HC Deb 06 January 1916 vol 77 cc1133-256

Order read for resuming adjourned Debate on Question [5th January], "That leave be given to bring in a Bill to make provision with respect to Military Service in connection with the present War."— [The Prime Minister.]

Question again proposed. Debate resumed.


When the House adjourned last night I was approaching the discussion of the question whether there were causes in the state of things which is before the House at the moment which ought to induce the House to refuse performance of the pledge made two months ago by the Prime Minister, and I venture to say that there are certainly no such causes. The cause which has been presented most emphatically by almost every critic of the Government and the Bill has been presented in the threat that if the majority in this House proceed with this Bill and put it upon the Statute Book they will destroy the unity of the country. That is accepted now as the view upon which hon. Members and right hon. Members proceed with their criticism of this Bill. The basis upon which that threat alone could be formulated is that there has been during the prosecution of the War, in the course of the last seventeen months, a united country co-operating in the prosecution of a righteous War, and I think hon. Members are right in the assumption that there has been in an unexampled degree a united country prosecuting with unexampled and unprecedented determination a war about the righteousness of which no Englishman can have any doubt. What is the threat? Are the hon. Gentlemen and right hon. Gentlemen who have participated in that co-operation down to the present time going to withdraw their co-operation? Is that the intention? If it be so, those who are not with us are against us. and those who are not going to help His Majesty's Government and their fellow countrymen are going to help the enemy. [HoN. MEMBERS: "NO!"]




I gather that there are hon. Members who applaud the diatribes we hear against His Majesty's Government, but who, when they present the question to their own mind, "Am I going to help the enemy?" cannot answer it in the affirmative.


The Old Bailey.


If the hon. Member who interrupted and those who act with him, and their recently discovered leader, are not going to do that, what are they going to do?


We are going to be honest men.


Well, honest men sometimes find themselves in strange company.


On a point of Order. Is it in order for the right hon. and learned Gentleman to be offensively interrupted by the hon. Gentlemen opposite with cries of "The Old Bailey!" and "We want to be honest men!"?


Is it in order for a right hon. and learned Member of this House to cast doubts upon the patriotism of his fellow Members?


I have always deprecated these interruptions, and I must say to the hon. Member for the North-West Division of Lanarkshire (Mr. Pringle) that I am afraid he is one of the chief offenders in this matter. I am sure he would get a very much better audience, and would be much better listened to when he rises to speak, if he could refrain from constant interruption of others.


I did not catch the interruptions, but now I know what they are, I shall treat them with the same indifference that I should have treated them with had I heard them. I have been a Member of this House now for a good many years, and I have been a member of the legal profession more than double the number of years that I have been a Member of this House, and my conduct has passed in the eyes of my fellow countrymen. On the question of patriotism the House will judge, and the country will judge, whether it is the Government and the majority in this House who are fulfilling the national will, or whether it is being fulfilled by the mischief makers and malcontents who, if they succeed in the course they are embarking upon, will wreck the Government. And they will not only wreck the Government but they will wreck the Empire.


Why do you claim a majority?


It is not at all surprising that hon. Members who look at this matter without the distorting influence of political passion, see that you cannot withdraw from your co-operation in a great national cause which at any rate His Majesty's Government desire to advance, and which I suppose hon. Members will agree that the majority of their colleagues desire to advance. You cannot withdraw from that co-operation. All this talk of breaking the unity of the Empire is a mischievous and idle threat, because the unity of the nation does not depend upon combinations in this House or divisions in this House, but it is much deeper rooted. I venture to say that it is going to be sustained and strengthened by the courage of the right hon. Gentleman in the prompt performance of a plain, honourable pledge. What causes could warrant an hon. Member of this House, or an Englishman, in a time when there has been this unexampled co-operation, to threaten his withdrawal from it? That is what is involved in breaking our unity. To my mind the cause must be that the Government are about to engage in some act so mischievous and so criminal that it is necessary to stop them even at such a cost as is involved in the fatal course to which I refer.


Hear, hear.


The hon. Member for Coventry cheers that sentiment. I noticed that he was one of the most enthusiastic amongst the new-found followers of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Walthamstow. The hon Member accepts the proposition that there must be a cause of sufficient gravity to warrant a course so desperately and perhaps so fatally grave. What is the cause? It is the enunciation of what is called the political principle that you shall not compel a man to defend his country. I do not think that is likely to be found a very popular political principle. True, you cannot judge of the righteousness of political principles by their popularity, because the nation at large might sanction a political principle which was wrong, or overrule a political principle that was right. But is there such a principle as that which has been enunciated hero with so much vehemence and by so many threats? It is not found in the British Constitution. There is no principle that you are at liberty to abstain from a duty which involves the shedding of blood and the taking of life, in the British Constitution. You find this right down through the history of this country since the first day when it had a history. One of the three primary duties of the Saxons while they governed this country was the duty of every man to take part in its defence. That duty was enforced throughout the feudal times and the Middle Ages, it was well understood in Pitt's time, and you have a Militia Ballot Act which you still suspend year by year, or at any rate you did suspend it year by year within the memory of hon. Members in this House.

4.0 P.M.

But that is not the only indication of the converse of the principle which is relied upon. There is not a police-constable, who I suppose is one of the humblest officers of the Crown, who in a time of great emergency is not entitled to call upon his fellow-subjects who are merely standing by, to risk their lives and if need be to take life, for the purpose of maintaining the law and protecting those whose duty it is the business of the constable to protect. For hon. Members to talk in the vague way in which they do about this indispensable principle of immunity from the defence of the realm is to talk of a principle which does not exist. I agree that there has been for generations a proud satisfaction in this country that we could rely upon voluntary service. Do hon. Members opposite think that they have a monopoly of pride in the ability of our people? There are very few men on these benches who do not share it with them, and, so far as I am concerned, I would go to any honest length to defeat a scheme of Conscription. I do not stand here as a Conscriptionist, and I regard this Bill as an endeavour to maintain at the cost of a comparatively slight sacrifice that voluntary principle of which Englishmen have been proud and are proud, and I trust, may be proud for years to come. But if there is not this matter of constitutional principle, and if all that is in question here is a matter of expediency, a matter of now or thus, is that a matter for which hon. Members are willing to lend their aid to the enemy? They must ask their countrymen what they think about it, because this question cannot be settled against the declaration of necessity which His Majesty's Government have laid down— it cannot be so settled by any catch vote in this House. We have got to have it out now. His Majesty's Government are pledged to see this thing through, and to show that they are ready to redeem the original pledge the Prime Minister gave, and of which the present pledge is only a slight corollary, that this nation would devote every ounce of its strength, every penny of its means, and, if need be, every drop of its blood, to maintain the cause of freedom. That was the main pledge; this pledge is merely a corollary to it.

It is astonishing what divergence of opinion there is among the Members temporarily led, as I think, by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Waltham-stow (Sir J. Simon) upon the question of whether there is a principle here involved. The hon. and learned Member for Waterford (Mr. John Redmond) and the hon. Member for Mayo (Mr. Dillon) took the view most distinctly that it was a matter of expediency— they were not satisfied there is necessity. The House of Commons is not ready to part with an indispensable Administration, I trust, upon a question of expediency. At any rate, I feel convinced that no Member of the House of Commons who regards the gravity of the situation will allow himself to withdraw from the national co-operation upon a mere matter of expediency, of the time when and the method how the great step shall be taken

I doubt very much whether the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Walthamstow really regarded this ques- tion of compulsion as a matter of profound principle, of indispensable obligation. I will tell you why. Two months ago the Prime Minister made his. pledge in the House of Commons in the plainest possible terms in the presence, amongst others, of the late Home Secretary. Since that time 270,000 men have unconditionally enlisted on the faith of that pledge— [HON. MEMBERS: "No! "]— on the faith of that pledge. They had the assurance of the Prime Minister that Lord Derby's scheme would have behind it the weight of his promise, and it could not fail in the view which those who knew the temper of the married men in the country took of it if this pledge were accepted. The 270,000 men came in. Nearly half a million of married men came in. Nobody doubts that you can-not dispense with this pledge without annulling the attestation of every one of those half-million men. I was a little-astonished last night when, under the pressure of some observations of the Secretary of State for the Colonies (Mr. Bonar Law), the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Walthamstow inquired, "Could you not send and ask them?" That is the way in which we are to conduct the business of the greatest Empire of the world! You are to make your pledge, you are to get your recruits, you are to remove your obstacles, and you are to see yourselves in the way of getting 1,500,000 men to make good the triumph, or at any rate the security, of His. Majesty's Forces in the field, and in that condition the Prime Minister of this country, the first citizen of the Empire, is to write round to the married men to ask them, "Do you think you could dispense with that attestation I got from you?" I have heard hon. Members shout strange things at the Prime. Minister under the stress of the events of the last few months. [An Hon. MEMBER: Yes, and before!"] Some people say that they have done it before. Well, at any rate, I think I may say that during this War, and in every question connected with the War, the great majority of the House have appreciated sincerely and gratefully the services of the Prime Minister, whether they were his political friends or his political antagonists. That has been the position of the majority of Members. But has anybody paid a worse compliment to the Prime Minister than that which was paid to him by the question of his recent colleague, and, as I know, one of his most profound admirers the Member for Walthamstow? Really the Debate came to a pitiable point when it was suggested as a way out of the difficulty of a minority in this House that the Prime Minister of England should condescend to give away his pledge, to take the benefits of the tremendous resurgence of enthusiasm which his pledge helped to produce, and to get his recruits on the cheap—


Why do you say a minority?


An uncertain number of Members of this House. And to get his recruits on the cheap by a method which would not do credit to the resources of the least ingenious of recruiting sergeants. I venture to say that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Walthamstow could not have regarded what he calls the -voluntary principle as indispensable under all circumstances, or he could not have been in the Cabinet two months, while week after week and in the last weeks, after the reiterated pledge, hundreds of thousands of men were accepting the pledge and coming forward to do what we all thought was their duty to their country. The right hon. Gentleman strengthened my view as to his position in this matter by the particular care—I will not say the meticulous care, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Colonies said that yesterday —with which he prepared a speech to show that the Prime Minister's pledge, first of all, had not come into operation, and next, was not being fulfilled. The right hon. Gentleman undertook to show by the figures that the pledge had not come into operation. The basis of his argument was this: Here are 650,000 men. How do you know that the number of possible recruits amongst them is not negligible? There were 5,011,441 married men and single men of military age to whom the appeal was made. There were rather more married men than single men in that body. There were 1,100,000 single men who have not made any response. Does any man in his senses believe where there are 1,100,000 Englishmen between the ages of eighteen and forty-one at large in this country, or within the four seas, that the number of men among them who are eligible for military service is negligible? It is a fortieth of the whole population of the?country. It is a very large proportion of the whole of the able-bodied male population of the country. It is plain when, no matter whether by a strict process or by a general process, you have reduced your 1,100,000 to 650,000, that you have got a vast body of men capable of military service.

The right hon. Gentleman was supplied by the Secretary of State for the Colonies with a test. There are, it appears, 10,000 men with blue cards in Walthamstow. There are among them 1,560 single men who, according to the verdict of their neighbours, are refusing without apparent cause to do military service. That is a sixth of the number of men in question, and a sixth of the 2,200,000 men in question in England—the married and the single men together—is upwards of 350,000 men. If the test which is supplied by the Walthamstow figures or any test which reason can show is applied to this body of 650,000, it cannot be doubted that there is a great body of men among them who are capable of service. I have never taken upon myself to call any of my fellow-countrymen cowards or shirkers. Why should we? Our fellow-countrymen are not cowards or shirkers. I resent, at least I should do so if it were worth while to resent every idle thing that is said by the protagonists of one extreme party or the other, any such slur upon Englishmen as a body, but you must say, with regard to that reservoir as the right hon. Gentleman called it, those 350,000 men, if that be something like the body, that they are pleasing themselves, that they are self-willed, that it may be they are waiting for a peremptory summons. Every Member of this House knows that there are large bodies of young men throughout the country who are holding on, pleasing themselves, postponing obedience to the call of duty, waiting for a peremptory summons. I hope that they will get it; they ought to get it. If the State has a right, and I do not know anybody except the extreme individualists who say that the State has not the right, to the ultimate service of us all, and everything we have, everything that is disposable by us, those men are defaulting in their duty. These are the persons, they are the individual examples, in whose favour and on whose behalf it is proposed to break the unity of the country and to form a new party in the House of Commons with a view of preventing His Majesty's Government, really passing this Bill as the best means of prosecuting this War. In my opinion that is not a sane view of the situation at the present time.

You have got these men to deal with. If my right hon. Friend the Member for Walthamstow, if he will allow me still to call him so, for many years we have lived on terms of mutual respect, if my right hon. Friend instead of making a showy argument founded upon a use of figures with which he and I became familiar years ago, a use of isolated figures, had looked at the main figures, I think he could have presented a case in support of this Bill which would have "been overwhelming compared with the sophisticated arithmetic and dialectic with which he yesterday delighted those who want to break away from the Government. There are some broad figures here. You want at the present time a million of men; you probably want 1,500,000. You have got them in the attested men, but if you discharge the married men you have not got them, and, if you break faith with the country and treat this tremendous effort which has been made by our common consent upon pledges sanctioned by the conduct of the House of Commons—[HON. MEMBERS: "No, no!"]—then I do not know what sanction means. If I stand by and allow a man who speaks for me to get the benefits for which he asks on my behalf, I think I am sanctioning his conduct. The majority of this House applauded the pledge of the Prime Minister, and the country at large welcomed it with delight. Those of us who were at recruiting meetings at that time know that it solved a difficulty which seemed almost insoluble, and can it be said that the House of Commons, having stood by and seen its leader and spokesman derive these benefits for the country, should now turn tail upon him in the name of a political principle, which is not a principle of the Constitution, and on behalf of a body of men of whom sometimes we hear that they are negligible, and sometimes that at any rate they are not cowards, but at other times that they are people about whom we should risk the disruption of the Empire and the breaking -of the unity of the country, rather than put upon them the mildest coercion that anyone ever saw applied in a great emergency. Let us call upon these men to clear the way in order that those who are ready to take their stand with the forces of the King may come to the assistance of the community. Then in common action their energies may be directed to bringing this country out of the greatest peril it has ever seen, and to securing the achievement of a triumph which we seek with yearning hearts and which is bound up with the future of all our lives.


I have refrained from nagging at this Government while they are shouldering the very heavy responsibility of carrying on this War, and if I intervene now for a very few moments it is not with any desire to aggravate domestic difficulties, but to thank Ministers for recognising that a proposal which may be perfectly wise and just, so far as Great Britain is concerned, is totally inapplicable to Ireland. I listened last night to the speech of the late Home Secretary (Sir J. Simon) with every respect for his sincere convictions. But I cannot help thinking that the right hon. and learned Gentleman and his Friends attach very exaggerated importance to the excessively modest demands which this Bill imposes upon the people of Great Britain. So far as an outsider may hazard an opinion, this War will probably be won or lost before the men who will be called upon to enlist under this Act will have a chance of seeing a shot fired. I have heard competent military men say that we have at the present time enough men of the right kind to win the War if only we know how to make the best use of them, if we have men of the right kind to lead them, and if we have a Ministry of the right kind prepared to make up its mind and to stick to it.

I confess, on the other hand, I find it hard to understand all the hubbub which is made in this House about compulsion— compulsion to fight for your own very lives. Let me ask hon. Gentlemen opposite, what has Lord Derby's recruiting scheme really been but compulsion, and compulsion of a much more painful character? That compulsion was carried on by the Labour party very greatly to their credit with more energy than by any other party in this House, and it would seem strange to any man of honour and patriotism that compulsion by your trade unions and by the presentation of white feathers should be deemed less objectionable than a form of compulsion that will place all men, and all classes, on the same democratic level for the carrying on of a war which is undoubtedly the greatest war we have ever engaged in. That is why we claim that Ireland, as a separate entity, is entitled to entirely different treatment in reference to these colossal Imperial wars. I cannot admit for one moment there is the smallest approach to identity in the cases of Great Britain and Ireland in this regard. If I were an Englishman I would find it very difficult to understand where any principle of democracy is sacrificed by requiring five or six hundred thou-sand young Englishmen to do what so many of their fellow countrymen have already done voluntarily, and what the citizens of almost every other State in Europe are also doing, and that is placing their services and their lives at the disposal of their country in whatever capacity they can be best utilised.

However we may hate, and I do hate and detest militarism on the Prussian model, there is no getting over the fact that practically every citizen in every other country in Europe is at the present moment a soldier, not from any love of militarism, but by reason of a universal instinct of national defence and self-preservation. I heard an hon. Member deploring that there should be any departure from the English traditions of personal liberty. Yes, but we are up against a system of warfare embracing aeroplanes, submarines, and poison gases, which also constitute a very serious departure from English traditions, and we have got to meet and deal with that departure. To me the only amazing thing is that the people of England should so long have been content to delegate their duty to paid men of one or two particular classes, and that they should cling to a system of national defence which, in my opinion at all events, is as obsolete as bows and arrows, which in the last degree is undemocratic and unequal in its burden, and which necessarily ends in exacting from you very much more. [An HON. MEMBER: "Will you have it for Ireland?"] Will the hon. Gentleman please recollect that it is not to voice his opinions that I have been sent here? I dare say I have no grievance in regard to these interruptions, especially after the way hon. Members opposite treated their own Prime Minister yesterday. Perhaps, as an outsider, I may have been wrong in laying before the House my individual expression of opinion, for, after all, I recognise that the British people are the best judges of their own business, as I am glad to think the Government have recognised that, in this matter, the Irish people are the best judges of their own business.

Our position, historically and economically, and in every other way, is absolutely different. Not that Ireland has shirked or desires to shirk her post in the zone of danger. We admit that we are bound to help you loyally in proportion to our means, and we have done so. But in regard to those means, it is simply nonsense to talk of there being any identity of interest or of burden as between the two countries, and if the question as to Ireland is formally raised later on I shall then have very great pleasure in giving my reasons for holding that view. We take our stand on the rights of Ireland as a nation, as an inseparably allied nation, but still as a distinct nation. I believe that is the ground on which Ireland's claim for exemption from this Bill can be most effectively defended. I do not presume to sit in judgment upon the announcement of the line of action that came from the benches behind me last night, although I heard it with very deep regret. I make every allowance for the difficulties of men of every party in the terribly adverse circumstances which now obtain, but I, for one, cannot admit for a moment that we are bound in this matter to sacrifice the national interests of our own country to the interest of any English party or section, and certainly not for that section which, to put it without offence, is not the most heroic section. I am perfectly certain we should be gravely compromising the future of our own national cause hereafter if we allowed the case of Ireland, without a word of protest, to be confounded with the case of the four or five hundred thousand slackers and shirkers in Great Britain. The Government have had, I am glad to say, the wisdom to allow the Irish people to do their own business in their own way in this matter, and my Friends and myself will certainly be no parties to preventing the people of Great Britain from settling for themselves their own best system of national defence without any dictation or compulsion from us in Ireland. We shall certainly take very good care to be no parties in helping to give joy to Germany and to strike a very cruel blow at our friends in France and in Russia by wrecking this Bill, and by wrecking with it the War Ministry of England.


It must always be an ordeal for a Member to make his first speech to this House, and it must add to that ordeal to speak to the House on a question of such gravity as this. If I may say so, that is my excuse for taking part in this Debate. It is a question of tremendous gravity which has to be decided. I am going to think aloud, although I understand that thinking aloud is deprecated by certain Members of this House. I take it that the question before the House at the present time is this: Will the passage of the measure brought in by the Government help us or better help this country to end the War successfully, and will the passing of the Bill lead to that end? It is quite clear that there are honest differences in this House. There can be honest differences on this Bill. I rather deprecate the remarks of the right hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. Duke) who spoke first to-day. I think that everybody, whether for me or against me, has a right to say that they are honest in their intentions. I am not going to say that anyone wants to split the country or wants to assist the enemy. That is not the spirit with which this country is going to be successful. There are honest differences, honest differences that do not arise merely because a man is a compulsionist or a voluntaryist. If I may so put it, I believe the differences arise from in-definiteness. There are two points there: first of all, neither the Leader of the House nor any who have followed him have ever ventured to state numerically what is negligible. There is no datum line. I am not complaining of that, because it may be that it is impossible to fix it. It maybe put at 100,000, or 150,000, or 200,000, but no one has ventured to fix a datum line numerically. It is indefinite. Perhaps it is impossible to place it at any particular point. Not only is that indefinite, but if even that datum line were fixed there comes the next indefinite thing, that when you examine the 650,000 and reduce them to the number that you would be able to obtain for the Army, no one can tell you with an exactitude whether it will be above the datum line or below it.

That is the difficulty in which Members like myself are placed. Timidity comes along and whispers to me and, perhaps, others, this: "The Leader of your House and the Leader of your party tells you that the number is not negligible; ought that not to be sufficient?" I put that question to myself. Then I have to remember that the same data which is before the Leader of the House is before me. He does not claim to have before himself any special information that has not been given to every Member of this House. On questions of foreign policy, or on the question of giving information to the House which would endanger this country and help the enemy, this House has followed him without explanation or asking any questions, but on this particular question he has not said to me or others, "I have some information which I cannot divulge to you, which forces me to bring in this Bill." What he says is, "You have exactly the same data before you as I have before me." May I say, in passing, that this country is immensely indebted to Lord Derby for the great work he has done. I go further than that and say that no section of this country is more indebted to Lord Derby than the voluntaryists of this country, for he might well say that the Bill which is being introduced now is far less than the Bill which would have been introduced had he not gone on with his big campaign. Having said that, and having admitted it, I hope, frankly and fairly, I hope it will never be said of me that I want to help the enemy simply because I may differ in opinion from some hon. Members. When I have the same data as my Leader, I cannot escape my responsibility by hiding behind him. I cannot see why, because he says it is negligible, that I must, parrot-like, also say that it is negligible. I have to decide it for myself. I get no guidance and not the least information whatever— nothing definite and nothing decisive.

If the 650,000 were examined and dissected, there are two possible results. First, the residue might be negligible; secondly, the residue might not be negligible. My position is this: If I could be satisfied that the residue would not be negligible, I would vote for the Bill. On the other hand, I take it that if every hon. Gentleman here were satisfied that the residue was negligible he would never vote for this Bill. I cannot decide between those two things. I cannot say that the residue will not be negligible; I cannot say that the residue will be negligible. All I am asked to do now is to vote for the Bill. What will the Bill do? Whether negligible or not, there is to be compulsion. That is the Bill. I appeal to hon. Gentlemen who differ from me and ask, Is it not wrong to pledge us if it is negligible? The only way is to find out whether that residuum is negligible or not. I submit it is not fair—I hope I am not using the word "fair" improperly—to Members like myself to leave us in the dark, and to take this tremendous decision without having the actual facts before us. I am led to the conclusion that I cannot vote for the Bill.

The next point, to put it shortly, is this: Is the residue likely to be negligible? I have got to worry that out for myself without the facts. The two things to consider now are, first, the gravity of the War; and, secondly, the results of dissension in the country. It is the second of those points that concerns me. I will put my position shortly in the following illustration. Nine months ago I was speaking on recruiting. In that meeting was a Noble Lord—not my Lord Derby—and he spoke at that recruiting meeting in favour of Conscription. Later on, in the railway carriage, the matter was discussed. In the corner was an elderly workman. In my ignorance I thought he was a negligible quantity, but later on he looked at me and said, "Young man, I am a Conscriptionist." I said "Oh!" He said, "I am a bigger Conscriptionist than you are." I said, "Oh!" He said, "I would ask to see the bank books, and I would conscript the money. I would say, 'Show me the title deeds,' and I would conscript the land. They are going to take the children from the parents and they must take the capital and the land." [An HON. MEMBER: "There are no cheers for that!"] It made me think. Therefore I have to ask myself this: Will the passing of this measure help us to end this War successfully, or hinder us? It is because I believe that the passing of this measure will make the ending of this War more difficult that I intend to vote against the Bill.

The POSTMASTER-GENERAL (Mr. Herbert Samuel)

The House has listened with pleasure and with interest to the first speech of the hon. Member. If I may be allowed to say so, he made a sober and lucid statement of the opinions that he holds, and he has expressed them with an independence of view which, whatever may be said by critics of the House outside, is always welcome in the House of Commons. We welcome him to our Debates, and trust we may often have the pleasure of hearing his voice. The hon. Member, although opposing this Bill, has refrained from making those accusations against members of the Government who are responsible for its introduction which were heard in yesterday's Debate. He has not alleged that there is any grave conspiracy in which the Cabinet are engaged to foist Conscription on the country for its own sake, and independent of any necessity. There are, no doubt, men in this country and in the House who regard universal military service, apart from military necessity, as a good thing in itself— good for the physical training of the people, good for the development of certain moral qualities, good for the inculcation of discipline. For my own part, I emphatically do not belong to that school. Those arguments appear to me to be specious. Physical training can be given far better in other ways than by military service; moral education can also be inculcated in a different fashion with much greater efficiency, and although discipline within measure is, no doubt, a very desirable thing in a people, independence of character is even more desirable. It has always been the strength of the British nation, and for my part I would rather run the risk of having too little discipline than of having too little independence. So that if there be any attempt to introduce compulsion for the sake of establishing a system of universal military service, I, for one, am not a party to that conspiracy, and I do not think I am its unconscious dupe—if, indeed, it exists. There are others who hold that it is necessary to pass a measure of this kind in order to show to our Allies, to the enemy, and to neutral countries that the people of the United Kingdom are really in earnest in the War. That also is a view that appears to me to be held on very insufficient grounds of argument. No mere Act of Parliament could ever be such a proof of the earnestness and determination of the country as the fact that millions of the people have voluntarily come forward to risk their lives in this conflict. If we include those who are already serving in the Army, if we include those who are serving in the Navy, if we add to them all those who have come forward and are tabulated under one head or another in Lord Derby's Report, we get a total of no fewer than six millions of inhabitants of the United Kingdom of military age who have voluntarily come forward to serve their country with public spirit and patriotism. Whatever else this country may achieve or fail to achieve in this War, that one fact will live in history as an imperishable memorial of the patriotism of the British people of the present generation. I think this fact also is the greatest vindication of democracy that history can present.

Some hon. Members may say, "If this be so, why this Bill?" [An HON. MEMBER: "Hear, hear!"] I am glad I have interpreted the view of at all events one hon. Member behind me. I am driven to support the policy of this Bill against all my predilections, against my strong bias in favour of voluntary service, by the hard, cold logic of facts. One thing is common ground among us. Whatever view we may take as to the proposal of this Bill, all Members of this House are agreed that this country should throw its whole strength into the War, and we are agreed too on all hands that the country would not be putting all its strength into the War if it put its whole strength in the trenches. We are the chief munitions factory of the Alliance. We are the chief financial centre and strength of the Alliance. On behalf of our common cause we maintain a great Fleet which commands the seas. We have to retain in this country-adequate numbers of men for the fulfilment of these essentia] functions. We shall not be putting all our strength into the War if we put it all in the trenches, but we ought to put into the trenches all that we can spare. The President of the Board of Trade made a striking speech on 21st December, in which he gave the results of the most careful analysis that he has made, with the assistance of his expert advisers, into the numbers that could be spared from industry in the United Kingdom for military purposes. After making full and adequate allowance for the requirements which I have mentioned, he and his Department have come to the conclusion that at the present time, without forecasting what change of circumstances may bring in the future, about a million men could properly be spared from industry.


From certain trades?


