§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."—[The Prime Minister.]
§ Mr. ANDERSON
I beg to move to leave out the word "now," and at the end of the Question to add the words "upon this day three months."
§ Mr. W. THORNE
Before the hon. Member proceeds, I would like, Mr. Speaker, to have your ruling. I was under the impression that the hon. Member who had his name down first on the Order Paper is called upon to move the rejection of the Bill. May I ask why that course is not being taken?
§ Mr. SPEAKER
That is not so, and the hon. Member is under a wrong impression. Hon. Members give notice of their intention to move Amendments, but there is no necessity for me to take them in the order in which they appear on the Order Paper. I have the right to "see" any particular Member, and I happened to "see" this particular Member.
§ Mr. THORNE
All I want to say is that the hon. Member for the Attercliffe Division of Sheffield is not speaking in the name of the Labour party on this particular Motion.
§ Mr. ANDERSON
Perhaps it will allay the excitement of my hon. Friend if I say-that my name is down to move the rejection of this Bill.
§ Mr. ANDERSON
The majority of the Labour party have decided to take exactly the same line as I am taking this afternoon. In addition to that a national conference was organised last week in London, and the issue was put clearly to 1458 that conference for or against the proposals now before this House, and by a majority of 2,000,000 the conference decided against them. [An HON. MEMBER: "What about the soldiers?"] I know that attempts have been made to belittle that conference in the newspapers and elsewhere, but if the decision had been in the contrary sense there would have been no such attempt, and it would have been accepted. Various questions have arisen in regard to pledges given at one time or another in regard to this matte. It has been believed in many quarters that a pledge was given that this question would not be brought forward without something in the nature of general consent. It cannot be claimed that there is general consent in this House, and still less can it be claimed that there is general consent in the country. My own view is that as the workpeople understand more clearly all the implications of this measure opposition to it, so far from decreasing, will harden. The present proposals in all their bearings are not understood. It is believed that this is a measure to bring in a certain residue of slackers who ought to be in the Army; but what does the Bill itself say? It says, for example, that a single man with heavy family responsibilities, say with a widowed mother and sisters to support, is not a slacker; it says that a single man engaged on vital work for the nation is presumably not a slacker; it says that a single man with deep religious or conscientious objections to the taking of life is not a slacker. If all these and similar deductions are made, how many slackers are left? I take it the slacker is the man who shouts loudly for the War from the safe security of his house, and who leaves other people to do the fighting. There is no evidence, or at any rate no evidence has so far been produced, that these people are anything more than a negligible quantity. Therefore we can say that the conditions of the pledge given by the Prime Minister have not been fulfilled, and many of us believe, no matter what the result had been, that there are people who would not have been willing to have accepted it as satisfactory. Lord Derby himself, speaking at the Synod Hall, Edinburgh, on the 18th November last, gave a quite impossible test to apply to the voluntary effort. He said:—This was a crisis that called for the service of all young men, single and married, and the scheme put forward now would he a failure unless all came forward and said, 'We are ready to place our services at the disposal of the State.'1459 There is no possible voluntary system that could stand the strain of so severe a test. The issue has been raised, very skilfully, of the "Married versus Single," and the cry has been raised of "Single men first," and so on and so forth. I do not think anybody in this House really believes that once this Bill is passed the matter can remain there. The other matter is bound to be raised; already we have seen placards in London, "Married slackers next," and we have quotations like the following from the "Saturday Review" of only a fortnight ago. This is very in teresting as showing that the very moment the Bill is placed upon the Statute Book there is going to be a full cry raised for universal Conscription. This is only the starting point:—The truth is that this 'only fair' talk—that is "single men first"—this thoughtless stuff about the iniquity of young unmarried slackers staying at home whilst poor, dear married men are torn off to the wars has been largely clap-trap. But, if any decision was to be reached this side of Christmas, 1916, it has been necessary, because only by devising a good 'cry' and spreading it among the crowd like wildfire were our statesmen able at length to reach a conclusion. It was necessary to sweep in the anti Conscriptionist by some catchy, crowd-charming device of this kind. All the same, now that the dodge has been done, one may say that it was and is repugnant to good sense and principles, screamed about as it has been. The only solid and sound argument for single bachelors first is that the bachelor costs less. Yet that good argument hardly anyone has had the courage to use.That is a quotation from the "Saturday Review." Does anybody believe that once this Bill becomes law, if it ever does, it will be possible to defend the principle that a single man of forty should be taken for military duty in preference to a married man of twenty? I do not believe that can possibly hold good, and therefore I am quite sure that we have started on the road towards universal Conscription. I believe that would be fairer than the arrangement now proposed by the Government. Many of the traditional liberties of the country are being sacrificed without reason and without anything like military necessity having been established. I can quite understand at a time like this that enormous military claims are put forward, but it is for this House to take an all-round view of the question and to look at it not from the one standpoint of military expediency, but also at the same time from the industrial and financial standpoints. We have the Chancellor of the Exchequer last September telling us that this year our expenditure will be £1,590,000,000, and we have advanced over £400,000,000 1460 in loans to those nations who are allied to us in this War. We have an Army, either in the field or in course of training, numbering 4,000,000; our War expenditure is £5,000,000 a day, and we are advancing sufficient to other countries practically to allow them to maintain an Army of 3,000,000 more. Yet, in spite of all that, we have newspapers saying that this country has not been doing its duty in the War, and that we must have Conscription or universal service before this country can do its part. I oppose this Bill strongly because, apart from its military aspects altogether, I believe that it embodies the beginning of industrial compulsion. We have had various experiments in industrial compulsion in this country. Lord Derby himself tried an experiment, not a very successful one, at the Liverpool Docks when he tried to place the dockers there in khaki. We have had during the progress of this scheme the attesting of munition workers. Why is it that so many men, whom we know will never go to the Colours and whose work at home is vitally important, were allowed to take one day and some two and even three days off for the making of guns in order to go and attest? And why was everyone of them given 2s. 9d. of public money? They are themselves beginning more and more to suspect that there is more in this than appears on the surface and that there is some purpose behind it. I shall show that they are not very far wrong. It is not a very astonishing thing if workpeople are suspicious of some of these recent developments. I will read one or two extracts from the writings and speeches of those who believe in compulsion, extracts which will show what is at the back of their minds. Colonel Sir Augustus Fitzgerald, a son of the late Duke of Cambridge, in a speech on the 25th August last, said:—Compulsory service was necessary at, this time, when the people were getting out of hand.Of course he meant workpeople, engineers, miners, and others. Again, I have an extract from the "Saturday Review" of the 21st of August last, when this agitation was just beginning. It reads:—National service is required as much for the effect it will have upon the miners and munitions as for the part it will play in the actual raising of armies.Finally, I have an extract from an article by Colonel Maxwell in last September's "Outlook":—Trades unionism—that shelter for slackers and shirkers—is imperilling our existence, and by its 1461 action a rot of our national soul has sot in. One remedy, and one alone, can eradicate this state of rot. Martial law will cure it.I believe in my own mind that this Bill has originated very largely in ideas which have been germinating in the mind of the Minister of Munitions for some time. I remember a speech made by the right hon. Gentleman in Manchester as far back as June last year, in which he discouraged any discussion on the platform, or in the Press or workshop—more or less saying you must blindly "trust the Government." The right hon. Gentleman remarked:—In the French Revolution, when they distrusted a Minister, they had a very summary method of dealing with him. They never wasted any time over him. And may I point out that until they dealt with him they implicity obeyed him, and that is why they pulled through. I do not mind the guillotining of Ministers, or of generals if necessary, but I think that until they reach, the scaffold they ought to be obeyed. And, above all, don't unnerve them by sniping at them from behind.Hon. Members cheered that last phrase. So far as I am concerned, I do not snipe at Ministers from behind. I speak to them face to face, and I hope that all Cabinet Ministers impose the same self-denying ordinance upon themselves and do not snipe at their colleagues. I should like to know which of them we are going to obey. They do not all speak in the same language. Surely replies to their speeches will not unnerve them, nor should reporting them do so. But from the same speech I wish to give an extract which shows very clearly what was in the mind of the Minister of Munitions at that time. He was speaking of the soldier, and he said:—Their (the soldier's) time, their movements, their direction, the very localities where they operate are chosen for them by the officers of the State. Their very lives are at the disposal of the State. They have placed them voluntarily, too. That enables those who represent the State to concentrate them, to order them to places or to positions where they can render the greatest service to the State. That is what a voluntary army in a military sense means; I am sorry to say it does not mean that industrially.I believe absolutely you can never have an army without absolute control and rigid obedience to orders. But I would also add that you are making for disaster if you try to apply the rules of the Army to the men in the workshops, factories and the mines. They will not submit to that, and if you adopt that idea, which is apparently behind these words, you are on the road to ruin. The Minister of Munitions has tried various experiments. He gave us the Munitions Act. It has not worked out very well, and he has had to modify it in every particular. When he went to 1462 Glasgow recently, a newspaper called "Forward" reported his speech, and it has been suppressed. I am told that that paper is now coming out under the name of "Backward," as representing more truly the spirit of the times than the title it had formerly. At any rate we have the authority of the "Daily Mail," which is believed to be well in the confidence of some Cabinet Ministers, for saying that when the Minister of Munitions came back from Glasgow he straightway presented an ultimatum to the Prime Minister with regard to this very Bill. I can tell the House this, with regard to the Clyde workmen—and I know it from resolutions which are now being passed in the workshops—that they regard this measure as being the beginning of industrial compulsion. There is no doubt about that. How is this Act going to work? Some people think it is only going to apply to the men unattested—the men who' have not yet come in. That is a profound mistake.
§ The PRIME MINISTER (Mr. Asquith)
I understand the hon. Member said it had been reported—I am not sure that he made himself responsible for the statement—that the Minister of Munitions sent something in the nature of an ultimatum to me. The Minister of Munitions never made any communication of any sort to me on that occasion. [HON. MEMBERS: "Withdraw!"]
§ Mr. ANDERSON
I am not going to withdraw my statement, because it was one which I can defend. I did not, on my own responsibility make the statement, but I stated that it had been reported in the "Daily Mail." As a matter of fact it was so reported, and the report was quite uncontradicted. Questions were asked about it by the hon. Member for Lanarkshire (Mr. Pringle) in this House and no reply was given. Of course, so far as I am concerned, I accept without reserve the personal word of the Prime Minister.
§ 4.0 P.M.
§ Mr. ANDERSON
It seems to me that discrimination is exercised in the treatment of newspapers. One newspaper, for publishing an account of a meeting, is suppressed, while another newspaper which makes a mischievous statement of that sort—a lying statement of that sort—is not tackled at all. I say the statement that 1463 this Act is not going to apply to men already attested is not well-founded. It is going to apply to men attested as well as unattested—to single men. It will place 2,000,000 single men under the control of the tribunals that are going to be set up. These men are going to be subject, according to the Bill, to the jurisdiction of Military Service Tribunals. How are those tribunals going to be constituted? What proportion of labour representation will there be on those tribunals? The men who are exempted by the tribunals, and who go back to their workshops will remain under the control of these tribunals. There is no doubt about that. I would like hon Members to study that part of the Bill—perhaps the most vital part—which deals with the question of exemptions. You will find that exemptions under the Bill, by these tribunal's, can either be absolute, or conditional, or temporary. You will find that they can be reviewed at any time, that they can be withdrawn at any time, and that they can be varied at any time. You will find that when a man's working conditions change he automatically becomes a soldier. You will find that if a man fails to report his change from workshop to workshop he places himself under martial law, and becomes subject to the penalties of martial law. I can imagine no greater weapon for industrial oppression than this measure. What does it mean? It means the subjection of the workpeople, not to the State so far as the workshops are concerned, but to private capitalism in the workshops. [HON. MEMBERS: "No, no!"] If hon. Members will allow me to proceed I think I can convince them that it is so before I finish. This Bill will give the employers a greater power to deal with wages, with hours, and conditions than they ever had before, and the working people will be helpless, because if they resist they can at once be sent as soldiers inside barracks. Let us see exactly where the matter stands. Inside the workshops you are going to introduce two different kinds of workmen, a civilian workman and a soldier workman. The status of those two men is going to be different. I would like to read in this connection, as showing what is quite likely to come out of this, because it has come out of it in other countries, a report made by a deputation sent over by the Minister of Munitions, which was very largely a deputation to 1464 study conditions in war time. I believe it was sent by the Minister of Munitions only a few weeks ago. This is what they report on the very point with which I am now dealing:—In case of loss of time the usual punishments for civilians are a reprimand for the first offence. in some cases a fine for the second offence, but generally workmen dismissed for the second offence…In the case of military workers, the man is sent to his depot and dealt with under military law.I want to ask one or two straight and searching questions on this matter. Here is a single workman, who has been ex empted in order to work in a factory. He believes he is not getting the standard conditions and the standard wages, and that other workmen also are not getting the standard wages. This young work man stands out more bravely for his fellow workmen than any others. What is to prevent the employer from saying that that man is no longer indispensable and having him sent as a soldier? What is to prevent that happening under this Bill? Here is another case. The employers decide to cut down wages, and a single man says, "I do not want to have my wages cut down, I would rather leave." The moment that man leaves, according to the terms of this Bill, he automatically becomes a soldier. He left in order to get trade union wages, and he finds himself straightaway in a barracks. Those are actual conditions enforceable under this Bill. He has been trying to escape a sweated wage and that is the result. I warn the Prime Minister that if this is proceeded with you are looking for trouble, and you will get it. There is no doubt about that. I have said it over and over again in this House, and I say it here to-day as I said it last night—
§ Mr. ANDERSON
I do not want us to have any strike trouble until the country wins through to happier times. I say that genuinely and honestly, but I believe you will be looking for disaster if you attempt to apply principles of this sort. I should be a coward if I did not state that honest conviction to the House of Commons, because it is only by avoiding that that you are likely to avert the trouble which will inevitably come upon you. I also say this, that if even a group of married men under this Bill employed in a vital industry decide to withhold their labour on some cruical point to them, single men under military law can be drafted to take the place of the married men; and, indeed, during the railway strike in France, this 1465 power was used, and in order to break the power of the French railway strikers men were called upon as conscripts to go in and take their places as railway men and to break the back of the strike. I am going to appeal more particularly on this point to hon. Members on this side of the House and to the Prime Minister, because I think there are still some who have not quite reached the point of believing we can find an easy way to industrial peace by compulsion. You are not. If you think I have been exaggerating the consequences that will follow out of this measure, I will call your attention to a leading article in a paper of great repute—the "Manchester Guardian." The editor of the "Manchester Guardian" is a man of great public spirit. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"] Does anyone dispute that? [HON. MEMBERS: "Yes!"] It is not the Prime Minister who will dispute that, anyhow. Therefore I am going to read an extract from last Saturday's "Manchester Guardian" from an article entitled "Industrial Compulsion." Everybody is not quite so keen on reading the "Manchester Guardian" as the hon. Member for East Northants (Sir L. Chiozza Money).
§ Mr. ANDERSON
I am very glad of it. All the same, I am going to read the concluding words, which are that this young single manhad best beware how he grumbles about his work. His certificate may at any time be 'varied' or 'withdrawn,' and where he only thought to get an extra half-crown a week he will find himself on the way to the barracks. The single man can, in fact, under the Bill be fixed by an indirect but compelling pressure in his employment, on terms against which he can revolt only by consent of the tribunal. The tribunal decides what civilian occupation a man may follow. The tribunal decides whether he may vary it or not. The tribunal determines his status and controls his efforts to improve it. We have full-fledged industrial compulsion for the younger single men, and the distinction between young and old, single and married, is in this respect so untenable that we may confidently expect its abolition in the near future. What the Labour Members who voted for the Bill on Thurs day will say now that they see it in the flesh we can only guess, and we should hardly like to print our guess. For ourselves we remark that we have here a Bill to deprive some millions of men of their freedom on the ground of the delinquency of a number conjectured by some at two or three hundred thousand—
§ Mr. ANDERSON
I entirely agree with the hon. Member for Woolwich (Mr. Crooks) that this is a Prussian measure.
§ Mr. ANDERSON
(reading):Conjectured by some at two or three hundred thousand, but held by others to be much less, a Bill for reducing the million to industrial serfdom on the ground that the conjectural thousands ought to do military service—Here I would ask the attention of the hon. Member for Woolwich—a Bill which will not, as we think, contribute to the victory of British arms over Germany, but establishes beyond doubt the victory of German ideas over England.I have here a quotation—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh, oh!"]—which I will not inflict upon the House, which is even more interesting. I am not going to read it. [HON. MEMBERS: "Go on!"] The hon. Member for Liverpool may rest his soul in patience. I know perfectly well that he cannot appreciate these arguments, but I am not responsible for that.
§ Mr. ANDERSON
This article is from a paper called "Engineering," which is an employers' paper, and it emphasises exactly the same point, that the men that they want they will keep and the men they do not want they will put into the Army. That is the point of this article. Therefore I say that as that is the spirit, married men will come next, and if Conscription does come it will be much easier to put it on than to put it off again. As the workpeople of this country will have to fight many industrial battles after the War and fight for the restoration of their old position, all that I can say is, God help them if they are to fight with the shackles of Conscription round them! I hope that we are not going to adopt these new proposals; I think they are on entirely wrong lines, and I say, in conclusion, that in my view the mere victory of British munitions of war will be of small avail if in the meantime England undergoes moral and spiritual defeat.
§ Mr. R. C. LAMBERT
I beg to second the Amendment. I am quite conscious that I shall hardly be able to do full justice to the feelings which I and others who think with me have with regard to this Bill. I can only plead that what I am about to say is the result of very grave consideration on my part and of the most intense belief in the evil consequences which will follow from this measure. Let me say at the outset that nobody, as I 1467 think was said the other day by the late Home Secretary, will dispute for a moment that any pledge which was given by the Prime Minister should not be kept, although I cannot help remembering another pledge which was given at the time of the Registration Bill—a pledge that that Bill would not be used as the basis of a Conscription measure—but which, apparently, seems to have been entirely forgotten. My argument to-day is not that the Prime Minister should not keep the pledge that he has given, but that the conditions implied in that pledge—indeed, explicity put into that pledge—have not yet been fulfilled. We were told that the pledge was to operate after all claims had been investigated and all the exemptions made. The claims have not yet- been investigated; the exemptions have not yet been made. They are put into this very Bill. The fact that you have reopened the Derby scheme and are now allowing men to enlist under the group system shows that you are even now not yet quite certain as to the full figures which will result. When I look at the Derby Report and see fourteen separate figures, of which seven are merely estimates, I cannot help thinking that this Bill has been brought forward a little bit too precipitately and that it would have been very much better to have waited until the figures had been properly analysed. [An HON. MEMBER: "Until after the War!"] The late Home Secretary gave the other day a list of some of the deductions which would have to be made, a list that wa3 challenged by the present Home Secretary. He omitted several of the items. He omitted among them the number of discharged soldiers who came under the Registration Bill if they were discharged before August last year. He therefore places in the 651,000 people, whom hon. Members opposite designate as the slackers, men who have been wounded and invalided out of the Service. I have not made the imputation. I do not say any of these men are slackers. I do not believe they are. Then I want to know how many removal cards there were which were not properly dealt with. I am told, and I have very good reason to believe it, that in one small constituency alone a batch of over 500 removal cards was discovered untouched at the close of the Derby scheme. Surely we are entitled to say that these considerations are worthy of a few minutes' attention before we em- 1468 bark upon such a tremendous change in the whole of our military system.
The hon. Member (Mr. Anderson) has touched upon the question of general consent. I have had letters—I dare say many other Members have had similar letters—from representative bodies in my own Constituency, and private letters also, against this Bill, and from bodies of sufficient numerical strength to convince me that it is quite impossible to say there is anything in the nature of general consent to a Bill of this character. I should like to quote from one letter which I received this morning. It is from a man who is now in the Army and who has a son in the Army. He says:—I am writing to you merely to tell you how-much I appreciate your action over the Compulsion Bill. It is nice—the word is not good enough—to know that there are some Liberals left who have not lost their sanity over this terrible business. I, at any rate, am entitled to an opinion on this Bill, though not to a voice, for I was forty-two when I joined, so was not compelled, or in fear of it, and the only son that I have of military age joined the Inns of Court very soon after his eighteenth birthday.I know that many hon. Members opposite will not agree with me, but I maintain that by no means all the men who have joined are anxious for this Bill. I believe that a great number of men joined under the Derby scheme because they wanted to avoid Conscription and because they trusted that this Derby scheme would enable this country to avoid Conscription. We are told that this Bill is for this War only. We are also told that it is for single men only. Like the hon. Member (Mr. Anderson), I am convinced that if this Bill passes into law, it will be impossible to confine it to single men. You are bound to bring in married men afterwards. [An HON. MEMBER: "Hear, hear!"] I am glad there is one Member at all events who has the honesty to say so in this House. I am as certain as I can be of anything that this Bill embodies in it, and intentionally embodies in it, the principle of compulsion for the working man—industrial compulsion of the worst kind—and that the object of it is that any man, any industrial worker, who makes himself unpleasant to his employer can be told, and will be told, that unless he is quiescent, and acquiescent, in what is wanted, he will be sent to the trenches or to the barracks.
I find it in Clause 3, and if the hon. Member will read the 1469 Clause as carefully as I have read it I am quite convinced that he will arrive at the same conclusion. Then we come to the case of the conscientious objector. I do not agree with the conscientious objector. If I were of military age I would go myself, but the conscientious objector is entitled to his opinion. After all, his view is only that which was held for 200 years by the Early Christain Church. For 200 years no Christian would fight or join an army or assist an army, and ^n this Christian land of England it seems to me to be an extraordinary situation if we are going to say that the conditions are such that the conscientious objector is not to be fully protected. To tell me that the words "combatant service" are sufficient protection is absurd. I am convinced that this Bill marks a stage in the degradation of this country. I am certain that when it is passed it will be found impossible to go back. You cannot turn back a page of history. You cannot put yourself back into the position which you occupied before the War. I cannot help remembering that this is a War, as we were told and as I firmly believe, for principle. We were told that we went to war on principle for principle. Now we are asked, in the sacred name of war, to throw over all these principles which we put before the electors. The principle underlying voluntary service is that a man shall have liberty of conscience, freedom of action, freedom to bestow his labour where he will, and you are interfering with all these. In the course of this War, liberty of trade—Free Trade—has gone. Where is freedom of speech to-day? We had some remarks last night about freedom of the Press which make me think that that is gone; and now we are asked to take away freedom of the person as well. What is there left? What are we going to have left?
§ Mr. LAMBERT
Yes, Germany is left, and we are trying by this Bill and through this Bill to "Prussianise" this country. That is not all. We are asked, as I maintain, to pass this Bill with insufficient evidence. We do not know how many men we require for this War. We have not been told what the size of our Army is to be, nor what our commitments are to foreign countries; and in so far as I have been able to ascertain, in the whole course of history a system of Conscription has never yet been resorted to in war except for defence. 1470 [Interruption.] Does anyone maintain that this War means that we are in peril of invasion? [HON. MEMBERS: "Yes!"] If hon. Members think that, of course I have nothing further to say, except that I do not admit it. We were told that in order to win this War there were three things that we could do: We could have a powerful Navy, we could have a strong Army, and we could finance our Allies. We were also told that we could only do the first and the third if we were moderate so far as the second is concerned. Before we are asked to embark on a principle which will be extended until you have got wholesale compulsion, we ought to know, and we must know, what our military commitments are going to be. I take up the position that although these reasons are in my judgment good reasons for hesitating about voting for this measure, there is one paramount reason -which impresses and convinces me more than anything else, and that is that it is an infringement of those great principles which I, at all events, was returned to preserve, and on which I gave a definite pledge. At the last election, I gave pledge after pledge that I would vote against Conscription in any form.
§ Mr. LAMBERT
I fail to see that the War makes any difference, because I gave that pledge believing, as I believe to-day, that you cannot be so successful with a system of Conscription and forced men as you can with voluntary service. I believe you can get all the men that are required by a voluntary system, and therefore I do not see that the War has given me any reason to alter my opinion. I gave that pledge. I believed then, I believe to-day, that it is my duty to vote for and to urge the cause which I believe to be best for this country. We are told, or we were told—I do not know that it is quite so evident now—that if we persisted it meant a General Election. I suppose it was thought that the threat of a General Election would influence some peoples' votes. I cannot admit the right of any man, least of all myself, to be deterred by anything from doing that which my conscience tells me I ought to do. I hope the House will believe that it is not a pleasant thing to a man who has been a Liberal, and a fairly consistent Liberal, to have to differ from his leaders on this point. I hope hon. Members will believe that I am not doing this because I like to do it, or because I think 1471 that I am making myself conspicuous, or that I have some silly fancy in the matter. Nothing of the kind. I am standing here because I am absolutely certain that it is the only thing which my conscience will allow me to do. I know that I could get a little cheap popularity easily enough if I were to turn round and say, "I will follow my leaders." Then where would my conscience be? Although possibly I cannot hope to convince hon. Members opposite even of my own sincerity, I will venture to quote one sentence which I can assure them is at the bottom of the whole of my objections in this matter. I feel in this matter, and I have given it the most earnest and careful consideration of which I am capable, the full force of that old text, "What shall it profit a man if he gain the whole world and lose his own soul."
