§ Considered in Committee.
§ [Mr. WHITLEY in the Chair.]
§ VOTE A.-NUMBER OF LAND FORCES.
§ Motion made, and Question [15th March] proposed,
§ "That a number of Land Forces, not exceeding 4,000,000, all ranks, be maintained for the Service of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland at Home and Abroad, excluding His Majesty's Indian Possessions, during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1917."
§ Question again proposed. Debate resumed.
§ Sir JOHN SIMON
The Debates of the last two days have ranged over a very wide field, and as the discussion which has just taken place goes far to show, in the opinion at any rate of a substantial fraction of the House of Commons, the time available for this discussion is all too short. I do not propose to occupy time in dealing with many of the important questions that have already been touched upon, but since I have something to say which may be thought to be in the nature of criticism, let me say in a sentence, first, that we all recognise, those who have felt it their duty in recent weeks to make criticisms from many points of view, that the record of achievement which the Under-Secretary for War unfolded to us two days ago is a record of which any Government and any Department may well be proud. They have undertaken a gigantic task. It is not to be expected that in the discharge of that task there have not been shortcomings and failures, 2308 but it is only just and right to say that those of us who called attention to some of those failures and shortcomings should remember how difficult and how large that task has been.
There is one other preliminary observation I wish to make. May I pay at once that I do not propose this afternoon to return to those criticisms of detail with reference to recent administration, or as I think recent maladministration and misadministration of the Military Service Act which on two previous occasions the House has been good enough to allow me to' make some observations upon. There is no reason why I should return to that subject, because the position is this: The case which some of us then presented to the House is a case which is admitted. When the thing was first referred to the Under-Secretary for War said that what was stated caused him to be shocked and surprised, but he has made some inquiries and he told us so recently as two days ago that as a result of those inquiries he finds that men have been tricked and cajoled to get them into the Army, and that was confirmed by a speech made by the hon. and gallant Member for South, Birmingham (Captain Amery), who spends a portion of his time inside the War Office working for the country. The President of the Local Government Board, in fact, confirmed the denunciation of the hon. and' gallant Member for South Birmingham as to the folly and dishonesty of enlisting in the Army by the 10,000 and even by the 100,000 men who are of no possible use for any kind of military service. Therefore, the case under this head is admitted, and since no good purpose is served by going back to the past, and as the only useful purpose of criticism is to get things done better in the future and get mistakes corrected I do not propose to say any more upon that subject. An attempt was made to deal with those criticisms in another place by a Noble Lord who has taken a most strenuous part in endeavouring to serve the country in connection with recruiting. In regard to his answer, I would say that not a single instance produced by myself or my hon. Friends—and we
2309 have produced hundreds of instances—has ever been challenged as regards its complete accuracy. Lord Derby, no doubt, took a wise course when in another place he gave to these instances and the complaints which we founded upon them the only answer which can be given, if you confine yourself strictly to the use of strong language.
The subject to which I invite the attention of the Committee this afternoon is one which I think by common consent, however you may regard the question of compulsion, is an extremely serious one, and indeed a burning subject, and that is the position of the attested married men in reference to the general problems of recruiting. I have had my controversy with Lord Derby, and I have not hesitated to say that I thought he was wrong. That is all the more reason why I should say frankly as regards this matter that so far as I can judge it, and I have given careful consideration to these pledges, Lord Derby is entirely justified when he says there is no ground for imputing to him any breach of any pledge, and that he neither contemplated or perpetrated any breach of the pledge to married men. I think it is really only right and fair that that should be stated positively and categorically, because there is enough misunderstanding already in this matter, heaven knows, and it is not right that the notion should be allowed to spread that Lord Derby is open to the imputation of having played the married men false. I believe that to be utterly untrue. Nobody who considers the undertaking given by Lord Derby or by the Prime Minister can in common honesty pretend that those undertakings were to the effect suggested in certain critical quarters. This is far from exhausting the real anxiety and difficulty of the situation. As it presents itself to me, I would analyse that difficulty in this way. The married men are deeply concerned, and most naturally and most properly concerned, as to what may be the near future for them, and they are so concerned for two reasons, and I cannot altogether acquit Lord Derby and those acting with him from contributing to one of them. In the first place, these married attested men were certainly given to understand that there was yet available, and about to be tapped, an immense reservoir of unmarried unattested shirkers and slackers who, by the machinery of the Military Service Act, were going to be brought to a proper sense of their duty to
2310 the country. That is undoubtedly true, and I can well understand that now many attested married men rub their eyes with amazement when they find that within three or four days of the Royal Assent being given to the Military Service Act, which was to tap this immense reservoir, it was necessary to issue the first call to the first groups of the married men. It is only right to point out that that is not at all the same thing as saying that the married men have been given a pledge that they would not be called up, but they have in this respect been sadly misled as to the extent to which unmarried men remain available for the Army, but that is due to that interesting work of imagination and fancy upon which the Military Service Act was based—the thing which goes by the name of Lord Derby's Report.
By this time it is obvious to every fair-minded critic that though the figures of Lord Derby's Report were quite honestly intended—and nobody imputes anything but good intentions to the responsible persons concerned—they are wholly fallacious in point of fact, and as events have turned out they are quite ridiculous. That goes a long way to explain why the attested married men are, as they are now doing, meeting in great numbers and discussing amongst themselves with extreme concern! what may be the near future for them; for certainly, two months ago, they were assured by the most prominent leaders of the Government, just as they were assured by various organs outside, that thanks to the introduction of military compulsion there was this great unworked seam of valuable material which would all be used for the practical service of the country owing to the instrument which was being forged in the Military Service Act. That, Sir, is the first reason, as I apprehend, why the married men are seriously uneasy.
But there is a second one. They were most clearly given to understand at the time when the appeal was made to them to come forward and attest that when the time came, if ever it did come, for them to be summoned to the Colours, the commercial circumstances and the domestic difficulties of each man as he was passed in review would receive full, fair, and sympathetic consideration. They have watched week after week, during recent weeks, what has been happening to unmarried men in a like position to themselves. Under these circumstances it is not surprising that many a married man whose
2311 patriotism is undoubted, and whose willingness to serve his country is not open to question, views with great concern the records which we have all seen during recent weeks of the way in which, in point of fact, the widow's son has been treated. The widow's son has been given express assurances by the Prime Minister and by my right hon. Friend the President of the Local Government Board, and it is not surprising that married men should view with great concern the way in which the widow's son has again and again failed to get exemption, and then asked themselves if that is what is done to a man who has been given those specific and direct assurances, what is going to be the manner and spirit in which their own domestic and commercial difficulties are likely to be dealt with? I do not want to go back to old subjects only by way of parenthesis, but let no one suppose that the case of the widow's son is an isolated one not worthy of consideration. I have had a large correspondence on this and cognate subjects, and I have put into this envelope the letters which have reached me in the last two or three weeks, dealing with the case of the widow's son, or a son in substantially the same position, whose reasonable representations have not been sufficiently regarded by the tribunals. I do not doubt that amongst them there are many cases of men who are complaining without just cause—[An HON. MEMBER: "Hear, hear!"]—and I have not the slightest desire to exaggerate the matter. All the same I do not think it lies in the mouths of those who are sitting comfortably here to be too ready to assume that these people, who certainly relied upon definite assurances given in the plainest terms, are not entitled to the consideration and the protection of the House of Commons. I quite recognise that mere criticism does little good, and I desire as far as I can to make suggestions and reasonable ones when it is within my power.
If I may make one suggestion it is this: I am glad that the President of the Local Government Board is present. Nobody who knows him would ever question that when he makes statements in the House of Commons he intends to see that they are fully and fairly carried out. It may not be his fault that they are not being carried out. Since the Local Government Board sends circulars to the local tribunals, will the right hon. Gentleman be so good, with- 2312 out delay, as to send round to every local tribunal a Local Government Board circular giving the actual extracts of the two statements made by the Prime Minister, and the further statement made by the President of the Local Government Board with reference to widows' sons and others in a like position; and will he in that circular inform and instruct those tribunals that those declarations are declarations by which they ought to be guided? I agree that no man ought to get off merely and solely because he is the son of a widow, a widow may be in independent circumstances, but, at any rate, those who are suffering hardship in this matter should have that hardship effectively removed. Those are really the two grounds, as I follow them, on which the married men are greatly perturbed. The first thing that they find is that they have been misled as to the existence of great numbers of unmarried men who would be called upon first, and the second thing is that they are considerably perturbed to observe the standard which is being set up by these local tribunals. It appears to me, and I suggest to the Committee, that the situation is not only very serious, but is one which directs this Committee, and which directs the country to a consideration of what is, after all, the fundamental question involved. Have the Government really considered, have they really calculated and determined, what is the proper size of the Army at which we ought to aim? That is the real question which is every day getting nearer to a demand for urgent solution. As long as we were content to rely upon the voluntary method of enlistment there was very much to be said for leaving the question of the ultimate size of the Army out of account, for this reason: As long as you are content to form your Army by voluntary enlistment there is a natural play of forces which will lead you automatically, however roughly, to a certain limit of size. In the early days of the War as we all know and rejoice to remember, there was an immense rush to the Colours, because we were then drawing from reservoirs as yet quite undrained; but, just as you go on with your appeals for voluntary recruitment, and gather more and more persons out of industry and commerce and private life into the ranks of the Army, so by a perfectly natural play of economic forces you find that you are getting nearer to the limit after which 2313 you cannot, without actual injury to the strength and forces of the country, continue to draw men to the Army.
Of course, in a time like this, faced with a crisis such as this, no sensible man pretends it is a good reason why you should not add people to the Army; that if you do add them to the Army you will cause great and serious dislocation to trade and commerce. Nobody suggests it is a good and sufficient reason for not drawing men into the Army that you will cause serious domestic hardship and inconvenience. The point is that there is a limit, and as long as you are content—and I think we should have been much wiser to have been content—to rely upon the voluntary enthusiasm of a free people, you will find that on that basis you are under no obligation seriously to consider the size of the Army at which you are ultimately going to aim. But the moment you hand over to the military authorities the weapon of compulsion these natural forces which will serve to determine how best you may get your maximum of strength cease to have their proper effect. That is the reason why it becomes so vitally necessary to invite the Government to tell us if they have really formed any proper conclusion as to the size of the Army at which they are aiming. May they not, by going on adding people to the Colours in the way in which we are told they are being added, although we have been told by the President of the Local Government Board that many of them are quite unfit, instead of strengthening the country, as a matter of fact, be really reducing its power?
§ The PRESIDENT of the LOCAL GOVERNMENT BOARD (Mr. Long)
I never said that. I should be glad to know what speech of mine the right hon. and learned Gentleman is quoting.
§ Sir J. SIMON
Let me say that if I have misunderstood the right hon. Gentleman I shall be the first to withdraw it. My right hon. Friend last night, replying to the hon. and gallant Member for Birmingham (Captain Amery), said, amongst other things:Notwithstanding the tremendous efforts made by the Secretary of State and those working with him in the War Office, and notwithstanding that they have given most explicit directions and the clearest orders in regard to this question, I am afraid there are still cases 2314 where men are being taken who ought not to be admitted into the Army at all.-[OFFICIAL REPORT, 15th March, 1916, col. 2162.] If my language went beyond that, let me without affectation withdraw my statement. One knows that in endeavouring to recall what was said, one may not quite accurately do so. I do not know what instructions are being given either to the doctors or to recruiting officers. I asked some weeks ago if we might have certain instructions circulated and published, and reasons were given against that course. There is a new Member, whom we all welcome because of the admirable and manly speech he made, the hon. and gallant Member for Bolton (Captain Edge), who speaks with great practical knowledge of the working of the Derby scheme, and I would very confidently appeal to him, or to anybody else who knows the working of this scheme intimately, whether it is not true to say that since the middle of January for practical purposes nobody has been rejected who has come forward?
§ Sir J. SIMON
It is all very well for the right hon. Gentleman to say "No," but, as a matter of fact, what happened was this: We were told by the Under-Secretary that the standard of medical fitness had not been changed. Although the standard of medical fitness has not been changed, there are now six grades or steps, any one of which will satisfy the military authorities that a man ought not to be rejected. There are hundreds of cases in which persons have for the time being not been rejected, although no human being pretends that when the time comes they are going to be of the slightest use. Once you abandon the principle of voluntary recruiting, and I accept that—I think I have shown that we do accept the Bill as an accomplished fact and desire to see it work fairly—you must make up your mind what is the size of the Army at which you are ultimately aiming. It is really admitted that the attempt to introduce military compulsion into this country has produced disappointing results. The Prime Minister himself, when he introduced the Bill, was careful to offer no justification for it, save a scrupulous desire to fulfil a pledge which he had given. The need to fulfil that pledge essentially depended upon the existence of a great body of unmarried slackers, who it was supposed were holding back with- 2315 out excuse from the service of their country. The compulsionists, those who desired to see military compulsion adopted, eagerly asserted the existence of this mass of able-bodied skulkers. I have never been able to understand how on the facts before them they could really bring themselves to perpetrate such a libel on their fellow countrymen. The plain fact, and everybody sees it now, is that the numbers were grossly exaggerated, quite honestly exaggerated, but still grossly exaggerated, and there never was any sufficient statistical basis for a departure from the voluntary principle.
Lord Derby's Report will always occupy a place of its own in the history of recruiting arithmetic. I can say now, without fear of contradiction, that his figure of 651,000 men unaccounted for is the largest stage army that has ever strutted across any stage since the beginning of the War. I do not need any longer to rely upon my own calculations or inferences. I can prove it quite simply by two statements from Ministers of the Crown. One of them is Lord Selborne. Perhaps the Committee will allow me in mentioning his name to say what I know many of his Friends in this House deeply feel, how sincerely we sympathise with him in his recent loss. Lord Selborne is one of them, and my right hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for War is the other. In Lord Selborne's lively speech to a deputation of farmers last Tuesday he explained that the figures in the National Register were in many parts of the country inaccurately compiled, and he gave that as an explanation of the way in which the military authorities were calling upon agriculturists who really could not be spared. My right hon. Friend on 29th February last, in explaining why the recruiting authorities sent out their famous yellow form to persons who were outside the Military Service Act altogether, having offered themselves for enlistment under the Derby scheme and having been rejected, told us that in many of the recruiting offices no lists at all were kept of men who had been rejected for one cause or another. Therefore, he explained, it was absolutely impossible for the authorities to know who were and who were not the people who should receive those notices. But Lord Derby's stage army depended essentially upon subtracting the number of persons who had offered themselves under the Derby scheme from the number of persons 2316 who were recorded in the National Register. It is therefore now quite apparent that the whole calculation upon which the Military Service Act was based was a calculation got at by subtracting a figure of which, according to the Under-Secretary of State for War, no record exists from another figure which, according to the President of the Board of Agriculture, was inaccurately compiled. I sympathise very much with the attested married men who were misled by such a document as that, and I ask the Committee to observe that in making this observation I am no longer relying upon any inference or suggestion of my own, but I am making this reflection on seeing the statements of two distinguished Ministers of the Crown. Consequently, there is no doubt about it.
§ Sir J. SIMON
The truth is that a very short and limited experience of the actual working of military compulsion has been sufficient to convince many people who were favourable, or at any rate doubtful, on the subject that it is neither businesslike in operation nor fruitful in result. It is because the married men see these unfortunate consequences that many of them feel the anxiety which they are already expressing both to Members of this House and by other methods. The homoeopathic dose has cured the patient, and any chance that military compulsion ever had in this country of being popular has been entirely destroyed by the ineptitude of its advocates and its directors. Now we are appealed to by the hon. Member for Birmingham (Captain Amery) to "envisage this problem as a whole." I want to see it done. I want some assurance from the Government that really is what they are about. Really, if one had regard to what we see stated in many quarters, one would suppose that the one and only necessity for the purpose of perfecting the strength of this country was to transfer people, not first-rate soldiers on the first view of them, from industry and employment into the ranks of the Army. That is a very important thing, but to call that envisaging the problem as a whole is absurd.
Unfortunately this failure to envisage the problem as a whole is by no means limited to these overworked, zealous recruiting officers and local tribunals. Everybody recognises that the local tribunals are doing their best and that recruiting officers are overburdened and are working zealously. But my complaint is against 2317 people much more important than them. Let me give the House two or three examples to show what I mean. You have on the one hand instructions apparently given to these recruiting officers that, at all costs, they are to get these people transferred into the Army, whoever they may be and whatever their qualifications. It is only a week ago that the First Lord of the Admiralty, in a speech which he made on the Navy Estimates, told us that the reason why it was not possible to have a more rapid output of new ships for the Navy was because the real limitations to our building at the present moment is due to the difficulty of obtaining labour. It is not very long since that the Minister of Munitions told us that the most urgent of all demands that he bad to make on the House of Commons was for an army of some 80,000 skilled workmen, with an addition of 200,000 unskilled persons for the making of munitions. So far as I know he has never told us that he has got them and I have no reason to think he has got them. It is plain that if the military recruiting officers are allowed to go on as they are doing he never will get them. The President of the Board of Agriculture pointed out that the food supply of these islands essentially depended upon those who were needed for agricultural production being left to go on with their work, and he indulged in language of this sort. He talked of the "mischievous nonsense" of the military representatives at local tribunals. He talked of those persons who "take upon themselves to make statements for which they have no authority whatever."
When we receive a lecture from the hon. and gallant Member for Birmingham (Captain Amery) who comes here with the special added authority of being a worker in the War Office, and when he appeals to us to "envisage this subject as a whole," I would really ask the Government to bear in mind that the First Lord of the Admiralty, the Minister of Munitions, and the President of the Board of Agriculture have all pointed out from their different points of view the extreme importance of not allowing these very natural and no doubt very proper energies to get additional men for the Army really to weaken the country, whether it be in the direction of the Navy, of our food supplies, or of munitions of war. Instances can be given from every Department of State. My right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade, a short time ago, warned 2318 us in the most solemn terms that the great and necessary services we are rendering to our Allies would be vitally prejudiced if the supply, repair, manning and provisioning of our mercantile marine were unduly restricted. Unfortunately there are great numbers of persons, speaking to-day in the name of the military authorities, who either are very insufficiently instructed by the War Office or who are coolly disregarding their instructions. When the local tribunals are discussing what is to be done with individual cases, they seem to think that there is but one thing to be considered, that of getting men into the Army, and that the other considerations I have mentioned have nothing to do with the problem. This is a situation when it is necessary seriously to raise the question of what is the limit of the size of our Army which, combined with our other services, is going to secure for this country its maximum effort in the struggle in which we are now engaged.
However imperfect recruiting arithmetic may be, they ought to know that their ledger has two sides, and you really cannot transfer an item from one side of the ledger to the other and regard it simply and solely as an addition to the side to which you transfer it. You make a mistake every time you pick out from civil employment a man who is really contributing to the strength of the country in his own sphere and turn him into an incompetent and unqualified soldier, and the question arises whether that transfer is, on the whole, for the benefit of the community. We urge that is a point which has to be faced, considered and studied. What is involved by taking a man out of commercial or industrial work, and putting him into the Army at this stage? There are three things involved. In the first place, you have an extra item added to the expense of the Army, varying, it is said, from £250 to £300 a year. In the second place, you take that man away from the work which he is doing, and he may be doing that work extremely efficiently and well and contributing much to the strength of this country, and when you transfer him he may be a very indifferent soldier. In the third place you are reducing the number of persons who are left in order to create the necessary funds by which this man is going to be maintained in the Army. I see no sign in the events of the last two or three weeks which induces a belief that this aspect of this problem has been really sufficiently 2319 studied. There is no evidence of that coordination between one Service and the other which it is really essential to have if at this stage the country is going to put forth its utmost strength.
I would not hesitate for one minute in a time of crisis like this to see persons exposed to hardship, whether in business or domestic life, if you are only adding to the strength of the country thereby. But to put people into the Army merely in order to increase your figures, without increasing your strength in the least, is surely a miserable and most wasteful and uneconomic proceeding. No part of the speech delivered by the President of the Local Government Board yesterday was more warmly received and cheered by the House than the striking passage in which he spoke of the unity of the country and of the ever firm bond which unites us with our Allies. We all agree as to that. But what is going on now, within its limits, really is threatening that very unity and tending to threaten that ever firm bond. I am very glad to think that the mischief has not gone far. I am very glad to think that the essential situation, as it was and as I believe it is, it will remain. But really this kind of argument between the married man on the one hand and the unmarried on the other, between the attested man on the one hand and the unattested on the other, between the widow's son on the one hand and some other person's son on the other, these are not things which contribute to the unity of the country in time of war.
I think some people are much to blame because they have encouraged the notion, the utterly fallacious notion, that the voluntary system in this country was not really securing a full response and that men were not willing to come forward. It is a dreadful thing that our Allies should have got, if they have, any such impression, because it is deeply dishonouring to our own reputation, and I really do not believe that it is the fact. I do not for a moment mean to say that Lord Derby and those who have supported compulsion have not always paid not merely lip service but heartfelt recognition to the valour and sacrifice of those who have volunteered. But I would beg the Committee, and I would, if my voice could reach outside this House, beg some people outside to consider in the interests of the strength of the country itself whether or not we may not now be embarking on the very 2320 dangerous policy of unduly extending the service of one particular portion which goes to make this country's strength, with the result that you are threatening and undermining other elements of the country's strength which are just as important for our future. When the Prime Minister comes back, as we all hope he may do in a very short time with renewed health, I venture respectfully to think there is no greater service he could at this time do to this country than once again to put clearly before this country and before our Allies the real facts of the service this country is rendering to the Allies. It is really not fair to allow the idea to spread that in this country there are great numbers of men who are failing to discharge their duty. That is probably a mistake in reference to the calculations of months ago. I do not believe it responds to the facts as they exist to-day.
If what the recruiting tribunals are now doing is to pass into the Army great numbers of sturdy, well-qualified, independent men, undoubtedly we should be adding materially to the strength of the Army. But it is not so, and hon. Members, if they would pay a visit to one of the committees when it is sitting, would see for themselves the kind of people who are going before the committee. I find it impossible to believe that enough attention has been paid to this matter, which I trust I have succeeded in raising without unfair comment and without improper heat, as being a matter which should be considered fairly by the committee and the country without regard to our personal opinions, whatever they may be, on the particular merits of compulsory service. Let us review the situation again in the light of that. Let us remember the great services which we are rendering, besides those of our splendid Army-the services which no other Ally could render, and let us bear in mind that the moment you bleed the resources out of which the strength of the nation comes you are wounding the country, even if you are not doing it harm. The moment you go to any other Department which is contributing to the country's strength and filch people away where their services are not less useful, you are not strengthening the Services which we ought to strengthen.
What is to be done with the married men? I have said quite fairly and squarely, and I believe it is perfectly true, although it may not meet with the approval of the married men, that Lord Derby is entirely free from blame, and 2321 not deserving of the slightest reproach on the ground of having broken any pledge in the matter at all. But there are two or three things that might be done, and I want to make a practical suggestion. Why does not the Government assure these married men that the cases of hardship, as I think of very severe hardship, which have occurred under the tribunals in regard to unmarried men are really going to be effectively corrected? Why do not they assure the married men at once that they realise that these people came forward in their patriotism relying that their special difficulties would be fairly considered when the time came to present them? Could anything be more unfair than that when a man comes forward and applies for exemption he should be cross-examined by the military representative and asked, "If you do not want to serve in the Army, why did you attest?" That is not a fair question. These men were invited to attest on the definite assurance that when the time came their special claims would receive fair consideration. Can anyone wonder at their feeling anxious until they get an assurance of that sort? It would not, I know, be in order to discuss the moratorium, but I hope, whatever else happens, we shall not use that most objectionable word. A moratorium, if it means anything at all, means that when you welcome these men back from the trenches you are going to present them with a heavy bill to pay. We do not want that. We want to see some scheme, which cannot be discussed now because it would involve legislation, which would relieve these people altogether from their rates. You could distribute the rates over the rest of the people.
§ Sir J. SIMON
I will not transgress on that subject any further. I will only say that these proposals, as soon as they can be brought forward, will, I trust and believe, do a great deal to reconcile the married men to their position. I do not believe that the mass of the married men who have come forward and volunteered are in the least anxious to shirk their responsibilities. This is an occasion when a very small number of persons can give the appearance of speaking for a whole body, and if they are, as I believe they are, going to be fairly treated now—as I have said, to my mind, Lord Derby is entirely 2322 free from blame—I believe and trust that this difficulty may be avoided. After this comes we shall be able, at any rate, to end this controvery without bitterness and without disputing about past methods, and we shall feel that whatever is the method we have adopted we have dealt fairly with the married men no less than with the unmarried men.
§ Mr. DUKE
I have wondered from time to time, during the able speech which the right hon. and learned Gentleman has addressed to the Committee, whether it occurred to him when he was considering the matter of his speech what the effect of it would be upon the providing of the necessary men to fill the gaps of His Majesty's Forces.
§ Sir F. CAWLEY
What I meant was that the right hon. and learned Gentleman and his followers did not seem to want more men.
§ Mr. DUKE
I will not add to the obloquy which has undeservedly fallen upon my hon. Friend from the right hon. Gentleman's Friends. I only suggested that, sitting in that quarter of the Committee, he is apt to be exposed to that kind of inconvenience. I should not have cast any kind of reflection upon the observation of the hon. Gentleman if I had caught it aright. This House proceeded not long ago, in spite of every effort from the right hon. and learned Gentleman, and in spite of the transfer of his great services from His Majesty's Government to the service of His Majesty's lieges generally—in spite of all those things, this House solemnly decided that the public emergency was such as to warrant a departure from what has been for generations the practice of the country, a practice in which we took great pride and by which we withheld resort to compulsory service. Nobody doubted that compulsory service was within the spirit and the ancient practice of the Constitution, and nobody ever suggested that it was not.Parliament and 2323 the country for generations and with great pride have refused to resort to compulsory service. Such an emergency was made clear that this House by an overwhelming majority decided that it was necessary to resort to compulsion, and to resort to compulsion against a large body of single men of military age who had not placed themselves at the service of the country for military service. Does anybody doubt that they existed? Does anybody suppose that the young men of military age in this? country are less capable of military service than the young men of military age in other countries? When you find upon in disputable statistics that a great body of young men of military age have not tendered themselves for military service, there you have the warranty for the solemn decision at which Parliament arrived that compulsion must be applied to them. In anticipation of that decision and as one of the events which led to it, a large body of young married men within the military age have volunteered their services, subject to a certain condition, and those services were accepted. Those tenders of service stand in such a position that those married men, subject to honourable conditions to which this House and the Government have bound themselves, must render their services. I shall have a word to say later as to the honourable conditions. Did not the speech of the right hon. and learned Gentleman go to this, that the men are not necessary, that the single men need not serve, that their services are not required—
§ Mr. DUKE
That it is against the public interest to enrol them, that they ought to stay in the Government offices, in the municipal offices and in the brigade engaged in utility works, in muniton factories and in the mines, where they are known to be at the present time—those persons who are not fit for military service but who are engaged, as the right hon. and learned Gentleman says when he comes to consider the real facts, in the industries of the country The right hon. Gentleman appears to think that the industries of the country are being carried on by a body of cripples who are not fit for military service. That is the antithesis which he creates When the right hon. Gentleman has satisfied the unmarried men that it is against the public interest to enrol them and to enforce this 2324 Act of Parliament with regard to them, is he helping towards the filling of the gaps in the Army? It seems to me that a man who did not desire that the gaps should be filled would hear with gladness arguments of that kind directed to the men who ought to fill them. That is the position with regard to the single men. I said I wondered whether the right hon. Gentleman had turned these matters over in his mind. I am entitled to say that, because for eighteen months or thereabouts the right hon. Gentleman was engaged to the best of his great abilities in helping the prosecution of this War. He was responsible for the pledges which were given; he was responsible for Lord Derby's undertaking as a member of the Government. It is impossible to conceive that the right hon. Gentleman could have looked upon this aspect of the case. If he had he would have realised that all that to which he devoted himself for eighteen months was to be frustrated by the kind of course he has taken to-night, and which he has now been taking for several weeks, because this is not an isolated fact.
The right hon. Gentleman is associated with a body of men in this country, consisting of two sections. A small part of them insignificant in number but not insignificant in prominence and activity, consists of those who resisted the War, whose heart is not in the War, who desire the success of their country, but who do not help to take the means to secure it. That is one section. The other section have been the hostile and inveterate critics of His Majesty's Government. They were at the heels of the right hon. Gentleman while he was in the Government, and they are at his back now when he attacks them. That is the state of things. As I say, I cannot conceive that the right hon. Gentleman could have considered the harm this kind of speech does before he made his observations to the Committee. There are helpful speeches and there are harmful speeches. I have great fault to find with matters of administration on the part of His Majesty's Government. I know there are hon. Members below the Gangway who think that no man could find grave fault with the Government unless he had some personal motive for doing it, and that no man would support the Government unless he has some base object in view. They are welcome to their own opinions. Every man judges the facts by looking 2325 into his own mind as to what a man's conduct is likely to be. With regard to these criticisms, every one of them which is directed against the furtherance of recruiting is a hindrance to recruiting. Every single man who does not want to serve will quote the right hon. Gentleman as his advocate. Every married man who says the time has not come will quote the right hon. Gentleman, with his past official reputation and his high personal character, as his advocate, in order to justify him in his refusal of his service.
