§ Resolution reported,
§ "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."
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House doth agree with the Committee in the said Resolution."—[Mr. Walter Rea.]
§ Mr. PETO
I desire to raise a practical point which was not made in the Debate on the Committee stage yesterday, namely, the utilisation of this additional number of men. On two occasions I have called the right hon. Gentleman's attention to the paucity of the numbers of the second-line units in both of the Territorial formations—in the Infantry and in the Yeomanry. Some hon. Members of this House have also raised this question, particularly the hon. Member for Rotherhithe (Mr. Carr-Gomm), who spoke with authority on the subject, as he is actually commanding one of these Territorial battalions. I have had communications from the hon. Member for Rotherhithe since I spoke in this House in November upon this subject, and I find that so serious is the state of affairs that I did not adequately represent the gravity of the situation, although he was good enough to express his thanks to me, and the thanks of other officers who are in the same unfortunate position as himself. We have been suffering from a lack of men all the summer. I have it from officers commanding a considerable number of these second-line units that they have been slowly deteriorating in numbers, efficiency and training, because it is impossible to train men properly when you have inadequate numbers and when those numbers are slowly or rapidly dwindling. The hon. Member for 537 Rotherhithe is not here at present, therefore I shall ask leave of the House to read to them two or three passages from a letter he has written to me describing the situation. He says, with regard to his battalion:—We took a lot of trouble in the spring to induce our men to sign the foreign service form. Now it seems, after all, not much use. After more than a year's work, we are ordered by the War Office letter to reduce our battalion to 26 officers and 600 men, and to send the remainder to the third line, and we have not been allowed to receive a single recruit since May. Of course this is typical of battalions in every division.He says further:In very many ways the War Office have worried commanding officers. Ours had a battalion of 1,200 men in May and a fine band. The former is reduced to one-half and the latter abolished by the War Office. Why, except to inconvenience and discourage keenness?When I spoke last, the right hon. Gentleman objected somewhat to my saying that the present policy was a direct discouragement to the officers and men in these battalions, and there I have the confirmation of what I said in the actual words of another hon. Member of this House who is himself commanding one of these battalions. It seems to me that really the War Office has laid out too large a scheme, which it has so far, all through the summer, been unable to furnish. To a large extent we have got a paper Army. We have got these battalions of Yeomanry units which were worked up by the energy and the enthusiasm of the officers commanding and their officers and non-commissioned officers, to a state of high efficiency as far back as April and May last. Some were in an advanced state of efficiency so far back as November, 1914, and ever since that, for lack of men, not being allowed to recruit at all, having no decision come to whether the object of their existence was foreign service, Home defence, or drafting units—they were first told one thing and then the other—and on the last occasion when I raised this question the right hon. Gentleman informed me that all these three purposes were intended to be served by them.
§ The UNDER-SECRETARY of STATE for WAR (Mr. Tennant)
I did not say "intended"; I said "being."
§ Mr. PETO
I will quote the right hon. Gentleman's words:—That is, utilising the second-line units for three purposes—first, as a Home defence force: secondly, as a force that might well eventually have to go abroad to fight; and, thirdly, as a draft-finding machine. In Heaven's name, what more could that unit do? What greater demands can you make."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 16th November, 1915, col. 1798, Vol. LXXV.]538 I want to quote on that my hon. Friend (Mr. Staveley-Hill), who is commanding one of these second-line Yeomanry units. He has taken up this very question in a memorandum he has written on the subject. This is, in fact, a short summary of our position, and the point of the speech to which I want to draw special attention is the one in which he says:—Second-line units were utilised for different purposes, namely as a Home defence force, a force which might eventually have to go abroad, and as a draft-finding machine.I will not trouble the House with the detailed reasons he gives why it is quite impossible to train-on a body of men without the certainty that they are intended either for one or other of these three purposes, and when in doubt as to whether they are to be used first as one and then as the other. With regard to the position of his own unit, he says:—When I took over the command of this regiment last July we were at full strength as regards men. A few weeks later we received a large number of horses, which brought us for all practical purposes up to full strength in men and horses. In September I was ordered to supply a large draft for the 1st regiment, which eventually went overseas. I was then left in the position of my having an average of four horses to each man. I need hardly say that this interfered entirely with the training of the regiment and only allowed time for exercise and grooming. Wince we got to our present quarters, on the 30th ultimo (October), I have been allowed to turn out a large number of horses, which practically leaves me with one man to two horses.I think that absolutely makes good the point. It is perfectly impossible to train-on a body of men who are meant to be brought up to Cavalry strength in horses and men if you do not know at any moment when you may be required to utilise them for one or other of the purposes or as a draft-finding machine. The whole organisation and training of that unit is disorganised and set back. The men and the officers are distinctly discouraged by finding that after many months of training, when they were at last up to full strength and when the serious work of getting ready for foreign service, as they thought, getting them really up to concert pitch, was just about to begin, the whole thing is thrown into chaos and confusion. That is my reason for raising this question again. The Government are asking for another 1,000,000 men, and the House agreed in Committee that that number must be provided. I ask that the War Office shall not lay out a further scheme, however attractive it may look upon paper, but shall first look round not only to the regiments which have suffered the wastage of war abroad, but those to which my right hon. Friend (Sir E. Carson) referred 539 yesterday, battalions which are down to 350. I know of some which are even smaller in strength than that. But these, of course, the right hon. Gentleman will tell us are obviously the very first which have to be filled up. I ask the right hon. Gentleman, in the interest of economy and efficiency, not to keep these second-line units, Territorial and Yeomanry, hanging about from month to month and from year to year, far from getting nearer to proficiency and ability to take their proper position in the fighting forces of the Crown, slowly going from bad to worse, deteriorating in moral, their officers and non-commissioned officers and men discouraged and disheartened, to make up his mind that if he gets his men he will not have a single unit that is not put in a position to complete its training, and that, in fact, we shall really use the men in such a way that we shall have the most efficient Army that can possibly be produced.
I should like to ask the right hon. Gentleman now that we have reached the magnitude of, at any rate, talking of an Army of 4,000,000 men, whether it is not about time to simplify the whole machine, to do away with the distinction between the Terriorial Force, what is known as Kitchener's Army, and the Regular Army, and the like? I ask if it is not obvious that if you are going to work on three parallel lines with three bodies of men—I do not want to use any technical phrases I am not familiar with myself; I look at it purely from a civilian and commonsense, I hope, point of view—if you are going to have three different organisations which are all going to be used for practically one and the same purpose, is it not obvious that you will save in staffing, in recruiting, and in a hundred different ways, if you recognise once for all now that we are at war, whatever may have been the merits of Lord Haldane's Territorial scheme as a preparation for war— that I do not want to discuss—we have one business in hand, and that is to organise the greatest possible number of complete and efficient units, all of them used wherever their striking power is most required, and all these little differences of recruiting offices on opposite sides of the street, and all that class of thing, should be done away with. We should recognise that it is now over six months since we asked the men who volunteered only for Home defence whether they would under- 540 take foreign service duties. We got an enormous response to that, and practically all these different units ought to be parts of one cohesive whole. They ought to be under one organisation. You ought to economise in your staffing and your management by recognising that we have really only one Force which we have to recruit and fill up. I am certain that would tend to an enormous economy, and I am quite certain, so far as efficiency is concerned, it is really disastrous to think we should incur such an unnecessary expense. I am told each of these second-line Yeomanry regiments costs £100,000 a year. I do not know how many there are. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will tell us. But there is not one single one of these that is not in a less efficient condition to-day than it was six months ago, and we are spending all this money all the time. There is a full quota of officers, obviously requiring a very considerable part of the total pay of the unit, and we are really doing this for no purpose. Therefore, I appeal to the right hon. Gentleman not only to give the matter his consideration and tell us it will be looked into, but really to bring this period of consideration, which has lasted for nearly eighteen months, to an end and let us have the dawn of action which is appropriate to the needs of the country.
§ Captain AMERY
I should like to associate myself entirely with what has fallen from my hon. Friend with regard to the very serious disadvantage that it is to the efficiency of the Army to continue this prewar system of a series of different Armies, with different organisations and different standards of promotion. From the point of view of efficiency it would be far better to have only one Army to-day, the King's Army, and not the old Regular Army, the Territorial Force, the New Army, and so on. There is one point of view with regard to which I have often been struck by the immense unfairness resulting from these artificial divisions. It practically comes to this, and the right hon. Gentleman opposite has, no doubt, had many cases brought to his notice. A man who has been a Regular officer, recently retired, let me say, with the rank of captain, goes back to his old regiment as a Regular officer, and the chances are that he is still a captain today. If he had gone round by way of the New Army he would probably be a major or a colonel. If he had gone round, let me say, by the Territorial Artillery he might be a brigadier to-day. It is, I think, one of the things that is felt very 541 much by Regular officers that promotion has absolutely lost all principle and fairness in the course of the War. It is really remarkable how few complaints have been heard—I am not blaming anyone in particular; it is part of the general dislocation of our methods—when we consider that one door is practically blocked to promotion, but the same man if he runs round, or is given good advice and goes to another door can find step after step made easy for him.