From the whole country—from the trades in the country that can afford to spare them—1,000,000 men from one industry or another may be spared from our population to take part in military action. But if that is the maximum figure, in my view it is also the minimum figure. If they can be spared they ought to be sent. Let us be under no illusions in this matter. This War will not be won in the way that we are determined it shall be won without some very hard fighting. The nation must be prepared to strike hard blows on the battle-field—blow after blow—until the victory has been won. The War will be ended, in my belief, in no other way. For that purpose you need not only an overwhelming mass of artillery and munitions, but you must have great armies of men. The Cabinet day by day, hour by hour, must have always in the foreground of their vision our men in the trenches, our men in the Fleet, watching, fighting, dying to defend our honour and our safety. Our duty as a Government is to supply them with all the equipment and with all the support in men that can be spared from the resources of this country, and the same-duty rests upon the House of Commons. Whatever men, therefore, can be spared, should be sent. Recently, before Lord" Derby's campaign began, the leaders of the Labour movement met in conference the Prime Minister and Lord Kitchener, and as a result they threw themselves whole-heartedly into the recruiting campaign, and a manifesto was issued, which appeared on the hoardings throughout the country headed: "The Crisis," which has-been signed by the representatives of the the Trade Union Congress Parliamentary Committee, the General Federation of Trade Unions, and the Labour party executive. The essential passage in that manifesto consists of these words:— We are satisfied that if the voluntary principle is to-be vindicated at least 30,000 recruits per week must be raised to maintain the efficiency of our Armies, and secure such a victory as will free the world from the fear of that military tyranny which Germany would impose upon it. The organisations there represented will not, I am sure, go back upon that declaration. Of course, 30,000 a week does not mean 30,000 a week for some short, limited period during which an active recruiting campaign is going on. The 30,000 a week means for as long as the country can afford to supply those men to support our Armies. Before Lord Derby's recruiting campaign it was obvious that that number of recruits was not forthcoming. A canvass was begun, speeches, meetings, every means of propaganda were adopted in order to-secure an adequate number of recruits. Lord Derby's campaign has been by-common consent, from the point of view of the total of men brought in, a brilliant success. That success, undoubtedly, in my view, has been due in large measure to the fact that the Prime Minister's pledge stood upon record. At one moment, when in some quarters there appeared to-be doubt as to the meaning and validity of that pledge, suddenly the recruiting results stopped in many districts almost entirely. Recruiting offices, which a few days before had been busy with streams of men coming in to attest, were deserted. Recruiting authorities sent out telegrams and letters of appeal pointing out that the whole campaign was in danger of collapse. That showed that vast numbers of people throughout the country were most closely watching everything that was said and done in this regard, and it is not surprising that that should be the fact, seeing that their whole future and their very lives depended upon the decision that they came to When the Prime Minister's pledge was renewed, emphasised, clearly defined, at once recruiting recommenced in even larger numbers than before. Now we are told that because the total number of men recruited in Lord Derby's Report approaches 3,000,000, that shows that the pledge at the time was unnecessary. It is not fair to quote the results of the pledge as a proof that the pledge itself was not required.

But of the large numbers which have been included in Lord Derby's return, how many from the point of view of those who are responsible for the organisation and the maintenance of our Army are now available to be sent into the field? There are those who directly enlisted—275,000 in number—but those have been direct enlistments since 11th October—that is during a period of twelve weeks—and if the number of recruits who can be taken up and trained by the War Office is 30,000 a week we should have needed in that period no less a body than 360,000 men, more than absorbing all the direct enlistments, and that leaving out of account the fact that before Lord Derby's campaign began recruiting was very much in arrear, and the numbers had considerably fallen below 30,000 a week for some considerable time. Therefore those who have enlisted have already been earmarked to fill up the gaps created by the previous weeks. Of the rest, unless the question of the married men is dealt with satisfactorily, the only body at the moment available is the single attested men, numbering 343,000. That would give a supply, according to the figures which have been stated by the War Office as the measure of their needs and accepted on all hands, including the authoritative spokesmen of Labour, lasting for no more than eleven weeks. But my right hon. Friend the late Home Secretary said last evening, in an interjection which has already been commented upon by my right hon. Friend?opposite, "There are more ways than one of fulfilling the Prime Minister's pledge. You may go to the married men without bringing in the unmarried men who have refused to attest and ask them whether after all they will not be willing to serve." With all respect to my right hon. Friend I feel sure that that suggestion was made with insufficient consideration. We cannot really contemplate that a canvasser should go to a married man in the name of the Government one week and ask him to attest, and assure him that he will not be called up unless practically all the single men are compelled to serve, and then to go back again a few weeks later to the same man and say, "The Government admit that the number of single men who are not serving is large, they are unwilling to compel them; will you not after all release them from your pledge and serve in the Army nevertheless?" You have no right to put a man in such a dilemma as that, to ask him either to withdraw the attestation already made or else come forward and release the Government from its pledge. What answer does my right hon. Friend think the canvasser representing the Government would receive from a married man in circumstances such as those? It would probably be of a very vituperative character, and not unjustifiably so. The facts are these. On the authority of the President of the Board of Trade a million men can be spared. Only a third of a million are now available among single men. Half a million married men are ready and willing to serve, but they cannot be mobilised until the single men are dealt with. The question, therefore, resolves itself into a pure matter of fact. Is it, or is it not the case that the single men who ought to serve and who have not come forward 'are a negligible minority? That is the narrow issue to which the whole controversy is now restricted.

5.0 P.M.

I have the duty laid upon me now of examining the figures which were given to the House yesterday by my right hon. Friend (Sir J. Simon). I should like to express how very deeply I regret finding myself in controversy in debate with my right hon. Friend, with whom I have worked in cordial political comradeship and friendship for all my political life. He will understand that I am far from entertaining any personal feeling with regard to himself, and if I endeavour to examine, as my duty calls me to do, the figures and estimates that he has placed before us, it is only in accordance with the requirements of debate. My right hon. Friend's figures really will not bear a moment's examination. I admit at once that there are many points of uncertainty in the figures enumerated in Lord Derby's Report. That is stated upon the face of it, and I should have been very glad if it had been possible to obtain more exact statistics before the House was called upon to decide this very great issue which is now before us. But the figures are not so inaccurate as my right hon. Friend would contend. He stated that large deductions ought to be made from the original figure that was taken from the National Register in order to make it relevant to the circumstances of the present discussion. He said, in the first place, that all clergymen, all curates, and all the priests of the Roman Catholic Church are included in the gross figure and ought properly to have been excluded, and that that was not an inconsiderable class. The number of men concerned, namely, clergy and priests who are unmarried men between the ages of eighteen and forty-one was, according to the Census, 7,000. No very large total in itself. The right hon. Gentleman put in his second category the members of the mercantile marine who were in the United Kingdom at the time the Register was made. These he described as a considerable class. The actual figure can be obtained from the Register, and is in fact 24,000.


Many of those men have joined the Navy or the Forces since.


All the more reason for not calling them "slackers."


At any rate the figure is a comparatively small one. Next, the right hon. Gentleman says that included in the National Register were all sorts of people who were in different public institutions. He instanced the criminal, and he went on to say every weak-minded person, every inebriate, every blind man, all the halt and the maimed, everybody who had got an obvious physical incapacity for military service, were included in the National Register, because at the time it was taken we were given a pledge that the National Register had nothing to do with compulsion. My right hon. Friend is in an error in that respect. The regulations under which the National Register was compiled specifically excluded the inmates of such institutions. Here is the explanatory Memorandum, which puts it very clearly. It says:— Section 12 of the Act provides that the duty of registering under the Act shall not, except to such extent as may be prescribed, apply to any prisoner in a prison. certified lunatic or defective or inmate of any Poor Law institution, hospital, or other prescribed institution, nor to a prisoner of war or a person who is interned.


I think I said yesterday that that is quite true, and it is also quite true that under the regulations, which my right hon. Friend has not apparently at the moment before him, provision was made that as each criminal was released from prison he should, at the time he was released, be included in the National Register.


"Why not?"


There is no reason why not, except that I happened to be correct about it. The same is true of persons in other classes of institutions.


Of course, it is the case that when a man ceases to be an inmate of such institutions and returns to the ordinary population necessarily he has to be registered in order that his certificate of registration may be made out. But my right hon. Friend said "every weak-minded person, every inebriate, and every blind man." As a matter of fact, the numbers of insane and feeble-minded persons who are in institutions is very large; it is, of single men of those ages, about 26,000. The numbers who have been released from institutions is exceedingly small, so small that really it is a negligible number in this connection.


Was he also in error in regard to the pledge that the National Register had nothing to do with Conscription?


My right hon. Friend took another category. He said:— Included in this same figure of 650,000 are other blocks of persons who have no conceivable relation to Lord Derby's scheme at all. They are the men who have been recruited, and are the men who have from day to day been recruited for the Army and the Navy. I am assured by the War Office authorities that all these men had, in fact, been deducted and were not included. I have made inquiries this morning, and they say that my right hon. Friend was incorrect in that regard, and that these men were deducted from the total before the total was arrived at. The next category dealt with by my right hon. Friend is one which cannot possibly be estimated, namely, the only sons left at home after several have been taken for service in the Imperial Forces. That class ought certainly to be deducted. My right hon. Friend made another error which was commented upon by the Colonial Secretary yesterday. He said that the Derby Report itself gives a measure of the great size of the deduction that must be made from the figures of 650,000 before we reach any probable estimate of what the number of available single unattested men really is. He remarked that there are 840,000 attested single men, and out of these Lord Derby expects to secure only 343,000. He then went on to ask if out of 84 people who have in fact come forward you are only able to get 34, how many are you going to get out of 651,000? He omitted to observe that in the 840,000 attested single men were included all the starred single men, while in the other case they were not included. That makes a difference of over 300,000. The true comparison would be this—if out of 527,000, which is the real number of unstarred attested single men gross, you get 343,000 net, how many will you get net out of 651,000? The conclusion, of course, is not less than 343,000, but more than 343,000, which would enlarge the final result. So much in regard to my right hon. Friend's figures, which, as I was compelled to say at the outset, do not really bear critical analysis.

The House will be making a mistake if they deal with this question only in terms of hundreds of thousands. The point is that the married man who has attested knows that in his own street and in his own neighbourhood there are unmarried men who could be spared and who refuse to go. Even if you make a great reduction from the 651,000, even if you take it at one half, and assume that the final residuum is only 300,000—it may conceivably be less than that—it means that for every two married men who are attested there is one unmarried man who has not attested. You cannot call those two married men to come forward and serve unless first you deal with the single man who will not come forward. The hon. Member for Derby (Mr. Thomas) yesterday said that when you come to the figure of 200,000, perhaps even less, the number was so small that it was of practically no military value, and that the House would be foolish to embark upon this great controversy and to divide the country, as unhappily it may be divided in opinion, for the sake of so small a number as that. Surely the hon. Member for Derby fell into a very obvious error. It is not only the unmarried men directly affected who are in question, but the married men who are indirectly affected. The 200,000 or the 300,000, or whatever the number may be, of unmarried men who are unattested, have standing behind them nearly 500,000 married men who are ready to serve. You cannot move that 500,000 married men forward until you have first got out of the way the 200,000 or whatever the number may be, of unattested single men who block the road.

My right hon. Friend (Sir J. Simon) began his speech yesterday by declaring that for his own part he could not support a Bill of this character because he was opposed to it on fundamental grounds of vital principle. If that be so the rest of his speech was irrelevant. What does it matter whether there be 100,000 or 500,000? What does it matter whether there be a pledge or not a pledge? A principle is a principle, and must always be observed. One can understand the position of the Quaker. He says that under no circumstances will he take life. If he is to be killed, let him be killed. If the country is to be overrun, let it be overrun. That is a doctrine which, if it were held by large numbers of people here and not held by corresponding numbers in other countries, would obviously be subversive of the State, indeed subversive of all civilisation, for it would place the civilised countries at the mercy of the barbarians. I do not think that there are any or, at any rate, very few Members of this House who object to compulsory military service on the grounds of a principle of that character. Again and again I have heard hon. Members who take a view hostile to this Bill state, that if it could be proved that compulsion was necessary in order to beat the Germans, they would vote for compulsion. That could not be if they object to compulsion on vital and fundamental grounds of principle. There are others who say that if this country was really in danger of invasion they might be prepared to vote for compulsion. For my own part I can make no distinction between fighting the Germans on our own soil and fighting the Germans in France and Flanders. It is true that the Germans have not invaded our coasts, but they are in Belgium, and our obligations to rescue and defend Belgium are as solemn and as binding as our obligations to defend our own shores. They are in France, and we are engaged with France in a brotherhood of arms, which does not allow us to distinguish on which territory of the Allies the battle is to be fought. They are in Poland and they are in Serbia.

Apart from that, we all know that we are defending in France and in Flanders the homes of England, Scotland, and Wales. We are defending there and now the homes of our own children, of the next generation here in England. I do not think that one can say that any valid ground of principle ought to prevent a man from supporting this Bill if he regards it as a military necessity for the successful conduct of this War.

Are we then to reject the Bill on the ground of our general resistance— those of us who are Liberals and oppose compulsion on general grounds, are we to reject this Bill for that reason? Those views which I expressed at the outset of -my remarks are valid in normal times. They cannot be pressed to day. It is no use discussing what should be the architecture or the decoration of your house when your house is on fire. The first thing to do is to put out the conflagration. If hon. Gentlemen who have done me the honour to follow my remarks agree with the various propositions I have put before them—if they agree, first, that our duty in the War requires us to send every man that can be spared; second, that we can spare 1,000,000 men; third, that under the Derby scheme only 300,000 can be forthcoming unless the Prime Minister's pledge can be redeemed; fourth, that the Prime Minister's pledge was necessary in order to secure the total obtained—then they must come to the final conclusion that a measure of this character is unavoidable.

I would remind the House that in two great struggles for human liberty it was found essential to establish a system of compulsory military service. Cromwell's New Model Army consisted largely of men who were brought in by methods of compulsion, and Abraham Lincoln, in the greatest struggle which had been fought until this War for liberty and democracy — Abraham Lincoln also was obliged, sorely against his will, to adopt compulsion for the recruitment of his army. So it is now. We must give up this much liberty in order to save the rest.


I am most grateful to the right hon. Gentleman who has just sat down for one thing in his speech, and that is that in dealing with the question which is now before the House he has not attempted to impute motives to those who, like myself, are unable to support the Government in regard to this Bill. The right hon. Member for Exeter (Mr. Duke) said he could not call any of us shirkers or cowards, or any of his countrymen, but he did not refrain from calling those of his countrymen who cannot take the course he had adopted unpatriotic. I venture to say that was not worthy of the right hon. Gentleman. Personally, I am not able to support this Bill which the Government has brought in. I have not reached that decision easily. I accepted the Coalition somewhat unwillingly, and the Government will testify, if they care to do so, that I have given them faithful support throughout, just as I had given it previously to the other Government. If I separate myself from them now, it is not because I am unpatriotic, and not because I do not desire to win the War, but because I think the Government are embarking on a dangerous course, and that at the present time certainly they ought not to take the step which they have taken. It was put to us, I think it was by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Exeter, that although it is necessary to win the War we will not support it. The Prime Minister, in his speech yesterday, did not claim for this measure that it was necessary to win the War. The Colonial Secretary (Mr. Bonar Law) said so I know, but I cannot take the opinion from him. I must form my own judgment, as the new Member, whose speech was listened to with deep interest, said, on the effect of the measure the Government have introduced, and because I believe it would be followed by disastrous consequences to the country, and that it is best to use my own judgment as well as I can, that I must warn the Government in time that they had better not proceed with this Bill. I do not think the Government can fairly complain if we take this opportunity, while there is yet time, of criticising the Bill. The right hon. Gentleman asked, "Are you going to withdraw your co-operation in the prosecution of the War?" Certainly not. If the Bill goes through it will have to be administered, and I pray that I may be proved wrong in my belief of the consequences that will follow. I will help the Government in every way that I can in their endeavour to fight the enemy successfuly, but now is the time, if ever, when Members should place their judgment at the disposal of the Government, and the issue is so vital to the future of this country that we are bound by the responsibility that attaches to every one of us in this House, by our obligations to our constituents and to the country as a whole to act to the best of our judgment, and not to attempt to place it in commission to the Government or anyone else. We are not discussing the method of getting the men that are required, and the method of getting the men for the Army is inseparably interwoven with the question of how large your Army is going to be. The Prime Minister, on the 2nd November, stated the position, as I think, with perfect accuracy, if I may say so. He said that the Army, or rather the reservoir from which the Army was to be withdrawn was the residuum—he said he thought the word was unfortunate, and substituted residue, but it was a strictly correct mathematical word—after you have met all the other necessary services of the country. We have had a statement of those other necessary services from other Ministers. We have had a very remarkable statement from the Minister of Munitions when he was Chancellor of the Exchequer, in which he laid down the services which this country could render to the Allies in the struggle in which they are engaged. He said, on 9th May last year: "What services can Britain render to this great combination? She can keep command of the seas for the Allies. That is the first and greatest service that Britain can render. What is the second service Britain could render? She could, of course, maintain a great Army, putting the whole of her population into it exactly as the Continental Powers have done. What is the third service? The third service which she can render is the service which she rendered in the Napoleonic war of bearing the main burden of financing the allied countries in their necessary purchases for carrying on the War. She can do the third and the first, but she can only do the second within limits, if she is to do the first and the last, and I think that is important." The right hon. Gentleman went on to say that the limits are being reached.

In this Debate I think that aspect of the question has not been dwelt on as it should have been. I waited to-day in this Debate until after the speech of my right hon. Friend (Mr. H. Samuel)— and I am glad to see the First Lord of the Admiralty in his place—in this Debate in which we are discussing the War, and the part we are playing in it, for any mention of the British Navy. I think my right hon. Friend was the first one in the Debate to mention that we have a Navy. I do not know now whether anybody knows what is the number of men required for the maintenance and service of the Navy at the present time. Everyone knows that the Navy is far larger than it was when the War was entered upon. The number of men required is not the 150,000 or 160,000 men wanted at the beginning of the War or a year or two before the War. It is a number running to half a million.

The FIRST LORD of the ADMIRALTY (Mr. Balfour)

No, no!


Is it not? I do not want to ask the number, but it is a very greatly increased number, and that is the Service we have to safeguard by every means. I read in a paper the other day that we are no longer an island. That is not true, I am glad to say. The English Channel is still inviolable, in spite of everything. The North Sea will never again be called the German Ocean, and I do not think this House should forget, in this discussion, that the question of the size of the Army is, so long as the Navy holds the seas, not even the second question, but the third question which the House has to determine. The next demand for men to which you come is men for furnishing munitions of war for the Army and Navy. That, again, is an unknown figure. I do not know how many men are required to provide munitions and equipment to a Navy of unknown size and an Army of 4,000,000. Munitions must be kept up by the supply of men. It is not in men that we have failed in this country, so far. There has been no failure by the men to respond as volunteers wherever they have been called upon. So far as there have been failures, they have been failures to arm the men we have raised in our Armies, and failure to provide the men in the field with the necessary equipment. My hon. and learned and gallant Friend the Member for Sunderland (Colonel Sir Hamar Greenwood) said yesterday that we have been unable to save Serbia because we have not the men to send. I believe that to be quite untrue, and contrary to the fact. I believe we had an abundance of men to send to Serbia if we had been able to equip them at the time with the necessary munitions. The Minister of Munitions demanded on Tuesday another three or four hundred thousand men for munition work, and he declared quite truly that the men in the workshops are winning the War. This demand for munitions must be met before you increase your Army, and it is no use increasing your Army unless you increase at the same time your power to equip them. Then we have the further question, that you must maintain your exports in order to meet the imports; you must maintain the Loans to the Allies; and everyone knows that all over the country at the present time there is one universal demand for men. There is a shortage of men in all the businesses of the country, and it is a dangerous thing for the Government to go on raising men more and more without apparently placing any limit to the demand that is made. When you have finished with your Navy, your munitions, and your necessary export trade, then you come to the residuum, the reservoir on which you can draw for your Army.

What is the size of that reservoir, in the first place? I see the Chancellor of the Exchequer (Mr. McKenna) on the Front Bench. I would like to ask him a question. We read in the public Press, which has been so well-informed of late, that he has been asking the Cabinet to place a limit upon the size of this residue, or reservoir, from which the Army can be drawn. Does he know the figure which it ought to be? Do the Government know how many men they require at the present time? What is the maximum size of the Army to be placed in the field, if tomorrow they had at their disposition every man in this country? If they do not know that, then I submit that they have neglected to determine one of the fundamental questions which govern the situation. I am convinced that the figure is not so large as many Members think. I can understand that men who have to deal with the military problem want all the men they can get and still more men; but the Government have to look at the question as a whole, they have to study other requirements of the country, and it is for the Government to balance requirements one against the other, and not leave the Services to determine what those requirements' should be. Is there any proof whatsoever that the number of men required cannot be got by voluntary recruiting? The Government admit that there has been a most marvellous response from the country, and I heard with amazement certain speakers belittling the efforts which the country has made. The manner in which men, in the prime of their manhood, have, all over the country,. voluntarily offered their services, is a miracle such as the world has never seen before. Instead of belittling those efforts—[HON. MEMBERS: "Who has belittled them? Give one name!"] I am very glad it is repudiated, and, as I cannot fix it, I withdraw it—I certainly withdraw it so far as Members of the House are concerned.

Then we all rejoice in the magnificent response under which nearly 6,000,000 of men have offered themselves for the country's service. When the Government have asked for men they have come forward. When the Derby scheme was started the men did not come forward as quickly as the Government wished, and we had the Prime Minister's pledge, followed by the rush of married men and a general rush of recruits and the issue of the Derby Report. I submit that the Derby Report should not have been issued in its present form. As a document it is crude, it is ill-digested, it is unbalanced, it gives conjectural figures and facts so mixed up that I doubt very much whether ten Members of the House really know what part of the Report is fact and what part conjecture, either by Lord Derby or by some member of the War Office. At the end of that Report we reach the figure of 650,000 men, and the issue of the Report in its crude state has resulted in a great slur upon that body of men. In one London evening paper, on the Tuesday night, we had the heading, "650,000 Slackers." That was surely a slander on the people of this country. Surely that was a false suggestion to put before the Allies and enemies —the suggestion that 650,000 Englishmen were holding back when the Government was asking for them. I submit that the issue of Lord Derby's Report in such a crude state gave rise to this slander. The figures which were put forward should have been carefully explained, so that even the editors of evening newspapers could understand them.

At the very beginning of the figures in the Report there is a possibility of error. They started with the National Register, and I have been told—it is published in the newspapers to-day—that the National Register contains 500,000 more men of military age than the corrected census to-day gives. There are half a million more men on the National Register than in the corrected census figures. There you have a possible error of half a million, and you may take it that at least half of that number are married men. Therefore, if you take the 650,000 you must at once knock off at least 250,000 if what I have stated be true. I do not vouch for it, but I am informed by those who have investigated the matter that either one set of the figures or the other is wrong to that extent. But if what I have stated be correct, then the figure 650,000 is vitiated at the very beginning. When you come to consider the percentage of deductions— I am not going into the details of them, and I think no one has shaken the figures of my right hon. Friend the ex-Home Secretary—whatever our view of the percentages taken off, and whatever our theories may be, I think it is clear that all the deductions may be much larger when you are dealing with a residuum than when you are dealing with the general average of the population. The residuum has been sinking down; the people who form it are in a difficult position with regard to volunteering; they have all been sinking down to the bottom, and when you come to take the ineffectives, the indispensables, the people exempted under your scheme, you have got to take a much larger percentage when dealing with the residuum than when dealing with the average throughout the whole country. My own impression is that you would not get anything like the 300,000 men that the right hon. Gentleman spoke of just now, and that it may be much nearer 100,000 instead of 300,000. I do not know, and I would say that no Member of the House knows, and we can gather from speeches made by the Government that no member of the Government knows, what is the real residuum of men who have refused to come when they were free to do so, and who ought to come at their country's call.

That being so, I say to the Government, and I say it with the utmost earnestness, that I still hope that it is not too late, and I do say that this Debate has come too soon. This Bill has been introduced too soon; it has come before we know what the real result of the Derby scheme has been, before the returns have been analysed and scrutinised, and before they have been reduced down to that minimum which was to be, under the Prime Minister's pledge, either negligible or not negligible. We do not know to-day whether the residuum is negligible or is not negligible, and I submit that, until we do know, the Prime Minister's pledge ought not to be fulfilled, It cannot be fulfilled until we know all the facts. We were told that Lord Derby's scheme was the last chance for the voluntary system. Why was that so? If it was indeed to be the last chance for the voluntary system, it should have been given a fair chance. I submit that the Derby scheme in some parts of the country was imperfectly worked, or partially worked, or worked in a confused manner. I have here a letter from the chairman of the Parliamentary committee in my Division. He is a man who scrupulously weighs the words he uses. I do not give his name, because he is not a Member of the House; and I have not his authority to repeat his words, contained in a private letter written to me, and which I am prepared to show to any Member who cares to see it. The chairman of this recruiting committee in his division uses these words: I have seen all the work of Lord Derby's scheme in this division as chairman of the Parliamentary committee, and I am convinced that with adequate organising power, foresight, and general ability on the part of the military officials, the results might have been considerably better. Certainly the voluntary system ought not to be condemed on such work, even if one admits that it should be on its trial at all. The writer uses no strong language; it is. the language of a man who has been for forty years in public life in his country, who weighs every word he utters, and we have him stating deliberately that far better results might have been obtained had the scheme been properly worked. That being so, ought we to proceed with a Bill of this kind until we see that the scheme has been properly worked, and the Prime Minister's pledge properly fulfilled? I submit that until then there should be no change in the voluntary system. How do we understand that pledge? It is a pledge to the married men that they should not be called up until it was. ascertained that all the single men—excepting a negligible quantity—who were available had come to the Colours. On this point I do not know how the distinction between single men and married men arose. I think a great deal too much was. made of it. I quite agree that, other thing's being equal, single men of the same age should come before married men, but some single men may have responsibilities as well as married men, and it seems to me a very unfortunate attribute of the Derby scheme that it drew this distinction.

We are told that we are too late in raising the question of the Prime Minister's pledge. I think it is rather ungenerous to say that to those who have kept silent for months. The Prime Minister's pledge was given in order that Lord Derby's scheme might be made to succeed. We all wanted to see the Derby scheme succeed, and we were all chary of raising controversies which might interfere with the recruiting. If we had criticised the Prime Minister's utterance, then that would have been to undo the effect of the appeal which he then made. The fact that we kept silent until the Derby scheme succeeded—for I claim that it has succeeded in bringing forward a large number of volunteers—does not preclude us from pointing out the exact meaning of the pledge, or from dissociating ourselves from the particular interpretation given to it by some Members of this House. After all, the pledge must be read as a whole. If you read it, it is as clear as possible that general consent was to be a necessary part of any entering upon a change of system in this country, and that is as much a part of the pledge which the Prime Minister gave as the pledge he gave to the married men. I submit that there cannot be a change of system without general consent, which is really essential to the fulfilment, not merely in the letter but in the spirit, of the pledge that was given to the House. The right hon. Gentleman the Colonial Secretary turned upon some of us last night and said, "Your interpretation of general consent is that the majority should give way to the minority." And the majority of the House cheered that remark. That is not the position at all. General consent, as I understand it, does not mean the rule of the majority. It means the consenting agreement of all except a negligible minority, and until the Prime Minister can claim the position of having only a negligible minority here or in the country opposed to this Bill, I submit that by his pledge he is not justified in placing such a measure on the Statute Book.