§ Mr. DUKE
The right hon. Gentleman, for the purposes of his attack upon the Government, mentioned many matters about which there is no question. He mentioned the fact that there is no co-ordination in the action of the Government. Unfortunately, there is no doubt about it. There never has been any denial, or any sufficient denial of the allegation which the hon. Member for Tottenham, who unfortunately cannot be present now, made some little time ago, that from inside the Cabinet he had been approached with a view to defeating the operation of the Military Service Act. [HON. MEMBERS: "No, no!"]
§ Sir W. BYLES
It was stated that the communication which came from inside the Cabinet to my hon. Friend was made some time—I believe four weeks was mentioned—by the hon. Member for the St. Augustine's Division (Mr. E. McNeill), before the Military Service Act came into existence.
§ Mr. DUKE
I am much obliged to my hon. Friend. Let us see. It was four weeks before the Military Service Act? came into operation.
§ Mr. DUKE
Lord Derby is not likely to be present to help the hon. Member to attack the Government. It is not the criticism of the Estimates that is in question; it is the deliberate hostility to the policy of His Majesty's Government necessary for the prosecution of the War. This is a matter which has not been cleared up. That is one thing. A little later, within the last few days, there was an occasion when Lord Derby, to whom the right hon. Gentleman referred most slightingly. [HON. MEMBERS: "NO!"] Yes! We heard of the "stage Army" and "the report which will play a remarkable part in the history of the Military Service Act." They were not intended as compliments or to encourage Lord Derby. They are part of the policy of belittlement with regard to the Military Service Act. There has been an occasion on which Lord Derby has been attacked from inside the Government with regard to his policy. His Majesty's Government ought to have cohesion enough and unity enough to see that that does not happen. I say that as a man who has supported the Government in all its phases in regard to the prosecution of the War, and who will support them until I see a better Government to take their place. If I thought the right hon. Gentleman could carry the country with him to prosecute this War more vigorously than this Government I would be his obedient servant, but I have not the least confidence that that can happen, and there is not a man in England who thinks, after the recent speeches of the right hon. Gentleman, that it could happen. I have referred to two matters. I will refer to another. At the present time the representatives of the War Office in the country and at the military tribunals tell a different tale from the representatives of the Government in this House. His Majesty's Government should not permit that. I say to them with the utmost frankness that if this is not stopped, and an opportunity arises for a Vote of Censure upon them because they continue to permit subordinates of the War Office to disobey the orders of the political heads of the War Office, I would support that Vote of Censure. It is constitutionally wrong, it is practically wrong, and it introduces into the administration of recruiting at the present time an enormous difficulty. These are things which ought to be presented to His Majesty's Government, but ought to be presented to them in a totally different spirit from that in which 2327 they have been presented from the bench above the Gangway.
There are other grave difficulties inherent in the situation of which I trust His Majesty's Government will take account. There was a common understanding that the service of the single men would be made effective before the service of the married men was made effective. Those two services now are overlapping. You have not yet got the single men. We had it explained to us yesterday why you have not got them—where they are, and how they are being looked for. That is a matter of grave difficulty, and although it is true that the letter of the pledge has been kept, the expectation of the pledge has not been kept. The married men now complain—and I do not pause to consider whether it is from a lack of enthusiasm for the Service or whether they deserve the panegyrics which the right hon. Gentleman in some passages of his speech bestowed upon them or whether they do not-that the pledge is not being kept. His Majesty's Government explained in both Houses yesterday what are the enormous difficulties. Everyone knows how enormous are those difficulties. We are raising an Army of 5,000,000 or 6,000,000 in a country which had only an effective Army of perhaps 150,000. There is no pity or consideration in such speeches as we have just heard for the men who have to undertake that task. But His Majesty's Government, in spite of the difficulties, have to face the situation that in the country at present the fact that the single men have not been effectively brought to the Colours affords an obvious ground upon which some married men may say, "It is not fair to call me now." Is it too late for His Majesty's Government to consider, where confusion has necessarily arisen, as it has arisen, whether they could not postpone the service of the married men while they are engaged day by day and with great activity, as we hear they are, in making effective the service of the single men? It would be no discredit to His Majesty's Government to introduce a delay of that kind. It may be that it is impossible in the interests of the public service; but if it could be done it would give satisfaction to great numbers of married men-I do not say relatively great numbers, but actually to great numbers of married men, who think that, having regard to the magnitude of the sacrifice 2328 to which they have committed themselves, their being summoned concurrently with the single men is not what they were led to expect. I seriously ask His Majesty's Government to consider whether it is not worth while to introduce that delay for the sort of good will which we intend to prevail in this country until we have gained the triumph for which we have spent and suffered so much, and which by that good will can be assisted? I make that suggestion.
There is another suggestion I will offer. Those of us who took part in this campaign, when recruiting had practically stopped, and when the Derby effort was just giving a tremendous fillip to the filling up of the Forces of the Crown, are reproached by letters such as I have received and told, "The promise you made that you would help to take care that service was made as easy to us as it can be made is not being redeemed." We have a promise from His Majesty's Government that they intend to redeem it, but His Majesty's Government at present is in these two difficulties: The calling up of the single men and the married men has fallen together, and their calling up together has led to confusion and to certain heartburnings. The failure to bring up single men puts His Majesty's Government in a dilemma from which they must remove themselves by practical means. His Majesty's Government may have to obtain further legislative powers to see that the Military Service Act is made effective without making it a mere matter of dealing with men who do not come up by martial law. His Majesty's Government is bound for its own honour, as well as for the interests of the country, to make the Military Service Act effective, and to see that these young men, in proper order, and with the least inconvenience, to the industries of the country, are brought to do the service which this House has decided they shall do.
That is one thing His Majesty's Government is bound to do; and there is another. They are bound—and they recognise the obligation—to deal with the case of the married men—an unprecedented case in this country, a case of hardships which touches every man's heart, but which touches particularly the heart of any man who happens to know by his own experience what is the lot of the poor married man—I mean the man without means—in the little home which he has built up. His Majesty's Government have to deal with 2329 that, and they have bound themselves to deal with it. His Majesty's Government, if they deal with these things courageously, will be backed up by the single men; and the married men who, if they are told the country requires it, will reject with contempt the insidious inducements offered to them not to serve the Crown and not to be eager to do their duty. But His Majesty's Government must show that courage, and they must show the necessary wisdom. I ask them to consider whether they cannot make a pause in the recruiting arrangements, as far as the Military Service Act is concerned, so as to enable them to co-ordinate the action of the War Office throughout the country, to enable them to enforce the Military Service Act in the proper order, and to say to the country with confidence, "This was a great sacrifice which the young married men of the country so gallantly undertook, and we will reward it by a provision for them and theirs such as has never before been thought necessary in this country."
§ 6.0 P.M.
The right hon. Gentleman has referred to a letter that he has in his possession from married men. As one who has done as much recruiting as any Member of the House, I wish to say that I have not received a single letter from my Constituency or from any part of the country with regard to the position of married men in connection with the Derby scheme. That is my experience, though I do not say it is the experience of the right hon. Gentleman or of other hon. Members. What I have risen for is to refer, I think, in a rather different way from what the right hon. Gentleman did, though I did not hear all his speech, to the situation in which the Government and the House find themselves with regard to the question of single and married men. I have supported recruiting, I have worked all the way through for the voluntary principle, and I voted against the Compulsory Service Bill, because I regarded it as unnecessary, and for no other reason. I knew as much as the average Member of this House could get to know about the state of the Army, the number of men required, the numbers of men in the country who were already in khaki, and the numbers who were incapable of service at present. What happened? Lord Derby put before the country a statement, and I have no doubt whatever that he had good ground for it, that there were 651,000 un-starred single men who were capable of serving in the Army. The number who 2330 have come up for attestation out of that figure of 651,000 has been disappointing, not only in the numbers which have come up but in the numbers that have had to be rejected on the ground of health alone. I will not say what the figure is, although I know it, because I believe there is a great deal too much talk in this House with regard to the War by way of criticism of the Government, and I believe many people who talk would be helping the country a good deal better if they sat still and kept their mouth closed. I believe that in the collection of an Army of 3,500,000, when the rejection of unfits amongst the single men was something like 29 per cent., you had in the country an enormous block of men who had been rejected as unfit for the Army, and when Lord Derby put forward his figure of 651,000, amongst them was an enormous number of unfit men, and the result was that an agitation was raised—I am not going to attribute motives, or to say it was engineered by the newspaper Press or by certain politicians for political reasons—and the country was given to understand that there were enormous numbers of single men who had not joined the Colours. I am going to be perfectly candid. I believe there was a considerable number of men who, between 15th August and the time of the Derby scheme, got into munition works, and other classes of work, in order to get out of military service. When I speak of a considerable number, I do not mean hundreds of thousands. Hon. Members are surely not doing the country any good when they suggest to the married men that there are large groups of single men still to be found of military age capable and fit for service who have not come forward! I am absolutely certain that that statement is not true. The men are not there.
Then I have a complaint against the War Office, and I speak as a member of the Lord Derby Committee. It has been impossible to get any straightforward figures even in that Committee, although we have asked for them from time to time. I have tried to be loyal to the Government and to the Committee in the matter of recruiting. I will do nothing and say nothing which will in any way hinder our cause in this War. I want to see my country victorious, because I believe it to be the greatest country in the world, and I am proud to be a citizen of it. But the War Office has never given us the correct figures. We do not know to this day on 2331 the Committee what proportion of that 651,000 men have actually joined the Colours under the attestation scheme. Whether it is that the War Office are not in possession of these facts I do not know, but this I do know, that the Committee is not in possession of the figures. We get figures from week to week as we meet there, but they are never clear and concise, so that we can tell just where we are, and what are the numbers that are left. Let me point out to the Under-Secretary Of State for War what I mean. He will remember that when Lord Derby put out his figure of 651,000 there was another figure put forward which embraced every man in the starred occupations, giving a total figure of upwards of 1,000,000 single men. In that figure of single men there were all the young fellows in the last two years of their apprenticeship in munition shops, all skilled, capable men, whose services in the majority of cases could not be dispensed with, and who ought never to have been taken into account at all. These young men are numbered not by a few thousands, but by scores of thousands, and I do not think I should be overstating it if I said the figure was near 100,000 of that type of man. They are highly skilled mechanics, engaged in direct munition and war work, and they are men whom you cannot possibly replace by women. They are not engaged on automatic work like shell turning and so forth, but they are engaged on skilled work which is really required. The figures we get from Lord Derby today, or rather from the War Office, because he is simply the medium through which they come, do not claim to give us the figures as against the 651,000 and as against the 1,000,000. Therefore, we are in this position, that we do not know how far the single men have come forward, and yet we have certain newspapers pushing the question of married men against single men, and actually keeping married men from coming to join up. They are helping in this protest which is going on. There is blame attached to those who are advocating that.
I wonder whether the Government, or whether those who are in favour of compulsory service, have thought of the effect on the mind of the country by the stopping of voluntary recruiting meetings. I know-there was a good deal to be said against it from some points of view. I want to state one thing that these meetings did. 2332 They kept the mind of the whole country at one in regard to this War, and in that way they kept the country well informed and kept the people away from the critical mood, with the result that their minds were fixed on winning the War and providing the men to win it with. I shall never regret the vote I gave against the Compulsory Service Bill. I am certain of that. I believe you could get to-day, and that you could have got all the men you have got, and more than you have got under this system, with your voluntary principle, if you had kept up the work that was going on up to the time when the Military Service Bill was introduced. What the Government has got to do is this: They have got to tell the country plainly and straight the position. I agree they should revise the list of starred occupations. I am in favour of the starred list being revised. I think no man has a right to dodge his national service if he claims to be a citizen of this country and accepts the privileges of citizenship. In the hour of the country's need he must be prepared to serve and take his share of risk along with the rest. Therefore I think the starred list must be revised at once. I also think that the Government are in duty bound to admit straight away that the single men mentioned in Lord Derby's. Report were not there, although they led the country to believe they were there, and it is their duty to tell the married men that they will have to come forward when the country needs them. If that is made plain to them I believe that, apart from this agitation which has been stirred up by the newspapers, and perhaps by certain politicians who have keen views about compulsory service, you will get all the men you want without compulsory service.
Captain WILLIAM REDMOND
It is; some time now since I addressed the House. I am happy to say that I am going back to the front almost immediately, and it is not likely that I shall be here again for some time. Perhaps I may be allowed to say one or two words, all the more because they may be words which the House will be pleased to hear. For the last three months—a comparatively short time, it is true—I have had a more or less exceptional opportunity of seeing the spirit and the work of the troops in the front part of the line. When I say the troops, I do not mean the troops of the Irish Division—the 16th, with which I have the honour to be associated—but troops 2333 representing all parts of the United Kingdom—from England, Scotland, and Wales, as well as Ireland. I have seen them under very trying circumstances more than once. I have seen them living under the poorest conditions, in billets of very poor description, sometimes with hardly enough straw to cover them at night, while they have been lying on the ground. I have seen them in their long marches, in very inclement weather sometimes, ankle-deep in snow. I have seen them in conditions of trench warfare which, to say the least, were uncomfortable. I want to tell the House, as one of its oldest Members—I shall have been here thirty-three years this year—that every single Member of this House and every single member of the public outside ought to be intensely proud of the work which the troops from every part of the Kingdom and of the Empire are doing at the present time. I say it advisedly that nothing can be too good for these men, not merely because of the hard and laborious kind of lives they are living, attended with a great deal of personal risk sometimes, but because, more than anything else, of the splendid spirit in which they are going through it. The harder the conditions the more cheerful they seem to be—the more they have to bear, the more ready they seem to bear it. I said to myself after I had been there a week or two, "These men are all absolutely imbued with the truest possible spirit of Mark Tapley." They are handy men like he was. They can do anything at any time, and the worse the conditions are, it is positively true to say, the jollier they are.
I am not going to deliver to the House a message even from the regiment to which I belong, much less from the troops generally; but if I had been commissioned to deliver any such message I know perfectly well what that message would be, and I do not believe there is a single man belonging to any unit at the front at the present time who would not send the same message to the House of Commons, to the people here at home, and to the Press of this country. I believe the message would be this: "Send us out the reinforcements which are necessary, and which are naturally necessary. Send us out, as we admit you have been doing up to this, the necessary supplies, and when you do that, have trust in the men who are in the gap to conduct the War to the victory which everyone at the front is confident is bound to come. And when that victory does come," the 2334 message would run on, "you in the House of Commons, in the country, and in every newspaper in the country, can spend the rest of your lives in discussing as to whether the victory has been won on proper lines or whether it has not." Nothing in. the world can depress the spirits of the men that I have seen at the front. I do not believe there was ever enough Germans born into this world to depress them. If it were possible to depress them at all, it can only be done by pursuing a course of embittered controversy in this country—as to which was the right way or the wrong way of conducting affairs at the front. When a man feels that his feet are freezing, when he is standing in heavy rain for a whole night with no shelter, and when next morning he tries to cook a piece of food over the scanty flame of a brazier in the mud, he perhaps sits down for a few minutes in the day's dawn and takes up an old newspaper, and finds speeches and: leading articles from time to time which tell him that apparently everything is going wrong, that the Ministers who are at the head of affairs in this country upon whom he is depending are not really men with their hearts in the work, but are really more or less callous and calculating mercenaries, who are not directing affairs in the best way, but are simply anxious to maintain their own salaries—I say that when speeches and articles of that kind are found in the newspapers, they are calculated, if anything is or can be so calculated, to depress the men who are at the front.
I only occupy an extremely humble position in the enterprise out there, but I have had the advantage of meeting a good many people of different units, and the general sentiment there is that nothing can be lost, that everything is bound to be won, if the efforts of the men at the front only receive the united and cordial support of the people at large, and of all parties in this country. Unless you depress the men who have gone to the front to fight for you, I assure you that it is not in the power of their enemies at the front to do so. That is all I have got to say, and I apologise for taking up the time of the House when it is discussing matters of very serious importance, but I feel that I was more or less bound to say what I have done. Having had the opportunity of saying it, if I had not done so, perhaps the men with whom I have been, and with whom I shall continue to be, would say that I missed an opportunity of expressing what was in 2335 their minds. I can only add that, at any rate from the troops that have been sent from Ireland, this House and the country at large need expect no disappointment whatever. I do not claim for the Irish troops any favour or any undue praise. I do not say that it is a wise thing to make comparisons. If comparisons be odious at any time, I think that they are more odious still in time of war, when men of all parties and sections are doing their best side by side and recognise each other as comrades. At the same time, if troops from Ireland do their duty, as I know they will do their duty to the last man in this matter, I hope that it will be recognised to the credit of Ireland. I know that there has been some little disappointment with regard to Galli-poli and elsewhere. Some famous Irish battalions were decimated. The Dublin Fusiliers and the Munster Fusiliers in Gallipoli were decimated to such an extent that the remnant of the two battalions were formed into one corps for the nonce, and undoubtedly there is a feeling, whether well or ill founded, that in public recognition these men who are sleeping their last long sleep out there have not been sufficiently remembered.
But, whether they are remembered or not, I can say this for the men of the 16th Irish Division, the last division to go to the front, that they will do their duty; and I say here, as a bitter opponent for many years on political lines of one section of the Ulster Members, that I believe that the Ulster Division will do their duty equally well, just as well as the first Irish Division, the 10th, did their duty. All we ask is that there shall be a truce to carping and to criticism, and that when we get a copy of a newspaper out there—and it is not very regularly we get them: that may be an advantage or a disadvantage; it all depends on the newspaper-but when we do get an old newspaper out there, that we shall not be obliged to read ungenerous and bitter attacks on the public men of all parties who, I suppose all present will believe, are trying to do their best, and that we shall not find encouragement given to those whom we have been sent out there to oppose by the appearance of divided councils—an appearance that may be deceptive, but which at the same time does undoubtedly encourage the enemy. As I have said, the spirit of the troops is excellent. Since I went out there I found that the common salutation in all circumstances is one of cheer. If things go pretty well, 2336 and the men are fairly comfortable they say "Cheer O!" If things go badly, and the snow falls and the rain comes through the roof of a billet in an impossible sort of cow house, they say "Cheer O!" still more. All we want out there is that you shall adopt the same tone and say "Cheer O!" to us.
§ Colonel Sir HAMAR GREENWOOD
No one will speak more heartily than I a word of appreciation and welcome to the hon. and gallant Member for East Clare, or any other part of Old Ireland. His entrance here in this House at this very opportune moment brings a breath of manliness from the trenches, and his speech is in strong contrast to some of the niggling criticism which we have heard, of the difficult task of raising those reinforcements, which, as he said, and as every other soldier who has been at the front, and at any front, knows, are the urgent need of this hour, and of this Empire. I must confess I was surprised to hear the ex-Home Secretary (Sir J. Simon) in his speech, not help by one single sentence to increase the total strength of the Army, which means the maintenance of our lives, and the defence of our Empire. A few weeks ago he was a member of the Government responsible for the successes and for the failures. He was responsible—and the Committee should never forget this—for one of the most drastic measures ever introduced, the Military Service (No. 1) Bill, which was going to compel soldiers who had served their full time, who had kept their contract with the Crown to the end, to take the places of men who would not come forward to reinforce the Army. The ex-Home Secretary may have many friends in Germany, he has got no friends in the British Army.
§ Colonel Sir H. GREENWOOD
I know. I have been with it for thirty years. And the hon. Member for East Edinburgh (Mr. Hogge), when he gets up and talks about being over military age, and when he claims that the patriotism of his son—who, in fact, is his stepson—is a proper shelter for himself, I would remind him that Captain William Redmond, who is fifty-six years of age, rejoined the Colours of his own accord, and that he had no age limit to his patriotism, and to his services to the Empire. The hon. and gallant Member is a fine example to those who 2337 take shelter behind the official age limits which were laid down in the early days, and which I for one have always thought were a colossal blunder, in raising a citizen Army.
§ Colonel Sir H. GREENWOOD
I never left my own regiment. I must protest against the personal insult of this hon. Member who takes a particular delight in—
The hon. Member has gone much too far in making remarks from his seat without rising and asking leave to intervene. This is really a proceeding which does not conduce to the proper conduct of our Debate.
If the hon. Member had risen, then the hon. Member in possession would probably have given way. That is what usually happens.
§ Colonel Sir H. GREENWOOD
I was only protesting, but I do not think it necessary to continue the point. I would remind the House, and especially the ex-Home Secretary in reference to the work of the tribunals, and particularly the question of the widow's only son, that no one in this House ever raised the hardship of the widow's only son when the voluntary principle was in force. Yet many widows lost their only sons, and their sole support, who joined the Army under that system. I am one who believes that the widow's only son and sole support is well protected under the Military Service Act, and by the tribunal, and the appeal tribunal. Undoubtedly, as far as instructions can make it clear, there is no desire on the part of those who administer the tribunal—and as an inspector of those essential and vital institutions I can speak with knowledge—to go outside the law either in letter or in the spirit in carrying out their very necessary work. I do not think that sufficient appreciation is always shown of the 2338 difficult work of the Advisory Committees, the local tribunals, the appeal tribunals, and the military representatives in this matter. The Committee may not know that there are about 2,000 of these local tribunals, many of them sitting every day of the week, and all, or nearly all, working without the slightest expense to the community and doing their best to administer the difficult Acts and instructions dealing with recruiting. At these tribunals there are military representatives, and from the speeches of several hon. Members it appeared to me that they have got a wrong idea of who the military representative is. In 95 or 99 per cent. of the cases the military representative is a civilian who is working without profit to himself, and in many cases spending nearly the whole of his time in keeping the necessary records and in stating the case of the War Office in reference to any particular case. If ever a case arises in which a military representative goes outside his proper functions it is dealt with at once by the War Office. So far as the local tribunals are concerned, they are not under the control of the War Office at all, but have been set up by the Local Authorities throughout the country, and are entirely under the control of the President of the Local Government Board (Mr. Long).
Nothing has appealed to me more than the way in which these tribunals almost without exception endeavour to carry on their difficult work and to hold the balance, even where difficult cases arise, as they frequently do arise between the contending claims of industry, munitions, and the military authorities. Of course cases may be quoted where some tribunal or some member of tribunal has gone wrong, but when you think that there are 2,000 of them, the number of cases that have been quoted in this House is contemptibly few, and the number of legitimate complaints that can be made against military representatives of tribunals or Advisory Committees to my mind is hardly worth mentioning. The present position is disappointing, and causing anxiety, in the words of the Secretary of State for War, who can speak with the greatest authority on this matter. The results are disappointing, I think primarily, because of this large number of single men, who, being in badged or reserved occupations, or in Government Departments, do not come before tribunals to have their cases inquired into. I submit that a revision 2339 of the reserved occupation list will be quite inadequate, and I submit with much modesty, for the consideration of the Government and of the Committee, a practical plan. In my view the onus should be upon every man of eligible age to prove that he is of more benefit to his country as a civilian than as a soldier. At the present moment the onus is upon the War Office to prove the contrary. As far as my reading goes, in every conscript country the onus is upon the individual to show that he is essential in some trade of national importance. If it was possible, and it is possible, without legislation, it would be a good thing to withdraw all badges, to do away with reserved occupation lists altogether, to order all Government Departments to withdraw their certificates of exemption, and to make every man of military age come before a tribunal, reinforced, if you will, by special representatives of the trades of the district, and to show to that tribunal that he is more necessary in some trade of national importance than he is as a soldier of the King. I think that would be a fair system. It would certainly be a democratic system. It would be the only possible way of finding out for certain how many men there are who can be spared from essential industries in this country.
On this point no one, so far as I know, who can speak with any authority on the matter on behalf of the War Office, for a moment wishes to take from industries of national importance the men who are essential to those industries, whether they be married or single, or what even their age may be. Surely no one will suggest that those who are responsible for military affairs are so ignorant of the conditions of the country or so careless of its trade and overwhelming interests as to wish to denude any essential industry of its men, and least of all the manufacture of munitions, which are necessary to carry on this War successfully. Another reason why every individual eligible should be brought before the tribunal is this: I am convinced that until eligible single men are taken from many occupations that are now certified, and from many works, and it may be also from Government Departments, you will never get those responsible for their employment in those three sections of the country's work to replace them with others who can do the work. If an employer can keep the staff he has got, he will not bother to get other 2340 employés to replace them; he is satisfied only with those who have been with him longest; but it is necessary that he should make an effort to replace them by persons not of military age, persons who have been discharged as not physically fit, or by women. Everybody advocates the employment of women, but in my view progress in the employment of women is being blocked; but we have now the splendid machinery of the tribunals and of the Advisory Committees, set up very largely on the advice of Lord Derby, who, I am glad to say, has been rightly championed and eloquently championed against the attacks that have been made upon him by the ex-Home Secretary (Sir J. Simon), in some of the remarks which he made.
To hold Lord Derby, who is simply an administrator, responsible for not getting single men into the Army, and who are now in the reserved occupations, is to fail to understand the position of Lord Derby, and the difference between administration and policy. Lord Derby cannot affect the certified occupations; he can only deal with single men if he can get them before the local tribunals. In my view there is still a reservoir of labour in the country, both of women and of men not of military age, and I hope that other Members of the Committee will endeavour to press upon the Government the need of creating vacancies in order that this reservoir of persons who are not yet employed may be fully employed, and who can be given positions to do useful work and so relieve men of military age and single men who are urgently needed at the front. I also submit to the Committee that it is no hardship on any patriotic man to be called before a tribunal of his fellow countrymen, elected by the local authority, to show cause why he should remain in civil occupation rather than become a soldier. There is another class whose number is unknown, but who may be said to be fairly numerous—the class of persons who have never registered or who have removed since the registration. Although there is a penalty for not giving notice of removal, they have never given notice. That class, I think, is large, and it is impossible for the military authorities to get hold of them.
It has been urged, and I think very fairly urged, that the police of this country should be given authority to ask every man of military age, in civilian clothing, for his certificate of exemption. 2341 I do not think that is any more an interference with the liberty of the individual than to ask a man in a railway train for his ticket. If he has got his certificate of exemption he is justified in having it; if he has not got it, he is evading the law of the land, passed by this House, calling upon him to be a soldier of the Crown, except under certain conditions. That system of checking wandering thousands in this country by means of police inquiry, I am convinced, would add to the Army a large number of men, and their very best service to the country would be in the Army. The need for soldiers is great, and I am amazed to find men sometimes saying, "Look at the enormous number you have already got in the country! Why do you not use them?" That point of view fails to grasp this, that the hope of success is not only on the valour of the men in the field at this moment, but on the reinforcements that can be contributed month after month, and, if necessary, year after year, until this War is brought to a conclusion. As the period of the conflict lengthens, the country which has the greatest number of reserves will undoubtedly ultimately win the War, and it is the piling up of these necessary reserves that is the only anxiety of the Government generally, and the War Office particularly, at the moment. I commend to the President of the Local Government Board the suggestions I have made for increasing the flow of recruits into the Army, and I hope Members of the Committee will impress it upon him, so that the lines at our various fronts will remain intact. There is no blinking the fact that unless recruits do come in now and come in quickly, in order to be trained to take the places of the men who are serving, then, day by day and week by week the power of our Army in the field will decline and will not reach that maximum which is so essential to our success.
§ Mr. BIRD
I do not propose in the short time that I wish to address the Committee to follow the hon. and gallant Gentleman who has just sat down in his remarks, opening a very wide question, which I am quite sure will receive all the careful consideration which they deserve at the hands of the Government. Before addressing myself to the principal subject on which I wish to address the Committee, I desire to give the Government an opportunity of informing the Committee what is the position with re- 2342 gard to the supply of helmets to our soldiers in the field. Many of us have relatives and friends fighting at the front, and we feel very anxious that they should receive all possible protection against the danger of wounds, more especially in the head. It is well known that nearly the whole of the French Army has been supplied with helmets, and it does seem a most remarkable circumstance that with the immense manufacturing resources of this country our Army is not in the same position. I notice a question was put in another place last week by Viscount Bryce to Lord Sandhurst with respect to the supply of helmets, and this is the only source from which we can obtain information of what the Government are doing. Lord Sandhurst, replying to Viscount Bryce's question, said:He was assured that a large number of these steel helmets had already been provided and were in use at the present time. He referred Lord Bryce to a report in the 'Times' of Wednesday from the British. Headquarters stating that a new British steel casque had had its first great test in the assault upon the Ypres Bluff on 2nd March, and the results were more than satisfactory.Viscount Bryce then asked:Do I understand from my Noble Friend that it is proposed to continue supplying these helmets until the whole of the Army possesses them?To this Lord Sandhurst replied:I cannot, of course, say what the intentions are.I do not think that is a satisfactory answer. After having told us of the very great success of the helmet in the recent action at Ypres, it does seem to me that he should have been in a position to say that every possible effort will be made to provide the Army as rapidly as possible with an adequate supply of helmets. I may state that it is within my knowledge that there are manufacturers who have made samples of these helmets which they sent up to the Government, and which the War Office have approved, but still they are without orders. When I ask why that is so, I am shown correspondence which rather indicates that the supply of steel out of which these helmets are made is being confined to manufacturers who nearly all of them are situated in Sheffield. There is only one other large manufacturing firm in the trade which is allowed to get any supply of the steel, which is in the control of the Government alone. I hope that this matter will get very early attention. There are two manufacturers of whom I can speak with knowledge; one is prepared to supply 20,000 of these helmets every week, and 2343 another is prepared to supply in a similar way 2,000, and I submit that they ought to be given opportunities to make these helmets so that our troops may be absolutely protected.
