§ Motion made and Question proposed, "That a number of Land Forces, not exceeding 3,000,000, 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, during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1916."
§ Mr. PETO
The Vote before the House authorising the number of men in the field does not offer an opportunity for a very profitable discussion, and we do not want to ask for any details to be made public, nor to start any criticism of the steps which the right hon. Gentleman and his Department have taken in these matters. But there were a considerable number of questions which were not sufficiently, or at all, dealt with yesterday, to which it may be profitable and useful to-day to make some reference. Foremost amongst those questions, I regard that having relation to officers' and men's promotion, their pay, and the pensions that will be paid. In the matter of promotion, let me say a few words in support of what my right hon. Friend the Member for the Strand Division (Mr. Long) said yesterday in regard to promotion to the rank of colonel, in the case of officers who are left in command of their regiments. When I was in France, I came across, personally, just such a case, and I feel very strongly that there is really very little to be said for the present system of allowing officers to be in command with all the responsibility involved, for a very considerable time—for months in many cases—and that they should not be given the definite rank of colonel commanding the regiment. The only thing that can be said is that we 418 might find ourselves, perhaps, with an undue proportion of the rank of brigadier-generals after the War.
The right hon. Gentleman said very truly yesterday that can be left to take care of itself. We do not want to institute a system which would leave us with a very large number of very expensive pensions at the end of the War in an unnecessary way, but we must guard ourselves against the opposite extreme of trying to be parsimonious and niggardly in this matter of promotion, when it is so well earned, as it is in these cases. It does not only affect these officers, but the junior officers, and it stops promotion all through, down to the very sub-lieutenants of the regiment. I am perfectly certain it is felt very strongly that there should not be bare recognition of the services rendered by the troops at the front, and that we should not withhold for a single day proper recognition of those services by advancing them to the rank to which their services entitle them. Let me go to almost the other extreme. The case is just as strong in the non-commissioned ranks. For a considerable time a corporal may be doing sergeant's work, and he is entitled to be raised to the rank of sergeant and receive sergeant's pay. I do not want to run the risk of people saying, and I think there is some ground for it, that we are proceeding on this somewhat parsimonious system because it is much cheaper in case of casualty to have the pension of a non-commissioned officer of the lower rank. I am perfectly certain that is not what the right hon. Gentleman or his Department intend, but I feel that quick and prompt recognition in these cases, by promoting them to a higher grade, is certainly justified in all those cases whether in the higher commissioned ranks or in the non-commissioned ranks.
There are one or two other subjects to which I should like to call attention. Take the case of the officer who was in the Civil Service before the War. I understand that the system is that he is to get the military pay, which is docked from the Civil salary which he was receiving at the time he left the Civil Service. How does that work? When one of these officers by his services gets promoted from the rank of captain to major, the deduction is made according to the rate of the major's pay instead of that of captain, and the officer is exactly as he was. I do not think that can be right. It may be perfectly proper, I think it is, that no man should receive 419 two pays from two branches of the Government for his services; he cannot be in two places at once. If, while he is doing military service, he does it in such a way as to raise him from the rank of captain to that of major, that I think ought to command a rise in pay. In regard to this matter, I should like to ask the Under-Secretary of State whether any decision has been arrived at as to the somewhat analogous case of Members of this House who have been doing military duty. In some cases where they are soldiers I think there is nothing to be said. They have been on the reserve of officers. They were offering their services at all times when they were required. In the case of civilian Members of this House who have undertaken military duties it seems to me quite inconsistent that they should receive both pay, as Members of this House, and for the duties they perform. I hope that matter has been already settled, and in a satisfactory manner, and that we shall have some ruling from the right hon. Gentleman as to the practice in these cases.
There is one branch of the Service to which I wish particularly to refer, in this matter of promotion, and that is, the noncombatant service of the Army Pay Corps. I understand that the Army Pay Corps has been increased in its personnel by no less than 800 per cent. Very naturally the new people appointed, both to commissioned and to non-commissioned ranks, are civilians, clerks, and people with experience to enable them to serve, but I have had a case brought to my notice of a sergeant who has been six years a sergeant in the Army Pay Corps, and who finds civilian clerks appointed who are under his direct control, and who receive exactly the same pay as he received. He has been twice recommended for promotion to the rank of staff-sergeant, but finds that instead of getting any rise in rank civilians, without any previous experience of Army Accounting or the Army Pay Department, are put over his head, while there is no promotion for the men who have been doing the work for years in peace time. I do not think that is right, and I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will look into the question of promotion in the Army Pay Corps. On the question of pay I think there is no doubt, although the pay of officers has been recently gone into, that it is not now on a scale which enables officers to live according to the rank they were given without any inde 420 pendent means. As long as that is so it is not satisfactory from the point of view of commissions from the ranks, or the promotion of non-commissioned officers to commissioned rank. I am told that a sergeant-major is practically no better off when he is promoted to be lieutenant, and taking all the circumstances of the case into consideration, he is very much worse off, considering the larger expenses which are naturally thrown upon him in consideration of his higher rank.
I do not think we can say that the ideal of Napoleon, that every soldier should have a Field-Marshal's baton in his knapsack, will ever be realised in this country as long as we do not recognise the services of the junior ranks of officers by giving them an amount of pay which will enable them to live, if they have not independent means. We have some brilliant examples at present of men who have served us in good stead, and served their country well in the higher ranks of the Army, and who have been non-commissioned officers in their earlier days. I am certain that the feeling in the country, both with regard to the matter of pay and the matter of pensions, is that those questions should be looked into further. The recent advance in pay is, as a matter of fact, no advance at all, except in the case of junior officers. The right hon. Gentleman will find, in the case of a captain of twelve years' service, and five years a captain, that the rise in pay actually works out under the new scale at 14s. 6d. per day, as against 14s. 7d. received under the old scale. The case is harder still amongst officers; in the Territorials, for I am told that the words are interpreted to mean, in the case of those officers, that "service" means "embodied service," and, therefore, since they were not embodied before the War, and unless the War goes on for twelve years, they will not be able to claim twelve years' embodied service, and, consequently, the rise of pay in those cases does not take place. I ask the Committee to consider how that works out. The ordinary officer in the Regular Army has chosen the Army as his profession. He has done so at an early age, and before earning anything in civil life. In the case of officers in the Territorial Army every year they have given up a fortnight or more of their time-when they might have been earning very considerable sums in civil life, and now, during the War, although the income in the case of a professional man is 421 absolutely stopped, they receive nothing but their pay. I am speaking of the case of the professional man who gets only the pay to support his wife. If there is to be any difference at all between the officers in the Territorials and in the Regular Army, I think it should be in the direction of treating the officers in the Territorials rather more liberally and not less liberally in the matter of pay. I would like to ask the right hon. Gentleman's attention to a question I asked yesterday of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. That question was—whether the pay of officer serving is subject to the deduction of Income Tax at the increased rate now in force due to War taxation?The answer was in the affirmative. This really affects, and very materially affects, the question of pay. It is no use giving a rise of pay on the one hand, as far as it has been given, and taking it away on the other by the double Income Tax which is now collected. It appears to me that the case is really a very simple one. Last autumn the question was raised of the deduction from estates which fell in, owing to deaths due to the War, and as to the payment of Death Duty in those cases. I remember the Chancellor of the Exchequer saying that the Government had no desire to profit by the early death of officers who were serving on active service. I may say that that question was on the whole fairly, though not very generously, dealt with. The arguments, I think, apply still more strongly to this question of pay. It seems to me that in time of peace it is perfectly reasonable and our regular custom, no matter whether a man's income is derived from a spending Department, civil or military, or whether it is a professional income or whether it is derived from business, each contributes as it were to the common stock. The officer gets certain things in return for his Income Tax and everybody is interested in the expenditure on old age pensions and other things of the kind which have increased the amount of the Income Tax in recent years. When you get a state of war, a wholly different set of circumstances arise. The military officer is asked to fight and it should be the duty of the civilian to pay. It seems absurd not only to ask our officers to fight and to risk and lose their lives in the terrible number we have had in this War, but also actually to ask them to pay the additional taxation which is asked for solely and only on account of war expenditure. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will call the 422 attention of the Chancellor of the Exchequer to this matter, and that that right hon. Gentleman will see at once that it is the general feeling of the civilian population that those particularly who are not in a position to render any special military service to the State should have cast upon them the duty of paying our officers' pay for fighting at the front, and that there should be no deductions from the officers' pay. It may be said that I am making a claim in this respect only for the higher and commissioned ranks, but I would just remind hon. Members that it really works out absolutely fairly. In the case of the private such war taxation has been imposed on articles of necessity or luxury—
§ The CHAIRMAN
I would remind the hon. Member that that is a question involving legislation, and in this Committee we can deal only with administration.
§ Mr. PETO
I will leave that subject, simply pointing out, with regard to the contribution of the private, that, as a matter of fact, not only does he not pay increased war taxation on what he consumes himself, but that on the tobacco consumed by our Army there is no taxation at all in France. With regard to pensions, I think that in allotting them some consideration should be had to the means and the position before the War of the men who lose their lives. In the case of peace enlistment, the bulk of the recruits are very young men, eighteen or nineteen years of age. They enlist before they have taken any very definite steps to earn their livelihood in civil life, and certainly before they are in receipt of any material income. That is not the case with regard to the recruits whom we are enlisting now. Many men are giving up wages from 25s. and 30s. to £2 or £3 a week. When in receipt of wages on the higher scale they were in a position to save, to make some provision for their widows in case of death, and also to provide for themselves in case of what I may call peace disablement. Therefore, having regard to the personnel of the present increased War Army, I think we ought to take a very generous view in the matter of pensions. This applies equally to the commissioned ranks. Any number of men who have taken commissions in the Army have given up a peace income of anything from £1,000 to £3,000 a year, and I think something quite different should be done in the case of officers who die leaving widows and 423 dependants, and who, if they had not taken His Majesty's commission, would have been able to leave those dependants comparatively comfortably off.
That brings me to the point that the income of a man may be one of two kinds: it may be derived from property and go on after his death, or it may depend entirely upon his own brain power and exertions. Therefore, I think something should be done in the way of arranging a minimum and maximum income by which the pension allotted to the widow would be regulated. No officer's widow should be left practically in a state of penury if she has no other means of support than the pension received from the Government. In many cases I do not believe that any pension at all would be either welcomed or accepted where the officer's widow was in comfortable if not affluent circumstances. In any case we ought entirely to dissociate ourselves from ideas which may be perfectly correct and work out quite fairly on the basis of our small peace Army, recruited and officered by an entirely different class from the men and officers of our present Army. With regard to this question of pensions, an enormous difference will be made to what constitutes a reasonable pension in the case of disablement or partial disablement if proper attention is given to the question of training and employment after the War. If we adopt a system of national training for defence, there is no doubt that a very large number of our soldiers, particularly non-commissioned officers, with a very small addition indeed to what would be a reasonable pension, would be able to find employment most profitable to the State in training and controlling, not only the boys but the young men who will be coming on for training.
Beyond that, I think that the granting of some special recognition at the end of the War by giving a step in the case of non-commissioned officers on retirement from the Army, raising a corporal to a sergeant, a sergeant to a sergeant-major, and so on, would, as a rule, be infinitely more appreciated than a more liberal scale of pension. Where a man has done good service it would be only a very small recognition of the fact if, instead of a higher scale of pension, it were the general rule to give him a step and consequently entitle him to the higher pension which the higher rank would carry, and it would be very much more appreciated than a mere 424 arrangement for a higher rate of pension. I am quite certain that what the country expects is that we should give generous recognition to the services of those who survive this terrible War. I feel sure that people generally want us, if we are to err at all, to err on the side of undue generosity. Older Members will remember very well the state of the United States of America for many years after the Civil War. There the rank of colonel was granted so freely to survivors of the Civil War that it really was not a very honourable matter to be a colonel at all, and the pension list was something perfectly gigantic. Whilst avoiding anything of that kind—although we must recognise that at any rate it was behaving generously to the men who had fought—we must, above all, avoid niggardly treatment which will leave any of the soldiers who have fought for us in any way dependent upon charity. No matter how perfect a scheme may be arranged, there are bound to be exceptional cases which will have to be dealt with by societies and associations supported by voluntary contributions. But in the main the debt is one due from the nation to the men, and should be paid by the nation, the expense being distributed over all the citizens as equitably as we distribute our ordinary taxation. There should be no asking for generosity or charity in this matter whatever.
I want now to turn to another question, where I hope what I have to say may be rather helpful and certainly not a hindrance to the action of the War Office or the efficiency of our troops. I refer to the question of inoculation against typhoid fever. We have such a tremendous case for taking strong action in the direction of ensuring that no man shall go out to the Continent on active service without having been inoculated, that it seems to me really surprising that the question should have to be raised at all. We have as good an example from our own experience in the Indian Army as can be found in any part of the world. We have at the back of the demand for inoculation the whole of the expert medical opinion of this country. Members will probably have noticed that Sir William Osier, Sir Frederick Treves, and almost every great leader of medical opinion, have written very strongly to the papers on this subject. No one knows better than the Secretary of State himself from his experience as Commander- 425 in-Chief in India what inoculation against typhoid has done for our troops there. In answer to a question of mine yesterday the Under-Secretary gave some very interesting figures, but the figures in regard to India I did not ask for, and as they are not before the Committee. I hope I may be excused for reading them to show exactly what our experience in India has been. In India, from 1895 to 1900, forty-three out of every 1,000 deaths amongst British soldiers was due to typhoid fever. The greater number of these occurred between the ages of twenty and twenty-five. The liability to contract typhoid fever in the first year of military service was twice as great as in any other period. In 1903 a systematic attempt to immunise soldiers was begun. At this time the death rate was four per 1,000. In 1910 it had fallen to.63, and in 1911 to.33, as a result of anti-typhoid inoculation, a diminution of 97 per cent.—it practically disappeared altogether.
The Under-Secretary yesterday gave the House the figures that we have actually got for the present War, showing that inoculation as it is now carried out is practically a preventive of typhoid fever. We may say that it is an absolute preventive of death from typhoid fever. I think there are a few cases where only one inoculation has been performed where men have contracted typhoid fever. We have other experience. The Under-Secretary was not asked, and did not tell the House, the experience of our Allies in France. We cannot, look upon this subject from our own insular point of view. We are fighting side by side with our Allies in France, and I think the experience of the French people in regard to their treatment must influence the War Office in their decision in this matter. They had a sharp attack of typhoid fever in 1912 among the troops quartered at Avignon. Of 2,053 men quartered there at that time 1,366 were protected and 687 were not, inoculation being voluntary. In the non-protected cases out of 155 cases of typhoid fever twenty-one died. Amongst the protected men there was not one single case of typhoid fever. The result of that was that in the winter of 1913 the French Senate resolved that protective treatment should be made compulsory throughout the French Army, and it is so to-day. Therefore I ask, Is it fair to send out side by side with our Allies an increasing number of uninoculated men who may be 426 a danger to their comrades? We have also to look at the matter from the point of view of the Dominions. We have welcomed the assistance of Canada, of Australia, and of other parts of the Empire in this War. If both Canada and Australia thought it necessary and right to make inoculation compulsory, I think that that is a very strong argument that we should not be behindhand in protecting our men who are going to be actually mixed in the same brigades and to fight side by side with them. Dr. Morell, of the Canadian Army Medical Corps, writing the other day, said this:—When the first Canadian Expeditionary Force were in the concentration camp at Valcartier, near Quebec, inoculation of this Force was proceeded with under the direction of Lieut.-Colonel C. A. Hodgetts and a corps of assistants of the Canadian A.M.C. To inoculate about 27,000 men required 57,000 injections within a limited time. This was no small task and in this series, which I believe is the largest number on record, we did not have any cases of severe constitutional reaction or any infected arm following the injection of serum.In a village that I know in the last few weeks has been quartered a battery of Canadian Heavy Artillery. Among the officers whom I meet constantly is one who is a powerful, full-blooded man. He told me of his case. What interested me especially was the point that he was one of the very worst cases of bad arm from inoculation. The thing did not incapacitate him at any time during the period, but was somewhat inconvenient. The Army doctor told him for his comfort that it was owing to his being such a powerful and full-blooded man, and that if he had been attacked by typhoid he would have gone down easily. That was a practical certainty, owing to the fact that inoculation had affected him so much. With regard to Australia, I would like to mention that the whole of the 20,000 Australian troops who came over from Australia in the first contingent were all not only inoculated twice on the voyage, and without the slightest harm to anybody, but they were also vaccinated three weeks after innoculation. The Surgeon-General, Director of Medical Services, Australian Imperial Forces, writes concerning this:—The moral effect it had on all ranks was most marked. Men realised that every precaution had been taken to insure them against a disease more deadly than a German rifle bullet.It is not fair to send out to fight side by side with these men men who have not allowed themselves to be immunised against this disease. We had our own experience in the Boer war. In the Boer war over 8,000 men died of typhoid fever, whilst there were only 8,000 men who died 427 from wounds of all sorts. Therefore typhoid accounted for a larger proportion of the total of the 22,000 deaths than did the whole of the bullets and shells of the Boer Army.
Is the hon. Member aware of the fact that the troops in South Africa were well inoculated?
§ Mr. PETO
I am quite aware that inoculation at that time was in its infancy. It was very partial and very imperfect. If the hon. Member for Haggerston who has just interrupted me and his allies outside the House were to look at this thing from the ordinary common-sense point of view, I am perfectly certain that in view of the evidence we have before us they would entirely and at once stop carrying out the work they are doing. Of course I do not accuse him of any intention of playing directly into the hands of the enemies of this country, but it is so, more than any other work that possibly could be done. I am quite sure that if he and his friends were to go abroad and to raise a foreign legion to assist the Germans, those efforts would be comparatively harmless as compared with the efforts he and his friends are making in this country. They are doing an enormous amount of harm.
§ The UNDER-SECRETARY of STATE for WAR (Mr. Tennant)
Would the hon. Member give the figures of the Boer war again?
§ Mr. PETO
In the Boer war out of the total loss of 22,000 men, the losses from wounds were 8,000, and the losses from disease of all kinds 14,000. Of those diseases typhoid was a very easy first with over 8,000. If the hon. Member opposite thinks that there may be something in the view that he and his friends put forward as to anti-vaccination, may I remind him that those efforts are not under the present circumstances patriotic, and in peace conditions are worthless. It may be that, persuaded by a determination to have that freedom in all things on which we pride ourselves, he may think that his point of view is a democratic point of view. That, however, can hardly be held by us in view of the fact that in the United States of America, directly they found in the American-Spanish war that they had lost an enormous number from typhoid fever—I have got the figures here, but I will not worry the Committee with them—they set to work to remedy the 428 matter. Mr. Taft, the President, in May, 1911, told the Senate what were the effects of inoculation, which was already voluntory in the U.S.A. Army. No doubt the very powerful address of President Taft had a strong effect on the personnel of the Army, and probably made a very large increase in the number of men who were inoculated. At any rate, in the autumn of 1911 inoculation was made compulsory, with the result that typhoid fever, which accounted for 20,000 cases, with a case mortality of 7 per cent. in the 120,000 men that were sent over in the American-Spanish war, has practically disappeared from the U.S.A. Army.
I ask the Under-Secretary to bear in mind, if in answer to what I have been saying, it is said that our troops are not suffering very seriously from typhoid and there is no need for alarm, that the typhoid season has not begun. I am quite sure that his medical advisers at the War Office will bear me out in that. When we get to a period when what is now, as President Taft describes it, "profanity-provoking mud," is changed into dust blowing all over the place, and our troops are marching and fighting in infected areas, a very different state of things will occur unless we take this wise and sensible precaution. I have only one more thing to which I want to call the right hon. Gentleman's attention, and that will certainly not be by way of captious criticism. I have made it my duty to visit a considerable number of camps in my own county of Wiltshire, and in the adjoining counties further south. Perhaps it would not be very wise to say where the camps are situated, though probably Members in all parts of the House know where they are, and, of course, the right hon. Gentleman does. In no single case now, six months after the commencement of the War, are these camps anywhere near completed. In many cases they are now only just being started. In no case is the light on, and in no case are the cooks cooking in the permanent kitchens. But what is more important, the huts themselves are generally undergoing a sort of second process in order to make them habitable, a second coating being put on the roofs, and a lining of some sort being put inside in order to prevent it being as wet there as outside. What is worse, and what I think can be avoided in the future, is that the whole operation appears to have been nearly upside down. The process has been the delivery of an enormous quantity of 429 what is called soft timber, imported from Sweden or Norway, and then carted about what has been naturally very soft ground, which soon gets turned up into mud about a foot deep; then proceeding to erect huts, then think of putting on a water supply and provide the necessary drains, and last of all make any kind of road. I know there will be further camps erected, and I do ask the Under-Secretary to bear in mind the advice which I know was given to the War Office long ago, almost directly after the declaration of War, that they should proceed in exactly the opposite manner.
It was pointed out by one of our most eminent engineers, who I know in other capacities was secured by the War Office, that the best thing was to call upon people in the position of borough surveyors, men who knew exactly the capabilities of their own districts both in the provision of timber and of men, and knowing the contractors who could construct huts; that the War Office should settle upon one form of easily transported hut in sections not more than 8 feet wide, so as to be conveyed by road or rail, and the work to be done on the site should be only the necessary preparatory work of providing roads, drains, and water supply, which should be done by men specially enlisted by the Royal Engineers. They would have been under perfect discipline, and the work would have proceeded infinitely more rapidly than at present. The soldiers themselves might easily have had a portable hut which they could have erected themselves. I came across a case where in one regiment as many as twenty-five men had actually been accustomed to hut building, but had not been allowed to erect huts, because it was supposed to be contrary to the interests of the men employed for the work. It is perfectly obvious that if you proceed in the other direction, then in very isolated sites, where there is no local labour, or very little, you have got to collect an enormous number of men for the purpose, and you will not always get the most desirable kind of work, for I am quite sure, although I do not want to say anything against what the working classes in this country are doing as a whole, we must all recognise there is a residuum when you have taken away a great many men by enlistment. When you have got to get the men how you can, and employ anyone practically who claims to be a carpenter, you do not get in that way the same 430 efficiency and sort of work which you would get if the work had been distributed over the country and the huts had bean brought in sections to the sites without any waste wood. If any more of these ramps are to be constructed, I do hope the services of men who know exactly what the capacity of the districts is should be consulted; they would, I am perfectly certain, make it their business to see that the result was satisfactory, and would be only too proud to co-operate with the War Office to ensure that decently seasoned timber was used, and the contract done in a proper way. I would not have said this if it were not that a great deal more work will have to be done, and I do hope, if that is the case, that it will be done on some plan to ensure an exactly opposite result to that already arrived at. I came across one case of a hut camp inhabited by the Wiltshire Regiment where the condition of affairs, as I noted down at the time, was as follows, and it will show hon. Members what really is quite common all over these camps. I wrote:—This camp is the best site of the lot, having very good training ground near. They started four months ago, and only sufficiently advanced nine weeks ago to be occupied by two companies. The rest of the battalion are in billets three miles off. Roads and paths only now commenced. Drains, not any. Huts and buildings not completed, nor officers' quarters even started.That is the rate of progress at present, and I know that the right hon. Gentleman regrets the rate of progress should be so slow; but I am quite certain that had a different plan been taken from the very start we should have arrived at a very different result, and I say, in confirmation of that, I heard the other day from the hon. Member for South Wiltshire, who joined the Royal Engineers, who are quartered at Monmouth. I wrote asking him what he had done about huts there, and he wrote:—We made our own huts (that is the Royal Mon-mouthshire Royal Engineers), without any bother, three months ago, and they are very comfortable, although occasionally very crowded. We have sent 1,100 men to France, and are sending reinforcements once a fortnight.That is the result when taken in hand by men subject to military discipline. They prepared their own huts, three months ago, without any bother, and had the advantage of living in them in the winter. I feel that these matters are very important matters, and I hope that now the Chancellor of the Exchequer is here he will be able to assure us that, at least, whatever arrangements are made for pay and promotion, our officers at the front 431 will not be asked to pay their own pay through the medium of a special War Tax deducted from their pay.
I have sat in this House for five years and have never been able to accustom myself to its atmosphere, so that I feel it would be difficult to say what I wish in this Debate. I will, however, endeavour to do my best, and not ramble over the whole field of this important Vote, but deal with one subject which has been referred to by the hon. Member who has just sat down. We are asked to vote 3,000,000 men for the Army. Members of both sides have been engaged for months past in a recruiting campaign. We have spoken in many parts of the country, large and small towns, and made our appeal in the way we are best able to make it. The hon. Member has practically told the House this afternoon that, in consequence of the action I have taken in regard to one subject, I am an alien enemy. May I say at the very outset that, though I have spoken to many thousands of men, I have never said a word referring to the subject with which I wish to deal this afternoon, and I call to witness such Gentlemen as the hon. Member for Hammersmith and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wimbledon, and others, that I absolutely abstained from any reference to this particular question. What are the facts in regard to this matter? It will be remembered that when the Territorial Force came into existence it was recognised that there was throughout the country a very widespeard opposition to vaccination. The agitation against vaccination had gone on for many long years and had achieved great success, with the result that to-day nearly half the children born in this country are unvaccinated, and with the disappearance of vaccination there has been a disappearance of smallpox, so complete that probably one-half of the doctors of the country have never seen a case. The Minister in charge of the Act which brought the Territorial Force into operation was asked what would be the condition of joining that Force, and he assured the public, through the House of Commons, that vaccination would not be compulsory in the Territorial Force. Why was that assurance given? It was given so as to remove one of the objections to joining the Force. It was an inducement held out to men to join the Territorial Force, and as a result the Force reached 432 over a quarter of a million. Just after this War began the same question naturally came under notice. I put a question in the House on 26th August, and in reply the right hon. Gentleman the Under-Secretary for War said:—Every effort is being made to persuade men to undergo vaccination, and those who object are being informed that unless they submit to vaccination they are not likely to be of service in the field."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 26th August, 1914, col. 35, Vol. LXVI.]That was a notice to members of the Territorial Force that, if they wanted to go to the front, they must be vaccinated. The Force was not raised for foreign service, but home service, and no Territorial had to go to the front unless he desired it, in which case he was compelled to be vaccinated. I make no complaint of the attitude of the Minister in that connection, but there arose in the public Press a suggestion to make further vaccination compulsory. A letter was written by Sir William Leishman on 22nd August, and it was followed up by a letter in the "Times" newspaper from Sir William Osler on 29th August. In his letter Sir William Osier said:—I would urge most earnestly that vaccination (against typhoid) be made compulsory.That agitation went on in a large number of newspapers. Persons who disbelieved in this system were refused the opportunity of replying to the statements made and the arguments put forward. In other words, they were boycotted in the Press, and we had no opportunity to put our case. To that boycott is due something to which I shall refer later. I put a question to the right hon. Gentleman on 10th September, in reply to which I received this answer:—Anti-typhoid inoculation, whilst encouraged on account of its undoubtedly immense value, is not compulsory in the British Army.During this period I have been receiving complaints from soldiers to the effect that the assurance of the right hon. Gentleman is no assurance at all, and that whilst technically and legally no compulsion exists, in actual practice men are being terrorised and forced into it, and men are being punished in various ways for exercising the right which the right hon. Gentleman in that reply assured them that they possessed.
