§ Sir A. MARKHAM
Yes, but you are still charging rates double in excess of what they were before the War. If a similar principle were adopted by the coalowners we should be told that it was robbing a particular class. Therefore I entirely dissent from that argument. I wish to put a question to the Chancellor of the Exchequer. When the Defence of the Realm Act was under consideration we had a discussion on the question of compensation. Some of us thought that the House ought to deal with the matter and not refer it to a Commission. Can the right hon. Gentleman now give the House the names of the Commissioners who are to settle the amount of compensation to be paid when factories are taken over? While we are all anxious that no undue amount should be given, we desire that fair and just compensation should be paid. There is another question to which I hope the Chancellor of the Exchequer will be able to give a sympathetic reply. As he is no doubt aware, the price of coal in Wales was advanced at one moment on Saturday by a further 5s. per ton. The price has now been advanced by from 70 to 100 per cent., but the miners in the meantime have not received a penny increase in wages. What is the feeling among the working classes when they see these large prices prevailing at a time when everybody ought to be workng in the interests of the nation to produce all the munitions of war possible?
We see a natural unrest among the workers, when, for no reason whatever except that the demand is greater than the supply, prices are forced up to this enormous extent. If the Chancellor of the Exchequer could say that when the time comes to introduce his Budget he will have very serious regard for these big profits that are being made, and will tax to the 1846 extent of 20s. in the £ the people who are making those profits over and above what they had before the War, he would put a stopper on this increase of prices. A certain selfish class of people want to take advantage of the necessities of the nation to make large profits during the War. I think the House feels very strongly that this is not a time for any section of the community, especially those who are unable to be fighting at the front, to make profits of this kind. If the Chancellor of the Exchequer can make a statement of the kind I have indicated, I think it will have a good effect, as people are not going to raise prices if they know that the Chancellor of the Exchequer will put his hand into their pockets and take out the extra profit.
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
I am always delighted when I find Members of the House of Commons urging new taxation. I take note of what my hon. Friend has said as to the desirability of taxing these great war profits; it is a very useful suggestion, and one well worthy of consideration. I do not think it would be desirable at this moment to anticipate my Budget statement; so that I cannot say anything further in regard to that suggestion. As to the other point raised by my hon. Friend, when the Defence of the Realm Act was under consideration, I promised to inform the House if possible before it separated for the Easter recess, who the Commissioners were that we intended to invite to adjudicate on the question of compensation, and also to indicate the terms of reference. The terms of reference are as follows:—To inquire and determine and to report to His Majesty's Treasury what sum in cases not otherwise provided for ought in reason and fairness to be paid out of public funds to applicants, not being subjects of an enemy state, resident or carrying on business in the United Kingdom, in respect to the direct and substantial loss incurred and damage sustained by them by reason of interference with their property or business in the United Kingdom, in the exercise by the Crown of its rights and duties under the Defence of the Realm Act.That will cover not only the case of the farmer, but the case of the man whose business has been taken over and of the man whose business has been knocked down. The composition of the Commission was a very difficult matter to determine; because, if you set up a commission of experts, you might have a man who has been an expert in one subject, but who knows nothing about others. We rather want to get it out of expert lines. They 1847 have been so much in the habit of estimating compensation upon very elaborate and settled principles which introduce all sorts of elements that we are not anxious to have introduced into the determination of this question. We thought on the whole it would be better to get men whose standing would commend them to the confidence of the country generally as fair-minded men rather than men who were experts in any particular line.
Therefore we have invited the hon. and learned Member for Exeter (Mr. Duke) to take the Chair—a very eminent lawyer, with a very judicial mind. We have asked also to act Sir James Woodhouse, one of the Railway Commissioners, and Sir Matthew Wallace, a very eminent Scottish agriculturist. Those are the three Commissioners. The hon. and learned Member for Exeter has consented to take the Chair. Everybody who knows how busy a man he is and how high is his standing in the legal profession must also know that when he accepts a task of this kind, which is a gigantic one, it is at very great sacrifice to himself; and I am sure the House will join me in expressing our gratitude to him for what he has done. Sir James Woodhouse is one of the Railway Commissioners, a very able man indeed, and I am sure his knowledge of business will be exceedingly useful in dealing with this question. Sir Matthew Wallace is a very able Scotch agriculturist. We thought that we ought to have a man with some practical acquaintance with agriculture; otherwise it would be rather difficult for the Commission to decide upon principles to be applicable to a new set of circumstances—the question of how much a farm is damaged in the cases we have in view. I am not in a position to give the name of the business man who will be chosen to superintend the business. That is still under discussion.
§ Mr. BUTCHER
Is there anything to be said as to the procedure of the Commission, or as to whether the persons alleged to be injured will be entitled to appear?
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
I think we must leave all these questions of procedure to the Commissioners themselves; it is not for the Government to decide. I think that when we have men of this eminence and acquaintance with procedure, we might very well leave the matter for them.
§ 8.0 P.M.
§ Mr. RUPERT GWYNNE
I wish to call the attention of the House to the remarkable treatment by the Home Office of the Reigate Corporation. The hon. Member for Reigate (Colonel Rawson) would have raised the question himself had he not been serving with his regiment at the present time. The facts are shortly these: Last year the British Petroleum Company applied to the Reigate Corporation for a licence to store petroleum in that town. The application was refused on the ground that the building in which it was proposed to store the petroleum was unsatisfactory. The British Petroleum Company appealed to the Home Office, who sent down Major Cooper-Key to inquire into the matter. An arrangement was made by which the position of the building was altered, and it was arranged that a licence would be granted in due course. In the meantime war broke out, and when an application was made by the British Petroleum Company, the Reigate Corporation refused to grant the licence on the ground that they did not wish to encourage the trading of alien enemies in their midst. The next thing they heard was that the Home Office had granted a licence over their heads to the company, although that Department well knew that the licence had been refused because the Corporation had come to the conclusion that the company was really controlled by Germans. On 9th February last I put the following question to the Home Secretary:To ask the Home Secretary if he is aware that the Redhill town council refused after the outbreak of War to grant a licence to the British Petroleum Company to store petroleum in Redhill on the ground that it was a German concern; and whether, when he decided to grant a licence over the heads of and against the wishes of the town council, he was aware that practically all the shares of this company were owned by the Europaische Petroleum Union, which is clearly a German entity carrying on business in Germany?The answer I received was this:Mr. McKenna: A licence was refused by the town council of Reigate on the ground stated. In allowing the appeal of the company against this decision, I was aware of the German interests in the company, but it is misleading to describe it as a German concern. The European Petroleum Company, which holds all but a few of the shares in the English company, though registered in Germany, is an international company and 50 per cent. of its capital is held by Belgian and Russian interests. The employés of the British company are all British, and 350 of them are serving with the Colours. The licence was not granted until power had been given by the Trading with the Enemy Amendment Act to prevent any dividends or profits being paid to German shareholders. A supervisor of the business has been appointed by the Board of Trade under that Act, The company are very large distributing agents throughout the United Kingdom, and hold, I understand, large contracts with the War Office and Admiralty, and great public inconvenience would be caused if the company were not allowed to hold licences."—OFFICIAL REPORT. 9th February. 1915, col. 413, Vol. LXIX.]1849 I gather from that answer that there were two reasons why the Home Secretary took this rather unusual step of riding roughshod over the corporation, without giving them any opportunity to put before him their reason for refusing this licence. One reason was that the Home Secretary does not think that this company is a German concern, and the second was on the ground of public convenience, and on the ground that as the War Office and the Admiralty are trading with this company, it would be against the interests of the country to refuse the licence to the British Petroleum Company. I would like to point out to the House that the British Petroleum Company is really in a very curious position. This company is registered in England. Practically all the shares are owned by the European Petroleum Company, which is registered in Germany. The Home Secretary seems to contend that because the British Petroleum Company is registered in England it is English—it does not matter who the shareholders are—but as regards the European Petroleum Company, because it is registered in Germany it is not German: it is international because some of the shareholders live in different countries. I would like to ask a question of the representative of the Home Office: Does he think that the registration of a company denotes its nationality, or is it its shareholders? According to the answer which the right hon. Gentleman gave me, in one case he takes the registration to denote nationality, and in the other case he takes the shareholders.
I notice that this very question of the nationality of these two companies has been already raised. The curious thing is this: That while the Home Secretary tells me in this House that it is misleading to describe this company as a German concern, the right hon. Gentleman the Solicitor-General in the Law Courts not only describes it as a German concern, but convinces the President of the Court that it is so. The President in summing up says—I will quote his words—"This is clearly a German company and one which I shall refer to as the German Company." This was in a case where a ship carrying oil which belonged to the European Petroleum Company was seized and the contents confiscated on the ground that this was a German company. It is rather difficult to form an opinion when we find that one right hon. Gentleman on the Front Bench opposite says that it is misleading to describe it as a German concern, and another one 1850 proves to the satisfaction of the Law Courts that it is so.
The other reason that the Home Secretary gave for granting this licence was that this is a British Petroleum Company, that it is a company which is trading with the War Office and the Admiralty, and great public inconvenience would be caused if the company was not allowed to hold the licence. I do not suppose the hon. Member who is to answer for the Home Office will contend that it really matters one jot to the War Office or the Admiralty whether or not a licence is granted to the British Petroleum Company in Reigate, so that there was no particular reason or haste for taking this step over the heads of the local authorities in Reigate. If it is so important in the public interest that this company should continue to trade with the War Office and the Admiralty, I would suggest to the hon. Member that the Government should exercise those powers which they have taken upon themselves of late and take over this company altogether and so avoid the feeling which I think is justified in many quarters that alien companies or companies which are practically alien—which are either controlled or largely owned by aliens have at the present time been receiving a preference at the hands of certain Departments of the Government. I think that when there is any doubt about such things at the present time, the Government should not go out of their way to grant facilities either to aliens or to alien companies trading in this country. I hope the hon. Gentleman will give me some reason—some definite reason—for treating the corporation in such a high-handed manner by granting the licence without in any way referring the matter to them or giving any explanation at all.
§ The UNDER-SECRETARY of STATE for the HOME DEPARTMENT (Mr. Cecil Harmsworth)
I can assure the hon. Gentleman the Member for Eastbourne that there was no intention on the part of the Home Office to ride rough-shod over the corporation of Reigate, or to treat it otherwise than in an entirely regular and courteous manner. He, I am sure, is not aware of the procedure which governs the granting of licences in these cases. The first body to apply to is the local authority, and a great majority of these licences are granted by the local authority. In certain cases, however, the Home Office intervenes. By certain provisions of the Act of 1871 there is expressly reserved to the 1851 Secretary of State the right to grant a licence over the heads of the local authority. I personally attempted to reassure the hon. Member in this respect that no power of licence of the Home Office favoured any particular petroleum company, nor did the Home Office intervene in any unusual way on behalf of any such company. The sole consideration before the Home Office is the convenience and need of public supply. The hon. Gentleman has said a good deal about the nationality of this company. I think my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State sufficiently explained that matter in his answer to the question put by my hon. Friend, and which he has read to the House.