The chief subject on which I desire to address the House is the case of the attested married men. I will not labour the question, or refer to particular grievances that they have. In fact, they say that single men have not been called up. We are all aware that the Government are making gigantic efforts to overcome that evil, and to remedy that grievance, and I give them the credit for the desire to do so at the earliest possible moment. Nevertheless, we cannot ignore the fact that these men are being called upon very much earlier than they were ever led to believe. Sometimes we hear unpleasant remarks reflecting on those who have the management of recruiting, and meetings are taking place in regard to the question of attested married men being called upon at an earlier date than was expected. The Secretary of State for War in the House of Lords made a very important speech last night. He acknowledged that there was ground for complaint, but he said:I would appeal to the married men who have attested to place their patriotism and the national cause before any personal considerations, and come forward without hesitation to join the ranks.That, I am sure, is an appeal which those men will respond to, but I would point out that their position in manifesting their patriotism is a very sad one. I ask what would be the feelings of hon. Members here, supposing they were in the position of those married men who have attested, if, in the most arbitrary manner, in a few weeks they saw all possibility of maintaining their wives and families in the comfort which they have experienced for many years taken away from them, and that those poor wives and families would have to endure much penury and hardship owing to the men having to go out to the front. I say that there is no lack of patriotism among the attested married men, but remember that they have all of them given hostages to fortune, and I emphasise the necessity there is for exercising indulgence to those men if they do manifest any undue impatience. My colleague in the representation of Wolverhampton (Mr. G. Thorne) and myself have made it our business to acquaint ourselves with the position of 2344 affairs existing amongst those whom we represent. We have been down there and heard what they have to say. My colleague took the opportunity on Tuesday of briefly outlining a scheme which we venture to say would very much mitigate the hardships the attested married men will have to undergo, and which would ultimately be of great advantage to the country. The Government has many critics, but I am quite sure that the Members for our borough will not be numbered amongst those who are hostile. Our criticism has always been friendly and, I hope, helpful.
We put before the Committee this constructive proposal in regard to this great evil, as my hon. Friend explained the other day, namely, that instead of married men recruits being sent to distant camps in various parts of the country to devote the whole of the time to training, that the training should take place locally, and, instead of being away the whole of their time, they should give three days per week to the training and thus have the remaining four for their ordinary avocations. The result would be that on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday they would be engaged in training, and their employers would only lose their labour for a day and a half in the week, and they would have four days in which to carry out their duties, or if in business, in which to keep their businesses in existence. I am quite conscious of the fact that there would be very many difficulties in connection with such a scheme. First of all it would no doubt be very difficult to find means of housing all the men near the training ground on account of the absence of that provision which is made at the various great camps in different parts of the country. Still, I feel that that is a difficulty which can be overcome. We must always remember when difficulties are put before us that we are at war, and never forget that difficulties only exist to be overcome. Let us see what is the advantage of this new scheme. First of all the married man would have a certain respite of at least six months against the danger of losing his home, and of his family being broken up, and the next great gain would be the enormous saving to the country in the matter of separation allowances. That is also a very serious question indeed, because they would have to be on a very large scale. It is not a question of a widow's son with only his mother to support, but 2345 in the case of the married man you have to think of the wife and family. I do think the scheme which I have suggested is one which deserves the attention of the Government. I was a little sorry that my right hon. Friend the President of the Local Government Board, in his very brief reference the other night, described these proposed recruits as "half-timers." I am sure he did not mean it with the stigma attached to it. I say that these married men are not less energetic and enthusiastic in the training than those who are giving the whole of their time.
Another result, perhaps, would be that the length of the training would have to be somewhat lengthened because, as the men would not be giving the whole of their time, naturally they would not be able to accomplish so many route marches and other exercises. There is another point which I hope will be very carefully borne in mind. In future there must be no more calling up of thousands of men, as has happened in the past, when the Government were not in a position to properly equip them. Nothing could be more wasteful of the resources of the country than to take men away from their regular occupations, and when they attained a certain proficiency in drills and were ready to have arms put into their hands to find that there was no supply of arms ready. That was a great grievance, I know, among many of those who enlisted in the past. It is especially necessary that it should be guarded against in this case. I venture to put the case in the strongest way, because my colleague and myself are endeavouring as far as possible to champion the attested married men in our Constituency. We claim no monopoly in our desire to remedy the grievances of the married. I am sure it is a desire which is shared by every Member in this House, and that we are all equally anxious to lighten the lot of these men, who will have to make very great sacrifices indeed in the service of their country. I ask the Government to give our scheme their dispassionate consideration, and not to allow it to be put on one side because it is a departure from military methods in the past under different conditions.
§ Mr. LONG
I have no doubt that the suggestions which my hon. Friend (Mr. Bird) has just made will be dealt with later on by one of my colleagues from the War Office. I propose to address myself to the subject we were discussing before 2346 he rose, and to which he addressed himself at the end of his remarks. This Debate to-day has been initiated by the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Walthamstow (Sir J. Simon), the late Home Secretary. I confess I have to say again what I said on a previous occasion, that I listened to his speech with more profound regret than I have ever felt on listening to the speech of any man in this House. What a contrast there is between his speech and the attitude and speech of the hon. and gallant Member for East Clare (Captain William Redmond), who has just returned from the trenches, and which is a speech which must have made a profound impression on the House! The right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Walthamstow is a distinguished Member of this House. He sat for many years as a member of the Government, and left the Government only the other day, and is able to make his speech to-day with full knowledge of all the difficulties we had to encounter and all the plans we made in order to meet those difficulties. He at least has been associated with a party which is in the majority in this House, and has been associated since almost the earliest day of his entry into this House with the Government of the day. The hon. and gallant Member for East Clare has been in conflict not only with one particular political party, but during the greater part of his career with every party in turn and has engaged in bitter controversy with them. Does anybody doubt the fact that when war was declared one great factor in the mind of the Emperor responsible for this War was that disunion would paralyse the hands of Great Britain? Ireland, whatever may have been our differences in the past and whatever may be our differences in happier days again when we are at peace, everybody must feel by the action of her representatives who have fought so bitterly in this House and in the country has created a new claim for herself upon the affection, the gratitude, the respect of the people of the Empire by the great and proud part that she has played in this great struggle. What a contrast it is, the attitude to-day of the man fresh from the trenches who, as my hon. and gallant Friend behind (Colonel Sir H. Greenwood) remarked, has reached an age when men are thought to be unfit for active service, to the line which is taken again to-day, and which I suppose is to be repeated on every possible occasion by the right hon. 2347 and learned Gentleman the Member for Walthamstow! I have had to answer question after question about the actions of the tribunals. The excuse for the right hon. and learned Gentleman's speech to-day is the case of the widow's son.
§ Mr. LONG
That is not my fault. He also mentioned the case of the man with serious obligations. The right hon. and learned Gentleman is a distinguished member of a great legal profession, and surely he ought to have been the last to lend his powerful aid to the prosecution of these cases in the House when he knows perfectly well that so far as the Appeal Courts are concerned the vast majority of them are still sub judice. He has dealt with these cases to-day as if they had been finally settled. He has assumed that in every case sent to him, with very few exceptions, the tribunals have behaved unjustly and have declined to act in accordance with the views of Parliament and the Act of Parliament and the Regulations. It is a case of looking out for every possible grievance that can be found, and it is a case of going about struggling to find some cause of complaint. It is not a case of going to those people, and of bracing them up with strong advice, and by telling them that if they have a real case of injustice and a real hardship he would take it up privately and see if something could not be done. Here they come day after day. My right hon. and learned Friend and others, raised their cases on the floor of the House, and then, forsooth, end their speeches by telling us that it is done in the interests of the Empire and in the interests of the country. The speech that my right hon. and learned Friend made will be read to-morrow with dismay in every loyal section of the country here at home. There is one place where it will be read with profound satisfaction. When the newspaper containing the report reaches Berlin and other German towns there it will be heartily welcomed.
§ 7.0 P.M.
§ Mr. LONG
Do not make any mistake. Do not think that you can make those speeches, and that they will not be read by those who are our enemies. If you choose to make them and to advocate this policy, you are bound to listen to the answer we make to you here, and to the 2348 strictures we pass on your conduct. Received with gratitude and approbation, of course, these speeches will be. I only hope; that the truth will be known—that powerful though the speeches may be, and brilliant though the ability of some of those who make them may be, they represent but a miserable minority of the people of this country. My right hon. Friend raised the Debate to-day in the interests of the widow's son, and in the interests of the married attested men. I was glad to-find that he made it perfectly clear that he does not share in any degree the grotesque misrepresentation which assumes that the pledge to the married men has not been kept. But this was the pretext of his action. This is the burden of the song of those who support him. He and his friends are doing ten times more harm to the cause of the married men, of the widow's sop, and of the men with financial difficulties than has been done by all the tribunals put together, or by the action of any of the Advisory Committees. They are dragging the good case of the real sufferers in the dust and in the mire. They are presenting these men here as men who are not prepared to serve their country. I believe that the great majority of them are as ready to go now as they were when they first attested. My hon. Friend opposite (Mr. Bird) said that the married men had been called up earlier than they had been led to believe they would be. By whom were they led to believe that there was a fixed day?
§ Mr. PRINGLE
Lord Derby said in a speech on, I think, the 25th November, that he hoped that the later classes of married men would not be called up at all.
§ Mr. LONG
I am quite sure that my non. and learned Friend has far too acute an intellect to ask the Committee to accept it from him that the language which he has quoted, and which I take from him, forms in the slightest degree a pledge to the married men that they would not be called up before a certain date. Hon. Members here may in their speeches from time to time choose to forget that we are-at War, but the married attested men do not forget it. Does anybody suppose that Lord Derby, that the Secretary of State for War, that the whole Government could, 2349 when we are at War, give definite pledges as to the date upon which this or that class would be called up? War varies from month to month, from week to week, and from day to day, and it is according to the circumstances of the moment that those responsible for the prosecution of the War must act. The only grievance that the married attested men could have would be if they were able to show—which they cannot—that the Government have not done and are not doing their utmost to get the single men to serve with the Colours.
My right hon. and learned Friend poured great contempt upon Lord Derby and Lord Derby's figures. He enjoyed himself in an occupation which I should have thought was not worthy of him, of which the text was, "I told you so." He fought over again the battle of the Military Service Act. We had a réchauffé of speeches made on the Second Reading. Then we were told that all these figures are imaginary. What right has anyone to say that they are imaginary? What is the burden of hon. Members' complaint in this connection? It is that we will not tell them what the figures are. When they do not know how many soldiers we have got, and having complained that they are in ignorance, they make an attack upon us in regard to the numbers which they have already said they know nothing about. The charge falls of its own weight. Let there be no mistake about it; hon. Members do not seem to realise it, but we are getting under this Act a great number of men. We have got a great number of men many of whom were undoubtedly influenced in the action they took by the knowledge that the Military Service Act was in existence. There are a great many men who have still got to be found. I am not now talking of attested men, or of men in reserved occupations, or of men whose addresses cannot be discovered. I am talking of men who are there, who ought to be in the Army now, but who, for one reason or another, have not turned up. Therefore, it is the greatest mistake to assume that we have not got and are not getting a very large number of men. The contention of my right hon. and learned Friend that the figures given in Lord Derby's Report are entirely imaginary has not a shadow of foundation. But supposing it were true, how is the case presented this afternoon? We have had the figure 650,000 quoted, and great ridicule was cast upon it. We were told, "You 2350 said there were 650,000. You have got nothing of the kind." It was convenient for the presentation of the case to ignore the fact—which ought to be known to everybody—that when the Military Service Bill was introduced, and during the stages of its progress, the Prime Minister and those who supported him never rested it upon the number 650,000 men. I have here the Prime Minister's language, which I can read if necessary, in which he made it perfectly clear that he was willing to take it at half that number. [HON. MEMBERS: "Read."] Here is what the Prime Minister said when introducing the Bill:As I reminded the House a few moments ago, Lord Derby calculates the number of unmarried men who are not accounted for at 650,000. As I said, and I repeat, I am very sure large deductions must be made from that figure to make it correspond at all with the actual fact—I mean of people who are not only not accounted for, but who are available. I am prepared hypothetically, because this is a matter with a large extent of conjectural speculation, to make very large deductions from that figure. Bring it down to half, bring it down to less than half, I am totally unable, making the largest possible deductions that I can conceive, to treat the hypothetical figure which would remain as anything but a substantial and even considerable amount.[OFFICIAL REPORT, 5th January, 1916, Col. 953, Vol. LXXVII.] Yet to-day when the Government were to be attacked, when we were to be abused for doing—what? For what have we been attacked by my right hon. and learned Friend? What is the charge brought against us? It is that we are doing our utmost to get men to fill the Army and fight the battles of the country; and in order to bolster up this charge against the Government of the day statements are made on the floor of the House which entirely misrepresent the actual facts of the case connected with the introduction and the passage of the Military Service Bill. Suggestions have been made that the tribunals are not acting satisfactorily, that men are being forced to the Colours who under the Act ought to be allowed to go free. These charges ought not to be made. There have been established, by the general consent of the House, tribunals, Appeal Courts, and a Central Appeal Court, and you are condemning us without even waiting to see what action the Appeal Courts take. It will be time enough to attack us if you find that the Appeal Courts do not reverse unjust decisions or that the tribunals themselves are in a large number of cases dealing improperly with the applicants who come before them.
My right hon. and learned Friend made a very remarkable suggestion. It was 2351 that I should issue to the tribunals a circular quoting the language used by the Prime Minister and myself in the course of the Debates on the Military Service Bill. I should like very much to hear what my right hon. and learned Friend—who, when Home Secretary, was responsible for some very drastic legislation—would have answered if it had been suggested to him, after carrying those Acts of Parliament, that he should send to those who had to administer them copies of the speeches made by Ministers when carrying them through the House. I can answer for it that he would have replied much more effectively than I can. As I cannot pretend to emulate the eloquence and force with which he would have replied to such a suggestion, I shall content myself by saying that it is not a proposal that I see my way to adopt. I have already issued regulations which nobody among those who complain of the operation of the Act has attempted to criticise or to find fault with. On the contrary, I believe that my right hon. and learned Friend himself approves of the regulations and of the instructions which have been issued to the tribunals.
§ Mr. LONG
That part of my case is accepted. On what ground, then, am I suddenly to issue fresh instructions which are to take the novel form of giving extracts from Ministers' speeches? Solely on the ground that courts of first instance have arrived at some decisions which are said to be unjust. I repeat that the time for that is not now.? The time for that is when the Appeal Courts have dealt with those cases. If there are then real cases of hardship, then will be the time to ask the Government to take fresh steps.
My right hon. and learned Friend addressed another question to the Government, a question which he will forgive me if I say I heard with very great surprise. He has not left the Government very long. Since he left it there have been no very startling changes in our action or in our policy. A great deal of the work for which the Government are and must remain responsible was being carried out when the Government had the advantage of his presence among them. He asked us, "What are you doing? Are you thinking out these problems? Have you considered what the size of your Army 2352 ought to be?" He then proceeded to argue—as I thought, very erroneously—that the whole situation had been altered because we have got compulsion. As he thinks, our policy having been entirely wrong, we must adopt a different policy in regard to the size of the Army that we are going to provide. My answer to him is perfectly clear. The Government have thought out these questions. They have thought them out very fully, and are working to estimates some figures of their own. But, as we have said before, we do not intend, whatever be the pressure, to make public facts and figures which we believe could only be made public with great injury to the State and with great advantage to our enemies. He went on to ask us whether we had considered the needs of the country in regard to production. Of course we have. Has not my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade made speech after speech on the subject? Have we not told the House repeatedly that we are sitting constantly studying and watching this movement—because it is a movement? The calculations made three months ago or six months ago might now be wholly misleading. When you condemn the Government because we have not, to use a popular phrase, combed our industries of all the men we might have obtained, you are making a criticism which really is unjust. It is only as time goes on, from week to week, that we can act with decision, at all events, in regard to some of these industries.
Circumstances change. The dilution of labour, as it is called, is working well and progressing; but it takes time before you can get into some of these factories either the older men, the boys, or the women who can replace the fit men. The process of combing has been going on, and is going on with the utmost vigour, and the result will be to release very large numbers of men. From time to time these estimates are made, and I can assure the House, speaking with full knowledge and full responsibility, that I do not think more could be done than is being done to secure that we shall have the men we want for the Armies we are putting into the field, and the men we want at home in order to maintain the industries which are essential to national prosperity. I confess I am very sorry that debates of this kind should take place as frequently as they are doing. Some of those who have spoken have referred to the case of the married men. 2353 They have pointed out, what must be obvious to everyone of us, that there is terrible hardship and suffering necessarily inflicted upon those who are called upon to leave their wives, their children, and their homes, and to go and fight. Why are they going? Why is this case raised suddenly to-day? We have got hundreds of thousands of men in different parts of the world fighting for the honour and the safety of the Empire. Where did those men come from? Who are those men?
§ Mr. LONG
My hon. Friend says "more." He will forgive me for saying he does not see the peculiarity of the position that he himself takes up. This case is being pressed upon the Government as an act of injustice and wrongdoing. If it is that to-day why was it not so fourteen months ago? What is there in the particular case of the married men to-day that makes their circumstances more cruel, or the injustice to them more severe, than that of the married men who, as my hon. Friend said, came forward voluntarily? Are not they suffering difficulties as great and troubles as serious? Why is it that we are to be suddenly told that we are doing everything that is wrong and nothing that is right, because this particular case is raised to-day, while nothing is said of the scores of thousands of other cases because they occurred in the earlier days of the War? Nobody sympathises more than I do, or does the Government on whose behalf I speak, with the case of the married men who have left all they cared for to go and fight. But do not let us, in an excess of sentimentality, and from lack of thinking out these problems, assume that there is a special hardship, where in reality there is no special hardship, or that the case of the married men to-day is any harder than was the case of the married men twelve months ago! There is only one grievance that the married men could have. That would be if you can show here—which you cannot do—that we are not doing our best to bring the unmarried man to the Colours. We never said—you will not find a word of it in the Debates that took place during the passing of the Military Service Act—we never said that no married men should be brought to the Colours until the un- 2354 married men had been brought. Our language was precise throughout. What we said was that the married men should not be called to serve with the Colours and the unmarried men allowed to remain idle at home, and not taking their share in the fighting. We are carrying that out. Side by side with the married groups which are being called up the unmarried men are coming forward. More will have to be got, and will be got. Many of the men, I believe, are not shirkers. As I said yesterday, it is a new Act, a novel form of procedure, and quite foreign to our general ideas, and it takes time to make it work efficiently and successfully. We have only had twelve days. Is it not, therefore, rather unfair to bring criticism against His Majesty's Government to condemn them as inefficient and incompetent, and in failing to do their duty when you have only had ten or twelve days of an Act of Parliament of which the country has had no previous experience? To that indictment we plead that we are absolutely guiltless. We have done and are doing our duty.
I observe in the newspapers to-day that it is said that they are unable to understand why we refuse to plead guilty to this charge of having deceived the married men. All I can say is that I imagine the people who write these articles for the newspapers are revenging themselves upon the public who refused to read their articles. The writers of the articles certainly do not read the speeches we make in the House, or the declarations which are made from time to time by Ministers, nor are they sufficiently fair even to read our speeches before they condemn us as having broken down. They erect a case of their own, which does not exist, which is purely imaginary, and then they condemn us because, on these particular counts which they themselves have set out, they find us guilty. It would be unreasonable to expect the Government to plead guilty to such ridiculous charges. No, Sir; there has been no infringement of our policy, either in the spirit or in the letter. I made that statement yesterday. I have watched to see if anybody challenged it, or could produce one tittle of evidence in an opposite direction. So far I have watched in vain. I appeal to the House—we are at War! We are in the greatest war in which this country has ever been engaged. Everything is at stake that we care for most—our future existence, the liberty of our people, everything for which we care! You 2355 might think we in the Government are not doing our work as efficiently as we ought to do it. At all events we are doing it with all our strength, with all our energy, and we are bringing to the task all the power we can bring. If you think you have got men to do it better, then I say in the name of my country, for Heaven's sake find them and put them in our places! You will find no difficulty on our part. But so long as we are here, and responsible to our country for the conduct of this great campaign, do not waste the time of this House by speeches which can only aid the enemy. Do not ruin the cause of the suffering widows, their sons, or hard-driven men by bringing their case here in a way that does them no good and their case great harm. These Debates are useless in the interests of the poor people whose cause you champion. They are mischievous in the extreme to the country of which we are all subjects, to which we are all devoted, and which we are all anxious to serve. I earnestly pray the House to turn their attention to other and more profitable subjects, and to give the Government, whether they like it or not—if only because it is the Government, and the only Government at the present time—to give them their support in what they are determined to do—to bring this War to the only conclusion that is possible, a glorious and a great victory.
§ Mr. STUART-WORTLEY
I am sure that millions will read with satisfaction the frank and outspoken speech just made by the right hon. Gentleman. He said some wholesome things which much needed saying. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Walthamstow (Sir J. Simon) may rest assured that we shall not suppose that his debating professions of sympathy with our national cause and his anxiety for our success in this War were anything but sincere. But if he had wished to persuade us that they were platitudes he could not have gone better about his task than by making the speech he did to-day. Not a word did he drop of which the tendency was not to reduce the numbers to be brought to the Colours, and to make weaker our efforts to bring this War to a victorious finish. No, Sir, I might go further, and say his very contentions were that we should at once envisage the maximum number that we ever wished to raise, or could raise, and that at the earliest possible date the ridiculous policy of making known this maximum 2356 should be spread as widely as possible. In other words, we are to issue a prospectus of our intentions to the German General Staff for their comfort and encouragement, and for galvanising the spirits of a depressed and disappointed people. We should pass by our Allies with the frigidity of the old maid who passes the collection plate in church, and assure the world in general that we are making war on the principle of limited liability. The right hon. Gentleman kept to the front the case of the married men. It is very difficult to say, either at the beginning or in the middle or at the end of his speech, what relevancy the case of the married men had to a single word he said. For all his contentions, campaigns, resignations and oppositions have done more than anything else to bring on the call of the married men and to remove from them the protection that consisted in the marginal number of unmarried which they have a right to think would be maintained to the full. This attack which has been made is an attack really upon the Act, and upon the action of this House. It is an attack upon the system of exemptions, designed and catalogued, it is true, at the instance of the Government, but also-largely at the instance of the right hon. Gentleman and his own Friends. It is an attack upon the tribunals created, erected, and placed beyond our criticism by the act of this House itself. For this-legislation, however, the blame is to be shared, it is true, by this House and by Ministers, and possibly also by the tribunals.
I wish to voice the grievance of the married men, as we are all doing to-night, for everybody in this House knows the feeling that exists outside. I want to point out that there are other quarters in which the blame ought to be borne. We have much right to blame the opponents of the Act in this House. They mostly declared their desire that we should win this War. In consideration of that, or, rather, in the presence of those professions, a very important promise was made to them, namely, that neither they nor others-should be proceeded against in the future for agitating for the repeal of the Act. I want to draw some distinction. If you mean honestly to agitate for the repeal of the Act and you do anything to hinder recruiting, you are going beyond that for which you can claim protection. It is not loyalty to those professions to tell us here of your support for your country 2357 in the War and then to hinder recruiting by going about and manufacturing exemptions, and doing your best to induce numbers of unmarried men that can be brought to the Colours not to come. The right hon. Gentleman spoke of discredited arithmetic. He seemed to think the fact that the numbers had been miscalculated was entirely the cause of the possibly disappointing result. I believe the cause is to be sought entirely in other quarters. Possibly some of the married men think the pledge has been broken. It is for the Government to deal with that, and they have. They have gone further and announced certain definite and concrete measures for getting rid of any difficulty standing in the way of the carrying out of that pledge. But there are other causes at work. We have all received letters. I propose to tell the House something of what I have received. Sheffield is a munition place, and I get a letter from Sheffield telling me that there are hundreds of young unmarried men in Sheffield on war work that a schoolgirl could do. Then I received a letter from an association of commercial travellers, who probably are representative of the married class, but it is more important to remember that they have special experience and it is gathered from a very wide area. This association of travelled men sent along, with others, a protest against what they consider to be the unfair treatment of the married men. Let me read a letter from an individual of their number who, describing his recent movements about the country in the exercise of his useful profession, says:I have been in Carmarthenshire, Pembrokeshire, and Cardiganshire for ten days, and I am thoroughly disgusted with what I have seen and heard of the recruiting. They are exempting everybody. I cannot mention names, but one public character who attests people and pays them 2s. 9d. tells every one to 'get an appeal paper at once and see So-and-so, and he will help you to fill it in.' You would think it was an election day to see them running about looking for influence to get out of serving their country. One of my customers, whose two sons are serving, tells me the whole of the Nonconformist ministers are working against the Act, and, if attested, using influence to get exemption. Young fellows are also keeping away from home so that they cannot be found.That may be true or it may be false.
§ Mr. STUART-WORTLEY
To begin with, you might deduct 50 per cent. of that for exaggeration, and yet—
§ Mr. STUART-WORTLEY
The point is, if these impressions are so easily produced in that sort of occupation, there must be great and reasonable ground for the sense of grievance there is in these large numbers of married men. His Majesty's, Government have announced certain definite and concrete measures, and I am glad to think they are going to apply relief; but I must say I think I am speaking for an overwhelming majority of this House in assuring the Government that if they want any further powers from this House, this House will be only too glad to grant them.
§ Mr. ANDERSON
I am not going to enter into these controversies of which we have just heard so much. I think that some of the big issues involved in military compulsion are not going to be settled by heated appeals to passion at the moment. I am going to raise a matter which, I think, will claim a good deal of sympathy even among those who disagree on many other matters involved here, and that is the large number of wholly unfit men who are being enlisted in the Army at the present time. I do not think it is being done on precisely the same lines everywhere. It seems to differ in respect of districts, but it is the case that a large number of men who ought not to be in the Army at all, from the standpoint of physical health, are being put into the Army, and grave personal hardship and suffering are involved. I myself receive a. large number of letters, and I am quite sure many Members of this House must receive many letters, on this question. Some of the doctors are making a test altogether too low in regard to the kind of men who are of no value from a military point of view. Here is a letter, for example, from a father, who writes about a lad twenty-three years of age, who has been passed into the Army, although he had been all his life feeble-minded, has attended a school for the feeble-minded, and his employer wrote to the authorities to point out that he was not a proper person to join His Majesty's Forces. The employer said he could not trust him with a verbal message, as he invariably forgot the message, and that the man was sure 2359 to get into trouble because, from a mental point of view, he would be absolutely useless as a soldier. And yet that man has been passed by the military doctors. What is the use of a man like that? The father himself actually says—and I will hand the letter to the right hon. Gentleman with the whole facts—I am quite sure he will get into trouble. I know if he was put on sentry duty, and there were spies about, he would tell them everything he knew.Not that he would do that in a treacherous way, but that he is mentally disqualified. What is the use from any point of view of a man like that for any kind of Army service?
§ Mr. TENNANT
What I want really to know is whether he has been passed for sedentary work, garrison duty, or general service?