My hon. Friend said our Army was largely a paper Army. I am afraid that is true. But what is still more serious is that it is very much more a paper Army to-day than it was six months ago. I do not agree wholly that our programme is too ambitious. I do not believe that the programme as it stood last spring was too ambitious at all for the immense task in front of us. I am not sure that it was adequate to that task. What is very serious is that when last spring it began to be seen that we could not keep up our programme, the Government did not take measures to meet the difficulty. All through the months of last spring and summer and autumn, as our units were wasted at the front and the units at home consequently depleted more and more, we were met in this House by the constant assurance that there was no recruiting difficulty and that recruiting had never been better than it had been in recent weeks. I remember that is what the Prime Minister said when the House adjourned in July, and it was only when the thing had reached the dimensions of a terribly serious crisis that at last you called in Lord Derby and asked him, at the last moment, in the space of a month or six weeks, to try and revive and put new life into the voluntary system, under conditions which, I admit, were not fair to Lord Derby and were not fair to the voluntary system. I felt a great deal of sympathy with what fell from the hon. Member (Mr. Thomas) yesterday, when he said that Lord Derby's scheme ought to have had six months to prove itself a success. I agree. I think I mentioned before that in essentials that scheme was brought forward in the War Office at the end of the first month of the War, but for reasons best known to the authorities it was not smiled upon. But where I differ from the hon. Member is in this, that we have not the time now to spend another six or eight months trying to make Lord Derby's scheme a success. Once again 542 we are confronted with this issue, "Too late." The Army now is in a very serious condition. Yesterday my right hon. Friend (Sir E. Carson) referred to the fact that three of our divisions in the East have not, between them, in Infantry the numbers of one division. I do not think that is a unique case, and it is certainly not a unique case when you come to deal with the troops here at home. The Territorial divisions ought to be as strong and as efficient as any other divisions. As a matter of fact, except the divisions of the old Regular Army, they are no more amateurs than a division of what is called the New Regular Army. They were intended to be formed into three lines: the first line for the front, the second line for the front, and the third line for Home defence and for replenishing the first and second lines. What has happened? The calls on the third line have been such that the wastage has had to be met out of the second line. In many cases the second line have sent men direct to the front. In other cases a most peculiar device has been adopted, and that is, of taking men away from the second line and sending them to the third line in order that the third line may be large enough to feed the first line. It is the old story of feeding a dog with bits of his own tail. When the second line had dwindled to such an extent that the officers responsible for the defence of this country said that it could no longer be treated as an unit for any fighting purpose, we had a further idea, and that is, that from this depleted second line should be taken two battalions at a time and blended together into one composite battalion, in which Welshmen and Irishmen, or Welshmen and East Anglians, should lie down together and forget all they have learned about pride in their regiment, waste a good deal of the work and training of the last sixteen or seventeen months in their unit, and begin again as a depleted unit with no proper power of expansion.
It seems to me perfectly monstrous that at this stage of the War, within a few months of a critical and perhaps the final decision, that we should be left in this state. Yet we are told by a large number of hon. Members that there is still plenty of time to discuss and consider the Derby scheme, that it really is unfair to talk about calling up the single men, that we ought to give single men many weeks more to state their reasons, and that they 543 ought to be canvassed and recanvassed again. The fact is, that we want all the | men in this country except those who are absolutely necessary for | indispensable industries. I do not think that piano making, for instance, is an indispensable industry. I mean industries absolutely indispensable for the provision of munitions or food. Any other industry in this country ought to go to the wall for the time being, or ought to be carried on with older men and with women. Yesterday the hon. and learned Member for Waterford (Mr. Redmond) in a speech with a great part of which I sympathise, said that the onus of proof rested upon those who wished to introduce compulsion. I am not sure that I accept that contention. I think that when you are fighting for the life and the very existence of this Empire, when you are fighting for everything that is dear to Britishers, the onus of proof rests upon those who ask you to do with one man less than you can put into the field, or one man less than you think is absolutely necessary to ensure victory. Supposing we admit the argument of the hon. and learned Member for Waterford. Supposing we do say that the onus of proof rests upon those who wish to introduce a change in the institutions of this country, even temporary and during a great crisis. I wish to say one word in answer to that. I do not wish to be contentious. I think that perhaps some of the speeches made yesterday had better not have been made. I do, however, wish to make this appeal. If the onus of proof rests upon the Government and upon responsible Members of this House to prove that we require the men, then I say there is another onus that rests upon those who may not agree with the necessity of compulsion, and that is, the onus of cheerful acceptance, of ready endorsement of the policy which the military authorities and the Government find to be necessary. It is from that point of view that I most sincerely regret the speeches of the hon. and learned Member for Waterford and of the hon. Member for Mayo (Mr. Dillon). The hon. and learned Member for Waterford has shown high patriotism throughout this War. I believe that the efforts which he has made in Ireland to stimulate recruiting have been made with a most whole-hearted desire to help the great cause which is dear to all of us, and I think it is a pity that, without waiting for the figures, without waiting for the proof, he should have tried 544 to pre-judge the issue and to some extent— I do not like to use the word menace—to threaten the Government with serious opposition if they feel convinced, after their study of the situation, that compulsory service becomes necessary.
This is not a question of principle at all; it is a question of how to get the men. If they can be got voluntarily, by all means let them come forward. There is no one in this House who wants to enforce compulsion for compulsion's sake. All we want is to make sure of winning the War. For Heaven's sake do not take the line that it does not matter whether you get in the last 500,000 men or not! The fortunes of this War may depend wholly next spring, or next summer, upon which side can put 100,000 men or 200,000 men in the breach at the critical moment. More than that, when you have broken the breach, upon the surplus men you have behind depends the question of whether you can keep that breach open and push your enemy further back and convert defeat into a rout, or whether you enable the enemy to rally again and put up a new line which, for want of men, you will be unable to pierce. The Prime Minister, having promised a few days ago that we should have the figures of Lord Derby's Report before the Adjournment, has now announced that we are not to have them before the Adjournment. He will not even make any definite statement as to when we are to have them after the Adjournment, except that they will be given as soon as is conveniently possible. These figures have been in his hands since the night before last, and I cannot conceive, though the details may be open to a good deal of examination, that the broad results, the broad question as to whether we are going to get the overwhelming bulk of the eligible men or not, has not been clearly shown by those figures. The figures are not here, but I hope I may be allowed to give the figures of one constituency that came to my notice. They are not exceptional; they are not sent to me for any exceptional reasons, but I came across them yesterday. In this constituency 4,400 people were canvassed. Of these it turned out that 700 had already offered to enlist and had been rejected as physically unfit, leaving 3,700. Of that 3,700, about 2,100 or a little more refused to enlist, though 400 or 500 pleaded as a ground that they were not physically fit for the hardships of a campaign. They 545 did not produce evidence to that effect, but they stated that they did not feel physically up to the work of a campaign. Another 1,600 did not give any reason of that sort. Some 1,300 did enlist or promised to enlist. Out of these you have to take the men who are still to be rejected as unfit, or who belong to starred or exempted industries. I doubt if you will be putting the figure low enough if you assume that at the most 1,000 out of those 3,700 eligible or possibly eligible persons will be really available—that is to say, something not very much in excess of one-fourth, if you deduct those who really are required for indispensable industries and those who really are unfit. I believe you ought to get not merely 25 per cent., but 50 or 60 per cent. of the people still to be canvassed. A great many of the 1,300 who promised to enlist may still prove unfit or to be starred persons.
