1. "That a supplementary sum, not exceeding £120,000,000, be granted to His Majesty, beyond the Ordinary Grants of Parliament, towards defraying the Expenses which may be incurred during the year ending the 31st day of March, 1916, for General Navy and Army Services in so far as specific provision is not made therefor by Parliament; for the conduct of Naval and Military Operations; for all measures which may be taken for the Security of the Country; for assisting the Food Supply, and promoting the Continuance of Trade, Industry, Business, and Communications, whether by means of insurance or indemnity against risk, the financing of the purchase and resale of foodstuffs and materials, or otherwise; for Relief of Distress; and generally for all expenses, beyond those provided for in the Ordinary Grants of Parliament, arising out of the existence of a state of War.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House doth agree with the Committee in the said Resolution."
§ Sir RYLAND ADKINS
I desire to refer to a matter which was discussed yesterday, although I approach it from a somewhat different position than that occupied by my right hon. Friend the Member for Walthamstow (Sir J. Simon) and my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham (Captain Amery). My right hon. Friend gave the House yesterday a number of remarkable and striking cases in which the methods of recruiting which have been recently used were obviously open to strong criticism. The House generally was impressed by the fact that in some way or other the legal position of civilians has been impinged upon, and that those who were seeking, and very properly, to get as many persons as possible to join the Colours, were going beyond the powers given by Parliament, and were giving rise to widespread uncertainty and misapprehension. I do not propose to adopt precisely the epithets or suggestions which were made by some of the speakers yesterday. I am not here to impute any motive, and certainly not any evil motive, to those who are working for recruiting in the War Office or out of it. But it is quite possible for zeal that is not according to knowledge to bring about a state of things almost as serious as that brought about by the methods which were described with such vigour, and apparently with such strong feeling, by the hon. Member for North West Lanarkshire (Mr. Pringle). I am glad to see the Under-Secretary of State for War present. I rise for the purpose of asking him whether it is not possible to clear up the uncertainty which now exists, and to remedy the mistakes which have been unwittingly made, by action which he can take in Parliament, and by action which can be taken by the War Office itself. In the first place, it will be abundantly clear that there is in many places great misunderstanding and uncertainty as to the position of men who have been certified as medically unfit to serve since the 15th of August last, or who may have had their papers rejected on medical grounds. I could give the House instances of persons well affected towards recruiting who are really quite uncertain, in view of the various circulars and various discussions, whether employés of theirs who have already been up once have or have not to go up again.
600 My first request to the War Office is that they ought now, without any further delay, issue a circular to all the Home Command, from whom circulars have been ordered to go to recruiting officers in all parts of the country, calling attention to the fact that all persons rejected after 15th August on medical grounds are outside the Military Service Act and cannot under any circumstances be enlisted against their will. That really requires to be done. I think those of us who are concerned with recruiting almost every day of the week, and who come in contact with this problem, will be the very Members of this House who are most aware of the uncertainty prevailing, and who would be most grateful to have that uncertainty once and for all resolved and put right. The second point which I put respectfully to the Government and the House is this: I think now, after yesterday's Debate, it will become widely understood why there has been this difficulty in connection with applications for armlets. Personally, I am not disposed to blame the War Office for wishing to give this particular dignity of an armlet only to persons who are either totally unfit medically for any kind of military service or to those who are prepared to take any kind of service in the Army, but who are not at the moment in a position for health reasons to take it. I do not blame them. The point was raised yesterday by my hon. Friend the Member for Derby (Mr. Thomas) that armlets had been promised to all persons who were certified medically unfit during what was known as the Derby campaign. I understood from my right hon. Friend that no such promise was made. However that may be, and I do not know enough about it to take up the time of the House, I assume that the War Office in this particular matter are agreed that they are not under any obligation to give armlets, and that therefore they are entitled to make what conditions they like within the law in connection with the offer of armlets. I understand their view to be that an armlet is not to be given to everyone who was certified medically unfit between last August and the present time, but only to those of such persons who are willing to come up again and be re-examined and attested, subject to the decision which the doctor's examination dictates.
If that is the case so far, there is much to be said for it, but I am sure, after 601 yesterday's Debate, every Member of the House will agree that there have been a number of cases where men who tried to obtain armlets have had it so put to them have felt compelled to be attested again, and have been if not told, and I am afraid in some cases they have been told they would become conscripts if they did not, have not had the alternatives fairly put before them. I would ask my right hon. Friend, on this second point of new procedure with regard to armlets, whether it would not be possible to make it perfectly clear that in the case of any person who comes up seeking an armlet re-examination by a doctor is demanded before such armlet is given, and that it should be clearly laid down that it must be explained to such person that if he submits for that second examination he is thereby submitting himself for attestment, and has become a Reservist unless the doctor says he is utterly unfit for any kind of military service. That ought to be made perfectly clear to him. It is not a case of going up again to be re-examined simply. By submitting himself he is thereby submitting himself for attestment. That ought to be made perfectly clear. Still more clear, if possible, ought it to be made that any man so coming up who declines to submit himself when he knows what is involved should never have it hinted to him that he is liable to be conscripted if, since the 15th August, he has been certified medically to be unfit. That undoubtedly has happened, and wherever it has happened it has given rise to a great deal of discontent and anger and to a sense of grievance, and it has affected the national spirit, which, in the interests of as large an Army as this country is capable of supporting at this moment, we all want to preserve. The third point is this: A circular has gone out—the yellow circular quoted yesterday—calling upon people to report themselves. It would have been very much better if that circular had not been sent to anyone who has already been certified medically as unfit. But everybody who knows the rush that took place at the end of the Derby scheme knows perfectly well that there were hundreds, and perhaps thousands, of men who had their applications marked "medically unfit," and who have medical certificates, and yet who are not known to the War Office to have them. Could not my right hon. Friend and his advisers have sent out 602 with that circular a slip saying, "If you have been already medically examined and certified as unfit, this does not apply to you. You are to let the recruiting officer of the district know that has happened to you, and give him proof that you have been so certified"? If that were done at once it would do a great deal to meet the case. It would show that the War Office are doing, as I am sure they are, everything they can to observe in spirit and in letter the Military Service Act and the various operations of which this House has approved.
The next thing I want to ask is this: A notice went out yesterday, or is going out to-day, to men who have not attested or enrolled stating that they must report themselves on the 4th March. There is no doubt a great deal to be said for that. But it ought to be made clearer than it is to these men that, while they are being summoned now, there is still open to them, until the 2nd March, the right and opportunity of voluntarily attesting. It is too late, I understand, to have anything put upon that notice with regard to the alternative of voluntary recruiting; but I would ask my right hon. Friend to state in his reply—because he will be reported, and his statement will be known throughout the country—that that opportunity for voluntary enlistment is open until the 2nd March. I hope he will be able to tell the House that the Parliamentary Recruiting Committee, either by posters or by some other methods, are keeping that fact before the eyes of the public in order that everybody who receives the summons to report himself on the 4th March may also have present to his mind the fact that he can still enlist voluntarily if he chooses and put himself in line with his friends who have already enrolled. I ask these things, which I hope the Government and the House will not think unreasonable, because I think we should all be sorry if the difficulties incident to a great movement of this kind did really affect its efficiency or give rise anywhere to a conviction of ill-treatment or injustice. The Military Service Act, while it may be bombarded on grounds of logic from almost every point of view, did represent the conclusions to which the vast majority in this House came in a very difficult matter, and it has certainly had acquiescence, sometimes reluctant, sometimes cordial, in all parts of the country. That acquiescence surely depends upon its being administered with scrupulous care, and, on the 603 other hand, upon the critics making adequate allowance for the very great difficulties which the War Office are under in dealing with a voluntary system and a partially compulsory system, and with all the details connected with the administration of recruiting in this country.
There are two or three other matters which I think would promote recruiting, and which I will mention in a sentence. One has reference to persons who have obtained medical certificates improperly. There are rumours that some certificates have been purchased. It is suggested that in some cases they have been got by that which approaches fraud. One can well understand any Government Department which has information pointing in that direction being anxious to overhaul such cases, and if possible to put people through their facings a second time. But if the War Office know of such cases, by far the best way is to bring them as soon as possible to the test of a civil tribunal. There is no civil tribunal throughout the country which could not be trusted to deal, not only fairly but firmly, with any case where a man got exemption by fraud. The feeling of the country is not such as would allow that to be looked at as a light offence if it is properly proved. But it is of the greatest importance that all such cases, if suspected, should be investigated, and, if proved, punished, not by administrative order or by any modification of administrative methods, but by the decision of a civil tribunal as quickly and as clearly as possible. There was a very interesting announcement a day or two ago with regard to giving bounties to soldiers who have served the time for which they enlisted and whose re-enlistment is desired. I think that would have the unanimous support of the House. Everyone knows that experienced soldiers, are of more value than ever at the present stage of such a war as this. I would ask my right hon. Friend whether any proposal of that kind ought not to be made retrospective. Scores and hundreds of such men who finished the period for which they enlisted some time ago have re-enlisted without any bounty whatever. If it is thought desirable to offer a bounty to soldiers whose original time has just come to an end, surely the bounty ought to be given as readily, if not more readily, to those who, without any prospect of a bounty, have gone back to fight after having served their full time.
604 My last point is with regard to the question of badges. Some of us who have sat on advisory committees and tribunals are struck with the difference between what happens in one place where men are employed and what happens in another. I am not thinking so much of actual munition factories as of various factories throughout the country which are engaged on Government contracts. I do not know who it is who decides how many men in any such factory are to have badges, and therefore to be outside all recruiting. If it is the Ministry of Munitions, I should have been glad to have seen a representative of that Department present. But I understand that all the different Ministers are on cordial speaking terms with one another; therefore anything I say on this point will no doubt be repeated with all the persuasiveness at the disposal of my right hon. Friend. It makes it very difficult to secure the number of men who want to go and who ought to go when you have one factory where badges are given indiscriminately and another in the same neighbourhood where a much stricter view is taken. It is very unfair to employers who have let their men go if other employers get undue advantage in this particular. Badges ought to be given only with the concurrence of some thoroughly qualified inspector who knows the local conditions and the character of the factory, and not merely upon the statement of the employer, which may be very different according to the employer's enthusiasm or want of enthusiasm for work other than that connected with the War. These matters have a direct bearing upon recruiting. All of us who wish to see as many persons enlisted as is best for the country wish to see it done by methods which are fair all round. For these reasons I hope my right hon. Friend will reply to the questions I have put, and that he will be able, either to-day or at some early date, to inform us that the War Office are extending these bounties, that they are making it clear that they will go to the civil tribunals where cases of fraud are suspected, and that they will so regulate matters with the Ministry of Munitions that the whole question of badges shall be dealt with on a basis which is equitable all round.
I thank the hon. and learned Gentleman for the constructive criticism he has made upon this question as opposed to the destructive criticism which we had yesterday. I listened 605 to yesterday's Debate with attention, and I have this morning read most of the speeches delivered. I find on the whole that misunderstanding exists because it has not been realised that the granting of armlets is a privilege which men who have voluntarily come forward asked for in order that they might demonstrate to their friends that they were prepared voluntarily to do their duty. It will be remembered that in the course of yesterday's Debate my right hon. Friend quoted from the Army Order of the 16th December, explaining the circumstances under which armlets would be issued. There was an explanatory notice in the Press of 27th December. I endeavoured to obtain that notice, but unfortunately I was not able to get yesterday a copy of any paper which included it. I have a copy of that now, and I think it will do a great deal to clear up the question of armlets if I may be permitted to read its contents. It is dated 25th December, and states:
§ "ARMLETS FOR THE MEDICALLY UNFIT.
§ 1. It has been decided to issue khaki armlets of the same pattern as those issued to men accepted for Army Reserve B under the Group System.
- (i.) To men who have presented themselves since the commencement of the War for service either by way of direct enlistment or under the Group System, but who have been rejected on medical grounds, and
- (ii.) Until further notice to men who present themselves for direct enlistment but are rejected on the ground that they are medically unfit for immediate service with the Colours.
§ 2. To qualify for an armlet—
§ this is the important point—
§ it will be necessary for all men who have been already rejected on medical grounds to present themselves again for medical examination unless they are able to produce Army Form B 2505 (A) or Army Form B 2512 (A) showing the date and cause of their rejection.
§ 3. Men rejected on medical grounds will be divided into two classes:
- (a) Men who on examination have been certified as medically unfit on account of organic disease, and
- (b) Men who have been rejected on account of eyesight or some slight physical defect.
§ 4. Men under heading (b) above as a condition of being given an armlet will be attested and passed to the Army Reserve. Men under heading (") above will not be attested, but their names will be registered. Men under both heads (a) and (b) will be free to return to their civil occupations, but men under (b) will be liable to be called up at any time for medical examination and for immediate service in any occupation for which, as soldiers, they may be liable, and for which they may be considered suitable by the military authorities."