§ Mr. ANDERSON
He has not been told, but I say, from any point of view, a man like that is a useless person as far as the Army is concerned. [An HON. MEMBER: "He ought to join the I.L.P.!"] Some doctors have received, or they appear to have received, a hint that almost anyone should be passed, no matter what is his physical condition. I do submit that these unfit men are a burden and an expense, and I am quite sure nothing could be worse from any point of view than a case like that reported in the "Daily Chronicle" on Tuesday, 7th March. It was the case of a man who was five times rejected by the doctors and then passed. The facts are as follows:A clerk who claimed exemption at the City of London Tribunal yesterday stated that he had been rejected five times, that he was subject to epileptic fits, and that on one occasion he had a fit at the headquarters of the Queen's Westminsters.The Chairman: The doctor did not pass you on that account?Applicant: He did. I was leaving Scotland Yard with a rejection paper when I was called back and passed. My paper was signed 'Epileptic fits,' and marked 'General Service.'That man is not even passed for sedentary work, but for general service. One of the doctors of the tribunal remarked:I do not see what they want him for at all, but as they do, he must go, I suppose.This man's appeal was actually disallowed by the tribunal. Many cases of a similar character are coming to hand, and I am quite sure that these cases are adding a great deal to family worries in the case of people who are ill. There is bound to 2360 be anxiety in any case, but when that is added to by this sort of thing the recovery of these people is bound to be retarded in many ways. I have received a very large number of letters from Sheffield in regard to the enlistment and recruitment of unfit men. Here is a sample letter from a man who writes in a very anxious state of mind:Could you please give me answers in regard to a case in which my brother, who enlisted in the Royal Navy and got his discharge signed 'Medically unfit' and received his Army papers to report himself on the 10th inst. at the Corn Exchange, Sheffield, and was ordered to Pontefract by the two p.m. train. My brother, in October, 1915, met with a severe accident, breaking and shattering his right arm, necessitating a silver plate being inserted and screwed to the bone. Practically he is a cripple, being unable to follow his occupation as a joiner. I think that the Army authorities overreached the limit in accepting him.I think everyone will agree that that man ought not to be passed into the Army in that way. What is going to happen is that these men for a few weeks or a few months are to he taken away from work they possibly can do, be put on to work they never can do, and then, when public expense has been incurred, they are to be thrown out again. In many cases they are going to break down under the strain to which they are subjected, and when they do break down I am very doubtful as to the treatment they will receive at the hands of the War Office. I do think that presents a very serious point of view. I am quite sure part of the answer of the right hon. Gentleman will be that many of these unfit people are merely passed into the Army either for sedentary work or for Home service, and that they are passed into the Army merely for the purpose of doing easy work in order to relieve fitter men. I am going to give one or two cases of men who have been passed by the doctors for Home service and their papers have been marked, "Partially fit for Home service," which the authorities have entirely disregarded. The men have been sent into general service and submitted to very hard training and the ordinary drills. I am able to give case after case where that has happened. This is a case from Tiverton:My son was attested at Wandsworth last November, and was at first put back by two doctors for defective sight, having hardly any sight from birth in his right eye. Afterwards he was called in the second time by one of the doctors and passed for 'Home service.' When he reported on the 10th February they took not the least notice of that, although he called their attention to it, but sent him right away to Kingston Barracks, and from there into the East Surrey Regiment. They are expected to become first-class men in ten weeks and are being put to a severe strain.2361 That is one letter showing the way a man who is actually passed for Home service is very speedily passed on. Here is a letter from Sheffield:I am taking the liberty of asking for your personal interest in the case of my son, who was nineteen years of age last January, and who attested last October and was rejected and given the blue form on which was written, 'Medically unfit; permanently discharged.' After an interval of two or three months he went to the recruiting depot to apply for his armlet. When he produced the blue form he was told by the recruiting officer it was 'no good,' and made to attest again. After a lapse of three or four weeks he received the yellow form calling him up for March 6th. He took, of course, the blue form with him, but this was of no avail, and he was passed by the doctor for general service, which, I suppose, means anything and everything, and he has been sent away to Salisbury Plain for training. To show his unfitness, allow me to state the following facts: About eleven months ago he was engaged in one of the local banks as a junior clerk, and their rule is to have all their clerks go through a medical examination by their own medical man, and the report he gave was that he was not fully developed, and certainly would not pass the Army doctor. As I was not satisfied with this report I decided that my own medical man should examine him and, strange to say, he only confirmed the report of the bank doctor. Further, about six weeks ago, he was anxious to insure his life through the Alliance Assurance Company's Office, but to our regret their medical man could not pass him. I think these three separate instances very clearly prove his unfitness for the Army. His height is about 5 feet 8 inches, and he weighs only about 7½ stone. If you can do anything to help us in this matter (which I consider a gross injustice to the lad on the part of the military authorities in Sheffield) we shall be very grateful.Those are a few cases, and I could quote many others to reinforce my argument and which raise very important matters. In a question the other day I asked the Under-Secretary for War whether he was aware that, despite his statement in this House, these certificates of rejection were still being destroyed by some of the Army authorities, and whether he was aware that some of these unfit men were being treated with great harshness by the military authorities. In face of that, I am bound to read another letter, and I am supplying the right hon. Gentleman with all the facts. In this case I have taken special pains to ascertain the truth of the facts which are put forward by this boy's father in Sheffield, and after private inquiries I find that the facts are entirely as stated in the letter. Here is the letter:In November my son offered himself for enlistment, but having lost his right eye was rejected, and received the Army Form B 2505a, upon which was written, 'Not accepted; loss of right eye. Sheffield, 16.11.1915. A. Taylor, Recruiting Officer.' He again offered himself in December, but was refused, and told that as his rejection paper was quite in order he was only wasting time in going to the recruiting office, as he could not be accepted under any conditions. The lad then went to a. lot of expense to qualify for a motor driver and obtained a situation as such. On 2nd March, 1916, he received Army Form No. W 3236, 2362 requesting him to appear at the Corn Exchange on the morning of 8th March. He then wrote Major Firth, who had signed the paper, giving him the particulars of his rejection and number of certificate. He received in reply a letter signed by Lieutenant Barnsley, stating that he must appear at the Corn Exchange on the morning of 8th March, when he presented himself and he was requested to produce his rejection certificate, which was immediately taken away from him and its return refused. He was not even asked if he was willing to reattest, but was ordered to go before the doctor, after which he was told to sign a paper, which he was not allowed to read. He was then handed 5s. 6d., being told that was the money for two days' rations, and sent off to Pontefract by the 12.20 p.m. train the same morning. The lad did not take any oath, or was asked to accept the King's shilling, and on asking to be allowed time to go home to inform his parents was prevented leaving the room by a soldier on guard. No opportunity was given of appealing to civil tribunals, but the lad managed to telephone to his employer who, on arrival, explained the case to Lieutenant Barnsley, but was told 'nothing could be done.' These are just the bare facts of the case.I think the father writes with very great restraint in all the circumstances, and I think matters of that kind ought to be brought up in this House. I am quite sure that it is proper that they should be brought up here, but they are not matters which commend themselves to the right hon. Gentleman who represents the War Office in this House. These are a few examples, and I say that methods of this sort are bound to cause and will cause, a very great deal of resentment. I have a report from one of the newspapers, which I am not going to read, saying that in a fortnight, as a result of putting a man whom even the doctors had passed as partially unfit, on to general service during route marches and drills, which only a strong man could stand, the man died in a fortnight. I say that from every point of view this is a wrong thing, and it is useless from the standpoint of the Army, and it is doing nothing from the standpoint of strengthening the Army. If these unfit men are to be recruited and put on to hard drills in the camps it should be remembered that, although this may be a life which makes stronger the strong, it breaks down the weak. I know there are cases of men suffering from illness who on account of the open life may be made stronger, but I am quite sure that nobody would advocate that unfit men should be taken into the Army on the off-chance of being made stronger by the life. If this goes on the men will only break down, and what is going to happen to them if they break down after two or three months' training. We understand that the position is going to be better, but it is going to put a needless burden upon the country to have a great number 2363 of broken-down men put on the Pension Funds. I am quite sure that in many cases these unfit men, from the standpoint of the Pensions Committees, are probably rendering better service where they are now by allowing them to remain at their work and do something they can do rather than take them into the Army where they never can become efficient soldiers. From the economic standpoint as well as from the personal standpoint a great mistake is being made, and I hope the very earliest steps will be taken by the War Office to see that this matter is put right, because this is a question on which people who differ on many other matters would very heartily agree upon.
§ Sir CHARLES NICHOLSON
The hon. Member who has just spoken will excuse me if I do not follow him in the very interesting points with which he has dealt. J should not have risen at all to take part in this Debate had it not been for the remarks made yesterday by the hon. Member for South Nottingham (Lord Henry Cavendish-Bentinck). Unfortunately I was not able to be present in the House? or I should have answered his points at 'once. The hon. Member for South Nottingham made certain charges against the Board of Control of which I happen to be the chairman, and therefore it is necessary for me to deal with those charges before they go any further. One charge is that the contractors are making too large profits out of the soldier. I should like to point out that the Board of Control, which deals with all these questions, fixes the price of the vast majority of the articles consumed in the canteens once a month. There are certain articles in regard to which it is absolutely impossible to fix a price, such as perishable articles like milk, vegetables, potatoes, and things of that kind. Anybody who knows anything about canteen management knows that you cannot fix the average price of potatoes, for example, which in one place may be worth 7s. a ton, whereas in another place the price might get up to 120s. a ton, and therefore it is impossible to fix one price throughout the country.
The charge made is that the prices are 25 per cent. above the current rates of the district. The first question I would like to ask is: What are the current rates? Anyone who thinks about this question will find that it is absolutely impossible 2364 to give a definition of that term. Some articles in a particular shop are sold sometimes at a price below the cost because the owner or manager of the shop has got a large stock of that material, and because it is likely to depreciate, he wishes to clear it out quickly. Sometimes articles are sold below the cost price because the owner or manager wants to attract customers into his shop to buy other things, and if you take all these things into consideration, obviously it is impossible to say what is the current rate of a district. In the case of all these perishable articles, it is the duty of the commanding officer to fix the price himself in consultation with the contractor, and full instructions have been issued by the Board and the Army Council to that effect. The Board never interferes in cases of this kind except where the commanding officer fails to come to a satisfactory agreement with the contractor in question. If that is not possible, the commanding officer has only got to appeal to the Board of Control, and the chief inspector of the Board has always acted as arbitrator, and in all cases of this kind matters have been satisfactorily adjusted. The charges made by the hon. Member for South Nottingham arose out of a letter written by the Duke of Bedford, which appeared in the "Times." Unfortunately I was not able to answer that letter, and I have taken this opportunity of doing so. I have to say to the Duke of Bedford that if he is dissatisfied with the present arrangements and if he is unable to come to an agreement with the contractors, he has only to mention the case to the Secretary of the Board, giving the particular case, and the Board will then examine into the matter and deal with it as justly as possible.
One other charge made was, that in view of the fact that every contractor has to pay the Board of Control 10 per cent. of his daily takings, one-fifth of that is kept by the Board of Control and the other four-fifths goes back to the commanding officer for the regimental funds. The charge now made is that of this 2½ per cent. is kept by the Board to pay their own salaries. I believe it has already been pointed out here that there is not a single member of this Board who draws any salary at all, and the whole of the work has been done voluntarily by people of great business capacity, such as Sir William Lever and Sir Richard Burbidge, the head of a gigantic business 2365 in London, and their services are given without any charge. Naturally, the staff of the Board is paid. It may be interesting for the Committee to know that out of this 2½ per cent. which is kept in the hands of the Board we have been able, besides paying all the salaries of the staff, to save a very substantial surplus. In regard to the funds which remain in our hands, we have to abide by the decisions of the Army Council. We have already spent a considerable sum sending newspapers and other articles to the troops, and we have provided £60 a week assisting the society which provides camp libraries for men in the trenches. There still remains in our hands a very considerable sum of money, of which we hope to make great use when the War comes to an end for the benefit of the soldiers who have been serving us so well. I felt it necessary to take the earliest opportunity I could of explaining this matter in the hope that if any more attacks are to be made on the Board of this kind, those making those attacks will take the trouble to examine into the circumstances before making such charges.
§ 8.0 P.M.
§ Major FALLE
I have listened with great attention to every speech made in this Debate, and if I have not spoken earlier it has not made my task easier, although it has made it more necessary than I thought at the beginning. The question I want to say a few words about is on the subject of the attested married men, from whom I have received already a good many petitions on the rendering of the famous pledge. It is very difficult for anybody who has heard the President of the Local Government Board not to be moved by what he said, but at the same time I hope there is still another side, and that side I do not think he has altogether paid the attention that he will yet have to do. I have nothing to say about the married shirker. That man I have not met, and I have not yet seen. I need not say that I do not want to see him, and I do not expect to have to see him. I wish to speak about the attested married man who has done what he considered his duty and the man whom I consider has done his duty, the man who is proud of having done his duty and of whom we might very well be proud, the man who has attested at the risk of financial ruin to himself and his family, the man who is of a certain age and has a big business and who 2366 knows that once he leaves that business it will go to rack and ruin, and that his place will possibly, if not probably, be taken by a young married man who has not attested. These attested married men feel that they have been jockeyed. They feel as if they had been fooled and their patriotism exploited. These men ask to have a further rendering of the pledge that was made to them, and they ask for what they consider fair play. I am here to raise my voice in an attempt to get that fair play for them. I must admit to a feeling of great surprise when yesterday I heard the President of the Local Government Board state that in his opinion the pledge had been kept in the spirit and in the letter. I heard him again to-day say practically the same thing. I must say that in that case the attested married man as well as myself misinterpreted that pledge.
The attested married man at the present time suffers, or thinks that he suffers, from a sense of wrong. He does not suffer from a sense of wrong because Of the single unattested man nearly so much as because of the married man who did not attest. That is his trouble, and that is the crux of the question. He sees many occupations held by young unmarried men and young married men. In my peregrinations about London recently I have spied Government offices packed with young men both married and unmarried. The large majority of those young men who apparently are shameless are doing work that might equally well be done by young women or by old men. They belong to that enormous brigade which was mentioned by Oliver Wendell Holmes as the "shoulder umbrella brigade." These men did not attest for the simple reason that they knew they had no excuse if they went before the tribunal. They had no reason to plead exemption, and therefore they did not attest. They are rather given to rubbing it in to the attested married man that if he had had the sense to pay attention to the policy of "Wait and see" he would not now be in the unfortunate position in which he considers he is placed. It was freely mentioned to the married men that they would be in a better position if they attested. The man was always told that he would be in a better position. It may be true if you meant that he would have a far better chance of going out immediately to serve his country, but that was not what was intended or meant. As I read it, and as they read it, it meant that 2367 being of a certain age, and having a certain position in the country, being fathers of families, with people dependent upon them, they would not be taken before the unattested married men, even if they were taken before certain single men who were in positions from which they could not well be removed.
If the reading which the right hon. Gentleman puts into the pledge amazes me, I must say that the speech of Lord Kitchener, in the other House, amazes me still more. Without differentiating between the attested or the unattested married men, he simply asked them to place patriotism and the national cause before any personal consideration. That is an entirely different matter from the question of the pledge, and I do not see why he mixes the two together. I do not think that Lord Kitchener realises the position which he holds in the hearts and the minds of the people of this country. He does not realise the depth of feeling the people of this country have for him. For my part I do not believe that there is a single position to which, even now, the people of this country would not elect Lord Kitchener rather than any other subject of the Crown. I travel about the country a little, and I believe that absolutely. We have passed Bills through this House with great speed, and there is still time to pass through the House any Bill that Lord Kitchener may think necessary and which would give him the men he wants.
This question of the unattested married man is growing, and it will continue to grow. The attested married men consider that they have been unfairly dealt with and that they are being taken out of their turn. We have got a wonderful Army. The great difference between it and the old Army is perfectly marvellous. The men to-day do not seek to do as little as they can but as much as they can. They go to their officers in what you may call their play time or their dinner time and they say, "Can you explain so-and-so to me?" They do not yet, of course, understand discipline, and they do not necessarily go to their corporals or their bombardiers or their sergeant-majors, but they stop their majors and sometimes even their colonels, and they ask them something or other urging them to push them along and to enable them to get to the front. Now for the first time we shall have a set of honest, good-intentioned men forced into the Service—
§ Major FALLE
I think so. It is the first time any men have been forced into the Army under a feeling that they have been wrongly dealt with. I think the right hon. Gentleman will agree with me, because I do not think that there are any other men who feel that they have been forced into the Army wrongly. These men will have a sense of wrong, and there will be trouble. The country is dissatisfied, and the dissatisfaction of the country is growing. This House itself is at any rate uneasy in the matter. Last week in my Constituency, which is a large one, 1,800 attested married men, the same number of men who stood triumphant on Albuera's Hill, met and passed a resolution which I had the honour of sending to the Prime Minister and also to Lord Kitchener. They did not ask to be let off. They asked for compulsion. They asked that the unattested married men should be taken also. They are perfectly ready to go, and they want to go, but they do not want favouritism; they want the pledge carried out according to the spirit as well as the letter, and they want the unattested married men to go with them. That compulsion, I believe, has got to come, and the sooner it comes the better.
§ Mr. DUNCAN MILLAR
I desire to mention a matter not yet referred to at all, but which is one of first-class importance in regard to the carrying of the present campaign to an early and successful issue. I refer to the machine-gun service, which is one of the most important branches of the Service at the present time. There is no doubt, as the experience which we have gathered from the lessons of this War tells us, that the machine-gun is the most efficient and destructive weapon in the field. It is equal to a hundred rifles. We were in a very unfortunate position at an early stage of the War with regard to machine-guns, but I am glad to think now that the shortage has been made good and that the output is increasing continually. I should like to have an assurance to-night from my right hon. Friend that this very efficient and useful branch of the Service is at the present time receiving every encouragement. I do not desire to make any criticism which can be otherwise than helpful, because I realise that my right hon. Friend throughout has endeavoured in every possible way to meet any case which has been put before 2369 him, and I am sure that his courtesy and industry have earned for him the respect of Members in all parts of the House.
I should like to say with regard to the machine-gun service that the new corps, which was started in October, 1915, by an Army Order which was then promulgated, has been doing magnificent work, although in certain respects it has been somewhat handicapped. I should like to pay a special tribute to the extraordinary zeal and capacity of the officers in charge of the training centre in England, General Hill and his staff. They deserve, I am sure, every encouragement. They are all experienced men who are devoted to this particular branch of the Army. They ought to feel that in regard to the constitution of this new corps everything is being done to develop it, to extend it, and to support it, and that the largest number of trained machine gunners will be put into the field as the new guns are delivered from time to time, so that they may be taken up at once without any delay. Unfortunately, the present establishment of the machine-gun corps is on a comparatively small basis. The largest unit is the company unit. I hope that it may be possible to develop this so that we may have a higher organisation, so that larger units may be grouped together for strategic purposes, and so that we may have an efficient service created for the whole Army—Regular, New, and Territorial.
It is extremely desirable, when dealing with a highly-skilled branch of the Service like this, to have the advantage of the experience of those who have been specially trained and have passed through the lower grades of rank by securing for them that there shall be still higher promotion within the corps itself. My right hon. Friend was good enough to indicate the other day in answer to a question that it was desirable that there should be promotion within the corps. I hope, however, that it may be possible to secure promotion to a higher rank than is possible at the present time owing to the limited establishment which exists and the fact that the company is the present unit. May I point out one extraordinary feature of this service, and that is its high efficiency in proportion to the number of men employed; thus with ten gunners serving one gun that gun is equal to the firepower of 100 rifles. It is, therefore, of enormous importance that we should have as many trained gunners as 2370 possible in order to secure the most efficient service in the field, and thus utilise our numbers to the best advantage.
As to the training of machine gunners, there is a very considerable demand for suitable men for this particular work. It requires men of good physique, intelligence, and alertness. As it is desirable to have men of this character available for the Service, I hope the right hon. Gentleman will be able to give an assurance that all possible means have been taken to secure the proper stamp of men for the Service, and that commanding officers who are sending men from their units to the training centre select men really suitable for this particular class of work. I am afraid that in certain instances men have been sent who have not got the full capacity required, and I would point out it is very undesirable to put through this course of training men who will not benefit by it. There ought to be more direct recruiting for this corps, and the pay of the corps might be rendered a little more attractive. My right hon. Friend suggests there are difficulties in regard to that, but may I point out the degree of efficiency required. You are asking men to undergo a special course of training, they are expected really to become experts in their branch of the Service, and some inducement might well be given them in the way of additional pay.
With regard to the question of staff, I am sure the right hon. Gentleman will agree with me it is most desirable, both at headquarters of the training centre, and at the War Office and in the field there should be a sufficient staff of experts to develop this, which is practically a new branch of the Service. There are many problems which require to be studied. There are questions of strategy and tactics to be considered, questions which can only be studied with advantage by men who hold staff positions. I am quite aware that in the formation of this branch of the Service the very best men have been chosen for the work, and no one who has come into contact with the officers of the Staff at the War Office, as well as at headquarters, can fail to be impressed by that fact. I would like to suggest it might be possible even to enlarge the Staff, and to give greater assistance to the headquarters of the training centre, so as to enable them to carry out their important work and to secure even a larger number of recruits for training as machine gunners at the present moment. May I 2371 suggest to my right hon. Friend that in this matter, when we are dealing with what I may venture to call the most effective branch of the Service, the country really wants a strong policy and will be glad to see the War Office take a strong line. New methods of warfare undoubtedly require a departure from old traditions, and if the country can see this branch of the Service more highly developed, I feel quite sure it will have its confidence increased in the administration of the War Office. I believe that if we had in the field to-day, following the example of our enemy, a much larger proportion of machine guns, it would tend to shorten the War as these guns can be used not only for defence but for attack, and also in enabling reserves to be brought up as occasion demands.
There is one other question on which I will detain the Committee but a few moments. I desire to associate myself with the appeals made the other evening by those who supported the extension of pension benefits to men suffering from disease contracted while on service, and also to dependants of those who have died from such disease, and I welcome the very sympathetic reply which was given. While I am glad to know that my right hon. Friend in this matter has shown very deep interest in the welfare of these men, I would suggest that the matter might be carried a little further than was indicated the other evening. Why should we rule out from such benefits any men at all, except those in whose cases the sickness has been directly due to their own misconduct? I venture to suggest that in every other case the soldier is entitled to consideration, and, if there is any doubt, then he is entitled to the benefit of the doubt, and provision should be made for him accordingly. May I also remind my right hon. Friend that at the present time, when we are anxious to get men into the Army, there could be no greater inducement for recruits to enter the Service than the knowledge that they are going to have full provision made for them and their dependants, and made in no niggardly fashion. I am afraid that a good deal of prejudice has been created by the action taken in such matters by the War Office, although I believe such action has not been taken through any want of sympathy with the men themselves, but is due rather to the system which has been adopted. You have, for instance, the case 2372 where the soldier's wife's separation allowance has been diminished during the time when his pay has been stopped for some offence. That is a matter which might be reconsidered, or at least referred to the Statutory Committee. There is also the case, the very hard case, of the man who joins the Army just at the period when his apprenticeship has ended, and when he has become the breadwinner of the family. I have had many-such cases brought to my notice in my own Constituency, cases in which the father and mother have been making great sacrifices in order to carry a young man through his apprenticeship, and then at the moment when he completes his apprenticeship, and becomes entitled to the full wage of a journeyman, and it may be is the breadwinner of the family, he joins the Army and the family are left without support. That is a deserving case which I think my right hon. Friend might consider, and in any event I would suggest that these are matters which might be meantime dealt with by the Statutory Committee. I hope some representations will be made to the War Office in order that they may be so dealt with.
I should like to acknowledge the sympathetic response which has been made by the War Office in these matters. I deprecate very strongly indeed much of the criticism which has been heard in this House during the past day or two—the suggestion that the War Office can do nothing well. I wish many of the critics could have had an opportunity of seeing for themselves the difficulties which the War Office have to contend with, for then they would have sung a very different tune. I can only say this, that I believe the country has reason to be profoundly thankful that we have had men at the War Office who have shown such extraordinary vigour and industry and a sincere desire to do their best for the country at this very critical time. I feel sure that any regard which is paid to some of the suggestions laid before the War Office will increase the confidence which is already felt in our officials, and in the right hon. Gentleman who represents the Department in this House. I trust he may be able to give some assurance, at any rate, with regard to the machine gun service, that everything is being done to encourage the development of this splendid arm of the service.
§ Mr. NIELD
Before I deal with two special subjects which I am quite sure the 2373 right hon. Gentleman will treat seriously, I desire to say that while adopting much that has been said on behalf of the married men in regard to the position in which they find themselves at the present moment, there is one way in which I think the War Office can do a great deal to alleviate their grievance, that is, to allow them, immediately the Proclamations are issued calling them up, to submit themselves to medical examination. The point which is made, and which is a very substantial point, is that the man who is called up has to leave his employment and thereby to set behind him the opportunities of renewing remunerative occupation. He is jeopardising his home and doing a great deal for the sake of his country, yet he finds, after some lapse of time, when this step is irrevocable and the mischief is done, that he is rejected by the medical officer. I am quite sure the right hon. Gentleman will endeavour to prevent that injury, which is a very real injury from which his family, together with himself, suffer. One can easily conjure up, and indeed one has heard of many men having had to withdraw boys from public schools, because many men have sons at the public schools, whose education will have to be sacrificed. The War Office would earn the gratitude of a very large number if they would take that into consideration. Let the men go, by all means, if they are fit, but only withdraw them when they are found medically unfit for service. I desire to make an observation upon a matter which was dealt with only the day before yesterday, namely, a question put by the hon. Member for East Edinburgh (Mr. Hogge) in regard to the choice of regiments and the refusal to allow Derby recruits to join special battalions and regiments, whereas the choice was given freely to the conscripts.
§ Mr. NIELD
No, it was general. The right hon. Gentleman was asked:Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that Derby recruits are frequently refused choice of regiment, while men brought in under the Military Service Act are given a choice?The right hon. Gentleman's answer was:I have not heard that. I suggest that in cases where Derby attested men have not been able to join the units they have said they prefer is because the units are closed, or because they have requested to join the units I have just mentioned—the Army Service Corps and the Royal Army Medical Corps—[OFFICIAL, REPORT, 14th March 1916, col. 1863.] 2374 I can assure the right hon. Gentleman, from evidence I am prepared to put into his hands, that Derby recruits have gone with greater inconvenience both to themselves and their employers to join up even before they have been called, in order that the battalions might not be closed to them. But they were refused, and the refusal was made in the presence of the conscripts, who have been given the choice and who have derided these very men for having attested.
§ Mr. NIELD
I can give the right hon. Gentleman the documents on which that is founded, and I think he will find on investigation that it is so. I will now turn to two matters which I regard as being of great moment and which have brought me down at great sacrifice to myself to this House. I should have very much enjoyed listening to the speeches made earlier in the day, but I had been doing my duty for hours on a county appeal tribunal, trying to do justice between the military authorities and the appellants. I should like to say that those who assail these authorities, as I understand the right hon. and learned Member for Walthamstow (Sir J. Simon) has done to-day, are very unjustly attempting to besmirch men who have been collected together because they are men of impartiality with knowledge of the districts in which they are serving, and to besmirch them before they have had the opportunity of proving that they are really attempting to do a service to the country in regard to the appeals that come before them.
I am going to speak of a camp, the name of which I have communicated to the right hon. Gentleman privately. The conditions of that camp from a sanitary point of view are alarming. Cases of cerebro meningitis have broken out. I do not say they are very serious in point of number, but the condition of things if it has not been produced, is seriously aggravated by the fact that the carcasses of a number of mules who died from various causes were too lightly interred in the soil. The rains have removed a great deal of the insufficient earth put upon them, and the effect is that that camp is in very serious danger. I cannot understand how any medical officer, or any colonel, or any senior officer could permit troops to remain in proximity to 2375 such conditions for an hour. I am perfectly sure the right hon. Gentleman will take immediate steps to see that the proper amount of quicklime or some other disinfectant is put down immediately, so that cases of this kind shall not be repeated. The case comes to me from constituents who are in the neighbourhood of the camp, and one correspondent in a postscript suggests that the carcasses might have been sold for the purpose of being boiled down for other purposes, and that the authorities might have realised a reasonable price for them instead of their being, as they are at the present time, a very considerable danger. I do not desire to impute blame where blame is not deserved, but I invite the right hon. Gentleman's attention to another matter, that is the very vexed question of the air raids. On the occasion of the last raid, in a district—the name of which I have communicated privately to the right hon. Gentleman—where there is an anti-aircraft station, no communication by telegram was sent at all, although this was right in the neighbourhood of the disturbance, by the War Office, who, I understand, are now responsible for matters of this kind.
§ Mr. NIELD
On the occasion of the recent raid, on the 6th or 7th of this month. On that occasion, although the towns in the immediate proximity to this anti-aircraft station—which is furnished with searchlights, guns, men, and every conceivable attachment necessary for the discharge of their duty—were duly warned and had their lights out and were ready, no communication whatever was sent by telegram to the officer in charge of that station. I suppose the airships were not very close to them, because they never heard the propellers, but it so happens that the raid only became known to them by reading the morning paper. Now that the right hon. Gentleman's Department have definitely taken over anti-aircraft matters and the Admiralty have no longer any jurisdiction, I am quite certain that that occurrence will not be allowed to be repeated. I need not point out how very important it was that every effort should have been made to warn the men at that particular spot in order that they might have been prepared to take an active part in dealing with hostile airships. I am glad to have 2376 this opportunity of ventilating these subjects because they have had a very disturbing effect in the neighbourhoods to which they relate.
§ Mr. TIMOTHY DAVIES
I wish to bring before my right hon. Friend one or two cases which have come under my own personal observation. There is not the slightest doubt that men are being taken into the Army at present who, medically, are entirely unfit. I have personal knowledge of three cases of men who were rejected on medical grounds early last year. One of these men, who had to be discharged after a very short time of training, came back to me a few days ago to be reinstated. I knew very well that he could never stand the training. The medical man who examined him, had he examined him properly, must have found out his weaknesses, and I understand the man did disclose the real state of his health. Another case is that of a man who is still in training. He is a consumptive subject, and he also last May was rejected, but was recently accepted as fit for service. But the worst case I have is that of a man who was rejected on 6th March, 1915. The day after he was rejected, being out of employment at the moment, he came to me, I knowing at the time that he was not strong and had been rejected by the medical officer. His father died some few months ago, and he was left the only supporting son of a widow with two young girls, four and seven years old. About a fortnight ago this man received notice to join his regiment on the 17th of this month—that is to-morrow. During the twelve months in which he was in my service he was on forty-two days unable to do his ordinary light work, and for four days previous to the day when he went up to the White City to be examined he had been unable to do any work. He had a certificate from the doctor who had been attending him the week before pointing out the state of his health, but he was accepted for general service, and he has to make his appearance to-morrow morning at nine o'clock. I am quite sure it is not the wish of the Army to take men who are not fit for service. This man was undersized in every way, and is not very useful; but at the present time, when it is very difficult to get men of that kind to do work, he could be used serviceably on the days on which he is well enough to do work. But for the Army I am quite sure he will be useless.
