HC Deb 03 May 1916 vol 82 cc41-100
The PRIME MINISTER (Mr. Asquith)

I beg to move, "That leave be given to introduce a Bill to make further provision with respect to Military Service during the present War."

I will not occupy the House for more than a few minutes, because the Bill which I am asking leave to introduce is, in all substantial respects except one, the same Bill which was introduced by my right hon. Friend the President of the Local Government Board (Mr. Long) last week. The Bill which was introduced by him, and was carefully explained by him to this House, encountered a good deal of hostile criticism not because of what it contained, but because of what it omitted, and the Bill which I am going to ask leave to introduce is a Bill which will supply the omission that was then complained of. The Military Service Act, which was passed, I think, in the month of January of this year, subjected to compulsory enlistment every male British subject who was ordinarily resident in Great Britain and had attained the age of eighteen on 15th August, 1915, and had not attained the age of forty-one, and who, on the 2nd of November, was unmarried or a widower without any child depending on him. The first Clause of this Bill extends the compulsory obligation to all male British subjects in Great Britain, married as well as single, between the ages of eighteen and forty-one. The Act which was passed some months ago brought in men who had reached the age of eighteen on the 15th of August last year. This Bill brings in every male according as he reaches the age of eighteen, thus providing for a constant supply of new recruits. Subject to certain points on which I need not dwell, the exceptions which are contained in the First Schedule of the Bill already passed will apply. The appointed day for those who come within the Bill as it passes is the thirtieth day after the passing of the Bill, after it reaches the Statute Book. For those who come within the Bill after its passing, that is youths who have not yet attained the age of eighteen, the appointed day is the thirtieth day after they attain that age. This gives a month's grace to everyone before the Bill affects him, and, what I think is very important, it enables the youth—I feel sure a great many of them will take advantage of this provision—on his attaining the age of eighteen to enlist voluntarily during the month instead of coming under the compulsory provision. This, all will agree, is a very desirable provision, and one of which advantage is likely to be taken.


What are its advantages?


They can enlist voluntarily without waiting for the expiration of the month. I think it particularly important to make it clear that they can come in voluntarily without any exercise or threatened exercise of the compulsory powers. That is a new provision of the Bill. The right hon. Gentleman explained last week its other provisions at such length and with such lucidity that I do not think it necessary for me to give more than a very cursory view of them. The second Clause provides, as the Bill of last week did, for an extension during the period of the War of the services of men now serving whose ordinary period of service would otherwise expire. The third Clause provides for the recalling to the Colours of any time-expired men, whether married or single, who have left the Army already if they are at the time of the passing of the Bill under forty-one years of age, that is to say, within military age. We provide further the power to enable the Army Council to review the medical certificates of those who have been rejected on medical grounds since the 14th of August, 1915. The reason is a very simple one. As the standard of medical fitness has now been extended, and I think very properly extended, and men who are not fitted for active service abroad are now taken for less arduous duties, it is desirable in those cases that there should at any rate be an opportunity to review them. I believe that a great many of the men would be very glad that they should be so reviewed. The fifth Clause is the one which deals with the certificates of exemption and the period of two months which the present law provides in that regard. Its object, as my right hon. Friend explained last week, is to prevent indefinite prolongation of such periods of temporary exemption.

Then there is a provision to which I personally, and I think many of my colleagues, attach great importance. The Bill provides for the formation of a special Reserve, to which men in the Army or the Territorial Forces may be transferred when this course appears to be expedient in the interests of the country. The intention is that men in this Reserve might be or would be employed to a large extent in civil life, and would be immediately available for military service in case of military necessity. The advantage is that it assists in meeting the difficulty, as I have explained to the House more than once recently, the urgent and serious difficulty of finding labour for important industries. A great many men have joined the Colours whose services are not required immediately for military purposes, and who, provided they could be summoned to the Colours in case of need, might be far more advantageously employed in the interests of the due prosecution of the War in various industries. In the next place, it saves the heavy cost of the man's maintenance as a soldier with its attendant liabilities, while the country gains the inestimable value of civil work done by men who are fitted to do it. I think that that is an important provision, and I am sure that it will receive assent from every quarter of the House.

Then there is the Clause which is now familiar—of which I need not say more than a word—by which Territorial soldiers, who under the present law cannot be transferred to any other corps of Territorials or into the Regular Forces without their own consent, may be so transferred. Military necessities require absolutely during the period of the War that this restriction should be removed. Some Territorial battalions are very full, while others are very short of the necessary men. Great difficulty is experienced, as everybody knows who has been at the front, in keeping some battalions up to strength from their own drafts, while other battalions are overflowing. The Bill, therefore, authorises the transfer of the Territorial from one corps to another corps, and his being passed to a battalion of Regulars representing the corps to which he belongs or to which he is transferred. I need not say that there is the utmost desire on the part of the Government, a desire which I am sure is respected by the military authorities, that the local associations, the local people who have played so large a part in the whole of our Territorial system, should be respected as far as possible, at the same time that the urgent needs of these underfed and short-manned battalions should be satisfied. I think I have now stated all the substantial provisions of the Bill. We propose to take the Second Reading to-morrow, and the whole matter in all its aspects can then be considered. I trust the House will now allow the Bill to be introduced, and will give to it—what it was not prepared to give to the recent Bill, for reasons the force of which I fully acknowledge—now that it presents a complete and rounded policy, not only generous consideration, but the hearty acceptance which such a measure demands, and which is, in the unanimous opinion of all members of the Government and of the Army Council, urgently needed for the purpose of the successful prosecution of the War.


I think those of us who ever since last August have endeavoured to obtain a measure of this description may congratulate ourselves upon the fact that the Government have brought in this Bill. I regret that they did not bring it in many months ago, when the result might have been a very considerable saving of valuable lives and a saving in money. As we have got the Bill, I do not propose to criticise it at length, especially in view of the fact that to-morrow we shall have the measure in our hands, and we can then take part in the Debate on the Second Reading. I rise chiefly to ask the right hon. Gentleman one or two questions. We know that one of the reasons given for the delay in bringing in this Bill was the question of figures. I listened with very great interest to the right hon. Gentleman yesterday in giving certain figures to the House, upon which he founded, or, at any rate, partly founded, the reasons for bringing in this Bill. I understood the right hon. Gentleman to say that at the present moment, including the Colonial divisions, we have about eighty-three divisions of soldiers in the field. Those eighty-three divisions, as I understand, with 20,000 men in each division, represent 1,660,000 men.


More than that.


That is what I wanted to know.


I think my right hon. Friend may safely take the figure at 25,000 in each division. That would make about 2,000,000.


It would not be in order to allude to anything that took place in the Secret Session, but, if the right hon. Gentleman will carry his mind to what he said on that ocasion, he will remember that 2,000,000 does not agree with the figure he gave then. Neither do the figures compare with what the right hon. Gentleman stated yesterday in open Session, that, since the War, 5,000,000 men have been enlisted.


What I said in the Secret Session was the same as I stated yesterday. I said, taking the Army as it was when the War broke out, the number, with subsequent additions, might be taken at 5,000,000.


I do not desire to allude to the figures which were given in Secret Session, but I think that neither the 1,660,000, taking each division at 20,000, nor the figure of 2,075,000 for the eighty-three divisions, make the numbers correspond. Either the right hon. Gentleman or some member of the Government who may reply later on will deal with this question.




If the right hon. Gentleman does not think so, I will not press him. Certainly, in regard to the figures, the country should know what is required of them. It will be much better if they are told what is required, so that they may know the exact position. However that may be, I have asked my question, and it is for the Government to decide whether or not they will answer it. With regard to the Bill itself I regret very much that there appears to be no Clause in it dealing with conscientious objectors. I hope that during the Committee stage and when we have seen the Bill the House will put in some modification of the Clause dealing with conscientious objectors. I believe the conscientious objector has encroached upon the privilege given to him, and that the opportunity afforded has been availed of by him to shirk the responsibility which he ought to bear. Nor do I see that there are any provisions dealing with Ireland. For myself I hope that a Clause will be put in to bring Ireland within the purview of the measure. I do not believe myself—I am not an Irishman—that Irishmen would object to it; I think they would desire to take part in bearing the burdens of the Empire, just the same as any other member of the Empire when the opportunity offers. Lastly, I am very glad to hear that the Prime Minister has dealt with the subject of the Special Reserve. I myself, I think about a year ago, put down an Amendment which the Chairman ruled out of order, which had the very same object. I am very glad that the Prime Minister has brought this in—


It is my right hon. Friend the President of the Local Government Board.


I do not care whose proposal it is, it is a very good one, if the right hon. Gentleman will allow me to say so. I do not mind who brought it in, but I congratulate the Government on having done so. I do not propose to say anything more, because we will have an opportunity of discussing this Bill fully, and I do not think that this is the time to make speeches.


Before saying anything on the merits or demerits of the Bill now before the House, I wish to offer my honest response to the appeal, the moving and eloquent appeal, yesterday, of the Prime Minister, for support and encouragement in Parliament and the country in the terrible task that has been imposed upon him and his colleagues. We are living through a ghastly time of national and human crisis, and in that crisis the Prime Minister and his colleagues are our representatives, our standard bearers, and I venture to add the custodians, not only of the interests of this country but of all that is best in civilisation. I think they are entitled, as far as possible, to the sympathy and consideration of all classes of the community. They have made mistakes, it is true, mistakes that I think were inevitable. They have been badly served by those in whom they had every right to place confidence. That, again, I believe, was inevitable. Both of those things, I believe, have arisen very largely from the fact that the Government have had to carry on this War by improvised methods, while short of materials as well as of men, and all that has arisen from the initial and grand mistake of not being ready when the War began. That mistake is one for which I, at all events, take my share of responsibility. I think I can say, not only for myself but for the bulk of my colleagues, that when the War did begin we did realise that the country was not ready, and we made all the efforts that we could in order to rectify that mistake. I only say those few words by way of preface, while assuring the Prime Minister that at all events he has the sympathy of myself and, I believe, not only the great bulk of my colleagues but of the House, and if anything I said last week in the hurried contribution which I made to the Debate added one iota to the weight of the great burden that he bears, nobody is more sorry for it than myself.

I come to the Bill, or rather to the Bill which is dead but yet lives, by way of comparison. I should have voted for the Bill of last week with all its imperfections if it had been proceeded with, for the simple reason that it was a Government Bill and that it went a step in the direction I thought necessary. I am going to vote for this Bill more cheerfully and more hopefully than I would have done for the Bill of last week for two reasons—because it is more fair between man and man and because it takes the cherry at one bite. I objected to the Bill of last week because it laid violent hands upon the time-expired man who had borne the heat and burden of war for twenty months and who had been away from his family for perhaps a dozen years, and because it dragged men away from the comradeship of the Territorial regiment, and did this while leaving the unattested married man, who had done nothing, to remain where he was and do nothing. Therefore I object to the Bill of last week because of its obvious unfairness as between man and man. I heard some sneering remarks a little while ago on these benches about equality of sacrifice. There is no equality of sacrifice in this War, or in any other war, nor can there be any equality of sacrifice. The manly men who went away from this country eighteen months ago, and who sacrificed their positions in life without inquiring too much about moratoriums, or anything of that kind, and who were animated by generous impulses and who could see at a glance, without long-winded, wire-drawn arguments, that their services were required, as between those men and all the men left in this country now a great gulf is fixed. But I want to secure equality of sacrifice as far as it is possible as between those who are left, and it is because of that I welcome this Bill as compared with that of last week. That is my first reason.

The second reason why I welcome this Bill as compared with last week's is because it takes the cherry at one bite. [An HON. MEMBER made an observation that was inaudible.] I do not know if it is the last cherry, but let me say now, if there is another bite and another cherry I am willing to take it. I support this Bill because it makes a job of the thing right off. There may be other proposals (say to raise the age later on), but I do not believe that will be possible, because I do not believe you have got the men. Still, I am willing to take any step which is recommended and thought necessary to win the War by those who have all the information at their command and in their possession. I believe this Bill is preferable to that of last week because it takes the whole thing in together—namely, that actually contemplated last week and that which was proposed. What would have happened if last week's Bill had gone on? You had half a loaf in little pieces, which would have been made the subject of bitter and prolonged and persistent and obstinate criticism on the part of a small minority in this House. I am not saying that they might not have been perfectly right to have done that, and it would have been their duty to have done so if they thought honestly that the Bill embodied a principle which in their judgment was a wrong principle. Therefore, they would have been entitled on that score, on the small Bill of last week, to have exercised all their ingenuity and all the forms and precedents of Parliament to have prolonged its passage through the House, as long as it was possible to do so. Then having talked all this week and possibly some part of next week on that small measure of last week after a week or two of interval you would have had all this talk over and over again in exactly the same terms, and probably exactly the same speeches.