The hon. Member opposite says that it is quite right that a man should be punished for demanding his 433 legal rights. I would like to ask where would our liberties be if they were under the direction of the hon. Gentleman opposite? On 14th September a letter was published from Lord Kitchener as follows:—I am desired by Lord Kitchener to say that anti-enteric inoculation is not compulsory.I had cases brought before my notice in which compulsion was being exercised, and I again questioned the right hon. Gentleman on 6th November, and he then assured me that the instructions already issued are intended to protect conscientious objectors. I have no doubt about the intention, but it is the operation of the instructions that I want to refer to. On 23rd November efforts were being made to encourage recruiting, and the Parliamentary Recruiting Committee, as one of the inducements to recruiting, issued a circular, in which they said:—The inoculation against typhoid is purely voluntary.But that is not all. The House of Lords met in the middle of January, and this question was raised by my Noble Friend Lord Tenterden, and in reply Lord Haldane, almost in the first sentence he uttered, said:—Inoculation is not compulsory for any soldier, and it is possible for a man to go to the front without being inoculated.Here you have a series of declarations made between August last year and January this year on this question to the effect that if the men will only enrol and undertake to defend their country no compulsion shall be exercised upon them to undergo this operation. I do not think there can be any denial of that fact. Now I want to examine the conditions under which that promise has been carried out. What do these assurances mean? Surely they mean that anyone joining the Army and deciding to insist upon his legal right to exemption from inoculation shall not receive differential treatment, and that he shall not be punished or persecuted, or made unhappy, or set to do degrading and dirty work, or change from the employment for which he engaged to other kinds of employment for which he was unfitted. Surely it means that he should be treated exactly on the same footing as other men joining under the same assurances, although not having the same convictions, and who are willing to undergo inoculation! I think that is a very fair interpretation of the undertaking which has been repeated by Ministers over and over again 434 during the past six or seven months. This is simply the exercise of a legal right guaranteed by Ministers. It is not an offence against military duty or military discipline, and it is not insubordination nor a fardt—in fact, it may indeed be a virtue.
We are supposed to have entered upon this War with an ideal object, and we are fighting against a certain set of ideas. One of those ideas is that "might is right," and we hope to dethrone and disestablish that idea as the result of our efforts. Under these circumstances, surely it is well to attract to our ranks men who, although they possess convictions which may run counter to the prejudices or even the convictions of the mass, are willing to do everything and face the cannon on the battlefield, and who are willing also to risk having directed against them the unpopularity which arises from taking exceptional action. Many of these men, some of whom I shall refer to, are men of that type. They are men who believe that this particular form of medical treatment is wrong, and they refuse to violate their consciences by complying with the demands of their officers. Ours is not an Army of conscripts, but volunteers. We try to attract men to our Army by giving them rights, and we have no right to take those rights from them, and any officer who attempts to do that is guilty of a grave dereliction of duty. What are these men doing? By their own volition, and without any compulsion whatever, they are leaving their homes and families, and giving up their prospects in life to join the Army. They are prepared to risk limb and give up life in order to defend their country. They deserve just treatment, and any bargain into which the Government enters with them ought to be held sacred.
If we are told that this particular form of medical treatment is not compulsory, it ought not to be compulsory in practice as it is not compulsory in law. I want to show the kind of treatment to which some of these men have been subjected, and I have brought with me a few copies of letters which I have received. These are only a few of many, and the trouble is very widespread. The opposition to this practice is far more strongly felt than Ministers have any idea of, judging from the information which I have received in reply to questions during the last fortnight. The first case I will quote is that of a young fellow whose father came to me in my 435 City office since Christmas. He wrote me asking me for an interview, because he wanted to bring before my notice the case of his son who had joined the Army and had been sent to India. The letter was posted at Cawnpore on 10th December, and was received in London on 1st January this year. I am not going to give any names, because I do not wish to make any personal attack, or give any personal notoriety to anyone, but this young man in his letter says:On Monday last, 7th December, 1914, our company was marched down to the hospital for medical inspection, and when we got there we were all lined up and were told to lake off our coats to see who were to be vaccinated. First, we were told by the doctor that should anyone disobey an order they would go before the general commanding. Next he asked all men that had not been inoculated to fall to the rear. I was one of them. There was a good many others.I do not want to use certain language. [An HON. MEMBER: "Why not?"] Then I will give the language. This officer said:Well, he said that all yon will be damn well done before we leave this place. I stepped out and said: I refuse to be done,' the only one, and he called me a damn fool in front of them all.[An HON. MEMBER: "Hear, hear."] An hon. Member says "hear, hear," and evidently this language is familiar to him. The letter proceeds:When he found that I would not be done he said, 'Get out you dirty dog and don't, come near me. I don't care whether you rot to-morrow in the grave, clear out,' and pushed me out and sent me off in front of two companies.That was the case of a young fellow who left a good home in Sutton, Surrey, and that was what was said to him by the medical officer. It is not the officers in high command who do this kind of thing, but the Jacks-in-office who have recently been put into these posts who are abusing these powers. This young fellow's father is a councillor, and is highly respected, and I had met him before in connection with a great adult school in that town. That was the reward this young man received, namely, to be abused in front of his company, and forcibly paraded in front of them and attacked in this brutal, contemptible and blasphemous way by the medical officer. This young man, however, had spirit enough to demand justice, and he appealed to his superior officer, with the result that an apology has been tendered to him. Now I come to the case of a young fellow in regard to which, on receipt of a communication from him, I paid a visit to the War Office and saw my right hon. Friend and the head of the Medical Department. The information 436 that had reached me was that in order to induce men to undergo inoculation an order was being shown, or what professed to be an order, which read:—No man is to be reported medically fit unless inoculated.That was supposed to be an official order, and it was shown to the men to show that they would be compelled to be inoculated before they would be allowed to do the work for which they had volunteered. They had volunteered to go to the front. I saw the right hon. Gentleman and I may say that I have received nothing but the most perfect courtesy from him, as well as from the two Under-Secretaries. Although I have troubled them with many letters. I have always found them willing and anxious to set anything right that was wrong, and I wish to express to them my thanks with reference to some of the complaints made by some Constituents of mine, whose troubles have been remedied by the prompt and willing action of the two Under-Secretaries. But this is not in any sense a personal attack on my right hon. Friend, but an attempt to see that our soldiers get their rights. I asked the right hon. Gentleman and Sir Alfred Keogh, and they both assured me that this statement was a falsehood and that no such order had been issued. I wrote to this young man and gave him this information, and told him that I thought if he showed my letter to the officer this practice would cease. He showed my letter to the officer, but he only smiled and went on with his persecution. I afterwards found that two days before a circular had been issued from headquarters which stated that:—The Council has been pressed to take strong measures, but prefer to rely on officers, non-commissioned officers, and the discerning amongst the men, to secure by influence and persuasion that the troops generally avail themselves of the opportunities now furnished, by inoculation and vaccination, by greatly restricting the chance of fever, etc., and they hope that both precept and example in this regard will be set before the rank and file by all ranks superior to them.I agree entirely and absolutely with the words of that instruction, and, if officers and men will restrict themselves to "influence and persuasion" and "precept and example," I have nothing to say. They are acting quite rightly. If they can convince men who object to this operation that they are wrong, and if they can persuade them to undergo the operation by legitimate and proper methods, I have not a word to say against them. I recognise that the Army is being advised by certain experts, and that it is their duty to follow 437 the advice of those experts. I have no complaint to make about the inoculation of the troops. I make no complaint about that or about the action of the Army in endeavouring to persuade members of the force who object to this practice to undergo the operation. It is all legitimate and proper. But I do object to medical officers departing from the spirit of their instructions, and I am going to ask the right hon. Gentleman to assure me that officers convicted of that kind of thing will be reprimanded and asked to discontinue the practice. I am going to deal almost entirely with cases which have been the subject of correspondence between my right hon. Friend and myself. I come first to two cases about which I wrote him on 22nd December. The first is a case of a private in the 5th Cameron Highlanders, Maida Barracks, Aldershot. After some previous correspondence describing the kind of life that he had been living, he says:—We were told that we were getting a week's furlough with free travelling warrant, so, with the remainder of my company. I put in the usual form, and naturally wrote and told my wife when to expect me.… I am one of the ex-non-commissioned officers with previous campaign experience (Sudan and South Africa) whom Lord Kitchener asked to come forward to help train the New Army. Since coming to Aldershot in September, I have never missed as much as one hour's work, and yet am not considered worthy of a week's rest at home, simply because I refuse to accept this medical fad.Here is a man denied his leave because he will not undergo an operation which he has the assurance of Ministers is not compulsory, and which he has as perfect a right to refuse to undergo as he has to refuse any other objectionable order given by a superior officer which does not come under the style of military discipline. The other case about which I wrote the right hon. Gentleman in the same letter is that of a private in the 6th Battalion King's Royal Rifles, Scoccle's Farm, near Sheerness:—On Sunday last, the 13th December, the men of No. 1 Company were paraded for inspection by the lieut-colonel. Twenty-four of us were not inoculated. He addressed us in the following manner 'I have instructions from the War Office to send no men to the front who have not been inoculated. Therefore, there is only one thing for it; You men who refuse inoculation are funking. You are doing it for the purpose of avoiding taking your place in the firing line with your comrades, and I am giving instructions to have you perform all the dirty work of the camp, and, if any of you are on staff employment, your employment will be taken from you'. On Tuesday, 15th December, we paraded for general inspection before the inspection captain commanding No. 1 Company. He separated the non-inoculated men from the company, and, after failing to persuade any men to be inoculated, he informed us that we should not be allowed to go home to see our wives and families, friends or relatives at Christmas, whilst men who had been inoculated would be granted every facility. On Monday, 14th December, we were again paraded before the sergeant-major who 438 said this: 'I am acting under instructions from the colonel commanding, and I want you to seriously consider your position before giving your answer, I am going to give you an order. I now order you to be inoculated.'In my letter I asked my right hon. Friend three questions: "Will you please tell me (1) if in giving that order the sergeant-major was acting within his rights; (2) if the colonel was correct in saying that he had instructions from the War Office that no men would be sent to the front who had not been inoculated; and (3) if the Army Council have issued an order refusing Christmas leave to such recruits? I beg the House to remember that I had been assured by the right hon. Gentleman and by the head of the Medical Army Corps that men were being daily sent to the front who had not been inoculated, and I want light on those questions. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will give me light to-night.
I do not know, but in most of these cases the men when ordered obeyed. Men who had the strongest objection have again and again assured me that only when ordered have they agreed. I wrote a letter to the right hon. Gentleman on 2nd January detailing other cases. Let me read one of the men's letters:—I am a married man and my wife has just been confined. My wife's medical attendant sent for me as she was alone in the house, and said that it was necessary for me to be there. I handed the letter to the commanding officer and applied for special leave, offering to pay all travelling expenses. This was refused, because I will not be inoculated. Yet those that have been done are having five days' leave, with travelling expenses paid. I think it a great injustice that I am not allowed to go to see my wife while in such a condition, and I shall be pleased if yon can advise me upon placing it in higher hands.The second case is that of a man who wrote complaining that they had been "getting it." He says:—My own case is particularly sad, and it has been the cause of grief and anxiety to my aged mother, who lies on her bed at the door of death. The facts briefly are these. Christmas leave was not granted to us here, and the only concession made now is that we can have forty-eight hours leave to Lancashire if we pay the usual half fare. This is contrary to all others in different towns, who go six days free fare. However, as it is official that we get this and no more, I put my application in and was accepted to leave here on Monday last for forty-eight hours, and £1 to pay as half fare. My mother's request was to see us all together for her last time (I believe she has since died). and, on receipt of leave, I made arrangements to see my wife, child, two brothers, sister, and relations with her all together, which caused me a lot of arranging and trouble. My trouble and grief is that at the very last moment of my departure from here, whilst waiting for my warrant, I was told that I would not be allowed leave because I had refused inoculation. A few minutes before the train's departure I was told this.439 This was on 29th December. A day or two afterwards, having in the meantime written to the headquarters of the Army, he was allowed by his superior officer to go home. He went home, and he was advanced half fare. When he returned this man, who had been engaged driving a motor car and was therefore fitted for that work, was put on loading railway trucks and other kinds of rough work for which he was not fitted, and this, together with the treatment he had received both from his officers and his comrades—he was being made the butt of the attacks of them all—resulted in something like a nervous breakdown. He was dismissed from the Army without a penny in his pocket to pay his fare home, and with the threat to sue him for 4s. 9d., balance unpaid of the amount advanced when he first went home. In the meantime 6s. was deducted weekly, all which he was entitled to receive, to repay that fare. Is that fair or right or just treatment to a man whose only crime was that he insisted on a right which the right hon. Gentleman assured him was his, and is the conduct of officers who treat men in that way to be condoned? Will the War Office kindly issue instructions that a little more humanity shall be shown to those whose one crime is that they differ from their officer as to the value of this particular operation?
Another case was detailed in the "Eastern Daily Press," and it was made the subject of a court martial. The name has been published, so that I do not see any reason why I should not give it now. It is the case of Private Edward Crofts, of the 6th Battalion, Essex Regiment. He was paraded with others, lectured, and unconvinced. He was asked if he would be inoculated. He said "No," and he gave as one of his reasons that some chums from West Ham had told him that there had been deaths in Colchester as the result of inoculation. It is always very difficult indeed to get at the real cause of death when it follows these operations. This man, who was described by his sergeant "as a good, obedient soldier and a very tractable man," for answering a question directed to him had to undergo all the torture and anxiety of a court martial. Of course, the case was so flimsy that the court martial failed, and he was exonerated. I ask: How long has a man been subject to court martial who insists on his rights? I could keep the House for hours giving a mere repeti- 440 tion of these letters, but I will not do so. I will be as merciful as I can. I will refer to one other I received as late as 21st January, after the assurance of Lord Haldane that this matter was still voluntary, and that men who had not been inoculated were allowed to go to the front. This letter is signed by six working men. privates in 7 Platoon, B Company, Essex Regiment, Hyderabad Barracks, Colchester:—We are all working men who have left our work to try and serve our country. We were told that inoculation was optional, so, not believing in it, we have refused time after time to be done. We were vaccinated ten days ago, and still have very bad arms. We knew that was compulsory. We were told by the major commanding our company that if we were not inoculated our small privileges and week-end passes would be stopped. Is this quite fair to men trying to serve their King and country?I have had letters even more recent. I had one as late as Saturday night from a colleague in this House. A man refused because this question was put to him when he was volunteering. The Army, therefore, is being deprived of the services of a strong, healthy man because he said he was not going to be inoculated.
I have something more serious than that. Hitherto, I believe, these wrongs have been committed by individual officers. I am not anxious to hold the right hon. Gentleman and his Department responsible for the wrong doings of individual officers. I ask him only to see that they are not repeated. But here is a regimental order issued at Aldershot on 26th January, in the following terms:—All uninoculated non-commissioned officers and men of A and B squadrons, except those on musketry, will parade at the medical inspection room at 2 p.m. for inoculation. Troop leaders who have not yet been done will be inoculated with their troops.That, I assume, is an order. I do not see how men can resist an order like that. Does it mean that, officially, the War Office is breaking its word? Does it mean really that, what has hitherto been done by individual officers, is now to be done by the Army as a whole? If so, may I point out how important it is that we should gain the confidence of our recruits, by strictly carrying out our obligations to them, and by reserving to them every right to which they are entitled, by in no degree breaking faith with them, so that they may have confidence, when they enter the Army, that their rights will be respected. It is of vital importance that it should be so, as we find when we go on platforms asking men to join the Army. It may be that these men are ignorant and prejudiced. They may, perhaps, not have 441 that knowledge of the subject possessed by the hon. Member who last spoke (Mr. Peto), and who gave us an exposition of his views. Still, the fact remains that you promised to respect their prejudices, and, after all, is it unreasonable that they should expect you to do so?
I have one other matter to which I want to refer. I have here an article published in the "Hospital," and written by an officer of the Royal Army Medical Corps at the front. It contains passages to which I desire to direct the attention of the right hon. Gentleman. Here is one:—It has scented good to those who control the Expeditionary Force to ordain that every officer and man shall be inoculated against typhoid fever, and this winter season of comparatively enforced idleness is being taken advantage of to carry out the inoculation of all those who were not thus treated before they left England.… The Army order commanding universal inoculation set forth the reason for which it was made compulsory.It goes on to mention a case where two men refused to be inoculated, and were marched off as prisoners under close arrest. It says:—The remainder of the men who had refused to be inoculated were so impressed by this drastic action that they one and all consented to be done.Is not that compulsion?Next day the two prisoners were brought before their colonel, who gave them the option of court martial for disobedience, or inoculation. They both chose the latter.Will the right hon. Gentleman tell me whether a general order has been issued that all men at the front shall be inoculated. If so, how does he reconcile that action with the assurance he gave to me, and other Members of this House, that inoculation was voluntary? It is very important that this matter should be cleared up. After all, our Army is not an army of conscripts. The men have certain rights and liberties. When they join the Army they know they will have to undergo a certain amount of discipline, but they are willing to do that. They know, too, they will have to undergo certain hardships, and they are willing to do that. I glory in the magnificence of the response made to our appeal. I glory in the fact that our Army is made up of men willing to do what is necessary to save their country. But I say that that willingness constitutes a claim to the maintenance of every right and privilege which the law confers upon them, and an insurance against the domination of the individual will of the officers in command of them. Is their objection to this so very unreasonable? The only thing certainly known about inoculation is that a man inoculated 442 will be made ill with a disease which, without it, he may never suffer from. The illness may be of longer or shorter duration, but he will be ill if the vaccine takes. The second thing which is known, especially by those who went through the South African campaign, is that many men in that Army went through that campaign without any disease and without any inoculation, while many men who were inoculated not once but twice—and I have plenty of instances in my own correspondence—took the disease and suffered from it very badly. Others who were inoculated died, and there were large numbers of these. Yet the hon. Member opposite referred to the South African campaign as an instance of the value of this practice!
I wish to point out that in South Africa the results were so disastrous that the whole thing was discontinued for years. It was proved by the evidence given before the Royal Commission. I am therefore astonished that such an argument should have been put forward. We have had a very important pronouncement by an eminent medical gentleman—Sir Frederick Treves—who circulated what he suggested were absolutely convincing figures on this matter. The hon. Gentleman opposite referred to the figures quoted by the Under-Secretary yesterday. I have not had time to go into the newer figures, but I should like to refer to those cited by Sir Frederick Treves in a speech which he delivered recently. He said that during the whole period during which the Army bad been engaged in this War, under conditions which in any previous war would have led to widespread typhoid fever and possibly have resulted in tens of thousands of deaths, there had been but 212 cases. Do hon. Gentlemen grasp the significance of that fact? How is it that there were only 212 cases? I think I know. What is the cause of typhoid? It is not an infection conveyed from one man to another—or very seldom—but it is generally an individual disease which arises in each individual case from the consumption of foul food or foul water—water which 443 has been in contact with sewage or in some other way has been rendered impure. But we have taken care that our men at the front get pure water, and, as a result, among the hundreds of thousands we have sent to the front, there have been only 212 cases. Is that exemption due to inoculation? How many were inoculated at first? How many of the 250,000 men who were sent to the front six months ago were inoculated at all? I venture to say that they represented a very small proportion, if indeed there were any at all. The inoculation came later on, and these men had been there fighting under conditions which in any previous war would have led to tens of thousands of deaths. Yet there have been only 212 cases!
I cannot discuss these new figures. I have not had an opportunity of examining them. I am discussing a statement which has been spread broadcast throughout the country, and it has been put forward as convincing evidence of the value of inoculation. I think I am entitled to so examine those figures. Of the 212 cases, 201 occurred amongst unprotected persons. Among those 212, 28 had been inoculated, and if you are going to deal with figures in the way in which it has been done in this case you can produce results that will prove almost anything you like. There have been twenty-two deaths altogether among the uninoculated. I do not know how many there have been among the twenty-eight. The fact is these are all classed together, as is nearly always done in compiling statistics showing the working of particular theories. I have examined hundreds of such cases and view the results therefore with the greatest suspicion. There have been twenty-two deaths of uninoculated persons, but how many there were amongst the twenty-eight inoculated persons I cannot tell. There was no death amongst the eleven who were attacked, no deaths among the eleven inoculated, Sir Frederick Treves stated, and I feel sure he believed it. Let me here say that I feel the highest 444 respect for him. I am greatly indebted to him for having helped me to form a judgment on the general question of vivisection. He told his colleagues many years ago that vivisection had compelled him to unlearn in practice on the human person what he had learnt in practice on the intestines of dogs. I therefore hold him in high regard, and I am sure that he quite believed in the statement he made. It is true the right hon. Gentleman yesterday admitted there had been at least one case of death amongst the inoculated. I am not quite sure there have not been more. On 10th December an order was issued by the Royal Medical Brigade, Derby, which said:—As reported from Calais, out of sixty cases of typhoid only one man died who had been inoculated.5.0 P.M.
"The British Medical Journal" of 9th January reported another fatal case. Thus we have two persons dying from typhoid who had been inoculated within the last twelve months. But I will assume there has been only one case. Out of 212 cases there have been twenty-two deaths—practically one in ten. Out of eleven cases of inoculated persons one has died, and you get thus practically the same proportion for inoculated and uninoculated. But if there had been two deaths, you get a double proportion among the inoculated cases. These figures are too small and petty to generalise upon. Wherever there is a case with small numbers that seem to tell in that way it is naturally made the most of. But this practice is not a scientific practice. Science invites criticism. Science asks for light from all quarters. Science puts all the facts together and generalises upon them. The practice of which I am complaining prospers in the dark. Its policy is not to invite criticism but to prevent it. When, last August, an appeal was made for compulsion in this practice of inoculation, every letter sent to the Press opposing it went into the waste-paper basket. The Army has been begging the newspapers not to put a line in their columns attacking the practice. We are entitled to our convictions; we are entitled to the expression of our convictions. If the Press is closed to us, the House of Commons is the only place where we can express them. That is why I am taking so much time of the Committee. The boycott in the Press, under the encouragement of the War Office through the Press Bureau—I have the circulars 445 here, but there is no need to read them—has compelled certain people who hold strong convictions in this matter to adopt other means of putting their arguments before the public. Their endeavour to tell the truth, as they conceive it, is being represented as a deterrent to recruiting. That statement is false. There is not an atom of justification for it. Whole-page advertisements have appeared in certain newspapers, advertisements which the right hon. Gentleman—I mean the Press Bureau, on the suggestion of the right hon. Gentleman or his colleagues—have begged the newspapers not to allow to appear, because they would deter recruits. I had nothing whatever to do with the getting out of those advertisements. [An HON. MEMBER: "Who had?"] If you will allow me, I will put my own case. I did not know that they were given out until they appeared, but I thoroughly approve of them. The advertisements consisted mainly of two things. First of all, the advertisements began with a publication of the assurances which the right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues had given to the public through this House and the other House. Surely it is not criminal to tell people what rights they are entitled to if they join the Army, and what rights they were being assured of by the Government! The advertisement goes on to deal with the matter in a more general way, and ends up by appealing to the officers in the Army not to deter recruiting by conduct such as has been described here. That is the deterrent! I ask that those things complained of, and which I have described in my previous remarks, shall not go on any longer. We know this, that men who have suffered under the treatment I have described have gone home and told their friends, and that many of their friends have been deterred from joining the Army who otherwise would have done so. The best way to get recruits is to ensure to people the rights to which they are entitled.
The other full-page advertisement consisted mainly of an examination of a leaflet of which the right hon. Gentleman's Department has encouraged the circulation among the soldiers. That leaflet comes from a tainted source. [HON. MEMBERS: "Which leaflet?"] I mean the Research Defence Society's leaflet. The difference between a profession and a trade is, I believe, that a profession does not advertise. There is no nostrum, there is no quack in the whole world so advertised 446 as this thing, but it is not advertised in the usual way. They do not pay for space in the newspapers. They hold educational lectures, at which they refuse to allow any opposition from qualified persons. If anything taking a different point of view appeals in the newspapers, the secretary of this society has boasted that his members have sent protests against its appearance. The whole practice thrives by the suppression of the truth, or, at any rate, by the gagging of persons who are opposed to it, and it is very difficult in these circumstances to get at the truth. In the case of the advertisement to which I refer—the recent answer to the circular issued by the right hon. Gentleman, or rather the circular which has been issued under the ægis of the War Office, because I understand that authority has been given for its issue—a man was engaged to circulate it as an answer to the one put forward—I mean the advertisement of the microbe manufacturers. The man was put under arrest for several hours, and frightened out of keeping on the work. Why? Surely if the War Office want to punish the man for doing wrong, the Courts are open to them. The men who employed this man are much better people to go for. Why not take them into Court, and prove that their action is illegal? Why penalise the man earning weekly wages by having him arrested and frightened out of his life?
Finally, I want to make an appeal to the right hon. Gentleman. Is this War to be allowed to undermine all our liberties? I do not agree with many of the criticisms addressed to the Press Censor. I believe that his function is one that must be performed at a time like this, but is it to extend to questions of health? If so, why not to questions of morals and religion? Two and a half centuries after Milton's speech for the liberty of unlicensed printing you are preventing the newspapers from discussing a question which divides the medical fraternity. The right hon. Gentleman, in the circular which has been issued, says he must be guided by the consensus of medical opinion. Which consensus? I quite agree that the majority of the medical men in the country are in favour of this practice. Which practice? The high priest of this mysterious operation in this country is Sir Almroth Wright, and in France is M. Vincent, of the Pasteur Institute. Sir Almroth Wright says that the proper thing to do is not to inoculate with live microbes, but to get into the human 447 system the excrement of dead ones. M. Vincent says that dead ones are no good and that you must inoculate with live ones. The consensus of medical opinion in England agrees with the opinion of Sir Almroth Wright. The consensus of medical opinion in France agrees with M. Vincent. Inoculation is being practised under both systems. Which consensus does the right hon. Gentleman accept? Where doctors disagree, is it so unreasonable that people who are not doctors should withhold judgment, and that when they are guaranteed permission to keep a whole skin, they should avail themselves of that permission, and refuse to have poison introduced into their blood and disease introduced, on the off-chance that it may not make them very ill now, but may, perhaps, have some effect in reducing the results of an attack of the disease.