We have all heard in many cases of the rush for attestation on the part of men who knew that they were not going to be accepted. I have come across cases in which these men have been disappointed. I came across the other day the case of a friend of mine who has felt unable throughout this War, owing to the fact that he has a weak heart, varicose veins, and other complaints, to serve as he would wish to serve in His Majesty's Forces. At the last moment, however, thinking that perhaps he might set a good example to his friends and neighbours, though assured by his doctor that he could not possibly pass, he presented himself for enlistment and was duly passed without a word of query or any closer examination. One has heard lots of instances of people from munition works being sent to attest simply to swell the total. [An HON. MEMBER: "And to draw the money!"] Yes, and to draw the money. I believe they draw 2s. 9d. per head. If these figures are thus swollen unnecessarily by 1,000,000 or more, by men whom we cannot take to the Colours, it means that you are at a time of immense expense to the nation, and at a time when the burden of taxation is so heavy, quite unnecessarily saddling the country with heavy cost. There is another point which ought not to be overlooked. There has been surviving from the old days before the War the practice of "bringing money," under which a recruiting sergeant gets 2s. 6d. for every recruit that is brought in. I regret to say that that practice was kept up even after the War 546 began, and I believe that in many places the work of the voluntary canvassers and of the committees has enured to the benefit of some old recruiting sergeant to the amount of 2s. 6d. for every man brought in. I have heard of the case of a recruiting sergeant making £40 or £50 a day, even before the last final rush under Lord Derby's scheme. I do not know what has happened latterly, but I do say that there has been a great deal of unnecessary waste.
I felt very sorry this afternoon when the Prime Minister not only announced a delay in regard to the Munitions Bill, but when he delayed his answer in regard to Lord Derby's scheme. In spite of all his protestations, we are met once more by that fatal habit of putting off unpleasant decisions. Can anyone doubt that if the Derby scheme had brought in an overwhelming bulk of the unmarried and married men we should not have had the fact proclaimed last Thursday, and that the whole of this difficult controversy would have been settled to the heartfelt satisfaction of everyone in this House? As it is, we are told that the figures will require further analysis, and that the Government must consider them thoroughly. I suppose the subterranean scuffles of last autumn are now taking place again and will take place during the Recess, and that when we meet again we shall have further reason given for a further analysis or for some further delay, while all the time the chances of victory are slipping away. I cannot understand this fatal habit of acquiescing in circumstances which are slipping from your grasp every minute. It is not a case of the old Parliamentary situation in which so long as the Government stays in its does not matter whether a Bill is passed this Session or next Session. The question is, that we are fighting an enemy who does not rest, who does not wait, but who strikes when he can. I noticed the day before yesterday that the Prime Minister treated the withdrawal from Suvla and Anzac almost as if it had been the climax of a great and successful campaign. All of us must have admired the skill and resource with which General Birdwood and his staff got away, almost without a single casualty. It does make us feel that the fault is not the fault of the men at the front, or even the Staffs, at any rate most of the Staffs at the front; but the question we have to ask is the question put by the right hon. Member for Trinity College, Dublin, yesterday, why were 547 these men made to suffer during these four months at Suvla? If they could be so successfully removed to some other undesignated sphere of operation, why could they not have been moved at the end of September to help Serbia? They could have been taken to Salonika at that time when the situation was not so fatally—
§ Mr. SPEAKER
I do not think this is the opportunity to review the whole situation of the War. The House is now asked to add 1,000,000 men to the Army, and that is the subject under discussion.
§ Captain AMERY
I thought that in discussing this Vote for the grant of men that we might refer to the military policy of the Government, not only with reference to the organisation at home, but also with reference to military operations, and I should have thought that this was not wholly out of place. It was certainly discussed in Committee yesterday, but I do not wish, of course, to pursue it if it is out of order.
§ Mr. BOOTH
On the point of Order, Sir. I have given notice to raise the question of Serbia, and this Vote is for an additional number of men, not exceeding 1,000,000, in consequence of the War in Europe. I submit that I am entitled to submit that if more enlightened military measures had been taken in Serbia, we should not now require such a large number of men, and the Serbian Army might have, been spared.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
I do not know what occurred in Committee yesterday; what took place is not officially known to me at all. I should have thought it now an inconvenient moment to criticise the Home Government. The hon. and gallant Gentleman does not criticise the action of the troops or the generals, or the staff. He can criticise the Home Government, but his criticism must have reference to the proposal to add to the strength of the Army, unless he goes on to say that he has so little confidence in the present Government that he does not think they ought to have a single man more. Of course, that is the very opposite to what he has said.
§ Captain AMERY
I was referring to what I regarded as the procrastination of the Government, and in view of the fact that the withdrawal of the men from Suvla and Anzac was discussed at great length in Committee, I was submitting that it might have been of inestimable benefit in 548 the whole conduct of the War if our troops had been withdrawn earlier, because it would have added not only to the strength of the Serbian Army, now practically destroyed, but possibly might have brought in the Greek and Rumanian Armies as well, under the conditions which existed then. I do not wish, however, to press the point. The only reason I mentioned it was because it seemed to me only one more illustration of the ineradicable habit of the present Government to put things off. I submit that it would be far better for this country to go short in order to win the War this next summer than to carry on this War—probably badly—on its present scale year after year, and I would say, in conclusion, that I cannot conceive how a policy of putting off is going to win this War. It is not government, it is not administration, it is not strategy. War requires decisive and resolute action, and, up to the present, those qualities are not to be found in the Government as at present constituted.
§ Mr. HOGGE
The hon. Gentleman who has just sat down is like a great many Members of this House, inclined, I think, to address his mind to the increase of men too largely from the point of view that all that is required is an addition to the number of men. As the House knows, those of us who sit below the Gangway in this part of the House are as keen and as anxious to see the victory of this country in the War as any of the Members who have already spoken in this Debate. I have been trying to put myself in the position of my hon. Friend who has just sat down, and endeavouring to appreciate his attitude with the object of seeing whether his point of view or mine is the correct one. I would remind the hon. and gallant Gentleman that he said in one part of his speech that a great deal would depend upon whether or not, at some moment next summer, we might have available an extra force of 200,000 men to push home a certain advantage, and if that advantage were pushed home, to follow it up with men at home who were training. I should rather like to have it explained to me by any other Member who takes my hon. Friend's view how, even under Lord Derby's Scheme, this is going to be achieved, because, as we know, groups 2, 3, 4, and 5 are not to be called up until 20th January, and the period of time between that date and the middle of summer, for which my hon. Friend wants the extra men to train for this result, is a period of 549 about five months. He will agree, therefore, that, if it depends on troops training for nearly five months, that would not be a particularly good way. Having said that, I would remind the House that the Minister of Munitions took exactly the same view of what is required, that is 200,000 extra men, and, if what the Minister of Munitions said was accurate, we ought to do all we can to supply that extra force of men. The difficulty will be considerable unless he is provided with more skilled and unskilled men for work in the factories which are not yet in active operation. If that be so, I want my right hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for War to answer, if he can, a question which I propose to address to him. I admit the justice of the criticism by other Members of the House about the "too lateness," in very many aspects, of the Government with regard to the conduct of the War. Does not this question of the extra 1,000,000 of men depend upon whether or not the House can be informed about and can appreciate the virtue of national stocktaking? The President of the Board of Trade, in the Debate yesterday, made it perfectly clear, at any rate, that he had come to conclusions with which we can or cannot agree as to how far and in what way we can use the 1,000,000 men that we are now asked for. I want to go even further on this point of national stocktaking, and I should like to see it discussed and some sort of reply given in regard to it. After all, we are not fighting this War alone. My hon. Friend has just pointed out the extreme importance of being in a position, in the early summer, to make such a strategic stroke as will have some effect in quickening the conclusion of the War. I take it that that is the point I must meet, and, therefore, I want to know if the Allies have had any international stocktaking?
We had the President of the Board of Trade yesterday giving us the results of national stocktaking, and I think his speech was very fair indeed; it did not attempt to conceal from the House where men could be taken from and where men could not be taken from. He specifically mentioned certain trades where he said, according to the information before him, men could be spared, and certain trades in the country from which, according to his view, no men could be spared at all. That brings me to emphasise the point which I suggest might be discussed with advantage, namely, as to whether in these 550 circumstances it is worth our while to give the Government more men to put into the fighting line at the moment which Members, like the hon. Member who has just sat down, think it is essential that they should be there. I do not think, and I imagine the hon. Member will agree with me, that if we give the Government 1,000,000 men they can be trained before the summer of next year. I am not a military man, and I do not understand the value of strategy, and so on, except so far as I have been able to make myself acquainted with from outside. I have always been led to understand that, for instance, our Ally, Russia, has a great number of men available, and that her greatest potentiality is soldiers in the field—that is to say, that Russia as a nation can probably put more men, as men, into the field than we as an industrial nation can do. Has the Government made up its mind on this question, as to equipping those men who are not now equipped among our Allies and putting them in the field, whether we might win the War much more quickly than by taking our men from industry? It may be said in reply that that is asking other people to fight for you, but I think every Member will agree that that allegation cannot be made against Great Britain in this War. I do not think that any Ally, or any independent critic, can for a moment say that this nation has shirked its responsibilities in contributions to the War; but that one point seems to weigh with me, and keeps turning over in my mind, as to whether for practical purposes, and practical purposes after all are the purposes which will secure victory, it would not be more worth the Government's while to address themselves to what I have ventured to call international stocktaking, and to see whether or not better or more effective use could be made of any one of our contributions in any particular part of the field.
