§ Order read for resuming Adjourned Debate on Amendment to Question [11th January], "That the Bill be now read a second time."—[The Prime Minister.]
§ Which Amendment was to leave out the word "now," and at the end of the Question to add the words "upon this day three months."—[Mr. Anderson.]
§ Question again proposed. Debate resumed.
§ Mr. ELLIS GRIFFITH
I rise to support this Bill without any reservation and without any apology. I happen to be one of those who support the Bill because they believe in it. For many months I have made no disguise of my opinions as far as this Bill is concerned. As far back as the 19th May last I spoke in this House in favour of national service, and I welcome this Bill, at any rate, as the embodiment of that principle as far as the Bill goes. The hon. Member who was in possession of the House last night made a serious charge against the Government when he said it was too precipitate. A charge of impetuosity against a Government has rarely been brought on such insufficient evidence. I recognise to the full the sincerity of those who are opposed to this Bill. I do not impugn their sincerity: I mistrust their judgment. They are open to suspicion. I do not think for a moment that because a man is against the Bill he is against the War. But I do say that the men who are against the War are against 1618 the Bill. I do not say that the man who is against this Bill is against recruiting, but I do say that those who are against recruiting are against the Bill, When I find that of thirty-six Members who voted against the First Reading of this Bill a few days ago there were twenty-two who were associated with a. deputation to the Prime Minister on the 17th December, 1913, begging him to limit the Navy, I am not surprised that those who wanted to limit the Navy in 1913 are not anxious to increase the Army in 1916
I do not quite understand the position of the hon. Member who moved the rejection of the Bill. He occupies a position of great importance in the councils of the Independent Labour party. I am not sure whether he wants any more men for the Army or not. He is against compulsion. He is against recruiting.
Will the hon. Member tell me—has he lifted a finger, has he said a word from the 4th August, 1914, until to-day to increase the armed forces of the Crown in this terrible conflict? What does he want? Against compulsion! Against voluntaryism! Is it surprising if people should think wrongly he is against the War? How can we conduct the War unless we have got the men? I do not know whether he was present at the conference of the Independent Labour party at Norwich in April, 1915, when, by the large majority of 243 to 9, the Independent Labour party passed a resolution— to do what? Not merely to abstain from recruiting—I do not complain about that, for a man is entitled to his views. That was not the resolution passed. What was passed was a resolution expressing very strong disapproval of the action of the Labour party in taking part in the recruiting campaign. Is not that a serious position for the hon. Member to occupy at the present time? He will not recruit himself, but as far as he is able he would prevent his colleagues in the Labour party from recruiting, when voluntary recruiting has to some extent failed. The object of compulsion is to raise the necessary men. How can the opponents of the Bill complain if they are suspect in this matter? To vote against this Bill is not only to vote against compulsion; it is also to vote against the Government. I remember 1619 the days when we were told on the highest authority we ought on no account, at any rate, to vote against the Government, The "Daily News," t(he protagonist of the anti-compulsion movement—the editor himself under his own name, writing on the 23rd October, 1915— said this:—Let there be no doubt in the mind of anyone that the day the Government is overthrown will be a clay of victory for Germany.When you are attempting to overthrow the Government, according to the "Daily News"; you are trying to obtain a victory for Germany. Even the hon. and learned Member for Waterford (Mr. John Redmond), on the 2nd November, after the Prime Minister had given a pledge on the subject of this controversy, said:—I promise the Prime Minister, on behalf of my colleagues and of all Ireland, that any Government of which he is the head will receive our constant and loyal support.That is the position, and therefore I say that anyone who votes against this Bill is not only voting against compulsion but is voting against the Government which, we are told, represents that it is necessary to have these men to enable us to carry the War to a victorious issue. There are three matters which in my opinion have to be dealt with, and I will deal with them briefly in discussing this Bill. The first of all is military necessity. I put that first quite frankly. Secondly, there is the question of the pledge of the Prime Minister, and, thirdly, there is the principle that underlies this Bill. One had almost forgotten in this Debate the very first words in which the Prime Minister asked leave to introduce this Bill, to make provision with regard to military service. How little has been said in the Debate on that! One hon. Member said that the War made no difference to his opinions! There is an end—if that is the spirit in which we are discussing this Bill—to all serious discussion. I am told by many that I am going against the traditions of my party. Am I? I care nothing for the traditions of my party; I am concerned about the interests of my country. That is the spirit in which every man who is honestly patriotic in this matter will deal with any situation as it arises. There is a deputation this afternoon to the Prime Minister to ask him to make certain promises with regard to the future. May I say on my own behalf I do not think any member of the Govern- 1620 ment—from the Prime Minister downwards—has any right to commit himself to any policy in the future, because we do not know what the circumstances of our country may be in the future.
The policy of the Government must depend upon the situation for the time being, and no man—I say it with great respect to the Prime Minister—ought to pledge himself or his party to any course of conduct except always subject the governing consideration that that course of conduct will be consistent with the interests of the country. Now, with regard to the military necessity, the Under-Secretary of State for War to-day told us that the wastage in the Infantry was 15 per cent. per month. Does not that give the opponents of the Bill some reason to reflect upon their attitude? When they think that the life of an Infantry battalion at the front is only seven months, does that not give them food for reflection? Does not this give them food for reflection: however many men there may be at the front at the present moment, and however we may fill their places in the future, has it occurred to them that there are thousands of men at the front who ought to have leave to come back for a short time? I know perfectly well that you can never establish equality of service, but we know that men are sent to the front, many are killed, some are wounded; the wounded come back to this country; they are cured; they are sent back again; they are wounded a second time and come back, and they are sent a third time to the front. My view is—I say it quite frankly—that it should be everyone once before anyone twice. Do not these considerations give some food for reflection to the people who are opposed to this Bill?
We are told there is no military authority for this. How can anyone say that? I should have thought the notoriety of our position was sufficient. Have we not lacked men in more than one place? One does not want to deal with these matters now, speaking in the House of Commons, but it is a matter of notoriety that we would have done better if we had had more men. Remember, that now we are asking for men who will not be ready for six months. It is only providing for the future. Whether it is 1,000,000 or 1621 500,000 we shall want in March, we have to provide for the emergency of a great occasion, and when Lord Kitchener says—Voluntaryism without modification cannot maintain the Army needed to secure victory,is not that an end of the discussion? I remember that in the old days hon. Members who are now opposing this Bill said, "Let Lord Kitchener give the word and it is enough." They are always in favour of a man if they think he agrees with them. The moment he makes this pronouncement, is not that really binding upon every man who trusts Lord Kitchener, who knows the exact situation? When he says it is necessary to secure victory, the only question every man in this House has to ask himself is, "Do I, or do I not, want to secure victory?" That is the only question. If you want to secure victory, on the authority of Lord Kitchener you ought to support this Bill. If the Under-Secretary of State for War had been here, I should have liked to ask him a question. As we know, there have been 215,000, or thereabouts, direct enlistments under the Derby scheme. Are those included or are they not in the 3,000,000 already provided for? It is rather an important question. Are the direct enlistments under the Derby scheme above the 3,000,000 or not? Well, there is a difference of opinion on the Front Bench; I do not suppose they know. At any rate, when the Prime Minister upon his authority comes down here and says he wants an extra 1,000,000 men I ask any hon. Member of this House from where are they to be got, apart from the scheme of this Bill? Four hundred and eighty-seven thousand married men must be set aside at once. Where are you going to get the 1,000,000 that the Government, advised by its military experts, say is absolutely essential for the purposes of this War?
I was sorry to hear the hon. Member last night say—it is quite true it was in a quotation which he made to the House, not the first, nor the only quotation he gave us last night, this happened to be from Lord Palmerston, who referred to having bands of slaves driven from their homes. Any man in this House who talks about compulsory service as making a band of slaves is paying a poor tribute to his own country, and he is contributing an unnecessary insult to our Allies. We are to a great extent meeting here to-day because the conscript Armies of our Allies have been fighting for us. I do not speak 1622 disparagingly of a conscript Army. I have every confidence that when these men come in, under compulsion if necessary, they will make splendid soldiers. I do not think that doing your duty and obeying the law of the land is any insult, humiliation or degradation. We know perfectly well that we practically lost our Regular Army in the early days of the War, and that we are losing our volunteer Army day by day and week by week. It may be that some day in the future, when we have won the victory, that it will be attributable to a great extent to our conscript Army, and then we shall acclaim them and cheer them as saviours of their country. I am not at all afraid that when the men to whom this Bill applies come in, that they will not fight worthily of the traditions of our race. I know the motives that have impelled many people to hold back. They are not unworthy motives. A man says, "Why should I go before others? I am willing to do my duty, but I am not willing to do more than my duty. My circumstances are very difficult, but when the law comes in and the Government says they want me, I am ready to go." Although it may seem a paradox, I believe they will be ready and willing soldiers, even under compulsion.
I am not going to say much about the pledge of the Prime Minister. The War was a matter of national honour. This Bill is a matter of personal honour. I cannot understand why men who have talked about conspiracies and plots and who have always maintained, and rightly maintained, the character of the Prime Minister, can vote against this Bill. The ex-Home Secretary said to the Prime Minister—I am only practically summarising what he said—"You do not understand your pledge, let me tell you what the pledge was," and he had an OFFICIAL REPORT in his hand and he interpreted it, I have no doubt, with great ability. The only one unfortunate thing about the ex-Home Secretary is that he happened to interpret the wrong document. That was not the pledge. The pledges to married men are on the posters and walls of our Kingdom. The pledge is in the letter of the 19th November, not in the speech of the 2nd November. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] Certainly it is. Do you think that married men or unmarried men ever read the OFFICIAL REPORT?
§ Mr. SHERWELL
I am obliged to the right hon. and learned Gentleman for allowing me to intervene. He must, of course, be aware that no pledge can in any circumstances be given to the country except in the form of a distinct statement from the Treasury box in Parliament — [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh, oh!"]—but waiving that point entirely and dealing solely with the point the right hon. and learned Gentleman mentioned just now, basing it solely on the 19th November correspondence, is it not a distinct and explicit fact, that in that correspondence the Prime Minister promised that there should not be legislation introduced until the conditions of his pledge had been fulfilled?
§ 4.0 P.M.
I understand the hon. Member has abandoned the box. The geography of the pledge may be left to itself. Let us deal with this letter of 19th November. The late Home Secretary's point was general consent. He said, "There was the pledge, and I read the speech as a whole, and am one of the very few men probably who has done so, and I interpreted the whole speech as meaning that there is general consent at the root and basis of all of it and none of the pledge applied unless there was general consent," and at the time he, and others in the Cabinet did not give that consent. There were others, he said, whose views were indistinguishable from his own. That I do not understand. The time to object to a pledge is when it is given and not when it is fulfilled. This was a gamble pledge given by the men who were against compulsion. It was a gamble. They gave the pledge because they thought they would never be called upon to fulfil it. I do not understand that position and I have no sympathy with it. What did the Prime Minister say? His actual words were:—The pledge was given within the limits and upon the lines of the general policy agreed upon by the Cabinet, and there was no sign of protest or remonstrance.What are you to make of a situation of that kind? The late Home Secretary was too late in his resignation. The moment the pledge was given by the Prime Minister that was the time for any man who was against compulsion on principle to resign. That was the time for him to say, "I will be no party to this. I will not gamble upon the Derby scheme return. Now is my time, and now I retire from the Government," and the man who 1624 remained in the Government after 19th November was absolutely pledged to the pledge of the Prime Minister and must abide the consequences whatever they were. The hon. Member says there ought to be an investigation. You cannot have investigation without compulsion. How are you going to get the man before you to ask him questions? How dare you ask him a question? You have no legal right to ask him a question except by law. The hon. Member wants one Bill to bring him before him and to investigate, and, if necessary, another afterwards to make him attest.
It must be so. You cannot make this investigation without compulsion, surely! This Bill is only compulsion twice removed. The preliminary examination of the man cannot be conducted unless you have compulsory force behind you to conduct the investigation. Under those circumstances I am somewhat surprised at the speech of the late Home-Secretary. But what surprised me most was the interruption in the speech, either of the present Home Secretary or of the President of the Local Government Board. He said, "There are more ways of fulfilling this pledge than one." Then listen to these astounding words: "One way is to apply to the married men and ask them if they really refuse to serve." Did anyone ever hear anything so astounding? He might have said, "There is more than one way of fulfilling a pledge. One way is to break it." That is not fulfilment of a pledge. That is evading a pledge. That is what no man who believes in the Prime Minister, as I do, would ever induce him to do, and it is a thing the Prime Minister never would have done. He had given his pledge to the married men, and as he said himself, "I not only gave the pledge, but these men acted on the faith of it." Those are the words of the Prime Minister. He gave a pledge, the men acted on the faith of it, and afterwards the Prime Minister is to say, "Please release me from my pledge. It was only the pledge of a Prime Minister. Release me and stick to your attestation after all." That is a plan that the Prime Minister would repudiate with scorn, and a course of conduct which I am sure the House of Commons would never ask him to adopt.
I should like to say a word or two on the principle of the Bill. I believe I was the first Liberal to speak in favour of 1625 national service. I am profoundly convinced that that was right then and it is right now. I say to the Government now that if they had adopted some plan of national service twelve months ago or more they would have been in a much better position. What did the Prime Minister himself say?—Our system of voluntary recruiting operates, as it has been hitherto practised, in a haphazard, capricious, and, to some extent, an unjust way between different classes and even between individuals.Just fancy going in in time of War for a plan that is capricious and haphazard, and, to some extent, unjust! The real thing for us to have done was to have method in our recruiting. At present it is first boom and then slump. That is not the way. What you want is a steady system so that you know where you stand. Some hon. Members in this Debate have made a great point about the industrial necessities of this country. The advocates of national service and those with whom I am associated have always emphasised that point from the very start. We have always said you want to embody the manhood and womanhood of this country for many purposes. You want men for the Army and the Navy, you want munitions and equipment, you want to look after internal trade, you want to look after export trade, and you want to fulfil your commitments to the Allies, whatever they may be. You will never do these things by recruiting in a haphazard and capricious way. You must co-ordinate all your requirements. Some people went to fix the Army—I think that is one of the most ludicrous things—to fix the maximum strength that you are going to put into the field. That is impossible. All we want to do is to have some sort of system whereby and whereunder you will be able to adjust all these different contributions of the State so that the State may put its maximum effort into this great fight. How are you going to organise our resources for the prosecution of the War, because that is the real point? I would even appeal to those who want to stop the War, because the only way to stop the War is to win the War, and this is a Bill, as far as it goes, to enable the country to more readily and more successfuly win the War. That is the essence and the meaning of the Bill. I cannot understand the position of those who think there is some degradation and humiliation in this. I cannot understand it. We all know that someone has said a great many crimes were committed in the name of Liberty. It is nothing to 1626 the number of fallacies enunciated in its name in the course of this De bate. The liberty that hon. Members are speaking about is anarchy. It is no State. Every man who joins the State must give up a certain portion of liberty in order to get a certain portion of safety for himself. That is the essence of citizenship. What astonishes me more than anything is that the objection to this compulsion should come in the main from Irish Nationalist Members and from trade unionists. To anyone who has a sense of humour I am sure that is a very remarkable phenomenon. In the old Nationalist days I have always been a supporter of the hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. J. Redmond). What part did force and compulsion play in Ireland in the old days? It added a word to the language of coercion. Mr. Boycott was a mere name until the Irish Nationalists adopted him for their political purposes. That is force and compulsion. I do not blame them. Trade unionists—I will not say it is the basis of their organisation, but it is a very welcome help. Do we not see men day by day strike? What for? To compel a man to join a union. To compel a man to join a union is a splendid example of liberty, but to compel a man to join the Army is treason. What can be said of people who take up that position? Their real point is this: Force and compulsion are detrimental, pestilential things if utilised by the State, but if used to advance political creeds and political organisations to which they happen to belong a most worthy adjunct of political warfare. For my own part I think it comes with an ill grace, especially from those two sections of the House, to refuse to adopt a policy of compulsion, especially at this juncture when we are fighting for our very life. Very little has been said about the War. Really, people seem to speak about the War as if it were not a national war, but a sort of private vendetta between some people in this country and some people in Germany. It is a national war. To conduct it forward is a national obligation. The hon. and learned Gentle man (Mr. J. Redmond) said compulsion when you came to Calais or Kent, but Ireland—
The hon. and learned Gentleman does not read his own speeches as carefully as I do, and naturally he forgets those things which he wishes to forget.
§ Mr. J. REDMOND
My right hon. Friend, I know, does not want to misrepresent me at all. I took up the position that with me Conscription was not a question of principle, but a question of expediency—a question of degree. That is the argument I put forward.
The hon. and learned Gentleman also said that although he was against compulsion, if the enemy were in Kent—
§ Mr. J. REDMOND
That was an illustration of what I meant—an illustration directed to those who were speaking about compulsion as a principle. I wanted to point out that it must necessarily, with any reasonable man, be a question of degree. I did not for a moment indicate my own opinion that it was limited to a question of Kent or Calais or anything else. I expressly stated that in my judgment it was limited to a case of necessity, and wherever and however the necessity arose, then I said Conscription would be justified.
I accept that. As I understand it, it is not principle with him, but a matter of expediency, and the expediency varies with the distance.
It is so. If the Germans landed in Ireland the hon. and learned Gentleman thinks compulsion would be the right course to take.
Would it not? That is rather a cryptic utterance. I do not know what it means. I say this country is now in a position of peril. It is an entire fallacy to say we are not defending ourselves. That is the favourite argument of the hon. Member (Mr. Dillon), that we have given France a million men. No, we have not. We have given ourselves a million men in France in defending ourselves. We are defending ourselves in France just as well as if we were defending ourselves in Kent. I say, therefore, that this is a national War, and there is a national obligation to prosecute it to a successful issue. I say that that obligation should fall on all. It should fall on all equally. It should fall on all equally, not according to their willingness, but according to their capacity.
Do I understand the right hon. Gentleman objects to this Bill because it does not apply to married men? Is that the meaning of the interruption? As I understand it this Bill is a fulfilment of the pledge of the Prime Minister. It is not meant, and the Prime Minister said so quite frankly that it is not meant, to be a general Bill of compulsion, but it is to be limited within the ambit of the pledge he gave. I do not like the word "pledge "; I would rather say the statement of policy he made in this House. It was upon that statement of policy that married men acted, and therefore it is quite right, so far as the Prime Minister's pledge is concerned, to limit it in the way which is done in this Bill. Let me say quite frankly that the principle of the Bill is not what I have been advocating for months past. I do not want to disguise that fact. I may be wrong, but at any rate I have got the courage of my convictions. I do not pretend for a moment that it meets my views. It is a narrow Bill to deal with a particular pledge and to carry that pledge out. That is what the Bill is. The Prime Minister told us that the voluntary system had failed when the Derby pledge was given. Let voluntaryists remember that. Voluntaryism had failed when the Derby pledge began, and it had failed again during the Derby scheme until this particular pledge was given. Will anybody in this House suggest to me that when the Derby pledge was given that voluntaryism remained unimpaired as a principle in this country? How could that be said? If I may say so with great respect, I do not even follow the Prime Minister in this regard, because in the course of his speech he said: "Let the men come in, even as free men. In five weeks I take you, but come in meanwhile as free men." I do not understand it. I do not understand that attitude of mind. There was conditional compulsion for single men and conditional exemption for married men. I submit to the House that although we do not quite know the exact position in which we stand, or the peril which confronts us, it is absolutely incumbent upon us to provide the men. So far as I understand it, there is no other way of providing the men except by this Bill, and I say that this Bill is necessary in order to safeguard this country from the German menace, and to free Europe from the brutal tyranny of German dominion.
§ Mr. DILLON
The House has just listened to a very eloquent and powerful speech, but a speech not in the least degree in favour of this Bill. It was a speech in favour of the principle of general, fair, and even compulsory service, of which principle the right hon. Gentleman has long been an advocate in this House. Therefore I do not intend to say anything in reply to that speech because, in spite of what the right hon. Gentleman has said, we were told by the First Lord of the Admiralty on Thursday last that this Bill would leave the principle of voluntary service untouched, and, indeed, that it was a safeguard for voluntary service. The issues presented to the House last Thursday were not on the merits of this Bill or the military necessity for it, but they were simply these issues—whether the Prime Minister should be allowed to keep the pledge which he had given to the country, as he interpreted it, and whether Members were prepared, on the other hand, to smash this Government in the presence of the enemy, and to plunge the country into a bitterly contested election in the middle of this great War. It was on those issues that the House divided, and that Members voted, and I have not the slightest hesitation in saying that if they had voted on the merits of this Bill, without having such consequences held up before them, the vote would have been of a very different character. The position of the Irish party has been already stated by the chairman of our party (Mr. J. Redmond). We had entered into no understanding or bargain of any sort or kind, and I am glad that the Chief Secretary for Ireland stated that on behalf on the Government. We were perfectly free to act as we thought right and as we thought best in regard to this Bill, and we were absolutely free to support any large body of Members who objected to the Bill. Personally I do not hesitate to say that I dislike this Bill so much, and still more the campaign of which this Bill has been the outcome, that if half the Liberal party and a solid united Labour party had been disposed to resist the Bill, and had voted against it, my own personal feeling would be to continue resistence and to defeat the Bill, although I fully recognise the enormous responsibility which would be involved in such a course. I do not in the slightest degree find any fault with the men in the Liberal party and in the Labour party who dislike 1630 the principle of this Bill, but who have been induced either to abstain from voting against it or to vote for it, much though they dislike it, by the considerations to which I have referred. They undoubtedly have honestly made up their minds that it is far better to swallow the Bill than to get rid of the Bill and the Prime Minister at the same time, and to run the risk of a General Election, which, even assuming that the result was to endorse or even to increase the British majority for this Bill, would have been a very great misfortune indeed, coming in the midst of the War.
That is the position which the Irish party have had to consider, and I am bound to say that I think the Irish party are perfectly right, having stated their objections to the Bill and having tendered their support to any considerable body of the Liberal party and the Labour party who were united to resist the Bill, in taking the course which they have taken, of withdrawing their opposition to the passage of the Bill in view of the character of the Division which took place the other night I think that is a perfectly fair and reasonable position to take up, and a position with which I have sympathy. It may be asked—in fact it has been asked—why should the Irish Nationalist party interfere in connection with this Bill at all, it being only a British Bill? I think that is a perfectly fair question and one that ought to be answered, and my answer to it is this, that it is a great Imperial question, and so long as we are retained in this House we are bound to give our honest opinion and to take honest action on all Imperial questions. The second reason, which I think to be of enormous importance, is that this Bill does undoubtedly for the first time introduce an element of, I will not say discord, but of apparent disunion between the two countries. One of the greatest assets we had when this War broke out, as was stated by the Foreign Secretary when he spoke in this House, was the one streak of light in Ireland which disappointed our enemies and which rejoiced our Allies, showing that Ireland and England were so united in this War. But already this distinction in the treatment accorded to England and Ireland under this Bill is a subject of comment in Paris and the capitals of our Allies. I will deal with that point after I have dealt very briefly with the Imperial consideration that has influenced me in taking part in this Debate. On that matter my memory 1631 goes back to the days when we Irish Members stood on the floor of this House, a small handful of twenty-five in the 'eighties, when we abolished flogging in the British Army, and when, night after night, Mr. Parnell and the Irish party were denounced by military men as the enemies of the British Army. I remember night after night being cheered by a very small group of Radicals who supported us, while every military man in this House denounced us as deliberately endeavouring to break up the British Army by malice prepense, and we were denounced just as we were denounced the other night. We abolished flogging in the British Army and we abolished flogging in the British Navy, and although we were denounced as impertinent intruders and enemies of the two Services, I do not think we did anything to be ashamed of in that work.
Why is it that we have been opposed to this Bill, and as far as I personally am concerned would have continued that opposition if the Vote of Thursday night had justified it? [HON. MEMBERS laughed.] Why do hon. Members laugh? It is a perfectly frank statement, and I think I will convince even them that I am right, and that it is a perfectly reasonable and proper position to take up. I am opposed to this Bill because I do honestly believe that for the first time since this War broke out it will introduce serious division in the country. I do honestly believe that. I do not believe, no matter what the result of the Division may be to-night, or what the result of the future proceedings on this Bill may be, that you will ever have exactly the same union in the country after this Bill has passed into law as you have had before. I am opposed to it also because of the men who are behind the campaign which has produced it, and because I know perfectly well that the men who boast that they have forced this Bill upon the Government are determined not to stop at this Bill. It is the first step, and already they are opening a campaign for the extension and enlargement of this Bill. I am also opposed to this Bill strongly because of Clause 3, and the effect that that Clause will have. I do not know whether the Prime Minister will be able to come to some settlement with the leaders of the Labour party. I hope he will, because I have no hesitation in saying that unless Clause 3 is seriously modified, so far as I know anything about it; you 1632 are going to have very serious trouble with the labour organisations in this country. Already, as hon. Members know to be the case, they are avowedly regarding it as a means not merely of maintaining discipline in the Army but in the manufactories of this country—a course which would undoubtedly produce ill-feeling, and militate against service to this country. In that connection we had a very striking and frank illustration in the Debate last night in the speech of an hon. Member—I do not recollect his constituency—who in a very remarkable and eloquent speech dealt with this subject, and said quite indignantly:—I fail to see why the discipline which will be imposed on these men who are sent under the provisions of this Bill to take their part with the fighting forces of the Crown, should not also he imposed upon those who also are under the category of this Bill, and remain in the munition factories.He also said that it was unfair and unjust that men in the trenches should be subject to military dicipline, while the men remaining in the factories and earning good wages, should not be subjected to that discipline. Undoubtedly Clause 3, unless it is taken out of the Bill or modified, can be used and will be used to punish effectively every man who gives trouble in the factories, and it will be used against the men who are supposed to be the leaders in the various factories of the country. I object to that for two reasons. In the first place, I do not believe in the policy of bullying working men into co-operation. I believe the time has come when we will have to put to ourselves the question, "Do you want to discourage labour or conciliate labour in carrying on this War?" Furthermore, I think it is most unfortunate, and it will be found to be most unfortunate, that the idea of going into the British Army should be associated with the notion of punishment—that men should be sent out of the factories under a penal clause. Clause 3 of the Bill, ipso facto, says they can send a man into the British Army on the same footing as they would send him to gaol or to penal serviture. That is an extremely wrong thing to do, and is calculated to demoralise the ranks of the Army.
Finally, I am opposed to this Bill because, in spite of all the laughter expended on the subject in recent Debates, I am perfectly convinced and unshaken in my conviction, that this measure and the campaign of which it is the outcome, is part and parcel of a conspiracy to break up this Government and to substitute for 1633 it what may be described as a Milnerised, Germanised and Prussianised Government. That is my conviction. I do not believe, and I have made careful study of this subject, that the gentlemen who have carried on this campaign for the last six months will ever rest or cease their operations until they have driven the present Prime Minister, Lord Kitchener and Sir Edward Grey out of the Government. The "Daily Mail" is at it again this morning as fresh as ever, with a most savage attack on the Government. [An HON. MEMBER: "Poor 'Daily Mail'"] It is a most powerful newspaper, and it speaks for people still more powerful, and this morning it has made a most savage attack on the Government, in which it accuses it of deliberately and of set purpose feeding the Germans. If the Government is guilty of such conduct it ought not to live for a single day. It is an extreme thing to say, but I know perfectly well the men who are behind the scenes; you may call it a bogey if you like, but there are a great many of the party behind this campaign. Another ground on which I am opposed to this Bill is that it involves the vital question of the size of the Army. I think it is a great scandal that all information should be denied to the House of Commons as to the size of the Army, while in France and Germany they know the number of our soldiers, and know perfectly well the number of conscripts being called up, and how many men are in the field. We are supposed to be kept in ignorance on these matters, and only the other day the Prime Minister appeared to know nothing about it. But the ex-chairman of the Labour party, who I believe is still the President of the Board of Education, delivered a speech at a meeting of the Labour party which was reported in the "Times" newspaper, and in all the newspapers. In that speech he said there was no harm in revealing a Cabinet secret to the members of his party. What did he say? He said there was an error in supposing that Lord Kitchener had only asked for 1,000,000 of men; instead of that, he demanded as necessary 1,500,000 men within the present year.