I believe the country is tired of all this. I believe that the country has made up its mind that this War in which we are engaged has got to be won. I believe that the country has made up its mind, further, that it is not going to be bothered with any traditional regard for academic theories, but that it is going to adopt any measure which may be necessary, or thought necessary by the great bulk of the people, to win the War. So far I have gone on the assumption that compulsion is necessary—a necessary evil. I made up my mind on that a long while ago. I made up my mind on it while going over Canada to some extent and in the seculsion of my cabin coming home from Canada. Therefore I have not been in any way influenced—as I am told some hon. Members have been influenced—by newspaper editors and other people. For instance, we have been told by many that the "Times" newspaper and the "Daily Mail" have jockeyed the country into endorsing a principle that the country would not have endorsed in its sober moments. I do not know if there are any people in this House foolish enough to have been jockeyed into that position by the "Times" newspaper. I do not know much about the "Times" newspaper. I do not see it once a month, and, for anything I know, the "Times" newspaper editor may be wicked enough and capable of committing all the crimes in the calendar; but if there are any hon. Members in this House who have been jockeyed into that position by the "Times" newspaper, then all I can say is that they are not fit to be Members of Parliament. At all events, that does not fit me. I thought the matter over. Like most hon. Members of this House, I did not believe in compulsory military service, and neither do I believe in it now. I believe that militarism and that for which we have a great regard on these benches is inconsistent, and that in militarism you have a danger against the uplifting of the common people of any country.

But when I began to think of militarism in the light of the need for winning this War, it presented itself to my mind in quite a new aspect. I began to think of the issues in this War, I began to think of the many, many thousands of our fellow countrymen who have gone voluntarily to fight in this War. I began to think of the many of them who have been sacrificed in this War, and I made up my mind that no academic considerations should stand in my way, at all events, even as an individual, and as I believe an individual rightly representing the feelings of my Constituency, and that no academic considerations should weigh for a single moment in my mind as against the practical commonsense idea of winning this War, by passing men in who would not voluntarily come in and do their duty. When I had made up my mind to do that I so informed my colleagues, at the first party meeting after I came back, and I so informed a meeting of my Constituents a few days thereafter. Therefore, so far as the acceptance of the principle of compulsion is concerned, I have nothing to apologise for in having voted for the Bill of three months ago, and I shall cheerfully vote for the Bill now before us. I believe that the House of Commons, with few exceptions, and in possession of the full information which was given to us last week, has come to the conclusion that all the forces of this country in men, and I believe in money, will have to be mobilised in order to win this War. I believe also that the country, without the information that we have, but following a true instinct, has reached the same conclusion. I believe it would have been wise, on the part of the country and the House of Commons, if we had had the information that we have now, and if we had the knowledge of the gigantic task that lay in front of us eighteen months ago, to have taken the same course then as we are taking now. I know what I lay myself open to in saying that, but I cannot help it. I have said it and I stand by it. I believe if the country had taken the course eighteen months ago which we are taking now that a large part of that appalling waste and muddle that has been manifest ever since might have been avoided.

Take the illustration of the society of which I am a member, and of which I was secretary for the most fruitful part of my life. About a year ago, just at the time when we were holding those meetings in the Treasury to concoct ways and means to get a supply of munitions, I made some inquiries as to the number of members of the Amalgamated Society of Engineers that had joined the Colours and were then in the trenches. I found there were 12,000 then, and they were joining in hundreds every day, so that probably in the course of a few weeks thereafter there would be 20,000 engineers in the Army, and probably if I took in the steam engine makers and the machine workers of the engineering and shipbuilding trades I should be within the mark if I said that 40,000 men this time last year were serving in the Army, or being trained to serve in the Army, every single one of whom was skilled in the fabrication of munitions of war, which the Ministry of Munitions was then making initial provisions to supply in due quantity. Would it bear looking at? Here is this House, full of business men, and would any business man expect to conduct his business on those lines and escape the Bankruptcy Court? In May of last year, along with Mr. Windham, of the Board of Trade, I was sent to Canada to scour that country from the Atlantic to the Pacific, from the East Coast to the West, for the purpose of securing men to replace those men who had been joining from the ranks of the Amalgamated Society of Engineers, and since then I have been to France twice to comb out of the Army, out of those who remained, as many have died, those men who never should have been in the Army if we conducted this War, I will not say on scientific, but on common-sense lines. Therefore, I think that this Bill is a step in the direction of getting back to common sense in the prosecution of the War in the only way it seems to me that promises success. I desire to make it plain that I am not blaming the Government for not bringing in compulsion earlier. Probably I should have voted against it myself if it had been submitted to this House eighteen months ago, because, after all, the Government had to, shall I say educate public opinion, or, at all events, wait until the country was prepared to leave go its traditional habits of thought. I believe the Government now is rather behind public opinion, than in front of it, and that the country now is quite willing to adopt a Bill of this character, although it might not have been willing some little time ago.

Now I come to the Bill. First of all, there is the eighteen years of age man. As I understand, he is to be brought in one month after attaining the age of eighteen years. There are many who regard this as a regrettable step—regrettable even as compared with the taking of the time-expired man. I cannot share that view. I have always said that the young man has less responsibility. If you are going to compare his position with that of the married man and the man of more mature years, I would rather take the young man than the old man, and I would rather take him under the circumstances of this Bill. Because, after all, provision is made that the young man shall not go out of the country until he is nineteen years of age and, as I understand the Prime Minister, he is to be given a chance for a month after he is eighteen of coining in voluntarily. Therefore I see no great reason to complain there. The same with regard to the married man. He is to be taken, as I understand, one month after this Bill becomes an Act, so that he will have a chance of coming in voluntarily. With regard to the time-expired man, I think it is very hard to take a man compulsorily after he has been away for so long, and I would suggest to the Government that as far as possible the services of these men might be utilised at home. The plea was put very forcibly the other day that these men had been away from their families for a very long time. It was also said that you had got as many men now as you have opportunities for training them. Might I suggest that time-expired men should be used as much as possible at home for the training of the men who will be brought in under this Bill?

There is a point about the Special Reserve upon which I should like to be reassured. I look with some misgiving upon that particular part of the Bill as it was briefly explained by the Prime Minister. As I understand, there is to be a Special Reserve which, while being soldiers, will at the same time be used in the workshops to supply the deficiencies of labour. There is a prospect there of some sort of industrial compulsion. While these men are in the Army Reserve, will they be under military law?


was understood to reply in the negative.


If not, my objection goes. All I want to be sure of is that this Special Reserve will not, while working in the shops along with other men, be regarded as soldiers and under military law.


made an observation which was inaudible in the Reporters' Gallery.


If that is so, my objection goes. I want to say a word about the conscientious objector. As I understand, the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Sir F. Banbury) is anxious that all the facilities given for the exemption of the conscientious objector should be taken away.


Not all the facilities, but I think the facilities have been abused.


That may be. For my part I would rather extend the facilities. I cannot understand the position of the conscientious objector, but there he is. It is not on the part of the conscientious objector something that he has learned from outside, from books or from life. There is on the part of the real conscientious objector a sort of inward feeling or intuition, call it what you like, which he feels very strongly and which he takes to be his first law. If anyone doubted the existence of such persons I think that that doubt ought to have been removed by such speeches as we have had from the hon. Member for West Leeds (Mr. T. E. Harvey) and others, during the debates on the Military Service Bill. As I say, I cannot understand the position of the conscientious objector, but there he is, a real fact; and it seems to me that it would be impossible, even if you tried, to force such a man to render military service. It is far better not to try, but to make the door as wide as possible, to respect that man as he ought to be respected, and not to force him into an impossible position. I would rather go a little further. I can respect a man who has that inward intuition which comes from religion. I think the same consideration ought to be extended to the man of strong social or political convictions. I will not say that you should exempt him altogether from national service, not for a moment. But I think it would be far better for him and for the community if some provision were made under this Bill whereby such a man might be put to some service that would be congenial to him, in which he would be efficient, and in which he could more efficiently serve the community.

As I understood the right hon. Baronet opposite, he is anxious that Ireland should be dragged into the Bill. Have we not had enough trouble in Ireland this last week without inviting more? I do not understand the mind of any man who, after the tragic events of last week and with the knowledge we have thereby gained of Ireland, would seek to plunge Ireland into further turmoil by bringing her within the scope of this Bill. Moreover, there is a practical objection. I have had some experience recently as to what it would mean. Ireland is a country of small farmers. We have had many cases of small farmers before the Central Tribunal recently. Farmers have appealed on behalf of their sons, sometimes for assistants, and so on. What have we found? In almost every case we have had to exempt them, because, as a rule, these small farms are just large enough for one man or for one old man with a young man to assist him. I rather think that if you brought Ireland within the scope of this Bill you would find that your tribunals would be choked with cases of that sort, and that after you had set up all this elaborate machinery to get men from Ireland, you would probably get very few as the result of the Bill. Consequently, for my part, I hope that Ireland will be left alone.

I want to close by making an appeal to my fellow-workers outside. When I say my fellow-workers, I mean the manual workers of the country. I think I may claim to know them. I belong to them. I spent twenty-five years of my life, from eleven years of age, working in mills, factories, shipbuilding yards, and all sorts of places, from the North of Scotland to the South of England. The whole of that time I worked with working people, starting at six o'clock in the morning and very often working until late at night. Therefore I may make some claim to know the working people of this country. I know their weaknesses, and I know their strength. I know that they have no desire to be separated at this juncture from other classes in the community. At the same time, there are some into whose soul the iron has entered. There are men, contemporaneous with myself as far as age is concerned, who have known, as I knew before my bones were well set, what it is to start work at six o'clock in the morning, who have gone on ever since and are still going on at the old eternal grind. I know that many of these men are in revolt not only against Germany, but against the social system which has made some men rich and, as they think, has made them poor. I want from my place in this House to make an appeal to them, with all the earnestness that I can command. I want to remind them that, after all, there have been great improvements in their time in the conditions of the workers. We no longer exploit little children of tender years as we used to do. We have made some little provision for the aged. Working people have votes and some modicum of education, so that, if these things are handled wisely and rightly used, workmen can win for themselves equality of opportunity. All these things have been won under the comparatively free institutions of our common country. We live in a country where, as the poet has said, "Freedom slowly broadens down from precedent to precedent." I would ask them to have regard to the improvements that have taken place. It is no time now to emphasise differences between class and class. It is no time now to "nurse their wrath and keep it warm? against anybody within the confines of their own shores. It is a time when all classes ought to make common cause to defend and maintain the best that we have won. I believe that, much as has been won in my own time under our free institutions, much more may be won after this War is over with the better feeling that will spring out of the War. This, therefore, is my last word. I am not a trade union official now; I am not an official of any sort of any union or organisation. I am sent here by the working people to voice their interests. My sympathies and my interests are still with them, and always will be. I ask them, therefore, not to nurse their wrath against anything that may be considered wrong within these shores, but to rally with all classes in the community to the support of any measure calculated to win the War. By so doing I believe—nay, I feel absolutely convinced—that they will be doing something to acquit themselves as worthy men and to win the undying thanks of generations yet unborn.


I desire to express in one sentence the pleasure with which I have listened to the speech just delivered. I believe that everyone in the House listened to that speech with the greatest pleasure, and that it will have a great and beneficial effect in the country when it is read, as it will be, by very many people. I feel the greatest possible satisfaction in recognising that the Government have taken the step embodied in this Bill. The right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Barnes) spoke no more than the truth when he said that the country was prepared to support the Government in this matter. He referred to the fact that since the War began a good deal of education had been going on.

5.0 P.M.

This is not the time, as the right hon. Gentleman indicated, to inquire as to whether the Government has been educating the country or whether the country has been educating the Government; but we have now arrived at a steady conclusion, and I think that there is at the heart of every Member of the House a feeling of profound thanks that this most necessary step has been taken. It is indeed the way in which we can avoid the danger of an inconclusive peace which would mean the renewal of hostilities before very many years were passed. The only passage in the speech of the right hon. Gentleman with which I was not in entire concord was when he said that he desired rather to extend the facilities given to objectors to military service. I confess I do not share that feeling. I think there will be great difficulty in any such extension as was hinted at. Already there are very great difficulties to the admission of conscientious objections by the individual who is not a member of any recognised body, part of whose tenets is an objection to military service. It is extremely difficult to dive into the recesses of a man's conscience and to ascertain satisfactorily how far his conscientious objection is a real objection proceeding from feelings of religion or morality, or how far it is a mere disguise for something which is less to his credit. Everything possible should be done to ascertain that the conscientious objector has a real, definite, well-founded objection to military service. I do not think it will be possible to extend in the direction suggested by the right hon. Gentleman the consideration he suggested. The real difficulty arises from this: that we allow each individual to express his opinion on the matter, instead of confining it to well-established bodies such as the Society of Friends, whose members, of course, have a genuine aversion to military service, an aversion which has always been and always will be respected in this country. With that exception I agree cordially with everything the right hon. Gentleman has said, and, personally, I feel grateful to him for his speech.


