very serious difficulty. You cannot get the medical attendance under the Insurance Act carried but, because there is such a dearth of medical men. You are going to take away another supply of medical men, because, of course, you will ask that these medical men to go from there before you will allow them to he moved from the civilian population. Has the medical question been considered? I don't believe it has. The Government generally has so many considerations on hand that it cannot look at them all. Too late, too late.
There is one more point in connection with this million men which I do not think has been sufficiently touched upon, but I will touch upon it lightly, and that is the training and leadership of these men. And here let me say that you want good non-commissioned officers and experienced commissioned officers to train 390 these men quickly, and especially men who are not so keen as the first drafts that you brought in at the beginning of he War. The first drafts of course were not only physically better and therefore more likely to be healthy, but in temperament they were keener and in their youth they had that readiness to change methods and points of view which makes them able to take on military discipline and military ways with much greater rapidity and ease than older men. Now you are getting men of thirty and over, and I know many men over thirty-five who are coming in. They will be harder to train and keep in health and less efficient when you have got them trained. Have those facts been really considered by the War Office? I doubt it, and yet they are very material. They mean more expense and less efficiency, and I say that the policy which I indicated before and which I believe ought to have been the policy all along, the right one, is this, that we ought to have said quite early in the War: "We will bring so many men into the field. Beyond that we will assist to a certain amount every soldier that our Allies put into the field under certain conditions," and then our commitments would have been fixed in regard to the number of men, but more or less indefinite as to the amount of money subsidies we should give to our Allies. We could in that way have cut our policy according to our cloth, because we should have seen that our export trade, which is the basis of our financing system, was kept up, and as it was developed or increased, or as it was tenderly cared for, we should have been in a position to know where we are in finance and gradually, I hope, to increase our subsidies to the Allies and at the same time, to preserve our own strength of men and keep them up to a fixed and definite number.
There is only one more question in this connection which I shall touch upon, and that is this: I do think the Government ought to have told us where they are going to use these men. It is a matter of immense difference whether you are going to send these men to Mesopotamia or to horribly unhealthy climates like Gallipoli or whether you are going to send them to extremely trying campaigns like the Serbian campaign—I am glad to see now come to an end—or whether you are going to send them to East Africa, another extraordinarily trying district, or whether you are going to employ them 391 on the Western Front, first of all for this reason that these men who, I pointed out, are not so physically efficient or medically sound as the previous men, are not going to be able to stand these trying climates and conditions, and there is also this consideration. If this extra million men are going to be transported thousands of miles overseas, and all their stores and equipments have to be kept up for them at distances of thousands of miles over the sea, what does it mean in expenditure to us? It means that instead of £300 per man, the figure mentioned by the Prime Minister the other day as the cost per head of our Army, it will be from £500 to £600 per man. It means, moreover, another thing, as the hon. Member for Hexham said very well in his very striking speech. One point he made impressed me immensely, and it has received no answer or argument from anybody so far as I know. The point that he made was that our shipping difficulties and the great increase of freights dated from the time when the Admiralty commandeered a large number of vessels to take the forces and their stores to Gallipoli.
If you are going to continue a larger expedition in Mesopotamia, a renewal of this terrible fighting in Gallipoli, a renewed fight in Macedonia when the weather is better in the spring, a great campaign in East Africa, a great increase of the forces in Egypt, because there may be threats in that quarter—if you are going to have expeditions of this size at this distance with these men, you are not going to increase our chances of getting a decisive victory in the only sphere of War where a decisive victory is possible—namely, near to or upon German soil. These are serious considerations. I have not put them forward without study and without discussing them with men of far greater experience and ability to form a judgment than I have myself. All these points I believe to be very serious indeed. They have been put forward by other hon. Members, but they have received no answer from the Treasury Bench. I hope they received some attention, but judging from the experience we have had previously in this War, questions of this kind are not faced until it is too late—too late! I will sit down by saying that, bitterly as I regret the way in which this Debate has been brought on and has been conducted by His Majesty's Ministers, it is nothing to the bitterness that many of us feel 392 when we think that thousands of lives-some of them near and dear to ourselves and those whom we love—have been sacrificed, when thought and care and judgment might have preserved them still.
I hope, Mr. Deputy-Chairman, that, considering the amount of time which has elapsed since you last gave your decision, you may now see your way to allow us to ask the views of the Government on the future course of the proceedings during the present Sitting. I would suggest, very seriously, to the representatives of the Government present at this moment that the time has now arrived when they would best consult the interests of the House and their own prospects of legislation by reporting Progress. I would submit to the Government that there is still a House of Commons and that they cannot with impunity come to decisions to ignore any important section of this House. Right hon. and learned Gentlemen sitting on the Treasury Bench at the present time should not forget that they used to be—and that not so long ago—Members of the late Liberal Government. They are now Members of a Coalition Government, and I should like to warn them that it certainly will not pay them in the long run to treat their old supporters with supreme contempt. I suggest to them that in the management of business we have much to complain of, and I suggest further to them that a reason for not proceeding with this important Debate to-night is that they themselves have so managed or mismanaged the business of the House of Commons that it is necessary for them, in their opinion, to be sitting here to-night at this extremely late hour.
When I objected some time ago to the Government taking days away from us when, as I pointed out, we should have been discussing some of the Bills forced upon us at the present time, such as the Plural Voting Bill and other measures, I was assured by the Prime Minister that there was no anticipation whatever that the House would be kept sitting after eleven o'clock in order to get through the business. I pointed out at the time that we would certainly not be able to finish our business by Christmas unless we did so, and the only result was that I was told all my calculations were wrong. Members will now see how very much justified I was in the fears I then expressed, because we are to-night 393 sitting here at nearly three o'clock discussing a matter of the gravest importance and nobody, I suppose, wishes for one moment to vote against the proposal which the Government have put before the House; but that is not the point. The private Members of this House, now that we have a combination of the two Front Benches, have practically no opportunity at all of discussing matters in which they and the country are interested. We have not even the right of getting Bills printed. We have only the few minutes available sometimes on the Motion for the Adjournment, and I do submit that the Government are asking decidedly too much when on a matter of this kind, and having regard to the few opportunities we have of giving our views on behalf of our Constituents, they think it fitting to request us to sit until such an hour as this.
There are, I would remind the Committee, very important matters, many in number, which have been raised in the course of the present Debate. But I submit that the real questions which ought to be raised on the Motion now before the Committee have not been dealt with at all. It would have been much better if this recruiting matter had been discussed on a day set apart for the purpose, because, after all, the question of voting the 1,000,000 men now asked for by the Government is not a question of whether they are to be raised compulsorily or not. That being the case, I repeat that, having regard, especially to the position in which we find ourselves respecting information on Lord Derby's recruiting campaign, the day would have been better occupied in discussing how the men we have already voted in such enormous numbers for the Army have been utilised and how they are going to be utilised in the future. I submit that there are many important questions which ought to be raised on this Vote, and which should not come up for consideration at a time in the morning when the public are entirely ignorant of what is going on in this House. I will take, for example, the question of the management of the War Office. Has the War Office conducted itself in a manner which any man in the House has confidence in? Is that not a question which needs to be considered when we are asked to give another 1,000,000 troops into the hands of men who have so betrayed the rights with which Ave and the country have entrusted them.
394 I cannot now go in detail into what took place last night; but what an indictment it was of the men at the War Office who allowed our men to be slaughtered because they did not give the orders for the guns that were so urgently required! I submit that those are points which we ought to discuss in the light of day. Are the men who are guilty of what the Minister of Munitions charged them with last night men whom we can trust with any further control over millions of our fellow countrymen? I say they are not. Then what about the additional 1,000,000 men themselves? What is the War Office going to do with these men? That also is a question which requires some consideration. Are the War Office authorities going to give more attention to Staff management than they have done before? Are they going to give more time to the selection of the men in whose charge they place the lives of thousands and thousands of men? Why did we lose 80,000 men, including prisoners, at Loos? By bad Staff management. Who selected the men there? Are they still in charge? Are we not to be told whether men who make these blunders and lose 30,000 or 40,000 valuable lives, are still to be in control of some of the million extra men for the Army whom we are now asked to vote? Are the men who failed to bring up troops at the Dardanelles when they could have walked over into Constantinople almost without any trouble or sacrifice whatever—are they, I ask, the men who are going to be in charge of the additional million? How many lives have been wasted by the stupidity of the War Office? Scores of thousands. Who were responsible for men dying from want of water within two days of the arrival at Suvla Bay? Are these men still in charge? Have we had any report of their dismissal? [HON. MEMBERS: "NO!"] No, we have not; and I say these are all points which might well be discussed, and which ought to be discussed in the light of day and not at this hour of the morning.
There are other matters also on which we ought to have information. Take the question of our troops in Serbia, or rather, at the present time, I should say in Greece. How many men have we there? How many are the Government going to send there? Then we ought to have a full review of the situation there. The Prime Minister this evening never mentioned Serbia. I am not surprised that he did not. The name is almost as unpleasant 395 to the ears of Cabinet Ministers as that of the Dardanelles. But the country "will know in time all about Serbia and the Dardanelles, and these Gentlemen who have treated us so flippantly to-night will have to explain their actions. What about Bagdad? What about our troops there? Who is responsible for sending the miserably small force which we sent there? What is the position at the present moment? Are the grave rumours which are going from mouth to mouth true? Are the Government satisfied with the position of our troops in that quarter of the world at the present moment? We have had no assurance that we are going to get another day to discuss these grave and important subjects. The Report on the Vote is down for tomorrow, but it is to be taken only after the discussion of some very important measures, and I can imagine that there will be little opportunity available to go into these questions. And I say that these are all matters which ought to be properly discussed.