We heard the other day a very powerful speech from the President of the Board of Trade, who expressed his opinion, based on most elaborate investigations, that the country cannot afford 1,500,000 men, but the right hon. Gentleman who has just spoken declared that Lord Kitchener's 1634 word was the last word on this matter. I deny that. Lord Kitchener's word cannot be the last word in this matter. The President of the Board of Trade and the Chancellor of the Exchequer must have a word on the matter. It is very serious business indeed when we are faced with a demand for 1,500,000 men, after the President of the Board of Trade reluctantly and with great difficulty said the country might be able to spare 1,000,000 men. There is an authoritative communication from Colonel Repington in the "Times," which states that this 1,500,000 men is for the purpose of raising great New Armies, and not for the purpose of maintaining the present Armies now in the field. What does 1,500,000 men mean? We were told by the Prime Minister the other day that each soldier costs this country £300 per annum for munitions, equipment, and so forth, and 1,500,000 men added to the British Army means a total of £450,000,000 per annum, and, if we are to make even a very small allowance for the economic loss of withdrawing these men from productive industries in this country, I do not think I am overstating it, but rather understating it, if I say that 1,500,000 men in this year means an additional expenditure of £650,000,000. Can it be said that Lord Kitchener's word must be the last word on such a question as that? On this question, at all events, Members of the House of Commons are entitled to ask themselves this question: Can this £650,000,000 be put to a more fruitful use for the prosecution of this War? Some men have got the idea of enormous numbers of men on the brain; they seem to think that by herding men in a promiscuous kind of way, without being able to equip them and arm them—and we know to our sorrow the failures that occurred in Army equipment before—you are going to settle this War. What about Russia? We were told that she had 10,000,000 men to take the field if she could have armed them, and she has been largely supported by our assistance with supplies of munitions and arms. The very worst possible way to win the War is to add to the numbers of the Army in such a way as to affect the industries and businesses of this country to such a point that we shall be obliged, much against our will, to limit our assistance to the Allies. Therefore I say I regard this Bill as part and parcel of a campaign —it must be so regarded—for enormous additions to the Army. The very same men who have advocated compulsory service all along claim this Bill, not as a fair and 1635 final Bill, but as an instalment. They have always been most careful to say that this is a very poor and small instalment. These very men, at the same time, are continually clamouring for new divisions and increases of the Army.
I come to the second reason why I have dealt with the Bill, and that is the distinction between Ireland and England. We who live in Ireland and understand the country, knew perfectly well, and we warned this House, that this subject of Conscription in Ireland was impossible. I would ask hon. Members to take note of the fact that every single British Minister on that bench who is personally acquainted with Ireland confirmed that view. The First Lord of the Admiralty, who has had a very long experience of Ireland, and who is no friend of ours, who does not belong to our party, and who is not a supporter of our policy, has said in this House, "Let Ireland alone." The Chief Secretary responsible for the Irish Government took the same view, in one of the most eloquent speeches I ever heard in this House—a most wonderful speech. We who knew that this was the case, naturally thought that this gave us an added motive to try and prevent Conscription, which we thought was injurious to this country, from being enforced in Great Britain, as we knew it could not be enforced in Ireland. Whatever hon. Members may say, really I think they ought to take into consideration that remarkable speech of the First Lord of the Admiralty the other day, when he expressed the stateman's view in the course of the Debate, that never in his life—and nobody has more experience of Debates in this House—had he listened to a Debate which, while a difference of opinion was disclosed, showed a great underlying unanimity of sentiment as regards the War. The last hon. Gentleman who spoke was not quite so judicious in his tone in this respect. But all our actions in this matter, including our decision not to vote against the Second Reading of this Bill, and only to deal with a reasonable and moderate number of Amendments in Committee, is controlled by the fact that we are as keen in this War as any section in this House to see the victory of this country and its Allies. While we are entitled to express in the House our objection to certain measures, we do not intend nor desire to inflame opinion or division between the two countries. That being so, we do not wish to 1636 see this distinction introduced between the the two countries by the enactment of Conscription for Great Britain. Hon. Members may ask us why is it that Conscription is unthinkable for Ireland. I will not go in detail into that matter, because I think the Chief Secretary dealt with that in an unanswerable way, and I think he carried with him the greater part of the House. But one thing of which I would remind hon. Members is that the Prime Minister himself, in defending this measure, said it could not be put into-operation in any country where there was not something approaching to general assent. If there were a General Election to-morrow in Ireland on the issue of this Bill the majority against it would be at least six to one I doubt whether a dozen men in Ireland could hold their seats in support of this Bill. Conscription could not be enforced in Ireland. Therefore I think hon. Members will understand why we in Ireland are opposed—I mean an additional reason why we are opposed—to the introduction of Conscription in this country, because for the first time since War broke out it sets up a distinction between the two countries which has attracted considerable attention in allied! countries and in other countries abroad. Now I wish to say a few words on the attitude taken up by the right hon. Gentleman; the Member for Trinity College (Sir E. Carson) and other Unionist Members yesterday. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Trinity College, in a very-powerful speech, not quite so bitter as in the old days, made a strong appeal to the hon. Member for Waterford, and entreated him to allow Ireland to come in under this Bill. That was hardly a generous form to-put his appeal in—as if the hon. Member for Waterford was interfering with Ireland's liberty and forbidding her to come in under this Bill. I can only say that opinion in Ireland is almost unanimous against this Bill, and the hon. Member for Waterford is not preventing Ireland from coming in. The hon. Member for Waterford was simply giving expression to the feeling of the Irish people. But I cannot understand why Unionist Members from Ireland should, every one of them, throw more or less mud on their own country in this matter. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Trinity College said that the Irish were not doing their duty, and as other Members have said before him, that the Irish regiments would be filled; very soon with Englishmen. But is not this a strange thing? It is only four weeks. 1637 since the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Trinity College was asked by the joint recruiting committee to meet the Member for Waterford on a common platform at Newry, in the County Down. The Primate of Ireland had consented to come on the platform, and here is the reply which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Trinity College sent:—I am in receipt of your invitation to attend the recruiting meeting at Newry on Wednesday or some other convenient day. I regret I cannot comply with the request nor do I think the proposal would serve any useful purpose[An HON. MEMBER: "Hear, hear."] Well, then what is the necessity of compulsion? But let me finish the letter—as I have already from time to time made known in Ulster my views as to supporting our comrades at the front by getting up the necessary reserves; and I am glad to know from recent reports that such appeals are being very patriotically replied to.5.0 P.M.
One would suppose that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Trinity College, considering the necessity of getting recruits in Ireland, would have gladly accepted the invitation to stand on the same platform as the hon. Member for Waterford and make a common appeal. He refused to do so, and not only for that particular day, but he intimated that there was no use renewing the invitation. Now, he said, and one of the hon. Members for Down said also, that it was a melancholy thing that there should be a number of Englishmen in the Connaught Bangers and other Irish regiments. Was that a generous thing to say? [An HON. MEMBER: "It is the truth."] But why was it true? We offered at the beginning of the War to fill every single Irish regiment with Irishmen. We had 5,000 Irishmen on the Tyne, but Lord Kitchener ordered them into the Northumberland Fusiliers. It was a deliberate policy of the War Office. We were in a position to fill every Irish regiment with Irishmen. Now I put it to hon. Members, is this generous? Hon. Members have sneered at us because they said some Englishmen are in Irish regiments. What about the Durhams? What about the Northumberland Fusiliers with 5,000 Irishmen in them? What about the Lancashire and the Cheshire regiments? Every single regiment of the Highlanders is full of Irish. But I say there is no denying the fact that these regiments I have mentioned—the Manchesters, the Liverpool regiments, the Lancashire and Cheshire regiments, the Northumberland Fusiliers, are full of Irish; and what would be said of us if we turned round and said, when some of these regiments distinguish 1638 themselves on the field of battle, "It is all right; they are full of Irish." That is not the way to deal with these matters. There certainly should be a more generous and a more friendly spirit shown. We do not grudge Irish valour in these regiments, and do not seek to steal the credit from English regiments because there are a number of Irishmen fighting in their ranks. I say, and I repeat, that at the beginning of the War it was the deliberate policy of the War Office that prevented Irish regiments from being entirely composed of Irishmen. An hon. Member said a while ago they were not born in Ireland. Are you going to shut out all the Irish race that were not born in Ireland from Irish nationality? The Irish in Great Britain—and there are two millions of them—are as strong Irishmen as anyone in Ireland. They are very strong Nationalists, and no section of the population of this country has sent a larger proportion of its men into the ranks of your Army. From two millions of men we have sent more than 130,000. I was attending Mass in the Catholic Church of St. Patrick in Manchester a short time ago and there I saw a roll of honour pinned to the door. The parish priest told me he had 1,700 men serving in the Manchester Regiment. That is 1,700 from one parish. Now, I say, why should these sneering comparisons be continually cast at us? We are doing our best in difficult circumstances. An hon. Member says some of these men did not enlist in Ireland. Take my own case. I come from a county, the county of Mayo—and I am not ashamed of it—that stands rather low down on the list of recruiting. It is really a peasant county with no towns of any size. That, in my opinion, accounts for it. If you compare it with Cornwall or Devon, you will find that we stand at about the same level, eliminating the towns—because if you are going to make comparison you must compare like with like. If you do that you will find Ireland will not come out badly. Take towns like Dublin, Cork, Waterford, Limerick, even smaller towns like Clonmel, Sligo, Athlone, down to places of the size of Athy, and you will find any one of these has done as well and better than Manchester or Liverpool. The town of Carrick-on-Suir has sent a larger proportion of its population than, I think, any town in England has done. Of course, the rural districts have not done so well but they have done as well as the rural 1639 districts in England. We are a rural country and you are largely a manufacturing country. When an hon. Member says that these men did not recruit in Ireland, let me give you my own experience. I have got some of my Constituents in the Army. Most of them have recruited in England. My Constituents are largely scattered over the north of England working in the steel mills and coal mines and chemical works of Lancashire and Yorkshire. Most of the men who have gone from my Constituency of East Mayo have enlisted in England. I will give you an instance of that which is rather interesting. I received a letter the other day from a young man in my Constituency who, by way of amusement, made inquiries in the first thirty peasants' cottages he met. He wrote to me that in these thirty cabins—all cabins of small farmers—there were twenty-seven men in the Army. I do not pretend for a moment that that is typical. But he wrote to me that not one of these men had enlisted in Ireland but all in Great Britain, where they were working at the harvest or in various industries. Now, not one of these would be credited as Irish enlistments. Therefore, I say, we have great difficulties to deal with. Over and over again during the course of the first year of the War the chairman of our party was tempted to move in this House and call for a discussion on the methods by which the War Office was conducting recruiting in Ireland. These methods were such as to convince many of us that the purpose was to prevent Irish recruits coming into the Army. I do not say that that was the deliberate intention of the War Office. I dare say it was done through ignorance. But it was the way it impressed us, and nothing except a desire not to attack the Government and cause trouble in the House prevented us from bringing this matter before Parliament. When Lord Wimborne's campaign commenced about three months ago there was a vast improvement in the recruiting system in Ireland, with the result that recruiting rose considerably. But I am sorry to say that hon. Members tried to throw discredit on it in some of their speeches. The fact is that as soon as this Conscription controversy arose it was like a wet blanket to a large extent over recruiting in Ireland. I hope when it is laid to rest, so far as Ireland is concerned, that recruiting will revive and increase. One thing I would say, in conclusion, to the 1640 House is this. I think it is a great pity that men in this House—I am speaking now more especially of Irish Unionist Members—should institute these comparisons and force us to make distinctions. Surely we might let these matters sleep while the War is on. Cannot you make up your minds to leave the matter to be dealt with—rightly or wrongly—according to our lights? We are doing our level best to help according to our own methods. We are sincerely with you in this War. We are doing our best to help you, and if you will only help us by taking our advice in the best way, as was so eloquently and sympathetically said by the hon. Member who spoke in the Debate last night (Sir Mark Sykes) and who is just home from the East —if, I say, you will only help us in that way, I promise you that when the War is over Ireland will have no cause to be ashamed.
§ Mr. CHAPLIN
I desire, in opening, to express the pleasure and admiration to which I listened to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Ellis Griffith) who opened the Debate this afternoon, and I think that will probably be the opinion of most who heard it. The hon. Member for East Mayo (Mr. Dillon) commenced by saying that he should not follow the speech of the right hon. Gentleman, because he was a supporter of what was called general compulsion. I dare say that the hon. Member for East Mayo would have found it somewhat difficult to reply at any length to the speech of my right hon. Friend. I think I might well follow the example of the hon. Member for East Mayo and not reply to his speech, but I will at least pay him the compliment of making a few observations upon it, although I did not quite gather exactly what his feelings are at the present time in regard to the present Bill. He frankly owned that he dislikes the Bill. He said he disliked the campaign by which it was preceded. I confess I found it difficult to know what are his real views. His disposition, he confessed, was to continue to resist the Bill, and to run the risk of a General Election, serious though that might be for the general interests of the country and of the War. All this, he says, is done because it involves the question of general compulsion. The hon. Member for East Mayo went a little further and suggested that one reason for pursuing the course he did was because of the large majority by which the Bill was carried on its First Reading. I can quite under- 1641 stand a man who votes upon a question according to its merits, but it is not on the merits of this Bill, but only because it was carried by a majority of four to one, that the hon. Member thought that that was a sufficient reason for dropping his further opposition to the Bill. I am not sure that the hon. Member is right.
He objects to Clause 3 of the Bill in particular, in respect to the recruiting of men who may very probably, he thinks, be wanted for other purposes. Unless I have altogether misread the Bill and misunderstood the speeches by which it has been explained, that point is adequately and sufficiently provided for. There is, indeed, no danger whatever that I can see that can be apprehended upon that particular ground. The hon. Member turned to what he termed "the poor old 'Daily Mail.'" He said it was a very important and very powerful organ. I do not quite understand why a very important and powerful organ should be stigmatised as "the poor old 'Daily Mail' "was in the language he used today. The hon. Member had a great deal to say upon the size of the Army. One of the grounds on which he is opposed to the Bill is that it may lead, he thinks, to an Army of a size which it would be unwise and injudicious on the part of the Government to endeavour to provide, both because of the number of men who will be needed and even more because of the vast sums which they will cost. Has it never entered into the mind of the hon. Member that what we have to do—it is our first, and it should be our only consideration—is to win the War? What will it profit us if we save half a million of men and a million of money a day if by reason of that we have inadequate numbers of men and so fail to achieve that victory which is absolutely necessary to us, seeing that we are fighting not only for the civilisation of the world, but for our own existence as a nation! With these few observations I think I may pass from the speech of the hon. Member, but I would say this: if we were to lose the War for the want of men—which I am quite certain that so long as the present Government exists we shall not do—and so long as the Parliament of England exists I believe we shall not do it—it would be bad. Therefore, all the lucubrations of the hon. Member, I think, we may altogether put to one side.
Concerning the course this Debate has taken, one thing is quite clear at least, 1642 that the Division of last week has had a most marked effect upon the opposition to this Bill. At one time those who were opposed to it did indeed put up some kind of a fight. There was a good Debate. Now, however, so far as I can judge, the opponents of the Bill have lost all heart. They have ceased to have faith in their own convictions. They know that the result of this Debate is an absolutely foregone conclusion. I am delighted that this is so. To one man above all others that fact must bring the greatest possible encouragement in the strenuous labours which he has to undergo at the present time, and that is the Prime Minister of this country. I take this opportunity—and I do it with all my heart—to congratulate him with the utmost possible sincerity on two things which he has accomplished. The first is this: that he has been able to produce a Bill which sanctions the principle of Conscription with the loss of only one single member of his Cabinet. The other is the immense majority on the first Division on one of the greatest questions that could have been submitted to the British Parliament. If I dare to prophesy, or to express an opinion, I would say that in all human probability he will carry the Bill with a still greater majority on the Second Reading, a stage which the hon. Member for East Mayo considers so important.
I remember perfectly well just at the commencement of this War when the Prime Minister came down here and asked for an immense Vote of Credit, and authority to raise 1,000,000 men in addition to the Army which we then had, I turned to my neighbour, and remarked: "I did not think I should ever have lived to see the day when a Liberal Prime Minister, supported by a Liberal majority in Parliament, would have been able to carry such a proposal without one single dissentient voice." That remarkable feat was carried out by the right hon. Gentleman upon that particular occasion. I was delighted that it was, for in my humble judgment nothing could have been of more importance in regard to the effect that it would have on our Allies, and upon all those neutral countries who wish us well in all parts of the world. It has also come as a staggering blow to the enemy. Nothing more important than this ever could have been done in regard to what is hardly of less importance than winning the War, namely, the duration of 1643 it. I am absolutely confident that it will give heart to all, and greater confidence—if that were possible—and new hope to all those who are fighting with us at present. I shall not keep the House long. I have taken no part in any of these Debates up till now, having readily given way to other Friends on this bench whom I knew were much more desirous of speaking than I was; but I do not like to let these Debates pass altogether without expressing the strong opinions which I entertain upon these matters.
The character of this Debate has been remarkable in the extreme. All who have followed it will, I think, make that admission. Everybody will, I think, agree that there have been First Reading speeches made by the supporters of the Bill which were excellent. I have heard many Debates in Parliament, but it is a long time since I heard a better Debate than this, or one more ably conducted, on one side of the House at all events—rather I should say by that side or that party which is thoroughly in favour of this particular measure. In the course of my career—a very long one now—I have heard great speeches made by the great orators of bygone days. If, however, among so many which have been given it is not invidious to mention one, I should like to say when the speech of my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for the University of Dublin, who sat next to me, was being delivered, I thought to myself that I could not recollect a more powerful speech delivered on a great occasion than that which was delivered by my right hon. and learned Friend. There were speeches by many other Members, some of whom have come home from the trenches and are among the heroes who have been fighting for us since the War began. I am delighted that they have come, because they have been able to bring great support to the Government by stating what they know better than any Members who have been sitting here all this time what is absolutely needed to ensure victory in the shortest time possible. One lasting impression has been made on my mind by all the speeches of these gallant officers, and I hope it may be taken into careful consideration by the managers and directors of the different parties in this country. What I should like to see is hon. and gallant men of that sort, selected in hundreds it may be, to come forward as candidates whenever the 1644 next General Election comes. I believe that wherever they stood they would be victorious, and they would bring back again to the House of Commons something more of its old feeling, and of those elements which made it stand so high throughout the world. During late years we have been thinking far more of little petty party matters, and in consequence neglecting to make some of those preparations which I believe all parties really knew in their hearts were necessary for the great struggle which for years has been impending, and of which we have been warned over and over again. If that be one of the outcomes of the War I, for one, shall be very pleased; though nothing could be compensation for all that we have lost and suffered with regard to our friends, there would at least be some good arising.
What has been the attitude on the other side? I spoke of great speeches made by supporters of the Bill. Have we heard a single powerful appeal against the measure from any hon. Member who was able to make good his case? No, Sir, I defy anyone to say we have. Over and over again it has been presented to them, on authority which could not be disputed, that the men asked for in this Bill and the mode by which they are to be obtained have been laid down by every military expert in the country, and above all by Lord Kitchener himself. Not one single man on that side of the House has ever tried to meet or contradict the position which they have put forward, but they have been in the habit of saying, "I do not believe we shall ever do any good by Conscription." Who are they to give opinions on purely military matters against men like those who have advised the Government and on whose advice the Government have acted? I hope I have not displayed undue animus against Members on that side of the House. That is never my desire. Still, it has been forced upon me by the consideration of all that we have seen and all that has occurred in connection with this Bill. Hon. Members profess, in words, their full anxiety for the successful conclusion of the War. They say that they will sacrifice everything and anything that is necessary for that purpose, but they will not agree to one single thing which is needed to ensure it. That has been the position taken up by hon. Members on the other side of the House. They contradict themselves. They are ready at one time to do anything to win 1645 the War, but the moment they are put to the test they refuse. I hate to make observations condemning any considerable section of Members in this House or reflecting severely upon them, yet, if I tell the honest truth, I am obliged to do so, because in the course of my career in the House of Commons, extending now over a period approaching fifty years, I have never known any party pursue a course of this kind in this way before. I must be pardoned if I say that the men who, without proposing any alternative; are deliberately opposing measures stated by all reliable authorities to be absolutely needed for the safety of the country and success in the War, can only be considered in this great crisis of their country's fortunes as unworthy children of the Empire, and unworthy of the land which gave them birth. Sure am I of this, that when the time comes for a General Election they will learn that that is the verdict and judgment of the people of the country.
§ Sir JOHN SIMON
The right hon. Gentleman opposite, though he has spoken severely of the opponents of this Bill, assured us that he did not wish to transgress the rules of Parliamentary courtesy and fair play. I certainly make no complaint because the right hon. Gentleman, holding a strong view, has expressed it; but I must ask that other people who hold a strong view should also be at liberty to express it. I would suggest to the right hon. Gentleman that it will be a great misfortune if those who endeavour to state this view with moderation should be exposed to the suggestion that they differ from others in this House in the wholehearted desire to see everything done to win the War. The right hon. Gentleman referred to speeches made in the early part of these Debates. He referred to the speech, admitted by all who heard it to be a very fine speech, by the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Trinity College (Sir E. Carson). There was another speech delivered in favour of the Bill which I believe struck all who beard it, and certainly did not draw less admiration from the opponents of the Bill than from its supporters, and that was the speech by the First Lord of the Admiralty in concluding the Debate on the First Reading. The right hon. Gentleman opposite will forgive me if I say that I think the First Lord of the Admiralty showed a truer appreciation of the underlying motive of all those who take part in these Debates. He said, 1646 with great truth I know as regards myself, and at the same time with generosity, that whatever might be the differences of view expressed on this Bill, it was obvious that there was running through the whole Debate a common patriotic purpose—to do what we believe to be best in the interests of our country. A man who feels impelled by what he believes to be his duty to resist a Bill of this sort does not occupy time in protesting his patriotism; he has to ask Members of the House and others who are prepared to judge fairly whether it is not clear that those who are advancing these arguments are doing it, not because they forget that we are at war, not because they doubt the overwhelming importance of taking wise action in the very crisis of the greatest war of all time, not because they substitute in their own minds or purposes any other object for that of winning the War and vindicating our nation's cause, but because they have the gravest doubts, not indeed as to the object which we are pursuing, but as to the methods recommended by this Bill for the purpose of securing that object.
We, no less than those who support this Bill, want to see our nation at this crisis at its strongest and at its most united; but we believe—and here is our difficulty—that the methods which this Bill proposes to adopt are not going to make our country stronger or more united. We may be right or we may be wrong about that, but certainly we ought not to depart from our convictions on a point of that sort, because we are told that when a General Election comes we shall be taught our lesson. I do not so conceive the duty of a Member of Parliament. I should call myself a coward if, after studying this subject with such powers as I have and forming the opinion which I have formed I assure the House with great distress and with great pain, I refused to put before the House, I hope within moderate compass and in moderate language, the convictions which I hold. It is said that this course may lead to an aggravation rather than a diminution of trouble. I would reply by making this distinction. If I, or any who share my view, were taking part in violent resistance to the law of the land, if we were engaged in mere tactics of obstruction to prevent this Bill being considered and debated, we should deserve the most severe condemnation, and all the more severe because we were in the presence of a great war. But if 1647 there is any occasion when it is right and proper, even in the very crisis of a war, for an honest opinion to be honestly and moderately stated, it is when a Bill is presented to the judgment of the House of Commons, when it becomes the bounden duty of Members of that House, calmly, fairly, and patriotically to form their view and express it, constantly bearing in mind that, while this is the time for debate and discussion, when such a Bill reaches the Statute Book, they must unite with every honest citizen in the country to see that it is observed and made effective.
We oppose this Bill on grounds of principle and on grounds of expediency. The First Lord of the Admiralty, in his speech on the First Reading of the Bill, dealt with the contention that we oppose this Bill on grounds of principle. He dealt with it in a way which was entirely characteristic of him, and entirely delightful to all who heard him. He told us that for his part he was a voluntaryist, and, being a convinced and firm voluntaryist he went on to show that though he was a convinced and firm voluntaryist, his support of the Bill was not hampered by any difficulties of that kind. He assured us that that being so, he really could not understand why other people should find themselves in greater difficulties than himself. That is not a very unexpected or very novel attitude on the part of my right hon. Friend, but the misfortune is that it does not really meet the difficulty, because the question is not whether a convinced voluntaryist like the First Lord of the Admiralty can support this Bill without doing any violence to his principles, but the question really is, if I may follow the language of the Home Secretary, a question of the "cold, hard logic of facts." Let me ask the House of Commons to observe what those facts are. Philosophical disquisitions on convictions, whether settled or unsettled, will not get rid of the facts. Whether the fact be important or unimportant, surely it is as well that it should be fairly stated, and recognised. The fact is that there is opposed to this Bill a body of opinion which does base itself on convictions which cannot be upset by considerations of mere expediency. You may argue that such people would be greatly improved by a more accurate analysis of their mental processes, but there they are, and I cannot believe that the fact of such opposition is in itself a fact which must be treated as 1648 negligible. If I may, with great respect to the First Lord of the Admiralty, make an observation about that part of his speech it would be this. Surely it is the duty of a statesman to enter into the feelings of others, and to allow for the convictions of others even if he does not share them or sympathise with them in the least It is his duty to consider that situation and to consider it sympathetically, even though he thinks the principles that are professed, and that the convictions that are avowed, are ridiculous and far fetched. Explain it as you may, there are people, there are a great number of serious, sober, and patriotic people in this country who will hold that by passing this Bill we have really lost one of the great national possessions which we entered into this War to defend.
I pass for a moment to the case of the conscientious objector. I was sorry on the First Reading, when the Prime Minister mentioned this case, to find that there were some Members who seemed disposed to treat conscientious objections in this connection as rather a laughing matter. Surely that is not facing the cold, hard logic of facts. The conscientious objector may not be a popular person, but he is a perfectly genuine person, and I think he is a much commoner case than perhaps is always recognised. By common consent his case has got to be met. I recognise quite frankly that the Prime Minister and the Government in this Bill have done what they could to meet his objections, but, while I do not desire to see any man shield himself behind provisions for the conscientious objector unless he holds a really deep conscientious objection in his own heart, I find it very difficult to see how adequate provision is to be made for the genuine and conscientious objector, while at the same time you avoid making the meshes of your net too wide. It seems to be thought, and we shall see later on, in the discussion of the Bill, that the conscientious objector will be adequately dealt with if you provide that in proper cases he should be exempted from combatant duties. That is not the conclusion which I have formed from what I have read or seen of this class of person. It is not, as far as I know, in the least justified by any reference to the Militia Ballot Act of 1802. On the contrary, the Militia Ballot Act of 1802 contained a provision which excluded a certain defined class of persons belonging to congregations called Quakers or Friends, and excluded nobody else at all. I fear that the Government 1649 will be faced with a great and serious difficulty in the case of the conscientious objector, because, on the one hand, if you are going to meet his case in cases where it ought honestly to be met, you must make your meshes very wide, and by making them wide it is obvious that an opportunity is given for a class of person with whom I have no more sympathy than any man in this House—that is the shirker, who is so mean as to pretend that it is his conscience that prevents him taking part in his country's war.
There is a second difficulty. The provision for a conscientious objector is a provision, as I understand it, that he may come before a tribunal, not, I should gather, very well fitted for judging affairs of the conscience, not in order to prove that he has got such an objection and thereby to get his exemption, but in order that, after hearing such evidence as it can, the tribunal may decide whether he is to have exemption or not. I am bound to say that I do not believe that a provision of that sort will be found in connection with this Bill to work at all. The reason I have occupied a few moments with this case is because in my judgment the class of difficulty which so arises goes far to justify the contention which many make as to this Bill, namely, that they do oppose it on grounds of principle as distinguished from grounds of expediency.
