§ Motion made, and Question again proposed,
§ A. "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."
§ Sir J. D. REES
On a point of Order. I beg to ask you, Mr. Whitley, whether the rule, order, or custom does not apply to sittings in Committee, by which a Member of the House who was speaking on the interruption of business the night before is entitled to complete his speech when the House resumes?
§ The CHAIRMAN
The hon. Member is mistaken. He will no doubt have observed that the Chairman every night makes his Report to the House, and asks leave to sit again, so that nothing is carried over. No doubt later the hon. Member will be able to speak.
§ Sir J. D. REES
With submission, Sir, is that ruling based upon Standing Order 1, Sub-section (3), because it is not so stated there. May I ask whether a Member in that case has exhausted his right to speak? [HON. MEMBERS: "NO, no!"]
§ The CHAIRMAN
The hon. Member can speak more than once in Committee. There is no question of his having exhausted his right.
§ The UNDER-SECRETARY of STATE for WAR (Mr. Tennant)
I hope the hon. Member for Nottingham will not think I am guilty of any discourtesy to him if I point out that a large number of questions have been asked me, and I thought it would be for the convenience of the House if I were to make a general reply. Any other questions put by hon. Members, including the hon. Member for Nottingham, can be dealt with by my hon. Friend the Financial Secretary, or perhaps I may be allowed to intervene again. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for the 601 Strand Division (Mr. Long) put a number of questions to me. I should like to take this opportunity, if I may, of thanking him for the interest he has taken in the matter throughout, ever since mobilisation took place, and the amount of help he has given to us by way of suggestion, and otherwise, and by serving on numerous Committees. The right hon. Gentleman asked me as to the terms of promotion. I am glad to be able to inform the right hon. Gentleman that we are proposing to make some changes. As my right hon. Friend informed the House when he spoke before, he had an interview with the Military Secretary, and the Military Secretary put before him quite succinctly the position in which we find ourselves. It is not possible to depart in toto from that position. But I am hopeful that it will be possible that we shall be able to make a number of changes that will be of interest to the House. It is proposed where promotion takes place because an officer of a higher rank—of any substantive rank—is killed, is taken prisoner, or is missing, that temporary rank will be given for the first three months, and, at the end of that three months, that rank will be made permanent. That applies to all regiments. I would like to point out to the Committee that this is a liberal way of dealing with this matter. The Royal Warrant for the Pay, Appointment, Promotion and Non-effective Pay of the Army, Article 47, says:The promotion of a lieutenant taken a prisoner of war may take place in the same manner as if he were effective with his regiment. In the case of a captain who, if he had not been made prisoner, would have been promoted to the rank of major, the loss of promotion consequent on capture by the enemy may subsequently in like manner be made good to him after his exchange or release, so far as may be practicable, by his being advanced to the substantive rank for which he would have been selected had he not been taken prisoner, and by the antedating of his promotion.I think it is quite clear by the proposal that we make that not only will the officer who is interned receive promotion in the regular course, but also his successor who is doing the work which he would have done had he not been taken prisoner. If the War should come to an end suddenly, undoubtedly we would have two captains, or majors—one supernumerary—and; we should have to absorb those as best we might. I think what I have said shows, that we have met this matter in a generous spirit. In the case which the right hon. Gentleman had in mind, where a lieutenant-colonel has been promoted to-brigadier-general, it is not possible to give that promotion the right hon. Gen- 602 tleman desires—and for this very simple reason: you might do a very great injustice to the senior of these officers. For example, take the case the right hon. Gentleman has in view. A lieutenant-colonel who has been promoted to brigadier-general might, on the termination of the War, find his place filled by his successor, the senior major in the regiment, and he himself have no place to go to. But, of course, we cannot employ brigadier-generals.
§ Mr. WALTER LONG
By special cases, I take it, the right hon. Gentleman means the Royal Scots Greys?
§ Mr. TENNANT
I was taking the hypothetical case where a lieutenant-colonel had only been in command, say, six months before the war terminated. I will put it in the words of the Military Secretary:—If permanent promotion were given it might seriously affect the half-pay and pension rights of the displaced officers who, from no fault of their own and often because of their superior qualifications, would have the term of their full pay service cut short, and would thus fail to complete the period of service necessary to qualify for the higher rates of half-pay and pension.That is what I mean. I am sure the right hon. Gentleman will follow me:—It seems preferable in every way that if officers on whom these higher duties devolve perform these higher duties successfully and with distinction, their services should be rewarded by brevet promotion. It must not be forgotten that the succession to the duties of a higher rank means in all these cases that the officer thus gains better opportunities of bringing himself to notice, and so his chance of receiving recognition and reward is enhanced.
§ Colonel YATE
Will a major temporarily promoted get the pay of a lieutenant-colonel commanding the regiment?
§ Mr. TENNANT
Yes, all officers who receive temporarily senior rank get the pay; the temporary rank carries the pay.
§ Colonel YATE
No, it does not, and that is where the difference comes in. Will the right hon. Gentleman see to that?
§ Mr. TENNANT
If I am so informed by the hon. and gallant Gentleman of course I take it from him, but certainly the temporary rank does carry it.
§ Mr. TENNANT
Perhaps the Noble Lord will give me notice of that. Then the hon. Gentleman the member for Wiltshire (Mr. Peto) asked me, on this question of officers, whether the Income Tax would be deducted. I do not suppose that the hon. Gentleman really expects me to give an answer to-day. I have not had time to consult the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and I will strongly recommend the hon. Member to put it down as a question.
§ Mr. PETO
I did put it down as a question, and the answer was that the full Income Tax was deducted from the pay of officers serving. I ask the right hon. Gentleman if he will bring it to the notice of the Chancellor of the Exchequer with a view to getting something done to prevent officers, in effect, being asked to pay their own pay?
§ The CHAIRMAN
Might I suggest to hon. Members that it would be well to let the Under-Secretary for the War Department make his reply, and to raise the subsidiary points later on?
§ Mr. TENNANT
If the hon. Gentleman really desires me to bring the matter to the notice of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, I will of course do so, but I should like to point out that there may be many officers—I do not say a majority or a minority—but many officers who are not so deficient in the goods of the world that they should have a deduction made from their taxation. I think the next question raised by the right hon. Gentleman opposite was the question of the defence of this country. I was guilty perhaps of interrupting the right hon. Gentleman in his speech when he asked me the question as to who was responsible for the defence of this country in the event of invasion, and I replied that Sir Ian Hamilton, as Commander-in-Chief of the Central Force, was the officer responsible for the defence of this country in the event of invasion. I should like to make an explanation. I was asked whether Sir Ian Hamilton was responsible for the whole internal defence of the country and not one area only, and in my reply I am afraid I unintentionally misled the House and the right hon. Gentleman. What I had in mind was that Sir Ian Hamilton commands, not a geo- 604 graphical area, but a mobile force ready to move anywhere required. There are, of course, local forces in addition to those which are commanded by Sir Ian Hamilton, and which are under the orders of the general officers commanding areas into which the country has been divided for purposes of defence, and I think that will perhaps explain how it came about that the right hon. Gentleman and I were perhaps somewhat at cross purposes, or, perhaps, I was wrong in what I said. Anyhow, I hope I have cleared that up now. I will now come to the question raised by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Fulham (Mr. Hayes Fisher). He was good enough to tell me he was going to raise the subject. My hon. Friend the Financial Secretary gave a reply yesterday to the first question put by the right hon. Gentleman. It was in regard to the pay of the men. I do not think I need go into that, if the right hon. Gentleman is satisfied that what we do is all we can do. He also asked me whether we were really careful in observing all the Articles of The Hague Convention. The answer to that undoubtedly is in the affirmative, and I will proceed to show in what measure we do conform to The Hague Convention. We give free postage for letters and parcels, also free railway carriage on German parcels coming to prisoners here. Incidentally, apart from The Hague Convention, we allow prisoners to have English newspapers. To return to The Hague Convention, parcels are exempted from Customs Duty, and arrangements are made by which prisoners may receive pay for work.
§ Mr. TENNANT
The pay of officers is exactly what I told the right hon. Gentleman before. We pay the officers here, or rather half-pay, because we are very uncertain whether our officers in Germany receive any pay at all. I believe I gave that answer before
§ Mr. HAYES FISHER
The right hon. Gentleman gave me the answer in November, but there is a rumour that only half-pay due to our officers was being paid. Has the right hon. Gentleman any further information since November, and are our officers being paid the full rate pay to which they are entitled under Article 4?
§ 4.0 P.M.
§ Mr. TENNANT
I believe they are not. I do not believe there has been any change in that policy. With regard to the Prisoners of War Information Bureau, I should like to read a letter from Sir Paul Harvey. He says:—We have, to date (10th February, 1915), dealt with and answered over 17,500 inquiries addressed direct to the bureau from Germany regarding missing German soldiers.…That is what they have already done.Of these, rather more than 10 per cent. were found to be prisoners of war in this country. In addition, we have dealt with a large number of inquiries emanating from Germany and forwarded by the International Committee of the Red Cross of Geneva.As you know, the bureau forwards a list every week to Germany giving the fullest possible information about the prisoners in our hands: the nature of their wounds, admissions and discharges from hospitals, special reports on those who are seriously ill, deaths and releases.We also send weekly lists of the enemy dead found on the field of battle by the British troops, with such information about them as we can gather, and we hold any effects of such persons as reach us, supplying the German Government with a list thereof.As I see that complaints are made in the German papers about the delay in transmitting the information about prisoners in our hands, it might be worth while to point out that the list of the survivors of the 'Blucher,' sunk on Sunday, the 24th January, was included in the list which left this bureau on the following Saturday, the 30th January.Therefore I do not think any legitimate complaint can be made as to any delay on the part of the War Office. We have arranged with the Government of the United States that quartermasters and paymasters of the United States Army, who may reasonably be held to be neutral wardens, shall be sent to Germany to dispense relief. Money will be put at their disposal, and articles in kind can be sent to them in bulk to distribute.
§ Mr. TENNANT
We have carried this matter through to the best of our ability, and if there has been any delay in the matter it is not due to the United States Government; on the contrary, the American Embassy, both here and in Berlin, have acted most kindly and promptly and have met us in every way. The delay is due to the fact that the German Government are still keeping the matter under consideration and have not given their permission. Parcels up to 11 lbs. sent by parcels post show a considerable improvement now owing to representations that have been made, and they are being received now in larger numbers than hitherto. I only require to be asked to give the obvious answer. Supposing the German Govern- 606 ment asked for reciprocity in regard to such an arrangement, we should give it. An Information Bureau has been formed in Germany. It is organised on somewhat different lines, and does not reply to inquiries. It has handed over this work to the German Red Cross Society in Berlin, but few replies to inquiries have been received from the society. Lists of prisoners of war are received from the German Government through the United States. These lists have been defective in many respects, and representations have been made to Germany about this. The defects consist chiefly in the absence of indication of the regiment and of the regimental number. This makes identification difficult or impossible. Notification of deaths of British prisoners of war are not received with regularity. Special inquiries about missing officers and men have been made through the Foreign Office and the United States Government on the form attached. These are individual inquiries, This system began before Christmas, but no replies have yet been received from Germany. Lists of the missing officers have also been sent to the German Government and to various other quarters, such as the German Red Cross Society and the Geneva Red Cross Society, from which information might be obtained. Some cases of missing officers have been cleared up, but there are still a great number missing who cannot be traced. The Geneva Red Cross Society have recently stated that all the belligerent nations have a large number of missing officers and men. I think that is all the information which I can supply to the right hon. Gentleman on the subject of prisoners abroad or in the camps here at home.
With regard to the internment camps not limited to prisoners of war, but including the interned aliens in this country, I should like to say that by the direction of the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State for War I have formed a small delegation of Members of Parliament to visit the camps, and they include the following gentlemen:—
They will go down and visit the camps which have been formed, and see what can be done, and what is being done for the prisoners in the various camps in this country. The delegation will not be an official body, but they will go down unofficially and make their own observations, and if they should find any defects, or wish to make any criticisms, I have not the least-doubt that they will do so. Although we do not want anything in the way of a regular report, I think it would be very desirable to take notes, so that in years to come, if any controversy should arise as to the treatment of the prisoners or aliens in this country, we shall have some authentic information entirely unbiassed to go by in the notes of the right hon. Gentleman and hon. Members forming the delegation.
- The right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Kirkcaldy Burghs (Sir Henry Dalziel).
- The hon. Member for Chertsey (Mr. Macmaster).
- The hon. Member for Norwich (Mr. George Roberts).
- The hon. Member for Wirral (Mr. Gershom Stewart).
- The hon. Member for Westhoughton (Mr. Tyson Wilson).
- The hon. Member for Southwark (Mr. E. A. Strauss).
That brings me to a speech which, I think, was an exception to the rule of the speeches we have had in the House on these Estimates, and that is the speech of the hon. Member for Gateshead (Sir H. Elverston). I cannot help thinking that when my hon. Friend has had time to reflect upon his observations, there are certain statements in his speech which he may regret having made. If he does not regret it, I do not think it is any use me making an appeal to him. The hon. Member for Huddersfield asked some questions about voluntary training corps. I do not wish to attempt to answer all the questions which have been put to me, for this very sufficient reason, that my Noble Friend the Secretary of State for War is receiving to-morrow a deputation of the Lords Lieutenant of this country, to discuss some of the very questions which my hon. Friend put to me yesterday in the course of the Debate. They are questions of a distinctly difficult nature, which will have to be fought out and cleared up, and I have no doubt we shall be able to do this eventually, and when these questions have been considered, I shall be glad to give my hon. Friend an answer. I think there is one obvious answer which the hon. Gentleman may expect from me to his question as to why he inserted regulation settlements in the letter written to Lord Desborough. I do not know whether my hon. Friend's knowledge on this subject 608 goes back to the time of the Volunteers, years ago, when it was a by-word, particularly in London, that the dandies of the day joined the Volunteers. We do not want that kind of thing now, and I am sure it is not desired that the young men of this country should have two alternatives—one to fight for their country, and the other to stay at home dressed up in a uniform and strut about. In order that we should have the power to compel those young men of military age and physique to join the Voluntary Training Corps, the Secretary of State for War inserted Article 7. No doubt, what the hon. Member had in mind is how are we going to do this, but that is a point which has to be considered. The few observations which I made on Monday, and the appeal I addressed to my hon. Friends below the Gangway seem to have been at the moment somewhat misunderstood. I wish to express my acknowledgments to the hon. Member for Norwich, who I may say quite correctly interpreted my appeal, and I am much obliged to him, and the Noble Lord, the Member for Portsmouth (Sir C. Beresford), and my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Lichfield (Sir Courtenay Warner) for having put the matter right in the sense in which I intended it. I simply made an appeal to ask my hon. Friends to consider that matter. My attitude towards trade unions for fourteen years before I had the honour of sitting on this Bench, ought, I think, to be a sufficient guarantee for the purity of my motives.
I come to the question raised by the hon. Member for Haggerston (Mr. Chancellor) in a very partial speech—namely, the question of the inoculation of our troops. I think I indicated in the observations I made on Monday that evidence was accumulating in favour of inoculation against typhoid being made compulsory. I am wholly disinclined to go back upon anything I said on that occasion and I have nothing to withdraw. The hon. Member for Devizes (Mr. Peto) gave the figures for the South African War, and I think they are very significant. Out of 21,000 deaths from all causes 8,000 approximately occurred from enteric fever. The deaths from that disease outnumbered the deaths in action and those following wounds. I think the Indian figures are even more significant. In India, Where the men know that they run great risks of contracting the disease, without compulsion over ninety per cent. of the Army is inoculated, with the result that 609 whereas in the pre-inoculation days up to 2,000 cases of typhoid fever used to occur annually, in 1912 only 118 cases occurred, and in 1913 only 85 cases were recorded. That is a very remarkable fact. I do not think I need or ought to take up the time of the House in replying further to my hon. Friend the Member for Haggerston seeing that he is not in his place.
§ Mr. ANEURIN WILLIAMS
May I say in justice to my hon. Friend that I know he is detained elsewhere in connection with the state of war.
§ Mr. TENNANT
Of course I understand there are engagements one cannot ignore, but at the same time I am sure the House will bear me out that engagements in this House are generally given priority. The hon. Member for the St. Augustine's Division of Kent (Mr. Eonald M'Keill) asked me some questions, but I do not see him in his place.
§ Mr. PETO
Before the right hon. Gentleman leaves the question of inoculation, could he give the Committee any information in reply to the question addressed to him by my right hon. Friend the Member for the Strand Division (Mr. Long) with regard to the future, so that Ave may know what the position will be.
