§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read the third time."
§ Mr. KING
By arrangement with the representative of the Board of Education, and, I believe, also with his fullest approval and support, I take this opportune of bringing before the House a question which in various ways has been brought before the House and the country frequently during the past few years, and again during this time of war. I may state the issue which I wish to present to the House by calling to mind the visible fact which every Member of this House has before him and which he can see every time he steps out upon the Terrace. On the other side of Westminster Bridge there is rising a great building costing between £2,000,000 and £3,000,000. When the War broke out that building had been in abeyance: not a stone had been laid, and no expenditure had been put out on it for many months. As soon as the War started the work was taken up and has proceeded from day to day. At this time the London County Council are spending hundreds of thousands of pounds upon it—I suppose I may fairly say £2,000,000—on a large, luxurious building for their own members and officials. At the same time they have been to the Treasury and have claimed the right to stop all the provisions which have been promised for years on behalf of school accommodation for the children of London. Their own luxurious expenditure goes on, and the expenditure which was declared by the Board of Education to be absolutely essential for the child life of this Metropolis has stopped altogether. I protest against this. I protest against unabated expenditure on luxury for the rich and an entire neglect and prohibition of expenditure on education for the poor. This is a very large and a very serious question.
The facts which I shall endeavour to state briefly are as follows: For the past ten or twelve years there has been about two and a quarter millions spent upon the erection of schools, and land on which to erect schools, and the enlargement of schools. That two millions a year has been our steady average expenditure. In spite of this fact there has been, all this time, a steady decline, relatively to the population, in the accommodation for the children, and also in the number of the children actually accommodated in the 2002 schools. In fact, we may state it thus: and I am speaking now only of the elementary schools, though the same would be true if you take into consideration the fact that there are more school places in the secondary schools, though they do not make up for the deficiency in the elementary schools—but the fact remains that at the present time there is a deficiency of accommodation for school children compared with what there was in 1901. Between the Census of 1901 and 1911 there was an increase of 5½per cent, in the school population—that is of children of school age—and as a fact in the increase of children who might attend school there was a greater increase. In connection with the birth rate there was an increased rate in the ages of children available to go to school, because as the years have gone on the rate of infantile mortality has so abated, and has been successfully decreased, that the number of children who arrive at school age is greater in proportion of the birth rate than it was twelve years ago. In spite of this fact we have actually a reduction of children attending school in England in several of the years under review.
I might quote at considerable length the statistics which are given on pages 18 and 19 of the last statistical volume of the Board of Education, but I abstain from doing so. I simply call them to mind so that the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Education may realise I am using figures which the Board of Education themselves supply. The fact is that in spite of a steady increase of child population every year of 60,000, and in spite of a decreased rate of infant mortality, we have fewer children relatively at school than twelve years ago. This is an extraordinary state of things, especially in view of the increasing importance of our skilled industries. Why is it that Germany is so successful in the War? Apart from her organisation, apart from her elaborate preparations, there is one fact, at any rate, that none can deny—the admirable system of education which provides a large supply of skilled workers in all their industries. That supply is deficient in our country, and it will be increasingly deficient as years go on, unless our education is improved; and if, during the period of this War, instead of improving our education, we let it go further and further into the background, when peace comes and we have to regain our position in the markets of the world, not only will 2003 commerce and the position of our country as a whole suffer, but as regards the position of the working classes themselves, whose one asset might have been that the youthful population had been sufficiently well educated for the struggle of life we are doing a bad turn, unless we keep up education at the present time. I make this fact prominent, and I can quote another figure from the Board of Education's Return.
In the upper standards of schools there has been an enormous reduction in the numbers attending. There has been a large development in higher standards and extra subjects, and yet, in spite of that, in ten years there has been an actual decrease of scholars above fourteen of no less than 70 per cent. The result is that we are sending children out of school far earlier than we did, and in those important technical works which are essential for our commerce, if we are to compete after the War with highly educated countries like America, Switzerland, and Germany, we are not only falling rapidly behind, but, so far as I see, it is the negligent permission of the Board of Education that we should continue to fall still further behind. I want to ask the Board of Education what they intend to do. Are they actually going to allow all those provisions which were promised for the children of England to give them a good start in life to be thrown aside? They do not stop at expenditure here. A magnificent Tea Room has been built for ourselves since the War began.
§ Mr. KING
Which they will not even use. A quite unnecessary expenditure, in my opinion, has been carried out in Westminster Hall. A large expenditure across the bridge for the hall of the London County Council has never been proposed to be stopped, but yet absolutely essential requirements of the child-life of London are thrown aside at once. I protest against this policy, and I protest against the short-sighted policy of the Board of Education, the Treasury, and the Government, and for my part, so long as I have a seat in this House, I shall continue to protest against education being the first thing that is to suffer, while luxury is allowed to continue. I am going to point out to the Board of Education what I think they might do. The problem really is very largely one of 2004 providing school buildings. There is no deficiency in teachers, or none comparatively speaking, and certainly, after the War, when the teachers who have enlisted return, there will be an adequate supply of teachers; but whether there be, as my hon. Friend opposite would suggest, not the supply of school teachers that is necessary, there is, at any rate, a very great and recognised deficiency in the supply of school buildings.
In many parts of the country there is an absolute lack of school buildings, which has been largely increased by the fact that half a million children are probably now dispossessed of their school buildings by the War Office. Over 1,000 schools have been commandeered by the War Office. If those schools average in their attendance 250 each, that is a quarter of a million dispossessed, and the way they treat this problem is to put those dispossessed children for half-time into the schools which are not commandeered by the War Office. Thus the children in those schools which are not commandeered also suffer by only being given half time, the result being that there are probably no less than half a million children at the present time who are dispossessed, at any rate, of part of their education by the action of the War Office. Now, if we had plenty of school buildings, instead of the great deficiency at the present moment, the whole of this great problem might have been adequately, or, at any rate, easily treated in a way that is not possible at present; but, if we are going to continue allowing the population to increase, allowing the schools to get out of repair, allowing schools that are unhealthy to become more unhealthy—if we are to do nothing whatever to enlarge, improve and make healthy the school buildings of our country, the problem is going from bad to worse. Let me give an illustration which will make the House realise the really serious problem with which I am trying to grapple. The London County Council has just reduced its votes in every possible direction in connection with economy. I do not complain of that, and I would commend them still more if they would stop the buildings on the other side of Westminster Bridge. They have actually cut down their estimates for cleaning school buildings by £66,000.
§ Mr. KING
I would only point out that a tendency—no doubt a right one—is evidently developing in all local authorities towards economy, and I do not want them to stop there; but, if we are in every direction to economise in the public elementary schools, we not only deprive our children of school places in which to be taught, but we also deprive them of the one healthy, clean place where they can pass many hours of the day. I will, however, now suggest to the Board of Education certain lines upon which, I think, they might proceed. I hope they will not, in the first place, say to all local authorities that come to them and ask for permission to enlarge a building, improve a building, or put up a building where none now exists but is urgently wanted, that no such work is to be carried out. If they do so, in my opinion they will only be making things more difficult later on. Let them suggest first of all that, if possible, temporary buildings should be acquired, rather than put up new buildings. Let them acquire either huts or iron buildings, or buildings such as they do not always recognise, and let them recognise temporary buildings with a greater freedom and for a greater length of time than has been their practice formerly. Let them also allow loans or gifts of buildings to be accepted in a way that has not been possible before. If a man gives a building, or lends convenient premises for the purposes of a hospital or for billeting soldiers, we say he does a patriotic act. In my opinion it is just as patriotic to lend or to give a building for a school, and, even though the building may not be of the very class that is required by the rules and regulations and building by-laws of the Board, let them, at any rate, do everything they can to facilitate the holding of education classes in temporary and private buildings.
