§ Sir RYLAND ADKINS
I beg to ask the Under-Secretary of State for War a question, of which I have given him private notice, namely: Whether he is aware of the issue of a new and modified form of Army Form E. 624; whether the form as modified is in accordance with the statutes governing the conditions of enlistment to the Territorial Force, especially in respect of Section 7, Sub-section (4) (b) of the Act of 1907; whether a Bill to effect this change and repeal this Section, among others, was not introduced into this House recently and withdrawn in consequence of objections taken to it; whether he is further aware that the new obligation imposed by the modified form has, in a number of cases, already hindered recruiting for the Territorial Force, and whether, if further recruits are desired for the Territorial Force he will represent to the Secretary of State the urgent desirability of the new compulsory obligation being withdrawn?
§ Mr. TENNANT
Yes, Sir; I am aware of the Army Form to which my hon. Friend refers. This form so far from being contrary to the letter or spirit of the Territorial and Reserve Forces Act is directly in accord with its provisions and the regulations formed under it. The form asks for the consent of the soldier before his transference to another unit, whose consent the regulations declare shall be obtained before such transference. It is clear that soldiers are most useful when their services can be employed as circumstances demand, and in this Form each soldier is merely invited to state definitely that he puts his patriotic feeling above personal convenience, by placing his services unreservedly in the hands of those responsible for the conduct of the War. A Bill for compulsory transference was introduced and withdrawn, as it was felt that compulsion was not desirable in the circumstances. I have no information of the effect on recruiting of the new Army Form, nor has it been in circulation for sufficient time to render any conclusion on this aspect of the matter reliable.
§ Sir R. ADKINS
Are we to understand that in the case of new recruits as well as in the case of those already in the Territorial Force, it is only an invitation and not a sine qua non, of enlistment which is now to be imposed upon them in respect of the transfer, or is it to be made a sine qua non of enlistment that they take this obligation?
§ Mr. TENNANT
The form, as I have already said in my answer to the question, is purely voluntary. Nobody need take the obligation who does not desire to do so.
§ Sir HENRY CRAIK
Is it not, the case that this proposal has been welcomed by many men in the Territorial Force as giving them a possible chance, which they thought they would not have, of joining the Forces of the Crown?
§ Sir ARCHIBALD WILLIAMSON
Is it not the case that some Scottish recruits went the other day to enlist in a Scottish regiment and were told they had to sign this form subjecting them to be transferred to any other regiment in the Army, and that if they did not sign the form they could not be enlisted?
§ Sir R. ADKINS
Before my right hon. Friend answers that question, will he say whether commanding officers are intended to enlist men without insisting upon the compulsory matter, trusting to persuasion, and further knowledge afterwards?
§ Mr. TENNANT
With regard to the case mentioned by the hon. Member for Elgin and Nairn (Sir A. Williamson), if he will give me the facts privately I shall be glad to investigate them. It comes to me absolutely for the first time. With regard to the question of my hon. Friend the Member for the Middleton Division (Sir K. Adkins), commanding officers who-are enlisting new recruits will ask the new recruit whether he is willing to sign this new form, and if the man says he is not willing to sign it, then the officer will probably inform the recruit that the Home Service units are full, therefore, if a man wishes to join the Territorial Force—[HON. MEMBERS: "What about transfer?"]—inasmuch as the Home Service units are full and that no further recruits are being taken for Home Service, the services of this man, unless he will sign, will not be required.