§ Mr. TENNANT
I do not think that can give an answer to that question. I am sure the right hon. Gentleman understands why. The matter, as I have said, is under consideration. It is not one of those subjects which have been brought prominently before the notice of anybody, and I do not think that the hon. Member can accuse the War Office of shilly-shallying. Therefore, I say to him, though I do not like to fix a period of time—that is always dangerous—I hope we may be able to make an answer within a fortnight.
§ Mr. HOGGE
On a point of Order. While my right hon. Friend apparently is not prepared to reply to the hon. Member for Haggerston, there is the question as to the attitude of the War Office with regard to the obligation which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Strand Division agreed the War Office ought to keep. Has he anything to say about that matter?
§ Mr. TENNANT
I understood the right hon. Gentleman opposite to suggest that in future we ought to make inoculation compulsory?
§ Mr. WALTER LONG
So many hon. Gentlemen on both sides have been good enough to give versions of what I did say that I think it is advisable I should give my own. I did not myself make the suggestoin that inoculation should be made compulsory, because I did not consider it rested with a Member of the Opposition to make a suggestion of that kind. I said, on behalf of the Opposition, as I was then entitled to say, that if the Government in their fullness of knowledge; held that the proper course in the interests of the Army abroad was to make inoculation compulsory from this time onward, they would receive the unquestioning support of the Opposition in and out of this House with regard to that policy. I then suggested, with regard to the obligation, that in my opinion it ought to be met by recognising the obligation of word given, a rule which has always bound every Government; but with regard to the future, while making it compulsory, that any man who offered objection on the ground that he enlisted subject to the protection of the promise, should be given the option of withdrawing from foreign service and reverting to home service. I said I believed that if this solution were adopted it would be found that an infinitesimal percentage of the men enlisting would take refuge in this relief, and that you would keep the word of Parliament and of the War Office and, at the same time, secure so far as was humanly possible uniformity.
§ Mr. TENNANT
I am sure the House is obliged to the right hon. Gentleman for having explained his attitude, and I am also very grateful to him for having informed us that in the event of a course being taken the propriety of which I have never disguised the Government will receive the unfailing support of the Opposition. I see the hon. Gentleman the 611 Member for the Haggerston Division is now in his place, so I will give him the short answer I proposed to give. The question between the hon. Gentleman and myself is really not so much one of medical authority as one of disciplinary authority. I take it that what he complains of most is that, while we say it is voluntary on the part of any individual soldier whether he shall be inoculated or not, in point of fact, if he objects to inoculation and desires to maintain that attitude, he is met by his commanding officers in certain units with a form of compulsion which it is almost impossible to resist, and in the event of his remaining of that attitude of mind his life is made a burden to him. It is almost impossible for me to persuade my hon. Friend that those commanding officers who take that course of action are impelled to do so by the best possible motive, because they believe the course adopted by the individual is most likely to be prejudicial to the health of the great bulk of the men under their command. That is really the whole point. I quite understand my hon. Friend's point of view. He says that these are really courageous men who have got a conscientious conviction. They have a flame burning inside them. Why should you try to put it out? When the flame happens to be one that is going to injure other people, I cannot help thinking it should be extinguished. I would not like to say the commanding officers have exceeded their duty, but they certainly have gone beyond anything for which they have had leave from the War Office—so much so in some cases, that I caused instructions to go round to all officers in this country saying that such action as was brought to my notice by my hon. Friend was undesirable. I refer to the case, mentioned by my hon. Friend, of a man who was told he would be inoculated when he returned from leave but who, on his return, declined to be inoculated and was punished, being put in cells, for going on leave under false pretences.
§ Mr. TENNANT
I would not like to say the exact word I used—I do not remember it—but I expressed the hope that it would not be repeated. We have not been wholly deaf to the appeal which my hon. Friend has made, but I do not disguise for a moment the fact that I do feel strongly that there is a real danger in 612 these men going on leave uninoculated and returning uninoculated. They may contract disease and infect the whole body of troops with which they serve. Lord Kitchener feels this so strongly that he is about to issue instructions that leave must be sparingly granted to men who decline to be inoculated.
Is the right hon. Gentleman's view that inocidation is a military necessity and that "necessity knows no law."
§ Mr. TENNANT
Well, of course, military necessity has never known any law. I am not aware of any case where it has been said that military exigencies or necessities must be guided by conscientious objections. I cannot think of a case. My hon. Friend complained that the men who do not get leave and are left behind because they are uninoculated have certain very unpleasant duties cast upon them, and are made sort of Cinderellas. There is some cause and reason for that. There is a given amount of work, what they call "fatigue duty," to be done in every battalion, and, if you have a large percentage of inoculated, all these men are off duty for 48 hours and the men who are uninoculated have got to do the work of the rest.
The right hon. Gentleman is really not keeping to the point. The Commanding Officer deliberately said: "You shall have all the dirty work to do if you are not inoculated."
§ Mr. TENNANT
I am only trying to explain to my hon. Friend the reasons these duties are cast upon this particular class, and I am bound to say that it seems to me a not unnatural thing that a Commanding Officer with a number of men who are down sick should ask the others who are not sick to do the necessary duties of the battalion. The same thing, of course, might be the reason men were not-allowed to proceed to their homes on week-end leave, but on the other hand I have indicated to him it is not considered very desirable that leave should be granted in large numbers of cases to the uninoculated. Taking the percentage of inoculated men in France as thirty per cent. at the beginning of the War—we believe it to be nearer fifty per cent.—three-fourths of the cases and thirty-four thirty-fifths of the deaths have occurred in uninoculated men, the solitary death being a man only partially protected. We know 613 nothing, in spite of every endeavour to get in touch with all the cases, of the second death mentioned by my hon. Friend. I can only promise the House that this matter will be very carefully considered by my Noble Friend, and we hope to arrive at a decision in the near future as to what line will be taken in regard to the future.
The Noble Lord opposite (Lord R. Cecil), in a very interesting speech the other night, spoke of the service rendered to the country, and particularly to the War Office and the Royal Army Medical Corps, by the British Red Cross Society, the St. John's Ambulance Association, and voluntary agencies generally all over the country, and I should like to endorse the very proper eulogy which the Noble Lord passed upon them. They have, indeed, rendered most valuable assistance, and as my Noble Friend knows, I have tendered my acknowledgment of the admirable manner in which they have helped us in every possible way. It is a pleasing fact that the St. John's Ambulance Association and the British Red Cross Society, which were previously acting in rivalry one with the other, are now working under a joint committee, which tends, of course, to more efficient work being achieved by both. Another matter which the Noble Lord raised was the evacuation of hospitals at Boulogne and elsewhere, and he suggested that the wounded were moved too early from those hospitals in order to make room for others. That is, we realise, a real difficulty. We are most anxious that the sick and wounded should be left in the base hospitals as long as possible, and so much so is that the case that if I mentioned the fact that recently there were only 700 odd beds vacant at Boulogne, I think it will be accepted as proof of the excessive care we use to keep the sick and wounded in the base hospitals and to prevent their removal too early. The Noble Lord appealed to me that the name of the hospital and the place where it is situated should not be censured in the letters from the sick and wounded, and I will see that that is done. He also asked me a question with regard to the number of women at the clearing stations. He suggested there were not more than two at each. I know for certain that at some of these stations there are four, five and even six women, if not more. I will, however, telegraph to find out and will give the Noble Lord fuller information on the point. There may, of course, be some stations where there are only two, but 614 there are many where there are a larger number. I hope I have dealt with all the points that have been raised in the course of this Debate, and I will now make way for other speakers.
§ Mr. SHERWELL
Can the right hon. Gentleman reply to my question as to the Government's responsibility for the insurance of goods delivered, and of which delivery has been taken?
§ Mr. TENNANT
I am afraid I cannot give an answer just now, but I will communicate with my hon. Friend.
§ Mr. LONG
I am sure we all recognise the great difficulty of the position in which the right hon. Gentleman is placed. It is more difficult for one who is not the head of a department, and with whom therefore the ultimate decision on these questions does not rest, to make out a case for it, than it is when you have entire control and know exactly the point which each question under consideration has reached. Therefore I am confident that nobody in any quarter of the House would desire unduly to press the right hon. Gentleman for information which he is not prepared to give. Nor would we press him for decisions, because we all know it is far better that these decisions should be delayed for a short time and then wisely arrived at, than that they should be hastily announced and have probably to be reconsidered. At the same time, I am bound to say I do very much regret the delay of the Government in dealing with the question of inoculation. That was one of the last matters dealt with by the right hon. Gentleman in his speech, but I am putting it first now, because there is a great deal of uncertainty as to what the real position is. I certainly gathered last night from the very courageous speech of the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Education (Dr. Addison) that the view of the Government was that at this stage we should debate this question not from the point of view of the hon. Member for Haggerston (Mr. Chancellor), nor from the point of view I hold, namely, that inoculation is a remedy, the success of which is abundantly proved, but that we should agree to put on one side all these controversies for the present and leave it to the Government to say whether in their judgment inoculation is a remedy which ought to be adopted in the interests of the Army abroad as a 615 whole, and we would be content to postpone minor controversies and agree in giving the Government full authority, as far as we are entitled to do it, to take what steps they think necessary.
The right hon. Gentleman has not been able to announce a decision, and I regret it for this reason, that quite apart from the controversy whether inoculation should be made compulsory or not, there is the other question, the condition of things created by what we are told was a pledge given by the War Office to the recruit. There can be no question of controversy upon that point. We are at war. We are at war mainly because our word is our bond, and our word is our bond in this matter as in others. What I begged the Government last night to do, was to approach this question as, I respectfully submit, any ordinary business man would approach it, if he considered that, in the conduct of his affairs, he had laid down a condition or made a promise which he found it would be injurious to his business to maintain for all time. As those to whom he had given the pledge, and who had come in on that understanding, it was perfectly clear he must offer to release them from their undertaking, if he desired that they should undergo a particular process, and I really cannot quite see why there should be any difficulty. It is obvious that if you delay this matter much longer, you will have a recurrence of the sort of difficulty to which the hon. Member for Haggerston has referred. It has been my good fortune, during my life, to see a great deal of the Army—of the officers and soldiers of all ranks—and I know that, occasionally, an officer, in the excess of his zeal, does use language which, I do not hesitate to say, is more familiar to me than it appears to be to the hon. Member for Haggerston. I am not ashamed to confess, too, it has not on me that horrifying effect which it seemed to have on some Members of this most ancient and respectable Assembly. But I do not think you ought to be too severe upon officers because, in their excess of zeal, they have been led into the use of improper language. I am quite sure that they will regret it themselves and I have no doubt the reference to it here will prevent its repetition. But strong believer though I am in inoculation, vaccination and vivisection, and prepared as I am to defend those three principles here or anywhere else, I desire to say as emphatically as I can that nobody has a right to take advantage of the condition of 616 an enlisted soldier and compel him to do that which his-undertaking does not compel him to do. He has enlisted as a free man subject to the laws of the land, and before enlistment an undertaking has been given to him that he will not be subjected to this particular process. You have therefore no right to exercise compulsion of any kind in order to make that man undergo inoculation if he is unwilling to do so.
But you are bound, I think, in face of the facts, to reconsider your whole position, and to say frankly that the pledge given was unwise, and that it cannot operate. For the future, there is to be a new policy, but those enlisted under the old system will be given the opportunity to which I have referred. So far as the present and the future is concerned, however, inoculation is certainly to be compulsory. That is the policy which I ventured yesterday to recommend, and it is the policy to which I adhere now. I urge the right hon. Gentleman, in the interests of the country and not merely of the Department, to put an end to a state of things which, in its present phase, is eminently unsatisfactory, and which cannot be allowed to continue, seeing that it is really placing fresh obstacles in the way of what you want—the securing of a healthy Army. You should put an end to that with as little delay as possible, and announce a policy which you can defend here, and which you can also maintain in the Army without throwing undue responsibility on officers and men. I would urge the right hon. Gentleman to convey, with all respect to the Secretary of State, our desire in this House that this matter should be dealt with properly, promptly and satisfactorily.
I come to another question, the promotion of officers. Again I confess I am profoundly disappointed with the answer which the right hon. Gentleman has made, and I hope the Committee will forgive me if I venture to ask for favourable consideration of this matter. In this campaign, up to the present time, I believe it to be strictly true that the regimental officer has received at the hands of the Commander-in-Chief more generous and more prompt recognition than has been the case in any campaign which I recollect. I rejoice it should be so. I hope it will continue throughout the whole campaign. But I implore this Committee to realise that if ever in the whole history of the battles of the world there was a campaign 617 in which the battles have been the continuous battles of regimental officers and private soldiers, it is the case regarding this campaign. If I possessed the eloquence of the Prime Minister and his wonderful command of language, it would not be possible for me to tell the House what I think of the heroism of our men, who have borne, not merely the ordinary risks of battle, who have not merely faced death like British heroes, but who have done it under circumstances of physical discomfort and suffering which no man can realise unless he has seen something of it himself. It has been the British Army which has offered the obstacle that has rendered the campaign, so far as Germany is concerned, a complete failure to the present moment. They filled the vacant place when things were not in training as they now are; they played a part which will give them a name in history that can never be forgotten, and they did it in circumstances of the most hideous discomfort. To-day regiments are being ordered in their due turn to go into the trenches. No man who has not seen them can realise what it means to tell the men that they have to go into the trenches. But they go because they are British soldiers; they go because it is their duty, and they bear without grumbling, without one word of complaint, the suffering, which, quite apart from the risks of war, would be enough in itself to make it almost impossible for many men to do the work which they are willingly and cheerfully doing.
What are we doing for them? Hero we have made up our minds to do everything we can for their dependants, and I rejoice in the decision of the Government on that point We have done everything, I think, by promise and by fulfilment, as far as lies in our power, for the regimental officer and the soldier. But I do assure the Committee that I am speaking of that which I know when I say that they long for the legitimate realisation of their hopes in the shape of that promotion, which, if it be not given promptly and when it is due, may come too late. I venture to repeat here what I said at the beginning of this War, that of all the tragic announcements which we from time to time are compelled to read in the newspapers dealing with this War, there is none I know which rouses my sympathy and my feelings so profoundly as that announcement which you see from time to time that an excellent officer has been promoted, has got the coveted extra star 618 and the step in rank, wihch is the only ambition of the soldier, but has got it too late, and there are the words in brackets which move our hearts, "Promotion, So-and-so (since dead)." Every effort should be made by the War Office to give these men the promotion to which they are really entitled. The right hon. Gentleman reminded me that I had had the privilege of an interview with the Military Secretary, a distinguished soldier, who, I need hardly say, received me with the utmost courtesy and kindness. But his arguments did not satisfy me, no more than the arguments which have been given by the right hon. Gentleman today satisfy me.
§ Mr. LONG
Yes, in regard to officers who are taken prisoners or missing, we understand that they are to be regarded after three months as absent, and promotion is to be made effective. I am sorry it is necessary to have three months, because three months in a campaign like this is a very long period of time to make a man look forward to that to which he believes he is entitled to-day.
§ Mr. LONG
It carries the pay for the time being. I think the right hon. Gentleman will find that in regard to the pension for the widow, temporary rank offers a certain difficulty. However, I do not wish to press him upon that point. I come now to the special case that I ventured to bring before the Committee the other day—the case where the commander of a regiment is vacant, owing to the transfer of the late commanding officer to a higher post. It is suggested that in this case promotion cannot be given because you would have a great many of these senior officers for whom there will be no employment. I venture to say that is no answer at all. It is suggested that they should be given brevet rank. I do not know whether that is to come at once, but brevet rank, as the right hon. Gentleman knows, is junior and subordinate to the substantive rank, therefore you are going to put these men, who are in exactly the same position as their brother officers commanding regiments and battalions, in an inferior position. You are going to leave them until the end of the War, or some later period, before they are 619 promoted. I know a great many of these cases; I can answer for some of them myself, where the commanding officers who have been given brigades, would have vacated their commands in the ordinary course of things in the middle of the present year, having only two or three months now to run in the ordinary course. I do not rest the case on that; I lay down the broad principle that where, as the result of the War, the Commander-in-Chief finds it desirable to promote officers who have served with distinction—that is the cause of their promotion—their promotion vacating as it does high posts, those posts should be filled by the officers next in seniority if they are competent, and the consequential promotion should go right down to the junior officers. That is the only principle which can be considered a fair one, and I hope the Committee will support me in imploring the Under-Secretary to bring this matter to the notice of the Secretary of State.