§ That, as I have said, is dated 25th December, and was in the Press on 27th December. This medical re-examination in order to obtain an armlet was in force long before the Military Service Bill was before this House. I freely admit that recruiting officers have made mistakes in different parts of the country, but they have a great deal to do, and I would like to remind the 606 House that a lot of work is put upon them by this House always demanding returns, and hon. Members have failed quite to grasp the point. It is perfectly clear, however, that if a man can produce a medical certificate showing that he has been rejected as medically unfit, and if that certificate is dated since 15th August last and is properly signed by an authorised person, he is exempted under the Act.
At the same time, if a man requires an armlet, he must submit to this further medical examination. Circumstances have altered since the Derby scheme was started. Men are to be grouped for different purposes, for general service abroad, for general service at home, for garrison service abroad, and for garrison service at home, and for sedentary occupations. It will, therefore, I think, be admitted by anybody who thinks at all on the matter that, with this final medical examination, a man who was not fit for general service abroad when he first presented himself may, and very likely will be, fit for some other service, such as garrison service at home or abroad. We find that the right hon. Gentleman and those associated with him yesterday were apparently very anxious to assist men not to serve their country. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"] I understand from yesterday's Debate that every excuse was supported by them.
The right hon. Gentleman and his Friends, as I say, have shown hostility to the Military Service Bill from its very inception. Possibly they have a right to do so; but, in my opinion, the right hon. Gentleman himself and his Friends must have known from a very early date—certainly from the date that the green form was first introduced—what was coming. He should be the last person to grumble when it did come. I cannot help thinking that if a man offers himself for enlistment, or did originally offer himself for enlistment under the Derby scheme he thereby signified his willingness and desire to serve his country in the way he was best fitted to do. The hon. Members who spoke yesterday seemed to desire that a man who had any excuse should not serve if it could possibly be helped. It is 607 perfectly clear—or it should be now—that a properly signed medical certificate of rejection since 15th August entitles a man not to be called up compulsorily, but if he wants an armlet it is necessary for him to submit himself for this further examination. There have been irregularities on the part of recruiting officers, but those can be remedied now. The hon. Members who yesterday criticised the action of the War Office would do much better if instead of ventilating these faults of the recruiting officers they had indicated them to the War Office, and those matters could have been put right. Instead of airing these things in this House, and giving the impression to the people both of this country and of the Allied countries that there was a certain section—there may be a certain section, but I believe it is a very small one trying to avoid military service, it would have been better to do what I suggest. I believe throughout the country as a whole men desire to serve in that capacity in which they are best fitted to serve. It is a mistake to ventilate these supposed grievances in the House of Commons instead of taking them direct to the Department concerned. This course I do not believe is in the interests of the country as a whole.
Military clerical labour was criticised by the hon. Member for Mid-Lanark yesterday. He forgets that there are men to be taken for what is known as sedentary occupations. It may be, and very likely will be, that a man takes the place of another who is fitted for more active work, for fighting in the trenches or elsewhere. The man who does the clerical work, who is on the office stool, is just as much a soldier as the man who is actually serving with the Colours. I have as much respect as any other man, for the man who is willing to relieve another, for the man who has signified his willingness to serve in the most advanced position, but failing to do that is prepared to serve in the drudging task of office work. I hope these few remarks will have cleared up one or two points which were raised yesterday; that some misinterpretations will have been removed by what I have said.
Sir H. DALZIEL
I would like to add one word to the appeal made by my right hon. Friend (Sir R. Adkins) to the right hon. Gentleman the Under-Secretary. I can assure him that this is not a question of what our views may or may not have been in regard to the Military Service Act. 608 I think my hon. Friend opposite who has just spoken has probably made a mistake in that. The question is: Is injustice being done to men who are patriotic enough to have offered their services to the State? From evidence placed before me, I have not the slightest doubt that injustice is being done. Men applied and were rejected and have offered their services again, and many of them have been forced into the Army because they thought the power rested with the recruiting officers. I do not think the question was so much a question of the Department of the right hon. Gentleman as it has been the unwise action of some of the local recruiting officers. Therefore, I would support the appeal of my right hon. Friend that a clear statement should be made directly to the recruiting officers, stating that what they are doing is not in accordance with the wishes of the War Office, and that it should be stopped. I would go further, and suggest that these men who have been falsely induced under the circumstances to join should be released. In many cases these men are of no advantage to the country or to the Army. I know one case which makes the whole thing absolutely concrete. Someone I knew had a man engaged in his service who was rejected. He took him back into his employment. That man went forward again and was forced into the Army. He is now in hospital at the expense of the State. I know another similar case, that of a man engaged in service who was rejected by the military authorities and went back again to his situation. He also is now in a military hospital. I shall be glad to give the right hon. Gentleman the facts of the cases. Those two men having offered themselves and been rejected, and having re-entered civil employment, were forced into the Army, and are now, at the expense of the country, being kept in a hospital. Of course they are no good at all. I therefore urge that circumstances like that should be inquired into. Such procedure does not add strength to the Army. The right hon. Gentleman does not want men of that kind, who after a week or two have to go into hospital. I am sure that he is as anxious as we are to see that right and justice is done in this matter.
There is just one other small point I wish to mention to the Under-Secretary. That is the question of raw youths being sent out right into the trenches without, in my opinion, sufficient training. I have 609 brought this question privately under the notice of the right hon. Gentleman once or twice, and he has been good enough to look into the different cases I put before him, practically of boys in my own Constituency, but he took quite a different view of the result of his inquiry to what I did. Here is an extract from the letter that my right hon. Friend was good enough to send to me upon the cases I brought before his notice:Four of the live men in question had served for two months and twenty days, whilst the fifth had served two months and thirteen days. The conditions of training were 'very good.' All live men were reported to be in good physical development.That may or may not have been so, but it depends largely upon the age of the boys, which in these cases was not very high. The right hon. Gentleman knows that what I wish to put before him for consideration is whether it is really right that boys after eight weeks' training should be sent right up into the trenches; whether they should be sent, whilst to his knowledge and my own other men have been training here for about fifteen months and have not yet been sent to the front. We must not be surprised if people outside cannot understand that sort of thing. They see boys after six or seven weeks sent off to the front, and they see in another regiment men at home after fifteen months of training, and apparently in a good healthy condition. It is not surprising if they cannot understand the matter. I presume it is due to the system by which the Army is supplied, drafts being more required for some regiments than others. I do not wish to raise unnecessary discussion in regard to this matter, but I hope the right hon. Gentleman will not dismiss this question from his mind, but will consider whether it is not possible to employ men who have been training for fifteen months before boys who have been training for only a few weeks.
§ Mr. WALSH
Before this very large amount of money is voted I should like to ask the attention of the right hon. Gentleman to one or two points of administration on somewhat different lines to those to which reference has already been made. First of all I would draw attention to the very unsatisfactory way in which the separation allowance is being administered at the present time. May I just remind the House that a Committee sat in February of last year, and upon the result of its deliberations payment began to be made first from 1st March, 1915. The special 610 object that Committee agreed upon was that the separation allowances when paid should, as far as possible, leave the dependants in a similar standard of comfort as they possessed before the soldier enlisted. Everybody agreed that that was a very desirable object to secure, but I can assure the right hon. Gentleman that the administration in the last five or six months, especially in the area of which I can speak definitely, has been anything but satisfactory. The process before the last few months was that, if there were grown-up members of the family and there was more than one soldier, the second soldier could make an allotment in favour of an adult member of the family, and a certain allowance was made upon that. That should go some way towards meeting the object that the Committee itself had agreed upon. I hear a right hon. Gentleman say that many of them are getting a great deal too much.
§ Mr. WALSH
Well, a vast number of cases do not come in the definition at all. A particular case has come under my notice—although indeed there are scores—where a father and, in fact, all the grownup members of a family have gone to the front. They were earning between them, as shown by proved records of weekly wages, £4 16s. The father makes an allotment to the mother and the children. It had been possible before for the two sons to make allotments to the grown-up members of the family, but within the last five or six months, whether owing to the War Office itself or because of powers unfairly usurped by regimental paymasters, it has now been laid down that, unless these soldiers definitely paid over the money to the grown-up members of the family in whose favour they have made the allotment, no allowance can be made. In this case there is a positive loss of at least 50s. in that family. There are seven dependants—the mother and six others—and to say that we are doing our best to leave the dependants in a standard of comfort similar to that which they 611 enjoyed before the War broke out, is to play with language. There are scores of that kind of case. The pension committees, the pension officers, have in numerous cases recommended these for the full allowance of 9s. a week. In scores and scores of cases not a single penny except the soldier's 3s. 6d. a week has been paid. Need we wonder recruiting has not been as brisk? I myself have been on scores of recruiting platforms. I have found a terrible difficulty, not indeed in speaking to meetings as to the great necessity of British people rallying to the support of their country, but in getting over the tremendous fact that the families of the working people were being left not at all in the reasonable standard of comfort we hoped they would be, but in a positive state of penury and semi-starvation. Surely when we are voting hundreds of millions of money we can afford to be fair-minded towards these cases. I pointed out a case to the Financial Secretary between two and three months ago, giving names, wages, dates and regiments. I have been told in these last few days it is not now the practice of the War Office to pay this kind of case. It was the practice of the War Office for very nearly twelve months. I wonder upon what ground this has been done. There can be no reason for this, and I raise this point because it is a very sore point indeed with the vast mass of working-class families, that where every grown-up member of the family has gone to the War, only one allotment, and only one allowance can be made. That is the practice to-day, and I am sure it is not at all a practice this House would like continued.
I would ask another thing. In the case where a soldier makes the compulsory allotment to his wife, there is not very much delay, speaking broadly, in the payment of the allowance, but in the case of the mother and those in whose cases speculative opinion can come in there is very serious delay. I have cases in my own knowledge where five and six months have elapsed and the allowance has not been paid. The grown-up boy, who, in many cases, is almost the sole support of the household, has gone to the front, leaving his mother and small brothers and sisters dependent upon him. The allowance of 3s. 6d. is generally paid, but all kinds of inquiries and an almost insuperable delay take place before the mother can receive the money to which she is properly en- 612 titled. At the most it could not be more than 9s., and it even gets down to 2s. or 3s., and in many cases for six months and over nothing at all has been paid. I know perfectly well, as everybody must know, that when there are hundreds of thousands of investigations, there must be a vast amount of clerical work, and increase your staff however you may you cannot cope with it as quickly as could be wished; but I do not think there is any reason at all for the intolerable delay taking place in many cases. Everybody recognises the immense amount of work, and that we must do all we can to assist, but those who move about among working people and get upon platforms, helping all we can, find our task made very much greater because of this kind of difficulty, and it is not in any spirit of carping criticism that I ask the right hon. Gentleman to give all the attention he can to the matter. I know how tremendous is his task, and we will help him all we can, but we do want some consideration paid to those members who move about among vast masses of people and find their difficulties greatly increased because of the delay that is taking place in those Departments for which the War Office is responsible. It may be delay in the Regimental Paymaster's Office, but, whatever the case, the fact remains that there is this delay, and we ought to do our best to overcome it.
There is one other point Why should the wife, the mother and the children at home be penalised in their allowances because of the wrong-doing of the soldier at the front? I have had many cases brought to me in which they are. An hon. Member near me says they are not, but I do know they are, and have been, and, indeed, very serious inroads are made in the weekly allowances previously payable to the wife and children because of some wrong-doing on the part of the soldier at the front—at least, that is put forward as the case—but I really cannot see why the wife and the children at home, who can in no way be responsible for that, should be penalised in their allowances which, at the best, are none too high, and when we are dealing with millions of money in this way we ought at least to consider those who have no help at all except these payments. If they could go out to work; if they could sell their labour in the commercial and industrial world, it would be vastly different but it is upon the women and children 613 who cannot find that employment that the burden falls most seriously, and I think we ought to remodel our action in that respect. Those three special points I do most respectfully urge upon the attention of the right hon. Gentleman's Department. I have put the matters without any malice or bitterness at all, but they are matters with which everyone of us is concerned. Everyone of us finds every day, and almost hour by hour, we are up against these particular facts, and I do ask the Department to take these matters into special consideration.
§ Mr. GEORGE LAMBERT
The Prime Minister yesterday, in his very lucid speech, gave us the sum total of the expenditure upon the Army, Navy, and munitions together. I would like to ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether he could give us the details for the Army, Navy, and munitions separately. I believe that would show, at any rate, that, so far as the naval service is concerned, it is for the great services it is performing to the country, relatively a very cheap service. But I wanted to address one or two questions first to my right hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for War. I must say that, had not the statement come from the Prime Minister yesterday, I should have been very much startled to hear that the War Office was pursuing the austere virtue of economy. In all my experience War Office waste and extravagance hits one in the face, and I have a case here—a very small one—which has come under my special notice because it deals with a matter in which the War Office is engaged in my own parish. It is a very small matter—a question of sending hay from a stack to the station. I have made rather careful inquiry, and, if the House will allow me, I will just give the procedure of the Department which is now exercising economy. On 20th January two supervisors arrived and a hay-press. On 2nd February six men arrived, and on 7th February a traction engine. It was only last Saturday, 19th February, that they were able to get from four to five tons of hay from the stack to the station two miles away. I am perfectly convinced that, if you take the cost of putting this hay from the stack on to the truck, it is as much as the hay is worth. Do let the War Office trust some of the local people to do this work for them, instead of sending men from all parts of the country to teach the Devonshire people how to put hay upon a truck. 614 I believe there is to be a very influential gathering of Ministers at the Guildhall or Mansion House to advocate economy. I suppose they will want Members of Parliament to go to their constituencies and advocate economy; but how can I have the face to do this, when this glaring example of Government waste is going on before their very eyes? The thing is ludicrous. But I want to go a little deeper into this, and I would like to ask who is really responsible. I understand that there are two Ministers responsible now for the expenditure at the War Office, outside the Chancellor of the Exchequer. I am sure we should have done very differently if the Chancellor of the Exchequer were responsible. But I understand the Secretary of State for War is responsible, and that there is also some kind of responsibility attaching to the President of the Local Government Board.