If I felt assured on that point, I should feel very happy in granting the extra 1,000,000 of men I have no objection to the Government having the extra 1,000,000 men, or every man that they require to finish this work effectively, but it would be a great satisfaction to me and to many others, who think like me, if we knew that the Government were addressing themselves to this question, as well as to the other questions, such as the Derby scheme. I agree with my hon. Friend that we shall be in the thick of 551 difficulties when we come back after the Recess, and we shall be discussing all these kinds of questions, and the more we discuss them the more likely are our minds to be diverted from the real issue before us, which is to get home a stroke which will achieve victory. If the Home Secretary, for instance, or any other Member of the Cabinet, could really assure the House that the Government have given attention already, as I imagine they must have done, to some of these things, and would tell us that they have calculated together with Russia and with France and with Italy what men they have got, and what ships they have got, and what money they have got, and what other facilities they have got to act in co-operation, and so that they could be used effectively; if we were assured of that, I am satisfied we would not quarrel so much about the numbers of the men, and the way in which they are to be used. I do venture to suggest that that assurance might be given to the country. There are a great many other points to which I intended to refer, but I think the one I have mentioned is so important, that by confining myself to that point, I may be able to get a reply; while if I advanced a number of points I might not get that reply.
§ Sir ALFRED MOND
The point which the hon. Member has just raised is, of course, in the minds of many Members. I quite agree with him in thinking that it would lead to a great deal of satisfaction and to the avoidance of a great deal of useless discussion, if the Government could see their way to give us a little more information on general questions, than has been given up to now. As a matter of fact, on all the discussions we have had on the subject of men, and the somewhat heated discussion, on the voluntary and compulsory systems, I have always felt it to be a great difficulty, as I am sure many other hon. Members have, that we never have any information before us in regard to figures to enable us to form any kind of reasonable conclusion whatever. In this whole Debate we have had one figure given to us by the Prime Minister, and that was that we had about a million and a quarter of men at the front. We do not know what that vague phrase means. For instance, we do not know whether Egypt is looked on as part of the front, or not. We do not know up to this moment whether the 3,000,000 men Parliament has already voted have been 552 recruited or not. Surely we are entitled to know that before we are asked to vote any more men. I can only assume that we should not be asked to vote any more, except that the 3,000,000 men have been recruited, and that therefore a further vote is required. If that is the case, I cannot see what objection there possibly can be to an official statement on the subject. We have been told that it was unwise for us to know how many men we have recruited, because it would be giving information to the enemy. I should have thought that the figure of the men at the front was an infinitely more confidential figure and more useful to the enemy than the figure of the total we have recruited. Without knowing these facts it is extraordinarily difficult to form any intelligent idea on the matter. A great many Members and people outside have a kind of vague idea that when you have three million men recruited they are all in the trenches. We have never had such a War as this, and I really think it would be a very useful thing if some kind of explanatory and general statement were made, though it might seem quite elementary to some, as to the reserves wanted at home in order to keep up the number of men at the front. An hon. Gentleman said just now that the men who are enlisting now would not be ready perhaps by early spring, or even early summer. I do not suppose that the military authorities expect them to be ready, but want to be certain of being able to keep up a certain strength at the front, by having reserves at home.
§ Sir A. MOND
Yes, but we have never had any kind of figure. We are not told whether you want two men at home for one man at the front, or one man at home for one man at the front, or on what basis the number of men being raised is being utilised. That makes it extremely difficult to comprehend it clearly what the policy is. It is quite true that the Under-Secretary said yesterday, in a general way, that their wastage was very large, and that therefore these men would be required. That is scarcely a sufficient explanation to tell this assembly as to policy. I would go a little further and say that we really find it difficult to follow in any way, and I do not complain of this because it would be impossible to give it to us, the distribution of our forces at present. We cannot of course be told how many men are in the 553 different spheres of operation, and I do not say we should, but I think we might be told a little more of the general position, the general figures and policy. For instance, I do not take it, although it has been commonly assumed in this Debate, that these 1,000,000 men will all be recruited and wanted at once. This Debate has largely gone on the basis that these 1,000,000 men were going to be recruited right away in the next few weeks. I suppose that the idea is to take them gradually over a given period, and I think it would be revealing no great secrets to tell us in what proportion, and in what period, it is proposed to call them up.
With regard to the general discussion we all seem to wander round in a kind of vicious circle, according to our own particular predilection. 'There are those who say we do not want men, but munitions, and there are those who say we want men and munitions, and there are those who say we must keep up trade. Those conflicting interests find partisans, who prove to their own satisfaction that their particular point of view is the most important. This is not confined merely to Members of this House. It seems to me to be in the Government itself, and it seems to be a point of controversial character amongst the heads of different Departments, as to what our policy ought to be. You cannot win a war without men, and during the events of the last few weeks there has been more than one occasion when, if we had more men, we should have been able to achieve more results. We have all heard different unofficial accounts of the battle of Suvla Bay, and, like all unofficial accounts, they are probably more or less inaccurate. I was told, for instance, that if they had had only another division to support them at the time, the battle would have been won, but that they were short of men. That may be true or not, but that is the information I have had from several people who were present. Take the Serbian situation. There is no doubt of the fact that if we had at our disposal more men whom we could have dispatched earlier, we should not be in the mess we are in there now. I cannot, therefore, understand how people can argue that we have got enough men and do not want more. I see that there is much talk about the question of Egypt, and some figures are given which, while not perhaps very reliable, are sufficiently substantial to show that we shall require a considerable 554 number of men in order to defend Egypt. When men tell me that it is very important to maintain the American exchange and the balance of trade, I sometimes wonder what would be the value of the balance of trade or of the American exchange if, for instance, we managed to lose Egypt and the control of the Suez Canal. I do not see how you can measure these things in terms of finance. You have got an opponent who is prepared to let the exchange go against him to the extent that we see during the War, and in my opinion yon cannot fight on the lines that you will not mobilise because you want to keep your finances in a better position.
Nothing could be more misleading than the extraordinary references to the Napoleonic campaign and the kind of theory that at that time we had a great strategy, which consisted in conserving our finances and conserving our sea power, and fighting as little as possible on land. Personally, I cannot see from history that we had any very definite policy at that time. The one thing that is very certain is that the war went on for twenty years, and that it was finally settled in a battle on land, and that it nearly brought this country to bankruptcy. I think every general at that time would have said, and probably did say, that if there had been larger military forces that the war would have been brought to a conclusion many years before. I think what we ought to learn from that campaign is that it is not a cheap process to drag out a war for many years because of insufficient military forces, and that it is really cheaper to suffer temporary financial drawbacks and to shorten the War. That point seems frequently overlooked. If you have got a war costing £5,000,000 per day, or £150,000,000 per month, and if you can close that war two months earlier by putting all your energy into the fighting, you will save an expenditure of £300,000,000. The whole of your exports only amount to £400,000,000 for the twelve months. I cannot understand myself, as a business proposition, why, in order to protect £400,000,000 worth of production for twelve months, you should go on dragging on a war which is costing £150,000,000 per month. I do not want to be understood as saying for a moment that I do not fully understand the gravity of the financial position. I am as much interested in the maintenance of the export trade as most hon. Members in this House. What I say is that all these things cannot be made primary. You cannot carry on war on a 555 limited liability system. You cannot say that the number of men must be limited by this or that factor. It can only be limited by the military necessities. All other points must be secondary. The hon. Member for East Edinburgh (Mr. Hogge) spoke about the Russian forces. It is quite true that Russia has a very large number of men. She may have 5,000,000 on her frontier, but that may not enable her to put enough men on the Western front and bring about a decisive issue there. It certainly cannot help you to defend Egypt. Therefore the argument as to the number of men and the equipment of Russia cannot be taken in an absolute sense.