I told the Committee the other day that I was personally concerned, because one of my sons would become a major instead of captain. That is not the reason why I am pressing this. I wish I had the power to convince the Government and to make the Committee realise how much all the officers think of these things. I have had letters written to me from regimental officers in the trenches, and they say to me, "We are very grateful to know that the case of the regimental officer is being taken up in the House of Commons. We did not expect it; we do not ask for it. We realise that our small part in this great campaign is very likely to escape notice, but we are very grateful that there is some recognition of our efforts to do our duty. We ask for no recognition, we expect none, but we do feel it a little hard when it appears that our actual rights and claims are being ignored by the people in authority." That is the case which I respectfully put to the Committee. It: is not a question of reward or recognition; it is really giving to these men that to which they are entitled. I am perfectly certain that if you were to select at haphazard five Members of this House, taking the roll of the House and selecting them by pricking off five names, I do not care from what quarter the names were drawn, or who the Members were, I would undertake to say that if my case could be presented to them, that there would be a unanimous recommendation from that Committee that this thing should be done.
§ Mr. LONG
What I would do with the brigadier-generals is what the Government will have to do with them as the right hon. Gentleman knows. The case of a brigadier-general for whom there is no employment is not a new one; it has existed all along. He has his pay and pension and the allowances of his rank as a full colonel; he suffers nothing from losing his brigade, which he does at the termination of the War. Does the right hon. Gentleman think that any of his military advisers will tell him that a brigadier-general who has had command of a brigade in war is going to revert to the command of his regiment again? I beg the right hon. Gentleman to consult his military advisers and ask whether they think it possible or in the smallest degree probable. As a matter of fact and practice, once you promote a man to be general, and give him substantive command and call upon him to observe his duties, you have no right to ask him to go back and become a mere regimental officer in order to find him work which otherwise there would be some difficulty in doing. I do not say it offensively, but do not let red-tape stand between you and doing justice to these men. They are doing their best for you. For goodness sake let us forget the regulations of peace time—let us remember we are at war, and remember that these men are doing their best to do justice to their country and to us!
In regard to Home defence, the right hon. Gentleman was good enough to answer another question I asked him on that subject. Here, again, he made it clear that Sir Ian Hamilton, who is charged with the supreme command at Home, has not got supreme command over the whole country. His supreme command is over a mobile force, which is specially intended to be used for Home defence, and may obviously be moved from place to place. I speak on this subject purely as a civilian, but I do not pretend that I am putting the case on my own authority. It has been strongly represented to me from many quarters that, if we are to contemplate invasion as a practical possibility, we ought to have here at home a general officer of high rank responsible for the supreme command in regard to 621 Home defence, that it should be his duty to relieve the Secretary of State and his officers of the day-to-day detail work in connection with Home defence, and that he should have full authority to issue such orders as he thinks right, not over a limited area, or in regard to a particular force, but in regard to the whole country in reference to the one subject of defence against raids, The right hon. Gentleman also dealt with the question of Volunteers. Not only do I agree with what he said about Regulation No. 7, but I go a great deal further, because I think Regulation No. 7 is the only one of the whole lot worth keeping. It docs enable the War Office to here and there catch a person who inadvertently has joined the wrong force—I do not want to use hard or vituperative terms; we know that sometimes a man does get in at the wrong door—and it enables the War Office firmly to take hold of the collar of that man and put him in his right place.
§ 5.0 P.M.
§ Mr. LONG
I do not know. I am only saying that that is the only Regulation I consider to be of any value. I do not attach any great importance to it. There are a great many of these people in the country, and they may be got without getting a large number together, decorating them with brassards, and, after marching them twenty miles, telling them that they are heroes, which is what is going on. You have people full of energy and public spirit who are commanded by gentlemen who have not studied the art of war, so far as I know, in many cases. In many cases their occupation has been of a totally different kind. There are a great many unemployed old soldiers in the country who would be perfectly willing and anxious to give us the benefit of their services. If you are to have corps of Volunteers for Home defence, they should be under military control, properly organised, and clothed with a proper military costume. We should abandon the proposal that a lot of civilians are to be collected together under a civilian, that they are to be decorated with a brassard, and told that the Germans would regard them as soldiers fighting for their country, instead of, as I expect would happen, hanging them to the nearest tree. They should be organised as a proper defence force, and they should not be used in order to occupy a large number of energetic 622 gentlemen who think they are serving their country, when really they could serve their country better in some other way. The force should be under the control of a military officer of experience. It is only by having such a command and such a properly organised force that you are going to make the best use of the material at your disposal. I would not have any man in this force. I would not allow a man to enlist in this force, unless he is over military age, or is prevented by the state of his health from joining the Forces abroad. I would not have any of these young men indeed who are going to be taken by the collar. When you take them by the collar, I do not quite know what you are going to do with them. Are you going to drag thorn into the nearest barrack to become soldiers, because that seems to me to be introducing a novel principle altogether. I only regard Regulation 7 as good because of the very bad company it is keeping. I regard this regulation as having some atom of good in it, but all the rest is useless, and I think the force as at present constituted would be a danger rather than a safeguard. With regard to what the right hon. Gentleman said about prisoners, anything the Government can do, whether it be through the War Office or the Foreign Office, to improve their condition and secure better conditions for prisoners in various fortresses and prisons, would be heartily welcomed by this country. I am afraid the condition of many of them is most deplorable, and if anything could be done to improve them I should rejoice.
There is another point I would ask the Under-Secretary to convey to the Secretary of State when he is discussing these matters. I am quite sure the War Office require to exercise a greater control over the granting of commissions and the selecting of men for commissions. What I am going to say has no reference at all to any recent event. I should have made this speech last week just as much as to-day if I had had the opportunity. In the selection of officers for high posts on the staff and elsewhere, and in the selection of officers for command, there has been recently too great a tendency to ignore the professional soldier and to select the amateur, whose claims, however great they may be, are not comparable with those of the professional soldier. It would be foolish to pretend that I do not know that there is one particular case which has been specially referred to in the newspapers. 623 That really is not the cause of my making these remarks to-day. I make them for this reason: We have had in this country, ever since I can recollect, a habit of rather disregarding the Army. We all know it. The time was, not so very long ago, when a private soldier in uniform was not allowed in certain places. It was a public scandal. I have heard it said in this House by friends of mine that the British officer was a stupid man who knew nothing, never read a book and knew nothing of his art. I do not think we shall hear much of these statements in future. Public speakers told the British officer that if he was to be fit for his place he must read, study, work, and pass examinations. Anyone who knows anything of the life of the professional soldier knows that it has been one perpetual succession of examinations and reading, very often at great cost to himself, and I have thought it most unfair that in order to pass an examination an officer has to go to a teacher and pay him very high fees.
What has been the result? You have made your Army much more a professional Army than it was. I believe it was always a magnificent Army but I suppose you have improved it. At all events you have made men work harder; it is their profession. In peace time they have given their lives to it. They have trained the men who have done these splendid deeds in France and Belgium to-day. The fact that the Army is what it is is largely due to the unceasing labour of the regimental officer—the professional officer. Now war comes with all its horrors and all its sufferings. It brings with it the opportunity for the regimental officer—staff appointments, commands, and promotion and he looks to it as the realisation of the ambitions of his lifetime. He begins to hope that he will reach some of these coveted positions which, ever since he has joined, he has looked forward to as a possible result. Then yon take it away From him and hand it to an amateur who has been spending his whole life free from all these calls and duties. It is not fair. In my judgment, to use a common but an expressive phrase, it is not cricket to treat these officers of the Regular Army in this way, and I would implore the Under-Secretary to convey this expression of opinion from the House of Commons to his chief. In the bestowal of all these appointments, whether they be commands or on the staff, recognition should be given, first of all, to 624 the professional soldier. It ought not to-be until the numbers of professional soldiers are exhausted that you fall back on amateurs and give them the reward that ought to be reserved for the men who have spent their lives in the Army. I feel very strongly indeed on these subjects, and I ask the Under-Secretary to beg the Secretary of State to give his attention to them. He is a great soldier with great experience of war who knows the views and opinions of the regimental officer, and who knows better than anyone how great have been their services. He knows how heavy is the debt we owe to them, and I beg the Secretary of State and those who are associated with him to do all they can to secure for the professional soldier the just reward of all his past labours and, above all, to do everything that can be done to prove to the soldier in the field that we are determined here to do all in our power to show the gratitude we feel.
§ Sir COURTENAY WARNER
I should not have thought of speaking to-day had it not been for an answer the right hon. Gentleman gave with regard to temporary rank. I am quite sure if he had known the Army as I have known it, certainly not as a Regular soldier, but associated with Regular soldiers continually every year of my life, he could not imagine that the answer he gave to-day would in any way satisfy the regimental officer. He said it would be impossible to promote an officer to the actual command of a regiment because the man who had been selected to go as brigadier would want to come back again. Even if it was true, if it were possible, has he forgotten that by not promoting a man to command of the regiment he stops the promotion at every step up below him down to the very junior subaltern, and it is an injustice not only to the man who does not get command of the regiment, but to every officer in that regiment. And to say that because there would be too many brigadiers, and they would want to go back to command their regiment afterwards, is a reason for doing an injustice to the whole of the regimental officers of the country, is, I think, an injustice to the regimental officers.
§ Sir C. WARNER
A battalion is ordered abroad. It has its full complement of officers. Half of them, including most of the senior officers, are killed, but you are not going to promote these men 625 who have served and run the risk of being killed. You are going to give them temporary promotion and keep them there for three months
§ Mr. TENNANT
No, my hon. Friend has entirely misconceived the situation. Upon the death of any officer the man who succeeds him gets substantive rank there and then. Upon the senior officer being taken prisoner or being missing his successor will receive temporary rank at once, and at the end of three months will receive, substantive rank. That is the whole point. My hon. Friend has quite misunderstood it.
§ Sir C. WARNER
I am sorry my right hon. Friend has misunderstood what I said. When I used the word "killed" I meant removed by any casualties. When an officer, whether he is taken prisoner or wounded, is removed from the front the next man has to take his place, and you are withholding from the next man the permanent promotion that he is entitled to for commanding in the field, and it is an injustice to the men who have command of regiments for two months or one month without the substantive rank of colonel that the other officers, the seconds in command—majors, captains, first lieutenants, second lieutenants—are all held back for three months because you say that the officers who are nominally to retain their rank are prisoners of war, wounded or missing, and may come back again. It is all very fine! The battalion is fighting at the front all the time and the battalion requires its officers. You cannot have the officers who may come back again commanding at the front, and it is not fair that the officers commanding at the front should not get the rank they are acting under and entitled to.
§ Sir C. WARNER
Only temporary. I think temporary rank ought to be kept entirely for those who are not in the Regular Army. Whatever my right hon. Friend says, I hold that this is an injustice to the regimental officer, who is already not treated too well and who has the brunt of the work and who runs much greater risks than the staff officers and has a much more disagreeable life, and if it was not that I should not like to see the House disagree on any subject I should move a reduction. I think it is most unfair and I hope the right hon. Gentleman will not stick to his position, which he would 626 realise, if he only knew the Army as I do is really an injustice to the regimental officers. The other day this question went a little further. The Noble Lord (Lord C, Beresford) said it ought to go right down through the non-commissioned ranks. I agree, and the same thing is going on in the non-commissioned ranks, though it is rather a different way in the Army. I think the sergeant ought to get his stripes when he is acting sergeant at the front at once, and not be kept as corporal or lance-corporal, having to do the duties of a sergeant. I know there are certain difficulties in it, but it is one of the things that ought to be taken into consideration.
I am sorry the Volunteer movement has come in for quite the language it has, because I think there is some good in it. There is an element of danger in the people who constitute the Volunteers. There are a great many of these gentlemen who want to shoot a German on any terms, and they would be very dangerous people if they were let loose without any control at all. It is a step in the right direction that they should be organised in any way, but I hope that the War Office will do a little more in the way of organisation than at present exists. I wish the War Office would undertake them and give some more stringent powers of control, and I also am sorry they are being accepted without any sort of uniform except a brassard. I do not look upon the brassard as a uniform and where I have to do with them I am trying to see that the Volunteers, as far as possible, before they are armed, shall have uniform, and if that could be done before they were given rifles, some good would come out of the Volunteer system. In the old days when this country was in fear of invasion in the Napoleonic war, and we had very large forces for those days in the field, we had a very large Volunteer force armed at their own expense. I think there were something like 400,000 men actually in the Volunteer Force in those days, armed and equipped at their own expense. They might not have been very useful, perhaps, but they were better than nothing, and I must say that I think it is a pity to throw cold water on any movement of this kind which is entered from purely patriotic motives.
§ Sir J. D. REES
I desire to continue the remarks I was making when the Debate was adjourned last night. The right hon. Gentleman did not answer my invitation to speak about the Indian troops, and if he has occasion again to address the House, 627 I shall be grateful to him if he will speak on that subject. I wish to refer to War Office contracts. I beg the right hon. Gentleman or the Financial Secretary to deal again with the question of contracts for such goods as can be supplied by the City of Nottingham. For instance, that town is one of the most famous for bicycles in the United Kingdom. It would be well that War Office contracts should be spread so far as possible. I am aware that the War Office must standardise their supplies as far as possible, and there may be difficulties. I ask the right hon. Gentleman to endeavour to overcome the difficulties and to remember that Nottingham has been very hard hit in regard to the lace industry. Efforts should be made to avoid its being hit also in other trades. That place can supply wrought iron, steel work, and installations in healing. It can also supply particular kinds of blankets and clothing, all of which would be extremely useful to the troops. I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether the War Office could not do something to make up to the City of Nottingham for the great loss it has suffered through the severe blow sustained in regard to the lace industry. I may mention that one firm which makes bicycles in Nottingham has 250 of its men now serving with the Colours.
With regard to Volunteer Training Corps, in spite of all that has been said I remain in some doubt as to the position of these corps. I am a member of one, and there are others who like myself wish to know what the position is. I am informed that a uniform has been sanctioned for them, and I would like the Parliamentary Secretary to state whether that is the case. I wish to know whether the uniform has been sanctioned by the Central Association, and I wish to know also if the sanction of that association is synonymous with, and equal in validity to, the sanction of the War Office. Will the men who put on the uniform be masquerading in something that is not authorised, or will it be an authorised uniform? Is it the case that the troops are to wear a brassard? I consider that a brassard is an inadequate substitute for a uniform. The whole point is that people who join these corps want to be in some recognised uniform. They ought to have some sort of organisation, and they should be recognised by the authorities as men who wish to be of some use in their day and generation. I am in doubt about the organisation and equip- 628 ment of these Volunteer corps, and I am sure, other members of the corps are equally in doubt. I ask the Parliamentary Secretary to endeavour to relieve our doubts, and to say why it is that they cannot have a uniform marked with a "V," somewhat resembling the "T" of the Territorials. I personally think that it is a good movement, and that some use at any rate, may be made of these men. Why not give them a uniform which will enable them to feel themselves to be self-respecting and organised?
As regards the fear that persons may enlist in these corps who would be qualified for other corps, I think that is a very serious difficulty, and I must say that, so far as I know, pains are not taken to ensure that people who enlist in them could not do otherwise. It is exceedingly necessary that this point should not escape attention. I ask, why are these men not to wear their uniform? I should have thought that the more people there were wearing a recognised uniform, the better.
There is another question to which I wish to refer, namely, the use of private telegraph codes. When the War began the use of all telegraphic codes was entirely forbidden, except certain authorised codes. It is perfectly certain that any code which is authorised may be used in a surreptitious manner through an understanding being come to between the sender and the receiver that the words used mean something other than appears from the code translation of the words. The War Office should satisfy themselves that the people who want to send messages by codes are firms of repute and position. That would be a check on the use of a particular code, but to authorise one code and forbid others is no check whatever. There is a widespread belief that the Scarborough raid was organised by the use of one of these codes. The present regulations hit trading firms very hard, and I would ask, in the interest of the commercial community, that this matter should be reconsidered. As to cotton and copper in connection with the question of contraband, I would say that they are admittedly contraband. These commodities are setting into Germany from the United States. The United States when at war placed all articles from which ammunition was manufactured in the contraband list. Why do not we do so now? When I asked a question recently in regard to this matter, the Parliamentary Secretary to the War Office 629 gave me no information as to the proportion of cotton and copper imported for warlike purposes, and the proportion imported for ordinary industrial purposes, It is perfectly obvious that the need for cotton and copper is very great. The fact that cotton is used for so many innocent and unwarlike purposes is no reason why it should not at present be treated as contraband. I have been in communication with the War Office on the question of proficiency pay. This is a technical and complex question, and suffice it to say that there seems to be an injustice in depriving men of proficiency pay because they are a day or two short of their second consecutive training when the training is actually interrupted in order that they may go into actual warfare. It seems to me that whatever may be the difficulties they ought somehow to be overcome.
§ Mr. HOGGE
I am sorry the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down did not elaborate the point of proficiency pay, because it is a very material one to a great number of soldiers. I know several cases of men who served in the old Militia and who are now back in the ranks of the Regular Army. They had training in camp and otherwise of about 300 days, but they do not draw any proficiency pay although they are serving alongside of Territorials who have never been in camp two years running for more than fourteen days. It seems to me an extraordinary thing that a man who has served efficiently so long in the old Militia should not receive proficiency pay on returning to the Colours, while a Territorial who has only been 28 days in camp should receive that particular kind of pay.