To enable us to win this War we need to mobilise to the very fullest extent our men, our money, and our munitions. As a lifelong anti-conscriptionist I felt bound to give my support to the Military Service Bill, believing that that would be the extent of the abandonment of our voluntary system. I deeply regret that we cannot carry this War to a successful issue By further dependence on the voluntary system. I, therefore, most reluctantly feel bound also to support the present proposals of His Majesty's Government. We know beyond anything we have ever known before the enormous task that we have in front of us in bringing this War to a victorious issue, and we also know, moreover, that it would be the greatest calamity that could happen to this nation, to liberty, freedom, civilisation, and humanity if we were driven to make an inconclusive peace. Personally, I am prepared to make any sacrifice of my past firmly-held theories and traditions in order to mobilise our forces to win the War. The Prime Minister in his speech indicated that power would be taken to transfer men from the 28 divisions of Territorials to other divisions of Territorials or other battalions of Territorials, and also to reinforce the units of the Regular Army. I hope the Government will reconsider this decision, especially that part of it which proposes to transfer Territorials into the units of the Regular Army. I have had it represented to me from more quarters than one—very strong objection to this proposal. I trust that, at any rate, the Government will limit this provision to the transfer of Territorials from one unit to another unit of Territorials, and will not press the taking of the power to transfer Territorials into the units of the Regular Army.

We owe a great debt of gratitude to our Territorial Forces. The Expeditionary Force sent to France was practically destroyed. Kitchener's Army was not then ready. Our Territorial Forces stepped into the breach, and held the fort for this country in France and elsewhere. No part of His Majesty's Forces deserve greater consideration than do those who are fighting in the ranks of our Territorial Forces. Earnestly, therefore, I hope that the Government will consult representatives in the country in connection with the Territorial Associations and ascertain the general feeling before they press this change to the Bill beyond the limit I have indicated. I am glad to see that my right hon. Friend (Mr. Long) is taking note of what I have said. The Territorials ought only to be transferred to other Territorial units, and not to units of the Regular Army. In regard to getting sufficient men to reinforce our forces in the field, I have in my hand a most interesting letter—from which I shall give a brief quotation—as to the number of men available. The working-man writer of this letter says: Many slackers at work in various parts of the country could be added to the lighting line without in any way imperilling the output of firms which are at present engaged in a loyal endeavour to serve, by the honest labour of their workmen, their comrades at the front. But in dozens of cases, at my own firm's works, men who have no desire to fight as patriots are equally averse to doing their bit at the work in which they are now employed. Why not, then, in cases of this character compel owners even of starred works to get out, say, monthly, a list of the worst cases of those who are of military age and compel them to join the Army; because as a matter of fact, they are useless to the firm, to the country, and are a positive disgrace to themselves. I have been taking out the time for the last 28 weeks in the case of 20 men, and I find that they have averaged from one-and-two-thirds to four shifts per week. Many cases could be added to this, if necessary, showing clearly that to-day there are here, in the stress and trial through which we are all passing, men who will neither fight nor work. I appeal to you, Sir, to use your influence to alter this condition of things and to either make them work or fight. I believe in the ranks of labour there is a strong feeling that a good deal can be done in the direction indicated, and I trust that when the compulsory powers applying to all men, whether married or single, in the future are applied that my right hon. Friend the President of the Local Government Board will take care that this point is not lost sight of, and that the first men to be taken will be those who now work in their full strength in occupations at home—that they will be called upon to go on and fight in their country's interests abroad before those men who are straining every nerve in munitions works, coal mines, and other works where they are aiding the country by their work at home.

I desire to make another suggestion. We are told that there is to be a Special Reserve. I would suggest that the age limit should be raised from forty-one to fifty, and that fit men between forty-one and fifty, who can be spared from occupations in which they are employed should constitute an Army for Home Defence. That would, I believe, set free hundreds of thousands of men below the age of forty-one to go into the front fighting line, or at any rate, if this were done, it would afford a very large contribution. The Prime Minister put very clearly to us that it is not only men that are needed, but munitions and money. The financial, situation with which we are confronted to-day necessarily limits enormously the number of men that we can spare from, the industries required for the prosecution, of the War, from the essential industries of the country, which must be carried on if we are to be able to give that financial assistance to our Allies that they need, and to bear the enormous cost to which we as a nation are being put in consequence of the War. When we remember that in the first three months of this year our imports exceeded our exports, at a rate of £700,000,000 annually, we are bound to realise that there is a limit to our man-power. Still, I would consider that that limit has not yet been reached. With proper organisation of labour, if we stop a lot of undertakings, building operations, and so on, that are not absolutely essential to the War, and organise the available labour to the greatest advantage, we can get the additional men required to reinforce our Army at the-Front. The great difficulty is to secure the proper selection of the men. It can-not be denied that there are scores of thousands of men who are fighting at the Front to-day who ought not to be there. They would be better employed in the industries at home. On the other hand, there are scores of thousands of men, supposed to be engaged in the industries pere, who ought to be at the Front, and would be better there.


They would not be any good.


My hon. Friend says that they would be no good. I do not take that view. Sometimes those that are somewhat idle as workers are by no means insignificant when they go on the warpath. Arrangements and organisation so that the men may be taken who ought to be taken and the men left at home who, in the interests of the country, ought to be left at home, are much-to-be-desired changes that ought to be made. There can be, I believe, no doubt that the mind of the country has altered very distinctly with regard to taking even measures of compulsion to strengthen our forces to the required extent, and, therefore, I personally am glad that at last the Government has taken its courage in both hands and introduced a Bill to which we are to give a First Beading to-day.


It would be an impertinence on my part to offer compliments either to the hon. Member for Ince (Mr. S. Walsh) or to the right hon. Member for the Blackfriars Division of Glasgow (Mr. Barnes), as the House knows and recognises, not only the ability of the hon. Member and the right hon. Member, and not only the sacrifice, especially that of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Blackfriars, which they have made, but also the power with which they appeal to the working classes, on whom so much depends at this juncture. I am glad for once to be able to say a few words in defence of the views I and some on these benches have taken with regard to the action of the Government. I congratulate the Government on their present Bill. I congratulate them on having taken a bold step forward, and I for my part promise a humble, but a loyal, support. With all our loyalty, with all our anxiety, to support the Government, we have often been found fault with as carping and hampering their efforts. Is that really the case? Have we not, by pressing things which we thought to be necessary, found sometimes that the Government has eventually acceded to them? I have never been one of those who attacked the Prime Minister or other of his colleagues in their conduct of the War. I hear a great deal about this newspaper and that newspaper and the conspiracies within and without the Cabinet. If these exist I know nothing about them. I am absolutely without the knowledge of that great newspaper proprietor; I never saw him, and I never corresponded with him. If such conspiracies exist, there are some of us who know nothing about them, but that does not lessen our possible doubts and our obligation to state our views.

I complain, as I said, of no members of the Government; they are all honourable men. But I do complain of the construction of the Government. I do complain that its unwieldy size, the differences of opinion, the tendencies drawing in opposite directions are a hindrance to their work and a hindrance to the country which they represent. That is not to be disloyal to the Government. I believe it really is to express the feeling that must be in many of the Members of the Government themselves, and it would be a very poor sort of loyalty simply to coincide with them at each turn as the wind moves, giving them our full admiration and complete obeisance at every turn. I am behind no man when the Government do give a lead in feeling that my duty lies in giving them a loyal and a constant support, but that does not mean, as I say, that I must always assume that they are in the right when we are told by themselves that there are differences of opinion, hesitations and doubts. There is that fearful commenting which we are told is the leaden servitor of dull delay. That is what we have feared and have seen, and that is what we are now seeing when, a fortnight and a day after we expected the first announcement with regard to this measure of recruiting, we find ourselves in exactly the same position that we were in fifteen days ago. The War has not stopped; there is no armistice. I am not going to be checked if I see something of that mildew of compromise growing up as it has in the past in the action of the Government. I am not going to be checked by pedagogic lectures, even of the right hon. and learned Member for Exeter (Mr. Duke). There is no one with a greater respect for the abilities or the sincerity of the right hon. and learned Gentleman than I have, but when he takes upon himself a sort of pedagogic air to tell us that we are all wrong if we vary in the slightest degree from that proper measure of support which he gives to the Government, I respectfully refuse to follow him. At all events, the part which the right hon. and learned Gentleman by ability and character, can least successfully support is that of Pecksniff, but if he acts the part of Pecksniff I must respectfully refuse to play the part of Tom Pinch.

We have now got definite action by the Government. The Bill as described by the Prime Minister may not be all that we wish. There are possibly some interstices in it which we would like to fill up. If they have made up their minds, have risen to the occasion, and taken that responsibility which must rest upon them, and upon them alone, then I, as one of their humblest supporters, am ready to support them. I do not ask for secret Sessions and information. Weeks ago, speaking in this House on another Debate, I told the Government, and I am sure many agreed with me, that we do not want information, but we will take it from them. We do not want confidential information, but we do want a clear and distinct lead. Without that lead our support is useless; it is only a pretence and a sham. A Ministry of Coalition merely selected in due proportion from the various benches is not a Coalition Government at all. I hope, however, that our action in sometimes criticising the Government may not be too severely challenged. I only say for my own part, so long as they give a clear indication of their determination and keep straight to it, they shall have my humble support, and I hope that, to use the words of that prophet of England—words which somehow seem to suit every changing circumstance of the War: Now let the general trumpet blow its blast, Particularities and lesser sounds To cease.

Mr. PERCY HARRIS (Leicester, Harborough)

I will not go into the respective merits of voluntaryism and compulsion. I think the country is sick and tired of the controversy. I believe the House and the nation, whatever their opinions may be, are glad to have the problem settled one way or the other. For my part, I honestly say I prefer voluntaryism. I should like to see this War won by voluntary effort, but a great war like this is no time for theory. You cannot say to our Allies and to the enemy, "We are prepared to go so far and no further, If we can win the War by keeping to our traditions, we are prepared to stick to it; on the other hand, if we cannot get the men by our own methods then we are going to patch up a peace." That is not the feeling of the country. I believe the nation on the whole would have preferred to raise the Army by our own methods, but I do believe the nation, rather than lose the War, or be content with any half measures, is prepared to abandon its traditions and show a united front behind the Government in adopting general conscription. I think the nation is further influenced in this direction by the consciousness that failure to secure a complete victory, anything in the nature of a patched-up peace, must mean in the future after the War is over conscription on a Continental scale. That, I think, is a disaster we want to avoid, and the only way to avoid that is to utilise the fullest strength of the country. Now that we know that it is necessary to have an Army on a Continental scale, the only way to use the full strength of the country is to follow the direction of the Coalition Government and pass the Bill now before the House.

I think it will be generally agreed that this extension of the principle of compulsion is not going to be easy to adminster. The difficulties foreshadowed in the House in reference to the administration of the first instalment of conscription in the Military Service Act has not been so serious as was anticipated, but it must be remembered that it is one thing to deal with a lot of single young men, who raise very little sympathy, and quite another thing when you come to deal with the married men. There is bound to be friction, though I hope it will not be serious; but one can understand that, when it comes to taking a man away from his home and his family, and to take him away from his business, especially a married man, there will be very serious difficulties. Now those difficulties pan be overcome if they are anticipated, if the measure is administered in a sympathetic way, and if the local tribunals have very full powers of postponement and exemption. Now that we are going to use the whole force of the nation, tribunals I think must have more latitude than they had on the first instalment of compulsion. I was very sorry that in the measure foreshadowed by the Prime Minister there are no details given as to how the tribunals were going to be asked to administer the Act. I would suggest that tribunals should have power to give conditional postponement and exemptions, provided a man enrolled in a volunteer corps; in other words, that the Territorials should be re-created. The great trouble has been that men have been given postponements or exemptions by local tribunals and all trace or control has been lost by the military authorities. If these men, instead of being passed back into the civil population, were passed into the Volunteers or the Territorial Forces on a peace scale, they might train a certain number and drill other men during the week-end, and all these difficulties would be removed. Their names would appear on the call registers, and meanwhile all these men would be becoming soldiers, getting the military spirit, acquiring the elements of drill and rifle shooting, and we should be doing all this at no cost to the State and the men would still remain producers and taxpayers, and, what is perhaps more important, they would be acquiring the habits of discipline which military training alone brings with it.