§ Mr. TENNANT
I do not think it is fair to saddle a Minister who is engaged in making an inquiry into the expenditure of the Department, with the administrative defects, if there be any, of that Department.
§ Mr. LAMBERT
My right hon. Friend has precisely interpreted the moral which I propose to point out. To my mind it is impossible for any Cabinet Minister to go into a Department and conduct an inquiry into its administration. You must put the responsibility upon the executive officer who is responsible for the office, and there is no other way out of it. When I was at the Admiralty there were several kinds of inquiries by various gentlemen, but you must put the responsibility upon the executive officers concerned, and I understand that he is the Secretary of State for War. It is quite impossible for one busy Cabinet Minister to supervise another. Now I understand that the Home Secretary is going to supervise or inquire into the expenditure of the Admiralty. That again is an entire delusion, and no one knows it better than the Chancellor of the Exchequer. Apparently the only Cabinet Minister whom the Government can rely upon is the Minister for Munitions. Although the Prime Minister said yesterday that the system was working admirably, in my judgment it is not a good system, and I could use very much 615 stronger language about it. In my opinion the head of the War Office should be able to be called to account by the House of Commons. I do not in the least endorse the criticisms that have been levelled at the right hon. Gentleman the Under-Secretary of State for War, because many times he has had to defend an impossible policy, and he has done it with very great adroitness; and I am sure that many Ministers would have found themselves in much greater difficulties than the right hon. Gentleman found himself in in dealing with those matters. Not only is there the administration of the financial side of the War Office, but there is also the strategic side. There was an Order in Council issued on 27th January which stated that:The Chief of the Imperial General Staff, shall be responsible for issuing the orders of the Government in regard to military operations.What does that mean? Does it mean that the Secretary for War is supplanted in this matter?
§ Mr. LAMBERT
But is the Secretary for War responsible? If it is a question of dual control it will mean chaos.
§ Mr. TENNANT
The Secretary for War is the Minister responsible to Parliament and I, as his representative, am responsible in this House. I think the right hon. Gentleman will realise that the Secretary for War can delegate certain duties to certain officials under his authority.
§ Mr. LAMBERT
That is not quite the point which I am putting to the House. Here is an Order in Council published in the "London Gazette" dated 27th January, which runs:His Majesty by and with the advice of his Privy Council is pleased to order and it is hereby ordered as follows: The Chief of the Imperial General Staff . … shall be responsible for issuing the orders of the Government with regard to military operations.That is not a delegation by the Secretary of State for War to the Chief of the Imperial General Staff, but it is an Order of the King, if not of the Government itself. Who really is responsible for the movement of the troops? Is it the Chief of the Imperial General Staff or the Secretary of State for War? It may not be wise to give me an answer, but it does seem to me that such a question as that might well be cleared up with advantage to those of us who do not quite understand the proceedings. At the Admiralty, as the Chan- 616 cellor of the Exchequer knows full well, all orders go out on the responsibility of the First Lord, but here at the War Office you are going to have two gentlemen—I have not a word to say against either of them—the Secretary of State for War and the Chief of the Imperial Staff, and they are both responsible for issuing orders to the troops. It seems to me that that is reducing the status of the Secretary for War more or less to a civilian position. The Secretary for War had recruiting taken from him and he has now had the movement of the troops taken from him; and if he is only to have civilian duties it seems to me that a civilian might well be appointed to perform those duties.
I have listened with very great interest, as we all have, to the Debates that have taken place here since the House met, and great complaints have been made as to the lack of air defence and the scarcity of shipping. I am not sure that justice has been done in every case to those who are responsible for the aircraft defence of the country. I should like to have the statistics of the number of aircraft that have been built during the last five or six years. It seems to me that we have been attempting to do too many things with our aircraft, for we have been sending them to Gallipoli, Mesopotamia, Salonika, and East Africa, and if you strain the powers of our aerial defence and offence to this gigantic extent, of course you cannot have the aircraft here as well to defend our own shores. The very last thing I want to do is to criticise a Government of which the Prime Minister is the head, and-whom I was proud to follow in days gone by, but it does seem to me that we are straining our resources to a great extent. I know there is a good deal of dissatisfaction because air raids are not met and because hostile aircraft are not driven off. I had the good or the bad fortune to be at Walmer on Sunday, and I must say that the aeroplane, which came along at about sixty miles an hour, swooped down, dropped its bombs, and went away again at a very high speed. It is pretty difficult, unless our aircraft are constantly in the air, to be able to deal with a raid of that description, and if it can be done, of course no one will be better pleased than I shall be.
With regard to the question of shipping, I wish to put this to the Government. It is not so much a matter of bad management in requisitioning, though undoubtedly there has been a great deal 617 of waste, but it is a question of using ships for expeditions all over the world. I wonder how much of our shipping was taken up in the Gallipoli Expedition. I understand that freights have gone up from 12s. 3d. per ton for wheat from the River Plate to 150s. per ton. I put this point to a miller friend of mine in Devonshire, and he told me that that increase meant as much as 3¼d. upon a 4-lb. loaf. Now there is plenty of wheat in Argentina and America, but it cannot be brought here because you have requisitioned the ships for all these various side shows, as I will venture to call them. I suggest that the Admiralty is not so much to blame in this matter, because the real cause is that the Government themselves are overstraining even the great resources of the British Empire in this matter. We cannot go on supplying the Allies with naval power, money, shipping, and munitions and at the same time maintain our great Army in Flanders and conduct campaigns in all the theatres of war in the world. I say it cannot be done, and it has not been done with much success up to now.
There is one point I wish to make with regard to the Navy. We have heard rumours of German naval activity, and we are threatened with an outburst of submarine war against our merchantmen. If this really occurs I shall be much surprised if it does not make the strain on our shipping far more severe than it is at present. [An HON. MEMBER: "Unless the Navy deals with it!"] I feel sure the Navy will cope with the submarine peril, but the Navy cannot do everything all at once. I am profoundly grateful—and in this I am sure I am voicing the sentiments of everyone in this House and the country—to the Navy for having overcome the submarine menace of last year. If there is a great recrudescence of this submarine activity we must expect a scarcity of shipping. The Germans are a very resourceful people, and I expect they have been utilising for the last six months their resources with some advantage. I do not wish to make any reflection upon the President of the Board of Admiralty—far from it—but I do wish to say, and I say it on my responsibility as one who has been a member of the Board of Admiralty for something like ten years, that I really regret that the Government is not making more use of a man who, I believe, is the greatest naval strategist of the day. 618 We know full well that Admiral Lord Fisher is no longer responsible for the conduct of the War, because he disapproved of the expedition to the Dardanelles, and we know that he was right. [An HON. MEMBER: "How do you know?"] I do not want to join in any intrigue, and I wish to speak out quite openly in this matter, because it is so vital to this Empire that you cannot afford to lose the genius or the brains of a single man. There is no doubt in my mind that it is almost a disaster that the Admiralty have not at the present moment in some responsible Department the services of this eminent man. You cannot afford to run any risk. Naval disaster—which God forbid that we should have—would be irrevocable, irretrievable, and fatal, and I put it to the Government that they should use the best brains of the country for the service of the nation.
§ 5.0 P.M.
§ Mr. ASHLEY
I should like to thank my hon. Friend the Financial Secretary to the War Office for the Order which came out last Saturday giving a much more generous interpretation of the allowances to be made to dependants. I think it will go very far, in fact, quite far enough, to remedy the undoubted grievance which existed. I happen to have come back after having been ten days in my Constituency, where there are a very large number of soldiers, besides a large convalescent camp, and I should like the hon. Gentleman to take this opportunity of contradicting publicly from his place in this House certain absurd stories and scandalous misrepresentations as to what the War Office is prepared to do for disabled soldiers. All up and down the country—I do not think it is only in Lancashire—stories are being told, and one hears them not only from civilians but also from soldiers, that soldiers have been thrown on to the streets when disabled by disease contracted while on active service, and that no compensation is given to them by the War Office. It is said that compensation is only given to soldiers who have been discharged incapacitated from wounds. I understand that is an absolute travesty of the truth, and that the War Office, whatever it has done in the past, is prepared in the future to give compensation on the same scale to any man permanently disabled and incapacitated from any cause arising while on service. If while serving his country he 619 is incapacitated, he is to be given adequate compensation whether his incapacity arises from wounds or from illness. I should like the hon. Gentleman to state publicly exactly what the position is, because these stories going about, as he will understand, are prejudicial to recruiting, cause discontent in the ranks, and thereby prevent us from carrying this War as soon as possible to a successful conclusion.
§ Mr. HOGGE
I hope that my right hon. Friend will be able to deal in his speech with a matter which is troubling a number of us who are interested in the question of soldiers' and sailors' separation allowances. I am glad that the Chancellor of the Exchequer is here, because he also knows about this point. The War Office is the spending authority, but as a matter of fact over £2,000,000 have been forthcoming from other sources and have been paid for the War Office. Can the Chancellor of the Exchequer or the Under-Secretary of State for War say whether the War Office or the State intends to refund that money which was collected for another purpose, or whether they are going to allow that money which has been paid in that way to perform for them what this House said ought to be performed in the payment of separation allowances? My right hon. Friend knows exactly to what I refer. There is a fund, amounting to over £5,000,000, which up to 30th June in this year will be depleted at any rate to the extent of £2,500,000 or £3,000,000, by money which has been paid for the War Office. Will that money be refunded to that fund, so that it will be available for the objects for which it was got together when the occasion arises? If my right hon. Friend can reply to that point, he will ease the minds of a number of us.
§ Captain CLIVE
I want to raise two points which have not been referred to, connected with the subject of canteens in France. Perhaps I may shortly describe to the House how these canteens are being provided. At the outbreak of the War, at the instance of the War Office, a very remarkable amalgamation took place between two separate bodies who had previously competed with each other for the supply of canteens. One was the Canteen and Mess Co-operative Society, which did not trade for profit, but which gave back the whole of its 620 profits to the soldier, and the other was the firm of Dickeson and Company, who made what contracts they could with commanding officers of battalions, and who made what profits they could for themselves and their shareholders. These two bodies, antagonistic in all their methods of business, agreed at the outbreak of the War, in a patriotic spirit which we all admire, to settle their differences and to work harmoniously together, and they now form one body, which has been given the title of the Expeditionary Force Canteens. Perhaps I may say, just to show how well they deserve of the country, that their turnover in France alone is something like £3,000,000 a year. They thus bring back from France something like £3,000,000 of the soldiers' pay, which, in view of the exchange, is quite an appreciable amount. In the case of the Mediterranean it is something approaching £2,000,000. The benefit they confer on the soldier is very great indeed. They employ in France alone something like 1,200 men.
I want, first, to ask the Under-Secretary of State for War as to the treatment that has been meted out to these men. A request has been made over and over again that they should be enlisted, not to get Army pay, but enlisted in an honorary capacity and temporarily for the period of the War. There are many reasons why this should be done. One of the chief is that in the more recent development of the canteens they have been brought up very close to the firing line—one within my own knowledge has been within 1½ miles of the trenches—and many of them are subject to shell fire and aeroplane attack. If any of these 1,200 men get killed or wounded, they or their widows are apparently not entitled to any sort of benefit. That is one of the main reasons why I suggest that they should be enlisted for their own sakes, but there are several other reasons from the point of view of administration. These men periodically ask for leave, and, when it is refused, they take advantage of their civil agreement and in many cases—on the whole they are a most loyal body of men, and I do not want to say anything disparaging to them—they give a month's notice, return to England, and then, after a spell at home, they very likely ask for reemployment. That surely is not satisfactory. The non-enlistment of these men really means a perpetual stream of men travelling to and from France, with no more serious object than that of a unique experience, at great expense and trouble 621 to all concerned. They have to go on supply ships round by Havre, report themselves in London, and it takes a long time to get them back again. If they were given leave as soldiers, they would go on a troopship and be able to return in seven days. It is an important matter from the point of view of discipline. In peace time a large number of canteen employés are soldiers, but that, very properly, is not allowed on active service.
I suggest that these civilians who are engaged for this work should be subject to military discipline when they are out at the front. It is just as important that discipline should be maintained among them as if they were soldiers. I believe, though I cannot vouch for it, that the enlistment of these men has been strongly recommended by the Commander-in-Chief in France, and that it was permitted in the Dardanelles. I have no written facts to corroborate what I say, but the report I have is that the medical officer in the Dardanelles reported very strongly in favour of canteens as a means of maintaining the men's health. The canteens do not only supply beer, but also groceries and a hundred and one more luxuries which are not included even in our liberal rations. There was more sickness in the Dadanelles than there has ever been in France, and it was strongly recommended that these canteens should be encouraged, and the employés there were allowed to be enlisted. I do urge upon the right hon. Gentleman, for all these reasons, that the same arrangement should be made in France as was made with great success in the Mediterranean.