Then let me suggest that the hiring of buildings might be carried on under much greater freedom than before. Buildings that have been hired for temporary schools have been under all sorts of conditions as to sanitary arrangements, playground, access, and so on, which have been particularly inquired into. I want to ask that those rules should be relaxed to the greatest possible extent, and that any building at all suitable that requires to be hired will not be prevented from being made accessible for education because of such technical rules as have been applied, quite rightly, in previous times. Further, I want especially to urge that the build- 2006 ing rules themselves should be relaxed in connection with what I may call the standard of building. When the Board of Education authorises a building to be put up at the present time, it practically says that the building shall be built with such solidity and on such a style that its life shall be fifty years. I think it is unnecessary at this time to demand anything of a building more than it should be good presumably for twenty or twenty-five years. The result would be a very great economy. I want most seriously to ask the Board of Education if they cannot revise their building rules and conditions, and that, if they will not permanently revise them, they will at any rate issue emergency rules and regulations which, during the period of the War, would permit schools to be used and schools to be put up on. conditions far less onerous and costly than has previously been the case. Whenever a demand for school buildings is pressed upon them, or whenever the inspectors report that school places are deficient, I want the Board of Education to take into consideration the conditions of the building trade in that particular locality. I am informed that in certain parts of the country it is extremely likely that those in the building trade will be unemployed during this winter, and that amongst the various trades which will more or less pass from a state of feverish activity to a state of more or less intermittent employment the building trade would be one of the first to suffer. I suggest that the Board of Education might specially instruct their inspectors to look out for districts where there is a deficiency of school accommodation and an actuality of unemployment in the building trade. If they do this they will be relieving unemployment and at the same time looking after the interests of education. I might call the attention of the House to the repeated warnings that have been issued, I believe, in every public speech of Lord Haldane since he left his exalted seat on the Woolsack, in which he has urged the absolute duty of economy in every department of public and private expenditure and the absolute duty of continuing education as a public service even in war time, and so preparing by public education for the building up of our prosperity and national life when peace is secured. In the spirit in which those warnings have been given I wish to add my own warning and protest.
2007 There is one fact which does not appear to be sufficiently realised by Members of this House, and it is that since the year 1902, the acute year of educational controversy, only one problem in education has really been grappled with and solved, and that is the problem of the braining colleges. That difficulty was left in 1902 as hard as any other problem in education, but it was solved by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who, to my mind, is one of the most capable administrators on the Treasury Bench. The right hon. Gentleman accomplished this by giving a small Grant to local authorities. By these small Grants we encouraged every authority either to build or take a share in its own training college. The result is, that even if you have not school teachers enough you certainly have sufficient accommodation in the training colleges, and that problem was solved by the simple expedient of a really very small building Grant. I want the Board of Education to consider whether a similar policy of a building Grant from national funds to supply more school places might not be considered. I know that to propose any new Grant at the present time is a venturesome policy to take, but I am perfectly convinced that it would be a justifiable expenditure, and the proposal of a small building Grant has, in times past, solved educational questions as hard as this. I am convinced that there is no problem in our educational system at the present time which is more worthy of spending money upon and more necessary to grapple with than this articular question. The suggestions I have made I hope will be considered patiently, as I have patiently gone over the facts upon which they are based. I hope they will be considered not in the spirit of party and not in a cheese-paring sense, but with a wide outlook over the educational interests of the country and the preparations which we are bound to make for building up again our national system after the War.
§ The PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY to the BOARD of EDUCATION (Mr. Herbert Lewis)
My hon. Friend has complained that the provision of school accommodation has not kept pace with the number of children enumerated in the Census of 1901 and the Census of 1911, and he supposes that that is due to the inadequate provision of school buildings. I hope to be able to convince my hon. Friend that the case is by no means so bad as he has 2008 made out. The hon. Member has accused the Board of Education with considerable warmth of having conduced by its negligence to the state of affairs which he has described. I regret that expression, because we all know how deeply the hon. Member is interested in the education of the young children of this country. The hon. Member stated that the school population of the country between 1901 and 1911 increased by about 5½ per cent., whereas the actual number on the register only increased by about 3 per cent., but may I draw his attention to the fact that the figures of average attendance in public elementary schools in England and Wales for 1901 and 1911 have increased by no less than 460,000 in the course of those ten years. That is an increase of about 9 per cent. The hon. Member also told us that the average school population had increased in the same period by 5 per cent., but I am able to show that the actual attendance of children in the schools has increased by 460,000 in ten years, that is to say 9 per cent. That does not look as if the Board of Education and the local education authorities have not been doing their duty. I admit that the increase in the number on the registers-only amounts to 3 per cent., but I wish to point out that that is due to the decrease in the number of children under five years of age who have been excluded from school, not for lack of room, but upon other grounds. If you exclude the children under five years of age from your computation you will find, comparing the two years to which the hon. Gentleman has referred, an increase in the number on the registers amounting to no less than. 8 per cent. I hope, therefore, that my hon. Friend will feel that so far as school, attendance at any rate is concerned there is not much left to be desired.
Reference was made to the older children, and it was stated that scholars over fourteen years of age had decreased to the extent of 70 per cent. I am glad to assure the House that that is not the case, for, as a matter of fact, the decrease has only been 23 per cent., and that is mainly due to the larger number of older children who have entered the secondary schools. My hon. Friend referred to infantile mortality, but I should like to remind him that the number of children born in England and Wales has steadily decreased during the past twelve years. In 1903 there were 948,000 births, but in 2009 1914 that number had fallen to 879,000. My hon. Friend stated that there had been some improvement in the death-rate. That is quite true, but the improvement to which he refers by no means counteracts the steady decline in the birthrate. Reference has been made to the tables which the Registrar-General has prepared upon what is called effective fertility in the reports published for 1912 and 1913, in which it is stated that we have now to count on a smaller number of children arriving at the age of five years. If we find that the number of children reaching the age of five years is reduced year by year—the age at which they are required to attend school—that, I can assure my hon. Friend, is due not to the extraordinary causes which he has suggested, and it is certainly not due to any lack of provision of places for children or to any deficiency in the regulations requiring them to attend school, but it is the natural result of fewer children having been born five years before that period, and the diminution of births having been so marked as to render it impossible for medical skill to counteract it. The question is a somewhat complicated one, but I shall be very glad to go into this matter with my hon. Friend. The hon. Gentleman also referred to the number of schools which have been commandeered, and he stated that this process had been carried out to such an extent that there were no less than 500.000 children out of school at the present time.
§ Mr. LEWIS
My hon. Friend asked a question on the 20th April, and in reply the late President of the Board of Education informed him that at that time there were 243 schools containing 131,000 children which had been commandeered for Army purposes, and provision had been made for all those children except about 6,000. Since then the number of schools occupied for military purposes has been considerably decreased. My hon. Friend may rest assured that the figure of half a million which he has given, if he will excuse me for putting it in that way, is wildly inaccurate, because it is not anything like that at the present time. My hon. Friend referred to the general lack of provision of school buildings, but I cannot believe that there is really any difficulty of accommodation at the present time except in a few places. I think it 2010 will be found on inquiry that there is ample accommodation in all parts of the country for the children who desire to attend school, with the exception of a comparatively small number of places, and that those children are accommodated infinitely better than they were accommodated in the past. It is possible that there may be a few places where there are from time to time difficulties in catching up the growth of population or in replacing buildings as they become out of date, but that does not seriously affect the main condition that, generally speaking, throughout the country the accommodation for children is ample and adequate.