2377 The other point to which I wish to draw attention is the manner in which some of the smaller farmers in my Constituency are dealt with when farms are entirely dependent on their own working I have one case of a man who farms seventeen acres by intensive cultivation, and every bit of it is turned up either with corn or with fruit. He was called up before the tribunal, and was not even given the advantage of a few weeks' detention in order to sow seed, but was ordered to join his regiment within a few days. Since then I have received a letter, and it is to the credit of the Army and the Army representatives that they have granted this man the time which was refused by the tribunal. In this case the military authorities have been more lenient even than the tribunal. I am glad to say he will also be allowed some time while he is in training, so that the work of seven years which he has put into this derelict land will not be entirely wasted if he is called away. As one who voted for the Military Service Bill, I do not wish to criticise it in any unfavourable way, but I think the figures given us in Lord Derby's Report bear out what was said by my right hon. Friend (Sir J. Simon) this afternoon. In the centre of which I am speaking 420 men were asked to report themselves last week. Of these 105, exactly a quarter, totally ignored the notices. Altogether 352 failed to report, the majority of them having appealed. The sixty-eight who did report were sent to the centre, and of them my informant, who has been working for eighteen months almost every day on recruiting, and has done more for recruiting in this part of the country than any other man, tells me that only twenty were medically fit. They set out for 420 men, and got only twenty. That is remarkable when you come to consider the staff which has been working in order to get these twenty men. The staff employed was a major, a lieutenant, eight or nine non-commissioned officers and clerks, while, of course, the two political agents are kept busy and there are members and clerks of the tribunal. My informant, who has had experience in recruiting, says that with two assistants he could have got more recruits in one week than the whole lot. There is a great deal of expense going on in that way. There are a great many things in regard to these tribunals as to the manner in which the Act is being carried out, that I, as one who supported the Military Ser- 2378 vice Bill, would like to see remedied, especially with regard to the cases of these men who are of some service to industry, and are simply taken in for military services which they will never be able to do. They are taken away from work which they can do, and which they are doing usefully for the public, and they will be useless to the Army. I would ask the Financial Secretary to the War Office to look very carefully into these matters. I heard his speech, and I am quite sure he thought there were no cases like these, but I can assure him that they have come under my direct personal knowledge, and I say that there are many of these cases. From what we hear from the appeal tribunals, they have found out that it would be far better for these cases to have fair consideration, and that the medical men who examine these men, who cannot possibly be of service to the Army, had better leave them in the industry they are working in at the present time.
§ Mr. GLYN-JONES
I am not one of those given to criticising the Government. In fact, I think, perhaps if anything, I am more concerned in pointing out the difficulties under which the Government work. One constantly hears in the House and outside criticisms which would suggest that we were being ruled by twenty-three of the most incompetent Members of this House, or by a body as incompetent as any that can be found outside. My answer to that criticism, and I think it is the answer to a great deal of this criticism is that no business concern doing, say, a turnover of £180,000 in 1914, could possibly do a turnover of £4,000,000 in 1915 without committing great mistakes, and having done a good deal which is open to criticism. Notwithstanding that I am bound to say that a great deal of trouble which the Government are in at the present time is due to the fact that they wait until the difficulty is upon them before apparently considering it. Numbers of suggestions have been made that if the Government appointed new Ministers and new work, they would solve their difficulties. If I may make a suggestion it is that they want what theatrical touring companies call an advance agent, someone who will consider these problems before they are actually upon us. These difficulties about recruiting, which have arisen largely over this compulsory Bill, were difficulties which were inseparable from such a scheme. The Government must have known at least in the early days of the Derby scheme, to 2379 put it at its very lowest, that some measure of compulsion would be required, and why they did not set to work, and set the people to work whom they have now set to work, to anticipate the difficulties, and suggest remedies for them, I cannot for the life of me understand.
The point that I particularly desire to bring to the attention of the Government arises out of three questions which I have put to the Government—one yesterday, a private notice question to the President of the Local Government Board, and two today to the Under-Secretary of State for War. They relate to the grievances of a special class of married men, namely, those in certified occupation. I suppose no one is to blame for the fact that the people to whose attention I wish to bring this difficulty are not here, but I am sure the Financial Secretary to the War Office will convey to them my point. Whether the Government fully appreciate it or not there is an intense feeling in the country on the part of married men who have voluntarily attested. I do not for a moment agree that what is called the "single men first" pledge has been broken. I agree that it is much too early for married men attestors, or the newspapers and others who are instigating them, to say that that pledge has been broken. However, that is not the matter I am referring to. I am referring rather to the married men attestors who are in what are called certified occupations. I put yesterday to the President of the Local Government Board this question: Whether the instructions which have been given to the local tribunals relating to voluntarily attested men in certified occupations had been varied? He replied that the original instruction was that the military officer would have to satisfy himself whether the voluntarily attested man who said he was in a certified occupation was in that occupation, and if he had any doubt he should call the attention of the tribunal to that fact, and the tribunal could hear and advise the military representative whether in their opinion the man was in a certified occupation or not. I want to draw the attention of the Government and of the Committee to this fact, that the local tribunal were given no power at all to call the man up. What the local tribunal had the right to do was to report the fact to the Central Tribunal; and the Government invited married men to voluntarily attest on this condition, that they would not be 2380 called up for service unless the Central Tribunal decided that the circumstances were such that even although they were in a certified occupation they were not required. That is so is borne out, among other things, by the appeal to the men in Lord Derby's speech of 19th October, in outline, issued by the Parliamentary Recruiting Committee. This is what was said after dealing with starred men:There may also be eases where men though unstarred are really indispensable in their various employments. The recruiting officer will use his discretion subject to any further instructions which may be given as to sending these men back to their occupations, pending inquiry. He will report all such cases to the War Office through the proper channel for further consultation with the Department concerned.In other words, you went to the married men and said this: "You are in a certified occupation; we still want you to attest, but you will not be called up for service unless the Central Tribunal, who will have the advantage of the advice of the Department concerned, decides that you ought to be called up." Many married men thought that was a risk which they ought to take. The Government now say to the married man, voluntarily attested, who is in a certified occupation, "We are going back on the terms we made with you. It shall now be for the local tribunal to decide your case." The Under-Secretary of State for War says to-day that such a man can appeal. But he cannot appeal to the Central Tribunal without the consent of the local tribunal. I beg of the Government to look at this question again. What I ask, broadly, is that they will not alter the conditions under which they invited married men to attest voluntarily, to their detriment and against their will. That brings me to the point that, as we all know, the Government are now considering—the whole list of reserved occupations. I am not complaining about that. But what is that going to lead to?
Take an example. Suppose a man is a blacksmith—I do not know whether that is a reserved occupation or not—and that he is married, and that in October the Government said to that blacksmith, "We invite you to attest, but you are in a certified occupation, and you cannot be called up unless a Central Government tribunal decide that, though you are in a certified occupation, you can be spared," and that he said, "I am asked to make a great decision, but I will do so." And, indeed, I believe that sometimes we are apt to minimise the awful anxiety of a married man with a wife and family when 2381 he makes that decision. Remember that the Government had no legal claim on him. He is asked voluntarily to decide whether he shall take the risk of putting into the hands of the State his life, and a great deal more, and in making that decision the Government give him terms. They have no right now to say to him, "A blacksmith is no longer a reserved occupation. Therefore, the terms on which you attested voluntarily no longer apply, and you will have to go through like anyone else." The Under-Secretary of State for War has admitted that recruiting officers have on some occasions been guilty of tricking or cajoling men into the Army, and he has said that he deplores it. I have no doubt he does. But it does not rest with the Government to condemn the recruiting officers for not acting straight as individuals if the Government refuse to act fairly and straight by classes such as the reserved occupations. You can alter your conditions as to reserved occupations with regard to single men, because Parliament has placed all single men in the same position as far as liability to serve is concerned by making it a legal obligation. But you must not, in my view, touch the conditions under which the married men attested voluntarily without giving them an opportunity, if they choose, to say that the contract is off between themselves and the Government.
I warn the Government that I for one, at any rate, while I am prepared if necessary to see the principle of compulsion carried further, will not rest until all classes of men who have been cajoled or tricked have been released, if they so desire, from the obligations which they entered into under conditions which have now been altered. The President of the Local Government Board, in his speech a short while ago, seemed to feel it a grievance that some of us should mention certain cases which had been dealt with by the tribunals. But I think that the right hon. Gentleman forgets that at any rate those of us who supported the Military Service Bill have an obligation. I realise that I have an obligation which, perhaps, does not fall on some of my colleagues on this side of the House who did not vote for the Military Service Bill. When that Bill was before the House I moved an Amendment providing exemption for those who could show that they were the last surviving son of their family when the others had gone. I withdrew that Amendment after there 2382 had been a great deal of discussion, as the Government themselves suggested a new Amendment. The Amendment that was finally agreed upon in the Committee stage was that there was to be exemption if a man could show serious hardship arising owing to business or domestic obligations. I pointed out that that did not meet my point, and on Report I moved an Amendment, which the Government accepted, to alter the words to "business obligations and domestic position," and I stated the reason that the words "domestic obligations" were not the best words. The Amendment in the Act of Parliament now is that a good ground of exemption is that a man suffers hardship owing to his business obligations or domestic position. We agreed to that because the President of the Local Government Board undertook that regulations and circulars would be submitted to the tribunals for their guidance. The right hon. Gentleman has issued a circular to local tribunals dealing with what is called the question of the widow's son, but, with great respect, I think that the President of the Local Government Board has missed one point and an important point. He seems to think that "hardship" in the Bill necessarily means monetary hardship. That was far from being in my mind, because the case I gave to the House was the case of a wealthy man who had had three sons, two of whom had been killed in the War, and at any rate it was reasonable for that father to say, "The turn of my third and last son has not come." No question of money arose in that case. If you look at the Local Government Board circular to the tribunals you will see that the whole question is dealt with as if it were merely a question of pounds, shillings, and pence.
I may refer to a case which came before the Sussex Tribunal at Lewes. I am going to give the particulars to the Financial Secretary. Walter Wicker applied for exemption in these circumstances. He was the fifth son of a widow. Of the other four sons one was drowned in Torpedo-boat 8, a second was killed in action in France, two others are now on active service in France. Four of them are thus accounted for. When that fifth last surviving son of a widow applies for exemption it is refused and the man is taken. I say that that is cruel beyond description, and if, in fact, the Government say that it was the turn of that woman's Benjamin to be taken, then it is time that we all went. If 2383 the time has come to take the fifth son of a widow, two of whose sons have been killed while two others are now serving in France, then all I have to say is that we want a measure of compulsion for every one of us. It is not good enough putting this on the tribunal. Those who supported the Bill did it with the intention of providing for this very difficulty, in regard to which I moved the Amendment of which I have spoken. The Government asked me to withdraw my Amendment, and they said they would meet the difficulty by putting their own Amendment in the Bill, and that we accepted. They have since interpreted it, and under that interpretation they are taking the fifth surviving son of the widow who has already lost two in the War, and the other two are still serving.
The intention of Parliament has not been carried out, and I submit that it is the duty of the War Office to find this young man, if he is in the Army, and his mother no longer desires him to be there, and act upon the intention of this House of Commons by releasing him at once. [An HON. MEMBER: "Is there not an appeal?"] What is a question of appeal in the case of a poor widow? She gets three days to appeal if she knows about it. I do not know whether she has appealed or whether she has not. What I say is that the tribunal acted on your instructions in the circular which has been sent out: that is the point which is in question here. The President of the Local Government Board in this circular dealing with this Amendment suggests that the hardsip means a monetary hardship. My claim is, that to the widow, whether she be wealthy or is dependent pecuniarily, it is a case of hardship that you should take her fifth son under these circumstances. I believe that if you could go before any Court in the land, and they had to decide whether or not it was a hardship, they would decide undoubtedly in her favour. In the Government's own interests, and in the interests of the Army, I hope that they will deal with the case of the attested married men and with the question of certified occupations, because the feeling which is growing up that the married men are being harshly dealt with is one which the Government will have to face. I do not suppose that the Government wilfully mean to trick these men, and if they did it is really not worth while for the number they can get; it is not worth while for the sake of the number to be gained to add griev- 2384 ance upon grievance, and therefore I hope that they will deal with this question and face it. I would not be doing my duty if I did not say this: I am connected with the Pharmaceutical Society, and it has been my duty to give certain advice. Pharmaceutists and dispensing chemists are in a reserved occupation. After the definite announcement of the Government, I advised married pharmaceutists and dispensing chemists that they should attest, because the Government had said that theirs was a certified occupation, and therefore they could not be called up for service unless the Central tribunal, who had the help of the Insurance Commissioners, so decided. They said that the married man need not attest unless he liked, being in a reserved occupation. They have now to go before the tribunal and to run the gauntlet in the ordinary way; therefore, I for one mean to see that the Government keep their bargain.
§ Mr. J. MASON
I should not have intervened in this Debate had it not been for the statement made by the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board yesterday afternoon that the pledge which was made to the married men has been kept not only in the letter but in the spirit. The statement appeared to me to be a very serious one, because, so long as the Government did not make that assertion, one was justified in assuming that they admitted that there was much to be done, and we therefore might hope that much would be done to put things right. But the moment we heard that the Government was not going to put the matter right, and that they had fulfilled their whole pledge, then the position appeared to be serious, because it looked as if they had really brought down upon their heads the full outburst of the storm which has been rising throughout the country. No doubt other Members, like myself, have received numbers of letters and resolutions, and I must say that they show that there is immense feeling on this subject. Whether the pledge has been fulfilled or not is a matter of opinion. I suppose it could be said that the pledge has been fulfilled to the letter if a call is made for the single men to come out, but obviously the pledge only could be fulfilled in the spirit if steps are taken, and sufficient steps are taken, to ensure that the men shall come.
The causes which undoubtedly have restricted the number of single men available under the Act are, first of all, the 2385 number of certified trades and special cases of exemption, and, secondly, the fact that a considerable number of eligible men appear to have gone into certified trades or have simply disappeared and changed their residence. I do not blame the Government because men have done that, but I think the chief grievance is the definite list of exempted trades and classes of men who are exempted under what are called certified occupations which has been published, and so long as that list remains unrestricted it is open to the suggestion that classes are included which certainly ought not to be included. This list includes, in the first place, a general provision applicable to all industries. Obviously there are certain classes of men to whom, in a general way, it would apply, but, even in the case of such men as stokers, it is not reasonable to say that all stokers in all industries are necessarily cases for exemption. There are industries which are of no national importance. Would anyone suggest that in a factory making fancy electric-light brackets the stoker in that factory is a man that necessarily ought to be exempted, if of military age? In such a case, first of all, the tribunal would probably refuse—the industry not being one which could be called a national industry in a crisis like this. Nor is the hosiery finishing trade an industry of national importance.
Lastly, as a man who lives in the country, and who is very intimately connected with agriculture, being a farmer myself, I go so far as to say that the categories of men exempted are unnecessarily large and unnecessarily inclusive. I do not admit for a moment that all the men who can be classified as carters are proper cases for exemption. I have at the present moment seven married men who have attested on my farm, and, of those seven, four or five are carters. I do not think for a moment that I should be justified in trying to get the men exempted. With the exception of the cowman, I do not think there is a man whom I could not replace with older men, or men physically unfit for military service, or with women. Therefore I venture to think that even in the case of agriculture there is ground to revise a great number of cases of exemption. In that connection we have to bear in mind that in the Continental countries, which are also at war, agriculture is being satisfactorily carried on by women and by male labour 2386 not fit for military service, and there is reason probably for concluding that if we had taken the proper means we could manage equally well. There is a very strong feeling, rightly or wrongly, throughout the country that many of these married men have hardships to bear. Do what you will, there will always be hardships and always be grievances. We cannot get away from the fact that where you exempt a man of, say, thirty, who happens to be the manager of a comparatively large business because he is indispensable to that business, that that appears to be very hard on a man who perhaps is forty and who is equally a manager, but of a smaller business, which does not entitle him to exemption on the ground that the business is not sufficiently important That, of course, is a hardship that it is very difficult to get over. There is also the grievance, which you cannot get over, that the men who are left behind are making a very considerable amount of money in wages, and that money has to be sacrificed by the man who goes to the front who has to risk his life as well as give up his occupation.
The question, as things stand now, is whether the effect of the exemptions as defined in these lists does give you the maximum result with the minimum of hardship. I do not think that anybody will deny that the hardship must be real and must be more or less general. I think myself, in order to make the hardship as little as possible, we must endeavous to be as fair as possible to all classes of men, and to do that I cannot help thinking that the right procedure is to assume that every man of military age has the duty first of all imposed upon him to serve his country in the field. The presumption being that the man is eligible for the Army, the onus of proof that the man cannot be spared from industry, should fall first of all on the industry—that is to say, that that industry is indispensable to the nation in the crisis in which we find ourselves. Secondly, the onus should be on the industry, or the man himself, to show that he is personally indispensable to the industry.
§ Mr. MASON
Surely up to now the assumption has hardly been that the man was a soldier until he was proved to be necessary for other work. The assumption hitherto, as far as I understand the matter, has been by these lists, which exempted whole classes of people, that they were necessary to those occupations, and the onus of proof has been on the military authorities to show that they could be spared. My suggestion is that the process should be reversed, and that the onus of proof should be put on the man and not on the military authorities to show that he is indispensable. I have made some remarks about agriculture, and I think probably it is fair to say there are a good many industries from which, on being carefully scrutinised, it will be found men will be spared. I do not think the whole injustice and the whole hardship will ever be entirely removed until the married men who have not voluntarily attested are included under the same conditions—that is to say, until compulsion is extended to all men, whether married or single, of military age.
The PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY (MILITARY) to the MINISTRY of MUNITIONS (Colonel Lee)
I hope the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down, and the Committee generally, will forgive me if I pass away from the subject of married men in order to reply to the very strong, and, as I thought, unfair attack made yesterday by my hon. Friend the Member for St. Augustine's (Mr. R. McNeill) upon the medical arrangements of our Armies in the field. I am sorry the hon. Gentleman is not in his place, but I shall proceed in his absence. He delivered a long and unsparing indictment, covering the whole Medical Services in the field, their work and their organisation, and I am sorry to say, in my opinion, he disfigured that speech by some very bitter personal attacks upon distinguished officers of the Royal Army Medical Corps, who, after all, are not in a position to defend themselves in public. It is not the business of my present office to defend the War Office, and I cannot help recalling the circumstance that on the other side I have been one of its most captious critics over a period of some fifteen years. I do not rise on this occasion in order to defend the War Office. I rise because I feel bound to repudiate some of the grosser charges which were levelled by my hon. Friend against the reputation and record of the Royal Army Medical Corps in the field. I say, speaking 2388 with some personal knowledge of the subject, that there is no corps in the British Army, no branch of the Service, which has done finer, more effective, and more gallant service during the present War. In its officers, its men, and the noble women who have been associated with it in the nursing services, there is no section of the British Army that deserves more praise and gratitude from the people of this country.
§ Colonel LEE
I must ask the hon. Member to allow me to proceed with my remarks, and he can make his observations afterwards. It may be asked why should I attempt to intervene, or what qualifications have I for expressing any opinion on the subject. That compels me to say, merely on the personal point, that at the commencement of the War, being unfortunately myself unable for active soldiering at the time, I accepted an appointment as Lord Kitchener's special personal representative to proceed to the front to watch and report upon the practical working of the Medical Services in the field, and especially with regard to the collection and care and evacuation of the wounded at the front. I do not profess, of course, that I had any technical knowledge in regard to these matters, or any special qualifications beyond those which are possessed by any layman who has taken an interest in this matter for some years past, and who also, as a soldier, has some knowledge of the practical difficulties which distinguish war conditions from those of peace. After all, it is necessary in considering this matter to realise that war conditions are not the same as those of peace, and that it is often forgotten by critics, who, whilst no doubt animated by the purest and most disinterested motives—I am referring now to professional critics, whether they come from Glasgow or Portland Place or any other locality—are apt not to realise the difficulties that the Medical Services are confronted with under the actual conditions of war, and which have led them in many instances to be grossly unfair to their colleagues overseas. I spent some nine months doing nothing else but investigating these matters on the spot, and I duly reported the results to Lord Kitchener. I think, therefore, that I am not open to the dismissal which my hon. 2389 Friend gave to Sir Frederick Treves yesterday, when he said that that gentleman had paid only flying visits to the front, and, as I understood him, seen only the things which the people on the spot cared to show him.
During the whole of those nine months I had unique opportunities of watching the daily and nightly work of the Medical Services at the battle of the Aisne, at both battles at Ypres, at Neuve Chapelle, Festubert, and others referred to by my hon. Friend yesterday. All I can say, as the result of that experience, is that I utterly failed to recognise in the harrowing tale which he gave of the conditions of the Medical Services anything which in the faintest degree corresponded to the facts as I saw them. I know that my hon. Friend has a sympathetic and, if I may say so, an appropriately large heart, and and his sympathies are very easily aroused, and very naturally so, in a matter of this kind. But I am afraid that on this occasion he has been misled by over-zealous informers, as indeed, he will forigve my saying, he has been on previous occasions in connection with other matters. I might recall his amazing discovery of the 2,000,000 impending war babies, which I believe after most careful investigation dwindled down to two false alarms and one case of twins. I hope he will forgive my saying that he is apt to be over-credulous in these matters. In any case, I think it is necessary, in justice to the Medical Services which he has attacked, that I should examine in some little detail some of his principal allegations. I will not deal, because I cannot, with the cases of Gallipoli and Mesopotamia. I was not present at either of those campaigns; therefore it would be absurd for me to attempt to speak upon them. I am most anxious to speak only of what I actually saw with my own eyes over a long period of months of constant and undivided attention. For the same reason I will not speak about the organisation of the War Office or of the Advisory Board set up before the War. These are matters which will doubtless be dealt with by my right hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State. But I must deal in a few words with what I can only call the very unfortunate and very unfair personal attack which my hon. Friend made upon one or two distinguished officers.
I notice that my hon. Friend was a little careful and guarded in his references to Sir Alfred Keogh. I am thankful for these 2390 small mercies, because if there is any official at the War Office who is universally recognised as a success, in view of his great talents, his alert and far-seeing mind in regard to these matters of medical service, his wisdom, patience, and urbanity in dealing with the innumerable complaints and representations which come before him, it is Sir Alfred Keogh, and I think that what he has had to do in this War entitle him to the highest praise. But there was no specially bitter attack upon him. There was, however, a very bitter and vicious attack made upon two other distinguished officers—Sir Arthur Sloggett and Surgeon-General Macpherson. I do not think that their work needs any special defence, but I have been closely associated with these officers in their labours during the War, and I really think that when my hon. Friend went out of his way to sneer at Sir Arthur Sloggett because at the commencement of the War he was taken ill and had to be absent from his office for nine weeks, that was a taunt unworthy of him or, indeed, of any Member of this House. My hon. Friend then went on to say, speaking of Sir Arthur Sloggett:Does he combine the organising skill of Napoleon with the scientific genius of Lister and Paget?When my hon. Friend is able to produce any eminent surgeon from the Royal Army Medical Corps or elsewhere who does possess those attributes, I will be the first to support him in moving that he be placed at the head of the Medical Services in the field. They are rare qualifications, and my hon. Friend has set a high standard. I do not know whether the distinguished informants who supplied him with the material for his attack fancy that they possess these high qualifications, but I must confess that I have met in this country surgeons who have not made the sacrifices which these gallant officers have made, but who have given me the impression that they probably held a higher view of their qualifications than is held generally by their colleagues and by the profession at large. I would say this about Sir Arthur Sloggett: he has great qualities for the head of the Services in the field. He has great experience, extraordinary tact, and great powers of dealing with the difficult personal situations which are bound to arise, like that which arose at the beginning of the campaign between the Royal Army Medical Corps and the Red Cross. I believe that hardly any other man would have settled that matter 2391 in the amicable way in which it was settled. He is exceedingly accessible to suggestions, and he was responsible for establishing in the field that Advisory Council of eminent civilian consultants who meet periodically and give him and the Medical Services the benefit of their advice. As regards Sir Arthur Sloggett, I think my hon. Friend is entirely incorrect in saying that he was included in the first Honours List before he had done any work. It is not a fact, and I am sure that on reflection my hon. Friend will wish to withdraw his statement.
§ Mr. McNEILL
I do not think it is so reported in the OFFICIAL REPORT. I did not say it was before he had done any work. I said that I did not know when the first Honours List was.
§ Colonel LEE
At any rate, it is not a point of substance. My hon. Friend made an even more bitter attack upon Surgeon-General Macpherson. He said that he was the officer who was responsible for the most terrible breakdown in the medical arrangements at the Battle of Festubert. The only objection to that statement is that there was no breakdown at the Battle of Festubert. I was specially commissioned to watch the medical arrangements throughout that battle. Not only was there no breakdown, but the care and the evacuation of the wounded proceeded almost without a hitch, in spite of the fact that an enormous number of wounded had to go through one clearing station. There was no criticism whatever at the time; there was no complaint either by officers or by men. I really think my hon. Friend has been very misinformed in this matter. He said that as a result this distinguished officer was removed from the First Army to another Army. That is absolutely untrue. He remained in the First Army. My hon. Friend said that he was subsequently removed on account of his failure and sent to Salonika. That, again, is absolutely untrue. When the Expeditionary Force of the Mediterranean was set up, the Services were asked for an officer who had the highest experience in actual work in the field in France, and Surgeon - General Macpherson was selected on account of his high qualifications. These are personal matters, and I 2392 do not want to dwell upon them unduly; but I must confess that I feel some indignation at these attacks, behind their backs, upon gallant officers who are doing their utmost in the field by armchair critics here at home.
My hon. Friend passed on to make an attack upon the organisation of the Medical Service in the field. He made certain suggestions which I may not answer in detail, but he wished to deprive the divisional medical arrangements of their mobility in order that they may be always operating in one district. I venture to say that it would be a fatal mistake to do as he suggests. One of the chief anxieties of the heads of the Medical Service all through this campaign has been the fear lest the sedentary character of the War at the moment would deprive the Medical Service of its flexibility, power of rapid movement, of adapting itself to new conditions, and all those other necessities in the event of the Army advancing. He gave certain glaring examples at Ypres. I was present throughout the first and second Battles of Ypres, and I really cannot understand what my hon. Friend is driving at. What he said bears no relation whatever to the facts. He talks, for example, of the mistake that was made in establishing a clearing station at Poperinghe. Where were the doctors to establish them? Poperinghe was the only town within easy reach of Ypres where there was any buildings of any sufficient size, as the campaign was then. We have had to do with lesser accommodation since. It was not under fire, and it was suitable in every way. It is true that there was the only broad, good, and smooth road. My hon. Friend talks about how much better it would have been if the wounded had been diverted by the natural communications to the other clearing stations at Haasbruck and Bailleul. If he knew anything of the conditions of war, if he knew what state the roads at Bailleul were in then, if he knew the atrocious agony which the wounded suffer even in the best motor ambulances in trying to negotiate these impossible side-roads in Flanders, he would realise that his suggestion was really one without substance, and one which would only increase the sufferings of the wounded. As a matter of fact, the wounded were not evacuated from Ypres by motor ambulance at all. They were evacuated by train where there was no 2393 possibility of these troubles to which he refers. I really do know something about this.
I saw practically every wounded man evacuated and taken out of the area. I remember that on 31st October, 1914, we evacuated 1,600 wounded men in the course of the night, and without any hitch of any sort or kind. The achievement is one which, I think, reflects the greatest credit upon the Army Medical Service. Then he goes on to talk about the conditions of things at Hooge, and about doctors working there forty or fifty hours at a stretch. That is not an impossible occurrence in time of war, with the wounded so close up to the firing line. When my hon. Friend talks about these doctors being overworked whilst the medical staffs of other divisions were waiting in Ypres with nothing to do because their troops were not engaged, he simply has forgotten the fact that we were so hard pressed for men that when the great final German attacks came, and the Prussian Guards were pushed forward, every man was put into the firing line—all the cooks, the typewriters, and the non-combatants in order to hold the line. Does he really imagine that within two or three miles there were divisions of troops and that there were medical services perfectly free? Such a suggestion is perfectly ludicrous. There was not one single unit that was not engaged in the battle. When he talks about the painful episode, I think he called it, of a forgotten eighty men, I may say that I could tell him a good deal about that, and I will, if he likes, tell him privately; but I may say this, they were not connected in any kind of way with the British Medical Service. They were not British troops; but this is not a matter that obviously I can go into now.