But I pass to the grounds of expediency, and in doing so let me say incidentally that I am wholly unable to understand the argument employed by the First Lord of the Admiralty, and also by the Home Secretary in the First Reading Debate, that the man who pointed to an objection on the ground of principle and said he shared it was thereby debarred for making a case against this Bill on grounds of pure expediency. It is surely the commonest experience, and it would be a very lamentable thing if it was not so, that arguments which may be fairly said to be based on principle frequently lead to the same conclusion as arguments based on grounds of expediency. I believe that is true in this case. I take what is undoubtedly a ground of expediency, and I venture to say it is beyond question the most important ground of expediency which can be considered in this connection, and that is the question, the very grave and very critical question, of national unity. I am well founded when I say that that consideration is of supreme and capital importance, for those are the very words which the 1650 Prime Minister used on 2nd November when he dealt with this aspect of the matter. I would ask the House to observe that, when the Prime Minister explained his position on 2nd November last, his reference to national unity was the very example which he took to illustrate the argument from expediency against the application of compulsion. These were his words. He resisted compulsion in the circumstances in which he was then speaking on the ground thatthe employment of compulsion under existing conditions would forfeit what I regard to he of supreme and capital importance - that is the maintenance of the national unity."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 2nd November, 1915, col. 521, Vol. LXXV.]I know it is said that this country has won through in some previous wars in spite of serious division in the nation, but, however that may be, who is there who has realised and who has rejoiced in the unity which has existed in this country for seventeen months past who will part with even a fraction of that unity for the sake of this Bill? The Prime Minister has never doubted, if that free choice is offered to him, which of the two he would choose, for he declared in the plainest terms that by "any method of coercion or compulsion, without something in the nature, I will not say of universal, but of general consent, you would defeat "the very purpose upon which we are all concentrated and united. He has never had doubts about that, and I feel confident from hearing his speech on 2nd November, and having read it more than once since, that it was for that very reason, a reason which was a practical reason based on considerations of expediency, that he put on one side all question of employing compulsion unless this condition, which to my mind he laid down as clearly as any condition was ever laid down by him, of substantial general consent, I do not mean universal consent, was in fact satisfied and secured.
Really at the date of the introduction of this Bill a week ago what were the prospects in this matter of this general consent? Let me remind the House that there had been in the previous September a great Labour Conference at Bristol. It had met, and had considered this very subject of compulsion. It had resolved by an overwhelming vote that compulsion in connection with military service was a proposal which those there represented would not accept. I know from representations which were brought to my notice at the time, and which were brought, I believe, also to my 1651 right hon. Friend's, what an impression that decision made on some who were present and who heard the debate and witnessed what had happened. One of the most honoured and one of the most experienced Labour leaders of our time, who has for some years past ceased to belong to this House, but who is doing great national work outside, was there, and I know that the impression which was created on his mind then, in September, was that a proposal for compulsion was a proposal which there was little hope of thinking would be received with general consent. We have had in this connection the warnings which have been given to us by the hon. Member for Derby (Mr. Thomas) in respect of those men of whom he is a leader. Everybody knows the obstacle and the difficulty in the way of such a proposal in connection with the great mining industry and its organisation. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has had his attention called by many of those who are his most faithful supporters to their conviction, long before this Bill was introduced, that compulsion for military service, be it in the abstract a good thing or a bad thing, was, if you faced the cold, hard logic of facts, a thing which was not likely, and could not be expected to lead to something like general consent. In that situation I really think it was in the highest degree unfortunate that this Bill should have been introduced in these circumstances. With those warnings before them surely it was the duty of the Government to take the most precise care to be exact and precise in satisfying the conditions which the Prime Minister had laid down. Surely in those circumstances it was the bounden duty of the Government to see that they did not base their legislation upon a document which, whatever its merits, cannot seriously be justified as an accurate statement of figures. I do not want to delay the House by going over the whole ground. My right hon. Friend my successor at the Home Office— and I hope he will allow me to say the fact that I withdrew does not in any way qualify the sincerity of my congratulations to him—was regarded by some people—he is too modest to so regard it himself—as having disposed of my figures in the course of the First Reading of the Bill. There are one or two little difficulties in that view. The first, and most obvious, is that I did not produce figures; I complained of the absence of them. A figure—at any rate 1652 an approximate figure—by which we might be able to judge or receive the Prime Minister's view as to whether it was a negligible quantity or not, was what we were promised, and the basis of my complaint with regard to the Derby Report was that it did not produce that figure—the only relevant figure at all. Anyone who Whatever may be said about it, here is a most regrettable circumstance. The document used the expression, "a negligible quantity." I cannot altogether suppose that it was an accident that that expression should be used. It used it in reference to a figure which was not the relevant figure at all. Anyone who took up that document might well be excused at first sight if he fell into the trap and supposed there were some 600,000 or 650,000 people as to whom one had to ask the absurd question whether that was a negligible number. Of course it is not.
For the rest, I have read with care, and I trust with profit, what the Home Secretary was good enough to say about the figures in the Derby Report, but he did not deal with a single one of the large criticisms which I ventured to make in respect of them. I pointed out there was an enormous number of people who were removals, and who, it would appear, had never been checked, canvassed, or traced at all. When a question was put to the Under-Secretary for War to-day, it appeared he was quite unable to provide any figures in connection with it. I pointed out that, in the nature of things, you must have figures which show how far this field had in fact not been canvassed. Nobody from that day to this has produced a figure to show to what extent those persons have been canvassed; but I have received assurances from hundreds of voters in dozens of constituencies that, so far as those electors of those constituencies are concerned, this is a very large and serious omission. The Home Secretary never dealt with the comment—I do not think it can be overthrown—that that document does not contain the requisite figures, but goes out of its way to use estimates where precise figures are available, and not a single one of the large criticisms under that head has ever been touched from that day to this. He did not deal, and I have not heard anyone deal, with the obvious difficulty that you were taking a series of names which the military authorities, I understand, got from the National Register on a basis taken in August, and you are endeavouring on that basis to 1653 arrive at something like, if not an exact, at least an appropriate figure in the month of November.
I do not want to go over the ground again, but I want to point out for this purpose that the important thing is this: You want, so far as you may, to secure general consent in this matter. General consent very largely depends upon satisfying fair-minded critics whether you really have been careful to satisfy the conditions which the Prime Minister laid down. I am quite unable to see how in substantial matters those conditions have ever been satisfied at all, and it is with the greatest distress and the greatest regret that I am bound to reiterate that, so far as I can see, and endeavouring—I certainly endeavoured as a member of the Cabinet without bias and in all honesty—with all my might to study the Report as it ought to be studied, I can see nothing in that document—and I am sure many who are going to support this Bill will agree with me—to justify the assertion that the conditions of the Prime Minister's pledge have now arrived. It is really no good talking about this as though it were some trumpery point not worth a moment's consideration. In effect the Prime Minister, when he made his speech in November, gave his assurance, not, indeed, to the compulsionists, but to the married men; but he also gave an assurance to the voluntaryists, and the complaint which the voluntaryists are bound to make is that the payment of any debt to the married men has been antedated, yet, on the other hand, the equally firm obligation to the voluntaryists does not appear to have been fulfilled at all.
Here let me say it really is a pity that we should talk in this matter as though the married men were a group of persons who were in all circumstances determined in their turn to stand back and refuse to take their part because, forsooth, they are going to demand this pound of flesh. I have had—I believe many Members of this House have had—many letters from married men who had attested under the Derby scheme, and many a man writes to me and says, "I came forward under the Derby scheme because I wanted to save the voluntary system." Many and many a man says, "If I had known that my coming forward in these circumstances would thus be misrepresented, I should have regarded this campaign quite differently from the way in which I have regarded it." I do hope it is not too late to take a practical step in a practical way. I 1654 understand that the military authorities have got these cards which contain the names of the persons who have, in fact, come forward under the Derby scheme. It ought to be possible to find the persons who have not so come forward. If there be amongst them a substantial number of men who have no good excuse, why not approach them? Why not find it out? Is is right, and is it fair to people who are as anxious to promote the common national interest as any Member of this House, that, under these circumstances, which they are bound to regard as so questionable, they should be exposed to treatment of this sort merely because it is suggested the Prime Minister's pledge has been fulfilled, whereas there is such strong reason for thinking the conditions remained to be satisfied?
A reference was made yesterday in the early stages of the Debate to another matter. I deliberately do not refer to it now at any length or with any emphasis. It is the question of industrial compulsion. I can see that I should do very wrong, and that I should be very forgetful of the responsibilities which attach to me as much as to other Members of the House, if I endeavoured to inflame feeling on a serious subject of that kind. I do nothing of the sort. I say to the House of Commons in all sincerity that it does appear to me, as matters at present stand in this Bill, that the criticism, which was made by the hon. Member who moved the rejection, on that head has got weight and substance behind it. I do not claim—perhaps the President of the Local Government Board will allow me to say—any special position in this matter because I am a lawyer. I am none the worse, I hope, and none the better, on that account, any more than either of his right hon. Friends who are sitting on either side of him at this moment. But, in all good temper and with perfect moderation, let me call attention to the difficulty. Under Clause 2 of the Bill you have provisions for certificates of exemption. One of the principal grounds—the first ground, indeed—is "that it is expedient in the national interests that he or they should, instead of being employed in military service, be engaged in other work." It is perfectly obvious that a man who comes forward and claims to be exempted on that ground will be exposed to the question of whether he is going to persist in such work or whether he is going to leave his employment, and that that is intended to be dealt with 1655 is clear from a subsequent provision that any certificate of exemption may be conditional or temporary, and from a further provision in the next Clause that any certificate may be reviewed at any time, and that it is the duty, under penalty, of a man who changes his employment or circumstances to give notice to the tribunal. It is a very serious matter whether, and how far, that does contribute towards what is called industrial compulsion, and I must point this out to the House: I do not know of any compulsory military system in Europe where the concomitant of industrial compulsion does not, in fact, exist. It is notorious that it exists in France. It is, indeed, if I may so describe it, the classic case commonly quoted of industrial compulsion, a method by which M. Briand dealt with an industrial difficulty of that character. I do not wish to state my own view as to whether it is possible to remove that Section from this Bill. I will do my very best to co-operate to remove it in all honesty, but so long as you provide that the State may by compulsion take an unwilling individual and at any time put him in the Army, I see the greatest and most fundamental difficulty in combining that with that industrial freedom which, I am convinced, the great majority of the House of Commons mean to secure, and which, when we come to Committee on this Bill, it will be extremely important to secure.
It is said about this Bill that those who make protests and offer opposition to it are really concerning themselves with a very small matter, and my right hon. Friend the First Lord of the Admiralty gave us some interesting comments on the argument known as the thin end of the wedge. But the unfortunate thing is this: there are people in this House who are not only going to vote for this Bill, but are going to vote for it because they like it. The people who are going to vote for this Bill, although they dislike it, are, no doubt, comforted by the thought that this is only a very moderate and limited proposal; but some of the very best speeches made in these Debates have been made by people who have given the whole of that comforting reflection away. The latest was made by the hon. Member for Anglesey (Mr Ellis Griffith) this afternoon. He is a compulsionist. He is a perfectly honest and straightforward compulsionist. He is a perfectly logical compulsionist. Nobody knows better than he does that 1656 the people who are accepting this Bill with enthusiasm are the people who intend this as the first step to a much larger compulsion. The right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Ilkeston (Brigadier-General Seely) who spoke on the First Reading was in the same position. He is much too honest and straightforward a man to be able to avoid exposing this obvious fact. He supported this Bill because he said he was satisfied and impressed with the system existing in Switzerland. But the system which exists there no less than in any other compulsionist country of which I have heard, is not a system which calls upon unmarried men and leaves married men. It is not a system which takes unmarried men of forty and leaves married men of twenty-one, and still less a system which calls a man who was married on 16th August an unmarried man and possibly a. slacker, and calls a man who was married on 14th August a married man and a patriot. The truth is that the reason why the argument from the thin end of the wedge applies here is that this Bill by itself and in itself cannot stand upon its two legs.
The Colonial Secretary made an ingenious, and indeed a very audacious, attempt to deal with that criticism because he confused the condition that there should be general consent with the condition that the majority should be in favour of the Bill. When we decided at the beginning of the War that we would avoid controversial legislation, we did not mean that we would avoid legislation which a majority of this House would not pass. No legislation is possible except that which a majority of this House will pass, and it is only a month ago that the Colonial Secretary and I very clearly understood the distinction in reference to another Bill, a Bill which ought not to be raised in this House because it produced controversy. Although it had a majority of this House, it could not be proceeded with in this House because it did not command substantially general assent. I would like, in conclusion, to say to those who support the principle of Conscription that I really think I do understand and I desire to do full justice to the position which they take up. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wimbledon (Mr. Chaplin) said that this Bill was one which sanctions the principle of Conscription, and therefore Conscriptionists are en- 1657 titled to rejoice. Their view does not happen to be my view, but it is a view which many people hold, and it can be presented as a complete and logical whole. They think that this country would gain greatly by an increase in its organisation, even though that organisation had to be conducted by force exercised by the State. That is their belief. They think those of us who are voluntaryists, and I claim voluntaryists by principle belong, whatever our ages may be, to a past generation, and that we are holding on to a doctrine which has lost its vital force, and that whether it be owing to party attachment or the influence of great names, or that innate conservatism which they attribute to Radicals, we go on clinging to this mere shred of a doctrine when it has ceased to serve a new age for new purposes.
They think that this country would greatly gain if we could not only in this connection, but in fiscal matters, social matters, and any other matters, carry the organisation of this country, not up to the point to which it is now carried by voluntary effort, but carry it further, even for military purposes by force, and even at the expense of substituting a great deal of State machinery for a great deal that is voluntary and self-sacrificing. I do not agree. I believe they are essentially wrong, and it is because that is really involved in the arguments for this Bill, because that is really raised in the discussions on this measure, that I feel it my duty, whether I be one of many or one of few, respectfully, and I trust with moderation, to present a serious and a considered argument against it. The real truth is that military organisation by force is the very system which this country united to destroy. If I could be convinced that we, in endeavouring to eradicate that poison, could successfully inoculate ourselves, I would not raise my voice against this Bill. It is because I am driven to the belief that we in fact are infecting ourselves in the realm of ideas which are far more permanent than any other influences in the world—it is because I believe we are infecting ourselves with these false doctrines which we set out to destroy that I am compelled to ask my fellow Members in the House of Commons to weigh considerations such as these. Do not let it be said that those of us who feel impelled to take this view have failed to keep our eyes on the object, which is to strike down Germany and destroy the evil influences 1658 which have made it a menace to the world. It is because I am convinced that you are not going to make this country stronger for that righteous purpose, but split and divide it by proposals like these, that for my part I am compelled to resist this Bill.
§ The PRIME MINISTER (Mr. Asquith)
It is an unwonted and an unwelcome task to me to follow my right hon. and learned Friend who has just sat down, not as I have been accustomed to do ever since the beginning of his Parliamentary career, with admiration —the same admiration I feel now, of course—but to ask the House to set aside, or at any rate to reconsider, some of the propositions in an adverse sense which he has laid before us. My right hon. Friend said at the close of his speech and it is a sentiment which will command universal concurrence—that the main object upon which we are all concentrated is to strike down Germany. But he will forgive me for saying that he seemed to me, in the part of his speech which preceded that general proposition, to be dealing with a set of things far removed from the actualities that produced it, wandering—I use the word in no offensive sense—through the groves and along the streams of academic thought, discoursing—and he would have my complete agreement if we were once more in that ideal state of things—discoursing on the evils incidental to the adoption of compulsion and the superiority of voluntary service of the State to anything in the nature of coercion. I go with him the whole length in that direction; but we are at War. We are engaged in a war in which not only our existence, but all those ideals which I share with my right hon. Friend are at stake, and to contend that it is an abrogation, or an abandonment morally or intellectually of our position, among the protagonists in that war, that we should have adopted for a specific, for a limited and strictly guarded purpose, a principle which our chief, or our nearest Ally—I will not say our chief, for there is no difference in rank between them—the French, a republican nation, regard as essential for the preservation of their democratic institutions, does seem to me to be losing sight of realities, or, at any rate, to be forfeiting your sense of proportion and of perspective.
My right hon. Friend fears, I am sure quite genuinely and honestly, that if this Bill is carried, it may be used as a precedent, or as a starting point for the adoption of something in the nature of general 1659 compulsion. I have no such fear. The right hon. Gentleman quoted language of mine used in regard to the adoption of general compulsion only a couple of months ago, which I repeat with the same conviction to-day as I used it then. I gave a pledge in redemption of which this Bill has been introduced, and is going to be carried. I gave that pledge—I will not say mainly or entirely, because my chief object was the prosecution of the War—but I gave that pledge in the hope of preserving and of maintaining the voluntary system, and I believe I did so. I am perfectly certain—and the evidence accumulates day by day—that if I had not given that pledge— or rather—for the House of Commons were not bound by it—if the House of Commons did not allow me to perform it, the voluntary system would have been dead. My right hon. Friend says this Bill "could not walk upon its own two legs." Why? Apparently, because in his view it is absolutely illogical and impracticable to establish a distinction between married and unmarried men—a distinction which does not prevail in any Continental or conscriptionist country. Curiously enough, it happens to be a distinction which has been observed from a very ancient date in our own history. We were celebrating only a month or two ago the 500th anniversary of one of the most famous battles in the annals of our Army, the battle of Agincourt, and some learned person has brought to light the curious fact that the illustrious sovereign and warrior who then occupied the British throne, Henry V.—
§ The PRIME MINISTER
The manner in which, according to an old ballad, he recruited his Army is almost worth while reciting to the House. When the King started on his campaign, one of the most glorious in all the British annals, what are the directions he gives to his Lord Derby? He says: —Go cruit me Cheshire and Lancashire,And Derby hills that are so free;No married man or widow's son.No widow's curse shall go with me.And the Director of Recruiting of the day, carrying out the King's instructions, tells us that—They recruited Cheshire and Lancashire,And Derby hills that are so free,Tho' no married man nor widow's son,They recruited three thousand men and three.So the distinction between the married and the unmarried, so far from being an invention of the year 1915, is one of the 1660 most ancient traditions of the British race. That is not perhaps strictly relevant to the point of my right hon. Friend-Anyway, however that may be, it was thought necessary, and I believe the necessity was amply proved, to give this undertaking to the married men if we were not only to save the voluntary system—that in itself I think not unimportant—but if we were to produce for the purposes of the War the men whom we urgently and indispensably required. I wish, with all the emphasis that I can command, and speaking on behalf of the whole of my colleagues in the Cabinet and in the Government, to say to the House, and to say to the country, that unless you enable us by passing this Bill to obtain those men we cannot do our part in the prosecution of this War. It is not a question of bringing in what I agree is a very disputable and possibly a controversial figure, the number of single men after all the exceptions have been allowed for, the exemptions set out in this Bill in far greater detail and I think on a much more rational basis than any such exceptions before; it is not a question merely of getting in the unmarried men who will remain, and who have no title to absent themselves from military service when those exceptions have been allowed for and their cases fully scrutinised and examined. It is a question of getting in the married men whose promise to enlist was conditional, and I think not unreasonably conditional, on the enlistment of those who, at any rate, in the majority of cases have far fewer people to depend upon them, who are more free to dispose of their energies and their time, and who on the hypothesis are holding back from the service of their country. I repeat—for this is a matter of the gravest national importance—that unless the House will give us the opportunity of fulfilling that pledge, and of obtaining the services of these men, I do-not say that it would make the difference between failure and success in the War— that depends upon a thousand contingencies of which Providence alone has the secret—but I do say, what is more to the purpose, and what is more important to us here, that you would be disabling us from fulfilling our obligations to our own country and to our Allies.
I wish to deal, very briefly, with a point raised incidentally by my right hon. Friend, although not pressed very strongly by him, and which I know has given rise to an enormous amount of misconception 1661 and misunderstanding in some sections and classes of opinion in the country. I mean the possibility that this Bill may be used, not as a stepping-stone to universal Conscription, but as a form and an instrument of industrial compulsion. I hope I need not say—I am sure I need not say to my right hon. Friend—that nothing was further from the intentions of the framers of the Bill than that it should be used, or that it should be capable of being used, for any such purpose. I am sure he will accept my statement; he knows it to be absolutely true. And I hope not only Members in all quarters of the House, but also the vast mass of our fellow countrymen who are engaged in industrial pursuits, will accept, as I believe they will, that assurance. I agree it is most important to see, whatever may have been the intentions and are the intentions of the framers of the Bill, that it will not have that effect. I have been listening during the last two hours with great interest, and I hope with profit, to the criticisms made by the accredited representatives and spokesmen of labour, pointing out possible dangers which seem to them to lurk in this particular direction in the framework and phraseology of the Bill. The matter is very difficult—though the intention is perfectly plain—to make it absolutely certain and to provide complete safeguards against the possibility of abuse. I agree that it is not a very easy matter.
Let me just state the case as it was presented to me, and as indeed, I have presented it to myself. A man who is primâ facie liable to military service under this Bill, being unmarried and of military age, claims a certificate of exemption under the first head of Clause 2, namely, on the ground that it is expedient that he should not go into the Army, but that he should be employed in some other form of necessary national work. It is proved that he is so employed, and naturally he gets from the tribunal his certificate of exemption. There are two possible dangers there of quite a different kind. On the one hand, the man who gets a certificate of exemption on the ground that he is in fact so employed may be a person who ought not to be so employed. He may be a person who is doing work which could quite as well be done by a less skilled man, or a less strong man, or by an older man than himself, or by a woman. He gets his certificate of exemption and escapes liability. That is one danger. But the other danger which is much more present 1662 to the mind of those who represent the interests of labour arises in the case of a man who gets his certificate of exemption, who deserves it, and who is entitled to it. If he happens for any reason to be obnoxious to his employer—if, for instance, he-has taken an active part as a trade unionist in movements for the rise of wages, or for the improvement of the conditions of labour—the employer may take advantage of this or that pretext to dismiss him.. Thereupon he loses his certificate of exemption, unless he can get re-employment at once in some similar trade, and he becomes ipso facto a soldier, and subject to military law. That, I am sure, is at the bottom of the minds of a very large number of people who, with an honest desire to support this Bill, and to assist the Government, fear that it may be perverted or abused for indirect purposes by unscrupulous or unpatriotic employers. I am glad to say that I hope and I believe at a time like this, and in conditions such as those under which we live, cases of that kind would be very rare.
I think it would be a libel and a calumny on the great bulk of the employers of this country to suppose them capable of adapting a measure of this kind to put, as it were, into their quiver a new arrow which would enable them to carry on more effectively than before warfare against their own employés. But I agree it is a case that ought to be met—our intention is the same, as I have said; our intention is that the Bill should not be used and should not be capable of being used for any form of industrial compulsion—and we are engaged, and I hope our efforts may be successful—in devising machinery and safeguards which will prevent the possibility of evasion and of any such abuse of the measure by any employer who may be so minded. May I appeal to the good sense of my fellow-countrymen, and particularly to those engaged in industry, to recognise that nothing could be further, not only from the intentions of the Government, but from any conception of a wise and statesmanlike policy at a time like this, than to furnish, even indirectly, either employers or workmen with new ammunition to be expended, not in the defence of their country, but in the pursuit of internecine industrial strife. We want to husband, to co-ordinate, and to concentrate the whole strength of the country on an undivided purpose, and I need not say that we are willing—and; more than willing, anxious, and eager— 1663 to receive any suggestion that may come from any quarter to render the possibility of such an abuse absolutely inconceivable.
That deals with the point raised by my hon. Friend who has just sat down. He certainly said truly that I had laid great stress, both in speaking of the possible application of general compulsion and of the possible—I do not put it higher than that—application of a much more limited form of compulsion such as is contained in this Bill, upon the importance of national unity, and of obtaining, I expressly said, not universal—that is out of the question—but something in the nature of general assent. I still hold that view, and I am sanguine enough to think, after talking to-day with the representatives of labour, that when the provisions of this Bill and the circumstances of its introduction—the extent of its scope, the absolute military necessity which it is intended to meet—when those things are realised and understood, as they are being more clearly understood day by day, by the mass of our fellow-countrymen, when the very natural apprehensions and suspicions—I should have entertained them myself—which surround any proposal, however limited and guarded, for compulsion, when those very natural suspicions and apprehensions are dispelled and allayed, as I think and believe they ought to be, when the Bill comes to be completely understood, and when upon the top of that they receive the assurance, which I give them in the fullest measure on behalf of His Majesty's, Government, that we are prepared to listen to every suggestion and to make every improvement which can confine the Bill to the purpose for which it is intended and prevent its being abused or perverted for any other purpose—I believe when all these things are done, and they are being done day by day, as I say, with increasing clearness and effect, we shall have—I am not sure that we have not got it even now—the very condition of something like general assent which I regarded then, and which I regard now, as of vital importance.
We do not want—what Government in its senses would?—in the middle of a great war, when the concentration of the national energies is of fundamental, vital importance—we do not want to divide the opinions and sentiments of our fellow countrymen. Let them be assured there is nothing behind this Bill, no ulterior purpose, no concealed intention, no possi- 1664 bility of perversion or abuse. Let them realise that it is brought in in fulfilment of a definite and honourable pledge, without the redemption of which we might lose the services of something like 500,000 men. Let them further understand that, in the opinion of those who know the whole military and strategic situation, the resources which without this Bill we cannot bring into the field as and when they are needed will under it become available for the prosecution of our cause, and I hope and believe for the achievement of victory. When that is once understood, as I hope it will be, I should like to get from this House the Second Reading of the Bill without dissent, for I do not believe you could strike a more effective blow at this moment for the success of our arms and the victory of our cause. Above all, let us at once, when such protests as there may be have been recorded, set to work to make the Bill an acceptable measure in all respects, safeguarding its provisions against all possible abuse, and if, as is possible and not only possible but I trust probable, during the weeks which must elapse before this Bill comes into effective operation the men who have hitherto held back come forward of their own free will and place themselves at the service of the State, then we shall have attained a result on which we can look back with satisfaction and which will give us a new asset of incalculable value for the prosecution of the War to the end.
Sir HENRY DALZIEL
In the closing sentences of the powerful speech delivered last evening by the President of the Local Government Board (Mr. Long) the right hon. Gentleman paid a high tribute to the fine patriotism and high sense of national duty which this House has displayed during the discussions on this Bill. I desire most respectfully to associate myself with that sentiment. It is a momentous fact that, after eighteen months of war, with its millions of horrors and fierce hell, it should be the case that throughout these Debates we have not had one whisper from any part of this House, or on behalf of any section of opinion in this House, of a desire that we should alter our course with regard to the vigorous prosecution of the War. As long as that spirit lasts there can be no doubt about the issue, and that is a fact of which our Allies and our enemies may well take note. Another lesson of this Debate is that there has been a departure from the original opposition which was levelled at this Bill. No 1665 longer is the opposition to this Bill entirely with regard to principle. Who are the principal opponents of the Bill? Who are the leaders of the opposition to this Bill? They are my right hon. Friend the Member for Walthamstow (Sir J. Simon), the hon. Gentleman for East Mayo (Mr. Dillon), an3 my hon. Friend the Member for Derby (Mr. Thomas). They represent the forces of opinion against this Bill. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Walthamstow is willing to go to the political scaffold on behalf of the voluntary principle. That is not the position of the Member for East Mayo or of the Member for Derby. The Member for East Mayo regards this question not solely but mainly as a question of expediency. He stated so in his speech. The hon. Member for Derby is willing to vote for this Bill on terms. If the Government will say tonight that they are going to conscript capital, the hon. Member for Derby is bound to vote for this Bill. I am not at all sure that it is without the reach of possibility that such a declaration might well be got from the Government, not in regard to this Bill, but in regard to future policy. Therefore, it is no question of principle which is now actuating the main opposition to this Bill.