Then, besides the questions I have already mentioned, matters like the sending of troops to the front after only six weeks' training should also be discussed. I have received letters from my own Constituency telling me of boys going to the front last Saturday who had been only six weeks in training. Now they are close up to the trenches in France—after six weeks' training. Do you think I am going to allow you to take boys from my Constituency and send them out to the front to face German machine-guns without explanation? I am not. These are facts which ought to be discussed, and I submit to the Government that they ought to agree at this moment to report Progress. It is really not right, after sitting only three days a week for so many weeks that they should attempt to ram these proposals through Committee without proper discussion. They must have some respect left for the House of Commons and pay some heed to the minority, however insignificant it may be. We have now no Leader and no Whip, and therefore we have no avenue through which we can express our thoughts; but they cannot on that account treat us with contempt. The manner in which they are forcing this Vote through to-night is not worthy of the Government, and is calculated greatly to annoy those who are earnestly desirous of raising questions of considerable importance. There- 396 fore, I ask the Government now to assent to a Motion to report Progress, and I will tell them frankly that I do not believe that it will delay in any material degree the passage of this Vote through the House. Nobody really objects to it, but it is the only opportunity we have of getting; information on the various questions I have mentioned. I can almost guarantee on behalf of some of my hon. Friends that, if the Government agree to take the course I suggest, they will get the Vote in two hours. I shall be told that means an extra sitting on Friday. I do not see that that will be necessary, but, apart from whether it is necessary or not, we have a just right in asking them not to keep us sitting till four or five o'clock in the morning, as we certainly shall have to do unless the Government responds to our wishes. At four or five o'clock in the morning we are discussing a matter of this kind which many of my hon. Friends have been trying all day to get an opportunity of speaking on, and we have to go on for the convenience of Ministers. We have a real case, and I think the Government are wrong in asking the House to go on sitting to this late hour, therefore, with great respect, I beg to move, Mr. Deputy-Chairman, "That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again."
§ Question proposed, "That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again."
§ Mr. McKENNA
I very much regret that the state of business of the House does not permit me to recommend to the Committee to accept this Motion. If it were a matter only of the convenience of Ministers I assure my right hon. Friend that it would be much more convenient to myself and my colleagues, who have already had a long and hard day's work, to go to bed. Some of us have been here continuously since twenty minutes to three o'clock. It is not in the very least ins accordance with our wishes that the Debate should be taken at this late hour, but we are simply driven to it by the fact that we have to get this Vote and we have to get the Bill which stands next on the Paper (the Government War Obligations (No. 2) Bill) before Christmas, and there is no chance of getting them unless we take the Committee stage of this Vote and the Third Reading of the Bill at this sitting. I recognise to the full how much more desirable it would be if some of the very interesting speeches we have heard 397 since eleven o'clock could have been made at an earlier hour. I would point out, however, that we shall have an opportunity, upon the Motion for the Adjournment on Thursday, for raising topics quite kindred to those we are discussing to-day.
§ Mr. JOWETT
I desire to ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he is aware that strong representations have been made against taking the Munitions Bill tomorrow by a section of the House?
§ Mr. McKENNA
It has not been brought to my knowledge, nor to the knowledge of my hon. Friend next me (Mr. Gulland). We hope to get to-morrow the next stage of the Parliament Bill and the Report stage of the Munitions Bill and the Report stage of this Vote, but if it is more convenient that we should take the Report stage of this Vote first on Thursday, before the Adjournment, we shall have a whole day on Thursday for the discussion of either this Vote or kindred topics which can be opened up on the Motion for the Adjournment. I would suggest to my hon. Friends that possibly the most convenient course would be to allow us to take the Committee stage of this Vote now, and leave over for settlement whether we shall take the Report stage to-morrow, after the other business already announced, or whether we shall have the Report stage first on Thursday and move the Adjournment Motion after the Report stage has been taken. I suggest that as a reasonable solution which may possibly meet the views of the House.
§ Mr. WHITEHOUSE
I think it would be of considerable help to our proceedings if the right hon. Gentleman would state whether it is intended to make any definite statement on the result of the Derby campaign, which has been discussed to-day, and which hangs over the whole of this Debate, before we adjourn for the Christmas Vacation
§ Mr. McKENNA
I am quite unable to say. I think it would be highly improbable myself, as the Report of Lord Derby has only been received to-day—I myself have not yet had an opportunity of reading it, and I have no doubt many of my colleagues are in the same position. I cannot say whether the Prime Minister will be in a position to make a statement on the matter either to-morrow or on Thursday. I do not think that really affects the question we are discussing now. It is a matter of urgent business that we should get this 398 Vote, and the only real point of discussion is whether it is better to have the discussion continued now, on the Committee stage, or to have the matter brought on for further discussion on the Report stage of the Vote; and I suggest that we should leave over for settlement until to-morrow whether the Report stage should be taken to-morrow or placed first on Thursday.
§ Mr. BOOTH
On the Report stage we shall not be able to put questions such as we have put to-day. We shall be confined to the actual wording. On the Report stage we shall not be able to discuss such matters as the hon. Member for Somerset has raised as to alternative ways of carrying on the War. These are in order now, but not on the Report stage.
§ Mr. McKENNA
My hon. Friend is a great authority on the Rules of this House, and I do not wish to enter into conflict with him on that point, but as far as my knowledge goes I think that this time he is mistaken. The Debate on the Report stage of this Vote will be just as wide as on the Committee stage.
§ Mr. WHITEHOUSE
May we take it that a full report of the speeches made will be communicated to the Prime Minister?
§ Mr. McKENNA
They will appear in Hansard. I did not understand the Prime Minister to say that the House will have an opportunity of discussing Lord Derby's scheme before the Adjournment.
§ Sir A. MARKHAM
I have not seen the report of what was actually said, but several hon. Members of the House so read it that that is what the Prime Minister did say. I want to point out to the Chancellor of the Exchequer that although some of us below the Gangway have done a good deal of talking this Session, the House must remember that the great body of Members take no part in the Debate. I was here to-day at half-past two, and I have tried since then to get up and join in this Debate, and it is very unfair to Members who have been in the House these long hours that we should be asked to continue the discussion until this time in the morning. The House must remember that my right hon. Friend the Member for Kirkcaldy (Sir H. Dalziel) and other hon. Members pointed out time after time that the Government by sitting on three days a week 399 were going to drive us into the very predicament in which we now are. The Government are too late again and it is not reasonable to ask the House at ten minutes to three to continue sitting when a number of Members want to get up and speak on this subject, which is of very great importance. Members of the Labour party who have also been here for many hours desire to make their speeches, and if the Chancellor insists on taking the Vote to-night the result will be that we shall be here until very early in the morning. That certainly cannot be in any way in the interests of the Government, because I have never known—and my right hon. Friend will bear me out—that any late sitting of this House facilitates business, and it is much better to try to come to some arrangement with the House than to insist on going on. I would point out that we cannot go and pledge the time of the House on the Adjournment when other matters have to be raised. There are one or two Members who, I understand, are going to raise matters on the Adjournment, and the whole of the time will be taken up with their speeches. The House having been driven by this action of the Government, and as we are being asked to continue to sit when many of us are very fatigued, and some of us are acting against medical advice, as I am, in being here at all—many of us have views as to our duty, as I have, and endeavour to do it—I ask the Government to come to some arrangement with us who have been waiting all day to make our speeches.
§ Mr. O'SHEE
There is one way in which the Chancellor of the Exchequer could meet the Committee. This Motion arises undoubtedly out of the Derby scheme, because the reason we are asked to vote 1,000,000 men is because the Committee believes that the Derby scheme has provided 1,000,000 men or something like that figure. What I would ask the right hon. Gentleman to say to the Committee is this: that the Government would come to no decision as regards compulsion in connection with the results of the Derby scheme without giving this House an opportunity of discussing the results of the Derby scheme. That would enable the Government after the Christmas holidays to give the House the opportunity of discussing the Derby scheme. In other words, will the right hon. Gentleman undertake that the Government will come 400 to no decision without consulting the House and enabling it, first of all, to discuss the results of the Derby scheme?
§ Mr. BOOTH
I do make an appeal to the Government to meet us on this point. I have been very keenly interested in the Debate, and the last thing in my mind all through the time was to take part in it myself. I would point out, in case some false remarks are made, that no one from this corner of the House has spoken at all. We have gone to this time of the morning without any of us having talked at all. It. is not a case of our having carried on the Debate. I myself have dissuaded several hon. Members from speaking, in the hope that we might get away. The hon. Member for Coventry (Mr. D. Mason) was here anxious to deal with the Bill that was to follow this. He gave me his points, but I did not undertake to make a speech on the War Obligations Bill which follows this. It is one of the most serious things we can do to debate this Resolution. It is probably, for most of us, the most gigantic thing we have done since we have been Members of the House. It is the Government who is responsible. The Government arrange the business. They deliberately choose that on the day before this Vote came on we had an important statement by the Minister of Munitions which has so affected the discussion, and which has influenced the view of almost every Member of the House who heard it. This Vote suggests very many questions, and I hoped that Members would put forward some of the ideas that were flashing through my mind in the Debate. Some of them have done so, and I hope there will be no need for a lengthy discussion at all. I suggest to the Government that they moved this Resolution without any explanation. They did not say how soon they wanted these men, or by what date they wanted the Vote passed, and unless the Chancellor of the Exchequer can say why it is necessary for it to be passed today or to-morrow I do not see why he should press it on the House. Hon. Members have been waiting to make speeches, and I would remind the House that the hon. Member for Llanelly made a speech which reflected greatly on the Prime Minister. There has been no answer given, to my mind, and we are in this position. If the Government will not answer it can we allow this to go unanswered without some of us trying to get in a good word for the right hon. Gentleman? That is the position.
§ Mr. McKENNA
I am sure my hon. Friends have not appreciated what the actual state of the case is. We have to get this Vote before Parliament rises, because otherwise we should not be authorised to exceed 3,000,000 of men, and without such an authorisation we might very conceivably have to discontinue recruiting.
§ Mr. McKENNA
The right hon. Baronet is asking a question about the past with which, for the moment, I am not dealing. I am quite prepared to defend the attitude with regard to the past on all points. I am quite prepared to show that we have not been too late. On a suitable occasion I am quite prepared to show that, at any rate as regards my Department—and I have no doubt that all my colleagues, each speaking for his own Department, could make an equally good defence—
§ Mr. McKENNA
Perfectly prepared; and I dare say gentlemen speaking for every Department would make some such statement. The case I have to deal with now is that we require this Vote before the Adjournment.