§ Mr. JOHN REDMOND
I have not risen for the purpose of repeating the arguments which I used a few days ago on the First Reading of this Bill. Nothing that has occurred since has in my opinion had weight enough to change my view on the merits of this Bill. The position that I took up was that the character of this Bill was in principle of so vast and far-reaching a kind that nothing could justify its introduction except a proved national necessity. I took the view that we had no satisfactory proof such as that forthcoming, and, in the absence of such a proof, I considered that the terrible and, I think, undoubted risks of division and turmoil—perhaps, indeed, of industrial convulsion—which were looming in the future—ought to have been sufficient to prevent the Government from making the proposal. Holding these views, and expressing them, my colleagues and I voted against the First Beading of this Bill. I can assure hon. Members, speaking for myself, and I think for all my colleagues, that we did not do that with a light heart. For my part no matter how strong my individual views may have been, I recognised to the full that in face of the demand made by the Government, and a crisis such as that through which we are now passing, it was indeed incurring a grave responsibility for any man who is anxious, for any man who is, as I honestly say I am, passionately anxious to make any sacrifice that is necessary in order to help to win this War—it was, I felt, and I feel still, a grave responsibility under these conditions to cast a vote against what was 1472 put before us as the deliberate policy of the Government. But there are occasions when a man is a coward who does not willingly accept responsibility rather than attempt to shirk misrepresentation or misapprehension. My colleagues and I thought on the First Reading of this Bill that that was such an occasion, and we felt bound to enter our protest, and, having entered our protest in speech, we felt bound to have the common courage of registering that protest in the Division Lobby.
The position in which I find myself today is entirely different. The Division which took place the other day has changed the circumstances of this case, so far as it affects my colleagues and myself. In that Division, on this purely British Bill, I find there was a British majority in its favour of close upon ten to one. That majority was made up of Members of every British party in this House. It contained not all, indeed, but most of those Members of the Liberal party who have been in the past the most stalwart supporters of Irish rights and Irish interests. Less than half of the Labour party voted against the Bill, and the responsible leaders of the Labour party voted for it. More than all these things, what affected my mind was this, that every man who spoke against the Bill on the First Reading, or most of them at any rate, said this—and those who did not say it on the floor of this House have said it everywhere in private—that if an election were held upon this question there would be an overwhelming majority in favour of the Bill. In these circumstances my colleagues and I, who have been considering this matter this morning, feel that for us to continue opposition to a purely British Bill under these circumstances would be to incur a responsibility heavier than we can face. Therefore, having made our protest, both by speech and by vote in the Lobby, Ave say now that we have given our last vote against this measure. So far as the Committee stage of the Bill is concerned hon. Members will understand me when I say that questions may arise. They may be raised from various quarters of the House, not in hostility to the Bill, but in an effort to improve some of its provisions, and, of course, it will be open to me, after the statement that I have made, and it will be open to my colleagues, to support any Amendment which we consider good on its merits, but we will 1473 neither in Committee, nor upon Second Reading, nor on the Third Reading of the Bill, give any vote from now on which will be in the nature of a vote in opposition to the passage of this measure.
This Bill, it is quite evident, is certain to become law. That being so, I hope its progress into law will be rapid. A prolonged exhibition of bitter controversy on the floor of the House, in the face of the enemy, would be a disaster and a scandal. When the Bill does become law I hope that the grave and weighty words of the late Home Secretary (Sir J. Simon) will be taken to heart by everybody, and that all parties, those who supported this Bill and those who opposed it, will alike acquiesce in its operation and in its peaceful and successful operation. There is no man in this House who is more deeply impressed than I am with the gravity of the situation in which we stand, or who feels more keenly the duty of subordinating personal views in a matter of this kind. Hence it is that much as we on these benches dislike and distrust this Bill, still, having made our protest, we shall not oppose it further. Hon Members think we were wrong to vote the other night, but I put it to them to judge us fairly. We felt strongly on this matter. We made our protest in speeches. Were we not right to have the courage to go into the Lobby to record that protest? "Our position is now that having done that, having made our protest, and recognising that this Bill has the overwhelming-majority of the British nation behind it, that this British Bill has at its back the overwhelming majority of British representatives in this House, and on the admission of hon. Members of the British people outside this House, we say from now on we will do nothing to weaken the hands of the Government, nor cast any further vote in any shape or form against the passage of this Bill.
§ Sir E. CARSON
I am sure the whole House will recognise the sincerity with which the hon. and learned Member (Mr. Redmond) has just made his announcement. For my own part, I am not going to inquire into the goodness or the badness of the reasons which he has given. I am quite prepared to accept the statement as made with absolute sincerity, that he now wishes that this Bill should pass into law as quickly as possible, and "that in the interests of the United Kingdom and the Empire it should prove as successful as possible in bringing to a suc- 1474 cessful conclusion this abominable War. My only regret is that he could not go a step or two further. He has told us that he believes that the vast majority, indeed, that he knows that the vast majority, of the Members of this House are in favour of the Bill. He has told us also that he is informed that if there was a General Election the vast majority of, if not the whole country would also be in favour of the Bill. May I suggest to him that under these circumstances, when it is a British Bill, he might lead his men into the Lobby in order that we might show to our enemies the gigantic majority of this country which has made up its mind, at all costs, and putting aside all differences, to bring this War to a successful conclusion. I go one step further. I wish the hon. and learned Gentleman would allow Ireland to be included in the Bill. He and I are old opponents—I do not use the word enemies—and I can assure him from my heart that nothing would be more likely to bring us together, if not on a platform that would satisfy either of us, on some sort of common platform, than that we should find Ireland and England and Scotland absolutely unanimous in what they think is necessary for the carrying out of this War. I can assure him that the exclusion of Ireland, of which I will speak a little more later on, is hurtful to many people in Ireland, and for reasons that I will give later, and I think it is especially hurtful to those in the three southern provinces, people who are of my political creed and of my religious faith, and who I think the hon. and learned Gentleman will say have joined with him on many a platform in trying to bring about the common, object of enlisting soldiers. Of Ireland I will say a little more a little later on.
I should like to say a few words upon the general question, and let me say that I think the whole House, and certainly the country, are thoroughly sick of the kind of arguments that are being used as to whether the occasion has arisen for carrying out the Prime Minister's pledge or not. The Prime Minister says it has. Surely he ought to be as good a judge of his own pledge as either the late Home Secretary (Sir John Simon) or the hon. Member who introduced this Motion to-day. Nor is there any use, I think, in trying to argue with an hon. Member who tells us that war makes no difference in the kind of Army that you are to have. I often think that many throughout the nation1 do not realize 1475 that we are at war. I sometimes think that some Members of this House do not realise that we are at war. If you consider our position in the War and our interests in the War; if you consider what they are founded upon, and compare them with this very mild and moderate Bill, I think you will hesitate before you give a vote against it. We are told that we cannot win the War without this Bill.
§ Sir E. CARSON
The Cabinet says so. I will give quotations in a few moments, and may I remind the hon. Member of what he probably forgets, that Lord Kitchener is a Member of the Cabinet; and may I remind him also of this, what people outside the Cabinet may not know, that the military advisers of the Cabinet have to enter into great schemes of campaign and strategy in conjunction with our Allies, whether they be French or Russian, or the other Allies who support us? And let me tell the hon Member who interrupts me that he may take it from me, and he may assume—I am giving nothing away when I say it—that obligations have been entered into, and arrangements have been made, and necessarily made, which we are bound to fulfil, and we are told that we cannot fulfil them without this Bill.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
If the hon. Member for Coventry can only restrain his interruptions he will have an opportunity of stating his views later. It is impossible to carry on the Debate if questions are constantly interposed.
§ Sir E. CARSON
I am quite willing to give way to the hon. Gentleman. I do not want to be in the least offensive to him. I know people feel very deeply on this subject on both sides, and I am quite prepared to give him credit for sincerity, as I hope be will give me; but I tell him and 1476 he may take it from me, that there are obligations, and that those obligations, have to be fulfilled if we are to bring this War to a successful conclusion. I believe the hon. Member himself would be ashamed of his country if we did not fulfil obligations of this kind which we have undertaken. I often wonder whether hon. Members, and whether the country, really realise the difficulties in which we are placed. They see events pass by day after day, and those glide out of their minds, and they never see the conglomerated effect—if I may call it so—of them. Just cast your mind back to the early summer,, and remember all the hopes that we had centred in the masses of our brave Russian Ally, with millions of men, as we hoped, marching to success, on through Galicia, and on afterwards to the invasion of Germany and of Austria. All that was driven, back after the bravest fighting that has probably been known under the gravest difficulty, but do not, because they were driven back and because they were fought bravely, delude yourself by not seeing what it meant for us. Millions of men on the offensive driven back on the defensive. Were we then, or have we ever since-been, or could we be, in the same position as regards the numbers of the Army that we required in the field? We had millions marching forward to our assistance on whom we could rely to alleviate the pressure of the position upon the Western and upon the Eastern theatres of the war. All that ceased, and any thinking man can see that at the same moment we had to take stock of the situation, and to see what was likely to happen by reason of this. I say that, whatever was sufficient before in the nature of Armies, could not be-sufficient in those circumstances. Then we found just at that time, and through the autumn, at a time when we were wanting every increase that was possible in our troops, the recruiting decreasing week by week, and month by month. I heard the hon. Member who seconded this Motion talking of the Government acting too precipitately. It has been delayed to the last moment, and if the hon. Member will only reflect he will see that even these men which are now so much required cannot be available for very many months to come, even when you have passed this Bill.
But let the casual observer take up a little more the history of this matter. Has he ever asked himself: "Why did we leave the Dardanelles, where so much 1477 blood and so much treasure had been spent?" The only reason that can be given, I suppose, why we left the Darnelles was because we had not got the men to go through with the great undertaking that had been so admirably conceived in the original position in this War. If he looks further on he sees the march through Serbia, and he sees that little nation to whom we had given the idea that they were going to get so much assistance, and who got so little, until it was too late. What was the reason? Was it any unwillingness on the part of the Government? Not at all. It was because we had not the men, and because we could not get the men to send there to give them this assistance. In these circumstances, I have not heard up to this one solitary argument as to how we are to carry on this War if the country will not give us the men. What is the alternative? I see Members get up one after another and point out "you are going to injure this industry, or that industry, or you are leading to industrial compulsion, or something else." What does it all matter so long as we win the War; and what would anything matter if we lost the War? I would like to ask these Gentlemen who are in a minority in this House, and who go preaching these matters throughout the country: Will they take the responsibility of taking over the Government themselves, and when they have taken over the Government will they go down to the country—because it is very easy to make speeches when you have not got the responsibility of winning the War—and will they say, "We are advised by Lord Kitchener, by General Robertson, by the whole Military Staff here, that we have not got nearly enough men, but we tell you you would be fools if you agreed to compulsion to bring in the slackers that would enable us to win the War"? No! These men who oppose a Bill of this kind are doing an ill-service to their country, and they are announcing to the enemy the hopelessness of our position. No; whatever they may say, the country is sound and solid, and the country will make any sacrifice so long as they find it necessary for the purpose of bringing about victory.
I listened the other day—and I have listened to all these speeches—to the speech of the late Home Secretary, though I am very sorry to have to describe him as such, on this question of compulsion. I found some difficulty, I tell him candidly, in listening to know whether he objected 1478 to compulsion in principle, or whether he was really making an argument, which has long since been disposed of, upon the Derby Report in relation to the Prime Minister's pledge. I do not believe for a moment that the late Home Secretary objects to compulsion in principle. [HON. MEMBEBS: "Oh, oh!"] I will tell you why. The moment war broke out the Home Secretary, and the Government, and this House without demur passed a Bill compulsorily extending the time of service of the Marines who were serving in Home stations. What did that mean? Is that compulsion? That is compulsion to a man who has done his bit; but the late Home Secretary, forsooth, and others, will not use the same compulsion for the man who will not do his bit, or will not do anything. That is not all. The other day a Bill was brought in, when the late Home Secretary was still in office, to prolong for the time of the War the service of every soldier who has served thirteen years, although under the Army Act it is an absolute contract that when his time is up he is to be sent back, without any excuse, to the place whence he came. Who is to go down and tell those men—I believe there are about 40,000 of them whose time is about to expire—" What are you doing, you slackers? You have only fought for the last eighteen months; you have only brought glory to the Army for the last eighteen months; you have only served your country for thirteen years; you slackers, go on and serve to the end of the War. And why are you to go on to serve to the end of the War? I will tell you. Because we dare not apply coercion and compulsion to people who are doing nothing at home." Was the Derby scheme voluntary? The hon. Member who seconded this Motion I think said that the Derby scheme was effective and brought in a number, because they knew, or they were told, that if they did not enlist there might be a Bill bringing them in. Is that the voluntary system? As regards the extension of principle, so far as this Bill is an extension of any principle, it is the most enæmic Bill I ever knew. When you eliminate from it the various classes of people who are excluded I really think that, except as showing this country is absolutely determined and will not tolerate slackers under any conditions, the Bill would be almost useless. The hon. Gentleman who moved this Motion seemed to found the whole of his argument on this—that it might lead to 1479 industrial compulsion. I do not know why we should go into industrial compulsion now. Even as Regards industrial compulsion, I suppose you would require a great deal of examination to see whether it would do us more harm than good. But if, on examination, we found that industrial compulsion would be good, and would help us to win the War, why should we shirk it? I myself, one way or the other, am not expressing any opinion on it.
I saw that there was a somewhat noisy meeting held, I think, at Cardiff, in which there were some very pertinent questions put, and I saw amongst other things that somebody asked, "Why should we not have compulsion or Conscription used towards property?" Have we done none of that? [An HON. MEMBER: "Not much!"] Go and take up your volume of these emergency statutes. You will find a good deal of compulsion there. You will find a good deal of compulsion as regards profits, as regards the control of establishments, as regards taxation, because after all, taxation which goes on increasing from day to day, and has now come to no inconsiderable sum, is compulsion. Let me say this as regards Conscription. These Bills were brought in, and there was one the other day introduced by the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Walter Long) about rents, which I know was not very much in accordance, in ordinary times, with his own principles. But he is not like the hon. Member who seconded the Motion He does not say, "War makes no difference," and so he brings in the Bill. You have had this day after day; yet I think I may say on behalf of these people who are affected by it that there is very little grumbling or growling upon their part. But I go further, and I say that whatever you mean by conscription of property, if it is something which enables you in the best way suited to the State to raise the funds that are necessary for the carrying on of the War to a successful conclusion, so far as I am concerned I do not shrink from Conscription. But there, again, I say exactly as I do in regard to the men—and men are more precious than property—" What is the good? "Take my own case. It is not much that I have, but what good would it be to me if I had to hang down my head in eternal shame and think that my country, with all its traditions, had been beaten because, forsooth, someone cared 1480 about conscription of men, or the more petty thing the conscription of property?
I desire to say a few words about the exclusion of Ireland, and I must admit that I am profoundly disappointed at the way the Coalition Government have dealt with that matter. I could have under stood the Coalition Government bringing in a Bill and allowing Irish Nationalist Members, if they so pleased, to move out the particular Clause dealing with Ireland. I did not understand the hon. and learned Member for Waterford, when he spoke on the last occasion, to base his opposition on the ground that Ireland was a separate entity. I thought he based his opposition on the ground of principle. When I look at the reasons which have been given by what I may call, if they will allow me, my leaders in the Cabinet, I am all the more disappointed, because I think it lay with them to tell us how it was they became a party to treating Ireland as a separate unity, a separate entity, apart from Eng land, Scotland and Wales. I take the Colonial Secretary first. What does he think? Anything he said must be well worth quoting. He said this with reference to the exclusion of Ireland from the Bill:—If we wore to look at this as a question of principle there would be absolutely no justification for such a proposal, none whatever.That is a very big admission, and it will require, once you admit that you are going on a wrong principle, very strong reasons to show that you have the right to do it. What are his reasons?:—But if you start with the idea that for the basis of this Bill, so far as the Government is concerned, what we are thinking about is not principle, but getting the men which will enable us to win this War, then you have to consider what you gain and what you lose, and from that point of view you had to regard it. Some take one view and some another. That is the view we take.That is his reason for the exclusion of Ireland. I know my right hon. Friend far too well to believe that, if he wished to be clear, he could not have been. In point of fact, I think it is the first cryptic utterance that I have ever heard him make. I pass to the First Lord of the Admiralty. What did he say?:—It is impossible to regard Ireland as similar to Scotland and Wales in this matter.Why? The right hon. Gentleman went on to take particular occasion to say that every man in Ireland was just as loyal as every man in England. Under those circumstances I do not understand that utterance. He then said:—The Bill should be so framed as not to deal with great controversies on internal politics.1481 To that statement I absolutely demur. I always understood that in all our quarrels, in all our political squabbles, and in all that we have gone through from time to time, the one question upon which we were all agreed, whether you had Home Rule all round or for Ireland, or Confederation of the whole Empire, that the elementary question of the defence of the realm, of the Army, and of the Navy, was one not of party politics but of great Imperial necessity, and to treat any portion of the United Kingdom as a separate entity for this purpose is, in my opinion, to give up the whole idea of unity at all, and to establish chaos in matters of high Imperial policy at the very centre and the very heart of the Empire. May I ask the First Lord of the Admiralty or the Colonial Secretary how is Ireland differently situated from Great Britain in relation to the War? Is she less concerned with the result? If the Germans win, will she be less affected by the victory? Is she less bound, and, if so, on what principle, to make sacrifices to bring about a victory that is as important to her as it is to Great Britain? Has she the right to say to the people, to the democracy of Great Britain, "We want this victory, and it is as important to us as it is to you, but we tell you, 'You go and make the sacrifices and we will be prepared to rejoice in the results"?
§ Sir E. CARSON
I think we ought to be ashamed to be open to such a reproach. Has Ireland done better in recruiting than Great Britain? [An HON. MEMBER: "It has done very well."] My hon. Friend says it has done very well,, but, after all, it depends on what is "very well." I do not look on anything as done very well unless it is enough. Has Ireland done better in recruiting? She has not done half as well. It is a great mistake to butter her up and tell her she has done so splendidly when she has not. I have the figures here. Out of 562,000 men of military age between nineteen and forty-one, 92,000 have enlisted. Is that enough? [An HON. MEMBER: "Too much!"] That is an hon. Member who will tell you that he wants Ireland to take her full share in the War. Remember this—and I make this appeal again to the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Waterford—that every omission that you make in Ireland throws a heavier burden on those whom you 1482 are compelling to serve. It prolongs the War. We are told that the Derby scheme did not apply to Ireland, and that that is the reason for not introducing Ireland into this Bill. So far from being a reason for not introducing Ireland into this Bill it is a reason for introducing Ireland. The Derby scheme has brought about millions of recruits in this country which we have not got in Ireland in proportion, and therefore all the more necessary is it that Ireland should be included. Let me just for one moment examine the reasons given for this Bill, and see whether they apply to Ireland or whether they do not. Let me take again the Colonial Secretary. He said:—This step is necessary now if we are to keep an Army in the field which we can, in the view of everybody, afford, and which is necessary, if we are to have any chance to bring this War to a successful termination."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 5th January, 1916, col. 1011.]Why does not that apply to Ireland? Let me take Lord Kitchener. He says:—We are now asking Parliament to sanction a change, as it has been proved that in the special circumstances of this unprecedented struggle the existing system without modification is not equal to maintaining the Army which is needed to secure victory,Why does not that apply to Ireland? These are not considerations of a local character. They are considerations of an Imperial character, and they are considerations which equally affect all parts of the United Kingdom. But let me take last of all, as a quotation, the speech of the new Home Secretary, which I think was a model of logical eloquence much appreciated by the House when it was delivered. He said this:—The nation must be prepared to strike hard blows on the battlefield—blow after blow—until the victory has been won. The War will be ended, in my belief, in no other way. The Cabinet day by day, hour by hour, most 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."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 6th January, 1916, col. 1149 and 1150.]Has Ireland no interest in this vision of "our men in the trenches, our men in the Fleet, watching, fighting, dying to defend our honour and our safety"? I ask the hon. and learned Member for Waterford what is to become of our regiments with Irish names if the drafts are not kept up?
§ Sir E. CARSON
With the numbers which are at present available they cannot be kept up. I hope they will be kept up. No one hopes it more than I do, but I say at the present rate, and we know it perfectly well, they cannot, and we know that at the present moment a number of our Irish regiments are filled up with vast numbers from England,. or from Scotland, numbers of them. There is no use burking the fact. Day after day, unless there are more recruits produced from Ireland, those regiments will lose their identity, with their magnificent traditions of all that they have done on the battlefield in conjunction with the troops of this country There is one other matter, though it may be a small matter, which I would like to point out and it is with regard to an injustice done by this Bill in leaving out Ireland. In my opinion, it is a matter which will in the long run bring reproach upon my country, and it is this. As the Bill at present stands, a man in England in a good job may be seized hold of by the recruiting sergeant and he may be sent to the front, and an Irishman may be sent for just from over the Channel and be brought over to take his job, and he can stay here and carry out the other man's work and not a word can be said to him till the end of the War by the recruiting sergeant. [An HON. MEMBER: "I do not think that is so."] That is absolutely so, because, unless he is living here permanently, and was here on the 15th August, he cannot be touched. I will be glad if it is not meant to be so, but the hon. Member may take it from me, as a matter of construction of the Bill itself, that it is so, and very clearly so. I am not going to refer to controversial matters with hon. Members below the Gangway. I have preferred to show the great Imperial reasons even in the interests of Ireland itself why I think Ireland ought to be included in this Bill, and I make one more appeal to the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Waterford, that he should consider whether that cannot not even now be done. I have been unable to find, as I have said, any argument which shows the difference between Ireland and the other parts of the United Kingdom, and in my heart I believe that when the hour of victory comes, as it certainly will, we 1484 who are Irishmen will feel ashamed to remember that we expected others to make sacrifices from which we provided our own exclusion.
§ Mr. HOGGE
The speech to which we have just listened from the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Dublin University has been characterised by many of the attributes which we have usually thought were a special province of his own. I wish that every right hon. Member, who had held office and who had demitted it, was as straight and as square with the House as the right hon. Gentleman. I venture to think that a great deal of what he did say in the first portion of his speech was very much more relevant to a Vote of Censure on the Government than to any arguments that ought to be addressed for or against the Second Reading of this Bill. If the right hon. Gentleman had been addressing them to a Vote of Censure I should have been the first to agree with him in very much of what he said, because I am one of those who, like himself, feel very strongly that in the War in which we are now engaged we have allowed the Government to make so many military commitments that the question of men obviously and naturally arises. I think from that point of view a very great deal could be said. The right hon. Gentleman has been an opponent, as he has said, of a great many of us in the House, and within the last few weeks some of us have found ourselves supporting him in certain lines which he has taken in regard to the conduct of this Government. I venture, therefore, to address the House from the point of view of a Member who is prepared to see everything done that can be done to achieve victory, and from the point of view of a Member who has given himself every possible help in every way to the Army, and who objects to hon. Members, to hon. and gallant Members coming to this House, and telling us, if we do a certain thing, and if we go into a certain Lobby, that we are fighting against our brothers in the trenches. I object very strongly to that attitude. Surely we are not debating this to-day for the sake of division, but to see if we can reach agreement. Therefore I say, I hope that the sentiments expressed by the hon. and gallant Member for Sunderland (Colonel Sir H. Greenwood) in the First Reading Debate will not be repeated. If I may respectfully say so, it does not lie in the mouths of hon. and gallant Gentlemen who prefer jobs in Whitehall to com- 1485 mands in Flanders to come here and give those sentiments to fellow Members of the House.
§ Colonel Sir H. GREENWOOD
Since the commencement of the War I have been Tinder the orders of my military superiors. I must go where I am sent. I was sent to Flanders, and stayed there until I was ordered back. I think that reflection on a colleague in this House and on an officer who has no control over his own movements is only worthy of those who are deserting the men in the trenches by opposing this Bill.
§ Mr. HOGGE
If the hon. and gallant Member got his deserts, it should, I am sure, be a division. But it is an indication of the waste of military material when an hon. and gallant Member, trained to command a battalion, and who has been sent to the front, should then be withdrawn, after all that training, to a post—
§ Mr. HOGGE
Take it as you like, but do not come to the House and accuse other hon. Members whose sons have been in the trenches from the beginning of the War, and who have been fighting for us and him, do not accuse us of not wanting to see this War thoroughly carried through to a successful conclusion. As I say, I want the House to address itself to the question from the point of view of securing an agreement. Let us try and understand each other. Some of us are against this Bill because we dislike the idea of Conscription. Some of us oppose the idea of Conscription on the basis of principle. I put that aside because it is not, possibly, a point that will be discussed at too great length in the course of this Debate Some of us oppose it because we are not in possession of the facts. It will be remembered that Lord Kitchener approached the Labour party in this House and told them that the military necessities required some 30,000 men per week to the end of November. The other day, in a Congress in 1486 London, the President of the Board of Education—I do not know whether he is the present President or the late President—stated that what Lord Kitchener said was that we required 1,500,000 men before the end of 1916. That is what we mean when we ask in this House for the facts. The right hon. and learned Member opposite (Sir E. Carson) told us that the Prime Minister said this, that Lord Kitchener said that, and that the Cabinet said another thing. Which of these, and at what time, was any of them or all of them telling the country the complete facts of the situation'? If they are not addressing themselves to the complete facts of the situation, why ought we to be asked to pass a Bill of this kind with the very inadequate information supplied in Lord Derby's Report?