§ Captain CLIVE
They were enlisted in the Mediterranean, but hitherto their enlistment has been refused in France. Furthermore, they are now being asked if they are willing to enlist for the Regular Army. It is now being endeavoured to recruit them under the Derby scheme. Surely it is hard that men who have been actually under fire should be treated as shirkers, and should not be given credit for the good work which they have done. The other point which I wish to raise is quite a different one. It has to do with the provision of huts for canteens at two places, Rouen and Etaples. When the Expeditionary Force Canteen was first formed it was sent out to conduct business in any hutments, tents, or buildings which 622 could be procured on the spot, and as the organisation grew it commenced building proper hutments out of its own funds—that is to say the position was created whereby canteen hutments were paid for by the soldier. The officials of the organisation represented this matter to the War Office in April, 1915, and after considerable delay it was decided that the Government would provide canteen hutments in France in exactly the same way as the Government provide canteen premises in barracks in England. It was stated at the time that the item would be included in the Army Estimates and would be dealt with through the ordinary channels. It very soon became clear that if it was left to the Army to provide them there would be great delay. Therefore, with the approval of the Inspector-General of Communications in France, it was suggested that the Government should authorise the Expeditionary Force Canteens to put up their own huts subject to the approval of the local representatives of the Board of Works, such huts to be paid for by the Government. They were, in fact, to act as agents for the War Office, and make the best terms they could. They endeavoured to put them up by contracts made in France. At Rouen and Etaples, in spite of asking for tenders for some time, they were unable to obtain tenders in France, and they therefore got leave to obtain tenders over here in England. The history of those places is really a remarkable one. The lowest tender was accepted on 21st September. It was agreed that the Government would convey the materials from the South-West India Docks to the nearest point to each site of erection in France, and would also convey the necessary workmen. The general work of constructing the huts in sections was done on the quay at King's Lynn; these various fittings were made in various parts of the country. On 1st October it was suggested, owing to the congestion at the South-West India Docks, that the huts should be shipped direct from King's Lynn, but the War Office refused that. On 7th October there was an opportunity of chartering a vessel, and the contractors offered to transport the huts if the Government would allow the cost of freightage. This offer was submitted to the War Office and was refused. There was no other opportunity of sending them, and on 3rd November the offer was renewed and accepted, but then it was found that, owing to the delay, the ship 623 which could have been chartered for the purpose was no longer available. Instructions were then Bent to convey the huts overland to Newhaven, where they were to be shipped in supply ships, but difficulty arose there and finally, on 4th January, the huts were delivered in France—ten weeks after it had been reported that they were ready—ten weeks, in the winter time. The whole point of getting the huts was to have the canteens properly housed, instead of their being conducted under canvas in winter time.
The Etaples huts stand on a somewhat different footing, because they have not yet been delivered. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will see his way to deal with that matter. They have been ready for delivery since the 18th of October. On 25th October the War Office asked for their weights and the number of trucks that would be required. Negotiations proceeded from time to time, and there were numerous interviews, but nothing was done, and on 10th December the contractors were again asked to give the weights of the huts and again they supplied the information. On 18th December they received instructions to communicate with the Embarkation Officer at the South-West India Docks, who had been directed to arrange for their shipment. On the 22nd that officer said he had no such instructions. On the 24th the contractors were again told to communicate with him and to quote the number of a War Office letter. [⅕⅓8/3 15:12:15.] Even that had no effect, because the Embarkation Officer said he could not receive goods by rail. Between 30th December and 24th January repeated representations were made. I will not weary the House with the whole of the long story. On 12th February the first but was despatched from King's Lynn, and two days later notice came from the Embarkation Officer to the effect that he did not know when the but could be shipped, and no more must be sent until further instructions had been received. In the meantime another but had been loaded into trucks at King's Lynn. A further point I should like to remark upon is that men had to be sent out to erect the huts at Rouen and because those at Etaple were not delivered the men had to be brought home for a time and then sent out again. It has been estimated that the delay has already cost £400, and, apparently, the end of the expense has not yet been reached.
624 The climax is really rather dramatic. A telegram was received yesterday to the effect that all the tents at Etaple had been blown down and it was impossible to replace them. It asked what was the position as to the huts. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will see that there is a case of urgency, and, although the winter is half over, surely it is worth while making an effort to get the huts sent. I would like to add finally that, although I have gone into these cases in some detail, they are not the only instances in which difficulties of this nature have arisen between the Expeditionary Force Canteens and the War Office. The Expeditionary Force Canteens are doing wonderfully good work out there. The two managers, the manager of Messrs. Dickeson and the manager for the Canteens and Mess Co-operative Society, are really doing this work gratuitously; they are getting no additional salaries. They are being paid by their own firm, but they are doing this work in France entirely gratuitously, free, and for nothing. Therefore instead of hampering them everything possible should be done to assist them in carrying on the work they are doing in the interests of the soldiers, and such assistance should be given as expeditiously as possible.
§ The FINANCIAL SECRETARY to the WAR OFFICE (Mr. Forster)
Perhaps the House will allow me to say the few words I have to say now, and will accept my apology for not having been here when my hon. Friend the Member for Ince (Mr. Stephen Walsh) spoke. I was at the time attending a Committee at the War Office. I understand my hon. Friend raised two points in regard to allotments and the issue of separation allowances, and he referred to certain cases in which the separation allowance was described as not more than a miserable pittance. I think the cases he had in mind were those of allowances to dependants—to a wife in one case and in another case to the mother of a soldier.
§ Mr. FORSTER
My hon. Friend will bear in mind the basis of calculation of these separation allowances. They are calculated on the degree of dependence which existed prior to the man's enlistment. I admit that in some cases it does 625 appear to operate harshly, with the result that it excites a feeling of natural compassion for those who suffer, as many do, in these hard cases. But, speaking broadly, I think the House of Commons will agree that we should make a great mistake if we departed from the basis of calculation, which must be the degree of dependence prior to the War. The War Office have accepted that view, and therefore it only remains to ascertain the degree of independence which must govern the rate of the separation allowance. The machinery for calculating it has been set up, and the House knows quite well that the Pensions Committees and Pensions Officers, having come to a decision as to the degree of dependency, the separation allowance follows. I am afraid I cannot hold any hope that any departure can be now made in the method of calculating these allowances. Then my hon. Friend complained of the intolerable delay which has occurred in a number of cases.
§ Mr. FORSTER
My hon. Friend will realise that nearly all these cases are cases of difficulty. In many of them the information given by the soldier or by the dependant is either not clear or it is not accurate. The delays in a great many of the cases which I have investigated myself have arisen from one or other of these causes, but I hope my hon. Friend will accept my assurance that I am doing everything I can to expedite the issue of all these allowances. The House will believe me when I say I am convinced there is not the slightest wish or intention on the part of anybody to hold up these allowances. There was a time no doubt when the pay office was, to use a colloquial expression, "snowed under." The pressure of work was gigantic; the expansion of business was enormous, and the staff, while it had every desire to cope with this work, was untrained and often exiguous. Arrears consequently accumulated, and one knows when the work of an office is thus increased how difficult it is to deal with arrears. I regret that in a large number of cases there have been delays, but it is not due to the pay office; it is the inherent difficulty of the problem which undoubtedly makes it difficult to come to that ready decision which we 626 would like to see in all these cases. I can only add we are doing everything we can to secure a quicker decision in these matters, because we are all anxious these separation allowances should be issued at the earliest possible moment. Then my hon. Friend raised the question of the deprivation which is suffered by the family of a soldier who has the misfortune to be imprisoned. He pointed out truly enough that in the case of a man being sent to prison for more than a certin period the allotment ceases and the family have to live on the Government portion of the allowance only. My hon. Friend will realise that that is because the man's pay is stopped, and there is no money from which the allotment can be drawn. I am not quite clear whether my hon. Friend's suggestion is that it would be desirable or proper under these circumstances that the State should take upon its own shoulder the payment of the amount which a soldier had contributed before he went to prison. I am afraid, however, I cannot hold out any hope of that being done. That is one of the misfortunes—and it is a misfortune—which I am afraid accompanies imprisonment of the breadwinner even under ordinary conditions. I think these are the main points advanced by my hon. Friend.
§ Mr. WALSH
My first and most important point was as to the change in the method of administration, in so far as the separation allowances are paid to a wife and dependent children. In the earlier part of the year it was possible for a second soldier from the same family to make an allotment to an adult member of the family in addition to the allotment made by the husband, and the allowance was thereupon made by the regimental paymaster. Now, however, they will not, under any circumstances, pay such an allowance unless the second soldier has actually handed over the money to the dependant in whose favour he has drawn the allotment. That is a case which I have been discussing with the hon. Gentleman for a month or two. There are other cases as well.
§ Mr. FORSTER
Perhaps my hon. Friend will allow me to assure him that I will look into the question, and that it 627 shall have my fullest consideration. Then my right hon. Friend opposite (Mr. Lambert) raised other questions, most of which my right hon. Friend the Under-Secretary for War will deal with when he speaks later on. But there is one question he mentioned on which I should like to say a word or two, and that is the question of hay purchases, and the fuller employment of local machinery. My right hon. Friend says, very truly, that no soldier can teach the Devonshire farmer anything about shifting hay, loading, and so forth. It may be that in some case he has in mind there has been regrettable delay leading, unhappily, to waste of money; but I do not think you can judge a system by individual failures here and there. I suppose it is unavoidable in a war of this kind where you are buying on the enormous scale. When you are conducting any business on the enormous scale upon which we are conducting the Army at the present moment, there must almost inevitably be failures here and there. If my right hon. Friend will give me particulars privately—
§ Mr. FORSTER
I will have the case looked into with a view to preventing a repetition of that kind of thing as far as possible. My hon. Friend the Member for Blackpool (Mr. Ashley) raised a question of great importance with which we shall have to deal more fully on a Motion of which notice has been given, when we get the Speaker out of the Chair on the Army Estimates. He raised the question of the men who are walking about the country suffering from disease which has been incurred in the course of their military service. He mentioned the fact that there seems to be a prevalent belief that nothing is done for these men except those who are suffering from wounds.
§ Mr. FORSTER
If that belief is prevalent, I am very glad my hon. Friend has given me an opportunity of saying at once, point blank, that that belief is wholly unfounded and erroneous. I hope the fullest possible publicity may be given to what I am saying now, in order that the painful impression may be removed at the earliest opportunity. I may add in this connection that my attention has been called to a statement made—I forget 628 by whom—that the men who were actually suffering from and who have been invalided out of the Army on account of what is known as trench feet are to get no pension, no gratuity, and no financial help. That is absolutely devoid of all foundation of any sort or kind. It is a complete misstatement.
§ Mr. ASHLEY
Can the hon. Gentleman give us in two words what the position exactly is? That will meet the case.
§ Mr. FORSTER
I was going to state the terms of the Royal Warrant in a very few words. Disability pensions and so forth are granted to non-commissioned officers and men discharged as unfit for further service, on account of wounds or injuries or sunstroke received in action, or in the performance of military duty, or on account of blindness caused by military service, or by disease due directly and wholly to military service. So that men who are suffering from wounds, injuries, sunstroke, blindness, or disease, get pensions under the Pay Warrant, the qualification being—I do not want to hide or cloak anything—that the wounds or injuries must have been received in connection with or in the performance of military duty, and the disease must have been directly and wholly due to War service.
§ Mr. FORSTER
No, Sir. The disease must be caused by and incurred in the military service, so that the cases of the kind to which reference has been made of men who are suffering from trench feet are absolutely covered.
§ Mr. ANDERSON
Is not this the point, that in the case of troubles like rheumatism or consumption or nerve shock, the man who is discharged has no absolute right to a pension because of them; that the matter is referred to a medical board, and that the pension depends upon the report of that medical board, so that if the board says that the man's consumption was merely aggravated by his service, the man is not entitled to a pension?
§ Mr. FORSTER
My hon. Friend has stated the position exactly. It depends upon the finding of the medical board, 629 which is, of course, always subject to an appeal to the higher medical authorities. It depends upon their finding whether the disease is wholly and directly due to military service. If it is, the man gets a pension; if it is not, I am afraid he does not. I do not want to go into this matter at great length as I propose to deal with it in a few days' time, if I have to speak. It is within the province of my right hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for War, but if I have to speak I propose to deal more fully with the whole question later.
§ Sir COURTENAY WARNER
Will the hon. Gentleman make some reference to what took place in the Debate the other day on the question of the Royal Warrant with regard to this particular subject? There was almost a pledge given that the Royal Warrant would be modified.