No doubt the parent company, the European Petroleum Company, has an international complexion—perhaps the hon. Gentleman will be inclined to say, too much German complexion. The company with which we are dealing is the British Petroleum Company. Although I understand that a considerable number—the vast majority—of the shares of the British company are held by the European company, we have to remember that the British company, according to the law of the land, according to the Trading with the Enemy Act, is a British company. The Home Secretary, therefore, is not entitled to go behind the law as it stands. He is obliged to treat this company as a British company, and not to have any regard to any consideration that may possibly be attached to it in respect of its German connection. The Home Office had no desire to override the Corporation of Reigate—to ride rough-shod over it. It is simply, as I understand it, a matter of considering the needs of the public services. I should explain that the proceedings with regard to the particular licence have got to a more mature stage than the hon. Gentleman the Member for Eastbourne is aware of. It appears that early last year the Petroleum Company applied to the Corporation of Reigate for a licence. Owing to some technical difficulty, of which I have no information, there was a difference of opinion between the two, and an inquiry was held, as the hon. Gentleman says, on 13th May last. The local authorities then withdrew their objection, and, according to my information, the town clerk wrote to the company on 20th June to the effect that the Watch Committee had recommended that the company should 1852 receive their licence. Again, on 9th July, the town clerk wrote to the company to say that the council had confirmed the recommendation of the Watch Committee, and that the licence was being prepared. On that information the company proceeded to build its petroleum stores. It was not until after all these events that the town council of Reigate decided to refuse the licence on the ground that this was a German company. I submit, again, that it was not for the Home Office to adopt this entirely novel ground for refusing the licence to this company. A public authority like the Home Office is bound to take the law as it finds it. This company is a British company according to Statute and Proclamation—as British as any other in the Kingdom.
Perhaps I may be permitted to point out to the hon. Member that, supposing the Home Office had declined to meet the appeal of the company and had refused the licence, it would not have been a matter for serious consideration in the case of Reigate—although we have no information as to that. But if this policy were adopted all over the country the greatest possible disadvantage would follow at the present time to the public services. I may inform the hon. Gentleman the Member for Eastbourne that this company has large contracts with the Admiralty and the War Office. The matter might not be of great importance to Reigate. If, however, this policy were adopted—and there are indications of there being a desire to adopt it on a large scale—there is not the slightest doubt whatever that people generally would adopt it, and there would be the greatest possible disadvantage—perhaps even danger—to some of these important public services. I have been in communication with the War Office since this question was raised, and I am assured that the supplies of this company—I need not go more into particulars—are necessary to the efficient services of the War Office in many parts of the Kingdom. I think on the statement of the facts of the case, the House will agree—and I think the hon. Member for Eastbourne will agree—that the corporation of Reigate have no serious grievance, and that the Home Office have, in point of fact, acted in the interests of the country.
§ Mr. WALTER GUINNESS
Last week the attention of the House was drawn to the preference which, in some cases, was given to non-professional soldiers over 1853 those who have given the work of their life to making themselves proficient in their profession. I want for a moment to-night to draw the attention of the House to an analogous case—the preference which is given in some cases to officers and men serving in the new formation over men who joined the Territorial Army in time of peace. Apart from the question of justice, I think it is very important that the War Office should avoid giving the impression to men in the Territorial Army that because they joined in time of peace, and did what they could to render themselves efficient, they are to be penalised in time of War in promotion and in pay. Unfortunately, it is inevitable that men in the Territorial Force who volunteered for foreign service should suffer in respect of promotion. That is inevitable because the Territorial Force is now divided into two classes, those who volunteer for foreign service and those who do not.
Thousands of men by signing the form which undertakes an obligation for foreign service have put back their own promotion. They have seen men who would not accept this obligation, who were junior to them in the Territorial Force before the War, going to the Reserve and being given very rapid promotion. Nobody grumbles at that; one recognises it is inevitable. But, in view of this inevitable hardship on the Territorial, I do think the War Office ought to go out of their way to avoid discriminating between men who are joining the New Armies and men who already find themselves in the Territorial Force. At the present time there are many cases in which the Territorial suffers as compared with the member of the New Army, not only as regards promotion but also as regards pay. Of course, the case which I want to make to-night really applies to the man whose services are on all fours with the man who joins the New Army. I am not talking of the man who does not accept the obligation of foreign service, but the Territorial who since the new Army Order is liable to foreign service in the same way as a man who joins Kitchener's Army, and I claim he ought to have the same treatment.
I will only take one case, that of doctors. Doctors in the Territorial Force in many cases have come out at disastrous results to their professional positions and prospects. In many cases they only had two days' notice. At that time it was absolutely impossible to find a locum tenens. 1854 Cases have been brought to my notice where men came away from practices which they had built up for themselves by years of painstaking attention, and they had to leave those practices without anyone to look after them for six or eight weeks. These men, who have probably reached comfortable positions financially, suddenly found their income reduced to 14s. a day. That income was, no doubt, reasonable enough for the annual training, but they feel that it is most unjust that, while they are receiving 14s. a day, doctors who are now joining the New Armies with the same rank of lieuteant are receiving 24s. a day and allowances in addition. You are giving the best pay to those who have made the least sacrifices.
In many cases, doctors who join the New Armies are only just qualified. I am informed that the examining body of medicine and surgery who, in past times were passing only 55 per cent. of the candidates are now passing 90 per cent., and a very large proportion of these newly-qualified doctors are joining the New Armies. Even in the case of men who have given up practices, their sacrifices have been considerably less than the Territorials, because those men have in many cases taken four or five months to arrange about a locum tenens and put their affairs in order. It is probably necessary to make some distinction. I do not say it is possible or reasonable that you should pay the Regular Royal Army Medical Corps officer in the same way that you pay the officer in the same class in the New Army; but I think you have drawn your line in the wrong place. You ought to have drawn it not between one class of casual medical officer who will come back to civilian employment and another, but between the permanent Army doctor and the temporary one.
Pay which is suitable enough for a permanent Army doctor is quite insufficient for a man who is much older, and probably has got a family to keep, and who has made a very large sacrifice of his civilian practice. The permanent Army doctor has got a pension assured to him at the end of his period of service, but, of course, there is no pension offered to the Territorial who throws up his practice. The Army doctor is younger and he probably has not got a wife and family to keep on 14s. a day, the pay of an Army Medical Corps subaltern. When your temporary doctor returns to civil life he finds his practice is gone and he will probably have to work right up again from the beginning. 1855 I know what the War Office answer is. It is that these Territorial medical officers contracted during peace time on certain terms, and it is only reasonable that they should carry out their bond; that the War Office has to go out in the open market and buy men for what their services will fetch. That is not a fair answer.
It is not true that the Territorial medical officer is carrying out the contract which he undertook in time of peace. It is not so in two respects. First of all, in time of peace he only made himself liable for service at home. The vast majority of Territorial medical officers, the only ones for whom I am pleading, have accepted the obligation to serve abroad. Again, these men joined in a particular unit. They were distinctly given to understand that, though they were members of the Royal Army Medical Corps (Territorial Force), they would be definitely attached throughout the whole period of their service to a selected unit. A few weeks ago they received a circular that it was impossible, in view of the dearth of officers, to retain that system which had been maintained in the Territorial Force prior to the outbreak of hostilities, so that in two respects these doctors for whom I am pleading are in an absolutely different position from that which was contemplated when they joined the Territorial Force.
It is quite true they joined at a particular pay, but they trusted to the fair-play of the War Office, and they felt sure that if the War Office felt that they were receiving less than a reasonable rate of pay, and found it necessary to pay more to other men with less qualifications, they would be allowed to share the same advantage. I think that this action of the War Office in giving 10s. a day more to the man who comes forward and joins now than they are giving to the man who bore the heat and burden of the day, is encouraging the wrong spirit. You want to appeal to patriotism, and do not want a man to wait and haggle for better terms, and if you go on with this system I am afraid, instead of helping recruiting, you will put it back very much and you will probably cause a ring among certain classes of labour needed for the new Army, artisans and mechanics, and you will find it impossible to get men at reasonable rates at all.
On the particular case of doctors, I should like to say that I hold in the greatest honour every doctor whenever he joins. I recognise that they are all doing 1856 their work, not only with efficiency, but with heroism; but I ask in the case of the men who joined in time of peace you should avoid raising a burning sense of injustice. The case of veterinary officers is almost on all fours, and so is the case of the shoeing-smiths and the men called away from the smithies. Many of these men are master smiths who could not arrange for their businesses to be carried on in their absence, and they are getting a very much smaller rate of pay than the men now being taken for the new Army. It is just the same with the motor drivers. The Territorial motor drivers get 1s. 2d. a day, while the motor drivers in the New Army receive 6s. a day. There are many other classes such as cooks and saddlers, the details of whose pay I need not go into. The fact may not be realised by the War Office that the Territorial now sees that, although he made a greater sacrifice and came out at a time of national emergency, he is worse off than the man who waited and haggled about terms. I would ask that all men who have taken up soldiering as a temporary measure in response to their country's need should be treated alike, and you should not treat the Territorials, who joined before or at the outbreak of hostilities, in a way which penalises them as compared with the men who have joined for the War.
The complaint I wish to bring before the House is in regard to the veterinary surgeons in the Territorial regiments, and it is very much the same complaint as that which has been raised by my hon. Friend. To my knowledge there are many men who have left practices worth from £600 to £800 a year, from patriotic motives, in order to do something towards bringing this War to an end and making themselves useful. Some of these veterinary surgeons are well known in the towns and districts of England, and they have joined the Territorial Force. At the present moment, no doubt because veterinary surgeons are so much wanted in the Army—I know from my own knowledge how much they are wanted—officers who now join and take temporary commissions get the following advantages over veterinary surgeons who joined the Territorial regiments at the beginning of the War. In the first place, they get a grant of uniform; in the second place, they get a bonus of sixty days' pay for each twelve months' service; and, thirdly, they get a gratuity of sixty days' pay also when they sign on. It is very galling to 1857 skilled veterinary surgeons who have been for many years practising their business to find that young men who have only just passed through their examination can join the Army and can get much better terms than they get. I think it is a great mistake that any sense of injustice should be left in the minds of these veterinary surgeons. They are an extremely well-known class of people.
In the country town the veterinary surgeon probably knows everybody in the place; he is a hail-fellow-well-met with the farmer class, and he is probably one of the very best known people in the district, and that these men who, for patriotic motives, have joined the Territorial Force as veterinary surgeons, should feel that they are not being properly treated does not add prestige to the Army. The veterinary surgeons of this country are far too good fellows to make any unnecessary disturbance, more especially if they thought their action would do anything to injure in the slightest manner our Army at the present time. But there is a burning sense of injustice amongst them at the present time. I have in my hands a letter from a veterinary surgeon I know very well, and I can answer that what he writes is absolutely true. I do ask, therefore, that the Government should put the veterinary surgeons who join for the War, and who are willing to go out on active service, whether they have joined the Territorial Force or Lord Kitchener's New Army, on the same terms, and let them have the same benefits. I ask the Government to remember that many of these men have thrown up good practices, and, in some cases, have put someone to look after their practices, while some see their business going to the winds because they are doing the right thing and, from patriotic motives, have volunteered their services to do the best they can.