§ Sir A. MOND
That may be, but I do not know of any method by which you could transport the Russian Army to the Western front. It is true we once had certain rumours in that sense, and had it been possible it would probably have been done long ago. I cannot imagine Germany not having considered the points raised by the hon. Member for East Edinburgh, as they are quite elementary. With regard to the manufacture of munitions and other things, there is an elasticity in production much greater than has been commonly imagined. I do not know that even the President of the Board of Trade—with whose able speech we all thoroughly agree—and his officials have sufficient regard to that question of elasticity. One of the most remarkable facts in this country is that we have enormous bodies of men withdrawn from their ordinary occupations and yet the trade of the country relatively is carried on with much less disturbance than anybody would have dreamt to be possible. That shows that there is an enormous amount of reserve labour, either labour which can do more than it is doing or labour which is not employed in ordinary times. After all, in this country we have done very little relatively in the way of the substitution of women's labour, as compared with what has been done in France and Germany. I can never understand why it should be so much more difficult for us to do things which our Allies or even our opponents can do. We ought to be able to mobilise in this country an equivalent portion of our men to what they can. When I hear that people 556 are indispensable to this or that, I often feel that if these people were not there it would be found that they were not indispensable. This is rather against myself because, as one engaged in manufacture, no one knows better than I do the intense difficulty of obtaining labour and of carrying on. But I also know that some of the difficulties can be overcome, and that there are a large number of people who are not employed in any industry which is really valuable or necessary to the country.
I advocated many months ago that what we wanted was a register of industries. I still believe that that is the right thing. The President of the Board of Trade yesterday spoke about a schedule of occupations. I do not think that occupations are the cardinal thing. Industries are the cardinal thing. If you have industries that you do not want for munitions or export, a great many of those industries can be temporarily abandoned and the people engaged transferred to industries which you want to carry on. Your schedule of occupations does not give you that information at all, nor is it from that point of view of any value. The idea that occupation is decisive contains a fallacy. When you are carrying on munition factories unskilled men are just as necessary as skilled men. Your schedule of occupations would say that you must not take any more fitters, or turners, or skilled men. Your unskilled men do not come into it at all. But all your skilled men are useless unless you have unskilled men as well. What the Government must make up its mind about is not what class of labour they want to retain, but what industries they want carried on. When they have done that, I think we shall be in a much better position. The competition between the Ministry of Munitions, the Army, and other Departments, is disconcerting, and the contradictory statements which we hear every day are confusing and embarrassing to the ordinary Member. I have pressed on the Minister of Munitions himself the getting back of skilled men from the Army. One of the reasons of the difficulty in doing that has been the insufficiency of other men to take their place. Under the present system of recruiting one of the most serious difficulties of the voluntary system has been that the military authorities have been so delighted when they have got hold of a recruit that nothing in the world would make them let go of him. You have filled your Army with boys, and you will not let 557 them go again. When you have a boy of seventeen who looks like eighteen and a half you say, "We must keep that boy"; but you would not keep that boy if you could substitute for him a man of twenty. Our military authorities have never been able to say, as the French Minister for War can say, "We have so many men, and can use them in such and such a way." It is not fair to keep on blaming the War Office when that is the state of affairs. The War Office has many stains on its soul, but if you take the position of our Minister for War and compare it with that of the War Minister of any of the Powers that are fighting either with us or against us it will be seen that he is working under a most unfair handicap. The Allies' Ministers for War have practically from the outbreak of the War known to a small fraction the number of men at their disposal, when they wanted them, when they could equip them, and where they wanted them. Our Minister for War has never known from week to week or month to month the number of men he could get, what equipment he could provide, or when the men would come. The authorities have had to take them in rushes, and then there have been long periods when nothing has happened. How can you expect to get any organised or rational system? It is impossible. What is the use of blaming overworked officials if you put them under this colossal handicap? I hope the Derby group system will, at any rate, assist to do away with that. The group system is a very old one. It was proposed by many of us at the beginning of the War, and would have saved a great deal of confusion.
There is one question which I have raised before, and which becomes more urgent every day; that is, what steps are you going to take to enable the middle-class married man, who is now attested under the Derby scheme, to enter the ranks without suffering grave financial damage, if not absolute financial ruin? In the past you have recruited the Army very largely either from people whose financial position was such that they could go, even at sacrifice, but without absolute ruin, or from classes whom the separation allowance and pay permitted to carry on their ordinary economic existence. Now you are enlisting in the ranks large numbers of middle-class men. These people held back because of the financial difficulty. In France, and other Continental countries, who have thought more about war than 558 we have, legislation has been and is being provided to protect the man who is fighting for his country from being evicted from his home. I have proposed that we should pass legislation which would enable any man who enlists to state before a competent tribunal his position in regard to contractual obligations. You have a case of this kind. A man has a lease of a house for five years, at a rent of, say, £75 a year. What is the man to do about that? He goes away and get 1s. 2d. a day, and his wife gets 12s. 6d. a week. How is he to pay the £75 a year? Is the landlord to be allowed to seize the furniture and sell that man up because he has gone to defend his country? Is the man to come back burdened with a debt of four or five years' rent? Surely it would be only common fairness to allow the man to cancel the lease. When the State is calling upon him to undertake duties which make it impossible for him to fulfil his contractual obligations, surely the State must liberate him from those obligations. Or take a man who is paying considerable life insurance premiums. He has to pay, say, £50 a year premiums. Are you going to let the life assurance company lapse his policy, the only provision for his wife and family, to which he has contributed for many years, because he has gone to defend his country? It is unthinkable. Take, again, a man with furniture under a hire-purchase agreement. Is he to lose the benefit of all the payments he has made?
This question will have to be settled. I have had, and no doubt other Members have had, numbers of letters pointing out these hardships, and asking what is to be done. What I have proposed seems to me very fair and very moderate—much more moderate than what has been done in any other country. In France no action of any kind lies against any soldier under the Colours. The same is the law of Switzerland. A man taken by the State to the Colours is freed from any civil liability, his family pay no rent, you cannot distrain his furniture or his goods. I see they have gone even further. If a man come back wounded or diseased he can go to the Court and claim to have his liabilities reduced or cancelled on the ground that owing to the War and his wounds or disease, he is no longer in the same business position as before. If he is killed, his family can go and claim to be relieved from the obligation. That is a point which will have to be considered, 559 because otherwise, not only may a man's little savings be claimed for compensation for the non-payment of rent or the non-fulfilment of obligations, but the man may lose his life as well. I hope that question will receive legislative attention at an early date. Already many cases of very-great hardship have arisen. I really think that, when it grasps the point, this country will not tolerate that a man should be asked to sacrifice his life and health, give up his career, damage his business, and at the same time face financial ruin. It is so monstrous a proposition that it has only to be stated in order that its impossibility may be shown. I know the objection is urged, What is to become of the people to whom this rent is payable? What is to become of them? It may be the only form of livelihood—
§ 7.0 P.M.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
The hon. Member is suggesting a number of legislative proposals. I do not think any of them are relevant to this discussion, which is simply as to whether or not the Army is to be increased by 1,000,000 men. The other questions as to provision for members of the middle classes who give up their houses, and so on, is already a difficulty; but that question does not necessarily arise on this Vote for an increase of men.
§ Sir A. MOND
I bow to your ruling. I only introduced the subject because under the Derby scheme you will be calling up a large number of people for whom provision will have to be made. I thought, perhaps, that in that way the matter might be relevant to our discussion; but I naturally accept your ruling, and will not continue that point. I hope, however, that on some of the various points which have been raised we may have some further reply from the Government. I feel quite convinced, in spite of the various and divergent views which have been expressed during this Debate, that only one real fundamental thought underlies the words of every speaker—that is, that we all want to win the War. We may not quite agree as to the best policy to adopt for this purpose, but so long as we are all agreed on the main purpose I have no doubt we shall never very seriously quarrel in regard to the method.