§ Mr. FORSTER
Oh, no, my hon. Friend must not think there was any question of a pledge to modify the Royal Warrant. The pledge was that the administration should be sympathetic. There was no question of a pledge. I, who spoke then, was certainly not in a position to give any pledge to alter the Royal Warrant. I should like the House to bear in mind that the Royal Warrant really only carries out the policy of the Government. The actual wording of the Royal Warrant is, of course, a matter for the War Office, but the policy is the policy of the Government. I could not give any pledge to extend its scope without the sanction of the Chancellor of the Exchequer and of the Cabinet, so that I could not have been in the position to give the pledge to which my hon. Friend refers.
§ Sir C. WARNER
I never asked the hon. Gentleman to give us any sort of pledge, but I thought it was understood in that Debate that some representation might be made so that the system might be made rather wider to the extent of asking the Prime Minister to alter the Royal Warrant.
§ Mr. FORSTER
Oh, yes, that we have done. Both my right hon. Friend and I myself have drawn the attention of the higher authorities to the matter. It is a matter, of course, for the Government to decide, and neither he nor I could give an undertaking. So far as the language of the Royal Warrant is concerned it would follow the policy which the Government adopted. I hope that what I 630 have said will remove the apprehensions which my hon. Friend (Mr. Ashley) assured me are so prevalent, and I would reserve anything further that I have to say until a later occasion.
§ Captain Viscount DUNCANNON
Before the Under-Secretary of State for War proceeds to answer the questions that have been raised, I should like to raise a point with regard to the air defences with respect to the recent Dover air raids, and to express the hope that the right hon. Gentleman may be prepared to make some statement upon the subject, for, as he may be aware, there are many reports in circulation, reports which have gained currency outside as well as inside this House. I have only to take as an instance the speech which was made by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Canterbury (Captain Bennett-Goldney) yesterday. These reports are bound to cause great public concern as to the efficiency of our defences concerned, not only as in this case, Dover, but all over the country. For the moment I would only refer to that particular case. As the right hon. Gentleman is aware, I have during the past few weeks ventured to make constant representations to him on the subject, and if I have done so privately and not across the floor of the House, he knows that-it is because I do not wish to make any public statement which might be prejudicial to the public interest. The result of those representations has been that .the Under-Secretary of State for War provided me with an authorised statement by the War Office to be made public in Dover. Unfortunately that statement did not pass the censorship there, but, none the less, I hope he will see his way himself to make from his place in this House a reassuring statement on the subject. He will surely not think that it is in the public interest that these unauthorised and uncontradicted statements should constantly be made without any official reply on behalf of the Government.
§ Captain Viscount DUNCANNON
Can we not, therefore, have a candid Ministerial statement on the whole subject, so that we may be assured that it is the intention of the Government that there will be an improved state of affairs with regard to our air defences? If I might venture to say so with all respect, I would say that the speech made last week by the right hon. Gentleman did 631 very little, if anything, either to meet the criticisms made here or the very real and genuine concern which is felt all over the country. It is true that the right hon. Gentleman told us that divided control in certain directions had come to an end. But that, on the face of it, and without any more, is not, perhaps, necessarily reassuring. Will he not, therefore, not only tell us that divided control has come to an end. But that we are about to see a different and an improved state of affairs? I should also like to ask the right hon. Gentleman if he will answer a question on quite another matter, namely, a report which I have seen in the "Times" this morning, which conveys the impression that our troops are insufficiently provided with trench mortars in France. Will the right hon. Gentleman be in a position to say whether the impression created by this report is a correct one or not?
§ Mr. R. C. LAMBERT
Perhaps I may be allowed, as a member of the Board of Control dealing with canteens, coffee-stalls and so on, to supplement what was said about it by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for the Ross Division of Herefordshire (Captain Clive). I think the time has come when the attention of the House should be drawn to what I can only call the wasteful method under which we are forced to carry on this work. I was appointed to the Committee last July, and we have spent many hours anxiously attempting, so far as we can, to carry on this work which is necessary for the welfare of the soldier. We have paid a visit to France, and we have had impressed upon us over and over again the urgent need that huts should be built in time for the coming winter. So long ago as August the Base Commandant informed us that it was absolutely necessary that these huts should be erected and should be ready before Christmas, and we promised that, so far as we could do it, they should be put up. What has been the result? So far back as 18th October the huts were ready. There has been no fault that could be found with the contractors, but in one way or another from that time to the present, so far as the huts were concerned, difficulties have been put in the way of transporting them over to France, and even now at this very moment they are still in England. When we come to consider that they are built out of public money, that they are de- 632 teriorating day by day as they are left in the sidings or on the quays, and that the soldiers have to go all this time without the accommodation which is necessary for them, it is nothing short of a scandal that the attempts which are made by the Board of Control should be thwarted in the way they have been. I do not want to speak with too great vehemence. We all recognise that in time of war there are great difficulties which have to be overcome, and of course I have to make every allowance for them, but I really think it is time public attention was drawn to the way in which these matters are delayed, so far as I can see, through no reasonable cause, and I hope the right hon. Gentleman will be able to give us an assurance that, at all events so far as these huts are concerned, these interminable delays will come to an end, and that the Board of Control will be enabled to carry out the work which it is authorised to perform. Everyone is anxious to give the War Office all the assistance he can, and we are anxious to see that our soldiers who are fighting our battles in France should be provided with those comforts and necessaries which they require, but when we get, after all our efforts and all the endeavours that we have made to expedite things, a telegram such as we received yesterday, stating that the tents, the substitute for the huts, have all been blown down in the late gale and that the officials are at their wits end to know what is to be done—these very tents which were to have been replaced by the huts which are still somewhere in England—we are justified in asking for a public explanation of what seems to me, at all events, to be an intolerable scandal.
§ Mr. TENNANT
Perhaps it might be convenient if I were to deal with the Dover case first. The hon. Member (Mr. Bennett-Goldney) made a somewhat startling, and indeed dramatic, statement last night when I was absent on official duty, and it is desirable, I entirely agree with my Noble Friend, that the kind of rumour—for I think it is nothing more than rumour to which he gave currency—should receive the earliest contradiction. It is impossible for me to give an account in great detail of what actually occurred, because there are conflicting statements as to that, but I can at least assure the House that some of the statements made by the hon. Member are wholly without foundation. In the first place, I should like the 633 House to realise that on the date in question when aeroplanes—I think there were two of them—did come to Dover, the Admiralty were in charge of the defences. Possibly my Noble Friend might think it desirable to pursue further inquiries through that Department if he is interested in the historical question as to what actually happened. Army aeroplanes were ready, although it was not our primary duty to attack hostile aircraft at that time. I understand that the hon. Member stated that the mess to which the officers had gone for their luncheon was two miles away from the particular spot where the aeroplanes were kept. That is a mistake. It is not two miles, it is 200 yards, which is a very considerable difference. He also stated, I understand, that the pilot went up armed only with a Winchester rifle. What really happened was that the pilot went up in an aeroplane which belonged to a squadron in course of formation, and was not yet armed; but as the machine which was there belonging to that squadron was a very powerful machine the commanding officer allowed him to go up, and I do not know whether there was a rifle or not, but I believe there was. These statements show how extraordinarily far from the true facts the description given by the hon. Member was.
§ Mr. TENNANT
The point is that the Admiralty were in charge at that time, that the aeroplanes were kept by the War Office and did in fact go up, and did in fact give chase to the hostile aircraft, but everyone knows that it is not possible to catch an aeroplane unless you start on very good terms with it, and in this case the aeroplane belonging to our countrymen did not have a fair chance and did not catch it. But to say that the whole thing was in the muddle in which it was stated to be by the hon. Member is not only wholly contrary to the facts, but is, I think, a wrong thing to do, and is calculated to spread despondency and depression among the local inhabitants, and indeed among wider circles than that.
My Noble Friend (Viscount Duncannon) went on to ask me whether the statement which is attributed to me in the "Times" to-day is an accurate statement of the condition of affairs with regard to trench mortars at the front. I can assure him that the statement I made at Question Time yesterday was different from that which 634 is given currency to in the "Times" newspaper, and all I have to state is that we have had reports from time to time about trench mortars from the Commander-in-Chief at the front, and endeavours are made to carry out the policy which the Commander-in-Chief desires, and if my Noble Friend will look at the OFFICIAL REPORT he will see the correct answer which I gave.
§ Mr. TENNANT
Yes. My hon. Friend is correctly informed. Very large numbers of trench mortars have been sent out in the quite recent past.
If I may go to my right hon. Friend opposite, I would say to him that the interruption which he was kind enough to allow me while he was speaking was quite an accurate one, though perhaps it was not complete. I am dealing now with the question of the Order in Council which he read to the House as to the distribution of duties between various members of the Army Council. I stated that it is true that the Secretary of State is the officer responsible, and his responsibility is not at all altered, but every member of the Army Council has certain duties to perform, and those duties are distributed among the various members of the Army Council by Order in Council. The particular Order in Council which he read to the House is a new distribution of functions among the various members of the Army Council, and particularly one including the Chief of the Imperial General Staff, but there is no shifting of responsibility. The responsibility remains the same. The Secretary of State for War is the officer responsible to the country for the actions of the Army Council, and I am his representative here, and therefore I am responsible in this House.
Sir H. DALZIEL
Does my right hon. Friend mean by that that the Chief of the Imperial Staff takes his orders from the Secretary of State for War or from the Cabinet?
§ Mr. TENNANT
I would rather say I think the Chief of the Imperial General Staff in time of great emergency, like the present, will take his orders from the War Council, of which the Secretary of State for War is a member. I think that is the fairest way to look at it, and the proper way in which it should be described.
§ Mr. G. LAMBERT
Do I understand my right hon. Friend correctly to say that the responsibility of the Secretary of State for War is not in any degree impinged upon by this Order in Council?
§ Mr. TENNANT
I think the answer to that is in the affirmative, as I indicated in my interruption, and as I stated further in my further reply.
My hon. Friends (Captain dive and Mr. R. C. Lambert) have mentioned the question relating to canteens. I can assure both hon. Members that we at the War Office have nothing but gratitude and praise for the services of the patriotic men who have been doing this duty of providing canteens for the troops at the front. It may be said, "It is a very odd manner in which you repay them and show your gratitude." My answer to that must be that we have to consider first of all the provision of men at the front, and to provide men with everything which they require—first of all in the way of food, clothing, ammunition, guns, and munitions of war generally. It is common knowledge that there has been very great strain upon the tonnage of this country, and if the huts which were requisitioned for the canteens were unfortunately delayed I think the House will have to put that down to the great difficulty of finding tonnage in which to send them abroad. But since my two hon. Friends have brought these facts to my knowledge I will make it my special duty to inquire into the present condition of things, and see whether we could not at this late hour make some endeavour to see that these huts are properly sent out and established. But I hope my hon. Friends will realise what great difficulties we have to cope with. It is sometimes impossible to get that expedition which one would desire.
§ Captain CLIVE
Our complaint is that there was so much indecision and that opportunities to send them out were refused, and it was only agreed to afterwards when it was too late.
§ 6.0 P.M.
§ Mr. TENNANT
We always regret indecision, but sometimes new facts arise and a different situation is created by something which has happened recently and sometimes one has to alter one's opinion. I have even known hon. Members in this House do that. The hon. Member asked whether these men could not be enlisted. I have ascertained that that policy is now being adopted, and it will 636 be put into force and the men will be allowed to join the Army and retain their position in the canteens so long as they are considered indispensable. I am sure, however, that my hon. Friend will not desire that the most able-bodied men who are not indispensable should be retained for providing comforts for the troops when their services might be used to greater advantage to the State by fighting at the front. I come now to the matters raised by my hon. and learned Friend (Sir Ryland Adkins) and I desire to express my gratitude to him for the very moderate and reasonable tone in which he addressed his observations to the House. I have made it my duty, in the short interval which has elapsed between yesterday and to-day to ascertain more particularly the position in regard to the medical examination of persons who have already been medically examined and rejected for the Army. I think my hon. and learned Friend and my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Berkshire (Colonel Henderson), were quite correct when they said there had been a good deal of confusion of mind on this subject. While we have always asserted, and I have stated quite definitely—although it does not really need me to say it, because he who runs may read the Act of Parliament—that a man who has been medically rejected since 14th August last is outside the scope of the Military Service Act. Some people seem to think that the War Office has been embarking upon the policy of endeavouring to strain that Section of the Act. I should like to say that that is not really so. All that has been done has been this—when a man who has been rejected comes and demands an armlet he is asked if he will be medically re-examined, and told that if he is at all fit for any of the various types of duties in the Service he will be asked to be re-attested and join the Reserve, so that in future, should there be occasion to require his services, we shall knew where to put our hands upon the man who has undertaken these duties.
My hon. and learned Friend asked me whether I would issue instructions that the men who have been rejected in the manner described are outside the Act of Parliament. I will certainly engage to do so. I will go further, and I will have it stated in that Order that these men who have been so medically rejected, properly medically rejected by a proper authority, cannot be enlisted against their own will. They will be asked, if they wish an armlet, 637 whether they will not agree—for many of them, most patriotically, are anxious to do their duty and their proper service to the country—to be put in a class and attested, and be considered soldiers of the King. I think that is not an unfair method of dealing with any subject of His Majesty. My hon. and learned Friend also wishes to have it made clear that this submission to a second examination must mean re-attestment. I think that ought to be explained to him. I do not know that it has not been done.