I confess I am puzzled at the position of my right hon. Friend the Member for Walthamstow. I should like to know exactly at what point he realised that the sacred heritage of the voluntary system was going to be tampered with by the Government. At what period was he convinced of that? He was a party to the pledge of the Prime Minister, as the Cabinet was a party to it. He sat by and heard the Prime Minister make that declaration to which he was a consenting party. I wonder if, after the Prime Minister had made his statement, the right hon. Gentleman had been asked by one of his Walthamstow constituents—a married man—what he ought to do in the face of that pledge, and whether he could be satisfied that the Prime Minister would carry it out—whether he ought to enlist on the face of that pledge—I wonder what the right hon. Gentleman would have replied. Undoubtedly he would have told his constituent to trust the Prime Minister, and he would also have told him that he was justified in enlisting on the faith of that pledge. No other advice was possible to be given. It seems to me that the position in which the late Home Secretary stands is somewhat analogous to that of a 1666 director who sits at a board meeting of a company and hears the chairman of the board report that he has pledged the credit of the board and of "the company to certain transactions, and that he has given his guarantee for a certain consideration. The board accepts the statement. Later on the chairman of the board comes back and says he has to meet that guarantee, and then one of the members of the board states that as there is no profit to be made, from his point of view the chairman has accepted a personal liability only. That is exactly the position of the ex-Home Secretary. He was out to win, and if the gamble had come off he was a party to it; he would have shared in the profit, and he would have said how splendid a thing it was to get the married men to come in. All would have been satisfactory in that case. But that has not turned out to be the case, and I ask again at what date did the right hon. Gentleman make up his mind that the principle of voluntaryism was going to be tampered with?
It was not, as the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Trinity College (Sir E. Carson) said—it was not when our sailors were compelled to continue serving. Yet that was compulsion. It was not when our men in India, looking forward to come home and rest after years of service, were compelled to continue their service after they came back. Yet that was compulsion. It was not then, it was only during recent days when this Bill was about to be introduced. The right hon. Gentleman himself—I intimated to him I was going to reply to his speech, and I think he might have had the courtesy to have waited—the right hon. Gentleman himself was the first man who convinced me that the Government were going in for compulsion. Why, he was the inventor of the green form, and I want to know, if he objects to compulsion, what right had he to stop hundreds of men leaving this country before this Bill was the law of the land? I have a green form here, one issued by the right hon. Gentleman, embodied by the right hon. Gentleman under an Order in Council drafted by himself. By it he stopped hundreds and hundreds and even thousands and thousands of young men leaving this country for America and elsewhere. Is that not part of a compulsion policy? Did the right hon. Gentleman not know at that time what was in the mind of the Government? If compulsion was not coming, then I think he owes an apology to the thousands of young men whom he kept in 1667 this country because of the force of public opinion, and because on the very day before he took action as the result of agitation in this House, 500 young men of military age left Liverpool by boat. I do not blame him for the action he took. I do blame him for not having taken it earlier? but it ill becomes him, in face of it, to say what he does now with regard to the voluntary system. I am glad the right hon. Gentleman has now come back. Perhaps he has an answer on that particular point. I am complaining that he, a professed voluntaryist, issued and was responsible for, and his own magistrates acted upon, the green form which prevented young men leaving this country by the thousands before compulsion was decided upon by the Cabinet. I say that that was compulsion; it was compelling men to do what they did not want to do. If the right hon. Gentleman has an answer to that I would like to hear it. I say that at that moment the right hon. Gentleman convinced me that the Government had practically made up its mind that it was going in for a compulsion policy, and therefore I contend that was the moment when the right hon. Gentleman ought to have seriously considered his position.
I have another question to ask the right hon. Gentleman, and it is this: He delivered a speech to his constituents in Walthamstow on 10th July last, and he was very much concerned at that time with the position in regard to the War. He used words which I ask the House to take notice of. They were:—I say plainly that if we do not do more in the future than we have done in the past we shall be beaten.That is an important statement for a Cabinet Minister to make after a year of war with all the knowledge he possessed. He continued:—And it is just because we are not going to be beaten but are going to win, and because it is certain there is no sacrifice this country will not willingly make, and that there is nothing it can contribute in any form which it will not throw into the scale, that I am so completely confident of our success in the tremendous and overwhelming struggle.At that time, in the opinion of the right hon. Gentleman, the country was willing to contribute in any form, and I maintain that also indicated that the country was willing to agree to such a Bill as we have before us to-day.
Here let me say quite frankly that I honour the right hon. and learned Gentleman for resigning from the Government. I honour him and I honour any man who 1668 makes any sacrifice, personal, political, or pecuniary, for what he believes to be his honest convictions. I think I understand the convictions of the right hon. Gentleman, and many of my hon. Friends would agree with them in some respects. We are willing to respect their opinions, and we only ask in return that those of us who may express strong views on this matter should also be given the same credit of being honest in our intentions, however misinformed they may think them to be. Let us start from that position. My right hon. Friend has been, and I am sure he claims to be to-day, a democrat. He believes in democracy. He believes that the voice of the people of this country ought to prevail. What is his opinion and the opinions of the democracy in regard to this Bill? There can be but one opinion. Even some of his strongest supporters are fading away in consequence of the arguments put forward in this House. There is the right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Bristol (Mr. Hobhouse), who was the chairman and leader of the No-Conscription Group in this House, and who presided over their meetings upstairs. What is his position to-day? He has risen and expressed his opinion. So impressed is he with the strong case put forward that he has voted already for the Bill, and is going to vote for it again on the Second Beading. [An HON. MEMBER: "He is to be the Postmaster-General!"] I think my hon. Friend is premature in his information. That is a very important fact in regard to the change of opinion. There is my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Carmarthen Boroughs (Mr. Llewelyn Williams), who has made more speeches and stronger speeches in this House against the principle of this Bill than almost any other Member. But my hon. and learned Friend is a democrat. What did he do? He went down to consult his Constituents and, I presume, to get a mandate from them to come here to vote against the Bill, because he voted against it on the First Reading. He has left his Constituents, and has come back here and has left a promise behind him that he will give no other vote against this Bill. My hon. and learned Friend is a democrat. He believes in the democracy; therefore he is willing to respect their wishes. [An HON. MEMBER: "He ran away!"] My hon. Friend must not blame one of his leaders, now that he has found salvation for himself, for the fact that he pays respect to the opinion of his constituents and the opinion of the democracy of this country.
1669 I will say to the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Walthamstow that he in particular has an enormous responsibility in regard to this Bill; that his high position, his undoubted ability, and his genuine convictions, give a head and an importance to the opposition to this Bill which it could not otherwise possess. Therefore I ask him, even at this late hour, whether he cannot see his way to support the Bill, being a democrat and having made a protest on the First Reading. It was a very strong course to take to say, as a member of the late Government, "I have seen the Bill"—because he must have seen it, and even after he left the Government he knew what was in it—" but, though I was a member of the Coalition Government when an important Bill was put forward, I give my vote that every other Member of the House who is not a member of the Cabinet shall never know the decision of the Cabinet." If that vote had been carried the Bill never would have been printed. It is bad Parliamentary tactics to vote against allowing a Bill being printed, more especially when it is put forward by a Government representing all parties. I venture to say that if this Bill had been printed when the Trades Union Congress met, and if each member of that Congress had had a copy of it, the decision of the Congress would have been very different from what it was. We know now what influenced that Congress. One of the most important arguments used at the Congress with the greatest effect was the point alluded to by the Prime Minister to-day, namely, that the Bill meant industrial compulsion. I make the admission to my right hon. Friend and those particularly interested in regard to labour, that had this Bill made industrial compulsion possible on the lines put before the Trade Union Congress, I think the passage of the Bill would have been by no means as easy as it is likely to be. This Bill must carry out one purpose, and one only. It must be made perfectly clear that there are no ulterior motives. I do not think we could have had a clearer explanation of the position of the Government than we have had to-day from the Prime Minister. That ought to settle once and for all any anxiety which any representative of labour might have had with regard to the future. What more can we ask? The Prime Minister says on behalf of the 1670 Cabinet, "We do not intend to introduce in any way the principle of industrial compulsion. We shall propose Amendments. You ought to propose Amendments."
Let us combine together—I am sure the experience and assistance my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Walthamstow will be invaluable in this matter —let us put our heads together and satisfy every section that this Bill does not in any way deal with industrial compulsion. What more can be asked? It is a pity that the members of the Trade Union Congress did not have the Bill before them. I therefore repeat my appeal to the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Walthamstow that, with his responsibility, he should pause before he lends his name to the agitation that I am afraid will grow in spite of what is, I am sure, his sincere declaration that, after the Bill becomes law, opposition must cease and we must obey it. That is not enough. Under the right hon. Gentleman's banner are men who, as has been pointed out today, have never raised a finger for voluntary service. There are under his banner men who are causing mischief on the Clyde and elsewhere by declaring that this is an employers' Bill and that this Was is being carried on primarily in order to make fortunes for employers. Those are the causes of the discontent. It is not true. But if they say they follow my right hon. Friend it gives their utterances an importance and an influence which will bring about a result which he himself will be the very last man to desire or support. Therefore you cannot stop short on the Third Reading of this Bill or when it becomes law. I am sure that the suggestion with regard to industrial compulsion will be misinterpreted outside. When all these suggestions are put forward there are men anxious, ready and waiting to whisper them into the ears of men who have been overworked for months, and who perhaps will lend a sympathetic ear to anybody who suggests that they are being badly treated. I would appeal to my right hon. Friend to do all he can to bring about a peaceful settlement in regard to this Bill. The House is against him, the nation is against him. Let him recognise and face the issue. When there is a conference of generals on the field of battle and on some great and particular line of strategy all the generals are agreed except one, does not that one general come forward, and 1671 assist the other generals to win the battle I suggest that attitude ought to be possible to my right hon. Friend. Twenty-one of his colleagues have differed from him on this point. Let him come in now, and, having made his protest, let the Bill be worked peacefully, because only by working the Bill peacefully can it be made a complete success.
I was puzzled also by the attitude of the hon. Member for East Mayo (Mr. Dillon). I am quite sure he will not charge me with being unsympathetic towards the movement with which he has been so long associated. I have supported Home Rule in this House for a quarter of a century. Twenty-two years ago I got passed a Home Rule Motion, and at that time, I must admit, I received a very graceful tribute from the hon. Member. Why have I been a Home Ruler? Because I believe that the people of Ireland are the best people to decide their own policy and their own destiny. I am a Home Ruler now, and I shall remain one. The hon. Member for East Mayo and his colleagues the other night took a course which is absolutely opposed to all the principles of Home Rule expressed in this House in the last twenty-five years by having supported Mr. Gladstone's Bill and all the others. Why do I say that? Because the British people, as represented in this House—that is, after all, the only test we can take, and it is, in fact, the test we take even with regard to the demand for Home Rule in Ireland—are overwhelmingly in support of this measure.
Sir H. DALZIEL
Ah! I suppose the hon. Member was misinformed in the first case. Let me point out to him that he ought to have waited and seen the result of the First Reading. He ought to have allowed us to see the Bill printed, and on the Second Reading, which is the time when the question of principle is decided, he should have declared his policy. The hon. Member and some of his Friends were led away. They did not take the proper pains to find out the opinion of the British people. I do not, however, wish to dwell upon that. I am grateful that they have decided against their earlier view, and I am glad that my Irish Friends are not going to oppose this Bill further. I am also glad for the sake of this Gov- 1672 ernment and of this country that the hon. Member for East Mayo said there had been no bargaining over the Bill. The Chief Secretary for Ireland, in his very brilliant speech last night, showed considerable indignation at the suggestion that there had been any pressure put upon them to exclude Ireland, and I see that the right hon. Gentleman still affirms that. Such pressure was not necessary at the later stages because the hon. Member for East Mayo had made it perfectly clear what his position would be if the Government included Ireland in the Bill. Speaking at Limerick on 24th July last, he said:—I may say that although, of course, since the break up of the Liberal Government and the formation of the Coalition, I am not speaking with the same authority as I did last winter, my own conviction is that no Government likely to be formed in Great Britain will attempt to enforce Conscription in Ireland. If any such attempt is made the Irish party have given the Government the fullest warning that they will resist it by every means in their power.There was no reason to depart from anything in that utterance, because Ireland had not been included in the Bill. I am very glad Ireland is not in this Bill, and my reason for that is that you could not have included Ireland, and anyone who knows the real circumstances in Ireland knows that you could not have done so without jeopardising the Bill, without arousing feelings which ought not to be aroused, and without arousing a great deal of discontent. I do not blame the hon. Member for Waterford for asking that Ireland should be excluded. I associate myself with the graceful tribute paid by the hon. Baronet the Member for Central Hull (Colonel Sir Mark Sykes) to the hon. and learned Member for Waterford. The hon. and learned Member for Waterford need not be afraid of the judgment of history as to the part he has played in this War. If for a moment he had cared to adopt another policy, imagine what would have happened if we had been fighting this War with Ireland against us and our arm in a sling. It could not have been done. We owe a debt of gratitude to the hon. and learned Member for the fact that at the moment of our difficulty, when Ireland might have been a weakness, she has been a strength. It used to be said that England's trouble was Ireland's opportunity. To-day we can say that England's trouble is Ireland's opportunity to assist her to the utmost of her power.
I should like to say one word more with regard to the hon. Member (Mr. Dillon). 1673 He says the necessity for this Bill has not arisen. He is not convinced, but if he was convinced he would support it. The hon. Member will excuse me, as a humble private Member, if I accept the opinion of a Cabinet of twenty-two who know all the facts, who know the position, and who know the commitments. He cannot know the military position as they undoubtedly do, therefore I cannot accept his opinion that the necessity has not arisen. He spoke about the Dardanelles the other night, and suggested that men were lost there unnecessarily, as an argument against this Bill. He was right. I am very sorry he was so late in finding it out. Seven months ago my hon. Friend the Member for Pembroke placed upon the Paper a Motion, as did twelve other hon. Members below the Gangway, in which they asked for an inquiry and a discussion on the Dardanelles Expedition—the first that had ever been suggested. If the hon. Member had supported it at that time we should have saved the lives—
§ Mr. DILLON
The hon. Member has mentioned a very important matter. I am sorry to say I did know a great deal which was perfectly heartrending and horrible, but I shrank, as my leader shrank, from dragging this House into a discussion which we thought might seriously embarrass the Government.
Sir H. DALZIEL
The hon. Member is quite entitled to that opinion, but he knows perfectly well what I say is true, that had he beckoned a Minister from this side of the House and told him to give us a day we should have got it. I cannot go into the matter now, because it would be out of order, except so far as it bears on the need of men. If we had put it to the House we should have saved thousands of men, without a shadow of doubt, because evacuation would have been compelled by the force of public opinion. Thousands of men died of frost-bite, but it could never have occurred if we had put our case before the House, because the Government could not have existed for a day.
§ Mr. DILLON
Perhaps we were wrong, but I still think we were not. We had the most horrible details in our possession from many sources, but we thought the most patriotic course was to remain silent. We communicated all that we knew to the War Office.
Sir H. DALZIEL
I will not pursue that. I am perfectly certain the hon. Member was guided by the highest motives, and the best considerations of what he thought his duty. I am only pointing out incidentally that sometimes when we ask for a day, though we may be but a handful, it may be worth the Irish party's while to find out the reasons for our action and see whether they could not reasonably assist us.
So much for that. I would say one word in regard to my hon. Friend here (Mr. J. H. Thomas). He has a right to speak on this particular matter with great authority. He has been one of the most powerful recruiters. He has not, like some of his friends, gone to Members and begged them not to go to his Constituency in order to advocate recruiting. He is going to support this Bill if the Government will give an undertaking—because he knows it could not be introduced into the Bill—that they are going to conscript wealth. I am with him entirely on that matter, because if it became necessary the Government would be compelled to conscript wealth in a much larger degree than it has done up to the present. Taxation is, in a sense, taking wealth. It will require far more of that before this War is over. Though it cannot be done in this Bill, if my hon. Friend brings forward any proposition he will have my hearty support.
With regard to the Bill itself, it is a contribution to national service, and in that sense I support it. I believe that when the nation was first confronted with the shock of war, if the Government had decided to put the whole nation under orders they would have willingly agreed to it. Certainly it is not a logical Bill, because you cannot defend the widower of forty who may have lost his wife in the shock of war, probably from the death of her only son, as in a case I happen to know, being forced to go into the line of battle, while married men whose wives are at the front as nurses, and who are practically doing nothing at all, are allowed to go scot free. A Bill that provides for that cannot be defended as a logical measure. I do not think it is defended on that basis, but there are one or two points in it which in Committee will require a good deal of discussion. There is the question of excluding ministers—the Archbishop of Canterbury's Clause. I thought this was a Christian war. Who are more suitable to fight a Christian war than the 1675 ministers of the Church? A thousand of them have asked to be allowed to enlist. I think that point ought to be considered. There is another point, with regard to the provision for the men you are going to force to join the military ranks. It is a new point which will have to be considered later. It is whether you ought not to provide for the financial obligations of the men whom you compel to take their part in the fighting line. Unless you do so, you are going unintentionally to inflict very great injustice upon many individuals. They do it in France and in other countries, and you should consider whether you ought not to do it here.
With regard to my own particular position in respect of this Bill, I have been asked, "How can you honestly support it when you distrust the Government? You have said you have not full confidence in the Government, and you are handing over more men to their control." I admit that is a very strong criticism, and one which it is not altogether easy to defend; but my first answer to it is this: I have only two courses at this moment. I have either to vote for this Bill, or I have to vote against it and support my right hon. Friend (Sir J. Simon). As between a Cabinet of blunderers and a Cabinet of conscientious objectors, I prefer the Cabinet of blunderers. My view with regard to their action is well known. I think many of the present Cabinet ought to be impeached by the nation. I make no secret of it. I have said it for nearly a year. I doubt if there is one that I would except of the late Government. But because I believe some of them have a complete case they ought to be allowed to state it to the nation. Assuredly they will have to state it at some time. There are such points as our absolute unpreparedness, with the knowledge they now confess they had, their absolute failure for eight months to attend to munitions at all, their awful gamble in the Dardanelles without due inquiry—
Sir H. DALZIEL
I will not pursue it. I was only justifying my attitude and explaining why I am willing to give them more power. I am willing to give them more power because, in the first place, I believe they will learn from their experience of the past. I have faith in the Colonial Secretary in regard to the conduct of this War and not in many more 1676 of his colleagues. We demand that we shall have greater prudence in future, and we demand more vigour and more foresight in the conduct of the War. We have Committees on that side and on this side formed for the more vigorous prosecution of the War. That gives me hope and induces me to trust the Government and give them a little more confidence. I have no desire, nor have I ever had, to give a vote, certainly I have never given a vote, in regard to the progress of this War. My complaint has been that they have not shown the foresight, the vigour, and the promptness of decision which is necessary in order to win the War. I think at this moment there are some men in the Cabinet—I say it quite frankly—whose opinions and whose mental attitude are not calculated to help the Cabinet to win the War. I respect them, but the whole point is that they are not with the Government in regard to this matter. The seriousness of the position has, in my opinion, never really been put by the Government to the House of Commons and the country. Can anyone doubt at this moment that our position is a very grave one indeed? When you see our retreat in Serbia, our abandonment of the Dardanelles, and when you see also our retreat in Mesopotamia, can anyone doubt that the War is not going as well with us as it ought to? I hear the sweet, soft accents of some soothsayers who say attritition for Germany, bankruptcy for Germany, exhaustion for Germany. Men who repeat these views at present are dangers to the State. They are simply the tricks of Germany to mislead you. I get information from behind all the lines of the enemy. I know what the position is as well as any private Member of this House, and when Germany plays tricks we ought not to be misled. Take two instances. Take the wireless telegram of the Germans with regard to the position in Bagdad. They prepared the whole German nation for a great defeat there. I am afraid we were much too credulous. Encouraged by that report a small force went forward, and the small force was defeated and had to retire. Take again, the question of cur economic position. We know how-Germany spoofed the world some time last year and how we thought she was going to die of starvation, and even some of our Ministers said there was no ground for being depressed. That was a huge bluff in order to make us slacken our efforts. This week some of the highest banking men in the City of London have been 1677 telling me that Germany is getting weak, and the idea is passed down by official authority because, forsooth, some gold which was paid at the end of the Franco-German War in British sovereigns is now being paid in Denmark, and is finding its way to London in the same bags in which it was paid at the end of that War. That is only a trick of Germany to make you slacken your efforts and prevent you raising men in order that you may think Germany is getting weak. We are fighting a cunning nation and a cunning people. This Bill is no good in providing these men unless we are going to have greater brains, greater vigour, and greater foresight in the management of this War, and in the hope that that will be the policy of the Government I shall vote for this Bill.
§ Colonel CROFT
I learned for the first time a few days ago that this Bill was likely to come before the House in a very curious way. I walked into a cottage in France, and a peasant woman had a newspaper on the table before her. She held it out to me and said, "That means the beginning of the end. That means victory." It is because I believe the policy of His Majesty's Government, which was in that French newspaper and to which she referred, means the beginning of the end and means victory that I am speaking in favour of this Bill this evening. It may be quite unjust, but there have been a good many feelings expressed at the front that all is not quite well with the Government of this country during the War. At times there has been the feeling that somehow or other the Government has been in a very deep trench behind a parapet where it could not see over the top. The last few days have seemed to me to convey the idea that at any rate the House of Commons has got a periscope and can look over the top and see a little further ahead in future. When I heard the speeches of my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Stoke (Colonel J. Ward) and the right hon. Member for Blackfriars (Mr. Barnes) I must confess that it seemed to me that we had reached a stage in this country when our future was absolutely assured. If theirs was the voice of labour, as I genuinely believe it was, it seemed to me that in the future course of this War our final victory was absolutely certain. When the late Home Secretary (Sir J. Simon) opened his opposition to this Bill, and when he was going to oppose the measure, realising the seriousness of the step 1678 he was taking, I expected him to base his speech entirely on some great, broad principles which had caused him to part from his colleagues. I think, however, that the House will agree that the whole of that speech was nothing but a clever juggling with figures in which he proved conclusively, to his own satisfaction at any rate, that there was going to be no compulsion under this Bill at all. He proved that there were so many loopholes for various people to get out of the operation of this Bill that it would be quite a futile measure, and yet he resigned from the Cabinet on account of what he described in his speech to-day as "such a Bill." It is such a small Bill, such a paltry Bill from his point of view, and yet he has resigned from the Cabinet, he has risked the semblance of disunion in the Cabinet among our Allies, and in foreign countries, and he endangered the life of the Government, because he could not have told the strength of the movement which would be behind this opposition. In the course of the Debate to-day the right hon. Gentleman threw out an interjection during the speech of the right hon. Member for Anglesey (Mr. Ellis Griffith), who was speaking about the inclusion of single men. The right hon. Gentleman (Sir J. Simon) then asked whether those opinions did not apply equally to married men. There have been a good many jests and jibes at the exclusion of married men from this measure. I am one of those who believe that when it is necessary married men ought to be included, and when the Cabinet say that it is essential to bring about a victorious end to this War I shall vote very whole heartedly for the inclusion of married men. I do not, however, think that those who jeer and jibe about married men, and also about the sons upon whom widows are depending, know much of the reality of war if they really think that a jest or a jibe should be made out of this subject. I think the Government is doing absolutely right in selecting the men who have the least responsibility to carry on in the field of battle.
What I waited for in the speech of the right hon. Member for Walthamstow today, because we did not get it in his first speech, was some alternative to the present scheme. He is a stateman who has won a great position in this country. He has come down here and on two occasions in three days he has condemned his previous colleagues, and he has condemned the Government, but what has he got to put 1679 forward in place of their policy? Where is his scheme? He never proved that the Cabinet were wrong in saying that it was necessary to find more men. All he did was to try to point out that the Bill was futile, and that you could delay a Bill which would only compel so few men. Speaking on this question of principles, and the attachments of bygone days which originally influenced a great many hon. Gentlemen, it is quite conceivable that you might find somebody who considered it was contrary to his principles to hit a man. But suppose a criminal comes along and he is maddened, and does not know what he is doing, and he attacks a little child, your child? Are you not going to hit that man, because, forsooth, you say to do so is opposed to principles which you used to hold? Are you going to hand him out another baby, another child to maltreat? Surely, that is exactly what is happening to-day. Here we have a maddened monster in our enemy—a country which has not hesitated, but which has deliberately, again and again, murdered our women, our children, and our babies. The only possible means of defeating this monster in the long run is now put before us as the considered policy of the Cabinet, and yet we hear people saying, "Because I made such and such a speech to my constituents in the last election; because they did not give me a mandate to vote for this; because such and such a section of my party used to be against this policy, I cannot possibly vote for it." Our constituents never gave Germany a mandate to murder our people. One has only to think of what happened the other day in the sinking of the steamer "Persia." There was that great liner sailing through the ocean, and I have been told by someone who was on the ship that every day there were scores of little children playing on the decks of the ship. Suddenly, in a moment, the ship goes down. Those children are plunged into the water, gasping, and their lives are ended. Has Germany shown any signs of repudiating that kind of policy? No! She glories in it. She thinks it is a right policy, and I ask the trade unionists of this country whether they really believe such a policy as that ought not to be defeated? When every expert adviser that we have comes down and tells us that it is essential to have more men, I do not, with those facts before us, see how hon. Members can hesitate to support this Bill.
1680 I want to deal with a point that has been urged by several speakers. They urge delay. The phrase has been used, "Let the Government take time." It may be said that those of us who come back from France or Gallipoli or elsewhere do not represent the Army, but it must not be forgotten that we represent a very large number of our constituents who are actually out there. It is no longer a question of a small Army out there and a nation at home. In many, many cases a very large proportion of the voters of this country are out fighting. The nation has become associated with the Army. We are there together, united for one purpose, in which we are not going to hesitate, and when I hear people representing to the Government that they should delay I have a very great contempt for that argument. When every day one sees more and more casualties and prolonged wastage on the defensive lines of the trenches, and when one sees the very comrades of those who have been most bitter in opposition to this Bill done to death by this prolonged process of delay, I say surely it is not wise to try to persuade the Government to wait a month or two, or another three months, to see if things will not come their way. I am sure the whole country is sick to death of vacillation and delay, hesitating policy, and confused councils. We want an absolutely united country behind a united Cabinet. There is nothing which is more disheartening to those who are fighting than to hear one man after another say, "There is disagreement in the Cabinet," and then to read in the newspapers of pin-pricks against the Government. Either you should support the Government or get rid of it. If you think you can get a better Government, then find it, but do not be continually weakening its prestige by all these little pin-pricks. Hon. Members urge delay, but I think that those of us who have been spared for a long time in this great contest are entitled to come to the House of Commons and say to the Prime Minister that even the length of time which is to be given to this Bill is too long. We should urge him to try to conclude this measure at the earliest possible moment and put new heart into the whole of the nation, to encourage our Allies, and show our enemies that they have got to consider the future from a very different point of view.
I turn from the "pip-squeak" of the right hon. Member for Walthamstow and the delay-action shells of some of 1681 his colleagues and turn to the high explosives of the hon. Member for Derby (Mr. Thomas)—noisy, dangerous, threatening, but not always fatal to the enemy. In the speeches which the hon. Member has made he has told us that we must not risk disunion. I can assure him that I agree very much with that point of view. Nothing could be more disastrous in the prosecution of this War than that we should have disunion. But on whose shoulders will lie the blame for disunion if there is to be disunion? I think the hon. Member for Derby, when he says that we must not risk disunion and in the same breath he says that the country would support this Bill, is pointing out on whom the responsibility will lie. If the country supports this Bill, what is the meaning of democracy? Is the Labour party also against the people? That is a question to be answered. If the masses of the people are really in favour of this measure, as I honestly believe they are, then surely a very grave responsibility rests on the hon. Member's shoulders in regard to any possible disunion. I do not think that the hon. Member for Derby realises the main purpose of this Bill. It seems to me that the main purpose of the Bill has been absent from most speeches. Why do we want this Bill to pass? We want it to pass because we must have the men. The hon. Member for Derby has made numerous brilliant speeches all over the country, and in every speech he has made he has spoken to these very people whom we are trying to include in this Bill, and he has said, "You ought to go." He has told them it is their duty to go.