I am very sorry that in this Debate we have had introduced at considerable length some of the old controversy relating to voluntary and compulsory service. 560 Personally, I feel that discussion on these matters for the moment is entirely useless. The Cabinet have got figures under consideration which may prove—I hope they will prove—that this subject may be considered as a closed chapter. Or the figures may prove that the Prime Minister's pledge must be carried out, and in that case any further discussion would seem to be unnecessary. But I cannot understand how a certain section of Members of this House can consider that they are facilitating this matter by various attacks— some of them yesterday—particularly that by the hon. Member for East Mayo (Mr. Dillon)—and by stating in advance that they desire to impose another policy upon the Prime Minister. After the solemn promise of the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister, the Government cannot possibly go back. There cannot be the faintest idea of going back upon the pledges they have given, I or the policy they have laid down. I deprecate hon. Members in advance preparing opposition to the Government proposals if they become necessary, and raising difficulties and controversies. It introduces an unnecessary amount of heat into this matter, and seems to me a very serious and a very unpatriotic thing to do. If the Government consider, after examining all the papers, that substantially the single men of this country have come forward, and that they have enough men to go on with, nobody—at least, none of those with whom I have worked—will have the slightest desire to raise any further question. If the contrary is the case— and it is on that basis that we have kept quiet now for two months, and have never raised this question either in or out of the House—we feel certain that the Government will adhere to the policy which has been laid down. On the strength of it, and in the certainty of it, not only have large numbers of married men enlisted, but large numbers of unmarried men have enlisted. It will be an unthinkable thing if, having enlisted vast numbers of unmarried men who were told that if they did not come now they would be fetched, and got them into the Army, you now turn round and say, "Oh, you were foolish to come, for those who stayed outside are going to be allowed to stay outside." It would be a monstrous thing. There would be a revolution in this country if any such step were taken. Such a step cannot be taken, and ought not to be taken. Therefore, I am surprised that practically the 561 whole of yesterday was taken up with a repetition of arguments which, though perhaps relevant to the discussion on the remarks of the Prime Minister on 2nd November, certainly are entirely irrelevant to the present situation, and in no sense can have any real effect upon the conduct of the Government when they come to examine the Derby figures and formulate their conclusions and their policy.
§ Mr. BOOTH
I agree with the right hon. Gentleman who has just sat down on the last point he made. I made it yesterday, so I need not trouble the House with it now. It did seem to me, as one of those Members more or less in an average position, neither in favour of nor against Conscription, and who has taken no part in the controversy, that after the position set up by the Prime Minister, the least we can do is to wait for the result of the Derby scheme without attempting to prejudice it by premature debate. I would like to put a few questions to the right hon. Gentleman the Under-Secretary for War. In the 1,000,000 men the Government are asking for, are there included any medical men? I take it that the Government have carefully thought out that point, and will know whether any portion of this Vote is devoted to Army doctors. I have always understood that the proportion of doctors in the Boer War had been adopted on the Continent. [An HON. MEMBER: "NO."] I suggest you do not need really a corresponding increase in the doctors now, especially in view of the fact that many are sadly needed at home. In these days of motor cars and quick movement we need not stick to the old basis of doctors in the Boer War, where the distances were enormous and the field-transit perhaps not so efficient. I put this question at the request of certain doctors who are personal friends, and who have come back from the front, and I think that this perhaps is a good opportunity to answer it. The complaint of some doctors is that they have never been employed even on the busiest days. If some of them are to be connected with this new 1,000,000 men that may mean a further withdrawal from this country.
The second question I desire to put to my right hon. Friend is as to whether he is in a position to say anything about Serbia. I feel I would rather put this matter in the form of a question than make any statement on this Vote. I make the inquiry because I am deeply concerned about the 562 matter. I do not know whether this Vote is wanted for an Army for Serbia. Probably the right hon. Gentleman could not give an answer to that. If he keeps his own counsel upon that matter I will not press him, but it would relieve many of us who are intensely anxious about it, if he could say that the Army was not at fault, and will not be at fault, in the matter of giving help to Serbia. I would like the War Office to be able to assure the House that if there have been any misfortunes, and if the Serbians have been disappointed, that it is not the fault of our Army. In conclusion I want to ask the right hon. Gentleman if he has got a statistical department at the War Office? A million men is a round figure. In business we get very suspicious of round figures. I have never known any well-managed business but what got a little shy of round figures. It looks as if there had been no detailed calculations. We are alarmed upon these points because the Minister of Munitions said there was no statistical department at Woolwich until he took it over. If there was none at the War Office with regard to the output of munitions at Woolwich, have the War Office got a statistical department with regard to men? The question has been asked whether the 3,000,000 men already voted have or have not actually enlisted. I do not want figures, but does anyone know the figures? Have the War Office got them? We got some in regard to the employment of our men abroad. The Prime Minister gave us one definite figure—I thought he was rather bold in perhaps saying what he did, but no doubt his statement was well-considered—that was that we had a million and a quarter of men at the front. We are asked to vote another million. If these all go to the front that will nearly double our fighting forces. When will they go? Has the War Office got a statistical department by means of which they can immediately trace these men. I do not mean that they should publish this list day by day or week by week, but my right hon. Friend will remember that I have never put a single question down in regard to our forces. After about five years of silence, however, I claim the right of free speech. If I put a question down, I do not say it would be in the form of inconvenient questions relating to men, guns, or operations. I have not put one down, and I do not propose to do it now, but I think I am entitled to ask whether the figures are correctly kept—if even my 563 right hon. Friend or his chief knows? Do they know? Do they make their staff keep up a daily record? Business men in the House will know the importance of what I am now putting forward. When Coates, of Scotland, took in hand a great firm in the United States to effect economy, the first thing they did was to set up a statistical department at the cost of £10,000 per annum. That was their first item of economy. The same in regard to economy of men. If the Government are fully informed on their merits and where they are available, they really could do less. That is so in every business, and I am perfectly certain it will be so in the Army.
§ Colonel YATE
May I just say how-much indebted we are to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Swansea for the conclusive way in which he proved to us how much cheaper it is for us to shorten the War by having an Army at full strength than to allow it to drag on for want of men. We are also indebted to him for pointing out that the military necessities at the front should decide what men should go. We must all, I think, agree with that. Yesterday, I am sorry to say, I heard, I think it was the hon. Member for Hexham, say that we could fight this War better with three millions of men and our trade, than with four millions of men without our trade. I wondered at the time if that hon. Member considered where his trade would be if we lost the War. Has he considered what has happened to trade and everything else in Belgium? I should like to support what has been said by the hon. Member for Birmingham (Captain Amery) as to the state of our second-line units at the present time, and as to the urgent necessity of their receiving more men. The hon. Member for East Edinburgh recalled to our minds a while ago that the new recruits now being called up are not coming up till the 20th January. I am sorry that so long a time has been given. I would sooner have seen them called up in a fortnight than a month, for the sooner we get these extra men the better. I wonder if hon. Members who think that we ought to delay in getting out these men have considered the state of our forces in this country who are now preparing for war?
Only yesterday I heard of a division of second-line Territorial units which is under orders, I was told, to go abroad in 564 March. Now a division, we all know, is supposed to consist of 18,000 to 20,000 men, complete with Artillery, Cavalry, Army Service Corps, medical and all other units, but the main strength is Infantry, 12,000 men. Here is a division under orders to go abroad in March with its twelve regiments with an average strength of 400 men, so that, instead of 12,000 men, it was only 4,800. How can we expect Territorial regiments to be fit to go abroad when they are at that strength? The question of getting these men is a very urgent one, and yesterday I took the liberty of trying to call the attention of the Prime Minister to the enormous amount of wastage in men rejected as unfit, and I do appeal to him to urge a national effort so as to bring in these men and so that those under age may be ready to enlist the moment they are nineteen, and not be allowed to run to waste as at present. I calculate that our wastage of unfit men, the majority of whom could be made fit, is more than 25 per cent. of those who come up to enlist. I have asked for a return of the number rejected, and I sincerely hope the War Office' will grant it. I will not press that further now. I hope that this question will not be left to private effort, but that we shall have a national effort to get in these men and train up these boys so as to be ready to enlist them at the earliest possible moment. I do urge that this new 1,000,000 men should be called up at the earliest possible moment, and that we should try to get on with Lord Derby's scheme with the least possible delay.
§ Commander BELLAIRS
I do not rise for the purpose of making a speech, but simply to ask the Under-Secretary of State for War whether, since the whole question is one of figures, and we have no figures before us, he will give an answer to the question as to what constitutes a negligible number of unmarried men not coming forward. If he will give us within 10,000, 50,000, or 100,000, the House might have something to go upon in the future. That is the only measuring rule the House could possibly possess, and we do not possess it. The other point to which I wish to refer arises out of the speech of the hon. Member for Edinburgh. He said, why not turn aside to the question of equipping Russians instead of raising so many men? It is obvious that the equipping of Russians is an extremely difficult thing owing to the lack of communications. It 565 is obvious that the great argument for this country to raise men is that we, with our great sea power, can secretly transport men to any part of the world, and, therefore, they can threaten in many directions and force the Germanic Powers to turn aside to defensive measures on many different coasts. It is more important that this country should raise extra men than that any one of our Allies should do so; in fact, the only other country which can raise extra men is Russia, and the difficulty is to equip them and supply them with munitions. Therefore, I do hope that as it is of importance that we should raise extra men, the measuring rule which the Cabinet will apply when they come to deal with Lord Derby's figures—and I agree with my hon. Friend this question could have been settled in two days if they really knew what their measuring rule was—will be a very small figure indeed, and if that small figure is not reached the Cabinet will resort to compulsory powers at once.