§ Mr. LEWIS
I said "in certain places," and there may be districts in London in which at the present time the accommodation is not altogether everything that could be desired; but, speaking broadly, I would venture to say that throughout the country the accommodation is adequate. If there are serious arrears of accommodation in some places, those no doubt will in course of time be dealt with by special measures. My hon. Friend made some suggestions as to the way in which the present condition of affairs might be improved. He said that it was desirable to encourage loans and gifts of buildings for this purpose. I only hope in the course of the War and afterwards that we shall find many public-spirited individuals and institutions who will be ready to come forward and take a patriotic share in the work of providing education for the children. My hon. Friend suggested that temporary buildings might be used for this purpose, and he referred to movable buildings. Some movable buildings are, I believe, in use at the present time. I am afraid that some of the older types of movable buildings are not very desirable, but I believe there are some of the modern types that can be used with considerable advantage. Buildings of that character, however, ought certainly only to be used under special circumstances. My hon. Friend also referred to the desirability of erecting cheaper buildings that would last about twenty or twenty-five years. There is much to be said for that suggestion. At any rate, it is not one 2011 that should be dismissed off-hand. It certainly does possess one advantage. A school whch is built only to last twenty or twenty-five years, while it might provide everything that is required in respect of light, ventilation, and the general amenities of a good school building of a modern type, would be very much easier to replace by a better building at the end of that time than a solid building intended to last fifty years. That, however, is a question upon which I, of course, can make no authoritative announcement at the present time, but I can assure my hon. Friend that the question shall be carefully considered.
I am not so sure about the suggestion that the building rules should be temporarily relaxed. I almost think it would be more desirable to postpone building altogether than to assent to any great relaxation of the rules which now regulate the building of schools. There is, after all, a great deal of difference between taking a temporary building, which you have to get rid of, and deliberately putting up an inferior building which will have to last for many years. I would ask my hon. Friend, as one who is very deeply interested in education and in providing for the children sufficient light and air and floor space, sufficient cubic space in which to breathe, to remember that the standards which have been attained have only been attained gradually inch by inch and after years of struggle. I venture to say that none of those minima to which I have referred can be said to be extravagant, and to drop them in a panic would be a deplorable policy to adopt. As long as we maintain our standards the progress which we have made will not be lost, and on the whole I am inclined to think that it would be desirable to postpone building rather than to abate the standards upon which the health of the children of the nation so closely depends. My hon. Friend referred to one or two other questions, such as building Grants. That, of course, is obviously a matter into which I cannot possibly enter. It is a question which will have to be decided hereafter, if and when it shall appear to be necessary, by the Treasury. All I can say is that in that respect, as in all others, the suggestion which my hon. Friend has made will be carefully considered. I can assure him that, however severely he has criticised the Board of Education upon 2012 this occasion, we all recognise the spirit and the motive which prompt him in the speech which he has just delivered.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
I want to ask a question about military matters. I am informed, and I believe my information is correct, that a very large number of recruits who are unfit, either by reason of bodily infirmities or by being under age, are being passed into the Army, and I am told that the method of payment made to civilian doctors is that for every recruit they pass they receive 2s. 6d. The result is—and human nature being what it is, I am not surprised at it—that a large number of recruits are passed quickly, as by so doing the doctor gets so many more half-crowns. The consequence is that a large number of men or boys who are physically unfit are accepted as recruits. It is evident that this is a very serious thing, and that the result is extremely bad, both from the point of view of the Army and from the point of view of the taxpayer. I believe, in a good many cases, when the military doctor comes to examine the recruits they are rejected, but in the stress of the times through which we are going it probably happens that many recruits are accepted who ought not to be accepted. They then fall ill and become a burden upon the nation. Might I suggest a remedy to the right hon. Gentleman? Either a fine of, say, 5s. should be inflicted for every recruit who has been accepted by a civilian doctor, and who is afterwards within a certain time rejected by the military doctor, which would ensure a more detailed and careful examination, or, if that is not done, then, instead of paying a fixed fee per head for recruits taken, a certain sum should be paid each day for a number of persons examined. There would then be no inducement to take in a large number of people who were not fit. An instance has been brought to my notice—of course I must not mention names—where a commanding officer had to inspect a small number of recruits. He found one who was evidently quite a boy, and who admitted that he was only fifteen years of age. He found another who was very little older, if any older at all, and he said he was nineteen. Being asked whether that was his real age or his official age, he admitted that it was his official age, and that his real age was sixteen last birthday. These things ought not to occur. It is a bad system on the part of the War Office to fix a man's remuneration in such a manner.
2013 There is one other question which I should like to ask, and I think that I should be in order in asking it, because the matter was decided in the Law Courts only a few days ago. A gentleman called Squire appears to have set up a claim with the Sunbeam Motor Company for a sum of £15,000 for commission for buying motor cars for the War Office. This gentleman appears to be an undischarged bankrupt. He was taken into the service of the War Office apparently without anybody knowing anything about him, and given a salary varying from £1 to £3 a day. This all came out in Court, and it is not, therefore, either rumour or gossip. Finally, the action was settled by the Sunbeam Company paying this gentleman, who was an undischarged bankrupt, £15,000 for having bought motor cars for the War Office during the last eleven months. In these days we are spending £3,000,000 a day, and I am not surprised at it if that is the way the War Office goes to work. There appears to have been another firm called Keele and Company, who were the agents here for the Sunbeam Motor Car Company, and Mr. Squire and they between them appear to have made £40,000. It would have been perfectly simple for the War Office to have communicated with the Sunbeam Company and to have asked them what they would charge, and how much discount they would allow, if the cars were sold direct to the War Office, taking a large number. It did seem to me on reading the case in the newspapers an extraordinary example of how not to do it.
§ Mr. PRINGLE
I desire to refer to one or two points with reference to War Office administration, and the observations of the hon. Baronet opposite with reference to the purchase of motor cars brings to my recollection a matter which I did not really intend to raise, but which I think it is quite well worth bringing under the notice of the right hon. Gentleman. The case in regard to the purchase of motor cars has given rise to some suspicion in other quarters of the country. I have had letters forwarded to me from a motor lorry manufacturing company in Scotland asking why the War Office confine their orders to two motor manufacturers in Scotland, and why no test has been allowed of the lorries manufactured by this particular firm. In one of the letters allusion is made to the very interesting case in the Law Courts, and they obviously suspect there must be some oblique motive why they are not receiving equal con- 2014 sideration with other firms manufacturing the same article. If the right hon. Gentleman wishes the name of the firm I will supply it to him privately, as I do not wish to give the firm a gratuitous advertisement.
But the question I really intended to raise was one to which reference was made on the Second Reading of this Bill. It has, indeed, some relation to the question put by the hon. Baronet, who has referred to the kind of medical examination which has been given in the case of many of the recruits of the new Army. This is of great importance, because of the attitude which the War Office has taken up in regard to soldiers who have been invalided and consequently discharged. I do not wish to enter into the facts of the particular case which was under discussion on the Second Reading of this Bill. There was on that occasion a controversy between my hon. Friend the Member for East Edinburgh (Mr. Hogge) and the Under-Secretary for War as to whether this particular soldier was actually affected with the disease at the time he enlisted. But that does not seem to me to be the most important point in the case. We have the facts that this soldier was passed on medical examination as fit for service with the Colours. Subsequently he showed signs of physical weakness, it became obvious that he had heart disease; after several months he had to be discharged, and within ten days of his discharge he died. The first point I wish to make is this: Are the War Office going to take up the position that the medical examination is no guide as to the physical condition of the recruit? Are they going to accept the certificate of their medical officer when a man joins the Army that that man is suffering from no organic disease that will affect his value as a soldier? If the medical examination is to be worth anything, it should be equivalent to that.