I ask the right hon. Gentleman to give his promise that these men shall have the liberty which they have been guaranteed by him and by his colleagues. I ask him to abstain from attempts to stifle the truth, or at any rate to stifle the frank expression of opposition to this practice, in the public Press. I ask him to punish the people who are worth punishing, and not to punish weekly wage-earners. I make the appeal, feeling perfectly certain that the right hon. Gentleman is desirous of doing his duty in the fullest possible way, that he is desirous of assuring to soldiers all the rights to which they are entitled, and that he is as much attached to freedom of expression in the Press as I am myself. I have detained the Committee very much longer than I intended to, and I hope they will forgive me for doing so, but if hon. Members had been pestered as I have been postered for months past with communications from men who felt that they had been betrayed by officers over them, they would understand the feeling with which I have addressed my remarks to the Committee.
§ Mr. HAYES FISHER
The Estimates allow us much discussion on many aspects connected with the War and many results of the War. We have commented upon and criticised recruiting, pay, promotion, pensions, and allowances. Yesterday we dealt with hospitals, and to-day with hutting and inoculation. I do not attempt to follow the previous speakers in the very animated Debate on what is a very debatable question, inoculation, but I want the Committee to spend a little time in dis- 448 cussing something to which hitherto they have only given exactly a quarter of an hour in the last Session of Parliament, namely, the question of British prisoners of war interned in Germany. I ventured to call the attention of the House to this question on 26th November last, when I asked three questions of the right hon. Gentleman the Under-Secretary of State for War. I directed his attention to the Hague Conventions and to the fourth article in the Convention, which allows officers who are interned in a foreign country to receive the pay of officers of that country. I went on to ask him what happened to the rank and file, to noncommissioned officers and the private soldiers? He informed me that their pay was stopped the moment they were taken prisoners. I then asked him whether it would not be possible to credit the noncommissioned officers and the private soldiers with their pay, and whether it would not be possible by means of some voluntary organisation or another to enable those men who were under-clothed, underfed and suffering much privation in German interned camps to obtain a portion of their pay, so that they might add to their clothing and to their food from the canteens which have been set up in connection with those camps.
I should be very much obliged to him. and I am sure the Army would be much obliged to him, if the right hon. Gentleman would state to-day what is the practice and the policy of the War Office as regards the pay of the non-commissioned officers and private soldiers, and, although their pay is stopped from the moment they are taken prisoners—it is not their own fault when they are taken prisoners—whether they cannot be credited with their pay, and whether any effort is being made, either by the War Office itself, or any organisation acting with the War Office or the Foreign Office, to enable some portion of their pay to be transmitted to these soldiers, with a view to assisting them to obtain better clothing and better food? I suggested to the right hon. Gentleman in Debate that wardens might be appointed from neutral countries by all the belligerents—Russia, France, Germany, Austria, and Great Britain—to watch over the interests in all these belligerent countries of the numberless prisoners who are now interned in those countries. Germany, for instance, boasts that she has 449 now 600,000 prisoners interned in Germany. I should rather think that Russia, counting Austrian prisoners, has probably just as many. I only want to show the Committee what an enormous mass of human misery there is in connection with these prisoners. I want to call attention to The Hague Convention of 1907—to that perfectly admirable charter of humane treatment which is laid down in The Hague Convention relating to prisoners of War. I want to know whether the nations are living up to the high principles which every one of them accepted so few years ago as 1907. The International Peace Conference, which was brought into being largely on the promotion of the then President of the United States, announced to all the world that the nations were drawing closer together and had succeeded in establishing a loftier conception of the common welfare of humanity. I want to know whether they are acting up to that lofty conception of the common welfare of humanity. Let us take some of these Articles of The Hague Convention. There is an Article of great promise, Article 7, which says:—The Government into whose hands prisoners of war have fallen is charged with their maintenance. In default of special agreement between the belligerents, prisoners of war shall be treated, as regards rations, quarters and clothing, on the same footing as recruits of the Government which capture them.I believe this country is living very fully up to that Article. I believe from all that can be heard, and from any examination we are able to make, that Great Britain is treating her prisoners of war fully in accordance with the highest standard of this code of humanity laid down by The Hague Convention, and I want to know what is the latest information the right hon. Gentleman has as regards the treatment of British prisoners of war in Germany. When I first called attention to this he was by no means satisfied that the treatment was in accord with the dictates and the highest principles of The Hague Convention, but that it fell very far short, and the rumours which reached us were unfortunately too true that thousands of our British prisoners were destitute of proper clothing and of proper food. I hope he can give some assurance to the House that matters have improved in that respect. Then I want to know, as regards Article 14, which says:—A bureau for information relating to prisoners of war shall be instituted at the commencement of hostilities in each of the belligerent States, and when necessary in neutral countries. The business of this bureau is to reply to all inquiries about 450 prisoners, to receive from the various services concerned full information respecting internment, transfers, releases on parole, exchanges, escapes, admissions into hospital, and deaths, as well as all other information necessary to enable them to make and keep up-to-date an individual return of each prisoner of war.How far are we living up to that Article? I believe we have a bureau which can quite well supply information of this kind to the relations of German prisoners in Germany. What I think is important is that this country should set the highest possible example itself in the treatment of prisoners, and that it should live as far as possible up to the very letter and spirit of The Hague Convention. It is by that means that we shall best be able to bring pressure to bear upon Germany to see that our prisoners in Germany have this favourable treatment accorded to them which undoubtedly is being accorded to German prisoners in this country.
Then I come to my last point, which is the most important of all. I asked the right hon. Gentleman in November last whether it would not be possible for all the belligerent countries to agree to ask either the United States or Switzerland or Sweden, or possibly Italy, to appoint from themselves guardians of the camps of all the countries to give us information, to watch over the interests of prisoners, and to see that the highest standard was acted upon in the various countries as regards the treatment of these unfortunate people. The right hon. Gentleman said he thought it was a good suggestion, but he would have to communicate with the Foreign Office on that matter, and I myself think on reflection that it is after all more a question for the Foreign Office than for the War Office. The right hon. Gentleman said, across the Floor of the House, that he thought I should be serving a very good purpose if I were myself to try to form some voluntary organisation with a view to aiding these prisoners. Some correspondence ensued between the right hon. Gentleman and myself and the Foreign Office, and I found that already a committee had been formed. Whether that committee has acted, I cannot say. The Foreign Office said that committee had nothing to do with them, but that a departmental committee was watching over this question. I think the time has come when the Foreign Secretary might well make some pronouncement on the subject. It would enormously relieve the anxiety of thousands of people if he were to state what is being done by the Foreign Office to alleviate, as far as possible, the 451 sufferings of these people, and how far in his opinion it is possible to induce other countries, and especially Germany, to promote some neutral guardians of these prisoners to be established for their benefit in all the various prisons and camps in which prisoners are interned.
The right hon. Gentleman on the last occasion on which he spoke told us that a certain Mr. Gaston, an American citizen, had been doing very excellent work in alleviating the miseries and suffering of British prisoners in Germany. I was informed by the Foreign Office that Mr. Gaston himself was acting on the same committee. I should like to know from the right hon. Gentleman whether Mr. Gaston is still an accredited agent in any way of the Government of this country, and whether if he be he is acting for all prisoners alike, or whether he is only acting for those prisoners who have given him some commission, and who are able to pay him perhaps very heavily for his services. I should certainly think it most undesirable that any man should be employed, who could only look after the interests of those prisoners whose relations in this country were well able to afford his services. That would be a very great misfortune. I think the Foreign Office and the Government ought to employ only those who are really acting from the purest possible philanthropic motives and were the accredited agents themselves of the country of which they were citizens. I hope to-day we may have some assurance that the Government are vigilant in looking after the interests of these most unfortunate men who have in many instances been the bravest of the brave, who have been fighting in our advance posts in France, but who have been caught in some trap or another. A mist comes down and they are cut off from the rest. They are in no way cowards, and it is their misfortune and not their fault that they are prisoners, and they deserve all the sympathy that we can give them, and we ought to do everything by example and by precept to live up to the very highest spirit and letter of the Hague Convention in the hope that by living up to it ourselves we may be able to induce Germany to adopt a more humane attitude towards prisoners.
§ Mr. G. ROBERTS
I am sure the observations of the right hon. Gentleman will be echoed in all parts of the House. Throughout the country widespread appre- 452 hension exists respecting the fate of the English soldier who is taken prisoner and interned in Germany. Unfortunately we have not authoritative information, but undoubtedly the Department is prosecuting inquiry into it, because if it should ultimately be proved that the information is correct that has come to us, I certainly feel that the lot of these prisoners is a very unfortunate one indeed. I share, too, the sentiment expressed by the right hon. Gentleman that we in this country by our treatment of German prisoners ought to set an example which, we hope, will be copied in Germany in the treatment of the British prisoners who may there be interned. I had intended offering a few comments on the question raised by my hon. Friend (Mr. Chancellor), but he covered the question so exhaustively that I do not think it would be wise or expedient for me to make any particular reference thereto. But I want to make one or two comments in order to make my own position clear. I have taken part in this Parliamentary recruiting campaign. I have frequently been asked by men whom I know to entertain strong convictions on this matter of inoculation as to whether it would be compulsory.
In each case I have quoted to them the assurances given by the representative of the War Office in this House, and I have no doubt that the replies I have given have been instrumental in inducing the men to join the Army, who, had they felt that inoculation was to be imposed upon them, would not have joined the Forces. I recognise that the whole question is a highly controversial one. I do not affect to have any particular medical or other knowledge. I am simply aware of this fact, that it is a subject which keenly divides the medical profession, and if that profession is thus divided, it would be very inadvisable for such as myself to dogmatise upon it. But if it is the opinion of the War Office that inoculation ought to be compulsory, then let it be laid down as a condition of enlistment, and then if men entertain these conscientious or other objections, of course they will withhold their services. Again there, certainly, some of these men have a substantial grievance, such as myself having informed them—and they having accepted it as an authoritative statement—that inoculation is not compulsory. These men have been induced to join the Army, and therefore if the conditions are altered and inoculation is made compulsory, certainly these 453 men have been induced to join under false pretences, and they have a right to complain of that circumstance. I think in those cases where men with strong convictions are concerned they ought to have a right now to retire, and ought to be compensated for the fact that they were induced to join the Forces under different conditions from those which were ultimately enforced upon them.
I want to pass to a question raised by the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Tennant) yesterday. He made an appeal to trade unions. I feel that we rather misapprehended the nature of the appeal that he made to us. But certainly I felt that at the back of his mind he had some real grievance against trade unions. I have carefully read his observations, and I am free to confess that I may have placed a little more weight on them than he intended to imply. But I am authorised to say to the right hon. Gentleman that the trade unions of the country are fully anxious to co-operate with the War Office. I think it is hardly necessary to state in this Committee that organised labour in this country has so far willingly co-operated with every other party in the State in order to carry through the great purpose of the nation. The bulk of opinion in the organised labour movement is that the very unpreparedness in which the country found itself was evidence of the fact that we neither contemplated nor desired war. We did all we could to avert it, but it would have been dishonourable had we stood aside, and therefore we are going to do all we can to prosecute it to the only issue we can contemplate, that is unquestioned victory for the cause of this country and its Allies. The trade unions have responded very thoroughly so far, and, as the right hon. Gentleman well pointed out, the Factory Acts Regulations and other restrictions have been considerably relaxed. I am also able to assure the right hon. Gentleman that trade union rules and regulations have in many cases been entirely abrogated. That certainly shows the willingness of the trade union movement to co-operate with the right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues. After all, we have got to recognise what will be the state of things after the War. The trade unions are entitled to safeguard the conditions which they have laboriously built up in past years. so that, if possible, they will after the War be in no way worsened. I 454 am sure there will be no restraint on the willingness of trade unions to render the fullest possible assistance. I could quote cases where trade union rules have been altogether suspended. While here this afternoon I had a communication from a trade union telling me that the protests which in normal circumstances the members can make are not open to trade unionists because of the way in which prices are cut—that is to say, in normal circumstances firms employing trade unionists and paying trade union terms are unable to compete for Government contracts. Under the stress of the War the ordinary rules have in many cases been set aside, with the result that trade union conditions are greatly relaxed. In one case even to the extent of overtime being worked at ordinary rates, so that firms undertake work which they would not do under normal conditions.
I want to direct attention to one section of the Army which was briefly referred to by the hon. Member for Devizes (Mr. Peto). At the commencement of the War there were many grievances felt throughout the country owing to the delays in the payment of allowances to soldiers and their families. This seemed to prove to many of us that the Army Pay Department had entirely broken down, and that undoubtedly was practically the case. I believe that things are better now, and that the machinery is working much more smoothly. I am not inclined to be hypocritical, because I understand that the circumstances were completely unparalleled, and that we had no conception of the proposition we had to encounter. Nevertheless the fact is that great strain was put upon the Army Pay Department, which is a very important section of the non-combatant forces. The Army Pay Corps feel that they have a real grievance because of the fact that civilians with no experience in administering Army affairs were brought in and placed over their heads, and that they are in receipt of pay and emoluments in excess of the payments made to the long-tried and experienced servants. The civilians brought in were, undoubtedly, admirable people in ordinary civil employment, but they were of very little use to the Army Pay Department. The Army Pay Department is generally described as the directing body It has been stated to me that by the time the civilians are at all competent the War will be over, unless it lasts a great deal longer than any of us 455 contemplate. My opinion as to what ought to have been done is that promotion should have been made from the Army Pay Corps into the Army Pay Department. These men certainly have had much experience of Army accounts and administration, and they were most qualified people. Having regard to the practice adopted throughout the country, they were reasonably entitled to look for promotion. In every other branch of the Service promotions to the commissioned ranks have taken place from warrant officers, non-commissioned officers and men. I cannot understand why there was a departure from this good practice in respect of the Army Pay Corps. I refer to this specific grievance because I believe something might be done to rectify it. The ordinary establishment of the Army Pay Department allows fifty-eight assistant paymasters with the rank of lieutenant. I am informed that there are still nineteen required to complete this establishment. May I ask the hon. Gentleman, who I understand will deal with this part of the question, whether it is possible to make these promotions, and whether, in doing so, the claims of the men in the Army Pay Corps will be fully considered?
I want also to direct attention to another part of this problem. Prior to the South African War each regiment had its own depot, its own colonel commanding the depot, and its own pay office, and all records belonging to the regiment were at its own depot. After the experience of the South African War a departure was made of which we have had some experience, but I think the circumstances ought to be reviewed in the light of this experience. In substitution of the old system there was set up what is called the, fixed centre system—grouped regimental district—and under this, instead of, say, six regiments, six depots, six record offices, and six pay offices, we have now six regiments, six depots, and only one record office and one pay office. I am informed that the Pay Office is badly staffed. Let me illustrate this point. I cull from a newspaper that deals very largely with military questions some details in regard to this system. For six regiments, respectively at Exeter, Taunton, Bodmin, Winchester, Dorchester and Devizes, there is only one colonel commanding grouped district; there is one record and one pay office—at Exeter. I am informed that the system whereby references to a man at 456 Winchester have to be made at Exeter is accountable for a considerable amount of dislocation, and for the delays which have followed in respect of soldiers' claims. It is one of those cases where we have to acknowledge that some economy has been effected, but that has been done at the sacrifice of efficiency.
In dealing with the specific case of the Army Pay Corps I need not say to the House that these are picked men above the average order of intelligence, who are well worthy of consideration. These men, in common with others, are called upon to serve at stations abroad and, if necessary, to accompany the troops in the field, and to perform any duties that may be required of them. It is also unnecessary to inform the House that Army accounts are very complicated. These men have occasion to deal with regulations which are constantly undergoing amendment and revision. I mention that to prove that they are of rather an exceptional type, and if, after consideration, it should be found that they have a real grievance, I would say that it must make for the efficient, satisfactory working of the corps to have that grievance removed. The tests for admission to the corps are pretty severe. Applicants must have at least twelve months' Army service, a second-class certificate of education, "a very good character," and beyond that, selected candidates have to undergo probation in the Army Pay Corps. If they are proved to be unsatisfactory, they are returned to their original units. Here I would like to say that I have always had grave suspicion as to the sending in of confidential reports. I would like to put in a claim in respect of the Army Pay Corps. I think they and the other units of the Army ought to be entitled to see these reports before they are presented by the officer in command. That is a grievance which not only applies to these particular men, but is widespread throughout the Army. I want to enforce it here again, if possible, on the attention of the authorities.
The main grievance I want to direct attention to is the fact that the regulations which govern the promotion of sergeants in the Army Pay Corps. They are barred by the regulations unless they have a total of seven years' service, six of which must be served in the Army Pay Corps, no matter what length of service they have had prior to transfer, or how brilliant their service has been. I think that is unfair, and I submit that the time 457 ought to be shortened, and that it should not be necessary for a man to have served such a long time as sergeant in the Army Pay Corps before he is qualified for promotion to the rank of sergeant. Everybody is aware that on the question of promotion depends that of pension, and that perhaps the chief attraction for men to make themselves efficient and undertake the responsibilities of higher posts is the fact that they will receive higher pensions. That is involved in this question, and I am assured that it does act as a deterrent to the proper working of this Department. I urge this question of the Army Pay Corps on the attention of the representative of the War Office in this House, and I request that the full organisation of the Corps should be considered. If it be proved that there is a substantial grievance, I feel that I am justified in asking that it should be redressed. I am sure that everybody will admit that we desire to do the right thing to those who are carrying out our work in this regard, that we are anxious that justice should be meted out to them, and that if anything is proved to require a remedy the necessary steps will be taken to produce that result.
§ Sir HENRY CRAIK
I have been forced to rise by the attack which I do not think I exaggerate in saying was a violent attack made by the hon. Member for Haggerston (Mr. Chancellor) on an honourable profession. I observe that the hon. Member, having made that attack, has now left his place. I do not think that it greatly helps the efficiency and usefulness of our Debate that such a retirement should take place. The latter part of the speech of the hon. Member for Haggerston dealt, apparently to his own satisfaction, with the scientific question which is raised in regard to inoculation. He declared that the question of inoculation was not a scientific matter at all, because it had never been dealt with according to scientific methods. I am not going to trouble the House with an examination, of which personally I would be incapable, suffice it to say, that I think that I will find general support in the House if I remark that we prefer the dictum of Sir Frederick Treves and the almost universal consensus of medical opinion to the ipse dixit of the hon. Member for Haggerston. I know that there are many Members on both sides of the House who take different views from myself on the question of experiments upon animals. It gives 458 me satisfaction to say that almost without exception even those—and I consider them honourable foes—who have fought us on the question of experiments on animals and vivisection have withdrawn any opposition to this question of inoculation and have assented to its being carried out, and have agreed that it is not only efficacious, but perhaps a necessary preventive.
I pass from the scientific question, which the House will agree may safely be entrusted to that honourable profession, the heads of which, and almost the whole body of which, are in agreement on the point, and I come to the other portion of the hon. Member's speech. He quotes violent language used in the barracks and on the parade ground—language vouched for by nameless witnesses whom we have no opportunity of cross-examining, while at the same time there is no opportunity for the person to whom these words are attributed, a member at least of an honourable profession, to answer or criticise what has been alleged. Does the hon. Member think that language of that sort is as wicked as it is for an hon. Member to come down to this House and stigmatise the medical profession, to which we owe so much and to which at this moment we are specially indebted, as one that thrives upon the constant suppression of the truth—because these are the words of the hon. Member? Does he think it is fair, after attributing certain rough words, used perhaps in the heat of the moment and probably grossly exaggerated, to speak of an officer in His Majesty's Army as a jack-in-office using his momentary power for unjust purposes? I confess that it was with much indignation I heard this attack and that, if I let loose my feelings, I would display more anger than I do now at the attack made by the hon. Member on that honourable profession. But when we listen to a speech like that delivered this afternoon, is it possible for us to realise that we are in the midst of a tremendous struggle for which we must organise, in the most perfect way possible, all the forces at our disposal, and in which struggle we must do all that we possibly can to ensure the health and such safety as we can for those who are fighting for our hearths and homes.
Is it right, is it fair, in judging a question like this, on which the efficiency of our Army, those millions who are now out or who are going to the front for us, is it right, is it fair, in judging a question 459 which so affects the safety of that Army, to spend time upon narrow points as to individual rights or as to the phraseology used when laying down certain rules for the Army, as to the phrases used in one circular or another by the War Office, and as to the precise measure in which persuasion can be pursued? When persuasion is about a point so vital as this, are we to spend time in splitting hairs over the precise rights of an officer or of the men under his command? Is it not very likely that an officer, especially a medical officer, knowing that the lives and safety of those men under his charge may be all endangered by the folly and prejudice caused by the ignorance of some men under his charge, should show some indignation and not mince his words when speaking about the man who is guilty of such a crime? It is not the poor soldiers who are to blame. It is the men who stir up this opposition, who would fain break the bounds of discipline, and who teach these men that they are as fit judges of this difficult question as those who have spent their lives upon it and have commanded the respect of all the scientific world. The hon. Member for Haggerston quoted, with apparent approbation, the words of a non-commissioned officer in the Cameron Highlanders, who said, "All my crime was that I would not be persuaded to carry out what I consider was nothing else than a fad of the medical profession." That is the verdict which the hon. Member is prepared to accept. The poor non-commissioned officer probably knew very little about it, and would not presume himself to be a judge. He was encouraged, I venture to say, to make this accusation of a very heinous kind by those who have preached this doctrine of ignorance and prejudice.
The hon. Member made a strong point, a technical point, against the War Office, that certain statements were made to the effect that this was to be voluntary. I have nothing to do with the War Office. I regret that possibly some of these statements on the part of the War Office went a little too far. I think that the War Office would have done better to have the courage of its convictions—and these I know were its convictions—and to have said, "Either you accept the inoculation or you are not fit to go abroad and run the risk of carrying infection to your comrades, perhaps to a large body of men." The hon. Member for Haggerston pro- 460 nounces upon this question. He is positively certain that typhoid fever is never caused by infection. I can only say that I am equally ignorant with the hon. Member, but that I accept the doctrine, as set forward by all the leading professional men, that the infectious character of typhoid fever has been clearly established. And seeing that that is the case, I think that it is a matter of regret if the War Office went rather far in announcing that this was merely a voluntary operation. After all, the War Office do say, "It is not absolutely compulsory, but we shall use all the methods of persuasion or influence that we can bring to bear," and they direct their officers to do that. It is utterly unjust to fancy that words will be picked in the hurry and bustle of the barrack yard. I think that these men, even if these words were used which I am not prepared to accept on the testimony of an unnamed and unexamined witness, had the justification of the indignant feeling which an honourable medical man would experience when he knew the danger which was being incurred by the rest of the men under his charge. But even if the War Office had gone rather too far in stating that the operation was purely voluntary, are we to say, if a soldier refused to obey the injunction of his officer, acting on the advice of his medical officer and of the medical profession acting for the War Office, that it is tyranny because he is not allowed to do exactly the work which he wishes, and because, instead of carrying numbers of the wounded about as chauffeur, he is used for some other duties?
Is he to have his pick and choice of the work which he is to do? Is this the discipline which is to prevail in our Army, that the private is to say: "You have put me to work which is disagreeable; I must have the work which I choose for myself. You must put me back on it; you are out of temper because I would not be inoculated"? Is this what you are to encourage? Do you think that by encouraging that you will improve or solidify discipline in our Army? It is said that this or that man did not get some special favour with regard to Christmas leave. Is it not perfectly fair, as he has acted contrary to the injunctions of the commanding officer and of the War Office, and contrary to the advice of the medical officer of the unit to which he belongs, that he should suffer some penalty for the risks which he makes others incur? This is not a matter of the 461 individual soldier; it is a matter which concerns the whole body of those who are acting with him. I wonder how it would be in the enemy's armies, or in the armies of our Allies, if a choice of that sort were given? Would he be allowed to be free from much more serious effects of discipline than those to which the hon. Member referred? He said that such and such a man did not get special terms of leave, that he was not used for special work which he rather preferred; that he did not get a special allowance as regards railway fares—all of them things which must necessarily be given as a favour and not as a right. He said that one man that was brought up before the court-martial was done a great wrong. Is there any great wrong done if an accusation is brought against a man? What other way can he be tried save by court-martial, and if that court-martial finds that he is not guilty of insubordination, what grievance can the hon. Member have? The War Office may have gone a little too far, but we must remember that the Department has become more and more convinced by additional evidence which has come forward, and by the great strength given to the case from statistics collected by Sir Frederick Treves. Where can you have more irrefragable evidence of inoculation and its extraordinary power than is to be found in those statistics, and yet we have the accusation by the hon. Member of cooked statistics, and he sought to reduce them utterly by stating certain of his reminiscences. On one point he showed some lack of frankness. Sir Frederick Troves said that no member of the Expeditionary Force who had been inoculated died of typhoid fever. The hon. Member said that this was wrong, and that one man had died, and the right hon. Gentleman the Under-Secretary of State admitted it. My recollection is and I think I shall be confirmed, that the man who died did not belong to the Expeditionary Force at all, but belonged to a London Reserve battalion, and that he died of pneumonia after a route march, I presume here in England. The right hon. Gentleman will correct me if I am wrong. His reply is given in the OFFICIAL REPORT, and it confirms my own recollection.
§ Mr. GEORGE GREENWOOD
I think I may say that one man referred to by Sir Frederick Treves died after inoculation, and the letter which I have here shows that he was not the man to whom the hon. 462 Member is now referring, who died after inoculation of typhoid and pneumonia.
§ Sir H. CRAIK
The case which I mention certainly was referred to, but I do not want to occupy the House further on these details. I felt compelled to rise and protest against the bitter attack on an honourable profession, which has given itself heart and soul and with great effect to the work which it is doing, a work which does not thrive, thrive as it may, upon the persistent suppression of the truth.
May I ask the Financial Secretary to the War Office about one point of some importance? It is with regard to the retired medical officers who before the War accepted certain work at very small pay, because hitherto they have only had comparatively small duties. I think they are paid £150 a year, and they worked, perhaps, two or three hours a day. But, since the beginning of the War, these officers have been employed ten, eleven, twelve and sometimes fourteen hours a day, though they still remain upon the former low wages. I know that this affects no very large number, a number something under 100 altogether, but the grievance is very considerable, and I draw the attention of the Financial Secretary to it. If he can say something that will give any satisfaction to those who are suffering under this very serious grievance it will be very acceptable.