During the time of enlistment in this volunteer or half-time force the men would have time to adjust their affairs, and get ready for the time when their whole services would be required by the State. If this were done, it would not be unreasonable to the whole population of military age to be asked to go before the tribunals, starred and unstarred men as well, in order that they might be enrolled in the volunteers. Experience shows that where men have been in a volunteer corps and have had some preliminary training they rapidly become tit to be sent to the front as trained soldiers. When you take the older men without previous military training, and who have never been in the Army, it takes a long time to drill into them what is necessary to make a soldier. A scheme of this kind would do away with a great number of the difficulties connected with the calling up of the married men. The President of the Local Government Board knows very well the difficulties he has had with the married men who attested voluntarily, and one must assume that the men who have held back and who are now to be conscripted have more serious business engagements than those who have attested, and that being so, it is all the more important that they should have time to adjust their affairs. A scheme of the kind I have suggested would meet their case. I know that the President of the Local Government Board has fore- shadowed a scheme for giving financial relief to the men who have business ties or financial obligations; but no scheme, however generous it may be or however generous the scale of assistance may be, can hope to meet the difficulties and problems of many business men who will be called to the Colours under compulsion. Instead of forcing all these men into the Army, we ought to break the ice gradually by drafting them, first of all, into a Volunteer Corps which would give them time to adjust their affairs, and would get them accustomed to the idea of military life. There are other advantages in that course. This force would not only provide trained men for the Army, but it would also provide men for Home defence. As hon. Members know, we have at the present time more than 250,000 men trained and organised and able to take part in the defence of the country in case of invasion. The services of these men will be utilised more in the future to relieve the Regular troops who are now engaged guarding lines of communication, munition factories, and performing a hundred and one other duties, and if these men are to do this work on a large scale, this force must be largely increased.

From time to time this force has proved its efficiency. It might not have been possible to use it for training purposes at the beginning of the War, and I do not suppose at that time that they had the knowledge necessary, and they had not the officers and non-commissioned officers available. During the last eighteen months, by organising training classes, there are now quite enough officers and non-commissioned officers available to train any number of men the military authorities require. I wish to impress upon the House the advantage of having the whole population of military age organised, trained, and made efficient for the purposes of national defence. This would enable us to send larger numbers of troops to France and other fronts, and it would also be a greater security for the future if behind the Regular forces in the field and in training we had in addition some two million men organised on military lines. I am sure such a scheme as this would be a great security to the military authorities in carrying out their plans. I know at the beginning of the War the military experts did not give much encouragement to such a force as I have mentioned, but I can say quite safely now that it is recognised on all hands that this corps has a great potential military value, and there is at the present time great competition among the different departments of the War Office for their services. Only the other night there was a scare on a particular line of railway because it was rumoured that an attempt was to be made to destroy a bridge on a particular part of the line, and in an hour the Volunteer Corps was on the spot patrolling the line and doing the work as well as any Regular force. That is one of the great advantages of a Home Defence Force having units in every town and in every populous centre of the country. I do not wish, however, to press that point too much, and the reason I have spoken is not so much to ask for encouragement for the Volunteers as to point out the importance of utilising this force in order to make it easier for the great civil population, which you are now about to call upon, to enrol in the Army. If you take measures of this kind and adapt yourselves to the peculiar conditions and customs of the country, then this measure we are now discussing can be worked without friction. I should like to see a Clause in this new Bill empowering the tribunals to take the law into their own hands in dealing with the single men. Many tribunals, without the advantage of legal authority behind them, have made postponements or exemptions conditional upon enrolment in the Volunteer Force. I ask the President of the Local Government Board, who is always ready to listen to new ideas, to consider this suggestion which I believe would strengthen the Home defence of the country, and at the same time assist the smooth working of this new Bill.


I rise in order to welcome the Bill which the Government have introduced, because it is the only logical outcome of the present situation. I hope the Government will not be influenced by some of the suggestions made by hon. Members this afternoon, amongst others the suggestion that transfers from Territorial regiments to Regular regiments should not be allowed. I think the time has passed for such sentimental ideas. It is well known that we want men in certain regiments, and they should be sent to those regiments whether they are Territorials or Regulars. The Government have now begun on the right lines. With reference to the suggestion made by the last speaker that the Territorial Force should be re-created and that the men taken under this Bill should be relegated to a Territorial Reserve or some other Volunteer Reserve, the hon and gallant Member seems entirely by his suggestion to undermine the whole object of this Bill. The object of this Bill is to get the men we are not getting for immediate service, and if you are going to put these men into a Territorial or other Reserve, you at once cut away the ground and defeat the object of this Bill, instead of taking them for immediate use in the field; consequently you are only relegating them to the background, and I hope that suggestion will not be listened to. The suggestion in reference to time-expired men was a good one, so far as it is possible to carry it out, because it would be in the interests of the Service that time-expired men, who have been serving during the whole of this War, and, perhaps, many years before, should be given a rest by being employed at home in training the recruits that are to be taken under this Bill. That arrangement would enable the time-expired men to see their friends and relations at home from time to time, and would give them a rest, so that they might be fit to go back to the front, after a number of months at home, with renewed energy to continue their good work in France.

With regard to the conscientious objector, I hope the Government will not give way upon that point. It was suggested by the hon. Member for Glasgow that the conditions under which conscientious objectors are dealt with should be extended. I hope nothing of the kind will be done, for I should like to see a Clause providing that any man who refuses to perform the ordinary duties of citizenship, on any ground whatever, should be deprived of all rights of citizenship, for that would be only an act of justice. That would be a fair way of dealing with the conscientious objectors. If they are really conscientious objectors, they have no right to retain the rights and privileges of citizenship if they refuse to perform the duties attached to citizenship. With regard to the general idea of compulsion, I hope and trust that no preconceived ideas will lead hon. Members to oppose this Bill on the general grounds of opposition to compulsion. How any hon. Member of this House can object to compulsion who has sat in this House and allowed what is known as the Compulsory Transfer Act to become law is a mystery to me, because if ever there was an iniquitous measure it was the Compulsory Transfer Act. I know a man who served for eight years, who went all through this War, from Mons to the battle of the Marne, and he was taken by the scruff of the neck, kicked out of a Cavalry regiment, to which he had been attached for a long time, and he was sent against his will to serve in an Infantry regiment. A Bill which does that kind of thing is one which ought to command the opposition of hon. Members below the Gangway. If you saw a car drawn by two horses, one of them pulling with every muscle for all he was worth and the other horse kicking and doing everything except pulling, and you saw the driver take his whip and flog the willing horse, I am sure you would at once take the whip out of the driver's hands and say he was not to be trusted. Under the system I have mentioned you flog the willing horse in the Army, take him by the scruff of the neck, and send him into some other branch of the service altogether. Yet those very hon. Members, whilst they are willing to flog on the willing horse the man who is serving his country of his own accord—objects to using the same compulsion towards the man who is hanging back, and who is refusing to come out and do his share of the work. Personally, I would much rather have seen that Bill wrecked, but since it has become law, and you do compel the willing horse, I hope support will be given from every quarter of the House to this Bill. It is the logical outcome of the situation, and it will give the Government the number of men they want to prosecute the War and, as we all desire, to bring it to a successful termination.


There are one or two observations which I should like to make upon the First Reading of this Bill in order, if possible, to elicit the exact facts of some of the proposals. First of all, I would like to ask my right hon. Friend the President of the Local Government Board whether the Bill will be available to-night in the Vote Office, or whether we shall be required to wait until to-morrow to see it in print. It is proposed—and I do not object to the proposal—to take the Second Reading stage of this measure tomorrow, and in those circumstances I do hot think it is unreasonable for us to expect that the Bill should be available in the Vote Office to-night. I do not know, if it is not available now, how far it could be expedited between now and the rising of the House, but I do hope my right hon. Friend, with that usual courtesy which we always receive from him in these matters, will, if possible, try to have copies of the Bill in the House to-night so that we may have an opportunity of considering the details before we meet again to-morrow. There were one or two very strange omissions from the speeches which we have heard from the Front Bench in commending this new measure of Conscription to the House. A great deal was left unsaid which I think ought to have been said, or which, at any rate, might have been said. This is another Military Service Bill which I have no doubt will become an Act of Parliament, because I am not foolish enough not to realise that the will of this House is preponderately in the majority; but I think we are entitled to know—and I think it is a question of prudence to consider—whether we are; as a national force, going to get from the Bill anything like the number of men that the Government have freely predicted we shall get. I would remind the—House that when the Bill which preceded this was introduced, and which was based largely, as hon. Members will remember, on the Derby scheme, certain prophesies or predictions were made by very responsible Ministers of the Crown. Lord Lansdowne, who is a member of the Cabinet, speaking in another place, and referring to the number of men that would be secured from the Military Service Bill then before the House, said: I do not hesitate to point out to your lordship that so far from an infinitesimal number you are adding certainly a million, and I think in all probability more than a million, to the total force you have at your command. I would like the House to note that it was stated deliberately and explicitly, by a member of the Cabinet, that the last Bill, which enshrined the principle of compulsion, was likely to produce over 1,000,000 men. We have had no information from the Front Bench, or from any responsible Minister, as to how many men that Bill produced, and, whatever the views of hon. Members may be with regard to the principle of compulsion, we are surely concerned to see that whatever machinery we set up produces the men, and I wait to put in a caveat of this point as to whether the Government can assure us that it is likely to produce the men. Incidentally, it is rather interesting to remember that in the measure which was introduced and withdrawn inside a couple of hours, the other day, we had a proposal the limits of which were were to produce 200,000 men. The Government argued that those 200,000 men might become available at a critical juncture in the War in the forthcoming months, either to follow up a success or, as everyone of us would regret and not expect, to put up a fight against an attack by the enemy. The number of 200,000 is the same number of men as was disabled in the unfortunate expedition to the Dardanelles. We had put out of action by that act of policy 200,000, the same number of men as we were told we should get by the Bill which was withdrawn the other day. Therefore, I put it fairly to the House that, in considering this measure, you have got to bear in mind what was said. The President of the Local Government Board himself made a statement about Lord Kitchener, and I would like to remind the House that quotation was made from the speech of the President of the Local Government Board by Lord Shaw in the House of Lords, in the presence of Lord Kitchener, and it was not denied by the Secretary of State for War. What was that quotation? The measure, he said, by bringing in the unmarried men and enabling the others to be called up would provide the troops which the nation required and enable him (Lord Kitchener) to do all that it was necessary to do. That may or may not have been right, but the point I am putting is that we must be assured that this Bill is going to produce the men, because, as I have indicated, Lord Lansdowne said that the other Bill would produce a million men, and more than a million men, and Lord Kitchener said it would produce enough to do everything he wished to do. I want to ask the most responsible member of the Cabinet present if this is the last Bill we are going to have for the production of men? Is this Bill going to satisfy the needs of the military? Mark you, I do not for a moment say that the men may not be required, but I do wish the Government would give up the foolishness of making these statements and then having to bring in measures of this kind.

I am glad that the Minister of Munitions is on that bench, because there is a point which interests him, and which I do not think the House quite clearly understands. I put it to him because it is a point which I think will create some difficulty. I have not been able to gather from the explana- tions that have been made, either by the President of the Local Government Board the other day or by the Prime Minister to-day, what are the changes that are contemplated in providing safeguards against industrial compulsion. My right hon. Friend and myself have frequently had differences of view with regard to that matter, but I think he will agree that this is a vital point when it is put to him. Under the Munitions Act, as he knows, a man in a controlled establishment, if he does not get a leaving certificate, has six weeks in which to find other work. He will remember that when the Military Service Act was going through the House the original period put in that Act was also six weeks. When it was pointed out that the period in that Act and the period in the Munitions Act coincided and that it might therefore be possible for a man not getting a leaving certificate to be deemed a soldier on the last day of the six weeks, the period was increased to eight weeks. That period of eight weeks has been applied ever since to every man under the Military Service Act, whether he was under the Munitions Act or not. I am one of those who thought at the time that eight weeks was far too long to give to the ordinary man brought before the tribunal, but that it was necessary for the men in munition work on account of the Munitions Act. The point I want to put must be met somehow, and the right hon. Gentleman, I think, will see at once that it must be met. If you are going to pass this Bill in its present form you will require to revoke or repeal or modify that Clause in the original Munitions Act. I am not pressing this in an argumentative way, but simply in order to remove a difficulty; otherwise, you will at once get the cry that in your controlled establishments you are actually by this Bill reducing the period of six weeks allowed to a man who does not get a leaving certificate. You may shorten that period—that is an arguable point—but I hope my right hon. Friend realises the point and that it will be met when we come to Committee. I hope now that we have raised it on the First Beading the Government will be prepared with some proposal and will not throw again a bone of discontent into such large areas as the Tyne and the Clyde and so on. Everybody will agree that ought to be avoided if possible, and I think, if my right hon. Friend takes the trouble to look into it, he will find that it is a real point.