But even granted that there are cases where a very stringent medical examination may not disclose the fact that the intending recruit is affected by any organic disease, there are undoubtedly many cases where a man suffering from an organic disease might be able to continue his ordinary civil occupation for many years—for ten or twelve years—without any injurious effect. We all know many cases of men suffering from heart disease who have been able to do their ordinary work without ill effect to themselves for that period, and have been able to support 2015 themselves and their families. If such men have got into the Army it is possible they may within a week after undergoing the severe training which all recruits have to undergo have become affected by that training, with the result that in a few months not only are they incapable of going about their ordinary work but they may be brought to death's door. That is what happened in this particular ease.
§ Mr. PRINGLE
I was anxious to keep off any conflict as to that, but even if my statement is not supported in this particular case, other cases no doubt have happened to which my statement would apply. A man suffering from heart disease has, for example, to submit to severe physical exercise, and he may within a day or week have such a heart strain as to render him incapable of further arduous work in the future. As my right hon. Friend has denied that that was the case in the case of Private Sutherland, I will not press it in that particular case. But I have taken the trouble to consult gentlemen well versed in heart disease—specialists upon the subject—and they agree that such a result may frequently happen—and, indeed, has happened. In these circumstances I think it is the duty of the War Office not to take refuge behind the Army Order which says they are not liable if a man dies from disease contracted before he enters the Army. They should admit liability in any case where, even although the disease did exist before the man entered the Army, the conditions of his training have accelerated his death. In other words, in cases where a man might have been fitted to go on with his ordinary calling for a long period of years, yet, after being certified by the Army doctor, it is found that the physical training in the Army incapacited him or caused his death, in those circumstances the War Office should modify its rule, and should be willing to pay a pension just as if the disease from which the man died had been a disease which he had contracted in the course of his Army service.
§ Mr. OUTHWAITE
I am glad the hon. Baronet (Sir F. Banbury) raised the question of the passing into the Army of men not physically fit. I look at it from a very different point of view to that in which he dealt with it. I am glad to have the opportunity of bringing before the right hon. 2016 Gentleman the question of what might happen to a man or youth, or it may be a mere boy, who is in this way passed into the Army and sent to the front. He may have courage, but at the same time be physically unfit to stand the strain of modern warfare. I have had cases brought to my notice, but I do not wish to give them in support of anything I am saying, because I do not desire to deal with anything sensational. But it has been rather on my conscience that I have done nothing in the matter. I should like to ask the right hon. Gentleman if he will give us some guarantee that in cases of breach of discipline it is taken into account that these lads—well, I will put it bluntly—will he give us some guarantee that the extreme penalty that attaches to cowardice is not carried out in the case of men really suffering from nervous strain, and unable to stand the conditions of modern warfare, as, obviously, a mere boy or physically unfit man might be? I shall be glad if the right hon. Gentleman will give some reassurance with regard to that matter.
I have one other—a small point to raise. There is a good deal of complaint, not among the men involved, but in relation to the Australians who are in hospital here, as regards several small matters that, however, rather touch them personally. There is the suggestion, for instance, that the dietary is extremely rigid, and difficult to vary from the hard and fast lines laid clown.
§ Mr. OUTHWAITE
Harefield, I believe is the name. I should like to ask the right hon. Gentleman if he can do anything in this matter. These men are far away from their own homes. They are very lonely, and while, of course, the regulation allows visits of relatives, it scarcely touches their case, as in most instances they have no relatives near enough to visit them. If there could in any way be a small relaxation of rules the enforcement of which causes a great deal of heartburning, I think it would be very much appreciated.
§ Colonel YATE
I should like to say one word in support of what has been stated by the hon. Baronet the Member for the City of London as regards the question of the enlistment of men who are physically unfit. Anyone who is in daily contact with Royal Army Medical Corps men who are going about examining these men 2017 know the enormous number of rejections that have to be made and what a serious state of things prevails through so many men having been admitted into the Service who are physically unfit to stand the strain. What arrangements have been made I do not know, but I trust the right hon. Gentleman will be able to tell us that the senior officers in the Army Medical service have come to a decision regarding the examinations for the Service, and that some measures will be taken to prevent the passing of men so absolutely unfit, and to avoid a repetition in this way of the enormous wasteage, though medically unfits which has been going on for a long time, and is still proceeding.
§ Mr. TENNANT
I hope to be able to reassure the hon. Baronet the Member for the City of London that the fee which he looked upon as one of the reasons which accounted for the large number of men passed by the recruiting doctors is not dependent on the number of men passed, or on the number of recruits examined, and that it does not really matter financially to the doctor examining the recruit whether he passes a man or not.
§ Mr. TENNANT
I cannot quite say. The letter is dated the 17th February, and, After intimating that the authorities have had under consideration the question of the remuneration of civilian medical practitioners, it goes on to state that there will be a limit of £2 per day. The doctor might examine any number of men, but he would not get more than £2 per day. Therefore there is no incentive, so far as the fee is concerned, for him to pass men. I would also invite the House to bear in mind the fact that there have been a very large number of men coming forward, and obviously there may have been cases in which insufficient medical examination has taken place. I think some allowance should be made for that. Unfortunately these things come home to roost, and we find as a result that undoubtedly men did get passed into the Army who should not have been passed, and when they became sick, their health may have become more 2018 quickly undermined by the severe physical strain which military training may produce upon them. I only interrupted the hon. Member for North-West Lanarkshire (Mr. Pringle) for one moment in regard to an individual case, because in that case very great care was taken not to put a physical strain on the person involved, but to give him light work.
§ Mr. PRINGLE
I thought it was granted that he had been in the service a month before he was given this light work, and my point is that the injury may have been done during that period.
§ Mr. TENNANT
That is not the impression left on my mind, but I should like to say this. If a man gets regular meals, and is being attended regularly by the doctor, receiving good food and good treatment, his health is not likely to prejudice quite as much as it might be otherwise, even if he were at home. I think everything was done in the case of Private Sutherland that could be done. The War Office does not go back on its word. I do not want to use strong language, but it is not correct to say we have in any way departed from the promise we made, and we have no intention of doing it. I want my hon. Friends to realise that we hold ourselves absolutely to the letter of our promise, and nothing will induce us to depart from it.
§ Mr. TENNANT
When you talk about spirit sometimes you wish to dilute the letter with the spirit, which is rather contrary to one's experience in other domains of life. I am sure my hon. Friend (Mr. J. M. Henderson) agrees with me. The hon. Baronet opposite (Sir F. Banbury) asked me whether we would not institute a fine for all men who were accepted by a civilian doctor and rejected by a military doctor. That is rather a punitive method to adopt; moreover, I do not think it would be a very easy thing to do, because a man might be accepted by the civilian doctor and employed for a considerable time, and it might be six months or a year before he was rejected by a military doctor. By that time the civilian doctor might not be available. However, I am not dismissing it absolutely, and I will give it my consideration in conjunction with my medical advisers.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
I only suggested that there might be some method, and 2019 this occurred to me at the moment as being a method which might tend to make doctors a little more careful.
§ Mr. TENNANT
I understand. The hon. Baronet went on to speak of a certain motor company and a man called Squire. I am sorry he did not give me notice about that matter, because I have not got the facts at my fingers' ends. Perhaps he will be good enough to address a question to the Financial Secretary, under whose Department that matter probably comes.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
I am not sure that I shall have that opportunity, because we are about to adjourn for six weeks, which, m my view, is quite proper. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will repeat what I have said to the Financial Secretary.