§ Colonel CROFT
He goes on to say:—I am not afraid to say that I would neither defend nor excuse, but that I would call to his face as an absolute coward any man who, without any responsibilities will linger behind.If the hon. Member really believes that, is he going to shield these people? He says that he will call them cowards to their faces. That is a very serious charge. Would it not be better to bring them into this great national scheme, so that they might no longer Be cowards, and let them become—as I am sure they would become —just as brave soldiers as anyone else in the Army? The hon. Member is not really against this Bill. He is not against the principles of this Bill, because he has told us, perfectly deliberately, and I quote again from his speech:—If the Government conscript wealth I would vote for the Bill.1682 Therefore he is not against the Bill, but he is out to get another policy in conjunction with it. I do not quite know what he means, but it does seem to me that we are going to have something very like conscription of wealth before this War goes very much further. I honestly believe if the hon. Member thinks that this Bill itself is not so bad if we can have conscription of wealth that, if he looks ahead, he will see that he is going to have the possibility of not only getting this Bill, but something like conscription of wealth. Several speakers, among them the right hon. Member for Walthamstow in particular, laid great stress on the success of the Derby canvass. I am not going to struggle with figures, and I shall put very few before the House. My submission is that if this Bill is passed we shall set at least 200,000 more unmarried men, that we shall keep in the scheme 200,000 married men who would never have come but for the fact of the Prime Minister's pledge, and also 100,000 recruits who came under this scheme, but who, possibly, would not otherwise have joined. In other words, we are going to get, as a minimum result of this Bill, an additional 500,000 men, in addition to any we are likely to get otherwise. Does the House realise that that is sufficient to nullify Bulgaria, and that it has the same effect for us numerically—of course they are not getting the training yet—as if Rumania had come in on our side? That is a cold, hard, logical fact f or the right hon. Member for Walthamstow to consider. I am absolutely convinced that the feeling of the British soldier is that we have got a hold of the enemy, and that we are going to win; but we must have the men, we must have the drafts, and it is ludicrous to imagine that without those drafts we can fulfil the great task which lies before us. We cannot get on without this Bill.
I know that it has been urged by the right hon. Member for Walthamstow, in days gone by, that one volunteer is equal to three conscripts. I have not seen any evidence of that fact. Our men at the present time hold a very long line, and certainly the German projectiles do not discriminate as to whether a man is a conscript or a volunteer. But in addition to that, I have been close to the enemy for a very long time. For fourteen months I have had an opportunity of studying the German soldier at a very short distance, and it seems to me perfectly childish to suggest that as conscripts they are not 1683 fine fighters. It seems to me absolutely absurd that anybody should come down to this House and say that because the men are conscripts they are not going to be good fighters. They are going to be good fighters just because they are British, and when they have had training and discipline there will be no sign of shirking or of cowardice, and it will be found that they are just as good fighters as any of the troops we have got to-day. But they must have training. Another point which is often forgotten is this: Apparently, it is imagined that soldiers can be hastily put into the field. It cannot be done. I hope to goodness that none of the men who are recruiting under this Bill will ever have to fight; I hope the War will be over before then; but, nevertheless, we ought to be training our men now, for it would bo simply murderous to throw ill-trained troops into the trenches. I would urge that the Government should as early as possible set about training a great reservoir of men to be in readiness behind the men in the field.
The concluding words I wish to say on this subject are these: When it comes to a question of terms of peace, what is going to be the decisive influence which will count with our enemies in deciding them that they are going to be beaten? They will table our resources in man-power, especially man-power, and our economic and financial resources, but the one and the main thing which will decide them above all others will be the fact that we have a million or two additional men training in Great Britain, which was behind at the start, but of whose military adaptibility they have had experience in the months which have recently passed. When the hon. Member for Hexham (Mr. Holt) writes to newspapers that it is more important to keep up exports than to have more men, I am rather inclined to ask him where the exports of Serbia are to-day. Nobody has fought harder on the question of exports than I have, and I am afraid I am regarded as a bit of a crank on the subject, but I would point out to the House that our total exports are nothing like the total cost of this War, and if the War goes on one year longer, through lack of men, you would lose five times as much as the total exports in the present year. I think that is something for the hon. Gentleman the Member for Hexham to think about. I honestly believe that this Bill is going to have a good effect upon our Allies, and I 1684 believe that is almost more important than anything else. I have had the privilege of fighting alongside the French on no less than nine occasions. I held the line next to that held by the French, and I remember that in the communicating trenches leading to the firing lines we used to make lines of fire steps to the right and to the left in case the French should give way. They never did give way, and to-day we have no "fire steps." We know that the French are magnificent fighters; we know their present position, and we know that it is up to us to take a more proportionate share in the land warfare. Those of us who have seen the wonderful courage of the French women in the circumstances in which we are placed, who have seen pictures which no photograph can truly portray, say to-day that we shall stand by them and encourage them in the belief that we shall send to them quickly the troops necessary for victory, which cannot then be long delayed.
§ Mr. ROWNTREE
I want to ask the indulgence of the House, in speaking on this subject, with regard to a matter which perhaps they feel at first is not a very real one, but it is one which I believe, if they consider, they will see is a very vital matter indeed. Since this Bill was introduced I have been genuinely unhappy because of the fear that the country was going to be seriously divided. I believe that the most critical matter for the present in this country is the condition of labour. When I first read this Bill 1 feared very much indeed that the very difficult position would be still further aggravated. I hope very much that the concessions outlined by the Prime Minister have done something to remove that fear; yet I feel that those concessions have not removed it, and that increased difficulty may be experienced. I have also been unhappy because of the fear that there might be real religious difficulty and conflict in this country. I am perfectly certain that the Government wish, if they can, to meet the standpoint of the conscientious objector, but this is a very difficult point to meet. I will explain to the House why. Severe things are said at the present time by some about the conscientious objector. He is often called a slacker. I want to suggest to hon. Members that it is not quite fair to speak in these terms of the conscientious objector. I believe that if I had time I could make every hon. Member feel that, in this conflict, many of those who felt unable to 1685 fight have yet tried to serve their country in other important ways. Let me, if I may do so, put the difficulty which the conscientious objector feels. May I just say what the Quakers feel? We claim that no man can be called upon compulsorily to fight when the dictates of his conscience convince him that it is morally wrong to do so. Secondly, we claim that to require every man to be a soldier is to hand over every individual's freedom to the military authorities, and to make the nation essentially a military Power, dependent on material force. We have taken that view from the early days.
It is felt that war is essentially contrary to the spirit of Christianity, and, naturally, when a war like this breaks out the Quakers find themselves in a position of peculiar difficulty. Though they hold back, and though their view is felt by thousands of others, yet a large body of these conscientious objectors want to serve their country in a time of trial like this in the most effective way they can. I believe that something like 500 young men holding those views have joined the Ambulance Unit in France which was referred to in very flattering and generous terms by an hon. Member opposite a few days ago. These men, in Belgium and in France, have done what they can to carry the wounded, to establish hospitals, and to undertake reconstruction work in that part of Belgium which is not in German occupation at the present time. I must not give the figures, but with the help of the military authorities we have been allowed to do that work in our own way. The men have not enlisted; they have not bad to bear arms, but they have done what they could, and I think all who have seen anything of the work say that it has been done well. My hon. Friend who sits beside me (Mr. Edmund Harvey) has been the leader of another party in another part of France, where young men who hold these views have left their work in this country and have built, I think, about 300 houses, rehoused 2,000 people, helped in giving seeds and starting those poor people with new crops, starting hospitals, and doing other work of that kind. The desire of an increasing number of Friends, and those who hold those views, is to be allowed to extend that service and to do work of that kind of a voluntary character. I must not pass from that point without saying that in all that work we have had the most generous help from Mr. Stanley, Lord Derby, and 1686 others. But there are others who do not feel that they can do that kind of work, and I do beg of hon. Members, when they are apt to criticise those men, to recognise that there is a great principle at stake, and to be careful how they treat these conscientious objectors. Religion during this War has had a great triumph and a great failure. It has had a great triumph in the magnificent heroism of men who, at the call of conscience, have given themselves for their country. It has had a great triumph in the consolation that it has brought to those who are distressed. Is there one of us but feels that it has had a great failure in being unable to stop this devastating and desolating War? There are in this country to-day large numbers of men who feel that they cannot help in the way of which I have spoken, because they are afraid of getting within the military machine. They are willing to be persecuted if you are prepared to do it, but it is a question of conscience with them. I have been trying to understand it in the last few days, because I have been often in conflict with some of them. What they feel is, that if there is to be a re-establishment of right relations between nation and nation there must be a new spirit, and they feel that they must try and interpret that spirit, the gospel of love, the gospel of meekness. They feel that it is possible that before you get this new feeling established over the world there may have to be on the part of a large number suffering. They may have to sacrifice their position. I want to suggest to you that it would be a most disastrous thing if, in connection with this War, you were to do anything that might bring about religious persecution in this country. I am one of those who feel how much we owe this country. I believe that the view of most conscientious objectors is that they cannot do enough to pay back what this country has done for them. I believe the view of most conscientious objectors is that they remember day by day the men who are dying for them in the trenches, and they want to repay that debt. I ask this House to be very careful that it does nothing that is going to fan anything that might be a religious war in this country. I know it is not your intention to do so, but directly you begin to try and find out who is a conscientious objector and who is not, your difficulties begin. I do not think that the tribunals at present suggested are the best. They 1687 are right for the other exemptions, probably, because largely that is a question of fact; but to find out who is a conscientious objector needs a very broad sympathy.
Then supposing a good many of the conscientious objectors do not ask for exemption. They will then be court martialled as deserters, and will then have to suffer the penalties of court martial. They are not afraid of suffering those penalties: they will suffer anything; but I am sure it would be bad for this country to have hundreds or thousands of these men suffering for conscience sake in this way. Some feel so strongly, that the State has no right to compel them to fight or compel them to get into the military machine, or to compel them to go before a tribunal like that, that I am afraid some would object to do it. I am not supporting that. I want to help the House, and not to hinder it, in coming to a right decision. But I want to warn Members that they will have to face facts, and I want them to be, for the sake of unity, willing, so far as they can, to let the work that is to be done by conscientious objectors go on on this voluntary basis, and I fancy that if you are able to do that you will find that conscientious objectors, or many of them, will be willing to give full measure to their country.
I must not speak longer, because I have promised not to do so, but I have not been able to put as effectively before the House this problem as I should like. The reason why I regretfully have to oppose this Bill is because I feel it makes the labour position more difficult; it may bring about serious religious difficulties and complications, and may break up the unity of the country. I want to put to Members that this country occupies the place she does in the world to-day because, with all her faults, she has proved herself time and time again the true home of personal liberty, of free institutions, and of unimprisoned spiritual ideas. I beg of you to leave men still the masters of their own souls, and to do nothing to destroy the fabric of England's appeal to the conscience of the world.
§ 8.0 P.M.
§ Major LANE-FOX
What I have to say can quite well be compressed within the limits of ten minutes, and I suggest that may be an example which might commend itself to other Members besides myself. No one who knows the hon. Gentleman who has just spoken can possibly doubt 1688 his sincerity, but in dealing with conscientious objectors I should like just to say, in reply to what he has said, that he must remember that not every man in this country, unfortunately, in the class with which we have to deal, is as sincere and above suspicion as he is. I know quite well that there are many conscientious objectors whose objections are genuine and conscientious, and I am quite certain that where there are genuine conscientious objectors the House will be anxious to find an outlet for them to do their duty to their country without doing an injustice to themselves. At the same time I must say that a very large number of those who think like this are entirely wrong-headed. They must remember that if we were all conscientious objectors, if as a nation we were conscientious objectors, it would only be a matter of time in the ordinary play of the forces of the world when that nation would be exterminated. These men are entirely wrong-headed. I respect their consciences, though I do not respect their heads so much. I should only like to say this, that if the whole world attempted to run on as unpractical lines as that it would only show the absurdity of the idea. The opposition to this Bill has obviously, during the last few days, been collapsing, and it is one of the finest testimonials to this House as an institution that this Debate has gradually had the effect of showing what the vast, true, and real opinion of the House is, and of bringing to bear on certain elements of the House the undoubted opinion, as I believe it to be, of the country at large. I should like, if I may, to blame the Government for the way in which they have managed. If they had spoken more strongly in the first instance the Labour Congress would not, without due knowledge and consideration, have been hurried in coming to the decision it did the other day. I believe that if the Government, in the first instance, had stated quite clearly, instead of the rather hesitating speech of the Prime Minister in introducing the Bill, what was afterwards stated quite clearly by the First Lord of the Admiralty (Mr. Balfour), that this Bill was absolutely essential for the proper carrying out of the War, and if those facts had been put before the country earlier, that would have been avoided. If the Government, instead of giving two days for the First Reading of this Bill, had got it more quickly, and it could have been printed and produced before the Labour Conference, and they 1689 could have had the situation before them, they would not have been hurried in their decision. But on this occasion, as on so many others, the Government did not rely on their strength. They have the country behind them, and all the country asks is that the Government should move with more determination and less hesitancy, and thus fulfil the great mission with which the country is entrusted. If they had done that I think they would have avoided a great many of the difficulties which confront us at the present time. We have heard a good deal of the danger of the disappointment of the minority in this country. What about the far greater danger of disappointment to the great majority in this country, to the troops at the front, to the great mass of the people of this country which looks to the Government to take a firm and strong line? In addition to all this, what about the disappointment to our Allies who are fighting with us, who are showing such magnificent courage, and who are bearing such terrible sacrifices? After all, the House should not forget, in the sacrifices we in this country are having to bear, the sacrifices of our Allies, particularly, as was so eloquently put the other night by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Ilkeston Division (Brigadier-General Seely), the French, whose doings are absolutely beyond parallel. I do not know if every hon. Member of this House realises that there is still a considerable amount of suspicion, and a considerable feeling among many, I do not say in official circles, but among many private persons among our Allies, who consider that we in this country have not yet realised the seriousness of the position, and are not bearing our fair share of the burden. The very best thing we can do, and the most certain way of proving to them that what they consider is the case is not the case, is by passing this Bill, if we can, on Second Reading without a Division. No more convincing proof could be rendered to Europe that this nation is in earnest— and we in this House know it is in earnest, if they do not—no more conclusive proof could be rendered than by passing this Bill, especially after the initial opposition, without a Division, as I have suggested. I hope the appeal which has been made to those who are opposing this Bill will not remain unanswered. There cannot be a Division which will be of any great value to them, or credit to those 1690 opposing. It is perfectly clear they cannot raise anything like a creditable number which would justify opposition to a great national matter of this kind. Therefore, surely it would be far better from their own point of view, and infinitely better from a national point of view, that in a great cause like this we should. stand firm and united, without division, not only for the advantage of the masses of the population of this country, but for the lasting benefit of the nations of the world, who look at this moment to see what the House of Commons is going to do in this matter.
There is one point I should very much like to bring before the House. It seems to me that often there has been an air of depreciation in considering the question of sending the young men to take their part in the Army which we are sending out to the front. But any man who has been in touch with our Armies cannot possibly have the feeling that he is doing any harm or injustice to those who are to be sent out. During the last 10 or 20 years there has been a growing cleavage between classes, between politicians, and between various sections of the nation. Feeling and antagonism in this country has been growing more deeper and more bitter almost every day. Gradually we have been getting into that unfortunate position. The great classes have been standing, the one against the other, very much like two dogs with their hackles not tails up wondering when the fight was going to begin. Every day we seem to have been coming nearer to a social upheaval with disastrous consequences. A certain amount of that suspicion and prejudice between classes exists still, but I can assure hon. Members from personal observation—and every man who has been out at the front can corroborate me—that, while all the various classes are represented in the Armies we have sent out, though the same men are there, I mean the same men who have been actuated by the feelings I have just described, the effect of that wonderful school of self-sacrifice, which all have had to go through, has been to eliminate almost entirely the prejudice and class-feeling originally existing, or so largely existing, in this country. Surely to bring men into a school of that sort is not to do them an injustice? We shall bring them into conditions where they are not worse off, but into surroundings and conditions where they are far better off. We shall put 1691 them into a school where they will have that enormous advantage of which I have just spoken.
I myself believe that one great result of this War, disastrous and terrible though many things have been which it has brought about, great as has been the sorrow and suffering, one great and splendid result of the War will be that at the end of it, those who have been through that school will find themselves better for it. There will be a far better mutual understanding, and good feeling between all classes. I appeal, in conclusion, to all not to delay this Bill, but to do their very best to improve it. Doubtless there are a great many hard cases, the effect of which will have to be guarded against. Let us deal with them generously. Make the Bill as generous as possible. Make it as fair as we can. But pass it, and pass it as quickly as possible. Remember that every man you are sending out to-day to do something for his country you are sending out to the improvement of his character, and for the eternal glory of himself. You are not doing him an injustice, but doing the finest thing for him and the country of which any man can conceive.
§ Sir JOSEPH WALTON
The question I have to ask myself is: are those like myself, who have always opposed all proposals for Conscription, or for general compulsory service, justified at the present time in refusing assent to a limited and temporary measure of compulsion in order, probably, to get a quarter of a million of unmarried men, and in order also to secure half a million of married men who have already attested? This is a total of three-quarters of a million of reinforcements for our men at the front. I have addressed over 80 recruiting meetings. I have influenced many men to enlist, and I dare not take upon myself the responsibility of refusing, even by this means, to secure the necessary reinforcements to shorten the War, and to lessen the loss of human life. There are two conditions I should like to impose. The men who are now going to be called up should be fully trained and properly equipped, and provision should be made for their being well officered, and capably led, before they are sent to the front. I regret to say that half-trained men have been going out to the front as reinforcements in the last few months to my great 1692 sorrow and dismay. There have not been sufficient reinforcements. Take as one example the 4th Yorkshire Battalion. From Whit Monday, by which time they were reduced to half-strength, they had for three months to do in the trenches the work of a full battalion. Practically they were without men in the support trenches, every available man being in the firing trench for days and nights on end, thus increasing the risk of casualties and of death. The fact is that the need of the men already fighting to full reinforcements is so undeniable that I dare not take the responsibility of delaying their preparation by a single day.
To save time the Prime Minister had to assume that the number to be got out of that 650,000 was not a negligible quantity, and it has yet to be proved that that assumption was not and is not correct. I rejoice in the splendid results of our voluntary system—results unexampled in the history of the world. But that does not prevent married men who have attested knowing that there are single men living around them who are holding back on no excusable grounds. That, in my judgment, makes it necessary that these unmarried men should be got out of the way, so that we can claim not only the half-million married men who have already attested, but also more married men who will volunteer. Had the Prime Minister not given the pledge to the married men, the Derby scheme would have been a complete failure. We should to-day have been considering a Bill for general compulsion. The group system was reopened last Monday. I earnestly hope that the unmarried men of military age who have no right to exemption will flock to the recruiting stations, and make this Bill a dead letter, so enabling us to make the proud boast of raising the whole of our military Forces under the voluntary system. Parliament has sanctioned 4,000,000 men. In my judgment, by proper selection and organisation, it is possible to get these 4,000,000 men without depleting munitions work, or the coal mines, or doing injustice to trades absolutely essential to the carrying on of the government of the State. There never was a milder Bill proposed. Look at the exemptions! There are exemptions for those engaged in national work, for those who have persons dependent upon them, for those with conscientious objections. There is no industrial compulsion intended by this Bill, either during the War or after the War. After the emphatic pronounce- 1693 ment of the Prime Minister on that point to-day, I believe that opposition on that ground will completely die away.
I do not envy the ex-Home Secretary's great responsibility for assuming the leadership of a movement which may tend to lessen the unity of the nation. His objection on fundamental and vital principle to any compulsion whatever, carried to its logical conclusion, would make him opposed to a levy en masse in case a foreign foe landed on our soil. I have got to say to that that our brave fellows at the front, who are in the trenches in France and Flanders, are to-day fighting as much to protect the hearths and homes of this country as if they were fighting on their own soil. Many people talk as if the principle of compulsion were foreign to our national life. That is mere humbug. Do we not apply compulsion to enforcing obedience to every law we pass on the minority who do not agree with it? Are not all taxes compulsory 2 We have heard of the conscription of wealth. There will be conscription of wealth, not less than one-half of every wealthy man's income— [An HON. MEMBER: "And more!"]—will be taken in taxation next year. Is not that compulsion? Working men themselves are the strongest advocates of compulsion. Do they not apply this principle when they are forcing non-unionists into their union? Do they not, to some extent, also apply it in peaceful picketing? Legislation on behalf of the workers is compulsory on employers—and properly so! What about the Mines Regulation Acts? What about the Factory Acts? Compulsion is applied in the commandeering of ships to-day, in fixing the prices of coal, in fixing the hours of drinking, and in many other ways. I would advocate compulsion also in the matter of economy, a more rigorous enforcement of national thrift, a more determined suppression of waste under the leadership and example that ought to be set by the Government itself, and by this House. Compulsory military service, as had been pointed out before, is not unknown in this country. Half Cromwell's army were pressed men. Personally I regard the measure before the House as of a purely temporary character brought forward to meet a great national emergency. I believe it is proposed in good faith for the purposes of this War and this War only, and that on the part of any member of the Government no ulterior aims and objects exist. I hope the Government will give us assurances 1694 that some more capable commanders will, it possible, be given to our Forces in the field. The history of the last eighteen months is appalling, but we know what a stupendous task it must have been to convert in twelve months this country from a non-military community into a great military Power. One hesitates to attack officers, because one recognises that the great majority of them have done splendidly. But, unfortunately, some have failed, and the result so far has not been satisfactory. With the exception of the Marne, we have to confess that, whether at Mons, Neuve Chapelle, or Loos, or in Mesopotamia, our offences have been only a very partial success.
The question is on whose shoulders the responsibility falls—on those of the Secretary of State for War, of the Commander-in-Chief, of the Field Staff, or of the officers in actual command of the fighting forces? Some appear to have failed both in preparation and in the skilful handling and direction of the troops when in action, and especially in the sending up of adequate reinforcements to back up successful initial movements. At Loos we had 60,000 casualties, with how little result! The country will want to know who is responsible. It has a right to know who have failed. It is unjust to the majority of the officers, who have done splendidly, that this secrecy should be continued, because they are blamed when in many cases no blame is attachable to them. We have thousands of the flower of the manhood of the whole universe available for service in the field to-day, and when many of these are fighting, instead of old "dugouts" wedded to obsolete methods of warfare, the results obtained will be very different. The country has a right to know why the General Staff was allowed to be non-existent for twelve months after the War, and what was substituted for it. The appointment of General Sir William Robertson as Chief of the Staff and General F. B. Maurice as Director of Military Operations are changes that have rejoiced the heart of all who know anything about the Army. I have read the report of General Hamilton. I think he shares the responsibility for the failures of the Gallipoli Peninsula, and that an ex parte statement of that kind ought not to be all that we get. I think we ought to have a proper inquiry by the War Office. The Prime Minister deprecates discussion on the Suvla Bay failure at the present moment.
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER (Mr. Whitley)
The hon. Member seems to be diverging into a matter of Army administration. This is not the occasion for that.
§ Sir J. WALTON
My point was that, in supporting this Bill to increase our military forces by 750,000 men, I wish to have an undertaking from the Government that greater care would be taken that the troops were well officered and capably led.
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER
This is not the occasion for that. That is a matter for discussion in Committee of Supply on the Appropriate Vote.
§ Sir J. WALTON
I bow at once to your ruling. I trust that before this Bill finally passes we shall have assurances of the nature I have indicated, and also an announcement that efficiency and economy will be more resolutely insisted upon in every Department of the State.
§ Sir ALBERT SPICER
I am glad to have the privilege of explaining my position and my reasons for supporting this Bill. During the fifty years that I have been engaged in business life I have always been known as an advocate of, and have tried to act consistently with, the principle of voluntaryism. Yet to-day I am convinced by the evidence I have come across that for the purpose of bringing the War to a successful conclusion, the Government are absolutely justified in bringing in this Bill proposing limited Conscription, seeing that a considerable number of unmarried men have failed to respond to the invitation to volunteer, and that consequently the pledge to the married men must be fulfilled. I said that I have been all my life a supporter of voluntaryism. But I cannot forget that the opening public work of my life was in helping to administer Mr. Forster's Education Act of 1870. The principle of compulsion embodied in that Act was at that time very much objected to by a large number of the working classes, who had not yet learnt to appreciate the full benefit of education. I recollect very well one of our leaders pointing out that unless we could persuade the working men of Great Britain to be willing to conform to that Act we should never succeed in carrying it out with success. Many of us, in connection with our school boards, gave hours week after week in trying to persuade parents to send their children to school so that we should not be compelled 1696 to summon them before the justices. I am glad to say that that policy succeeded, although it took, I suppose, the best part of twenty years before the parents—it was not only one set of parents but a large number—saw the necessity of responding to that policy of compulsion. Compulsion was exercised at that time with a view to creating better citizens. To-day it is compulsion to defend our country and Empire and to make this a country worth living in. From my experience it is just that question of defending our country and of the absolute necessity of responding to the military demands that so large a number of our countrymen do not understand. There has never been a time when large expenditure is going on and when munitions are being provided for the needs of war when money has been so widely distributed. We know that the classes who are failing to respond were never better off than they are to-day. The oversea trade of the country keeps up in spite of drawbacks, and large numbers of men do not read very much and they do not realise what our Allies are going through in the countries that are invaded. The very prosperity that they are enjoying is hindering their effort.
I was very much surprised in reading the speech of my right hon. Friend the Member for West Islington (Mr. Lough) to notice that he did not say a single word with regard to what has been the result of recruiting and canvassing in his own immediate district. I should be greatly surprised if he does not know the position there. I certainly know the position in the locality which I represent and in the neighbouring constituencies. I acted as an enumerator in the month of August, and had an opportunity of knowing what the feeling was then. Whenever I was collecting papers or distributing papers in working-class districts I found that the response was splendid. Everyone who had a son or some other relative at the War was bound to tell you, as they were only too proud of the fact, and therefore you never left a house without knowing how many were at the front. During that period whenever I came into a street where those who look upon themselves as rather above the working classes were located, I found a strong hanging back of the very men who ought to have been coming forward. I knew perfectly well by what took place long before the Derby scheme, in the two constituencies beside my own as well as in my own, that the 1697 recruiting that went on was in exact proportion to the working classes in those three divisions. In one where practically the whole constituency is working class the response was splendid. In the next one, which is about divided between labour and clerical, the response was not as good. In the next constituency, where there was practically no labour, but either clerical or small masters, the response was very bad. We are not allowed to quote the figures, though I cannot understand the reason for secrecy, as the figures are, of course, known to those who have been canvassing in the different districts. I know that the results of the canvassing on Lord Derby's scheme reflect the earlier figures. Therefore when it is said by those opposing this Bill that there is no basis for the Government's action, personally I say there is a very strong basis, and that this Bill is justified on that account. My right hon. Friend the Member for Walthamstow (Sir J. Simon) spoke again to-day and there was mention of one or two figures with regard to Walthamstow. I happen to know something of that district, because it was the scene of my first attempt—an unsuccessful attempt —to get into this House in 1886. I resided in the constituency for a great many years. The right hon. Gentleman failed to give us what had really transpired at Walthamstow', though I think he must know what took place I may venture to say that the response to the canvass in Walthamstow would not be any larger in proportion, if as large, as in some other constituencies. Walthamstow is one of the districts where practically everybody works away from the constituency. They go back to Walthamstow to sleep, and you can easily understand—and I know something of canvassing—that it would be the easiest thing in the world for a man who did not want to be canvassed to keep away from the canvasser if he wanted to do so. I think that the result of the recruiting under Lord Derby's scheme justified the Government, and that they are honourably bound to carry out the pledge which the Prime Minister has given to the House and which we by our action on the Derby scheme have practically endorsed.