§ Sir JOHN SPEAR
I should not have intervened in this Debate were it not that I feel very strongly that the Government are, inadvertently no doubt, but still with really serious consequences in my opinion, treating the Territorials very differently from what they treat the men who join the Army to-day. Territorials recognise the importance of the country preparing to meet emergencies, and I am bound to say that I think the establishment of the Territorials has proved a very considerable success. Men have given a great deal of time and been put to expense to qualify to defend their country, and it is rather 1858 hard, after they have made those sacrifices, that they should be paid so much less than is the case with the men who join the Army to-day. I mention veterinary surgeons—a point that has been dealt with so ably by my hon. Friend—but I wish also to mention the case of the motor dispatch riders in the Territorials, who have rendered great service. I know that in Devonshire we have had men who have become greatly experienced in motor dispatch riding, These men are receiving 1s. 2d. a day, with twopence towards their outfit, whereas if they had postponed joining and had joined Lord Kitchener's Army at the last moment they would now be getting 5s. a day for doing precisely the same work.
There are many men in the Devon Regiment who have volunteered to go abroad, and they are receiving 1s. 2d. a day, with an allowance of 2d. for repair of kit, whereas the men who joined the Engineers have 3s. a day, and that is not too much, while those who joined Lord Kitchener's Army have 5s. a day. I think this inequality is most unjust, and it is a deterrent to patriotic men devoting their time to the service of their country in times of peace in order to qualify to defend their country. I appeal to the light hon. Gentleman to do something to make the remuneration of motor dispatch riders a little more equal than it is at present. It seems monstrous that men who have devoted some years to the learning of their profession should have to be content with 1s. 2d. a day, whereas the men who are joining now are getting 5s. a day. More than that, I think the Government are responsible for misleading these men in some direction. In the Territarial drill halls there were indications put up to men to join as dispatch riders at 5s. a day. I know that some of these men joined with the anticipation that they would ultimately have 5s. a day, and they are now very much disappointed to find that they have only 1s. 2d. I think a slight increase has been made to about 1s. 4d., but that is most inadequate, remuneration, because some of these men are farmers who have left their farms at considerable pecuniary loss, and merely to have this pittance necessitates their sending home for money to maintain themselves while in the service of their country as dispatch riders. We recognise the importance of economy in this eaormous expenditure on the War, but this cheeseparing must be a deterrent, and I hope this 1859 question of the remuneration of veterinary surgeons and motor dispatch riders in the Territorial Force will receive some attention at the hands of the right hon. Gentleman.
Mr. PIKE PEASE
On Thursday last my hon. Friend the Member for the Chertsey Division of Surrey (Mr. Macmaster) raised a question in regard to an alternative to the rum ration, and the right hon. Gentleman opposite, with his characteristic courtesy, asked me, as I had asked a supplementary question, whether I could suggest anything instead of the rum ration which is being given to the troops at the present time. Since that date I have read the controversy which has taken place in the "British Medical Journal" in regard to this matter, and, as many eminent doctors differ in regard to the value of the rum ration and also in regard to other liquids which might possibly be taken, I will express no opinion, except that if it is possible, I think it would be wise to find an alternative of some kind. I understand that there are in the Army a very large number of men who have always been teetotalers. These men in many cases are Good Templars, and I understand that they lose their benefits through taking the rum ration when on Service. It seems to me, if it is possible to find an alternative to the rum ration, that it would be wise for the War Office to give it to the troops.
A difficulty arises in regard to beating. I understand that in many cases it is practically impossible to obtain hot water when required, in order to give something else which stimulates in the same way as rum. I do not claim to have any particular knowledge in regard to these questions, but since last week I have had put before me by various persons various beverages, and I should like to say, if it were possible to find hot water, that it would be well to give either Bovril or Oxo, or some meat extract of that kind, to those who are not able conscientiously to take the rum ration. I understand also that one motor kitchen carries enough Oxo, with the necessary amount of water, for giving rations to 5,000 men. I dare say, therefore, that on many occasions it might be possible to give the troops something of that kind. I believe the best cold beverage that could be given—I have formed this view from evidence put before me—is Horlick's malted milk, or some 1860 condensed milk of some kind. I do not know whether the troops would consider this suitable for the purpose, or whether it would be acceptable for them, but, as the right hon. Gentleman asked me a question with regard to the matter, I have thought it only right to answer him and to say, if it is felt by the War Office to be possible to give an alternative to the rum ration which is acceptable to the troops, I hope that they will see their way to make the change.
§ Major MEYSEY-THOMPSON
I am sure I have only to show that a slight injustice has been done to certain officers, and the right hon. Gentleman, from whom one always meets with great courtesy when he makes a suggestion, will at once see that it is put right. When the pay was increased last November the effect on the majors and captains of the Army Service Corps was as follows: The pay of a major was raised from 13s. 7d. to 15s., and at the same time his corps pay was reduced from 5s. 4d. to 4s. The result is that a major instead of receiving £20 7s. 6d. for 30 days receives £22 10s. The Income Tax, however, is taken off, and whereas that used to amount to £1 0s. 5d. it now amounts to £1 2s. 6d., so that there is a slight loss there. The effect with regard to the corps pay is that whereas he used to receive £8 he now only receives £6. The net result, therefore, is that at the end of 30 days the whole of the benefit he receives is 5d. The case of the captain is different. His pay was raised from 11s. 7d. to 12s. 6d., and his corps pay was reduced from 4s. to 3s. The result is that whereas he formerly got £17 7s. 6d. pay for 30 days he now gets £18 15s., while his corps pay has been reduced from £6 to £4 10s. The net result is that although his pay has been raised from 11s. 7d. to 12s. 6d. he actually loses 3s. 10d. Something of the same sort obtains in the Artillery with regard to the heavy batteries through the reduction in the armament pay, although the nominal pay has increased. I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman, the War Office, and the Government are all most anxious to avoid any injustice to these officers and that I have only to point this out and they will do their very best to meet this real grievance of a very deserving lot of officers.
§ Mr. BUTCHER
I wish to call attention to the serious mortality and sickness which has occurred in Army horses in the 1861 camps in England, owing to their being pegged out in places which were often exposed and unsuitable during the past winter. This has a humanitarian side, and it has also an economic side. It is our duty to see that no horses are exposed to unnecessary suffering, and we ought also to attend to the economic side, and see that the taxpayer is exposed to no unnecessary cost. This matter has this special peculiarity. Horses are not like other stores which can be multiplied almost at will. It is very difficult to replace troop horses during war time. That is an additional reason why we should be careful to avoid any unnecessary loss. I do not raise this question out of any desire for carping criticism or to find fault with the War Office. I realise that every man at the War Office has done his utmost during this War, and I think the nation is grateful to them for it, but there are certain matters which have occurred in this connection to which I should like to call attention, because it is possible that they may be able to avoid unnecessary losses among the horses in the future.
What happened was this. Horses were commandeered and bought in very large numbers. Many came from private stables, often too hot stables, and they were at once turned into open, exposed places without any shelter of any sort or kind. They were placed in camps often badly chosen, up almost to their hocks in water or mud, and the necessary result was that they suffered from cold, pneumonia, and other diseases, producing in many cases death. How many died I do not know. I dare say I should be far below the mark if I said hundreds. It is more likely that thousands died. I have heard it said that you must harden horses in order to fit them for service abroad. Yes, but you should do it gradually. You should not take them straight out of warm stables and put them in exposed places. If you take a horse and turn him out loose he may not suffer so much, as he can move about and choose any natural shelter there may be, but if you picket a horse and tie him up so that he has to lie down in mud and water, and if he is without any shelter, natural or otherwise, he must suffer. I am going to ask attention to two or three specific cases, which have been brought to my attention by persons who have had adequate means of knowing the facts, and have done their best to make accurate observations.
1862 The first case is that of the Remount Depôt at Swaythling, near Southampton. There the horses were picketed out in the open, without any natural or artificial shelter; the fields were almost a quagmire, and pneumonia and other diseases resulted, It is stated that, in Christmas week alone, thirty horses died, and in the previous week some seventy-five. Then there is the Avonmouth Camp case. There the stables were placed, in the first instance, in a low-lying hollow. Huts were erected for the horses, but the hollow became, in a very short time, a swamp. The horses suffered severely, and eventually the stables had to be taken higher up the hill, on to a ridge, where, no doubt, the animals fared better. But my information is that, on the 20th February, there were nearly 600 horses sick from exposure in that camp. I mentioned the case of the Hursley Camp the other day. I said that when the 8th Division left Hursley in November last, 500 sick horses were left behind. Since then the right hon. Gentleman has been good enough to inform me, by letter, that of these 500 horses only thirty have since died, the rest having recovered. I am exceedingly glad to hear it.
Then there is the Winchester district camp. My information is that between the 10th November and the 19th December a very large number of horses were picketed out there, and no fewer than 308 died and their bodies were removed from the lines by knackers, while twenty others were buried by the Military authorities. In one week in January it was snowing, and the weather was very bitter indeed. Six hundred horses were picketed out without any shelter, artificial or natural, and, in the week ending the 23rd January, no fewer than five horses died. The last case to which I wish to refer is that of Cambridge. In January of this year there were a considerable number of horses of the Field Artillery picketed out on Midsummer Common, not a very pleasant place, as those acquainted with the locality well know. This winter, unfortunately, the common was deep in water and mud. There was a good deal of cold and coughing amongst the horses, and considerable mortality resulted. I am informed by the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals that their attention was drawn to this state of things, and that they did their utmost to relieve and help the horses, by supplying them with artificial shelters and with a good many rugs, no doubt with good effect.
1863 Let me recall what the right hon. Gentleman told me on the 17th of last month. He said that little or no mortality could be directly attributed to the exposure of Army horses alone. I cannot but think that if one-tenth of the information which I have on the subject is well founded, that is really too optimistic a view. We have all seen horses picketed out in extremely exposed situations and in places where they have had to lie in mud and water. I cannot believe it is possible, under these circumstances, that there was not much mortality in consequence of the exposure. It is really inconsistent with what one knows of horses. I dare say there were other causes of mortality, such as infectious diseases—infectious pneumonia, for instance, which, I believe, is not due to exposure, although it is possible that, if a horse is in a weak condition owing to exposure, it is more liable to suffer and die from that disease. But my information goes to show that there must have been a large amount of mortality due to exposure.