§ Mr. TENNANT
I will certainly make that my duty. While I am on that subject, perhaps I may say, in answer to the hon. Member for North-West Lanarkshire (Mr. Pringle), who raised the question of giving War Office orders to two firms in Scotland with regard to motor transport and lorries, that it may possibly have been owing to the fact that we required definite standards. All our machines and parts are standardised, and when you have two firms manufacturing those standardised parts, it is more than probable that these would be the two firms who can make the standardised parts best and make a sufficiency of them. If that is so, as I believe it is, that would be a sufficient answer to my hon. Friend. Again, I say I was not prepared to answer that question, and I only throw that out as a possible answer. I find I have omitted one point with which I intended to deal in regard to medical examination. My hon. Friend asks one whether medical examination is to be an absolute guarantee that when a man enters the Service he is a fit person to become a soldier. Medical examination is a guide to that, but we cannot absolutely lay it down that it must of itself be a guarantee. I do not think it can be that. The reason for that is that there are obscure diseases in the human body which it is almost impossible for anybody to diagnose at the first examination. I believe that is a well-known medical fact. Therefore it may perfectly well happen that one who is suffering from an obscure disease enters the Army, and it is only after he has been in it for 2020 some time that it is revealed that he is suffering from this disease, although he has suffered from it for years. My hon. Friend has this on his side as well, that where it can be proved that death has been accelerated by military training, then I do think that that fact must be taken into consideration, and would" be properly taken into consideration in the financial arrangements for the pensions.
The hon. Member for Hanley (Mr. Outhwaite) spoke about the severe strain upon our young men who are undertaking this terrible warfare both in France and at the Dardanelles. I should not like such an occasion as this to pass without paying a tribute to the marvellous strength, both of will and physical courage, and the really glorious qualities which we have seen displayed by our troops at the front. While that strain must have been something almost more than one can realise, it has been a most remarkable fact that so few of our soldiers have broken down under it. Of course, there must come times when you reach the breaking point, and that has been reached on occasions. I would say that the Field-Marshal Commander-in-Chief is very much alive to this situaton. He hopes and believes that he has it well in hand. He gives, wherever he can, leave of absence to soldiers who it is feared are breaking down or about to break down. These are almost physiological questions, because it is very difficult to know where the physical ends and where the moral begins. I am sure hon. Gentlemen in all quarters of the House would wish to see the fine discipline of the Army maintained. The relaxation of discipline is not a thing to be contemplated during the progress of a great war. It is a remarkable fact, as I said before, that so few of the men have broken down on the moral side—the number is very few. If I say that and also remind my hon. Friend of the passage of a Bill through this House a few months ago giving the Commander-in-Chief power to alter and reduce sentences and to allow a delinquent to serve his period of imprisonment, not in prison or in detention, but to be taken out of anything in the nature of a camp and engaged in the firing line, I think the House will realise that we have gone a very long way to put the power in the hands of the Commander-in-Chief to minimise the effects of bad action, or what might appear to be almost cowardly action 2021 in some cases, and to try and bring back the soldier to a proper sense of his responsibilities and duties.
§ Mr. OUTHWAITE
(indistinctly heard): Is the option given to the soldier to say whether he will serve in prison or in the trenches?
§ Mr. TENNANT
That option lies with the Commander-in-Chief, who, of course, would delegate those powers to the Army Commander, or whoever might be responsible. I think the hon. Baronet opposite (Sir F. Banbury) asked me another question.
§ Mr. TENNANT
In these circumstances, I think I have answered all the questions addressed to me. I know that my hon. Friend the Member for Pembrokeshire (Mr. Roch) wanted to raise the question of the number of hospital clearing stations in France and the number of nurses in them. I have given him the numbers and he knows them. As I shall not be allowed to speak again, I want to give him the numbers which I have in my mind. The number of stations is twenty-six, and nine is the number of nurses in each.
§ Mr. TENNANT
It may be seven. I want him to realise this: that the other day we had a request for more nurses for the Dardanelles. One day they asked for two hundred, but in order that there should be no sort of shortage or ground for complaint, or possibility of ground for complaint, we sent out four hundred instead of two hundred. We are in exactly the same position with regard to France. We have a number of nurses who are ready, willing, and anxious to go. We can put our fingers on them at a very few hours' notice, so that if there is any demand for them we can sent them out at once. I want the House to realise that we have fine surgeons and a splendid staff of men nursing and looking after the wounded men in France. My hon. Friend seems to think that we wanted more doctors, but as they have not been asked for I would ask the hon. Member to believe that they are not wanted.
§ Mr. BOOTH
I have two points I wish to put to the Government—one concerning a matter I raised at Question Time, in 2022 regard to the London Insurance Committee, and the other is with reference to the position of the Joint Parliamentary-Secretary to the Treasury. Dealing with the insurance point first, I would appeal to the Local Government Board to give us some information about the London Insurance Committee. The chairman of the English Commission, Sir Robert Morant, went down to the Sanatoriam Sub-committee and asked them to find £9,300 annually for a scheme for the dispensary treatment of tuberculosis cases. The subcommittee, although not satisfied upon the grounds, did give assent to this proposal, but the London Insurance Committee itself, at its meeting last Thursday, threw the sub-committee's recommendation over and decided to ask for more details as to how the sum was made up. The chairman of the English Commission was either unable or unwilling to say how the figure was made up. He simply said it was demanded by the Local Government Board. Those who voted against that arrangement being operative now are as anxious as anyone else to reduce the sickness benefit payments under the Act by the prompt treatment of tuberculosis. There is no conflict, I am sure, with regard to intention, but it is a serious thing, when economy is being urged by the Government upon the authorities and when it was admitted to be an urgent matter by the chairman of the Joint Committee, the hon. Member for Lincoln (Mr. C. Roberts), it is a serious matter when these pleas for economy are so prominent to ask a public body to vote £9,300 without giving any estimate. I hope the Government will be able to get the information from the Insurance Commission. I believe the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Fulham (Mr. Hayes Fisher) was present in the House at Question Time when the head of the Insurance Commission asked him to divert any more questions to the Local Government Board. It may be that in this case they can give the information. I want to assure the right hon. Gentleman, who represents the Local Government Board, that if on going over the scheme, which I assume was arranged by his predecessor—he has special knowledge of London—if he will examine that scheme himself, and if it commends itself to his judgment, I promise him, so far as I am concerned, that I will co-operate with him from inside the committee and try to get the scheme established. I therefore appeal to the right 2023 hon. Gentleman if it is only in the matter of showing how the sum is made up.
The second point is with reference to the position in the Government of the Noble Lord (Lord E. Talbot). I do not raise this in any spirit of criticism of the Noble Lord. I welcome him as a Member of the Government, as I feel sure all Members of the House do. The fact that I urged the formation of a united Government and the fact that I did not see how it could possibly work without the Noble Lord coming in as a colleague of my hon. Friend (Mr. Gulland) will be evidence that it is not in any spirit of hostility that I raise it, but I wish to ask whether the Noble Lord, who is, I believe, called Joint Parliamentary Secretary, is paid a salary, and, if so, out of what fund it is met. Again, even upon the financial point, I am not raising it because I am out of sympathy with it. I am prepared to give as loyal support to the Noble Lord as I do to my own Chief Whip. We on this side ought to be even more anxious to show our loyal support to Members of the Government who have crossed the floor of the House than even to those who belong to our own party. At any rate, I feel that way, and I hope there will be no distinction made, but there has been no announcement made in public, it has never been referred to in the House so far as I know, I cannot find any reference to it on any of the Estimates, and I have asked some Members of the Government and they have evaded the point. I have consulted the hon. Baronet (Sir F. Banbury), and asked him if he knows anything about it, and he does not know whether the Noble Lord is paid a salary, or if he is receiving a salary, how it is met. I only mention that as a justification for bringing it up because, if the House is frankly told, there will be an end of the matter, but while it is left in doubt it might ultimately lead to a little confusion, and perhaps unpleasantness.