The hon. Gentleman than spoke about wounded men lying out in the field. Has he ever seen a battle? Has he any conception of the difficulties of clearing a battlefield during the night amid a constant rain of shell-fire? Does he think that directly a man is wounded and is on the ground he is surrounded by nurses who cool his fevered brow and put him into bed? The men that are lying out in the open are lying there because it is one of the inevitable conditions of war. The collection of the wounded, and their evacuation has been carried out with a dispatch and regularity that has never before been known in war in any civilised or un- 2394 civilised country. I challenge the hon. Gentleman to really produce evidence that would satisfy any reasonable man that there has been anything approaching a breakdown in any of these great battles. It was my business and my duty to collect the facts. I have investigated all kinds of complaints, frivolous and otherwise, and I can only say this, that although there may have been little points in dispute about this or that detail, on the whole, having interrogated thousands of wounded officers and men, men just after they have been wounded, and at every stage after that, at the clearing stations, and at the base hospitals, so far from there being any complaint, it was one long story of gratitude and praise for the way in which they have been treated by the Medical Service. Two services, it has been thought, have in general been outside the fire of criticism. The one is the commissariat, and the other is the Army Medical Service. My hon. Friend started what, after all, is to me a very old and very familiar hare. It has been started on many occasions, and it is that of drawing attention to the vital necessity of rapidity of operation upon the wounded men, and particularly the severe cases. Above all things, it is said, you ought to operate before the wound becomes septic. He pointed out the total number of wounded arriving in this country with wounds in a septic condition. Does he know that the very conditions of the man's life make it inevitable that this must be so. Every wound is septic from the moment it is inflicted. Every shell is horribly septic. Of course, large numbers of cases arrive in England in a septic condition. You cannot get rid of the sepsis in the way that it is suggested. Then, again, he went on to speak of the field hospitals at the front, saying they were useless. I am sorry to say I do not quite know what he means. Field hospitals at the front do not correspond to the official organisation. I suppose he means the field ambulance.
§ Colonel LEE
I assure the hon. Gentleman he is wrong. What he has described may be so in popular language, but as a matter of fact they are not in the medical organisation. It is only because I am anxious to get at the truth that I criticise the wording of the hon. Gentleman. He asks that the wounded 2395 should be attended by a system of moveable hospitals, with easy access by motor car. That is exactly what exists at the present time, and always has existed. If by hospitals he means buildings, or rather, perhaps, marquees fitted with operating rooms, field surgeons, nurses, anæthetists, and everything which is necessary for operating under modern conditions, then they exist already as close to the firing as is compatible with not being under shell fire. That is rather an important point. Are they to be within the zone of shell-fire or are they not? Does my hon. Friend realise what the moral and physical effect of high explosive shells dropped on a hospital is? Does he realise what it must be to attempt operations under those conditions? It is not a question of whether you arc afraid or not afraid, but whether it is physically and mentally possible to conduct operations under such conditions, and if my hon. Friend would allow me to show him a map of the arrangements for hospitals at the front, he would see that the clearing stations, where those facilities exist, are close up to the zone of shell-fire, all along the British front, and they could not be nearer without being under direct shell-fire. In many cases they have been pushed up towards the zone with deplorable results to the patients and staff. The hon. Member said they ought to be off the main road with easy lateral communications. It is a thing absolutely impossible.
Following up this idea, I understand the suggestion is there should be some new form of moveable hospital pushed up in close proximity to the firing line—where, incidentally, the military authorities would not allow it for a moment, because it would hamper their operations—where it would instantly be spotted by enemy aeroplanes and become the constant mark of Artillery fire. What are you going to do with the wounded man after he is operated upon in a moveable hospital? Every doctor knows that, after an abdominal operation, a man must be kept quiet for a week. A moveable hospital has to move on. What are they going to do with him? As a matter of fact, the only possible advantage would be that a man could be operated on a few minutes—at the outside half an hour—sooner than he would be in the clearing station, where every proper facility is provided. The hon. Member says that abdominal surgery has only 2396 recently been ready. I say it was in operation during the whole time I was at the front. In Standing Orders to the medical service of 27th March, 1915, there is reference to the conditions under which abdominal operations should be conducted, not merely in the clearing stations, but, if necessary, in the field ambulances nearer the front, and the hon. Gentleman knows that the abdominal operations have been singularly successful, there having been a very large proportion of recoveries. The same thing applies to compound fractures of which the hon. Gentleman spoke. Really, in these matters he has once more succeeded in discovering what Lord Morley used to describe in this House as nidus equinus.
With regard to dentistry, I say that at every clearing station along the whole front there is a well-qualified dental surgeon, with well-equipped appliances. The chair with the nickel back, and all the atrocities of the drill and other horrors with which most of us are painfully familiar, have been there for more than a year past. Yet my hon. Friend says, "What an atrocious thing it is that there should be no dentist available for the use of the troops 1" Here, again, I say he is doing an injustice to the dental surgeons, the most distinguished of whom have gone out voluntarily and are serving for the ordinary pay of an ordinary medical man, and are doing valuable work.
§ Colonel LEE
I have read my hon. Friend's speech, and that is what I have gathered from his remarks. Finally, he demanded an investigation. How well we know that demand. The tree must always be turned up by the roots to see how it is growing. He demands a few men—not necessarily technical—but a few competent and disinterested investigators to be sent out to corroborate the horrors which he has described. I hope he will not consider I was not disinterested in my laborious investigations. They lasted for some nine months. I have certainly no reason to be other than disinterested. I am certainly under no obligation to the War Office, and if he imagines that to serve the distinguished and Noble head of that office for nine months is a bed of roses, he is mistaken. It is a task which sometimes brings forth more kicks than halfpence. I hope he will allow that, at 2397 any rate, in my services I was disinterested. But I do feel impelled, by a sense of common justice and decency, to make a vigorous protest against this unjustifiable, violent, ill-informed and, as I think, baseless attack upon a body of as highly-skilled, devoted and gallant men as ever served the State. In my judgment—and I venture to say I have had unique opportunities to study the work as a disinterested observer—I say they deserve not censure, not carping criticism, not personal libels, but the whole-hearted gratitude of the whole community.
§ 10.0 P.M.
§ Mr. WHITEHOUSE
I do not rise to continue the discussion upon the subject which has been dealt with by the hon. and gallant Gentleman who has just sat down. That subject was introduced yesterday in a long and exhaustive speech by the hon. Member for St. Augustine's, and the statements that he made have now received a very full reply. It would be presumption on my part in any way to attempt to comment on a matter with which I am wholly ignorant. But perhaps the Committee will allow me to say I am quite sure that everything that science, humanity and care can suggest will be done to mitigate the unavoidable sufferings and agony endured by those who take part in this War. I should indeed count it a dishonour to myself if I thought the Government conducting this War could be guilty of any carelessness or neglect in that direction. I do not rise, however, to speak of that matter, but of another matter of which, I think, it is more difficult to speak. I do not know whether I shall arouse the sympathy or the resentment of the House in speaking of it. I will try and say the very few words I have to say in a manner which, I hope, will not arouse any passionate feeling, but I do wish to put to the Committee to-night some points with regard to the way in which the Military Service Act is being administered in connection with a class of men for whom the House of Commons introduced special provisions in that Act—I refer to those men whose religious convictions will not enable them to take any part in the machinery of the War. I have no complaint whatever to make with regard to the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board, who spoke early in the discussion. He referred to the instructions which he had issued, and I ventured to interrupt him with the observation that I thought those instructions were quite fair. What I com- 2398 plain of is that those instructions are disregarded by the tribunals set up under this Act. I want the Committee to remember that this question received very serious treatment in the House when the Bill was passing through, and the reasoned case that was put forward, though not fully met, was met in a serious and a respectful manner by the Government. The passage of the Bill was accompanied by certain pledges. It was admitted that the problem was a real one, and that the conscientious objector was entitled to have respected views which he sincerely held. As a result, the Act was very materially amended, and in the form in which it became law it was set forth that such a man as I am referring to was entitled to absolute exemption, and that was stated in speeches from the Front Bench. It was stated by Lord Lansdowne in another place, and it was clearly set forth in the instructions which the President of the Local Government Board issued to the tribunal. I very much regret, for my own part, that during the administration of the Act it has become the custom and the fashion for newspapers, public men, military representatives on the tribunals, and for members of the tribunals themselves in some cases, to sneer and to flout and deride and hold up to scorn the sincerely held convictions of these men. The Committee will at least see that I am speaking with sincerity in this matter, for when the Bill was passing through this House I spoke upon the proposal that was made to bring the clergy and the ministers of all denominations within the operation of the Bill. I opposed that Amendment, and I said that the claim of the clergy and other ministers of religion for exemption—with which I entirely agreed—was precisely the same claim as other conscientious objectors. The same problem was raised in each case, and in each case the holders of sincere views were entitled to the same treatment and respect. When I made that speech I did not foresee—I should have made it if I had foreseen it—that in some cases clergymen themselves were to be appointed military representatives to attend these tribunals. I did not expect that the clergy who were themselves exempted from the Act, and whose consciences and convictions had been protected, would themselves, in some cases, lead in this agitation against such respect and protection being given to those who were not clergymen or ministers of religion. One result of this agitation, and 2399 as I think this most unjust and deplorable agitation, has been to create great and most ominous difficulties for the future. The decisions of the tribunals on these matters vary in the most extraordinary way. Some tribunals decline altogether to give absolute exemption in sheer defiance of the Act and of the instructions and advice of the Local Government Board. In many cases where conscientious objection is clearly proved, where a man may, for instance, be a member of the Society of Friends or some other Christian organisation who holds his views sincerely, he has been refused exemption except from combatant service.
The Under-Secretary of State for War has announced the formation of a special non-combatant corps, and I hope my right hon. Friend will forgive me if I say that whilst I very greatly appreciate the uniform courtesy with which he has met criticisms in this House, and whilst I appreciate the complete sincerity of his wish to prevent anything illegal being done, I think he scarcely did justice to himself when the other day he referred to this corps, and the fact that conscientious objectors would be offered their hero's crown. These men are not cowards. Many of them long before compulsion was thought of in this country, from the day that War broke out, did their duty according to their own conscience. They did not wait for any threat of compulsion, but many of them have, since the outbreak of War, to my own knowledge, spent their days in doing laborious and honourable service which did not infringe their religious principles for the good of the country and for the good of non-combatants especially. Many of these are people who are now being refused exemption by the tribunals. It is no good the right hon. Gentleman thinking that by the formation of a so-called Non-Combatant Corps he has got over this difficulty. Men will not allow their conscientious convictions to be overruled by a tribunal acting in many cases in direct defiance of the Statute which brought them into existence. If the Appeal Courts do not reverse the decisions he will be confronted with what I frankly and without any hesitation tell him, he will find to be an insoluble problem. May I remind the Committee that twenty days before the War broke out these words were uttered in the House of Lords:If you penetrate deep enough into human nature you will unfailingly reach in each one of us a 2400 stratum which is impervious to discipline or any other influence from without. The strongest manifestation of this truth lies in what men call conscience, an innate sense of right and wrong which neither reason nor man-made laws can affect. It is useless at such a juncture to invoke the authority of the Constitution, to raise fine points of law, or to threaten pains and penalties. Such things matter not one jot when men's consciences are aroused.That is an extract from a speech made by Lord Roberts, in the House of Lords a few days before the outbreak of war, and I suggest that the words are entitled to our respect, not only by reason of the character of the man who uttered them, but also by reason of their proved truth throughout history. You will make a fatal mistake if you regard these men as humbugs, as cowards, as people who desire to escape from the burden of doing what they can do consistent with their consciences. Many men who are conscientious objectors to-day, and many men who have been refused exemption by the tribunals, are men of great courage, are men of great character, and are the kind of men who throughout history have helped to build up the national life. I earnestly ask that this problem should not be put aside in a spirit of contempt. The provisions of this Act for the protection of these men which were accepted by a great many Members of this House as their justification for their further support of the Bill should be observed, and the whole spirit of the discussion which took place in the Committee stage, and the whole spirit of the pledges that were given should be acted up to, to the full. Otherwise, the country will be confronted with one of the most deplorable and one of the saddest contingencies that can possible arise—a conflict with these men who hold their principles higher than life itself.
§ Sir JOHN SPEAR
I listened to the speech of the right hon. and gallant Member for Fareham (Colonel Lee) with the deepest interest, and I am sure every member of the Committee must have been filled with admiration for the fortitude and courage shown by our brave fellows at the front who unhappily get wounded. It was comforting to us all to hear him explain the great devotion of the medical men and the great care taken of our brave fellow countrymen. We must all realise that, at any rate, the wounded are well cared for. While I recognise to the full the importance of securing all dispensable men of military age for the Army and Navy, I want at the same time to impress upon the Government the importance of maintaining our native food supply and 2401 our trade. Our first interest must be to win the War, and without a liberal supply of men we all know that, of course, cannot be accomplished; but it is scarcely less important that we should produce and continue to produce to the utmost of our capability food for the men, and, through trade, money with which to pay for their services. I do not for a moment think that the Government are not looking at these different matters with a due sense of proportion, but one remark that fell from the hon. Member for Windsor (Mr. J. Mason) just now induces me to say that we shall have to be very careful how many more men we take from trade and agriculture if we are to maintain the output of native food supply and also our trade. I would not put that in the way of carrying the War to a successful issue, but I do humbly submit that it is scarcely less important that we should seek to carry on these industries to the utmost so long as it does not interfere with the efficiency of the Army and Navy.
While, happily, our output of native food supply has never been greater than it was during last year, there is a danger of a great falling-off during the coming season from lack of labour. That is serious as regards the provision of corn and the provision of beef, but it is more serious still in that it will tend to greatly reduce the milk supply of the country. Such things as the high cost of feeding and the difficulty of getting men to milk are pressing on the dairy industry seriously, and by the withdrawal of a considerable amount of milk from the market the children of the poorer classes especially would suffer severely. I know that those engaged in agriculture and in trade must look to every source for labour, and must be prepared to share the sacrifices necessary for maintaining the efficiency of the Army and Navy. I am quite in sympathy with the plan for securing women helpers on the land. But that cause has been injured by enthusiasts contending that women can do very much more work on the land than they are really capable of doing. I am aware that women can very well do hoeing, milking, wheat cutting, and other harvest work. But it is useless to say that they can do the heavier work necessary on the farm. Farmers must do all they can to encourage women and should pay them fairly in order to have their assistance in the task of maintaining the food supply of the country. The Government, I think, have shown wisdom 2402 by agreeing to the temporary relaxation of the Regulations for the attendance at school of children so that those of school age may be freed to help on the land and in industries. No one wants to deprive the children of a thoroughly good education. But this is a time when sacrifices have to be made all round, and therefore I think the Government were wise in agreeing to the temporary relaxation of the rules. After all, this service is only voluntary, and the parents will be able to see that no injustice is done to the children.
I want to submit to the Government the desirability of the utilisation of the services of disabled soldiers and sailors in trade and agriculture. The Secretary for War, two days ago, showed again that he realises the great importance and justice of helping these men financially by way of pension. That certainly is good and reasonable. But in the interests of the country and of the men themselves we should try and help them back to civil life, so that they may do their part in contributing to the common wealth of the nation. I am glad the Financial Secretary to the War Office showed that he was fully alive to the importance of this matter. May I suggest that the names and capabilities of these men might be sent to the Labour Exchanges? I would ask further whether it would not be desirable that the fact that these men are available should be advertised in the local papers? Possibly farmers and traders are too slow in going to the Labour Exchanges. It would be well, therefore, to attract them to these centres in order to get labour for the land and for trade. I would further suggest to the Under-Secretary for War whether it is not possible to utilise the services, temporarily, of men in training for the Army. Would it be possible to spare them, for ammunition work and agriculture or trade, for, say, a month at a time? It would be extremely valuable to those industries, and I do not think it would hurt the men at all. I am aware that something has been done in this direction, but last summer it was extremely difficult to secure this help expeditiously, because reference had to be made to the superior officer and then sometimes to the War Office. That caused such delay that by the time the men were forthcoming the crisis had passed. Would it not be possible to give the officer in charge liberty to allow a certain percentage of his men to be available immediately for harvest 2403 purposes and at other times of pressure of work? Very many farmers' sons and tradesmen's sons have come forward patriotically to serve their country. If they could be spared to go back to help their parents in their businesses for a month now and again, it would do the soldier good and be of great value in maintaining the common wealth of the country.
I should like to ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he cannot cause a more economical system of securing hay for the Army to be carried out. I have heard this week complaints of waste of money, labour and time in securing hay for the Army. I know that a good deal of this hay has to be pressed, or what is called baled. The conveying of machinery for this purpose to the rick-side is extremely expensive, and expert labour has to be in attendance on the machine, which makes the price of the hay, by the time it is delivered to the Army, something like double what is paid to the farmer. Would it not be possible to have the pressing machinery at a given point and then let the farmers bring the hay to that given point, so that all the labour necessary for this somewhat high-class machinery could be conserved in one place, with the result that the Government would get their hay, perhaps, at something like half the cost they are paying to-day I We are all advised to study economy, and when country people see this apparent waste—I am satisfied myself that it does take place—we have a right to expect that the Government will find some more economical way of dealing with and pressing the hay for export for the Army. I listened to the speech of the President of the Local Government Board this afternoon with a great deal of pleasure. I am sure the Government are doing all they can in such a terrible crisis No doubt some mistakes have been made, but I feel it is my duty to support them in their work. If it is necessary to provide more men they must be forthcoming, but I know the Government will not take more men than are necessary and that they will have due regard to the importance of maintaining our food supply and our trade, so that the men, when called up, may have food and money as a reward for their labour.
§ Sir RYLAND ADKINS
I wish to impress on the Government the gravity of the situation which now arises with regard to the calling up of the married men. 2404 We have heard with great interest the important speech made by the President of the Local Government Board, and probably we are all familiar with the speeches which were made in another place yesterday by Lord Derby and the Secretary of State for War. But having heard all this, it still seems to many of us to be our duty to impress upon the Government the very grave position of things which arises from the widespread anxiety and distrust and foreboding on the part of the married men who have already been called up and those who are expecting to be called up almost immediately. Of course, a state of things like that lends itself to exploitation by persons who have other aims than those of merely dealing with existing grievances. But while there is that exploitation there is at the same time real and sincere anxiety on the part of very many most valuable and honest citizens in this matter. I think my right hon. Friend went a little far in the vigour of his rhetoric in trying to show that these men are in exactly the same position and no worse than the married men who volunteered early in the war. That is hardly the case. The married men who volunteered then in very large numbers were in many cases less hampered by business and other ties than the married men who attested last August in the course of the Derby campaign. While I fully admit that my right hon. Friend can quite properly challenge any suggestion that he or any other member of the Cabinet promised that there should be a long period before they were called out, at the same time, up and down the country, canvassers, recruiters, and people speaking on recruiting platforms, quite honestly, though now we know mistakenly, gave the impression everywhere that there would be a very considerable interval before married men were called up. In fact, in many cases, married men might not unreasonably expect not to be called up unless the War took an even graver line than it has taken since. I am not defending what was said. Probably, like other hon. Members, I have made over-wrought or mistaken statements on that point. If so, one regrets it. But the point remains that you have a large body of people who were and have remained under that impression. It is not a question of attaching blame—one Cannot wonder at it as things have turned out—and suggesting that the Government were wanting in 2405 prescience—it is easy for everyone to be wanting in prescience in these times—when they did not give greater emphasis to the possibility that married men might be wanted promptly and in large numbers.
Those are the facts. How are they to be met? I can fully accept the assurance of my right hon. Friend that the Government are doing all they can do in looking through the reserved occupations, searching through them with a small tooth comb, so to speak, and quite rightly so, but the more thoroughly that is done and the more rapidly it is done, and the more it is known everywhere that it is being done thoroughly and rapidly, the more will you assuage this discontent, which has elements of social danger within it. Besides that, we are entitled to call upon the Government—not the more important members, who, of course, do it, but down through the ramifications of every Department—to insist upon the Government themselves setting the proper example. I know one place in England where only a few days ago an unmarried man in his twentieth year was appointed to a position in the Inland Revenue Department when he ought to have gone to the War. I need hardly say what an absorbing topic of conversation that is in the rural districts where the appointment was made. I know another part of England where a military depot actually took into civilian employment a young unmarried man qualified for service, with the result that it was very difficult indeed to prevent the chairman of the local tribunal from resigning, out of pique and annoyance. We have read in the newspapers to-day of the whole of a local tribunal in Scotland resigning because for the postmaster there has been appointed a young unmarried man. Whatever views are taken in this House as to compulsory service or non-compulsory service, and whether you ought to put the fighting men first or on the other hand the provision of food, one thing is quite certain, and that is that the Government as a Government are committed to this policy of getting every unmarried man of military age who is fit to fight to go and fight. Therefore, wherever you get these particular cases where men in Government service, young unmarried men fit to fight are receiving fresh appointments, they give rise to discontent far wider and far deeper than would be justified merely by the logic of the position. I would respectfully urge upon the Government that they should 2406 take the most particular care to avoid these sort of examples, which are having a very bad effect. I fully admit the extreme difficulty of the position. There is no absolute cure for it, but as with all diseases which admit of no absolute cure, and as with all anxieties which admit of no complete relief, it is all the more important to do everything that can be done. I respectfully assure the Government that their difficulties will be made much less if these attempts are universal, careful and thorough, but if, on the other hand, they fail in any part of these attempts, then we are face to face with a difficult position which, however it ends, will impair that national strength which we all want to conserve and protect for the great end of winning the War.
§ Major NEWMAN
I listened a short time ago to the speech of one of the champions of the conscientious objector, and I confess that after listening to that speech very carefully I was unable to make out whether the hon. Member was in favour or was against the new and great experiment which the Government have started in the last few days to meet the conscientious objector. I mean the creation of this new non-combatant corps, which I understand is shortly to go to the front. That experiment is a new and a daring experiment. I suppose that in the history of the nations of the world such an experiment has never been tried before. It means that we are going to send to the front a great body of young men, trained and equipped as Infantry soldiers, and also to be trained in the use of engineering tools, in other words, to be a body of Royal Engineers. These men are to go to the front, but they are to have no weapons, nor are they to be taught the use of weapons. That is a great, a wonderful, and a daring experiment. It may be a success or it may not be a success. When I first heard of it and read of it, I paid no very great attention to it. I imagined it to be some sort of conscientious objectors pals corps, that these men would be put together, and have their own officers over them. I saw these men with a conscience commanded by men with a super-conscience. I imagined that, perhaps, some of the hon. Gentlemen opposite who champion these conscientious objectors might go to the front with them. It is very curious that a great many of these hon. Gentlemen are men of military age. I am perfectly convinced 2407 that the right hon. Member for Waltham-stow (Sir J. Simon) is younger than I am, and I am perfectly convinced that a great many hon. Members who speak for the conscientious objector are men who ought to be at the front, and who would be at the front if they had not happened to be Members of Parliament but ordinary, common men.
I know it will be said that these men in this new corps will go to the front with the skill of an Infantry soldier, but that they will not have his rifle. I shall be told that it is not every man who goes to the front who is in the firing line, and that there must be men on the lines of communication. Let me remind hon. Members who may think that of a certain battle that was fought more than a year ago. I mean the battle of Ypres. If it had not been that the cooks and the grooms, the nondescripts, and all descriptions of men, who as a rule do not fight, came forward and threw themselves into the fighting line, without a shadow of doubt the Germans would have got through to Calais. What happened? These cooks and grooms came into the firing line and fought. They had been taught how to use a rifle, and how to use a bayonet. But these men are not going to be taught how to fight. They will never have used a bayonet or a rifle. Yet they are going to the front as part of the English Expeditionary Force. And as I read the War Office communiqué to the Press about this Non-Combatant Corps I saw something which affected me, and I at once took more interest in this corps. We are told that the officers and non-commissioned officers will not be men of super-conscience at all. They will be selected from Regular Infantry personnel, men who are not fit for general service but are fit for service abroad on the lines of communication, and who will be attached to the Non-Combatant Corps while serving in that corps.
I am very sorry to say that that description fits me. At the present moment I am told by the Medical Board that I am not fit for active service in the front-line trenches and shall not be so for another couple of months, but I am fit for service on lines of communication. Therefore, I take it, that with ordinary good fortune I shall find myself in command of a company of these Non-Combatant Corps, with a certain number of non-commissioned officers who, like myself, are not fit for general 2408 service, as subordinates in command of the Non-Combatant Corps. That opens up to me a vista of great and unpleasant possibilities. Suppose I saw myself with 200 Non-Combatant Corps acting as Royal Engineers repairing a railway which had been damaged by German bombs dropped from an aeroplane or something like that. I myself may have a revolver, which I know how to use, and two or three of the non-commissioned officers will probably have rifles, which they will be able to use. Two or three German bullets come whistling over our heads. I look through my glasses and see a small party of Germans advancing against us. What am I to do with my 200 men? [An HON. MEMBER: "Surrender."] Exactly; surrender or run away. If I ran away—I have not got a conscience mind you—when I get back to my superior commander I shall be shot for running away, because I shall not be protected by the Clause which we heard about yesterday from the Under-Secretary, which protects these gentlemen if they misbehave in face of the enemy.
This idea of forming Non-Combatant Corps is simply a lawyers' compromise, and nothing else. I am perfectly convinced that nobody in the War Office can ever have approved of this. It has been forced on us by a lawyers' Government and a lawyers' compromise. This compromise is not going to settle the difficulty at all, because the people for whom it is meant are not going to have it. I have heard the hon. Member (Mr. Whitehouse) say that what the conscientious objectors want is total exemption or nothing. During the last few days I have taken a great deal of trouble to find out exactly what the objection is of the Society of Friends and others to military service. During the last few weeks I have taken a weekly journal called the "Friend"—a very good journal indeed—and I have found out a good deal about the views of the Society of Friends, against whom I have nothing to say. I have already said that I have great respect for them. I have been able to find out why they will not have military service, and why they want total exemption. It is set forth perfectly plainly and simply in a leading article in the issue of 10th March, 1915, which gives the official reasons why they claim total exemption and why it is they object if they go before a tribunal claiming total exemption and are exempted from combatant service only. The reasons are four in number. Two of them I am acquainted with. First of all, 2409 they object to oaths; the Society of Friends object to taking an oath. I do not know how that appeals to the hon. Member for West Leeds, who is a member of the Society of Friends, and who took the oath at that Table. They state that as the first objection. They object, in the second place, to obeying any military order, because that means a strain upon their conscience. They object to military combatancy because they cannot do murder. And they cannot undertake non-combatant duty because it is aiding and abetting the slaughter of men who are brothers. These are the four reasons why members of the Society of Friends cannot serve and why they must have total exemption The article goes on to ask very fairly indeed, what test should be applied to show that the men who go before the tribunal are sincere in their application, and the test is this:"They shall belong to the Church, one of whose tenets is a conscientious objection to war.I admit that is perfectly fair, where a member of the Society of Friends is vouched for by an elder or minister, or whoever it may be, who appears before the tribunal, and I should give the man total exemption from military service, but that he should do some work of a national character. But if that were all it would be a very small thing, because the article goes on to say of the Society of Friends:"We are a very small, insignificant body, we having only a few thousand and odd members.If the number of men of military age be a thousand, and they were really members of the Society of Friends, I would say by all means give them total exemption, but that they must do some work of a national character, work that is useful to the country. But that, unfortunately, is not the whole case. Behind that Society of Friends there is a great mass of young fellows trying to creep out. In a great many cases members of the Society of Friends are coaching these young gentlemen how they can claim relief on conscientious grounds. That is a thing which should not be done by the Society of Friends. In my own Division there are a good many of the Society of Friends, and the other day in the newspaper there there was an advertisement asking young men who want to be coached to apply to a certain gentleman. If the hon. Gentleman opposite has any objection to that statement I can give him the name of the gentleman, a member of the Society of Friends.
§ Mr. WHITEHOUSE
I am much obliged to the hon. Member for his courtesy. May I point out that he is misrepresenting the attitude of the Society of Friends? The Society of Friends do not claim exemption from military service because they are members of the society, but because they hold the Christian religion, and they believe that to take part in war is contrary to the teaching of the Christian religion. They claim similar protection for all those who hold those views, which are not confined to the Society of Friends.
§ Major NEWMAN
I am sorry to say that there must be a great many "heathens" in England and at the front. What is actually going to happen, now that we are to have those granted exemption from combatant service drafted into the N.C.C. and sent to the front? Do the Committee realise that they will be treated as soldiers and paid as soldiers each week, and that their wives and families will get exactly the same separation allowances as in the case of the men who are serving in the trenches and dying every day, although those men of the N.C.C. will not fight and cannot fight? Is that fair? There are 2,000 tribunals, we are told, and is there a single one of them which does not have conscientious objectors before it? In one town alone I was told there were 300 conscientious objectors, and I had a letter telling me that there were scores in my own Division. If each tribunal exempts ten men from combatant service and they are drafted into the N.C.C. you get 20,000 men—that is, a whole division of men going to the front, trained in squad drill and in the use of engineering tools, but without rifles and not allowed to fight. Can we afford to do that? Have we got the men to waste in that way? Can we bring our Army at the front into ridicule by sending those men out amongst them? Do hon. Members realise that in a great many places the German and English trenches are about fifty yards apart, and that they hold conversations in the mornings and evenings? Imagine some young German who has not forgotten the English he learned as an assistant barber in the East End calling out, "When are you going to take our trenches?" and imagine another young German who learned his English at a riverside hotel remarking, "Do not ask them; they belong to the N.C.C.; they have not got any rifles." We do not 2411 want ridicule; we cannot have it. Therefore I say for that reason, and for the more important reason that the country cannot afford to waste its material in that way, I ask that this idea of the N.C.C. should go no further. Let the War Office take a firm stand and say that these lawyers' tricks shall go no further. If we go on with this scheme we shall, perhaps, bring disaster on some of our men and make ourselves an absolute laughing-stock in the eyes of the enemy. I hope, therefore, that we shall have an assurance that this half-baked scheme will go no further.