I claim that a change of this kind, a fundamental change in the whole constitution of our Armies, for it means no less, ought not to be made without consulting the country. I am not pleading for a General Election. I think a General Election would be undesirable, and I suppose most other Members think so as well. [Some HON. MEMBER made remarks which were inaudible in the Reporters' Gallery.] I do not shrink from it if it comes. I do not think any of us here in time of war hold our seats very dearly at the present time. We are all doing what we can for our country in this difficult time, and I think the threat of losing your seat in Parliament never weighed less with Members than it does at present. Certainly, speaking for myself, I can say so. I submit that in order to know if there is general consent it is really not necessary to have a General Election or a Referendum. What the Prime Minister has promised is not to do this unless there is practically general consent, and I say it ought not to be done unless there is that practical general consent. Let the Government take time. Why rush it? [An HON. MEMBER: "Wait until the War is over!"] You have got 343,000 men ready to enlist, and there are many other men who, if they were told that immediate enlistment was preferred, would do so. There are many among the married men who would do so, and there is no need to appeal to the married men in the way that has been suggested. Many married men resent the use made of the pledge. Many of those married men volunteerd under the group system in order to support the voluntary system, because they were told that that was the way to do it. All the married men did not come forward because they were told they would be called after the single men. I say to the Government that they ought to take time under the pledge and that they are really bound to do so.

I should like to put two general considerations before the Government which have not, I think, been mentioned previously in this Debate. One is that from the moment the Government resorts to compulsion, they change their own position towards the men in the British Army. They take upon themselves a very different responsibility from that which they carried while dealing with a voluntary Army. There may have been grave mistakes in this War, but the House has not been hard on the Government in regard to them. The Army was a voluntary Army, and the Government were doing their best. They were volunteers both in a difficult enterprise, and they stood together and suffered together. But there have been great blunders made, and if the Government is going to take men compulsorily, who do not wish to go, and send them out on foreign enterprises—and talking about this matter, when has a Government in this country taken men outside these islands by compulsion?—if they are going to send men to the Dardanelles and to Mesopotamia by compulsion, they are changing the responsibility which the Government carries upon its shoulders in regard to the whole matter, and a very different explanation will be demanded from the Government in regard to those measures. It is a grave responsibility the Government are taking. I am not sure that it is good for the country, or for the Government, that they should be able to take men by force, without justifying their action to the country. As long as you are asking for volunteers, the number of men you can get is limited by the approval which the country gives to your action in the War, or on your general policy. The German system is different, I know, and in this connection I am reminded of a sentence used by the Kaiser to a Member of this House who was present at German manoeuvres. The Member of this House on that occasion criticised the manoeuvres by saying they were very expensive in men, and the answer of the Kaiser was, "Yes, they are expensive in men; it is the German method. We have plenty of men in Germany." They are fewer now, because Germany has been spending those men by German methods in the War, men recruited by force and taken to fight the Kaiser's battles by force. I think the Government are making a mistake in trying to introduce this German method of providing themselves with men for a purpose of that kind.

I am surprised to note that some members of the Labour party are going to support this Bill. So long as you have a voluntary Army, men will not volunteer unless the conditions of service are fair, but the moment you have a compulsory Army they lose the power of determining that question, and they are taken willy-nilly into the Army. The Labour party have used all their power to secure good conditions, and I hope we are all anxious to secure good conditions. But they are certainly parting, and the people are parting, when they give the Government power to take the men compulsorily, with all the weight which the fact that the Government has got to ask for the men, imposes in regard to the conditions of service. Compulsion is much simpler and easier for the Government, and it will not stop at compulsion for single men. An illogical distinction of that kind will not hold for a moment. It is much easier to compel the men generally, and to extend the principle to married men. I think the voluntary system has not failed, and if there has been a failure it has been failure at the head, and in direction by the authorities in this country, and not on the part of the rank and file of the people in responding to appeals for men. For the reasons which I have stated I am opposed to the Government action. There is union in the nation at present. The moment this Bill passes there will be disunion. I do not want it; I regret it, but there is no use in shutting our eyes to the fact. The Trade Union Congress has been sitting to-day, and they have voted by over two million votes to half a million against this measure. Are the Government going on with it after that? Are they not courting division in the nation if in the teeth of that declaration of organised labour they obtain this Bill? It is because I believe, and I ask the House to believe, that the Government are heading for disaster, that I take the responsibility, great as I know it to be, of opposing the Government at the present time, and as the best service which I can render to my Constituents and to my country I oppose the Bill.


My hon. Friend who has just spoken has made a very able and I think quite worthy contribution to a very important Debate. I am glad to think that those with whom I have always hitherto agreed on the general principle of resistance to Conscription have worthily made opposition, so far as they are bound to make opposition, to the measure before the House. With many of the concrete criticisms of my hon. Friend I am in complete agreement, and on some points of his criticisms as regards details I should even, perhaps, go a little further than he did. On the other hand, I think some of his arguments are not compatible with others which he advanced, and that some of his arguments destroyed others upon which he seemed to lay most weight. I want to appeal most respectfully to those of my hon. Friends who are opposing this Bill to consider whether the separate arguments used, even when true in themselves as propositions, are valid reasons for rejecting this Bill.

Following this Debate anxiously, I have heard at least six lines of argument. There was the remarkable position taken up by my right hon. Friend the ex-Home Secretary, when he stated that he differentiated himself from the Prime Minister in this respect, that he opposed this Bill for reasons of vital principle, and not merely as the Prime Minister supported it, for reasons of expediency. Then we had his very able concrete argument as against the Derby Report. Some of his arguments and criticisms were really damaging, and I fancy that the damage has been carried even a little further by my hon. Friend who has just spoken. On the other hand, some of my right hon. Friend's own figures and inferences have, I think, in turn been shaken. Perhaps the strongest point made by my right hon. Friend against the Bill was his very powerful contention that the conditions of the Prime Minister's pledge had not been fulfilled regarding this House—a very important consideration. We had also the argument used by several Members, and used by my hon. Friend just now, that there is a need to limit recruiting. I suppose my hon. Friends will quite readily agree that it is a need on the grounds of expediency to limit recruiting. Then we had, and I think this weighs a great deal with some of my hon. Friends, the warning that we were introducing the thin end of the wedge, that we were throwing overboard a great national tradition, and that in so doing we were taking upon ourselves a dire responsibility. There was the argument used last night by my hon. Friend the Member for East Mayo, and which has been acquiesced in by my hon. Friend just now — that is the argument that I may call from mistakes of the War, which I think is entirely irrelevant. My hon. Friend introduced another argument last night which, again, has been supported by my hon. Friend who has just spoken, namely, the argument that there is no immediate urgency for this Bill. That is the argument that the Bill might be delayed because the process of recruiting and arming is not in such a state of urgency as to require these new powers put into the Government's hands directly. That argument I should like to deal with, but I am strongly disposed to urge, first and foremost, that this argument from mistakes in the War is wholly irrelevant to the issue before the House. I cannot imagine any measure whatever in regard to the War being discussed without that argument being brought in, if it is relevant to this particular matter.


Is not the position very different, if you are dealing with the question of a proceeding where you take men voluntarily to join that proceeding, from that where you take them by force to join in an adventure?

6.0 P.M.


I listened to the hon. Gentleman's very strong argument on that head, and I deprecate the proposition that you owe more concern to men whom you compel than you owe to men who come voluntarily. I hope my hon. Friend will excuse me for taking up a fairly strong position against him. I consider we owe to the volunteer everything, and that you cannot do more for the compulsory men than you are bound to do for your volunteers. I deny any extra liability on the score of the State.


Are you not rather tarring the whole with the conscript brush?


As to tarring the unwilling man with the conscript brush, he has still some five weeks before him to avoid that tar.


I meant are you not rather tarring the voluntary Army with the con script brush?


I cannot admit that at all. I think my hon. Friend argued fallaciously when he said that you would make your whole Army a Conscript Army by carrying this measure for bringing in a small proportion of men. As regards this argument from mistakes, it is an argument which could be brought against any measure ever introduced by any Government. There never was and never will be a war without mistakes. I have studied warfare a little, and although I have not the faintest pretention to be an expert, I cannot conceive that there should be a war without a chronic series of mistakes on both sides. It lies in the nature of warfare. With a set of operations in which the whole of the factors can never be known to anybody on either side, there must, in the nature of the case, be mistakes. We have that confessed by some of the greatest soldiers. It is found in the avowal of Frederick the Great, who actually ran away from his first battle and had it won for him in his absence, that it was idle to say that a man ceased to be a great soldier because he made mistakes. As he said very truly, he made monstrous mistakes, and yet he was pronounced by Napoleon, perhaps the greatest of all soldiers, to have been the greatest soldier of his age. We have had allusion to Cromwell. Cromwell made bad mistakes. He made a frightful mistake when he let Leslie get the upper ground of him before Dunbar.


He was a Scotsman.


It was only because Leslie was forced by his lay and clerical advisers to make a worse mistake that Cromwell regained the advantage.


It was his clerical advisers.


Clerical advisers are credited with most of the harm, but I cannot propose to whitewash Leslie on that account. He ought to have hanged his clerical advisers. I am told by experts that the question between Napoleon and Wellington at Waterloo was only who had made the worst mistakes. Napoleon said at St. Helena that Wellington owed more to fortune than to himself. Wellington, I suppose, might have replied that he had certainly made mistakes, but Napoleon's happened to be the fatal ones. But this line of argument is the stultification of all argument on the subject. What have the enemy been doing but making one vast mistake from beginning to end? The enemy's objective has failed so far on every point. The whole calculation has been a mistake. If that is the result of the Staff operations of the greatest military machine in the world, what is the use of men making charges of mistakes against those who have conducted the operations on our side? I think my hon. Friend the Member for Sunderland made an answer on that head when he said that we ought to take into account that that line of argument is disparaging men who have paid the supreme price for all their mistakes. The very nature of warfare makes it idle to argue in respect of a given war that, because there have been mistakes, you are in any way weakened or put out of court as regards any new policy which is put forward; because, whatever your mistakes have been, you have to go on with the war to the utmost of your power.


I made no criticism whatsoever of any man or officer in the War. The mistakes I referred to concerned the responsibility and the action of the Government. I wish that to be quite clear.


The argument is the same.




The Government is bound to make mistakes in the war, just as generals are. When I heard the hon. Member for East Mayo laying such stress on this point I reflected what an expert he is in Parliamentary warfare, and I was disposed to ask him if he had ever known a party or a Parliamentary leader who had not made mistakes in Parliamentary warfare. Has he not made any mistakes of his own? I am not saying this in any unfriendly spirit.


It is quite friendly. I have made many mistakes.


I propose to take in order the half-dozen lines of argument to which I have referred. I regret more than I can say that the late Home Secretary's signal abilities should be lost to the nation at this time. I trust it will not be for long. I have good reasons for expressing the opinion that the loss is a very real one to the Administration to which he belonged. My right hon. Friend last night said that he held by a vital principle in opposing this measure, but he devoted the rest of his speech to a very able analytical argument against the grounds of expediency on which the measure was introduced. With regard to the retort that if the question was one of vital principle all the rest was leather and prunella, my hon. Friend the Member for Huddersfield (Mr. Sherwell) made a very fair rejoinder when he said that the right hon. Gentleman was perfectly entitled to say that he opposed this Bill on grounds of principle while proceeding to deal with the grounds of expediency on which it was proposed. That is quite true, but that does not meet the real weakness of the position. If my right hon. Friend did stand on grounds of vital principle, it was surely his business to expound them. But I was left at the end of his speech as bewildered as I was when he introduced that proposition as to what was the vital principle by which he held. From my knowledge of his great dialectical powers I can come to no other conclusion than that he abstained from expounding the vital principle because it really would not bear the strain of exposition. The word "principle" is very loosely used and the word "vital" is only an intensitive. I cannot pretend to pin my right hon. Friend down to any legal definition of the phrase.

But in the natural sense of the words, in the meaning that anyone listening would give them, surely it was suggested that there was a sort of ethical absolute, a categorical imperative involved, which put him in a different position from those of us who merely say that Conscription or no Conscription is a question of political expediency. This question of absolute right or wrong does come up in this House from time to time. I have heard a very distinguished statesman in this House in one Session declare that the notion of natural right or natural justice was a chimera, and in the next Session oppose a measure precisely on the grounds of natural right and natural justice. But I do not think my right hon. Friend could really propose to shift from one foot to the other in that fashion, and I have asked myself whether in using the phrase "vital principle" he had not something like this in his mind—that he objected to Conscription, as I have always done, as a normal method, on the score that it is fundamentally inequitable, that Conscription in times of peace, either of single men or of all men of a given age, is for the purpose of the normal life of the nation an inequitable method. As the only vital principle that I know worthy of the name in politics is that we should never knowingly do an unjust act, I could understand my right hon. Friend taking up that ground and feeling that he had a vital principle behind him. But I do not think he would convince himself that in taking up that position he had really differentiated himself from the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister must be assumed to have realised the force of that objection to Conscription in normal circumstances when he declared himself an opponent of Conscription as the ordinary military method. I am sure my right hon. Friend will not deny that if a country is invaded the principle of a levy en masse, of calling upon every man to come forward in its defence, is an indisputable point of national law and practice.

Some of my hon. Friends spoke of the tradition we were giving up. This is a tradition of all countries. It is a fundamental tradition of national existence, that if a country is invaded it will use all its men, and will not stick at single, married, or a particular age, but that in the last resort will put the whole of its forces into line. Would my right hon. Friend say that we are not at this moment involved in a struggle as vital as would be the struggle if the enemy had invaded this country? As I cannot understand his denying that, I am bound to think that he is conscious that his vital principle was not really valid against the Bill, and that he elaborated his concrete arguments in the way he did because he felt that that was the only valid way of arguing against the Bill. I admit that his contention was very strong. I admit that his argument as to the conditions of the Prime Minister's pledge not being fulfilled as regards this House is a very important one, and was very ably pressed. But I noted that my right hon. Friend did not for a moment commit himself to the strange suggestion made by some of my hon. Friends that the Prime Minister had been trapped into giving that pledge. That suggestion was a very poor compliment to the Prime Minister. I think that those who put it forward are most distinctly unsophisticated in the matter both of laying traps and of avoiding them. I admit that this is a difficult point for the Prime Minister to defend, but I think, after weighing my right hon. Friend's argument on this point most carefully and realising its importance, I am entitled to say, as I do say with conviction, that it is not a final and valid reason for rejecting the Bill.

There are two sides to a pledge—the consciousness of the giver of the pledge, and the consciousness of those to whom the pledge is given. We in this matter recognise that the Prime Minister was speaking for this House. My hon. Friend is quite entitled to say that it would be ungenerous to make an impeachment against him and his friends for having acquiesced in the giving of that pledge without raising trouble. I am not going to make any such ungenerous imputation. All of us who recognised the seriousness of that pledge and yet acquiesced in it are simply bound by ordinary principles, and common sense. Having stood by the Prime Minister's pledge we must put ourselves now at the Prime Minister's point of view. That is only one side of the matter. We have the avowal of the Prime Minister, an avowal which we should only expect him to make, that he proceeded in the light of the knowledge of how that pledge was regarded by the mass of the men to whom it was given. I quite agree with my hon. Friend that there are many married men who are ashamed of this duel between married and single men which is being fought in their name. I never hear the point raised without wincing. While I entirely sympathise with them there, the fact remains that hundreds of thousands of married men who attested on that pledge are now in the position of being afraid that the pledge is going to be broken. They have been told that it will be broken. Some of them, I regret to say, even at the start avowed a general suspicion of the good faith of politicians—a matter in regard to which, I can assure hon. Members, we are all under the same burden of suspicion outside. We have the state of things in which we find these men, with the outstanding results of the Derby Report, afraid that the pledge upon which they acted is not to be kept. That state of mind on the part of hundreds of thousands of men at this stage of the War is a national fact of the very first importance, and is really, it seems to me, a decisive factor in forming our opinions as to the necessity for this Bill. To leave these men under the belief that they had been deceived will undermine the whole process of recruitment that will have to be carried on. I think we can be assured of that. Now my hon. Friend raises the other issue and argument which heads in the opposite direction. You may, he says, take too many men. Undoubtedly you may: and here we come to the most vital question of expediency. It may be that the nation will reach the point at which it does make a greater use of these men than it is quite entitled to do in view of the uses it needs to make of these men for commercial, financial, and other purposes. There is that risk.

Yes; but does my hon. Friend say that you can confidently draw up a cut-and dried balance in advance, and say, "I think that is the number of men we shall ever use; we must keep all the rest for manufactures, for export, for munitions, and so on." If you think you can in a great war draw up that hard-and-fast balance in advance in that way and stick to it, I think you are taking up a very dangerous position. Never was there a great war in which some nation did not do a great deal more than it dreamt it was possible to do. You may be in the position of that nation. You are indeed already in the position of that nation. You may not have nearly reached the limits of your possibilities before the ship is through the tempest, and yet some of the rigging may go. But you have got to face that during tempests. When my hon. Friend states the issue thus, does he not weaken his own case? When he also said, "After all, I think very few men will come in as a result of this measure "— I think he is right— does he not also weaken it? In regard to that famous 560,000, I should be rather surprised if you get more than 250,000 of valid men. As an hon. Member suggests, call it 100,000. What comes, then, of your argument of taking too many men? My hon. Friend cannot have it both ways. I urge my hon. Friend to consider whether such an argument or proposition, even if true as a proposition, is, after all, a valid reason in the circumstances of the nation for voting against this Bill.


The whole point of the argument there was whether or not the number was a negligible quantity, and that until it is proved whether or not the number is a negligible quantity we do not know whether the circumstances suggested by the Prime Minister have arisen. My argument had nothing to do with the number of men.


I do not know how we shall ever know whether the number is a negligible quantity. There I grant my hon. Friend that I think it is a misfortune that the pledge was given in the form it was given. I am not blaming the Prime Minister. It is idle to blame Ministers who are guiding the great Ship of State through the tempest if, in a given emergency, they chose a certain course and it turns out afterwards that by the taking of that course we have had certain complications. The Prime Minister did his best, and acted for the best. Although the pledge was a peculiar pledge, it was given for a good reason, and if you find, in thrashing out the wording of it, that you cannot come to a clear conclusion about the negligible quantity, after all it is what might broadly have been expected. I do not see how you are ever going to settle that issue in such a way as to satisfy the men who have got the pledge that you have only a negligible quantity. I have endeavoured to find out by inquiry from many men who have done recruiting what they think about the residuum. I find nearly everybody comes to the same conclusion, that there is a certain number of men, a hundred here, perhaps a few hundreds there, small batches everywhere, a percentage that I think casts no discredit or slur upon the nation as a whole, but a percentage recognised by all who have done recruiting work of men who might come in, and it is on the score of the feeling in regard to these men that it is important to secure the assent of every man who has come in. If you have got in the nation the feeling that there is something unfair and unjust in permitting the holding back of that minority — a minority after making all deductions—and I agree the deductions will be large —you have to take that state of mind of the nation into account for military purposes in making your decision. [An HON. MEMBER: "Punish them!"] The real belief and the strength of feeling in the minds of my hon. Friends who oppose this Bill is a feeling as to the introduction of Conscription. In so far as they take the ground of that sentiment they have my very warmest sympathy. I have fought Conscription as a military system all my life. Twenty years ago I foaght the question, and I did not wait until the response became at all popular. I fought it for the reason I have already suggested, that I think Conscription as a military system in itself is inequitable, and I may add further because of the demoralising effect in the case of Germany it has upon the national sense of justice and morality. If hon. Members had really ground for thinking that we are bringing the method of Conscription into permanent force, they would not, in my opinion, need any other kind of justification for voting against this Bill. Is there any fear of this? The hon. Member for East Mayo (Mr. Dillon), in one of his sentences last night, said there was ground for such fear, and in another sentence he showed very clearly that there was not. This Bill, he said, as a measure of Conscription was incoherent, incomplete, illogical and absurd. It cannot be a measure for the introduction of Conscription. It is an ad hoc measure in regard to an emergency set up by the pledge. It does not bring in the married men as a whole. When did ever a Conscription system go to work in a nation as this Bill proposes? The hon. Member supplied the reason for deciding there is no fear.


Oh, no! What I said was that the result of the working of this measure would inevitably lead to a campaign for a more logical and more all-round measure.


I know; we have always had that campaign. I am not afraid of the campaign on the ground of merely making the measure more logical. I am sure my hon. Friend will play a strong and effective part in meeting such a campaign. I have no fear that this nation will be deprived of its liberty for the future. The future Conscription Bill will be a measure for the future, a danger for the future, and I do not think that anyone who really thinks of the working of this Bill need remain under any apprehension on that score. I appeal to my hon. Friends to apply to this issue the highest moral standards. I quite agree that the highest moral standards have not been applied by some of those whose influence they are fighting. I know that some who have claimed to be zealous for their nation and the War in this matter really have been zealous for their own influence. May I quite respectfully say to my hon. Friends that that fact does not give them, or us, any licence whatever to follow the same method of being zealous in the thing only for our own influence, or for other cause than for our country's good. I have grievances against those who have all along run the Conscription system. The body of grievances is very strong indeed. My hon. Friend the Member for Huddersfield did not go a bit beyond the fact when he said that in certain places these recruiting campaigns had not had fair play, and that the voluntary system had not had fair play. I know such cases of my own knowledge. I can give such cases as this: where, shall I say, the lay members in recruiting were working their very utmost and where—I will not say the War Office, with the fear of my hon. Friend the Member for Sunderland before my eyes—the local military authorities showed such slackness that they drove their assistants to query whether or not they wanted recruiting to succeed. I know of cases where the military authorities would go down to a place one night with two few forms and the next night with too little money, and when these errors were pointed out they went on repeating the blunders. That sort of thing is not readily pardonable.

I am not going to impute to those authorities an absolute desire to make the voluntary system fail, but I have wished very much all along that the recruiting had been left in the hands of laymen, because the record of the War Departmental authorities in the matter is chequered by a number of errors of judgment. In the early period of the War, when recruits were coming in by tens of thousands, many were turned back. The War Office then never made use of the simple device of setting up a register which they might have done. I have never heard of a reasonable ground for their refusal. I think the House will see. I am not holding a brief for the system of the War Office, or for the military authorities. But I say in spite of all these facts, which are on a level with the mistakes of the War, of which we have heard, in spite of these considerations, we have not a valid reason for rejecting the Bill. This is a grievance which I feel most acutely, and which I strongly urge upon the attention of hon. Members who in perfect good faith have been helping the voluntary system, while always pushing Conscription. They little know what harm they have done to the voluntary system. Beyond all these grievances, however, I cannot feel that I have any finally valid reason, in the grave emergency in which we find ourselves, for rejecting this measure. We have to apply a standard of the highest kind even if we are conscious— those of us who care profoundly for the voluntary system—that those who have preferred another system have not played the game in the finest way, and that they really have cared more for their influence than for purely patriotic considerations. That is no reason "why we, weighing the national issue, should apply any other test than that of an absolutely true patriotism, irrespective of any wounding of our feelings or disappointment of our ideals. After all, what is the case of those of us who have always fought against Conscription? What is it we are giving up? What is the burden laid upon us in comparison with the burden laid upon the other man who is now laying down his life? Let me make one more suggestion: I hope it will not be considered presumptuous. If any of us could conceive ourselves in the trenches at this moment, and could find some of our own soldiers fighting each other, what should we think? Well, I can imagine a man coming from the trenches to this House and putting to himself the same question. He is just as much entitled to put it in regard to us. I may seem to be prejudging the question, but I am not doing so. I am just suggesting that the soldier would be entitled to put the question.


No, he would not!


Let me put it thus: He would be bound to feel about it, if our business, as surely my hon. Friends think who stake their case upon the importance of maintaining the spirit of unity in the nation, is to preserve that unity. Is it not our duty, instead of merely reckoning on the forces of disunion which might be set up by this Bill, to do everything in our power to quell those forces of disunion and to give, if we can, an example of unity to the nation? Is it not our business so to regard the situation that the whole action of this House should be directed absolutely to the business of getting the greatest possible combination of national power to carry out the national task, which is a task higher than vengeance, because it is the very retrieval of civilisation itself?


I have listened with the greatest possible pleasure to the speech of my right hon. Friend because there was a note of sincerity in all that he said, and he showed that he was deeply concerned in the issue which is being raised, and which will be decided to-night when the Division is taken. I have known my right hon. Friend for many years, and I have never found him insincere. I have always found him, even when I differed from him, a straightforward opponent. I think he has made out an excellent case for a united House of Commons, but I want to ask him whether it could not be looked at from exactly the opposite point of view—whether those who are asking us to change our lifelong conviction might not be asked to withdraw a Bill which goes against our lifelong conviction when they admit, as many men have already admitted in this House, that the number of men who will be raised by this Bill is not a very large number and will not decide the War one way or the other? If people differ from me in that I withdraw it, but I confess myself that I do not think the number of men who will be affected by this Bill will be a number that will decide the War one way or the other. [HON. MEMBERS: "How many?"] I think 200,000 single men will be affected by this Bill, and something like 250,000 married men will be affected by it. I will be perfectly frank and acknowledge that is my view, but I do not think that will make any difference so far as the War is concerned; whereas I do think it is the case of losing the keen, enthusiastic support of at least a million men in the country— a million men upon whom we are absolutely dependent for the supply of munitions, for the working of our transport, and for the working of our coal. It seems to me that is the point of view which cannot be too seriously considered.

I see the "Times" to-day says the question, after all, is not whether you approve of this Bill or not, but whether you want to win the War. That is perfectly true, of course, but do any hon. Members opposite who feel very strongly in favour of Conscription think there are any men on this side who do not want to win the War? Do they honestly think there are any of us who want to see Germany triumphant? I am fifty, and I would be perfectly willing myself with any hon. Member to volunteer for a forlorn hope, and lose my life, and I believe many other hon. Members would be willing to do the same thing. It is not a question of whether we want to win the War or not, but whether we think this is a wise measure or not, and whether it is likely to conduce to the winning of the War. That is the question we have to ask ourselves. I do not want to raise a personal issue, but all the while I have been in the House of Commons I have promised my Constituents I would never vote for a Conscription Bill. I do not say this is a Conscription Bill in the fullest measure. I do not agree that it is a Conscription Bill in the fullest measure, hut I confess when I read all the papers, and all the articles I do, and know the influence of the Press, and what is behind the Press, and know the speeches made in this House, and the private things said to me by Members, I cannot disguise the fact from myself that there is a very large volume of opinion determined to have Conscription through and through. I know that is so. I do not want to prophesy, but I would not mind prophesying that before this War is over there will be such a strong volume of feeling in favour of Conscription, created in the first instance by this Bill, that you will have to have something very closely approximating to it. In July last I asked the Prime Minister whether the Registration Bill was to be a sort of first step. I had promised my Constituents I would not do anything in favour of Conscription. I asked the Prime Minister if he could give me an assurance that it was not intended as a first step to Conscription, and he said it was not in any sense in contemplation. I do not wish to impugn the faith of the Prime Minister; in fact, I have a very much stronger faith in the Prime Minister than many hon. Members in this House— a much stronger faith, and a much greater belief in him. I have known him for very many years, and he has never broken his word to me all those years, and, therefore, I am entitled to say on this occasion—[Laughter]—hon. Members must listen to the rest of my argument. I am not impugning the faith of the Prime Minister, and when he gave that pledge to me he meant it. He did not intend there should be any Conscription Bill following the Registration Bill, and he did not believe any Bill would be necessary. Nor did a very large number of Members in this House think that any such Bill would be necessary. We all thought it would be unnecessary; we all hoped, at any rate, it would be unnecessary.