§ The CHANCELLOR of the EXCHEQUER (Mr. McKenna)
There is no mystery about the point raised by my hon. Friend. I thank him for the tone and spirit in which he has raised it, as it discharges me from any duty of defending the action the Government has taken. My Noble Friend acts as Joint Patronage Secretary. He receives the same salary as my hon. Friend (Mr. Gulland) and the salary is paid 2024 out of the Vote of Credit, the terms of which clearly cover the payment of a salary of the kind.
§ Mr. McKENNA
I have not considered that point. The matter would not come before me personally, but I conceive that inasmuch as one salary might be more controversial than the other, it would be thought desirable to bring the more controversial salary direct to the notice of the House. I conceive that that would be the reason, but I will inquire into the legal and financial aspect of the case. I am advised that there is no question that it is perfectly proper to pay the salary of the Joint Patronage Secretary out of the Vote of Credit. There will be no difficulty at all in putting it down as a Treasury Vote if there is any strong expression of opinion on the point, but I am advised that it is quite proper to pay it either out of the Vote of Credit or the Treasury Vote, whichever course we choose to adopt. There is no desire whatever to prevent discussion on the point, and I am perfectly willing to place it on the next submission of Estimates, on the Treasury Vote.
Sir H. DALZIEL
I heartily agree with my hon. Friend in what he has said with regard to the personal aspect of this matter. I gather that there is no Member of the House who is not prompted by kindly feelings towards the Noble Lord, but I must express my surprise at the statement just made by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. The Government was in full possession of the facts. This extra £2,000 has to be paid, of course, because we have a Coalition Government. They were aware of that fact. They brought forward Supplementary Estimates dealing with every matter brought forward; we had to pass something extra because the Lord Privy Seal was appointed, and they actually sit down and say, "We put the Lord Privy Seal in, but we will keep out the Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasury." I do not think that is treating the House of Commons fairly. It is true that in the manner in which the Vote of Credit was drawn they can do almost anything, but what Member of the House ever thought when we were passing a Vote of Credit for the War that it included the salary of a Member of the Government? They never told us so. There is no phraseology at all in the Motion which was made 2025 which would give us the slightest idea that it covered anything of the kind, and this idea of keeping a matter of this kind dark until now, when we only hear of it accidentally because we cannot find the item upon the Estimates, seems to me to be a ground of complaint as to the manner in which the House of Commons has been dealt with. I inquired about it long ago, and was told it was going to be put on the Supplementary Estimates. It did not appear there; and now we find, along with machine guns and high explosives and every conceivable matter that we want for the progress of the War, that £2,000 is included for one of the Whips of the Government. I do not think it is right. I express my regret that it was carried out in this way, and I hope even now they will take the proper course and will bring forward a special Vote in connection with it. If not, look at the position we are in. They may carry through any number of salaries in their proposals with regard to the War and never say a word about it, and we shall not know until long after that, while we thought we were voting money to carry on the War, we were also voting it for paying Members on that Front Bench. The Chancellor of the Exchequer used to have in old days a regard for proper procedure in these matters, and I am sure he will admit that we have some cause for protest in this matter; and I hope, without further ado, he will get up and tell us we shall have a Supplementary Estimate for the salary which has now been disclosed.
§ The PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY to the LOCAL GOVERNMENT BOARD (Mr. Hayes Fisher)
I think I can answer the first question raised by the hon. Member (Mr. Booth). I think he takes up quite a reasonable attitude on the decision of the Local Government Board that a sum of £9,300 a year should be paid over to the Metropolitan borough councils to supply the dispensaries for tuberculosis treatment under the National Insurance Act. I, as representing one of the parties affected, do not dispute altogether that the sum of £9,300 is a perfectly fair sum, but I think in these days, when we all talk of economy, I ought to have some assurance that the sum is arrived at in a really businesslike way, that an Estimate has been made and that it will be properly presented. That Estimate has been arrived at in no haphazard way. Expert evidence has been taken, experts have been called in by the Local Government Board, and a review of the whole system of tuberculosis 2026 insurance by the Metropolitan borough councils has been made, and the most elaborate calculations have been made in arriving at the sum. I am sorry the hon. Member should not have been able to get the information he desires to have. I do not see why he should not have it, and I can assure him that if he likes to pay me a visit at the Local Government Board I shall be only too pleased to place him in possession of some of the materials on which this calculation was made. I have reason to believe that the sub-committee did not at all exceed its powers and that its action will be, if it is not already, endorsed by the committee which appointed it. If the hon. Member wishes to pursue the matter further, I shall be pleased to place him in possession of information which will assure him that it is an economical and a just arrangement, looking to all the details of the case.
§ Mr. McKENNA
I am now able to inform my hon. Friend that an Estimate, with details in the ordinary form, will be presented in due course next year. It would not have been correct to present a fresh Estimate this year inasmuch as there is already a surplus on the Treasury Votes. It could be paid out of that Vote or out of the Vote of Credit, at the discretion of the Treasury. It has, in fact, so far been paid out of the excess Treasury Vote, and I am informed now that the estimate is that there will be a sufficient surplus on the Treasury Vote to pay the whole of the salary out of that Vote, consequently no part of it has come on the Vote of Credit. The presentation to the House of details of an Estimate is for the information of the House. It would not in itself bind the Treasury. There will be next year in due course, when the Estimates are presented, a detailed statement showing the salary of every person paid by the Treasury.
§ Major HUNT
I wish to bring forward the question of cotton as contraband of war. We have power under international law to make cotton contraband. Lord Crewe stated in the House of Lords that we could make cotton contraband. Cotton under modern conditions is a necessary ingredient in explosives for the propulsion both of bullets and of shells, and therefore of all things surely it ought to be made contraband! The Washington authorities object to our Order in Council about cotton. They say it is against international law and they are-very considerably irritated by it, but it seems to me that we should make cotton contraband and adopt and enforce all the rules of enemy destination and continuous voyage, as we used to do in the old days. I submit that there is no reason whatever why we should not do it, and that it is absolutely necessary to prevent cotton from going into Germany. The Prime Minister stated the other day that there is a very serious leakage of cotton into Germany. The only way we can prevent that is by making cotton contraband. I believe it is argued that the present plan is a good plan for keeping cotton out, and that it is effectual. If that is so, surely people interested in cotton, like the American, would not object to have cotton made contraband. They cannot really object, because it will be perfectly fair under international law. Perhaps it might be as well to do all we can not to irritate other nations. I should think that it would be possible to allow Holland, Denmark, and also Norway and Sweden, the usual amount of cotton that they had in peace time on the understanding that they did not export it to Germany. I can se*e no reason why we should not buy up all the cotton that is usually taken in an ordinary year by Germany, Austria, and Turkey. Under those conditions it seems to me it is quite impossible for America to object to a strict blockade in the case of cotton. Is it likely that America is going to object to our making cotton contraband when she has taken no action up till now in respect to Germany having sunk her vessels and drowned her people? Is it likely, therefore, that America is going to make any serious objection? It is a curious thing that while Germany breaks every law, human and divine, and intends 2028 to go on doing it, we are not allowed to make cotton contraband for fear of offending the feelings of America and some of the smaller neutral countries. It is a very serious question. The late Government began by allowing cotton to go to Germany to a very great extent, and I am very much disappointed that this Government has not stopped it at once, as they certainly could do. By not making cotton contraband the Government are allowing Germany to be supplied with materials which enable them to kill our soldiers and the soldiers of our Allies. I see that the right hon. Gentleman does not think that, but that is how it occurs to me.