May I make one or two suggestions, for what they are worth, to the War Office. One is, that they should use special care in the selection of sites for camps for horses. With regard to the Avonmouth site, I am told that adequate care was not taken. I am not blaming the War Office. I know the enormous amount of work which was cast upon it, but I think they would be wise to take the advice of local people who know the site, who know what the fields are likely to be in the winter, and who also know the nature of the soil. Another suggestion I should like to make is that, when possible, sick horses should be put in stables. I know that, in cases of infectious disease, people do not like their stables to be so used, but, in many cases, I am convinced that horses suffering from cold, or similar trouble, if put into proper stables, would probably have their lives saved. There is one other matter, a relatively small and unimportant one, and that is the question of rugs. If you put a rug on a horse when it is picketed out and it gets thoroughly wet, and if you leave the rug to dry upon the horse's back, it acts as a kind of poultice, and is the cause of very serious mischief to the animal. If they are to have rugs the War Office might consider the question of supplying them with waterproof rugs, such as are used in New Zealand, where horses are largely kept in the open and where these rugs are found to be of great advantage. 1864 The last suggestion I would make is that there should be as frequent and as complete an inspection as possible. There, again, I know the difficulties owing to the enormous number of horses, but I am sure the War Office will do their best to see that their competent staff of veterinary and other officers should inspect the sites and horses as much as possible. I make these suggestions in the hope that they may be favourably considered, and that the very serious losses which have already occurred should be arrested.
§ The UNDER-SECRETARY of STATE for WAR (Mr. Tennant)
The hon. Member for Darlington (Mr. Pike Pease) has been good enough to make suggestions to me by which it is hoped that an alternative may be found to the rations for that large and growing body of men who object on principle of taking alcohol to be supplied as an alternative to rum in the trenches. I can assure him that I will bring to the notice of the Director of Medical Services and the Director of Supplies the suggestions he has made, and I dare say, if we all try together, we may find something which it will be suitable and possible to provide to that very deserving class of total abstainers.
I welcome the opportunity which the hon. and learned Member for York (Mr. Butcher) has given me of making a short statement upon the position of our remount camps and the condition of the horses in them. Everyone will sympathise with the questions which he has brought to the notice of myself and my colleagues in the War Office, and of Members of this House, namely, the question of cruelty, which is a most important one, and the economic question, which is only second to that. I should like to assure him and the House that the officers who are charged with the duty of seeing to the horse population are very zealous and attentive to their duties, are fully seized of the great responsibility under which they work, and are most anxious to do nothing by which any member of the horse population would suffer. Having said that, I should like to explain to the hon. and learned Gentleman what these various depots are. Swaythling is a depot for heavy draught horses only. I mean by that that the great bulk of the horses there are of a heavy draught character. As he knows, the heavy draught horse is more prone to sickness and disease than the lighter type of horse—in fact, it is rather a strange product and not a natural one.
1865 9.0 P.M.
This is the depot for horses which have been drawn from all parts of the world, although principally from this country, before they cross the water to France and Belgium. This class of horse has been discovered to be, and is well known to be, peculiarly susceptible to the contagious form of pneumonia which is the principal cause of the mortality which has occurred. I am told that somewhere about 80 per cent. of the cases of sickness and death is due to contagious pneumonia. The hon. and learned Gentleman is quite right when he says that the form of contagious pneumonia is quite distinct from one's ordinary idea of pneumonia caught by the human being from cold and exposure. Pneumonia from chill is practically non-existent in horses, although the hon. Gentleman may be right in saying that other illnesses may be derived from exposure and chill. These horses have to be brought together somehow. You cannot keep them isolated in the way that they have been accustomed to be, either housed or treated in small groups of six or ten. We have to take them in very large camps, and we have horse hospitals which contain as many as 1,200 horses. Unfortunately, one horse bringing contagious pneumonia into a camp makes it possible for the whole of the camp to be infected. It is almost impossible to avert the possibility of infection. Nearly the whole of the illness which has occurred in all the camps is due to this fact. The Avonmouth camp is a receiving depot for horses from Canada and America. A large number of horses which came from that part of the world have been infected, unfortunately, with this very contagious disease. So bad has it been that out of 80,000 horses sent to a particular port in Canada for shipment to this country no less than 2,000 had to be killed or died before they were put on board ship. That will give the House some idea of the amount of sickness and illness which comes from that cause. A great number of the horses get sick on board ship. At Avonmouth we have all classes of horses, not only the heavy draught horses. The next camp mentioned by the hon. and learned Gentleman was Winchester, which is a receiving hospital only for sick horses left behind by the Divisions mobilising in the Southern Command. There, again, we take all classes of horses. The hon. and learned Gentleman said that at Avonmouth in the month of February there were 400 sick horses.
§ Mr. TENNANT
I do not deny those figures, although I am not able to corroborate it. I may tell him this, that approximately on the date in question there were 588 horses in that camp, and in that week fourteen died and three had to be destroyed, making a total of seventeen.
§ Mr. TENNANT
The individual causes are not given, but about 80 per cent. of the total of these illnesses in all these camps is put down to contagious pneumonia. Strangles may have broken out, and perhaps the horses really died from strangles. I am unable to give further information, but the hon. and learned Gentleman will understand that sometimes horses have to be destroyed through accidents and other causes. In the case of the 8th and 27th Divisions, when they mobilised there was, as I think the hon. Gentleman is aware, a certain number, a rather larger number than usual, of badly infected horses suffering from contagious pneumonia and also some cases of strangles. At Cambridge we have no record of undue sickness of horses. The figures which have been given to me are that out of 80,000 horses, fifty-four deaths occurred in December, and fifty in January. If the hon. and learned Gentleman would think of those figures, it is not a very large number out of 80,000. That is the kind of mortality which must be expected. I do not think we could possibly do without a mortality of about that number. I want to say, generally, what the relative mortality is between horses at home and horses at the front. At the front there is complete exposure. There is no stabling at all. The horses are absolutely in the open, and there they live under infinitely worse conditions than they would do here. The climate is colder than here, and there is no protection of any kind in the way of hills. It is absolutely a flat country where they are, and there has been this terrific rainfall in the winter and conditions of mud and slush unequalled, I suppose, by anything we know of. They are also exposed, of course, to shot and shell.
§ Mr. TENNANT
The whole of the horses, including the remount camps and the horses actually, engaged in active operations in the field. At the present rate of deaths and destruction it works out at something like 15 per cent. per annum from all causes. That is including horses which were lost in the retreat from Mons. That is a very singular and significant fact. It shows that in spite of the great exposure, it is not exposure that kills them, and it is not the conditions which the hon. and learned Gentleman somewhat fears. We should not have had anything like so much mortality here if we could have avoided contagious pneumonia; but horses being brought from all parts of the world have had to be massed together somewhere, and any spot of infection produces this very great mortality. So to set against all the deaths from shot and shell and the bad conditions, you have this contagious pneumonia on this side, and these two things just balance one another. I hope the hon. and learned Gentleman will dismiss from his mind what I know occupies it, because he told us so, that conditions of exposure are liable to render horses unfit for use. That is not the case. The case is really the opposite, that sickness amongst the horses abroad is very rare indeed. If you take that mortality of 15 per cent. both abroad and here and compare it with former wars, I find that in South Africa the war mortality was somewhere between 55 per cent. and 65 per cent. There, of course, the climatic conditions were absolutely ideal and everything that could be desired, so that 15 per cent. in this War against 55 per cent. to 65 per cent. in the South African war is really a very great stride which the veterinary authorities have made, and for which I should like the House to give them due credit.
§ Mr. TENNANT
All causes, and all causes is what I am dealing with now—missing, wounded, killed, accidents and sickness. So far from exposure being the real source of mortality among horses, the worse difficulties we were confronted with occurred in some stables here in London where there was a great amount of sickness. I am obliged to the hon. and learned Gentleman for having made the suggestions which he has made. I have dealt with the question of the selection of the site at Avonmouth once before. I am 1868 assured that while there is low-lying ground in the camp it is so large a place that there is a great deal of higher ground which has natural protection of hills and that the officers who selected that site were put in communication with the local gentry, so that they could get the information which was considered necessary.
The hon. and learned Member asked that sick horses should be put in stables. Of course, in the veterinary hospitals that is done at once and they are treated there and you can get rid of infection. The difficulty of stables is to get rid of the infection, and we have not really been able to do that completely yet. Again, he suggests, that rugs of the New Zealand type, which are waterproof, shall be utilised. On that point I know the hon. and learned Gentleman will realise that there is a distinct disadvantage in the waterproof rug inasmuch as it induces sweating to a very large extent and extra cold may be the result of that sweating. But that matter has not been lost sight of and the question of making a new waterproof rug is constantly before the veterinary authorities and I think they have the matter well in hand. I hope I have said enough to show that this matter is one in which the War Office is intensely interested, and that our officers are exceedingly anxious to do everything they can, and I think from what I have said it will be seen that their efforts have not been unavailing.
§ Mr. RONALD McNEILL
I regret that the right hon. Gentleman was not able to defer his reply for a few moments, because I shall have one matter to refer to which I think he, rather than the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Baker) would be concerned with. I must first, however, add to the shower of small points with which we have rather peppered him this evening. Doubtless he realises that, though they may seem very small points—questions of a small addition or substraction from pay between one class of soldier and another—nevertheless, they are matters which assume very considerable importance and interest to the men concerned. All this sort of points, with which many of my hon. Friends have dealt, really arise from this cause that we had to face in this great War, unprecedented, of course, we are almost tired of calling it in all its aspects, with an Army which was utterly inadequate for the purpose and a Home Army behind it which was not intended 1869 for active service abroad, and, in order to meet the new conditions, the War Office, with very great success, has created a New Army, so that we are carrying on a war with three perfectly distinct armies or forces raised under different conditions, with different traditions and with different regulations guiding their operations and their existence. What some of us maintain is that, so far as the actual War itself is concerned, when our soldiers go to the front the members of the three great Armies—the Regular Army, the Territorial Force, and Lord Kitchener's New Army—should be on exactly the same footing when vis-à-vis with the enemy. My hon. Friend the Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Mr. Guinness) and my hon. Friend behind me brought to the attention of the right hon. Gentleman one or two particulars in which the Territorial Force is at a disadvantage as compared with the new Army. I am going to call the attention of the right hon. Gentleman to one small matter in which it is the other way about, the Territorial Force being in a better position than the New Army; I think they should be put on the same footing. I refer to what is known as "proficiency pay." That is a small matter in one respect. It is only a question of 3d. a day, but still 3d. a day to a man who is serving may be a matter of great interest and importance. If my information is correct, proficiency pay is, for some unexplained reason, confined to the Territorial Force. It is not given to members of the New Army. That seems to me to be a very unfair arrangement. Many members of the New Army are really old soldiers, many of them having served for many years. Some of them actually wear the long service medal, and yet these men are debarred from receiving proficiency pay while the Territorials are able to enjoy it.
My Friend who opened this Debate referred to the grievance of the medical profession serving in the Army. I wish to refer to a complaint with regard to the grant for the provision of kit and uniform. As I understand the matter, it stands in this way; There were a number of retired medical officers who at the time of mobilisation were in charge of depots, and who, on mobilisation, were recalled to the Service. By a certain rule in the Regulations of the Army, officers who have retired and who are recalled to the Service at a time of emergency are allowed a grant of £100 towards their outfit. At the time of the 1870 outbreak of the War the Army Council issued various orders to the commands referred to and advertised this grant which officers were entitled to. Medical officers were, if I am correctly informed, under no obligation in regard to the providing of uniform until a comparatively short time before the outbreak of the War. I think it was in May last year that they were first called upon to provide themselves with uniform, and when the War broke out and the various orders were made known, there was nothing to lead the medical officers to know that they would be treated differently from other officers of similar rank and position. To begin with, their pay is much smaller. They have much less means for providing themselves with uniform, and they naturally expected equal treatment. A few weeks after the mobilisation order—three weeks, I think—they were suddenly told that they were not to expect this grant, although other officers of the Regular Forces were to receive their £100 for providing uniform. Medical officers were not to be given anything towards the provision of that. That, is a grievance, and they feel, I think, rather keenly that they are in a worse position than their brother officers of the fighting line. They think that they ought to receive the same consideration.