For the last fifteen years I have been accustomed to review figures on social subjects brought together from all sources with the idea of drawing from them conclusions for the guidance of other people interested in those subjects, and I frankly say that I never have had presented to me in a worse form and in a more inadequate, way any series of figures for any purpose. Lord Derby started to secure these figures by stating that he meant to secure them in order to wind-up a bankrupt concern. In winding up the bankrupt concern he found that his assets were more than twenty shillings in the pound, and then he took up the position taken up by Shylock of demanding his pound of flesh. Some of us take up the position of at any rate trying to see that in the taking of that pound of flesh no principle that ought not to be sacrificed is sacrificed without reason. On the question of recruiting some one on the Front Bench ought to give us information with regard to what the Government hope to get by this indiscriminate kind of recruiting. I have read in the Old Testament of one of the most famous recruiting exploits that the history of the world has witnessed—that of Gideon. Gideon's method of recruiting was to get rid of all kinds of men, except those who were ready, anxious and keen to do the work; in fact, he shed the men and put certain obstacles in the way to prevent their getting into the final number of the Army that achieved victory. I address myself to the business men in this House who take the point of view that there are so many slackers still in existence. What do business men do with slackers? I had always 1487 understood that a business man would fire any slackers that he had in his business concern. Here you are involving the nation in a great scheme to recruit what has been described as "slackers."
My next point is to ask whether or not this House has a right to have knowledge of the international position amongst the Allies before we come to this decision. That is an extremely important point. I have before now brought the mind of the House to this point—that there is always too great a tendency in looking at the facts of this War to look at them from the point of view merely of men. There is too much thought in terms of men. There seems to be the same kind of feeling among the public here as exists among the German soldiers in their advance towards an attack—the feeling that somehow or other there is comfort in numbers. But, after all, there are other very material considerations to be borne in mind. I have never heard the Navy mentioned since this Debate began, even though the First Lord of the Admiralty took part in the First Reading discussion. The Navy has done everything that has been asked of it since the War began; it has done it brilliantly, and we are under a great debt of gratitude for the effective way in which the Navy has worked. I want to know—and I think no one will dispute that it is a pertinent inquiry—before we address ourselves to the accumulation of more men for the Army, where the Navy stands, and whether we have sufficient men for its present and future needs? I do not mean the men on the ships—the sailors, the gunners, and men of that kind; the greater number of men we require for the Navy are men engaged on land, in our great dockyards and repairing shops, and in all the multifarious ways by which our Navy is kept up to the scratch. Has the Cabinet addressed itself to that point? Has the Cabinet addressed itself to the further point as to what share the British Navy is taking with regard to the whole of the Allies? Surely it is an important point that so far as Great Britain is concerned we can turn out and equip ships faster, better, and more completely than any of our Allies. I have never heard a whisper as to what our Allies are doing with regard to their Navies, whether they are attempting to increase them to any great extent, or whether Great Britain is being asked to bear, as she is perfectly able to do, practi- 1488 cally the brunt of the whole naval defence and offence of the War. Surely that is a. fair question to put. I think hon. Members will agree that it is a kind of question that requires to be answered satisfactorily if we are to give our consent to this Bill with the approval of our intelligence. It is surely worth while going to some length to meet points raised by men who are keen to see victory, but who cannot see it in the present method.
Further, we have heard very little about finance. The Chancellor of the Exchequer has not yet spoken. I know he is engaged on other duties, but this is the kind of Debate during which I should fancy the Chancellor of the Exchequer ought to be present throughout the two days. He is a member of the War Council as well as controlling the finances of the country, and it is essential that he should know the general feeling of the House. He knows, of course, to a large extent what will be the feeling among large groups of Members, but he does not know the objections that may be urged by independent critics. In order not to detain the House too long by one individual speech, I will quote four lines from the "Statist" which puts the-financial position in a nutshell and raises the difficulty which I have in mind. The authority of the "Statist" will not be questioned by any Member of the House, certainly not by any Member of the Cabinet, as Members know the authority on which its articles are written. This is what the "Statist" says:—In brief. British policy now provides for the maintenance out of British funds not only of the greatest Fleet ever brought together, but for the support of the total Army. British. Colonial and foreign, of some tea million men.I am not going into the details of those figures. Figures are rather dangerous things to use in debate. The late Home Secretary used figures and was convicted of one slight error in subtraction. He was followed by the present Home Secretary who, according to the right hon. and learned Member opposite (Sir E. Carson), made a brilliant exposure of the errors of the late Home Secretary. I have examined the figures of both and am convinced that both are wrong, and that there is an error which can be expressed in percentages of the amount that either one or the other is wrong. But I do not propose to follow that up, because I think it is rather disastrous to get into a discussion of figures which are difficult to understand in debate. Therefore I confine myself to this quotation in this case for the 1489 purpose of asking a question. The question is put for me at the end of this article, where it says,Doubtless now that the Government have decided to call to the Colours all the single men still available, they will cause tube made a most careful examination into the financial and economic conditions of the country in order to discover whether or not it is feasible for the nation to provide so great a sum of money as will be required in the current year with the productive power of the nation diminished by the further great addition to the Army that is now proposed.Will hon. Members note what that question is. "Doubtless now that a certain thing has been decided this inquiry will be made." Why not make that inquiry before you come to this important decision? Is there no one on the Front Bench able to tell the "Statist" that there has been this careful examination into the financial and economic condition of the country? Because, mark you, not a single Member on the Front Bench has yet given us any assurances or any figures which will enable us to come to a conclusion in the matter referred to. Take the President of the Board of Trade. He made a contribution to this Debate so far back as the 20th December last, when he explained what the Board of Trade had done in order to ascertain how many men were available to make up the 4,000,000 whom we have now voted completely. It would be an offence on my part if I were to read large quotations from that speech, but I have for myself reread that speech, and I want to draw the attention of the House to this point: After the President of the Board of Trade had made every possible concession to the prejudice he might be supposed to have in favour of getting every possible man, he comes to the conclusion that all he can possibly see his way to do, so far as the trade and industry of the country is concerned, is 1,000,000 men. I think if hon. Members will refresh their memories by reading that speech they will find that the contribution from the Board of Trade to the problem of finding the men is defined in a way not unsatisfactory to any critic who is hostile to this Bill, in the sense that he wanted to see the country down instead of up. Of course, one is not going to pick holes, but there is, for instance, in it a reference to certain trades, such as the building trade. That is the one trade mentioned in the whole course of that speech from which anything like a large number of men can be said to be available.
Hon. Members who know something of the building trade, not only in our large 1490 towns, but throughout the country, of the bricklayer and the stonemason, and men on that kind of job, know that though they are excellent workmen, that the kind of exposure to which they are subjected, and the kind of work they are doing, would be led to suppose that that reservoir is one from which the President of the Board of Trade would not be quite so sure of getting what he thinks. Let us concede every one of these men—and the limit is 1,000,000. I do not pretend to know Cabinet secrets. The First Lord of the Admiralty told us that the Cabinet had no secrets; he said they were very united and had the same policy; but I think the House ought to be put into possession of the fact that at least two other members of the Cabinet, the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the President of the Board of Trade, have, unless, all the rumours and all stories to the contrary be untrue, raised the point of the limitation of the numbers of men who ought to be recruited. That surely is a very real argument, and surely is an argument that ought to be placed before this House with the weight of authority with which it has been placed before the Cabinet by the Chancellor of the Exchequer and by the President of the Board of Trade. Before we are entitled to be driven, as it were, into the position of a Division, and to make it look as if we were going into the Division Lobby against the Bill, we ought to be in possession of the facts.
The third point I want to make—and I can make it more shortly than the one I have just finished, is this: I am one of those people who believe that there is a danger from an industrial point of view if this Bill gets through the House of Commons. Nothing in the way of criticism that has ever come from this corner of the House in regard to the labour situation has been directed to anything else than an effort to get co-operation between those men and the Government in achieving success in this War. One has an extra weight of authority in addressing oneself to this point when one knows so intimately the greatest arsenal for the making of munitions and the supply of ships in the United Kingdom. We know the men with whom you are dealing, and, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, I invite this House to face the-facts. A great deal has been made in the Debate, and a great deal more will be made, about facing the facts. Hon. Members who are largely in support of this Bill ask us to face the facts. They tell us 1491 that victory is not possible unless these men be recruited. That is the fact they ask us to face. I invite them to face another fact, to face this: that the men in our great munitions areas—I speak only of the one I know most intimately—can be got to work with everybody else in the nation, that those men can be satisfied, that there is no reason under the sun why there should be any irritation, that there is no desire on their part that there should be irritation, that there is a method of doing it which we have advanced and urged in this House, and which we believe, if paid heed to, would solve the situation on the Clyde.
This Bill, if passed, does nothing to remove that irritation. On the contrary, it suggests questions to these men that they begin putting to themselves, and those of us who do not, frankly, want to see Conscription, but who desire to see success in this War, are as much concerned that the House shall take note of that great fact as those who ask us to take note of the other fact, that victory cannot be secured unless you enrol all the men under Lord Derby's scheme. Surely, therefore, it is too big a thing on which to divide parties in this House. It is not good enough to say, as the right hon. and learned Gentleman who has just sat down said, that when that point arises we can deal with it. You cannot. You cannot deal with that situation when it arises. It involves all the area. It involves the men. It involves consequences that will make a mighty difference to the people of this country if they do not face it. Why should we tell the House what is not true? Why should we come down to the House with arguments of this kind? Do you think we do it because we want to stop Conscription? I have told the House that some of us who are making these speeches have every male relative in the trenches now. Supposing the Bill goes through, you cannot conscript another one of us. The only way you can get some more of us, as I suggested to the Prime Minister, is by raising the age under which we can get in. I, for instance, cannot get in, but if you raised the age to-morrow, so far as willingness and ability to serve is concerned, I am prepared to go. A great many other men are prepared to go who are against Conscription. We are not afraid.
§ Mr. HOGGE
I cannot get in. I am perfectly willing to go. As I have pointed out, everyone connected with me has already gone, and is now in the trenches. I want hon. Members to face this fact: Here is a great industrial situation which is part and parcel of the weapons with which we shall gain the victory. I am asking the House to address itself to that situation rather than to try and throw on the floor of this House apples of discord over which we can wrangle. We do not want to wrangle on this Bill. We ought surely now to reach a conclusion, and some of us have suggested what can be done before that conclusion can be come to.
§ Mr. HOGGE
That on the Clyde, for instance, the men and the employers ought to be put on a basis of mutual confidence. It would solve three-quarters of your difficulties to-morrow if the employers were put in the same position as the workmen. However, we have elaborated that on the Munitions Bill, and I do not want to pursue it. I only want to suggest to right hon. Gentlemen on the Front Bench that it is surely worth their while for the sake of union to face those facts. That is all I am asking for to-day.
Some hon. Members—to proceed to my fourth point—have said that some of us who oppose Conscription are afraid of a General Election. I do not think that hon. Members will attribute that cowardice to some of us. Some hon. Members, I think the right hon. and learned Gentleman opposite among them, have said that some of us were afraid to go down to our constituencies. Why? We have all gone all the time to recruit men for this voluntary system under which we have done so magnificently. I have never hesitated to go into my Constituency. I was in it a week ago, and all these questions were raised then. I know the views of my Constituency. I also know that there is a great deal of truth in the fact that if a General Election were forced upon us a great number of people might lose their seats; but the casualties would not be all on one side! I would suggest this, that if it were forced—and I am certain it will not be, and I trust it will not be—any satisfaction that would be got out of it would be the 1493 same kind of satisfaction that King Constantine got out of his election after he had dismissed the Prime Minister. There is another point, a sentimental point, and my last, and I hope the House will allow me to put it shortly. Ireland is to be left out of this Bill. The right hon. and learned Gentleman made a considerable point in discussing this matter -with his colleagues from the point of view of figures. We Scotsmen have made complaint all along that we have not been given the official figures for Scotland. We do not know them in the same way as the Irish party in the House know the figures for Ireland. I want to say, Mr. Speaker, that from Scotland, whose population is only 4,000,000, over 400,000 men have joined the Colours. If that proportion had been attained in England and Wales you would have had 4,000,000 from these countries alone, which is the total number you are asking now to fill up this vote of 4,000,000. [An HON. MEMBER: "We have got them!"] No, you have not, because they are not in the Army. At any rate my point is, that in Scotland we have given the British Army, and we have given it gladly, quite 400,000 men, if not more. I know these figures cannot be denied by the military authorities, although I cannot get any of them published in the House or outside. We have given one-tenth of our population.
The House will excuse me, and will also excuse Scottish Members if we express pride in the history of our Highland and other regiments. I represent one of the seats in the capital of Scotland. The oldest foot regiment in the British Army was raised in that capital. We began the British Army in that capital of the North, and from the moment that the first man was recruited down to the moment that the Fifteenth Division went over Hill 70, through Loos, and into Lens, the achievements of Scottish soldiers have brought not only a thrill of pride to those of us who are Scots, but to every one of us who are Britons. I have never disparaged any other soldier in the British Army. One is not like some Members of this House who have discovered for the first time that there is a British Empire. Scotsmen have believed in the British Empire always—because they discovered it! I do not blame hon. Members, but if they agree that we not only discovered it—[An HON. MEMBER: 'And made it!"]—that is an extra reason why we should be particularly proud of it. 1494 But is there nobody on the Government Bench—nobody in the Cabinet—with any sentiment left? Why should the bar sinister of Conscription be written across the breasts of those Highland regiments, when already we have given you 400,000 men for this purpose, when already we have garrisoned the greatest arsenal for munitions this country has, and we suggest to you a way out of the difficulties in which the Minister of Munitions finds himself with these people now? Why, in the name of goodness, should our little nation beyond the Tweed, with its 400,000 men fighting for you throughout the Empire now—one-tenth of its whole population—be conscripted when other parts of the Empire have not provided the proportion they ought to have provided? I am going to put on the Paper in the Committee stage an Amendment to omit Scotland, and it will be very interesting to see how the Secretary for Scotland and the Leader of the Liberal party, who represents Scotland in this House, and the other Scottish Members, will act in regard to that Resolution. We feel keenly about it. We are not asking much. How much more do you want from us than the share we have given you? I do, therefore, appeal to this House as seriously as I can—perhaps Members sometimes do not take us in this corner too seriously, but on this point I feel extraordinarily keen—that, before you drive us back to our constituencies in Scotland, will you ask the Cabinet to put the facts and the figures before this House? I do not ask you to do anything more. Will you support us in getting from the Cabinet the figures of the men who have been contributed from the various parts of the country before you ask us to sustain this disgrace? I do not care where the deficiencies are; I hope they will not be so many as some people think. But I do think it is fair, before we are asked to agree to this great slur on the tradition and patriotism of Scotland, which have been upheld again and again so strongly during this present campaign, that we should not be asked to support a policy of Conscription.
§ Captain HUGH O'NEILL
The hon. Gentleman who just sat down made an interesting speech, but one with which, as I need hardly say, I do not agree. I only ask that he should go and make the speech which he has just delivered before the gallant Highland regiments who are fighting for us at the front, and it will 1495 be interesting to see what kind of reception, he gets. This is the first time that I have had an opportunity of addressing this House owing to the exigencies of my military duties, although I have been a Member of this House now for very nearly twelve months. But it is a matter of satisfaction to me that the first occasion upon which I have the privilege of addressing the House of Commons should be in support of so good a cause as that in favour of which I am speaking to-day. I listened with intense interest and with great care to the speech on the First Reading of this Bill made by the First Lord of the Admiralty, and I read with equal interest the speech of the Prime Minister. It seems to me that there was one essential point of difference between the two speeches, and it was this. The Prime Minister based his arguments upon the fact that this Bill was the fulfilment of a pledge which he, on behalf of the Government, had given to the married men of this country. The First Lord of the Admiralty based his arguments upon the fact that this Bill was a Bill of military necessity, and it is upon this latter supposition—the only supposition, I contend, with which we can seriously deal—that I propose to say what I have got to say.
Before this War there were many far-seeing persons in this country who were in favour of some form of compulsory service, who considered that compulsory training of some kind was an absolute necessity for the maintenance of our power and our greatness as an Empire. I was not one of those. I never considered that compulsory service was a necessity for this country, except to the extent that I have always thought that compulsory training would be a magnificent thing for the physique of the country, I am talking now of days previous to the outbreak of war. The great majority of people in this country held the view that the British Empire was primarily a sea power, and that cur efforts in any European war which might break out must be primarily naval efforts. And there were many people, of whom I admit I was one, who did not consider that in a European war England would be brought face to face with the necessities of entering into it with huge Armies on the scale of Continental military Powers. Very few people foresaw that possibility at the beginning of the War; but I wonder how 1496 many there are who can say the same today? There are some; the hon. Member who has just sat down is one. He, apparently, from what he said, is one who still so thinks, as I thought before the War, in spite of the fact, as he told us, that he has sent many of his own family to serve in the Army on the Continent or in other parts of the field of war. But it seems to me that week by week, month by month, since this War broke out, the conviction has gradually but surely been forced upon us that now we have reached a stage in the conduct of this War where we can only successfully carry it through by large numbers of men, where we have got to act, not as we considered likely before the outbreak of war purely as a naval nation, but also as one of the great Military Powers of the world. I am not a soldier by profession, and I can assure the House that it is with genuine regret I realise that the War has pursued a course which makes it now absolutely and finally necessary for us to pass this Bill. But that it is so I have now not the slightest doubt.
It has been stated in the Debate upon the First Reading, some parts of which I heard, especially by some hon. Members below the Gangway on the other side of the House, that this Bill was merely the thin end of the wedge, and that as a result of it there was bound to come, sooner or later, general Conscription upon a much larger basis than is contemplated by the measure now before the House. Whether that is the case or not I do not know; we cannot possibly tell now. But once you are brought face to face with the fact, as I have been, that we have now got to put forward our strength in this War as a great military Continental Power, it seems, to me that compulsory service is the one and only logical conclusion, and that whether or not this is the thin end of the wedge—we all hope it will not be necessary to carry the principle of compulsory service further than is contemplated by this Bill—I say that we have got the principle, and, if necessary, we shall have to apply the principle, even though it may be to the bitter end Once we have got the principle of compulsory service, as we shall have it when this Bill has passed all its stages in both Houses of Parliament, I say with absolute conviction and without the slightest hesitation, that if military necessities demand it, compulsory service upon a much bigger scale than is now contemplated will have to be carried out. 1497 As an Irishman representing an Irish Constituency, I feel that I must refer to the question of Ireland in spite of the fact that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dublin University (Sir E. Carson) has dealt with it. Although what I am saying must of necessity be completely overshadowed by what my right hon. Friend so ably said, I feel that as a representative of an Irish Constituency I must refer to the exclusion of Ireland from this Bill. It seems to me that the attitude of the Government on this point is, roughly, this. They say they were led to believe by the speeches of Nationalist Members that if any measure of compulsory service was brought in for Ireland, the application of such a measure would of necessity lead to all kinds of difficulty and all kinds of friction, that it would open up old sores which at a time like this we do not wish to open up, and that under those circumstances rather than force upon the Irish Nationalist Members a Bill which they would not agree to, they would, for the sake of the number of men the Bill would yield in Ireland, have peace and let Ireland out. That seems to be, roughly, the position of the Government. Under the circumstances in which we find ourselves, and considering that we are engaged in a struggle such as has never taken place before, I am inclined to think that the Government would have found great difficulty in acting in regard to Ireland other than they have acted. The view I take of it is that, although under the circumstances which I have just referred to you cannot, in a sense, blame the Government for having left Ireland out of the Bill, I can and I do, and I am sure all hon. Members from the North of Ireland do, most sincerely blame those who lead the Government to believe that they ought to leave Ireland out of this Bill. Undoubtedly, by their speeches and actions the Irish Nationalist Members have led the Government to adopt the course which they are now adopting.
I would like to ask, do the Irish Nationalist Members represent the true opinion of Ireland on this question? Let me put the question to a test for a moment. It is universally conceded in this House—at any rate, I do not know exactly what the Nationalist Members can say about it, as none of them have dealt with this matter—but the Labour Members can see that it is universally conceded that if this 1498 Bill were submitted to the country at a General Election it would be enthusiastically and finally endorsed. I think that is generally admitted, but would that be the case with regard to Ireland? Would the Irish constituencies endorse this Bill if it were submitted to them by way of a General Election? If we are to judge by what has always been stated by hon. Members on this side of the House below the Gangway, namely, that Ireland has produced her share of recruits, it seems to me that if the Bill applied to Ireland it would be approved of. Once you admit that it would be approved in England, Scotland and Wales, and once you say that Ireland, like England, Scotland and Wales, has contributed her share, and more than her share of recruits for the Army, you cannot very well turn round at the same time and say that the Bill will be disapproved of in Ireland. One must remember that every recruit obtained under the voluntary system has relatives, particularly feminine relatives and friends, and therefore these are all potential workers and helpers in the cause of compulsion.
The reason why this Bill would be enthusiastically endorsed in Great Britain is, firstly, because of the inherent patriotism of our people, and, secondly, very largely owing to the fact that so many men have come forward under the voluntary system that all the friends and relations, brothers and sisters, and fathers of those people are now themselves ipso facto made helpers in the cause of compulsory service. Apply that to Ireland. If Ireland is in the same position with regard to the proportion of recruits which she has sent to the Army, and if this Bill were referred to Ireland at a General Election, all the people in Ireland whose relations have gone to the War to serve their country would come forward to help this Bill and register their votes in favour of it. It is very doubtful whether the Nationalist Members from Ireland really represent the opinion of the Irish people at large upon this Bill. I can say, at any rate with regard to the part of Ireland that I represent, I am absolutely certain, without the slightest shadow of a doubt, that if this Bill were referred to my county, or if any scheme is adopted later on by means of which this Bill can be referred to the electors of my county, it will at once receive an enthusiastic endorsement. Perhaps I might say in passing that it is a fact that 1499 the county of Antrim, for which I am one of the Members, has sent every one of its four Members of Parliament to serve in the Army. Every one of those hon. Members is now actually, apart from the fact that we are now in this House, at the front. With the exception of myself—and I am for the moment doing duty at a Divisional Headquarters in France—every one of the Members representing my county are actually serving with Infantry battalions at the front. Quite apart from that, there is not the slightest doubt that this Bill in my part of Ireland would be enthusiastically endorsed.
I think this measure might very well be called the "Patriots' Emancipation Bill," because it finally does away with the disabilities and the injustices which under a voluntary system are inseparable from the man who goes and does his duty. This Bill once and for all does away with those difficulties and emancipates him. It puts the man who has done his duty upon as good a footing as the man who has not done his duty, which never has been the case up to now. With regard to the exclusion of Ireland, why should not the patriots in Ireland who have loyally come forward in this crisis be given the power and the right of seeing that those who have not done their duty should be treated as they will be treated in England, Scotland, and Wales? Why should this Bill not be for the emancipation of the patriots of Ireland? It seems to me that upon any principle of equity, fairness, or justice, you cannot exclude Ireland from this Bill. Apart from side issues as to whether the Derby scheme applied to Ireland or the National Register—apart from all these questions, the position which the Nationalists for Ireland take up is absolutely unarguable. It was with great pleasure that I heard the speech to-day of the hon. and learned Member for Waterford, and I am extremely glad to think that the Nationalist Members, in spite of their vote last week, have now come to the only logical conclusion they could come, namely, that it is their duty to support this Bill through the remainder of its stages in this House. [HON. MEMBERS: "NO!"] At any rate the hon. and learned Member for Waterford declared that it has been decided no longer to put any hindrance in the way of the passage of this Bill through this House, and I was naturally very glad to hear that that is the conclusion at which 1500 the Nationalist Members for Ireland have arrived. I think they might have gone further. They have got what they wanted. They have got the exclusion of Ireland although the whole of Ireland does not wish to be excluded, and why should they not, looking at it as a purely British measure, adopt what they have always stated to be the patriotic course, of seeing this Bill through and supporting it through its final stages?
I am afraid that I have spoken at far greater length than I had intended, but this question of the exclusion of Ireland is one upon which I feel very deeply. The question of compulsory service is one which in recent weeks I have on several occasions discussed with people in France, because my duties there take me much among the inhabitants. When you see the position of affairs in France it is extremely difficult to do anything but take the view of the most extreme admiration of all that they have done, and realise what we might do to help them. The very night before I left France last week I was talking to a Frenchman who was interested in the question as it was then being discussed in this country, and he told me that he had not the slightest doubt that the United Kingdom would adopt this measure of compulsory service. He looked upon it as a natural corrollary to the efforts we have hitherto made. If I ever see that man again when I go back, what am I, as an Irishman, going to say to him? What am I going to say as to the position of my country with regard to this measure? I shall have to tell him that Ireland—a small Ireland if you like, an Ireland which has done so much, as we all admit, not only in this War but in all the recent wars in which Great Britain has been engaged—has not been thought worthy of participating with our Allies in the great sacrifice which is now to be made by us here in England.