§ Major NORTON GRIFFITHS
We had an appeal from the hon. Member for York (Mr. Rowntree) with regard to the conscientious objections of Quakers to joining in any form whatsoever any of His Majesty's Forces other than hospital units. I in return make an appeal to the 1698 hon. Gentleman after twelve months of wandering about the whole of the front which no other man has had the opportunity of doing. I say to the hon. Member we also have conscientious beliefs, and we think that the passing of this Bill into law is necessary to bring the War to a successful conclusion. For that reason I ask him not to vote against this Bill. I say that the dead who are lying buried in France would almost turn in their graves against any Quaker, or anyone who votes against this Bill which is recommended by the Cabinet, the Army Council, and all the leaders of the country, and which is accepted practically by a unanimous House with the exception of half a dozen or so. I ask them in the interests of their country and of their women and of their children, and in the interests of Christianity not to vote against this Bill. Much as I should dislike to do so and horrible as it may appear I would almost become one of the keenest opponents of any religion which would object to such a measure so necessary for the prosecution of the War. I have many Quaker friends, but I think that under the circumstances they have no right to vote against this Bill.
I regret very much that I was unable to be here on the occasion of the First Reading of this Bill. I have followed the Debates very closely, and they leave me convinced that those who are in opposition to this Bill utterly fail to grasp the fact that we are in the throes of the greatest War which has even taken place in the history of the world. They seem to be utterly incapable of realising what we are up against, and that if we do not win this War it is, so far as we are concerned, the final War. There can be no other for us, and I consider that Members who oppose the recommendations of those who are responsible for the proper carrying on of this War, supported by the Army Council, must be very short-sighted, in view of what has taken place in the past. It amounts to this, in my humble opinion, that we have got to do what our advisers in this respect tell us must be done. You have in your Army Council and in your Government some of the best ability the country can find or can possibly hope to get. The Coalition Government, through the Prime Minister, tells us that this measure is absolutely essential. I think that, and that alone, if any man has the interests of his country at heart, ought to be sufficient to induce him, if he cannot 1699 vote in favour of this measure, to abstain from voting against it, after having registered his objection to it and satisfied his conscience.
In answer to some criticisms that have been made about what our Army has done from time to time—and it has an important bearing on the whole point.—let me say that for twelve months past I have seen every big fight which has been fought. I think what our Army has achieved in the field is little short of miraculous. A finer Army never breathed than that which you sent out, but it was vastly inferior in numbers and guns to the enemy it had to meet, and, whatever criticism may have to be levelled from time to time, remember that the generals commanding for the time being, right up to the Army Council, never yet have known what real number of men they had behind them, and what collective forces in guns or material they had to enable them to fight their battles. We all know we were caught napping, and we have done wonderfully well. I think it is little short of marvellous. I can only liken it to a man going in a ring to fight a twenty-four-round contest with one arm tied behind his back before he goes in. That is a true comparison to make. Complete arrangements, so far as one can understand, have been made for the supply of all munitions we shall possibly require, and when this Bill becomes law those who are responsible for the conduct of the War—and this is my main point— will for the first time know where they are. No commander-in-chief has ever known that before. He will know now how many men, anyhow, he will have at his disposal, and the value of this Bill is that, whether you want the men or not, it organises your Forces in such a way that proper exchanges can be made with men who have been in the trenches for some time. This country has never been organised to meet a thoroughly organised and well-trained enemy, such as that we are now fighting. This Bill places your Army Council in a position to deliberate how we can best co-operate with our Allies. I say it would be impossible for any general, I care not what genius he might be, to lay down any definite scheme without knowing what man-power he had behind him, and how it could be best utilised.
One of my hon. Friends has referred to the question of delay, and that, indeed, has been put forward by the right hon. 1700 and learned Member for Walthamstow (Sir J. Simon). That request is incomprehensive at this stage. We have now been seventeen months at war, and yet, when an urgent message is brought to this House from the Army Council, through the Coalition Government, that this step is urgently necessary, we are asked to dilly-dally and further delay our action in passing this Bill. There are a large number of Members who besides having to fight the enemy at the front have to come over here, much against their will, at great inconvenience to many commanders, and, I think, excluding myself, at great loss to many commanders, to watch the progress of this Bill through the House, and, mark you, still struggling against the politics of what, after all, is the parish pump. I cannot emphasise too forcibly the feeling of depression which goes through the rank and file serving in the Army in France when we get out there reports of some of the speeches of men who are against a Bill of this importance. It depresses those men more than you can possibly imagine. I feel honestly I am voicing the opinions of millions of your civilian Army to-day, because it is a civilian Army. We have already heard to-night that your original Army is practically no more. I say, therefore, that those who are in opposition to this measure might out of common fairness be satisfied with having recorded their opinion and not vote against the Bill. I am sure that if they were to do so, as the Prime Minister said to-night, it would be the most effective message we could send to our enemies that we were united in prosecuting this War to a successful end. I would ask those who are keenly opposed to this measure to consider the result if mistakes of this description are made. The very fact that there is a small minority against this Bill might hearten the enemy to such an extent that you would have to pay for it in the blood and the lives of your countrymen who are doing their duty, which I am sure every hon. Member of this House would be glad to do in their turn. I confess that at one period I felt very depressed indeed, but I never showed it. Nevertheless, I now feel that we are only just now getting to our zenith and so are our Allies, Russia, France and Italy. Just as we are climbing to the top of our zenith, Germany has passed it and is gradually declining. Any question of peace where the lines exist to-day, looked at through German glasses, 1701 would mean victory for her. We can and must drive Germany back over her border, and that will accomplish more for the future than anything else. If we were to make peace under the present circumstances it would certainly only be a sort of armistice. To-day the language of the gun can be heard. It speaks a language which it is very difficult for those who have not heard it to understand, but it tells us that at last we are getting on an equality and upon equal terms with Germany in that respect. Where it was a case of ten to one, it is now something approaching the other way about, thanks to the munition workers of this country. Those are not only my own feelings, but you can read them in the cheerful and bright faces amongst those brave fellows at the front who feel their day is coming. If you were to block this Bill or have a Division upon it, you would cause a feeling of gloom to spread throughout the rank and file of the Army. Bear in mind that the moral effect is half the battle to these men. Give them a feeling that they are going to win and that cheers them up. You will cheer them up by passing this Bill. We can win and we will win if you give us this Bill. After the Prime Minister's appeal this evening I cannot conceive how anybody can oppose this measure. I wish to pay a high tribute to the French people, for a brighter, happier, and more cheerful lot of soldiers, receiving only 1d. or 2d. per day, one could not wish to see, and they are quite happy in the belief that their main reward is that they are fighting for the honour of their country. May I appeal to hon. Members to do everything they possibly can to put forward their whole strength in order to win this War? I ask the House to realise that the most inspiring message you can send to your troops to-day is when this Kill is put to the House the second and third time to receive it with "Agreed, agreed, agreed!" That will be worth thousands of bullets, thousands of shells, and thousands of lives to the British Army serving this country in the trenches.
§ Captain BARNSTON
I attribute to hon. Members opposite who oppose this Bill the same sincerity as I claim for those who are in favour of it. If it is not presumptuous on my part, I must confess that I think it was rather ungenerous that the hon. Member for Dumfriesshire (Mr. Molteno), who last night had the privilege of addressing us, should have taken up almost an hour, knowing as he must have 1702 known that there were a great many hon. Members in all parts of the House who have not been here for many months, and who probably will not be here for a good many months to come, who desire to speak. I must confess that every hon. Member I have heard who has opposed this Bill seems to have been thinking much more of arguments to support their preconceived notions than of the necessities of the Empire in a great time of stress and anxiety. We have had a speech from the ex-Home Secretary to-night, and the right hon. Gentleman spoke about national union. I do not think it is a good plan to speak of national unity if at the same time you speak about Prussianism in the British Army. Surely this House to some extent reflects the opinion of the people of this country. Hon. Members opposite have told us that if we have an election on this subject those who oppose this Bill would not stand a chance, and I hope I shall not be considered personally offensive to any hon. Members when I say that those who are following the ex-Home-Secretary are those whose constituencies have been trying to get rid of them during the last six or ten months. [HON. MEMBERS: "NO!"] I should like to know of any hon. Member who is not supporting this Bill whose constituency does not wish to get rid of him.
§ Captain BARNSTON
The hon. Gentleman has quite misunderstood me. I did not say that his constituency wanted to get rid of him. I said that every Member whose constituency has been trying to get rid of him is supporting the ex-Home Secretary to-day. I do not think, to be quite candid, that we in this House are really much influenced by Debate; but I must frankly confess that every hour I have spent here, and I have listened practically to the whole of the Debate during the First and Second Readings, has convinced me—and I was down in my Constituency a few days at the end of the week, and every man I met there convinced me more and more—that it is the duty of every man to support the Government and to support this Bill. My position is probably the same as a good many other hon. Members in this House. Personally, I have always been in favour of the voluntary system. I have always liked the voluntary system, and I always hoped and believed that the voluntary system would be sufficient to see us through any war 1703 in which we might be engaged, but if in this stress and struggle you cannot get the men by voluntary means then it is your absolute duty to get them by compulsion. In most of the speeches made in opposition to this Bill hon. Members have suggested that it has not been brought forward owing to military necessity. I do not suppose that anyone who heard the speech of the Prime Minister to-night will for one moment in the future suggest that this Bill has not been brought forward because of military necessity.
§ Captain BARNSTON
My hon. Friend will pardon me for saying that I may be peculiar, but I prefer the opinion of Lord Kitchener to the opinion of the hon. Member for Somerset.
§ Captain BARNSTON
Pardon me, I am going to quote it. Lord Kitchener said in the House of Lords, only two or three days ago—my hon. Friend has evidently not read the Debate—that without modification we are not equal to maintaining the Army which is necessary to secure victory. Therefore, in the view, I suppose, of the greatest soldier of the day and of the head of the War Office, those people who oppose this Bill, whether they like it or not, are opposing an increase of the Army, which, in the opinion of the head of the War Office, is needed to secure victory. After the appeal which has been made by the Prime Minister and others, and after the speech which has been made by Lord Kitchener in the House of Lords, I cannot realise how hon. Members can go on opposing the Bill, and I venture to say to them, with great respect, that if they do so they take upon themselves a very heavy responsibility. There appear to me to be four arguments against this Bill which have appeared in nearly every speech. We had, of course, the argument of the hon. Member for East Mayo (Mr. Dillon), the dear old argument about the Northcliffe Press. I do not even know Lord Northcliffe by sight, though if I once saw him I should not forget him, and I very seldom read his papers, but does anybody who has sat in this House and who has watched the Prime Minister really pretend that he is the sort of man who would be taken in by an intrigue or who would be caught in a trap? A worse compliment could never be paid to anybody in 1704 this House, and, if that is the character of the Prime Minister, if that is the character which his followers have formed of him, then so far from being fit to be Prime Minister in a time of crisis, he is not fit to be chairman of a board of guardians in normal times.
We have had the industrial argument. I am a countryman, and I know very little about towns or trade unions, but I would ask the House this: Does anybody really believe, after the statement which we have had from the Prime Minister to-night, that there is anything behind this Bill, or that the Bill is anything but what it pretends to be and what it obviously is, a very simple measure which anybody can understand? Then, of course, we have had in practically every speech what I may call the "thin end of the wedge argument." I for one do not believe in that argument at all. I do not believe there is any ulterior motive behind this Bill. After all, this Bill only affects one class of men, and a new Bill would have to be brought forward and passed through this House in all its stages if you intended to bring in any other class of men, and many of us who vote most gladly for this Bill would certainly refuse to vote for a Bill which would bring in the same compulsion for married men. I happen to be a bachelor—[HON. MEMBERS: "Shame!"]—I rejoice in the fact—but I cannot understand the mind of those men who say that a bachelor and a married man as regards serving in the War are placed in precisely the same position. It is not only a question of money. Surely those who have a wife and a family have responsibilities, quite apart from the fact that they have to make provision and make pecuniary allowances for them. The last argument brought forward is that this Bill may be all right, but "Why this haste and this rush? Why not wait a bit?" We have now been at war seventeen months. If these young bachelors are not shirkers there is nothing to prevent them coming in to-morrow, or the next day, or the next week. If they have a good reason for not coming in, that good reason would be duly considered, I venture to think if they have not got a good reason it is time now, after seventeen months of war, they learned that there are not only advantages in being citizens of a great Empire but that there are responsibilities as well.
I know little about towns, but I do claim to know something about our country villages, and anybody who knows anything 1705 about our country villages, certainly in the part from which I come, knows that there are a great many men who ought to have joined the Colours and who ought to be serving their country. I know what is happening in the part in which I live. You have on one farm a man with three, four, five, or even six sons, not one of whom has been doing anything for his country, and on the next farm, perhaps a hundred yards away—I know of cases in my own Constituency—you have a man with only one son, and he has already given that son to the country. We are in a better position to-day to judge of this matter than we were a week ago. I suppose, whatever view we take, all of us have read the Continental papers, or at any rate extracts from them, in reference to this Bill. What do they boil down to? Our Allies the French are delighted that the Bill has been brought forward, and our German enemies are greatly annoyed. I venture to ask hon. Members opposite who oppose this Bill, Are they going to continue that joy and that annoyance, or are they going to assume the very heavy responsibility which will rest upon them if they continue their present course? For my own part, nothing would cause me greater delight and nothing, I believe, would be better for this country and for our Empire, or would afford greater pleasure to the Army both at home and abroad, than to see this Bill pass its Second Reading with the unanimous assent of the House of Commons.
§ Major G. P. COLLINS
During the last few days I have been in touch with my Constituents, and as the situation on the Clyde has often been referred to in the course of this Debate I may perhaps be permitted to make one or two passing references to the position there to-day. My Constituents at Greenock have had some experience of compulsion. They have experienced it in connection with the working of the Munitions Act. With a view to finding out exactly the true position I asked the secretaries of various unions to meet me and discuss matters with me, and, after listening to them for two or three hours, I think I am correct in saying that, on the whole, broadly speaking, the men feel that the Prime Minister's pledge should be kept, but at the same time they are very much opposed to compulsion. These two statements may appear to be illogical, but I am led to say this, that although the men on the Clyde 1706 to-night are opposed to the principle of compulsion, it depends entirely on how this Act—for the Bill will become an Act —is administered in the days to come what their attitude will be towards it. The Minister of Munitions has power in his hand to make compulsion popular in the country to an extent which no other Minister sitting on that bench possesses. I met these men at the time the newspaper "Forward" was seized. Several of them had been at the meeting. They laughed -and jeered at the report of the meeting which had appeared in the public Press, and I would say to the Government with all earnestness that they must consider the feelings of these men. They have ridden roughshod over their opinions in the past.
The Government have treated the country during the last seventeen months as if it consisted of a number of children. This afternoon the Prime Minister has come down with great earnestness, and has appealed with great force to this House to come to a unanimous decision on this Bill. Are we not entitled to ask the Prime Minister for more light and frankness on this matter? No country has ever yet placed in a Government such confidence as has been reposed in the late Government and in the present Coalition Government. The hon. Member for East Mayo (Mr. Dillon) spoke of the power of the Press, but the power of the Press will grow, and rightly grow so long as the true facts of the situation are kept back by the Government. I had hoped the Government would have had the courage to state the facts to the country. The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for India before the Coalition Government was formed declared that the late Government was trying to run this country with blinkers on. The situation is the same to-day as it was six months ago. During the last seventeen months we have had experience of the directing brains on the Front Bench. We owe all our successes in this War up to the present to the efficiency of the Fleet and the bravery of our troops. But our failures we owe to the lack of directing brains on that bench. I have seen failures which have burnt into my soul, and I have seen how bravely our men have retrieved the situation. The Government are now asking power to take more men to send to the front, and I think the least they can do is to treat the country with confidence and to state the facts.
1707 Why did not the Prime Minister, when he was proposing this great fundamental change, tell us the exact number of recruits obtained during the last six months? Either he could not or he would not give us the facts. But no one doubts that the facts would have been stated if the figures had been unsatisfactory as regards the voluntary system. The Prime Minister in the very early days of his political career appealed to the late Mr. Gladstone for more light. I think we are entitled when he, on his authority as Prime Minister of a great country, is proposing this fundamental change to ask him to give us more light, to be more frank with the House, and with the country. Let him reveal the true position and not ask us to accept in blind confidence, it may be for another seventeen months, or twenty-seven months, or even longer, the idea that all the wisdom is concentrated in the minds of the twenty-two Cabinet Ministers. I might develop that argument further, but perhaps I have said enough on that point. The object of this Bill is to raise a large number of men for the Army. In this House many months ago I questioned the wisdom of increasing largely the size of the Army, and, therefore, my attitude this evening is not a new attitude. Surely, after the experience of the last twelve months one must see that mere numbers are not the sole determining factor which will bring this War to an end.
If we allow the Army to be largely increased, have we any assurance from the Prime Minister that the financial position of this country, twenty-four or thirty-six months hence, will be such as to enable it to stand the strain? I am firmly convinced that if Germany realises that our financial position is in jeopardy, it may strengthen her resistence, and so prolong the duration of this terrible War. Surely common sense should dictate discretion in this matter. In June last I asked if the Chancellor of the Exchequer had calculated what would be the position if the War went on for one, two or three years longer. The right hon. Gentleman smiled at my question. Perhaps, by now, he has had an opportunity of going into this matter. Taking the position of a Secretary of State for War when he advised us to be prepared for a three years' War, what will be our position on the 1st August, 1917, if this War continues? By that time, I believe, our National Debt will be 4,800 millions sterling. Our 1708 expenditure from the 1st of April this year and for months to come will be £6,000,000 daily, with the Army largely increased in size. Germany's position, I know, will be worse, but do not let us make the mistake we have so often made in the past of underrating our enemy in the field and in her financial strength. Not only shall we require to find the interest on this National Debt, but we shall require to find the necessary money to pay for our imports. Cash or credit is as necessary to bring imports to our shores as the protection of the Fleet on the high seas. According to the figures given by the late Chancellor of the Exchequer, the yearly balance of trade against us is some £400,000,000 a year; therefore, probably by the 1st August, the amount outstanding against us will be £1,000,000,000.
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER
I am afraid the hon. Member should have made this speech just before Christmas on the Vote for the number of men. The House has passed that Vote, and we are not now dealing with it.
§ Major COLLINS
I was not in the country on that date and could not do so. I shall endeavour to show the logical result of this Bill if it becomes law, and will reserve my protest for a more appropriate occasion. We have the example of the Russo-Japanese War, where millions of men opposed each other in the field, where there was a financial breakdown and an unsatisfactory peace. Unless this matter is thought out entirely, not only from the point of view of the numbers of men in the field, but of that of our financial position in the field, we may be faced with an unpleasant and unsatisfactory position in the field. We have listened this afternoon to a very powerful speech from the Prime Minister. On the First Reading of this Bill I refrained from voting, but taking into consideration the appeal made by the Prime Minister with his knowledge of the facts, I hesitate to vote against what he considers to be the necessary provision for the Crown. I value national unity on this occasion and although personally I am not opposed to this measure of compulsion for military purposes—let me make that quite clear—and I fear the logical results of this Bill, as we have had the distinct and definite pledge of the Prime Minister this afternoon that this Bill will not be used in any shape or form for industrial compulsion, I shall have pleasure, if a Division is pressed, in voting for it.
I venture to speak in this Debate because of the fact that I have been connected, possibly more than any other Member of this House, with what we may call the Swan Song of the voluntary system, through being Lord Derby's representative in this House. In that connection I have come across practically every difficulty that has arisen, and I have been able to get from time to time as closely as one could to the intention of the group system. In the course of this Debate questions have been raised as to matters that have arisen in connection with the Derby scheme and which may arise in future under this Bill. The hon. Member who moved the rejection of the Bill referred to the fact that we attested starred men, and suggested that we only did so in order that we might swell the numbers to show how far we had been successful. He also suggested that these men came in in order to get the 2s. 9d. I venture to say that no grosser libel has been directed against the working classes than was contained in that statement. When we started canvassing it was originally intended only to canvass the un-starred men, but we found that the men who were starred demanded the right to be attested. They affirmed in a perfectly correct spirit that they were prepared to do their duty for their country in the capacity in which they were most required, and that if the time came when they were no longer required for making munitions they desired to act as volunteers to take their places in the trenches alongside their fellows. The charge that they came forward simply in order to get the 2s. 9d. is a most unwarranted insult to the working classes.
The hon. Member also made a suggestion which was further made in the course of the Debate by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Islington (Mr. Lough), that the men becoming attested would immediately come under martial law. In the course of the Debate last night I interrupted the right hon. Gentleman and assured him he was misinformed. I have to-day obtained the legal opinion of those who advise the War Office, and I can now assure the House that a man as soon as he becomes attested either under the scheme or under the Bill will enjoy his full civil rights until he is called up in his group. The hon. Gentleman who seconded the rejection of the Bill has told us that he has not changed his views in conse- 1710 quence of the altered circumstances of the War. We can congratulate ourselves that he is among the minority. I am glad that the vast majority of Members of this House recognise the altered conditions, and that in spite of former views on the question of compulsory service they have determined to support the Prime Minister in carrying out his pledge. From personal experience in visiting different recruiting areas of the country, I have found that those who are to-day opposing the Bill have done the minimum to support the voluntary system. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] I do not say that of everyone, but it is the case in those constituencies which I have visited. I know that some of those who are opposing the Bill have done a great deal. The hon. Member for Derby (Mr. Thomas) is by no means the least of those, because no one has made better speeches than he in the interests of voluntary recruiting. But there are others—I do not wish to specify them—who are opposing this Bill who have done nothing for the voluntary system, and it does not lie with them to oppose the only scheme which is an alternative to the voluntary system.
The opposition to this Bill, so far as I can see, lies in three distinct directions. One section opposes the Bill because it is opposed to compulsory service of any kind, the second believes it will so far interfere with business as to weaken this country from the financial point of view, and the third maintains that we have only a negligible quantity of men to bring forward by the compulsory system. Surely we are only bringing in the compulsory system in order to carry out the pledge which the Prime Minister gave; and in visiting recruiting stations I have been told by recruiting officers that married men asked if it was perfectly certain that the single men would be called up first before they were called. The recruiting officer at one station which I visited, only this week, pointed to a notice, which he had up on the wall, of the Prime Minister's speech of 2nd November. It was sometimes my lot to answer letters received at the War Office, and I quoted the Prime Minister's speech and added to every letter which I wrote on that subject that if the Prime Minister of England gave a pledge, England must indeed be a changed place if his word was not going to be carried out. This Bill is nothing more and nothing less than a fulfilment of the Prime Minister's pledge.
1711 The second ground of opposition to the Bill is that business should be carried on as usual, and I have found in different places that one of the strongest factors we have had against recruiting is that business must be carried on as usual. We are in unusual circumstances, and in no circumstances like these can business be as usual. Business must be unusual, and business must be diverted to those channels which will bring in money to pay for the War, and the resources of the country should be used in that direction. But to say that business is as usual is to utter an entire fallacy. I could give instances of members of the working classes who are receiving to-day wages 100 per cent. and 150 per cent. higher than they received before the War. Take the agricultural districts, with which I am best acquainted. Men are receiving, and justly receiving, a wage far more in proportion to what their labour is worth than they ever received before. If the War has done no other good, it has raised wages in that particular industry, and I hope they will be maintained. The charge has been brought against the agricultural community in this House, in the Lobbies, and in the other House, that it has not come forward under Lord Derby's scheme. This may be true of some districts, but the agricultural community has had a great deal to face. In many agricultural districts which I know of new munition works have been built, new demands upon labour have been made, and high rates of wages have been paid, and now we have had at the same time the Board of Agriculture demanding that the land should produce more crops. How is it possible for them to produce more crops when, on the one hand, the Government are taking the men who would grow those crops to build munition works, and at the same time the men have come forward, as they have in the South and Midlands of England, in a proportion which will bear comparison with any part of the country, to do their duty to their country? In my Constituency I could take Members to a farmers' ordinary where out of every ten men you would find that at least seven are mourning the loss of some relation in Gallipoli. So it is unjust to make a wholesale charge against farmers and farmers' sons, and they should not be judged by the glaring cases which, from time to time, are brought to their notice. I hope hon. Members, at any time that 1712 they are able to come in contact with the members of their local tribunals, will persuade them to make very full inquiries before further exemptions are granted. If we have one thing to complain of more than another, it is that there has not been co-ordination between the different Departments of the State. We have, on the one hand, the Board of Agriculture urging farmers to produce more crops, and, on the other hand, we have the War Office demanding more men. There is no coordination. We might well have had coordination on the part of the Board of Education to meet the requirements of the Army. It might have assisted us largely, because it might have made arrangements whereby young boys who in ordinary circumstances would not have left school might be released from school for War purposes as early as possible. We are told it is a matter for the local education authorities, and the local education authorities are out to get the Government Grant. They should have been instructed that in these exceptional circumstances education is a minor necessity and the requirements of the country are a prime necessity.
The third statement is that we have a negligible quantity remaining. If you take the gross figures of those who are attestable and those who have attested you find that out of every seven men four have come forward and three remain. I ask the House is three a negligible quantity out of seven? That was the burden of the speeches of the right hon. Gentleman (Sir J. Simon), the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Lough), and the hon. Member (Mr. Leif Jones). If the hon. Member (Mr. Leif Jones) had been kind enough at some time to lend me a guinea and I repaid him a sovereign, possibly he would say, "I will not bother the hon. Member for North Berkshire for the odd shilling." But if, on the contrary, I handed him back 12s., I think he would be perfectly justified in going to any lengths in order to get the remaining 9s.
He might ask me first, but if he did not ask me first, and if I only repaid 12s. out of the 21s., I am sure he would have the sympathy of the hon. Member (Mr. Thomas) if he went to law to get the remaining amount. That is the position of affairs. Another statement was made, I think, by the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Lough), who said that out 1713 of the remaining 650,000 you had probably a larger number of medically unfit than you had in the original numbers. The reports that we had from our different recruiting officers show that among the first of those who were recruited were those who had been previously medically rejected. They desired to justify their position with their neighbours, and they came forward in order to get the armlet to show that they were prepared to serve their country and had done their very best. I believe myself that the exact converse will be the fact, and it will be found that among the remainder there will be a smaller proportion of medically unfit than there was among the original number. I have great sympathy for those who have been medically rejected. Many of them may appear perfectly fit for foreign service, and I, particularly, have a personal sympathy for them. Hon Members, like the hon. Member for Edinburgh (Mr. Hogge), who very often takes this view, may say, "What on earth are you doing with a fat job in Whitehall?" That -was the way in which he referred to my right hon. and gallant Friend the other day. It is quite true that we lay ourselves open to that charge, but for myself I may point out that I have been rejected for foreign service, and many of these men are in the same position, and they have come forward to get the armlet to justify their position with their neighbours. Therefore I think we shall find among those who have stood out hitherto men who, as they have told me, take this view, "If the Government want us they can fetch us. We do not want to be messed about any more." Many of these men who are standing out came forward in August, 1914, and were sent to dep6ts where they were not able to be looked after. They had a rotten time there for three or four days, and they say now, "If they want us, let them fetch us." We shall find a good many of these men among the 650,000 who have not attested.
It was the fault chiefly of this House. This House had failed to make provision for them, and for the exigency which was bound to arise, although in many quarters they had been warned. So far as I can see every one of the reasons put forward for opposing this Bill has been shattered and has fallen to the ground. We entered this War nominally in defence of a small nation who had 1714 been maltreated by Germany, whose scrap of paper was torn up, and surely we tonight are not going to tear up the scrap of paper which represents the undertaking given by the Prime Minister to married men, that they should not be called upon to serve until the unmarried men had been so called upon. On the contrary, I believe that to-night we shall have practically a unanimous vote of the whole of the House.