I wish to refer to one matter which has been brought before the House several times in one form or another, but upon which I think we have not got a really satisfactory answer from the Government. I refer to the matter of the National Reserve and the great inequality of treatment, and, as I cannot help thinking, the inequitable treatment in some respects meted out to the National Reserve in regard to their bonus on joining. Several times the answer has been given that the men gave a certain undertaking on joining that they would serve in a certain way, and that they are not entitled to the bonus unless their joining the Colours took place in that precise manner. The first class of the National Reserve are entitled to a bonus of £10, and the second class, who are confined to those who sign for Home defence with the Territorial Force, are entitled to a bonus of £5.
The particular case to which I wish to draw the attention of the right hon. Gentleman is the case of men who really have shown very great keenness to serve the Crown and country. They are men who 1871 belong to Class I., and who, if they had been called upon would have been entitled to receive a bonus of £10. I know one case—and there must be many others—where the man waited and expected to be called out in the National Reserve, Class I. He held himself in readiness, and I am informed that until late in September he waited and received no summon to report himself. He then went and enlisted in a Territorial battalion in order that he might serve. He volunteered for active service, but I do not know whether he has gone to the front. Anyhow, he was prepared to go to the front, and he is entitled, according to the regulations, to £10 if called upon in the class to which he belonged. He did not even get the smaller sum of £5 he would have been entitled to if he had originally belonged to the Territorial Force and had joined his regiment on the outbreak of War.
Of course, I can quite see the kind of technical reply that may be given to a case of this sort. This man, so to speak, fell between two stools. He belonged to Class I., and because he was not called up in Class I., he went to serve as he would have done if he belonged to Class II. It does seem rather bard that when he showed a particular zeal to serve in this way he should be debarred from receiving either one allowance or the other. I know that similar cases have been brought up before in the House. I hope, although it is getting a little late to bring these matters forward, that the right hon. Gentleman will consider whether the technical, red tape view of this matter might be departed from and equitable treatment meted out to these various classes of Reservists. There is another point to which I wish to direct the attention of the right hon. Gentleman. It is what appears again to be inequitable treatment, not as between one class of Reservists and another, but as between Territorial officers and their men. In the case of the Territorial regiments who are in London—and I suppose that the same thing applies in other large towns—numbers of the officers live at home in their own houses. Of course, numbers of men are also in the same condition. The men receive an allowance of 2s. a day to represent rations and light and fuel, and matters of that kind—I think that the latter are in addition to the 2s.—whereas the officers receive no such allowance at all. I do not know whether the reason is that the officers 1872 are supposed to be in a better financial position than the men, and that, therefore, it is fair to leave them to shift for themselves and feed themselves, but I would remind the right hon. Gentleman that there are now many officers who have been promoted from the ranks, and that, apart from that, there are many others who are not by any means millionaires; and it seems to be anomalous that the men serving in these regiments should receive an allowance of that sort in lieu of rations and other necessaries of life, whereas the officers receive nothing at all. It goes beyond that, because the men who have to go from their homes to their military duties every day get their travelling expenses paid both from and to their homes, and, moreover, if after three months' service they go on furlough they receive a free railway warrant for their travelling expenses, while none of those allowances are extended to the officers. I think that the right hon. Gentleman might consider whether officers and men ought not to be treated, in this respect, with more equality, so that so much favour should not be shown to the rank and file at the expense of the officers.
In reference to the question of quartermasters, on a former occasion I brought to the attention of the right hon. Gentleman the fact that quartermasters in the Territorial Force are paid, as I am informed, 9s. a day, no matter what the length of their service may be. If they were not in the Territorials, but were in the Regular Army, they would, of course, be receiving an increase of pay according to their length of service, and in the case of some would be receiving captain's pay or major's pay, and so on. I know of one man who has served thirty years in the ranks and eight years as commissioned officer. The thirty years in the ranks would count as fifteen years in the commissioned ranks. That would give him twenty-three years' service, and he is an honorary major, and yet, because he belongs to the Territorial Army, he is still only receiving the 9s. a day instead of the pay proportionate to his rank, as he would do if he were in the Regular Force. There, again, I would really suggest that in this time of war, when we are using the various branches of the Forces of the Crown, all for one common object, and when they are all fighting, or will be fighting, shoulder to shoulder against the enemy, they ought, for the purpose of this War and while the War lasts, all be treated as if they were one Force. Do not let us think too much 1873 of the problems which may arrive when the War is over, but which may very well be left to take care of themselves when that time arrives.
There is another question which is also of particular interest to me. I refer to the figures for recruiting, especially in relation to recruiting in Ireland. Several times, both in this House and in another place, attempts have been made to get the Government to give some precise information as to the recruiting which has been going on and the numbers who have joined the Colours. The Government have, for reasons which I am not at all going to question, refused persistently to give us any such information, and have told us—I think the right hon. Gentleman himself said in this House—that it would not be in the public interest to give that information, and that certainly he was not going to be led into doing so. That is all very well, but if that is done it ought to be done fairly, and the information should be kept from everybody. It is not fair to keep it from us and to give it to somebody else. I have seen the report of a speech, which was made in December last, by the hon. Member for Waterford. This speech was made in Ireland, and it gave the recruiting figures which, the hon. Member said, had been supplied to him by the Government.
§ Mr. TENNANT
I answered a question on that subject not very long ago. They were figures which were given by the Irish Office, and I particularly said that they must not be taken too literally, and that too much importance must not be attached to them.
§ Mr. McNEILL
I am obliged to the right hon. Gentleman, but that does not quite meet my complaint. The Irish Government, I presume, is part of His Majesty's Government. I understood the right hon. Gentleman in this House, and Lord Kitchener at the other end of the corridor, to say that it was not consistent with the public interest to give any figures in reference to recruiting. That was the policy of the Government, but the right hon. Gentleman now tells me that the Irish Office have given these figures. If so, they must have got them from the War Office.
§ Mr. TENNANT
I must disabuse the hon. Member's mind of that impression. The Irish Government made surmises as to certain figures. They have some information to proceed upon, local government 1874 reports, police reports, and things of that kind, and I am informed that they made certain surmises upon these. But I really think that it would be better if the ton. Member would address himself to the Chief Secretary, because I am not able, at a moment's notice, to say on what material those surmises were made.
§ Mr. McNEILL
As the right hon. Gentleman seems not to know exactly what has taken place, perhaps he will allow me to give him the information so far as I have it. At all events the hon. Member for Waterford made that speech, saying that he had got the figures from the Government. I now learn that it was from the Irish Government. But the matter does not rest there, and I think that it was not very long after that—it was in the very early part of the sittings—that the right hon. Gentleman, when pressed with regard to recruiting, gave the caution, which he has now repeated, that these figures were not to be taken too literally. That makes it all the more extraordinary when I find that on the 16th February, which was a considerable time after the time to which the right hon. Gentleman refers—or, at all events, a very long time after the speech of the hon. Member for Waterford, which was made on the 6th December, no less a person than Lord Aberdeen gave what purported to be the recruiting figures for Ireland. Again I entirely accept what the right hon. Gentleman said that I ought to address myself to the Chief Secretary, who, for reasons which no one deplores more than I, is not able to be present.
But there is no Member of the Irish Government here and the House rises tomorrow, and therefore with the best will in the world to accede to the request of the right hon. Gentleman I am afraid that I cannot at the present moment address myself to the Irish Government, There was a Member of the Irish Government on that Front Bench this evening. I do not know whether he has had anything to do with giving these figures. At all events, the point I want to make is that Lord Aberdeen himself on the 16th February gave figures, derived, we are told, from various sources—conjecture, returns from the police, and so forth—and it surprises me that a man in the position of Lord Aberdeen, collecting statistics, sweeping them up from these different sources, should give those figures, when he had only to apply to the right hon. 1875 Gentleman to get one of two things: Either the correct figures, or a warning that he should give no figures at all. Under these circumstances it is very extraordinary that Lord Aberdeen, without consulting the right hon. Gentleman or any representative of the War Office, should give this information:—The approximate number of men recruited in Ireland and serving in the Army, taken from the latest return up to 15th January, was 95,300, made up thus:—Regular Army. 20,750; Special Reserve, 12,150; Reservists who rejoined on mobilisation, 17,800; Recruits joining since mobilisation, 44,300—total, 95,300.However inaccurate and imperfect Lord Aberdeen's information and figures may be, they are interesting in view of the fact that the total is not very dissimilar, taking into account the difference of time, from those which were given by the hon. Member for Waterford (Mr. John Redmond), who had jumbled the figures up together, And did not separate recruits from Reservists, and had given an entirely false impression—as I could show if there were any occasion to do so—on the point which we are dealing with by making that confusion. Therefore, Lord Aberdeen deserves our thanks for clearing it up and showing us how many recruits joined since the mobilisation, and how many belonged to the Army before that. Then comes a thing which was still more extraordinary for a man in Lord Aberdeen's position. Of course, those of us who are familiar with Ireland all know, and I dare cay the right hon. Gentleman himself knows enough about it to know, that in Ireland if you are going to appoint a dispensary doctor or a remount officer, you do not appoint him because he knows anything about medicine, or because he knows anything about horses, but you appoint him in each case on account of his religious opinions. Lord Aberdeen is now in Scotland, but he seems to have learned when in Ireland that root-fact with regard to Irish life, because he thought it worth while to go on to explain what the religious opinions of the recruits are. He tells us that in the "so-called" religious divisions—I do not know whether that is a respectful way of speaking of this matter by one who is a Presbyterian—the Roman Catholic proportion of soldiers is 55,850 and of Protestant, 39,450. Of course, this did not include, he added, a very large number of Irish people already serving in the Army before the War.
I do not know whether the right hon. Gentleman can make any suggestion which 1876 would explain Lord Aberdeen's motive in referring to the religious opinions of these recruits. I cannot suppose that a nobleman who was at that time just giving up the Vice-Regal position in Ireland, had any such object in giving these particulars regarding the recruits, as no doubt there was, in the case of the hon. Member for Waterford, namely, to make a little party capital out of the recruiting figures for Ireland. I cannot believe that was in Lord Aberdeen's mind. I do not know whether these peculiar circumstances account for the fact of these recruiting figures, collected by hook or by crook, swept by from various sources, having been given for Ireland, in spite of the stern determination of the right hon. Gentleman to give nothing of the sort to the rest of the country. If we are to consider the various merits of Catholics and Protestants—and I hope I may say as an Irish Protestant that I do not believe that there are any finer troops in the world than Irish Catholics—was the object to lead us to infer, as the hon. Member for Waterford in his speech apparently tried to do, that the Catholics of Ireland were doing more than their share in this patriotic movement?