§ The PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY to the BOARD of EDUCATION (Dr. Addison)
I wish to say a few words in reply to the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Haggerston (Mr. Chancellor). I am sure we all very heartily admire the hon. Gentleman for the sincerity of conviction, which pervaded his whole speech. Though many of us do not share his views on this subject, yet we know that he himself, at all events, always has had, in this House, the courage of his opinions. I know myself that he has addressed a large number of recruiting meetings and done a great deal of work, though he has always then withheld his view on this particular subject. I think sometimes one is apt, in dealing with the details of a question like this, rather to lose the sense of proportion. After all, the essential question is whether this inoculation is desirable in itself, and is it desirable as preventing the occurrence of typhoid fever among our troops abroad to a sufficiently material extent, thus protecting the lives of our men, and diminishing the 463 risks of contagion? That is a big question. After all, it is not so much whether a man dies after inoculation. I am convinced that where the inoculations are carried out with care, particularly where the men can rest the next day, they are effectual, and that the number of cases which do badly are infinitesimal. There is no question whatever that they are. Even if a man dies at a particularly vulnerable moment, as the result of inoculation, that does not prove that it is not a very efficient preventive of typhoid fever, any more than it would prove that chloroform was not an ænesthetic because a man died tinder it. I think we should get away from details of that kind. I was glad to hear my hon. Friend state that he had not a word of objection to inoculation; but I must say that he dissembled his impartiality with uncommon skill. It in not for me to say anything as to any infractions of discipline that may have taken place, or as to what has happened with regard to the War Office Orders. I have no doubt my right hon. Friend will deal with that point when he comes to speak. My hon. Friend the Member for Haggerston, in dissembling his indifference on the question of inoculation, committed himself to a statement which I think in his calmer moments he will hardly maintain. The hon. Gentleman has complained that my right hon. Friend yesterday said that there were only 421 cases, which he thought too small and petty a number to be quoted by my right hon. Friend.
§ Dr. ADDISON
That is the whole point. The point is that we have a great force on the Continent and have shipped to the Continent a greater force than we ever had before. Out of six months we have had three months of the most atrocious weather imaginable; and yet there have been only these 421 cases. The fact of the figures being so small is a triumphant vindication of the value of that inoculation.
§ Dr. ADDISON
I am not in a position to give my hon. Friend that information. If I were I do not think it desirable to state the numbers. They might be stated in percentages, and I do know that a very considerable percentage of the troops 464 have not been inoculated, and I also know that a very large percentage of those in the Expeditionary Force were inoculated. The hon. Member said that the whole practice seems to thrive upon suppression of the truth. I do not know what practice the hon. Member refers to. I should have said myself that nothing but good could arise from full and frank discussion of the whole subject, and the more the records of this remedy are examined the greater is the satisfaction which the War Office has received from them. The figures from America and other places, which have been alluded to here, are a fine advertisement for typhoid inoculation. The hon. Member referred to South Africa and the effect upon those inoculated, but I have never heard it contended, and I do not know that any one of the advisers of my hon. Friend would contend, that this is not a thing which must be learned by experience. Since then twelve years have elapsed, which is a long time in a matter of this sort, and in many countries during that period there has obviously been a very large improvement. We do not claim that inoculation for typhoid is an absolute protection. The point is, is it so much a protection that it so diminishes the incidence of the disease of our troops abroad as to be worth doing. That is the whole point. There were 58,000 cases in South Africa—that is more than an Army corps—and up to the present we have the number 421. I hope that we may go on at that rate. You can put it down to what you like, for I do not expect for one moment we shall convince my hon. Friend, but it synchronises with the application of this particular inoculation—
§ Mr. LYNCH
May I ask my hon. Friend a question which is vital to the statistics on this very point, and it is this: Taking the number of inoculated and the number not inoculated, and taking the number of deaths respectively, are the numbers comparable in ratio, or do they show a great advantage in favour of those inoculated?
§ Dr. ADDISON
I cannot give the absolute figures, as I have not got them here, and I do not think it would be desirable to do so if I had them. What we learn from the American Army is that not only is the incidence of the disease among the inoculated enormously diminished, but that the mortality from the disease is diminished as well. The hon. Member for Haggerston referred to those who refused to "violate their consciences," and 465 expressed condemnation of those who have tried to oppress their consciences in an opposite direction. I think a good many men might find their consciences more or less asleep on this subject had it not been that somebody or other made it their business to go about among all the camps distributing leaflets of the kind I have here, and which, I dare say, galvanised the consciences of a good many men into activity. Here is a leaflet which begins:—True patriotism. Is it patriotic to oppose the vaccination and inoculation of our soldiers?That is not a question of the freedom of the individual. "Is it patriotic to oppose the vaccination and inoculation of our soldiers?" That is the question asked, and in the first line the reply says, "Certainly it is." That is not a campaign directed towards the preservation of the freedom of the individual, but it is a campaign against typhoid inoculation, and is not in defence of personal rights at all. The very heading of the leaflet shows that it is not so. Do not let us confuse the issues. A good many of those men no doubt asserted their freedom quite honestly without having arguments of this kind to induce them to so exercise it. I think, however, that the hon. Member must remember that if he expects officers and others who believe in inoculation not to press it on any of their men then he must at least ask his own friends not to adopt an opposite course.
I never asked that officers should not endeavour to persuade their men. I. said that that was legitimate, but what I did object to was, oppressing the men who did not yield to their persuasion.
§ Dr. ADDISON
As I have, already said, that is a question with which I have no doubt my right hon. Friend the Under-Secretary will deal. The point I am trying to make is this, that this particular leaflet did not make out this campaign as one on the rights of the individual, on which I admit the hon. Member has made out a very strong case. The campaign carried on was whether these men ought to be inoculated. After all, whilst there may be, and I dare say there are in different parts of the country, excesses of enthusiasm on the part of men who sincerely believe that the troops under their command will be safer out in. France if inoculated, yet one can understand that if a man is taking a battalion out there, and if he thinks that the burden of his transport will be less, and the sick will be 466 less numerous, and that he will have more fighting units in the firing line—and that is the final test—because the men are inoculated, then I say one can understand little excesses now and then on different men's parts in trying to get their men inoculated. I do hope, however, that we shall not allow this great question to be clouded over merely by questions of little trivialities. Do let us try and look at it as a whole, and if it is a good thing for our troops in France and if it is sufficiently good to warrant us in pressing it on to protect men against this disease, which is really the most fatal in all campaigns, then I am quite sure my hon. Friend will be quite ready to sink any minor prejudices of his own, if he is convinced, as many of his friends are who are against inoculation, that it is, after all, sound policy to take, and that probably it is the wisest course to take, and I am sure he and his friends will at all events co-operate with the War Office in placing no undue obstacles in the way of its being carried out.
§ Mr. WALTER LONG
I intervene for only a few moments in order, in the first place, on behalf of my Friends here, to thank the hon. Gentleman who has just spoken for, if I may be allowed to say so, the most admirable speech which he has just made, and coming from one who is so distinguished in the great profession of which he has been so long an ornament, it is of especial value to-day. It is not only as to the scientific aspect of the case upon which he has spoken with so much authority, for which I thank him, but I desire to thank him also for the courageous attitude he has taken up on behalf of the Government in regard to the general question. I have some small title to take part in a debate of this kind, for it is now thirty years since I first took part in Debates in the House upon the vexed question of the prevention of disease by the method of inoculation. One conspicuous feature of these Debates has been the proficiency of the advocates of one particular side to find language of courtesy in which to make the most direct charges against those who advocate inoculation of one kind or another as a preventive of disease. I am bound to say I never heard argument of the kind brought to greater perfection than by the hon. Member for Haggerston to-day when he used the delightful phrase "suppression of truth" as a polite way of indicating that somebody had distinctly lied.
§ Mr. LONG
I entirely agree with the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Education, and I have never heard the case of the opponents of inoculation in any form put with greater courtesy or with more sincerity, or, may I say, with greater force than it was put by the hon. Member for Haggerston to-day. I entirely concur with the hon. Gentleman who spoke for the Government that the opponents of vaccination or inoculation or vivisection, with all of whom I have crossed swords in this House, as I am a pronounced supporter of all three, most sincerely hold the views which they advocate, and to-day, as their cause is not a popular one to advocate in the ordinary sense, they deserve all the more recognition from those who do not agree with them, not only for the sincerity of their views, but as well for the courage with which they advance them here and elsewhere. What I rejoice more than anything at is that the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Education has taken the thing out of the rut of common controversy as to what may be the effect of inoculation and has declined, with admirable courage, to discuss the number of percentages of cures and preventions and deaths, and things of that kind. He has told us what is the truth in the plainest and clearest terms—namely, that this is not a moment when we can stop to discuss these questions in the ordinary form, and this is not a moment when the House of Commons can be asked to weigh the advantages or disadvantages of inoculation. We have to decide this question, as the hon. Gentleman said, on the broad view of what is most likely to conduce to the success of our arms at the front.
I think we are very much indebted to my hon. Friend the Member for East Wiltshire for having raised this question, because it enables us to say here, as I venture to say now quite plainly, with the authority of my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition—namely, that so far as we are concerned, we will give to the Government, now and hereafter, all the support in our power, if they think it necessary to take the strongest measures in order to secure the health of our troops at the front. When I say that I mean this: I believe wholly in inoculation as a preventative against disease, but I mean something more than that. I mean that if, when the excitement of war has worn 468 off, and when we come to the times when men are more coolly and coldly discussing questions. I say for my party we will decline to take any advantage of any popularity that might obtain to the Opposition from this matter, nor shall we share in any way in criticisms that may be addressed to the Government because of the line they have taken, so long as they are actuated by the spirit which actuated the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Education in his reply to-day. He has told us that the Government will do what they think right in the interests of our Army at the front. He asked the House to remember that those who are responsible for the demands they make here and at the front have to look at this question from all its aspects. He reminded us that we have to think of the difficulties of transport and the difficulties of moving the troops from one point to another, and no sooner have you got them to the trenches than in the case of this illness you have got to move them back again. It does not mean one or two single cases, but if you have this epidemic it is almost as if you mowed men down on all sides. You have got to take such men back, not merely to the nearest hospital where you can deal with cases of wounds, but you have got to move them right back to the base where you have got to deal with and to supply them with the doctors, dressers, nurses, and attendants, all of whom are sent out in order to deal with those who are unhappily wounded in the ordinary process of war, and not to work which we can save them from doing if we have the courage of our opinions, and do that which is rendered necessary in the interests of the Army abroad.
The hon. Member for Haggerston condemned the process, and claimed as one of his witnesses the present state of this country in regard to small-pox under a reduced system of vaccination. I should be prepared, if this were the time to discuss that with him, and to point out what I believe to be the case, namely, that where you diminish or abolish vaccination you only secure immunity from small-pox if you follow up that operation by the most rigorous application of the most modern methods of hospital accommodation and sanitation for every case.
§ Mr. LONG
The hon. Member agrees with that. But that is not the basis upon 469 which to argue this question. You have to take the effect of this remedy in the ordinary conditions of life which obtain in this country and, still more, at the front. It is because you cannot apply these supplementary methods of medicine and sanitation at the front in a great campaign such as that in which we are now engaged that it is obligatory upon the authorities to take those methods which we happen to have, and apply them without fear and with determination. Something was said about drainage and water. It was said that the conditions in the present campaign are better than they were in South Africa. I have been in both countries. So far as drainage goes in South Africa, that was not the cause of disease, because there was no drainage, good, bad, or indifferent; but there was very bad water. What is the water like now? What are the drainage conditions in the present campaign? Let anybody see for himself. One of the great difficulties that everybody has had to contend with has been to apply some system that would get rid of the water. The land is so water-logged that to describe it as being likely to be a sink-bed of germs, and therefore a centre of disease, is to describe it very inadequately. All the circumstances point to the necessity for doing everything in our power to lessen the risk. Even if we do not believe it, if those who are in authority hold it is the right thing to do, I would pray Members of this House to support the Government in the course which they are taking.
In regard to my Friends on this side, does anybody believe that everything the Government have done since the War began has been exactly in accordance with our views? Does anybody suppose that everything has been done exactly as we believe we would have done it if we had been responsible for the conduct of affairs? Of course not. I am not now discussing what would have been right. I am only saying that obviously there must be many questions upon which we hold different opinions. But that is the very time when unanimity is called for. Unanimity is of no importance when all are agreed that you are doing the very best thing that can be done. When the House needs to make up its mind to stand together and to support the Government is when some hold different opinions. There [pointing to the Treasury Bench] resides responsibility; there resides authority; there are the men who alone 470 can give to our Army at the front the support and help that it wants. Without that support and help the campaign cannot be successfully concluded; or, even if it is successfully concluded, it must be greatly prolonged. But with that help and support we believe the duration of this horrible War will be greatly shortened with a consequent lessening of suffering and a reduction in the loss of those invaluable lives which day by day are being cheerfully given for their country. It is one of the dread consequences of war that lives must be given as a consequence of the fire of the enemy. Do not let us through weakness or vaccilation add to the decimation of our splendid forces by a cause which we can prevent, if we are willing and have the courage to do so. I apologise for having intervened in the Debate; I only rose to say on behalf of my Friends on this side that the Government have our unqualified support in the course which they are taking.
There was also raised a question concerning the good faith of the War Office and the Government in regard to certain pledges which it is alleged have been given. I know nothing of these allegations; I have had no opportunity to judge of them. I rather regret that the hon. Gentleman brought into the Debate quotations from remarks made by certain officers to their men. The circumstances in which officers are preparing their men for the front are very difficult, and sometimes one may be tempted to exhibit too much zeal. I do not condone language of the kind referred to if it was used, but I should like to know more of the general circumstances. If a pledge has been given, either in this House or out of it, it is quite obvious—I am sure the Government would take this view themselves—that that pledge cannot be departed from without certain conditions. I would suggest to the Government for their consideration that, if they find that that pledge cannot now be carried out with due regard for the safety of the Army at the front, their change of policy, if there is to be one, should be made at once, and should apply to all men in the future; while with regard to the past, if a man feels himself aggrieved, do not let him be forced against his will, but let him have an opportunity of retiring before he is compelled to undergo the treatment. I know enough of my countrymen, and I have seen enough of the magnificent fellows who every day are flocking to the Colours, to believe that they would 471 think more of the word of those who have brought them to the Colours being broken, than they would of being called upon after fair treatment to undergo inoculation. I believe that they share our view. They want the best to be done to bring this campaign to an end. If the Government were to say that any man who considers himself aggrieved, believing himself to have enlisted under a pledge that he would not have to undergo inoculation, should have an opportunity of being transferred to the Force for Home defence, I do not believe that any but a small minute fraction of the men, would be affected; whereas if that were not done, you would certainly, if the facts are as stated, prepare yourself for a charge of having made a pledge and departed from it. That would be inconsistent with the traditions of this House and of this country, and I am confident that the Government are not the least likely to be guilty of anything of the kind.
§ Sir HAROLD ELVERSTON
I was very glad to hear the remarks which fell from the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Fulham (Mr. Hayes Fisher), because I wished to direct the attention of the Committee to certain points in connection with the management of the camps where so many thousands of aliens are interned at the present time. We hear on every hand splendid tributes to the way in which the War Office has supplied the troops at the front, and met their requirements. But I think that we have also heard time and time again from civilians in this country criticisms of the business methods of the War Office. It is generally felt by civilians that, whilst in this great crisis the War Office has been given a very free hand in every direction up to the present, there are many things which civilians can do a great deal better than soldiers, and that the business part of the arrangements might be left to business men. At any rate, I feel very strongly that many points in connection with the management of these internment camps might be left in the hands of civilians, and that the War Office might relieve itself of much trouble in that respect. For example, it will be a matter of some surprise to many Members to learn that at one of these camps during three weeks at Christmas time no less than five tons of good wholesome bread was thrown away—bread of the same quality that Members of this House use in their households. On Thursday next this House 472 is going to devote the whole of its sitting to the consideration of the price of foodstuffs in this country, and I think everyone will agree that the question of husbanding our supplies is one of considerable importance. Yet, at one of these Government establishments, every week something like 600 lbs. of bread is being wasted. It is kicking about the floor, it is thrown on the refuse heaps, and eventually it finds its way to the pigs.
I suppose the Under-Secretary of State will wonder upon what grounds I make that statement, so perhaps I had better take the House at once into my confidence. About three weeks ago, not dreaming for a moment that I was doing anything to which the slightest official objection could be taken, I went to one of these internment camps, and was shown over it. I believe that I was the first Member of this House to be shown over that particular camp—at any rate, I was the first Member to have visited it for a very considerable time. I can only say that when I got there I found the officials apparently very glad indeed to have a visit from a Member of this House, and they were very pleased that we should know something of what is going on in this particular camp. I should like to say at once that these gentlemen struck me as being most courteous and considerate. I am sure that they are doing everything that they possibly can to make the camp cheerful, healthy and comfortable. From their attitude to the men, and the way they were received by the men in various parts of the camp, I am certain that they always bear in mind that, while the people who are unfortunately interned there may be prisoners, they are certainly not criminals. I am also certain that many of the prisoners there, both military and civilian, wish for nothing better than to stay in that particular camp until the end of the present War.
But what I saw there that day made me very anxious to go to other internment camps, if possible, and see whether they were run upon the same lines. So last week I sent a request to the Under-Secretary of State for permission to go and see what is going on in other parts of the country. I may say that my only reason for doing so was that I did not wish to make a long journey, say, to Wales or across to the Isle of Man. and when I got there find that I had some some difficulty in visiting the camp or in establishing my identity. I never for one single moment dreamt that the War Office would raise 473 any official objection to a Member of this House doing what I was then proposing. I must take this opportunity of saying that I am amazed at the refusal of my simple request, a refusal which I received on Saturday last. I think it should be publicly known that the War Office to-day is so full of officialism, or is so frightened of a little investigation, that Members of this House are refused permission to go and see what is going on in these various camps. The attitude which they take up is both stupid and dangerous. I am quite sure it must give rise to all manner of suspicions which I really believe have not the slightest foundation in fact. I certainly hope that this House will insist upon it that a Committee should be formed to take over, say, some part of the management of these camps, or, if that is quite impracticable, that at any rate a fair number of Members of this House should be given authority to go and visit the camps. They should be invested with powers somewhat similar to those which ordinary visiting justices enjoy in the case of our civilian camps.
§ Sir H. ELVERSTON
The right hon. Gentleman says that that has just been done. Only just been done, Mr. Whitley, after these camps have been in existence six months! A thing like this, instead of being left to the present time, ought, I contend, to have been done months ago.
§ Sir H. ELVERSTON
I can only say this: I do not know where these Gentlemen have been in the meantime, and I do not know what they may have done or what camps they may have visited. We have certainly seen no report of any kind of what they have done in this respect. I still contend that it would be doing nothing improper to have invested a number of Members of this House with the full visiting powers which the ordinary visiting justices have in the case of civilian prisoners. If there were any military question involved in this matter no one would make such a suggestion, certainly not I! But there is no military question involved in this. No one wants to interfere with the government of the prisoners. All we want to see is that proper conditions exist and that business-like methods are being used in the government of these camps. In order to support my contention 474 I will venture to put before the House a few of the facts which I gleaned from that solitary visit; facts which I should like to confirm from other internment camps if I had the privilege, which has been denied me, to visit them. We have seen, during the last few weeks, while the people of Berlin are under new laws and under the rule of the local mayor, and are only getting about half a pound of bread per day, that in this particular camp that I visited, in addition to meat, vegetables, and other provisions, those concerned are getting no less than one and a half pounds of excellent bread every day. In a way, I think we are all extremely glad, and I think we should be glad, that these people are being so well and so humanely treated. It should be widely known that literally they have to-day tons of food in existence after all they require. I think that knowledge should go abroad to the Continent, and, if possible, into Germany. At the same time I am quite sure that if these camps had been under the supervision of a civilian committee, waste, which is particularly wicked at the present time, would have been avoided.
But of course I presume the War Office is so used to wasting things at the present time that the mere waste of enough food—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh, oh!"]—of enough food to feed a hundred people every week is regarded as a mere bagatelle. [An HON. MEMBER: "How do you know?"] Another point is this: Last autumn I asked the Under-Secretary for War whether proper arrangements had been made at this particular camp with regard to its drainage and sanitary matters. I myself knew when I asked the question that the arrangements of that camp were practically non-existent. The Under-Secretary for War told us that plans had been prepared, and that they would see to it that no nuisance was committed. These plans may still be hidden somewhere in the deep recesses of the War Office, and I dare say they may be brought out after the War is over, and workmen set to work erecting septic tanks; but up to the present those septic tanks have certainly not been placed at the camp. As a result of that, we have in that camp at the present time 2,000 prisoners without any drainage arrangements whatever worth a row of pins, and great loads of the most repulsive rubbish and refuse have to be carted away and buried in the district every day. That has been bad enough all through the winter, but what it will be when the summer comes 475 I cannot imagine. I know this, however, that if the Local Government Board found a village with over 2,000 inhabitants which had no sort of drainage that the Department would at once look like some despondent fury at that particular village.
I pointed out this condition of affairs to the Under-Secretary for War over three months ago. To-day, as I say, nothing of any moment, nothing worth mentioning, has been done. When going through this camp I noticed that a large number of young people were there. There were over a hundred boys between sixteen and eighteen years of age. I asked one lad his age, and he told me he was fourteen. Those boys are eating and sleeping and spending the whole of their time in company with men, many, of whom are certainly totally unfit companions for boys of this description. Again I say, if these camps had been under the control of a different body, that I am quite sure arrangements would have been made to intern those boys in some other place or in some other district. As it is, at the present time they are being ruined morally and being ruined physically, and all because of red tape and the neglect of the Department which is under the control of my right hon. Friend. I feel that I certainly should have been very guilty if I had not taken this first opportunity to draw the attention of the House to this particular great evil. I think the public ought to know—
§ Sir H. ELVERSTON
I am not fouling my own nest. We must keep our own stable clean. I am drawing attention to matters which can easily be corrected.
§ Sir H. ELVERSTON
I think the public ought to know that every man in that camp is provided with a good strong mattress, a proper bolster, and three blankets. I can only add that I hope that our friends who are imprisoned and interned in Germany are treated as well. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] There are other points to which I could easily draw the attention of the House, but I think I have said enough—[An HON. MEMBEH: "More than enough."]—to justify my contention that the details of the management of these camps can very easily be improved upon, 476 and improved upon without much difficulty. If the War Office would invest some Members of this House with some of the powers I have suggested, something could be done, because I am quite certain, in my own mind that the details—what I have described as bad management—have only crept in because the War Office was so much occupied with other mattere, If the authorities would confer upon several Members of this House some little authority in this matter these details would very soon be corrected, and there could be absolutely no exception taken to what is going on in those camps. When I went there I was struck by the fact that as I went in some two or three hundred men were coming out. They were singing and happy, and were certainly upon the best possible terms with the gentlemen who are guarding and looking after them. Again I would like to add my tribute to the obviously careful and courteous way in which those prisoners were being treated by the men who are in charge of them. The greatest credit is, I think, due to them for their being treated well. They are being kept dry and well fed, and in every way, except in the details which I have pointed out, are properly attended to. Apart from the exceptions I have mentioned, I believe the management of that place is everything any man could wish for themselves, or their relatives, if they happened to be placed there.
§ 7.0. P.M.
§ Mr. LAURENCE HARDY
I do not intend to follow the last hon. Gentleman into certain parts of his speech, but I should only like the House to contrast the manner in which the question of internment camps was brought forward by my hon. Friend below me and the hon. Gentleman who has just spoken. It would have been much better for the hon. Gentleman to have forwarded the details to the War Office in order that there might have been reserved to ourselves a more general discussion. I did desire at one time to say a few words on the question of inoculation, but after the speech from the Front Benches below I do not feel that it is at all necessary to dwell further upon the question. I should just like again to emphasise to the right hon. Gentleman the Under-Secretary for War, who I believe will have a good idea of the campaign which has taken place, especially in the New Army, in connection with this inoculation campaign, that it has been a simple, persistent, and continuous and most extensive campaign that has been 477 carried out in order to try and prevent our young soldiers from being inoculated. The matter has been brought forward, in one case to my knowledge, when the appeal was most likely to have effect—where, after the first inoculation and its discomforts have been felt and a man is open to appeal—the endeavour has been made to prevent the soldier from having a second inoculation. Such appeals then are likely to have the greatest effect. A thing that is worth doing is worth doing thoroughly, and I do hope, therefore, when the right hon. Gentleman replies to-morrow, we may hear that the Government has made up its mind that in future all soldiers who go to the front are, at all events, to be protected in such measure that they may stand side by side with their colleagues in the Allied Armies and feel that they are on an equal footing with them, and that they are not likely to carry danger. I do hope that when the right hon. Gentleman makes his statement tomorrow he will give us some information with reference to the camps made for our soldiers in this country. I know there have been very great difficulties in dealing with these camps, first, on account of the haste with which they had to be prepared in order to receive our soldiers for the winter, and, secondly, on account of the abnormally bad weather we have suffered all through these months; but I do most earnestly ask the right hon. Gentleman to give his personal attention to the condition of these camps. It certainly has not been a satisfactory position that, after the very great expense to which this country has gone in connection with these camps, the soldiers have had to be turned out of them in practically every case, because, I believe, even when they have entered upon occupation, these huts have proved extremely unweatherproof, and, even now, they are not in a satisfactory condition.
Whether it is that the Government did not adopt a very satisfactory design in the first instance for these simple huts for the soldiers I am not qualified to say, but I can say that they are very unsatisfactory in those cases which I have come across in my own county, Kent; for instance, round Canterbury they have been very unsatisfactory, and, of course, you must realise, in these days, it is a very great expense that, after these camps have been built and occupied, the soldiers should have to be taken out of them again 478 and put into billets. Besides that, of course it involves a very serious interference with their training, and discipline falls in their having to be split up, as they must be when scattered in billets, making it almost impossible to get them together and to keep on that concerted training which should be at the bottom of their whole course, especially when they are approaching the time for going abroad. I dare say it may be largely due to the weather, but I do think it requires very careful consideration, and I do hope the Government will really see that, before the soldiers go into these camps again, the camps are put into a very much better condition than they have been, even if it may cause delay or greater expense.