§ Mr. ANEURIN WILLIAMS
I think the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Swansea, and many others who have spoken to-day, have entirely misunderstood the comments which have been made in this House with regard to compulsion of unmarried men. It has been suggested again and again that certain persons have been trying to get the Prime Minister to go back upon his promise in regard to that matter—not a very likely enterprise, I imagine, if anybody had undertaken it— but, as I understand the matter, nobody has undertaken it at all, and nothing that has been said in this House has had that object. It all arises, I think, from a misunderstanding of what the Prime Minister did say. The Prime Minister did not, as I think, suggest compelling all young unmarried men who had not enrolled, but he did suggest that it might be necessary to take such steps with those of them who remain unenrolled without reasonable cause. Now that is not the crude statement by any means that some people have made on that subject, and which some other people seem to be anxious to attribute to the Prime Minister. An example of the great difference has been brought to light recently, when it was found necessary to declare that unmarried men with mothers, and the orphans of brothers, and other people dependent upon them, were to be put into the same class as married men of the same age with dependants. Nevertheless, there is a ten- 566 dency, which I very much deprecate, to assume that all those unmarried men who have not enrolled have remained unenrolled without any good cause. That is what we have protested against, and we should certainly protest if there were any attempt to act on that assumption—a totally false assumption—as if it were a true assumption. I can say that in the district I represent, which is a typical mining and manufacturing district, I have good reason to believe that the men, whether married or single, who have remained unenrolled without good reasonable cause, are very few indeed. Very nearly all the men of military age in that district are, I believe, accounted for either as having enrolled or enlisted, or as being medically unfit, or as having some other very good reason why they have not enlisted—a large number of them colliers, munition workers, and so forth.
What we do ask is that, before condemning the unenrolled men, they should be given an opportunity to come before the tribunals, or some proper body, and explain the reasons why they are unenrolled. Then, I think, there should be an attempt made to meet their difficulties and to remove their difficulties. Some of the difficulties have been very well dealt with by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Swansea this afternoon. Men of that class such as he spoke of could have their case, I think, put very much higher even than he put it. An appeal is made to them to disregard these considerations and come forward and sacrifice themselves for their country. I believe the great majority of them would be perfectly willing to do so; but are you going to ask them to sacrifice their mothers, in many cases broken-down old ladies, who would be utterly helpless if their sons went away? Are you going to ask them to sacrifice the orphans of soldier brothers who have been killed, sisters they are educating, and so on? You must try to meet the special difficulties of these men, and this you will only do if you give them a fair opportunity of explaining the reasons why they are not enrolled.
Then there are grievances extending over a much wider area, with regard to dependants' allowances, for instance. I am not going into details now. We have brought them again and again before the War Office, and I am bound to say with very little result indeed. The door seems to be shut by the fact that there was a Committee which sat upon the question 567 some time ago and made a certain Report. I do not think that is right, if you are asking people to come forward; and I am perfectly sure that attitude towards dependants' allowances has stood very much in the way of recruiting, if not of enrolling under the Derby scheme. If these opportunities are given to men to explain their position I believe you will find there are very few shirkers in this country. I do not think it runs in the blood of Englishmen. Meanwhile, I suggest there would be no harm done, because the young unmarried men who have enrolled under Lord Derby's scheme are amply sufficient to supply the needs of the Army for many more weeks than would be necessary to make these inquiries. My own belief is— and it is the belief of all of us who stand by the voluntary principle—that by the voluntary principle, if properly applied, and carefully and generously applied, you will get practically all the men who are of any fighting value in this country. Of course, I may be mistaken about that; but if I am mistaken, the steps I have suggested are, in my opinion, none the less absolutely necessary, because without them I do not think it will be possible to go forward to other measures and still maintain the national unity which we all glory in.
§ Mr. TENNANT
The Debate has roamed over a large field, and has been a very interesting one. I think, perhaps, I might deal at first with the question raised by the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Maidstone (Commander Bellairs), because the subject that he raised was one on which the Prime Minister was expected to say something yesterday in introducing this Vote and was unable to do so, and that is the subject, no doubt, which is uppermost in most minds to-day—I mean the numbers of men who are coming forward, and who have expressed themselves as willing to come forward under Lord Derby's scheme. The hon. and gallant Gentleman asked me to reveal some figures. I am sure he really did not expect a reply in the affirmative to that request, because I know if he were in my position he would feel debarred from anticipating any figures or anything the Prime Minister might say—indeed, it would not be possible for me to do so. I can only share his hope that the numbers of young unmarried men who have not come forward may be a negligible quantity which he indicated he had in his mind. That, of course, is the sub- 568 ject which has occupied a very large amount of the time of the House during the sitting which we had until 5.35 this morning and during part of the discussion to-day. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Swansea touched upon the question of whether we should be driven to have compulsion or no compulsion. I would dismiss it by saying that I think the great majority of men—certainly outside this House and a very large proportion inside the House—are prepared to do whatever is recommended by the Prime Minister and the Government in this case. I believe if and when the Government should find it necessary to resort to what I have called other means, then they will have the great bulk of their countrymen with them in asking for such powers. The hon. Member for Devizes (Mr. Peto) began the discussion by asking for information with regard to the taking of drafts from the second-line units. As I have already indicated, it has not been possible for the Government to define with any degree of the permanence which evidently the hon. Member hankers after, what shall be the actual function of the second-line units. I do not think that by drawing upon them, and by placing them in three different spheres of utility, that you are thereby placing them in an impossible position. I realise that to take drafts from them is a worse use to put them to, but I am sure the hon. Gentleman will agree that many of the officers in the second-line units would only be too glad if they were chosen as drafts to go abroad, but it would deplete them, and that is not a proper proceeding. Where you have not enough people to draw upon beggars cannot be choosers, and I do not think the Govern-men have done wrong in bringing up the strength of the units serving in the face of the enemy in this way, even at the cost of irritating or annoying the gentlemen serving at home, when the great purpose which they had in mind is achieved merely by that operation. I hope what I have said will give a little hope to the hon. Gentleman, and when the numbers are shown of Lord Derby's scheme I am very hopeful that we shall be able to find sufficient numbers wherewith to bring up to establishment strength all these second-line units and complete their training, which is in a very advanced condition.
§ Mr. TENNANT
Some may have deteriorated, but I cannot believe that that 569 applies to the whole of the second-line, and at any rate I hope it is not the case. With regard to what the hon. Gentleman opposite (Captain Amery) has said, I think he might encourage us sometimes with a few of his hopes and not always give us his fears. He might give his hopes a little chance and not always see bad things when he gazes upon the Bench upon which I have the misfortune to sit.
§ Mr. TENNANT
I would like to give an illustration of how astoundingly the hon. Member looks upon things. Because my right hon. Friend the Minister of Munitions had to go down to fulfil a public engagement to-day the Munitions Bill had to be postponed, and the hon. Member for South Birmingham (Mr. Amery) says, "Oh, this is another illustration of the postponements of the Government. They are always procrastinating and vacillating, and they are never ever able to do anything," and this simply because the Minister of Munitions had to fulfil a public engagement.
§ Captain AMERY
What I said was that the Munitions Bill having been postponed until the first day after we meet again, we did not have an assurance that we were going to have the question of recruiting dealt with even on the second or the third day after the adjournment.
§ Mr. TENNANT
I understand the hon. Member's explanation, but I do not think I have given a very bad example of his mind, which is quite continuous and never varies, and in that he is very consistent. I would like to come now to the speech of my right hon. Friend the Member for Swansea (Sir A. Mond) who asked one or two questions about the 3,000,000 men whom we have previously voted, and to whom we are now adding an additional 1,000,000. The right hon. Gentleman asked me if the 3,000,000 have already been enlisted. The Prime Minister made a statement on that subject yesterday in which he said he thought we were still on the right side—that is to say, we have not broken the law. I think that is an accurate statement of the fact, and I hope we have not broken the law, although I should not really like to swear to it.