I do not know how any Irishman who is fond of his country, as I am, will ever again be able to hold high his head in the company of a Frenchman, or a Russian, or an Italian, or any of our other Allies, or, for that matter, before an Englishman, or a Scotsman, or a Welshman. I feel very strongly that this is a matter of keen disgrace to Ireland. Ireland under this Bill is being humiliated. It is being treated as a thing apart, as a thing unworthy of consideration to share equally with the Allies in the great cause which we have at hand. I do not know what the course may be, but I hope very much that when this Bill 1501 is considered in Committee an opportunity may be given possibly for allowing that part of Ireland which I represent to say whether or not it wishes to be included in the provisions of this Bill. Whether that will be so or not I do not know, but I say again that I look with great personal shame and great personal dislike upon the way in which Ireland has been treated. This Bill brands an Irishman for ever as an outcast, an inferior being, a selfish egoist, a compatriot of men who refused to undertake joint sacrifice with the other Allies in this War. In years to come all that Ireland may have accomplished in this War will be forgotten in face of the one outstanding fact that she omitted to bear to the full the sacrifices of the Allies.
§ The PRESIDENT of the LOCAL GOVERNMENT BOARD (Mr. Long)
I am sure everybody in the House will desire to join with me in offering to my hon. and gallant Friend warm congratulations, not only upon the distinguished part—the double part—which he is bearing in public service in the trenches and in this House, but also upon the "admirable manner in which he has acquitted himself to-day. He bears a name long well known and honoured in this House. All of us who knew his predecessor profoundly regretted our personal and public loss when he gave his life for his country. We rejoice to know that his place has been taken by one who will carry as highly and as gallantly as he did the banner which his family have always borne so well in their country's service. My hon. and gallant Friend made a brave and courageous speech. In the earlier part of it when he referred to Ireland he recognised to the full—and, indeed, went so far as to agree with the view taken—that if the Government had pursued another course than the one which they have adopted it might have led to disaster. He said that he feared he had trespassed too long upon the time of the House. He was not a bit too long. His speech was full of interest, and was a courageous exposition of the views which he as an Irish Unionist holds. If his speech had been twice its length, there is not a man to be found in this House who in these days would consider too long any the time which a Member occupies who is spending all the rest of his hours and days fighting for us and fighting for our liberty.
The controversy and fight over this Bill is practically over. I have listened to nearly all the speeches which have been delivered on the First Reading and this 1502 afternoon. What have been the objections to the policy of His Majesty's Government which have been specially raised to-day I They have varied from the general attack made by the hon. Member who opened the Debate (Mr. Anderson) down to the speech delivered by the hon. Member for Edinburgh (Mr. Hogge). The general criticisms here have taken one form. We are told by those who are opposed to the Bill and who mean to resist it that they want more information. The hon. Member for Edinburgh told us that he meant to oppose the Bill because His Majesty's Ministers had not thought fit to take the House more fully into their confidence in regard to finance, in regard to the provision of men, and in regard to the situation generally. I was surprised that one so intimately acquainted with our practice as my hon. Friend should draw attention to the absence from this bench of the Chancellor of the Exchequer (Mr. McKenna) and the President of the Board of Trade (Mr. Runciman). Surely he knows, and everybody knows, that these Ministers, being Ministers of the Crown, share to-day to-the full with every other Minister responsibility for the Bill which we propose. When he advances the argument that criticisms have been made that we cannot find the money, or that we cannot spare the men from our industries, I say again, on behalf of the Government, what has been said before, and in face of this kind of criticism it cannot be said too often. The hon. and learned Member for Water-ford (Mr. John Redmond), in a speech to which everybody listened with the greatest interest and with no small amount of profound gratification, said that he had not yet heard enough information from the Government as to the need for this Bill. Other hon. Gentlemen have argued that before they can support this Bill they must know more of the facts. Can language go further, can language be stronger, can language be plainer than that used by the Secretary of State for War the other day in the House of Lords? Speaking with the great responsibility of his position as our War Minister, he declared not that these men are necessary in order that the Army may be swollen to certain fanciful proportions, and not that these men are necessary in order to carry out any statement or pledge that he has made, but in words perfectly plain and distinct at the end of his statement-he said:— 1503We are asking Parliament to sanction a change, 'because it has been proved that in the special circum stances of this unprecedented struggle the existing system without modification is not equal to maintaining the Army which is needed—Needed for what? Not to gratify the Government or gratify the Secretary of State, but which he declared in his place in Parliament is neededto secure victory.I ask this House, and I ask our critics, What more can the Government say than they have said through the mouth of their responsible War Minister? Speaking on their behalf, he declares that these men we are now asking for are absolutely essential if we are to secure victory. Nobody recognises more fully than I do or more gladly than I do the tone which has characterised the whole of these Debates. I know that there are many of my Friends in this House and out of it who hold that those of us who had professed the view long before this that some form of compulsion was needed have too long held back, and that we ought to have pressed our views with greater vigour and insistence. We are only human. We have done what we believe to be right in the matter, and if the same were to come over again I believe that my Leader and those who follow him and all who joined the Coalition Government would follow the same course. Whether we may believe that be right or wrong, I submit with confidence to our sternest critic that the conduct of this Debate to-day has justified our action. It may be that there has not been, and that there is not to-day, what is called complete assent. But does anybody remember, does the oldest Member of this House remember, any subject around which there has ranged any controversy upon which there has been so large a measure of agreement in the House and in the country as there has been upon this Bill? Would that eminently satisfactory condition of things have been possible to have been obtained if we had attempted, or if anybody in the Government or out of it had really attempted, to force this issue at an earlier moment? What are the other criticisms which we have heard today?
There is one I wish to refer to first. This is not the first time it has been used; it is a rather popular form of attack upon the policy which the Government are today recommending to the House and to the country. It is that you are Prussian-rising the people by passing a Bill which 1504 enacts a compulsory form of service. May I ask my Friends who adopt this form of criticism, why Prussianise? Is Germany the only country in the world that has compulsory service? Why should compulsory service, which is to be found in many other countries besides Germany, why should the compulsory service we adopt be the German system and the German method? Why is it to be assumed that that system and that method are going to be followed here? Does anybody really believe in his heart that what we call Prussianism, the accursed Prussian militarism which has enabled Germany to create the awful condition of things we are suffering under at the present moment—does anybody believe that that has been the creation of one single Bill or one single Act on the part of Prussian Ministers? Is it contended seriously that by asking that the men who we believe are essential, as I have already said, to the conclusion of this War, who we believe must come in if we are to get our full complement of men, does anybody believe because we say that they shall be compelled to come in we are going to turn this country into a nation of Prussians? Really that criticism has only to be stated to bear its own refutation to all those who take a fair-minded view.
Then we were told that this Bill, if it passes in its present form, is going to be used as a great engine for industrial compulsion and oppression, and in support of that view the suggestion is made that a reduction of wages might cause trouble. It was further stated that in certain stages of the new law a man might be subject to military law although he was not taken to the Colours. It certainly is not the case that a man continuing to work in a factory is going to be treated or regarded as a soldier until he has been called upon to join the Colours. Of that there is really no doubt. At what moment is it that this kind of criticism is brought to bear upon our proposals? At a time when never in all our history was there so great a demand for labour as at the present moment. Never in all our history was the obligation so heavily laid upon masters and men to turn out to the last ounce everything that their mills, factories and workshops can produce. And at this moment we are told this Bill, described by my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Dublin University (Sir E. Carson) as a- most modest form of compulsion, is going to be used as a great industrial 1505 weapon against the working classes! Certainly the Bill has no object of that kind. I believe that description which has been given of it, partly by hon. Members who have spoken and partly by quotations from newspapers, is one that will be found to be wholly imaginary. Of this I am quite confident, that the Prime Minister, who himself is responsible for this Bill to the House of Commons, would be the last man in or out of this House to pass through this House a measure to strengthen our military forces in such a way as to allow it to be used for industrial coercion, which is a totally different thing.
Then there is another argument which is put forward, and it amounts to an appeal for national union. My hon. Friend the Member for Derby (Mr. Thomas), in his remarkable speech the other day, frankly admitted that if we were to appeal to the country on this Bill he had very little doubt as to what the result would be. That being my hon. Friend's opinion when the Bill was being first introduced, I ask this House what is the opinion of the House and of the public to-day? We have had it from the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Waterford (Mr. Redmond), a keen and practised observer of appearances in this House. He at any rate is not easily misled as to what is the meaning of all that is spread out before him. What is his view? Is it contested by anyone? Was there a dissenting voice raised when he told us that those who are opposing this Bill know that they have the great masses of the country against them?
What kind of criticism remains? We are asked for more information and more statements. I ask hon. Gentlemen who Indulge in that form of criticism, do they mean that if they get more information they are prepared to vote for this Bill in its future stages? We are asked for more information every day by those who criticise it. We are asked for more information about finance. We are asked for more information about the men in our national industries. Do hon. Members for a single instance think that the Government which produced this Bill on their authority as the Government of the day, responsible for the affairs of the country and, above all, for the conduct of the War, do they think that a Government headed by the Prime Minister, a man of his personal experience and knowledge, do they -think that a measure of this kind has been proposed to Parliament without all those 1506 questions which they have put being more than fully considered? Do they doubt that they are being considered every day and every week by the Government—not only by the Members that they refer to, but by every Member of the Government] When they ask us for more information, what do they mean? If they suggest that the Government are asking for more men than are wanted, then I offer to that on behalf of the Government the flattest possible contradiction. They are asking for not one more man than they want, and that they are prepared to make use of, in keeping our Army at its proper strength. Do they doubt we can pay for them? Are they afraid that our industries will suffer? And if our industries do suffer, are they prepared to say "No" to this Bill?
§ Mr. LONG
In face of the fact that a responsible Government has declared that this Bill is essential to get the men we want to secure victory? That is the question which the hon. Gentleman must answer here in this House and to his constituents if be gives the reply which he gave to me when I put the first question to him. I ask again, "Are you prepared to refuse this Bill and to refuse these men if you think your industry is in danger?" Upon what, then, do you rely to preserve your industry? You tell us that this Bill is the death-blow to your liberty. If we tell you, as we do, that this Bill is essential if the War is to be brought to a victorious conclusion, what becomes of your industry? What becomes of your liberty? What becomes of your wealth? What becomes of all that you care for most, if you are face to face, as we believe you are, with the fact that you cannot win the War unless you make this great and supreme effort, and keep it up until victory has actually been attained? These are the criticisms which have been addressed to our proposals to-day, and I venture to say that when they are examined they come to nothing.
I said at the beginning of my remarks that we might possibly be charged with too long a delay. I believe, as I have already stated, that our action is justified by the support that we are getting to-day. When I come to the other criticisms there is one which I need hardly say I never thought I should find myself called upon to answer. It is the criticism of my right hon. and learned Friend the Leader of the Irish Unionist Party (Sir E. Carson), delivered at the end of the great speech he 1507 made this afternoon, a speech which made everyone who listened to it realise that a great leader was calling upon his fellow-countrymen to meet a great national duty. He asked members of the Coalition Government, "Why is it that my country is excluded from this Bill?" We have given reasons which he described as unsatisfactory. My right hon. and learned Friend his colleague in the representation of Dublin University (Mr. Campbell) described them the other day as "pretexts." I have only this to say on behalf of those to whom he referred, and with whom it has been my privilege to act. My right hon. and learned Friend knows full well that, in coming to the decision which the Cabinet did come to, we have not done so without weighing, so far as we were able to do so, every possible point of view as to the result of the action we were taking. My right hon. and learned Friend asks for reasons. The reason I give him is this: Whether rightly or wrongly, we believe it to be essential that this Bill should be presented to Parliament and passed into law, and be accepted by the whole country with as large a measure of consent as it is possible to obtain, and that it should be carried through this House, and, above all, be put into operation afterwards, with as little friction as possible. My right hon. and learned Friend the junior Member for the University of Dublin described the reasons given by my right hon. Friend the Colonial Secretary as "pretexts."
§ Mr. J. H. CAMPBELL
No. I was referring to the reasons given by the Prime Minister why the Derby scheme did not apply to Ireland. I said that the real reasons had been given by the Colonial Secretary.
§ 7.0 P.M.
§ Mr. LONG
My right hon. and learned Friend knows that I had no intention of misquoting him. The reason given was, the part of this Bill which refers to the local authorities. May I remind the House what is the essential difference between the old system of compulsion, at the time of Mr. Pitt, and the Bill that we are introducing to the House to-day, and which we are asking the House to read a second time. In the former scheme the exemptions and exceptions were all enumerated in the Act of Parliament; but here the whole of this Bill depends on the co-operation—the active co-operation—of the local tribunals throughout the country. We may be right, we may be wrong. 1508 We, at all events, accepted the view, after considerable examination of all the evidence before us, that it would be better in the interests of the country as a whole that the Bill should be introduced as it is than in the form in which my right hon. and learned Friend preferred to see it. That is a reason which I know in similar circumstances would have weighed with him, and which he would have been reluctant to reject. I am confident that he will appreciate the fact that, in dealing with this difficulty, we have dealt with it in what we believe to be the best manner to secure the success of this measure in this House to-day and in the country in the future.
As far as I know, I have covered the ground of criticism which has been occupied to-day. On the introduction of the Bill my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Walthamstow (Sir J. Simon) indulged in some very strong criticisms of the Bill, criticisms which, I confess, very much surprised me. Among others, he made a reference to the National Register Bill. I understood him to say that at the time that Bill was passed that we were assured that the National Register would never be used for compulsion. I do not know who gave that assurance or to whom it was given. I have very carefully examined all the Debates of that time, I have read all the assurances given by the Prime Minister, and I know of no such assurances. That it would never be used as a means of information as to the available resources of the country was certainly not given as a promise by anybody at that time, nor, so far as I know,, demanded.
§ Sir J. SIMON
May I interrupt my right hon. Friend? I know very well how anxious he is to be accurate. I happen to have with me the report of what I said. I might have wished it could have been as accurately reproduced in the words the right hon. Gentleman used. My words were these, and to be quite accurate, I will quote them:—At the time the National Register was taken, we were given a pledge that the National Register had nothing to do with compulsion.
§ Sir J. SIMON
If my right hon. Friend asks me, I think some of those who devised and promoted the National Register thought it would be used for compulsion.
§ Mr. LONG
I am not a lawyer, but I do say that in answer to a perfectly plain question I am entitled to a perfectly plain answer. I would ask my right hon. Friend again—I take his quotation because I have no intention whatever of misrepresenting him; I accept his quotation as he gives it unquestioningly—I ask him what he means by it? Does he mean that that pledge has been kept or broken? If he means that that pledge has been kept, then, I ask, why raise the question at all? If he means it has been broken, then I challenge his statement at once, and say that that pledge has been kept to the full. The National Register was a piece of machinery, as I stated at the beginning, during the Second Heading, on the Third Reading, and repeated subsequently when speaking in the country—the House will pardon me for reminding them that? was the Minister responsible for the Bill. There was no deception as to the use to which we were going to put the National Register. There has been no breaking of any pledge with regard to it, and there has been no improper use of it. There has been something else, which my right hon. and learned Friend forgets altogether. The National Register has been the foundation of the whole of the work done by Lord Derby and of the whole of that great scheme in aid of the voluntary system, and I have Lord Derby's own authority for saying that if it had not been for the information provided by the National Register his scheme would never have been possible. I ask the House in all quarters, whether they are critics or whether they are friends, without the Derby scheme and the recruits thereby obtained, what would this House have been forced to do long before this? Therefore, if you are going to refer to that Register at all, and quote it and the uses to which it has been put, in common fairness I am entitled to ask that you should recollect that without the National Register you could never have made the extra great voluntary effort that has been made during the last few months. My right hon. and learned Friend did not stop there. He went on to criticise—I am not quoting his own words, but he will correct me if I am wrong—the numbers, and he told us that there were inmates of institutions for imbeciles and prisoners who would be in these numbers. The words he used were:—Included in the National Register were all sorts of people who were in different public institutions. A 1510 criminal, a man who had been again and again convicted, and who when he was discharged from prison would never be received into a volunteer army … was included in this National Register."—[OFFICIAL REPORT. 5th January. 1916, col. 968.]Yes, but the circular which authorised this was issued by the Home Office itself, over which my right hon. Friend then presided, and he was careful at that time to provide that in the cases of these prisoners their new addresses and means of occupation were not to be described, giving them a fair chance for the future. He did not then regard them as people of such bad character that they would not be fit to be received into the Army. I share the view of my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Stoke (Colonel John Ward) and the view expressed by the Member for East Edinburgh (Mr. Hogge), who spoke earlier in the afternoon, when they both said that these are not questions of figures, and that they cannot be fought on figures. If you are going to deal with figures in the way in which they have been criticised, at all events you should do so fairly. I do not attach importance to the figure argument for the reason that I have heard too many Debates and controversies in this House not to know very well that, given a competent person with strong views, he can make figures serve whatever purpose he chooses. It would be insulting to the distinguished ability of my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Walthamstow if I did not say with perfect bona fides and perfectly honestly that his great abilities would enable him to make figures serve any purpose which he was honestly supporting. He knows it; everybody knows it. I have not the same abilities—I wish I had them with all my heart—but I have the same strong conviction. If I took figures, undoubtedly I could approach them with a strong desire in a certain direction, and I could find very much more in favour of my views than those who opposed them. Therefore I discount any criticism of this Bill based on figures which comes from those who are either strong supporters of the voluntary system or those who believe in some form of compulsion, as I do. I am not quoting my right hon. and learned Friend as a witness on one side or myself as a witness for the other side, because I regard us both as being partisans. He believes in what he calls the voluntary principle. I myself believe in a form of compulsion.
Who are the witnesses we put forward in proof of the fact that the figures justify 1511 in every way the action the Government are now taking? The two most important witnesses are the Prime Minister and the First Lord of the Admiralty. They are not advocates of compulsion. Both of them dislike compulsion as much as the right hon. and learned Member for Walthamstow. Both of them, one now the Prime Minister and one an ex-Prime Minister, are men who, when they have been in these responsible positions, have used their great authority to maintain the voluntary principle. They have both said times out of number in this House what whole-hearted advocates they are of the voluntary system, yet both of them are men who have spoken in support of this Bill in this House. They are men who would have rejoiced if they could have found these figures supporting their own views, but they are convinced that the figures are against them, and that, whatever the figures produced are, they are of sufficient importance to make this Bill absolutely necessary. When I am told that these figures are inaccurate, that they can be pulled about and destroyed, all I say is this—I am talking of the figures of the Derby Beport—these figures have been examined with the utmost care by more than one Department, by the Board of Trade, by my own Department, and by the Department of the Registrar-General. They have been tested by all the tests that can be applied to them. They have been compared with calculations made in the Departments based upon different figures. I can answer for it, and I know the House will take my word for it, that the experts who, under the direction of the Government, have been examining these figures are men who are not predisposed in favour of either one policy or another. It happens that some of them are, to my knowledge, as strong advocates of the voluntary principle as my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Walthamstow. What was the conclusion to which they came? They have come to the conclusion, so far as I know, without a single dissentient voice, that these figures are in the main absolutely reliable, and that the number we have given is not any exaggerated number, but is much more likely to be considerably far below the actual number than above it. Therefore, I ask, if we are to have criticisms of these figures, that it shall be with the full knowledge of the fact that these figures 1512 are not taken and thrown upon the floor of this House without careful examination beforehand, but that they are the result not only of the National Register investigation, not only of the Derby Scheme, but that since then they have been tested by every test which it is possible for us to apply to them. I believe they stand. Anyhow, they are good enough for the Government. They have forced the Government to adopt the policy which is expressed in this Bill. My right hon. Friend (Sir J. Simon) examined it from the point of view of the Prime Minister and how he was affected, and he examined it from the point of view of the private individual, and we had a very interesting and a brilliant speech from the hon. Member (Mr. Caradoc Rees) who has just come into the House, criticising the figures and bringing them down to a negligible quantity, and, "looking at it as I do, I have to ask myself," they told us, "what my action ought to be in reference to all these figures, and I could not satisfy myself that I could vote for this Bill." The Prime Minister most certainly was compelled to examine these figures and ask himself whether he was pledgebound in consequence of them or not. Whatever his decision was, every member of his Government was pledged with him.
The individual Member can take this view if he likes. Our critics forget every time someone who to me is more important than even the Prime Minister in this matter, and that is the married men themselves to whom this pledge was made. Why was the Prime Minister's pledge made to them? It was because, when Lord Derby's scheme was being worked for all it was worth and everything was being done under the voluntary system, which some of my Friends regarded as something almost sacred, and every pressure was being brought upon men under your voluntary system to come to the Colours, when all this was being done, what was the report which was brought to all of us? What was the Report that Lord Derby brought to the Prime Minister? It was that married men in their hundreds were refusing to join the Colours because they said it was the duty of the single men without responsibilities to go first. What was the consequence of these reports? The Prime Minister gave to Lord Derby a definite pledge, which he in his turn conveyed to his canvassers, and which they conveyed to these married men. It is no use for us to argue about these figures 1513 and say some are imbeciles, some prisoners, and some something else, and by the time you have deducted this, that and the other you have nothing left. The married men do not believe that. The canvassers who canvassed them do not believe that. Our own experience as individuals going about the country does not confirm that view. There are, I believe, a much larger number than the number actually given in this Derby Report. My right hon. Friend says why call them slackers? I have never used the word "slackers." I have never charged these men with abstaining from coming to the Colours through cowardice or failure to do their duty. What has been the policy of this country ever since I was a child? It has been rather to check than to encourage men to go into the Army. If you were told that some young fellow in whom you were interested had enlisted you would say, "What a desperate step; why has he done it?" You cannot all of a sudden change everything, and you have a great many young fellows in the country who have said to me themselves, "I feel no call for the Army, but I have no objection to going. Lord Kitchener knows whether I am wanted or not. If I am wanted he will fetch me. But I am not going of my own accord." That answer has been made in scores of thousand of cases. It has been made in a great many cases to me myself. I ask this House, Are we to ignore altogether all the experience that we ourselves have gained in our everyday life?
Surely it is not only a question of figures. I stand myself by the figures, and I am quite content to take them as sufficient to justify the action which the Government has taken to-day. But I repeat what my right hon. Friend (Sir E. Carson) said. He talked of those who are criticising. He asked, "What are your alternatives, for you have practically none—what are the alternatives?" Your first alternative, I assume, is to wait and do nothing, or to take the voluntary system and go on as you are, although the Government responsible for your policy, the only people who are authorised to make a declaration on the subject, declare that that means defeat. What is your alternative? You say that the numbers are negligible. You say that our numbers are inaccurate and that we shall find that there are practically no unmarried men in the country left. I believe some eminent statisticians who have been examining these figures 1514 have brought them down to something under 100,000. You say, that being so, you need do nothing. But what are you blaming us for? If we are right—and nothing but the future can tell whether we are right or our critics are right as to the figures—do you mean to say that we are to take what we believe to be an appalling risk for our country and our Empire by delaying action which we think ought to be taken at once? And if you are right, what is going to be the injury? If you are right, and these missing men are going to disappear, if there are going to be none of them, who is going to suffer? If there are to be no unmarried men left, who is going to be the worse off for the passing of this Bill? Are we to believe that our critics really think that the heavens are going to fall because this Bill passes, and, if they are right, it is never to be put into operation because there are no men left to be enlisted? 'Surely that is an exaggeration of criticism which is hardly worthy of those who make it. One great central fact is borne in upon us who read the letters that we get from soldiers at the front. Ask the men who come out of the trenches, some of whom are here to-day. Ask the men you meet in the street coming from Victoria Station day after day, with the mud of the trenches on their clothes. Read the dispatches. I have seen criticism lately directed against the Government on the dispatch of Sir Ian Hamilton. What is the lesson which Sir Ian Hamilton's dispatch teaches above everything else? Want of men.
§ Mr. LONG
I beg pardon. The lesson it teaches above all others is the want of men. Read that very remarkable book issued only the other day, a sort of novel, "Between the Lines." It is worth anybody's while to read those descriptions of the fighting which is going on in France and in Flanders now. Read that interesting passage of the two navvies who are now Royal Engineers. I do not care where you go for your information, whether it be to the dispatches of generals or the letters of privates, or the conversation of the men you meet who have come fresh from the theatres of war, the one burden of their cry is the same—men, men, men! I impute no motives to anyone. In all honesty and sincerity I thank God for the tone of the Debate upon this great question. I do not believe our common 1515 country can be too profoundly congratulated on the way in which Members of Parliament and the country have approached the consideration of this question. But we, with a full knowledge of our responsibility, realising that it is our duty to speak to our countrymen in plain and simple language, tell them, in the language of Lord Kitchener, to which I referred at the beginning of my remarks, that this Bill and these men are necessary for victory. That is the choice you have got to make. We cannot add to the glorious record of our soldiers at the front. We ask you not to be content with dwelling on their deeds and speaking of their heroism. We ask this House now, with a full sense of responsibility and of what we are doing, to take what we believe to be not only the right but the only step possible and necessary at this moment if you are to send to our fighting men in all the various theatres of war the one message that they ask for. I ask this House to say to them, by passing this Bill, "Go on with all the heroic deeds which you are doing for your country. We will back you, and we will send you the men you want in order that you may win for us that great victory which will be the crowning work of your effort, and will secure for our people the only true and real liberty there is."