§ Mr. McKENNA
The proposal that is made would not allow us to get the Vote. We have to-morrow, and to-morrow we have to take the Parliament Bill. It is necessary that we should get the Parliament Bill through. The House has been told that it is to be expected, and that the Munitions Bill is to be taken tomorrow, and a great many hon. Members deeply interested in that Bill are expected to come here to debate that Bill. They have been so told. Consequently there only remains to us the possibility of taking the Report stage of this Vote either tomorrow or first thing on Thursday. There is no other possibility that we can adopt, and, therefore, my hon. Friends when they press this point are really asking for something which cannot be given consistently with the proper conduct of the business of the country. They say that it should have been taken before, and they can debate that at some other time, but it is not relevant to the point now. Certainly we ought not to lay ourselves open to the wanton charge of being too late.
§ 3.0 A.M.
§ Mr. JOWETT
May I suggest that the Munitions Act Amendment Bill were to be left over, as it well might be, until after the short Recess, the Minister of Munitions would then be here? He will not be here to-morrow, and there are a great many contentious points—whether the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who is leading the House, knows it or not—over which there will be discussion. I should be very much surprised if either the right hon. Gentleman or his colleagues are aware of the representations that are being made on the subject, although the Minister of Munitions probably hears. If the Debate were left until over the holidays there would be opportunity for discussion, and the whole thing could be considered.
§ Mr. KING
I should like to endorse and to add to what has just fallen from the hon. Member for Bradford. I really think the true solution of our difficulties is, as he says, to put off the Munitions Bill until we come back in January.
Sir H. DALZIEL
I am sorry, but so far I have not seen much prospect of anything like a workable arrangement being arrived at. The right hon. Gentleman has told us that he is prepared to speak on everything in regard to the administration in the past, and that he will be able to prove to the Committee, at the proper time, that the Government have not been too late in any particular. That is exactly the trouble of the Committee—the want of leadership in this House. We have to sit, one night, with one Cabinet Minister telling us that we are too late in all vital matters of the War, and then to-night another Cabinet Minister directly challenges his statement.
§ Mr. McKENNA
No, the right hon. Gentleman misunderstands. I say that every member of the Cabinet will be able to explain for his own Department. I shall be perfectly prepared, at the proper time, to make such a defence about my Department, and no doubt the Minister of Munitions can make an equally good defence as regards his Department.
Sir H. DALZIEL
The right hon. Gentleman confirms what I said. He started by saying that he had an adequate defence on his own subject, and then he went 403 round to the other Cabinet Ministers. But if every Cabinet Minister can prove to the satisfaction of the Committee that his Department was not late, what Department could the Minister of Munitions have been referring to last night?
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
Is not this rather wide of the Motion before the Committee? The merits are nothing to do with it, but the matter has been mentioned and replied to, and we can therefore now confine ourselves to the immediate Motion before the Committee.
Sir H. DALZIEL
Yes, I am sorry that the right hon. Gentleman, by the introduction of this "too late" matter—
Sir H. DALZIEL
Well, it was introduced. I can assure the right hon. Gentleman that he will have an opportunity at some future date of offering a reply to the particular challenge made to the House last night. Now, the point before us is whether or not the Government can accept the Motion which I have made. The right hon. Gentleman has made a very interesting reply to the case. He says that the Government have mitigated the business of this House, by sitting three days a week, by allowing the Home Secretary to have a whole day to himself. They waste practically a day, and after that they have so mismanaged the business that they drove us into the position in which they say, at 3 o'clock in the morning, "unless you give us this Vote after only one day's discussion, perhaps recruiting may be stopped."
As far as the position taken up by the Government is concerned, I think it one which is entirely unworthy of them. They are not treating the House of Commons properly. Why was this Vote not brought in a week ago? Then they would not have driven us into a corner like this. Does the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who, after all, is a Parliamentarian and an old House of Commons man, think it is right and fair to the independent Members of the House so to arrange the business that he can make a charge and challenge them, as he has done, when there is obviously a desire to Debate this Vote? I say that the House of Commons has not been treated fairly. But it is perfectly on a par with the whole way in which business has been 404 managed, and it is practically useless to speak to them, to ask them to do a favour, or to compel them to do an obvious duty. They seem to take a delight in ignoring views put before them by the House.
I do not see any use in making any suggestion to the Government. I have made so many that it is hardly worth while making another, but I fill put forward one more. Will the Government put the Report stage down as a Second Order to morrow? You have your Munitions Bill to-morrow, and it is obvious you cannot go on with that unless the Minister of Munitions is here. However right it is, the Committee will never proceed with that unless the right hon. Gentleman is present, and I warn the Government in advance that they will have to spend a very considerable time in discussing whether they ought to proceed with it in his absence. There is nothing on Thursday, but on that day we can discuss anything we like, and it will be much more convenient to have the Report stage as a Second Order to-morrow. Then you will have the Adjournment on Thursday, when, no doubt, there will be a general desire to raise the question of Lord Derby's Report; but the House, in my opinion, is not going to go away until 4th January without hearing a statement from the Government in regard to that matter. If the Government will do this, it will to some extent meet our wishes. At any rate, we shall probably have a chance of raising some of the points which we had hoped to raise to-night. Failing that, I can only enter my most emphatic protest.
§ Mr. BOOTH
May I appeal to the Government to meet us to that extent? I rose, however, primarily, to bring forward what is a terribly important matter in connection with the War, namely, whether we were too late in regard to Serbia or not? Late as it is to-night, if the right hon. Gentleman goes on with his challenge feeling as I do that we were too late in Serbia, I must claim the right to put that case. I have given a great deal of study to this question, but I do not want to put this matter now. If I can bring it forward to-morrow I will do so, putting down a question; but I must put this point, feeling as sincerely as I do on the subject.
§ Mr. McKENNA
The question of my hon. Friend will be no more relevant to the Debate to-morrow than now. Because 405 I say that a Minister will be perfectly prepared to defend his own Department does not mean that every question relating to every Minister is relevant at this moment. When the Estimates of any particular Minister are under discussion then it will be relevant, but it is not relevant to ask from me or the Under-Secretary for War to defend the action of the Government in Serbia at this moment.
§ Mr. BOOTH
But surely it is. I must join issue there. The Government have been asked with regard to the Dardanelles and with regard to Flanders by different speakers and particularly by the hon. Member for West Lanark, and surely I am entitled to ask on the Vote for a 1,000,000 men what about the responsibility for those you have already had? The Prime Minister himself, in moving this Resolution, dealt with the Dardanelles and made a statement upon it, and surely I am entitled to connect with that the position in the Balkans. It is an elementary right in this House, and it is so even with private Bills, that before you give new powers you are entitled to ask how the old ones have been exercised. If we can reach it at any reasonable hour tomorrow surely it is more convenient for me then to put my question to the Government as to whether they consider they were too late in Serbia, and I do intend to put that question after the challenge of the right hon. Gentleman, but I beg them not to force me to put it at this hour.
§ Mr. O'SHEE
The Chancellor of the Exchequer has made no reply to my suggestion. I do not know whether that suggestion would meet with the assent of the hon. Members opposite, but it is that the Government should be given this Vote immediately, but that the Government should, as it manifestly must, announce that the House will have an opportunity on another day—it must, I presume, be after the Recess—of discussing the results of the Derby scheme. It is manifest
§ Mr. McKENNA
If I may interrupt the hon. Member, it is obvious that nothing could be done by way of a Bill, which would be the only operative way of acting, except after discussion in this House. As I understood the hon. Gentleman's question, it was that the Government should 406 not come to any decision on the subject beforehand, and, of course, I could not answer whether the Government would or would not come to a decision before a given time. But as a preliminary to a. Vote of this House there must be a discussion.
Mr. T. WILSON
I would like to ask whether the right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues cannot take the responsibility for saying that they will postpone the Report stage of the Munitions Bill until after the Recess, or, failing that, that it meets the wishes of the right hon. Gentleman and his Friends to take the business we are dealing with tonight on Thursday, and take the Adjournment on Friday?
§ Mr. McKENNA
I think it might be convenient to hon. Members who live in London, but those who wish to go to Scotland or Ireland for Christmas will, I think, agree that it is not convenient to sit on Friday.
§ Mr. BOOTH
I understand the Government are going to suspend the Eleven o'Clock Rule to-morrow. Cannot they put this Order down first? What we are really most anxious about is a reply to the questions that have been raised; that is our anxiety. A number of things have been raised, and if it is put down as Second Order I do not think it would take more than an hour or two, and you could suspend the Eleven o'Clock Rule for the Munitions Bill. If the Minister for Munitions is in the North it only means that, the hon. Member for Hoxton—and he is of the most kindly disposition—will willingly plod along with his Bill as Third Order instead of Second, and as far as we are concerned we will do all we can to speed the discussion to-morrow if we get a Government reply to the points, raised.
§ Mr. McKENNA
I do not think we can finish our business. I understand the Munitions Bill is urgent, and I believe it will take about a couple of hours.
Sir H. DALZIEL
Take the Parliament Bill first and the Report stage of this Vote second.
§ Mr. McKENNA
The continuation of this, the Report stage, might take a considerable time. I understand the Munitions Bill will not take more than a couple of hours. It is only the Report stage of the Bill, but at any rate I do not feel justified in taking risks of being 407 behindhand with the Government work, and I must ask the House and appeal to them to give me the time for which I ask.
Sir H. DALZIEL
Is it not the case that you must get these two Orders to morrow as well as the Parliament Bill? As long as you get them to-morrow what does it matter which is second and which is third? The right hon. Gentleman will be meeting the views of both parties and getting the Bill more quickly than otherwise would be the case.