It has been very difficult I know to deal with the circumstances around the camps, but I should like to ask the Government whether they have considered what action they are going to take in connection with the roads which surround these camps. They have become almost a public danger owing to the traffic, especially in country roads, which are almost impassable, and are very bad for the soldiers themselves, who can hardly use them, besides being extremely bad for their boots and clothes. In the case I have just mentioned we are in a very parlous condition. I only ask the right hon. Gentleman if he will give attention to the matter. It is a very great grievance, and though it is said that soldiers should endure hardships before going abroad so that they may then be accustomed to them, these are unnecessary, and we do not want to expose soldiers to what may be only petty illnesses, but which weaken a man before going out to endure the great strain in the fighting line. For that reason I most earnestly ask the right hon. Gentleman to do everything in his power to secure that these camps shall be put into better condition than at the present time.
I should also like to ask one more question. A good many people are still in a state of ignorance as to the exact attitude of the Government in connection with officers' pensions. We are awaiting a statement upon that question. We know a Committee has been sitting, and we have a Report in connection with the pensions of the rank and file, but we do not quite understand the position of the officers. That is a question which becomes of more crying importance every day. because, whatever may have been the conditions in reference to what I may call our 479 old Army, the conditions when the New Army gets into the field are even more severe in connection with this matter. A great many officers have gone into this New Army giving up important positions, high pay, and comfortable situations, and they are going out in a very short time to fight our battles. It is a very great anxiety to all their dependants not to be aware what will be their position should death or any injury happen to those officers. We have had a strong feeling expressed in regard to an increase of pensions for the rank and file, and I am quite sure there is just a strong feeling in connection with the officers as well. It is a matter which must be dealt with, and it is one as to which, as I say, considerable uncertainty is being felt. An early statement will give great satisfaction to a large number of anxious people at the present moment; I do therefore ask for a clear statement from the Government.
Mr. TYSON WILSON
I should like to endorse what the right hon. Gentleman said with regard to the huts, and to say that in their erection great care ought to be taken to make them waterproof and weatherproof. Personally I do not believe they have gone about the work in a light manner. I feel quite confident that if the War Office in the first instance had decided to standardise the huts, had had them prepared by a firm of repute in their own yard, and then sent them off to the place where they had to be erected, we should have had a far better job in connection with the housing of the soldiers. Yesterday the Under-Secretary for War made an appeal to trade unions to remove restrictions or suspend the operation of the rules with the object of assisting the Government at the present time. I appeal to him to make it quite clear what he would like trade unions to do in this matter, because, of my own knowledge, many trade unions have, to all intents and purposes, suspended the working rules of their various organisations with the object of assisting the Government all they possibly can. May I say, in regard to the men who work in the shipbuilding yards, that they have removed all restrictions so far as overtime is concerned. They are working all the hours they can possibly stand, and doing their utmost to expedite the work in the shipyards. In connection with the shipyards, I am told that the Master Shipbuilders' Federation made a statement to the effect that in one 480 particular trade 25 per cent. of working time is lost owing to men not being there at the present time, but 25 per cent. of the men engaged in that particular trade would mean that the work of 10,000 men is lost each day, week, and month. The statement is absolutely ridiculous on the face of it. These men are employed by the Engineers' Employers' Association, and they made no complaint whatever with regard to the time lost by this trade. Men engaged in this trade are employed to a very large extent in the Royal Dockyards. There is no complaint whatever with regard to time-keeping there, and the trade union representing these men are very suspicious as to the reasons for employers circulating statements of that kind. They feel confident that the complaint as to the shortage of men is being made with the object of introducing unskilled workmen to do the work of skilled workmen, and to employ them at a lower rate of wage than the trade union rate.
I want to make a reference also to the trade with which I am associated—the carpenters' trade. I know, so far as we are concerned, that the overtime rule has been suspended for the time being. Then take the work on the hut encampments. We find there that our members are working under conditions and living under conditions, which they would not tolerate if it were not owing to the emergency of the present time. They are living in huts which are not weatherproof. The result is that the bedding gets wet. As a matter of fact, I was told recently by one working on the huts that he was served with three blankets from a store-room which were wet through. Men working under conditions like these are, to all intents and purposes, suspending the ordinary conditions of labour, and doing it with the object of helping the Government in the present national emergency. That is why I ask the Under-Secretary, or somebody on behalf of the War Office, to state exactly what they want the trade unions to do in the present crisis.
Reference was made especially to the shop assistants. I am informed on the best authority that 25 per cent. of the eligible males working in shops have already enlisted in the Army. It was suggested that women might be taken in the place of men who enlist. The shop assistants have no objection to women being employed as women, but what they have in their mind is this: what is going to happen when the War is over? Supposing 50 per cent. of the shop assistants 481 who enlist come back from the front, are they going to get their work back again? If they are, then what are the women who have taken their places during the War going to do? Are they going to be employed by the Government, or what steps will be taken to assist them? Questions of this kind crop up at all trade union meetings. Take the shipbuilders. The men are asking themselves what is going to happen if we allow unskilled workmen to attempt to do skilled work. Are they going to be kept on after the War is over? Are our men who have enlisted to walk the streets, or what are they to do? If the War Office would only give some guarantee, then they would have to get employers to give a guarantee that room would be made for these men when they come back. Are they prepared to force employers to give that guarantee which I have asked for? I have explained the conditions under which these men work, but I have a worse complaint to make, and it is that men, irrespective of the trade or the conditions under which they have been accustomed to living, are herded together in one hut with men from whom they contract disease. I have known cases of men who have had to go home in order to cleanse themselves because some of the huts are verminous and some of the men are verminous. Some of the men who have been placed in these huts are worse than beasts. I think that there should be instructions given that such men should have a hut to themselves. In some instances the sanitary arrangements are so bad that a decent workman will not use them. The consequence is that the camps are getting into an insanitary state, and what will happen when the dry weather comes I do not know. You may be able to inoculate the men against typhoid fever, but you cannot inoculate them against vermin.
I think the War Office ought to pay more attention to the conditions under which these men are working. In many instances contractors sub-let work to men of no standing whatever, and it would have been much better if the War Office had endeavoured to do the work itself by engaging capable superintendents and foremen. I know the War Office has had to take advantage of all the assistance it could get, but I wish to state that the trade unions have done all they possibly could to supply the War Office with men. They have scoured the country for their members and urged them to go to the front, pointing out that it is the duty 482 of all Britons to assist the Government in the present emergency, and the men have gone. I know the trade unions have helped to get those men. I do not wish to mention names, but I know of one contractor who prefers to engage his men through the Free Labour Association. I know men have been sent to this contractor through this association, and through some of the Labour Exchanges, who are not workmen in that particular trade at all. There are men working now as carpenters who were greengrocers and umbrella makers. Such men are not worth twopence per hour, but the contractor is paying them 10½d. or 11d. per hour. I would like to know if this contractor is paid on commission or is he working under a contract, because that will have an important bearing upon the future. I can understand a man who is getting five per cent. or ten per cent. on the wages not caring whether the men he employs are worth 2d. or 10d. per hour. I want to point out that in regard to these workmen trade unionists are not even objecting to work with them at this time. The bad work which is being complained of is, to a great extent, owing to the employment of these inefficient men, who do not know how to weather a joint or fix up a building. I could give the Committee case after case where the work has had to be done over again, and in this way you have had to pay a great deal more than if you had employed only skilled workmen in the first instance. Wherever it is brought to the notice of the War Office that the men are not competent they ought to insist upon the contractor or the agent turning out these men.
The Under-Secretary of State for War has appealed to trade unionists to give all the assistance in their power. My complaint is that the Government or the War Office is not meting out fair treatment to the trade unions, because when they have raised a grievance, unless they have been able to give the exact date, the place, the name of the contractor and every detail, no enquiry was made. When the representatives of our societies have endeavoured to get at these camps they have been marched off between a file of men with fixed bayonets and threatened with a court martial. Only last week one of our officials was refused admittance to a hut camp because he had pointed out the bad conditions under which the men were living and working. If these men did not prove their case their statements 483 would be discredited by the War Office and by their societies, but you ought not to go so far as to insist that the man who has made complaints should be kept out of the camp. I appeal to the right hon. Gentleman to use his influence to secure that duly accredited representatives of trade unions should be permitted to go to any camp they like. I have heard of responsible men being refused permission to go to a camp, and they have been taken to the general manager before being admitted. I can well understand why a number of contractors do not wish to have competent workmen going through the camp, because they can point out defects in the bad work. In the case of the contractor I have referred to, there has been a constant procession of workmen, one lot going with their tools to the camp and the other lot returning to the station. And why? Because when they get there they find the conditions are so bad they will not start work. When this particular employer finds out that the men are trade unionists, he gets rid of them. I understand that the fares of all of these men are paid by the Department, wherever they come from. If the contractor only wants 2,000 men, and 10,000 or 12,000 men are sent by the Labour Exchanges, they all have their fares paid. I think the War Office ought to enquire into the matter when they find that 10,000 railway fares have been paid, when only 2,000 men are required, and there must be something wrong.
Complaint has reached me only this morning that Messrs. Pollard and Co., a London firm, have received orders representing nearly £1,000,000, whilst other firms in the same line, such as Sage and Co., and Stanley Jones and Co., both reputable firms, cannot get a contract with the War Office. I think there must be something in this, and it has been suggested that there has been some backstairs business. It is to the interests of the War Office to distribute large contracts of this kind amongst a number of firms, and I hope the right hon. Gentleman will do all he can in the future to spread the work amongst as many firms as he can. I have also had a complaint that a carpenter who enlisted, and who refused to assist in the erection of a building for the Young Men's Christian Association—which I admit has done excellent work in the camp—was court-martialled and sentenced to fourteen days in the cells and has had his pay 484 stopped. I would like to ask if it is part of a soldier's duty to assist an outside contractor in erecting a building which does not come within the purview of the War Office. This man was a trade unionist, and he refused to do this work. He did not think it was right that he should assist a contractor and be paid 1s. 1d. or 1s. 2d. a day for doing this, because he thought that by working under such circumstances he would be robbing a fellow workman of employment. I suggest that treatment like this has some bearing upon recruiting, because these cases get into the newspapers, and the men who believe in the principles of trade unionism will say, "Well, if that is the treatment which is going to be meted out to me, I am not going to join the Army."
It should be made clear that the soldier will not be expected to assist a civilian contractor, even if he is ordered to do so by the commanding officer, who I do not believe has any such power. It seems extremely harsh treatment to sentence a man to fourteen days in the cells simply because he refused to assist in the erection of a building which does not come strictly within those buildings which are erected by the War Office. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will give some attention to these points. I believe that every trade unionist has done his utmost to assist the War Office and the nation in its hour of need. I believe that the men who are working in the camps in particular have sacrificed the comforts and the amenities of home life with the object of assisting all they could, and these men working in the camps, as well as those working at the front, have been stricken down. The sickness rate in connection with my own society has increased considerably amongst the men who have been working in the camps. A considerable number of deaths have been traced directly to disease contracted in the camps. Therefore, these men are risking their lives and their health, though not, of course, to the same extent as the soldiers at the front, in the service of the nation, and, if they are willing to do that, it is the duty of the War Office and of the Government to see that they are treated as men ought to be treated. If they are treated as they ought to be, they will rise to the occasion every time and do their utmost to assist in bringing the War to a successful conclusion; but, if they are treated as beasts, you can only expect them to act as beasts.
§ The FINANCIAL SECRETARY to the WAR OFFICE (Mr. Harold Baker)
My hon. Friend both began and concluded his speech by referring to a matter of the greatest importance which was raised yesterday by my right hon. Friend. I am prepared to endorse all that he said in claiming that which he did claim on behalf of the trade unions. I have been expressly connected with all the negotiations since the War broke out, together with my right hon. Friend the Financial Secretary to the Admiralty (Dr. Macnamara), and I venture to suggest that no advantage can accrue to anybody at this stage by any open discussion of possible future developments. My hon. Friend is aware that there are certain steps which it may be the trade unions will consider desirable. He is aware it baa been stated that the trade unions only think it perfectly proper and desirable to safeguard their interests against the time when peace returns. I think if we leave these things to be settled by fair and proper discussion outside we shall be more likely to achieve the end which is desired. My hon. Friend dealt at some length with various points in connection with the huts. I can assure him that all that he said will have the fullest attention, and, if I am unable to make any comment on each specific criticism of his, it is largely due to the fact that many of the cases were new to me, and that some of them will require further information from him before they can be identified. With regard to the conditions within the camps, and the conditions under which workmen have to live, and under which the supply of labour is maintained, he is probably aware that since the House last met I and the responsible authorities at the War Office have been in communication with that committee which was the foundation of the earlier criticisms in the Press and elsewhere on our operations. We met that committee, and we had a perfectly full and friendly discussion with them. The committee is now able at any moment to bring to the notice of the one person most directly concerned anything which it considers should be investigated and remedied. My hon. Friend withheld the name of the particular contractor whom he wished to denounce.
§ Mr. BAKER
I think I can guess it without my hon. Friend doing that. He did, as a matter of fact, decline to disclose it 486 at this moment, but, if he will do so, I will certainly see what steps can be taken to remedy difficulties of this kind. There is another aspect of this question of the huts which I think is certainly of no less interest to Members of this House. It was raised by the hon. Member for Devizes (Mr. Peto) earlier in the afternoon, and more recently by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Ashford Division (Mr. Laurence Hardy). It relates to the policy which has led perhaps to results less successful than we had hoped, results which certainly have excited a good deal of criticism. At present we have huts for some 400,000, which, in spite of what my hon. Friend has said, I think may fairly be said to-day to be finished. Repairs were necessary for reasons which I will describe. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Ashford Division raised the question whether it was the design which was at fault. I think he may be assured that there was nothing the matter with the design. It was an extremely good design. The complaints have almost all centred round the work of one or two contractors. The contractors in one or two cases were to blame, and in other cases they were the victims of circumstances. At some of the encampments there have been no complaints at all. So far as the officials at the War Office can be blamed for what has occurred, the blame arises entirely from the fact that they have been in a great hurry to get the men into the huts.
The hon. Member for Devizes made a very fair criticism when he said that the true process had to some extent been inverted, that the huts had been erected first, and the roads, paths, and drains had been left to a later stage. I am afraid that is true of some encampments, but the cause was simply and solely the desire to get the men into the huts at the earliest possible moment. The inversion of the more natural and more prudent course would not have resulted in any disaster at all if it had not been for the abnormal incidence of the rainfall at the critical moment. Hon. Members will remember and admit that we had during two months extraordinary good weather and extraordinary little rain, but the average was maintained, as it is apt to be maintained, by a continuous and incessant downfall during the following months, and it was just at that very moment that it was most important that not more than the average should fall if the hutting were to succeed 487 as it was hoped it would succeed. It so happened, for example, that the exact moment at which the untarred felt on the roofs about which most complaints have been made was to be tarred coincided with the worst period of weather. You cannot tar felt when it is wet. The result in a good many cases was that roofs which would have been perfectly good were not rendered proof against the weather, and have certainly leaked, and not served their purpose.
There have, of course, been other difficulties. There has been the difficulty of getting adequate labour. My hon. Friend informed the House that people of a nondescript kind, who have not been efficient workmen for the job, have been swept in. There have been difficulties about materials, and other difficulties. I think anyone who has visited these camps recently must fairly admit that there has been considerable improvement, and that many defects have been remedied. That certainly is the information given to me by some of our most severe critics. They think the earlier defects have been remedied, and that the huts are rapidly being made habitable, and put in a a proper condition. So far as the War Office itself is concerned, there is constant inspection going on. Officers are continually going round in order to ascertain whether proper specifications have been followed, and whether a proper rate of construction is being maintained. I will not pretend that things are yet perfect—they certainly are not with regard to the huts—but I think a good many of the criticisms which are made date not perhaps from yesterday or last week, but from some few months ago, and that an honest and unprejudiced inspection at the present time would disclose the fact that the progress, if not all that we had hoped, is nevertheless not bad.
§ Mr. BAKER
The hon. Member asks me a great many questions to which it is difficult to supply the answer without notice. That is the first notice I have received from any source with regard to that matter. My hon. Friend went on to touch on the question of contracts, and he said that because one firm had got a large contract there must be something wrong. That was a hasty and very unfair conclusion. It 488 is the general attitude which I am afraid is adopted with regard to the War Office, but it is one which seldom justifies itself when one comes to go into the matter. I have no knowledge of the particular contract to which he refers, but, on the general question of spreading out the work, I do assure him that from the beginning of the War it has been our object, and the object of the Government in other Departments as well, to spread it out as far as possible, having regard at the same time to the military necessities of the moment and to the question of fair prices and quick deliveries. The hon. Member for the Glasgow University (Sir H. Craik) presented the case of certain retired medical officers who were called back on the outbreak of war. I agree with him that they deserve great praise and great consideration. They have worked long hours, and for a rate of pay which certainly could not be called excessive, but I am afraid that it is not possible to meet them on any special terms. All retired officers who come back on the outbreak of war do so on fixed terms, and at fixed rates of remuneration. I can assure the hon. Member that they are not the only officers working a great amount of overtime with no extra pay. I say this without any desire to depreciate the work of those officers.
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Fulham (Mr. Hayes Fisher) dealt with a question which I am sure the whole House regarded as one of very great importance, the question of prisoners of war and the treatment which they are receiving. With regard to the pay of noncommissioned officers and men, I am able to tell him that the War Office is not transmitting the pay because it is not able to do so, but it is accruing here for the men and it will be waiting for them, of course, on their release. That, of course, is only one part of the general question as to how we are bringing relief to prisoners of war. My right hon. Friend will no doubt deal more fully with other aspects of it on some future occasion, but I gladly recognise the way in which the right hon. Gentleman presented the case, and fully agree with the principles which he enunciated, that it should be this country which sets the example of good treatment and that in that way we may best help to secure good treatment for our own prisoners.
There is one other matter to which I feel I must refer because it occupied a 489 rather surprising amount of the time of the House this afternoon. I mean the question of the Army Pay Department. It was referred to by the hon. Member for Devizes, and later in great detail by the hon. Member for Norwich (Mr. G. H. Roberts). The hon. Member for Norwich made various suggestions for reform, and he gave us a careful and exhaustive review of the conditions of the Army Pay Department. He said that at the beginning of the War it broke down. There is no doubt that it was put to a very severe strain, as all parts of the War Office organisation were, but it must be remembered that a great many defects of the Record Offices have for some reason, and a natural one, been attributed to the Pay Offices. It must be remembered also they were suddenly plunged into a whirlpool of matter which they found it difficult to deal with. Neither of the two branches is to blame, but a large part of the work was held up, not in the Pay Office but in the Record Office. It is perfectly true that to meet this sudden strain a large number of civilians were brought in to assist. There were chartered accountants, bookkeepers, stockbrokers, and men who had had very considerable experience in commercial houses, and certainly were not coloured with any of the peculiar characteristics which may be supposed to belong to the Army pay Department itself. These civilians have done extremely good work. They are men of great intelligence, and they might be expected to be very critical of the office into which they found themselves introduced. But I can assure the hon. Member that, with all their intelligence, with all their desire to criticise, they have not pointed out any revolutionary changes which they think should be made. This Department is under the control of civilians, extremely able men, and has been under the most careful scrutiny for the last three or four years. It is largely owing to this that it has been able to stand the criticisms of these civilians, whoso advice we are very wrongly supposed not to have accepted.
Then there is the question of promotion. I am not sure if the hon. Member was referring to promotion in the permanent class, but if he were I do not think that class can be said to have done badly at all, as during the last four years there were ninety-nine promotions to staff sergeant, a large number to warrant rank, and thirty-two to commissioned rank. So far as the commissioned rank is concerned, 490 the Army Pay Department has done extremely well. There remains the question of the fifty-eight assistant paymasters. I was surprised when the hon. Gentleman below the Gangway suggested there were still vacancies. I had hoped that by this time they had all been filled up. But the hon. Gentleman may take my assurance that they will be all properly filled within a very short time. I have not covered by any means all the points raised by hon. Members in the course of this discussion. But the Debate does not finish to-day, and I am sure the House will understand that, if any matter has been omitted, it is not from any desire not to answer it, but either because an answer is not possible at this moment, or because my right hon. Friend will provide one later on.
§ Mr. LONG
I apologise to the Committee for again intervening. But I only rise to make a suggestion to the hon. Gentleman to whose speech I honestly confess I have listened with some disappointment. It was rather a melancholy account of a melancholy subject. As far as the huts are concerned, I had hoped we might have had some indication of a really new departure. I can endorse everything which fell from my hon. Friends on this subject, and I can assure the Financial Secretary he is taking to himself a consolation that has no foundation when he says that things are really so much more satisfactory, as he happens to think they are. I do not know what is the interpretation he places on the word "finished"; at least I should have thought a finished hut would keep out wind and rain. The hon. Gentleman told us that one of the difficulties which had to be contended with was the inclement weather. It is quite true that we have been visited with an excessive amount of rain in a great many places, but nobody except the War Office, I venture to say, would contemplate putting up buildings in November or December which required special treatment that could only be given effectually in dry weather. It is the case we have had excessive rains, but we who have to manage landed estates and to deal with buildings constantly know there are times in the year when one can build, and times when one cannot. There is only one way in which the work can be done effectually, and that is for the War Office to take advantage of local knowledge and local experience. The hon. Gentleman says that the charge which is brought against the War Office, that it will not avail itself of outside assistance, 491 is without foundation. It is no good denying—and it is not true of the War Office to-day any more than it was true of the War Office twenty-five or thirty years ago—that it is the case with the War Office, and it may be the same with other Departments, that they have a singular tendency to cling to the work as part of their particular business, and if you go to them with suggestions that they should get help from outside, they reply, "No, it is our business; we are responsible, and we will do it."
What was it they set out to do? It was to accomplish the enormous task of suddenly building huts for the troops all over the country. It was a stupendous task. But they lost sight of the fact that in the New Army, both in the commissioned and non-commissioned ranks, there are a very large number of men, experts in all the trades of the country, who might have been used in looking after the erection of the huts. In the county of Wiltshire there has been an enormous number of huts put up, and what has happened there? They brought in contractors—strangers—from outside, and the scene is one of hopeless confusion. There is no other word for it. Definite principles are laid down by the trade unions we know with regard to the employment of labour. They are not observed. You have principles recognised by the Free Labour League, whose members do not belong to a trade union. None of these definite principles are observed. The whole thing is a sorry, hopeless hotchpotch. How is it possible to ascertain what is going on? Only by taking advantage of the assistance which is ready there to your hands. You have men who are thoroughly acquainted with all the work of erecting buildings, who know the soil and its conditions, and who are perfectly willing to work for nothing. They ask for no remuneration. They would act as a supervising committee. It is not too late now for the War Office to avail itself of assistance of this kind. If it does not do so you will spend three times the amount of money that is necessary. We in this House and the people in the country are willing to give money with both hands for the prosecution of the War We are willing to bear a heavy burden of taxation and to spend money freely in order that our sailors and our soldiers may have everything which they require. But that is quite a different thing to squandering money, to wasting it unnecessarily. We have been told that the first 492 condition of the huts was bad, the second condition was not much better, and that the third was perhaps tolerable. Yes, but as has been said, that means doing the work three times at treble cost when it ought to be done once at single cost. It has been the same everywhere because you have had no one to supervise. I have assisted in finding sites for camps and huts. What has been my experience? I have gone with my own agent, a thoroughly expert man, knowing well the country. We have met, perhaps, four staff officers with a sergeant and two or three privates, who have arrived in motor cars. To do what? To walk over land, every inch of which I know as well as I know the floor of this House. To do what? To select a camp. Why if, on a sheet of note-paper, information had been given me as to the dimensions and requirements of this camp, I and my agent could have done the whole work in an hour without the cost of a single halfpenny. If we were not able to do that, we should neither of us be fit to act either as landowner or agent, because this is work such as we are called upon to do every day of our lives. Why do not the War Office avail themselves of our assistance? It is quite true that if the work be not done satisfactorily they could not put us in the cells. But neither, I suppose, would they wish to put their own officers in the cells under like circumstances. Officers are wanted at the front. They are also wanted for training men. We could do the work as well, if not better, than they do it. We should do it for nothing.
Then with regard to the huts themselves. The hon. Gentlemen who represents the War Office said that in many cases the work is under the control of the local G.O.C. But I say that the G.O.C. and the Secretary of State, as well as the officials of the military departments, have quite enough to do in looking after the Army at the front and in providing stores for it. This is domestic work which can and should be done by civilians like myself and others. We are ready to do it. We believe we understand it, and I say if there had been a county committee in Wiltshire, whose advice and assistance had been sought, you would not have had the scandals which have undoubtedly occurred in many cases in connection with the erection of these huts. You have put them on morasses where you could not get a foundation. I have seen huts standing in a foot or eighteen inches of water, not the 493 result of recent heavy wet weather, but simply because they are on land naturally saturated with water. I have seen huts constructed with soft timber. The boards were put together; they were not properly joined; there was no connection; they overlapped. What happened? The moment warping began, which is the immediate consequence of heat upon the green wood, the overlapping came to an end, and you got a gap through which the rain came. Then you had to put on felt, and your representatives chose the wrong felt. You had to make it right by suggesting the tarring process. We could have got the same work done quite easily at a lower cost, and with satisfactory material.
I do not want to take advantage of the kindness which the Committee have extended to me in such full measure. But I do ask the War Office to realise that our complaints are not made for the sake of complaining. They are not made in order to find fault with or to blame anyone. Let the dead past bury its dead. We ask that you shall for the future take advantage of these criticisms, which are well founded, and which come from men who have watched what is going on, and have written thereupon to the War Office. Let the Government take steps to remedy these things. With regard to the contracts, the Financial Secretary has told us that the War Office has made every effort to distribute them. I know they have. I am a member of a Committee which is in frequent communication with the War Office on the subject. But there is room still for improvement, and what we want—and the need for it will be greater in the future than in the past—is to distribute the work consequent upon the War over as wide an area as possible, so that we shall have a much larger number of men employed, and not have one factory idle while another is working overtime. That is what we want in the general interests of the community. I can assure the Financial Secretary that the hon. Gentleman did not speak without reason when he said that there was still room for improvement in this respect. I hope the War Office will think better of their determination not to avail themselves of the assistance that is ready to their hand and which, I can assure them, will be honestly and faithfully rendered. If they make a departure of that kind they will find it will result in economy and better administration. This is a question upon which there is still great feeling 494 in my part of the country. I have myself been to see the huts there and in other parts of the country, and I can assure the Financial Secretary that, although he and his colleagues are doing all they can with the very best of intentions, there is still great room for improvement, and I beg him most earnestly to consider the suggestion I have made that the War Office should avail themselves of the assistance which is offered to them.