§ Mr. LOUGH
The speech which the right hon. Gentleman has just delivered will heighten his reputation, if that is possible. The part of that speech which excited the greatest interest is the allusion that he made to the National Registration Act. He seemed to be just a little touchy at the reference which has been made to that Act. When we discussed it, some three or four months ago, those who were opposed to it took the point that it would lead to Conscription, and then the right hon. Gentleman assured us, on the Second Reading of the Bill, that it had nothing to do with Conscription. Now, three months afterwards, we find the right hon. Gentleman who piloted that Bill through the House with so much skill speaking in favour of a measure of Conscription. This may remind us of what has often been called the slippery slope. Once politicians get upon it it is wonderful how fast they slip down. However, I thank him very much for the tone in which he has continued the Debate. Anyone who stands up on this side in opposition to the Bill, which is the attitude I 1516 desire to take, needs to make some appeal to the indulgence of the House. It is not an easy thing to speak in this House against a majority of ten to one. I tell the House at once that the only reason why I oppose this Bill is because I do not think it necessary. I do not think it will help us to win the War. I am in principle opposed to compulsion, but if I were assured that compulsion was necessary to win this War, I should, with reluctance, accept even that bad system. But I am convinced, on the information that has been supplied to us up to the present, that we are doing very well without any resort to these Continental systems.
I will ask the House to try to realise the position in which it has been placed during the last few weeks. I give Lord Derby the greatest credit for the splendid recruiting campaign which he made. He is the best recruiting sergeant any nation has ever produced, but he made such a wonderful success because, while he was working his scheme on a voluntary basis, he was appealing to that ancient spirit of freedom which our people appreciate so much, and his lofty sense of public duty enabled him to achieve such a great success. We know what took place. We saw every day the entrance to the recruiting booths crowded. We had not the figures given to us until about a week ago. Now we find that in four days a million recruits came forward. The scheme closed on the Saturday, but the doors could not be shut. The next day, Sunday, 300,000 recruits came rushing in, and, finally, 275,000 came forward for immediate enlistment in ten weeks and 2,250,000 attested in the groups. In round figures, 2,500,000 soldiers were provided by this scheme. That is a magnificent success, and one thought that the voluntary system was saved. Those of us who believed in that system rejoiced. We thought the nation was at one on this question. Then doubts were disseminated; a fierce Press campaign was initiated, of which we have heard so much, and instead of the triumph of voluntaryism we find the very success of the appeal that had been made to a free people is made an excuse for the introduction of a system of Continental Conscription. That was a terrible blow to the general sentiments of this House, and although such a vast number of hon. Members are supporting this Bill I venture to say that many of them are doing it with reluctance, and that it is a great shock to the public opinion of this country.
1517 I think in these Debates we have paid too much attention to what is called the pledge of the Prime Minister which was given on the 2nd November. I want to direct attention to the real pledge, and that was contained in the letter written by Lord Derby on the 19th November, to which the Prime Minister assented in a short reply. This was the pledge—I transpose one or two words—that if young unmarried men came forward voluntarily, except a really negligible minority, there would be no question of legislation. That was an appeal to young unmarried men to come forward, and it was a promise that if they did come forward, except in a negligible minority, there would be no resort to compulsion. Unfortunately, it raised the question of single men against married men—a most unfortunate question to be raised in that crude way. Why are young unmarried men to be singled out as unpatriotic any more than married men? Why have we heard so much of single men in this Debate? Why are single men mentioned in this invidious Bill which has been introduced? The answer is this, that the campaign was launched by an unscrupulous Press in this country making attacks upon single men that were totally unjustified.
The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Long) deprecated any use of figures in this Debate. Perhaps he was wise in doing so, because the more you look at the figures of the Derby Report, the more anyone who tries to follow the course which the Government advise will find his confidence shaken. I want to direct attention to one figure at any rate, and that is the figure taken from the National Register, which is the first in the Derby Report. It points out that of the men of military age who were appealed to 2.2 millions were single, and 2.8 millions were married. I want the House then to take the earlier figures in regard to single and married, namely, the Census figures before the War. According to the Census Returns there were 4,000,000 unmarried men, and only 3.6 millions of married men of military age in the country. What is the reason that when the National Register was completed, the 4,000,000 single men had sunk to 2.2 millions? It means that about 1,900,000 single men accounted for in the Census are not included in the National Register. Where are they? They are in the Army. They have done their duty, they have come forward. 1518 Nearly 2,000,000 single men had joined the Army already. Now let us take the figures for the married men. The figure was only 3.6 millions according to the Census Return. That figure has fallen to 2.8 millions in the National Register. Will the House notice that we had 300,000 more unmarried men than married men at the time of the Census who had not enlisted, and at the time of the National Register we had 700,000 less single men. What is the meaning of this? It means that 1,000,000 more unmarried men have recruited than married men. The whole agitation was a sham. These single men had not failed to do their duty, but they had come forward nobly in the proportion of two to one, and the whole basis of this Bill as brought forward in this House cannot be sustained—the whole basis is a sham. There's another conclusion which must be drawn. Although these unmarried men had come forward in such large numbers before the Derby scheme, they came forward in great numbers when the Derby appeal was made. Therefore I say as regards Conscription there was no case for it so far as single men were concerned. They came forward nobly. They came forward to the extent of nearly 2,000,000 before the Derby scheme and over 1,000,000 when the Derby scheme was completed. Therefore some 3,200,000 single men have come forward out of a possible 4,000,000, and although the married men did not come forward in such large numbers they did their duty also. I do not think that attention has been directed to these figures up to the present, although they are very striking figures. They knock away the whole basis on which the Bill has been brought in.
I want to deal with one other figure. Those who have examined the Report will notice that on page 7 the extraordinary figure is worked out of 650,000 single men who are alleged slackers. I want to deal for a moment with these. In the first place, if they were slackers, and if there were 650,000, it would not be so many as might appear. It would mean that four out of five, or five out of six, of the unmarried men have already gone to the Army. It would not be many, even if it were a true figure. But is it a true figure? That figure is given at the top of page 7. If hon. Members will look at the bottom of that page they will find that the admission is made that the figures were faulty. The Report states:—The figures given above refer only to recruits received between 23rd October and the 15th December.1519 Then the Report goes on to say that as Lord Derby had been in his office from 11th October it was necessary to add the recruits taken from that date to 19th December for immediate enlistment and 60,000 belated returns of men taken in the group system. There are those 60,000 to be added and there have to be added another 60,000 recruits who actually joined the Army, so that you find 120,000 more men have to be reckoned with than are dealt with in the figures at the top of the page. I protest against this House exercising its great legislative functions, and signing away the liberty of the country, on the basis of a Report where the figures at the bottom of the page contradict the figures at the top. If we deduct 60,000 from the alleged 650,000, only 590,000 single men remain who have not joined the Army. I do not want to sa3" that that is a small number, but I want to ask who are these 590,000 men? Are they slackers? No. Who are they? I will tell the House who they are. These are the men of military age who have volunteered, who have come forward for medical examination and have been rejected as medically unfit. That will be seen in a moment if the House will look at the figures in regard to the 2,000,000 who have joined the Army. The Report shows that the number of those rejected as medically unfit is in the proportion of one rejected for every four accepted. Therefore the 2,000,000 would leave 500,000, or nearly 500,000, rejected as medically unfit, and it must be remembered that those who had been rejected are included in this figure. I do not want to speak of the sailors who are included, nor of the ministers of religion who are also included, nor the feebleminded. I want to deal with the general figures.
§ Mr. LOUGH
I do not mention how many, and if the hon. Member wishes to know that let him argue it out with those who mention it. I take the general point that, allowing for the proportion of men examined, practically the whole of this large number of unattested single men have been found to be medically unfit. Surely, then, we have reached the negligible minority, and I say that anyone would have been justified, and that the Prime Minister 1520 would have been well justified in saying that the conditions which he laid down in his pledge were fulfilled. There is another point about these figures to which I must call attention. The whole country is treated as one unit. That is most unfair. A general average is applied, but if you look into it you will find that there are many parts of the country in which practically everybody who could do his duty has done it, and we ought to have a more critical and more correct statement made to us before we adopt these strong measures of legislation. I will give one example. If anyone looks at the "Daily News" of to-day he will see an extraordinary letter by the hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. M'Curdy). In that letter the hon. Member says that out of a total of 11,650 men in Northampton 11,050 enlisted or offered themselves, so that practically every eligible man in Northampton came forward, and he said that, making allowance for the unfit, the proportion in Northampton of those who came forward was 86 per cent., whereas the general proportion given in the Derby Report of those who have come forward is something like 56 per cent. I believe that that experience is general everywhere. You cannot find these slackers. They exist only in the disordered imagination of a ribald Press, which has invented the scare. No one can lay his hand upon the slackers.
§ Mr. LOUGH
Or even against Lord Kitchener. I may say to the hon. Member (Sir Fortescue Flannery) that at any time I am willing to defend anything I say. So far as my personal experience goes, I know of no slackers. Every young man that I know has either been medically examined or gone forward to the Army. I was in Trinity College, Dublin, the other day, and the whole place was deserted. I believe that two-thirds of the whole of the students have joined the Army. Oxford is deserted and Cambridge is deserted. In fact there is no place in 1521 which the young men in this country have congregated in which you will not find one common story, and that is that they have gone to the War. I asked for the figures to be provided in regard to a small business with which I happen to be connected. I find that there are twenty clerks, which is the total number of military age, who have enlisted, attested, or been rejected, and that out of thirteen warehousemen of military age, twelve have done the same thing. I believe that is the common experience in all the businesses of the country, and it is extremely hard to get at any of these alleged slackers. I suggest to the House that the whole campaign is fraudulent, that the young unmarried men have not failed to do their duty, but that on the contrary they have come forward in great numbers, and have displayed great valour, and have reflected eternal credit upon the young men of this country. What has been the result of the call to arms under our military system? When we take into account that nearly 3,000,000, or quite 3,000,000, men have joined the Army, and that 2,500,000 have come forward under the Derby scheme, what are the facts that we have in this country? We find in France only 10 per cent, of the population has come forward; in Germany 10.6 and 11.4 per cent., but in Great Britain 14 per cent, of the whole population have voluntarily offered themselves to render this vast service to the country. I say there could be no more splendid vindication of the voluntary system put forward, and I cannot but deplore that the insult, for it is an insult, which this Bill conveys to the young men of the country, many of whom have stained with their blood the plains of Flanders and Gallipoli, should be offered by the British Government to these young men. I could not help thinking the other night, when the 400 Members in support of this Bill paraded into the Lobby, whether none of them had friends whom they had lost in the War. These young men are not represented in this House; they have not votes. I suppose we are a married assembly; almost all the Members of the Cabinet are married men; all but one. The only young unmarried man in the Cabinet is the First Lord of the Admiralty, and he made a most delightful speech the other night. The young unmarried men are in a great minority, and I say there is something invidious and almost loathsome in married men, and an assembly of married men, making these unworthy taunts against unmarried men who have done their duty 1522 in support of their country. I have no more to say about figures, and very-little more to say about unmarried men. I only direct attention to two figures in the Report, and I say these two simple figures knock away the whole case for the Bill.
I would like, if the House would allow me for a moment, to look at the structure of the Bill. I have already said what an invidious Bill it is. The Bill is aimed against the unmarried men of the country. I hate all class legislation, but this is the most abominable example of class legislation I have ever seen presented to the House. If the country is to have Conscription, why not have it decently? Do any hon. Members believe that this is an honest form of Conscription? Let them do it in an honest form, and do not put a slight on the people who have done their duty well. It is a glowing testimony which this House ought to introduce, if it could, to these young men, instead of putting this-scandalous and false imputation upon them. I think that the structure of the Bill is the most severe form of Conscription that could be adopted, and that it is sure to lead the House and the country into great trouble. Why cannot we pass a Bill—we have National Registration, we know the names and the ages of the men, and many of them have been canvassed—authorizing the Government to take those men they wish to take. That is not the Bill. The moment it passes into law, if its whole structure is not altered in Committee, all these people, the lame, and those people who have already been rejected as medically unfit, will be made members of the Army, and they will be subjected at once to military discipline. The Army Act will apply to them, and all the other Acts that control the Army.
§ Mr. LOUGH
I am within the memory of the House. The moment the Bill passes into law, it shall be assumed that they unless within the exceptions set out in the First Schedule of this Act, shall be deemed as from the appointed date to have been duly enlisted in His Majesty's Regular Forces for the period of the War. It proceeds to say in the next Clause that the 1523 Army Act and the Reserve Forces Acts of 1882 to 1907 will apply. I am very glad that my hon. and gallant Friend is shocked. That is what I want to emphasise. The Bill is far worse than anyone expects or supposes I do hope that a more generous spirit will be adopted by the Government if and when we get into Committee on the Bill, but I must confess that I look with the gravest apprehension on the adoption of the measure. I regard it, I will not say as the triumph of Prussianism—that might lead to Debate—but it is the triumph of militarism, and the success of all we are out to defeat in the War. It is the adoption of that Continental system. We do not get out of this difficulty by saying, as the hon. Member who sat down a moment ago said, that this system exists in other countries as well as in Prussia. It does, and it is a pity that it is so. But the reason we call it Prussianism is because it has been carried to greater length and extremities in Prussia than elsewhere, and, believe me, if this Bill goes through, even with modifications, short in time, limited to one class, and limited in many respects, none of those qualifications will last. Just as we slipped from National Registration into Conscription of single men, so we shall slip from Conscription of single men into Conscription of married men. I believe it will lead to industrial compulsion, but that question was very ably dealt with by what my hon. Friend opposite said at the beginning of this Debate. The one point I desire for a minute or two, in conclusion, to bring to the attention of the House is this: That the system is sure to develop resistance, and that is the justification we have in opposing this system. It may be said, "Would it not be better for you to keep silent. You see you are in a minority; why not let this go through? "We kept our mouths shut on several occasions before, and did not forward the interests of the country in doing so. When we have all with equal zeal the interests of the country at heart I contend that we are justified in endeavouring to put forward these difficulties. What more do the military authorities require than that the men should come forward, and when, as I have shown, they have come forward here in greater numbers than in any other country engaged in the War, I think they might be spared this insult of compulsion. I know it is said we should lose the married men if the Prime Minister's pledge were 1524 not enforced. I hope the House has followed my argument, and if I have interpreted the figures rightly, if the young men have done their duty, and there is a negligible minority, then I think all the conditions laid down in the pledge have been fulfilled.
I must say, although I approach it from a different point of view, that I have not a great deal of sympathy with the treatment of Ireland in the Bill. I am sorry that any separate treatment has arisen between the two countries. I approach it from a different standpoint from the two hon. Gentlemen who spoke from these benches. You preserve the voluntary system in Ireland, and it is a great pity you have not preserved it here. Great difficulties will be caused, and there will be a blow to the recruiting system in Ireland by this change, as I think, and though the hon. and learned Member for Waterford (Mr. J. Redmond) and the other able Members who represent Ireland in this House who have, been rendering most splendid services in most difficult circumstances may be able to keep up the string of recruits in that country, it is a pity that in the midst of war a Bill which rests on such questionable foundation brought forward by the Government should deal differently with the two countries. I was interrupted by some reference to the line I have taken with regard to peace and war in the past. I have always been a peace man, and never so much as I am today. [An HON. MEMBER: "Peace at any price!"] Never peace at any price. On the contrary, I am always a fighting man. I am always fighting in politics, fighting for my seat, and fighting in business. It is in my blood to fight all the time. Why, then, was I always in favour of peace? It was because of an intellectual belief, if I may use the phrase, that infinite calamity would fall on nations who broke the peace, and I am convinced that all my gloomy prophecies have been fulfilled in the present War. In this contest I am convinced that this country was not the offender. I am convinced that we must all be united to meet the common foe, and that Europe cannot emerge from the cauldron in which she is involved by any other means than the triumph of the Allies, and I am ready to do anything that I can to secure that end. It is in that spirit that I would appeal to the Government. It is all very well for the Prime Minister to say that he is still against compulsion. He said a few months ago that he was still in 1525 favour of Free Trade, and he brought in Protectionist duties. Now he weeps, as it were, over the voluntary system, but he is putting an end to it. It is a great trial to many of his followers, and I would earnestly appeal to the Government to consider during the remaining stages of the Bill what they can do to meet the criticisms that have been made of the measure, and so to promote once more that national unity which is calculated to achieve in the future, as it has already achieved, the most marvellous success in the conduct of the War.
§ 8.0 P.M.
§ Mr. EUGENE WASON
The right hon. Gentleman who has just sat down has made, as he always does, a most eloquent speech, and I venture to think that the latter is the better portion, as, whatever his view about the Bill may be, he has stated there that he is one of those who is prepared to see this country through the War to a successful termination. No one who knows him will accuse him of want of courage in anything or honesty of purpose. I used to be a voluntaryist, and the only reason I am not to-day a voluntaryist is because of the action of the Government and because they say this Bill is necessary in order to end the War quickly. It is an ad hoc measure, and I do not believe any of the evils anticipated by the right hon. Gentleman will follow after this Bill has passed into law. He gave us a series of figures. The hon. Member for East Edinburgh (Mr. Hogge) this afternoon said that he had followed the speech of the late Home Secretary, and also the speeches of the late Postmaster-General—who is now the Home Secretary—and that of the Secretary for the Colonies, but that he did not agree with any of them; and the President of the Local Government Board said that he did not treat this matter as though it were a question of figures. I dare say he knows the story of the statesman who said that statistics were like sausages, and that it all depended on what one knew of the old woman who made them. I think that so far as statistics are concerned we have in this measure quite sufficient to go upon when we have the united action of the Government in saying that this Bill must be passed into law if we are to win the War speedily. I have waited here to-day to say a few words on this from the Scottish point of view. I have for the past few years been what 1526 is known as the Chairman of the Scottish Liberal Unofficial Members. I looked through the Division Lists, and found that of the Scottish Members—not Liberal only, but all the Members from Scotland—there were forty-nine who voted for the Bill and only five against. That is very nearly ten to one, so that the Prime Minister, who is the doyen of the Scottish Members, who has been in this House for thirty years—I was actually here before him, because I was a Member in 1885—will know that so far as Scotland is concerned—I am not going to deal with the question of Ireland, or whether she should or should not be excluded—her general feeling is decidedly against being excluded. I was asked by an hon. Friend, who is going to put down an Amendment to the Bill in Committee to exclude Scotland, what I was going to do, and what the Secretary for Scotland was going to do. I know what I am going to do, and I cannot speak for anyone but myself. So far as I am concerned, I shall do my best, and go so far as I can, to oppose that Motion; and I feel that in doing so I shall meet the wishes of my country. I have stated what is the position of Scotland with regard to this matter, and I have never known before Scottish Members so entirely in sympathy with the Government as on this occasion. There is an economic side of this question to which I should like to draw the attention of the Government. There are certain exempted industries, and there is the woollen industry. I represent perhaps the largest woollen manufacture in the United Kingdom. A great number of the men employed in that industry have gone to the front, and they are being treated by their employers in the most generous way, the employés of one firm each receiving 10s. a week during their period of service. This firm, to which I refer, has large Government contracts; some of their men have attested, and they may be taken away under this Bill. It is really absolutely necessary that these men should continue in the employment of this firm if the works are to be carried on. They already employ female labour so far as they can, but without some men it is impossible for them to carry on their work. I know that a Committee of the Board of Trade is sitting on this question, and I may state that people interested in the woollen trade have written me to ask me to bring their case to the notice of the Government, and to point out that these men who have attested 1527 are absolutely indispensable for the carrying on of this particular business, and should be exempted under this Bill.
Then there is the great question of agriculture. I have the honour of being chairman of the Committee to consider Scotland, and to ascertain what can be done to maintain or increase the production of food throughout the War—last year and the year 1916. I received yesterday a letter from an old friend of mine in which he says he has a son on a farm of 385 acres, producing cheese, sheep, cattle, pigs, oats, barley, beans, hay and turnips, and he has only got this son to attend to that particular business. He writes to me and says:—I think yon will agree with me that you. as chairman of the Food Production Committee, should take steps to protect men in the position of my son.I take it that the Government will give effect to the recommendation, the unanimous recommendation, of the Committee, which was that it should be represented to the military authorities and recruiting agencies that any attempt to maintain or increase the food production of the country would be made impossible by the further withdrawal of experienced workmen. These are the matters I have to bring to the knowledge of the Government, and I hope they will see to it that both in the case of the woollen industry, where men are absolutely essential to carry on the work of the mills, and also in the case of agriculture, where men are also absolutely essential for the work of carrying on the farms, these workers shall be entitled to exemption, and that official instructions shall be given to that effect. My hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Lanark interjected in the course of the Debate the words, "We are honest men." Who has impugned their honesty? I have not impugned the honesty of any man. We cannot help reflecting on the enormous sacrifice made by the ex-Home Secretary who has resigned the high position which he held. I am glad to see my hon. Friend the Member for East Edinburgh present. I do not impugn his honesty, but he will take it that we are as honest as he or his Friends, and we do not claim to be more or less honest. I and those who think with me intend to support the Government on the Second Beading of this Bill and to see that this measure is given effect to, because we believe that it is necessary for the successful prosecution of the War. 1528 That is the reason why we shall vote for this Bill, and give the Government every possible support.
§ Sir CHIOZZA MONEY
The right hon. Gentleman who has just sat down has commented on the spirit which has animated this Debate. Whatever differences there may be between us on the question, there has only been one spirit exhibited during the discussion on the present, as on the last occasion, and that is the spirit which manifests a universal determination to win this War. I hope, therefore, that not a single word which I may utter will disturb the harmony of the Debate. I am exceedingly sorry that the hon. Member who moved the rejection of this Bill is not for the moment present, but I can say in his absence, as I should in his presence, that I have a very sincere respect for him as an able defender of labour interests, and I regret that he took the point of view that this Bill is either a weapon, or intended to be a weapon, against the working classes of this country. There may be differences between us about labour matters, but I find it impossible to believe that any Member of the majority on the First Reading of this Bill gave any vote in the belief that he was helping to forge a weapon against the industrial classes. Yet that was the whole tenour really of the speech of the hon. Member for Attercliffe (Mr. Anderson). He did not attack this Bill as providing soldiers. He attacked this Bill as a measure for providing a weapon against the workers in our factories. He seemed to conceive it as something which would assist either the present Minister of Munitions or the capitalist classes, after the War, to grind the faces of the poor. I do not know how my hon. Friend can possibly have brought himself to believe that, but it is only too clear from his speech—for he is a sincere man—that he has brought himself to believe it. What is worse, we have organs in the country, and we have speakers going up and down the land, propagating that idea amongst the working classes. We have organs every week enforcing that idea, though in terms very much more crude than were used by my hon. Friend in this House. I cannot conceive how a Socialist like my hon Friend can adopt that point of view.
What has happened in this War already? This remarkable thing has happened: I wish these words to go out, for I believe them to be true, to every workman in this, country, that never before, in our modern 1529 industrial history, never in these days of modern wealth, has the national income been so equally divided as it is at the present time, and has been during this War. This War has not really added either to the powers or emoluments of the capitalist's stake in this country; it has, on the other hand, increased the earnings of the working classes in this country in a manner simply unparalleled. I believe myself that as a result of this War the working classes will benefit and will not suffer. I should be exceedingly sorry to think the contrary. It has been said before in this Debate that you do not establish or change the spirit of a people by such an Act of Parliament as this. I should like my hon. Friend the Member for Attercliffe to reflect upon the democracy of Switzerland, or of Australia, and to ask himself, and put it to himself very clearly, has the Swiss national service system changed the democratic spirit of the Swiss people; has the national service of the Australian Commonwealth changed the aspirations of the democracy in Australia, where there is no Tory party, but where there is a Liberal party and a Labour party, which claims to be even more democratic than the Labour party in this country? There has been no change whatever in the spirit of the people of those countries which I have named because of the adoption of measures of universal service for Home defence.
§ Sir CHIOZZA MONEY
Does my right hon. Friend really consider that the spirit of the people who produced a national Army for Home defence cannot go a little further and conceive that Home defence may be fought on foreign soil, as it is being fought on foreign soil at the present moment? The homes and hearths of the British people are being defended in France and Flanders, and elsewhere, just as much and effectually as though it were a defence carried on here where we could bear the sound of the guns.