Like the ex-Home Secretary, I do think that this Bill is wrong on principle, but although I think it is wrong on principle, I may surely be allowed to argue as to whether it is expedient or not. I believe this Bill is wrong on principle, because it is contrary to everything I have ever believed. It is contrary to everything I have ever been taught to believe by the Prime -Minister himself, and by all those whom I have supported faithfully for ten years. They all taught me it was wrong, and now they tell me to undo it, but it is not so very easy for me to undo it just at this moment. Although I object on principle to this Bill, surely you will allow me on grounds of expediency to argue that it is unwise also. I only want to say on this question of principle that, after all, we are all patriotic. Do not let us be casting across the idea that one man cares for his country and the other man does not. We all love our country. Why do we love Great Britain? I must say Great Britain, or my hon. Friends behind me may not like it. Why do we love the United Kingdom? [An HON. MEMBER: "The Empire!"] Thanks for the correction— why do we love the Empire? At the moment I want to refer to Great Britain and the United; Kingdom. We love it, not because of the soil on which we tread. We do not love it for its climate — God knows the climate is bad enough! [HON. MEMBERS: "NO!"] Well, it has not been very good lately, anyhow. But we love England, and Great Britain, and the United Kingdom, and I think we love the whole Empire now, because even those of us who are called "Little Englanders" are believers in the Empire now. I will never say another word against the Empire. I never did before, as a matter of fact. I have never, of course, said anything against the Empire, though I have never attached the importance to the Empire and to our Colonies as some of my hon. Friends opposite. But I am beginning to see the importance of the Empire, and I hope they will allow me that much.

As a matter of fact, if we are really concerned now with the defence of our country, and with the defence of the Empire, we have got to ask ourselves whether, on grounds of expediency, this is a right step to take—whether it is not more dangerous to pass this Bill than it is to let it slide? As hon. Members opposite know, and as all my Friends know, I have spent a very great many years of my life in very close contact with the working classes, and the working classes are no better and no worse than the rest of the community. I am only pointing out that if you get discontent, as you have got in this House, you are likely to get discontent amongst the working classes in just as large proportion, and if you get discontent in the trade unions, as witnessed by the vote taken to-day, you are likely to get it throughout the working classes all over the country in something like the same proportion, although, perhaps, not equal proportion, and I am asking myself whether it is worth while for the sake of this Bill to provoke a conflict which is only just beginning, and which will grow and grow during the next twelve months, until it reaches such a position that it will force you to come to an inconclusive peace. Of course it seems silly to say that, but it will not seem silly in nine months' time. [An HON. MEMBER: "Wicked!"] It is not wicked, because we have been told several times that we must face facts. If you want to know my own position, I am perfectly willing, though this Bill goes through, to give all the support I possibly can to the Government in the prosecution of the War. It will make no difference to me whatever, so far as that is concerned; but you cannot disguise from yourself the fact that there is already discontent in the country, and that they are not able to take quite the same view that we do in this House. I cannot explain why. I cannot go into the psychology of the working man or the working classes, but I am stating what I believe to be the fact. You will have growing discontent and growing dissatisfaction. You may have— I cannot say you will— very serious strikes, and strikes in trades that are absolutely vital to the interests of the country at this moment. [HON. MEMBERS: "NO!"] That is my belief. There is always that possibility, and you want to weigh this possibility when you are considering whether it is expedent or inexpedient to pass this measure. Let us give one another credit for common sense. The speech I heard from the right hon. Gentleman seemed to me just the kind of speech we ought to have in this House, weighing the whole circumstances of the case, and trying to find out the right step. If I agreed with him in his conclusion, I would just throw over my principles and the men who are with me and vote with the Government. I cannot agree with him, because I know we are incurring a danger which is infinitely greater than many hon. Members in the House believe at this moment—so great, in fact, that there is nothing I would not do to prevent the House taking this step. Under these circumstances, and with the very greatest possible reluctance, and knowing that the Prime Minister is absolutely sincere, I must give my vote against this measure.


I thank the House for giving me an opportunity of expressing my views relating to this measure, in view of the fact that, like a great many of my colleagues and Friends in this quarter of the House, I have hitherto opposed in the country and in this House the principle that unquestionably underlies the measure which we are now discussing; and were we in the same condition, as far as our country, our race and our Empire is concerned, I should take exactly the same view relating to the question of Conscription as I have hitherto taken. But I venture to say that we have got to consider, not merely the fine point as to how many men are going to be influenced by this Bill, nor are we to be influenced in the slightest degree in reference to this or that pledge. We have at this stage of the proceedings really to decide whether the responsible Government of the country— those whom we have placed in control of our destinies, to give us advice, knowing all the circumstances, we ourselves being perfectly aware of the danger which European liberty has to face at the present time— are giving us what, in their view, is their honest opinion and the best advice possible in a crisis of this kind.

The hon. Member who has just spoken referred to a decision given by the Trade Union Congress. He knows perfectly well that it is a Labour Conference, that there are partisan people represented there who have nothing whatever to do with the trade union movement in this country, and, therefore, it should not be designated the ordinary Trade Union Congress which meets, or used to meet, annually at stated periods. One thing we have to consider in deciding the influence of that decision upon our vote here to-day—those of us who are particularly interested and connected with that movement—is how far that represents the majority of the working people of the country whom we are supposed to represent on this floor. To begin with, you have to discount to a great extent that decision by the fact that certainly from one-third to one-half of our men and our members are either in the trenches or are preparing to take their places there directly their training is completed. Therefore, it is impossible, unless you can devise some means of securing the decision of those men, for you to say, or for any body of men to say, that that decision represents even the majority of the trade unionists in the country. One of the reasons why I did not attend that conference to-day is because I know that out of 4,000 or 5,000 members in the purely trade section of my society, over 2,000 of them have enlisted, and there must be some other societies in exactly the same position. When I heard all the commotion here while the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Exeter (Mr. Duke) was speaking—and it was really a fine statesmanlike speech, if I may be allowed to say so—I saw what importance was attached to that decision. Under ordinary circumstances, with all our members at home following their ordinary peaceful pursuits, and capable of weighing the pros and cons of the situation, the Trade Union Congress opinion upon a matter of this kind would be of overwhelming significance; but, under the circumstances, from the very nature of the case, and the presence of the facts that I have already stated, it cannot be considered of equal importance to-day.

Everybody knows that I have, to the best of my ability, opposed Conscription as a policy, not merely on the floor of this House in speeches—I do not know whether those speeches will be referred to, and I do not care—but I have done my level best to oppose Conscription. I still think that for a nation, and an industrial community like ours, relying for its position upon its trade and commerce, to tie up an enormous volume of labour is an unproductive pursuit, is fatal to our position as a commercial State, and I have stated that. But something which I have never contemplated at the time has occurred. New circumstances have arisen, and after all, whatever may be said to the contrary, the nation looks to the House of Commons to give it a lead; yes, and not merely the nation, but the Empire, and scarcely even the Empire, but almost the world is waiting for a decision not merely on this question, but upon the general attitude that the House of Commons, the freest and most open deliberative assembly in the world can give in this crisis in the world's history. I have opposed Conscription and shall oppose it again. Some men have said to me, "I would not mind voting for Conscription, if there were an invasion of Britain and if we were actually defending our own villages." Anyone can see that the battlefields of Flanders and France are as much our own battlefields as though those battles were being fought in our own villages. It is a magnificent fact that we ourselves are not responsible for that, in spite of most of the greater part of Europe being deluged in blood, suffering all the miseries and penalties of war, and the misery that is bound to follow war, for some reason or other nature has placed us in a position in which we can be absolutely isolated from such occurrences. But that does not rob us of, nor in the slightest degree lessen our responsibility for the situation of peoples who are just as strong lovers of liberty as are we ourselves, but who are not so fortunately situated. We have done everything we can.

There is no doubt that by the voluntary system we have done everything that is possible, and more even than I could even ever have dreamed was possible. I would never have thought a few years ago that by any possible call you could have got 2,000,000 or 3,000,000 of Britishers to join the standard without some form of compulsion; and this shows, after all, how strong and how deep-seated is the determination of our people to see this thing through. That in itself lays a responsibility upon the House of Commons to see that those who shirk their duty in the world struggle, where the existence of our people and our race and our future is to be determined, if they attempt to shirk their duty, that such compulsion as this House only can bring should be brought to bear upon them. After all, in most things of life, while we fix a standard of conduct and expect our people, or at least the intelligent part of them to obey it, and to aspire to that standard, we also always retain penalties for those who fall below that standard. I suggested to my friends, and I say most emphatically that as far as I am concerned, I can see clearly that this struggle is of such a character that neither side can give way, neither ourselves nor our enemies can give way, so long as it is possible to continue the struggle. If you take the view of our opponents they are out for world domination, and if we fail to resist them, that domination as far as they are concerned will be supreme, not merely for ourselves, but for Europe generally. We cannot allow such a thing as that. On the other hand, if they fail, hopes of domination that have been bred in their people, and inculcated both by their statesmen and their Press for the last twenty-five years, must be destroyed, and an absolutely new political mental outlook must be developed by one of the greatest military powers in the world. That can only be secured when that State is beaten to its knees. Any idea that you can finish the War until you have accomplished that purpose is utterly absurd. It looks as though the history of the world is such that you get periods of peace and industrial and peaceful development, and then, like a bolt from the blue, comes forward some great racial question, and unless the man-power of the State is there to be thrown into the scale, the history of races is changed or obliterated. I am not prepared to allow the race to which I belong, or the country to which I belong, to be obliterated. I say frankly, although I am not a soldier naturally, that I would sooner die a thousand deaths than allow a conqueror to rule over Britain.

7.0 P.M.

After all, what is it? "No Englishman really dies as long as England lives." We have inherited from our fore fathers splendid traditions; and even my Friends will not deny that, as far as European politics and society are concerened, we are the standard bearers of liberty in all parts of the world. Enjoying that splendid and enormous tradition and responsibility, we should be cowards if, for fear of some charge of inconsistency as to the opinions that we advocated in peace not being foursquare with the position in which we find ourselves to-day, we should be unworthy of the position we occupy here as leaders of a great State and a great race if we allowed such considerations to thwart us, or make us deviate by one inch from what we believe the circumstances here and now justify us in performing. As far as I am concerned, I am going to give this Bill not merely a grudging support, without fear; I say that I am prepared, as far as I am concerned, to see the last farthing of wealth and the last man thrown into the scales before I surrender the position that the country offers to a domination that is both brutal and cruel.


I should like, in the first instance, to express the admiration which I feel for the very eloquent speech which has been delivered by the hon. and gallant Member who has just sat down. If I do not follow him in all that he said, it is not because I do not believe thoroughly with him in the main proposition which he has advanced. He suggested that men might be found to oppose this Bill from the fear of being thought inconsistent because of what they had said before. Of course, it is an absurd idea that one should adopt such an attitude. The position of some of us with regard to this matter has been very much misunderstood, and has been— quite unconsciously, of course— misrepresented. I speak with all that feeling of responsibility which even the humblest Member of this House must feel, or certainly ought to feel, when he is speaking in such times as these and upon such a great and momentous question as this. We have heard much said concerning the question of principle. We have heard of the sacred principle of freedom, and we have heard of the sacred principle of voluntaryism. I am free to confess that just as the old Greek poet when he talked of omens said, "There is but one which is the best of all omens, namely, to fight for your country," so there is only one principle that we must bear in mind at the present time, if principle it can be called, the principle which I have always set before me since the War began, that we must win this War. Therefore, I say that in order to win this War there is nothing I would not do, nothing that an honest and honourable man can do, per fas and not per nefas. I am ready to make much sacrifice of personal and individual liberty, and I am ready to take-great risks with regard to the future.

It is a cruel and a wicked thing to suggest that those of us who are not. enamoured of this Bill, who look upon it with a great deal of apprehension, do not. wish as much as the most convinced and I may say, the most fanatical Conscriptionist, whether in this House or out of it, to win this War. It is absurd to suggest that Members of this House, who possibly have had sons fighting at the Dardanelles and elsewhere for their country, because they look on this Bill with a great deal of apprehension are not as anxious as anyone who advocates this Bill to win this War. If I were convinced that this Bill was necessary in order to win this War, if I were convinced that this Bill would largely help to win this War, I would give it my most enthusiastic support. It is just because I very gravely doubt whether the effect of this Bill after all may not be the very reverse of that which is anticipated by its most sanguine supporter, and it is because I fear that very possibly it may do more harm than good even from the point of view—we all hold that view—of those who are ardently anxious above all things to win the War, that I cannot see my way to be a supporter of it, even though I may not be able to record my vote on this question against the Government. I said a few words upon this question in this House in September last. I said then, and I repeat now, that I am absolutely confident we can win this War if we stand shoulder to shoulder and if we fight as a united nation, because— United we stand; divided we fall, or at any rate we are in imminent danger of falling. It is because I fear this Bill will produce disunion and internecine strife that I look upon it with great apprehension. I saw it stated in an evening paper to-night that national union is second to national victory. Of course it is. The whole question is whether national union is not necessary in order to procure national victory. Then, again, it is said that we wish to impose the views of the minority upon the majority of this country. That is not so, and that is not the point. The point is this: If there is even a small, angry, disaffected minority, and I gravely fear there will be, even although the trade unions were not properly represented at the meeting this afternoon of which we have heard—if there is a small minority who are disaffected among the working classes, and I am afraid it may be a large minority, my fear is that, instead of hastening the end of this War, we shall be greatly and gravely hampered in our efforts to win this War. That is the whole case from my point of view. It is not that I am opposed to Conscription on the ground of any sacred principle. It is because I fear that in a case like this the engineer may be hoisted with his own petard, and we may find after all that this Bill, in dividing the country and introducing acrimonious disputes and internecine strife, may do very much more harm than good. That is the feeling in my mind with regard to this Bill.

I also ventured to say in September in this House that if the Government, after full deliberation and with a full knowledge of the facts, were to come forward and to say that the voluntary system had broken down and that compulsion was absolutely necesary in order to win this War, then I certainly would not take the responsibility of voting against the Government. But what are the facts? Can it possibly be said that the voluntary system has broken down after the splendid response which has been made under the Derby scheme? We all know that the voluntary system has not broken down, and we all know that the Government have not spoken with one united voice. When I heard, first of all, the ex-Home Secretary (Sir J, Simon) discussing the figures, and then the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Duchy (Mr. Herbert Samuel) replying to him, I seemed almost to be back again in the old days when I was engaged on a railway rating case and heard the experts on both sides each swearing on their oaths to quite a different state of things on their own figures. I do not think that is the proper way in which we ought to be treated. Take this figure of 650,000. How is it arrived at? We really do not know. It is a perfectly nebulous figure; it is a guess-work figure. It cannot be said that it is anything but guess-work, and then again you by guess-work make great deductions from it. We do not know what the result will be, or whether we are going to have a negligible quantity left or not.

I know that the question of the Prime Minister's pledge cannot be shirked. I am not going to argue whether this House is or is not bound by the Prime Minister's pledge, because when the Prime Minister of Great Britain has solemnly made a pledge I thing all of us will agree that it should be duly carried out. I do not think anyone will dispute that. But is this pledge being really and duly fulfilled and carried out? No one would suggest for a single moment that the Prime Minister is not entirely convinced that he is loyally carrying out the pledge that he gave to the House; but, after all, there is a term and a condition in this pledge, and it was made perfectly clear by Lord Derby's letter of 19th November that compulsion could not be brought in until the figures had been properly investigated and analysed. The figures have not been properly investigated and analysed, and surely it would be worth while to delay a little until we can really have the figures and facts put properly before us. Then we should be enabled to come to a conclusion whether or not the number of these young men who have failed to come forward to do their duty to their country is a negligible quantity.

I venture to think that this Bill is premature, and I would again suggest that there should be some delay, and that proper inquiry should be made before we decide if we shall accept the Bill. If we accept it now we shall be, so to speak, "buying a pig in a poke." The Prime Minister asked us if it were possible to feel sympathy for these young men so neglectful of their duty and so unpatriotic that they have failed to come forward at the country's call. May I respectfully submit that that is not the point at issue? The real point is, Are we going to make a great revolutionary change in our whole system, and to throw over our splendid voluntary system, which has proved so marvellously successful, and of which we are all so proud? Are we going to throw it over for no real cause? That is the question before us. The right hon. and gallant Member for the Ilkeston Division (Brigadier-General Seely) said last night the very fact that the number of these single, young, unmarried, unattested men was so small removed the difficulty from his mind from a military point of view. The military point of view may be all very well, but we are entitled to ask, Shall we not be doing infinitely more harm than good if we stir up passion and strife, if we create labour troubles, if strikes are brought upon us, and if we run the risk of plunging this country into what, I believe would be a great calamity—into the turmoil, excitement and acrimonious discussion of a General Election, for what, after all, may turn out to be an exiguous number of this residuum of single young men?

For my part I have been, and still am, most anxious to do everything in my power to support any proposition which may in any way help to win this War. I greatly regret the Government should have deemed it necessary to introduce this Bill at the present time. Since the commencement of the War I have thought it my duty, and have made it my rule, to support the Government, because I felt that, in doing so, I was supporting our troops at the front and taking the best possible course to bring the War to a victorious end. I do not feel able now, much as I regret the introduction of this Bill, to take the responsibility of recording my vote against the Government, because, although they are certain to get their majority in this House, I do think that, on an occasion of this sort, one is bound to consider the logical consequences of one's action and what the result would be if by any chance the Government were defeated. A General Election, personally, has no terrors for me, because my days in this House are numbered. Still, I do believe it would be a most calamitous thing to plunge this country into the turmoil and expense of a General Election at this time. But, although I feel I cannot record my vote against the Bill, at the same time I cannot bring myself to give active support to a measure which, I fear, may have consequences the very reverse of those anticipated by the advocates of Conscription. My apprehensions may be unfounded. My last words will be that I most earnestly and sincerely hope they are.

Brigadier-General HICKMAN

I am quite sure that all parties in this House, whether they, who represent the opposition to this Bill sit opposite or whether they sit on the Nationalist Benches, are all of one opinion and have but one hope, and that is that this country, together with its Allies, will be enabled to bring this War to a satisfactory conclusion. There are different ways, of course, of arriving at that end. But there are two principal objects at which we should aim. In the first place, we should try to keep our Allies with us to the end; we should try to ensure that there shall be no disruption of the Alliance, that there shall be no lack of confidence between the Allies, and that no premature peace shall be made by any one of them. In the second place, I contend that what is most necessary in a war of this sort is that we should keep our soldiers happy and their moral at the highest. If we are going to keep our Allies with us we must fulfil the pledges we have given them. Of course, as only a very subordinate officer in the Army, I do not know what arrangements have been made or what promises we have made to our Allies. But we have all heard of conferences attended by our head generals and our Cabinet Ministers, and by high officers and Ministers representing the different nations in the Alliance, and we can imagine that each particular nation has given certain pledgee which it hopes to fulfil. As regards ourselves, I am sure our War Office and our Prime Minister have more or less pledged themselves to a certain number of divisions. That is where we come down to business as far as the Army is concerned. If we are to keep up those divisions in the field; if we are to fulfil our pledges, it is necessary to have a stated number of recruits, so as to keep the divisions at their full strength.

In the autumn one of the Ministers, I think it was the Under-Secretary for War, stated in this House— according to a report I read in the Press— that it was necessary to have 30,000 men a week to replace the ordinary wastage of the War, that wastage including, of course, the casualties. If hon. Members will reckon that up they will find it represents, as the Postmaster-General pointed out in his lucid speech this afternoon, 1,500,000 men. Those figures, too, were mentioned by the Prime Minister, and I rather think that right hon. Gentleman spoke of 1,250,000 as the total number of our troops on all our fronts not very long ago. The Under-Secretary for War said, about the same time, that the ordinary wastage was 15 per cent. per month. If you have 1,000,000 men at the front, that percentage represents something like 1,800,000 men required in a year. I am only taking the figures of War Office officials and of Ministers themselves. I am not committing myself or the Army to any set of figures. But if we are to keep a certain number of divisions going, and if they are to be maintained at their full strength, according to our pledges, we certainly shall want more than the number of men which we shall get if this Bill is not passed. The number of single men who attested was 343,000 odd, and of married men, 487,000 odd, and the two together do not represent half the total required for this year. It will not be possible to get a second lot of married men without this Bill passing, for no one can persuade me that—after the Prime Minister, Lord Derby, and Lord Kitchener have all come to the conclusion that the residuum so often alluded to in this Debate is not a negligible quantity—you will induce the married men in the country to believe that without this Bill they ought to be called upon to enlist.

I do not see how the House of Commons can ask the Prime Minister or the Government to go back on the pledge which has been given to these married men. I am certain if this House went back on it, the country would never believe in it again. We shall want moreover these particular men whom the Bill will bring in, be it 200,000 or 100,000, or whatever number it may be whittled down to. Hon. Members who are opposing this Bill have indeed done their best to whittle the number down, but I can assure them, with a full knowledge of the facts, and being in touch with the Army in the field, that the men there do not look upon even 100,000 men as a negligible quantity. We have all seen battalions which have been in action depleted in their numbers. We have seen them kept back from the trenches for a considrable period while the officers have been waiting and hoping and expecting to get the recruits which are not forthcoming. Many and many a time have colonels spoken to me on the subject and deplored the absence of some arrangement at home which would bring a steady flow of recruits month by month, and which would enable the regiments to be kept up to their standard. This is the first attempt we have had since the War began, to establish a reasonable business-like system for keeping the Army at its proper strength.

I listened with great interest yesterday to the speech of the hon. and learned Member for Waterford (Mr. John Redmond). Personally I cannot understand the attitude of that hon. Gentleman and his followers, because they are not affected by this Bill. Why cannot they let us have our Bill? They may not want it in the Nationalist portion of Ireland. The hon. and learned Gentleman may think they do not. But I am bound to tell him straight out that the Ulster people at any rate want it, and that the men of the Ulster Division, from whom I have come straight here, are looking for it. They want more Ulster men to come over and fill up the gaps caused by casualties, so as to keep their regiments fully up to the establishment. I am perfectly certain that the other two Divisions from the South of Ireland feel the same thing, so far as the men themselves are concerned. You will find in the future, if this Bill is opposed now by all the Nationalist Members, as I hope it will not be, that their action will not be forgotten by the rest of the United Kingdom. I would make an appeal to those hon. Gentlemen and to the hon. Gentlemen opposite who are so much opposed to this Bill to remember that now it is not a question of principle, but a question of what the Army wants, what our Allies expect, and what our soldiers hope for. I would appeal to them, as I know they all want to finish this War successfully, to give up these little questions of argument and all the rest of it, to give our Allies the hopes to which they are aspiring, to give our soldiers the comrades for whom they are looking, and to give us in the Army a chance of successfully completing the War.

Captain PIRIE

The last two speeches from the hon. Member for Peterborough (Mr. G. Greenwood) and the hon. and gallant Gentleman who has just sat down curiously enough helped me largely in the appeal which is the main object of my rising to-day, because I quite recognise that the arguments for and against the measure are more or less by now thread-bare. The hon. Member for Peterborough very patriotically declared that although he was opposed to the Bill he did not feel himself entitled and was not going to register his vote against the Government, but that he was going to abstain. The hon. and gallant Member who has just spoken made somewhat the same appeal to the Irish Members, and said, "If you do not want the Bill for Ireland, why not let us in Great Britain have our Bill?" In rising to support this Bill, I would appeal to a number of my hon. Friends around me to see that the most patriotic action they can possibly take in a crisis of this sort would be not even to challenge a Division on the First Reading of a Bill like this. It is a most unusual thing to challenge a Division on a First Reading, and in the great crisis with which the country is faced it would be an enormous matter if, on the First Reading, this Bill could go through nemine contradicente. Like the hon. and gallant Gentleman who spoke from below the Gangway just now (Colonel John Ward), whose speech received well-merited praise, I have been a strong anti-Conscriptionist all my life. I am not ashamed of it; on the contrary, I am proud to say that since I have been in this House, now some twenty years, I have been not only a consistent advocate of, but a worker for peace, as my Constituents know. But, at the same time, I have always been sufficiently a man of the world to look at life as it is, not as we should like it to be, and not, also, as many of us have worked so that it should be. Looking at life as it is, in spite of my anti-militarism, two or three years ago, at the time of the shortage in the Territorial Force, I was one of the first Members, if not the only one, to suggest to his Constituents that, in order to make up the shortage in the Territorial Force, the qualification for the franchise should be gained only by voluntarily coming forward to join the Territorial Force. I may say that that suggestion was not received in an unfriendly way by my Constituents, so that to a certain extent, although latterly I have not been able to take the opinion of my Constituents, I am very confident that I am voicing their opinion in a crisis like this when I support this Bill.

I agree with my colleagues on this side of the House, no man more so, in their abhorrence of some of the ways in which this agitation regarding Conscription has been conducted. I could not use too strong words to express my feeling against the attitude and the role assumed by a portion of the Press on this matter. Therefore, if I, in spite of that, come forward as a supporter of the Bill, surely it ought to appeal to some of my hon. Friends to fall in with my views to a certain extent and sacrifice their principles, and not give a vote against the Bill at this moment. The action of the two papers, I will not call them leading papers, which have been most spoken about—the "Times" and the "Daily Mail," if you want them mentioned—has done incalculable harm, not only to the measure that is before the House, but to the welfare of the country at the present moment. Without dwelling further on this subject, I might just state what I know to be a positive fact, that these two English papers, and these two papers alone, are to be found on sale on bookstalls throughout Germany. These two papers, with the Paris edition of the last-named paper, are being hawked about on every German bookstall. I am glad to have a chance of making that public in my country's interests, and I am glad that hon. Members receive that news in silence.

I have been a close listener to the Debate of the two last days. Yesterday, especially, some of my hon. Friends showed a vast misconception of the situation. I felt tempted to suggest that, before some of the speeches, and, in fact, while the Debate on this measure went on, that there might be a herald placed before your Chair, Mr. Speaker, who should announce at the beginning of every speech, "We are at war," and not only that, but that he should say more correctly, "The world is at war"; and also that before the door leading into this Chamber there might be a device at which every Member could look before he entered, bearing the words, "Singleness of purpose; unity of action." This Bill has been to-day very happily described by the right hon. Gentleman Opposite (Mr. J. M. Robertson), who is a late member of the Government, as an ad hoc measure. It is essentially an ad hoc measure. It would be impossible to intro-duce this limited compulsion in any less objectionable form than it is introduced in this Bill. There are just four qualifications which bear out that argument. Those who are affected by this Bill are placed in exactly the same position as those who attested voluntarily. There is yet another chance given to all to attest voluntarily, probably for the next five or six weeks, by which time, possibly, the residue which will be left will be not only negligible, but infinitesimal. The grounds of exemption are carefully and adequately defined; and, lastly and most important of all, this Bill is for the period of war only. The argument has been put forward that once you introduce this measure, Conscription will have set its hold for ever on this country. Hon. Members must take a very short-sighted view of history if they forget what happened in the American War. Without going into the details of "the measure which was introduced then, I would ask them to remember that while America of all countries in the world is the most purely democratic country they could find, yet it was that country which had Conscription, from which it freed itself, and it is now the most anti-military country in the whole world. I argue from that the same future for this country if we adopt this measure. I see no reason whatever why, in the crisis with which we are faced at the present moment, we should not adopt it for the period of the War, then free ourselves from it and throw it from us after the War is over, as being, what I quite admit it is, an evil thing.