§ Mr. RICHARD LAMBERT
There is very little in the speech to which we have just listened with which I find myself in agreement, but I do entirely agree with the hon. Member as to the utter futility and absurdity of this Non-Combatant Corps. I think that many Members of the House have utterly failed to understand the motives and reasons which actuate the conscientious objector. I do not say that I agree with the views of the conscientious objector myself. As a matter of fact, if I were of military age—I may inform the hon. Member opposite that unfortunately I am not—I should go to the front. But I think I do understand the frame of mind and the point of view of these men. Many of them have adopted what, for want of a better term, I may call the Tolstoyian view. They think that in taking human life they are committing mortal sin. They may be wrong. There may be a gross exaggeration in their point of view. But that is what they think. They think that if they take part in the machinery for taking life they are committing sin. It is no use saying that that is an absurd point of view. You may disagree with it, but you have to recognise that it exists. You have to recognise that if you are going to put before these men the alternative either of being made martyrs, of being persecuted, for that is what it comes to, or of doing what they consider to be sinful, these men—who are not cowards, and many of whom have shown greater bravery in taking up an unpopular attitude than in going to the front—will say that they are prepared to face what they believe to be martyrdom. If you are going to put that dilemma upon them, you are going to raise a state of things in this country that will defeat the very object you have in view.
§ Mr. LAMBERT
Oh, yes, we shall. At any rate, that is my belief. I do not think that the tribunals, in the procedure they have adopted, are treating these men quite fairly. I dare say that we have all had brought to our notice extreme cases of discourtesy on the part of military representatives. The attitude which has been adopted, both by military representatives and by the tribunals themselves, has sometimes been altogether intolerable. Let me give an example that was referred to last night, but which I believe was not quite given in all its naked horror. This was the case of a Mr. Runacres which came before the Oxford Tribunal. The man is about to be ordained for the English Church. He claimed exemption on conscientious grounds, and called the Principal of Pusey House to bear evidence to the fact that his conscientious objection was of long standing and perfectly sincere. Totally unsolicited, somebody or other wrote to the tribunal, and the military representative produced that letter, which he would not allow this man to see or to hold in his hands.
The hon. Member has just told us that he is going to bring forward some new facts that were not brought to the notice of the Committee yesterday.
§ Mr. LAMBERT
I have carefully read what was said yesterday—in fact, I listened to it. I do not think the facts were brought out in their full bearing, otherwise I should not have referred to them. But I do want the House to see how very unfair was the attitude adopted. This anonymous letter stated:This man is a conscientious objector of an objectionable type. He was stopped by the college authorities last term for addressing Socialist and other meetings, some of workmen, to discourage recruiting.Mr. Runacres immediately denied this, saying the letter was not true. The letter continued:I submit he should receive no quarter, and even if excused combatant service ought to be put to something unpleasant because of his proselytising efforts.If that sort of thing is to be tolerated, if letters of that description are to be produced, and the applicant is not to be allowed to know who has written it, or to see it, and it is to be used in evidence against him, it is an intolerable state of things. I will give another case to which reference has not been made. This is the 2413 case of a master at Bedale School, aged forty, who is a conscientious objector of long standing—
§ Mr. LAMBERT
Roper. At the time of the Boer War he wrote an article against undertaking military duties. There can, therefore, be no doubt about this man. He produced a letter from his employer testifying to his absolutely straight forward conscience. In this case, again, an unsolicited letter was sent to the tribunal from a gentleman who had employed this schoolmaster nine years previously, saying that he hoped the tribunal would not give exemption. He was refused exemption altogether. [An HON. MEMBER: "Hear, hear!"] The hon. Member says "Hear, hear!" The Act says that a man who has a conscientious objection shall be exempted.
§ Mr. LAMBERT
I am merely asking that the terms of the Act should be observed. Whatever views hon. Members may have, when we pass an Act of Parliament we are surely entitled to the benefit of the provisions—privileges, if you like—expressly given in that Act of Parliament. That is all for which we are asking.
§ Mr. McNEILL
If the report be true, it is, at the same time, for the tribunal to decide whether or not the claim of the conscientious objector is genuine.
§ 11.0 P.M.
§ Mr. LAMBERT
I am coming to that. We were told last night that unless the tribunal decides that a man is a conscientious objector that he is liable to betaken, and, if necessary, shot. It is my firm conviction that if the Government are not careful with this matter they will find that there will be such an outcry amongst those men as will result in defeating the very objects they have in view. I do think that if hon. Members would try even a little more carefully, and a little more sympathetically, than the hon. Member who has just spoken—and I am quite sure he tried his best in the matter—to put themselves in the position of these men and understand their point of view, it would be to the public advantage.
Passing from the conscientious objector, I think the tribunals have shown great lack of discretion in some other respects. I have a case here which concerns my own 2414 Constituency. There is a man, an optician, who runs two places, one in Swindon and the other in Stroud, and the establishment in Stroud is the only spectacle establishment in that town. At the beginning of the War the manager of his Stroud establishment enlisted, and this man, Mr. Hyslop, very fairly not only agreed that he ought to go, but said that he would keep his place open for him. That left him with only himself and one assistant to run the two places of business. The assistant was called up in the usual way, and this Mr. Hyslop attended at Gloucester to ask that there might be conditional exemption, or, at any rate, temporary exemption while he could find a substitute. The tribunal refused it. He therefore appealed, and when he came before the Appeal Tribunal the military representative said that as girls were employed in the grocery business, in which the work was much heavier than that of an optician's, they would be eminently suitable for optical work. He seemed to think that because girls could sell bull's-eyes they could sell spectacles. The tribunal refused even a day's exemption. It seems to me that is carrying the thing to an altogether undue length. An optician's may be really regarded as almost a necessary business in this country, and I think a little more consideration might be shown. That is not the worst of it. When the appeal came on Mr. Hyslop received a note, and they carefully scratched out on the. notice all the words which stated he might appear at the hearing or might be represented. The consequence was that he turned up thinking he would not be allowed to speak, and it was only at the last minute that he ascertained he could, and accordingly did, but he came quite unprepared and naturally was not represented, as he otherwise would have been. That is, I think, a case of hardship, and I do really urge upon the Government that they should issue instructions to their military representatives, many of whom, I have not the slightest doubt, are solely actuated by a desire to do their best in rather difficult circumstances, that they should be a little less aggressive and a little less offensive than sometimes they are at these hearings. I think if only that can be done, and if only the Government would call to their aid certain people who are known to understand the position of the objector and would ask their advice as to a rather difficult class of people, I think that we should probably get a great deal of benefit, and the work would be 2415 very much more smoothly done. Hon. Members seem to think that we are opposed to the War. All along I have done my best to help the War. I have assisted at recruiting meetings and I am not in any sense an opponent of the War, but I do want to preserve the great national unity, which has been one of the grandest things we have had in the War, and I do not want to see divisions in our ranks which could be avoided by the exercise of a little more tact.
§ Mr. HODGE
I should like to divert the attention of the House from the question of tribunals to one which to my mind is of equal importance. The matter I desire to mention was referred to in a cursory way yesterday, namely, What are the Government going to do for the nurses? The House and the country as a whole have been anxious to do the best possible for those broken in the War, and a great many cases have come under my personal observation of nurses who have been broken in the War, but the Army Department are doing nothing for these women. We have heard a great deal as to the nobility and the courage of our soldiers—rank and file and the officers—but I do not think we have had very much said as to the nobility, the courage, and the sacrifice of the women who are attending the wounded. A nurse in a hospital, even in an ordinary private hospital, if she meets with an accident, receives all the benefits of the Workmen's Compensation Act, but nurses at the front or at the base hospitals, who are unfortunate enough to meet with an accident, in no case that I know of have received either a pension or a gratuity from the Army Department. All they have received has been twenty-six weeks' sickness benefit from an approved society of which they are members, and after that an invalidity pension of 5s. per week. That is throwing a burden upon approved societies which they have no right to bear. It is placing upon a section of the community a duty which ought to be borne by the nation as a whole. I am conscious of this fact: In the little experience I have had of hospitals at home it is only the strongest women that can possibly go through the training necessary before they can be fully equipped, but the hardships and the suffering, the long hours and the strain that these women have to bear either at the front or at the base hospitals is much greater and much more 2416 trying than that of the nurses at home, and I would seek to place before the Government and the Under-Secretary for War the necessity of something being done for these noble women, because those of our soldiers who come back from the front are all loud in their testimony as to their self-sacrifice and devotion to the wounded. I do not think that I need elaborate the matter more than I have done. I am sure that not only every section of the community, but every section of the Members of this House, will concur in the statement that this is a national duty, and that the small moiety of invalidity pension of 5s. per week is absolutely inadequate to keep life going so far as these women, broken as the result of their self-sacrificing efforts, are concerned.
When the hon. and gallant Gentleman (Colonel A. Lee) replied to the indictment of the Directors-General of the Army Medical Service made by the hon. Gentleman the Member for the St. Augustine's Division (Mr. R. McNeill), it appeared to me that he did the hon. Gentleman an injustice. The hon. Member did not say a single derogatory word—and I listened to his speech—of either the doctors, the nurses, or the rank and file of the Army Medical Corps. He directed his attention particularly to one high officer whom he charged with incompetence. When the whole evening passed without any reply being made to that indictment many Members must have left the House in a very depressed condition. I, at any rate, felt rather depressed and wondered if the case presented by the hon. Member was so strong that there was no reply to it. I was very much relieved when the hon. and gallant Gentleman made his reply to-day; but there were some things in that indictment to which he gave no reply, such, for instance, as the case where, in anticipation of the Battle of Loos, a great many stretchers were gathered together ready for any emergency, and where the Director-General referred to, finding that there were more accumulated than Army Regulations provided for, ordered the superfluous number to be dispersed. There were various other points and it is to be hoped before the Debate on the Army Estimates concludes there will be a more sufficient reply to the charges which were made. We have heard a great deal tonight about the conscientious objector. Probably it is due to my lack of understanding, but I cannot understand why a 2417 man who objects to fight or to assist the wounded or to any non-combatant service pays the taxes which keeps the men who are doing the fighting. To be consistent he ought to refuse to pay the taxes that go towards the sustenance of the War.
§ Sir STEPHEN COLLINS
I am sure every Member of the Committee present was delighted to have the assurance of the hon. and gallant Member opposite (Major Newman) that he will soon be in the pink of condition, and we trust that if he goes out to the front he will bring added glory to this House and honour to his King and country, and come back with well-earned laurels. I want to make one reference to the much-vexed question of the married man from a point of view I have not yet heard put. I am sure that the Government is anxious to be fair to the married man and that the President of the Local Government Board is desirous of carrying out the Prime Minister's pledge. But there are very many single young men who need far more consideration than many married men. Up and down the country there are thousands of young married men who are living in comfort and ease. They have no children and many of them have neither desire nor intention to have any: that is where their selfishness comes in. They have, in fact, only their wives to care for. On the other hand, there is many a single man with a widowed mother and possibly half a dozen young brothers and sisters to support. Time after time young men in this position have been pushed into the Service, and in our opinion the local tribunals have taken advantage of them. Surely young married men without children are entitled to far less consideration than a young single man with a widowed mother or an invalid sister to support. I wish to put in a plea for young men in this position, that they should be given more consideration than is extended to the young married men without children.
§ Mr. PETO
The forecast I ventured to make at four o'clock this afternoon is, indeed, more than amply justified. It is now well past eleven o'clock, and, with the exception of the speech of the hon. Member for Gorton (Mr. Hodge), and one or two others who have put practical points which I am sure have been welcomed by this House, we have not got away from the King Charles' head of the married man and the conscientious objector in the 2418 Debate of a somewhat lively character which was started by the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Walthamstow (Sir J. Simon) at half-past four.
§ Mr. STANTON
I do not know whether it is the ordinary procedure of the House, but this is the second time this evening I have had the pleasure of hearing the hon. Member opposite (Mr. Peto), whereas I have risen to my feet half a dozen times this evening in the vain endeavour to speak.
The hon. Member has not, perhaps, realised that it is the province and duty of the Chairman to call upon an hon. Member to speak, and he has to exercise that duty in the best manner he can.
§ Mr. PETO
I am quite sure that the hon. Member for Gorton need not have apologised for calling the attention of the House to the matter he raised, for it is one very much in the minds of hon. Members. It was of a most practical nature, and I hope it will receive the attention that it deserves. I want to follow the hon. Member's good example and bring to the notice of the representative of the Government two or three practical points which were dealt with very cursorily in the introductory remarks of the right hon. Gentleman the Under-Secretary for War. First, I should like to refer to the fact that in his speech he intimated—and I am very glad to hear it—that the Government had decided to reconsider the adverse decision which they gave to me on the 20th December in the matter of granting posthumous honours other than the Victoria Cross. The right hon. Gentleman said that the matter had been discussed in another place. He recognised the force of the request, and he reminded the House at the end of his remarks that, although the Secretary for War was now in consultation with General Officers Commanding at the various theatres of War on the subject, there was no regulation but only practice regarding such grants. I received a very different reply from that when I raised the question in this House on 20th December. On that occasion the right hon. Gentleman merely said:"I think the Victoria Cross is in a distinct position from any other decoration. I cannot help thinking it would be very doubtful policy to extend the provisions which have been considered 2419 hitherto only applicable to the Victoria Cross to other decorations."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 20th December, 1915, col. 35, Vol. LXXVII] I am very glad that those who had the privilege of raising this matter in another place were much more fortunate than hon. Members who only have the opportunity of addressing their remarks to this House. I only say this because it encourages me to hope that a similar fate will await another humble suggestion I made as lately as the 21st February. I asked the Under-Secretary of State for WarWhether it is the intention of the Government to recommend the early issue of an Imperial war service medal for Gallipoli to all British troops engaged in the operations there, to be awarded both to troops recruited at home and overseas?The right hon. Gentleman said:It is not considered desirable to make any recommendation regarding the grant of war medals before the conclusion of the War."—[OFFICIAL REPORT: 21st February, 1916, col. 428.]I hope that through some more powerful influence than mine this question will be reconsidered and at an early date. I want to give these two reasons: This War cannot be compared with any war in which this country has ever been engaged before. In the ordinary way, any one of the five or six campaigns in which we are now engaged would be a full-sized war and would be brought to a termination probably very much sooner than the present War will be. It would be a great loss of opportunity if the Government determine to stand on the hard and fast precedent of not granting a war medal until the termination of hostilities. I go further. I find that in the South African War there is a direct precedent for settling the ribbon so that it can be issued during the War to all troops entitled to wear that decoration before the actual design of the medal is settled or the medal is actually granted. I have it direct from the men concerned that they got the ribbon early in 1901, while the actual medal was not issued until two years after the termination of the war, in 1902. If it was possible to do it in the case of the South African War, I hope that a ribbon for a medal will be granted or settled upon at the earliest possible date, so that there may be some distinction for the men who have fought for twelve or eighteen months abroad, who have been invalided home, but who are once more fit to go about and who find themselves having to wear the same service tunic without any mark to show they are not some of the last men who will be compelled to join 2420 under the Military Service Act. It would have another effect. It would be a bond of union, although I do not think any further bond of union is necessary, yet, if I do not put it in that way, it would be a very gratifying token, if it were issued alike to the Dominion troops and those from this country, that they have been fighting in a common cause and have earned the same decoration. I cannot agree with the optimistic terms in which the right hon. Gentleman referred to the second line units. He said:In regard to the progress of the second line units it is said to be most satisfactory in spite of certain initial difficulties. They are being trained now for duty in the field or where they will be most required. Undoubtedly some of them will have to be retained at home, but many of them will go abroad to fight for their country.This question was raised by the hon. and gallant Gentleman (Captain Carr-Gomm) who is actually serving in one of those units, as far back as 22nd September, again on 16th November, and again on 22nd December, and gradually the position of these second line units has gone, I will not say from bad to worse, but from good to worse, and there is really no evidence whatever of what the right hon. Gentleman said, that there was some initial difficulty which has now been surmounted. If he could see the letters I have received since I have raised this question from officers, who must know what they are writing about, and could be acquainted with the discouragement at the constant changes in the plans of the War Office over the duties for which those units are intended, and if he would take into consideration the actual orders which have been issued as recently as 9th March he would perhaps have dealt quite differently with this question. I am now quoting an extract from the Western Command Orders of 9th March:
§ Disposal of men in Yeomanry squadrons of provisional brigades Territorial Force.
§ The personnel of the Yeomanry squadrons at present with provisional brigades will be posted to the second line regiments to which they belong."
That means that the men who were with such care weeded out from these second line units twelve months ago, when they were urged to take the Imperial service obligation, and drafted into provisional battalions, are brought back again into the units from which they were drafted. It goes on to say:
The Imperial service men in these Yeomanry squadrons who are fit for general service will then be posted to their third line units.
So that the men who have taken the Imperial service duties upon them are now to be taken out of the second line units which their officers have been training to the utmost of their ability and with the most painstaking care as a fighting unit and posted to third line units. I cannot imagine any much more discouraging treatment, unless we go further in these regulations. It says next:
"Men fit for general service who come under the operation of the Military Service Act, 1916, will be appointed to regular Cavalry and sent to the nearest Cavalry depot.
So that all the men in those second line units who are now under the obligations of the Military Service Act, and in the next paragraph, those who are not now under the Military Service Act, as and when they come under that Act, are all to be taken away and sent to the nearest Cavalry depot. One would think there would not be very much left of the second line units. They might have made a clean job while they are about it. But that is not so. In the final clause of these Regulations it says:
"When the instructions in the foregoing paragraphs have been carried out it is proposed to call for volunteers for the regular Cavalry from any second line Yeomanry regiments which have men in excess of establishment.
How they can be supposed to have men in excess of establishment, after the drastic treatment meted out to them in the first four or five paragraphs, I utterly fail to see. I will only give two extracts from letters I have received from officers who are actually concerned. One, commenting on these Regulations, dated 13th March, says:
"It means that we are to be filled up with all the useless men who were left behind by our first lines, and that all the keenest and best of our men will leave us whom we may have in excess of our strength.
Another officer, in regard to a different unit in a different part of the country, writes:
"This one was formed in August, 1914, and has reached a high state of efficiency…. I have retained a three squadron organisation and have managed to keep this regiment, both officers and men, full of zeal and the right spirit. Also we have plenty of instructors who have passed the various schools and so on and are really a good lot. We must be far superior to Kitchener's Army. You are evidently well aware of the difficulty a commanding officer has in keeping up the right spirit in a regiment called on for drafts and seeing its chances of going abroad as a unit constantly disappointed. I hoped Tennant's last answer to you showed the War Office were alive to it, too. But now we are called on for eight officers from each of our regiments and every man qualified. This is cruel and crushing to all our hopes.
The last time I spoke on this question the right hon. Gentleman said that I was some-
what exaggerating .in saying that the, moral effect of these constant changes would be the gradual withdrawal of the hopes for which they had worked in the second line units; therefore I have given the actual words written to me. On the 22nd December the right hon. Gentleman had high hopes—I do not want to cast them in his teeth in any way—that the result of Lord Derby's scheme would be that he would be able to fill them up to full strength. Those hopes have not been realised; therefore my only wonder is that they do not disband these units instead of killing them off piecemeal in this fashion. In the Debate of 30th September last, when we were debating the question of a remission of the high rate of Income Tax at present imposed upon officers, the Chancellor of the Exchequer told us that the proper occasion on which to raise the question was in Committee on the Army Estimates. The Army Estimates are now before us. Therefore it is right that I should mention that we have always had it thrown in our teeth that we have not raised the matter on the Army Estimates. Personally, it would not seem to me to be relevant to the Army Estimates.
§ Mr. PETO
I have always contended that that was not the proper way of dealing with it, and I am glad to hear that the right hon. Gentleman takes that view also. The Chancellor of the Exchequer said:"I hope the House will agree with me that this is a matter that ought to come forward on the Army Estimates.Now that I have the right hon. Gentleman's admission that I am right and the Chancellor of the Exchequer wrong I will leave the subject and deal with it on the next Finance Bill. I shall have a word to say on the conscientious objector before I conclude. Meanwhile I want to draw the right hon. Gentleman's attention to another practical point. In his speech he dealt with the question of promotion, and he said:"In the matter of the promotion of officers in the Territorial Force, that goes by roster of combined first, second, and third lines. But if an officer from the first line comes home wounded to the third line he takes his proper place according to seniority—that is to say, a lieutenant with three years' service would, on coming home, supersede a captain in the third line with one or two years' service. This system of promotion is, I think, as fair a one as could be devised."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 14th March, 1916, col. 1949.]Is he quite sure that the practice is universally carried out? I have had 2423 cases sent to me—and I will only quote one—where it is quite clear that the general feeling is that with regard to the commissioned ranks promotion has been very much more rapid among men who, for one reason or another, had to remain at home. I do not make any imputation with regard to that. Many of our young officers have not had a chance of getting out, but there is no doubt that with the constant formation of new units in the last twelve months there have been many opportunities for promotion at home. On the outbreak of war this man threw up his living as a solicitor and joined the Colours. He was granted a commission as 2nd Lieutenant in the Welsh Fusiliers, Territorials, in August, 1914, and was gazetted in September, 1914. He joined his regiment and left for France in November, and was all through the terrible experiences of the early days of the War. He was seriously wounded. The right arm was fractured. He was shot through the chest. In October, 1915, the Medical Board returned him as fit for light duties in the third line. In December he was ordered by the War Office to join the command depot. When pronounced fit he will go abroad and rejoin the third line. He is still a 2nd Lieutenant. This officer writes a letter not to me but to a friend, in which he says, "The War Office letter as to officers who are returned from their first-line units abroad taking their position according to their seniority when they are posted to their second and third-line units, as the case may be, is not adhered to, as we are attached as supernumeraries." I think that that is a matter that should be looked into. It must be extremely difficult, if not impossible, to make quite sure that an absolutely even chance of promotion is distributed throughout this vast organisation, but I would ask the right hon. Gentleman if he cannot do something to remove what is much more than an impression, what is known to be a fact, that in very many cases men who have been serving a long time abroad have not anything like the opportunity of promotion as men who had not had to go abroad on foreign service.
The President of the Local Government Board is paying much attention to economy. I would ask him to consider the proposal recently made for economising in the method of issuing meat to the 2424 Army—at any rate to the Army at home. Practical men have pointed out recently in the Press that the issue of whole sides of beef leads to gigantic waste. In the neighbourhood of the great centres where the greatest numbers of our troops are, if, in spite of the difficulty in finding labour, perhaps owing to the drafting out of the Army of men not fit for combatant duty, it would be possible to fit up refrigerating establishments where the inferior parts of the meat could be cut off so that the meat could be issued in a form in which it could be eaten and not wasted. A gigantic quantity of hospital necessaries and serviceable tinned food could be produced here, and an enormous saving, which is put at 120 lbs. weight per side of meat, the major part of which it is impossible to cook under camp conditions, would be effected. I am also told that there is still a very excessive issue of bread in many of the camps in this country. I hope that this question will be looked into further, because it has a very bad effect, apart from the loss, if people see this gigantic waste going on.
In reference to the question which has occupied so much of the attention of the Committee, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Walthamstow seemed to be very pleased to make his statement that the prophecy of himself and his Friends that there was no vast reservoir of unmarried men to be tapped has come true, and that, therefore, the Military Service Act was unnecessary and a mistake. I want to put this view. It is very easy to prophesy, if you are sufficiently influential through the ramifications of a gigantic organisation to take steps to see that your prophecy comes true. When the Secretary for War turns on the tap of this reservoir, which undoubtedly existed, he finds that in a large measure it is exhausted. And why? I want to read the programme openly stated in the "Labour Leader" of the 3rd February, and how it is to be carried out. This is the way in which the immunity which was obtained from any action in respect of agitation for the repeal of the Military Service Act, which is taken as a kind of charter for all this great organisation which is now at work throughout the country, is interpreted by the people who are working with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Walthamstow (Sir J. Simon). This is an extract from the manifesto, which was so valuable to the 2425 enemy that it was printed in the Roumanian language and circulated throughout Roumania:—"The many thousands of men who are by deep conviction opposed to participating in the War are faced with a difficult question as to the course which they should pursue. At first sight they may be inclined to ignore the Act entirely and accept any penalties that may result, but we hold the view strongly that the machinery the Act provides gives them a magnificent opportunity of stating their view to the country and of impressing both the public and the Government. The tribunals set up by the Act are under the control of the civil authorities. The powers they possess are uncertain, but, whatever the decisions they give, the effect of many thousands of men appearing before them and stating their objection to participating in the War must be incalculably great. If the decisions of the tribunals cannot be accepted, opportunity is given to appear before the Appeal Tribunals, and, with the consent of the Appeal Tribunals, before the Central Tribunal. If, in the last resort, the decisions prove unacceptable, the position of those who ultimately resist will be enormously strengthened by the course they have pursued. On the other hand, those who are freed from duties which they cannot conscientiously undertake will be able to continue the agitation against the Act and on behalf of any men who may suffer.In the speech he delivered when introducing the Bill, Mr. Asquith only included within the category of conscientious objectors those who object to the taking of human life. In addition to the thousands of men who hold this belief, there are many hundreds who cannot conscientiously participate in the War because of their sense of international solidarity with the workers of other countries, or because they believe the War to be unjustifiable politically. It would be a crime to compel such men to outrage their convictions, and the right of the State to do so should be challenged. Equally with the men who hold human life to be sacred, these objectors should claim exemption before the tribunals. By so doing they will bring this issue of fundamental importance to the attention of the public and the Government, and will do much to make the injustice of Conscription clear.We understand the National Council of the Independent Labour Party has decided to recommend its members who are by conviction opposed to participation in the War to claim exemption before the tribunals. In giving this advice the National Council is pursuing the same policy as the National Committee of the No-Conscription Fellowship, the Society of Friends, and the Fellowship of Reconciliation. The decision must, of course, rest ultimately with each individual, but the advantages of a combined policy will be very great.Members of the Independent Labour Party who come within the scope of the Act are advised by the National Council to co-operate with branches of the No-Conscription Fellowship, or, where there is no branch, to communicate with the Head Office of the Fellowship, at 8, Merton House, Salisbury Court, London, E.C. The Fellowship is undertaking to give advice relating to the tribunals and similar matters, and through it common action will be possible.That is the policy of the Independent Labour Party, which acts with the Fellowship of Reconciliation. They are to give advice relating to the tribunals and as to common action which may be possible, and we find that classes are held for conscientious objectors in all parts of the country by the so-called Fellowship of Reconciliation, where so-called conscien- 2426 tious objectors who wish to claim exemption on the ground of their conscientious objection to military service can receive advice.
The hon. Member informed me he desired to occupy fifteen minutes of the time of the Committee. He has now occupied thirty minutes, and as his back is turned to the clock no doubt he is not aware of that fact.
§ Mr. PETO
I have no wish to monopolise the time of the Commtitee, but I certainly gave no undertaking as to the exact minute, and I have felt it to be my duty to bring forward practical matters for the information of the Government. There is a great deal of feeling in the country on the part of married men, and that feeling is now being directed against the Government. I want the married men to hit the right people. I am perfectly convinced it is this agitation, this conspiracy as I call it, which has been engineered to keep the unmarried men out of their obligations under the Act, which is responsible for the shortage of the flow of unmarried men, and consequently imposes an unfair burden on the married. Therefore, I say, that the married men who have a grievance should know against whom the grievance really is. It is against the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Walthamstow and his satellites in this House, and all those in the organisation throughout the country, which has aimed for months past to defeat the Act which has been passed. It is very unjust to the Government, and particularly to the President of the Local Government Board, to do anything to encourage the married men to believe that the Government are not doing all that they can to carry out the pledges that have been given to them. But I would say in addition to the steps the right hon. Gentleman has told us he is going to take and is taking to make that pledge effective, I would urge upon him as a first and necessary step to squash altogether this illegal conspiracy against the workng of the Act which has been engineered in the country.