§ Mr. BAKER
As the right hon. Gentleman has raised the question of expense, perhaps it may interest the Committee if I give them the figures with regard to that. The average cost of these huts or encampments works out at £13 per man, of which £4 represents huts, and £9 recreation rooms, stores, light, and so forth. You may compare with that the figure for the huts that were erected after the South African war, and you will find that they cost exactly three times as much. We have done it for one-third of the cost, while those huts had no greater space, no greater durability, and they had far fewer amenities, for they had no baths, and were less well lighted. So much for expense. The right hon. Gentleman then suggested that we were still remiss in not taking sufficient advantage of local advice. I remember that he made that suggestion some months ago, and that I cordially agreed with him. I shared his view. But it so happens that some of these hutting encampments have been erected by local committees of business men, absolutely unadvised and uncontrolled by the War Office or by soldiers, unfortunately for the right hon. Gentleman's view, which is also my own, these particular huts are among the least satisfactory of all.
§ Mr. MEYSEY-THOMPSON
I am not going to attack the right hon. Gentleman on the Front Bench in the spirit of criticism that was displayed on his own side a few moments ago—a criticism which I think was in the worst possible taste and positively mischievious. It is notorious that our prisoners during this War have been better treated than they could have expected to be. They have acknowledged it on all possible occasions, and, in any case, had there been a word of truth in what the hon. Member for Gateshead (Sir H. Elverston) said, if he had represented the matter to the proper quarter it would have received the attention it deserved. Having since the War began had charge of a large area for recruiting purposes, I have a few points which have come before me 495 upon which I might make useful suggestions to the right hon. Gentleman. I am perfectly certain he will receive them in the spirit in which I put them forward, and will give them the attention they deserve. The first is the case to which the Financial Secretary referred, namely, in regard to payments. It is most important, if we are to pay the officers and men quickly, that the payments should be as prompt as possible. Nobody knows better than I do the immense difficulties there have been in the Payment Department and that great delays were inevitable. I have two suggestions to make which would facilitate more prompt payment in future. The first is one which I have advocated in years past, that the general officers commanding the districts and officers commanding regiments and those in responsible positions should be given a much freer hand in regard to expenditure than in the past.
The right hon. Gentleman may tell me that they have orders to spend money wherever it is required. That is perfectly true, but whenever they send in their accounts they are so much criticised for the payments that have been made that they will be very slow to spend money. The War Office are so anxious that none of the Government money shall be wasted that they think it necessary to inquire most carefully into the payments made. That is a most laudable principle, but more might be left to the responsible officers in the district, which would render less correspondence necessary between the district and the War Office in London. The other suggestion I have to make is in regard to the Record Office. I know that great delays have taken place in payments because of the difficulties that have arisen, perhaps not unnaturally, in regard to the Record Office. Why should not the Pay Office and the Record Office be much more closely associated, if not amalgamated altogether? At the present moment the officer commanding the district is also the officer in charge of the Record Office. It would be far more practicable if the Pay Office and the Record Office were under the same roof and amalgamated as far as possible, for it would save great difficulty and great delay.
Another point I wish to bring forward is that it is most important, seeing how anxious we are to obtain a large number of recruits, that no unnecessary dis- 496 couragement should be given to any men who come forward or are willing to come forward as recruits. Such cases have occurred. I do mot know whether the right hon. Gentleman is aware of it—very likely not—but one was brought before me, and I think it proper to pass it on to him. It is a case in Leeds, where ten young men were enlisted in Lord Kitchener's Army in August. They were trained as buglers and drummers, and a short time ago they were sent back because they were given the choice either of joining the Regular Army—that is to say for nine years and three years, or twelve years altogether—or of being told that they were not required at all. They were sent back, and each of these men has become a centre of discontent in Leeds. Leeds has not been a first-rate place for recruiting, and we have taken a great deal of trouble to work it properly, and it seems rather a pity that simply for the sake of saving the pay of these men for a few months the whole thing should be set back again. I suggest that they should have been kept on until they were eighteen years of age, when their services could have been made use of in one way or another. That brings me to the question of music. There is great complaint in many towns that recruiting and soldiering is so dull through the lack of music. It is a very valuable stimulus to recruiting to have a military band, therefore I regret all the more that these young men who were trained as musicians should not have been retained and use made of their services, if only for Home service. I am sure the right hon. Gentleman will give the matter his full attention. If it cannot be put right in any other way, I ask him if he could make acknowledgments to these men for having come forward and served so many months, and express regret that it was necessary to send them back. They feel now a great sense of injury, and they and their friends are blocking recruiting to a considerable degree.
§ Mr. MEYSEY-THOMPSON
Certainly I will give the names. I need not assure the Committee how grateful I am, and the area with which I am connected is, to the patriotism of all classes with whom I come in contact. Everybody has worked together to get together recruits as far as possible. We owe a great deal to the landed gentry, to the employers and manufacturers, and to the men themselves. I 497 wish to make an appeal to all those who are engaged in recruiting. This question is so important that I beg that whenever any Member goes on the recruiting platform he will keep party rigidly out of sight. I know people try to do it, but I have come across instances where, perhaps, they have been a little led away by their feelings and have given great offence by giving, I will not say party bias, but a party colouring to the address they have delivered. I am sure it is most unintentional, but it will be of great assistance if people in future will speak only for the good of their country and try as far as they possibly can to keep any suspicion of party bias out of their speeches. Another point, and here the right hon. Gentleman may be of great assistance, is that it should be made perfectly clear that we want a large number of recruits, and want them now. If they are to be trained and ready at the time we shall most require them they must come forward very quickly.
I have been met over and over again by the statement, "Oh, recruits are coming in quite fast enough, and the authorities are perfectly satisfied with the rate at which they are coming in, therefore we do not feel the necessity of coming more quickly." I have been spoken to by and I have read letters from members of the Independent Labour party who say they are perfectly ready and willing to come forward and fight for their country if there is any necessity. They have even gone so far as to say that if universal service were proposed they would not oppose it, if it were really required for the safety of the country. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will make it quite clear, so far as lies in his power, that recruits are wanted and wanted immediately. If they only understood that, I am sure the patriotism of the men will cause them to respond very readily to our appeals. If they are assured that headquarters consider that they are coming in fast enough, you cannot blame them for hanging back until the time when they are wanted. I hope I have not criticised the right hon. Gentleman too much. I have not intended to do so, and I hope he will be able to accept one or two of my suggestions.
§ Mr. W. F. ROCH
I should like to endorse what was said by the right hon. Gentleman (Mr Long) with regard to the state of the huts in many parts of the country. I wish in the past the War Office 498 had made much more use of local people than they have done. I have myself seen one or two of these camps, and I can assure the representatives of the War Office that in many cases any experienced person could have pointed out to those who were putting up the huts that advantage of the lie of the land had not been taken, and that while it would have occasioned no extra expense whatever, the comfort of the men who lived in the camps might have been very much increased. I am sorry that the Financial Secretary, while in one part of his speech he repudiated the idea that civilians and people in the locality were not wanted, at the close of his second speech let fall rather a contemptuous reference, in rather a back-handed way, by saying that where they had had these people they had not been a successful experiment. I very much doubt whether that is true, and I wish that in the future the War Office would make use of these local people. I wish, too, that they would make use of the local medical officers of health. There are these men in the locality with wide experience on the spot, able to inspect and report in a proper way, and you have all that fine machinery of local government, medical officers, and surveyors who might have been of incalculable help to would make use of these local people.
I wish, too, that they would make use of right hon. Gentleman as to people of wide experience in the locality who are only too anxious to help. It is all very well to say there is no feeling against it, but I can assure the right hon. Gentleman that many men of wide experience who want nothing for their services, big contractors and otherwise, were perfectly ready to do it, and they had the feeling that the offer of their services was resented, and the best type of man, if he has that feeling, will not offer his services again. I hope even now it is not too late and that the War Office will use all these great resources that they have. They have these great camps in many localities, the people in the localities, the Local Government machinery, all at their disposal only too anxious to make them part of the life of the community in which for the time they are carrying on their training, and not a single word of too great strength has been said of many of these huts and the great improvements which could very easily be effected.
Another point I should like to call attention to is the payment of the allowance 499 to dependent mothers whose sons have enlisted. I am sure many Members must have had many of the hardest possible cases in which applications have been made as long ago as October, in which the sons have paid their half-crown, which has been paid, and not a single other penny has come in at any time. I do not know where the fault lies. I have written and I am afraid worried the Financial Secretary about individual cases. He tells me it is the pension officer, and when I write to the pension officer he tells me it is the War Office. I do not care where the responsibility lies. I think something ought to be done in cases in which the applications have been made as long ago as October. There are cases of the greatest possible hardship, and I think they ought to be remedied speedily. Then I think the War Office, or someone, has taken the meanest possible view of what this allowance should be when paid as a separation allowance. Where a son has paid 10s. or 12s. a week to an aged mother for his keep, they actually try to calculate what the keep of the son was and how much should be allowed in respect of that. I do not know whether that is the letter of the law, but I am sure it is not the spirit in which anyone would wish it to be administered. I do not care whether it is the pension officer—it must be directed by someone. I am sure it is the intention that a far more liberal interpretation should be put on the allowance which should be paid. I have known cases in which a son is paying half a crown out of his soldier's pay to his mother, and when the calculation is made of what she is to get, it is sometimes 1s. 1d. I think that is a mean way to look upon this, and I hope if there is any necessity to alter the regulations or instructions of the War Office, it will be done speedily. I am sure no one wishes in this emergency any unnecessary or extravagant expenditure, but when we see on all hands a very lavish expenditure in many ways, which we think might be avoided, to take advantage of these mothers under these conditions, it is not too strong to say, is the meanest interpretation which could be put on what I believe are the wishes of the great body of people in this country.
§ Colonel YATE
After all we have heard regarding the huts for recruits, I hope the Under-Secretary for War will reconsider what he said yesterday, and acknowledge that he was taking rather too rosy a view 500 of it, when he stated his opinion that the troops were now what he called "comfortably housed" in these huts. I notice that he is to give us a Return to-morrow of the number of cases of pneumonia among the troops which have been in training, and I trust that in the Return he may add the number of cases that had their origin in the draughty condition of the huts in which the men had to live. We know they have not been waterproof and they have not been windproof, and I believe the draughty state of them is the cause of very much of the sickness that we have had. I should like to support in every way I can the point raised by my right hon. Friend (Mr. Long) as regards the withholding of promotion to regimental officers owing to vacancies in the higher ranks. I have watched the "Gazettes" with some interest for some time, day after day, but I have never seen regimental promitions filled up, and I have been wondering how it is that death vacancies even have not been filled. Death vacancies, surely, in such cases as the present, should be filled at the earliest possible moment. I would ask that when temporary promotions have to be given, such as the case of a colonel commanding a regiment being promoted temporarily as brigadier, the major, who is given the responsibility and all the onerous duty of commanding the regiment, should be given substantive pro tem. the pay and rank of lieut.-colonel.
§ Colonel YATE
If temporary rank must be given to a colonel selected to command a brigade, surely the major left in command of the regiment should be given the temporary title of lieut.-colonel and the full pay. Another question was raised by the hon. Member (Mr. J. M. Henderson) yesterday, and that was the case of older officers in the Territorial Force and the Yeomanry, who he said were not treated on the same footing as the younger officers. These older officers have never received any outfit allowance; all they have received is £7 10s. camp allowance, which was given to provide camp kit, on mobilisation. All the young officers who joined later received £40 or £50, and the older officers, although they all had to buy new uniforms on mobilisation and on proceeding on service, get no allowance whatever, and never have had any. The consequence is that officers in the Yeomanry and Territorials, 501 who have done ten or fifteen years' service, are more than £40 or £50 worse off than the youngsters who have just come in. That is felt as a grievance throughout the Territorial Force.
As to recruiting, the right hon. Gentleman told us yesterday that more energy was required in regard to this matter in the country. I must confess when I heard that statement I could not help thinking of what the Prime Minister told us just a short time before in regard to the Household Return which had been issued throughout the whole of the United Kingdom, but not in Ireland. We all know the good points of the Irish soldier. If it is necessary to put more energy into recruiting in England and Scotland I would ask the Government to issue the Househould Return in Ireland, and to put the same energy into the work of recruiting in that country as has been done here. They should not keep it back in Ireland, and I cannot say what is the reason for not issuing the Return there. Another aid to recruiting which I beg to bring to the notice of the right hon. Gentleman is in relation to billeting. We all know that there are a large number of recruits who cannot be put into huts under separate commands, and there can be no doubt whatever that the billeting of a considerable number of men in any town or part of the country where the people have never had soldiers among them before would help recruiting. It alters the whole attitude of a town or a country district towards the soldiers, and it has a remarkable effect on recruiting. I say that an effort should be made to send bodies of recruits to be billeted. I do not say this in regard to those who are shortly going abroad, but as to those who have not equipment and kit I say the opportunity should be taken of billeting the men in the country districts, and especially in the large towns. The billeting of the men will act as a great incentive to recruiting throughout the country.
I was especially pleased to hear the right hon. Gentleman give so much praise to the Territorial Force as he did give. I think that Force has proved one of the proudest things we can point to in this War. The right hon. Gentleman also praised the work done by the Territorial County Associations, and I am sure they deserve all that was said of them. The Territorial Force is popular. A great many men in this country prefer to enlist in that Force rather than in the new 502 Service battalions. I take my own county of Leicester as an instance. There are the fourth and fifth battalions, and they have both volunteered for service. A reserve battalion has been raised for each, and I believe that those reserve battalions could be filled twice over. Why should we not take advantage of the willingness of men to enlist in the Territorial Force? They are not allowed to do so at present. The first battalions are going to the front—there is the second or reserve battalion, and a third could be raised to-morrow if orders were given to raise it. The Territorial Force should not only be duplicated, but quadrupled. The majority of the men volunteer for service abroad. If men are willing to go into the Territorials, let them do so. I would suggest that triplicate reserve units for the Territorial Force should be sanctioned with as little delay as possible. I speak for my own county, which I know well, and I think the position in other counties is very much the same.
I would like to support what was said by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Strand Division (Mr. Long) with regard to Home Defence bodies. We have a million or more than a million men who are almost all over the age for enlistment, and who are yet doing their best to train themselves for Home Defence. In my own county we have no less than 2,000 in the town of Leicester, and I think there are 4,000 in the county. That is a whole brigade, I ask the right hon. Gentleman why not allow these men to have a cheap uniform? Let them have a cotton blouse to wear over their ordinary clothes, give them a brigadier-general, and let them have their allotted part in the defence of the Kingdom. That is all they ask. They have got their own officers. Let them be joined up by counties, or in the units most convenient for military purposes. There are lots of retired generals and brigadier-generals who are fit to take up posts at the head of these Home Defence bodies. I ask that certain duties should be allotted to the men, and that they should be brought into brigade and divisional organisation. Lastly, there is the question of officers' pensions. We know that that is under the consideration of the Prime Minister's Committee at the present moment. All I would wish to say is that up till now, in all questions concerning officers' pensions, there has been a difference made between a widow with £200 503 or £300 a year of her own and the widow left utterly penniless. I say that if an officer is killed in defence of his country, the pension should be paid to the widow and children as of right and not as an act of grace as at present. It is given by the War Office after—I was going to say an inquisition—but after full inquiries into the means of the particular person who is to receive it. It should be given as a right, and in the case of a widow who is well enough off she may decline to take it, but it ought not to be refused to a widow because she has £200 or £300 a year of her own. That is not a right principle. An officer's widow and children are entitled to their pension, and it should rest with them to take it or not. I trust this question will also be considered.
§ Mr. SHERWELL
I appreciate the spirit shown by the Under-Secretary for War in remaining in his place during this Sitting, and in not following the rather reprehensible practice of his colleague, the Financial Secretary, who, after making two interventions in the Debate, immediately left the House, thus preventing those who have pertinent questions to ask from having the opportunity of putting them to him.
§ Mr. TENNANT
I wish to say on behalf of my hon. Friend that, on account of engagements elsewhere, he had to go away.
§ Mr. SHERWELL
I hope that in the limited opportunities for discussion which we are to have this Session, the practice of intervening with two speeches in so short a space of time may not be followed too assiduously by hon. and right hon. Gentlemen on the Front Bench. I do not wish to pursue the discussion of topics which have already been discussed at considerable length, and with considerable wealth of detail, during the last few days. I desire to concentrate the few sentences which I have to utter upon a topic which has received very scanty treatment during the last few days, and which was referred to just now by the hon. and gallant Gentleman (Colonel Yate) in the course of his speech. I refer to the organisation of Voluntary Training Corps for Home defence. But first I would make a brief reference to one or two other matters. The right hon. Gentleman, in the interesting speech which he made to us yesterday, made an announcement which I am assured was received with great interest, and was certainly very attractive to every Member 504 of the Committee. He led us to expect that the Secretary of State at the close of the War might be able to recognise the great patriotism and public spirit shown by the working people engaged in the manufacture of armaments.
I heard the announcement, as I believe all Members of the Committee heard it, with very great gratification. I did not quite gather from the right hon. Gentleman's speech whether that recognition was to be confined solely to people working in the armament factories. I hope not. If that be so, I think that it might suggest invidious comparisons among different classes of workers who have been doing splendid service for the State in the manufacture of textile and other commodities which are hardly of less importance for the successful conduct of the War than the provision of armaments themselves. Though there is always a danger that any special distinction which is the recognition of service may become a little depreciated by widespread distribution, at the same time there would be very serious danger if a particular class engaged in the manufacture of a particular commodity were recognised and other workers, many of whom have been working night and day as I am in a position to know, Sundays included, at very great cost and strain to themselves physically, were passed over.
There is another point which I am compelled to raise, though I believe that it more strictly concerns the Department of the Financial Secretary. It was raised with the War Office some time ago. It is of very urgent importance. I believe that some report was promised. Meantime the facts disclose a very great injustice which has been recently discovered by manufacturers who are under contract with His Majesty's Government and the War Office. They have found to their great surprise that in the case of goods delivered at Pimlico, they are responsible for payment of premiums for the insurance of these goods, delivery of which has been taken by the Government, which have not been officially examined and passed. It has commonly happened in the course of the last few months, and I believe that it is inevitable that it should happen, that goods have been delivered at the War Office depot at Pimlico, and have lain there for at least two months, sometimes longer, before being officially examined and passed. I put it to the right hon. Gentleman that it is a rudimentary injustice to the manufacturer that he should be responsible for the insurance of goods for 505 two or even three months after delivery has been accepted on behalf of the Government, and I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will be able to give a prompt declaration that this rudimentary injustice shall be removed, and that the Government will accept full responsibility for the insurance of goods delivered to it from the moment that delivery has been taken.
But I wish to deal especially to-night with the question of the organisation of Voluntary Training Corps for Home defence. It is a vitally important question, and one concerning which I am afraid there is much misconception and confusion of thought among those who are charging themselves with the responsibility of organising these corps at the present time. I represent a district not confined entirely to my own Constituency, but of which my own Constituency is the centre, in which, by great enthusiasm and public spirit on the part of a number of leading citizens a very large voluntary training corps, comprising, I think, at least 1,500 men was recently enrolled. At the time that the enrolment took place, as the result of the energetic efforts of a very influential civilian recruiting committee, the promoters of the force were given to understand that the principles on which it was formed, its constitution, and the plans proposed for its operations, had received the official sanction of the military authorities. It has only lately been discovered that, through no fault of the promoters of the civilian force, the force and its scheme of operations had not received the official sanction of the military authorities. And now the promoters are led to understand that they can only receive official recognition by very considerably recasting the form of the organisation in no material military way, and by affiliating themselves with the central association of which Lord Desborough is president. On inquiry it turns out that there is no clear and conclusive statement of what are the actual conditions of membership of that central association. The only conditions apparently recognised are those comprised in the official letter which the War Office sent to Lord Desborough on the 19th November last.
There are two rules in the list of rules there to which I would like to call the right hon. Gentleman's attention. In the first rule it is stated that it must be clearly understood that only the names of those can be registered who are not eligible, through age, to serve in the Regular or 506 Territorial Army, or are unable to do so for some genuine reason which is to be recorded in the register. In the case of the latter they must agree in writing to enlist, if specially called upon to do so. One question concerning which there is great misunderstanding and misconception is this: who are the authorities to decide whether a man has a genuine reason for not enlisting in the Regular or Territorial Army? Another question arising out of that is this: what is to be accepted by that authority as a genuine reason for non-enlistment in the Territorial or Regular Army? There is this liability to enlistment, for it is a very definite liability as interpreted in these further rules, and there is very strong reason to fear that insistence in a very indefinite way on what is itself a definite liability may work very serious mischief in the organisation of these voluntary training corps up and down the country. The first rule has to be interpreted in conjunction with the second rule, which says that it will be open to an Army recruiting officer to visit the corps at any time, and to recruit any man found eligible for service in the Regular Army whose presence in the corps is not accounted for by some good and sufficient reason. I want to know does that rule mean that it is open to a recruiting sergeant or local recruiting officer, at his option, to visit the headquarters of any of these voluntary training corps, and if he is dissatisfied with the recorded reason for the non-enlistment of any individual member of that voluntary training corps, that then he can demand his presence in the room, and investigate his case, and if he is not satisfied with the reason given for his presence in the corps, that he can order him to enlist or withdraw from the corps.
This is the sort of definite question which is greatly exercising the minds of those who are very enthusiastic in the cause of this Home Defence Force at the present time. I assure my right hon. Friend that unless the War Office can be much more definite in its defence and interpretation of the rules set forth in this communication, this excellent movement stands a very great chance of being very seriously endangered. Then there is a further question: Supposing that on the visit of the local recruiting officer a man is told that he must enlist or withdraw. Is he free to decide whether he may join the Territorial Force or the Regular Army? And if he, in these circumstances, decides to enter the Territorial Force, is it open to him to 507 enlist in the Territorial Force for Home service only? It is of the utmost imporance to have those questions thoroughly cleared up by some authoritative and explicit pronouncement from the War Office. There is unfortunately the danger—unless an interpretation can be based upon the War Office statement—of the suggestion that there is the assumption underlying these rules that men enter this Defence Force in order to shirk the responsibility of active service. I hold no brief for the shirker, but I am perfectly satisfied that those who have charged themselves with the responsibility of organising this great force have no desire or intention to use it as a cloak for shirking.
It is the very essence of membership of this force that it provides for taking into the service men who, for a variety of reasons outside the age limit, are handicapped from offering themselves as recruits for the Regular Army for service abroad. It is not merely those who are over military age, but those who are suffering from physical trouble, or men who are heads of families and have domestic reasons, or who are handicapped in various ways from offering themselves for service abroad. I quite admit that the communication from the War Office, or rather the statement from the Central Association itself, does allow that a man may, for business or domestic reasons, be unable to offer himself as a recruit in the Regular Forces. There are men, comparatively young men, who are heads of businesses, or the heads of departments of businesses, foremen in many of those mills which are at present working night and day for the Government and in discharge of contracts, and some of these reasons which operate against their recruiting now for active service in the course of the next few months may in some cases disappear, but in the case of other persons, not merely the heads of families, but in the case of many who are heads of businesses, it is not likely that the opportunity for such enlistment will be afforded. and I do hope that the War Office may be prepared to issue some statement on the point I have raised, and so put an end to the uncertainty and misconception, and give an opportunity for the full and free progress of a work which is certainly to be welcomed by all patriotic and public-spirited men.
§ Sir JOHN HARMOOD-BANNER
I should like, if I may, to reinforce the 508 remarks of the previous speaker. There can be no doubt that the rule giving the right to call a man who joins the defence association militates a great deal against enlisting in that force in the case of men who otherwise would do so, and who are really patriotic and are not shirking their duty. I have heard from one place with which I am connected of men in very responsible positions who could not agree to such a course as that. But the points to which I particularly want to refer are principally business points relating to the purchase of stores and materiel, and I do not raise those points in any spirit of hostile criticism. But I venture to think that when one sees going on things which are undesirable because they give rise to an appearance of unfairness, it is just as well to bring them forward when an opportunity of this kind is afforded. First, I should like to ask the War Office how it is that they purchased a large quantity of barbed wire from America. It was at first undoubtedly difficult for the makers in this country to produce barbed wire, I expect because of the numbers of men who were enlisting, but I believe that probably the order was given because the American tender was below that of the British manufacturers. But looking at all the facts, it seems to me that it is hardly right that the American manufacturer should come in and take the place of the British manufacturer here when orders are being placed. I should like to add, however, that the British manufacturer rather got his revenge, because the War Office did not get an article which was of any use to them. The Americans make their barbed wire, not in small handy parcels, which can be easily conveyed to the front, but in big rounds, five or six feet high, and of enormous size, and which are practically useless for the purposes for which they are now required
As a result, the War Office had to ask the British manufacturers to unwind the barbed wire and remake it into parcels which could be conveyed to and used at the front. That cost them very much more than the saving they effected by buying the American wire. The hon. Member below the Gangway referred to the question of access to the War Office. That is a very important point. I have not the slightest intention of suggesting, nor do I believe that there is the slightest question of wrongdoing, but there is undoubtedly a want of access to the War Office in many matters in which it is highly desirable that 509 there should be that access. I happen to know—it is difficult to give names on an occasion of this sort; people do not care about their names being stated—of large manufacturers who go to the War Office and do not get either a hearing or attention to their inquiries. They go out from the War Office and they meet someone they know who has access to the War Office, and that person has gone in, and at an additional 10 per cent., which the War Office paid, obtained the order in respect of which the others could not get access. I happen to have one or two cases of that kind to which I could speak. The same may be said of hay. I live in an agricultural district where hay has been bought for War Office purposes. The farmers, instead of sending the hay to London or to the South, sell it to a man at Chester or Manchester. The result is that they get £3 15s. for their hay, whereas the War Office pay £5 for it. There is no doubt about that fact. A system of employing an honest broker, and there must be many of the kind, to go round and buy for the War Office, would undoubtedly help to solve a great many of these difficulties, instead of the present system of having everything centred in the War Office. That method of doing business was all very well when we had a force of 100,000 men to deal with, but now that we have millions, the questions to be dealt with have gone beyond the capacity of that old system. As one hon. Member pointed out, there are plenty of able men who are quite ready to give their services in the purchase of stores, and to assist the War Office in any way they can.