There are one or two points in regard to which we should like to have some guidance from the Financial Secretary. The first of these deals with the question of the supply of comforts to our troops. I have here a letter which has been published in the Press of this country within the past few hours from the wife of Field-Marshal French, who controls our troops abroad. I want my hon. Friend to clear up this matter if he can. This letter from Lady French is an appeal for comforts for the soldiers. She points out that there has been a very marked falling off in those gifts of late, and she goes on to particularise the exact kind of things that are required. She asks that there shall be a continuous supply of shirts, socks, underclothing, woollen caps, and gloves, to make good certain wastage. Is it or is 630 it not the fact that our troops at the front are being supplied with a sufficiency of these things now? The Under-Secretary said in reply to a question the other day that it was so, and that the War Office was able to devote its attention to the supply of these comforts. The Under-Secretary for War said the other day that he had not seen the letter from Lady French. Noboby in the House will complain of any amount of articles being collected to supply comforts to our troops, but I think the War Office might give us some little guidance in this particular matter.
I dare say that the Under-Secretary does not find much time to read newspapers nowadays, and he has to have his attention drawn to those particular appeals, but if he will be good enough, on any occasion when he has leisure, to look, for example, at the "personal" advertisements in such a newspaper as "The Times," he will find that, every day of the week, there is a special appeal from some lady or gentleman for particular comforts for particular battalions, and there seems to be a want of guidance as to what can be done in this particular matter. For instance, my own Corporation of the City of Edinburgh, which, after all, is a considerable town, was engaged in collecting a particular article of clothing for our troops. When they had collected several thousands of this particular article, they were stopped by the War Office, and after they were stopped for a few weeks they were asked to commence again. Could there not be some centralisation with regard to the distribution of those comforts which are collected apart from those which are supplied to the troops by the War Office? There must be an enormous wastage going on. There is certainly an incongruity somewhere, when you find the Under-Secretary of State for War in this House saying that our men have ample comforts at the front, and, in the same week, you find the wife of the Field-Marshal who directs the troops at the front writing to the newspapers, and asking for these very things which the War Office say they supply, and of which, she says, there is a considerable deficiency.
Another point with which I wish to deal is recruiting. My right hon. Friend wants more men. There is one section of men in this country who, up to the present, have not been sufficiently organised. There is a big supply of them, but they have not been encouraged, because of other things 631 standing in the way, to join up in battalions. I refer to what are popularly known as "Bantam Battalions." My right hon. Friend knows that that depends altogether upon height, and I want to ask whether a man is any the worse soldier because he has not got sufficient inches to come within the present recruiting terms? Under the existing regulations practically every member of the Japanese Army would be Rejected as a recruit for the British Army, because he has not got the inches, and no one in this House will deny for a moment that the Japanese as a soldier is a very efficient fighting man. I know for example just now, in the City of Edinburgh, where a special recruiting effort is being made to fill up vacancies in the Royal Scots battalions which are still deficient, we have not yet been allowed by the War Office officials to raise a "bantam battalion." All that we have been allowed to do so far is to take the names of young men who are willing to serve but who are not able, on account of their height, to be recruited in the Royal Scots battalions, and who are ultimately going to be got together and known as a "Rosebery Bantam Battalion." I would ask whether the War Office are willing to relax their conditions as to "bantam battalions"? Are they now prepared to give greater and wider authority for raising those battalions, because, if they are, that is a source from which a great many men may yet be drawn?
The question of allowances has already been discussed at considerable length by a number of speakers. I raised it myself upon the first day of the Session, and I wish to ask some questions about it now in order to be clear. I notice in the interim Report of the Tensions Committee which has been submitted to this House that the pension officers get certain instructions. One of the instructions is that they are advised, when they are assessing the dependence of the mother or wife of the soldier, to bear in mind that when the soldier has left the home the expenditure per head of those who remain increases. I wonder if this authority is really the best authority for assessing this dependence. Bear in mind that a pension officer was originally an Excise officer, and when the Old Age Pension Act was passed the duty of assessing incomes for old age pension purposes was thrown upon him as an extra piece of work, and now there is to be added to that the work of assessing 632 the dependence of the mother or sister or whoever it may be of the soldier. That is an extraordinary amount of work to throw upon a man who, after all, is not particularly qualified for assessing that particular dependence. I have wondered whether the War Office could not find some other authority. I have in my own mind the Insurance Commissioners, who probably are the one body in the country now who have more systematised knowledge of the domestic conditions of the average home in the country than any other public body.
There is another point. When the pension officers assess the dependence, do they assess them on pre-war prices? That is an extremely important point. Members may have noticed that Professor Chapman, who was the hon. secretary of the Relief Committee in Manchester, whose reports to the Local Government Board just now are among some of the very best contributed, has pointed out that between July, 1911, and January of this year the cost of living to certain families, examples of whom he takes, has-gone up to 33 per cent. The figure which I have here is an increase of from 14s. 3d, to 19s. If the pension officer assesses the dependence at pre-war prices, and the dependants have now to live at current-war prices, it is obvious that there must be some reconsideration. That is a point which may be discussed to-morrow at greater length. I would like my hon. Friend the Financial Secretary to say whether or not that point has been considered, and, if it has not been considered, whether the pension officers will take it into consideration now that prices have increased so enormously owing to the War. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Strand referred to the question of promotions, and excused himself by the fact that there had been a promotion of a gentleman on this side of the House recently to whom his criticism might be thought to be directed. I can assure the right hon. Gentleman that his mind may be quite easy about that, because there are several colleagues on his own side of the House who might have that criticism directed against them. I think that he is perfectly right, however. I think that one of the scandals—perhaps scandal may be too strong a word—one of the unfortunate things about this War is this—one hears it from every officer one talks to—that men who have had very little service have been put into positions which it takes the Regular officer ten or 633 fifteen or twenty years to reach. I do not think that that is fair. I am perfectly certain that if my right hon. Friend at any time appealed to the House to support that particular idea, he would have the unanimous support of all of us.
There is another point which deals with my own country, Scotland. My hon. Friend the Member for Sutherlandshire (Mr. Morton) last night touched on a question which I think merits a reply from the right hon. Gentleman the Under-Secretary. He himself is a Scottish Member and he knows the value of sentiment in connection with the raising of Scottish troops. It is common, of course, to all troops, and one does not emphasise that particularly, but one knows that the Scottish Regiment usually is a kilted regiment, and those of us who have been recruiting in Scotland and have watched recruiting-figures know that the preference of the men who have joined has been largely in favour of the regiments who wear kilts. A short time ago there was an idea, which I believe got some small amount of encouragement at the War Office, of replacing the tartan kilt by what they called a khaki kilt, which in reality was not a kilt at all. My hon. Friend the Member for the College Division (Mr. Watt) says that it was simply a petticoat. They were proposing to substitute a garment made of 2½ yards of khaki for a kilt made of 3½ yards of tartan. Members are probably amused by that particular reference, but I can assure them that it is a matter which concerns recruiting very materially, and more particularly in the constituencies such as those to which my hon. Friend referred last night. The excuse given at the time was that the supply of tartan had run out. My right hon. Friend must know that there is in one constituency alone in the Lowlands of Scotland—and hon. Members will recall the fact that the Lowland Counties of Scotland have contributed more per thousand to the Army than any other part of the United Kingdom—that can supply tartan sufficient in quantity to clothe three battalions weekly, and if you take the whole of Scotland there are sufficient factories to supply six battalions, which is practically between 7,000 and 8,000 soldiers, a week with the national garb.
I hope that my hon. Friend in any other speech which he makes will not omit to reassure the sentiment that exists in Scotland with regard to the kilt. We want to know that the idea of the khaki skirt has been given up entirely, and that the Army 634 intend to rely solely upon the supply of tartan which can be produced in Scotland. I understand that there is an Advisory Committee in connection with the War Office which deals with clothing, and that it is a Committee of two members, both of whom are Members of this House. They both sit on this side of the House, one I think for Leeds and another for a Division of Leicestershire. Those two Gentlemen are on the Committee which advises the War Office with regard to clothing. There are two great competitive districts for clothing in the United Kingdom—Yorkshire and certain parts of Scotland—which depend altogether upon that particular industry. Manufacturers in Scotland feel that, in connection with an Advisory Committee of this sort, especially when Yorkshire is a chief competitor of Scotland in this particular industry, they should have some representative on that Committee. For instance, Scotch tweeds were first made in Scotland, and it was not until long-afterwards that they were made in Yorkshire. Surely some representative of the Scottish manufacturers—not necessarily a Member of Parliament, for obviously we do not want a man who does not know the details of the trade—who understands the conditions of the industry, should be appointed. At the present moment the latter represents Yorks alone, and we, think that a representative of Scotland ought to be added. I hope that ray right hon. Friend, who knows the national garment, and looks splendid in it himself, will not forget to reply on that subject to my hon. Friend and myself.
§ Mr. BUTCHER
I wish to refer to the question of the pay of regimental officers. The subject is not a new one; indeed, it is an old standing grievance. I think the time is approaching when we should not only express our admiration of regimental officers in our speeches, but when we might do something of a practical nature which will, at any rate, meet some part of this old grievance. I may be told that the matter of pay was considered lately, and that an Order was issued about it. But when you come to look at the effect of that Order, you find that it was only in the case of the more junior officers amongst lieutenants and captains that there was any increase at all. In the case of senior officers, majors and colonels, there was no increase at all, and in regard to some of the senior lieutenants and captains, there was a positive diminution of their pay because of that Order. Speaking broadly, 635 I am right in saying that there was a decrease in the case of lieutenants of over six years' service and in the case of captains of over twelve years' service. That is really not right, and I trust that the Under-Secretary of State will endeavour to remedy that admitted grievance—a grievance which has been attempted to be dealt with in so unsatisfactory a way, as I think. I believe that ordinary members of the public do not realise what the pay of these officers is. Take the case of a captain of Infantry of twelve years' service or under, he receives 12s. 6d. a day, or less than £230 a year—less than the great majority of Government clerks receive. The pay of a major in the Artillery of twenty-one years' service and under is 15s. a day and no more, or about £300 a year. Dees anyone say that is adequate pay; I should be surprised to find anyone who does.
In connection with this subject, which has already been referred to in this Debate, the question was raised by myself and others in November last, whether the officers should pay the double Income Tax which is necessitated by the War, and it has been pointed out with unanswerable truth that those officers are doing the fighting, and that those who do not fight might pay the extra Income Tax. The Chancellor of the Exchequer answered that this was not the proper way to deal with it, and that they must increase the pay of the officers. Let me assume that the right hon. Gentleman's answer is correct, and, if that be the proper way, then let him do it. He has not done it yet. It is really exceedingly unfair to officers to deduct the double Income Tax from their admittedly insufficient pay, and at the same time not make an effort to increase their pay. Then there is the question of the pay of quartermasters who are promoted from the ranks—a matter which I have no doubt is familiar to the Under-Secretary. It is rather a strange thing that by the recent Order there was an increase of pay given to officers in almost every department, except that of the quartermasters, who received no increase at all. I cannot see any reason for that; it is rather the other way, because in the case of other departments men are promoted from the ranks generally at an earlier time than is the case with quartermasters, who are usually promoted at the ages of thirty-five or forty-years after fifteen to twenty-one years' 636 service. These officers have had long experience and possess special qualifications, and I would urge upon the right hon. Gentleman, that when these men are promoted from the ranks they should meet with the same consideration as is given to non-commissioned officers who are promoted from the ranks in other branches of the Army.
I desire to pass to the subject of the Army Pay Corps. The work of the Army Pay Corps, in my judgment at any rate, has been done under the very greatest difficulty since the War, and it has been done exceedingly well. Anyone who, like myself, has gone to the Army pay offices and seen the incessant work which they do—working up to late at night and Sunday, as well as every other day since this War began—will see how enormously their duties have been increased, not merely by the increase of the number of men entering the Army, but by reason of their having to pay the dependants—wives and others who are entitled to an allowance. May I in passing say, in regard to the work of the Army Pay Corps, that I do not think it always receives sufficient recognition. If the pay is in arrear, or anything goes wrong, plenty of complaints are forthcoming. But when things work smoothly, and everything is going rightly in regard to the pay of the men, their wives and dependants, I am afraid that legitimate and proper gratitude is not always shown for the work of the Pay Department.
It is very necessary and right, in view of the increased numbers of the Army, to increase the number of civilians brought in to assist the Army Pay Corps in their work. But the question arises whether there is really sufficient consideration given to the permanent part of the Army Pay Corps. There is a strong impression that promotion has not been as rapid in that corps as it ought to have been. I think something is being done now, but it might have been done earlier. Fifty-eight assistant paymasters were sanctioned by an Order made some years ago, in 1910. Instead of appointing those assistant paymasters out of the non-commissioned ranks of the Army Pay Corps, a large number of civilians were brought in under the name of Acting-paymasters, but I am glad to know from what we were told yesterday that that objection is now being removed, if it has not been altogether removed, and that the whole of the fifty-eight paymasters' positions will now be filled up by non-commissioned officers of the Army Pay 637 Corps. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will see in other respects that the question of promotion is looked to and that he will not introduce more civilians than are necessary, the effect of which is to stop promotion amongst military members of that body.
I now desire to say a word about civilians in the Pay Department. I think it only fair to observe that the civilian clerks who are brought in, and I think must in some cases be brought in, to do the work of paymasters should receive commissioned rank, and I should like to know why it is not given to them. They are doing exactly the same duties as the military members who are paymasters. When these civilians are brought in and are doing the duties of Acting-paymasters, I think it is reasonable that they should be given temporary commissioned rank. They would feel more responsibility in that way, and I think would be better able, and with more responsibility in that way, and I think would be better able, and with more authority, to discharge their duties. Of course they are only temporary, and I quite agree that you should give them only temporary rank. There is one other matter to which I wish to call the attention of the Government, and it is with regard to horseshoes. I have in my hand a sample, and I trust it is not a fail-sample, of the horseshoes that are issued to our mounted troops. It has been sent to me from a regiment in the country. Anyone who cares may look at this horse shoe, one of those issued from the Government Department for the use of our mounted troops who have gone or are going abroad. It was put on the horse on the 2nd of December, and nine days afterwards, on the 11th of December, it fell off in this condition, broken, and if you examine it, it appears on one side to have got so thin as to be actually useless. I think any ordinary person would be extremely dissatisfied if they put new shoes on horses and had them fall off nine days afterwards, and still more so if they were in the condition in which this shoe is. I can only hope that it is not a usual occurrence. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will allow me to hand it to him, so that he may get the opinion of his expert military advisers upon the character of the steel and the nature of the manufacture, and that he will make inquiries, so as to ensure that our mounted troops shall be furnished with adequate horseshoes for the purpose not only of 638 humanity to the horse, but also to secure efficiency of that very important arm.
§ Sir RYLAND ADKINS
I desire to refer to a question mentioned by the hon. Member for Edinburgh (Mr. Hogge), namely, that of bantam battalions, and as to numbers of men being registered who are willing to enlist in such battalions. I hope my right hon. Friend the Under-Secretary, whose courtesy to me I desire to acknowledge, and through whose influence it is, I know, that the War Office has not only been most courteous but also most helpful in regard to the bantam battalions formed in Lancashire—I hope he will not think me ungrateful if I take this opportunity of putting to him, and through him to the Secretary of State, the question as to whether the time has not now come for generally organising such battalions throughout the country, where there is an adequate demand for them. My right hon. Friend spoke yesterday in cordial and appreciative terms of the state of recruiting at the present time, but he indicated that even more energy might possibly be put into it. All members of the Committee will agree that the recruiting in the last couple of months has been greatly helped by the returns got together by the Parliamentary Recruiting Committee. As time goes on the promises which were obtained in those returns will be acted upon, and to a certain extent that particular stimulus and impetus will be worked up and exhausted. Has not therefore the time come, if it is not here now, when men between 5 ft. and 5 ft. 3 in. high, who are otherwise well qualified physically to serve, should not have the opportunity given to them? I think hon. Members are aware of the remarkable success which has attended these battalions where they have been allowed to be formed. The hon. Member for Birkenhead (Mr. Bigland) is entitled to the greatest credit for setting the example in this matter, and for the great success which attended his efforts. One battalion was filled in less than a week, and the second battalion was filled in very little longer time. In other parts of the country there is the same willingness on the part of men of this type to come and serve, and the same readiness on the part of the County Associations and recruiting officers to recruit them and pass their names on.