§ Mr. McKENNA
There is a difficulty really. The first two Orders, the Parliament Bill and the Munitions Bill, have got to go to another place to-morrow; they must go on to-morrow. The Eleven o'Clock Rule will be suspended to-morrow, and the Report stage of this Vote can be taken later on. I should regard that as satisfactory myself as taking it as the first Order on Thursday. The question put by my hon. Friend could be answered. To take the other two Bills is essential if we are to get them through. I am not in a position to say how far the Munitions Bill is urgent, but I understand from the Minister concerned that it is very urgent that he should have it before the Adjournment.
§ Mr. BOOTH
I am sure you will get them all before eleven. Surely we are entitled that some part of the discussion on this Resolution should be taken at a decent hour. The Munitions Bill had from twelve to seven o'clock the other day; it was on for seven hours. A new discussion on this Vote developed at midnight, and we have other points to put, and surely we are entitled to an hour or two of daylight and prominence in the House. I should hope that to-morrow we should all get away by eight or nine o'clock and do all we ought to do. As far as we are concerned we will put as good a spirit as we can into it if we are met in this way.
Sir H. DALZIEL
It seems to me that the Government even to the utmost are inclined to exercise their high authority and not to meet in the slightest degree the repeated appeals that have been made. The right hon. Gentleman knows perfectly well that so far as the meeting of the Second Chamber is concerned it is only a question of two or three Peers being there and going through an ordinary ceremony without any speech-making whatever. It is only a question 408 of whether they will come at a later hour, and I must express my extreme regret at the attitude of the Government towards the House of Commons. I think the small concession we asked for might very well have been given, and I must express my profound regret in regard to it. I do not know whether it is worth while going to a Division at this hour, but I can assure the Government that it will not accelerate their business in the future so far as I am concerned. The manner in which they are treating the House of Commons is outrageous. This whole Debate to-night is scandalous from the point of view of the public interest, to force the House to sit till four in the morning, and to keep all the attendants here too, just because they have so mismanaged the business. I think that any little confidence we may have had in the Government will soon be thoroughly lost. I ask leave to withdraw my Motion.
§ Motion for Adjournment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Mr. JOWETT
I listened to the speech of the Prime Minister to-day, and, as it appeared to me, the right hon. Gentleman never attempted to make out a case for voting an extra 1,000,000 men. Surely the Committee should have been informed whether another 1,000,000 men are required or not, and for what purpose they are required. If, for instance, the Prime Minister had told the Committee for what reason the object of the War had been continually expanded and one adventure after another had been undertaken, we might have felt more at ease in our minds. He might also have told us whether it was intended with the additional 1,000,000 of men, supposing they were voted, to have other adventures on the top of the rest; whether what the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dundee (Mr. Churchill) called in his valedictory address "a grim game," was to be continued, and how far it was to be continued. It has been said that more and more men are wanted for the sake of assisting those who were willing to go voluntarily at first. It does appear, so far as one can judge, that the only result of the Government finding themselves able to get enormous supplies of thousands, tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands of what Lord Derby called "raw material" for war has been to induce them to embark on additional risks, and, that being the case, it would appear to me, as an ordinary Member of the House, to be 409 highly necessary that reasons should be given by whoever proposes a Vote of this kind why the Government want the men, where they want the men, and in what way it is considered that the men could be helpful.
The next question one would have thought it would have been likely one would have heard something of is as to how these men could be obtained, and whether the industries of the country could spare so many men for fighting purposes. After all, it must be remembered that we have only a population of some 47,000,000 and that only a certain proportion of these can engage in war. There are a certain number of men of military age who can be spared, and there are a certain number who cannot be spared. Not in his speech to-day, but in a previous speech which he made either to the House or in Committee, the Prime Minister did cursorily refer to the order in which the purposes of the country had to be met. He said, if I remember rightly, that it was necessary there should be industry carried on for the sake of exports, so that we might pay for the imports necessary to provide for munitions and equipment not only for the personnel of our own Army, and for our Navy, but to assist our Allies as well. He spoke very seriously on that occasion for a minute or two, if I remember aright, on the question of finance, and urged that it was necessary to keep our industries going in order to maintain our financial stability. But he rested content with that. No mention was made by the Prime Minister on that occasion, nor was any attempt made by the Prime Minister to-day, to arrive at any sort of working conclusion on a matter which, so far as one can judge, is an elementary consideration—namely, How many men can this country spare and how much of the fighting can be done by Great Britain in proportion to the Allies!
I would like to call attention, as bearing on this question of the proposal to provide an additional 1,000,000 of men, to the way in which this War has spread; how, in the first instance, it was, so far as the people of this country were concerned—I do not know what it may have been in the minds of the Government—merely a question of assisting Belgium and France to expel the invader. But who hears anything of Belgium now? Since the War 410 began campaign after campaign has been entered upon, some of them with disastrous results; and I repeat that, instead of assisting men who enlisted at the first onset as volunteers to go and fight for that cause which the people thought this War was for, the purpose itself has been expanded and the risks have been increased without helping them at all.
There was a good deal of talk about our going to the assistance of Belgium and France. Men who enlisted voluntarily on the plea that was put before them in the early months of the War, did not enlist to go and fight the Turks; they did not enlist to go and fight in Mesopotamia. The consuming idea that possessed them was the wrongs of Belgium, and the treatment of Belgium by Germany, and it seems to me to be breaking faith with them to extend from one campaign to another until the original purpose of the War seems absolutely to be lost sight of. There is then also the question which, to my mind, ought to have been commented on to-day and explained, the question of how these men should be drawn; whether they can be drawn from industry, and if so, which industry? Clearly agriculture cannot spare any men; I am afraid that the textile industry cannot spare many men. I hear, as I go about among my neighbours, of businesses which, if the staffs are further depleted, will come to collapse. In some cases very small but necessary collecting businesses, which to any military mind would seem to be unimportant, are to the men familiar with the industry very important indeed. There is reason to fear that some of these necessary men will be drawn away, and, although this would appear to affect only a small concern employing perhaps a round dozen men, it will affect, not the dozen men and the particular business concerned merely, but it will affect considerations of far greater importance which are not less real because they have been ignored.
These questions I am certain have never been faced. No attempt has been—as far as one knows, and as far as Ministers have given us information—no attempt has been made to say how many can be spared from the various industries. Also, in regard to munition workers, no information has been given beyond the rough figures mentioned by the Minister of Munitions in one or two of his speeches, notably his speech of yesterday, when I think he said that 80,000 skilled 411 workers were required, and 200,000 unskilled workers for munition purposes. Where are they to come from if we go on for ever and ever drawing men away into the fighting ranks, expanding from one campaign to another, lighting up a conflagration first here and then there, and leaving all the time apparently neglected the weakest links of the nation's chain—namely, industry, commerce, and finance? If you go on that way it appears to me that you are courting disaster, and, instead of helping to win the War and protect the lives of the people at the front, it will be the way to risk losing the War, or, at any rate, bring about only an inconclusive peace.
The question of compulsory service has been discussed to-day. I should have expected that another separate day would have been provided for that purpose. I was not one of the deputation that went to see the Prime Minister, but I want to make no secret of the fact that I have been doing what I can to make Conscription, or compulsory service, or whatever it may be called, as difficult as it can be made, I have addressed many meetings up and down the country, and I can assure the Government that, notwithstanding the very mean trick of dividing the population into married and unmarried in order to mobilise the married men against the unmarried men—I can assure them that there is a very strong feeling in this country that will have to be reckoned with if the Government goes forward and accepts the advice to adopt compulsory service. It is all very well, as one delegate at an important Yorkshire conference said, for the bald-heads and whiskers to talk about sending other people to the War. I warn the Government again that they will not find it so easy as they think if they take the fatal step.
I do not want the Government to take 1,000,000 more men. [An HON. MEMBER: "Oh, oh!"] Why do I say that! I am prepared to tell why I say that; because every fresh relay they have got seems to have tempted them to take more and more risk. Instead of contracting their liabilities they have expanded them instead of providing more men for the original purpose for which the people agreed to the War, they have extended their liabilities until they had not men enough for the purpose. Material is wanted more than men. Surely what we 412 want is to preserve human life. In order to preserve human life surely, again, we ought to determine how many men we should have for the fight, and then let more men make material for the War to protect those fighting at the front. In that way we should make it a war of material as much as possible, and as little as possible a war of men. The Government should have kept the military operations of this country within manageable limits having regard to the number of men available for such operations. If they had done that they could have had far more men making munitions, keeping up industry, financing the War and the country's Allies—millions more of Russians could have been equipped and provided with munitions, for instance, to throw back the invading foe—and in that way I, for one, feel certain the War would be far sooner won. Instead of wasting life we should save life, because we should be liberal with materials and money and as careful as possible of the expenditure of life.
§ Sir A. MARKHAM
At a quarter to four in the morning, I, on behalf of myself and those associated with me, rise to say the first word in this Debate. I want to put it on record that during the whole of this discussion those below this Gangway who have taken a somewhat prominent part in attacking the Government have not said one single word until now. The House is generally supposed to me a deliberate assembly, but it amazes me that on the day on which we have been discussing the proposal of the Prime Minister there has been not the slightest intimation given to the House to enable it to arrive at a decision as to whether the proposal he has put forward to-day should be accepted by the House or not. It is quite clear that the Government can do only one of two things, or one of three things, possibly. If it is the intention of the Government to continue to supply our Allies with money to enable them to carry on the War, and if finance to them is essential, then it is clear that we must cut our cloth according to our needs. We cannot carry on a war with millions of men and at the same time provide finance for our Allies, and in addition to that supply them with munitions of war. To enable the House and the country to arrive at the actual figures,—that is to say, how many men we can remove from industry while carrying on those three services—it is essential that the House should have that information 413 to guide and direct it. Without that information, all this Debate and this long discussion this evening is perfectly futile. I take it that as the Chancellor of the Exchequer is in the House he will say now, or rather confirm the statement he made some short time ago, that the Government anticipate that they will be called upon to continue to make payments to our Allies to continue to carry on the War, now and in the future. My right hon. Friend, I think, assents to that?