§ Sir CHIOZZA MONEY
My right hon. Friend is entitled to make that point, but there are other democracies besides Australia; and he is aware, too, that the argument I am endeavouring to traverse is an 1530 argument used in Australia itself. £ have, as a Member of Parliament, received, as no doubt every other Member of the House has received, urgent appeals from Australia to defend that country against the spirit of militarism, because a national Army was being established for Home defence there. Time will show in Australia that there is practically universal agreement in regard to this system—they are so near universal agreement that the minority is negligible in the most literal meaning of that word. At any rate, in reference to this I am perfectly sure that there is no Member of this House who has voted for this Bill who is not prepared to publicly pledge himself that this Bill shall not be used as a weapon of industrial compulsion. That pledge I register publicly and I think any Member who supports the Bill will be only too glad to register it. As to the references of the hon. Member for the Attercliffe Division to the Minister of Munitions, I cannot help thinking that he very greatly mistakes the spirit of the man of whom he is speaking. He cannot surely believe that this measure has been framed by that man of all men in order to coerce the working classes of this country. A good deal has been said about the success of voluntaryism. I should be the first to agree that there is a great deal in the figures of the Derby Report that we can all be proud of from that point of view, but do not let us forget the other side of the sheet. It is most undoubtedly true that hundreds of thousands of men who could have served the nation much better for other purposes than military purposes have been taken by the voluntary system, and were taken before it was realised how great an evil had been done from the national point of view. The House will remember that one armament firm alone lost 10,000 men who voluntarily enlisted before the enlistment of that class of man was stopped. It may, of course, be argued that that also might occur under a system of National Service. That is to some extent true, but it is not so likely to have happened. When we come to deal with Lord Derby's scheme, which really, with the shadow of compulsion behind it, resembles very closely a system of National Service, I will say at once, even if the thing is done imperfectly and experimentally, as we are working in this War, you are not likely to get that particular form of injury inflicted to so great a degree under any system of National Service.
1531 With regard to single men first, that has been described as a cry. I suppose that might be said about every good or bad policy that has ever been adumbrated by anyone for any purpose. It has been admitted that it is a popular cry, and I think it deserves to be a popular cry. May I point out how it is that this Bill is necessary to redress the balance in this matter at the present time 1 In a National Service system you take men by age, and they are called upon in groups according to the year of birth. What happens? This naturally happens that, as you begin with the young men and work upwards, it follows that in your Army in the early stages of mobilisation you have got chiefly single men, because young men are chiefly unmarried. What we may call the dividing line between single and married is 27 years of age. At that age the men of the country are divided as nearly as possible equally into single and married. Until you get to the age of 27 you have taken chiefly unmarried men, and that is how under a system of National Service you naturally get single men first. Under our system what do we do? We recruited promiscuously at first both with regard to trade and with regard to ages. Then we set up a scale of separation allowances, which represented in many industries—take the example conspicuously of agriculture—a bribe to the working man to join the Army. In many cases the wife of the agricultural labourer with three, four or five children gained by the breadwinner joining the Army. Men not by any means prejudiced in favour of National Service reported again and again, and I remember friends of mine who wrote letters to the papers, calling attention to the fact that the villages were being depleted of married men because of the operation of the separation allowances. So that this came about, that the Army we raised, although it was inadequate, contained an undue proportion of married men, whereas if the same sized Army had been raised under any system of National Service, it could not have contained so large a proportion of married men. Therefore, this Bill really comes in to redress the balance, and the cry of "single men first" is, in my opinion, a perfectly justifiable cry.
One point has been raised, and I am really sorry. I do not think many unworthy points have been raised in this Debate, but this is one of them. It is that because we are now calling upon 1532 single men that we want cheap soldiers. I would ask any hon. Member who has attempted to use that argument whether the widow or the orphan is a cheap thing, because we have undoubtedly by the way we have raised our Army and, by the way we have taken an undue proportion of married men with families, actually made more widows and orphans in a given time than we ought to have made. No payment in the way of a separation allowance, no payment by way of pension, either to the widow or the orphan, is any compensation to a nation for the making of unnecessary widows and orphans. I suggest that that argument at any rate ought not to be heard again in this Debate. The number of millions of pounds paid annually for separation allowances remind us that during the last seventeen months of trial too many widows and too many orphans have been made because of the system to which we have adhered.
I do not think I need say very much about the figures of the Derby Report. The figures which my right hon. Friend the Member for Walthamstow (Sir J. Simon) gave surprised me very greatly when I heard them. I was not surprised at the crushing reply they received from my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary. There is no need for me to go over the point, but perhaps I may say a word with regard to what fell from the right hon. Gentleman who spoke a little earlier in this Debate. That right hon. Gentleman spoke of figures which he said, and I hope I did not misunderstand him, came from the Census. No such figures could possibly have come from the Census, because they are not given in the Census. I presume he refers to some estimate made by somebody of the number of men of military age, taking the Census of 1911 and making some estimate to bring it up to the present day. That is all that the right, hon. Gentleman could possibly refer to. If that is what he referred to I can only say, while I have not my calculations with me, I certainly cannot make my recollection of my estimates agree with the figures that he put before the House. I noticed also that he was obviously taking the figures for the United Kingdom and comparing them with the figures of the Derby Report, which figures refer to Great Britain only. When he took the single men of the United Kingdom and compared them with the figures of the Derby Report he was obviously doing something which it was not quite possible to do. He also-referred to the total which appears on the 1533 bottom of page 7 of the Derby Report of belated returns of 62,000 men whom Lord Derby says it is impossible to allocate accurately as between single or married. Then my right hon. Friend deducted the whole of that 62,000 from the 651,000 and gave the balance. He did not explain why he did it, but threw the figure on the floor of the House and left it there for us to accept.
For the rest, I think the figures of the Derby Report may be considered as being not over but under the mark. If we take the 651,000, of which we have heard so much, and relate it to the 528,000 un-starred single men attested, we see that if the number is reduced for the unattested men in the same proportion as it has been reduced on page 6 for the attested men, we get a very large reduction. The 651,000 is reduced to about 420,000. If we suppose that as many as 120,000 more have to be deducted, we still have the very considerable figure of 350,000. I very much question whether we ought to make so large a deduction, for this reason: It will be remembered that the Army as it exists has not been raised only amongst men of legal military age. There are hundreds of thousands of men in the Army who are either under nineteen or over forty years of age. When we remember that, it seems only too clear that the figures of the National Register are probably incomplete, and that the numbers given on the first page of Lord Derby's Report, which are taken from the National Register, probably understate the number of males from whom we can expect recruits. Therefore, when we in due course put this Bill into operation, we shall probably be surprised, not, as some of my hon. Friends think, by the paucity of the results, but by getting more men than the Derby Report suggests. I, at any rate, suggest to hon. Members who attempt to whittle away these figures that they should remember what they are whittling at. If what they say is true, if all these figures are so unreliable, if we do not possess the young men, then we shall be unable—think how grave this is!—to reinforce the men at the front as we desire to reinforce them, which will mean that our military efforts will fail. It is most earnestly to be hoped, therefore, that the truth lies rather in the direction I have indicated than in the direction indicated by my right hon. Friend.
When I heard the speech of the hon. Member who introduced this Debate, I 1534 was reminded that he is a member of a party which has dissociated itself from, recruiting. I do not think it can be a comfortable feeling for those, if there are any,, who may be thinking of voting against the Second Reading of this Bill, that they will follow into the Division Lobby a representative of a party which dissociated itself completely from recruiting, and passed a resolution almost unanimously at Norwich entirely separating the party from the efforts of the Labour party in that direction. When I think also of the melancholy utterances which have been made by Members of that party up and down the country, I sometimes wonder-why it is that those utterances have not been repeated in this House where they could be met and challenged. We know also where we stand in regard to these Gentlemen when they come to the House and criticise the Derby Report and the Derby figures. When they criticise the motives which underlie the introduction of this Bill, we have a right to ask where they stand in regard to the War, and whether they still hold the opinions which they have expressed on so many unfortunate occasions. I have more sympathy with those who seem sincerely to believe that we cannot afford to train and maintain in the field the men that we propose to raise under this Bill. It would be a very melancholy thing, if it were true. It would mean disaster. It would mean that we had given up hope of victory. I suggest, therefore, that any hon. Members who approach the subject from that point of view should think very furiously before they give utterance to an opinion which I notice with some amusement is the opinion also of German newspapers. Take, for example, the "Cologne Gazette." What does that paper think about our present operations? In the first place, it quite agrees with the opponents of this Bill that it will not raise many men. Naturally, that is what the Germans want to think. It also says that while it will fail in getting many men, what will happen will be this:—While the old England has already lost the War, the new England which it is thought to create will bleed to death in the process.What a familiar ring those words have. I seem to have heard them many times in this House. Is it true from an economic point of view that we are likely to bleed to death? Really I am reminded of the Debates we used to have before the War regarding the Navy. I remember the same argument used to be used. To lay down 1535 three or four more "Dreadnoughts" meant the difference between progress and ruin to the people of the United Kingdom. If we built two more battleships there would be no more social reform, no more housing schemes. That is what we used to be assured year after year with wearisome reiteration. It was just the same at the beginning of the War. In the days of July and August of the first year of the War, what did the opponents of the War—and curiously 'enough they were the old opponents of the Navy and the present opponents of National Service—tell us? Doubtless having in mind the writings of Mr. Norman Angell, who I understand according to the latest information, is now in America, advising America to build a big navy; what did they prophesy? Exactly the same prophecy of ruin which had been put before us with regard to the building of the Navy. We were told that if we were so misguided as to interfere in this War on behalf of the neutrality of Belgium, this country would be plunged into starvation and distress. In fact, the tales were so believed by many people that they rushed to their baker's shops to buy bread, and to their bankers to draw out golden sovereigns, in order to protect themselves against a state of siege.
I remember one organ of opinion which is fighting this Bill tooth and nail with misrepresentations day by day, pointed out to the working men of this country that what would happen as a result of the War was a condition of strikes without strike pay. That was in the early days of the War—in 1914. What has become of those tales? Those who wrote them seem astonished as they look round and find that we are not ruined. But as the ruin has not occurred, they now post-date it and expect it a little later. The 3,000,000 Army has not produced ruin. While the 3,000,000 Army has been in process of being raised exports have risen, the balance of trade has fallen, and the financial condition of the country has improved. So that the prophecy of grief has not occurred! The unemployment returns were never better. That is not only true when the Army is at its present size, but it was true in the winter of 1914, and it was also true in the winter of 1915. Now that the ruin has not occurred we are told, "Oh, yes, the 3,000,000 Army has not ruined you, but the 4,000,000 Army will; your exports will fall, your imports will continue to go up, and you will be 1536 unable to lend money to your Allies," and, as has been said by a distinguished novelist, we shall be bursting up the whole show for all the Allies. Is it true that if we raise the men which it has been shown by the President of the Board of Trade we have to spare in certain industries—is it true that if we draft into the Army the men, the disputed figures relating to whom are given in the Derby Report, we shall come down to that ruin which has not occurred up to date? As to that, I say that if the recruiting is done judiciously—as it may be done—that not only will our financial position be not worsened, but it will be improved. The real matter for thought in regard to finance—and I admit it is an important one—is the financing of our external obligations. If your external obligations become more alarming because of your recruiting, with the recruiting judiciously done quite the contrary effect may be produced. It is perfectly true that if you take—as you need not take—more export workers, you will reduce your export, and you will find it more difficult to trade. If, on the other hand, those men whom we are going to take under this Bill are taken—as they ought to be taken—from unessential trades in which we have got many men, because this is a luxurious country, and the unessential trades consume imports, with few or no exports—if, I say, you take the men out of these trades, you do not thus worsen the position, and you do not necessarily increase our external obligations. You may make them lighter if the simultaneous process goes on; and there is no reason why we should not continue to make further progress as in the past seventeen months. There is no reason why we should not maintain the same substantial production, or why we should not sustain that export trade, the figures of which, just published, in the past year are really of such a remarkable kind.
I very much deplore that there should be an accusation against the supporters of this Bill that they are not as sincere democrats as those who oppose it, or that any man should be accused of deserting those principles to which he has been attached during his political career because he backs up this Bill. I yield to no man in the House in regard to my aspirations for the future of democracy. I was, I believe, a Socialist before the War. Nothing certainly has occurred in the War that has led me to desert the Socialism which I profess. I am astonished that hon. Mem- 1537 bers who are sincere Socialists should see in this War anything which does not really accord with their principles. That brings me to my last point—as to the conscription of wealth. My hon. Friend the Member for Derby (Mr. Thomas) said somewhere in the country, I think it was at Cardiff, that he was going to introduce into the House—I speak from recollection, but I hope I am quoting the hon. Member correctly—when the Bill came before the House, an Amendment to introduce into it conscription of wealth. He said that if the House did not agree with that Amendment he would continue to vote against the Bill, or words to that effect. No one knows better than the hon. Member for Derby—I suppose he spoke in the heat of a platform address—that it would not be in order to move an Amendment bringing in the conscription of wealth into such a Bill as this. What, however, my hon. Frend must know is that conscription of wealth existed in this country for the purposes of peace, and before this War began, and that for the purposes of this War it has been screwed up to a pretty high level, and will undoubtedly be screwed up to a still higher level.
We have to-day conscription of wealth, and we must have more of it. [An HON. MEMBER: "A lot more!"] I do not think there is a single Member who supports this Bill who would disagree with me when I say that we must have a lot more. Perhaps there was never a more remarkable condition in this country than the citizens of the country really appealing to the Chancellor of the Exchequer to give them more of the conscription of wealth. I should like to see, not only a call upon the manhood of the country such as is proposed by this Bill, but I should like to see a more universal and a better graduated call upon the wealth of the country to pay for the War. If that were made we should get further with regard to our external obligations, because by decreasing the consumption, especially consumption of some sorts, you do reduce your imports. I believe if that levy was properly graduated, and if the levy was not only graduated with regard to the rate, but also with regard to the manner in which it was taken, we should get a more real and effective conscription of wealth which would help us to win the War. What I mean with regard to the graduation of the manhood of the country is, that if you take from the working man, or the poor man, as I prefer to say, because I consider there ought to be 1538 no other than working men, a certain proportion of his services, that they ought to be considered as borrowed, and that as you ascend in the scale you would not only take a larger proportion of income, but take in taxes a larger proportion of income, until you reach the higher levels.
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER (Mr. Whitley)
I am afraid the hon. Member is forgetting the maxim he himself laid down.
§ Sir CHIOZZA MONEY
I am afraid I was rather widening and enlarging the proper scope of this Debate; but the subject is one upon which I feel very deeply, and it is really—I agree with any hon. Member who suggests inside the House or outside the House—closely connected with the subject-matter of this Bill. I do contend that the conscription of wealth has already taken place. I further contend that it has not taken place to so large an extent as I should like to see it employed in connection with this Bill. There is, I conceive, no principle of democracy which is impugned or endangered by any provision of this Bill. If it can be shown, in regard to Clause 3 of the Bill, that there is such danger as was indicated by the hon. Member for Attercliffe, I am perfectly sure that Members of all parties in this House will join in framing safeguards in regard to those provisions. So far from there being any principle of democracy called in question in this Bill, I should say this Bill, which calls upon all the single men of all classes equally to be attested, which in effect causes them to be legally considered as attested, is a democratic measure, and I would suggest to hon. Members who attempt to think the contrary that when you get such a society as ours, in which you have got a large proportion of the population employed, I will not say in casual employment, but employments of such a character that they become accustomed almost as a matter of course to any one job without certain knowledge of another one being in sight for days or weeks or even months—when you get a society of that kind, and you call upon it for voluntary enlistment, what obviously happens is this: you get the rank and file recruited chiefly from the poor, while you get the officers chiefly recruited from the well-to-do or comfortably well off. leaving a large part of society which is not properly called upon for the purposes of war. I say that is not a democratic way in a democratic system of forming an Army, and such an Army as existed 1539 before the War, in which you had the rank and file drawn from the poor and officers drawn from the rich, is as far removed from an ideal democratic army as anything could possibly be
I heard only one illustration instanced in this or the previous Debates to show that this measure—or to show that National Service, if you like—can be used as a weapon against democracy. It is the one single illustration that is always brought up in these Debates. It is the instance of the French railway strike, in which, we are told, the principle of Conscription was used to quash the strike, I would remind hon. Members who are intending again to use that illustration that the voluntary British Army was used in connection with the English railway strike, to my knowledge, not many years ago. I remember the indignation with which it filled me at the time, and I will add this: that a man, now unhappily dead, who came to be as good a democrat as could be found, M. Jaurés, pointed out that with a voluntary Army—if you like to use the expression, and it is not misunderstood, a professional, mercenary Army—even greater evils might be wrought under such circumstances.
§ Mr. GOLDSTONE
Was it not that the soldiers were to keep order, but not to break the strike, which the French soldiers were brought in to do?
§ Sir CHIOZZA MONEY
I admit it was done to break the strike, but you can break a strike just as easily by means of using engineers of the professional Army to run the trains. Undoubtedly my hon. Friend may differ, but, at any rate, I am in good company when I quote the late French Socialist Jaurés, who was very strongly of opinion that a professional Army could be used more effectively under those circumstances than a citizen Army could be. At any rate, I am not called upon to defend here or to argue the whole cause of National Service, but I do say for this Bill, on its merits, under all the circumstances in which we are, knowing as we do that we made an undue call upon married men with regard to the Army, so far as already raised, it is a Bill to redress the balance by bringing in the single men, and without any accusation of shirking—I have never in writing or speaking uttered one word of the sort—but merely to put men upon that level of opportunity which so many single men claim when they say, "I 1540 will go, if the others are called upon "—I say from that point of view, to go no further, this is a Bill which should commend itself to the universal acceptance of the House.
§ Mr. MOLTENO
I only wish the Chancellor of the Exchequer had been in his place to listen to the hon. Member who has just addressed the House. I am sure it would have done him good, because he would have learnt that the longer the War continues the better off we shall be. I know that the hon. Member has always been a financial optimist, and, therefore, he is only true to what he has always preached. At the same time, I cannot quite understand the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Prime Minister meeting representatives of labour, as they recently did, and pointing out to them the supreme importance of economy, and the danger of coming to the end of our resources. But I do not propose to follow the hon. Member in that matter any further. I have some other consideration which I would like to address to the House upon this very important subject, and I should like to explain the difficulty in which I, as a private Member, find myself on a matter of this kind. In the Debate on the Adjournment just before the Recess, I ventured to call attention to the fact that the House and the country—particularly the country—were in this position: that its constitutional safeguards were in abeyance, as we were without an organised Government and without an organised Opposition, and that we were without the possibility of an alternative Government. As a very distinguished Member of this House, now a distinguished Member of the other House, has said, "Parliamentary Government without Parties is impossible." We, therefore, are now in the position of being without the guidance and the assistance of the leaders of an organised party, and that throws all the greater responsibility on private Members when they have to face a question of this enormous importance. I venture to suggest, then, that we are nearing a dangerous precipice, the precipice of national disunion, and it is an unfortunate thing that our constitutional machinery is not in the very best working order when we have to meet some of the enormously difficult questions which this War must present to the people of this country and to the House of Commons. We are asked to satisfy ourselves that a measure which the Government have intro- 1541 duced is the right and proper measure, and the necessary one to be introduced into this House That is the position which the Government have taken up. They have not said that this is a Bill of military necessity. They have said, "Here is the Bill; here is the Prime Minister's pledge; and here are the figures." Now, that being the position, it devolves upon ourselves to examine the position, and to the best of our judgment decide whether all the difficulties are met by a measure of this kind. In the circumstances you would naturally expect to have definite, exact, and reliable figures. It is quite clear that the onus is upon the Government to show the reason why, and to prove a case for the destruction of our national policy which has persisted from our earliest days down to the present time—a policy which is connected with our fundamental liberty. That liberty has been secured, in this respect, both by the great Magna Charta and by the Petition of Eight. Those principles were that no one should be placed under military law without his consent for foreign service. The other was that no one should be sent abroad, even if under military law, without his consent. We are asked by this Bill to abrogate those fundamental liberties. The facts and the figures should be certain, exact, and reliable. I am glad to see the new Home Secretary in his place, and I offer him my best wishes in the office which I am sure he will ably administer. The Home Secretary the other day said the figures on this question were not exact, but were inexact. He said:—I admit that there are many points of uncertainty in the figures enumerated in Lord Derby's Report. That is plain upon the face of it, and I should have been glad if it had been possible to obtain more exact, statistics before the House was called upon to decide the very grave issue now before us.9.0 P.M.
The right hon. Gentleman also pointed out that he did not think the figures were quite so inexact as the late Home Secretary seemed to think. In a case of this kind, when you are proposing to destroy great fundamental liberties, it is the duty of the Government to put before us cogent and reliable figures which could be furnished by them from the great material at their hands. Before I deal further with this question I should like to make one or two general observations. Everyone must admit that by no stretch of terms can it be said that the information we have is exhaustive or complete. No one would suppose from the speeches which 1542 have been made that a fundamental change was about to be made in our Constitution, and that our rights under Magna Charta and the Position of Bight were going to be taken away. Ministers who have spoken did not attempt to make use of the argument of military necessity. [An HON. MEMBER: "It was used!"] Attention has been drawn to this fact in the newspapers and elsewhere. The Home Secretary referred to the injustice of the present system, and I know that the Colonial Secretary said that the greatest objection to the voluntary system was its injustice, and he said that in some homes several young men had gone while in others none had gone. In this case to whom is the injustice? Ts it an injustice to the men who have gone to the front, who have the honour, the well-merited honour and glory, of serving their country at the time of its greatest need? Is it an injustice to them? Is it an injustice to those who stayed behind? The suggestion was left there in order that we might suppose that the new sysem of compulsion was more just. The hon. Member who has just spoken (Sir Chiozza Money) said the burden would fall equally upon all young men, but I am going to ask the House to examine the fundamental question of the system of compulsion. What does it do to the young men of this country? It practically says to them, "We shall take from you all your capital—that is, your labour and your time." It matters not what the value of that labour is, whether it is skilled or unskilled, or whether the man is educated or uneducated. It matters not whether he is engaged in a lucrative occupation or whether he is idle, this system comes down upon him ruthlessly and takes the whole of that capital. Hon. Members can easily see what it means. Here is a man earning £1 a week, another £5 a week, and perhaps another £10 a week. What is the tax which compulsion imposes upon those men? All it does is that it gives them in return for their services their food and clothing, and the measure of the tax is the difference between what they are earning per week and the amount they receive in wages for their services as soldiers. Could there be anything more unequal than a tax of this kind? You have also to remember the pecuniary measure of suffering of individuals and the suffering of the country as well as the enormous dislocation of labour, which you cannot measure in figures. The hon. Member for 1543 Rochdale (Mr. Gordon Harvey) pointed out the other day in this House that the men we were taking to-day from the textile industries were men producing as much by their labour as £700 in value per annum, and therefore you are going to confiscate that by this tax of compulsion. I think I have said enough to show that this is a most unjust and unequal tax which imposes a most unequal burden upon any people or upon any young men or any portion of the community that may be subject to it, and I would like this argument met. I leave the matter there, and I would like an answer to it.
I wish now to make an observation upon another subject referred to by the First Lord of the Admiralty, who spoke the other day. He said there was no principle in this, and he asked what would become of the principle put forward by the ex-Home Secretary if this country was no longer an island. At any rate the principle of the ex-Home Secretary is very safe in the fact that it would take a great earthquake and an upheaval to unite this country to the Continent. The Colonial Secretary told us that this Bill could not be defended on principle, and he said the Government had no principle in their mind when they drafted this measure. There are various kinds of principles; there are religious principles, Liberal principles, Conservative principles, good and bad principles, men of principle, and unprincipled men. I would like to ask the First Lord of the Admiralty when is a principle not a principle? I would answer it by saying, when it is inconvenient to a politician. At any rate, we have not yet had that upheaval which has been spoken of, and we remain an island and are likely to remain so
One principle has always been borne in mind by the people of this country as represented in Parliament. That principle is that no man can be compelled to go out of this country to fight. That principle has been maintained by the people of this country by force of arms. When King John was carrying on a campaign in France against the French King he endeavoured to impress people in this country for service in France, and he took their money for the same purpose. What happened? The barons rose and vindicated the liberties of this country. They said, "No, we will not go without our consent," and that great principle was established by Magna Charta. You had 1544 the same principle embodied hr the Petition of Rights which established the fact that civilians could not be placed under military law without their consent. The Ballot Act has been used for compulsion at various times, but Parliament has always observed the distinction that you must never force men to serve abroad. The General Militia Act of 1802 has been referred to, but what was the area of embodiment1? It was England. In 1803 an attempt was made by the Army Reserve Act to introduce the ballot for producing a reserve for the Army, but here again, while there was some extension of the area of embodiment, it was only extended to the United Kingdom and to the Channel Islands, and it in express terms stated "but not elsewhere." So jealous has Parliament ever been of this principle right down to the present day. Every great soldier down to our last greatest soldier of recent times, Lord Roberts, has not only realised the justice and importance of this principle, but has vindicated that justice in the advice which he has given to the people of this country.