6.0 P.M.

The third point I want to deal with relates to the conscientious objector. I have said before in this House that I could not be a conscientious objector, and I cannot speak for him, but I want to make a suggestion to the Government which I think will meet the case of the conscientious objector and remove a great deal of the difficulty under which the administration of the old Act finds itself. Why not have a separate tribunal altogether to deal with the conscientious objector? The conscientious objector to-day goes before the same tribunal as deals with the case of every man. Everybody will agree that it is very difficult to understand the real position of the conscientious objector; but everybody will also admit that position exists, and I think the Government would save themselves a great deal of trouble, and the country a great many of these distressful incidents that are occurring, if the conscientious objector were asked to go before a local tribunal composed especially of men more fitted to deal with the question of conscience than the business men who at the moment compose the local committees. These men look at it, and I do not blame them, merely from the point of view of material for the Army, and they are not so much concerned with the speculative, religious or moral side of the man's case. I think there is a sufficient panel in the country from which you could draw to form a tribunal to meet that objection, and it would meet a real difficulty. I want also to deal with the question of the re-examination of the medically unfit. This is a question in which I have taken considerable interest ever since the scheme for pensions for men was agreed upon, and I want to suggest to the Government that we who have to deal with the cases of the men who are discharged from the Army have found that up to a few weeks ago the men were refused any pension at all if they had contracted the disease before entering the Army, and the disease had been aggravated by service in the Army. I take my position firmly on this, that when the Army examines a man and discharges him as medically unfit the military authorities ought to accept responsibility for the breakdown of that man—


That is rather a different topic. We have not yet got the men for the Army which this Bill is going to give. After we have got them we can deal with these questions.


I understand that point, but I wish to observe that this Bill gives the Government power to re-examine men who have already been turned down as medically unfit. They may be accepted for service, clerical, industrial, or military, even although they may be unfit for general service, and I want the Government to state that in these circumstances they are willing to accept responsibility for the men if they break down. I do not desire to enter into the large subject of pensions on this occasion, because there are many opportunities when one can do so. But I do want to impress on the Government that if they adopt this system of re-examining men medically unfit and accept such men for service, we are entitled, on behalf of those men, to ask from the Government an undertaking that if and when they do break down the Government will not say, "You contracted the disease before you came in." They ought to go the whole length with them, and that, I submit, is a perfectly fair point to put, before these men are taken. I wish also to refer to the question of the taking of lads of eighteen years of age, and I want to ask a question in order that we may appreciate exactly where we stand. I want to know if and when these lads are conscripted as they turn eighteen years of age they will be under the same conditions as lads of eighteen are under the Derby Group No. 1. They are called up at eighteen and a half years of age and given the alternative of going into immediate training or returning home and coming up at nineteen. Will the lads taken under this Bill come under these terms, and will they be given that choice after the month's grace? Will their training really begin as under the Derby Group, technically at nineteen, or will it begin at eighteen?

In connection with this may I suggest that the calling up of lads as and when they reach eighteen years of age offers the Government an oportunity, which I hope they will accept in Committee, of dealing with one of the most vexed questions we have had to deal with, namely, the employment of boys in the Army under the age of nineteen. The Army authorities take the view that if a lad's physique is equal to that of a lad of eighteen and a half years, no matter what his actual age may be—it may be seventeen or sixteen—then he is liable to be sent abroad for foreign service. This is a question on which we have received a great deal of correspondence, and it might be worth the while of the Government to clear the point up now that the opportunity offers under this Bill. The last point I want to make is also of great importance from the point of view of the married men in particular and the single men in general, who will be brought in under this Compulsion Act. I should like my right hon. Friend to answer these questions. When will the financial provisions be introduced which are to meet the special cases which the Government had in view when they made their pronouncement the other day? I think it would simplify matters—


Does the hon. Member mean legislation?


Yes. I think it would be useful to know, concurrently with the introduction of this Bill, what financial provisions the Government are making to meet the special circumstances of these men. Otherwise we might have to discuss the Bill and part with it from this House before we hear from the Government what their financial proposals are. The Government have stated—the Prime Minister has stated—and therefore this is no part of the material of the Secret Session which ought not to be made public—the Prime Minister has stated that the Government will deal with such matters as rent, insurance policies, school fees, and so on. It is obvious that that will require financial provision, and I therefore do suggest that before we part with this Bill we ought to have in front of us, concurrently with the Bill, those financial proposals. These are the few observations I wish to make at this stage of the proceedings. My right hon. Friend knows I am one of those who have opposed the principle of compulsion. I have voted against it before in this House. I think the right hon. Gentleman will also agree at the same time that the criticisms we have offered from this corner have always been put forward with a desire to extract as much information as we can with a view to making the Bill as workable as possible, and I hope he will meet me in the spirit in which I have addressed these questions to him.


It is only natural that this Bill should have my whole-hearted support. I have always been in favour of some form of compulsion. I have been responsible for seconding a Motion to that effect in this House. I used to go about the country with the late Lord Roberts, and in the titanic struggle in which we are engaged at this moment I have always felt we should never bring it to a successful conclusion unless every man in this country took his share in the national work. Some people think and say that this War will be brought to a conclusion only by means of a large increase in the number of our airships. Others hold that it will be concluded by increasing the number of guns in our Fleet. I do not agree with those who think the War can be brought to a finish in this way. Previous wars have been finished by masses of men—by trained man power put into the field at the right time and the right place. The decision must come and can only come by that means. From every battle in this great War, from the battles which have succeeded one another, we ought to learn our lesson, and we can learn a very obvious and striking lesson from the great struggle which is now drawing to a close around Verdun. That lesson is that this War will not be brought to a conclusion unless we and the French are on the Rhine and the Russians on the Oder. That struggle, lasting the best part of six weeks, has made it quite plain that as forces are balanced now more or less equally, neither one nor the other can get through. Therefore, in order to change that balance and to break the line, you must introduce extra manpower on one side. That increase of manpower at the present moment can only come from ourselves, and from the Russians on the Eastern side. Why I blame the Government very considerably is that I do not think they have really told the country the magnitude of the task it has before it. Partial successes have been turned into great victories, and what I would term serious reverses have been represented as partial successes. We must remember that hitherto this country has never fought as a nation. As a nation we have no war history. I wish the House to discriminate in this matter. Our Army has a most magnificent war history extending over hundreds of years, but that ended with the record battle of Ypres. Then our national war history commenced. We have no national war history comparable with that of France or Germany.

I have mentioned the name of Lord Roberts. It has been a matter of surprise to me that in all these successive Debates, nobody has mentioned the name of that great man, who spent the last years of his life going about the country and warning the country, with what I may term almost prophetic divination, of what would befall this country, and what steps we should have to take, steps which we ought to have taken long ago. What about those men who went about the country vilifying him? I wonder if any of them will have the decency to apologise for what they said. If my memory serves me right, Peel, a bitter and life-long opponent of Cobden, once came down to the House and, from the floor of the Chamber, apologised to him. Did he lose influence and power by that action? No, he increased both his influence and his power, and, above all things, he proved himself to be a great gentleman.


This Bill has been appropriately introduced by the announcement of a triple murder—


We have nothing to do with that question. That is a matter which was mentioned before this Bill was introduced at all and it has nothing whatever to do with this Bill.


At all events, it was very appropriate. The Bill has also been supported by hon. Members sent to this House, if for any purpose, to maintain and enlarge personal liberty. They have abandoned that position. Why? Because they have been bought over for one reason or another, some of them having been made right honourables. They have been made to swallow all their previous convictions—they have been bought over to maintain a policy which is to put an end to all personal freedom—freedom of opinion, freedom of the Press, and every manner of freedom which they have been sent to this House to maintain and enlarge. On the other hand, I do not consider this Bill, sweeping though it is, a really serious matter. I regard this Bill as I regard the announcement yesterday, of an increase in the Army by 5,000,000 men, as so much dust thrown in the eyes of unfortunate France, which is sacrificing itself in this War. France is not able to retain any of her men of military age and fitness for her civil purposes, yet this Bill was introduced by the Prime Minister with the careful promise that a sufficient number of men of military age and fitness should be retained for civil occupations. That, being boiled down, means the cry with which this War began—the cry of "business as usual." It is still "business as usual" in this country, although not acknowledged. [HON. MEMBERS: "NO, no!"] France cannot continue to practise her business as usual, but this country means to do so. [An HON. MEMBER:"You are quite wrong about that!"] This infamous War, which could easily have been avoided, has been embarked upon largely as a commercial speculation—[An HON. MEMBER: "Rubbish!"]—and this country is publicly fitting herself for greater than her present commercial supremacy. Flourishing and prosperous England is working double time to expand her enormous trades and industries—[An HON. MEMBER: "Nonsense!"]—to capture German trade and industries—[An HON. MEMBER: "Rubbish!"]—and to do business better than usual. She is keeping millions of men of military age, millions of slackers of military age at home safe in connection with mining. Millions of English slackers are being kept at home safe at the shipping, docking, and other trades and industries. Millions of English slackers are being kept at home safe at agriculture. So many English slackers of military age and fitness are sheltered at home, under the various State Departments, that the heads of those Departments, one after another, have answered my inquiry in the House as to the number by saying that it could not be told. [HON. MEMBERS: "Divide!"] Is it because they were so numerous that it cannot be told? Is not that a nice message to be sent to France, and a nice comparison with France, who is sacrificing herself? This is the way in which this country is conducting the War. It is making a great show of a sweeping Military Service Bill for the purpose of leading people on the Continent, friends and foes, to imagine that this country is at last going to do, what she ought to have done twenty months ago, if she was prepared to make the necessary sacrifice.


I would address one word to the House in regard to the Clauses which are contemplated with regard to the Territorials. I have asked several questions of the Under-Secretary of State for War, from time to time, in regard to the employment of Territorials in units other than their own. I imagine from what was said by the Prime Minister that it is going to be made part of the Bill that, instead of being attached to different units from their own, it is to be optional for the War Office to make them integral parts of units other than those in which they enlisted I am not going to criticise this at any length, but I must tell the House that this is a matter upon which the Territorials feel very strongly indeed. I have had many letters from men at home ion the subject, and I know the grievance is felt exceedingly deeply. Only the other day a member of a Territorial battalion pointed to the badge on his cap and said that his grandfather had fought for that badge, that his father had fought for that badge, and that he himself wished to fight for that badge, but he has been sent to another battalion altogether with a different kind of badge, and he feels the grievance exceedingly deeply. When I have put questions to the Under-Secretary of State for War, I have been answered in his usual courteous manner, but all the time it was firmly shown that the War Office intended to send men from one Territorial battalion to another owing, as the War Office puts it, to the exigencies of the Service. That is an argument which is very difficult to meet. I understood the Prime Minister to say to-day that as far as possible they would endeavour to keep intact the Territorial sentiment. Those words "as far as possible" are rather wide, and enable the War Office to override them if necessity compels them to do so. I would ask the Government, with regard to those Territorials who volunteered in the pre-war days and have since come under the Military Service Act, whether some kind of reservation cannot be made in respect of them. They have done service during the whole period of the War. By the agreement under which they enlisted they were not to be shifted to any other battalion without their consent. To bring the matter up to date, under the Military Service Act, the Territorials were offered the opportunity, if they would sign on for Imperial Service, of going into any Territorial unit of their own arm into which they chose to go. When the time came for them to go to the unit they had chosen, they were sent to other units. This grievance is one that is very much felt. I have in my hand a letter from a member of the Egyptian Expeditionary Force, which has arrived to-day. He views the prospect with alarm. He is a man who has seen service in Gallipolli, who has been ill in consequence of service there, and who is still serving in Egypt. He, among others, views this possibility of being sent to a division other than that in which he enlisted with a great deal of concern. Although this may not be the occasion for the Government to indicate their policy in full, I hope they will see to it that they will preserve the sentiment which attaches to Territorial units.