§ Mr. GLYN-JONES
I realise that it is my duty to speak against time. Therefore, the House will excuse me if such points as I put, I put them hurriedly and disjointedly. I voted for the First Reading of this Bill, but by some mistake a London daily newspaper announced that I had voted against the Bill. That statement was corrected next day. I was sent to this House in pre-war days as a supporter of the voluntary system, and the great majority of my supporters were also supporters of the voluntary system. Strange to say, although next day the truth was to told to my Constituents that I had voted for the Bill, I have not had one single complaint, or one single protest from my Constituency, but what I did have to do, when it was announced that I bad voted against the Bill, was to spend two days practically in placating my political friends and acquaintances for having, as they thought, voted against the Bill. I think that is some little evidence of what the country thinks. The people have come to the conclusion that this Bill should be supported because they do not live in the same political atmosphere as Members of Parliament. They are regarding this matter from the plain, common-sense point of view, and I have no doubt whatever that if it is left to the unguided judgment of the people their sense of fair play will dictate that they should support this Bill.
I have several points to put, but my time is so short that I must confine myself to one main point, and that is the Prime Minister's pledge. Who is responsible now to see that that pledge is carried out? I maintain that every Member of each party in this House is responsible, except the Irish party. My reason for saying that is based on the following considerations. What was the instrument used in carrying out the Derby scheme? It was the Parliamentary Recruiting Committee. Of whom did the Parliamentary Recruiting Committee consist? It consisted of the leaders of my own party, the leaders of the Conservative party, and the leaders 1715 of the Labour party. Upon that Parliamentary Recruiting Committee one of the presidents was the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Barnard Castle (Mr. Arthur Henderson). Another Member of the Labour party was a treasurer, and the chief organising agent of the Labour party was there at their instructions to carry out that scheme. What did the Parliamentary Recruiting Committee do? They issued a leaflet calling attention to this particular pledge. Apart from that, the Labour party, in my opinion, are committed to this pledge for another reason. I saw a poster which bore the signatures of Mr. Appleton, Mr. Harry Gosling, who took the chair at the noted Labour Conference the other day, the hon. Member for Deptford (Mr. Bowerman), the hon. Member for East Leeds (Mr. O'Grady), Mr. Saunders, and the hon. Member for Stockport (Mr. War31e). They signed that manifesto on behalf of the Parliamentary Committee of the Trade Union Congress, the General Federation of Trade Unions, and the Labour Party Executive. What did that poster say? It invited, it implored, people to enlist in order to save the voluntary principle. What does that mean? It means, if it meant anything, that these Gentlemen, acting on behalf of these great parties, realised, not that compulsion should be opposed upon principle, but that it was necessary to increase enlistment in order to avoid compulsion. Ought they to have been working Lord Derby's scheme after the Prime Minister's pledge was given if they were not prepared, if the scheme did not work, to carry out the pledge? What was their great use to the country as a special Labour Recruiting Committee? Surely it was that they would have in a special way the confidence of the workers of this country, and I say that every worker who has attested under this scheme has a right to say to the labour leaders who have induced him to come in under this scheme, and under this pledge, "We look to you to see that fair play is done."
The hon. Member for Derby (Mr. Thomas) agrees that the pledge should be carried out, but it is not so with all the labour Members. The right hon. Member for Walthamstow (Sir J. Simon) says, "Do not let us make a mistake. A lot of people, married men, attested for the sole purpose of saving the voluntary principle." What on earth does that 1716 mean? It means that married men who would not attest to save the country were prepared to attest to save the voluntary principle. I do not believe any such thing. I have no intention of lecturing the Labour party. I have no right to do so, but I have a right to put the case as I see it. Either you have got to raise about 500,000 men by compulsion, or by chicanery, because if this pledge is not carried out, and you hold these men who have attested on the strength of that pledge, you have enlisted them by chicanery. I do not think the Labour party or the labour leaders desire to do that. Therefore we are in this position, that the Prime Minister has said, "We need all these men." He says that on the authority of his advisers. Is there any Member of the Labour party, or is there any Member of this House with any following, who is prepared to take the responsibility of saying to our Allies and of saying to our enemies, "This country has come to the end of its resources in regard to men"? Unless they are prepared to say that, I for one cannot understand their difficulty in supporting this Bill.
§ Mr. PRINGLE
I only venture to intervene for a few moments between the House and my hon. Friend the Member for Blackburn, who is going to speak for the majority of those who are opposed to this Bill. I have been asked to speak on behalf of a number of others whose action to-day is modified by the Amendment promised by the Prime Minister. After the speech of the Prime Minister, I frankly confess to the House that I regret that a Division is to be taken this evening. Other Members, unfortunately, do not share that view, and I do not blame them, nor do I seek to challenge their right to come to that decision. I, however, desire not only on my own behalf, but on behalf of some others who share my views, to say that we have decided to act in this way: When we decided to oppose this Bill it was very largely because it was much more than a Prime Minister's Pledge Redemption Bill. To redeem the Prime Minister's pledge only meant limited compulsion for military purposes—strictly military purposes—but the Bill, as introduced, as is now admitted by the Government itself, is not only limited compulsion for military purposes, but full compulsion for industrial purposes. It is not so intended, but it is so in effect. But we have heard from the Prime Minister this afternoon that the Government intend in the Committee 1717 stage to meet this point, and to do away with the industrial compulsion which it contains, and which it contains contrary to their intention. Since this question of industrial compulsion has been raised I have been a consistent opponent of it. I opposed it in the beginning on the Munitions Bill. The great majority of Members believed that there was no such policy in that Bill. I made a speech on the Second Beading of it, indicating clearly my view on both military and industrial compulsion. Other Members took the same view and the hon. Member for East Edinburgh indicated in his speech yesterday that we were prepared to withdraw our opposition if concessions were made. These concessions have now been given, and I and my Friends on behalf of whom I speak, desire, therefore, in view of the grave appeal made to the House this afternoon, to withdraw our opposition at this stage.
§ Mr. SNOWDEN
As indicated by the hon. Member who has just sat down, I desire, on behalf of a number of those who are opposed to this Bill, and intend to carry their opposition into the Division Lobby to-night, to say on behalf of the opponents of the Bill a last word in this prolonged Debate. The two speeches which preceded the short speech of the hon. Member who has just sat down dealt in the main with the matter of which we have heard so much during the four days' Debate upon the Bill now before the House, namely, the pledge of the Prime Minister. The hon. Member for Stepney endeavoured to place responsibility for acceptance of that pledge upon every member of the Labour party. I have never been a party to that pledge. I have never been a party to the Coalition Government. I have never accepted the political truce, and, therefore, the Prime Minister's pledge has no binding effect upon me. We have often had in this House debates upon pledges that have been given by Ministers. Reference has been made in the course of this Debate to a notorious pledge given not only by the Prime Minister, but by other Members of the Government, in the Debate on the Second Beading of the National Registration Bill. I may be pardoned if I refer to that matter for a moment, because I have a special and personal interest in it. I placed on the Order Paper, on the Second Reading of the Bill, a Motion for the rejection of the measure on the ground that it was a preliminary to compulsion. 1718 I remember very well the right hon. Member for the City of Exeter (Mr. Duke) made a special appeal to me not to persist in my opposition to the Bill on that ground because of the definite assurance given by the Prime Minister that day, that no such purpose was contemplated in the Bill.
The President of the Local Government Board dealt with this matter in the course of the Second Beading of the National Registration Bill. He spoke at some length, and remarked that it seemed to be imagined that there was the germ of Conscription in that Bill. He assured us that we were quite mistaken. Within two days after that Bill became an Act of Parliament Ministers of the Crown publicly announced in the country that the Bill was going to be used, if necessary, for that purpose. Therefore in view of that—and I could cite other similar experiences—we are justified in examining very carefully any pledges which are made in this House. I do not remember, but I have some impression that I said upon that occasion, if not, I say it now, if it be necessary, that I impute no personal blame to the Prime Minister. For I was under the displeasure of my own party in this country because of a statement, "I trusted Asquith." That observation of mine has been thrown at me in public meetings, but we have to remember that a Minister of the Crown is subjected to all kinds of pressure, and circumstances sometimes arise which make it impossible for him to act as he would desire to act. However, I do not want to pursue that point, because what I have to say is that this Bill is not necessary as a redemption of the Prime Minister's pledge, but, on the contrary, is a violation of the Prime Minister's pledge. I am not going to trouble the House with many figures. The Bill is supposed to be based upon Lord Derby's Report, and I submit that to present a Report like that to the House of Commons—not to mention the fact that a revolutionary measure of this character is being based upon it—that to present such a hotchpotch mass of contradictory and meaningless figures to the House of Commons is an insult to the intelligence of Parliament.
Look at the Report. It gives certain figures in regard to men of military age. But look at it from beginning to end and you find no definition as to what military age is. It may be seventeen to thirty-nine, it may be nineteen to forty-one, and mark 1719 you at the time the National Register Bill was passed the military age was different from what it is to-day. It has been constantly varied. The Report does not tell us what the military age is. It gives us a number of figures as to persons of military age, but it does not say from what source that information is derived. It does not say that it is derived from figures of the National Register, or to what part of the country it applies. Is it England and Wales? Is it Great Britain? Is it Great Britain and Ireland? You may search in vain in the Report for an answer to that question. And yet on a Report like that this House is asked to make a momentous departure such as that proposed in this Bill. The purpose of Lord Derby's Report is to prove that the number of men who have not attested or enlisted is not a negligible number. What is a negligible number? We have had no definition of "negligible number." Is it 10 per cent.? Is it 5 per cent.? Is it 1 per cent.? We do not know. But what does that Report prove. It certainly does not prove that the number outstanding is a not negligible number. It proves, on the contrary, that the overwhelming number of possible recruits to the Army have already responded to the call. I will not go into the figures. The President of the Local Government Board last night said that with figures you could prove anything. The analysis we have had of the Derby Report proves that anything can be shown out of the figures of that Report. Then we had the speech of the present Home Secretary, and he adopted the familiar debating device of ignoring general principles and broad conclusions, and confining himself to a few insignificant and unimportant matters. He never told us what a negligible quantity means, nor what the number of indispensables is, nor the number of those who might be better employed, the number of defectives, the number of physically unfit, and the number of conscientious objectors. And all that information could have been derived from one source or another if the National Registration had been properly carried out, and if the canvass had been properly carried out. All that information should be in the hands of the Government. Where a man declared himself a conscientious objector to military service it ought to have been recorded. A recruiting sergeant in a town in Yorkshire had said that he would never forget 1720 throughout his life how to spell "conscientious," because he had had to write it so often during the canvass. All that information should have been supplied. But it has not, and the only comment we can make upon the figures in that Report and upon the Report itself is that it is in the nature of a cooked document. I can easily show from that Report that more than the number of men there given as of military age had already enlisted and attested. Before the House gives a Second Reading to a Bill like this, we are justified in asking that that part of the Prime Minister's speech should be fulfilled, and that we should have, as far as it is possible to give them, figures which are authentic and authoritative. The Prime Minister himself, in the speech with which he introduced the Bill, threw over the figures and said they were "conjectural speculations." The House on conjectural speculations was asked to abandon the voluntary principle, of which the Prime Minister himself is no less strong a supporter than any Member of the House. I think the voluntary principle might well say to the Prime Minister, "It is all very well to dissemble your love, but why do you kick me downstairs?
The reply to those who make estimates from Lord Derby's Report is that the figures ought to have been so incontrovertible that deductions could have been made from them that would have been incontrovertible. I submit that the Government have no right to ask the House of Commons to pass a Bill of this character until that information has been supplied. I turn now to the second reason which has been advanced by the Government in support of the Bill, namely, military necessity. The hon. Member for Greenock (Mr. G. P. Collins)—I regret the House was not as full as it is now when he made his speech—made what I think was in some respects the most remarkable speech of the Debate. There could not have been a more scathing indictment of a Government than when he described them as twenty-two blundering incompetents, and yet at the end of his speech he said that he proposed to vote for the Second Reading of the Bill. In other words, he proposed to conscript men and to hand over the disposal of their lives to these twenty-two blundering incompetents. We are asked by the Members of the Government to accept their word as to military necessity. 1721 But is the record of the Government in the matter of the conduct of the War, and is the record of the War Office, such as to encourage the House of Commons to trust the Government in this matter? I agree that there are matters in the military situation which should not be openly stated. But I submit that the House of Commons has a right to know something about the military situation, and it has a right to know something about the material upon which the War Office and the military authorities base the advice which they give to this House. Lord Kitchener's authority has been repeatedly invoked in support of the Bill. Lord Kitchener stated a little while ago that he wanted more men on account of the Eastern campaign. But was Lord Kitchener ever in favour of embarking upon the Eastern campaign? If Lord Kitchener's advice, as far as we know, had been followed in regard to this matter the plea of military necessity for more men for the Eastern campaign would not have been put forward. The appetite grows by what it feeds upon, Four or five months ago Lord Kitchener made a final appeal for men—for 300,000 men. We have enlisted and attested seven or eight times that number up till to-day, and yet the Government tell us that the military necessity demands still more. What is the result of this? Give the Government men and we shall have a repetition of what the ex-First Lord of the Admiralty calls "the gamble in the Dardanelles"—a gamble which has cost us in casualties a number equal to the number enlisted directly under Lord Derby's scheme. Military necessity we are told! How many men are we going to raise under this Bill when it becomes an Act of Parliament? We do not know. Let us take the extreme figure. There are, say, 400,000 or 500,000 married men, and an equal number of single men. Put it, if you like at 500,000 or 750,000. We are told by the Government that military necessity demands these men, and that we cannot win the War without these men —1,000,000 men! We were told by the present First Lord of the Admiralty a few nights ago that we have enlisted over 6,000,000 of men, of whom probably between 4,000,000 and 5,000,000 are available for the fighting line now or are in training. How many has Russia? How many has France? If Russia were to put into the field the same proportion of men that this country has done, Russia would 1722 have in the field, or in training, no less than 16,000,000. How many has France? Probably 4,000,000 or 5,000,000. Put it, if you will, at 3,000,000. Are we, then, seriously told by the Government now that when the Allies have at their disposal between 20,000,000 and 30,000,000 of men, or that they hope to have, that success or failure in the War depends upon this country raising an additional number of perhaps 750,000? That is the only case of military necessity which has been advanced. I submit that it has no more justification than the claim on behalf of the redemption of the pledge of the Prime Minister.
How is this going to affect the question of armaments? We have been told by the Minister of Munitions that it is of the utmost importance to keep up the supply of munitions, and that the number of persons in the munitions factories altogether are not in excess of the number required to keep the present Forces fully equipped in the matter of munitions. What is going to happen? It is proposed eventually to put into the field probably twice the number of men we have at the present time. You cannot double the number of persons who are working in the munitions factories. The Minister of Munitions is finding the very greatest difficulty in getting the 80,000 additional skilled workmen for whom he has asked. If you, therefore, are going to take the men out of the factories and put them into the fighting line, you are going to have again, probably in a more aggravated form, the difficulty experienced in the early part of the War; that is, more men than munitions. What shall we do to win? The Minister of Munitions has more than once in this House stated that Germany has been able to hold long lines with a much smaller number of men, proportionately than the Allies, and this because of her superiority in equipment and machine guns. It seems to me—I am no military expert!—that if we want to win by fighting we ought to concentrate all our available resources upon getting an enormous superiority in munitions, and if we are going to follow the policy proposed in this Bill that is going to be an impossible thing to do. What is the opinion of our Allies? This matter has often been raised. It is, indeed, said that one reason for this Bill is to encourage our Allies, if not to fulfil some obligation to them. I 1723 find that the Paris correspondent of a very well-known English newspaper recently wrote these words:—The balance of competent opinion here in Paris is against Conscription,
§ Mr. SNOWDEN
(continuing):chiefly on the ground that it is difficult to institute such a vast change in the middle of a great war, and it is likely that the attempt to do so may throw out of gear the existing military effectiveness for a considerable time to come. It is asked whether the economic weakening of England would be counter-balanced by any corresponding military effectiveness.
§ Mr. SNOWDEN
I can quite understand hon. Members opposite who are not in Paris understanding French opinion on this question a great deal better than the man on the spot. [Hon. MEMBERS: "Name the paper?"] The paper is a very representative English newspaper. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"] I do not hesitate to give its name. The quotation I read was from the Paris correspondent of the "Manchester Guardian." I now come to the third part of the Prime Minister's pledge: that no measure of Conscription would be proposed except by general consent. Can the Prime Minister, or can the House of Commons, for one single moment maintain that there is anything approaching general consent with regard to this Bill? The hon. and learned Member for Waterford, speaking yesterday, appeared to endorse the opinion he had heard expressed that the proportion of those who voted for and against the Bill in this House last week represented the division of opinion in the country. The hon. and learned Gentleman, who is one of the oldest politicians in this House, knows far better than that. We had last week the most representative conference of labour which has ever been held in this country. I have in my time attended a great many labour conferences, but I have never attended one where the opinion of the rank and file was expressed in such a clear and unfettered way as at that conference. Criticisms have been made against the decision of that conference. Those who have been in favour of a General Election, with the soldiers away, for instance, have attempted to minimise the effect of that conference because certain trade union soldiers are away.
Making all the deductions, however, you cannot get away from the fact that that conference of working men, nearly all voters, 1724 declared by more than two to one their opposition to this Bill. The hon. Member for Attercliffe addressed a great meeting in my Constituency on Sunday night, after which a resolution was submitted to that meeting against the Bill. In that great meeting the resolution was carried with only one dissentient. The hon. Member for Stepney, who spoke a little while ago, said he had been criticised in his constituency because it had been assumed that he had voted against the Bill. I have never had one word of protest, not even an anonymous postcard, from my Constituency in respect of my attitude to this Bill. I know of no organisation of any sort or kind in my Constituency, except one, which has passed a resolution in favour of Conscription. That is a body of Anglican clergymen, who are exempted from the Bill, sheltering themselves behind their holy profession and urging other people to do the fighting. It has been suggested, as I said just now, that the opinion of the soldiers is not "that which was expressed by the Trade Union Congress. Why, these soldiers went to save the voluntary system, and they have left their trade unionist comrades behind them as the custodians of their trade union rights and liberties. What would they say if, on coming back after fighting for liberty, they found their trade union rights had been taken from them, and that the system against which they had been fighting had in their absence been imposed upon this country? The Prime Minister knows—he must know—that the Nonconformists of the country, I do not say unanimously, but in enormous numbers, have registered their protest against this Bill. The party opposite certainly from experience ought to know something of what an enraged Nonconformist conscience is. I submit that there is not general assent, that the figures have never been sifted, and that the Government have no authority whatever to propose this Bill to the House.
Why is the Bill proposed? The reason is perfectly obvious. It is a surrender to the conscriptionist members of the Cabinet. This is not the development of a fortnight ago. We know for months this conspiracy has been going on. The Prime Minister says that he will not be a party to a measure of general Conscription. I believe that so long as he holds that position he will fight for it. But the Prime Minister may not always be in the position he holds to-day. Can he pledge his conscriptionist colleagues that this will 1725 not develop into a measure of general compulsion? If the Minister of Munitions were to succeed the present Prime Minister should we be assured against a measure of general Conscription? Let me put a rhetorical question to hon. Members opposite. Do they now declare that they will never use this Bill as a means for enforcing a general measure of compulsion? Answer. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why?"] The First Lord of the Admiralty last week said that this Bill, when it became an Act of Parliament, would be a safeguard and a bulwark against permanent Conscription in this country, and he advanced this very serious argument, that after the War we should be able to say to the conscriptionists, "Look at the success of the voluntary system. There is, therefore, no need for compulsion in this country." What will the conscriptionists say? They will say, "If we had only had universal military service before the War, we should have been far better prepared. It would not have been necessary to improvise an Army. Let us never be found unprepared again. Universal military service will give us the necessary men." [An HON. MEMBER: "No!"] I have drawn a solitary voice from the crowded benches opposite. What does Lord Derby say? He certainly is an authority in these days. Speaking at Lancaster on the 3rd December last, Lord Derby pointed out that we should have compulsory military service under any circumstances after this War. He said:—I may explain to the young man who does not come forward now that he is not going to escape service in the long run. If we have an inconclusive peace with the danger of another war with Germany hanging over us —
§ Mr. SNOWDEN
I will give another opportunity for cheering presently—…with the danger of another war with Germany hanging over us, there is no doubt whatever that it will not be a case of national service, we shall then have to have a real conscript Army ready for the defence of this country.He also said that if we have a victorious peace it will mean an Army of occupation, and it will mean that men will have to go to a foreign land. He asked who are those men going to be. And he said they are not going to be the men who suffered. He pointed out that the men will have to go to hold the land for us, and said that they are men going to be sent there by their comrades, not the men who came back from the front. He added that those men who will go will be men now holding positions at home, positions they wanted 1726 to see the fighting men take when they came back. So that Lord Derby felt that under any circumstances we must have Conscription after the War. If an inconclusive peace, Conscription; if it is a victorious peace Conscription for an Army of occupation in Germany. [An HON. MEMBER: "He did not say so!"] The Prime Minister and the First Lord of the Admiralty said that no question of principle is involved in this Bill, and then they go on to provide for the conscientious objector on the ground of principle. May I tell the Prime Minister that there are hundreds of thousands, millions, of men in this country to whom this is a question of principle, and they are not going to permit any claim on the ground of high expediency to overrule their principle in such a grave matter? [An HON. MEMBER: "What is their principle?"] I am asked by the hon. Member for Oldham to tell him what is their principle. I will tell him what the principle of hon. Members opposite is. [HON. MEMBERS: "No, no; tell us your own!"] The President of the Local Government Board last night denied that this Bill was the institution of Prussianism in this country. What is Prussianism? A great deal of nonsense has been talked in this War, and a great deal has been talked on all sides on this question. Militarism is not a system; it is a spirit. I think the difference between German militarism and British militarism is this, that in Germany Prussian militarism is on the top and in this country the democracy is on the top of militarism, and the party opposite want to reverse the positions in this country. What was the great exciting question in this country on the eve of the outbreak of war? It was whether this House or the Army should rule. [HON. MEMBERS: "No, no!"] So far as the Conscriptionist Members of the Government are concerned, I declare it as my firm conviction that their main reason for support of this Bill is not on account of military necessity, but because it is going to put into their hands a strong weapon for enforcing the chains of slavery on the democracy. [HON. MEMBERS: "No, no!"] The First Lord of the Admiralty last week said—[HON. MEMBERS: "Divide!"] —that this country never changes. I can tell him one thing that never changes. Toryism never changes. This Bill is just a repetition of what occurred during the Napoleonic Wars. At that time the liberties which the "working people had enjoyed for centuries were taken away. The Conspiracy 1727 Acts were passed, and it took the working people of this country fifty years to recover the liberties which were taken away from them during that time. I pass on to one or two other points. [HON. MEMBERS: "Henderson!" and "Divide!"] Hon. Members by these interruptions are not taking away from my time, but they are taking away the time of the President of the Board of Education. This Bill, I submit, too, is an attempt to get cheap soldiers. I will not quote the speech of the hon. and gallant Member for Fareham (Colonel A. Lee)—it is well within the recollection of this House—in which he deplored the extravagant wages being given to certain branches of our Army, and he apparently desired that the wages of a 1d. or 2d. a day of the conscript Armies on the Continent should be the rate of wages paid to the soldiers in this country.
The last point I want to deal with is the question of the conscription of industry. This Bill cannot stop at the conscription of life; its inevitable accompaniment is the conscription of wealth. I shall have other opportunities to develop that question, but I do want to say a word about this matter of industrial conscription. The speech of the Prime Minister this afternoon has evidently decided certain Liberal opponents of the Bill not to go into the Division Lobby. It has not altered my opinion in the least, because, apart from the question of industrial Conscription, the question of military Conscription still remains. The Prime Minister, no doubt, never intended that there should be industrial Conscription in this Bill. But how did it find a place there? It is not denied that the Bill as it stands now would impose industrial Conscription, and we know the Minister of Munitions never makes a speech without pointing out an analogy between the soldiers in the trenches and the workmen in munitions, and he is constantly arguing that they ought to be placed under the same discipline. Therefore, we are justified, when we know there are men in the Cabinet holding these views, in looking with a considerable amount of suspicion on this Bill.
My last word is this, and I should not have said this if it had not been for certain observations made by hon. Members opposite. The right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Exeter (Mr. Duke), in the course of one of the Debates on this Bill, charged those of us who are 1728 in opposition to it with being unpatriotic. Well, it certainly does not lie in the mouths of Members opposite to charge us with want of patriotism. If it be unpatriotic not to approve when the rights and liberties of the people are being taken away, then I am no patriot, but I refuse to have my patriotism judged by the patriotism of hon. Members opposite. Some of us have spent the greater part of a lifetime [An HON. MEMBER: "In upsetting the country!"] We have evidently succeeded in upsetting hon. Members opposite. It is not less patriotic to spend your energy in trying to improve the land in which you live, in trying to lighten the toil of the people, and in trying to give them fuller opportunities of life. That is not less patriotic than seeking glory at the cannon mouth. It is because we are patriots; it is because we love our country, that we are not content to see this Bill passed. Therefore, I oppose this measure for the reasons I have stated, because the case is not made out, neither on the ground of military necessity nor on the ground of the redemption of the Prime Minister's pledge; and I oppose it also because I believe it will undermine those foundations upon which alone the greatness of this country depends.
§ The PRESIDENT of the BOARD of EDUCATION (Mr. Arthur Henderson)
In rising to take part in this Debate it must be obvious to all that I do so under most exceptional circumstances. It was only a very short time ago that it was decided that I should make my speech from this bench and not from another part of the House as the representative of my Constituents. It is quite unnecessary for me to take up the time of the House by entering upon domestic differences, and we should like those to be settled at another time and in another place. It is, however, a great satisfaction to me that because of the definite assurances given to my friends and myself by the Prime Minister, assurances given in the name of the entire Cabinet, it was made possible for me to remain for the present a member of a Government regarded both at home and abroad as a symbol of the nation's unity and of its determination in this great crisis. On this aspect of the case I would make but one further remark, and it is that whether in the Government or out of it I know sufficient of the difficulties of the Prime Minister to determine to have nothing to do with adding to those difficulties or, let me say, 1729 in running any risk of losing his services to the Empire in the hour of its greatest trial.
I want to make one more general observation. The hon. and gallant Member for Abingdon (Colonel Henderson) made what I thought was a most unnecessary attack during this Debate upon the Department over which I have had the honour to preside during the last four or five months. Let me say here that when the policy of the Board of Education has to be challenged, and when it is challenged under proper circumstances, I shall be prepared to make myself responsible for the administrative policy that has been adopted during the time I have been associated with it.
In supporting the Bill before the House I venture to remark that everything involved in this War is involved in the enactment of this measure. That, at any rate, is the lesson forced upon me after something like seventeen or eighteen months of unparalleled fighting. It is unnecessary for me to remind the House that the sacrifices of men and money have already proved considerable. Would it not be more than scandalous to permit of further valuable lives being thrown away, to permit our percentage of physical wrecks to be unnecessarily increased, merely because we have failed to supply, or were too late in supplying, the last 1,000,000 of 500,000 men essential to victory? That appears to me to be the paramount issue that presents itself to the House at this moment. Can there any longer be a doubt existing in the mind of a single Member that this great Empire of ours is engaged upon a war in which is involved our very national existence? I heard the interesting speech delivered by the hon. Member for Greenock (Major G. Collins) and eulogised a moment ago by the hon. Member for Blackburn (Mr. Snowden). Yes, but there was one sentence in that speech that the hon. Member for Blackburn overlooked. I heard with great pleasure the hon. Member for Greenock, in spite of other things that he said, advising us not to underestimate the strength of the enemy in the field; and, in spite of all the deficiencies of His Majesty's advisers with which the hon. Member for Blackburn dealt so eloquently, the hon. Member for Greenock said that he could not any longer oppose this Bill.