§ Sir A. MARKHAM
Very well, then. We are under the obligation to provide munitions to our Allies, and therefore, if we have to carry on not only the business? of munitions, but also to provide our Allies with money, the number of men who should be sent to the front must be limited. That being so, it seems to me that that is such an elementary fact that it hardly requires discussion. There are two schools of thought in the country, and one particularly among soldiers, who say, "We do not care whether you provide the Allies with finance or not, or with munitions. What we "want is large numbers of men to enable us to place them against the Germans on the Western front." I do not think that position is one which Parliament or the country will accept. If the Government tell us that we are committed to this service it is necessary that they should give us the information so that we can form our own conclusion as to how many men it is possible to mobilise for the carrying on of the War, not only in munitions and the export trade, but the men we can put into the firing line. We were told by the Minister of Munitions yesterday that he requires in his Department alone an additional 280,000 men, and there are other calls in addition to those which will be made on the available number of recruit-able men. I should like to have some information on this point.
The Government set up a Departmental Committee composed of the heads of the different Departments to report to them on the working of the register. There will be certain essential, and non-essential, trades, we understand from the President of the Board of Trade. How many men are available out of the essential trades, and has the Cabinet any information as to how many men the Committee reported to them could be taken from the non-essential trades for the purpose of enlistment? On 414 all these points of information the House has been kept entirely in the dark, and, although having altered my mind from being in favour of the voluntary system, I have reluctantly come to the conclusion for some months past that the whole of the so-called fault of the system has been, it seems to me, the greatest tyranny that has ever been known under any voluntary system of this or any other Cabinet. What has happened to-day? Hon. Members have come into the House and made passionate speeches about Voluntaryism and Conscription, whereas every man knows perfectly well that under the voluntary system, as it has worked for the last five or six months, the grossest form of intimidation has been practised on all the men who have not enlisted. Their lives have been made a misery to them. They have been bullied and insulted in the streets and even at public meetings. Even at a public meeting in my Constituency, the people were recommended by the speakers to boycott the tradesmen who had not sent their sons into the Army. That is the kind of voluntary system which is upheld in this House with the fervour which is not really based on any understanding, so far as I can see. Now, the Prime Minister having given the pledge which he did to Lord Derby, he is bound by that pledge. Having given that pledge, it is clear that he cannot now withdraw. Either the pledge must be carried out, or the whole of Lord Derby's scheme must be "scratched."
What is the position in which the House finds itself to-night? We find a very large number of hon. Members sitting on this side of the House, who are violently opposed to any form of compulsory service. We find the Irish party likewise holding that view, and a certain number of the Labour party. The hon. Member for Merthyr Tydvil (Mr. C. B. Stanton), in his speech to-day, I believe, gave the impression that his constituents were not in favour of compulsory service. Let me read what the hon. Member himself said this afternoon in reference to this matter. This statement was handed to me by an hon. Friend of mine, to whom the hon. Member for Merthyr Tydvil gave it. The statement is this:—His position is, that if the voluntary scheme fails, he will vote for Conscription. He announced this in his election card, and was cheered to the echo.That is quite conclusive, so far as the hon. Member for Merthyr is concerned. But let the House observe that the hon.
415 Member for Derby went down to Merthyr Tydvil, and made the same kind of speech as he has made here this evening, against the hon. Member for Merthyr Tydvil. But the miners in Merthyr Tydvil, notwithstanding the eloquence, not only of the hon. Member for Derby, but of other members of the Labour party, and a Member of the Cabinet as well, selected the hon. Gentleman who has addressed the House to-day; therefore showing that even in Wales, and in one of the most democratic constituencies, the overwhelming majority of the electors are in favour of compulsory service. No one desires compulsion, if this War can be brought to an end without compulsion. What I want to know is this, and it is a question which I have often wondered has not been put to the hon. Member for Derby. When he has been making all these impassioned speeches in this House on the question of compulsory or voluntary service, he has always evaded this one issue. The issue is this: If it were necessary to beat the Germans, would he vote for compulsory service, yes or no? That is the issue. Now, a number of hon. Members on this side of the House are opposed to any form of compulsory service, whether it is necessary to beat the Germans or not. That is quite clear. There is no doubt whatever about that, and therefore the House is divided into two sections. There are the opponents of compulsion, those who will not in any case, whether it means victory or not, have compulsion. We are told that compulsion carries with it such great evils that even a German victory is better than that we should betray our liberties in this country.
§ Sir A. MARKHAM
I was coming to the hon. Member in a moment. He interrupted me a few moments after I began.
§ Sir A. MARKHAM
If the hon. Member would not be quite so impatient, I could answer him more quickly. I cannot answer him more quickly than I am doing, and I am not going to. The hon. Member asked me what Member of this House has made the statement that he would be 416 opposed to compulsory service even if it meant the loss of the War, and he asked me to give the name of the hon. Member. I cannot do so for the moment, because my memory does not serve me. I am quite certain the statement has been made.
§ Sir A. MARKHAM
Then are we to understand now that every hon. Member of this House, or practically every hon. Member, as I gather from that interruption, is in favour of Conscription if it is necessary to win the War? I am not going to vote for Conscription myself on the word of the Government. I want all the information I can get. I do not come here and accept the Government's word; I have never accepted it, and I do not trust them. I will not accept anything from, them unless after careful examination and analysis. It is not playing the game for what I term a hole-and-corner meeting of Members holding views against Conscription to meet the Prime Minister last week, when he had refused to meet hon. Members who are in favour of the compulsory system of enlistment. Then these hon. Members announced to the Press that they represent 200 members of the Liberal party. These forty hon. Members go there, and they give out that they are representing—this statement appeared in the Press—200 members of that party. Well, I do not think there are 200 members of the Liberal party in attendance at the House.
I was asked by a newspaper reporter, who telephoned to me, what I thought of this proceeding, and I said I thought a hole-and-corner meeting did not represent Liberals, and I also said that they must be friends of Germany who took such action. There is no hon. Member who is desirous that Germany should win the War. We are all unanimous, and there is no one who is not in favour of his own country; but there is in the sense that you are not fighting the Germans and that you are kind to the Germans, as this Government has been kind to them in every direction.
I want to say one or two words about France before I pass to the question of Conscription. The Member for East Mayo referred, in a very eloquent speech, to what he termed the Conscript Army, and the feeble regiments which would be built up on a basis of Conscription. I wonder if all those people who talk this clap-trap about Conscription, and who say that one voluntary man is worth three conscripts, 417 ever remember that in the army of our gallant Ally, France, every single man is a conscript. That is so in all Continental countries. Is it going to be said that the French soldiers are men we cannot be proud of as Allies?
§ 4.0 A.M.
§ Sir A. MARKHAM
I do not know whether under the French law a soldier has to give an undertaking that he will not cross over the German border, or not; I should have thought that the argument only needs to be advanced to show how foolish it is. At all events, you have to recognise that under Conscription you have in France one of the most magnificent fighting forces, and to say that any fighting force built up by Conscription is an army that is valueless is perfectly childish. The Prime Minister referred to a report that had been made by General Monro and Lord Kitchener relating to the withdrawal from the Dardanelles, and he said that this withdrawal had been made on a combined report made by the naval and military authorities. I should like to have asked the Prime Minister at the time why he takes the step of asking for a report from the naval and military authorities as to the question of a withdrawal when they had no such report when they started their operations in the Dardanelles. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dublin University (Sir E. Carson) asked whether the people who were responsible for these operations in Gallipoli were still in the service of the State, and no answer was given to that question. There was no reply when I was in the House, and I feel quite certain no reply has been given.
We are asked to vote an extra 1,000,000 men, and we want to know before we vote those men who are going to have charge of them. Are we going to put these men into the hands of the same men who have misconducted this War from its commencement? We have lost in the Dardanelles—nay, we have lost in the theatres of war—great numbers of men owing to gross incompetency, and I say it is not right that we should vote an additional 1,000,000 men to let these same men have the control of the new citizen soldiers, seeing the blunders that have been made in the past. When you are dealing with the lives of men one would have thought that the Government would have had no hesitation 418 in scrapping and getting rid of every officer who had proved incompetent, but instead of superseding them they have been given advancement by the State. The Minister of Munitions made a very remarkable speech yesterday, which every Member of this House would do well to read through carefully. As I pointed out in an interjection two or three hours ago, he used the words "too late" no less than fourteen times in his speech. The Chancellor of the Exchequer tells us, however, that there has been no "too late" in his Department, and that the Minister for Munitions must have been speaking, and was speaking, for some Department of the State, and it must have had reference solely and mainly to the War Office, and, therefore, you are going to give this additional 1,000,000 men to the people who have been responsible, according to the Minister of Munitions, for being fourteen times too late.
§ Sir A. MARKHAM
Who are the responsible Ministers? That is what we want to know. My right hon. Friend says we should ask the Minister of the Department responsible, but he has not got a seat in this House. The Minister responsible for these men is Lord Kitchener, and how can we, therefore, ask Lord Kitchener when he is not here? Passing, however, from the question of being too late, let us see what the Minister of Munitions states as to the position to-day with regard to munitions. It is of no use getting this additional 1,000,000 men unless you have the munitions to supply them with. It would be ridiculous to take these men away from industry. That is what the War Office did at the commencement of this War. Time after time we on these benches implored them to register these men, and when they were able to equip them to send for them. What Lord Kitchener did in the first eight or nine months of this War was to withdraw large numbers of men from industry before the War Office were in a position to equip them. They spend months in forming fours and marching about without equipment or arms, the result being a waste of our national resources and a waste of the power of these men who ought to have been engaged in industry, with the disastrous result of making them thoroughly sick and disheartened with their work. Are we going to repeat the 419 same mistake with this new million men? You are not in a position to arm and equip these additional men. The Chancellor of the Exchequer knows that very well. You cannot equip them, and why, therefore, are you going to take them until such time as you can equip them?