Colonel CRAIG

I venture to say a few words once more upon the subject about which I troubled the House on a former occasion, because what appears impossible of being carried out to-day becomes an accomplished fact a short time after. On the last occasion, at the request of my Ulster colleagues, I made an earnest appeal to the Nationalist party to allow themselves to be included in the Bill for Conscription. Although since that time there have been certain happenings in Ireland which all classes of Irishmen extremely regret, still I think that the Leader of the Nationalist party, who I am sorry to say is not in his place at the moment, might take advantage of the situation, as it is at the present, to come forward and say to the Government that they would be prepared to be included in the scheme of compulsion, in order to place themselves in exactly the same position as the rest of the United Kingdom. I would go a step further than I went on the last occasion, and I hope the House will thoroughly understand that in this matter I am thinking of nothing whatever except how best we can bring the War to a successful conclusion. Some people might say that to urge the Nationalist party to take this step would, from the Ulster political point of view, be rather against than in favour of our cause in the future, but I am, like everybody else in the House, I hope, able to rise far above any petty considerations, as I would consider them to be, of that kind. I can see a double reason now why the hon. and learned Member for Waterford (Mr. J. Redmond) should approach the Government on this subject. Could anything re-establish him and his party more in Ireland itself than to go back now and say that they were prepared to take their fair share of the burdens that have fallen upon the married and unmarried men of this country? So far as England and the Empire is concerned, I have no hesitation in saying that it would be a grand action on his part if, at this great crisis in the history of my country, he went across and made that appeal to his fellow countrymen.

I would go even a step further I would ask the Government to approach the hon. and learned Member on the subject more fully than they appear to have done from the reply which I received from the Secretary of State for the Colonies. On the last occasion when this question was broached in the House, he used words to the effect that he feared the trouble and turmoil that might be created in Ireland would not compensate them for the number of men they might be able to raise. Have not the recent happenings proved that if the Government would take a firm line in this matter, with the full co-operation of the hon. and learned Member for Water-ford and his colleagues, they would at all events be able to do their best in a matter of such grave importance at the present moment. What, after all, will the married men throughout England, Scotland, and Wales say if this Bill goes through and they are compelled by the country—properly compelled by the country—to come forward and do their duty, and if at the same time it is known that anything between 200,000 and 300,000 men, equally eligible for military service, are allowed to remain in Ireland doing practically nothing? The hon. and learned Gentleman on that occasion pointed out that the opposition to such a course in Ireland was small. He said there was only a trivial minority which would prevent him taking this step, but that trivial minority is probably the very minority which has been creating the disturbances which, unfortunately, have recently disgraced our country, and so far as they are concerned they no further count in the matter, and I believe that with an energetic effort made by the hon. and learned Gentleman and his colleagues a large response would be made to the appeal, and Ireland would then be taking her proper place, which at present no one who knows Ireland can say she is doing.

I will go a step further and say that those of us who know the country and who have been watching the development of events from the very beginning can recognise this fact standing out most prominently, that one reason why the Irish people as a whole have not come forward and done their duty is because they have been misled by their leaders from the very outbreak of the War. When men were most earnestly required, when the old historical Irish regiments were being depleted and being filled up by Englishmen and Scotsmen, the statement made by every responsible Nationalist leader was that the Irish people had done their duty, and in some cases they went so far as to say they had done more than any other part of the United Kingdom in proportion. Those statements are very far short of the truth. If you take what has been done in England and strike an average of what Ireland has done you will find that the response that has been made to the recruiting agents in Ireland has been a disgrace to a large portion of that part of the country. It would have been infinitely better and more creditable to those who really knew the true state of affairs if they had been told frankly from the beginning that the Irish people were not doing their duty so far as recruiting was concerned, and that a much larger number of men was still required. But instead of taking that attitude they were patted on the back, not only by hon. Members who represent Nationalist constituencies in Ireland, but by the Government to this extent, that on every occasion on which legislation was introduced into this House to forward the cause of the War, Ireland was invariably given separate and more favourable treatment.

In the very beginning, when the special taxes on whisky and other intoxicating liquors and closing Orders were introduced, Ireland was excluded at the request of the Nationalist party. When more money was required you were not able to get it from Ireland. She was not able to contribute the means to carry on the War, and later, when various measures were introduced, on each occasion there was some special reason. The Registration Act was not applied to Ireland. We were told by the Government it was quite unnecessary, as they had all the information which was required. Then only the other day, to come down to recent times, we had this special exemption from the Budget of the Gaelic Athletic Association. All these special bribes, as it were, to the Irish people have been absolutely without effect. The results which were obtained from them were without credit from the very beginning, and the consequence is that people in Ireland were led to believe that they were a special class and were not required to come forward, and were assured that they had done so well that it was unnecessary for them to make a bigger effort. Does anyone say that even in England or in Scotland the response to the voluntary appeals made has not been magnificent? And yet, when you put to yourself the question, "Has the country done its best?" the was that the Irish people had done their answer invariably must be, "No. We duty, and in some cases they went so far have not yet put forward our whole effort to win this War." If that be so in England, how much more must it be apparent to everybody that in Ireland there has not been the response which one would like to have seen to the appeal for more men to keep up our regiments at the front? The Nationalist party has an opportunity of rehabilitating their cause in the South and West of Ireland, of purging Ireland of what has recently occurred and of showing to the whole wide world that there was nothing more behind this state of rebellion that cropped up than a mere section of the population, and of getting rid of suspicion, and it should come forward now and say to the Government, "We are willing to come into this Bill and to take our fair share with the rest of the country."

I should like to point out how very sad it is for any Irishman to see our magnificent regiments filled up by Englishmen, Welshmen, and Scotsmen. You take away immediately the esprit de corps, you ruin the local feeling, you destroy the old hereditary name these regiments have earned in the past history of our country, and anyone who thinks of it must be wholly aware that for a regiment to do its best it must have in it those who have got the traditions and those who have the same local feeling as those who have fought in it in the old days. From the reports that reach us from the front, wherever they happen to be, there is the same sad story that instead of the divisions which went out Irish Divisions we now find they are three-quarters English and Scottish and the remainder are sending out drafts from Ireland to fill them up. It would be very wrong to quote figures in this connection, because you would be giving information which I dare say it would be improper to do even in the House of Commons. The argument used by the Nationalist party was that the agricultural occupation of the people prevented them from responding in anything like the same degree as in England, Wales, and in Scotland. I have the figures in my pocket. I do not intend to weary the House with them, but there is more land under tillage in Ulster than in any of the other three provinces. That is to say, so far as Ulster is concerned, she is as much an agricultural county as Munster, Leinster, or Con-naught, and Ulster has been able to give—I do not wish to press the point—more soldiers and sailors than the other three provinces put together, therefore these arguments which are used by the hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. Redmond) and his colleagues are, in my opinion, not worthy of this House of Commons, and are not regarded as of any importance whatever by those who know Ireland from North to South. I do not believe I am drawing any fancy picture; I do not believe that the difficulties, of getting the Nationalists to come forward and accept this Bill are insuperable. I have an idea in my own mind that at this moment Ireland would welcome having her mind made up for heron this important subject. Half the people of this country prefer to have their minds made up for them. Take the average man you meet in the street. He lives in comfort and ease because he knows when he goes to bed at night what he has to do when he rises next morning, to go through his round, of work, and in Ireland it is exactly the same. Men there will wait and wait and wait, as many men are waiting in this, country, for the Government to make up their mind in order that they can make up their mind to take their proper place in the fighting line. In Ireland, if you once take the step, in my opinion you will be able to carry a very large section of the community with you, and even if it was not wholly successful, even if it was impossible in some districts to get the men to come forward, I believe the result would be one of very great importance, and certainly any small district which stood out would not be standing out either to the credit of the country or at the desire of those who are making a strong appeal.

Then another point. We have only one desire, and that is to put our whole force into the field. If you do not make the attempt to get the Nationalists to come forward and keep their regiments, brigades and divisions filled up with Irishmen, the Government are not doing all that they might do in this great crisis. I say to my Nationalist fellow countrymen that they do not come forward and offer their services willingly to the Government in this matter. If they did so they would not be one whit more going back on the action they have taken in the past than, many others who were conscientious objectors to any form of compulsion in the old days, and who now are its strongest and most earnest and determined advocates. Therefore, if they have been able to reconcile their minds with compulsory service, is it too much to ask that the Nationalist party as a whole should also take their stand when they can see clearly that in the future history of this country, far more than the rebellion which has broken out, it would always stand against them that in the hour of England's trial they did not come forward and do the utmost they possibly could to help her and send troops out to the front.

The last remark I have to make is this: What would be the effect in America, among our Allies, and amongst those with whom we were fighting, if at this psychological moment, before the Bill is put into print, the Nationalist party were to come forward and say to the Government, "Ireland has been slandered. Ireland has in the past few days had many bitter opponents, she has had these men in her midst who have turned traitor to her wishes, but in spite of that, and to show that in this matter there is no division between any part of the British Islands, to show that there is no difference whatever, we willingly now place ourselves in the hands of the Government. "I believe if the attempt was genuinely made, whether in the Bill—that is to say, a complete Bill to apply to Ireland, or whether an attempt was made to allow them in their own way—and I have suggested to them myself how it would be possible by having local committees of well-known Nationalists running a ballot on lines which were satisfactory to the locality—they might be able to keep their regiments up to full strength. It is quite a small matter. It is not such a very big task as it might appear in this House to keep all Irish regiments filled with Irishmen, and if the Nationalist party would take that patriotic action at present our enemies would feel that we were really getting down to business in this matter, and our Allies, and those who have come from Canada and Australia and are now in our midst drilling day and night to prepare themselves for this great struggle, would undoubtedly say to themselves, "After all the Irish are not the rebels this rebellion seems to have made them out."


May I, in a single sentence, intervene to make a statement which may be of some convenience to hon. and right hon. Gentlemen who are waiting in the precincts of the House. As the Second Reading of this Bill is proposed for to-morrow, and as the Bill cannot fee printed and circulated until the pre- sent Debate closes, those of us who are strongly opposed to the principle of the Bill do not intend to detain Members here to-night for a Division, but will avail ourselves of the opportunity of arguing and voting against the principle of the measure to-morrow.


I do not think it will be necessary for me to detain the House for more than a few minutes in dealing with some of the questions which have been raised. I am not going to embark now on a defence of the policy of the Government in reply to the discussion which was started by my right hon. Friend the junior Member for the City (Sir F. Banbury), and continued by other Members. I only want to make this very simple statement, that neither in relation to the policy of the Government nor in relation the introduction of wholesale compulsion to-day do I appear here, or have I the least intention of appearing here or in the country as an apologist. I depart in no degree from what I have said on previous occasions. When I commit myself to what I regard as an effective—though some of my critics may think it is ineffective—defence of the Government with which I have the honour to act, I am told that I ought not to indulge in expressions of this kind. That is not my view of my duty. I do not say this because I am a member of the Cabinet. I say it because I perfectly believe the convictions I hold. When the full history of this Government and its actions during the War in this particular matter—I am speaking of one matter only—comes to be written, they will have no reason to be ashamed of the part they have played. On the particular question of compulsion perhaps I have suffered more than anybody else because I happened to be the Minister in charge of the measure which was introduced the other day, and which met with an untimely fate. I have received a great deal of criticism from friends and foes in relation to that Bill. I do not regret in the smallest degree the fact that I was responsible for it. I believe that what the Government did then was, on the whole, the wisest thing they could do, and it has brought into reality that union without which wholesale compulsion would have been an impossible policy, because however strong may be your powers, however complete may be the powers of the Government to take men compulsorily, unless you have got behind you the great bulk of public opinion, your powers are useless, and you will not get your men.

In regard to this particular Bill, an appeal has been made to me from one quarter that it should be circulated this evening. I am sorry to say it is quite impossible to comply with that request for this reason, that there are in the Bill Clauses dealing with rather technical questions. Some of them require alterations which is no way affect the principle of the measure, or which are grave or serious in themselves, but which have to be made, and it will be impossible to get the Bill printed and circulated among Members this evening. I cannot contemplate, and I do not think the Government can contemplate, although the House would wish them to contemplate, an issue of the Bill by which copies might reach certain Members, but they might not be at the disposal of Members as a whole. Therefore, I am afraid that the Bill cannot be circulated for the information of Members until to-morrow morning. This Bill differs materially from the generality of Bills introduced. Not only do Bills contain as a rule certain broad lines of policy, but the way in which effect is given to that policy generally covers a good many clauses. Here you have one single principle laid down, that of universal compulsion. For that purpose it is not necessary even to see the Bill, because when you see the Bill you learn no more than the House knows at present. In regard to the rest of the Bill, the details that the House will learn to-morrow will not give them really any fuller information than they have now, when they know that there is going to be, for instance, a new Territorial class, or that there is going to be created a new Reserve or any other powers we take under this Bill. It is a short Bill, and any Member will be able in half an hour to make himself master of its provisions. Under these circumstances, I hope there will be no objection to-morrow to the course which the Government intend to pursue in asking the House to read the Bill a second time in order that we may pass it through its different stages next week, and place it on the Statute Book with the least possible delay.