I know that in two or three counties in the Midlands men of this kind came forward, but were not allowed to serve. I 639 have been asked again and again whether they could not be sent on to Lancashire to the battalions formed there, but the answer to that is that there was no room for them. I was told by a recruiting sergeant in a district entirely rural, that he could get fifty of these men in a fortnight, or a hundred in a month, if they were allowed. Therefore I take this, the first opportunity I have, respectfully to urge on my right hon. Friend, and, through him, on the Secretary of State, the desirability of making this kind of battalion general throughout the country. I know, of course, that in some parts of England you would not get anything like the number you can get in Lancashire, but all over the country I am convinced that there are hundreds and thousands of this type of men who would be willing to serve, and surely it would be a thousand pities if their willingness were not met and acted upon. The additional trouble which is no doubt involved in battalions of that particular type, would surely be well spent, and the results I venture to say would be achieved promptly and generally throughout the country. May I speak also of one or two drawbacks one finds in recruiting in practice? Very important speeches were delivered yesterday and to-day on the question of the presence in the Army of men who refuse to be inoculated. That has come to my notice from the point of view of recruiting. I have had representations made to me that men who had joined the Army, rightly or wrongly as regards their judgment, on the faith of the undertaking that they would not be asked or compelled to be inoculated, write home, and in certain cases, come home, and speak in very strong language of the extreme pressure put upon them, and of the way in which, as they think, they have been treated on lines similar to those mentioned yesterday by the hon. Member for Haggerston (Mr. Chancellor).
I am one of those who believe in inoculation, and who think that it is good for the country, and for the good of the Army that it should be as widely spread as possible amongst the soldiers going to the front, but, for all that, there is a solemn pledge given by the Government that this was not to be compulsory. I would therefore ask my right hon. Friend to represent to the authorities that this question can only be properly settled if no man in the Army is in a position to say that the undertaking on which he enlisted is violated, or at- 640 tempted to be violated by any authority whatever The conclusion may be that adumbrated by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Strand (Mr. Long), and if we are to have compulsory inoculation, then we know where we are, and the persons who enlist, enlist knowing that. I do hops that this difficult question, for it is a difficult question, may be solved in such a way as to prevent any recurrence of men coming home, or writing home, and rousing a spirit which is unfavourable to recruiting, on the ground that they have been pressed to do that which they were told was optional when they joined the Army. Another drawback to recruiting is, undoubtedly, the way in which pension officers in some parts of the country are now doing their duty. My hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh referred to them. I am not attacking those officials: they have a very difficult task to perform, but their training as officials of the Excise or of the Poor Law is by no means the best training for this kind of work, which requires the greatest tact and consideration. It is work in which the benefit of every doubt should be given to the wife or relative of the man at the front, and not against them. I hope steps may be taken to strengthen the influence of local lay committees, which would take away from the severely official method in which this work is being done in some parts of the country.
I have had recent representations from those who are responsible for the Soldiers' and Sailors' Society in parts of the Constituency I represent, in which they take the gravest view of the errors of judgment made by certain officials in that neighbourhood. Again I say that recruiting is very much hampered if there is any feeling current that the relatives of those at the front are not being generously dealt with, and that inquiries into their circumstances are made in an inquisitorial manner, or without due sympathy. There is another drawback which is probably less defensible, but it is one which we find particularly in rural districts. It arises from the disappointment among men who have come prepared to enlist, and who have been rejected for what appears to them to be quite inadequate medical grounds. I do not say the grounds are inadequate, but it does not occur to everybody from a rural village that the absence of one back tooth, the rest of the man being sturdy in the extreme, is enough to prevent him fighting for his country abroad. If it is, it should 641 be made much clearer than it is that such is the case. I think too much care cannot be taken to make clear that certain defects of the body are a bar to men serving in the Army. One man going back to his village discontented and disappointed, and unable to explain why it was so, and with that want of knowledge or ignorance if you like, shared by his friends and neighbours, will hinder recruiting in that village for weeks, and will very much affect the efforts made by those soldiers and civilians who are doing what they can to encourage the men to join. I had the honour of being present ten days ago at the conference on recruiting in the county of Northampton, and that was one of the drawbacks mentioned.
Another drawback is the absence of any badge denoting those who have been rejected for defects for which they are not responsible, or a badge for those who are not allowed to enlist because they are now working on Government contracts. I know that this has been said elsewhere by far more authoritative people; but speaking not only one's own personal view, but also the unanimous view of that conference, I would urge on the Under-Secretary, and through him on the Secretary for State, how desirable it is to have some badge for everybody who has tried to enlist and who has been rejected on health grounds, and also for everyone who, in the judgment of the War Office, is serving his country better by working at Army contracts rather by enlisting in the Army itself. In that way we should know those who have been asked and who had not enlisted for good reasons. I am inclined to think also that the absence of that badge on the coats of those who have no such good reason might itself be a not unimportant influence towards further enlistment amongst those who ought to go. May I venture to say how thoroughly I agree with what the right hon. Member for the Strand said yesterday with regard to the importance of promoting recruiting by special efforts in certain special parts of the country? It seems to me we have now got to the point when recruiting generally is very good everywhere, but in every part of the country there are certain districts where there are differences. Sometimes you find it in one village as opposed to the next village, and sometimes in one town as opposed to a town a few miles away. You discover that recruiting is not as good as it ought to be.
642 I desire to support the suggestion as to making special efforts in special districts which are known not to have given a reasonable and proper quota to the service of the King at this time. I think it might be possible in a similar way to make special efforts directed to those in certain trades and occupations. There are many trades and occupations which are now occupied to the full, largely owing to the demands of the Army and of the War; but there are other trades and occupations which are not nearly as fully taken up as they would be at ordinary times. I think that if special appeals were made, with the concurrence and help of employers' associations and trade unions, that specialisation of effort might be found to be very useful in the weeks and months that lay before us. It was also the unanimous opinion on the conference to which I have referred—and it is an opinion, I am sure, shared by every Member of this Committee—that if and when the Secretary of State for War makes any further appeal for recruits, even asking those to join the Army who by so doing would leave work of a high economic value at home, the response will be general and thorough. In conclusion, I would say that we who have taken part in the work of recruiting recognise the courtesy, energy and consideration which have always been extended to us by the representatives of the War Office.
§ Mr. FALLE
I wish to speak on certain matters which have come to my own personal knowledge within the last few months at a great camp. With regard to inoculation, I have both seen and heard a very large number of recruits who have been inoculated, but I cannot say that I have come across a single instance of compulsion. There may have been a little moral suasion at the most, but it was the moral suason of the recruits' own friends, who explained that they would be a danger to their battery if they were not inoculated, and that there was a strong probability of their being left at home if they refused to be done. That is the extent of any compulsion of which I have heard. Nor have I heard of a single case in which a recruit has suffered in any way from inoculation if he had taken ordinary care of himself. I admit that I have heard of one or two cases in which not very pleasant, but certainly unpleasant, results appeared, but they were where men had not taken care of themselves or, possibly, when depressed by inoculation, had attempted to 643 take a glass or two of whisky. Out of seven or eight brigades of Artillery I have not come across a single man who, having taken the care that he ought to take, has suffered in any way. With regard to huts, there have been complaints from my Constituency, and the Under-Secretary of State in reply to my colleague has stated that certain of the huts were not rainproof, and that the matter had been or was in course of being remedied. There is no excuse whatever for a newly erected hut not being rainproof. There would be some excuse for the War Office if the wood should warp, but there is no excuse for the wood warping in the weather of the last four months. When summer comes, while I hope the huts will remain rainproof so far as the roof is concerned, they will certainly admit air very freely through the sides and floor. I understand that there is a difference between the old system of hut-building and the new. The old system was to build a continuous wall all round, and to place the hut on the top of the wall. The new system, which makes for speed, is to build a series of small pillars and to place the hut on the pillars, so that it looks to the ordinary observer much as a corn stack would. The winds of heaven can freely enter underneath the floor, and this makes the huts much colder and more draughty than they would be if built on the old system. I should like to see a return to the old system, as the huts would then be much warmer.
A more important point is that in some instances there has been a certain amount of illness. Some people may say that that is only to be expected in large camps. But I mean serious infectious illness. My information is not official, but I understand that it is intended to try to disinfect these huts. I can speak from my own experience and also from the experience of medical officers in London. I asked one great expert about it only this morning, and he told me that in his opinion it is worse than folly to try and disinfect these newly erected huts, and much more so the old huts; it would be a penny wise and pound foolish policy. If there has been any real infectious disease in these huts there is only one course open, and that is to burn the huts. Tents, I am told, may be disinfected, but in regard to these hastily put together huts, with gaps at the sides, cracks in the floor, and small holes in the 644 roof, it is impossible for anybody, even with the most modern appliances, to disinfect them. I wish to put it on record that I have asked publicly that, in the case of huts where infectious disease has occurred, no attempt should be made to disinfect them, but that they should be burned and new huts erected, not on the same site, but a little way off. I make this as a demand upon the War Office, and I wish it to be put on record that I have made it.
§ Mr. BARNES
This Debate has ranged over a very wide field, and I am not at all surprised that the Under-Secretary of State should have failed to disentangle or to deal with all of the topics to which reference has been made. The point upon which I wish to speak is that of the soldiers' pay Before doing so, I would say how gladly I accept the assurance of the right hon. Gentleman with regard to the attitude of the trade unions. I accept his assurance that the suggestion which he made the other day did not mean anything disparaging to the trade unions. Such we know would have been quite contrary to the facts, and contrary to all that we know of the right hon. Gentleman's record. The trade unions have, on the whole, done as much as any other class of the community to stand their corner in this national emergency. As a matter of fact, something has been done in the way of relaxation of rules, and, if I am correctly informed, a conference has been held today—it may be in session at this moment—at the offices of Sir George Askwith, with that object in view, so far as the engineering and shipbuilding trades are concerned. I think, however, that if that suggestion is made, a corresponding suggestion might be made to the other side. It might be suggested to the employers' associations that they should adapt their organisation of the workshop more to the needs of the situation at the moment. In the organisation of the workshop there is sometimes a great deal of waste which might easily be remedied. For instance, when groups of men are working together, sometimes there is a boy to attend to them. If the boy is not there at the right time, the whole group of men may have to stand idle for hours together. That could be easily rectified by having more than one boy to attend the men. I know, too, that at the-present time a great many men are working on merchant ships, and some engineers are working on the manufacture of printing machines for newspapers—work which could be done just as well next year or the 645 year after. The men employed on that sort of work would be better working on the manufacture of munitions of war. I hope, therefore, that when the War Office venture to make suggestions on the one side, they will not fail to make them to the employers as well, so that there may be co-operation on both sides.
The hon. Member for Pembroke (Mr. Roch) complained about the dependants' allowances. The matter has been mentioned several times, but I do not think it is at all clear even yet what the actual position is. So far as the Committee on pensions can do it, the position has been made fairly clear by a recent circular. The Under-Secretary of State was asked to make this matter clear, and after his speech the complaint was made that he had not succeeded in doing so. It is quite true that the pension officers all over the country had been making assessments on different principles right up to last December. The pension officers were perhaps not the most suitable persons to make the assessments at all, because all their experience in regard to old age pensions was of the opposite sort to that required to fit them for this particular job. In the case of old age pensions, they had to decree that certain people were fairly well to do having regard to all the circumstances. In this case the contrary was the case; but they were led, I believe, through the absence of instructions to the contrary, simply to inquire what a man had been paying to his mother and what was the cost of his keep, and then give the mother the difference. They took no notice at all of rent, fuel, light, or any of those things which are standing charges, whether a man is at home or abroad. Therefore, in December last, the Committee which has been dealing with this matter discussed the question with the heads of the Excise Department, and, as a result, an instruction was issued that the one guiding principle for the pension officers should be that a home should be kept up to the same standard of comfort after the man left as had been the case before he went away. In carrying out that principle it is perfectly clear that rent, fuel, lighting, and matters of that sort, should be deducted from the total amount of the cost of keeping up the house. They should be regarded as having to be incurred just as much after the man had gone away as before.
646 I think my hon. Friend the Member for East Edinburgh (Mr. Hogge) will find that this single principle covers his point as well. He spoke a little while ago about the increased prices, and wanted to know whether an instruction was given that in making the assessment regard was had to the fact that prices had increased by certain percentages, which he gave as from last August up to date. The pension officers will have no such instructions, nor is it necessary. A common-sense interpretation of what I have just said as to maintaining the house after the man has gone in the same standard of comfort as before would take all that into consideration. If the pension officers found that bread had gone up 25 per cent., that coal had gone up by another 25 per cent., and that various other things had gone up proportionately, it follows as a simple matter of course that the home has to have 25 per cent. more money than it had before to keep it up, and the pension officers will be quite justified—in fact it is their simple duty—to assess such a demand as will make up for the increased cost of commodities. I hope they are doing that. If they are not they are not doing their duty, and provision is now made that all these people may appeal if they think proper.
I come to the point I desire particularly to mention—that is, the pay of the soldier and the deduction from the soldier's pay. When the Committee on Pensions and Allowances was set up a few months ago I was given a place upon it. I went on to it in the hope and belief that that Committee would be able to do something, if not to raise the soldier's pay, at all events to relieve the soldier from certain deductions from that pay. A little had, as a matter of fact, been done before. The Government, in fixing up their scheme of things as embodied in the White Paper, and submitted to the House last November, did do a little to relieve the soldier in respect of the payments for his children. At the beginning of the War every man who joined was subject to a deduction of 3s. 6d. in respect of his wife, and a penny per day in respect of each of three children. Out of his meagre pay of 7s. he was liable to a deduction of 5s. 3d. In addition to that there were other little bits of stoppages which I need not go into. It very often happened that the soldier had out of his 7s. about 1s. per week for himself. The Government, recognising that there was a grievance, relieved the soldier who was married, and had a wife and children, 647 in respect to the payment for his children. My complaint with the Government is that they so soon wearied in well-doing, and that they might have gone a good deal further and relieved the soldier of a good deal more. However, when that Committee took the matter in hand, it stood thus: The married soldier who had a wife and children living was relieved in respect of his children, but still had to pay 3s. 6d. in respect of his wife. A widower who had children was still liable to pay a penny per day in respect to each of those children. I am glad the Committee—which, by the by, is still in being—has decided to relieve the man in respect of that penny per day in regard to motherless children.
About that 3s. 6d. in respect to the wife, I do not think I am giving any secrets away that I ought to keep to myself, but I may say that the Committee did try to go some part of the way, if not to go the "whole hog," in relieving the soldier altogether from the 3s. 6d. deduction, but we were stopped by the War Office. A great deal more deference was paid to the War Office by my colleagues on the Committee than I should be disposed myself to pay—and I say that after some months' experience. At all events we were prevented from giving the soldier the benefit of relief from that other deduction, or any part of it, at present made from his 7s. per week I should like the War Office representatives to say to-day whether they think that that 3s. 6d. ought to be still deducted from the soldier's pay, and whether they still agree with the representations made to us from the War Office that 7s. per week, less 3s. 6d., is enough for the soldier?
§ The FINANCIAL SECRETARY to the WAR OFFICE (Mr. Harold Baker)
Let me say at once that I do not know to what representations the hon. Member refers, but it is entirely within the competence of the Committee to come to any decision they please. The War Office has no power to stop them.
§ Sir G. YOUNGER
Is it in order, Mr. Deputy-Chairman, that the private deliberations of the Committee to whom the hon. Member refers should be discussed in this House?
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN (Sir F. Banbury)
I do not think it is in order to give a lengthy account of the proceedings which took place in the Committee, but 648 I understand the hon. Member to be addressing his remarks with a view to asking the Financial Secretary whether he can do a certain thing. If the hon. Member confines his remarks to asking the Under-Secretary to do certain things which are in his power he will be in order; but I do not think he will be in order to go at length into a history of the proceedings of the Committee.
§ Mr. BARNES
I had no intention of doing that, and perhaps I have gone too far already. But I was accepting the challenge of the War Office, was putting the War Office on its defence, so to speak, for preventing a certain course having been taken. Since I have been challenged by the representative of the War Office as to the representations that have been made to that body I might go so far now as to read the exact words—
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
I do not quite know what the hon. Member is going to do, but if he is going again to discuss what took place in the Committee that will be against my ruling, and I must ask him not to do it.