The inference is certainly not to be drawn from the figures given by Lord Aberdeen, because if his figures are correct, if you take the Protestant population as being, roughly speaking, one-fourth of the whole, then, in order to bear their fair share, one would have expected it to be not 55,850 Roman Catholic recruits, but 118,350. I do not wish myself to draw any inference from these figures; I only regret very much that Lord Aberdeen or anyone else should have thought it necessary to go into these particulars from a point of view which ought to have been entirely irrelevant, and that they should have been introduced by a person in so high a position. It is at least fair to the persons concerned that they should know the true facts and draw the true inference. I hope if the right hon. Gentleman at any future time has occasion to refer to recruiting in this country or in Ireland, he will be able perhaps to explain these circumstances, which are entirely beyond my knowledge, or that he will see to preserving that silence upon these matters in Ireland which is imposed upon the rest of the country.
§ Mr. PETO
I should like to call the right hon. Gentleman's attention to a question which I raised in the House the other day, namely, the useful employment 1877 of German prisoners in this country. I should be the last person to suggest anything in the nature of reprisals, or anything in the nature of giving these prisoners of war work of an improper character, or anything of that sort. In the course of constructing our great camps, particularly all through the South of England, there are long stretches of roads which are obviously necessary to lead to the camps—very often 10 miles in extent. Most of the roads have been practically destroyed for any ordinary traffic by the heavy traffic put over them. These camps are concentrated in the very districts and those very parts of the country where we are most short of agricultural labour, and it is a great pity, if it cannot be managed, that the labour which is so absolutely suited to agriculture, and which is used upon these roads to such a very large extent, could not be liberated, in view of the very great difficulty farmers find in getting labour.
The worst season of the year is passed, the right hon. Gentleman said to me, for camping under canvas, but he did not see that he could deal with the matter in that way, and he said also that the labour would not be worth having when they took into consideration all the cost. Each of these great main roads leads through parts of the camps, and there would be no difficulty or expense in guarding the prisoners. There is a large number of troops in those camps, and some sections would be usefully employed in doing that work. The hon. Baronet who represents Agriculture told us the other day that the Board of Agriculture had made a rough estimate that the number of agricultural labourers who had joined the Colours was from 10 to 12 per cent. According to the 1911 census, agricultural labourers in England and Wales totalled 1,250,000, so that, according to the figures, we are short at least from 120,000 to 130,000. We have what I am glad to think is an increasing number of prisoners of war in this country, and there is a very fertile source of labour which is exactly suited to farmers, and which will save the employment of youthful labour which some hon. Members have not approved of using. It would also only be a kindness to the prisoners to find them some useful work.
The next point to which I wish to refer concerns the Financial Secretary to the War Office, and is as to the contracts for bacon. I asked a question recently what 1878 proportion of the bacon supplied to the troops was from Great Britain, from Ireland, from the Colonies and foreign countries, and the reply I received was that Great Britain supplied 11.3 per cent., Ireland 45.4 per cent., the Colonies 25.5 per cent., and foreign countries 17.8 per cent. We hear a great deal about injustices to Ireland, but I do suggest that half the bacon supplied to the troops coming from Ireland, and the amount from Great Britain, a little over a tenth, is certainly an injustice to Great Britain and the farmers of this country. It would seem almost inexplicable if I had not had a little insight as to how the contracts could be divided in this extraordinarily unfair manner. I have got here an abstract of sixteen replies from different members of the Western Curers' Association, and in every case they have received absolutely no order whatever for bacon during the present year. I notice that Wiltshire, in which the hon. Gentleman the Member for West Wilts is interested, has not supplied a single pound of bacon to the troops during the whole of the present year. Perhaps he will make some inquiries in his constituency on this point. There is the firm of Harris and Company, of Calne, Wiltshire, which is perhaps the best known Wiltshire bacon curers in the world, and they write this:—Have had no inquiry since the Expeditionary Force first left for France, when some thousands of sides of bacon were supplied.It is particularly hard in a case like that; before the War Office had organised their supplies on the present lines Messrs. Harris put their ordinary customers on one side and sent in their thousands of sides, and since that time no more bacon is wanted from them, but is taken from Ireland and the Colonies and Denmark. The Yeovil Bacon Curing Company state:—Wrote the War Office in October, and made application for an opportunity to supply, but received a postcard in acknowledgment. Nothing further has been heard.Another firm, Messrs. Oake Woods and Company, of Gillingham, supplied some bacon early in the War through a wholesale firm, but they have not been asked to do so since. The whole of these sixteen firms agree in one thing, that they have not been asked and have not supplied any bacon during the present year. I find from one of my correspondents that the War Office have placed the whole of the bacon buying for the troops in the hands of Messrs. E. M. Denny and Company, Hibernia Chambers, London Bridge, S.E. 1879 Messrs. Denny ordinarily do business with a firm of the same name who are large Irish bacon curers, and have also a very large connection with Denmark. It seems to me quite obvious if one firm only has to supply all the bacon, and if the actual producers and manufacturers of the article can only get an order through that firm, and it is very natural that the whole course of the orders should run in the direction of their ordinary trade in peace time, so that when the War is over they shall be able to point to these people and say, "How well we have done for you and what an enormous share of lucrative orders have gone to Denmark and to Ireland." I think that obviously accounts for the answer to the hon. Gentleman that Ireland supplies 45 per cent. and foreign countries nearly 18 per cent. of the bacon for the troops. I hope he will see his way to let the actual curers, and associations like the Western Curers' Association, get into direct touch with the War Office, and not put them off on a firm which would naturally favour their own regular sources of supply.
I wish also to refer to the question of contracts for the hut camps. There are three points with regard to them: The first is the question of cost and the basis on which a large part of the contracts has been placed, and then there is the question as to the method of laying out and construction, and as to the class of labour that is employed and the amount of work that the taxpayer is obtaining for his money. On the 9th February, in Debate, I was told thatThe average cost of those huts for camps was £13per man, of which £4 represented the hut and £9 for recreation room, stores, light, and so forth. If you compare those figures with the figures for hut erection at the time of the South African war you will find that those tatter cost three times as much.In view of what the hon. Gentleman told me on the 16th February, that considerably more than half of these camps are not paid for by contract sum at all, but on the basis of percentage of cost, I really cannot see how he can give the House the definite cost per man, since in January and February, out of twelve camps I visited, in not one single case was the work complete, or anything near complete, while in 52 per cent. of the whole of the camps the hon. Member tells us they are not on a contract basis at all, and until the last board is nailed and the whole thing is finished, the total cost cannot possibly be ascertained. I do not think it matters, comparatively 1880 speaking, what the actual percentage payment is. The hon. Gentleman said that the average percentage of profit, including establishment charges, was 5½. That is extraordinarily moderate, because, in my experience of building, establishment charges alone are taken to be only about covered by 5 per cent. on the cost of the works executed. The hon. Gentleman told us in the same Debate that he had camps actually finished on the 9th February for 400,000 men. As I failed to find a single camp anywhere near finished I can only conclude that I should not be far wrong in assuming that the total hutting in course of construction was calculated for 1,000,000 men. On the hon. Gentleman's own figures that means an expenditure of £13,000,000. My own impression is that is much below the mark; 52 per cent. of that is £6,750,000; therefore there is a profit of £371,250 being paid on the basis of a percentage on cost. Whether it is much or little does not much matter; it is the basis of paying a percentage on cost which is absolutely demoralising. As to what the actual cost is, I will only say that at a much later date—the 8th March—two questions were asked on this particular subject. The hon. Member for Faversham (Mr. Wheler) asked what was the cost of hutting for a single battalion of the New Army, and he was told £15,000. Apparently the cost had gone up by a couple of pounds per man. At the end of Question time the hon. Member for Tottenham (Mr. Alden) asked, on private notice, a question regarding the housing of prisoners at Donington Hall, and the Under-Secretary of State replied:—I should estimate the cost of putting up huts for the whole of the prisoners and guards, etc., without fence or furniture, if done on the same lines as the officers and men's huts in the New Armies at over £20,000. The numbers provided for now at Donington Hall include: prisoner officers, 320; prisoner servants, 105; staff and guard, 160; total, 585.I have worked out the sum—not a very difficult one—of dividing 585 into a cost of £20,500, and I find it just £35 per man, or about the cost which the Financial Secretary said was the cost of the huts, erected after the Boer war, and nearly three times the cost of the huts erected for the New Army. The Under-Secretary of State in making that reply was anxious to show how much more expensive the huts would have been than the housing at present arranged at Donington Hall; but it is very remarkable that his figure should happen to be over twice as much as that given on the same day by the Financial Secretary. What renders this method of 1881 payment so undesirable is that it is to nobody's interest to limit the amount of the cost. If you pay such and such a percentage on the cost, and delays occur, it is not the contractor who loses, but the unfortunate taxpayer. Far worse than that is the method on which these huts have been constructed. The hon. Member practically admitted that in most cases, owing to the anxiety of the War Office to get the troops into the huts as quickly as possible, the construction of roads, drains, and so forth had been left to the very last. That has produced exactly the opposite result. It has been a case of more haste less speed; it has delayed the whole of the work enormously. This method is exactly the opposite to that suggested to the War Office, as far back as September or October last year, by one of the most eminent civil engineers in the country.
The result is you have to collect an enormous mass of labour upon these isolated sites, and a great deal of that labour is extremely unsatisfactory. I have a number of reports from different people living in the neighbourhood of these camps, and there are one or two matters to which I should like to refer. About a fortnight ago, Mr. Appleton, the Secretary of the General Federation of Trade Unions, writing in one of the Sunday papers, in reference to the labour difficulties on the Clyde, said that it all began with these camps:—The first sign of trouble became visible when the truth about the soldiers' huts began to leak out. As soon as it was known that contractors were charging 4d. a cubit foot for huts that were costing something like 2d. a cubit foot, irritation was manifested, and workmen refused to work at less than the regular rate for this kind of work.So far from that being the fact, we know from the hon. Gentleman that the bulk of the work is not done on a contract basis at all. As to the men refusing to work for less than the ordinary rate of wage, I should like to give the House a few instances. These facts were given to me by a member of one of the best known firms of estate agents in the South of England in the neighbourhood of Salisbury, and they deal with cases that have come under his own observation. He says:—Most of the men employed are of an unusually low type. In fact one hears of painters' labourers, and bricklayers throwing up their ordinary occupations, and starting off with a saw and a few other tools in their baskets, and getting put on as carpenters, earning between £2 10s. and £3 per week. Only on Saturday I heard of a painter who was an absolute novice at carpentering, undertaking this work, and boasting that his earnings were £3 2s. 6d. a week.1882 He refers to boys of fifteen or sixteen years of age engaged at 45s. a week, and other boys straight from school earring 38s. and 39s. per week. This is absolutely demoralising labour in the South. To show how entirely in the hands of labour these contractors are, I understand that in older to get the men to come back, not on Christmas Day, nor on Boxing Day, but on the proper day for recommencing work, the day after Boxing Day, at the great camp at Codford where 1,500 men were employed, they paid a bonus of 10s. to each man who turned up.
