HC Deb 22 June 1915 vol 72 cc1039-40

asked the Under-Secretary of State for War whether, in view of the complaints of parents that their sons, total abstainers until they enlisted for the present War, are now confirmed drunkards, he will say what practical measures, if any, have been taken in accordance with the wish of the Secretary of State for War to prevent intemperance among recruits while training; why young men of the class described are, while in the United Kingdom, forced to take intoxicants by the absence of other drinks; whether this form of compulsion is more exigent at the seat of war; and if he will state the total quantity of each of the different kinds of intoxicating drinks supplied to the Expeditionary Force since the beginning of the War?


I should be sorry to believe that the first part of the hon. Member's question is anything but an exaggeration. No complaints have reached the War Office of youths who were total abstainers having become confirmed drunkards since enlistment, and I am sorry that anyone in a responsible position should make a suggestion so devoid of foundation. As the hon. Member must be fully aware, stringent measures have been taken to limit the consumption of drink, and it is a perversion of facts to state that any British soldiers while in the United Kingdom or anywhere else are forced to take intoxicants by the absence of other drinks. Such intoxicating liquors as have been sent to the Expeditionary Force have been for the exclusive use of the sick and wounded, except in the case of rum, the conditions of the issue of which I have often stated in this House.


May we take it then that the complaints in the "British Weekly" are without foundation?


I have not seen the complaints to which the hon. Member refers. If they are at all in accordance with the statements made in the question, the hon. Member may take it that that is so.


Is the right hon. Gentleman not aware that the "British Weekly" is the organ of the Minister of Munitions?


Has the right hon. Gentleman seen any of the letters which have been published during the last few weeks from mothers who state that their sons have been ruined by the extensive sale of intoxicating liquors?


My information is not in accordance with what the hon. Gentleman suggests, and I have other things to do than to read letters of that kind.