§ Mr. TENNANT
Yes, that is so. My right hon. Friend asked me to give him figures on this point, but I find it Very difficult to do that. I can, however, give him one figure which, I think, will satisfy him. He asked me what amount of reserves we ought to provide in order to keep our Army in the field up to strength. The figure is for every man we keep abroad we ought to have at home in reserve 1.8— that is to say, 15 per cent. per month is the wastage at the front. I do not think there is any harm in giving that figure. I agree with what my right hon. Friend said that we cannot run the War on a limited liability scale, and that was a perfect answer to the speech made yesterday by my hon. Friend who sits behind me (Mr. Holt). I am sure most hon. Members in this House realise that you cannot say at any particular moment what your requirements in men may be in the course of the next three or six months, or even in a year. I have been asked whether we have come to any conclusion in concert with our Allies as to the relative proportion of duties to be undertaken by us. That is a question of the adjustment of balance, and what is the best thing for each of us to do. The reason I ask the House to have confidence in what the Government is doing is that the Prime Minister disclosed yesterday what had been made public before, that there had been an increasing number of international conferences between the responsible heads of the Allies, and he gave us as an illustration the Paris Conference. I think that is the reason why the House may have confidence that what is being done is founded upon the combined wisdom of the responsible heads of the great fighting departments, as well as the civil heads of the States with whom we are allied. I would also say in that connection that we are able to serve the Allied cause not only by placing large numbers of men in the field, but also by putting at the service of our Allies transports which they have not got, credit in money, and, in some cases, we have supplied them with munitions of war. When one realises those things, one has to form in one's own mind some conclusion as to whether the greatest amount of assistance that can be rendered is being rendered to the cause of the Allies. I know that there are a certain number of right hon. Gentlemen in the House who are genuinely of opinion that we have bitten off a little more than we can chew, and that we have undertaken much more 571 than it is possible for us adequately to fulfil. I hope they will not allow those fears to dominate them. Naturally I am of a hopeful temperament myself.
I do not think that this country is performing a remarkable work in all the Departments I have mentioned. The transporting of vast numbers of men and large quantities of munitions over the seas, the provision of munitions, the provision of credit in money, and the financing of our Allies, together with the putting into the field of over 1,250,000 men, is a task in which anyone who has had the smallest responsibility in achieving, must in future years legitimately feel proud. The hon. Member for South Birmingham (Mr. Amery) asked me whether it would be possible now to do away with certain distinctions in the Army between Territorials, the New Army, and the Regular Forces. I view with great favour such a proposal, though it does not come to us quite as a novelty, but I am sure my hon. and gallant Friend knows the difficulties in the path of any such reform. These soldiers have enlisted for different terms of years, for different terms of service, and under different conditions, and, moreover, we have for the Territorial Force the Territorial Force Associations, upon which we have relied with great security for the most admirable service in the starting of our new battalions, and not only Territorial battalions, but they came to our assistance when we were in real trouble with our New Army, and we owe them the greatest debt of gratitude for what they did on that occasion. That is the real reason why it is not possible, in the middle of a great war, to change, as it were, the foundation upon which the Army rests; but I do think that in the future, if we have the opportunity before us, that that may very properly form the subject of legislation, if legislation is required.
§ Mr. TENNANT
I do not think it is possible to do it during the War, and I mean by the future, in peace time. I think the hon. Gentleman will realise the difficulty. I do not know that there is any other point except one raised by the hon. Member for Durham (Mr. Aneurin Williams) and by the right hon. Baronet the Member for Swansea with regard to the difficulty of providing for the middle-class person who is afraid, not unnaturally, of 572 enlisting, because of the break-up of his home. That is a very serious problem, and one which is rather novel, because it has only just occurred. It is not a problem with which we have been confronted in the past, and it is not far removed from the proposal which I understand my right hon. Friend has in print, for freeing from his contractural obligations the soldier who is serving with the Colours. That, of course, is a very strong line to take, and I am far from saying that it is not a proper line, but at the same time it is absolutely novel. I shall make it my business to consider it further, and if I may have the opportunity of conferring with my right hon. Friend I shall be glad to try and benefit by anything which his experience enables him to place before me on the matter.
My hon. Friend the Member for Ponte-fract (Mr. Booth) asked whether there would be any doctors in the new 1,000,000 men. When we make new formations in the Army, we have, as my hon. Friend is aware, a complement of Engineers, Artillery, Army Veterinary Corps, Army Medical Corps, and so on, and there will be no doubt the proper complement of Army Medical Corps for any new formations. But, as the House is aware, we are not setting up new units with the men we have at our disposal. We are only putting them into reserve for the reinforcement of those battalions now serving at the front, and to replace the wastage of war. So far as doctors are concerned, I should say that quite a negligible quantity would be required for the new million men, because we have the machinery at present here and at the front; but, of course, there is the wastage of war, and to that extent we may require more doctors. There will be a Royal Army Medical Corps, rank and file, or, at least, there must be some, and that will probably require considerable numbers. With regard to the other point of the hon. Member as to the numbers in the units now serving in the field, now training at home, and what the requirements are for the future, I need hardly assure him that those figures are subject to the minutest care from day to day in the Adjutant-General's Department, and in the Recruiting Department, which is also under the Adjutant-General. If my hon. Friend would like to come and look at some of those figures, I shall be glad to show them to him. He will find piles and piles of statistics which are rather bewil- 573 dering, but perhaps with his perspicuity he may be able to overcome some of the difficulties which floor me. I think now I have been able to deal with all the points that have been raised.
§ Colonel YATE
Will the right hon. Gentleman consider my point regarding physical training for men who cannot come up to the standard height and measurement, and for men of over seventeen who cannot come up for enlistment?
§ Mr. TENNANT
I do not want to trespass upon your ruling, but I can reassure my hon. and gallant Friend. I think that completes the list of questions that have been put to me, and I hope now that we may be allowed to get the Vote of 1,000,000 men. In doing so, we can put it on record that this is the largest Army that has ever been raised in this country.
§ Mr. CLYNES
There is just one question which I should like to address to the right hon. Gentleman, if it is not too late to obtain an answer. Questions have been addressed to the War Office from time to time on the subject of leave granted to soldiers serving in various ranks in the Army. Some of us have had to deal with individual cases, because of letters reaching us from relatives and often from the soldiers themselves. Those individual cases have been very sympathetically dealt with and handled by the right hon. Gentleman and by his colleagues. Having had quite a number of these cases in hand myself, I would like to thank him for the close and sympathetic attention which be has given to many of them. It is a very large question. The Army which we have raised carries with it, I think in a greater measure than any Army which has left this country before, a remembrance of domestic and home conditions, and reports show that leave has been very inequitably distributed among men at various points. I do not allot blame for it, because it has been almost impossible for things to be absolutely uniform. The right hon. Gentleman has assured us that steps are being taken to make amends and to do justice to the men as far as possible. I believe that a considerable improvement has already been effected, and I merely want to ask if he can give us any additional information.
§ Mr. TENNANT
I may, perhaps, by leave of the House, say just one word in 574 answer to my hon. Friend. My hon. Friend is aware that I entered into communication with the Field-Marshal lately commanding the troops at the front, Sir John French, and asked him whether he would give this matter, which was of almost universal interest to hon. Gentlemen in all quarters of the House, close consideration. He told me in reply—I am sorry that I have not got his reply with me—that this was a matter which had been engaging the attention of the commanders of corps, of divisions, and of brigades for a very considerable time. It is not always a very easy matter. Take one unit which has been depleted to the extent of being 350 strong, instead of 800. It is difficult for a commander of such a depleted unit to spare men when he has to man a certain line of trench. That is apparent. Therefore, it comes about that these wretched men—I say wretched, but they are glorious and gallant men—of these units which have been most severely-hit in the War get hit both ways. That, of course, does seem to us outrageous, or very nearly so, but it is from the necessity of the case almost impossible to overcome. Sir John French informed me that he had requested commanders to see that this leave was given as fairly and as uniformly as possible, but they were hampered to a very considerable extent by the amount of transport available on the ships crossing the Channel. That is one of the real difficulties of the Admiralty. I know that the Adjutant-General has given this matter very close attention. If occasional hardship appears to occur, and if full justice cannot always be achieved, it is sometimes due to the reason I have just given, and, in the second place, it may be more apparent than real, because the man who thinks himself aggrieved sometimes has not been actually serving in the trenches so long as his colleagues, either owing to sickness or ill-health, or bad conduct. A man is punished now by being sent to the base. Those men, naturally and quite properly, I am sure my hon. Friend will agree, do not get leave in the same proportion or so rapidly as the men who have been serving in the trenches the whole time. I think, speaking from memory, that covers the whole of the points of the letter written to me by Sir John French. I can assure the House generally that this matter is engaging the very close and constant attention of the authorities in France.
§ Question put, and agreed to.