The result of that is that if about 1,000 men turned up £500 would be paid in bonuses alone in order to get them to come, with £50 for the contractor. A great many of these men are what really would be called "deadheads." They go and take out a ticket in the morning, and disappear to various occupations during the day. When the time comes for overtime they turn in. They thus get pay for overtime as well as for their so-called work. I have this report from a builder living close to one of these camps. He has had the thing very closely under his own observation, it being in his own trade, and therefore interesting him. He says:—Huts, etc., are being built on a percentage basis.Then he goes on to say,—Take the Ridge at Romsey, a retired builder living near says the men get their tickets in the morning, then go off after rabbits for the best part of the day at 11½d. per hour, then work or play at overtime. One labourer started to dig three post holes per diem. The foreman and ganger told him if he worked so hard the rest. would strike. One and a-half holes were enough, or value about 1s. 6d. for a day's pay. This is general everywhere.I could give many more instances of that kind, and as to actual absence from work In the case of the camp at Warminster the attention of the War Office appears to have been called to it, and they sent an officer down from the War Officii—a practical step which I hope to see repeated. I feel practically certain that they will find a similar result and do a great deal of good. The officer turned up and told the ganger to assemble the men who were doing any kind of labouring and navvy work. The reason he gave—and it was very ingenious and worked admirably—was that he wanted to pick out half a dozen of the men for a very special job. He asked the timekeeper how many there were, and the reply was fifty-five. There was then a search high and low for these men, but only thirty-one could be found. During the rest of the day a hunt was made for 1883 the remaining twenty-four. Many were found to be in the public-houses in the neighbourhood; the rest were reclining in a particular hut where the door was shut, and where they thought nobody would look to find them.
That is going on all over the place. I should not have raised this question if it were not that something practical could be done. I am quite sure that having entrusted contractors with over half of this vast expenditure on a basis which means that the taxpayers lose if the money is wasted, it is the obvious duty of the War Office to send down and find out for themselves what amount of this kind of loafing and waste of time is going on. I would ask attention to the matter, particularly from this point of view: I can imagine nothing more absolutely undesirable than for the recruits assembled in such numbers near these camps to be mixed up, as they are, with all this civilian labour of a most undesirable kind, and to find that these men are under no kind of control or discipline.
I could give the hon. Member examples of what was going on only a fortnight ago in one big camp near Godalming, where the official—so it appeared to the colonel who spoke to me about it—had no kind of control over the men. They were behaving in a very disgusting manner which was very insanitary from the point of view of the camp, and they continued to do so when the matter was complained of—and, indeed, increased the nuisance about which complaint was made. That, obviously, is very bad for disicpline and ought never to have been allowed to get to its present position at all. It, indeed, need never to have occurred at all if the War Office had made a firm rule from the beginning that no man should be employed upon work in these camps, and mixed up with our young recruits, if he was not subject to military discipline. It may be too late to carry that out now. But I do ask the hon. Gentleman to see if steps can be taken to find out whether the statements I have made are correct, and to get rid of a very large part of these so-called labour corps. I am perfectly certain that the residue will get on very much quicker. It would do far less to upset the labour conditions in the neighbourhood, and to deprive farmers of the labour which they so badly need upon their farms.
§ Sir WILLIAM BYLES
I have been wondering this afternoon why we should pass the Motion which you, Mr. Speaker, are about to put from the Chair. There has been a crowd of important and interesting subjects discussed. At the end of it all we are asked to shut down the House of Commons for four weeks. The nation looks to Parliament for an answer to all its questions, problems, and puzzles, and for the redress of its grievances. When it looks it finds the shutters are up, the blinds are drawn, and the Members are away from the scene. I do think there ought to be some permanent arrangement for the meeting of Parliament, and that it should, in fact, sit continuously. I came across a few lines yesterday in a certain journal of high reputation which said:—The Government should trust persuasion and debate rather than executive order. They ought to keep Parliament at work, instead of summoning it for a series of brief and breathless Sessions.With that I entirely agree. There have this afternoon been twenty subjects pressed upon the attention of the Government. In many of them I am deeply interested, and would gladly have taken part in some discussion. Yet, at the end of it, we are asked to shut the whole place up and not to allow these questions to go on any further. No doubt the House of Commons is a changed placed. We are all of one party. There is no party feeling. The King's enemies have arranged our differences. Still, the House of Commons ought to be a place doing its duty, and teaching the nation to do its duty, and where the interrogation of the Government can go on on behalf of the nation. Therefore, I do put forward a plea that the House of Commons ought to be kept sitting, if only for one or two days a week, all the year round. I am a little afraid of any Government being unchecked for four weeks. Even the Press itself is being muzzled. I get uneasy when the House of Commons is closed. The common belief in the country is that that is the time when scandals arise, and when jobs are perpetrated.
Even in normal times that is so. These are not normal times. We have given the Government arbitrary powers. I do feel that it is a dangerous thing for Parliament, so to speak, to exclude itself. It is rather a terrible thing, in any case, to fall into the hands of an autocratic Government, and that we have now. We must accept terrible things in war-time, no doubt. Emergency laws have given tremendous powers to the Government. 1885 There is martial law, the censorship, and prohibitions of all sorts. I find it hard enough to obey all the normal laws, but with these emergency laws I am in daily dread of finding myself some morning in the Tower of London. Therefore, even in the expiring moments of this part of the Session, I ask the Government not to carry on its work in camera, but to let us know what we want to know. We have at least 100 questions on the paper every day raising all sorts of important matters, and while there is this righteous appetite for knowledge and for information, I do think that the Government ought to let us know what it can. I am, of course, not asking for anything that will help the enemy, but only that which will help the nation to bear its burdens, and help the Government by getting more and more trust and confidence from the House.
§ The FINANCIAL SECRETARY to the WAR OFFICE (Mr. Harold Baker)
There are a great number of points connected with the Army being raised in the course of these Debates, but I hope, in spite of the appeal which my hon. Friend just made, the House will not think it remiss if I limit the length of my remarks to the size of the audience. The hon. Member for Devizes (Mr. Peto) dealt at some length with the question of huts, a question with which he has a direct personal knowledge, which he acquired by visiting various camps. I will not follow him in detail through all the various comments which he made, but I assure him that those points which related to the future shall certainly receive the most careful consideration, and, in particular, that very difficult question of the labour conditions which prevail in those camps not yet completed. But there are one or two points with which, perhaps, I should deal in regard to the cost. He quoted the statement which I made that the cost of those huts worked out on an average at £13 per man. That figure of £13 was, in fact, based on as near an estimate as could be made of all the camps put up in the Aldershot command. There are a great variety, and I think it may fairly be claimed that the hutments in that command were a very good sample of those being put up all over the country, and the figure was based on the estimate of that date. I think he is right in assuming it has been slightly increased since then. The hon. Member then went on to compare it with a figure given by 1886 my right hon. Friend in connection with Donington Hall. I can assure him that as both those figures came from the same source, the discrepancy is probably an imaginary one, and I think in the calculation he made he entirely failed to observe the very large proportion of officers, for whom the scale of comfort, of course is greater, who are housed in Donington Hall.
§ Mr. BAKER
That was the hypothetical basis of my right hon. Friend's calculation; if the officers were housed as in our Army, then the cost would be on that scale. I pass from that to the rather sectional appeal which the hon. Member made on behalf of Wiltshire bacon. My information on this subject does not correspond by any means closely to that which he offered to the House. I am told, if I may leave Wiltshire for the moment, and take a larger and broader view, and consider British bacon curers, that they have been given full opportunity to offer for army supply, and that when they have offered, their bacon has nearly all been accepted. Some gave as a reason for not offering that they have no surplus over their ordinary trade requirements at present, and certainly the number of those who do offer has fallen rather since the outbreak of war.
The hon. Member attributed the neglect of Wiltshire—and no one, I think, will deny the merits of Wiltshire bacon—to the fact that the buying had been put in the hands of Messrs. E. M. Denny, of London. I would point out that that firm is one that buys and sells for us purely as agents. They buy through merchants who get the smoked bacon from all available sources, and if a very large proportion comes from Ireland the reason is that Irish bacon is obtainable and is found satisfactory in use. I pass from the hon. Member for Devizes to the hon. Member for the St. Augustine Division, and I hope he will forgive me if I treat his speech more cursorily than 1887 it deserves. He raised the question of proficiency pay. The conditions which a man must fulfil for proficiency pay have been dealt with and very carefully considered, and have only been laid down after very careful consideration. New circumstances have arisen in the course of the present War, and the whole question of the future temporary conditions during this War is at this moment also being considered. I think the hon. Member may assume that matters will not stay on the old peace footing. He referred to what has become a very familiar question—the bounty for National Reservists. I have always tried to make it clear that that bounty is given for one definite thing only—namely, for men in time of peace having undertaken an honourable obligation to come out for service when called upon. It was given for the very obvious reason that from a military point of view it was highly important to know the number of trained men we could count upon for the various military duties of Class I. or Class II. There never was any misunderstanding about it from the beginning, and it was only some time after the outbreak of War that cases began to appear, in which National Reservists claimed that they did not receive the bonus they were entitled to. Considerable relaxation was made in extending the date from the first day of the War to 11th August. I undertook, and the undertaking has been faithfully performed, that in any case in which it could be shown that a man might be considered entitled to a bounty, I would examine the facts, and if those facts were supported by evidence the bounty should be paid. Many cases have been examined, and in a certain proportion of them it was found there was no justification whatsoever, and the rest have received the bounty.
§ Mr. McNEILL
Would the hon. Member consider the case I mentioned in which a reservist of Class I. was not called up at all, and, after waiting for many weeks, he enlisted independently? Will the hon. Member consider that case?
§ Mr. BAKER
I will consider any case when I have an opportunity of examining into the facts. I should wish to know, before giving an answer, how it was that the man came not to be called up. The hon. Member for Staffordshire (Major Meysey-Thompson) raised a point about corps and armament pay. I can assure him that matter shall be carefully considered, and at the moment I would only say that the 1888 new scale of corps and armament pay was only arrived at after very careful consideration. I will see that attention is paid to the particular anomalies which he has pointed out.
§ Major MEYSEY-THOMPSON
I was quite sure that the hon. Member would be perfectly willing to inquire into the matter. I only brought it up because I thought that it had escaped notice.