§ Mr. BARNES
I will drop the subject and treat the matter upon its merits so far as I can, and without any reference to the proceedings of the Committee. I object to this stoppage for several reasons. First of all, I object to it because it is a stoppage, and a stoppage is no pay. I think it is fairly well known that there is nothing to-day the workers of this country object to so much as these petty stoppages out of their wages. These petty stoppages from wages generally come hardest upon the most helpless and defenceless amongst them. As a result of an Act of Parliament passed some little time ago it is now legal to make stoppages from wages provided that certain conditions are complied with by the factory owner. He has to exhibit certain notices in such a place that anybody can read them. Certain other conditions have to be complied with, and if they are complied with, fines can be imposed upon the workpeople. But we find, as a matter of practice, that those fines are only imposed upon poor women who are unorganised and helpless, and that the trade unions of this country can very well protect their members against; these fines. I place the fine upon the soldier with these fines upon the workpeople. They are imposed upon him by the War Office because the War Office know that he is in a helpless position and 649 cannot defend himself. Therefore I want to put in a vigorous protest, and as vigorous a plea, on behalf of the soldier that he should be paid his full wages, which are in all conscience low enough at 7s. per week, and that nothing should be taken from those wages. May I further remind the right hon. Gentleman that this is only in accordance with the promise made.
Reference has been made by the Member for East Edinburgh to a leaflet issued some time ago which was misleading. In this matter another leaflet was issued which was equally misleading. In August last a leaflet was issued bearing the signature of Lord Kitchener, which expressly stated that the soldier would have 6s. 8½d. per week for himself. The 3½d. was some small stoppage of which I know nothing. The man was told that he would have this money if he joined the Forces. Of course I know the Government did not mean that; neither did they mean to give the mother of the soldier 9s. provided the soldier gave 3s. 6d.; but in each case they said it! Just as the mother of the soldier had expected that 9s., provided the soldier gave 3s. 6d., so did many thousand of soldiers throughout the country expect if they joined the Forces that they would get 6s. 8½d. per week, subject to no other deduction at all.
It is argued, of course, that the soldier is subject to ordinary law, and that he has the legal responsibility of keeping his wife. That is so, but he cannot keep her on the miserable pay the War Office give him. If you take a man away from civil life and give him this miserable 6s. 8d. a week, I submit, Mr. Whitley, it is little enough for the man himself, and that the woman, under the circumstances, has a claim to whatever is paid her for herself. I should like to make a comparison between the soldier and the sailor in this matter. I have been asking various people connected with the Army and the Navy how it is that the sailorman gets more wages than the soldier. I have had no satisfactory answer. If there is any reason at all I hope we may hear of it to-day. The position is this: The sailor generally graduates from what is termed the boy rating, in which the boy receives 7d. per day, or 4s. 1d. per week, to the higher stages. At eighteen years of age he passes through the transitory stage of the ordinary seaman into the rank of the able-bodied seaman. This is only a sort of sieve, from which he passes into what may 650 be called the lower ranks of the Navy, corresponding to the private in the Army. There are, altogether, only about 5,000 to 6,000 ordinary seamen. Those are from eighteen to nineteen years of age and some odd months.
At this time the ordinary seaman gets 8s. 9d. per week, which is 1s. 3d. per day. When he gets to be an A.B. he gets 11s. 8d. minimum pay, and there are certain stripes that he gets which are, I believe, worth another 4d. He can then qualify for gunnery or torpedo work. The net result is that the sailorman, when he gets to be about twenty-two or twenty-three years of age, if he is a sharp fellow, has about 17s. per week. A soldier gets his 1s. per day, or 7s. per week. I submit that is a miserably inadequate sum to give the soldier, having regard to the service that he renders, and especially the service he has rendered during the last few months. It is also a miserable wage having regard to its effect upon industrial life. In the first place, it is unfair to the men. The War Office draw their men from a section of people in the community who are economically helpless. They know that there is in the country large numbers of lads who have to go out to work as soon as they can get released from school because their parents cannot afford to keep them. These lads go to work at the age of fourteen, and then at about eighteen years of age they are displaced by other lads similarly circumstanced. Having never been accustomed to the best wages, the Army steps in and takes them in their teens, giving them 1s. per day. While they are in the Army they are not accustomed to anything like a decent standard of living. They are released when they are about twenty-seven to twenty-nine, or it may be a little earlier, and not having been accustomed to anything like a decent standard of living during the years they have been in the Army they are put back into the industrial ranks and at once begin to compete with their fellow workmen outside, and the effect is decreased wages all round. For that reason I, as representing labour, and representing trade unionists, put in a plea not only for better payment for the soldier because he is a soldier and because he is doing work which is of great value to the country, but I also put in my plea because of the effect of these low wages of the soldier upon services in civil life.
My last point bears upon compulsory or voluntary service in the country. We 651 all want, apart altogether from party, to maintain the voluntary principle. But if we are going to maintain the voluntary principle, and if we are going to get the same type of man we are now getting in this War, we shall have to pay him a good deal better or we shall not get him. We are getting, perhaps, better men in this War than we have ever had before, perhaps because of the character of the War. At all events, the man coming forward is coming forward because he has been actuated by generous impulses. He knows that this War is not a war for the increase of territory, or for any mercenary motive at all. He has in his mind that this War is for securing for small people like Belgium the right to live their own life in their own way. He has in his mind that this War is for the purpose of maintaining international obligations, and therefore he has come forward. I know, of course, there are a great many, and some with whom I am closely associated myself, who say that the Government did not care twopence about Belgium, only as a make-believe, and that there was a great deal more of the sordid behind the causes of the War. We all have a right to our own opinions. I have my own, and I do not think so. The fact remains that the nation to-day thinks it is fighting a just war, and because of that you have got the best soldier you ever had to fight your battles. But you are not going to get that man, and you have no right to get that man, unless you pay him. Up till now we have been exploiting this sentiment of the best men amongst us. We have got these men because they have been willing to make enormous sacrifices—sacrifices which the nation, as yet, has not in any sense realised. You have got these men because they have felt it their duty from a patriotic and humane point of view to come forward and fight for us, and we have got them because they have never considered a shilling a day, or 10s. a day, and have never considered pensions or allowances, or anything of that sort.
It has been one of the strangest experiences I have had that during recent months, having been on a Committee and taken an active part in pensions and allowances, and having occasionally gone to camp where I have had two of my sons, I have come across scores of young men who have recently gone into the Army, and I have asked many what they think about the new scheme of pensions. There is not 652 one out of ten who has ever heard of a Pensions' Committee, or cares twopence about them. That all shows that these men had not anything in their minds of a selfish character, but that they have come forward to fight for the country from purely disinterested motives. But that does not relieve us or release us from doing our duty by them, and, therefore, if you are going to maintain this voluntary system which gives you soldiers of that type, which gives you soldiers who have achieved wonders during the last few months, I would take leave to endorse all that has been said by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Strand (Mr. Long). I think our men have done magnificently for us, and for my part I do not envy the man or the woman who can read of their deeds without a tremor of emotion and a feeling of pride in the prowess of our race. It was said a few months ago that we were getting fat, lazy, and decadent. These last six months have thrown all that to the wind, and have shown that our men have just as much spirit and pluck as ever they had; but I say it is not fair that this great rich nation should sake advantage of the best men amongst us who are now coming forward to fight our battles. It is not fair that we should take these men's services for a paltry shilling a day, but we should pay them something commensurate with the services they are rendering to the country, and the debt of obligation we owe to them. I hope, therefore, the Government will do something to amend this book with its 300 or 400 pages, which have given me a headache to read many a time, as speedily as possible, and to put the soldier on something like a decent rate of wages, and treat him as a man, as he ought to be treated. As an instalment, and as an earnest of something very much better to follow, I hope they will as speedily as possible relieve him of this miserable deduction of 3s. 6d. from his pay.
§ Mr. CURRIE
I think I have rather a grievance, if I may respectfully say so, against the right hon. Gentleman in that I asked him two questions on Monday, and to neither of them has he given me an answer in his statement this afternoon. The first was whether he would be good enough to tell us when the promised new machinery for the settlement of differences of opinion between pension officers and pension committees would be brought into working order. The right hon. Gentleman made a suggestion some time ago 653 that in the meantime these differences should be dealt with by some process of temporary advances—by advances from the Soldiers' and Sailors' Families Association to the mothers of soldiers and sailors. There are many women who have been allotted by the pension officer the magnificent pension of 5d. per week. I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether an advance of a few pence a week—perhaps 2½d.—is really a cure for a difficulty of that kind? Can he tell us when this promised machinery will really be available? I can assure him it is badly needed. The second question I asked him was whether he could say that the business methods in the Pay Department of the Army and in the Record Office would be improved by being submitted to expert civilian opinion, and on that point also he has given no information. I would really ask him to deal with the point before the Debate closes, because I think I am not speaking rashly when I say that the great bulk of the feeling of business men in this country is that the business methods in use in the Army Pay Office are very far from what they might be. The hon. Member for York (Mr. Butcher) paid a tribute to the work done by the staff of the Army Pay Department. Nothing is further from my wish than to suggest that those charged with carrying out the work have done anything else but render splendid service. I am not speaking of a matter I have not looked into the best I can, but it is only the Government that has the information. Until the Government is assured by the best civilian expert opinion that the business methods in the Army Pay Department are as good as they can be made, the suspicion under which the present methods rest will remain, and will probably grow stronger.
§ Mr. BAKER
I think, perhaps, it maybe convenient if I reply on some of the matters which have been raised in the course of the Debate. I believe the Committee listened with the greatest interest and attention to the speech just delivered by the hon. Member for the Blackfriars Division of Glasgow (Mr. Barnes). I, personally, am very grateful indeed to him in one respect for his elucidation of a somewhat difficult and obscure question put yesterday by one of my hon. Friends, but I am not at all grateful to him for the course he proceeded to take at a later stage in his speech. I may say that we have, at last had some light shed on the questions of pensions and allowances by a member of the Committee, and very 654 interesting it was; but for the hon. Member to say, as he did, that the War Office had prevented that Committee from coming to some decision or another was, I think, without justification, and without warrant altogether. The most that the War Office could do, and the most, so far as my knowledge goes, that it has done, is to put certain relevant facts before the Committee that might help it in coming to a decision; but to suggest the War Office intervened, and prevented a particular decision being arrived at, shows an uneasy conscience on the part of my hon. Friend and a desire to shift responsibility for which I should never suspect him. The Committee is the main authority now, and not the War Office, for almost this entire question of pensions and allowances. The centre of gravity has been shifted; but, so far as it is possible for the War Office to give opinions on these matters, I will endeavour to reply to the cases in this Debate. There has been a good deal of doubt expressed by certain Members—the hon. Member for East Edinburgh (Mr. Hogge) amongst others—as to whether the pension officer is, in fact, the best authority for dealing with these matters. That selection was made and embodied in the White Paper after very careful consideration, and I think we are entitled to assume that the matter has been reconsidered by the Select Committee, including, of course, my hon. Friend, and that they saw no sufficient reason for disturbing the existing arrangements.
Pension officers have been criticised. Of course they are a largo body of men, and naturally there are differences in individual temperament and judgment among them; they might find favour in some cases and disfavour in others, but I have explained that steps have been taken to bring them into conformity with the common standard, and I do not think there is any better formula than that which I myself gave in answer to a question this afternoon, and which was quoted by my hon. Friend in the course of his speech, that they are to endeavour, so far as the amount permits, to bring the home of the dependant into approximately the same condition of comfort as when the soldier was at home. That is a formula which, I think, commands the assent of all in this House. This is the object we ought to aim at, and it is the object we desire to secure. Of course the difficulty comes, as in all formulæ, when you attempt to put it into practice. I do not think myself that 655 we can do better than bring the formula to the attention of the officers, and, to make them understand. There is one step further that might be taken, and it is a useful one. It is to ensure not only that the officer shall bear that in mind, but also that there should be some proper understanding between the officer and the Pensions Committee as to the principle on which they are to proceed, and the way in which that formula is to be applied. So much for those matters, the responsibility for which, as I say, and I think I fairly may say, has to some extent been removed from the shoulders of the War Office to the shoulders of the Select Committee.
There is one other matter which has been the subject of criticism, and I freely admit that the blame, if there is blame, should be accepted in Debate, at any rate, by the representative of the War Office. It is with regard to such delay as there has been in the payment of various allowances. I do not think anyone, even the most prejudiced critic of War Office administration, claims that in the case of wives and children there is any avoidable delay at the present time. All the cases brought to my notice are cases in which the man has failed to declare his family, or has failed to enlist as a married man, or has enlisted in a false name, or in which there is some ordinary error due to want of intelligence, which has prevented prompt identification. I think I may fairly claim that in the case of wives and children that the payment is now made much quicker than if the man had to receive it in ordinary civil occupation. [An HON. MEMBEK: "I am afraid the hon. Gentleman is too sanguine."] I gave various causes for the delay, such as the case where a man does not declare himself properly and there is some difficulty as to identification. But setting those cases aside, I can fairly claim that the machinery is working smoothly and well. When we come to dependants the matter is rather different. Once you start upon the basis of actual fact as to the amount received by dependants, you are bound to have some investigation as to whether the facts exist, and what are the means of dependants. Once you have investigations of that kind you are bound to have some necessary delay. That is why the other day, in answer to a question, I said that a certain amount of delay was inevitable. When you have to ascertain actual facts by in- 656 vestigation you cannot avoid some delay. The question is, At what precise stage in the process does that delay occur? I have had much to do with this matter, and have had many cases put before me, and I am satisfied that the delay does not occur with the pension officer. These officers are not under the War Office, but I wish to say that their work has been done with very great intelligence and good will. One or two complaints have been made to the War Office of their action, but in almost every case they have turned out to be ill-founded and have been honestly withdrawn by those who made them.
There is the further stage of the Pensions Committee, and in some cases they are not prompt in dealing with these matters. I have heard of large and important towns thinking they can carry out their duties with only a monthly meeting, and others appear to have adopted a fixed rate, quite apart from the actual circumstances which the pension officer has set himself to investigate. In other cases it has been found that they do not appear to have grasped the true intention of the scheme. I do not wish to blame anyone, but if you are to endeavour to put your finger upon a precise cause you will find that it lies rather in the Pensions Committee than in the pension officer. A good Pensions Committee ought to deal with these cases in a fortnight, and if through unavoidable or avoidable cause there is delay, I would remind the House that we have done our best to fill up the gap by making arrangements with the Soldiers' and Sailors' Families Association to provide for them in the interim. I think that now that we have a direction to accept the existing machinery and the existing basis upon which dependence is to be judged, the surest way of removing the difficulty is to get some common principle established between the pension officer and the Pensions Committee, and also get the Pensions Committee to proceed with a greater knowledge of the scheme and a greater desire to deal with their cases more promptly.
Another hon. Member raised the question of the machinery of appeal, but I think, if he will do me the honour of reading the few remarks I made last night, he will find that I have already dealt with that question. There is one rather difficult matter to settle in this connection, but I can assure the hon. Member that there is every desire to bring the scheme into operation at the earliest possible date. I 657 will pass over with very little comment certain matters which, in themselves, are of very great importance, which have been mentioned by various speakers, such as bantam battalions, pay of soldiers and officers, and other points of that kind, because they open up a very big question which cannot be settled in the course of a formal controversy across the floor of the House. The hon. Members who referred to officers' pay and the pay of soldiers, in stating the amounts, entirely ignored the very considerable allowances and other advantages which require to be converted into cash before you can make a fair comparison with Civil servants or wage-earners outside. The hon. Member for East Nottingham (Sir J. D. Pees) raised one or two matters in regard to which he asked for an answer. I noticed that he has been compelled to leave the Committee, but I will briefly refer to the questions upon which he desires to have a reply. He raised the question of codes, and he claimed that if our code rules had not been such as they are the Scarborough raid would not have been possible. If we were giving any considerable advantage to the enemy by our present system of codes I think the enemy would have used it for some operation of greater military significance than he did on the occasion referred to.
The hon. Member made an inquiry about the comfort of the Indian troops at the front. I have got such information as I can about that, and I can assure him that all their arrangements for food and health are in perfect working order, and he may be confident that there is no deficiency in that respect at all. I was told that one of these Indian soldiers, on being asked whether he was happy and comfortable, replied, "All wars are good, but this one is heaven." The hon. Member for East Nottingham may rest satisfied that nothing is omitted which can contribute to their comfort and more particularly to the observance of those points on which they have strong convictions. The hon. Member for East Edinburgh raised a question of the comfort of the troops at home, and he referred to a letter which appeared lately in the newspapers asking for various supplies of articles, the letter being written over the signature of Lady French. I have not seen that letter myself, but I understand that the invitation it contained was to make good the wastage in particular articles. I wish to say that our most recent information about the 658 supply of those articles at the front was that the quantity was so great that thousands had to be kept in the store. There is an apparent contradiction somewhere, but I think the difficulty is one that can easily be solved. I have no doubt Lady French is anticipating the inevitable wastage and is endeavouring to keep ahead of it. If my hon. Friend has any doubt I will have inquiries made to find out if there is any deficiency, and if there is it shall be speedily remedied.