Parliament has always refused to allow even the Militia Act to be used for foreign service. It is quite true that between Queen Anne's reign and 1870 criminals and vagrants were allowed to be impressed into the Army, but that is the only exception. The Navy and the Militia have always been regarded as our constitutional forces. We have lost sight of a term which was always in use when before we had occasion to raise great armies. At the time of the Napoleonic Wars, the term "constitutional forces" was constantly used. Sir Arthur Wellesley in this House said the Navy was the characteristic and constitutional force of Great Britain, but the Army was a new force arising out of the extraordinary exigencies of modern times. Lord St. Vincent, speaking of the land forces, said:—The Militia, the yeomanry, the Cavalry, and the Marines are the constitutional land forces of this country.The Army was never looked upon as a constitutional force, and throughout the eighteenth century there was a contest between Parliament and the Crown on every occasion when the numbers were being voted for the Army and the Militia Act was being passed. Parliament sometimes refused to increase and even reduced the Army, but it hardly ever reduced the Navy, the Militia and the constitutional forces of this country. Why was there this jealousy of the people as 1545 represented in Parliament against the Army? The great military historian tells us why. He tells us that jealousy arose mainly on two points: First, that standing Armies were the characteristic of Continental States and not of this country; and, secondly, that the political condition of those States varied from the political condition of England by the absence of that freedom of speech and action which every Englishman claims as his birthright. They ask why you should risk those liberties and why you should embarrass your Exchequer by keeping a large standing Army when you have the Navy and the Militia adequate for the defence of these shores. The right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Admiralty admitted the other night that there was no risk of the invasion of the shores of this country, and that our Navy had secured our shores from any risk of that kind. We are hazarding this liberty of freedom of speech and action which every Englishman claims as his birthright by what we are now doing. Only last night we had the case of the suppression of the "Forward." In previous times, when there was a great suppression of liberty in regard to the expression of opinion and there was a censorship of the Press, we had a defence of the freedom of the Press by no less a person that Milton, who pleaded "for the liberty to know, to utter, and to argue freely according to conscience above all (other) liberties."
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER
I must remind the hon. Member that there are a great number of other hon. Members desiring to take part in this discussion and that he cannot be permitted to go back upon yesterday's Debate. He must keep to the matter strictly in hand. The hon. Member might recollect that there are other hon. Members who wish to take part in the Debate.
§ Mr. MOLTENO
I have no desire to go back on the Debate of yesterday. It was merely in connection with the liberties of free speech and action which have a bearing upon the Army question that I referred to it, because it is on the Army question that they have been reduced. Are these liberties less precious to us to-day than they were in the great titanic struggle with Napoleon at the beginning of the last century? This remedy of Conscription was suggested in 1813 when we were struggling with the enormous difficulties of a long Continental campaign. 1546 Our Army was then in the Peninsular, and Conscription was suggested. That was ignominiously rejected by this House. It was then termed "slavery." It was spoken of as "carrying misery into the bosom of every family." That was the language used in this House. I now come to the soldiers. I say that our soldiers have condemned it. They have been consistently opposed to this policy. I will recall the opinion of Wellington, our greatest soldier, who had unrivalled experience, and who had to struggle against want of numbers in the Peninsular War. I desire to give his opinion because it was a considered opinion, not a random one, as will be perceived from the completeness of it. It was an opinion given with the strongest sense of responsibility. This is what he said:—It is quite clear that the British Regular Army cannot be raised by Conscription or ballot. The right of the country to the services of all its subjects for its defence can be well understood. It is on the principle of defence that the seafaring man is liable to be impressed for service in the King's ships. But the force for the Regular Army, which is liable to be sent to any part of the world, not for the defence of the land of England, but of a colony or settlement, or for the conquest of a colony or settlement, or for the defence or for the conquest of any foreign territory, cannot be considered in the same light. Men cannot with justice be taken from their families and from their ordinary occupations and pursuits for such objects. Recruits for the Regular British Army must be volunteers.That is perfectly clear. It is a perfectly distinct and most authoritative statement, and I would remind the Colonial Secretary that our greatest soldier considered the system unjust and unfair, and attempted to draw attention to some of its injustices. I will now bring the question of our soldiers' opinions down to a later date. I will in evidence the opinion of that pure-minded patriot, Lord Roberts. He held the same view. We all know the immense efforts he made to rouse this country to enlist a large defensive force, but he realised that that force could not be utilised without its consent for service abroad. This is what he said, speaking on the 13th July, 1913:—It cannot be. Such a national Army will not be a conscript Army, for it is not for a moment proposed to make service in the Regular Overseas Army compulsory. It will be an Army for the defence of these islands only, and will never be used to prevent men striking for what they consider their rights. It will not be called upon to fight unless invaders have actually landed on these shores. If any man ever goes abroad with the Expeditionary Force it will be because he himself wishes and volunteers to go and not because the State forces him to go.That, too, is a perfectly clear and perfectly distinct opinion on the same lines as that which I have quoted of Lord Wellington. It was not a mere casual state- 1547 ment on the part of Lord Roberts. He repeated it time and again in the House of Lords and on platforms in the country. Speaking at Glasgow, he said the same thing. These were his words:—In no circumstances shall a single man of that Army be obliged to quit these shores, if he volunteered for service abroad and of his own free will, nor will that Army ever be called upon to fire a rifle except into the ranks of an enemy actually landed on these shores.I think these quotations absolutely establish the fact that Lord Roberts was against compulsory service for fighting abroad. [An HON. MEMBER: "No!"] If there is any other interpretation to be put upon those quotations, then hon. Members who speak after me will have an opportunity of explaining it. But I can see no other. I venture to think there is no possibility of mistaking the language of these two great military authorities. Can any hon. Member quote a greater name, a greater authority than those I have given, authorities backed up by long lives spent in the service of their country, by years of active service at a time of the most stirring episodes in our history. But let me give the opinion of one in this House who was a Prime Minister. [Interruption.] I know it is thought very undesirable by hon. Members who are opposed to us that these opinions should be quoted, but I must be allowed to bring forward the opinion of a Prime Minister who, not even the most Jingo Member of this, or any other House, would deny was a man ready to maintain and to vindicate the position of this country before the whole world. I refer to Lord Palmerston, who, speaking as Secretary for War, said:—If our Armies were not so numerous as those of other nations they had qualities which makes them more valuable. Those raised by voluntary enlistment were more effective than those raised by Conscription, and I should think that a general would feel more confidence with an Army so raised than he could possibly have when leading into battle a band of slaves turn from their home by force.What have we private Members to put against the overwhelming authority of these great names? What is there to count against the profound political wisdom and justice of the views of these men? I notice an hon. Member uses the words "the present situation." But the situation was equally critical, if not more so, at that time. We were engaged in a great struggle with Napoleon, who massed a great Army opposite our shores and was ready to launch it on this island. Indeed, he said: that if they would give him command of the Channel for one week he could have 1548 England. The situation was more critical in those days, because the First Lord of the Admiralty has told us that our shores to-day are safe from invasion. The situation was more critical when that language was used by Lord Palmerston. I ask what arguments have we to put against the opinions of these men who lived in such stirring times in our history, and who took their part in fashioning it in its most brilliant episodes? They were very careful to preserve the long line of national record in the views they deliberately gave to their fellow countrymen.
What are the credentials of those who are asking us to make this change, a change which is so contrary to our own predilections and to our great liberty, and in such violent contrast to what has already been done in getting 6,000,000 of men to come forward voluntarily to serve their country in any part of the world? Have those who ask us to make this change come to us with the credit of any great victory, such as that of Waterloo, or of any great campaign such as that of Lord Roberts? Do they come to us backed by success or with the authority won by proved foresight and successful action? They confess their want of success. The Minister of Munitions has told us we are always too late. And the Colonial Secretary has admitted that we have not been successful. Do they come to us with a true appreciation of the deductions to be drawn from the history of the present War? Look at what had been done by the Navy. Look at the hold it maintains on the German Fleet. How was that position won? It was won by a voluntary service, the voluntary service of our Navy, the greatest Navy the world has ever seen. And what has been our principal conquest on land? The conquest of South-West Africa in a brilliant campaign conducted by General Botha. That, too, was done by a volunteer force. Our next great success has been the number of people of this country who have come forward—6,000,000 of people who are freely volunteering to fight the battles of the country in any part of the world.
Then we were told there are Lord Derby's figures. I will return to those figures for a few minutes and I would point out that there is no accuracy about them. There is no certainty about them. The Home Secretary has admitted that. Even Lord Derby has admitted it. He says so, and he is unable to get his own Committee, which has been working with 1549 him so intimately during the whole period, to endorse those figures. There is the figure of 650,000 of which we have heard so often. That is admitted to be conjectural. Most of these figures are estimates and deductions have to be made from them. Why have we not the number of single men actually enlisted? Those figures are under the control of the Government and they ought to be given. Why are they merely put in at an estimate, and a very improbable estimate at that? Why is not the actual number of single men given? Why is it not set down in detail suitably for each constituency?
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER
I think the hon. Member gave this at the inception of his speech half an hour ago. He must be careful not to repeat what he has already said.
§ Mr. MOLTENO
I ventured to suggest that I would return to the figures in order to support what I said about their inaccuracy. I am now doing so, and am putting forward the points in which they are inaccurate. This is quite a different matter. Why is the number of single men who have been examined and rejected not set out? Those are known figures. The details of the actual figures are known. Why are they not given to us? There is no real evidence, no sifted evidence, and no evidence at all upon which we can rely.
§ Mr. MOLTENO
I should like to have it. The First Lord of the Admiralty appealed to the sacred, character of the pledge of the Prime Minister. He told us that it was a pledge in the ordinary form, that it was a promise that something was going to be done, if value passed, and that value has passed. We all agree that pledges given ought to be observed and carried out. I ask: What of the pledge to those who came forward to save the voluntary system on the assurance that if they did come forward it would be saved? Why is not that pledge to be observed? No notice was given to them that they were to come forward in a certain proportion or in definite proportions. They were to come forward and save the voluntary system. This they have done, on the statement of the Prime Minister. The pledge is an absolute one. It was acted upon. Now I come to an even more solemn and sacred pledge, because not only the Prime Minister, but this nation 1550 and the House are bound by it. Value has been given and this Bill violates that pledge. I refer to our Territorials. This Bill takes away the guarantee under which the Territorial Force was enlisted. All those men who are unmarried members of the Territorial Force who have not volunteered to go abroad are brought in under this Bill, and can be compelled to go abroad. They are called slackers, although in many cases they have given eighteen months' service to their country on that pledge and undertaking. I refer to Section 13 of the Territorial Force Act, which says:—
There is no doubt about that pledge. It is the pledge of this House, and of the country. Yet this Bill, if it is left in its present condition, violates that pledge. The course of the Debate has shown that the Government have not made out their case. The onus lies upon them to do so, to justify this revolution and to show the necessity for destroying that freedom of speech and of action which every Englishman claims as his birthright. I wish to make an appeal to my Friends who are Liberals and Radicals. I have alluded to the difficulty in which we private Members are placed. As I have already said, this is a Coalition Government, and its actions are the results of various forces. We have no organised Liberal Government in power; therefore we have not the assistance of our leaders in coming to a determination in regard to what we shall do in this very vital matter. Why have we a Coalition? Would a Liberal Government have 1551 proposed this measure? Would the Prime Minister, acting for a Liberal Government, have proposed this measure? We do not know. We have a Coalition now. Why have we a Coalition? We know that the Prime Minister was against it, because we had an answer in this House, given five days before the Coalition came about, showing that the Prime Minister did not think it was desirable.
- "(1) Any part of the Territorial Force shall be liable to serve in any part of the United Kingdom, but no part of the Territorial Force shall be carried or ordered to go out of the United Kingdom.
- (2) Provided that it shall be lawful for His Majesty, if he thinks fit, to accept the offer of any part of or men of the Territorial Force, signified through their commanding officer, to subject themselves to the liability.
- (3) A person shall not be compelled to make such an offer, or be subjected to such liability as aforesaid, except by his own consent, and a commanding officer shall not certify any voluntary offer previously to his having explained to every person making the offer that the offer is to be purely voluntary on his part."
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER
I think it would be quite au unfair use of the opportunity which I gave the hon. Member when I called upon him if he were to go into that. He has now occupied forty minutes of the time of the House, and proceeds to a matter quite irrelevant to the present subject.
§ Mr. MOLTENO
Are we speaking under a time limit? I did not know that we had a time limit in this House.
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER
The hon. Member is speaking under the Rules of the House, and speeches must be relevant to the matter in hand.
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER
I must remind the hon. Member that, having warned him twice, the next time I shall have to call the attention of the House to the matter.
§ Mr. MOLTENO
I regret that you, Sir, have found it necessary to call my attention to a matter which you consider to be irrelevant. I do not propose to follow that any further, but J bow to your ruling.
§ Mr. MOLTENO
If I am allowed, I propose to do that shortly. We have now seen the greatest triumph of voluntaryism. We have seen that the Colonies have followed the Mother Country in that respect. We have had an enormous succession of volunteers from all our Colonies, including South Africa; 500,000 from Canada, 300,000 from Australia, and 26,000 from New Zealand. These men are all volunteers, as ours are here. It seems to me that in the very hour of the triumph of the voluntary system it is indeed a sad thing that the felon blow of destruction should be struck at it.
§ Colonel DAVID DAVIES
I believe that those hon. Members who are opposing the Bill are labouring under a misapprehension. No one will deny that since the commencement of the War the recruiting system of the country has been in a chaotic condition, and that in its later stages we have seen a great deal of pressure, moral persuasion, economic pressure, and all sorts of other kinds of pressure brought to bear, and no one can say that in reality it is not a species of compulsion in its most insidious form, which has had an irritating and mischievous effect upon the morale of the country. I welcome this Bill as legalising the procedure which has been adopted, and as a means of bringing the country to a clear sense of the duty imposed upon every single man. I think this Bill has cleared the atmosphere and it has called a spade a spade, and instead of the haphazard method which has been adopted in the past we shall now have some kind of system to work upon.
As I understand it, there are to be exemptions in the case of these unmarried men who come under the provisions of this Bill. There is one point which I am not clear about, which was raised by the hon. Member who moved the rejection of the Bill, and that was with regard to munition workers. A certain number of unmarried men will not come under the provisions of the Bill because they happen to be engaged in the munitions industries throughout the country, and we have been told, and rightly told, time after time that these men are assisting in the successful prosecution of the War as much as if they were fighting in the field. That is perfectly true, but there is this difference, that they are paid a great deal more than those who are engaged in the field, they have not to endure the same hardships, and they are not subject to the same strict system of discipline. I fail to see why the discipline which will be imposed upon those men who are sent under the provisions of this Bill to take their part with the fighting forces of the Crown should not also be imposed upon those who would also come under the category of the Bill but who remain in the munition factories. I cannot for the life of me see why a man who is on sentry and who has gone asleep has to suffer a severe penalty, the same measure should not be meted out to the man who wastes two or three days' work in a munition factory and thus imperils the lives of scores of his fellow-countrymen through a shortage of shells. I cannot for the life of me see why a man who joined 1553 a regiment and who, or what he thinks some real reason, has endeavoured to bring discord and incite men against the system of discipline should be severely dealt with, and why a man who incites all sorts of trouble in a factory or munitions workshop should go scot free. I hope the Government will see that proper discipline is enforced for all the unmarried men who come under the provisions of this Bill. I am sure every Member of the House will agree that whoever a man is, whether he is an employer, whether he sits on a board of directors or works in a munition shop, or is fighting in the trenches, it is up to him to do his best to win this War, and if he does not do so he should be dealt with in a proper fashion.
There is one other point I want to mention. We have been told by some speakers that this Bill is the thin edge of the wedge. The Secretary to the Admiralty told us the other night that this was purely a war measure and was only introduced for the duration of the War. I think he was perfectly right, and that so far as this Bill is concerned it is not intended that it should be a permanent measure; but whether or not there will be a successor to this Bill will largely depend upon the conditions of peace at the end of the War, and the answer as to whether there will be any compulsory Bill will be found when the conditions of peace are disclosed. I should like to suggest to the hon. Member (Mr. Thomas) and those who think- with him that the surest way to avoid compulsion in the future is to win this War out and out, and by winning the War I mean the crushing of Prussian militarism and the doctrine that a nation shall live by force alone. At the conclusion of the War and at the next election we shall probably be told we were unprepared for this struggle, and there will be a cry throughout the country, "Never again"; and if we are faced with an inconclusive peace, and if the Huns are still a menace to our national existence, you will find it very hard to induce the people of this country not to go in for another Bill on these lines. I should like to say to the Gentlemen who oppose this measure, "Why live in a fool's paradise, and why hesitate to give up rules and regulations, why hesitate to give up anything that prevents us from winning this War and having an overwhelming victory" Surely it is much wiser to give up these things now and to save our country from a military system in the future, which many of us think will be a curse to our 1554 country and a curse to the rest of the world. I think this Bill is overdue. If it had been brought in eighteen or even twelve months ago, the country would have accepted it, and we should have been spared a great deal. In the first place, we should have saved a lot of money. We were told by the Prime Minister that all the financial resources of the country were to be husbanded We have heard a lot of talk about silver bullets. We are also told that if we are going to win this War we have to economise, and, as one Member told us to-night, if this system had been adopted at the start we should have saved many millions of money.
§ Colonel DAVID DAVIES
Where do the cheap soldiers come in? Those unmarried men who are now serving do not receive separation allowances, and no injustice would have been done to a single soldier in the field if this had been put into operation from the very start. We should also have saved the munitions scandal where thousands of men have been taken from the Army after we have spent £250 or £300 in their training and taken back to the munitions factories after all this money had been expended upon them, and much work had been lost during the time they were training. Then, again, we should have reduced to a minimum the commercial and industrial confusion caused by the haphazard taking away of men from various industries. We should have prevented the physically unfit, of whom I believe there are hundreds and thousands, who ought never to have enlisted, and ought never to have become soldiers, from joining the Army. So far as I can understand these men were simply taken in order to bolster up the system which was in existence. The Colonial Secretary told us that all this had been done for the sake of national unity. National unity is a blessed word, but I think that if the Government had adopted a bolder course they would have achieved much more real national unity than they have at present. When will the Government learn that it is their business to lead the country and not to be pushed? I believe in the old adage:—Better is an army of stags led by a lion than an army of lions led by a stag.I am glad, however, that the Government have taken courage, even at the eleventh 1555 hour, and I hope that they will proceed with the Bill and pass it as speedily as possible into law.
Colonel Sir MARK SYKES
Before entering into the subject with which I wish particularly to deal I think there is one point raised by the hon. Member for Dumfries (Mr. Molteno) which really deserves consideration, and that is his point about the Duke of Wellington. I think one might consider in regard to the Duke of Wellington that the period through which England was then passing was an entirely different situation from the situation today, and it was an entirely different political situation. The small oligarchy which then ruled England would certainly not like the idea of a nation in arms, and I am certain that that was a matter which very much weighed with the Duke of Wellington and with the statesmen of that time. They had just had the French Revolution, and if one goes into rather obscure history one would find that the Newgate Calendar showed that there was something like a French Revolution brewing in this country in 1794, 1796 and 1797. Certainly that had a lasting effect on the minds of the statesmen up to 1815. That effect and the national politics which followed Waterloo proves that the situation then was absolutely almost the converse of the situation at the present time.
The particular matter to which I wish to refer relates to the strength of the majority in favour of this Bill. I know that on the Second Reading one is supposed to give more scrutiny to the details of a Bill than on the First Reading. Personally—and, of course, I speak with all the diffidence of a serving officer, only here for a moment, and perhaps quite out of touch with politics in England—it seems to me, coming from abroad, that the main thing is to have as good a Division as possible on this Second Reading. I know that many were pleased, surprised and satisfied at the good Division on the First Reading, but I think that the better we can make the Division on the Second Reading the better I am sure we shall be serving this country. Of course, there is opposition. Certain opposition there is bound to be. For instance, there is the opposition of the members of the Society of Friends. That is conscientious opposition which we must admit. That opposition must be met, and it must in conscience be met, and it is up to us to make the Bill, which they can never accept 1556 as a Bill they like, as little galling to them as possible, and to pass it into law as quickly as possible. Then there is opposition which is inevitable, and that is the kind of opposition mentioned on the First Reading by the right hon. Member for Walthamstow (Sir J. Simon). I cannot help feeling that the right hon. Gentleman's opposition is a manifestation from the past. His opposition really is the price of Admiralty. We cannot go on commanding the seas for 200 or 300 years without getting men of moderation, ability, and great brains, who will yet hold preposterous opinions such as the right hon. Gentleman put forward. It would be impossible on the mainland of Europe for anyone to hold such opinions. However, as the result of 200 or 300 years' command of the seas we have opposition from people who are quite intelligent, but who hold opinions which could not be held elsewhere. Then there is another kind of opposition which one cannot feel so patient about, and which one has heard more of before this Bill came into the House. That is the serious and bitter opposition of a certain type of Socialist. I expected to hear more of it in this House. I expected to hear something of it from the hon. Member for Leicester (Mr. Ramsay Macdonald), the kind of opposition which one has read of in the newspapers outside this House, but of which not much has been heard in this House. I anticipate that it is coming. It comes from people who disliked the War from the beginning, who never pretended that they liked the War, and who apparently have watched the War go on, and have watched the acts of outrage that have been committed by our enemy, and which apparently seem to move them very little. If one might quote a phrase I find in Burke the very phrase which seems to describe what our enemies are doing:—I apprehend civilisation in going to be trampled underfoot by a swinish multitude.That is what our enemies threaten to do. I cannot understand people remaining unmoved in face of these things and making academic and philosophic objections to this Bill in face of the kind of thing that is going on abroad. When I look at the opposition of the right hon. Member for Walthamstow, I am inclined to quote from Falstaff, and to say these arethe cankers of a calm world and a long peace.There is another opposition which one would have referred to, but that has vanished after the speech of the hon. and learned Member for Waterford (Mr. John 1557 Redmond). The hon. and learned Member has withdrawn his opposition, and for that one is very grateful. I hope that his opposition may turn into support of this Bill. I know that the political situation in Ireland at all times difficult, delicate, and difficult to understand by people who do not live in Ireland. Whatever course the hon. and learned Member takes, I do feel that we can never forget the very trying time at the beginning of the War when certainly the hon. and learned Gentleman knocked out of the hands of the enemy what they considered was one of their trump cards. I only hope if it is possible for him to support this Bill ultimately that he will do so, because it will only be in accordance with his first act, and doing what he wants to be done, and that is, to get the enemy beaten. That is, I know, what the Irish Nationalist party want, and they also desire, I am certain, to take away every sign of colour from that flood of false, seditious, lying literature which pretends to come from Irishmen, but which really comes from Germany and is being paid for and financed in neutral countries, and the United States. The hon. and learned Member knows more about Irish politics and Irishmen than I do, but for the rest of the opposition I do ask them to consider, if they will bear with me for a moment or two while I put before them certain things that have come under my notice. It is not making a long historical discourse to say that owing to Pitt, Nelson, and Wellington we had a hundred years of peace, and that in that hundred years we got an immense prestige and a considerable conceit of our own abilities which have got us into the habit that when things have gone wrong of a philosophic smile, and even a spirit of self-depreciation, because we felt that we were beyond real criticism and could not criticise ourselves. We also got into the very vicious habit of relying on our being able somehow to muddle through. All that was borne up by prestige. But I can say, having been through neutral countries and the Eastern theatre of war, that if there is one lesson I have learned in seven months it is this: that we cannot rely on anything our forefathers did for us; we have to do it ourselves. Our prestige, I will not say is past, but we have to make our prestige now, and that is only done by deeds in the present, and not by looking to things that have gone by.