§ Mr. TENNANT
I think it has been in nearly all cases, but my hon. Friends will realise that they only hear of the cases of complaints. The cases where we have failed are brought to my notice, but there are thousands and tens of thousands of cases where the machinery works quite smoothly and harmoniously, and we never hear anything. Another point raised by my hon. and learned Friend was that there should be a slip accompanying the yellow form.
§ Mr. RENDALL
Before the right hon. Gentleman proceeds, I would like him to make one point clear. He has now made it clear that the men who have been rejected by the doctor since the 14th August are not to come under the Act. What I want to know from him is, What is the position of those men who have been persuaded by the recruiting officers and made to believe that they were compelled to be re-examined? There are men who have been made to understand that they must be re-examined, and they have submitted to re-examindtion and have gone before the tribunals, and now find that they were not compelled to be re-examined. These men want to be put in the same position as those men who have refused to be reexamined. Will the right hon. Gentleman agree to do that?
§ Mr. TENNANT
I much regret that there should have been any mistake of the kind, and I will give my hon. Friend this assurance, that I will engage to examine the cases. I hope there are not many of them, for if there are a very large number it will take a great deal of time, and there is not much time left. I will, however, engage to look into them, and where it is proved to a competent authority that the kind of improper influence has been used which has been described by the hon Mem- 638 ber and my right hon. and learned Friend (Sir J. Simon) yesterday, that man should certainly be placed in the position he was in prior to the re-examination. With respect to the yellow form—and I would point out that it is an old form—my hon. and learned Friend asked whether I would not issue with the yellow form a slip stating that it is not applicable to those who have been medically rejected. I will see whether that cannot be done. Let me say this to the House, by way of caution, that it is not the intention of the War Office or the Government to issue to any man who has been medically rejected this yellow form, because it is inapplicable to him. But it stands to reason that where you have to deal with hundreds of thousands of men mistakes will occur. I am informed that in the case of the Territorials the associations kept no accurate record of those whom they rejected as medically unfit. Therefore it is obvious that a large number of persons who have been medically rejected will receive these yellow forms, but if they are accompanied with this statement on the slip I think the difficulty ought to be overcome. There is a difficult point arising out of the notice which is sent to those who become Reservists on 2nd March, and my hon. and learned Friend desires that it should be stated in anything that we issue that they do not become Reservists on 2nd March if they will attest prior to 2nd March. I do not know really that anything is required to inform a man of that fact. He might know—everybody knows it—that it is still open to a man to attest voluntarily if he so desires, and if he does so the Act will not apply to him, but if he does not do so the Act will apply to him.
§ Sir R. ADKINS
I quite realise that it will be impossible at this stage to put out a printed note with the notice, but if the right hon. Gentleman will point out now that men are still able to attest voluntarily up to 2nd March it will have a very good effect in remote districts, where people think that an official form is binding upon them and do not realise that it does not apply to them if they take the last chance to avoid it.
§ Mr. TENNANT
I understand that my hon. and learned Friend does not wish me to issue anything official from the War Office, but merely to state now, which I do quite frankly, that there is still time for men to attest voluntarily and go into their proper groups until 2nd March.
§ Mr. TENNANT
In rather bad colour, and embodied in language which I am sure my hon. Friend would not have invented. I do not think my hon. and learned Friend need be very apprehensive that the depth of ignorance is so great as he has pictured.
§ Sir R. ADKINS
If the right hon. Gentleman will refer to the Parliamentary Recruiting Committee in case anything more can be done that will satisfy me.
§ Mr. TENNANT
I shall be very glad to do that. I have been asked about badges by my hon. and learned Friend. All that I can say is that I shall have great pleasure in conveying to the Minister of Munitions the statement which my hon. and learned Friend has made and in drawing his attention to the lucid statement of my hon. and learned Friend. Whether my right hon. Friend will be able to carry out the desires expressed in that lucid statement I really cannot say, and I am sure he would not expect me to say so.
§ Sir R. ADKINS
Cannot the War Office support charges, if they believe them to be true, of loose badges being used in a certain number of factories and mills, which is very unfair to other factories and mills where they are patriotic?
§ Mr. TENNANT
I will ask the Minister of Munitions to do that if it is possible, but you must remember the difficulty of co-ordinating all these things over very large areas in this country. Anything like uniformity is, of course, very desirable, and every effort is made to co-ordinate and get something in the nature of uniformity of treatment, but to get it absolute is almost beyond one's dreams. There is one other point, and that is in regard to bounties to re-engaged men. I think it is proper that the House should undertake the responsibility of finding the money, and I will ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether he will agree to that. I hope that that may be possible. My right hon. Friend the Member for Kirkcaldy asked me, with regard to the men who have been medically rejected, whether I will deal with this in a large-hearted manner, and in a manner conducive not only to the best interests of the State, but also to the dignity of a great Department. We do not want by any method at all, however straightforward and proper, or 640 by any trickery such as we have been accused of, to obtain the services of men who are really not going to be of value to the State. I am sure that the House must realise that that is not the policy of the Government. I hope that the House will believe, and anyone who knows me will realise, that such charges are very repugnant to me, and anyone who knows Lord Derby knows that charges of that kind are most repugnant to him.
Sir H. DALZIEL
Will the right hon. Gentleman consider the question of striking off the half-crowns, so that recruiting officers would not be quite so keen in getting rejected men?
§ Mr. TENNANT
That has been reduced to a shilling, I am glad to say, for a very long time. Whether it is advisable to withdraw it altogether is a matter of policy which we shall have to consider. My right hon. Friend went on to complain, not improperly, that some very young soldiers were sent to the front after receiving only a very short training, and he asked whether it would not be possible for the War Office to send out, as drafts to regiments requiring reinforcement, men who had been for as long as fifteen months in training rather than those who had only received two or three months' training. I will tell him what the policy is. When the War broke out it was decided that no troops should go out to the front who had not been trained at least for a considerable number of months, and none were sent out who had not been trained as units. But it is one thing to train a man individually as a draft to go in and serve in a well composed, well trained unit, and quite another thing to train the whole of the unit. While it takes six months at least to train a unit and put it into ship-shape, it does not take anything like that period to train an individual man to take his place in a well trained unit. I think that the case put by my right hon. Friend was that some men were sent out after between two and three months.
§ Mr. TENNANT
That was no doubt because the regiment to which they belonged had had very rough treatment and was greatly in need of drafts. Of course, it is not possible for us to say, "Here is a Yeomanry regiment; it has been training for eighteen months. It is spoiling to get out. Let us take drafts from that Yeomanry regiment and send them to reinforce the Black Watch." You cannot do that. I do not say that it has never been done. It has, but it is not a thing which I think the House would encourage the War Office to undertake on a large scale. Neither regiment likes it; neither the Black Watch nor the Yeomanry. And when we were proposing to fill up some gaps in the Welsh Division with some regiments from quite a different part of the country there was a great deal of outcry. And again, I think, when it was proposed to send some Welsh Yeomanry away from their units, not as units but as reinforcements, there was another great outcry and the thing was not carried out. So really it comes to this. If one regiment sustains a severer number of casualties than another it has to depend on the third line unit at home, or the reserve at home or the new home battalion to find drafts, and, if drafts should only happen to have had two months and twenty days' training, that must be considered, or at any rate was considered, when there was a great shortage of men for reinforcements as a sufficient amount of training to send them out with, in the hope that when they got out to their units at the front they would receive a certain amount of additional training. They are often used, especially young officers, in schools behind the line for training, and they are doing very good work by this means. I do not like, and I do not think that it would be easy for me, to give an undertaking that in no case in the future shall we send out drafts who have been only trained for two months and twenty days. We do not want to do it. I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman will realise that. But we are sometimes driven into such a corner that we have to do it, and, if I were to give that undertaking I should only be hampering the authorities and should not be serving the best interests of the country, and I might have to come to the House afterwards and say, "I am very sorry I have to stand in a white sheet. I have not been able to carry out the promise which was given."
§ Mr. TENNANT
I quite understand. I can assure my right hon. Friend that we do not like to send out drafts insufficiently trained, and it has never been done unless there was something in the nature of urgent necessity. I hope that my right non. Friend may consider that that is as far as I can carry it.
§ Sir R. ADKINS
Will the right hon. Gentleman refer to the War Office being ready to have recourse to the Civil Courts where there has been false representation for the purpose of obtaining medical certificates?
§ Mr. TENNANT
It has come to our knowledge, and I cannot help thinking that we should not have heard of it unless it were true, that a certain number of men, the worst type of men in this country, anxious to avoid military responsibility, had persuaded somebody else, whose conscience was not very lively, to represent that his name was the name of the first person; in other words he made a false representation, personating the other man, the second man being a man well known to have heart disease of a very advanced kind, and doing this for a consideration. This was said to have been done, I do not know in how many cases, but at any rate in a number quite sufficient to let us know that it had been done. We are anxious to have some method of seeing that such cases of fraud are properly dealt with. Take the case of A saying to B, "You have heart disease; you go and represent me and bring me back a certificate of exemption or rejection and I will give you half a crown or five shillings." It is extraordinarily difficult to prove that it was done in that manner. Unless you have got absolute chapter and verse evidence for it, you cannot do it. So when my hon. and learned Friend says, "Would not it be wise to refer such cases to Civil Courts," I would say, certainly that would be the proper thing to do, and we shall certainly do so where we have evidence. But it would be perfectly futile without a sufficient amount of evidence. I can assure him that that will be done in any case where it is possible.
§ Major GODFREY COLLINS
I do not desire to follow the right hon. Gentleman in the subjects which have been brought before us this afternoon. I wish to make some observations with regard to the 643 Prime Minister's speech yesterday, and to remind the House of what is the main problem before us at the present moment. It is to vote a large sum of money to bridge the gap between a daily expenditure of £5,000,000 and a revenue of some £750,000. To bridge that gap we must maintain our credit and face the situation. I do not say that the Government have concealed the true financial position from the country, but I do say that they have not revealed the true financial situation to the country during the last eighteen months. I will endeavour to make that good. I have no desire to strike a note of pessimism. There is no necessity for so doing. Our credit can readily be maintained if the Government only desire to govern. As confidence is the basis of credit, the House of Commons looks to the Government to repay that confidence which has been so generously conceded to them during the last eighteen months. This ever widening gap between our daily expenditure of £5,000,000 and our revenue can only be bridged in two ways, either by the reduction of expenditure or the increase of revenue by taxation or by loan. The Prime Minister in his speech yesterday quoted many figures and dealt with various Votes of Credit. I think that I am within the recollection of the House when I say that that speech gave one the impression that the Government had during that period properly estimated the cost of the War. But it omitted to draw attention to the fact that only eight or nine months ago the Government estimated the deficit for the year at about £860,000,000, while the actual deficit has been nearly 50 per cent. increase on that figure. I am entitled to make that point after the impression created in my mind by the Prime Minister's speech yesterday.
Speaking last week in this House the Prime Minister said that on 1st January this year this country would be faced for a generation by the serious strain which the War places upon our resources. But are we not also entitled to ask the Prime Minister to point out, not what was the position on 1st January this year, but what will be the position in twelve months to come? The late Chancellor of the Exchequer told us, some months ago, that even if the War were at end our commitments for the next six months would be as great as for the last six months during the War. So, therefore, if the War were to last only another three months, our National 644 Debt on the 1st January next year "will show nearly 50 per cent. increase on the figures for January this year. The Prime Minister is constantly urging economy and referring to the financial situation. I only wish he had pointed out the position then, rather than the position of 1st January, 1916. In that speech the Prime Minister also referred to our military operations in other spheres of the War-Greece, Mesopotamia, East Africa, and the Cameroons—which he described as comparatively minor incidents. They are minor in their main issues, but they are not minor in cost of men, money, or munitions. In that connection may I refer to the remarks made earlier in the afternoon by the right hon. Gentleman the ex-Civil Lord of the Admiralty (Mr. Lambert)? He drew attention to the great-cost of military operations in war, and also to the position of the Air Service in this country; and I think that in the Debate last week the First Lord of the Admiralty stated that every factory was occupied in making either guns or machines. The point I make upon that is that if we have to defend those distant parts to which I have referred, with machines and guns, how can we so readily defend the Midlands of this country? That observation applies not only to the defence of our Midlands, but of our merchant ships that are crossing the seas. If any representative of the Admiralty were here, I should like to ask whether every merchant ship leaving our ports to-day has cannon on board? Many of our ships have been sunk in certain quarters during the past few months without the facts having been stated to the public. We are dissipating our energies in every part of the globe, and how can we expect to defend the Midlands or provide proper guns for merchant ships to defend themselves against attack? Perhaps later on in the Debate I may have a reply to that question.