The hon. Member further suggested some form of centralisation for these supplies. I think that suggestion is a good one, and I will see that it is not lost sight of. I will not venture upon the question of the tartan kilt, which was raised by the hon. Member for East Edinburgh. The advisory committee which he referred to has no connection with contracts. It is a committee to advise on organisation and it has no power, and I may say no desire, to express any opinion on the contract work of the War Office. I should like to say a word or two upon the matter raised by the hon. and learned Member for York. I was glad to hear the tribute he paid to the Army Pay Corps and the Army Pay Department. I think they have in the course of the last few months come in for a great deal of unmerited criticism and undeserved reproach, and it is indeed satisfactory to hear from him that everything is now going on smoothly, as far as the Army Pay Department is concerned. With regard to the question of promotion within the Army Pay Department, I think the hon. and learned Member will find a sufficient answer in the remarks I made on that subject last night in reply to the hon. Member for Devizes (Mr. Peto). I can give him the assurance that those fifty-eight assistant paymasterships are being filled up without any delay at all.
Then, with regard to the enlistment of civilians. I have replied on that point to the hon. Member for Bradford, who had a question this afternoon. The difficulty in the early stages, when pressure was greatest, was to keep just the necessary temporary fringe, so that it might be relied upon at the moment of highest pressure, but now things have settled down and the pressure is removed the restriction on enlistment has been very largely relaxed, and a very considerable number of civilians will be enlisted into the Army Pay Corps itself. I cannot pretend honestly to have covered nearly all the ground that has been traversed in the 659 course of the speeches made by hon. Members, but I think they will understand that is partly because it is difficult to reply extempore to the matters which have been raised, and partly because those matters are capable of better answer by correspondence or by conference. If I have omitted anything from my statement which hon. Members consider requires further treatment, I can only apologise and put it down to the difficulties of doing so in the course of Debate.
§ Mr. BUTCHER
Would the hon. Gentleman answer the question I put to him as to the pay of quartermasters and noncommissioned officers who are given commission rank. Will that question be considered?
§ Mr. CATOR
I wish to draw attention to a matter which is of very great interest to a comparatively small number serving at the front. I alude to the motor-car drivers. There are two classes of motorcar drivers—those engaged on transport work, who get 42s. per week, with separation allowance of various amounts and pension, and also those driving for the Red Cross Society, who obtain 35s., but have no chance of obtaining any allotment or separation allowance or pension. It is perfectly obvious that the Red Cross Society cannot afford to make these provisions for the men in their charge, and I do want to put forward a plea and ask the War Office to shoulder a burden which the Red Cross Society is not itself able to bear. There are something like 400 of these men at the present time driving for the Red Cross Society. Great pressure is put on these men to enlist, and many of them signed the contract which was put before them without realising that in the sixth paragraph at the end of the agreement they had contracted themselves out of any sort of claim to relief for their wives and children. I do not wish to pass any reflection upon any of the arrangements which the Red Cross Society may have seen fit to make. We are all grateful to the society for the work it has done, and we know the support given to the society by the public has been one of the wonderful features of the War. It is perfectly obvious that a society which 660 depends for its upkeep upon private benefactions is not able to make good the loss which may fall upon any of those who are serving at the front under them. I know that correspondence has taken place during the last few months, but it has not been renewed since a letter was written by the War Office early in December saying that the matter would receive the consideration of the War Office. I hope that they may see their way to shoulder this small burden. It only affects a few hundred, but they expect their wives and children to receive consideration.
§ Mr. MORRELL
I desire to draw attention to two or three cases which have not been referred to in this Debate, but which I think are cases of real hardship, though they affect comparatively small numbers of people. The first case is that of married men in local battalions who are billeted at home. These men joined the New Army at the outbreak of the War on the understanding that they would very soon be drafted to training centres, and ultimately, as was their ambition, go on foreign service. Many of them left excellent jobs in civil life, and in cases which have, come to my knowledge they are still in these local battalions billeted at home, receiving payment which compares very unfavourably with that which they received in civil life, and very unfavourably also with that of men who are in the ordinary training centres away from home. It is bound to have an effect on recruiting, and it is a real hardship which ought to be attended to by the War Office. Let me just give some figures. A soldier in a training centre pays his family 3s. 6d. a week, and his wife gets separation allowance if she has two children of about 17s. 6d., making £1 1s. a week. The man who is billeted at home receives only £1 1s. per week pay and billet, and in addition 6s. 5d. for light and fuel, so that his wife has to keep him in everything on 6s. 5d. a week. These men in these local battalions suffer, as I know by conversations with them, from a double sense of grievance. They are willing that they should receive less money than they receive in civil employment, but they are also receiving less than they would receive if they were sent away. It is no spirit of disaffection that these men make this complaint. They joined entirely from the highest motives, and all they ask is that they should either be sent forward, as they want to be, or that they should have terms of service while they remain at home which 661 correspond fairly with the terms of service of other men serving in training centres. I think, as they understood that billeting at home was temporary, the right remedy would be to send them away as soon as possible.
The next case is a difficult one. It is the case of a man who may be separated from his wife through no fault of his own, who has other dependants, and who is unable, because of the fact of being a married man, to give to those dependants the benefit which they would otherwise receive under the recent Army Order relating to the dependants of unmarried men. It is a difficult case and a small case. Let me give a single instance which has come within my own knowledge. I know a man who is now serving at the front in Egypt, a sergeant in the Territorials in my Constituency. Ten or twelve years ago this man made an unfortunate marriage. His wife deserted him. If he had been better off he would, no doubt, have got a divorce, but he did not get a divorce, and, as often happens, he found another woman who was willing to come and make a home for him. She has lived with him for ten years, and they have always passed as man and wife. He has had a most excellent position in the town. He has had children by her, and he has regarded her as his real wife. Being in the Territorials, and one of those who volunteered for foreign service, he has gone out to Egypt, but because he has a legal wife he is unable to provide for his real dependants, the woman and children whom he loves, and for whom he is anxious to provide. It may, of course, be said that he ought to have got a divorce, but it seems to me the intention of the country is to provide for the real dependants of a man who is abroad. His legal wife has no claim upon him. He has never paid her anything. It was simply an unfortunate marriage in his youth. I should have thought that the object of the new order would be, in the words of the Financial Secretary, "to bring the whole dependants into approximately the same position as they were in when the soldier was at home." If that is really the object of the country, then, where a man is separated from his wife through no fault of his own, his dependants should have the same benefit of separation allowance as they would have if he were an unmarried soldier. They ought not to be worse off because of an unfortunate marriage. I hope my hon. Friend will consider that point.
662 The last case to which I want to draw attention is that of men who are now training and are just about to go upon foreign service. According to the practice in the Army these men are generally given four or five days' leave in order that they may go home and see their families before they leave the country. It happens in many cases, as hon. Members will know from their own experience, that some men, if they are training far away in Scotland and have homes in England, cannot afford the railway fare to take them to see their wives and families before they leave. It does not seem to me much to ask that the country should afford one free railway fare to men who require it before they go away to risk their lives on foreign service, and I want to ask my right hon. Friend whether he could not consider the question of making some arrangement with the railway companies. I have given notice of a question on the point for tomorrow, but I raise it now in order to say that the matter is really one of hardship, and that I hope I may have a favourable answer.
§ Colonel YATE
I would like to express my regret that the Financial Secretary to the War Office was not able to give us this evening any information on those two important questions raised by the hon. Member for Middleton (Sir Ryland Adkins) with regard to raising bantam battalions and recruiting. There are in the large industrial centres of the Midlands a large number of men below the standard height who wish to enlist, and the Leicester Recruiting Committee, of which I am a member, asked permission of the War Office to raise a so-called "bantam battalion" in Leicester, but the War Office refused. I do not know whether the time has come to lower the standard, but there are a lot of very willing men who, although short in height, and not coming up to the 5 ft. 3 in standard, would enlist if they could, and, if the hon. Gentleman could have given us any information as to whether the War Office are willing to consider that matter, I think it would have afforded great satisfaction to the House. The hon. Member for Middleton, when talking about recruiting and other questions, pointed out, and rightly so, that the stimulus of the householder's return would very shortly be worked out. That is the case as regards England and Scotland, but it is not so in Ireland. There the householder's return has not yet been issued. But, bearing in mind that the 663 Irish regiments have done such splendid service in the War, we hope that the return will shortly be issued in Ireland, and that, as a result, we shall have a large influx of Irish recruits into our Army. I want also to say a word on the question of billeting. In the town of Northampton, for instance, we have never before had billeted such a large number of recruits, and it has been much appreciated. In Leicester the Recruiting Committee recommended to the War Office that a brigade, or, if possible, a division of troops, should be billeted there for a time. I am sure that the billeting of soldiers in places where uniformed men are very seldom seen must have an excellent effect on recruiting, and I trust that the War Office will take this matter into consideration and, if possible, give us some assurance on the subject. I am sorry the Under-Secretary could not give more definite information regarding the Volunteer Citizens' Training Leagues.
§ Colonel YATE
I am glad to hear that. I hope that something will be done to put these corps under the Territorial Associations. It may not be possible to supply them with a full military uniform, but I would suggest that they be given some kind of uniform; that there should be retired Regular officers appointed as brigadiers and major-generals; and that the force should, in fact, be brought into the regular organisation of the county, because thereby I believe you will secure the services of a very fine body of men.
§ Mr. J. M. HENDERSON
My right hon. Friend went carefully into most of the questions put to him in the course of this Debate and answered them very clearly, but he omitted some, and I do not wonder, bearing in mind the labour he has had to go through during the last few months. I think, indeed, we must all congratulate him on the amount of success he has achieved, and I would only ask him, in regard to a case which I mentioned, to undertake to have it inquired into fully and to deal with it himself. There is a question also I should like to put to the Financial Secretary. It is quite clear that there is a good deal of difficulty with regard to allowances and the decisions of the local pension committees. What I want to suggest is that there should be a final Court of appeal to fix the allowance to be made to a mother whose son or sons may be at the front. I have had a con- 664 siderable number of appeals made to me in cases of this nature. A mother has one or two sons at the front, and the pension officer has decided that she was not dependent upon them, and thereupon the local committee have refused to grant her any allowance whatever. I wrote to one pension officer asking him why he had decided that the mother was not dependent upon the son, and he simply replied that the local committee had given the decision and he must decline to say anything more. That seems to me to be very unsatisfactory, and I think there ought to be some body to which we can appeal as a final authority whether or not the mother is a dependant.
I agree with the hon. Member who said that the pension officer is not in all cases a satisfactory authority. The Financial Secretary has himself admitted that the local authorities are often not very satisfactory, so far as dealing with these questions are concerned. Therefore I urge there should be some body to act as a final Court of appeal and to decide whether a mother is a dependant, and to what allowance she is in consequence entitled. I have been appealed to in several cases with regard to unmarried mothers. I believe a Select Committee has decided that they are to be considered as dependants. There are a great many variations of the interpretation of its decision, but probably the best interpretation is that laid down by one of my hon. Friends, that the home should be kept going as in time of peace. I would like to refer to one extraordinary case where a married man has gone to the front. There are no children by the marriage, but he had an illegitimate child before marriage, and his wife also had a child before marriage. They have been married now for some time, and have lived happily together, but now he is at the front, his wife is unable to get any allowance in respect of either of these children who are, of course, dependent on her. I hope the Select Committee will deal with questions of that kind and apply the golden rule that the home shall be kept going.
There is another question and it is in regard to the comfort of those who are training in the various camps. It is said that they are not very comfortable in many cases. I congratulate my right hon. Friend on the Committee he has appointed to go and see how these camps are conducted, and I hope when they do go they will inquire particularly about the feeding. It may be the men get very excellent beef 665 and plenty of it, but if it is badly cooked they might just as well not have it. I would like to mention one little incident which I myself witnessed. I was standing in a London and South-Western Railway station one day when a number of young men arrived from a camp for the week-end. They were marching along together and someone in front called out, "Are we downhearted? Of course they cried out in reply "No." Then one young fellow shouted out, "Are we well fed," and the immediate response from the whole of them was "No." I do not say that that is sufficient evidence to act upon, but it is sufficient, at all events, to deserve the attention of the Committee, and I hope they will see to it that the men are well fed; that they have decently cooked food and comfortable quarters. I do not believe in harming men by giving them disease before they go to the front. I congratulate the right hon. Gentleman on the appointment of the Committee which, I think, may do a great deal of good.
§ Mr. MOUNT
I want to bring under the attention of the Financial Secretary a point with regard to allowances which, I think, has not so far been mentioned. It is the case in which a son is at the front and the father who is supporting the mother has died since the son enlisted. The father was the sole support of the mother, who is now dependent on a voluntary allowance made her by her son. But because she was not dependent upon him at the time of his enlistment, it has been held that she is not entitled to be treated as a dependant of the son and to have an allowance accordingly. I hope that attention will be given to this case.
§ Mr. THOMAS
There are one or two points I desire to deal with. I am afraid a remark of the right hon. Gentleman on Monday has caused not only some uneasiness, but has been misunderstood, and is calculated to do considerable harm. I do not think the right hon. Gentleman intended to suggest that the trade unions of this country were hampering the Government in any way—
§ Mr. THOMAS
I certainly did not understand the right hon. Gentleman to mean it, but from his remarks, and the way in which they are being interpreted by certain sections of the Press, the impression has got abroad that there is some 666 difference of opinion between the trade unions and the Government, and that the unions will not relax some of their rules. If there is one proud feature about this unfortunate War more than another, it is that no one section of the people can claim any monopoly of sacrifice. I have never hesitated to say that I appreciate to the full the action of men who have left lives of ease, comfort, and luxury and are doing their part equally with anyone else, and I think I am also justified in saying that the workers have responded magnificently. At the same time, no Member speaking for the Labour party, no one from these benches, can attempt to commit the trade unions of this country to any new policy. The simple fact is that the rules and regulations as to working conditions have been framed after a long struggle and, in many cases, as a result of bitter experience, and the trade unions would not, and rightly so in my opinion, relax easily any of those rules unless they had an absolute guarantee that the Government themselves would see that the rules were enforced after the War and that the relaxation would be taken advantage of.
Therefore I submit, if there is any point in which the War Office requires assistance or help, or where it thinks that the trade unions ought to come to its rescue, instead of dealing with the question on the floor of the House of Commons, those in authority should consult the responsible trade union, and I am perfectly satisfied they will show they are capable of appreciating the difficulty and doing their duty. But, unfortunately, the War Office itself is not free from blame. I have two letters here from a large trade union, the Boot and Shoe Operatives' Union, who have pleaded with the War Office to see that the Fair-Wages Clause is observed. A deputation waited upon the War Office, and said that, if necessary, they were prepared to agree to Sir George Askwith being called in, but the War Office entirely ignored their representations, and the result is that at this moment, while the War Office is paying one price for boots, where the Fair-Wage Clause is observed, the men are getting the conditions; but where it is not observed the manufacturer is pocketing the difference which ought to be paid to the workers in accordance with the Fair-Wage contract. I would urge the right hon. Gentleman to immediately clear up any misunderstanding in this matter. Although we may differ politically, and although socially there may be differences, there is not a man among us who doubts 667 that this War must be prosecuted to the end, and who does not agree that it can only be prosecuted by all sections of the people recognising their obligations and having a clear and proper understanding. Take the position of the railways. We talk about relaxing rules. The Board of Trade has a definite instruction, and rightly so, that all hours over twelve must be recorded. What has happened during the last five months? Forty, forty-five, and fifty hours have been and are being worked without a break by the railway men. Do you think for a moment that the great trade union, or that I, as a responsible official of the trade union, would allow that to go on in normal times? No, we should not think of it. Why are we doing it to-day? Because we recognise that every facility must be given to provide good transport for our troops. Instead of any suggestion being made that the trade unions are hampering the situation, I say that the trade unions at the present moment are giving every facility they can.
It is generally felt that at last Tommy Atkins is beginning to be recognised. It is an unfortunate fact, and one of the deterrents—one of the crimes in my opinion—that while we make men heroes at this stage while there is danger, when the excitement is over, when the drums have ceased to beat and these men have done their duty, we are apt to forget all about them. I hope the conditions will be made such that they will not be forgotten in the future, because no money can adequately repay these men for the services they are rendering us to-day. I submit that the War Office could without any difficulties arrange for free facilities being given to the men to visit their friends. I had a case brought to my notice this morning where a man who was a Reservist was called up and was stationed at Leith. He was an ex-railway man, and his duty was primarily to train other troops. His wife was a very brave woman, and knowing that he was suffering and wishing that he should not be burdened with trial and sorrow, she actually kept from him the fact that she was seriously ill. He got to know of it privately, because her sister wrote and told him that his wife was very ill, and that he had better come home. He made application, and leave was granted him for five days, but he had to pay 32s., or the equivalent of six weeks of his wages. He went home and unfortunately found his wife was dead. 668 That aggravates the matter. In circum stances like these there ought at least to be free travelling facilities. Take the case of the married men, and the social difference that exists. I said just now that men met on an equal footing, rich and poor alike, but the rich man has the advantage that he can always pay his fare home and his friends can always come and see him. He is never under a disadvantage.