I was very glad to hear the hon. and gallant Member for Bath (Sir C. Hunter) who referred to the name of one of the greatest Englishmen who ever lived, and whose memory is revered by every man who loves his country to-day, namely, Lord Roberts. It has rather surprised me, as it surprised my hon. and gallant Friend, that in all these Debates we have heard so little reference to one who gave all the declining years of his life, when he might well have enjoyed the rest to which he was so thoroughly entitled, to the prosecution of this great national cause. His words of warning must be ringing in all our ears now, and I agree with my hon. and gallant Friend that those who traduced that great man in his lifetime might do well to admit their fault. It would do him no good, because he is beyond that now—his memory lives for ever in this country, not only amongst his friends, but amongst all his countrymen—but though no good could be done to him, credit would come to those who in his lifetime belittled him, and who have lived to see that he was a true prophet, though he preached unhappily to deaf ears. The criticisms which we have heard in regard to the Bill have not really been in any way destructive of it. The Prime Minister was asked whether it is clear that there is to be a month's notice to those who are conscripted under the Bill. That is so. There is a month's notice to be given which dates either from the passing of the Bill, or from the time when those affected come within its purview. Of course, the man who is not eighteen now, but who becomes eighteen subsequently, would have a month from the attainment of the Conscription age before it would be possible to call him to the Colours. I have a word to say about, probably, the most difficult proposal in the Bill, more difficult, in my judgment, than that which deals with the Territorials—I mean the proposal to retain in the Army the time-expired men. At first sight, undeniably, a very strong case can be made for these, men. They are, as I said the other day when introducing the other Bill, the very salt of our Army, the very best men that we have got. Many of them have served for years in the Army and have served in this War since the early days. Many of them have been more than once wounded, and one would gladly, if one could, say that they have done their bit, and that they might well be left to pass to other occupations. If there were in this country, as some of my Friends on both sides of the House seem to think, an inexhaustible well of human beings into which you could dip your bucket as often as you liked with a certainty of always filling it, then I would say at once that the Government ought not to come down to the House and ask the time-expired men to continue to fight. But that is not so. We want the men that we have got with the Colours, and we want the recruits that we hope to get under this Bill.

What our military advisers say is that these men are essential to the Army. They are some of the best men you have got, and you ought to keep them. Is it altogether quite as unfair as some of my hon. Friends seem to think? Let the House remember what you do in regard to the officers. An officer joins the Army with the absolute right to leave the Army within twelve months, six months, two years, or any time that he chooses. When his time expires he normally would retire from the Service, but when war breaks out, or when the Army Council believe that there is national difficulty or danger of any sort, they have the absolute right, which is frequently exercised, to refuse to accept an officer's papers. Therefore, you are only doing to the time-expired men of the rank and file what you have already done to the officers. You say to them, "Your profession is the Army. You go to fight for your country. Your country needs you. Therefore, until the War is over, we must ask you to sacrifice yourselves and give us the full benefit of your services." When I am asked on behalf of the Government to arrange that these time-expired men shall be given preferably employment at home, that is a request which the Government would most gladly fall in with if they could. But these are men whose experience, whose training, and whose knowledge of their business makes it of first importance that they should be in the Army and not doing civilian work at home. There are other ways in which we can to some extent make up to them for the sacrifice they are called upon to bear. We can, in the first place, as I informed the House the other day, do it in this way. The Army Council is prepared to look with a most favourable eye on the claims of these men for promotion. You can deal with them as the Army Council are prepared to do in the most generous way in regard to bounties.


And leave.


Yes, I was coming to that. At the present time a time-expired man may be serving in Egypt. In a great many cases these men have re-engaged. They have been sent home for a month's furlough, and the journey there and back has not been included in the month's furlough, so that they have got not only the advantages to which I have referred, but they get a month's leave at home. In this way they are put in a different position altogether from those who are not time-expired. I am in a position to assure the House that the Army Council will exercise to the full its powers, and treat these men not only fairly but generously, and I am confident, after this statement made on behalf of the Army Council, the House will realise that even though the sacrifice be a great one, even though they are reluctant, as the hon. and gallant Member for one of the Divisions of Liverpool (Colonel Chaloner) said earlier in the evening, to flog the willing horse, to overwork the willing horse, yet it is only by making the best use of the best material we have got that we can put our full force in the field, and win the victory which we mean to win.


Are time-expired Irishmen exempt from the Bill like other Irishmen?


It depends upon where they live. As the hon. and learned Member knows, the Bill applies, as at present drawn, to people ordinarily resident in Great Britain. Therefore, if an Irishman is ordinarily resident in Great Britain he comes under the Bill. If, on the other hand, he is ordinarily resident in Ireland, for the present, as the Bill stands, he will not be included.


Take the case of an Irish regiment like the Dublin Fusiliers at the front. In regard to men in that regiment, I suppose from time to time their time is expiring. Supposing a man's time expires at the front. Will steps be taken to find out whether he is ordinarily resident in Great Britain or in Ireland, or will men in an Irish regiment as a matter of course be exempt?

7.0 P.M.


No, all the men who are now serving will be retained in the regiment in which they are, wherever the regiment, may be. I am referring to men whose time is expiring who are now in the Army. I thought the hon. Member meant men whose time has expired, and have not been brought back. All the men who are now in the Army will be retained. As the point is raised, I may deal here with the suggestion of my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for East Down (Colonel J. Craig). Anybody who knows how prominent a part my hon. and gallant Friend has played in raising an Irish Division rejoices to see him here again restored to health, and sympathises with him in what must be the feeling of overwhelming distress to himself that his breakdown in health prevents him from being where he would much prefer to be with his own division in France, fighting for the United Kingdom. My hon. and gallant Friend made a powerful and eloquent appeal. He made a powerful appeal to his fellow countrymen in Ireland to, at this eleventh hour as it were, join with his fellow countrymen in all parts of the United Kingdom in taking this burden upon themselves, and thereby making the common burden apply to Ireland. The Bill as it stands applies only to Great Britain, and deals with the principle of compulsion only as it finds expression in the original Act of Parliament. If my hon. and gallant Friend's appeal finds an echo in Ireland, and if it be possible and if it be found desirable to include Ireland in the Bill, all that we need do is to make a slight change in the Committee stage of the Bill. Therefore it is only for me to say, what I am sure the House realises, that it is impossible to expect the Government at this moment to say anything more than that. The tragic events which have happened in Ireland, which have filled anybody who knows Ireland and who loves her with sorrow and dismay, have thrown a new and a great responsibility on the Government at a moment when our burdens were already heavy enough. Just at this moment it is impossible to consider a question of this kind. My right hon. Friend the Member for Blackfriars (Mr. Barnes) pointed out the difficulties which we might have to face in dealing with it. It is not for me to express an opinion. I very much share the opinion of my hon. and gallant Friend that the difficulties are not so great as many seem to anticipate, and I only say now that if his eloquent appeal finds an echo among those to whom it is addressed there will be no difficulty whatever in carrying out that arrangement.

Colonel CRAIG

Might I ask whether it would be possible at an early date, either to-day or to-morrow, to approach the Leader of the Irish Nationalist party and to put one specific case before him and ask him whether he will come into this Bill or not? If some vigorous attempt was made by the Government to bring in the Nationalist party in Ireland, needless to say, it will have the hearty co-operation of everybody in Ulster, and if the Government make the attempt it might not be made in vain.


Try shooting a few more.


My hon. and gallant Friend who has made this very valuable suggestion must realise that it is impossible for me to give an answer of that kind at this stage. With regard to Territorials, which is the second difficult question, the Territorial naturally desires to be retained in the unit which he has joined, of which he is proud and with which he is connected by association. But do not let us carry this too far. One of my hon. Friends tells me Chat, if the Debate the other day had gone on, it was his intention to quote the language which I used in the House of Commons a year ago when my right hon. Friend the Under-Secretary for War brought in a Bill dealing with this question. If that quotation had been made, I should have replied to it by another quotation from the same speech, because I began by impressing what I held to be right as to what should be done—that the moment war began you should take all recruits through the one channel, and pass them on at once to where they are most wanted and where their services are most valuable. My hon. Friends who are advocating the cause of the Territorials—and I have the greatest possible sympathy with them—must not carry their argument too far. To my certain knowledge there have been thousands and thousands of men recruited into Territorial regiments who have no sort of connection whatever with the particular district to which their regiment belongs; they would have been just as well content to be sent to the Somersets as to the Wilts, or to the Gloucesters as to the Devons. In many cases Territorials found themselves enlisted, and it was only when they got their papers that they knew that they had not been enlisted in the Regular Army. We must not make too much of it.

What does the difficulty come to? My hon. Friend the Member for Barnsley (Sir J. Walton) says, "Do not take your Territorial out of his unit and transfer him to the Regular Army." If we are going to look at this from the point of view of sacrifice, surely a man who is taken from a Territorial battalion in his own corps—I am not talking of Army Corps or anything of that sort, but in his own corps in the sense in which the word is used by the Army—if he is removed into a Regular battalion, he is not going to complain. In all probability the Regular battalion has served gloriously, as nearly all our battaions have in all parts of the world, and if for the time being he is asked if he would serve where he would be most valuable, namely, in the Regular battalion, that is really a smaller sacrifice than asking him to go from the Lincolns to the Wilts or from the Wilts to the Somersets. I am dealing with the particular objection of removing a man from a Territorial to a Regular battalion. Though a man may be temporarily transferred to a Regular battalion for the purpose of the War, when the War is over he will be retransferred to the Territorial battalion to which he belonged. Therefore he will not suffer any disability by having been made a temporary member of a Regular battalion. But of course the greater grievance occurs when a man has enlisted for a particular purpose in a particular corps and he is transferred for the time being to another purpose in the Army for which, in the opinion of the Army Council, he is deemed to be more suitable. As a sentimental question, when you ask a man to join the Territorials, morally speaking no doubt you are bound by the contract.


It is a bargain.


Yes, but the answer is that the Germans do not stand still while we are considering bargains of this kind. This is not a political question in any sense. I have discussed this fully several times with the Army Council. What is the actual position? It has been a position which exposed the Government to much of the criticism from the other side. I dealt with it very briefly in a speech made in the House of Commons a short time ago. Some of my hon. Friends challenged me on the subject. I had not time then to go into it. They say, "You have got this deficiency abroad of so many thousands of men." My hon. Friends must know that this deficiency is not a deficiency which is spread over the whole Army abroad in anything like equal proportion. They will find divisions abroad who have practically no deficiency at all. Deficiencies existed in certain cases. Why? Because you have Territorial regiments in France with big reserves at home, while you have battalions at the front which have been heavily wasted, which have lesser reserves at home. You are unable to transfer them. You have got more men than you want in one, and you have not got as many as you want in the other. But the laws and regulations prevent you from transferring your surplus to where you have got a deficit. In that case, surely, I do not care how much attached a man may be to his own Territorial unit or locality or district, surely he will say when he is making the supreme sacrifice, as wherever he goes he is offering his life for his country, that he will make the lesser sacrifice and will give his services where, for the time being, they are most required, and by doing that he will enable the Army Council to make the best use of him and of the men at their disposal, and thereby use the Army in a more efficient way.

Colonel YATE

Will the right hon. Gentleman give the assurance that it is this surplus which will be transferred, as the present state of things is causing great trouble? Take my own county. We have men from eighteen different counties sent into the Leicester Territorial Regiment, and men are sent from Leicester to about a dozen different counties. Men are sent from Leicester to Northumberland, and men are brought from Northumberland to Leicester.