I would just observe this, that in regard to every single item—guns, explosives, machine-guns, high explosives, and men —we are deficient to-day. The responsibility is Lord Kitchener's. Are we, with these deficiencies, going to send the men out, as we have done in the past, to fight in Flanders without proper equipment? The work which is being done by the Ministry of Munitions is, of course, in its early stages, but notwithstanding that fact a considerable improvement has doubtless been effected. But I am told it was said that at the battle of Loos the whole of the shells fired were not sufficient, and I am reminded that the Minister of Munitions definitely said that was so. As regards the progress achieved the Minister of Munitions said in his speech:The manufacture and filling of output of various articles has increased since he [Mr. Vincent Raven] took it in hand, in some cases by 60 per cent., and in others by as much as 80 per cent., whereas the staff has only increased 23 per cent. One of the reforms he initiated are statistical records of the output. These records were not compiled prior to his assumption of control."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, NO. 135. col. 105.]However, I am not going to deal with that further than to say this: Great quantities of munitions will be coming forward next year. "Too late!" at every stage has been the watchword of this Government. Only a short time ago they were starting to order presses for the purpose of making shells.
The President of the Board of Trade referred in his speech to-night to the question of married and single men. He said that ho could not for the life of him understand why there should be this classification of married and single men. I do not know "whether the right hon. Gentleman actually used the word "ludicrous," but he laughed and treated the whole matter as a foolish action. I think the Chancellor of the Exchequer rather indicated, too, in an interpolation he made, that he shared the views of the President of the Board of Trade as to married and single men being classified separately. But that is the policy of the Government. The Prime Minister accepted Lord Derby's suggestion, and if 420 we accept a scheme, we have to take its difficulties as well as its good qualities, whatever they may be. But the initial duty of every Member of the Cabinet is, surely, to be loyal to his chief, and, therefore, I utterly fail to understand the speech of the President of the Board of Trade to-night. The whole burden of that speech would appear to a person who had not heard the first and last sentences to have been that the President of the Board of Trade was opposed to the scheme of Lord Derby. It was a very remarkable speech, and if hon. Members will take the trouble to read it to-morrow they will find that the President of the Board of Trade really went out of his way to press to an undoubtedly strong degree the point that it was not possible to withdraw more men: from trade for the purpose of carrying ore the War.
§ Sir A. MARKHAM
Yes, the right hon. Gentleman made that statement about 1,000,000 men, but if you leave out that, first sentence the whole burden of his speech was against taking any more men at all—at any rate that was how the speech impressed me. The opinion I gathered was that, although the right hon. Gentleman did say that 1,000,000 men might be taken, he certainly did not say that he was in favour of it or that the Departmental figures warranted it. We were given, at any rate, no information by the right hon. Gentleman to show which trade the men were to be drawn from. Let me tell the Committee that Lord Kitchener to-day is going on recruiting men in the mines of the country. The Committee will remember that a Departmental Committee was set up in the Home Office on this subject, but, notwithstanding that, and the urgent need of the country for coal, it is the fact that miners are still being enlisted by the War Office. It is really almost incredible that this should be going on, because the only result will be that, in view of the demands of our industries for coal, these men will have to be brought back again to the mines. At the same time the Under-Secretary for War, I am sure, will not deny that the recruiting authorities are taking these men even to-day, although, as I have said, a Departmental Committee has reported that if you take more men from the mines you will have a famine in coal.
§ Mr. TENNANT
I am not in a position to deny what the hon. Baronet says, because I do not know; but if he will put a question down I will give him the actual facts.
§ Sir A. MARKHAM
I do not know that it is necessary to do that, because I can assure the right hon. Gentleman that the men are being taken from the industry, with which I am closely associated, and to my mind it only shows the careless way in which the War Office conduct their business. I have no confidence whatever—I have said so time after time in this House, and I shall say so again—in handing over the men which the Government are now going to raise to Lord Kitchener. You have not hesitated during the past year, in order to bolster up your voluntary system, to send abroad thousands of boys of ages varying from seventeen to fifteen, and even to fourteen.
§ Sir A. MARKHAM
An hon. Member says "No." Does he mean to say that there have not been, not only thousands, but tens of thousands, of boys of sixteen and seventeen years of age who have left these shores to go to the front?
§ Sir A. MARKHAM
Yes, and there have been boys of fourteen and fifteen, although, of course, not great numbers of them.
§ Mr. L. WILLIAMS
I have brought to the notice of the House many cases, but, of course, these boys went as volunteers.
§ Sir A. MARKHAM
I have raised the question myself at different times in this House, and I should like to tell the Committee that one morning I received about 300 letters from parents giving the ages of their boys who had been sent to the front. Those ages varied from seventeen down to fourteen. I believe that afterwards a statement was made by the Under-Secretary for War that all boys under seventeen who had been sent abroad would not be allowed to return to this country, and that even if they were sixteen years of age it would be for the Commanding Officer to say whether they should be sent home or not. There are thousands of boys below the age of seventeen who are fighting abroad to-day. The regulation was that if these lads were serving in England, 422 and had not attained the age of seventeen, they could be discharged. Surely that is not a very satisfactory system with which you have recruited thousands and thousands of these lads under your so-called voluntary system; and although the parents of these lads have written to the War Office time after time asking that these boys should not be sent abroad, they have nevertheless been sent. I admit that action has since been taken by the Under-Secretary of State for War, but until the Under-Secretary of State dealt with this matter boys were sent out regularly at the ages of sixteen and seventeen, despite the protests of their parents; and, in fact, a new regulation was passed by the Admiralty a fortnight ago in which it was arranged that in the Naval Division recruits were to be sent abroad at the age of seventeen and half years.
§ Sir A. MARKHAM
The hon. Member who says he does not believe that is, I think, a new Member, unfamiliar with the procedure of this House.
§ Sir A. MARKHAM
His face is quite new to me. I will send him the letter tomorrow from the Secretary to the Admiralty saying in precise language that all boys over seventeen and half years should be sent abroad to fight in the Naval Division, and then the hon. Member, who sits there half asleep saying that he does not believe me, when he has received this letter perhaps will get up in the House and apologise for the statement he has now made. That is a fortunate letter which I am sure I have in my possession, and if I have not got it in my possession I will obtain a duplicate copy from the Financial Secretary to the Admiralty to prove what I have said.
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
I do not think that questions relating to the Naval Division are relevant to the matter before the Committee.
§ Sir A. MARKHAM
It is only an incidental reference which I made; but these men of the Naval Division are fighting on land and have no connection with the sea whatever. They all belong to the same forces, and it is, after all, only an incidental point which I was mentioning. There is only one further point I wish to deal with in conclusion. Why have we 423 not had Sir Ian Hamilton's Report? What has he been doing? Why has he not been "gingered up"? I am told he is a gentleman of literary abilities, and he is no doubt taking great pains to make the phraseology of his report elegant. I do not think, however, that the country wants I elegant reports, just as it does not want big speeches in the House of Commons, which are all rhetoric and come to nothing.
§ Sir A. MARKHAM
I moved a "count" to-night in order to get the Vote at a proper time. If the hon. Member is so keen about the Vote, why does not he get on his legs, and make a speech in favour of it? Anyway, I have got my speech off my chest. I want my right hon. Friend to bear in mind, with regard to the Report of Sir Ian Hamilton, that it is a crying disgrace that this officer, who has been back for weeks in this country, should have only been able to present his Report to the Secretary of State for War two days ago. In point of fact, we know that there have been lots of reports sent by Sir Ian Hamilton to Lord Kitchener, and if this is the last report of elegant phraseology which has to be all weighed before it comes to the Cabinet, I do not know that the country wants these elegant reports. What the county wants is that men who have failed in their duty should be relieved of their commands, and I was delighted to hear yesterday that Sir Ian Hamilton was not to receive any further command in the Mediterranean.
§ Mr. BYRNE
On this Vote for an additional 1,000,000 men I would like to ask the Government how they intend to raise these men, is it to be by the voluntary system or is it to be by compulsion? Because, judging by the tone of the Prime Minister's speech to-day, it seemed as if Lord Derby's figures were anything but encouraging. An ex-member of the 424 Cabinet immediately afterwards stated that it was well known earlier in the afternoon that recruiting was not satisfactory, and I want to know is it only now that the Government are moving in the matter, considering the fact that Lord Derby's scheme has only been working for six or seven weeks? I would like to know why there is all this talk about compulsion; why not continue the scheme for another five or six weeks? Because I believe that the Government will get more opposition to compulsion than they expect. A week or two ago I stated that compulsion would be violently resisted in Ireland, and my remarks were taken as being rather too strong for this House. Not later than today, however, one of the best recruiting sergeants we have, a Member on the Labour Benches, stood up and made a statement that as far as compulsion is concerned there will be a fight because the workers will not have it.
The PRIME MINISTER said, I think on 2nd November or 3rd November, that under no consideration, unless by assent, would there be any attempt to introduce compulsion. The hon. Member for Mayo (Mr. Dillon) and the hon. Member for Waterford (Mr. J. Redmond) told the House in a very emphatic manner that in Ireland we will not have compulsion. One Member, the hon. and learned Member for Dublin University (Sir E. Carson), by his remarks, while he did not state it openly, indicated what would lead one to believe that he was advocatnig compulsion. As he represents the most aristocratic portion of Dublin, and I represent the neighbouring portion—the working class district—I state in this House that the Irish working classes will not have compulsion any more than the English working classes, and they are prepared to resist it. In Dublin at the present time we have the meanest and most con temptible form of compulsion ever known. You have your Government Departments serving notices of dismissal on their employés, and stating that if they do not enlist they must go—
§ Sir A. MARKHAM
I beg to call attention to the fact that one hon. Member is snoring in one part of the House, and that another hon. Member is asleep.