The opponents of the measure say it will have a minimum effect. It is immaterial to me whether it would have a minimum or a maximum effect as regards bringing in numbers of men. What I say is that it would have an enormous moral effect throughout the whole world. It would have a moral effect on our own men who are bearing the brunt and burden of the day, who, although they want no encouragement, for their heroism stands by itself, would still welcome this unity of action I ask from the House of Commons to-day, and who would receive the encouragement which the passing of such a Bill would give. With regard to those men, it has cut me to the quick to see many men who have been wounded not once but sometimes twice— [An HON. MEMBER: "Some three times!"]— having to go back to the front and take their turn in the trenches while young men behind are not doing their share. When things of that sort are taking place I would ask my hon. Friends around me to remember them, and to remember what a duty they owe to their country in a crisis of this sort. Again, as regards the moral effect the Bill would have, think of the moral effect it would have upon our Allies— on France, for instance, to which such a touching allusion was made by the late Minister of War (Brigadier-General Seely) in his speech yesterday. Surely we are able to give equality of sacrifice with that country, in which, as he brought out, for every one house in mourning here there are perhaps ten there— a country which is suffering silently, heroically, uncomplainingly, unfalteringly and unflinchingly, a country which, in spite of the fact that five-eighths of its metallurgical productivity and one-eighth of its land are in the hands of the enemy, is turning out munitions to a greater extent than ever it did before, where there are no strikes, no one complaining, but working from the beginning to the end of the week, which is the motto not only of Frenchmen but of French women. When you think of our word to Belgium and of our responsibility, which must never be lost sight of, for the state of Serbia, surely it is not a question of how much we can do, but of our doing our utmost to our very last farthing and our very last drop of blood.

Again, as regards our enemies, what a moral effect it would have upon them. Do they go into this minute detail as to whether it would give us 100,000 or 150,000 men? No. What it would show them is that we are determined to go to the end. It would hasten the day of their disrup-ture and defeat— a disrupture and defeat which in my opinion is a mathematical certainty, but which I wish to see in the interests of the world brought about as rapidly as possible. I wish to say further, differing from some of my hon. Friends around me who laughed when the word discipline was mentioned, that at a juncture like this the greatest lesson the nation has to learn is the word "discipline." We have to learn discipline from this House down to the very youngest workman who is working for his country's good at present. At a crisis like this it is not a question of talking of liberty. Discipline is the one standby which will pull this nation through. But what are you to expect. What have we seen? I am talking now after fifteen months absence from this House; but I have read day by day the constant nagging, nagging, nagging at the Government. I have seen in the Press, not content with a fresh subject once or twice a week but every morning, some of the papers finding some stick to try and beat the Government, and yet in spite of all that, in spite of the nagging in the House, in spite of that daily action of the Press, you found the spirit of our race as fine as ever, you found our manhood coming forward as it has never come before, and you found the British nation, in spite of these temptations, as sound at the core as ever. I hope there will be moderation in the future both as regards discussion of this question and as regards the action of the Press. The Colonial Secretary yesterday foreshadowed that there were troubles ahead. We have a stormy time to go through, but, above all, let us go through it, if we possibly can, believing in each other, in unbounded confidence and in unquestioning faith in victory.


It is with reluctance that I find myself unable to respond in the sense which my hon. Friend desires to the appeal he has made. I rise for the purpose of opposing this Bill. I oppose it because I believe it will not hasten the end of the War by a single day, because I believe it will not add a thousand men who could not be obtained otherwise, because I believe it will create friction throughout the country, whereas hitherto we have been working shoulder to shoulder on all sides of the House, cordially co-operating and promoting the ends we have in view. What has been our history in connection with this War up till now? We have from time to time made appeals to volunteers throughout the country and every appeal has resulted in an embarrassment of men—in a response so large that the Departments have been unable to deal with it. So much has that been the case that from time to time, by altering the standards of measurements and so forth, we have deliberately debarred people from volunteering to join. When the recruiting fell off somewhat last autumn after constant agitation on the part of certain newspapers— and may I call my hon. Friend's attention to the fact that the nagging papers have been the Conscriptionist newspapers — after this nagging had been going on month after month with the demand that compulsion should be put into operation, the Derby scheme was suggested. It was initiated for the purpose of giving the voluntary system a further trial, as though it had not triumphed up to that time. It was expected that within six weeks that system would rope in every possible man throughout the country. What was the result? Just before Christmas this House voted 1,000,000 additional men for the Army. As a result of the Derby scheme, before we are able to put a single man into training of that 1,000,000, after having already raised 3,000,000 men, nearly 3,000,000 more men volunteered to enter the service of the Crown. After we deduct all those who are unfit and all who for other reasons have not been accepted, you have an advance of 1,106,093 men, including those who have attested under the Derby scheme and those who have enlisted for immediate service— surely a sufficient response to go on with. Of these men 618,000 are available now, and can be called up as soon as you like. It will be several months before we shall be able to equip them, before we shall be able to find accommodation for them in barracks, before we shall be able to prepare them for service in the field. We have that 618,417 men ready now, having responded to the appeal and being prepared to enter the Army at once. But 487,000 others are married men who have been induced to enter the Army on what is being called the pledge given by the Prime Minister, which I prefer to call a conditional pledge the conditions of which have not been fulfilled, and in consequence of that this Con-scriptionist agitation has received new life. The day the Cabinet decision was announced in the newspapers one of these journals which had been crying out for compulsion month after month came out and described itself as the paper that secured single men first. The division between single and married men is the result of a carefully organised conspiracy for the purpose of creating division where unity existed before, and the married man has been used for the purpose of bringing compulsion to bear on the single man, and the population has been divided in interest in consequence.

How is it that this conscriptionist agitation keeps going? It is not new. It began long before the War. It has been continued through the War, and if we got through the War without it it would be continuued after. It is wanted for its own sake. I know some distinguished converts have come round— men as deeply pledged to liberty as I am myself, men like my hon. Friend (Commander Wedgwood), who is now serving at the front himself. But the strength of this agitation does not depend on the converts who have come in since the War has been going on, it depends on those who conducted it before, and who, long before this occasion arose, urged it in this House and in the journals which have been supporting this cause. Why have they been so anxious to place this foreign burden upon English shoulders? The other day I came across a quotation, in an article by Count Andrassy, discussing the question of Poland, and in it occurs this passage:— In the present War no positive danger threatened Russia on the Polish side for the simple reason that compulsory military service virtually suppresses the possibility of a revolution. When all able-bodied men are subjected to military discipline, when military law is proclaimed at the very outset, the populationremaining in their own homes are too cowed to attempt any violent action. That is the effect of compulsory military service. That was its effect in the case of the French railway strike. That is the thing that is in the minds of the Labour men who, in spite of all that my hon. Friend said just now, are in their heart of hearts distrustful of this agitation, and who are determined, if possible, to defeat it. I feel that I shall not be fulfilling my duty to them, and to the class of the population which I represent in this House, if I give a silent vote, if I fail to vote against a proposal which is the crowning point of an old effort which would be continued and developed in further directions if only the opportunity was afforded them now. Trade unions in this country have for many years been fighting for the right to live— the right to demand decent conditions of living. They have been organising and amalgamating for the purpose of strengthening their position. What is the use of their organisation, what is the use of their unions, what is the use of their amalgamation if, in case of any uprising in the country, they will be liable to be called upon to defeat their own class in the struggle which goes on?

But there is another motive behind this old agitation which has received a new form. There is the desire to get cheap service for the country. I remember an interesting conversation I had with the hon. and gallant Gentleman (Captain Amery) before the War began, when this subject was discussed in the House of Commons. He made a very interesting and striking speech, which greatly impressed me. He told us that it would be possible to add 1,000,000 men to the Army of this country at an additional cost of £ 4,000,000 a year. When I met him in the Lobby afterwards I asked him how he was going to pay and maintain 1,000,000 men for £ 4,000,000— how he was going to maintain and reward men at the rate of £ 4 per annum— and he told me they only contemplated giving a little pocket-money to these men who were called upon to serve their country.

Captain AMERY

I must just make a short explanation. When I said it would cost £ 4,000,000 a year I never said you could maintain an army of 1,000,000 men. I said you could train so many men that on mobilisation you could put 1,000,000 men into the field, which is entirely a different proposition. I am in the hon. Member's recollection of what I said. He must be entirely mistaken. I never did say or could say anything of that sort.


I should be extremely sorry to misrepresent the hon. and gallant Gentleman's views, but I gave the House the impression they made on my mind, which has never been removed since. The impression is not yet removed that compulsion is the means of getting cheap service in the Army. Compulsion means cheapness. We have been voting 1,000,000 men for the Army. There is no limit being set to the number of men who are to be called upon to send to help our Allies in the field. Every Englishman costs twice as much as a member of the Army of either of our Allies, and the sum of money expended in supplementing their resources would put two men in the field for every one that we could put in, and would enable us to keep our men at home for the purpose of producing the wealth necessary to maintain them. I hope that point of view will not be forgotten when we are voting additional men hereafter.


It is a mean thing to suggest that we could enable two men to fight where at present we only enable one.

8.0 P.M.


The hon. Member is quite welcome to his views. I adhere to what I have already said because I think that if by doubling the Army in the field at the same cost you are able to bring the War to an end in a shorter period, you will be rendering the best kind of assistance and the kind most grateful to our Allies in the field. I do not want to get into controversy with hon. Friends opposite. I want to come to the point of this pledge on which this special legislation to deal with the small remaining section of our population has been based. That pledge has been misrepresented. It has had put upon it meanings which it was never intended to bear. It has had to be disclaimed and explained away and its proper meaning put upon it. It has been used, not for the purpose really of getting men by the best method, but for the purpose of introducing compulsion, when men might have been got more easily without compulsion. If they can be got more easily without compulsion there is absolutely no justification for bringing in this Bill. The only justification for bringing in this Bill is the impossibility of getting men without it. What was the Prime Minister's pledge? There has only been one pledge, and I have taken the trouble to extract it from the OFFICIAL REPORT. It is as follows:— But if, when every just allowance hap been made for other necessary work, and the whole of this machinery has been in operation and has achieved what it can, there should still be found a substantial number of men of military age not required for other purposes, who without excuse, hold back from the service of their country, I believe that the very same conditions which make compulsion impossible now, namely, the absence of general consent, would force the country to the view that they must consent to supplement by some form of legal obligation the failure of the voluntary system." —["OFFICIAL REPORT, 2nd November, 1915, col. 523, Vol. LXXV.] No sooner was that pledge given than a meaning was attached to it which was never in the Prime Minister's mind. On that meaning single men were threatened and married men were appealed to. An explanation was issued by Lord Derby on 12th November. In that explanatory note he repeated in somewhat different language what I have already read from the Prime Minister's speech, and the note added:— Lord Derby is further authorised to state definitely that if young men— he mentioned no proportion— medically fit and not indispensable to any business of national importance or to any business conducted for the general good of the community, do not come forward voluntarily before 30th November, the Government will, after that date, take the necessary steps to redeem the pledge of 2nd November. The pledge of 2nd November was the only pledge that has been given. Still the legend grew that that pledge meant that if any single man, any individual unmarried man failed to volunteer, then until he had been compelled by law to become a soldier no married man could be called up. On 16th November the hon. Member for Mid-Lanark (Mr. Whitehouse) asked the Prime Minister whether there was any discrepancy between Lord Derby's statement and that of the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister said he was not aware of any such discrepancy. To make the matter quite clear, I asked the following supplementary question:— Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that many married men are now enlisting in the belief that not one of them will be called up until every unmarried man in the country is called up. The Prime Minister: I do not know why that belief should be entertained."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 16th November, 1915, col. 1633 Vol. LXXV.] There may be some excuse for those who, misled by the conscriptionist Press, entertained that belief before that date. There may be some pledge of that kind to married men who volunteered before 16th November, but there can be no such pledge to men who volunteered after that date. Those who volunteered after that date came in with their eyes open to the fact that not until the conditions which were implied in the Prime Minister's pledge had been fulfilled was that pledge operative. What were the conditions of that pledge? They were five in number. First of all, the number of single men not volunteering must be substantial. There was nothing said about negligible quantity in the Prime Minister's statement then. That was a term which was used later, presumably for the purpose of making plain the term "substantial number." The second condition was that that substantial number must be without excuse. They must have some substantial reason authorising them to abstain from volunteering. The third condition was that they must be unwanted or not essential to industry. The fourth was that the voluntary system must have failed— that was implied in the words with which the Prime Minister's pledge ended— to furnish the number of men necessary to meet the demands of the nation. The fifth condition was that there must be general consent— that is, that there must be practical unanimity in the nation on the matter. Has any single one of those conditions been fulfilled? Take the question of "substantial number." I ignore the term "negligible quantity," because in this connection there is no official meaning attached to it. I take the Prime Minister's own statement, "substantial number." We are told that 651,000 single men are unaccounted for under the Derby scheme. Why are they unaccounted for?

I have the figures relating to Shore-ditch, the borough in which is my own Constituency. I find that out of 13,000 men no less than 2,778 are returned under the heading "unknown" and "removals." These are men who have not been found, who have not been canvassed, and, therefore, have not been registered or brought to the recruiting? stations. Surely when in this particular constituency, after ignoring the aliens, of whom there are large numbers and others who would not be available under any circumstances, 20 per cent. are unaccounted for on the ground that they are unknown, untraced, or that they have removed and that they are unavailable for the purpose of the canvass, is that not proof that the Derby scheme has not been worked efficiently or anything like efficiently, and that if time and efficiency were put into the scheme the bulk of the 651,000 men could be brought in who have not already been brought in? In that case the "substantial number" could be reduced to a ridiculously small number without the introduction of compulsion. Therefore I claim that compulsion is not justifiable. What proof have we that all 651,000 unattested single men are unwanted in industry or are without reasonable excuse for not attesting? Further, has the voluntary system proved a failure? On the contrary, 6,000,000 men have responded to the various appeals made to them, and nearly 3,000,000 have responded to the appeal under the Derby scheme, and no doubt, of those who have not responded, when fresh claims are put forward, large numbers can be induced to follow the example of those who have gone before and volunteered for service. Finally, will this Bill bring about general consent? Is the Prime Minister quite satisfied, after the Debate which we have had in this House, that we are going to be content to allow a new principle to be brought into our system, a system of which we have been so proud, a system under which if we win this War we shall have won it really, but if we abandon it we shall as surely have been conquered by the German spirit as we shall have defeated them in the field.

This triumph of voluntaryism— for I maintain that it is a triumph— has been brought about in spite of the most extraordinary, unprecedented, and unthought-of difficulties. Whatever the number of enlisted men we have got under this system, there might have been tens of thousands more but for these difficulties. A good many of these difficulties have been spoken of already. I will only deal with two of them. We are fighting this battle as a war of ideas. One of the ideas is the sacredness of the plighted word. That is one of the ideas underlying this Debate. We are fighting this War because Germany broke her plighted word to Belgium. Is there not an obligation upon us to observe our plighted word to the men who have entered our Army? When this War began strong appeals were made to our men and strong inducements held out to them. In one of these appeals the personal honour and the plighted word of the Prime Minister, the Secretary of State for the Colonies, and the President of the Board of Education were concerned. They placed their signatures to a document which was circulated amongst our soldiers. In that appeal they said that if the men would only volunteer to serve their country the question of inoculation would be voluntary. By doing that they gave a pledge that these men would suffer no disability and no punishment if they exercised their conscientious views in regard to the medical practice of inoculation. What has been the result? I have told the House on previous occasions some of these cases, but I do not bring forward any of my own evidence to-night, although I have an abundance of it. I merely quote from an article that appeared some little time ago in the "Sunday Chronicle," a paper, I believe, Tory in politics. It is an article written by an Army surgeon, so presumably he would give information that can be relied upon. He describes how the process of inoculation is carried on. He says that numbers of soldiers try to get excused because of their dislike of this practice:— There is but one reply. 'Do yon refuse to be inoculated?' The vast majority do not, and excuses are ignored.


Is the hon. Member entitled to go into the question of inoculation?


I am not dealing with the question of inoculation. I am speaking of the way in which we have kept faith, or rather in which we have failed to keep faith, with the men on this matter, therefore preventing tens of thousands from joining our ranks and preventing the full triumph of the voluntary system. The article goes on to say: — 'I refuse,' says one man, stubbornly. 'Fall out,' shouts the orderly, and the refuser falls out. That is all — no argument, no persuasion, no censure. But 'moral suasion' will be set in action, and that man will be back in a week, a voluntary candidate. How is it done? The man will be set to clean up lavatories and refused all leave until he is inoculated. It is quite effective. We can inoculate several hundreds in an hour. These men were told, on the faith of the plighted word of the Prime Minister, the Secretary of State for the Colonies, and the President of the Board of Education, that this practice would be voluntary. My right hon. Friend (Mr. Tennant) boasts that 95 per cent. of the troops have been voluntarily inoculated. Yes, they have been compulsorily made into volunteers in this way. These men, to my own personal knowledge, when they have obtained leave, and often times inoculation has been the only way to get leave, have carried the news to their own villages and have deterred their own friends and comrades from joining the Army. I believe that thousands and tens of thousands who might otherwise have joined our Forces months ago have been deterred on that account.

There is another point. It is well known that one-half the population of this country disbelieves in vaccination. People take the trouble to secure exemption for their children from vaccination. The Territorial Force, when it was set up, was set up on the condition that vaccination should Dot be compulsory. It has been publicly announced, time after time, since this War began that vaccination for the Territorial Force would not be forced into operation. When the Derby scheme was started men were given to understand that they would have the option of the choice of the regiments they would join. They went to the recruiting offices, believing they could go there and volunteer as Territorials. They had placed before them one form and one form only, the blue form, containing the question, "Are you willing to be vaccinated or revaccinated?" They refused to say "Yes" to that form. In many cases the word "Yes" was written in by the recruiting officer. Unless they were willing to give one answer, and that an affirmative one, they were driven out of the office, insulted, their papers torn up, and in many cases they returned to their homes determined they would never volunteer in consequence of the treatment to which they had been subjected. These have not been single cases. My right hon. Friend will scarcely deny that they have arisen, because I brought one in which I was personally and closely interested to his own knowledge in connection with one of the recruiting offices in London. That case has been multiplied by thousands throughout the country. I wonder how many of the 651,000 men who have not volunteered are numbered amongst the people who refused to subject themselves to this objectionable medical practice in which they have no faith whatever, and of which the War Office think so much?

We are all one in wanting this country to win the War, and in wishing the nation to have as large an Army as is necessary for that purpose. We, who are called pacifists, have done our best, and have gone on to platforms to urge our fellows to join the Army, and to offer to sacrifice themselves for the State and the nation. More than this, all of us, against our inclinations and desires, have been compelled to recognise the peril in which the nation is placed, and have done our level best during this period to strengthen the hands of the Army by increasing the number of volunteers. We are all of us anxious to win this War, none more so than myself. Will this Bill bring us one inch nearer to the winning of the War? I do not believe it will. The first effect it will have will be to disunite a united nation. The first effect it has had in this House has been to split this House into two parties. It is quite impossible to avoid that, and what is taking place in the House will take place throughout the country. Instead of having a united body of citizens, all of them eagerly co-operating one with the other to bring about unity throughout the nation, to uphold the influence of our soldiers in the field, to show that there is behind them a united front, you will have a divided nation— divided in order that an Act of Parliament may be passed affecting 651,000 possible men, nearly everyone of whom, by the continuance of the Derby scheme, could be amalgamated into the Army, and, if the Prime Minister's hopes are realised, will be amalgamated into the Army, because he himself declared there was no justification for a measure of general compulsion, and that he believed it might be possible that this measure should be a dead letter. Why rush this measure now? Why not see how many of the 651,000 men we can enrol? Why not eliminate this number until it has become negligible, as I feel perfectly certain it will become negligible, and avoid this dividing of the House and the nation which will inevitably ensue if this measure is pushed forward? I feel that the measure, so far from helping us, will hinder us, and because I feel that the winning of this War by the abandonment of our old principle of liberty will simply extend this accursed principle of compulsion— which is the occasion and the reason for this War— over a wider area, our whole aim should be to limit and eliminate it from the areas over which it rules already. I feel that if we only come through under the voluntary system we shall have set an example to the other nations of the world which many of them will be glad enough to follow. If we adopt their system we will simply perpetuate and strengthen the old bad principle which has been the occasion of all the evils which have fallen upon Europe in connection with this War.


I am one of those who believe that our voluntary system has been a complete success, and I believe that it is and will be after the War vital to our national existence and development. I have within the last few months spoken strongly in favour of the voluntary system, and I have said repeatedly that if, in deference to newspaper clamour, any system of compulsion was introduced I should certainly be a most vigorous and open opponent of it. At the same time I said that if, on a full consideration of the military position, the Government came to the conclusion that compulsion was necessary or desirable, my position might be completely changed. I have during some fifteen years been a pretty hard fighter in politics, and I have never had any doubts at all about the wisdom of our

voluntary system. I have none now. I believe the voluntary system has been a success. I have seen 3,000,000 certainly enrolled before this appeal of Lord Derby was made at all, and now we know that since 3,000,000 more have come forward. Nearly 6,000,000 men have volunteered or have offered themselves for military service. I do not think that looks much like our having to abandon our voluntary system after the War. Holding these views, I nevertheless support this Bill, and I support it perhaps as strongly and as earnestly as anyone in the House, and I am glad to have an opportunity at this early stage in the discussion to state the views I hold upon it, and to say why, being a convinced voluntaryist, I am yet supporting what some people have in my opinion almost misnamed a measure of Conscription. As far as I can see, we got the first 3,000,000 men by a system that could fairly and honestly be called voluntary, and I doubt whether we could in any circumstances expect, with all our great demands and obligations, to put into the field more than another 1,500,000 men. But if we are to have this 1,500,000 men, we shall then have an Army of 4,500,000, apart from the Colonies, which is practically the utmost that we are able to get in any Conscrip-tionist country in Europe— that is to say, about 10 per cent. of our population.

Looking forward to the possibility that we may have to put into the field, or have in reserve, the best part of 1,500,000 more men, I want to consider not only what is the necessary way of getting them, but also— what to some extent has been ignored under this argument as to the necessities of the case— the just and proper way of raising an Army, and to me it is not the just and proper way of raising an Army that, when you have practically got all the real volunteers, under the pretence that you are raising forces voluntarily, you put compulsion not only on the people whom you claim to take voluntarily, but applying compulsion which will really appeal to the wrong people. I take certain facts and figures within my knowledge of districts with which I am well acquainted— facts and figures that raise, I think, almost insuperable difficulties to proceeding for the moment on the voluntary plan. We are told, in the first place, that there are 650,000 unaccounted for, and my right hon. and learned Friend (Sir J. Simon) made an examination of the figures, an examination which I am bound to say rather surprised me, and which was dealt with faithfully to-day by the Postmaster-General. The figure of 650,000 has been taken as the maximum of people unaccounted for. I do not think it is the maximum. If I understand the figures aright, that 650,000 was obtained by deducting from a figure of something over 1,000,000 the starred men. Admittedly, not only from what Lord Derby tells us, but from what anyone of us who has had anything to do with Lord Derby's scheme knows is the fact, hundreds and thousands of men are improperly starred, and therefore you have no right to deduct all those from the million and more.

A great many of these people have no right whatever to be starred. Many of them have been fraudulently starred; there is no reason to mince matters about it, there is no reason why we should not say that there are shirkers in this country, as there are in every Conscriptionist country shirkers who seek to evade service. There are many in this country who have not scrupled to defraud the country of their services by pretending that they are starred men. We saw from Lord Derby's first Report how in numberless instances farmers in this country have condescended to that petty fraud. I say that 650,000 is not the maximum at all. I do not think, if you take the gross figures, that you have any right whatever to regard that 650,000 as the maximum, and then apply other figures for the purpose of deductions. It is said that we will get something more or something less than 200,000; but it is proved that a great many men are wrongly starred, and you have to make all allowances; and while I do not know whether we are going to get 200,000 or whether we are going to get 400,000, I do submit to the House that when you have had a voluntary system that has practically taken all your real volunteers you cannot afford to pick your next million and a half haphazard. You have no right to exploit the patriotism of those who have come forward, although it means everything to them, in the belief that it was unpatriotic to stay behind. And I base my opinion not on the figures of the Derby scheme only, but on figures furnished to me from one district where there is a very considerable number of young unmarried men, who, for no reason whatever, are standing out of this national crisis. I have made most careful inquiries— and I know that inquiries have been made by other men who are as convinced volun-taryists as myself— in one constituency from which I have received most accurate and certain figures, sent by most competent persons. I have been told by more than one man who has been through the whole business and has taken endless trouble in the district to which I refer, that the very men who make the best soldiers are not coming forward, and that nothing would make them come forward unless, to use the words which many of them repeat like parrots, "they were fetched." At the present time, if you are going to get another million and a half men, you are going to be faced with this position: You are going, in this Bill, for some reason I personally do not understand, to exempt ministers of religion. I do not see why you should put the headmasters of your school in a category lower than the curate. You are going to leave out the minister of religion, but you are going to interfere with some of the chief work of our national life. You are going to put the burden upon men, some of them, close upon the age of forty. They are to be called upon to give up work of vital importance to the national development. I know of cases of headmasters of schools, unmarried men, who are doing far more important work than that of a private soldier, even at a time like this, because they are engaged in developing the minds, and bodies of boys, and preparing them for the public schools, such as Osborne, and so on. If you are going to put the burden on a class of men who are doing work of that vital description, while leaving out those who will not come forward to do their duty, then I say you will be behaving in a way that no sane country would behave.

When I find that these men are not only feeling the pressure but are actually attesting, though they have no actual right to come forward at all, in view of the high importance of the work in which they are engaged, and when I find, on the other hand; a number of men between twenty and thirty, and many nearer twenty than thirty, are for no reason standing out, I do submit that it is impossible, in these circumstances, to come down to this House and say that there are no shirkers in this country. There are shirkers in this country, and everybody who has attended recruiting meetings knows that it is so.

You have got the position, which is thoroughly demoralising, of the story going through the country that a number of young men are standing out, while the older men are doing the work—that a number of men not usefully employed are standing out, and that undue pressure and strain is put upon those who are usefully employed. I think it is of vital importance to this country, with all these charges and obligations placed upon it, that all its matériel should be put to the best possible use. The voluntary system, so far as I can see, up to a certain point was supported with the idea of preserving national unity as the very best thing for this country. But who of us who have defended the voluntary system right up to now, ever contemplated that the War could possibly develop on lines such as these, and that we should find ourselves with 3,000,000 men already in arms, and possibly another 1,500,000 at least to come underarms.

But quite apart from that, the figures which we can get show one other thing: How are we going to deal with a situation like this, with the voluntary system pure and simple? Here I have the figures, prepared carefully, before me. I know that they are accurately prepared as to three neighbouring villages, all of the same name with slight variations, as met with in many parts of the country. In the first villege 62 per cent. have come forward. In the second village, next door to it, 7 per cent. have come forward, and in the third village 36 per cent. have come forward. How is any local tribunal, or any other tribunal going to decide how many of those people can be spared from the village where 62 per cent. have attested until it knows what is going to be the position in the villages where only 7 per cent. and 36 per cent. have attested? I have got here in these figures villages where 100 per cent. have attested, that is every single man in the district, and these figures represent an agricultural district. In the village where 100 per cent. have attested obviously the employers will have to go to the local tribunal and claim a number of those men; and how is the tribunal going to decide upon those claims when, in the neighbouring village, only 36 per cent. have attested? I say that you are putting a burden on the local tribunals which is utterly impossible. If you are going to get this work efficiently done you must have before the local tribunals the names of all the people that you can possibly gather from whom they are to choose.

Otherwise you will have only about 1,200,000 men at most from whom to choose. It is of vital importance, if you are going to choose these men fairly and with due regard to the interests of industry, and to the general interests of the country, that your field of choice should be as wide as possible. Roughly speaking, I find that the conditions in this one agricultural constituency are produced elsewhere. I am bound to say that the figures I hold in my hand represent a district that has been preeminently good, so far as recruiting is concerned. If you are going to deal with the thing on lines of really national development, you are bound to put into the control of your local tribunals all the men that you can possibly and fairly lay your hands on.