I want just to try for a moment to forget ourselves as a people, as a nation, and as an Empire. I want us to look back 1730 to the first reason that prompted the great majority, the overwhelming majority, of the people to support the action of the Government in entering into this War. What was it? Am I not right in saying that the great majority of our people were moved by the desire for the protection of small nationalities against the menace of the most highly organised military Power in the world? The great majority of the people of this country and of this Empire believe that we are allied with other nations in a great cause. Moreover, we have to recognise our Allies are using all their resources of men and money. That cannot be disputed. They are suffering beyond all comparison to ourselves. Are we satisfied that we are using all our resources? I cannot see us winning this War unless every resource at our disposal be extended to the very fullest. Short of this, we may be only prolonging the agony, reducing to wastage all our previous efforts, and ending in an inconclusive peace. On the other hand, this Bill will encourage our Allies. Why? Because, however great the Army already secured, our willingness, presented through this Bill, to break with a great tradition will demonstrate to them that we really mean business. It will increase their morale and, as a result, will hasten the victory we all desire to see.
Before giving my reasons for supporting the Bill I would like to reply to one or two points made by the last speaker (Mr. Snowden). He endeavoured to base his case against the Bill on the question of figures, and he went as far as to speak disparagingly of three-quarters of a million. Can we afford, after the experience of seventeen months, to do that? May I remind my hon. Friend and the House that the three-quarters of a million he despises is four or five times larger than the first Expeditionary Force which this country sent across the seas? Surely we cannot afford to ignore such a figure as my hon. Friend spoke of so lightly?
I am not going to attempt to follow him. But I want to make one remark which I wish the House to note. The rejection of this Bill was moved and the last speech in support of its rejection was made by two of my hon. Friends, entitled, I admit, to their opinions and their convictions, but both of whom from the first have been opposed to this War. I ask the House to note the significance of 1731 that fact, and I will only add that comment is absolutely unnecessary. The hon. Member for Blackhurn told us that this Bill was the outcome of a conspirarcy by a certain section of the Cabinet. I am not going to hide from this House—it would be impossible for me to do so—the fact that there are members of the Cabinet who hold strong views with regard to compulsion. On the other hand, there are those who, like the Prime Minister and others, hold equally strong views with regard to the voluntary principle. I am going to pay this tribute to the Members opposed to my position that when, in the first instance, the Derby scheme was suggested, they most willingly assented. I am going further, and I say that after the Derby scheme had run its course, and I myself ventured only a few days ago to suggest that the group system should be once again reopened, every member of the Cabinet, including those who hold entirely different opinions to myself, most enthusiastically assented to my suggestion, with the result that the group system is now open. I felt it was only right, in view of the statement made regarding this conspiracy, that I should bear testimony to this willingness to assist those of us who are very fond of the voluntary principle.
Let me give my reasons for supporting this Bill. I do so, as I have already hinted, as a convinced and ardent supporter of the voluntary system. Before the War, during the War, I think the part I have taken in connection with Lord Derby's scheme, the part I took in the early days of voluntary recruiting, when invited by the Prime Minister, is sufficient evidence of my strong conviction, and I think my colleagues in the Cabinet will bear me out in saying I have left nothing undone that a Minister could do to secure for voluntary enlistment a full and fair trial. If, therefore, I come forward on behalf of compulsion to-night, I hope the House will believe that it is only because I am convinced that some measure of compulsion is a military necessity. If I support this measure, this particular modified form of compulsion, it is because it does not, in the circumstances, violate any principle to which I am attached, and it is because I see in it none of the insidious menaces to industrial freedom of which we have heard or read so much. I am not going to dissociate myself 1732 in any way from the pledge of the Prime Minister of which much has been said during this Debate. May I venture to give unsolicited testimony from only two of my correspondents during the last few days. Here is one from a canvasser—I do not know who he is—who writes to me from Hampstead:—There can be no doubt that the overwhelming majority of the married men attested or gave promises to attest on the strength of the pledge that the single men should go first. Card after card came into the committee room marked with the words 'when the single men have gone,' or 'will go when the young single men have joined.'Surely that is in itself an indication of the feeling of the married men. Let me give another quotation from a correspondent whose letter reached me this morning:—As the father of three sons who have joined up. one of whom has been at the Dardanelles for the last seven or eight months, I don't see why Mr. Asquith's pledge should not be adhered to. Within a radius of 100 yards of this I know three young fellows who are not engaged on munitions and who won't go until fetched. Do let there be fair play to those who have gone of their own free will months ago.Fathers everywhere in this land to-day are making the same appeal for fair play. In my opinion they get fair play by the enactment of the measure we are now discussing.
I want more particularly to emphasise the fact that my support of the Bill is based solely on the ground of military necessity. The House knows well the reasons why it is impossible for the Government to give the detailed statement of our military position and liabilities for which we are so often asked. Berlin knows too much already, and there is no reason why we should make them a present of the information which they most desire to have. But if it is asked, "Are these men really necessary?" may I reply that the House itself answered that question on the 21st December, when it voted 1,000,000 more men. That vote must be made effective. I have the authority of Lord Kitchener, with whom I discussed the matter as recently as yesterday, and the authority of the General Staff, for saying that we require at once not only the unmarried men who have attested, not only the married men who are waiting to be called up, but the whole available fraction, be it large or be it small, of the 651,000 with whom this measure deals, and even then there will be a margin left to obtain by further voluntary enlistment. To those who recognise, as I do, the military necessities of the case, time is a most 1733 important factor. It appears to me that it is altogether insufficient merely to hope that the men may come. We must have them, and we must have them now in order that the War Office may lay its plans for calling them up, for equipping them, for training them in order to have them ready to take their place in the field during the present year. I fully recognise that it is not for me, and I suggest that it is not for any single Member of the House, to challenge an opinion on a military matter given by the trusted military leader of this country, Lord Kitchener, given through Lord Kitchener on the advice of his recently organised General Staff which is charged with the serious responsibility of directing this War in the name of the people of this great Empire. It appears to me that there is but one course for a man whose mind is open to argument at all. Between compulsion and voluntaryism there may be room for debate, on the issue of compulsion or defeat there can be no room even for doubt, at any rate as far as I am concerned.
Let me take the question from another point of view. For over thirty years I have been connected with trade unionism. During the whole of that time I have been associated with those who have never hesitated to apply compulsion whenever they thought the welfare of the State or the welfare of a single class or the welfare of a trade demanded. We voted for compulsory insurance. I have voted very faithfully with the hon. Member (Mr. Leif Jones), who is against this form of compulsion, in every attempt to enforce temperance reform by legislation. We have all advocated compulsion to secure the extension of trade unionism, and many of us have advocated measures of the most drastic social reorganisation—measures which could only be enforced by compulsion on the largest possible scale. If we have done this to improve the health of the people, to regulate their social habits, to break down the barriers of class, to equalise the distribution of wealth, surely we cannot do less to save the nation, and not this nation alone, but the little nations to whom we are pledged, who know that nothing but our victory can save them from foreign domination and from the burden which is already borne by the French of Alsace and the Danes of Schleswig-Holstein—compulsion 1734 to fight for their oppressors in a cause which is not their own. What a mockery of their hopes and our pledges would it be to the soldiers of Belgium to learn that we as a people had refused to impose upon ourselves for a few months, and by our own free will, the burden which may be laid on them and their children for all time by a foreign conqueror! Speaking again as a trade union representative, and as a representative in connection with the Labour movement, I say that the rules and privileges of labour in this Bill are not menaced in any way. In fact I say the rights, not only of labour, but of democracy, are bound up with the victory which may depend upon this Bill. We shall be left with a burden of enormous debt and diminished resources and population, and we shall be unable to carry on the work of social reorganisation if after this War we find ourselves confronted by gigantic armaments across a narrow strip of sea. Those who fear that compulsion will remain after the War are those who have no faith in our victory. If this War is to end in peace, and not in another long-drawn cycle of armaments and counter-armaments, suspicion, aggression, and revenge, we cannot afford to remain in doubt as to the means of securing a final and complete victory. I have noticed in the Debates on this Bill apprehensions in regard to industrial compulsion. I am glad to think that the Prime Minister this afternoon has made that absolutely plain. I have noticed apprehension that it may be extended to married men, and that the Bill may continue compulsion after the War. All those things have been swept away, and I venture to say that as these things dawn upon the great organised forces of labour in the country their attitude, like the attitude of some hon. Members of this House, will be completely changed.
We have not, like our enemies, spent forty years in organising our people for aggression. We have chosen to be a free people, but our very freedom lays on us a special duty and a special responsibility at this crisis. Our just pride in our voluntary Armies may be a snare if it leads us to imagine that we have done enough. We have never done enough while there is one thing more to be done. I appeal, therefore, to the House to give a Second Beading to this measure, and I appeal in particular to my hon. Friends below the Gangway (the Labour party) to join with the 1735 rest of the House in sending to their fellow workmen of Liege and Lille a message bidding them, even now, to take courage, because the hour of their deliverance is not far off.
|Division No. 25.]||AYES.||[10.59 p.m.|
|Acland, Rt. Hon. Francis Dyke||Cave, Rt. Hon. Sir George||Gastrell, Major W. Houghton|
|Addison, Dr. Christopher||Cawley, Sir Frederick (Prestwich)||George, Rt. Hon. D. Lloyd|
|Adkins, Sir W. Ryland D.||Cecil, Evelyn (Aston Manor)||Gibbs, George Abraham|
|Agg-Gardner, James Tynte||Cecil, Lord Hugh (Oxtord University)||Gilbert, J. D.|
|Agnew, Sir George William||Cecil, Rt. Hon. Lord R. (Herts, Hitchin)||Glazebrook, Captain Philip K.|
|Ainsworth, John Stirling||Chaloner, Colonel R. G. W.||Goddard, Sir Daniel Ford|
|Allen, Arthur A. (Dumbartonshire)||Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. J. A.||Goldman, C. S.|
|Allen, Rt. Hon. Charles P. (Stroud)||Chambers, James||Gordon, Rt. Hon. John|
|Amery, L. C. M. S.||Chaplin, Rt. Hon. Henry||Goulding, Sir Edward Alfred|
|Anstruther-Gray, Major William||Chapple, Dr. William Allen||Grant, James Augustus|
|Archer-Shee, Major Martin||clay, Captain H. H. Spender||Greene, Walter Raymond|
|Armitage, R.||Clive, Captain Percy Archer||Greenwood, Granville G. (Peterborough)|
|Ashley, Wilfrid W.||Clyde, James Avon||Greenwood, Sir Hamar (Sunderland)|
|Asquith, Rt. Hon. Herbert Henry||Coates, Major Sir Edward Feetham||Greig, Colonel James William|
|Astor, Hon. Waldorf||Collings, Rt. Hon. J. (Birmingham)||Gretton, John|
|Baird, John Lawrence||Collins, Godfrey P. (Greenock)||Grey, Rt. Hon. Sir Edward|
|Baker, Rt. Hon. H. T. (Accrington)||Collins, Sir Stephen (Lambeth)||Griffith, Rt. Hon. Ellis Jones|
|Baker, Sir Randolf L. (Dorset, N.)||Compton-Rickett, Rt. Hon. Sir J.||Guest, Major Hon. C. H. C. (Pembroke)|
|Baldwin, Stanley||Cooper, Sir Richard Ashmole||Guinness, Hon. Rupert (Essex, S.E.)|
|Balfour, Rt. Hon. A. J. (City, London)||Cornwall, Sir Edwin A.||Gwynne, R. S. (Sussex, Eastbourne)|
|Balfour, Sir Robert (Lanark)||Cory, Sir Clifford John (St. Ives)||Haddock, George Bahr|
|Banbury, Rt. Hon. Sir Frederick G.||Cory, James H. (Cardiff)||Hall, Frederick (Dulwich)|
|Banner, Sir John S. Harmood-||Cowan, W. H.||Hall, Marshall (Liverpool, E. Toxteth)|
|Baring, Major Hon. Guy V. (Winchester)||Craig, Charles Curtis (Antrim, S.)||Hambro, Angus Valdemar|
|Baring, Sir Godfrey (Barnstaple)||Craig, Ernest (Cheshire, Crewe)||Hamersley, Alfred St. George|
|Barlow, Montague (Salford, South)||Craig. Captain James (Down, E.)||Hamilton, C. G. C. (Ches., Altrincham)|
|Barnston, Harry||Craig, Norman (Kent, Thanet)||Hamilton, Lord C. J. (Kensington, S.)|
|Barran, Sir J. N. (Hawick Burghs)||Craik, Sir Henry||Hancock, John George|
|Barran, Rowland Hurst (Leeds, N.)||Croft, Lieut.-Col. Henry Page||Harcourt, Rt. Hon. Lewis (Rossendale)|
|Barrie, H. T.||Crooks, Rt. Hon. William||Harcourt, Robert V. (Montrose)|
|Barton, William||Currie, George W.||Hardy, Rt. Hon. Laurence|
|Bathurst, Col. Hon. A. B. (Glos., E.)||Dairymple, Hon. H. H.||Harmsworth, Cecil (Luton, Beds)|
|Bathurst, Capt. Charles (Wilts, Wilton)||Dalziel, Davison (Brixton)||Harmsworth, R. L. (Caithness-shire)|
|Beale, Sir William Phipson||Dalziel, Rt. Hon. Sir J. H. (Kirkcaldy)||Harris, Rt. Hon. Leverton(Wor'ster, E.)|
|Beauchamp, Sir Edward||Davies, David (Montgomery Co.)||Harris, Henry Percy (Paddington, S.)|
|Beck, Arthur Cecil||Davies, Ellis William (Eiflon)||Haslam, Lewis|
|Beckett, Hon. Gervase||Davies, Timothy (Lines., Louth)||Hayward, Evan|
|Bellairs, Commander C. W.||Davies, Sir W. Howell (Bristol, S.)||Helme, Sir Norval Watson|
|Benn, Arthur Shirley (Plymouth)||Davies, M. Vaughan- (Cardiganshire)||Hemmerde, Edward George|
|Benn, Ion Hamilton (Greenwich)||Dawes, James Arthur||Henderson, Rt. Hon. Arthur (Durham)|
|Bennett-Goldney, Francis||Denison-Pender, J. C.||Henderson, Lt.-Col. Hon. H. (Ab'don)|
|Bentham, George Jackson||Denniss, E. R. B.||Henderson, John M. (Aberdeen, W.)|
|Bentinck, Lord H. Cavendish-||Dickinson, Rt. Hon. Willoughby H.||Henry, Sir Charles|
|Bethell, Sir J. H.||Dixon, C. H.||Herbert, General Sir Ivor (Mon., S.)|
|Bigland, Alfred||Du Cros, Arthur Philip||Herbert, Hon. A. (Somerset, S.)|
|Bird, Alfred||Duke, Rt. Hon. Henry Edward||Hewart, Gordon|
|Black, Sir Arthur W.||Duncan, C. (Barrow-in-Furness)||Hewins, William Albert Samuel|
|Blair, Reginald||Duncan, Sir J. Hastings (Yorks, Otley)||Hibbert, Sir Henry F.|
|Boles, Lieut.-Colonel||Dennis Fortescue Duncannon, Viscount||Hickman, Colonel Thomas E.|
|Booth, Frederick Handel||Du Pre, W. Baring||Hinds, John|
|Boscawen, Sir Arthur S. T. Griffith||Edwards, Sir Francis (Radnor)||Hoare, Sir Samuel John Gurney|
|Bewden, Major G. R. Harland||Edwards. John Hugh (Glamorgan, Mid)||Hobhouse, Rt. Hon. Charles E. H.|
|Bowerman, Charles W.||Essex, Sir Richard Walter||Hodge. John|
|Boyton, James||Faber, George Denison (Clapham)||Hohler, Gerald Fitzroy|
|Brace, William||Faber, Captain W. V. (Hants, W.)||Holmes, Daniel Turner|
|Brassey, H. Leonard Campbell||Falconer, James||Hope. Harry (Bute)|
|Broughton, Urban Hanlon||Falle, Bertram Godfray||Hope, John Deans (Haddington)|
|Bryce, J. Annan||Fell, Arthur||Hope, James Fitzalan (Sheffield)|
|Bull, Sir William James||Fenwick, Rt. Hon. Charles||Hope, Major J. A. (Midlothian)|
|Burdett-Coutts, William||Ferens, Rt. Hon. Thomas Robinson||Home, Edgar|
|Burgoyne, Alan Hughes||Fiennes, Hon. Eustace Edward||Houston, Robert Paterson|
|Butcher, John George||Finlay, Rt. Hon. Sir Robert||Howard, Hon. Geoffrey|
|Buxton, Noel||Fisher, Rt. Hon. W. Hayes||Hughes. Spencer Leigh|
|Campbell, Captain Duncan F. (Ayr, N.)||Fitzroy, Hon. Edward A.||Hume-Williams, William Ellis|
|Campbell, Rt. Hon. J. (Dublin, Univ.)||Flannery, Sir J. Fortescue||Hunt, Major Rowland|
|Carew, C. R. S.||Fleming, Valentine||Hunter, Sir Charles Rodk.|
|Carhle, Sir Edward Hildred||Fletcher, John Samuel||Illingworth Albert H|
|Carr-Gomm, H. W.||Forster, Henry William||Ingleby, Holcombe|
|Carson, Rt. Hon. Sir Edward H.||Foster, Philip Staveley||Jackson. Lt.-Col. Hon. F. S. (York)|
|Cassel, Felix||Galbraith, Samuel||Jackson, Sir John (Devonport)|
|Cator, John||Ganzoni, Francis John C.||Jardine, Ernest (Somerset, East)|
|Cautley, Henry Strother||Gardner, Ernest||Jessel, Colonel H. M.|
§ Question put, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question".
§ The House Divided—
|For the Motion||431|
|Johnson, W.||O'Grady, James||Starkey, John R.|
|Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth)||O'Neill, Capt. Hon. H. (Antrim, Mid)||Staveley-Hill, Henry|
|Jones, J. Towyn (Carmarthen, East)||Orde-Powlett, Hon. W. G. A.||Steel-Maitland, A. D.|
|Jones, William S. Glyn- (Stepney)||Ormsby-Gore, Hon. William||Stewart, Gershom|
|Joynson-Hicks, William||Paget, Almeric Hugh||Strauss, Arthur (Paddington, North)|
|Kellaway, Frederick George||Palmer, Godfrey Mark||Strauss, Edward A. (Southwark, West)|
|Kerr-Smiley, Peter Kerr||Parker, Sir Gilbert (Gravesend)||Sutherland, John E.|
|Kerry, Earl of||Parkes, Ebenezer||Sutton, John E.|
|Keswick, Henry||Partington, Oswald||Swann, Rt. Hon. Sir Charles E.|
|Kinloch-Cooke, Sir Clement||Pearce, Sir William (Limehouse)||Swift, Rigby|
|Knight, Captain Eric Ayshford||Pease, Herbert Pike (Darlington)||Sykes, Alan John (Ches., Knutsford)|
|Lambert, Rt. Hon. G. (Devon, S. Molton)||Pease, Rt. Hon. Joseph A. (Rotherham)||Sykes, Sir Mark (Hull, Central)|
|Lane-Fox, G. R.||Peel, Lieut.-Colonel R. F.||Talbot, Lord Edmund|
|Larmor, Sir J.||Pennefather, De Fonblanque||Taylor, John W. (Durham)|
|Law, Rt. Hon. A. Bonar (Bootle)||Perkins, Walter Frank||Tennant, Rt. Hon. Harold John|
|Layland-Barrett, Sir F.||Peto, Basil Edward||Terrell, George (Wilts, N.W.)|
|Lee, Arthur Hamilton||Pirie, Duncan V.||Terrell, Henry (Gloucester)|
|Levy, Sir Maurice||Pollard, Sir George H.||Thomas-Stanford, Charles|
|Lewis, Rt. Hon. John Herbert||Pollock, Ernest Murray||Thomson, W. Mitchell- (Down, North)|
|Lloyd, George Butler (Shrewsbury)||Pratt, J. W.||Thorne, G. R. (Wolverhampton)|
|Locker-Lampson, G. (Salisbury)||Pretyman, Ernest George||Thynne, Lord Alexander|
|Lockwood, Rt. Hon. Lt.-Colonel A. R.||Priestley, Sir W. E. B. (Bradford, E.)||Tickler, T. G.|
|Long, Rt. Hon. Walter||Prothero, Rowland Edmund||Tootill, Robert|
|Lonsdale, Sir John Brownlee||Pryce-Jones, Colonel E.||Touche, George Alexander|
|Lowe, Sir F. W. (Birm., Edgbaston)||Quilter, Sir William Eley C.||Tryon, Captain George Clement|
|Lowther, Claude (Cumberland, Eskdale)||Radford, G. H.||Turton, Edmund Russborough|
|Lowther, Brig.-Gen. H. C. (Appleby)||Raffan, Peter Wilson||Valentia, Viscount|
|Lyell, Hon. Charles Henry||Randles, Sir John S.||Verney, Sir Harry|
|MacCaw, William J. MacGeagh||Raphael, Sir Herbert H.||Walsh, Stephen (Lancs., Ince)|
|Macdonald, John M. (Falkirk Burghs)||Rawlinson, John Frederick Peel||Walters, Sir John Tudor|
|Mackinder, Halford J.||Rawson, Colonel Richard H.||Walton, Sir Joseph|
|Maclean, Rt. Hon. Donald||Rea, Walter Russell (Scarborough)||Ward, A. S. (Herts, Watford)|
|Macmaster, Donald||Rees, Sir J. D.||Ward, John (Stoke-upon-Trent)|
|Macnamara, Rt. Hon. Dr. T. J.||Reid, Rt. Hon. Sir G.||Warde, Colonel C. E. (Kent, Mid)|
|Macpherson, James Ian||Remnant, James Farquharson||Warner, Sir Thomas Courtenay T.|
|M'Calmont, Major Robert C. A.||Rendall, Athelstan||Wason, Rt. Hon. E. (Clackmannan)|
|M'Curdy, Charles Albert||Roberts, Charles H. (Lincoln)||Wason, John Cathcart (Orkney)|
|McKenna, Rt. Hon. Reginald||Roberts, George H. (Norwich)||Watson, Hon. W.|
|M'Laren, Hon. F. W. S. (Lincs., Spalding)||Roberts, Sir J. H. (Denbighs)||Watt, Henry A.|
|M'Micking, Major Gilbert||Roberts, S. (Sheffield, Ecclesall)||Webb, Sir H.|
|M'Neill, Ronald (Kent, St. Augustine's)||Robertson, Rt. Hon. J. M. (Tyneside)||Weigall, W. E. G. A.|
|Magnus, Sir Philip||Robinson, Sidney||Weston, Colonel J. W.|
|Malcolm, Ian||Roe, Sir Thomas||Wheler, Major. Granville C. H.|
|Mallaby-Deeley, Harry||Rolleston, Sir John||White, Col. G. D. (Lancs., Southport)|
|Marks, Sir George Croydon||Ronaldshay, Earl of||White, J. Dundas (Glasgow, Tradeston)|
|Marshall, Arthur Harold||Rothschild, Lionel de||White, Sir Luke (Yorks, E. R.)|
|Mason, James F. (Windsor)||Rowlands, James||Whittaker, Rt. Hon. Sir Thomas P.|
|Meysey-Thompson, Major E. C.||Royds, Edmund||Whyte, Alexander F. (Perth)|
|Middlebrook, Sir William||Runciman, Rt. Hon. Walter (Dewsbury)||Wiles, Thomas|
|Middlemore, John Throgmorton||Russell, Rt. Hon. Thomas W.||Wilkie, Alexander|
|Mildmay, Francis Bingham||Rutherford, Sir John (Lancs., Darwen)||Williams, Col. Sir Robert (Dorset, W.)|
|Millar, James Duncan||Rutherford, Watson (L'pool, W. Derby)||Williams, T. J. (Swansea)|
|Mills, Lieut. Arthur R.||Salter, Arthur Clavell||Williamson, Sir Archibald|
|Mond, Rt. Hon. Sir Alfred||Samuel, Sir H. (Norwood)||Willoughby, Major Hon. Claud|
|Money, Sir L. G. Chiozza||Samuel, Rt. Hon. H. L. (Cleveland)||Wilson, W. T. (Westhoughton)|
|Moore, William||Samuel, J. (Stockton-on-Tees)||Winfrey, Sir Richard|
|Morgan, George Hay||Samuel, Samuel (Wandsworth)||Wing, Thomas Edward|
|Morrison-Bell, Capt. E. F. (Ashburton)||Samuel, Sir Stuart M. (Whitechapel)||Wolmer, Viscount|
|Morison, Hector||Sassoon, Sir Philip||Wood, Hon. E. F. L. (Yorks, Ripon)|
|Morton, Alpheus Cleophas||Scott, A. MacCallum (Glas., Bridgeton)||Wood, John (Stalybridge)|
|Mount, William Arthur||Scott, Leslie (Liverpool, Exchange)||Wood, S. Hill- (High Peak)|
|Munro, Rt. Hon. Robert||Sharman-Crawford, Colonel R. G.||Wood, Rt. Hon. T. McKinnon (Glasgow)|
|Murray, Major Hon. Arthur C.||Shortt, Edward||Worthington Evans, Major L.|
|Needham, Christopher T.||Smith, Rt. Hon. Sir F. E. (Walton)||Wortley, Rt. Hon. C. B. Stuart-|
|Neville, Reginald J. N.||Smith, Harold (Warrington)||Yate, Colonel C. E.|
|Newdegate, F. A.||Smith, Sir Swire (Keighley, Yorks)||Yeo, Alfred William|
|Newman, John R. P.||Soames, Arthur Wellesley||Young, William (Perthshire, East)|
|Newton, Harry Kottingham||Spear, Sir John Ward||Younger, Sir George|
|Nicholson, Sir Charles N. (Doncaster)||Spicer, Rt. Hon. Sir Albert||Yoxall, Sir James Henry|
|Nicholson, William G. (Petersfield)||Stanier, Beville|
|Nield, Herbert||Stanley, Hon. Arthur (Ormskirk)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—Mr. Gul-|
|Norton-Griffiths, John||Stanton, Charles Butt||land and Mr. Bridgeman.|
|Abraham, Rt. Hon. W. (Dublin, Hbr.)||Chancellor, Henry George||John, Edward Thomas|
|Adamson, William||Clough, William||Jones, Leif (Notts, Rushcliffe)|
|Alden, Percy||Denman, Hon. Richard Douglas||Jowett, Frederick William|
|Arnold, Sydney||Ginnell, Laurence||King, Joseph|
|Baker, Joseph Allen (Finsbury, E.)||Goldstone, Frank||Lambert, Richard (Wilts, Cricklade)|
|Burns, Rt. Hon. John||Harvey, A. G. C. (Rochdale)||Lawson, Sir W. (Cumb'rid, Cockerm'th)|
|Byles, Sir William Pollard||Harvey, T. E. (Leeds, West)||Lough, Rt. Hon. Thomas|
|Byrne, Alfred||Holt, Richard Durning||Macdonald, J. Ramsay (Leicester)|
|Mason, David M. (Coventry)||Richards, Thomas||Snowden, Philip|
|Molteno, Percy Alport||Richardson, Thomas (Whitehaven)||Thomas, J. H.|
|Morrell, John Philip||Rowntree, Arnold||Trevelyan, Charles Philips|
|Outhwaite, R. L.||Sherwell, Arthur James|
|Parker, James (Halifax)||Simon, Rt. Hon. Sir John Allsebrook||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—Mr.|
|Ponsonby, Arthur A. W. H.||Smith, H. B. Lees (Northampton)||Anderson and Mr. Whiteheuse.|
§ Bill accordingly read a second time, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House for Monday next (17th January).
§ The remaining Orders were read, and postponed.1740
§ Whereupon Mr. SPEAKER, pursuant to the Order of the House of the 3rd February, proposed the Question, "That this House do now adjourn."
§ Adjourned accordingly at Seventeen minutes after Eleven o'clock.