It is quite obvious, as my hon. and gallant Friend will understand, that it is impossible for me, in the course of debate, to deal with cases of that kind. If he will give me the facts privately I will discuss the matter with the Adjutant-General and see if there are any special circumstances in the case which have led to something happening which ought not to occur. I would remind the House that I have no responsibility except as a member of the Government. But I have constantly discussed this problem during the last month with our military advisers. This is not an act of the administration of the Government. It is purely a military proceeding by the military authorities of the War Office. What happens? Are we to blame them, or are we expected to sit in judgment and to say that they are wrong?. The House will remember that great pressure is brought to bear on the authorities to provide men for this or that division. Certain units have necessarily to be sent abroad at short notice. They cannot help that. By no means whatever will you be able to regularise your position in time of war. The Army Council will act to the best of their ability. They do not want to do any injustice, but they cannot help on certain occasions adopting this course if they are to answer the calls from abroad. I am quite confident that the Army Council will exercise this power with the greatest possible regard to considerations of sentiment and justice, and will use it only in so far as it is necessary in order to make the best possible use of the men at their disposal. I hope that the House will be satisfied with that assurance. With regard to my hon. and gallant Friend's complaint or any other specific complaint by my hon. Friends in any quarter of the House on any particular subject, if they would be good enough to communicate with my right hon. Friend the Under-Secretary or with me we will do our best to see that justice is done and that this power shall only be exercised when necessary in the interests of the Army and in the interests of the cause which is so dear to all of us.

With regard to the Volunteers, the hon. and learned Member, who has played so prominent a part in connection with the Volunteer movement, made a valuable suggestion. I am not quite sure that it is necessary to insert a provision of this kind into an Act of Parliament. I think that it could be done by regulations, but I will consider now and before the Bill passes whether it is desirable to make any change of this kind or whether any arrangement can be made. I am sure we are all profoundly thankful to those, Lord Desborough and my hon. Friend the Member for Leicestershire, who, by their wonderful efforts, have produced a force to-day which is nearly a million strong and which may easily be made an invaluable addition to our defensive forces at home. I have already dealt with the case of lads of eighteen to be called up. I was asked the question whether they would be called lip under the Derby scheme, or whether they would be liable to be called up at the age of eighteen. The Derby scheme has nothing to do with it at present. The conditions have altered during the several months that have gone by since the Derby scheme was put in force, and I can give no pledge at all except that, when they are called up under the Act of Parliament, they must have a month's notice. Subject to that, it is most desir- able that they should not be sent abroad until they are nineteen, but between; eighteen and nineteen they could well be used, and it would be very desirable that they should be used, for Home defence. I was asked a question as to the proposals in regard to the liabilities of the men, and whether they will be introduced simultaneously with this Bill. I do not think that there is any necessity to legislate in regard to that question. As to the financial proposals, all that they mean is that the Chancellor of the Exchequer will have to provide certain moneys whenever they are required, and I have no doubt he will do so with his usual liberality, and I am quite sure he will get the necessary permission of the House. At present the work in regard to these proposals is proceeding rapidly, but I certainly cannot promise that they will be introduced pari passu with this Bill. There will be no delay, and there are no difficulties now existing that have not been dealt with satisfactorily by the Committee which the Government appointed.

The last thing to which I have to refer is in regard to the conscientious objector. Some suggestions have been made on both sides. I am told that we ought to alter the Act of Parliament to make it less easy for the conscientious objector to get off; in other quarters it is suggested that it should be made more difficult for the conscientious objector to escape; and another suggestion is that the provisions of the Act as to conscientious objectors are unsatisfactory, and that there ought to be some fresh provisions to deal with them. I have often in the course of these debates done my best to express my views, and what I believe to be the views of my colleagues in the Government, upon this question. I have really tried to put myself as far as possible into the minds of these conscientious objectors, and to understand exactly what their position is. I confess I cannot understand the position of a man who declines to do anything. I can understand the position of a man who declines to fight, or, I do not say I understand it, but I know what it is, but I cannot understand the position of a man who says he will not do work in the barracks, that he will not do the sanitary work of a barracks, that he will not fetch, or carry, and that he would not even help the wounded. If appeals are made on behalf of men of that kind, all I can say is that the House has given them all they are entitled to, and I go further and say that I, for one, would most strongly resist any suggestion to give them more.

But may I take this opportunity of again uttering a few words of caution. I know that there are men of high principle in this country who have been brought up from infancy in the theory that it is wrong to take life, and that therefore they must never take any side in any military enterprise. So far as my opinion is worth anything, it seems to me that my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Liverpool was right when he said earlier in the evening that there was a great deal to be said for those who hold these views, but that they ought not to claim all the rights of citizenship, which can only be maintained in the last resort by the sword. You may bate the sword, you may hate bloodshed which is the result of the use of the sword, but if you value your liberties and privileges, then, if you are fair-minded men, you must admit that those rights and privileges, in the long run, can only be maintained by the use of the sword, which you refuse to use yourselves. I think there is a great deal to be said for my hon. and gallant Friend's view. I am the Minister in charge in carrying out the Military Service Act, which, amongst other things, provides for the case of the conscientious objector.

What has been the history of this movement which was started a few months ago? When it began, there was a very general feeling of respect for the conscientious objector, but many people could not understand his position. Many people thought his views slightly inconsistent, but they said, "These men are in our midst and they must be fairly treated." I want to tell the House, and above all, those who are championing the case of the genuine conscientious objector, that they are doing their case infinite harm by the agitation to which they are lending themselves. The feeling against the conscientious objector is very different from what it was, and it is becoming more bitter every day. While I receive letters asking that justice may be done to these men, every day I am receiving more and more suggestions that they should be treated with severity. I and the Government only desire to carry out the Act of Parliament, and see that justice is done under that Act, and if it is sought to go beyond the Act of Parliament, then I for one refuse to do so. I make no distinction between classes. I think the sacrifices of all classes are the same in the long run. All entail the great supreme sacrifice of their lives. Many of us who have our dearest in the War know that if we lose them we lose that for which we care most of anything in the world. But at all events their death is not followed by the grim and stalking spectre of poverty, and anxiety for the mothers and children. The wage-earning man, in my humble opinion—without desiring to raise any feeling as between classes—sacrifices all when he offers up his life.

We are asking these sacrifices from our fellow men, and great sacrifices are being cheerfully made by men of all classes, creeds, and opinions. We are laying upon them a great burden which they are cheerfully and willingly bearing. If, alongside that, you are going to ask, as a special favour, that a body of men who say that their conscience prevents them from defending their home, their wives, and their children, the virtue and honour of their women, the liberties and privileges which they claim for themselves, should be considered, you will raise in this country a bitterness of feeling which will make it impossible to deal fairly and justly with cases of conscientious objectors under the Act of Parliament as it is. I pray the House to remember that this question is full of difficulty. The House of Commons have passed an Act of Parliament, and they are determined to do their best to see that the Act is justly and fairly administered. I believe, on the whole, the tribunals of this country have, to the best of their ability, endeavoured to do their duty. It is my business and my duty, and I intend to perform it, to stand by those tribunals, and to defend and maintain them, unless I find that a really radical wrong has been committed, or some great offence committed, or that they have not exercised their discretion to the best of their ability. The State, however, owes a very great debt to these tribunals for the services they have so faithfully performed, and, on the whole, the best thing to do is to leave the matter to the tribunals. If there are grave cases of injustice the Government will do what they can to deal with them. But I pray the House, in the interests of the conscientious objector, in the interests of the Army, in the interests of the State, not to let it go forth that every man who chooses may erect himself into the position of a conscientious objector. I am very grateful to the House for the way in which they have received this Bill. I think I have dealt with most of the questions which have been raised, and I hope we shall be able to read the Bill a second time tomorrow, and afterwards speedily to place it on the Statute Book, thus making a further stride towards dealing with this War, being prepared to make any sacrifice in our power in the assertion of our liberties and rights by the destruction of the greatest enemy of those liberties and rights.

Captain TRYON

In regard to the statement made by the right hon. Member for Walthamstow (Sir J. Simon), I think it a most deplorable thing that the right hon. Gentleman should have announced his intention to vote against this Bill, which is really brought forward in response to the strongly expressed views put before the Government by various sections of the House. It is not a party Bill. It would be, I think, a gain to the whole nation, and a gain to the cause of the Allies, if it could be made known that this great decision in our national history could become law without any division whatever in the House of Commons. I would put to the right hon. Member for Walthamstow, and to any of his followers, this consideration: The cause of compulsion has not been throughout a party question. Many of the strongest and earliest speeches at the beginning of the War in its favour were by members of the Liberal party. Some of the most touching, clear, and I think effective speeches on its behalf have come from the Labour party; and when you get a call from the Labour party and all parties in the House for such a measure as this, it does seem to me a great pity if to-morrow we should have a Division on this Bill. It should, I think, go out to the world as a message of encouragement to our Allies, that the House of Commons have passed the Bill without any division at all. I wish to put before the opponents of the measure one or two considerations in the hope that perhaps they may influence them a little. In the first place I would begin with that about which we are agreed. I think we are all agreed that we want to win this War, and that we are fighting to get security in the future and a lasting peace. To do this I think it must be agreed that we want the whole power of the nation, and not part of it; and when I say power I mean naval power, military power, commercial power, and financial power, and we want them in proper proportion. I do not think that you can organise the full power of the nation in its proper proportion without compulsion for military service. It is universally agreed that we require an enormous number of men. As long as you could recruit from every section of the community and did not care whether you enlisted munition workers, miners, seamen, men who ought to be building ships, you could for a long time carry on the voluntary system. The moment you began to reserve the necessary services, saying that this man must stop at munition work, and that another man must stop at shipbuilding, for which they were necessary, from that moment you so limited the area from which you could draw your recruits that it became essential that you should draw on the whole of the men you could spare. You cannot do that without having compulsion.

What are the objections to the Bill? It is not the country which is opposing the Bill. We have had many by-elections, and at no by-election has an opponent of the compulsory service stood since the first Bill was introduced. We hear a great deal of turmoil and opposition in the country, but nobody has dared come forward as an opponent of the compulsory system since the Prime Minister first announced that it was necessary. It is clear that the opposition to this Bill does not come from within this House. We know what the Division was the last time, and if there is another one I imagine that the result will be very similar. Nor do I think that the opposition comes from any good arguments that have been urged against the Bill. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Walthamstow said that the men we should call up would be unfitted and unqualified as soldiers. If you refuse to train enough men before hand that would be so, but that appears to me to he an argument in favour of extensive training of people before war and it is certainly not an argument against the compulsory system. Then the same right hon. Gentleman, in words which were blameable, talked of introducing some Prussian system. I think a man who was recently a member of the Cabinet ought to have paused before he used words which were an insult to the British Army, and an insult to our gallant Allies, who fight under a compulsory system. He used those words not because they were true, not because he thinks the British Army is Prussianised, and not because he does not know perfectly well that they have compulsion in countries like Switzerland, but simply because he wanted to create prejudice where good arguments did not exist. It was an unpardonable thing to talk of the Army and of the system introduced by the Prime Minister as a Prussian system, and he knows it.

We have been told we must not do this because of fear of the workers. I think, after the eloquent and patriotic speech to-day from the hon. Member for Black-friars (Mr. Barnes), who spoke with knowledge and authority of the working classes, that there need be any fear on that account. I think the fear with regard to the working classes is mainly put forward rather by men like the hon. Member for Derby (Mr. Thomas), who stirs up strife by these week-end speeches, and then comes down to the House and warns the Government of the probable effect of his own speeches. I think people who do that are doing a very ill service to their nation in time of war. I think, too, that it is a slander upon the railway workers of this country, because they have stood by the country and worked long hours and legitimately pressed their demands for wages and not gone on strike because they knew their first duty is to the State. I think it is a pity that those who speak for them do not display as much loyalty as the men for whom they profess to speak. We can summarise the discussion by saying that the arguments in favour of this Bill are national arguments, and those against it are all political arguments, based upon whether one party will agree or whether one leader or some individual will agree. At a time like this there should be no party and no question of individuals. We ought all to try and work together and be united. We have heard a great deal of the advantages of unity from those who are now proposing to vote against this Bill. I cannot help feeling that they have had their case well put by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Walthamstow. They made their protest at an early date, and I suggest now in no spirit of hostility that they would do good service to the State if they would allow this Bill to go through without voting against it. They cannot stop it, and the general consent of this House to a measure of this kind would, I think, have a good effect throughout the world. I believe that the nation is sound on this question, and that the Empire is united, and let us go forward confident in the fact that now, for the first time for many, many years, the whole nation will be at war.

Question put, and agreed to.

Bill to make further provision with respect to Military Service during the present War ordered to be brought in by the Prime Minister, Mr. Bonar Law, Mr. Herbert Samuel, Mr. Long, the Attorney-General, Mr. Tennant, and Mr. Forster. Presented accordingly, and read the first time; to be read a second time to-morrow (Thursday), and to be printed. [Bill No. 36.]

The remaining Orders were read, and postponed.