In other words, it is not, in my opinion, the fact that the voluntary system will not provide the men, but I cannot see how the voluntary system is going to provide the men in the way that the country ought to provide them. I am not concerned either with the Prime Minister's pledge or whether it is strictly necessary that we should raise the men in this way. I would rather see this small breach in the voluntary system than go on raising this million or million and a half of men in ways that seem to me grossly unfair. Somebody said yesterday that this Bill was an absurd Bill. I think it is for some reasons, and for reasons which perhaps some of my Friends will be surprised to hear me enunciate. I do not say the distinction between married and single is an absurd distinction, but I think it has been ludicrously overdone. Some people under this Bill will learn for the first time how to be happy though married, and they will for the first time appreciate the advantages of married life. You have got the ludicrous position of a young man twenty-three or twenty-four years of age, with no real ties, and often with a wife who can earn money without the husband at all, and is quite independent, and people of that kind are under this scheme postponed to men of thirty-nine or forty who happen to be bachelors. You have got worse than that. You have got cases, and I suppose most hon. Members know of them, where young married men have attested under Lord Derby's scheme, but I know of many other cases where young married men ought to have attested and have not. You are going under this scheme to actually force the unmarried man of forty, and you are going to ignore altogether the young married man with- out ties at all in the early twenties. I think that is an absurd thing to do. I think if you are going to start to make any breach in the voluntary system that your breach should at any rate lead you into fairer fields than that. Personally I should rejoice if we are going to see that we raise these last 1,500,000 men, or whatever the number may be, to see them raised by a perfectly fair system, and to see under the control of the local tribunals all the people of age, whether married or unmarried. I think you are going to do a grave injustice if you bring in any system of compulsion at all to do so upon the basis unknown in any conscriptionist country, utterly indefensible on any grounds of logic or anything else, and which exists merely because Lord Derby originally suggested and the Prime Minister put upon it to some extent the seal of his approval.

I think the Bill in itself will assist us to get the men on a fairer basis. When people say what is the security that this is the end I am bound to tell them they have none, and those people who are trying to limit this small measure of compulsion to the unmarried men of this country are in themselves conniving at an absurdity which is bound to end in a further extension. I would prefer to see that extension now, and I would very much rather that we had the whole thing done now fairly, so that we do not raise the wrong men. It is all very well for people to talk about 200,000 as though it did not matter. But 200,000 is the twentieth part of an army of 4,000,000. Are we going to say that every one man in twenty is to take a job that another man is better fitted to fill? To take one man out of twenty is not a thing we can contemplate with equanimity. I am not prepared to see 200,000 homes in this country made miserable and perhaps desolate simply to save 200,000 men who in my considered opinion are a disgrace to the country. If to be a convinced voluntaryist means to say that I am going to stand idly by and see men driven to do work which other men will not and ought to do, then all I can say is that I have had enough of the voluntary system.

I have seen cases at the Bar during the last few weeks, and I am speaking now about a matter which many members of the legal profession can corrobate, where young men on the threshold of brilliant careers, young married men, have felt it to be their duty to go and attest. I have seen them on all sides at the Bar, which has contributed splendidly to the Forces of this country, but I have seen at the same time other young men, not as brilliant as the men whose places they may soon be filling, married it may be, going on with their work, and I know they have not attested. What fairness is that? Are we going to allow under this scheme for merely dealing with the unmarried, young married men who have done their duty to have their places filled by young married men who have not? Because that is what you are really coming to, if you are going to keep this scheme on its present lines. I think you have got to consider the matter most carefully, when you are making this new departure, as to how far you are going to go. I think you are going to do a grave injustice if you are going to send unmarried men of thirty-eight, thirty-nine, or forty before the young married men without ties are even considered, and that you are going to do a graver injustice still if you are not going to consider at all any system of measured compulsion of young married men who have not taken the trouble to attest. I think, if you are going to do this thing at all, you have got to do it scientifically. You have to examine the case of the starred men. We have already had warning of that. Those who, like myself, have been chairmen of district committees and have gone into the figures in detail know that from every side canvassers have come back with the same story of men having been improperly starred. You have also to see that your local tribunals are properly manned, because if you have local tribunals that are not properly manned you will never get the right system at all; you will get a system of mutual help between different districts and you will not get a really fair choice.

All these are matters of detail, and all the exemptions are matters of detail. But I would point out that in dealing with what may after all be only matters of detail, but which to me are matters of vital principle, it is of the greatest importance that at the earliest possible stage— because it is certain that the Bill must become law whether some of us like it or not— we should work together as one man to make the Bill as effective and as efficient as possible. These local tribunals will be of vital importance. One cannot exaggerate their importance. When you are going to weigh the question whether this man or that can be spared, whether this man or that is indispensable, not only must your local tribunals be the best possible, but so also must your appeal tribunals be the best possible. I am not here to say one single word against anybody's patriotism. I resent more than I can say any suggestion that the men with whom I have consistently worked since I have been in the House and all through my political fights are in any way less honest or less patriotic than I am myself. At the same time I also resent the suggestion that if this Bill is passed there is going to be trouble and possibly strikes. I do not think we shall have either trouble or strikes. I think the country realises perfectly well the state of war in which we are. I get thoroughly tired of the constant statement that this country, with mourning in almost every street, does not yet realise that we are at war. The country realises it. Although in the Trade Union Congress hard things may be said, and although in this House we may have free debate and different views may be expressed, I believe it is better that we should have free debate whether in the Trade Union Congress or in this House. It is always better to have free debate in a free country, and it is far better that we should differ in public than that we should be everlastingly backbiting in private.

I am not concerned with whether this Conscription measure is claimed as a victory by the Northcliffe Press. I am not concerned in the Northcliffe Press. Personally, I wish the Government had been a little more concerned. I agree with those who think that the methods by which it has been endeavoured to force Conscription upon the country have been simply contemptible, a disgrace to the country, and a lasting disgrace to journalism. But that is not the point to-day. I am convinced that there is no great conspiracy to thrust Conscription upon us. This measure of Conscription, mild indeed as it is, in my opinion does not come from any conspiracy; it comes merely from the force of circumstances, and we are bound to face it. I never thought we should have to face it; but from examination of the figures, quite apart from Lord Derby's Report, I am convinced we have got to face it now. My appeal to the House and to all the friends with whom I have worked is, let us do our best now that it is inevitable not to show our differences, but to make this Bill work, to see that its obvious objections are removed, and to make it a thoroughly workable measure. After all, what is it? We have had a voluntary rally which justifies not only the system, but the country we have always defended when people have said that we were going down hill and that we were not worthy of our ancestors. Never in the history of the world has there been such a rally of voluntary effort. It is not only the men, but we who have been doing our best, although not of military age or able to work in that way, know that it is the women also all through the country. This country does not, in my opinion, take second place to any country that is at present at war. But merely because we have reached the point where we have got to put our all into the field, I think we have reached the point where we have to put our whole system on a more scientific basis.

I decline to stand by and see older men taken when younger men can go. I decline to stand by and see our education system robbed while men who are doing nothing, and many of them hardly educated at all, simply stand idly by and boast about our deeds in the war. We have reached the point where it is obvious that we cannot come through fairly with the voluntary system. I want to see a system that will do even-handed justice all through the country. I appeal to my Friends with whom on so many questions I have always worked not now to make a parade of our differences by going into the Lobby against the Government. What on earth have the Irish, with whom we have again and again stood shoulder to shoulder, got to do with going into the Lobby at this moment against the Government? We ave stood by them through thick and thin. In my own Constituency their leaders started the Home Rule campaign at my instigation years ago when we were told it was practically dead. Why, when we are mostly agreed in exempting them, do they want now to make a parade on this question and put up the majority against the Government for foreign nations to rejoice over? It is intolerable, when we have done our best; in public and in private, to exclude them from a measure which I think the history of Ireland makes it impossible to apply to them, that they should go into the Lobby against the Bill and give the impression that there is a large body against the Government, when we know that there are in the House no more devoted friends of the Government than the Irish party. Therefore I appeal to them not to make a parade of their opposition to the Bill. We all know their views upon the question. But changed circumstances make changed views. We, who have done our best to exclude them, and others who simply for the sake of peace have very generously said little about the exclusion, have I think a right to demand from the Irish that they should not make dramatic appearances on this occasion, but do their best to see that we present a united front to the enemy.

I am convinced that we are doing right in supporting this Bill. I am convinced that this country is in for a big fight where it has to use all its men and where it has to use its men fairly. It has no right to take men who are not really called, merely to take the place of men who are called, but will not obey the call. I do not say that there are many shirkers, but I know there are some, and I do not care whether it is 50,000, or 100,000, or 200,000, or 300,000. As one who believes that not only the existence of the Empire, but the prosperity and happiness of the whole world are at stake in this War, I am sure that this country has got to do its best, to put every man in the field in fair order, and to martial its Armies not only in its own defence, but in the defence of the world's civilisation. What is the use of telling me that we have always been on the voluntary system? When in our history has there been a call for the entire manhood of the country? When in the history of the world has there been a call for the entire manhood of Europe? We are faced with different circumstances. The whole world is in arms. Can we see a few hundred thousands of our people standing out of arms when you have got Serbia practically denuded of her men, and Belgium laid waste from end to end? Can you see this all calling and then say, "Oh, they have not landed on our shores? When I heard the hon. Member for East Mayo, with whom I have hardly ever differed in this House, taking the view that Conscription might be adopted if people landed on our shores, I say that that argument is unworthy of a man with such a record in this House. If they landed on our shores we would call for Conscription! Is that the spirit of our people, that we are only going to call for service when we are attacked? Is that the history of our country? I say because we are not attacked, because we have got to go to the rescue of people whose homes have been laid waste, whose wives have been violated, and whose children have been murdered, that makes the call on English manhood a great deal higher than if our own shores had been invaded. It is intolerable that at a time like this, when the national spirit cries aloud, not for vengeance, but for justice, that even 50,000 of our young men should stand aside and let others, not necessarily their own countrymen, do the work.

A lot of men have come from our Colonies to bear their burdens. Will our young men stand in idleness while a lot of married men from our Colonies, who have a great deal less interest in this fight than they have got, carry through this fight for them? It is intolerable. We defended the voluntary system for the sake of national unity until in my opinion it can be defended no longer. What I want to see carried through is justice to other men in this country, and justice to the Colonies who have rallied round us; justice to Europe who is fighting our battles, just as we are fighting theirs. Therefore I do not care whether, or how many times, I have spoken, as my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent has spoken, again and again against Conscription. I do not care how many times I may speak against it in the future. I know about the call upon this country. It is not a call only for her own safety, but a call that her glorious history gives to her and calls, upon her to answer. It is when people are in danger, and other countries are invaded, we are bound to put our last man in the field, to spend our last treasure, to shed our last drop of blood, and put all the spirit of this country into the fight which, in our opinion, must lead to one conclusion only, and that conclusion a great victory!

9.0 P.M.

I agree with what my hon. Friend just said that we cannot finish this War with any patched-up peace. You cannot finish this War until you have the militarism of Germany crushed and humiliated. You cannot finish it until you have beaten them in the field. You cannot possibly argue with a country that does the things that Germany has done. Because I feel like that and I know the bulk of the country feels like that, I do not care what isms or opinions I may have taken or defended. I do appeal to my hon. Friends to let us have a united vote behind a united Government. I know, and I believe that even the people who oppose this measure know, that behind the united Government upon this matter stands a united country. I believe that the country from end to end, with very few exceptions, wants this thing done, and I believe that many, many men, thousands of thousands of men, who never thought that they would be defending Conscription are defending it now, defending it in a very modified form, in a form which I think does the greatest possible credit to the Government who have brought it in. In my opinion they have done a wise thing in modifying it, and they have done a wise thing in postponing it till now. Up till now we have not, I think, suffered from a lack of men, because they have always kept up with the power of equipping them. But the Government now, I am confident, have done the wise thing, and we have got to go on, and under this system bring in all the men we possibly can in this great fight, which is, as I have said, not only for our salvation but for the very salvation of the civilisation of Europe.


I am glad as an Irish Member to be given the opportunity to speak, for a few minutes, more or less on the question of recruiting. First of all, from the English point of view, and from the real military point of view I deal with the matter. May I say at the very beginning that though a man may be in khaki, it does not necessarily mean that he is in favour of absolute Conscription I do not believe there is an officer in the Army who is in favour of Conscription, though he may be in favour of some scheme, whether you call it compulsion or Conscription. We would all have welcomed the fact if voluntaryism had been a success, but to my knowledge, as commanding officer of an Irish regiment, the scheme of voluntaryism has not been successful. We want some system and some plan—call it what you like—which will provide a regular flow of recruits, so that when the drafts are sent out, their places may be regularly taken. So far as England goes therefore, we know the scheme has not been successful. For that reason I should hope that this Bill will be passed, simply on behalf of the regiments who must get their recruits kept going regularly. May I deal for a little while with the question of Ireland? I am sorry the hon. Member for Waterford is not here at present. I had the honour of being one of the Members who attended the Viceregal Lodge in Dublin at the same time as the hon. and learned Gentleman did in October. While we disagree in principle, I admit the hon. Member for Waterford does what he thinks best for Ireland. I believe he is doing his best for the people, and I believe he has been doing his best for recruiting. At the same time I abate no jot even in favour of the hon. and learned Member for Waterford in doing what I believe to be best for Ireland. I join issue with him in the matter of recruiting.

He made a statement in the House yesterday in which he quoted the statement Major-General Friend made at the Viceregal Lodge in October. He said at that period it was absolutely necessary to keep the ordinary drafts up, that 10,000 Irish recruits should be found for the month of November, and that thereafter it would take 1,100 men a month. The hon. and learned Member for Waterford stated that had been done and more. I join issue, and say that instead of the 10,000 joining in the month of November, those who joined numbered at least 3,000 less, and so far as the 1,100 recruits monthly is concerned it is an absolute failure. My figures, I think, are correct. I hope, and could wish, they were not correct, but if they are incorrect I would appeal to the Chief Secretary for Ireland to give us the correct figures. If the hon. and learned Member for Waterford were here to-night, I would tell him that what I am afraid of in this Bill. Why Ireland should be excluded I do not know; nor can the people from my part of the world understand the exclusion. My Constituency in Belfast is a labour constituency, and what they have done there will compare favourably with any constituency in the United Kingdom in the matter of men found for actual service, and for munitions work. An hon. Member opposite said yesterday that he did not mind what his constituents thought; that he voted as he liked. That is a very fine principle, but I dare say the constituents will have something to say the next time the hon. Member goes there. The workmen in my Constituency consider themselves as members of the United Kingdom, and are quite willing to share the burdens of the English workmen in this War. I would appeal to Nationalist Irishmen. We all glory in our glorious history of Irish Regiments. I say that one of the effects of excluding Ireland from this Bill will be that it is impossible that Irish recruits can be found to fill the Irish Regiments. The effect will be that the Irish Eegiments will be filled by Englishmen. From my position as a military officer I can give many examples of what has taken place and what will take place, but there is one which will show what I mean. Michael O'Leary, V.C., that celebrated hero of the Irish Guards, who was promoted to a lieutenancy in the Connaught Hangers, in December in Dublin, said that he had been promoted to the Connaught Hangers and, to his horror and disgust, he found there were 900 Englishmen in the Connaught Rangers. That will show what I mean. I do not want to belittle anyone, but I would ask the hon. and learned Member for Waterford, or anybody else, to join in some scheme, call it by what name or any name that you like. All I am anxious for and all, I am sure, they are anxious for, is that Irish Regiments should be filled by Irishmen. I offer to join hands with Nationalists here to evolve some scheme. I know that the hon. and learned Member agrees with me on the recruiting question, and I am sure in his heart, if he really thought that this is going to have the effect on Irish Regiments, which I think it will have, he would in some way moderate his vote against the Bill to-night. I say on behalf on my Constituents again that we wish to share every endeavour with the Englishman, Scotsmen or Welshman. We consider ourselves members of the United Kingdom and long may we remain so.


I desire, with the permission of the House, to give some reason why I feel it my duty to vote against the proposed introduction of this Bill. In the first place, I want to say a word or two about the argument of the right hon. and learned Member for Exeter. I want to refer very briefly to a suggestion he made that there should be no talk whatever of disturbing the national harmony. We were told this Bill was only to be introduced by general consent, and it seems to me perfectly obvious that general consent, which is quite different from the decision of the majority, is conspicuously absent. I want to ask hon. Members opposite, if they wish to make up their own minds as to what our feelings are going to be if this Bill is introduced, what their feelings would be if the Government had proceeded with the Plural Voting Bill, which had been jettisoned in order to secure general consent for the Government of the country, and for precisely the same reason some of us on this side appeal to those who advocate this Bill to drop it, because they will introduce into the country precisely the discord which was intended to be removed by dropping the Plural Voting Bill.

This measure has been recommended to us as a fulfilment of the Prime Minister's pledge. I rather want to demur to the doctrine that because a Member of Parliament hears a prominent Member of the Government give a pledge and takes no objection to it, that the Member of Parliament is bound by it. It seems to me that if that doctrine holds we shall find there is a very great deal in the proceedings of this House, because every Member apparently is to express his dissent upon every pledge given by the Prime Minister, or else that pledge is binding upon him. I repudiate that suggestion, but if the Prime Minister's speech is binding upon us, if it is held that we have adopted it by our silence, then we are, as much as the Prime Minister, held by that pledge, and have a right to see that it is properly fulfilled. We have a right to ask the Prime Minister to fulfil his pledge, the whole pledge, and nothing but the pledge, and for that purpose it is quite necessary to examine precisely what the pledge was. I will take the account of the pledge from Lord Derby's letter of 10th November. It is this:— Married men are not to bo called up until the unmarried men have been. If these young men do not come forward voluntarily, you will either release the married men from their pledge or introduce a Bill into Parliament to compel the young men to serve. Now, observe, we are dealing with men between the ages of eighteen and forty-one, and this applies not to the whole mass of unmarried men but to the young unmarried men— that is to say, roughly speaking, the young unmarried men under thirty— and we are entitled to ask that there shall be an examination of these figures to show us whether the 650,000 men who have not attested are young unmarried men or old unmarried men. That is the condition which has got to be fulfilled before the Prime Minister's pledge can possibly be acted upon, and I say that if the Prime Minister will not investigate those 650,000 cases before proceeding with this Bill, then he is not true to the pledge which he is asking the Members of this House to endorse. Later on in the same letter there is this passage: — If after all these claims have been investigated, and all the exemptions made mentioned above, there remains a considerable number of young men not engaged in those pursuits who can be spared for military service, they should be compelled to serve. Again the emphasis on the "young men." There has been no attempt whatever to dissect those figures, to ascertain whether we are dealing with young men or middle-aged men, and it is perfectly plain from this quotation that the pledge to place compulsion upon the unmarried men— the young unmarried men— did not intend, and was not intended, to come into operation until a careful analysis of the figures had been made and all the exemptions had been recorded and the final total discovered. But until that is done, if the Prime Minister proceeds with the Bill he is not doing it in accordance with the pledge, but in direct violation of the pledge which he gave so publicly.

I want to say one word about this pledge. It seems to me to have been one of the most foolish pledges ever given by any man in public authority. No doubt the question whether the recruit is married or single is an important consideration, but it is not the only consideration by any manner of means. There are other far more important considerations, one of which is what that man is doing in civil life in this country, and how far that man's services are valuable to us in winning the War in other directions. I wish to call the attention of the House to the fact that, if you discriminate in the rough-and-ready way proposed between married and unmarried men, and order unmarried men to go to the front first, you are putting a severe penalty upon those classes in our social order who marry late in life. Everyone knows it is a notorious fact that, on the whole, the better educated classes marry some years later in life than the less well educated classes, and this pledge will put a direct premium on the less educated classes of our community and penalise the better educated classes, who are the very classes it is most necessary to spare in order to reconstruct the future of England. I have said the Bill which is put before us is not only not a fulfilment of the Prime Minister's pledge, but it is a violation of the pledge, and it is perfectly obvious there is an alternative fulfilment of the pledge, namely, that the married men should be released simpliciter from the attestation they have made. I do not think it would be fair to come to this House and say, "Will you still join the Army in spite of the fact that the single men are not being compelled to come in?" No one can say that they should not be released from their pledge. If that course is taken, you will have 215,431 persons actually enlisted, and 343,000 men attested, which will give you 558,000 men, and in addition you have the full number of married men who may be expected to come forward in spite of the fact that we have declined to introduce compulsory legislation. That is a very large number of men, and quite enough to supply the requirements of the War for some considerable time.

When we are talking about compulsion and bringing all these young unmarried men into the Army, I should like to know what provision has been made for recruiting for the Navy. The Navy is the first bulwark of defence in this country, and at the present moment we are suffering most from the effects of submarines upon our shipping in the Mediterranean, and that is due to the fact that it is not our own Navy that is patrolling those waters. I think a good many of us would be better satisfied if we saw some extension of the work of our own Navy and an extension of the work of some of our Allied Armies. If we have what I have suggested we shall have at the very worst something like 560,000 men for the Army, and I think we are entitled before we pass this Bill to some definite proof that that number is not sufficient. No Minister has got up and suggested any figure to show that 560,000 is not enough for the purpose of fighting this War, or that it is less than the number which the country can safely spare from civil employment. I want to draw attention to a paragraph in Lord Derby's Report dealing with this question. It is a rather striking paragraph to which I do not think sufficient attention, in my opinion, has yet been given. It is as follows: — There is another point in which I would most earnestly ask the Government to give consideration. I have already drawn attention in my previous Report to the detrimental effect that the issue from time to time of lists of 'reserved' occupations has had on recruiting. I do not'presume to state what are or are not industries indispensable to this country, but if there is to be any further reservation of occupations it is quite clear that the figures I have given above must be subject to a reduction, and I cannot help hoping that there should be some finality to the issue of these lists. In other words, the military recruiting authorities are very anxious to cut down the number of persons who are being left for civil employment in this country, and if you are going to have anything like compulsory service you will have to very widely extend those lists. Those reserved services contain absolutely no reservation of brain workers at all, and they are almost entirely lists of skilled artisans. Hitherto the brain-working classes, such as clerks and civil persons, have been kept out of the Army by the natural play of economic forces, and by the fact that they did not wish to desert their employers. But if these classes are going to be brought in compulsorily it will be necessary to have a wide extension of the lists of exemptions, and the list should be so extended as to enable the people to get before the tribunal. With regard to the enlistment of medical students, I think there ought to be some protest made against the reckless way in which medical students have been admitted to the Army, by which the prospects of the health of the people of the country has been endangered.


Is the hon. Gentleman aware that Lord Derby has met the representatives of the medical authorities and has come to an arrangement with them?


Nevertheless the fact remains that the medical schools are being depleted of their medical students in order to serve as fighting men. In the interests of the future I think that ought to be protested against altogether. [An HON. MEMBER: "That is under the voluntary system!"] Yes, that is so; but you have men left who have sense enough not to go. [HON. MEMBERS: "Shame!"] As was said by the Minister of Munitions, we have first to supply the men and that is a proposition with which no one in the House will disagree; and the right hon. Gentleman further stated that the supply of munitions and the supply of finances to carry that out was our second call. I believe that to be true, and I say plainly to this House that unless you will make certain that both those duties are being properly performed you will imperil the whole Alliance and bring down the structure which is engaged at the present moment fighting Germany with a crash to the ground. Very few people seem to understand how widespread is the area of articles which really properly- comes under the heading of munitions. People talk as if munitions consisted of nothing else but shells, cannons and rifles, but let me give a few other things. Rubber is an important item, judging from what is said about us allowing it to go into Germany, and leather is another very important article. This will show how widespread the service of providing munitions really is. It is not confined merely to things you require on the field of battle, but it includes the whole service from the time the ore from which the cannon is made is taken from the earth, bringing it from the mine in Spain or some foreign part, till it is brought into the shape of a gun and placed in the field of battle in Flanders. All that comes under munitions, and it has a much wider area than most hon. Gentlemen contemplate. Many people seem to forget that in this country not one-half the people could possibly live by the produce of our own agriculture and the other half have to live on imported food that can only be obtained and paid for by the continuance of the industries of this country. We obtain our food not by the obvious method of cultivating the earth, but by the equally proper though less obvious method of working up material brought in from abroad and re-exporting it. The whole of that business has to go on. and we ought to have security that that business will go on before we allow an additional soldier to go to the front. If we have not secured the industries of this country, we have not secured the feeding of our people at home or the feeding of our soldiers at the front. Without that, which has to be paid for by our industries, we shall not be able to make munitions or to supply our soldiers at the front. We shall have an unarmed, helpless host who will be driven before the enemy, just as surely as the Russians were last spring. I endorse absolutely the words which the President of the Board of Trade addressed to the House on 21st December last:— One of the necessities of Great Britain is that she must at all costs continue as a going concern." —[OFFICIAL REPORT, 21st December, 1915, col. 335.] I say that comes first, and the number of men we can afford to send to the front is subject to Great Britain being continued as a going concern. If you let Great Britain cease to be a going concern, you meet in this War disaster more surely than if you are beaten in the field and far more irretrievably. The Prime Minister told us on 21st December that we had 3,000,000 men. He said that 1,250,000, or rather over, including, I think, the Colonial contingents, were at the front. Then there is the number for Home defence, 450,000, and say 300,000 of those who are wounded and are off the list. That is only 2,000,000. We have, therefore, 1,000,000 men who are not engaged in fighting. I should like to know where these soldiers are. Before we are asked to vote a very large number of additional soldiers, do let us have some assurance that the soldiers we have got are being fully employed for fighting purposes. I should also like to have some assurance that the War Office have got proper, competent officers for the 1,000,000 men they propose to recruit. I think that is a very doubtful matter.

Apart altogether from this question of expediency, I object to this Bill and to any measure of compulsion on the ground of principle. I say quite plainly that, in my judgment, the State has no right to require any citizen to run the risk of losing his life or the risk of killing another man under circumstances which do not commend themselves to his conscience. When you defend that proposal and when you claim that the State has the right to compel an individual to run the risk of losing his own life, or to run the risk of taking the life of another man, you claim for the State the right to exceed any authority which it has over any citizen. What do we think about Conscription when we see the Germans compelling the Alsatians and the Poles to fight in their ranks, or when we see the Austrians compelling Italian-speaking subjects, whom everybody knows would rather be fighting on the other side, to fight on their side? When we see this compulsion exercised by other people it appears to us an abomination. Then why should we do it ourselves? Why is this War itself upon us? Because Conscription, because compulsory military service, and nothing else, has brought Europe into the terrible pass in which it is to-day. Speaking for myself, nothing would induce me to be a party in this country to extending the very curse against which we are struggling. In my opinion it is not expedient that any Government should be able to rely upon the compelled obedience of its sons to? carry on a war. The limit of the power of the majority in any country to carry on a war is the extent to which it is possible for them to find citizens who will voluntarily undertake the risks and dangers of that war.

I believe the cause of Great Britain in this War is so clear and just that you run not the slightest risk of not getting enough soldiers to carry it to a triumphant victory, and believing, as I do, that it would be wrong for this country, or any country, to compel a man to fight in a quarrel for which he has no inclination—[HON.MEMBERS: "Oh!"] That is my opinion. There may be hon. Gentlemen who are prepared to take the moral responsibility of compelling a man to fight in a quarrel which he thinks to be wrong, but for my part I think that if a man is fighting In a quarrel which he believes to be wrong he has no justification whatever for taking the life of another man. We are told by some hon. Gentlemen that this Bill is only a small thing, and that it only touches the fringe of the question. I do not gather that any large section of hon. Gentlemen who support this Bill are prepared to pledge themselves that if it is passed they will not on some future occasion, ask for an extension of the measure of compulsion. I do not gather that is the intention of anybody. I gather that it is the intention of those who support this Bill to treat it as the thin end of the wedge, and as soon as those who conscientiously believe Conscription to be wrong shall have prejudiced their position by giving, as I am afraid some of them may do, a vote in the Lobby in favour of the Bill on the ground that it is only such a little thing, we shall have those who really believe in Conscription turning round and proposing a measure on a much larger scale, and saying, "You have no right to resist it; you have already voted for the principle of it on the 6th January." For my part, I intend to oppose this Bill to the bitter end. We are fighting a great war for freedom, liberty, and justice in Europe, and I hope we are not going at any stage of that War to break the liberty, freedom, and justice of that Kingdom.