§ Mr. STANTON
I wish to inform the Committee of a resolution carried by a meeting of a thousand married men in Merthyr Tydvil, in which they declared whilst they were quite prepared to do all that they could and are not afraid of their responsibility as British citizens, at the same time they really feel that the Government might have played a stronger 2427 card, and insisted on the calling up of the elder single unmarried men. We have in this House and outside people who have been persuading young men to hold back. Some of those people are now concerned about the married men; but why have they not done their best to get the young men to join and be called up. Why have not these men done their little bit at the week-ends, instead of acting as they are doing? Last week-end, I believe it was, the hon. Member for Leicester (Mr. Ramsay Macdonald) spoke at a meeting and he was asked by Captain Godfrey Williams, "Are you not sorry to see so many young men present?" He replied, "No, I am pleased." He is like other hon. Members who stand up here and say in one breath, "We are in sympathy with the War; we want to carry it on to a successful conclusion," and at the same time they cry out and warn the Government of the dire punishments and penalties which will befall them if they dare to do anything against these passive re-sisters, these conscientious objectors, these people who are not prepared to do anything for their country in its hour of trouble. Who are these conscientious objectors? In times of peace we had to put up with all kinds of faddists, but in time of war, when our Empire is in danger, surely it is the wrong time to tolerate them. It is a wicked and devilish conspiracy. Yet these hon. Members draw their £400 a year for crying treachery here and outside. They go about to denounce me and the likes of me, and say we have betrayed the Labour cause because we dare to be true to our country and our King. These people should not be tolerated in this House, but I suppose that you are remarkable for tolerating all sorts and conditions of men once they get here. Let the nation know how these people carry on. It is astounding how we allow some people to act as they do. It is bad enough that there should be treachery, but it is worse that these people should be able to stand up here and openly and brazenly preach it. Never mind how they disguise their language, they are doing it. It makes a man's blood boil, and I trust that the majority of hon. Members who represent constituencies where the majority of men are true Britishers agree with me. I warn this House that the time has come when we must put an end to this sort of thing. The Government must not be 2428 fooled and pulled about any longer by a mere handful of people who have no real feeling. They are not British. I say they are not men. If they wish to be martyrs, let them go and get themselves crucified. If they think can can bring about a little heaven upon earth, why do not they go? It would pay the British Government to let them go to some little South Sea island so that they could start there a little hell or heaven of their own. Here they hamper progress, and they hamper every chance that we have. For my part, I am not going to tolerate it. It may be that I am wrong when I stand here and say these things, but I have listened patiently, and it is only because of my striving to have some respect for Mr. Speaker or the Chairman that I cannot say all that I would like to say. But when I get to the plough tip, in my native place, and to the platform, I shall say things which possibly would be considered unparliamentary if I dared to say them here. I merely wish to emphasise the fact that the people who get up here from time to time to advocate their views in a sly, underhand way, who are patting on the back every man who says, "I will not fight for my country," are not the sort of people we should tolerate. Most of these people, who ought to have been in lunatic asylums, are setting the law at defiance. It is the duty of the Government to buck up, to ginger themselves up, and to say, "We know what we are going to do and we will do it." They must deal with these men. There is no room for such men in this country. I protest against their conduct and I will fight them. I want to be fair to these people, but, really, they get on my nerves. There is no time tonight to say more. Half the things I had thought of I have forgotten by waiting. I will think of them some other time.
§ Mr. TENNANT
All who have listened to the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down must be pleased at the breezy and admirable manner with which he has placed before us in full-blooded language views which some of us have expressed in a thinner style. He has dared to express straightly and forcibly views that we hold in common. My common practice, I may tell the hon. Member, in answering the letters of conscientious objectors, has been to point out that the greatest need of the State to-day is men for the firing line, and to ask them to consult their con-sciences as to the possibility of giving that assistance. My words may have had some 2429 effect—I do not know. The hon. Member for Mid-Lanark asked me earlier in the Debate what we intended to do to prevent the tribunals or the military representative from sneering, flouting, deriding and holding up to scorn those who sincerely hold these convictions. It is done because there is ground for belief—I am sorry to say too much ground for belief—that many of these men that report to the tribunals that they are imbued with and act upon deep religious and conscientious convictions and motives do not state the case correctly. They are merely using these things as a cloak. There would have been no sneering or flouting—because honest men have the belief that other men are honest—if there had not been reason for believing there is not the honesty there should be in this matter. Thus it is explicable that the tribunals and the military representatives are taking the attitude they have done.
§ 12.0 M.
§ Mr. TENNANT
I am sorry for observations of that kind, which are really not relevant. The enlistment of unfit men has been mentioned. There is no intention whatever to put into the Army, or to combatant duties, men who are not fit for these duties. I have already given instructions that that shall be made perfectly clear to the doctors who are acting upon medical boards. Every care has been taken to see that the men passed in are really fit for the duties. The Committee will thus see that real care is being exercised to see that the matter is properly attended to. I quite agree with the hon. Member for Merthyr that when one has been here a long time, listening to a Debate for three days, it is a little difficult to know where to begin or to end. My hon. Friend the Member for Gorton (Mr. Hodge) made an appeal to us about nurses. It is not necessary for me to say how much we appreciate the devotion and the self-sacrificing services rendered by the nurses throughout this War. I will certainly take care to see that proper action is taken. I cannot help thinking that my hon. Friend must have been thinking of the Voluntary Aid Detachment and not of the nurses permanently attached to the Army. I do not know whether that is so or not, but I cannot help feeling that it must be so. I 2430 understand there is a scheme of pensions, but as I have had no notice of this question I do not wish to commit myself without refreshing my memory. The hon. Member for North-East Lanark (Mr. Duncan Millar) asked me about the Machine Gun Corps. I can assure him that every encouragement is given to the corps, and it is doing admirable work. Promotion, if it is not given, will be given within the corps itself, so that officers will not only have the promotion to which they are entitled in their own units but they will have promotion to any vacancy which may occur in the Machine-Gun Corps also. I think that should satisfy them. The Machine-Gun Corps will not be like the Artillery or Cavalry. It will go out to act at the front with a brigade, and may be divided into small bodies to be absolutely, as they must be, under the commanding officers of the battalions. You cannot have two kings in one kingdom or two commanders in one small portion of the line.
§ Mr. DUNCAN MILLAR
Can the right hon. Gentleman say whether it is possible to have larger units than the company unit?
§ Mr. TENNANT
I cannot quite leave the attack of the hon. Member for the St. Augustine's Division on the Army Medical Service without saying one word. I hope that he may come to think that he has been mistaken in many respects. My hon. Friend spoke of the Medical Advisory Board recommending the appointment of the director-general. That is not the case. He also spoke of it as promoting officers. There was a time prior to the Esher Committee, which is not long ago—
§ Mr. R. McNEILL
In point of fact, I read verbatim the clauses of the instruction scheme on which the reorganisation took place in 1902. I was assuming it was in operation and I was giving my own impressions.
§ Mr. TENNANT
That was all changed by the Esher Committee. The Army Council was set up, and I think it was under Mr. Arnold Forster's Secretaryship of State that the present practice of an Advisory Board was adopted. What I want my hon. Friend to realise is what time after time I have endeavoured to make plain at Question Time that the members of the Advisory Board have been constantly consulted. Sir Alfred Keogh, when he arrived after the unfortunate illness of Sir Arthur Sloggett, was engaged 2431 on the important work of sanitation. At the outbreak of war sanitation is more important than anything else. Everybody knows who has had anything to do with the management of war forces that you generally expect that there will be more killed by disease than by wounds, and that has been so in nearly every great war, and the present is a very unusual war in that respect. The members of the Advisory Board were Dr. Mewsome, Dr. Robinson, Sir Frederick Treves, the sanitary officer at Aldershot, and General Anderson, and the responsibility for sanitation in France was placed upon this body. That Board gave advice as to this most important service. Dr. Hill, the remaining member of the Board, was placed on the Committee as a physiologist to deal with poisonous gases. The work done by this body against the gas attacks of the enemy has been quite extraordinary. I do not know whether or not I am beating a dead horse, but I do think it is important that the inaccurate statements made by the hon. Member for St. Augustine's Division should be corrected.
§ Mr. TENNANT
I thought the hon. Member for Fareham had dealt with those statements pretty strongly, and it does not really rest with me now to contradict the statement made by the hon. Member about the battle of Loos. I do not know what impression the hon. Member gave to the House, but my own impression was that so far from his speech being accurate it was nothing of the kind. After all, the proof of the pudding is in the eating. My hon. Friend now admits that the work done by the Army Medical authorities has been admirable.
§ Mr. TENNANT
I say it did, and I appeal to any hon. Member in the House whether the impression it conveyed to the House was not that here you had an Army Medical Service which, if the Advisory Board had only been used, would have saved suffering and misery.
§ Mr. TENNANT
I say it is absolutely untrue. The Medical Service generally has been extraordinary. To convey an opposite impression is a very great disservice to the State, because you are going to frighten people, and make the relatives of those who have husbands, brothers and sons out at the front feel that if they should have the misfortune of being wounded they would go through the misery of being left on the battlefield for a very long time. As we know, they are often brought into hospital within two and a half and three and a half hours—the quickest on record. I do regret very much and would resent on behalf of my medical advisers, any false impression such as that which would have been created by the hon. Member if it had not been for the speech of my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Fareham.
§ Mr. McNEILL
It is quite obvious that I was not speaking from my own knowledge, and to that extent my hon. and gallant Friend who spoke this afternoon, of course, had the advantage of me. He was able to speak to the House from what he himself had seen, but I think it is only just to myself to say that I said nothing in the course of my speech which I had from the information of people who had seen quite as much as my hon. and gallant Friend, and in many respects were much more qualified to judge.
§ Mr. TENNANT
That really is a matter of opinion. I confess it amazes me to hear the hon. Gentleman say that, because every soldier who has been at the front I have ever seen and all persons who come from the front say the medical service has really left nothing to be desired. It has been wonderful.
§ Mr. TENNANT
I am informed that there is not a shadow of foundation for the statement in the "Daily Chronicle" which the hon. Gentleman quoted.
§ Mr. TENNANT
I am not quite sure what the statement was. I understand the editor of the "Daily Chronicle" is prepared to withdraw it—I believe so. He did not tell me, but I was informed he was. I do not think I need labour this more. I can tell my hon. Friend more in private, and I dare say he can tell me more in private will not deal at this hour with 2433 married men, because I think the President of the Local Government Board has dealt with that in a complete manner. I would say to the hon. Member for Devizes (Mr. Peto) that I think he took a rather curious coincidence of a Debate having taken place in the House of Lords and a change of view not only to be synchronous, but to the cause and effect. That is not really so.
§ Mr. TENNANT
I said a Debate had taken place in another place, and my Noble Friend the Lord Chamberlain had announced a decision which had been come to some days previously. That is really what I meant; I may, I dare say, have been clumsy in my description. I hope my hon. Friend will look at my words and will see that they do not necessarily bear the interpretation he has put on them, although, of course, they may be capable of it.
§ Mr. TENNANT
I should not like to say more at present than that is under consideration. With regard to the second line Territorial units, my hon. Friend behind me (Sir J. Walton) and the hon. Member for Devizes are not, I think, in the same camp. As far as I understand the hon. Member for Devizes, he thinks it is insulting to the second line unit to ask for volunteers to go to the front. I do not really share that gloomy impression which he conveyed to us in sepulchral terms, I should like to take a cheerier view. My hon. Friend behind me is in favour of allowing the individual soldier in the second-line unit to have an opportunity of going to the front.
§ Sir J. WALTON
May I say the second-line battalion Territorials were really raised as reserves to the first line? That method was afterwards changed, and it was decided that the second line should act as fighting units, leaving only the 2434 third as reserves. That has proved to be totally insufficient. I am only anxious to have the first-line battalion at the front kept at absolutely fighting strength.
§ Mr. TENNANT
I entirely agree with that, and it is what we desire to secure: to keep the first-line units up to strength. To do that it is sometimes necessary to draw on the second-line units for the purpose of reinforcing the first line. It has been done in the past, and it may have to be done again in the future. I am not dealing so much with the Yeomanry as with the Infantry. I have had considerable conversations on the subject with the chief of the General Staff, and we are agreed on that. The Territorials have to go wherever they are most required. Some must stay at home; others are going abroad very soon. I really do not understand why there should be so much depression about this. Why should we be considered not to be doing what is fair and proper and right by these soldiers? They are doing splendid work. There is nothing to be said against them, and I do not think there is any real ground for the suggestion we are not treating them fairly. Indeed, I hope the hon. Gentleman will change his views on this point. The Cyclists' battalions have done splendidly. They are most anxious to go out; a lot of them would give anything to be sent out, but we cannot afford to let them go. They are most useful, and so long as a man is doing what is required of him in serving his country, what in Heaven's name more can we expect?
§ Mr. TENNANT
I might have used the wrong word. I thought I had said for Home defence. That seems to me most reasonable and proper. I may conclude by informing an hon. Member opposite that whatever may be the case in the Civil Service with regard to the number of unmarried men of military age in it, the figures for the War Office are very satisfactory. We have had a census taken of the number of the Civil Service staff employed by the War Office. The total reached the wonderful figure of 6,348. Of these only 273 single men of military age are being retained as indispensable at the moment. I think that is a very satisfactory figure, and I hope my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow University (Sir 2435 H. Craik) will agree with me. Two hundred and seventy-three out of 6,348 is a very remarkable figure. Of these 273 all but about 10 have been attested. No less than 784 married clerks have been or are being released for military service. This figure does not include the Pay Department. We have had three long days for this Debate, and I hope I may now ask the Committee to allow us to get this Vote.
§ Mr. OUTHWAITE
It is some small justification for my intervening on this occasion that I had not the advantage other Members had of being able to speak on the First, Second, or Third Reading of the Military Service Bill. I should not have detained the Committee but for a statement made by the Under-Secretary. The virtual justification which his words conveyed of the action of certain members of the tribunals throughout the country was quite unjustifiable. I will give two examples and ask him whether he will justify them. In the case of the Shaw Tribunal, a man came before that tribunal who was a man of high scientific attainments. He was engaged in research work for the Manchester Corporation. He had been asked by the British Association to join a research committee on their behalf. He came forward and pleaded exemption on conscientious grounds. After his statement one of the members of the tribunal called him a disgusting mass of shivering fat. Does the right hon. Gentleman justify that example of the tribunal's judicial methods? Take another case, which appears in the papers to-day. The science and mathematical master at Harrow School appeared before the tribunal and pleaded conscientious objection. A member of the tribunal said he should be put across someone's knee and spanked. I do not know whether the right hon. Gentleman regards that as a justifiable method for the tribunal to adopt when the President of the Local Government Board has informed them that the conscientious objector must be put in the position of having his case considered judicially and sympathetically. I think the statements and acts of these men are statements and acts of blackguardism. They have the opportunity this Act gives them, clothed with a little brief authority, and they treat in this manner men of far higher attainments and characteristics than themselves.
2436 I "wish to reply to a statement made by the hon. Member (Mr. Peto) that the shortage was due to certain endeavours of the? right hon. Gentleman (Sir J. Simon) to-cause opposition to the Act in the country. There is nothing more unjustifiable than that statement. It is not divulging a secret that when the Bill was coming before the House the Anti-Conscription committee met and decided to offer as little opposition as possible and in no-contentious spirit, because they were afraid of stimulating opposition to the-coming law in the country and we decided to do nothing to arouse any unnecessary controversy. Our desire, we-considered, was met by the statement made by the right hon. Gentleman in charge of the Bill, and in particular the statement made by the President of the Local Government Board. We were given an assurance that the conscientious objector would get fair treatment and that his case would be properly considered. In that way he got his Bill through under circumstances of extraordinarily little opposition, and all we say now is that he should play his part and should see that the tribunals act in that fair spirit in which he said they would work.
In dealing with the married men, the hon. Member for Devizes (Mr. Peto) asked who were the men against whom they ought to lay their grievances. I propose, in a few words, to tell the hon. Member who those men are. The hon. Member suggested that the shortage of men was entirely due to the work of the Independent Labour Party, and other bodies of conscientious objectors. I can tell him that he is far wrong in that. To a certain-extent, no doubt, opposition has sprung from that source, but the opposition is far wider, and comes from a source far more difficult to deal with-than from the organisation of the Independent Labour Party. In the first place, these conscientious objectors may be divided into two classes. There is the class which bases its claim for conscientious objection, in the main, or solely, on religious grounds; and there is another section, which bases its claim not only on the ground of a conscientious objection to the shedding of blood and the killing of men, but also, to a certain extent, as the hon. Member suggested, on political grounds. Now, I want to know who are the men who stimulated these views, and where they are now, because it is against them that the grievance of the married men, I believe, in the main, 2437 lies. Many of these men have in the past taken and upheld the view which has been expressed at public meetings in the country by the right hon. Gentleman who is now the Minister of Munitions.
I will read a statement made by the right hon. Gentleman, which he should have withdrawn, at any rate, by this time, because it is being used in publication by the Independent Labour Party, and is now stimulating men from the political side of their conscientious objections. This is from a speech made by the right hon. Gentleman in the Queen's Hall, London, on 28th July, 1908. I will repeat, this is a speech which is being circulated to-day, and consequently is having an effect at this time. The right hon. Gentleman said then—and I would direct the attention of those in control of the conscientious department to this:"Look at the position of Germany. Her Army is to her what our Navy is to us—her sole defence against invasion. She has not got a two-power standard. She may have a stronger Army than France, than Russia, than Italy, than Austria, but she is between two great Powers who, in combination, could pour in a vastly greater number of troops than she has. Do not forget that when you wonder why Germany is frightened at alliances and understandings, and some sort of mysterious workings which appear in the Press, and hints in the 'Times' and 'Daily Mail.' (Laughter.)It is very easy to laugh, but they do not know the 'Daily Mail'—(applause)—not as we do.(Laughter.) I remember motoring on a Sunday morning in Germany, and I picked up a German newspaper, and the only words I could read were 'Observer' and 'Daily Mail,' so I asked a friend what it meant, and he said it was an extract full of menaces to Germany, and the German paper had copied it. All that means something in Germany. Here is Germany, in the middle of Europe, with France and Russia on either side, and with a combination of their armies greater than hers—
§ Mr. OUTHWAITE
Why "Order"? I am only reading the words of the Minister of Munitions."Suppose we had here a possible combination which would lay us open to invasion—suppose Germany and France, or Germany and Russia, or Germany and Austria, had fleets which in combination would be stronger than ours. Would not we be frightened, would not we build, would not we arm? Of course we should. I want our friends, who think that, because Germany is a little frightened, she really means mischief to us, to remember that she is frightened for a reason which would frighten us under the same circumstances.I say that that speech is to-day being circulated, and the man who reads that speech, and takes the view expressed in it, is the very type of man who goes before these tribunals, and bases on it, in fact, his objection to service, because he has 2438 been told in the past that this is a war, not of German aggression, but is one which is forced upon Germany by a combination of France and Russia.
§ Mr. OUTHWAITE
One paper which has published it—I believe I am correct in saying so—has been the "Labour Leader."
Here is the source of those seditious statements which we were told by the hon. Member for Devizes were being made—the Minister of Munitions himself. My point is that I do not see why I should be standing up here on behalf of the conscientious objector when the man who should be pleading their case for fair treatment is the Minister of Munitions, who has misled the men in the past. But these men hold these views to-day, and it is the Minister of Munitions, and not myself, who should have come forward and have pleaded that the dupes—if you like to call them so—of his views in the past should get fair treatment before the tribunals.
I will now give you the case of another man against whom the married man has a grievance, if his views in the past are misleading the men to-day, and that is the right hon. Gentleman who is now the Minister for Education. The right hon. Gentleman, on 1st August, 1914, signed a declaration with the late Mr. Keir Hardie, expressing very much the same views as those which are still largely held amongst the followers of the right hon. Gentleman. He said:"Everywhere vehement protests are made against the greed and intrigues of militarists and armament mongers. We call upon you to do the same here—this was at a great public meeting—in Great Britain upon an even more impressive scale. Hold vast demonstrations against the War in every industrial centre to compel those of the governing class and their Press, who are eager to commit you to co-operate with Russian despotism, to keep silence and respect the decision of the overwhelming majority of the people, who will have neither part nor lot in such an infamy. The success of Russia at the present day would be a curse to the world.Why is the right hon. Gentleman not standing up for the men who still hold the views that he expressed then? Why does he leave it to less influential people to plead their cause? These men come forward, and they base their objections partly on the ground of political views. This is 2439 the source from which they get their political views. These two right hon. Gentlemen do not come forward and do anything to assist those of their followers who have kept their views. I do not desire to go further into that matter, but I wish that these right hon. Gentlemen had some regard for the position in which their unfortunate followers have been placed.
But the letters which I get come, in the main as regards the conscientious objectors from men who have not been following so much the Minister of Munitions or the Minister for Education. I will tell the hon. Member for Devizes, against whom, in the main, the married men have a grievance, and whose views, in the main, are stimulating conscientious objections. It was a great surprise to me to find, since the question came forward, from the great number of letters I have received, that there actually are men who—distributed throughout the length and breath of the country—try in a humble way and really believe that they can, in this world of today, follow in all their activities the teachings of Christ. But, from the letters I have received, and from the evidence before the tribunals, I can see that such is honestly and religiously the case. The letters I have received—and many were very pathetic—led me to look up the grounds and the authority on which these men were basing their conscientious objections. I find, from many letters I have got, that this is to be found in the Bible—I have looked it up—and, in the main, in what I believe is termed the Sermon on the Mount. From many references which I have been given I find that the main source of authority is St. Matthew V., and so on. There are one or two passages that I am going to read to hon. Members who think this matter is one of pure scorn and derision of cowards. I will show you whom the grievance is against. In verse 9 I see the words:Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God.
§ Mr. MACPHERSON
Mr. Maclean, is it in order for any hon. Member to speak contemptuously of this particular Book?
§ Mr. OUTHWAITE
It is not I, Mr. Maclean, who spoke contemptuously. It is those hon. Members who have spoken contemptuously of the people who are following the guidance of this Book. I am merely trying to find what is the source 2440 of their objection, and I am going to say that either you should uphold them in their views and accept them or you should censor this Book from which they get their authority. It may seem derisive and contemptuous to the hon. Member, but I can tell you that in South Africa, for instance, they have been far more logical, because when they published extracts from this Book—a peace organisation, it was-they did censor it. The censor demanded that the words "Thou shalt not kill" should be struck out, and the secretary of the organisation said, "But this is from the Bible." The censor said, "Well, then, the Bible is a most dangerous book, and the words should be struck out." So I am going on, and I am not going to follow the guidance of the hon. Member. I find, again, that in verse 38—I am not so familiar with it as perhaps the hon. Member who interrupts me is—
§ Mr. OUTHWAITE
But you do not follow the teachings, unfortunately, or you would not be sitting where you are or occupying the post you are. In verse 38 it says: "Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth: but I say unto you That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on the right cheek, turn to him the other also." When a man comes forward with a conscientious objection—I mean a religious man or crank, as I think-and quotes that, he is treated with derision and contempt by the members of the tribunal. I again repeat that this is the source of the grievance of the married men, this Book and the teachings of Christ, as is obvious. Then I see again, in verse 43: "Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you and persecute you." These extraordinary people come along and say they have been following the teachings of Christ throughout their life in all sorts of humble ways. And I say that Christ says that you are to love those that persecute you and not jam a bayonet into them, and whatever the tribunal or the Government may think, and whatever the law may say, these people contend that they are going to follow what is to them 2441 Divine guidance. I say that there is the source of the grievance of the married men, and if you want to remove the source of the grievance I say you should be honest and logical and censor that Book, and exterminate as far as you can the teaching of that Book. I say it is a very extraordinary and absurd thing that I should be pleading in this way the cause of the conscientious objector, but it is unfortunately forced upon individuals such as myself who have had no great connection with religious teachings, because these men have been deserted by their leaders. Where are the clergy, the ministers of Nonconformity, to-day? These hirelings have left their flock to the wolf indeed. These men have followed their teaching to the letter, and they have been deserted by those who—
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN (Mr. Maclean)
It does not seem to be in order or relevant to make criticisms of bodies for which the Government is not responsible. If the hon. Member's criticism is directed at the Government or at the local tribunals, well and good. Let him keep himself to that.
§ Mr. OUTHWAITE
In the first place, the Government is responsible to a certain extent for the clergy. I believe they get their living very largely out of the national revenues or national resources of the country. It is relevant, I think, for this reason—
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
It is not the slightest use the hon. Member arguing with me on a point of Order. I have already decided it.
§ Mr. OUTHWAITE
I do not desire, Sir, to return to the question of the clergy or ministers of religion. I am only saying that these men who come forward and plead, as I believe conscientiously, though, as I think, absurdly, that they hold these views derived from this Book, ought not to be treated with scorn and derision, and ought not to be regarded as 2442 hypocrites and cowards. I believe the difficulty of the Government is going to arise, not from the cowardice of these men, but from the courage of these men. I do not think they are going to be browbeaten. The coward in this matter has been afraid to face the tribunal and has accepted service. It is the courage of these men that the Government has to fear, and there is undoubtedly in these teachings that are so derided some subtle power, because we know it is recorded in history in the days of Rome when the Gladiators were in the arena, that a priest, Tolemachus, came into the arena to separate them. He was rapidly disposed of, but not so long passed before the Pagan warriors were bowing the knee at Rome in acknowledgment of the authority or author of the views of that priest. And I would warn the Government, from their own point of view and for their own desires for the furtherance of the Act and for the prevention of this War, instead of being regarded as a war of right, becoming a war, in the minds of the people of this country, of tyranny, for the promotion of militarism in this country, I would advise them to check the work that is going on in these tribunals, to see that these men who have these honest religious convictions shall get the fair treatment that was promised by the President of the Local Government Board.
§ Mr. LYNCH
When the hon. Member for Middleton (Sir Ryland Adkins) was speaking some time ago he said that the Government should be the first to set a good example, and that expression of opinion was applauded, particularly on the Front Bench. I desire, even at this late hour, to bring forward a case, on which I will touch but briefly, where I think the Government has been conspicuously lacking in its duty, and that is with reference to the salary of Lord Kitchener as Secretary of State for War. In order to bring this home to the country, and particularly, I would say, to the forward Liberals, and perhaps also to Members of the Labour party, it will be unnecessary to do otherwise than to state the bare facts of the case. At the outbreak of the War Lord Kitchener was Agent-General, I think the title is, for Egypt. On account of his great reputation he was asked to accept the post of Secretary of State for War. The Salary of the Secretary of State for War is £5,000, and surely a salary of £5,000 is adequate recompense for any office whatever held in these dominions. A 2443 great soldier, on receiving an invitation to occupy the post from which he could control the whole conduct of the War, would have had his whole mind inflamed with the military glory and the sense of the power which he could execute for good, and never would, on the very threshold of his appointment, have considered these mean and sordid questions of pay for the office. It appears, however, that Lord Kitchener made a bargain with the Government He made a bargain about pay. Those responsible were weak enough to accede to his demand. But note this, that the salary which he enjoyed as Agent-General of Egypt, which was stated to be £6,120, was for work which he was doing in Egypt. It was obvious that having once accepted the position of Secretary of State for War, at such a crisis, that he would be unable to do any work in his former capacity, yet he is being paid not as Secretary of State for War but as Agent-General for Egypt, and he is being so paid because that payment is higher than that of Secretary of State for War. What would we say of the Minister of Munitions if, having relinquished at the call of duty his post of Chancellor of the Exchequer and accepted the onerous burden of Minister of Munitions, he had made a bargain with the Government, if that had been possible, that he must be paid not only as Minister of Munitions but as Chancellor of the Exchequer? We have heard a great deal about economy. That has been continually dinned into the ears of the working man who has been asked not only to sacrifice his life but to sacrifice the butter on on his bread. But the man who controls this great establishment, in whose service he is asked to sacrifice his life, has refused to sacrifice not only a great salary, but a salary which he is not earning, and a salary to which he is in no wise entitled. How can any member of the Government preach economy; how can the Prime Minister preach economy; how can Lord Kitchener preach economy, with this glaring example before us? Only yesterday Lord Kitchener, in another place, used an admirable phrase, with which everybody will agree, that every man must be prepared to sacrifice private advantage to the public service. Every man must be prepared to sacrifice private advantage to the public service except the man who sits in the highest place of all, and who de- 2444 livers this precept for others. I say that this is a transaction discreditable to all concerned. It is discreditable not only on the part of Lord Kitchener, who takes money he has not earned at a time when the Government is preaching economy, but it is more discreditable to the Government, because they did not seem to have the moral courage to do the duty of plain honesty when they were dealing with a man possessed of a great name, the name of a great idol raised upon high before the British public. There is a phrase, noblesse oblige, and one would have thought when Antwerp was in danger such a phrase would have stung Lord Kitchener into doing what was necessary for its defence. The Government should show a little spirit and common sense, and common honesty in dealing with such a question of salary, and the Secretary of State for War at this crisis, when economy is so much preached, should relinquish a payment to which he is not entitled.
§ The FINANCIAL SECRETARY to the WAR OFFICE (Mr. Forster)
I have only one word to say, for I cannot allow a speech such as we have just listened to to pass without one word of answer. The Prime Minister has explained the circumstances under which Lord Kitchener's pay was fixed; and I have only to say that the service that Lord Kitchener has rendered to this country and Empire cannot be expressed in money terms.
§ Mr. KING
I do not rise to continue personal criticism of any kind. I see my Friend the Member for Central Sheffield (Mr. James Hope) on the Treasury Bench. About a fortnight ago I referred to the Central Medical War Committee, and he promised me that I should have an answer on a future occasion. I do not propose now to raise that very important issue which is brought out by the work of that Committee, but I should like to inform the Committee and my hon. Friend that I shall, if possible, take another opportunity of referring to this subject. It raises the whole question of whether there is enough medical men reserved for the civil population at this time when medical men are taken into the Army to do work which is not of a medical character. I 2445 shall not go into the subject now, but as I have been sitting here for a great many hours I do wish to mention the matter before the Vote passes. I am very sorry I have not had any answer from the Front Bench about the Anti-Aircraft Service of London. The fact that that Service has been transferred from the Admiralty to the War Office has given rise to a very great deal of discussion, a great deal of interest, and, I am afraid, a certain amount of friction. There was at least one speech last night on the subject, and I think there should have been some explanation and defence of the policy of the War Office in this matter. I am sure it would have done good and have allayed public feeling. I hope to have an opportunity to refer to this matter again, but at this late hour I will refrain on this occasion.