May I remind the Minister who referred to the opertions in those theatres of war as minor incidents, and may I remind the House, of the terrible toll upon life caused by those minor incidents? For every 100 men we have lost in Flanders we have lost forty in those minor incidents. Last week we discussed the shipping problem, the main cause of which is to be found in our numerous expeditions, that have led to the shortage of tonnage, and it is also the main cause of the rise in the 645 price of foodstuffs in this country. It is a strange thing in these days that when men are being so destructive, Nature has been so abundant. The harvest in 1915 was abundant, though bread stuffs are high in price here on account of the shortage of tonnage brought about by these numerous expeditions. In one port alone in the Mediterranean, in December last, I counted ninety-two merchant ships. Is it an exaggerated figure to say that one expedition alone probably takes from three to four hundred ships; yet we wonder at the increased cost of living, which not only affects this country but affects the position of France, Italy, and other countries. In his speech last week the Prime Minister held out no hope of reducing expenditure. I do not know whether we are to have fresh expeditions, but I do urge right hon. Gentlemen to curtail our liabilities abroad. Finance during the last eighteen months has not been the great factor in this War, but, as this struggle develops, the power of finance will grow apace. And in that connection may I quote the words of the Prime Minister bearing upon the point I am about to make, and justifying every protest that my hon. Friends and myself have made during the last eight or nine months in regard to the power of finance in this War? These are the words of the Prime Minister:When we try to get the perspectives as we ought to do in their true relative proportions, with the various interdependent and related duties which the War casts upon you, this is one that ought to bulk at least as largely as any other.Surrounded as the Prime Minister is by men who press the military point of view upon him that statement is a very valuable one, and shows that the power of finance is bound to determine the future conduct of this War. In his speech, yesterday, the Prime Minister referred to the Committees which are inquiring into economy at the Admiralty and in the War Office. The right hon. Gentleman knows too well that any economies, however large they may be, must be small in comparison with our daily expenditure. Our expenditure is determined by the Cabinet itself. The policy which they shape or determine is the policy which sends these Expeditionary Forces abroad, fixes the size of the Army, and the pay. The responsibility rests solely with the Cabinet. I hope that in the months to come some steps may be taken to reduce the growing expenditure of this country. I would make, passing reference to the appeals which the 646 Government have made to the public to curtail their personal expenditure. Previous demands have been made by the Government which have ended largely in failure. I fear that the coming campaign will have a like effect. The question I would ask is this: Why did the public turn a deaf ear in this matter to the appeal of the Government? There seem to be two reasons. One is financial. The public witness the pouring out of money in every direction. The public do not realise that that money is borrowed money. They see contractors, shipowners, and others making large profits, and they say to themselves, "If the necessity for economy is so great, why is this state of affairs permitted to continue?" They see and hear of waste in the Government Departments; but a deeper, and, in my belief, a much more far-reaching reason is this, that they have had no lead from that bench during the last eighteen months in regard to personal economy.
Is it not hypocritical on our part to come here and urge economy while there is no reduction on that bench? The main thing to do is for every man to reduce his personal expenditure, and I hope that before many months are over, if this campaign of economy is to be launched, that the Government will give some lead to the country in this matter. The country will admire personal sacrifice and personal lead from that bench, and, if any reduction is made, I hope at the same time some steps may be taken to provide that, where men are largely or wholly dependent on their salaries, they shall receive exceptional treatment during these days. The Prime Minister received a deputation a short time ago, and he said that all economies are "mere flea-bites." They can be flea-bites, or they can be made drastic. I do not know whether it will be necessary now or later to introduce some form of compulsory saving; we may be driven to that in the near future; but I hope it will not be necessary, and that the Government will take steps, by drastic taxation or by restriction of imports, to attain their object in that and other ways. May I for a few moments turn to the other side of the question of expenditure, which is at the rate of £5,000,000 a day? The gap which we have to bridge is between our daily expenditure and our daily revenue. During the last eighteen months taxation has only been sufficient to pay the interests of debt, pensions, and a miserable pittance towards the cost of the War. I would 647 not be in order in going into figures on that subject, but there has been no taxation in proportion to the income of the country and the expenditure of the country.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
This is not the opportunity for discussing taxation. The opportunity will arise when the Finance Bill is reached. We are at present engaged in voting money for the Services, and later on we shall have to consider how to raise it.
§ Major COLLINS
With all respects, I would point out, Sir, that we have had six Votes of Credit during the year and only one Budget; therefore we have only had one opportunity of making our protest that the War is carried on with borrowed money instead of levying a very heavy toll upon and asking for more willing sacrifices from the people. I wish, if I may, to make some passing reference to these points. This £120,000,000 is to bridge the gap between our revenue and our expenditure, and if taxation had been higher to-day there would have been no necessity for this Vote of Credit.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
I am sorry to stop the hon. Member, but this is really not the opportunity at all to discuss that. As a matter of fact, we had two Budgets last year, but it has always been the practice of the House, until recent years, to put into one Bill—the Finance Bill—all taxing enactments That is the opportunity for considering the general financial situation, and to consider how the money is to be raised.
§ Major COLLINS
We had only one Budget last year levying increased taxation. By the time the Budget is introduced the financial year will have ended and the record of the Government on taxation proposals will have passed. If I may remind you, Sir, there was an Amendment put down to the Address last week in which it was hoped that we would get an early opportunity of raising this subject. If we have to wait until the Budget I am afraid we shall not get that opportunity. I shall implicitly follow your ruling, and I only wish that on this occasion I had the opportunity of showing that the Government have failed to raise money by taxation and have allowed this country to live during the last eighteen months in a world of financial delusion.
§ Mr. ANNAN BRYCE
There is one point which has not been raised in this Debate, and which I think it would be of some advantage to have elucidated, and that is the question of the powers of the Committees which the Prime Minister mentioned yesterday have been set up since last August to help to control expenditure. His statement yesterday did not appear to me to be quite consistent as regards two parts of it with regard to these Committees. He said he did not think it would be wise to commit the control of expenditure which had been parted with by the Chancellor of the Exchequer to the Committee on Retrenchment, and that that had been restricted to criticism of civil expenditure. His words were:—Because it was felt that supervision and interference and inquisition by an outside body with the spending Departments during the stress of war might hamper and paralyse the efficient conduct of the administration.Later on he said:—The Finance Committee of the Cabinet discussed and considered the matter with great care all through the summer and the autumn of last year, and as a result of their deliberations, for some time past, in the three great spending Departments which are concerned with the prosecution of the War that is, the Army, the Navy, and the Ministry of Munitions—we have had established and installed Committees—a Committee for each Department—composed of outside persons, men who have had great business experience and authority—in the case of two of these Departments presided over by Cabinet Ministers who have no connection whatsoever with the actual conduct of the Departments themselves."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 21st February 1916, col. 458.What is the distinction in power and function and logicality between the Retrenchment Committee on civil expenditure and these Committees with which the Prime Minister has gilded the pill of the £420,000,000 Votes of Credit? We are told the Retrenchment Committee, being outsiders, were not the proper people to control economy in administration, but then these new Committees are also composed of outsiders, and how is it desirable that they should do so? What are the functions of those Committees? There now seems to be an enormous number of Committees, something like a hundred, I think, and I suggest to the Chancel lot-that it would be a good thing to print a list of those Committees with their functions for the information of Members who would not have to trouble Ministers at Question Time. What are the functions of these Committees? Is the proposed expenditure submitted before it is incurred, or do they merely criticise it after it is incurred? In the former case they might be of some value, but why did not the Retrenchment Committee get that work? 649 If they only criticise after the expenditure is incurred, why cannot that be done by the Committee of this House on Public Accounts? Surely that would have been the better way. It is the business of the House of Commons, and why should outside persons be brought in to do work which should be performed by the House of Commons? There has been a desire expressed on various sides, by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Kirkcaldy and others, that we should have Committees appointed not by the Government, because that would be no good, but by the House of Commons to examine and control these various questions. The Prime Minister does not like that idea, and I can quite understand that. It has, however, been found very useful in France, and I do not see why it should not be useful here. At all events, the Committee on Public Accounts, is of some value, and why should it not do this business? What do these new Committees do, and what is their object and powers?
There was a good deal of talk with regard to the question of responsibility. It is very interesting no doubt, but it appears to me to be rather a waste of time to discuss the question. There is theoretical responsibility, but no practical responsibility. If you arc low down in the service, in the Army or the Navy, you probably do incur responsibility, that is to say, a risk of dismissal or supersession follows failure to do your job properly, but the higher up you go, the less the risk becomes. We know perfectly well that Cabinet Ministers and Under-Secretaries, and generals in high positions like field marshals, no matter how many blunders may be committed, never feel any evil results. It has been admitted, and in fact we have had nothing else but mistakes during the course of the War, except in the operations of the Navy. In all the other fields of war: diplomacy, administration, Army, and so on, there have been very bad failures. The Dardanelles was admitted to be a scandalous failure. The Prime Minister took full responsibility for it, and nothing has happened to anybody. He intends, as he told us, to go on to the end of the War, and I have no doubt his intention would be justified, for so far as one can see at the moment, there is no possibility of any change taking place. Therefore I think the discussion on responsibility raised by the late Civil Lord to the Admiralty was an academic discussion about 650 which it is not worth while bothering the House of Commons. I should deprecate this question of responsibility for anything that happens being raised again at all.
§ Mr. HOLT
This question of national finance and expenditure seems to me so serious in all its bearings, and particularly on the future conduct of the War, that I propose to put some of my views before the House. There could be no more important question. It is quite plain, if we go on spending money at the rate we are spending it at the present time, our power to stay during the War is going to be very materially diminished. And very great and extravagant expenditure will have an important bearing on the power of national recuperation, which will be very seriously diminished thereby. I submit, therefore, that there is no subject to which the House could better devote its attention. It may not be a fascinating subject, but it is one of the utmost gravity. I do not believe myself it is possible to make wisely any very large retrenchment in expenditure, not connected with the War. You may even have what appears to be substantial retrenchment, as, for instance, ten or twenty or even thirty millions in the Civil Service, but that is practically nothing compared with the expenditure on the War. I do not believe you can make such retrenchment without doing the nation a great deal of harm. As to the question of private economy to which the hon. Member for Greenock (Major Collins) referred in his very excellent speech, I feel inclined to think that there is a great deal more private saving going on than many people suppose. The large trading concerns with very large profits have no alternative at the present time except to lend those savings to the Chancellor of the Exchequer. I believe that all the classes who have been in the habit of being in possession of money have done a great deal of saving. From the information I get, and this applies to all classes, the people who have been mostly engaged in extravagant expenditure are people who are very unexpectedly much better off than they ever were before. It is very natural that they should succumb to the temptation either of having a new piano or buying furs for their lady friends the first time they ever have the opportunity of doing so. Of course, they should not do it, but one cannot help sympathising with the person who, finding himself in the position of 651 comparative affluence for the first time, takes advantage of the opportunity of launching forth into some such expenditure.
A good many people seem to have very extraordinary ideas as to what economy is. It does not consist in merely reducing the expenditure of money. For instance, a man who refuses to have his premises painted and who allows them to decay is not practising real economy. As regards a man's personal expenditure, it is not economy to cut it down in such a manner as to render him less fit to perform his work. When we come to try and make any large economy, I think we really must turn our attention to the expenditure on the War. That is where the money is going, and it is the only direction in which we can look for any substantial saving. The Prime Minister told the House that he did not anticipate that the daily expenditure on the War was going to increase. May I ask if, in making that statement, he took into account the expenditure necessitated by the additional million men to be raised under the Derby scheme, and upon whom there has as yet been no expenditure? If we are not to exceed the daily average of £4,400,000, and at the same time provide those extra men, then there must be very considerable curtailment of expenditure in other directions to compensate for the necessary consequences of raising those extra men. I do not know that in all respects Government Departments, as regards details, have been quite so extravagant as might have been anticipated. When we consider the extent to which they had to resort to improvisation and to the expansion of their business by about twenty times that which they performed before, it is not surprising to find, and we must not blame people if there has been wasteful expenditure. I do not think that anybody in any walk of life could expand his business to the same extent, and have failed to have adopted wasteful methods.
What I think the Government ought to have done under the circumstances was to have supplied all the Departments concerned with a much greater amount of brains at the top. As far as I have been able to see what is going on, there has not been any addition to the thinking power at the top at all commensurate with the addition to the total amount of business 652 proposed to be carried on in the Departments. That has a great deal to do with our troubles. As far as I can judge, most of the officials in the Government Departments are being most horribly overworked, and they are not having enough time to sit down and think properly; yet careful, quiet thought is of the essence of doing any business economically and successfully. I believe that a great deal of our trouble has arisen from the fact that there has not been enough quiet, deliberate thought and planning in advance, simply because all the officials are absolutely overwhelmed with the pressure of things that must be done on the spur of the moment. The Government have not put enough people in the highest places to do the thinking in the way in which it should be done. I heard what the Prime Minister said about the various Committees. These Committees are all very well in their way. They are probably doing their work as well as they possibly can, and will no doubt, in due course, effect savings which in any other circumstances would be substantial, but which, having regard to the volume of expenditure, will probably be almost infinitesimal. The fact is we are not going to get any substantial reduction in the amount of the expenditure on the War except by people who are in a position to question policy. If you ask a Committee to overhaul the details of expenditure in connection with operations which have been decided upon, they can probably do very little. If you are going to do anything really effective you must be allowed to bring before you the persons responsible for the policy, and ascertain from them whether certain expenditure is or is not really necessary to carry out the policy upon which the Government has embarked, and also whether that policy is really worth the money.