The Government make enormous efforts to get men to join the Army, and they use all sorts of posters for the purpose. They say, "Come and defend your country; you are badly wanted. Your country is in the. greatest danger." And at the same time they say to the most inhuman nation that probably any nation has ever had to face in modern times, "We will allow you, although we could prevent it, to be provided with the ammunition to kill our soldiers, whom we are begging to defend us and our country." That is the sort of lame lawyer's excuse the present Government give. The reason they give for not making cotton contraband disgusts me very much indeed. I did hope that the present Government would take a firm line and do this thing which is really necessary for the prosecution of the War. I believe they would be supported by the great bulk of the people of the country if they took strong lines to bring in compulsory military training for all eligible men who are not wanted on Government work, and certainly to make cotton contraband of war, and anything else that is of any assistance to Germany. I am afraid that if the Government go on fighting with their gloves on the people will lose confidence in them, and this Coalition Government will go, and rightly go, where the last Government went, because they did not stand up and do their best for the people of their own country.
§ Lord ROBERT CECIL
There is something about this subject of cotton which causes very serious misconception. I listened with positive amazement to my hon. Friend when he said that we are saying to Germany, "We will allow you to be provided with ammunition with which to kill our soldiers." He really believes what 2029 some of the more ignorant and more venomous public prints are not ashamed to say, that we are really permitting and encouraging Germany to get ammunition—
§ Lord ROBERT CECIL
It makes very little difference, but I will adopt the distinction to which my hon. Friend attaches importance, namely, that we are really allowing Germany to get ammunition to kill our soldiers, because we will not declare cotton contraband. I do not wish to express the slightest dissent, it would be impertinent to do so, from what the Prime Minister said the other day, or from what I myself said a few days before that, in this House, namely, that the position in regard to this and many other matters of enemy trade is not satisfactory. It is very difficult indeed to make a thing of that kind satisfactory. But one thing is perfectly certain, and that is, that the Government regard it as an absolutely necessary and essential part of their policy to prevent cotton, capable of being turned into propulsive use, reaching Germany. The question of how that best can be done with due regard to the interests of neutrals is the one and only question which divides us from our critics. That is what the hon. Member would call a lawyer's reason. I observe that when anybody is unable to answer an argument he generally regards it as a lawyer's argument. The hon. Member suggests that we are fighting with our gloves on. I regard such an observation as incredibly offensive to use of the Government of this country which is engaged in a great war. It is an observation which, if I may be permitted to say so, I do not think any hon. Member with a sense of responsibility ought to permit himself to make.
§ Lord ROBERT CECIL
If it is, it is entirely due to those who have misled the country as the hon. Member is trying to do. It is utterly untrue. We are making every effort we possibly can to fight the enemy.
§ Lord ROBERT CECIL
We are not restrained by any folly such as the hon. Member attributes to us in carrying on this War, and so long as I am a Member of the Government we shall continue in that policy. In regard to this question 2030 of cotton, I will really try to make it quite clear to the House—I am sorry that I have not succeeded—that every ounce of cotton destined to the enemy is, or ought to be, stopped under the arrangements we have in force; but so far as stopping cotton going into an enemy country is concerned, it would make no difference whatever whether we declared it contraband or not. The one and only difference that would be made would be this, that if we declared it contraband then, under the rules of international law, we should be entitled to confiscate the cargo and perhaps the ship that was conveying the cotton. But we should not be entitled to stop it under conditions under which we are not entitled to stop it now. The conditions are precisely the same.
You cannot stop contraband unless you are satisfied, and unless you have reason to suppose, that the article which is contraband is of enemy destination. You cannot stop contraband going to a neutral country unless you have reason to suppose that it is going through that neutral country to an enemy country. Neutral countries are perfectly entitled to deal in contraband, and do so every day, and there is no reason in the world why they should not. Take the most extreme case, that of a cargo of arms which is being sent from the other side of the Atlantic to some neutral country, and which are going to be used in that neutral country for neutral purposes. We should not be entitled to stop it. Nobody doubts that. If, on the other hand, we had reason to suppose that the real destination was Germany, then we should be entitled to stop it as contraband. The same thing is exactly true under the Order in Council now in force. If we have reason to suppose that anything which comes under that Order in Council, as cotton undoubtedly does, is destined for Germany, we are entitled to take measures to stop it reaching Germany. That would be exactly the same whether cotton was contraband or not. I am sorry to repeat myself, but it is necessary to make the point clear, and I am afraid it is still not clear to a number of persons outside, and even to persons in this House.
There is a great deal that is worth considering an connection with this question, and the Government is considering it, as the Prime Minister told us. There is a, great deal to be said for and against declaring cotton contraband, but not on 2031 that ground. Undoubtedly, one advantage would be that it would make the position clearer for such critics as the hon. Member, and it would make it clearer also, possibly, to some of the neutral countries. All these considerations and many others have to be weighed carefully, and they are weighed and studied, and the method which is most effective for stopping cotton, and which is the least likely to do injustice to neutrals, is adopted. It makes no difference to my mind whether Germany has behaved badly or not. We are not entitled, and I do not wish us, to behave unjustly and improperly to neutrals because Germany has misbehaved. I am ashamed of such an argument being used. We have got to behave justly and rightly to neutral nations, whatever Germany does, and I hope we shall continue to do so. I thoroughly agree with the hon. Member that it is our business to stop cotton reaching Germany, and whatever steps are necessary consistent with justice, those steps I am satisfied the Government will take.
There is only one other observation. I stated at the beginning of my remarks that this question raises many misconceptions. I noticed in one of the newspapers the other day an attack, not only upon the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, but a violent attack on one of the officials of the Foreign Office, as being responsible for supplying cotton to kill British soldiers. I wish to say on behalf of that official, Sir Eyre Crowe, that no more unjust or unfair attack was ever made on a public official. His service to the country has been of the greatest possible value, and it is utterly untrue to say that he is in any sense, directly or indirectly, responsible for the decision of the Government, resulting in the present policy of the Government. Since the attack has been made in public, I desire to make this personal reply in public, and to make the position perfectly clear. I desire also to assure the hon. Member and the House that the Government are really fully alive to the seriousness of this question, that they are determined to stop cotton that can be made into explosives reaching enemy countries, and that they will take any step which will be necessary for that purpose. I do not believe that the making of cotton contraband would in itself make any material difference in the amount of cotton that is being carried through to Germany at the present time.
§ Sir GEORGE TOULMIN
Before I raise the points which I wish to mention I would like to assure the Noble Lord that he has made absolutely clear that the position of the Government in this matter of cotton is quite solidly founded, and that the House has confidence in their conduct of this matter which is one of the most delicate international affairs that can be conceived. It would be well if more attention were paid to the speeches of the Noble-Lord, and if they were carefully read there would be less loose talk about this subject.