In the absence of my right hon. Friend and colleague in the representation of the University of Dublin (Sir E. Carson) through temporary indisposition I have come forward for the purpose of stating, at his request and on behalf of Irish Unionist representatives in this House, our position with regard to this Bill. I confess, having listened yesterday afternoon to the speech of the Prime Minister in introducing this Bill— a speech, in my opinion, too apologetic, a speech which endeavoured to minimise, unduly minimise, the extent and operations of this Bill, a speech which endeavoured unduly to minimise its effects and its consequences, a speech which seemed intended to gild the pill of Conscription in such a way that there was nothing of the pill left; it was all gild—I was not surprised at the criticism of the hon. and learned Member for Waterford (Mr. J. Redmond) when he asked the House whether it was worth while running the risk of political disruption and possibly social revolution for the sake of such a small measure as this. But I admit frankly, listening afterwards in the course of the Debate to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for the Colonies (Mr. Bonar Law) and this afternoon to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Postmaster-General (Mr. Herbert Samuel), I saw at once that we had made a mistake and that there was much more behind this Bill than one would have gathered listening yesterday. Speaking quite frankly and plainly, it involves not merely the obligation of these unattested single men, but it involves, as a matter of honour, the fulfilment of the pledge that was given to the married men, and as a necessary consequence it involves the fact whether these married men will be available when called upon. From that point of view it became a much more serious matter. I can only say that as regards the general principle and the object of this Bill, speaking on behalf of my right hon. Friend, as well as for myself and my colleagues from Irealnd, we are determined to give it in the Division Lobby our whole-hearted support. At the same time I wish, in the most emphatic and distinct way, to make my protest on behalf of my Constituency against the exclusion, the unexplained and unaccountable exclusion of Ireland from this Bill. I understand that the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Admiralty (Mr. Balfour) is to wind up this Debate on behalf of the Government. No one knows more about my country than he does. There is no man in this country to whom we in that country are more indebted than to the First Lord of the Admiralty, and I hope he will not find fault with me if I ask him to be good enough to explain, when he comes to speak, some matters that are at present a great mystery to the Unionist representatives in this House from Ireland.

In the first place, I have reason to believe—the right hon. Gentleman will correct me if I am wrong—that this Bill, as originally drafted, applied to the whole of the United Kingdom. If that is so, I want to know who altered it; on whose representations was it altered? It certainly was not altered on any representations from Irish Unionists. So far as I know they were never consulted about the alteration, and I only wish to say, speaking on their behalf, that we resent the fact that we have been excluded from the operation of the Bill. I cannot for the life of me understand how a Coalition Government, which contains within its ranks several Members of the Unionist party, strong and convinced advocates of the Union—I cannot understand why, if they thought there was any risk or danger in the application of this Bill to Ireland, they did not leave it to others to do that job for them; why they did not leave this Bill in its original shape, applicable to the United Kingdom. I will show in a moment the extent to which they have sacrificed by so doing the very foundations and principle upon which the Bill rests. They might have introduced their Bill as applicable to the whole United Kingdom and left it to my hon. Friends below the Gangway, if they objected to that state of affairs, to move for the exclusion of Ireland, and thus placed the responsibility upon them. They had another course open to them which they did not take. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will have time enough to explain why it was not taken, and that was, to make the Bill applicable to Ireland, and reserve the right to any county or county council, by a majority of its votes, to vote itself out of the operation of the Bill. That would have enabled that portion of Ireland which resents its exclusion to remain within the operation of the Bill and to fall into line with the rest of their fellow-countrymen.

I have always listened with great respect in recent years to the speeches of the hon. Member for the City of Cork (Mr. W. O'Brien). I am bound to say this to him—I have said it before in this House and outside—that he has with great courage and at great risk taken upon himself for some years the rôle of a man who seeks to reconcile all classes of Irishmen and bring them together under conditions that would abolish, or more or less minimise, the matters that have divided us and still divide us. But I confess that his attitude upon this Bill seems to me to be wholly illogical, and in that respect entirely different from that of the hon. and learned Member for Waterford (Mr. John Redmond). It was a very cheap diatribe against hon. Members below the Gangway from England to tell them, as the hon. Member for the City of Cork told them, that they are a poor lot if they are not prepared to risk their lives in defence of their country and everything their country holds dear, and that he could not understand the feeling of any Englishman who objected to the moderate compulsion of this Bill. Are Irishmen not engaged in this War in fighting for their country, for their lives, and for the lives of their fellow countrymen? I almost think it was an impertinence on the part of the hon. Member thus to lecture hon. Members below the Gangway opposite on their want of patriotism when he was claiming the right for all his fellow countrymen to stand out of this Conscription.

The attitude of the hon. and learned Member for the City of Waterford was much more logical. His position was, "My party and myself, we object on principle to Conscription. We will not have it for ourselves, and, therefore, we will not be a party to imposing it by our votes on any section of the English people." That is thoroughly logical and thoroughly consistent, and in regard to that attitude, which I am about to discuss, I wish to say I think any man in this House would be a very poor patriot indeed if at this crisis he were to use this opportunity for any purpose of bitterness or recrimination. Since the day when War was declared by this country I have never, either in this House or on platforms, uttered one word that had any bearing on or connection with our old domestic controversies in Ireland. On the contrary, I am one of those who hoped and believed that under the new conditions, Irishmen of all classes and creeds, fighting side by side in the trenches, in many cases going down together into the Valley of the Shadow of Death, would when this War was over find that a new atmosphere of compromise and conciliation had set in, and that, in that atmosphere, we might find, and I did hope we should find, even a solution of the most acute of our domestic differences— a solution that would have been consistent with our loyalty and patriotism on the one hand, and with our national aspirations on the other. That was a consummation devoutedly to be wished, and it was one for which I would have striven, and even yet will strive, with all my energy and force. But I cannot help feeling that the attitude of hon. Members below the Gangway to-day as regards this Bill will cruelly interfere with the realisation of those hopes If ever in the history of Ireland it was true, it is true to-day that the Empire's difficulty is Ireland's, opportunity. If ever it was true it is true to-day that the day of the nation's danger is the day of Ireland's duty. If hon. Members below the Gangway could have reconciled it with their political ambitions and ideals to have come out to-day to-have thrown in their lot with their fellow-subjects in England and in Scotland and to have come into line under this Bill in order to meet the hour of England's difficulty and of the nation's danger, then I say they would have done more for the realisation of their hopes and their ideals than they have accomplished during the last twenty years of political agitation.

I desire to be perfectly fair to my hon. Friends below the Gangway. When we are discussing this question as to the measure of Ireland's contribution in this time of the nation's difficulty, there are two facts which should for ever stand to the credit of my fellow countrymen and of my country. The first is the quality of the material they have sent to your Army. For valour, endurance, and for heroism there has been nothing like the courage and heroism displayed by my fellow-countrymen serving with your Armies in-France and elsewhere. In the second place, there has been, wholly regardless of class or creed in Ireland in the case of what I might call, for want of a better name, the middle class or the professional class, a remarkable exhibition of universal sacrifice. I know this class of whom I am speaking well throughout the whole length and breadth of Ireland, and I can hardly recall to-day a single instance in which any youth coming from that class of life in Ireland, capable of accepting a commission or serving as a non-commissioned officer in the ranks, has failed to respond to the call of duty. But, on the other hand, I would not be honest—and in this matter one is bound to speak plainly and frankly— if I were to live up or attempt to live up to that conspiracy of make-believe in regard to recruiting in Ireland which prevails to-day. The hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Water-ford made a rather pathetic appeal last night to Members from Ireland sitting behind me, when he asked them not to put any fresh difficulties in his way. No one. I think, will accuse me of any undue desire to flatter the hon. and learned Member for Waterford, but I will say this for him, that, so far as personal efforts are concerned, no man could have done more to keep and fulfil to the letter the pledge of loyalty on behalf of his people and of the Irishmen for whom he was responsible than the hon. and learned Member for Waterford. He has done so at considerable personal risk and at considerable political risk. He has taken his courage in his hands, and so far as he himself personally is concerned, I cannot believe or imagine that it will ever be open to anyone, no matter how strong a partisan he may be, to taunt the hon. and learned Member for Waterford with having failed in any pledge he has given.

While I say that of him, let me just say this, without going into anything of a highly controversial character—because, as I have said, it would be an abuse of the occasion to do so—let me just say this, in order that hon. Members in this House may realise the difficulties in the way of the hon. and learned Member for Waterford, that there are many parts of Ireland to-day in which you could not hold a recruiting meeting. There have been, to my own knowledge, in the last few months, many of those recruiting meetings broken up, hostile resolutions carried, and even that great soldier Lieutenant O'Leary, who earned the Victoria Cross as the result of conspicuous gallantry, has to my own knowledge been received with jeers and hoots. All that we are for patriotic reasons concealing. [Laughter.] I hope hon. Members opposite who are so amused will not tempt me, because I could tell them a little more. I pass away from that. I only mention it for the purpose of showing what the hon. and learned Member for Waterford meant when he asked us not to add to the difficulties of his position.

May I ask again, in connection with this? question of Ireland, why has Ireland been left out? I confess I listened with regret to the suggestion of the Prime Minister that Ireland should be left out because his scheme was merely a supplement to or consequence of Lord Derby's recruiting scheme. That was an excuse, but no reason; and it was not paying a very great compliment to our intelligence to ask us to accept that as the reason. We were told by the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland that all this elaborate registration and all that sort of thing is not wanted in Ireland, because they were already acquainted with the facts in Ireland, and they required no preliminary investigations of any sort or kind. But does anyone imagine that Lord Derby's scheme, with the seeds of compulsion in it, would ever have been a success in Ireland when you find a milder scheme of Lord Wimborne, to my own knowledge, although in operation for some months, has been practically a dead failure? [HoN. MEMBERS: "Oh!"] I have no hesitation in saying that not only has it been a dead failure, but a very costly failure, and I am authorised by my colleague in the representation of the University of Dublin to ask the right hon. Gentleman who will reply on behalf of the Government whether he will give an undertaking that a White Paper on the lines of Lord Derby's Report should be published showing the results of Lord Wimborne's enterprise. It is very inconvenient to be differing across the House with hon. Members from Ireland on matters of figures of which we have no official record, and I think we are entitled to have them, especially having regard to the position of humiliation in which Irish Unionists have been placed by the exclusion of Ireland from this Bill. We are entitled to have from the Government a statement in the form of a White Paper of the actual results of this enterprise on the part of Lord Wimborne. I am only stating what I am informed, I have not got the figures, but I am told that money has been spent like water and without any adequate or corresponding results. That may be entirely wrong, but the way to test it is to let us have the figures, and I respectfully ask my right hon. Friend to say that he has the authority of the Prime Minister to say we shall get those figures.

10.00 P.M.

But my chief objection to the voluntary exclusion of Ireland from this Bill lies in the fact that we never got an inkling of the reason until the Secretary of State for the Colonies came to speak. The suggestion that it was due to Lord Derby's scheme was, of course, a futile and a childish excuse. It did not deceive anyone. It remains for the Secretary of State for the Colonies to tell us that it was done under the belief that in that way they would do less harm and might possibly get more recruits than they would by the application of this Bill to Ireland. But surely right hon. Gentlemen opposite will see the extent to which they have cut the very ground from under their own feet with regard to the principle of their own Bill by their admission. If this principle of compulsion is not to be applied to any portion of the United Kingdom that objects to it, what a tremendous weapon you are placing in the Constituencies represented by the objectors below the Gangway. On what conceivable ground can you justify compulsion of men on the Clyde or in the docks of Liverpool if they object, when you have failed to apply it to Ireland merely because a portion of that community, it is believed, would resent it? I state my own honest belief, as the result of a lifetime spent amongst my fellow countrymen in Ireland, that the fears of opposition and resentment at this Compulsion Bill being applied to Ireland are grossly exaggerated. I believe there has arisen, and does exist to-day, a strong Imperial sentiment amongst a great portion of the Irish community. It undoubtedly exists amongst those who hitherto have claimed the right to describe themselves as Irish Unionists. I know personally many Nationalists, and I can honestly and frankly tell this House that they have openly and fearlessly declared to me? within the last fortnight that they did not believe there would be any real or serious opposition, greater than there is at present, to recruiting in Ireland were this Bill made applicable to the whole of the United Kingdom. I think, therefore, the right hon. Gentlemen opposite made a mistake in sacrificing the logical basis and the fundamental principle of their Bill. Probably this will be challenged from below the Gangway, but if there was any portion of the United Kingdom that owed a debt in this matter to the Empire it was the Irish people. They have been for the last twenty years the recipients of unexampled liberality and generosity in treatment from this Imperial Parliament. The Irish farmers have been put in a position that makes farmers in England and Scotland pale with envy in comparison. They are to-day, without any extra expense imposed upon them, making money in very large quantities as the result of this War. I know that in the matter of household necessities at home, for what reason I know not, we are paying in respect of the ordinary commodities of life nothing less in any one case than 30 per cent., and in many cases 80 per cent., over the prices prevailing during the War. All that means money to the Irish farmer. They have benefited to an unexampled extent, not merely by the War but by a decade of unexampled Liberal legislation. In the first place one would have thought the Empire might have looked for a sacrifice of this kind to the Irish farmer. The wisdom of this Government has decreed otherwise. They have had their reasons. They have not stated them yet. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will give us an insight into what they were, more especially if I am right in the information that has been conveyed to me that this Bill, as originally drafted, included Ireland. Notwithstanding the exclusion of Ireland, and notwithstanding the feeling of deep resentment, which, I believe, is shared not only by those for whom I have a right to speak in Ireland, but I honestly believe by many for whom hon. Members below the Gangway have a right to speak, the feeling of resentment and anger and indignation that in this hour of the nation's difficulty they are not thought worthy or fit to be placed upon an equality with their fellow-countrymen in England and Scotland— notwithstanding that, in view of the declaration of the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State for the Colonies, backed up by their military experts, that this Bill, exiguous and small though it seems to us, is nevertheless essential to the purpose of the nation's defence, those for whom I am entitled to speak and my colleagues behind me will give it on the First and Second Reading our whole-hearted support, reserving for ourselves the right to determine whether in Committee we shall ask this House to remedy the injustice and the slur which we think has been unnecessarily and undeservedly placed upon our country.


It fell to my lot some few weeks ago to speak in this House after the Prime Minister had made that speech in which the pledge was given which has been the subject of so many references during the Debate. I then said that it would be a great feather in the cap of the country if they went through this War without resorting to compulsion in any shape or form, but that if it was found necessary to apply some little pressure to bear upon the young unmarried men, in order to induce them to do their duty, I should vote in favour of it. I am going to redeem my pledge to-night by voting for the introduction of this Bill. I want to make it perfectly clear that I do not speak for the majority of my party. Moreover, I speak under the shadow of a vote that has been given to-day, and which will be in the minds of many Members of this House. I know that there is a strong section of opinion in my own Constituency against this Bill, or anything in the nature of this Bill. But those who are in public life have sometimes to take risks. I have taken risks before in my career, and I have been none the worse for having taken those risks. I am going to take a risk to-night.

I have heard many speeches to-day against the Bill, and I have noted that most of these speeches have been made against the Bill as a matter of abstract principle. We heard, only half an hour ago, that if this Bill were adopted the Constitution would be shattered. I believe those are the exact words used by the hon. Member for Hexham (Mr. Holt). We have heard other Members speak of the Bill as an innovation. Special appeals were made from the benches behind me to the Labour Members, and it was represented to us that this Bill was going to do something in the nature of supplying a cheap Army. In fact, figures were given showing that the men were going to get about £1 a year, or something of that sort. We were also told that there was a possibility, even a probability, that the New Army would be used in the workshops against men struggling to better their conditions. Various general statements were made of that sort, all based upon the assumption that we are now discussing Conscription or compulsion as an abstract principle, and that if adopted it will remain with us as a permanent feature in our Constitution, to be used as suggested. I have no hesitation in saying that all that talk is a mere travesty of the present position. What is the position? We have 650,000 young men, unmarried, without responsibilities, so far as we know, eligible to fight in the Army, and who have refused to obey the nation's call. [HON. MEMBERS dissented.] There may be some trouble about the figures. Let us say it is only 500,000, or let us say it is only one-third, that is, 200,000. Added to that 200,000 are 500,000 married men, so that even if you divide the figures of the unattested single men by three, and bring it down to 200,000, it means, when you have added the attested married men, not 200,000 but 700,000 who may be made available. These men are wanted.

It may interest the House to know that I have come back from France to-day. I have been there for nearly a month. I have travelled from one end of the line to the other, and I have vivid impressions in my mind that will last me to my dying day. I have been under shell fire, and undertaken a little risk. I have been slipping about in the mud swamps there, visiting the men in their so-called "rest camps." I have a picture in my mind now of what I saw when I visited at Poperinghe the so-called "rest camp" of the Rifle Brigade, I think it was. At all events, it was in charge of Captain Gladstone, who, I understand, is a member of the same family as those who bore that honoured name in this House. The camp was in darkness. I fell down as I was slipping about in the mud getting to Captain Gladstone's tent. I heard the men singing under their camp canvas in the dark, and I learned that those men had come out of the trenches that morning after having been there four days and four nights on end. I learned that of the 1,250 men belonging to that particular unit there were fifty-five casualties during those four days and four nights in the trenches preceding my visit. I was told that that was nothing exceptional, that there was as a matter of fact something like fifty casualties in that particular unit every time they went to their four days' and four nights' spell in the trenches. They should not be four days and four nights in the trenches, and they would not be four days and four nights in the trenches if all the young men in the country had done their duty. I went along the road to Ypres. Some of my colleagues went into Ypres, but I was not looking for shells, so I did not go. As I was passing along the road to Ypres I saw men coming out of the trenches walking at about the pace of a funeral. They could not walk faster, because they were caked in mud from head to foot. I could not but admire those men, caked in mud as they were, and the figure of their lieutenant will remain in my mind for a long time, walking slowly but yet proudly at the head of those gallant men. I saw them about an hour afterwards in the market square, and I saw some more men coming out to take the place of those who had left the trenches. The two lots of men cheered one another as they passed, one lot coming out of the trenches and the other going into the trenches.

Going to the front does not add anything to one's knowledge of the fundamental issues of this War, but going to the front does add to one's appreciation of the terrible sacrifices made by our men, and the cheerful sacrifices they make. It does add to one's realisation of what these men have suffered and are suffering. They have laid down their lives, and it is as little as we can do to see that those who are living here in comparative comfort and security as a result of their risks and their sacrifices are going to do their part. I have said that there are 650,000 single men, or thereabouts, unattested, for reasons best known to themselves. What does this Bill propose? It simply proposes that these 650,000 men should be regarded as having attested, and that every one of them should have an opportunity of stating his case and sustaining his claim, and if it be found that he has got any proper responsibilities, if he is medically unfit, if he has got conscientious objections, or if there are any other reasons that he can adduce which can be sustained, then he is not called upon to serve. The marvel to my mind is that so much bother should have been made. I regard it as a great privilege to have had this opportunity of addressing these few words to the House. I do not wish to take up further time, as the First Lord of the Admiralty desires to speak. There are a few objections that I was going to mention, but they are neither here nor there. I have stated my reasons in brief why I am going to vote for the introduction of this Bill. I think those reasons are sufficient. They are sufficient for me, at all events. I hope the Bill will go through; at the same time, I hope that those predictions as to the thin end of the wedge will not be fulfilled, and we shall find this Bill, which does give effect to the pledge of the Prime Minister, will be regarded as sufficient— at all events for the present; I hope for altogether. But we have to win this War, and as compared with that all these academic considerations will not, to my mind, hold water. We have to support the men who are now at the front, as compared with whose sufferings and privations and sacrifices anything that we are called upon to do does not count at all. For these reasons, I support the First Reading.


I suppose I have the melancholy privilege of claiming a longer experience of Parliamentary Debate than any, except my right hon. Friend opposite (Mr. Chaplin), of the hon. Gentlemen now listening, and I most truly say, and I say it with even greater fervour after hearing the speech of my right hon. Friend who has just sat down, that I do not believe any Debates in this House in all its immemorial history have shown on a question that is essentially, for historical reasons, of a most controversial character, a more fundamental unity of feeling. I have listened to speeches of Gentlemen who oppose the Bill. I have listened to speeches of Gentlemen from Ireland, who, I understand, mean to vote against the Bill, as well as the speeches of those who are in favour of the Bill. All of them, without a single exception, as far as my observation has gone, have breathed a genuine spirit of patriotism, and have shown the intense and unalterable determination of all to do their best, as they see it, to further the interests of the country and of the Empire and of the Allies in this great War. I fear the Division to-night may do harm in this country, and out of this country; but if the Debate could have been listened to throughout yesterday and to-day, I am convinced that the impartial critic would say that never was a more united front shown by any country in circumstances of great stress and great difficulty— never was a more united front shown than the great policy which we are now pursuing should be pursued to an absolutely successful issue. That is a great thing to say. I am not at all sure that even those who have taken part in the Debate hitherto, or who have listened to it, fully appreciate how-great a thing it is or what an earnest of future victory it carries with it.

The greater part of the speech of my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for the University of Dublin, a speech containing passages, as I think, of the most admirable eloquence, has dealt with some of the omissions from the Bill, notably the omission of Ireland. I do not think a debate on the introduction of the Bill is the occasion on which to deal with that subject, and I hope that my right hon. and learned Friend will not expect me to deal with it in any detail. But may I just make one observation: This Bill is after all not a measure intended to place the military institutions of this country on a permanent basis. This is not a Bill which is intended to settle how we are in future to recruit the British Army in view of the necessities of the British Empire. This Bill is for the occasion; it is an occasional Bill; it is a Bill for this War, and for nothing but this War. It is the essence of such a Bill that it should raise as few difficult questions as it can raise, and that it should be so framed as not to deal with great controversies on internal politics, that it should indulge in as few elaborate provisions as need be, but that it should be as rapid as possible in its passage through this House, and as easy as possible in its operation in the country after it passes through this House. For historical and social reasons, it is perfectly well-known to every Member of this House that it is impossible to regard Ireland as similar to England or Scotland in this matter. There are great difficulties, but I gladly recognise that in a very large part of Ireland, at all events, quite irrespective of politics, there has been a spirit of patriotic loyalty shown which does credit to all concerned. But I deny altogether that there is an insult intended, or indeed offered, either to the loyalists, either to the non-Home Rulers, the anti-Home Rulers. I do not apologise for calling anybody in Ireland a loyalist. What I was rather anxious about was lest I had done what I did not mean to do, to suggest that anybody in Ireland was a disloyalist. Without going into questions of terminology, it must be evident to everybody that the attempt to include Ireland would, in the first place, have been to go entirely outside the pledge the Prime Minister made on behalf of the Government, and have brought in a great body of questions not raised by that pledge; and beyond that, a Bill, which in this country will depend for its success entirely upon the way the various tribunals which deal with exemptions will carry out their duties would be excessively difficult to apply in Ireland, and, if applied, might show itself quite unsuccessful in the actual working. Those are practical considerations which cannot be ignored. There is nothing in this world which would give me greater pleasure than that the Irish Members should through the mouths of their leaders say that they do not wish to be excluded from this Bill, that they desire not merely to contribute, as they have been contributing, large numbers of recruits to the British Army, but that they wish to be placed on precise equality with their English and Scottish fellow countrymen. But for the Government to have raised all the thorny questions which must have been raised by the inclusion of Ireland would have been to show very poor statesmanship in face of what is not legislation for all time, but for the duration of the War.

With those very few observations I leave the criticism of my right hon. Friend with regard to what is not in the Bill and I pass to the Bill itself. I may, perhaps, be allowed to sweep or one side all the de- bates which depend upon, what is called principle. My right hon. and learned Friend the late Home Secretary started his speech by an appeal to principle, and an appeal to principle has been made by several speakers on various occasions throughout the two days' Debate in which we have been engaged. I find it very difficult to believe that anything which can really and truly be called "principle" is involved in this matter. I agree in that respect with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Tyneside (Mr. J. M. Robertson), who spoke earlier this afternoon. Does anybody say, does my right hon. Friend the late Home Secretary say, for a moment that if this country were liable to invasion by a great military Power, his principles would prevent him from having universal military service? I have always been against universal military service. Why? Not on principle, but because I happen to-live in an island. Supposing that a geological disturbance made these islands, what they were not very long ago according to the measure of geological time, part of the Continent of Europe, where would my right hon. and learned Friend's principles have been? With millions of Germany, France and other great military Powers in land connection with London, would his principles prevent him saying that the independence and freedom of this country depended upon our having a military organisation equal to resisting land invasion— of course they would not. I know my right hon. and learned Friend better. He would say the first duty of the State is to protect the State, and the first duty of a citizen is to assist the State. In that great duty, in that great function, the principles to which he appealed at the beginning of his speech yesterday would be brushed aside as mere doctrinaire speculations of the political theorists. It really is quite wrong to introduce the word "principle" in this Debate. It is a misuse of the word. Wherever we wish to emphasise that we hold convictions strongly, or even have a strong case to defend, we say that it is a matter of principle, just as you might say it is a matter of principle to take vinegar with oysters. If you use the word "principle" in the way in which in a serious Debate like this it ought to be used, I say that no man who thinks it out for himself can possibly say that he objects to compulsion on a universal principle. I therefore treat this question as a question of high expediency.

Let me repeat that I have never been one of those who looked with favour upon compulsion in any form—Conscription in any form. I have never thought, so far as my knowledge goes—differing in this respect from many of those with whom I agree on almost every other political subject—that the necessity of that position had been demonstrated, and until it could be demonstrated I have always held that it should not be undertaken. But we are not here and now discussing these abstract questions of compulsion or Conscription. Why do I appeal to the House to pass this Bill? I appeal to it, in the first place, because the Prime Minister, speaking for the Government, gave a pledge which it would be absolutely dishonourable for the Government to ignore. It is no doubt in the power of the House to prevent our carrying it out, and a Government which cannot carry out their pledges—but I will not develop that. The pledge is there. It is not a pledge of the ordinary type, in which there is a promise of something which is to be done, and no value has passed. In this case value has passed. We have made our promise in order to conciliate, to give a sense of justice and fairplay to the married men of this country. The married men of this country have responded nobly. Because they have responded, are we now to turn round on them and say, "You have done your best; we now find it rather difficult to carry out our part of the bargain, and we propose to withdraw from it"? That would be disgraceful to the Government; on the part of the House I think it would be discreditable. I am confident they will support the Government in doing what is, after all, a simple and direct affair of honour.

That is the first reason why I ask the House to pass the Bill. The second reason is far more important. The credit of the Government and the credit of the House of Commons—these are great things. But there is something even greater, and that is the safety and success of the country. Let me say with the utmost emphasis that on this point those who have looked into the matter entertain no doubts whatever. We on this bench who have looked into the matter are of opinion that this Bill is a necessity. I have learnt from the authorised sources of public opinion that there are divisions in the Cabinet. I have learnt from the daily Press a great deal about my own opinions and about the opinions of my colleagues. But this I can inform everybody for what it is worth: there is not one member of the Government who does not hold that this Bill is a Bill essential for the proper carrying on of the War. If the House refuses this Bill to the Government, they are refusing to the Government what the Government are clearly of opinion is a military necessity. I leave that aspect of the question, and ask why, with a Bill in favour of which these overwhelming arguments can be urged, certain sections of the House show a reluctance to accept it? If they were reluctant on the ground that they objected to the War, if they were reluctant on the ground that they thought the sacrifices of this country had reached their limit, I could understand their point of view, profoundly as I should differ from it. But that is not the point of view of any Member I have heard speak in the House, and I do not believe that it is the point of view of any section of opinion in this House. On what ground, then, is this Bill objected to? Is it objected to because anybody thinks that the 650,000 or the 350,000 bachelors are persons deserving of special consideration? Is there anybody in this House who does not think that they ought to join the Army? Do any of my hon. Friends whom I have heard criticise this Bill hold for a moment that those people are carrying out their proper duties? Nobody has said that. The Bill contains provisions by which, as far as human foresight can do it, and human arrangements can provide for it, every man with a legitimate excuse will be excused. Why should we look after people who have not a legitimate excuse? What special consideration do they deserve at the hands of this House?