1558 We have not to think that we have an unconquerable and an infallible enemy before us. Some get that idea. He is very fallible, and makes mistakes, and as he has shown on many fields he can be conquered. But in many fields he is wonderfully organised, and not least in his policy in neutral countries and by subconscious, and unconscious, agents even in Allied countries. You will find the Germans directly and indirectly most subtly spreading through the world the idea that this country is frivolous, vaccilating, timorous, pleasure-loving. Those points are being pressed throughout the world, and I am certain that the adverse figures of the Derby scheme, whatever we may think of the figures, married and unmarried, will be trumpeted throughout the world. And to all that there is only one answer, and that is that we are not going to tolerate people who are not going to fight for their country. I would advance this, that the voluntary system as we know it—and many admire it—personally, I have no predilection for or against it—is really incomprehensible to the mass of Europeans on the mainland because they do not know what that system means. To them in the country that has not some compulsory form of service it appears that a Government employing individuals, perhaps in enormous masses, is carrying on the War with the consent of the people. It we pass this Bill it will show to our enemies and our Allies—equally important that it is the people themselves who are fighting this War. If we pass this Bill we are bringing to the French, and the French working classes, who have scraped and endured perhaps as no men have in Europe—I am not speaking of the combatant class, but of the working classes who have foregone holidays and pleasure in order to make munitions and to do everything to win the War—a pledge that the mass of English people are no longer merely allies who send soldiers or who are the wardens of the seas—all very fine things to them—but they will know that English democracy has come into the ring with the last man and the last penny. This will also bring absolute certainty to Russia, and it will deal a blow to the indirect propaganda from the enemy side which is saying that we are not in earnest, and that we use people as catspaws, and so forth
There are only two points that have been raised in this, or the previous, Debate against the Bill. They are these: 1559 Firstly, that this sort of Bill may be used to the disadvantage of organised labour, either now—but I do not think the idea is now—or after the War; and also that if the poor are to have their lives conscripted the rich must have their property conscripted. I saw the last mentioned in some newspapers before the Debates, but it has not been much developed by the opposition here, and I think one need hardly go into it. With regard to organised labour, and strikes, after this War is over, does anyone imagine or believe that the political or social strife is going to be in this country what it was before the War? With three millions, perhaps four or five millions, drawn from every class of the country, dwelling together, suffering and living in the constant shadow of death, fighting together month after month—does anyone imagine that these people are going back to pick up the thread of the sordid disputes of 1st August, 1914? I really think such an idea is a libel on the country and a libel on the Army. The 3rd of August, 1914, I am certain every Member of this House, if he thinks of it, will agree was the beginning of a new epoch, not only a national but an international epoch, as extraordinary as the fall of the Roman Empire, as the rise of Islam, as the Reformation, or as the French Revolution. Such a thing as we have seen in this last two years, and what its fruits will be, will be as extraordinary and far-reaching as any of those epochs; and of one thing I am certain, that, whatever the conditions after this War, we are not going back to the year 1914, to the strikes as they were then, to tango teas, or to talking about the Plural Voting Bill, or nonsense of that kind. I cannot believe those old shams are going to be revived, and anyone who imagines that either worshipping one particular set of party cries, or making an occupation of stirring up ill-feeling between one kind of man and another is going to be a political success, or a political reality, I am sure he is very wrong, for the very simple reason that 4,000,000 or 5,000,000 of men from every class, their sons and children and wives from every class, their daughters from every class, have in this terrible time through which we have passed learned to know each other. The business of rebuilding after these thousands of millions of damage have been done will be hard 1560 work, and will entail much suffering, but they will not forget the lesson they have learned of the War. Of that I feel pretty certain. Therefore I do hope that the opposition to this Bill will regard it in the light of a new epoch in which we are living, and not the old epoch which is gone and forgotten. I hope, after the passing of this Bill, they will consider that they are giving the German General Staff the same feeling that Brunswick had at the battle of Valmy—that he had met a force that had not been calculated. It seems to me that the Allies should feel that we are with them to the end, and that we ourselves should take the place of a self-respecting democracy, ready to undertake its own duties at any time.
§ The CHIEF SECRETARY for IRELAND (Mr. Birrell).
It is with very great regret that I feel bound to say a few words, and they shall be few indeed, as there are many private Members who desire to speak and who are anxious to take part in this Debate—I cannot help saying, more anxious than I am myself. I think, in courtesy to preceding speakers, I should give as concisely as I can the reasons why Ireland was not included in this measure. The first I put forward is one which I have sorrowfully to admit has already been somewhat roughly handled by both the right hon. and learned Gentlemen representing the University of Dublin in this House. But, notwithstanding the weight of their academical censure, I still think the point I am about to make is not a bad one, and that point is, the nature of the Bill itself. This House has diregarded the wisdom of its ancestors, to which I am getting more attached the longer I live in my present company. They have foolishly departed from one of the habits of our wiser ancestors, whose custom it was to give to the Acts of this House explanatory and intelligible titles. This Bill is entitled "Military Service (No. 2) Bill." I have forgotten what was Bill No. 1, but in former times this Bill would have been called a Bill "to enable the Prime Minister to keep the promise he made to the married men of Britain during the course of the recruiting campaign." That is the proper title, and if that title had been given to it why then Ireland would, not for the first time in her stirring history, have been out of order.
Everybody knows that this Bill has been brought in to save the Derby campaign, 1561 and to make the large figures of the Derby campaign available to serve the admitted military necessities of the country. But with the Derby campaign Ireland had no more to do than Canada. I would point out to hon. Gentlemen opposite, who are warm supporters of some measure of compulsion, that they ought not to forget that there are a large number of Members in this House who are able and willing to give their support to this Bill, because it fulfils the promise of the Prime Minister, and that had the Bill travelled outside that promise the opposition would have been more numerous than it is. I think lion. Members ought to remember that. My right hon. Friend, if he will allow me to call him so—we are all friends nowadays—the junior Member for the University of Dublin, put a question which, I think, should be answered, a question to which he attached a great deal of importance. He asked, Is it or is it not the fact that the first draft of this Military Service Bill included Ireland; consequently, is it not the fact that Ireland was subsequently excluded from it?
The first draft of this Bill did contain the words "the United Kingdom." But that did not represent any previous decision of the Cabinet. It was a draftsman's draft which was put before us, in order that we might have something to work upon, just as lawyers always like a draft to work upon. We had this draft, and we proceeded to work upon it. At once the Irish question arose, for the first time in the Cabinet—was or was not Ireland to be included in this Bill? No doubt it became my duty, as representing Ireland, to say something on the subject. What I said is, of course, only known to those of my colleagues who were sitting round the table, and such representatives of the London Press as were sitting underneath it. In the result, Ireland was left out. Why? The suggestion of the question put to me, not put to me, but put to the Government by the right hon. Gentleman was that the Cabinet had decided to leave Ireland in, and that subsequently they decided to put her out. Of course, when anything of that sort happens we all know why it happened. It is due to pressure; it is done in pursuance of a bargain, one of those bargains of which we are constantly hearing, but which really seldom exist, and in consequence of that bargain, the Cabinet reversed its previous decision. I do assure the House most sincerely that 1562 nothing of that sort happened. It happened in the way in which I have described it. There was no pressure on the Cabinet, there was no bargain with the Cabinet, there were no communications whatsoever with hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway during the progress of these Cabinet discussions; therefore I really think there is nothing in that matter.
I should also mention another very significant fact, namely, that in this first draft there was not contained a single Irish Clause setting up any machinery in Ireland corresponding TO the essential machinery set up in England, and which appeared in the Schedules very much in the same form as it appears now. In the draft there were inserted, very properly, the words "United Kingdom" so as to raise the question. But the draftsman, with the wisdom born no doubt of sorrowful experience, left the task of drafting the Irish Clauses to the Irish Government—that patient beast of many British burdens—if it could be done. I should like to say that the machinery of this Bill is of the very essence of the measure itself. The First Lord of the Admiralty who, if he had been present, I would for the first time have had the privilege of calling my right hon. Friend, dwelt with great force, I thought, upon the fact that the success of this Bill in Great Britain depends in a very great degree on these local tribunals, referred to in the Schedules, and which have succeeded in winning the confidence of and giving satisfaction to the individual persons so vitally affected by their decisions, and who are brought before them. I have often before felt the force of the right hon. Gentleman's criticisms, but I have never been in a position to acknowledge them publicly. I say they are in this case profoundly true, but I will go further and say he did not cover the whole case. He might have gone on to point out that these tribunals, upon the success of which as he thought and said the success of this Bill depends, are already in existence in England. They are set up, and I think I am not wrong in saying that they have already won confidence and given satisfaction to a great many persons In Ireland they do not exist.
§ Mr. BIRRELL
I was going to ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he would 1563 undertake with his great knowledge of Ireland to tackle that task himself. Would he set up corresponding tribunals in Ireland? What are they? First of all, there is what I may call the parochial tribunal, operating over a very small area where a man lives, where he is known, and where the genuineness of his case, or lack of it, can very easily be ascertained. There is then the local tribunal covering a larger area, but still an intimate one, say, in the county towns. Finally, there is the central tribunal in London, presided over by Lord Sydenham. There are many Irish gentlemen sitting opposite to me. Oratorically I see them, but, owing to my defective eyesight, I cannot discern precisely their features, but I know they are there. They know about Ireland, and they are also thoroughly persuaded that I know nothing about her. Would they be prepared to get up and say that they could fashion tribunals in Ireland corresponding in composition in the persons who sit upon them with those in England, and, being judicial bodies, decide these points? Would they, or could they, set up anything of that sort in Ireland? I confess I think that is impossible, and if it is impossible, and if you have to seek some other quite different method, why then the Bill applicable to Ireland would not be this Bill; it would be another Bill. The right hon. Gentleman did not suggest that he could set up tribunals of a corresponding character in Ireland. I understood him to make the suggestion that in Ireland you might have Conscription in compartments by the permission of the county councils. I confess I shudder at that. Just think of it. The Tyrone farmer might be taken away and sent to fight whilst the Donegal farmer might continue to enjoy his liberty.
§ Mr. CAMPBELL
Are you not doing that now, when you are taking Englishmen away and leaving Irishmen at home?
§ Mr. BIRRELL
That is really not the point I am considering. I am asking whether it would be desirable, in the interests of Ireland herself, that Conscription should be confined in some parts to one county and in some parts to another. In those circumstances the county boundaries in Ireland, already a sufficiently difficult matter, would become matters of almost international concern, and one would have to be 1564 a Foreign Secretary as well as President of the Local Government Board in Ireland in order to deal with them. I do most respectfully ask the House to consider, first, the nature of this Bill, which is of an occasional nature, the occasional nature arising as it does out of an incident in the Derby campaign and being limited in this country to the fulfilment of the Prime Minister's pledge. You thereby secure for the Bill an amount of support which it would not have obtained if you had travelled in any way beyond the purview of that promise. And secondly, I would ask the House to consider the provisions of the Bill and what I believe to be the impossibility of setting up in Ireland tribunals representing all sections of religious and other thought there, and corresponding in character with those in this country. I do not believe you could hope to establish in large parts of Ireland those tribunals upon the success of which it has been well said this Bill depends in Great Britain.
Then, taking my courage in both hands, I wish to say a word or two on a matter which, although not exactly suggested to me, is certainly inspired by the admirable speech to which we have just listened. It is always a pleasure to listen to the hon. Member, because of the independence of his mind, the originality of his observations, and, I think, the very satisfactory extent of his information and learning. I make no claim whatsoever to statecraft, but a person would have to be even more than ordinarily commonplace if he held for nine years the office I hold without learning something. The hon. Member said that in seven months he had learnt something. In nine years I hope I have learnt something. One of the lessons I have learnt is this, that any Imperially-minded man, any sensible man looking forward somewhat to the glorious future which he hopes may be in front of this great Empire, when he was dealing in Ireland with any question cutting deep into its social life and habits, would make it his duty, before introducing any such legislation, either including Ireland in a United Kingdom Bill or dealing with Ireland in a separate measure, to make a most searching inquiry into the state of mind and feeling of a great number of the Irish people. Patriotism in Ireland is much too local an affair. What we all want—at any rate, what I want and what I am sure the House wants—is somehow or other to 1565 adopt the wisest course to extend that local patriotism into a wider patriotism embracing a much wider area. Without that wider patriotism the Empire you talk about and admire, and are ready to die for, becomes nothing more than an enlarged Hanseatic League of a number of greedy commercial communities. You want more than that. You want to introduce into it a real Empire patriotism. And yet patriotism begins at home. In the very narrowest sense of the word it does begin at home, and the process you have to consider, when you are dealing with a country like Ireland or any other outlying country, is how best you can help and not hinder the slow but gradual progression that is noticeable in Ireland whereby that somewhat narrower patriotism is gradually extending into a wider one. That seems to me to be the task of a statesman. Patriotism as it begins at home is the most potent mixture the world has ever seen. But it is a mixture. It is made up of prejudices, of passions, of memories, of little scraps of history, imperfectly taught for the most part, only partly remembered, and frequently completely misunderstood. Nevertheless, they are ingredients of this patriotism which has got to grow and swell—because it is far truer of patriotism than it is of glory that it is like a circle in the water: it widens and widens until it contains within its glorious ambit far-distant lands and populations long since emigrated from their own shores, but still retaining much of the old feeling. Canada, Newfoundland, and thou who—walkBy the long wash of Australasian seasFar off: and hold their heads to other stars,And breathe in converse seasons.all are one. But it is a most delicate affair. You cannot stereotype it. You cannot standardise it or serve it out like rations to your armies. It is a most difficult operation. You may easily injure it. You may easily throw it back for half a century by hasty, ill-considered, or unsympathetic treatment. It is a plant which requires to be nurtured, to be watched, to be watered, and never, never to be pulled up rashly by the roots. We seek that. We try to do it. And I, at all events, am delighted to say that I think Ireland has done wonderfully well. All I urge is: do not rush things, unless you wish to postpone the happy time that I trust some day will come. If anyone had told me a week or a month before this terrible War broke out that by this time 1566 Ireland would not only have contributed to the Army 20,000 men, or whatever the number may be—who were born in Ireland, and many of whom were recruited in Ireland, and in addition over 17,000 Irish Reservists and 12,000 Special Reservists, who, in pursuance of their bond, flocked to the Colours, and that in addition to that we should have recruited in Ireland, due very much to the efforts of the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Waterford, 95,000 men—and you must remember if you recruit 95,000 you reject a number on medical grounds whose valour, whose willingness, whose gradually growing patriotism is just as good as that of their healthy and happier confrères who were able to join and fight in the common cause—if anybody, I say, had told me that, or had given me those figures before the War began, I should have stared at him with a wild surprise, and have whispered to myself, "I wonder whether you know what you are talking about?"
It is not a pleasure to me that Ireland should be excluded from this measure. I wish it were otherwise. But then I wish that this growth had been quicker, had been more fostered, and had been more sympathetically treated in times past. We have had difficulties, not quite so great as I think the right hon. and learned Gentleman suggested, in the way of recruiting in Ireland. Difficulties there have been. Obstacles there are. Jarring notes have undoubtedly been struck. But who, remembering Irish history, can be surprised at that? Who, remembering Irish history, but must rejoice at the success we have obtained? We are not face to face with failure in Ireland. I am not saying that the figures are from a military point of view satisfactory in one sense, but I say in another sense they are amazing. They are not falling off. We are still getting 1,000 a week in Ireland under the recruiting system. It stopped for a time. It is now reopened, and is getting on—I will not say extraordinarily well—but it is most encouraging. I speak as a poor extraneous Anglo-Scot. I cannot speak in the same way as my right hon. Friend the junior Member for Dublin University did the other day in the admirable speech that he made. I can assure him that Irishmen below the Gangway came up to me and said they had been deeply moved by it. They have never been moved by anything I have said. This only proves how desirable it is to keep a guard over 1567 the growing patriotism of a nation, however curious that passion may be in some of its exhibitions. I repeat this one point: Do not rush Ireland. Leave her alone from this Bill. She has done, as I say, wonderfully well. Her soldiers have played a great part in this War. The name of Ireland is already writ large over the page of history, which will record, I trust, its triumphs, and which will certainly, at all events, record its magnificent efforts. Let the deeds of these gallant Irishmen, let the achievements of these Irish soldiers sink deep into the national heart, and form an integral portion of the national pride. But do not for the sake of a few—how many I do not like to say, because that is figures, and I still tremble at the contests between my colleagues, both past and present, and I do not intend to take part in them—but everyone will agree that it is no very large number, and yet for the sake of a dangerous uniformity in one particular you may really risk all.
That is all I have to say, but when this War is over, and we are taking the great account between our gains and our losses, it would indeed be a happy thing if it were perfectly plain that those who are called upon to bear those losses, who are still, after the War is over, to live on in desolate homes, bereft of husbands who were their mainstay, of sons who are their pride, and of lovers who were their joy—what a satisfaction it would be to those wounded and sorrowful hearts if it is then discovered that once again in the history of these islands and of this Empire, it were shown that the way to unity—to real unity—between all parts of the Empire—not a Parliamentary unity necessarily, but a real unity—if the way to that unity and close-knit affection were proved to be along a path which, though stained with the blood of heroes, is enriched with the memories of common sacrifices, common losses incurred side by side, and by the joint possession of a glorious victory! I pray that that unity may belong to the Empire after this War is over, and, as in especial duty bound, I pray that it may particularly be true in the case of Great Britain and Ireland, whom may God prosper. These—I will not say reasons, for some logician might question my right in this ill-spun argument to employ any such word—but these are the feelings which convince me that the Government in deciding, not joyfully, not eagerly, and even I might say 1568 reluctantly to exclude Ireland from this measure, came to a conclusion which was not only wise and prudent, but in the wider and best sense of the word, patriotic.
Mr. GORDON HARVEY
I am satisfied that every Member of this House will sympathise with me in having to follow in this Debate one of the greatest orators the country possesses. We know that the right hon. Gentleman has many brilliant qualities, and we certainly to-night have had a rare treat, and we are tempted to regret how seldom in these Debates the right hon. Gentleman is able to afford us the delight he has afforded us to-night. I would like to remark, however, that he appeared to me to say very little about the Bill, and what he did say I think I can say I agree with, especially when he expressed the desire that the utmost caution should be used before this Bill is presented for the acceptance of the country. He referred exclusively to Ireland, but I want to apply that principle to England, Scotland, and Wales as well. In this Debate every hon. Member who has spoken has expressed his great desire to see the War satisfactorily concluded, and, in my humble opinion, such a wish is the desire practically of everybody in this country. We may be, and we are, divided as to how this desirable end can best be attained. The Government and a majority of this House think it can best be accomplished by the passage of the Bill now before the House, but I cannot hold that view myself. I have pleaded before, and I plead again to-night, that what really is wanted and is necessary is a careful calculation of the resources and the talents of the nation, and how best to exercise them with patience and endurance for many days to come. The military side in a matter of this sort necessarily looms large, and proper and respectful consideration must be given to all the demands which the military authorities make upon us. I think, however, that it is a mistake to ignore, as some of my hon. Friends appear to do, the other side in this great issue now before us, and I suggest, with the greatest respect to our gallant soldiers, that the military side is not the first and it may not even be the second consideration which we ought most carefully to consider, because I believe that the great question of the maintenance of the supremacy of our Fleet is the first consideration of this House, and I think that the question of the elastic power of finance certainly does not loom small amid the numerous considerations.
1569 I listened a short time ago to a very powerful speech delivered by the hon. Member for Northants (Sir Leo Chiozza Money), who went very far in defending this Bill. Those who have spoken have said at the most that this Bill, which introduces the novel principle of compulsory military service, was to them a disagreeable necessity. The hon. Member for Northants went far beyond that. He does not view it as disagreeable, but he is an enthusiastic advocate of compulsion, and he wants it all round and made a permanent institution of this country. The hon. Member is in a semi-official position. and when I heard such a speech from him I could not help feeling more uneasy than I was before that this notion of compulsory service was being presented to us with some idea that it may in time become a permanent institution in this country.
I have risen to support the rejection of this Bill. I voted against it on the First Reading, and I am quite aware that I was in a very small minority. I know that to vote against the First Reading of an important Government measure before you have seen the Bill is a very unusual thing to do, and I have never done so in this House before, but it is not unprecedented, by any means. The Education Bill of 1902, a most complicated and difficult measure, was divided against in this House on the First Reading. The Unionist party only the other day divided against a measure dealing with the Welsh Church before they had seen the details of the Bill. In those two cases, although great principles, of course, were involved, yet the embodiment of those principles in those measures necessarily gave rise to an enormous mass of complicated detail which was capable of amendment in order to mitigate any injustice. But this measure is nothing of the sort. It is of the simplest character. It embodies one principle and one only. We are presented here, and we were presented on the First Reading, with a simple single choice. We were asked whether we would compel men to serve in the Army against their will or whether we would rely in the future, as in the past, on willing service readily offered.
It has been said over and over again in this Debate that the question of compulsory service is not a question of principle, but merely one of expediency. I cannot, for the life of me, understand the distinction. I cannot understand how you can separate entirely principle from expediency. I am quite sure of this, that if you 1570 do embark on the road of expediency and if that road is not one that starts from the signpost of principle, you are likely to embark on a road very dark, very rocky, and very dangerous to those who traverse it. My position in this matter is easy, because with me this is a question of principle. The principles which guide me in this matter are those principles of liberty and freedom in which I have been brought up, and I intend to defend them as best I can. I shall stand for those principles notwithstanding that it means parting with hon. Friends who have been associated with me in these matters, standing in the past, I thought, as firmly as I stand myself. I shall stand for those principles notwithstanding what is in these days the occasional conformity to liberty shown by the hon Member for Tyneside (Mr. J. M. Robertson) or the airy trifling of the First Lord of the Admiralty (Mr. Balfour), whom I would remind that in the eating of oysters there is another kind of ingredient, pepper, and that this Bill may produce a little pepper for those who mistake the liking of vinegar for principle. We are told that this is only a little step. I admit that, so far, this is a mean and peddling-little measure, and I venture to say, if I am to assent to compulsory service at all, I would rather have it a thousand times all round for everybody than for a selected class of the community. Some of us, of course, fear that other and perhaps, larger steps may follow quickly in the wake of this measure. If they do, I submit that the same speeches that have been made to support this first step will be made just as readily to support the next, and very likely will afford just as little information for the decision of the House. The Government in bringing in this Bill in this form is presenting an indictment against a class in the community, and, like all such general indictments, it is a false indictment. Of course, everybody knows that up to now the unmarried men have enlisted as largely, proportionate to their numbers, as the married men. To indict the unmarried men of shirking is a false indictment, and one which should never be made. If you indict not a class but individuals there appears to me to be as full a force in your indictment with regard to married men as there can be with regard to single men. There are thousands of married men who, by the very same argument the Government is using to coerce the unmarried men, ought also to be 1571 coerced: What about the married and childless man with a self-supporting wife? Why should he escape?
The second step in compulsory military service has already been taken by the Government. The hon. Member who spoke just now with an admixture of eloquence and humour said we ought not to impute to the framers of this Bill an insidious desire or intention to damage the interests of industrial classes. Who has done so? I have never imputed such motives. But I do submit that the Government in taking this step have taken a second step which does involve commercial or industrial compulsion. When you take the unmarried men whom you have decided to take under this Bill there will still be some left in ordinary industrial occupations. You leave them because they are wanted. There they will be, and there they will have to stop. They will have to stop in that situation under any conditions that may be pressed upon them, and if they do not, if they change their occupation, if they cease to be starred, if they desire to improve their position and go to some other trade which is not a war trade, if they are dissatisfied with their employment, if their wages are reduced, they cannot go because the moment they leave the occupation in which they have been starred you will come down under their attestation and immediately send them into the Army. You have actually taken that step in the direction of compulsory industrial enlistment in the very fact that you are attesting all young unmarried men. I cannot help saying that this appears to me to be a miserable and very much mismanaged business. I am very much impressed with the folly of it. How has it come about? We have seen the United Kingdom stirred to the highest patriotic fervour during the last few months. We have seen 6,000,000 of men offering themselves readily and willingly for military service, and yet in the face of this tremendous spectacle you rebuke the young men of this country and are dividing the nation into two hostile camps.
The Government say it is necessary that they should get this Bill. They tell us nothing else. They make the bare assertion; they do not support it by any argument as yet; perhaps to-morrow they will afford us fuller information. We, however, have been told nothing. The Liberal followers of the Government are getting 1572 used to that. Other people are told things, the Nationalist party and the Labour party too. Before the Bill was in print there was a conference and the Labour party were informed of the numbers enlisted and of the total required. For the Liberal Members the old adage must suffice: Open your mouth and shut your eyes, and see what Heaven will send you. The House is in a very awkward situation in coming to a decision on this matter because of the Prime Minister's pledge, a pledge, I maintain, which was only his own pledge, and which never was at any time or to any extent the pledge of the House of Commons. In his speech in moving the First Beading of the Bill the Prime Minister said he had had no sign of protest or remonstrance. How and when were we to remonstrate? We have no opportunity in these days of raising questions. The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. J. M. Robertson) was very jocose and sarcastic about those Members who had said that the Prime Minister had been trapped into his pledge. I did not hear those remarks made. I suppose some hon. Members must have suggested such a monstrous thing. He said how unsophisticated those persons were. I do not suggest that the. Prime Minister was trapped, but we have been trapped, and trapped several times. In the first place, when the National Registration Bill was introduced, I was very reluctant to see it pass, but there was a distinct understanding given by the responsible Minister that it was not to be used for the purpose or initiation of a system of compulsion. We were trapped into giving an assent which otherwise many of us would never have given. Then, when the Prime Minister made his speech about the residuum—I prefer to use that word, because it is more suitable than the word reservoir—we were told that recruiting was to take place out of the residuum, after the industrial requirements, the exporting requirements and the munition requirements had been fulfilled. There, again, it is no residuum unless residuum may be taken to have a new meaning and to mean the whole lump, because there is no suggestion now of a residuum. It is attestation of men, not only young unmarried men, but of every unmarried man between eighteen and forty-one. Under these circumstances it appears to me that the Prime Minister owes it to us to see that every possible 1573 effort should be made to ease what is to men like myself a very disagreeable situation indeed, and I put in a plea for time. I urge upon Ministers who sit on these benches that they should consider whether or no it is not possible, after taking the Second Reading of the Bill, to hang it up until the House receives the information that it was promised. The House was promised the fullest information: that information has not been given. Let me give an instance. There were 2,200,000 unmarried men of military age, stated to be so in Lord Derby's Report. The first figure we ought to have had is the number of these men that have been tapped. If certain districts have entirely neglected their duty it is creating a false impression with regard to the necessity of this.
§ It being Eleven of the clock, the Debate stood adjourned.
§ Debate to be resumed to-morrow (Wednesday).
§ The remaining Orders were read, and postponed.
§ Whereupon Mr. SPEAKER, pursuant to the Order of the House of the 3rd February, proposed the Question, "That this House do now adjourn."
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Adjourned accordingly at One minute after Eleven o'clock.