I had representations also brought to my notice in Liverpool as regards the bacon trade and the cheese trade. As regards the bacon trade, the answer came from the War Office that they had placed the matter in the hands of a merchant. That merchant, whose name I happen to know, as a most responsible merchant and bacon manufacturer. I use his bacon for breakfast every morning, and I consider it is the best bacon in the market. [An HON. MEMBER: "What is the name?"] It is Denny's. I do not think it is right to give to a manufacturer the purchasing of other people's bacon. I do not think a manufacturer is the proper person to buy bacon from other parties. I will not say how he is influenced. I should be only too glad if you guaranteed that the British soldier eats nothing but Denny's bacon 510 for his breakfast, but still there is the fact that other people who produce bacon say, "Oh, yes, it is all very well, but a bacon manufacturer like ourselves is not a man who is likely to buy ours, and we do not get fair play." You may say the same thing happens in the cheese market. Big importers of cheese communicated with the War Office, but the reply was, "You are not on our list." The result of that is that some small broker, who never produced or handled cheese, has to go to the big men in the trade and puts on a commission and goes to the War Office, which has to pay. If they employed somebody who went round to the best people and bought from them, then undoubtedly they would do very much better than they do now. There are many other things of a similar nature, but there is particularly the question I first mentioned as to access to the War Office. There the difficulty sends you to somebody who straightaway puts on 10 per cent. to the cost, while the War Office pays more, and the manufacturer and the big man who is patriotic enough to wish to supply them, cannot get in. I should like also to refer to the quality of the steel the Government is using—they may not like to answer the question—for the purposes of their shells. There is a great dispute, I am aware, between acid steel and basic steel. Acid steel costs nearly 50 per cent. more than basic steel. I happen to know that the French Government for their.75 guns use nothing but basic steel. I have seen the shells and they are made from it.
I think there is sufficient evidence from the reports of the War to show that these basic steel shells are not doing at all badly, but on the contrary are doing their work extremely well in the hands of the French soldiers and the French generals. Therefore I do not really quite know why the British Government have not adopted it also. Possibly it is because they are old-fashioned and do not like to change, that they pay so much more for their steel than the French Government does. I should like also to ask a question in reference to soldiers who joined and then altered their occupations to superior ones. I have more than one case in mind, and one particularly, where a man tried to join as a motor driver. He was a very good man at the work, but for the moment he could not obtain a position of that kind. He at once enlisted in the Guards. His name was known, and 511 subsequently he was put on to the driving of a motor car. What is the result as regards his pay? He is told, "You joined as a private soldier, and your pay remains at that figure, and you cannot now ask for the higher wages which the other motor drivers get, and you must be content with the smaller pay." I can hardly think that the War Office mean to keep that system on, since it is not fair to make fish of one man and flesh of another. If instead of being so keen on joining the Army, on failing to get the position at first, he had waited until he got it, he would then be entitled to the pay which the other motor drivers now receive. I hope this matter will receive consideration.
There is one other question to which I think it is just as well to refer. Our friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer gave two or three lectures to banks at one time, because of statements that they did not at all times give their customers facilities in times of difficulty, in September or October last. I happen to have heard, on authority which I can hardly doubt, that some of the Army agents took very drastic measures where officers had overdrafts when they went to the War. They declined to honour any further cheques until the officers had repaid the overdraft. I think that is a pretty hard piece of business, and that if the Chancellor of the Exchequer had known anything of that sort, he would have given them the same lecture as he gave to the banks. Many people have overdrafts, but to take advantage of the fact that the officers were going away from home, was, I think, rather severe. I hope that the War Office will look into these trade matters and endeavour to adopt the best methods and use the best talent which they can find. By the way, I have heard of instances in which the great engineers and manufacturers of this country have given splendid advice, which must have been very useful to the War Office. But there is still the attitude, "We are the War Office; we want nobody's advice or assistance; we want to do things our own way"—whereas with this enormous addition to the work it is impossible to do that. The Under-Secretary of State may like to hear—and this will show that I am not carping at the War Office in any ungracious spirit—that last night Lord Derby—who we know is one of the champion recruiters in the county of Lancashire—stated at a very 512 large meeting that, notwithstanding the great numbers he has taken on, the War Office has never once let him down. I mention that, because I want to make things perfect also as regards buying in the cheapest market, obtaining the very best material, and not being in the hands of any syndicate or the tool of any person, but making the very best purchases in the interests of the Army itself and of the War Office.
§ Mr. DUNCAN MILLAR
One of the most interesting passages in the able speech delivered by the Under-Secretary of State in introducing the Estimates related to the question of recruiting. I was very glad that we got an assurance from the right hon. Gentleman that recruiting was going on well. I think he used the words "extraordinarily well." At the same time he warned us that there was need for further action to be taken in the direction of securing more recruits. He said that a little more energy in recruiting at the present moment would not be out of place. I wish to raise a point in reference to recruiting in our large industrial districts, where many of us have been endeavouring to put as much energy as we could into the work, and not altogether unsuccessfully. In the industrial districts of Scotland—I have the honour to sit for a constituency which represents largely industrial undertakings—we have succeeded in raising a very large number of recruits. We have asked again and again for the figures, but the first time we had an opportunity of considering them as a whole was, I think, when Lord Midleton in another place gave the recruiting figures for practically the whole of the United Kingdom up to 4th November. While we de not take any special credit for it, it was significant that in the large industrial districts in the south of Scotland 237 recruits per 10,000 of population were obtained, which was a long way the highest figure for the whole of the United Kingdom, the next highest district being Warwickshire, Gloucestershire, Worcestershire, Bucks, Oxford, and Berks with 196 per 10,000. What I desire to point out is that in some of these industrial districts we have practically run dry, so far as the possibility of obtaining further recruits is concerned; that is to say, there are so many men employed in our large industrial works, many of which are at present engaged in fulfilling contracts for the War Office and the Admiralty, that it is very difficult indeed for 513 us to get more recruits without calling away men who are doing better service for their country where they are. At a large recruiting meeting recently at Motherwell we had a letter from the Admiralty indicating that in their view the men engaged in our large steelworks were doing as good service for their country in remaining where they were as they would do if they joined the Army—a consideration which was quite properly put before us.
But there are many districts where recruits could still be readily obtained without drawing upon those who are engaged in our industrial undertakings. One has only to glance at the figures given by Lord Midleton to see that there are many districts in other parts of the United Kingdom where the figures per 10,000 are very much smaller, and where there must be considerably greater reserves. I would like to ask whether in future it will be understood that the recruiting efforts will be directed largely to those districts where fewer recruits have been obtained, and whether some recognition will be given to the men who are serving their country in our big industries by issuing to them some special mark in the form of a badge or button to indicate that they have not failed to offer their services, but that in the interests of their country they have remained at their work. I believe that already in certain districts badges or buttons have been issued. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman could give us some idea of the conditions under which these tokens will be issued, and an assurance that they will be issued alike to all who are engaged in work which is benefiting the country directly, and particularly in those industrial centres where we could not make any great further effort because of the depletion of labour in which it would result.
I believe that the appeal of the right hon. Gentleman to the trade unions will not fall on deaf ears. I am glad that we have had speeches from several Members representing the Labour party, showing how anxious they are to respond to that appeal. In Lanarkshire we have had the active and hearty co-operation of those who represent the largest trade union there—the Miners' Union—in seeking to secure recruits throughout the district. At recruiting meetings we have had leading representatives from that union endeavouring to attract recruits, and we feel that we can count upon their co-operation. I am 514 sure that the right hon. Gentleman may rest assured that every effort will be made by those who represent the trade unions to assist in this movement. In the mining districts in Scotland and particularly in Lanarkshire where a great number of the population are engaged in mining the response in the recruiting line has been phenomenal. I believe that that has been the experience in most of the mining districts throughout the country. It is partly due to the fact that the men engaged in that industry are accustomed to face danger and hardship every day of their lives, and that the life in the trenches is one to which they can readily respond. It is a life which they are willing to take up also in order to render the best possible service to their country, and one for which many of them are extremely well fitted by their vigour and patriotism.
There are one or two other inducements to recruiting which might be considered at this time. The proposal has been made that commissions by promotion from the ranks should be given to men of suitable record representing our great industries. I am glad to learn, from an answer given the other day, that the Government have been very carefully considering this matter, and that already there have been some 1,155 cases of promotion from the ranks since the War began. The point I should like to emphasise is that you will attract a great number of recruits in many districts if you can satisfy the men you are appealing to that there is a reasonable chance of their being offered commissions, after having served for a period to prove their worth, and when they have reached the position of non-commissioned officers. I got a reply to a letter which I recently addressed to my right hon. Friend on this subject. In that reply I was glad to learn that the matter was receiving his very sympathetic attention, and that he was prepared to consider the names of any suitable men of experience representing the mining and steel industries, and others, where there had been a substantial record of Army service or where the applicant had filled the post of non-commissioned officer.
I think it is very important that such a thing should be done, because all of us know the number of men who are applying at the present time for commissions. All Members of Parliament are assailed with applications to assist the applicants from their district, and we know that many of these men who expect to get commissions 515 and some who are getting them, are men who belong to the higher social strata, but that they are also men who have had nothing like the experience and cannot possibly do the work in the same way as men who have been in the ranks for a considerable period of time, and who have not only age, but a suitable record of service behind them. We cannot compare the claims of those who put forward their names with a degree of self-confidence, sometimes which is hardly justified, for commissions simply on account of their social standing with the claims of many of the men in the ranks. I believe in this matter the War Office has taken a very wise line, and I am glad to think that they are prepared to assist in recognising merit in the rankers and in securing promotion even before men go away on active service.
There is only one other subject that I desire to touch upon for one moment, and that is with regard to the health of our soldiers. The matter has been very fully discussed already, and there is only one aspect of the question to which I want to deal—that is that aspect relating to cases of mental strain, of men who have come back from the front and whose nerves have been seriously shattered, and whose mental balance has been temporarily upset. That is not a small category of cases. There are a great many such. It is of very great importance that those cases should be dealt with at the earliest possible moment, not by means of asylum treatment or associating them with those who are insane—or indeed, treatment of any kind under the present lunacy administration—but that they should be treated as quite distinct cases; cases in which a period of rest may result in the restoration of the health; cases in which there may be the possibility of the best form of treatment in private homes or hospitals, distinct altogether from lunatic asylums. I am very glad to know that the War Office is acting in this matter, that they are sympathetic, and that already arrangements have been made to secure certain private and civil hospitals in the United Kingdom. In Scotland the matter is already receiving very considerable attention. But we are handicapped for want of funds, and while an appeal is being made for voluntary subscriptions, I hope the War Office may see its way to assist us by way of grants in certain cases, so that suitable buildings can be obtained and equipped to deal with this most sad and trying class 516 of case. I think the Committee will agree that these cases ought never to be associated with the treatment of the ordinary lunatic, as in most, if not almost in every case, there is a chance of complete restoration to health again, and no stigma of insanity ought to attach to them. The hon. Member for Huddersfield spoke on behalf of the Home Defence Association. I do not want to go into that, except to say that I entirely agreed with the points he made in respect to the need for some clearer definition of the conditions under which men enter these associations. We have a number of them in Scotland. But I am bound to say they are suffering very much indeed owing to the uncertainty that prevails at the present time as to the conditions the War Office are likely to impose. We ought to know who the authority is who is to define what is "a good and sufficient reason," and we ought to know the reason. I would suggest to my hon. Friend on the Front Bench that there also ought to be reasons allowed apart from the age limit, without any call for enlistment in the Army at a later stage, so that a man may go into the Force with the full assurance, that when he is submitting himself to training and drill and equipping himself for service at home, he will not be called upon at a later stage to join the Army, having a sufficiently good reason for that action. I do not think it will be very difficult to define an actual reason. Until that is done a very excellent movement will continue to suffer. I sincerely hope the hon. Gentleman the Financial Secretary will be able to give us some assurance on that point, and let us understand that the matter is not only receiving the very careful consideration of the Government, but that steps are going to be taken to give encouragement to what is a very deserving movement.
§ Mr. HEWINS
I do not desire to criticise the War Office. In the earlier stages of the War I heard a great many criticisms from people with whom I came in contact, from manufacturers and business men, and from others who had to deal with the War Office; but certainly, in recent months, I think there is a general feeling among people with whom I have come in contact that there has been in every direction an enormous increase in efficiency; that those at the War Office responsible for particular Departments really know their business. Of course, there never could be any doubt about the patriotic intentions and devout service that those 517 different persons rendered to the State. Perhaps I may also observe that in the Great Dominions, who have done so much to assist us in this great crisis, there is a growing appreciation of the consideration and courtesy with which everything they have done is received by Lord Kitchener and his colleagues. There must, in a great affair like that in which we are engaged, be a great many points upon which critical remarks may be made, but I do not think it would become me at all to engage in anything like a critical speech. I really want to draw attention to what I consider two exceedingly important points which I was glad to see the Under-Secretary raised in his opening speech. The first, I think, he described—if I remember his phrase accurately—as the denudation of labour in recruiting. That question raises a vast number of very important economic questions. In times past we have erred—this is not an accusation against the present Government, but against the policy of England over a very long period—in, if I may say so, considering our policy in watertight compartments—the military and naval administration apart from trade and economic questions. One of the things which this War has brought into great prominence is the manner in which these questions are all related to each other. We have not at this time merely to consider, important as the question is, how to raise the forces which are necessary: we have really got to put the country, in all its various branches of activity, into a state of War; and the question alluded to by the Under-Secretary raises these points in a very important manner.
Let us see precisely what the problem actually involves. At the present time we have—I am not going to mention figures; I can give figures if necessary, but I do not think it is desirable to introduce figures into the discussion—these three factors to consider. In the first place, there has been an enormous withdrawal from the ordinary productive services of the country, as I may call them—an enormous withdrawal of the men who are at the present moment under arms. In the second place, there is a very large proportion of what we may call the productive capacity of the country devoted to the manufacture and production of munitions of war, equipment, and all the other articles required to carry on our present operations; and then you have the balance left for dealing with what we may call the 518 normal productive needs of the country. As I have said, I can put an approximate figure on those three different factors, but it must be perfectly obvious from a mere statement of the question that there is a smaller proportion of the productive capacity of the country devoted to dealing with its normal productive needs than there was before the War began. Coming to the object before us, we have got to raise the men we require; we have got to furnish them, and also to a very large extent our Allies, with all the equipment which is necessary for carrying on the War; we have got to feed our people; we have got also to raise the money that, is necessary; and we have got to carry on all those different branches of activity—at any rate, I will put it in this way—with the least possible prejudice to the ultimate productive prosperity of the United Kingdom, and of the Empire. Well, that raises a very large question, and I am inclined to think that the Government would find themselves driven to a very much wider range of economic measures than they have yet undertaken, but I was glad that the Under-Secretary raised the question, especially because of his allusion to the trade unions.
It is perfectly obvious that, in carrying out the great enterprise in which we are engaged, you have got to make the best possible use of all the organising faculties of the country, and I doubt very much whether you can—at any rate, we will say—get the maximum efficiency out of the factors I have mentioned unless you extend the range from which you call for active co-operation at the present time. It is quite obvious that all these questions affect the problem of recruiting. I do not think anybody would suggest that there is any lack of patriotism in any part of the country at the present time. I am quite sure the country can depend upon the absolute solidarity of all classes of the community for carrying on the War. But there are a great many technical and business questions, the raising of which is not any indication of want of patriotism. They are really difficulties which occur in the actual conduct of the ordinary life of the community. I know, for instance, a very large number of firms, many of whom are at the present moment engaged on Government contracts for the War, which have-very great difficulty in finding the necessary skilled labour for carrying out those contracts. They have thrown themselves loyally into all the work that has to be 519 done to make the War successful. Some of their very best workmen have gone to the front, and are showing their patriotism in that way, and the question of how they are to fulfil their contract is a very important one with these people. You cannot get the full fruit of the organising capacity of the people in the United Kingdom unless you call to their assistance the best members both amongst the employers, and, I would say, the trade union movement. I have always felt, whenever we have considered problems of national defence, that you cannot get on unless you manage to secure the co-operation of these economic factors.
When I come to the trade unions, I am not going to discuss their objects. Upon the objects of trade unions there may be a great difference of opinion in this House, but on the supreme capacity which working men have shown for organising, there can be no question whatever. The problems the working men have solved for themselves through the trade unions are amongst the marvels of the modern world of organisation, and I do sincerely hope that Lord Kitchener will appeal to the best members in the trade-union movement to assist him in the great problem which he has to solve. The same is true of the employers of labour. I have heard it said by people coming from our great Dominions that before the War some of them were inclined to talk about the Old Country as decadent, about our business men and employers wanting in enterprise; but that opinion has been entirely altered by the War. Certainly nothing can exceed the remarkable character of the adaptation of these people to the events with which they have to deal, and what is true of employers and business men is also true of the working men. I feel perfectly confident that, if the Government frankly tells the trade unions, not, as the Under-Secretary put it, to relax their rules—I would not put it that way—but if the Government frankly appeals to them to place at the disposal of the country at the present time the great organising ability they have to get recruits and to help settle very delicate industrial problems, that appeal will not fall on deaf ears.
I believe that all the classes of this country are absolutely united, up and down, through and through, in the desire for the prosperity of the objects we have in this country, and I am perfectly certain about the patriotism of the great mass of 520 the working men of this country. After all, who has made the British Empire? It is the working men as much as any other class, and they may be trusted to maintain it. I should be extremely glad if I could see on the part of the Government a definite intention, not only to make the appeal which the Under-Secretary made to the labour forces of the country, but to institute a practical scheme for securing their effective co-operation in solving these problems. And I should not be too nice, too particular, or too meticulous about the particular method. What we have to do is to put the thing through, and I feel certain we could get the assistance of those really great men who have made the trade-union movement and the other working-class movements what they are at the present time. No doubt that carries with it certain implications with regard to general policy. I am not going to discuss it at present, and it would not be proper on this occasion, but I do feel this, that all these numerous Acts of Parliament being passed since we have scrapped almost every principle we ever had in this country, it is not a time for pedantic consideration, that we have got to realise here we are, and that we stand or fall as one great united Empire, all classes united in pursuit of the common end, and it is part and parcel of the constitution of the society in which we live that no class should be prejudiced, so far as we can prevent it, by what they do in support of the War. That is my attitude, and I should do everything I could in the matter.
The second point which the Under-Secretary alluded to is the co-operation of the Empire in regard to the subjects we are discussing on the present Vote. I do not think people quite realise the enormous assistance which the different parts of the Empire have been to us during the present War. Take the contribution of Canada. Some of their forces are now serving at the front. Take, for example, Australia and New Zealand, whose forces are serving in Egypt; the contributions of our great Dependency of India, the local efforts in Egypt and the Soudan, and the self-governing Dominions, which are for the first time in a crisis of this kind bearing all the expense in connection with the contribution of forcers. I think this is a marvellous illustration of the unity and efficiency of the British Empire. I believe Sir Robert Borden estimated that the self-governing Dominions alone will have 521 250,000 men at the front before the end of the War. That is not by any means the end of their contributions. If you look through the contracts which have been given out in Canada and other Dominions of the Crown, I think you will find that they are assisting us over almost the whole range of the articles we want for the purpose of carrying on the War. That is a testimony not only to their general co-operation with us on the present occasion, but it is also an indication of the manner in which the development of the resources of the Empire conduce to the strength of the Empire as a whole.
I was particularly glad that the Under-Secretary did make that tribute, and I only raise the question to say that the more we turn to the great Dominions, and, in fact all the Colonial Possessions of the Crown for assistance, the more they will be pleased, and the contribution they can offer is not to be estimated merely by the amount they do. Germany, beyond all doubt in the present struggle, relied to a very large extent upon the economical disunion of the British Empire, but they have been entirely mistaken in that as in other things. If we face the situation as it is with an absolutely united Empire, we can at once see how we gain in solidarity. I will merely ask the hon. Member who sits on the Front Bench to give us some kind I will not sketch out the way in which it should be done—of pledge that he will express to Lord Kitchener the desirability of instituting some practical and effective scheme for securing the co-operation of the leaders of the labour world and the employers of labour in solving these industrial and economical problems. If he does that, I am sure we shall be exceedingly gratified. We have to look ahead. We have a great struggle before us, because we cannot look or hope for any peace, except the peace which is consequent upon the realisation of those ends of justice for which the British Empire lives.
§ Mr. WING
I rise for the purpose of expressing satisfaction with the Department which has been dealing with the allotments and allowances for suggesting the extension of the area to dependants. There is, however, great disappointment, especially in the mining districts, arising from what we are told may be a misapprehension, but which, I think, is a real grievance. Take a house in which a farmer and his three sons have gone to the front, or the case of a widow whose three sons have become soldiers. The prevalent idea was, 522 and still is in many quarters, that the very fact of a son making an allotment was a guarantee that the parent would receive the complement of 9s., plus the 3s. 6d. allotment made by the soldier. Some rather serious economical problems have arisen from the working out of this problem. I have got out the wage-sheet of a household in which three have become soldiers. I have taken out for a year from the wage-sheets of the colliery office the average wage of each of these three men; one son received 5s. 9d. per day, the other 6s. 7d., and the father 10s. per day, giving a weekly income of £5 11s. 8d. The father makes an allotment, and the Government 9s. is added, making 12s. The sons make an allotment with the idea that the same result would follow, but the real result is that there is 19s. 6d. going to that household where previously £5 11s. 8d. was going, leaving what they consider a deficit of £4 12s. 2d. I know by the large number of letters it has been my duty, I was going to say my painful duty, to send to the Under-Secretary, that this is a widespread disappointment, and I want to ask if it is not possible for the War Office in some way or other to meet this difficulty. The concession made where you allowed a son to allot to a mother and to a father was greatly appreciated, but even in that case a pension officer comes along and becomes a kind of accountant, whose main endeavour seems to be to reduce as far as possible what should be the final result of the amount of money allotted.
I have risen to ask the Under-Secretary to take into consideration cases such as those which arise in Durham and other mining districts, where families have sent three and four sons to the front, or where a farmer and two sons have gone, because it seems to me a pity where patriotism has found such hearty expression that these people should be so heavily penalised. It is true that you have reduced the cost of the maintenance of the sons in the way of provision, but you still leave the working expenses of the house the same as they were before, and there is the rent and rates and other surrounding difficulties. There is a kind of feeling and impression abroad that the more patriotic you are the more you are called upon to sacrifice, and the less patriotic you become the less disadvantage you suffer. This is spreading throughout my Constituency. Fortunately, it cannot have very much influence, because you have already got almost all the young fellows we have, but 523 there is an idea growing in my constituency of apportioning out the sons, so that you do not have this economic difficulty, and so as to get the full advantages of the allowances made. It is one of those economic problems perhaps more easily stated than solved, but it is worth while the attention of the House, and also of the War Department, with a view to solving it.
§ Mr. RONALD M'NEILL
I am afraid the great multiplicity of the points and subjects which have been touched upon makes it almost extra unreasonable to expect that the representative of the Government will eventually give a reply upon them all, and I shall, perhaps, be too sanguine to expect that the one or two points I shall bring to the attention of the hon. Gentleman opposite will receive any notice from his colleague to-morrow. Nevertheless, in a spirit of hopefulness, I will mention points that have been brought before me as causing considerable wonderment and dissatisfaction, hoping that eventually they may possibly find some solution in the War Office. The position of Class 1 National Reservists appears to me to be extremely anomalous, so much so that it is difficult to believe the authorities at the War Office have really considered the present position. My information is that those Class 1 Reservists who have joined the, New Army, which we are in the habit of calling Kitchener's Army, are entitled to a grant of £5 and also £5 payable upon discharge, but that members of the same National Reserve Class, who, instead of joining the New Army, have joined their old Territorial battalions, do not get that discharge or that grant. The anomaly seems still more unintelligible, if I am correct in saying that, while they do not get those bounties if they rejoin their old Territorial battalions for foreign service, Class 2, which are confined to Home service, when they rejoin actually do get them. There is a distinction there which seems to be drawn in favour of those who return to battalions for Home service, and it is a distinction very difficult to understand. There is another point of the same class which appears to me to be very anomalous, and I shall be glad to know if my information is correct. I am told that officers rejoining from the Reserve get £100 given them towards the provision of their kit, but that officers who are joining for the first time in the New Army only get £30 or £35.
524 Attention called to the fact that there were not forty Members present. House counted, and forty Members being found present—
§ Mr. R. M'NEILL
(resuming): Before that brief interruption, due to an hon. Member who appears here in a different uniform every day, anxious always to render services to his country, whether it be in fighting the enemy or in obtaining a count in this House—I do not complain, and I have no doubt he intended to do a good turn to the Committee—I was asking the hon. Gentleman why it is that an officer who joins from the Reserve gets £100 towards his kit, while an officer joining the New Army only gets £30 or £35. That would appear to be a very unjust inequality, even if the two classes of officers stood exactly on the same footing. If there were any distinction at all, one would suppose that it would be the other way about, because an officer returning to active service may have some part of his kit, his sword and revolver, which he would not have to buy afresh, whereas an officer joining for the first time has the whole of his kit to provide. I wish also to refer to a matter which was touched upon on the very first day of our sittings by the hon. Member for Edinburgh (Mr. Hogge), I mean the question of the separation allowance under the terms of enlistment and the representation that has been made to men enlisting with regard to what they might expect in the way of separation allowances. On that occasion the leaflet to which attention was called was described by the Front Bench as obsolete and not in operation. But it has never been effectively withdrawn, and to my knowledge, certainly within the last fortnight or three weeks, it has been used at recruiting meetings in various parts of the country. I have been present at meetings at which it has been used, and I did not myself know that the leaflet had been withdrawn. My first knowledge that it was obsolete was when I heard the information given to this House.
But the matter goes further than that. I have a leaflet in my hand which is said to be revised to the 1st January, 1915, and I presume that is the leaflet now used, and which has been authorised to be used by the War Office. In this leaflet, in the third paragraph, the soldier is told in large type that up to certain limits he will be allowed the amount he used to pay towards the support of his dependant (but not for his 525 own keep)—that is the important qualification which is introduced into this new leaflet. I quite agree that, as a matter of grammatical construction, these parenthetical words may be said to qualify the whole of the following leaflet. But these leaflets are used by people who have no very great skill in the understanding of complex language. What really affects the recruit's mind is the paragraph which reproduces, word for word, the misleading paragraph in the earlier leaflet, and these are the words which the recruit has put into his mind on the authority of the War Office:—If, again, the soldier supported his dependant to the extent of 12s. 6d. a week in peace, he will in future only have to pay sixpence per day—3s. 6d. a week—and the Government will pay the other 9s.That statement is made there without any qualification. It is true that if you go several paragraphs back you will find a qualifying sentence put in parenthesis which, I agree, as a matter of strict construction, may be said to qualify the words I have just read. But anyone who knows the way in which these leaflets are used at recruiting meetings, and who knows the minds of the men as they are brought to bear on them, will admit that they are grossly misleading. The Government is not prepared to pay the 9s. which would make the allotment to the dependant up to the 12s. 6d.; and therefore, if the words are not a gross fraud, it is a mistake to use such language, because you are doing a very misleading thing. Apart altogether from that there are other complaints which I find extremely rife with regard to separation allowances, and these I cannot but think have a bad effect on recruiting. We have been told that recruiting is not now as brisk as the Government would like to see it, and we are bound to look into the causes for the slackening of it. Apart from the misleading nature of the present as well as the old leaflet, there is dissatisfaction with regard to the deductions for the soldier's keep. Dissatisfaction is caused in two ways, first of all it is in regard to the amount of the deduction, and secondly it is in regard to the delay which it causes in the payment of the separation allowances.