There are a great many things in this War which it might be exceedingly well to do, but we cannot do everything. When you come to consider what is to be done, you have to weigh the good against the best. If you ask the heads of the Army or of the Navy what they would like to have to carry on the War, there are very few things they could not quite truthfully say would assist in bringing the War to a conclusion. But they cannot have everything. That is quite impossible. If you are going to do any good, you must do it through a body which is capable of weighing the pros and cons of alternative 653 policies, discarding the good in favour of the best and concentrating on the best. One thing must strike everybody, and that is that our expenditure for the military operations in which we are engaged is simply colossal when compared with that of any of the other belligerents. It may be necessary that it should be so, but even apart from the fact that other belligerents are paying their soldiers very much less per diem, I feel convinced that the Germans are not spending anything like as much as our people are spending on fighting. I do not believe the Russians are, I very much doubt if the French are. There may be some reason, but I suspect that our Army produces less military result per £ sterling than any of the other belligerent forces. That is a point upon which it would be very interesting if we could get a little more information.
I want to ask the Treasury Bench for information as to certain items of expenditure. It is matter of common knowledge, of which anybody connected with the shipping business must be aware, that during the last eighteen months, through-out which time this War has been essentially a war of trench fighting, a prodigious number of horses and mules have been brought into Europe from all parts of the world. What on earth are all those animals doing? What are they for? Are they really necessary? The matter does not end with the flooding of Western Europe with horses and mules. When you have done that, the next thing is that an enormous quantity of food for these animals has to be brought in, and one of the main causes of the difficulty with regard to shipping has been the tremendous demand made for bringing food for the horses and mules which have been brought over for the Army—animals which, apparently, as far as an ordinary man can judge, are not, under the present circumstances of the War, particularly required. We are to-day in this position, that the supply of food for the peoples of Europe is materially impeded by the necessity of bringing in these enormous quantities of fodder for horses. I think we might have a little more information on this subject. There is another point upon which information would be interesting. Every shipowner knows from his own experience that immense masses of material are being brought into this country for the manufacture of munitions of war—articles which are not found in Germany and cannot be produced there. 654 If our Munitions Department really require for the purposes of the War anything like the mass of material which they are bringing into the country, then the Germans must be in a very bad way for munitions. It would be very interesting if we could have some sort of account from the Government or be satisfied that some sort of inquiry had been made as to whether we really require all these things, which we are told are absolutely necessary for the carrying on of the War, and if we could be told why, if they are necessary for us, Germany apparently can get on very well without any of them.
I want to speak about another very serious matter connected with the War. I think the Government ought to make to the House a frank statement about the naval position in the Mediterranean. It is a very serious matter. Steamship owners have been given to understand that the Mediterranean is so far unsafe by reason of enemy submarines that it is desirable that they should adopt the Cape route. Obviously, if the Mediterranean is rendered unsafe by submarines, the whole motive for holding Egypt and the Suez Canal has disappeared. The sole motive for going to Egypt originally was to secure to England the passage through the Suez Canal, and if we are prevented from securing that object it does not seem to me that there is very much advantage to us in possessing Egypt at all. We have lost the real object of possessing Egypt. The general impression among shipowners is that the difficulty in the Mediterranean is due to the want of professional competence and skill on the part of the Allied Navies. We have heard a great deal about what we are to do for the Allies on this, that, and the other occasion. I think we ought to be told what the Allies are doing for us in the way of keeping the Mediterranean reasonably free for the passage of our ships, or whether the Government intends to take any steps at an early date to make the Mediterranean as safe as the neighbourhood of the British Isles is at present. This is a very serious matter, because the loss of time involved by the diversion of shipping to the Cape route will accentuate all the difficulties in regard to food supplies and munitions of war. We ought to have a perfectly frank statement from the Government on this subject. I would remind my right hon. Friend that in these Votes we are providing for a very large sum of money—in the aggregate about £400,000,000—to be paid to our 655 Allies. If we are going to pay them these large sums of money, we ought to know what they are doing for the money, and we should be given an opportunity of considering whether it would not be better to have rather less Ally and rather more money. We ought to be in a position to consider frankly and openly whether these gentlemen to whom we are paying these enormous sums are worth the money or not.
My hon. Friend alluded to the question of expeditions. This question of foreign expeditions is very interesting. We had first of all the Gallipoli Expedition, and then we had the Mesopotamia Expedition. I would remind the Chancellor of the Exchequer of what the Prime Minister said on this subject on the 2nd November last. This is what he said about Gallipoli:—The chances of success, as it seemed to us, and to those on the spot, were not only great, but preponderant.This is what he said about Mesopotamia:—General Nixon's force is now within measurable distance of Bagdad. I do not think that in the whole course of the War there has been a series of operations more carefully contrived, more brilliantly conducted, and with a better prospect of final success."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 2nd November, I915, col. 519, Vol. LXXV.]I do not know what the experience of other hon. Members is, but I must confess that I cannot imagine any other position of authority and responsibility which a gentleman would be allowed to retain after having made on his own confession two such appalling miscalculations and errors of judgment. That is the confession of the Prime Minister himself. Are we really, without any information whatever as to what is going on, going to vote million after million of money to a Government, the head of which admits, in respect of the prospects of success of these expeditions, two of the very worst possible miscalculations that have probably ever been put on record. These are things which make, or ought to make, any ordinary plain person have very grave doubts as to whether the Government are to be trusted with the conduct of this War. I really submit to my hon. Friends that we in this House have duties to our constituents, one of which is to see that we are put in possession of sufficient information to be satisfied that the Government are competent to carry this War to the successful conclusion which every one of us means to obtain. What about the expeditions to Salonika and Egypt? They are vastly expensive. I wonder if there are many 656 enemies anywhere particularly close to them. Really, from what is going on, it looks as if the enemy induced us to plant our forces in these remote places and has then quietly gone back, leaving us to wait until later on. I think we ought to have more information. The fact is, if we are going to have a gigantic Army, we cannot afford to play a waiting game. The two policies are destructive. There was our original policy which we formed before the War and upon which we started the War, namely, that we should have a small Army and a triumphant Navy, and play a waiting game—a war of attrition. Now we have adopted the policy of a very large Army on the Continental scale, on top of the Navy, which no Continental Power has ever had, and we cannot afford to wait. You must push on with the War very much more rapidly than you are doing unless you are going to die from exhaustion. You must have one policy or the other—either that of a long war, with a comparatively small daily expenditure, or the policy which Germany adopted but did not succeed with, that of a war with a very large force, with a great expenditure, deliberately intended to be over in a very short period. Everybody in the House, and, I believe, everybody in the country, wants to see this War brought to a successful conclusion. What is more, I believe we all are determined to see it brought to a successful conclusion. But I must say I think we ought to have much more clear and decisive evidence than anything before us at the present time that this Government are the people who are going to bring it to a successful conclusion. The House of Commons ought to insist upon that information before they agree to part with the money.
§ Major NEWMAN
The hon. Member who has just spoken has alluded to our expedition to Salonika. If he had happened to be connected with it, he would, I think, have found that there are enemies round about that place. He also told us that he wondered what on earth we and the Army wanted with so many mules and horses in the Western part of Europe. Again, I would say, that if he had been like some of us, a soldier in the trenches, or in the field, and had been waiting for a cooker to come along with his dinner, and that cooker was drawn with four mules, he would be the last man in the world to suggest that the mule was not wanted when it was a question of, no mule no dinner. Latterly there has been a lot 657 of talk about waste and extravagance, especially in the Army. In a great war like this where we have raised enormous Armies, and raised them quickly, there is bound to be extravagance and waste. If we were to get behind the scenes in the German or the Austrian armies, or the French or the Russian armies, I say unhesitatingly that we should see that there was there too serious extravagance and waste. In every country in Europe where the nations are at war there have been debates about extravagance in the Army—in the German Reichstag, in the French Chamber, and I have no doubt in the Russian Chamber, too. You cannot help it. What we can do, and what we have been doing in this House, is to point out small points of extravagance; to bring them to the notice of the Under-Secretary for War, or other Minister responsible, and let him try to put the matter right. The right hon. Gentleman has admitted that some of the suggestions made to him are, at any rate, useful. Any suggestions we may make that tends not alone to economy but to efficiency must be useful. It stands to reason that where a square peg is put into a round hole it is uncomfortable for the peg itself, and the state of things typified by that illustration tends to a loss of efficiency and economy.
I should like to point out one or two cases where, to my mind, the square peg has been put into the round hole, so that in the future that mistake might be avoided. There has been and always is a great competition for the comfortable places at home. Everybody wants to get into that portion of the Army and to stay there. A little while ago I was listening to a lecture at Aldershot by a great expert. He was telling us how in the most neat and efficient manner to kill Germans. We were told exactly what to do and almost exactly how the Germans would fall upon our bayonets. The lecturer had invited questions, and at the end a young officer alongside me got up and said, "I would like to know, sir, how I can be transferred from the Infantry back into the Army Service Corps?" The Army Service Corps before the War was not a branch of the Service very highly thought of. It is perfectly well known now that there is a very long waiting list for the Army Service Corps, especially amongst the officers. It is difficult to get there, but the work there is much more agreeable than trench work, and the Army Service 658 Corps is now a nice and popular service. Take, again, the Mechanical Transport Section with a pay of 5s. a day, which, I believe, has now been stopped. I wondered on seeing some of these men exactly the difference between the skill required to conduct these motor lorries along a road in Belgium and France and the work in the trenches, flinging bombs at any moment against the Germans, not at 5s. a day, but at the pay of the ordinary soldier, 1s. a day.
There is another very popular round hole at the present time. That seems to be the Flying Corps. The other day there passed me, and probably other Members of the House, a Highland band, behind which were young fellows marching, dressed in the very tasty uniform of the Army Flying Corps. Behind them again came what looked to be a batch of recruits that were going to join the Flying Corps. I looked very carefully at the men as they passed. Five or six seemed to be ordinary postmen in ordinary postman's uniform, and the others were men who could not under any circumstances be expected to make good flying men. For this purpose you want a smart, active young fellow, not too heavy, and besides that he should be a good tiptop mechanic, perhaps men who, it may be, at present are driving ladies' motor cars. What is needed here is young men who can keep the machines fit for flight. You do not want anybody who has got a little bit of influence to get himself dragged into the Royal Flying Corps! You do not want anybody with a little influence here and a little pull there to be allowed to get into that corps, with its smart uniform and buttons. By the time some of these men are fit for flying, or by the time they are efficient mechanics, the War will long be over. We have to remember, of course, that the Army now is no longer on a voluntary basis. The Army is under a compulsory system, whereas before it was right that the man should have a choice of corps. Those days are gone. Now, without bias or favour, these men, having been put into the Army Reserve, after attestation, ought to be simply sent where they are wanted. If they are wanted in an Infantry regiment, send them there; if in the Flying Corps, send them there. Send them wherever they are wanted without bias or favour.
There is another point which has been brought before the notice of the House. 659 A great many men who were not physically fit, especially at the beginning, presented themselves for active service, and managed to get themselves posted to units. All honour to them for coming forward. They came forward, as they said, "to do their bit." These men are an expense to the country. They are not able to earn their pay as soldiers. Some of them have gone abroad and broken down. They have been put into the Home Service, but again have been unable to do the ordinary work of a soldier. We are very sorry for them. We in the Army did our best for them. I remember the case of a man in my own command. He was a constituent of mine. He attested and joined, but how on earth he ever got through I do not know. He evidently had consumption of a fairly advanced type in the throat. We sent him away. Everything possible was done for him by the medical men. He was sent to hospital, and again, after a spell of work, again to hospital. He was examined before the medical board, and then for weeks and weeks he was kept, like Mahomet's coffin, suspended between heaven and earth, not knowing from morning to evening what he was going to do. The man had a big family besides. That is one particular instance out of hundreds, and, perhaps, thousands. How are we to deal with them?
I suggest to the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State that there should be instituted something in the nature of clearing camps, where, without any undue delay, or, at any rate, without any red tape, the commanding officer, or whoever it might be, could send men of this type, who obviously at the time were not fit to do their work—men who had fallen out once or twice in the last march, men who unfortunately get very heavy colds which turn to bronchitis, men with black teeth and flat feet. These should be sent to clearing camps and carefully examined medically and surgically and sifted out. Some of them, with a little attention, may be perfectly able to go back to their work, whilst those who are not fit for the work of the soldier might be able to do munitions work. Others might be sent to do clerical work and so on. At any rate, why should not at this crisis ways and means be adopted to meet these cases? We then should not be wasting the country's money and putting men to 660 jobs they cannot do. From my own experience, I very thoroughly agree with what the Secretary of State said about the training of recruits. It is ridiculous, unwise, impolitic, and wrong to send a recruit to the front under a year's hard training. The recruit himself does not want divisional, brigade, and other training of that sort. He requires to know how to shoot and use the bayonet, how to form fours, and how to get his feet hard for marching; and then if his heart is in the right place, a good and decent fellow who goes out to join his unit will do his work in a businesslike way. I trust the views I have put before the House will be of some service to the Under-Secretary.
§ Question put, and agreed to.