Remember the men who are going, the men who have gone, have in innumerable cases gone at the call of duty, leaving places well-paid, leaving the life to which they were accustomed, and to which they had settled down with a wife and family, knowing that their places would be taken by some shirker who did not choose to go. The man who thus went deserves every good thing we can say of him. Such men are patriots in the highest sense of the word. They are ready, not only to sacrifice their lives in war, but to sacrifice their prospects in peace. No higher praise can be given to them. Why should we encourage those who are going to step into their shoes? Why should we move a finger to protect these men who ought to have joined before the married men, and who are now hanging behind, without reason, without excuse, and without justification? Why should we think of them? Have they got sympathisers in any quarter of the House? do not think they have. I have heard the strongest speeches made against this Bill, but I have not heard a whisper which suggests that the class to which I have referred is a class specially deserving of the consideration of this House.

But there are, I quite admit, better reasons why in some quarters of the House this Bill is objected to? There are those who say that this is the thin end of the wedge of a permanent system of Conscription. As they object, like myself, of course, to a permanent system of Conscription, they say, "Do not attempt the thin end of the wedge; do not admit this small drop? of poison which will permeate the whole body politic." I believe they are labouring under a profound mistake. I do not believe this Bill is the thin end, or by any conceivable turn of the wheel of fortune can be made the thin end of the wedge of a universal system of Conscription. Put yourself for a moment in the position of some Minister who in the future has got to stand at this box, and propose a system of universal Conscription. Do you think he would appeal to this measure as a precedent and a help? Why, Sir, it is the strongest argument against it. Do you think he would get up and say, "A generation ago the British Empire was faced with the greatest struggle, and had to deal with the most profound problems that ever met it in the course of 800 years, and on that occasion they raised by the voluntary system over 6,000,000 men, and they did bring in, no doubt, a system of compulsion with regard to the small residue which refused to do its duty"? Well, what kind of argument is that for a general system of Conscription? If it proves anything, the history of these seventeen or eighteen months, even if you have this Bill, as I hope you will, is the greatest tribute to the voluntary system. Not one of our enemies thought we were capable of it; not one of our friends thought we were capable of it; we ourselves never thought we were capable of it. Is there any man who now listens to me who would have believed if he had been told in July, 1914, that, when some? seventeen or eighteen months had passed, over 6,000,000 men would have been raised by voluntary enlistment for a cause, which is indeed nearest to our dearest and most permanent interests, but which does not involve invasion, or even the serious danger of invasion of our hearths and homes? Nobody would have believed that, and it is ludicrous to say that this Bill, brought in to deal with the pledge of the Prime Minister, and a class which, I am thankful to say, is extremely small, is a precedent or a help to anybody who desires at some future time to bring in general Conscription. I will tell you what this imaginary Minister will appeal to in the future. He will not appeal to this Bill or this Parliament, but he will appeal to the traditional law of the country under which every man is liable to serve for Home defence, and he will say, "The development of the military art has now made it necessary for those who desire Home defence to serve abroad, and therefore I simply extend the principle of universal service for Home defence. I simply extend it to that which is only a branch of Home defence, namely, service abroad." That is the way he will defend it. He will never defend it, if he knows his business, by appealing to a measure like this. I believe that the danger is all the other way. If anybody asks me what I think the danger of the future military organisation of this country is, I should say that we should rely after this War too much upon that notion that we can call armies out of the ground by a wave of the wand. I am afraid that the fact that we have, under the stress of these abnormal circumstances done what no nation has ever done yet will delude us into a false security, and we shall be apt to believe that when the moment of danger comes a similar miracle can always be performed. That is the danger I am afraid of, and not the illusionary danger that we shall find ourselves involved in a system of Conscription.

There is one other argument which I must notice which is not quite so definite, though it rather resembles the one with which I have just attempted to deal. There are those who say that if this House once indulges in the luxury of compulsion the whole spirit of militarism will grow up among our people, and we shall become a nation with the same ideals as Prussia or as Prussianised Germany that we shall be a militarist nation. I think that that is a profound delusion. The spirit of their people has produced its institutions, and it is not its institutions which have produced the spirit of their people. Prussia was a. militarist nation in the bad sense of the word long before universal service was invented. Prussian historians refer with pride to Frederick the Great and his predecessors as their very ideal of what a sovereign should be, and Prussia under Frederick the Great is their very ideal of what the German nation should be. The introduction of universal military service has given the military spirit its weapon, but it has not created it. That spirit was there before universal service was started. I fear it may in Prussia survive its destruction, and if it is, indeed, doomed to destruction, as I trust it may be, militarism is an affair of the heart, of the disposition of a nation, and nothing will make me believe, that any revolution of fate or fortune will turn this country, whose traditions have been continuous and unchanged. We exaggerate the changes which have occurred. We talk of the glorious Revolution, of the great Reform Bill of 1832, and the rest of it, but we never change. Do not tell me that the national disposition which has lasted in this way through continuous centuries is going to be modified, root and branch, because a Bill is brought in for England and Scotland, excluding Ireland, to deal with a promise made by the Prime Minister that married men are not to be asked to serve at the front until unmarried men who have no reason for not serving are compelled to do so.

There is only one other point on which I. should like to say a word before sitting down, and it relates to the divisions of opinion outside this House which Gentlemen who object to this Bill fear may be produced by its introduction and by the attempt to carry it into effect should it become law. I am the last person to underrate the infinite importance of national unity, but frankly, after listening to the Debate of yesterday and to-day, I do not believe that there is going to be any profound difference of opinion among our countrymen as regards this Bill. This House has now shown its difference of opinion. It has also shown that there is no difference and underlying sentiment as regards the War.

I would venture, if I may respectfully do so, to say to my hon. Friends who intend to vote against this Bill, or who are still hesitating as to whether they should vote against it or not; are they not by their action and by their speeches doing everything they can, not intention- ally, but still doing everything they can to produce the very danger which they fear? Speeches like the speech which was delivered by my right hon. Friend who has just sat down (Mr. Barnes) and like the speech of the hon. Member for Stoke (Colonel J. Ward), one of the most moving and impressive speeches I have ever heard in this House, make for national unity, but those hon. Friends of mine who get up and tell us, "You will irritate this class or that class; you will run against this tradition or that tradition, and you will produce a state of disunion which will more than counterbalance any advantage given by this Bill," surely they by their speeches are doing all they can, with the best intentions, to bring their own unhappy prophecies to consummation. I think they ought to hesitate how they vote on this occasion. They all profess, and they all profess with absolute sincerity, to desire to see everything done which can make this country the most effective fighting machine, in order to bring this great War to a successful termination. Can they do a worse service to the cause to which they are devoted than by going into the Lobby against a Bill which is not a Bill for universal service, which is not Conscription, which is not open, as I have tried to show, to many of the criticisms which have been levelled against it? Can they do a worse service than by going into the Lobby to give, not merely to our own people who have not in many cases, perhaps the time to study this question in all its aspects, but to give foreign nations, to give our enemies, and to give neutrals, the impression that we are a divided community? We are not a divided community. Do not let us act as if we were. If the result of their vote to night is not merely to give this false impression to those who are only too glad to get a false impression about this country, and if it also has the effect of giving those who are fighting for us in the trenches, those who are at the front, those of whom the hon. Member for Stoke spoke with personal knowledge and personal experience— if it gives them the idea that they are not supported at home, will they not do more harm by that procedure than anything they could do by those professions, those expressions of dislike of Conscription— professions which I entirely share?

Let them remember they are living in a world of fact and reality— that we are face to face with great perils, and that great sacrifices are demanded of us. Let them not go forward and in obedience to what I cannot help regarding as merely speculative difficulties deny to the Government what the Government think is absolutely necessary for the conduct of the War, and without which the Government cannot possibly carry on that War with any hope of success. These are considerations which I most earnestly press upon their minds. This is not a debating society dealing with abstract resolutions. This is not even a great legislative assembly legislating for all time. All you are asked to do is to help the Government to give adequate support to the Forces of the Crown during a period which cannot, measured by the life of nations, be long—

the period of this War, which may be but a few months and may be more, but which cannot be long as compared even with the life of Parliament. Surely for the moment you can abandon these abstractions. Deal with the situation as you find it, acting on the advice of those who, whatever their shortcomings, whatever their failings may have been, at all events have greater knowledge, from their very position, of the facts of the case and of the necessities that have to be met than any private, unofficial Member of this House can possibly have.

Question put, "That leave be given to bring in a Bill to make provision with respect to Military Service in connection with the present War."

The House divided: Ayes, 403; Noes, 105.

Division No. 24.] AYES. [11.15 p.m.
Acland, Rt. Hon. Francis Dyke Boyton, James Davies, Timothy (Lincs., Louth)
Addison, Dr. Christopher Brassey, H. Leonard Campbell Davies, Sir W. Howell (Bristol, S.)
Adkins, Sir W. Ryland D. Bridgeman, William Clive Davies, M. Vaughan-(Cardiganshire)
Agg-Gardner, James Tynte Brocklehurst, William B. Dawes, James Arthur
Agnew, Sir George William Broughton, Urban Hanlon Denison-Pender, J. C.
Ainsworth, John Stirling Brunner, John F. L. Denniss, E. R. B.
Aitken, Sir William Max Bryce, J. Annan Dewar, Sir J. A.
Allen, Arthur A. (Dumbartonshire) Bull, Sir William James Dickinson, Rt. Hon. Willoughby H.
Allen, Rt. Hon. Charles P. (Stroud) Burdett-Coutts, W. Dixon, C. H.
Amery, L. C. M. S. Burgoyne, A. H. Du Cros, Arthur Philip
Anstruther-Gray, Major William Butcher, John George Duke, Rt. Hon. Henry Edward
Ashley, Wilfrid W. Campbell, Captain Duncan F. (Ayr, N.) Duncan, C. (Barrow-in-Furness)
Asquith, Rt. Hon. Herbert Henry Campbell, Rt. Hon. J. (Dublin Univ.) Duncan, Sir J. Hastings (Yorks, Otley)
Astor, Waldorf Carew, C. Duncannon, Viscount
Baird, John Lawrence Carlile, Sir Edward Hildred Du Pre, W. Baring
Baker, Rt. Hon. Harold T. (Accrington) Carr-Gomm, H. W. Edwards, Sir Francis (Radnor)
Baker, Sir Randelf L. (Dorset, N.) Carson, Rt. Hon. Sir Edward H. Essex, Sir Richard Walter
Baldwin, Stanley Cassel, Felix Faber, George Denison (Clapham)
Balfour, Rt. Hon. A. J. (City, London) Cator, John Faber, Captain W. V. (Hants, W.)
Balfour, Sir Robert (Lanark) Cautley, H. S. Falconer, James
Banbury, Rt. Hon. Sir Frederick George Cave, Rt. Hon. Sir George Falle, Bertram Godfray
Banner, Sir John S. Harmood- Cawley, Sir Frederick (Prestwich) Fell, Arthur
Baring, Major Hon. Guy V. (Winchester) Cecil, Evelyn (Aston Manor) Fenwick, Rt. Hon. Charles
Barlow, Montague (Salford, South) Cecil, Rt. Hon. Lord R. (Herts Hitchin) Fiennes, Hon. Eustace Edward
Barnes, Rt. Hon. George N. Chaloner, Colonel R. G. W. Fisher, Rt. Hon. W. Hayes
Barnston, Harry Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. J. A. Fitzroy, Hon. Edward A.
Barran, Sir John N. (Hawick Burghs) Chambers, J. Flannery, Sir J. Fortescue
Barrie, H. T. Chaplin, Rt. Hon. Henry Fleming, Valentine
Barton, William Chapple, Dr. William Allen Fletcher, John Samuel
Bathurst, Col. Hon. A. B. (Glouc, E.) Clay, Captain H. H. Spender Forster, Henry William
Bathurst, Capt. Charles (Wilts, Wilton) Clive, Captain Percy Archer Foster, Philip Staveley
Beale, Sir William Phipson Clyde, J. Avon Galbraith, Samuel
Beauchamp, Sir Edward Coates, Major Sir Edward Feetham Ganzoni, Francis John C.
Beck, Arthur Cecil Callings, Rt. Hon. J. (Birmingham) Gardner, Ernest
Beckett, Hon. Gervase Collins, Sir Stephen (Lambeth) Gastrell, Major W. Houghton
Bellairs, Commander C. W. Compton-Rickett, Rt. Hon. Sir J. George, Rt. Hon. D. Lloyd
Benn, Arthur Shirley (Plymouth) Cooper, Sir Richard Ashmole Gibbs, G. A.
Benn, Ion Hamilton (Greenwich) Cornwall, Sir Edwin A. Glazebrook, Captain Philip K.
Bennett-Goldney, Francis Cory, Sir Clifford John (St. Ives) Goddard, Rt. Hon. Sir Daniel Ford
Bentham, George Jackson Cory, James H. (Cardiff) Goldman, C. S.
Bethell, Sir J. H. Cowan, W. H. Gordon, John (Londonderry, South)
Bigland, Alfred Craig, Charles Curtis (Antrim, S.) Goulding, Sir Edward Alfred
Bird, Alfred Craig, Ernest (Cheshire, Crewe) Grant, J. A.
Birrell, Rt. Hon. Augustine Craig, Captain James (Down, E.) Greene, Walter Raymond
Black, Sir Arthur W. Craik, Sir Henry Greenwood, Granville G. (Peterborough)
Blair, Reginald Croft, Lieut.-Col. H. P. Greenwood, Sir Hamar (Sunderland)
Boles, Lieut.-Colonel Dennis Fortescue Currie, George W. Greig, Colonel J. W.
Booth, Frederick Handel Dairymple, Hon. H. H. Gretton, John
Boscawen, Sir Arthur S. T. Griffith- Dalziel, Davison (Brixton) Grey, Rt. Hon. Sir Edward
Bowden, Major G. R. Harland Dalziel, Rt. Hon. Sir J. H. (Kirkcaldy) Griffith, Rt. Hon. Ellis Jones
Bowerman, Charles W. Davies, David (Montgomery Co.) Guest, Major Hon. C. H. C. (Pembroke)'
Guinness, Hon. Rupert (Essex, S.E.) Macpherson, James Ian Rutherford, Watson (L'pool, W. Derby)
Gwynne, R. S. (Sussex, Eastbourne) M'Calmont, Major Robert C. A. Salter, Arthur Clavell
Haddock, George Bahr McKenna, Rt. Hon. Reginald Samuel, Sir Harry (Norwood)
Hall, D. B. (Isle of Wight) M'Laren, Hon. F.W.S. (Lincs, Spalding) Samuel, Rt. Hon. H. L. (Cleveland)
Hall, Frederick (Dulwich) M'Neill, Ronald (Kent, St. Augustine's) Samuel, J. (Stockton-on-Tees)
Hall, Marshall (E. Toxteth) Magnus, Sir Philip Samuel, Samuel (Wandsworth)
Hambro, Angus Valdemar Malcolm, Ian Sassoon, Sir Philip
Hamersley, Alfred St. George Manfield, Harry Scott, A. MacCallum (Glas., Bridgeton)
Hamilton, C. G. C. (Ches., Altrincham) Marks, Sir George Croydon Scott, Leslie (Liverpool, Exchange)
Hamilton, Lord C. J. (Kensington, S.) Marshall, Arthur Harold Seely, Rt. Hon. Colonel J. E. B.
Harcourt, Rt. Hon. Lewis (Rossendale) Mason, James F. (Windsor) Sharman-Crawford, Colonel R. G.
Harcourt, Robert V. (Montrose) Meysey-Thompson, Major E. C. Shortt, Edward
Hardy, Rt. Hon. Laurence Middlebrook, Sir William Smith, Rt. Hon. Sir F. E. (Walton)
Harmsworth, Cecil (Luton, Beds) Middlemore, John Throgmorton Smith, Sir Swire (Keighley, Yorks)
Harmsworth, R. L. (Caithness-shire) Mildmay, Francis Bingham Soames, Arthur Wellesley
Harris, Rt. Hon. F. L. (Worcester, E.) Millar, James Duncan Spear, Sir John Ward
Harris, Henry Percy (Paddington, S.) Mills, Lieut. A. R. Spicer, Rt. Hon. Sir Albert
Haslam, Lewis Mond, Rt. Hon. Sir Alfred Stanier, Beville
Hayward, Evan Money, Sir L. G. Chiozza Stanley, Hon. Arthur (Ormskirk)
Helme, Sir Norval Watson Montagu, Rt. Hon. E. S. Starkey, John R.
Hemmerde, Edward George Moore, William Staveley-Hill, Henry
Henderson, Lt.-Col. (Berks, Abingdon) Morgan, George Hay Steel-Maitland, A. D.
Henderson, John M. (Aberdeen, W.) Morrison-Bell, Capt. E. F. (Ashburton) Stewart, Gershom
Henry, Sir Charles Morison, Hector Strauss, Arthur (Paddington, North)
Herbert, General Sir Ivor (Mon., S.) Morton, Alpheus Cleophas Strauss, Edward A. (Southwark, West)
Herbert, Hon. A. (Somerset, S.) Mount, William Arthur Swann, Rt. Hon. Sir Charles E.
Hewart, Gordon Munro, Rt. Hon. Robert Swift, Rigby
Hewins, William Albert Samuel Murray, Major Hon. Arthur C. Sykes, Col. Alan J. (Ches., Knutsford)
Hibbert, Sir Henry F. Needham, Christopher T. Sykes, Sir Mark (Hull, Central)
Hickman, Colonel Thomas E. Neville, Reginald J. N. Taylor, John W. (Durham)
Hoare, Sir Samuel John Gurney Newdegate, F. A. Tennant, Rt. Hon. Harold John
Hodge, John Newman, John R. P. Terrell, George (Wilts, N.W.)
Hohler, Gerald Fitzroy Newton, Harry Kottingham Terrell, Henry (Gloucester)
Holmes, Daniel Turner Nicholson, Sir Charles N. (Doncaster) Thomas-Stanford, Charles
Hope, Harry (Bute) Nicholson, William G. (Petersfield) Thomson, W. Mitchell- (Down, North)
Hope, John Deans (Haddington) Nield, Herbert Thorne, G. R. (Wolverhampton)
Hope, James Fitzalan (Sheffield) Norman, Sir Henry Tickler, T. G.
Hope, Major J. A. (Midlothian) O'Grady, James Tootill, Robert
Horne, E. O'Neill, Capt. Hon. H. (Antrim, Mid) Touche, George Alexander
Horner, Andrew Long Orde-Powlett, Hon. W. G. A. Tryon, Capt. George Clement
Houston, Robert Paterson Ormsby-Gore, Hon. William Turton, Edmund Russborough
Howard, Hon. Geoffrey Paget, Almeric Hugh Valentia, Viscount
Hume-Williams, William Ellis Palmer, Godfrey Mark Verney, Sir Harry
Hunt, Major Rowland Parker, Sir Gilbert (Gravesend) Walters, Sir John Tudor
Hunter, Sir Charles Rodk. Parkes, Ebenezer Walton, Sir Joseph
Illingworth, Albert H. Partington, Oswald Ward, A. S. (Herts, Watford)
Ingleby, Holcombe Pearce, Sir William (Limehouse) Ward, John (Stoke-upon-Trent)
Jackson, Lt-Col. Hon. F. S. (York, E.R.) Pease, Herbert Pike (Darlington) Ward, W. Dudley (Southampton)
Jackson, Sir John (Devonport) Peel, Lieut.-Colonel R. F. Warde, Colonel C. E. (Kent, Mid)
Jardine, Ernest (Somerset, East) Pennefather, De Fonblanque Warner, Sir Thomas Courtenay T.
Jessel, Colonel H. M. Perkins, Walter F. Wason, Rt. Hon. E. (Clackmannan)
Jones, William S. Glyn-(Stepney) Peto, Basil Edward Wason, John Cathcart (Orkney)
Joynson-Hicks, William Philipps, Colonel Ivor (Southampton) Watson, Hon, W.
Kellaway, Frederick George Pirie, Duncan V. Webb, Sir H.
Kenyon, Barnet Pollock, Ernest Murray Weigall, W. E. G. A.
Kerr-Smiley, Peter Kerr Pratt, J. W. Weston, J. W.
Kerry, Earl of Pretyman, Ernest George Wheler, Major Granville C. H.
Keswick, Henry Price, Sir Robert (Norfolk, E.) White, Col. G. D. (Lancs., Southport)
Kinloch-Cooke, Sir Clement Priestley, Sir W. E. B. (Bradford, E.) White, Sir Luke (Yorks, E.R.)
Knight, Captain E. A. Prothero, Rowland Edmund Whittaker, Rt. Hon. Sir Thomas P.
Lambert, Rt. Hon. G. (Devon, S. Molton) Pryce-James, Colonel E. Wiles, Thomas
Lane-Fox, G. R. Quilter, Sir William Eley C. Wilkie, Alexander
Larmor, Sir J. Randles, Sir John S. Williams, Col. Sir Robert (Dorset, W)
Law, Rt. Hon. A. Bonar (Bootle) Raphael, Sir Herbert H. Williams, T. J. (Swansea)
Lawson, Colonel Hon. H. (T. Hamlets) Rawlinson, John Frederick Peel Williamson, Sir Archibald
Layland-Barratt, Sir F. Rawson, Colonel R. H. Winfrey, Sir Richard
Lee, Arthur Hamilton Rea, Walter Russell (Scarborough) Wing, Thomas Edward
Levy, Sir Maurice Rees, Sir J. D. Wolmer, Viscount
Lewis, Rt. Hon. John Herbert Remnant, James Farquharson Wood, Hon. E. F. L. (Yorks, Ripon)
Lloyd, George Butler (Shrewsbury) Rendall, Athelstan Wood, John (Stalybridge)
Locker-Lampson, G. (Salisbury) Roberts, Charles H. (Lincoln) Wood, S. Hill- (High Peak)
Lockwood, Rt. Hon. Lieut.-Colonel A. R. Roberts, Sir J. H (Denbighs) Wood, Rt. Hon. T. McKinnon (Glasgow)
Long, Rt. Hon. Walter Roberts, S. (Sheffield, Ecclesall) Worthington Evans, Major L.
Lonsdale, Sir John Brownlee Robertson, John M. (Tyneside) Wartley, Rt. Hon. C. B. Stuart-
Lowe, Sir F. W. (Birm., Edgbaston) Robinson, Sidney Wright, Henry Fitzherbert
Lowther, Claude (Cumberland, Eskdale) Roe, Sir Thomas Yate, Colonel Charles Edward
Lowther, Brig-Gen. H. C. (Appleby) Rolleston, Sir John Yeo, Alfred William
MacCaw, William J. MacGeagh Ronaldshay, Earl of Yerburgh, Robert A.
Macdonald, J. M. (Falkirk Burghs) Rothschild, Lionel de Young, William (Perthshire, East)
Mackinder, Halford J. Rowlands, James Younger, Sir George
Maclean, Rt. Hon. Donald Royds, Edmund
Macleod, John Mackintosh Runciman, Rt. Hon. Walter (Dewsbury) TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—Mr
Macmaster, Donald Russell, Rt. Hon. Thomas W. Gulland and Lord Edmund Talbot.
Macnamara, Rt. Hon. Dr. T. J. Rutherford, John (Lancs., Darwen)
Alden, Percy Harvey, A. G. C. (Rochdale) O'Donnell, Thomas
Anderson, W. C. Harvey, T. E. (Leeds, West) 0 Dowd, John
Arnold, Sydney Hayden, John Patrick O'Kelly, James
Baker, Joseph Allen (Finsbury, E.) Hazleton, Richard O'Malley, William
Barlow, Sir John Emmott (Somerset) Hogge, James Myles O'Neill, Dr. Charles (Armagh, S.)
Boland, John Pius Hudson, Walter O'Shaughnessy, P. J.
Brady, Patrick Joseph John, Edward Thomas O'Shee, James John
Burns, Rt. Hon. John Jones, Leif (Notts, Rushcliffe) O'Sullivan, Timothy
Byles, Sir William Pollard Jowett, Frederick William Outhwaite, R. L.
Byrne, Alfred Keating, Matthew Parker, James (Halifax)
Chancellor, Henry George Kelly, Edward Phillips, John (Longford, S.)
Clancy, John Joseph Kennedy, Vincent Paul Ponsonby, Arthur A. W. H.
Clough, William Kilbride, Denis Pringle, William M. R.
Clynes, John R. King, Joseph Reddy, Michael
Condon, Thomas Joseph Lambert, Richard (Wilts, Cricklade) Redmond, John E. (Waterford)
Cosgrave, James Lough, Rt. Hon. Thomas Rees, G. C. (Carnarvonshire. Arfon)
Crumley, Patrick Lundon, Thomas Richards, Thomas
Delany, William Lynch, Arthur Alfred Richardson, Thomas (Whitehaven)
Denman, Hon. Richard Douglas Macdonald, J. Ramsay (Leicester) Rowntree, Arnold
Devlin, Joseph MacVeagh, Jeremiah Runciman, Sir Walter (Hartlepool)
Dillon, John McGhee, Richard Scanlan, Thomas
Donelan, Captain A. Mason, David M. (Coventry) Sherwell, Arthur James
Doris, William Meagher, Michael Simon, Rt. Hon. Sir John Allsebrook
Duffy, William J. Median, Francis E. (Leitrim, N.) Smith, H. B. Lees (Northampton)
Esmonde, Dr. John (Tipperary, N.) Meehan, Patrick J. (Queen's Co., Leix) Smyth, Thomas F. (Leitrim, S.)
Esmonde, Sir Thomas (Wexford, N.) Molloy, Michael Snowden, Philip
Farrell, James Patrick Molteno, Percy Alport Thomas, J. H.
Field, William Mooney, John J. Thorne, William (Wost Ham)
Fitzgibbon, John Morrell, Philip Trevelyan, Charles Philips
Flavin, Michael Joseph Muldoon, John Wardle, George J.
Gelder, Sir W. A. Murphy, Martin J. White, Patrick (Meath, North)
Ginnell, Laurence Nolan, Joseph Williams, Penry (Middlesbrough)
Glanville, Harold James Nugent, J. D. (College Green) Williams, Llewelyn (Carmarthen)
Goldstone, Frank O'Brien, Patrick (Kilkenny)
Graham, E. J. O'Connor, John (Kildare, N.) TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—Mr.
Hackett, John 0'Doherty, Philip Holt and Mr. Whitehouse.

Question put, and agreed to.

Bill ordered to be brought in by the Prime Minister, Mr. Bonar Law, Mr. Balfour, Mr. Long, Mr. Herbert Samuel, Sir F. E. Smith, and Mr. Tennant; presented accordingly, and read the first time; to be read a second time upon Monday next, and to be printed. [Bill 176.]

The other Orders were read, and post-poned.

Whereupon Mr. SPEAKER, pursuant to the Order of the House of the 3rd February, proposed the Question, "That this House do now adjourn."

Adjourned accordingly at Seventeen minutes lifter Eleven o'clock, till Monday next, 10th January, pursuant to the Order of the House of the 3rd February.