I was just referring to the form of what is called the voluntary system, in Dublin. You have the Government Departments there serving notices of dismissal on their employés, and if they do 425 not enlist they must go. Thus you are starving the men into enlistment. There is one special case which I hope the Government will look after. The man has had twenty-two years' service in one of the Government Departments in the city of Dublin: he is forty-one years of age, and was dismissed last Friday because he refused to enlist. And you call this the voluntary system! Have you treated any of your Government employés in England or Scotland in such a manner? Would you do it in Wales, where the political influences could be brought to bear and save all classes of men there? If you make any attempt to introduce any form of compulsion in Ireland you will kill the voluntary system—you will ruin the Lord Lieutenant's scheme which has been so successful within the past six or seven weeks. Lord Wim-borne has raised, since the Derby scheme started, upwards of 110,000 men for your New Armies. Do you mean to say that if you are going to introduce Conscription you are going to assist him in his recruiting campaign? I agree with the hon. Member for Mayo that one soldier is worth three conscripts. One soldier can do better work than three conscripts, and when an hon. Gentleman on the opposite benches stated that he disagreed with the Member for Mayo it was because he did not definitely follow what the Member for Mayo stated afterwards. What he meant was that if the Press-gang system was to be introduced at the earliest possible moment to get conscripts those were the class of conscripts that would be useless; and he agreed that if the system had been started from the schools, as it is in France, the conscripts would have been good men. Can you do it to cope with the present War? Any system, no matter how mild, for compulsion that will be carried out for the present War will be embarrassing to the Government themselves. It will pile expense on to them. They have not the munitions, the rifles, or the cloth to clothe them, and while I hope the Vote will be carried for them, and that the Government will get the 1,000,000 men, I would say that there is plenty of time when you can give them munitions and good generals who will not lead them into places where they will be murdered. I say that some of your generals should be tried for murder for the way in which they have directed the Irish regiments in the Dardanelles and at Loos.
§ Mr. BOOTH
I am sure the House recognises with a considerable amount of satisfaction the openness of the hon. Member 426 who has just spoken, and I hope he will often favour us with his views. I think it is an advantage to our Debates that hon. Members should express their minds freely. I very much regret the absence of the hon. Member for Carmarthen Boroughs (Mr. L. Williams). He made what I consider to be a very grave reflection on the Prime Minister, and I have been pained beyond measure that not one of his colleagues on the Front Bench has got up to say a word for the absent Premier. While the hon. Member said he would endeavour to abide by it, he endeavoured again and again to show to the Committee that he thought a huge mistake had been made. With a thing like that from so eminent a Member and one so recently taken into their bosom they ought not to have passed over such a suggestion without protesting against it. If it were not so late I would undertake the castigation of the hon. Member. This Debate is altogether ill-timed so far as it relates to Conscription. I can say that impartially, because no man in this House has heard me give an opinion on the subject either in public or in private. The anti-Conscriptiomists, when they had a hole-and-corner meeting, did not invite me. Neither did the Conscriptiomists, and I thank both of them for it. Never since I have come into this House have I been guilty of the practice of going to bother the Prime Minister about some fad. I have never been one of the people tramping up and down the corridor waiting to be admitted to the gracious presence. I understood that both sides of the combatants were going to stay their warfare until they got their facts, and yet they have had a field-day to-day without the facts. What does it all mean? I do not profess to understand it. People on both sides were saying that they would not go on with this internecine warfare, and yet they have treated this House to this to-day.
Now, as to the point I want to put. I may say that this is the first time in the whole of my life, either in this House or out of it, that I have ever challenged the Government on the foreign policy of this country or on the conduct of this War. I simply remind the House, and some hon. Members who read some of the Liberal newspapers, that they are capable of printing lies with regard to hon. Members of this House, and they have printed lies with regard to me. I want, on this occasion, for the first time, to bring a serious matter before the attention of the 427 House—I mean upon military matters. I determined that, for the first five years I was in this House, I would not speak upon military matters. But the five years are up.
§ Mr. BOOTH
The five years are up to-day. Now, the position is that we are asked to grant 1,000,000 men. The hon. Member for Bradford's sincerity I admired, and I certainly think he had courage. To that extent I respect his views, although I do not agree with the opinions he expressed. I would have liked to have had this 1,000,000 men earlier. One of my complaints is that the Government asked for them too late. I think we are entitled to ask, when the Government want this 1,000,000 men, what they want them for? What have they done with the previous Votes for men? I will not go over any parts of the battlefield, but I want to ask the Government whether they have the courage, before this House, or before any body of their fellow-countrymen, to say that they were not too late in Serbia, and to tell us how many men they landed in Salonika when they went to the help of Serbia when she was struggling for independence? I understand that they landed, say, 13,000 or 18,000 men; I do not want to be unreasonable, and the last thing I would wish to do would be to ask anything which would be in any sense indiscreet.
What troubles me in regard to the War more than anything else is when I look at Serbia, and the action of the Government towards her. I regret keenly that ever I came into this building. Many a time I have felt, with the deepest pain—although I am only a private Member of Parliament—what seems to me, unless I hear something which I have not yet heard—the gross betrayal of that brave little land. I do not know what the explanation can be. We have been told that each Cabinet Minister will answer for his own Department, but I am against this War being conducted in Departments. I want a War Cabinet. I do not want to vote this 1,000,000 men and to consider that we are having a 1,000,000 men for a Department. I shall not vote for them on any such hypothesis. Why could not the Government have asked for the men earlier and so have saved Serbia?
Nor can any of us be satisfied with this page in our history. As far as I can understand, our men never got in touch with 428 our Allies, the Serbians, or got near them. Now we publish a statement—it is a satisfaction to those of us who have relatives there—that our casualties are so small and our losses so few in the Serbian campaign. Of course, our casualties are very tiny, because we never did any business there. We did not save Serbia nor rescue the Serbians. We did not join up with their Army. But what about the casualties of our Allies whom we were going to rescue? I want to ask the Government and the Cabinet how can they as a Cabinet really look back upon the conduct of this last year and say that they have done their duty by Serbia? We ought to have gone to Serbia's help nearly a year ago—certainly eight or nine months ago. We ought to have been marching there with the best force we could muster; then we might have obtained the help of Greece, and also have prevented Bulgaria from joining our enemies. But, at any rate, we should have helped Serbia fight her battles.
I cannot go into the question of our diplomacy, and whether it could have restrained Bulgaria from attacking Serbia or not. But as one who took a particularly keen interest in Serbia on the medical side, I am pained beyond expression. If I felt I could do anything, even by resigning my seat, or by making any change whatever, I would sacrifice anything in order to help that little country. What was the case? The hospital societies and others knew the danger in Serbia. I do not know if our War Office knew of it. But private people in this country were sending out hospital units; they were expecting an inroad to be made by the Germans into that country, and doctors, nurses, and medical stores were going out, but no troops. If the War Office or the Cabinet had been wise enough to use an Army there, I believe they would have avoided a great deal of expenditure and a great deal of subsequent enlistment.
I have only put the case now in order to name it. At this hour I am not going to argue the point, but I ask the Cabinet, how they can justify coming to us at this time for 1,000,000 men in view of their actions in regard to Serbia. I should have thought their most elementary duty, when they were asking for a further grant of 1,000,000 men, would have been to give some account and some justification of the most terrible disappointment that this nation has suffered. The position is ghastly. I venture to say when history comes to be 429 written and this War comes to be reviewed that the record of our delays and of our intervention some months too late in Serbia will be one of the saddest pages in our history. That is how it appears to me. I have listened and read, and since I have been a Member of this House I have never put a question in regard to these operations. I have followed all the other questions of the Members, and I have learnt all I could. I would ask, Have the War Office or the Cabinet made the slightest attempt to put themselves right with the country? I believe no reference was made by the Prime Minister in moving this Vote. Month after month passes, and we get no account showing that the Cabinet can defend their position or that they are ashamed of their record.
I venture to say that that is a determining factor with regard to my own position. I shall make it clear to my Constituency just as I am doing to this House, and I venture to say that if the Government can give some explanation of any kind I will accept it. I am not going to say that they should have had as much wisdom at the beginning as a man may have at the end. I can forgive errors of judgment if they have made a proper attempt and done their best, but up to the present they have said nothing to indicate that they are entitled to any confidence, and, unless they can clear themselves of this terrible happening in Serbia, and if it can be proved that they have deserted that little country when they could have saved her, I can no longer support a Cabinet which has done that, nor the Members who have done it, unless they can clear themselves from responsibility. I say that in the fervent hope that I can get some information which will enable me to restore the Government in my confidence. I have waited and waited until I am sick at heart, and unless some explanation can be given, I can only say that I shall very reluctantly be compelled to withdraw any support I can give to such a Cabinet.
Sir H. DALZIEL
The hon. Member who has just sat down has made a very passionate appeal in regard to Serbia. I only allude to that to say one word, and that is that his criticism might have gone a little further, and have stated that the Serbians wanted to make an attack which they had every reason to believe would be successful, and our Government advised them not to do it. Had their own wishes 430 been respected the situation would have been quite different. [An HON. MEMBER: "When?"] As far as I can remember I think it was in August. I must say that I waited before I rose to see whether the Government were going to make any reply to the speeches that have been made during the Debate. I ask the House, Are the Government treating the House fairly, considering all the speeches that have been made since the Under-Secretary for War made his speech to-night, not to get up and reply to one of the many questions that have been raised? I say frankly that I do not think they are. I think that, with regard to so many questions that it is no novel view on my part. I think they might, after keeping us up so late, have replied to some of the points brought forward, but they have not done so, and it will be necessary no doubt to raise the points at the very first opportunity that presents itself. But this Debate has not been without some advantage. We have, had two very interesting admissions from two Members of the Cabinet. We had a statement in the course of a very able speech by the President of the Board of Trade, who remarked, as I thought, in somewhat sneering language, that Germany made no distinction between single and married men. That distinction is a sign, of course, of praise for our organisation in regard to recruiting, and I understand the President of the Board of Trade, as a Member of the Cabinet, is responsible for that new policy. It seems to me that it was rather insulting to Lord Derby, after his great efforts, for a Minister to get up and practically jeer at any distinction being made, and I understand the Chancellor of the Exchequer endorsed the views expressed by the President of the Board of Trade. I do not think they are treating Lord Derby fairly to come down to this House after all the labour he has had, and refer to his scheme as they did to-night. We have also heard a most remarkable admission on behalf of the Government. The Chancellor of the Exchequer said that every Member of the Government would give an emphatic denial to the speech of the Minister of Munitions last night in regard to "Too Late." I understand the right hon. Gentleman said that, as far as the War Office was concerned, the Under-Secretary could disprove the allegations in regard to that Office. The Under-Secretary says the War Office has never been too late in any- 431 thing, and it is the War Office in which we are really passing a vote of confidence to-night. He denied the suggestion of the Minister of Munitions that guns were never ordered until the Prime Minister found out that machine-guns were necessary.