There is one point which I wish to raise with the Financial Secretary of the War Office. The local relief committee at Bury, in administering the funds of the Sailors' and Soldiers' Families Association, frequently become aware of great hardships arising from a practice, when some alteration or correction has to be made in a book of postal drafts by which allowances are paid, of sending up the book without making provision for any payments to be made until its return, and this return, I suppose owing to difficulties in the office, is not unfrequently delayed for some weeks. That leaves the dependants of the soldier, or the soldier himself in the case of a pension, dependent on voluntary capital, and it seems a case in which some temporary arrangement ought to be made. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will be able to see that that inconvenience is avoided.
The hon. Member for Lanarkshire raised a point as to the case of a man, apparently healthy and working in a factory, being called up as a reservist and then dying of some disease that developed. The Under-Secretary said that there were obscure diseases, and that the doctor was not always able to find them out. The hardships that the men undergo frequently bring out the obscure disease, and we are entitled to ask that the doctor's examination shall not merely protect the State but that it shall also protect the men, and that once a man has passed the doctor he shall be under the care of the State, and that such things shall not occur as have frequently happened. There was the case of a husband who was called up on the 5th of August, and was drafted to Scarborough and afterwards to London. While there he was admitted to the Queen Alexandra Hospital, disease developed, and eventually he died. In another somewhat similar case, of a man who enlisted fairly early, after a few months his wife gets two telegrams, one notifying his 2033 death and the next saying that her husband's body was being forwarded for her to bury. I think that it is a very great hardship that, when the husband is taken away in that way, the expense of the funeral should be left to the wife. The hon. Gentleman says that the War Office is not going back on its word, and the promises which it has made, but he did foreshadow a somewhat more sympathetic consideration of these cases, and said that they should be taken into account. In all these cases there is no pension, and even the grant from the Royal Patriotic Fund is refused because the deceased did not die from wounds or something which was incurred in the service of the country. I think that in many of these cases there is a very great hardship, and I hope that they will be taken into consideration.
§ The FINANCIAL SECRETARY to the WAR OFFICE (Mr. Forster)
My hon. Friend has already been looking into the question which has been brought to my notice with reference to the hardships entailed on the recipients of allowance when the books of drafts are recalled for adjustment. I quite admit that there is a grievance. It is most undesirable that there should be any break in the steady payment of the allowances which are being granted, and we are now engaged in seeing whether there cannot be some means of meeting the difficulty.
With reference to the other points on which my hon. Friend touched, however sympathetic we may be—and I assure him that I speak for everybody in the War Office when I say that we have a great deal of sympathy in reference to the question to which he has alluded—the House must remember that we are bound in these matters by the rules which have been framed after careful consideration. It is easy enough for this House to say that the State ought to pay a pension to the widow of every man who has died as a soldier irrespective of whether or not the disease of which he died is contracted owing to his military service, but when the House reflects on that I think that it will see that it is treading on very dangerous ground. After all, the nation compensates a widow for the loss of her husband, where the loss is occasioned directly by his military service, and honestly I do not think that the House would be wise to press the War Office to go further than the limits which have been prescribed. I can assure the House that we approach the consideration 2034 of these cases in a very sympathetic spirit. We do not in any way attempt to avoid the payment of pensions where pensions may properly be paid under the regulations which the House has supported up to the present time. I do not think that I could carry the matter further than that. I can only say that we shall continue to look into-all those cases in the most sympathetic way.
§ Mr. T. M. HEALY
I would like to ask the Chief Secretary for Ireland whether any steps are being taken to secure, as far as decency will allow, that a fair share of munitions contracts or other contracts will be extended to Ireland? I do not for one moment suppose that we could in any way compete with the works which are going on in this country, but at a time when so many recruits are leaving Ireland for the War I think it only reasonable that, either through the Department of Agriculture or some of the other Departments of that kind, a plea should be put in that a fair share of the work which is being done, and of the expenditure which that work necessarily involves, should be given to-Ireland.
I have followed the controversy to which the Noble Lord alluded ever since it started, and humble as my approval of his policy and action may be, I wish to extend it to him. I wish to say, furthermore, that I was in America for some months while this War was going on, and that anybody who needlessly raises these questions of an international kind, which are being most efficiently attended to by His Majesty's Foreign Office, is not doing the State a service.
I desire to make one further observation with regard to another Irish matter. We had to-day an admission from the Government that the steward of a great Atlantic liner pleaded guilty to flashing lights from a porthole, and that he got off with a sentence of two months' imprisonment. It seems to me that the wholly inadequate punishment of this man is in marked contrast with the drastic punishment of perpetual banishment which has been meted out in certain cases in Ireland. I do not for one single moment wish to express the smallest sympathy with anyone who endeavours to embarrass the Government in Ireland during the conduct of this War, and therefore I make my position perfectly and absolutely clear. But you let off with this light sentence a man whose pretence was that he 2035 was trying to flash at the Holyhead side, when he was at the wrong side. This action on the part of the steward of a ship not only might have entailed the loss of the ship but the loss of scores of other ships in the Channel, and yet we have this wholly inadequate punishment meted out. Then there was also the other day the case of a Dutchman who was for the second time convicted of signalling, and he got off with two or three months' imprisonment. These men, in my opinion, ought to have been shot. There are submarines in the Channel, and to say that you value your safety and the safety of your ships in that way seems to me to be an extraordinary position of affairs.
But what is the effect in Ireland? Here is a number of men with old memories and old grievances, and they make foolish speeches and foolish statements. They are absolutely harmless. The people in Ireland know the value of these speeches, and yet these men are punished by being banished out of the country. There are now four men under sentence of banishment. Where can they go to? They must go to America to earn their living, and to be fresh centres of mischief in that country. Are they not much safer at home? I respectfully think that they are, because the people of Ireland are saturated with this kind of thing, and the immense mass of the Irish people are in thorough sympathy with this country in the prosecution of this War, in which we all recognise there is no stain of blood upon our hands, and no responsibility for the commencement of this conflict. Therefore I appeal for something like reasonable latitude towards these foolish people. You cannot get rid of Irish ballads or Irish songs which recall all these ancient days, which are part of the literature of this country. Therefore is it not rather ridiculous that men who have been an extremely short time in Ireland, however well meaning they are, should take the action which has been taken. I am not blaming the Chief Secretary for what has happened. I do not think that he has any responsibility for the matter, but I do think that just as in India or in other places you have a sort of critical or intelligence Department attached to the War Office, so in Ireland, while it is quite right to give a man the exact length and breadth of the law, there is also such a thing as policy to be considered, and the policy of banishing men out of the country, and letting 2036 them go to America to stir up fresh strife there is not in my opinion a very wise policy.
§ The CHIEF SECRETARY for IRELAND (Mr. Birrell)
In reference to the first point mentioned by the hon. and learned Gentleman, that Ireland should secure a share in the necessary work of the preparation of munitions, I can assure him that even at the present moment representations are being made with reference to obtaining what he desires, and I hope with very satisfactory results.
In reference to the other point it is a very awkward problem to know what to do with persons who are considered to be dangerous to the State at the present time. There is a great deal of force in which the hon. and learned Gentleman says as to where they would go, and as to the possibility that they would do more harm elsewhere than they would be able to do in Ireland, but I can assure him that nobody has proposed to banish anybody from Ireland, nor is anybody being banished from Ireland simply on account of foolish speeches. The action of the military authorities in Ireland is for what the persons referred to have done and are doing, and is not merely for unlicensed and foolish language. I agree with the hon. Member that the people of Ireland take these things very much at their true value. I know of no people less likely to be excited by absurd speeches than the Irish themselves, but in the case of these particular persons it is not their speeches, it is their action and the methods which they are pursuing which have brought them under the Defence of the Realm Act.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Bill read the third time, and passed.