It is unfair that this disparity should exist, especially when the railways at the present moment are under Government control. It would be a simple and an easy matter, and it would not be a costly matter, but it would give general satisfaction if these men, who may never return, who are risking their lives and who are perhaps leaving England for the last time, were given a free opportunity of visiting their wives and children. I beg the War Office to recognise that this would give satisfaction. It would be appreciated by the men. It is not too much to ask this Government to do it, because I am justitified in saying that if a Division were taken on the point no party would be divided. It would not be a question of Labour, Liberal, or Conservative, for the House of Commons would say that this is the least that we have a right to expect, and we all wish it to become operative. The Government ought to recognise that we are not forcing a Division on the matter, and they ought to accept what would be the general wish of the House of Commons. I put first the point that the trade unions of this country are proud of the work they are doing. They recognise that we are engaged in a war unprecedented in history. They have proved that they are prepared to do their part, but they ask in return for a free, full and frank recognition of the organisations they have built up. I hope that before we are able to raise this question again, if the right hon. Gentleman cannot do it. Lord Kitchener himself will recognise what the House of Commons would look upon as a duty and the country would appreciate, and will see that free travelling-facilities are provided for our brave fellows who are serving their country.
§ Mr. HAYES FISHER
I should like to join in the appeal most eloquently put forward by the last speaker. When the history of this War comes to be read, no body of men will emerge with greater credit from all the proceedings of this War and its preparations than the railwaymen 669 of this country. I only hope that the time has come when, having sunk so many of our differences, the railwaymen may be found within measurable distance of obtaining some recognition of their long outstanding claims. I rose chiefly to thank the Under-Secretary of State for War for a statement which I am quite sure will have given the deepest satisfaction to this Committee and all those who read his speech—the satisfaction we all derive from knowing on his authority that this country is living up to the very highest standard of the rules laid down by The Hague Convention for the treatment of prisoners. We have heard from him to-day that as regards the pay, clothing, feeding and quarters, and even as regards the amenities, we are fulfilling the very highest standard of The Hague Convention. I wish to make this suggestion to the right hon. Gentleman: That speech will be read by a certain number of people in this country, but a statement of that kind deserves far wider publicity than will be given to it by the OFFICIAL REPORT, or any of the newspapers of this country. A statement of that kind ought to be made in such a way and on such authority that it will be made known on the highest possible authority to all neutral countries, and then we hope that by making it known to all neutral countries, Germans who are always willing to listen to the truth may know on the highest possible authority of the very favourable treatment which is being afforded to German prisoners in this country. I believe that it is by those means, and by living up to the highest standards ourselves, that we shall gradually induce Germany to live up to a similarly high standard as regards the treatment of British prisoners. At present they fall far short of that.
We are glad to know that the United States has put forward a proposal, and has gone even further than proposing it, and has actually appointed quartermasters and officers of that kind to inspect all the British prisoners of war interned in Germany. I hope that at a later date the right hon. Gentleman, or the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, may be able to tell the House not only that the United States has made this very practical proposal, but that Germany is at last ready to entertain it. I am afraid we are a long way from that at present, but it would be useful if some statement could be made to this House before long as to how far Germany is ready to adopt the proposal made by the United States. I cannot help 670 thinking that continuous pressure ought to be brought to bear, both by ourselves and by all neutral countries acting together, to see that every one of the belligerents acts up to the highest dictates of The Hague Conference, which was signed by every Power, including Germany. Much remains to be done, and I hope the right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues will not lose sight of this question, but will make a further statement upon it at some time, when they have a little more knowledge than they have acquired at present, as to how Germany will take the proposals of the United States.
§ Mr. JOHN WARD
I wish to say a word on one or two points which have not been raised during the Debates of the last three days. With reference to the housing of the men, the War Office must be well acquainted with the fact that there have been notable cases in which great public works have been carried out in different, parts of the country during the last twenty or twenty-five years in connection with which it has been necessary to house, in some cases, as many as 2,000 and 3,000 men and their families. I have no doubt that if the War Office had had a greater opportunity of going into the subject, and had not been forced to take emergency action, they would have done the thing much better than they have. With regard to the hutting of the men, there is a new system called the Pritchard system of hutting, which is quite a modern thing. I do not think the idea has been patented for more than a few months.
No doubt the difficulty of the War Office in housing the men has caused architects and business men, such as those who have this business in hand, to devise ways and means by which men can be housed in healthy huts at less expense. I myself have seen the system, which is a very fine thing. It appears to be very simple indeed, and it seems that you can cart it about anywhere with very little difficulty. While I can quite understand that the War Office could not have adopted it in the early stages of the proceedings—I am not complaining of that, as I know the difficulty, because I am trying myself to house a battalion, and I can imagine what the difficulty is when you are trying to house hundreds and thousands of the battalions, and that in the emergency they had to do the best they could, and I have no doubt they did their best, it is quite clear that very intelligent brains have been applied to the subject, and I hope the War Office 671 will tell us that they are keeping their eye on these new developments. I believe the system I have mentioned might be found useful at the front, where the ordinary housing accommodation is almost impossible, and where you cannot put your men in tents. I believe the Pritchard system can be fitted up almost as easily as tents, and that the men would have better quarters, quite superior to anything you can get under canvas. I know nothing about the people, but I have seen the thing, and I am satisfied with it. I do not know whether it is expensive or not, but it is a simple idea for housing men under conditions that are perfectly healthy and reasonable.
An hon Member said he hoped the country would not forget Tommy Atkins when the War was over. I thought that my self in 1900. But when I got into this House I found that Tommy Atkins was quite forgotten by 1906 and by Gentlemen who, I should have thought, would have remembered him more closely and more often than they did. I believe that for some years I have been about the only man on this side of the House who has insisted on the necessity of Labour Members, in particular, recognising their duty to the common soldier, even while they may not wish to see armies as armies established, recognising that these men come from the class to which we belong, and that they are fighting the nation's battles and performing a necessary function in modern society and modern government, and that if we neglect to look after their interests we could not expect any other class in the community to do so.
I am not going to make any complaints I have received, nor am I going to make any complaint about payment, or anything of that kind, except for one observation. From my own correspondence bag, and I have had some thousands of letters on the subject, I have never heard one-quarter of the complaints about the amount of the allotment and the assistance that is given as I have about the delay and the difficulty that occurs in getting the allotments. That has been the main burden of the song so far. I should imagine that on the average the allotments now, especially if the proposals of the Committee are carried into effect in their entirety, not misinterpreting the intentions of the Committee, but giving the most generous interpretation to 672 them, are quite fair. I was in a little post-office in a locality which I think the Financial Secretary will know something about, some months ago, and two women came in for their allotment pay. One was to receive 24s.—her husband was an engineer—and the other 19s. 6d. That was the sum her husband had allowed her, and the sum which was allowed for herself and her children. I remember making this observation to her as I was buying a pennyworth of chocolate. I said. "Is that sufficient to keep you?" and she said—and these are the cases which ought to be told as well as the others—"Well, Sir, when my old man is at home he earns, working on the farm, 14s. a week. Now that he has gone and joined the Army I get 19s. 6d. a week without having to keep him." I said, "Then you seem to be getting on fairly well." She said, "I wish the War would last for ever, so long as my old man did not get killed." No matter how powerful economically our State is, it could not recoup to every soldier who has joined the national Army what he has lost by joining the Service. That would be utterly impossible. The thing to do is to get as near the average as you possibly can of what is fair under the circumstances, and I think the Committee have arrived pretty much at that condition of affairs.
There is one subject that I especially rose to refer to. We have been asked as trade unionists to assist in the recruiting. We are asking by this Vote for 3,000,000 men. It is a very large number, and I do not know whether the Committee have any idea that they will secure the men. I should imagine that they are getting well on towards that figure even now. But the trade unions were asked last night to take a hand in the actual recruiting and to use their organisation for the purpose. It may be of interest to hon. Members to hear what is the result of an attempt to do that by my own society. So far as the raising of the pioneer battalion of navvies connected with public works is concerned, the utmost attention, the greatest consideration and every possible assistance has been given until you come to the point of recruiting. You would imagine that all the recruiting officers all over the country were most anxious to get recruits by hook or by crook, anyhow, so long as the men were fit. Not so. You try and you will find that you will make the greatest mistake you ever made in your lives if you imagine that. The recruiting department, 673 apparently even now, is the only department of the War Office that is still throttled with red-tape. The society issued a circular to its branches indicating that on and after a certain day we should be ready to receive men if there were any prepared to enlist in their different localities, giving them a leaflet as to the terms of engagement and pay, etc., as laid down by the War Office. Of course, if there are some who leave their work in the interval, we hope they will not hunt about for a job, but will enlist even before the day, if necessary, rather than start another job and be lost to the battalion. It so happened that in this few days' interval scores of men have applied to enlist all over the country in this special battalion. It is only in the case, I think, of Edinburgh that a single enlisting officer has dared to enlist one of these men.
We have had letters all over the country from men who have actually been to the enlisting office three days, one after the other, and they are informed on every occasion that they really do not know that there is such a thing as a Pioneer Battalion. They had not been told anything about it. The lists of refusals to enlist anywhere come from such places as Maidstone, Swansea, Stoke-on-Trent. My own locality refused to enlist anybody into the battalion, although notices have been published in the papers, merely because they had not received some notice that they say they ought to have received from the War Office that there is such a battalion in existence. I do not know the reason. Here is a letter from Nottingham:—Dear Sir,—On seeing the notice relating to recruits being wanted for the Pioneer Battalion, and stating also that, we could enlist at any depot, I tried at Nottingham to enlist, but I was told they had not got permission to enlist for that battalion at all. In fact, they would not believe there was such a regiment. All I had to show them was our notice to convince them. But that did not matter; they would not enlist me, and I lost a day's work through it as well. You might, be kind enough to let me know whether there is any place in the country where I could enlistThat is an awful exhibition of recruiting, or want of recruiting. I do not know whether this is not nearly the first case in which a society has connected itself with the formation of a special battalion. It can get the men but it cannot go all over the country to enlist them itself, and it cannot pay their fares to come to some headquarters. It must be arranged that these men can go where they are working on the orders of our branches and enlist there and be sent on to us at our depot, and if the right hon. Gentleman can assist us 674 in making it known that the camp is now nearly ready and capable of receiving a company or two at once, and that the enlisting officers now ought to receive the men if they present themselves for enlistment, he would greatly assist us, at least in that part of it with which I am personally connected.
§ Mr. TENNANT
I can assure my hon. Friend that I will of course do what he asks me, and bring to the notice of the Recruiting Department of the War Office the fact which he has just made known, that his battalion is apparently unknown in some parts of the country, and I will endeavour to secure facilities for intending I recruits that they shall be enlisted into this battalion, and facilities given for them to travel to its headquarters. I will also bring to the notice of the proper Department in the War Office the Pritchard huts which he mentioned. I promised my hon. Friend (Mr. Hogge) that I would reconsider the case of a private in a Scotch force, and as I did that privately to him I did not think it necessary to make it in Debate. But since he has asked me to make public mention of it, I do so now, and I will make a further examination into that case. I should also like to say to my hon. Friend that the case of tartan, which he brought before the notice of the House, shall be carefully considered, and that I, as a Scotchman, feel that it would be very unfortunate indeed if a Highland regiment were to be even considered to be going to abandon that classical and national dress. With regard to "bantam battalions," I can only tell the House what I have already done, which is to secure the consent of the War Office to the enlistment of several such battalions, and the only reason for the refusal in the case which was mentioned—that of Edinburgh—was that there were several battalions of the Royal Scots which were still not up to strength, and we were anxious to get them filled before we embarked upon something fresh. I think that was a natural and a proper policy. With regard to separation allowances for unmarried wives, I can only say that such hard cases are, of course, very exceptional, and we might go a long way before finding a man who had married a woman who had illegitimate children prior to her marriage. Of course, cases of that kind are very difficult to meet, and I suggest to the House that these are cases which ought to be brought individually to our notice. The time of Parliament is 675 really meant for larger and more widespread things than such individual cases.
The hon. Member (Mr. J. H. Thomas) made a speech, I cannot help thinking, because he had not listened to a speech of an hon. Friend of his made yesterday. If the hon. Member had only been present to hear what I had to say earlier to-day I do not think there would have been any necessity for him to make the final observation he made. I repeat now the appeal I made to my hon. Friends below the Gangway in my original speech. I never had any idea at the back of my head such as the hon. Member suggests with regard to the trade unions of this country, nor did I give expression to such an idea. Reference has been made to the case of the man with two wives. I shall look into the matter, and I cannot do more than that. In regard to the question of billeting, I will engage to look into that matter also. If I have omitted to reply upon any of the points which have been raised, the House will understand that we can look up the speeches as reported in the OFFICIAL REPORT and address to hon. Members the observations which we should have made had they been present. As they are not present, it is better to reply by letter. I would appeal to the House to come to a decision now upon this Vote.
§ Sir ALFRED MOND
There is just one point to which I wish to refer, namely, the separation allowances made to dependants. It is a matter which has not been covered by any previous speaker so far as I have heard the Debate. Cases have been brought before me where a son had made an allotment in favour of his mother, and where the employer of the son also granted an allowance to the mother whose son was at the front. Details of the cases have been sent to me from my Constituency, and they show that the pension officer apparently reduced the allowance to a small sum or gave nothing at all on the ground that the employer was making an allowance to the mother and that the State ought to contribute nothing. I feel certain that this was never intended by the Government, and certainly it was never intended by the employers who are voluntarily making allowances out of their own pockets. I would ask the Under-Secretary whether some general direction could not be given to pension officers that any allowances made by employers in cases of this kind should not be considered in making the Government allotment. I do 676 not wish to take up time in going into the details of every one of the three cases. There would be a considerable amount coming from the Government to the mothers on the allotments by the sons. The son undoubtedly, in making the allotment, is under the impression that by doing so he would secure for his mother the Government Grant which has been mentioned in the various Papers issued. This matter may have much wider application than in the three cases which have been brought to my notice. I feel quite certain that it is not the intention of the Government to try to save money out of the generosity of the employers. Employers will not be encouraged to go on making special grants of this character if the only result is that the Government allotment is not paid. It is extremely probable that pension officers may consider that in taking this course they are following the precedent set by boards of guardians, which in many instances have taken into consideration the pensions and allowances received in cases where application is made for Poor Law relief. I think the matter is of considerable importance, and that is the reason why I have ventured to bring it before the House.
§ Mr. MORTON
I am glad that my hon. Friend the Member for East Edinburgh has been able to elicit from the Under-Secretary an answer in regard to the kilt of Scottish soldiers. I was sorry to hear that he has not considered the matter, and I hope he will give it fair consideration, because it is one of some moment to the Scottish people, and especially to Scottish Highlanders. I wish to draw attention to the treatment which has been given to some men from Scotland who were attacked with measles. I had a communication from Sutherland to-day informing me that a number of able-bodied men from that county who were in camp at Bedford had been subjected to treatment which was not exactly what it ought to be. They were taken away from warm houses when suffering from measles and driven in open carts to camp some distance away. They were thus exposed to the severity of the weather. Everyone who knows, anything about measles knows that the worst thing that can be done is to take the patient away from a warm room and expose him to cold. They ought to be kept free from such a risk until they feel thoroughly well. I hope my hon. Friend will make inquiry as to the treatment the men received in these cases.
§ Mr. TENNANT
I take this opportunity of saying that these cases have given us the greatest anxiety and that we feel most distressed that these young lives should have been lost in this way. I must say that the men were unconscionably treated. The matter has been carefully investigated, and cases of this nature are being quite differently dealt with now. My hon. Friend may rest assured that no dereliction of duty or anything of that kind will occur again.
§ Mr. MORTON
I am very glad that I have obtained the answer which my right hon. Friend has just given, and pleased to know that the authorities are now doing what is right and proper in the matter. I asked a number of questions last night to which I received no answer. One was with regard to furlough, and another was with regard to allowances. I do not mention these things in any spirit of complaint. We are doing all we can, I hope, to assist the Government, but the questions were put in public and in good faith, in order to have these matters decided. I am especially glad to think that I put the question with regard to the cases of measles, and I am sure that the reply of the right hon. Gentleman will give general satisfaction.
§ Question put and agreed to.
§ PAY, ETC., OF THE ARMY.
§ Resolved, "That a sum, not exceeding £1,000, be granted to His Majesty, to defray the expense of the pay, etc., of His Majesty's Army (including Army Reserve) at home and abroad (exclusive of India), which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1916."
§ Committee report Progress; to sit again to-morrow (Thursday).
§ The remaining Orders were read, and postponed.