Sir H. DALZIEL
He denies that it was not until the Prime Minister went to France that it was found out that the machine-guns were required in much greater numbers. The right hon. Gentleman denies that?
Sir H. DALZIEL
Then both the Prime Minister and the Minister of Munitions were parties in a conspiracy to mislead the House?
§ Mr. TENNANT
I must interrupt my right hon. Friend. I deny that the War Office had never ordered machine-guns in large quantities before the Prime Minister paid his visit to France. I do not say that the Prime Minister did not lay more stress upon the need for machine-guns than possibly other Members of the Cabinet had hitherto thought was proper in respect of the whole munitions of this War, but I do say that large numbers, that I am prepared to give, were ordered by the War Office prior to the visit of the Prime Minister, and those machine-guns are now coming forward in very large numbers.
Sir H. DALZIEL
I do not wish to misrepresent the right hon. Gentleman, and I am obliged to him for helping me to clear up the facts. I understand now that it is untrue to say that machine-guns had not been ordered in any sufficient quantities until the time the Prime Minister went to France. I will not pursue the matter to the extent of asking him whether they were ordered with responsible firms or the date they were ordered, but—
Sir H. DALZIEL
I think we ought to accept that assurance on the part of the right hon. Gentleman that he will give us all the figures that are necessary to justify his denial of the statement of the Minister of Munitions, and no doubt 432 by then he will be able to speak with full authority on behalf of the Secretary of State for War, although I am quite aware that he himself probably has the facts just as well as the Chief of the Department. I shall give the right hon. Gentleman the first opportunity I can, because I am sure the nation would like to have that denial in regard to these grave charges which were made last night against the War Office by the Minister of Munitions. What I think has been demonstrated throughout this Debate is that there has been a great deal of unnecessary wasting in the lives of our men by the colossal blunders that have been made at Headquarters. The men are all right, and none can speak too highly of their bravery, and courage, and determination, and patriotism, and self-sacrifice; but they have been given tasks which it was impossible for them to perform, and they have been sent out under conditions which gave them no opportunity. I referred earlier in the Debate to some recruits in my own Constituency, a considerable number, having been sent out after six weeks of training. It is not fair to treat practically young boys with six weeks' training as if they had been experienced troops, and I would like the Under-Secretary to look into the facts, which I have beside me and will be pleased to send on to him. I would also like an assurance on the question of relief for the men. It is not fair to keep them at the front without any relief whatever. Some of them have not had any leave up to the present, while others have been able to get it almost every two months, and sometimes oftener. I can assure the right hon. Gentlemen that there is a great deal of feeling among the men themselves, and not a week goes by in which I do not get hundreds of letters from the trenches as to the leave that is granted to some and denied to others.
It is a very serious matter in regard to the families of these men, and I think it would be a good thing if the right hon. Gentleman would look into the matter even more fully than he has done up to the present. There are many other points that I would like to refer to, but the hour is late, and I hope that before this stage of the Vote is passed we may have from the Under-Secretary for War a fuller statement in regard to the points that have been raised. If the right hon. Gentleman follows the attitude of the 433 Government generally, he will treat Members with supreme contempt; but that is a matter for his own decision, and I do not suggest for a moment that what I have said is to be applied to the right hon. Gentleman, because there is no one in this House who is more uniformly courteous to every Member, although he has a very difficult and arduous task to perform. Generally speaking, however, there is no leadership as regards our programme of business, and to-day's proceedings is a good illustration of that fact, because, had there been a definite programme, this late sitting I am certain would never have occurred. If we have no further reply from the Treasury Bench I can only say that we shall take advantage of the very next opportunity of enumerating again the points which we have raised and in regard to which we have had no explanation whatever.
§ Sir A. MARKHAM
I would like to associate myself with what the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Kirkcaldy has said. As he has reminded the Committee, we have had no reply to any of the arguments we have advanced. I suppose it is the view of the Under-Secretary for War and the Chancellor of the Exchequer that all the arguments we have put forward are not worth replying to. We do not think so, however, and we shall press them again, as my right hon. Friend said, at a later stage. I would like to say a word as to the conflict of opinion between the Under-Secretary and my hon. Friend. The Minister of Munitions began his sentence, not with the usual words, "too late," but with the words "rather late." What he said was:We were rather late in realising the great part which the machine-gun played in this War, and I think I am entitled to say that the first time that the importance of the problem which impressed upon me was by the Prime Minister after one of his visits to the front in June … When my right hon. friend returned from the front, he impressed upon me, in the gravest possible language, the importance of supplying on a very large scale machine-guns; and one of the first steps was to make arrangements for multiplying many-fold, and as quickly as possible, our output of machine-guns. We immediately placed large orders at home and abroad."—[OFFICIAL REPORT. 20th December. 1915, col. 111.]
§ Sir A. MARKHAM
I have no wish to communicate anything to the enemy, and I will not mention the figures publicly. I may say that I have taken a keen interest in this question of machine guns, and I can tell the Committee that I raised it long before the Prime Minister did. As a result of my interest in the matter, I have happened to get to know the number of machine guns which have been ordered by the Government, and I will tell the Under-Secretary for War privately when I sit down what that number is. But I do not think it would be consistent with my duty to state in the House, as he has asked me to do, the information I have obtained. As I have said, none of us in this House wants to say anything which will be of benefit to the enemy. But what I do want to say is that to suggest that these large orders for machine guns were placed before this period is untrue, and you are only getting to-day one-sixth of what you have contracted to have supplied to you next year. When the Prime Minister went to France he became impressed with the seriousness of the position and with the necessity for the Secretary of War to order the guns. The fact remains that they were ordered at the instigation of the Prime Minister, and I repeat that I will tell the Under-Secretary when I sit down the number of guns that have been ordered by the Department.
§ Mr. KING
I must just add a few words to the Debate, partly because I am in a position to defend the Government on one matter in regard to which they do not seem to be able to defend themselves. I cannot allow the remarks of my hon. Friend the Member for Pontefract (Mr. Booth) about Serbia to go by without some explanation. At the same time I admit that these are very serious matters, and I am sure my hon. Friend did well to raise the question. He put the matter in such a way, however, as to imply that our Government is grievously to blame in having more or less forsaken or betrayed Serbia. Many as are the faults which our Government has to bear in connection with this War, there is no justification for anybody saying that they have foresaken or betrayed Serbia. I have gone 435 thoroughly into this matter as far as I could, and our Government is, in my opinion, entirely free of any such charge. I stand up for the Foreign Office in this matter. Although I believe it has made serious mistakes otherwise, neither in a diplomatic nor in a military sense is it right to say that we have neglected or forsaken Serbia. I will not go into the whole story of this question, which I believe I know; but what I will say is, that if one studies the words which were spoken at the time when this question became acute one will see that really the fault was that we left our diplomacy unfortunately too much to one of our Allies.
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
It has been repeatedly ruled from the Chair in the course of the proceedings on this Vote that reference to the question of diplomacy is out of order.
§ Mr. KING
Of course I realise that I must not transgress, but our Government has had many accusations made against it unfairly, and I wished to defend it where I felt it was* capable of defence. It has quite enough to bear, but as regards some of the things in respect of which it is attacked it does not attempt to make an answer, and, in my opinion, it is wise not to do so. But upon this matter I feel my sense of justice and my loyalty to the Government requires that I should make some reply. Let me assure my hon. Friend that he may go to sleep this morning feeling that his protest, though manly, is based on a misconception, and that, whatever the Government's faults have been, it has not forsaken gallant little Serbia.
§ Mr. McKENNA
May I suggest that my hon. Friend is not well-advised in raising a question of that sort in the House of Commons? May I appeal to him to remember that this raises an international matter much better left alone in this House, because statements made by hon. Members carry weight, and they go far? It would be a most undesirable thing to proceed with this subject.
§ Mr. BOOTH
I do not know why that appeal was not made before when I raised 436 the subject. I am only doing it now because I am told that I am under a misapprehension. It is all very well for the right hon. Gentleman to say that I am not well-advised, but the trouble in Serbia is over. I kept silent while there was anything doubtful about it, and also while the position of Greece was at all doubtful.
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
That is not a proper subject now. It can be raised on the question of the Adjournment or when Foreign Affairs are being considered by the Committee.
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
I have to use whatever enlightenment and intelligence I have in judging as to whether what the hon. Member says relates to foreign affairs or not. I think it does.
§ Mr. BOOTH
I will confine myself to meeting the apprehensions of the hon. Member. I did not introduce this subject without making myself fully acquainted with the matter. I spoke to-day, and, with all deference to the Front Bench, this is the question which has burnt into my mind, and they cannot keep me quiet upon it. I will show that, at any rate, one Member of the House clears himself of blood-guiltiness.
§ Sir A. MARKHAM
I desire to know whether we are to have a statement as regards Lord Derby's Report before the Adjournment for Christmas. I understood that we were, and then to-night my right hon. Friend seemed to doubt whether it was possible that we should have one. If he is not able to say, I do not wish to press him, but I certainly should like to know whether we shall have figures and whether we shall have a Debate before the Adjournment for Christmas.
§ Mr. McKENNA
I am quite unable to say. I do not know whether the Prime Minister will be able to make a statement before the House adjourns or not.
§ Sir A. MARKHAM
The right hon. Gentleman has altered his position; he said before that we could not.
§ Sir A. MARKHAM
Will the right hon. Gentleman inform the Prime Minister that we shall raise the question to-morrow
§ Question, "That an additional number of Land Forces, not exceeding 1,000,000, all ranks, be maintained for the Service of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland at Home and Abroad, excluding His Majesty's Indian Possessions, in consequence of the War in Europe, for the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1916," put, and agreed to.