§ Mr. BAKER
I come, last, to the question raised by the hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Mr. W. Guinness) as to certain cases in which he said members of the Territorial Force were penalised in connection with promotion and pay compared with those who had joined the New Army, He took, in particular, the case of doctors, and he pointed out what has been pointed out by others, that it appears that a lieutenant in the Territorial Force or the Royal Army Medical Corps receives 14s. a day, whereas the same person performing the same duties in the New Army receives 24s., apparently a difference of 10s., which does seem very considerable. The hon. Member omitted altogether, however, the question of allowances to which these two types are respectively entitled. Whereas the man in the Territorial Force with his 14s. a day is entitled to allowances which may bring him up to 21s. 9d. as a maximum, the civilian who came into the New Army can never, in any case, get a greater sum than 25s. 9d. The difference, therefore, instead of being so great as 10s., is, in fact, 4s. There is still a difference, and the difference does exist, as he pointed out, in other cases. He was wrong in saying that there was no title to pension in the case of those in the Territorial Force. On embodiment they are all entitled to the benefits of the Regular Army. He went on and said that there were other cases in which there was a similar disparity of reward. He quoted the case of the veterinary doctor, and that was reinforced by the hon. Member for Tamworth (Mr. Newdegate), and the case of shoeing smiths; and the case of motor dispatch riders was referred to by the hon. Member for Tavistock (Sir J. Spear). Those cases all taken together raise a very broad question of principle. I agree that it is not altogether easy. What are you to do when you find your supply of a particular kind of soldier is falling off, and in order to increase the supply you have to raise the price in the market? What are you to do when those who originally entered on the 1889 lower basis find that their position, though it was satisfactory before, is now not so satisfactory compared with the later recruits? You can, of course, do one of two things. You cannot level down. You must either leave them as they are or you must level up. Levelling up is a very big business if you set about it in that way. It has hitherto been the practice to leave people as they are. It was done in the South African war; it was not then thought necessary that the first comers should be raised to the higher rates paid to the later comers. In cases it may seem hard to a man that he should be doing precisely similar work to the man beside him for a lower rate of pay. But when once the levelling-up process begins it may become endless, and if you begin to put up rates you cannot confine to a small section—the increase must apply to all who have gone before. In putting it thus I hope I shall not be thought to depreciate in any way the very great sacrifices which hon. Members have described and which undoubtedly are being borne by members of the medical profession on behalf of our country. There is, no doubt, that doctors all over the country have given up valuable practices and have given their time and their energy and their service to the country.
§ Mr. BRIDGEMAN
When was the salary for the doctors raised? My impression is that it was immediately after the War began.
§ Mr. BRIDGEMAN
Then how did you know that a sufficient number of doctors would not be forthcoming at the old rate?
§ Mr. BAKER
The higher rate was, of course, based on information in the possession of the Director-General of the Army Medical Service, who is in close touch with the profession. He knew the enormous number that would be required as well as the number likely to be available. Very careful records are kept in peace times of the doctors who may be expected to serve, and I do not doubt that it was upon these statistics that the decision was come to that, if the necessary number of doctors was to be obtained, the rate of pay must be slightly increased.
§ Mr. McNEILL
Will the hon. Gentleman say a word about the exclusion of medical officers from the kit grant?
§ Mr. BAKER
I wished to deal with the hon. Gentleman's statement on that point separately. It did not appear to me to be quite in accordance with the actual practice, and if he desires I will communicate with him by letter. I will conclude by saying that in all these cases of men working side by side on differential rates of pay, I hope the hon. Member will not suppose it is through any indifference to the merits of this or that class, or through any failure to recognise the great sacrifices which they are making, that the present principle is observed.
§ Mr. SANDERSON
Before the House adjourns I want to refer to a matter of national importance—one by no means of the least importance. It is the question of the food supply of this country. More particularly I desire to ask the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Agriculture whether the Government intends taking any steps for the purpose of increasing the growth of cereals in the United Kingdom. This matter was raised last year with regard to the question of wheat, and the Government then, I am sorry to say, did not see their way to take the steps we suggested. It is now too late to do so. But there is still the oat supply to be considered, and it is not too late at the present moment to put in oat seed. Everyone will agree that oats are a very valuable source of food. There can be no dispute as to the necessity for anxiety on this matter. It is practically admitted that the crop of 1915–16 must of necessity be smaller than it was last year or the year before, and, having regard to the War, there must be a smaller number of acres under cultivation. Apart from that, there will be another important fact. A considerable proportion of the corn which, in the ordinary course, would come to this country will, in consequence of the War, be deflected to other countries, who, in future, will be importing instead of being, as in the past, exporting countries.
I do not raise this question on my own initiative, for the hon. Member for the Wilton Division (Mr. C. Bathhurst) asked me to put these points to the hon. Baronet. The hon Member is unfortunately unable to be in his place, because he is serving in His Majesty's Forces. We all know a Consultative Council has been sitting for the purpose of advising the Board of Agriculture. Of that Committee the hon. Member for the Wilton Division is a member. That Committee has been 1891 sitting more or less with closed doors. We do not know what their report has been, although we should like to see it. Of course, the hon. Member has not broken any confidence to me, but I gather from the fact that he has asked me to raise this question that he looks upon it as a serious matter. The point is, that if the shortage comes at all it will come, in all probability, at the end of this year or the beginning of next year. Cannot the Government now—it is not too late, although it is the last moment—especially in the North of England, where oats are not put in yet—
§ Mr. SANDERSON
Cannot the Government now do something? It is not for me to suggest methods to the hon. Baronet, but there is one method which has been suggested—that is, for the Government to guarantee a minimum price for oats to the farmers. [An HON. MEMBER: "How much?"] That would have to be settled by experts. At present oats are about 30s. a quarter. If they remain at that price, in all probability farmers would be delighted to grow them. The farmers say that if they can see their way to getting anything like a decent price for oats they will grow a crop. There are many farmers, not large farmers, who could afford to have one or two fields ploughed in such an emergency as that through which we are passing. Certainly in the North of England there are many such. There may be other methods, but no doubt the Board of Agriculture and the Consultative Council have considered the matter. It may be that the Government cannot see their way to give the guarantee I suggest. At all events, if they do not do that, if I can obtain from the hon. Baronet to-night a statement emphasising the importance of this matter and bringing the influence of the Board to bear upon farmers generally in the direction I suggest, my words will not have been spoken in vain. It is a matter of the gravest possible importance, and one that does not brook delay. I have seen it stated in the newspapers that the Government has bought one year's crop, or part of one year's crop in the Argentine. Whether that is so or not, I do not know. If they have, it will have an important bearing on the subject with which I am dealing, but I should be glad if the hon. 1892 Baronet will bring the matter to the attention of the Board, as it is one of the greatest urgency. If they have not considered it, they ought to consider it at once, because if they have not, there is still time for this important matter to be attended to. That is the excuse, if any excuse is needed, for raising this matter at the last moment.
§ Mr. KING
The hon. Member's speech raises a very large question. I hope, and I believe, that feeling generally on this side of the House seems to be that there will be nothing in the nature of a promise given to the agricultural interest that a minimum price will be fixed. In our opinion it is totally unnecessary, and I think that it would be extremely unfair, unless it were also accompanied by a minimum wage to labourers. The question really at present is not whether farmers should be, or can be, encouraged to grow more corn, but whether labourers should be, and can be, encouraged to go to work on the land. The question of labour is essential to the question of a greater food supply.
Inquiries in my part of the country show that it is largely due to the lack of facilities on the railways that more corn is not being sold. I have been inquiring of a very large farmer only this morning who tells me that the greatest difficulty he has—and he supplies a very large number of farmers with their seed-corn, a great amount of which comes from Scotland—in getting stocks through on the railways. If he were promised within the next fortnight large consignments of seed-corn brought through on the railways, he could guarantee, from his own experience, a very considerable extension of spring wheat.
There is one question which was not touched upon by the hon. Member which certainly in my part of the country affects a very large area. I think every facility ought to be given to work on areas of ground which are available. There is a large amount of ground on railway banks and elsewhere which might be broken up and used for vegetables and other crops which is held back for one reason or another. I have one or two pieces of this class of ground in my mind which could easily be thrown open to labourers in towns or urban districts for extension allotments. The first suggestion I should make is that large landed proprietors who have deer parks where great herds of deer are eating off the fodder 1893 and lessening the possible amount of hay which will be produced this summer, should kill off their deer as soon as possible and allow the whole of that large acreage to be used.
§ The PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY to the BOARD of AGRICULTURE (Sir Harry Verney)
Certainly the Board of Agriculture is nothing but grateful to the hon. Member (Mr. Sanderson) for raising this extremely important question and also my hon. Friend (Mr. King) for his very practical suggestion. He raised the question of the difficulty with the railway companies of getting different things through. There has been a question also raised of seed potatoes from Scotland to England. What we ask him is to let us know the exact details, who is the person he refers to, and what is the exact difficulty. If we have accurate information as to someone who requires seed potatoes in a particular place in Scotland which he is not able to get, we will investigate it and see what we can do to facilitate transport; but if we are merely told that, generally speaking, there is a difficulty in getting it it is difficult to take any particular action. I think his suggestion of killing deer in parks will have consideration at the Board of Agriculture. If I may deal with a point raised by the hon. Member (Mr. Sanderson), I think he will be the first to see that it would be criminal on the part of the Board of Agriculture if at the eleventh hour we suddenly reversed a settled policy which has been adopted by the Board ever since the matter was first raised in September, and Certainly anything in the way of a bounty or a guarantee is not considered by the Board to be either possible or desirable, but it gives me an opportunity of emphasising what he has already said that the Board of Agriculture urge farmers to sow every acre they can with wheat if it is not too late, or with oats.
With regard to the question of a guarantee or a bounty, of course, there are difficulties—economic difficulties. As far as the Board of Agriculture is concerned, if the emergency is proved, economics go. The great thing is that food shall be provided, and if the emergency is proved, and the way to meet it is considered best, no stilted ideas of economics will stand in the way of carrying out such a policy. We have at the Board of Agriculture more 1894 opportunity of knowing what is going on in different parts of the country in agricultural districts than any individual can have. We receive constant letters from correspondents, we have our own inspectors, and we have all sorts of means of finding out the facts. Certainly no evidence has been brought before the Board of Agriculture at present to show that where farmers can sow their wheat or oats they have not done so. There is a great deal of evidence to show that owing to shortage of labour, or weather, or different conditions, they have not been able to do so. That information comes to us constantly. I do not think there has ever been a case of real evidence where it has come before us that the farmer has said he will not sow unless he gets a particular guarantee or a particular bounty.
The hon. Member must have a very poor opinion of the farmer if he thinks that that would be so. I know he does not. I dare say he agrees with me that the farmer is no fool. I have much too high an opinion of him to think that it would be necessary or desirable to bribe him to do something in his own and the country's interest. I cannot do better at the close of an important subject at the end of an important Debate than by reminding the House of what was said this afternoon on the great authority of the Prime Minister in answer to a question on this very subject. The Prime Minister's words were: "The Government consider that there is no need to offer an inducement to farmers to do what is advantageous to the country and profitable to themselves."
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Ordered, That To-morrow Mr. Speaker, so soon as he has reported the Royal Assent to the Bills which have been agreed on by both Houses, do adjourn the House, without Question put, until Wednesday, 14th April, and that Committees have leave to sit up to and including 25th March, notwithstanding the Adjournment of the House.
§ Whereupon Mr. SPEAKER, pursuant to the Order of the House of the 3rd February, proposed the Question, "That this House do now adjourn."
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Adjourned accordingly at Ten minutes before Eleven o'clock.