I will deal first with the question of the amount. The Government decided that the only way in which they could deal with this very difficult and complex problem was by employing the old age pensions machinery. I. am not prepared to suggest better machinery. But what the people 526 are asking is, Is there any sort of guiding principle upon which the pension officers act in deciding on the amount of the deduction? I have gone through a very considerable number of cases which have been submitted to me from different parts of the country with a view, if possible, to detect what guiding principle there is at work, and I confess, candidly, I have been entirely baffled in my search for any such principle. Let me give an example of the sort of thing which is giving rise to dissatisfaction, and I will ask the Committee to bear in mind that these cases come from complainants who have the terms of the recruiting leaflet in their minds. This is the case of a man in the Royal Irish Rifles. The dependant is his mother. Previously to his enlistment he was living at home with his mother, and allowed her 13s. or 14s. weekly. The pension officer has fixed her separation allowance at 6s. 4d. I want to know why. That sum includes the allotment which the soldier will have made and which has been deducted from his pay—3s. 6d. a week—and the result is that, instead of getting 9s. from the Government, which he thinks was promised him, the Government are only giving 2s. 10d. How is that to be explained to that man, to his mother, or to his friends? When these circumstances are known, when the facts are told in the man's village, how does the Government expect recruiting in that district to be as brisk as it ought to be among the class from which this man is drawn? It is impossible to expect anything of the sort. I have said there is no guiding principle at work. Why should the special keep of this man who lived with his mother and paid her 13s. or 14s. weekly be put down at 7s. or 8s. per week, because unless that is the estimate of his keep it is impossible to understand why the 9s. should be reduced to 2s. 10d.?
Let me give another instance. It is the case of a man in the Royal Artillery. He had lived at home and allowed his mother 14s. I agree that this case in one particular may be exceptional, inasmuch as it is not pretended that the mother is destitute. She herself is able to earn some money and she has children who can also earn a little. That may be a good reason for not giving so large a sum as might otherwise have been justly awarded. In this case the son enlisted on the 14th October. On the 29th October he signed the allotment of 3s. 6d. a week for his 527 mother. The pension officer called to investigate his case in the middle of December, more than two months after the date on which he signed his allotment. On 13th January, very nearly another month later, the separation allowance was fixed at 6s. 2d. weekly, that is to say, the Government gave her an allowance of 2s. 8d. Owing to the fact of the family having other means of provision, I am not laying so much stress upon the amount, but I am very anxious to call attention to two other points, first, that on the 13th January, when the separation allowance was fixed, the back pay of the separation allowance was made for three weeks. Why for three weeks? The arrears of separation allowance were admitted to be payable as from the date of the pension officer's call, but the pension officer's call had been months after the man's enlistment, and during the whole of that time his pay was being docked and he was only getting his pay less the amount stopped for separation allowance. I want to know what has happened, or what is going to happen, to the amount that was stopped from his pay in the interval between his enlistment and the call of the pension officer, and why it is not to be paid over to his dependants? I particularly want to call the attention of the hon. Member and the Committee to the delay of two months before the pension officer called, and of another month before any separation allowance was paid, because I am going to have a word to say upon the question of delay in a moment.
It appears to me that it is the policy of the Government that mothers as dependants are treated with less generosity—at all events they are less fully provided for than when the dependant is a wife. I do not see why that should be a general rule. I admit there may be some cases in which it should be done, but as a general rule I should have said that the mother should have been put at least oh as good a footing as the wife. You have to assume that the mother is dependent upon being kept by her son. It is not an unfair presumption that a man's mother would be older than his wife, probably a good many years older. The presumption, therefore, is that the mother is much less able, when the breadwinner is away, to earn money for herself by any active employment. There is a further fact which, as we are dealing with domestic details, it is very proper to bear in mind. The question of 528 rent in all these matters is a very important one. Rent depends upon the number of rooms that have to be used for the family. If a man is living in a house with an aged mother, he requires a separate room, but if he is living with his wife he does not require a separate room, consequently the burden of rent that rests upon him through keeping his mother is a great deal more than when he is living with his wife. When a sudden call of this sort comes upon the country, and a great many men of this class come forward, it is idle to contend that the mother is able to give up the spare room at a moment's notice. I have heard that this is a very live point in many cases among the class of people in question. I have a great number of cases in my hand from different parts of the country. If they only arose at a single point, say in my own Constituency, it might be possible to say that there were exceptional circumstances at work there, and that it was not a general case. I have had cases sent to me from parts of the country that I know, not only in my own Constituency, but in Ireland. Middlesex, and Yorkshire, and I find the same sort of complaint cropping up in all of them.
I will give one single case derived from Middlesex. Here was the mother of a private in the Middlesex Regiment. This was the case of a man who enlisted on the 17th August, and she received a post-card on the 18th December saying that the matter should receive prompt attention. She got a letter dated the 26th saying that the allowance would be paid within three or four weeks, and it has not been paid yet, at any rate, it had not been paid a week ago. There are numbers of cases of that sort. In order to save the time of the Committee I will summarise a few of them in statistical form: In a certain division in Middlesex, out of 207 cases—this is on the question of delay in payment—sixteen waited over five weeks, fourteen waited over six weeks, ten waited over seven weeks, and eleven waited over eight weeks. Surely that is an amount of delay which cannot possibly be called unavoidable. I find another distinct division where, in the same way, eight wives had to wait over five weeks for any payment, nine had to wait over six weeks, four had to wait over seven weeks, and fourteen had to wait over eight weeks. In 353 cases about 10 per cent. of them all had to wait over five weeks for their payment. When the matter came up at the beginning of this Session, these matters were not gone into 529 with any fulness. Last week I put a question to the hon. Member on the question of delay. This was the answer he gave me:I am afraid that in some cases delay is inevitable, as the preliminary investigations made by the pension officer and local pension committee necessarily take time. Payment, however, is being expedited as much as possible, and in cases of hardship the Soldiers' and Sailors' Families Association are authorised to make advances on behalf of the War Office, recoverable from public funds.As far as I am concerned the answer is very satisfactory, but we here are all accustomed to the official answer; it is a perfectly well-known type which avoids telling us anything untrue, and equally avoids telling us anything useful. But when you are dealing with soldiers' and sailors' wives and mothers, they are not so accustomed as we are to the official answer, and it is a very small satisfaction to any of these poor people when their husbands or their sons are going away to fight, many of them, it may be, already killed in action, to read in the newspapers that a Member of the Government has said that some delay is inevitable, as the preliminary investigations made by the pension officer and local pension committee necessarily take time. We want to know how much delay the hon. Member considers unavoidable, and how much time must be taken. Let us have some figures. In a supplementary question to the reply which I have just read I said something which I am afraid met with many tokens of disapproval. I did not mean it in any improper spirit. I said, having in my knowledge a number of cases where there had been no payment made for some two or three months, surely it would be better to tell the people at once, "You cannot expect it for two months," or whatever the Government think is the inevitable time which must elapse before this payment can be made. The hon. Gentleman is still of the opinion that that was a very improper observation of mine. I am entirely unrepentant. I cannot help thinking that in this matter, as in everything else, it may turn out that honesty is the best policy, even in recruiting, and if the experience of the War Office is, as the answer candidly says, that these poor people have to wait a certain amount of time for their money, tell the man who enlists how long it is likely to be.
§ Mr. HAROLD BAKER
My reason for dissenting from the hon. Member's remarks is that he is assuming that because in a certain number of cases there 530 is delay he will be justified in telling all persons that delay is inevitable. He puts aside the enormous number of cases in which there has been no delay. It would be very misleading to suggest that delay was the universal rule.
§ Mr. R. M'NEILL
I have not the least wish to say that delay is the universal rule. I do not want the hon. Gentleman to say anything half as misleading as the leaflet to which I have referred. There are cases which are quite sufficiently numerous to be extremely mischievous, I can assure him, and I think it would be very much better if in some future revision of this misleading leaflet it were made really less misleading by people being told that there was a danger that they might not be paid for a certain number of weeks, but the Government would do their best to pay as soon as possible. But when wives and mothers are expecting that the inevitable delay means perhaps a matter of a week, and then they find that weeks creep into months and they hear nothing, and after two months have passed the pension officer calls, and in another week writes a postcard to say there will be prompt payment, and after another week to say it will be paid within three or four weeks more, that seems to be a case in which it is very likely that the process will be hope deferred making the heart sick, and when the heart gets sick recruiting grows slack. Of course the best policy is to hurry up things. I do not in the least believe it is unavoidable. I do not believe that machinery is not, or might not be at the disposal of the War Office which would make it possible for the separation allowances of every soldier to be paid practically within three weeks or a month. If that machinery is not at the disposal of the Government I think less of the resources of the country than I should wish to do.
I want to refer to another matter of a different character altogether, and I must do so as discreetly as possible, because it is a somewhat delicate matter and I do not want to say anything which would be improper. I do not want to make a speech such as was made this afternoon by the hon. Gentleman opposite (Sir H. Elverston)—a speech which, without any Pharisaical spirit, we were all very thankful was not made from this side of the House. It is a question of the adequate provision of guards by the War Office authorities of spots in this country, which 531 for one cause or another ought to be adequately protected. There is one such spot of some importance within my knowledge, and it is of importance for more reasons than one. It is important both from the point of view of the civil population of the district, and also from the point of view of the military who are congregated in that neighbourhood. At the outbreak of the War the authorities in the district immediately perceived that it was a point which required military protection, and they very properly wrote to a certain military authority in their own district. After a considerable time that military authority referred them to another military authority, also in the same part of England. Each of these matters of correspondence has taken some little time. I could show the whole of the correspondence to the right ton. Gentleman if he wished to see it. I think I am right in saying that there were three separate local military authorities applied to, each one of whom, after considerable delay, stated that it was not in their jurisdiction to supply the protection. Finally, one of them recommended that the civil authority should apply to the War Office. They then wrote to the War Office. I am not pledging myself that the order of the correspondence is correct. It may have been the other way about. They applied to the War Office, and the War Office referred them to the Admiralty. This correspondence stretched over many weeks. Beginning in August last, it was still going on at the end of December. The Admiralty, after their usual leisurely manner of reply, said it was not within their competence to supply the protection required, and recommended them to apply to the civil authority, which was themselves.
They were referred back to themselves, and, meantime, during all these months, as it was an important matter that this place should be guarded, the civil authority had been doing what they could. They put on four labouring men to guard the place by night. I inquired, "Have you any military control over these men?" I asked also whether they could shoot one of these men if he went to sleep on duty, and the reply was, "All we can do if a man goes home, goes to sleep, or gets drunk, is to dismiss him." But meantime irreparable mischief might have been done, not merely in the event of the Germans landing in this country, although even that 532 is an eventuality which a really circumspect War Office will not put out of their regard, but it might have been done by any evil-disposed person in England. That is a point of importance which has been left unguarded for months, and which, so far as I know, is in the same condition at this moment. One of the men had a revolver, but no one knew whether he knew how to fire it. From the very outbreak of the War it was the duty of the Government, even if their attention had not been called to the matter in the way it was called, to supply military protection at once. It seems to me that we shall often have to complain in other respects. It does not matter in the piping times of peace if one Department refers you to another Department, each trying to escape responsibility, but under present conditions the military authorities between themselves in this particular matter should have made up their minds who was responsible, and if no one was responsible according to law, as is very likely the case, they should have put their heads together and decided that one was responsible, and from that moment they should have provided adequate protection. I also know, unless the matter has been changed in the last week or two, that an important railway tunnel is unguarded, except by the county police. We all know what the county police are: a most estimable body of men the county police, admirable no doubt for taking up the drunk and disorderly on fair nights, but not the class of men to protect the country from invasion by the Germans. Surely at such a point as an important railway tunnel on one of our railway lines in this country—wild horses would not drag from me in what part of the country it is—
§ Mr. R. M'NEILL
Certainly, I shall be delighted to give any information. But it seems to me most extraordinary that there can be at this moment, after six months of war, any such important places as this railway tunnel, or the other matter which I have in my mind, quite unprotected, so far as the military authorities are concerned. I do not know whose job it ought to be, and I do not care. All I do say is that those matters ought to have been provided for; that they ought to be under the protection of the Government and of the Forces of the Crown one way or another. Also I would say that if those are mere 533 matters which have been brought to my individual knowledge, the presumption is that there may be scores of other such things in other parts of the country of which I know nothing. I hope that when the right hon. Gentleman comes to reply to-morrow he will not forget these matters, though I end as I began by saying that I am quite aware how the time is broken up in the course of the Debate, and that we could hardly expect that each one of us should have attention bestowed upon the points which it has been his duty to bring before the Committee.
§ Mr. LYNCH
I may refer very briefly to a matter which has been already discussed. I am glad to find that all the protagonists of the question have already disappeared from this Debate. It emphasises the complete abdication by Parliament of its usual function. I am tempted to wonder why the Government bring us here at all, and I dare say that the country is beginning to wonder also. I will reply the more easily, perhaps, to the long and exhaustive speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Haggerston for this reason, that I was un-unfortunate enough not to hear it. I dare say that I understand already the gist of his argument. I would like to divide the question into two very simple compartments: one is the value of inoculation and the other is the value of compulsion. As to the value of inoculation, the case for typhoid fever is far stronger even than the case for small-pox. For with regard to typhoid fever we at least know the microbe. We are able to cultivate the microbe; we are able to standardise the vaccine. Of all these factors we remain in complete ignorance in the case of small-pox.
Various statistics have been given with regard to the value of typhoid inoculation. I would not care to attach too much importance to the statistics which have been given, for in so hazardous a matter as the health of the body it requires an enormous number of statistics to enable one to form a real and sound opinion. Far better, I think, than statistics would be the weight of opinion of men whose whole scientific lives have been immersed in these questions, and who, even if they give an opinion without the backing up of any statistics at all, speak with certain authority and weight which it is very difficult to estimate by those who have not had the experience. What impressed me most particularly with regard to the value of typhoid inoculation was the result of 534 the experiment of Professor Hatfield, one of the most eminent of all the bacteriologists, a man thoroughly imbued with the scientific spirit, and extremely conscientious in his work.
After a very long experience in London, he was able to affirm positively the great value of typhoid inoculation to prevent disease. One striking factor may be mentioned with regard to the statistics of the South African war, and that is, that whereas the total loss of killed, wounded, and prisoners, or otherwise placed hors de combat, amounted to something like 145,000 at the end of the war, over 100,000 of that number were invalided through sickness, in great part due to typhoid fever. The present Superintendent of the Medical Department in France is another great living bacteriologist, Sir Almroth Wright, who is perhaps one of the most illustrious of all, and whose name is known all over the world as that of an extremely conscientious man in his work, and who has never yet given an opinion which is not based on scientific tests in what are known as "controlled" cases, in which he is able to test the result of actual inoculations. So that, as far as the medical world is concerned, at any rate the question is settled. The only persons whom it will be impossible to convince in future by scientific arguments are those who have made up their minds on no scientific grounds whatever, and who, therefore, are perfectly impervious to reasons based on scientific grounds. Granting the value of this inoculation, another question arises as to the advisability of making this compulsory. The German Army has made it compulsory, and, whatever be its faults, it does things in a systematic, well organised and thorough fashion.
Remember these are great factors in the winning of a war. The War Office here has not shown the same spirit, and I would be inclined to say on the face of the matter that they have shown a want of courage, at any rate of moral courage. Here is a case in which by their own arguments, arguments which they put forward with the greatest force. They insist on the value of inoculation, but they do not, as the Germany Army does, make it compulsory. They assure the soldier, in regard to this inoculation, that his choice is entirely voluntary, and yet they endeavour to carry out their object by all sorts of petty persecutions, undue influence, and a certain amount even of perfect meanness in the application of the rule. I listened 535 to the speech of the hon. Gentleman who sits for the two Universities, and was reminded of King David of old who, being desirous of exercising compulsion on Uriah the Hittite, browbeat him in the same manner as a common soldier who feels resentment when told by his superior officer that inoculation was entirely voluntary, but if he did not submit to it, he would be submitted to a corvêe which was spared other soldiers, and who would be submitted to all kinds of mean and petty ways. That is the manner in which the voluntary choice is given. As to the War Office, I fear it is almost hopeless—like hitting a sand-bag—but, at any rate, I would say that if they really believe the full force of their argument, they must make this typhoid inoculation compulsory. and if, on the other hand, in their wisdom they decide that they cannot make typhoid inoculation compulsory, and that they leave it to the full voluntary choice of the soldier, and if they give him that promise before he enlists, then they must abide by their own word and not make use of unfair and mean, petty persecutions, in order to break faith with the men they have enlisted in the ranks. I leave the problem to the right hon. Gentleman, and it is one which ought to be faced in a fair and straight way, and, as I say, with the application of those great and winning qualities—organisation, consistency, and thoroughness, which in this one respect, at least, characterises the Germans.
§ Mr. MORTON
With regard to the amounts allocated and allowed to the wives and children of soldiers, or sailors, I have found in my own experience that there have been difficulties. I do not desire to blame the Under-Secretary or Financial Secretary, because it appears to me that the mischief was largely occasioned by clerks in the office who apparently did not carry on things in the ordinary manner, because we had cases where relief had been given for a number of weeks and was then suddenly stopped, and was then given again. I am afraid that some of the clerks did not realise that the stoppage of the allowance in many cases meant starvation to the wives and children of the soldiers, because a great many of those soldiers who enlisted, or were called up, depended upon their weekly wages. I am glad, however, to acknowledge that the Sailors' and Soldiers' Families Relief Association got early to work and made 536 up for the deficiency of the Department, where there was any. I congratulate that society on having done good work, which I know from my own experience has been very satisfactory to the wives and children of the soldiers who were at the front. I particularly have been asked to call the attention of the Committee to a matter similar to that mentioned by the hon. Member for Devizes (Mr. Peto), namely, the promotion of the Infantry in the Regular Army. What is said is that the Infantry have not had the same amount of promotion as the officers in other branches of the Service. I do not know whether that is correct or not. I trust that the right hon. Gentleman will to-morrow give us some answer upon the matter, and that he will be able I to say that he is considering it, because these men have a good case. They were part of the Expeditionary Force; therefore we ought not to forget what they have done and what they are entitled to. I hope that we shall have no reason to complain of what the Government do in the matter. Credit is due to the War Office for the clever manner in which they got all these troops over to the front, with everything necessary to carry on the War. I do not know whether some of us thought they could do as well as they did; but as they have done it it is well that it should be credited to them.
Then there is the question of the tartan kilt. That is a matter of great importance in my Constituency. The men do not like what is proposed. Whether anything has been settled I do not know, as I have had no reply to my inquiries. Highlanders in my Constituency are very much put out at the proposed change. They do not want their tartan to be taken from them, or interfered with in any way. I hope, therefore, the right hon. Gentleman will be able to tell us that these soldiers are not to be ill-treated in that matter. Everybody must bear in mind that the soldiers from the Highlands of Scotland are the very best we have ever had. I have also a complaint about certain sergeant-instructors, who, I am told have not received that consideration which they think they ought to have. They have not been sent to the front, and therefore they get no promotion. They have been kept in this country for the purpose of instructing others, who no doubt badly needed that instruction. I shall be glad to know whether that matter is being considered, and whether anything is being 537 done with a view to treating all these people with justice. I have also had complaints from some of the Highland soldiers that they have not had a Christmas furlough, and in some cases that they have not been allowed their railway fare. I know there were difficulties about this. When the furlough was first proposed the men were to be given three days, and apparently there was nobody at the War Office who knew that it would take the soldier all that time to get to Sutherland and back without staying there at all. I am glad to know that the period was extended to five or six days, and that gave great satisfaction. There have been complaints that in some cases the railway fares were paid and in others they were not. I do not know what can be done in the matter. I tried my best to explain that there might be circumstances in which a soldier could not be given furlough; but if the hon. Gentleman could assure me that in good time all soldiers will be given furlough I think that is all that can be asked for.
I could, if necessary, say a good deal about soldiers and their grievances, but I think we are recognising those grievances. In 1889, when I first came into the House, I said that the country would have to pay its soldiers better and compensate and pension those wounded in war. Some little has been done, but I look forward to recognition and action on the lines of the principle laid down by both the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition at the Guildhall, namely, that it is our duty, as well as our right, to take care of all those who have suffered in the War, and to see that their dependants are properly provided for. I think we may trust that that will be carried out. I repeat that I trust that the tartan kilt will not be done away with. After 1745, the authorities tried by Act of Parliament to do away with it. That Act, I believe, was repealed. Then they took away their land, and finally, a little while ago, an endeavour was made—I drew attention to it at the time—to steal Gaelic, their language. I trust that nothing of the sort is going to be attempted now against the wish of this Highland soldier who in days past, and perhaps now, we have depended on to fight our battles. We have heard it said by hon. Members opposite that all parties are agreed in endeavouring to assist the Government to carry through this dreadful and cruel War. All parties are united in backing up the 538 Government and Parliament in doing what is necessary for that end, and it is well to know that in the same way all parties outside are doing their best to help the Government, who must win in the end. I have never had any doubt about that myself. But it is a costly War, and what is appalling is the loss of so many valuable lives, and all for no other purpose than to assist the Kaiser in his gigantic enterprises, which he ought to have had enough sense to know he never could carry through. It is satisfactory to know that we are quite united. The Kaiser thought that we should not be united, and that local disturbances in other parts of the country would aid him in dividing us. I would simply say in conclusion that I do not think there is any difference of opinion in the country, and that we are determined, against the Kaiser or anybody else, to protect our lives, our liberties, and our property.
§ Sir J. D. REES
The hon. Member below the Gangway and the hon. Member for Gateshead (Sir H. Elverston) attacked the right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues as if they were utter barbarians. Well, as it is the fashion to-night to quote the Bible, I should like to say the barbarous people have shown me no little-kindness, and on the many occasions I have had, like many other Members, to trouble them since the fateful 4th August, I have always found the greatest attention paid to every matter brought before them. If I should be betrayed into any acrimonious remark, I hope the right hon. Gentleman will understand that it is due to the pangs of unsatisfied hunger, and not to odious Parliamentary ingratitude. I particularly congratulate him on having been in office and having had the occasion of introducing the first Estimates in which the British Army has an appearance worthy of the importance of the British Empire since the time of the Napoleonic wars, and I congratulate him on having risen to the occasion and of having made a speech which I believe was received with great satisfaction in every part of the House. I think the fact is too often overlooked that up to the time of the Napoleonic wars the British Empire was a strong military Power relatively to other military Powers, that it has degraded from that great position until recent times, and that we are now only rising again to the position this country used to occupy relatively to the other military Powers or Europe, when these Estimates are passed.
539 There is one other matter I should like to acknowledge. The services done to the Army by Lord Haldane are very much under-rated and very much misunderstood in a great deal of the criticism which is levelled against him. It may be wrong to accept office as Secretary of War in a Liberal Government. I have desired myself, for some time, to do justice to that position, but I am not one to explain the ethics of a case like that. It is sufficient for me that Lord Haldane was in office, and endeavoured to do many things he was unable to carry out, because he was not supported by those behind him. It was he who made the Territorial Force, which has been so satisfactory and so enormous an advance on anything preceding it, and whose regiments which have been in action have done such admirable work, that it becomes everybody, in whatever part of the Committee he sits, and it certainly becomes me to repel, for my humble part, the frequently unjust and ill-informed criticism passed upon Lord Haldane for the very important part he took in bringing about so fine an Expeditionary Force, which has redounded so much to the credit of both parties in both Houses of Parliament. I think it right to say this, because I have sat here and heard Lord Haldane's wish to introduce cadet military training into the schools expressed, it was no fault of his that it was not introduced, and I must confess that I do feel that very unjust criticism was levelled against the man to whom the country owes a great deal for what he did for the British Army.
But I did not get up to indulge, or rather did not sit here to prepare, any reflections of that sort, which merely arise out of what other Members have said in the course of the Debate. I want to ask the right hon. Gentleman one or two things. One is in regard to the Indian troops. I am not suggesting that there is anything wrong, because I believe that they have been treated with very great care and that every effort has been made to respect their caste, habits and prejudices. I am not for a moment suggesting that the case is other than that. At the same time it must be extremely difficult under the commissariat conditions which obtain in Europe for their wants to be supplied, and some of their wants may appear to those carrying out the regulations to be unnecessary, and even ridiculous. It would be a comfort to me and 540 others interested in the, India troops and the people of India to have it from the right hon. Gentleman that there have been no difficulties which have not been overcome so far as care and attention could overcome them in supplying the Indian troops with their requirements. Upon one occasion some misguided individual wrote to the Press to say that the class of soldiers who had come were casteless creatures, and it would not matter in their case. But that is very far from being the case. They are either Hindus or Mahomedans, and in either case, quite apart from the innumerable castes which exist among the Hindus there are certain requirements which must be fulfilled, and which if not fulfilled I am certain would grievously trouble the men who have fought so bravely for us, and have earned the gratitude of the whole Empire.
There is the question of the climate. Most of the Indian troops—I will except the Ghurkas, who live in a wet climate—are accustomed to a dry climate, and this is the first service which they have ever put in in Europe, and it has taken place in the wettest winter that I ever remember. They have suffered much from the climate, and I think it will be worth the right hon. Gentleman's while to say what has been done to provide them with the food they require, to respect their caste and prejudices, to keep them warm, dry and comfortable when fighting under conditions so novel and difficult, conditions which have in no way daunted their courage or prevented them from entering into a friendly rivalry with British troops in which they have proved themselves to be in all respects equal. I will come to the point which has been referred to by other hon. Members and that is the distribution of the Government contracts. I have had occasion to appeal to the War Office in this matter several times, not by way of making complaint, but in order to ensure so far as possible that the vast sums of money which are now being spent by the War Office are spread abroad, and that not only that some of the great manufacturing centres should see the moneys circulated throughout them, but also that all should, so far as possible, participate in this golden stream.
It being Eleven of the Clock, the Chairman left the Chair to make his Report to the House.
Committee report progress; to sit again to-morrow (Wednesday).